October 31, 1977: Jo Whittemore, author of The Silverskin Legacy Series, is born in Kentucky!
From Olivia: Hi there ‘Today in YA History’ readers! I have a special one for you today: it’s The Silverskin Legacy author Jo Whittemore’s birthday! That’s right: she’s a Halloween baby and a part of YA History!
I contacted Jo about this, and she has been super awesome in agreeing to a quick interview, so you can learn more about her and her books. Let’s get this rolling…
Today in YA History: Jo, thank you very much for agreeing to this guest appearance at Today in YA History. Since your birthday falls on my favorite holiday, I am especially excited that you are my first interview! Happy birthday!
So, you have published The Silverskin Legacy, a YA trilogy about the magical land of Arylon. What can you tell new readers about this series and what sets it apart from other fantasy adventures?
Jo Whittemore: A lot of current fantasy is set in this world or a dystopic one with fantastical elements. The Silverskin Legacy is high fantasy, which is one of my favorites. Two teens from our world accidentally get pulled into an alternate one by their next-door neighbor, who happens to be a wizard. The only way they can get home is a staff of power that gets stolen. The first book in the trilogy is about retrieving the staff and the second and third continue their adventures in Arylon after things don’t go quite as planned. The trilogy contains a lot of your traditional fantasy elements (dragons, unicorns, necromancers) with a few I’ve created and thrown in (Ponzipoo, Siall cats, narshorn). I highly recommend. :-)
TIYAH: Sounds interesting, especially those Siall cats…
I see you are currently publishing books for mid-grade readers, which sound like a lot of fun. What other projects are you working on next?
JW: Thanks for asking! Next year, I have another middle grade humor novel coming out about a group of theater misfits that never make the cut and decide to put on their own show. Shenanigans and mayhem ensue.
After that, I’m fiddling around with the idea for a superhero book and another humor novel set overseas. (I’m thinking “research” trip!)
TIYAH: I’ll be on the watch for that superhero story for sure!
Now, you are one of the founding members of AS IF! (Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom). This group’s members include your fellow YA authors like Meg Cabot, Maureen Johnson, and Scott Westerfeld. How and why did such a good-looking group of authors come together? (And if you know what day AS IF! was born, I would love to post it in YA History!)
JW: Oh, my gosh, it’s been so long since we formed that group, I’m not sure of the specific day! Honestly, the group was created to address censorship in literature, particularly for teens. Certain schools and libraries ban books, and some churches protest the “unhealthy” content of YA literature, but the topics in these novels are what teens face every day. People may not want teens to read books that reference substance abuse, but it’s out there and it’s happening. Why not address it head-on in a relatable fashion?
TIYAH: There’s a lot going on these days, too, questioning how teen audiences are influenced by YA books. It’s nice to see a group of authors come together to tackle those discussions head-on.
So this next one is a two-parter. When you were a teen, what was your favorite book (YA or otherwise)? And now that you’re an author for teens, what is your favorite contemporary YA?
JW: Let’s see… when I was a teen, I didn’t have a favorite book, I had a favorite series–the Agatha Christie murder mysteries. The characters were so well-developed (LOVED Poirot) and all the foreshadowing and thought that went into the plotting was awesome. My favorite contemporary YA would have to be “13 Little Blue Envelopes” by Maureen Johnson. I love the idea of a travel adventure.
TIYAH: Oo, I agree, 13LBE is a great read. All right, last one! In honor of your birthday and it being Halloween… If you were going to go trick-or-treating tonight to get some candy and no one would think twice about it, what would you be dressed as and what candies would you be on the prowl for?
JW: I’d be dressed like Cat Woman, a feline femme fatale. And I’d be on the prowl for Milk…y Way.
Kidding! I’m an M&Ms girl. Peanut. Shaken, not stirred.
TIYAH: Nice! I was always a black cat for Halloween growing up myself. We can stalk the neighborhood together!
Well, thank you very much, Jo! And again, from Today in YA History, have a very happy birthday and a great Halloween!