Michael Ferrari is a writer and a teacher. His first novel, Born to Fly, won the Delacorte Yearling Prize for a first middle grade novel.
Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Michael. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Michael Ferrari: I grew up in Ohio, moved to California for a number of years to work in a variety of jobs in the film/tv industry, and then moved back to Ohio to teach, and write, and raise my family.
Ferrante: Do you feel your work in the film industry has helped you with your fiction writing?
Ferrari: I do. For me, reading scripts and editing films helped discipline the way I structure a story and it made me more conscious of finding ways of telling a story visually.
Ferrante: Your favorite quote is “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” What does it mean to you?
Ferrari: I find there is just something about those middle years of childhood, the transition from a child’s view to the broader view of the world beyond. Some of my strongest, clearest memories are from that time in my life.
Ferrante: In your book, Born to Fly, you debunk the belief that girls cannot be fighter pilots. Why did you choose this topic?
Ferrari: I was teaching 6th grade and a female student wanted to read a book with a girl action hero, one where the girl didn’t just witness the action, but where the girl herself gets to save the day. I couldn’t think of one, so I wrote my own.
Ferrante: Good for you. And lucky for us all.
Do you believe that girls are still socially restricted in their life and career choices?
Ferrari: There are many more opportunities for my daughters than there were for my mother and grandmother, but are there still social restrictions? Sure. Would some people still rather hire a man to build their home addition than a woman? Probably. I suppose some people would rather hire a woman to watch their children, too. Changing long-held cultural attitudes is a challenging, ongoing struggle.
Ferrante: Yes, I agree.
Your second book is Malcolm Devlin and the Shadow of a Hero. Although it could be described as a thriller for tween’s, it does address the subject of bullying. How does your book differ from all the other ones about bullying?
Ferrari: I approach it from the place of: how do I make this a mission impossible for my main character? First, what do they want most? Second, what are they most afraid of? And then you craft a story where they must face their worst fear if they hope to get what they most want.
Malcolm knows from a very young age, the one thing he never, ever wants to be is a hero. So how do force this character to make a conscious decision to do something heroic? It could have been by battling a hurricane, a giant poisonous spider, or a sadistic 4th grade English Teacher. How does this book address bullying differently? For Malcolm, perhaps the worst bullying of all turns out to be what he’s doing to himself by not facing up to his past.
Ferrante: Interesting concept.
I loved your book trailer especially the moment about Fred the ferret. Who made your video?
Ferrari: I put the video together myself. An artist named Jeffrey Johnson had done all these wonderful illustrations and when it was time to make the trailer I had a lot of fun creating something that gives you a sense of the mystery and adventure of the story.
Ferrante: That’s impressive.
Was Rex Carson a real person? If not, who did you base him on?
Ferrari: No, Rex is a product of imagination. He’s modeled on the B-movie actors from Saturday matinee serials like Buster Krabbe, Clayton Moore and Johnny Weissmuller.
Ferrante: If you could bring back any tradition that seems to have faded into the past, what tradition would you bring back?
Ferrari: Going to a Saturday afternoon double feature, with popcorn, all for a quarter.
Ferrante: Wouldn’t that be fabulous?
On a scale of one to ten (with one being not at all and ten being very much so), how superstitious are you?
Ferrari: I’m about a 2.
Ferrante: So, pretty much not.
If you were completely deaf but were somehow able to hear for one hour each month, what would you most often want to hear for that hour?
Ferrari: “It’s Too Late to Stop Now” by Van Morrison
Ferrante: That’s an unexpected answer. It’s been great getting to know you and your work, Michael. I wish you continued good fortune with your books. Thank you for participating in this interview.
Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.