Author Spotlight: Kristin Gray Talks About Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge

Today I’m
finalcover Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge shining the Author Spotlight on Kristin Gray and her debut novel VILONIA BEEBE TAKES CHARGE.


Genre: Contemporary Middle-Grade

Age Range: 8-12

Launch Date: March 7, 2017


Please tell us a little bit about your book?

Fourth grader Vilonia hasn’t lost her rain coat in the three weeks she’s had it and she’s brushed her teeth every night and she’s volunteered to be the Friday Library Helper. But all that hard work is worth it if it means she can get a dog. Besides, this dog isn’t just because Vilonia has wanted one for pretty much ever. It’s also to help Mama, who’s been lost in one, big sadness fog for forty-three days—ever since Nana died. But Vilonia read that pets can help with sadness. Now all she has to do is keep the library goldfish alive over spring break, stop bringing stray animals home, and help Mama not get fired from her job. And she’s got to do all of it before the Catfish Festival. Easy as pie, right?

What inspired you to write this story and/or these characters?

Vilonia’s story morphed over time. After shelving an unsuccessful manuscript, I knew I wanted to write something lively and with heart. I had the idea of a young girl adopting and nurturing a puppy who had been born preterm. But as I  researched, I came across more and more articles about pet therapy and how dogs help us. So Vilonia’s story quickly evolved into one of a dog helping her family overcome their grief. So yes, dogs can be therapy. (Though sometimes, my dogs drive me bananas, but I love them anyway.)

Everyone says writing is a process. Could you share a little about your writing and/or research process?

I write in batches of scenes. Sometimes I only have half an hour, while I’m waiting on my kids at their various activities, but if I know the next scene, I’ll write it. Here’s the honest truth, I was stuck for almost three months because I didn’t know how (spoiler!) the chicken coop caught fire. Then fortuitously, I was out working at a local café one morning. A man at the table next to me was retelling the story of how his family’s hen coop had burned down. I eavesdropped for a bit and then introduced myself. I wrote the rest of the chapter that afternoon, and the rest as they say is history. So wherever you are, Dan with the hen coop, thank you! (Though I did not use the exact turn of events, it served as a springing board for my imagination.)

We know no writer is created in a vacuum. Could you tell the readers about a teacher or a librarian who had an effect on your writing life?

Oh my goodness. Mrs. Babbs was one of my librarians. I remember her reading WHY MOSQUITOES BUZZ IN PEOPLE’S EARS and parts of CADDIE WOODLAWN. I remember my 3rd and 6th grade teachers reading STUART LITTLE and JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH to us before the last bell. I was transfixed by those stories.

What makes your book a good pick for use in a classroom? Is there any particular way you’d like to see teachers use it with young readers/teens?

I’d like to think Vilonia would make a fun read aloud. That was my favorite part of the school day, when teachers read to us. What a dream it would be to have my own words read in a classroom!    

I’m a little dog obsessed here at Would you tell the readers about  your favorite dog (real or imaginary)?

Oh, I adore my two dogs! Lucy is an eight-year-old Border Terrier. Roxie is a two-year-old Airedale. They are so funny together. Lucy is rather lazy, so Roxie makes sure she gets her exercise. May I attach a photo?



screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-11-55-46-am Author of Viloina Beebe Takes ChargeKristin L. Gray drinks coffee (cream, no sugar) and writes books (funny, not sad) from her home in northwest Arkansas. She loves to read, walk her dogs, and eat cake for breakfast. Kristin’s fourth-grade self would never believe she has five children, two dogs, one fish, a bearded dragon, and a shy gecko. Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge is her first novel.

You can learn more about Kristin and her books by following her on:




You can buy VILIONA BEEBE TAKES CHARGE at bookstores or online at:

Amazon | B&N | Powells |


Thank you so much, Kristin!