Tuesday, May 13, 2014

YA/MG author Margo Dill: Follows characters' lead

Margo L. Dill is a children's author, freelance editor, and workshop leader, living in St. Louis, MO. Caught Between Two Curses, which includes the infamous Curse of the Billy Goat on the Chicago Cubs, is her first young adult novel. She is also the author of the historical fiction, middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg (White Mane Kids, 2012) and the forthcoming picture books, Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire and the Case of the Missing Cookies and Lucy and the Red Ribbon Week Adventure.  She promises that she is a Cardinals' fan at heart, but the Billy Goat curse on the Chicago Cubs was too irresistible for a plot line. 

The Writers’ Lens is about "Bringing fiction into focus." What brings your writing into focus-- the characters, the stories, the love of words? Interesting question! First I will have to admit that my writing is focused. I guess it is? No seriously, I suppose it's my characters. They keep talking to me in my head until I get them doing what they are supposed to be doing. I write mostly character driven novels--I mean there's some action (like in Finding My Place, there's the Siege of Vicksburg!), but my characters tell me how they are going to act and react in situations, and then I follow them around until the end of the novel.

What inspired your latest book? In 2003, there were a couple news stories that caught my eye. One was about a little girl who had survived a car crash when her parents had not, and she wasn't found for a couple days. She fed herself on the food and drink in her diaper bag. The other story was about Steve Bartman who was the guy who reached over and interfered with one of the Chicago Cubs outfielder's play on a foul ball. Many people blamed him for the Cubs not making it to the World Series that year. Of course, many other people believed it's the Curse of the Billy Goat. So, I thought about these two stories for a while. I have always wanted to explore why some people survive in an accident and others don't. Is it because the person still has something left to do on earth? Or was it just luck? I also wondered: is there anyone anywhere who can break the Curse of the Billy Goat? Out of these questions came Caught Between Two Curses

What do you think readers will like about your book? It's not a book about baseball--so if you don't like baseball, don't worry--there's romance and magic for you. If you like sports, there are a few Cubs games that my main character Julie must attend, so there are those scenes for you! Most readers have said they liked my main character, Julie, and her voice. That's great news because I love Julie, and I hope others can, too. 

How much fact is in your fiction? In my first novel, Finding My Place, there's a lot of fact--it's a middle-grade historical fiction novel based on the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863 during the US Civil War. I tried to put in all the gross stuff that kids love like the fact that some of the Vicksburg citizens ate rats to keep from starving to death, and they built caves out of the yellow clay hills to hide out in when the Yankees bombed. Kids love when I tell them about acorn coffee and pea bread, and how my antagonist Mrs. Franklin doesn't like either of those and is mean to her slaves when she is served this food. However, since it's fiction, all my characters are made up--none of them (except for Generals Grant, Pemberton, and Lee) were real. In my second novel, there are the curses, so it has a little less fact. But I do include the real name of the man who put the curse on the Cubs, and the story takes place in Chicago--mostly in an unnamed Chicago suburb. The teen problems in Julie and her friends' lives, such as the pressure to have sex, finding a date to homecoming, dealing with family drama, are very much real.  

What are your top three reasons for writing? 1. It takes less education than being a doctor, lawyer, or plumber. 2. It's easier than running a marathon or climbing Mt. Everest (barely). 3. I can't imagine doing anything else because I love writing, words, and reading so much! 

CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO CURSES -- Seventeen-year-old Julie Nigelson is cursed. So is her entire family. And it's not just any-old-regular curse, either-it's strangely connected to the famous "Curse of the Billy Goat" on the Chicago Cubs. Julie must figure out this mystery while her uncle lies in a coma and her entire love life is in ruins: her boyfriend Gus is pressuring her to have sex, while her best friend Matt is growing more attractive to her all the time. Somehow, Julie must figure out how to save her uncle, her family's future, and her own love life-and time is running out!

FINDING MY PLACE -- Thirteen-year-old Anna Green can hardly remember life before the War Between the States touched her hometown of Vicksburg, Mississippi. for 47 days in May, June, and July 1863, the Union army bombs Vicksburg day and night, attempting to overtake the city. Anna longs for the days before Yankee bombs screeched above her, before her family was torn apart, and before they moved to a dark, damp cave to protect themselves from falling shells. During one terrible bombing, a tragedy strikes Anna and her siblings and changes their lives forever. Can Anna find the strength to keep her family together in the midst of war?

Books are available on my website, my publishers' websites, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indiebound.You can start at my website for the links or to order an autograph copy: http://margodill.com/blog/books/ 


  1. Great article! I loved the book!

  2. Thanks for the interview, Margo! The Curse of the Billy Goat sounds intriguing, even to someone as clueless about sports as me. :) It was fun learning more about you and your writing.

    1. Thanks, T. W.! :) Baseball has some very fun legends and lore surrounding it!