Last month we asked YOU to submit questions for Sheila Turnage, author of Three Times Luckyand The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing. We got some wonderful questions from our BBD readers and from Reading Club staffers. Without further ado, here are Sheila’s great answers!
How long did it take you to write Three Times Lucky and The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing? How do you get started on a new book?
It took about three years to write the rough draft of Three Times Lucky, because I was doing other things at the same time, and then another year to work on it with my editor.
The next one was a little faster. It took about a year and a half to write The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, because I worked on it full-time and because kids were writing to me reminding me to get it done so they could read it!
I started Three Times Lucky because Mo started telling me her great story in my imagination and it just took off from there. I loved her voice, and I wrote the book to see what happened next! With The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, I wanted to write a ghost story because they’re so much fun, and fortunately Mo happened to have a ghost story to tell.…It’s smart and funny, and kept me on the edge of my seat as I wrote it.
When I write, I start with a good idea of where the story starts and ends, and then I start writing to find all the details and twists and turns along the way—even if I know the high points before I start. I love for my characters to surprise me—and they surprised me a lot in The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing. The story usually changes shape as I write, which is fun.
When you first wrote Three Times Lucky, were you expecting it to be as big of a hit as it turned out to be?
No! I didn’t even know Three Times Lucky would be a book for young readers. I just fell in love with the voice of narrator Mo LoBeau—rising sixth grader, yellow-belt karate student, and goddess of free enterprise. Mo’s smart and funny and poetic.…She has great swagger and courage, and I really admire her. I really wasn’t thinking about what would happen to the story after I’d written it; I was just thinking about writing the best story I could write.
The book’s success has been a wonderful surprise, and the Newbery Honor was the biggest surprise of all! I had no idea other people would love Mo and Dale as much as I do. That love touches my heart in ways I never expected. What an exciting and unexpected journey!
If you had to pick, what do you think the three key ingredients of a good story are?
To me, good stories have characters I care about, a conflict that matters, and a resolution that teaches me something about the characters—and about me.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
WRITE!!! Don’t wait to be inspired. If the first draft flows, wonderful. If it doesn’t flow perfectly, you can always rewrite.…Write! Will there be more adventures in store for the Desperado Detective Agency? What mystery do you think they’ll encounter next?
Yes! Mo and Dale are getting their own series—Tupelo Landing is in a flat-out uproar!
Mo and Dale’s next mystery is called The Odds of Getting Even. Harm’s in it, Sal, Skeeter…all your old friends. It starts with Dale’s daddy’s trial.…I’ll let Mo clue you in when the book comes out next year.
Three Times Lucky and The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing are available now in Reading Club flyers and online.
book.box (bukboks) n. A cardboard receptacle, typically rectangular in shape
with lid, containing words, pictures, ideas and dreams, often
accompanied by excitement, anticipation and the love of reading.