Book of the Week – The Violinist of Venice

Hello gentle reader,

Violinist of Venice

Last winter I received an ARC of The Violinist of Venice by the lovely Alyssa Palombo, but I only recently found the time to read it. This Historical novel came out last December, and it’s Alyssa’s debut.

The story takes place over 30 years in 18th Century Venice, and follows the life of Adrianna D’Amato, a gifted violinist who falls in love with her tutor – the virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. This relationship is impossible in many ways – Adrianna’s father marries her off to another man, and Vivaldi himself is a priest – but their affair will impact both their lives long after it ends.

Although I did enjoy the plot, what really kept me reading this beautifully written book was the world building: Alyssa has seamlessly recreated 18th Century Venice and her descriptions make us feel as if we’re there with Adrianna. It’s also a very interesting portrait of the upper society of the time, where women had very few choices in life and even less freedom.

I recommend this book if you love Historical fiction, Italy and strong female characters. Here is the link to Goodreads if you want to add it.

What have you been reading this week? Feel free to leave me your recommendations below!

A Writer in the Spotlight – Mackenzi Lee

A Writer In The Spotlight Logo

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.

ThisMonstrousThing

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

A Writer In The Spotlight Logo

 

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

A Writer In The Spotlight Logo

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.

A-Magic-Dark-and-Bright-original-683x1024

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.

Waiting On Wednesday – 69

Hello gentle reader,

today I’m waiting on THE VIOLINIST OF VENICE by Alyssa Palombo (expected publication: December 15th 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin). It’s a Historical debut set in 18th Century Venice which sounds right up my alley!

The Violinist of Venice

From Goodreads:

A sweeping historical novel of composer and priest Antonio Vivaldi, a secret wealthy mistress, and their passion for music and each other

Like most 18th century Venetians, Adriana d’Amato adores music-except her strict merchant father has forbidden her to cultivate her gift for the violin. But she refuses to let that stop her from living her dreams and begins sneaking out of her family’s palazzo under the cover of night to take violin lessons from virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. However, what begins as secret lessons swiftly evolves into a passionate, consuming love affair.

Adriana’s father is intent on seeing her married to a wealthy, prominent member of Venice’s patrician class-and a handsome, charming suitor, whom she knows she could love, only complicates matters-but Vivaldi is a priest, making their relationship forbidden in the eyes of the Church and of society. They both know their affair will end upon Adriana’s marriage, but she cannot anticipate the events that will force Vivaldi to choose between her and his music. The repercussions of his choice-and of Adriana’s own choices-will haunt both of their lives in ways they never imagined.

Spanning more than 30 years of Adriana’s life, Alyssa Palombo’s The Violinist of Venice is a story of passion, music, ambition, and finding the strength to both fall in love and to carry on when it ends.

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

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

Waiting On Wednesday – 67

Hello gentle reader,

today I’m waiting on THIS MONSTROUS THING by Mackenzi Lee (expected publication: September 22nd 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books). It’s a YA Historical Fantasy and a reimagining of Frankenstein. I’ve been waiting for this book since the book deal was announced on Publishers Weekly, which is to say… forever. I’m so looking forward to its release!

ThisMonstrousThing

 

From Goodreads:

In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver—dead.

His sweetheart, Mary—gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…

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

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

Waiting On Wednesday – 65

Hello gentle reader,

today I’m waiting on THE DEAD HOUSE by Dawn Kurtagich (expected publication: 6th August 2015 by Orion/Indigo in the UK and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in the US). It’s a YA novel, “part-psychological thriller, part-urban legend: an unsettling narrative made up of diary entries, interview transcripts, film footage transcripts and medical notes.” I know Dawn from Twitter and I think her book sounds unique and awesome! I can’t wait to read it…

The Dead House

From Goodreads:

Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High burned down. Three people were killed and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Now a diary has been found in the ruins of the school. The diary belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister. But Carly didn’t have a twin . . .

Re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, transcripts of video footage and fragments of diary reveal a web of deceit and intrigue, violence and murder, raising a whole lot more questions than it answers.

Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?

Chilling, creepy and utterly compelling, THE DEAD HOUSE is one of those very special books that finds all the dark places in your imagination, and haunts you long after you’ve finished reading.

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

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