Hi Joanne, thank you for being on my blog today to discuss your debut MG novel in verse, Everywhere Blue. How excited are you for people to read your book?
I’m very excited! I’ve waited a long time for this book. In fact, I’ve been writing for many years, many decades. I really hope people like it.
Can you tell us a little bit about Everywhere Blue?
Everywhere Blue is a novel in verse for middle grade readers. I didn’t write it specifically as a mystery, but it certainly contains a mystery!
Twelve-year-old Maddie plays the oboe in her school orchestra. She also has an undiagnosed anxiety disorder. Maddie loves music, math, and everything in its place. Her carefully ordered world falls apart when her beloved older brother vanishes from his college campus. Meanwhile, Maddie’s sixteen-year-old sister reacts by staying out late, and their parents are always distracted by the search for Strum. Drowning in grief and confusion, the family’s musical household falls silent. Can Maddie figure out where Strum has gone? Does it have anything to do with his passion for the environment?
What inspired you to write the book?
So many things! I started with one poem back in 2013, about playing the oboe in my school concert band. Yes, I played the oboe. But it didn’t occur to me then that one poem could lead to an entire novel! At the time, I’d gotten frustrated about trying to get an agent and a publisher, so I’d been writing poetry and submitting to literary journals. I managed to get 14 or 15 publication credits that way. I didn’t submit the oboe poem anywhere, because I was working on something else at the time. Then in 2014, my husband and I were lucky enough to go on vacation to the Caribbean, to the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten, where we visited the Butterfly Farm and saw blue morpho butterflies. I knew since then that I wanted to put those butterflies in a book! I’ve also suffered from mild anxiety most of my life (I spent years on Lexapro) and felt it was time to write about a protagonist with anxiety. In addition, I’ve always been concerned about the climate crisis, but had never found a way to put it in a book before this.
How hard was it writing this book in verse?
Surprisingly, not as hard as I thought it would be. And at the same time, a few parts of it were harder than anything else I’ve ever done (the villanelle, for instance, called Leaving, and the poem titled Outnumbered, which was emotionally wrenching to write). This is not the first novel I’ve written. It’s actually the fifth. But it is the first novel in verse that I’ve written. Once I started writing it in verse, it seemed to flow beautifully, and I knew I’d found the proper format.
When coming up with new book ideas, what comes to you first plot or the characters?
The characters always come to me first. Or the main character, anyway. If I don’t know who the main character is, I can’t start writing the story. Plot has always been more of a struggle for me. I’m a pantser (who wishes she was a plotter). This means I have no outline when I start writing a new book, but I always have a character, a setting, and a story idea.
Was this the first book you ever wrote?
Oh, no, not at all! I wrote dozens of picture books (starting when my two sons were little — they’re now in their 30s!) and four other novels before EVERYWHERE BLUE.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
From an early age, yes! I loved reading and losing myself in a book, and I think I knew by the time I was 8 or 9 that I wanted to be a writer. It just took me a really long time to get to where I am now!
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Never give up! If you want badly enough to get published, keep writing. Keep working on your craft. Take workshops and classes, find a critique group. And keep writing!