A key characteristic of a successful writer is perseverance. Kristin L. Gray might win the prize in that department! As you will discover below, she did not quit when a perfectly brilliant idea did not gain traction. Read on for how she responded to a big obstacle in her writing path, and ended up with a smashing new middle grade novel, The Amelia Six: An Amelia Earhart Mystery (Simon Kids).
“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” -Amelia Earhart
My new novel The Amelia Six: An Amelia Earhart Mystery (Simon Kids) came with its own turns and plot twists. I had never written a mystery before, though I grew up on a literary diet of Nancy Drews. If the title had “Secret” or “Clue” in it, I read it. Bonus points were award if the book had a floorplan or neighborhood map. Be still my heart.
But when I first drove the four-and-a-half hours on a chilly December morning to The Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchison, Kansas, writing a mystery was the last thing on my mind. In fact, I had traveled to research a very different story. A picture book! You may be rolling your eyes as there are many picture book biographies on Amelia Earhart, but this one was going to be different. It was a fresh, new angle. A slice of her life that no one had tackled, at least not in kids’ books. I was bubbling over with excitement! I was going to be the first. I even had a hands-on craft idea to put in the back.
So, I got my steaming cup of coffee, and drove the last stretch of highway, winding my way up to the historic home on the bluff.
I rang the bell and was buzzed in by the museum caretaker. She was fascinating and kind enough to show me around. As curator, she had lived at the home for thirty years. She had seen every artifact, read every article, and heard every theory of Earhart’s disappearance. She was a firecracker. Lovely, informative, exciting, and she dismissed my whole idea with a wave of her hand!
I wasn’t crushed as much as taken aback. But the more I listened to her talk, I realized she was right. The stories she told me about the house and family were captivating, engrossing, and real. They dove deeper than a cool fact. (What I thought I had come to research.) They connected to my heart. Suddenly, I had a story that was far bigger than what I had set out to write. I had a historic figure who was multi-faceted, surprising, and flawed. Amelia was so much more than pilot or pioneer. I had put her—even her childhood—into a box.
I left with pages of notes, a phone full of pictures, and an explorer’s heart. I had so much left to discover—about Amelia, the house, and myself. Four years later, as the book is launched into the world, I can say with absolute certainty that yes, Amelia, the adventure was worth it.
KRISTIN L. GRAY is the author of Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge, a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year, and the all new The Amelia Six: an Amelia Earhart Mystery, as well as the picture books Koala is Not a Bear and Rover Throws a Party: Inspired by NASA’s Curiosity on Mars. Kristin lives in Arkansas with her five children, two dogs, bearded dragon, and carb-loving cat. She loves connecting with classrooms in person and via Skype. kristinlgray.com. You can also visit her at Instagram and twitter: @kristinlgray