Tuesday, November 7, 2017

from Nancy to Alexandra to Devlin: the sleuthing adventures continue!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Hurray. And all the Reds are giving a standing ovation. (Can you see us?) We are thrilled to welcome the fabulous Linda Fairstein--who, after so many bestselling years writing a smart, tough, determined prosecutor—is now also writing a smart, tough,  determined teenager.

Linda, welcome! And where did YA  heroine Devlin Quick come from?

((And whoo hoo--Linda is giving THREE Devlin Quick "packages"--including books--to lucky commenters!)

LINDA FAIRSTEIN: Thank you! And hello Reds and readers. Let’s see.  I’ve published nineteen crime novels in a series about New York City sex crimes prosecutor Alexandra Cooper, who has the tough job that I held for thirty years, and which gave me plenty to write about.  I thought I had the perfect forum for all I wanted to say.

 But two years ago, something deep inside me kept bubbling up until it became impossible to ignore.  I had been devoted to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew when I was a young reader, and I kept thinking about how much I wanted to give kids an updated view of sleuthing, through the eyes of a 12-year old city kid who didn’t have a roadster but who had a keen curiosity about forensics and doing justice.  So I set out to tell my first story featuring Devlin Quick, whose mother just happened to be the city’s first woman police commissioner.

HANK: Was that a big step? What came next?

LINDA:  Then I worried - as did my agent - about whether I could change speeds and write for pre-adolescents instead of adult thriller-readers.

HANK: But obviously—and successfully—those questions were answered.  And hurray. Still, it must have been such a transition for you! I mean, Devlin is, ahem, so much younger that Alex.  Usually the big obstacle is coming up with the plot—was that the case here?

LINDA: Plotting a caper wasn’t the issue since I had done that so many times in my career.  Instead of the story-telling being my problem, I was worried about capturing the voice of a kid, and so I spent an inordinate amount of time with friends and family who had readers that age, and found myself listening to dialects and slang words and conversational tones of pre-teens.  The good news is that writing for young readers lessened the intensity of my emotions - no murders, no deaths, no dealing with medical examiners and post-mortems.  

HANK: Oh, right! I never thought about that. But thinking about a mystery through the eyes of a pre-teen must have been so—entertaining?

LINDA: Yes! It has actually become fun to go into my writing room and enter a zone where all the mystery-solving is less stressful than adult detective work.  Sometimes I feel like I have a split personality - channeling a 12-year old on some days, and a 38 year old on others.  But it’s been enlightening to develop both characters and I am certain that they will meet in the pages of a crime novel before very long.

HANK: That’d be so much fun to read! And my writer-brain is already imagining how that might work. Either way, right?   Devlin meets Alex, that could be fun. Or—Alex encounters Devlin. Love it. Do you feel like—a new Carolyn Keene?  

I know you’re a fan—you had that wonderful essay in the Washington Post! Hey—let’s give the reds and readers a taste of it.

Here’s just part of Linda’s essay from the Post—with a link to the rest!

Nancy Drew was my fictional role model throughout most of my youth. I was more fortunate than she in some ways. Nancy had lost her mother when she was 3 years old. She was devoted to her single dad, but they were living in a town rife with crime. I had both loving parents — it was my mother who read to me every night before I went to sleep — and Mount Vernon, N.Y., seemed a much safer place than River Heights.

 But I did envy Nancy the blue roadster and the steady partnership of Ned Nickerson. That was true until I found my real-life colleagues — mostly guys in the early days — in the D.A.’s office, and we started to solve cases with the great men and women of the NYPD, riding in unmarked black cars on our way to crime scenes. I didn’t leave home with Nancy’s trusty flashlight, but there was plenty of her moxie driving my desire to do the right thing.
  
I smile whenever I hear an accomplished woman mention Nancy Drew who made her first appearance in 1930 — as an inspirational figure. Former justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote about being pulled away from Nancy’s exploits to do more serious work on the family ranch; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg responded to the young woman’s adventurous nature and her daring; and Justice Sonia Sotomayor — who has described reading as her “rocket ship out of the second floor apartment” in a South Bronx housing project — admired Nancy’s character and her courage. Hillary Clinton, too, is a fan, respecting how smart and brave Nancy was, also her ability to multitask: taking care of her dad’s house, keeping up with her schoolwork and solving capers on top of it all. Laura Bush also loved reading Nancy Drew mysteries.
Though the Nancy Drew books have been updated to eliminate racist stereotypes, they suffer from a striking lack of diversity. The folks in River Heights were all white, and the bad guys were always foreign and usually dark-skinned or swarthy. And yet the appeal of the girl detective — she was originally penned as an 18-year-old and later adjusted to 16 — remained widespread.
 My friend Faye Wattleton spent her pre-adolescent years in Nebraska, an African American child whose mother pastored an all-white church. Wattleton told me that Nancy’s “indomitable independence, fearless inquisitiveness and determination to get the job done — never forgetting to ‘freshen up’ her appearance — was a bridge, from multiple layers of isolation to imagining the power of challenging the conventional in order for good to triumph over evil.”

For me, both dreams that emerged from the pages of Nancy’s adventure have come true. I have spent 45 years as a lawyer, fighting for justice for women and children who have been victims of violence. And I have written 21 mysteries — two of them for young readers — in which my protagonists, one a prosecutor and the other a 12-year-old sleuth, channel the character and courage of a fictional heroine. I never wanted to imitate Nancy Drew in either career. But I ached to run along beside her, and that has been a run well worth taking.
 HANK: And we love that you took the risk! Reds and readers, Linda will stop by today to chat and answer your questions—about her books, or the law, or Devlin Quick.  Or even the next Alexandra Cooper!
I’d love to know more about changing mindsets—and vocabularies—to channel a pre-teen.
Do you all have any pre-teen pals? What do they do—or say—that surprises you? Or that you don’t understand? What are their favorite phrases?

((And remember--Linda is giving THREE Devlin Quick "packages"--including books--to lucky commenters!)
 And don't forget to come meet Linda in person!



90 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new Devlin Quick book, Linda.
    It’s interesting to discover that Nancy Drew was such an inspiration for so many women.
    I’m curious to know what kind of feedback you might have gotten from your young readers about your intrepid Devlin Quick and her adventures . . . .

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    1. So far the feedback has been enthusiastic, which makes me so happy.
      Since the Harry Potter books, there has been an onslaught of fantasy in
      this age group, and librarians, booksellers and parents have welcomed new mysteries.

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  2. Congratulations on the newest Devlin Quick. When the first came out I bought it for all the pre-teen girls on my Christmas list thinking surely one would let me borrow it. Not a chance. Devlin is the Nancy Drew of the new age. Pride of place on every bookshelf. I had to get my own copy, and it was wonderful.

    Thank you, Linda, for helping me play Santa for 2017.

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    1. That is SO great! And what a perfect gift. Was it their first mystery? Or what did they read before?

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    2. Yes! Devlin should fit in most stockings, don’t you think?

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  3. I just picked up the first book in the Devlin Quick series to give my 10 year old cousin for Xmas. My mother always gave her and her brother books for Xmas and now that she's gone, I'm trying to continue that tradition.

    And since I'm a mystery/thriller fan, I'm trying to get her into reading mysteries. After reading about the first book I thought it would be a good choice to give her and hopefully fuel a new mystery fan.

    Congrats on the new book Linda!

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    1. Aw...that's wonderful, Jay! Is it difficult to choose the books?

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    2. Jay, that's lovely. And how do you choose the books?

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    3. Deborah,

      For the boy, I ask his mom what books he is reading. She gives me a list of options and I choose from that. He likes Batman so I do try to get something featuring him if possible besides other books.

      For the girl, I have been getting her the graphic novel adaptations of the Ann M. Martin series The Babysitters Club. I also got her some American Girl novels including one that was a mystery. And then I gave her a couple of Nancy Drew books last year. I think I might try getting a kid friendly novel about sports for her as well. She is defying the genes of her parents and is a total sports nut (soccer, basketball, field hockey).

      Hank, it is difficult to choose the books for the most part unless I have a guide. At my local B&N there is a staff member named Chelsea who is the resident kids book "expert" and she has helped me out recently.

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  4. No trip to Boston? But we're sooo close...
    This sounds irresistible, Linda - love this new direction. Adored the old, too. I hope this doesn't mean Alex isn't coming back.
    Jay, that's a lovely tradition to continue.

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    1. Alex will be back this summer Hallie! And I'd love to come to Boston. I'm always adding events to my calendar -- I'll keep all the Jungle Reds posted! Thank you for your support!

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  5. Linda, I'm glad Devlin's adventures are continuing. A comment on a story I once wrote (for about the same age group) insisted that I should run the story through a word-checker--to make sure the vocabulary was 'appropriate' and didn't contain words that were too big or too hard. I remembered myself at that age--one of the ways I grew as a reader was picking books I wanted to read--no matter the 'age' level. While it's obvious you worked hard to get the elements of the story right from a young girl's perspective, did you 'age-grade' the vocabulary? I mean, 'adventure' is three syllables and 'investigation', (gasp!) is five syllables!

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    1. Great question--I always listen to how kids talk. Sometimes it's more carefully and articulately than adults!

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    2. No better way to learn new vocabulary!

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  6. Jay, I'm also the book giver in our family. My nephew had his first child last year and my mother and I had a baby book shower for them. Matt told everyone that Aunt Karen always gave them great books for Christmas. I was really touched at his warm remembrance.

    Linda, another preteen author told me she had trouble getting boys to read her books with a young female protagonist. Will you speak to that? I noticed that comments above mention giving your book to girls. My grandson is 12, and a big reader, and my daughter says he resists (I'm not sure it's all him, to be honest) reading books with girls in them. Girls are crazy for Harry Potter and the like, but I wonder why boys have so much trouble getting into books that don't center around male figures.

    I'm planning to give Zak your book, and not say anything. It will be interesting to see what happens.

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    1. Oh, great idea, Karen. Yeah, good question! I see that in my grandsons, too...

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    2. Great question! Devlin's sidekick is a boy - Booker. My fans (girls and boys) tell me they love both characters and enjoy that the book is for all readers.

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    3. Very cool, thank you for answering.

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    4. Karen, I am not the only book giver in my family. My mom bought tons of books to give to various people at Xmas or for their birthday. And the three kids in the family also usually give books (or at least a gift card to the book store).


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  7. Congratulations, Linda! I just found out that my girl has indeed read all of the Nancy Drew books I gave her so many years ago (my original yellow hardbacks). She found the references a bit dated, but admired Nancy's spirit of adventure.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Oh, yellow hardbacks-- was that the first round of the books?

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    2. I don't think I have the first round - the second. She definitely had the roadster.

      Mary/Liz

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    3. Nancy will always live on in my opinion!

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  8. I have always thought that the reason we all loved Nancy Drew so much was because there were so few alternatives. Trixie Belden? Maybe. The Bobsey Twins? Meh. And that's basically it, because all the other kid sleuth series were about boys. I've heard that thing about girls reading boys' books but boys not reading about girls too, but that shouldn't be an excuse for not writing about girls. Girls need role models who are girls, and that's one of many reasons I'm thrilled the you've started the Devlin Quick series, Linda. They are on my "must buy and read" list! I hope this series brings you scads of success and movie deals and all the goodies!

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  9. Linda's essay on Nancy Drew was such a delight to discover the other day in the Washington Post. I too was greatly influences by Nancy, the Hardy Boys, and especially Encyclopedia Brown while growing up.

    Linda, do you find it hard to keep up with the social media skills of the younger set? Everytime I turn around, I hear tell of some new app I never knew existed. I imagine many of them are useful for young sleuths.

    Looking forward to visiting with Devlin and her gang soon.

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  10. I was never into Nancy Drew as a kid. I preferred Tom Swift and books about animals. I didn’t really read mysteries until I was an adult.

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  11. No questions, just a comment on how wonderful it is to have so many great writers turning to YA and middle-grade books. I, too, loved Nancy Drew, but let's face it - there weren't a ton of options out there for girls who wanted to read about other girls having adventures.

    It truly feels as if we're living in a Golden Age of young people's fiction.

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    1. I'm really enjoying writing for middle grade readers. It is so fun!

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  12. Wonderful and captivating. This is so special. When I was young there were so few options. I did read the entire Nancy Drew series which I enjoyed greatly. Now there is your creativity to enjoy. Thanks.

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    1. So true! Do you remember the Connemara McGuire books? ANyone?

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    2. Hank-I am not familiar with those-is that the character or author? I was a Nancy Drew junkie when I was growing up. Read Trixie Belden, too and a little bit of Cherry Ames. I am the "Book Aunt" who gets gift cards for all the kids for any gift giving occasion. I let them pick out whatever interests them and just ask that they share what they are reading with me (kind of a mini-oral book report!). Looks like I will be giving Devlin books to give them another suggestion.

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    3. Debi, she was an equestrienne. Hunters and jumpers, steeplechase, and I think even race horses. But she was tough and smart, and very brave. Let me look them up...

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    4. Oh, maybe this'll remind you--there was Golden Sovereign, and Silver Birch, and Midnight Moon, and Copper Khan. I loved them. Anyone have them?

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    5. That's very generous of you - thank you!

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  13. I so look forward to Devlin. This will be great fun. I read Nancy Drew which was inventive and smart but had very little else for a youngster at that time. Now Devlin makes an appearance and I can hardly wait. Thanks so much.

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    1. I appreciate your enthusiasm for my Devlin series!

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  14. Hi, Linda! Congrats on your newest Devlin Quick book! I love the covers of both Devlin books and wondered if the artist's rendering of Devlin matched the picture you had of her in your head? Are there any "rules" about covers for middle grade readers vs. adult readers in terms of color, font, graphic style, etc. that you learned during the publication process?

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    1. Nobody ever matches the character in my mind's eye...for an adult or kids book, Ingrid. But the artist at Dial worked with me a lot on her first ideas last year, and now I have come to love them! Devlin's first sketches resembled the Olive Oyl of my Popeye youth.....so we've filled her out a bit. I think the young readers market prefers primary colors to muddy ones, and I am with them on that. The Dial team came up with the huge Dino, to fit he story, and I do love that!

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  15. Linda, welcome back to Jungle Reds! I loved the first Devlin book. I am happy to learn that there is a second Devlin book. I would love to win a Devlin package. I grew up reading Nancy Drew. My grandfather gave me a year's subscription to Nancy Drew Book Club and I would receive two books in one book every month. So interesting that women from different backgrounds all loved Nancy Drew. What I loved about her was that she was never afraid to show her intelligence or her ability to do things. Nancy Drew seemed to be able to do anything, including difficult things. She was never a "damsel in distress" if I recall. Since I read the more recent versions, I never noticed the racism. However, I did find reprints of the first editions. I think the publisher was reprinting the original version of the books for a while? I noticed the racism in the original version.

    Diana

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    1. Yes, the originals are pretty jaw-dropping. It really is a lesson in history, isn't it?

      And true--she did bridge so many different backgrounds. It's a "girl"thing, I guess. Again, another lesson.

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    2. yes, the originals were jaw dropping!

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  16. Welcome Linda, and what a big step you have taken, moving from adult to YA crime fiction. Are you retiring Alex or just giving her a wee sabbatical?

    I spoke at Bouchercon with someone who shall remain nameless about why she is retiring an immensely popular protagonist. She said it was because she wanted to stop while she was ahead and move on to something different. Heartbreaking as that is, I get it, but I hope we will see Alex again in the future.

    I am one of the few living readers who has never read Nancy Drew by the way. Not sure how that happened! But then I only read Cherry Ames once, still became a nurse when I grew up!

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    1. Feel free to add a few commas up there. The dogs are agitating me to take them out for a walk, and I didn't take time to reread.

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    2. Ahh, so interesting! I read Cherry Ames, too, and loved it, and from it learned I never wanted to be a nurse.

      And ooh, that's a tantalizing conversation. Can you at least give a tiny hint?

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  17. Fascinating!
    Thanks for giving us a sense of how you work.
    The new series sounds like a winner.
    Libby Dodd

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  18. There is something so wonderful about the creator of one of the toughest female characters in literature moving into the world of young girls. So important! I have a four daughters and four granddaughters --- and I wish them all the grit to persist! At their parent teacher conference recently my daughter and son-in-law were told that the 6 1/2 year old is using potty talk. My reaction was to think that Annabel wants to be rougher -- one of the guys. We need all the role models we can get!

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    1. OH, that's interesting--what did the teacher tell them to do about it?

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    2. Tell her that there were rules -- my daughter told her she could say whatever she wanted at home, but that she couldn't do it at school. We shall see.

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    3. Oh, that’s pretty interesting. Love to know what happens :-)

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  19. This sounds like fun. I still love to read middle grade books myself, and now I can consider it research as my niece is almost that age and my nephew is a few years behind.

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    1. Mark: many of my Coop fans tell me they love the Devlin series, too. It's fun to cross-over to the grown-ups with this series...it's a delightful surprise!

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  20. Welcome Linda. My grand daughter will have a birthday at the end of the month. She will be getting both Devlin Quicks from Grams. Do the middle grade readers ask questions other than those cut and pasted from the Teaching assignments?

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  21. Hi, Linda! Congratulations on another Devlin Quick! As a librarian, a mom, and a writer, I adore this series. I feel it's so important for girls to have strong female leads, so thank you for that. Also, I really enjoyed the list of Nancy readers you mentioned, including RBG! That's fantastic!

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  22. I remember when I first discovered Nancy Drew -- I was about twelve and was going through my Mom's bookcase in her old room at my Grandmother's house. I found a whole shelf of Nancy Drew books, grabbed the first one I saw and asked my Mom if I could borrow it (it wasn't The Secret of the Old Clock, though). She said yes, but that I needed to start at the beginning, and that if I liked it, I could take home the whole set (these were the 1930 editions -- blue books with paper covers)! Well, needless to say, I loved Nancy Drew and organized and went through Mom's whole collection very quickly, then started reading them all over again. Your Devlin Cook Mysteries look wonderful, and I can't wait to get it for my nieces (and for myself too!) Thanks for visiting Jungle Reds and congrats on your new YA series!

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    1. The blue ones! Exactly. That's what I had, too.

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  23. Hi Linda! It's always such a treat to have you on JRW. I just ordered the first Devlin book--for me, as it will be a few years before my granddaughter is ready for them. Hoping there will be more books by then! At almost two, she loves her books, and we are doing everything we can to encourage her.

    I read Nancy, and my daughter read Nancy, although after reading the first few "updated" editions in the late 80s/early 90s, we searched out the originals. The racist assumptions in the original books could be talked about and put in context, but there was no excuse for the awful writing in the newer editions.

    But the books that really hooked me were Madeleine L'Engle's. After A Wrinkle in Time, I read every book in every series she'd written.

    I'm curious about all the things others have asked--hope you have a chance to stop in and chat!

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  24. Good luck Linda! I have a 17 year old granddaughter living in another state. I don't even try to pick up the slang. As long as she speaks English we're good. Congratulations on your new YA series!

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  25. Linda, it's such a treat to see you here at the Reds. I have been a fan of Alex Cooper for many years, and I know that each book will be an outstanding read. I'm also a fan of Nancy Drew, and she's probably what first drew me to mystery, she and Trixie Belden. My eight-year-old granddaughter is quite the reader, reading Harry Potter for a couple of years now, and I think she would love Devlin. I don't know why I haven't introduced her yet. In fact, I can't believe I haven't read Devlin yet. I'll definitely be correcting that lapse. Maybe a Christmas package for the granddaughter.

    I'm curious, Linda, what other mysteries you might have read that are children's or young adult level. One of my favorites is the well-known The Westing Game(1978) by Ellen Raskins. Then, Zilpha Keatley Snyder had some good books, like The Trespassers and The Egypt Game. Perhaps my all-time favorite is the Sally Lockhart series by Philip Pullman, where Sally starts out as a young girl and grows up in the books. Then, of more recent publication are the Blue Balliett mysteries, with Chasing Vermeer the first one. All of these books mentioned are ones I discovered as an adult, mostly due to my looking for books to share with my children when they were growing up. I love that there are more mysteries being written for children now, and I am so happy that an author of your talent is helping to feed that mystery reading itch for today's kids.

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    1. KAthy--such interesting info! Have you (or anyone) read Summerlost? Or A Certain Kind of Happiness? Or OC Daniel?

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    2. I loved Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Kathy. In fact, I wrote her a fan letter as an adult, and she wrote me back!

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    3. Hank, I've put Summerlost and OC Daniel on my TBR list. Did you mean Some Kind of Happiness instead of A Certain Kind of Happiness?

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    4. Gigi, I'm so happy to meet another Zilpha Keatley Snyder fan. How cool she wrote you back from the fan letter!

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    5. Yes, yes.. hmm. i think so. looking it up.

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    6. Yup. Some Kind of Happiness, but Claire LeGrand. Wonderful!

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  26. Thanks to my favorite ladies at Jungle Red Writers! You always give me great reads in your work, and then introduce my books to your admirers and good readers. Thanks so much - I hope you all have fun with Devlin!

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    1. You are so fabulous to be here today! Congratulations, you are an incredible icon, and such a role model.

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  27. Hi Linda, I don't at the moment have any middle-grade readers in my life--the kids I know are either too old or too young. So I guess I'll just have to read about Devlin for my own self--then wait for those young people to learn to read. Congratulations on book 2 in the new series!
    -Melanie

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  28. Thanks for “birthing” a new generation of strong young female literary heroines. Scrolling through the comments, it’s obvious that Nancy had a strong influence on such a variety of female readers. I grew up in Chicago. When my mother and I took the El downtown, we’d get off at Fields’ second floor entrance. I’d go directly to the book department and look for the next numbered book in the series! I couldn’t wait to get home and start reading! Once I aged out of Nancy, there weren’t any other mystery series featuring women. So sad.

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  29. I don’t have any preteens currently in my life so I have no insights to give on them and the changing mindset.

    I believe Nancy was actually originally written as a 16-year-old but was later aged up to 18.

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  30. THANK YOU EVERYONE! You all made publication day great for me and Devlin! Congratulations to all the winners! Thanks again to the great JUNGLE REDS and a special thanks to HANK!

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  31. Late to the game as usual but Linda, I am a Media Specialist at Milwee Middle School, in Longwood, FL! A little north of Orlando. I’m going to look for your books for kids because we are ALWAYS looking for something good for the kids to read! And I love your adult books so I’m sure I will love your younger series.

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