How did the idea for The Map of Me come to you?
Many years ago I heard a news report about two sisters—seven and nine years old or maybe even younger—who stole a car and drove hundreds of miles to visit a long lost relative. The older sister steered the car but she couldn’t reach the pedals so the little sister sat in the floor, pushing the gas and the brakes with her hands. That’s such a vivid, crazy, dangerous image! Also such a portrait of desire. They had to really want to get there to conquer those obstacles. I couldn’t get those sisters out of my mind. Then one morning I woke up thinking “Peep and Margie never set out to be criminals.” Right away I knew they were the car thieving girls and they were ready to have a novel written about their journey.
How did you come up with the title?
The title was tough! When I wrote the early drafts I called the manuscript PEEP AND MARGIE—sort of an adolescent take on Thelma and Louise. My agent suggested ONE SHINY SILVER KEY, and that was the title when I sold the novel. Late in the game, as we were considering covers and such, some people questioned the KEY title. Maps form the backbone of the story. The hero Margie is assigned to draw a Map Of Me for school, she uses a map to search for her mother, stars form maps . . . THE MAP OF ME seemed like the perfect unique title—a little bit descriptive and a little bit mysterious.
Writing this novel taught me so much! The biggest lesson was about revision. Early on, the first twenty pages of this novel won an SCBWI Work In Progress grant, which was great affirmation, yet as I wrote to the end I realized the story didn’t really start with those twenty pages. It started much later, with different family dynamics. So out those pages went. Gone. My son said I was the only person he knew who won an award then threw the work away. I had to learn to be fearless about revision . . . and then I had to learn how to know when enough is enough and the novel was really finished.
Do you have a favorite theme or genre that you like to write about? Is there a genre that you'll probably stay away from and why?
I don’t set out to write to theme but there are certain things that strike a chord with me. My first book, SOAR, ELINOR! was the biography of aviator Elinor Smith. She was daring and seized opportunities wherever she found them. Margie Tempest, the protagonist in THE MAP OF ME is a similar sort of girl. She doesn’t wait around for things to happen. She makes them happen—sometimes at her peril! I guess the theme for both is “go for it.”
I’ve never written YA. Teen angst doesn’t come as naturally to me as adolescent discovery. But who knows—I may try a YA novel soon. But I’m committed to writing for young readers and I don’t have any interest in writing a novel for adults—at least not right now.
What's next for you? Are you currently working on or have plans for future projects?
I’m writing a middle grade mystery now. It’s quirky and complicated, and it’s taken forever to work out all the clues and subplots, but I really love it. I can’t wait to spring it on the world!
And I can't wait to read it. I'm always looking for good stories to pass onto my students. Thanks for answering my questions Tami!