This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Tonya Duncan Ellis will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
Why do you write juvenile fiction? What draws you to it?
I like kids better than adults! LOL. Seriously, somehow I draw energy from being around children. I find them very insightful and so funny and interesting. I’ve taught Sunday school at my church for years and sometimes with my busy schedule and all I have to do with my own family and work I feel like I don’t have time to volunteer with the kids. Once I’m back with them in the class again I experience so much joy that I know I can’t give it up. There’s something about being with children that just gives me life.
What books were your favorite as a youth and why?
My favorites were Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great, Blubber, Ramona the Brave, Little House on the Prairie, all these books had girl main characters overcoming struggle and growing from them. They are realistic stories about everyday life and growing up, which I guess appealed to me. These themes run through my Sophie Washington book series as well. I’m glad I’m able to bring in some more diversity with the characters in my books than I had growing up.
What’s your favorite sweet treat?
I’m a chocaholic to the core. Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, fruit covered with chocolate, it’s all good to me! Give me a rich piece of chocolate mousse cake or chocolate truffles and we’ll be best buddies.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
It’s cliché but I wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. My nose was constantly stuck in a book as a kid and once my English teachers told me I had a way with words and encouraged me in my storytelling, that was all she wrote. Even as a teenager the library was one of my favorite hangouts. I worked there, for free. I’ve always liked the feeling I get from writing down my thoughts and having other people read and appreciate them.
What superpower would you love to have? Why?
Endless energy. Would that make me the Flash? It seems like I have a never-ending list of things I want or need to do each day and never enough time to do them all. If I had endless energy I wouldn’t have to sleep and could zip through my to-do list lightning quick. I’d still want to be able to lounge or take naps when I wanted to though.
Sum up your books for Twitter: 140 characters or less.
Ten-year-old heroine and diverse friends deal with bullies, gaming, fitting in, peer pressure and that first crush, with a Texas twist.
Which of your characters would you most like to meet IRL? Why?
I’d most like to meet the bully Lanie Mitchell in real life and give her a big hug. She seems like she needs one. Maybe then she wouldn’t be so mean to the other kids.
You’re stranded on a desert island. Which character would you want with you and why?
Definitely Nathan Jones. Sophie doesn’t call him Mr. Know It All in the first book of my series for nothing. He’s super responsible and I’m sure he would remember to bring matches and maybe even a flare gun to signal for help. I haven’t mentioned it in the books but he is the character most likely to become an Eagle Scout.
9. Playlist for your current book.
“Mean” by Taylor Smith could be played when Lanie is taking Sophie and Chloe’s lunch money. “Mama Said Knock You Out” by L.L. Cool J when Lanie knocks Nathan Jones down at his locker. “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor to be played when Sophie and friends gather at their lockers to plan revenge.
10. Favorite class in high school. Why?
English, of course. It’s the place where I got to read and write and do all the things I love and get good grades for it.
That’s what 10-year-old Sophie Washington thinks until she runs into Lanie Mitchell, a new girl at school. Lanie pushes Sophie and her friends around at their lockers, and even takes their lunch money. If they tell, they are scared the other kids in their class will call them snitches, and won’t be their friends. And when you’re in the fifth grade, nothing seems worse than that.
Excitement at home keeps Sophie’s mind off the trouble with Lanie. She takes a fishing trip to the Gulf of Mexico with her parents and little brother, Cole, and discovers a mysterious creature in the attic above her room. For a while, Sophie is able to keep her parents from knowing what is going on at school. But Lanie’s bullying goes too far, and a classmate gets seriously hurt. Sophie needs to make a decision. Should she stand up to the bully, or become a snitch?
Read an excerpt:
“Nice glasses,” smiles Mariama, one of my other good friends in our class. Mariama’s family moved to our neighborhood from Nigeria last year. Some people make fun of her because she dresses different sometimes and talks with an African accent, but she’s really nice.
“Thanks, this is my first time wearing them,” I say. “I was a little nervous this morning.”
“Well, you shouldn’t be because they look really good,” she assures me. A few of our other classmates come through the hall, and no one seems to pay too much attention to me wearing glasses. Seems like it’s not a big deal after all.
“Hey Soph,” calls Chloe, rushing over to join us at the lockers, “those are some cute specs. I may get some with red frames to match my uniform logo.”
“You’re supposed to wear glasses to see, Chloe,” Mariama and I laugh.
“Well, they can be used for fashion, too,” she informs us.
We compare notes on last night’s science homework and grumble about the many review packets Mr. Simpson assigns.
“He must really want us to become astronauts,” Chloe complains.
“Yeah, it took me over an hour to get mine done,” I say.
Suddenly, I hear Mariama whistle under her breath.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
I see Lanie moving in our direction.
You mean she bothers Mariama, too? I think to myself.
“Hey, Miss Tarzan,” Lanie says, turning toward our friend. “I see you’re wearing that necklace from Africa that you promised me,” she says, pointing at the string of colorful wooden beads my friend is wearing.
Mariama, who is at least a foot shorter than Lanie and probably 15 pounds lighter, starts to shake.
“My mother gave me this necklace,” she says, “and it was a gift from her mother to her.”
“Well, it’s going to be my gift now,” Lanie snarls, reaching out to grab it.
“Why don’t you give it a rest?” says Chloe, moving to block her.
“And who’s going to make me?” Lanie smirks.
I feel my face getting hot under my new glasses. I am so tired of Lanie bothering everybody and spoiling all our fun. If I wasn’t so scared of people calling me a snitch, I would march right down to the principal’s office and tell on this bully.
“Leave her alone, Lanie,” I say through gritted teeth.
“And who’s going to stop me?” she asks.
Lanie laughs and shoves me against the locker.
“You couldn’t stop a flea.”
“Come on, Sophie, let’s just go,” Chloe urges.
But I’ve had enough.
I shove the bully back.
“I said, leave her alone.”
Lanie looks surprised for a second.
“Fine, if she won’t give me her necklace, then I’ll take yours.”
She yanks my precious silver friendship chain from my neck and knocks me to the floor so quickly that my new glasses fall off. “Sophie!” Chloe and Mariama rush over to help me as the bully hurries off down the hall.
“I hate her!” I reach on the floor for my new glasses and see that the glass is cracked in one of the lenses.
What am I going to do now?
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