Friday, July 13, 2012

The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow by Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson

I'm turning over my blog to my daughter Mckenzie Kate (aka Katertot) for the day.  She has a review and interview for you lovelies, today.  I'd like to thank Heidi at Rainy Day Ramblings for letting Katertot know about this book and putting these kind authors in touch with us.

A big thank-you to Jess and Stephanie for graciously sending Katertot a copy of their beautiful book, The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow, and agreeing to her request for an interview. 

Here is my kiddo's review and very first interview!  Enjoy:

Title:  The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow
Authors: Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson
Type:  Limited edition, author illustrated copy
Published: 2011

Katertot's Rating:

Fairday Morrow is less than happy about moving to the quiet, country town of Ashpot, not to mention, utterly cheerless at the prospect of living in the crumbling, creepy old manor known as Begonia House. Nevertheless, that's exactly where she's headed.
Strange music coming from behind a padlocked door leads Fairday up a spiral staircase and into a secret room, where and ancient mirror, a brass key, and a strange picture of a red-haired lady are the first in a series of clues that will take Fairday and her friends in the Detective Mystery Squad, more commonly known as the DMS, on an amazing adventure that will challenge them in ways they never thought possible.
PhotobucketAs the investigation gears up, it becomes plainly obvious to Fairday that the danger is deadly serious. With a little help, which is found in some very odd places, the twisting tale begins to unfurl. Will the DMS be able to piece together the puzzle before it's too late?

Katertot's Review:
Fairday Morrow is a twelve-year-old girl who has just moved to Ashpot, Connecticut, leaving her city life of New York, which includes her best friend Lizzy, behind. Having a hard time adapting to her new life, Fairday decides to battle her boredom by searching around her new home. Lizzy and Fairday have a detective group called the DMS - Detective Mystery Squad. Fairday thinks, if she were to find anything interesting, it would be a good excuse to invite Lizzy over for an investigation.

Once Fairday discovers several clues leading to… something, she can’t wait for Lizzy to visit so they can both investigate. After weeks of more boredom, dealing with school (at which she makes a brand new friend and member of the DMS, Marcus Brocket, and also a new adversary, Dif), and working through more investigations on her own, Fairday finally reaches the day of Lizzy’s arrival.

Marcus, Lizzy, and Fairday all set out on an adventure throughout Fairday’s house on the third floor… the floor of all the mysteries. Several things don’t make sense… a silver, engraved hairbrush, an odd photo, moving hair… what do all these things mean?

Ms. Jessica Haight and Ms. Stephanie Robinson answer all these questions and more, adding a unique twist to the story and keeping me guessing until the end. This was a wonderful, easy read, and I recommend it to, not just middle-graders, but to readers of all ages.

Thank you so much, ladies, for sending me your wonderful book for review!


MK: What was your inspiration for the “infamous Begonia house”? Have either of you ever lived in a creepy, but interesting, house like that?

Jess: Yes! The story originated in a creepy house when I was just a kid. It all began at my grandparents’ house in Ridgefield, CT. Even my dad will swear that, when we were in the house, you could hear someone walking around upstairs when everyone that was supposed to be there was downstairs. My grandfather used to tell me that it was Ruby Begonia in her high-heeled sneakers. I can remember sneaking around the house, trying to catch a glimpse of her. My own imagination glammed up the shoes and developed the story around her. Initially, I wrote a rhyming children’s poem entitled Ruby Begonia and the High-Heeled Sneakers. That story continued to evolve, and I decided to turn it into a chapter book. I asked my best friend and book buddy, Stephanie, to co-author it with me, and the rest is history!

Stephanie: After Jess asked me to work with her on changing her poem into a story, the ideas began emerging from all over the place. We would meet, talk, brainstorm, and dissect each other’s ideas. Each time one of us shared something, we would spark new ideas in the other person. Some of the elements of Fairday’s story have appeared in my dreams and others that have happened in my everyday life. For a short period of time, I lived in a house that dated back to the 1700s. It was a house filled with mystery, hidden passages, and local lore. It wasn’t creepy, but it did give me a lot to think about and got my mind whirring!

MK: What was it like having two authors of a book? Were there ever any fusses over what to write?

Jess: Oddly enough, there wasn’t. Stephanie and I get along great, and we decided when we embarked upon this adventure that it would be about writing the best story that we could, leaving our egos out of it. We both value each other’s opinions, so it’s never been a problem.

Stephanie: Having two authors was an adventure that was exciting at every turn. Jess and I agreed early on that we would always be honest with each other and that we wouldn’t take things personally. We wanted to create the best story we could, and we knew that we would need to put our egos aside. Luckily, we have always had a relationship in which we could tell the other person exactly how we felt. Jess and I spoke daily about Fairday and the DMS. We flushed out characters, storylines, and everything else both in person and on the phone. Our meetings were always productive and helped us to be on the same page. We used Google Docs, which allowed us to write in one document from anywhere. I even worked on the book in Poland and during my travels to Yellowstone National Park. Usually, one of us would start a chapter and the other person would go in and start working their magic- adding, deleting, and crafting the writing until it was a blended expression of both of our ideas. It was a blast writing with Jess, and I am thankful to have her on this incredible journey!
MK: I loved Marcus and I was intrigued by Dif. Were either of these characters inspired by real-life people?

Jess: In a way, all of our characters are a mix of different people that we’ve known throughout our lives. Banner, particularly, is a close comparison to one of our high school friends, and Dif, well, he’s sort of a conglomerate of those mean kids that everyone has come across from time to time.

As a teacher, I see many personalities in the classroom. It has been helpful to add elements to characters like Marcus and Dif from my observations. :) A friend of my husband’s family is called Brocket, and I have always loved the name. Jess and I borrowed it for Marcus because he deserved a cool last name, after all, he is Brocket the Rocket.  
MK: I absolutely love how Fairday got her name - Fairday T. Morrow. Was the saying mentioned in the book something someone really said? Or perhaps there is a significance behind one of your names or a friend’s name that inspired it?

Jess: I have no idea where her name came from. I was sitting at my desk, thinking about how to turn my poem into a chapter book, and the name Fairday just popped into my head. I don’t believe it’s an actual saying, though I have spent a lot of time on Cape Cod and around fishermen, so I may have picked something like it up there.

Stephanie: Although Fairday is a made-up name, we are both friends with people with the last name Morrow. I go to Nantucket every year, but haven’t heard the popular phrase on any of my visits. :)
MK: One of my favorite characters was Larry Lovell - he was an amazingly wise person and reminded me of my grandfather! Was he inspired by a real life grandfather or father?

Jess: Ah, Larry Lovell! I am so glad you asked this question. I love his character. He reminds me of a non-magical Dumbledore : )

Stephanie: When I picture Larry Lovell in my mind, I have a perfect image of a man that I used to wait on regularly at a retirement community. I mix him with a few other characters I have met in my life, and Larry starts to emerge. I love that he reminds you of your grandfather.
MK: This story was intriguing because I wasn’t sure where it was going - that’s always a sign of a good book in my opinion. How did you come up with such a unique storyline?

Jess and Stephanie: We decided book one in the Fairday Morrow series would stay true to Ruby’s story from the poem. Next, we weaved in the DMS and all the other magical attributes. Our in-depth talks involved a lot of brainstorming and one of us saying, “How about...?”. Each time, the story would shift in a new direction. The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow was also read to two 5th grade classes who provided us with feedback through their thoughts, questions, and predictions. Their reactions helped us develop the pacing and build suspense. We are so grateful to those wonderful young readers!

MK: I found myself anticipating Ruby Begonia’s life story. I felt so sorry for her and what had happened to her and her family. I couldn’t help but wonder what could happen next for Fairday and her family (and friends)… Are there any subsequent books in the making?

Jess & Stephanie:
Yes! The Talking Library will be the next in the series, and the DMS is geared up for a real adventure. Fear not the unexpected!
MK: I want to give you both a big thank-you for the wonderful characters and storyline of The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow! They had me thinking about the book whenever I wasn’t reading it. It was such a fun book to read - was it as fun to write? Did you have to do any research on any old myths or legends?

Jess & Stephanie: Thank you so much for taking the time to interview us. This series is a blast to write. We can relate so much to Lizzy and Fairday and have all sorts of adventures in mind for the DMS.

For The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow we didn’t need to do much research, as we already had the premise for the storyline and the general idea of where we wanted to go with it. At times, we did research items like the stove and various technology to make sure that they were accurate for the time period. However, book two, The Talking Library, is a whole different mystery, and there will be lots of fun work to do!

Thank you again, ladies, for answering my questions and for my copy of The DMS Files.  This has been so much fun - until next time, everybody! Katertot out <3