Saturday, September 22, 2018

1 Jen Doll, author of UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE, on going back to the page

We're delighted to have Jen Doll swing by to chat about her latest novel, UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE.

Jen, what was your inspiration for writing UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE?


I moved from the suburbs of Chicago to Decatur, Alabama, in fifth grade. It was a massive cultural shift! Suddenly I had to learn to talk differently (using the word “y’all” instead of “you guys,” for a start), I had to make totally new friends, I had to navigate this new ecosystem I wasn’t even sure I wanted to know. We moved for my dad’s job, and I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. Honestly, it wasn’t great at first. But slowly I started to fit in and find my place. I met my best-best-best friend, who is still my Best X3 friend, in 7th grade, and everything began to change. The heart of Unclaimed Baggage is the transformative power of friendship, and how finding your people is so, so important.

But also, the town I moved to had a store called Unclaimed Baggage! It’s a real thing, a store where airlines send luggage that’s never claimed, and it gets unpacked and resold to new people. (The one that was in my town has since closed, but the flagship store in Scottsboro, Alabama, still exists.) The idea of this store where lost things go to be found was a huge inspiration. Just think about all of those stories!

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

There are a couple of scenes in the book (I don’t want to spoil them, so you’ll have to read to find out) where really bad things happen to good people. I wanted to get those right, and it took a while to do that — several revisions, thoughts from my editor and close reader friends, reworking them over and over. I really hate it when bad things happen to my beloved characters! I want everyone to be happy and fine! But there’s hope in writing scenes like those that you’re helping readers who may have gone through similar things, and also doing something to try to make the world around you a little better.

I really love the opening when Doris is surrounded by all of these items in the store, narrating what it’s like to work there. And really all the store scenes, where the wildest things get found. Doris, Nell, and Grant discover something quite startling in a suitcase that turns them on the path of friendship. I love that one!

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

Some YA favorites: Eleanor & Park (I mean, honestly, everything Rainbow Rowell writes!), Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Leila Sales’ excellent novels, Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie. I think what they have common is they’re all contemporary realism with sweetness and heart and great characters, but they’ll also challenge you to think about some bigger issues. Or at least that’s how I’d like people to think of my book!

How long did you work on UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE?


I think it was about 2 years from start to finish, maybe a little more, and it really changed a lot in that process. Books take some time to simmer before you get them right.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

Be patient! Trying to get something done fast doesn’t make it better. And also, wow, there were some dark times when I didn’t think it could happen, I didn’t know why anyone had bought a book from me. But if you keep going back to the page, you’ll make it happen.

What do you hope readers will take away from UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE?


It’s OK to have “baggage.” We all do! Don’t believe anyone who tells you differently. But to extend the metaphor, you’ve kind of got to claim it. That’s when things start to change.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

Hmm, I think I’m two for two right now. I wrote a novel for adults ages ago that never really went anywhere (it’s about a con artist who is himself conned, and there’s an Elvis impersonator, so make of that what you will). I’ve written another YA novel that’s still IN THE WORKS-slash-I’ve set aside for the time being.

I can only compare my road to publication to my own self, and I’d say it was hard, but I was lucky. As a writer for The Village Voice and The Atlantic (I’m still a working journalist), my name was out there in the world, and I found an agent, or he found me, pretty easily. My first book, Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest, was published in 2014 and it was one of those books that sort of “wrote itself,” maybe because it was true!? But publishing is always challenging, and I’ve been rejected so many times, in numerous ways, whether we’re talking books or articles or other projects. The only thing to do is keep doing.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

Hahahahah, no! I still don’t know what the key is. Ask me after my next one. :)

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?


I have a pretty erratic schedule where I’m always working on several projects, freelance writing and books and even some editing, all at once. I mostly respond to deadlines. What has to get done immediately? Except I also hate rules and structure so I might work on the thing that’s due LAST, just because I feel like it. I like to have lots of things in the works; you build up energy for whatever you’re not working on that way.

I will occasionally vow to get up at 6 a.m. and work for 3 hours before the rest of the world wakes up, but that generally goes on for a day or two and then I fit in writing, as I fit in everything, when I can. I’m pretty much always working. But I love it, so that’s a success story, I think. Oh yeah, and I work from home, mostly, wearing my robe. Another success story? LOL.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?


I say this all the time, but the only way NOT to write a book or essay or article is not to write it. Open your computer, open the document, type on your keyboard, write in your journal, and something will start to come out. And from that, you make it better.

What are you working on now?


I have a 2-book deal with Macmillan, and I’ve started on that second book, which is about, thematically, how what you see is definitely not always what you get.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Unclaimed Baggage
by Jen Doll
Hardcover
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released 9/18/2018

Doris―a lone liberal in a conservative small town―has mostly kept to herself since the terrible waterslide incident a few years ago. Nell had to leave behind her best friends, perfect life, and too-good-to-be-true boyfriend in Chicago to move to Alabama. Grant was the star quarterback and epitome of "Mr. Popular" whose drinking problem has all but destroyed his life. What do these three have in common? A summer job working in a store called Unclaimed Baggage cataloging and selling other people's lost luggage. Together they find that through friendship, they can unpack some of their own emotional baggage and move on into the future.

Purchase Unclaimed Baggage at Amazon
Purchase Unclaimed Baggage at IndieBound
View Unclaimed Baggage on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Jen Doll is the author of the debut young adult novel, Unclaimed Baggage and the memoir Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest. She's written for The Atlantic, Elle, Esquire, Glamour, GQ, New York Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Vice, The Village Voice, The Week, and many other publications. She grew up in Alabama and lives in Brooklyn.

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Have you had a chance to read UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE yet? Are you able to be patient to make sure it's done better rather than fast? If you're stuck do you just start writing anything to make the words flow? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

Friday, September 21, 2018

1 Miranda Asebedo, author of THE DEEPEST ROOTS, on putting value on your writing time

We're excited to have Miranda Asebedo here to chat about her debut novel, THE DEEPEST ROOTS.

Miranda, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Okay, so this is a little spoiler-y, so don't read this if you don't want spoilers! But there's a scene in the book where Rome finds Lux after Lux has been attacked by her abusive stepfather. Rome's talent is Fixing things, so the first thing that trips her trigger as to something being off is all the broken things she feels on the other side of the door at Lux's house. This is when Rome knows that she has to call the police and report what's happening in Lux's family, even though Lux has forbidden Rome to tell anyone. It's a moment when Rome has to decide if she's willing to fracture her relationship with one of her very best friends in order to save Lux from harm. The scene where Rome finds Lux just rips my guts out every time I read it. I cried when I wrote it, and I still get teary when I read it.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?


I originally pitched the THE DEEPEST ROOTS as "The curse of Maggie Stiefvater's THE RAVEN BOYS meets the strong female relationships of television's GILMORE GIRLS." There are curses and magic and a ghost(!) but also really strong female relationships, not only between the three best friends, Rome, Lux, and Mercy, but with mothers and neighbors in the community of Cottonwood Hollow. However, after reviews came out, the most common book THE DEEPEST ROOTS was compared to was Ann Brashares' THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS. And I loved that book, and the movie, so of course I was really honored to be compared to it!

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?


The advice I would most want to pass along to other writers is to put value on your writing time. We're conditioned to believe that unless there's a dollar sign on every hour, like a day job, that our time isn't worth anything. But it is! And if you're serious about being a writer, you've got to see the worth in the time you can set aside for writing. And it's also really important for those around you see the value in your writing time as well, and understand that the time for writing is a necessity, not a luxury. I am very lucky to have a supportive family. When I was drafting and revising THE DEEPEST ROOTS (and later drafting my second novel, A CONSTELLATION OF ROSES out 2019 from HarperTeen), my husband would order Chinese food from our local take out place, herd our small humans, and let me lock myself up in my writing office for huge chunks of time on the weekends. He would actually sit in a chair outside my office and warn away anyone (or any dog) who wanted to come in and say hi while I was writing.

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Deepest Roots
by Miranda Asebedo
Hardcover
HarperTeen
Released 9/18/2018

Cottonwood Hollow, Kansas, is a strange place. For the past century, every girl has been born with a special talent, like the ability to Fix any object, Heal any wound, or Find what is missing.

To best friends Rome, Lux, and Mercy, their abilities often feel more like a curse. Rome may be able to Fix anything she touches, but that won’t help her mom pay rent. Lux’s ability to attract any man with a smile has always meant danger. And although Mercy can make Enough of whatever is needed, even that won’t help when her friendship with Rome and Lux is tested.

Follow three best friends in this enchanting debut novel as they discover that friendship is stronger than curses, that trust is worth the risk, and sometimes, what you’ve been looking for has been under your feet the whole time.

Purchase The Deepest Roots at Amazon
Purchase The Deepest Roots at IndieBound
View The Deepest Roots on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Miranda Asebedo was born and raised in rural Kansas with a love of fast cars, open skies, and books. She carried that love of books to college, where she got her B.A. and M.A. in English, with an emphasis in Creative Writing and Literature. A Seaton Fellowship recipient, her short fiction has appeared in Kansas Voices, Touchstone, and Midway Journal.

Miranda still lives on the prairie today with her husband, two kids, and two majestic bulldogs named Princess Jellybean and Captain Jack Wobbles. If Miranda's not writing or reading, she's most likely convinced everyone to load up in the family muscle car and hit the road.

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Have you had a chance to read THE DEEPEST ROOTS yet? Are you able to see the worth in the time you put aside for writing? Do the people around you value your writing time? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

Thursday, September 20, 2018

0 Katya de Becerra, author of WHAT THE WOODS KEEP, on being inspired by a childhood obsession

We're delighted to have Katya de Becerra with us to share more about her debut novel, WHAT THE WOODS KEEP.

Katya, what was your inspiration for writing WHAT THE WOODS KEEP?

I wanted to write a book a teen-me would be super excited to read - a book that would have a powerful female friendship at its core and feature stubborn, willful girls entangled in a dangerous mystery. I also always wanted to pay a proper tribute to one of my childhood's major obsessions, the Nibelingenlied, which kept on haunting me throughout the years until it eventually became the main inspiration for my debut.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

In YA, I'd say PASSENGER by Alexandra Bracken and THE HAZEL WOOD by Melissa Albert would be the closest in style and atmosphere to WHAT THE WOODS KEEP. Outside of YA, I've heard my debut being compared to NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl and THE HISTORIAN by Elizabeth Kostova - and I'm definitely very happy with these comparisons!

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

I had two major AHA! moments with WHAT THE WOODS KEEP. The first one came in midst of agent querying when I realized my book had to significantly stand out from many others in the same genre in order to entice anyone to offer representation. To address this, I decided to add multimedia components to complement the first person narration in order to expand the narrative and ensure there's more depth to the story. My second AHA! moment occurred when I was fleshing out my main protagonist, Hayden. It made a lot of sense for her to draw on science (e.g. scientific theories) when trying to solve the mystery at the heart of the book. Making Hayden refer back to the concepts and ideas from the history of science in her narration was a major breakthrough for me when writing this book.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?


I need ABSOLUTE SILENCE when I write. Since that's impossible to achieve in real life, I have to compromise: I can usually be found writing with white noise machine blasting in full force in my headphones.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Write for yourself. Don't chase trends. Read a lot of books - in and out of your genre. Be professional.

What are you working on now?

I'm currently revising my second book - OASIS - which is due for publication in Fall 2019, while also working on my next book - an alternative history YA Cold War thriller inspired by the works of Brothers Strugatsky.

ABOUT THE BOOK

What the Woods Keep
by Katya de Becerra
Hardcover
Imprint
Released 9/18/2018

On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home―on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.

Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.

As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbors whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible―something that threatens reality itself.

Purchase What the Woods Keep at Amazon
Purchase What the Woods Keep at IndieBound
View What the Woods Keep on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology. Katya is a short version of her real name, which is very long and gets mispronounced a lot. What The Woods Keep is her first novel (out in September 2018). Katya's second book, Oasis, is forthcoming in 2019. She loves connecting with readers and fellow authors, so please get in touch @KatyaDeBecerra or at her blog.

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Have you had a chance to read WHAT THE WOODS KEEP yet? Have you tried adding multimedia components to complement your writing? Are you reading a lot of books both in and out of your genre? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

0 Laurie Forest, author of THE IRON FLOWER, on letting go

THE IRON FLOWER is the second book in the The Black Witch Chronicles, and we're happy to have Laurie Forest swing by to share more about it.

Laurie, what was your inspiration for writing THE IRON FLOWER?

The fight for civil unions here in Vermont (which was the spearhead to the fight for marriage equality nationwide). I got involved in the pro civil-union/pro marriage equality side and hatred I never knew existed came out of the woodwork. It was frightening and got me thinking about prejudice of all types. Around that time I was getting into fantasy fiction, because my kids were urging me to read it. The idea for a story with anti-prejudice themes lit inside of me and refused to let go.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

To just let go and throw my heart and soul into it. To completely let go of my pride and be open to multiple sensitivity readers, no matter how harsh the criticism. To open myself up to learning from others how to be better and how to write better.

What do you hope readers will take away from THE IRON FLOWER?

That belief systems, whether political or religious, that target entire groups of people as "evil" or "other" are dangerous. And that diversity and tolerance are their own type of magic.

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Iron Flower
by Laurie Forest
Hardcover
Harlequin Teen
Released 9/18/2018

Elloren Gardner and her friends were only seeking to right a few wrongs when they rescued a Selkie and freed a military dragon. The last thing they expected was to be thrust into a realm-wide underground resistance against Gardnerian conquest.

While the Resistance struggles to fight back against the harsh rulings of the Mage Council, more and more Gardnerian soldiers descend upon the University…led by none other than Lukas Grey, now commander of the nearby military base. Though Elloren tries to keep him at arm's length, Lukas is determined to tie himself to her, still convinced that she is the heir to the power of the Black Witch, a legacy of magic that will decide the future of all Erthia. As his own magic calls out to her, seeking to awaken a dark force within, Elloren finds it more and more difficult to believe that she's truly powerless, as her uncle always claimed.

Caught between her growing feelings for the rebellious Yvan Guriel and the seductive power offered by Lukas, Elloren must find a way to stay true to what she knows is right and protect everyone she loves…even if that means protecting them from herself.

Purchase The Iron Flower at Amazon
Purchase The Iron Flower at IndieBound
View The Iron Flower on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laurie Forest lives deep in the backwoods of Vermont where she sits in front of a wood stove drinking strong tea and dreaming up tales full of dryads, dragons and wands. The Black Witch (Book 1.0, The Black Witch Chronicles – OUT NOW) & Wandfasted (Book 0.5, The Black Witch Chronicles Prequel) are her first published novels. Coming in 2018 are Light Mage (Book 1.5, The Black Witch Chronicles) & The Iron Flower (Book 2.0, The Black Witch Chronicles). She is currently ensconced in the woods, hard at work on The Shadow Dryad (Book 3.0, The Black Witch Chronicles).

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Have you had a chance to read THE IRON FLOWER yet? Do you throw your heart and soul into your writing? Are you open to learning from others? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

0 Patrick Flores-Scott, author of AMERICAN ROAD TRIP, on making the decision you are going to get published

We're thrilled to have Patrick Flores-Scott stop by to talk about his latest novel, AMERICAN ROAD TRIP.

Patrick, what was your inspiration for writing AMERICAN ROAD TRIP?

I was upset about what was going on in our country after the 2008 economic collapse. The government planned a big fat bailout for the banks whose greedy policies caused the collapse, while working folks who were the victims of those policies were losing their homes and jobs...and there was no bailout planned for them. At that time, I’d also been listening to a series of stories on NPR about soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq and the problems they were facing reintegrating into life back home.

I had a lot of questions and I decided to channel them toward a novel. What if one family had to deal with all of those big issues of the time? What might it look like for a teen who is trying as hard as he can to be successful, while his family is crumbling under the stress of the times? What might hope and humor and creativity and romance look like in this situation? As these questions led me toward a story, I knew that I wanted to continue exploring what it means to be from South King County, a culturally and economically diverse area near Seattle where I had taught middle school, and where Jumped In, my first novel, was set. But I also wanted to bust out of the confines of Jumped In. For me, that meant that at some point, this book had to get out of school and out of town and hit the road. It meant that both parents would still be in the picture, still fighting to make the best of things. It meant that no one would die. It meant that my protagonist would get the chance to fall in love.

How long did you work on AMERICAN ROAD TRIP?

I started writing American Road Trip in the fall of 2009. So it will be about nine years from beginning to publishing. A lot happened in those years. Jumped In (which I started in 2005) didn’t come out until 2013, so there was still a lot of revising to do on that book. I wrote a short story published in the anthology, I See Reality (2016), and whenever I’d send American Road Trip out, I’d work on other projects. There were a couple starts of novels that didn’t go anywhere, and a first draft of a new novel I have high hopes for.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

From the very beginning, I had a vision—maybe a strong feeling?—for what American Road Trip could end up being. But I didn’t have a draft that matched that vision for a lot of years. Early on I’d give it to people and there would be a lot of post-read blank stares, like, I’m not sure this thing you’re working so hard on is actually a thing.

I kept on tinkering and working away, but for a long time, I think the strong feeling of what the book could be, seeped in to my perception of what the draft actually was at the time. And there was a pretty long period where I basically quit seeking the feedback that I truly needed. This is not normal for me. Usually I am pretty relentless when it comes to badgering my go-to readers. I didn’t reach out, maybe because, in my mind, my current, draft-of-the-moment…was amazing. The upshot was I’d send drafts to my agent and editor and those drafts were not ready for prime time. And that slowed everything way down.

I guess I learned that stubbornness of vision works…but only when combined with a pretty regular outside-reader/critique/revision cycle to check in and make sure that the work I’m doing is actually getting me closer to a draft that matches my vision.

What do you hope readers will take away from AMERICAN ROAD TRIP?

Big hope: When readers put down American Road Trip for good, I hope it happens after they’ve turned the last page of the book. I hope they feel that it was entertaining and worth the hours they spent reading it.

Bigger hope: So (spoiler alert), there’s a road trip in this book. But the title is really about ups and downs of the American experience in 2009. There are questions that I hope get asked and I hope readers go in search of answers, questions like: Why did we go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan? Why are we still at war? How can we better support veterans? How can we better support families of veterans? How can we better support families dealing with mental health issues? Why did so many people lose their homes and jobs at that time? What was done to help them? What does it say about a society when young people are the ones making some of the biggest sacrifices? Etc.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

I was a teacher working with struggling middle school readers when I began writing Jumped In in 2005. I hoped I could write a novel that my students, who struggled to make it through a book, could enjoy. It was my first try at a novel. I was driven to get that book published even though I didn’t really understand what that entailed. I did understand the hard work part. I got a lot of feedback from friends and co-workers and that beginning stage of writing was more fun than anything.

When I finished the umpteenth revision and felt that I couldn’t do any more, I went into a public library teen section and started pulling books off the shelf. I’d look at cover art, blurbs, the flap synopsis…and if I found a book that had a similar world—a similar feel—to Jumped In, I’d read a few sentences or pages to see if it was true. I didn’t stop until I found Blood Brothers, by S.A. Harazin. I figured whoever represented her might be receptive to Jumped In. So I went online until I found that her agent was Steven Chudney. I queried him and he liked my book. He had me do some revisions and after that, he started sending it out to a few editors at a time. I got some good critical feedback in my rejections so I’d use that to revise and then he’d send it out again. There were a few cycles like that. It was slow process but the strategy really worked. The book kept improving and after almost two years, it finally sold.

For me the challenges came once I went from being a guy obsessed with writing a book, to a guy trying to sell a book. The stress of waiting to hear if a book sold, the stress of waiting for editorial feedback, the stress of waiting for reviews…. I enjoy coming up with ideas and drafting and revising. I thrive on all that. I struggle with waiting.

Christy Ottaviano, my editor, was set to get the first look at American Road Trip. She read a few drafts over a couple years before the book was up to snuff and she made an offer in May of 2015.

What’s your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I write in the early morning before everyone else wakes up. I cordoned off an office-like space in the cave that is our unfinished basement. I have a nice old heavy-as-heck Steelcase desk that was left in the house when we bought it. I have a cozy old chair and a DIY stand-up desk made of unfinished plywood and two-by-fours. I bought an old monitor from Salvation Army I’ve got that mounted at the stand-up desk at eye level and oriented in landscape mode so I can see an entire page all at once when I’m writing. I have that monitor hooked up to an old white MacBook with zero wi-fi capability. I drink a lot of black coffee. I do listen to music when I’m writing new drafts. It’s usually jazz, but if I’m in my head too much, questioning too much, I’ll listen to loud hard stuff with lyrics. When I’m revising, I usually can’t have any music at all. When I’m writing a new draft and finding myself editing too much, I’ll write on the ancient Underwood typewriter I inherited from my grandmother.

After I drop my boys off at school, I’ll put in another couple hours at the beautiful Ann Arbor District Library branch that’s close to our house.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

There is no magic involved when it comes to getting published. But if you want to get published you need to make the decision that you are going to get published. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to happen. But it puts you in the game.

When you go to an SCBWI national conference, there are thousands and thousands of people participating. It feels overwhelming and you picture yourself in competition with these folks and you might feel that your work is somehow less important because the volume of folks who want to get published is seemingly infinite. You think, What makes me more special than all of them?

The answer to that question is that you are not more special than the rest of them. Your ideas are awesome. Their ideas are awesome. You are capable of writing an awesome novel. They are capable of writing an awesome novel.

The difference is that you have decided you are going to get published and that means you are going to do the things that people who get published do. (No sweat if you bail on this process at any point. There is nothing saying you have to spend thousands of hours of life in this amazing world, locked in an office, pounding a keyboard in the dark. There are more healthy pursuits. However, if you can’t help yourself and you need to do this like you need food and air and love, here are two simple—maybe obvious?—but essential starting points:)

First, set up a writing routine.

It doesn’t really matter what it is. I have heard of successful, published authors who only write during vacations. That’s their routine and they stick to it. And it works for them. There are others who write every day before work. When I was teaching full time and trying to write my first book (while starting a family), I realized that if I write for one hour (ish), two nights during the week, and then I also had one long (three or four hours) weekend morning of writing at a coffee shop, those three sessions would be enough for me to keep my writing momentum moving forward. It doesn’t matter how you go about it. Just set up your routine and let relevant friends and loved ones know that this is what you’re doing now. They will think your dedication is cool. Don’t kick yourself if you miss a session here and there. Just get back at it and keep on going. And know that this routine will have be adjusted time and time again as your life changes.

Next, include others in your process.

You need to ask readers to read your writing. And hopefully, these people are the kind of folks who will tell you things like, “I loved how you started your novel. But I found myself itching to scroll through my Twitter on page eight. So I put your book down and I scrolled through my Twitter. And then I never picked your book up again and that was three weeks ago.” You then need to be the kind of person who responds by saying, “Good to know. I’m going to revise and get the draft back to you and see if I can keep you off Twitter through page 10.”

Getting feedback can be a painful, emotional deal at first. But I’ve come to learn that waiting for feedback is actually the hard part. The process of hearing a reader tell me that my story isn’t working has become very normal. And the process of me asking the reader questions that might help get to why my story isn’t working is just something I have to do to improve my story. It’s just part of the work. The great thing is that asking those questions of a less-that-satisfied reader can lead to the most inspiring conversations. And that inspiration is the fuel that leads me to the next better draft.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a book about a kid who gets released from juvenile prison and immediately has to confront the life that lead him to commit his crime in the first place. They story mostly takes place over one wild, sleepless weekend.

ABOUT THE BOOK

American Road Trip
by Patrick Flores-Scott
Hardcover
Henry Holt and Co.
Released 9/18/2018

With a strong family, the best friend a guy could ask for, and a budding romance with the girl of his dreams, life shows promise for Teodoro “T” Avila. But he takes some hard hits the summer before senior year when his nearly perfect brother, Manny, returns from a tour in Iraq with a devastating case of PTSD. In a desperate effort to save Manny from himself and pull their family back together, T’s fiery sister, Xochitl, hoodwinks her brothers into a cathartic road trip.

Told through T’s honest voice, this is a candid exploration of mental illness, socioeconomic pressures, and the many inescapable highs and lows that come with growing up―including falling in love.

Purchase American Road Trip at Amazon
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Patrick Flores-Scott was, until recently, a long-time public school teacher in Seattle, Washington. He’s now a stay-at-home dad and early morning writer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Patrick’s first novel, Jumped In, was named to the 2014 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults list, a Walden Award finalist, a Washington Book Award winner, an NCSS/CBC Notable Book for the Social Studies, and a Bank Street College Best Books of 2014. He is currently working on his second book, American Road Trip.

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Have you had a chance to read AMERICAN ROAD TRIP yet? Do you have a writing routine that keeps you moving forward? Do you ask readers questions to help improve your story? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

Monday, September 17, 2018

6 New Releases this week 09/17 - 09/23 Plus 3 Giveaways

Happy Monday! Can you believe it's halfway through September? Time seems to be flying by but at least we always have some great books to look forward to! Don't forget to check out all the books coming out this week below and enter to win.

Happy Reading,

Shelly, Halli, Jocelyn, Martina, Erin, Susan, Kelly, Laura, Emily, Anisaa, and Lori Ann


YA BOOK GIVEAWAYS THIS WEEK


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The Deepest Roots
by Miranda Asebedo
Hardcover Giveaway
International

HarperTeen
Released 9/18/2018

Cottonwood Hollow, Kansas, is a strange place. For the past century, every girl has been born with a special talent, like the ability to Fix any object, Heal any wound, or Find what is missing.

To best friends Rome, Lux, and Mercy, their abilities often feel more like a curse. Rome may be able to Fix anything she touches, but that won’t help her mom pay rent. Lux’s ability to attract any man with a smile has always meant danger. And although Mercy can make Enough of whatever is needed, even that won’t help when her friendship with Rome and Lux is tested.

Follow three best friends in this enchanting debut novel as they discover that friendship is stronger than curses, that trust is worth the risk, and sometimes, what you’ve been looking for has been under your feet the whole time.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Deepest Roots?

What I love best about THE DEEPEST ROOTS is its attention to female relationships, most especially female friendship. I feel like in the media, women, especially young women, are constantly being pitted against each other. On social media, we're constantly being bombarded on with female celebrity "feuds," of "who wore it better," and of course we're all very familiar with the trope of the "mean girl" that's always trying to bring other girls down. But I don't believe that's an accurate depiction of female relationships. Especially today, in the age of the #MeToo movement, we're seeing women band together to protect each other and raise each other up. In my own experience, it's been my relationships with other women that have helped me socially, academically, and professionally.

So to me, what makes THE DEEPEST ROOTS so special is that it's first and foremost a friendship story. There's a little romance in it, but as one reviewer put it, "the real love story is between the three friends." Rome, Lux, and Mercy will go to any lengths to protect each other. One of the big conflicts of the story is whether or not the main character, Rome, should reveal a dangerous secret because she knows that doing so will jeopardize her friendship with one of the other girls. I'd love to see more positive depictions of sisterhood in YA fiction, which is probably why it' s a major theme again in my next book coming in Fall 2019 from HarperTeen, A CONSTELLATION OF ROSES.


Purchase The Deepest Roots at Amazon
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View The Deepest Roots on Goodreads

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The Iron Flower
by Laurie Forest
Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Harlequin Teen
Released 9/18/2018

Elloren Gardner and her friends were only seeking to right a few wrongs when they rescued a Selkie and freed a military dragon. The last thing they expected was to be thrust into a realm-wide underground resistance against Gardnerian conquest.

While the Resistance struggles to fight back against the harsh rulings of the Mage Council, more and more Gardnerian soldiers descend upon the University…led by none other than Lukas Grey, now commander of the nearby military base. Though Elloren tries to keep him at arm's length, Lukas is determined to tie himself to her, still convinced that she is the heir to the power of the Black Witch, a legacy of magic that will decide the future of all Erthia. As his own magic calls out to her, seeking to awaken a dark force within, Elloren finds it more and more difficult to believe that she's truly powerless, as her uncle always claimed.

Caught between her growing feelings for the rebellious Yvan Guriel and the seductive power offered by Lukas, Elloren must find a way to stay true to what she knows is right and protect everyone she loves…even if that means protecting them from herself.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Iron Flower?

The large amount of kissing (the love triangle heats up quite a bit in Iron Flower) :) And dragonflight! It was incredibly fun to write about characters flying into the air on dragons - and dragons incinerating things :) And I'm especially drawn to Ariel's storyline at the moment. Because she's the underdog and I love her. But my top favorite thing is that I was able to weave pro-immigrant themes into the storyline over the course of the last eight months of editing. I drew directly from what's troubling me in the world today and worked it right into the story, and I'm grateful I had the opportunity to do that.

Purchase The Iron Flower at Amazon
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View The Iron Flower on Goodreads

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What the Woods Keep
by Katya de Becerra
Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Imprint
Released 9/18/2018

On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home―on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.

Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.

As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbors whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible―something that threatens reality itself.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about What the Woods Keep?

My favorite thing about WHAT THE WOODS KEEP is that writing it allowed me to geek out about the topics I love - science, mythology and pop culture - all at once! I also immensely enjoyed writing a book that is 'cross-genre'. I'm a huge fan of fantasies, thriller and mysteries, so it was really exciting to create something that combined the elements of all these genres I adore.

Purchase What the Woods Keep at Amazon
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YA BOOK GIVEAWAYS LAST WEEK: WINNERS

Attack of the 50 Foot Wallflower by Christian McKay Heidicker: Aaron H.
Confessions of a Teenage Leper by Ashley Little: Alena S.
Dream Country by Shannon Gibney: Ariel G.

MORE YOUNG ADULT FICTION IN STORES NEXT WEEK WITH AUTHOR INTERVIEWS


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American Road Trip
by Patrick Flores-Scott
Hardcover
Henry Holt and Co.
Released 9/18/2018

With a strong family, the best friend a guy could ask for, and a budding romance with the girl of his dreams, life shows promise for Teodoro “T” Avila. But he takes some hard hits the summer before senior year when his nearly perfect brother, Manny, returns from a tour in Iraq with a devastating case of PTSD. In a desperate effort to save Manny from himself and pull their family back together, T’s fiery sister, Xochitl, hoodwinks her brothers into a cathartic road trip.

Told through T’s honest voice, this is a candid exploration of mental illness, socioeconomic pressures, and the many inescapable highs and lows that come with growing up―including falling in love.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about American Road Trip?

I think it’s the humor.

The book takes on some heavy topics; unemployment, foreclosure, mental illness—and the family strife caused by all those. AMERICAN ROAD TRIP is my take on how one family might battle with these issues and come out the other end whole. I didn’t go searching for silliness in all that. But I think the humor is a natural outgrowth of how people negotiate the toughest times. There are tears, anger, and laughs. We need them all to get through. Readers need them all too and I’m proud that this book navigates a full and realistic emotional journey.


Purchase American Road Trip at Amazon
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View American Road Trip on Goodreads


MORE YOUNG ADULT NOVELS NEW IN STORES NEXT WEEK


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A Heart in a Body in the World
by Deb Caletti
Hardcover
Simon Pulse
Released 9/18/2018

When everything has been taken from you, what else is there to do but run?

So that’s what Annabelle does—she runs from Seattle to Washington, DC, through mountain passes and suburban landscapes, from long lonely roads to college towns. She’s not ready to think about the why yet, just the how—muscles burning, heart pumping, feet pounding the earth. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t outrun the tragedy from the past year, or the person—The Taker—that haunts her.

Followed by Grandpa Ed in his RV and backed by her brother and two friends (her self-appointed publicity team), Annabelle becomes a reluctant activist as people connect her journey to the trauma from her past. Her cross-country run gains media attention and she is cheered on as she crosses state borders, and is even thrown a block party and given gifts. The support would be nice, if Annabelle could escape the guilt and the shame from what happened back home. They say it isn’t her fault, but she can’t feel the truth of that.

Through welcome and unwelcome distractions, she just keeps running, to the destination that awaits her. There, she’ll finally face what lies behind her—the miles and love and loss…and what is to come.

Purchase A Heart in a Body in the World at Amazon
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View A Heart in a Body in the World on Goodreads

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Afterimage
by Naomi Hughes
Hardcover
Page Street Publishing
Released 9/18/2018

A horrific explosion levels part of the city and Camryn Kingfisher is the sole survivor.

Amidst controversy, conspiracy theories, and threats from government officials, Camryn longs for the truth. But the only person who she can turn to is a transparent boy in a lab coat named Quint. Unsure whether he’s a hallucination or a ghost, Camryn has no choice but to trust him as they become embroiled in a plot that is bigger than either of them realize.

In a race where the fabric of time and space is at stake, they must figure out who caused the explosion before the culprit comes back to finish Camryn―and her city―off for good.

Purchase Afterimage at Amazon
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View Afterimage on Goodreads

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Escaping From Houdini
by Kerri Maniscalco
Hardcover
jimmy patterson
Released 9/18/2018

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they're delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea. It's up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer's horrifying finale?

Purchase Escaping From Houdini at Amazon
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View Escaping From Houdini on Goodreads

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Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults): A True Story of the Fight for Justice
by Bryan A. Stevenson
Hardcover
Delacorte Press
Released 9/18/2018

In this young adult adaptation of the acclaimed bestselling Just Mercy, which the New York Times calls "as compelling as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so," Bryan Stevenson dlves deep into the broken U.S. justice system, detailing from his personal experience his many challenges and efforts as a lawyer and social advocate, especially on behalf of America's most rejected and marginalized people.

In this very personal work--proceeds of which will go to charity--Bryan Stevenson recounts many and varied stories of his work as a lawyer in the U.S. criminal justice system on behalf of those in society who have experienced some type of discrimination and/or have been wrongly accused of a crime and who deserve a powerful advocate and due justice under the law.

Through the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), an organization Stevenson founded as a young lawyer and for which he currently serves as Executive Director, this important work continues. EJI strives to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, working to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.

Purchase Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults): A True Story of the Fight for Justice at Amazon
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View Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults): A True Story of the Fight for Justice on Goodreads

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Kens
by Raziel Reid
Hardcover
Penguin Teen
Released 9/18/2018

Every high school has the archetypical Queen B and her minions. In Kens, the high school hierarchy has been reimagined. Willows High is led by Ken Hilton, and he makes Regina George from Mean Girls look like a saint. Ken Hilton rules Willows High with his carbon-copies, Ken Roberts and Ken Carson, standing next to his throne. It can be hard to tell the Kens apart. There are minor differences in each edition, but all Kens are created from the same mold, straight out of Satan's doll factory. Soul sold separately.
Tommy Rawlins can't help but compare himself to these shimmering images of perfection that glide through the halls. He's desperate to fit in, but in a school where the Kens are queens who are treated like Queens, Tommy is the uncool gay kid. A once-in-a-lifetime chance at becoming a Ken changes everything for Tommy, just as his eye is caught by the tall, dark, handsome new boy, Blaine. Has Blaine arrived in time to save him from the Kens? Tommy has high hopes for their future together, but when their shared desire to overthrow Ken Hilton takes a shocking turn, Tommy must decide how willing he is to reinvent himself -- inside and out. Is this new version of Tommy everything he's always wanted to be, or has he become an unknowing and submissive puppet in a sadistic plan?

Purchase Kens at Amazon
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View Kens on Goodreads

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Pride
by Ibi Zoboi
Hardcover
Balzer + Bray
Released 9/18/2018

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

Purchase Pride at Amazon
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Ready for It
by Chusita Fashion Fever
Hardcover
Imprint
Released 9/18/2018

YouTube sensation Chusita Fashion Fever gives no nonsense advice on everything from relationships, sexual identity, your first time and the difference between on-screen sex versus #IRL. And this is about real life; Chusita addresses actual questions and concerns posed by her teenage fans.

The bold package features body-positive comic illustrations and “fun facts” health sections, while Chusita’s signature voice is authentic and non-judgmental; straight and LGBTI readers are welcome. Myths are debunked and taboos explored―allowing readers to learn not only about the logistics of sex, but about consent, respect, self care, and the intuition needed to make mature sexual decisions with confidence.

Purchase Ready for It at Amazon
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View Ready for It on Goodreads

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Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens
by Marieke Nijkamp
Hardcover
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released 9/18/2018

This anthology explores disability in fictional tales told from the viewpoint of disabled characters, written by disabled creators. With stories in various genres about first loves, friendship, war, travel, and more, Unbroken will offer today's teen readers a glimpse into the lives of disabled people in the past, present, and future.

The contributing authors are awardwinners, bestsellers, and newcomers including Kody Keplinger, Kristine Wyllys, Francisco X. Stork, William Alexander, Corinne Duyvis, Marieke Nijkamp, Dhonielle Clayton, Heidi Heilig, Katherine Locke, Karuna Riazi, Kayla Whaley, Keah Brown, and Fox Benwell. Each author identifies as disabled along a physical, mental, or neurodiverse axis―and their characters reflect this diversity.

Purchase Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens at Amazon
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Unclaimed Baggage
by Jen Doll
Hardcover
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released 9/18/2018

Doris―a lone liberal in a conservative small town―has mostly kept to herself since the terrible waterslide incident a few years ago. Nell had to leave behind her best friends, perfect life, and too-good-to-be-true boyfriend in Chicago to move to Alabama. Grant was the star quarterback and epitome of "Mr. Popular" whose drinking problem has all but destroyed his life. What do these three have in common? A summer job working in a store called Unclaimed Baggage cataloging and selling other people's lost luggage. Together they find that through friendship, they can unpack some of their own emotional baggage and move on into the future.

Purchase Unclaimed Baggage at Amazon
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View Unclaimed Baggage on Goodreads

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Wildcard
by Marie Lu
Hardcover
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Released 9/18/2018

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo's new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she's always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo's grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone's put a bounty on Emika's head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn't all that he seems--and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?


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Sunday, September 16, 2018

0 Caroline Leech, author of IN ANOTHER TIME, on revision being where the magic really begins to happen

We're delighted to have Caroline Leech with us to share more about her latest novel, IN ANOTHER TIME.

Caroline, what was your inspiration for writing IN ANOTHER TIME?

I’m very lucky, as an author of historical fiction, to have an endless supply of inspiring and very real events and people from which to launch a new story. In the case of IN ANOTHER TIME, my inspiration came from my discovery of the lumberjills of the Women’s Timber Corps during World War Two, who took over the work of the male foresters in the woods of Scotland in 1942 when the men went off to fight. The more I read about the lumberjills, the more I knew I wanted to write about them. Many of them came from cities, and from jobs in offices and shops—or in my main character’s case, straight from school—to undertake very physical work chopping down trees and hauling logs, often in harsh weather conditions in remote areas of the Highlands. Even so, they formed incredibly tight-knit groups and made life-long friendships, and given that they were also working alongside Canadian and Newfoundland lumberjacks, many of them also fell in love! They were brave and committed, but also full of fun and compassion, and I hope that IN ANOTHER TIME offers up my tribute to them.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

I know that I’ve had a relatively smooth path to publication, compared to some authors. I’ve gathered in only a handful of rejections, though that was mainly because for a long time (and I mean years) I was simply too scared to send out my work on submission, either to agents or editors. Instead, I started entering the opening pages of what would ultimately became my debut novel, WAIT FOR ME, into competitions run by writing groups like SCBWI and RWA. I won three of them within a few months, and I was lucky enough to get my book deal from one of the judges of the third contest, the wonderful Alice Jerman at Harper Teen. She read the first ten pages as a judge, requested the full manuscript, and amazingly, I had my two-book offer within a couple of weeks of her reading it. I now have two published books—WAIT FOR ME and IN ANOTHER TIME—though I do have another full YA manuscript sitting in my virtual bottom drawer. It’s contemporary coming-of-age-plus-folklore story, set in the very north of Scotland, and I’d love for it to find a publishing home one day. However, since it was the first novel I ever wrote, I suspect it would need such immense revisions, I’m not sure I’d have the same heart to rip it apart in the way I’ve done with the “crappy first draft” (that’s an official author term, you know) of my other two stories.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I wish I could tell you that I have a heart-warming daily routine of relaxed creation in an idyllic setting, but actually, my writing has always been stuffed into any spare gap in the schedule of a busy three-teenager family. I have to grab whatever time I can, though I’m usually very good about getting straight down to work once I start. If I have to draft a full manuscript, I try to boost my discipline by setting myself a daily word count for a set period of time—I recently did a #1000WordsofSummer challenge, writing at least 1,000 words a day for 14 days, and WAIT FOR ME started life as a NaNoWriMo project, meaning I wrote most of it in bursts of 1,600+ words a day for a month. It’s brutal, but it gets that ‘crappy first draft’ written.

Most of my writing happens in coffee shops – I have a wonderful writing buddy who is happy to meet me in Starbucks at 6am on Saturdays and Sundays, so we can get three hours work in before everyone else in our households even get up. And we try to meet three mornings a week if we can in our local Barnes & Noble café. I love working in coffee shops, because they give me what I’ve always called ‘a focus of distraction’. I find I can ignore noise around me far better than silence, and working on my own at home, I can always hear the laundry calling me, or worse, the refrigerator and pantry! The only time I listen to music while I’m writing—and it has to be instrumental or the lyrics I hear end up in my manuscript—is if there is one very loud voice nearby competing for my attention. For a long while, there was a group of older people who would meet up for morning coffee on Sundays in ‘my’ Starbucks, and one woman had a particularly invasive voice. I got to putting on headphones as soon as she walked in the door!

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

I’m sure I bore everyone by repeating this mantra endlessly – “You can’t revise and perfect words that you haven’t written yet.” No matter how bad you think your writing is as it comes out onto your page or screen, and no matter how many plot holes you think there are, you need to just keep writing. Very often, your plot will work itself out in ten/twenty/fifty pages’ time in a way you have not even though of yet, or it may only resolve in your mind after you’ve finished your first draft. Because that’s what it is—a draft. No author has ever published the first version of something they wrote, so while you certainly deserve to have a mini-celebration when you put the last word on your draft manuscript, you do need to remember that you’ve only made it onto the first stepping stone in the book process. So, by all means, crack the champagne or cut an especially large slice of cheesecake, and certainly give your tired eyes and fingers a couple of days off to recover. But then get back to work. This is where the magic really begins to happen.

ABOUT THE BOOK

In Another Time
by Caroline Leech
Hardcover
HarperTeen
Released 8/28/2018

It’s 1942, and as the war rages in Europe, Maisie McCall is in the Scottish Highlands swinging an axe for the Women’s Timber Corps. Maisie relishes her newfound independence working alongside other lumberjacks—including the mysterious John Lindsay.

As Maisie and John work side by side felling trees together, Maisie can’t help but feel that their friendship has the spark of something more to it. And yet every time she gets close to him, John pulls away. It’s not until Maisie rescues John from a terrible logging accident that he begins to open up to her about the truth of his past, and the pain he’s been hiding.

Suddenly everything is more complicated than Maisie expected. And as she helps John untangle his shattered history, she must decide if she’s willing to risk her heart to help heal his. But in a world devastated by war, love might be the only thing left that can begin to heal what’s broken.

Purchase In Another Time at Amazon
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caroline Leech is a Scottish writer who moved to Texas for an adventure ten years ago. In addition to writing YA fiction, she blogs a lot, reads a lot, and almost always has an audiobook playing through her headphones. She lives in Houston with her husband and three teenage children.

WAIT FOR ME is her debut novel and she can be found online at www.carolineleech.com and @carolinesblurb. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

0 Shannon Gibney, author of DREAM COUNTRY, on some books choosing you

We're excited to have Shannon Gibney with us to share more about her novel, DREAM COUNTRY.

Shannon, what was your inspiration for writing DREAM COUNTRY?

Some books you choose, others choose you. DREAM COUNTRY was the latter. I'm not Liberian or Liberian American, and I knew that so many of the characters in this novel would have experiences and cultural backgrounds far different than my own, so it was scary. Being a transracial adoptee, I know how painful it is to see yourself constantly misrepresented in literature. So, I never want to do that to another historically marginalized group. Plus, I knew that the book, as I saw it, would push the limits of my technical skills as a writer. In short, I didn't know if I could do it.

But, as I say, the book would not let me go. The questions about the relationship between continental Africans and African Americans dogged me for years, especially after I visited a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana in my twenties, and then on into my thirties, living in one of the biggest and most vibrant Liberian diasporic communities on the globe (the Twin Cities, Minnesota). I wanted to get more perspective on the emotional and psychological factors that caused these two groups to collide through history --- what the chasms and connections were, and where they had brought us now. For me, fiction is the most honest way to explore these issues, because all of those layers of history and culture can be present in one character, one family, even one scene.

How long did you work on DREAM COUNTRY?

The concept for the book grabbed me in my twenties...but as I say, I resisted it. I was scared at the enormity of the project, and honestly didn't know if I could pull it off. But I kept on reading up on Liberia and Liberian colonization, and going back to my experiences with Liberian refugees at Gomoa Buduburam Refugee Camp outside Accra, Ghana, in 1998. And, I kept encountering Liberian refugees here in Minnesota, many of whom were kind enough to share parts of their stories with me. Finally, ten years later, in my thirties, I decided to commit to really writing the book. Some of my contacts in the Liberian community in Minnesota gave me contacts and resources in-country, and I bought a ticket to travel there and interview new leaders, politicians, and everyday people about the run-up to the 1980 coup that plunged the country into its disastrous 15 year civil war. That trip changed me and my writing life forever -- I was completely "in" after that. It would take me 10 more years to complete the manuscript, and find an editor who understood the project and could help me craft the sprawling, unwieldy story into something cohesive (thank you, Andrew Karre and Dutton Books).

So in all, it took me 20 years to conceive of and write Dream Country.

What do you hope readers will take away from DREAM COUNTRY?

Wow, so many things!

First and foremost, I hope that readers will allow themselves to have their own, individual experiences, and integrate parts of themselves and their stories, questions, and own personal histories with those in the book. That is the best part of having a novel out in the world -- especially one like this, that you have been wrestling with for so long -- watching readers have their own, particular interactions with it. So many times, they see things that you have not seen, since so much of writing and art is about the unconscious.

But one thing I do hope that readers take from Dream Country is that in many ways, you cannot tell African American history without telling Liberian history at the same time. And that, conversely, Liberian history is immutably tied to African American history. That is one thing that each group, and Americans in general, have not really admitted, seen, to come to terms with yet. And I think it's time to have this conversation.

I also hope that the book provides space for folks to talk about intergenerational trauma -- how things get passed down, particularly the silences, and what that does to people in a family and in the larger communities. The chasms speak, even when they are not saying anything.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Dream Country
by Shannon Gibney
Hardcover
Dutton Books for Young Readers
Released 9/11/2018

Dream Country begins in suburban Minneapolis at the moment when seventeen-year-old Kollie Flomo begins to crack under the strain of his life as a Liberian refugee. He's exhausted by being at once too black and not black enough for his African American peers and worn down by the expectations of his own Liberian family and community. When his frustration finally spills into violence and his parents send him back to Monrovia to reform school, the story shifts. Like Kollie, readers travel back to Liberia, but also back in time, to the early twentieth century and the point of view of Togar Somah, an eighteen-year-old indigenous Liberian on the run from government militias that would force him to work the plantations of the Congo people, descendants of the African American slaves who colonized Liberia almost a century earlier. When Togar's section draws to a shocking close, the novel jumps again, back to America in 1827, to the children of Yasmine Wright, who leave a Virginia plantation with their mother for Liberia, where they're promised freedom and a chance at self-determination by the American Colonization Society. The Wrights begin their section by fleeing the whip and by its close, they are then the ones who wield it. With each new section, the novel uncovers fresh hope and resonating heartbreak, all based on historical fact.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shannon Gibney is an author and university professor. Her novel See No Color, drawn from her life as a transracial adoptee, won the Minnesota Book Award and was hailed by Kirkus as “an exceptionally accomplished debut” and by Publishers Weekly as “an unflinching look at the complexities of racial identity.” Her essay “Fear of a Black Mother” appears in the anthology A Good Time for the Truth. She lives with her two Liberian-American children in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Have you had a chance to read DREAM COUNTRY yet? Have you had a book idea you were scared to write but would not let you go? Have you traveled to other countries to do research for your book? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

0 Christian McKay Heidicker, author of ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WALLFLOWER, on allowing yourself to screw it up the first time

We're thrilled to have Christian McKay Heidicker stop by to tell us more about his latest novel, ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WALLFLOWER.

Christian, what was your inspiration for writing ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WALLFLOWER?

Ummmumumum . . . I wanted to write about a world where vampires and giant insects and flying saucers are everyday occurrences. I wrote an absolutely bonkers novel called World War Whatever, and my agent told me to dial it back a bit. I just happened to be reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (which is spectacular, btw), and I realized that a bonkers backdrop would be a lot more intriguing if there were a more heartfelt mother/daughter story in the forefront. Aaaaaaaaaaand here we are.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

There’s a movie montage-esque chapter where it bounces between three different sequences, interspersed with lyrics from Rockin’ Robin. It was a tough balance to strike (there are no dialogue tags or anything), but once I had it, it really leapt off the page. (That’s what my girlfriend said, at least.) I’m a little sad because the original lyrics were from Doris Day’s A Guy Is a Guy (the creepiest song of all time), but I couldn’t secure the rights. 😟

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

Ooh! Um . . . Grasshopper Jungle maybe? I read that shortly after I’d written the first draft of Wallflower and adored it. Andrew Smith masterfully captures a real experience within a bonkers sci-fi story. My instinct is to also recommend the movies that inspired my book, like THEM! and THE BAD SEED, the main character of which I boosted straight from the text and put in Wallflower.

What do you hope readers will take away from ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WALLFLOWER?

A beginning understanding of the male gaze and how it affects our society. Also how to best fight an army of a thousand bus-sized ants.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

There have been many aha moments, but one of my favorites is realizing that I can allow myself to really screw it up the first time around. There’s a lot of pressure to get the words exactly right, as if the reader is going to read the first thing you type. And they’re not! You’re going to be able to go over the work dozens more times. You can cut anything (or everything) and punch up the scenes that are dragging. I’ll probably do a couple drafts of these interview questions too.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc.?


I’m all over the bloody map. Sometimes I write at home. Sometimes at Noir Coffee around the corner. I almost always listen to music (Animal Collective, Dan Deacon, Andrew Bird, Joanna Newsom, 50s music, etc.), unless I’m really in it and don’t realize the album has ended.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Familiar words in a familiar order are boring. Unfamiliar words in an unfamiliar order are tiresome. But familiar words in an unfamiliar order are exciting.

What are you working on now?


I just turned in my final draft of Scary Stories for Young Foxes, which is a retelling of classic horror tales through the eyes of two very real fox kits. A rabies outbreak is a zombie story. A woman who taxidermies foxes is a witch story. And a white-furred thing that is camouflaged by snowdrifts and kidnaps fox kits out of their den is a ghost story. The book is out next summer, and in my humble opinion, it’s the best thing I’ve written.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Attack of the 50 Foot Wallflower
by Christian McKay Heidicker
Hardcover
Simon & Schuster Books for You
Released 9/11/2018

Phoebe Lane is a lightning rod for monsters.

She and her mom are forced to flee flesh-eating plants, blobs from outer space, and radioactive ants. They survive thanks to Phoebe’s dad—an invisible titan, whose giant eyes warn them where the next monster attack will take place.

All Phoebe wants is to stop running from motel to motel and start living a monster-free life in New York or Paris. But when her mom mysteriously vanishes, Phoebe is left to fend for herself in small-town Pennybrooke.

That's when Phoebe starts to transform…


Purchase Attack of the 50 Foot Wallflower at Amazon
Purchase Attack of the 50 Foot Wallflower at IndieBound
View Attack of the 50 Foot Wallflower on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christian McKay Heidicker watched a lot of TV as a kid. (Probably too much.) It disturbs/enthralls him to think that the characters he was watching were sentient. (They probably were.) Attack of the 50 Foot Wallflower is his second novel. His first novel, Cure for the Common Universe, was about how he plays too many video games. Learn more at CMHeidicker.com.

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Have you had a chance to read ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WALLFLOWER yet? Are you able to let go of the pressure to get the words right the first time? Have you tried writing familiar words in an unfamiliar order? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann