November 6, 2012

Author Interview: Helen Phillips - Here Where the Sunbeams are Green

Today I welcome 

Helen Phillips 

She is the author of 
Here Where the Sunbeams are Green 

Mad's dad is the Bird Guy. He'll go anywhere to study birds. So when he's offered a bird-tracking job in Central America, his bags are packed and he's jungle bound.

But going bird tracking in the jungle and disappearing completely are very different things, and when the Very Strange and Incredibly Creepy Letter arrives, Mad can't shake the terrible feeling that her father is in trouble.

Roo, Mad's younger sister, is convinced that the letter is a coded message. And their mom is worried, because the letter doesn't sound like Dad at all. But Mad is sure it's a sign of something sinister.

The only way to get to the bottom of it is to go to Lava Bird Volcano and find their dad themselves. Though they never could have imagined what they're about to discover.

From new talent Helen Phillips, Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green is the story of what can happen when two sisters make some unusual friends, trust in each other, and bravely face a jungle of trouble all to bring their family back together.

Doesn't it sound like a great book?!!?  Very excited to be able to ask Helen a few questions.

Welcome Helen to The O.W.L.

We'll start with the easy questions

What Point of View -1st or 3rd: 1st

Boy or Girl main character (or both!): Girl

Genre(Eco)AdventureMiddle Grade or Young Adult: Middle Grade

More boy or girl book (stereotypically): Girl, but really it’s an adventure story for girls and boys, since the sisters are working with their new friend and jungle expert Kyle.

Now the more serious questions

For ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Here Where the Sunbeams are Green what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about? 

I love the dynamic between the narrator, Mad, and her feisty little sister Roo. This is based on my relationship with my own younger sister, and I feel that I was able to capture it on the page.

Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write Here Where the Sunbeams are Green from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision is you can! I’m very curious about how you plot out a mystery to keep the ending a secret! 

It was almost four years from idea to publication. It went through eight or so drafts on its way to becoming the book it is now. In the first draft of the book, Mad, Roo, and Kyle were searching for a rare kind of jungle earthworm. Only my husband Adam ever set eyes on that draft. He said, “Hon, the characters and setting are great. But … earthworms?” So the Lava-Throated Volcano Trogon was born. In revision, I worked hard to develop the plot, suspense, and mystery. I re-wrote the ending many, many times. Originally Mad was with her family and Kyle at the climax, but along the way I realized that Mad would have to go out and test her courage alone.

When you were in middle school what kind of student were you?  Did you write then? Did anything from this time show up in ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Here Where the Sunbeams are Green

Frankly, I was a bit on the dorky side in middle school. I loved school, loved reading and writing, and definitely wasn’t one of the cool kids, though I was lucky enough to have a handful of great friends. I lost all of my hair due to the autoimmune disorder alopecia when I was eleven years old, so that made me feel pretty self-conscious at times. Eventually I came to accept my bald self, but it was quite a journey. I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was about six years old. When I was thirteen years old, I made the New Year’s Resolution to write a poem a day, a tradition I stuck with for the next eight years. This very much shows up in Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green—Mad too has made the New Year’s Resolution to write a poem a day.

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? 

Some of my favorite authors from those early years of reading novels are Madeleine L’Engle, Lloyd Alexander, J.R.R. Tolkein, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Susan Cooper, C.S. Lewis, Cynthia Voigt … such great and bold adventures!

The Fun Questions! (based on what middle school students do!)

Do you chew gum? Yes or No If yes favorite kind? 
I don’t chew gum nearly as much as I should. I’m more of a chocolate girl.

Do you text?
Yes. Mainly I text pictures of my 5-month-old baby to everyone.

Was school lunch just as yucky then as it is now?!
Probably so. I liked to pack my own lunch.  

Thank you so much for visiting with us today.  The book sounds fantastic, and I know I'll be sharing it with the science teachers in my building!

1 comment:

  1. I just finished up this book and really enjoyed it. It captured my attention right from the start and I was rushing to find out what was going on and how everything was going to end up. I like how the author explored extinction and conservationalism in a single story. It was nice to see a strong sisterly bond and a family willing to pull together for a common cause.