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First Book Loves with Kris Hui Lee: Sammy Keyes and the Art of Deception

Today in our First Book Loves series, we hear from Kris Hui Lee, author of the new YA Contemporary novel Out of Left Field.

Kris on her "First Book Love" and how it influenced her path as a writer:

I picked up Sammy Keyes and the Art of Deception by Wendelin van Draanen when I was 11, at a Barnes & Nobles where I was redeeming a free book voucher I’d received from a summer reading challenge. It was love at first page. 

I mean, just read this:

“Marissa says I’m a magnet for mayhem. That wherever I go, so goes trouble. 

Some friend, huh?

But I do have to admit it’s a little strange. I mean, how can you go someplace as boring as an art gallery and wind up attacking someone?”

(Sammy Keyes and the Art of Deception, Knopf 2003)

I was hooked.

Sammy Keyes is a middle grade series about a girl who inadvertently gets mixed up in all sorts of mysteries and uses her spunk and intuition to solve them with her friends. But it wasn’t just about the mystery—Art of Deception was the first book I read that had a first person POV character that resonated so strongly with me. I had never read a Sammy Keyes book before—never even heard of the series—but Sammy’s voice, which is so fresh and witty, had me hooked from the start. Needless to say I devoured the rest of the series immediately after.

Art of Deception was also the first time I read a book and thought to myself, I want to write something like this. And also: I could write something like this. 

Soon after I got into the Sammy Keyes series, I started writing my first story about a girl who played softball and got recruited to play on the boys’ baseball team. Over a decade later, that story became my debut novel Out of Left Field.Marnie—the main character of OOLF—undoubtedly has a little bit of Sammy Keyes in her. 

Voice is such an important part of fiction, and I think it’s one of the hardest parts of the craft of writing to develop, but having a good example of voice is the best way to learn. I’m so thankful that I found Sammy Keyes, and I can definitely say that through the series, Wendelin van Draanen has been somewhat of a writing teacher to me.

You should all go check out her books—Sammy Keyes and Flippedare some of my favorite MG/YA books. They’re fun reads for any age!

More about Kris:

Kris is a contemporary YA author who found success through the online writing contest Pitch Wars in 2015. Her submitted manuscript became her debut novel OUT OF LEFT FIELD, which comes out with Sourcebooks Fire in May 2018.

See also: Graphic designer, pianist, Ravenclaw, doggo enthusiast, Disney nerd, sushi lover.


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