Tuesday, September 19, 2017

0 Fox Benwell, author of KALEIDOSCOPE SONG, on writing what matters to you

We've had so many amazing authors provide interviews lately that we're spreading them out to Tuesdays and Thursdays rather than overwhelming our readers with writing wisdom on Saturdays.

We are thrilled to have Fox Benwell here to share more about his latest novel, KALEIDOSCOPE SONG.

Fox, what was your inspiration for writing KALEIDOSCOPE SONG?

It’s getting much, much better (this book took FOREVER to write) but, a lack of queer fiction on my shelves was a definite influencing factor. When I started writing Kaleidoscope Song, the way I identified aligned more closely with Neo, and a lot of the community/ first time experience stuff (although, not the location, there >_>) is familiar.

Music, too. Music is everything in this book. It colours the way Neo sees the world. If you want to feel what she feels, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out some of the music mentioned in the book.

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?

I think I’m most proud of the final scenes. But weirdly, I knew exactly how they’d go, right from the start. I added a little, but they’re pretty much the same as they were in the first draft.

As for hard to write…there’s some really tough grief stuff in there which I wrote while dealing with big personal loss myself. Writing probably helped, but those hurt so much to write that I’m not sure I could read them now.

What do you hope readers will take away from KALEIDOSCOPE SONG?

That friends, community, and being yourself are all possibilities. That standing up for those things is absolutely worth doing. But also that we’re not all, always, in a position where it’s safe to do so.

And I hope – as largely Western readers – that they extrapolate, because this doesn’t just apply in other places. Plenty of marginalised folks are at risk right on your doorstep every single day. Especially in today’s climate: surviving – thriving – is a political act in and of itself.

I hope that anyone suffering will find community that they can turn to. And that anyone who can, might use their voice for good.

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?

Honestly, no. While there might be a key to writing one particular novel, I don’t think there is a key to writing a novel in the wider sense: books, like their authors, are incredibly different. And sometimes kind of temperamental. You have to figure them out as you go. Which is comforting, in a sense, because when things aren’t working it’s not necessarily you, you just haven’t nailed this particular project yet. But it can be hella frustrating when you don’t know how to make it work.

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

When I can, I like the familiarity of having my books to hand, and working at my grandad’s old desk, with the visual reminder of a wall of post-its, full of plot points and phrases and imagery that I want to use. But – out of necessity – I’ll work anywhere. I focus better when I’m comfortable; give me a big comfy chair and a supply of coffee and I’m good for hours. And music. Always music – each book has its own playlist to reflect the world I’m writing. It was a particularly big part of Kaleidoscope Song, because music is so important to the protagonist, too. You can find the full playlist and crib notes at the back of the book.

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

Write your story. Not a carbon copy of your experiences, necessarily, but what matters to you. You’ll want to spend time with the story, and that’ll show; readers will be much more likely to want to join you. And besides, books take a LOT of hours to make: do you really want to work on something that you hate for all that time?

And hey, marginalised writers especially, keep at it. My shelves need you. <3

What are you working on now?

Several things. Life’s been a bit tumultuous, so I’ve been switching back and forth to fit with where my brain’s at, and now I love them all so much that I’m juggling a few. All of them centre queer, trans and disabled characters as glorious everyday heroes.


Kaleidoscope Song
by Fox Benwell
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Released 9/19/2017

South Africa is loud. Listen. Do you hear the song and dance of it? The chorus of Khayelitsha life? Every voice is different, its pitch and tone and intonation as distinct as the words we choose and how we wrap our mouths around them. But everybody has a voice, and everybody sings…

Fifteen year old Neo loves music, it punctuates her life and shapes the way she views the world. A life in radio is all she’s ever wanted.
When Umzi Radio broadcasts live in a nearby bar Neo can’t resist. She sneaks out to see them, and she falls in love, with music, and the night, but also with a girl: Tale has a voice like coffee poured into a bright steel mug, and she commands the stage.

It isn’t normal. Isn’t right. Neo knows that she’s supposed to go to school and get a real job and find a nice young boy to settle down with. It’s written everywhere – in childhood games, and playground questions, in the textbooks, in her parents’ faces. But Tale and music are underneath her skin, and try as she might, she can’t stop thinking about them.

Purchase Kaleidoscope Song at Amazon
Purchase Kaleidoscope Song at IndieBound
View Kaleidoscope Song on Goodreads


Fox Benwell is a perpetual student of the world, a writer, adventurer, and wannabe-knight, who holds degrees in international education and writing for young people, and believes in the power of both to change the world. When he’s not writing or teaching, he sings barbershop with The Great Western Chorus; music is pretty good at changing the world, too.
He is the author of the critically acclaimed The Last Leaves Falling, and Kaleidoscope Song.


Have you had a chance to read KALEIDOSCOPE SONG yet? Have you used your writing to speak up and reach out to others? Have you read something that allowed you to connect and find your community? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

8 New Releases this week 09/18-09/24 plus 4 Giveaways

Happy Monday! We have a few wonderful line up of giveaways and interviews this week. Make sure to enter to win below, and check out all the other awesome books being released this week!

Happy Reading,

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


* * * *

Speak Easy, Speak Love
by McKelle George
Swag Only Giveaway
U.S. Only

Greenwillow Books
Released 9/19/2017

Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer.

Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother, John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.

Hilariously clever and utterly charming, McKelle George’s debut novel is full of intrigue and 1920s charm. For fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Anna Godbersen.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Speak Easy, Speak Love?

I would have to say the characters and their relationships with each other. The book has a wide cast (much like a Shakespeare play!) and I love how tangled up in each other they are. There are romantic feelings, bonds of friendship, and familial relationships, all criss-crossing with each other and making life messy and complicated, but also full of love—and all set in the fascinating time period of the 1920s!

Purchase Speak Easy, Speak Love at Amazon
Purchase Speak Easy, Speak Love at IndieBound
View Speak Easy, Speak Love on Goodreads

* * * *

Kaleidoscope Song
by Fox Benwell
Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Released 9/19/2017

South Africa is loud. Listen. Do you hear the song and dance of it? The chorus of Khayelitsha life? Every voice is different, its pitch and tone and intonation as distinct as the words we choose and how we wrap our mouths around them. But everybody has a voice, and everybody sings…

Fifteen year old Neo loves music, it punctuates her life and shapes the way she views the world. A life in radio is all she’s ever wanted.
When Umzi Radio broadcasts live in a nearby bar Neo can’t resist. She sneaks out to see them, and she falls in love, with music, and the night, but also with a girl: Tale has a voice like coffee poured into a bright steel mug, and she commands the stage.

It isn’t normal. Isn’t right. Neo knows that she’s supposed to go to school and get a real job and find a nice young boy to settle down with. It’s written everywhere – in childhood games, and playground questions, in the textbooks, in her parents’ faces. But Tale and music are underneath her skin, and try as she might, she can’t stop thinking about them.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Kaleidoscope Song?

I’m fond of a lot within this book; the music and musicality of it, the queerness and a sense of queer community, some particular descriptions and scenes, but my very, very favourite, pure joy thing is probably Jeso, and his protective-little-brother relationship with Neo. He’s cute and wild and empathetic, and he notices and understands a whole lot more than people give him credit for. Which is often the way: adults could learn a thing or two about acceptance from the younger generation.

Purchase Kaleidoscope Song at Amazon
Purchase Kaleidoscope Song at IndieBound
View Kaleidoscope Song on Goodreads

* * * *

Book of Shadows
by M. Verano
Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Simon Pulse
Released 9/19/2017

All Melanie wants is a blank book to keep a journal of her private thoughts. One day while browsing in a used bookshop, she finds the perfect blank book—smooth black leather with strange symbols in gold embossing. But once she gets home, Melanie finds herself too intimidated by the heavy vellum pages to write her trivial thoughts on them. Her Wiccan friend Lara tells her it’s better suited to be a magical spell book, called The Book of Shadows.

Melanie doesn’t know much about that stuff, but Lara, her boyfriend Caleb, and his friend Lucas, get her started by writing their own made up spells inside the book’s tempting pages. What they didn’t expect was a new spell showing up inside the book—and in handwriting none of them recognize.

Soon they discover that the spells suggested by The Book of Shadows itself do work—but not without wreaking havoc on the lives of the four teenagers.

Purchase Book of Shadows at Amazon
Purchase Book of Shadows at IndieBound
View Book of Shadows on Goodreads

* * * *

The Victoria in My Head
by Janelle Milanes
Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Simon Pulse
Released 9/19/2017

Victoria Cruz inhabits two worlds: In one, she is a rock star, thrashing the stage with her husky voice and purple-streaked hair. In the other, currently serving as her reality, Victoria is a shy teenager with overprotective Cuban parents, who sleepwalks through her life at the prestigious Evanston Academy. Unable to overcome the whole paralyzing-stage-fright thing, Victoria settles for living inside her fantasies, where nothing can go wrong and everything is set to her expertly crafted music playlists.

But after a chance encounter with an unattainably gorgeous boy named Strand, whose band seeks a lead singer, Victoria is tempted to turn her fevered daydreams into reality. To do that, she must confront her insecurities and break away from the treadmill that is her life. Suddenly, Victoria is faced with the choice of staying on the path she’s always known and straying off-course to find love, adventure, and danger.

From debut author Janelle Milanes comes a hilarious and heartfelt tale of the spectacular things that can happen when you go after what you really want.

Purchase The Victoria in My Head at Amazon
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View The Victoria in My Head on Goodreads


Mean Girls: A Novel by Micol Ostow (swag pack): John S.
Michael Vey 7: The Final Spark by Richard Paul Evans: Danielle H.
Too Shattered for Mending by Peter Brown Hoffmeister: Susan L, Rosi H, Michael H
Water in May by Ismée Williams: Joycedale C.
When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter: Imari H.
You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins: Brittany D.


* * * *

by Jennifer Mathieu
Roaring Brook Press
Released 9/19/2017

An unlikely teenager starts a feminist revolution at a small-town Texan high school in the new novel from Jennifer, author of The Truth About Alice.


Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with a school administration at her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment, and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv's mom was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the '90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother's past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She's just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Moxie is a book about high school life that will make you wanna riot!

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Moxie?

My favorite thing about MOXIE...that's so hard to choose! I loved writing it. It was a very fun process to write that book. I listened to a lot of old feminist punk from my youth and had a lot of fun getting to know Vivian and the other Moxie girls. But I think my favorite thing about it is knowing that - or at least hoping that - the story gets into the hands of young women and gets them excited about feminism and gender equality. It's my hope that MOXIE functions in much the way that Riot Grrrl music functioned for me when I was young - as a sort of gateway drug to feminism!

Purchase Moxie at Amazon
Purchase Moxie at IndieBound
View Moxie on Goodreads

* * * *

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore
by Kelly Jones
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Released 9/19/2017

The year is 1818, the city is London, and 16-year-old Annis Whitworth has just learned that her father is dead and all his money is missing. And so, of course, she decides to become a spy.

Annis always suspected that her father was himself a spy, and following in his footsteps to unmask his killer makes perfect sense. Alas, it does not make sense to England’s current spymasters—not even when Annis reveals that she has the rare magical ability to sew glamours: garments that can disguise the wearer completely.

Well, if the spies are too pigheaded to take on a young woman of quality, then Annis will take them on. And so she crafts a new double life for herself. Miss Annis Whitworth will appear to live a quiet life in a country cottage with her aunt, and Annis-in-disguise as Madame Martine, glamour artist, will open a magical dressmaking shop. That way she can earn a living, maintain her social standing, and, in her spare time, follow the coded clues her father left behind and unmask his killer.

It can’t be any harder than navigating the London social season, can it?

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Murder, Magic, and What We Wore?

The characters! Annis is a sixteen-year-old girl who’s confident in her abilities (even when no one else is – and even when she has no reason to be!) It’s so much fun to write someone who sees the paths open to her, and instead tries to make new ones. Another great delight was asking other writers of Regency novels if I could give a glimpse of their characters within my book. Look for gossip about characters you might recognize, and check your findings with the list in the back!

Purchase Murder, Magic, and What We Wore at Amazon
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View Murder, Magic, and What We Wore on Goodreads


* * * *

A Poison Dark and Drowning
by Jessica Cluess
Random House Books for Young Readers
Released 9/19/2017

In this seductive and explosive second book in the Kingdom on Fire series, Jessica Cluess delivers her signature mix of magic, passion, and teen warriors fighting for survival.

Henrietta doesn't need a prophecy to know that she's in danger. She came to London to be named the chosen one, the first female sorcerer in centuries, the one who would defeat the Ancients. Instead, she discovered a city ruled by secrets. And the biggest secret of all: Henrietta is not the chosen one.

Still, she must play the role in order to keep herself and Rook, her best friend and childhood love, safe. But can she truly save him? The poison in Rook's system is transforming him into something monstrous as he begins to master dark powers of his own. So when Henrietta finds a clue to the Ancients past that could turn the tide of the war, she persuades Blackwood, the mysterious Earl of Sorrow-Fell, to travel up the coast to seek out strange new weapons. And Magnus, the brave, reckless flirt who wants to win back her favor, is assigned to their mission. Together, they will face monsters, meet powerful new allies, and uncover the most devastating weapon of all: the truth.

Purchase A Poison Dark and Drowning at Amazon
Purchase A Poison Dark and Drowning at IndieBound
View A Poison Dark and Drowning on Goodreads

* * * *

Finding You
by Lydia Albano
Swoon Reads
Released 9/19/2017

Taken from home and family, all they have is each other.

Isla is kidnapped from a train platform in broad daylight, and thrust into a nightmare when she is sold to a sadistic aristocrat. Locked in a dungeon with a dozen other girls, Isla's only comfort is a locket and the memory of the boy she loves. But as days pass and more girls disappear, she realizes that help is not coming... If they're going to survive, they'll have to escape on their own.

Swoon Reads is proud to present Lydia Albano's debut novel, a powerful story of a teen girl finding strength and hope in even the worst circumstances.

Purchase Finding You at Amazon
Purchase Finding You at IndieBound
View Finding You on Goodreads

* * * *

Hunting Prince Dracula
by Kerri Maniscalco
jimmy patterson; Lrg edition
Released 9/19/2017

In this hotly anticipated sequel to the haunting #1 bestseller Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer...or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper's true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe's best schools of forensic medicine...and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life's dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school's forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.

Purchase Hunting Prince Dracula at Amazon
Purchase Hunting Prince Dracula at IndieBound
View Hunting Prince Dracula on Goodreads

* * * *

Jane, Unlimited
by Kristin Cashore
Kathy Dawson Books
Released 9/19/2017

Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family's island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: "If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you'll go." With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn't know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.

Purchase Jane, Unlimited at Amazon
Purchase Jane, Unlimited at IndieBound
View Jane, Unlimited on Goodreads

* * * *

by Zac Brewer
Released 9/19/2017

New York Times bestselling author Zac Brewer delivers his most honest and gripping novel yet, about a girl who believes she’s beyond saving—until she realizes the only person who can save her is herself.

Brooke Danvers is pretending to be fine. She’s gotten so good at pretending that they’re letting her leave inpatient therapy. Now she just has to fake it long enough for her parents and teachers to let their guard down. This time, when she's ready to end her life, there won’t be anyone around to stop her.

Then Brooke meets Derek. Derek is the only person who really gets what Brooke is going through, because he’s going through it too. As they start spending more time together, Brooke suddenly finds herself having something to look forward to every day and maybe even happiness.

But when Derek’s feelings for her intensify, Brooke is forced to accept that the same relationship that is bringing out the best in her might be bringing out the worst in Derek—and that Derek at his worst could be capable of real darkness.

Purchase Madness at Amazon
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View Madness on Goodreads

* * * *

One Dark Throne
by Kendare Blake
Released 9/19/2017


With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before—ones that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent.

In this enthralling sequel to Kendare Blake’s New York Times bestselling Three Dark Crowns, Fennbirn’s deadliest queens must face the one thing standing in their way of the crown: each other.

Purchase One Dark Throne at Amazon
Purchase One Dark Throne at IndieBound
View One Dark Throne on Goodreads

* * * *

by Patrick Ness
Released 9/19/2017

Inspired by Judy Blume’s Forever and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, this novel by award-winning author Patrick Ness is a new classic about teenage relationships, self-acceptance—and what happens when the walls we build start coming down.

Adam Thorn doesn’t know it yet, but today will change his life.

Between his religious family, a deeply unpleasant ultimatum from his boss, and his own unrequited love for his sort-of ex, Enzo, it seems as though Adam’s life is falling apart. At least he has two people to keep him sane: his new boyfriend (he does love Linus, doesn’t he?) and his best friend, Angela.

But all day long, old memories and new heartaches come crashing together, throwing Adam’s life into chaos. The bindings of his world are coming untied one by one; yet in spite of everything he has to let go, he may also find freedom in the release.

From the New York Times-bestselling author of A Monster Calls comes a raw, darkly funny, and deeply affecting story about the courage it takes to live your truth.

Purchase Release at Amazon
Purchase Release at IndieBound
View Release on Goodreads

* * * *

The Lives of Desperate Girls
by MacKenzie Common
Penguin Teen
Released 9/19/2017

One small, northern community. Two girls gone -- one missing, the other dead. A riveting coming-of-age debut young adult novel for fans of Everything I Never Told You and All the Bright Places.

Sixteen-year-old Helen Commanda is found dead just outside Thunder Creek, Ontario. Her murder goes unremarked, except for the fact that it may shed light on the earlier disappearance of Chloe Shaughnessy. Chloe is beautiful, rich and white. Helen is plain, and from the reservation. They had nothing in common except that they were teenage girls from an unforgiving small town. Only Chloe's best friend Jenny Parker knows exactly how unforgiving, but she's keeping some dangerous secrets of her own.

Jenny begins looking for answers about Helen's life and death, trying to understand larger questions about her town and her best friend. But what can a teenage girl really accomplish where adults have failed? And how much is Jenny actually complicit in a conspiracy of silence?

Purchase The Lives of Desperate Girls at Amazon
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View The Lives of Desperate Girls on Goodreads

Sunday, September 17, 2017

0 YA Sunday Morning News: This Week for Writers 9/17/17

Happy Sunday, writers! The summer lull is officially over, and I've got tons of links to prove it...enjoy!

Writing for Publication—Queries and Submissions:

Writing for Publication—Book Marketing and Social Media:

Author Interviews:

Adventures in YA Publishing Author Interviews:

Literary Agent News and Interviews:

Writing and Pitch Contests:

Writing Craft:

Writing Inspiration:

YA Book to Screen Adaptation News:

Publishing News & Trends:

New YA E-Book Deals:

New YA Book Giveaways:

YA Book Awards and Congratulations:

YA New Book Deals and Releases:

Just for Fun:

Saturday, September 16, 2017

0 Peter Brown Hoffmeister, author of TOO SHATTERED FOR MENDING, on writing terrible first drafts

We are thrilled to have Peter Brown Hoffmeister with us to talk about about his latest novel, TOO SHATTERED FOR MENDING.

Peter, what was your inspiration for writing TOO SHATTERED FOR MENDING?

I wanted to write a complicated romance about two brothers who were in love with the same girl. That's where it all started. But then I spent a lot of time in Pierce, Idaho, where the book is set, and I saw how troubled that small town is, a former logging town that's now dealing with a big meth problem. So I asked myself, what would it look like if the brothers were the grandsons of the town's meth king? What if they wanted better lives, but didn't know what to do, how to go forward, how to take care of themselves and others? Under those conditions, how would they learn and adapt? What would they become? And who would they love? I wanted to write a really captivating girl, and that's where Rowan came in. She's got serious problems, but she intrigued me.

0 Jodi Meadows, author of BEFORE SHE IGNITES, on applying ice cream to the sting

We're delighted to have Jodi Meadows here to tell us more about her latest novel, BEFORE SHE IGNITES.

Jodi, how long did you work on BEFORE SHE IGNITES?

The creation date on the file is Fall of 2014, but BSI has been in my head a lot longer than that. I've always wanted to write a story about a girl who loves dragons, and it was probably in 2013 that I thought about writing a story with two people unjustly imprisoned, desperately trying to communicate with each other. Those two ideas crashed together (along with some bigger world-building ideas) in 2014, and at the beginning of 2015, I began working on the book in earnest.

0 Sarah Porter, author of WHEN I CAST YOUR SHADOW, on scenes appearing out of the blue

We are pleased to have Sarah Porter swing by to share more about her latest novel, WHEN I CAST YOUR SHADOW.

Sarah, what book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or vice versa?

Two that come to mind are other recent YA twists on haunting, Nova Ren Suma's marvelous THE WALLS AROUND US and E. Lockhart's WE WERE LIARS. They're both very different from WHEN I CAST YOUR SHADOW, but what they all have in common is that they treat haunting as something connected to the characters' emotions and histories; that is, they aren't about ghosts who just happen to be there, terrorizing anyone they can, but about ghosts who are intimately connected to the protagonists and their actions.

0 Scott Reintgen, author of NYXIA, on Imagine Dragons being required for fight scenes

We're excited to have Scott Reintgen join us to chat about his debut novel, NYXIA.

Scott, how long did you work on NYXIA?

I think this question is so important for folks interested in taking their writing through the traditional route. I started my book in March of 2015 and finished it in just two months. I found an agent in August. We ran through edits for a month and by late October, my book had found a home at Penguin Random House with Crown Books for Young Readers.

Here’s where it gets good: I didn’t receive and start working on edits until April of 2016. In that month, I believe I read my own manuscript at least 8 times. When my book hits shelves on September 12th, we’ll be two years and three months from the day that I finished my first draft. Patience is a big-time virtue for writers.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

2 Mitali Perkins, author of YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR, on writing her first kissing scene

We've had so many amazing authors provide interviews lately that we're spreading them out to Tuesdays and Thursdays rather than overwhelming our readers with writing wisdom on Saturdays.

We're delighted to have Mitali Perkins with us to chat about her latest novel, YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR.

Mitali, what was your inspiration for writing YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR?

The novel is the closest I've come to memoir so it's a little scary as it reaches readers. It's a deeply personal tribute to my parents who came here as immigrants. Some sociologists claim that immigrants are the "best of the best" as they are risk-takers and open to change, and I saw my parents "bring the distant near" as they embraced so-called outsiders into the heart of our family.

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?

I wrote my first kiss scene ever in YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR. It's a bit embarrassing to write a kiss because my family of origin is so traditional and many of them read my fiction. My parents had an arranged marriage, so they smooched AFTER they got married, not before. I do have to confess that writing it was great fun. A writer of erotic queer fiction reviewed the book and said it was one of the steamiest scenes she'd read. Mind you, it's just a kiss. But oh, what a kiss.

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 a rotation of coffee shops so that I don't become "that writer" who hogs a table and hears people muttering, "Get an office, why don't you?" as they walk by.


You Bring the Distant Near
by Mitali Perkins
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released 9/12/2017

This elegant young adult novel captures the immigrant experience for one Indian-American family with humor and heart. Told in alternating teen voices across three generations, You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture--for better or worse.

From a grandmother worried that her children are losing their Indian identity to a daughter wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair to a granddaughter social-activist fighting to preserve Bengali tigers, Perkins weaves together the threads of a family growing into an American identity.

Here is a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

Purchase You Bring the Distant Near at Amazon
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Mitali Perkins (mitaliperkins.com) has written ten novels for young readers, including Rickshaw Girl (chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the top 100 books for children in the past 100 years) and Bamboo People (an American Library Association's Top Ten Novels for Young Adults) Her newest novel, Tiger Boy, won the Charlotte Huck Honor Award and the South Asia Book Award. She has been honored as a "Most Engaging Author" by independent booksellers across the country and selected as a "Literary Light for Children" by the Associates of the Boston Public Library. Mitali was born in Kolkata, India before immigrating to the Bay Area with her family. She has lived in Bangladesh, India, England, Thailand, Mexico, Cameroon, and Ghana, studied at Stanford and U.C. Berkeley, and currently resides in the East Bay where she is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Saint Mary's College of California.


Have you had a chance to read YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR yet? Have you written a novel that feels more like a memoir? Do you enjoy writing kissing scenes? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

0 WoW: Pre-Work for Your Best Work - Sarah Ahiers on project planning

Today, I am beyond excited to present a very special guest post by ASSASSIN'S HEART author, Sarah Ahiers. I'm a bit of an outline and planning wonk, so I love learning more about the systems used by other writers. Plus, if you're a fan of the wonderful ASSASSIN'S HEART or its companion, THIEF'S CUNNING, you might be wondering how Sarah juggles the balls of world building, plotting and character development. This guest post offers fun insight into her 5-step process. Stay tuned for more info about THIEF'S CUNNING after the post. Now, here's Sarah!

Pre-Work for Your Best Work!
By Sarah Ahiers

Writing is hard. Really, really hard. We’ve all had those struggles, the times where you’re working on that first draft and it is just fighting you. And you start to question why it is you’re even a writer in the first place?

Not to mention being faced with the endless struggle of the writing community. The arguments and discussion of the best paths. That timeless question that haunts every newbie writer: should I outline or just wing it? Plan or pants it?

And, of course, the answer is the same as it is for a ton of writing advice: you have to do what’s right for you.

Figuring out your own personal process is one of the most difficult things every newbie writer has to go through. Some discover it right away. For some it will take many unfinished drafts and years of trying different things until they find something that sticks, that lets them regularly complete first drafts. And, sometimes, your process changes, even years later.

I, personally, am a planner. I do a ton of pre-work before I ever start writing my first draft. Because I know if I flounder in the middle of my draft and don’t know where to go, then chances are, I won’t finish the draft. *Sad trombone*

But because of this, I have tried a ton (A TON) of pre-work methods, and I’ve compiled a list of 5 tricks that I think can be useful to many writers (whether a pantser or a plotter) to help make the drafting process easier, faster, and cleaner.

The best thing about this list, too, is that it’s mix and match. If something sounds like it will work for you, give it a shot! If something makes your little pantsing heart balk in terror, throw that one out the window! Your process is your process. I’m only offering suggestions to maybe make writing that first draft a little easier.

1.     Inciting Incident
Now, hardcore pantsers may balk a bit at this, but since this is something that happens in the very beginning of the book, hopefully it’s not too much planning.

Before you set paper to pen, ask yourself, what is the inciting incident? What is the thing that happens that sets my character on their path of change?

This can be something big and external, like my character’s entire family getting murdered in my book ASSASSIN’S HEART, or a man-giant breaking into your house to say “Yer a wizard, Harry,” in HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE.

But it can also be something quieter, or not as obvious. Meeting a girl at a coffee shop, perhaps, who smiles at your character in just the right way.

Or maybe your inciting incident is something that has already happened in the past, and your story starts much later (a buried inciting incident.) That’s fine, too! The key is just thinking about it so you know where you stand. So when you do finally start the draft, you know where you’re beginning and the story and characters can take it from there.

2.     Character Work
We all know that character drives conflict and conflict drives plot, right? So if you have a firm understanding of your character, who they are, how they react to their world, then you’ll have a firm understanding of how your plot will unfold (even if you don’t know what your plot is until you write the book.)

I am terrible at character. I default to writing passive characters who just react to everything. So this pre-work is super important to me, because I can save myself a lot of revising if I get this pre-work done right.

Questions to ask yourself about your character before you even write CHAPTER ONE on your blank document:

·      What does your main character want most in the world before the story even starts?
·      What does your main character want most in the world once the inciting incident happens?
·      Are they the same thing or different? Why or why not?
·      What is the experience that has shaped your character’s worldview or self-image? (Are they an orphan? Do their parents control them too much? Etc etc) How does it affect them?
·      What is your character’s controlling emotion? (In times of stress, do they react with anger? Fear? Defensiveness? Humor? Knowing this will tell you how your character will react to sudden, unexpected plot shifts—this is especially helpful for pantsers!)

If you have a firm understanding of your character, who they are, how they behave, then they will drive your story to those magical first draft words: THE END.

3.     Three Disasters
Maybe you don’t want to know everything that happens in your story. You need to explore as you write, to see where it takes you. And that’s okay! But maybe, too, you can think of a few major plot points to keep you from getting completely lost.

This is where Three Disasters come about, coined from the Snowflake Method.

What are three horrible things that can happen to your character? (Horrible is, of course, relative depending on the type of book you’re writing.)

One of them can be the inciting incident, if you’d like. But what are two more? Does someone die? Do they break up with their SO? Do they lose an arm? The options are limitless!

It’s okay if that first disaster comes about because of external things, but it’s best if those next two disasters come about because your main character is trying to fix things, or driving toward the thing they want most in the world, and they make things worse. How does your character’s controlling emotion lead to the disasters?

If you sit down and write out your three disasters before your draft, you will have three major plot points mapped out and ready for you to aim for as your pen wanders about, letting the gaps fill themselves in.

4.     Write a Query
I know, I know! Query writing is haaaaaard. No one wants to do it (unless you’re me.)
But let me tell you, writing a query before you write the draft is a stone-cold awesome way to get your head on straight about your draft.

Maybe when all is said and done, the finished draft won’t resemble what you wrote in the query, but that’s okay! The point of the pre-work query is to help you write the draft.

You’ll write that query and have a one page synopsis of what you think your story is going to be about. It’s not too detailed, just enough to say what’s going to happen to your character.

Then, when you get to the mid-point of your draft and it’s gotten really hard, and you think you’re a terrible writer, and you’re not even sure if this story is any good, and why did you think this was even an interesting plot, you can whip out your query, give it a read, and be reminded of what it was that you thought was interesting about your story. You’ll see it as a whole, on a micro scale and think “Right. This story sounds cool. I can do this.” And you’ll push forward with your draft.

Bonus! When the draft is finished, you now have a query draft already written to use as a query or a pitch letter or an online blurb!

5.     Outline/Beat Sheet/Whatever
This is where I know pantsers are going to cover their ears and say “Lalala! We can’t hear you!”
And I get it. But hear me out, please!

Not all outlines are created equal. The key is to find one that works for you.

Some outlines are super detailed, telling the writer exactly what happens in every paragraph.

But not all outlines are like that! Mine tend to be a list of scenes. They may say something like “Lea gets arrested.” And then “Lea and Les kiss.” But why/how Lea gets arrested, and what leads to that first kiss, I won’t know until I get to that scene and write it.

An outline can keep you on pace. Maybe writing is like wandering the desert for you, seeing what there is to discover in the wilderness. But an outline could be your compass, making sure that you’re always headed north, and not getting lost along the way.

Even just vaguely thinking about an outline may be enough to make that first draft that much easier to complete.

And that’s it! Those are my 5 pre-work tricks that can help make writing the first draft so much easier. You can experiment within these tricks, too. Maybe you realize you need to go really deep in your character before starting your draft. Or maybe you realize you don’t actually even need outlines as long as you know your three disasters.

The sky is the limit! The key is to figure out what works best for you. And then write your precious little hearts out.

Good drafting, friends.

About Sarah Ahiers
Sarah Ahiers is the author of ASSASSIN’S HEART and THIEF’S CUNNING (HarperTeen.) She has a house full of dogs and other critters, an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University, and when she’s not writing she spends her time with good games, good food, good friends, and good family.

Allegra Saldana has always had to look over her shoulder. As the niece of the infamous assassin Lea Saldana, Allegra is used to hiding from people who want her dead. Once the strongest clipper family in the Kingdom of Lovero, the Saldanas—or what’s left of them—are now the most hunted. Their number one enemy is the Da Vias, whose thirst for retaliation is almost two decades in the making.
But lately Allegra’s getting fed up with everything being kept from her—including her parents’ identity. When she finally learns the truth about her family, though—that she’s a Da Via—her world crumbles. Feeling betrayed by the people she trusted the most, Allegra turns to Nev, a Traveler boy whose presence makes her feel alive in ways she’s only dreamed of.  But getting caught up in Nev’s world has consequences Allegra never saw coming.

In this dark and enthralling fantasy that fans of Sarah Maas and Leigh Bardugo will devour, one girl must decide if she’s destined to pay for the wrongs of her family’s past—whether Saldana or Da Via—or if the future is hers for the taking.
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