Fleur Bradley is passionate about two things: mysteries and getting kids to read. When she’s not active in her local SCBWI chapter, she’s doing school visits and is speaking at librarian and educator conferences on reaching reluctant readers. Originally from the Netherlands, Fleur now lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and two daughters, and entirely too many cats.
In this post, middle-grade author Fleur Bradley shares why she enjoys mysteries, how illustrations impacted her most recent novel, her top tip for writers, and more!
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Name: Fleur Bradley
Literary agent: Laurel Symonds with The Bent Agency
Book title: Midnight at the Barclay Hotel
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House
Release date: August 25, 2020
Genre: Middle Grade Mystery
Previous titles: Double Vision trilogy (middle-grade Harper Children's)
Elevator pitch for the book: The Westing Game meets Clue when five murder suspects are invited to the haunted Barclay Hotel, and it's up to the tag-along kids JJ, Penny, and Emma (along with a ghost or two) to figure out who committed the crime.
What prompted you to write this book?
I absolutely love mysteries, and I wanted to write a traditional, Agatha Christie style mystery for kids: with the colorful, mysterious characters, a murder, and an isolated (and haunted) location. After a visit to the Stanley Hotel (from the movie The Shining), I knew I had the right ingredients for a compelling story.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication?
It probably took about three years from idea to publication—I took a while longer on this manuscript, because I really wanted to make sure I made the manuscript the very best it could be.
I then edited with my agent, and after that with my editor at Viking. This book took longer than I expected, but I'm so proud of how the finished story turned out.
The idea itself didn't really change during the process—I had a really strong sense of what I wanted the book to be: that traditional mystery with a spooky location. The manuscript did go through some pretty big changes. It was originally 50k words, and I had to edit to get it closer to 35k.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
I had several published MG novels under my belt before Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, but this is the first book that has illustrations. It's such an amazing thing to see those ideas and images you have in your head come to life in pictures.
Xavier Bonet, the illustrator, really did an amazing job capturing the characters and place. Thanks to the art department at Viking, the book looks incredible. The way illustrations can elevate a book really surprised me.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
I don't want to spoil the story, but there was a plot twist that developed while writing that I didn't plan on (or realize) until I was already halfway into the book. So I kind of surprised myself.
That's what I love most about writing: the magic that happens as you're writing the first draft.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
I hope Midnight at the Barclay Hotel has middle-grade readers fall in love with mysteries just like I did as a kid. There's nothing like solving that puzzle, then reading on to find out if you got it right...
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
Keep learning, and keep an open mind. The publishing industry changes by the day right now—you have to change with it. That's the best way to roll with the punches, and for you to keep finding joy in the writing process.