Please Note: I received an electronic review copy of The Sun Will Come Out and was monetarily compensated in exchange for composing and hosting an interview with the author. This compensation in no way affected my opinions.
Title The Sun Will Come Out
Author Joanne Levy
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date April 13th 2021 by Orca Book Publishers
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon ● Chapters ● The Book Depository ● Barnes & Noble ● IndieBound
Twelve-year-old Bea Gelman and her best friend Frankie are planning the BEST SUMMER EVER at Camp Shalom — a sleep-away camp. But at the last minute, Frankie bows out, leaving painfully shy Bea on her own. Just talking to strangers causes Bea to break out into ugly, blotchy hives. As if the hives weren’t bad enough, Bea gets pranked by a couple of girls in her cabin and is betrayed by someone she thought was a new friend. Bea has had enough! She decides to spend her summer in the infirmary far away from everything that’s stressing her out. No more boys (including her crush, Jeremy), no more horrible mean girls, and no more fake friends! At the infirmary, Bea meets Harry, a boy facing challenges way more intense than stress breakouts. Inspired by Harry’s strength and positive outlook, Bea decides to face her fears — in a big way.
The Sun Will Come Out is a funny and heartwarming account of a shy girl’s first summer away from home, where she learns she really can do anything and that silver linings can be found just about anywhere.
Being the youngest and the only female among four children, Joanne Levy was often left to her own devices and could frequently be found sitting in a quiet corner with her nose in a book.
Since she left the corporate world in 2013, Joanne helps other authors with their administrative needs as a virtual author assistant.
Joanne is the author of Small Medium At Large, Fish Out Of Water, The Sun Will Come Out, and the upcoming Sorry For Your Loss. She can usually be found at her computer, either creating spreadsheets (sometimes just for fun) or channeling her younger self into books. She lives in rural Ontario, Canada with her husband and kids of the furred and feathered variety.
In her non-writing and working time (ha!) Joanne enjoys working with wool to make weird and funny felted creatures. Check out her Instagram for photos of her creations, books, her cats, and sometimes, her lunch.
1. You’re a prolific middle grade writer, having published five books for this age group so far, including Small Medium At Large, Crushing It, Double Trouble, Fish Out of Water, and The Sun Will Come Out! You also have Sorry For Your Loss coming out later this year. What are some of your favourite things about writing for this target audience? Are there any particular challenges about writing for this age group?
I love writing middle grade! As a creator, it’s a fun age to write because I feel like there are fewer limits on creativity. Nearly anything goes, no matter how outlandish the ideas can seem to grown-ups. Kids at that age are so creative themselves and will go along on pretty much any journey with you. They have big ideas and aren’t limited by what really is or what exists in the real world, so authors can really take their stories anywhere. Also, another thing I love about writing for this age is exploring ‘firsts’. First crush, first time alone, first heartbreak, first betrayal, first big triumph. These are pivotal moments in everyone’s lives and I love exploring them. As for challenges? Getting the voice just right is probably the biggest one. Kids are smart and savvy and can sniff out an adult who is trying too hard or has lost touch with their audience. As I get older, I’m getting further away from my target audience and have to really work at channeling that inner tween.
2. I was always too shy and introverted to attend a sleepover camp as a child, so it was a lot of fun to live vicariously through Bea’s experiences at Camp Shalom! Did you ever have any fun adventures at summer camp when you were growing up?
I did go to summer sleep-away camp! In fact, The Sun Will Come Out was partially inspired by one of my three years at camp. I had zero friends, a cabin filled with meanies, and discovered that the infirmary could be a pretty nice place to hang out. There aren’t many details in this book that are exactly the same as my experience, but I was definitely able to mine my feelings from that time for the book. But other than the one year of angst and horror, I did have two great years at (a different) camp where I made friends and had summers away from home filled with crafts, watersports, and maybe even a crush or two. Being away from family for the first time can be such an amazing experience filled with opportunities for independence and, of course, good and bad decisions that all come with consequences. Excellent fodder for books.
3. Bea is nervous to attend Camp Shalom without her best friend, Frankie, particularly because she’s shy, quiet and used to hiding in her outgoing friend’s shadow. Do you have any advice for young readers who, like Bea, are stepping outside of their comfort zone for the first time?
I’m just kidding! Sort of. It’s so hard to give young people advice like this because who believes it? For example, in the book, Bea’s parents tell her she’ll make friends and have a good time. But Bea doesn’t believe them. And why should she, because how could they know that for sure? But I guess that’s one of the reasons I write books like this – so kids can see situations that seem hopeless at first, but turn out okay in the end. Maybe even better than okay. So I guess my best advice is: read more books. 😉
4. I loved getting to know all of Bea’s new friends at camp, including Regan, who’s visiting from Ireland, Nurse Lisa, and Harry, who Bea befriends at the infirmary. Was there a character you particularly enjoyed writing about and why?
When I was at camp one year, there was an exchange student counsellor from Ireland named Julie who everyone told me I looked like – we were constantly asked if we were related. So much, that by the end of summer, I had adopted a (hopefully?) charming Irish accent and pretended to be her sister. So Regan is sort of my homage to Julie and her charming accent. But I particularly enjoyed writing Harry. He was a challenge because I didn’t want him to merely be a prop for Bea’s growth so I worked extra hard to make him a layered character who had his own growth arc. I don’t want to give anything away, but the eyebrow thing still makes me laugh. Every. Single. Time. Making characters you come to love like they’re real people is one of the great things about writing.
5. Bea is bullied by two of her cabinmates at Camp Shalom and is initially reluctant to tell anyone in authority for fear of retaliation from the bullies in question. What would you say to a middle grade reader who finds themselves facing a similar challenge?
At camp it’s a bit harder because you’re away from your trusted people – parents, teachers – people you know. But chances are, no matter where you are, there’s an adult or even a trusted friend who will help you. Don’t keep it to yourself that you’re struggling or that people are treating you badly. You deserve to be safe and free of harassment wherever you are. No matter how scary it feels, find someone who will listen and help you. There is no shame in asking for help if you’re in over your head – and that counts for any situation. As humans we’re made to help each other and I don’t know of anyone who has never needed even a little help sometimes.
6. Annie plays a big role In the novel, being that it’s Bea’s favourite musical, the show they perform at Camp Shalom, and (presumably) the inspiration for the title of the novel. Why Annie, and what’s your favourite musical?
As a kid, I loved the 1982 Annie movie. I watched it, I don’t know how many times, but enough that I learned all the songs. That I was the same age then as Bea is in this book felt perfect because I knew Bea’s love for Annie would feel genuine and authentic. That the production is mostly kids, makes it a perfect camp play – so, there were a lot of factors that went into that decision. I had occasion to see Annie the musical when I was in New York City a few years back when I first started writing this book and was SO impressed by the child cast – such talent! It brought back so many memories and I knew then for absolute sure it was the perfect musical to use in the book. The title is definitely taken from Annie, but came much later when we were almost in production – I think the cover had already been designed by that point and it was time to put the title on it. It had a much different title for many years that ended up getting tossed. The Sun Will Come Out feels absolutely perfect on many levels, so I’m glad my publisher asked me to go back to the drawing board and come up with something better than what I had.
I haven’t seen a ton of stage musicals, but I’m a Les Miz fan. Oh and I loved La Cage aux Folles. Oh and Spamalot! Wait… Cats! Apparently, I’ve been to more musicals than I’d thought! I can’t choose just one favourite.
7. From first crushes and new (and old) friendships to discussions of anxiety, problem-solving, mortality and faith, The Sun Will Come Out touches on a number of topics I have no doubt many young readers will find timely and relevant to their own lives. What do you hope readers will take from the novel?
That whatever you’re going through, no matter how it may seem unique to you, it’s normal. That whatever you’re feeling is okay and normal and we’ve all been there. From anxiety, to heartbreak, to grief and the realities of life, none of us are immune to having life hand us a few lemons along the way. We may not share the exact same details of what has happened in our lives, but our feelings are real and are so often universal. Loss, fear, jealousy, anxiety – we’ve all felt those things for many reasons and it’s a part of being human. So I hope readers see themselves in my books and are comforted in knowing they are not alone and that even through difficult times, there can be silver linings.
But going back to my answer about the bullying – if any of it, even if it’s how you’re feeling about something that has happened, feels like more than you can handle, reach out and get help. Find a teacher, parent, or the parent of a friend – they will probably feel honoured that you trusted them enough to ask and will help you in any way they can.
Thank you so much, Jen. This has been an honour and you’ve asked me such thoughtful and wonderful questions. I hope that maybe I’ve inspired you to want to go to camp, if even only in the pages of a book!