Thanks to Disney-Hyperion, I’m taking part in the blog tour for the new children’s book series: Secrets of Topsea. The first book in this series just hit the shelves and is written for kids in middle school. To get a behind the scenes look into this new chapter book series, I am welcoming the authors to share some of the secrets in Secrets of Topsea with us!
A Friendly Town That’s Almost Always By The Ocean
In A FRIENDLY TOWN THAT’S ALMOST ALWAYS BY THE OCEAN! (Disney-Hyperion; On Sale: April 17, 2018) by Kir Fox (aka Kirsten Hubbard) and M. Shelley Coats (aka Michelle Schusterman), Davy’s fifth grade class uncovers the secrets of their peculiar town in a series of linked tales that pair the whimsy of Sideways Stories from Wayside School with the delightful eeriness of Welcome to Night Vale.
Welcome to Topsea, the strangest place you’ll ever visit. In this town, the coves are bottomless and the pier has no end in sight. There’s a high tide and a low tide… and a vanishing tide. Dogs are a myth, but mermaids are totally real. And seaweed is the main ingredient in every meal—watch out, it might just start chewing you back!
New kid Davy definitely thinks Topsea is strange. His mom keeps saying they’ll get used to life in their new town—it’s just the way things are on the coast! But after his first day at Topsea School, Davy finds himself wondering: Why is his locker all the way at the bottom of the school swimming pool? Why can’t anyone remember his name? (It’s Davy!) And why does everyone act like all of this is normal?!
I’m honored to have the authors of SECRETS OF TOPSEA: A Friendly Town That’s Almost Always By The Ocean guest posting today. They are sharing some of the ways they came up with ideas for this new children’s book series.
Collaborating on the SECRETS OF TOPSEA Series
Thanks so much for having us on your blog today! We’re excited to share a little behind-the-scenes info on how we developed the SECRETS OF TOPSEA series.
M. Shelley: As kids, Kir and I were both drawn to books that balanced humor with a touch of creepiness: anything by Roald Dahl or Louis Sachar, Fear Street, Goosebumps, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, etc. And when the podcast Welcome to Night Vale was first released, we were immediately drawn to it: the sinister town, the community radio format, everything about it was perfection.
So when Kir emailed me and said “we should write a middle-grade series that’s Sideways Stories from Wayside School meets Welcome to Night Vale,” I immediately said YES. The idea of writing about a group of lovable kids exploring their strange, topsy-turvy town was too good to resist!
Kir: We started a shared spreadsheet on Google Drive, and began to brainstorm story ideas for our imaginary coastal town — usually coast-related, but no holds barred. Most made us laugh. Many creeped us out. Some of our ideas could have been novels of their own. Looking back, it’s amazing how many of our early ideas made it into SECRETS OF TOPSEA 1 and 2! But don’t worry — we could fill dozens of books. (Maybe thousands.)
M. Shelley: We spent days filling that spreadsheet with story ideas, random facts about the town, and various characters. Kir and I know our own strengths and weaknesses as writers really well, so it was easy to divvy up the stories; detailed instructions on dealing with sinister rubber ducks is definitely in my wheelhouse, while Kir excels at writing about seemingly innocent, pleasant things like seaweed or ice cream men in a way that has you looking nervously over your shoulder. Once we had enough story ideas to see the shape of the first book, we started drafting.
Kir: As you can see, the setting and premises came before the main characters. But once we’d imagined our imaginary world, our 7 kids (and Earl Grey, Nia’s trusty watch hog) were eager to jump right in! Anytime we finished writing a story, we’d send it to each other and give feedback right away. That way, we also could build on each other’s stories, and fill new ones with the jokes and callbacks and Easter eggs that make reading SECRETS OF TOPSEA so much fun.
About the authors: Kir Fox (Kirsten Hubbard) and M. Shelley Coats (Michelle Schusterman) are great friends, longtime critique partners, and ardent consumers of the strange and unusual. Kirsten is the author of the middle-grade novels Watch the Sky and Race the Night (Disney-Hyperion), and the young adult novels Like Mandarin and Wanderlove(Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books). She lives in Los Angeles. Michelle is the author of the middle grade series I Heart Band and The Kat Sinclair Files (Grosset/Penguin), and the middle-grade novel Olive and the Backstage Ghost and the forthcoming Spell & Spindle (Random House Children’s Books). She’s also the coauthor of the YA novel The Pros of Cons (Scholastic). She lives in New York City.