May 18th I wrote about The Sherlock Files #1 The 100 Year-Old Secret. Tracy Barrett and I were finally able to connect by phone long enough for a good chat and I wanted to share this information with you. We’ll be organizing a Nashville Kid-Lit Drink Night this fall to get together and chat more. Let us know if you are interested.
I asked Tracy about her choice of actions for her main characters. Remember I questioned the "audacious acts of Americans abroad?"
"London is a very safe city. Xena and Xander are urban children so some independence is natural. Their mother did actually get on the bus and speak to the driver the first time she let them ride on their own," Tracy reminded me. "Also, Xander and Xena are middle-schoolers (ages 10 and 12) so their actions should be viewed as impulsive and not just obnoxious. Middle schoolers act like that."
So if Xander and Xena are so close to the solution that they trespass, but don’t really break and enter, we should attribute it to their age and not their ‘Americanism’.
Hmmm. I’ll buy that. Very true to teenagers. And, Tracy pointed out that they DID GET CAUGHT. Fortuitiously by the art teacher who quickly bought in to their excitement and supported their continued quest. They weren’t evil or bad, just impulsive.
By the way, Tracy ENJOYS middle schoolers because they engage in great discussions with her and are not "too cool" as high schoolers become. She also promises readers of her website to reply to emails.
Tracy tried to make the characters occasionally slow down and reflect on their actions/steps so she could prevent them from becoming reckless and dangerous.
Xander and Xena are different kinds of kids. Xena is more thoughtful, pragmatic and loves making lists. Xander is younger and more impulsive. Xander has a photographic memory because Tracy "didn’t want them to have to run to the computer every time they had a question." We discussed knowing people with photographic memories. Her grandmother had it and a friend did, too. Tracy mentioned that this is often lost at puberty. Rumors are something about the calcium in the blood is the cause.
I asked Tracy about her research and which details were accurate. She has included factual locations with the major monuments being carefully researched but not exactly located. The museums are accurate. The artist is not real, but is based stylistically upon James MacNiell Whistler, an American who lived in London. The schools in the story don’t exist, but there are many international schools in London and Tracy researched their procedures and mascots for more realism.
I did ask Tracy if anyone had compared her characters rationale metacognition and research skills to those of Encyclopedia Brown. Oops! Different publisher, so we’ll skip that question.
Readers, rejoice! Tracy has signed a 4-book contract. The 2nd book tentatively titled The Beast of Blackslope has a critter terrifying the countryside (think hound of B’ville) and has lots of good spooky stuff. With it’s being set in the more rural part of the UK, technology can’t take over good thinking processes and reasoning. Looking ahead the 3rd book involves a missing Egyptian amulet in The Case That Time Forgot and the 4th book will probably have a delicious ghostly twist. Ooo! I can’t wait.
If you are wondering what else she is up to, Tracy continues to teach Italian at Vanderbilt University. She also reads Italian young adult books to find possibilities for adoption by Scholastic. I don’t think she has found many likely prospects due to the cultural differences and mores, but I’ll keep watch. She does have some other novels in the works including one with a more historical, mythological, fantasy aspect.
Tracy and I reminisced about her receiving a grant one summer to simply read, research and write. Tracy encouraged all my readers to consider applying for the NEH Summer Stipend. All she had to do was write one page about what she had done. Tracy was able to teach a class based upon her summer reading that year. Who knows what you will accomplish? It’s not too early to be thinking about next year. I believe October 1st is the deadline to apply for the Stipend of $6,000 for 2 months reading.
Diane Chen can be reached by email.