Emmy presenters awarding best writing stated that writers have an obligation to bring their readers along on the emotional journey that the characters experience. Liana Gardner has done just that in 7th Grade Revolution. Published by Vesuvian Books the story is based on true events. It’s a mystery with historical aspects. Geared for nine to 12 year olds, it is nevertheless a story that many – even adults – can enjoy.
Having stumbled on a twitter notice about a teacher who had created a “revolutionary atmosphere” for her 7th grade class, Liana became intrigued and did what many writers do – based her story on a “What if?” premise – What if what started off as a school experience became real? So Liana contacted the teacher.
As with most great authors, Liana knows that characters make the story. It is who they are, their goals, their flaws, their fears and how they overcome these fears and flaws that bring forth the emotion, which engages the readers and keeps them turning the pages. The plot with its twists and turns develops – or should develop – from who the characters are.
Since despite what we think and hope, no one person is perfectly good or perfectly bad and characters must be balanced. The story is told in two view points. Dennis Alexander, having been expelled from numerous other schools, is sure that Washington Academy will be as boring as the others but finds himself involved and leading the group that he’s disdained from the start. While Rhonda Snodgrass, who has trained herself in survival tactics, must stay off the radar of the cool kids while still proving her worth.
So watching these two main flawed characters (who I and many others young and old will probably identify with) struggle each with their own issues of isolation and rejection, feeling awkward and weird among their more polished socially comparing peers, as well as, at times being more intellectually advanced than the others. Each must overcome their fears to help the cause they are now devoting themselves and to grow in their own journeys.
While many writers take events from their own lives, Liana does not. “My secret for developing characters is to let them be organic. I chat with them and have them talk to me and tell me who they are. Often I daydream about the story and the characters pop up – ‘this is who I am and how I am involved.”
Using the “What if” process Liana knew she wanted the revolution to be real and that she wanted a revolutionary war artifact. After some research she discovered that artist Patience Wright, also an American spy, had been passing information through her sculptures and that actually Ben Franklin had been the one playing both sides.
When the 7th grade teacher decides to allow the kids to control their curriculum no one has any idea that it will set off a fight against the FBI who, having realized there is a valuable artifact hidden in the academy, have evacuated the majority of the school. But they have forgotten the 7th grade.
The students’ mission is clear. This is WAR! The kids forget their differences. They must find the hidden treasure left by the school’s founder before the FBI does – and it’s up to Dennis and Rhonda to lead the way.
The short chapters encourage continued reading and the pictures contribute to the enjoyment.
A writer since the age of nine, Liana and her friends read all the books available to them and felt they could do better. They began writing their own. “I was the only one who actually did the writing and that material will never see the light of day. I didn’t seriously start writing again until my early 20’s.”
“My 13-year-old sister had been reading the Sweet Valley High series and I wanted her to have something more substantial to read.” It was then that she completed her first novel – Misfit McCabe – which became a Pearson Prize Teen Choice Award winner. She plans to rework into a series shortly.
Another of her books Speak No Evil is about a selective mute – – who helps solve a crime by the use of music (and Liana hopes to have a record with the music used to accompany the publication of the book.)
Among the items for 7th Grade Revolution will be not only a holiday push on social media, but playing cards and a possible sequel.
She met her current agent, Italia Gandolfo when she wrote to author Elizabeth Isaacs who did The Light of Asteria and made suggestions. Shortly after that she began editing for GH Literary and signed on as a client of Italia’s. As director of operations for VMG, Liana must balance her writing with her business role. She tells new writers to have patience and to study their craft. It takes time to do things right and many give up before they accomplish their goals.
We look forward to other of Ms. Gardner’s books in the future.