Today I welcome author Andi Cumbo-Floyd to Reade and Write. Andi’s books are not like the ones I typically have on my blog, but I have a feeling you’re going to find her work really compelling. She is the author of the new release, The Boy Who Could See Stars, and I’ll let her tell you a little more about it and her other books.
Congratulations on your latest release! Tell us a little about the book, The Boy Who Could See Secrets.
The book tells the story of 12-year-old Jedidiah Wilson and his imaginary friend Mavis, who is 63. Jed has always been able to see things people wanted to keep hidden, and one day, he sees a figure in the woods and follows her. He then takes his first journey through time. When he returns, he fills Mavis in, and they begin a great adventure to save their new friends.
This is my first middle grade book, and I find that very exciting. I have a son who is a toddler, so I enjoyed imagining him as a 12-year-old – who is much like his dad – and thinking about reading this book with him when’s he’s older. Plus, Mavis is modeled after my mother, Ruth, who died when she was 63. I love to have the opportunity to imagine how she might be with her grandson.
Who is the audience for the book?
Anyone over the age of 8 or 9 or enjoys a story with a little history, a fair bit of magic, and a lot of adventure.
Tell me about the setting of The Boy Who Could See Secrets—how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?
Oh, that’s a great question. The book takes place on a fictional farm that is based on the farm my husband and I recently sold here in Central Virginia. I got the idea for the book one evening while I was watching the treeline beyond our pasture, and so it seemed fitting to use the landscape of that place for this story. Thus, research was pretty minimal. 😉
What was the hardest thing about writing the book?
Because this was my first middle grade book, the hardest thing was making sure I kept the story appropriate for that age of reader – mostly in terms of style but also in terms of some content – while also not dumbing down the book. I was an avid reader as a child, and I hated when writers assumed I was dumb just because I was young. I wanted to avoid that mistake if at all possible.
If your book were made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the main characters?
OOH, another great question. For Mavis, I’d love to see Kathy Bates. I love her ability to be down-to-earth with characters, and she’s wickedly funny, just like my mom. For Jedidiah, Noah Schnapp from Stranger Things would be a great choice. He needs to be someone who can make us believe in magic.
Tell us about your other books.
I’ve written a YA magical realism series entitled Steele Secrets, which deals with history through the lens of magic, as well. Mary Steele can see ghosts, but only the ghosts of African American people who were killed in racially-motivated violence. As she meets these long-dead people, she comes to understand that her small Virginia town’s history is complicated and that a lot of secrets need to be told in order for healing to take place.
I’ve also written a work of nonfiction about the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I grew up. The Slaves Have Names tells the story of 22 of those incredible people and my journey to get to know them.
Finally, I’ve written several books for writers, including Love Letters To Writers, which is a collection of 52 notes to give writers encouragement and accountability in their writing lives.
Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?
You know, I’m not. But I am friends with a lot of writers, and I have great teams of beta readers who read all my work before it comes out to be sure its solid.
Do you write every day?
I don’t. I have a one-year-old, work full-time as an editor, and enjoy TV. But I do write five days a week whenever possible.
Who are your favorite authors? Favorite genres?
I love Margaret Atwood, Chaim Potok, Toni Morrison, Jesmyn Ward, A. S. Byatt, Marilyn Robinson, and Anne Lamott best of all. In terms of genres, I read a lot of magical realism and fantasy since that’s what I write, and I’m going to be writing some cozy mysteries under a pen name starting later this year, so I’m reading a ton of those. I do love literary fiction, though, too.
Where would you like to go more than anywhere else on earth?
South Africa. Hands down. Second up would be Moscow.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Only you can give yourself the time, space, and motivation to write. So do that. Don’t wait for it to happen for you. Make the time, create the space, encourage yourself. We need your stories.
What is your favorite movie and why?
Dead Poets’ Society. Robin Williams was a genius in that film, but I also loved the message about originality, about speaking truth, about the value of community, about grief and mental illness. And since I once was a teacher, I loved Mr. Keating as inspiration.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Forget what you’re supposed to do or supposed to be. Follow your heart. Let it guide you.
Describe yourself in three words.
Introverted, Passionate, Wild.
I know you recently sold your farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains and have moved to another home. I followed your posts on Instagram and other social media outlets as the move happened and I can’t think of a more beautiful setting to write books.
We recently sold off the farm that had been my dream for many years in order to make our life as a family a bit more manageable and to give me more space to write. We loved that little 15 acres and our animals, but now we live deeper into the Blue Ridge Mountains with our three cats and three dogs in a log house on a ridgeline. It’s a lovely space, much quieter and simpler than our farm life. It’s good for us, and it’s especially good for my creativity and writing energy.
Is there anything I haven’t asked that you wanted me to?
I’d love to tell folks about the free, online writing community I coordinate. It’s a casual group full of writers to talk about all aspects of the writing life. We’d love to have folks join us. Details are at my website.
Where can readers connect with you?
I’m over at Andilit.com writing about writing, and you can find out about all of my books there. I’m also on Facebook at facebook.com/andilitwriter, Twitter at twitter.com/Andilit, and Instagram at Instagram.com/andicumbofloyd.
Where can readers find your books?
Until next time,