All Four Kids: An Interview with Kendall Kulper, author of Salt & Storm


If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Man, I wish there was a sweeping historical romance about whaling and lighthouses with a setting so vividly drawn that you could smell the salt in the air as you read”? Look no further! Today on the blog we have Kendall Kulper, author of the aforementioned sweeping historical romance, SALT & STORM, which was published Tuesday by Little, Brown.

salt and stormSixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island’s whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she’s to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane–a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.


First of all, congratulations on your beautiful novel and its impending publication! Could you tell us a little about what sparked the idea for SALT &STORM?

Thank you! And thanks for having me on the Fearless Fifteeners blog!

I started thinking about SALT & STORM after I read a book that was set on an island. I enjoyed the book, but I felt like it didn’t quite capture what I knew about island communities—there’s an insularity to them that can be both really warm and comforting and very stifling and isolating. I wanted to write something about that, so I started thinking about the island I know best (Martha’s Vineyard), which has a rich history of whaling. The more I researched, the more I thought it would make a great book!

One of my favorite things about SALT &STORM is the atmosphere. Prince Island really came alive for me. How do you go about creating such a vivid setting? Was it based on a real place?

Prince Island is mostly based on parts of Martha’s Vineyard and other small towns in New England. Size- and environment-wise, it’s probably closest to Chappaquiddick Island, and the town of New Bishop in the book is based on Edgartown in Martha’s Vineyard and New Bedford, MA.

I love your main character, Avery. She is so determined and feisty, but also very realistically (and lovably) flawed. Do you share any traits with Miss Avery? Or, if not, what character are you most like?

Actually, not at all! Avery is a very different person from who I am now or even who I was as a teenager. I was pretty quiet, I had a few close friends, and I tend to think very carefully about what I want to say, where Avery will just blurt out whatever’s she’s thinking, especially if she feels annoyed by someone. It was really fun, though, to write a character so different from me (and there are definitely days when people annoy me and I wish I had Avery’s sass). She said and did a lot of things that I personally disagreed with, but it was important for me to show Avery making mistakes, facing consequences, and learning from her actions.

I don’t think I’m really like any of my characters. They all have small pieces of me, but none of them are really close to my personality. (And I will add, for the record, that I have a lovely, wonderful mother and our relationship is in no way similar to Avery and her mother’s!)

All the witches in your book have a gift unique to them. Avery reads people’s dreams. What would your power be?

Oh wow! Hmm… I think I’d like to be able to magically teleport from one place to another. I’m not a big fan of travel, and it seems like my friends and family are increasingly scattered around the globe. I’d love to be able to blink my eyes and visit my brother and sister-in-law in Hong Kong or go to my nephew’s soccer game in Philadelphia. Also, never having to fly Spirit Airlines the day before Thanksgiving would be pretty amazing…

You give such a detailed and complex picture of whaling in the 1800s. And the historical setting in general! What sort of research did you do?

I read a lot of books (Leviathan by Eric Jay Dolan and In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick are wonderful) and watched a lot of documentaries on whaling and whales. I visited the fantastic New Bedford Whaling Museum several times and asked the very patient guides increasingly-weird questions about whaling and life in the 1860s. I even went out on an authentic tall ship and interviewed the captain and crew about all the little details on sailing that I wasn’t finding in books.

You do a wonderful job of mixing history and fantasy, which is no easy task. What was the inspiration behind the fantasy elements of the novel, and how did you go about blending them with history?

I wasn’t really sure that I wanted to add a fantasy element, but when I was researching, I came across stories of women who would make good luck charms for sailors (and sometimes curse sailors who slighted them). I thought it was such an interesting take on power and fate, so I decided to make my main character part of a family of these women.

And like the details on whaling, a lot of the magical elements came out of real research. Most of the spells described in SALT & STORM are based on real practices or sailing superstitions—some (like the idea that tattoos can offer magical protection) which are still used today.

The language in this book is so gorgeous! Do you have a favorite (non-spoiler) line?

I really like the moment when Avery is furious at her mother for hurting someone she cares about, and as she’s racing back to confront her, she imagines the two of them as sea creatures about to face off: “But I was a whale, strong and muscular, long-jawed and sharp-toothed, and I was going to find my terrible squid of a mother and chomp-chomp her so she’d learn to keep her blasted tentacles to herself.”

Do you listen to music while you write? Could you share some songs from your SALT AND STORM playlist?

Music was a huge inspiration to me! Basically, anything by the bands The Decemberists or Sea Wolf was on repeat while I was writing and editing the book. “Dear Avery” by the Decemberists gave Avery her name and is one of my favorite songs, and “Whirlpool” by Sea Wolf is just so lovely and atmospheric.

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 pretty freaked out by the idea of something happening to someone I love—my family and friends are bar-none the most important things in my life. I’m not scared of failure. I think failure can be such an excellent teacher and can be a wonderful opportunity to see your weaknesses and make you stronger—it’s one of the things that has made this whole “debuting a novel” thing a little more manageable!

KendallAbout Kendall Kulper:

Kendall Kulper writes historical fiction with a fantasy twist for teen readers and knows more about nineteenth century whaling than she ever imagined. Her debut YA novel, SALT & STORM will be published by Little, Brown September 23, 2014. She graduated from Harvard University with a degree in history and literature in 2008 and spent several years as a journalist before deciding to write full-time. She grew up in the wilds of New Jersey and now lives in Boston with her husband and chronically-anxious Australian Shepherd mix, Abby.


Mackenzi Lee is a reader, writer, bookseller, Diet Coke fanatic, unapologetic fangirl, and fast talker. Her YA reimagining of Frankenstein, THE SHADOW BOYS ARE BREAKING, will be published by Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins in 2015. Find her on Twitter, Pinterest, or on her blog, where she talks about books, Boston, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

All Four Kids: An Interview with Kate A. Boorman, author of Winterkill


Hey folks, and happy Wednesday. Feeling a bit of a chill in the air? Yep, summer is starting to fade (at least in some parts of the world!) and there’s a hint of cold in the distance. So what better time to have a bit of a chat with Kate Boorman, debut author of the atmospheric YA novel, Winterkill.


Cover of Winterkill, by Kate Boorman

Emmeline knows she’s not supposed to explore the woods outside her settlement. The enemy that wiped out half her people lurks there, attacking at night and keeping them isolated in an unfamiliar land with merciless winters. Living with the shame of her grandmother’s insubordination, Emmeline has learned to keep her head down and her quick tongue silent.

When the settlement leader asks for her hand in marriage, it’s an opportunity for Emmeline to wash the family slate clean—even if she has eyes for another. But before she’s forced into an impossible decision, her dreams urge her into the woods, where she uncovers a path she can’t help but follow. The trail leads to a secret that someone in the village will kill to protect. Her grandmother followed the same path and paid the price. If Emmeline isn’t careful, she will be next.

WINTERKILL was published on September 9, 2014 by Amulet Books.

IndieBound | B & N | B-A-M | Powells | Amazon  | Goodreads

1. Hi Kate. Congratulations on your publication of Winterkill. I remember when you revealed your amazing cover and I went “Wow!”, and then I read the description and went “Double wow!” and headed straight for the Fifteeners board to ask if I could be the one to read it and interview you. So, can you tell us a little bit about where the idea of Winterkill came from?

Thanks so much, Patrick — and thanks for having me on the Fearless Fifteeners! The idea for Winterkill was born of my penchant for creepy things, my love affair with the Canadian wilderness, and my desire to work through the concept of fear—how it motivates and inhibits us. The opening scene with my main character Emmeline was the story seed and it grew from there as I figured out who she was, what she was afraid of, and what she desired most.

2. Your heroine, Emmeline, is an extremely believable teenager. She’s rebelling against the claustrophobic strictures of her very closed society, which considers her ‘stained’ by the sins of her grandmother, while coping with both unwanted and wanted romantic attention, and showing a hint of teenage self-absorption. That conflict of the how you are perceived with romantic feelings and frustration with the world is something that most teenagers will be able to identify with. So, is Emmeline based on anyone in particular you know, and if you say ‘no’, is that actually true…?

No! Actually true! Though I think Emmeline embodies what, for me, is so interesting about being a young adult. It’s a time that is really complex and rife for dramatic tension because when at that age you are brimming with ideas and energy and passion, but you often lack the agency to act on these things, for a variety of reasons. In Em’s case, those reasons are a little extreme—it’s not just parental surveillance; it’s societal surveillance. But her distorted perception of herself, her frustration with authority, her desire— all of that, I think, is pretty universal to the teen experience.

3. I could really feel the last heat of the summer and the terrifying cold of approaching winter. Is this based on personal experience?

Totally. The winter described in the book is a heightened version of the winter we experience on the Canadian prairies. And it was certainly inspired by what winter might be like a hundred years ago, with no fossil fuel-created luxuries. Each year, where I live, there is a palpable sense of foreboding as autumn graduates to winter (although with central heating and hot water, it’s far less terrifying than in the book).

4. Winterkill is an extremely atmospheric and tense book. What was your favorite part to write?

I think Emmeline’s adventures into the woods were my favourite parts, because there is an element of wonder and excitement there, undercut by fear. Also, I have a thing for trees.

5. What cool facts can you tell us about you that readers might not know?

Cool facts, hmmm. I was born in Nepal. And… I taught myself to play accordion (though, disclaimer: I play piano). And… I’ve been to many places on the earth, including Easter Island— that was pretty cool.

6. You’re stranded on a desert island (no, no, you really are…). What books would you choose to have washed up with you. I’ll give you six. Or maybe a different number. Depending.

Is there a book that teaches you to build a working plane from coconut trees to take you back home? Because that one. I have no desire to be stranded in water; I’m a prairies girl, through and through. But then, while I’m building the plane: The Lord of the Rings (that’s technically three right there— oh whelp!), 1984 (Orwell), Oryx and Crake (Atwood), Different Seasons (novellas by Stephen King), and…..The Magic Faraway Tree (Enid Blyton— yes, it’s for small children).

7. There are two sequels to Winterkill due out in 2015 and 2016. Without giving away too many spoilers for Winterkill, what can you tell us about these books?

I can tell you that they will be rife with grand and rollicking adventures out in the wilderness with creepy things and wondrous things and good guys and bad guys. There is dying, there is kissing. More secrets, more mysteries… Geez, that’s vague. But it’s actually really hard to talk about them without spoiling the first book!

8. As you’re doing this interview for the Fearless Fifteeners, we want to know one thing you’re afraid of and one thing you’re not afraid of.

My worst-kept secret is that I am very afraid of birds. I am not afraid of navigating foreign, busy cities (except for those pigeon-filled town squares GAH!).

Thanks, Kate! It was a pleasure having you stop by!

IndieBound | B & N | B-A-M | Powells | Amazon  | Goodreads


Photo of Kate A. Boorman

Kate Boorman is a writer from the Canadian prairies. She has a Master of Arts in Dramatic Critical Theory, and a work resume full of the usual, whacky assortment of jobs.

Kate spent much of her childhood reading books instead of being useful around the house, and now she writes them, which means she is still not very useful. She is fond of beautiful-creepy things, good chocolate, and cozy slippers (all three are an essential part of her writing process).

She also loves to dig in the dirt, and sit under starry skies with her friends, and travel to far off lands with her husband and two children.

The Winterkill trilogy is her YA fiction debut.

You can also find her YA short story “The Memory Junkies” in the Canadian speculative fiction anthology Tesseracts 15: A Case of Quite Curious Tales. It’s about nostalgia-terrorists.

You can find Kate on Twitter or on her website.

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.



Fonda Lee here. Today I’m excited to be interviewing Joshua David Bellin on the release of his debut YA science fiction novel, SURVIVAL COLONY NINE. I had the pleasure of advance reading the book, and it is a gripping post-apocalyptic thriller that had me flipping the pages well into the night. Here’s the skinny:

SC9 Cover mediumForget the past.  Fight to stay alive.

Querry Genn is in trouble. 

He can’t remember anything before the last six months. And Querry needs to remember. Otherwise he’s dead weight to the other members of Survival Colony 9, one of the groups formed after a brutal war ravaged the earth. And now the Skaldi have come to scavenge what is left of humanity. No one knows what the Skaldi are, or why they’re here, just that they can impersonate humans, taking their form before shedding the corpse like a skin.

Desperate to prove himself after the accident that stole his memory, Querry is both protected and tormented by the colony’s authoritarian commander, his father. The only person he can talk to is the beautiful Korah, but even with her, he can’t shake the feeling that something is desperately wrong. And that his missing memories are at the very center of it.


Fonda Lee: Josh, congratulations on your debut! Tell us about what inspired you to write SURVIVAL COLONY NINE.

Joshua David Bellin: Thanks, Fonda! And congratulations to the Fearless Fifteeners as you begin your own journey to publication!

SURVIVAL COLONY 9 has two primary sources: a story idea I jotted down years ago about a teen with memory loss, and a much more recent dream I had that provided me the novel’s desert setting and the idea of the human groups—the survival colonies—that had lived through a time of catastrophic loss. But in another respect, my inspiration was my own children, thanks to whom I rediscovered my love of YA. My daughter was twelve when I started writing my book, and she was the first to read a few pages and encourage me to keep writing.

FL: Querry’s story takes place in a desperately bleak future. I swear I could feel the baking sun on my skin and the dust in my eyes the whole time I was reading. What led you to create this world, and do you think there’s something particularly appealing to you about post-apocalyptic settings? 

JDB: The dream I mentioned a moment ago gave me the broad outlines of my novel’s world. But I had to make it convincing, and I felt there was no way to do that without making it bleak. It’s a world where human society has just about crumbled due to war and climate catastrophe, and where not only the material culture of the past but the memory of the past has been swept away. So in a sense, all the characters are like my narrator, Querry Genn, a fourteen-year-old with amnesia: they’re all traumatized, all coping with horrific loss. But they’re also all survivors, which means they have a reserve of strength that enables them to go on.

I can’t pin down the one thing that led me to create such a world, but I do know I’ve long been fascinated by Holocaust narratives, with their twin, conflicted imperatives to remember and to forget. I have relatives who escaped the Nazi genocide, and I’ve taught students who survived the Rwandan genocide. Such subjects might seem a bit heavy for YA science fiction, but I believe YA—and science fiction—have an obligation to wrestle with difficult truths

FL: Although SURVIVAL COLONY NINE features a menacing exterior threat in the form of the Skaldi, what stuck with me are the human relationships in the colony, and how the dire circumstances bring out the best and worst in people. There is a “marooned on an island together” dynamic going on here. Tell us a bit about how you developed your cast of characters. Were any of them inspired by real or fictional people?

JDB: I’ve always felt that the best monsters represent our own internal conflicts. Anyone can throw a lion’s head on a snake’s body and call it a monster—but if it doesn’t tell us anything about the inner struggles of the human characters, it seems kind of pointless to me.

So in SURVIVAL COLONY 9, I thought of the Skaldi as an external manifestation of what threatens the colony internally: malice, suspicion, loss of faith in each other. I wanted to create a human society that was incredibly fragile, a society that’s lived through horrors and is still living with horrors that could cause them to turn against each other at a moment’s notice. So I was determined to create characters who were complex, conflicted, haunted by personal demons—not simple “good guys” and “bad guys.” Laman Genn, the colony’s commander, is an example: he’s strong, capable, charismatic, caring—but he’s also domineering, deaf to criticism, and capable of making terrible mistakes. And it’s when those cracks appear that the Skaldi are able to infiltrate the colony.

Whether Laman or any of the other characters is based on real or fictional people is a question I never thought about. In Laman’s case, I would say I probably modeled him on the father in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road—except I thought McCarthy’s father-figure was a bit idealized. I wanted to create a father whose best quality—his protectiveness—could also become his worst.

FL: Tell us about your journey as an author. What was the path to publication like for you?

JDB: Long! Depending on how you look at it, I’ve been traveling this path for over thirty years, with my first completed novel (an epic fantasy) written when I was sixteen, and my first YA (a story about friendship and death) written two years later. I took a major detour to write academic prose after graduate school, and when I found my way back to fiction in 2008, I was in no way ready to tackle a novel-length project. Three years, many short stories, two unfinished novels, and one finished but unsalable novel after that, I completed SURVIVAL COLONY 9—and then had to educate myself about seeking an agent, writing a query and synopsis, and all that. I signed with one agent, parted ways with her when it turned out our vision for the novel didn’t match, conducted the search process again, found a wonderful advocate in Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency, and went on submission. From there, it was a fairly speedy road to acceptance. But if anyone had told me at age sixteen that I might not publish my first novel until I was almost fifty, I probably would have stopped writing. Fortunately, no one did!

FL: I understand you are a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy books and films (*geek fistbump*). What are some books or films that had a big impact on you and perhaps influence or inform your writing?

JDB: Far too many to name, but let’s start with Tolkien’s works, which blew me away at age thirteen with the depth, complexity, and conviction of the imagined world. I’d also add Roger Zelazny’s Amber series, which is not only a brilliant fantasy but the first work I ever read with an amnesiac narrator. Throw in some of the classics of science fiction—Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds—and some great modern YA science fiction—Chris Howard’s Rootless, Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker, Mindy McGinnis’s Not a Drop to Drink—and you’ve got me. If, that is, you also add classic monster and horror films, especially the masterpieces of Willis O’Brien (King Kong) and Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts) and eighties-era creature features like Alien, The Thing, and The Fly. And wait, did I mention Star Wars?

Okay, I think I’ve proved my geek cred. We’ll talk more later.

FL: Yes, we will. There will be a sequel to SURVIVAL COLONY NINE, so I hear? Can you give us any hints as to what’s to come?

JDB: The sequel is titled SCAVENGER OF SOULS. (A friend of mine told me I should title it SURVIVAL COLONY 10, but I rejected that idea pretty quickly.) It’s the middle book of a planned three-book series, but as of this moment its publication date hasn’t been set. I’m kind of reluctant to say much about it lest I spoil the fun for those who haven’t read the first book, but I will say this: it’ll surprise readers of SURVIVAL COLONY 9. It’s a much bigger-canvas novel than its predecessor: Querry gets to see much more of his world, to encounter people with backgrounds and histories he had no awareness of, and to unravel huge secrets about his own and his people’s past. And the antagonists—well, let’s just say the Skaldi aren’t the only monsters in Querry’s world!

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.

JDB: I’ll give a writer’s answer to that. I’m not afraid of a lot of things writers typically fear: selling poorly, receiving negative reviews, being misunderstood. It seems to me publishing a novel is a rare enough privilege without worrying about junk you really have no control over. But I am afraid of writing becoming the only thing in my life. It seems to me that happens to some writers, especially with all the pressure to promote your current novel and to produce your next one. So I hope I can always find balance between writing and the rest of my life, and I hope I can always remember that no one ever said on their deathbed: “I wish I’d spent more time at the keyboard.”

Wise words for all us writers, Josh. Thanks for the interview and good luck with SURVIVAL COLONY NINE. 

Bellin author photoAbout Joshua David Bellin: 

Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). He taught college for twenty years, wrote a bunch of books for college students, then decided to return to writing fiction. Survival Colony 9 is his first novel, but the sequel’s already in the works! Josh is represented by the fabulous Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency.

Josh loves to read (mostly YA fantasy and science fiction), watch movies (again, mostly fantasy and sci-fi), and spend time in Nature (mostly catching frogs and toads). He is the self-proclaimed world’s worst singer, but plays a pretty mean air guitar.

Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.


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 and on Twitter @fondajlee.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Sandra Waugh, author of LARK RISING- Guardians of Tarnec Book 1


Okay, so Sandra is debuting in 2014 not 2015, but she’s one of our awesome Fearless Fifteener members, and we have mad love for her! Here’s a little bit about her book.

lark-rising-coverLark has foreseen two things—she will fall for a young man with sage green eyes,and he will kill her.

Sixteen-year-old Lark Carew is happiest close to home, tending her garden and gathering herbs for medicines. But when her Sight warns her that monsters called Troths will soon invade her village, Lark is summoned on a journey to seek help from the legendary Riders of Tarnec. Little does she suspect that one of the Riders, Gharain, is the very man who has haunted her visions. Or that the people of Tarnec have called her there for another reason: Lark is the Guardian of Life, the first of four Guardians who must awaken their powers to recover four stolen amulets. Together, the amulets—Life, Death, Dark, and Light—keep the world in Balance. To take back the Life amulet, Lark will have to discover her true inner strength and give in to a love that she swears will be her downfall.


Lark Rising is, no doubt, one of the best fantasy novels I’ve ever read. Is fantasy something you’ve always been drawn to? When you decided to become a writer, did you know that would be the genre of your choice?

Wow—I’m honored, Kerry, thank you! Yes—fantasy is my passion, my escape. I must have read Grimm’s Fairy Tales a thousand times growing up. And I used to volunteer at the Children’s Library in my hometown, shelving books on Saturday afternoons. I would scour the stacks as I worked, looking for anything that would hint of something magical. I know authors who rightly say that everyday life is magical, but honestly the opportunity to step into a completely different world where landscapes and creatures, and opportunities can be anything you want them to be is irresistible. It is a world of wonder, and frankly where I feel more at home.

As far as being a writer—that was something that didn’t really come until the last six years or so. I set out to act, not write! But the best-laid plans don’t always work out the way you intended. I will say though, that words are as lovely on the page as they are spoken.


I had no idea you originally wanted to act. I hope you can make that dream come true as well! I’m a sucker for books with vivid settings and you’ve created a very detailed, magical world. Was it difficult to keep places—and characteristics of those places—straight in your head as you were writing?

The topography of LARK came pretty easily to me visually—the villages of Merith, Dann, the path, Castle Tarnec and of course, Dark Wood. I remember sketching a quick map when I started—I just knew what it looked like and where everything could be found. That said, writing SILVER EVE (Book 2 in the series) was when I realized I needed to create a ‘bible’ in order to keep all those details consistent.


Yep, I’m the same way. Mapping it out prevents unnecessary mistakes. And your world is so detailed, I can only imagine how much your “bible” comes in handy! The language and sentence structure in your book is lyrical, beautiful, and enchanting—like a professional ice skater who makes a triple lutz seem effortless. Is this something that’s always come naturally for you? I imagine, as a child and teen, your teachers must’ve complimented your writing often.

Actually, the last compliment I remember was back in sixth grade—I wrote something about Halloween! I was an English major in college, but the major had nothing to do with creative writing. Nor did I do graduate work or anything extra curricular pertaining to writing. So I guess whatever qualities I have are credited to being a huge reader growing up.


Seriously? Maybe you needed different teachers? LOL In the book, the main character, Lark, is a bit of a recluse. She prefers being alone to crowds, loves gardening, and her dog Rileg. How much of you, the author, lives in the character of Lark.

There are parts of me that I definitely drew from for Lark. I’ve been fairly shy my whole life, (though at least now I can fight through most of my terror at being in a party of strangers.) I ADORE dogs and really all types of creatures, do attempt to feed birds out of hand and leave carrots for the rabbits, thinking I’ll make a friend (not that it happens, though a wild turkey often visited while I ate lunch outdoors—hardly a glamorous image!). I will say that Lark battles a nasty vine called ghisane in the first pages. That comes straight from my own struggles in the garden.


Just from getting to know you online, I can tell what a gentle soul you are and am not surprised at your love of animals—nor the turkey’s love for you. Wish I could’ve been there having lunch with you! Okay, next question…I love hearing about how authors create. Do you have any habits, superstitions, or rituals that are part of your creative process? Do you write every day?

I aim to write every day, but being a mom takes precedence. That said, my habit is to work early in the morning before anything interferes. When I am stuck I exercise—mowing the lawn is one of my best times to sort out stories, story lines, or particular problems. My habit—my necessity—is tea. I can’t sit down until I’ve set a hot cup of tea on the table next to me. Superstitions? Hmmm. I don’t have actual writing superstitions that I can think of, but you won’t find me opening an umbrella inside the house.


As you know, our debut group is fearless. Can you tell our readers something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of?

I am not afraid of real threats, but am very afraid of imaginary ones (so, for example if I take veggie scraps out to our compost at night, which is at the border of our woods), I am not afraid of running into a bobcat or bear (both of which come through the property on occasion), but rather what I imagine might be there in the dark, a la Blair Witch and the likes! Basically, I try to remember to dump the compost during the day.


This is actually quite amusing. Nothing wrong with keeping the compost on the counter till sun-up. Sandra, I’m so, so excited that your book is finally out in the world, and thank you for the chance to interview you about it. I’m glad to be one of your Fearless sisters! Hugs.

Fans, you can find out more about Sandra and her books on her website. Feel free to follow her on Twitter and like her Facebook page as well. She also blogs about some pretty cool things. But, most importantly, you can purchase her book at  Indie Bound, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, just about anywhere that they sell books. Believe me, you will want to own your very own copy of Lark Rising!!! Look for book two—Silver Eve—in Fall of 2015. Best wishes and happy reading!

Sandra Waugh greSandra Waugh #818 cropped final.w 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, is now out from Random House.


Kerry_Offiicial_Author_Photo_copyKerry O’Malley Cerra’s career as an author began at age five when she wrote her first story using crayons on the back wall of her family’s house. She later graduated with a Social Science Education degree from the University of South Florida—GO BULLS!—and taught high school history. After meeting her most awesome critique pals, she joined SCBWI, helped launch Whatcha’ Reading Now?, got an agent, sold a book, and the rest is history—which is her favorite subject ya’ know! Her middle grade novel, JUST A DROP OF WATER, is now out from Sky Pony Press. You can follow her on Twitter at @kerryocerra and purchase her book at any of these locations: Indiebound, Powell’s Books, Amazon, Books-A-Million, and Barnes & Noble.

Introducing Patrick Samphire


Today we’re going to introduce you to Patrick Samphire, whose thrilling middle grade adventure, SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, is due to be published in August 2015 by Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt / Macmillan. With no further ado:

Well, hello. You seem familiar.

Why, thank you. You may have seen me on television. Although, to be honest, that’s unlikely, as I don’t think I’ve ever actually been on television.

More likely it’s because, originally, my incredibly awesome, impossible-to-miss, thrilling, hilarious novel, SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, was going to be published in 2014, and then it wasn’t, and now it’s going to come out in 2015 (probably August 18th, but, you know…) Anyway, so, and all that, I introduced myself last year, and now I’m doing it again. Hello.

So what’s changed since then?

Well, for one thing, SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB is now shorter, sleeker, and faster (rather like me, except for the shorter, sleeker, and faster parts), and my super-brave hero is now twelve years old instead of fourteen.

Are you going to tell us about the book?

Yes I am. Just here. Look:

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb

Not actually the book cover…

Mars in 1816 is a world of high Society, deadly danger, and strange clockwork machines. Pterodactyls glide through the sky, automatic servants hand out sandwiches at elegant garden parties, and in the north, the great dragon tombs hide marvels of Ancient Martian technology.

Twelve-year-old Edward Sullivan has always dreamed of becoming a spy like the ones he reads about in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales. Instead, he spends his days keeping his eccentric family from complete disaster … that is, until the villainous archaeologist, Sir Titus Dane, kidnaps Edward’s parents as part of a scheme to loot an undiscovered dragon tomb.

Edward sets off in pursuit across the Martian wilderness. With him are his brilliant and outrageous little sister, Putty, his impossibly starchy older sister, Olivia, and his secretive cousin, Freddie. Together they must evade Sir Titus’s minions, battle mechanical nasties, and escape deadly Martian hunting machines. If they can’t, they’ll never uncover the secrets of the dragon tomb and rescue Edward’s family.

SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB is an exciting, funny middle grade adventure full of fantastic inventions, terrible danger, exotic creatures, and larger-than-life characters.

You can add SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB on goodreads. I’ll wait.

That picture up there? That’s not the cover. I couldn’t stand not having a cover yet, so I did this instead.

That book sounds utterly awesome. Can I pre-order it?

As it happens, you can! Here’s a few places:

Book Depository | Books-a-Million | Powell’s Books

It’s also listed on Indiebound, but whether you can preorder it there yet will depend on your local indie bookstore.

Do you have a photo of you with a dinosaur?

Of course! Who doesn’t?

In which the author attempts suicide by T. Rex.

Somehow, I don’t think that fence is going to be enough…

Want to tell us about yourself?

Sure. Why not?

I’ve been a teacher, physicist, editor, web designer, explorer, and consultant idler. I’ve lived in Africa, South America, Europe, the U.K., and on several small asteroids part way between Mars and Jupiter. You can often find me on twitter at @patricksamphire.

I’m married to another writer, Stephanie Burgis, who also writes middle grade novels. Her first book, Kat, Incorrigible, was published in 2011. She has two other full length novels out, Renegade Magic and Stolen magic, as well as a novella in the same series, Courting Magic, which has just been published. Because I am multi-talented (as well as painfully modest) I designed the cover for the novella.

When I’m not writing, I design author websites and ebook covers.

Sometimes I like to make things up for my biography. Then I can’t remember what was true and what wasn’t. It’s all a bit confusing, really.

Last chance to say something interesting.

As well as writing middle grade novels, I also write fantasy short stories for teenagers and adults. You can find them on my website. Some of them are available as ebooks, and some are free online.

I’m so excited that I’m going to get the chance to share SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB with you in 2015. I loved writing this book, and I really hope you enjoy it!

The sequel to SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, which may or may not end up being called THE EMPEROR OF MARS, will come out in 2016.

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 August 2015. He lives in Wales, U.K., where it occasionally doesn’t rain.



In the latest installment of our OneFourKidLit interview series, we’re checking in with author Heidi Schulz on her debut, Hook’s Revenge:


Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she’s sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn’s hopes of following in her father’s fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink.

So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn’t hesitate-here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she’d bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland’s most fearsome beast isn’t enough to deal with, she’s tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited.

The crocodile’s clock is always ticking in Heidi Schulz’s debut novel, a story told by an irascible narrator who is both dazzlingly witty and sharp as a sword. Will Jocelyn find the courage to beat the incessant monster before time runs out?

Powell’s | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble | Amazon
Add Hook’s Revenge to your Goodread’s shelves.


ARJ: I have to say that you have one of the most fun bios I’ve seen in a long time, Heidi, and that same lively voice and spark come through on the pages of Hook’s Revenge in the character of Jocelyn.

What inspired you to write “what comes next” in the aftermath of Captain Hook’s death, and to discover his daughter was a crucial part of that?

HS: Thank you! That’s so kind of you to say.

Peter Pan was my daughter’s imaginary friend and alter-ego when she was very young. I loved that. I painted fairies and Peter Pan’s shadow on the walls of her bedroom. We fought imaginary pirates with plastic swords, made fairy houses, and pretended to fly off to Neverland at the drop of a hat. I feel like I had been fairly well steeped in the story for a long time before the idea for Hook’s Revenge came to me.

One day, when my daughter was five or six, I had the flu. I entertained her with DVDs of Hook and the 2003 Peter Pan while I slept on the couch. When I woke up, I thought: What if Captain Hook had a daughter?

Hook’s Revenge grew from that question.


ARJ: Peter Pan is obviously a story which stayed with you into adulthood–which other authors and books influenced you as a child? And which ones as an author?

HS: I remember practically devouring wonderful books by Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Betty MacDonald, Shel Silverstein, and Roald Dahl. I also read a lot of classics in elementary school. Heidi (of course), A Little Princess, and Little Women in particular have stuck with me.

However, I tend to extremes in many areas of my life and childhood reading was no exception. I still remember the day I turned in Little Women to my elementary school library. That afternoon on my walk home, I stopped by the corner store for a snack. Instead, I spent my allowance my first Stephen King paperback. The next several years were a far cry from Louisa May Alcott as I read every Stephen King and V.C. Andrews book I could get my hands on.

I look back now and wonder what my parents would have said if they had realized what I was reading. I mean after they recovered from the shock.

I think one of my biggest influences as an author has to be Roald Dahl. He never spoke down to his audience. He understood that what kids like may not be what adults think they should like. I love that about his books. I certainly aspire to write for kids and to kids in the same way.


ARJ: Can you share a little bit about your writing journey for Hook’s Revenge? I understand it sold at auction, and that must have been exciting and nervewracking for all involved.

HS: Sure! As I mentioned, I had the idea for this book when my daughter was five or six. She will be turning fourteen next month so things certainly didn’t happen all at once. I wrote bits and pieces on occasion, just for fun, but it wasn’t until early in 2012 I felt I was ready to get serious about finishing it and seeking publication.

At that time, I had little more than a rough draft, but I went to work revising and polishing the best I could. I shared with a couple friends and incorporated their feedback. I also tried to learn as much about the business of publishing as I possibly could. I read blogs, followed industry processionals on twitter, joined SCBWI, and attended my first writing conference. In October of that year I signed with my agent, Brooks Sherman.

Brooks is an editorial agent and his feedback really helped prepare my manuscript to go on submission. After working together on revisions, Brooks sent Hook’s Revenge to editors the first week of December.

I did my best to put it out of my mind. I went on vacation with my family, came home, and got caught up in the Christmas season. I don’t mean to say I wasn’t nervous, but for me, being on sub was far easier than querying. I felt like I had done everything I could and that I could let go a little.

We got our first offer toward the middle of January and I was thrilled. Hook’s Revenge would be a real book! The next week we got a second offer and I learned my book would go to auction. I couldn’t believe it. It seemed too incredible to be true. Then Brooks notified all the editors that still had my manuscript and three more expressed interest.

I spoke to all five editors on the phone over the next week. Among other things, we talked about editorial vision and process. I was impressed by each one of those women. They were smart and had such great ideas for my book. I could have worked with any of them, but for a story set in the world of Peter Pan, I was really hoping to find a home with Disney•Hyperion. I wasn’t sure how many of the editors would end up offering, but I knew which one I had my fingers crossed tightest for.

The day of the auction came and I was shocked again when all five editors offered! It was really quite overwhelming. After negotiations, there was a clear stand out. I agreed to Disney·Hyperion’s publication offer on February 5, 2013—the 60th anniversary of Disney’s Peter Pan. It felt like it was meant to be.


ARJ: Without being too spoilery, what do you consider to be the takeaway themes for Hook’s Revenge? I have my own ideas of what they might be, but I’m always curious if I think they’re the same as the author’s.

HS: You know, it’s funny. I didn’t start writing with themes in mind. They emerged, often to my surprise, as I wrote and revised. I think, at its heart, Hook’s Revenge is about finding out who you are and what you can accomplish based on your own strengths. It’s about not being afraid to do things your own way, even if it means making mistakes. It’s about learning to believe in yourself, even if—especially if—everyone else seems to think you’ll fail.

It’s also about how cats are awful.


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

HS: Well, it’s no secret that I am both suspicious of and nervous around giraffes, but I was recently surprised at just how much I’m actually afraid of them. A few weeks ago, my family convinced me to have an up close encounter with one at a local wildlife safari place. I was on the back of a flatbed truck, pressed against the far side of the railing, sweating profusely and giggling hysterically as a giant giraffe ate lettuce from my hand. Here is a photo. It was far scarier than I expected it to be. I don’t think I will repeat the experience.

I am not afraid of speaking in public. I do get nervous, but it’s more of an energized feeling.

I am aware that neither of those emotions is normal. I’m rather odd, aren’t I?


Heidi Schulz is a writer, reader, and giraffe suspicioner. She lives in Salem, Oregon with her husband, co-captaining a crew made of their teen daughter, a terrible little dog, and five irascible chickens. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, HOOK’S REVENGE, will be published by Disney•Hyperion on September 16, 2014. A sequel, HOOK’S REVENGE: THE PIRATE CODE, will follow in fall 2015. Bloomsbury Kids will publish her picture book debut, GIRAFFES RUIN EVERYTHING, in 2016.

Website | Twitter  | Facebook  | Goodreads

In keeping with her scattered Gemini nature, Angelica R. Jackson has far too many interests to list here. She has an obsession with creating more writing nooks in the home she shares with her husband, and two corpulent cats, in California’s Gold Country. Fortunately, the writing nooks serve for reading and cat cuddling too. Her debut novel, CROW’S REST, a darkly funny young adult urban fantasy, is coming from Spencer Hill Press in May 2015.



Today we welcome OnFour KidLit author Stefanie Gaither to the Fearless Fifteeners blog. Here’s the summary of her book, FALLS THE SHADOW, which is out today!

ftsWhen Cate Benson was a kid, her sister, Violet, died. Two hours after the funeral, Cate’s family picked up Violet’s replacement. Like nothing had happened. Because Cate’s parents are among those who decided to give their children a sort of immortality—by cloning them at birth—which means this new Violet has the same smile. The same perfect face. Thanks to advancements in mind-uploading technology, she even has all of the same memories as the girl she replaced.

She also might have murdered the most popular girl in school.

At least, that’s what the paparazzi and the anti-cloning protestors want everyone to think: that clones are violent, unpredictable monsters. Cate is used to hearing all that. She’s used to defending her sister, too. But Violet has vanished, and when Cate sets out to find her, she ends up in the line of fire instead. Because Cate is getting dangerously close to secrets that will rock the foundation of everything she thought was true.

In a thrilling debut, Stefanie Gaither takes readers on a nail-biting ride through a future that looks frighteningly similar to our own time and asks: how far are you willing to go to keep your family together?


  1. Congratulations on the release of FALLS THE SHADOW! Is this the first book you’ve written? What was the inspiration for this story?

Thanks for the congrats!  And nope, FALLS is actually the fourth book I wrote. It grew out of a lifelong fascination with sci-fi, and a love of stories that center around families and all the different ways they fall apart and come together.

  1. World-building is a huge part of writing a science fiction book. What kind of research did this story require?

If you were to check my browser’s search history, you’d find a lot of really strange things, and some things that could possibly be really incriminating (my searches about biological warfare were all hypothetical, I swear!). FALLS was especially interesting because, when it came to cloning–which is obviously a big focus of the book–there’s an absolute ton of stuff out there to read. And I started off interested in the science behind it with most researching ventures, but I ended up spending just as much (if not more) time reading all of the different opinion pieces on both sides of the ethical debate. I thought I had the pros and cons of it all figured out before I started, but a lot of what I read helped me shape the characters and their world in what was hopefully a more realistic way, complete with shades of gray between those “pros” and “cons”.

  1. What are some of your favorite science fiction books or films?

THE GIVER and ENDER’S GAME were two of my favorites growing up. As for films, I guess I can’t not mention Star Wars, since I grew up quoting episodes 4, 5, and 6. The Matrix renewed my love of sci-fi when I was a teenager, and a more recent sci-fi film that I really liked (and am still thinking about a few weeks after watching it) is Mr. Nobody, which was a random good Netflix find.

  1. Can you tell us a little about what you’re working on now?

I’ve got a few projects bouncing around at the moment; working on some edits for an epic fantasy I finished a while back, as well as dabbling into a few new possible sci-fi projects and seeing if they go anywhere (including a possible second book set in the same world as FALLS). I know that’s super vague, sorry! I guess I’m sort of in between definite projects at the moment. I am definitely working on growing a baby, though, and she will be debuting in December. Does that count? 🙂

  1. Finally, since this is a Fearless Fifteeners interview, we’d like to know something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of.

Something I’m not afraid of: trying new things. New places, new foods, new experiences– I’ll try just about anything once. Skydiving, zip lining, whitewater rafting, whatever. But I’m terrified of anything creepy-crawly. Moths freak me out especially (seriously, look closely at the next one you see. So. FREAKY). And last week the sight of a giant spider in my bathroom reduced me to tears while I screamed for my husband (he’ll tell you it wasn’t that big, but I assure you he’s lying).


sgaither_author_photoAfter owning and co-managing a coffee shop for several years while simultaneously earning her BA in English, Stefanie Gaither left the small-business world behind to focus on her author career instead. Now, in addition to penning YA novels, she also works part-time as a copywriter for an advertising agency. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and an incredibly spoiled Shih Tzu. Visit her at

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

Happy September Fifteenth!


It’s September, so one of us can now say she’s a published author. Congratulations, Kerry O’Malley Cerra, on the release of JUST A DROP OF WATER! And that’s not all–read on for the rest of our Fearless Fifteener news.

Interviews and Cool Posts

Stacey Lee wins the SCBWI Book Launch Award. Congratulations, Stacey!

Cindy L. Rodriguez reviews our very own Moriah McStay‘s EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU and Gail Nall‘s BREAKING THE ICE.

Amitha King interviews Fonda Lee about her favorite childhood reads (among other things) in conjunction with her Asian American children’s authors series.

Angelica R. Jackson dishes on what drew her to writing in her interview with The Writer Librarian.

Mackenzi Lee reveals the eleven things you learn in your first month as a bookseller.

MarcyKate Connolly teaches querying writers how to deal with multiple agent offers.

Cover Reveals

Operation Awesome has the incredibly detailed cover of Angelica R. Jackson‘s CROW’S REST.

YA Highway reveals the Chucks-tacular cover of Susan Adrian‘s TUNNEL VISION (and don’t miss the giveaway at the bottom of the post!).

The NaNoWriMo Blog reveals the simple-but-stunning cover of Kelly Loy Gilbert‘s CONVICTION (including a three-way conversation with Kelly, her editor, and her cover’s designer).

All Four Kids: An Interview with Edith Cohn, author of SPIRIT’S KEY


For today’s edition of our OneFourKidLit interview series, we’ll be interviewing debut’er Edith Cohn.  Here’s the down-low on this MG gem:

20518878“By now, twelve-year-old Spirit Holden should have inherited the family gift: the ability to see the future. But when she holds a house key in her hand like her dad does to read its owner’s destiny, she can’t see anything. Maybe it’s because she can’t get over the loss of her beloved dog, Sky, who died mysteriously. Sky was Spirit’s loyal companion, one of the wild dogs that the local islanders believe possess dangerous spirits. As more dogs start dying and people become sick, too, almost everyone is convinced that these dogs and their spirits are to blame—except for Spirit. Then Sky’s ghost appears, and Spirit is shaken. But his help may be the key to unlocking her new power and finding the cause of the mysterious illness before it’s too late.”

Indiebound                    Goodreads                  Barnes & Noble                 Amazon

DG: SPIRIT’S KEY has such a unique, fascinating setting. Could you briefly
describe it for our readers, and maybe give some background on what
inspired you to set the story there?

EC: Bald Island is a remote island filled with magic keys, wild dogs, and
superstitious characters. It’s a fictional place, but I drew inspiration from
the real, and truly magical Outer Banks of NC. One of my earliest visions for
the story included a scene where a young girl comes across the body of a
dog washed up on a beach. That was when I knew the book would be set
on an island, a place where islanders believe the wild dogs have dangerous
spirits. And twelve-year-old Spirit must work with the ghost of her dog Sky to
unravel the mystery of what’s killing the island’s dogs.

DG: A central conflict in SPIRIT’S KEY is your main character, Spirit, trying
to protect and defend the wild dogs on the island. Is animal rights/
protection an important issue to you?

EC: Yes, it certainly is, however an issue even closer to my heart is revealing fear
and prejudice through a unique lens. For me, this is the beauty of speculative
fiction. It can help us see our own world in a slightly different way. People are
sometimes more sympathetic toward animals than people, and so I hope the
novel can be a springboard for larger discussions about tolerance.

DG: The inhabitants of the island have some strong superstitions; do YOU
have any superstitions we should know about?

EC: Ha! This is a great question. I don’t always succeed, but I try hard not to be
superstitious, because I think it’s a bad idea. For example, it’s easy to get
superstitious about one’s writing—to say things like, I can only write well if I
have perfect silence. I can only write well if my desk is clean, if it faces north,
if I have the most perfect and comfortable chair, etc, etc. And then when
things aren’t just so, you can’t write. I try instead to focus on my passion for
the story I want to tell, and usually that pushes me through these sorts of
superstitions and all the fear I have surrounding whether or not the story
will be good enough. Note I said usually. 😉

DG: In many ways this books is about Spirit deciding who she is, discovering
her identity, and staying true to herself. If Spirit were all grown up and
trying to become a writer, what advice would you give her?

EC: Spirit has a passion and talent for understanding animals. All grown up, I
see her as an important advocate for animal rights. I would encourage her to
write essays and stories about her experiences and opinions. Writing can be
a powerful tool toward the change we want to see in the world.

DG: SPIRIT’S KEY is your debut novel; what has been the most surprising or
exciting thing about the publishing journey so far?

EC: Both the most surprising and exciting thing was having Newbery Honor
winning author, Rita Williams-Garcia read SPIRIT’S KEY and love it. I’m a
big fan of hers and to have another author I respect read my book and sit
down with me to discuss it was really amazing. She had so many nice things
to say, and I’m at this moment smiling remembering how she analyzed some
of the names of my characters. Nector: like Hector only sweeter. Mrs. Borse:
Stubborn like a big horse. Up until that point, I’d never had anyone read my
work and “get it” in the way that she did.

DG: What’s coming up next for you? Is there another book on the horizon?

EC: I’m hard at work on two different middle grade novels. One is a fantasy and
the other is set in the future. They are both pretty ambitious undertakings, so
we’ll see if I can pull them off.

DG: In SPIRT’S KEY, Spirit can see a glimpse of a person’s future when
holding their house key. If you could see a glimpse of your writing life a
year or two from now, what would you hope to see?

EC: Well, I’d love to have a good draft of one of those books I mentioned above.
I’d be nicer still if the book was ready to enter the world. Though I think it’s
important to write without a focus on the outcome. So even if I had a chance
to know my future, I’d be inclined to be like Mrs. Hatterask (a character in
SPIRIT’S KEY who is tortured by hurricanes), who doesn’t want to know
what’s to come.

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

EC: I’m really afraid of the day my dog might die or be lost. From the moment
you get a dog, you know (chances are) you’ll outlive him or her, and it’s
terrifying. This is one of the reasons I wanted to write a book about a ghost
dog. I wanted to imagine that my dog could live beyond the grave. I had a
lot of trouble coming up with something I wasn’t afraid of! Not sure what
that means, but anyway. I think most of the time, like Spirit, I’m not afraid to
stand up for the things I believe in, and usually I’m not afraid to write about
them either.

About Edith Cohn:edith_cohn-9621

Edith Cohn was born and raised in North Carolina where she grew up exploring the unique beaches of the Outer Banks. She currently lives in the coyote-filled hills of Los Angeles with her husband and fur-daughter Leia. All of these things provided inspiration for her debut middle grade novel, SPIRIT’S KEY, a mystery about a girl and her ghost dog coming soon from FSG/Macmillan.


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, 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: An Interview With Kate Bassett, Author of WORDS AND THEIR MEANINGS


Today in our OneFourKidLit interview series, we welcome Kate Bassett, author of the new YA Contemporary Words and Their Meanings. Thanks for stopping by, Kate, and congratulations on your debut!

Here’s what you need to know about Words and Their Meanings:

Words and Their Meanings (5)Anna O’Mally doesn’t believe in the five stages of grief. Her way of dealing with death equates to daily bouts of coffin yoga and fake-tattooing Patti Smith quotes onto her arms. Once a talented writer, Anna no longer believes words matter, until shocking discoveries–in the form of origami cranes–force her to redefine family and love.

As Anna goes in search of the truth, she discovers that while every story, every human being, has a last line, it might still be possible to find the words for a new beginning.

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

KH: Words and Their Meanings is a novel about dealing with grief—and it handles the subject with brutal, heart-wrenching honesty. What made you want to tackle this difficult topic? 

KB: Believe me, there were times when I would call my critique partner (Fearless Fifteener Alison DeCamp!) and say, “Why didn’t I write about something funny?”

The thing is, grief can hit us at any stage in life, and it takes on many, many different forms. I knew I wanted to try and write a raw, close-to-the-bone kind of story. I’m in my mid-30s now, and I’ve seen enough (and felt enough) loss to understand how paralyzing it can feel. And not just grieving loved ones. There’s a grief that comes naturally with growing up and beginning to understand more about the world and the people we know and care for deeply. There’s grief in that floundering search for identity we all go through at some point. There’s grief attached with the creative process. I wanted to tell a story that could be honest about this, but also show some hope on the other side.

KH: Did you know from the beginning that Anna would be a writer? Why did you decide to have her express herself in this way?

KB: Anna, as a character, hung out in my head a long time before ever coming to life on the page. I always knew she’d be a writer. I think in a lot of ways, Anna’s relationship with her words mirrors some of the struggles I went through as a writer who earned a lot of recognition in high school. I won some pretty big awards before graduating, and while there was no external pressure put on me, I still had a huge amount of anxiety about being “good enough.” I actually stopped really writing for a time in college because reading other students’ work that was fantastic didn’t inspire me, it made me feel like a failure. I forgot why I loved writing in the first place. It took a long time and some amazing college professors to pull me out of my own head.

I wanted to revisit some of these feelings with Anna because I think that’s a very real emotional state for a lot of teenagers who discover a passion or “talent” early in life. Exploring what that can manifest as, and how to let go of the need for validation, felt like a good fit with what else was going on in Anna’s world.

KH: Where did Anna’s Patti Smith obsession come from? Do you share it—or do you have another musician/artist/writer you’re obsessed with?

KB: I read Just Kids, Patti Smith’s memoir, while writing Words and Their Meanings, and remember being really struck by Patti’s eternal optimism in the face of so much loss. Her perspective on life, creativity, art… It all felt connected to Anna. It wasn’t until I was at my parents’ house one morning, half-watching the television, that a match struck. Patti was being interviewed in the Chelsea Hotel. It was the first time she’d been back in the room she once shared with Robert Mapplethorpe. The tenderness and loss, and how each relationship shaped who she is today—it just became really clear that she’s a person Anna would cling to in her darkest hours.

I love Patti’s music, and love her poetry and photography as well. I would say as a teen I was much (much, much) more obsessed with Janis Joplin. I worshipped every note. I played those songs until my parents’ ears were ready to bleed (and she was “their” generation’s voice, not mine). Still, there was something alive and broken about her voice that I clung to in my darkest hours.

KH: I really loved the way you used origami cranes in the book. It’s such a unique and memorable element. How did you come up with it? And have you folded 1,000 of them yourself?

KB: Art, in various forms, is woven throughout the book. When I thought about Anna’s grandfather, origami immediately came to mind. His character is more linear and mechanical. He’s a literal and metaphorical fixer with a heavy dose of left-brain thinking. Origami is beautiful, but also precise. It’s delicate but strong. It’s the sort of art form I thought he’d use to connect to all his artistic loved ones.

Also, origami is folded. There’s something that feels secret about the way it’s constructed. Unfolding something like, say, an origami crane, reveals creases that are lovely and interesting in their own right.  And of course, there are such beautiful stories and myths that surround the creation of 1,000 cranes.

Truth time: I can’t fold a crane to save my soul. I’ve tried. The wings are never even, the neck turns out all wrong, and I end up making a paper airplane instead.

KH: You surrounded Anna with such an amazing and varied cast of characters, all of whom enhanced the story. Who’s your favorite supporting character in the book, and why?

KB: Ah, good question! My first instinct would be to say Mateo, because I love him for so many reasons (the food alone!).

But if I had to choose, I would say Bea. She’s quirky but still holds on to the most important bits of childhood. And she manages to bring out glimpses of the better parts of her big sister. I think without Bea, Anna would have folded into herself completely.

KH: And finally, as our community is fearless, what’s one thing you’re afraid of and one thing you don’t fear?

KB: I am terrified of spitballs. I gag and shudder even typing that word. Also totally afraid of driving near cliffs or over high bridges. I’ve called one of your fearless crew (Alison, again) more times than I care to admit to just talk, talk, talk to me so I didn’t hyperventilate and pass out on the Mackinac Bridge.

I don’t fear coyotes. In my neck of the woods, that’s actually quite useful.

About Kate:

headshotbasset_kate (5 of 5) copyKate Bassett is the Michigan Press Association award-winning editor of her small town’s newspaper, Harbor Light News, and a contributing writer for Traverse Magazine. She has covered Mount Everest climbers and pet pig obituaries with the same philosophy for 13 years: voice matters. She lives in Harbor Springs with her husband, three children, and one crazy young mutt.

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Kathryn Holmes grew up in Maryville, Tennessee, where she was an avid reader and an aspiring writer from an early age. She now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and piles upon piles of books. A graduate of The New School’s MFA in Creative Writing program, Kathryn works as a freelance dance journalist, among other writing gigs. Her debut YA novel, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND, comes out February 17, 2015 from HarperTeen. You can find Kathryn online at Follow her on Twitter at @Kathryn_Holmes.