Q&A with Nancy J Cavanaugh | #WhenIHittheRoad

From the author of the award-winning This Journal Belongs to Ratchet comes a new kind of journal by a girl on a madcap road trip, featuring a karaoke-loving grandma, a cute boy, and a wild summer of memories that will last a lifetime.

Samantha is not exactly excited to spend her entire summer vacation in Florida with her grandma. Or to have to write to her future self in the journal her mom insists she use. But it turns out that Gram has some not-so-boring plans up her sleeve…

Gram and her friend Mimi are going to audition for the Seniors Have Got Talent Karaoke Contest!

A road trip in Gram’s new Mustang turns into a series of hilarious mishaps that flip Samantha’s summer on its head, especially because, an unexpected person is sharing the ride.

It looks like her journal might be worth keeping after all because this summer will be one Samantha will never want to forget.

What do you want readers to take away from your books?
My writing is inspired by the books I have read that are full of what I call “heart and soul.” You know the stories that are so satisfying to read that when you reach the end, you wish you hadn’t yet begun, so that you could have the pleasure of reading the book all over again for the first time. That’s the kind of feeling I strive for with my readers. Whether I’m writing about a character named Ratchet with unusual skill as a mechanic who wants more than anything to be more “normal” and have a real friend or a character like Samantha who finds herself on a road trip with wildly, unlikely travelling companions and experiences one madcap misadventure after another, my hope is that readers will finish my books and feel like each character’s story is authentic and heartfelt.

Best and worst part of writing?
The best part is the characters. They become so real to me that I think of them as my imaginary friends. By the end of the writing process, when the book is finished, I feel close to them; so close, in fact, that once I finally send my final manuscript off to my editor, I actually miss them.
The worst part is getting stuck. This happens differently with each project, and so far, I have always been able to get un-stuck. But even so, it can be scary. It’s scary because when I’m stuck, the solution to the plot problem or the conflict or the pacing doesn’t seem to be visible anywhere. It’s also scary because usually getting un-stuck takes hard work as well as “letting go” so my creative mind can wander and explore. This sometimes makes it feel as if I’m trying too hard or not trying hard enough. Years of experience in working out story problems has taught me to trust the process and to believe that the solution will eventually make itself known.

What brightens your day?
In no particular order – M&M’s, cardinals, long walks, a good book, music, jigsaw puzzles, my toy cockapoo Ginger sleeping on my lap, a funny story, coffee, bike riding with my husband and daughter, fun family gatherings, and answered prayers.

I’m giving you a free platform to talk about anything – GO:
One topic I love to talk about is the read aloud. I have fond memories of coming inside after lunch recess when I was in elementary school, laying my head down on my desk, and listening to my teacher read. What a way to begin the afternoon! I also have fond memories of reading aloud to my students when I was a teacher and librarian. There is just nothing better than letting a story whisk an entire class away on an adventure or take them back in time to learn what life was like in the past or propel them to some fantasy world in the future. It is one of the most worthwhile things teachers and librarians do.

Finally, what is the question you wish people would ask and never do?
What is a talent you wish you had?
I wish I could sing. I love music, and I love to sing, but I have an awful voice. (Ask my daughter.) Music is so powerful and touches people’s lives in so many cool ways. I’m in complete awe of the talent that people have for singing and performing. It just seems like such a fun thing to be able to do well.


Nancy J. Cavanaugh is the award-winning author of This Journal Belongs to Ratchet and Always, Abigail, which was a Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee. She has a bachelor of science in education and a master’s in curriculum and instruction. She was an elementary school teacher for more than fifteen years as well as a library media specialist. She and her husband and daughter enjoy winters in sunny Florida and eat pizza in Chicago the rest of the year. Visit nancyjcavanaugh.com @nancyjcavanaugh

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