ALL FOUR KIDS: INTERVIEW WITH MEGAN WHITMER, AUTHOR OF BETWEEN

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BetweenHey y’all!  Today we’re celebrating the release of Megan Whitmer’s debut novel, BETWEEN.

Here’s the skinny on the book:

When a supernatural freak of nature forces her family to separate, seventeen-year-old Charlie Page must turn to her frustrating (yet gorgeous) neighbor, Seth, to help reunite them. Seth whisks Charlie to Ellauria—a magical world filled with the creatures of myths and legends—and tells her of the Fellowship, the group charged with protecting mystical beings from human discovery. (All except Bigfoot: that attention whore is a total lost cause.) But when Charlie learns that she’s under the Fellowship’s protection herself, well, “stressed” is an understatement.

Ellauria should be the safest place for Charlie while the Fellowship works to find her family, but things in the mystical realm aren’t what they seem.

Magic is failing, creatures are dying, and the Fellowship insists Charlie holds the key to saving everyone. With her family still missing and the danger in Ellauria growing, Charlie doesn’t know who she can trust. She’s dealing with a power she never asked for, falling for a guy she can’t have, and being forced to choose between her destiny and her heart. And if she chooses wrong, she could destroy magic forever. Charlie may be in over her head.

You totally want to read it right now, huh?  The good news is that there are a lot of places you can get BETWEEN today!

Barnes & Noble, The Morris Bookshop, iTunes, The Book Depository, or Amazon!

Congrats, Megan!!  Thanks for joining us today on Fearless Fifteeners!  We’re so glad to have you and to talk about your book, BETWEEN.  Tell us a little bit about it.  
Between is about Charlie, a seventeen year old girl who discovers the Fellowship, a secret organization in charge of making sure humans go on thinking that so-called “mythical” creatures don’t exist. She has an encounter with the Mothman that lands her in the Fellowship’s version of the Witness Protection Program, and her entire world is turned upside down as she uncovers what led the Mothman to her in the first place. (If you’ve never heard of the Mothman, look him up! It’s a great urban legend based in West Virginia.)

So, it’s a story of a girl stuck in two slightly hopeless situations.  What inspired the story?  
I love secrets and conspiracies and basically wondering about all the questions I’ll never know the answers to. The idea that a group like the Fellowship keeps us from knowing the truth (that things like fairies and Bigfoot actually exist) is one that’s bounced around my imagination for years. One day I threw a teenage girl into the mix—what would happen if she found out about this group? How and why would she ever need to know about them? I didn’t mean to make her two options slightly hopeless, and I never intended to put the entire future of magic on her shoulders, but my characters ran away with the story and I just followed suit.

What do you hope readers will gain from reading BETWEEN?
I hope they laugh. Between has its heavy moments, but it was important to me to make it a fun read. Charlie’s a smart, sassy character, and I love the way she interacts with the world. I also hope readers love Ellauria as much as I do. I researched folklore from around the world to find the right mix of creatures for the book. When an organization is in charge of hiding literally every single mythical creature in existence, you have to make sure you branch out beyond the typical unicorn and dragon (as well as include examples of creatures that have never been discovered). 

Tell us about your journey as a writer.  What has been your most favorite/dreaded part of the process?
I love creating characters. It’s always fun learning their voices and figuring out what makes them tick. Writing dialogue is one of my most favorite activities. I hate first drafts. It’s so hard to keep going when everything you’re writing is crap (as most first drafts are). I love revising. Taking a terrible first draft and polishing it—adding details, fleshing out scenes, going through each sentence and making it better—that’s fun. Drafting is pure hell.

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

I’m terrified of spiders, but have no problem at all with snakes.

Megan WhitmerMegan Whitmer’s favorite color is blue. She’s convinced the best movie ever made is Tombstone, followed closely by The Princess Bride, The Avengers, Breakfast at Tiffanys, and Sharknado. She’s addicted to making lip-sync videos. She takes hugs pretty seriously. Her greatest failure is her inability to breakdance, but she makes up for it by being supremely gifted at The Shopping Cart. Aside from her personal blog and weekly vlog series, she’s also a contributing blogger for www.YAmisfits.comwww.allthewritenotes.com, and www.herkentucky.com. She lives in Kentucky with her family. Also, she writes books and talks a lot. Like, a lot.

Here are a few other places you can find Megan: Goodreads, Twitter, Website, or Facebook!

Becky headshots-Becky headshots-0007Becky Wallace is the author of THE KEEPERS’ CHRONICLES: THE STORYSPINNER, a magical adventure in which a case of mistaken identity exposes a young performer to a danger she could have never imagined and a secret her father died to protect. It will be available from Simon & Schuster in March 2015. When Becky’s not writing, she’s baking cupcakes and teaching her kids ’90s dance moves.

ALL FOUR KIDS: AN INTERVIEW WITH STEPHANIE DIAZ, AUTHOR OF EXTRACTION

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Today I have the pleasure of interviewing fellow sci-fi geek Stephanie Diaz, author of the newly released novel, EXTRACTION.

About the book:

Extraction - actual final cover“Welcome to Extraction testing.”Clementine has spent her whole life preparing for her sixteenth birthday, when she’ll be tested for Extraction in the hopes of being sent from the planet Kiel’s toxic Surface to the much safer Core, where people live without fear or starvation. When she proves Promising enough to be “Extracted,” she must leave without Logan, the boy she loves. Torn apart from her only sense of family, Clem promises to come back and save him from brutal Surface life.What she finds initially in the Core is a utopia compared to the Surface—it’s free of hard labor, gun-wielding officials, and the moon’s lethal acid. But life is anything but safe, and Clementine learns that the planet’s leaders are planning to exterminate Surface dwellers—and that means Logan, too.

Trapped by the steel walls of the underground and the lies that keep her safe, Clementine must find a way to escape and rescue Logan and the rest of the planet. But the planet leaders don’t want her running—they want her subdued.

With urgent writing, fluid dialogue, and a cast of unforgettable characters, Extraction is a page-turning, gripping read, sure to entertain lovers of Hunger Games and Ender’s Game, and leave them breathless for more.

Fonda Lee: Congratulations on your debut, Stephanie! Tell us about what inspired you to write EXTRACTION.

Stephanie Diaz: Most of my story ideas begin with an image. For EXTRACTION, I saw this image of a giant moon consuming the sky, with eerie fog wafting from its surface. I was pretty sure the fog was poison. Which led me to ask the question: what would the world be like if the moon were a threat to human life? So that was my main inspiration, but I’d also been reading a lot of dystopian stories around that time, which of course made me want to write one. But I wanted mine to have more elements of traditional science fiction.

FL: EXTRACTION features an irredeemably bleak dystopian society. How did you come up with the premise, and do you think there is something particularly appealing to you about writing a story set in a place like Kiel?

SD: Everything about this story started with the poisonous moon. From there, I had to figure out why the moon was poisonous to begin with, and what sort of life the people living in a world threatened by such a moon would have. I can’t give away the answer to the first question without spoiling the book. 🙂 But suffice to say, the answer inspired the premise. And the design of the world came to life as a result of the second question. For example, it seemed obvious that the citizens would have to take precautions to protect themselves from the moon, and they would build cities underground if they could. But since there would still be useful resources above ground, I came up with the idea of the society’s leaders forcing some people to live on the Surface in internment camps, protected from the moon by a powerful shield in the sky but still fearing the poison.

Bleak stories like this have always appealed to me, for some reason, ever since I read The Giver. I’d like to think writing them helps me understand real-world suffering better. But maybe I’m just a masochist who enjoys hurting my characters? *shrug* I don’t know.

FL: Tell us about Clementine, the heroine of your novel. Is she inspired by anyone real or fictional? I found it refreshing that her love interest, Logan, is not a case of “insta-love,” but a childhood friend she is extremely loyal to and protective of. Tell us a bit about that.

SD: Clementine wasn’t inspired by one particular person, but she was certainly inspired by other fictional heroines like Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen, who are brave and strong but also human and flawed. When I conceived Clementine’s relationship with Logan, I wanted it to be founded in friendship before anything else. In their world, those born in the work camps tend to be less trusting of others, since they’re all fighting for a rare shot at survival. So, Clementine and Logan had to meet young in order to grow to trust and love one another. “Insta-love” simply wouldn’t have happened for them.

FL: Your novel features a number of sci-fi elements: an acid shield to protect against toxic rain, people living inside a planet’s core, and virtual reality simulations, to name a few. Are you a fan of the science fiction genre, and were you inspired or influenced by any favorite books or films?

SD: I’m crazy about sci-fi. Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly…you name it. So yes, I was definitely inspired by other sci-fi works. You might even find some references to those shows in EXTRACTION and the later books in the trilogy. Maybe. 🙂

FL: Tell us a bit about your journey as an author. As I understand, you wrote this book while in college?! Tell us about what the path to publication was like for you.

SD: My path to publication was a long one, since I started young. I first tried to sign with an agent when I was twelve, almost ten years ago. Three books later, I accomplished my goal at the age of nineteen. I wrote EXTRACTION while I was in college, yes, in the course of two months. Seven months later, after several intense revisions, I signed with an agent and we sold the book six months after that. So, EXTRACTION’s story happened relatively quickly, but it felt like it had been a long time coming.

FL: EXTRACTION is the first in a planned trilogy. Can you give us any hints about what’s to come?

SD: More spaceships. More battles. Aliens? It’s possible.

FL. And finally, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of.

SD: I’m deathly afraid of getting in a serious car crash. I have more nightmares about that than anything else. I’m not afraid of public speaking. To a certain extent, at least.

Thank you for the interview Stephanie, and good luck with EXTRACTION!

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About Stephanie Diaz: 

Twenty-one-year-old Stephanie Diaz wrote her debut novel, Extraction, when she should’ve been making short films and listening to class lectures at San Diego State University. When she isn’t lost in books, she can be found singing, marveling at the night sky, or fan-girling over TV shows. Visit her online at stephaniediazbooks.com or follow her on twitter: @StephanieEDiaz.

WEBSITE │TWITTER │GOODREADS │AMAZON B&N

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 Winter 2015. You can find Fonda at www.fondalee.com and on Twitter @fondajlee.

ALL FOUR KIDS: AN INTERVIEW WITH AMBER LOUGH, AUTHOR OF THE FIRE WISH

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I nabbed this interview, not only to feast early on THE FIRE WISH, but Amber and I are also editor siblings! So it is with extra pleasure that I inquire about this intriguing author and enchanting story, which debuted yesterday from Random House Books for Young Readers!

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In this romantic and evocative fantasy, Najwa is a jinni, training to be a spy in the war against the humans. Zayele is a human, on her way to marry a prince of Baghdad–which she’ll do anything to avoid.  So she captures Najwa and makes a wish.  With a rush of smoke and fire they fall apart and re-form–as each other.  A jinni and a human, trading lives. Both girls must play their parts among enemies who would kill them if the deception were ever discovered–enemies including the young men Najwa and Zayele are just discovering they might love.

Yum!

You can find THE FIRE WISH here:

AMAZON   BARNES & NOBLE  INDIE BOUND  POWELL’S BOOKS  BOOKS A MILLION


 SW:  I’m so curious about the inspiration for THE FIRE WISH.  I know you spent time in Baghdad, where, you say, the ancient sands still echo (how beautiful!)  Tell us more!

AL:  I must admit I did not write that bit about the ancient sands–my editor did–but it’s true that I thought about that all the time. The real inspiration for THE FIRE WISH began years and years ago, when I was first listening to the stories in 1001 Nights.  I was completely captivated by the magic.  Then I spent my middle school years in Bahrain, and it grew on me. Unfortunately the war has prevented me from seeing the best parts of Iraq, but I hope to go there again.

SW:  One of the things that makes THE FIRE WISH so richly vivid is the way you drop tiny details within details. How you describe a rose, a barge, a loom, a scent lures us into this world.  What was research (and how did you research?) and/or what was drawn from fantasy?

AL:  Thank you!  Most of the details just come to me as I write, but there are some things I had to research, such as what the barges would have looked like, the fact that people travelled by canal more often than by camel or horse, and what sorts of flora and fauna (and in the case of the Cavern, crystals) actually exist in that environment.  I wanted the sensory details to be as accurate as possible because it’s the best way for me to get the reader into the setting, and for this story, that’s important.

SW:  How was it tackling two main (female) characters?

AL:  It was not something I planned on doing.  I wrote the first draft entirely from Najwa’s POV and then realized I’d ignored Zayele, and she’s not one to stand by and be forgotten.  I had to go back many times and try to make them sound less like the other girl.  It wasn’t easy.

SW:  And Najwa and Zayele alternate chapters–was that a challenge to write?

AL:  Yes.  Najwa was easiest for me because she senses the world the way I do.  Zayele, however, often interacts with the world the way I do (such as making huge mistakes and having to own up to them in the end).  It’s hard to focus on the shadows of your own character.

SW:  A palace filled with silks and gardens, or the Cavern riddled with gems and crystals–which would you choose?  And while we’re at it: prince or jinn? (I’ll just note here that both are swoon-worthy!)

AL: I can’t choose between the two places!  I’d like to go back and forth as I please, but always with Kamal by my side.  I’m a sucker for smart, inventive people.  What about you?  Which place and boy would you prefer?  Or girl, as the case may be?

SW:  I’ll take Kamal and the palace, with the option to visit the Cavern!  I agree that it’s difficult to choose–persons and places are so richly drawn by your hand.  Which leads me to another question:  Was there a particular moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?  Which came first:  imagining a story, or the need to write?

AL:  I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in second grade, but I never seriously pursued it until I was deployed to Iraq.  I came face-to-face with the reality of life and death, and decided I could no longer put it off. If I wanted to write a book before I died, I need to do it now rather than later.

SW:  Any wish you would make, if given the opportunity?

AL:  I’d wish to be able to speak and understand all the world’s languages like a native.  Or at least ten more, starting with German, since I’m moving to Germany this September.

SW:  Ah… safe travels.  But WAIT: I understand there’s a sequel (yay!)  What can you divulge?

AL:  Not much yet, but I can say the title is THE BLIND WISH and it is told from the same two characters, Najwa and Zayele.  It follows the story not long after we left off at the end of THE FIRE WISH.

SW:  Before you go: As this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of!

AL:  This is a fantastic question, and it’s one of the things I’m interested in–I want to know what people are afraid of.  I’m afraid of losing my memories, but I am not afraid of spiders, snakes, or storms.

SW: Thank you Amber!  Best of luck on your move and so many congratulations on this fantastic debut!


Amber_Dawn_Lough_Color

Amber Lough spent much of her childhood in Japan and Bahrain.  Later, she returned to the Middle East as an Air Force intelligence officer, deployed for eight months in Baghdad, where the ancient sands still echo the voices lost to wind and time.  She currently lives in Syracuse, NY with her husband, their two kids, and their cat, Popcorn. For a pronunciation guide, a cast of characters, and more, please visit amberlough.com.  You can also follow Amber on Twitter @amberlough and Tumblr amberlough.tumblr

Sandra Waugh cropped final.Sandra Waugh grew up in an old house with crowded bookshelves, in walking distance of an old library with even more crowded bookshelves. It goes without saying that she fell in love with the old house in Litchfield County, CT because of its bookshelves and she lives there now with her husband, two sons, and Daisy the snoring goldendoodle. Her debut fantasy, LARK RISING, will be out from Random House September 2014. Follow Sandra on Twitter at @sandrajwaugh.

ALL FOUR KIDS: INTERVIEW WITH DANA ALISON LEVY, AUTHOR OF THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER

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18769869Hi, all, Fearless 15er Cindy L. Rodriguez here. Today, we celebrate the release of THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER by Dana Alison Levy. This funny, heart-warming, middle grade novel about two dads and their four adopted sons has received great reviews, including starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Here’s the synopisis:

Perfect for fans of The Penderwicks and James Patterson’s Middle School series, this seriously funny, modern family adventure features two dads, four adopted boys, and a variety of pets.

Meet the Fletchers. Their year will be filled with new schools, old friends, a grouchy neighbor, hungry skunks, leaking ice rinks, school plays, wet cats, and scary tales told in the dark!

There’s Sam, age twelve, who’s mostly interested in soccer, food, and his phone; Jax, age ten, who’s psyched for fourth grade and thinks the new neighbor stinks, and not just because of the skunk; Eli, age ten (but younger than Jax), who’s thrilled to be starting this year at the Pinnacle School, where everyone’s the smart kid; and Frog (not his real name), age six, who wants everyone in kindergarten to save a seat for his invisible cheetah. Also Dad and Papa. 

WARNING: This book contains cat barf, turtle pee, and some really annoying homework assignments.

From the Kirkus review: “This book is notable for its matter-of-fact depiction of an atypical family, the same-sex couple and their ethnically diverse children—two white, one African-American, one adopted from India. The boys are very different from one another but closely tied with warm family bonds. Their banter is realistic, and the disorder of their everyday lives, convincing. The Fletcher family rules!

Sounds fun, right? Well, it is, and here is where you can buy it:

Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | BAM | Amazon | Powell’s | Book Depository | Random House

CR: The Fletchers are awesome and there are so many laugh out loud moments. Please tell us where you got the idea for this modern family and whether any of the characters and/or moments were inspired by real people or experiences.

DAL: This is the kind of book I loved reading as a kid, the kind of book that my editor calls comfort food books, because they are familiar and reassuring and wonderful to go back to again and again. I wanted to write a book like that, but I wanted to make it more reflective of the world we live in, and of the kind of families that are all around us. I also wanted to write a book where there was no question of the trope of “mother knows best.” You know, the kind where the dad is just another big goofy kid, and the mother, (wearing an apron of course), frowns disapprovingly and folds laundry. I hate that.

While my own family doesn’t have the same details as the Fletchers, honesty compels me to share that many of the most ridiculous moments of the book are fact, not fiction.

CR: You have had some interesting jobs so far! When did you know you wanted to be a writer? What were some of the things you wrote before your debut novel?

DAL: I always wanted to be a writer, (except for a rogue year in third grade when I wanted to be a marine biologist). But that seemed too daunting, so I worked in business and nonprofits and let the writing fall into the “someday” category. Not surprisingly, the best part of every job I had was the writing part — that was what I did best and enjoyed the most. As for what else I’ve written, well, I’ve written about feminist mermaids, an outdoor school, and teenagers climbing Mount Everest, to mention a few. Some of these stories might never make it out of the proverbial trunk, while others are works in progress. The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher was the third full book that I wrote, and the second one that I tried to get published. The race is not always to the swift…

CR: Tell us a little about your publishing journey, and any advice for pre-published writers?

DAL: As I mentioned, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher was not my first attempt to get published. My journey was pretty typical, I think. I wrote and rewrote and queried and got rejected and rewrote and got nicer rejections and so on. My agent, Marietta Zacker of the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency, plucked me out of the slush and has been an incredible guide and advocate on this journey.

As for advice…I guess I would just say that writers have to think hard about what their goals are. If their goals are to be in print, there are more options than ever to get there. If the goal is to be published by a major traditional publisher, then they need to be willing to work within those rules. Because at the end of the day, publishing is a business. It’s an interaction of art and commerce, and a writer who wants to be traditionally published needs to balance both those realities. But I love that there seems to be a resurgence of small presses, not to mention the self-publishing option. People can tell their stories in many different ways. And that’s awesome.

CR: What can you tell us about the next Fletcher Family novel? Do you have any other future projects in the works?

DAL: The next Fletcher book — and WOW is it fun to say that!! — anyway, the sequel is a summer story, and takes place during the month of August on a fictitious island that the family has been going to forever. There are loads of shenanigans and family misadventures, of course, but there’s also more of a plot, because a nefarious developer is planning to try and tear down an old beloved lighthouse, and the Fletchers have to figure out what his story is, and how to stop him.

Beyond that, I am working on another middle grade book, which is actually about Anna Bean, the girl on the farm that the Fletchers go visit, as well as a young adult novel. But who knows when, or if, those will ever see daylight!

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

DAL: Ooh! Those are good questions. Well, I’m not afraid of skiing double black diamond trails, no matter how steep and gruesome, or bodysurfing big waves. I might not look pretty doing it, but I know I can hold my own. And something I’m afraid of? Um…rats. Honestly, every nightmare I can remember since childhood has involved rats. Though there are several fictional rats who have breached my prejudice, in real life I want nothing to do with them.

Dana LevyDana Alison Levy was raised by pirates but escaped at a young age and went on to earn a degree in aeronautics and puppetry. Actually, that’s not true–she just likes to make things up. That’s why she always wanted to write books. She was born and raised in New England and studied English literature before going to graduate school for business. While there is value in all learning, had she known she would end up writing for a living, she might not have struggled through all those statistics and finance classes. Dana was last seen romping with her family in Massachusetts.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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 USA Children’s Books on February 10, 2015. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

ALL FOUR KIDS: AN INTERVIEW WITH KYM BRUNNER, AUTHOR OF WANTED: DEAD OR IN LOVE

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Today we’re featuring One Four Kid Lit author Kym Brunner, whose debut novel comes out tomorrow!

About WANTED: DEAD OR IN LOVE: 

Impulsive high school senior Monroe Baker is on probation for a recent crime, but strives to stay out of trouble by working as a flapper at her father’s Roaring 20’s dinner show theater. When she cuts herself on one of the spent bullets from her father’s gangster memorabilia collection, she unwittingly awakens Bonnie Parker’s spirit, who begins speaking to Monroe from inside her head.

WANTED - DEAD OR IN LOVE coverLater that evening, Monroe shows the slugs to Jack, a boy she meets at a party. He unknowingly becomes infected by Clyde, who soon commits a crime using Jack’s body. The teens learn that they have less than twenty-four hours to ditch the criminals or they’ll share their bodies with the deadly outlaws indefinitely.   

Amazon   I  Barnes & Noble  I  Indiebound

Sharon Huss Roat: I love the premise for your novel, a teen couple possessed by the spirits of Bonnie and Clyde! How did the idea come to you? Is there really a collection of Bonnie and Clyde memorabilia somewhere (including the bullets that killed them)?

Kym Brunner: Thanks! The idea came to while watching a news story develop a few summers back. The Feds finally caught a handsome 19-year-old guy who was labeled “The Barefoot Bandit.” They had been after him for two years after he would steal small planes, fly them somewhere, and ditch them (sometimes with bare feet). I thought, “Hmm…what if a hot guy flirted with a cute girl on the beach (all while trying to elude the police), and she was charmed by him BEFORE she knew he was wanted by the police?” One idea led to another, and the plot for Wanted: Dead or In Love was born.

And yes, there are many private collectors for gangster memorabilia. The dinner theater featured in my story is based upon an establishment in Chicago called Tommy Gun’s Garage, which has a collection of many authentic 1920’s gangster items. Not sure if there really is a “collection” of the slugs removed from their bodies anywhere, but there are some people who claim to have said items.

SHR: I’m curious how you approached the dual voice of your main character, as herself and as Bonnie. Can you tell us a little bit about that, and the research you did into the 1920s and Bonnie and Clyde? 

KB: Before I wrote a word of the story, I listened to an extensive audiobook based on the lives of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn, as well as read historic documentation from FBI files. When I felt I had a pretty good handle about who they were and what sort of lifestyle they led, I asked what kind of girl would be curious enough about the lives of Bonnie & Clyde to break some rules? Meet Monroe Baker, an impulsive girl who is smart but doesn’t always think things through before she acts. Who hasn’t done that once in a while?

SHR: I love the combination of historical and contemporary in your novel. If you could pick your favorite YA novels from those two genres to hang out on the bookshelf with yours, which would they be? 

KB: I guess I think of WANTED as being more suspense-driven than historical, so in that vein, I have to say I loved all of Chicago author Gillian Flynn’s contemporary suspense books, and would be flattered to be the YA counterpoint to her novels. I also enjoyed Rick Yancy’s FIFTH WAVE and Allen Zadoff’s I AM THE WEAPON novels, but they’re more futuristic than historical. I found Beth Fehlbaum’s BIG FAT DISASTER and Steve Parlato’s THE NAMESAKE contemporary novels really engaging as well.

SHR: What are you working on now?

KB: Ha…funny question. I’ve got two contemporary-suspense novels in progress as well as working on book #2 to my “other” debut that releases on July 15th from Omnific Press called ONE SMART COOKIE. It’s a humorous YA romance about sixteen year old Sophie Dumbrowski, an adorably inept teen living above her family-owned Polish bakery with her man-hungry mother and her spirit-conjuring grandmother, who together, are determined to find Sophie the perfect boyfriend. Super fun and needless to say, 100% completely different, than WANTED: DEAD OR IN LOVE.

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

KB: Afraid of something terrible happening to someone I love, but my faith keeps me from dwelling too much on that. And one thing I am not afraid of is bad reviews. J Not because I don’t think I’ll have any, but because I know I will. It’s inevitable. There are books I absolutely LOVED that someone else rated “did not finish,” as well as the opposite. Variety in literature tastes is what makes the world go round!

Thanks so much for giving me a chance to talk about my books! I’m excited to put your book, Between the Notes, on my TBR list. Good luck to all the Fearless Fifteeners!

KymBrunnerABOUT KYM: 

Kym Brunner’s method of creating a manuscript is: write, procrastinate, sleep, repeat. She’s addicted to Tazo chai tea, going to the movies, and reality TV. When she’s not reading or writing, Kym teaches 7th grade full time. She lives in Arlington Heights with her family and two trusty writing companions, a pair of Shih Tzus named Sophie and Kahlua. She’s repped by Eric Myers of The Spieler Agency.

Visit Kym on her Website, Facebook or Twitter!

SharonHussRoatSharon Huss Roat grew up in Lancaster, PA, and now lives in Delaware with her husband (who makes fonts), her son (who makes music) and her daughter (who makes believe!). She worked in public relations for 20 years before deciding what she really wanted to be when she grew up. BETWEEN THE NOTES is her debut novel. Visit her online at www.sharonroat.com or on Twitter SharonWrote.

It’s the Best Day of the Month

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Happy Fifteenth Day, everybody! It’s that time when we post all the fantastic stuff that has been happening around the internets with our Fifteeners. We have a lot this month, so prepare for the awesome:

Cover Reveals (several of these have giveaways, so check them out!)

Courtney Alameda revealed the cover for SHUTTER: http://www.hypable.com/2014/06/19/cover-reveal-shutter-plus-interview-with-courtney-alameda-giveaway/

Victoria Aveyard revealed the cover for RED QUEEN: http://www.epicreads.com/blog/official-roundup-of-winter-2015-harperteen-cover-reveals/

Becky Albertalli revealed the cover for SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA: http://www.themidnightgarden.net/2014/06/simoncover.html

Karen Bao revealed the cover for DOVE ARISING:  http://www.justjaredjr.com/2014/06/26/jjj-book-club-reveal-karen-baos-dove-arising-cover/

MarcyKate Connolly revealed the cover for MONSTROUS: www.yabookscentral.com/blog/it-s-live-cover-reveal-monstrous-by-marcykate-connolly-giveaway-us-canada

Kathryn Holmes revealed the cover for THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND: http://www.epicreads.com/blog/official-roundup-of-winter-2015-harperteen-cover-reveals/

Erin Entrada Kelly revealed the cover for BLACKBIRD FLY: http://erinentradakelly.com/2014/07/08/lets-celebrate-awesome-stuff-like-my-book-cover-and-release-date/

Lee Kelly revealed the cover of CITY OF SAVAGES: http://io9.com/take-an-exclusive-peek-at-the-most-anticipated-scifi-im-1591612349/all

Claire Kennedy revealed the cover for AFTER HOURS: http://typewritersandtwang.blogspot.com/2014/06/cover-reveal-and-contest-for-after-hours.html

Stacey Lee revealed the cover for UNDER A PAINTED SKY: http://www.staceyhlee.com/take-cover-i-have-a-cover/uaps_062314-2/

Moriah McStay revealed the cover for EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU: http://www.epicreads.com/blog/official-roundup-of-winter-2015-harperteen-cover-reveals/

Cindy Rodriguez revealed the cover for WHEN REASON BREAKS: latinosinkidlit.com/2014/07/11/cover-reveal-for-when-reason-breaks-a-2015-young-adult-debut/

Lance Rubin revealed the cover for DENTON LITTLE’S DEATHDATE: http://www.novelthoughtsblog.com/2014/07/exclusive-cover-reveal-denton-littles-deathdate-by-lance-rubin-qa-giveaway/

Sabaa Tahir revealed the cover for AN EMBER IN THE ASHES: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/06/23/book-cover-reveal-an-ember-in-the-ashes-by-sabaa-tahir-exclusive/

Rhiannon Thomas revealed the cover for A WICKED THING: http://iceybooks.com/blog/2014/07/a-wicked-thing-by-rhiannon-thomas-cover-reveal-and-giveaway.html

Jasmine Warga revealed the cover for MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES: http://www.epicreads.com/blog/official-roundup-of-winter-2015-harperteen-cover-reveals/

Interviews and Posts:

Susan Adrian had a Query Series joint post with her agent, Kate Schafer Testerman, on YA Highway: www.yahighway.com/2014/07/query-series-author-susan-adrian-and.html

Kelly Gilbert posted on battling cliches and tired tropes on the NaNoWriMo blog: http://blog.nanowrimo.org/post/90665630053/battling-cliches-tired-tropes-5-ways-to-let-out-a

Lori Goldstein posted on the importance of mentoring teens: http://www.lorigoldsteinbooks.com/2014/06/27/why-mentoring-teens-is-so-important-more-on-the-freshman-fifteens-wattpad-teen-writing-contest/

I.W. Gregorio had a guest post on The Writing Barn on rejecting rejection: www.thewritingbarn.com/2014/07/14/rejecting-rejection-author-w-gregorio/

Mackenzi Lee had J. Anderson Coates and Anna Staniszewski on her blog, among others, for the Project: Bookshelf series: http://mackenzilee.wordpress.com/tag/project-bookshelf/

Gail Nall had a post on the Simon & Schuster Mix blog, sharing 5 tips for kids on doing a creative project with a friend: pages.simonandschuster.com/aladdinmix/blog/bp/2014/07/five-tips-for-creating-the-best-project-ever-with-a-friend

Cindy Rodriguez posted highlighting Mary McCoy’s book DEAD TO ME: cindylrodriguez.com/2014/07/08/fellow-fifteener-mary-mccoy-dead-to-me/

A bunch of us did posts for the Writing Process Blog Tour:

Susan Adrian: susanadrian.blogspot.com/2014/06/writing-process-blog-tour-my-turn.html

Jenn Bertman: writerjenn.blogspot.com/2014/06/writing-process-blog-tour.html

Cindy Rodriguez: cindylrodriguez.com/2014/06/16/writing-process-blog-tour/

A.L. Sonnichsen: alsonnichsen.blogspot.com/2014/06/my-writing-process-blog-tour.html

N.K. Traver: natalietraver.blogspot.com/2014/05/writing-process-blog-tour.html

Krista Van Dolzer: www.kristavandolzer.com/2014/06/my-writing-process-blog-tour.html

Other Cool Stuff:

Dawn Kurtagich had news of her book deal in Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20140707/63200-book-deals-week-of-july-7-2014.html

Lauren Gibaldi had a chapter published in a book this month:  laurengibaldi.com/2014/06/22/forget-how-you-found-us/

Kelly Gilbert sold her next YA, NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY, to Disney-Hyperion!

Becky Wallace got some great blurbs that she posted about: http://beckywallacebooks.com/blurbs-that-make-you-cry-and-your-dreams-come-true/

 

ALL FOUR KIDS: INTERVIEW WITH EMILY LLOYD-JONES, AUTHOR OF ILLUSIVE

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When I had the opportunity to read ILLUSIVE a few months back, I could not put it down and immediately started salivating for a sequel. So naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to interview the book’s author, Emily Lloyd-Jones on her debut day!

Here’s the synopsis:

Illusive Cover ImageWhen the MK virus swept across the planet, a vaccine was created to stop the epidemic, but it came with some unexpected side effects. A small percentage of the population developed superhero-like powers. Seventeen-year-old Ciere Giba has the handy ability to change her appearance at will. She’s what’s known as an illusionist… She’s also a thief.

After a robbery goes awry, Ciere must team up with a group of fellow super-powered criminals on another job that most would consider too reckless. The formula for the vaccine that gave them their abilities was supposedly destroyed years ago. But what if it wasn’t?

The lines between good and bad, us and them, and freedom and entrapment are blurred as Ciere and the rest of her crew become embroiled in a deadly race against the government that could cost them their lives.

Hooked yet? Here’s where you can buy the book:

Signed Copies at Gallery Bookshop | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | BAM | Audible | iTunes

 

Congratulations on the release of your debut, ILLUSIVE! First of all, I really enjoyed the book. I thought it was such an incredibly well done mash-up of genres—sci-fi, paranormal, dystopian, superhero, heist. Are you a fan of comic books and superhero stories?

Thank you! I’m always grateful when someone says “genre mash-up” like it was planned. In reality, it was less of a decision and more of me going, “Genre? Meh. I’ll just throw everything into a blender and see what pours out.”

My love for super-heroines goes back to when I was in middle school and watching Sailor Moon on the Cartoon Network. (Anybody else remember Toonami?) Since then, I’ve favored stories about girls who find themselves with powers. I used to have a huge manga collection (sadly lost in several cross-country moves), and a fair amount of it contained super-powered characters. I’m also a Marvel fan, although I’ll admit it’s the movie ‘verse, not the comic one.

You’ve mentioned that you grew up as an avid genre fiction reader. What were your favorite books?

Lloyd Alexander was The Big One. His Prydain Chronicles got me hooked on fantasy and from there the addiction grew. I’m also a Tolkien fan. (Of course.) More recently, some of my favorite genre writers include Jim Butcher and Richelle Mead. There’s just something about genre and speculative fiction that makes me gleeful. There’s that element of “what if”.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? What were the first things you wrote?

I was one of those kids who always knew what she wanted to do with her life: tell stories. My first book was a clumsily drawn comic book about Pocahontas. The art was laughably bad and the historical inaccuracies even more so, but it was my first attempt at a book – all stapled together and self-published by means of shoving it into my mother’s hands and saying, “Read this.”

I think she still has it.

What was the first spark of the idea for ILLUSIVE?

Sitting in a movie theater, watching Marvel movie after Marvel movie, thinking to myself, “I love these, but this isn’t realistic. Nobody’s taking into account what the socioeconomic changes would be if superpowers existed. Hmmm. What would those changes be?”

If you had to have one of the “side effects,” which ability would you choose?

If I could have any of the adverse effects…well, that’s an easy pick for me: dauthus. Dauthus have the ability to manipulate parts of their body that normal people can’t affect – for example, they can raise hormone levels, consciously control their heartbeat, and ignore brain signals. While dauthus aren’t exactly superhuman, any person with the ability to ignore pain and pump extra adrenaline into their blood can do some pretty extraordinary things.

Can you tell us a little bit about upcoming projects and what you’re working on right now?

Right now I’m working on Illusive’s sequel. It differs from its predecessor in that…well. I’ve been jokingly saying that if Illusive was “X-Men meets Ocean’s 11,” then the sequel is “X-Men meets It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”. Only without the rampant comedy. Basically, all of the main characters are running around until they realize they’re all chasing the same thing and their subplots collide. It is hands-down the most intricately plotted novel I have ever written.

Sounds awesome! Lastly, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.

I’m terrified of drowning. Or being trapped in something that is sinking beneath water. (JMT note: I am now terrified of this.)

As for something I’m not afraid of? Heights. I have a healthy respect for falling to one’s death, but it’s never stopped me. I haven’t met a roller coaster I won’t ride, I’ve been ziplining, and I’m currently trying to work out a date to go skydiving.

Emily’s Bio:

Author PhotoEmily Lloyd-Jones grew up on a vineyard in rural Oregon, where she played in evergreen forests and learned to fear sheep. After graduating from Western Oregon University with an English degree, she enrolled in the publishing program at Rosemont College just outside of Philadelphia. She currently resides in Northern California, working in a bookstore by day and writing by night. Illusive is her debut novel.

TwitterWebsite ~ Goodreads 

 

Jenn Marie ThorneJenn Marie Thorne writes YA fiction from her home in beautiful Gulfport, Florida, alongside her dashing husband, her two adventurous sons, and her trusty hound Molly. An erstwhile drama major, Jenn still enjoys making a fool of herself on at least a weekly basis. Her debut novel, THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT, is coming Spring 2015 from Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin).

All Four Kids: An Interview with Tara Dairman, author of ALL FOUR STARS

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Hello! Fearless 15er Dan Gemeinhart here. I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Tara Dairman, author of the delectable debut ALL FOUR STARS. ALL FOUR STARS is the hilarious story of pint-sized foodie Gladys Gatsby, who dreams of rising above the predictable palates of her parents to become a big city restaurant reviewer. It was a scrumptious MG read that you absolutely will want to sink your teeth into. Here’s the official book blurb:

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman CoverMeet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.) Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world. But in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?”

ALL FOUR STARS is available today at:

Indiebound  /  Penguin  /  B & N  /  Amazon  /  Book Depository

DG:  Your main character, Gladys Gatsby, is quite a precocious adventurer. Looking at your website (http://andyandtarasworld.blogspot.com/), you seem like quite the precocious adventurer yourself. How much of you is there in Gladys?

Tara: Thanks, Dan. I’m not sure I’m young enough to be considered “precocious” anymore—but hey, I’ll take it! 🙂 I’ve definitely become more adventurous—in my eating, traveling, etc.—with age, but when I was Gladys’s age, I was pretty timid. There’s just no way I ever would have had the guts to secretly correspond with a top newspaper editor, or sneak around in New York City by myself trying to bag a restaurant review, or even throw a peanut butter sandwich against the cafeteria wall like Gladys does in the “Food Fight” chapter. So in creating Gladys, I’d say I sort of combined the shyness of my kid life with some of the adventurousness of my adult life, if that makes sense.

 

DG: Gladys struggles with hiding her all-consuming passion – for food and cooking – from her parents and peers. Where did this idea come from? Have you ever had to hide or deny a secret passion or dream of your own?

Tara: Luckily, I’ve never had to keep my passions a secret from my family and friends. But I do remember that when I first started to get interested in learning how to cook, my parents acted like I was a little nuts. To them, cooking was just another household chore, as humdrum as folding laundry or scrubbing the tub. If I could skip out on that chore by eating takeout and microwaved meals, why wouldn’t I? But once I started to get good at cooking and prepared some meals for them, they came around.

 

DG: Gladys dreams of becoming a food critic for a major newspaper. If Gladys reviewed the last meal you made, what would she say?

Tara: Haha, great question. The last new recipe I tried was “open kibbeh” from the cookbook JERUSALEM. I think that Gladys would have praised the bold mix of spices (cinnamon, allspice, coriander) and the variety of tastes and textures (crumbly bulgur; savory ground meat; smooth tahini paste; crunchy pine nuts) that are combined in the dish. She might have criticized it for being a little too greasy, and for the kibbeh not holding its shape as well as it could have (I probably didn’t drain the bulgur well enough). But I think overall she would have been pleased. A solid 3 stars out of 4. 🙂

 

DG: What was your writing process like for ALL FOUR STARS? Did it come out in a thrilling sprint or was there lots of false starts, drafting, revising and rewriting?

Tara: All of those things! I drafted the first two-thirds of the book very slowly, over the course of four years; there were definitely a couple of false starts in there. Then I took the manuscript on my two-year round-the-world honeymoon, and swore that I’d have a completed draft when I came back. I wrote most of the last third of the book in a 5-day sprint in Tanzania, while my husband was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. And then there was plenty more revising to do before I found an agent in 2012, and of course more edits once the book was acquired for publication.

 

DG: You’ve traveled the world, eating incredible food from all four corners of the globe. What were some of your very favorite meals?

Tara: It’s almost impossible to begin narrowing them down, but I”ll try. Here are a few meals that have stuck in my memory:

-Pupusas and casmiento at Abbi Pupuseria in the hills overlooking San Salvador (El Salvador) [http://andyandtarasworld.blogspot.com/2009/12/el-salvador-not-savior-of-our.html]

-Peanut-sauce-doused foods on sticks at a cook-your-own-sate restaurant in Melaka (Malaysia) http://andyandtarasworld.blogspot.com/2011/02/pass-peanut-sauce-foods-of-malaysia.html

-Stuffing ourselves with Ethiopian food at Addis Ababa Restaurant in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) http://andyandtarasworld.blogspot.com/2010/11/ethiopian-eats.html

-Spending a whole day just eating baklava in “the world capital of baklava”: Gazi Antep (Turkey) http://andyandtarasworld.blogspot.com/2010/12/bak-bak-baklava-or-turkey-with-cherry.html

 

DG: Let’s pretend Gladys’ next dream is to become a travel writer. Based on your own adventures, where would you send her first?

Tara: I’d probably send her to Bhutan, since I’ve never been there and really want to go. That would require a research trip, right? 🙂

 

DG: What’s coming up next for you? Any other great books on the horizon with your name on them?

Tara: There’s going to be a sequel to ALL FOUR STARS in 2015! I haven’t announced the title yet, but should be able to soon. I’m working on final edits on that book now, and I just saw a cover sketch—it’s fantastic. I hope that readers who get to know Gladys in ALL FOUR STARS will be excited to see her adventures continue.

 

DG: And now, our traditional final question: as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of, and something you are not afraid of.

Tara: I’m afraid of big insects and arachnids, always have been. And I can’t bring myself to eat bugs, either–that’s the limit of my culinary adventurousness.
I’m not afraid of deep-tissue massages. They’re the best! The occasional bruising is totally worth it.
DG: Thanks so much for your time, Tara. I can’t wait for the rest of the world to fall in love with ALL FOUR STARS as much as I did!

Tara Dairman headshotTara Dairman is the author of the middle-grade novel ALL FOUR STARS, which will be published by Putnam/Penguin in 2014. She is also a playwright and a recovering round-the-world honeymooner (2 years, 74 countries!). Tara holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. You can find her online in the following places: Blog: taradairman.com/blog Facebook: facebook.com/TaraDairmanAuthor Twitter: twitter.com/#!/TaraDairman Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5815760.Tara_Dairman

Dan Gemeinhart is an author and teacher-librarian who lives smack dab in the middle of Washington State with his wife and three daughters. What passes for his website can be found at www.dangemeinhart.com, and he can more frequently be found on Twitter. His contemporary adventure MG novel, THE HONEST TRUTH, will be out from Scholastic Press in January 2015.

ALL FOUR KIDS: Interview with Livia Blackburne, author of Midnight Thief

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Today we’re lucky enough to be hosting Livia Blackburne, whose debut novel MIDNIGHT THIEF is out now!

MIDNIGHT THIEF was one of my most anticipated reads of the year (seriously, the release date was penned into my diary and everything), so I was really excited to get my hands on it and chat with Livia.

Here’s the official summary:

17566814Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.

But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

And MIDNIGHT THIEF doesn’t disappoint! It’s a classic fantasy, full of adventure and assassins and surprising twists, and I loved every minute of it.

RT: You’ve said that Midnight Thief was partly inspired by your love of Tamora Pierce books. I was a massive fan of her books too! What was your favorite thing about her writing that you wanted to recreate?

LB: It seems like a whole generation of YA authors grew up on Tamara Pierce, doesn’t it? I loved her Song of the Lioness series, and I what drew me to the series was Alanna’s character. I loved how she was a total badass in terms of physical prowess but still had so much to learn about life and love. In that way, I think my main character Kyra is very similar.

RT: Midnight Thief is told from two perspectives: a thief and a knight. Why did you decide to split the book? Was it difficult to write from two very different character perspectives at once?

LB: I split the perspectives out of necessity, because the two of them don’t meet until about halfway through the book. I needed to write from both their points of view in order to convey the story. And it was so hard! Kyra was very easy to write because she is very similar to me, but I lose count of the number of times I rewrote Tristam’s chapters. It was really difficult for me to get inside a guy’s head, and it took many iterations before he came to life. If you want to read a funny story about me attempting to write a male point of view, check out this blog post here.

RT: If you had to pick, who’s your favorite character in Midnight Thief, the one you’re most excited for readers to meet?

LB: I have this unhealthy obsession with James the head of the Assassins Guild, because he such an intriguing and morally ambiguous character. Depending on whether you read Midnight Thief or Poison Dance first, it you’ll have a very different view of him, and I like that. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s drop dead sexy.

RT: How did you go about building the world for Midnight Thief? What came first — the world itself, the characters in it, or the plot?

LB: Midnight Thief started with the idea of a talented girl thief whose conscience gets in the way of her job. I also came up with the idea of the novel’s central plot twist at about the same time. The world building came last, and a lot of it actually came after I sold the book. Much of the lore and scene setting was done at the suggestion of my awesome editors.

RT: You say on your website you started Midnight Thief in highschool, to get out of a mandatory camping requirement. And your characters certainly spend a lot of time adventuring in the woods! Any connection there?

LB: Ha! Maybe not the fact that they spend a lot of time in the forest. I think that just happens a lot in fantasies. But I did get a kick out of the fact that Kyra is a city girl who feels really uncomfortable and out of place in the forest. If you’re looking for a capable fantasy woodsperson, Kyra is not your woman.

RT: You also wrote a prequel novella in the Midnight Thief world, Poison Dance. How was the experience of writing a novella different from writing a full-length novel?

LB: Structure wise, the novella was of course much simpler. There were only two plot threads, and it was a nice bit of instant gratification (relatively speaking) to have something completed so quickly.

The biggest difference for me when writing poison dance though, was the fact that it was written from the point of view of a 25-year-old hardened male assassin — a far cry from the teenage girls I usually write. Getting to James’s head was a big challenge, and I had a great deal of fun analyzing books with badass male characters to get my head into that space. I blogged about that in a series of blog posts I coined Operation chest hair (episode one on love, and two on grief).That whole experience helped me grow greatly as a writer.

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

LB: I’m horribly afraid of spiders, but not afraid of snakes at all (Well, I have healthy respect for any snake that has of my path, but I don’t get the full on irrational fear reaction I get to spiders.). I’ve always wondered about this, because my parents are scared of both. But somehow, I picked up on one phobia and not the other.

RT: Thanks Livia, and congratulations on the fantastic debut!

About Livia:

liviablackburneLivia Blackburne wrote her first novel while she was a PhD student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she conducted research on the neuroscience of reading acquisition in children. Upon graduation, she switched to writing full time. Livia still blogs about the intersection of literature and neuroscience.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | GOODREADS


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, FeministFiction.com. Her debut novel, A WICKED THING, will be released from HarperTeen in Winter 2015.

ALL FOUR KIDS: AN INTERVIEW WITH MARY CROCKER, AUTHOR OF DREAM BOY

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Hi, I’m Carol Riggs, and it’s my pleasure today to interview Mary Crocker, the co-author of DREAM BOY. This is her debut novel, released July 1 by Sourcebooks and written with her author-friend Madelyn Rosenberg.

DREAM BOY
dream-boy-cover-300If dreams can come true…then so can nightmares.
One night Annabelle Manning dreams of the perfect boy: tall and handsome with impossible blue eyes. Then, just as suddenly as he appeared, he’s gone…until he walks into her science class the next day. Perfect and REAL. The boy of her dreams. And when he brushes past her, he whispers “Annabelle.” Suddenly, Annabelle’s got the perfect boyfriend who’s totally into her, and a date to homecoming. Her life is like a dream come true—until her dreams stop and the nightmares begin.

“Hits the chick-lit and romance buttons, adding suspense and an intriguing idea as well for nicely rounded entertainment.” — Kirkus Review

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound | Powell’s

INTERVIEW WITH MARY

CR: It’s so great to interview you, Mary! Congratulations on your debut. Can you tell us about your inspiration, and how you and Madelyn came to write DREAM BOY?

MC: You can blame Ginger Rogers. And insomnia.

I was up at 4 AM one Saturday, half-sleeping, half-watching an old Ginger Rogers movie on the classic film channel. I didn’t get the whole gist of the movie, but I did get that there was some guy dressed up like a Native American who showed up from Ginger’s dreams.

The next morning, I started thinking that it might be fun to write a book about a dream who shows up in someone’s life. I contacted Madelyn to ask if she’d like to work on it with me. She said she was in, and we started emailing each other.

About 1000 emails later, we had Dream Boy.

CR: What’s it like to write a novel with another author—how does that process work for you, exactly?

MC: We just volleyed things back and forth—sometimes rewriting what came before, sometimes just pushing the story forward.

Madelyn probably explained it best here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SR6Hfy7Kfk4

CR: As a related question…how in the world did you and Madelyn approach editorial revisions and rewrites?

MC: We talked out the revisions and divided tasks. But when it came down to the deadline, we both had to sign off on any change, no matter how small, and that was pretty grueling.

We had some marathon phone conversations. Luckily, Madelyn had unlimited minutes.

CR: Are you anything like your main character, Annabelle? Who is your favorite character in the book, and why?

MC: I guess there’s part of me in any character I write—so yes, there’s part of me in Annabelle. She’s not quite as enthusiastically goofy as I am. She also has artistic talent, which I only wish I had. But the way she sees the world is not so unlike the way I saw the world when I was sixteen.

As for favorite character, hmmm… I’m pretty sure I answer this question differently every time. I love all the characters in Dream Boy, even the people Annabelle thinks are jerks.

I guess today’s favorite is Will. I like his loyalty and his sense of humor. And I feel for him. At the beginning of the novel, he thinks things are finally falling into place in his life—and then Martin shows up and turns everything upside down.

CR: In this novel I really loved the realistic and often humorous exchanges between members of Annabelle’s family as well as between her and her friends. Are any of these relationships based on your own experiences, such as growing up with multiple siblings and/or loyal best friends? (or did Madelyn spark the ideas for those parts?)

MC: One of Madelyn’s main interests as a writer is the relationship between brothers and sisters, and she naturally created a good bit of the interactions between Annabelle and her brother Nick. We didn’t assign characters or anything. We both wrote for all characters. But I think Madelyn was more drawn to explore that relationship.

I’d say we were equally invested in the friend-part. We didn’t plan out the characters as we went; we’d just introduce someone when they seemed necessary and then find out more about those people as they were put into various situations. That made it a lot of fun. Now we know much more about those people than ever made it into the book, but at first, we were getting to know them too.

CR: Why do you write YA, and what draws you to the magical realism/contemporary fantasy genre that is DREAM BOY?

MC: I love YA because it shows that point in life when people are really figuring out who they are—what they’re capable of, what matters to them. The things that happen to you as a teen shape the person you become.

Plus, I love YA readers. They’re so enthusiastic about the books they love. They give themselves over fully to a book—they engage with it mentally and emotionally and imaginatively. It’s hard to ask for more than that!

As for magical realism/contemporary fantasy, I enjoy the possibilities that come with writing fiction. A good bit of what I write is realistic contemporary—both comic and downright depressing. So it’s kind of fun to escape into fantasy, where anything can happen. I do like fantasy to be grounded by reality, though, the way it is in Dream Boy.

CR: Last but not least, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.

MC: I’m afraid of snakes. If you read Dream Boy, you can probably guess that.
I’m not afraid of looking foolish. I have a lot of experience with it, and I’ve found that a lot of good can come with putting yourself out there in a way that might be embarrassing. It’s a risk, but taking a risk can make life more interesting.

CR: Thanks for stopping by the blog, and congrats on your debut!

WHERE TO FIND MARY:
Website | Blog | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Pinterest | Tumblr

marymadelynpub1

Madelyn is on the left, Mary is on the right!

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Mary Crockett is a young adult writer who is also a teacher and poet. She likes turtles, licorice, and the Yankees. Madelyn Rosenberg likes cats, avocados, and the Red Sox. Luckily they both like the weirdness of dreams (and each other) enough to write novels together. The friendship has survived three moves, six kids and countless manuscript revisions. Madelyn lives just outside of Washington, D.C. Mary remains in the mountains near their hometowns in southwestern Virginia. You can find them on Twitter @marylovesbooks and @madrosenberg or their blogs at  www.marycrockett.com  and  www.madelynrosenberg.com

Carol RiggsCarol Riggs lives in northern California. Her YA sci-fi novel, THE BODY INSTITUTE, explores identity and body image in a near-future setting. She enjoys reading, painting and drawing, quilting, and listening to music of all kinds. You’ll usually find her in her writing cave, surrounded by her dragon collection and the characters in her head. Visit her on Twitter, Facebook, and her blogsite for writers.