Monday, January 24, 2011

10 In Stores This Week (with Interviews & Giveaways)

Welcome to another fantabulous week in YA lit! Like last week, this week features several male authors. They're in the company of two huge female authors, too. Read on for intriguing tales from the road to publication, writerly advice, and a wonderful giveaway all the way at the bottom!

This Week's Interviews

The Charmed Return (Faerie Path #6) by Frewin Jones
  • From Goodreads: She was once a princess of Faerie, the seventh daughter of King Oberon. But sixteen-year-old Anita Palmer wakes up in London with no memory of the Faerie Realm; her princess identity; her true love, Edric; or her quest to save Faerie from a deadly plague that ravaged it. Anita must reawaken Tania, her Faerie self…but how? And who can she trust when not even her memories are safe? Her quest leads to a thrilling final battle, with her own destiny—as well as the fate of both Faerie and the Mortal World—at stake.
What routines do you find helpful for you to stay actively writing?
I write for a living, which means I am usually writing to deadlines set by publishers. This means I have to do my best to set up my working day in as organized a way as possible – pretty much like going to the office!

My daily routine is to start work about 8 in the morning. I begin by checking my emails, replying to fan mail, responding to mails from colleagues and editors etc. Then I open the file of the book I am working on. I usually check the previous day’s work first – changing anything I’m not happy with, editing and improving and reminding myself what has just happened, before setting off writing the next section/chapter/scene. My target is normally to write about 2000 to 2500 words a day. This can take from three to five or six hours depending on how well my brain is working. My wife Claudia comes home from work in the early afternoon, and I stop work then. If I’m behind schedule I will get back to my computer in the evening when Claudia is in bed or back at work (she works shifts that often mean she works nights). If I don’t need to work, I will watch movies on DVD or read something or even do some browsing on the Internet.

Of course, part of being a writer is that even when I am not actively writing, my brain is usually churning away on ideas – which means it’s useful to have a note pad and a pen close by, so I can scribble down thoughts as they come to me. Often these thoughts will be about the following day’s work, but sometimes they pop into my head as better ways of writing something from today, or yesterday, or even from a week or so ago.

For me the most useful “routine” is the one where I plot the book out in quite fine detail before I start writing it. Plotting stories out from start to finish helps me a lot – and prevents me from opening the file one morning and finding I have no idea what happens next. I know that for some people plotting everything out seems really boring – making stories up as you go along is part of the fun – but to make a living from writing, you can’t afford to hit a wall and wait for inspiration to come.

As a published writer, do you feel pressure to balance your creative writing license with what the audience wants? If so, how do you balance the two?
That is a very interesting question, especially as writing is my main source of income. I cannot afford to spend six months writing a book that no publisher will be interested in, so I usually want to know in advance that the book is going to be published before I start writing. In other words, I do need to make sure the book I want to write will be of interest to a publisher. For instance, twenty years ago, no publisher was interested in fantasy books. I really like fantasy books, but back then I couldn’t get anything with fantasy in it published, so I wrote other things – mystery stories, romances, family stories, cops’n’robbers stories, etc etc. Then Harry Potter came along and all of a sudden publishers all wanted fantasy – which allowed me to write The Faerie Path books and Warrior Princess. At the moment, there seems to be a growing interest in Steam Punk stories – I have been asked to write a Steam Punk short story for an anthology that is coming out in May this year “Clockwork & Corsets”. I really like Steam Punk, so if I can convince publishers to publish some Steam Punk by me, that would be great. If not, I’ll have to try and find something else that interests me and that they are also interested in. So, you see, from the point of view of making a living, I do have to pay a lot of attention to what the “audience” wants – meaning, what publishers believe the audience wants.

But as a professional writer, it’s part of my job to give 100% commitment to whatever project I’m working on, and to make sure that, whatever the genre, I write a book that I would be happy to read.

What advice would you offer writers to build their platform before they become published?
I’d like to start by saying that becoming a published writer is getting harder and harder all the time. For every writer who is published, there are probably hundreds of writers who desperately want to be published but maybe never will be. If you enjoy writing, my advice would be to write principally for your own entertainment and forget everything else – to start off with, anyway.

Writing is a craft and a skill – and like any other craft or skill, it takes time to learn how to do it well.

These days many people like to post their writing on the Internet – and to an extent, this is quite a good idea for budding writers – it can open your work to outside criticism and examination, and it can help you to improve your story-telling skills – but bear in mind that a publisher is unlikely to want to buy and publish for money a story that is already available for free on the Internet.

Don’t give your best ideas away for nothing!

The best bet is to find yourself a Literary Agent who will help you to hone your work for the market – this is something that publishers rarely have the time to do. Alternatively, if you don’t yet think your work is quite ready for that, you could always join a creative writer’s course or group – either on the Internet or locally – just be wary of groups that ask for money up-front – and be especially wary these days of Internet companies who offer to publish your work for a fee – such companies are perfectly happy to publish anything at all so long as the writer stumps up the money! If your work is good enough for the market, then it is good enough to make you some money.

Self-promotion never does any harm, but bear in mind that there are thousands upon thousands of other budding writers out there – and they are all blogging and tweeting and clamoring to be noticed – your best bet, if you want to be published, is to contact a Literary Agent or a reputable Publisher.

How much do trends influence your writing?
As I suggested above, publishers are always looking for and jumping on the latest fashion or trend – in the early years of this century, they wanted fantasy like Harry Potter – at the moment they are desperate for something along the same lines as Twilight – and in a few years…what? That’s the impossible question. No one knows what will be the next big thing. A lot of people in the publishing world THINK they do, but projects that are heavily advertised and showered with money can still fall flat. And at the same time, small books can quickly grow huge simply because the people who have read them love them and talk about them and get their friends to buy them.

So, the answer to your question is that I do obviously need to have some idea of what publishers want, but at the same time it’s pointless trying to write a book like Twilight in the hope of getting it published while the genre is hot property. I like the supernatural and sci-fi and fantasy – but to write a book simply to appeal to publishers is no fun at all.

So, I’d say, I do keep an eye on trends, and make the most of them when they appeal – as with the fantasy trend, but I would not want to write books based on the latest trend if it was something I didn’t find interesting.

Drought by Pam Bachorz

  • From Goodreads: Ruby Prosser dreams of escaping the Congregation and the early-nineteenth century lifestyle that’s been practiced since the community was first enslaved. She plots to escape the vicious Darwin West, his cruel Overseers, and the daily struggle to gather the life-prolonging Water that keeps the Congregants alive and gives Darwin his wealth and power. But if Ruby leaves, the Congregation will die without the secret ingredient that makes the Water special: her blood. So she stays. But when Ruby meets Ford, the new Overseer who seems barely older than herself, her desire for freedom is too strong. He’s sympathetic, irresistible, forbidden—and her only access to the modern world. Escape with Ford would be so simple, but can Ruby risk the terrible price, dooming the only world she’s ever known?
How long did you work on this book?
I worked on this book for about ten months.

How was your journey to publication? Long, short, how many rejections?
This is my second book, and I was already under contract with my publisher to publish it--so my journey, in that way, was pretty easy! However I still did a LOT of editing and revising work with my editor. In fact I completely rewrote the book after I got her feedback, at one point, shifting the timeline back.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
My biggest advice would be to make writing a priority. Schedule your time to write and stick to it. It's so easy to let the real world push away your precious and spare writing time. That still happens to me, even when I DO schedule time.

What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
Something I didn't expect is that I am always "moving the bar": the writing accomplishment I celebrated a year ago doesn't feel as exciting the second time around. I have to remind myself to mark and celebrate each milestone, for each book, for they really are just as exceptional as the first time around.

Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith
  • From Goodreads: Quincie P. Morris, teen restaurateuse and neophyte vampire, is in the fight of her life — or undeath. Even as she adjusts to her new appetites, she must clear her best friend and true love, the hybrid werewolf Kieren, of murder charges; thwart the apocalyptic ambitions of Bradley Sanguini, the seductive vampire-chef who "blessed" her; and keep her dead parents’ restaurant up and running. She hires a more homespun chef and adds the preternaturally beautiful Zachary to her wait staff. But with hundreds of new vampires on the rise and Bradley off assuming the powers of Dracula Prime, Zachary soon reveals his true nature — and a flaming sword — and they hit the road to staunch the bloodshed before it’s too late. Even if they save the world, will there be time left to salvage Quincie’s soul? 
How long did you work on this book?
Let's see, I have two answers to that question. The first involves the actual manuscript that became Blessed (Candlewick).

I wrote the proposal for my editor in March 2008. I'd gone with my very cute husband (and sometimes co-author) Greg Leitich Smith to a continuing education conference for patent attorneys at the Arizona Biltmore. The place opened in 1929. It's swanky, designed in the Craftsman tradition (think: Frank Lloyd Wright). Irving Berlin penned "White Christmas" by the pool. Marilyn Monroe referred to that same pool as her favorite.

While Greg attended lectures, I grabbed a chair around the pool, then, later, another around the fire pit, and brainstormed.

Blessed is the third book in the Tantalize series. It crosses over the two previous casts, and I had a general idea of where the story needed to go. But the Biltmore exudes creative magic. Murky plot elements literally poured from my fingertips onto the page.

The second answer is: since late 2001/early 2002. Because Blessed is part of a larger world (and preceded by both Tantalize and Eternal), it would've been impossible to write if I hadn't clocked quality time world building back in the beginning.

Early on, I studied the preceding YA Gothics and those published for grown-ups, going all the way back to the classics. Then I looked at the mythologies, the oral stories, that inspired them. All of that informed the world reflected novel 3.

How was your journey to publication? Long, short, how many rejections?
I began writing for young readers with an eye toward publication in the late 1990s, when I was still in my twenties. It took me about two and a half years to secure my first contract--for Jingle Dancer, a children's picture book (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000)--and sign with my agent, Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown Ltd. in New York.

I attribute this speedy path to publication to a long history as a reader, a handful of short story classes that I'd taken as an undergraduate at the University of Kansas, to several years as journalist--writing daily and working with editors, to the confidence I gained at the University of Michigan Law School, and to the student loans I racked up at that same fine institution. I didn't have the financial luxury to be a hobbyist. Instead, I've been writing with the idea of making a living at it since day one.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
It's not about you, it's about the story. It's not about the folks who raise an eyebrow because you're not yet published or not yet J.K. Rowling. It's not about what that lady at church may think or, for that matter, the critics. It's not about the fact that you can't please everyone, and it's sure as heck not about the odds. In the immortal words of Gold Five, "Stay on target." You may or may not be the one who destroys the Death Star. But you're a hero if you get out of your own way, put it all on the line, and try.

What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
What surprises me most is that I get to fully belong in this enchanting world of story makers and book lovers. I'm still star struck about having actually met Katherine Paterson, whose Bridge to Terabithia in part inspired my own first novel, Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001). And I'm still wowed when a reader says that my writing has touched them in some way. Absolutely wowed.

Vesper (Deviants #1) by Jeff Sampson
  • From Goodreads: Emily Webb is a geek. And she’s happy that way. Content hiding under hoodies and curling up to watch old horror flicks, she’s never been the kind of girl who sneaks out for midnight parties. And she’s definitely not the kind of girl who starts fights or flirts with other girls’ boyfriends. Until one night Emily finds herself doing exactly that . . . the same night one of her classmates—also named Emily—is found mysteriously murdered. The thing is, Emily doesn’t know why she’s doing any of this. By day, she’s the same old boring Emily, but by night, she turns into a thrill seeker. With every nightfall, Emily gets wilder until it’s no longer just her personality that changes. Her body can do things it never could before: Emily is now strong, fast, and utterly fearless. And soon Emily realizes that she’s not just coming out of her shell . . . there’s something much bigger going on. Is she bewitched by the soul of the other, murdered Emily? Or is Emily Webb becoming something else entirely— something not human? As Emily hunts for answers, she finds out that she’s not the only one this is happening to—some of her classmates are changing as well. Who is turning these teens into monsters—and how many people will they kill to get what they want?
How long did you work on this book?
I first got the idea for Vesper in January 2007. The actual writing time for the first draft was maybe a month or so, and then there were many revisions between then and January 2010, and of course copy and line edits throughout the past year. So, basically, four years all told!

How was your journey to publication? Long, short, how many rejections?
I actually had a very odd publication journey. When I was 18 I was asked to help create some stories for a book series called Remnants, since the series creators were mentors of mine. That was a decade ago, and between then and now I also wrote 6 or 7 work-for-hire fantasy novels. Vesper is my official debut, so even though I more or less jumped into this business early on, it took ten years of hard work before finally getting to publish my own original ideas. I actually never experienced rejection until I went on the agent search for Vesper a few years back. The search was half a year and I got 6 rejections before a recommendation from one rejecting agent led me to Michael Stearns, who turned out to be a fantastic fit for me.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
This was told to me a long time ago, and it's what I often repeat when asked this: Don't worry about writing THE book, just write A book. It’s okay if your book isn’t one hundred percent perfect. If you obsess over that, you’ll never be able to finish anything. So I’m happy to write a bunch of A books and hope that perhaps one day I’ll surprise myself by writing THE book. This may not be the advice for everyone, but I find that it helps me let go of stress and get my stories down.

What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
Well I mentioned above that I did work-for-hire novels before, so I thought I knew all about being a published author. But debuting of an original work from a big publisher is such a massively different experience. I guess the biggest thing is the idea that there were hundreds if not thousands of people who would read my silly stories used to be more of an abstract thought. But with Vesper, I've been getting far more attention than I ever expected, and it's sort of nerve-wracking. It's definitely not a bad thing to have people pay attention to your work, but it's a new sensation for me that I'm still getting used to!

Additional Releases

Famous by Todd Strasser
  • From Goodreads: All Jamie Gordon wants to do is to take pictures of celebrities...and maybe to become famous herself. She's only fourteen, but already her pictures are sought after by fanzines and websites, and she's invited to all the best parties. And now she has the chance of a lifetime. She has been invited to spend a week with Willow Twine, taking pictures of the teen superstar's new chaste life. But when Jamie gets her hands on some sensational shots of Willow, she's suddenly in over her head. The pictures could make her career...and destroy Willow's. Everybody seems to want to get their hands on the photos, and Jamie has to decide what she really wants...and what she's willing to pay to get it.

Throat by R.A. Nelson
  • From Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Emma feels cursed by her epilepsy—until the lost night. She's shocked to wake up in the hospital one morning, weak from blood loss. When her memories begin to return, she pieces together that it was a man—a monster—who attacked her: a vampire named Wirtz. And it was her very condition that saved her: a grand mal seizure interrupted Wirtz and left Emma with all the amazing powers of a vampire—heightened senses, rapid speed—but no need to drink blood. Is Emma now a half-vampire girl? One thing soon becomes clear: the vampire Wirtz is fierce and merciless, feared even by his own kind, and won't leave a job undone.

We've featured author Frewin Jones in the past and we have to share that he is one of THE nicest authors ever! He's offered up a copy of THE CHARMED RETURN to one lucky reader! Please leave a comment on this post and fill out the form below for a chance to win. The contest is open to US residents. We'll announce the winner on Thursday!

Happy reading,
The Ladies of ACP


  1. Fabulous interviews. I enjoyed them all. I can't believe Cynthia went to U of M law school. I know I was already living here at the time and would have loved to have met her.

  2. Natalie,
    I wish we had connected then! Keep an eye out for me in book world. We have some catching up to do!
    Cheers, Cynthia

  3. wow this is so cool looking forward to all of them love the covers so pretty

  4. Always amazing - the stories about the paths to publication!

  5. They all look great! But VESPER really has my attention.

  6. Great interviews and spotlights! I always look for this weekly post to see what new books are out there for me to go broke buying. :-) I particularly enjoyed the interview with Frewin Jones and Cynthia's advice. The books by both of these authors have definitely been added to my amazon cart!

  7. Awesome interview! All of the covers are amazing.

  8. Wow! Great interviews. Exciting list!

  9. Wow so many good books. I want them all. I would like to win either Blessed or Drought. I actually want to win them all but I know I can't lol.

  10. So many good books - good luck to my US buddies!


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