Welcome to my stop on the TBR and Beyond Tours Book Tour for Etta Invincible by Reese Eschmann. This middle grade screams my kind of book! First the cover caught my attention then I found out it has comic strips included, and I was sold! I was lucky enough to get an interview with Reese and I can’t wait to share her answers. You can also find the tour schedule below where you can find links to other content creators for their thoughts on Etta Invincible.
Thank you Reese Eschmann for taking the time to answer my questions!
Reese Eschmann holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois-Chicago and worked in schools for six years. When she’s not writing or taking naps, Reese enjoys rock climbing, baking, and making movies with her family. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and their hound dog. Etta Invincible is her debut novel.
About The Book
Title: Etta Invincible
Author: Reese Eschmann
Publishing Date: July 12th, 2022
Page Length: 368
Age Range: Middle Grade
Rep: Black & Disability (Hard of Hearing/Ménière’s disease)
Synopsis: A girl with hearing loss and a boy adjusting to life in a new country connect through their love of comics and get entangled in their own fantastical adventure.
Twelve-year-old Etta Johnson has Loud Days where she can hear just fine and Quiet Days where sounds come from far away and she gets to retreat into her thoughts. Etta spends most of her time alone, working on her comic book about Invisible Girl, the superhero who takes down super villain Petra Fide and does all the things Etta thinks she can’t.
But when Louisa May Alcott, a friendly Goldendoodle from across the street, disappears, Etta and the dog’s boy, Eleazar, must find their inner heroes to save her. The catch? LMA has run onto a magical train that mysteriously arrived at the station near Etta and Eleazar’s houses. On-board, they discover each train car is its own magical world with individual riddles and challenges that must be solved before they can reach the engine room and rescue LMA.
Only, the stakes are even higher than they thought. The train’s magic is malfunctioning and spreading a purple smoke called The Fear through the streets of Chicago. Etta and Eleazar are the only ones who can save the city, save Louisa May Alcott—and save each other.
In up to 9 words or emojis, without spoilers, what can readers expect from Etta Invincible?
Can you tell us what inspired you to write Etta Invincible and without spoilers, what scene did you have the most fun writing and why?
When I was in graduate school, I would take the elevated train in Chicago to campus. In December, Chicago has something called the “CTA Holiday Train” which is a festive, decked-out train car covered in pulsing string lights that sometimes surprises people on their daily commute. It’s such a bright contrast to the other gray trains and the equally-gray winter days, and it also struck me as strange that you could just have this zany, fun experience in the middle of the day, but then you still have to get off the train at your stop and go about your business as usual. I wanted to write something just as weird and magical and (seemingly) impermanent. I want readers to see the train as I do: filled with endless possibilities, a place to return to over and over again. But I also want them to know that sometimes coming back to face the real world after going on an adventure is the most magical thing we can do.
If you could spend the day with Etta and Eleazar what would you do with each of them?
Every year, my family participates in a film competition called the 48 hour film festival. I think Etta and Eleazar would love hanging out with us for a day and being a part of making a movie, especially if that movie involved superheroes! My niece and nephews love helping come up with ideas and writing the plot for our movies, which is something Etta would also love to do. Eleazar would probably want to help with fight scene coordination and special effects for the action. We’d probably all visit a comic book store together for inspiration, spend a lot of time fueling up for filming with Chicago-style hot dogs, and have fun designing our own superhero costumes (Etta’s already got Invincible Girl’s costume all planned out!)
Etta Invincible includes a few panels from Etta’s comic book, Invincible Girl. Can you explain the process and your experiences creating those panels?
I was fortunate enough to be able to work with Gretel Lusky, a truly amazing illustrator and comic artist who illustrated the comic panels in the book as well as the cover and jacket art. She is a true genius and working with her was amazing! The design team at my publisher, Aladdin, sent her work to me, and I loved it immediately! My editor told me how many pages of comic panels we could have in the book, and I wrote a script for the panels. Comic scripts look a lot like movie scripts, except they’re often broken down into pages and panels rather than scenes, and they include descriptions for the artist. We sent the scripts to Gretel, who sent back panel sketches—and they blew me away! Her work was so much more beautiful than I’d even imagined, and she made some adjustments for panel placement and size that helped the story in the panels flow more clearly. We went back and forth one more time before she completed the final art—I swoon every time I look at it! You can check out more of her work on Instagram. Her handle is @gretlusky.
Etta has Ménière’s disease, which has caused her to become Hard of Hearing. Why did you wish to include this representation in your book?
I was a school social worker for seven years and though I myself do not have a hearing impairment, Etta’s character and her “Big Maybe” diagnosis of Ménière’s disease were partially inspired by a child I knew with fluctuating hearing loss, as well as by my own experiences with vertigo as a child. When I started this book, I was thinking about the kids I’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with—kids with big feels and big dreams, trying to figure out the meaning of home and friendship and how to follow hurt with healing. I wanted to write an adventure across my city to show those kids that no matter what’s going on in their lives or on the news, there’s another side to every story, a greater narrative that’s filled with hope and caramel apples and maybe (just maybe) enough magic to make a few wishes come true.
You also have another series coming out, Home For Meow. Can you tell us more about it? Was there anything you learned from writing that series and Etta Invincible that will help your writing in the future?
Home For Meow is a chapter book series about a girl named Kira whose family owns and runs a cat cafe! All of the cats who live at the cafe, The Purrfect Cup, come from the local animal shelter, so every book is about Kira’s new ideas and schemes to find adoptive homes for the cats. Kira has a lot of great ideas, but not all of them go exactly the way she hoped they would! Fortunately Kira is very determined and has a wonderful family and community around her to help out when things don’t go as planned! The series is so fun and heartwarming, and writing it has been a really bright spot for me over the last few years.
The most important thing I’ve learned from writing Etta Invincible and Home for Meow is how important perseverance and community are for people pursuing a career in writing or publishing. There have been so many times during this process when I’ve been close to giving up, but both Kira and Etta are characters who persevere when things get tough, and their stories remind me that I can keep going, too. I’m also incredibly grateful to have a wonderful support system of agents and editors, family, and other writers around me to encourage me and give feedback when I need it. I wouldn’t be here without them!