Monday, December 1, 2014

First Families Inspire Behrens' 'When Audrey Met Alice'

Rebecca Behrens' When Audrey Met Alice (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2014) makes a great read for anyone with an interest in the First Family or the agonies of being a First Daughter (see Turkey Pardon). Rebecca has great fun with the juxtaposition of her character Audrey Rhodes, who finds life in the White House to be confusing and confining, with Teddy Roosevelt's wild-eyed daughter Alice. Only when Audrey discovers Alice Roosevelt's old diary does she begin to feel better about her arrangement at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A story of holding on to your sense of self despite the chaos around you, this story hits with readers young and old.

Question: What inspired you to write your book?

Rebecca Behrens: I was a tween during the Clinton administration, and I always wondered what Chelsea Clinton's life was like in the White House: making the Yellow Bedroom her own, dealing with Secret Service agents chaperoning her dates, and having the media report on her grades, hobbies, and appearance. I wanted to explore the awesome and awkward aspects of life at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for an ordinary girl, in a very extraordinary situation. That inspired Audrey's character.

And I've always been fascinated by Alice Roosevelt, the spirited and sometimes shocking daughter of Teddy Roosevelt. I thought it would be cool to have a contemporary First Daughter interact with Alice through a fictionalized diary–and interesting for readers to see how a First Kid's life in the White House once was, and might be today.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

RB: First and most of all, I want to tell a good story! I'm always hoping that the book I write will be one that engages and entertains young readers. With When Audrey Met Alice, I also hoped that readers might be inspired to "meet" Alice Roosevelt and other First Daughters themselves by reading and researching after finishing the book. I like blending contemporary and historical fiction because I think it offers a window into the past–especially to readers who might be hesitant to try historical fiction. And, finally and hopefully without making it seem like my writing is didactic(!), I try to write about girls who are curious, smart, and resourceful–because those are the sharp-cookie heroines I loved to read about as a kid, and also because I think that's important for young readers.

Q: What are you working on next?

RB: My next book is Summer of Lost and Found, another middle-grade novel that blends contemporary and historical fiction. It will be released in early 2016 by Egmont USA. In it, a girl’s father mysteriously disappears and her botanist mother drags her to Roanoke Island for a research trip, where the girl decides to solve the mystery of the Lost Colony with the help of a peculiar local boy. I also have two historical short stories that will be published soon: Thatagirl! will appear in Scholastic classroom magazines in Fall 2014/Spring 2015, and A Piece of Cake will appear in Cricket magazine, in 2015 or early 2016 (date to be determined).

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