Jordan Hamessley London is an assistant editor at Grosset and Dunlap, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, where she edits Adam-Troy Castro’s middle grade horror series Gustav Gloom, Literally Disturbed (an upcoming collection of scary stories from Ben H. Winters), A.J. Stern’s Frankly, Frannie series and more. She is on the editorial team for Ann Hood’s middle grade historical time-travel series The Treasure Chest. When not editing, Jordan can be found on Twitter talking about books, scary movies, and musical theater, and blogging with the awesome blog known as Pub(lishing) Crawl.
I’m extra-excited to welcome Jordan to KidLit Network, because she also happens to be the editor for my middle grade series, I HEART BAND! So I can tell you with the utmost certainty that she is fabulous.
Read on to find out why…
1. What was your favorite middle grade book as a kid, and who was your favorite author?
My favorite middle grade book as a kid was definitely Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Egypt Game. I was a massive Egypt nerd and when the book was assigned to me in third grade, I fell in love with it. It was a book about Egypt nerds like me. I go back and reread the book every few years and always find something new.
My favorite character always changes on my rereads, as well. When I first read it, I loved April because she thought she was so classy and wanted to be an actress. On my most recent read, my favorite character was Marshall, because I find super smart 4 year olds in middle grade fascinating.
My favorite author was Mary Downing Hahn. I think I read Wait Till Helen Comes about 5 times in elementary school and then read everything else she had written that was available in my school library. Her books are interesting because she writes very creepy middle grade ghost stories and also writes great traditional middle grade coming of age stories with no supernatural element at all. It was nice to find that balance as a young reader from my favorite author.
I would love to see more active dads in middle grade. A lot of times, the father isn’t around at all or appears in the periphery. I adore Clementine’s father in Clementine, and the father in See You at Harry’s was such a strong presence that it made me able to cope with the loss in that book as a reader.
There is also a lot of fighting between friends in middle grade and while conflict is important to any great book, I’d love to see more friendships that get through conflict together as opposed to the conflict being the friendship.
3. What MG tropes do you think are the most overdone?
Dead and missing parents. On a panel recently I said “If you are a parent or a dog in a middle grade novel, WATCH OUT! You are probably going to be dead in fifty pages.” I understand why so many why there are so many missing/dead parents in middle grade. It allows the main characters to have agency and not have to report back to parents all the time OR have the parents actually do the heavy lifting of the plot points.
That said, I do think middle grade is a great way for young readers to explore death and loss in a safe way.
4. If you could choose one published book, hop in a time machine, blast to the past, and become that book’s editor, which book would it be? What do you love about it?
I would love to have worked on the first few Goosebumps books. Night of the Living Dummy is a classic and the series on the whole created so many young readers. Yay for original paperback fiction!
5. What TV show or movie do you think would make a great MG book or series?
My first thought was Avatar: The Last Airbender. That show was amazing middle grade fantasy on TV. However, that series has already been made into a graphic novel series that follows the characters after the show ended and had a great licensed publishing program when it was on the air.
My favorite “middle grade” movie this past year was Paranorman. I think a series that follows Norman and his friends from town could be hilarious, spooky, and all around awesome.
Confession: I am a bit of a reality tv junkie and I love Dance Moms. While the moms are crazy on the show, the girls are so sweet and talented. Totally a middle grade series. Ha!
6. You work on a lot of series, including Gustav Gloom by Adam-Troy Castro, Frankly, Frannie by A.J. Stern, and The Treasure Chest by Ann Hood. What’s the biggest problem you most often see with series authors, and what advice would you give to aspiring writers working on their own series?
Know where you are going and let your editor in on the secrets. I don’t need to know everything right away, but if I can tell something is being set up in a book, please let me know what it is before we get three books down the road and the reveal doesn’t make sense with what we’ve already published or needs a lot of work.
Obviously, plot points shift over the course of writing a series and what the author was planning to write in a later book may change significantly over time. But having open communication with your editor about the series long arc is key.
7. What types of submissions are you most interested in right now?
I have a lot of spooky on my list right now, so it’s time to get some good ol’ fashioned middle grade that doesn’t have any ghosts, monsters, or things that go bump in the night. I’d love to see more boy oriented friendship stories. That said, my list is super full at the moment, so I’m being more picky than usual with submissions.The next few questions are for 12 year old Jordan.
1. What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be a Broadway star. If that fails, I want to be a talent agent or casting director. (*I was seriously obsessed with casting and agenting as a kid.)
2. Who’s your arch-nemesis?
Let’s just say, growing up as a theatre kid doing a new show every three months, I have a lot of arch-nemeses…
3. If you could be a character from any book, who would you choose?
Bastian Balthazar Bux from The Neverending Story. I want a book like that!
So do I! And also, I want a Falcor. Thanks, Jordan!