COVER REVEAL & 10 Questions With…Author Jess Keating

JessKeatingPicTODAY AT ALL THE WRITE NOTES I HAVE THE PLEASURE OF HAVING “10 QUESTIONS WITH…” AUTHOR JESS KEATING, AND REVEALING HER COVER FOR HER DEBUT M.G. BOOK,  HOW TO OUTRUN A CROCODILE WHEN YOUR SHOES ARE UNTIED.  JESS AND I CHATTED ABOUT HER DEBUT BOOK , ZOOLOGY, AND THE ROLE MUSIC HAS IN HER DAY TO DAY WRITING LIFE. ENJOY!

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First up, tell us a little bit about your MG debut with Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, HOW TO OUTRUN A CROCODILE WHEN YOUR SHOES ARE UNTIED.

This book is all about being brave enough to be your true self, even if it means not fitting in. (And possibly ending up covered in crocodile poop.)

Things aren’t going great for Ana. Her best friend just moved away to the other side of the world, leaving her to deal with the pack of snooty Sneerers at school on her own. Her zoologist parents want the whole family to move into the zoo (next to the stinky hippo exhibit!) for their work. And her twin brother, Daz, constantly puts snakes in her bed. None of these things bode well for a girl who just wants to blend into the background until summer.

It gets worse when her grandfather shows up. Most grandfathers have cardigans and prune juice, but Ana’s father is a world famous, reality TV naturalist with a supermodel girlfriend whose legs go up to here. So instead of just bringing presents, he brings a news crew. Ana is forced into the spotlight, and forced into facing her biggest fear of all. Cue the shenanigans!

Some people like to say their life is a zoo. For Ana, it really is. *dramatic opening music*

Whether it was done consciously or sub-consciously, authors often admit to finding bits of themselves in their main character. Is this true between you and your main character, Ana?

Ohhh, big yes. There is definitely a lot of me in Ana. Like me, Ana is a total biology nerd, and it comes out in the way she relates to the world around her. She’s a girl who is absolutely surrounded by wild animals! As a kid, I was the same way. This can be really cool, but it also makes for some pretty awkward (and hilarious) middle school experiences.

When I was younger, I worked at a wildlife rehabilitation centre for years, where we nursed injured animals back to health for release. I was bitten by raccoons and sprayed by skunks and all those lovely things. I once had a duck imprint on me and follow me home. I would even collect bones and try to reassemble animal skeletons on my front porch. (Ask how much my mom loved that!) Living in the zoo she does, Ana can relate to all this and more!

Digging a little deeper, Ana is just trying to find the guts to be her true self, even though she knows she’s different from a lot of people around her. Who can’t relate to that?

Sourcebooks-logoWhat was it like the first time you saw your cover, and how close was it to your mental image of what you thought it would be?

It was so surreal! I think the design team at Sourcebooks hit it out of the park with my cover. It was everything I’d envisioned and is a perfect representation of what’s inside. I love the vibrant colors and quirky, funny feel. I especially love that it leaves Ana’s physical features open to readers’ interpretation. Not that I’m biased, but I think everyone should get a copy when the book comes out, so they can see the cover in real life. *wink*

FROGFor those readers not familiar with your hashtag on Twitter, #KeatingCreature, tell us a little about it and how it got started?

The #KeatingCreature hashtag is a way of introducing people to animals they may not know about yet, particularly the weird ones. Did you know there’s a frog that can break its own bones to make claws that protrude through its skin, just like Wolverine? I started the hashtag initially because people seemed to really respond to tweets like this, and figured it would be nice to have it all organized for curious people. There’s an updated bestiary of all the featured creatures on my website.

With your deep love of animals being obvious, what was it like to fulfill a lot of kid’s dreams in becoming a Zoologist?

It was hard work! I always knew I wanted to learn everything I could about animals and the natural world, so zoology was a great fit for me. It’s funny, a lot of people questioned why I would want to become an author when I have this background. But there’s no way I could have written this book without it! I never wanted to choose between my love of science and my love of writing growing up; I’m so fortunate I didn’t have to. It also makes me really happy to hear that so many kids want to work with animals when they grow up. It gives me hope for the world!

Photo Credit: DMB

Photo Credit: DMB

With a promise not to judge, (Lisa McMann’s was Def Leppard ), what was the first concert you ever attended?

Oh, Spence. You know how it is growing up in rural Ontario, so my first concert wasn’t until my twenties! I went to see Dave Matthews Band, with a guy who is now my fiancé. So watch out for those concerts, ladies.

All of us here at A.T.W.N. agree that music and writing go together like peanut butter and chocolate. What role does music take in your day-to-day writing life?

Music plays a huge role in my writing life, and I use it to set the tone for whatever work I’m doing. When I’m drafting a new manuscript, I find that hearing words doesn’t mess me up, so I can listen to just about anything. When I’m revising, instrumental pieces seem to help me along.

One thing that’s really fun about writing middle grade is that it’s a time when everything is just so emotional, even the small dramas of normal life. Music can help you tap into that MG brain, because it’s so powerful! We all have songs that remind us of our first crush, or hanging out with our best friend at the mall food court. If you are writing a scene where you really need to bring the emotion (especially in a MG or YA book), listen to the songs that you loved at that age. It can really get you back in that headspace.

 Like most writers, it’s clear that you’re an avid reader. Is there a book that you recently cost you sleep because you couldn’t put it down?

SEE YOU AT HARRY’S, by Jo Knowles was an all-nighter read for me. I also was late to the party with THE BOOK THIEF, by Marcus Zusak. Clearly, I really need some funny books now!

Music has always been available in a wide variety of formats, thought most in the industry would like to forget the 8-Track. If we looked through your collection, which band/artist would we find the most songs of?

I think some would qualify as ‘oldies’ now?! I’m a big Metallica fan, and the live album of the ‘Symphony and Metallica’ concert is one of the few I can listen to from start to finish. There’s also a lot of Muse, Foo Fighters, Adele, Clapton, and Pearl Jam for drafting, and Ludovico Einaudi for revision mode. Also tons of video game soundtracks, which sounds weird but often they are great sources of inspiration by really talented composers!

One book, one band…

One book: ENDANGERED, by Eliot Schrefer. Hands down my favorite read from last year. Bonus points for bonobos, and a fearless female protagonist!

One band: Arctic Monkeys.

THANKS TO JESS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO STOP BY A.T.W.N.. NOW LET’S ALL ‘CRAWL’ DOWN WITH THE CROCODILES AND TAKE A LOOK AT JESS’ AMAZING COVER FOR HOW TO OUTRUN A CROCODILE WHEN YOUR SHOES ARE UNTIED.

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Isn’t it fantastic! Let Jess know what you think of her cover in the comments. 

JessKeatingPicThanks again to Jess for stopping by A.T.W.N. Her MG debut book, HOW TO OUTRUN A CROCODILE WHEN YOUR SHOES ARE UNTIED, can be pre-ordered here, and added to your Goodreads TBR pile here. If you would like to catch up with Jess socially, you can find her on Tumblr, and on Twitter.

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Author Bio:

As a middle grade author and zoologist, Jess Keating has been sprayed by skunks, bitten by crocodiles, and been a victim to the dreaded paper cut. Her debut How To Outrun A Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied is coming in Summer 2014 from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, with a sequel to follow. She has a Masters degree in Animal Science and a growing collection of books that are threatening to take over her house. She lives in Ontario, Canada, where she loves hiking, playing ukulele, and writing books for adventurous and funny kids.