You know how some book covers just GET you? That how I felt about the cover of Jaime Berry’s debut middle grade book, Hope Springs. Then I read the synopsis, and I knew it would be my kind of book. I was right. Hope Springs is about a girl whose Nan won’t stop moving them from town to town every few months or years. Now Jubilee has found a place that feels like home, and she doesn’t want to leave, but will her Nan stay?
I enjoyed chatting with author Jaime Berry about Hope Springs, life in a small town, writing about crafting, and what she learned while writing and publishing her first middle grade book. She also shares a bit about her next book! Enjoy.
Jaime is giving away one copy of Hope Springs. See the deets at the end of this interview on how you can enter.
Interview with Author Jaime Berry
Hi Jaime, I’m delighted to be chatting with you about Hope Springs! I loved meeting Jubilee and her people. Jubilee is sure she’s going to find home in a small town called Hope Springs. Are you a fan of small towns? Have you ever lived in one?
Hi Afoma! Thank you for having me and thank you for reading Hope Springs!
From the single stoplight to the dried up spring, Hope Springs, Texas is very much based on my rural hometown of Antlers, Oklahoma. I was born and raised there and so were my parents, and both sets of my grandparents lived just down the road from us. As a kid, I thought it was the best place in the world. My father and grandfather worked together at Berry Drug Store, the local pharmacy and general store, and I loved the feeling of knowing everyone and being known. As I got older the love for that feeling faded a bit, and I wanted to live someplace where my dad wouldn’t find out all my business before I could walk home from school! So, I am a fan of small towns, but I’m happy I live next to New York City now!
Moving can be hard, especially when it’s done repeatedly and kids can’t put down roots. Nan moves as a defense/comfort mechanism of sorts. Why was this a theme you wanted to write about?
Someone very close to me had a childhood a little like Jubilee’s in that her father moved their family often and with very little notice. I couldn’t quit thinking about what that must have been like for her, but also what might drive an adult to behave that way. Plus, I also have a bit of a Zilllow obsession! Anytime something goes a little bit wrong in my life, I like to fantasize about moving and starting over somewhere else. So, I sort of combined those things with Nan, and gave her a past that might explain her actions and make them, I hope, understandable.I also have a bit of a Zilllow obsession! Anytime something goes a little bit wrong in my life, I like to fantasize about moving and starting over somewhere else. – @jaime_berry3 Click To Tweet
We can’t miss Jubilee’s crafting prowess — how cool to have the DIY instructions every few chapters. There’s so many handsy hobbies in this story, from quilting to crafting to fishing. Are you also a crafter?
I like to craft but my skills are very limited. I can sew a somewhat straight seam and that’s about it! But I do like to draw and make things when I’m stressed; I find it comforting. Jubilee takes it quite a bit more seriously than I do. I do have a few talented crafters in my family and I relied on them for research.
Jubilee’s Momma has had a hard life and she’s not always the best mother. Yet, I liked the balanced portrayal of her in the book. Was that something you were careful about rendering?
You’re absolutely right; she’s not the best mother. Characters who are complicated are more interesting to me as a reader and a writer. So, I guess that’s why I like to write flawed characters and give them an opportunity to change. It was important to me that Jubilee find a way to move forward without moving, and I thought that meant she’d have to resolve the way she felt about her mother. While I don’t believe that we need to let people who hurt us back in our lives again and again, I do believe in second chances, and I wanted to leave the reader feeling that Jubilee’s mom might actually make the best of hers.
I loved watching Jubilee become Abby’s friend. Their friendship is refreshingly healthy and supportive. Middle grade books center friendships a lot — and understandably so. What is your favorite thing about writing friendships?
Abby is loosely based on my first childhood best friend, a girl who moved to my tiny town when I was in 5th grade (a year younger than Jubilee). I’d had friends before but never a best friend who I could talk to non-stop and laugh with almost as much. I’m lucky enough to have a few friends that I still feel that way about; just hearing their voice makes me feel better. Part of why I like writing about friendships is it reminds me of what magic there is in having a true friend.I’m lucky enough to have a few friends that I still feel that way about; just hearing their voice makes me feel better. Part of why I like writing about friendships is it reminds me of what magic there is in having a true friend. Click To Tweet
This is your debut middle grade novel! How long did it take you to write and what surprised you the most about writing and publishing a middle grade novel?
I wrote a draft of Hope Springs a long time ago! We’d just moved from my first Brooklyn apartment that felt like home and into a much less homey apartment. I was unpacking dishes in a kitchen with a view of the air shaft in the July heat and envisioned a girl on a beat-up bike riding down a gravel road and finally feeling like she’d come home. But I knew that the first draft was missing something and I couldn’t figure out what. So, I put it aside and started working on another book. It wasn’t until years later when I moved from my neighborhood in Brooklyn to the suburbs of New Jersey that I finally knew what was missing, and I went back to it and started over.
The thing I’ve been most surprised by is how supportive and positive the middle grade writing community is. I’m part of a debut group called the21ders, a group of some of the most generous and supportive creatives I’ve ever met. I’m happy and grateful to be a part of it.
Which middle grade books have you read and loved recently?
I absolutely loved Take Back the Block by Chrystal Giles, and I’m so excited for what she comes up with next! I just finished Everywhere Blue by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz, a gripping novel in verse that I had a hard time putting down. And I’m currently reading An Occasionally Happy Family by Cliff Burke, which is just the perfect mix of heartache and humor.
I already know the answer to this question, but I would love for you to share with readers what you’re currently working on or what we can expect to read from you next 🙂
My next project is another middle grade contemporary called The Heartfinds of Mabel Cunningham. It’s about 12-year-old pun-loving loner, Mabel, who doesn’t quite fit in at school or at home. Only with her grampa does she really feel like herself. Their favorite thing is what they call extreme treasure hunts—thrift store scouring, pawn shop perusing, and the occasional dumpster dive. To her nothing is better than their amazing finds and the maybes she encounters when rummaging with Grampa. But she quickly discovers that real-life maybes are harder to handle than imagined ones. It’s due in Fall of 2022.
Thank you so much for stopping by, Jaime!
Thank you for having me Afoma!! I loved chatting about Hope Springs with you!
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Meet Jaime Berry
Jaime Berry was born and raised in rural Oklahoma and lived down the road from her grandmother and her aunt and cousins, who all farmed and fished and canned and gardened. She grew up with two sisters, many dogs and cats, a few roosters, a cantankerous horse, and a pig named Duke. Though she moved to New York City after college, most of her stories take place in small towns and are about kids learning to be bold and brave and find their place in the world.
Books had always been an every day part of her life and as a NYC public school teacher they became and every day part of her job. But after years with two small boys in a too-small Brooklyn apartment, Jaime and her husband moved to the wilds of suburban New Jersey and added another boy and a dog to the mix. There, they live in a Victorian house that, despite slowly falling apart, they all love. And where telling, reading, and writing stories takes up most of her day. You can connect with her by visiting her website and Twitter.