GUYS! Guess what I get to do today!
I GET TO INTERVIEW ONE OF MY NEW FAVORITE AUTHORS!!!
You may have noticed my recent obsession with the book Honey Butter by indie-author Millie Florence (as demonstrated by my profuse fangirling on every internet platform), and, well, there’s not much left to say. Except that Millie’s next book, Lydia Green of Mulberry Glen, is being published in approximately two weeks. And I got the chance to interview her about it.
So, y’know, nothing much to say.
*as she screams internally*
If you don’t know who Millie Florence is, I highly suggest you look her up. She’s by far the coolest 14-year-old I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting, and her writing moved me to tears at several points. (A rare enough occurrence in its own right, but over a slice-of-life story? Unheard of.)
Being myself, I approached the opportunity with… well… myself-ness. AND WITH THAT IN MIND, let us proceed to the interview.
Millie! If you can’t already tell, I’m so excited to have you here today. What’s it like, knowing there will soon be another book with your name on it let loose in the world?
Millie: In a word, incredible! The one thing I was afraid of after I published Honey Butter was that publishing new books wouldn’t be quite so exciting anymore. I was very wrong. All the books I write are a part of me, and Lydia Green is no exception. I can’t wait for everyone to be able to read it, and I can’t wait to finally hold a print copy in my hands! I get butterflies just thinking about it.
Ha, I can imagine! It must be–
Reynie Muldoon randomly pops up: “Hullo, everyone!”
Constance Contraire shuffles in behind him looking sleepy and disgruntled: “Why am I here?”
That’s what I’d like to know.
Reynie: “We heard that The Mysterious Benedict Society is one of Miss Florence’s favorite books, and since you’re interviewing her today, Mr. Benedict thought we should stop in and say hello.”
Millie: Hello then! *turns to Sarah* Do book characters often pop up in your interviews? Because I love it.
Ehehehe… it’s happened once or twice. Hey guys, are Sticky and Kate with you?
Constance: “Kate used Sticky’s dictionaries to build a fortress, and when he found out, he stopped breathing. It was kinda funny. I think she’s still giving him CPD or CTG or whatever it’s called–“
You mean CPR?
Constance: “Yeah, that. Hey Reynie, can we go now?”
Reynie: “No, not until after we ask Millie about her book. That’s what an interview is, Constance.”
Well, actually, I’m supposed to ask her about her–
Constance: “Hey Author Lady, d’you ever Google yourself? ‘Cause I totally would.”
Reynie: “Constance, we’re supposed to ask her professional questions. Right, Sarah?”
…I was gonna ask that too.
Millie: It’s a fair question, and yes, I have. Google gives me a cool little box with my book titles in it.
Constance: “I KNEW IT!”
Millie: Besides it being cool, however, there are some practical applications in googling yourself when you’re an author. Think about it. If someone tells their friend ‘hey, I read this book by Millie Florence’ and they want to find it online, the first thing they’ll do is google my name. I need to make sure that when they do, my website and Amazon profile come up in search results instead of a news story about someone else named Millie Florence who won a chili cook-off or something–
Constance: “I like chili…”
Millie: –and that’s why my website is millieflorence.com. So it will be the first thing that shows up when someone’s looking for me online. You need to make it as easy as possible for readers to find you.
I’ve… actually never thought of it that way before. Marketing 101, guys. *fingerguns* So tell me: What’s the basic premise of Lydia Green of Mulberry Glen?
Millie: Lydia Glacier Green never had reason to worry much before.
She lived in a timeless Glen on the edge of the Valleylands with her mismatched family of fairies, philosophers, and two troublemakers known as the Zs.
But now, at age eleven, her world is turned upside down when rumors reach Mulberry Glen about a mysterious Darkness that dwells in the forest Tenebrae.
Lydia knows it is nothing to be trifled with, but, fiery and headstrong, the Zs have other ideas. A foolish choice puts their lives in danger, and although she is no hero, Lydia realizes that family is something she is willing to fight for.
But among the shifting library shelves and lonely stone towers of her quest, Lydia is chased by more questions than answers. The Darkness of the forest lurks within her own mind, and how can you fight something which is all in your head?
Lydia Green of Mulberry Glen is about hope and facing the darkness of the world – but finding light!
Constance looks unconvinced.
Reynie: “I think it’s incredible what you’ve managed to do as a writer at such a young age. There are so many grown-ups doing such incredible things, and I know I have often felt insignificant compared to them. Were you ever frightened because of your age when you first published Honey Butter?”
Millie: Sort of. I didn’t want people to underestimate me just because I was young, but at the same time I wondered if my writing was really everything I had tried to make it. What if people were right to underestimate me? What if my writing was horrible and immature but I couldn’t see its flaws?
But I never let these thoughts control my decision to publish my books, because my love of writing is far greater than my fear of other people’s opinions. I did the absolute best I could on Honey Butter, and then I released it to the world.
Regardless of age, all authors deal with doubts from time to time. Famous authors like Stephen King and Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, have talked about how they look back on their books, (the ones thousands of people love) and cringe.
Reynie: “That’s incredibly mature of you. In fact–“
Constance, rolling her eyes: “Wow, Reynie, you’re even more boring as an interviewer than George Washington is as a person! I didn’t think that was possible.”
Reynie: “Alright, what would you like me to ask her?”
Constance: “Something not boring.”
Reynie: “Such as…?”
Constance: “I don’t know – you figure it out! You’re the interviewer-person, aren’t you? Why do I have to do everything?”
Guys, maybe you should let me–
Constance: “Hey, Author Lady. You do know it would rhyme better if you named it Lydia Green of the Icky Spleen, right?”
Reynie: “I don’t think she wants it to rhyme, Constance – at least, not in the way you like things to rhyme.”
Constance: “Well that’s stupid. Hey, Mildred! (Or whatever your name is…) What do you think about poetry?”
Millie: You’d be surprised how many people have asked if Millie is short for Mildred. It isn’t.
Constance looks mildly disappointed.
Millie: As for your actual question: I love poetry! I have notebooks full of poems I’ve written, and I hope to someday publish a poetry book. I really enjoy ‘old fashioned’ style poetry. Some of my favorite poets are Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost.
Constance blinks: “Oh. But… what about the kind that insults people…?”
I will take this opportunity to seize control of my derailed interview and ask a question of my own.
Constance: “Is that even allowed?”
…if you weren’t a two-year-old, I would probably hit you. ANYWAY, Millie: What were some of the unexpected challenges that came with marketing your books, and how did you overcome them?
Millie: In general, while there were definitely many challenges, there weren’t very many that were unexpected. Which I guess means I did an okay job on my research. Although I guess it was rather unexpectedly hard to connect with my target audience, that is kids, online. The people who will actually be buying my books are the parents. The people who will actually read them are the kids. I’m stuck in the middle as a teenager, which puts me in a bit of an odd place for marketing, as the people who I naturally connect with online are other teen writers, not my buyers or my readers.
I’ve figured out, though, that a good way to bypass this is to do live events, book signings, and school visits. In this way I can usually meet with both parents and kids, and there’s a much more human connection when you can talk to someone face to face. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun! Being an extrovert, I love talking to my readers.
Reynie: “That’s a rather clever way to solve your puzzle! Now, I know it’s sometimes discouraged, but do you ever read reviews of your books? (I probably wouldn’t be able to help myself, if I were an author…) How do you deal with the negative ones?”
Millie: Generally I do read my reviews, yes. Taking criticism is part of the job description of being an author, so you have to learn to deal with it at some point. The key is to be mindful of your readers’ opinions, but not to dwell on them.
A lot of the time when I get criticism, the reader simply didn’t understand what I was trying to do. Surprisingly, this is the hardest to deal with, at least for me, because all you want to do is message them and explain why you did what you did. Don’t though, it’s a bad idea.
Often if someone doesn’t like your book, it’s because it wasn’t meant for them. Honey Butter is a sweet contemporary for middle-grade kids. A seventeen-year-old who reads horror would probably call it boring and sappy.
Some of the funnier instances are when I get opposite criticism from different people. I’ve been told both “Jamie acts too young for her age,” and “Jamie acts too old for her age.” That the book was too long, and that the book was too short. You get the picture. Writing is an art, and there are no black and white rules as to what is right and wrong. Everyone has their own opinion and you can’t please everyone.
Fact of Life: People are confusing. 😂 So, what was one of the most influential books (or authors) in your writing journey?
Constance: “Well ours, obviously.”
Reynie: “Constance, you can’t just put words in her mouth like that. She’s—”
Constance, indignantly: “Why would I want to stick things in her mouth?!”
Reynie: “No, as in—”
Constance: “That’s disgusting!”
Constance crosses her arms and glares at Millie: “Well? Answer the question.”
Reynie clears his throat.
Constance, glaring harder: “And apparently, you don’t have to choose our book.”
Millie: Well, Constance is certainly giving me plenty of inspiration for a Villain character…
Millie: Anyway. While The Mysterious Benedict Society is definitely high up there, I would have to say that the most influential would be Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, The Secret Garden, and A Little Princess both by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I listened to those three on audio book over and over again when I was little and they are what began my love of literature.
I’ve heard there’s quite a bit of Latin in Lydia Green. (Which is awesome, by the way. My own book has a Latin title.) Why did you decide to name your chapters in Latin?
Millie: Well, in the fantasy world of the Valleylands, Latin is the native language of fairies, so there are several characters who speak it. I decided to name the chapter titles in Latin because it made the book feel a little more connected and wove the language in a bit more than the few phrases and brief conversations my characters had.
It’s also nice to have a pattern in your chapter titles, rather than making them all random, although that could be a pattern in and of itself. In Honey Butter all the chapters were named after paint cards.
I’ve read some books where every chapter title starts with ‘in which’. In which the author uses the phrase ‘in which’ so many times that ‘in which’ begins to sound like a very weird word combination. I’m not against it, but I’ve read at least five books that have done this, and I feel like the author community needs some new ideas.
Y’know, I used to do that myself, until I realized how annoying it is…
Constance: “THANK GOODNESS.”
Reynie: “Millie, what’s your ultimate dream as an author?”
Millie: To win a Newberry Medal. That’s been my ultimate dream since I was about seven.
Constance, muttering: “My ultimate dream is for Reynie to shut up.”
Reynie: “Would you like to ask anything, Constance?”
Constance: “Yeah. Do you have any candy?”
If you ask Millie a nice question, you can have all the candy you want.
Reynie: “And you’re not allowed to ask about egotistical internet searches again. You already did that.”
Constance makes a gagging sound: “Eggs? I never said anything about eggs.”
Reynie: “You’re not allowed to make mean poetry, either.”
Constance: “…I hate eggs.”
Come on, Constance. What do you want to ask Millie?
Constance: “Why do we have to ask her anything? What kind of dumb interview is this, anyway?”
Also Constance: “…hey Millie, what’s one of the coolest experiences you’ve had as an author?”
Millie: That is a surprisingly nice question.
Millie: It was pretty recent, actually. I visited a middle school on March 1st, to do a reading and Q and A. In general the whole event was amazing, They’d been reading my book as a class, they played a paint card guessing game, “Author Millie Florence is visiting today,” was announced over the loudspeaker, and they all had a ton of great questions.
As a surprise they presented me with a box full of paint cards that each of the students had written on. They had written the sweetest things! I know that someday when I have writer’s block or feel as though my career isn’t going anywhere, I can look in that box and remember that success isn’t something you measure in the digits of word counts or book sales. That this is why I write.
That’s amazing. I can’t even imagine how encouraged and inspired you must have felt in that moment. However, having read Honey Butter myself, I do know that it’s a well-deserved moment. That Newberry needs to happen.
Reynie: “And on that note, we should probably go.”
Reynie: “Thank you so much for having us, everyone!”
Not that we had much of a choice…
Reynie: “Millie, it’s been a pleasure.”
Constance: “More like ‘a pain in the neck’…”
Reynie: “If you ever have a problem that needs solving–“
Constance: “Or a brain that needs dismantling…”
Reynie: “–you can count on the Mysterious Benedict Society!”
Millie: My next book will probably have a lot of problems that need solving, so I’ll keep you in mind, Reynie. Thank you both for making this interview so interesting. Tell Kate and Sticky I said hi!
Millie: And thank you Sarah for having me on your blog. I love the stuff you do on here, and it’s an honor to be featured!
Listen, kid, after reading Honey Butter, I suddenly felt like I was hosting a celebrity. It’s been an honor for me to have you, and I’m so excited for your upcoming publication. Is there anything noteworthy you’d like to mention before we close?
Millie: Well, Lydia Green of Mulberry Glen is available for pre-order online, and everyone who pre-orders it and sends me a screenshot of their order confirmation receipt will get some very fun goodies. Plus, if we reach at least thirty pre-orders, than everyone gets the brand new Honey Butter audiobook for free! Pre-orders are extremely helpful when it comes to online ranking, so I’d really appreciate it if you would consider picking up a copy online. It would mean the world to me.
YOU HEARD HER, FOLKS! Lydia Green will be released on March 29th, and you don’t want to miss it. You can find it here on Amazon, and–
Constance, momentarily popping back in: “You sound dumb.”
(Yigh, that was a lot of links…)
That’s it for now, people. May your Thursday be educational, your to-be-read list manageable, and your curiosity for Lydia Green of Mulberry Glen properly piqued.
Mine certainly is.