It was definitely an opportunity for pretention: but Donna is one of those refreshingly real, down-to-earth women you like right off the bat. Her novels reflect her genuine kindness and humor, and based on their runaway success, it's pretty clear that kids love them!
OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN is her latest middle grade novel, and just launched this week. Her other books include AS IF BEING 12-3/4 ISN'T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT!, which won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award and a Florida State Book Award, and HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL, which received starred reviews from both Kirkus and School Library Journal.
I checked in with Donna this week (launch week!) and she graciously answered a few of my questions about OLIVIA:
How did the idea for OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN come about, and are you by any chance a JEOPARDY! fan?
My dad, 84, is a huge Jeopardy! fan. It's so much fun to watch the show with him because he yells the answers at the TV. I wrote Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen as part of the National Novel Writing Month initiative, and finished the book in 29 days. It took months, however, to revise it. The title came to me and the rest flowed from there.
Your middle grade books are laugh-out-loud funny. Did you intentionally pursue writing humor for children, or did it just ... happen?
Thank you. That's just naturally how I write, how I talk, etc. Life has so many bumps, I figure we should get in all the laughs we can when we can.
Are you working on anything new you can tell us about?
I am working on a new funny middle grade novel that I'm super excited about, but I can't share details this early in the process. Again, it began with the title and mushroomed from there. I love when that happens!
I'll confess, I'm so impressed that Ken Jennings of JEOPARDY! fame "blurbed" the back of your book! How did that happen and, more importantly, have you met him?
I sent him a copy of my book, autographed to him. The character in my book is a huge fan of his (page 123). Ken Jennings has been so generous to not only blurb my book, but to endorse it on his blog. I haven't met him . . . yet. But when I do, he can expect a great big THANK YOU from me (and Olivia)!
Donna Gephart's new book, Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen, came into the world Tuesday with a starred Kirkus review and an endorsement from Jeopardy! champ, Ken Jennings. To learn more, visit Donna at http://www.donnagephart.com/