I recently participated in World Read Aloud Day. It was a blast! But the day only got better when I discovered that one of the librarians who had reached out to me was none other than Stephanie Robinson, co-author of the FAIRDAY MORROW book series.
I am a HUGE fan! It was probably a good thing I didn’t realize that it was her until after the fact, or I might have totally geeked out!
I immediately invited Stephanie and Jessica to the Spooky Middle Grade blog, because, of course, I have questions only they can answer!
Let’s get to it!
1.How did you gals start writing together?
Jess: We met in English class freshman year of high school. I have always enjoyed sharing my thoughts about books with Stephanie. I wrote a children’s poem that I wanted to turn into a picture book, but when that didn’t work out and I decided to create a middle grade book with my idea. It seemed natural to ask her if she wanted to write it with me. The rest is history- and lots of it!
Stephanie: I had always loved writing and had written many short stories and poems. Growing up I thought I would write a book a summer when I became a teacher. So, when Jess asked me to co-author a book with her, I decided it was the perfect chance to begin working on one of my dreams (and I soon found out that I write too slow to produce a book a summer- and there are a lot more steps to publishing than I knew).
- Tell us about Fairday Morrow.
Fairday is our main character. She’s in 5th grade and has a younger sister named Margo who she adores. Fairday is a thinker and likes to take in the situation around her. She’s calm and inquisitive and loves playing with words. Fairday reads a ton and shares the books she enjoys with her best friend Lizzy. She tries her best to be fair and doesn’t like seeing people be unkind.
- How did you come up with the idea for this book series?
Jess: The initial story was partially created by my grandfather. When I was a kid, I stayed with my grandparents for a while and they lived in a spooky house in Ridgefield, CT. Sometimes it sounded like someone was walking around upstairs when there was no one up there, and my grandfather used to tell me it was Ruby Begonia clomping around in her high-heeled sneakers. I spent years trying to catch her, but never did. Ruby’s story took shape as I grew up. When I was in my twenties, I wrote the children’s poem, Ruby Begonia and the High-Heeled Sneakers. One day, I thought how cool it would be to turn the poem into a chapter book and the name, Fairday Morrow popped into my head. I thought to ask my best friend and book buddy, Stephanie Robinson, if she wanted to co-author it with me, and happily she agreed. Stephanie and I both love books; we love to read and talk about the stories. So, we started writing and talking about Fairday and the adventures of the Detective Mystery Squad (DMS).
Stephanie: After Jess asked me to work with her on changing her poem into a story the ideas began emerging from all over the place. We would meet, talk, brainstorm, and dissect each other’s ideas. Each time one of us shared something we would spark new ideas in the other person. Some of the elements of Fairday’s story have appeared in my dreams and others that have happened in my everyday life.
- Do you base your characters on people you know? If yes, spill the beans!
Jess: In a way, all of our characters are a mix of different people that we’ve known throughout our lives. Banner, particularly, is a close comparison to one of our high school friends, and Dif, well, he’s sort of a conglomerate of those mean kids that everyone has come across from time to time, but people can change, of course. 😉
Stephanie: As a teacher I see many personalities in the classroom. It has been helpful to add elements to characters like Marcus and Dif from my observations. A friend of my husband’s family was called Brocket, and I have always loved the name. Jess and I borrowed it for Marcus because he deserved a cool last name, after all he is Brocket the Rocket.
- How much of your real-life experiences play a role in the stories you tell?
We are big fans of “write what you know”. We end up sprinkling in pieces of scenes we observe, funny things that have happened to us, and small details from our lives. Many of our real adventures are woven into the fictional ones.
- What books did you like to read when you were a kid? Do those books influence your writing?
Jess: I loved the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary- and Ellen Tibets was one of my absolute favorite stories. I also really enjoyed fairy tales and books about space and astronomy.
Stephanie: I started out in first grade as a struggling reader and once I got the hang of it I couldn’t get enough! I devoured books growing up. Some of my favorite authors were Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and Roald Dahl. I loved fairy tales and Shel Silverstein poems. I read every Nancy Drew book and the Little House series. I wanted to be Nancy and Half-Pint! I read a mix of genres and the Fairday Morrow series blends genres- so I think I was influenced by my reading for sure.
- What are you working on now?
We are currently working on book 3 in the Fairday Morrow series- Fairday Morrow and the Master’s Emporium. It’s a lot of fun to write and it’s exciting to see what other secrets the Begonia House has in store for the DMS and all the places their case will take them.
- What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
We mostly write by the seat of our pants, but we both spend hours talking about our ideas and characters. So technically, we do a lot of verbal outlining and occasionally we map out our ideas on paper. We change things as we write though! We speak daily about Fairday and her adventures. We flush out characters, storylines, and everything else both in person and on the phone. Our meetings have always been productive and helped us to be on the same page. We use Google Docs, which allows us to write in one document from anywhere. Usually one of us starts a chapter and the other person goes in and starts working their magic- adding, deleting, and crafting the writing until it’s a blended expression of both of our ideas. We agreed early on that we would always be honest with each other and that we wouldn’t take things personally. From the beginning we wanted to create the best story we could, and we knew that we would need to put our egos aside. Luckily, we have always had a relationship in which we could tell the other person exactly how we felt. It was a blast writing together!
- What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Jess: Be yourself. It’s important to love what you’re doing and continue to work because you enjoy the process. If you take your projects seriously and make time for them to flourish, you’ll feel your own sense of validation. It’s important to protect creative time and space and keep up the practice- there is no failure or wrong or right in art, it’s all worthwhile, and your skills will develop as you continue to craft your writing.
Stephanie: Write at your own pace and use a process that works for you. It is easy to look at other writers and compare yourself to them. Some people write fast, some are like me, and the pace is a bit slower. That is okay! I appreciate that there are writers who can sit down and type thousands of words. I tend to nitpick over words and sentences. Learning to be comfortable with your process will allow you to enjoy yourself. Don’t lose sight of why you are writing and don’t worry about the rest. Creating stories is fun!
- Where can we buy your books?
Thanks for asking! You can buy our books at your local bookstores, and if they don’t have them on the shelves they can order them for you.
Our books are also available at:
Connect with Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson: