Lynnette Kraft is an author at New Wrinkle Publishing, an award-winning, family-run independent publisher of young adult novels. We caught up with Lynnette to learn more about their unique take on experiencing literature through a ‘book soundtrack’, how the team works together in a family unit, and what’s next for their new books and soundtracks.
Tell us about your book, Archie of Outlandish. What’s it about and where did the idea come from?
When I first began to fashion Archie’s character, it was for an illustrated children’s book. When I was a kid, I always loved finding snug spaces I could fit into, like inside blanket forts or underneath tables. So, my first idea for Archie came from a vision of a child being born on a train and snuggled into an open suitcase underneath the seat, which I pictured as the origin of a love for being snuggled into tight, cozy spaces.
That was just the beginning. Eventually, we explored many versions of Archibald Plumby and his personality. In one vein of thought, he was afraid of large spaces. In another, he was afraid of the sky. The initial vision of his character was maintained all the way to Archie of Outlandish: The Man Who Lives Under Umbrellas, though he transformed from a curious child to an eccentric young man dealing with a phobia, living under umbrellas, and trying to figure out how he fits into the world.
Archie suffers from an unusual phobia in the book. Why did you choose to write about mental health?
I think the general theme of the story is about self-acceptance. In a world where culture sometimes imposes narrow-minded standards and expectations upon us, young people often feel out of place, and that can produce anxieties and insecurities. I created Archie with a fairly extreme version of an unnamed phobia (although it is similar to anablephobia: the fear of looking up). Archie copes with it by living his days underneath umbrellas. This story sends the message that it’s okay to cope—you don’t have to change yourself to be valuable. Healing and cures aren’t always possible but loving yourself and thriving within your boundaries are both possible. It’s a message that’s very important to me, and something I’ve reiterated again and again to my kids over the years.
So, Archie’s phobia is really a caricature of the numberless and nameless traits that might make a person think they’re weird, or that they don’t fit. We all have something to come to terms with, and when we do, that’s when our own full potential becomes a possibility. As Archie says, “Different doesn’t mean less significant or with less potential.”
Archie of Outlandish has quite a unique take on experiencing literature. Where did the decision to create a ‘book soundtrack’ come from and how does it work?
Our family’s life force is in our conversations. A lot of those conversations are centered around brainstorming weird ideas. Most of them don’t ever come to fruition (only so many hours in a day), but the idea for book soundtracks appeared at the perfect moment. Since I had a novel in the works at the time, and my son, Jared, was an enthusiastic young composer, ready for a project, the stars aligned for book soundtracks to exist.
The book soundtrack for Archie is an instrumental representation of the story’s themes, characters, and plots (much like a movie soundtrack). We feel that adding music to a story gives it an extra layer of sensory memory. Music touches our hearts in a unique way, and recalling a melody is sometimes easier than recalling words.
New Wrinkle Publishing is quite the creative family unit, can you tell us a bit about what you all do?
New Wrinkle Publishing is run by a few of the Krafts (the rest of the Krafts are on the sidelines cheering us on, editing our work, providing feedback, and/or waiting for their moment to join in on the creative process, because everyone in our family has an artistic bent.)
I’ve always turned to music for inspiration. When I was writing my first novel, Ingrid, I discussed the storyline and characters with Jared, and he created a colorful musical palette that helped bring the world to life in my own head. I think readers can sense that continuous circle of creative influence between the words and the music, and that’s at least partially due to the close relationship that Jared and I have.
Adding illustrations was one of those, “Why not?” decisions. My daughter, Abigail, was (much like Archie) at one of those notorious “Where do I fit?” times in life. She’d always enjoyed visual arts but hadn’t explored it to the extent that she was able to when she began illustrating Ingrid. I was excited at the thought of combining everything and creating something unique and amazing together. It was a time of revelation for her, and I, as her mother, was rewarded to see her confidence build as her instincts and skills combined. She’d probably call it a magical time of self-discovery.
Admittedly, we are creators first, so while working on our books is exhilarating, taking care of the business side of things is kind of a drag, but we do what we have to do, so we can create together. I guess the business side of things is kind of like the dishes, laundry and scrubbing the bathroom side of things.
What’s it like working with your children and for them working with their mother?
Fun! You wouldn’t believe how exciting it is to see your characters, themes and environments come to life through illustrations and songs. As a writer, I feel so privileged to have my kids on board sharing these stories. And I know that they feel the same way—you can discover a lot about yourself, your purpose, and your potential when you just do the thing that’s in front of you. And I think that’s what we’ve all experienced as we’ve nurtured our creative efforts together.
Over the years, working as a unit, we’ve begun to uncover a common thread in our creative visions—a desire to share the power of individual purpose with the youth of the world. I think the fact that we are all family, bound by love and an instinctive communion, really has helped us grow our vision seamlessly.
Archie of Outlandish has already been nominated for a few awards. Where would you like to see the book go next?
We’ve heard people say that Archie is an unforgettable character to be admired and to be inspired by. We’d love for young readers around the world to have that opportunity.
We’re big dreamers over here, and since we’re a family that works together on everything, we also get some big ideas, so we’re currently making plans to pitch the Outlandish-inspired TV series we’ve all been chatting about. And, well, who knows what else! There’s always a Kraft declaring, “Hey! I have an idea!”
What’s next for New Wrinkle? Any new books and soundtracks in the pipeline?
Oh yes, and we’re so eager to share it! In 2020 we’ll be releasing a young adult historical/sci-fi/fantasy novel. It takes place in the Lower East Side, New York City, 1917. This story will introduce another young, male protagonist who is lonely and longing to discover his purpose. And maybe—just maybe—there will be a beautiful visitor from another planet who will help him find it.
Explore titles from New Wrinkle on IPR License here.