Imagine writing your first novel when you are only eleven years old. Image publishing your third before you’re even half way through high school. That’s what seventeen year old Madelyn Spindler did. Madelyn teamed up with her mom, Rebecca Williams Spindler, to write the middle grade novel, Sara Jane is a Pain, when she was still in middle school. The daughter/mother duo went on to write two more novels in what would become The Tale of Two Sisters series.
What’s cool about this three-book series is that the characters, Liz McCormick and her older sister Sara Jane, grow up throughout the books, just like Madelyn did. The character of Liz is eleven in the first book. In Life According to Liz, the protagonist experiences her twelfth birthday and she’s losing her disgust for boys. In Moving Out and Moving On, Liz deals with the emotions, both positive and negative, of seeing her older sister head off to college. Madelyn herself, a senior at Verona (Wisconsin) High School, is now collecting acceptance letters to college.
I recently had the privilege of interviewing Madelyn Spindler via email about her writing process, her life outside of writing, and her plans for the future. Take a look at what this amazing young author has to say.
You have written and published three books for tweens with your mom, Rebecca Williams Spindler. How did that happen?
Madelyn: My mom and I have always had a passion for writing. During elementary school, she would write her short stories/screenplays/novels while I would work on my own short stories too. By the time I reached a mature level with my writing, my mom thought it would be fun if we wrote a book together. We weren’t sure what to write about at first, but I suggested writing something cheerful and optimistic because all of the books that I was assigned to read in middle school were a bit gloomy and depressing. I missed reading light-hearted literature. Then my mom brought in her childhood experiences with her little sister (who was a complete opposite ), while I applied my current experiences with middle school and together we created a story about a girl in middle school who is the complete opposite of her older sister. Each book took roughly a year to write, so by the time the third book was published I had just completed my freshman year of high school. We took a lot of time out of our weekends to write this. There were times right after school to when my mom and I would sit down and write a chapter. I can’t do that anymore with my loads of homework today. : (
What is it like writing with your Mom? How do you actually do it?
Madelyn: Writing with my mom had its ups and downs. It was helpful to collaborate on our ideas and make them even better, but there were certain times where we would argue which idea for a chapter was better. During the first two books, we would plot out a general outline for each chapter and then my mom and I would branch off and write on specific chapters. In the third book, we alternated chapters where I would write in the perspective of the younger sister (who was close to my age) while my mom wrote in the perspective of the older sister and the parents. Then we would meet back up again and make sure the structure of the story flowed.
How did you first get published? Do you have an agent?
Madelyn: At first we were scanning through publishing companies and we spotted a brand new publishing company called Little Creek Books that was planning on publishing YA books similar to ours. We whipped up the first few chapters of our book Sara Jane is a Pain and sent it to them. A few weeks later we got their approval AND they wanted our idea to become a series. We don’t have an agent YET. My mom is currently working on getting one.
Did you have a book launch for each of the books? Do you do book signings and other book events? What are those like?
Madelyn: We’ve attended MULTIPLE book signings in libraries, coffee shops, book festivals, book stores, etc all over Wisconsin and even in Virginia. I felt like I was taking a tremendous step outside of my comfort zone when we launched our first book signing. I was (and kind of still am) a very quiet and secluded person. However, books are meant to be read and shared, otherwise what is their purpose? Also, we have done creative writing workshops.
Are your friends and other kids at school aware that you are a published author? What is that like? How do you handle it?
Madelyn: Only some of my closest friends know I’m a published author. I have never purposely told them I’m an author. There would just be days where it would slip out or they would find my name on a book in the library and be like “what is this?!” Honestly, I don’t think many of my classmates know that I am an author, but I’m fine with it. I don’t like to be cocky.
What are your other interests? What do you like to do beside write?
Madelyn: For a while I was in synchronized swimming. Also, I’ve also been playing the clarinet for seven years and I currently work as a waitress at a retirement home. I’m also a huge Harry Potter geek. I love hanging out with my friends and family, they’re USUALLY great stress relievers.
What kind of books do you like to read? What are you reading now? What is your all-time favorite book?
Madelyn: I love to read (and write) all genres of books except horror. Sadly, I don’t have the chance to read as much outside of school as I’d like to. Right now I just finished reading the books Jane Eyre and Great Expectations. I’m starting to break free from pop-culture books by reading classic literature. It’s REALLY hard for me to choose my favorite book.
Are you looking ahead to college? A career? What are your plans for the future?
Madelyn: Oh yes, I am definitely looking ahead to college. I’m more focused on future than my present right now. I’m planning on getting a bachelors degree in English and professional writing. Also, I want to minor in French. I have no idea what I should do for my future career. I have to be more than just an author. I think it would be fun to be a travel writer, but it would be a lot of work, too.
Will you continue to co-author novels with your Mom? Are you writing anything else right now either with her or on your own?
Madelyn: Right now, I’m starting to branch off and write on my own. I came up with an outline for my next book and I’ve written the first three chapters. It’s still a work in progress though, and each year I get less and less [time] to write, but more and more better ideas!
What advice do you have for other young people who want to write?
Madelyn: My advice is to never give up, no matter your age or how busy you are. Also, never be afraid to share your writing! A book has no purpose if it is never read!
~ My thanks to Madelyn Spindler for sharing her experiences at being a young published author. You can learn more about her and her mom, Rebecca Williams Spindler, on their Facebook page: Fans of SpindlerWriting.
Or check out her middle grade books on Amazon:
Sara Jane is a Pain
Life According to Liz
Moving Out and Moving On