Author Frank Morelli | The Weekly Geek 72
Whatup, you nerd. This week, I had the pleasure of asking author Frank Morelli what he's geeking out about. Frank's just released a new middle grade book, Breaking News, which I got to review, and it's great. As I noted in my review, Breaking News is "a fun, fast-paced narrative that documents two spirited middle school reporters and their comical journey to journalistic integrity. An entertaining and important story!"
Frank Morelli is the author of the young adult novels On the Way to Birdland (2021) and No Sad Songs (2018), a YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers nominee and winner of an American Fiction Award for best coming of age story. His latest middle grade novel, Breaking News, was just released from Fitzroy Books. A Philly boy at heart, Morelli now lives in North Carolina where he may be the only living soul who doesn’t drink sweet tea and who can’t break 100 on the golf course.
Frank, what are you geeking out about?
What I’m Reading: I’m in the process of preparing summer reading assignments for my rising eighth grade class, so I’ve been reading and re-reading Neil Gaiman’s Newberry and Carnegie Medal winner, The Graveyard Book, and I’m astounded by how Gaiman is able to completely lure the reader into the realm of the dead while simultaneously presenting the living world outside the cemetery gates as the actual realm of horror. I’m also reading Valerie Nieman’s newly-released YA thriller In the Lonely Backwater, which is absolutely riveting so far. I recommend both books!
What I’m Listening To: I just finished the first draft of a new YA novel that will eventually become the opening tale in a genre-bending trilogy that’s two parts horror, one part true crime, and a whole lot of parts teen angst. The story is told from the limited viewpoints of four separate narrators who kind of hate each other, but whose lives become inextricably linked by a strange, supernatural event, a rogue podcast, a crumbling ghost town, and the real-life mine fire that has been raging beneath it since the early 1960s. I’ve been inspiring myself with some mood music to help me capture the gritty eeriness of the story, so my playlist for the novel is stacked with songs by Joan Jett, The White Stripes, Alice in Chains, Led Zeppelin, Depeche Mode, and Radiohead, among others. I’ve kind of been listening to it on repeat, and I’m not mad about it.
TV Show I’m Rewatching: After the slap heard round the world, I couldn’t resist diving into my dusty, old DVD collection to find the complete series of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Like, the original one. The one that’s a comedy. I grew up in the Philly area and was in middle school when the show premiered, and I can tell you Will Smith was an absolute hero to people my age who lived in the area at that time. The show is still pretty darn funny regardless of what you think about what happened at The Oscars this year and, yes, Carlton Banks is still the best dancer of all time.
What else are you up to?
In a word: gardening. The garden is my happy place, and a place where I actually get a few moments of Zen and sometimes dream up a big literary idea or two. I’m lucky enough to live on a property with a forest’s worth of very tall trees. Unfortunately, those same trees have now grown so tall that the only reliable sunlight I get on my property anymore is on the vast desert that is my driveway. Cement. Not the best growing medium. But fear not. I used to live in Manhattan where I had to do any/all of my gardening on a rancid, pockmarked rooftop in the middle of a concrete jungle. I’ve been leaning on what I’ve learned from that experience and trying to perfect my ability to grow string beans, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and broccoli rabe in containers. I can tell you this: I can’t wait to start harvesting the literal fruits of my labor.
What else are you up to?
I’ve also been busy launching a new middle grade novel titled Breaking News, which is a perfect summer read for middle school students. It’s also a perfect novel to pair with a unit on media literacy, if you happen to be a teacher. The novel is told in the primary documents of two rival reporters and a junior detective all attempting to nab the culprit behind a schoolwide fundraising heist…only they all have their own slice of involvement in the crime. My hope is that Breaking News will provide young readers with an entertaining opportunity to test their critical thinking skills and attempt to separate fact from fiction in my multi-narrated tale.
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