Welcome to the world of unicorns.

Welcome to the world of unicorns.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Black Cats and Ballet Slippers? Hunh?

Finally, and at last, I’m interviewing a fellow middle grade author. I love middle grade. I love writing it, reading it, and discovering new and wonderful books. And here it is. Meet Iva Valentino, author of Black Cats and Ballet Slippers. Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win an e-book copy of Iva’s novel.

Iva, your book looks like so much fun. I just love the cover. What’s it about?

Black Cats and Ballet Slippers is a humorous middle grade book. It’s based in diary format, straight from the head of Gemma Mayfield. Gemma is not only an amazing ballerina, but is also awesome at solving mysteries. She thinks her teacher, Ms. Pruett, is a witch—and she’s determined to prove it.

That sounds great. I bet the kids tear up the pages trying to solve the mystery of Ms. Pruett. Are any of your characters based on real people?

Mungo, Gemma’s black cat, is so much like a kitty I had when I was a kid. We called him Mitzko! He was a feisty little guy. He loved to play fetch with a ball, just like a puppy.  Mitzko also had a HUGE meowl! It sort of sounded like a combo of a “meow” and and “yowl”. VERY loud and hard to ignore! We just loved Mitzko.

How cute! Does he say, “Let meow-t?” (Excuse the bad joke – ahem.) How did you get this idea?

The idea for Black Cats came about during my last year of teaching middle school. In the book, Gemma’s science teacher, Ms. Pruett, has a really creepy classroom. The classroom has a prep-room with lots of “witchy” things, such as powdered unicorn horn and other ingredients for spells. In my classroom, I also had a big prep-room. My room was actually very nice and not creepy at all, but over time, my imagination took over. I started to envision it as being Ms. Pruett’s. From there on, the rest of the storyline for Black Cats started to brew!

What an imagination. I love it. So what’s your next book?

I’m currently working on a sequel to Black Cats. The gang from Middleton Middle School will all be there, along with some new characters that I’m excited to introduce! The next book’s not a mystery book, but I still think it will be a lot of fun. It’s still in the early stages, but here’s a hint: ballerinas and football!

Ballerinas and football? How fun! Iva, tell us a little about yourself.

I live in Arizona with my husband, and our dog, Lupo. I love living in the desert! We recently purchased a house on the outskirts of town where we see lots of critters—snakes, coyotes, javelinas, hawks, even a bobcat or two. I love animals and we’re planning on having more pets soon, including foster dogs!

I worked as a middle school science teacher for many years. Although I really enjoyed doing fun science experiments with my students, I found my perfect job last year as a science editor for an educational publisher. Hooray for books and science!

When I’m not editing, writing books, or immersed in house projects, I love to take dance classes! My favorites are currently Afro Brazilian (the drums!), Zumba, and an absolutely amazing DJ dance cardio class. I also enjoy yoga, cooking, photography, and singing while driving in my car.

I guess that explains why you’re so slim! Iva, give us your purchasing links so my readers can snatch up this gem. (Excuse the Gemma pun.)

I love the Gemma pun! Please come visit me at the following sites:

Purchasing links for Black Cats and Ballet Slippers:

Thank you, Iva Valentino. I look forward to reading this book. And readers, leave a comment and you may be he winner of Black Cats and Ballet Slippers.


  1. Great interview Suzanne and Iva, and what a fabulous book Black Cats and Ballet Slippers sounds like. I love the title and the cover too. I think we all had one or two creepy teachers when were were children. And even if there weren't that creepy it was always fun to try and imagine their 'secret' life away from school! I wish you lots of success with it.

  2. Suzanne, thank you so much for having me on your blog today! "Let meow-t"… that is so cute! I think that if Mungo could speak human he would definitely use that phrase!

  3. Great interview on an interesting looking book. I have to put it on my to read list.

    Thank you both,

  4. Great blog. Love the cover. Powdered unicorn horn. That's cool.
    You must have a big fence around your property. Protect your critters from the javelinas.
    HGreenis - The Natasha Saga

    1. Thanks, Heather! We actually have NO wall around our property. Just a drop off and a huge wash! There is a javelina trail on our property, where they travel along in a herd, doing their javelina business. And the coyote pack runs around in our yard at night! :)

  5. Awesome interview Iva :)
    I'm sure just about every student, no matter the age/grade wonders about a certain teacher at their school .
    I've gotta get the book !

    Mindy :)

    1. I agree, Mindy. When I was in grade 2, I thought the teacher lived in the cloakroom.

    2. Thank you, Mindy! I used to teach middle school, and I'm hoping my students never thought that way about me! They did think it was very odd if they saw me out and about… apparently teachers are never supposed to leave the classroom. :)

  6. Oooh, this sounds like a wonderful read. I love reading this sort of middle-grade-back-being-a-kid-again read, even though I'm...older.

    1. Me too. I keep telling my children there's a child that lives inside of me.

    2. Thanks, Conda! The book is definitely written to be uplifting and fun!