Thank you to author Keir Graff for stopping by to share some thoughts on The Matchstick Castle (released January 10th)! It was such a fun middle grade story that reminded me a bit of The Goonies meets Alice in Wonderland, but then kept escalating into an even more imaginative adventure. My 62 year old father kept talking about how much he loved it and requested that I add in this post that the story was “good, clean, silly happiness” that read like a movie. So… I guess there’s proof that all ages will love this book!
A wild and whimsical adventure story, perfect for fans of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello s Library. Brian can think of a few places he’d rather spend his summer than with his aunt and uncle in Boring, Illinois. Jail, for example. Or an earplug factory. Anything would be better than doing summer school on a computer while his scientist dad is stationed at the South Pole. Boring lives up to its name until Brian and his cousin Nora have a fight, get lost, and discover a huge, wooden house in the forest. With balconies, turrets, and windows seemingly stuck on at random, it looks ready to fall over in the next stiff breeze. To the madcap, eccentric family that lives inside, it s not just a home it s a castle. Suddenly, summer gets a lot more exciting. With their new friends, Brian and Nora tangle with giant wasps, sharp-tusked wild boars, and a crazed bureaucrat intent on bringing the dangerously dilapidated old house down with a wrecking ball. This funny, fantastical story will resonate with any reader who s ever wished a little adventure would find them.
Keir Graff is the author of One Nation, Under God, My Fellow Americans, and, writing as Michael McCulloch, Cold Lessons. His short stories have appeared in a wide variety of publications. He lives in Chicago.
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• Describe The Matchstick Castle in 3 words?
I’ll do it in two: Safety last!
• What was your favorite scene to write?
Some scenes flowed so easily that they were a pleasure to write—but the writing itself was quickly forgotten. The scene where Brian, Nora, and Cosmo rescue Uncle Kingsley was my favorite to finish, because it required so many revisions. Logistically complex and slightly preposterous action scenes present unique challenges because it’s difficult to make them vivid and believable without slowing down the reader’s experience.
• What do you do when you’re not writing?
I read, whether adult novels for my job at Booklist, middle-grade novels to inspire my writing, or manuscripts by friends and collaborators. I’m also a voracious consumer of newspapers, magazines, and paperback crime novels I find in second-hand bookstores. When I’m not writing or reading, I spend time with my family (my sons are 12 and 10), run along the shore of Lake Michigan, and coach youth soccer. I try to spend as much time outside as possible, which is difficult given my profession!
• If you’re a Harry Potter fan, which house would you be sorted into?
I’d be hoping for Gryffindor, but I’d have no chance: it’s a coin toss as to whether the Sorting Hat would put me in Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff.
• What were some of your favorite books when you were in middle school?
I mostly read fantasy at that age: Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising. But I also remember having my mind blown forever when I stumbled across Robert Lipsyte’s The Contender.
• Any advice to young authors who hope to be published?
Three things. First, the single most important part of a writer’s development is reading—so read, read, read. Second, write as much as possible without getting too attached to any one thing you’ve written. Most successful authors have written books, sometimes many of them, they never published and never will. Most first efforts are fatally flawed but it’s important to write them anyway. Finally, meet people. Whether you join a writing group, befriend librarians and booksellers, or attend writers’ conferences so you can start meeting publishing professionals, it’s important to begin broadening your range of connections. As the number of people you know grows, it will help your writing, your understanding of the literary world, and improve your chances of getting published.
Thanks so much for sharing and congratulations on The Matchstick Castle!