You can now preorder IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN!

EM Castellan In the Shadow of the Sun final

Hello gentle reader,

If you want to preorder a hardcover copy of my debut IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN and receive it on its release day (11th February 2020), you can do so here:

US readers 

(preorders available from IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-a-Million, and Target)

International readers

(preorders available from Book Depository or Wordery)

It is my understanding that some of these retailers are offering a discounted price for preorders. Thank you in advance for your support!

Cover reveal: IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN

Hello gentle reader,

I’m very excited to reveal the cover design for my debut IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN, which will be out on February 11th, 2020 from Feiwel and Friends!

Blurb:

France, 1661 – Henriette of England must navigate her arranged marriage to Louis XIV’s brother while keeping her magical abilities a careful secret from all at the Sun King’s court, but when a mysterious sorcerer uses a forbidden spell to murder royal magicians, she must decide if she will reveal her powers to help Louis defeat him and build a new, enchanted seat of power — the Palace of Versailles.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41067779-in-the-shadow-of-the-sun

And now for the cover reveal…

 

 

 

EM Castellan In the Shadow of the Sun final

Art director: Mallory Grigg  

Make sure to let me know what you think of this cover in the comments below!

And should you share this image elsewhere, please add a courtesy link back to this page. Thank you!

The Book Deal Announcement

Hello gentle reader,

I began seeking traditional publication for my YA Historical Fantasy books in March 2012. I started this blog at the same time, never imagining how long (!) and how full of surprises my publishing journey would be.

Six and a half years later, I’m thrilled to announce that the U.S. publisher Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan) has bought my debut IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN and its sequel! Here is the Publishers Marketplace announcement:

EMCastellan

IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN is my 7th completed manuscript. It’s the 6th manuscript I queried and the one that helped me connect with my literary agent Carrie Pestritto (Laura Dail Literary Agency). If you’re curious about my inspiration for this story, here is its Pinterest board.

If you’re reading this and you’re a writer dreaming of seeing your books in bookstores one day, I hope you’ll take heart in this post: getting traditionally published takes perseverance, a lot of work, and a bit of luck, but it can become a reality if you don’t give up, and if you keep writing the stories you love.

Have a lovely Sunday!

 

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 – 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!

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.

Waiting On Wednesday – 90

Hello gentle reader,

This week I’m waiting on a very exciting book: THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE by Mackenzi Lee (expected publication: 20th June 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books). You may recall I loved Mackenzi’s debut THIS MONSTROUS THING and I’m very much looking forward to her second release, another YA Historical Fantasy that sounds right up my alley again!

gentlemansguidetoviceandvirtue

From Goodreads:

An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

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

Have you read THIS MONSTROUS THING? Is THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE on your TBR list?

What are you waiting on this week?

Book of the Week – Fear the Drowning Deep

FearTheDrowningDeep

Hello gentle reader,

Today’s the day! FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP by my extremely talented friend and critique partner Sarah Glenn Marsh is finally out! I can only recommend you pick up this fantastic  YA Historical Fantasy set in 1913 on the Isle of Man, with witches, sea monsters and a swoony romance.

The blurb:

Witch’s apprentice Bridey Corkill has hated the ocean ever since she watched her granddad dive in and drown with a smile on his face. So when a dead girl rolls in with the tide in the summer of 1913, sixteen-year-old Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her granddad to leap into the sea has made its return to the Isle of Man.

Soon, villagers are vanishing in the night, but no one shares Bridey’s suspicions about the sea. No one but the island’s witch, who isn’t as frightening as she first appears, and the handsome dark-haired lad Bridey rescues from a grim and watery fate. The cause of the deep gashes in Fynn’s stomach and his lost memories are, like the recent disappearances, a mystery well-guarded by the sea. In exchange for saving his life, Fynn teaches Bridey to master her fear of the water — stealing her heart in the process.

Now, Bridey must work with the Isle’s eccentric witch and the boy she isn’t sure she can trust — because if she can’t uncover the truth about the ancient evil in the water, everyone she loves will walk into the sea, never to return.

If you want to find out more about Sarah and her writing process for her debut, do take a look at my interview with her.

And please feel free to add the book on Goodreads and to buy it on Amazon.

What are you reading this week? Feel free to leave me a comment below!