ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Dahlia Adler, Author of BEHIND THE SCENES

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Today we’re interviewing OneFourKidLit author Dahlia Adler, whose YA contemporary BEHIND THE SCENES comes out today!

About BEHIND THE SCENES:

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High school senior Ally Duncan’s best friend may be the Vanessa Park – star of TV’s hottest new teen drama – but Ally’s not interested in following in her BFF’s Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father’s mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van’s on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.

Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she’s capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can’t play by Hollywood’s rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.

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BA: So, of course, I have to ask: what inspired this east coast girl to write a book about Hollywood?

DA: I wish I could remember! I know I was coming off of having shelved a book that was really character driven, and feeling like that had really hurt me in the query process, so I was determined to write something more plot driven. I know I originally thought I’d do a celebrity POV, but then thought it’d be so much more interesting to do her best friend’s instead (there are more of these now, but it was a rarity back then, I swear!), but…that’s where the memories end!

BA: BtS is such an addictive read that the complexity of the story almost takes you by surprise. How much of this story was planned or outlined prior to drafting? Were there any characters who took on a life of their own?

DA: This book was outlined to death far more than any other book of mine, because it was my first time doing NaNoWriMo. We’re talking eleven pages, single-spaced. And from the material that was produced during the first draft, there actually haven’t been tons of revisions. However, I added a ton during each of two rounds, so while I outlined tightly for the original 67K, another 21K came out of revisions that were completely out of nowhere.

As for characters, yes—Josh. Josh was supposed to be in the book for, like, five seconds. But as soon as he got the mic, he was just…on. Could not shut him up. And of course, he ended up being most early readers’ favorite.

BA: One of my favorite things about BtS was the focus on Ally and Vanessa’s efforts to navigate a complicated friendship, even as romantic and career developments threaten to come between them. Did you find that any of your own experiences with friends were reflected in their relationship?

DA: There’s definitely nothing in BtS that was pulled from any of my personal friendships, but the general concept of being overshadowed by your best friend is something I can relate to. Waaaay more than I’d like to admit.

BA: Another thing I adored about this book: your thoughtful, careful attention to diversity issues. Most notably, Ally often speaks candidly about Vanessa’s experiences finding work as an Asian-American actress. What inspired you to give this issue extra attention?

DA: So, Vanessa Park was actually originally Vanessa Parker, back when I was just starting to draft. I always sort of fish around in my brain to see if I can mentally fancast any of my characters, and as I was doing it this time, I realized that my whole book was super white. So I thought about fancasting with an Asian-American actress, and realized I couldn’t think of a single one for Vanessa. I promptly turned her into Vanessa Park and then unleashed my feelings on the utter ridiculousness of that throughout BtS, because seriously? How is that even possible? It shouldn’t be.

BA: I know I’m not the first person to mention this, but Ally’s love interest, Liam, is down-to-earth, smart, and ABSURDLY hot. (Wait. Wait. Interview will resume after the interviewer stops swooning.) Any thoughts about how Liam has managed to cause such a sensation among your adult readers?

DA: Ha, my CPs just might be willing to fight you for him! It was actually really strange for me to write a love interest who’s kind of a physically perfect specimen; that’s really not my preference. But Liam really had to be, and it’s hard to argue with flawlessness. And good abs. Good abs are really key.

BA: And in your interview with One Four Kid Lit, you mentioned that Liam is physically based on Matt Lanter. (Pause for additional swooning). Who, if anyone, do you picture in your head when you think of Ally and Vanessa?

DA: No one really. I have a weird thing against strongly picturing my main characters, and for some reason this was particularly true for Ally. If you said I had to choose one on pain of death, I’d probably say Lyndsay Fonseca (circa How I Met Your Mother) for Ally and Jamie Chung (circa her season of The Real World) for Vanessa.

BA: You’ve written several books, including two more scheduled to release from Spencer Hill in 2015! In what ways has your writing process stayed fairly consistent over time? How does it tend to change from book to book?

DA: I’ve done really different things with my books in terms of POV since BtS, and that will throw consistency right out the window. For every part of my process I could tell you remains the same, it’ll be a lie for one of my books. BtS was really heavily outlined, and I never did that again, because the next time I tried, I ended up deviating from it every five seconds. I try to be consistent in not editing while I write, but I’ve had a couple of manuscripts throw me early on, and then with the help of my CPs acting as alpha readers, I’ve made exceptions there too. I have a rule about not writing out of order…and then I went ahead and did it. My feeling is that you just have to do what’s begging to be done. It makes a world of difference when you just go with your gut.

BA: Without giving away any spoilers, what was your favorite scene in BtS to write? What scene gave you the most trouble?

DA: Hmm, good question…I wrote some of them so much more recently than others that it’s hard to be sure! My favorite scenes to write are always either kissing or fighting (and a lot of my scenes include both), so I’d say probably either the first kiss between Ally and Liam, or the first time he comes over, or the night before he goes to Berlin…yeeeeah, there was a lot to enjoy writing in this book!

As for the most trouble, I’d say probably the scenes with Lucy. I’d never written a younger sibling before, and have no experience with them, so those were a struggle for me.

BA: I know you’re a voracious reader and a huge contemporary YA fangirl. What has it been like having fans and supporters of your own? And what would be the ultimate author fantasy moment for you?

DA: You know what’s terrible? I’ve had people be utterly wonderful about my book, and my reaction is always, “(S)he’s just being nice because (s)he’s a nice person,” or something along those lines. Supporters’ capacity for kindness is pretty amazing. So for me, the ultimate author fantasy is anything that’s really incontrovertible proof that someone who didn’t have to love my book for any reason just…did. Especially a reluctant reader. I think having a book that appeals to reluctant readers is an amazing thing.

BA: Your fans know that you juggle multiple professional identities – you’re an editor, a prolific blogger, and – OFFICIALLY – a published young adult author. Beyond your exceptional time management skills, what keeps you sane during the crazy parts of this process?

DA: Deadlines, to-do lists, and close friends. The first two help me organize my brain and are tremendously helpful to me, but it’s really the close friends that make me function. I have the world’s most incredible CPs, who manage to make me feel like all my stuff is worth reading, and who are always willing to alpha, beta, talk things out, and cheerlead. I also have a couple of friends who are just tremendous at letting me talk about my emotional crazy. And I have to give the world’s biggest shoutout here to Fearless Fifteener Maggie Hall, because she is in both of those categories, and is there for me literally every single day, even when traveling the world. I have no idea where I’d be without her.

And my husband. Not to be a cliché, but my husband is pretty much the greatest rock I could ask for.

BA: Since this is an official Fearless Fifteeners interview, my last question is, as always: what is one thing you’re afraid of? What is one thing you’re not afraid of?

DA: I’m afraid of driving—I don’t have a license, and I honestly don’t know when I’ll get one, even though I clearly need one.

I’m not afraid of being myself. I don’t always love what I do or how I feel, but I’m very grateful to be someone who can comfortably tell you everything I am. Or, you know, tweet it.

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

About Dahlia:
DahliaAdler (533x640)Dahlia Adler is an Assistant Editor of Mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and a YA author and blogger at every spare moment in between. You can find her on Twitter at @MissDahlELama, and blogging at The Daily Dahlia, YA Misfits, and Barnes & Noble. She lives in New York City with her husband and their overstuffed bookshelves. Behind the Scenes is her debut novel.

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Becky AlbertalliBecky 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 April of 2015. Follow Becky on Twitter at @beckyalbertalli.
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INTRODUCING MELISSA HURST

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I guess you could say I’ve always been drawn to science fiction and fantasy. When I was little, I adored the STAR WARS, STAR TREK, and INDIANA JONES movies, and I would always watch THE TWILIGHT ZONE or THE OUTER LIMITS when they were on TV. In first grade, I desperately wanted to watch THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK when it hit the theaters, so my parents bribed one of my older cousins into taking me to see it.

I grew up in a small town, so the selection of speculative fiction for early readers wasn’t great, but that changed when I moved on to books for older children (way back before there was a middle grade or young adult section). It was like being in paradise. One of the first books that I read in the “Big Kid” section was A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle, and I fell in love with it. After reading it, I really thought for the first time that I could possibly become a writer one day.

I wrote a lot of terrible stories after that, then some not so terrible ones (I even won first place in a short story contest at my middle school). The desire to become a professional writer grew stronger each year, but I pushed it aside when I started college to get a more practical degree in teaching. After eight years in the classroom, the dream to write books never faded, so I decided to finally give it a shot. I started my first book in 2009, had a blast writing it, then ultimately trunked it in 2011 after hearing that dystopian was on the way out.

It was my second book—a time travel—that ultimately allowed me to sign with my awesome agent and landed me two book deals within the space of a year. I’m excited for you to meet Alora and Bridger next fall, and I hope you will love them as much as I do!

Melissa Hurst lives in the southern US with her husband and three kids. She writes YA science fiction and fantasy, which means she considers watching Star Trek and Firefly as research. She dreams of traveling around the world and maybe finding Atlantis one day. Her debut YA novel, THE EDGE OF FOREVER, will be out from Sky Pony Press in 2015. To learn more, visit melissa-hurst.com or follow her on Twitter.

ONE FOUR KIDS: INTERVIEW WITH RACHAEL ALLEN, AUTHOR OF 17 FIRST KISSES

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Recently I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing OneFourKidLit author Rachael Allen, whose young adult novel, 17 FIRST KISSES, was released yesterday! About the book:

 

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Sometimes a girl has to kiss a lot of frogs…

No matter how many boys Claire kisses, she can’t seem to find a decent boyfriend. Someone who wouldn’t rather date her gorgeous best friend, Megan. Someone who won’t freak out when he learns about the tragedy her family still hasn’t recovered from. Someone whose kisses can carry her away from her backwoods town for one fleeting moment.

 Until Claire meets Luke.

 Luke’s adorable and he’s lived all over the world. But Megan is falling for Luke, too, and if there’s one thing Claire knows for sure, it’s that Megan’s pretty much irresistible.

 With true love and best friendship on the line, Claire suddenly has everything to lose. And what she learns—about her crush, her friends, and most of all herself—makes the choices even harder.

 In her moving debut, Rachael Allen brilliantly captures the complexities of friendship, the struggles of self-discovery, and the difficulties of trying to find love in high school. Fans of Sarah Ockler, Susane Colasanti, and Stephanie Perkins will fall head over heels for this addictive, heartfelt, and often hilarious modern love story.

 

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  • Congratulations on your debut, Rachael! 17 FIRST KISSES is truly a genuine, heartfelt story—what was your inspiration for the plot?

Thank you so much, Marci!

The short answer: When I was doing some house rearranging, I found a box of notes and magazine clippings and stuff from middle and high school. So, I’m sifting through this stuff, alternately laughing and cringing (oh, Justin Timberlake, you have come back to haunt me in the form of magazine clippings). I was struck by how my friends and I changed through the years these notes spanned, and I wanted to write a book that captured the same characters at different snapshots of their lives.

I thought of the title 17 FIRST KISSES, and the rest of the book came together from there.

The long answer: The story behind why I needed to write this particular book at this particular time is really long and also kind of sad, so I’ve posted about it separately on my blog. You can find it here.

  • I loved that romance doesn’t take over the storyline, that the family struggles, friendship dilemmas, and self-discovery drive the plot.  Did you use any outline/plotting methods to keep everything straight?

I did much more outlining with this story than I normally do. The structure kind of demanded it. I have an excel file where I listed “Chapter 1, Kiss #1, Chapter 2, etc.” with a one line description of what would happen in that scene(s). Being able to visually switch around plot points and see where the chunks of the past were fitting in with the present helped a lot.

I also wrote a lot of the “Kisses” before I wrote the present day scenes, so that helped me to feel like they had already happened. But once I was finished, man, oh man, if I changed one thing in a character’s past or present, it could create a mean butterfly effect, and then I’d have to spend hours reading over my ms again and making little tweaks.

  •  What have you learned from working with your editor?

My editor is Jen Klonsky, and she is AMAZING! She’s so much fun to work with because we’re both so in touch with our YA sides. I’ve learned a lot from her – the biggest thing being how to bring out bigger themes and arcs that I didn’t know were there.

One example is the relationship between Claire and her friend Amberly. Claire wants more than anything to get out of her small town and do big things with her life. She can’t understand how someone could be happy settling down there, and without meaning to, she has compartmentalized Amberly as a “fun friend” as opposed to a “serious friend”. Claire realizes that it’s her fault they aren’t closer, and that she’s really missing out on having this beautiful person be fully a part of her life.

I love this aspect of the book, and it wouldn’t even be there if Jen and also Susan (my agent) hadn’t encouraged me to dig deeper into this relationship and bring out this part of the story. Jen takes the characters and relationships I write and finds the magic in them.

  •  What other projects do you have coming up?

 I’m working on revisions right now for the second book of my contract with Harper Teen. It’s called THE REVENGE PLAYBOOK, and it’s about four girls who aren’t necessarily friends banding together to beat the football team at their annual scavenger hunt. It’s been really fun to write because of all the shenanigans 🙂

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

Something I’m afraid of: Dolls. Especially the old school porcelain ones that look like they’re trying to steal your soul with their glassy eyes. *shudders* I’m also afraid of cockroaches, gory horror movies, and people who don’t read.

Something I’m not afraid of: Blood/brains/eyes. I work in a lab, so I’m used to seeing that kind of stuff (I’ve even dissected human eyes before).

Thank you so much for interviewing me, Marci! I can’t wait to read THE ONE THING!

It was my pleasure, Rachael!

About Rachael:

Rachael Allen Headshot

 

Rachael Allen lives in Atlanta, GA where she’s working furiously on her PhD in neuroscience. When she’s not doing science or writing YA, you can find her chasing after a toddler, a baby, and two sled dogs. Her debut YA novel, 17 FIRST KISSES, is forthcoming from Harper Teen. Rachael may or may not have had 17 first kisses…luckily she doesn’t kiss and tell.

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Marci CurtisMarci Curtis
grew up in Northern California, where she went to college, met an amazing guy in a military uniform, and then proceeded to follow him around the United States until he married her. Two college-aged kids and one dachshund later, she lives in Maryland, where she laughs too loudly and eats peanut butter off spoons. Her YA contemporary debut, THE ONE THING, comes out in 2015 via Disney-Hyperion. Learn more about her at Marcilyncurtis.com.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Corinne Duyvis, author of OTHERBOUND

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Hi guys! I’m I. W. Gregorio, and I feel so lucky to be interviewing the fabulous Corinne Duyvis, co-founder of the terrific Disability in Kidlit blog and author of OTHERBOUND, a complex work of speculative fiction that’s already garnered four starred reviews and been named a Junior Library Guild selection.

5153Rp+2IoLNolan doesn’t see darkness when he closes his eyes. Instead, he’s transported into the mind of Amara, a girl living in a different world. Nolan’s life in his small Arizona town is full of history tests, family tension, and laundry; his parents think he has epilepsy, judging from his frequent blackouts. Amara’s world is full of magic and danger–she’s a mute servant girl who’s tasked with protecting a renegade princess. Nolan is only an observer in Amara’s world–until he learns to control her. At first, Amara is terrified. Then, she’s furious. But to keep the princess–and themselves–alive, they’ll have to work together and discover the truth behind their connection.

A fascinating premise, clearly and compellingly written and imagined by a startlingly original debut writer.

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1. Corinne, we are so happy to have you here on the Fifteeners blog. Congrats on your debut, which has been getting an incredible amount of praise. Tell us a little about what inspired your book.

Oh man, so many different things that it’s hard to identify them all. However, I think the driving force behind it was the desire to do something different. I knew from the start this would be a tricky and ambitious kind of book, and that was actually one of the things that spurred me on.

I had just received a lot of rejections on my previous book, in large part because of the full YA fantasy market. I ended up seeing Otherbound as sort of a challenge: to me, to see how far I could push myself, and to the industry, to see whether this was enough to hook their interest. (Spoiler alert: apparently so.)

2. How long have you been writing, and do you have any tips for aspiring novelists?

Depends on how you look at it—I enjoyed writing stories as a kid, then started writing on a regular basis when I was around thirteen or fourteen in the context of online roleplaying games. (X-Men was my poison of choice.)  I started writing original novels when I was eighteen, which was about six-seven years ago; Otherbound was the sixth novel I wrote.

As for tips: push yourself. Be different. Write weird. Take risks. Even if it doesn’t pay off, you’ll learn countless things in the process.

3. At some point you Tweeted (I think) about how you were pleasantly surprised to find an editor who didn’t have qualms about publishing a book with two disabled, POC main characters, featuring nonheteronormative relationships. Is there any advice you’d like to share with querying writers re: the submissions process for diverse books?

That surprise came more from hearing about other people’s experiences than from my own, thankfully. While it’s possible that my characters played a part in some agents’ rejections, no one ever told me as much, so I never felt like I received any pushback because of the diversity in the book.

In terms of advice … don’t compromise. Avoid making your characters whiter or straighter or abler than they are in your head because you’re worried the book won’t sell. Keep them as they are, make sure you’ve done your research, and go for it. It may be harder, but there many people in the industry who sincerely want to support these books. It’s so important that we give them—and ourselves—the chance. We shouldn’t reject ourselves on other people’s behalf.

4. I see you’re a graduate of the Clarion workshop, which I’ve heard is amazing. What was the one most valuable thing you learned there?

This sounds obvious, but: subjectivity. There’s nothing like spending a morning listening to eighteen opinions about a short story you wrote to understand that how people perceive your story depends so much on them, their preferences, and their mood. One person’s favorite part might make another person stop reading.

It allows for an odd sense of freedom, to realize that you’ll never be able to please everyone.

5. You’ve created a stunning, nuanced fantasy world in the The Dunelands. What was the part of world-building that you most enjoyed?

I truly loved creating the different countries and ethnic groups in the book and figuring out the world’s political history.  It feels so exciting when you see the world coming together in a way that feels real and believable.

Also, I really liked sneaking in various Dutch elements. I wonder how many people in and outside of the country will pick up on!

6. How has the debut process been for you so far? Anything you didn’t expect?

Honestly, I’ve been having an unbelievably fantastic debut experience! My publisher is wonderful, the reviews are mind-blowing, my fellow authors are marvelous, industry feedback is supportive, my Twitter friends are super enthusiastic … So, honestly, that may be what I didn’t expect: I was bracing myself for stress and nervousness and worry, but it went much better than I could ever have dreamed.

7. Finally, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.

I’m afraid of spiders. It’s cliché, but true. I just freeze up. And then I freak out if they actually start moving. I just—nope. Nope. Can’t do it. Spiders are not for me.

On the flip side, I’m not afraid of … a lot of things I probably should be afraid of. It may be a result of living in the Netherlands, where we don’t really have to worry about dangerous animals or natural disasters much, but I have zero sense of self-preservation. Whenever I’m in the US and exploring nature, I’m always furiously hoping to see a snake or bear or coyote or cougar. In fact, snakes and bears still rank high in my favorite animals list. When I finally saw my first wild snake in Virginia two years ago, it was sunbathing on a rock in the middle of a river. I was so excited that I climbed across, going from stone to stone, so I could see the snake up-close and get our picture taken together. The friend I was with nearly had a heart attack.

Not my brightest moment, in retrospect.

I had a lot of fun answering these. Thanks so much, Ilene! 😀

corinneduyvis1-webA lifelong Amsterdammer, Corinne Duyvis spends her days writing speculative young adult and middle grade novels. She enjoys brutal martial arts and gets her geek on whenever possible. Otherbound, her YA fantasy debut, is now out from Amulet Books/ABRAMS. It has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and BCCB. Kirkus called it “original and compelling; a stunning debut,” while BCCB praised its “subtle, nuanced examinations of power dynamics and privilege.” Find Corinne at her Twitter or Tumblr.

SONY DSCI. W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. After getting her MD, she did her residency at Stanford, where she met the intersex patient who inspired her novel, NONE OF THE ABOVE (Balzer & Bray / HarperCollins, 4/28/2015). She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. For more, visit iwgregorio.com or Tweet her at @IWGregorio.

Heather Mackey talks about her MG Fantasy DREAMWOOD

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I sat down with a dear friend and author Heather Mackey, whose book DREAMWOOD releases today.

51kSRKdc0rL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Lucy Darrington has no choice but to run away from boarding school. Her father, an expert on the supernatural, has been away for too long while doing research in Saarthe, a remote territory in the Pacific Northwest populated by towering redwoods, timber barons, and the Lupine people. But upon arriving, she learns her father is missing: Rumor has it he’s gone in search of dreamwood, a rare tree with magical properties that just might hold the cure for the blight that’s ravaging the forests of Saarthe.

Determined to find her father (and possibly save Saarthe), Lucy and her vexingly stubborn friend Pete follow William Darrington’s trail to the deadly woods on Devil’s Thumb. As they encounter Lupine princesses, giant sea serpents, and all manner of terrifying creatures, Lucy hasn’t reckoned that the dreamwood itself might be the greatest threat of all.

SL: Did DREAMWOOD come to you in a dream?

HM: I wish it had, just because it would make such a good story! The truth is that years ago I took a camping trip to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Northern California, and it was such an amazing place I just knew I had to set something there. For one thing there was this tall grass prairie with elk wandering all around, huge old-growth redwoods, and this spooky-mysterious Fern Canyon where they’d shot some scenes from Jurassic Park.

The glimmerings of the story began in a playwriting workshop I did with O’Neill award-winning playwright Will Dunne in San Francisco. His writing exercises were the best! I still have them saved in the most ancient recesses of my computer. All of a sudden I had the picture of a young girl in the early 1900s looking through her father’s microscope. I knew she would be troubled by ghosts and that he was an unconventional scientist. It grew from there.

SL: How did you do your research?

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HM: I have very little time to write, so I try to ration the amount of time I spend on research, otherwise it can take over. My story is set in a fictional Northwest territory called Saarthe, so I started what I called a Saarthe Wiki – that’s where I made up entries on all kinds of lore, folktales, botanical observations, facts about ghosts, etc. etc.

DREAMWOOD contains a lot of alternative “science” about spirits, life energy, protection stones, and so on. I usually went to Wikipedia and Google for inspiration (typical query – “What stones absorb negative energy?”), because I knew I wanted to make something up based on a smidgen of tradition. I visited the US Patent and Trademark Office website and looked up patents from the 1890s because I wanted to create a fake patent award for a miniature ghost sweeper. Most of this never made it into the book, but it was fun.

The book also has a fair amount in it about the native populations of this particular made-up coast. I did research, but did not want to tell a story that would take from real people. I grew up outside the Tohono O’odham Nation in Southern Arizona and that experience has fueled a lifelong interest in the history and stories of indigenous peoples, while at the same time making me realize I pretty much know nothing. There are so many amazing native writers, and I could go on with a list of books I’ve read and admired over the years. But here’s just one I want to give a shout out to – it’s a quick and entertaining but totally thought-provoking read and from it I got the Lupines’ mastery of the business and technology of their age,EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT INDIANS IS WRONG by Paul Chaat Smith.

SH: What was your revision process like?

HM: Um… crazy? I sold this book let’s say, prematurely. And my editor warned me “It needs a lot of work.” Which was like the understatement of the decade. I sold it seven years ago. I did two major revisions and then my editor got laid off and I started over again. As in total, complete reimagining of the story from the ground up.

What saved me were visualization exercises and affirmations. I would go to my computer, quaking with fear, and I would tell myself, “I don’t know what the hell I am going to do but I can still try to write this scene.”

SL: Did you set out to write an ‘environmental’ tale?  Have you lived in the Pacific Northwest?

HM: Haha. No. And now that I’ve got some distance from it all the “eco” stuff seems so obvious. But that’s not where I started from. As a young reader I hated “message” books. I would never want to inflict that on someone.

SL: Who was your favorite character to write in DREAMWOOD and why?

HM: I’ll always have a soft spot for Able Dodd, the taciturn coachman and handyman who ferries my protagonist to and from the train station. His role in the final text is greatly lessened, but at various points in this story’s evolution he has been a bear shape-shifter, an obsessive taxidermist, and the voice of the forest. Able Dodd is the story’s conscience.

SL: Anything in the pipeline you can tell us about?

HM: I am working on something new. It involves magic war, underground tunnels, and a cocky twelve-year-old boy. Or at least, that’s the story today.

DREAMWOOD, from G.P. Putnam’s Sons, was given a starred review by Kirkus Reviews, which called the book “An original fantasy for middle-grade readers plaits together science, the supernatural and deep ecology . . . The carefully plotted twists and turns will keep readers absorbed to the end. A stunning debut with equal parts originality and heart.”  Available through Amazon, Indiebound, and Barnes and Noble

stacey-lee-smallStacey Lee is a fourth generation Chinese-American whose people came to California during the heydays of the cowboys. She believes she still has a bit of cowboy dust in her soul. A native of southern California, she gave up her job as a lawyer to finally took up the pen because she wanted the perks of being able to nap during the day and it was easier than moving to Spain. UNDER A PAINTED SKY is her first novel, coming Winter 2015 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons. To learn more, visit www.staceyhlee.com or follow her on Twitter.

Happy Fifteenth Day

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It’s that time again! In honor of the World Cup, imagine that I’m saying this in an outrageous British accent (and yelling “SCOOOOOORE!” every so often).

Interviews and Cool Posts

Stacey Lee recommends her favorite books by Asian-American authors in honor of Asian-Pacific Heritage Month.

Pub Hub features an interview with our own Melissa Grey about THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT.

Marci Lyn Curtis interviews fellow Fifteener Kerry O’Malley Cerra about JUST A DROP OF WATER (which comes out in a few months!).

Krista Van Dolzer talks cover design with Laurent Linn, art director at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, in connection with A.L. Sonnichsen‘s cover reveal for RED BUTTERFLY. (You can also enter to win an ARC until June 19!)

Cover Reveals

Icey Books reveals the cover of Jen Brooks‘s IN A WORLD JUST RIGHT. They’re also giving away an ARC, so hop over there immediately!

Tommy Wallach reveals the avant-garde cover of WE ALL LOOKED UP in a most amusing way.

A.L. Sonnichsen reveals the cover of RED BUTTERFLY with a party (and you’re welcome to join in!).

And last but certainly not least, Kidliterati has the cover of Gail Nall‘s BREAKING THE ICE.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Lindsay Cummings, Author of THE MURDER COMPLEX

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Hi guys! I’m Maggie Hall, and today I’m interviewing One Four KidLit author Lindsay Cummings, whose debut THE MURDER COMPLEX hit shelves this week.

MurderComplexAn action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?

INDIEBOUND | POWELL’S | BOOK DEPOSITORY | B&N | AMAZON

 

M: Thanks for chatting with us today, Lindsay! The central concept in THE MURDER COMPLEX is so fascinating and frightening. What inspired the book? 

L: I have always been fascinated by creepy stories! When I was just getting into the idea for TMC, I read an article about this small town plagued by murders. I wanted to make that story my own, and set it in the future!

M: There are a lot of things Meadow experiences that you wouldn’t have had experience with yourself (we hope!) 🙂 but some parts of being a teen are universal. Did you find yourself using any of your own life as inspiration?

L: When I was growing up, I spent every summer in South Florida, right on the beach. That was the inspiration for the setting of TMC! 🙂

M: Are you and Meadow at all alike? Which of your characters do you relate to the most, and why?

L: Meadow is very strong and fierce, both physically and mentally. I feel like everything Meadow thinks, everything that drives her, is the same for me. (Minus the killing, of course!) She’s fiercely protective of the people she loves, and she doesn’t like to sway from her own plans in life.

M: What do you hope readers will take away from THE MURDER COMPLEX?

L: I hope it will just be a fun read for them! And maybe, Meadow and Zephyr’s story will help them learn to be a little more fearless in life!

M: You write Middle Grade in addition to your YA series. Is it difficult to switch back and forth? What are the biggest differences you’ve found between the two?

L: At first, it was the HARDEST thing EVER. I was like, “What have I gotten myself in to?!” But then, over time, I learned that switching from YA to MG, and in turn, 1st person to 3rd person, was actually totally freeing. Now I freaking love it!

M: Can you tell us a little about your journey as a writer?

L: I graduated in 2009 and got really sick with Chronic Fatigue. I had to drop out of college, so writing was sort of the only thing I felt like I had going for me. I gave it a try…and somehow, amazingly, it turned into a career!

M: What has been the most surprising thing about your journey to publication? What about your favorite part?

L: The surprising thing was how LONG the journey really is! Even when I signed my deals with Harper, I still had years to wait. My favorite part is all the little victories along the way, like cover reveals, giveaways, good reviews, etc!

M: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? 

L: Read and write EVERY day! Just go for it, and don’t be afraid to dive in. If you want to be an author, the first step is writing. 🙂

M: Since we are the Fearless Fifteeners, we’d like to know something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of.

L: I’m afraid of really awful life-changing things, like someone close to me dying. Strangely, I’m not afraid of getting sick or getting a disease, because I feel like I’ve already conquered that battle. Also, I really hate when I’m at the barn and a snake surprises me. That CREEPS ME OUT.

Ha! That does sound creepy. *shudder* Thank you so much for hanging out with us today, and congratulations on the release of your book!!

LinsdayCummingsLindsay Cummings is a 22 year old author of YA and MG books at HarperCollins. She lives in Dallas, TX with her husband Josh, her hedgehog named Hedwig, her two German Shepherds Hurley and Kai, her wolf cub Kimber, and a draft horse named Dan the Man.  Lindsay deals with Chronic Fatigue issues, believes Jesus is the reason for all of her success, and swears that book hoarding is not a problem at all. She’s still waiting on her letter from Hogwarts–it was probably just lost in the mail. You can follow Lindsay on twitter @lindsaycwrites and instagram @authorlindsaycummings. You can also visit her book blogging website for teens at http://www.booknerdigans.com.  

Maggie HallMaggie Hall has played with baby tigers in Thailand, learned to make homemade pasta in Italy, and taken thousands of miles of trains through India. When she’s not on the other side of the world, she lives with her husband and cats in Albuquerque, New Mexico, dabbles in design, and watches USC football. Her debut THE CONSPIRACY OF US releases January 2015 from Penguin. Find her at maggiehall.com or on Twitter.