Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Meaning of Maggie Blog Tour with Interview & Giveaway

Thank you to Chronicle Books and Megan Jean Sovern for inviting me to be a part of this Blog Tour for The Meaning of Maggie.  

So, first can I say where was this book when I was a couple of years older than Maggie and my mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis? 

If THE MEANING OF MAGGIE had existed way, way back then, it would have been my favorite book and you would have been my favorite author. (I still think you are really cool. =>) I really felt that no one understood especially since my mother's MS wasn't as visible in those early years but it still significantly impacted my family and me.

It’s just so curious because I really struggled with whether or not it should ever be revealed that Maggie’s dad has MS. I just didn’t think enough people would be able to relate to it. I was always the only kid with a parent who had it. And to be honest, I never felt a real connection to the illness. I heard those two letters a lot around my house but I never really knew what they meant. My dad could have had a really prolonged case of the chickenpox for all I knew.

But in the end it seemed most right to share that he had MS. We didn’t want to keep readers in the dark especially when we were asking so much of them. This story is a big emotional investment. That’s why I advise reading it with chocolate in close proximity.

As you were writing the story, were you thinking about the story that you wanted to tell or did you also think about how it might resonate with other readers who had their own experiences with a family member with MS?  I know that everyone's story/experience is different but when I meet someone who had a parent with MS I feel a certain connection with them. 

When I started writing I didn’t consider the reader as much as I considered the story. And how this story about these people being challenged by this disease was one worth telling. I didn’t think as much readers because I didn’t know if there would ever be any readers. It was just a Word Document for such a long time. One that I kept coming back to not knowing if I would ever let it see the light of day.

This story was in my bones because I lived it in many ways and because I just couldn’t walk away from it. No matter how hard I tried.

But now that it is out in the world, I’m so happy people with similar stories feel connected to it.

You chose to set the book in 1988 (not sure if that makes it historical fiction or not?!), but was there a reason to tell the story in that time period vs. the present day? From reading some things on-line and in the acknowledgements, it seems that the story is very autobiographical and I was wondering if that played a part in the decision for the time period? 

I mostly set the book in 1988 because I didn’t want Maggie to be able to Google every single thing. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding her life that could be easily solved with the Internet. I also set it in 1988 because that’s when Spaceballs came out on VHS and it was really important to me that Maggie like Spaceballs.

In one review on-line, someone mentioned that it felt odd that Maggie's family would have kept her in the dark about her father's condition. Since my mother tried to keep her diagnosis hidden for a while, I could relate to Maggie and also to her discovery of what MS is. Do you feel that families are more open to talking about these kinds of issues or concerns with children today than they were 20+ years ago? 

I don’t know if families are more open about sharing big issues today because they want to. I think it may be out of necessity. Again, kids just have access to so much information and I think you want them to be informed in an educated and responsible way. The Internet is a scary place for everybody. Except for cats. I feel like cats have a really safe and cozy home on the Internet.

I noticed that Chronicle has included the soundtrack ( ) for the book? How did you select the music?  

Every book should have a soundtrack. We should really try to get this signed into law. The music we chose is pulled from the pages of Maggie. Her dad is such a dedicated hippie fan of rock n’ roll and the scenes they share over music are some of my favorites. I also listened to so much of it while I was writing. The Rolling Stones have some mellower melodies that are perfect for writing. Just put on Wild Horses and heat up a muffin and you have a perfect day of revising ahead of you.

To shift directions some, do you have other stories that you plan on sharing with readers? Any projects that you are working on that you can share with us? 

Oh gosh, I do have another story I am working on but it’s in the very early Post-It note and scrap paper stages. But I have high hopes it will take shape. Other than that I am doing my best to share Maggie with the world. I am also trying to keep three tomato plants alive. I don’t have such high hopes for them.

Finally, were there any questions that you wish I had asked? If so, what was it and what would be your answer? 

I wish you would have asked me my favorite thing about cinnamon rolls. And I would have said I love EVERYTHING about cinnamon rolls.

By the way, I truly appreciate your choice and the choice of Chronicle Books to donate a portion of the sales of the book to the National MS Society. 

I think I cried more buckets when Chronicle Books told me about this generous donation than when they actually bought Maggie. It just means the world. They are good people. Yes, indeed.

Side note: The nature of this book just hit me on a much more personal level then most books do that my questions were of a much more personal nature and I appreciate Megan's willingness to answer them. Here was her final comment...

I just can’t believe there are others out there like us! I really hope you felt at home in this story. It has been such a nice thing for me to come back to whenever I need to revisit all those many moons ago. MS is a terrible, horrible thing. But it does offer a few beautiful moments. Watching my dad give it his all shaped my whole entire life. I’m sure you feel the same way about your mom. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

by Megan Jean Sovern
Chronicle Books (May 6, 2014)
Audience: Ages 8-12

About the book:
As befits a future President of the United States of America, Maggie Mayfield has decided to write a memoir of the past year of her life. And what a banner year it’s been! During this period she’s Student of the Month on a regular basis, an official shareholder of Coca-Cola stock, and defending Science Fair champion. Most importantly, though, this is the year Maggie has to pull up her bootstraps (the family motto) and finally learn why her cool-dude dad is in a wheelchair, no matter how scary that is. Author Megan Jean Sovern, herself the daughter of a dad with multiple sclerosis, writes with the funny grace and assured prose of a new literary star.

A portion of the proceeds of the sale of this book will be donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Read a chapter here:

Meaning of Maggie by ChronicleBooks

Watch the Official Book Trailer:

Additional resources: Discussion Guide
click on image to go to PDF

About the author:

Megan Jean Sovern is a purveyor of fine teas, old time-y music and hugs. Recently she was in a bad break-up with muffins and her life hasn’t been the same since. She’s often mistaken for a seventh grader but don’t be fooled, she is very grown-up. A grown-up who watches television past ten o’clock and everything.

Before her first leap into fiction, she was an advertising copywriter for many moons where she worked with top-notch talent mostly named Matt or Karen.

She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband Ted and his near complete collection of Transformers. He doesn’t like it when she says, “Zoinks.”

Her website: 

Additional Blog Tour Stops:

5/13/2014          Chronicle  
5/14/2014          VVB32 reads   
5/15/2014          Mother Daughter Book Club    
5/16/2014          Actin' Up with Books   
5/17/2014          The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia       
5/18/2014          Kid Lit Frenzy 
5/19/2014          The Children's Book Review    
5/20/2014          Let's Get Busy podcast

Thank you to Chronicle Books, one lucky reader will be selected to receive a copy of The Meaning of Maggie plus a set of Maggie buttons.  You must be 13 years or older and have a US or Canadian mailing address.  Please enter the giveaway by filling out the Rafflecopter below.

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