Description from GoodReads: Journey to an underground world where adventure awaits and heroes are made in this middle grade novel from the bestselling, Pulitzer-nominated author of The Monk of Mokhaand Her Right Foot.
When Gran and his family move to Carousel, he has no idea that the town is built atop a secret. Little does he suspect, as he walks his sister to school or casually eats a banana, that mysterious forces lurk mere inches beneath his feet, tearing up the earth like mini-hurricanes and causing the town to slowly but surely sink.
When Gran's friend, the difficult-to-impress Catalina Catalan, presses a silver handle into a hillside and opens a doorway to underground, he knows that she is extraordinary and brave, and that he will have no choice but to follow wherever she leads. With luck on their side, and some discarded hockey sticks for good measure, Gran and Catalina might just find a way to lift their town--and the known world--out of danger.
Thank you Dave Eggers for stopping by Kid Lit Frenzy to talk about your new middle grade novel, The Lifters.
Kid Lit Frenzy: In THE LIFTERS, the town is called Carousel. Are there any Carousels that inspired you and if so, where is it located?
Dave Eggers: When I did research into the making of carousels back in the day, I found so many great examples of the form, and many had been made in Pennsylvania. Here are some great photos of an extraordinary carousel made in Pennsylvania and still in use there, at Weona Park in a town called Pen Argyl, PA.
KLF: In many middle grade fantasy books, there seems to be a "portal" of sorts into another world. In THE LIFTERS, you use the tunnels to get to the other world. What influenced your decision to use tunnels as your portal?
DE: To me the main thing was the door. I’m from a very flat part of the country, Illinois, and now I live in a hilly region — northern California — and since moving here I’ve been obsessed with the topography, and what lies beneath. The Lifters started about ten years ago, when I would be walking through the hills close to the Pacific, and started picturing being able to just open a door on the hillside. It seemed so plausible to me that it was bewildering that I couldn’t just do it. So I made up a story that made it possible.
KLF: The Art Designer is an important member of a team creating an illustrated novel. The Fan Brothers do the jacket art (by the way, love the surprise when you remove the jacket) and Aaron Renier did the interior art. Some authors have input on the illustrations and others have little say. Did you get to be a part of this process?
DE: I’ve been designing books for about twenty years now myself, commissioning art and doing the typography, so in this case the publisher allowed me to take on that role for the interior of the book. It was a blast working with Aaron Renier, who I’ve known for a long time. We worked on the premise that there should be some kind of artwork on every spread, and Aaron just went to town on the project with that as his mandate. He created this very moody, mysterious environment that pretty much exactly mirrored the images I had in my head.
KLF: A friend of mine who is a big fan of Harry Potter and Stranger Things and who is listening to THE LIFTERS audiobook wanted to know if you are a fan of those series and did they possibly influence you in the writing of THE LIFTERS?
DE: The weird thing is that Harry Potter came out when I was about 30, so I was not lucky enough to be part of the generation that got to experience those books at the prime target age. And I keep hearing about Stranger Things, but I don’t have broadcast or cable TV at home, so I have to wait until things appear on DVD. I’m excited to dig in once they compile the show in my preferred 1990s format.
KLF: Short chapters can be a fabulous tool for drawing in reluctant readers. However, it can be a challenge for writers to develop the story and to keep the pacing. What were the factors that influenced you to write shorter chapters?
DE: I was thinking of pacing for sure. Something about the shorter chapters creates an accelerated rhythm that I wanted for The Lifters. And secondly, I was thinking of young reluctant readers, like the reader I was when I was in middle school. I would have been attracted to chapter books with a healthy amount of pictures, and with a different approach to chapters. There’s a sense of accomplishment, I think, when you’re ten years old and, because the chapters are short, you can read 12 chapters in a sitting.
KLF: The names of your characters are quite creative (Granite Flowerpetal, Catalina Catalan). How did you come up with the names? Also, are there parts of you in Gran?
DE: There’s not much of me in Gran, I have to say. The one thing we share is that I spent a lot of time as a boy making animals out of clay. That part is all me, as is the part of about having an odd name. Eggers isn’t the easiest name to have as a kid in public schools. There are endless ways boys can hassle you for a name like that. But when I was a kid, the kids making fun of my name were my friends, so it was just part of the banter of a bunch of knuckleheads. Catalan is a word I’ve always loved, in its inherent lyricism. Adding Catalina as a first name, I thought, gave a musical air to a young woman who is very serious and purpose-driven.
KLF: Can you share anything about upcoming projects for children that you are working on?
DE: In the fall Chronicle Books will publish a book I did with Shawn Harris called What Can a Citizen Do? It’s a rhyming book that talks about, well, participatory democracy, really.
KLF: You talk about 826 National in your acknowledgements. How did you help establish 826 National and why are you so passionate about it?
DE: The story of 826 National is probably too long, and there are too many aspects to the network now, to encompass here. But it started as a writing and tutoring center for kids in the Mission District of San Francisco. Then other cities adopted the model, and we grew into a network of 22 centers in 8 cities. The basic idea is that young people should feel comfortable as writers, because virtually all their power as citizens will come from their ability to express their desires, hopes, needs, rights, and vision for change.
Look for a copy of THE LIFTERS at your local indie bookstore or community library.
About the author:
Dave Eggers grew up near Chicago and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the founder of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house in San Francisco that produces books, a quarterly journal of new writing (McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern), and a monthly magazine, The Believer. McSweeney’s publishes Voice of Witness, a nonprofit book series that uses oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. In 2002, he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit youth writing and tutoring center in San Francisco’s Mission District. Sister centers have since opened in seven other American cities under the umbrella of 826 National, and like-minded centers have opened in Dublin, London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Birmingham, Alabama, among other locations. Eggers’s work has been nominated for the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and has won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, France’s Prix Médicis, Germany’s Albatross Prize, the National Magazine Award, and the American Book Award. Eggers lives in Northern California with his family. His novels include The Circle, A Hologram for the King, and Heroes of the Frontier.