Skylar Robbins Fun Facts

Please check out my latest interview from Mystery and Thriller Week to learn new Skylar Robbins fun facts!

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C
haracter Interview

  1. Character Name: Skylar Robbins
  2. Role in your story: protagonist
  3. Age: 13
  4. Description: Funny, quirky, vulnerable teen sleuth
  5. Nickname: Teen Detective Skylar
  6. Occupation: amateur sleuth
  7. Location: Santa Monica, CA
  8. Goal in life: to become a private detective like my grandfather and to  open my own detective agency
  9. Motto: Never give up!
  10. Family: Only child of intelligent mom (teacher at UCLA) and dad (scientist/chemist)
  11. Best friend: BFF Alexa O’Reilly: dyslexic, intelligent assistant detective
  12. Current conflict: taking dangerous chances while trying to solve my next mystery
  13. Favorite Food: Peanut butter on Graham crackers, and sushi (not at the same time!)
  14. Addictions: hunting for clues
  15. Pet Peeve: bullies and liars
  16. Favorite Hobby: decoding secret messages
  17. What do you do for fun? Explore new neighborhoods on my bike with my BFF, Alexa.

Favorite childhood memory:
My grandfather’s face popped into my mind, and within seconds I was longing to see him again. Grandpa had taught me all sorts of important skills for finding clues, investigating mysteries, and solving cases. I remembered how he taught me to lift fingerprints like it was yesterday:
 Grandpa treated me to a blue-eyed smile. Then he winked at me and held out his hand with a Kleenex covering his palm. “Let’s see that juice box.” I put the box of Juicy-Juice I’d just finished on the tissue. He moved it onto the table in front of him, careful not to touch the surfaces of the box with his fingers. “This is fingerprinting powder,” he explained, holding up what looked like a jar of dark ash. “Watch,” my grandfather said, sprinkling some of the powder onto the side of the juice box. Then he took a big soft brush and whisked most of the powder onto a napkin.
I leaned closer. A crisp, gray copy of my fingerprint stuck to the side of the waxy box like a decal on the back of my bike.
“Now we lift the print.” Grandpa removed a clear, sticky piece of tape from a roll. He pressed it down on top of my fingerprint, and then very slowly peeled the tape off of the box. “See?” he said, showing it to me. My fingerprint made a perfect picture on the clear tape. “Now let’s mount this on a Case Solution card.” He took a card off the stack he had in his detective kit, and pressed the tape down onto the card, trapping my print. I watched him fill in the case line. Since there was no case number he just wrote, SKYLAR ROBBINS’S FINGERPRINT.

Grandpa handed me the card. “It’s yours to keep. Next weekend we’ll print someone else and I’ll teach you how to compare fingerprints to see if you can find a match.”
“OK,” I said, wrapping my arms around his neck. “Let’s print Mom.”
“Let’s,” he agreed, his eyes full of fun.

 

  1. Dream job: Secret Agent
  2. Favorite part of your day: Getting to school before first period, hoping a cute boy will sit next to me in class.
  3. Pessimist, Optimist, or Realist: Optimist
  4. Beverage of choice: iced tea
  5. Most annoying person in your life: Pat Whitehead, school bully
  6. Taken or single? Single. Any love interests? Dustin Coles and Daniel Gannon
  7. Pets: none right now…
  8. Biggest Fear: failing to solve a mystery
  9. Guilty Pleasure: Telling secrets in sign language with Alexa
  10. Most embarrassing moment: Squirting Ketchup on my pink pants and smearing it into a big stain before going to class with Daniel.
  11. Greatest Strength: Using the tools in my detective kit to find clues and solve mysteries
  12. Greatest Weakness: I feel bad when I take dangerous chances and hide it from my parents.
  13. Who do you most admire? My grandfather: a retired police officer.
  14. Are you keeping any secrets? I take my Porta-detective kit to school in my backpack in case I need to dust for fingerprints or examine something using my Mini-Mag glass.
  15. Where do you see yourself in ten years? As a secret agent, traveling the world on top secret missions.
  16. Advice for the reader as they follow you through your journey? Learn to solve riddles and decipher clues using my detective skills. Crime scenes are three-dimensional: look for clues on the floor, all for walls, and the ceiling. Palm a compact to spy on people behind you. Learn sign language and Morse code so you can communicate without talking or when solving a mystery underwater.


The Mystery of Shadow Hills (The Skylar Robbins Mysteries) by Carrie Cross 
4 stars out of 5

​Of course, I am not part of the intended audience for this book, so my view might be a bit skewed by my age. Despite my age band, I was able to read it, and that in itself says something, considering the fact that I’m – unfortunately – a very picky reader and I get bored easily.
That being said, I definitely recommend this book to teenagers. The tone of the narrative is light enough to encourage them to continue reading and the plot is interesting enough for a twelve or thirteen-year old. It really made me remember some of the books I read when I was that age.
The protagonist is Skylar Robbins who wants nothing else in life but to be a Private Investigator like her late grandpa. The writer did a good job in presenting this young girl. It is believable and well anchored in the reality of the respective age. She has all the confidence and doubts characteristic to someone of her age and a young reader could identify themselves with her. The character is well developed and I think that the narrative in first person might have contributed seriously to that.
I always try to avoid writing a synopsis of the books I review and I will do the same here. Keeping in mind that the novel is for a young audience, I would say that the author succeeded in her task. Either she remembers how it felt and how one thought at that age or she is a good psychologist. Anyway, she did an amazing job in her incursion in the young psyche.
One thing might detract from the quality of the book (again, I repeat, I am trying to see the book through the eyes of a young reader): too detailed descriptions. I, for one, liked them, however, a young reader might not have the patience to read them.
On the whole, this is a good book for the intended audience. I would recommend it. 

The Mystery of Hidden Jewels (The Skylar Robbins Mysteries) by Carrie Cross 
5 stars out of 5

I read this second book of the series the same day as the first and probably that’s why the impact is so strong. If the first book in the series seemed good enough for a teenager, this second book was good enough for an adult, even though the protagonists kept being the same teenager as in the first one.
This novel is a real surprise. Authors evolve in time. Their writing gets better and better – if the writer is good to begin with, of course. However, it is surprising to see so much development in a second book. The fluidity of the story mesmerizes and simply catches you in: you can’t put the book down. I read it in one sitting.
The main character was developed in the first book, but here there’s much more substance. The author surprises the teenager’s evolution and if the first book Skylar was just a curious girl, tattering on the brink of evolution, now she becomes really interesting: there are some doubts but not so definite. She has the courage to stand for her convictions and thus the story becomes catchier.
I recommended the first book – mostly to children between 10 and 13. This one goes beyond that age band. If someone likes a good mystery, a fluid plot, catchy dialogue, then, they should read this book.

Carpinello’s Writing Pages Interview

My new interview just went live on Carpinello’s Writing Pages: Information about books for Children/Tweens/YA, with a little bit of writing thrown in. Explore new books. Discover new authors. Uncover pieces of an author’s life. All with a focus on getting Young Readers to read and write more.

Meet MG Mystery Writer Carrie Cross

Carpinello’s Writing Pages welcomes Carrie Cross, author of the middle grade mystery series Skylar Robbins. First, a bit about Carrie:

Carrie Cross is an avid reader who fell in love with books as a little girl after reading Goodnight Moon. She wrote her first “book” at age four: Blackie the Little Black Dog and the Flying Washing Machine. Carrie discovered her love of mysteries reading Nancy Drew books and The Happy Hollisters series, and while writing Skylar Robbins mysteries, she continues to look for clues in unexpected places to this day.

Why did you choose to write books for Middle Grade?

Some of the happiest memories from my ‘tweens involve cozy nights reading in bed, especially during a rainstorm. Judy Blume is my all time favorite author. I must have read, Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret, fifty times or more. Nancy Drew and The Happy Holisters sparked my interest in mysteries. Zilpha Keatley Snyder was another favorite. How I wished I had a Velvet Room to retreat to, or a Changeling for a best friend!

My first book (never published) was written for an adult audience. While I shopped that, I started the first draft of a Skylar Robbins novel, and I was hooked instantly. I knew this was the age group I was meant to write for: the age I was when I read my favorite Judy Blume books.

What types of books do you like to read?

I still love to read MG and YA: Deb Caletti and Sarah Dessen are two favorites. I also can’t get enough of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, and Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole mysteries. I love biographies of those who lead unusual, superlative, or decadent lives, or books (fiction or non) about people who have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

When you are not writing, what do you like to do?

Read, read, read. When I’m not writing or reading, I love to cook and go out to eat, especially for sushi, or to graze on small plates. I also own my own business distributing clothing wholesale, so I’m super busy. But if I have free time or take a vacation, you’ll find me on a boat or at a tropical beach.

Tell us about Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels and how the story came to be.

Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels is the second novel in the Skylar Robbins mystery series, and it just won the LASR Readers’ Choice Award for January 2015!

When I was six years old, my parents decided we needed to buy a bigger house. We looked at a creepy two-story in Santa Monica Canyon, and I played hide-and-seek with the little girl who lived there. There were closets and secret hiding places with doors that opened into other rooms. Later, I wondered, “What if there was a clue hidden in one of those closets?” And the idea for the Skylar Robbins mystery series was born, starting with The Mystery of Shadow Hills.

Here’s a peek at The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels:

 
After solving The Mystery of Shadow Hills, thirteen-year-old sleuth Skylar Robbins is ready for a new adventure. Sure enough, as soon as she decides to start her own detective agency a thrilling case falls right into her hands.

A deserted mansion perches on a steep hillside, overlooking a rocky canyon. Tattered curtains hang behind broken windows, and a turret stretches toward the sky. Three years ago the owner disappeared suddenly, leaving behind a house full of secrets: A mysterious note, tantalizing clues, a hidden floor, one piece of a treasure map, and a missing fortune in diamonds.

Armed with her detective kit, and with the support of her BFF Alexa and a team of secret agents, Skylar embarks on a new and dangerous mission. Can she outwit a gang of aggressive bikers and find the hidden jewels before they do? Or will the perils of middle school–like battling ruthless bully Emelyn Peters–get in her way?

Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.

Skylar’s adventures began in The Mystery of Shadow Hills. Thirteen-year-old sleuth Skylar Robbins is horrified to learn that she’ll be stuck at her bullying cousin Gwendolyn’s creepy mansion for the summer. She has no idea how much excitement and danger awaits her in Malibu’s Shadow Hills.

As soon as Skylar arrives at the estate, unexplainable events begin to happen. She discovers a hidden garden in the huge back yard, and her new friend Kat pronounces it the perfect place to perform spells. Practical Skylar is skeptical, until the magic appears to start working.

Is Kat a real middle school witch and a true friend, or is she just interested in the cute stable boy? Did she use magic to control Skylar’s body, or was it all part of a complicated hoax? Who or what is making those terrifying noises up in Shadow Hills at night?

Rumors are flying and the locals are afraid. Kat challenges Skylar to take increasingly dangerous risks while she tries to solve the mystery. Armed with her detective tools, brains, and a huge dose of courage, Skylar will face her deepest fears to find the truth.

What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?

Yes! At the end of Hidden Jewels, Skylar discovers a new and confusing clue, written in code. If she can manage to decode it, the note promises to lead her to a hidden diary containing the next clues to the whereabouts of a famous heiress who has been missing for three years. Skylar vows to crack that code and find out what happened to her. She does this in book 3: The Mystery of the Missing Heiress, which I hope to publish by the end of 2015.

What advice do you have for other authors?

This advice comes from one of my blog posts, “Carrie Cross’s Advice to Aspiring Writers #1”:

Enjoy the writing process and revise, revise, revise. Get as many people as possible to read your manuscript and give you constructive criticism. Don’t just rely on family and friends for feedback. They love you and will tell you your book is great, even if it isn’t.

Find beta readers in your target age group who you don’t know personally. For instance, I asked my account base at work if they had children who would be willing to read my book, Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills, before publication, and emailed the manuscript to those kids. Their feedback was invaluable.

Finally, don’t let rejections from agents deter you from getting published. Self-publish if you don’t get a contract; you’re going to do most of your own marketing anyway. Calvin Coolidge said it best: Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent!

Anything else you want readers to know?

On my website: www.carrie-cross.com, there are free games, interactive sleuthing, and lots of other fun things going on!

Where can readers find you and your books?

Please follow me on:

Facebook
Twitter
Website
Goodreads

Amazon author page
Amazon: Skylar Robbins: Mystery of Shadow Hills
Amazon: Skylar Robbins: Mystery of the Hidden Jewels

The Publishing Experience

AuthorProfile

THE PUBLISHING EXPERIENCE: GUEST POST BY CARRIE CROSS

from Stories Unfolded

My experience getting published has been a long, winding, bumpy road. I had been writing for many years when I finally submitted my first manuscript, an adult novel called The Dark File, to several agents. While many had positive things to say, or provided constructive criticism and an invitation to resubmit, none of them ever offered to represent me.

I’ve always loved to read Middle Grade and Young Adult, so while The Dark File was being shopped (it takes months for agents to reply) I started to write my first draft of a Skylar Robbins MG mystery. This early version of Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills was called Magic Summer, and while I tried patiently to land an agent, I started writing the sequel, entitled Skylar Robbins: Secret Agent. Magic Summer never got a bite, but Secret Agent landed me…an agent.

I was picked up by Writers House, and had high hopes of getting a deal with a traditional publisher. However, after months of shopping my manuscript, all I had was a pile of apologetic rejection letters. Some were complimentary but said their house had another teen detective series which was too similar, and didn’t want to bring in a competing novel. Others contained excellent constructive criticism, which I implemented in my revision. This novel ultimately became The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels.

Most agents specify that authors should not “simultaneously submit” to more than one agent. They don’t want to waste their time reading a manuscript that might get snapped up by a competitor. It was my experience that agents typically take three months to read a submission and respond. So I did the math. If I wanted to try to get another agent, and then wait for that agent to submit my manuscript to various publishers (who also take months to reply) it could take many, many years before my books were ever in print. So I decided to self-publish.

My experience with Amazon’s Createspace has been excellent. Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills and The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels are now in print, and have gotten excellent reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I would heartily recommend aspiring authors to self-publish, as long as they are willing to do their own marketing. Traditional publishing houses no longer have the budget to spend on advertising, so authors will end up doing their own publicity anyway. I offer more Advice for Aspiring Writers on my blog: http://www.skylarrobbins.com/

Thanks so much for the opportunity to talk about my experience as an author. I hope this helps fellow writers complete their journey to publication.

THE MYSTERY OF SHADOW HILLS BUY LINKS:

AMAZON

THE MYSTERY OF THE HIDDEN JEWELS BUY LINKS:

AMAZON

ABOUT CARRIE CROSS

WEBSITE | TWITTER

Melissa Chier Interviews Carrie Cross

SHADOW HILLS COVER

During a recent interview, writer Melissa Chier asked me some intriguing questions about Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills. They really made me think about my process as a writer, and what’s next for the Skylar Robbins series.

Q: Where did you get the idea for your story?

A: The Skylar Robbins series was initially inspired by an interesting old house. When I was six years old, my parents decided we needed to buy a bigger place. We looked at a creepy two-story in Santa Monica Canyon, and I played hide-and-seek with the little girl who lived there. There were closets and secret hiding places with doors that opened into other rooms. Later, I wondered, “What if there was a clue hidden in one of those closets?” And the idea for the Skylar Robbins mystery series was born.

Q: Did you have the whole idea for your story before you wrote it, or did you make it up as you went along?

A: Some authors like to start with an outline, diagramming their whole book scene-by-scene. This structure doesn’t work for me. I find that it inhibits my creativity if I have to force dialogue, plot twists, and suspense into a prearranged outline. But authors should start their novel with the end planned in advance, so we can write toward the climax. So I began with an idea for the plot, but the farther I got into it and the more I came to know my characters, the more it grew and morphed into something else.

Q: How much work did you put into figuring out the personality of your characters?

A: They almost developed themselves as I wrote the first book. During my first draft, Skylar Robbins was much shyer and more vulnerable. Then when I decided to make her thirteen rather than twelve, I rewrote the dialogue a little to make her more mature. As her sleuthing improved she became more intelligent and courageous. By the final draft of The Mystery of Shadow Hills, Skylar was a fun, fearless teen detective.

Q: Do you see yourself in the personality of your characters?

A: Yes, mainly in Skylar. She sets a goal (solving a mystery) and goes for it. I’m a lot like that. Skylar is also a little shy and introspective, and unafraid to befriend the differently-abled kids in school. In the second book she teaches herself and her BFF sign language so they can communicate with the hearing-impaired—and so they can tell secrets in school. My BFF and I did that too.

Q: How much pre-writing did you put into your novel?

A: Not much! I had the idea for a mysterious hidden garden, a smart teen detective stuck at her bullying cousin’s Malibu estate for the summer, and a new summer friend who claimed to be a witch. So I thought, what if that rational teenage sleuth grudgingly agreed to cast spells with an odd classmate in an abandoned garden–and the witchcraft actually started to work? What if their incantations gave the school bully a serious illness? Or enabled them to grow something unbelievable from seeds they found in a dank cave on the beach at midnight? What would that do to a smart 13-year-old who was brought up to believe that there is always a logical explanation for everything? I decided to start fireworks by pairing up this practical sleuth with a feisty teen witch who started to convince her that magic could actually work. And then I let my imagination go crazy.

Q: Did you know the ending of your story before you wrote it or did you surprise yourself?

A: I knew in my heart that I would have Skylar solve the mystery, but I had no idea what the climax would be, or the final outcome. Those grew out of the writing process, using my imagination–and a lot of trial and error.

Q: Where the people who read your story helpful with feedback?

A: Tremendously. My beta readers included family members and other authors who gave me great constructive criticism, and kids in my target age group, who gave me enthusiastic support. Several groups of “tweens” started their own detective agencies after reading The Mystery of Shadow Hills. There’s no better validation than that!

Q: How effective was the feedback? Did you take any of it into consideration when revising your story?

A: Definitely! It’s been a long time since I was in middle school—in fact it was called “Junior High” back then. So my beta readers caught me up on current terms and trends. More importantly, they let me know when Skylar got a little over-confident, and applauded me when the bullies in the story got what was coming to them. All of this feedback was helpful not only in the current book, but I can apply their feedback to the rest of the titles in the series.

Q: Are you currently working on anything as of right now?

A: Right now I’m getting ready to publish Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels (the sequel to The Mystery of Shadow Hills). This book is interactive; Skylar Robbins fans can fill out the Secret Agent Application Form (S.A.A.F.) on her website (www.skylarrobbins.com) and post guesses as to what they think the clues in the story mean. The new book will be available on December 9, 2014, which is Read Tuesday.

Q: Are you planning on writing any more books in the future?

Yes. The Skylar Robbins mysteries are a series. After she solves her second big case, The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels, the Skylar Robbins Detective Agency tackles The Mystery of the Missing Heiress, and I am currently at work on my fourth Skylar Robbins novel, The Curse of Koma Island.

Thanks so much, Melissa, for the interesting interview questions!

~ Carrie Cross

Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills is currently for sale on Amazon.

Interview with Indie House Books

AuthorProfileGive us the first five facts (about you) you think of:

1. I’m tall and I have long hair. (OK, that’s two, but who’s counting?)

2. I love to cook, barbeque, and eat sushi.

3. My dream house would have an ocean view.

4. Blue Jays and squirrels eat peanuts out of my hand in our backyard.

5. I’m obsessed with words. Not just forming them into sentences that turn into paragraphs that end up as chapters and wind up as books. Puns, riddles, making up silly names for things, playing Words With Friends, reading…I just love words.

Your latest book is part of your Skylar Robbins series. Tell us about the series.

Skylar Robbins is a smart, thirteen-year-old sleuth who plans to become a private detective like her grandfather. In The Mystery of Shadow Hills, Skylar is forced to stay at her bullying cousin Gwendolyn’s Malibu estate for the summer. She brings her detective kit, portable spy tools, and her journal for taking notes in secret code. On the first day of summer school an odd classmate passes a note in backward writing, introducing Skylar to the secret world of witchcraft. Practical Skylar didn’t believe in magic—until the spells they perform in an abandoned garden actually begin to work.

One reviewer likened this book to, “Nancy Drew meets Harry Potter,” but the series itself is not about magic. It’s about a spunky teen detective who is a compassionate friend with a penchant for finding and solving mysteries. Skylar shows readers creative ways to stand up to bullies, and has inspired more than one group of girls—and boys—to start their own detective agencies. Their pictures can be seen on my website: www.carrie-cross.com.

Teen Mystery Press will publish the second book, Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels, in November. The Mystery of the Missing Heiress and The Curse of Koma Island will follow.

What was your inspiration for the series?

When I was six years old, my parents decided we needed to buy a bigger house. We looked at a creepy two-story in Santa Monica Canyon, and I played hide-and-seek with the little girl who lived there. There were closets and secret hiding places with doors that opened into other rooms. Later I wondered, “What if there was a clue hidden in one of those closets?” I never forgot that house, and it inspired me to write a mystery series featuring a quirky teen detective. That sleuth is Skylar Robbins.

When I write, I use a game I call, “What if?” for inspiration. What if I explored that creepy old house and found it had a hidden floor? What would I find when I got there? What if I used an ultraviolet light in the attic and found a secret message written on the wall in invisible ink? What would it say? What if I discovered a tunnel hiding under some leaves in my backyard? Where would it lead? What if someone scary was hiding at the other end of the tunnel? I put my main character in that type of situation and let my imagination go wild.

What is it about Skylar that makes her a great character for young readers?

Skylar is a rational girl who demonstrates deductive reasoning skills while she deciphers clues during each exciting mystery. She has strength of character and is tenacious, self-reliant, and courageous. In addition, she has a big heart. She’s not afraid to befriend the unpopular kids at school, and learns sign language so she can communicate with a hearing-impaired boy in her summer school class. In The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels, she helps her dyslexic BFF deal with her learning disability.

I asked my beta readers for feedback after reading The Mystery of Shadow Hills, and they all seemed to love Skylar’s character. Some of their quotes are printed on the back cover of the second Skylar Robbins mystery:

“I love Skylar because she is really brave and does not give up.” ~ Miriam W., age 12

“Skylar taught me to choose friends wisely, and don’t believe everything anyone tells you.” ~ Jared W., age 10

“Skylar shows readers like me that anyone can uncover amazing secrets!” ~ Ella M., age 11

“I learned from Skylar to be fearless. You can do anything if you just try. And trust no one while solving a case, even if you think they are telling the truth.” ~ Kalyn M., age 11

What are some of the themes and story elements you touch on in the series?

The kids’ quotes in the previous question touch on some of my themes. Skylar is courageous and self-confident, and shows readers the importance of using your brain to determine the difference between reality and fantasy, and between real friends and phony ones. Shadow Hills has the element of witchcraft and magic woven through the story. In Hidden Jewels, Skylar races against a threatening gang of bikers to decipher a string of clues leading to a hidden fortune in jewels. Skylar teams up with the cutest boy in school to solve The Mystery of the Missing Heiress in the third book, and then they travel to a remote location with an unusual group of gifted classmates to investigate The Curse of Koma Island in book 4.

What do you wish more juvenile novels had? Do you try to include those in your books?

I wish more juvenile novels had strong, fearless female protagonists, and I created one in Skylar Robbins. There are some exceptions, like Gilda Joyce, the Gallagher Girls, and Amanda from The Amanda Project series. But unfortunately so many of the ‘tween and teen books today have female protagonists that are silly, weak, or suffering from bad parenting. I wanted to create a gutsy hero that readers would cheer for and want to emulate. One who could survive against seemingly impossible odds, and defeat bigger, stronger, more threatening opponents. So far, Skylar Robbins has done just that. And in each mystery, her foes and challenges become more difficult to overcome.

What was your favorite book as a child? Do you think it had an effect on the type of books you write now?

My favorite book as a child was Judy Blume’s, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Not because of Margaret’s religious dilemma, but because of its coming-of-age theme. I read that book over and over as a kid who was dying to get her first bra, and who, like Margaret, didn’t fill it very well once I had one. Waiting for and wondering when we would get our periods was an exciting time for my preteen friends and me, and as in Margaret’s life, “getting it” was a badge of honor when it finally arrived. Margaret got to play “Two Minutes in the Closet” with the cutest boy in school. What a thrill that would have been! All of Judy Blume’s books are excellent, but that one is an absolute classic, and it did have an effect on my Skylar Robbins series. During each mystery, Skylar deals with some of the same issues Margaret faced as a girl just entering puberty: fitting in at a new school, feeling left out when she’s the last girl to get her period, and crushing on a cute boy.

Describe your perfect writing space.

I enjoy writing anywhere that has a beautiful view. When I write at my dining room table and look up from my computer I can see through trees, across a mountainside, and over a canyon. At night I can see distant neighbors’ nights twinkling against the hills. I love to write in bed when it’s raining—the harder the better! Throw in some loud thunder and crashing lightning and I’m ecstatic.

My favorite place to write is at the beach in a lawn chair with a pad and pen, or on the patio of a tiny condo we have in San Jose Del Cabo. Looking at and listening to the ocean is so inspirational to me.

I was listening to waves crash when I wrote the following scene from The Mystery of Shadow Hills. Skylar’s friend Kat challenges her to search three caves at midnight for magic seeds she promises will grow into gems.

“Sky,” Kat cried suddenly, pointing across the black sand. “Look. There they are.” I was more concerned about the rising tide, and looked out over the dark rumbling ocean. White spray flew up in the air as another huge wave crashed nearby. So loud it sounded like a refriger­ator fell off a tall building and landed right next to us. I hurried after Kat as the water rushed forward. “This is it. Three caves.” Moonlight cast shadows behind the boul­ders that guarded the entrance. We darted around them and climbed under the rock arch.

The dark cave stunk of washed-up kelp, dank and rot­ten. I shuffled forward on the damp sand with my hands out in front of me like a sleepwalker, hoping I wouldn’t stumble over a rock or bash into a wall. I pulled out my flashlight and turned it on. As soon as its beam lit up the cave, heavy flies woke up, buzzing around the seaweed and bonking into my face. I ducked, swatting them away. Kat hurried past me and rushed toward the back of the cave, peering at the ground. Suddenly she cried, “Sky—here they are. I found the gem seeds!” Hidden between the boulders, disguised as wet pebbles, shining gem seeds winked up at us.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently in the final editing phase of Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels, which Teen Mystery Press will publish in November. I have a rough draft of a third book, The Mystery of the Missing Heiress, and an outline of a fourth, The Curse of Koma Island.

Finally, what advice would you give to your young readers and writers?

Enjoy the writing process and revise, revise, revise. Get as many people as possible to read your manuscript and give you constructive criticism. Don’t just rely on family and friends for feedback. They love you and will tell you your book is great, even if it isn’t. Find beta readers in your target age group who you don’t know personally. For instance, I asked my account base at work if they had children who would be willing to read my book before publication, and emailed the manuscript to those kids. Finally, don’t let rejections from agents deter you from getting published. Self-publish if you don’t get a contract; you’re going to do most of your own marketing anyway. Calvin Coolidge said it best: Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent!

Thank you, Indie House Books for the nice interview.

Allison’s Book Bag Interviews Carrie Cross

Interview with Carrie Cross

Posted by: Allison on: May 24, 2014

Carrie Cross is an avid reader who fell in love with books as a little girl after reading Goodnight Moon. Her absolute most-loved books are the ones she read in her ‘tweens. Cross has great memories of lying in bed on stormy nights reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Harriet the Spy, The Changeling, and Nancy Drew mysteries.

Writing is her favorite creative process. Cross has loved words since she was a little kid. She also wrote her first “book” at age four: Blackie the Little Black Dog and the Flying Washing Machine. Since books for this age group were the most fun to read, she thought as an adult that they would also be the most enjoyable to write.

According to her About, her inspiration for the Skylar Robbins’ mysteries comes from an incident when she was six years old. Cross played hide-and-seek with the little girl who lived in a creepy two-story in Santa Monica Canyon. There were closets and secret hiding places with doors that opened into other rooms. Later, she wondered, “What if there was a clue hidden in one of those closets?” Skylar is modeled on her mom, a strong woman who faced fears head on. The fingerprint illustrations are from actual jpeg images which Cross found online and that her husband recreated in Adobe Illustrator to give them a more kid-friendly feel.

In addition to writing mysteries and reading, Carrie loves to cook, hike at the beach, go boating, and travel. I posted a review yesterday of The Mystery of Shadow Hills.

ALLISON: Were you an only child or one of a sibling group? How did that impact the kind of adventures you experienced during your childhood?

CARRIE: I am an only child, so when I wasn’t spending time with friends I had to entertain myself, and loved to do anything creative. When I was about ten I got my first guitar. I taught myself chords out of a book and wrote songs I would sing with my friends, trying out simple harmonies. I also enjoyed making art projects like creating faux stained glass windows with liquid lead and glass stain. I’d hunt through the field behind our house for pretty rocks and paint them with clear nail polish to make paperweights. And of course, one of my favorite creative pastimes was writing. Besides writing songs, I penned poems and short stories in elementary school, and then I made my first attempt at a novel in junior high. I wrote an adult novel after college that was never published, and then decided I wanted to try writing a middle grade mystery. Teen Mystery Press published Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills in June 2013, and the sequel, The Mystery of The Hidden Jewels, comes out this summer.

ALLISON: Who served as your role model during your adolescence?

CARRIE: Definitely my mom, the late Sylvia Cross. I always try to emulate her leadership and strength of character. She had a quote from Calvin Coolidge hanging over the desk in her study where I used to do my homework, and it has remained my motto to this day: “Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” As president of the Women’s National Book Association, my mom took the organization to new heights, winning the respect of all of the chapter presidents. She was a mentor to many friends and coworkers. People still tell me that when faced with a problem or dilemma they ask themselves, “What would Sylvia have done?” What a nice compliment! I learned to be a good listener from my mom, and like her, I’m a friend people turn to for advice.

ALLISON: You lived in Malibu for eight years. What were your favorite activities there?

CARRIE: Walking on the beach, photographing my husband while he surfed, hiking in the hills overlooking the ocean, body surfing, and exploring caves. One of my favorite scenes in Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills takes place in the caves on Malibu Beach. Skylar’s new friend Kat challenges her to search three caves at midnight to search for seeds she promises will grow into gems.

“Sky,” Kat cried suddenly, pointing across the black sand. “Look. There they are.” I was more concerned about the rising tide, and looked out over the dark rumbling ocean. White spray flew up in the air as another huge wave crashed nearby. So loud it sounded like a refrigerator fell off a tall building and landed right next to us. I hurried after Kat as the water rushed forward. “This is it. Three caves.” Moonlight cast shadows behind the boulders that guarded the entrance. We darted around them and climbed under the rock arch.

The dark cave stunk of washed-up kelp, dank and rotten. I shuffled forward on the damp sand with my hands out in front of me like a sleepwalker, hoping I wouldn’t stumble over a rock or bash into a wall. I pulled out my flashlight and turned it on. As soon as its beam lit up the cave, heavy flies woke up, buzzing around the seaweed and bonking into my face. I ducked, swatting them away. Kat hurried past me and rushed toward the back of the cave, peering at the ground. Suddenly she cried, “Sky—here they are. I found the gem seeds!” Hidden between the boulders, disguised as wet pebbles, shining gem seeds winked up at us.

ALLISON: What is the most mysterious incident you can remember from growing up?

CARRIE: When I was six years old, my parents decided we needed to buy a bigger house. We looked at a creepy two-story in Santa Monica Canyon, and I played hide-and-seek with the little girl who lived there. I remember disappearing into closets and secret hiding places with doors that opened into other rooms. Later, I wondered, “What if there was a clue hidden in one of those closets? Or what if a cupboard door opened into a long, dark tunnel, with a big surprise at the other end?” I never forgot that house, and it was the inspiration for my second book, The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels.

ALLISON: What inspired you to write a mystery series?

CARRIE: I’ve always loved mysteries and stories about spies and sleuths. I read Nancy Drew and The Happy Hollisters as a kid, and loved Harriet the Spy. Another one of my favorite authors when I was younger was Judy Blume. So I thought, what if I could come up with a teen sleuth series and integrate some of the coming-of-age themes I loved to read about when I was a tween? That 13-year-old sleuth is Skylar Robbins. I’ve also always been interested in witchcraft, and wanted to weave that theme into my first detective story. So I decided to pit a teen witch against that young sleuth to kick off the first book in the series: Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills. One reviewer described it as, “Nancy Drew meets Harry Potter.”

ALLISON: Your bio says that you “look for clues in unexpected places”. What is the most unusual clue you have found?

CARRIE: It has been a long time since I have found a mysterious clue myself. However after reading my first book, more than one group of girls formed their own detective agencies. Girls Secret Agency in Oregon combed their school for clues and posted them on Skylar’s Facebook page along with their analysis of what each clue meant. Here is a picture of their most unusual clue:

Clue

ALLISON: Why did you decide to write for middle school?

CARRIE: My absolute favorite books of all time were the ones I read in my tweens. I have great memories of lying in bed on stormy nights reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, The Changeling, The Velvet Room, Nancy Drew mysteries, and Harriet the Spy, while I listened to raindrops hitting the metal sill outside my window. Since books for this age group were the most fun to read, I thought that they would also be the most fun to write.

ALLISON: This is the time when boys often stop reading books. Any plans to feature males to entice this audience?

CARRIE: Skylar is such a gusty heroine that I think she’s appealing to both boys and girls. Also, several of the main characters in the Skylar Robbins mysteries are boys, so I think the series will entice the male audience. I gave preview copies to a lot of my coworkers’ and customers’ kids to read before I was published so I could get honest feedback. Several of these kids were boys, and I was elated when I heard that they enjoyed the mystery as much as the girls did. Here’s a quote I got from one boy’s mom: “My 11-year-old son started reading the manuscript last night & couldn’t put it down…we finally had to take it away & turn the lights out. He keeps raving about how detailed & descriptive the book is.”

One group of brothers started their own detective agency: Wilkerson Boys, PI. Their mom is a photographer and took this picture while they were on the beach hunting for clues:

WilkersonBoysPIALLISON: Skylar’s new friend in the book associates herself with Wicca. Did you have any concerns about the negative reaction this might cause of some parents?

CARRIE: Skylar Robbins would never participate in black magic since she’s an ethical girl with integrity. But I needed her to be involved with magic in the story. What tween girl wouldn’t want to experiment with witchcraft if the outcome could be charming a cute boy or growing her own diamonds? I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, but by the end of the book, Skylar exposes most of the Wiccan characters as charlatans. Moms and librarians have given the book a 5-star rating and their seal of approval, so I’m pretty sure parents will be happy with the outcome of the book and Skylar’s conclusions.

ALLISON: How has your husband supported you?

CARRIE: My husband has supported me in every way. He’s a graphic artist and designed the book’s cover, which won an award for best cover design. We bought an image of a young girl from a stock photography site and Ed used various techniques to tweak it and make her resemble my description of Skylar from the novel. I can’t pass up the opportunity to give him a shameless plug: His website is Mental Ward Design. Also, he’s a great editor and gave me excellent constructive criticism on everything from plot to punctuation.

ALLISON: What’s next?

CARRIE: At the end of The Mystery of Shadow Hills, Skylar sends a message to the readers: The Skylar Robbins Detective Agency needs a few secret agents to help solve her next case, The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels (summer, 2014). But they must have mad detective skills! They need to decipher her web address by using a mirror if they haven’t yet learned to read backward. Then find the Secret Agent Application form, and decode their password using a code they learned in the book. The second mystery is interactive: Skylar’s secret agents will help her figure out what the clues mean by posting their guesses on her website. Skylar’s adventures will continue in The Mystery of the Missing Heiress (2015) and The Curse of Koma Island (TBA). Updates, clues, and games are available on Skylarrobbins.com, and more secret agents are welcome to join the fun!

Interview with Jaime Buckley

I had an opportunity to take a few minutes and talk with a wonderful author who has used her passions to empower a new generation of young readers in the time honored tradition of famous books like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys series. Her name is Carrie Cross and she is the clever author of “Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills.” The book, now in paperback, was published in July of 2013 by Teen Mystery Press, and can be purchased through Amazon. Read the rest of the interview here.

Super-Zoom binoculars

Moms: Skylar Robbins will Teach Your Kids that Being Smart is Cool!

Bibliohphilia+PleaseGuest post on Bibliophelia, Please: Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills, by Carrie Cross

Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills was written for the bullied kid in school, and the strong girl who protected her. The intelligent student who is misinterpreted as a nerd. The creative one who isn’t afraid to appear weird and different. And everyone who is afraid to take a risk—but is glad in the end that they had the courage. Read the rest of the interview here.

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Skylar replies to her readers

In a recent interview, 5 Skylar readers who became her secret agents (to participate interactively in the next book, THE MYSTERY OF THE HIDDEN JEWELS) answered several questions. One was, “If you could ask Skylar a personal question, what would it be?”
3 of her fans answered:
Does she ever wear dresses?
How many adventures in total have you solved?
Will she be my friend?

Here is how Skylar replied:
Does she ever wear dresses?
Yes! When I go to a party, a dance, or out to dinner I almost always wear a dress, or a skirt and a cute matching top. But when hunting for clues, I usually wear jeans. You can get pretty dirty searching a dusty attic or a forgotten garden for evidence. Black fingerprinting powder gets all over your hands and can really mess up your clothes. So casual is best when you’re working a case.

How many adventures in total have you solved?
I’ve been working on cases since I was a little kid, helping my Grampa. He was a cop before he went undercover, and he taught me everything I know about solving crimes. So my adventures are really too many to count. But stay tuned. After the Mystery of the Hidden Jewels, I get tangled up in the Mystery of the Missing Heiress, which–believe it or not–is even more dangerous! After that, it’s the Curse of Koma Island. I almost don’t get off of the island alive.

Will she be my friend?
Of course I will. Anyone who enjoys mysteries, adventure, hunting for clues, and solving crimes is a definite friend of mine. And if you filled out the S.A.A.F. (Secret Agent Application Form) and have a code name, you have already proven that you have mad detective skills and have my back. Get ready for our next case. It’s going to be a wild ride!
Love, Skylar