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!

A Writer in the Spotlight – 37

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.

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!

A Writer in the Spotlight – 36

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!

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.