I happened upon the blurb for THREE TIMES LUCKY and I was immediately intrigued. It was also a Newbery Honor winner, and I love that this book takes place in North Carolina, where I lived briefly (in the Piedmont area) while I was getting my library degree. Her newest book, ISLAND OF SPIES, also takes place in North Carolina, but in a different part of the state.
Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone’s business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she’s been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her “upstream mother,” she’s found a home with the Colonel–a café owner with a forgotten past of his own–and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.
Twelve-year-old Stick Lawson lives on Hatteras Island, North Carolina, where life moves steady as the tides, and mysteries abound as long as you look really hard for them. Stick and her friends Rain and Neb are good at looking hard. They call themselves the Dime Novel Kids. And the only thing Stick wants more than a paying case for them to solve is the respect that comes with it. But on Hatteras, the tides are changing. World War II looms, curious newcomers have appeared on the small island, and in the waters off its shores, a wartime menace lurks that will upend Stick’s life and those of everyone she loves. The Dimes are about to face more mysteries than they ever could have wished for, and risk more than they ever could have imagined.
What do you love most about North Carolina and why?
North Carolina is famous for its beaches and mountains, for the cities of its Piedmont (including Greensboro, where your cousins live), and the eastern plains, where I grew up and where I live today. I live on a farm with my husband Rodney, our dog Callie, and assorted farm animals – goats, chickens, etc. I love the rhythm of life here, which is very unhurried and closely tied to the spin of the seasons since this a rural area. Each region of the state has its own charm. My latest book, ISLAND OF SPIES, is set on North Carolina’s famous Outer Banks during World War II. It deals with part of North Carolina’s secret history there, and with three kids with a mystery to solve.
Then, when you read THREE TIMES LUCKY and the books in that series, which are set pretty much where I live, the descriptions reflect the small towns, lazy rivers and farmland around my home.
I enjoy the Piedmont with its cities and universities, and also the mountains, but I haven’t set any novels there yet.
I love living here in Eastern NC. We still have enough space to be a little eccentric without upsetting each other too much. 😉
Delightful! The characters in THREE TIMES LUCKY are so unique! Did Mo come to you fully formed, did she develop as you wrote her, or both?
Honestly, Mo LoBeau started speaking to me in my imagination as I was writing something totally unrelated to THREE TIMES LUCKY. Boom! There she was in my imagination – a scrawny eleven-year-old girl wearing plaid sneakers. “Hey,” she said, “You got a minute? I got a story to tell.”
And did she ever!
Of course, as I rewrote the manuscript over and over and worked on it with my editor, the character became sharper and clearer, smarter and funnier. But she was pretty vivid from the beginning.
That’s how I write, really. I eavesdrop on my characters as I develop their story, and I rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
What a great method. What have been some of your favorite things you’ve heard from your readers?
I love receiving email from my readers. I love hearing their thoughts on my books and answering their questions about writing if I can.
My favorite notes are the ones that say something like, “Dear Sheila Turnage, I never liked to read until I read your book. Now I’m a reader.”
I love those because I know doors have been opened for that reader. Once you can read you can discover anything! Of course, it’s not the power of my own book that does that; it’s that the reader found the right book at the right time, and for the reader writing to me it happened to be mine. Still, it’s so exciting.
It is indeed! What are some of your current projects?
ISLAND OF SPIES came out a few months ago, and I am doing school visits and book events to promote that. (Please visit my website, www.SheilaTurnage.com) And my first book of poetry, JUST OFF HALF-MOON ROAD is also out, and so I get to share that with grown-up readers.
I’m just starting a new book for middle grade readers. It’s too early to tell you much about it – I’m still listening to the characters and taking notes – but please follow me on Facebook and Instagram! I’ll keep you posted!