Transcript: Children Chatting With Author Stacy McAnulty

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a certified or verbatim transcript, but rather represents only the context of the class or meeting, subject to the inherent limitations of real-time captioning. The primary focus of real-time captioning is general communication access and as such this document is not suitable, acceptable, nor is it intended for use in any type of legal proceeding.Transcript by

Children Chatting: Discussion between author Stacy McAnulty, and Children Chatting members

DANIELLA: Hello, everyone. You're listening to Children Chatting With Authors. Today we are going to be joined by author Stacy McAnulty of the book Millionaires for the Month.

LEAH: Hello, My name is Leah, and I wanted to know why you wanted to make the book about money and millionaires.

STACY MCANULTY: Thanks for the question. So why did I want to make this book about money and millionaires? So I think every book has a backstory, just kind of like every superhero, right? Spiderman was bit by a spider, Incredible Hulk had a science accident go bad. So books all have backstories, too. They all have like an origin story. And the origin story for Millionaires for the Month was that I went to dinner with my family, we went out for Chinese food. And on our way to the restaurant, we passed all these signs on the highway for mega millions and power ball. And at this time, both of them were worth half a billion dollars. That's billion with a B, so 500 million each. So of course the kids and I start talking like, "Man, if we had half a billion dollars, what would we do?"

STACY MCANULTY: So, we kind of went through all these different ideas of where we would go and what we would buy. But as we got to the restaurant and we're sitting there waiting for our fried rice and lo mien, we made the question harder. We were like, "What would you do if you were to spend all the money today? What if you had to spend a million dollars before the end of this hour? How would you spend it?" So we came up with these different rules that can make it hard and it can be fun, but also it could be almost like work, if you have too many rules. So that's where the story was born with just my family and I had a silly, silly conversation about what it would be like to have this amount of money that I can't even really imagine.

LEAH: Thank you.

NICHOLAS: Hi, my name is Nicholas. So I wanted to know how'd you get the idea for the app? Like that I wasn't really expecting, so I kind of was like, "Oh." So how did you come up with the app?

STACY MCANULTY: So how did I come up with the app? Do you mean at the end of the book or the one they use throughout the book?

NICHOLAS: The one at the end.

STACY MCANULTY: So I don't want to give too much away, but there is a point where the boys in the book, they have this challenge of spending the money and they really have to go through it. Spending the certain amount of money in a certain amount of time and with a gazillion rules and they go through it. And whether they fail, succeed, kind of depends on how you define succeed, but they come up with this idea to make it a game for everybody. They decide that they think it would make a really good app. So they design, or they work with someone on designing an app where we could all play along and spend $5 million in a month. Now, again, I've already mentioned, but I'm a mom of three and they're a little bit older, they're all teenagers. And they all have cell phones and they love playing games. So our family knows all about different apps and I know the kids can really get into those. And I think it's a part of a lot of teenagers' lives.

NICHOLAS: In the book when, I forgot the millionaire's name or like...

STACY MCANULTY: Laura Friendly.

NICHOLAS: Laura Friendly, and she says that she stole a candy, a chocolate candy bar from a gas station, I believe. And her mom made her eat like 17. She brought the bought the whole box and ate, made her eat 17. Did that ever happen to you? Or if it didn't, how did you come up with that idea?

STACY MCANULTY: Yeah, that's, so that did not happen to me, but I do, have heard stories and some of the stories are fiction, stories from other places. And just different ways that adults may creatively punish their kids. Like you want to eat cake for breakfast? Well then you're going to eat the whole cake for breakfast. So stories like that have always kind of floated around in movies and books and TV. My parents were never like that. And as a parent myself, I don't think I've done that. Would that be a good punishment?

STACY MCANULTY: Like if you were caught playing on a phone or an iPad in bed and I said, as your parent, you must stay up all night and play with your phone or your iPad and you don't get to sleep. Is that a good punishment? I'm not sure. I bet you guys would stay up, wouldn't you? I bet I would come back at 6:30 in the morning and y'all would be awake, still playing, my kids would, so, yeah. It's, so we try to, we use those kind of creative punishments that doesn't and always work. And I don't know if Laura Friendly's punishment of giving the kids $5 million to spend in secret is ideal either.

THERON: Hello, my name is Theron. I don't know if anybody's already asked this question, but how did you come up with the idea for the book?

STACY MCANULTY: Yep. So we kind of touched on this one that I got the idea when talking to my family and that actually happens quite a bit. So this one we were getting our Chinese food and we saw that stuff about the lottery. I have another book called World Ends in April, and this was my second novel. And in this one, a girl finds a website by a Harvard professor that says an asteroid is going to hit the earth in April. And she's got to decide like what she's going to do in kind of the last six months of before this big impact. And that started as another silly dinner conversation with my family.

STACY MCANULTY: Wait, this one was, if you knew that the world was going to end in six months, how would you spend your time? Now, when I see the world ends, I'm not talking about it blowing up and humans going extinct. I'm talking almost kind of like the pandemic. You know, if we, if you had known somehow, I don't know, with a magic eight ball or something that the pandemic was coming, what would you have done in 2020 or, late 2019 before that happened? So yeah, a lot of my books come from silly conversations with my family. And I bet you guys have similar silly conversations. Those, what-if conversations, because it's fun to flex our imagination in that way and just think what we would do in these unbelievable situations.

THERON: Thank you.

LAUREN: My name's Lauren and I loved Felix and Benji and how their friendship developed throughout the story, even though they're complete opposites from each other. But I also love the supporting characters and I want to know how did you come up with the idea for Reggie, the philosopher chauffer? Because he was hilarious.

STACY MCANULTY: I know I love Reggie. When we talk about this wild idea of spending $5 million in a month, we got to admit it would be easier for me than it would be for you kids, because I'm an adult. I have a passport, people aren't going to question what I do and I can drive, you cannot get around very easily, right? Maybe you can hop on a bike, maybe you take the public transportation or a bus, something like that. But I bet you rely on adults driving you places too. So I wanted these guys to have access to getting around and decided to hire their Uber driver, but I just didn't want some nameless, faceless driver. I wanted someone that would be on their side and Reggie is certainly on their side. And I wanted him to be younger, he's a college student. And I wanted him to look at the world differently than two boys in seventh grade would, but also differently the way than their parents would.

STACY MCANULTY: So I kind of put this all together. And then I had read a book about philosophy, it was actually kind of a joke book. It was a silly philosophy book for adults. And the name is slipping my mind now. And I was like, to have the character refer to some of this philosophy stuff is really, would be really kind of neat. Kind of really make the boys think about their decisions and think about all those things that are covered in philosophy, meaning of life, why do we do the right things, those big questions that we don't ask ourselves every day. And he was definitely, Reggie was fun to write. Like, so I'm glad you enjoyed scenes, but it's also, those scenes were fun to write for sure. And

LEAH: My name is Leah, and I have one more question for you, why did you want Felix to adopt a dog?

STACY MCANULTY: So, okay, again, the boys have $5 million to spend in a month and we could talk about all the different things that we might buy with that and what they would mean to us. But one of the favorite things in my life, beyond my family, my dogs. I have three of them and they do cost lots of money when they have to go to the vet or their food and all the stuff they need, but they don't need $5 million. Now, if one of them got sick, how much is that? How much money would I put towards that? How much money could a family put towards that? That's kind of a tough question. It's different than people, but we love our dogs so much. So I just love the idea of giving Felix a dog that is free, it didn't cost him anything.

STACY MCANULTY: And how that really changed his life, as much as the $5 million did, I would say, would you agree with that? That the dog changed his life as much as the money? So there's things that influence our life that might cost nothing. Thanks, Leah, Leia.

LEAH: Thank you.

STACY MCANULTY: Fun fact about me, I have written, I think I just had my 26th or 27th book published last week, including three novels, which are pretty long. I don't know how to type. I still type with two fingers. Well, two fingers on each hand, that's type of four fingers. Someday I will learn to type.

LAUREN: Congratulations, Stacy. That's a wonderful, amazing accomplishment. Oh that's great. Congratulations.

LEAH: My name is Leah, and if you had the same amount of money, well, how would you spend it? Would you spend it the same way as Felix and Benji or something different?

STACY MCANULTY: How would I spend the $5 million? And now assuming I had the rules just like they did, so I can't buy a house or a car or any of those really expensive things. And again, I'm an adult not a 12-year-old, so it's easier for me, I would travel. I love going places, which that the tail end of this pandemic is still hard, but I do, I like to get on airplanes and visit other countries and try different foods. So I think I could make a dent in that $5 million if I could go around the world for a month, which of course the boys can't do because they're in school and they don't have passports and they would need parents. So I have a lot more freedom than they do. How would you spend the money may I ask? Did you think about that Leah?

LEAH: No. I don't know how I would spend the money, especially when I have so many rules.

STACY MCANULTY: That's right cause Laura Friendly was trying to make it a punishment and not a reward because the boys stole that wallet or stole some money out of her wallet before returning it. So yeah. Yeah, that's why we had to make all those rules cause we didn't want it to be too easy. It was fun looking up on the computer, like the most expensive things. Like what's the most expensive cheeseburger you can buy, what's the most expensive perfume you can buy and all these things that we don't think about in our every day because I am not buying the most expensive cheeseburger or the most expensive perfume or the most expensive handbag or the most expensive sneakers.

THERON: Were the mom and dad inspired by your family. Was that Benji's or Felix's or both?


LAUREN: Yeah. Cause they're so different. Felix's mom and Benji's parents do a different parenting, right? They, let's find out.

STACY MCANULTY: So the parents are, yeah, they, all my characters are inspired by me or people I know at least a little bit. Like no character is completely someone I know or completely me, but I think more about Benji and Felix than their parents. So I'm going to kind of twist your question a little. So Benji is growing up in a family that has a mom and a dad and he doesn't have any siblings. They live in a very nice home to a point he's upstairs and has like three or four bedrooms to himself because mom and dad's rooms downstairs and he has no siblings. He's never really had to want for anything, if he needs new sneakers, they buy new sneakers, in the summer, they go on vacation. He's never really had those once. I'm very fortunate because my kids are kind of like that.

STACY MCANULTY: And that we own a home and we go on vacation, they have a mom and a dad here. So that's maybe we're like Benji's parents a little bit. Felix on the other hand, is living in an apartment. His mom is working two jobs and he knows a lot about the family's money. Like he knows when it's payday because that means that maybe he can get a cheeseburger or they go grocery shopping. He's very aware that it costs money to go to the kind of the laundromat or go wash his laundry, he needs coins for that. So it's, he's growing up very different. And I was raised by a single mom. And while we did have a home, I did know when payday was and I did, we did shop around payday. We filled up the gas tank around payday.

STACY MCANULTY: So that's the way I grew up. I was very aware. I didn't just get new sneakers because I saw cool new sneakers. I had to wait to perhaps I grew out of my old sneakers. So that was kind of the way I grew up. So I was very, I was thinking of the boys differently. Differently in that way, that one comes from a place where he is very aware of the money and the one has never wanted for anything. Now I'm going to go on here, sorry I'm dragging on. But so economically they're very different, right? But also I want to talk about another difference in them in that Felix is very good at school and he is good at basketball. So he's got these talents while Benji, even though he's in this family that, where he can get those new sneakers and gets to go to the Disney, he is struggling with school and he is not a reader and he has to get special help, which was something that I did as a kid as well.

STACY MCANULTY: So I think, so there's these little bits of pieces that I have dragged, dragged, taken from myself. But also you can see the advantage Benji has when it comes to economics or money, but also he's, that doesn't mean his life is perfect. He has some struggles and you might see Felix in school and say, this kid is smart, he's got it all together. But at home he's saving quarters so he can wash his laundry. So they each have these different backgrounds and you don't, they aren't initially friends. They don't perhaps hang in the same circles, but they eventually, they find each other and they find what's really important. So that kind of set up the parents, is because I wanted the kids to come at the problem from a kid who has a lot and from a kid who is very aware of economic struggles. That was a great question.

LAUREN: I just wanted to close with one of my favorite scenes from the book Stacy, where they go to the basketball game and Felix gets to do the half court shot and he gives, he wants to give them money immediately, that $10,000 to his mom. Can you talk a little bit about where that scene came from?

STACY MCANULTY: So they, yeah, they're at a basketball game and he sinks those amazing half court shots and I've been lucky enough and got to go to some basketball games, mostly come college and they do those silly stunts at halftime where you do something where you could win money. So Felix does it and he wins and his first thought is his family. Again, Felix is not coming from a place where there's financial security and he knows his mom is constantly looking out for her paycheck. She is constantly aware of how money, how much things cost. In a situation like that, one thing going wrong, something breaking or someone getting sick can really set a family back. So his first thought is to his family, to his mom. And I just, I love that about him.

STACY MCANULTY: That he's just so aware, but again, he's not thinking new sneakers, new car, he's thinking what can I do to help out my family? And that's what he decides right away.

LEAH: I just wanted to say, thank you.

STACY MCANULTY: Thank you. You guys asked great questions and it was super fun for me to think back on why I made these decisions and I love sharing them with you so that maybe get a glimpse of how writing works and how much thought we usually, us authors and creators put in into the books we make. So thank you for listening to my stories and going on this journey with me. I really appreciate it.

MILES: Thanks for listening to the Children Chatting with Authors podcast!

[Music outro]

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a certified or verbatim transcript, but rather represents only the context of the class or meeting, subject to the inherent limitations of real-time captioning. The primary focus of real-time captioning is general communication access and as such this document is not suitable, acceptable, nor is it intended for use in any type of legal proceeding.Transcript by