Friday, May 23, 2014

All About Middle Grade Interview: J.J. Parsons (Author of Dead Chest Island)

This week, I am very excited to welcome J.J. Parsons, author of Dead Chest Island, to the blog to answer all the questions-from her favorite line in the book to who she believes would be able to save the world from robots.

About the Author:
Growing up in the generation that sought enlightenment and then invented the Internet, J. J. Parsons writes from a crazy quilt of experiences that include earning an elementary education teaching degree in math-science, studying with famous yoga gurus, teaching college-level Computer Science, and authoring best-selling technology textbooks. After living in the Virgin Islands for twenty years, the author now lives on a picturesque street in Savannah that’s shaded by huge live-oak trees and wisps of Spanish moss.

You can haunt J.J. Parsons at-
 WebsiteGoodreads |


In three words tell us about Dead Chest Island.
      Adventure, adventure, adventure!
    Why do you think readers will enjoy reading about Edison's adventures?
Readers will love the non-stop action. An earthquake, a clue on an old piece of whale bone, a pirate story, “borrowing” a rickety wooden boat, castaway on one island, marooned on another island, outrunning a tidal wave, caught in an underwater tunnel, exploring an underground cave, discovering dolphinbots, finding a mysterious crystal, outwitting a band of spies, and more.

    What did you enjoy most when it came to writing Edison's story?
I had so much fun with the characters that Edison and Charlotte meet. There’s Jonathan, the boy who walks backwards. Margarita Fate who hypnotizes chickens. Kelly a beatnik beach bum with a head full of dreads. The guy Edison calls Mr. Tonka Truck, and a spy who could be a reincarnation of Natasha Fatale.

    What was hardest chapter to write in Dead Chest Island?
The first chapter. I rewrote it countless times. There was so much I wanted to get into that chapter; the characters, the setting, the time period, and so on. And, I wanted to get readers interested starting with the first sentence. So, the book begins with a couple of scary chickens, which is cool because on Caribbean islands there are chickens everywhere; Wandering about from yard to yard, roosting on dumpsters, and holding up traffic on major roads. The book starts and ends with chickens, who, of course, are tied to the outlandish voodoo woman, Margarita Fate.

The chapter in which Charlotte meets Jonathan was also difficult. There is a bit of tension between Charlotte and Jonathan. Unknown to readers, Jonathan is the first dark-skinned person she has met directly. Remember that this story takes place in the 1950s. Charlotte has been told that “skin color doesn’t matter,” but she has never been in a situation where she had to act on it. She is a bit confused and nervous. In the first drafts of the book, I wrote the issue in explicitly, but later decided that it detracted from the story. The issue still weaves within the text in subtle ways, which is perhaps a modern reflection on discrimination. Teachers and parents who wish to make it a point of discussion can find supporting passages in the text.
    Can you share with us a two-sentence teaser from your favorite chapter?

Charlotte didn’t hesitate, slow down, or stop. She continued running at top speed and hurled herself at the nearest boulder scrabbling for handholds. Her feet slipped on the steep rock face and she slid back down to the sand.
“Give me a boost,” she yelled while running to her right, half jumping, half climbing every few feet in desperation. Edison and Jonathan followed her while scanning the cliff face for any path to reach higher ground.
Charlotte suddenly disappeared behind a massive boulder the size and shape of a refrigerator. They heard her screech just before she reappeared pelting toward them at top speed as a bat swooped over her head. Edison and Jonathan caught her
before she ran back out to the boat.
“Wrong way,” said Jonathan, spinning her back toward the rocks.
“We’re trapped,” sobbed Charlotte hysterically. “We’re going to die.”
Jonathan shook her. “Stop it,” he commanded, but Charlotte crumpled on the sand wailing “I wish we’d never come here.”

    One of the craziest things Edison and Co. will encounter throughout their adventure?
Edison, Charlotte, and Jonathan are marooned on an island. They build a huge bonfire on the beach and get kind of crazy dancing around and singing silly songs. Charlotte makes a fire baton and does some wild stuff, tossing it and catching it behind her back. Suddenly, they stop. This is what they saw:
 “A tall figure stood quietly in the shadows on the beach. How long it had been there, was impossible to tell. It had two legs and two arms. Human-like. But where its head should be, there looked to be a wiggling, hissing mass of dark serpents.”


"In middle school I was really good at ART; and my least favorite subject was SPELLING?"

    What was the last middle grade book that blew you away and why you enjoyed it?
I recently read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a story about two children who sneak away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sleeping in the exhibits and scavenging coins from the fountain to buy food. What blew me away was the realization that this seemingly outlandish adventure was plausible—at least when it was written in 1967.

    If you could visit any fictional world for one day which would it be and why?
At the risk of sounding conventional, it would have to be the Shire. I think I’m not too tall to fit in a hobbit house, and I could do with Gandalf’s spectacular fireworks displays.

·   The world has fallen to a robot invasion and only one heroine/hero can possibly save the day, whom do you choose? 
I would choose Watson, the IBM computer famous for beating Gary Kasparov at chess. A robot invasion would call for fighting fire with fire, so I’d set a computer artificial intelligence to the task.

    Care to tell us about your writing cave (include picture if you want)?
Hah! That’s exactly what it is—a cave. The floor is old brick and the window is shuttered to keep out the glare. A single overhead tube provides light, but I have a big, big screen and a comfy lime green chair.

·      Any upcoming projects that you can share with us?
Edison led me to the Reading With Eyes Shut project, which is all about reluctant readers. As a writer, I’m always encouraging kids to read—they are our future readers, after all—but there are lots of reasons why some children never develop a love of stories and books (regardless of whether they’re print or digital). RWES offers stories on digital devices in a mixed-media format that helps readers visualize by closing their eyes and listening before they read a page of text. There’s a blog about it here: and there is a sample story here:

J.J, Thank you so much for stopping by and chatting about your book, Dead Chest Island

Alright guys, what do y'all think of J.J. Parsons choice on who'll save the world from a robot invasion? Plausible or now, you tell me. 

Dead Chest Island (Secrets Begin,1) by J.J. Parsons, December 5, 2013.
Sitting beside a smokey fire, Edison and his new friend Jonathan hear a curious tale of pirates and a cabin boy who is swept into an underwater tunnel on Dead Chest Island. Is the tunnel really there and where does it lead? Edison and Jonathan concoct a crazy scheme to borrow a boat and search for the tunnel. Edison’s loudmouth sister is a vexing last-minute participant in the quest. They set off on a sunny Caribbean afternoon, planning to return in time for supper. But the motor sputters and dies, triggering an amazing chain of events. Find out how the three adventurers deal with a treacherous tidal wave, shadowy dolphinbots, puzzling petroglyphs, a mysterious crystal, and a seriously evil band of spies. Are you ready to expand your reading horizons beyond sorcerers and vampires? Dead Chest Island is perfect for adventurous girls, boys, and dolphins ages 8-12 who are fascinated by the "secrets" of science and the "magic" of technology.

Don't forget, you can add Dead Chest Island by J.J. Parsons to your Goodreads shelves. 

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