Although she grew up in a small town in rural New York State, D. J. Brandon has lived in four states, from the east coast to the Midwest. With a bachelor’s degree from Wright State University in Ohio, she devoted most of her life to working in child and family healthcare, while raising two children of her own. With her children grown, D. J. and her husband returned to small-town life in their home state in 2002. She credits her five grandchildren with keeping her young at heart as she nurtures a life-long dream of writing books for kids.
What is your favorite book in the Graveyard Gruber series?
I think, for me, it would be Mystery at Cate’s Creek. The period of history reflected (the 1800s) has always been particularly fascinating to me. That and the wooded, creek setting with its remnants of the past (the locket and the chimney stones) appeals to my love of mystery and adventure.
In your book, Grady becomes Graveyard Gruber. Can you say a little about nicknames and why they might be important for developing characters (and/or in real life)?
For better or worse, most of us at some point have nicknames bestowed on us. And those nicknames become a part of our identities. Some of them, we fight off; others, we embrace. For Grady, who has felt pretty much invisible for the first eight years of his life, earning a nickname that both gains him the attention of other kids and is related to something as cool and spooky as ghosts and graveyards is a real boost to his self-esteem. But in embracing his new identity, he also learns that he is more than “a name.”
As a writer, how do you balance the spooky/creepy and the moral/ethical in writing books for kids?
That’s an interesting question. I think the balance comes from within the main character himself. Grady is a very moral character. Yes, he is fascinated with ghosts and struggles to maintain his new “cool” identity related to them, but he is also very concerned about “doing the right thing.” It’s important to him to be respectful of the past and to do right by the ghosts that seek him out.
Why do you think kids like mystery stories?
Childhood is all about exploring through imagination and discovery—and using the results of that exploration to problem-solve. What more intriguing way than through a good mystery?
What are some of your favorite books and/or authors?
As a kid growing up, I loved Nancy Drew. (As an adult, Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark filled the mystery niche.) But in both children’s books and adult books, I also dearly love quiet “stories of the heart”: books like Anne of Green Gables, Because of Winn-Dixie, and Road to Tater Hill. Kate DiCamillo is probably my favorite contemporary children’s book author
Anything else you’d like to share?
Sure; just that I love hearing from readers (particularly kid readers, but their adult “gatekeepers” as well—see my website for contact information). I am also available for school and library visits and love those guest reader opportunities.
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