A Writer in the Spotlight – Kat Ellis

A Writer In The Spotlight Logo

 

Hello gentle reader,

I’m very pleased to share another interview with a YA author today! The wonderfully kind and talented Kat Ellis, whose debut BLACKFIN SKY came out in 2014, hasn’t got one but TWO books being released this year!

A Writer in the Spotlight – 34

My interview (7th February 2016)

Kat Ellis

BLACKFIN SKY came out in 2014. What were the highlights of your debut year? Anything you’d do differently?

There were so many amazing firsts during my debut year – my first author panel, first book launch, first sighting of BLACKFIN SKY out in the wild – and it really was an overwhelming and incredible experience. I think the best feeling overall was hearing a pair of teen girls whispering about how much they loved the characters (*cough* Sean, the love interest, might have been mentioned in particular). I’ve felt that way about characters in books I’ve read, and it was so wonderful seeing it from the other side.

As far as things I’d do differently… I did a lot of events, school visits, interviews, etc. but I felt like I should have done more, got out there more and shouted about my book to more people. Maybe that’s just my own inner critic at work, though, because I always feel I could do more, about everything. Especially housework.

blackfin sky jpeg

Now that you’re a published author, what would you say has changed in your writing life?

The major thing has been changing how I view writing itself; I went from viewing it as a hobby to seeing it as my job. I felt like a fraud at first, telling people I was working on my book when they wanted me to go shopping or to a party or something. They’d look at me as though I’d just said I was busy playing with my Barbie dolls. But it takes a lot of hours to write a book, so I have to be strict with myself if I want to keep writing one or two books a year.

You have two books coming out in 2016, BREAKER and PURGE, can you tell us a little bit about your inspiration for those stories?

BREAKER comes out in May, and tells the story of Kyle, whose father has recently been executed for a string of brutal murders, and Naomi, whose mother was the Bonebreaker’s last victim. When Kyle moves to a new school and sees Naomi, his hope for a fresh start is thrown under the bus. Except she doesn’t recognise him, and as much as Kyle wants to pretend Naomi doesn’t exist, he can’t deny the spark between them. But someone isn’t prepared to let the past die, and when bodies start piling up on campus, it seems the Bonebreaker’s legacy is very much alive.

The inspiration came from thinking about how violence leaves scars beyond the obvious ones you see — beyond the victim of the serial killer. Naomi and Kyle wear their scars differently, but their lives are shaped by them, and I wanted to explore how two people might find one bright, shining, happy thing in the wake of something so terrible. And because I’m a sadist, apparently, I then decided to inflict yet more trauma on them by unleashing a new killer. As you do.

Cover - low res

PURGE will be out this autumn, and is a YA sci-fi set on a flooded Earth where the last survivors live in sealed, floating communities. Mason is 17, and already has a rap sheet too long to remember. So he isn’t exactly high on the list to be allowed into any community — which is how he ends up at Alteria, living among a cult-like group who purge negative behaviour through a mind-altering virtual reality programme. Mason knows he has to stay on the straight-and-narrow, but that’s not easy when he falls for a girl who has a few bad habits of her own. When she’s caught with drugs and thrown into the programme, Mason risks everything to go in after her, not knowing if either of them will ever be the same.

In PURGE, I wanted to write about someone who at a young age has already been judged as worthless by society, and show how he could defy expectations to become a hero. This book has been several years in the making, and Mason is probably my favourite character I’ve written to date. I hope readers like him, too!

Can you talk about what you’re working on right now?

Well, right now I’m dabbling with a few projects — there’s a fantasy about a boy raised in a rainforest, a magical realist story about a girl who has out of body experiences, and a thriller set in a 1920s theme town. Aside from those, I’m working on a few things for the launch of BREAKER, and editing PURGE.

Finally, do you have any reading recommendations? Recent reads that stood out? 

So many! Some of my recent favourites are Bryony Pearce’s WINDRUNNER’S DAUGHTER, THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE by Jonathan Stroud, THE ACCIDENT SEASON by Moira Fowley-Doyle, and Cat Clarke’s THE LOST AND THE FOUND. I’m looking forward to reading Alwyn Hamilton’s REBEL OF THE SANDS, Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES, Tatum Flynn’s HELL’S BELLES, and I’ve also just got my hands on an early copy of Martin J Stewart’s RIVERKEEP, which comes out in April.

Thank you for the interview, Kat!

Thanks so much for inviting me onto your blog, Eve!

A Writer in the Spotlight – Stacey Lee

A Writer In The Spotlight Logo

Hello gentle reader,

I’m very excited to share another interview with a YA author today! Meet Stacey Lee, author of the fantastic YA Historical UNDER A PAINTED SKY. Stacey mentored me in a writing contest almost three years ago, and since then I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her in person in Los Angeles last year. She’s a very talented writer and a wonderful person all around, and I’m delighted to share her words of wisdom with you!

A writer in the spotlight – 33

My interview (2d February 2016)

Stacey Lee

UNDER A PAINTED SKY came out almost a year ago. What were the highlights of your debut year? Anything you’d do differently?

It sounds so cliché, but the highlights were really the people I met on the journey. The writers, the librarians, the teachers, the bloggers, publishing personnel. Even as in introvert, it was a pleasure to connect with so many people (like you!). There’s a lot of pressure on debuts to say ‘yes’ to everything, but I quickly learned what my limits were after coughing my lungs out into a plant at LAX. It’s easy to get sick if you overextend yourself.

Now that you’re a published author, what would you say has changed in your writing life?

There’s definitely more pressure to ‘produce,’ though part of that is self-imposed. I’m trying to work on being more focused on my work when I have writing time. No futzing around.

Under A Painted Sky

You have two books coming out in 2016, OUTRUN THE MOON and CATCH A FALLING HEART, can you tell us a little bit about your inspiration for those stories?

OUTRUN THE MOON was inspired by my mom, a native San Franciscan whose father was born in 1906, the year of the San Francisco earthquake. As a fourth generation Californian, earthquakes are in the blood.

CATCH A FALLING HEART (working title), was inspired by my nose, really. It’s about a teenaged perfumer wit an extraordinary nose who accidentally fixes the wrong woman with a love potion, and races to undo her mistake before her mother finds out. I have a kind of synesthesia that allows me to ‘hear’ musical pitches when I smell. Natural perfumery using plant based oils has interested me for years, and I run an Etsy shop called Mermaid Perfumes as a hobby.

Your first two books were Historical novels, but CATCH A FALLING HEART is a Contemporary Fantasy novel, what made you want to switch genre? How difficult was it to do so?

It wasn’t difficult. For me, affecting the right historical ‘voice’ is definitely more challenging than that of the modern day teen. I have been writing across genres all my life, and it’s always the story that hooks me, rather than the time period (both as reader and writer).

9780399175411_OutrunTheMoon_BOM.indd

Can you talk about what you’re working on right now?

A short story for an upcoming anthology which hasn’t been announced, so I won’t say more yet. But I’m very excited about it!

Finally, do you have any reading recommendations?

I just read a trio of forthcoming contemporaries: Charlotte Huang’s GOING GEEK, Lauren Gibaldi’s AUTOFOCUS, and Kathryn Holmes’ HOW IT FEELS TO FLY, and all three were so good and feels-y. I also listened to the audiobook of ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE by Benjamin Alire Sienna, an important, emotional story of two gay teens.

Thanks so much for the interview, Stacey!

Thanks for having me, Eve!

You can buy UNDER A PAINTED SKY here and add OUTRUN THE MOON on Goodreads here.

2016 Sun vs. Snow Contest for Writers

Hello gentle reader,

sunvssnow-copy2

In February, the fantastic Amy Trueblood and Michelle Hauck are hosting the Sun vs. Snow contest for the third time. And this year, they’ve been kind enough to ask me to be one of the mentors for the contest. I’m very excited to join in the fun, and I’m very much looking forward to helping a talented writer polish their entry.

Below you’ll find a brief summary of what this contest is about, but all the details for the contest can be found on Amy’s and Michelle’s blogs. Please do read them and follow both Amy and Michelle if you’re interested in participating.

Who is this contest for?

Querying writers with a completed and polished manuscript.

When can you enter the contest?

The submission window will open on 1st February at 4 pm Eastern time. Only the first 200 entries will be accepted.

How can you enter the contest?

You’ll need to send your query and first 250 words to the contest email address. More info on how to format your entry can be found here. Please do read Amy’s advice on how to submit your entry so you’re sure not to be disqualified.

Which categories and genres are accepted?

All MG, YA, NA and Adult genres will be accepted, excluding erotica.

Who are the mentors?

There are 12 mentors, divided into two teams, and you can find out all about them here and here. I’m part of Team Sun, on Amy’s blog.

Who are the agents?

 There are 17 amazing agents ready to read the selected entries, and you can find out all about them here and here.

Anything else you should know?

Yes. You manuscript can’t have been in the agent round of any other contest. Only one submission per person is allowed.

Any other questions?

Please feel free to contact Amy and Michelle via their blogs or on Twitter. You can find Amy here and Michelle here. If you tweet about the contest, don’t forget to use the hashtag #sunvssnow. Please note that on Friday 29th January (this Friday!), Amy and Michelle will be hosting two Twitter chat sessions with the mentors at 3 pm and 9 pm EST.  Do stop in and ask all your questions to the mentors. I’ll be there, so don’t hesitate to contact me @emcastellan.

And if you have questions for me before Friday, feel free to ask in the comments section below!

Waiting On Wednesday – 82

Hello gentle reader,

Happy New Year!

Today I’m waiting on HALF LOST (Half Bad #3) by Sally Green (expected publication: 29th March 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers). And by ‘waiting’ I mean DYING to read it. This is easily my Most Anticipated Book of 2016. It’ll be the final book in a truly fantastic YA Fantasy trilogy, which you should read if you haven’t already. I, for one, can’t wait to see how Nathan’s story ends!

Half Lost

 

From Goodreads (edited to avoid spoilers):

Nathan must travel to America (…) to turn the tide for the Alliance of Free Witches and end the bloody civil war between Black and White witches once and for all…

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly event, hosted by book blogger Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we’re eagerly anticipating.

Have you heard about this book? Is it on your TBR list? What are you waiting on this week?

2016 – Most Anticipated Books

Hello gentle reader,

2015 is coming to an end and it’s time to look ahead at the books I’m anticipating to read in early 2016.

This year I read 39 novels, 3 novellas, 4 unpublished manuscripts and I re-read 8 books. That’s basically a book a week, and my goal is to read as many books in 2016.

In my Waiting On Wednesday posts, I already mentioned YA books I’m eagerly waiting for: TRUTHWITCH by Susan Dennard, REVENGE AND THE WILD by Michelle Modesto, THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater, OUTRUN THE MOON by Stacey Lee, FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP by Sarah Glenn Marsh, REBEL OF THE SANDS by Alwyn Hamilton, THE IMPOSTOR QUEEN by Sarah Fine, and THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp.

Now let’s add a few books to this list:

Sword and Verse

Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

YA High Fantasy

(expected publication: 19th January 2016 by HarperTeen)

Why I want to read it: A Fantasy world where literacy is a capital offense? Colour me intrigued.

The Dark days Club

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

YA Historical Fantasy

(expected publication: 26th January 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers)

Why I want to read it: “a Regency adventure starring a stylish and intrepid demon-hunter”? Yes, please.

Assassin's Heart

Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers

YA Fantasy

(expected publication: 2nd February 2016 by HarperTeen)

Why I want to read it: “With shades of The Godfather and Romeo and Juliet, this fantasy is a story of love, lies, and the ultimate vengeance.” Assassins and revenge? I’m curious…

TheGirlFromEverywhere

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

YA Fantasy

(expected publication: 16th February 2016 by Greenwillow Books)

Why I want to read it: A time-traveling ship! Need I say more?

Burning Glass

Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie

YA High Fantasy

(expected publication: 1st March 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books)

Why I want to read it: “a 17-year-old girl who is forced use her gift for feeling—and absorbing—the emotions of others to protect her nation’s emperor from would-be assassins.”

Tell the wind and fire

Tell The Wind And Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan

YA Fantasy

(expected publication: 5th April 2016 by Clarion Books)

Why I want to read it: New York! A city torn between two very different kinds of magic! Sarah Rees Brennan! I CAN’T WAIT.

What about you? Which books are you most looking forward to reading in 2016? Feel free to leave me a comment below!

Book of the Week – Susan Dennard on Truthwitch

Hello gentle reader,

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Susan Dennard’s books. As such, I’m really looking forward to reading her new YA Epic Fantasy series, The Witchlands. Book one, TRUTHWITCH, is coming out on 5th January 2016, and Susan has kindly agreed to a short interview for this upcoming release.

Truthwitch-US-cover

(US cover)

To write Truthwitch, where did you get your inspiration from?

So, Truthwitch was one of those “perfect storm” ideas. I wanted to write epic fantasy (since that’s my true genre-love), and I wanted to write something with a Croatian vibe—ever since I’d backpacked there in 2010, the landscape had haunted me! And of course, I REALLY wanted friendship to be at the story’s heart.
It was right around then that I discovered Two Steps from Hell. I heard their piece “El Dorado” and this scene just BURST FORTH in my mind. Two best friends caught up in a roadside heist gone wrong! Turquoise blue waters on one side and limestone cliffs on the other! And a city similar to Dubrovnik only a few miles away…
The story grew from there!

Truthwitch-UK-cover

(UK cover)

Have you read any books this year you’d recommend?

Oh my gosh, this year has been a strange reading year for me. I’ve read more non-fiction than anything else. By FAR my favorite read was Cathedral of the Wild by Boyd Varty — it’s just an incredible look at life in the South African bush.

Another amazing read I just devoured was Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman. I grew up on Clint Eastwood and John Wayne movies, and Bowman does an incredible job of tapping into that true western heart.

Oh, and I totally fell in love with Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives. Elliott is a master storyteller and world-builder. I am SO excited for that book’s sequel!!

Thanks, Susan, for the interview!

More about Truthwitch:

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

You can add TRUTHWITCH on Goodreads or find out about preorders here.

Waiting On Wednesday – 81

Hello gentle reader,

today I’m waiting on REVENGE AND THE WILD, a YA Historical Fantasy by debut author Michelle Modesto (expected publication: 2d February 2016 by Balzer + Bray). It’s a Steampunk Western with magic. Need I say more?

Revengeandthewild

From Goodreads:

The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.

Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.

But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.

This thrilling novel is a remarkable tale of danger and discovery, from debut author Michelle Modesto.

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly event, hosted by book blogger Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we’re eagerly anticipating.

Have you heard about this book? Is it on your TBR list? What are you waiting on this week?