Monday, April 16, 2018

Kir Fox & M. Shelley Coats Author Interview

Photo Content from Kir Fox and M. Shelley Coats

Kir Fox (Kirsten Hubbard) and M. Shelley Coats (Michelle Schusterman) are great friends, longtime critique partners, and ardent consumers of the strange and unusual. Kirsten is the author of the middle-grade novels Watch the Sky and Race the Night (Disney-Hyperion), and the young adult novels Like Mandarin and Wanderlove (Delacorte Press/Random House Children's Books). She lives in Los Angeles. Michelle is the author of the middle grade series I Heart Band and The Kat Sinclair Files (Grosset/Penguin), and the middle-grade novel Olive and the Backstage Ghost and the forthcoming Spell & Spindle (Random House Children's Books). She's also the coauthor of the YA novel The Pros of Cons (Scholastic). She lives in New York City.

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 7
Series: Secrets of Topsea (Book 1)
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (April 17, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1368000053
ISBN-13: 978-1368000055


"A deft mix of chills and chuckles." ―Kirkus Reviews

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
M Shelley read WAIT TILL HELEN COMES by Mary Downing Hahn in elementary school, and it got her hooked on scary stories. It was also the first time she realized books were a safe place to explore real-life things that scared her. That story deals with suicide, depression, a lot of things that some adults try to protect kids from by not talking about it at all. Reading about it in a fictional context made her feel like the author trusted her to be mature enough to think about those kinds of topics.

Kir was hooked on scary stories after reading Alvin Schwatrz’s SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK series (which, coincidentally, included a story called “Wait Till Martin Comes” that was supposed to be funny, but was actually one of the scariest ones).

What is your happiest childhood memory?
M. Shelley grew up in New Orleans, and on sunny weekends her whole extended family would come over for a crawfish boil. She and her sister and cousins would create a boxing pen out of empty beer cans, pick their crawfish contestants, and see if they would fight. They never did. Maybe they were too nervous about the giant vat of spicy boiling water that awaited them.

The childhood summers Kir spent in small-town Wyoming, where she spent countless beautiful days entirely indoors creating multi-page, illustrated plans with elaborate character profiles for stories she never actually started writing.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Kir and her twin sister (let’s call her Dee Fox) drew picture books for each other before they could write words. She wrote her first novella in sixth grade (which was eerily similar to Judy Blume’s JUST AS LONG AS WE’RE TOGETHER, hmmm). Her first finished novel was LIKE MANDARIN at age 22 -- which later became her first book published by Delacorte/Random House in 2011.

When M. Shelley was ten, she wrote a book about a girl named Claire who got a horse for her birthday, but the horse was stolen. It was Black Beauty meets Nancy Drew and it should have been a bestseller, alas. Her first published book was the I HEART BAND series, which came out in 2014 when she was 34.

What was your favorite subject when you were in school and why?
For Kir, it was drawing -- even when she wasn’t supposed to: instead of homework, on her desk in second-grade, etc.

For M. Shelley, it was any class with a textbook big enough to hide the Nancy Drew book she was secretly reading instead. Also, English, because it was the only class where she consistently got A’s without trying.

What was the most magical thing that happened while writing A FRIENDLY TOWN THAT'S ALMOST ALWAYS BY THE OCEAN!?
How well we worked together! Collaborating on coming up with this odd town and populating it with quirky, lovable characters was the most joyful creative process ever.

Also, once M. Shelley opened her front door to find a rubber duck lying there, waiting. Talise, one of Davy’s Topsea friends, totally appreciates how creepy and annoying that is.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Davy?
When we first drafted AFTTAABTO, the stories were a bit lighter and younger -- more like SIDEWAYS STORIES FROM WAYSIDE SCHOOL, one of our biggest inspirations. But as we revised, we gave our characters more depth -- especially Davy, who is still dealing with his dad’s passing six months ago. There’s a chapter where Davy sees the endless pier and remembers fishing with his dad. He wonders if you walked far enough down the pier if you might find a dad with two fishing poles, waiting for you. It was just one line, but that was when Davy let us know how much he was still struggling. And what a relief it was to finally share his grief with his new Topsea friends.

In your new book; A FRIENDLY TOWN THAT'S ALMOST ALWAYS BY THE OCEAN!, can you tell my Book Nerd Kids Community a little about it?
The crabs aren’t actually crabs. Dogs are mythical and mermaids are real—well, they used to be. But if you’re new to Topsea, like Davy, you’ll find everyone is super welcoming: the other fifth-graders, their teacher Ms. Grimalkin, Mr. Zapple the counselor, Ms. King the principal. (The rock cats will welcome you too, but they have ulterior motives.)

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book,who would it be and why?
Earl Grey would like to meet Babe, the clever pig from the film BABE, which is actually based on the book by Dick King-Smith, THE SHEEP-PIG. He thinks they would have lot to talk about.

Any new and exciting books that you would like to share?
M. Shelley’s alter ego has another middle-grade novel coming out July 31st. It’s called SPELL & SPINDLE and it’s a fairy tale-inspired horror story about puppets and the patriarchy.

What is your greatest adventure?
“To live, will be an awfully big adventure.” ~Robin Williams as Peter Pan in the 1991 movie HOOK, currently 29% on Rotten Tomatoes

Finishing a book’s first draft!

But also, the two-month solo trip through southeast asia Kir survived this spring (fortunately, that yellow-fanged balinese monkey who leaped onto her fashionable fanny pack didn’t bite her because she threw it a mini banana in time.)

M. Shelley’s greatest adventure was buying a one-way ticket to Brazil when she was 27 and arriving with no job and no apartment. She stayed for a year. (Also, she wants to hear more about this yellow-fanged monkey, because what.)

What was your favorite childhood television program?
All Kir can think of is Muppet Babies.

M. Shelley was OBSESSED with Fraggle Rock. Jim Henson was a god among mortals.

Kir also liked Fraggle Rock, now that M. Shelley mentions it.
“Dance your cares away…”

What's the farthest-away place you've been?
Geographically, for Kir it’s probably Melbourne, Australia -- where the street art rivals her Los Angeles home, but the sun has a lot more teeth.

M. Shelley currently lives in New York, and the farthest away she’s ever been from here was Seoul, South Korea. But when she lived in Seattle, the farthest away she’d ever been was Salvador, Brazil. Now she’s confused. Farther is relative, but to what… ?

What's your favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
Kir likes dancin’ to good music. If the music isn’t good, she prefers watercoloring mockingbirds to a mid-tier horror film.

M. Shelley likes movie nights with her friends, long runs on quiet streets, and night-writing. Night-writing often produces the weirdest, creepiest, bestest words.

Where can readers find you?
All things TOPSEA:
www.welcometotopsea.comIG: @secretsoftopsea
Twitter: @secretsoftopsea

  • Rubber ducks with their eyes almost rubbed off.
  • The bottomless cove.
  • The endless pier.
  • The ice cream man, because it's a surprise every time, even though sometimes that surprise is an ice cream cone filled with live bees.
  • A teacup pig who ends up being a watch hog, which is more useful anyway.
  • Rock cats who show all their teeth when they smile.
  • A recipe for upside-down lemon pound cake (baked best in a no-gravity environment).
  • Basements with secrets.
  • A sinister skeeball prize.
  • Hanger Cliffs Water Park is reopening! Or is it...

Welcome to Topsea, the strangest place you'll ever visit. In this town, the coves are bottomless and the pier has no end in sight. There's a high tide and a low tide... and a vanishing tide. Dogs are a myth, but mermaids are totally real. And seaweed is the main ingredient in every meal-watch out, it might just start chewing you back!

New kid Davy definitely thinks Topsea is strange. His mom keeps saying they'll get used to life in their new town-it's just the way things are on the coast! But after his first day at Topsea School, Davy finds himself wondering: Why is his locker all the way at the bottom of the school swimming pool? Why can't anyone remember his name? (It's Davy!) And why does everyone act like all of this is normal?!

Through newspaper articles, stories, surveys, notifications, and more, follow Davy and the rest of Ms. Grimalkin's fifth grade class through the weird world of Topsea. (Whatever you do, don't make eye contact with the rubber ducks.)

You can purchase A Friendly Town That's Almost Always by the Ocean! at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you KIR FOX AND M. SHELLEY COATS for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of A Friendly Town That's Almost Always by the Ocean! 
by Kir Fox,  M. Shelley Coats.


  1. "Name one thing you miss about being a kid." Not having to think about physical decay and death!

  2. I miss camping with the family every Summer. Thanks for the giveaway!

  3. I miss my puppies.

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