Thursday, August 27, 2020

Beth McMullen Interview - Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter

Photo Content from Beth McMullen

Beth McMullen is the author of the Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls series; the Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter series; and several adult mysteries. Her books have heroes and bad guys, action and messy situations. An avid reader, she once missed her subway stop and rode the train all the way to Brooklyn because the book she was reading was that good. She lives in Northern California with her family, two cats and a parakeet named Zeus, who is sick of the cats eyeballing him like he’s dinner. Visit her at


What was the greatest thing you learned at school? 
This is such a great question! Trigonometry. No, just kidding. Trig was not my finest moment. 

I went to a boarding school that was highly competitive, academically, socially, athletically. Before that, I had been at a school where everything was easy for me and suddenly, there I was, flattening at the bottom of the heap. There was nothing interesting or special or exceptional about me. I was just a scholarship kid who wandered into the wrong building. That was a real challenge. And this was in an era where it was ‘sink or swim’. If you can stay afloat, great; if not, we will just fill your spot with someone who can. 

But I just kept plowing forward, bit by bit, inch by inch, head down, leaning into what was terrifying. I carry that with me today, that feeling of pushing through the hard stuff little by little until I hopefully come out on the other side.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published. 
Oh, this one is easy! Fan mail from kids is the BEST! Kids write these great rambling funny letters and emails. I get to learn about their families, pets, best friends, annoying siblings, what subjects they love, what teachers are fabulous, favorite books, sequel ideas, movie ideas, etc. Kids just spill it with unbridled enthusiasm and that is totally energizing!

What was your favorite subject when you were in school and why? 
I loved English and Social Studies. I learn best when subjects are story based and when the material is delivered in story form. I just can’t resist a good story! I still remember fourth grade Social Studies when each unit was a story about the historical figure we were meant to be learning about. I aced that unit. 

In your new book; LOLA BENKO TREASURE HUNTER, can you tell my Book Nerd Kids Community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
Lola Benko came out of imagining what it would be like to have an Indiana Jones type as your father. How crazy would that be? Well, Lola has been following her globetrotting father around the world on adventures for years when suddenly, he disappears. The authorities claim he’s dead but she doesn’t believe that for a minute. When we first meet Lola, she is attempting to steal a valuable piece of art in order to finance her search and rescue mission. She gets caught and is given one last chance to turn things around at a new school. And of course, that’s when things get really complicated because this is not a kid who gives up.

I like to think readers will come for the action, adventure, thrills and chills and stay for the friendship and laughs. And there are lessons about tenacity in there, too, about sticking to it even when things get seriously hard. Lola has an uphill battle to find her dad, and while she knows that, she doesn’t quit. 

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book? 
I had just come off of writing an installment of the Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls series and all the new ideas that were bubbling to the surface felt too similar. I was worried I was just revisiting what I had already done. It wasn’t until I figured out to add a few drops of magic into the mix that it started to come together in my head. Lola is a pragmatist. She sees a problem, comes up with a solution and immediately storms directly into the ‘fixing’. Unfortunately, she doesn’t always see the collateral damage. But when she is suddenly dealing with something ‘otherworldly’, she has to change her approach. It was fun to watch her figure it out.

What part of Lola did you enjoy writing the most? 
Part of the reason I like writing in first person present is because it puts the reader right in the head of the main character. In Lola’s case, her internal dialog, when she is trying to talk herself into or out of things, was super fun to create. She has a slightly sardonic take on the world around her and that shines in the conversations she is having only with herself. I loved writing that!

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I recently read City Spies, by James Ponti. One of the characters in that book, code name Brooklyn, is spunky and feisty and definitely comfortable breaking a few rules here and there, if need be. I think Lola and Brooklyn could get up to some serious fun together!

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters? 
In writing for kids, I’ve learned that I wish I had been braver when I was one. I distinctly remember occasions where I didn’t stick up for a classmate being picked on or bullied and I regret that. My characters do the things I didn’t. 

  • Action & Adventure: Treasure hunting is no joke. You have to be ready for anything to happen at any time. Because usually it does.
  • Missing Persons: Namely, globe trotting archeologist Lawrence Benko who also happens to be Lola’s dad.
  • Friendship: Sometimes the most unexpected kids turn out to make the best friends. 
  • Thrills: Creepy mansions, narrow subterranean tunnels, dark secrets. And rats. Yes. Rats.
  • Magic: Turns out there are magical mythical objects here on earth that are not supposed to exist. And someone has to make sure they don’t fall into the wrong hands. Which is almost all of them. 
  • Villains: Sinister? Yes. Who you expect? Nope.
  • Boats: For example, cargo ships bound for South America that you definitely should not be on.
  • Inventions: If you need something that doesn’t exist, you might just have to make it.
  • Sassy Parrots Named Zeus: Enough said.
What’s the most ridiculous fact you know? 
Cat’s share 95.6 percent of their genome with tigers and have many of the same behaviors. It’s just a matter of size that they don’t eat us. I don’t know why but I kind of love this. 

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a kid? 
Oh boy. This is a hard one. While on the one hand, it would be super interesting to have been alive during the rise of flight or automobiles or the telephone or antibiotics, until not that long ago the belief was that there were things boys could do that girls could not because…well…they were girls. I was a kid in the 1970s and 80s and I felt it then and it only gets worse as you travel back in history. Things have changed a lot and I’m thrilled to watch that happen. So I might only go forward a decade to the 1990s. J

What is your greatest adventure? 
I traveled around the world when I was 30 years old. It took about a year. I even went to Mt. Everest. I love visiting other countries and I always try to include international locations in my books, hoping to inspire people to leave their comfort zones and see what is out there. I hope we can all get back to that really soon!!

What was your favorite book as a child and why? 
The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin. I loved that 13 year old Turtle was not a ‘typical’ girl. She was smart and sassy and bold and that really appealed to me when I was a kid. In books now, we have all kinds of kids. That wasn’t the case in the 1970s and Turtle felt like a breath of fresh air. Plus, the mystery is the best!

If you wrote a journal entry today, what would it say? 
It would definitely remind me that writing books and publishing books is all about peaks and valleys! Some days it feels great and you are on a roll and other days it’s like slogging through mud. It’s important to look at progress over the long term. Did I meet the deadline? Did I write the book I wanted to write? I might actually get these things tattooed on my forehead. 

What is one unique thing are you afraid of? 
Enclosed spaces. The official word for this is ‘claustrophobia’. I’ve always had it but it’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. There’s a scene in a movie I was watching recently where a character is buried alive. I had to leave the room. 

Where can readers find you? 
Instagram @BethMcMullenBooks; Twitter @bvam; FaceBook @BethMcMullenBooks and my website: It might take a little bit, but I answer all fan mail directly. 

Indiana Jones meets The Lost Property Office in this action-packed mystery about a young girl searching for her father from the author of Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls—the first in a new series!

Having a world-traversing archaeologist dad means twelve-year-old Lola Benko is used to moving around and not putting down roots anywhere. But every day and every hunt for something hidden is an adventure, and no matter what, she and her dad are an unbeatable team.

Then her father disappears. The official story is that he was caught in a flash flood, but Lola’s research shows the day in question was perfectly pleasant. And it will take more than empty reassurances from suspect strangers for Lola to give up on her dad. She has a feeling his disappearance has to do with a mythical stone he was studying—a stone so powerful, it could control the world. But in the wrong hands, it could end it, too...

With the help of some new friends at her school, it’s up to Lola to go on the most important hunt of her life.

You can purchase Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you BETH MCMULLEN for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter by Beth McMullen.


  1. I haven't! My daughter will love this story!

  2. I have not but I love reading about treasure hunting or watching programs about it ie Josh Gates.

  3. I have never gone treasure hunting but I would like to.

  4. "Have you ever gone treasure hunting?" My whole life is a hunt for treasure! Where is it, where is it, I ask!

  5. No, but I would love to! Actually, I treasure hunt on a video game I play. Does that count?

  6. No, but I feel like it would be more of a curse if the findings went public. :P

  7. You make so many great points here that I read your article a couple of times. Your views are in accordance with my own for the most part. This is great content for your readers. ugears

  8. I have never gone treasure hunting

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.