ONE FOUR KIDS: Interview with A. Lynden Rolland, author of “OF BREAKABLE THINGS”


Today we’re interviewing OneFourKidLit author A. Lynden Rolland, whose young adult paranormal OF BREAKABLE THINGS released yesterday!


Of Breakable Things

A captivating debut about the fragility of life, love, and perspective.

When Chase dies tragically, Alex embraces her own mortality. What she didn’t expect was that she’d have to make a choice: forget the years of pain and suffering once and for all, or linger as a spirit and get another chance at life and love.

Alex doesn’t hesitate to choose; she’d follow Chase anywhere. But the spirit world is nothing like she expected, and Alex finds she’s forced to fight for her life once more. For even in a world where secrets are buried much deeper than six feet under, a legacy can continue to haunt you—and in a place this dangerous, no one is resting in peace.


NKT: This pitch gives me chills! What was the inspiration for OF BREAKABLE THINGS?
ALR: I can’t pinpoint one thing that inspired OF BREAKABLE THINGS, but I had an idea that wouldn’t leave me alone. I thought about how much we love things. How much we hate things. How much knowledge we gain in a lifetime. I couldn’t imagine that when the body died all of the mental energy just disappeared. So I started thinking that maybe those emotions and that intelligence could come alive into a projection of a person. Mind, body, and spirit without the body. Imagine if we could latch on to our emotions and thoughts, and then we could exist adjacent to the living.

In OF BREAKABLE THINGS, the afterworld is something the mind can manipulate. People see things they want to see, and that molds their perception. My main character can walk down the street one day and see a single building. The next day she might see five buildings, a set of stone stairs leading to nothingness, and a boat rowing through the fog. She sees what she is ready to see. If she isn’t looking for it, her mind won’t catch it.

NKT: Your main character, Alex, has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Can you explain what that is, and why you chose it for Alex?
ALR: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a tissue disorder. Alex has vascular EDS. Her tissues can’t properly support her organs, so they can rupture easily. Her bones break frequently, and she bruises and dislocates all the time, which is unfortunate because her best friends are boys.

I needed something unique for Alex, and I needed her to be physically as breakable as most of us are mentally. She carries her fears into death with her because her flaws are imprinted upon her personality. She’s more apprehensive and questioning than the average person. She’s been sheltered by her friends, especially Chase. He tries to hide the ugly truths of the world from Alex because he loves her and thinks she deserves the best of everything. He doesn’t realize this hinders her.

NKT: Do you have a favorite scene you can tell us a little about?
ALR: Some of my favorite scenes are the flashbacks to Alex’s childhood with the Lasalle brothers. Playing cops and robbers, ghost hunting, bonfires, mischief and mayhem. They playfully terrorize the town in a way that makes me wish I had known the Lasalle boys and Alex as a kid.

NKT: Do you have any other books in the works?
ALR: OF BREAKABLE THINGS is a series, and the sequel is underway. It’s still pretty raw, but it’s getting there, and I’m excited to share more twists and turn in the afterworld. Book 2 gets into the flaws of the world itself – politically, socially, psychedelically. The characters might be dead but they certainly are not angels.

NKT: Tell us about your book’s journey from first draft to publication. Did it undergo any major revisions?
ALR: Oh my goodness, yes. I actually didn’t set out with the intent to publish. I was an English teacher who took a leave of absence when my first son was born. I had time on my hands and a story in my mind, and I just wrote and wrote until the story was finished. It was originally 800 pages!! When I made the decision to pursue publication, I obviously had to cut more than half of it.

NKT: What books/authors have most influenced your writing?
ALR: Madeleine L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, and J. K. Rowling.

NKT: What has surprised you most about the publication process? Any words of advice for our Fearless Fifteeners?
ALR: The camaraderie. My advice is to have each other’s backs. Support each other. Promote one another. Writers are a wonderful species, and I realize how much I enjoy the company of other writers.

NKT: Great advice! And finally, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of.
ALR: Something I’m afraid of: Dark water. If I can’t see what’s around/below me, I’m not getting in the water.
Something I’m not afraid of: Heights… or doing flips and handstands on heights. I’m a former competitive gymnast.

Thanks so much for the interview, Amy, and congratulations on your debut! 

About Amy:

A. Lynden Rolland

Photo courtesy of Gianna B Photography

A. Lynden Rolland was born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland, a picturesque town obsessed with boats, booze, and blue crabs. As a child she spent much of her free time compiling dramatic stories of tragic characters in a weathered notebook which she still keeps.

As a former high school English teacher, she enjoys visiting classrooms to discuss reading, writing, and publishing. When she isn’t chasing her two boys around town or arguing about sports with her husband, she moonlights as a writing tutor and gymnastics instructor.


NK TraversAs a freshman at the University of Colorado, N.K. Traver decided to pursue Information Technology because classmates said “no one could make a living” with an English degree. It wasn’t too many years later she realized it didn’t matter what the job paid—nothing would ever be as fulfilling as writing. Her debut, DUPLICITY, a YA cyberthriller pitched as BREAKING BAD meets THE MATRIX, will release from Macmillan Entertainment in March 2015.

ONE FOR KIDS: Interview with Philip Siegel, author of THE BREAK-UP ARTIST


Today, the Fearless Fifteeners are thrilled to host Philip Siegel, whose hilarious and charming debut THE BREAK-UP ARTIST releases today!


Some sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash. Some work at the Gap. Becca Williamson breaks up couples. 

After watching her sister get left at the altar, Becca knows the true damage that comes when people utter the dreaded L-word. For just $100 via paypal, she can trick and manipulate any couple into smithereens. With relationship zombies overrunning her school, and treating single girls like second class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even her best friend Val has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.

One night, she receives a mysterious offer to break up the homecoming king and queen, the one zombie couple to rule them all: Steve and Huxley. They are a JFK and Jackie O in training, masters of sweeping faux-mantic gestures, but if Becca can split them up, then school will be safe again for singletons. To succeed, she’ll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date and wiggle her way back into her former BFF Huxley’s life – not to mention start a few rumors, sabotage some cell phones, break into a car, and fend off the inappropriate feelings she’s having about Val’s new boyfriend. All while avoiding a past victim out to expose her true identity.

No one said being the Break-Up Artist was easy.

BUA cover


DG: I’ve had the pleasure of reading THE BREAK-UP ARTIST, and it’s funny and fast-paced with a satisfying conclusion. What inspired Becca’s story?

PS: There are so many stories about matchmakers. I was intrigued by someone who did the opposite. What would that person be like? Then a few years back, I had a few friends in unhealthy relationships. I wanted to say something, but it’s a tricky situation because you don’t want to harm your friendship, especially when you know they wouldn’t heed your advice. It made me think even more about someone who breaks up couples.

DG: How was your experience writing in the female POV? (Side note: Becca’s spirit animal is totally the Amanda Bynes character from SHE’S THE MAN – and I love it!)

PS: I always pictured her spirit animal more like Emma Stone in EASY A! I never consciously thought about writing for a female POV. I never asked myself “what would a girl say?” I just wrote the character as I saw her.

DG: Becca maintains a gossip dossier as part of her work. As you wrote the novel, what strategies did you use to keep all of the pairings and hijinks organized? 

PS: Notecards! I’m a big fan of notecards and blocking out the story. I can physically move the cards around on my table, rearranging scenes and see how/if the story tracks.

DG: Out of all of the relationships in the book, which one resonates with you the most?

PS: I love the friendship between Becca and her best friend Val. On the surface, they seem so different, but their friendship just works. Val’s perkiness and optimism balances out Becca. That’s what I love about friendship. I don’t know how I became friends with my friends, how we found each other in this huge world, but I’m so glad we did. I loved writing Becca and Val’s witty back-and-forth, and some of the best bits were taken from real life conversations.

DG: What can we look forward to from you next? 

PS: Look out for more Becca adventures sometime in 2015.

DG: Since we’re all fearless here, please tell us one thing you’re afraid of and one thing you’re not afraid of.

PS: I am terrified of rats, but spiders don’t phase me.

About Philip Siegel:

Philip Siegel author photo_color

Philip Siegel grew up in New Jersey, which he insists is much nicer than certain TV shows would have you believe. He graduated from Northwestern University and promptly moved out to Los Angeles, where he became an NBC page. He likes to think that the character of Kenneth on 30 Rock is loosely based on his life rights. Currently, he works in downtown Chicago by day while he writes novels at night and during his commute sandwiched in between colorful characters on the El. To learn more, you can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and his website.


Diana GallagherDiana Gallagher is a gymnastics coach, writing professor, and country music aficionado. She holds an MFA from Stony Brook University and once had a story published on a candy cigarette box. Her contemporary YA novel, WHAT HAPPENS IN WATER, releases in Fall 2015 from Spencer Hill Contemporary. For deep musings on gymnastics and Game of Thrones puns, follow her on Twitter.

Introducing Becky Albertalli


I have this perfectly clear memory of riding in my mom’s car, discussing the movie Now and Then. The topic of Devon Sawa came up, and my mom asked me a question that completely unraveled me: “Do you think he’s cute?”

“No,” I said. “Eww.”

It was the most ridiculous, bald-faced lie in the history of lies. I’d been in love with Devon Sawa since I’d first met him in Little Giants. I became a woman the moment he danced with Christina Ricci at the end of Casper. He was the star of ninety percent of my daydreams for a solid year.

I couldn’t tell anyone. Just like I couldn’t tell anyone about the terrifying, confusing feelings I was beginning to have for certain boys in school. Stomach flutter feelings. This almost gravitational pull to be near them.

I was twelve.

There was this new version of me emerging, and she didn’t seem to want to stick to the script. I wasn’t supposed to have crushes. I’d never had one before – until I did.

Boys weren’t supposed to be cute – until they were.

It didn’t matter that other girls had crushes. Some actually had boyfriends. They weren’t me. I wasn’t sure if I was me anymore.

I struggled with this for years. Eventually, I let myself admit to liking certain actors. I covered my walls with pictures of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Joshua Jackson, Ethan Embry, and Tuxedo Mask. But I had a series of debilitating crushes on boys at school, and I didn’t fess up to any of them.

I wrote in my journal a lot. This is what I was doing when other teenagers were losing their virginity.

This was the battle I fought in my teen years: the bizarre, painful movement toward coming out as heterosexual. Or anything-sexual. There was this dawning awareness that I was changing. That I wasn’t the person my parents had always thought I was. I don’t know why this was so terrifying for me.

This is something I’ve never really talked about with anyone.

Enter Simon, who’s approximately five million times braver than me.

And who, as a gay teenager growing up in Georgia, faces a battle five million times as hard as what I went through.

My book, SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, is pitched with a description pulled from my original query letter: “You’ve Got Mail starring gay teenage boys with good grammar.”

And it is that. It’s a love story. It’s about a music-obsessed, Oreo-fiend, foul-mouthed but earnest sixteen-year-old boy falling in love over email. And it’s about what happens to him when a third party finds those emails and tries to use the information to his own advantage. It’s story about coming out. And friendship. And Elliott Smith. And emails that make you want to make out with your laptop screen.

But at its core, I think Simon’s story is about the weird, thrilling, mortifying process of getting to know your ever-changing self.

I’m so grateful that Simon found his perfect home with Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins – and I’m excited, thrilled, and terrified for you to meet him in March of 2015!

becky-albertalli-webBecky Albertalli is a clinical psychologist who has had the privilege of conducting therapy with dozens of smart, weird, irresistible teenagers. She also served for seven years as co-leader of a support group for gender nonconforming children in Washington, D.C. She now lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son. Her debut novel, SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, will be released from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in March of 2015. Follow Becky on Twitter at @beckyalbertalli.




We’ve got another great interview with OneFourKidLit author Ryan Gebhart, whose MG contemporary, THERE WILL BE BEARS, came out yesterday. (And there’s a GIVEAWAY, so read on!)


BEARScoverfinalThirteen-year-old Tyson loves hanging out with his roughneck Grandpa Gene, who’s a lot more fun than Tyson’s ex–best friend, Brighton. These days, Bright just wants to be seen with the cool jocks who make fun of Tyson’s Taylor Swift obsession and dorky ways. So when Grandpa Gene has to move to a nursing home that can manage his kidney disease, Tyson feels like he’s losing his only friend. Not only that, but Tyson was counting on Grandpa Gene to take him on his first big hunt. So in defiance of Mom and Dad’s strict orders, and despite reports of a scary, stalking, man-eating grizzly named Sandy, the two sneak off to the Grand Tetons. Yes, there will be action, like shooting and dressing a six-hundred-pound elk. Is Tyson tough enough? There will be heart-pounding suspense: is Grandpa Gene too sick to handle the hunt, miles away from help? And, oh yes, there will be bears…


Ryan Portrait 001KV: Congratulations on the release of THERE WILL BE BEARS! What inspired you to write it?

RG: Way back in the long, long ago, I had this idea about a kid breaking his grandfather out of a nursing home, which was inspired by the movie Big Fish and by my grandma getting put in a home. But the story had no meat to it, so it got shelved. A year later, my buddy offered me a job at a hunting ranch near the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. I hadn’t hunted before nor even fired a gun, and the next thing I knew, I was quartering elk and packing it onto horses and legitimately terrified that a grizzly bear would charge out of the woods and eat my face. The first time I packed out an elk, I thought I’d have a panic attack from all the blood. But as I was hacking away, it felt like all my primal instincts were kicking in. I also had “Party in the USA” playing in my head, which… maybe was not so primal.

It was such a coming-of-age time for me–despite the fact that I was twenty seven–and it gave my inter-generational story idea plenty of meat… and teeth and blood and bears.

KV: The first chapter made me laugh out loud, so now I have to know, have you ever pruned?

RG: Fortunately, I’m regular without the need of assistance, lol. Nah, that whole episode was inspired by my buddy Brendan’s stories of pruning with his brothers. I’d like to say I’m a pretty adventurous guy and that I’ll try new things for the sake of my art, but I draw the line at chugging a liter of prune juice.

KV: Tyson’s relationship with his grandpa is really sweet (though he’d probably be horrified to hear it described that way). What inspired their friendship?

RG: Growing up, I was very close with my grandparents as Tyson was to his own, but I don’t think my papa had ever touched a rifle, let alone gone hunting. My grandparents were more into golf, gardening, and 60 Minutes. I dedicated this book to them because of how much they helped raise me and my siblings, and how they always encouraged me to pursue my random and always changing interests. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for their unconditional love.

KV: Tyson’s voice is so authentic that it made me wonder if his character was somewhat autobiographical. Were you a lot like Tyson as a kid?

RG: No, but I was at twenty seven 😛

There are a few elements of Tyson’s character that I can trace back to my childhood, like the fact that we both had a pet newt (however, mine wasn’t named Jar Jar Newtingston), but Tyson is way more confident than I ever was at his age.

I’m always thrilled when someone comments about how authentic Tyson’s voice is, because it took me forever to discover his character, his wants and needs and fears. During the very long and trying submission process, so many editors commented about how inconsistent his voice is, how he would fluctuate between a know-it-all sixteen-year-old and a ten-year-old with emotional problems on one page. So I credit his voice not to my own personal experiences, but to lots and lots of revisions.

KV: Tyson’s a huge fan of Halloween–and especially Halloween costumes. What’s your best costume ever?

RG: Ohio University is infamous for their massive Halloween parties, and I tried to outdo myself every year while I studied there. My first year, I dressed up as Forrest Gump; dying my hair black, shaved in a receding hairline, and I handed out chocolates to people on Court Street. My second year, I went as Bob Ross, complete with a palette and his amazing ‘fro. Year three: Mr. Rogers. And for my fourth year, I dressed as Bob Barker and built a fully functional 4’x6’ Plinko board. But everyone thought I was Bill Clinton with a skinny microphone.

KV: The great outdoors also play a huge role in the story. If you could go on a camping trip with any three fictitious villains, who would you pick and why?

RG: Go camping with three villains? Am I insane??? Well, I’d probably want them to be nice and not stab me in my sleep, I guess?

KV: As this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.

RG: I thought I’d be afraid of quartering and packing out a six hundred pound elk, but it ended up being one of the most natural things. I wasn’t necessarily a pro at it, but at least I didn’t have a panic attack, which I’m prone to getting in unfamiliar situations.

I have lots of ideas for novels, and I guess I’m afraid I won’t get the chance to tell them all. BEARS is a pretty simple story and even that took me three years to get right, however my WIP is far more challenging and speculative and it questions the meaning of the universe, and I’m afraid I’m just not qualified enough of a writer to give this story justice.

KV: Thanks for joining us, Ryan! We hope your debut day was great–and only involved fictitious bears. 🙂

You can find Ryan on Twitter, @RyanGebhart. And for a chance to win a copy of THERE WILL BE BEARS, leave a comment on this post (and include your e-mail address). The contest is open internationally (provided The Book Depository will ship to your country) and will close at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 7. We’ll pick a random winner the next day. Good luck!

Krista squaredKrista Van Dolzer is a stay-at-home mom by day and a children’s author by naptime. She holds degrees in Mathematics Education and Economics from Brigham Young University and lives with her husband and three kids in Mesquite, Nevada. She is the author of a forthcoming-but-as-yet-untitled debut (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015) and the forthcoming DUEL/DUET (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Fall 2015).

An Interview with Anne Blankman, Author of Prisoner of Night and Fog


Today, the Fearless Fifteeners are lucky enough to be hosting Anne Blankman, whose gorgeous and heartbreaking debut PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG is now out!

Here’s the official summary:

17668473In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.

And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG isn’t always an easy book to read. At times, it’s dark and terrifying, as any book about Nazi Germany should be. But it’s definitely worth reading, especially by people who loved CODE NAME VERITY and THE BOOK THIEF. Its a read-all-in-one-go, heart-in-your-throat, terrified-for-the-characters, unable-to-stop kind of book, and it’s worth every second.

RT:  Where did the initial idea for Prisoner of Night and Fog come from?

AB: The idea came to me after I learned about Geli Raubal, Hitler’s beloved half niece who shared his luxurious Munich apartment. I couldn’t stop wondering what it must have been like to be a young girl growing up within the Nazi elite’s inner circle–and if it would have been possible to break free from it. Although Geli is a character in Prisoner of Night and Fog, I knew I needed the freedom of a fictional protagonist, so Gretchen Müller was born. Once I figured out how I could open Gretchen’s eyes to what was really happening all around her, I started writing.

RT: What influenced you while writing Prisoner of Night and Fog? Were
there any songs, books, movies, paintings, or anything like that that colored the story you were writing?

AB: I always have to listen to music when I write. Prisoner of Night and Fog has an official playlist and you can listen to it for free here:

RT: In order to write Prisoner of Night and Fog, you had to get inside the head of a character who at least initially believes that Hitler is a good person. Can you tell us a bit about the experience of that?

AB: It was very hard! At first, I was scared to write from the perspective of someone who initially cares for Hitler–I was concerned that people would think I was a Nazi. But I knew that if I wanted readers to go on this journey with Gretchen, they needed to understand where she’s coming from.

In order to write the beginning, before Gretchen starts questioning her Nazi beliefs, I absolutely could not let myself think about the Holocaust. I tried to keep my mind rooted in the events of 1931, so that I was concentrating only on the things my characters know about.

RT: What was the most difficult part of writing the book?

AB: Figuring out how to portray Hitler, no question. The more I researched him, the more I realized that the man I thought of as Hitler–the hate-spewing, shouting politician–was only a part of a very complicated man. This will sound almost obscene, but Hitler could be very charming. He fancied himself a bit of a ladies’ man, and loved giving courtly, old-fashioned compliments to women. He was smart. He loved opera and dogs, and he was a crack shot. When he was a soldier during WWI, he took tremendous risks with his own safety to deliver messages.

The more I investigated, however, the more convinced I became that Hitler was deliberately evil–I say deliberately because I think he knew what he was doing was wrong and he chose to do it anyway. So what I tried to do was fit together the different pieces of this fragmented man into one cohesive, realistic whole.

RT: You did a lot of research on 1930s Germany for Prisoner of Night and Fog. Did you stumble across anything particularly interesting that didn’t make it into the book?

AB: Hitler loved Walt Disney cartoons. Absolutely loved them. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was one of his favorites. And he used to go around whistling “Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?”, the tune from the Three Little Pigs cartoon. (Incidentally, he liked to call himself Herr Wolf!)

RT: Was there anything about the story that surprised you as you were writing it? Any unexpected plot-twists, characters who weren’t what you thought they were?

AB: I didn’t surprise myself while I was writing Prisoner, but I was shocked by some of the historical details I uncovered. It’s too spoilery to reveal the one that upset me the most, but I’ll give you a hint–it’s two words, the first beginning with a “C,” the second with a “G,” and it has to do with Gretchen’s brother Reinhard. If you’ve already read the book, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Most readers, when they get to that part, will probably think I made it up, but I promise it really existed.

RT: Can you give us a hint about what you’re working on next?

AB: I’m working on revisions for Prisoner of Night and Fog #2. I’m not allowed to say much yet, not even the title (which I love!), but I can tell you that Gretchen and Daniel are the main characters again. There’s even more danger, romance, and murder this time around.

In between edits, I’m drafting the third book on my contract. It’s a standalone YA romantic historical mystery and features a new cast of characters and setting. I’m ridiculously excited about it!

Thanks so much for having me, Rhiannon!

RT: Thanks so much for joining us, Anne, and congratulations on your amazing debut!


About Anne:

A native New Yorker, Anne Blankman now lives in southeastern Virginia where the hot summers haven’t killed her yet. For several years, she has worked as a youth services librarian. Prisoner of Night and Fog is her first novel.




SBS130424-RHIANNONTHOMAS-023Rhiannon Thomas grew up in the north of England, but moved to the US in 2007 to study English Literature at Princeton University. She now lives in York, England, where she is attempting to master the art of making her own bubble tea. When she isn’t lost in YA fantasy, she writes about feminism in the media at her blog, Her debut novel, A WICKED THING, will be released from HarperTeen in Winter 2015.

Fonda Lee on #MyWritingProcess


il_570xN.325609108Today I’m taking part in the #MyWritingProcess blog hop, and thought I’d use this opportunity to put in another appearance with the Fearless Fifteeners. I was tagged by a lovely writer I met at the Willamette Writers Conference in Oregon last year, Kim Johnson (, who manages to juggle being a new mom with working on two YA suspense novels in progress, HER ONLY ESCAPE and CROSSING ANGELA.

Here’s a look at what I’m up to.

What am I working on?

Right now, I’m revising ZEROBOXER for my editor. I’m also revising another manuscript, a YA fantasy, for my agent before we take it on submission. I’m drafting a new science fiction novel, which I hope to have done by the fall. I just finished writing a speculative short story (an experiment for me—I’m very much a long-form person) and I’ve put it aside to marinate for a while before I return to it. Lastly, I have three ‘on deck’ ideas that I turn around in my head while driving or in the shower. Occasionally I jot down notes, and the concepts I still like after several months will move into research and outlining phase.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My writing is heavy on action and difficult moral issues. I’m drawn to stories that offer no easy answers and examine human nature and society through the lens of speculative fiction—think Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica—so my work often doesn’t have a stark “good vs. evil” conflict. I’m more interested in putting my characters in situations where they’re torn between equally bad choices. I’ve been a martial artist since I was a teen, and am a big fan of (good, smart) action movies, which explains my enthusiasm for crafting exciting fight sequences.

While romance and angst might be part of my protagonists’ journey, even a big part, I tend to handle them (perhaps overly) lightly, and they are almost never the main focus of the narrative. My main characters are almost always young men and women of action. Get-shit-done kind of people.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what I want to read. That’s pretty much the only reason.

How does your writing process work?

Before I start a project, I spend a month or more doing nothing but reading and researching. I read up on topics that I will use to form the world and the characters I am going to create. Since I write science fiction and fantasy, I want the world and its issues to feel real to me before I ever set pen to paper. For ZEROBOXER, I devoured MMA memoirs as well as novels about boxers and fighters. I watched a lot of UFC and live local fights. I read lots of books on living in space, how we would colonize Mars, and genetic engineering. (I couldn’t find a way to get into space myself, unfortunately!) And I stay immersed in the genre by reading other novels.

I write an outline. I won’t start a book if I don’t know how it ends. I know writers are divided about this, but personally, I want the rough shape of the whole story to be clear to me. My outline is flexible and not very detailed—a one to three sentence summary of each chapter.

7150456391_db1655c8b3_oMy first drafts take some time. Some people swear by a fast first draft—getting it all out there as quickly as you can and not revisiting anything you wrote the day before. That doesn’t work for me. I tried NaNoWriMo once and hated everything I wrote so much that it took a lot of the joy out of the project for me. There are definitely scenes and chapters I have to fudge through to continue the momentum, but I will do some revising as I go along, working slowly and steadily for three to six months to get it out to my satisfaction.

The inevitable rewriting and revisions don’t take a ton of time after that.

All that said, each book is different. My current project is in its second complete rewrite, so it goes to show that even when you have a ‘process’ you can’t count on it. At all.

Up next on the #MyWritingProcess blog hop is Marie Langager (, author of the YA science fiction novel, BEYOND OUR STARS. Marie lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and son. She has a BA in English. She’s certain that many new adventures await us beyond our stars.

In the meantime, you can win a copy of ZEROBOXER and other cool stuff at this reveal and giveaway.

FJLee HeadshotFonda Lee is an author and recovering corporate strategist who was born and raised in Calgary, Canada (land of hockey, rodeo, and oil reserves) and now lives with her family in Portland, Oregon (land of rain, hipsters, and Powell’s books). When she is not writing she can be found training in kung fu or searching out tasty breakfasts. Her debut upper YA science fiction novel, ZEROBOXER, will be published by Flux in April 2015. You can find Fonda at and on Twitter @fondajlee.

It’s Not Just Tax Day


If you just finished your taxes, great job! We’ve got some great links to help you unwind…

Book Deals and Rights Sales

Gail Nall and coauthor Jennifer Malone sold a new book! PLEASE RSVP will come out with Aladdin in Summer 2015, with a sequel to follow that fall.

Interviews and Cool Posts

Shannon Grogan shares her query and a day-by-day account of her journey from querying writer to agented author.

Shallee McArthur reveals a few revision secrets for creating tighter plots and molding deeper characters.

Sharon Roat interviews Lucy Connors about the release of her latest book, THE LONESOME YOUNG.

Fonda Lee dishes on being an Asian-American writer in her interview with V.T. Bidania.

Cover Reveals

YA Books Central has the cool cover of Fonda Lee’s ZEROBOXER (and if you click that second link, you can enter to win an signed copy of the book and prize pack!).

Simon P. Clark reveals the stunning cover of EREN (and is also hosting a giveaway!).

All Four Kids: An Interview with Emery Lord, Author of OPEN ROAD SUMMER


Today, I’m thrilled to highlight Emery Lord’s debut novel, OPEN ROAD SUMMER, a contemporary YA about friendship, love, and learning to trust yourself and others. It releases today!

Open Road SummerAbout OPEN ROAD SUMMER: After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

 AmazonIndie BoundBarnes & NoblePowell’sBooks A Million

CR: Can you start by telling us about how you became interested in writing YA and about your publishing journey?

EL: I found a Sarah Dessen book at the library when I was 13 and fell down the YA rabbit hole. Haven’t left since! I majored in English Lit, and so many Important Works I read lacked YA’s emotional honesty and unflinching earnestness. Once I started writing after graduation, it was always going to be contemporary YA–my first love!, and here I am! (Okay, that’s a really truncated version 😉 There were many late nights represented by the “and” in last sentence.)

CR: Reagan is a complex character on the mend after some serious events in her life linked to people she once trusted. Yet, she loves, supports, and protects Dee. I like that we see multiple sides to her, that she is not one- or two-dimensional. Can you talk about creating her as a character?

EL: Thanks! Unlike Reagan, I grew up with a happy, stable home life, and I stayed pretty close to the straight-and-narrow. In fact, I think Reagan is someone I would have judged…because she comes off cold and she wears very small clothes and, frankly, isn’t nice to other girls, or anyone. So that’s exactly why I wrote her the way I did. In the hopes that I could dig beneath the icy veneer to a hurt but fierce girl who has a lot to offer. I believe so much in the power of will, especially as a teen. Sometimes changing your life is a simple as a decision or two, and that’s what I wanted to show with Reagan.

CR: I love that this story is as much about best friends as it is about falling in love. How refreshing that it wasn’t a love triangle! Can you talk a little about why you decided to develop both of these relationships in Reagan’s life?

EL: Thanks! I was really interested in Reagan being a fully all-or-nothing girl, including her relationships. Dee is her only friend, really, but she’d do anything for her. I like the idea of very devoted friendship, chosen sisterhood, because it’s a part of my own life. My girl friends are not people I spent time with on the way to finding my husband. They’re like family to me, permanent fixtures even if we change or move or fight or whatever. It was fun to write a relationship like that because I know it well! 🙂

CR: What inspired you to write this particular story? Are you a singer or musician?

EL: Until I started writing, I never really thought of songs as writing! So I was partially inspired by that overlap, between penning fiction and music. Personally, I’m nothing special as a musician, but I have a lot of talented friends who are. So, I’m familiar with the particular swooniness of a boy writing a song for you, haha 😉

CR: Can you tell us anything about your next novel, which comes out Spring 2015? Is it also being published by Bloomsbury?

EL: Yes! It’s out with Bloomsbury! It’s another contemporary YA, about a girl named Paige who is determined to use her junior year to become herself again, after a tragic loss at the beginning of her sophomore year.

CR: As this community is “fearless,” we’d like to know one thing you’re afraid of and one thing you’re not afraid of.

EL: I AM afraid of driving through an actual downpour. I am NOT afraid of driving through life in a metaphorical downpour 😉

Emery LordAbout Emery Lord:

Emery Lord is a 20-something Midwestern girl who writes stories about high school and best friends and weird families and the crushes that make you feel combustibly alive and also more awkward than you thought was possible. If you’re not sure how to pronounce Emery, try slurring the name “Emily,” and that will get you really close.

She lives in Cincinnati in a 100 year-old pink row house with her BFF/husband, a closet full of dresses, and lots of books. If karaoke-ing in grocery store aisles or guzzling coffee while impulse shopping were illegal, Emery would be writing her overemotional YA books from jail. Also, she makes up words sometimes. Like combustibly.

OPEN ROAD SUMMER, her first YA novel, is out April 15th, 2014. A second YA novel TBD will be released Spring 2015. You can contact her at and you can find her on Twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, and her website.

CindyRodriguezCindy L. Rodriguez is a former journalist turned teacher and fiction writer. She is a middle school reading specialist and an adjunct professor. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant and The Boston Globe. She lives in Connecticut with her young daughter and their rescue mutt. Her contemporary YA debut, WHEN REASON BREAKS, will be published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books in Winter 2015. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

ONE FOUR KIDS: Interview with Kate Hattemer, Author of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy


Today we welcome Kate Hattemer whose book, The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy released on April 8th (and was chosen as Amazon’s Best New Book of the month).


Witty, sarcastic Ethan and his three friends decide to take down the reality TV show, For Art’s Sake, that is being filmed at their high school, the esteemed Selwyn Arts Academy, where each student is more talented than the next. While studying Ezra Pound in English class, the friends are inspired to write a vigilante long poem and distribute it to the student body, detailing the evils of For Art’s Sake. But then Luke—the creative force behind the poem and leader of the anti-show movement—becomes a contestant on the nefarious show. It’s up to Ethan, his two remaining best friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save their school. Along the way, they’ll discover a web of secrets and corruption involving the principal, vice principal, and even their favorite teacher.

Holly Bodger: How did you come up with the idea for your book?

Kate Hattemer: I had a brief list of what I wanted to include:  a first-person narrator, pets named after condiments, poetry, and the word “absquatulate.”  Ethan’s voice came first:  I had so much fun writing a few pages of sardonic, self-deprecating teenage boy that I knew I wanted to stick with it all book.  Then, reading about Ezra Pound, I became fascinated by his life, his work, and the potential to use both as a thematic backdrop.  But I never did manage to work in absquatulation.

 HB: Is this the first book you’ve written? How long did it take from idea to sale?

KH: Nope!  My first book, Varsity Latin, was about high-school Latin competitions.  It featured many action-packed scenes about conjugating irregular verbs and memorizing maps of the ancient Forum.  I did find my agent, Uwe Stender, with this book, although it never sold, and I started Vigilante Poets in the meantime.  About a year elapsed between the first stirrings of idea and the best phone call of my life.

HB: Your book is about teens taking down a reality show. Do you watch reality shows? If so, which ones? Do you have a gerbil?

KH: These questions may seem unrelated, but they have one trait in common:  Exposing Me as a Fake.  My experience with reality TV is limited to the one cycle of America’s Next Top Model that my friends and I watched in college when a classmate of ours appeared on it, and I dislike rodents.  (Have I lost all credibility yet?)

HB The title for your book is awesome. How did you come up with it?

KH: Thanks, though I don’t deserve much credit!  It was originally entitled The Contracantos, which obviously had to go, and a lot of people contributed to the brainstorming — I think my editor’s assistant, Kelly Delaney, was the one who came up with the key word “vigilante,” and my father suggested The Poets of Selwyn.  (He also suggested, for this book about Ezra Pound and a gerbil, The Pound and the Furry.)

HB:  You have another book coming out next year. What’s that about? Is it in any way connected to this book?

KH: It’s called The Land of Ten Thousand Madonnas (I’m doomed to long titles).  Seventeen-year-old Jesse has died of a heart defect; a year later, his three cousins, his best friend, and his girlfriend are given an enigmatic mission to travel to Europe.  It’s a quest story about grief and art and friendship.  The only thing it shares with Vigilante Poets is that in both books, I mention Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  Continuing this trend is a major career goal of mine.


About Kate Hattemer

Kate Hattemer is the author of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy (Knopf, Spring 2014) and The Land of Ten Thousand Madonnas (Knopf, 2015).

About Holly Bodger

Holly Bodger is the author of 5 TO 1, coming from Knopf in Spring 2015. You can find her complaining about the Canadian weather on Twitter and Facebook.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Tess Sharpe, author of FAR FROM YOU


Today, I’m talking to fellow Disney-Hyperion author, Tess Sharpe, about her riveting, intense, and beautifully written debut mystery, Far From You. If you like Veronica Mars, Rian Johnson’s criminally underappreciated film, Brick, or anything that explores high school’s seedy, noir underbelly, you don’t want to miss this one.

First, a little bit about the book:

far from you cover Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.

The first time, she’s fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that’ll take years to kick.

The second time, she’s seventeen, and it’s no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina’s murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.

After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina’s brother won’t speak to her, her parents fear she’ll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina’s murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared.

Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | BAM | Powell’s | Goodreads

MM: Far From You dazzled me. It’s a mystery, it’s a love story. It’s a book about addiction, friendship, murder, and trust issues. There are, like, three different timelines in it. It’s very scary, but also very moving. How did all of these elements come together in one book?

TS: Thank you so much! Far From You is inspired by Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia, which takes place in the past and the present, and watching those to timelines merge on stage was very powerful for me.

I’ve always been fascinated by the aftermath of events—probably because the aftermaths in my life were so influential. I like to examine the before and after, contrast and compare the then and now. There is so much change that occurs in the four years of high school and in the transition from junior high to high school, and I wanted to really dig into the many phases of these characters’ lives and the shifting balance of their relationships and problems, and I’m not sure I could’ve done that with a linear plotline—though maybe a more talented writer could.

Also, I just like to make people cry, if at all possible.

MM: And the book also kind of wrecked me. Sophie is so alone and she’s lost so much, but she’s such a tough, resilient character. What was your favorite thing about writing her? What was the hardest part?

TS: I really love Sophie’s stubbornness. She and a mule have a lot in common. She wasn’t the character I struggled writing—Mina was. In the book, all the characters’ views of Mina are not only colored by the fact that she’s so secretive, but also because when someone dies, especially tragically, the people left behind grieving often gloss over the dead person’s faults, and Mina is full of them. Getting her ruthlessness and manipulation across clearly without condemning her or eliminating her sweetness was difficult. Hopefully I pulled it off.

MM: Sophie’s struggles with addiction are a really important part of the book. How did you decide that your main character was an addict, and what informed your decisions about how to write about that?

TS: Chronic pain and disability is a big part of my life; Sophie’s car accident injuries are based on my father’s, who had back and knee injuries when he was hit by a drunk driver when I was a kid. When I was in college, he made the decision to take himself off the heavy narcotics he’d been prescribed in favor of a more natural approach because he didn’t like how they were affecting his daily life. The last three months he was tapering off the narcotics, I helped take care of him because the withdrawal made him quite ill. It was a difficult time for him, and a very painful time, and his strength really impressed me and influenced how I approached Sophie.

Introducing physical pain into Sophie’s life when she was already in so much emotional pain was a combination that, as a I saw it, would lead to her addiction because she has an obsessive, tunnel-vision personality—which can be great for some things like solving murders, but not so much for resisting the oblivion she found in the drugs.

When she’s first adjusting to it, she sees her disability as taking a lot away from her. Being young and in that much pain is no fun—I know from personal experience, you feel angry a lot of the time—and I wanted to explore addiction that stemmed not only from an emotional place, but from a physical place. I also liked the parallel, because in many ways, loving Mina is Sophie’s first addiction, and finding her killer is her last.

MM: Okay, enough heavy questions. Far From You is such a great whodunit. What are some of your favorite mysteries (real or fictional ones)?

TS: I am a huge Hitchcock fan, movie-wise: Rear Window is one of my favorite movies of all time. I also love Charlaine Harris’s Shakespeare series featuring Lily Bard, one of the most complex and strong female characters I’ve ever encountered. And a great YA mystery/thriller I’ve come across lately is Find Me by Romily Bernard—teen hacker + mystery = BEST THING EVAH! Also, the relationship between the sisters in it is so great.

MM: What was the best piece of advice or critique you got while you were writing Far From You?

TS: In the first draft, Sophie didn’t garden, and one of my critique partners very rightly pointed out the girl needed something to do other than be really sad and solve mysteries. I’m so grateful for this because it let me layer in a lot of softness and depth that  was missing in the first draft. (Thanks, CP Allison!)

MM: And lastly, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.

TS: I am irrationally afraid of drowning. Like Sophie, I was a competitive swimmer as a teen as well as being a surfer, so it’s a pretty silly fear. I am not afraid of spiders at all. I pick them up with my hands and take them outside when they sneak into my house/bathtub.


tess sharpe author picBorn in a backwoods cabin to a pair of punk rockers, Tess Sharpe grew up in rural Northern California. Following an internship with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, she studied theatre at Southern Oregon University before abandoning the stage for the professional kitchen. She lives, writes and bakes near the Oregon border.

marymccoyMary McCoy is the author of DEAD TO ME, which will be published by Disney-Hyperion in March 2015. She loves books where crime is perpetrated and/or solved, secrets are buried and/or uncovered, and vengeance is sought and/or justice is won. She lives in Los Angeles.