Thursday, October 17, 2013

Confessions of a so-called middle child

I have a confession to make. I'm a middle child. So was my Dad. And so's my middle son. So the title of Maria Lennon's book, Confessions of a so-called Middle Child, was bound to make me look twice. And today I'm delighted to have the author joining me for an interview here on my blog.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: At fifteen, Maria left Santa Barbara to study at The American School in Switzerland. She continued her studies at Brillantmont in Lausanne, then went on to London to complete her A levels. She was accepted to the London School of Economics and studied International Economics and Politics of International Aid. After graduating, she moved to Italy where she taught summer school at The American School in Genova, an elementary school. Maria later moved to Paris and wrote her first novel, Making it Up as I Go Along (Random House, 2004). Today, she finds herself living under a heap of Disney paraphernalia in a slightly disheveled tree house in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, with her husband, four children ages 5-13, a dog, three cats, and a caterpillar named Harry. For more info, visit:

ABOUT THE BOOK: Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child stars hilariously spunky recovering bully and tween hacker Charlie Cooper, who gets expelled from her fancy Malibu Charter School for a prank gone wrong and finds herself "shrinked" for middle child syndrome and getting more than she bargained for at her new school in the ueber hippy community of Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles.

ME: Welcome to my blog Maria. I read that you spent some of your high school years in England, so, being English, I have to ask--where in England, and what did you like/dislike most about the experience? 


MARIA: I did my ‘A’ levels in London at a tutorial college called Mander, Portman and Woodward on Gloucester rd. And then went to the LSE. I lived in Chelsea and Fulham and walked an awful lot. I loved living in England. I loved the weather. The LSE has the most beautiful library with stuffed velvet chairs and we would sit up there all day reading and writing and never having to worry that we were wasting a sunny day. The thing I liked least was that I knew I would never fit in there long-term. As an American in London I felt like I would always be an outsider. And the TV was tough—not a lot of channels at the time. And being a vegetarian at the time there wasn’t all that easy either.


ME: There are lots more TV channels now, and lots more vegetarian restaurants, but I'm sure you've found that out if you've been back to visit. London School of Economics and then the Peace Corps seems like a good fit, but you ended up teaching English in Italy. Add Switzerland and California--how many different states/countries have you lived in?


MARIA: The Italian boyfriend became my husband. That’s why I ended up teaching English in Italy and living in Paris. But the Switzerland episodes were earlier—it’s where I went to high school. I have lived in both Lugano and Lausanne. London, Paris, different cities in the north of Italy. New York. And now home in Los Angeles.


ME:  I've read that you attended rather a lot of different schools during all your earlier travels. Were you ever expelled? 


MARIA: How very observant of you. Sadly, yes, I was suspended once for trying a cigarette out the window at my school in Lugano. I decided not to return and went to a Swiss boarding school in Lausanne run by a draconian Swiss German woman who expelled me for staying out late. I went home to Santa Barbara where my parents lived and then went off to England for my A levels which were the hardest thing I have ever done.


ME:  Were you ever bullied? 


MARIA: Yes. There was a girl named Bunny who grew her toenails really long and waited to attack me in the girls’ locker room. I was a total wimp. 


ME: And are you a middle child? I'm wondering how much of you there might be in your protagonist.


MARIA:   I am not a middle child, but my daughter is the classic middle child. There is a lot of her there. 


ME:  I love the voice of your protagonist. Was it hard maintaining a consistent teen voice in writing the novel? 


MARIA:  Thank you! The voice of Charlie gets in my head and stays there while I write. I am taken over by the way she views the world. 


ME: And finally, is there something I've not asked that you'd really like to answer--something you really want readers to know about your book? 


MARIA:   I guess I want them to know that labels are useless, so please don’t become the label people assign to you. The bully can become kind in the blink of an eye. She just has to want to. And Charlie does. 

 That's really wise advice. Thank you! And Charlie's story sounds like a really great read. Here's what some people have said about it:

In Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child, Maria Lennon has created a fresh and fun story that brings "Mean Girls" to the tween level, peppered with snarky comments, major attitude, and advice to spare from Charlie Cooper, whose virtues, flaws, fears and sheer humanity promise to hit home among young girls, braving middle school in the 21th century, with all the pressures that come with it: popularity, bullying, social media, the list goes on.


"Lennon's tale addresses manifold topics, including the pressures and social issues of middle school, friendship quandaries and bullying. Charlie's eclectic mix of interests--she's a computer prodigy with a talent for hacking and an aspiring fashion trendsetter who harbors a keen interest in Harry Houdini--contribute to her distinctive narrative voice." --Kirkus Reviews

"In her first book for children, adult author Lennon offers a fast-moving story with a satirical edge." --Publisher's Weekly

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