Bangor Metro’s Author Spotlight feature gives an inside look about an author’s process and inspiration. This month, we’re featuring Tracey Hecht, a summer resident and author of the Nocturnals series.
Author Spotlight: Tracey Hecht
Tracey Hecht was facing a problem so many parents do: trying to get her kids to go to sleep.
Then an idea came to her. What if she wrote a novel for middle-grade readers that started as nocturnal animals were waking up. And what if it was written in a way to make it read-aloud material?
The idea was different. Middle-grade readers, stories written for students generally 8 to 12 years old, are typically independently read. Stories for younger kids are more often read-aloud books. But Hecht wanted a book with a cadence that worked for those older young readers.
“I really believe in reading for kids, and I really believe in read aloud for kids all the way through [middle school],” Hecht said. “I feel like with a world that’s so busy and there’s so many screens, it’s one of those things that slows things down to the moment.”
So she did it.
That book, “Nocturnals: The Mysterious Abductions,” was turned down by publishers. It had three protagonists, which they felt was too many. But Hecht wasn’t deterred. She found a partner who believed in the concept and financial backing and they launched Fabled Films and Fabled Films Press.
“We felt a niche for a different kind of book and got some people to believe in it and invest in it,” Hecht said. “I really respected [the publisher’s] decision and at the same time thought there was a chance to do something different.”
The effort paid off, and the first book was well-received. It was chosen as a Kids’ Indie Next List pick by the Association of American Booksellers. And it received good reviews. Kirkus Reviews called it: “A delightful adventure about the power of uncommon traits and the joys of newfound friendship.”
“We were so happy,” Hecht said.
Since then, Hecht, who spends summers with her family in a cabin near Oquossoc, has penned three additional books in the Nocturnals middle-grade series and also launched a companion series for early readers.
The newest, “The Nocturnals Level 3: The Chestnut Challenge,” comes out April 23. Two others, “The Nocturnals Level 1: The Tasty Treat” and “The Nocturnals Level 3: The Kooky Kinkajou,” come out in the fall. Fabled Films Press also has another series coming out later this year that is reimaginings of classic literature for a middle-grade audience. The first, “Pippa Park Raises Her Game,” is based on the story of “Great Expectations.”
The early readers were a natural fit with the character-driven style of the middle-grade series, Hecht said. And since they tell different stories and have storylines that are “PG or even G,” the early readers can be read by kids learning to read who are also reading the middle-grade books aloud with their parents.
“I really believe in character-based storytelling so the books are really character driven,” Hecht said. “You don’t often see books in middle-grade go lower [as in having an early-reader companion series’] and I actually think that’s a mistake. You want to make reading not just about the rigor and practice; you want to make it about the joy of story.”
The early reader books focus on alliteration to help kids learn the sounds certain letters make. For “The Chestnut Challenge,” that’s ch-ch-ch.
“It’s really fun to write,” Hecht said.
Hecht says Maine, where she wrote the first book in the middle-grade series, helped inspire her.
“Your environment really reflects how you write,” Hecht said. For her, that meant rising early at 5 a.m., when the world was waking up around her family’s cabin. She’d see the lake and the woods as the day began. And sometimes, that would include foxes running by.
“That was a really wonderful place to be to start [writing about] night-time adventures with animals,” Hecht said. “Now I write everywhere.”
She’s already looking forward to next summer, when her family will return to Maine for a few months. She’s particularly looking forward to her favorite meal: a lobster roll and root beer float from Pine Tree Frosty in Rangeley.
This story was originally published in Bangor Metro’s April 2019 issue. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.