Swallowed By a Secret by Risa Nyman Genre: Middle Grade Mystery
◆ 2020 Readers' Favorite GOLD MEDAL winner for Children's Mystery
◆ 2020 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards SILVER MEDAL for Pre-Teen - Mature Issues
One dead father. One lying mother. One giant secret.
12-year-old Rocky's father dies suddenly, and he learns the "his heart stopped" story is bogus. Immediately after the funeral, his mother sticks the For-Sale sign in the lawn and whisks them out of town as if living there has become too dangerous. As his trust in his one remaining parent unravels, Rocky is determined to crack the secret about how his father really died.
For Rocky, the road to the truth involves eavesdropping, snooping, and listening to advice from his dead father who urges him on a risky journey.
Will Rocky have to rethink who was the father he thought he knew? Sometimes it may be better to let a secret stay hidden.
How did you start writing?
My path to writing fiction was not direct or predictable. It began after I retired from a job that only included nonfiction writing for press releases, grants, op-ed articles, and testimony on public policy issues. I was president and executive director for the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, an organization dedicated to promoting active participation in our democracy.
My creative writing journey started with a mysterious occurrence when I found three pennies neatly stacked on a windowsill during my last sad walk through my mother’s empty apartment. I was convinced there was a magical and hopeful message in those pennies that would be perfect for a picture book.
Aware that I had no clue how to begin this project, I signed up for online courses, workshops, and conferences to learn the craft. What an eye-opener! There was so much to learn, and it wasn’t easy, but soon I discovered I couldn’t stop writing even after receiving some withering comments on a homework assignment. Simply put, I had found my passion. In the process I decided to put aside the pennies picture book, because I found my writing voice in middle grade fiction. Swallowed by a Secret, a middle grade contemporary mystery, is now published, and I am officially on the wild author’s ride.
What was your road to publication? Swallowed by a Secret’s road to publication started with a Twitter pitch. It is such a unique challenge to encapsulate your story in 240 characters, but Twitter pitch parties offer new writers a fantastic way to be noticed. If an agent, editor, or publisher likes your pitch, your manuscript will rise to the top of their pile.
I got a couple of manuscript requests from my pitch and lucked out when an acquisitions editor from Immortal Works, a small traditional publisher based in Utah, offered publication. After rereading that email dozens of times, I replied with a resounding YES!
The staff at Immortal Works are wonderful to their authors and work hard to promote their books. As an unexpected but lovely bonus, Immortal Works has a community of authors who generously help each other in many different ways. Signing with this publisher was simply the best decision.
P.S. Immortal Works will be publishing the standalone sequel to Swallowed by a Secret in August 2021. The title of that book is SPOOKED BY A SUSPICION. It is a middle grade adventure story about coping with major changes in family situations.
What are some middle grade books you love?
There are many books I love, but I always put Katherine Paterson’s classics, The Great Gilly Hopkins and Bridge to Terabithia at the very top of my list. There is an elegant simplicity to her writing of these heart-wrenching books that are the epitome of a page-turner.
Some more recent middle grade novels that should be on everyone’s to-be-read list are Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin, Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams, and One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. These books are full of guts, sorrow, and courage and leave you crushed when you read the words “The End.” You want to know what is next for those characters you fell in love with.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
I like titles that give you a peek into what the book might be about. Sometimes titles are vague or misleading for me. My middle grade mystery, Swallowed by a Secret, is about how devastating family secrets can be, even if well-intentioned. The 12-year-old main character Rocky is determined to learn the truth about how his father really died, no matter the consequences. And I should mention, I love the alliteration in the title.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
The scent that would be best to describe Swallowed by a Secret would be musk because it seems mysterious to me, hard to know exactly what you are smelling. My book is a mystery about a 12-year-old boy who is determined to learn the truth about how his father really died when he discovers that the explanation his mother gave him is bogus.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born in Boston and never lived more than ten miles from that city until 2019. I even when to college close to home. Anyone who listens to me speak for more than minute will know that is true, because I am the proud owner of an authentic Boston accent. There is a short audio clip of my accent in full bloom on my website.
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