Friday, May 17, 2013

All About Middle Grade Interview: Ari B. Goelman (author of The Path of Names)

Can you believe it, we are already into the fifth month of the All About Middle Grade Challenge. *dances* This week I am very excited to welcome Ari B. Goelman, author of The Path of Names, to the blog. Hope y'all will give him a warm welcome.

About the Author:

I’m Ari Goelman.  I write fantasy novels.  Stories, too.

My first novel, The Path of Names, is scheduled to be published by Arthur A. Levine in June, 2013.  It’s a middle grade fantasy set at a  summer camp, a kind of combination murder mystery / ghost story / ‘why did my parents make me go to summer camp?’ story.  I went to summer camp for many years, but this is not based on my personal experiences.  I never saw any ghosts, notwithstanding my heartfelt desire, and numerous experiments with a Ouija board when I was 11.  You can read more about The Path of Names (and a variety of other interesting things) on my blog.

You can haunt Ari B. Goelman at-
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1. I love that your main character, Dahlia, enjoys unusual things (magic and math club).  Why do you think readers will enjoy reading about her and her summer camp adventure?

            Dahlia is a pretty unusual person, and certainly has some unusual hobbies.  But in The Path of Names she struggles with issues that I think most readers will find pretty familiar  – fitting in, dealing with nasty people, disembodied spirits who need her help and so on. 
I tried to write The Path of Names so Dahlia is simultaneously dealing with all the usual summer camp stuff – the seemingly arbitrary rules, the mean girls in the bunk, relations with boys – and at the same time is confronted with a supernatural murder mystery.  Hopefully, it’s fun to watch her weave her way through all of that, in the process discovering that she is a bigger and better person than she at first realized.   

2. Why do you think Dahlia is so interested in finding out the answer behind the dreams that start up doing her time at summer camp?

Dahlia is a super curious and rational person. Whereas some people (and I include myself in this category) might be simply freaked out by the dreams and rest (seeing little girls walk through the walls of her cabin and so on), to Dahlia, it’s primarily a mystery to be solved.  On some level, she’s sure it’s a trick, and Dahlia loves figuring out how tricks work.
3. So, Ari, why did you want to have The Path of Names take place at summer camp?

            I spent years at summer camp as a young person, both as a camper and a counselor.  I think it’s a great setting for a coming of age story, because for lots of kids, summer camp is the first time in their lives that they are really free to define themselves outside of the umbrella of their family. 
In some way it’s a really weird institution – with hundreds of kids supervised by only very slightly older kids – there’s a sense that anything can happen.  I think that sense of unreality works especially well with a fantasy story.

4. What ended up being the most enjoyable experience when it came to writing your debut, The Path of Names?

Writing and publishing The Path of Names was a good time in all sorts of way.  It’s hard to choose one.
To begin with, writing the first draft was fun.  I really enjoyed revisiting all my memories of summer camp, and I loved the characters I came up with.  For me, that’s really key in enjoying the writing process – have characters with who you like spending time.
Selling the book to Cheryl Klein at Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic) was hugely thrilling.  Arthur A. Levine is the imprint of Scholastic which published Harry Potter in the United States, and Cheryl is an enormously accomplished editor.  It was a thrill to know I was going to be working with her on my first published novel.
Then, the revision process itself was satisfying.  Going back and forth with Cheryl, working with her to highlight the strengths of the manuscript, and prune the inessential bits out.  At the end of that process, there was something magical about getting the ARC (advance review copy) in the mail, and seeing my book with the beautiful cover designed by Yaffa Jaskolle. 
Finally, I am loving the opportunities to do readings and talk about The Path of Names.  After working on something for so long, it is enormously satisfying to see readers’ reactions and answer their questions in person.

5. Since you have (unfortunately) never experienced ghosts while attending summer camp, what would you say was the scariest thing that happened while attending camp

            That’s easy.   One summer, when I was a counselor, the whole camp was in the middle of nowhere on a hike and got stranded in an open field during a long thunderstorm.  The sun went down, and the buses that were meant to come get the campers never arrived.  We were out there for hours with no shelter except for a tarp or two.  Watching my campers get steadily wetter and more hypothermic was perhaps the most disturbing episode in a decade at that camp.  (I should say, perhaps, that everyone was fine after a good sleep.)  Some of my more attentive readers might notice that I included a reference to a similar event in The Path of Names.

6. Would you rather be lost in a mega hedge maze or marooned on a deserted island? Why?

            A hedge maze, definitely, just because you have to imagine that if there’s a hedge maze, there must be people around somewhere.  At some point you’ll find your way out.  A desert island, on the other hand, you could be there for a long time.  Plus, I saw too many episodes of Lost so on a desert island I’d always be waiting for the bad guys to come and steal my baby or for Sawyer to steal my guns or have a disturbing flashback about his troubled childhood or so on.

7. Since your debut book, The Path of Names, is a mystery (among other things) can you tell us your favorite middle grade mystery book? All-time favorite mystery? 

Okay.  For the middle grade mystery I would say:  the Richard Peck book The Ghost Belonged to Me.  I thought about that book a lot when I was writing The Path of Names.  Not the details (which I’ve almost entirely forgotten) as much as the creepy atmosphere and the very likable main characters.
As for my all time favorite mystery, I’m thinking the Michael Chabon book, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union.  This was lurking in the back of my mind as I wrote The Path of Names, too, what with its alternate reality and imaginary sects of Judaism and reference to Jewish superstitions. 

8. Any upcoming projects that you can share with us? 

            My next book is called Son of a Supervillain and is about Beta McGuire, the teenaged son of a vanished supervillain. Beta lives with his grandparents and mostly manages to stay out of trouble.  That is, until he stumbles over a mind control plot to take over the world, a plot that just might involve his long-vanished father.  Much fun, trouble, and some truly horrible rhyming couplets follow. 

9. The world has fallen to a robot invasion and only one heroine/hero can possibly save the day, who do you choose? 

            Not to seem horribly self-referential, but I would definitely choose Beta.  He has a way with robots.

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

            I have many writing caves, well distributed among the cafes and libraries of the City of Vancouver.  I
used to write at home pretty regularly, and will probably start again, once my baby twins are a bit older.  (I have a hard time not playing with my babies when I’m ‘working’ at home.) I’ve included a picture of my work space at the Mount Pleasant Library in the Vancouver Public Library system, where I’m writing today. 

Thanks so much for stopping by, Ari. Oh my gosh! The Ghost Belonged to Me, that is one of my favorite books (haven't read it in ages though).

The Path of Names by Ari B. Goelman, April 30, 2013. Published by Arthur A. Levine Books.

Mysteries, mazes, and magic combine in this smart, funny summer-camp fantasy -- like THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY for kids!

Dahlia Sherman loves magic, and Math Club, and Guitar Hero. She isn't so fond of nature walks, and Hebrew campfire songs, and mean girls her own age.

All of which makes a week at Jewish summer camp pretty much the worst idea ever.

But within minutes of arriving at camp, Dahlia realizes that it might not be as bad as she'd feared. First she sees two little girls walk right through the walls of her cabin. Then come the dreams -- frighteningly detailed visions of a young man being pursued through 1930s New York City. How are the dreams and the girls related? Why is Dahlia the only one who can see any of them? And what's up with the overgrown, strangely shaped hedge maze that none of the campers are allowed to touch? Dahlia's increasingly dangerous quest for answers will lead her right to the center of the maze -- but it will take all her courage, smarts, and sleight-of-hand skills to get her back out again.

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