TEXTING THE UNDERWORLD comes out August 15! It's been getting great reviews (a Kirkus star!) but I'm a nervous wreck anyway. The launch party is August 1 (Blue Hill Public Library, 7 p.m.) and I start a three-week blog tour August 5 at The Children's Book Review. (I'll post the complete tour schedule next week.)
The arrival of a banshee, as Conor soon learns, means only one thing: Someone in his family is going to die. Not only will Ashling not tell him who it is, it turns out that she’s so fascinated by the world above that she insists on going to middle school with him.
The more Ashling gets involved in his life, the harder it becomes to keep her identity a secret from his friends and teachers—and the more Conor worries about his family. If he wants to keep them safe, he’s going to have to do the scariest thing he’s ever done: Pay a visit to the underworld.
If only there were an app for that.
|The banshee from Walt Disney's "Darby O'Gill and the Little People."|
I hasten to say that my banshee is a red-headed girl. Most of the time.
I was leafing through Abbey Lubbers, Banshees & Boggarts, an illustrated encyclopedia of folklore collected by the late Katharine Briggs. I came upon a full-page illustration of a banshee, and she wasn’t what I expected. (My banshee experience started and ended with "Darby O’Gill and the Little People," a Walt Disney film that scared the pants off me when I was a kid.) According to Briggs, banshees weren’t always evil old hags—sometimes they were the spirits of young girls who died too soon. Ashling the banshee popped into my head right then and there, and I had the plot mapped out in three hours.
It’s middle-grade fantasy. Depending on who you talk to, “middle grade” ranges from age eight to age fourteen. You can decide for yourself whether banshees and a trip to the underworld constitute "fantasy."
CJ Adams (“The Odd Life of Timothy Green”) would be a great Conor, and Elle Fanning would be lovely as Ashling. (She’d have to dye her hair red.) "Modern Family" star Rico Rodriguez is the perfed Javier. The other major character is Grump, Conor’s grandfather, a banshee expert who’s kind of a loveable curmudgeon. Gotta be Clint Eastwood.
Dial Books for Young Readers, a Penguin imprint.
Let’s see. I started it in the summer of 2010, and got going on it seriously in the fall. I had a first draft to my editor in June 2011, and we finished revisions a little less than a year later. There were a lot of empty months in there while my editor was considering my various proposals and I was working on other things.
On the surface it was just the idea of a young banshee. But also various family members and friends had died over the previous decade, and I had some thoughts about death that made this book even more interesting to me.
There’s a mysterious connection between Conor and Ashling that becomes clear only when they finally visit the afterlife.
While she’s visiting Conor, Ashling’s chief source of information about the world is an old Trivial Pursuit game.
It turns out the Underworld does get a cell phone signal. Also internet.
And now (*drum roll*), I join Lisa in tagging Lena Goldfinch, author of SONGSTONE, AIRE, and THE LANGUAGE OF SOULS.