A Writer in the Spotlight – Kat Ellis

A Writer In The Spotlight Logo

 

Hello gentle reader,

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

A Writer in the Spotlight – 34

My interview (7th February 2016)

Kat Ellis

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

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

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

blackfin sky jpeg

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

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

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

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

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

Cover - low res

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for the interview, Kat!

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

A Writer in the Spotlight – Stacey Lee

A Writer In The Spotlight Logo

Hello gentle reader,

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

A writer in the spotlight – 33

My interview (2d February 2016)

Stacey Lee

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

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

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

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

Under A Painted Sky

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

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

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

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

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

9780399175411_OutrunTheMoon_BOM.indd

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

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

Finally, do you have any reading recommendations?

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

Thanks so much for the interview, Stacey!

Thanks for having me, Eve!

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

A Writer in the Spotlight – Alwyn Hamilton

A Writer In The Spotlight Logo

Hello gentle reader,

I’m delighted to share with you another interview with a YA author today! Meet Alwyn Hamilton, whose YA Fantasy debut REBEL OF THE SANDS will come out on 4th February 2016 in the UK and on 8th March 2016 in the US.

A writer in the spotlight – 32

Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Website: http://alwynhamilton.com/

Twitter: @AlwynFGH

Biography:

Alwyn Hamilton was born in Toronto and spent her childhood bouncing between Europe and Canada until her parents settled in France. She grew up in a small town there, which might have compelled her to burst randomly into the opening song from Beauty and the Beast were it not for her total tone-deafness. She instead attempted to read and write her way to new places and developed a weakness for fantasy and cross-dressing heroines. She left France for Cambridge University to study History of Art at King’s College, and then to London where she became indentured to an auction house. She has a bad habit of acquiring more hardcovers than is smart for someone who moves house quite so often.

My interview (8th November 2015)

alwyn-hamilton-213x300

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

I pretty much did, yeah. I don’t remember ever not knowing that’s what I wanted to do at least. Somewhere my parents still have the story I wrote when I was about 5 or 6, called “The Tangle Monster” about a monster who would tangle a little girls’ hair (I had a lot of hair and I hated having it brushed). My mother typed it for me and I illustrated it.

And then later on, well, the French School system which I was educated in, as you probably know, is very career driven. I don’t know if you had to do this but when I was about 11 we were meant to submit a project detailing what future career we wanted, and including research about what Bac we would chose, and what graduate degrees we’d have to do. I didn’t do that. Instead I submitted a single sheet of paper on which I had written “I want to grow up to be a writer. I will do an English Degree to achieve that.” And turned that in. I did an Art History Degree instead of English, but the rest I did manage.

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

I am gradually moving towards being a full time writer. When I wrote REBEL OF THE SANDS, I was very much working full time, 10 or 11 hour days, Monday to Sunday sometimes. I was thankfully able to cut down to working 3 days a week this past summer. My writing habits haven’t changed very much though. I write in cafes near my house on weekends/my days off, from about 10 a.m until 5 p.m, preferably cafés without internet and fuel myself on coffees, with headphones in and 1 song on perpetual repeat.

But I’ll be leaving my day job entirely at the end of 2015 to write full time. Or at least be a full time author, I’m finding out that even with the best of intentions, the closer I get to book publication (and with the book being out in Italy) the more things spring up that are book related, but aren’t writing from the fun ones like getting to do interviews to the less fun ones like having to figure out your accounts.

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

I wish I had something groundbreaking and original to say, but I don’t. I think there’s already a lot of great publishing advice out there but the ones that stand out for me are, keep going, perseverance will get you a long way and don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s.

Oh, and if you’re a younger writer, don’t listen to your parents. And I don’t mean that in a negative way or in a ‘ignore their urging to get a job and just follow your dreams’ (personally I think writers should have another job first, and I think everyone should have to do some crappy jobs in life, but I digress…) That goes whether they are discouraging you (ignore all discouragers as a rule) or encouraging you because chances are if you are serious about being a published writer you have done your research and you know more than they do. (Most) Parents will want to help but (unless they work in publishing) you probably know more than them for once. And regardless you have your own idea of what your publishing path looks like and what you want to spend your energies on and you shouldn’t stray from that path because of someone else’s idea of what it should look like.

Rebel-of-the-Sands

To write REBEL OF THE SANDS, where did you get your inspiration from?

Originally I wanted to write a Western. Except I didn’t really want to write a Western. I just knew that there was a girl who went by the Blue-Eyed Bandit and that she was on an adventure in the desert with a stranger and that looked a lot like a western to me. But I didn’t actually want to write a Historical. I had this niggling notion that it could be a Western and something, I just didn’t know what that something was. I was wracking my brain for ages about and then it hit me in the middle of the night to combine it with the 1001 Nights.

I was working in an Islamic Art Department at an auction house at the time, which probably helped. It seemed like it was possibly either a perfect idea or an idiotic one, which is always possible in the middle of the night. I spent the next hour lying away, thinking of all of the elements that connected the two: the desert setting, outlaws and bandits, societies with a strong religious base and so on, until I had essentially talked myself into it doing it. And that meant I got to bring in a lot of great things from both, train robberies and shooting contests from the wild west, and magical doors and a Djinn from the Arabian Nights.

Your book combines an Arab-inspired setting with Wester-like guns, what kind of research did you do for this?

I grabbed quite a few research books about things like the history of Persia and about the mythology surrounding the Djinn. And a few about the Wild West, and one about clothing through the ages, and one about weapons which are both great illustrated reference books when I need to check something specific. But mainly I read a lot of Middle Eastern folk tales. I found that I was more likely to stick with books that had a narrative and you glean a lot of details about regular life just by what is naturally included in these folktales. I found these really helpful because I wasn’t necessarily trying to mirror any specific country or ruler, but more get a general feel of the stories that were told in these cultures and create something that might fit inside one of these (in sort of the same way that Cinderella is very French without being specifically about France…depending on whether you watch Ever After or not I guess). I also read a few travel books about westerners living with desert nomads, or visiting middle eastern cities, (Waterstone’s Piccadilly very helpful lays out all their Eland travel books on one table on the ground floor to tempt me every time I go in).

Both your US and UK covers are gorgeous, did your publishers ask for your input while designing them?

Thanks! They did a great job, and I can’t wait for people to see the finished copies in the flesh (in the paper?) the pictures don’t do them justice! And they are actually now the same cover as the one that Faber designed for the UK is being used for both English versions. I saw a really really early draft this cover way back in January my agent and I gave our thoughts then. And then saw both the UK and US ones before they were officially out in the world. They were both gorgeous and the only comments I had were tiny things.

What are you working on now?

Book 2! The as of yet unnamed sequel to REBEL OF THE SANDS (Currently entitled Rebel 2: This Time It’s Palatial), which is the 2nd in a planned trilogy and is the first time I’ve ever written a whole book to deadline which is a new experience.

The Winner's Curse

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

…How much time do you have?

I don’t think I have loved a book as much as Marie Rutkoski’s THE WINNER’S CURSE in a long time. It was one of those I started at about 9 p.m, thinking “I’ll read one chapter before bed” and then next thing I knew it was 4 a.m and I was an emotionally distraught mess in a tangle of sheets as I finished the last chapter. So if you too would like all your coworkers to ask you why you look so tired while your tired brain tries to come up with a lie so you don’t have to just admit “I’ve had 3 hours of sleep because Kestrel and Arin tore my heart out” I’d recommend that.

I also love loved VIVIAN VS THE APOCALYPSE by Katie Coyle and THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER by Lesley Walton. Those have stayed with me and I recommend them any chance I get.

In YA series old and new there’s Ally Carter’s HEIST SOCIETY series, Leigh Bardugo’s GRISHA trilogy, Rae Carson’s THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS series, Tamora Pierce’s ALANNA, Robin McKinley’s THE HERO AND THE CROWN…

I could go on, I mean seriously, how much time do you have?

Thanks Alwyn for this interview!

You can add REBEL OF THE SANDS on Goodreads here.

A Writer in the Spotlight – Marieke Nijkamp

A Writer In The Spotlight Logo

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.

A Writer in the Spotlight – 31

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)

9s4QKDa1_400x400

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.

CSU-q3lU8AAtJZW.jpg-large

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.

9780399171611

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

A Writer In The Spotlight Logo

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!

A Writer in the Spotlight – 30

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)

e2bade3aa4885e31996644816c7838a0

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.

FearTheDrowningDeep

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 😉

13929

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 – 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

A Writer in the Spotlight – 28

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

A Writer in the Spotlight – 27

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.