Hey, my second MMGM in less than a month and two giveaways in a row! I’m on a roll! Really, though, I’ve just been reading some amazing books lately. I’m in the middle of an ARC I expect I’ll review as well, possibly next week. But this post is about DON’T VOTE FOR ME by Krista Van Dolzer. It’s Krista’s second release within only a few months of her debut, and I’m thrilled to welcome Krista back to the blog with her answers to questions about the five things I loved best. But first, here’s the cover and description.
It’s class president election time, and no one is surprised when Veronica Pritchard-Pratt is the only name on the list. She’s the most popular girl in school, a social giant who rules the campaign every single year. David, for one, is sick of the tyranny–which he says. Out loud. When Veronica hears about this, she issues a public challenge to David. With his pride on the line, David accepts his fate and enters the race.
But as the campaign wages on, and David and Veronica are also paired up for a spring musical recital, David learns this Goliath is more than just a social giant–and maybe deserves to win more than he does…
And here are Krista’s answers to five questions about the things I loved most.
- I love the premise of David vs. Goliath, adapted to a middle school presidential election. It’s so perfect! What made you want to write this particular story?
Not long after I signed with my agent, Kate Schafer Testerman, I saw another agent tweet about wanting to see more biblical retellings in contemporary settings. I’d wanted to write about a middle school election for a while—I ran for student office seven times over the course of my academic career (though I never won once!)—and the idea of writing it as a David and Goliath retelling was what finally made it stick.
- Your first book featured a 12-year-old girl in the 1950s, while DON’T VOTE FOR ME is told from the point of view of a 12-year-old boy. Both are so authentic. Any tips on nailing those voices?
One tip would be to give your point-of-view characters specific quirks or idiosyncrasies that can come out in their exposition. The main character from my first book is as feisty as they come whereas David uses lots of acronyms, so expressions that would fit one voice wouldn’t necessarily fit the other. It’s all about getting inside your characters’ heads and choosing words and phrases that fit their personalities.
- While I loved David, Veronica really intrigued me, and the fact that the reader is never inside her head maintains her air of mystery to the end—which is perhaps how a girl should remain to a 12-year-old boy 🙂. Since Veronica is intended to be the Goliath character, did you start out writing her as more of a villain, or did you always intend for her to be a mystery for David to explore?
I always intended for Veronica to be more multidimensional than the biblical Goliath, but her character—and even her name—did change over time. In the first draft, she was the daughter of rich, overbearing parents who thought that music was a waste of time, but as I got deeper into the plot, those characters didn’t fit the story. (And in the first draft, her name was Grizelda!)
- I loved the secondary characters and their quirks—Spencer using scientists’ names, Ms. Clementi with her over-the-top threats for punishments. Any stories behind how you came up with those or others?
As I was writing along, I came to a place where Spencer needed to exclaim something, but I wanted it to be more memorable than “Oh my gosh!” Since I was already trying to get away from the stereotypical Asian kid who’s good at math and science, the explanation I came up with fits his character. And Ms. Clementi is loosely based on my eighth-grade French teacher, but I won’t say any more than that :).
- The parallel storyline with David and Veronica preparing for the recital provided an excellent contrast for them to work together while competing against each other in the election. Any particular reason you chose the trumpet and piano as their instruments? Or the pieces they play?
I knew I wanted David to play a soloist’s instrument (which ruled out the tuba, unfortunately), and when I remembered that my brother-in-law plays the trumpet, everything clicked into place. My sister was the one who suggested that Veronica play the piano, and since it fit her character and the storyline, I heartily agreed.
As for the pieces they play, it took some time to nail those down. I combed through the repertoires of famous trumpet players like Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, but it wasn’t until I stumbled across Louis Armstrong’s cover of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en rose” that I knew I’d found the one. It has an evocative melody that fans of WALL-E will be familiar with (since it’s the song that plays behind EVE and WALL-E’s courtship), and “La Vie en rose” literally means “The life in pink,” or, more colloquially, “A rose-colored life.” Since that’s how David sees Veronica’s life (at least at first), it was a perfect fit.
Veronica’s nocturne was easier to find. My husband plays Frederic Chopin’s “Nocturne in E Flat Major,” which I’ve heard him describe as the sound of moonlight on water (if moonlight on water made a sound). I can’t imagine finding a piece that Veronica would love more.
Thank you so much, Krista! I’m not as familiar with WALL-E, but that should definitely help young readers relate to the music!
On to the giveaway! I would like to send a hardback copy of DON’T VOTE FOR ME to one of you (North America only, please). To enter, click on the link below.