Toby Solano is the new kid in town. No one in Mapleton knows he exists, which is tough to swallow for a boy who descends from Lucha Libre wrestling royalty. Back in El Paso, Toby could snap his fingers and the seas would part as he walked the hallways at his old school.
But when his dad gets body slammed into submission and his career goes into a tailspin, Toby decides to take his anger out on his classmates, which gets him kicked out of school and shipped off to Mapleton with his mom.
Toby hates his new town, he hates his classmates and, most of all, he hates Mr. Finkelstein. But when he finds his teacher’s missing journal under the tires of a moving truck, the drama of the famed Mapleton Wrestling Federation opens wide for him. Armed with a journal’s-worth of wrestling lore, will Toby be able to build friendships and help the Mort-tician regain his title? Or, will he fall back on his old ways and bully himself right out of Mapleton Middle School? Find out on the slightly-wrinkled pages of Please Return To: Toby Solano.
1. Do you always take a book/e-reader wherever you go?
I’m kind of old school, so I never take an e-reader anywhere. I don’t even own one! I cherish the feel of a book’s pages in my hands, so hard copies are essential in my life. But, yes, I do almost always have a book with me wherever I go…unless that place happens to be scuba diving. Granted, I’ve never gone scuba diving, so books are pretty much surgically attached to me at all times.
2. Say someone asks if they can use your name in a book. Would you rather be the ‘good one’ or the ‘bad one’?
Definitely the ‘bad one’. There are not many venues in life where acting out your hidden villain is acceptable or valued. Fiction happens to be one of them. If there’s a writer out there looking for a real person to turn into a full-fledged supervillain, you totally have my permission to use me.
3. Where can I find you when you are reading?
Anywhere and everywhere. I used to have more time in my life, and my bed or a nearby sofa would be my typical reading spots. Now that I’m balancing a full-time teaching load with a writing career, I read in the spare moments. Those could come at my desk during a planning period, in the car while waiting at a drive-thru, or in my yard surrounded by flowers and trees. There’s really no rhyme or reason to my madness.
4. Where can I find you when you are not writing/reading?
If I’m not writing or in my classroom teaching English and Literature to eighth grade students, then I’m probably gardening in my yard or getting in some ice time at the local hockey rink.
5. Can you walk past a bookstore without going inside?
Hmm. I guess it depends on the bookstore. Let’s see. If it’s a massive superstore with a built-in cafe and all the bells and whistles…then no. If it’s a small, quaint indie store on Main Street…also, no. Yeah…no. I’m definitely going in.
6. What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the main thing all published authors should feel pride in: I completed a novel. Then I developed and completed another one. Then another still. I guess I’ve proven to myself this writing thing is not a fluke, and to me that has been all-important. I’m also proud that my words have made a difference in people’s lives, and it never gets old hearing that when readers approach me after book events to share their personal stories. To me, that’s what literature is intended to do.
7. What goes through your mind when you hold your new book in your hands for the first time?
It’s the greatest feeling in the world to know that a bouncing ball of somewhat interrelated ideas somehow crashed into each other enough times to create a bouncing ball of joy between two covers. The whole process of creating will never cease to amaze me. There are so many possibilities. So many decisions to be made by the artist. If you think about it, bringing a work of art from a mere idea to a phase of completion is a small miracle. I imagine holding that finished product in your hands for the first time is something akin to holding your first-born child.
8. What piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t waste time. If you’re sitting there right now thinking about that idea you’ve had for a book for the past ten years…what are you waiting for? Get your butt in the seat, pull out that pencil and pad, and start bringing your idea to life right now. Do not pass ‘GO’. Do not collect $200. Just write. The rest will take care of itself. And you will be happy.
9. Who would you like/have liked to interview?
I’m from Philadelphia originally, and if you’re from Philadelphia you’ve probably spent most of your life hearing legendary stories (and some hair-raising rumors) about Benjamin Franklin. Not only was he one of this nation’s most interesting founding fathers, but he also seemed like a pretty weird dude. I would have loved to have had an opportunity to sit across from him with a few tankards of grog and listen to what life was like in my fair city during the revolution.
10. When and where do you prefer to write?
I prefer to write all day, everyday. That, however, is not possible due to reality and my teaching load, so I usually carve out a consistent schedule for myself in the early, pre-dawn hours and again late at night. When I write, I’m not like one of those TV stereotypes of a writer who sits in a cafe people-watching, chatting, and sipping adult beverages while writing. That seems pretty much impossible to me. I have to lock myself away in a small room with the least amount of windows and get totally inside my own head. It’s somewhat frightening, but it works for me.
Thank you, Frank Morelli and RABT Book Tours
About the author
Frank Morelli is the author of No Sad Songs, a 2019 YALSA Quick Picks nominee and winner of an American Fiction Award for best coming of age story. The first book in his debut middle grade series, Please Return To: Norbert M. Finkelstein, was released in September 2019. His fiction and essays have appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Cobalt Review, Philadelphia Stories, and Jersey Devil Press. A Philadelphia native, Morelli now lives in High Point, NC where he has been a classroom teacher for almost twenty years. He holds an MFA in Fiction from National University and thinks dogs are the most respectable beings on the planet.