About the Author- Gail Zhuang Schmidt was born in China and immigrated to the U.S. when she was six. She grew up in the Midwest and the South, where she chased fireflies at night and listened occasionally for tornado/hurricane warnings.
About the book- Time traveling is no ordinary thing, but that’s what awaits 12-year-old Adam when he finds a snow globe that allows him to journey into the past. The snow globe whisks Adam from his home and introduces him to a succession of unusual characters along the way. Strangely, each individual seems to have a past that is interwoven with Adam’s own. At the center of their histories lies an abandoned candle factory, a factory that claimed multiple lives in a tragic fire years ago… one that Adam might be able to prevent. Told across multiple storylines, No Ordinary Thing is for fans of whimsical magic and mystery.
Can you tell me more about the book?
No Ordinary Thing was inspired partly from Louis Sachar’s book Holes, which I loved as a kid. I enjoy books with multiple viewpoints, mixed timelines, flashbacks, and other detailed things that you can only really capture in text, as opposed to other media like TV shows and movies. As a result, the book has two main characters, set 100 years apart, and you get to see how their stories unravel and intertwine together.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I started writing when I was in third grade. My first stories were written in spiral-bound journals and hand-illustrated with pencil drawings. I’ve always loved reading and imagining stories in my head.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It depends. The initial draft for No Ordinary Thing took 3 months, but that was because I could really envision the entire story in my head. Other stories take much longer; there’s one I’m currently working on that’s been in progress for almost a year. And then once you submit your draft to the publisher, you go through another year of revisions.
What do you love most about writing stories for children?
I love being able to write fun, whimsical stories that give readers hope. Children are some of the most imaginative readers in the world, and they appreciate things adults don’t always do: things like funny-sounding words or odd characters.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
A lot of things! It can be from a simple encounter at the grocery store, or from watching a movie, or going to the museum. I get a lot of inspiration from other artists’ creations.
How did you get your first story published and what was it about?
No Ordinary Thing is my debut novel. I sent it out to several agencies, and one agent loved it and sent it to a publisher, who ended up buying it! I’m still in awe at how quick the process was. But before I wrote this book, there were two other manuscripts I wrote that received mountains of rejections. Even No Ordinary Thing got several rejections from agents. So if you want to be an author, persevere! Keep trying after that initial “no.” There will be someone out there who loves your story.
What topics do your stories cover and why are these important to you?One theme that pops up in my stories is the disparity between the rich and the poor. There is a stigma in society against poor people, especially those who are homeless or on food stamps. It’s important for readers to be aware of this, and to look past the shiny surface. I grew up as an immigrant in the U.S., and my parents had very little money in the beginning. I never got birthday presents or had an allowance to go shopping for trendy new clothes like my classmates did. I think sometimes people forget small things like this, and don’t realize how lucky or blessed they are!
Have you always loved stories and reading?
Yes! My favorite class in school was Language Arts.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
One of my dreams is that my books will be translated into dozens of languages and inspire millions of kids someday. Another big one is to have a movie made from one of my books. I always thought that was super cool, because you get to see how the movie director and actors interpret your story (for better or for worse!)
Who is your favourite children’s author and why?
Ah, this is a hard question! There are too many to narrow down. I’ll say Roald Dahl, because his books inspired me the most during my formative years, and I love rereading them even as an adult. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda are pure classics.
Why do you think it is important for children to develop a love of reading?
Reading takes more brain power than watching a movie. The reader is actively imagining the scenes in their head, and assigning descriptions and voices to the characters. Through this, the reader becomes more creative and more empathetic. They learn universal truths about humans across different cultures, and they sharpen their critical thinking skills.
What do you plan on writing next ?
I have several works-in-progress. One involves a quirky town with a hidden house in the woods, and a girl with a pet bat. Keep an eye on my website for updates!
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