The woman behind the potato suit

The woman behind the potato suitBy CHRISTINA MACGREGOR

News Review Correspondent

Although Ridgecrest resident Arianne Costner’s debut novel “My Life as a Potato” has only been out for a month, she has already received distinguished recognition for her work. Amazon editors selected her work as Best Book of the Month for March, ages 9-12.

“That was a great honor and very fun surprise!” said Costner.

The story follows Ben Hardy, who reluctantly becomes the mascot (a potato) for his new school. (See review: http://www.news-ridgecrest.com/news/story.pl?id=0000011359).

As one might guess, Costner’s novel was influenced in part by her own upbringing as the oldest of five children growing up in Mesa, Ariz. She remembers her childhood as busy and idyllic, spending most of her childhood outdoors — running around her neighborhood, swimming in pools, and playing games in the backyard.

She also draws from the experience of mothering three active children — whose personalities may be glimpsed in some of the book’s characters.

However, she said, it was the antics of her seventh-grade students that offered the most significant source material she would draw on.

“They had lots of charisma and energy — just good-natured kids,” she said. “They inspired many of my characters in ‘My Life as a Potato.’”

The idea of focusing the story on a mascot came when she and her husband were watching a volleyball game, where the mascot was dancing around the court.

“I turned to my husband and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if there were a book about a kid who was secretly his school mascot?’ My husband said, ‘I hear they have potato mascots in Idaho.’

“I was immediately hooked.”

Her students at the time were strangely obsessed with potatoes, so she knew she had a built-in audience.

Costner said that her writing style is informed by some of her favorite authors.

“Growing up, I loved reading Judy Blume, Gary Paulsen and Louis Sachar.”

She also loves Gordon Korman, who wrote “Restart,” “Ungifted” and The Slacker series.

“He really nails the middle school ‘school story’ in a relatable, hilarious, and often touching way … he is such an inspiration to me.”

Costner mentioned that the Coronavirus epidemic did put a damper on some of her book release plans, since many schools, libraries, and bookstores are currently shut down, and her book release parties were postponed or cancelled because of social distancing rules.

However, she’s excited to see the success that the book has had despite the struggles.

“The book is doing really well in New York, California, and — you guessed it — Idaho! It’s been amazing to get emails from kids all over the country who have connected with the story and gotten a good laugh from it.”

Costner will be releasing another book with Random House next year, but she cannot divulge any details yet. What she can share is that the book is in a similar vein to her first novel.

Costner also said she has also plotted out a sequel to “My Life as a Potato,” if publishers and readers decide they would like one.

Costner encouraged aspiring authors to reach for their goals.

“Study up on your writing craft, read a lot in your genre, and find some good critique partners,” she said.

“It’s easy to let the drudgery of writing and the publishing industry get the best of us as writers, but writing should be a fun, creative outlet. Writing as a hobby — even if no money is involved — can be a great way to escape into a different world for a while.”

For those who wish to purchase Costner’s book, she encourages Ridgecrest residents to call in to Red Rock Books, where signed copies are available. (She feels it especially important to support local businesses during this time.)

She also requests those who read her book to leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, so that she can get feedback from her readers.

Pictured: "My Life as a Potato" author Arianne Costner

Story First Published: 2020-05-01