Tournament of Roses inspires a middle-school mystery filled with suspense and danger

"Tiara on the Terrace" launch party. Photo by Joe Alvarez for Russell Gearhart Photography Author Kristen Kittscher's book launch for her middle-grade novel The Tiara on the Terrace, at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, CA on Jan. 3, 2016.

Launch party for Tiara on the Terrace at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena in January. Photo by Joe Alvarez for Russell Gearhart Photography.


by Laura Berthold Monteros

Last year, just about Rose Parade time, author Kristen Kittscher came out with the second book in a series about two middle-school girls, Sophie Young and Grace Yang, who with their friend Trista Bottoms solve mysteries in their town of Luna Vista. In this case, the Rose Parade and all the hoopla that surrounds it was the inspiration for The Tiara on the Terrace. The book captures the spirit and the quirks of the Tournament of Roses in Luna Vista’s Winter Sun Festival as the heroines investigate a series of murders.

Kittscher is a Pasadenan who taught middle-school English at Westridge School for Girls for several years, so she not only loves the Rose Parade, some of her students tried out for the Court. Earlier this year, we corresponded by email and Kittscher responded to questions about her book and her experiences. Being an English teacher and a writer, her responses were so well crafted that I am presenting them as a simple Q&A.

Q. The Tiara on the Terrace is very close to the Tournament of Roses, captures its fun and intensity, but you had to reimagine some things and create others.  What was your process in doing this?

A. My process was fairly simple: I knew that the elements of the Tournament I included had to serve the story. Credibility is always a hurdle when 12-year old sleuths are investigating a potential crime: I constantly have to find believable ways to put intrepid Young & Yang at the center of the action and the adults in the background. As a result, I decided to make the “Winter Sun Festival” a smaller town parade that was a shadow of its former self: With national media crawling all over town, it’d be hard to believe they wouldn’t be investigating along with my sleuths! I also decided it would be much more fun to have the mystery play out not only in the float barns, but also the “Ridley” mansion. It also helped me separate the kids from their families—and from pesky technology/cell phones, which are mystery-killers! I also needed to centralize the action to help keep the story tighter, so the float barns are part of the “Ridley Mansion” grounds.

Q. In researching this book, did you go to Tournament of Roses events, such as the tryouts, announcement of the Royal Court, tour of the Tournament House, or talk to folks in the Association?

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