Monday, October 05, 2009

Mid-Grade Monday with Kate Coombs

I'm excited to kick off Mid-Grade Mondays by sharing with you one of my favorite MG authors of all time, Kate Coombs. In the spirit of full disclosure, Kate is a friend and a crit group sistah, so I may be a little prejudiced, but seriously? Her writing speaks for itself. Her books are clever and witty and just plain fun to read.

Some of you may have already discovered Kate's blog, The Book Aunt. If you haven't, you should, if you are interested in intelligent book reviews and discussion. Kate knows more about Children's Literature than about anyone I can think of. You also should check out Kate's fabulous website. Go on. I'll wait. That website epitomizes Kate to me. Intelligent, creative and lots of fun. I love Vantor's Swoon Club. And - did you notice Kate did the artwork? She is multi-talented!

For today, we're going to talk about Kate's latest release, THE RUNAWAY DRAGON, the sequel to the award-winning THE RUNAWAY PRINCESS. Like the first book, THE RUNAWAY DRAGON is a delight to read with lovable characters and laugh-out-loud moments. But don't take my word for it - check out what others have to say about THE RUNAWAY DRAGON:

Coombs again takes a familiar setup—feisty princess, fractured-fairy-tale kingdom—and makes it fresh with droll humor, brisk plotting, and multidimensional characters. Even as the world they inhabit grows increasingly zany, the characters themselves are never satirized, which allows the narrative to function at two levels: the ironic send-up and the earnest hero tale. Combined, they make for a warm, witty story that will leave readers clamoring for the next installment. - Horn Book Magazine

In this funny, lighthearted follow-up to The Runaway Princess (2006), it's the dragon's turn to spread his wings and fly the coop... Enchanted forests, rampant transmogrification, evil sorceresses and giants are all fine fodder for Coombs's inventive twists on traditional fairy tales, as illuminated in the author's note. - Kirkus

Further, Booklist says THE RUNAWAY DRAGON "will resonate with princess fanatics" and School Library Journal observes that it "catches readers' attention from the start and doesn't let go."

And now for Kate's own words:

What inspired you to write The Runaway Dragon?
In the first book, The Runaway Princess, an adventurous princess named Meg avoids an arranged marriage while rescuing a witch, a dragon, and some bandits from the very same pack of princes who are trying to destroy them in order to win her hand. Meg is envious of the princes because she'd love to have her own adventure, specifically a quest. This idea is what prompted the second book: Meg's rescued dragon, who's grown up a bit, flies away from home in a huff, so she sets out on a quest to find him. Further adventures ensue as Meg and her friends encounter an enchanted forest, a giant, and a "mean girls"-type teen sorceress.

Are any of your characters based on real people that you know?
No, but I suspect there's a tinge of Homer and Marge Simpson in the king and queen in my Runaway books. The queen is more sensible than the king, who tends to make pronouncements without thinking. (I have had friends tell me they see some of Meg in me!)

What excites you?
Beautiful-cool-weird things. For example, I recently posted on my book review blog about some guys who wove a tapestry entirely out of spider silk. (It came out golden, not gray, as you might imagine!) I bought a couple of steampunk pins this summer that made me smile because they were lovely in an off-the-wall way. Along those same lines, I love fresh ideas in books--such as Shaun Tan's The Arrival, which is a new and wonderful act of creativity. Such works enrich the universe, as do small moments of greatness, like the look of a certain leaf or the sky at one particular moment, also a perfect line in a poem.

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 would have to pick author Terry Pratchett, who's one of the funniest people on the planet. And perhaps Neil Gaiman, though his cool factor is a bit terrifying these days. Holly Black--I heard her at the SCBWI Conference and really liked her. Dipping into the dead pool, I'll bet William Shakespeare and Jane Austen would be a kick. And of course, I'd love to invite some of my favorite literary characters, maybe Megan Whalen Turner's Gen and J.K. Rowling's crew of Harry and friends. It occurs to me that some people might be more fun to read about than hang out with, though. For instance, I'm crazy about Pratchett's Granny Weatherwax as a character, but in real life she'd put everyone in their place within seconds!

What do you do in your day job?
I drive around L.A. teaching students who are seriously ill in their homes for the school district. It's a unique and rewarding thing to do--I meet some really fantastic kids.

Do you have any special writing rituals or totems to connect with your muse?
Well, I inadvertently developed the habit of buying knickknacks for my desk that represent book projects. For example, there's a small paper mache hedgehog for an upcoming picture book called Hans-My-Hedgehog, a jeweled frog for the frog princes in The Runaway Princess, an excellent bronze dragon for The Runaway Dragon, and an alligator for my current manuscript, Curses.

What are you working on now?
My new book is a teen paranormal, but I promise it's not about vampires. There is a witch, hence the curses. My main character has a power of her own. At first she simply uses it to undo what the witch is doing, but eventually she and the witch have to face off. It's a very fun book to write!

If you could choose one magical power for your very own, what would it be?
I'm an avid reader of children's fantasy, so I've come across a lot of intriguing magical powers. But to use the sci-fi term, being able to teleport sounds wildly useful, especially since I deal with L.A. traffic on a daily basis. I could easily visit my mom in Utah and my friends in Chicago. And I could show up in places like London or Singapore without a nasty long flight! I do know I wouldn't want to read people's minds--as my sister would say, TMI (too much information).

Milk Chocolate or Dark?
Milk, preferably with entertaining additions such as toffee, strawberry filling, or nuts.

If you would like to be entered to win a signed copy of THE RUNAWAY DRAGON, leave a comment below, telling us what magical power you would choose for yourself if you had the choice.

This drawing will remain open until Friday, October 9th.

Reminder: Only two days left for the Marissa Doyle BETRAYING SEASON drawing!