ALL FOUR KIDS: INTERVIEW WITH JEN MALONE, AUTHOR OF AT YOUR SERVICE

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We’re thrilled to share our interview with OneFourKidLit author Jen Malone, whose laugh-out-loud MG contemporary, AT YOUR SERVICE, comes out today!

About AT YOUR SERVICE:

at your service

Thirteen-year-old Chloe Turner wants nothing more than to follow in Dad’s footsteps as a respected concierge in a posh NYC hotel. After all, living at a hotel is heaven, and perks like free concert tickets and all-access passes to boutiques, restaurants, and attractions aren’t too shabby either.

When the spoiled brat child of an important guest is only placated by some quick thinking on Chloe’s part, Chloe is awarded the role of Junior Concierge. But she might be in over her head when tasked with tending to the every whim of three royal guests: a twelve-year-old princess who can’t stand Chloe, a cute fourteen year-old prince(!), and their ten-year-old sister, who has a nasty knack for getting herself lost. After the youngest princess slips Chloe’s care, Chloe and the remaining royals must embark on an event-filled hunt for her through NYC’s best tourist spots.

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jen malone

KV: Congratulations on the release of AT YOUR SERVICE! What inspired you to write it?

JM: I have to give credit here to my brilliant editor, Annie Berger, who envisioned the concept of a girl who worked alongside her concierge father in a hotel, until she loses a royal guest. Her idea completely captured my imagination because I used to manage a youth hostel and worked as a celebrity handler for a movie studio, so this seemed like a way to marry both of those experiences into a “write what you know” scenario. Plus, the idea of living in a hotel as a tween captivated me- I mean, the sleepovers alone would be epic!

KV: I love the idea of a junior concierge, especially because it’s not something many thirteen-year-olds want to be when they grow up. What did you want to be when you were thirteen?

JM: An Olympic horseback rider, a journalist, a grown-up with my very own apartment in New York City where I could buy whatever pets I wanted and wear makeup. Not a one of those came true besides the makeup, which I’m partly allergic to (not even the pets- my husband is allergic to those!) But this reality is even better. I wouldn’t mind a gold medal though. Or a horse. Or a pied-a-terre in NYC. Hmm…

KV: Chloe is such a sweet, engaging character. Where did her personality come from?

JM: When I worked as a publicist for a major movie studio, I had a big, fancy title but part of that job description was also checking into the hotels ahead of my celebrity guests and making sure their toilets flushed and their lamps all worked (the studio did not want their celebrities burdened by having to push one button to call the front desk; however, the majority of those stars were very down-to-earth and probably would have laughed had they known about these things we did behind-the-scenes). I think I brought a big part of wanting to be taken seriously and respected for the real work, while also having to cater to sometimes-silly demands to Chloe’s role as a kid concierge. She’s very capable, but her age is always going to precede her abilities in people’s minds and that makes her a bit, er, desperate to prove them wrong. It also makes her stubborn about asking for help, which is one of my weaknesses too. In short, there are a lot of my issues getting worked out through Chloe’s struggles (cheaper than therapy, right?) (hopefully way funnier, too.)

KV: I also loved the supporting cast, especially Chloe’s dad and her best friend. Did you have a friend like Paisley growing up?

JM: I had an amazing best friend, but she wasn’t too similar to Paisley. Paisley is all go-with-the-flow mellow and my bestie was like the devil on my shoulder. She pulled me into heaps of hijinks! But I will confess that Paisley’s Yankee fandom comes about because of my own kids, who are all rabid fans (a somewhat fearless feat in the smack middle of Red Sox Nation) and she is named after the niece of the totally fantastic Boston concierge who graciously let me pick his brain about all aspects of his job.  Yikes- did I just use 1001 adjectives in that paragraph or what? Oh well. All fitting.

KV: The setting plays such a huge role in this story; I remember thinking several times that AT YOUR SERVICE reads like a love letter to New York. Why did you choose New York City, and did you ever consider any other locations?

JM: I’m so happy to hear you term it that because it was a very intentional love letter to the city, which has always held a certain mystique to me. I love the movie When Harry Met Sally so much and somehow always see NYC lit through that warm filter the movie uses, even when I visit on cold, raw days. I purposefully wanted to bring some of that magic to the story and to make NYC another character in the book. Plus, Chloe is a concierge in charge of showing the very best side of the city to her guests. She has huge hometown pride and is not happy until every last guest falls in love with her city too. Even all of her similes are attached to it (for example, she describes her hair as the color of wet sand on Rockaway Beach, something else is “as red as the TKTS booth on Broadway”, etc.)

KV: Though the book stands on its own, the open-ended ending made me hope that there might be a sequel. Do you have more adventures up your sleeve?

JM: I am 100% open to the idea and hopeful it will come about! I’ve got some ideas percolating…

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

JM: Well, to be brutally honest, I’m a bit (a lot) afraid I’ll have fought through the slush, climbed this big mountain to “debut authordom” and then…  no one will buy/read the book. So there’s that! One thing I am not afraid of is alone time. I love my family and my friends and need them like air, but I am also proud that I can spend gobs of time with just me, myself, and I and be perfectly content. It’s kind of freeing.

For more information about Jen and AT YOUR SERVICE, you can find her at her website, www.jenmalonewrites.com, and on Twitter and Facebook.

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

It’s That Time Again

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Another fifteenth day, another month closer to our Winter/Spring debuts. Read on for all the latest news!

Interviews and Cool Posts

Kirkus calls Kerry O’Malley Cerra‘s JUST A DROP OF WATER “a perceptive exploration of an event its audience already sees as history.”

Kerry O’Malley Cerra also debuts JUST A DROP OF WATER’s book trailer.

Cindy L. Rodriguez shares an excerpt from her debut, WHEN REASON BREAKS.

Cindy L. Rodriguez also posts reviews of three fellow Fifteeners’ books: Kerry O’Malley Cerra’s JUST A DROP OF WATER, Kathryn Holmes’s THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND, and Stacey Lee’s UNDER A PAINTED SKY.

Sabaa Tahir goes to Comic-Con, and Nerdist covers her exploits exclusively.

Shallee McArthur chats with Kami’s Library Thoughts about her debut, THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE, in a cool video interview.

Cover Reveals

Tor reveals the cover of N.K. Traver‘s DUPLICITY. (It’s in the collage at the bottom of the post!)

Lisa Aldin reveals the cover of ONE OF THE GUYS on her Tumblr.

Alison DeCamp reveals the cover of MY NEAR-DEATH ADVENTURES on her new website.

All Four Kids: An Interview With Lauren Magaziner, Author of The Only Thing Worse Than Witches

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Today we’re chatting with Lauren Magaziner, author of the wonderful middle-grade novel, The Only Thing Worse Than Witches.

About THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES:

The Only Thing Worse Than Witches Roald Dahl meets Eva Ibbotson in this hilarious middle grade debut perfect for reading aloud.

Rupert Campbell is fascinated by the witches who live nearby. He dreams of broomstick tours and souvenir potions, but Rupert’s mother forbids him from even looking at that part of town. The closest he can get to a witchy experience is sitting in class with his awful teacher Mrs. Frabbleknacker, who smells like bellybutton lint and forbids Rupert’s classmates from talking to each other before, during, and after class. So when he sees an ad to become a witch’s apprentice, Rupert simply can’t resist applying.

But Witchling Two isn’t exactly what Rupert expected. With a hankering for lollipops and the magical aptitude of a toad, she needs all the help she can get to pass her exams and become a full-fledged witch. She’s determined to help Rupert stand up to dreadful Mrs. Frabbleknacker too, but the witchling’s magic will be as useful as a clump of seaweed unless Rupert can figure out a way to help her improve her spellcasting—and fast!

The Only Thing Worse Than Witches will be published on August 14, 2014 by Dial.

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1. Hi Lauren. Congratulations on your publication of The Only Thing Worse Than Witches. It was a book I was looking forward to from the first moment I heard of it. You studied creative writing, and actually wrote The Only Thing Worse Than Witches while at college. When did you figure out you wanted to be writer, and what inspired you to become one?

Thanks, Patrick!! And I can’t wait for your book, too! NEXT YEAR!

I actually started writing books when I was 13. Here’s how it happened: I was hanging around my 8th grade English teacher’s classroom library, looking for a book to read but not really finding anything I was in the mood for. My teacher said to me, “Why don’t you try writing one?”

I loved reading. I loved writing short stories and essays. But I had never really considered writing a novel before! But that very night, I started writing my first book, crouched over my computer in the basement. When I finished the draft six months later, I knew that my writing wasn’t nearly ready for publication. But I enjoyed the process so much that I kept writing books all throughout high school and college–until my writing was ready! I think I have about 10ish (I’ve lost count!) shelved manuscripts before I wrote The Only Thing Worse Than Witches while I was a Junior in college.

It took a lot of time, a lot of practice, a lot of persistence, and a LOT of hard work!

All worth it, of course!!!! 🙂

2. If you were going to fantasy-cast the movie of The Only Thing Worse Than Witches, who would you have in it?

I never had actors or actresses in mind when writing, and this is especially tough because I’m not sure I’m very well-versed in 11-year-old actors, but I’m going to try.

Rupert: Art Parkinson. You know… Rickon Stark on Game of Thrones. He may not say much on GoT, but I think he’s positively adorable!

Witchling Two: Kyla Kenedy. She plays Mika on The Walking Dead. She’s got the most adorable smile and infectious energy in her interviews! Wrangle her hair into a high ponytail, and she’d do marvelously!

Mrs. Frabbleknacker: I know this is the one everyone wants to know…. but I don’t even know. It would take a heck of a lot of make-up and some serious acting chops to play such a horrible meanie. I’ll leave this one to the imagination.

Also, TINA FEY for president. I don’t know where, and I don’t know how, but I WANT her in it because she’s the best.

Actually, final answer: I would pay big bucks to see Tina Fey play every single part in The Only Thing Worse Than Witches.

3. Mrs. Frabbleknacker must be one of the most repulsive teachers I’ve ever come across in a book. Admit it! Which of your teachers was she based on? You can tell us. She’ll never find out.

You caught me! She’s based on my high school teacher named Mrs. Pabblesnacker. (JUST KIDDING.)

4. The Only Thing Worse Than Witches is full of wild, fun, and fantastic ideas. What was your favorite bit of the book to write?

Any scene that includes the line, “BUNNYYYYYYYYY AHHHHHHHHHHHH!” was probably my favorite scene to write.

Same goes for any scene that includes the line, “Children,” she said, as though she was saying something truly awful, like _______ or _______.”

I love writing scenes with Witchling Two because she’s so animated and fun. I love writing the school scenes because Mrs. Frabbleknacker is so evilly delicious; you never know what she’s going to do next.

5. Almost every writer ends up having to cut bits of their book to make it better, and sometimes cutting those bits is worse than cutting off your own feet (yes I am revising right now…). Can you tell us the thing you most regretted having to cut?

I had to cut some jokes that were pretty near and dear to my heart. For example, the scene in which Rupert bumps into Mrs. Gummyyum in the beginning, and she’s rattling off ideas for ice cream flavors? Well, that scene used to be much longer and included:

“Ooooh, shepherd’s ice cream,” Mrs. Gummyyum said. “That’s a good idea!”

“You mean shepherd’s pie ice cream?” Rupert asked.

“Goodness, no! I’m talking about genuine sheep shepherds! I wonder if one would let me nibble on his arm . . . ”

That used to make me giggle. There were other jokes, too, that I rather enjoyed but didn’t necessarily advance the plot. I agreed with my genius editors that cutting the excess jokes made for faster pacing. (And, hey, now I can save some material for later! Dibs on that Shepherd’s joke!)

6. If you had to be a witch, which of the witches in your book would you be (you don’t get to be Witchling 2; that would be too easy)? And whose toes would you boil?

Of the adult witches, I feel very partial to the Storm Witch. Storm is an unpredictably-emotional, highly-enthusiastic nutter. Why I’d like to be her: she seems to have a good time. She is high-ranking in the Witches Council, has a great little family unit, and is just kooky enough to get away with screaming wildly in public for no apparent reason.

And I’d boil whoever’s toes look tastiest. *cackles*

7. As you’re doing this interview for the Fearless Fifteeners, we want to know one thing you’re afraid of (other than bunnies) and one thing you’re not afraid of.

I’m afraid of spiders. So much so that I can’t even look at a picture of one. I guess it didn’t really help that I grew up in a wooded area with hundreds of big, fat, hairy spiders. (The biggest one I ever saw was legitimately the size of my head. I named it Aragog. Then I shrieked so loud that they probably heard me in Australia.)

However, I’m not afraid of the only thing worse than witches. 😉

Thanks, Lauren! Your book is really fun, and I know middle grade readers are going to love it!

Indiebound | Barnes and Noble | BAM | Powells | Amazon | Goodreads

ABOUT LAUREN MAGAZINER

Lauren MagazinerLauren Magaziner grew up in New Hope, Pennsylvania, where she spent her childhood with her nose in a book and her fingers curled over a keyboard.

She currently lives in Brooklyn where she writes humorous, whimsical, wonky children’s books. She also now works for two delightful Scholastic classroom magazines, and her coworkers still think her last name is a hoax. She loves writing short stories, plays, and articles for the magazine and creating online teaching resources.

You can find Lauren on her website, facebook, or twitter.

Photo of Patrick SamphireDinosaur hunter. Accidental archeologist. Armchair adventurer. Some of these things may not be true about Patrick Samphire. What is true is that Patrick is the author of the extremely thrilling and sometimes funny middle grade adventure, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb (Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt / Macmillan), coming your way in Spring 2015. He lives in Wales, U.K., where it occasionally doesn’t rain.

Fearless Fifteeners Mega End of Summer Giveaway!

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sunAhhh, summer, you’re almost over and we’re going to miss you! To mark the end of these lazy, hazy days, and the less than five month mark before 2015, the Fearless Fifteeners are giving away a huge list of items. The giveaway opens today and closes on August 21. We can ship only to addresses in the United States and Canada for the “For Everyone” giveaway. No international entries on that one, please. However, we can accept international entries for critiques.

On August 21, we will pull names until we have a winner for each item listed. You are allowed to enter once in each major category. To enter, all you have to do is click on the link, which will take you to Rafflecopter and click on “Free entry.” That’s it!

Good luck! Here are the items:

FOR WRITERS:

  • Query or first chapter (up to 10 pages) critique from Angelica R. Jackson
  • Query/first chapter critique from Lauren Gibaldi
  • Query + three chapters critique from Jenn Marie Thorne
  • Query critique and a Lochness Monster pendant from Lisa Aldin
  • Signed ARC of THE HONEST TRUTH and a three chapter YA/MG critique from Dan Gemeinhart
  • Full YA or MG manuscript critique from Dawn Ius
  • Query/first chapter critique from Mike Grosso
  • Query letter + first chapter critique from Charlotte Huang
  • First chapter critique from Diana Gallagher
  • Three-chapter critique from Frances Lee Hall
  • Revision toolkit, including candy, tea, coffee, notebooks, and other fun goodies from Shannon Grogan

Click this link to win one of the prizes above: Rafflecopter Giveaway FOR WRITERS

FOR EVERYONE:

  • Pre-order of THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE and one signed bookmark from Shallee McArthur
  • ARC of IN A WORLD JUST RIGHT from Jen Brooks
  • Copy of SEKRET by Lindsay Smith and a pre-order of TUNNEL VISION from Susan Adrian
  • ARC of Garth Nix’s CLARIEL from Gail Nall
  • Pre-order of I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson from Stephanie Oakes
  • A piece of badass steampunk jewelry and a copy of Gris Grimly’s FRANKENSTEIN from Mackenzi Lee
  • Copy of CLOAK by James Gough and a signed copy of DIVIDE by Jessa Russo from Carol Riggs
  • Autographed hardcover of LARK RISING from Sandra Waugh
  • Signed hardback of EREN from Simon P. Clark
  • Copy of FAKE ID by Lamar Giles from I.W. Gregorio
  • Signed early bound galley of THE ISLANDS AT THE END OF THE WORLD from Austin Aslan
  • Autographed ARC of RED BUTTERFLY from Amy Sonnichsen
  • Three signed copies of THE FIRST BOOK OF ORE: THE FOUNDRY’S EDGE from Benny Zelkowicz and Cam Baity
  • Hardback copy of A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS by Catherine Linka from Ann Jacobus
  • Pre-order of Jasmine Warga’s MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES from Becky Albertalli
  • Pre-order of WRITTEN IN THE STARS from Aisha Saeed
  • Signed ARC of DEAD TO ME and a hardback copy of THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE by Jennifer Mathieu from Mary McCoy
  • Galley of ZODIAC and packets of Zodiac temporary tattoos from Romina Russell
  • Pre-order of FALLING INTO PLACE by Amy Zhang from Francesca Zappia
  • Hardcover copy of Beth Kephart’s SMALL DAMAGES from Anna-Marie McLemore
  • Pre-order of UNDER THE PAINTED SKY by Stacey Lee from Sabaa Tahir
  • Pre-order/hardcover of ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Stephanie Perkins from Katie M. Stout
  • A Little Brown package of 2014 debuts: a signed copy of ILLUSIVE by Emily Lloyd-Jones, SALT & STORM by Kendall Kulper, and THE YOUNG WORLD by Chris Weitz. Plus, an ARC of THE WITCH HUNTER from Virginia Boecker
  • ARC of CITY OF SAVAGES  and a $25 gift card to B&N from Lee Kelly
  • Pre-order of THE CONSPIRACY OF US from Maggie Hall
  • Pre-order of EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU from Moriah McStay
  • Signed copy of SINNER by Maggie Stiefvater with a custom book cover that she drew AND a handmade necklace from Nicola Yoon
  • Pre-order of N.K. Traver’s DUPLICITY from Alexandra Sirowy
  • Hardcover of JUST A DROP OF WATER and a peace necklace from Kerry O’Malley Cerra
  • Pre-order for Jaye Robin Brown’s NO PLACE TO FALL from N.K. Traver
  • Pre-order of JACK AND THE WILD LIFE, Book 2 of the Berenson Schemes by Lisa Doan, and an autographed bookplate or bookmark from Frances Lee Hall
  • Signed copy of HOOK’S REVENGE by Heidi Schulz and a signed copy of TRUST ME, I’M LYING by Mary Elizabeth Summer from Fonda Lee
  • Pre-order of WHEN REASON BREAKS from Cindy L. Rodriguez
  • Copy of GATES OF THREAD AND STONE by Lori M. Lee from Melissa Hurst
  • Pre-order of THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND from Kathryn Holmes

Click this link to win one of the prizes above: Rafflecopter Giveaway FOR EVERYONE

ALL FOUR KIDS: INTERVIEW WITH ADRIANNE STRICKLAND, AUTHOR OF WORDLESS

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Hey, guys! Today we’re celebrating the release of AdriAnne Strickland’s awesome debut, WORDLESS!

wordless-final-cover“The Gods made their Words into flesh, giving privileged individuals the powers of creation …”

In Eden City, a member of the illiterate wordless class would never dream of meeting the all-powerful Words … much less of running away with one. So when a gorgeous girl literally falls into his lap during a routine trash run, seventeen-year-old Tavin Barnes isn’t sure if it’s the luckiest or worst day of his life. That girl is Khaya, the Word of Life, who can heal a wound or command an ivy bush to devour a city block with ease. And yet she needs Tavin’s help.

By aiding Khaya’s escape from the seemingly idyllic confines of Eden City, Tavin unwittingly throws himself into the heart of a conflict that is threatening to tear the world apart. Eden City’s elite will stop at nothing to protect the shocking secret Khaya hides, and they enlist the other Words, each with their own frightening powers, to bring her back.

It’s a smart, kick-ass, fast-paced sci-fi adventure, and you can get it RIGHT NOW!

Barnes & Noble  BAM  Indiebound  Amazon

Congrats on the release of Wordless, AdriAnne! We have the official synopsis above, but could you give us your own two-sentence description? (The “elevator pitch,” if you will?)

Thank you! And, of course: In a world where the masses are illiterate, seventeen-year-old Tavin Barnes, a wordless trash collector, must do everything he can to stop a ruthless group that knows how to control the “Words”—an elite few with the power to turn their words into reality. After helping Khaya, the Word of Life, escape from Eden City, Tavin joins her on the run, attempting to prevent her captors from using the Words for world domination.

The world you’ve conceived of in Wordless is brilliant. What was the first seed of an idea that inspired this world and, more generally, the entire novel?  

Again, thank you! While researching a previous book, I came across the biblical line, “And the Word was made flesh.” It made me wonder… what would “a word made flesh” look like (if not in the religious sense that the original line intends, of course)? What if there were people called Words with power over that particular word? And if there were Words, would that stratify the social classes along literacy lines? That was the seed that grew into Wordless.

Seventeen-year-old garbage collector Tavin Barnes is such a likable, scrappy hero. Is he inspired by anyone, either fictional or nonfictional?

He isn’t really inspired by anyone fictional, but to tap into my inner teenage boy, I channeled my older brother. A lot of Tavin’s sarcastic, yet self-deprecating mannerisms came from him.

And sort-of-dumb sub-question: Tavin Barnes loves Captain Crunch. Do you share this love?

Captain Crunch was my brother’s favorite cereal. I definitely ate it as a teen (though I preferred the “Crunch Berry only” version), but now I eat healthier and try not to vacuum up so much sugar on a regular basis. (It’s hard; I have a sweet tooth.)

Because Tavin is illiterate, the moments when he sees letters as just symbols are truly disarming, making us appreciate our ability to read even as we’re in the act of reading. How much of your writing process was a conscious effort to emphasize the power of reading and how much just sort of happened naturally as the story unfolded?

It was definitely a conscious effort to put myself in the position of someone who couldn’t read, and to remember all of the things one could or couldn’t do, and to show that words–not just “Words”–are powerful in ways that people don’t even realize. I didn’t want to be preachy about it, so sometimes I almost had to de-emphasize it!

What are some of the works that inspired or influenced the writing of Wordless

There’s not much that influenced it directly, but Scott Westerfield’s Uglies, Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go and Holly Black’s White Cat no doubt had their impact.

At this point in your journey, now that publication day has arrived, what’s one piece of wisdom or advice you would share with a debut novelist? 

Really take the time to celebrate the exciting moments, because a lot of the stressful moments can take away from them. Don’t miss out on the good stuff!

And, finally, since we’re the Fearless 15ers, we’d like to know something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of.

I’m afraid of heights for other people–it really freaks me out when someone, especially my husband, stands too close to a perilous drop (which he often seems to do). I’m not afraid for myself, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve been cliff jumping, bungee jumping and skydiving.

Thanks so much for the great interview!

Thank YOU, AdriAnne!
AdriAnne Strickland author photo - smallAdriAnne Strickland was a bibliophile who wanted to be an author before she knew what either of those words meant. She shares a home base in Alaska with her husband, but has spent two cumulative years living abroad in Africa, Asia, and Europe. While writing occupies most of her time, she commercial fishes every summer in Bristol Bay, because she can’t seem to stop. Her debut YA sci-fi/fantasy, WORDLESS, is out now from Flux Books. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.
Lance Rubin is a New Jersey native who has worked as an actor and written sketch comedy, including successful runs of The Lance and Ray Show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. He’s also co-writing a new musical called Annie Golden: Bounty Hunter, Yo! Lance lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son. He loves Pixar, the Knicks, and Back to the Future. His debut novel DENTON LITTLE’S DEATHDATE is coming April 2015 from Knopf Books for Young Readers. You can follow him on twitter @lancerubinparty.

ALL FOUR KIDS: INTERVIEW WITH LORI M. LEE, AUTHOR OF GATES OF THREAD AND STONE

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Hey guys, I’m Sabaa Tahir, here interviewing YA fantasy author Lori M. Lee for the Fifteeners blog today. Here’s the summary of her book, GATES OF THREAD AND STONE, which is out from Skyscape on August 5th:

17904985In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where shecame from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.

Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.

1. Tell me about this book. Is it the first book you’ve written? What was the inspiration for it?

If we’re counting the novel I wrote when I was a preteen (it was a terrible self-insert fantasy romance), then GATES OF THREAD AND STONE would be my third full-length novel. The spark for the idea came during a critique session for a previous book. One of the other writers said something in passing about time, and the idea for Kai’s character was born.

2. Did you plot this book out pretty thoroughly or did you just let the story take you where it would?

I plotted thoroughly. With my last book, I didn’t outline, and it ended up a meandering, overly complicated mess. With this one, I plotted and outlined it to death. Of course, I still let the story do what it wanted, but having that outline helped to guide me along so I wouldn’t lose sight of where it was headed.

3. Gates of Thread and Stone is an engrossing combination of classic fantasy (alternate universe/magic) and steampunk/sci-fi (trains/technology). How did you decide on this setting?

Initially, the book was just as much sci-fi as it was fantasy. And by that I mean there were holoscreens and hovercrafts right alongside the magic. But when I reworked it to be straight fantasy, I had to find a way to keep those integral elements intact.

4. Your characters, particularly Kai and Avan, really jump off the page. Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

There’s a little bit of me in every character, but if you’re asking whether I’d based any of them on myself, it would be a no.

5. You write short stories too—one was published by dailysciencefiction.com in 2010. How did you have to shift your thinking to get into “novel” mode?

I didn’t do much to prepare myself, but maybe I should have haha. I like to think of the book prior to GATES OF THREAD AND STONE as my practice book now that it’s shelved. I learned a lot writing it—mostly what not to do although a bit of what worked for me (outlines!!!)—which made writing GoT&S and subsequent books much easier.

6. What do you wish you’d known about publishing going in?

Every writer has her own path, and comparing yourself to another writer is about as productive as trying to make the Doctor do trust exercises with a dalek.

7. What are you working on now?

Editing the sequel, which is tentatively scheduled for release spring 2015. After that, there’s a high fantasy WIP calling my name 🙂

8. Since this is an official Fearless Fifteeners interview, I have to ask: what is one thing you’re afraid of? What is one thing you’re not afraid of?

I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’m a total wuss. Zombies terrify me. I’m not overly fond of the dark. And I’m never more grateful for the dog’s presence than I am when I’m the only one up at 1 am. However, I’m not that scared of spiders the way most people I know are. They creep me out, sure, but I’m not scared of them. I have no problem going after them if they’re in my house. Most of the time, if I can manage it, I’ll find a cup or something and escort the spider outside.

7084159Lori’s Bio:

Lori is an avid writer, reader, artist, and lover of unicorns. She should probably spend less time on the internet (but she won’t). She has a borderline obsessive fascination with unicorns, is fond of talking in capslock, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, kids, and a friendly pitbull.

Twitter: @LoriMLee

Web Site: www.lorimlee.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17904985-gates-of-thread-and-stone

 

Sabaa TahirSabaa Tahir was born in London but grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room motel. After graduating from UCLA, Sabaa became an editor on the foreign desk at The Washington Post. Three summers later, she came up with the concept for her debut novel, AN EMBER IN THE ASHES. Sabaa currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family. For more information, please visit SabaaTahir.com or find her on Twitter @SabaaTahir.

ALL FOUR KIDS: INTERVIEW WITH RIN CHUPECO, AUTHOR OF THE GIRL FROM THE WELL

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Today we’re celebrating the release of Rin Chupeco’s fantastic debut, THE GIRL FROM THE WELL!

A dead girl walks the streets.
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She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.

The Girl from the Well is a YA horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.

Trust me, you need this now — and here are a few places where you can get it!

Amazon | Barnes and Noble  | Indiebound

One mantra, if you will, from the story is Okiku’s musing on “fires that fly.” To that end, what was the spark that inspired the novel? What was it about the Okiku of legend that spoke to you?

There’s a bittersweet taste to a lot of Japanese ghost stories – often enough, the bad guy never gets his comeuppance, and it’s the poor victims that’s doomed to haunt places for the things their murderers are guilty of (call them the Asian equivalent of Henry VIII’s wives). Okiku’s story was especially sad – there are a lot of versions to the legend that makes it hard to determine which is the right one, but she was essentially a kind person considered too insignificant to be treated better than she was, and it cost her her life. The idea to have her killer be inadvertently responsible for giving her the power she didn’t have in life appealed to me.

The first spark came when I was working at an office at a very old building, complete with a rickety elevator. I look like the quintessential Asian ghost, except maybe better dressed, so it was a trial for other people working in the same building when they finished their overtime at the same time I did. Old elevator + ghostly-looking girl inside said elevator when the doors open + night time + barely working lights = a certain amount of screaming and flailing. They eventually called me “good Sadako”, after the character from the original Ringu series.

The second spark was when I was watching an Asian horror movie marathon with a friend, who wondered out loud what we would do had we been in the same situation as the characters in those films. What would we use to fight off a ghost who was apparently unstoppable?

“With another ghost,” I quipped, and then was struck by the novelty of that idea.

You masterfully blend the supernatural with the contemporary, bringing us into a world where spirits are all too real and the rituals to exorcise them are deadly. What kind of research did this story require?

Thank you, that’s very nice of you to say!

I tried to make my research as accurate as I could. (Confession: I have never been to Japan, though I have been a big fan of Japanese culture ever since I was a kid.) For instance, I tried to describe places in the novel as they really are, such as Osorezan and Mutsu and Himeji Castle – sometimes it takes an hour of research to write just a couple of lines of description for them. But I also incorporated a bit of creative license in other areas, to further the plot I had in mind. Dolls did play a role in some Japanese religious ceremonies, but the way they’re used in exorcisms in the book was mostly supplemented by my imagination. I tried to ensure that the locations described in the novel were as authentic as I possibly can, but many aspects of the rituals that take place were also just things I came up with. It was a lot of fun to come up with these unspoken ritual ‘rules’ so I could set certain limitations on my ghosts to keep the balance, but it was also a daunting task to keep them sounding credible.

With multiple characters, intersecting story lines, and a first-person narrator who sometimes pulls back to be omniscient, what was the process of writing the novel like?

I treated the whole writing process as an experiment, first and foremost. I understand that the writing style is a bit different from what most are accustomed to, but given the kind of protagonist the novel had, I felt it worked well with how I wanted to structure the narrative. Okiku is not your everyday heroine, and I wanted to emphasize that – she definitely doesn’t think the way your standard young adult female does, and her sense of detachment throughout the novel was written deliberately. Naturally, being rather different (and, I hope, rather unique), I knew it would be risky because there’s a chance it might come off sounding pretentious – or worse, gimmicky – but I always try to write something in a way that no one else to my knowledge has done. I think it worked out pretty well, considering.

What can we look forward to from you next? (As per your website, I see a sequel?! Or perhaps a companion novel?)

Definitely a sequel – although ‘companion novel’ also describes it well. The Girl from the Well was written to be a standalone book with a definite ending, but I also wrote it to accommodate a sequel if needed. As far as I’m concerned, Okiku’s told her story, and she doesn’t feel the need to say more. But I also realized that Tark, my other protagonist, has his own story to tell. And where Okiku will always be the logical, somewhat aloof, brains of the operation, Tark makes up the heart and soul of the two, and if the first book had been told through his eyes, you’ll have seen more of Okiku’s personality than from Okiku herself, who is not the type to divulge much even when knowing things from her point of view. With Tark you’ll get warmth and emotion and empathy amid a lot of self-deprecating snark. The Girl from the Well does have a conclusion, but the sequel will show how the first book’s ending will bring about a lot more complications for him than he expects – or wants. It’s going to give me a chance to show off Tark’s engaging personality, and also a way to showcase Okiku’s more thoroughly as well.

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Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of humor. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. She’s been a travel expert, an events executive, and a technical writer, but now writes weird things for a living. You can learn more about Rin on Twitter, her website, her book’s page, and Goodreads!
Diana GallagherDiana Gallagher is a gymnastics coach, writing professor, and country music aficionado. She holds an MFA from Stony Brook University and once had a story published on a candy cigarette box. Her contemporary YA novel, WHAT HAPPENS IN WATER, releases in Fall 2015 from Spencer Hill Contemporary. For deep musings on gymnastics and Game of Thrones puns, follow her on Twitter.