A Writer in the Spotlight – Mackenzi Lee

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Hello gentle reader,

today I’m delighted to share with you another interview with a debut YA author! Meet Mackenzi Lee, author of THIS MONSTROUS THING (coming 22d September 2015 from Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins).

Mackenzi Lee

Author: Mackenzi Lee

Website: https://mackenzilee.wordpress.com/

Twitter:  @themackenzilee 

Biography:

Mackenzi Lee is a reader, writer, bookseller, unapologetic fangirl, and fast talker. She holds an MFA from Simmons College in writing for children and young adults, and her short fiction for children and teens has appeared in Inaccurate Realities, The Friend, and The Newport Review.  Her young adult historical fantasy novel, THIS MONSTROUS THING, which won the PEN-New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award, as well as an Emerging Artist Grant from the St. Botolph Club Foundation, will be published on September 22, 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. She loves Diet Coke, sweater weather, and Star Wars. On a perfect day, she can be found enjoying all three. She currently calls Boston home.

My interview (3d June 2015)

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? When/How did you decide to be a writer?

Definitely not–when I was in high school I wanted to be an actress, I majored in history in college, and worked in children’s theater and public radio before I found my way to writing. When I was young, I wrote a lot, and in high school I wrote fanfiction and terrible poetry. But I never really thought about being a writer as a career until I was living in the UK and doing a lot of traveling. Since I spent a lot of time in airports and bus stations, I started reading for fun for the first time since I was in middle school. And it was so much fun that it reminded me how reading as a kid had inspired me to write. So I started writing, sort of for the first time and sort of again. So for the first time again.

Are you a full-time writer? When and where do you write?

I am not–I actually have two other jobs (lucky for me, both are book related). So I do a lot of writing late at night and on weekends and on my lunch breaks. I am lucky enough to be part of a community called the Writer’s Room of Boston, which gives me a space to write, so I do a lot of work from the sixth story of an old skyscraper near the harbor, looking out on a fire escape that is so picture perfect I want to climb out on it with my ukulele and sing Moon River. I also do a fair amount of writing in bed. Because tired.

What do you say to writers who want to be traditionally published one day?

The number one big thing is to remember that everyone’s path is different. There is no one right way to get published, or one path, and other people’s’ journey is no indication of what yours will be.

The second big thing is to remember that everything you write counts, even if it doesn’t get published. I have three or four or five practice novels I wrote before THIS MONSTROUS THING. I have a book that I signed with my agent with that was on sub for a year and never sold. It’s hard not to think of all the time I spent on these projects that will never do anything but sit on my hard drive as wasted time, but it’s not. I couldn’t have written TMT without writing them first. Writing is like playing an instrument–no one sits down at the piano and expects to be good right off the bat. You have to practice, and that practice isn’t wasted time.

And third, remember that it’s not a race. You don’t have an expiration date on you. You aren’t running out of time to get published. I know it feels that way–trust me, I know. And I know it feels like good things are happening to everyone but you. There will be days you will go on Twitter and feel like everyone has an agent and everyone has a book deal but you. But the good thing is, it’s not a race. There aren’t a finite number of books that can be published. You don’t get a countdown clock attached to you as soon as you start trying to be traditionally published. This thing takes time.

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THIS MONSTROUS THING was inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, how did you come up with the idea for it?

My novels never have a single inception moment, so TMT came from a lot of places: seeing a production of Frankenstein at the National Theater in London that changed my perspective on the book, traveling to Germany and France at Christmas time, learning the story behind Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein. And, probably most importantly, a lifetime of being the volatile older half of a pair of siblings.

Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, what did you listen to when writing THIS MONSTROUS THING?

I do listen to music! A lot of TMT was written to the album The Life of the World To Come by the Mountain Goats, which is very biblical (each song has a corresponding scripture) and has lots of life and death and resurrection imagery, so it was very appropriate for a book based on a book based on the Bible. My favorite song from the album is Genesis 30:3 and Psalm 40:2 (which has the oh so appropriate line “Send me a mechanic if I’m not beyond repair”). Some other highlights from the TMT mixtape: Autoclave by The Mountain Goats, Mary by Noah and the Whale, Empty Rocking Chair by Parsonsfield, After the Bombs by the Decembrists, Don’t You Want to Share the Guilt? by Kate Nash, A Girl, A Boy, and a Graveyard by Jeremy Messersmith, Lies by the Swell Season, Machine by Regina Spektor, One More Time with Feeling by Regina Spektor, and the Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel. I try to find songs with lyrics that mirror elements of the story, and all of these do.

What are you working on now?

I have another book coming out with Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins, so I’m hard at work on that! It is unrelated to TMT–but it is another standalone historical fantasy (or industrial fantasy, if you prefer, because there is lots of metal. Or historical fanfiction, which is what I’m starting to call my work). It’s set in 1893 Chicago and is about a bisexual boy with a metal-based superpower. I’m also working on a manuscript set during the Dutch tulip mania in 1637, about first love and gender identity.

What are your favourite books? (= Any books you’d recommend?)

Always.

For great historical fiction, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (also happens to be my favorite book).

For steampunk, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.

For Frankenstein, This Dark Endeavour and Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel.

For Mary Shelley, The Lady and Her Monsters by Roseanne Montillo.

And some current favorites that have nothing to do with TMT: Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee, The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore, Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis, The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert, Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, and Drift & Dagger by Kendall Kulper.

Thanks for the interview, Mackenzi!

A Writer in the Spotlight – Sophie Cleverly

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Hello gentle reader,

today I’m delighted to share with you another interview with a debut author! Meet Sophie Cleverly, author of the Middle Grade series SCARLET AND IVY (HarperCollins).

Sophie Cleverly

Author: Sophie Cleverly

Website: http://www.hapfairy.co.uk

Twitter: @hapfairy

Biography:

Sophie Cleverly was born in Bath in 1989. She studied for a BA in Creative Writing and an MA in Writing For Young People. Book one of her Scarlet and Ivy series is out now from HarperCollins, with books 2 and 3 coming in late 2015 and early 2016. Aside from writing, she can often be found blogging about symphonic metal, watching fantastical TV and struggling to find her way out of her ever-increasing pile of books.

My interview (12th April 2015)

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? When/How did you decide to be a writer?

I loved writing stories from the minute I learnt how to write. I made my own paper books (some of which I still have) and wrote stories in school all the time, even in lessons where I wasn’t supposed to. But although I always knew I wanted to be a writer, I never considered that I could actually do it as a job until I applied for the MA in Writing For Young People at Bath Spa. Before that I’d been planning to be a teacher, but I decided to drop the sensible option and try to follow my dream.

Are you a full-time writer? When and where do you write?

I am lucky enough to be a full-time writer at the moment. I always write in the evenings and at night, because I find the ideas flow much easier (I’m not a morning person…). I type my work on my PC, which is in our small second bedroom that we optimistically call a study. It just about fits both our computers, my pet degus and A LOT of books. I have a lovely view out of the window of the church and a field full of sheep.

What do you say to writers who want to be traditionally published one day?

Do your research! With traditional publishing, you’ll almost certainly want an agent. It’s quite easy these days to find agents online telling you what they want from a query and what sort of books they’d like to see. The more you know about who the agents are and what they’re looking for, the more successful your query process will be (and a rejection with feedback is still a success – if lots of agents are saying the same thing, that’s how you know what needs work in your manuscript). I’d also really recommend getting hold of the Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, which lists all the contact details of agents and editors and has tons of great advice articles too.

Scarlet and Ivy

To write SCARLET AND IVY, where did you get your inspiration from?

The story actually came to me when I was studying for my degree in Creative Writing. We were set a task to imagine a character returning to a room that they hadn’t set foot in for a long time. I imagined a room with twin beds, but I only saw one girl walking into the room. By the end of the lesson I had the beginnings of a story with the lost twin and the secret diary.

When I was writing the book, I took inspiration from all sorts of places – my own memories, visits to interesting old buildings (for example, the dumbwaiter from Lacock Abbey has a cameo in the book), watching books and movies… I also looked at lots of old photographs of girls in the 1930s – I learnt a lot from that about what they wore, how they acted, what lessons they had to go to and so on.

Your book is a MG mystery novel set in creepy boarding school: did you go to boarding school yourself when you were young? Why did you choose this particular setting?

I didn’t go to boarding school, but I did go to a non-private all-girls school in rather creepy old buildings. We had wooden science labs with worrying things in jars, a creaky gym, a graveyard over the wall… all of this inspired aspects of Rookwood School in my book. I pieced together things from other schools I went to as well – the ghost rumours from my primary school play a big part in book 2.

Boarding schools are just such a great and classic setting – most kids who don’t go to one find the idea fascinating. It’s even been revealed recently that young Queen Victoria wrote a book about a girl being sent away from boarding school. Getting your characters far away from the safety of their parents/guardians is brilliant for drama, and all kids can understand that fear when you go to a new school. Also my fiancé went to boarding school, so I like to mine him for information.

I love your blog about symphonic metal – do you listen to music when you write? If yes, what did you listen to when writing SCARLET AND IVY?

Thank you! Yes, I absolutely have to listen to music while I write. I think symphonic metal is the perfect backing music to writing because it’s like a film score. I particularly like listening to the instrumental versions of the albums so that I don’t get distracted by the words. For that reason I listened to a lot of Imaginaerum – The Score by Nightwish and The Life and Times of Scrooge by Tuomas Holopainen. Both are soundtracks which work really well for writing.

What are you working on now? (Is it Book2?)

I’m working on SCARLET AND IVY book 2, THE WHISPERS IN THE WALLS. This book has a bit of a wintry theme, and a ghostly presence! It’s been a lot of fun to play with my characters again and put them into a new story. Hopefully there will be a cover reveal soon (I have seen the cover, and it’s awesome!).

GraveyardBookBrit

What are your favourite books? (= Any books you’d recommend?)

I absolutely love the Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett – Tiffany is such a fantastic heroine, a strong, angry and determined young witch. A HAT FULL OF SKY is my favourite of the series. Another favourite is THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman. I confess I’ve always had a strange fascination with graveyards, and I’d love to write a book set in one. It’s just a shame that Neil beat me to it and wrote the perfect graveyard story. But I have some ideas for something a bit different!

Thanks for the interview Sophie!

You can buy SCARLET AND IVY: THE LOST TWIN here and pre-order SCARLET AND IVY: THE WHISPERS IN THE WALLS here. You can add the series on Goodreads here.

A Writer In The Spotlight – Jenny Adams Perinovic

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Hello gentle reader,

Today I’m delighted to share with you another interview with a debut author! Meet Jenny Adams Perinovic, whose YA Gothic Romance A MAGIC DARK AND BRIGHT comes out on 28th April 2015. 

Jenny Perinovic

Author: Jenny Adams Perinovic

Website: http://www.jennyperinovic.com

Twitter: @jennyperinovic

Biography:

“I’m a twenty-something writer, library assistant and bookworm. I live just outside of Washington DC with my husband, Eric, and our tiny menagerie. I spend my days working as a Circulation Specialist in a library. By night, I write YA speculative fiction about brave girls, the boys who love them, and their battles against dark forces. There’s always a bit of magic, a bunch of kissing, and a whole lot of spine-tingling creepiness. Before moving to DC, I graduated from The Ohio State University in 2010 with a degree in Medieval and Renaissance Studies (yes, really) and half of three minors. I love medieval French literature, good books, pretty things, web design, photography, baking, writing, vintage clothes, ballet, and the color purple.”

My interview (7th April 2015)

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? When/how did you decide to be a writer?

I’ve always written, but I didn’t always know I wanted to be a writer. For a long time, it never occurred to me that it was a real job I could have–I wrote books for fun all through middle school and high school. When I got to college, I decided to set writing aside in order to concentrate on “practical” things, which didn’t really work out. I ended up majoring in Medieval and Renaissance Studies and finishing another book (a truly terrible adult epic fantasy) before I graduated. After graduation, I moved to DC with my then-boyfriend (now husband), and while he started his Masters, I started working full-time. My first year in DC was rough–I had no clue how to make friends as a grown-up, I was homesick, and we had no money. So I read constantly–over 300 books that first year. It’s also when I re-discovered YA, and thought, for the first time, “I could do that.” I threw myself into writing. Three books and five years later, here I am!

Are you a full-time writer? When and where do you write?

Nope! I currently have a full-time job as a library assistant, and I also freelance as a graphic designer. So it’s like I have three jobs! Sometimes it’s hard to balance, and it means I write more slowly than other people. I try really hard to wake up and write before work, but let’s be real: most of my writing happens in notebooks during my hour-long bus ride to and from work and during my lunch break. Hopefully I’ll be able to make the transition to full-time writing and freelance work eventually (as in YEARS from now, after my husband is finished with his PhD), but for now? I love my job. I’m happy.

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To write A MAGIC DARK AND BRIGHT, where did you get your inspiration from?

Homework, actually! I briefly took classes towards my MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins. Ultimately, I decided the program wasn’t a good fit and quit, but before I did, I received the following prompt as an assignment: Write the story of one character from the point of view of another.

The first line came to me immediately: Halfway through November, Charlie stopped coming to school. I knew nothing else about the book–I just sat down and started writing. By the time I was done with that assignment, I knew three things–the story was set in the mountains of Pennsylvania where I grew up, Charlie and Amelia had done a Very Bad Thing, and because of that, someone was dead.

Over time, it became just as much Amelia’s story as Charlie’s, and that initial beginning was scrapped. I immersed myself in the history of a long-forgotten French settlement called Azilum (Asylum), where local legend claims was meant as a haven for Marie Antoinette. I read first-hand accounts of what it was like to live there, and I imagined what the town might be like if it had survived to the present day. Some of the story was drawn from my own experiences–when I was a teenager, my high school experienced a string of suicides–I think it was four or five in the span of six weeks. It was terrible and tragic, and it really rocked my tiny community to the core. So I tried to capture some of that feeling of helplessness and heartbreak, too. And everything I write includes a combination of magic, creepiness, and kissing! Eventually, all of those elements came together and I had a book I was proud of. 🙂

Why did you choose to self-publish your book? Was that a difficult decision?

Self-publishing had always been on the table. However, I wanted to try my hand at querying first. I entered a few contests (including PitchSlam and The Writer’s Voice) and received an overwhelming amount of attention. Over the course of last summer, I sent out over 50 full manuscripts and several partials. The agent feedback I received was invaluable, but so much of it boiled down to: “I love your writing, but paranormal is an incredibly hard sell right now. Please send me your next book.”

I supposed I could have kept querying, but after talking it over with my husband, my CPs, and several other friends who self-published, I made the decision to go indie. Traditional publishing is notoriously slow, and I’m sure that the agents were right–by the time my book could be published traditionally (if it ever would), paranormal would be out. I figured I may as well take a chance and use the speed of indie publishing to my advantage and get my book in the hands of readers as soon as possible, before the market dried up.

It was a shockingly easy decision to make–it was either shelve it or self-publish it. And I believed in it too much to shelve it. Since then, I’ve learned A TON and even banded together with a group of other indie (or soon-to-be) indie authors to found our own collective press, Bookish Group Press. It’s been quite the adventure, and I’m really excited to see what the next few months have in store for us.

Do you listen to music when you write? Any recommendations?

I do! I’m a Spotify addict, hah. I have playlists for all of my manuscripts. You can listen to the music I played on loop for an entire year while I wrote A Magic Dark and Bright here.

What are you working on now?

I’m actually working on three different projects. One is the sequel to A Magic Dark and Bright, of course. I’m also working on Like Drops of Moonlight, which is an NA romantic suspense I plan on self-publishing, and Dead Man’s Hand, which is a historical with a hint of magic set in the circus in 1918, which I plan on querying in the next six months or so.

Which authors inspire you? Any books you’d recommend?

Oh, I’m inspired by others constantly! But here are a few authors who gave me the courage to go indie with A Magic Dark & Bright!
+ Rachel O’Laughlin‘s Serengard series is absolutely amazing. It’s poetic, sweeping, and absolutely un-put-downable.
+ Leigh Ann Kopans‘ ONE was one of the first indie YA books I read, and to this day remains among my favorites.
+ Faith McKay‘s Prophecy Girl was so much fun–bold, brash and full of sisterly love and sunglasses.
+ Anything by Trisha Leigh. Her YA books–The Cavy Files and The Last Year are perfection, and her NA books (written as Lyla Payne) are so much fun.
+ Other indie authors I love: Shari Arnold, Teresa Yea, and Anya Monroe.

Thanks for the interview Jenny!

You can pre-order A Magic Dark And Bright here and you can add it on Goodreads.

A Writer In The Spotlight – Alyssa Palombo

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Hello gentle reader,

I’m delighted to share with you another interview with a debut author! This week it’s Alyssa Palombo, whose Historical novel THE VIOLINIST OF VENICE comes out on 15th December 2015 from St. Martin’s Press.

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Author: Alyssa Palombo

Website: http://alyssapalombo.com

Twitter: @AlyssInWnderlnd

Location: Buffalo, NY

My interview (6th April 2015)

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? When/How did you decide to be a writer?

I don’t remember ever making a conscious decision to be a writer – it just seems that I was always writing. When I was a kid I’d write short little stories just for fun, and when I was 12 I set out to write my first “novel” – I’d write a chapter at a time and give each new chapter to my family to read. Not sure if I still have that story somewhere – it would be both funny and cringe-inducing to read it again!

But all through middle school and high school I was writing stories and novels – often during class when my teachers thought I was taking notes, haha! So when it was time to pick a college, I decided on Canisius College, which was the only college in Buffalo with a formal creative writing program. Based on the teachers I had there and the amazing friends and fellow writers I met there, it was definitely the best choice I could have made.

Are you a full-time writer? When and where do you write?

Sadly not, though my ultimate goal is to become a full-time writer. At the moment I work both a full-time and a part-time job, which means writing time can occasionally be hard to come by. I try to write for a few hours on weeknights when I don’t have anywhere to be after work, and when I’m really rolling on a project I’ll bring my laptop to work and write on my lunch breaks. I usually get a lot of writing done on weekend days, as well.

As to where I write, I have a desk in my room with lots of pictures up around it. I had lots of pictures from Venice up when I was working on VIOLINIST to help get me in the zone 🙂 I like writing at home because I can just stay in my sweatpants to write, but sometimes I’ll shake it up and take my laptop to a coffee shop or bookstore.

What do you say to writers who want to be traditionally published one day?

I’m pretty new to the game myself, but here are a couple things I’ve learned along the way:

Get used to rejection, but also understand that rejection isn’t always personal – it generally isn’t, though it often feels that way. An agent or an editor might pass on something because they already have a similar book on their list, for example. Or they just may not be connecting with it that deeply. Reading is such a personal experience, and as such everyone reacts to a work differently. A rejection doesn’t necessarily mean that you wrote a bad book or that you’re not a good writer, just that you haven’t found the right fit for it.

Something else I would say, more about writing in general, is to find a writing routine that works for you. I used to feel guilty because I didn’t write every day, because pretty much everyone tells you that to be successful as a writer you need to write every day. What I found was that that didn’t work for me. If I work on a project for a whole string of days in a row, I start to get burned out, and need a day or two away to recharge and come back to it fresh. And, quite frankly, sometimes life happens and you’re just not going to get to your work in progress that day. That’s okay too.

So if you’re someone who can’t or doesn’t want to write every day, don’t. If you’re someone who needs to write at least a little but every day, then do that. Find what works for you and stick to it. If you’re serious about writing and being published, you will need to make a lot of time for yourself to write, and find some way of fitting it into your schedule, but do it however is best for you. Don’t feel bad that you don’t go about it the same way as everyone else!

The Violinist of Venice
To write THE VIOLINIST OF VENICE, where did you get your inspiration from?

The story of how I got the idea for THE VIOLINIST OF VENICE is kind of a crazy one, actually! I had this incredibly vivid dream one night that was essentially the first chapter of the book. I woke up somewhat puzzled – I really didn’t know all that much about Vivaldi, so why he was in a dream of mine I wasn’t quite sure – but the dream had been so powerful that I wasn’t able to forget it. Over the course of that day I came up with a very loose, hazy sort of outline of the plot in my head, and I started writing that night. I didn’t know at first what it was going to be – for a little while there I thought it might be a short story or a novella. Since the first draft ended up being almost 600 pages, that obviously was not the case 🙂 I really didn’t know much at all about Venice or Vivaldi when I started, but I wrote anyway because I couldn’t stop thinking about the story, and I did the research as I went.

Your book is a Historical novel set in 18th Century Venice: how did you go about researching this time period? Did you go to Venice?!

I did go to Venice! That was easily my favorite part of the research process. Venice is a great place to write about because it hasn’t changed all that much in the last few hundred years – it’s not like they can be putting up lots of new buildings, or paving new roads! By the time I went to Venice I had writteb two drafts of the novel, and despite reading about the city for a long time I knew I needed to see it for myself. There’s no place like it in the world, and so photographs and such can only take you so far.

Other than that, it was a lot of reading. I read lots of material specifically about 18th century Venice, of course; I read about the history of Venice from its founding to the present; I read about Venetian culture and government; I read about religion in Venice; I read about other well-known Venetian composers and artists. It was a lot of work, but when you’re researching something you love and are interested in it becomes fun!

Of course, there’s always things you can find out by doing a quick Google search – for instance, I needed to know when Easter fell in 1711, so I was able to look things like that up as I went.

Your book features the composer Vivaldi: how did you find the right balance between historical facts about his life and the needs of your story?

THE VIOLINIST OF VENICE is a “what if?” kind of story, so with that I had a lot of free rein. With that said, Vivaldi was a frustrating figure to research since not as much is known about him in comparison to say, Mozart or Beethoven. Part of that is because his music was mostly lost/forgotten shortly after his death, and was really only rediscovered when musicians and historians rediscovered J.S. Bach and realized the influence Vivaldi and his music had had on Bach.

The first half of the novel takes place over the course of the years 1710 and 1711, and naturally there happens to be very little information about what Vivaldi was up to during that time. That got frustrating at times, but at the same time that also gave me some freedom. I used certain events as a frame: the premiere of some of his works, the dates he worked as a music teacher and composer at the Pieta, etc. He’s a less present in the second half of the book, so I could have my (fictional) heroine’s life take whatever course I wanted.

I also listened to A LOT of Vivaldi’s music as I wrote: choral music, opera music, but mostly instrumental music – specifically for the violin. All of Vivaldi’s music that I describe in the book is real; I wanted to choose just the right piece for every scene.

Another form of research I did was to take violin lessons. I had never so much as touched a violin when I started writing this book – I’m a singer myself – so I knew I needed to learn something about the instrument. Turns out I am a terrible violinist, but the lessons were a lot of fun and it definitely did help me in writing the novel.

What are you working on now?

I just finished the first draft of another historical novel, which will be the second of my two book contract with St. Martin’s Press. I don’t want to say too much about it yet, but it takes place in Renaissance Florence, and it’s different from VIOLINIST in that almost my entire cast of characters are real historical figures. Some of the notable ones that make an appearance include Sandro Botticelli and Lorenzo de’ Medici.

What are your favourite books? (Any books you’d recommend?)

Lady of the Eternal City

There are so many! Right now I’m reading LADY OF THE ETERNAL CITY by Kate Quinn, and I’m completely obsessed and can’t wait to finish it. You can’t go wrong with any of Kate Quinn’s novels. But some of my all-time favorites are:

BITTER GREENS by Kate Forsyth
THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL by Philippa Gregory
THE WHITE QUEEN by Philippa Gregory
IN THE COMPANY OF THE COURTESAN by Sarah Dunant
GREEN DARKNESS by Anya Seton
BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett
THE SONG OF THE LIONESS series by Tamora Pierce

I better stop there before it becomes a super long list! 🙂 But in addition to the above, some I’ve read recently that I’d highly recommend are:

ARCANA by Jessica Leake
THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah
THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST by Holly Black
WRITTEN IN THE STARS by Aisha Saeed
DUPLICITY by N.K. Traver
BELZHAR by Meg Wolitzer

As you can see, I read lots of historical fiction, and also lots of YA!

Thanks for the interview, Alyssa!

You can add THE VIOLINIST OF VENICE on Goodreads here.

A Writer in the Spotlight – Karina Sumner-Smith

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Hello gentle reader,

I’m delighted to share with you another interview with a YA author! This week it’s Karina Sumner-Smith, whose debut novel RADIANT comes out on 30th September 2014. It’s a YA Fantasy and the first book in the TOWERS trilogy.

Karina Sumner-Smith

Author: Karina Sumner-Smith

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Website: http://karinasumnersmith.com/

Book: RADIANT (published 30th September 2014 by Talos/Skyhorse)

Biography:

Karina Sumner-Smith is a fantasy author and freelance writer.

Prior to focusing on novel-length work, Karina published a range of fantasy, science fiction and horror short stories, including Nebula Award nominated story “An End to All Things,” and ultra short story “When the Zombies Win,” which appeared in two Best of the Year anthologies.

Though she still thinks of Toronto as her home, Karina now lives in a small, lakefront community in rural Ontario, Canada, where she may be found lost in a book, dancing in the kitchen, or planning her next great adventure.

My interview (9th September 2014)

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was little, I wanted to be a scientist just like my dad. Science, I knew, had something to do with test tubes, which were awfully fun to play with in the sandbox. Scientists got to do interesting things in a lab, and wear these white coats, and use cool equipment for experiments. Science, I decided, was awesome.

I was thirteen when I decided that my future was in science fiction and fantasy instead. That was the year that I fell into that true writing “flow state” for the first time – and also realized that writing stories was an actual career path. (At the time, the rather low income that one can generally expect as a writer seemed like so much money.)

When and where do you write?

There was a time when I wrote best at night. I was one of those people who’d be up at all hours typing by the glow of the computer screen, always telling myself that I’d go to bed when I finish just this next little bit.

Now, it’s all over the place! These days I work as a freelance writer, so I’m at my computer in my home office for most of the day, and I try to fit fiction in wherever I can. Some days that means that I’m up and writing before I’ve had my breakfast; others I don’t have a chance to get started on my day’s words until quite late. For all that I am a creature of habit and routine, there’s definitely something to be said for flexibility when it comes to writing.

What do you say to writers who want to be traditionally published one day?

Focus on your craft. I think that we writers can get too caught up in things like what’s hot in the market, agent wishlists, blogging and social media, and all the rest. The writing should always be the most important. Trends will come and go, the market will change, but there will always be a demand for great writing.

I truly believe that once you reach a certain level of skill, it’s not a matter of if you’ll be published, but when. If not this project, then another.

So read books on writing, and figure out which methods work best for you. Read widely, both inside and outside your genre. Study the works of authors you love. Develop a critical eye. Critique others’ work, and really focus on seeing not just the piece’s flaws but what makes it shine. Try freewriting. Practice, practice, practice.

After that? Settle in and get ready for the long haul. Sometimes the road to getting published – and all the roads that follow, for that matter – can be pretty bumpy. Fasten your seat belt and just try to enjoy the ride.

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

Radiant actually started as a short story that I wrote for the DAW anthology, Children of Magic. I’d been struggling for an idea that would fit the anthology’s theme, tossing around the idea of a girl who could see ghosts, maybe something about a magical, post-apocalyptic society … it was all a jumbled mess. But when I sat down to write, bam, Xhea arrived, as whole and vivid to me as if I’d been writing about her for years. I suddenly could barely type fast enough to keep up with the story as it unfolded.

The short story was 6,000 words – and there was so much about the characters and their world that I still wanted to understand. Since I don’t outline, the only way for me to know what happened to Xhea or to Shai was to keep writing. In that way, I think it’s not inspiration that keeps me going so much as curiosity. My brain is always asking, “What happens next?”

Your book features two strong female protagonists, but no romance I believe. Why did you make these choices for your story?

I don’t really feel that having the story focus on a strong friendship rather than a romance was a choice, to be honest – at least not a conscious one. For me, any story grows naturally from the characters, their problems, and their world. I could probably write a few thousand words on why there isn’t a romantic plotline for either Xhea or Shai in this book, but the simplest explanation is that there just isn’t room, emotionally, for a romantic entanglement.

This is especially true for Xhea. When the story begins, she’s so very closed down, so defensive – which shows in countless little quirks designed to keep people away from her, to keep herself safe. She learned the hard way that she can only rely on herself. And then the ghost, Shai, changes everything. This story isn’t about Xhea falling in love; it’s about her learning, slowly and hesitantly and painfully, to trust one other person. Given where she starts, that’s a huge emotional transformation for her.

I will say, though, that while I can enjoy a great romantic plot or subplot in novels that I read, I don’t like the idea that every story has to include romance or romantic elements. Romantic love can be so powerful and transforming – but it’s only one part of the spectrum of human emotion, and one way that characters can connect.

What are you working on now? (Is it Book 2?)

Right now I’m working with my editor to revise Book 2, Defiant, and am gearing up to start writing Book 3, Towers Fall. (It’s going to be a busy fall for me, for sure!)

I actually have to admit, finishing this series is a little daunting. These characters and this world have been with me, in my head and in my heart, for so many years that it’s strange to think that I’ll soon reach “The End”. Exciting, too, of course. I already have a couple of new projects waiting for my attention that I think are going to be really fun and different.

What are you reading right now?

Truthfully, right now I’m reading dog training books. I’m bringing a new puppy home soon (in a week, as I write this!), and want to be ready for the fluffy addition to the household.

But I’m actually really excited about some of the things on my to-read pile right now. Fighting for my attention are Cast in Flame by Michelle Sagara, The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley, Hidden by Benedict Jacka, and Broken Souls by Stephen Blackmoore. In YA, I’m really looking forward to reading Stefanie Gaither’s Falls the Shadow, which is supposed to be released later this month – but, of course, I’m impatient!

What are your favourite books? Any books you’d recommend?

I used to work part-time in a science fiction and fantasy bookstore – Bakka Phoenix Books in Toronto – so it’s really, really hard to recommend just one book. And I’d recommend different books for different people!

But let’s see … if you like fantasy or science fiction with a great romance, check out Archangel by Sharon Shinn or A Thousand Words for Stranger by Julie E. Czerneda. For dragons and adventure, you can’t go wrong with Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon. For sweeping, emotional, history-inspired fantasy, go straight to Guy Gavriel Kay. For great YA, I always point to Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia series that begins with The Thief, Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, and Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

But if I were dragged away to a desert island, the book I’d take with me is Sunshine by Robin McKinley. I’ll need to buy a new copy soon; carefully though I treat my books, my copy has been read so often that it’s falling apart.

Thanks for the interview, Karina!

You can read the first chapter of RADIANT and pre-order your copy here.

A Writer in the Spotlight – April G. Tucholke

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Hello gentle reader,

I’m delighted to share with you another interview with a YA author! This week it’s April Tucholke, whose debut BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA is a great Gothic Mystery/Thriller/Romance. The sequel BETWEEN THE SPARK AND THE BURN is out now!

April Tucholke

Author: April G. Tucholke

Genre: Young Adult, Gothic, Fantasy

Website: http://apriltucholke.com/

Books: BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA (published 15th August 2013 by Dia)

BETWEEN THE SPARK AND THE BURN (published 14th August 2014 by Dial)

Biography:

April Genevieve Tucholke loves classic horror movies and coffee. She has lived in many places, including Scotland, and currently resides in Oregon with her husband Nate Pedersen. (Author Photo by Sung Park)

 

My interview (21st August 2014)

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Oh, I thought about it as a kid, but mainly because I was a big reader. I got a degree in creative writing when I was in my early twenties…but I don’t think I ever believed I’d actually finish writing a novel. And yet, here I am.

What do you say to writers who want to be published one day?

A. Read. Read everything. Every genre, the new books and the classics.
B. Give up watching TV for a year. Spend the time writing instead.
C. Pick up ten of your least favorite books…and then write down 5 things that each book did very well. This is an enlightening experience. Trust me. Figuring out what’s bad about a book you didn’t like? Easy. Figuring out what’s good about a book you didn’t like? Far more valuable.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea

To write BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, where did you get your inspiration from?

A. From this true story out of Glasgow, Scotland: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/8574484.stm
B. From all the places I’ve lived, and all the gothic books I’ve read.

What are you working on now?

I organized a YA horror anthology that will be published by Penguin in fall, 2015 called Slasher Girls & Monster Boys.

I’m also working on a dark, twisting, voice-driven YA mystery that will be published by Penguin in early 2016.

Between the spark and the burn

Which authors inspire you now? Any books you’d recommend?

Susanna Clarke. I’ve read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell three times. I’m in awe of authors who can write long books with epic world building. This is something I’ll never be able to do. George R.R. Martin, Scott Lynch, Diane Gabaldon, Connie Willis…

I’m drawn to dark, odd, beautifully written YA—books by Nova Ren Suma, Chris Howard, Laini Taylor, Melina Marchetta…

I’m inspired by the beautiful language in Zane Grey’s westerns. Truly. It—and I never use this word—transports me, into a world without the internet, and cell phones, and car alarms, and blasting music… Zane is marvelous.

Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’m the descendent of pioneers, and this is my history. I reread the series every year or so. The writing style is very simple and direct, but the stories aren’t. Laura and her family are often in serious danger, from wolves, from illness, from hunger…and yet the feeling I’m left with after reading is one of…peace.

Thanks for the interview, April!

A Writer in the Spotlight – Stephanie Diaz

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Hello gentle reader,

I’m delighted to share with you another interview with a YA author! This week it’s Stephanie Diaz, whom I’ve been following online for quite some time. Her debut EXTRACTION is a YA Sci-Fi which will be released on 22d July 2014!

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Author: Stephanie Diaz

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Website: http://steph-diaz.blogspot.fr/

Book: EXTRACTION trilogy (published by St. Martin’s Griffin, an imprint of Macmillan, in July 2014)

Biography:

Stephanie Diaz is 21. She grew up in sunny San Diego, wishing for rain. She studied film production in college. When she isn’t lost in other worlds, she can be found singing, marveling at the night sky, or fangirling over television shows.

My interview (27th May 2014)

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

I can’t remember a time I didn’t want to be a writer, so yes, I’ve always known.

When and where do you write?

My most common workspace is my bedroom, but I’ll write just about anywhere. The library is one of my favorite places. My favorite time to write is late at night, but that’s been impractical lately, so I have to write during the day.

What do you say to writers who want to be published one day?

To anyone who wants to be published: keep writing, keep reading, and keep living. Don’t give up, and don’t be afraid to set aside a novel, even if you used to think it was amazing. Your next novel will be better.

EXTRACTION FINAL COVER

To write “Extraction”, where did you get your inspiration from?

The inspiration for Extraction came from a random image of an enormous moon looming in the sky. I started wondering what life would be like on a planet where the moon was a big, poisonous threat instead of something beautiful. I hadn’t tried writing sci-fi before, but I’d always been mildly obsessed with space. So I was excited to give the genre a shot. 🙂

Why did you choose to write for young adults?

I was a young adult when I started writing Extraction (I mean, I still am–I’m 21), and it just made sense for me to write for my audience. Plus, I pretty much only read YA, so those are the kind of books I’m most familiar with.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the second and third books in the Extraction trilogy. And pondering some brand-new projects on the side. 🙂

What are you reading right now?

I just finished WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart. Wow, it was amazing. Highly recommended.

What are your favourite books? Any recommendations?

I’m a huge fan of YA sci-fi books. Some recent ones I’d recommend are THESE BROKEN STARS by Meghan Spooner and Amie Kaufman, and STITCHING SNOW by R.C. Lewis, which will be out later this year. I also love YA contemporary. WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard is a favorite.

Thanks for the interview, Stephanie!

You can add EXTRACTION on Goodreads here.

A Writer in the Spotlight – Lori M. Lee

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Hello gentle reader,

I’m delighted to share with you another interview with a YA author! This week it’s Lori M. Lee, whom I’ve been following online for quite some time. Her debut GATES OF THREAD AND STONE is a YA Fantasy which will be released on 5th August 2014!

Lori M Lee

Author: Lori M. Lee

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Website: http://www.lorimlee.com/

Book: GATES OF THREAD AND STONE

Biography:

Lori was born in the mountains of Laos where her family relocated to a Thailand refugee camp for a few years and then moved permanently to the United States when she was three. She can’t remember any of it, and uses this excuse to insist she was raised by invisible flying unicorns. Like thestrals but less morbid.

She’s been writing since the third grade although quality has hopefully improved. Her first novel was a Mary Sue fantasy romance she wrote when she was a preteen. It contained many things preteens probably should not have been writing about. She blames her older sisters.

She has a borderline obsessive fascination with unicorns, is fond of talking in capslock, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, kids, and a friendly pitbull.

My interview (9th May 2014)

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Pretty much 🙂 I’ve wanted to be a writer since the third grade. Other career choices popped up along the way (I’m particularly fond of my brief “become a model” goal, because I’m sure THAT would have worked out haha), but writing has always remained my steadfast dream.

When and where do you write?

I use the spare bedroom as an office. For now. Once my son is old enough, he’ll get the room, and I’ll return to the kitchen table. I write primarily when my son is asleep, because that’s when I can focus best. Otherwise, I’m being constantly distracted even when my husband is watching him (although, partly it’s b/c he’s just so darn cute). The nice thing about the office, though, is I can shut the door!

What do you say to writers who want to be published one day?

Read and write a lot. Be informed. And don’t give up!

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To write “Gates of Thread and Stone”, where did you get your inspiration from? (How did you come up with a character who can manipulate the threads of time, ability which sounds beyond cool?!)

Kai, as a character, came to me when a friend said something in passing about time, which I can’t actually tell you because it’s a spoiler for the book lol. But as to her abilities, I wanted the flow of time to be almost a physical entity—thus the threads—and for her magic to have clear limitations based on this.

Why did you choose to write for young adults?

It wasn’t a conscious choice. It’s the category of books that I’ve always been drawn to. Even when I was twelve, well before “young adult” became a legitimate industry category, I was writing characters who were seventeen, although then, it was because those were the heroines I wanted to become. Now, I write about young adults because that period of our lives still resonate the strongest with me. I can’t imagine not writing young adult.

What are you working on now?

I am working on book two, although I’m also pulling together the world building and general plot of a new fantasy project.

Thanks for the interview, Lori!

You can add GATES OF THREAD AND STONE on Goodreads here.

 

A Writer in the Spotlight – Sara Raasch

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Hello gentle reader,

I’m delighted to share with you another interview with a YA author! This week it’s Sara Raasch, whose debut SNOW LIKE ASHES is coming out on 14th October 2014. It’s a YA High Fantasy and I was lucky to win an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) and to read it early!

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Author: Sara Raasch

Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy

Website: http://sararaasch.tumblr.com

Book: SNOW LIKE ASHES

Biography: Sara Raasch has known she was destined for bookish things since the age of five, when her friends had a lemonade stand and she tagged along to sell her hand-drawn picture books too. Not much has changed since then — her friends still cock concerned eyebrows when she attempts to draw things and her enthusiasm for the written word still drives her to extreme measures. Her debut YA fantasy, SNOW LIKE ASHES, the first in a trilogy, comes out October 14, 2014 from Balzer + Bray. It does not feature her hand-drawn pictures.

My interview (5th May 2014)

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Yes! One of my earliest memories is of making Beanie Baby themed picture books, pasted together and drawn with markers and crayons. I’ve been hooked all my life! Not to Beanie Babies, thankfully.

What do you say to writers who want to be published one day?

It’s worth it! It’ll be hard — really hard — a lot of the time, but persistence is key. If you don’t give up on yourself, things WILL happen! Keep moving forward!

Snow Like Ashes

To write SNOW LIKE ASHES, where did you get your inspiration from? How did you come up with the world of Primoria?

A mashup of Pinterest (gotta love Pinterest) and combining some cultural aspects from our world. Pinterest is the best world building tool — it allowed me to throw a bunch of things together that I thought might be cool for a kingdom and see what they looked like side by side. For instance, one of the kingdoms we meet in the next book (Autumn) draws a lot of inspiration from Middle Eastern/Thai cultures. I have a lovely Pinterest board of that kingdom (that is of course secret now, but someday I will get to share it!).

Do you share any similarities with Meira, your main character?

We’re both very stubborn and passionate! Once Meira gets behind a cause, there’s no swaying her away from it, and I’m exactly the same way. Which can be a very useful trait, but is oftentimes detrimental and makes me/her blind to a lot of other things.

One thing you do really well in the book is describing how teenagers feel and act in this moment between childhood and adulthood. Is this why you chose to write for young adults?

Thanks! I love the time between childhood and adulthood — it’s such a time of transition and possibility, and that is mainly why I write YA. Anything can happen, and the characters can become anyone — seeing them grow is amazing!

What are you working on now? (Is it Book 2?!)

It is! Book 2 is currently in edits, and I’m actually already about 100 pages into Book 3. Why yes, I am obsessively early on deadlines, thanks for noticing.

Thanks so much for this interview, Sara!

Thanks for having me, EM! This was fun 😀

You can add SNOW LIKE ASHES on Goodreads here and you can follow Sara on Twitter here.

A Writer in the Spotlight – Michelle Krys

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Hello gentle reader,

I’m delighted to share with you another interview with a YA author! This week it’s Michelle Krys, whose debut HEXED is coming out in June. I “met” Michelle online thanks to the Christmas In July pitch contest she organizes every summer with Ruth Lauren Steven.

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Author: Michelle Krys

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal

Location: Northwestern Ontario, Canada

Website: http://michellekrys.com/

Book: HEXED (expected publication: June 10th 2014 by Delacorte Press)

My interview (24th April 2014)

1. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Being a writer was one of those things I always said I wanted to do but never took any steps towards accomplishing. It was always later. When I grow up. When I had more time.

It was only once I began a yearlong maternity leave that things changed. My son slept through the night and took 3-4 hour naps during the day, and I knew that if I was ever going to write that book, I wouldn’t get any better of an opportunity try.

2. When and where do you write?

Now that my son is four and doesn’t nap, all of my writing gets done in the hour between when my husband gets home from work and before we get started making dinner. I also set an alarm every day for 5:30am with the intention of getting up to write before anyone else is awake, but I usually end up pressing the snooze button and going back to bed. But the good intentions are there, so that counts!

3. What do you say to writers who want to be published one day?

I always say the same thing: Be persistent. There will always be rejection in a writer’s life, whether you’re querying your first novel or you’re a New York Times Bestseller pitching your next project to editors. What matters is what you do about it. Keep working, keep learning, keep reading, and don’t let someone’s “No” be what makes you give up on your dream.

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4. To write HEXED, where did you get your inspiration from? (How did you come up with the idea of a cheerleader/witch?)

I got the idea for HEXED from my sister. A few years ago she told me about an adult historical novel she wanted to write, which she’d planned to call “The Witch Hunter’s Bible”. When she later decided not to pursue the idea after all, I asked her if I could use the title for a young adult novel that had been unfolding in my head ever since she first mentioned it to me. Ironically, ‘The Witch Hunter’s Bible’ ended up not being the best fit for the finished product, and we changed the title in the editorial process.

In terms of Indie being a cheerleader, I really wanted to subvert the usual gothic witch stereotype, and I thought a fun way to achieve that would to be for the protagonist to be popular and snarky rather than a quiet outcast. A cheerleader seemed like a great fit for that.

5. Why did you choose to write for young adults?

My first novel was actually for adults. One of the reasons I think it struck out with agents, besides it being my first novel, was that my passion wasn’t showing through on the page. I’d written a book I thought I should write instead of a book I wanted to write. When I gave up on the silly notion of what was a ‘real book’ and followed by heart, that’s when things started falling into place for me. I’m a firm believer that it’s obvious when your heart isn’t in it.

6. What are you working on now?

I’m about halfway through writing the first draft of Dead Girls Society, a YA paranormal thriller about a girl who escapes her helicopter parents by joining a high-stakes dare club, only to find more than just thrills—girls are going missing and she could be next.

DGS is a little bit dark, but it has the same kind of dry, sarcastic humor as Hexed, and of course, there’s plenty of action, romance, and drama. It’s been a complete blast to write!

Thanks so much for this interview, Michelle!

You can pre-order HEXED here or add it on Goodreads here.