Jess Redman: The Miraculous
It's July! When you're hot and don't feel like doing anything, grab a book instead! There are a lot of really great new ones out!
by Jess Redman
Eleven-year-old Wunder Ellis is a miracologist. In a journal he calls The Miraculous, he records stories of the inexplicable and the extraordinary. These miracles fill Wunder with the feeling that he is not alone, that the world is magical, that he is part of something brighter than he can imagine.
But then his newborn sister dies, at only eight days old. If that can happen, then miracles don’t exist. So Wunder gets rid of The Miraculous. And he stops believing.
Then Wunder meets Faye—a cape-wearing, outspoken girl with losses of her own. Together, they find an abandoned house by the cemetery and the old woman who lives there—and who might be a witch. The old woman asks for Wunder and Faye’s help. She asks them to go through graveyards and forests, to townhalls and police stations, by bike and by train. She asks them to believe. And together, they go on a journey that leads them to friendship, to healing—and to miracles.
July 30th, 2019
Introduce yourself and your debut novel!
Hello, all! I’m Jess Redman. I’m a therapist, mother of two young kids, and the author of the middle-grade magical contemporary THE MIRACULOUS!
THE MIRACULOUS comes out of July 30. It’s the story of a miracle-collecting boy named Wunder and a cape-wearing girl named Faye—two kids who have recently experienced great losses. Together, they explore the mysterious DoorWay House in the woods where they meet an old woman who Faye is convinced is a witch. The old woman sends the two of them on a series of quests that take them through graveyards and forests, to police stations and town halls, by bike and by train. It’s a journey that will lead to friendship, healing, magic, and miracles.
My book trailer captures the story’s so well:
What’s the most surprising part about your debut journey so far?
Two things have surprised me:
1. The amount of work that editing and marketing a book takes!
2. The wonderful relationships I’ve built in the kidlit world. I have met, both in person and through social media, so many authors, teachers, librarians, and lovers of middle-grade literature. It’s inspiring and restoring to be in community with these like-minded souls, and I have learned so much.
Give a shout-out to a fellow debut!
Just one?? One of the best things about being a debut author is getting to meet other debut authors—and getting to read their books before everyone else! Some upcoming debuts that I’ve loved include:
FOR BLACK GIRLS LIKE ME by Mariama Lockington
THE BONE GARDEN by Heather Kassner
THE LIGHT IN THE LAKE by Sarah Baughman
And I also can’t wait to read my e-ARC of ANYA AND THE DRAGON :)
Who is your favorite character?
I love Wunder—his intensity, his searching, how deeply he loves. But Faye came to me fully-formed and ready to go. Faye is a student of paranormal mysteries—that is, she likes “ghosts, witches, zombies, that kind of thing.” She always wears a cape, and in many ways it’s like her safety blanket. Faye is outspoken and bold, and I never had to wonder, “What would Faye say here?” because her voice was so clear and so uniquely her.
How long did it take you to write this book?
This book took me about six months to write, although I started thinking about it a long time before.
What’s a cool thing about your book that isn’t in the blurb?
In THE MIRACULOUS there is a tree called The DoorWay Tree. In earlier versions of the story, there was a lot more information about this Tree which is based on the archetype of the World Tree. The World Tree has featured in mythology and folklore around the world—Meso-American, Yoruba, Norse, and more. There are many, many tree references throughout the story—in people’s names, in the textbook Wunder reads, in the town (Branch Hill). But there isn’t anything left in the story that explicitly discusses the World Tree. In the end, I decided that The DoorWay Tree could stand on its own.
What inspired you to write this book?
I struggled a lot with understanding loss and death when I was around Wunder’s age. No one in my immediate family passed away, but the losses I did have felt overwhelming. As an adult, I became a therapist, and coming alongside people as they cope with grief and questions and fear and sadness is a large part of what therapy is all about.
When I first started thinking about this story, there were a lot of losses and possibilities of loss in my own life and in the lives of close friends, as well. So I was thinking about death and life and my own fears and community support and traditions and hope and what I would have wanted to hear at age 11 and what I wanted to tell from myself now, and THE MIRACULOUS came from there.
Describe your main character in 3 words.
Searching, thoughtful, hope-filled.
What was the hardest scene to write?
The ending scenes went through a lot of edits, and I’m sure readers will differ in their feelings about whether I chose the right ending. And I think that’s as it should be. THE MIRACULOUS is a story about asking big questions and sometimes not getting answers. Or not getting the whole answer or the answer you wanted. I hope that everyone who reads it will feel free to interpret the ending in a way that fits their own story best.
What advice would you give to a new writer?
Trust yourself and make your own rules. And read and write. You’ll never create the thing you love if you don’t create a lot of things you really, really, really don’t love first.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
I don’t do a ton of pre-writing. Mostly I do a lot of very intense, all-consuming thinking. Sometimes, I’ll write a few paragraphs to sort something out. Then I’ll just go back to thinking again. When I’m getting to know characters or exploring plot ideas, I find that writing, for me, gets in the way. I end up with something that sounds pretty but doesn’t really accomplish the goal. Also, I don’t have a whole lot of time to write, and the great thing about thinking is that you can do it anywhere.
How do you select character names?
Oh, this is one of my favorite questions. When I was a kid I was a huge name nerd. I would ask for baby name books for my birthday, and then I would pour through them, making notes in the margins and creating lists for myself like, “Best Ancient Egyptian Queen Names” or “Names for Victorian England Twins.” Sometimes I would use these name lists in stories, but sometimes there was no end goal; I just wanted to research names.
In THE MIRACULOUS, many names are significant. Not all and not usually first and last because if you overdo it you end up with very awkwardly named characters. But MANY of the names are related to trees, flowers, birds, and miracles from mythology/history.
What is your favorite word, and why?
I love the word quintessence. I love the way it sounds, and I love to say it—the way the sharp quinT dulls into the murmur of essence. QUINTESSENCE also happens to be the name of my next book, which comes out Summer 2020. Luminous comes in at a close second.
What book or author has most influenced your own writing?
When I was a middle-grade aged reader, I read constantly. And I mean, constantly. The books I read during those years are the ones that are imprinted on my mind and my heart, the first lines I can quote, the covers I can picture. Some of my favorites—stories that I re-read and think about to this day—are THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin, A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle, THE GIVER by Lois Lowry, and BRIDGE TO TERABTHIA by Katherine Paterson.
Share an aesthetic!
Back when I had a little more time, I made a lot of aesthetics! Here is one of my favorites:
Share your favorite pet!
And here is a picture of our cat, Soul Pie, who is full of Soul and sweet as Pie.
Jess, thanks for talking to me about your book, and showing a picture of your kitty! Go check out Jess's book on 7/30/19!