Monday, June 2, 2014

LIVE FROM BEA: Author Interview with Michelle Knudsen

We have another great interview brought to you by our on-site correspondents, Amber and Arianna of ShelfNotes!  Read on for awesome!

Hi Everyone!

Amber & Arianna from ShelfNotes bringing you a special interview with Michelle Knudsen who will be coming out with a fantastic book this September called Evil Librarian.We both had the chance to read Evil Librarian before the interview and couldn't wait to meet Michelle because we had so much fun reading the book. Here is a description of the book:
He’s young. He’s hot. He’s also evil. He’s . . . the librarian.
When Cynthia Rothschild’s best friend, Annie, falls head over heels for the new high-school librarian, Cyn can totally see why. He’s really young and super cute and thinks Annie would make an excellent library monitor. But after meeting Mr. Gabriel, Cyn realizes something isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the creepy look in the librarian’s eyes, or the weird feeling Cyn gets whenever she’s around him. Before long Cyn realizes that Mr. Gabriel is, in fact . . . a demon. Now, in addition to saving the school musical from technical disaster and trying not to make a fool of herself with her own hopeless crush, Cyn has to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil librarian, who also seems to be slowly sucking the life force out of the entire student body! From best-selling author Michelle Knudsen, here is the perfect novel for teens who like their horror served up with a bit of romance, plenty of humor, and some pretty hot guys (of both the good and evil variety). 

We stopped by the Candlewick Press Booth and sat down to chat with her. This is what she had to say:

ShelfNotes: We loved the book. You must have been influenced by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, right?

Michelle Knudsen: Yes, I am definitely a big Buffy fan. Early on we were describing this as sort of Buffy meets Glee. I wanted to capture that, little bit serious, little bit funny, not necessarily what you would expect, but all the things I love about Buffy, definitely.

ShelfNotes: You've done a whole bunch of books for kids, but this will be your first YA. How was the transition? Has the promotion been different?

Michelle Knudsen: Yeah, it's very different because books for little kids, I'm promoting to teachers and librarians. I mean, I read to kids, and try to connect to kids but it's not the same sort of direct, "I've written a book for you, so I need to tell you about it". So for Young Adult, it's all sort of new to me, I joined Tumblr, which I was told is where you now have to go for Young Adult book promotion. I get a little of that with the Middle Grade, I get emails from actual readers, which is awesome, so I'm excited for that kind of interaction with the Young Adult audience. 

ShelfNotes: A big part of the book is centered around theater. Where did you grow up? Was theater a big part of your life?

Michelle Knudsen: I grew up in Staten Island, so it's not necessarily a big part of Staten Island life in general but I did Community Theater when I was little and school musicals, I went to Theater camp which is probably going to be the setting for the second "Evil Librarian" book. Musical theater was very important, high school theater was very important, a lot of my friends from school were in that group. I still do a little bit of Community Theater now. Village Light, in New York City, we do Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, which are fun. I've been a big Musical Theater fan for a long time.

ShelfNotes: The show you picked, Sweeney Todd, it fit really well within the book.

Michelle Knudsen: Yeah, I liked the coming together of those things because it's all so dark. It's dark, it's funny, there's real feelings in it. He's crazy, but you understand why and he's a bad person, but you like him anyway, it's complicated.

ShelfNotes: So we know you'll be doing a sequel, will there be any more, a trilogy?

Michelle Knudsen: That would make sense. I didn't have a plan; I mean it seems like there's a plan right?

ShelfNotes: Without giving too much away, I noticed you wrote a part in the book that has the main character having to return a favor three times, and I thought this was the set-up for the next few books.

Michelle Knudsen: You would think that. I always plan on the books to be stand-alone but I can't help but stick things in there that, you know... 

So, I wasn't sure when I wrote it, if it would be a stand-alone or not. But now, my editor Sarah would like to do another one and it was her idea to do Theater Camp, and I was excited. So that one is shaping up, the story is coming together. I don't have the whole thing yet but I have enough that I think it's going to happen. I should knock on some wood. *Knocks on the table*

ShelfNotes: We love that this book isn't being promoted as a trilogy (at least, right from the start). Lots of people seem to be doing that, they want to make the trilogy so that everyone knows you'll have to buy every book in the series but this is a great way to go about it.

Michelle Knudsen: I also wanted people to read it and not feel like,"well, now I'm going to have to wait forever for the next book." Because that happened with my Middle Grade books, the second book ended on a cliffhanger and the third book still isn't out and people are waiting.... So, I don't want to do that to them again.

ShelfNotes: Do you know a librarian? Because you can tell how much you know about libraries.

Michelle Knudsen: I know a lot of librarians. I've worked as a library monitor in school, I worked at the library in Cornell during undergrad and as a grown-up later. It was actually the best job I've had for writing because I was evening/weekend supervisor, I could write during the day and be around people and books, I loved it. I love libraries, I love librarians. And he's a good librarian (character from the book), even though he's evil.

ShelfNotes: Although, we don't know if he has his MLS.

Michelle Knudsen: That's true. He just magically assigned himself one.

ShelfNotes: Which characters will be showing up again? Have you figured that out yet?

Michelle Knudsen: No, I haven't really figured it out yet. I mean, definitely Cyn, definitely Ryan. This is more than I've told my editor about the book, but what I'm thinking is that, it's the theater camp that he's (Ryan) always gone to and so this year, she's going to go with him. So it's going to be weird for her because he knows everybody but obviously there will be some demon things happening, it's not just going to be theater camp stories. I don't think her other friends will make appearances, except in the beginning, maybe the end. I might do letters, I want her to still be in touch with Annie. But I have a feeling it's going to be one of those camps where they take your phones away, so that there's no texting and there's only old fashioned, slow communication with the outside world. We'll see, it's still all just... starting.

ShelfNotes: You make a lot of great adult references in the book, references we loved and appreciated but weren't sure the YA crowd would get it. We thought, maybe it was like watching cartoons, they always throw in a ton of adult references for the parents and also that it's something you'd want to introduce to the readers, like Waiting for Guffman. You do a lot of that, we loved it and it made us happy to see these kinds of things, but did you throw that in to introduce the readers to what you love, that kind of thing?

Michelle Knudsen: A little bit of both because I feel like Cyn would be the kind of person into things from previous generations, because musical theater is so historically based, and she's not always grounded in the contemporary world. But, I also threw them in because I loved them and I figured, other readers of YA, who were older, would get the references and I would love the idea of introducing teens who don't know about those things, inspiring them to watch Waiting for Guffman or Highlander...

ShelfNotes: How did the cover come about?

Michelle Knudsen: Matt Roeser did the cover, and he's a brilliant, magical genius. 

ShelfNotes: What book is that? (Underneath the Devil stamped on front)

Michelle Knudsen: It is an Italian Textbook, like an old Italian Textbook, which I also thought was brilliant. Ohh! You guys have to see the actual hardcover, so... the whole thing looks like an old book and then there's a library card, old fashioned, taped on the back, with the card and the date stamps and all of the characters names on it. There's stuff written in Sharpie on the card, it's beautiful. I don't know what his inspiration was, but they send me things once they start to come together. I haven't really talked to him about how he came up with this idea but it's very eye catching. We had a lot of trouble getting the face, the image just right because at first, I thought it looked too friendly, but then we didn't want it to look too evil, we wanted him to look a little scary, but also fun, but not too much fun that you'd think it was a cute book about a happy devil. 

ShelfNotes: Who was your favorite character to write?

Michelle Knudsen: Oh, that's hard. This is my 1st first person book, so I really liked Cyn's voice and I've had the most fun writing this book out of any book so far. I really liked writing the librarian, and I liked Principal Kingston, I don't know... he was a surprise, I didn't see him coming. I kinda like everybody in there but I feel closest to Cyn because I was in her head for the longest time, so I guess I'd say she's my favorite, but the librarian was a lot of fun too. 

ShelfNotes: I think this has to be made into a Musical!

Michelle Knudsen: That would be awesome.

ShelfNotes: A Joss Whedon Musical, it'll be awesome.

Michelle Knudsen: Oh, haha... could you imagine! If Joss Whedon did something with my book, I would die, that would be it!

ShelfNotes: He just needs to read it and then he'll know.

Michelle Knudsen: We need to find someone who can make him read it. Anyone friends with Joss Whedon?

ShelfNotes: Not us, but Neil Patrick Harris was here yesterday, we were a couple degrees away, apparently. 

Michelle Knudsen: Eh, missed opportunity, I guess.

ShelfNotes: Last question, the most important one, what is your favorite candy?

Michelle Knudsen: My favorite candy? Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

ShelfNotes: How do you eat them?

Michelle Knudsen: I eat them very slowly with a glass of red wine. It's a classy pairing but they go surprisingly well together, just little bites. It has to be the regular size ones, not the Mini's, because then the ratio is off of the chocolate and peanut butter.

ShelfNotes: Well, we cannot wait for the follow up books. This is going to be great.

Michelle Knudsen: I'm very excited too.

We wanted to share some photos we took with her, as well as some of Michelle with a HUGE crowd during her signing at the Candlewick Press Booth. 

Follow Michelle Knudsen on social media: 

Twitter: @michelleknudsen

Thank you so much for such a fun interview Amber, Arianna, and Michelle!!


  1. I am so (so) looking forward to this book and the next one about Theatre Camp! Want some of those horns, too. Thanks for the interview!

  2. This was such a fun interview to read! Thank you!!