Frequently Asked About Tumble & Blue
Who’s your favorite character? Tumble or Blue?
Tumble Wilson is my favorite character. Not just in this book. In any of them I’ve written! The first drafts (there were SO MANY of them) of the story were all focused on Blue, but then in one version, Tumble came in with her Maximal Star quotes and her dedication to heroism.
I expected her to be a side character. A friend for Blue. But I knew as soon as I met her that she wasn’t the kind of person you could keep on the sidelines. I re-plotted the whole book with her as an equal player.
It was hard because I didn’t really know how to balance a story with two main characters. I’d never written one before! But as soon as I started trying, I knew we were on the right track at last. Tumble brightens up the whole book. She’s fierce.
Spoilers ahead for Tumble & Blue! Careful what you click on!
Why did you write a story set in the swamp?
I didn’t even know there was going to be an alligator in this book until I’d been writing it for almost a year. But after Circus Mirandus, I was ready to set a story a little closer to home.
I live in rural Georgia, not too far from the Okefenokee Swamp. The dirt road, the pine trees, the azaleas, the mosquitoes–it was all so familiar to me. And that made it a lot of fun to write.
Do you have a hero?
I really admire my little sister, Kate. I always have. She’s the hardest working person I know. And one of the sweetest.
Kate writes books of her own, but she always has time to help me out when I’m struggling with a snarly plot problem or a confused character. I hope I’m as good a friend to her as she is to me.
What happens at the end? Did they change their fates or not?
I feel like there’s a strong hint at the end that things are going to be all right for Tumble and Blue. I thought the things they’d learned about themselves over the course of the story were more important than the change of fate, and that’s why I didn’t say it outright.
But I understand wanting to know more!
So, yes. In my opinion, Tumble and Blue are un-cursed at the end of the book. I don’t think they’ve got the grand new fate Munch promises. I think they’ve done something better. I think they’ve broken the system, and they are free to live their lives from now on.
How did you come up with all the Montgomery family curses and talents?
I just made them up! Blue’s curse changed a lot over the course of writing the book…
When I decided his dad was a winner (for a while, I thought he would be a professional boxer) I realized that the big conflict between them might stem from their fates, and I chose to make Blue someone who couldn’t win at anything. 🙁
Everyone else, I just brainstormed and picked something I liked. (Except for Tumble! I always knew what her trouble was.)
So far, everything I’ve written has involved individual magics. Including the very first story I ever wrote in the sixth grade! I think it’s my favorite kind of fantasy because when every character has a different talent, you can have so much variety in the book. It makes it really fun to world build.
What's your favorite part of the book?
I loved writing all of Tumble’s chapters.
I loved writing about the disaster with the Gerbellion.
I loved writing from Munch’s perspective.
Making up Maximal Star quotes was so much fun!
And I loved getting to talk about what everyone was eating! It was neat to slip in a lot of foods I remember from my own childhood, since the book was set in the South.
Where did you get the inspiration for Tumble & Blue?
I get ideas from lots of different places. Daydreaming, reading other books, watching movies, walking around and paying attention to the people I meet…you can see some of the specific inspirations for Tumble & Blue below.
What inspired the Okefenokee Swamp?
I get this question a lot from younger readers. The Okefenokee Swamp is a real place! You can actually go there. (Wear bugspray! Watch out for alligators!)
I live not too far away from it. You can read all about it here on Wikipedia.
The inspiration for Munch the alligator
I had been writing this story for almost a year before I realized that there should be a magic alligator.
I know that sounds strange, since Munch is the whole point of the book now, but for a long time, I didn’t even know that the magic in the story was going to be real. I thought maybe the Montgomery family were wrong about their curses, and the point of the story would be to prove that.
But I love fantasy so much, and the curses had started to look like real magic.
I couldn’t make the story work at all until one day, I walked into the gift shop at the sea turtle rehabilitation center on Jekyll Island, GA. ( I love to go there!) They had these golden plastic bracelets shaped like alligators, and I held one up and waved it at my sister across the store.
“This alligator is going to fix everything!” I said. “I’m going to put it in my book!”
And she nodded at me (because she’s awesome) and she didn’t tell me it was strange to add a mythical, fate-giving alligator to your book halfway through (because she’s the best).
And I started rewriting for the umpteenth time that very afternoon, and finally, the story started working. Munch was such a fun character to write! And he made everything come together.
What about Murky Branch, Georgia?
Unlike the Okefenokee, the tiny town of Murky Branch is fictional. (A lot of the towns in my books are. I don’t want to mess up and describe somebody’s real-life hometown the wrong way!)
But I did grow up in southern Georgia myself, so I had a lot to draw from when I was describing places in the town. It was really fun to set a story in a location that felt so familiar.
I decided to make Murky Branch a magical location, but only a tiny bit so. The only evidence we see of it in the book is the Welcome sign, which changes to match the population without anybody re-painting it. I wanted to do that to let readers know from the very first chapters that the magic in the book was real, since I knew it would take a long time for Blue and Tumble to get into the swamp to meet Munch.
What inspired the RV?
For a while, Tumble’s family lived in an RV park. Several months after I’d started work on her part of the story, I was on my way to buy groceries for the week, and I drove past a local RV park. I saw two kids riding bikes out front. They reminded me of Tumble and Blue, and I thought a rambling lifestyle would fit with Tumble’s personality.
It all changed a little bit after that, over the course of revising, but the RV stuck around.
What about Blue's dad?
Blue’s dad wasn’t always a racecar driver. At the very beginning, I wasn’t even sure which of Blue’s parents were going to leave him at Granny Eve’s or why they would do a thing like that.
But then I came up with the idea of opposing fates. So I thought, What if Blue’s dad was someone who could never lose? And what if Blue was someone who always lost? What would that be like for Blue? What kind of problems might he have?
At first Alan Montgomery was a professional boxer, but I changed it to racecar driving. Partially because my own dad was a big fan of racing when I was growing up. (But I promise my dad is a waaaayyy nicer guy than Alan is!)
It ended up adding a lot to the story, particularly because I had to think about what it would do to your personality, if you had never, ever lost anything in your whole life. And what if it was the other way around, and you always lost? So your hard work never paid off?
That became a big theme in the book, and it helped me to define who Blue was as a character.