Today, I am excited to welcome Michael Scott Miller, author of The Phony Farkleberry. to the blog to discuss his middle grade book and his favorite book detectives (one of whom happens to be a favorite of mine as well-can you guess who).
About the author:
Michael Scott Miller says there is no greater compliment than when his readers say they became emotionally invested in his characters.
Michael found the inspiration for his first novel, Ladies and Gentlemen...The Redeemers, from the talented but poor musicians that stake out territories and collect change from passersby in the subways of Philadelphia. This story of a band, cobbled together from down-and-out musicians, has been described as "a lesson in persistence, perseverance, salesmanship, and faith," and as "a fun, feel good story."
You can haunt Michael Scott Miller at-
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1. In five words describe The Phony Farkleberry.
Brainy fifth-graders investigate art theft
2. So, did you always plan on having their first case be that of an art heist? Other than trying to keep their parents in the dark, what's the hardest (non-spoiler) thing they'll face while trying to crack the case?
I did. I wanted the kids to get pulled into their first mystery sort of by accident. And to make the story appropriate for children, the crime committed needed to be non-violent. Having one of the kids’ parents work in an art gallery where a painting is stolen and replaced with a copy seemed like the perfect solution. As readers will learn (no spoiler, I think), this first case introduces them to Detective Michael Johansson, a recurring character in the series and a source of future cases.
The hardest, non-spoiler thing the kids have to face is grown-ups who don’t take their findings seriously. However, they learn to use their age to their advantage as they discover that there are benefits to being underestimated.
3. Can you share a two sentence teaser from your favorite chapter of The Phony Farkleberry with us?
Wow! I thought condensing the storyline into a book jacket blurb was difficult! LOL.
One of my favorite chapters is when the kids become suspicious of a well-to-do married couple in their town who happen to be big patrons of the art gallery. In one of the scenes, the athletic Tubby (a nickname left over from his early childhood) and the reluctant Dontrelle attempt to spy into their house at night. Tubby climbs a tree overlooking their yard while Dontrelle maintains a lookout on the ground, with instructions to give a bird whistle if he sees anyone coming. The teaser here contains a nice mix of adventure and comedic mishap as Tubby eases his way out along a tree branch, only to have it snap off and deposit him into the yard:
Dontrelle peeked through a gap in the fence. “Are you okay?” he asked in a half whisper, half yell. An outdoor light came on. Dontrelle whistled.4. Keeping with the mystery theme, who are three of your favorite mystery book detectives. What do you think makes them a great detective?
“A little late for that,” Tubby said as he scrambled to his feet and rushed toward the fence.
Hercule Poirot – I grew up reading a lot of Agatha Christie books. What made Poirot so effective was his focus on the psychology of the criminal. Rather than searching for clues and examining evidence, he focused on people, getting them to talk. His philosophy: the more people talked, the more opportunities they had to give themselves away.
The Three Investigators – I’m counting this trio as one since they operated as a team. As a child, I could not get enough of these books with such wonderful titles as “The Mystery of the Flaming Footprints” or “The Mystery of the Talking Skull.” Under a pile of junk in a family-owned scrapyard, the kids created a hideout where they worked on their cases. Their leader, Jupiter Jones, approached the mysteries by adhering to a belief that no matter how supernatural the circumstances may appear, there must be a rational explanation.
Robert Langdon – I love puzzles, and what set of mysteries provides a better web than Dan Brown’s works featuring the Harvard professor of religious iconology and symbology turned amateur detective. In complete contrast to Hercule Poirot, Langdon’s strength is his ability to examine evidence, interpret clues (often religious symbols tied to secret societies), and follow the threads where they lead.
5. Last book that kept you reading late into the night?
I read a wide variety of genres and the most recent book that gripped me was The Hunger Games (the first one in the series). What made this one so great to me was its plausibility, not so much the concept of the kids fighting one another as spectator sport, but the idea of a capitol forcing labor upon segments of its population for the benefit of itself and its people. The characters and the settings are so perfectly vivid, both in the downtrodden districts and in the flamboyant capitol.
6. If you could have tea with any author, dead or living, who would you choose? What would be the first question you asked them?
Louis Sachar, author of the Wayside School series. The first thing I’d ask him is how long it took him to write Chapter 6 in Wayside School gets a Little Stranger where the kids all bring their unusually named pets to school. It is sidesplittingly funny and exceptionally clever.
7. The world has fallen to a robot invasion and only one heroine/hero can possibly save the day, who do you choose?
Will Smith in Independence Day, Men in Black, or I Robot. Take your pick. Calm, cool, and hilariously irreverent.
Thanks for having me visit!
Michael, thank you so much for stopping by! Hercule Poirot is one of my favorite detectives...EVER! So color me excited to see him mentioned in your answer! Loved the teaser from your book!!
The Phony Farkleberry (Twisted Oak Amateur Detectives, 1) by Michael Scott Miller, September 22, 2014.
When a painting by legendary artist Thomas Farkleberry is stolen from the art gallery where Tyler’s mother works, Tyler’s mind races to the whispered conversation he overheard on the night of the big gala. But when his mother dismisses Tyler’s suspicions, he and his friends, Melanie, Amanda, Tubby, and Dontrelle, decide to take the investigation into their own hands. Can they crack the case before their parents discover what they are up to?
Don't forget, you can add The Phony Farkleberry to your Goodreads shelves.