Kate Messner is the author of dozens of books for kids, from picture books to novels. She’s won numerous awards and garnered starred reviews. Her middle-grade novel Breakout is the recipient of many of these, a book told entirely in documents about a rural town and a prison break which talks about many hard-to-discuss modern-day issues. We were thrilled to interview her about Breakout and her writing in general for this month’s feature!
RapunzelReads: Who is your favorite character in Breakout, and why?
Kate Messner: Originally, I think I would have told you that it was Nora. She's the character with whom I have the most in common. Like Nora, I grew up in a small town. My dad was the school superintendent rather than a prison superintendent, though. And like Nora, I was a journalist. That's what I studied at Syracuse University, and I worked in TV news for seven years before going back to school for my teaching degree. But as I wrote and rewrote the book, I think Elidee came to be my favorite. I love how she stands up for herself and ends up finding her voice.
RR: What books inspired you when you were growing up?
KM: I loved everything by Beverly Cleary, especially the Ramona books! And I also
RR: What are you writing now?
KM: I have a new book called CHIRP coming out on February 4th. It's a mystery set on a cricket farm, and you can read a lot more about it here: https://www.katemessner.com/chirp/
And right now I'm working on a new nonfiction series called HISTORY SMASHERS, which aims to undo some of the lies and myths we teach kids about history.
RR: What was the hardest part of writing Breakout?
KM: BREAKOUT is a novel told entirely through different documents, so the hardest part was figuring out how they all fit together to make the story make sense. It was like working on a giant puzzle, and every time I made one little change, it affected so many other elements of the story.