Karen is the author of the adult novel Janeology, which has an ingenious Russian-nesting-doll structure that I really admire, and Janeology’s sequel, Sure Signs of Crazy, which may be a first in the annals of sequel fiction: Janeology, being about adults, is an adult novel; Sure Signs of Crazy, being about one of Janeology’s child characters, is a middle-school novel. This, I’m hoping, will become a trend, and if a romance novel contains a minor character who is a cop, and he gets his own book, the book will be a police procedural rather than a romance, there being way too many romances out there and not enough, to my mind, police procedurals. (I like the idea of a book’s sequel being in a different genre than the original; it strikes me as daring and original, which Karen definitely is.)
What is your working title of your book?
The working title was Hellsboro, which is the name of the 800-acre underground coal-seam fire my three young heroes live on the edge of, but somehow that title got changed to What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World, which is more descriptive, but won’t look anywhere near as cool on the spine of the dust jacket.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
An article I once read about Centralia, Pennsylvania, where there’s an underground coal fire that is expected to burn for at least another century. There was something intriguing about a fire just below the surface that couldn’t be put out. Metaphorical, even.
What genre does your book fall under?
MSSFWLHO—Middle School Science Fantasy with Light Humorous Overtones. There is, I believe, an actual Amazon.com category with that title. It’s right next to CMMTTRWPU—Cozy Murder Mystery Time-Travel Romance with Philosophical Underpinnings.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Of the adult characters, David Tennant, best known to American audiences as the tenth Doctor Who, would be perfect as Alf, the eccentric owner of the Underhill estate. The villain, billionaire industrialist Edward M. Disin (rhymes with listen) would, of course, be James Woods (rhymes with goods). The kids are harder to cast, since child actors, even those who have had work done to retain the youthful look of 12, grow up too quickly. If I could pick and choose child actors from a specific point in their careers, the book’s narrator/protagonist, River, would be Ron Howard as he appeared at the midpoint of The Andy Griffith Show’s eight year run; his friend Freak would be the circa 1964, pre-Goldie Hawn Kurt Russell, and the pivotal role of Fiona would go to Eden Sher, who so amusingly portrays Sue Heck in the ABC sitcom The Middle, as she appeared in the show’s first two seasons, before she turned 20.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Three kids who live on the edge of an underground coal fire find some unusual objects between the cushions of an abandoned sofa that put them in the way of a billionaire industrialist’s plan for world domination. (What, again?)
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Little, Brown will publish the hardcover on July 2, 2013.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
114 days, averaging 612 words per day, which turns out to be about the fastest I can write. It took me the better part of a week—and four bags of Doritos—just to fill out this questionnaire.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
MSSFWLHO doesn’t really have a wide range of titles. I’d like to put the book in the same company as Terry Pratchett’s YA Discworld entries, such as A Hat Full of Sky or Wintersmith, but that would be presumptuous.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
All the books I read while I was growing up, from E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It trilogy and Eleanor Cameron’s Mushroom Planet series, to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the Harvard Lampoon’s LOTR parody, Bored of the Rings. They all contributed, to greater or lesser degrees.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
If you glue the cardboard tubes from four rolls of toilet paper to each of the book’s four corners, the book can be used as a small table. (I’ve done this. It easily supports a snack-size bag of Doritos. And it looks great with yellow drapes.)