Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Conversation with Middle Grade Author, Jen Malone, Author of AT YOUR SERVICE

Jen Malone, Author of AT YOUR SERVICE
Hi Jen! I'm so happy to have my first middle grade author conversation on the blog. Your debut, AT YOUR SERVICE, sounds adorable and as a life-long fan of Eloise, I'm really looking forward to reading about concierge, Chloe. I have to know, did Eloise inspire you at all? 

Goodreads Link

Hi, JRo! 

I’m so excited to be part of the first middle grade author conversation! I have to say, when I describe this book to people the two references I hear most often are Eloise and Suite Life of Zach and Cody. I think everyone is captivated by the idea of living in a hotel (I know I am!) I rediscovered Eloise a few years ago when reading it over (and over and over and…) to my daughter so, yes, she was a DEFINITE influence. In fact, she’s even name-checked in the book, when Chloe says, 

"Of course, just because I live in a hotel doesn’t mean I can get away with any of the stuff Eloise does in the book. Mostly because she’s the daughter of a guest (and guests are always, always, ALWAYS right) and I’m the daughter of an employee. Bigdifference. Speaking of Eloise, she might have thought the Plaza was the only hotel in New York City that let you have a turtle, but she was so, so wrong. We’ve totally had turtles here. And dogs, cats, ferrets, hamsters, teapot pigs, goats (once), and chinchillas. Pretty much the only New York City animal you will not ever find in the St. Michèle is a rat."

So as an author, let's presume you will spend lots of time in hotels in the near future. What would be the essentials you'd bring to make your hotel room feel more homey? And room service, what would you order after a long day of signing books and talking to students?

My job before writing was giving workshops at schools all across the country, so I definitely HAVE spent lots of time in hotels. I used to travel with a book, a small vanilla-scented candle in a tin, and a tiny bottle of bubble bath because I had twin babies at home at the time and a quiet evening was the height of indulgence for me. Sadly, the hotels where I stay now aren’t usually the room service type, BUT I did use to work as a publicist for a movie studio and lots of the actor interviews I had to set up took place in fancy hotel rooms. The Ritz Carlton in Boston has these adorable little glass jars that are teddy-bear shaped and filled with gummy bears. I always placed a room service order for those (thank you, 20th Century Fox!)

I'm going to have to find an excuse to stay at the Ritz Carlton in Boston so I can order the gummy bears. That is beyond cool. Would Chloe approve? In fact, what are some things about Chloe that make her an awesome concierge? Any things she wish she could provide for her clients that she hasn't been able to make happen?

Chloe would kinda sorta approve. She would love the gummy bears, but she’s a bit competitive about any hotel that isn’t the St. Michele! She’s more partial to the make-your-own-sundae room service cart she and her best friend Paisley order whenever they have sleepovers (sleepovers in a hotel are the best, BTW). I think Chloe’s greatest strength as a concierge is also her greatest weakness. She is fully prepared to go above and beyond to make her guest fall in love with the St. Michele and with her NYC hometown, but she often makes achieving those wins way more difficult than they need to be because she’s of the “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself” mindset. As far as wishes she couldn’t fulfill, there aren’t many, but she and her dad did have to draw the line when a very bratty and spoiled guest insisted that a dolphin be flown in to swim with her in the hotel’s rooftop pool. To be fair, they did check into it briefly, but the Board of Health said no way, no how. 

Chloe sounds awesome and I'm so looking forward to getting the ARC because it sounds like the margins will be ripe for doodles! (already planning dolphin in rooftop swimming pool ;))  - Which brings me to a you question. You started a project inspired by our OneFour Kidlit ARC tour. Will you tell my readers a bit about the Margin Project and how they can get involved? Links would be great!

Ooh, yes! I would love to talk about The Margin Project!! In fact I recently posted one of your doodles from Edith Cohn’s SPIRIT'S KEY on the project’s Pinterest page ( I have to say, your doodles are my favorite thing to encounter when reading ARCs from the tour and Im dying to have you draw all over AT YOUR SERVICE!! The Margin Project is really simple. The idea for it came about while reading those shared ARCs and realizing how much fun it was to see where my author friends laughed, cried, or sighed over a great line because they had commented (or doodled!) in the book's margins. It made reading the stories so much more fun- kind of like watching the Academy Award’s with my Twitter feed open- because the reading became a shared experience, even though we weren’t together. I’ve been trying to get my kids to join our library’s book club but they’re too shy, so I thought maybe this could be a fun way for them to share a book with friends. My 6th grade sons tried it and when their teacher noticed, she got excited to try it out in her classroom. Voila! The Margin Project was born. It’s quite simple- you can designate any book part of the project (I have free printable bookplates on my website at, if you want to be fancy and official) and it basically lets kids (or grown-ups!) know that it’s okay to write in the margins of that book. People put a little key to their pen color in the back so when it circles around everyone knows who said what. I’ve recruited a few more classrooms, a library book club, a mom and her long-distance granddaughter, and three penpals from a summer camp and I hope to spread the word far and wide. It’s meant to be easy, fun, and inexpensive, and offer people a slightly different and more social way to engage with books. 

 **Didn’t find this out until the whole site was designed, but the website host I use doesn’t offer easy links doesn’t work. Here’s the clunky one:!margin-project/cpa5)

I love this idea. In fact, I followed the Pinterest page this morning. If I host a YA book club again next year, this might be the perfect thing for us, as it allows single books to circulate and have everyone clamor about it, rather than needing club book sets.

Sadly, our chat has come to a close! But I can't let you go without asking three burning questions! Tell us what the next three books on your TBR pile are, the best drink ever, and the song you just can't shake these days.

Thanks so much, Jen! 

Thanks for the follow! If your YA book club ends up doing this, please share pics! Okay, burning answers to burning questions: 

Next three books on my TBR. 
1. Anne of Green Gables. I’ve never read and I think my editor wanted to drop me when she learned this. Luckily, she just repackaged a BEAUTIFUL version (I am obsessed with the cover art! and it arrived in the mail yesterday. 

2. The Babysitters Club. I know, I’m going retro with my next few reads! But everyone keeps comparing my new co-written series to TBC because ours is about a group of tweens who start a party-planning business (I’d take decorating cupcakes over changing diapers any day, though) and I’ve never read a single one. \

I’m pretty sure both of these revelations mean my kidlit card is getting revoked.
3. Jubilee, which just published this week by a friend of mine, Alicia Potter. It’s about a very unknown event in Boston history- a huge outdoor concert for peace (we’re talking the president showed up, along with thousands and thousands of others) that took place in the 1800’s, long before anyone dreamed up Woodstock!

best drink ever
Banana and peach smoothies

Song I can’t shake
Happy by Pharell. It’s on everywhere, but the thing is, I don’t mind because it actually does make me… happy. if I can add a second, Let It Go, because I have a seven year-old daughter, so every afternoon we’re treated to a Frozen concert. Not complaining about that one, either. I may or may not have tested it out with the acoustics in my shower. 

This has been so much fun- I love the back and forth!! Thanks so much for having me!!

Next week be sure and stop by when I'll be talking to author Sashi Kaufman, author of The Other Way Around.

1 comment:

  1. I always end up clapping along when Happy comes on the radio- it's infectious! And At Your Service sounds like a fun read!


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