published April 2013
Why I Loved It: Voice and perfect for younger middle grade boys and reluctant readers. Seriously, they will love it.
Want More? Read the first chapter here. Check out Fish's Facebook page.
Interview with E. S. Farber
(pictured with her son Niko)
Fish is a great character, what was your inspiration for writing him and this adventure? Also, which came to you first: the character or the plot?
My son, Niko, was my inspiration for Fish Finelli as a character and as a book series. (Fish Finelli is actually a nickname I gave him when he was small). His insatiable curiosity and interest in facts about everything from hieroglyphs to hot air balloons inspired me to create a boy character who, besides questions, has lots of answers and who, like Niko, loved learning so much, he wanted to share what he knew with everyone else. I also wanted to create a hero for boys who was smart and independent, spirited and compassionate, but also funny, with old-fashioned values and the grit to do what he set out to do. I wanted Fish to narrate in first person, sharing his “knowledge,” but not too much of it before he was interrupted by his two best friends. This was why I liked the idea of nonfiction sidebars as a way to include more information.
The character came first along with a few plot points—including the lobster piggy bank, the dare/bet, Roger and T.J, Uncle Norman and his boat, and the coveted Seagull motor. As soon as I decided to write in first person versus third, I heard Fish talking to me:
It all started the morning I broke into my lobster piggy bank. It’s kind of funny I had money on my mind, since pretty soon all I was going to be thinking about was treasure. But a dare’s a dare, and there was no way I could take back what I said, kind of like Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion about how every action (the dare) has an equal and opposite reaction (taking the dare). It explains why the planets stay in their orbits and why if Bryce Billings calls you a baby for playing pirates then you tell him it’s not a game, it’s for real.
Which character did you enjoy writing the most and why?
I enjoyed writing all three main characters--Fish, Roger, and T.J.--because of the way they play off one another, making puns, poking fun, joking around. I know the story is moving in the right direction when I hear them talking to one another—then it’s almost like taking dictation, writing down what they come up with.
What's your favorite scene in the story?
My favorite scene in the story is the entire stakeout at the duck pond, particularly Fish’s swim through the mucky yucky water, Roger’s run-in with the mutant, and T.J.’s notes on the clipboard about Munch Eggs, the island where the treasure is supposedly buried.
I did lots of research for the story—I love researching—and because I spend so much time in the library I had a lot of amazing help from some amazing librarians and archivists. One book I found in the Long Island Collection of the East Hampton Library was all about a supposed secret pirate museum where the author had seen Captain Kidd’s “actual” treasure map, which he included in the book, and I used as the basis for the look of the treasure map in the story.
That's soo cool. My 9-yr-old will love that!
Operation Fireball is the second Fish Finelli adventure, which is coming out in Spring 2014.
Why do you write for middle graders?
You know how J.M. Barrie writes in Peter Pan about Wendy when she is two and realizes that she must grow up that “Two is the beginning of the end?” Well, I guess in my experience it seems as if twelve is that end. The middle-grade age group is my favorite, because it’s before that growing-up time and all of the pressures of adolescence. It’s a time when kids are more likely to still believe in “magic.” I identify very strongly with that age group, and have many memories of that time period in my life—I actually often feel as if I am still twelve-years-old.
As a writer, do you plot out your whole story before you start or do you write by the seat of your pants?
Usually once I get the characters figured out and a sense of the story—then I start writing and see where the story wants to go by listening to the characters and feeling out what they want to do. I do an outline, but a loose one, which I tighten up as I go along. I always start by writing scenes for each chapter in a notebook, because I find my ideas (or the characters’ ideas) seem to flow more easily on paper—then once I feel sure of the direction of the chapter, I start typing.
You have an amazing middle grade voice. What advice can you give to aspiring writers about how to find a middle grade voice?
Thank you! As I said, I have a strong affinity for the middle-grade age group. My best advice to aspiring middle-grade writers is to channel their own inner middle-grade selves, including all the fears, worries, joys, triumphs, questions, insecurities, obsessions they remember. It’s also helpful to hang out with a bunch of middle-graders and listen to them talk, ask them questions, find out what they think, how they feel. I have to confess that sometimes after school when my son got off the bus and was telling me about his day, I would actually grab a notebook and take notes on what one kid said about something or someone, or a joke or riddle another one told, or a game they played at recess or a fight that happened at lunch.
Do you have a favorite place to write or snack to eat when you write?
I wrote much of Seagulls Don’t Eat Pickles sitting in one carrel at the East Hampton Library on one particular maroon office type rolling chair.
I also like to write sitting in a comfy yellow chair I have at home. I like to eat apples and yogurt-covered raisins and drink Kombucha, which I feel is a synapse-firing type of beverage, perfect for the writing process.
Oooh, I love bookcases filled with books---mostly because of the smell. Your hideout looks divine! Thank you again for the interview and good luck to Fish and his gang!
Next stop on the Blog Tour: Ms. Yingling Reads on 7/2/13 for another interview + GIVEAWAY!!