February 24, 2013

Book Q & A: Quest for life

In Megan Frazer Blakemore's new book, three friends set off on a journey to find the Fountain of Youth to cure one youngster's father.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Megan Frazer Blakemore has known since she was a child that she wanted to write books. The only question she had was what she'd do to "pay the bills" while trying to get published.

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

Megan Frazer Blakemore

Her solution was to land a day job that was right in line with her interests -- school librarian. Blakemore works as a middle school librarian at Berwick Academy while writing books of fiction for students and young adults.

Her latest book is "The Water Castle" (Bloomsbury, $16.99), about a boy who moves to the fictional Maine town of Crystal Springs (based on Poland Spring) after his father has a stroke, and looks to the town and new friends for some answers.

Blakemore lives in Kennebunk. This is her second book. 

Q: How did you get the idea for "The Water Castle"?

A: There's a house full of books, and this girl growing up in this house, who has trouble telling truth from fiction. I was a huge reader as a kid; I can relate to a house full of books. Having been to Poland Spring, the history there and the idea that water can cure illness helped give me the idea (in the book) of the boy looking for the Fountain of Youth to cure his father.

As a librarian, I can imagine how kids might react to things in a book. I think sometimes adults underestimate kids and what they can tackle. 

Q: Did you let your students read it while writing? What sort of reaction have you gotten from kids now that it's out?

A: I was working in a high school at the time (the book is aimed at grades four to seven), but I had a friend's son read it. It's been fun to see what kind of questions kids ask. A lot of them ask how I picked the names of the characters -- Mallory or Ephraim, for example. I love the name Mallory. But it means "ill omen," so I figured I didn't want to give it to one of my own children. So I used it in the book. 

Q: Your first book, "Secrets of Truth and Beauty," was geared to a slightly older audience. What were the challenges of writing one book for young adults and the next for students in middle grades?

A: The first book is more a young adult book. It's about a girl who was in the Little Miss Maine contest. As she's gotten older, she's gained weight and she does a school project on appearances. But she's misinterpreted, and people start thinking she's a danger to herself, suicidal. But really she's saying, "You had this idea about me when I was cute and tiny, but now that I'm not tiny, I'm still the same person."

A young adult book is more like an adult book in terms of themes and plots and the length. And it's a little harder to keep track of everything as you're writing. With a middle grade book, it's a little more direct. I try not to change the language, though. Middle grade (books) are a lot more freeing; you can be more fanciful. The genres are more strict with young adult books. But I really liked both. 

Q: Where does the name "The Water Castle" come from?

A: It's what the people in the town call this big house. The town was built because of the water there, the family had made their money selling water. The house is more like a castle, strange things happen there. The boy (Ephraim) and his family move there after his father's stroke -- it's a family home.

But Mallory's parents have taken care of the "water castle" and told her the stories about it. She had gotten teased for believing the stories; now she says she's done believing in the stories, just when Ephraim moves in and wants to believe. Especially in this myth of the Fountain of Youth, to help cure his father.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com

Twitter: RayRouthier

 

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