Young readers were first introduced to Cassie Beasley via her New York Times bestselling debut novel Circus Mirandus. Cassie’s sophomore effort, Tumble & Blue, out this month, promises to once again delight readers of all ages. Tumble & Blue is a story filled with themes of friendship, family, and fate. Blue Montgomery has been cursed as a loser — literally — and Tumble Wilson wants nothing more than to help Blue break his bad luck. On a journey into the Okefenokee Swamp in search of a magical gator with the power to change their lives, the two learn about the value of friendship, the power of optimism, and the importance of taking control of your own destiny.
We were thrilled to chat with Cassie Beasley to get an inside look at the inspiration behind her newest book, hear what messages she hopes readers will take away from the story, and discover her quirky little talent.
The story of Munch, Almira, and Walcott is peppered with magical elements that make it feel a bit like Southern lore. You live not too far from Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, where the story is set — were there any real-life local legends that inspired this story?
There were no legends about an alligator with the power to bestow new destinies. But when I came up with the idea, one of the things I loved about it was that it felt like a story that might be passed down through the generations. It’s a family mythology about how your choices have consequences that echo into the future. And it’s a warning not to tangle with larger-than-life swamp creatures.
A lot of Tumble & Blue is based around the idea of talent — good talents and bad, talents we have and those we don’t. Do you have any special skills that come naturally? Is there anything you just aren’t really great at?
I’m good at picking stuff up with my toes! There are a lot of things I’m not great at, but the first that comes to mind is parallel parking. When I was a teenager, my dad brought home traffic cones and we practiced for hours, but I never mastered it. Those cones are surprisingly sturdy. You can run over them several times before they give up.
In a similar vein, your book shows how hard work and cultivated skills can carry greater weight than natural-born talent. Why did you feel this was important to add to the story?
Sometimes we look at people who’ve accomplished something wonderful and say, “Oh, how gifted! How talented!” But I find it so much more encouraging to think about the effort those individuals have put into their art, music, athleticism, etc…. You can’t choose to be born a prodigy, but you can decide to work hard on the things that you’re passionate about.
The Montgomery house fills with quite a few wacky family members as the red moon approaches. Which of these crazy relatives was the most fun to create?
I had a lot of fun coming up with the Montgomery curses and gifts. My favorite relative is probably Ma Myrtle. When we meet her she’s standing on top of the roof, hatching plans to keep all of the other family members in a tizzy, and she doesn’t slow down from there.
The idea that every choice has a cost is a big theme in Tumble & Blue. Can you speak a little about the choices and sacrifices made by the characters in the book and what you hope readers take away from them?
I don’t want to give too much away, but I hope readers will see the shades of gray. Some of the more selfish characters make sacrifices, and the good guys aren’t always doing the right thing for the right reason.
What were some of your favorite books growing up?
Books by Cassie Beasley:
Cassie Beasley is from rural Georgia, where, when she’s not writing, she helps out on the family pecan farm. She earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first novel, Circus Mirandus, was a New York Times bestseller and received many awards and accolades. Cassie’s sophomore novel, Tumble & Blue, will release in September 2017. Follow her on Twitter @beasleywrites.