I’m a sucker for middle grade fantasy, so when I saw the premise for MAPMAKER by Lisa Moore Ramee, I hit her up for an interview:
Walt is a Mapmaker, one of just a few in the universe who can draw maps that come to life. He must pit his own powers against another malevolent Mapmaker who has the power to destroy any world—including our own.
In our last interview, you said, “There’s a noticeable gap between traditional middle grade and young adult and I think we’re missing a whole lot of readers who want stories that speak to their specific age group. There’s a big difference between an eighth grader and a junior in high school.” What, in your opinion, have been the barriers to seeing books published for kids in this age group?
Although it might sound silly, or rather too simplistic, the biggest barrier is simply how bookstores (whether brick and mortar or virtual) and libraries are designed. There’s a children’s section, which is where middle-grade books live, and then there is young adult. From a publisher’s perspective, if there’s no place to shelf these books, then how do you sell them? When I visit the children’s section of bookstores, I often feel as if there’s a marketing problem that has been created. The sections are clearly designed for the youngest readers, and even the traditional middle grade books seem a bit out of place. It’s lovely when you go into a small bookstore because they simply don’t have the space to make these divisions so everything sort of bleeds together. Then the young reader who is looking for something a bit more advanced can find it more readily.
But another barrier is something I really relate to because it happened to me growing up. My mom was scared of me reading books that were too “old” for me and would confiscate them and hide them (and then I’d find them and read them). I think it’s a natural thing to be fearful of our children growing up too fast, but I think as parents we can’t shield our children from the world. Talking to your kids is the best bet to see what their interests are, what their reading level is, what type of stories do they want and/or need?
This all makes a lot of sense, and I fully agree that “shielding” isn’t always helpful. How did you determine the level of magic and worldbuilding needed in MAPMAKER, and what do you want readers to take away from Walt’s story?
I love magic! It was so much fun to be able to write fantasy and have magical elements in a story, but since contemporary/realistic stories are more of my sweet spot as a writer, it was challenging to figure out what I could get away with, and how magical Walt’s world could be. I spend a good amount of time in the story without much magic at all, and a lot of the danger that Walt faces is more “real” than magical…although he does have a pretty fantastical foe. I wrote the type of story that I like to read. I loved The Phantom Tollbooth as a kid, and the way impossible things are presented as perfectly reasonable. When I was working on MapMaker, I had a post-it note on the wall in front of my desk that said: “Acceptance of self” I think that’s what I want readers to take away. (Well, I want them to take away a whole bunch of fun and frights too!) But there is a message that I hope comes across loud and clear that you are okay as you are. Don’t compare yourself with others, just be you.
Such a great message. And I love the art work on your website! How did you come up with your current theme, and what do you like most about it?
All credit goes to my brilliant web designer Danika Corrall. Her way of working with clients when she’s designing their sites is to ask for images that speak to them and she uses that as a jumping off point. I provided a slew of random images and somehow she took from that a fantastic concept. I loved how she captured my love of color and whimsy. I think it matches my personality and my writing.
It certainly does! What is some of your favorite feedback that you’ve received from your readers?
I didn’t see myself in books growing up, so my favorite feedback to get from readers is when they tell me they saw themselves in one of my characters. That’s more important to me than whether someone loved the book. I’m really hopeful that MapMaker allows a lot of kids who haven’t seen themselves be heroes in fantasy stories, feel seen.
For more of Lisa Moore Ramee’s books, go to