Monday, May 31, 2010

Wendelin Van Draanen Blog Tour: Day 1

Welcome to author Wendelin Van Draanen's first-ever blog tour! Along the way, Wendelin will answer questions about her writing life, including some never posed to her before.

To start off the 9-blog tour, Where the Best Books Are! is giving away three copies of Sammy Keyes and the Cold Hard Cash, the 12th book in her award-winning mystery series.

To enter, send me a comment with your name and address, or email me directly by midnight Tuesday, June 8. Enter as often as you wish and look for more giveaways along the tour.

Following Wendelin's post, you'll find my review of Cold Hard Cash (a fantastic summer read), then scroll down for a tour schedule, as well as links to participating blogs. Be sure to visit Wendelin's blog on the last day of the tour!

Q & A with Wendelin Van Draanen

Q. Wendelin, what inspired you to create the feisty super sleuth Sammy Keyes and how do you keep the character fresh? Also what's in store as the series heads toward its conclusion?

A. First, I'd like to thank you for launching this blog tour. I've been on book tours many times, but this is the first time I haven't had to deal with airport security. So thank you! Now onto your questions about Sammy Keyes.

I think the image we have of ourselves in middle school is one we carry with us through our lives. It’s alarming, really, how much of a lasting impact our tween and teen years have on our self-image and confidence, and I think this is especially the case with girls.

Creating Sammy Keyes as a spunky, curious, smart protagonist was not a conscious move on my part. I just wanted to spend time with someone I liked, and those were the traits that showed themselves. I was also drawn to her imperfections. Her hot-headedness. Her somewhat sassy reaction to authority. And it was interesting to me to realize that it was her imperfections that made me like her so much. She became the friend I wish I’d had in middle school. The one who would have stuck up

for me no matter what the cost to her.

I also didn’t consciously decide to write a series. I began with the idea for one mystery, but by the end of it I’d grown so attached to Sammy that I wanted to spend more time with her. So I began the second book. And the 20 hours of detention she gets for using the school’s PA system to clear her name in that book had to be served sometime, right? So I began on the third book. I had no contract, no request for these stories, and I collected plenty of rejects along the way. But I kept writing because—having a day job as a classroom teacher and seeing firsthand the issues kids wrestle with today—I thought there was a real relevance to the situations I was exploring through Sammy. I’m glad I hung in there because after the fourth book was complete, I got a multi-book deal and have been able to spend time with Sammy ever since.

I think what keeps the writing fresh for me—and consequently what keeps the series feeling fresh—is that Sammy’s world is not static. She grows up a month at a time from book to book, and although this evolution isn’t something that jars you if you read the books out of order (which is absolutely fine to do), her personal growth and the dynamic among her peers and the adults in her life keep things moving along and interesting. There’s also an overarching mystery (she doesn’t know who her father is) which will play out in the next couple of books, and then everything will be tied together by the end of the series (Book 18).

It’s been fun for me to “grow up” with Sammy, and interesting for me to see the wide range of readers who love her. From fourth graders to grandmothers, I think anyone who enjoys seeing the underdog triumph really relates to Sammy Keyes.

Thanks again for launching the tour. This has been great! I hope your readers will follow me to the second tour stop at Steph Su Reads ( where I’ll be tomorrow, doing a Q&A that involves questions about

my secret quirks, my book Flipped, and books in my future.

Sammy Keyes and the Cold Hard Cash

By Wendelin Van Draanen

Yearling, 2010, paperback

$7.99, ages 9-12, 293 pages

It's not every day that a girl startles an old guy to death and finds herself with wads of cash waiting to be spent. But Sammy Keyes isn't a typical 13-year-old, and she's about to find out how weird money can make her act, especially when it's not her own.

If you know Sammy the super sleuth from earlier books, you know that trouble has a way of running into her, then splintering into more problems than she knows what to do with, and before long she's sneaking around for clues and closing in on bad guys.

This time, Sammy wasn't even snooping. She was just slipping up the fire escape, like always, into Grams' seniors-only high-rise, where Sammy's lived illegally since her mother left, when she ran into an old guy on the fourth floor landing and he had a heart attack.

With his last dying breath, he begged Sammy to pull out $3,000 from his pockets and toss it over the railing.

Now, you don't exactly ignore a man's dying wish. So Sammy flung it over and raced inside to call 911, and since she's not supposed to be living at the Senior Highrise, she disguised her voice as an old lady's and didn't mention the cash.

But then, after the paramedics had left, there was all that cash waiting to be found.

What would it hurt if Sammy snuck downstairs after Grams was asleep and searched the bushes, then sort of kept the money, you know, to help Grams make ends meet and get some things from the mall, not just for her but for her friends?

It wasn't hard to talk herself into it after the dead man's daughters came to claim his stuff from the hotel across the street and never mentioned a word about the cash. If no one's missing it, what would it matter if Sammy powered through a chunk of it?

And with Brandon's pool party coming up, how else can she afford a new swimsuit?

But now things are getting complicated. Sammy's lying to Grams, her best friends and kind old Hudson, and making matters worse, a guy in a beret named the Jackal and his buddy Sandman are casing Gram's next door neighbor's apartment looking for the money.

It'll take a camera, a frumpy disguise, some fast talking and a good baseball swing to get Sammy through this one.

Having never read a Sammy Keyes book, I had no idea what a blast it would be to tag along. You instantly feel like Sammy's closest chum. From the first page, she takes you by the hand and pulls you along, all the while confiding every thought she has.

If this 12th book is anything like the rest, your reader will be racing from one book to the next, reading back to you the funny parts, and hopping excitedly when you tell her there are still six installments to come.

Tour Schedule:

May 31st: Where the Best Books Are –

June 1st: Steph Su Reads -

June 2nd: Through A Glass, Darkly –

June 3rd: Mrs. Magoo Reads –

June 4th: The Children’s Book Review –

June 5th: Write for a Reader –

June 6th: Mundie Moms -

June 7th: Library Lounge Lizard -

June 8th: Wendelin’s Jog Blog -


  1. Thanks for launching Wendelin Van Draanen's blog tour at your site. It's always fun to read what Ms. Van Draanen has to say about her books and the writing process. As a devoted fan of her books, let me assure your readers that they just can't go wrong this summer by going on a Sammy Keyes adventure that will have them hooked and wanting to read more Van Draanen books. Read the Sammy books in preparation for the 13th installment, The Wedding Crasher, in October.

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  4. Fun to find you "on the road", Wendelin. You make me want to find a Sammy in my novel life, so that I can watch her grow into a woman. My books are so completely over when they're over that, well, they're over! Hope to find you in real space soon. Love.

  5. Thanks for being a host on WVD's blog tour! And thank you WVD for sharing your time and heart with your fans! We love you! And 'Where The Best Books Are', please count me as entered for the giveaway, I emailed an entry already but wasn't sure if I should send multiple entries. Thank you both again, Elizabeth

  6. Thanks to everyone who stopped by, and to those of you who left comments! Loved the review of CHC--thank you! I especially like that you pointed out that you can dive into the series anywhere. This is a great blog and I'll definitely be back when I'm not on tour :-)

    Thanks for having me!

  7. YAAAAYYYY!!!!! I love this tour already! This is such a fun idea!