Elizabeth Doyle Carey has always wanted to be a writer. She used to read books constantly as a child, adored the public library and her school library. Her mother used to say she could read books while standing on her head in the bathtub. Elizabeth has lived out her dream and is now the author of many books in THE CUPCAKE DIARIES and SPRINKLE SUNDAYS series (as Coco Simon), many of the DEAR KNOW IT ALL books (as Rachel Wise), and THE CALLAHAN COUSINS series. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her Junior Lifeguards series.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Test: Volume 1 is about
The Test launches the Junior Lifeguards series and introduces readers to the main characters: Jenna Bowers, Piper Janssens, Selena Diaz, and Ziggy Bloom, as well as their lifeguarding leader, Bud Slater, their frenemy, Samantha Frankel, and a supporting cast of parents, siblings, and cute boys. The series is set in a fictional town on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, and takes place in the summertime, mostly on the beach. It is about life and death drama on the beach as well as eating ice cream on the boardwalk on a summer night with friends, sleepovers, crushing on cute boys at mini-golf, and other summer fun.
What inspired you to write a summer series featuring Lifeguards?
I have spent a lot of time in Cape Cod, where they have a good Junior Lifeguarding program, and in East Hampton, NY where they have an insanely popular Junior Lifeguard program (350 kids last summer). I read about these young trainees in the local papers and think the activities look hard and fun and ripe for drama! I could never do any of these programs myself because I am terrified of sharks! My mother was right: I should never have watched “Jaws!”
What drew you to this audience?
I have always written for middle grade readers (technically ages 8-12, but for me, more like 10-14). I was a book editor for many years for this age group, and I have had over 35 books for tweens published, including many titles in the Cupcake Diaries series (I write the Emma and Alexis books) and a really fun new series called Sprinkle Sundays. My own favorite childhood books are from this age range, as well, such as The Boxcar Children and Enid Blyton’s The Secret Island. It’s fun to write for tweens because they are smart, mature, and independent, but not as tragic or risky as teens.
Tell us more about Jenna, Piper, Selena and Ziggy. Why did you pick them to be your main characters?
Jenna, Piper, Selena, and Ziggy are all very different, and they just grew organically as I wrote them. I knew Jenna would be pre-military, driven, competitive, and I knew Ziggy would be a little spacey and politically correct, but Selena’s acting and Hollywood obsession and Piper’s sensitivity came from the characters as I wrote them. I think they all take to Junior Lifeguards in different ways, and because three of them are not natural lifeguards, I think it allows readers to imagine themselves in the same situations, even if they are not lifeguards themselves.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Besides writing, I have three other random skills: playing Trivial Pursuit (I always win), making chocolate chip cookies (I prefer to eat the dough raw), and carpooling. I am a great driver and always organize the sports carpools for my kids and all of their friends.
Have you always known you wanted to be a writer? What inspired your debut?
I have always wanted to be a writer. I read books constantly as a child, I adored our public library and my school library (and am still friendly with the librarians from both places). My mother used to say I could read books while standing on my head in the bathtub. My aunt was a book editor who used to bring us advance copies of books –sometimes while they were still in manuscript pages—and getting to read books so far in advance of publication was super-thrilling for me. My debut novel was the first in a middle grade series called The Callahan Cousins (Little, Brown Books for Young readers, 2005) and it was inspired loosely by my own childhood adventures with my “cousins by the dozens” and those of my children (they have 19 first cousins). It is available as e-books on Amazon and will release in paperbacks in 2019.
How do you force yourself to finish what you're doing before starting the next project when the new idea is nagging at you?
The only way I can work is against a deadline—I find it very difficult to work on percolating projects if they are not yet scheduled.
Among the wealth of characters in The Test, who was the most difficult to create?
Of all the Junior Lifeguards, I had the hardest time creating Piper. I knew she would be boy crazy, shy, sweet and strong, but it has been hard to give her a really distinct voice.
Do any of your characters take off on their own tangent and refuse to do what you had planned for them?
I have had characters take off on me before and I think that is the best thing that can ever happen to a writer. It means the characters are strong enough to have their own desires and destinies, and that is a sign of a good character! It happens to me more with the baddies than the good characters. In the Lifeguards books, Samantha Frankel always writes herself, and in my Callahan Cousins books, mean girl Sloan Bicket grabbed my typing fingers and dictated what I should write about her. It has also happened in many of the Dear Know-It-All books I have written for Simon & Schuster; Sam’s mean-ish big sister Dylan wrote herself. I feel like I wasn’t even there when she did it.
Talk to us a bit about your writing habits. Do you write early in the morning, or through the night? Pen or laptop?
I write best when I have long unbroken chunks of time to get into what I am working on. As the publisher of a small press, a mother of three, and a freelance writer for Simon & Schuster, my own books and projects get short shrift. I try to set aside entire days for writing and I write on my MacBook starting around 9:00 AM and am most productive until midday (LUNCH!) and then again from 3:00-6:00.
Did you work against a deadline for this book? How hard was it to stick to it?
Yes, I had deadlines for these books and they were easy to stick to because the books had to be DONE!
When you finish the series are you going to be sad or—
I do not ever want to finish the series! Books #5 (Mayday) and #6 (Take a Stand) come out this summer and I hope to keep going.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I am working on a Christmas book and some custom book scripts for Audible, as well as the small press I founded with two friends.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Please visit my website at www.elizabethdoylecarey.com to see what else I am working on, or my Instagram page @authorelizabethdoylecarey, Twitter @LizDoyleCarey, and Facebook Author Elizabeth Doyle Carey.