The Wattpad Endeavour (part 2)

Hello gentle reader,

Six months ago I wrote a post about my decision to join Wattpad and to share a couple of my manuscripts online. Since then, my stories have been read over 47,000 times, and on Friday, my YA Historical Fantasy THE BRIGHT AND THE LOST won a “Watty” (a 2017 Wattpad Award).

EM Castellan The Bright and the Lost Wattpad

I’m still amazed this happened. I’m also incredibly grateful to everyone on Wattpad who made this happen.

Wattpad is a VERY crowded platform, where it can be really hard to find an audience. I was extremely lucky when THE BRIGHT AND THE LOST was chosen as a Wattpad Featured Story for 5 months (between February and July 2017). Once in the spotlight, as it were, my story garnered interest. Readers reached out to say they loved my characters and to ask about a sequel. I thought this was as good as it would get.

I still decided to enter the Wattys, but without much hope: there was a mind-blowing total of 195,000 entries for the contest. A month ago, I found out THE BRIGHT AND THE LOST was among the 100 shortlisted stories. It was at the bottom of the list, in the “Newcomers” category, but it was there. I was thrilled! Readers reached out again, saying it would win, for sure. Their confidence and excitement made me smile, but I still didn’t think it would happen. Too many stories on that shortlist, with far more readers than mine.

And then on Friday, I received the news: THE BRIGHT AND THE LOST had won. You can find the complete list of winners here.

Wattys 2017 Newcomers category

When I joined Wattpad, my goal was to have at least 1000 people read my story. Needless to say, what’s happened has gone much beyond my expectations.

So if you’ve read my stories on Wattpad, thank you. Your support means more than you can imagine.

And if you’re a writer wondering if it’s all really worth the effort and the creative anguish, don’t give up. Write your next book. Query widely. Enter contests. Join an online writing platform. Network on Twitter.

In time, good things will happen. Especially the most unexpected.

Have a lovely Sunday!

A Writer in the Spotlight – Amanda Foody

A Writer In The Spotlight Logo

Hello gentle reader,

In 2014, I interviewed Amanda Foody about her successful query. Three years later and her debut DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY is about to come out. I thought it was time to have another chat with her – this time about her writing process and her upcoming books. I hope you’ll enjoy this interview!

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My interview (10th July 2017)

amanda_foody_author_photo_2016Credit to Steph Faucher Photography

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

I wanted to be a writer since I started reading. My earliest stories are from when I was five years old, and I have so many memories of spending hours alone as a child, typing away on my parents’ old box computers in the “computer room,” starting book after book (but rarely finishing them). Even though I often had other aspirations, usually in the business or STEM fields, I always wanted to write as well. In high school, I decided to stop waiting to “be a grown-up” and to start pursuing it professionally then. I learned a lot very quickly, and I regret nothing!

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

I am not. I am a tax accountant by day, living a double life between the two sides of my brain. I typically write in the evening when I get home from work, or on the weekends. I do a lot of writing in bed.

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

Read as much as you can about the craft of writing! Craft books were my greatest teachers, and I still refer back to them whenever I can. They are truly invaluable, and often overlooked.

DaughterOfTheBurningCity
To write DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY, where did you get your inspiration from?

In the midst of drafting it, I read THE NIGHT CIRCUS for the first time and loved what Erin Morganstern did with her world-building and tone. I also read a lot of Agatha Christie as a kid, so I reflected a lot on classic mystery plots and how I could convert that to a fully fantastical story.

The story takes place in a travelling circus. What kind of research did you do for it?

Not too much, really. I definitely had to do some thinking on the mechanics of the city and how it moves and feeds itself and functions, but I tend to shy away from research and draw a lot from my own imagination, particular for this book. Most of my research was for extraneous things, like on bugs for Sorina’s bug collection, or poisons for Luca’s poison collection (My characters have some weird interests).

Your cover is gorgeous, did your publishers ask for your input while designing it?

Thank you! They asked what sort of cover I had in mind, and then when in a totally different direction. I love the final product, though. It’s very eye-catching and unique. They did a great job unifying the title, cover, and tagline into a single aesthetic.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on my second book, ACE OF SHADES. DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY is a stand-alone, and ACE is the first in a YA fantasy series. I’m currently deep into the editorial work, somewhere between intensive revisions and line edits, and I’m uber excited for how the story is turning out. I started this project when I was seventeen, and I honestly feel that this book taught me how to write. I’m so proud of how far it’s come.

A little about the project: it releases on April 24, 2018. We call it SIX OF CROWS meets SPIRITED AWAY. It takes place in the City of Sin, known for its reckless gambling culture, scandalous cabarets, and extensive criminal underworld. Enne Salta comes from a world of etiquette, pirouettes, and doilies–exactly the opposite of the City of Sin–but she journeys there anyway in order to find her mother, who’s gone missing there…and could potentially be dead. She teams up with Levi Glaisyer, a famous card dealer and con man, who’s gotten himself into some hot water for running an illegal investment scam. The two uncover some sinister secrets about Enne’s mother and must face a number of terrible enemies in the city, who thrust them into a perilous game for their lives. It’s got all my favorite things: ruthless villains, an endearing yet cutthroat group cast, and sexy thrills! 😉

What are your favourite books this year? 

So many! Just to list: STRANGE THE DREAMER by Laini Taylor; WARCROSS by Marie Lu; MASK OF SHADOWS by Linsey Miller; and UPROOTED by Naomi Novik.

Thanks for this interview, Amanda!

You can add Amanda’s books on Goodreads here.

Check out Amanda’s beautiful website here to find out more about her and her books.

 

 

The Wattpad Endeavour

Hello gentle reader,

Last November, I joined Wattpad and posted online one of my manuscripts, THE BRIGHT AND THE LOST. If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know I’m still working on getting traditionally published, but I decided to reach out to YA readers via a different channel in the meantime. Having had to shelve THE BRIGHT AND THE LOST for various reasons two years ago, I decided it would be the perfect story to share online for free.

In February, THE BRIGHT AND THE LOST was picked to become a Wattpad Featured Story. It has had over 13K reads so far, and it has made it into the Top 25 on the Wattpad Historical Hot List.

Following this positive first experience with Wattpad, I posted on the website a short story, THE FORBIDDEN ROOM. So far the first four chapters are available, and I will upload the rest of the story in the weeks to come.

If you’re a Wattpad user, or if you’re interested in reading my stories, you’ll find the links below. I’d be delighted to connect with you on Wattpad and to read your comments on my stories. Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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THE BRIGHT AND THE LOST

DOWNTON ABBEY meets Libba Bray’s THE DIVINERS in this YA Historical Fantasy set in 1922 England.

THE FORBIDDEN ROOM FINAL promo

THE FORBIDDEN ROOM

**A Blue Beard retelling** Based on Charles Perrault’s fairytale, this short story set in Victorian England mixes romance, magic and mystery.

Are you a Wattpader? If so, leave me a comment below!

A Writer in the Spotlight – Mackenzi Lee

A Writer In The Spotlight Logo

Hello gentle reader,

I had the pleasure of interviewing YA author Mackenzi Lee in June 2015, a couple of months before her YA Historical Fantasy debut THIS MONSTROUS THING came out. Eighteen months later, and Mackenzi is now an established author, with two books coming out in 2017-2018. I thought it was time to have another chat with her… Hope you enjoy!

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My interview (9th January 2017)

Mackenzi Lee

THIS MONSTROUS THING came out a little over a year ago. What were the highlights of your debut year? Anything you’d do differently?

I’d sort of do everything and nothing differently–in the same way I’d do everything and nothing differently if I could live my life again. So much of what I know at the end of my debut year is because I made mistakes and learned things the hard way, but those mistakes are the reason I now know things.

Don’t think about it too hard.

But there were so many highlights, and I keep thinking about those highlights whenever I’m down or stuck or things feel like I don’t know how to author. Like getting to hold my book for the first time, or the reader who asked me to write a note to Mary Shelley in her copy of Frankenstein, or the reader who showed up to an event with a copy of TMT that she had color coded, or getting an envelope full of mail from an eighth grade class who read the book, or the twin girls who chose to come to one of my events and buy my book for their birthday present, or my childhood librarian sending me a picture of my book on the library shelf, or the guy sitting next to me on a red eye flight buying my book on his Kindle right in front of me.

I think the thing I would do differently would be to try and focus more on these moments, and not the lists I’m not on or the stars I don’t get or the festivals I’m not invited to. But I’m a neurotic writer, so that’s easier said than done. Focusing on the good moments is a lifelong battle.    

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

Right before I sold THIS MONSTROUS THING, a grad school mentor told me to enjoy this time before I was published because it was the last time I could write for myself. I thought at the time that was so stupid–publishing is the end game! What’s there to enjoy about not being published?!

Now I understand what she meant, because once you’re published, there’s a lot more to consider every time I make a decision about my writing. I feel like editors and agents and reviewers and readers have all become my internal voice. As a result, the first thing I tried to write after TMT was a disaster because I was so caught up in how backward the process felt when I already had agent/editor/publishing house attached to the book, as well as reader expectations.

But then I wrote Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, as a project that started just for me, that I never intended to let anyone read. Publishing has definitely changed my writing, but I’m trying not to let it change that I want to always be working on things I love and am proud of.

gentlemansguidetoviceandvirtue

You have a much anticipated book coming out in 2017, THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE. Can you tell us a little bit about your inspiration for this story?

I first learned about the concept of the eighteenth century Grand Tour (a sort of gap year young noblemen took in the 1700s between finishing school and waiting to take over their family estate) years ago, when I was a TA for a humanities class in college. It was the sort of thing I shelved in my brain as “something to write about someday.”

I really love playing with tropes and genre conventions in my books–TMT is very much my self-aware Gothic novel. I don’t know when exactly I had the idea to write the same sort of tropey adventure novel set during a grand tour, or what prompted it, but I remember deciding early on that I wanted to write an adventure novel populated with the sort of people who have traditionally  been left out of these sort of narratives—both historical and adventure novely. So my lead trio of my very traditional historical adventure novel interact in various ways with sexuality, race, chronic illness, and gender in ways that adventure novel protags usually don’t.

What type of research did you have to do for this book? Did you go on a Grand Tour of Europe yourself?!

I went on a Grand Tour-ish?

When I was in college, I did a year abroad in England, during which I took my own Grand Tour over the course of the weekends and school holidays, so it was a long, drawn out, sporadic tour. But I did get to visit all the places Monty and Percy go to in the book, and I definitely drew on my memories when I wrote. And I also definitely plotted the book around my favorite cities in Europe. The “road map” of the book was one of the first things I figured out, even before I had a plot.

My favorite research I did for this book was reading the journals and letters of real 18th century grand tourists, both because they were populated by so many colorful interesting details about a daily reality that felt almost otherworldly to me because of how different it was from mine, but also feelings and thoughts and anxieties that I related deeply to. A lot of these grand tourists from the 1700s—men around the same age as me—shared so many thoughts that I do. It was amazing, and definitely shaped how I thought about my novel.

Can you talk a little bit about SEMPER AUGUSTUS, which will come out in 2018?

Oh my yes! This is not a book I am well practiced in talking about yet!

SEMPER AUGUSTUS started from a place of me wanting to dissect my least favorite trope—the girls dressing as boys in historical fiction. But of course it ended up being a lot of other things too—a book about religion and family and first love and community and ambition and loyalty.

It’s set in 1637, during the Dutch Tulipomania which is this very odd pocket of Dutch history where an economic bubble sprung up around tulip bulbs, until, at the peak, single tulip bulbs were being sold and traded multiple times a day, sometimes for the price of a canal house in Amsterdam. Basically 17th century Beanie Babies. SEMPER AUGUSTUS is set during the height of the mania, and is about two siblings trying to pull off a con to sell a tulip bulb for way more than its worth. My family is Dutch, so I have a lot of personal ties to the cultural landscape of the story, as well as the conflict between religion, community, and self.

I’m so excited for everyone to read it. But one book at a time.

fairfightillustration3lo

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

I literally always have reading recommendations. Some recent reads that floored me:

My current obsession is Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, a nonfiction book about octopuses and animal consciousness and emotion. I could have not have given less of a shit about octopuses before this book, and now I am OBSESSED with them. Not only are they basically the most fascinating creatures on the planet,  but Sy writes about them with such elegance. I found this book utterly and unexpectedly riveting.

Also I’m late to the game with Landline by Rainbow Rowell but that book had me inconsolable on a plane. Rainbow is a freaking wizard with words–if I could write sentences half as good as she can, I could die happy. That book made me feel all the things–the most emotionally real and honest novel I’ve encountered in a long time.

Lastly, The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman, a fabulously accessible and high-stakes historical fiction novel about lady bare knuckle boxers in Georgian England. I mean….what’s not to love in that premise alone?

Thanks for the interview, Mackenzi!

You can add THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE on Goodreads, as well as SEMPER AUGUSTUS.

Looking forward to 2017: Anticipated YA Books

Hello gentle reader,

On this blog I’ve already mentioned five YA releases I’m looking forward to reading in 2017: CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber, THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE by Mackenzi Lee, TRAITOR TO THE THRONE by Alwyn Hamilton, SHIMMER AND BURN by Mary Taranta and GILDED CAGE by Vic James.

Today I’m adding seven books to this list, in no particular order:

acol

A CONJURING OF LIGHT by V.E. Schwab (SHADES OF MAGIC #3)

Release date: 21st February 2017 by Tor Books

Blurb: London’s fall and kingdoms rise while darkness sweeps the Maresh Empire—and the fraught balance of magic blossoms into dangerous territory while heroes and foes struggle alike.

Why it’s on my TBR list: I loved the first two books in this Fantasy trilogy and I can’t wait for the final instalment!

strangethedreamer

STRANGE THE DREAMER by Laini Taylor (STRANGE THE DREAMER #1)

Release date: 28th March 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Blurb:

Strange the Dreamer is the story of:

the aftermath of a war between gods and men

a mysterious city stripped of its name

a mythic hero with blood on his hands

a young librarian with a singular dream

a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiled

alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.

Welcome to Weep.

Why it’s on my TBR list: I enjoyed Laini Taylor’s first trilogy and I loved her short story THE GIRL WHO WOKE THE DREAMER. I’m curious to read this new series.

bloodroserebellion

BLOOD ROSE REBELLION by Rosalyn Eves (BLOOD ROSE REBELLION #1)

Release date: 28th March 2017 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Blurb: The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Why it’s on my TBR list: I’m always on the lookout for YA Fantasy debuts and this one sounds intriguing.

york

YORK or THE SHADOW CIPHER by Laura Ruby (YORK #1)

Release date: 16th May 2017 by Walden Pond Press

Blurb: New York, a puzzle (laid into the city) that’s never been solved, three teens determined to solve it, and at the end of it – a treasure beyond all imagining.

Why it’s on my TBR list: It’s about a treasure hunt in New York and it’s written by Laura Ruby. That’s enough for me.

thevaliant

THE VALIANT by Lesley Livingston

Release date: 14th February 2017 by HarperCollins Canada

Blurb: In Ancient Rome, the youngest daughter of a proud Celtic king is captured and sold to a training school for female gladiators—and its most influential patron is none other than Julius Caesar himself.

Why it’s on my TBR list: I’m really not sure about the blurb but I can’t resist a story set in Ancient Rome.

thickasthieves

THICK AS THIEVES by Megan Whalen Turner (THE QUEEN’S THIEF #5)

Release date: 16th May 2017 by Greenwillow Books

BlurbKamet, a secretary and slave to his Mede master, has the ambition and the means to become one of the most powerful people in the Empire. But with a whispered warning the future he envisioned is wrenched away, and he is forced onto a very different path. Set in the world of the Queen’s Thief, this epic adventure sees an ordinary hero take on an extraordinary mission.

Why it’s on my TBR list: BECAUSE THE QUEEN’S THIEF IS MY FAVOURITE SERIES OF ALL TIMES AND HERE IS A NEW INSTALMENT AT LAST. I can’t wait.

theendofoz

THE END OF OZ by Danielle Paige (DOROTHY MUST DIE #4)

Release date: 14th March 2017 by HarperCollins

BlurbAmy Gumm must do everything in her power to save Kansas and make Oz a free land once more.

Why it’s on my TBR list: I enjoyed the first three books in the series and I’m curious to find out how it all ends.

What about you? Which books are you looking forward to reading in 2017? Feel free to leave me a comment below!

A Writer in the Spotlight – Stacey Lee

A Writer In The Spotlight Logo

Hello gentle reader,

You may recall THE SECRET OF A HEART NOTE by Stacey Lee was featured in one of my Waiting On Wednesday posts a few months back. Since then, I’ve been able to read an ARC of this book and I’m delighted to report it was as good as I hoped. It comes out on 27th December and I strongly suggest you preorder it!

And today I’m pleased to welcome Stacey again on this blog for an interview. Hope you enjoy!

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My interview (3rd December 2016)

Stacey Lee

Your first two books were Historical novels, but THE SECRET OF A HEART NOTE is a Contemporary novel. Was the genre switch intentional? Or did you just write the story you wanted at the time? 

Definitely not intentional! I wrote about something that I love — scents! And the story that came out was set in modern day, though there is definitely an overlay of ‘history.’ Mim comes from a long lineage of aromateurs descended from the Queen of Sheba, and one of the things she struggles with is balancing the life of ordinary teen with the burden of being the last aromateur left in the world. I’m not sure it fits neatly into one category or another so I just like to call it ‘contemporary with a hint of magic.’ 

Mim is an Aromateur. Can you explain how you came up with this amazing and unique concept? 

Natural perfumery, the art of combining real botanicals (as opposed to lab created) into harmonious combinations is a passion of mine. Plants are complex, sentient ‘beings,’ each with their own history and use profile. Using plants for love potions is not a new idea, but I wanted to bring a modern, almost scientific sensibility to this practice.

What type of research did you have to do for this story?  

In addition to smelling hundreds of plants, I visited several gardens of ‘ancients,’ including plants that have been around since the Ice Age. I spent a bit of time at Strybing Botanical Garden in the San Francisco Golden Gate Park, which is where a key scene takes place, as well as Point Lobos, near Monterey, California, the sight of the surfing scene. 

Secret of a Heart Note

My favorite scene in the book is when Mim goes “surfing” with Court. Is surfing one of your hobbies too? 

Surfing was on my bucket list. I finally checked it off two summers ago in Hawaii. Everything was going well, until I wiped out, and the board glanced off my forehead, leaving me with a big bump and a black eye. So, I guess won’t be doing that again!

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

I’m working on my third historical, DEAR MISS SWEETIE, about a Chinese girl in 1890 Atlanta who becomes the pseudonymous author of a wildly popular advice column, and who attempts to use her power of the pen to change the course of a trial of a black man accused of assaulting a white woman.

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

I loved Traci Chee’s THE READER, as well as Roshani Chokshi’s THE STAR TOUCHED QUEEN. For an unusual sci-fi, I also enjoyed Parker Peevyhouse’s WHERE FUTURES END. Currently, I’m reading Padma Venkatraman’s CLIMBING THE STAIRS, and it’s wonderful.

Thanks for the interview, Stacey!

You can add THE SECRET OF A HEART NOTE on Goodreads.

And check out Stacey’s Twitter for an awesome giveaway!

Waiting On Wednesday – 91

Hello gentle reader,

Today I’m waiting on SHIMMER AND BURN by Mary Taranta (expected publication: 8th August 2017 by Margaret K. McElderry Books). It’s a YA Fantasy that has definitely me intrigued. And look at this gorgeous cover!

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From Goodreads:

Faris grew up fighting to survive in the slums of Brindaigel while caring for her sister, Cadence. But when Cadence is caught trying to flee the kingdom and is sold into slavery, Faris reluctantly agrees to a lucrative scheme to buy her back, inadvertently binding herself to the power-hungry Princess Bryn, who wants to steal her father’s throne.

Now Faris must smuggle stolen magic into neighboring Avinea to incite its prince to alliance—magic that addicts in the war-torn country can sense in her blood and can steal with a touch. She and Bryn turn to a handsome traveling magician, North, who offers protection from Avinea’s many dangers, but he cannot save Faris from Bryn’s cruelty as she leverages Cadence’s freedom to force Faris to do anything—or kill anyone—she asks. Yet Faris is as fierce as Bryn, and even as she finds herself falling for North, she develops schemes of her own.

With the fate of kingdoms at stake, Faris, Bryn, and North maneuver through a dangerous game of magical and political machinations, where lives can be destroyed—or saved—with only a touch.

“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?