I’m Janet Fox, the author of books for young readers. Some of my books are set in mystical places. Some of my books are about mystical events.
I like history, mystery, romance, and adventure… but mostly I like writing for and about the child – the teen – I still am inside. (source)
Prompt: Please discuss the transition to writing for middle grade readers. Was there anything specific about this audience that was of interest to you, or did it happen on its own with the story?
Thanks so much for having me! This is a great question. The best answer is to say that it was a combination of factors that led me to write THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE as a middle grade novel.
My favorite books as a 12-year-old kid were those novels that we’d now know as middle grade (though those classifications didn’t exist back then.) The NARNIA series, THE SECRET GARDEN, THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, the Nancy Drew books, fairy tales and Greek myths – they were some combination of fantasy, mystery, and adventure, and I read them all, over and over, like a fiend.
Then there is the inspiration for this novel, which immediately suggested something strange and foreign but also wondrous: the chatelaine that you’ll discover in the opening pages. Sometimes mysterious objects tell the story and as the writer I simply provide the channel. This story came out almost fully formed, which is a rare thing for me. (You can learn more about the chatelaine and how it came into my life elsewhere on this tour.) This kind of magic lends itself directly to the middle grade audience.
But most importantly, as I began to write, the voice of the main character was never in doubt. Kat Bateson was 12 years old from the instant she appeared on the page. She and her brother and sister and their friends could never be anything except middle grade age. Kat’s experiences, her emotions, her ties to her family, and her abilities are all those of a 12-year old. I never had any moment’s hesitation writing her story as a middle grade novel.
Having said all that, I do love writing for middle graders, just as much as I love writing for young adult readers. I’m drawn to that in-between age, when childhood is slipping away but not gone, and when the imagined is still present but the real is beginning to creep in. Middle graders are like changelings, neither this nor that. I remember my own middle grade years vividly, and how much I felt in between. The more I write, the more I want to explore the depths of emotion of both middle grade and young adult readers, and this novel gave me the chance to find my way back to my 12-year-old self.
“Middle graders are like changelings, neither this nor that. I remember my own middle grade years vividly, and how much I felt in between.” Beautifully said! Those years are such an exciting, confusing time in a child’s life, and it’s wonderful when grown-ups are able to remember with such clarity what it’s like to feel like you’re not quite sure where you fit in!
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