Tuesday, April 21, 2015

1 Asking WHY as a Writer and a Reader - Guest Post by Liza Wiemer and a Fantastic Contest

I recently had the great pleasure and honor to read and blurb a book that was truly special and very unique. It's a book like absolutely nothing that I've ever seen before, and I can't wait for it to be published so the rest of the world can read Liza Wiemer's Hello?.

Want to know what I said about it?

"Brave, beautiful, and wholly original, this story about tantalizing connections and heartbreaking relationships will haunt you, fill you with hope, and leave you smiling." —Martina Boone, author of Compulsion and the Heirs of Watson Island series

Liza is having an amazing contest to introduce readers to the story. There's lots more about that and how you can win tons of great prizes at the end of Liza's guest post today.

But first. I have another great accomplishment to share with you. Lori Goldstein's Becoming Jinn releases today. Apart from the fact that I'm dying to get my copy in the mail tomorrow, I have to tell you that Lori is a First Five Pages Workshop alumni--both as a participant and as a mentor. Yes, you read that right. Lori worked her way through the three rounds of workshop comments and then snagged herself an agent and a publisher for Becoming Jinn. Of course, she also did a lot of other work on the manuscript and had a lot of other help, but that's exactly what it takes. We all help each other to succeed. That's what I love about the YA book world. Anyone truly can become a published author with the right combination of an idea, hard work, and perseverance. HUGE congrats to Lori!

And now back to our regularly scheduled program. : )

One of the most important questions we can ask as writers! 

By Liza Wiemer 

A year ago, I was talking with a nineteen-year-old about the five narrators in my upcoming novel Hello?. She asked, “Why did you use free verse poetry to tell Angie’s story?”

“Ahh,” I thought. “This is a smart question.”

I love when readers ask me why. It means they want to know my motivations, my thought process, my reasons for having a character behave in a certain way. The answer to her question is at the end of this article.

Out of all the questions we ask as writers—who, what, when, where, how—“why” is, in my opinion, the most critical to the story.

It helps us to dig deeper. To create richer, more interesting characters. To move forward when we’re stuck and to help us understand the world in which our characters exist.

Here are some questions to ask during the writing process: 

  • Why is this relevant to the novel? 
  • Why do I want to put a flashback here? 
  • Why am I using this specific word to describe this object, person, environment? 
  • Why would the character do this—or not do it? 
  • Why should he do a specific act, even though it’s out of character? 
  • Why am I including or not including the five senses? 
  • Why write this scene this way? 
  • Why am I not delving deeper into the characters’ motives? 
  • Why start or end the chapter or this novel this way? 
  • Why is your character keeping a secret? Lying? Cheating? Compulsive? Obnoxious? A bully? A great listener? 
  • Why not hold back and reveal this surprise or secret later? 
  • Why write what’s expected? Unexpected? 
  • Why did I fall into the trap of clich├ęs? 
  • Why kill these characters? Give them flaws? Destroy them emotionally? Build them up? Betray them? Have them fall in love? Abstain from sex? Seek intimacy? 
  • Why do you want your readers to love a character? Sympathize with him? Miss him? Care? 
  • Why is this character less developed than others? 
  • Why would my characters be unable to fulfill their goals? 
  • Why are they motivated to achieve their goals? 
  • Why does this scene feel flat? 
  • Why am I stuck? Or even better, why is my character stuck? 
Ultimately, asking and answering “why?” will help bring layers to the story. “Why” allows us to cut a beloved sentence or scene. It leads to those “ah-ha!” moments, the surprising moments when you discover something new, unusual, or shocking about your character. In turn, you now have the perfect environment to create a moment that’s completely unexpected.

And speaking about unexpected . . .

In Hello?, weaving together five distinct narrations was one of the biggest challenges I had ever faced as a writer. I DID NOT choose to write in free verse poetry format because it’s distinct and different. In fact, I hadn’t written any poetry since middle school and was highly dissuaded by talented writers from taking on this new skill. Honestly, when I first started writing Angie’s character, I didn’t know WHAT THE HELL I WAS DOING!

I didn’t care. Why? Because Angie was speaking to me in free verse poetry. It’s how she shows the world the inner part of herself. On the surface, it would have been easy for readers to see Angie as superficial and self-centered. Free verse poetry allowed her to reveal herself in a way she felt “safe.” Her secrets. Her hopes. Her failures. Her successes. For her, free verse poetry was a diary of her life.

As the author, it was critical for me to honor her voice. So I learned. I read free verse poetry books. I had a one-on-one hour session with a retired poetry professor to improve my cadence and structure. I wrote and wrote and wrote and revised and revised and revised. Most importantly, I stayed true to Angie’s voice and I kept the question “why” in the forefront of my mind.

Thank you so much, Martina, for the opportunity to share with your readers!


Liza married the guy who literally swept her off her feet at a Spyro Gyra concert. Their love story can be found on Liza's “About” page. Besides being a die-hard Packer fan, Liza is also a readaholic, a romantic, and a lover of crazy socks and rooftops. Hello? is her debut YA novel. She also has had two adult non-fiction books published, as well as stories and articles in various publications. She's a graduate of UW-Madison with a degree in Education and the mother of two sons.

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Hello? By Liza Wiemer
Publication Date: October 27, 2015
By Spencer Hill Contemporary

Tricia: A girl struggling to find her way after her beloved grandma’s death.

Emerson: A guy who lives his life to fulfill promises, real and hypothetical.

Angie: A girl with secrets she can only express through poetry.

Brenda: An actress and screenplay writer afraid to confront her past.

Brian: A potter who sets aside his life for Tricia, to the detriment of both.

Linked and transformed by one phone call, Hello? weaves together these five Wisconsin teens’ stories into a compelling narrative of friendship and family, loss and love, heartbreak and healing, serendipity, and ultimately hope.

To learn more about Hello? and to add it to your TBR: Goodreads

During the 1960's, Carole King released an album entitled Tapestry--a masterful weaving of story and song. A half-century later, author Liza Wiemer has mirrored that blend by wonderfully stringing together several forms of narration, one specific to each of her characters. Hello? is a truly remarkable and memorable story communicated in a superbly envisioned way. –Paul Volponi, award-winning author of The Final Four, Game Seven, and Black and White.

"A triumph of writing and humanity...the characters stayed with me long after I read the book." —Huntley Fitzpatrick, author of The Boy Most Likely To, What I Thought Was True, and My Life Next Door



Let’s bring this world a little closer together! Please join us in saying #HelloFrom wherever you are and spread good cheer across the globe. Students from Sturgeon Bay and Washington Island, WI, the setting for HELLO?, are following along.

To embed the #HelloFrom and mega giveaway video into your website post:

20 lucky people will randomly be selected from all over the world to win prize packages that include items inspired by Hello?. Many were purchased from artists/stores from Door Country, WI, the setting for the novel. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

12 THREE Giveaways plus New YALit Releases 4/20 - 4/26 with Author Interviews

So many great books, so many beautiful covers - it's an embarrassment of riches this week. We have fourteen new books to share with you, nine author interviews, and three awesome giveaways. Check out what's hitting the shelves this week and make sure to enter to win below. 

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Martina, Jan, Shelly, Susan, Lisa, and Erin


* * * *

Becoming Jinn
by Lori Goldstein
Signed Hardcover plus Swag Giveaway
Feiwel & Friends
Released 4/21/2015

Forget everything you thought you knew about genies!

Azra has just turned sixteen, and overnight her body lengthens, her olive skin deepens, and her eyes glisten gold thanks to the brand-new silver bangle that locks around her wrist. As she always knew it would, her Jinn ancestry brings not just magical powers but the reality of a life of servitude, as her wish granting is controlled by a remote ruling class of Jinn known as the Afrit.

To the humans she lives among, she’s just the girl working at the snack bar at the beach, navigating the fryer and her first crush. But behind closed doors, she’s learning how to harness her powers and fulfill the obligations of her destiny.

Mentored by her mother and her Zar “sisters,” Azra discovers she may not be quite like the rest of her circle of female Jinn . . . and that her powers could endanger them all. As Azra uncovers the darker world of becoming Jinn, she realizes when genies and wishes are involved, there’s always a trick.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Becoming Jinn?

I love the world that is BECOMING JINN, meaning that it is a contemporary fantasy. Jinn is steeped in and reads very much like a straight contemporary and yet there’s magic and granting wishes and teleportation, or apping as the Jinn call it, that make it a fantasy as well. The merging of these elements comes together in a way that I love writing and have always loved reading. It has the ability to bring contemporary fans into the world of fantasy and vice versa in a very accessible way. And it’s just fun. I mean, who doesn’t want to lounge on a beach in this world we live in but be able to conjure mint chocolate chip ice cream? I certainly do!

Purchase Becoming Jinn at Amazon
Purchase Becoming Jinn at IndieBound
View Becoming Jinn on Goodreads

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The Trials
by Stacey Kade
Signed Full Series Giveaway
Released 4/21/2015

After being on the run, Ariane Tucker finds herself back where she started—under the cruel control of Dr. Jacobs, head of the research facility that created her. Now she must participate in the upcoming trials; a deadly competition pitting her against other alien hybrids, each representing a rival corporation.

But Ariane is no one’s weapon. She is prepared to die if it means taking down those involved in Project Paper Doll. They destroyed all that she holds dear, including Zane Bradshaw, the one person she trusted and cared for the most—the person she was forced to leave behind, bleeding and alone.

As her plan takes shape Ariane will need to depend on, now more than ever, the other side of her heritage—the cold, calculated instincts born from her alien DNA. With Zane gone she has nothing left to lose.

With heart-pounding action, and plenty of surprises, the gripping conclusion to Stacey Kade's Project Paper Doll series delivers a powerful finish that will keep fans hooked to the very end.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Trials?

I think the last book in a series or trilogy is always the most fun because that's when all the changes you've been working toward in the previous books become permanent. Characters succeed or fail, once and for all. And wow, those are some high stakes to play with!

With THE TRIALS, my favorite part was seeing Ariane embrace the different sides of herself, her alien and her human side. She's always felt torn between the two, and in this book, she gets to a point where she is more comfortable with who she is and knowing she'll never be just ONE thing and that's okay. It's actually to her benefit to be both human and alien.

I also really enjoyed writing the chase scene in the mall. I love writing action sequences! And there's a romantic scene in the book that made me blush.

Purchase The Trials at Amazon
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View The Trials on Goodreads

* * * *

The Remedy
by Suzanne Young
Hardcover Giveaway
Simon Pulse
Released 4/21/2015

Can one girl take on so many identities without losing her own? Find out in this riveting companion to The Program and the New York Times bestselling The Treatment.

In a world before The Program…

Quinlan McKee is a closer. Since the age of seven, Quinn has held the responsibility of providing closure to grieving families with a special skill—she can “become” anyone.

Recommended by grief counselors, Quinn is hired by families to take on the short-term role of a deceased loved one between the ages of fifteen and twenty. She’s not an exact copy, of course, but she wears their clothes and changes her hair, studies them through pictures and videos, and soon, Quinn can act like them, smell like them, and be them for all intents and purposes. But to do her job successfully, she can’t get attached.

Now seventeen, Quinn is deft at recreating herself, sometimes confusing her own past with those of the people she’s portrayed. When she’s given her longest assignment, playing the role of Catalina Barnes, Quinn begins to bond with the deceased girl’s boyfriend. But that’s only the beginning of the complications, especially when Quinn finds out the truth about Catalina’s death. And the epidemic it could start.

Purchase The Remedy at Amazon
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View The Remedy on Goodreads


* * * *

Eden West
by Pete Hautman
Released 4/14/2015


Tackling faith, doubt, and transformation, National Book Award winner Pete Hautman explores a boy’s unraveling allegiance to an insular cult.

Twelve square miles of paradise, surrounded by an eight-foot-high chain-link fence: this is Nodd, the land of the Grace. It is all seventeen-year-old Jacob knows. Beyond the fence lies the World, a wicked, terrible place, doomed to destruction. When the Archangel Zerachiel descends from Heaven, only the Grace will be spared the horrors of the Apocalypse. But something is rotten in paradise. A wolf invades Nodd, slaughtering the Grace’s sheep. A new boy arrives from outside, and his scorn and disdain threaten to tarnish Jacob’s contentment. Then, while patrolling the borders of Nodd, Jacob meets Lynna, a girl from the adjoining ranch, who tempts him to sample the forbidden Worldly pleasures that lie beyond the fence. Jacob’s faith, his devotion, and his grip on reality are tested as his feelings for Lynna blossom into something greater and the End Days grow ever closer. Eden West is the story of two worlds, two hearts, the power of faith, and the resilience of the human spirit.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Eden West?

I really like the cover—the red, three-quarter jacket with the case art peeking up over the top is awesome! I love a book that still looks good after your dog eats the jacket. Candlewick publishes beautiful books.

I also like the fact that I finally finished writing it! It took twelve years. One question many authors ask themselves is, “Am I good enough to write this story?” With every new book I set out to write that question hangs over me. With Eden West it was a dark, low-hanging cloud that took years to lift. I think the main reason it took so long to write was that fog of doubt. But eventually hubris won out over apprehension, the book came together, and here we are. I am now free to fight my way through the next crisis of confidence!

Purchase Eden West at Amazon
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View Eden West on Goodreads

* * * *

by Delilah S. Dawson
Simon Pulse
Released 4/14/2015

Winner: Rachel Bohnert


The good news is that the USA is finally out of debt. The bad news is that we were bought out by Valor National Bank, and debtors are the new big game, thanks to a tricky little clause hidden deep in the fine print of a credit card application. Now, after a swift and silent takeover that leaves 9-1-1 calls going through to Valor voicemail, they’re unleashing a wave of anarchy across the country.

Patsy didn’t have much of a choice. When the suits showed up at her house threatening to kill her mother then and there for outstanding debt unless Patsy agreed to be an indentured assassin, what was she supposed to do? Let her own mother die?

Patsy is forced to take on a five-day mission to complete a hit list of ten names. Each name on Patsy's list has only three choices: pay the debt on the spot, agree to work as a bounty hunter, or die. And Patsy has to kill them personally, or else her mom takes a bullet of her own.

Since yarn bombing is the only rebellion in Patsy's past, she’s horrified and overwhelmed, especially as she realizes that most of the ten people on her list aren't strangers. Things get even more complicated when a moment of mercy lands her with a sidekick: a hot rich kid named Wyatt whose brother is the last name on Patsy's list. The two share an intense chemistry even as every tick of the clock draws them closer to an impossible choice.

Delilah S. Dawson offers an absorbing, frightening glimpse at a reality just steps away from ours—a taut, suspenseful thriller that absolutely mesmerizes from start to finish.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Hit?

Besides the cover, which I love? ;) My favorite thing about HIT is the hero, Patsy. She's not someone who was destined to be great. She's not royal, she doesn't command magic, she doesn't take a test and score off the charts. She's just a normal girl from the Atlanta suburbs who has to face an impossible task or die, along with her mom. She's brave enough to do what has to be done but real enough to hate it, every step of the way. I feel like a lot of the heroines we see in dystopian books are written to be special saviors, but Patsy is no one and nothing. And she stays that way. But she has to learn how to live with herself and what she's become, not to mention how to move through the world with no road map.

Purchase Hit at Amazon
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View Hit on Goodreads

* * * *

The Pretty App
by Katie Sise
Balzer + Bray
Released 4/14/2015

Winner: Lisa Trinh

Poor Blake Dawkins! She's rich, she's gorgeous, and she's the queen bee of Harrison High. The girls want to be her; the boys want to—okay, enough said. But it turns out Blake’s life is not so perfect—just talk to her dad, who constantly reminds her that she's not up to par, or to her ex-bff, Audrey, who doesn't even look her in the eye.

Then Harrison—and every other high school in America—becomes obsessed with posting selfies on the ubiquitous Pretty App. Next: Leo, an adorable transfer student, arrives at Harrison and begins to show Blake that maybe being a queen bee doesn't mean being a queen bitch. And though Audrey suspects somebody’s playing foul, Blake finds herself catapulted to internet fame after being voted one of the prettiest girls in the country. She's whisked away to star in a reality show—in Hollywood, on live TV. But she doesn’t know who to trust. Because everybody on the show wants to win.

And nobody is there to make friends.

The Boyfriend App author Katie Sise spins another irresistible tale of technology, secrets, and big-time romance in this story of what it takes to be #trulybeautiful.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Pretty App?

My favorite thing about THE PRETTY APP is that the book balances a discussion on beauty and inner beauty without seeming too preachy. At least, I hope so! And I like that it's a feel-good read. Those are my favorite kinds of books and movies, so I'm hoping readers will feel the same way. If the book is page-turning and makes you laugh, then I'll have done my job. It was also so much fun to bring back the characters from THE BOYFRIEND APP. I loved writing from Blake's point of view, and seeing her take on the characters who'd I'd loved so much the first time around.

Purchase The Pretty App at Amazon
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View The Pretty App on Goodreads

* * * *

The Truth Commission
by Susan Juby
Viking Books for Young Readers
Released 4/14/2015

Winner: Danielle Hammelhef

Open secrets are the heart of gossip -- the obvious things that no one is brave or tactless enough to ask. Except for Normandy Pale and her friends. They are juniors at a high school for artists, and have no fear. They are the Truth Commission. Then, one of their truth targets says to Normandy: “If you want to know about the truth, you might want to look a little closer to home.” This dryly funny, knife-sharp novel, written as "narrative nonfiction" by Normandy herself, features footnotes, illustrations and a combination mystery/love story that will capture readers from the first page.

Purchase The Truth Commission at Amazon
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View The Truth Commission on Goodreads


* * * *

Challenger Deep
by Neal Shusterman
Released 4/21/2015

A captivating novel about mental illness that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman.

Caden Bosch is on a ship that's headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship's artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

Challenger Deep is a deeply powerful and personal novel from one of today's most admired writers for teens. Laurie Halse Anderson, award-winning author of Speak, calls Challenger Deep "a brilliant journey across the dark sea of the mind; frightening, sensitive, and powerful. Simply extraordinary."

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Challenger Deep?

My favorite thing about Challenger Deep is the connection to real life. The story has elements of reality juxtaposed against a fantasy that was inspired by artwork my son did when he himself was struggling with an episode of mental illness. Many of the things that Caden and his family went through are reflections of things that we as a family went through. The goal with Challenger Deep is to let readers see and understand mental illness from the inside out — and to show that there is a way back from depths. I consider Challenger Deep one of my most important books, right up there with UNWIND and BRUISER.

Purchase Challenger Deep at Amazon
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View Challenger Deep on Goodreads

* * * *

City Love
by Susane Colasanti
Katherine Tegen Books
Released 4/21/2015

Three girls are about to discover the meaning of city love. From bestselling YA romance author Susane Colasanti!

Sadie, a born and raised New Yorker, is hopeful and romantic and an eternal optimist who is ready to find her soul mate.

Darcy is a free spirit from SoCal with rebellious tendencies and unlimited financial resources, looking for summer boy adventures.

Rosanna leaves Chicago for NYC with a grand total of seventy-three cents so she can reinvent herself and forget about her past.

Sadie, Darcy, and Rosanna are living together in New York City the summer before their freshman year of college begins. With no parents, no rules, and an entire city to explore, these three girls are on the verge of the best summer of their lives. Told from alternating points of view, City Love captures the moments in each girl’s life when everything is thrilling, amazing, and terrifying all at once…in a way it will never be again.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about City Love?

I absolutely love exposing my readers to all of my fave things about NYC! This trilogy is packed with the places, experiences, and quirky details that have made my 19 years as a New York City girl so magical. The energy here makes me feel alive every single day. I hope that amazing energy comes to life in CITY LOVE.

Purchase City Love at Amazon
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* * * *

by Lamar Giles
Released 4/21/2015

Endangered is a thrilling page-turner perfect for fans of Barry Lyga's I Hunt Killers.

The one secret she cares about keeping—her identity—is about to be exposed. Unless Lauren "Panda" Daniels—an anonymous photoblogger who specializes in busting classmates and teachers in compromising positions—plays along with her blackmailer's little game of Dare or . . . Dare.

But when the game turns deadly, Panda doesn't know what to do. And she may need to step out of the shadows to save herself . . . and everyone else on the Admirer's hit list.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Endangered?

My favorite thing about ENDANGERED is the examination of how we tend to view ourselves favorably, when we need to judge ourselves—not others—more harshly. When I was a young writer, I remember hearing that an antagonist shouldn’t think of herself as a villain. In her version of the story, she’s the hero. That’s always stuck with me. How can someone justify absolutely deplorable behavior, and what happens when those justifications just don’t work anymore?

Panda, my main character, runs a website called Gray Scales, where she anonymously publishes photos of her meanest classmates doing dirty deeds. The monotone layout of the site, the coloring of pandas in the wild, these are all thematic choices, meant to indicate there’s no black and white answers when it comes to the difference between good guys and bad guys. I hope when readers get their hands on it, they’ll ask themselves the same tough questions about what’s good, bad, and/or justified that I asked when I wrote it.

Purchase Endangered at Amazon
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* * * *

Every Last Promise
by Kristin Halbrook
Released 4/21/2015

Perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson and Gayle Forman, Every Last Promise is a provocative and emotional novel about a girl who must decide between keeping quiet and speaking up after witnessing a classmate's sexual assault.

Kayla saw something at the party that she wasn't supposed to. But she hasn't told anyone. No one knows the real story about what happened that night--about why Kayla was driving the car that ran into a ditch after the party, about what she saw in the hours leading up to the accident, and about the promise she made to her friend Bean before she left for the summer.

Now Kayla's coming home for her senior year. If Kayla keeps quiet, she might be able to get her old life back. If she tells the truth, she risks losing everything--and everyone--she ever cared about.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Every Last Promise?

My favorite thing about EVERY LAST PROMISE is the way it challenged me to think about rape culture from many angles. Writing Kayla was not easy, and there were times I wanted to alter the plot to more easily make her a “hero.” But that’s not the reality I was working from: rape culture is messy and complicated, and even when we desperately want people to be heroes, it’s also important to be able to empathize with their reasons for what they do. Writing EVERY LAST PROMISE helped me grow as a human, as a woman, and as a person who battles for social justice. And I hope readers experience even a tiny piece of that growth as they read the story and think about what it means to be caught between the things you love…and the things you love.

Purchase Every Last Promise at Amazon
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View Every Last Promise on Goodreads

* * * *

Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me
by Meredith Zeitlin
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Released 4/21/2015

A laugh-out-loud high school adventure set in Greece, perfect for fans of Meg Cabot

High school sophomore Zona Lowell has lived in New York City her whole life, and plans to follow in the footsteps of her renowned-journalist father. But when he announces they’re moving to Athens for six months so he can work on an important new story, she's devastated— he must have an ulterior motive. See, when Zona's mother married an American, her huge Greek family cut off contact. But Zona never knew her mom, and now she’s supposed to uproot her entire life and meet possibly hostile relatives on their turf? Thanks... but no thanks.

In the vein of Anna and the French Kiss, Zona navigates a series of hilarious escapades, eye-opening revelations, and unexpected reunions in a foreign country—all while documenting the trip through one-of-a-kind commentary.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me?

That’s a tricky question. My favorite thing about the story of SY is that the main character, Zona, is forced to confront things that scare her. I think that’s so important. I actually traveled to Greece for three weeks - all by myself - to research the book. I didn’t know the language or a single person there, which put me way out of my comfort zone. And guess what? It was awesome. It was hard, sure, and often frustrating and lonely, but ultimately so rewarding. I think that Zona learns a lot of the same lessons - not just about Greece, but about herself and what she’s capable of.

What I love most about the book itself, meaning the actual manuscript… is the articles! The narrative is interspersed with newspaper clippings that are actually all about Zona, and they were so much fun to write. I love epistolary novels, but never thought to write one - even a partial one, like SY. I used to send two friends of mine emails that were fake newspaper articles about things I’d been up to that week - a bad date, a ridiculous interaction in my apartment building, whatever. Then when I was working on SY, I realized the same idea could be a really fun addition to a story about an aspiring journalist.

Purchase Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me at Amazon
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* * * *

Things We Know by Heart
by Jessi Kirby
Released 4/21/2015

In this unforgettable teen romance that fans of Sarah Dessen and Susane Colasanti will devour, Quinn Sullivan falls for the recipient of her boyfriend's donated heart, forming an unexpected connection that will leave readers utterly breathless.

After Quinn's boyfriend, Trent, dies in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the fragments of her now-unrecognizable life. But whoever received Trent's heart has mysteriously remained silent. The essence of a person, Quinn has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent's, then in a way she still has a piece of him.

Risking everything to find peace once and for all, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn't want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they're connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she's falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she's lost . . . and all that remains at stake.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Things We Know by Heart?

My favorite thing about this book is that though it begins with grief, it leads to hope, and new life, and love. It's also more of a love story than I've written before. At first I was a little nervous about trying that out, but I ended up loving it.

Purchase Things We Know by Heart at Amazon
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View Things We Know by Heart on Goodreads

* * * *

Wrong About the Guy
by Claire LaZebnik
Released 4/21/2015

Claire LaZebnik's latest twist on a beloved classic asks the age old question: Could the girl who knows everything be wrong about the guy?

As the stepdaughter of a TV star, Ellie Withers has it all: an amazing house in LA, a devoted friend who loved her before she even knew who Ellie’s stepfather was, and a burgeoning romance with handsome Aaron Marquand. But Ellie isn't the kind of person who’s content with simply having it all—the people in her life have to be equally happy. And, of course, she knows exactly what they need.

When Ellie’s plans for her family, her friends, and even her love life don’t turn out the way she imagined, she begins to wonder if maybe she could stand to learn a thing or two after all. Most surprising, though, is that the perfect person to teach her is the last person she'd expect.

With her signature witty narration and swoon-worthy romance, Claire LaZebnik (the author of fan favorites Epic Fail, The Trouble with Flirting, and The Last Best Kiss) once again breathes new life into a perennially popular love story: Jane Austen’s Emma.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Wrong About the Guy?

The flirtatious insults the main characters toss around! I love witty, sexy banter—whether it’s Elizabeth and Darcy refusing to agree about anything, or Tracy Lord and CK Dexter Haven cutting each other down to size, or Lorelei Gilmore spouting off at a hundred miles an hour while Luke Danes tries to keep up . . . I fall in love with dialogue that, no matter how whimsical or even awkward, brings two people together. Sometimes it’s easier to tease someone than admit you’re attracted to him, but somehow all that teasing and provoking also makes it clear you’re meant to be together. I didn’t necessarily want Ellie to know what’s in her own heart right from the beginning—like many of us, she’s not only wrong about the guy, she’s wrong about herself—but I hope that the reader realizes she belongs to the guy who can hold his own in a verbal duel with her.

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* * * *

99 Days
by Katie Cotugno
Balzer + Bray
Released 4/21/2015

From the acclaimed author of How to Love comes another stunning contemporary novel, perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen.

Molly Barlow is facing one long, hot summer—99 days—with the boy whose heart she broke and the boy she broke it for . . . his brother.

Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that's how I know everyone still remembers everything. She has every right to hate me, of course: I broke Patrick Donnelly's heart the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. Now I'm serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn't finished. I'm expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it's just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. "For what it's worth, Molly Barlow," he says, "I'm really glad you're back."

Day 12: Gabe wouldn't quit till he got me to come to this party, and I'm surprised to find I'm actually having fun. I think he's about to kiss me—and that's when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who's supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who's never going to forgive me.

Purchase 99 Days at Amazon
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* * * *

Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke
by Anne Blankman
Balzer + Bray
Released 4/21/2015

Acclaimed author Anne Blankman returns to the shadowy and dangerous world of 1930s Germany in this thrilling sequel to Prisoner of Night and Fog, perfect for fans of Code Name Verity.

The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler's inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives in England, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.

But then Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen's world turns upside down. When she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she'd escaped—and return to her homeland.

Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel's name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time—or will Hitler discover them first?

Purchase Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke at Amazon
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* * * *

Finding Paris
by Joy Preble
Balzer + Bray
Released 4/21/2015

An evocative and compelling story of two sisters who would do anything for each other--perfect for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why and Speak. Joy Preble's stirring new novel explores the lengths to which sisters go to protect each other, and the winding road that brings two strangers into each other's lives.

Sisters Leo and Paris Hollings have only ever had each other to rely on. They can't trust their mother, who hops from city to city and from guy to guy, or their gambler stepfather, who's moved them all to Las Vegas. It's just the two of them: Paris, who's always been the dreamer, and Leo, who has a real future in mind--going to Stanford, becoming a doctor, falling in love. But Leo isn't going anywhere right now, except driving around Vegas all night with her sister.

Until Paris ditches Leo at the Heartbreak Hotel Diner, where moments before they had been talking with physics student Max Sullivan. Outside, Leo finds a cryptic note from Paris--a clue. Is it some kind of game? Where is Paris, and why has she disappeared? When Leo reluctantly accepts Max's offer of help, the two find themselves following a string of clues through Vegas and beyond. But the search for the truth is not a straight line. And neither is the path to secrets Leo and Max hold inside.

Purchase Finding Paris at Amazon
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* * * *

Still Waters
by Ash Parsons
Philomel Books
Released 4/21/2015

A gritty, powerful debut that evokes The Outsiders. You won't be able to look away.

High school senior Jason knows how to take a punch. Living with an abusive father will teach a kid that. But he’s also learned how to hit back, earning a reputation at school that ensures no one will mess with him. Even so, all Jason truly wants is to survive his father long enough to turn eighteen, take his younger sister, Janie, and run away.

Then one day, the leader of the in crowd at school, Michael, offers to pay Jason to hang out with him. Jason figures Michael simply wants to be seen with someone with a tough rep and that the money will add up fast, making Jason’s escape plan a reality. Plus, there’s Michael’s girl, Cyndra, who looks at Jason as if she sees something behind his false smile. As Jason gets drawn deeper into Michael’s game, the money keeps flowing, but the stakes grow ever more dangerous. Soon, even Jason’s fists and his ability to think on his feet aren’t enough to keep his head above water.

Still Waters is an intense, gritty thriller that pulls no punches—yet leaves you rooting for the tough guy. A powerful, dynamic debut.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

1 Lance Rubin, author of DENTON LITTLE'S DEATHDATE, on making writing a regular habit

DENTON LITTLE'S DEATHDATE is the debut novel from Lance Rubin, and we're excited to have him with us to share more about it.

Lance, what is your favorite thing about DENTON LITTLE'S DEATHDATE?

This may be a strange answer, but honestly, my favorite thing about DENTON LITTLE'S DEATHDATE is that it exists. Over the years, I've had so many ideas for creative projects that never went beyond the four walls of my brain or the notes section of my iPhone. In fact, before I wrote a single page of this book, it sat in my mind as an idea for around two to three years. Back then, I thought it was going to be a screenplay starring characters in their twenties, and it was only when my acting career totally stalled out at the same time as I read and loved The Hunger Games that I thought "Maybe I should take that idea I had, make the characters teenagers, and try writing it as a young adult novel."

So now, to sit here almost exactly four years later and answer this question, the book not only finished but about to be published, is surreal and magical. I can't believe people I don't know are reading this story.

What do you hope readers will take away from DENTON LITTLE'S DEATHDATE?

For starters, I hope they laugh a lot while reading it. I hope they recognize themselves or people they know in the characters. I hope that the book surprises them, that it takes them on an enjoyable, unpredictable journey.

But I would also love for this book to make readers think about their life in new ways. Their death, too. In my ideal scenario, a reader would put this down and feel newly inspired to--at the risk of sounding painfully cliched--live life to the fullest, to make bold choices, to honestly connect to the people around them, to be fully present and appreciative for each day of being alive.

And, if that doesn't happen, I just hope they've laughed a lot.

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

Don't wait for someone to ask you to write something. Start TODAY. Right now. And then make sitting down to write a regular habit, whenever you can squeeze it into your life, even on the days when inspiration doesn't strike. It will be challenging and painful and not always fun, but you will learn so much about yourself--from the failures especially--and be fulfilled in many ways you never could have predicted.

What are you working on now?

There is a second DENTON book that I'm in the final stages of rewriting, and I'm in the super-early stages of a new book that has nothing to do with DENTON. I'm not really sure what it is yet, but I do know it has a female protagonist.


Denton Little's Deathdate
by Lance Rubin
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Released 4/14/2015

Fans of John Green and Matthew Quick: Get ready to die laughing.

Denton Little's Deathdate takes place in a world exactly like our own except that everyone knows the day they will die. For 17-year-old Denton Little, that's tomorrow, the day of his senior prom.

Despite his early deathdate, Denton has always wanted to live a normal life, but his final days are filled with dramatic firsts. First hangover. First sex. First love triangle (as the first sex seems to have happened not with his adoring girlfriend, but with his best friend's hostile sister. Though he's not totally sure. See: first hangover.) His anxiety builds when he discovers a strange purple rash making its way up his body. Is this what will kill him? And then a strange man shows up at his funeral, claiming to have known Denton's long-deceased mother, and warning him to beware of suspicious government characters…. Suddenly Denton's life is filled with mysterious questions and precious little time to find the answers.

Debut author Lance Rubin takes us on a fast, furious, and outrageously funny ride through the last hours of a teenager's life as he searches for love, meaning, answers, and (just maybe) a way to live on.

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Lance Rubin
Lance Rubin spent his twenties working as an actor and writing sketch comedy, with several successful runs of The Lance and Ray Show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City. He has now turned his comedic talents to fiction, and Denton Little’s Deathdate is his first novel. You can find him on the Web at LanceRubin.tumblr.com and on Twitter at @LanceRubinParty.

What did you think of our interview with Lance Rubin, author of DEONTON LITTLE'S DEATHDATE? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,
Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

0 Courtney Summers, author of ALL THE RAGE, on a book belonging to the readers

We're honored to have Courtney Summers here to tell us more about her powerful new novel ALL THE RAGE.

Courtney, what is your favorite thing about ALL THE RAGE?

I’ve been working on this book in some form or other since around 2009 or 2010, and after it sold, it took a little over two years and somewhere around six drafts to complete. So just seeing it finished, to know that it’s finally ready for readers, is my favorite thing about All the Rage. I’m very proud of it.

What was your inspiration for writing ALL THE RAGE?

All the Rage is a response to rape culture and an examination of its consequences. The way we fail victims and survivors of sexual violence, the constant victim-blaming, is heartbreaking and infuriating. It’s important that we talk about these things so that we can do better, and that was something I wanted to explore in my work.

What do you hope readers will take away from ALL THE RAGE?

Once a book is out, it doesn’t belong to me anymore—it belongs to the readers. But I do hope that it gets people angry about rape culture. I hope they channel that anger into keeping the conversation about rape culture going.

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

I do all my best writing at night, with music playing in the background. And I always have to have a cup of coffee and a bottle of water nearby!


All the Rage
by Courtney Summers
St. Martin's Griffin
Released 4/14/2015

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

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COURTNEY SUMMERS was born in Belleville, Ontario in 1986 and currently resides in a small town not far from there. At age 14, she dropped out of high school to pursue her education independently and spent those years figuring out what she wanted to do with her life. At 18, she knew she was meant to write.

To date, she has authored five novels. Her first novel, Cracked Up to Be, was published when she was 22 and went on to win the 2009 CYBIL award in YA fiction. Since then, she’s published four more books–2011 YALSA Top 10 Quick Pick and White Pine Honour book, Some Girls Are, 2012 YALSA Quick Pick, Fall for Anything, and 2013 YALSA Top 10 Quick Pick and White Pine Honour book This is Not a Test and All the Rage as well as an e-novella, Please Remain Calm (a sequel to This is Not a Test).

When she is not writing, Courtney loves playing video games, watching horror movies and obsessing over the zombie apocalypse. Her favourite colour is green and she’s a total feminist.

Note from the formatter: ALL THE RAGE is seriously one of my favourite books of 2015. It's an important and powerful book, please make sure to check it out!

What did you think of our interview with Courtney Summers, author of ALL THE RAGE? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

0 Erin Bowman, author of FORGED, on writing to music without lyrics

FORGED is the final novel in the Taken trilogy, and we're delighted to have Erin Bowman here to tell us more about it.

Erin, what scene of FORGED 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 is a scene about halfway through the novel that made me sob uncontrollably as I wrote it. It was a very difficult scene to get on paper, but a necessary one. I'm hoping readers aren't too mad at me for it! ;)

I also very much love the final scene of the book. I think it leaves readers with a very hopeful image after a book of dark twists and untimely character deaths. (Again, sorry readers! I swear I don't enjoy torturing you!)

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

I don't have too much of a ritual--I write when I have time, but it does always include coffee and music. I tend to avoid songs with lyrics, though. I find that distracting. Instead I focus on film scores and instrumental music. You can listen to some examples of the stuff I gravitate towards while writing here.

What are you working on now?

I just finished up my work on Vengeance Road, a YA western standalone that comes out from HMH on 9/1/15. I'm now back to staring at the blank page and dreaming up new stories. Here's hoping my muse cooperates soon!


by Erin Bowman
Released 4/14/2015

Gray Weathersby and his group of rebels must make their final stand in the epic conclusion to the Taken trilogy, which New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu called "an action-packed thrill ride from beginning to end."

The Order is building an unstoppable army, with every generation of Forgeries harder to detect and deadlier than the one before. It’s time for Gray and his fellow rebels to end the Order's world of lies. But when the most familiar faces—and even the girl he loves—can’t be trusted, Gray will have to tread carefully if he wants to succeed. Or survive.

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Erin Bowman used to tell stories visually as a web designer. Now a full-time writer, she relies solely on words. She lives in New Hampshire with her family and when not writing she can often be found hiking, commenting on good typography, and obsessing over all things Harry Potter.

Erin is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger. She is the author of TAKEN, FROZEN, and FORGED (4/14/15) from HarperTeen. VENGEANCE ROAD is forthcoming from HMH (9/1/15).

What did you think of our interview with Erin Bowman, author of FORGED? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Martina, Jan, Shelly, Susan, Lisa, and Erin

0 Katie Sise, author of THE PRETTY APP, on throwing challenges at your characters

We're excited to have Katie Sise here to tell us more about THE PRETTY APP, her companion novel to THE BOYFRIEND APP.

Katie, what was your inspiration for writing THE PRETTY APP?

When writing THE BOYFRIEND APP, I always felt like there was more to Blake's story. I wanted to know more about why she acted the way she did. And I was intrigued by the idea of writing about a teenager who thinks the only thing of value about her is being beautiful.

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?

My favorite scene in the book is between Blake and her sister, Nic. It occurs at Notre Dame, (my alma mater), and the college where Nic is enrolled and where Blake and Audrey will attend in the fall. As I was writing THE PRETTY APP, the way the relationship between the two sisters develops was as (or more!) important as the romantic relationship between Blake and Leo.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?
Elizabeth Eulberg's books! 

She's also a friend of mine, so I'm partial, but I always hear readers say that there's a similar tone and style.

How long did you work on THE PRETTY APP?

Much longer than THE BOYFRIEND APP! THE BOYFRIEND APP took about four months to write. THE PRETTY APP took much longer-- maybe about eight months--because there were so many stops and starts. It was just a harder book for me to figure out. Sometimes that happens! But I'm happy with how it turned out, so all of those rewrites were worth it :)

What do you hope readers will take away from THE PRETTY APP?

That everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and that you don't know someone's reasons for being the way that they are until you walk in their shoes. (Not that it excuses Blake's behavior in The Boyfriend App, but remembering that helped me to understand her as a character.)

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?

Someone once told me to continually make things hard on your characters, no matter how much you love them. That helped! Throwing challenges at my characters in every chapter helps move the book along and creates suspense.

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

I always write in quiet. I get too distracted with music. I do love writing in a coffee shop, but for now, I write at home while my son naps, and on weekends, too. So that means I write a little less than twenty hours a week. When my children are in school, I'll go back to a full-time writing schedule. But for now, this works!

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

Just keep writing. Every day. I think the only reason I got published was because I'd written for so many years and had practice at it, so when the more salable idea came along, I was ready!

What are you working on now?

I'm so excited to be working on another romantic comedy for Balzer + Bray! This one has an entire new casts of characters, and it's been so much fun to write so far!


The Pretty App
by Katie Sise
Balzer + Bray
Released 4/14/2015

Poor Blake Dawkins! She's rich, she's gorgeous, and she's the queen bee of Harrison High. The girls want to be her; the boys want to—okay, enough said. But it turns out Blake’s life is not so perfect—just talk to her dad, who constantly reminds her that she's not up to par, or to her ex-bff, Audrey, who doesn't even look her in the eye.

Then Harrison—and every other high school in America—becomes obsessed with posting selfies on the ubiquitous Pretty App. Next: Leo, an adorable transfer student, arrives at Harrison and begins to show Blake that maybe being a queen bee doesn't mean being a queen bitch. And though Audrey suspects somebody’s playing foul, Blake finds herself catapulted to internet fame after being voted one of the prettiest girls in the country. She's whisked away to star in a reality show—in Hollywood, on live TV. But she doesn’t know who to trust. Because everybody on the show wants to win.

And nobody is there to make friends.

The Boyfriend App author Katie Sise spins another irresistible tale of technology, secrets, and big-time romance in this story of what it takes to be #trulybeautiful.

Purchase The Pretty App at Amazon
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Katharine “Katie” Sise is a New York City based author, jewelry designer and television host. Years ago, at age twenty-four— after dropping a rare and very expensive bottle of champagne on her way to deliver it to Robert De Niro’s table—she realized she needed a way to fund her acting and writing career that didn’t involve balancing a tray full of cocktails. That fall, she taught herself to make jewelry and launched Katharine Sise Jewelry. Within a few months, Lucky Magazine called her a “Designer to Watch” and her company appeared in every major fashion magazine—including Vogue, W, Elle, Self, Lucky, InStyle, Bazaar, Allure, Us Weekly, People, In Touch, Page Six Magazine, Real Simple, FN, Life and Style, Teen Vogue, Seventeen, Women’s Wear Daily, Marie Claire and Glamour. Before she knew it, her celebrity clientele included Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Kelly Ripa, Ellen Pompeo, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Beyonce Knowles, Anne Hathaway and Drew Barrymore.

Katharine has been profiled on dozens of online fashion and lifestyle outlets including Forbes.com, Elle.com, InStyle.com, People.com, Sweet, The Huffington Post and The New York Post. Her jewelry has appeared on television shows such as The View, Live with Regis and Kelly, E! News, Good Day New York, Full Frontal Fashion, Movie and a Makeover, The O.C., Brothers and Sisters and Gossip Girl. While Katharine was chatting with the ladies from The View, one of her necklaces broke on air and fell from her neck to her lap because she didn’t spend enough time getting the clasp right. That moment is preserved, forever, on a DVD at her parents’ house.

Katharine has designed jewelry for national campaigns like Vera Wang, Gap and Keds. In 2009, Target launched Katharine Sise for Target.

Katharine has worked as a fashion and lifestyle consultant, appearing on-air for networks like HSN, Oxygen, Discovery Channel, CNBC and ABC’s Good Morning America. For eighteen months, Katharine co-hosted a live monthly television show for The Home Shopping Network. She also appeared as The Daily Special’s resident style expert.

Katharine’s first book, Creative Girl: The Ultimate Guide for Turning Talent and Creativity into a Real Career (Perseus/Running Press) hit shelves in September of 2010. Creative Girl is written for every woman who wants to make her living in the creative world, whether in an office job or at the helm of her own business. The book is an encouraging and practical take on how to make a living doing what you love.

Katharine’s first novel, The Boyfriend App, was published by HarperCollins Balzer + Bray on April 30, 2013. The Boyfriend App tells the story of a girl who, in order to win a scholarship offered by a secretly-evil global computing corporation, invents an app that makes any boy fall madly in love with her, with chaotic results. The Boyfriend App has received rave reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, and VOYA.

Katharine has a BA in Film, Television and Theater from The University of Notre Dame. She lives in New York City with her family.

What did you think of our interview with Katie Sise, author of THE PRETTY APP? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Martina, Jan, Shelly, Susan, Lisa, and Erin

Saturday, April 18, 2015

1 Juliana Romano, author of FIRST THERE WAS FOREVER, on really listening when people give you notes

We're pleased to have Juliana Romano stop by to tell us more about her debut novel FIRST THERE WAS FOREVER.

Juliana, what is your favorite thing about FIRST THERE WAS FOREVER?

My favorite thing about “First There Was Forever” is how girl-centric it is. Even though it’s a story of two girls fighting over a guy, the book is really an exploration of the inner lives of these two friends: Lima and Hailey. Even though Nate, the guy they both like, is a big character, the book really isn’t about him. Lima and Hailey are complicated and thoughtful, much more so than Nate. Grappling with sexuality and jealousy is part of growing up, but that doesn’t define these girls. And the friendship between them, even though it’s platonic, is as loving, demanding and rewarding as any romantic relationship.

Also, for me personally I think I like that the book is embedded with threads from my own life, like the music and the places they go! I loved being able to reference my own high school experience for those things. Meredith’s cat is named Leonard Cohen, and me and my friends were obsessed with Leonard Cohen’s music in high school. Especially the early stuff, like “Suzanne” and “Bird on a Wire” and “Chelsea Hotel.”

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?

Emotionally, the hardest scene for me to write was when Hailey and Lima say all the things to each other that they’ve kept bottled up. I put off writing it for a long time, I think because I knew it would be hard. And during the writing process, I was back and forth with my agent, she kept encouraging me to take it further. But now, it’s one of my favorites. Also, the sex scene!

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

I’d like to think that people who love my book would also love “The Summer I Turned Pretty” by Jenny Han, and “Uses for Boys” by Erica Lorraine Scheidt. Also, “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy. Can I say that?! That book inspired me so much because Anna hurts so many people but I love her so much anyway. And her choices are so limited. In high school, your choices are very limited, too.

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


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

My best experience writing has been when I’m juggling it with other things. When I started writing “First There Was Forever” I was just plopping down at my computer in between other responsibilities. It didn’t matter where I was or what time of day it was, or if I had the perfect music on. I think when I’ve started to get to precious about how and when to write, my writing suffers. I always try to remember that special time when I first began and I felt like writing was my secret escape.

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

Write what you want and don’t let anyone tell you that your content isn’t important! But on a more practical level, learn how to take notes. We can never be objective readers of our own work, so we really need to listen to people when they tell us what they think. Notes, even hard ones, are a generosity from the person who is giving them. It can be challenging because writing is so personal and it’s frustrating when people don’t take away what you want them to, but on the flip side, people also take away amazing things that you didn’t intend.

What are you working on now?

My second book is about a girl growing up in New York City who wants to go to art school. I went to art school, and I’m really glad to reflect on that experience. This book is a summer-in-the-city book, and I love New York in the summer. It’s so hot and it can be dirty, but that just adds to its romance.


First There Was Forever
by Juliana Romano
Dial Books
Released 4/14/2015

Perfect for fans of Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door, Juliana Romano's expressive debut is an absorbing and bittersweet story about first love, first loss, and the friends that carry us through it all.

Lima and Hailey have always been best friends: Lima shy and sensitive, Hailey funny and free-spirited. But Hailey abandons Lima to party with the popular kids and pursue Nate, her disinterested crush. As their friendship falters, Lima and Nate begin spending more time together. And before Lima knows what she’s feeling, she and Nate do something irreversible. Something that would hurt Hailey....if she knew it happened.

Lima thinks she’s saving her friendship by lying, but she’s only buying time. As the secrets stack up, Lima is forced to make a choice: between her best friend forever, and the boy who wasn’t meant to be hers.

Purchase First There Was Forever at Amazon
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julianafromanoJuliana was born in 1982 in New York, New York and grew up in Santa Monica, California. She received a B.A. from Wesleyan University in 2004 and an M.F.A. in Painting from U.C.L.A. in 2008.

What did you think of our interview with Juliana Romano, author of FIRST THERE WAS FOREVER? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

2 Michaela MacColl, author of THE REVELATION OF LOUISA MAY, on writing mysteries centered around famous authors

We're delighted to have Michaela MacColl join us to share more about THE REVELATION OF LOUISA MAY, the latest novel in her series of literary mysteries. Michaela has also agreed to give away an ARC, so make sure to enter the giveaway below.

Michaela, what is your favorite thing about THE REVELATION OF LOUISA MAY?

My favorite thing about The Revelation of Louisa May (Chronicle 2015) is probably Louisa May Alcott herself. I just liked her so much! When I write these literary mysteries I always start with biography. I learn as much as I can about the writer who will be my main character. I feel a little bit like a sculptor – adding bits and pieces of my understanding of the character until she’s fully formed in my head. When I start to write, the voice comes naturally. But Louisa was special – I understood her from the beginning.  She was bright and contrary even as a toddler (her wacky parents did all sorts of educational experiments on them and documented the results!).  The most practical member of the family, even at 12 her harassed mother (Marmee) confided in her way too much about the disastrous family finances. Louisa’s response was to vow to earn enough money to support the family … with her pen.  And she did. Little Women was published in 1869 and has never gone out of print. Louisa was a millionaire and yes, she supported the whole family.  She had grit and I liked that.

What was your inspiration for writing THE REVELATION OF LOUISA MAY?

I’m doing a series of literary mysteries for Chronicle that are tagged as “tales of Intrigue and Romance.”  The idea is to get readers hooked on the writer – then the kids are bound to go to their amazing works. We began with Emily Dickinson, then the Bronte sisters. Louisa May Alcott was a natural choice for the third installment. How many librarians do you know who weren’t hooked on that book? So many of us grew up yearning that the next time we reread the book somehow Jo would change her mind and end up with Laurie!

As I said, these books are mysteries. So I usually scour biographies looking for a body or a hint of one. I discovered early on that the Alcotts, in keeping with their humanist and transcendental philosophies, were also members of the Underground Railroad and Louisa mentions sheltering a fugitive slave named George in their kitchen. As soon as I began to think about fugitive slaves I thought about secrets. And slave catchers. And blackmail.  From there it was an easy jump to murder!

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?

One of my favorite scenes is not a hugely important one. Louisa is visiting with her good friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson.  He’s an adult who is a good friend to her family (Emerson encouraged the Alcotts to move to Concord and helped them out financially more than once) and he has always encouraged her love of reading.  The room that Louisa loves best in the world is his library.  Emerson guarded his time and his workspace, but Louisa was always welcome there. In that scene there’s a quick memory that flashes through Louisa’s mind of when Emerson’s beloved son dies of scarlet fever. Louisa had been sent with a note to the Emerson house. The distraught father meets her at the door and tells her his boy is dead. They sit on the steps for a long time crying together. With that kind of foundation for a friendship, it’s not surprising to the reader that when murder and scandal come close to touching the Emersons, Louisa is there to defend them.

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 lovely office where I hardly ever work. I like curling up on the couch or in a chair in front of the fireplace. When I’m under a time crunch I go to the closest Paneras – mainly because the coffee is OK and I don’t like the food!  I spend a lot of time in libraries doing research. My town’s library is ridiculously busy  -- a true center of the community – but not very quiet. The local university library on the other hand is a ghost town until finals. So I go there and make the day of the research librarian.

What are you working on now?

I’m doing the final copy edits on the next literary mystery. This one is about Jane Austen and is still untitled.  What’s fun for me (besides writing and reading Jane Austen!) is that all the other characters I’ve written about also read Jane Austen. Emily Dickinson was delighted to see that a woman could be a serious writer. Charlotte Bronte felt that Austen books were passionless and too genteel.  And Louisa May Alcott of course was just delighted to know that it was possible to earn a living with her pen!


The Revelation of Louisa May
by Michaela MacColl
Chronicle Books
Released 4/14/2015

Louisa May Alcott can't believe it—her mother is leaving for the summer to earn money for the family and Louisa is to be in charge of the household. How will she find the time to write her stories, much less have any adventures of her own? But before long, Louisa finds herself juggling her temperamental father, a mysterious murder, a fugitive seeking refuge along the Underground Railroad, and blossoming love. Intertwining fact, fiction, and quotes from Little Women, Michaela MacColl has crafted another spunky heroine whose story will keep readers turning pages until the very end.

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Michaela attended Vassar College and Yale University earning degrees in multi-disciplinary history. Unfortunately, it took her 20 years before she realized she was learning how to write historical fiction. Her favorite stories are the ones she finds about the childhood experiences of famous people. She has written about a teenaged Queen Victoria (Prisoners in the Palace, Chronicle 2010) and Beryl Markham’s childhood (Promise the Night, Chronicle 2011). She is writing a literary mystery series for teens featuring so far a young Emily Dickinson in Nobody’s Secret (2013) and the Bronte sisters in Always Emily (2014). She has recently begun a new series with Boyd’s Mill/Highlights called Hidden Histories about odd events in America’s past. The first entry in the series is Rory’s Promise and will be published in September 2014. She frequently visits high schools and has taught at the Graduate Institute in Bethel, CT. She lives in Westport CT with her husband, two teenaged daughters and three extremely large cats.

What did you think of our interview with Michaela MacColl, author of THE REVELATION OF LOUSIA MAY? Let us know in the comments and don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Happy reading,
Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin