Peggy Eddleman is the author of ‘Sky Jumpers’, an action / adventure book for middle grade readers. ‘Sky Jumpers’ was chosen as one of New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, and as one of the American Bookseller Association’s Best Books of 2013. Peggy lives with her husband and three kids at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, where she can be found making lists, playing games with her family (especially her favorite– laser tag), and occasionally painting murals on walls.
For what age audience do you write?
I write middle grade action / adventure books that are aimed at readers ages 8-12 primarily, but I have gotten emails from readers of all ages who have enjoyed it.
Tell us about your latest book.
‘Sky Jumpers’ is a post-apocalyptic tale, but it’s not dystopian. It’s about a girl, Hope, who stinks at inventing, in a town where it’s the most important thing. Her town, after all, is trying to rebuild from the green bombs of WWIII that wiped out nearly all the world’s population. When bandits invade and take her town hostage, inventions won’t save them, but along with a couple of friends, the daring and risk-taking that usually gets Hope into trouble just might save them all.
Henry: When I read “green bombs”, I imagined a Chia Pet bomb that overgrew everything.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
Excitement and adventure, of course! But beyond that, the feeling that just because you can’t do the same things that everyone else seems to be able to do, doesn’t mean you don’t have some pretty amazing skills yourself. And sometimes those unique skills will be more handy than the ubiquitous ones.
Henry: Very true. We all have our role to play. I’ve drafted a picture book about a superhero school where some of the students’ powers are not all that super.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging, and why?
Hands down, first drafts. I’m a huge fan of revising— I love working with a book to make it more interesting, more layered, and more polished. I love seeing a book transform from the ugly draft stage to its beautiful finished stage. And none of that can happen until the draft is finished.
Henry: I feel the same way.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
To look at the world through other people’s eyes more often. As an author, you invariably write characters that are very different from yourself. You have to spend time inside their head to find out what makes them tick, and it gives you a better understanding of how other people might look at the same things in a very different light.
Henry: So, in college, you majored in literature, and minored in psychology? You raise a very good point that I don’t hear mentioned very often.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
Speaking to auditoriums full of kids at school visits. I’ve never been a huge fan of public speaking, but there’s something completely different and exhilarating about speaking in front of 3rd to 6th graders. I love kids that age, and being able to speak with them about important things has been very gratifying, and I have fully enjoyed it.
Henry: I completely agree. At one elementary school, they videoed me being “interviewed” by this darling little third-grade girl.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
To be persistent, because this business gets tough, and you’ll get knocked down, and beat up and rejected a lot. You have to be willing to get back up each time. To be teachable, because that’s how you become a better writer, and you’ll never run out of things to learn. And to be flexible, because there are so many things in publishing that are out of your control. You have to accept that things might not turn out the way you planned, but that doesn’t mean they won’t turn out well.
Henry: That’s all very good advice. I think having proper expectations helps us deal with the harsh realities.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
Lots! This is one: “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” – Kurt Vonnegut
Henry: “It’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop.”
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
I don’t write in pajamas or sweats or yoga pants. I don’t write in bed or on the couch. I find that if I’m being lazy, then I write lazy. If I’m at a desk or a table, ready for the day, then ideas, inspiration, and motivation are ready, too.
Henry: Surely there are some strange totems lying about your office?
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
To fly. It may not be the most useful of all superpowers, but come on— it’s flying. Who could turn down that?
Henry: I don’t know about that. Flying is a great choice, but we’ve had some other good ones, like teleportation, stopping time (very useful for authors), mind reading, and taking on the abilities of animals.
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
Neil Gaiman, Ally Carter, and Megan Whalen Turner, because they are all brilliant.
Henry: If you haven’t heard of Neil Gaiman, you have to get out more (or at least read more). Wikipedia helpfully says: “Ally Carter is an American author of young-adult fiction and adult-fiction novels. She began her work as an author of two adult novels, Cheating at Solitaire and Learning to Play Gin. She then introduced her career to young-adult novels with the Gallagher Girls series and later developed the Heist Society series with a novella of the two series’s characters called Double Crossed.
Megan Whalen Turner is an American writer of fantasy fiction for young adults. She is best known for her series of young adult novels primarily revolving around a character named Eugenides. Turner has no name for the series herself, but fans have coined it The Queen’s Thief. The first book in the series, The Thief, won a Newbery Honor award. The second, third, and fourth books in the series are The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings.”
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
Brownies, because I want one living in my house, happily cleaning away while I’m sleeping. Especially when I’m under a deadline.
Henry: You are the first to offer that innovative (and practical) response! Plus, brownies are also a tasty treat.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Be a mom. I have three kids that I love being around. Most non-writing things I do— playing games, working on homework or projects, home remodeling, chatting, going to movies, cleaning— are for them and usually with them.
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
“Here lies Peggy Eddleman, who finally finished her to-do lists.” ;)
Henry: Well, then I’ll keep sending you interview requests to ensure the list is never finished.
Where can readers find your work?
In bookstores everywhere, or online at places like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or through independent bookstores at Indiebound. You can find out more information about my books at peggyeddleman.com, on my blog, and on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.
This interview is also posted at the San Diego Children’s Book Examiner.