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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

A Writer in the Spotlight – Julie C. Dao

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Hello gentle reader,

Today I’m delighted to bring you another interview with a successful writer: Wattpad sensation Julie C. Dao, whose Upper MG Fantasy Pumpkin Patch Princess has been a Wattpad Featured Story and has reached the Top 50 on the Wattpad Teen Fiction Hot List. It’s a humorous fairy tale about a pumpkin farmer’s daughter searching for her own happily-ever-after. You can find out more about Julie and her writing here.

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My interview (19th September 2016)

juliedao

Can you explain where you got the inspiration for Pumpkin Patch Princess from? 

I wrote PPP back in 2010 as a tribute to all of the fairy tales I loved growing up: Cinderella, Snow White, the 12 Dancing Princesses, the Frog Prince. It was one of the first stories I wrote after deciding I wanted to try getting published for real. It was also my first foray into the middle-grade category, since it started out young adult until all of the agents I submitted to suggested it might appeal to a younger audience. I’ve learned so much from writing this story, namely the fact that I love MG and will continue writing it!

Did you write Pumpkin Patch Princess thinking you’d post it on Wattpad? 

PPP was the first book I very LIGHTLY queried (meaning I sent out about 10 letters total) as I was still getting my feet wet in the traditional publishing process. I always intended for it to get published, but everyone told me the market for middle-grade fairy tales was too crowded. I shelved the book and moved on to other manuscripts, but it always lingered at the back of my mind because I loved it so much and had such fun writing it. When I signed with my agent, I brought it up and we discussed my options for it. Self-publishing for middle-grade readers is still very tough, and e-books don’t typically do as well with that audience as they do with YA and adult, so I decided to post it for free on Wattpad. The decision turned out to be the right one because that’s where my target audience hangs out!

What was your experience with Wattpad before Pumpkin Patch Princess?

I had no experience with it. I had heard a lot about it, though, especially about the major book deals that have come out of people posting stories there.

Pumpkin Patch Princess has been a huge success on Wattpad: can you explain why (beside the fact that it’s an awesome story!)? 

First of all, I made sure I had a well-written synopsis with popular comp titles (ELLA ENCHANTED and THE PRINCESS DIARIES). Then, I made sure my cover was attractive and eye-catching. I posted on Twitter and Facebook occasionally whenever I updated the book.

I was lucky in that I didn’t have to do much to promote it! Wattpad HR got in touch with me and offered to add PPP to their Featured Books on the front page, which helped skyrocket its popularity. Then the story spread via word of mouth, with teens and tweens telling their friends to come read my story. I tried to maintain that momentum by responding to all comments and coming up with fun ideas for my readers, like contests and quizzes and extra materials like the PPP Diaries.

What’s next for Pumpkin Patch Princess? 

I don’t think PPP will be traditionally published, now that I’ve put it online, and I’m not actively trying or hoping for anything to happen with it. But never say never! I’m okay with it living on Wattpad, if that’s what ends up happening. I am a much stronger, better writer now than I was when I wrote it, so I have a lot of other projects occupying my time that I hope will be published. And I’m crossing my fingers that PPP helps drive sales to them one day!

Are you planning on posting more stories to Wattpad?

I don’t have any immediate plans to post more stories on Wattpad at the moment. My main goal has always been traditional publication and I’d like to focus on getting my other books onto shelves. One day, I may use Wattpad as a marketing tool for those stories since I’ve seen other authors successfully doing that!

Thanks for the interview, Julie!

Thanks for having me on your blog, Eve!!

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Pumpkin Patch Princess by Julie C. Dao

A fun, magical fairy tale perfect for fans of THE PRINCESS DIARIES or ELLA ENCHANTED!

Noelle Simpkins is sick of working for her parents.

Sure, her dad runs a booming pumpkin business and her mom’s the greatest shoemaker in the land. But pumps and pumpkins get OLD after a while, and at 14, she’s ready to see more of the world.

When she hears about a fairy godmother internship in the city, she jumps on it. The goal? Make sure royal clients get happily-ever-afters — all while battling goblins, curing curses, and figuring out how to use a magic wand. Not to mention shutting down a rival godmother and avoiding Kit, a distractingly cute pie seller who keeps turning up.

But as exciting as the new gig is, Noelle begins to realize… she kind of misses making shoes and growing pumpkins.

Has she gotten closer to her own happily-ever-after, or farther away?

And when the (glass) shoe’s on the other foot, can she stay true to her own heart?

A Writer in the Spotlight – Stacey Lee

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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!

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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).

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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 – Sophie Cleverly

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Hello gentle reader,

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

Sophie Cleverly

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Author: Sophie Cleverly

Website: http://www.hapfairy.co.uk

Twitter: @hapfairy

Biography:

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

My interview (12th April 2015)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Meet My Character – Lily In The Shadows

Hello gentle reader,

I’ve been tagged by the wonderful Katie Bucklein to participate in the Meet My Character blog hop. The idea is to answer 7 questions about my manuscript’s main character, then tag other writers. I’ve decided to take part with the main character of LILY IN THE SHADOWS, the manuscript which helped me sign with my agent.

M.LIN Lights
1) What is the name of your character? Is she a fictional person or a historic person?

Her name is Lily Scott and she’s a fictional person. I write YA Historical Fantasy, and it’s my way of bringing to life “regular people” who would never have made it in our History books.

2) When and where is the story set?

LILY IN THE SHADOWS is set in 1862 London. London is a city I know very well and love very much, and doing research for this manuscript was a lot of fun. The Victorian era is also an incredibly inspiring time period. I just added a bit of magic to it…

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3) What should we know about your character?

Lily is a flower girl – the kind who sold flowers on the streets of Victorian London for a living. She’s sixteen, strong-headed, sassy and independent. She lives in Whitechapel and because she’s been an orphan for a long time, she’s used to taking care of herself – and others.

Augustus Edwin Mulready - A street flower seller
4) What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

One day, all the flowers in London die.

That was my premise, the idea that popped into my head two years ago and didn’t let go. What if my MC was a flower girl, and suddenly all the flowers died? Faced with the sudden disappearance of her livelihood, what would she do? In Lily’s case, she doesn’t leave it up to some British Museum scientists in top hats to solve the mystery of the dead flowers: she investigates herself, and gets into trouble…

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

As I said in my previous answer, Lily wants to find out what happened to the flowers, in order to get her livelihhod back. Selling flowers is pretty much the only thing she knows, so she’s determined to get to the bottom of it all before she finds herself starving on the streets.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

Well, the working title is and has always been LILY IN THE SHADOWS. I participated in a couple of contests while querying this MS, which means the query and first 500 words can still be found online here. You can also read two interviews I gave about my manuscript here and here.

7) When can we expect the book to be published?

One day soon, I hope!

And now I tag the fab Sarah Glenn Marsh  and Jessica Rubinkowski who are both working hard on their new Work In Progress, which I can’t wait to read!