By Brian Knight and Ellie Knight
Emmy Rushford convinces her sixth-grade classmates to help her provide food for two hungry children. The project quickly turns perilous when the needy children, and their mother, vanish. As Emmy tries to find out what happened to them, she must deal with a car crash, a belligerent neighbor, a cat thrown into a Dumpster, and the necessity of keeping her actions secret from her parents in order to protect her mother’s job.
Peg Kehret’s new novel, DANGEROUS DECEPTION, is now available from Dutton, and Peg was kind enough to let me and the best young reader I know—my sixteen year-old daughter, Ellie—talk to her about it.
Hi Peg. Thanks for the opportunity to visit with you.
Hi, Brian and Ellie. Thanks for asking me. I always like a chance to talk about my books.
Brian: Your new release, DANGEROUS DECEPTION, seems to be a blend of drama and comedy, a serious premise spiced with unexpected and outlandish twists and turns. Is it as funny as the synopsis leads me to believe?
Although there’s some funny dialogue in the classroom scenes, DANGEROUS DECEPTION is definitely a suspense story, not a comedy.
Ellie: Is Dramady (Drama / Comedy) your favorite genre?
My favorite genre is memoir, both to read and to write. I’ve published three: SMALL STEPS: THE YEAR I GOT POLIO is the true story of when I was paralyzed from the neck down when I was twelve. FIVE PAGES A DAY: A WRITER’S JOURNEY tells how I became a professional writer, including the many rejections and the 50-words-or-less about Kraft Macaroni and Cheese that won me a new car. My most recent memoir (Dutton 2012) is ANIMALS WELCOME: A LIFE OF READING, WRITING AND RESCUE.
Brian: You have an impressive backlist, including novels for children, young adults, adults, and even plays, but an overwhelming majority of your work seems geared toward younger readers. Do you prefer telling stories for a younger audience, or is that simply where your muse leads you?
At the start of my career I tried many kinds of writing. That’s when I published the plays and a couple of nonfiction adult books. Once I started writing middle grade fiction that became my focus, although I still write drama books for teens.
Ellie: Are some of the wacky scenarios in your stories rooted in real life events you’ve experienced?
Peg: Yes, I often base a scene on something that really happened. THE GHOST’S GRAVE has a mama cat and her kittens who’d been shot with a pellet gun; TRAPPED has a pig who falls off the back of a truck; GHOST DOG SECRETS has a dog who’s tied day after day without food or shelter. I was involved in all of those events and was later able to use them in my fiction.
Brian: Do you have a preferred format? Short stories, novellas, novels, plays? Which is your favorite?
Peg: Besides the memoirs and middle grade fiction, I love writing the monologs and duologues that make up my drama books for teens.
Ellie: Your protagonist in DANGEROUS DECEPTION is involved in charity work when her misadventures begin, and the bio on your website says you’re involved in animal rescue. Can you tell us a little more about your charitable work?
Peg: I currently work with a group called Left Behind K-9 Rescue. We take dogs, mostly from overcrowded shelters, who are going to be euthanized simply because they have no home and there’s no room to keep them. We put them in foster homes, give them any necessary medical attention, including spay/neuter, and then find permanent adoptive homes for them.
Brian: Who are some of your favorite authors and stories? Who inspired you to start writing?
Peg: I have many, many favorite authors. I have a spiral notebook where I write down the title and author of every book I read. The ones that I truly love get a star. In the last six months, I’ve awarded stars to these books: THE GOOD LORD BIRD by James McBride, HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN by Louise Penny, BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson, CHARLES DICKENS: A LIFE, by Claire Tomalin, THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion and THE INVISIBLE WALL by Harry Bernstein.
When I first decided to try writing a suspense story for kids, I read and reread THE VIEW FROM THE CHERRY TREE by Willo Davis Roberts. I tried to figure out how she maintained the suspense so well.
Ellie: Have your character’s comic mishaps ever made you laugh so hard that you had to stop writing to get yourself under control?
Peg: Oh, yes, I am my own best audience. I cry, I laugh, and I get scared while I’m writing.
Brian: Tell us a little about yourself. What are the interests and ideas that drive you as a writer?
Peg: I’m a great-grandmother, a widow who lives alone in a log house on a ten-acre wildlife sanctuary. I have been asked many times how I can write scary books like STOLEN CHILDREN or ABDUCTION. I don’t fit the stereotype of a thriller writer.
Ellie: Have your characters ever behaved in ways you didn’t expect?
Peg: That happens all the time, partly because I don’t outline. I just begin writing and see what happens. With DANGEROUS DECEPTION I started to write about a girl who tries to provide food for a family in need but then one thing led to another and soon she was tied to a chair and left in a vacant apartment with no way to get help. One fun part of the research was when my granddaughter let me tie her to a chair so I could describe her efforts to escape.
Brian: What’s next for you? Any upcoming or current projects you feel like teasing us with?
Peg: For the first time, I’ve collaborated with another writer. Brett Konen and I wrote TWO VOICES: 54 ORIGINAL DUOLOGUES FOR TEENS is newly available from Pioneer Drama Service. I’m also experimenting with my first picture book.
Thanks for your time, Peg. Best of luck with DANGEROUS DECEPTION.
Peg Kehret’s middle grade books have won more than fifty state young reader awards as well as numerous other honors. She has always loved to write. As a child she wanted to be a writer or a veterinarian. Now she includes animals in most of her books and, when she isn’t writing, she helps animal rescue groups. Peg’s books have won more than fifty state young reader awards. She lives near Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington State.
To learn more about Peg, please visit her website.