Reviewing 'Spookygirl': Author Jill Baguchinsky returns to Marco

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In this file photo, Jill Baguchinsky, a Marco Island resident, stands next to a whale tail near the Space Needle in Seattle, where she was named the winner of the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest in the Young Adult category. 
  
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In this file photo, Jill Baguchinsky, a Marco Island resident, stands next to a whale tail near the Space Needle in Seattle, where she was named the winner of the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest in the Young Adult category. Submitted

"Spookygirl"

By Jill Baguchinsky

Dutton, $16.99

Do you believe in ghosts? Violet (alias, Spookygirl) has no choice but to do so as she has inherited her mother’s gift of psychic abilities.

She too can see ghosts and communicate with the dead and soon after starting school at her new high school, she discovers paranormal activity in the girls’ locker room. A handful of other students become involved with her investigation and the resolution of these and other related ghostly sightings lead to some surprising and insightful answers to questions about her mother’s death. The fact that her father is the local funeral director in this small Florida town doesn’t exactly enhance her reputation with the “cool kids” either.

I really enjoyed reading this book, even though it is targeted for the preteen/teenage readership and I must admit that I’m a bit past that point in my life. Violet’s wit and wisdom are refreshing in a quirky, slightly creepy manner and I think that many young readers will relate to her feelings about “fitting in” at school and her realization that it’s okay to be “different.”

Jill Baguchinsky is a former resident of Marco Island and attended Tommie Barfield Elementary and Lely High School. “Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator” is her first published novel.

Baguchinsky will be speaking about her writing, answering any questions and signing copies of her book at Sunshine Booksellers on Tuesday, April 9.

I posed three questions to the author in a recent interview:

Joan Krzykowski: I believe this is your first published book, but have you written any others?

Jill Baguchinsky: I’ve written a number of manuscripts. “Spookygirl” was the fourth book I actively tried to sell, and my first foray into writing for a younger audience. Before then I’d shopped around an urban paranormal and two chick lit manuscripts. Since the contest, I’ve completed a middle grade manuscript called “Underbed,” which deals with monsters under the bed sort of a “Where the Wild Things Are” for tweens, with a healthy dash of “Alice in Wonderland.” My agent is currently shopping “Underbed” to middle grade publishing imprints. I also have a quirky middle grade paranormal novel in the works called “Haint Blue,” about Southern superstitions and ghost stories. I really enjoy writing for young adult and middle grade audiences, and I’m hoping to continue in that vein.

JK: Can you give us some details about the contest that resulted in the publication of this book?

JB: The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (http://www.amazon.com/Breakthrough-Novel-Award-Books/b?ie=UTF8&node=332264011) is an annual contest that seeks to find undiscovered voices in young adult and general fiction. When I entered, the contest was cosponsored by Penguin, and the winner in each category was awarded a contract with a Penguin imprint and an advance. (The contest changed somewhat this year; the winners’ contracts will now be with Amazon’s in-house publishing imprint.) The contest progresses in a series of rounds, gradually narrowing the original 10,000 entries into a final three for each category. Each entrant submits a short pitch, an excerpt (the first 3000-5000 words), and the full manuscript. Publishers Weekly is another contest sponsor; each entrant who makes it through the first few rounds receives a PW review of their manuscript. When each category is down to the final three, popular vote by Amazon users (based on the submitted excerpts) decides the winner. The finalists are flown out to Seattle for an awards ceremony at Amazon headquarters. It was an amazing experience.

JK: Plans for future installments?

JB: As of now I don’t have any definite plans to make “Spookygirl” into a series; however, I’d certainly like to, and I have enough notes for at least a trilogy. The circumstances of the contest made it difficult to negotiate a series deal right away. Spookygirl’s future is entirely up to my publisher at this point. My fingers are crossed!

JK: How growing up on Marco may have influenced your writing?

JB: Although “Spookygirl” is based in a fictional Florida town (Palmetto Crossing), I pulled plenty of details from Marco and all of Southwest Florida while creating the book’s location. “Spookygirl” is told from the point of view of its main character, 15-year-old Violet, so I was able to include some of my own memories of growing up on Marco. Also, Violet’s high school is heavily based on Lely High, especially in terms of the school’s physical layout and mascot.

IF YOU GO:

Jill Baguchinsky book signing

Where: Sunshine Booksellers, 677 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, Florida

When: 4 p.m., Tuesday, April 9

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