Kate Messner talks parents in fiction.

Welcome Kate Messner, the uber-talented author, here to celebrate the upcoming release of Sugar and Ice as she shares her wisdom in dealing with parents in fiction. Welcome! Let’s throw confetti and blow the party horns. Woo hoo!


The big question for authors of middle grade fiction is, “How are you going to get rid of the parents?” After all, middle grade kids can’t have fabulous adventures and exciting plots with Mom and Dad hanging around…or can they?

Both of my novels with Walker/Bloomsbury feature girls with strong families, parents who aren’t perfect by any means, but who are involved and care about their kids. And interestingly enough, during the revision process for my figure skating novel, Sugar and Ice, one of the things my editor asked me to explore more was the relationship between the main character, Claire, and her parents.

Claire is growing up on a small-town maple farm near the Canadian border, in a place where all the kids are expected to pitch in and help when the sap starts running, where it’s all hands on deck the weekend of the annual pancake breakfast. When Claire is offered a scholarship to skate in Lake Placid, more than an hour away, her parents are incredibly supportive.

As an author, though, I needed to look beyond that initial support to figure out how her family really felt about her new schedule, her new friends. And what was it in her parents’ background, particularly her mother’s, that provided the foundation for her parenting? I thought a lot about that question as I revised, and the answer came in a scene right before a big skating competition, while Claire and her mother sit at the kitchen table, sewing more sequins on her competition dress. Each one learns something about the other in that scene, and even though it wasn’t in my original draft of the book, it ended up being one of my favorites.

Thanks Kate! And here’s a summary of Sugar and Ice!

Sugar and Ice

A Junior Library Guild Selection

For Claire Boucher, life is all about skating on the frozen cow pond and in the annual Maple Show right before the big pancake breakfast on her family’s maple farm. But all that changes when Claire is offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity-a scholarship to train with the elite skaters in Lake Placid. Tossed into a world of mean girls on ice, where

competition is everything, Claire soon realizes that her sweet dream-come-true has sharper edges than she could have imagined. Can she find the strength to stand up to the people who want her to fail and the courage to decide which dream she wants to follow?

“One moment Claire Boucher is tapping the sap from her family’s maple trees; the next she is plucked from obscurity by a coach who sees her skate in the Maple Show and offers a scholarship in Lake Placid…. Even those who don’t know their double toe loops from their single salchows will enjoy…reading about what it takes to make it on the ice.”

~from Booklist

I love how Kate brings it back to developing three-dimensional parents and how they affect the main character! Love it.  Thanks, Kate! Best wishes for the release of Sugar and Ice this December! What a great gift for elementary kids and middle graders!

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17 Responses to Kate Messner talks parents in fiction.

  1. Andrea November 30, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    This sounds like a book my daughters would enjoy. I love to hear about stories where the parents are in the picture. I was especially interested to hear about the thinking that goes behind it – there is so much about writing that goes on behind the scenes!

  2. Kate Messner November 30, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    Thanks so much for hosting me, Laura! I loved your post yesterday on parents in MG fiction, too!

    May I add one last thing for your readers? An invitation…

    The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid is hosting a launch party from 3-5 pm on Saturday, December 11th. If anyone can’t make it but would still like a signed, personalized copy, just give them a call at (518) 523-2950 by December 10th. They’ll take your order, have me sign your book after the event, and ship it out to you in plenty of time for the holidays. Thanks again for the invitation to visit your blog!

  3. Jen/Jules November 30, 2010 at 1:24 pm #

    The cover is gorgeous but I also adore the synopsis!! What a great selection in time for the season! Oh how I adore the holidays!

  4. Laura Marcella November 30, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

    My niece would probably enjoy this book (and so would I!). Thanks, Kate, for sharing your thoughts about the parent question. It sounds like you answered it very well in your novel!

  5. Lee Wind November 30, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

    Thanks for this. The whole individuating thing starts in MG, so choosing things your parents wouldn’t makes for lots of potential drama – this got me thinking!

  6. Creepy Query Girl November 30, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    Great guest post! Thanks Kate and Laura- I hadn’t thought about this before! And this book sounds really great!

    • Laura November 30, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

      Thanks everyone! And thanks Kate!

  7. Susan R. Mills November 30, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    Thanks for sharing. I had to really work on developing the parent characters in my last project. In the end, it made for a much stronger manuscript.

  8. Angela Felsted November 30, 2010 at 7:58 pm #

    I loved this interview. It’s so refreshing to see an author talk about putting parents into the MS and developing them.

  9. MG Higgins November 30, 2010 at 10:56 pm #

    Loved this. Excellent advice on character development. I’m excited to read the book!

  10. Sherrie Petersen December 1, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    I’m so glad to hear about books where the parents aren’t dead! Now I want to read this one even more 🙂

  11. Jennifer Shirk December 2, 2010 at 1:47 am #

    Oh, this sounds like a wonderful book for my daughter. And thank you, Kate, for not “getting rid” of the parents. 🙂

  12. Kate Messner December 2, 2010 at 1:59 am #

    Thanks for all the comments on this post – so happy to see the “parent discussion” happening among so many talented writers!

  13. Paul December 3, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    Thanks Kate and Laura!!

  14. kris December 3, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    I love how Kate weaves a great story without just dumping the parents. It makes it feel more realistic to most kids. She’s also a great storyteller–I had a chance to read an ARC or Sugar and Ice last summer. Now to pull out my review and post it for the release!

    Thanks Laura and Kate!

  15. Julie Musil December 5, 2010 at 1:36 am #

    The book sounds wonderful! I like books with strong parental characters. Not all kids hate their parents! Good luck with the book.


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