Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Book Review, Contest and Author Interview: The Big Splash by Jack Ferraiolo

Matt Stevens, Middle School Private Eye, is hired by Vinny Biggs, Franklin’s Underworld Boss, for a seemingly simple job. But in a school where one well placed squirt gun shot can “kill” your reputation forever, Matt has only a few days solve a case with “more twists than a candy addict on a swivel chair.”

The Big Splash is a clever mafia/crime underworld spoof with a fast paced, twisty plot and a big heart. You have the boss and his goons who deal in forged hall passes and the like, his femme fatale squirt gun assassin Nikki Fingers (think a 12 year old Angelina Jolie), kids who dared to cross the boss and are now on the “outs” (social death), and even Pixy Stixers, kids who will do anything to get another (sugar) fix.

I absolutely adored the writing, the humor, the characters and the realizations Matt came to during the case such as, “Waking up at 5:00 means you’re industrious, an early riser; waking up at 4:45 means you have trouble sleeping.” And “Once you’re convicted by a jury of your peers, it’s hard to get a new trial.” And my favorite (because it is sooo true): “I had recently come to realize that it was extremely rare to find friendships in which doing nothing special was the most fun thing you could ever hope to do.”

I loved this novel so much that I begged author Jack Ferraiolo to let me share it with my readers. He’s agreed to provide 3 signed copies of the hardcover that comes out today! But before I get to the details, let’s have a little chat with Jack.

What is your one line pitch for The Big Splash?
The Big Splash is like a hardboiled detective novel meets Goodfellas set in a middle school.

Yes, your book does read just like a noir mafia movie – is it safe to assume that you got some inspiration from other classic films like The Godfather?
Yup, it’s safe... The Godfather 1 and 2 (let’s not talk about 3), Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Double Indemnity, Bugsy Malone...Also, old radio shows from the forties (particularly Pat Novak For Hire and Jeff Regan, Investigator). And of course, everything written by the “Big 3”: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross Macdonald.

Were you witness to the kind of humiliating take-downs that occur in your book when you were in middle school?
Worse. And that was just the should see what the kids did to each other. By the end, everyone in school had been humiliated, and there was nobody left to be the bully. It was an interesting philosophical conundrum, akin to one hand clapping or empty forests full of falling trees.

Can you tell us a bit about the origin of the idea for the book and your road to publication?
I remember driving home from work one night, listening to an episode of Pat Novak for Hire in my car, and thinking that I’d love to write something like that...something fast and sharp and tough. For some reason, I thought it should be set in a middle school... I think it was because when I was a kid, I wanted to navigate my world as an adult would... I wanted my own mode of transportation, my own space (like Matt’s office), and my own place to grab something to eat (like Sal’s bar in the book) outside of adult jurisdiction, where I didn’t have to explain the who, what, or why of my being there...

So great, I had a book idea...I bought a bunch of steno pads and wrote it out long hand. When I finished, I stood back to admire my accomplishment. Unfortunately, I didn’t stand back far enough. It stunk. Luckily, I knew it stunk. Unluckily, I had no idea how to fix it. So I boxed it up and put it out of sight. In that time period, I worked on a couple of shows (O’Grady and WordGirl) in which I was forced to write and rewrite scripts under really tight deadlines. It was like going to writer’s camp.

One morning, out of the blue (about 3 years after the “Steno Pad Debacle,” as I like to call it), I woke up with the beginning of The Big Splash in my head. Rather than pull out the stenos and be embarrassed (which might have shamed me into not writing ever again), I decided to start from scratch. I finished the book in two months.

As to being published, I did a lot of research on sites like Ms. Snark, Evil Editor, and the Verla Kay Blue Boards. Then I did what most writers do: I sent out query letters to agents, got a bunch of full and partial requests, went with the agent who made an offer and I connected with the best (the amazing Stephen Barbara)... Stephen suggested some revisions, I revised, he sent it out and received some strong interest really early. The book went to auction, and Amulet won the bidding. My editor (Susan Van Metre) is incredible: sharp, funny, and full of great ideas. I’ve been very lucky.

Stephen Barbara is amazing. I am seriously going to read everything he agents. But back to you… You just won a daytime emmy award for your writing on the animated series WordGirl. Congrats! What was the ceremony like? Did you get to meet some celebrities?
Thank you! The ceremony was unbelievable... Black tie at the Lincoln Center in New York City. It was exciting... glamorous... I was more than a little out of my element. There weren’t really any “celebrities” there, as this was the ceremony for all the people behind the scenes on a production (writers, lighting designers, make-up people, etc.). However, I did see Elmo and Alex Trebek, and now I suppose I’ll begrudgingly admit they aren’t the same person...

Is your writing process any different when you write for TV as opposed to when you write a novel?
Yes and no. I approach it with the same discipline: start at the same time every morning, get the first draft out as quickly as possible. It’s all about rhythm and momentum. The difference is that scripts are more short, sharp bursts, whereas writing a novel is like long-distance running: pace yourself, try to string together longer scenes, describe everything (as there won’t be any visuals to help you out...). Either way, I’m a huge believer in the healing power of the revision process...which is drastically different between the two...

What projects do you have in the works? Will we ever see a Big Splash sequel (I hope so)?
I think the Big Splash will have a sequel...still waiting to get the official word. I stepped down as the head writer for WordGirl to have more time for other projects... although I’m still writing individual scripts. I’m also trying to invent a machine that will keep pace with (and hopefully tire out) my 2-year old daughter. It involves 16 hamsters, 12 pots of coffee, some Bon Scott-era AC/DC, and about 1400 rubber bands. I’m on the verge of a technological breakthrough...I can smell it...

Thank you so much Jack for stopping by!

Check out Jack’s websites (where you can get a FREE squirt gun while supplies last) and (where you will see a site still under construction).

Simply leave a comment on this post for your first entry. Sharing a middle school memory of your own will get you an extra entry. Linking to this contest from your blog (or Facebook/MySpace) will get you 2 extra entries. For each comment you make on any of my reviews, past, present, or future you get 1 extra entry (for a list of books read this year, look at my sidebar). One of top three commenters during the contest period is guaranteed a book (raising your chances to 1 in 3) while the second two winners will be randomly chosen from all eligible entries. So comment away. And trust me, it’s worth it!

Contest open for two weeks until Midnight CST September 3, 2008. US and Canadian residents only.


Becca said...

The book sounds really good so I would love a chance to win it. I would give a middle school memory for an extra entry but I have tried to hard and to long to purge them from my mind to give up now.

Traci said...

Please enter me. It sounds great. As for a middle school memory....Well, I didn't have middle school exactly, we were elementary K-7 and then 8-12 was high school, but I guess my favorite memory from that middle school time frame came in 7th grade. My wonderful teacher, Ms. Fagg, had a reputation for telling these fantastically scary tales on Halloween. So, the day before Halloween we get into her room, and she's so sad and saying she won't be there the next day as she has to go to the doctor (we were all devastated - we'd been waiting all month to hear her scary ghost story). She then proceeds to tell us this increasingly sad and just a little scary story of something that happened to her with a group of her friends who've all somewhat mysteriously died since the event long ago (I don't remember the specifics, but one drove off a cliff). And, now she's having these awful headaches - kids are crying by this point (me included), mind you, it was really sad - and then, she lunges at us screaming. One kid topples his entire desk over and everyone is screaming. I nearly wet my pants. To this day that remains my favorite school experience ever.

bermudaonion said...

Please enter me!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

OMG, Jack is adorable! I want to be his friend!!

Not only am I going to pick up a copy of this for my kid, I'm going to make sure all the teachers know about this book. It sounds like a total winner.

Diana Dang said...

I would like to enter.

Middle school eh? I can't recall anything interesting to be honest. School was always boring and I remember how I complained that I hated my life everyday to a friend. One day I was so bored that I suggested to my friend, "Do you want to kill ants?" and we did. We went to the sandbox and whenever and ant crawled up, we would bury them under the sand until it stays there. I was an evil child...

faked_sugartone at

hermeslyre said...

I love giveaways.

All my MS memories consist of girls. Casandra, Leann, katie, and debbie to be precise. I won't go farther than that... :P

Chesh said...

Middle school was definitely fun. I think my fondest memory was spending time my favorite teacher, Mr. Lundy as he taught me how to play the french horn. It would drive him crazy because I was sooo absentminded that I would always favorite my music when we went to competitions.

This books sounds like something that will bring back memories like that and just be a great read.

Anonymous said...

Ahh. Middle school. The memory that first comes to mind is a science class memory. 7th grade environmental science. (Whatever that means.) Anyway, the teacher had set up what looked like a wax candle in a candle stick, and a glass of urine. These items were passed around the class, and the general consensus was that it was a candle and urine. Then the teacher took a bite of the candle (banana) and drank the pee (Mountain Dew). It was gross but effective.

Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks!

Rebecca said...

This book sounds really fun to read; I'd love to get a copy of it.

Unknown said...

Sounds like a great book. My daughter will love it after I read it!

In the middle school I remember fending off a boy who was crushing on me by jabbing him with my pencil (I didn't hurt him!)when he wouldn't leave me alone. Then the guy became a hunk in high school. If only I could have seen into the future!

Anonymous said...

Enter me please! Unfortunately my biggest middle school memory was when my dad was diagnosed with cancer, it was also one of my worst. I'll post a link on my blog as soon as i can.

Kayla (Midnight Twilight)

Shooting Stars Mag said...

This does sound like a good book. Great review and interview. The author sounds hilarious and real fun.

Hmm...a middle school memory of my own? Well, in 8th grade we put on a play (wizard of oz) and we were practicing a dance and I tried to well, leap, i suppose...twisted my ankle, fell, and soon found out i had fractured it. i still did the play, but it was a bit more difficult having a brace on my foot and still partially on crutches (though i didn't have them on stage). Good thing i was a munchkin so i walked on my knees most of the time~ :)

Rachael Stein said...

this sounds so funny!! :D i'd love to be entered

middle school for me was just a few years ago. i really dont remember much except for being in the band (i played saxophone, and i was pretty good if i do say so myself), and that at graduation practice, my homeroom teacher (who coincidentally taught PE) kept on pronouncing my name incorrectly, as "Raquel", like the spanish way, instead of Rachael. i had to circle the "h" for him to get it. thank goodness on the actual graduation day he said it right!

i posted a link on my list of contests too :D

Cassie said...


I know exactly what my favorite middle school memory is.

8th grade graduation in a tiny private school (there were 11 members of my graduating class!) where graduation was all-out celebrated. Why not, with so few of us?

I had these great shoes to wear with my cap and gown-- my first heels -- that looked kind of lacy and had very grown-up, pointy toes.

And then two days before the ceremony, I got a wicked case of Poison Ivy all over my right foot. It was horrible, very swollen, and covered in awful blisters.

On the day of graduation, I came in with one shoe on, and the other ready to slip on solely for my walk to the stage when one of my classmates, Simone, exclaims loudly, "You have my shoes!"

"I wanted those shoes!" she says, "But dad wouldn't let me get them. He said the heels were too grown up and I wouldn't be able to wear them with those really pointy toes."

Well, the ceremony comes and goes, and I gamely hobbled to the stage, accepted my 8th grade certificate, and joined the class of 1994 when I heard Simone's dad lean over and whisper.

"See Simone," he said, "Aren't you so glad you didn't get those shoes? Did you see how terrible that girl walked in them?"

Poor man felt so justified, not knowing that I walked so horrible because my poor foot was covered in Poison Ivy blisters!

Cassie said...

I also blogged about the contest here.

Anonymous said...

A signed copy, you're so nice!

Ok, middle school memory. I remember I was getting ready to go to my first boy-girl dance in middle school and I felt something on my back. I asked my mom what it was and she discovered I had developed chicken pox. I couldn't even believe it. I was sooooo disappointed and to top it off, I had an absolutely horrendous case of chicken pox.

Gabbi said...

I'd like to enter, too. Don't have a memory for you, though.

MonieG said...

Great interview!! I would love a chance to win this book. My middle school memory makes me blush to this day. After school I made a quick pit stop at the restroom. Unknown to me for over 2 miles of walking was that I had tucked my skirt into my underwear and didn't realize this until I got home. Yikes!! I posted your giveway on my blog at Reading With Monie.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to enter!

As for a middle school memory, I remember singing way too many Natalie Sleeth songs in 8th grade chorus, while wearing lovely blue polyester jumpers. Eeep!

Alea said...

Lenore you are right! This book sounds great I'd love to enter! I looked at it this morning via your link on the LibraryThing boards but didnt' get a chance to read much (I was at work). I really like the cover as well!

Middle school memory.. ah yes! I volunteered in the library! I remember some summer the head librarian had us over to her apartment complex for a pool party, that was sort of awkward I remember. I don't remember her being that friendly really, but she had a pool party so she must have tried.

I also liked (this started in 6th grade I believe) the Accelerated Reader program. You would have to read books off this really huge list. They each had a different point value depending how hard they were and then you would take a quiz of about 10 questions. For every English class you had to get a certain amount of points each term, depending on your grade, if it was advanced English etc. I got a copy of that list and loved to look through it. I'm sure I still have it somewhere. I also recall at least in 6th grade the tests being on those really big thin floppy disks, remember those?

The Compulsive Reader said...

This sounds hilarious!

Let's see....I went to a very small private school from kindergarten to 8th grade--so small that my the time I reached 7th and 8th grade, the only other people in my class were two other guys with a wicked sense of humor. Every day was like a big party with them, and our teacher even had a great sense of humor. So basically I spent the whole year in stitches from laughing so hard, and we still passed the tough curriculum. THAT'S how school is supposed to be. I consider myself pretty lucky when it comes to middle school experiences.

Kate said...

This books sounds fantastic! And I read a lot of YA books.

Middle school memory, hmm...

In 7th grade (is that middle school? it sure felt like it anyway) we were doing book reports. I was reading a lot of the Stephanie Plum (by Janet Evanovich) novels, and there was a character in the book named Joe Morelli. Well, unbeknownst to me, there was a student in the grade above me by the same name. My teacher was about to fail me because she thought I was being funny, putting my friend Joe in my book report. I had no idea what she was talking about, and didn't even know this person existed in my school!

The real irony of the situation is that years later, I did become friends with the real Joe Morelli, and every time I see him I think back to that 7th grade class and laugh.

Sarah Woodard said...

I would love to enter...
As for Middle school... I remember riding the bus with my best friends in 8th grade... it was good times.

C.R. Evers said...

This sounds like such a cute book! Great interview! :0)


Donura said...

I definitely will have to read The Big Splash and pass on to my middle school grandson. Having worked as librarian for six years at a K-8 school, I loved inspiring young people to discover the world in books. Boys were a challenge at times, and I am so thrilled that there is an upsurge in middle school fiction for boys.

My middle school memories are of making a best friend that has lasted up until now even tho' we have moved and been separated by many miles and very different lives.

April said...

What a great sounding book! I loved the review and interview. Great job!
I would love to be entered. I am blogging about the contest at my blog: cafe of dreams
My memory would have to be winning a trip to a young writer's conference. It was so awesome!!

Anonymous said...

This looks like such a good book. I didn't go to a special middle school, we just had K-8 and then 9-13 (in Ontario). One memory that stands out is from grade seven, a friend of mine telling me that her family had just gotten hooked up to the internet and that she had been in a chat room for the first time. She was the first person I knew who had the internet, and I was very impressed!


Linda said...

Okay my beautiful young niece - here's my middle school memory. You have to remember, I went to Catholic schools (oh so many years ago!). I went to a new school in 7th grade, and I met my friend Laurie on our first day of school. She was transplanted from Maryland, and looking to fit in too. We hit it off - but she moved to the east side of town the next summer. We would meet downtown on the weekends and hang out together. She moved back to Maryland after 8th grade, and we lost touch for quite a while. However, with the invention of the internet, we have found each other again, and keep in touch with e-mail and letters.

I enjoyed your review of The Smart One. I'm not sure I will put it on my book list though. If a book doesn't grab me at the beginning, I tend to put it down.

Love you - tell the hubby HI!

windycindy said...

Greetings, I love the cover of the book! It sounds like it has delightful characters and a great story line. I had a bit of a mouth when I was in junior high! If I thought a teacher had a pet, I told them. I ended up getting a swat for that one! I spend many recesses in the gym writing sentences for talking too much or dreaming up schemes. Please enter me in your delightful book drawing. Many thanks, Cindi

Anonymous said...

Enter me. I e-mailed you my contact details.


Susan B. said...


Please enter me in your give away. Looks like a great book.

Middle school memory: Mr. Joiner with his pointer-6th grade Wold History-he was hilarious & never will forget him!

Thank you,
Susan B.

sbussey AT

Anonymous said...

I'd love to share this with my sons.

airforcemom_22 AT yahoo

Liviania said...

As a huge noir fan, I now really, really want to read this book.

In middle school I remember two friends and I missing the bus one day. None of our parents were available to pick us up (they worked, we rode the bus for a reason), so we called a the sixteen-year-old sister of another friend to give us a ride, even though she wasn't supposed to drive people around. The school secretary knew the phone number and yelled at us for calling her . . . the pleasure of small towns.

Cheryl Vanatti said...

Oh! Your review really made me want this one! Please enter me in the contest. I have posted about your contest on my blog: Random Wonder.

I met my husband of 27 years in middle school so that would have to be my best memory. We met in Mr. Ullery's history class. He tells me I was wearing red bib-overalls and a white blouse. On the bus home, he told his sister he was in love :-) and she punched him.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Great memories everyone - thanks for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

Your interview doesn't read as though it was conducted through email (which is often the case due to travel and time constraints) and I think it's really one of the better interviews I've read online lately.

Here's a middle school memory for you... personal computers were a new thing when I was in the 8th grade. Our computer lab was a small closet in the back of the library big enough to fit a table holding two Apple IIe computers and dot matrix printer. :)

Shooting Stars Mag said...

okay, i finally got the chance to blog about this. so here is that!


YA Book Realm said...

Hey thanks for the comment AND letting me know about this awesome book/author Q&a/CONTEST!

The Big Splash sounds like an sucha fun read! The writing sounds really does sound humorous. I hope to read it soon. And I loved the Q&A with the author.

*Extra Entries*
- I posted about on my blog (can be found in the right sidebar)

- And I'm going to be sharing a middle school memory

Since there are embarrassing moments in the book. I'm going to share one (and plus no one from school knows this is me) In the sixth grade I was wearing these baggy sweat pants(it was laundry day and I had no clean pair of jeans) and I was walking down to science class. Right when I was FIVE feet from the class one my right foot snagged with my left pant leg causing me to fall on my knees and...i skidded into class...on my knees. And of course my fellow little six grade classmates never let that one go. Especially, because I'm one of those people who start laughing (after asking them if there alright that is) when someone else falls.

Not very fond of that memory but I gotta admit it was funny. ;)

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for reading my blog! I posted a ton of freebies this morning...lots of good stuff. Thanks also for the giveaway note! This book loos so intriguing and filled with suspense! I hope I get to read it! I will post a blog letting my readers know to check your site out and I'll comment again when I get it done. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Okay your posted on my blog...hopefully you'll get some more traffic! Good luck and thanks for the giveaway!

Here's the link t my blog:

Anonymous said...

I would like to enter.

I also have a middle school memory. It was in 6th grade math class... I was the kid who got good grades, was sort of a loner, and didn't get in trouble (much). The teacher thought I'd be a good role model, so she assigned me a seat at the table where the rudest, meanest kid in the grade sat. We were the only ones at the table. He made fun of me and tried to copy off of my work. Did I mention he also got a lot of Fs and yelled at teachers? Eventually I complained.

Anonymous said...

I'm a school librarian and this looks like so much fun. I am always looking for books to suggest to boys. Thanks!

Kelli W.

Dominique said...

sounds like a good book! please enter me!

middle school memory? hmm, I think one of the more amusing ones (now that I look back, and am a few inches taller than I was then) and more musically memorable was when I attended my first "jazz day" and since I was part of the MS jazz band, I got to head over to the HS to listen to a professional jazz band & have workshops with them for a day. Of course being a little seventh grader meant I was generally shorter than the high schoolers who thought it was amusing to see little middle schoolers running around with instruments almost bigger than them. I was rather intimidated to be surrounded by so many good musicians that were all just so...tall. and big! lol I felt quite small and insignificant and unsure, since we all had to preform in front of the HS & professional jazz band. But my day ended pretty well since my friend, who was the pianist, improvised on the piano a whole bunch of stuff for me and we just sat there, listening & playing, and he is just a brilliant musician! & I guess I just was relieved that our band had preformed pretty well & learned plenty of things. :)

bevsclark said...

One of my favorite middle school memories was having our middle school located next to the skating rink. Yes, this was the late 70's and skating was cool. We got to take "field trips" to the skating rink every once in a while and I loved couple skates. To be able to hold the hand of my crush was the best thing ever. This was back in innocent times and holding hands was a HUGE deal.

forex said...

count me in

michy27 said...

Count me in too....I think this book sounds great!!

A memory from middle school that always makes me smile is of one particular teacher Mr. Guimont. He was a very stern man and insisted that the class would work in complete silence...However, every now and again, when the class become too quiet, he would walk to the back of the classroom with a large 1 m wooden ruler....and WACK it on the back-counters as hard as he could to basically scare us all silly!! ...ah, those were the days;)

Anonymous said...

I know a couple of kids who would love this. And I would too.


Daniel said...

An emmy, that's great.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Thanks for sharing all the great memories everyone! The contest is now closed as I go off to pick the winners.

Anonymous said...

i will do some contest