The DMS was lucky enough to interview Sheila Turnage, author of the middle grade novel Three Times Lucky. Lizzy recently reviewed this intriguing story, and it was great to share our thoughts about it and hear yours! We are excited to learn a little bit more about the story behind the story. So, without further ado... take it away, Sheila!
What inspired you to write Three Times Lucky?
Actually, the voice of the narrator - Miss Moses LoBeau, rising sixth grader - inspired me more than anything else. I gradually became aware of her on the edge of my imagination, just waiting to be written. And I’d think in her direction, and there she was, a scrappy eleven-year-old in plaid sneakers. And she’d say, “hey, my name’s Mo LoBeau. You got a minute? I got a story to tell.”
I started listening in my imagination, and writing her story. I loved her from the start, and it really pleases me that readers love her too.
How long did it take you to write Three Times Lucky?
I worked on the first drafts off and on in my spare time over the course of three years or so. Then Dial Books for Young Readers bought it, and I worked on it with them for another year. And then it took time for it to become a physical book. So four years of writing, and then production.
What was your inspiration for the characters Mo and Miss Lana?
Are those your favorites? I like them too… I’m not sure, really, where inspiration comes from. My sister says Mo reminds her of me a little, so perhaps that’s part of it. Mo and I do have a lot in common, though we’re not really the same character. And Miss Lana? I do enjoy my flamboyant friends and family members, but she’s not really based on anyone I know.
I wrote Mo’s story for the sheer joy of it, listening to the characters and enjoying them as we went along. When I finished the first draft, Three Times Lucky was three times too long. So I started trimming it down. The more I trimmed, the more Miss Lana and Mo came to life.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
I loved mysteries, like the Hardy Boys. And I loved Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh… books I could step into and get lost in. But I read everything. I absolutely loved to read. I grew up in the country and looked forward to trips to the library like you wouldn’t believe. To the librarian’s horror, my parents insisted I could check out anything I wanted to read. I had a blast, particularly in the summer.
If you could live any place real or fictional, where would it be? Why?
I live on a farm in Eastern North Carolina, and I really like it here. I love visiting other places, but this is where I like to live. I understand the rhythms and the seasons, and I have a wonderful sense of continuity.
If you could befriend a character from your book, who would you befriend? Why?
That would be a toss-up between Mo and Dale. Where I live kids often ride the school bus, and I’d love for either of them to get off the bus in the afternoon and sit on my porch a while. They’re both really smart, funny kids, but in different ways. I love Dale’s take on life, and Mo’s quick wit.
If you mean an adult character, I’d probably get along well with Miss Rose. We have a lot in common: we both live in the country, we both care about family, we’re both pretty low-key.
Where do you like to write? Do you listen to music while you are writing?
I mostly write in my house – in the swing on the front porch, or in my office upstairs. I don’t listen to music while I write. If there are words in the music (whether they are sung or not) it completely destroys my focus, and if there are no words, once I get into the flow of my writing I don’t hear the music anyway.
Mo sends messages in a bottle to her upstream mother. Have you ever sent a message in a bottle or have you ever found one? If so, we would love to hear about it!
As I recall, I did once send a message in a bottle. I was a very little girl and my father helped me. It was so long ago! I set it adrift in the ocean. For some reason I hoped it would go to Portugal, but so far I haven’t heard back. I suppose it should get there any day now.
Where can we purchase your books?
Thanks for asking! Three Times Lucky is available through independent booksellers everywhere. It’s available in hardback, e-book and audio.
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Mo and Dale’s next adventure - THE GHOSTS OF TUPELO LANDING - is slated for publication in early 2014.