The Uncanny Express: Interview With Author Kara LaReau + GIVEAWAY!

Jaundice and Kale Bland are back for another unintentional adventure! The first book in The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters, The Jolly Regina, was one of the most clever books we read last year. Jaundice and Kale would love nothing more than to spend their days sipping on tepid tea snacking on stale bread, never leaving their cozy, nothing-ever-happens town of Dullsville.

Unfortunately for them, they seem to be constantly swept away into unexpected adventure. The last time we saw the Bland Sisters they were facing off against a band of female pirates, but now they’re back and ready to settle back into their quiet life. At least, that’s what they think. Luckily for us readers, The Uncanny Express is about to pull into the station! Here’s what you can expect from Jaundice and Kale’s latest unintentional adventure.

The Uncanny Express - Interview with Kara LaReau and Giveaway

Jaundice and Kale are back from their adventure on the high seas, and they are settling back into a quiet life in Dullsville, just the way they like it. The tea is tepid, the oatmeal is tasteless, and the socks are ripe for darning . . . until Aunt Shallot shows up and reveals herself to be anything but the dull relation they were expecting. Instead, she tells her nieces she is Magique, Queen of Magic, and she’s on her way to a big show and in need of two willing assistants. As Magique and the Bland sisters board the Uncanny Express, they meet a cast of mystifying characters. And when Magique goes missing, it’s up to Jaundice and Kale to solve the mystery—with the help of famous detective Hugo Fromage.

Filled with brilliant illustrations by Jen Hill, incredibly sharp wit, and two sisters who’d rather be doing pretty much anything else, The Uncanny Express is sure to make you split your sides with laughter. Grab yourself the flattest soda you can find and some marshmallow Fluff and read how author Kara LaReau brings the Bland Sisters to life! (And keep on scrolling for a Not-So-Bland Giveaway!)

The Uncanny Express – Interview with Kara LaReau:

The Uncanny Express - Interview with Kara LaReau and Giveaway

Illustrations copyright Jen Hill

What inspired you to bring the Bland Sisters to life?

KARA LAREAU: Funnily enough, it started out as a joke — years ago, I was working on a picture book series with my sister (who was illustrating). When the first book came out, one review journal claimed that the text was great, but the illustrations were ”bland.” We tried not to let it bother us. But when the second book came out, the same review journal claimed that the illustrations were great, but the text was “bland”! We were flabbergasted (and to be honest, a little bit annoyed) by the flip-flop, and by the use of the word “bland” (which is the LAST word you’d use to describe us or our work, imho).

So I started writing a little scene about two characters called The Bland Sisters, just to make us laugh. But then a really funny thing happened — I had so much fun writing that little scene, I couldn’t stop! I kept going, and going, and going…and the series was born.

How is their second adventure, The Uncanny Express, different than their first, The Jolly Regina?

KARA: Jaundice and Kale are a bit more on their guard after their parents tricked them into venturing aboard the pirate ship The Jolly Regina. Unfortunately (for them, at least), they aren’t QUITE worldly enough to avoid another adventure — this time on a train called (you guessed it) The Uncanny Express. While they aren’t facing a crew of nasty female pirates, they are introduced to a mysterious female magician named Magique, a renowned detective named Hugo Fromage, and a cast of very suspicious train passengers.

The Uncanny Express - Interview with Kara LaReau and Giveaway

Illustrations copyright Jen Hill

What items would Jaundice and Kale have in their bags?

KARA: Well, I know for sure what Kale would bring — a book. She always has reading material with her. In The Jolly Regina, she carried their trusty illustrated children’s dictionary, Dr. Snoote. In The Uncanny Express, she’s obsessed with a book of housekeeping advice (similar to “Hints from Heloise”) called Tillie’s Tips. (This is an inside joke, as unlike Kale, I absolutely HATE cleaning!)

As for Jaundice, she wouldn’t carry a bag — she carries everything she needs in her handy smock-pockets. On this trip, she brings along a plastic baggie, two long pieces of string (for tying knots, her latest and only hobby), a pen and notebook, and a very mysterious paperweight. All of these items come into play in the story — you’ll have to read it to find out how!

Would you rather face off against pirates or magicians and why?

KARA: That’s a tough one! Pirates fight dirty, but magicians always have something up their sleeve. Either way, I know I wouldn’t fare well at all.

The Uncanny Express - Interview with Kara LaReau and Giveaway

Tell us a little about what your day might be like if you lived in Dullsville.

KARA: It would probably involve a lot of naps and solitude, which happens to be my idea of heaven. I don’t know if I could stomach the tepid tea and stale bread and flat soda, though — maybe I’d smuggle in a big Thermos of coffee.

Writing such witty books seems like a lot of fun. What’s your favorite part of writing a funny book and what is the hardest challenge you face?

KARA: My favorite part is when I’ve finished drafting the story; then I get to flesh things out and add all the color and flavor and humor. The hardest part is when I’m actually drafting the story; it’s very bare bones and it’s not funny at all, which is very unsettling for me!

The Uncanny Express - Interview with Kara LaReau and Giveaway

How is writing this series different than writing your other series, The Infamous Ratsos?

KARA: The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters is for older readers, so it’s much longer and more sophisticated than The Infamous Ratsos series. Also, it requires a LOT more research. For instance, for The Uncanny Express, I read and viewed all the Agatha Christie I could find, and I also learned about trains, the history of magic, knot-tying, undetectable poisons, and how to address Russian nobility, among other things!

What advice do you have for young aspiring authors?

KARA: I always tell aspiring authors (of any age!) to read a lot, write a lot, and be observant. I keep a notebook handy at all times for the funny and/or interesting things I notice in the world, and I refer to that notebook whenever I’m looking for new ideas!

5 Unintentionally Interesting Facts About The Uncanny Express:

FACT #1: The Uncanny Express is an homage to Agatha Christie’s mysteries (and Murder on the Orient Express specifically).

The Uncanny Express - Interview with Kara LaReau and Giveaway

Illustrations copyright Jen Hill

FACT #2: I try to imbue each Bland Sisters adventure with feminist spirit, so Jaundice and Kale are always encountering strong female characters (often in roles typically attributed to men), such as the pirates in The Jolly Regina, and Magique, the magician in The Uncanny Express. Magique is loosely based on a real magician named Adelaide Herrmann — you should look her up, as she lived a fascinating life.

FACT #3: The character of Hugo Fromage is based on Agatha Christie’s classic detective, Hercule Poirot. (In French, Hugo Fromage translates to Big Cheese, ha ha.)

The Uncanny Express - Interview with Kara LaReau and Giveaway

Illustrations copyright Jen Hill

FACT #4: In Murder on the Orient Express, the train gets stuck in a snowstorm. I wanted The Uncanny Express to get stuck in a funnier way, so I used an overturned truck filled with marshmallow crème — you might know marshmallow crème as Fluff, but I call it Fluff-O in the book. Fluff is pretty well known here in New England (where I live), as it is manufactured in Massachusetts.

FACT #5: The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters is a trilogy. The final (??) book comes out in January 2019 — I hope you’ll check it out!

Now that you’re absolutely convinced you need to read this fantastic series, grab your favorite parent/guardian and enter our giveaway! We’re giving away a Not-So-Bland Prize Pack including both Bland Sisters books and some awesome bookish swag, courtesy of Kara LaReau!

Not-So-Bland Giveaway:

The Uncanny Express - Interview with Kara LaReau and Giveaway

WHAT DO I WIN?:

ONE (1) lucky winner will receive:
– SIGNED copies of The Uncanny Express and the new paperback version of The Jolly Regina
– Snazzy bookmarks
– A Pack of Jolly Regina postcards
– An official Hugo Fromage mustache

HOW DO I ENTER?:
Get permission from your parent/guardian and fill out the form below by 01/19/18. Giveaway begins on January 12, 2018, at 12:00 pm ET and ends on January 19, 2017, at 11:59 pm ET. Open to US entrants only.

You must be 18 or older to enter. If you are under 18, you’ll need to get permission from your parent/guardian to enter and again if you win. Please provide THEIR email address when entering below. If chosen as a winner, you’ll need to provide contact info where we can reach your parent/guardian if you win. They’ll need to sign an affidavit permitting us to send your prize. Be sure to read the fully detailed rules HERE before entering.

The Uncanny Express: Not-So-Bland Giveaway!

The Uncanny Express - Interview with Kara LaReau and Giveaway

We hope you loved getting to know Jaundice, Kale, and author Kara LaReau as much as we did! While you look forward to the next Bland Sisters adventure, why not check out these 10 Fun Facts About Fenway and Hattie?