Hi Harry! Congrats on the publication of The Summer My Grandmother’s Yard Tried to Kill Me. It is such a pleasure for me to feature your debut novel on my blog! As one of your critique partners, I have LOVED seeing this amazing middle grade story take shape and evolve. Your creative ideas, talent for writing dialogue, and skill at crafting an atmospheric setting have made me an instant fan. I know this is just the beginning for you as an author 🙂 Now, for some questions…
When did your creative writing journey begin?
I’ve been writing and trying to make people laugh since I was a kid—poems, songs, sketches, plays, jokes, talent shows, a newspaper job writing reviews, stuff like that. Once I became a teacher, I would spend the summers writing. First, it was screenplays. Once my son was born in 2005, I turned to children’s books and middle grade novels. After joining our SCBWI critique group, I became more serious and learned so much from our writing group.
How do you fit writing time into your daily life?
I write early in the morning when the rest of my house is sleeping. Lucky for me, my family likes to sleep late. I try to log how many days I write each month and try to take off one day a week. Also lucky for me, my wife and son are super supportive. My lawn used to look a lot better but sacrifices for time must be made.
Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
It started with an article about the “mile-a-minute vine” that was growing so fast it was killing native plants and animals on several islands in the South Pacific. Personally, I was involved in my own weed battle in my family’s yard. And I hate weeding—doesn’t everyone! The little devils always come back! But I didn’t have a main character. As a high school teacher and have taught many students with ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder. All these guys and girls have been fun and interesting with such engaging personalities. We spent time together in class and in my film club watching movies. I decided to write an adventure story and create a lead character loosely based on a combination of my former students’ personalities. So, I guess they inspired me. Finally, I wanted to write about the age-old issue every young and older person faces: fitting in. I think everyone, at some point, has had to deal with it. Everyone asks: Do I fit in? Where do I fit in? Who connects with me? And that’s what I wanted my hero to struggle with.
Peter, the main character in The Summer My Grandmother’s Yard Tried to Kill Me, has a love of old movies and movie quotes. Did you re-watch any classic movies while writing? Any favorites that are mentioned in the book?
I have a natural tendency to watch classic movies from the golden age of Hollywood for fun and because I teach my film class and run an after-school film club. I even have a few buddies in the summer who get together and watch an Alfred Hitchcock or classic, and other buddies who just love movies. To be honest, I would watch a movie and think: “This movie line would work in this scene.” A few of my favorites mentioned in the book are Jaws, ET, The Magnificent Seven, Godzilla, King Kong, and Casablanca. “Here’s looking at you ‘asking great questions,’ kid.”
Any tips for authors out there in the query trenches?
Keep writing. Keep sending out the queries. Keep a new story going in the background that is just for fun because sometimes the query grind can get you down. Also essential? Have a great writing group, like ours!
Do you write with music or in silence?
I write in silence.
Do you need snacks while writing? If so, what’s your favorite writing snack?
Usually coffee in the morning. Later in the day – pretzels. I love pretzels.
Do you take notes on paper or is everything digital?
I take lots of paper notes. I free-write in those 99-cent, 70 page, 1-subject, wide-ruled notebooks. I love to number the pages. I do print out quite a bit and revise with a marker. Each draft gets a big fat rubber band around it. I have to chuck some, actually. They can be cluttery.
Thank you so much, Harry!
About the novel:
Fitting in is impossible for Peter Mulligan—the class “weirdo.” Bullies won’t accept his quirky sense of humor, his obsession with movies, or his autism spectrum disorder. At the end of the school year, an insensitive classmate picks on him during a state-wide exam. Peter has a tear-gushing meltdown in the middle of the test. After the incident, Peter’s parents send him to live with his no-nonsense grandmother on isolated Johnson Island for the summer. But something seems off. Peter discovers that the creatures featured in his favorite flicks are nothing compared to real-life monsters. Now, the weirdo must become the hero. If he doesn’t, Peter and his newfound friends will never save the island from sinister seed experiments gone very, very wrong!
The Summer My Grandmother’s Yard Tried to Kill Me is a neighborhood adventure filled with humor, mystery, and a message of acceptance. Readers of any age will love this eco-friendly tale, told from the point of view of a differently abled protagonist.
Publisher: Xander Books (August 24, 2021)
Length: 208 pages
Art Director—Tom Haag
Cover Design – Femi Ford
About the author:
Harry Harvey lives with his wife and son at the Jersey shore. Currently, he teaches at Manasquan High School, where he runs a film club and a Ping-Pong club. He also teaches improv classes (check out shorefunimprov.com). This is his first novel.
For more information, visit:
“Meet the Author” at The Manasquan Public Library, October 18th, 3:15
TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY CLICK THE LINK BELOW
One random winner will be chosen on August 27th and a copy of the book will be mailed to the address provided by the winner. Please allow up to three weeks for delivery. USA addresses only please. Good luck!