C.M. Surrisi celebrates the release of her middle-grade novel The Maypop Kidnapping

WORKING ON A MYSTERY: Clever 13-year-old sleuth Quinnie Boyd is convinced that her tutor has been kidnapped when she doesn’t show up on the first day of school. The Maypop Kidnapping is middle-grade novel by local author C.M. Surrisi. Photo courtesy of the author

After 28 years as a lawyer, C.M. Surrisi says she “started to reach the point where I felt I was ready to be done with law and really, seriously write.” The result of this decision was The Maypop Kidnapping, first in a series of middle-grade mysteries. Surrisi will celebrate the book’s release on Sunday, March 6, at Malaprop’s.

But having been a lawyer all that time left the author with a few handicaps. “I had no adjectives, basically,” she says. “It’s sort of a crime to embellish the facts in a brief.”

Practicing labor and employment law gave did give her some material to work with, however. “You see a lot of family trauma,” she says. “Because the workplace is so much of people’s lives, I’d see the person who made a mistake, or the stress of a negotiation, and I always would imagine the effect that was having on the family.” The travel required of the job gave Surrisi room to write, and writing served as a release from the pressures of her work.

MaypopKidnapping frontAll along, Surrisi wrote middle-grade fiction, just as she had since she was young. “From the time I could write, I wanted to write,” she says. “I wrote volumes. I wrote a series of horrible stories about two girls who became sisters who solved mysteries — missing erasers and so on.”

Asked why she focuses on this age — Quinnie Boyd, the protagonist of The Maypop Kidnapping, is 13 — Surrisi says that time of life fascinates her. “You’re just starting the process of going from being tightly bound to a family unit to emerging as an individual,” she says. “It’s a valuable territory to read about, so you can see how other girls are doing it successfully.”

Middle-grade fiction also connects Surrisi with her own childhood. That age, she says, is when she fell in love with reading. In fact, since turning to writing as a profession, she has begun collecting many of the books she loved as a kid, including her favorite Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, and a set of the soda shop-era stories of Rosamond DuJardin.

As she settled in to write The Maypop Kidnapping, which tells how Quinnie investigates the disappearance of a beloved teacher, Surrisi reached back to her childhood in another way. “I knew that when I wrote a book with some seriousness, I would set it in Maine,” she says. That’s because, in addition to being an evocative setting (“Maine is a welcoming place for mysteries”), it was the place where Surrisi’s family summered when she was growing up. Surrisi credits one year in particular — when her family stayed past the end of summer, and she saw the true life of a coastal town — with inspiring the setting and a few of The Maypop Kidnapping‘s memorable characters.

As it happened, the book had a rapid path to publication. Toward the end of Surrisi’s MFA program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Carolrhoda books issued an open call for middle-grade mysteries with quirky characters and unusual settings. “I got several emails saying, ‘This person’s describing your book,’” the author says.

Within a few weeks of contacting Carolrhoda, Surrisi’s manuscript became her first work of fiction accepted for publication. After a full career in law, Surrisi found that she had completed her middle-grade mystery at precisely the right moment.

“A lot of it is timing and having your manuscript in front of someone when it’s the kind of thing they’re looking for,” she says. “There’s not always a way to plan for that.”

WHO: C.M. Surrisi presents The Maypop Kidnapping
WHERE: Malaprop’s Bookstore & Cafe, 55 Haywood St., malaprops.com
WHEN: Sunday, March 6, 11 a.m. Free


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Doug Gibson
I live in West Asheville. I do a lot of reading. Follow me on Twitter: @dougibson

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “C.M. Surrisi celebrates the release of her middle-grade novel The Maypop Kidnapping

  1. Constance Lombardo

    I’m really looking forward to reading this one! Thanks for the article, Douglas!

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.