Free Pizza, by G.C. McRae
Book Title: Free Pizza by G.C. McRae
Category: Middle-Grade Fiction, 360 pages
Genre: Humorous Fiction
Publisher: MacDonald Warne Media
Release date: May 1, 2019
Tour dates: May 1 to 17, 2019
Content Rating: PG (No sex or drugs, just mild expletives such as “hell” and “damn”.)
Brian McSpadden is always hungry. Does he have a disease? Worms? Does it have something to do with his being adopted? He spends his days at his crazy friend Danny’s house, hoping for snacks, but nothing seems to fill the void.
Then Brian receives a mysterious birthday card that says, Free Pizza. He soon discovers the card has nothing to do with food and everything to do with the big questions in his life: where did I come from, why did my mother give me up and is there anyone out there who will like me the way I am?
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G.C. McRae is the bestselling author of two young adult novels, three illustrated children’s books and a collection of original fairy tales. His writing is fall-down funny, even when the theme is darker than a coal miner’s cough. McRae reads to anybody at any time, in person or online, for free, which probably explains why he meets so many people and sells so many books.
In his latest work, Free Pizza, McRae spins the highly emotional themes from his decidedly unfunny childhood into a brilliantly comic yarn. After being given up for adoption by his teenage mom back when single girls were forced to hide unplanned pregnancies, his adoptive parents didn’t exactly keep him under the stairs but, well, let’s just say, there were spiders.
A lot has changed since then. McRae’s own children have now grown and he runs a small farm with his wife, who is herself an award-winning writer.
Thanks for joining us. In Free Pizza, you integrated the whole arc of an adoption reunion into an urban adventure story. How did that come about?
Free Pizza was my first novel. It was too big and complex to be publishable at first and took years to whittle down to shape. Because it was my first novel, I was still learning and I did exactly as the experts advise: write what you know. I was 25 at the time I started writing the book. I had a new baby and was right in the midst of searching for my own birth mother. I think it all got stirred into the same pot while I was writing.
Did you end up finding your own birth mother?
I did. I talked to her for the first time on the phone on my 40th birthday.
So you’d been searching for 15 years.
Actual searching, yes. Phoning, travelling, visiting graveyards in little towns, interviewing people.
What was it like talking to her for the first time?
Amazing, obviously. Her laugh just slayed me – it sounded so familiar. That experience really informed the character of Brian in the book. He meets his birth mother when he’s 12. But I tell you, during the experience, I sure felt like I was 12 again.
In writing about something so sentimental, things could have gone horribly wrong.
I know! I didn’t want the story to devolve into a big sob-fest. I tried to approach the reunion from a lot of different sides. Happiness isn’t the only emotion involved. There’s also a huge fear of renewed rejection. I hope I captured a bit of the reality of it all.
Aside from Brian, are any of the characters modelled after anyone you know?
Brian’s adoptive mother is a tame version of my own mother. His adoptive father is a complete invention, as are Danny’s parents. Danny is drawn from my friends when I was a kid, mostly my friend Claude. We got up to so much mischief as kids that my father banned me from ever seeing him again. He even got the school to keep us in separate classes all through junior high. The book is dedicated to Claude.
I was amused to discover the double meaning of the title. Could you tell our readers a bit about that?
Sure. Being twelve, Brian is hungry all the time. So when he receives a birthday card from this weird aunt that says, ‘Free Pizza’, he thinks his aunt knows of his plight and is sending him a gift card. But when he opens it, he finds it’s not a gift card at all. Instead, his aunt has donated to a fund-raiser in his name. The fund-raiser is to improve the life of a young polar bear who lives in a small enclosure in a Chinese shopping mall. The bear’s name is Pizza. So the card literally means, Free the Polar Bear Named Pizza.
The birthday card becomes quite significant. The polar bear is symbolic.
It is. The polar bear becomes a symbol of being displaced, of being alienated from your place of origin. Brian’s father makes the point that the fundraiser is useless. The arctic is melting and the polar bear can never go home again. And that’s the thing I discovered after meeting my own birth mother. She had her own big life that had nothing to do with me. There was no going home.
What’s next for you?
I’m doing a sequel to my comedy/science fiction book, Kana and the Red Pilot. Then it’s right back to writing original fairy tales.