Thinking in Threes: Triple MG Interview


Today on the blog, we’re featuring triplet debut authors Jill Diamond, Elly Swartz, and our own Elaine Vickers! These three authors’ books were released just this week, and they each agreed to answer three of our interview questions. Bonus: They also agreed to do a giveaway! Check the end of the post to find out how you could win a critique from all three authors. But first, the interview…

finding-perfectWhere did your initial story idea come from?

Elly Swartz, author of Finding PerfectOne day, I woke-up with Molly in my head, and she wouldn’t leave until I told her story. At the time, I knew a number of adults and kids whom I was very close with who had OCD. I was awed by the disconnect between how they saw themselves and the world saw them. I then spent the next 7 years researching OCD, writing Molly’s story, and working with OCD pediatric specialists to authenticate the manifestation, discovery and treatment of Molly’s symptoms. Between research and the writing, I learned so much from Molly. She has stayed with me long after wrapping up my final draft. Truly, I think a piece of Molly will stay with me always.

Jill Diamond, author of Lou Lou and Pea and the Mural MysteryI actually came up with Lou Lou and Pea’s names before anything else. I adore naming things! After that, I knew I wanted to write a story inspired by the people, traditions, art, and culture that I love about my neighborhood, the Mission District in San Francisco. I also knew I wanted it to be a mystery and a friendship story. It all kind of fell into place from there, and Lou Lou and Pea were born!

Elaine Vickers, author of Like MagicFrom an editor’s tweet to an agent. (Neither of whom I ended up working with! So you’re not wasting your time on Twitter, folks. 🙂 There was an article about an American Girl doll being checked out from the New York Public Library that this agent and editor felt would make a great middle grade novel. I agreed, and I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I wrote the story. The doll was replaced by a hollowed-out book box after several revisions, but that tweet and that article started it all.

lm-coverTo whom is your book dedicated, and why did you choose that particular dedication line?

Elaine: My dedication line reads:

for my mom

and my daughters

who make my life

like magic

Like Magic is a story of connection—between friends, but also between mothers and daughters. My mom has been my greatest support all my life—the kind of mom I hope to be for my own daughters. So it felt just right to dedicate it to them.

Jill: My dedication line reads:

For Nancy Diamond, known to her students as The Best Librarian in the Whole Wide World, known to me as Mom

I dedicated the book to my mom because it could never have existed without her. My mom was an elementary school librarian and a true champion of children’s literature. I began working on the book when I was caring for her during a terminal illness. I thought it was a fitting way to honor her, particularly because my mom greatly influenced my love of both reading and creative writing.

My dedication line says, “To James, Joshua and Gregory. You make my heart smile every day. I love you.” James is my husband of 26 years, and Joshua and Gregory are our sons. I dedicated this book to them as they are truly my whole heart. On this long journey to YES, their belief in me never wavered. They make me proud and so very happy. I am beyond grateful. And lucky.

lou-louWhat is the best reader response you’ve ever had for this book?

Jill: My favorite feedback thus far was from someone who won an ARC of LOU LOU AND PEA in a raffle. She tweeted: “My daughter LOVED Lou Lou & Pea! She gobbled it up in one night, told me it was super funny (her highest praise), and said she wants to learn Spanish. So – THANK YOU!”

Elly: I had the privilege of Skyping with a class whose teacher had an arc of Finding Perfect that she had read aloud to all of her students. When we Skyped, we spoke a lot about Molly and her unattainable definition of perfect. In response, this fourth grader shared his interpretation of what perfect meant to him after reading Molly’s story and participating in our discussion. I was truly moved.


Elaine: When I read this book to my daughter for the first time, she surprised me with a Lego recreation of a key scene in the book. I think it will be hard for anything to top that, ever.


And now for the best part…

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway and win a critique of the first five pages of your MG or YA manuscript by Elaine Vickers, Elly Swartz, and Jill Diamond!

Good luck!

JillDiamond_Headshot.pngJill Diamond has loved children’s literature for as long as she can remember, thanks to her school librarian mother and the long, cold winters in Maine. When she’s not writing, Jill practices law, dreams about her next travels, eats soft serve ice cream, and wears cowboy boots. Jill now lives in San Francisco with her husband and their son. Visit her at or on Twitter @jillinboots

ellyElly Swartz’s debut novel, Finding Perfect (FSG) is about twelve-year-old Molly, friendships, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. Through the years, Elly’s been a Sesame Place ride operator, messenger, lawyer, legal author, and college essay adviser. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

profile-picElaine Vickers is the author of Like Magic (HarperCollins) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. You can find her at on the web, @ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

Thinking in Threes: Pat Zietlow Miller

Today we’re thrilled to have an interview with award-winning picture book author Pat Zietlow Miller, who’s celebrating the release of her latest, THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE. To get a sense of how hardworking and inspiring Pat really is, I highly recommend listening to her Golden Kite acceptance speech. To get a sense of how brilliant she is, I highly recommend buying her books–all of them. 🙂 But for today, we’ve got her playing Thinking in Threes and have convinced her to give us three answers to each of these three questions:
TTOF: What were your most significant “ah-has!” when revising/editing this book?

  1. How many rewritings and reworkings this book needed to come together. I wrote a blog just about all the step this book went through from the initial idea to the final, saleable manuscript. You can read it here. If you want a start-to-finish look at picture book creation, this post is it.
  2. How cool Wilma Rudolph was. She overcame illness and poverty to win three Olympic gold medals in 1960. She handled the subsequent fame with grace and contributed to the eventual desegregation of her hometown, Clarksville, Tennessee, by insisting that her welcome home victory parade be integrated.
  3. How recent segregation really was. Wilma won her medals in 1960 when many U.S. towns were segregated. And segregation didn’t officially end until the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. That seems like forever ago to kids today, but many people are alive who lived through segregation.
TTOF: I love the dedication for this book. Could you tell us where it came from?
I dedicated the book to my husband, Mark. The book’s dedication says, “To Mark: Who believed it was possible from the very start.” I dedicated the book to him for three reasons:
  1. His support. When I decided I wanted to write for kids, I went to the library and came home with more than 50 picture books. I was sitting on our living room floor, surrounded by the books, reading, when Mark said, “I’m more proud of you than ever before.” I said, “Why? I’m just reading.” And Mark said, “You know what you want and you’re working toward it.” He’s so sweet.
  2. It was a perfect fit. Each of my daughters inspired my first two books, so it only made sense to dedicate those books to them. And my third book was a family-inspired Thanksgiving book that was dedicated to my parents. But THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE was perfect for Mark. It’s about two girls who want to be just like their hero, Olympic gold-medal sprinter Wilma Rudolph. And Mark, who is a sportswriter, ran track in high school, so it was a perfect fit.
  3. Just because. Not dedicating a book to my husband would be weird.
TTOF: Can we see a “right now” pic of your work space?
Umm … sure. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. If you look at the photo closely, you’ll notice:
  1. The location. It’s the kitchen table in my house. I don’t write in a charming stone cottage on a Scottish moor with peaceful sheep gazing through the window while I work. I don’t write in a funky coffee shop in downtown Manhattan surrounded by creative hipster artist types. It’s just my house, surrounded by the detritus of my everyday life.
  2. The debris. Oh, look. There’s a lone Chapstick. My credit card. A bunch of marketing postcards waiting to be mailed. I believe there’s a dirty dish by some books. And, is that a basket of unfolded laundry in the background? Why, yes. Yes it is. I could spend lots of time cleaning this up, but then I wouldn’t be writing.
  3. My laptop. Everything is on there. My drafts. My final manuscripts. My ideas. Sometimes, I pack the laptop up and go to the library where I can write without feeling the accusing eyes of the laundry basket on me, but usually I stay right where I am and type away. It’s not beautiful, but somehow it works.
Thank you so much, Pat, and congratulations on another really wonderful book!

Interview by Elaine Vickers

Thinking in Threes: Louise Gornall

Welcome to our special feature Thinking in Threes, where we ask an author, agent, or editor three questions and they respond with three answers to each. Today I’m thrilled to be interviewing my friend and author Louise Gornall.

Louise is a graduate of Garstang Community Academy. She’s studying for a BA (Hons) in English language and literature with special emphasis on creative writing. Her debut YA contemporary novel, UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES, will be released by HMH/Clarion (2017) And Chicken House UK. A YA aficionado, Brit girl, film nerd, junk food enthusiast and rumored pink Power Ranger, Louise likes to spend her free time hanging out with her twin sister, and adding to her extensive collection of book boyfriends.

Where are the top 3 places you love to write?

1. I love to write in bed on my phone.

2. I love to write inside my head when I’m in the shower.

3. I love love love to write outside, on my laptop, when I’m in the Lake District.

Oh, that looks lovely. Thanks for sharing this, Louise!

What were your top 3 “ah-has!” when writing your latest book? (And please tell us a little bit about the book for our readers!)

Hmmmm… to only pick three 😉 There were many, but my favourites are:

1. Realising I actually had something with this story. Norah, my MC, is agoraphobic, suffering with OCD and anxiety, and when I first started writing UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES, I was convinced it would come to nothing because Norah’s world seemed way too small for there to be a solid story… turns out, I was very wrong.

2. Figuring out how to make *this one thing* happen when at first it seemed impossible — I so badly want to tell you more about this, but I can’t… all I’ll say is, it involved dragging Norah right out of her comfort zone.

3. Figuring out how I was going to end this sucker without compromising Norah’s character. Breathing life into Norah was, at times, soul destroying. She’s complicated, never clean cut, and I was determined to maintain that until the very last line which was tricky because at the same time I wanted to satisfy the reader.

Photo by J.E. Photography (Lancaster)

What are the top 3 best pieces of advice you ever received as a writer?

1. Read all your stuff out loud. I cannot even begin to tell you how much this helped straighten out my writing.

2. Read. READ ALL THE BOOKS! When I’m stuck, I always take some time and read for pleasure. It really helps to get the juices moving again.

3. Don’t write to trends, write what you want. I’ve been burnt by writing to trends twice now (paranormal romance/Dystopian). I didn’t even know what Rose was going to end up as when I started writing it. Turns out, I hit a trend when I wasn’t trying to.

Thank you for being on our blog, Louise! We cannot wait to read UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES! ❤


Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both YA urban fantasy and NA contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of YA urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL, and NA contemporary romance LOSING ENOUGH. Find out more about Helen at