Who is Claire Legrand? She is the author of the middle grade book The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls (due out this summer), a blogger extraordianaire, and she used to be a librarian! Read on to hear about Claire’s new book, her days as a librarian, and why she believes that “sometimes sanity comes in the form of Chex Mix.”
Your new book, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, comes out on August 28th, 2012. What is this story about? Can you tell us what inspired you to write this book and what you hope that readers will take away from it?
Cavendish is about an impossibly perfect perfectionist named Victoria, her only friend (who goes missing), and the sinister things she discovers about their home town of Belleville while investigating his disappearance.
Here’s the official flap copy summary that will appear on the book!
Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster–lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does, too.)
But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that Mrs. Cavendish’s children’s home is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out . . . different, or they don’t come out at all.
If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria, even if it means getting a little messy.
A couple of different things inspired me to write Cavendish, both from real life!
One is the town my dad lives in, which, while it is a perfectly safe, clean, and lovely place to live, can get a little Stepford at times. People care a lot about money and about appearances. I wanted to take those little flickers of superficiality I sometimes saw and exaggerate them for the sake of Victoria’s story. What would happen if the people of a town were so obsessed with perfection that they covered up something horrible in order to achieve that perfection? The answer: Very Bad Things.
The second thing that inspired me was this questionable-looking orphanage on my street when I was an undergraduate student. I sort of became obsessed with it because it was obviously a working orphanage — the sign out front changed every once in a while — but I never saw any kids, social workers, groundskeepers, nothing! And sometimes there would randomly be police tape on the side door. I drove by it all the time to see what I could see, and once a van pulled out of the driveway and followed me and my friend all around town until we lost them in a Walmart parking lot. Seriously! So I knew right then and there that I just had to write a creepy orphanage story.
What do I hope people take away from this book? Well, quite simply, I hope people get deeply, bone-shakingly, skin-chillingly creeped out. I always wanted to write a scary book for children, something that could sit on the shelf beside Coraline, Roald Dahl, and Edward Gorey, and I hope I’ve succeeded!
On your website (www.claire-legrand.com) you describe yourself as a “ninja librarian.” As a Youth Services Librarian myself, being around books all day has rekindled my interest in writing. How did your work as a librarian strengthened your desire to write for middle school students and young adults?
What a great question! One of my favorite parts about working at libraries was matching children and teens with a really great book, that one special book that I knew they’d just love. Now, I didn’t work solely with children and teens, but they were always my favorite patrons. Children and teens have such enthusiasm and excitement for great stories and great characters, and I could always see that in their eyes when I spoke with them. It’s an excitement most adults just don’t have. I had already sold my first children’s book when I started working as a public librarian, but helping those children and teens just reaffirmed my decision to write for this age group. They’re the most vocal, most passionate, and most loyal (to series, authors, and characters) readers out there. Who wouldn’t want to write for people like that?!
Which book do you wish you had written?
I don’t really wish I had written another author’s book, although practically speaking, it would have been nice to write those Harry Potter books and be rolling in the dough right now. 😉 But in all seriousness, the books that I really love? I’m just glad they exist. I’m glad, as a reader, not a writer, to have experienced them. I don’t care who wrote them. I do, however, hope that someday I can write books that have moved me as deeply as some of my favorites, like His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, Graceling/Fire/Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, and The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.
I have recently discovered that tea and toast with Nutella is the perfect reading snack (especially when reading depressing stories). Do you have any favorite reading or writing snacks?
Agh, you’re killing me, Abby! Now I’m all hungry! Let’s see. When reading or writing (I don’t differentiate between the two as far as snacking goes), I like popcorn, bell peppers, Granny Smith apples, and saltine crackers (but only the square kind, not that weird new round kind, ew). I know, that’s kind of a weird assortment, eh? That’s just regular reading and writing, though. When I’m on deadline? Whole new ball game: Bold Chex Mix, powdered sugar doughnuts, cookies, all the cheese I can get my hands on. I know, I know! That’s some bad junk food right there. Total stress-eating. I don’t let myself indulge in it too much, though. It’s just that sometimes, when you’re on deadline, you grasp for any kind of sanity you can get! And sometimes sanity comes in the form of Chex Mix.
If you couldn’t write (or be a librarian), what would be your dream job?