I can barely contain my excitement today!!!!
And not only because it’s Halloween. I have two VERY SPECIAL guests. Guests that helped to shape my love for horror and the macabre as a child. Guests that have written some of my favorite books of all times. Guests that to me, are literary legends.
Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones have written over 150 books. And I guarantee that each and every one is amazing! In fact, I’ve read most of them. So, I knew right off the bat that I wanted to interview them for my grand Halloween Trick-or-Treat author interview. I wasn’t sure they’d agree to it, but much to my wonder and surprise, they said yes!
Oh my lucky stars, they said yes! Let’s hop to it!
Hi Debbie and Marcia! First off, thank you so much for letting me interview you. You ladies are literary legends! I’m honored to have you!
Let’s start off with a warm up question, one that I’ve wondered about for years. What inspired your amazing children’s book series The Bailey School Kids?
Debbie: We actually had a bad day at the school where we were both teaching. We jokingly said, “If we were monster teachers, the kids would pay attention to us!” That’s how we came up with the concept of Mrs. Jeepers, the vampire teacher.
Marcia: Believe it or not, the first book of The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids, VAMPIRES DON’T WEAR POLKA DOTS, was based on a real event—my really bad day. The kids in my classroom wouldn’t listen, they wouldn’t stay on task, and one of them even talked back to me. By the time Debbie came to my classroom for our lunchtime writing session I was ready to give up teaching and move to Alaska.
“I’d have to grow ten feet tall, grow fangs, and blow smoke out my nose just to get them to pay attention,” I told her.
Debbie laughed and said, “What if there was a group of kids that weren’t really bad, they just forgot to be good so often that their teacher DOES quit and she DOES move to Alaska. And what if they get a new teacher who CAN grow ten feet tall, has fangs, and blows smoke out her ears?” We kept ‘what-iffing’ just for fun, and that’s how we came up with Mrs. Jeepers and The Bailey School Kids.
I love it! That’s so fascinating. And as sorry as I am to hear you had a bad day, I’m so grateful that something so wonderful came out of it! So, let me ask, you two have co-written so many books together, from The Bailey School Kids series to the Ghostville Elementary series, etc. Do you have a favorite book that you’ve written? Why that one?
Debbie: My favorite is usually the one I’m working on right now! But I definitely have a soft spot for many, including Ghouls Don’t Scoop Ice Cream. I enjoy reading the chapter called ‘Super Eddie’ out loud. I’m working on a fantasy middle grade novel right now.
Marcia: Picking a favorite book is like asking a mother to point to her favorite child! I love them all for different reasons. A few do stand out, though.
My favorite book growing up was HENRY HUGGINS by Beverly Clearly. I loved how Henry brought home Ribsy! I always wanted to write my own dog book, so my favorite published book of my own is CHAMP, a story about a kid who sets out to prove to the community—and his father—that there is more than one way for a severely injured dog to be a winner.
UNICORNS DON’T GIVE SLEIGH RIDES is one of my favorite Bailey School Kids book because I’m an animal-lover and in that book the Bailey School Kids figure out a way to help the homeless animals in BaileyCity. Plus, it’s the first book in which the illustrator, John Gurney, used my likeness as one of the characters (I’m the newswoman for WTMJ news)!
But my true favorite isn’t published yet. WOODFORD BRAVE (Boyds Mill Press), set during World War II, will be released in the fall of 2015. It’s special because I interviewed my mother about what it was like living through the war years and I was able to incorporate family anecdotes into the fictional story.
I love those too! How fun! So, how is it co-writing with someone? What do you love about working with each other?
Debbie: It’s kind of like the tag teams in professional wrestling. I can hand off the manuscript to Marcia and say, “Your turn!” It’s a chance for twice the creativity!
Marcia: Having a partner helps keep me disciplined, plus it’s always exciting to the see the results of our combined brainstorming.
Sounds like you guys are meant for each other! Hehe. What is your personal writing process like? Tea? Coffee? Music? Silence?
Debbie: I used to write at night after everyone was asleep. Now, I write in the morning, starting at 6:15. I like quiet, punctuated with occasional snores or barks of my two dogs. I usually end my work day at 3:00, when my son gets home from school, but if I’m on a roll I’ll keep going and going!
Marcia: I like the room to be quiet while I’m writing. Music and other people (or one of my cats) can easily distract me. I write in spurts so having mini-goals helps me with forward progress. Getting up and moving is important to my process and I tend to intersperse writing with getting mugs of tea, a yoga sequence, a short nap, or just walking around the house.
Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever had a real-life spooky encounter?
Debbie: I was in a basement in New York City where I definitely felt an evil presence! I got out of there fast!
Marcia: No spooky encounters for me, but I find the idea of ghosts intriguing. After all, where would all of our joys, sorrows, love, thoughts, memories, ideas, and creativity go once we’ve left the shell of our bodies? What happens to all that energy? It has to go somewhere…right?
What is your favorite scary movie?
Debbie: Believe it not, I’m not huge into scary. I like a lot of humor mixed with a touch of creepiness-something like the Haunted Mansion movie with Eddie Murphy.
Marcia: I’m not a big scary-movie-watcher, but a long time ago my husband and I saw a very creepy version of Dracula on a public television channel. Unfortunately, we’ve never been able to find it again. This version was the ultimate in creepiness-through-suspense. (I talk more about what terrifies in my 10/10/14 blog post: http://www.smack-dab-in-the-middle.blogspot.com/ )
Oh! How fun! I love it and I love that blog post! So, what is the best thing you’ve ever been for Halloween?
Debbie: My husband and I were bloody mad scientists one year!
Marcia: I’ve been ghosts, hoboes, witches, and even a Pilgrim. But the favorite thing I’ve been is a treat-giver. I really like sitting on my front step giving out candy. One time a group of kids saw me writing in my journal so they stayed and helped me brainstorm ideas for the Bailey School Kids!
How cool is that! I love that kids helped you brainstorm your book! So I have to ask, what is your favorite Halloween or fall read?
Debbie: I absolutely adore The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams. It is such fun to read aloud. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is pretty awesome. One book that always gets a jump when I read it to kids aloud is Dragons Don’t Throw Snowballs.
Marcia: Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”. There are so many layers to that poem!
Gasp! The Graveyard Book is one of my ALL TIME favorites. And Poe’s The Raven, how can you go wrong?! Love these Marcia and Debbie! So, in grand Halloween fashion, who is your favorite book or movie villain and why?
Debbie: No one is better than Darth Vader! May the force be with you!
Marcia: Walter White from BREAKING BAD. I thought he was a fascinating study on how someone who is normal and smart and ethical can so quickly got caught up in a sequence of events that cause him to truly ‘break bad’.
Hehehe. I love those answers. So tell us, what’s your favorite fall drink or treat?
Debbie: Warm cider!
Marcia: Crisp fall weather means it’s time for a big pot of chili!
Yum! I’ll be over in a bit. Can’t wait for some cider and chili! What’s next for your story-telling? What can we look forward to? As a fan of young adult fiction, I must say that I’d love to read a middle grade or young adult version of the Bailey School Kids, solving mysteries in middle or high school. Will we ever get that?
Debbie: We’re delighted that next year we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots, the book that started the Bailey School Kids series. We have talked with Scholastic about other books, so you never know!
I do have three books coming out next year:
January – A Tale of Two Sisters (Mermaid Tales #10)
May – Polar Bear Express (I just got the cover and it is so cute!!) #11
Sept. – Mermaid Star (this title may change) #12
My newest book is A Royal Tea (Mermaid Tales #9) and I’m having a great time learning about creatures underneath the sea. The creatures definitely get creepier the deeper in the water you go!
Marcia: I’m excited about my mid-grade novel, WOODFORD BRAVE (Boyds Mill Press) scheduled for a fall 2015 release. Right now, I’m playing with a YA book.
Debbie and I have talked about writing a spin-off series about the Bailey School Kids. We’ve even brainstormed some ideas!
You literally have me drooling. I’d love a spin-off of the Bailey School Kids. And Marcia, what’s this YA!!! I need this now! And Debbie, all of those releases look fantastic! I can’t wait to read them. I’ve certainly added them to my Goodreads.
What do you associate with the following words? (Example: Bat – Dracula)
Marcia: brains, brains, BRAINS! (and of course, THE WALKING DEAD)
Marcia: howling werewolves
Debbie: dead (On the Sunday before Halloween this year, I’ll be in charge of a Cemetery Crawl at a local non-profit, the Moland House. We’ll be the ghosts of people who were at the Moland House and ‘haunt’ the grounds.
Marcia: Graveyard – ‘Here lies …’ (Tombstones.)
Thank you SO much for letting me interview you ladies. It’s been a dream. Thank you for providing years of entertainment, magic, and fun for readers! You’re welcome back anytime.
About the Authors
About Debbie Dadey
Debbie Dadey is the author and co-author of 162 books for children, including the Mermaid Tales series from Simon and Schuster and the beloved Adventures of The Bailey School Kids from Scholastic. Ms. Dadey is a former teacher and librarian. Please like her at Facebook.com/debbiedadey.
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About Marcia Thornton Jones
Marcia Thornton Jones has published 131 books for children with sales totaling more than 43 million copies world-wide. Her works include CHAMP (mid-grade novel), RATFINK (mid-grade novel), GODZILLA ATE MY HOMEWORK (chapter book), THE TALE OF JACK FROST (picture book) and LEPRECHAUN ON THE LOOSE (picture book). She is the co-author of seven popular series including The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids, Keyholders, Ghostville Elementary, The Bailey School Kids Jr. Chapter Books, Triplet Trouble, Bailey City Monsters, and The Barkley School for Dogs.