Tuesday, December 12, 2017

1 YALLFest Interview with Jeff Zentner

I can't believe YALLFest was over a month ago already! It was another fabulous weekend, and the festival just gets bigger and better every year. This year it pretty much consumed the entire city of Charleston. I'm honored that for the third year I got to interview some of the charming and talented authors who were there. 

However, I must apologize for taking so long to get the interviews posted. November did its usual chaotic thing and had me feeling like this:
and like this:

I've finally had a chance to transcribe my interviews and will be posting them over the next few weeks. Luckily, these authors were worth the wait!

First up is Jeff Zentner, who won the William C. Morris Award and was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for his novel The Serpent King

Not this kind of Serpent King
This kind! 

Jeff, I know you started as a musician - so what did your journey to publication look like?

I did music for a long time, and I started volunteering at Tennessee Teen Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp, and through that I kind of just fell in love with young adults and wanted to make art for them. By that point, I was too old to make the kind of music that gets marketed to young adults, and so I decided to switch horses and try something else. So I tried my hand at writing a young adult novel to reach young adults, and I gave it to a friend to read, and she had a literary agent, and she said I think my agent would like this, so she passed it on to him, and he liked it and took it and sold it to Random House.

Wow, that’s one of the easier journeys to publication we’ve heard about here at AYAP! So do you think being a songwriter impacted your writing in any way?

Yeah, it did. It made me have an appreciation for economy of language and for musicality of language and the way words flow. And more than anything else, it gave me confidence in my ability to create original stories and ideas.

Do you still write songs?

No. Nope, totally retired.

Besides the setting itself, does being a Southern writer affect your writing?

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, obviously the place influences my writing greatly – all my books are set in the South – so the setting kinda becomes almost like a character. And I read a lot of Southern writers, and I love the way they write about place and they way they write about unique cultural quirks of the South and Southern people. Southern people are just really kind of like natural storytellers, and so it’s fun to write about them.

Has there been an AHA! moment during your publishing journey where you finally felt you had the key to writing?

No, no, I would love for that moment to come, but every time I go to write a novel it’s like I don’t know what I’m doing there. I have no clue. I have no idea how to write a novel. I always feel like a fraud. Like I just somehow found my way into this, and I have no idea how.

Can you tell us more about your next book, TV Six?

Yeah, so it was pitched as Wayne’s World meets Ghost World, and I have to give David Arnold credit for that piece of brilliance. It’s about two girls who have a TV show on their local public access station where they show cheesy horror movies from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and they dress up like vampires and do little skits and puppet shows and interludes during the movie. One of the girls wants to use the show to reconnect with her father, who abandoned her when she was young and left behind his trove of horror movies on VHS. And the other girl wants to use the show to springboard her TV career. The book is really about whether each one of them will be able to use the show to do what they want to do or if they’re gonna have to go their separate ways. 
What is your greatest weakness as a writer, and what have you done to improve that?

I used to be really afraid to write dialog. I just didn’t think I could write dialog. So I read a lot of books with really good dialog and really studied it, really started listening to people talk, and studying the way people talk. And just practicing writing dialog to where my new book, TV Six, is mostly dialog. It’s probably like 80% dialog at least.

So you just dove right in?

Dove right in, yeah, just forced myself.

Thanks for chatting with me, Jeff!

Readers, do you have a musical background? Has it affected your writing? What about the region where you live - has it become a character in your novels? How are you at writing dialog - is it a strength or weakness for you? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,



Goodbye Days
by Jeff Zentner
Crown Books for Young Readers
Released 3/7/2017

Can a text message destroy your life?

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Then Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families of his lost friends grieve with their own memorial days, along with Eli’s bereaved girlfriend Jesmyn. But not everyone is willing to forgive. Carver’s own despair and guilt threatens to pull him under into panic and anxiety as he faces punishment for his terrible mistake. Can the goodbye days really help?

Purchase Goodbye Days at Amazon
Purchase Goodbye Days at IndieBound
View Goodbye Days on Goodreads


Jeff Zentner is the author of the William C. Morris Award winning and Carnegie Medal longlisted book The Serpent King (2016) as well as Goodbye Days (2017). He lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He came to writing through music, starting his creative life as a guitarist and eventually becoming a songwriter. He’s released five albums and appeared on recordings with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Thurston Moore, Debbie Harry, Mark Lanegan, and Lydia Lunch, among others.

Now he writes novels for young adults. He became interested in writing for young adults after volunteering at the Tennessee Teen Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp. As a kid, his parents would take him to the library and drop him off, where he would read until closing time. He worked at various bookstores through high school and college.

He speaks fluent Portuguese, having lived in the Amazon region of Brazil for two years.

Monday, December 11, 2017

1 New Releases this week 12/11-12/17!

Happy Monday! We hope your December is treating you alright so far. Make sure to check out the awesome books being released this week!

Happy Reading,

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


* * * *

Freed by Flame and Storm
by Becky Allen
Delacorte Press
Released 12/12/2017

Revolution is nigh, and one seventeen-year-old girl stands at the head of it all.

Jae used to be a slave, laboring with the rest of her people under a curse that forced her to obey any order she was given. At seventeen, she found the source of her people’s lost magic and became the only person to break free—ever. Now she wants to use her power to free the rest of her people, but the ruling class will do anything to stop her.

Jae knows that breaking the curse on her people would cause widespread chaos, even unimaginable violence between the castes, and her caste would likely see the worst of it. Many would die. But to let them remain shackled is to doom them to continue living without free will.

How is one girl, raised a slave and never taught to wield power, supposed to decide the fate of a nation?

Purchase Freed by Flame and Storm at Amazon
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View Freed by Flame and Storm on Goodreads

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The Truth Beneath the Lies
by Amanda Searcy
Delacorte Press
Released 12/12/2017

Fight or Flight.

All Kayla Asher wants to do is run. Run from the government housing complex she calls home. Run from her unstable mother. Run from a desperate job at No Limit Foods. Run to a better, cleaner, safer life. Every day is one day closer to leaving.

All Betsy Hopewell wants to do is survive. Survive the burner phone hidden under her bed. Survive her new rules. Survive a new school with new classmates. Survive being watched. Every minute grants her another moment of life.

But when fate brings Kayla and Betsy together, only one girl will live.

Purchase The Truth Beneath the Lies at Amazon
Purchase The Truth Beneath the Lies at IndieBound
View The Truth Beneath the Lies on Goodreads

Saturday, December 9, 2017

0 Pintip Dunn, author of SEIZE TODAY, on not giving up after rejection

SEIZE TODAY is the third book in the Forget Tomorrow series, and we're thrilled to have Pintip Dunn stop by today to tell us more about it.

Pintip, what is your favorite thing about SEIZE TODAY?

SEIZE TODAY is the third and final book of my FORGET TOMORROW series, so it is the culmination of everything I've been building toward since the first moments of the first book! In this book, we get to see Olivia Dresden, the only true precognitive of her time, have a showdown with her mother, the evil Chairwoman Dresden, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

This series features a world where memories can be sent back to your younger self. (For instance, in FORGET TOMORROW, my heroine Callie sees a vision of her future self killing her little sister!) The books are filled with memories that the characters receive from their future selves. One of my very favorite things about this series is that the reader gets to see each and every memory play out, in one way or the other. It might be in the second book or the third book or even the novella, but every memory has a purpose in this story. You might just have to wait until the third book to understand it's true meaning!

What was your inspiration for writing SEIZE TODAY?

SEIZE TODAY is the third and final book in the FORGET TOMORROW series.

I had been writing seriously for years and was getting frustrated with the publication process, namely the rejections. My editor friend said to me: "I wish I had a crystal ball. Then, I could tell you five years from now, you will definitely be published and you wouldn't worry about it so much."

A few days later, I was taking a nap with my toddler son and in that hazy state between being sleep and awake. "Wouldn't it be great," I thought, "if we could send memories to our younger selves? Then I could see myself as a successful author and know that all this sweat and blood and tears were worth it." My next thought was: "Hey, that would make a great idea for a book!" And presto: the FORGET TOMORROW series was born!

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?

In FORGET TOMORROW, we meet a character named Angela, who refuses to marry the love of her life because she received a vision of her future child crawling off a cliff. After Callie proves to the world that the future can be changed, Angela relents, marries Mikey, and has a baby named Remi.

One of my favorite scenes in SEIZE TODAY is when we see Angela's memory play out. It is -- and isn't -- what we assume, and I think it was both heart-pounding and teary for me to write that scene!

How long did you work on SEIZE TODAY?

Approximately six months for the first draft, although I was probably actively writing for about four months.

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

My path to publishing was long and twisty. It was fifteen years between the time I wrote my first manuscript and the day my debut novel released. I found an agent after writing my fourth book (querying my third), and after I signed, I was on submission for three years with three different books. All in all, from agents and editors, I received 150 rejections before I got my first offer. At that point, things began to happen very quickly, and I sold 7 books in approximately 7 months. This is why it is important to write the next book when you are on submission!

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

Persevere. If writing is in your heart, if being a published author is your dream, don't give up. Earlier, I mentioned that I had been rejected 150 times before I got my first offer. If I had given up after any one of those rejections, I wouldn't be where I am today. I wouldn't be living my dream.


Seize Today
by Pintip Dunn
Entangled: Teen
Released 10/3/2017

The third book in the New York Times bestselling and RITA award winning Forget Tomorrow series is a thrilling conclusion to an epic trilogy.

Seventeen-year-old precognitive Olivia Dresden is an optimist. Since different versions of people's futures flicker before her eyes, she doesn't have to believe in human decency. She can literally see the path to goodness in each person—if only he or she would make the right decision. No one is more conflicted than her mother, Chairwoman Dresden, and Olivia is fiercely loyal to the woman her mother could be.

But when the Chairwoman captures Ryder Russell, a boy from the rebel Underground, Olivia is forced to reevaluate her notions of love and faith. With Ryder's help, Olivia must come to terms with who her mother is in the present—and stop her before she destroys the world.

Purchase Seize Today at Amazon
Purchase Seize Today at IndieBound
View Seize Today on Goodreads


Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Pintip’s novel, FORGET TOMORROW, won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. It is also a finalist for the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, the Japanese Sakura Medal, the MASL Truman Award, and the Tome Society It list. In addition, THE DARKEST LIE was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her other books include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, SEIZE TODAY, and GIRL ON THE VERGE.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland.

Social Media Links:
Website  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram   Goodreads


Have you had a chance to read SEIZE TODAY yet? Have you ever been struck by a story idea while waking up from a nap? Are you inspired by Pintip's journey from 150 rejections to selling seven books in seven months? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

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

Monday, December 4, 2017

1 New Releases this week 12/04-12/10!

Happy Monday! We hope your December is treating you alright so far. Make sure to check out the awesome books being released this week!

Happy Reading,

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


R.I.P. Eliza Hart by Alyssa B. Sheinmel: Stephanie D.B.
Ready to Fall: A Novel by Marcella Pixley: Kayeleen H.
Run Away With Me by Mila Gray: Shannon M.
The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody: Theresa S.


* * * *

Foolish Hearts
by Emma Mills
Henry Holt and Co.
Released 12/5/2017

A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.

The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn't supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn't know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they're both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia's ever seen. As Claudia's world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.

Purchase Foolish Hearts at Amazon
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View Foolish Hearts on Goodreads

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Instructions for a Secondhand Heart
by Tamsyn Murray
Released 12/5/2017

A moving novel about grief, guilt, and the unpredictability of love, for fans of Everything, Everything and All the Bright Places.

Jonny knows better than anyone that life is full of cruel ironies. He's spent every day in a hospital hooked up to machines to keep his heart ticking. Then when a donor match is found for Jonny's heart, that turns out to be the cruelest irony of all. Because for Jonny's life to finally start, someone else's had to end.

That someone turns out to be Neve's twin brother, Leo. When Leo was alive, all Neve wanted was for him (and all his glorious, overshadowing perfection) to leave. Now that Leo's actually gone forever, Neve has no idea how to move forward. Then Jonny walks into her life looking for answers, her brother's heart beating in his chest, and everything starts to change.

Together, Neve and Jonny will have to face the future, no matter how frightening it is, while also learning to heal their hearts, no matter how much it hurts. The final book will feature select illustrations from "Jonny's" sketchbook.

Purchase Instructions for a Secondhand Heart at Amazon
Purchase Instructions for a Secondhand Heart at IndieBound
View Instructions for a Secondhand Heart on Goodreads

Saturday, December 2, 2017

2 Marcella Pixley, author of READY TO FALL, on the courage it takes to finally face your own demons

We're thrilled to have Marcella Pixley stop by and tell us more about her new book, READY TO FALL.

Marcella, what was your inspiration for writing READY TO FALL?

As a teen, I was cursed with an overactive and ridiculously obsessive imagination. Once an idea came into my head, especially if that idea was disturbing, twisted or morbid, I would hold on to it and recycle it endlessly, often for many hours a day, from the moment I woke in the morning, to the moment I finally, and fitfully fell asleep. Since my father was ill during my teen years, one of the things I often obsessed about was death and dying. Like Max, I convinced myself that I was suffering from an imaginary illness that would eventually do me in. The story comes from my desire to express how it feels not to be able to let go of a troubling thought and what kind of courage it takes to finally face your own demons.

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 scenes are the ones where the theater misfits are goofing around together. In the first one, they take Max "boot skating" in a frozen rock quarry, and while Max is stumbling down the snowy path, he finally has the chance to hold hands with Fish for the first time. This scene marks the beginning of the romantic arc of the book, and it is the first time that Max experiences the joy that comes from connection and friendship. I am also very fond of the Truth or Dare scene, where the misfits pile into The Monk's dorm room after rehearsal to partake in forbidden contraband and to test each other's nerves. This is the scene where you learn the most about the romantic dynamics between the characters, and the relationship between Max and Fish is finally recognized.

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

 I would say that this book would appeal to YA lovers who enjoy edgy, contemporary fiction. If you like Rainbow Rowell or John Green, you will probably also like this book. Ready to Fall will appeal to particularly artistic, creative, quirky people who like reading about characters that they might recognize as being like them. Maybe they don't quite fit in to mainstream culture. Maybe they have suffered a loss or lived through a family tragedy. Maybe their imagination is their own worst enemy. Maybe they are on the look-out for a new group of true friends to convince them that life, however imperfect, really is worth living to the fullest.

How long did you work on READY TO FALL? 

I worked on this book for around three years from conception to publication. Ready to Fall went though so many changes! In my first drafts, all I had were disconnected scenes that showed Max's cycle of grief, friendship and redemption. It was less of a story and more of a series of vignettes. Since I began my writing career as a poet, in the early drafts, the novel focused more on lyricism and language than plot. But then, after a year of playing with the vignettes, I began to craft the story, to uncover the driving action and this is where the true story was born. Margaret Ferguson, my editor from Farrar Straus and Giroux is an excellent reader and an exacting mentor. With her guidance, I revised the book more than ten times before either of us were satisfied that we had something special that was ready to put into the hands of YA readers.

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

I wrote most of the later drafts of READY TO FALL in a little cafe in Gloucester Massachusetts called Pleasant Street Tea Company. This is an amazing, funky, local coffee shop right by the harbor that has great alternative music and cool, interesting people who sometimes became the inspiration for my characters. In fact, it was sitting in Pleasant Street Tea Company one afternoon that I got the idea of creating a character with pink hair. I was sitting on my favorite couch, drinking a smoothie and writing the scene where Max takes his tour of The Badwin School, and in comes this girl with a nose ring, a black, vintage rock and roll T shirt and hair the color of cotton candy. I knew she had to become a character in my book. Whoever you are, pink-haired girl, thank you.

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

My advice is to make time in your life to write and to read what you love. If you can, find a writers' group where you can surround yourself with others who have the same dream as you do. Be brave and share your work with them. Ask them for support and critique and give them the same gift when they need it. I was eleven years old when I first decided I wanted to be a writer. I always wished I had a crystal ball to tell me for sure if I would ever be published. The problem is, no one has a crystal ball. All you have is your own determination and your own blind trust that if you keep on trying, and if you believe in the process, you will eventually be published. Write to me if you ever want cheer leading. I will help you remember that is what you were born to do and you can do it if you don't give up. I mean it. Write to me: marcellapixley@yahoo.com. I always write back.

What are you working on now? 

I am working on a novel called Ziggy Karlo. It's about the unlikely friendship between two off-beat teens who rescue each other when their home lives become unbearable. The novel takes place in suburban New England in the early 1980s and it involves Italian food, psychic powers, talking meat cleavers and an albino ferret named Matthew.


Ready to Fall: A Novel
by Marcella Pixley
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released 11/28/2017

When Max Friedman's mother dies of cancer, instead of facing his loss, Max imagines that her tumor has taken up residence in his head. It's a terrible tenant--isolating him from family, distracting him in school, and taunting him mercilessly about his manhood. With the tumor in charge, Max implodes, slipping farther and farther away from reality. Max is sent to the artsy, off-beat Baldwin School to regain his footing. He joins a group of theater misfits in a steam-punk production of Hamlet and slowly becomes friends with Fish, a girl with pink hair and a troubled past, and The Monk, an edgy upperclassman who refuses to let go of the things he loves. For a while, Max almost feels happy. But his tumor is always lurking in the wings--until one night it knocks him down and Max is forced to face the truth, not just about the tumor, but about how important it is to let go of the past.

Purchase Ready to Fall: A Novel at Amazon
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View Ready to Fall: A Novel on Goodreads


Freak, Without Tess, and most recently, Ready To Fall. Freak received four starred reviews and was named a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, and Without Tess was a School Library Journal selection.
Marcella Pixley teaches eighth grade Language Arts at the Carlisle Public Schools. Her poetry has been published in literary journals such as Prairie Schooner, Feminist Studies, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review and Poet Lore, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Ms. Pixley has written three acclaimed young adult novels:

Ms. Pixley lives in an antique farmhouse in Westford, Massachusetts with her husband and two sons. She is a graduate of Vassar College, University of Tennessee and Bread Loaf School of English.


Have you had a chance to read READY TO FALL, yet?
Have you ever discovered that the driving action of a story is very different than you expected? And if so, how did it affect your story?
Do you find your favorite scenes are those that flow easily or those that challenge you?

Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

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