A Writer in the Spotlight – Marieke Nijkamp

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Hello gentle reader,

today I’m delighted to share with you another interview with a YA author! Meet Marieke Nijkamp, author of the  upcoming (and much anticipated) THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS.

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Author: Marieke Nijkamp

Website: http://thisiswhereitendsbook.tumblr.com/

Twitter: @mariekeyn

Biography:

Marieke Nijkamp is a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, geek. She holds degrees in philosophy, history, and medieval studies, and is an executive member of We Need Diverse Books, the founder of DiversifYA, and a founding contributor to YA Misfits.

My interview (20th September 2015)

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

I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I can’t remember I time I wasn’t telling stories or didn’t let my imagination run wild. For me, stories are my outlet and the way I understand the world. So going from there to sharing those stories always felt like a small step to me, although it’s an honor to be able to do that.

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

I’m a part-time writer. I usually write during the evenings and the weekends. Though that doesn’t mean I’m also a part-time storyteller. I am constantly thinking of stories, questioning the world, stealing shiny observations. Writers really are magpies and some days, that’s the part I love best about this job. The way it allows me to always wonder about the story behind the story.

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

Persevere and believe in YOUR stories. There are many writers out there, but no one who can tell your stories. You are unique. Your voice matters. And if you keep speaking up and if you keep telling stories and if you keep improving, you will be heard.

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To write THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS, where did you get the idea from and when did you start writing it?

There wasn’t any particular school shooting that inspired TIWIE. The idea came from a conversation with a friend about school safety. But it was on the heels of several high profile shootings that I started it, mostly out of a deep longing to understand not only the situation but especially the human aspect of it. I wanted to understand the people and the stories, rather than the event itself.

What are you working on now?

Several stories, as a matter of fact! There’s one I’m drafting, that deals with friendship, grief, and never-ending nights. There’s one I’m revising, that’s about war and family and the deepest betrayals. And there’s always a few that are whispering at me, teasing me with their possibilities.

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

Oh my goodness, how I hate this question! 🙂 I will focus on recommending instead of playing favorites, because it’s simply easier. So in no particular order, here are five 2016 books I loved recently that ought to be on everyone’s TBR:

– Jeff Zentner’s THE SERPENT KING has such an utterly beautiful voice. It’s impossible to put this book down once you started reading. It’s a stunning exploration of family and identity.

– Renee Ahdieh’s THE ROSE AND THE DAGGER which enthralled me as much as THE WRATH AND THE DAWN did. Spending more time with these characters was such a gift, and oh how I love the world Renee built. I would love to visit… if only so I could eat all the food!

– Traci Chee’s THE READER is a collection of everything I love in fantasy. Books. Pirates. Feisty FMCs. And a deep, deep understanding of how stories influence the way we live in and see the world. It’s a wonderful debut.

– Parker Peevyhouse’s WHERE FUTURES END which is a remarkable work of innovative storytelling. This is one of those books you have to experience.

– Brooks Benjamin’s MY SEVENTH GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS, finally, is also a book you need to experience, because it will brighten up your world. It’s fun, it’s affirming, it’s happiness in book form.

Thanks for this interview, Marieke!

You can add THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS on Goodreads here.

 

A Writer in the Spotlight – Sarah Glenn Marsh

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Hello gentle reader,

today I’m delighted to share with you another interview with a YA author! Meet my friend and critique partner, the very talented Sarah Glenn Marsh, author of the upcoming FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP!

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Author: Sarah Glenn Marsh

Website: http://www.sarahglennmarsh.com/

Twitter: @SG_Marsh

Biography:

Sarah writes young adult (YA) novels and picture books in Virginia, where she lives with her husband and four rescued greyhounds. When she’s not writing, she can often be found browsing an antique shop, taking an art class, or watching something scary on TV.
She loves: roses and lavender, stargazing, red lipstick, hot tea, and raising awareness for animal rescue. She loathes: seafood, spiders, and traffic jams. Fantasy is her favorite genre! She sincerely hopes her books take you someplace you’ve never been.

My interview (26th October 2015)

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? 

I’m pretty sure I was born with my love of writing! I wrote little books when I was in kindergarten about why I should be allowed to get a dog (and I must’ve done something right, because we got one on my 6th birthday!). I got in trouble for daydreaming and writing stories in elementary school so often that my fifth grade teacher called my mom to discuss it!

In my teens, I took creative writing classes at my high school, but where my love of writing really blossomed was on Elendor, a Lord of the Rings text-based role playing game! Maybe that sounds crazy, or silly, or what-have-you, but…writing collaborative stories in Tolkien’s world taught me so, so much about establishing setting and creating conflict and multi-dimensional characters. I don’t think I’d be a strong writer if not for the countless hours I spent on Elendor.

My big push to pursue publication, though, actually came from my husband. I was complaining to him about my office job one night when he turned to me and said, “So quit. Write a book. That’s what you should be doing anyway. You’re an amazing writer.” And I did leave that awful job. And I wrote many books. And I don’t ever want to stop chasing the dream of a writing career!

When and where do you write?

I write during the day; I’m most focused in the mornings, but I also write through most of the afternoon! As for location, I sometimes write in my office upstairs, surrounded by my favorite books, signed posters, and random nerdy things like my Lord of the Rings and Sailor Moon action figures; other times, I write in our sunny living room while sharing the sofa with a couple of cuddly greyhounds!

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

I’d say: be in it for the right reasons (the love and sheer joy of storytelling!). That way, when terrible things happen on the journey to publication–and they WILL happen at some point, to everyone, in some way–you’ll have your love of storytelling to carry you through the hard times.

I’d also say: be prepared to stay in this for the long haul. Learning to bounce back from rejections is a slow process for some–like sensitive little me!–but it will happen in time. The thing is, it could take years to get an agent, and then several more years to sell a book, and then there’s the 1-2 year wait from publication offer to seeing your book on shelves. This isn’t an overnight thing for anyone, even those who do land agents quickly.

And another thing: make some great writer friends. You’ll carry each other through the publishing process, offering support when things are tough, and celebrating each others’ successes will become some of your best memories!

Wait! Just one more thing: believe in yourself. Learn all you can from everyone else who’s done this before you, but always trust your instinct when it comes to your own stories. That’s how you’ll stay true to your voice and your vision.

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To write FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP, where did you get your inspiration from?

The first line of FEAR popped into my head one night. I knew I wanted to write a book about the sea and monsters, and once that first line came to me, the words just started flowing, and characters appeared–like Morag, the witch! I think FEAR was a result of my lifelong love/respect/fascination with the sea, as well as a reflection of the gorgeous, rich fantasies and fairy tales I read growing up, where ordinary girls were forced to be braver than they could ever imagine.

Your book is set in 1913 on the Isle of Man, how did you research this time and place?

I’m so glad you asked this! My research process was a bit unusual. For one thing, I found some great books from the 1800s on Manx mythology (mainly dealing with fairies and the Islanders’ customs and lore surrounding them), and read those/took notes! I also ordered some Manx history books directly from the Isle–I don’t recommend this though, unless you want to spend a TON on shipping!

I also went to YouTube to look up videos of the Isle of Man TT. This is a famous motorcycle race (for those who aren’t as enthralled by motorcycles as I am!) and my awesome biker dad had mentioned it to me several times growing up. Anyway, bikers from around the world flock to the Isle of Man for this big race around the island each year; it’s actually been happening since the early 1900s! Anyway, I watched videos of the TT to get a sense for the Manx landscape and the accents of the Manx people reporting on the race!

Your book is a Historical Fantasy: how did you find the right balance between historical facts and the fantasy aspects of the story?

This is a tough one to answer without discussing specifics, which might lead to spoilers! But in short, with FEAR, I wasn’t changing any particular aspects of history; I added magical elements that didn’t change the culture or technology of the time, so it never felt as though the fantastical bits were at odds with the history.

I think it helps that the Isle of Man is such an intrinsically magical place, too! If you don’t believe me, just head over to Google and look at some photos (or better yet, go there and take me with you!). I chose to set FEAR on the Isle precisely because the landscape appears to be brimming with magic.

What are you working on now?

I’m always a bit shy about sharing early on, but… my new project is a dark YA epic fantasy that I like to describe as “SABRIEL meets GRACELING.” Think necromancers + LGBT romance + a super cool magic system!

I can vouch it’s a VERY COOL magic system 😉

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

Here are a few favorites that inspired FEAR: literally everything by Patricia McKillip and Charles de Lint; Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier; The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare.

And here are a few favorites I read growing up: Tolkien, Harry Potter (Slytherin represent!), The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander, The Black Jewels series by Anne Bishop; the Alanna series and the Immortals series by Tamora Pierce; Patricia McKillip’s The Forgotten Beasts of Eld— if you’ve not read this book, GO FIX THAT IMMEDIATELY. Go. Now. I’ll wait.

Lastly, here are a few titles I’m excited for next year that are on my mind: The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig; The Reader by Traci Chee; The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie; The Girl Who Fell by Shannon Parker; Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn; Into the Dim by Janet Taylor; The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner; Hearts Made of Black by Stephanie Garber; Liars and Losers Like Us by Ami Allen-Vath… I could go on and on! Basically, if it’s by any of the Sweet Sixteens, I’ll be reading it!!!

Thanks so much for this interview Sarah!

You can add FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP on Goodreads here.

 

 

A Writer in the Spotlight – William Ritter

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Hello gentle reader,

today I’m delighted to share with you another interview with a YA author! Meet William Ritter, author of JACKABY and upcoming BEASTLY BONES.

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Author: William Ritter

Website: http://rwillritter.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @Willothewords

Biography:

Reports of William Ritter’s birthplace are unreliable and varied, placing his hometown either in a series of mysterious Catacombs in Malta or in a nondescript town in Oregon. His parents, it can be confirmed, raised him to value intelligence, creativity, and individuality. When reading aloud, they always did the voices.

At the University of Oregon, William made questionable choices, including willfully selecting classes for the interesting stories they promised, rather than for any practical application. When he wasn’t frivolously playing with words, he earned credits in such meaningful courses as Trampoline, Juggling, and 17th Century Italian Longsword. These dubious decisions notwithstanding, he regrets nothing and now holds degrees in English and Education with certificates in Creative Writing and Folklore.

He currently teaches high school Language Arts, including reading and writing, mythology and heroes. He is a proud husband and father. When reading aloud, he always does the voices.

My interview (8th July 2015)

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

I’ve loved writing stories as long as I can remember. I wrote little mini-books about superheroes in elementary school and drew comics for my middle-school newspaper. I wrote stories for fun and to entertain my wife and family, not because I ever thought anything would come of it. Jackaby sort of decided it wanted to be a proper novel without my planning it.

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

I am a teacher during the school year, so I write weekends and evenings, and of course during the summer. I have a nice little writing desk at home where I get a lot of work done, but I sometimes occupy a quiet corner of the library or a local bookstore when I need to really buckle down and concentrate.

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

Motivation is easy to lose, so when you want to write for profit, write for pleasure. Seriously. If you write by thinking rationally about what the market is looking for and how to maximize the appeal of your product based on industry data blah blah blah… then you will create for yourself a hard job that you hate. That’s not why you’re writing. You could become an accountant for that. Instead, design for yourself the kind of book you really want to read—have fun with it and fall in love with your own characters. That sort of passion carries into the prose AND it ensures that when you don’t get that big contract you were hoping for—or when you DO and it leads to even more hard work—you’re still enjoying yourself.

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

Life—mine and other people’s. Fiction. Facts. The stuff in-between. Books. Classes I’ve taken and classes I’ve taught. My inspiration for writing tends to come from everything and everyone I’ve ever known. When that fails, I make stuff up.

Your book is pitched as Doctor Who meets Sherlock Holmes, were they really an inspiration for you?

Yes, in that I was inspired by all of the many stories and characters that I love, but otherwise no, not directly. The Doctor and Sherlock Holmes are very similar characters already, eccentric outsiders who lead their companions into wild adventures—an apt description for Jackaby as well—but I found my way to that archetype on my own, not because I was trying to play to any established fanbases or emulate any particular series. I designed Jackaby as an excuse to tell stories about folklore and mythology and gave him an lifestyle that allowed me to build those stories around madcap capers and magical mysteries.

Your book is a Historical Fantasy: how did you find the right balance between historical facts and the fantasy aspects of the story?

Toward the start, I eased into the fantastical elements gradually to give the narrator—and thereby the reader—time to adjust, but overall, it’s an easy balance. The fantasy in Jackaby is almost entirely taken from existing world folklore. I teach Mythology classes, and I always open by establishing clearly that we are not studying fiction and we are not studying facts. Myths are sacred narratives in their own category. That’s the same approach I take when I pick elements for my own stories. The research involved in finding interesting creatures or magical charms feels very much like the research involved in finding period accurate clothing or atmospheric architecture.

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What are you working on now? 

I am in revision for the third book in the Jackaby series and already poking at my collected notes for book four. Every book has grown differently, so I feel as though I’m learning how to write all over again each time. It’s a lot of work, but also tremendous fun. I count myself extremely lucky to be given the chance to do what I do.

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

So many. My standby favorite authors are PG Wodehouse, Neil Gaiman, and Terry Pratchett. If you’re looking for something in the historical fantasy genre, I can wholeheartedly recommend The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker, Diviners by Libba Bray, and Ms. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. All great reads.

Thank you for a great interview, William!

Thanks so much for having me on your Writer in the Spotlight segment—happy reading!

You can add Jackaby and Beastly Bones on Goodreads here.

 

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).

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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).

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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.

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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!).

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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

A Writer In The Spotlight Logo

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.