It’s my pleasure to welcome author Nancy Tandon back to Writers’ Rumpus to discuss her second middle grade novel, GHOST OF SPRUCE POINT. If you missed our interview on Nancy’s poignant debut novel, THE WAY I SAY IT, click here. By the title alone, we can tell something spooky comes our way in Nancy’s newest book, published by Aladdin and available on 8/2/22.
THE GHOST OF SPRUCE POINT features an intrepid group of kids led by 12-year-old Parker, a spooky curse, a creepy neighbor, unexplained clues, unsettling sounds, a cool treehouse, the Home Away Inn, and mouthwatering food, all set in a remote, wooded Maine peninsula known for paranormal activity.
The Home Away Inn is the only home Parker has ever known, and when he becomes aware the inn is struggling for survival, he’s convinced the lack of guests is part of a curse afflicting the entire point with increasing vengeance. With the help of his summertime friend Frankie, cousins that frequently buzz over on their boat with lobsters, and mysteriously spooky clues, Parker won’t stop until he solves the curse and saves the inn, even if it places him in great danger.
LAURA: This is vastly different from your debut novel, THE WAY I SAY IT. What was your inspiration for this delightfully spooky middle grade novel? (I chose green to honor Spruce Point!)
NANCY: There is a saying that the only thing an author can control is “the next thing they write.” After receiving a series of crushing disappointments on the road to the publication of my first novel, I had to find my way back to the “fun” of writing. But I was so discouraged by my setbacks, I could hardly open my laptop. However, the idea for THE GHOST OF SPRUCE POINT was already percolating; I’d seen a news story years prior about kids who were essentially allergic to the sun and attended a special camp that started after the sun went down. My own kids’ summer adventures with their cousins began to combine with this idea of night-time shenanigans. To get the courage to start on this project (knowing it may never be published), I told myself I’d write a story just for my nieces, with the goal of “one chapter a month.” And as I wrote, the fun did indeed seep back in, and the story evolved from there!
LAURA: Your remote Maine setting is so well drawn, I’m ready to book myself at the Home Away Inn and order a big lobster. Do you have a personal connection?
NANCY: Thank you! My acknowledgements start with a line from a song: “There’s a winding lane on the coast of Maine that’s wound around my heart.” Over 20 years ago, my parents retired to a small town in Maine (3 hours north of Portland) that is a delightful haven and seems to be home to an abundance of creative people. I fell in love with everything about the sights, smells, tastes, and experiences there. Each summer, my siblings and I would try to overlap for visits. Watching the cousins grow up together as they explored this wild and carefree playground was such a delight. I tried for years to capture the unique atmosphere of the place in a series of failed picture book manuscripts. I think I finally did it justice in this novel.
LAURA: Yes, you absolutely did! It’s beyond exciting that you have two books only 7 months apart. Did you write both at the same time or one before the other? Describe the writing process for each.
Thank you – it is exciting and a bit overwhelming. I’ve described this experience as “learning to swim while you’re swimming (in the deep end).” It is fairly unusual to have two books come out in the same year (unless you’re prolific, which I’m not!). It is only because my first novel was delayed so many times that I’m having “twin debuts”! Although the final editing of THE WAY I SAY IT did overlap with the drafting of THE GHOST OF SPRUCE POINT, the first book was written and heavily revised before I started the second. One thing that surprised me was that while I wrote the first book by the “headlights” method, going day to day as I plotted along, the second one came out “synopsis first.” It was so much easier to write having a synopsis and rough outline to follow. But guess what? I haven’t been able to recreate that magic, despite pushing the synopsis/outline issue on my current work-in-progress. It refuses to comply. I’ve heard many authors say, “every book is different.” That has been very true for me.
LAURA: What has been the biggest surprise that’s come from your debut year?
NANCY: It might sound silly, but for all my dreaming and vision-boarding about getting my work published, I never really spent time picturing what might happen after launch day. To see my two book babies taking on lives of their own has been incredibly special. I’m grateful for each reader that has picked up my books and engaged with them, and for all future readers, too.
I’ve been overwhelmed by the support of teachers and librarians who have helped spread the word and shared the books with their classes. And I’ve been blown-away by the support of independent bookstores around the country. Truly, I couldn’t have imagined a more welcoming reception! And of course, always at the heart of my writing journey is my gratitude for the new friends I continue to make along the way. Love definitely grows where kidlit readers and writers live. Thank you to Writers’ Rumpus for being one of those spaces!
LAURA: How can readers connect with you?
NANCY: I’m always happy to connect with readers and educators! For those of you who like to listen while you read, or anytime you want to evoke the atmosphere of Spruce Point, I’ve created a GHOST OF SPRUCE POINT Spotify playlist that you can access by clicking here.
LAURA: Since this is Nancy’s 2nd Writers’ Rumpus interview, I thought it would be fun to learn a few of her favorite things (borrowed from her website):
Color – Turquoise
Food – Coconut ice cream
Animal – Birds (but not up close!)
Activity – Learning new things
Season – Fall
LAURA: Nancy, thank you for joining us! I love that your favorite activity is learning new things, and I wish you continued success. FYI: The hummingbird is my spirit animal, Fall is my favorite season, and 3/4 of my wardrobe is blue. Coconut ice cream, not so much, but I’m always willing to offer my free services as a cookie taster.