Hi, Thank you so much for agreeing to be on my blog, Can you tell us about The Miraculous?
Hi, Liv! Thank you so much for having me!
THE MIRACULOUS is the story of Wunder Ellis, an 11-year-old miracologist. Wunder collects miracles—all things inexplicable and extraordinary—in a notebook he calls The Miraculous. But when his newborn sister passes away after only eight days, Wunder leaves the notebook in the cemetery and stops believing in anything magical.
But then he meets cape-wearing, paranormal-loving Faye, who has just lost her grandfather. Faye insists that she and Wunder visit the old woman who has appeared in the abandoned DoorWay House by the cemetery.
The old woman—who Faye is convinced is a witch—asks for their help. She has quests for them to complete—unusual, possibly magical quests. And so they begin a journey filled with mysterious letters, ancient trees, midnight break-ins, police car rides, friendship, healing, and miracles.
What inspired you to write to write this book?
I had quite a few inspirations for this story, most of them tied to my own experiences with loss. The first death that I was truly able to understand was the passing of a best friend’s father when I was nine. I remember watching my friend come down the bus aisle toward me when she returned to school and wondering what I should say, how I could make things better. I don’t know if I did say anything, but I know that we held hands the whole way to school.
I am a therapist, and a big part of therapy is coming alongside clients as they move through grief and questions and fear. I was going through a period of loss—and a deep fear of possible loss—when the idea for this story came to me. I wanted to remind myself—including that nine-year-old part of myself holding my friend’s hand—of the things I have learned about grief over the years. This story blossomed from there, rooted in my belief in the powers of love and memory and imagination and friendship and community.
Did you ever record stories like Wunder when you were a kid?
I didn’t collect miracles per se, but I did write constantly—stories, quotes, song lyrics, little snippets of conversations. I crept around my neighborhood peeking in windows Harriet the Spy-style.
I had so many journals (birthday and Christmas presents!), but they were all so beautiful that I could never bring myself to write in them, so mostly I used marble-cover notebooks.
Is there any character in your book that you’re most like?
Hmm…well, both Wunder and Faye are fascinated by the magical and the unseen, by what people believe and why. They are questioners and they are intense, in their own ways, and that description fits me pretty well. Wunder is naturally a lot more naturally optimistic and extroverted than I am, and Faye is much more outspoken and wonderfully quirky.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Oh, this is the hardest question of all. As a kid, I loved Madeleine L’Engle, Ellen Raskin, and Katherine Patterson, especially BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA. I loved fantasy and all stories that made me think and cry. Now, Kate DiCamillo is my absolute favorite author. There is nothing that she has written that I don’t love.
Did you ever feel any pressure when writing this story?
Emotionally, there were parts of the story that were difficult to write. I think it is likely true that whenever you write something from your heart, you end up doing your own emotional work in the process. In many ways, however, this story was easy. I felt connected to the characters, felt like I knew them inside and out. The plot shifted slightly and gained clarity as I wrote and edited, but the themes and the feelings remained constant.
I can’t even imagine what it must be like to lose a sister, What kind of effect do you think that would have on an 11 year old?
As a therapist, I can say that grief is a uniquely individual process. Every person’s experience will be different, and all experiences are equally valid. In THE MIRACULOUS, Wunder has spent his life collecting stories of miracles, mostly from his neighbors. When he loses his sister and his belief in the miraculous along with her, he feels disconnected from his family and his community. His parents are both struggling with their own grief, and Wunder ends up finding support in unexpected places—in his new friend Faye, in the old woman who might be a witch, and in the quests that she sends them on. The quests show Wunder and Faye different ways that people cope with their grief. Wunder moves through a lot of emotional states—confusion, denial, sadness, anger—and I think it’s important for young readers to see that.
Grief is individual, but there are some things that help across the board—family and community support, sharing memories, traditions and rituals for honoring loved ones, re-engaging with day-to-day life. In THE MIRACULOUS, characters do this at different paces and in their own ways, but in the end, they make it to a place of hope and light and togetherness.
If anything, what do you want readers to take away from this book?
My hope is that THE MIRACULOUS finds its way to readers who have experienced their own losses, readers with big questions and big feelings. What I want those readers to hear is that help and hope are available from many sources and that in this world of dark and light, of grief and miracles, we are healed by connection. And I hope that THE MIRACULOUS helps all readers to develop greater compassion for others, and a sense of wonder and hope.
Lastly there are a lot of great books out this year so, off the top of your head, what 2019 books would you recommend?
2019 has been/is going to be so full of beautiful words, and I have so many recommendations! I’ll limit myself here and choose three:
RUBY IN THE SKY by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo
THE LIGHT IN THE LAKE by Sarah Baughman
ALL THE IMPOSSIBLE THINGS by Lindsay Lackey
Jess Redman has wanted to be an author since age six, when her poem “I Read and Read and Read All Day” appeared in a local anthology. It took a little while though. First, she did things like survive middle school, travel around the world, become a therapist, and have two kids.
But then finally, her childhood dream came true! Her middle-grade debut, THE MIRACULOUS, will be published by FSG/Macmillan on July 30, 2019. Her second middle-grade novel, QUINTESSENCE, will be out on July 28, 2020. You can find her at www.JessRedman.com.
Book on Macmillan: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374309749