Montclair author Adriana Brad Schanen’s new book Quinny & Hopper goes on sale today, and we already love it! Read the Barista Kids review here. You can hear Adriana read sections of Quinny & Hopper this Saturday, June 14th, at Watchung Booksellers. Rumor has it live chickens will make an appearance. A definite must see this weekend.
In the meantime, we thank Adriana for answering a few questions for Barista Kids!
Name: Adriana Brad Schanen
Where do you live? Montclair, NJ
When did you move to Montclair?
Twelve years and two kids ago. I was 6 months pregnant and living on the Upper West Side. One day I was wiping down my windowsills and I looked at the filthy, sooty gunk on the paper towel. Really looked. I’d lived in big cities most of my life, but that was it – something snapped and I called a broker that afternoon. Two months later we moved to leafy, crunchy NYTimes-ville. It’s not perfect here, but we’ve never looked back.
Where did you grow up?
Rural Romania at very first, and then the Lakeview and Logan Square neighborhoods of Chicago.
How did you get started in writing? Was it always a passion or did you come to it later?
Both. I studied English Lit and Journalism in college. But I soon realized I was more interested in storytelling than straight-up factual truth-telling. I wrote a couple of manuscripts that will forever sit in drawers. I started writing for kids & teens when my own kids started elementary school.
The key part that came later on for me was learning how to structure and revise: how to sit there and tear apart a manuscript that was already okay, or maybe even pretty good, and put it back together in a stronger, tighter, more compelling way. That required a maturity and patience that I lacked for many years. But boy was I good at writing promising rough drafts and then shrugging as they didn’t magically revise themselves.
Your first book for young people, Quinny & Hopper is a joyful romp through an unlikely friendship. Can you tell us about the inspiration?
All the kids around me, especially my own. (I thank a bunch of them in my acknowledgements.)
I was also inspired by the middle-grade novel Flipped and the YA novel Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.
As a parent, I think that spot in between chapter books and true middle grade novels is a place where we could use more realistic fiction with dimensional characters. There are a ton of wonderful picture books out there. And plenty of worthy, absorbing middle-grade novels with 12-year-old protagonists. But I don’t see as many Clementines and Billy Millers.
We love that Quinny & Hopper is not geared towards boys or girls — it treats kids as kids. Is that something important to you in story-telling?
Absolutely. I wince at the idea of “boy books” and “girl books” – how about some plain old human books? Our neighborhood is mostly boys, which I think is great for my two girls (they’re still youngish – I may change my mind later on). Around town, I would sometimes hear moms say, “Oh, he’s really sensitive.” Like that wasn’t quite right for a boy. But don’t boys have the right, and the need, to be as sensitive and emotional as girls? Plus, I suspect boys who grow up reading at least some realistic fiction will turn out to be better, more empathetic people.
What’s your idea of a perfect Weekend day?
All errands and chores done the night before! Wake up and write for a couple of quiet hours while husband takes kids & dog for bagels, and then drugs them with cartoons.
Then we all bike together in perfect “May in Montclair” weather. Then we all hang in the yard with the dog. Maybe some friends come by, maybe they don’t. I’m not a big fan of schedules. I love just having a big old comfy nothing-much week-end with whoever is around.
What’s your favorite local restaurant?
That’s easy. Osteria Giotto. My girls also love going to Bluestone for a breakfast of syrup, with a side of pancakes.
What’s on your nightstand?
So many books that it’s about to collapse. For example:
DT Max’s spectacular biography of David Foster Wallace, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story; Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being; David Bezmozgis’s Natasha – these are three that I’m constantly re-reading.
Picture book comfort food: Miss Rumphius, Not a Box, Miss Bingergarten, All the World, Lily’s Plastic Purse.
Also, right now, a smattering of smart, weird/fun, newer middle-grade books: “Under the Egg” (shades of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler here), “The Ninja Librarians” (virtuoso wordplay, seriously) and “Steering Toward Normal” (steers! 4H fun!).
And on the floor beneath my bed is No Room for Dessert, the 3rd book in the tart, heartfelt, Francophile-friendly Dessert Schneider chapter book series – this one made me cry, but in the best way.
Do you have any vices you’d be willing to share?
Insomnia (it’s a vice because of all the caffeine required to induce it).
And writing screenplays. There’s no good reason for a mini-van-driving mom in the Jersey burbs to be writing screenplays. I’m trying super hard not to write another one.
Also, I’m allergic to yoga—I think admitting that in Montclair is practically a vice.
What do you hope they say about you at your funeral?
I’m blanking on this one! I just hope my kids show up. And I hope by then they’ve forgiven me for whatever mistakes I’m making in raising them.
It would also be really nice if someone could say – she stopped some kids who weren’t ever going to read a book from not ever reading a book. I’m trying hard on that front.
What are you working on next?
I’m mercilessly revising a YA novel manuscript that’s just been optioned for film (yay!), but that needs to be tightened and re-worked before it can become truly book-worthy. Also, I’m writing another realistic middle-grade novel, this one older, about a 6th grade boy who’s being bullied from inside the popular group at school. And I will always-always be writing early middle-grade for that 7-10 year-old reader – including more Quinny & Hopper stories, I hope.