Sometimes, out of the blue, we are able to experience a joy that takes us back in time a little bit; back to our childhoods, when magic, friends, and summer camp seem to go hand in hand…in hand. This time, though, I got to take a trip down memory lane with my daughter.
Author Pete Catalano asked if I might review his upcoming middle grade novel, ARTIFACTS, in exchange for an honest review. As an author, I don’t read or write middle grade at all, but the premise of his story intrigued me; middle school students with their summer camp vacation on the line, must search for artifacts from fairy tales to be displayed in a library exhibit, or else be remanded to summer school! I teach in a middle school, and I could hardly wait to see how the 6th graders in Mr. Catalano’s book fared in their quest.
This book provided an opportunity to read something brand new with my school aged daughter, and let me tell you, she loved it! In ARTIFACTS, Mr. Catalano creates vivid characters, and places them in wildly imaginative settings as he weaves the tale from start to finish. You will find yourself rooting for Jax, Korie, Crunch, Mouth and Tank (Great names!) as they battle fairy tale villains from the past in search of the artifacts. I was impressed with how Mr. Catalano was able to create the hysterical sarcasm that is the trademark middle school wit. Trust me, I know! I hear it every day! This was a really fun read. It is creatively written, and absolutely cracked my daughter up in several points, to the point of hiccups! I’ll be recommending it to my school’s library, as well.
I really enjoyed reading this with my daughter, and I know that others will, too. My only wish would be that there were illustrations to begin each chapter. Pete Catalano’s writing is so vivid in some scenes! But then again, I enjoyed letting my imagination paint the pictures. I look forward to more from this author.

ARTIFACTS Interview on Shari Schwarz’s Blog

ARTIFACTS by Pete Catalano

Today, I have Pete Catalano on the blog for his debut MG, ARTIFACTS, which is a super fun and inventive fantasy adventure.

Description: It’s funny how one little letter can change a person’s life. Jax and his friends have been planning the summer of a lifetime at Camp Runamuck. However, when one of them is facing summer at a school desk for failing English, they watch those plans crash and burn!

At the last moment they’re given a way out.

An extra credit assignment to find several fake artifacts for a fairy tale display their teacher is presenting at the local library.

Thinking they’ve hit the easiest-extra-credit-ever jackpot, they begin rummaging through any piles of junk they can find. As they start putting the clues together, they realize that what they’re really searching for is one authentic artifact that can rewrite fairy tales!

Enlisting the aid of the Lost Boys, Jax and his friends battle fairy tale villains to see who can get their hand, or their hook, on it first.

Thanks for joining me, Pete!

  1. Can you share with us a bit about your path to publication? How long did it take for you to write your first draft? To find your agent or editor?

The Path to Publication is filled with waiting.

Waiting to see if your ideas can be woven so that they actually come together at the end.

Waiting while the person whose opinion you really value reads it.

Waiting while you rewrite it and try to find the right words.

Waiting while you submit to someone and see if they like it too.

Once you get through all the “not for me,” “doesn’t fit my list,” I’m sure someone else,” and finally get an “I would love to take a look at it,” then the waiting starts again.

I write quickly, so the first draft of ARTIFACTS probably took me four weeks.

From there I rewrote it a few times and then submitted directly to Month9Books. Georgia was kind enough to ask for it right away but the story really didn’t get a lot of life to it until it was read by my editor Tara Creel who laughed when it was funny and made me make some tough choices when it wasn’t. It took me a very short time to find my Editor, but I’m still trying to find my Agent.

  1. What inspired you to write such a fantastical mash-up of a story with such great, fun characters?

I’ve always loved fairy tales and the books and movies associated with them. (My daughter and I went to see The Little Mermaid 17 weekends in a row when it first came out. LOL) My stories that work best for me are always of several friends together on sometimes a life and death adventure but no matter how dire the circumstances may be, never missing a chance to make fun of their friends. One day I thought of how cool it would be if there was an artifact that could rewrite fairy tales and, if there was, which one of the fairy tale villains would be sent to find it. That of course led to the question that was the fairy tale heroes found out who would they send to help the kids against them.

  1. Which character in ARTIFACTS do you relate to the most and why?

Jax of course! He’s the idea guy. They need to go to camp together. Now they had to help Crunch with his extra credit so there would be no man left behind. Once he found out what Bartholomew was really up to he did put his life on the line a few times. I had the most fun in Jax’s interactions with Gaston and how he was always turning the tables on him and then poor La Fool took the brunt of it. Jax had to make a lot of decisions but he had good friends around him that he could trust. Any one of them could have been the hero in the story and at certain times they were.

However, I have to say that I think there really is a little bit of Crunch in everybody. And I relate to the James Hook who never made it on to Blackbeard’s ship in the first place and turned out to be a good man.

  1. What is the craziest thing you learned or Googled while writing your book?

That Hook and Smee were both named Bartholomew. As Mouth said, “Who the heck in their right mind would name a pirate Bartholomew?”

I also had to create a lot of fantasy in this story, a lot of magic. How the thickets would react, what would body parts that were turned into cartoons act like, how fast would things appear or disappear once they used Jacob Grimm’s pen. As things were put into motion, suddenly other very unexpected things would pop up making the story even funnier.

  1. What is your favorite writing tip? How about a query tip?

Writing Tip: Write fast and let your story come out. You will have to go back and revise later anyway so don’t slow down and worry about every word choice the first time around. When I write I like to rewrite the last page I had written so I get back into the swing of things quickly. The one thing that has really worked for me is that as I write I’m seeing everything play through in my mind as if I’m watching a movie and then I just write it all down.

Query Tip:  Do your homework. Be selective. Don’t send out a thousand of them to anyone who has the word Agent in their title. Send out ten at a time and wait. You’ll have to do a lot of waiting in this business so this would be a great place to start.

Years ago Pete Catalano found an Artifact that allows him to write great Middle Grade stories. Keeping it a secret but putting it to good use, he’s completed several new novels, and not surprisingly, can be found always working on the next new idea. He lives in Charlotte, NC with one beautiful wife, two very needy one hundred pound sheep dogs, and a multitude of characters inside his head — battling to get out.

Website: https://petecatalano.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pete.catalano.3

Twitter: @pete_catalano