Today we welcome alum Karen Kane with her debut middle grade novel CHARLIE & FROG.
Charlie's parents have left him (again). This time they are off to South Africa to help giant golden moles. And Charlie? He's been dumped with his TV-obsessed grandparents. Lonely and curious, Charlie heads into the village of Castle-on-the-Hudson, where a frightened old woman gives him a desperate message-in sign language. When she suddenly disappears, Charlie is determined to find answers.
All Francine (aka Frog) Castle wants is to be the world's greatest detective.
Frog, who is Deaf, would rather be solving crimes than working at the Flying Hands Cafe. When Charlie Tickler walks into the cafe looking for help, Frog jumps at the chance to tackle a real-life case.
Together, Charlie and Frog set out to decipher a series of clues and uncover the truth behind the missing woman's mysterious message. Charlie needs to learn American Sign Language (fast) to keep up with quick-witted Frog. And Frog needs to gather her detective know-how (now) to break the case before it's too late. Discover the surprising ways people listen in debut author Karen Kane's page-turning mystery filled with humor, intrigue, and heartwarming friendships.
Who was your favorite character to write and why?
Frog was my favorite because she was so easy to write. I simply channeled the many strong and confident Deaf girls I have met as a sign language interpreter.
What was the spark that ignited this book?
The spark was my advisor, Amy King. Amy felt I would grow more as a writer with new material, not by working on a manuscript I had brought with me to VCFA. So I started writing short stories. Then, one day, I began feeling my way into a new middle-grade novel, which became Charlie & Frog. Amy loved my story and said to keep writing. So I did.
What authors do you love for their sentences? How about plot? Character?
I adore the craft book Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg. Every single page of this book contains gems about writing. Plus, I just love the name Verlyn Klinkenborg.
As for characters, I am passionate about Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott. The plotting in Career of Evil, the third book of the series, is fantastic. I can’t wait for the fourth book!
Who were your advisors at VCFA?
Jane Kurtz, Amy King, Tom Birdseye, and Tim Wynne-Jones. All four are super-smart. Each one has a unique set of writing talents. Being their student was a truly a blessing.
What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?
Each faculty advisor brings something special to the table. Tap into that. Not to sound too “woo-woo,” but there is always an energetic reason why you are paired with an advisor. Be open to that reason why. Sometimes what you learn from an advisor is something you never even knew you needed to learn until you worked with that person. And all of it, the struggles and the joys, are part of your writing journey.
Charlie & Frog is published by Disney/Hyperion and is available at bookstores everywhere. You can learn more about Karen and her books at karenkanebooks.com