Byways: FAQ

Byways, for the website

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Where did you get the idea for these books?
A. Our family was on a cross-country road trip. As we drove from northern Idaho to southern California, I challenged myself to come up with a 50-part story featuring the fifty states. Something fun. Something exciting. Something to encourage learning without being dull. By the time we reached home, I’d dreamed up three brothers whose sibling rivalry turned their father’s plans for a family vacation upside down.

Q. If the books are based on the 50 states, is Liberty the same as the United States of America?
A. No, not at all. The land of Liberty is a cross between colonial America and medieval Europe, with a dash of Invention thrown. Women wear long skirts, men wear flowing cloaks, and the peace is kept by rangers on horseback. A transcontinental railroad has been established, yet people commonly use lanterns to light their homes and rely on the post office for communication. Big cities are dazzling; small towns are quaint. Liberty offers a changing landscape with many wondrous and whimsical sites. Magic takes many forms, and many of our myths and legends are real.

Q. Why did you pick “Johns” as the family name?
A. The members of the Johns family have a secret. Maybe it’s silly. Maybe it’s genius. But it’s fun, and I like fun. Ian and all his relatives (grandparents, sons, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.) have names that are a variation of “John” from all over the world.

Q. How do you pronounce everyone’s names?
A. Since almost all the characters names are borrowed from actual places in the United States, they may seem a little strange. Locals are welcome to set me straight, but this is how I pronounce these names:

Ian • EE-uhn
Laurel • LOH-ruhl
Vanek • VA-neck
Ewan • YOU-uhn
Tamaqua • tuh-MAW-qwah
Juniata • JOO-nee-AH-tuh
Zane • ZAYN
Jovan • JO-vuhn
Brielle • bree-EL
Ganix • GA-nicks
Hurlock • HER-lock
Galena • guh-LEE-nuh

Q. How old are the brothers?
A. In CJ’s first draft of the Byways books, she included the brothers’ ages. But all the kids who read them said that the boys sounded “so old!” So that detail was left vague. But naturally, CJ knows all about the Johns family history, including the actual ages of Ewan, Zane, and Ganix.

Ganix is the baby of the family, but he needed to be old enough to leave home on his own. He’s sixteen.
Zane was a newborn when his mother died. He and Ganix are three years apart, which makes him nineteen.
Ewan is called “one of the boys,” but he’s actually a grown-up. He was seven years old when Zane was born, making him twenty-six.

Q. Will all fifty books be early chapter books?
A. Nope. The series will grow with its readers. Longer chapters. Bigger challenges. As the brothers make their way across Liberty, plot lines can take on new complexity. Readers will jump reading levels and expand their vocabulary.

………Books 1–16 will have 6,000~ words • ages 5 to 8
………Books 17–34 will have 9,000~ words • ages 7 to 10
………Books 35–50 will have18,000~ words • ages 9 to 12

Q. Do you have a question? Comment below!


Hidden Pictures

I Spy. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Every Byways book cover has a game of its own. There are items hidden in plain sight. Just so you can have the fun of finding them.  On Ewan’s books, you’ll find a compass rose. On Zane’s books, it will be a paw print. And on Ganix’s books, look for a ladybug.

map key

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