I’m thrilled to be at Writers’ Rumpus on the Book Birthday for THE ART OF THE SWAP, and so happy to be sharing the day with my friend and co-author Jen Malone. This is a day we’ve been anticipating for almost three years. THE ART OF THE SWAP is out today from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin in hardcover.
THE ART OF THE SWAP began as a small kernel of an idea I had five years ago as I toured a mansion in Newport, Rhode Island with my family. Passing the door to the caretaker’s apartment, I mused to my then ten-year-old daughter how cool it would be to be a caretaker for a gilded age mansion. That idea sparked the foundation for SWAP. Jen and I were traveling to SCBWI New Jersey in the summer of 2015 and talking about our works-in-progress. When I mentioned my idea for the story of the caretaker’s daughter, we brainstormed for half the drive and soon the idea morphed into a co-authored time-travel historical fiction tale about two girls living in the same house a century apart.
I’m still pinching myself that this book is finally out and people can read it.
Back in March 2017, Jen and I talked about co-authoring in the post How a Book Is Born. A lot of people ask us about the logistics of writing as a team. For us, it’s been a great partnership. We were good friends to start with, and one of the very first conversations we had was about our friendship being first and foremost. No matter what happened with the book—our friendship would come first. I think that’s important as a cornerstone for co-authoring. You’re going to spend a lot of time together (literally and figuratively) and having a solid relationship is important to fall back on. It’s important that you can be honest with your feedback, forthright with the direction you envision, and be able to compromise.
We used a shared Google Doc to write the book—I often wrote in Word, and then copied and pasted my sections into the document. At times, the system was painfully slow and neither of us wanted to be in the document at the same time as the other (felt a little like being watched while you write!)—but it worked really well for us overall. We could write and then critique the other’s sections right in the same document.
Writing this book has been a dream come true. Not only did I get to work with my friend and a fabulous writer, I also got to meet the actual caretaker of The Elms, Harold Mathews. Harold spent a glorious two hours with Jen and me, giving us a behind-the-scenes tour of the mansion and sharing his insight and some anecdotes of his life in the building. Some of these details made their way into the book, which I think really adds to the authenticity of the story.
We have created two companion documents available for those who want more: a curriculum guide for use in classrooms and an activity guide for budding activists for use by book groups and scout troops. Both documents can be found on the Simon & Schuster Education and Library resource page and on both of our websites.
We’d love for you to purchase THE ART OF THE SWAP from your local indie bookstore, but it is available for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook as an ebook, as well as in hard copy from all your favorite national distribution chains.
We can’t wait to hear what you think about THE ART OF THE SWAP—please find us on the web and on social media and let us know what you think!