Friday, March 15, 2013

All About Middle Grade Interview: Joe Lawlor (author of Bully.Com)

Today, I am very excited to welcome Joe Lawlor, author of Bully.Com, to the blog to talk about his debut novel. Hope y'all will give him a very warm welcome to the blog.

About the author:

I grew up on Long Island with three sisters and no brothers.  To escape unwanted sisterly love, I hid myself away in my closet or sometimes in the limbs of the tall oak in my backyard.  When I couldn’t get far enough away, my imagination was my escape.  While other boys my age bashed their action figures together, I created extensive backstories and family histories for each.  Even at an early age, I knew character motivation was important.

These days, I’m a middle school English teacher.  It may sound insane to want to spend more time in school (wasn’t elementary, middle, high school, college, and graduate school enough?), but I love my job.  It is endlessly challenging, and it gives me an opportunity to take notes on my target audience.

Why am I a writer?  The short answer is because I feel compelled to write.  When I get in the zone, the hours melt away, and before I know it, it’s two o’clock in the afternoon and I’m still in my PJs.  I wish I were born with a compulsion to plant trees or trade stocks, but I am a writer so I must write!

You can haunt Joe Lawlor at-
Website | Goodreads | Twitter | FB |


1. sounds like an amazing and relevant book for the times we live in. What made you want to write a book about cyber bullying and false accusation?

When I was young, I knew who the bullies were in my school, and I did my best to avoid them. Today’s world is different. Because of the Internet, cyber bullies are anonymous or masquerading as someone you think you know. When a cyberbully strikes, everyone in school is a suspect.  For a mystery writer, this is an interesting place to begin a story.

2. In ten words can you introduce us to Jun, the main character, in your debut Bully.Com? Tell us what makes him such a great character.

Ten words?  I could give you ten thousand.  However, since my main character is a rule-follower, I will indulge:

Accidental detective Jun Li is observant, earnest and socially inept.

(I, however, am a rule breaker so if you want to know more about Jun, read on.  First off, he’s obsessed with technology.  The type of kid who while checking his email on his phone is liable to collide with a telephone pole.  Jun has a brilliant mind, but sometimes he gets lost “upstairs”.  He misses social cues that are obvious to his less-brilliant peers.  Chris Pine, Jun’s best friend, has described Jun as “the smartest dumb person I’ve ever met.”)

3. Other than being accused of cyber bullying, what do you think will be the toughest thing that Jun will face as he tries to clear his name and catch the culprit? Anything he'll have to overcome to get the job done?

Hunting the true culprit means interviewing a myriad of suspects.  Jun is better at interfacing with PCs than people, so talking with strangers is the last thing he wants to do after trimming his toenails with a lawn mower.  He’ll have to overcome his natural shyness if he wants to clear his name.
4. I'm pretty sure every die-hard reader has at least one book that has been read so many times that it is literally falling apart at the seams. Are there well loved and well read books on your shelf?

My choice is Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked this Way Comes.  It was the first book I ever finished, only to return to the first page and start reading all over again.  The same happened with Fahrenheit 451, also by Bradbury.   This author crams so much into his lyrical prose that his books demand rereading, if only to spot the ideas and images I missed the first time around.

5. I hear that you grew up surrounded by sisters, so, what would be the best and worst thing about having only sisters?

Growing up, I wanted two things—a super powers and a brother.  Sadly, I got neither.  But in the long run, sisters proved unexpectedly useful.  They taught me how to dress, how to be sensitive to other’s feelings, and the importance of complimenting girls on their hair at regular intervals.  The downside?  Two words—dress up!

6. Besides being keyed into the middle grade sphere, what makes teaching a rewarding career to you?

Sixth graders are energetic, silly, and full of enthusiasm.  It’s rewarding to watch them grow as writers over the course of the school year.  Plus, they laugh at my jokes.

7. If you could pick just one book to place into the hands of your students which would you choose? What makes that one so special that you want them to read it?

My perennial favorite is Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.  Babbitt writes in pictures.  Her use of similes, metaphors and personification create images that remain in the reader’s head long after the book has been finished.  It’s a fantastic story too, about a young girl named Winnie who meets the Tucks, a family of four that live forever.  Winnie must decide if she wants to join this peculiar family or live out a natural life.  This brilliantly-plotted novel discusses the costs and benefits of immortality and there’s not a single vampire in sight!  This is a classic that will continue to endure long after the vampire craze has faded. The world has fallen to a robot invasion and only one heroine/hero can possibly save the day, who do you choose?

I’ll get back to you once I’m finished preparing for the zombie apocalypse.

9. Care to tell us about your writing cave (include picture if you want)?

When my first son was born a year and a half ago, my spacious writing desk was replaced by a crib and changing table.  My new, much smaller desk has been relegated to a cramped corner of my bedroom.  The new accommodations are less than ideal, not that it matters much.  As long as I park myself at the desk every morning to complete my daily writing, I find my prose is as good as ever.

10. Any upcoming projects that you can sure with us?
I’m about three-quarters of the way through the sequel to  Whodunit?   I’ll never tell.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Joe. I think I'm going to have to check out a Ray Bradbury book... at least once after seeing how much you enjoy his writing. Good luck with the sequel to Bully.Com.

Bully.Com by Joe Lawlor, April 1, 2013. Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
Seventh grader Jun Li is a brilliant student, more comfortable around computers than people. But his world turns upside down when the principal accuses him of posting pictures on the school's website that expose the eating disorder of one of his classmates. To prove his innocence, Jun has seven days to track down the true cyber bully.
Jun's investigation will bring him face-to face with computer hackers, a jealous boyfriend, and more than one student who has been a victim of bullying. But he discovers along the way that everyone's story is more complicated than it seems -- and that the people he meets have more in common than they think. With likeable characters and a fast-paced, humorous plot, is a compelling look at the consequences of cyber bullying.
You can buy a copy of Bully.Com or add it to your Goodreads shelf-
Amazon | Goodreads

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