Happy book birthday to Jim Averbeck for his debut middle grade novel! Stayed tuned below to enter for a chance to win a copy of this awesome mystery-adventure book.
A Hitch At The Fairmont by Jim Averbeck with illustrations by Nick Bertozzi
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/2014
When 11-year-old Jack Fair’s mother dies mysteriously, he is forced to live with his mean aunt at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Jack reluctantly does his aunt’s bidding, fearful of being sent to an orphanage. When his aunt disappears, it’s up to Jack to try to find her before youth services discovers Jack’s predicament. He feels like he’s in over his head until he befriends none other than Alfred Hitchcock, the famous movie director in the room next door. They piece together clues while evading kidnappers and possible murderers, discovering a very tangled web of lies and deceit.
I’m a huge fan of Jim’s picture books. See my previous interview with him about his picture book Oh No, Little Dragon! It’s a real pleasure to talk to him about his first novel:
This book has it all – action, mystery, adventure, and danger! A page-turner, for sure. I know you are a fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s work and that you live in San Francisco. What was the journey of this story – from inspiration to publication?
I’ve spoken of the inspiration elsewhere, so let’s focus on the journey. For me, this was a journey through time, an attempt to turn back the clock to a day when childhood was quite a different thing. I’m a boomer, as is the child protagonist in this story. I think my generation was less supervised than kids today. We were basically turned out of the house in the morning and didn’t come home until it was time to eat. And if it was summer, we went right back out again. It seemed to us that every day was filled with all those things you mention- action, mystery, adventure, and even danger. And if there wasn’t enough of any of those things around, we manufactured some ourselves!
While you have written/illustrated several pictures books (I adore them all), this is your first novel. What are the major differences for you/your writing process when it came to writing a novel instead of picture books?
I can hold the whole story of a picture book in my head. I cannot do the same with a novel, particularly a mystery. So this novel required a ton of charts, outlines, and maps to make sure I had the big picture in mind, whenever I was working on a smaller piece of it.
Jack, an artist, has a photographic memory for images. Do you? How are you like Jack?
I do not have a photographic image memory. Like most artists, I have a vision in my head of what I want to capture on paper. But, also like most artists, that vision is in reality incomplete. My brain tricks myself into thinking I see it all, but when I go to capture it on paper, the holes are revealed. It’s remarkable that Jack can see and capture images in the way he does.
Like Jack I strive to see behind the image, to delve deeper than the apparent surface meaning of what I observe. Indeed, that is a major theme in this book. Jack often uses words like “look” and “see” and Hitchcock expounds on how what we think we are looking at may, in fact, be quite deceptive. The whole mystery hinges on the fact that what you see is not always what you get.
What is your favorite Hitchcock movie and why?
There’s something to like about nearly every one. But the one I could watch over and over is REAR WINDOW. Like many writers, there is a bit of a voyeur in me, I guess. I’m not a Peeping Tom, but when you walk around a city at night, you can’t help but catch glimpses of the lives of your fellow urbanites. You may remember in REAR WINDOW that there are half a dozen or more little stories unfolding in the windows across the courtyard from Jimmy Stewart’s apartment. I love that aspect of the film
Jim Averbeck is the author of the Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book, In a Blue Room (Harcourt, 2008) and the author and illustrator of except if(Atheneum, 2011) Oh No, Little Dragon (Atheneum, 2012) and The Market Bowl (Charlesbridge, 2012.) He studied writing and illustrating for children at UC Berkeley. He was the Regional Advisor for the San Francisco chapter of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
For more about Jim Averbeck and his books, check out his web site.
For a chance to win a copy of this adventure-filled mystery, just follow these rules (you know the drill):
1. Comment below and for fun, tell me your favorite Hitchcock movie (or if you haven’t seen any, which you’d like to see). I have seen only two Hitchcock movies: The Birds and Psycho. I saw both as an adult and both freaked me out. I can’t really say either were favorites only because I don’t like movies that freak me out. 😉 Though, I can appreciate the genius behind both. That being said, Jim makes me want to watch Rear Window.
2. Entrants must have a U.S. or Canada mailing address (yes, I’m opening this one up to include Canada).
3. Comment by Friday, June 27th midnight EST. One winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, July 1st.
Good luck and happy reading!