Skeleton Tree by Kim Ventrella
Tis the season for skeletons for this week’s Creator Conversation interview is with Kim Ventrella, author of the middle-grade novel, Skeleton Tree. Kim answers questions about the book, how the idea came about, and what she would do if skeleton started to grow in her backyard that only she could see.
What is Skeleton Tree about?
One day, 12-year-old Stanly discovers a finger bone in his backyard. He hopes to snap a picture of it to win an archaeology photo contest, but the bones have other ideas. They start to grow. First into a bony arm reaching up into the sky, and then into a full-sized skeleton that only children can see. There’s just one person who doesn’t find any of this weird—Stanly’s little sister. Mischievous Miren adopts the skeleton as a friend, and soon, the two become inseparable playmates. When Miren gets sick, Stanly suspects the skeleton is responsible, and does everything in his power to drive the creature away. However, Miren is desperate not to lose her friend, forcing Stanly to question everything he’s ever believed about life, love, and the mysterious forces that connect us. Skeleton Tree is intended for children in grades 3-7, although I hope the theme will appeal to older readers as well.
Use 13 words to describe Skeleton Tree.
A boy finds a friend in Death with help from a mysterious tree.
What got you interested in writing stories?
I love the way it feels to disappear inside a magical story. Stories change the way we see the world and ourselves. They reveal possibilities we might have never considered. They are powerful, and I’ve always been drawn to the idea that I could create something that would have an impact on someone’s life.
What inspired Skeleton Tree?
[pullquote-right]”I really love discovery writing, i.e. uncovering a story piece by piece without any planning. This book started with a very simple question, “What would happen if a boy found a finger bone growing in his backyard?””[/pullquote-right]I really love discovery writing, i.e. uncovering a story piece by piece without any planning. This book started with a very simple question, “What would happen if a boy found a finger bone growing in his backyard?” It ended up veering toward more serious topics, like what makes a family whole and how to come to terms with loss.
What would you do if a skeleton started to grow in your backyard that only you could see?
I probably wouldn’t stop smiling for a week. I’m a skeptic by nature, but I really, really want to believe. I wish there were spooky, wondrous happenings out there that defied explanation, which is probably another reason I got into writing. Because now I can make that happen, just within the pages of a book.
What was the greatest challenge you had when writing the book?
Writing starts in a vacuum, just you and the computer, but at some point you have to let the rest of the world in. With this book, the drafting part was easy. The revision process, with me, my agent and my editor, was more challenging, but it eventually led to a much better book.
What was your favorite Halloween costume?
I love mustaches. Anytime my costume requires a mustache, I am happy.
Anything else you want to say or let people know?
I would love to visit schools, book clubs or writing groups to talk about Skeleton Tree and share some insights on the writing process. People can find out more at my website, kimventrella.com.