Friday, April 5, 2013

All About Middle Grade Interview: Nancy J. Cavanaugh (author of This Journal Belongs to Ratchet)


Today, I am very, very excited to welcome Nancy J. Cavanaugh, author of This Journal Belongs to Ratchet, to the blog. Her debut book has been one of my favorite middle grade reads this year and one that y'all need to read.

About the author:

Nancy J. Cavanaugh lives in Florida with her husband and her daughter. This Journal Belongs to Ratchet is her first book, but she has been writing for almost twenty years.

Like her main character, Nancy is pretty handy with a ratchet and is able to take apart a small engine and put it back together.

In addition to her mechanic's hat, Nancy has been an elementary and middle school teacher as well as a library media specialist. One of her favorite parts of writing for children is being able to say "I'm working" when reading middle grade novels.

You can haunt Nancy Cavanaugh at-
Twitter | Website | FB | Goodreads |

Interview


This Journal Belongs to Ratchet sounds like a fascinating read.  Could you tell us a little about Ratchet and her story?
Eleven-year-old Ratchet determines to make a friend, save a park, and find her own definition of normal. She tells her story through the assignments in her homeschool language arts journal.

Living in a world of spark plugs, pistons, and crankshafts, Ratchet spends her days fixing cars with her dad in the garage – not exactly normal for a girl. Even with the odds stacked against her, Ratchet endeavors to change her life and realizes her skill as a mechanic might just be the path to her first friend. But in the process, she alienates her father and discovers a secret she wishes she never knew. She finds a way to, not only accept the truth she discovers, but also accept herself and her dad in a whole new way.

Ratchet is definitely a unique name.  How did you choose your MC’s name?
Ratchet is actually my character’s nickname.  Her real name is Rachel.  Her nickname was actually one of the first things that came to me when I began thinking about this story.  My story ideas usually start out with a character – their names, their situations, their problems.  These tiny seeds of ideas begin to grow in my imagination.  I let them grow a little in my mind.  Then I jot down in a spiral notebook a few thoughts about my character and what her story might be.  It’s usually only a few pages of very scattered thoughts.  After that, I put the notebook away for a while and let the ideas simmer.  I let my subconscious work on the story and somehow I know when it’s time to get the spiral notebook back out again and begin to work on the story. 
Since I myself was homeschooled, I am beyond excited to read This Journal Belongs to Ratchet because there are not many books with homeschooled protagonists.  What made you want to write a book with a homeschooled protagonist?  What was the easiest and hardest things about doing so?
I knew one of Ratchet’s biggest problems was her need for a friend.  Having her homeschooled in the particular family situation she was in was the perfect way to isolate her from her peers.  I don’t see Ratchet’s homeschool experience as being very typical, but I hope there are still ways in which readers who are homeschooled will be able to identify with her. 
Why do you think that readers will enjoy reading about Ratchet and her quest to change her life?  In your opinion, why do you think Ratchet will stand out from the crowd for readers?
This Journal Belongs to Ratchet is a book with heart and soul and guts, and Ratchet is the kind of character readers will want to root for.  I also think middle grade readers enjoy alternative formats, and my book is definitely unique in that Ratchet tells her entire story through the assignments in her homeschool language arts journal.
So, Nancy, do you have anything in common with your MC, Ratchet?  I hear that you like to take apart and rebuild certain things?
Surprising as it may seem, I actually am able to take apart and put back together a small engine –the kind of engine that would be on a lawn mower.  I learned this from my husband who is an industrial arts teacher.  Together he and I developed and wrote curriculum for a small engines class we taught to middle grade student. 
Nancy, a little bird mentioned that you enjoy baking.  Anything in particular that you really enjoy baking for friends and family?  Why?
I really love to bake any dessert – cookies, pies, cakes.  If I had to pick a favorite it would be Christmas cookies.  Each Christmas I make lots of different kinds of cookies, and I enjoy giving them away to family, friends, and neighbors.
The world has fallen to a robot invasion and only one heroine/hero can possibly save the day, who would you choose?
This is a tough one.  I think I’d choose Aslan the lion from the Chronicles of Narnia.  I’d love to be rescued by him.
Care to tell us about your writing cave?
Well, I wouldn’t really call it a cave.  I’m more of a writing nomad.  I work in different places in my house, and often in the summer, I am travelling so I write whenever and wherever I can.  In the new year, I vowed to get more organized with all my “stuff,” so I just bought this super cool organizer-crate-catch-all type thing, and it’s been great!  It holds all the stuff I’m working on at the moment, and it has handles so I can carry it to any room in the house.
(Link to work space photo - NancyJCavanaughWorkspacePhoto)

Any upcoming projects that you can share with us?
I love experimenting with alternative formats – it’s fun and creative.  I have other works-in-progress that are written in unique ways, so I hope to make one of those becomes my next book.


Thank you so much for stopping by, Nancy, it has been awesome to have you here on the blog to talk about your incredible debut. Cannot wait to read of your work.

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanugh, April, 2013. Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Eleven-year-old Ratchet determines to make a friend, save a park, and find her own definition of normal. She tells her story through the assignments in her homeschool language arts journal.
Living in a world of spark plugs, pistons, and crankshafts, Ratchet spends her days fixing cars with her dad in the garage – not exactly normal for a girl. Even with the odds stacked against her, Ratchet endeavors to change her life and realizes her skill as a mechanic might just be the path to her first friend. But in the process, she alienates her father and discovers a secret she wishes she never knew. She finds a way to, not only accept the truth she discovers, but also accept herself and her dad in a whole new way.

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