Interview with Rebecca Chace


About the Author: “Rebecca Chace has published four books, Leaving Rock Harbor, Capture the Flag, Chautauqua Summer, June Sparrow and The Million Dollar Penny. Her novel, Talking to the Wolf, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. She is also the author of plays, screenplays, and literary essays. She has written for The New York Times, LA Review of Books, The Yale Review, Guernica, Lit Hub, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other publications. Fellowships include Civitella Ranieri, MacDowell, Yaddo, American Academy in Rome (visiting artist), and many others. She is Program Manager at the Institute for Writing and Thinking at Bard College” (Bio from the author).

Find Rebecca Chace on the following platforms:

A huge thank you to Rebecca Chace for taking the time to do an interview with us at Pine Reads! Her middle grade novel June Sparrow and the Million-Dollar Penny is out now from Balzer + Bray.

Be sure to check out our review of June Sparrow and the Million-Dollar Penny here!

Emilee Ceuninck: Thank you for taking the time for an interview! June Sparrow and the Million-Dollar Penny is your latest middle grade novel. What draws you to write for this age group?

Rebecca Chace: Thank you for asking me and for reading my book! I have two daughters and have always loved reading children’s books and still do, even now that they are both grown up. We read a lot of books together when they were young, and the original idea for this book came from a long hike in the Vermont mountains when we got (slightly) off the trail and my younger daughter, my goddaughter, and I made up the beginnings of this story to keep our spirits up as we hiked back to the road. I had always wanted to write a book for ages 8-12 when most of us are pretty independent but not yet fully in the adult world. I was just waiting for the right story to come along.

EC: Having published a significant number of works, did you always know that you wanted to be an author? When did your passion for writing start?

RC: I grew up in a family of writers. My mother was a poet, and my father was a historian. I have always loved books and was always making up stories as a kid, writing plays, drawing comics. I still write plays and screenplays as well as books. I think it’s a bit like becoming a shoemaker if you grow up in a family of shoemakers.

EC: The storyline follows June’s transition from a life of wealth to that of a farmer. How would her journey have been different if she had gone from being a farmer to a millionaire instead? Would June have learned the same lessons and transformed in the same way?

RC: When she was a millionaire, even though she had Indigo Bunting as her best friend, she was pretty isolated. New York can be very fun if you are a millionaire—I was thinking of the Eloise books—but all that money can also separate you because you’re not living in the same world as the rest of us. I don’t think she even knew how lonely she was until she lost all her money. After she went “from riches to rags,” she made really important friendships and created her own chosen family. I don’t think it would have been the same if the plot had gone in the opposite direction.

EC: One of my favorite aspects of the novel was June’s mom’s Penny Book. It is a creative idea to make a diary that incorporates pennies and an entry on where the penny was found, its value, and what is happening in the collector’s life. How did you come up with the idea for a penny book? Would you ever consider keeping one?

RC: I have tried to keep a penny book, but I’m not all that good at sticking with it. The idea for the Penny Book came from my husband, Ken, who is a visual artist, started doing it when his son was young, and he wanted to keep a record of their daily life for his son to read after he was grown up. As soon as he told me about this and showed me his “penny book,” I thought: what a great idea for a children’s book! I love that it’s so easy that anyone can do it. People often ignore pennies, as they can sometimes ignore children—but children notice things like lost pennies more than adults do.

EC: While many of the characters are unique, June’s brainy pet miniature pig, Indigo, can’t be overlooked. Why did you decide to give June a pet miniature pig rather than a dog or cat? Why was having a pet companion essential to June’s story?

RC: I think pet companions are the best—in stories and in real life. I love dogs and have met some amazing cats, but pigs are very smart, and miniature pigs are just so cute—plus there is a lot of potential for humor when a very citified pig comes to live on a farm. I always thought of Indigo as a pig. A cute, miniature pig, that is.

EC: In the novel, June and Indigo search for the penny her mother calls “The Big One,” a 1943 copper-alloy penny. Have you ever seen “The Big One” in real life? 

RC: I have not! I went down the rabbit hole on coin collector websites and found out about “the big one.” While I don’t have a coin collection of any value, I’ve always saved coins from all over the world. They reveal so much about the time and place they came from.

EC: June’s parents made their fortune from the invention of Sticky Glue, a substance that turns any paper into a sticky note. If you were an entrepreneur, what product would you like to invent?

RC: What a great question! I would like to invent wings that we could strap on and fly whenever we felt like it—not as fast as an airplane—but to be more like birds. Birds never run into each other, they come in all shapes and sizes, and look so joyful when they’re swooping around. Plus, they sing! It would be incredibly fun to be able to fly.

EC: In the end, June learns much more about her parents than she bargained for. What message do you hope readers take away from her story?

RC: There isn’t any particular message that I hope readers will take away from the story. I hope they enjoy it and that it stays with them after they finish it. A book can be a good friend. In many ways, this is a mother-daughter story, even though June’s mother died when she was very young. It does show that our parents are much more complicated than we might think when we’re children. They have their own secrets and their own dreams, just like kids do. It’s sometimes hard to imagine that when you’re a kid, and grownups seem so certain about everything.

EC: For new or aspiring writers, what advice would you offer for generating story ideas and continuing to write through rejection?

RC: I think that finding a way to jot down your ideas when they come to you is a great practice. I heard a famous writer say recently that she carries index cards with her to write down a new idea, an idea about something she is already working on, or some overheard conversation. When she gets home, she tapes the index cards into her notebook. I love that. It’s sort of like the penny book! It doesn’t have to be index cards, but jotting things down as they occur to you is a great practice. Rejection is always hard. It just is. But it’s important to remember that there are a lot of homes out there for your work. You may not have knocked on the right door yet. Keep knocking! The other thing is to find other writers to share your work with. I have a community of writer friends, and we exchange work-in-progress. Sometimes, this group can change depending upon the book, the essay, or the story—but it helps to find kindred spirits for your writing who will give you honest and supportive feedback. This will help you to keep writing, and keep the faith in your own work. Take a writing class taught by someone you admire or sounds interesting. It’s a good place to find your writer friends.

EC: June Sparrow and the Million-Dollar Penny left me eager for more of your work. Are you currently working on any other projects? Are there any particular topics you would like to write about in the future?

RC: I have a new adult novel coming out from Red Hen Press in 2026 that I’m very excited about. It’s called Talking to the Wolf. It’s about four women friends and the complicated dynamics of their lifelong friendships—including a friend break-up that affects all four of them. I would love to write another book for children someday. I still read children’s books as well as myths and fairy tales. I’ve never written anything with magic in it—a talking pig doesn’t count because I think we all talk with our pets in one way or another. It interests me to think about writing a modern fairy tale. But maybe all stories are a kind of fairy tale.

Emilee Ceuninck, Pine Reads Review Lead Writer & Editor