Tuesday, May 8, 2018

2 Rebecca Petruck, author of BOY BITES BUG, on tricking your brain with a smile

We're delighted to have Rebecca Petruck join us to chat about her latest novel, BOY BITES BUG.

Rebecca, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

One scene that was really hard to write comes near the end when the main character, Will, has a conversation with Darryl, the antagonist. I like to “leave a door open” for redemption without also “fixing” everything. Life isn’t tidy, and at the same time, nothing gets better if we just throw things (or people) away. The scene was tough to write because I needed to find that balance of Will setting a healthy boundary while at the same time leaving a space for Darryl to meet him halfway—and be realistic for how middle grade boys would act. Whew!

The scenes of which I’m proudest, though, involve farts, armpits, and corn fungus. What can I say? My sense of humor is basically 7th-grade boy. *snickers*

What do you hope readers will take away from BOY BITES BUG?

One thing I hope readers will take away from reading BUG is that it’s okay to be wrong. The “trick” is to own up to our mistakes, apologize, learn, and really try to do better next time. We aren’t born knowing all the answers—heck, a lot of us don’t even know the questions until we step into a pile of doodoo and realize we were the ones who left it there by being unaware, privileged, or thoughtless. That doesn’t mean we’re bad people, it just means we could do some work to try to be better. And when we’re talking about our relationships with people from marginalized communities, it’s even more imperative that white people do the work to be more aware, inclusive, and thoughtful.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Publishing is a whole lot rejection piled with no and a sprinkling of you-suck. Even when you get the book deal, there is a lot of passive rejection, like when you don’t get a Kirkus star, or not sent to Book Expo, or not included on an anticipated reads list, or a gajillion other things. Rejection and comparison take a real toll on a person’s mental health, and it’s okay to take a breather sometimes. Pause querying for a couple of weeks, turn off social media on weekends…invest in a case of ripasso wine.

Publishing is a means to an end: getting your book to readers. When you hear from readers? KaPOW! All that rejection feels like a bad dream we can’t quite remember.

No one makes us write. We could quit any time. So, try this: Write out the reasons you don’t want to quit, the reasons why you want to keep writing despite the rejection and no. Read the list and smile. A smile tricks your brain into feeling happy.

Brain: We’re smiling? Oh. We’re happy about something. I missed it! Crap! Where’s the happy sauce? Get the happy sauce!

Body: We’re happy.

If the smile has a hint of “I’ll show them” malevolence…well, we’re writers. It’s our job to torment someone.


Boy Bites Bug
by Rebecca Petruck
Amulet Books
Released 5/8/2018

Will didn’t plan to eat a stinkbug. But when his friend Darryl called new kid Eloy Herrera a racial slur, Will did it as a diversion. Now Will is Bug Boy, and everyone is cracking up inventing insect meals for him, like French flies and maggot-aroni and fleas.

Turns out eating bugs for food is a real thing, called entomophagy. Deciding that means he can use a class project to feed everyone grasshoppers, Will bargains for Eloy’s help in exchange for helping him with wrestling, but their growing friendship only ticks off Darryl more.

Will may have bitten off more than he can chew as crickets, earthworm jerky—even a scorpion—end up on his plate, but insects are the least of his problems. When things with Darryl and Eloy heat up, Will wrestles with questions of loyalty, honor—and that maybe not all friendships are worth fighting for.

Purchase Boy Bites Bug at Amazon
Purchase Boy Bites Bug at IndieBound
View Boy Bites Bug on Goodreads


Rebecca Petruck is a Minnesota girl, though she also has lived in Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, England, Connecticut and, currently, North Carolina. A former member of 4-H, she was also a Girl Scout, a cheerleader, and competed in MathCounts. She reads National Geographic cover to cover. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction, from UNC Wilmington, and is represented by Kate Testerman of kt literary.

Her second novel, BOY BITES BUG, will be released by ABRAMS/Amulet, May 8, 2018. Booklist gave it a starred review, calling it "...a tale that is funny, perceptive, and timely in more ways than one." Her debut STEERING TOWARD NORMAL is a Blue Ribbon winner as a Best Book of 2014 by the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (BCCB), an American Booksellers Association Indies Introduce New Voices selection, as well as a Kids Indie Next List title.

You may visit her online at www.rebeccapetruck.com.


Have you had a chance tot read BOY BITES BUG yet? Do you give your antagonists an opportunity to redeem themselves? Do you make sure to take breathers for your mental health? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Charlotte, Anisaa, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann


  1. I had never heard of ripasso wine, but if Rebecca thinks it's something to buy by the case, I will try it. This books sounds great. I don't know if I centric my own brain, but I enjoyed reading the post. Thanks!

    1. Except for the bugs, I've found that Rebecca has good taste in food and wine. :-)


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