Wrong Way Summer by Heidi Lang

Happy, happy, happy Friday! I love, love, love the cover illustration for Heidi Lang's Wrong Way Summer. Heidi dropped by to chat with me about Isabel Roxas, Claire, road trips, school libraries, Stranger Things, and more. I wrote the words in purple, and Heidi wrote the words in black. Thank you, Heidi! 

Illustration Credit: Isabel Roxas | Designer Credit: Siobhan Gallagher

Isabel Roxas’ cover illustration for Wrong Way Summer does a fantastic job of conveying the excitement, confusion, and adventure of a road trip, while also hinting at some of the major themes of the story. Throughout this book, Claire, the main character, begins to understand that sometimes the best way to tell something important is through a roundabout tale. Isabel’s illustration of Claire creating their path feels like a perfect way to show that. And I love that her brother Patrick is on the cover with her. But my favorite part of all is the frog, even though it breaks my heart a little, because he has his own story and it isn’t as lovely as the rest of this cover.

Wrong Way Summer tells the story of a dad who decides to move his family into a van and travel across the country in the name of Grand Adventuring. But it also tells the story of Wrong Way Jacobus, Claire’s great-great-great grandfather—who may or may not have existed—and his own travels across the country just after the Gold Rush. And within these two stories are other, smaller stories. Tales of troll kings and queens, of buried spaceships, and revenge-driven frogs. So basically, it’s a story about stories, and the way they can be used to hide or reveal certain truths. 

Claire thinks that living in a van is about the worst idea ever. Especially a van her dad converted—with no indoor plumbing.

Road trips are the best. I went on a ton of them as a kid, and they always felt like an adventure. Now, I try to take as many road trips as possible. So far I’ve driven across the country from California to Connecticut three times, and I’ve spent a few months living in my own converted van with my husband and our two dogs, traveling around on the west coast. Being on the road can get stressful, but I love the spontaneity and the opportunity for new experiences and new places every day. 

Rules of the Ruff, A Dash of Dragon, A Hint of Hydra, and A Pinch of Phoenix are all my previous books. I wrote the Mystic Cooking Chronicles (A Dash of Dragon, A Hint of Hydra, and A Pinch of Phoenix) with my sister, Kati Bartkowski. They follow the youngest master chef in the land as she struggles to run a restaurant specializing in “monster” cuisine—things like kraken calamari and full-course dragon feasts—while also dealing with the elven mafia, a group of up-and-coming steampunk scientists, and an obnoxious rival chef, among other problems. And Rules of the Ruff is my first solo book, about a 12-year-old girl who gets caught in a feud between rival dog walkers, inspired by my own time working as a dog walker. Since they’re set in the same universe, I actually included a little easter egg in Wrong Way Summer for fans of Rules.

School libraries are magical places! I think half the reason I’m an author today is because of how much time I spent in my middle school library. It’s definitely the reason why I love writing middle grade so much. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what’s next. While I love writing contemporary, and I really enjoyed writing fantasy, I’ve always wanted to write horror . . . and now I get to! My sister and I are working on another joint project, Whispering Pines: The Unseeing, which we pitched as X-Files meets Stranger Things. It is definitely the scariest thing I’ve ever written, and I’m so excited that it will be out in the world in Fall 2020.

Look for Wrong Way Summer on April 21, 2020. 


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