Magic, inspirational quotes, time-travel, and World War II history fill the pages of Mindy Thompson’s imaginative debut The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams, just out from Viking/Penguin Random House. The main characters include a girl, her brother and the bookshop, itself. Yep, the shop is a character in its own right! And what a character it is.
But we’ll get to that in a minute because Mindy is here on the blog today to chat a bit about crafting this powerful story!
But first, the GIVEAWAY: one lucky reader will win a copy of Mindy’s book. Hop to the end of this post for giveaway details, then use the hyperlink to pop back here and read our interview. The deadline to enter is Tuesday, November 16, 2021, at 11:59 PM.
A. B. Westrick: Mindy, welcome to my blog!
Mindy Thompson: Thank you so much for the warm welcome, and for letting me be here on the blog today!
ABW: I love that you’re here! Let’s start by talking about the opening, where readers walk into Rhyme & Reason—a bookshop that’s “moody” but it’s “all part of the bookshop’s charm.” Ha! You had me at page one, just saying, and my question is how you developed this character, the bookshop. From the get-go, did you set out to write a story about a magical bookshop?
MT: In the beginning the very first idea I had for the book was about a girl who lived in a magic bookshop with her family. It took a lot of digging for me to figure out what exactly that would look like, and a lot of drafts to find Rhyme and Reason’s personality. In my early attempts, much of the story was Poppy running around in an empty bookshop. I had to push myself to develop the shop as a character. That mostly came with time and help from other writers who were seasoned World Builders and knew how to help me push Rhyme and Reason.
I think the thing that helped me most was viewing the shop as another member of the Fulbright family. Looking at it from that perspective really helped me bring it to life.
ABW: Nice. This bookshop is able to communicate via a chalkboard; it “writes” bookish quotes, each one addressing something that’s going on. So I’m wondering how you found all these quotes. How involved was your search for the right quotes at the right times in the story?
MT: My search for quotes was pretty involved and the quotes themselves changed a lot while I was working on the book. For one, I looked for quotes that were in the public domain, which was a challenge in and of itself. I also wanted to include as many diverse writers as I could, so I spent a good amount of time searching for quotes that fit what I was looking for.
Because the chalkboard is the only way Rhyme and Reason can communicate with words, there were quite a few times where I ended up inventing an author and a book title and writing the quote myself. Some of the quotes are figments of my imagination and some are nods at books I wrote in the past, which was fun for me.
ABW: Oh, very fun. That’s great. Now I want to ask about the scene with the World War II skirmish between Germans and Americans along “the Siegfried Line.” I found this moment fascinating because of its detail about a storm, and I wondered if that history was true. Had you read an article about a storm that affected the fighting during a particular WWII battle, or did that detail come purely from your imagination? I guess this is another way of asking: how much research did you do to write this story?
MT: The storm came purely from my imagination, but the battle at the end of the book was based on a real battle that happened at the Siegfried Line. I did a lot of research into the timeline of World War II, specifically the Battle of the Bulge and the Siegfried Line. I always wanted the battle at the end to be fictional because I wanted the freedom to orchestrate the events, but I wanted it to be able to fit accurately with the timeline of the war.
ABW: The novel includes a surprising plot twist—masterfully done—that we won’t divulge here (you know which twist I’m talking about)! You drop hints along the way and make the “big reveal” late in the novel, and I wondered if this plot point was present in your first draft. Or did you craft it later, while working on revisions? Tell us a bit about your writing process.
MT: In my early writing years, I was a “pantser.” I would get an idea and then take off writing it. And what I ended up with was a lot of 100,000 word manuscripts that didn’t go anywhere. The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams was one of the first times I attempted to plot a book before writing it. However, the twist was not something I planned for. It came to me when I was about 100 pages into writing, and it even took me by surprise.
ABW: Oh, I love how surprises like that happen during the writing process.
MT: Yes, and as far as my process goes, I’d say I’ve landed somewhere between flying by the seat of my pants and plotting. My favorite moments when writing are when the story or a character does something you didn’t plan or anticipate. For me that’s the sweet spot. I’ve reached a stage in my writing where I plot out the beats, I make a plan for the ending, and then I let myself go. I have to exist somewhere between letting the story organically unfold and having some structure to get myself to the end.
ABW: How long did it take you to write The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams?
MT: I wrote Bookshop in less than three months. It was one of those stories that just poured onto the page. After I wrote the first draft, I entered it into Pitch Wars, and was chosen as a “mentee” in 2018, and I’ve been working on the book ever since.
ABW: Could you share a bit about how you get your writing done? Are you an early-bird or do you burn the midnight oil? Do you have rituals that help you focus?
MT: I’ve always wanted to be an early bird writer; I love the idea of getting my writing done first thing in the morning, but I definitely prefer to burn the midnight oil. I wrote quite a bit of Bookshop between the hours of 10:00 pm and 1:00 am.
As far as rituals to help me focus, I find the Pomodoro® Technique helpful. If you’re not familiar, you set a timer for 25-minute increments with a break in between. On days where I’m struggling to focus, it really helps me hone in on what I’m working on.
I also feel like chewing gum helps me focus, but I have to be careful with that one. I can chew a pack in two days when I’m on a tight deadline.
ABW: Ha! That’s great. What are you working on now?
MT: I just started a new project which I’m incredibly excited about. I can’t say much about it except that it’s another Middle Grade Historical Fantasy. And I have all my fingers crossed that the world gets to read it.
ABW: Thank you so much, Mindy, for doing this interview, and for writing such a fun book!
MT: Thank you so much for having me!
Hey, Readers, if you want to know more about Mindy and her writing, you can find her at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. For your own copy of The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams, be sure to enter the giveaway! Details here:
For a chance to win a copy of The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams, do one or more of the following:
- leave a comment below (comments need not be long), or
- tweet (or retweet) about this giveaway (tag me @abwestrick so I’m sure to see your tweet), or
- email me at abwestrick (at) gmail (dot) com with the subject line, BOOK GIVEAWAY.
Here’s a sample tweet:
I enjoyed reading #author @abwestrick’s in-depth #interview with @MindyThompson_ about her #middlegrade novel THE BOOKSHOP OF DUST AND DREAMS! Sign up for the #giveaway by 11/16/21. https://bit.ly/MindyThompsonInterview
The deadline to enter is Tuesday, November 16, 2021, at 11:59 PM. On Wednesday, November 17, I’ll put all the entries in a list and my handy-dandy random number generator will select the winner. I’ll post the winner’s first name below.
The giveaway winner is Laurie, a school librarian. Hooray! I love it when my giveaways go to schools. I’ll message you privately to get your address. Your students will love this one!