I first connected with Laura Stegman through Janet Reid’s blog. I particularly related to Laura’s MG book SUMMER OF L.U.C.K. because I had a stutter growing up, plus it had a really great beginning that drew me right in:
Stuttering Darby is never perfect enough for her mother. Justin’s been silent since his dad died. Naz is struggling to learn English. But after they meet at summer camp, mysterious calliope music from an abandoned warehouse grants them power to communicate without words. When they sneak inside, the dark, empty space bursts into a magical carnival. They’re greeted by the ghost of Leroy Usher, who asks for their help convincing his family to restore the carnival to its former glory. In return, he promises to teach the kids how to find their voices.
As Darby, Justin, and Naz are swept off on a series of midnight adventures via Mr. Usher’s carnival rides, they discover they’re capable of more than they ever imagined. With each challenge, their confidence in communicating – and in themselves – grows. Meanwhile, they scheme to persuade the Usher family to revive the carnival. But when Darby’s bunkmates trick her into starring in the camp talent show, her budding confidence falters. Can she risk being less than perfect by performing in the show and speaking up to Mr. Usher’s resistant son? If not, she’ll put the carnival in danger and sabotage her most important quest: to believe in herself, stutter and all.
What do you love most about writing for middle graders?
There’s something about middle grade literature that reminds me of everything good about my childhood. It’s a time of life when kids are developing a sense of who they are, which means you can tell extraordinary stories, whether fantasy or reality based. I love the idea that middle grade readers can see themselves in the books they read and perhaps even come up with solutions to their problems.
I certainly found myself in books when I was that age, and it’s why I write for middle graders too. SUMMER OF L.U.C.K. centers on different kinds of communication. How did you know this needed to be an integral part of the book?
Summer of L.U.C.K. is a middle-grade novel about three kids finding their way to self-acceptance with the help of a ghost who haunts a magical carnival. I was intrigued by the concept of characters with communication difficulties who reclaim their voices through magical adventures. When my characters communicate with each other, it makes all the difference, and as the story unfolds, they give each other courage to try things they don’t think they can do. Even with its fantasy elements, the lessons of Summer of L.U.C.K. – friendship and perseverance – are grounded in reality, and I hope readers will finish the book knowing that whatever they’re struggling with, others kids struggle too, and they are not alone.
I hope so too! I love your website, especially the animations! What suggestions, if any, do you have for authors wanting to either build or update their online platforms?
Thank you! All credit to my fabulous web designer, Gail Villanueva, who understands an author’s needs, because she is one herself (https://filipinowebdesigner.com/ and https://gaildvillanueva.com/). Since my publisher, though wonderful, is small, with somewhat limited resources, I knew I’d be competing for readers with authors backed by big publishers. So I wanted a web site that would attract attention and represent Summer of L.U.C.K. (and me) with bright visuals and fun, whimsical elements. LauraStegman.com serves as a “calling card” that speaks of commitment to my work as an author. As for other platforms, I’m no social media expert, but I make it a point to see what other successful authors are doing so I can learn from that – that is my best suggestion. I’ve increased my Twitter followers to more than 2,500 by connecting with writers, especially those in my genre, and I make sure to retweet and support interesting posts from others besides posting my own content. And I’m growing my Instagram followers by posting frequently, especially during author-related, prompt-a-day months. It’s time consuming, but I think it helps establishes a track record that’s useful for authors to have.
Great advice! What are some of your current projects?
When I signed my contract for Summer of L.U.C.K., I was lucky enough that my publisher, INtense Publications, wanted two sequels! So, my current work in progress is the first sequel. Called Summer of L.U.C.K. 2: Ready or Not, its first chapter is featured at the end of Summer of L.U.C.K. itself. Ready or Not follows Justin, one of L.U.C.K.’s three main characters. Still grieving the loss of his father, he struggles with a bully during his second summer at Camp Inch, convinced he’ll find solutions with the help of the magical carnival, like last year. Turns out real life is much more complicated. I’m about three chapters away from finishing it. When it’s done, I’ll move on to the third in the series. I haven’t yet decided what that book is about, but, as a “pantser,” I’m sure I’ll find out. Keep an eye on LauraStegman.com for updates.