Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Babe To Teens, Past
A Youth Column
By Jan Fields

An Interview with author Linda Joy Singleton, reviews of Don't Die Butterfly and Oh No, UFO, also a review of Kathryn Lay's Crown Me!

     It's autumn! Who wouldn't love autumn with the cool nights, bright colored leaves (for those of us in the leaf dropping regions) and terrific food holidays? I especially love Halloween -- hey, give me a chance to dress up and beg for chocolate and I'm happy. And I love spooky books and spooky movies. I never get enough books with ghosts, goblins and aliens. With that in mind, I'm chatting this month with Linda Joy Singleton, an author with two new eerie book series -- Strange Encounters for middle grade readers and The Seer for teens. Linda Joy is an author after my own heart because she loves things that go bump in the night.

     Oh, I almost forgot; it's also a presidential election year in the US. That means that even the best TV-remote jockey will be hard-pressed to avoid all the political slams and sneering. It also makes it a good time to think about leadership. What makes a good leader? What makes a political campaign you can be proud of? Does power always go to your head? I've got a book for that, too. So, don't skip the review of Crown Me by Kathryn Lay and found out how she made politics funny instead of dreary.

Crown Me

By Kathryn Lay
Holiday House - October 2004
ISBN: 0823418456 - Hardcover
Middle Grade Fiction (Ages 8 - 12)

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Read an Excerpt

Review by Jan Fields,

      As we're facing another election year, kids are often interested in the election process. What are the traits of a good leader? How's the best way to get elected? Will good intentions make a good leader? With fun and verve, Kathryn Lay answers these questions though the story of fifth grade class king Justin Davies, and his unlikely queen Andrea. Justin wants to leverage this class project on royalty into a presidential win in the fifth grade school elections. Unfortunately power goes to Justin's head, and with half his class in the dungeon, Justin has to figure out how to be a good leader and fast. This lively story includes some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments including a joust with toilet-plunger weapons and an unforgettable PTA meeting. The author also handles the large cast of characters deftly, never allowing the reader to become confused about who is who. Although readers won't be learning about the electoral process or any election facts, they will learn about leadership and compromise -- two traits we'd like to see a lot of in our leaders of the future!


Linda Joy Singleton is no newcomer to series writing. She's the author of three previous series -- My Sister, the Ghost, Regeneration, and Cheer Squad -- ghosts, clones and cheerleaders, now that's a fascinating writing range!


Jan: So, let's start with the important stuff -- what are you going to be for Halloween?

Linda Joy: If I eat too much candy, I'll have to wear a clown costume because nothing else will fit. Otherwise, I'll probably wear my Renaissance purple dress that I wore last year.


Jan: I spotted ghost stories on your website which will make a nice Halloween treat for readers. What other kinds of story goodies can readers find with a visit to

Linda Joy: My website is actually three websites strung together. The first website was with geocities, then it was improved to When I switched back to my full name, the new site became my main one, but by following links readers can find fun pictures, short stories, quizzes, lists, writing tips, articles, links, fan letters and even the entire #6 Regeneration book.


Jan: You've just always been a series kind of writer -- My Sister The Ghost, Cheer Squad, Regeneration, Strange Encounters, and The Seer -- I detect a definite "weird stuff" trend. What makes you enjoy writing with X-file type situations?

Linda Joy: I don't really know. I just find unusual topics fascinating. Or maybe I'm part alien.


Jan: Llewellyn is a relative newcomer to books for younger readers -- what drew you to the company?

Linda Joy: An online friend, Dotti Enderle, writes the popular Fortune Teller's Club series for Llewellyn. When she urged me to submit to Llewellyn, I dusted off a nearly 10-year-old series, Strange Encounters, and sent it in. While this series went through a long submission process, I wrote a detailed proposal for The Seer series. My editor liked this so much, she offered a contract right away. Then I got busy writing Don't Die, Dragonfly. By the time I finished this first book in The Seer series, Llewellyn had decided to buy Strange Encoutners, too. I feel SO lucky to have found the perfect publisher for me.


Jan: Tell me some things about your two series with Llewellyn -- Strange Encounters and The Seer. I know they differ in target reader age. How else are they different? Can you give reader any peeks into plans you have for the series in the future?

Linda Joy: I've completed two books in Strange Encounters: Oh, No! Ufo! and Shamrocked. This series is about sixth-grader Cassie Strange who meets aliens and other magical creatures while traveling with her unusual family. I'm currently writing the 3rd book in the series, Sea Switch, featuring a wicked mermaid and set in Newport, Oregon. Since each book will be based on a real place or legend, I'm hoping to run across some interesting setting and situation for #4.

The Seer is more serious, about 16-year-old Sabine Rose who is trying to keep her psychic ability a secret so she can fit in at a new school. But visions and a bossy spirit guide push her into solving mysteries. She also meets two really hot guys who both like her. I'm curious which guy readers will prefer: dark, mysterious Dominic who can understand animals or popular, nice-guy & amateur magician Josh. #1 Don't Die, Dragonfly is a September 2004 release.

#2 Last Dance will be out by summer 2005 and it begins with Sabine going on a quest to save her beloved grandmother. She goes to a ghost festival and has a spooky encounter with a dangerous ghost of a girl who died fifty years old. I haven't started the 3rd book yet, but the working title is Witch Ball.


Jan: I've noticed that you're willing to try new things -- how have e-books been for you as an option?

Linda Joy: E-books are a pioneer world of literature. When I first attended a conference where an editor spoke about e-books, I just knew this was the beginning of something BIG. For me personally, it gave me new books to offer at speaking engagements when my previous books were quickly going out of print. I even won the highest honor in e-publishing -- an EPPIE award for "Best Children's E-Book" for My Sister The Ghost #1. Twin Again. And recently I was offered contracts for Mail-Order Monster and Melissa's Mission Impossible to be published in electronic and paperback with HardShell Publishing.


Jan: I know you collect girl series books. I was a MAJOR Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew girl. And my mom loved the Outdoor Girls. What's your favorite vintage girl series and why?

Linda Joy: My favorite girl mystery series is Judy Bolton (1932-1967). I enjoyed Nancy Drew, but she was too perfect for me. But Judy got angry, made mistakes and was often misunderstood by her friends. I LOVED this! And she even grew older as the books progressed, getting engaged TWICE, having a bridal shower, losing her wedding dress, had a double wedding ceremony, fostered a child and if the last book hadn't been cancelled, she would have given birth to twins. There is a yahoo listserv for Judy fans, plus every year a group of fans has a get-together in Coudersport, PA, the real site of Judy Bolton mysteries.

By the way, I collect ALL girl series, so I have all Trixie Belden's, early format Nancy Drews and even some Outdoor Girls books. In the new house we're building, I'm going to have a library just for my girl series book collection.


Jan: I always wanted to write to an author when I was a kid. Tell me, what did Margaret Sutton (author of Judy Bolton series) say when she responded to your fan letter? Did you frame it?

Linda Joy: When I got the first letter as a kid, I carried it around for days. Now it's in a special case. I had asked her why her book went out of print and she answers: "I am like Judy in my determination to fight injustice wherever I find it. And it does seem to me a great injustice when girls like yourself are unable to buy all the books in their favorite series." She spoke of an article in the July 1971 issue of Saturday Review and adds, "As you read the article you may notice how similar my girlhood writing was to yours. I would like to read what you've written." So of course I sent her stories and poems and first chapters. And I saved most all of her letters. Three decades later I even co-wrote a new Judy Bolton with her, The Talking Snowman, which will soon be reprinted in a second edition.


Jan: What kinds of fan mail do you get?

Linda Joy: When my Regeneration series was in print, I had two main topics from fans. #1. Will Chase and Varina get together? #2. Will there be another book in the series? I love hearing from fans and when the series ended after five books, I wrote a 6th book just for fans which can be read on my website for free []. As for my new series, Strange Encounters and The Seer, they are so new I haven't had a fan letter from a young reader yet. I'm going to be very excited when I get one!


Jan: What would you say to young readers who have dreams of writing books...what advice would you give them?

Linda Joy: Write from your heart. Have fun with words and try all different kinds of writing to find what you love best. And READ everything: literary classics, comic books, Newbery winners, fantasy, mysteries, romance novels, picture books. Jump into the world of words and learn as much as you can. While you're learning, seek out markets for young writers (Children's Writers & Illustrator's Market includes a chapter on this) where you have a better chance at selling your work early in your career. There are any online sites that are eager for content, too. And learn the art of rewriting. I rewrite over and over until my books feel just right.


Jan: Thank you for being such a gracious guest. I really appreciate your time. Any last minute things you want me to include (I can fit in any cool thing you want to share).

Linda Joy: My motto with publishing is: Try Everything. Wonderful things may just happen.


Don't Die Dragonfly

By Linda Joy Singleton
Llewellyn Publications - September 2004
ISBN: 0738705268 - Paperback
Young Adult Paranormal Series

Buy a Copy
Read an Excerpt

Review by Jan Fields,

    In many ways, Don't Die Dragonfly is a typical teen series with the usual concerns: popularity, dating, and family. But this book, the first in the Seer series, adds a twist. The main character is psychic from a long family line of psychics. In fact, Sabine even has a bossy spirit guide. Being psychic destroyed Sabine's closest friendship, got her drummed out of school, and even caused her mother to ship her off to live with her grandmother -- so Sabine is convinced she can make things work out differently this time. Well, she does and doesn't in this fast-paced, page-turner. Sabine must solve a mystery to protect herself and others. The author manages to keep the reader guessing almost as long as Sabine while introducing an interesting cast that shows promise of future secrets and problems. I predict this series will charm teen readers as easily as it did me.

Oh No! UFO!
By Linda Joy Singleton
Llewellyn Publications - September 2004
ISBN:0738705799 -Paperback
Middle Grade Paranormal Series

Buy a Copy
Read an Excerpt

Review by Jan Fields,

     This first book in the Strange Encounters series serves up a winner!

     "It all started with a stowaway duck." Who could resist a first line like that -- one that promises some interesting things ahead? And Oh No! UFO! delivers on the promise. Cassie Strange's family is...well...strange. She's the only normal one and she just wants a normal family camping trip. Of course, readers are hoping for anything but normal and this book delivers. When Cassie sees a UFO just before her duck smuggling little sister Amber disappears, the weirdness is only beginning. No one believes Cassie saw a UFO and the Amber who waits for Cassie back at camp seems even stranger than usual. How can Cassie save her sister? The author keeps the tension high and the pace fast -- this is the kind of book young readers will consume by flashlight well past bedtime. And by the end, Cassie will come to appreciate some of her family's strangeness -- and isn't that a lesson we all could use?

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Linda Joy Singleton

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