The Spy Who Raised Me by Ted Anderson and illustrated by Gianna Meola is a super-spy adventure and hilarious satire about the demands parents place on children. The story follows teenager Josie Black who can infiltrate any building and move like a martial artist. But no one told her that. When she discovers her mom secretly programmed her to be a special operative, spy family drama breaks out.
Author Ted Anderson joins us today to give us the inside scoop of how he wrote his new graphic novel!
Did you have trouble getting into the mind of a teenage girl?
Not as much as I expected—diving back into my teen years was pretty fun, actually!
Plus, the themes of the book fit right into a teenage mindset: pushing back against your parents’ expectations, discovering the parts of yourself that you’ve inherited from your parents, trying to find what you want to do as opposed to what you’re supposed to do, and so forth. So keeping those ideas in mind kept me pretty in tune with what my teenage self was like.
Were there any specific scenes you had fun writing?
There’s a bit in the middle where JB is, for the first time, in control of the situation and has some power she exerts over another character, and that was very cathartic to write. Up until that point, JB is being pushed around by various sides, so her getting to finally be the person in charge made for a fun scene to write.
I also really loved working out the fight scenes—obviously the artist, Gianna Meola, was the “director” for those sequences, but I wanted to set them in cool places and give her opportunities for fun and exciting moments.
Where did JB’s name come from?
It’s a reference to three famous pop-culture spies: James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Jack Bauer. Someone pointed out the coincidence years ago, and I realized I had to use it in a story somewhere!
Are there any easter eggs in the book?
There are quite a few references to other books or movies about brainwashed spies. For example, there’s a character nicknamed “Baldy” in the book—that’s a reference to the character Dalby from The Ipcress File.
There’s also a point where someone suggests that JB play some solitaire, which is a reference to the classic book and film The Manchurian Candidate. And the football team at JB’s high school, the Fighting Kings, is a reference to the hypnotic trigger phrase in the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender. Figuring out how to reference these books and movies was a fun exercise as I put together the script.
Watch this video to find out more about The Spy Who Raised Me
Connect with Ted
Ted Anderson will also be co-hosting a virtual Wordplay event at The Loft Literary Center! Don’t miss this free opportunity May 4, 2021 9 a.m.–10 a.m. Register here!
Praise for The Spy Who Raised Me
“An action-packed secret-agent story showing that kids really can do anything! Perfect for fans of the Spy School and Alex Rider series.”—Leila Sales, author of This Song Will Save Your Life
“You think your parents are strange? While The Spy Who Raised Me is a really fun read, underneath it all is the quintessential feeling that your family either loves you or might just destroy you.” —Jason Walz, author-artist of Last Pick
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If you love hearing authors and illustrators talk about their creative process, find more interviews on the blog!