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Melanie Conklin: Melanie Conklin

Middle grade novelist.
Author-ized!

Introduction

Melanie Conklin

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February 2017

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Melanie Conklin
Photo ©  Lee Seidenberg.

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Author-ized! Interview

Biography

Melanie Conklin is a writer, reader, and life-long lover of books. She lives in South Orange, New Jersey with her husband and two small maniacs, who are thankfully booklovers, too. Melanie spent a decade as a product designer and approaches her writing with the same three-dimensional thinking and fastidious attention to detail. Counting Thyme (Penguin, April 2016) is her debut middle grade novel.

Interviews

What are you reading?  What's on your nightstand?

I just finished Full of Beans, which is a great companion read for Turtle in Paradise. I’m also re-reading A Monster Calls because I like to cry. Next up is Labyrinth Lost because I also love young adult SFF.

Where do you go to get inspired?

When I need inspiration, I go out into the world. Life is the best fodder for fiction. For a jolt of motivation, I visit the library and read the first chapters of my favorite novels. Nothing makes me eager to write more than reading.

What's something that surprised you recently (in a good way)?

I’m surprised every time I hear from young readers who have read Thyme. I’ve been told it will take about three years to get accustomed to the idea! 

Where do you write?

I write in lots of places that are terrible for my back: my couch, my bed, the floor. When I’m behaving, I write at the desk in my office. But even then, I’m usually in my robe. 

What/who makes you laugh? Why?

My sons make me laugh every day. They see the humor in everyday life and allow it to consume them. I do my best to enjoy each day as much as they do. 

Favorite fictional character ever?

This is a tough question! My favorite fictional character is probably Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. I loved those comics as a kid, and even more so now. Calvin is the brave, brash, exuberant, and passionate child in all of us. 

What do you want readers to know about you and your books?

I’d like readers to know that my books are about growing up and finding your place in the world. They’re about surviving middle school while facing big life questions. They’re about family and friendships and food—and most of all, about being eleven. 

What are you working on?

I’m working on my next novel for middle grade readers, which is about another family facing a difficult situation with humor, hope, and love. 

Reviews

On Counting Thyme:

"With just the right pace of character development and a believable voice for the shy, awkward Thyme, Conklin takes her protagonist through a journey of connecting to others and learning to articulate her own needs...VERDICT A slow and sweet book that will strum the heartstrings of readers…"
—School Library Journal

"Thyme's remarkable perseverance and resilience will inspire readers of Conklin's compassionate tale."
—Kirkus Review

"When things begin to get complicated at school with new friends and a first crush, Thyme feels torn between two places her family and making her own way. Debut author Conklin writes with a pitch-perfect middle-grade voice, capturing Thyme's confusion and emotional struggle. The family dynamics are well developed and capture the dissonance that can happen during a family crisis. A nice choice for middle-grade readers who enjoy heartfelt and emotional novels."
—Booklist

"Conklin makes a strong debut with this moving family story narrated by 11-year-old Thyme, whose five-year-old brother, Val, has been fighting cancer for nine months. When he is accepted into a drug trial, the Owens family leaves San Diego for New York City, where Thyme focuses on her secret plan to return home early. Conklin realistically depicts Thyme's culture shock in Manhattan (apartment living, Laundromats, cold weather), homesickness for her grandmother and best friend, and the roller coaster of emotions that accompany a family member's serious illness; equally strong is the exploration of middle-school friendship difficulties and the beginnings of a first crush. While a few of the characters (such as Thyme's crush and the woman hired to cook and accompany her to and from school) are a little too good to be true, most develop in credible ways through their individual struggles. Conklin successfully weaves together the shifting dynamics of a loving family under crisis with the less dramatic but equally heartfelt turmoil of coming of age in a new environment."
—Publishers Weekly

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