Category Archives: Author Interview

Author Q&A with Callie C. Miller

Author Q&A with Callie C. Miller

Q&A with The Hunt for the Hollower Author Callie C. Miller

Today, I have the awesome privilege to host a Q&A with THE HUNT FOR THE HOLLOWER author Callie C. Miller. I loved all the playful elements of this middle grade fantasy novel, so I was really excited to have the chance to chat with the author about the inspiration behind some of her characters and what might be coming next fall in the sequel, THE SEARCH FOR THE SHADOWSOUL.

Let’s get to it!

I find that a story is often inspired by a question. Was there a question that inspired you to write THE HUNT FOR THE HOLLOWER?

HOLLOWER was an interesting writing process for me. There wasn’t a question, but I had Merlynda, Neci, and Iggy very firmly in my mind. I knew they each wanted to be true to themselves, and knew that they existed in a medieval-inspired world, and knew that this story would be full of things that made me laugh, but I didn’t understand what my characters’ journeys were until several drafts in. I was a less experienced writer when I started their story, and had to grow myself as a person in order to help the characters grow in turn.

One of my favorite characters is the wyvern. He’s so unexpected. I loved that he longs to taste funnel cake (who can blame him?). What inspired you to create him?

I love flipping expectations on their heads! Wyverns and dragons are typically depicted as large and vicious creatures, so the idea of Iggy being small and perfectly content to sunbathe amused me (though of course he’s still a beast to be reckoned with!). His voice came to me very clearly. He is funny and fierce, and even if he’s a little afraid of what’s to come he’ll rise to the occasion for his friends and the greater good.

Who is your favorite character? Are there things about your favorite character that couldn’t be included in the story?

I love all of my characters! But my favorites to write in HOLLOWER are definitely Iggy and Fang. Fang originally had a few more sections from her perspective, but they ultimately weren’t moving the story forward so I cut them.

Is there a scene or moment in the story that really sticks with you? Can you tell us a little bit about it and why it is so special to you?

Percy vanishing through the portal hurts my heart every time! Percy is, in a sense, Merlynda’s rock. She’s lost her brother, her partner in crime, and the security that when her magic goes awry, someone will be able to set it right. The fact that she feels responsible for Percy disappearing only twists the knife further. She’s heartbroken, and devastated, and terrified. This is the moment that makes the story so incredibly personal for Merlynda. It took me several drafts to get here, but once I did, everything clicked into place.

What do you most hope that readers take away from your novel?

Embrace all of you with your whole self. Many people will try to write the narrative of You, but ultimately you are empowered to decide who you are. And that somewhere out there, there are people who will love you as you are. If you haven’t found these friends yet—Courage, dear heart! You one day will!

You mentioned that the sequel to THE HUNT FOR THE HOLLOWER comes out next fall. I know I’m excited to read it. What do you think readers who enjoyed the first book in the series will be most excited to see in the sequel?

I hope they’ll be excited about all of it! My goal is for THE SEARCH FOR THE SHADOWSOUL to feel tonally similar to HOLLOWER, but still move the characters forward in a meaningful way. It’s another fun fantasy romp, but we’ll follow a different main character as they work through how they’ve been affected by the events of HOLLOWER. Our questers will reunite with old friends, make new ones, and encounter a mysterious form of magic that even Merlynda doesn’t know about!

About Callie C. Miller

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Callie C. Miller writes for animated television shows, a video game company, and (most importantly) herself. When she’s not writing, Callie is most likely reading comics or playing video games or dreaming about hot chocolate. (Hot chocolate is very important nourishment for writers.) She received her MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. THE HUNT FOR THE HOLLOWER is Callie’s debut novel. Visit her at

About The Hunt for the Hollower

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In this riff on Arthurian legend, a wizardess who is still mastering her powers goes on an epic quest to save her brother from an evil wizard in this “sweet and fun” middle grade adventure that’s “sizzling with magic” (Adam Rex, New York Times bestselling author) and is perfect for fans of Adam Gidwitz and Amanda Foody!

The great wizard Merlyn prophesized that his seventh descendant would do wonderful, miraculous things—baffling everyone when his great-great-many-times-great grandchild turns out to be twins . Soon enough, however, it becomes clear which sibling is the Septimum Percy is a natural with magic. Merlynda (to put it simply) is not.

But Merlynda doesn’t mind. Percy has always been by her side to cheer her up (and clean up) after her magical bungles—until the twins attempt a forbidden spell to help her control her magic, and Percy vanishes through a portal and straight into the clutches of the magic-stealing, mythical Hollower.

Aided by her best friend (who longs to be a knight), a wandering musician (who is fleeing from his past), and her brand-new, fierce familiar (who yearns for a taste of funnel cake), Merlynda sets off on a quest to rescue her brother. But to defeat this ancient evil, she must discover and embrace her true powers—or else lose her brother for good.

Author Q&A with Samantha Picaro

Author Q&A with Limitless Roads Café Author Samantha Picaro

I’m excited to host a Q&A with contemporary YA author Samantha Picaro here today. She’s the author of one of the contemporary YA books I really wanted to read. I will be reviewing LIMITLESS ROADS CAFE later this week. For now, check out the inspiration and some behind-the-scenes thoughts from the author about writing the book.

I find that a story is often inspired by a question. Was there a question that inspired you to write this story?

The question that inspired me: “Why do most books only have one or two characters with disabilities?” Then I asked myself, “Why don’t I write a book with a cast diverse in ability?”

Which character surprised you the most as you wrote LIMITLESS ROADS CAFÉ?

I was surprised when I realized that side characters, even “minor” characters are just as important as the main characters. Just like in real life, every character has their own personalities, goals, and obstacles.

Who is your favorite character? Are there things about your favorite character that couldn’t be included in the novel?

My favorite character is Kinsey, my main character. That may be too easy of an answer but Kinsey reflects so much of my own life, though not all of it. I couldn’t include the accommodations she receives at school because the book takes place during the summer.

Is there a scene or moment in your novel that really sticks with you? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

One scene that sticks with me is when the main character Kinsey talks to the girlfriend of one of the employees of Limitless Roads Café, Lexie. Lexie is confident and glamorous but Kinsey is shocked to learn that Lexie was rejected from her dream internship/job, just like Kinsey was rejected from her dream internship, and that Lexie deals with trolls who make fatphobic remarks on her channel. This sticks out to me because Kinsey realizes every person deals with judgment and people who think that person won’t make it in the field they’re passionate about.

What is something unexpected that you learned in writing LIMITLESS ROADS CAFÉ?

I learned that finishing the manuscript is far from the end. I’ve made many changes upon finishing it, and even now I worry it’s not the best it could be. Maybe a writer will never stop having ideas for a single story even when it’s about to be published.

What do you most hope that readers take away from your novel?

I hope they take away that anyone can pursue a dream, and that one’s best advocate is oneself.

What is one question about your novel you are often asked by readers?

People usually ask me why there’s no romance between Kinsey and any other character. I wanted to focus on platonic and familial relationships as well as professional. Too often people think romance is the ultimate and only form of love but it isn’t. Plus, I wanted Kinsey to achieve the true ultimate type of love: self-love.

About Samantha Picaro

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Samantha Picaro is the author of LIMITLESS ROADS CAFE. Her identity as #ActuallyAutistic informs her writing, where the heroines are determined, and comedy is balanced with drama. She has a B.A. in Psychology and a Master’s in Social Work, and she has put those degrees to use in the nonprofit sector. When not writing or at her non-writing job, you can find her trying new coffee flavors, reading (of course), and volunteering for various causes.

About Limitless Roads Café

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Kinsey Fontana relies on lists to navigate the world as an autistic teen. #Goals list: win her dream event planning internship (she knows it’s an ironic dream); master the art of masking; and gain Mom’s approval. Instead, she works at a café hiring teens with disabilities. Although she loves the café and discounted macchiatos, she dreams of more than planning open mic nights.

She has an opportunity to shine by throwing a fundraiser to save the café. The catch: allow her ex-best friend Melissa Castillo to be her assistant and pretend they are friends again so Melissa’s parents respect her.

To-do list: plan the fundraiser with zero fundraising experience; work with the intimidating hotel planner who rejected her for the internship; and use every masking technique to charm rather than repel people from sponsors to a boy band. Although she needs unhealthy amounts of caffeine to handle autistic burnout, Kinsey reconsiders her #Goals list and realizes self-doubt belongs down the drain like incorrect orders.

Author Q&A with Maybe There Are Witches Author Jude Atwood

I recently learned about a middle grade book called MAYBE THERE ARE WITCHES. In the book, a girl learns an ancestor of hers was hanged for being a witch. She finds her great-great-great-grandmother’s diary in the basement. Bad things start happening around her, things predicted in the diary. I’m generally a fan of intergenerational stories, so I’m super intrigued by this setup. When I learned author Jude Atwood was available to answer some questions about the book, I couldn’t resist hosting a Q&A. Here’s what I learned.

I find that a story was often inspired by a question. Was there a question that inspired you to write MAYBE THERE ARE WITCHES?

I think a lot of writing decisions are inspired by questions. For me, these questions often take the form of “What if?” I keep a lot of lists, and the seed that would become MAYBE THERE ARE WITCHES was in a list, years ago, of ideas for horror movie scenes. It was something like, “What if a woman found a very old diary in her house, and as she read it, she realized it was written to her?” Later, as I started thinking about writing a novel, I thought, “What if the woman was a girl? What if the book was written by an ancestor of hers?”

It looks like the story is set in rural Illinois. What is it about that setting that makes it perfect for your book?

I grew up on a farm in rural Illinois. Since then, I’ve lived in small cities like Peoria, Illinois, and bigger cities, like Portland, Oregon, and Los Angeles. Now I live in Orange County, where multiple cities form a sort of suburban megalopolis. There are plenty of things to love about all of these places, but I’m fascinated by their differences, and the misconceptions we often have about other regions. For example, where I grew up, I never skipped school, because even if I’d wanted to, there was no place to go—anywhere I went, whoever I saw would have said, “Jude, why aren’t you in school?” On the other hand, many of the college students I work with in Orange County have wild stories about skipping high school, even though some have never left the state.

I wanted to write about a girl who moves from Orange County to rural Illinois, so she can undergo a bit of a culture shock, but can also go through the very human experience of trying to find a sense of community in a new place, trying to figure out who “gets” you, and who you can trust and open up to.

For a writer, there are also practical reasons to choose a setting with a small population, especially for a scary story or a mystery. It’s easier to keep track of a limited group of characters, and there’s more of a sense that you can’t get away.

Who is your favorite character? Are there things about your favorite character which couldn’t be included in MAYBE THERE ARE WITCHES?

My official position is that I love all of my characters equally. And the easy answer is that I love whoever I’m writing at the time. But if I had to pick one, I’ll say that I really loved trying to work out the character of Chris Beck, who begins the story as a sort of backwoods loner who marches to the beat of his own drum.

The book was pared down quite a bit during the editing process, because my editor and I wanted to focus on the supernatural mystery elements of the story. Chris lost a few good lines, but not as many as the adult characters did.

Is there a scene or moment in your novel that really sticks with you? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

There’s a scene in the first half of the novel where two of the main characters, Clara and Gary, visit Chris’ house for the first time. He takes them to the basement to show them a dead coyote in his family’s chest freezer. When I was writing it, I thought of it as a funny, if slightly odd, scene, but I’ve since had a conversation with a blogger who thought the idea seemed too over-the-top/gory for a middle-grade book. That surprised me, because it came straight out of my childhood. We often had some kind of wild animal in our freezer, either for a bounty or for food.

My life’s a little different today. Now my freezer just has a bag of ice, a frozen pizza, and some blueberries and bananas for smoothies.

What was your favorite part of the process of creating MAYBE THERE ARE WITCHES? What was the most fun?

I’m a fairly slow writer, probably because I’m enamored with all of the aspects of writing a novel that don’t involve actually writing. I love to brainstorm ideas, and jokes, and scenarios—stuff that I may or may not use. As I mentioned earlier: I keep a lot of lists. I also really like doing research. The main characters in this book compete on their middle school scholastic bowl team, and as I researched, I learned that scholastic bowl has changed a bit since I competed years ago; the questions now have a very specific structure. So I got a kick out of trying to create a whole packet of potential scholastic bowl questions that might sound realistic, even though only a few ended up in the book.

What do you most hope that readers take away from your book?

It’s a story with a witch and a villain—although they may not be the same person. But it’s also a story about the stages of friendship, and the ways that we try to understand the people we meet as we get to know them better. I hope the book inspires a few readers to think about how there’s more to everyone than what we think we know.

What is one question about your novel you are often asked by readers?

The question I get asked most often is, “Are there witches?” But that’s probably because many of my early readers have corny senses of humor.

About Maybe There Are Witches

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“I can’t think of a better fate for young readers.” -Steven T. Seagle, co-creator of Ben 10Big Hero 6, and Camp Midnight

After moving to the tiny village of Biskopskulla, middle school student Clara Hutchins discovers that her family has a history in the region: one hundred forty years ago, one of her ancestors was hanged as a witch from the white oak tree on the edge of town. When Clara finds a mildewed diary in the basement, she’ s even able to read the rambling thoughts of her long-dead relative.

But when the book’ s predictions about Clara’ s own life start coming true, she wonders if those 19th-century villagers had a point: maybe her great-great-great grandmother really did have unearthly abilities. Now, a break-in at the tomb of the town’ s founder means a great evil has returned to Biskopskulla. Clara and her newest friends— two of the weirdest boys in school— must join forces to decipher the messages of a murdered witch and stop an unnatural catastrophe. But as they quest through historic cemeteries, backcountry libraries, and high-octane scholastic bowl tournaments, something sinister is lurking, watching, and waiting…

About Jude Atwood

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Raised on a farm in rural Illinois near the Quad Cities, Jude Atwood treasured the long drives into town for groceries and library books. The small towns in the region were brimming with opportunities for kids to be creative. The library hosted poster contests; the newspaper had a kids’ cooking feature. Once, Jude took youth summer classes in Parody, Movie Appreciation, and Latex Mask-making at the local community college. He wrote songs about garbage bags, learned about Alfred Hitchcock, and made a shrunken head.

He got his first job at fifteen: detasseling, pulling the reproductive parts off of corn plants for a seed corn company making hybrid varieties of corn. At Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, Jude competed in intercollegiate forensics, where he learned the value of a well-timed joke and the fact that your audience always has something to teach you. He moved to Orange County, California, where it hasn’t snowed in over seventy years, and earned his M.F.A. in Film from Chapman University. In Hollywood, he worked very briefly as an assistant in the office of a man who is now famous for throwing things at assistants.

After that, Jude became a full-time community college professor, a vocation that continues to this day. He spent several years coaching the college speech, debate, & theater team, and he now devotes much of his energy to teaching mass communication and media literacy classes. He’s made many friends and (he hopes) very few enemies. In his career as an educator, Jude received a commendation from the city of Santa Ana for his work with students, and was honored with the Legacy Award from the American Readers Theater Association for contributions to the art of readers theater. His writing has appeared in Unfortunately, Literary Magazine and Plainsongs, and his first novel, Maybe There Are Witches, won the 2021 Kraken Book Prize for Middle Grade Fiction.

Jude lives in California with his boyfriend and his dog.

Author Q&A with Bookerlunds Taya and Nathan Okerlund

Author Q&A with Bookerlunds Taya and Nathan Okerlund

I knew from the moment that I first read about this book that I would request to review it. The book description and email from the author were so cleverly worded and in such a great voice! I couldn’t resist. So, I was even more thrilled when the authors offered to let me host them for a Q&A post.

If you haven’t checked out my review of NEVER LORE, please pop over there either before or after reading this post because if you like fantasy adventure middle grade books, you do NOT want to miss this one.

Let’s get to the Q&A with the Bookerlunds!

1. I find that a story was often inspired by a question. Was there a question that inspired you?

Never Lore is a spy story and spy stories are full of deceit. Early on in my career, after receiving my security clearance, I learned about people who could avoid detection in their lies by being strictly factual, without a hint of honesty. Honesty is a nuanced thing and the way adults typically model it for children, it can be kind of hard to crack. I raised a number of questions for kids to think about in this story. I hope I used enough restraint in not answering all of them for the reader. It’s a fact, I come down on the side of truth, but a story won’t really resonate when it lies to you. And I wouldn’t do that.

2. Who is your favorite character? Are there things about your favorite character which couldn’t be included in NEVER LORE?

Annabelle was partly inspired by my fearless niece. In fact, her name is Annabelle. She’s pretty grown up now, but wow was she a firecracker when she was nine! So many stories about that kid! So many broken bones! Is she up to eight or nine? I’m not sure I captured her with quite the same spirit, but I gave it a go!

3. What was the most difficult thing about writing NEVER LORE?

This book was at least six years in the making. While it is crucial to follow the rules of story craft and to accept feedback, an author can lose her way by caring too much about what someone else thinks of her book. This one took me time to find the all-important-element that no story expert can give a writer—Voice

4. Is there a scene or moment in your novel that really sticks with you? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

I still love the night hyena scene. My daughter was only four when I began writing Never. At the time, we watched quite a few nature documentaries together, and there was this episode where an injured mother hyena was turned out of her pack with her babies. The little exiles didn’t make it, and it gutted my little girl to see this, so she asked me to put hyenas in the story. I wrote up the scene, and thought it was pretty good, until my husband got hold of it and proceeded to set it on fire! It’s still my favorite scene, mostly because it’s the product of our whole family collaborating together.

5. What was the most challenging thing you had to overcome as a writing team in order to finish NEVER LORE?

I don’t like to talk about this, because it’s still tender to me, but I went through years of painful disability and a slow and painful healing process before I was able to both finish and see Never through to publication.

6. What do you most hope readers take away from your novel?

I hope readers have a great adventure! As a bonus, I hope they will sometimes think about hard questions like: what is a lie? What is the truth? And in either case—what happens next?

7. What is one question about your novel you are often asked by readers?

As I mentioned, Never was a bit of a family project, and so people might wonder what or who BOOKERLUNDS is. Our family name is Okerlund. So we added a couple of letters and thought we were being clever. In any case, we are definitely bookish people.

About Bookerlunds Taya and Nathan Okerlund

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The Bookerlunds are an author team composed of Taya and Nathan Okerlund and their daughter Mimi. (Mimi made meaningful contributions to this book by insisting that hyenas make it into the manuscript.) And we’re glad she did.

Nathan is a neuroscientist who works in a laboratory at the University of Utah, studying model organisms such as nematodes to try to unlock the mysteries of neuro degeneration, or declines in the functioning of the brain. He has published a lot of papers before in peer reviewed journals, but this is his first work of fiction.

Taya is a multi award-winning author of SHIN and other novels. NEVER LORE is her first middle-grade novel.

About Never Lore: Journey to Mt. Smolder

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NOTICE: Explosive content contained within. (Rebel boys and indomitable girls have always been a combustible combination.)

All the signs of Fairy’s unraveling were there: a strict rationing of pixie dust; the disappearance of a magical species; a reckless reliance on spies plucked from human orphanages. Annabelle was no orphan. Her father was perhaps the most infamous man in Childerbridge-and she’d never live down the shame of it, though she’d also never accept that the charges against him were true-not most of the time. 

She’ll have to go to the end of Never to prove what is true…about Never itself, about her father, and her own work-worn self.

Author Q&A with Jacqueline Jules

Author Q&A with Jacqueline Jules

Today, I’m excited to share a Q&A with the author of more than 50 books for young readers, and most particularly, the author of My Name is Hamburger, which I reviewed yesterday. Jacqueline Jules shares some of the inspiration behind favorite characters, why she chose to write Trudie Hamburger’s story in verse, and more.

Q: What is your favorite thing about Trudie Hamburger? What inspired you to create her?

Trudie is a version of myself at her age. My Name is Hamburger was inspired by my own childhood in a small southern town as a Jewish minority. Writing this book gave me the opportunity to recall both pleasant and not-so-pleasant memories of growing up.

Q: Who is your favorite character in the story? Were there things about your favorite character which couldn’t be included in the novel?

My favorite character in My Name is Hamburger is Daddy. This character was modeled after my own father who was a German speaking Jewish immigrant. Like Daddy in My Name is Hamburger, my father loved flowers and enjoyed visiting the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC. A big difference between Trudie’s father and my own is his profession. My father worked in a winery. He wore a tan uniform to work and came home each night smelling of fermented grapes. However, I felt a father who worked in a winery would be distracting in my middle grade novel. So I chose to make Trudie’s father the owner of a print shop because ink also carries a distinctive smell.   

Is there a scene or moment in your novel that really sticks with you? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

There is a place in the novel where Trudie realizes that she has made an unfair assumption. She blames the bully who has been tormenting her for something he did not do. When she learns the truth, she says “The news should make me feel better. No one tried to hurt me. It just happened.” Sometimes, we suffer difficult situations and loss. There is no one to blame. It is a reality everyone must face at some point in their lives.     

My Name is Hamburger is set in Virginia in 1962. What made you choose that particular time and setting?

Since this novel was inspired by my childhood, I needed it to take place in an era and town similar to my own experiences. It was a challenge at times, to make sure the things I recalled took place in the year of the novel. For example, in the final editing stages, I had to take out a particular brand of bike which was popular after 1962. Historical fiction requires research, even if the era is personally familiar to the author.

What made you decide to write Trudie’s story in verse?

Poetry is and was my first love as a writer. I love the compression and imagery of poetry as well as the challenge of packing volumes of meaning into a few lines. I am the author of four books of poetry for adults and a collection for young people titled, Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence. My first drafts of Trudie’s story were written in prose. Her voice didn’t truly emerge until I began writing the story in verse. 

What do you most hope that readers take away from My Name is Hamburger?

I hope this novel increases empathy and understanding. Jews make up only 0.2% of the world’s population. Many young readers may not have the experience of meeting a Jewish person outside of a book. While My Name is Hamburger is historical fiction, Trudie’s experiences with anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant sentiments are relevant today.

About Jacqueline Jules

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A former elementary school librarian, Jacqueline Jules is the author of over fifty books for young readers including My Name is Hamburger, which is a PJ Our Way selection. Her other books for young readers include The Porridge-Pot Goblin, Drop by Drop: A Story of Rabbi Akiva, Picnic at Camp Shalom, The Generous Fish, Feathers for Peacock, and Never Say a Mean Word Again. She is also the author of two chapter book series, Zapato Power and Sofia Martinez. Visit her online at

About My Name is Hamburger

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Say your name with pride!

Trudie Hamburger is the only Jewish kid living in the small southern town of Colburn in 1962. Nobody else at her school has a father who speaks with a German accent or a last name that means chopped meat. Trudie doesn’t want to be the girl who cries when Daniel Reynolds teases her. Or the girl who hides in the library to avoid singing Christian songs in music class. She doesn’t want to be different. But over the course of a few pivotal months, as Trudie confronts her fears and embraces what she loves–including things that make her different from her classmates–she finally finds a way to say her name with pride.

Author Q&A with Samara Shanker

Author Q&A with Samara Shanker

I recently read NAOMI TEITELBAUM ENDS THE WORLD. It was such a fun book that I wanted to find out more about the inspiration behind it. So today I’m super excited to share my Q&A with author Samara Shanker. She’ll tell us a bit about what inspired her gloriously fun debut novel and drop a few hints about what’s coming next. First, here’s a little bit about the book…

About Naomi Teitelbaum Ends the World by Samara Shanker

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A magical Bat Mitzvah gift gets out of control and thrusts a girl into a supernatural quest with the fate of the world at stake in this spooky middle grade adventure that’s perfect for fans of Aru Shah.

Naomi Teitelbaum is so ready for her Bat Mitzvah. Her prayers are memorized and she’s definitely got a handle on her Torah portion (well, almost). Then she gets a mysterious gift: a tiny clay Golem. To Naomi’s shock, it comes to life—and obeys her every command.

At first, this small magical helper seems like the best Bat Mitzvah gift ever. But with each command, the Golem grows…and gets harder to hide. And creepy, unnatural creatures like dybbuks, demons, and a congregation of ghosts have started following Naomi around. To keep herself out of trouble and the Golem out of harm’s way, Naomi gives the Golem well-intended instructions: save the world.

Unfortunately, this leaves more room for interpretation than Naomi thought. Before long, the Golem is wreaking havoc all over Los Angeles, and only Naomi and her friends can stop it.

Author Q&A with Samara Shanker

Q: I find that a story was often inspired by a question. Was there a question that inspired you to write Naomi Teitelbaum Ends the World?

Sort of. I’ve always been really interested in golem stories, and I guess the question that stuck with me was “what would this idea of a worker with no nuance but endless energy look like in the hands of a kid with strong convictions but no strong sense of how to apply them?” So Naomi was born.

Q: Who is your favorite character in the book? Were there things about them which couldn’t be included in the story?

I adore all the kids, but I think my favorite character is Becca. All the kids are unapologetically themselves, but Becca doesn’t really have a choice. She has to wear her experiences on her sleeve because she feels everything so strongly. It’s no wonder she ended up best friends with Naomi. I wrote Becca for my nephew, who is still too little to read, but is on a similar trajectory to Becca’s particular struggles, so I hope I did her justice. I’m so lucky and excited that I get to spend more time exploring the world from Becca’s point of view in the second book.

Q: The Golem does some interesting things in the book as it tries to follow Naomi’s instructions. What’s your favorite moment or scene involving the Golem? What inspired you to create that moment?

I just love golems. I could talk about the incredible history and inspiration behind the creation of an entity like that forever, but I think in the story my favorite moment with the Golem has to be the last one. No spoilers, but I think that moment is where we really see Naomi understand what it means to take responsibility, rather than trying to just shoulder the problems of the world alone. For the Golem, it’s a little bittersweet. Golems have always raised questions of agency for me, and what it means to have been created for a singular purpose. I think in a sense Naomi’s Golem has achieved his purpose at the very end, it’s just not quite what Naomi thought it was.

Q: Is there a scene or moment in your novel that really sticks with you? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

There’s a moment where the kids are having a conversation with Rabbi Gershon in the temple in Santa Clarita. They’re tired, they’re scared, they’re incredibly out of their depth, and this ghost is teaching them Talmud, and discussing golems, and Naomi asks the question, “but what if we love it?” and I think that really is just the core of Naomi’s character. She’s intense and a little insufferable sometimes, but she’s entirely motivated by love, and that matters.

Q: Naomi’s relationships with her best friends Eitan and Becca are the central relationships in the story. What is your favorite thing about Becca or Eitan?

So I talked a little about Becca up above. But I think my favorite thing about her is the ways she extends trust. Emotional expressions aren’t really her thing, but handing Eitan her maps means something to both of them. It’s a concrete way of showing that she trusts and loves her friends. My favorite thing about Eitan is his unexpected complexity. I think it would be very easy for him to be just a nerd, or just the boy on the crew, but he’s the one who needs physical comfort more than anyone else, and he bakes well enough that he made a full-sized American Girl doll cake for his cousin, and he just DESPERATELY wants to go to space camp, which I relate to wholeheartedly.

Q: I feel like it used to be rarer to see a story set in Los Angeles, but now I tend to see that city as a setting more often. What made you choose Los Angeles as the setting for your story?

Honestly it was a strategic choice. I have a bit of a quirk of setting a lot of my writing in small town New England, but you don’t find so many Jews there, and it felt a little cliché to set a Jewish story in New York, but there is actually a really big Jewish community in L.A.. It’s also an area pretty immediately affected by climate change in particular, so it made sense for Naomi. Plus I had friends there I could consult on geography, and I desperately need help on all things geographical.

Q: What do you most hope that readers take away from your novel?

I am so proud of this generation of kids. All of them are so passionate about changing the world and making the future better. I wrote this book as kind of a love letter to them, and to remind them that it’s not all on them. “You are not obligated to complete the work.” Burnout doesn’t help anyone; it’s not only ok but necessary to stop and enjoy life without feeling guilty about work you’re not doing.

Q: What is one question about your novel you are often asked by readers?

Who sent the golem? And my answer is: There’s going to be a second book next year!

About Samara Shanker

Samara Shanker has been making up stories about magic and monsters since she was a kid sneaking in extra reading past her bedtime. By graduate school, she had moved on to writing stories that reimagined the folklore and mythology she had always loved as a kid (mostly still written after bedtime, once she finished all her sensible homework). She now works as a tutor and children’s literacy specialist and gets to do most of her writing during the day, which has done wonders for her sleep schedule. She lives in Virginia with her rescue puppy, Jack Kirby, and devotes most of her time not spent working or writing to spoiling her niece and nephew. NAOMI TEITELBAUM ENDS THE WORLD is her debut novel.