My guest in the Author Spotlight this week is Kate Foster, author of middle grade fiction. Welcome to ‘My Writing Life,’ Kate.
Winell Road – Kate Foster Twelve year old Jack Mills lives at 5 Winell Road and probably has the world’s weirdest neighbours. Like freakishly weird. And to top it off, he lives with Mum (nosy, interfering and a hideous cook) and Dad (unsuccessful inventor of the Camera Belt and Self-Closing Window). All in all, it’s a boring, embarrassing, dead-end place to live. So when Jack arrives home from school one day, a close shave with a UFO is the last thing he expects. But the fact it doesn’t abduct him, and that no one else – not even Mum – sees the gigantic flying saucer hovering over the street, adds a whole new layer of strange. Soon after, an alien encounter threatens Jack’s life and he becomes embroiled in a galaxy-saving mission. With the assistance of his new neighbour, frighteningly tall Roxy Fox, he discovers Winell Road is hiding secrets – secrets Jack might wish he’d never uncovered.
From Chapter One – The Encounter
He noticed the darkness first, a large shadow cast over him.
Then he felt it.
Something behind him. Close. Too close.
Jack Mills turned his head to look. The football slipped out from under his arm and rolled away.
There, a metre or two above him; it was vast, silver and circular with intricate markings, and a flawless grooved spiral that finished at a black, central disc. Four enormous legs were spread evenly and bright lights shone from the base of each one. It was deafeningly silent, no wonder he hadn’t heard it lowering down.
Now it hovered, frozen in mid-air. Just … Just looking at him.
Jack stood, his jaw unable to drop any further. He didn’t blink. Or move. He couldn’t. He didn’t even know if he was breathing.
Why wasn’t he running away? It was like he had two bricks in his shoes and the soles of those super-glued to the ground.
The disc began to spin. Slowly at first but soon picking up speed. The wind from it flattened Jack’s scruffy brown hair to his scalp like a helmet. His eyes stung from the force.
He lifted his hands up to protect his face and, squinting, he took a few steps back.
Faster it spun. Harder and stronger the wind blew.
Jack gasped for air. He turned his face away and crouched to the ground. Nearby branches bent in the opposite direction in their own attempt to escape the gale, whilst flowers lost their battles to remain upright.
He caught sight of his football disappearing into the trees.
He had to run. Whatever was about to happen, he didn’t want to find out. This was huge. Massive. Ginormous. Ginormassivous.
One word ran through his mind, over and over.
Please read on to find out more from Kate about middle grade fiction and what inspires her to write it
Thank you, Julie, for inviting me on to your blog today!
My first book, Winell Road, was published last month! Yippee! It’s middle grade fiction; sometimes referred to as books for middle readers or simply MG. For anyone unfamiliar, these are children aged between 8 and 12 years, but, of course, this is a guideline. Plenty of children either side, and a fair number of adults, me included, can read and enjoy MG books. Think Harry Potter, which although the later books were shelved as young adult to account for the characters becoming teenagers, started life as MG. Think Wonder by RJ Palacio, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis, Skellig by David Almond.
Despite having been big on books from a very young age, it was probably during these years that my love for words was truly born. The passion, the magic, the escapism; a spell was cast. So, I guess, MG chose me, rather than me actively choosing MG, and I am sure there are many authors who found the same. The more books I’ve written, the more my natural voice has developed, and the more I know how well suited it is to middle readers.
MG, often separated into upper and lower to allow for the wide maturity levels and reading abilities, is definitely not the same as chapter books or young adult fiction. Yes, the lines might be considered fine, but children of this age should most certainly be respected for the tough transitional period they’ve entered.
They’re beginning to make their own, often important, decisions that not only affect themselves but others around them; they’re realising life isn’t quite as peachy once they climb out from beneath their parents’ wings; they’re experiencing and recognising more complex emotions. But fundamentally they are still babies that need a cuddle and a hand to hold, because they aren’t fully prepared to deal with life’s harsher side.
So serious issues can be addressed in MG books. Going back to A Monster Calls: this deals with the big C and how a young boy overcomes the impact it has on his family. If you haven’t read it, then you should. It’s a tearjerker for sure, but so beautiful. From the choice of language, to the level of detail included, it allows children to ‘see’ as much as their minds can accept and digest. It’s an MG masterpiece and well deserved of its awards and accolades.
My books are in real contrast, however, as I can’t help but write adventures, often a little dark, but always with a splash of humour, as a way to offer a small window for children to climb out of when needed. Perhaps, again, this reflects what I leaned toward reading as a child, and has simply hung around in my brain somewhere waiting for me to tell my own stories. I write for enjoyment, which is precisely what I want readers to get from my books.
Thanks so much for being my guest this week, Kate and for writing such a great post about your inspiration for writing middle grade fiction and especially for writing Winell Road.
Kate is a freelance editor and proof reader, and an author of middle grade fiction and picture books. Originally from a small village in the UK, she emigrated with her husband and three sons to the Gold Coast in Australia in 2014. She’s an active tweeter, a regular judge of writing competitions, and writes articles for online magazines and blogs. Her first book, Winell Road, was recently published with Jet Black Publishing, and 20% of all sales are donated to the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation.
Find Kate at: