Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.
- What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?
CATCH ME WHEN I FALL (Fitzroy Books, 2019) is middle-grade historical fiction.
- In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?
Set in Racine, Wisconsin during the Great Depression, Catch Me When I Fall is the story of one gutsy twelve-year-old girl’s quest to learn the identity of her father, the father her mother refuses to talk about. When Emma finds a photograph hidden in her mother’s bureau AND spots a circus poster featuring Filippo the Flying Wonder, she believes she’s stumbled on the truth. The aerialist’s resemblance to the man in the secret photo is too close to be coincidence. Rebelling against her Mother’s warning not to go near the circus, Emma disguises herself as a boy and lands a job with the circus, determined to unravel the dark mystery that haunts her. It is here, amidst the sawdust and illusions of circus life, that Emma makes discoveries about her past that ultimately help her accept herself for who she truly is.
- What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?
Middle grade mystery, adventure, historical fiction
- What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?
That is hard to narrow down, but here are two, one from a school librarian and the other from a professor of adolescent literature. “Emma’s adventure breathes with life as she enters a vibrant circus culture filled with people and animals wrought with such detail that they’re rendered unforgettable.” “Bonnie Graves masterfully creates an indelible heroine in Emma Monroe, a plucky twelve-year-old with a backstory that will break your heart and a sense of humor and adventure that will make you giggle.”
- What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]
Ann of Green Gables meets Water for Elephants
- Why this book? Why now?
I began writing this book many years before it was finally published. The initial spark of the idea for Catch Me When I Fall came from an uncle’s memoir about his experiences as a young boy watering the elephants for a traveling circus in hopes of earning a ticket to the Big Show. The anecdote was so rich in detail and humor it just begged to become a story for young readers. I didn’t feel I could write it from a boy’s point of view, the way my uncle had, so I needed a heroine, someone brave enough to dress as a boy to get a circus job, someone who desperately needed that circus job. That someone turned out to be 12-year-old Emma Monroe, a fearless red-head, who’s determined to learn the identity of her father, the man her mother refuses to talk about.
Why now? In order to continue shattering that glass ceiling, girls need to see themselves in stories acting with courage and conviction, breaking through accepted norms and boundaries when necessary to achieve a worthwhile goal. Catch Me When I Fall may have taken place in the 1930s, but Emma’s story of determination and courage is still relevant today.
- Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?
Oh, that’s a hard one. My first job was working at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. How I loved strolling down Mainstreet in the Magic Kingdom to begin work, smelling the popcorn and cotton candy, spying the Matterhorn and hearing the delighted shrieks from the bobsled riders, walking through Cinderella’s castle while the refrains of When You Wish Upon a Star trickled from hidden speakers. My second dream job was being a teacher of third graders at a small primary school in Mountain View, CA. What a joy it was to be greeted every school day morning by those bright and eager faces.
- What do you want readers to take away from the book?
That is a good, and also difficult, question. I want them, first and foremost, to be so engrossed in Emma’s story that they feel as if they are living her story with her, to understand and empathize with her motivations and actions, to come to realize that life and relationships are complicated, but that love and family, in the end, are what matter most, no matter who may comprise that family.
- What food and/or music do you associate with the book?
Hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy and music from the calliope!
- What book(s) are you reading currently?
Right now, I’m reading Trials of the Earth, a memoir by Mary Mann Hamilton, pioneer of the American south, a story of unimaginable hardship and amazing perseverance. Next, I think I’ll move on to something a bit lighter, a book recommended recently by my 8-year-old grandson—The Candy Makers by Wendy Mass. It sounds delicious!
Learn more about Bonnie at her Facebook Page.