Happy release day to The Unforgettable Logan Foster by Shawn Peters! To celebrate its release I’m excited to bring you all a Q&A I was able to have with Shawn about the book and his writing experience/process. If you haven’t already make sure you check out my review for The Unforgettable Logan Foster. Also, huge thanks to Shawn for answering my questions and thank you to the publisher for reaching out to me about reviewing this title!
Shawn Peters has spent more than two decades writing professionally for television and advertising. Married and a father of two kids, Shawn is by his own description a suburban-dad trope-fest. He enjoys coaching his kid’s teams, playing old-dude softball, and comparing IPAs with other dads. In his spare time, Shawn makes ultra-nerdy Dungeons and Dragons puns on Twitter under the handle @DnDadJokes.
What inspired this story?
I wish I could say, “This one thing happened and suddenly I was inspired to write,” but it didn’t. The books really grew out of three different things coming together at the same time. The first was my own personal experiences as a pre-teen. I was a kid with a semi-photographic memory— I could remember fine details of things I’d read and even recall where I’d seen them on the page— and I loved comic books, obsessing over the heroes’ and villains’ powers. So about seven years ago, when all the Marvel and DC movies were coming out months apart, the 12-year-old nerd inside me was in superhero heaven. The second was that around the same time, I was noticing how people’s views of neurodiversity were shifting to a strength-based understanding. My wife was a 5th-grade teacher at the time, and she’d come home with stories of how kids with Asperger’s Syndrome — now known as part of Autism Spectrum Disorder— were thriving when in an environment where everyone wasn’t expected to learn the same way. Our best friends at the time had a son who’d been diagnosed with high-functioning autism and over years of our families spending time together, my conversations with him always sparked my imagination because of the way his mind worked. And the last piece was that at that time, I had one child who was just starting to age out of middle grade books while the other was just entering his tween years. So I was reading so many wonderful stories, both from my own childhood and the new generation, but I wasn’t seeing kids like my friend’s son as the heroes in these adventures. So that’s where the idea of a neurodivergent orphan with a one-in-a-billion memory getting adopted by superheroes all mashed-up and became this book.
How long did the writing process for this book take?
It’s funny, because the time it took to “write” the book and the time it took to get the book to “done” are sooo different. I outlined the book in less than a month and then I gave myself a year to write a first draft, committing to writing at least one page every day. As a full-time creative director in the marketing world, plus a father of two who was coaching town sports, on the board of my congregation, and a guy who still wanted to occasionally watch a Red Sox game, I felt like that was doable. One year later, I had my first draft, but then spent another six months revising, sharing with a few readers, and then finally tightening it up before I started the querying process. But still, it would take another four years of rejections, revisions, sharing it with my wife’s class full of kids and using their feedback to fuel more changes, plus a whole lot of general perseverance before I signed with my agent in the summer of 2019 and sold the book early in 2020, right before the world and the industry all changed in a big way.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
The easy answer is I’d love to be able to fly, because I’m afraid of heights and I think that would go away if I had that power. But the deeper answer is that I’d love the ability to make an idea “real” all at once. Somewhere between what Green Lantern can do with his ring and what a lesser-known superhero named Firestorm could do by rearranging atoms. I’m an idea guy, and I come from an improv background. So the ability to go from concept to reality in a snap would certainly be something I’d sign up for. However, I don’t think it would necessarily help with my writing. You still have to create a book by writing words after word.
Do you have any upcoming books in process?
I’m happy to report there’s a sequel to THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER that is due out from Harper Collins next year, though there’s no release date yet. The story picks up a month after book one ends, and we get to see the fallout of Logan’s first adventure as he and his found family are adjusting to their new lives together. Logan is in a new school, makes some new friends, and finds out some new information that might lead to unraveling the mystery of how he became an orphan, and who his real parents might be. Plus there’s a cute dog and a ton more awful dad jokes from his foster father. Beyond that, we will have to see if Logan’s story continues, but in the meantime, I’m working on another MG book about a kid who is having an ultra-rough start to a school year that could get a little better or a whole lot worse when he ends up in possession of a very special smartphone. That’s my current work-in-progress, but I’m learning quickly that it’s a writer’s job to always be writing the next thing.
There are a lot of powerful themes in this book that many kids deal with in real life, what would you say to your readers who are neurodivergent and may see themselves in Logan?
Thank you! This means a lot to me, because while this book is a funny and action-packed adventure, I do believe it has an actual emotional core in it. I hope that neurodivergent readers and any other kid who feels that their strengths aren’t appreciated by those around them will relate to Logan. As I mentioned earlier, I was able to have more than 100 fifth-graders — my wife’s students at the time— read the book before I even had an agent. The enthusiasm they had for the book gave me a lot of faith in the story I was telling, but it was the reaction of her students who were on the spectrum that told me this was a book that I needed to get out into the world. They were the kids who kept raising their hands during our Q&A session, always asking the most insightful questions or proposing conspiracy theories about what might happen in future books. All that said, neurodiversity is… diverse. I know that Logan isn’t a fair representation of every kid who identifies as having ASD, let alone ADHD, Dyslexia, Tourette’s and others; that would be impossible. But I do hope any and all readers get the message that everyone is the hero of their own story, and that every person has something in them that is a unique talent or strength, if they just lean into it and surround themselves with people who appreciate it.
What are your favorite writing tools?
I really don’t have any, other than an uninterrupted hour of relative quiet and focus. I outline, draft and rewrite in Microsoft Word, and when I revise, I often make a handwritten list of things I want to address and then put checkmarks— multiple sometimes— as I address them. Truly, I think feedback is my favorite writing tool. The opportunity to share it and hear what other people think is the gift a writer cannot give to themselves. It doesn’t mean I act on every single piece of feedback I get, but I view all of it as a potential source of making the work better. I’m pretty sure that isn’t something every writer feels.
How did you decide on the narrative style of the book?
When I first was outlining this book, I wasn’t sure if I was going to write it in the first or third person, in the present or past tense. That came after the actual story itself. I had recently read PANORAMA CITY, a brilliant novel by one of my oldest friends, Antoine Wilson, and I was struck by how strong the voice of the protagonist came through when it not only came from their own mind, but it was directed to a specific recipient. The more I thought about Logan, the more I realized he would want to relate the facts of his adventure in a very particular way, and the idea that he was catching up a long-lost relative seemed like motivation for why he’d be retelling it. In my first drafts, Logan was sharing the story with the mother he never knew. But it felt cliche, and a little off, and that was confirmed when I shared it with the kids in my wife’s classroom. I asked them if they felt Logan was speaking directly to them in the book and they admitted it didn’t… after all, none of them were possibly his mother. The second they said it, I knew he had to be writing to another kid; someone who could actually be reading the book. That’s when the entire “World’s Best Big Brother” t-shirt came in, and I wove the idea that Logan was looking for their anonymous younger sibling into the entire book. It was a subtle shift, but it made a huge difference and brought his voice forward in all kinds of new ways.
What takeaways do you want your readers to have from this book?
I sort of hinted at it above, but I hope readers get that Logan is someone who finds people who like him — love him even — exactly how he is, and that the things that make him different are also what make him special, even if not everyone recognizes them. I’m hoping that for kids who relate to Logan, that will be a meaningful message and they’ll feel represented on the page. But I also hope it might open the eyes of kids who aren’t at all like Logan and create some empathy in the middle of all the dad jokes and Superhero action.
Who would you recommend this book to?
I so badly want to reply, “Anyone with at least one vowel in their first or last name” but that seems greedy and not very helpful. I’d say that this is a book for kids who are reluctant readers, but who do love comic books and graphic novels, as I think THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER is a bridge for those readers, especially with the wonderful art by Petur Antonsson sprinkled throughout the book. But I’d also say this book is one that teachers and librarians can share with kids who might see themselves as “different”, whether that’s because of neurodivergence or the simple everyday realities of being a tween, as Logan’s story should resonate with them. I also think this is one of those books that parents of those kids might enjoy too, whether they’re reading to their children or just interested in books for that age— because there are a lot of references in it that might speak to them even more than the kids.
Lastly, do you have anything else you want to share with readers regarding this book?
Just that even though this is a fictional book, and I don’t have any valid reason to believe that superheroes are real, I am sure that superpowers are a thing. I mean, just look through TikTok and you see people who can do things that seem impossible: single-armed pull-ups, sketching an entire portrait of a famous person upside down in one minute, solving Rubik’s Cubes while juggling them, playing keyboards hooked up to computers so that when they play a song, it draws a picture on the screen. I tend to think most of us have something at least close to a superpower if we embrace it and work at it and share it with others. So I guess what I’m saying is, don’t keep your superpowers to yourself.
Again I want to give a huge thank you to Shawn for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope you all had as much fun reading his answers as I did. Make sure you check out The Unforgettable Logan Foster!