Friday, September 12, 2014


By Dori Hillestad Butler

Hi, Pat! Thanks for hosting me on your blog.

I’d like to introduce you to some of the characters from my Haunted Library series for beginning chapter book readers. This is Kaz and his family. Yes, they’re ghosts. Sadly, Kaz was separated from his family at the beginning of book one. He spends the rest of the series solving ghostly mysteries with his “solid” friend Claire in hopes of finding his family.

Notice Kaz’s mom is wearing cute little button earrings. I’m not sure I noticed those earrings. Not until I was revising book three (The Ghost Backstage, which comes out October 2014) and my editor wanted me to: 1) show Kaz making a little more progress finding his family and 2) make it clear that Kaz’s mom had been at Claire’s school. In order to do that, I needed to come up with a clue that Kaz could link to his mom. But what?

Well…maybe Kaz’s mom wears some distinctive earrings that are shaped like…say, keys??? The more I thought about it, the more I liked that idea. Maybe I could even do something with those keys in a future book. Did I mention this was book THREE? Kaz’s mom appears in book one, and the art for book one was already done. As you can see in the above illustration, she’s not wearing key-shaped earrings.

But book one hadn’t actually gone to press yet. And my editor liked my new ideas for book three, so she decided we could ask the illustrator to change Mom’s earrings back in book one. (Sorry, Aurore.) Here’s the new version of Kaz’s mom:

After the book went to press, I began to wonder if the key earrings were such a great idea after all. Yes, they were distinct. But did earrings like that even exist? Funny, it didn’t occur to me to worry about whether or not GHOSTS existed…just whether or not those earrings existed.

Then I took a day trip to the San Juan Islands. While I was there, I wandered into a gift shop. You’ll never guess what I found there:

Kaz’s mom’s earrings! Not only did they exist, they were for sale!

Should I buy them? They weren’t really my style, but maybe I should buy them anyway?

Nah. I decided it was silly to buy earrings that I was unlikely to ever wear simply because they happened to look like the earrings one of my characters wears.

Then I saw these earrings:

These were earrings I would wear, so I put the plain key earrings back and bought these instead. Believe it or not, the girl who rang me up was the person who had made BOTH sets of earrings! I told her I was a children’s book author and we had a nice conversation and then I left.

Halfway back to the dock, I changed my mind about the plain key earrings. I decided I could wear them when I did school visits. All it would take was one kid to point them out and say, “Hey, Kaz’s mom wears earrings like that!” and I’d be wearing them to every school visit.

But our ferry was due to board soon. Like in ten minutes. People were already lined up. If I was going to go back, I would have to go fast.

So I went fast!

The girl was so happy to see me again that she even gave me a discount! Then I ran back to where my husband and brother were lined up on the dock. I showed them my purchase. I looked at the clock. And then I said, “I should’ve gotten my picture taken with that girl! Do you think I should go back?”

The ferry was due to board.

But it wasn’t boarding. Not yet. So I ran back and got this picture taken really quick:

That’s why my face is red and why it’s a little blurry. But I got the picture… I made the ferry…and I’ve even worn the earrings!

I think I made the right call in all three cases (changing the book, buying the earrings, and running back to get the picture). Would you have done the same?


About Dori Hillestad Butler – Dori Hillestad Butler is the author of more than 40 books for children. Her books have appeared on children's choice award lists in 18 different states. Trading Places with Tank Talbott won the Maryland Children's Choice Award in 2007. And The Buddy Files: Case of the Lost Boy won the 2011 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. In 2013 she chaired the Juvenile Edgar Award committee. Dori has also been a ghostwriter for the Sweet Valley Twins, Unicorn Club, and Boxcar Children series, and a children's book reviewer for several publications. She's published numerous short stories, plays, and educational materials, and has served as the Iowa Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' Regional Advisor. She grew up in southern Minnesota, spent the last 19 years in Iowa, and has just recently moved to the Seattle area. She is on a quest to do an author visit in all 50 states (14 down, 36 to go!).

About The Haunted Library Book 1

A brand-new young chapter book series from Edgar Award winner Dori Hillestad Butler! When ghost boy Kaz’s haunt is torn down and he is separated from his ghost family, he meets a “solid” girl named Claire, who lives above the town library with her parents and her grandmother. Claire has a special ability to see ghosts when other humans cannot and she and Kaz quickly form a friendship. The two join forces to solve the mystery of the ghost that’s haunting the library. Could it be one of Kaz’s lost family members?

Thanks again to Dori Hillestad Butler for appearing. For other stops on the Haunted Library Blog Tour please check


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad you found your earrings. And ran back enough to get both sets and the picture!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks for being my guest today, Dori. I would have gone back for the earrings, too, but might have been too worried about being left behind to scoot back for the photo. I'm glad you did it, though.

Jeanne Matthews said...

Fie on the concept of "either/or." You are clearly of the "and/both" school. Charming story.

Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Dori.

Dori - Thanks for sharing your earrings story. I'm glad you got them back. More than that, thanks for working hard to give young children something exciting to read. Anyone who draws young readers in is a hero to me.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Dori, I love the sound of your book. Ghost stories are my favourite.

Rebecca Douglass said...

Good call! I have two adorable stuffed skunks to help me at school visits for the Ninja Librarian (who lives in Skunk Corners), so I say of course you were right to get them!