Publishers' Preview: Middle-Grade Novels: Five Questions for Amy McCulloch

This interview originally appeared in the January/February 2020 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Middle-Grade Novels, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Jinxed presents us with a near-future world whose people rely on their bakus the way we rely on our phones. But a baku can do so much more — more than baku designer-in-training Lacey bargained for.

1. What next great thing do you want from your cellphone?

I’m a self-proclaimed cellphone addict! I love to be able to research on the fly; store all my favorite memories; and since I live far from all my close family members, it helps me stay in touch. But probably the most frustrating thing is how quickly I seem to be able to drain the battery. So the next great thing I want from my phone is the ability to charge while I’m out and about, like the bakus can! That would be very handy.

2. Do you believe, like the Velveteen Rabbit, that toys can become real?

The Velveteen Rabbit was the first book I ever received as a gift — and it’s become a treasured (and slightly battered) heirloom in my house. The story embedded itself in my consciousness, and I absolutely believed that — with enough love — my favorite toys could become real. The comfort and care I received from my beloved teddy bear, Gertie, saw me through a cross-ocean move, grief, and heartache. If that isn’t love from something real, then I don’t know what is.

3. What form would your baku take?

I’d love to say that my baku would take the form of something epic, like a tiger — but in the world of Jinxed I’m not sure that I would be rich enough to afford it! In my spare time, I love to hike, so I would probably choose one that could fly, like a robin. You could get some great aerial photographs with a flying baku — a bit like having your own personal drone.

4. Wait, is Slick HAL in disguise???

What?! Slick is just an innocent scarab beetle baku, I swear! All I’ll say is that you have to wait to read book two, Unleashed, to learn more about Slick…

5. Why do we love stories about special schools?

I think it speaks to the dream of finding somewhere to belong. Like Harry at Hogwarts or young mutants at Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, at Profectus, Lacey is really given the opportunity to find her people—fellow kids who are just as passionate about robotics, AI, and STEM as she is.

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Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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