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Monday, May 19, 2014

Interview & Giveaway: Maggie Dana, author of Turning on a Dime

I'm pleased to have Maggie Dana, author of the middle-grade Turning on a Dime, stopping by today for a fun chat and giveaway...

Turning on a Dime
by Maggie Dana
May 14, 2014

A time travel adventure for MG/tween readers (and older ones seem to be enjoying it, too!)

Two girls from two different centuries and the horse that brings them together.

Teenage equestrian Samantha DeVries wants to be the first African American to ride in the Olympics. Her father, a successful trainer, pushes Sam to excel, while Sam’s academic mother tries to instill a sense of heritage in her headstrong daughter who’d rather be riding horses than studying history. But Sam’s beliefs and her carefully constructed world shatter like a jelly jar when she travels through a time portal and lands in the canopy bed of an 1860s Southern belle.

Even more surprised by Sam’s unexpected arrival is Caroline Chandler. She’s a tomboy who wears breeches beneath her crinoline and rides horses bareback, much to the dismay of her critical mother.

But neither girl has time to fret over petticoats and prejudice. The Civil War is raging, and soldiers from both sides are stealing horses. At risk is Pandora, Caroline’s beloved mare. Without her, Sam’s future Olympic horse, Nugget, might not exist in the present.

Neither will Sam if the slave catchers grab her.

What three words best describe Turning on a Dime?


Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give Turning on a Dime a try?

A modern black teenager time travels back to the Civil War in Mississippi and finds herself on the run, outwitting slave catchers, and trying to explain bras, music videos, and cell phones to an 1860s Southern belle who’s just become her best friend.

Grab a copy of Turning on a Dime and answer the following:

favorite chapter?
Chapters 13 and 15 (they’re short), told by Sam, when she finally realizes that she’s been caught in a time warp. Nothing looks the same—the bed she went to sleep in, the wallpaper, and the fact that her modern suitcase has been replaced by an armoire full of crinolines and bonnets she’d never wear in a million years. Oh, and the bathroom isn’t the same. No flush toilet. No toilet paper, either … just a pile of newsprint with headlines about the Battle of Vicksburg, circa 1863.

favorite page?
Page 116 where Sam uses her judo training to trounce the plantation’s wicked overseer.

favorite setting/place?
The barn. A shared love of horses is what draws Sam and Caroline together like a pair of magnets. It helps them work through the trauma involved in being a black girl from 2014 and a white girl from 1863. This is reinforced by my answer to the next question:

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentence teaser:

pages 44-45 (told via Sam’s point-of-view)

Caroline’s still staring at me like I’m an alien from another planet. Mom said that some people in the South could be kind of peculiar about biracial kids, but this is a bit more than I expected. Maybe horses will work.

“Do you ride?” I say.

She gulps. “Yes.”

“What’s your horse’s name?”

This always helps to break the ice. No matter who you’re talking to, if they love horses you can get beyond whatever barriers you think are out there if you share your horses’ names.

What inspired Turning on a Dime? How did the story come to be?

I don’t remember, exactly, what inspired it, but I do remember that I was nervous about writing it. I mean, where did I get off, a middle-aged Englishwoman putting herself into the head of a contemporary black American teenager?

So I resisted the story for a long time, like six or seven years, until it couldn’t be contained any longer. To keep on track, I kept reminding myself … girls are girls, no matter what color they are, and some of them love horses.

Bingo! This would be the central theme.

And so, using the writer’s old standby … WHAT IF? … I built the story around these two girls (one black, one white, from two different centuries) and their mutual love of horses … and of adventure. They’re both gutsy and brave, full of angst, and often vulnerable—just like any other teenager, modern or otherwise. Then I tossed in a little time travel and away we went!

Do you have an absolute favorite character in Turning on a Dime, that you loved to write and explore? Did any of your characters end up surprising even you?

This is a toughie, because I adore Sam and Caroline. They both face challenges to their beliefs and how they perceive themselves. Yet, despite all this, they come together in a world that belongs to Caroline because this is where Sam has landed, and she has to deal with it or get herself into serious trouble.

Learning from one another, the girls move beyond prejudice and petticoats and cope with the issues at hand, all the while becoming each other’s best friend. I think the most poignant parts of the story are those where they realize, separately, that their moments together won’t last. Sam will leave Caroline behind in the 1860s and return to her own time.

The character who ended up surprising me the most was a Union Army lieutenant, Gideon Palmer. At first, I wasn’t too sure what to do with him, but when he took a fancy to Caroline, I knew exactly where to go with this. So did Caroline and she played him like a well-tuned piano. Gideon ended up being a catalyst for change and … well, I won’t spoil the story for you.

Your character Samantha loves horses and riding...can you tell us a little bit about your own experiences with horses?

Believe it or not, but I learned to ride horses in the middle of England's largest movie complex, Pinewood Studios. Back in the day it was famous for Cleopatra with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor; more recently for Superman, Harry Potter, and the James Bond/007 films.

So, here’s my story: many years ago there was a riding stable at Pinewood, and every time us kids rode our ponies down to the paddock where we took lessons, we passed between the main building (head offices and cafeteria) on one side and enormous sound stages on the other. Movie extras in a variety of costumes—aliens, female warriors, and cowboys—would be heading off for lunch or dinner; sometimes we saw really famous stars. A few of them even talked to us. There's nothing like being on a horse to get people's attention.

I imagine one of the best things about being an author is the positive and memorable ways readers react to your books...can you tell us about any of your favorite encounters or experiences with your readers?

The best encounters are those with women now in their thirties and forties who, as kids, loved my earlier horse-book series, Best Friends (in the late-1980s), which evolved into my current series, Timber Ridge Riders. I’ve had several wonderful moments on Twitter and Facebook with these former fans who are now introducing their own children to my latest horse books.

Another amazing encounter was a few months ago with Kate, a young fan who wrote a letter to her best friend about the Timber Ridge books. Kate’s mom took a photo of the letter and gave me permission to share it on Facebook.

Then there are the ‘stream-of-consciousness’ reviews with no punctuation and no capitalization that appear on Amazon, written by enthusiastic youngsters. I absolutely treasure those. The only tough ones are those that ask when the next book is coming out … just a few days after the previous one appeared.

Help! I’m writing as fast as I can.

What do you hope readers learn or walk away with after reading Turning on a Dime?

Enjoyment, a sense of being totally engrossed in the pages, and perhaps a heightened awareness of what it’s like to be different in a world where you’re in real, physical danger. I would also hope that readers will realize that on the inside we humans are all the same, no matter what our outer wrappings look like.

Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at putting my foot in my mouth and then changing feet.

I’m really embarrassed to admit that the dust bunnies beneath my couch are the size of small sheep.

The last great book I read was I’ve read so many great books lately, I’m having trouble deciding, but here are two recent ones that I could not put down. Ambition, by Natalie Keller Reinert, and Lyric Line by Barbara Morgenroth. I was privileged to be a beta reader for both books.

If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Turning on a Dime, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?

My cupcake would be chocolate with vanilla frosting because the character that anchors Turning on a Dime is Samantha, just like the ingredients (flour, eggs, butter, and sugar) that anchor a cupcake. The frosting is Caroline because you can’t have a cupcake without frosting (compelling and totally necessary). It would taste rich and satisfying, but not too sweet. I would call this cupcake DELICIOUS DIVERSITY … oh, and I’d put a tiny horse on top.

 (A teenage Maggie jumping her pony, Smokey, without a saddle!)

MAGGIE DANA’s first riding lesson, at the age of five, was less than wonderful. In fact, she hated it so much, she didn’t try again for another three years. But all it took was the right instructor and the right horse and she was hooked for life. 
Her new riding stable was slap bang in the middle of Pinewood Studios, home of England’s movie industry. So while learning to groom horses, clean tack, and muck stalls, Maggie also got to see the stars in action. Some even spoke to her.
In addition to writing books for young horse lovers, Maggie also writes women’s fiction, and her new book, TURNING ON A DIME, is a time travel book for MG/tween readers about horses, the Civil War, and two girls from two different centuries. Born and raised near London, Maggie now makes her home on the Connecticut shoreline where she divides her time between hanging out with the family's horses and writing her next book in the Timber Ridge Riders series.

Win a print or ebook copy of
Turing On A Dime!
Maggie has generously offered a print and ebook copy of her book for two winners.
-the print copy is US only, the e-copy is INT
-one winner will get the print copy, one winner will get the e-copy
-ends 5/26
-must be 13+ to enter
-winners will be emailed and must claim prizes within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
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Kat said...

Thank you for the giveaway. If I should win this book, I would give it to my friend's daughter who would absolutely love it!

Carl Scott said...

I have four nieces who all love reading and animals. They might have to share this book. Thanks.

Unknown said...

This book sounds wonderful. My children are multi-ethnic and could learn so much from this novel. They are also animal lovers. I enjoyed today's post immensely and thank you for sharing with us. michelle_willms at yahoo dot com

Maggie Dana said...

Author chiming in here with many thanks to Aeicha for asking such interesting questions. She really made me put my thinking cap on. I answered several of them over my birthday weekend and my family was a bit puzzled over some of the stuff I came out with, like the question about cupcakes. But, funnily enough it was the first one I answered because it came to me (as I was eating birthday cake, no less). And, if Aeicha could figure out a way to email me a cupcake, I would be eternally grateful.

Signed, Maggie [off to find a yummy snack!]

The Rehomesteaders said...

What a great giveaway! I am on the verge of publishing my first equestrian novel so it was great to hear from another author who also enjoys writing fantastic stories about horses. Thanks for the giveaway! :)
-Rachael from The Rehomesteaders

Unknown said...

This book sounds wonderful. I love animals.

Unknown said...

My nieces and I both love horses so I'd love to share TURN ON A DIME with them. We all dig time travel, too! This sounds like a really great read!