I’m thrilled to be hosting Michele Weber Hurwitz here on TRT with her second novel THE SUMMER I SAVED THE WORLD IN 65 DAYS. I can’t wait to start both of her novels, and the covers are beautiful! Check out my interview with her, the trailer for 65 DAYS and enter to win a signed copy of THE SUMMER I SAVED THE WORLD IN 65 DAYS below!
1) Your story, The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days, is about a girl named Nina who is
trying to find “her thing” after some time of feeling lost without her beloved grandmother and
her family spending less and less time together. What inspired this story?
I had several thoughts that inspired the story. First, we hear so much about paying it forward and random acts of kindness, but sometimes the amount of problems in our world overwhelms me, and I wondered — does doing good really do any good? Is it making a difference? Second, I read a humorous little item in my local paper’s police blotter about a woman who called the police when a girl she didn’t recognize was delivering homemade cookies around the neighborhood. There could have been something else besides chocolate chips in those cookies, I guess! Anyway, I thought, wow, people may not always perceive random acts of goodness as others intend them. Third, I worried about how technology was altering family life and neighborhoods, and how we live in this era of a sort of “disconnected connection.” Lastly, I read about a class at the University of Iowa where the professor had students write down each day three positive events or experiences — no matter how big or small — and how this changed their perspectives. I started doing that too. We tend to focus on the negative, or what goes wrong, instead of recognizing small, good things that go right every day.
2) Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
I actually think there are little bits of myself in many of the characters in The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days, but I guess I would say that Nina, the main character, is sort of my fictional kindred spirit. She’s quiet, perceptive, observant. Many of the same qualities I possess. She notices details about people and knows that small gestures speak volumes. I love that she’s unsure of herself and trying to figure things out as she heads to high school. I was definitely like that as a teen. Not in the cool crowd, for sure :) .
3) Who are the authors that you look up to the most?
There are many talented authors whose books I love, including John Green (of course, who doesn’t?), Rainbow Rowell, Sarah Weeks, Linda Urban, Rebecca Stead, Jennifer Holm, Sara Zarr, and Gabrielle Zevin. I read mostly contemporary, realistic fiction because that’s what I write. I admit I’m not a big fantasy/dystopian fiction reader so that whole trend just sort of passed me by.
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins and I must have read it a dozen times. I loved the story, but I also fantasized about the idea of escaping my suburban house and living on my own island, away from my two annoying younger brothers.
4) I love the covers for both of your books. :) Very appealing to middle grade girl audiences. What did you think when you first saw them?
I loved them both. The first cover for Calli Be Gold was actually a drawing, not a photo, and I was happy when the publisher changed it. When I visit schools, a lot of kids think the girl on the Calli Be Gold cover is my daughter (she’s not). I love Nina’s expression on the cover of TSISTW. She looks hopeful but like she has a wonderful secret, just like I’d expect Nina to look.
5) Did you always want to be a writer?
Pretty much. As a child, I was way more comfortable communicating my thoughts in the written word rather than speaking. When I babysat for my two younger brothers, I would write my parents long notes describing their bad behavior, and in a sense, I consider these my first stories. In fifth grade, I wrote my first “book.” It won a school contest. The prize was reading it to the kindergarten classes and that was the best reward — seeing their expressions as I read the story. The author in me was born at that moment!
6) Who did you enjoy writing most in The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days?
Mrs. Millman, the suspicious neighbor who is convinced that the mysterious good deeds are anything but good, was so fun to write. She was very real to me, because on the block where I grew up, there was an uptight woman that every kid was scared of. You never forget those experiences! I also adored writing Thomas, the five-year old boy who runs around the cul-de-sac in a cape and sometimes, his underwear. He has this combination of irresistible little boy innocence and toughness that makes me laugh and tear up at the same time.
7) Would you ever consider going into the YA or NA genres?
I’m working on another middle grade, narrated in two or possibly three boys’ voices, which has been a fun change of pace for me after Calli’s and Nina’s stories. And yes, I’m also exploring an idea for a younger YA novel, narrated by two 14-year old girls whose chance meeting during one winter break changes both of their lives.
8) Any hints for what’s next for Calli and Nina? Do you plan to bring them back in any of your future stories?
I’d love to write more about Calli and/or Nina in the future. We’ll see!
Connect with Michelle:
Michele is the author of “The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days” (ages 10 and up), coming April 8, 2014 from Wendy Lamb Books/Random House. Her first middle grade novel, “Calli Be Gold,” (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House 2011) is nominated for a 2014 Bluestem Award and was named a Best Book by the Bank Street College of Education (starred for outstanding merit). She lives near Chicago with her husband and three children. Besides writing, her favorite things in the world are walking and eating chocolate (not at the same time). Visit her at micheleweberhurwitz.com.