Thursday, October 1, 2020

Interview with authors Cat Michaels and Rosie Russell!

There's a lovely book coming out in December for middle grade readers from two very dear writer friends of mine. Not only did I get the chance to have a sneak peek at this wonderful adventure, but they even agreed to stop by and answer a few questions! 

by Cat Michaels
Rosie Russell
Middle Grade Fiction
ages 8 to 12


Instead of heading into the usual book description, I'm just going to let these two tell you all about the book themselves! 


Congratulations, Cat and Rosie and your upcoming release, and thanks so much for be willing to stop by here on Bookworm for Kids today. I'm just going to jump right in with the very first question which pops to mind. Well, my mind. 

As some of my readers might know, I live on a small farm in Missouri. So, image how surprised and delighted I was to find this one placed in a very similar situation! How did you two decide to set a story here?

Rosie: Cat posted an image on her Facebook page nearly 5 years ago, which started it all. She shared a photo of young girl carrying a lantern in the snow heading toward a barn. She asked her readers to come up with a story of who this girl was and where she was going. Each fan of Cat’s added some sentences. I really enjoyed coming up with different angles of the story, and Cat asked me to “go for it,” so I created a story just for fun. I worked on it over the course of a few years. Once I was done, I shared it with Cat. (That story, by the way, is much different than what we finally wrote, but the girl, the love for her horse and the Midwestern rural setting stayed the same.) Lastly, I asked Cat if she would like to be expand the story and co-write it with me. She said, “Yes” and here we are.

Why of my favorite things about Missouri is the season change, and I noticed that you broke down your book into the different seasons. With of my here, are there any fun fall activities you'd like to share with us? 

Rosie: Oh, yes! Cat and I both love the fall weather, so this was a fun season to include in our story. With Olivia’s family living on a farm, they have an apple orchard that is brought up often in the book. Also, Olivia and her best friend, Isabella, have a fun event they attend call “Fall Fest.” Olivia gets entangled in a dangerous mishap at Fall Fest, but we will leave that part for the readers to find out.

While you've placed this tale in Missouri, only one of you lives in the state. Cat lives quite a distance from here...out 'East'. But I understand you two were able to meet each other about three years ago. 

Rosie: Yes, we did! My family and I were vacationing at Wilmington, N.C and I knew Cat did not live too far from there. We drove an hour their way and they drove two hours their way to meet up with us! We had the best time visiting. We had no idea we’d be writing a story together someday.

Stories aren't born over night, and you have been working on this one for a long time. Considering the distance between both of you, how was it to write this together during the last 16 months?

Cat: To be honest, Tonja, co-writing from 1,500 miles apart is not a walk in the park. You can’t meet up at the local coffee shop for a merry chat! While there’s joy in sharing ideas, it takes longer to reach consensus and make things happen. Three components were crucial to our success:

1. Contract: We focused on the business side and drew up a Statement of Work before we did anything. I’ve been on too many teams that skipped contracting, and they failed.

We hashed identified exactly how we’d work together – time frame, milestones, work to be done, lead roles for each part of the project, budget, royalty distribution and taxes, etc. It wasn’t creative or fun, and it gave me headaches. However, we started slow with business nitty-gritty to diminish any writing or publishing kinks later.

2. Technology: I facilitated virtual teams in another life, so I knew about setting up stuff we needed to be productive (shared cloud drive; virtual brainstorming boards, file exchanges, video chats, etc.).

3. Communication: As Rosie will tell you, the other crucial component was communication. She is also a champ at being patient and flexible with me as I sometimes have a high need to charge ahead -:D.

Rosie: Let’s just say how thankful we are for the internet and working on everything through Google Docs. It made our job so much easier.

We were good to touch base with each other almost daily, even it was to catch up on small details. I think the key to co-writing is to communicate consistently and be very specific with how things are discussed.  Having a plan and keeping organized has also been very helpful. Cat is the guru of folders, lists, and charts which saved us. She even made sure our monthly phone calls, which we called “Call Memories,” were documented and put in a special folder.

I don't know if it's fate or pure luck, but October just happens to be National Bullying Prevention Month—exactly the same theme, which plays an important role in your tale. What made you decide to have a main character, who faces bullying? 

Cat: From the years we worked in the classroom, both Rosie and I have witnessed what children experience whey they’re excluded and mocked at school. But this issue of social bullying smacked me over the head recently, when my sweet fourth-grade friend was the target of a mean girl clique in her class, who taunted her. Fourth grade! I couldn’t believe kids so young would engage in bullying behaviors!

My little friend was devastated. Fortunately, her parents and teachers immediately picked up on the bullying behaviors and stopped them. Yet, my sweet girl remains anxious about entering any new school experience.

When we started plotting our narrative around that time, Rosie and I brainstormed obstacles to throw at our 11 year-old protagonist, Olivia. We wanted action to keep middle graders engaged while we stirred in discreet social messages to help them grow. Shy Olivia’s story arc quickly became her struggle to speak up for herself and overcome the behaviors of a trio of mean girls. In fact, several of the bullying incidents in our book, and especially the seminal event that causes Olivia’s greatest heartbreak, are based on encounters that actually happened to my young friend.


Our main character, Olivia went through what is called, “Social Bullying.”

Here are just three examples of what social bullying might look like:

  • Telling other children not to be friends with someone
  • Spreading rumors about someone
  • Embarrassing someone in public


For more information on bullying, Cat and I have included a link in the back of our book for those that may want to read more about it. They can go to


Another thing readers can do for Bullying Prevention Month is wear a blue shirt on Monday, October 05, 2020. They can read more about that here.


Thanks so much for all of that! I'm sure this will be helpful to several readers, and it's definitely a topic, which many kids, unfortunately, face. 

I'm so glad you two took the time to stop by! And I wish both of you the best... Not to mention that I can't wait until Just Between Sam and Me comes out in December! 


If you want to find out more about Cat and Rosie, head on over to the following sites:

Cat Michaels –

She can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram and Pinterest. 

Rosie Russell –

Website/Blog  |  Facebook |  Twitter   |   Goodreads  |  Instagram   |  Pinterest


Cat Michaels said...

Fab time here with you and your lovely readers at Bookworm for Kids, Tonja! Rosie and I hope no child ever experiences bullying. The good news: there's lots of help available for kids, parents and teachers to stop it cold

Rosie Russell said...

Hi Tonja, thank you so much for this feature on your page today. Cat and I enjoy visiting with you.
Have a happy Midwest October. It's so beautiful here this time of year.
We're wishing everyone a safe and wonderful autumn, 2020! Hoping this will be our best month yet.

Thanks always, Tonja.

TheUndergroundToySociety said...

Great blog post! It's so wonderful for two authors to come together to write a book to help kids with the bullying epidemic.