Author Candace Fleming on Falling down the Rabbit Hole- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

Posted on Updated on

Hello world!!

Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, I will confess that I’m having a full on fan girl moment. This award winning author is a master at writing nonfiction, but she writes equally stellar fiction. I still remember being blown away by her 12 x 12 webinar about writing across genres. It truly inspired me, to this day. So without further ado, please welcome the illustrious (and also very kind) Candace Fleming!! She discusses her new middle grade book, Crash from Outer Space: Unraveling the Mystery of Flying Saucers published by Scholastic Focus.

BUT first- YAY! Candace is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book and a very short critique (no longer than four pages). To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends Nov 11, 2022, US only.

Please describe the journey to publication for Crash from Outer Space: Unraveling the Mystery of Flying Saucers, Alien Beings, and Roswell.

Hi, Lydia! Thanks for asking me to stop by and chat about Crash.  You know, I wish this manuscript had a dramatic publication story: multiple submissions, hard-fought revisions, suspenseful back-and-forth commentary between editor and agent.  In truth, Crash might be my simplest publication story.  I was struck with the idea while hiking in New Mexico.  That same day, after returning to my hotel room, I sent an email to my Scholastic editor Lisa Sandell.  I didn’t create an outline, or write a proposal.  I just explained in a couple short paragraphs what I had in mind and she said “yes.”  I went home and got to work.        

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

During a week-long hiking trip in New Mexico, I took a side trip to Roswell.  I wasn’t thinking about doing a book about saucer crashes or anything, I just wanted to walk through the UFO Museum.  I mean, come on, UFO Museum?  It was just too kitschy to pass up.  And you know what?  It is kitschy.  But then I noticed the other museum-goers.  Many of them were absorbed in the “facts” the museum presented about alien autopsies and abductions and government coverups.  And it struck me: Roswell is compelling, but there’s a bigger, more important reason for writing about it.  The Roswell myth is the perfect vehicle for exploring our fascination with UFOs. Why do we believe extraordinary claims without extraordinary evidence? How can we determine what’s legitimate evidence and what isn’t?  And how do we “unpack” conspiracy theories in a way that enables us to arrive at the truth.  It’s all about critical thinking.  And yes, believe it or not, all that came to me while wending my way through the UFO Museum.  It’s almost like a gift book, yes?  I mean, I rarely see a project so clearly. Hmmm…maybe it was alien intelligence.      

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.-

July 5, 1947 was oven hot, recalled Gerald Anderson.  He’d ridden in the backseat of his Uncle Ted’s Buick for what seemed like hours.  Eventually, they stopped and hiked across the plains of San Agustin—himself, his father and brother, Uncle Ted, and his cousin Victor—in search of moss agates.  Just five years old at the time, Gerald was tired.  He trudged along, wishing he had a bottle of cold pop.  Instead, he got something far more astonishing.

After hiking over an arroyo, the group came upon a crashed flying saucer, its silver metal glinting in the sunlight, the wide gash in its side exposing an interior of blinking colors.  In the shade of the wreckage lay three dead creatures.  Beside them, surrounded by several strange-shaped boxes, sat a live one.  To Gerald, it appeared to have been giving first aid to the others.  But when it saw the hikers approach, the creature froze.  It drew back in fear and covered its head with its hands.

What did the creatures look like?

According to Gerald, they were short, just 4 or 4 ½ feet tall with large tapering heads, and large almond-shaped black eyes that were so dark and shiny they had “a bluish tint when light reflected off them.”  The creatures had no visible ears, their noses were nothing but two holes, and their mouths looked “like a cut,” just a straight line.    

The living creature didn’t make any sounds, not even as they moved closer.  Anderson remembered his Uncle Ted trying to talk with the creature, first in Spanish, then in sign language.  It didn’t understand a word, but it calmed.  It laid its four-fingered hands in its lap and looked from person to person.

What I love about your books, especially with your nonfiction middle grade, is your attention to detail. You make scenes pop, almost as if the text was fictional, yet it’s all rooted in fact. Can you tell us a bit about your research process?

Oh, man, my research process in one paragraph?  That’s tough.  My process is long and winding.  I go down rabbit holes.  I investigate far afield from my initial subject.  Instead of searching for facts, I let the material speak to me.  It’s a very organic and very personal process. I follow my curiosity and intuition.  Why all this?  Because only through research can I discover what my story is really about.  I mean, sure, I know the topic.  But what do I really have to say with a particular piece of history or science?  I never really know that until I wallow around in the research.  That research takes me months, often years.  And it typically takes four paths: primary sources (including interviews and visits to archives) secondary sources (I use as few of these as possible), travel (I believe houses speak and landscapes hold memories) and experts.  All this wide and varied research leads to all kinds of tiny discoveries. These tiny details can be used when writing scenes to flesh out the moment, and bring it into sharp focus. 

Please share a few of your favorite books from 2021/2 that inspired you.

Is it a terrible thing to confess that I don’t use other people’s work as mentor texts?  I’m trying to be as wholly original and creative as possible when I write nonfiction.  I’m eager to discover new ways of telling, as I did in my picture book Giant Squid, with its cantilevered line breaks and lyrical text.  I worry that if I look too closely at others’ works, I’ll mimic.  And mimicry is not originality.  Besides, I don’t believe one can’t simply squeeze their story into a “found” structure.  Structure springs naturally from the research and how you see the story being told.  But I do deeply admire lots of nonfiction writers, talented creators like Deborah Hopkinson, Carole Boston Weatherford, Sarah Miller, Cynthia Levinson, Leesa Ransome, and Deb Heiligmann.  I devour their books, but NOT when I’m writing in the same genre.  I hold back on Cynthia and Carole’s picture books until I’m done writing my own picture book.  The same goes for Sarah and Deb’s books for older kids.  I can’t read them until I’ve completed my own middle grade or YA nonfiction.  Does that make sense?        

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?

Follow your instincts and write the book you envision.  Break the rules.  Keep inventing and reinventing yourself as a writer.  Don’t just stick to what you do best.  Challenge yourself. 

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?

An eagle.  I’d like to soar above the earth, and see it from an entirely new perspective.


Candace Fleming writes picture books, middle gradeand YA biographies. Among her nonfiction titles are Giant Squid, Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart, and The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia.  In 2021, she took home both the Sibert Medal for Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera and YALSA’s Excellence in Nonfiction Award for The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh, marking the first time the same author has won both of these nonfiction awards in the same year for two different books. Additionally, she is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, NCTE’s Orbis Pictus Award, as well as the two-time recipient of both the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Nonfiction, and SCBWI’s Golden Kite Award.  Her 2022 nonfiction titles include Murder Among Friends, Polar Bear and Crash From Outer Space.



Twitter: @candacefleming

FB: candacefleming

Instagram: @candaceflemingbooks

Purchase the book:


27 thoughts on “Author Candace Fleming on Falling down the Rabbit Hole- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

    Alexandra said:
    November 9, 2022 at 6:06 pm

    Thank you for this great interview! I love hearing about the role intuition and curiosity play for Candace in her research and writing process.


    Nancy Ferguson said:
    November 8, 2022 at 11:03 am

    Thank you for this grand interview!


    Nancy Furstinger said:
    November 5, 2022 at 5:37 pm

    I recently visited a UFO & Paranormal Museum in Pine Bush, NY, which was fascinating…can’t wait to read your book (hoping the gift shop will carry it, too)!


    carrieandtodd said:
    November 5, 2022 at 8:25 am

    “Why do we believe extraordinary claims without extraordinary evidence? How can we determine what’s legitimate evidence and what isn’t?“ Yes! This is a fabulous concept for a kidlit book. You’ve found such a fun way into serious topic.


    Stephanie Owen said:
    November 5, 2022 at 6:39 am

    Your book sounds like something my students would enjoy.


    marciewessels said:
    November 4, 2022 at 7:44 pm

    Thanks for this interview, Candace! I liked hearing how your many sources help you build a scene. So much of storytelling is about scene building. The trick in non-fiction is to balance it with the often necessary exposition which you do so well.


    marty bellis said:
    November 3, 2022 at 10:05 pm

    This sounds like a fascinating book. And I love the advice to break rules, reinvent and challenge yourself. Great interview! Thank you, Candace and Lydia.


    Jilanne Hoffmann said:
    November 3, 2022 at 5:37 pm

    I know writers for adults who don’t like reading in the genre they’re writing in at the moment. So I understand and like the idea of not reading mentor texts when I’m writing, but so often it spurs me in some way to do something different, to make some aspect of the mentor text my own. Especially if it’s a picture book. By the time I’m done with revision, it’s really all mine, with only a whiff or ghost of whatever mentor text(s) influenced it. Great interview!


    Karen Pickrell said:
    November 3, 2022 at 12:10 pm

    So interesting! Thank you for sharing your writing process. I really appreciate your advice and your approach to mentor texts.


    kara said:
    November 3, 2022 at 11:22 am

    Great interview! This book sounds so fascinating – can’t wait to read it! Congratulations!


    Hannah Roy LaGrone said:
    November 3, 2022 at 10:39 am

    Fascinating book and wonderful writing advice!


    Ann Harrell said:
    November 3, 2022 at 9:15 am

    Wonderful interview! This book sounds fascinating! Recently read Murder Among Friends – riveting!!


    brennajeanneret said:
    November 3, 2022 at 8:34 am

    Wow! Can’t wait to read this one!


    Norah said:
    November 3, 2022 at 1:20 am

    I didn’t know there was a museum in Roswell. It sounds fascinating. So does the book. The excerpt is compelling. I’m ordering a copy now. Thank you for this review.


    Ava said:
    November 3, 2022 at 1:14 am

    Going to Roswell is on my husbands bucket list. I reluctantly agreed to go with him, but now I really want to go! And I can’t wait to read this book!


    Ava said:
    November 3, 2022 at 1:13 am

    Going to Roswell is on my husband’s bucket list and I reluctantly agreed to go with him. But now I really want to go too! And I can’t wait to read the book!


    Angie said:
    November 2, 2022 at 9:55 pm

    Oh, that section you included, Candace! I’m hooked! Congratulations!


    seschipper said:
    November 2, 2022 at 8:47 pm

    This certainly sounds like a fascinating book! Congratulations, Candace! 🙂


    Jill Purtee (P. J.) said:
    November 2, 2022 at 8:14 pm

    My mother graduated from Roswell High School in 1947. She shared a few stories about The Roswell Incident. I have no reason to doubt her stories.


    Susan Johnston Taylor said:
    November 2, 2022 at 6:45 pm

    I love Candace’s advice to writers, and I’d love to win a critique from her!


    Linda Bozzo said:
    November 2, 2022 at 3:57 pm

    I love that you found a UFO museum and it resulted in such a fascinating topic!


    chardixon47 said:
    November 2, 2022 at 3:51 pm

    Congratulations Candace! This book speaks to me!


    rosecappelli said:
    November 2, 2022 at 3:23 pm

    What an interesting subject! Best of luck with this new book, Candace!


    debbievilardi said:
    November 2, 2022 at 2:36 pm

    This is a great topic, but more than that, it’s a fantastic way to approach critical thinking, which we need more of today.


    eboxer19 said:
    November 2, 2022 at 2:04 pm

    SUCH a fascinating topic. And I love the meticulousness that Candace brings to her research. And oh my goodness after reading that pasted excerpt, I must know more!


    calliebdean said:
    November 2, 2022 at 1:28 pm

    I always appreciate Candace’s wisdom on the research and writing process! I’m so excited to read her latest book!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s