Greg is the author of SOMETHING HAPPENED, co-author of The SISTERS EIGHT series with his wife Lauren Baratz-Logsted and daughter Jackie Logsted, and the recently-released ALIBI JUNIOR HIGH. He lives and writes in Danbury, Connecticut.
I knew I had to read ALIBI JUNIOR HIGH the moment I saw the awesome cover. Love it. And I loved the story inside even more. Cody, the MC in AJH, is clever and clueless, tough and vulnerable, a perfect fish-out-of-water protagonist. For example, here's a line from the book when Cody was contemplating how to approach Renee, the girl at school he is smitten with. To me, this so defined how 13-year-old Cody thinks:
For the last week I've spent most of my time in class thinking about the best way to talk to her. Should I just introduce myself? Ask her about homework? Give her something? Write her a note? Hack into her computer?
Greg's great at showing instead of telling, such as the moment Cody arrives at his new home, where his neighbors are welcoming back their Iraq-and-Afghanistan-war-veteran son and a firecracker goes off. Both Cody and Andy immediately hit the ground. Shared experience. Like Minds. Perfect.
AJH reminded me of the Alex Rider series, in that the protag was raised with military/spy sensibilities and use their know-how to get themselves out of precarious situations, but I liked Cody even better than Alex because he was more real. But don't take my word for it. Here are some of the nice things others have said about ALIBI JUNIOR HIGH:
"...will resonate with readers of all backgrounds... Funny and fast paced." - Kirkus Reviews
"Logsted does a good job of combining crime-fighting action and middle-school angst with current issues." - School Library Journal
"The writing in "Alibi Junior High" is funny and honest and feels very real." "Cody's... one of those characters... we can all can relate to in some way." - PBS Kids
This is another book I highly recommend, especially for hard-to-please boy readers and reluctant readers.
And now, an interview with Greg:
What inspired you to write Alibi Junior High?
The title. It just popped into my head one day while I was driving around. Then it was like, hmm, that’s interesting…what would it be about? I guess it was kind of backwards, like starting in the center of a maze and working your way out.
Are any of your characters based on real people that you know?
Sure, but very rarely pure people from my past. They’re more like complicated cocktail recipes. One part this person, one part that one, a splash of him, a pinch of her, stir, and serve between pages lined heavily with me.
What excites you?
My wife and my daughter. Standing on the top of anything high. An unexpected smile, compliment or surprise. Living in the moment. Pushing the envelope. Skiing. Surf-fishing. A glance, a kiss, or a touch that leads to more. Vacations. Writing when the words flow. Watching one of my teams win. Writing when the words are slow. Good reviews of something I’ve worked on. Proving people wrong. Not forgetting the dry-cleaning. A great idea. Fridays.
What turns you off?
Mondays. A stupid idea. The first day after a vacation. Traffic tickets. People who talk on cell-phones in small public places. Toll booths. Sour old lumpy milk. Stepping in dog crap right before climbing on a ladder and it then gets all over your hands and clothes. Someone who vomits in front of you while you’re waiting for your morning coffee. Rainy weekends. Watching one of my teams lose. Falling from high places. Accidentally poking something in my eye. Gumby. Bad reviews of something I’ve worked on. Forgetting to return library books for months at a time and then having to put up with that look librarians give you. Crossword puzzles. Crashing computers.
If you could invite anyone you wanted - living or dead - to hang out with you at a weekend retreat, who would you invite and why?
I’m guessing you mean celebrities, like actors, artists, and writers, or maybe even a politician, right? Unfortunately I’ve discovered that most of these people don’t really exist. They’re all fairly normal people playing parts and we’ve all built them up to be much more than they really are. The worst thing you can ever do is sit down and talk to one of your heroes. It’s like revealing the Wizard of Oz from behind his curtain.
So maybe…with that in mind. I’d spend a weekend with my parents, long before I was born, when they were both young and full of dreams and hadn’t yet been slowed down by life’s realities and conformities. Can you imagine spending a weekend with your parents but being the adult and watching them interact with you as children? I think it would reveal so much about them that you never understood and maybe even something about yourself that lies buried just beneath your surface but never discovered or explored.
What would it take for you to get top-secret clearance?
I’m not sure. I’ve never tried. But I’m basically a good and honest trustworthy guy so I imagine it would be really difficult.
Do you have any special writing rituals or totems to connect with your muse?
I love to have a cup of tea or coffee by my side. If I can’t get motivated I’ll go for a run or listen to some really loud music.
What songs would make the playlist for Alibi Junior High?
I was listening to In Rainbows by Radiohead while I wrote Alibi. That whole CD feels like Alibi to me.
What's one thing most people don't know about you?
I’m one of the world’s worst spellers. Thank God for spellchecker.
What's your favorite quote?
“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” John Lennon
What are you working on now?
I just finished something called The Stuttering Tattoo and my agent’s shopping it now. I really hope someone picks it up because it’s a whole lot of fun. (Linda's note: LOVE that title!) It’s a YA mystery featuring a 17-year-old high school student, Steven Bishop, who’s a large guy with a slight stuttering problem and a love of motorcycles and hard work. After he gives a mysterious and attractive transfer student a ride home from school on his bike, they discover her dog chewing on a severed arm. Steven very quickly gets himself pulled into something that’s far more complicated and violent than he ever bargained for.
My present project is a new departure for me. It’s a combination time-travel/ paranormal adventure centered around a small private school buried in the mountains of Vermont. It’s tentatively titled Out Of The Woods.
What is an interesting writing quirk of yours?
I like to write late at night and sometimes I’ll fall asleep while I’m writing. Yup, I just nod right off. I’m sure it looks bizarre, me sitting there, hands on the keyboard, back straight, head up and my eyes closed.
Who's your all-time favorite spy/operative/agent?
I guess I’ll go with Jason Bourne from The Bourne Identity. I love the whole, ‘oh I’ve got all these powers I never knew I had and by the way who am I and why are people trying to kill me’ routine. (Linda's note: Oh, yes! Love Bourne. Especially as played by Matt Damon! : ) )
If you could choose one CIA (or, from the answer, MI6) gadget to keep for your very own, what would it be?
Some of those James Bond cars were kinda cool. I’d never be late for an appointment again.
Linda Gerber seems like the ultimate alias but I doubt I could pull it off. (Linda's Note: No, really. I'll help you. And then you can take my place at the next *yawn* PTO meeting...)
You can find more about Greg and his books on his website, his blog, or by following him on twitter.
If you would like to be entered to win a signed copy of ALIBI JUNIOR HIGH, leave a comment below, telling us how you would use super-agent skillz at home, work or school. This drawing will remain open until Friday, October 16.