October 12, 2012

Author Interview with Irene Latham: Don't Feed the Boy +GIVEAWAY

Today I'm so very excited to welcome Irene Latham to The O.W.L. Irene is the author of the great book Leaving Gee's Bend.  
Today I get to share with you her new MG book 
Don't Feed the Boy!

 No kid knows more about zoo life than Whit. That's because he sleeps, eats and even attends home-school at the Meadowbrook Zoo. It's one of the perks of having a mother who's the zoo director and a father who's the head elephant keeper. Now that he's eleven, Whit feels trapped by the rules and routine of zoo life. With so many exotic animals, it's easy to get overlooked. But when Whit notices a mysterious girl who visits every day to draw the birds, suddenly the zoo becomes much more interesting. Who is the Bird Girl? And why does she come by herself to the zoo? Determined to gain her trust, Whit takes the Bird Girl on his own personal tour of the zoo. He shows her his favorite animals and what happens with them behind the scenes. For Whit, having a friend his own age that he can talk to is an exciting new experience. For Stella the Bird Girl, the zoo and Whit are a necessary escape from her chaotic home life. Together they take risks in order to determine where it is they each belong. But when Stella asks Whit for an important and potentially dangerous favor, Whit discovers how complicated friendship and freedom-- can be.

Doesn't it sound like a fantastic mg book?!!?  Everything a middle grader is facing!

Irene was kind enough to answer some questions about herself and Don't Feed the Boy.  Welcome Irene!!!

Thank you SO MUCH for having me! Hope your school year is off to a great start!

Let's start with the easy questions!
Point of View: 1st or 3rd     3rd
Boy or Girl main character   boy
Genre   contemporary
Middle Grade or Young Adult   middle grade
More boy or girl book (stereotypically)   animal J  

The Serious Questions!

Why middle grade books?  Tell a little about why you like to write for this age level.  

I love the innocence and adventure of middle grade books, how kids are mature enough to be independent, still willing to try new things and not yet squashing themselves into boxes with specific labels. It’s such an open, wonderful, exciting time of life.

 What part/character/event are you most excited/proud about in Don’t Feed the Boy? 

Writing this book allowed me to go back to that animal-crazy, I-wanna-be-a-veterinarian girl that I was and re-experience everything I fell in love with about zoos and animals and ultimately, humans (my favorite animal of all).

Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write Don’t Feed the Boy from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision is you can!  

I remember the moment I got the idea for this book: it was 2008, and I was in a bookstore with my father, shopping the after-Christmas sale. I asked him, “How ‘bout a book about a boy who lives at the zoo but feels like he was born the wrong species?” My father laughed—that’s how I knew it was a good idea. So I worked and worked (so many drafts!), sold the book in 2010, worked and worked even more, and now it’s a real book! As for revision: I tend to revise in stages—I read for plot, then again for character, then again for voice. And since this book contains so many animal facts, I did special drafts just to make sure the text was as accurate as possible. (Incidentally, the way I know it’s time to stop revising is when I start changing things back to the way they were in a previous draft. Time to let that story go live its life without me!) 

 When you were in middle school kind of student were you?  Did you write then? 

I loved being outdoors and spent a lot of time in the back pasture with our horses and rabbits. My best friend and I had a special notebook that we wrote messages in and passed back and forth. When we had sleepovers, we slept outside in a tent. I don’t really remember all that much about school—except I hated PE! I was always too self-conscious to enjoy sports. I made a deal with my teacher that I would clean the erasers and chalkboards if she didn’t make me participate in PE. This worked out (probably) because I was a very good student in all the other subjects. And yes, even then I was writing poems and creating little bound books with original artwork. Unfortunately I wasn’t very good at finishing stories. I’d stop mid-page and dash off to another story. Getting to “the end” is something I didn’t learn until I became an adult—and sometimes I still struggle with it.

And because it's the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? OR WHOOO do you like to read or really enjoyed in HS or middle school? 

As a middle-schooler I was a huge fan of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE and Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books. I didn’t read them just once—I read them dozens of times.

The Fun Questions! (based on what 7th graders do!)

 Do you chew gum? Yes or No If yes favorite kind? 
Yes, Big Red (Want to make a chimpanzee happy? Give him a stick of sugarless cinnamon gum!)

Do you text? 
I love to text! I especially love the conversations I have with my kids via text. Plus I think I am much more witty by text than I am in real life, on-the-spot conversations. (My brain works better while typing!)

Was school lunch just as yucky then as it is now?!
I don’t know—I always brought my own lunch. :)

I too loved the Little House books!!! I read them over and over and over!!

Thank you so much for sharing about Don't Feed the Boy

Do you want a chance at a copy??  Fill out the form below.

US residents only and must be at least 13

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Oh, I should have known you were a LITTLE HOUSE fan. :) Thank you so much for having me on your blog today!

  2. This sounds like such a fun book! I know my daughter would love it - I'll have to look for it.

  3. Hi Irene-I'm learning more about you every day! Love that you love the Little House books-me too! Can't wait for the book! This is another great interview!

  4. The Little House books were such fun to read. I'm also with you on not liking P.E. but loved playing outside. Great interview and thanks for putting up the giveaway.

  5. Love the concept. Thanks for a great interview and for running the giveaway.

  6. Thank you for being an AWARD FREE ZONE. I know what you mean, I always feel guilty too and have been surveying friends about how they handle it. I like your solution. Thanks.