Happy 2023, Book Friends!
Our first celebration of the year is for the Book Birthday of
THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER AND THE SHADOW OF DOUBT,
the #mg sequel by Shawn Peters (Harper Collins / Illus. Petur Antonsson).
You might remember meeting Shawn Peters
when we celebrated his debut #mg, The Unforgettable Logan Foster in 2022.
You guys–there are so many wonderful layers to these books, including the neurodivergent main character, Logan, as well as autism, D&D, Foster care & adoption, and of course…both books are full of :
“Funny and action-packed superhero silliness.”— Kirkus Reviews
We are thrilled to have Shawn Peters back and dive into more of Logan’s adventures.
And we have questions!
Q. 1 What do you hope readers will take away from THE UNFORGETABLE LOGAN FOSTER AND THE SHADOW OF DOUBT?
S.P. — Most of all, I hope readers enjoy the book and that they are glad they went for another adventure with Logan, Elena, Gil and Margie. But also, I really want them to feel even more of what Logan feels. There are a lot of tropes and stereotypes around neurodivergent and specifically autistic characters that paint them as emotionless or robotic. But in this second book, I wanted to dig into Logan’s feelings as he’s forming strong, authentic bonds with people and learning how that inherently stirs up new emotional reactions; love and frustration, trust and doubt.
Alexithymia Awareness & Emotions
S.P. — Logan feels them all, but he also grapples with Alexithymia, which is the inability to name or recognize emotions right away. That might not be something the average reader has heard of, but I believe having strong emotions that you can’t quite place or fully understand is something every kid goes through on some level, just as a function of maturing. So, by having a front-row, first-person account of Logan sorting through those feelings, I’m hoping the reader recognizes themselves in those moments.
Q. 2 — I’m so amazed by the world building in both of your books—and then you add the D&D thread! Any tips for those attempting this? And for those who don’t have an eidetic memory like Logan, how do you keep track of everything?
S.P. — First of all, thank you. I will admit, I’m not sure about offering too many tips considering I feel like I’m just learning this craft, and I’m still in awe of other author’s world-building, whether it’s someone like Sylvia Liu imagining a near future corporate-run society in Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation or Tom Phillips crafting a timeless version of New York that feels current and nostalgic in The Curious League of Detectives and Thieves: Egypt’s Fire. For me, I gave myself a small cheat code by layering my hidden world underneath the one we all live in, so I could keep a ton of rich details regarding places I know and cultural conventions we experience every day. In that way, I guess I’m trying to do what B.B. Alston does soooooo beautifully with his Amari series.
This kind of world building allows me to look at the reality we all know and ask myself “what if” a bunch of times until it becomes a network of underlying connections that exist just one layer down. Suddenly, Hollywood Boulevard or Venice Beach are perfect places for heroes to hide in plain sight and blockbuster movie shoots are ideal coverups for super villains behaving badly. But it’s interesting you mention D&D, because I do play regularly, and I think it stimulates the same part of my creativity. Every session is a chance to ask, “what if” and move through a world that works differently, but still has a set of rules that act as boundaries.
*Since it’s a new year, we wondered what Logan’s resolutions might be.
(Look for more below.)
S.P. —Logan resolves to:
- Find his missing sibling this year.
- Learn to cook so he doesn’t have to eat Margie’s “food.”
- Avoid being kidnapped by supervillains again.
- Limit his cat video watching to a maximum of 30 minutes a day during the week.
Q. 3 — One of the (many) things I love about your Logan books is that the stories are told with the premise that young readers are SMART. (Ex. The reference to Beowulf! *Heads-up English teacher pals.) Did you have any mentor texts in mind when you wrote these? (They make me think of Percy Jackson.)
S.P. — I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that Rick Riordan’s work inspired me to believe I could write a story like The Unforgettable Logan Foster and this sequel. Riordan’s books assume from the start that regardless of whether the reader is book smart, they’re there for all of it, from the mythology to modern tensions to the real emotions that come with being a tween or teen who is figuring out who they want to be. That’s how you do it. You want your reader to grow with the story.
S.P. — It’s funny, because I work in advertising when I’m not writing books, and in that field, there is a cynicism about the audience’s intelligence. Everything has to be so obvious and repeated and reinforced. But writing Middle Grade is the opposite because the reader (regardless of age) is there to expand their mind, have “ah-ha” moments and feel something real. Assuming they aren’t smart is a dead end.
The more interesting path is to assume they’re all smart in different ways and make sure the characters and story let them flex multiple intelligences along the way. I hope my two books do that. But Logan is also a love letter to kids like I was at his age who define themselves – maybe too often—by their intelligence.
If smart books about fictional smart kids can help real smart kids feel like heroes,
I’m more than okay with that.Shawn Peters
*New Year’s resolutions, part 2:
S.P. — Elena resolves to:
- Achieve full hero status at MASC.
- Get a B or higher in all of her high school classes despite her hero training.
- Go on a date with someone she likes.
- Resist using her powers in public without permission.
Q. 4 How wonderful to be able to write book one with the knowledge that there would be a book two! This doesn’t always happen. How did it help in creating this sequel, and how –if at all–did it make things more difficult?
S.P. — What’s funny is that when you’re trying to sell that first book, you have to write it as a stand-alone with “series potential.” So even when I got a two-book deal with HarperCollins, I’d already written my debut as if it could end there and be satisfying. Sure, I got a couple of free passes on things I knew I could revisit in the sequel, but in general, I didn’t write it as a “set up” for book two.
But with The Unforgettable Logan Foster and the Shadow of Doubt, I did have to write this with the knowledge that it may very well be the second and last book in the series, so once again, that meant making sure the end feels like a true ending. Would I love to write more Logan books? Of course, but I don’t really get to decide that at this point. Readers and publishers do. All that said, the wonderful thing about the world Logan Foster inhabits and the mysteries he is seeking to unravel is that there is always room for another adventure.
*New Year’s resolutions, part 3:
S.P. — Connie resolves to:
- Take zero crud* from anyone. (*she wouldn’t say “crud”)
- Play more D&D.
- Get her first tattoo.
- Reunite with her mom.
#Teacher bonus: Activities & Extensions
Q. 5 What activities or extensions might “the best 5th grade teacher on the planet” (aka your wife) suggest for THE UNFORGETABLE LOGAN FOSTER AND THE SHADOW OF DOUBT.
S.P. — Since writing the acknowledgements for my first book, my wife has moved to 8th grade, now teaching English and Civics. But since this book is definitely written more for the 5th grade arena, I’ll stick to that. I would say that both books, but especially my sequel, fit in nicely with Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. My wife used to do an exercise at the beginning of each year where her new students would be asked to create their own pie chart of where they saw their own intelligences. It was one of the things that inspired the whole series, specifically in terms of Logan being either valued or persecuted because of the way his mind worked.
What’s your super power?
S.P. — To me, identifying those areas where a person has a deep well of a specific intelligence is, in essence, like finding out their superpower. So, I feel like a teacher reading the book with their class and discussing what kind of intelligence different characters are manifesting at different points would be excellent. I also have done exercises during school visits where I work with students to create superhero stories based on their own personalities and passions. (I’m happy to share the template with any teachers who reach out to me at www.ShawnPetersWrites.com ) It’s a funwriting exercise for students and a chance for positive self-talk, plus a cool way for teachers to get a peek behind the curtain in terms of how their students think of themselves.
*New Year’s resolutions, part 4:
S.P. — Colonel Gdula resolves to:
- Rid the world of Necros.
- Keep the public from finding out about superheroes.
- Wipe Logan Foster’s memory.
- Cut down to three cigars a day.
Q. 6 With kudos (and eye rolls) for Gil’s Dad-puns, what’s beyond …THE SHADOW OF DOUBT? –> What’s next for you? Is there a new project you’re working on? A Book Three for Logan?
S.P. — No eye rolls required from me when it comes to dad jokes and puns. I will die on the hill that they are both funny and clever. In terms of what’s next, I’m in the process of trying to sell a completely different book about a kid who’s dealing with a whole lot of things (first crushes, divorced parents, puberty) when he ends up with a cursed smartphone that makes everything worse… or maybe better. I just hope I can find the right editor for it because it’s really fun and sweet.
And in the meantime, I’m working on something very different that touches on both the fantasy genre and the ultra-contemporary realities kids face in a time when even schools aren’t safe places. It’s the hardest creative endeavor I’ve ever undertaken… so wish me luck. As for a third Logan Foster installation, I’d love to do it and have an outline. But as I mentioned earlier that story will only be told if enough readers demand it. I sure hope they do.
SUPER thanks to Shawn Peters for joining us on the blog today.
Did we mention there’s a #Giveaway?
Yes! For a chance to receive a copy* of Shawn Peters’ THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER AND THE SHADOW OF DOUBT:
- Follow @ShawnTweeters on Twitter and/or shawntweeters on Instagram.
- Share this post on Twitter or Insta with hashtag #LoganFosterGiveaway and tag two friends, as well as @ShawnTweeters and @ErinDealey
- And (extra points)/OR Share this post on FB and tag two friends, as well as @ErinDealey
*For U.S. residents only. Deadline Tues. January 17th.
OR– Guess what, English #teachers in New England!!!?
YOU can WIN an in-person Author Visit:
Shawn Peters will be launching THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER AND THE SHADOW OF DOUBT at An Unlikely Story Bookstore –Plainville, MA @anunlikelystory on 1/5/22 at 7PM. AND he will be giving away a FREE, in-person author visit to 1 educator (teacher/librarian/classroom aid/specialist) at the event.
Reserve seats here: https://www.anunlikelystory.com/peters23
Happy Book Year to ALL!
Up next: Making Earth-friendly new year’s resolutions with picture book author Gabi Snyder (COUNT ON US! CLIMATE ACTIVISTS FROM ONE TO A BILLION / illus. Sarah Walsh / Barefoot Books ) and the kids in Room 5 from DEAR EARTH…