Bristol author enjoying success with Eddie Red series

BRISTOL — Author Marcia Wells writes her books in her home just outside of Bristol, which is situated far from any neighbors.
“We’re very isolated — it’s just me and the chickens,” she told a visitor with a laugh last week.
But though she writes in relative solitude, Wells has recently been garnering national attention for her new book, “Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile.” It’s the first installment in a series of books for middle-grade readers in which the hero is a boy with photographic memory who helps crack seemingly insolvable mysteries. (Middle-grade books are targeted to readers aged roughly nine to 12.)
“Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile,” which came out this past spring, was recently featured on Time For Kids magazine’s list, “The 5 Best Books for Your Kids This Summer (According to Other Kids).” The second book in the series is slated to come out next April, and if all goes to plan, Wells hopes to round out the series with several more installments.
“I was shocked, and I don’t know what will happen,” Wells said of Eddie Red’s spot on the Time list. “I’m not assuming that anything magical will happen, but it’s awesome that it is opening doors. It will also be featured in Newsday (the largest newspaper on Long Island), so it’s definitely getting exposure. We’ll have to see what kids really think about it.”
Wells, 40, first began drafting her first “Eddie Red” book when she moved eight years ago from Colorado to Bristol with her husband and two young sons. Originally from New Hampshire, Wells was familiar with Vermont and had long dreamed of moving back to the East Coast. “Vermont always had this mystique — the cows and the leaves,” she said.
As she began writing the series, Wells says she was inspired by the kids she was then teaching at the Gailer School in Middlebury, which has since closed.
“I wrote ‘Eddie’ while teaching mostly seventh-grade boys,” she said. “I was also teaching a Spanish lit class in high school — we read lots of mystery stories, and that was a big influence on the book.”
Wells officially retired from teaching two years ago, and has turned to writing full time.
“I want to write forever,” she said. “It’s great, because it’s something I can do until my dying day. I always have ideas — but can you sell them, and find the right way to tell the story? I like being able to use your imagination constantly, and I’ll come across things and being able to fix them. Here I have my characters to control, and everything that’s happening. It’s a lot of intellectual freedom.”
Perhaps surprisingly to her fans, Wells did not set out to write books for a younger audience. Her true love, she said, is young-adult fiction, and she wrote three YA novels before the “Eddie” series was picked up two years ago by her agent, Kristen Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency.
“Apparently I have a ‘middle-grade’ voice, that’s what they tell me,” Wells said. “Eddie Red was initially YA but both the publisher and agent said, ‘I want to see this middle-grade.’”
Another interesting aspect of the “Eddie Red” series is its illustrations — not many middle-grade books have pictures, but Wells says she has been pleased with how they complement the story.
“Eddie is a sketch artist, so it’s really cool — and I had never imagined illustrations for the book, because it’s a middle grade, but it is, and it works,” she said.
The illustrator, Marcos Calo of Spain, worked with Wells and the publisher to get the pictures just right — a process Wells said is not always that easy.
“I’ve heard horror stories of people working with an illustrator where the text says the guy has a blue beard and the illustrator drew him with a purple beard, and the publisher told the writer to change the text. In my case, anything Marcos changed (makes sense).”
One such change is an illustration of Eddie Red in a tuxedo; while Eddie is never in a tuxedo in the book, Wells was pleased with Calo’s drawing.
“Eddie imagines himself as a James Bond spy — and it’s my favorite picture.”
Though “Eddie Red” centers on a crime-busting kid working with the NYPD in New York City, Wells remains focused on the local aspect of her writing. She has done several readings at schools in Bristol and Middlebury, and she is always looking to do more (anyone interested in having Wells speak at their school may contact her via her website, marciawellsauthor.com). While she went on a book tour this past spring to Miami, Atlanta, Raleigh and Philadelphia, Wells also hopes to promote local readership and to encourage patronage of local bookstores.
“I’m happy to spread the ‘Eddie’ love in Vermont for free,” she said. “I like to promote the Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury, and Recycled Reading of Vermont in Bristol. I’m very friendly with the owners and they have my book.”
Reading to local children has also been useful to her as a writer, Wells noted.
“My son is in fourth grade,” she said, “so I went to his classroom, and the kids gave me a ton of ideas — one kid said, “What about diamonds?” And that got me thinking … There’s a debate in the writing world about whether school visits are worth it. I think they are. The kids get a lot out of it, and it’s worth it for both the author and the kids.”
While “Eddie Red” may draw Wells from Vermont for more book tours and appearances in the future, she says she is happy where she is, and hopes to continue writing at her home in Bristol.
“I didn’t start writing until I came to Vermont,” Wells said. “I feel like Vermont gave me peace, an inner peace to be able to listen to the voices, if you will, and not worry about careers. It’s given me the space to explore what I love. We moved here and I got more in touch with what I wanted.”
Editor’s note: Marcia Wells will be on WCAX-TV Channel 3’s “Books Over Breakfast” on Sept. 24. 

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