GUYS!! I have the one and only amazing Tonja Drecker on the blog today for an interview about her debut middle grade urban fantasy Music Boxes!! It hit the world last week, March 5th, and I’m so excited for her!! So, what is the book about?
“I only desire your talent…”
Twelve-year-old Lindsey McKay’s biggest dream is to be a famous ballerina. But after moving to New York, she ends up at the Community Center with a teacher who’s a burly bear in tights.
When she meets Madame Destinée, the teacher of a top dance school who offers her classes for free, Lindsey can’t believe her luck. In exchange, she must perform in the school’s exclusive midnight shows, ones sure to make her a star. But something’s not right…
One by one, the other dancers disappear. Each time they do, a music box with a figurine just like the missing ballerina joins Madame Destinée’s growing collection. If Lindsey doesn’t discover the truth about the dance school, she might end up a tiny figurine herself.
Middle Grade Fantasy / Performing Arts
Dancing Lemur Press
Ages 9 to 12
Pick Up a Copy
There’s a music box giveaway going on until the 15th of March! Details and rafflecopter for that will be at the bottom of the post. Now, to the interview! 😀
1. Let’s start with the hardest question: how did this idea come together? What inspired it?
That is the hardest question! My answer isn’t any easier—I have no idea where the inspiration came from. I was out in my garden, pulling weeds…very thorny blackberries…and suddenly the image of an evil ballet teacher collecting music boxes popped into my head (I was probably getting sick of being stabbed by those thorns!). Since I was driving my kids to three different schools at the time, I used the idea for a ‘car-story-time’, and…Tadah! The plot was born.
2. Lindsey is a ballerina! Have you ever taken any dance classes yourself?
Nope. I can’t even touch my toes; that would not be my hidden talent. My oldest daughter, however, started taking lessons at four, switched over to hip-hop at twelve and competed on the national level at various dance competitions. So, although I wasn’t personally involved in the dance scene, I definitely had a front row seat with backstage passes and more.
3. Books take wildly different lengths of time to write. How long was Music Boxes in the making?
When I sat down to type it out, four weeks. But, as said, I had already worked out most of the plot, characters and scenes thanks to those car rides. Music Boxes was by no means done, however. After only one round of edits on that first draft, I made the mistake of letting my excitement take over and sent it off to an agent. I immediately received a full request, but the manuscript was not close to where it needed to be.
I edited it off and on for a year with around a dozen beta reads before sending it out into the world again. This time, I landed my first agent. We did one round of edits, and sadly, she was moved into the marketing division instead. So, there went that agent (a lovely person, by the way!). It took half a year before I sent it off again, since I was a little bummed by the entire thing…and landed my second agent. Again, we edited and revised. Music Boxes went out on it’s first round of submission (got an overnight exclusive from Penguin!!!) but was finally turned down. Before we could go into another round of subs, the agent decided it was time for a life change and left the business. There I was again, but this time, no agent would touch me since I had gone through one round of submissions already. So, I sat around bummed again.
Around that time, I had a short published in a fund-raising anthology, and the editor was the head of a small publisher who had donated her time for the cause. I was so impressed by how engaged and energetic she was that I decided to give it a go and query Dancing Lemur Press. I honestly wasn’t sure how it would turn out, especially since they were (and are) seeking historical elements. Music Boxes is anything but historical. But I knew they also published creepier tales. When the editor answered that she wanted to see the full and was hoping that I did have historical elements, I figured it was a ‘no-go’. I sent the manuscript to her as requested but noted that there was as much history in it as flexibility in my toe-touching attempts.
Obviously, this story had a happy end.
4. What was the easiest part about writing this story? What was the hardest part?
The easiest part was the first draft, since I already had the story worked out. The hardest part was building in the necessary emotions and personality for Lindsey, the main character. Her original character was quite snarky, since my kids found that funnier during the car rides. But it made her come across too arrogant, when I sat down and wrote it out. Once a character like that sits in the head, it’s extremely hard to give them a personality change.
5. Who’s your favorite fairytale villain and why?
Rumpelstiltskin. In some ways, he’s horribly helpful by saving the girl by spinning gold for her. And yet, he wants her first born by the end. It’s never clear what his true intentions are or why he’s so upset that the deal falls through that he plunges to his death (in some versions). I’ve always wondered about his story. Maybe a future book idea? Hmmm….
I love Rumpelstiltskin!
6. The title of this book is perfect! I just wanted to say that. What do you currently have in the pipeline?
I’m working on two things right now. One is a joint project (co-author), something which sort of dropped in my lap, and I’m super excited about. It’s pure fantasy for adults with a very intricate plot and will probably be a trilogy. The other writer has not been published (nor has he attempted it before), but he is extremely talented. When he approached me and showed me his ‘first draft ideas’, I was blown away. When he asked me to write with him, I was speechless. It’s such an exciting world with amazing characters!
The second project is also a series but, like Music Boxes, for the middle grade audience. This one takes criminal events from real life and throws it at a group of 7th grade friends who are science geeks (and their pet fancy rat). It’s a bit humor and a bit mystery, while inviting readers to dive into the different aspects of STEM by providing interesting tidbits and ‘do-it-yourself’ experiments which are more fun than the average, serious science (like marshmallow guns, slime, etc.) While I love science books for kids, I find many of them are much too serious and try to make it overly educational. I’m hoping parents will hate me for writing this someday.
7. Quick! A magic wand has shown up on your doorstep, but you only have it for an hour. What do you do with it?
Change my property into a children’s paradise! It’s always been a dream of mine to offer a place, where especially urban kids in tough situations, can escape from their lives and experience how wonderful life can be. My parents were foster parents, and I learned how awful some children’s childhoods really are…and they don’t really have a chance at changing things without help and ‘vision’. I know I couldn’t help most, but if even one kid could see life from a new angle and realize there is more out there, it’d be worth all the time, money and effort in the world.
Tonja Drecker is a writer, blogger, children’s book reviewer and freelance translator. After spending years in Germany exploring forgotten castles, she currently resides in the Ozarks with her family of six. When she’s not tending her chickens and cows, she’s discovering new adventures, nibbling chocolate and sipping a cup of tea.
Author website: http://tonjadrecker.blogspot.com/
Review blog: https://bookwormforkids.blogspot.com/
The giveaway will run from midnight (EST) on the night of February 21st, 2019 until midnight (EST) on the night of March 15th, 2019. Entries will be made through the Rafflecopter. One winner will receive a music box (the one found in the book video: https://youtu.be/ww_RY4IVg3w) with the author’s golden signature on the bottom as well as swag (US addresses only). The second winner will receive an Amazon GC of $10 (US). The second winner must be in possession of a qualifying US Amazon account.
The contest is open to U.S. residents only, ages eighteen and over. No purchase is required for entry. All winners must claim their prize 48 hours after notification. Winners will be announced on www.tonjadrecker.blogspot.com on Saturday, March 16th 2019 by 10:00am (EST). All addresses and personal information will be used only for prize allocation. Sponsor, Tonja Drecker, assumes no responsibility or liability of any kind. Please email all questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.