We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Fleur Bradley. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Fleur below.
Fleur, appreciate you joining us today. Let’s kick things off with your mission – what is it and what’s the story behind why it’s your mission?
Although I’m an author of middle-grade mysteries first and foremost, I am also a big advocate for reluctant readers. At the time that my first book (Double Vision) was published, I found out that my daughter has a reading disability. Because at the time, we lived in an area where there wasn’t a lot of support from the educational system, I had to become an expert in remedial teaching myself.
I found out that many kids who present as reluctant readers have a(n undiagnosed) reading disability–up to twenty percent of kids do*. Many teachers and librarians have to find ways to get those kids reading anyway, so I developed a presentation on reaching reluctant readers that I present at librarian and teacher’s conventions. Each time, I share what I know, and at the end attendees can as well. My Reaching Reluctant Readers talk has become a kind of daisy chain of shared knowledge.
I’m on a mission to get all kids reading; genre fiction like mysteries or horror can be a great way to hook kids who might otherwise not want to read.
* This statistic comes from Learning Disabilities Association of America.
Fleur, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I’m the author of many middle-grade mysteries, including the multi award-winning Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, and forthcoming Daybreak on Raven Island (Viking/Penguin Random House). I love mysteries! I think they’re a great way to hook reluctant readers. I’m a reluctant reader myself and am passionate about getting kids to read.
I routinely speak at educator conference on reaching reluctant readers, including CCIRA, Mississippi Library Association Conference, and Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival. I also love doing (virtual) school visits and visited over a hundred classrooms during the 202-21 Covid-restricted school year alone.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
I had been working so hard to get my mystery for kids, Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, ready for the book’s launch in August of 2020. And then…. You guessed it: Covid 19 hit. For children’s book authors, school visits are the best way to build sales. But with everyone at home, there was no way to reach those parents, teachers and librarians who are so pivotal to sales.
I was frustrated, but then I heard all the stories of kids having to learn at home, parents scrambling to find activities to keep home-bound kids entertained, and teachers struggling to adapt to this new way of teaching, And I was humbled and a little ashamed, for so selfishly worrying about my book’s success, when everyone was fighting such hard battles every day.
So I forgot about selling books. I offered my virtual author visits for free, and my calendar quickly filled so I was doing several talks a day for the 2020-21 school year.
I had so much fun. I got see kids (my readers!) in their home environment, in messy kitchens, sometimes with a pet or baby sibling on the lap. Kids adapted. Teachers adapted. And I learned to adapt myself.
The funny thing? Those sales came in big, and still are almost two years after the book came out. Awards followed, and I wasn’t even trying. It was by letting go of worrying about sales and focusing on giving back instead that the book became a success. It’s very liberating, now that I’m preparing for the launch of my next book, Daybreak on Raven Island. I just focus on how I can help people. The sales will follow.
For you, what’s the most rewarding aspect of being a creative?
Being a writer means spending a lot of time alone, behind your computer, struggling to get the story you have in your head down on the page. It can be a lonely business. And for those who write for kids, like me, it’s very removed from your kid readers.
The most rewarding part is doing author visits, and then getting drawings and letters from kid fans afterward. They’re so fun and honest! For a while, I just kept them in a box, unsure what to do with all this kid fanmail. Now I hang a different piece of art by my desk each workday, to help inspire me. I also post pictures of these letters and drawings on social media. The response from my friends and followers has been really great.
Kids are so inspiring. They weather hard times with a resilience that gives me hope and make me try harder to be a good human myself.
- Website: www.ftbradley.com
- Instagram: fleurbradley
- Facebook: Facebook.com/FTBradleyAuthor
- Twitter: @FTBradleyAuthor