Let me just say, not only did I adore Deb Joanne’s debut, SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE, but it was a shared joy in our house. From the moment my two young daughters saw the cover and I explained it was the story of a young girl who could talk to ghosts, they were hooked! Each time I read a chapter, they wanted to know what happened next—almost as much as I did. (In a few years, I’ll even be able to explain to them my very favorite scene in the book. To avoid any spoilers, I will say only two words: foundation garments. Trust me, I was rolling.)
Since I was so quickly and thoroughly smitten with SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE (read my Goodreads review if you need further proof!), I asked Joanne this:
Joanne, one of the things I most loved–and admired–about SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE is how you crafted Lilah’s voice so authentically. As a writer, I struggle to write younger characters with anything close to believability, but Lilah’s dialog and self-reflection (and that of her peers) was always so spot-on. PLEASE share how you are able to write your young characters so well and so convincingly, and if you can offer any advice on finding voice for characters who are beyond our own age ranges.
And here is Joanne’s answer:
Thanks, Erika, for your very nice words about Lilah’s voice. I’ve heard a few times that I nailed the voice, which is such a huge compliment, especially to someone who doesn’t have kids and had to rely on her memory and ear when writing middle-graders! When I wrote Lilah, I employed what I call (in my head, mostly) my sweet, yet bossy-know-it-all voice. I really do call it that and keep it in the front of my mind when writing kids. I definitely remember 12 as being that age when I really did think I knew it all, but was at the same time still very unsure of everything and very easily embarrassed. I know those things seem so contradictory, but I think if you remember being that age, you will hopefully get what I’m saying. It’s also important to keep the sweet in there – Lilah thinks she knows a lot about the world and is happy to impart her knowledge, but she isn’t mean spirited at all—she just thinks maybe not everyone knows the things she knows.
Like here, when Lilah is addressing her mom at her wedding:
“And may I say once again, you are a breathtaking bride!” (These are the kinds of things you must say to the bride, whether or not she’s your mother.)
And at that age EVERYTHING SEEMS SO VERY IMPORTANT. And I’m not sure if that’s because so much of the world is exciting and almost every experience is new, or because the world of a tween is very small and directed inward (probably both), but I add a lot of (sometimes invisible) exclamation points to sentences and that helps remind me that I need to communicate that tone of how important everything is. It also helps that I’ve never really grown up and I actually talk a lot like Lilah does (admittedly, with some swears thrown in). I remember when we were shopping the ms, one editor actually said the voice sounded too young, and I was like, but I talk like that! Anyway, she must have been in the minority, since, like I said above, I’ve had a lot of great feedback on Lilah’s voice.
Thanks so much for such a great answer, Joanne! And trust me—there’s a reason why so many ghosts flock to Lilah and refuse to leave. Once you dive into her world, you’ll want to hang out with her for as long as possible too!
Dear readers, do you think it’s hard to capture the voice of younger characters? Leave a comment and be entered to win a signed copy of SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE!
16 Replies to “Deb Joanne’s Launch Week Continues with Deb Erika’s Question!”
Erika, I agree–Joanne nailed the voice. That kind of authenticity will make or break a book for readers, and in this case it definitely makes it.
It’s not all that tough for me to write younger characters. It probably helps that I have a juvenile sense of humor. 😉
Linda, I will continue to turn to you and Joanne then in the future for help writing younger characters then because you both have the knack.
PS–Now have we figured out yet how we are going to get our SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE launch cupcake???!!
Alas, not yet. I am open to suggestions. As long as it doesn’t involve making my own. You know how I feel about kitchens. 😉
Was there any discussion of Martini-flavored cupcakes? 😉
Er, I get the rum cake thing, but martini-flavored sounds kind of wrong.
Thank you so much for this, Erika! I love hearing that the reading of SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE was a family event and can’t wait until your girls are old enough to read it themselves!
I so wish you gals were closer – I want to share cupcakes (or really, kugel) with you!!!
Truly, Joanne–it was great fun for us all–and yes, I can’t wait until they can read it themselves either! And a kugel fest is in our future–just wait! 😉
Erika you are one of a kind (you and Linda can have all the cupcakes you want, oh how I wish you were both here next week,I would make sure you went home 20 lbs heavier). I will make you flavored Martini cupcakes, wine cupcakes, kugel,cabbage borscht anything your little heart desires, you are both wonderful.
When I read Small Medium at Large (that’s between tears and lots of smudges on my glasses and laughing so hard at a few of the sections)I felt immediately connected with Lilah, her Mom and mostly her Bubby Dora (yeh I know girls it is because I am there and as outspoken as Bubby Dora is just ask my grandchildren)
Have a great week.
Ack! I can’t afford another twenty pounds! Maybe it’s just as well I’ll only be able to enjoy Joanne’s launch party virtually. 😉
Thank you, Deb Mom Marcia–as you know, we are so fond of you too!! 🙂
Is tonight the big dinner? We can’t to hear all the details tomorrow. We send you and Joanne and your family great big cupcake-flavored hugs on this wonderful day of celebration!
What about the brisket? We need protein!
Brisket! Of course!
Of course brisket for protein that was a must in the 20 lbs plus some lamb and chicken and and and.
Wow, I love this book — it sounds wonderful! And yes, it’s hard for me to capture the young voice, especially now that my kids are in college; when they were younger, I could eavesdrop and pick up ideas!
Hi Julia! (who I got to meet IRL this visit to Maine–and we had the best time!)
I’m with you on the challenges of capturing the younger voice–and you had the perfect examples for a while there. Eavesdropping, I love it! 😉
Thanks, Julia! pssst: I totally eavesdrop on unsuspecting tweens.
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