Stranger Things Meets the Goonies: Joy Interviews Shannon Greenland about SCOUTS

I’m a huge fan of stories where the real world intersects with the weird, the strange, the ‘other.’  I love the idea that we can be going about our ordinary lives and then boom! We’re confronted with something not quite of this world. Or at least the characters think that’s what’s happening. So when I picked up the advanced copy of Shannon Greenland’s middle grade novel, SCOUTS, and saw it was about a group of friends in Tennessee in the 80s who may or may not have seen a meteor crash and UFO, I knew I would enjoy the read. Thus, I was super excited to meet Shannon Greenland at the Hachette dinner at the ABA Children’s Institute a few weeks ago and even more excited when she agreed to this interview. Read on to see what Shannon has to say about SCOUTS, the 1980s, speculative fiction, free-range kids, and more!

Joy: SCOUTS has been described as GOONIES meets STRANGER THINGS, which I think is wonderfully accurate description. And as one might expect from that pairing, you’ve set it in 1985.  Which leads to this question: Why the 80s setting for this particular story? What makes it a good fit for that particular time and place? (Besides the fact that GOONIES is one of my all-time favorite movies, along with numerous other 80s films!) 

Shannon Greenland: I grew up in the 80’s in the hills of TN. My friends and I used to rock out to Def Leppard, shout the lyrics to Queen, and dance to Cyndi Lauper. My childhood was one crazy escapade after another. We were never inside. If we weren’t covered in dirt by the end of the day, then we hadn’t truly made use of the hours! When I decided to write SCOUTS, I knew I would be revisiting much of that time and all the adventure that made up my days. If there’s one thing I hope readers take away, its exploration—get outside and enjoy the world! 

JP: Ah, the early 80s, definitely the last time period when during the summer, your parents expected you to be gone all day with your friends, as long as you were back by dinner. 

JP:  I know that you write for a variety of age groups. What draws you to stories for middle graders? 

SG: Actually, I had no intention of writing a Middle Grade book. It was my agent who suggested it. She said I had the “voice” for it. And so I sat down one day, just fiddling around, and Annie (the main character in SCOUTS) came to me. Soon after that followed her friends and a grand adventure involving much chaos.

JP: I love an adventure involving chaos!

JP: And speaking of adventure, one of the plot threads in SCOUTS is a meteor crash and a possible UFO. Are you a sci-fi fan? What elements of that genre do you find the most fun to read and to write? 

SG: I’ve never been much of a Sci-Fi or Fantasy reader. I enjoy contemporary novels. That said, I do appreciate a good Sci-Fi show as long as it doesn’t stretch the imagination too much. I have to buy into the plot line to get on board with the characters. Now when it comes to playing, that’s a different story. When I was a kid, my brother and I had many adventures in the woods around our house. We’d pretend we were being chased by aliens. We also hunted vampires and werewolves. At one point we were on a top secret mission involving the CIA. Our imagination knew no limit. 

JP: How fun! I love that you and brother did all that! My brother and I used to bike all over the place for hours, but we never hunted vampires!

JP: Like you and your brother, SCOUTS is also very much a relationship story. Without giving away any crucial spoilers, tell us a little about the friendships of the various characters. 

SG: Annie is daring, loyal, and ornery. She’s the only girl in a group of boys. Beans is the Scientist. Fynn’s the hypochondriac. And Rocky’s the sports nut. Together they have years of friendship but Annie shares a special relationship with each of the boys. She’s the glue that holds the group together. Individually, they are so very different, but that’s what makes them work as a whole. 

I thought it would be fun to let you hear their voices. These aren’t lines taken from SCOUTS, it’s just who they are on any given day. This is advice they would like to share with you:

Annie: “Being a girl is so not the point. Do what you want to do. Be friends with whoever. And don’t ditch them. That’s just not cool.”

Beans: “Don’t go anywhere without a compass.”

Fynn: “Forget Beans. Don’t go anywhere without bug spray. And aspirin. And antibiotic ointment. Also band aids.”

Rocky: “Ignore both of them. Don’t go anywhere without food. Also, listen to Annie. She knows what she’s talking about.”

JP: And to follow up on that, are there some characters who were easier to write? Anyone that you struggled with? Want to admit to any favorites? 

SG: To me, they were all easy to write because I saw myself in each character. I was the tomboy growing up (Annie)—the only girl in a group of boys. I also loved math (Beans)—and have my degree in it. I’m a total germaphobe (Fynn)—and carry hand sanitizer everywhere. And I’d much rather be outside hiking the hills (Rocky) than inside doing whatever. 

JP: Finally, what’s next for Shannon Greenland?

SG: On the heels of SCOUTS I have a Young Adult Thriller coming out August 6th. It’s called T-MINUS and is inspired by the TV show 24 in that it takes place in the span of one day. It is an adrenaline ride of a book and is about the first female POTUS, her daughter, and a terrorist threat on the United States. I had so much fun writing it!

JP: Thanks so much for a great interview, Shannon! We are very excited to get SCOUTS into everyone’s hands! 

SCOUTS arrives on 7/23. Pre-order your copy now!


Scouts Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316524780
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: jimmy patterson - July 23rd, 2019

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