Jennifer Trafton has graciously granted Qutessy an interview. She is the delightful author of MG novel The Rise And Fall Of Mount Majestic. Visit her website, follow her on twitter, and check out her Goodreads page for more author news and updates.
QUTESSY: What is The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic about?
JENNIFER TRAFTON: It’s about an island with a mountain in the middle of it that turns out to be a sleeping giant, and a ten-year old girl named Persimmony Smudge who must keep the giant from waking up. Along the way there are poison-tongued jumping tortoises, walking mangrove trees, a Lyre that tells the truth, a very selfish king, a shrinking worrywart, some big feet, sticky pine needle disguises, pinched noses, poetry, and a lot of pepper.
Q: What was your inspiration for The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic? How long did it take you to write it?
JT: Many years ago I was traveling around England and was impressed by the strange, knobbly, elbowy, stomachy shape of some hills—it seemed like a giant was sleeping underneath the ground. I began to wonder what would happen if there were people living on top when the giant woke up. That idea stuck in my head until finally a story grew around it.
I wrote the first draft in about six months, and then took another three years (off and on) to rewrite and revise it.
Q: What is the most exciting sequence in your book? At what point when you were writing this book did you get so giddy with excitement that you couldn’t get the words out fast enough?
JT: Well, since the most exciting part is the climax, and the people reading this interview have probably not read the book yet, I’m going to have to hide parts of my answer to avoid spoiling the ending.
Persimmony is trapped underground. Worvil is trapped in a cave. The king is trapped in denial. A nasty man is trapped in a pepper mill. The townspeople are trapped in a very messy food fight. Then suddenly the ground quakes and the [spoiler] nearly awakens, causes a [spoiler], unleashes panic and devastation in the [spoiler], and almost [several spoilers in a row] until finally [BIG SPOILER].
That’s the part that was the most fun to write and the part that I think is the most fun to read.
Q: What character did you fall in love with the most? What character kept you up at night?
JT: I love Worvil, my little worrywart, because he is so much like the ridiculous part of myself that needs a good laughing-at regularly.
Persimmony, my heroine, was actually the character who took the longest time to grow and develop in my mind. She is not quite the same person in the final book as she was in the first draft. I had to get to know her through many rewrites in order to figure out what really made her tick and what she was after.
Q: What about this story is compelling?
JT: It serves the extremely important function of warning people of the perils that lie underneath their feet. You never know—you might be standing on someone else’s giant stomach.
Q: What is your preferred genre? Why do you write for MG readers?
JT: I don’t really sit down and think, “Today I’m writing in this genre for this age reader.” As a writer you have to write the story that is burning inside of you, and you have to tell it in the voice that is yours alone. In my case, so far this has meant that I write “fantasy” that fits generally into the 8-12-year-old reading level. I happen to love this genre and this age because it allows such freedom for my imagination.
Q: Do you write by the fireplace in your home or on a couch in a hotel lobby? Would you like to show us a picture of your writing zone?
JT: I wrote most of The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic in the café of my local bookstore where I was living at that time. These days I alternate between a quiet corner of a coffee shop, a seat by the window in the public library, and an old armchair at home. If I show a picture, will I suddenly be overrun by the children’s book paparazzi?
Q: What book or author inspired you to become a writer?
JT: I’m not sure I can point to one book or author, or even a moment in my life when I suddenly said, “I want to become a writer.” It was something that grew in me naturally. There has never been a time when I have not loved stories—both reading them and making them. But when I look at the particular shape my sense of humor has taken, and my love of quirky language, surely I owe something to being read Dr. Seuss over and over and over again on my parents’ laps.
Q: What kinds of books do you like to read?
JT: I do not like reading self-help books, sushi cookbooks, car repair manuals, tax instructions, and books about football, skin diseases, politics, vampires, gory dismemberment, turnip farming, or how to succeed in business. Most other books are fair game—especially if they offer me characters I fall in love with, new realms for my imagination to play in, and humor that leaves me guffawing on the carpet.
Q: What author would you want to meet?
JT: I’d love to have a good chat over tea with Kate DiCamillo. I think her books are going to be classics fifty years from now. They are brilliant in their simplicity, sadness, beauty, and gentle wit.
Q: What book character would you want to meet?
JT: It would certainly be an adventure to meet Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, but I’d only attempt it if I had a vorpal sword in hand.
Q: What book character would you want a character in your book to spend a day with?
JT: I think my intrepid protagonist, Persimmony, would stand a much better chance against the Jabberwocky than I would, and after a day of battling it might possibly have satisfied her enormous appetite for heroism.
Q: What are you working on now?
JT: Right now I am working on the daily challenge of putting words on paper rather than rushing away from my desk pulling my hair and grabbing for the cookies. Which means I am writing another book.
Q: Is there anything you want to add?
JT: The first chapter of The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, as well as some of Brett Helquist’s wonderful illustrations, can be found on my website www.jennifertrafton.com.