Welcome to my fellow Winged Pen Critique Partner, Kristi Wientge! I’m going to dive right in with questions about your upcoming middle grade release on June 4th, 2019, entitled Honeybees and Frenemies from Simon and Schuster.
When did the seed of this story germinate? How was it pollinated?
Way back in 2014 I had this idea for NaNoWriMo that really excited me. I dropped my younger two kids at childcare and drove to one of my favorite writing spots. About halfway there, this interview about honey festivals came on the BBC radio and it took me back to second grade when I was in a honey festival in my town. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and as I sat down to write, Florence’s story poured out. By the end of the month, I had my 50,000 words and that’s how it all started. I didn’t really expect to pick it up again after Karma, but my agent loved Florence’s voice and encouraged me to keep with it.
My revisions for Honeybees was really a lot of replotting and rewriting. I don’t think we cut anything. The bare bones of the story were there from NaNoWriMo, but revising it was more about developing it further and figuring out what the story was really about. The first draft was still very exploratory and semi-autobiographical.
I found the sisters’ dynamic, Flor and Fran, very realistic. They were caring with the perfect amount of stings. Do you have siblings, or do you watch your own kids’ relationships for research?
I love playing around with sibling dynamics, but since I have two brothers I ended up relying a lot on my children for Flor and Fran’s relationship. I always wanted a sister, but after having daughters, I wonder if I had it pretty good with brothers.
While trying to avoid spoilers, at one point in the story the mom character gives what Flor, the main character, perceives as a bribe. Have you ever presented your own children with enticing flowers?
Ha ha ha! This is funny. Real life does have a way of seeping into our stories. I’m definitely the mean one who always says “no”, according to my kids. But, without pointing fingers, let’s just say I’ve seen this kind of thing happen enough.
Similes! I love good ones and there’s a field of them in Honeybees and Frenemies. What makes a simile buzz for you? What’s your process for harvesting just the right one?
I’m a very visual person and I often throw out random comparisons in conversation, but I definitely spend a lot of time condensing my ideas and thoughts to make it as poignant as possible. I’ve learned from my CP’s, agent and editor that keeping it simple is best.
Have you, or anyone you know, ever participated in a honey festival?
So, little known—and embarrassing—fact: I was Little Miss Honeybee 1987 of Lebanon, Ohio. Like in the book, it rained during the parade and I rode in my grandpa’s restored car with hand cranking windshield wipers my mom and grandpa took turns rotating.
Have you ever owned a recorder? Or have you had the privilege of a screechy one played in your ear?
I did play the recorder in fourth grade, but it was my kids who were playing recently that inspired the idea for the book. They could all play Mary Had a Little Lamb and Happy Birthday on piano, violin and recorder and spent weeks in all forms of annoyingness mixing it up with their instruments.
What do you think makes the best frenemy? Someone who doesn’t jive with your hive? What was your inspiration for Candice?
Villainous characters are my favorite to write. I love creating someone who is complicated and relatable. There isn’t one character who is always good or always bad and I love making characters do bad things for their own justifiable reasons. And I think that’s the key to creating a villain or frenemy is to make them relatable and have believable motivations.
Read the full interview (which includes more about Wientge’s first middle grade novel and a lightning round of questions) at The Winged Pen. Honeybees and Frenemies will be in bookstores on Tuesday, June 4, 2019; don’t forget that you can preorder with your local bookstore before the publication date.