Welcome to March, where the debuts are plentiful and the books are awesome!
Seventh Grade vs. The Galaxy
by Joshua S. Levy
PSS 118 is just your typical school--except that it's a rickety old spaceship orbiting Jupiter. When the school is mysteriously attacked, thirteen-year-old Jack receives a cryptic message from his father (the school's recently-fired-for-tinkering-with-the-ship science teacher). Amidst the chaos, Jack discovers that his dad has built humanity's first light-speed engine--and given Jack control of it. To save the ship, Jack catapults it hundreds of light-years away and right into the clutches of the first aliens humans have ever seen. School hasn't just gotten out: it's gone clear across the galaxy. And now it's up to Jack and his friends to get everyone home.
March 5th, 2019
Introduce yourself and your debut novel!
Hello! I’m Josh! And my middle grade sci-fi debut, SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY comes out on March 5! It’s about the PSS 118, a run-of-the-mill “Public School Spaceship,” orbiting one of Jupiter’s moons in the future. It gets attacked by aliens. Catapulted across the galaxy. And it’s up to three seventh graders to get the school home. Zero-gravity dodge ball. Alien video game arcades. All-around spacey shenanigans.
What’s the most surprising part about your debut journey so far?
This one’s easy. Hands down, the people I’ve met. This middle grade writing community is just so gracious and so kind and so supportive. Maybe that shouldn’t be the most “surprising” thing, because I’ve known all-along how wonderful the community is—but whatever my expectations were before I joined it…they’ve been exceeded many times over.
Give a shout-out to a fellow debut!
And this one’s hard! Just one! How about Cory Leonardo, whose absolutely delightful and brilliantly crafted THE SIMPLE ART OF FLYING, which is already out!!! Aaaahhh!!!
Who is your favorite character?
There’s no way I could choose between my three main characters, Jack, Becka, and Ari. But after them? Maybe Middle School Principal Jerry Lochner. He’s comes across as a little cheesy. And his wardrobe could use an update. But he always has the kids’ best interests at heart. And he’s not bad in a pinch, either.
Describe your writing space.
My ideal writing space is (*takes deep breath*) at a small table, alone, in the back corner of a loud and crowded coffee shop—early in the morning—with my computer screen faced away from any other eyes, headphones in, instrumental movie/TV soundtrack on (John Williams? Michael Giacchino? Murray Gold?), coffee hot.
How do you select character names?
I’m so happy about this question. Ready for a ride?
In SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY, all (human) first names are short for some location on Earth where the characters’ families are originally from, before they moved out to other moons in the solar system. (This is all just in my head, by the way. It’s never actually said in the book.) And all (human) last names (just go with me here) are taken from United States Supreme Court decisions that have some connection to the character.
So…Principal Jerry Lochner? His family (again, just in my head) is originally from a small town called Jerry City, Ohio. And his last name is taken from Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905), a more than hundred-year-old case about (still with me?) the constitutionality of state laws restricting the “freedom to contract.” The actual issues at stake in Lochner aren’t totally relevant—except to note that the case was eventually essentially overturned, resulting in what’s now referred to as the bygone “Lochner era,” which often gets chided as old and out-of-date. Kind of like Principal Lochner.
(Also, if you wanted to go read Oliver Wendell Holmes’s short and fascinating dissent in Lochner, I won’t stop you.)
NOTE: None of this is necessary (or even all that helpful, really) to understanding anything about SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY. But you wanted to know about naming schemes? And, well, there ya go.
So don’t worry. Kids do not need to take Con Law 101 to appreciate why Principal Lochner should probably invest in a new suit jacket.
What book or author has most influenced your own writing?
Another tough one, but how about this: My writing (or, my love of stories, really) is deeply rooted in my love of Star Wars. And my love of Star Wars stems, in large part, from the old (and new!) expanded universe novels.
Link to a music playlist!
Is it cheating to just point you to the Season 1 instrumental soundtrack for LOST by Michael Giacchino? (I mean, they’re all pretty great. But gotta start somewhere.)
- Are your characters slogging through a long journey (preferably, but not necessarily, on foot)? Try Track 6. (“Hollywood and Vines”; if you’re in a rush, start about 45 seconds in.)
- Is your MC realizing something important about themselves? Definitely Track 19. (“Locke’d Out Again.” Don’t tell him what he can’t do!)
- Saying goodbye to someone? You’ll need Track 20. (“Life and Death.” Oof.)
Josh's novel is super fun from start to finish. I read and reviewed it! Check it out HERE!