ALL FOUR KIDS: AN INTERVIEW WITH MARY ELIZABETH SUMMER, AUTHOR OF TRUST ME, I’M LYING

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Today we get a peek inside the mind of OneFourKidLit author Mary Elizabeth Summer. Her debut Trust me, I’m Lying came out on October 14th. Do yourself a favor and go get a copy. Trust me, you’ll thank me.

Here’s the book’s official blurb:

Fans of Ally Carter’s Heist Society novels will love this teen mystery/thriller with sarcastic wit, a hint of romance, and Ocean’s Eleven–inspired action.

TrustMeImLying-198x300Julep Dupree tells lies. A lot of them. She’s a con artist, a master of disguise, and a sophomore at Chicago’s swanky St. Agatha High, where her father, an old-school grifter with a weakness for the ponies, sends her to so she can learn to mingle with the upper crust. For extra spending money Julep doesn’t rely on her dad—she runs petty scams for her classmates while dodging the dean of students and maintaining an A+ (okay, A-) average.

But when she comes home one day to a ransacked apartment and her father gone, Julep’s carefully laid plans for an expenses-paid golden ticket to Yale start to unravel. Even with help from St. Agatha’s resident Prince Charming, Tyler Richland, and her loyal hacker sidekick, Sam, Julep struggles to trace her dad’s trail of clues through a maze of creepy stalkers, hit attempts, family secrets, and worse, the threat of foster care. With everything she has at stake, Julep’s in way over her head . . . but that’s not going to stop her from using every trick in the book to find her dad before his mark finds her. Because that would be criminal.

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ML: I LOVED Trust Me, I’m Lying like whoa! I couldn’t put it down. I mean I devoured this book in one sitting—I just had to find out how it all turned out. Julep’s voice is a new favorite of mine for sure. In fact, can I be Julep when I grow up? Seriously, she’s amazing! Where did she come from? What drew you to writing from the perspective of a teenage con artist in the first place?

MES: Thank you! I’m so glad you liked it! And believe me, I’d like to be Julep when I grow up, too. 😉 I can’t really take credit for her. I have no idea where she came from. I went to bed one night after watching back-to-back episodes of Leverage and White Collar, thinking “Man, I’d love to read a book with a teenage con artist protagonist.” And then I woke up the next morning with Julep’s voice in my head. I excavated her story, rather than wrote it. I think what made me stick with it, though, what made me race to finish the first draft, was that Julep is so different from me. I grew up the goody-two-shoes that was always correcting people’s behavior and following the rules. But I longed for freedom—the kind of freedom that Julep just expects. She’s brave and confident in a way that I still wish I was.

ML: Quite a large chunk of Trust Me, I’m Lying takes place in an elite Catholic prep school. Did you attend Catholic school yourself?

MES: Nope! But I did go to a very small liberal arts women’s college in the middle of nowhere upstate New York, so I drew a lot from that experience (and from the experience of others I know who have gone to private Catholic schools).

ML: Sing it with me: “This … Is … myyyy kind of town, Chicago is … my kind of town …” What made you set Trust Me, I’m Lying in Chicago?

MES: Whenever I think of con artists, I sort of get this prohibition-era 1920’s sort of vibe. And whenever I think of prohibition-era 1920’s, I think of Chicago. I’m not really sure why, but it probably has something to do with movies I’ve seen and books I’ve read and internalized. Anyway, that’s why I picked Chicago. I wanted a city that said “crime” but in a smart and sophisticated kind of way.

ML: There are so many great twists and turns! I gotta say, I’m usually really good at guessing, but you, my friend, have a real talent for keeping readers like me on our toes. There’s one thing in particular that I had to read about four times to make sure I read it right, that it really happened. How much planning went into all the twists? Did any happen that surprised even you?

MES: Yes! All of them! This is what I meant earlier by excavating rather than writing. That one particular twist you had to read four times (I know which one it was, because I also had to read it a bunch of times as I was writing it)–that one came as a complete shock, and it scared the pants off me, too, which is how I knew it was right. But, man, was I in denial about it for a few weeks. And then it got worse when I revised and put in a bunch of stuff that made me regret that twist even more. But what are you gonna do? Most of the twists happened that way. I’d be writing along, enjoying things, and then WHAM, a character shows up and breaks everything. Pesky characters.

ML: Your secondary Characters are so, so, so good. Who was your favorite to write?

MES: I enjoyed all of them for different reasons, but probably the one I enjoy writing the most is Dani. English isn’t her first language, and I get a kick out of mangling it when she gets upset. Plus, writing from her perspective is uniquely challenging. I say that Julep is my opposite, but we do share a lot of background things in common: American white girl with a decent education. Dani is WAY outside my experience, like from-a-different-planet outside my experience. I’m still not sure I did her justice, really, but I tried.

ML: Speaking of secondary characters, I know there’s a certain person who wears a certain coat I wouldn’t mind reading more about. Would you ever consider writing anything from any other characters’ POV?

MES: Funny you should ask that. There’s a novella that’s coming out in between Trust Me, I’m Lying and the sequel Trust Me, I’m Trouble that’s half someone else’s perspective. Not the person you’re talking about—ahem—but somebody else. Don’t worry, though! Coat-wearer is very much present in the novella and Trust Me, I’m Trouble, so you’ll get plenty more of that dynamic. 😉

ML: Trust Me, I’m Lying was one of Teen Vogue’s 15 most exciting YA books coming out this year and it was an Autumn 2014 Kids’ Indie Next List pick! How did that feel?

MES: Pretty freaking fantastic. I think I broke a window with my squeeing. (I have a very high-pitched squee.)

ML: There’s a sequel, right? Can you tell us anything about it? Will we be seeing any of our old favorites? *coughSamcough*

MES: Are you kidding? All of these characters are far too nosey and narcissistic to just walk off stage. Well, one of them walks off stage. But all the others are back in action for book two, with a few new ones sprinkled in to keep us all guessing. And if you think there are twists in book 1, well, prepare yourself for book 2. It’s a doozy. *coughSamcough*

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

MES: If there’s one thing that keeps me up at night, it’s letting people down. It kept me up last night, in fact. I do take on too much for that reason, and I should probably teach myself how to say ‘no’ someday, but for now, I’ll just keep pouring my 12 pounds of flour into my 2-pound sack.

One thing I’m NOT afraid of is public speaking. People are just people, and if you talk to them like you’re having a conversation with them, it’s easy, even for this giant introvert (*points at self*). Plus, if you’re lucky enough to be speaking about something you love (like me and writing), then the passion and excitement bleeds through, and the audience becomes passionate and excited, too.

Thank you SO MUCH, Fearless Fifteeners, for having me on the blog today! And welcome to the debut author club! *high fives*

ML: Thank you for joining us! Now we’ll all try our best to wait patiently for Trust Me, I’m Trouble.

MESummerMary Elizabeth Summer contributes to the delinquency of minors by writing books about unruly teenagers with criminal leanings. She has a BA in creative writing from Wells College, and her philosophy on life is “you can never go wrong with sriracha sauce.” She lives in Portland Oregon with her wife, their daughter, and their evil overlor—er, cat. Visit her at mesummer.com and be sure to follow @mesummerbooks on Twitter.

Michelle Levy squaredMichelle Levy grew up in Littleton, Colorado, but moved to Los Angeles as soon as she was legally allowed because she hates driving in the snow. When she’s not writing, she’s likely working at her other job as a casting director for film and television or skulking about (and occasionally posting—she’s working on that) on Twitter. Her debut, NOT AFTER EVERYTHING, will be released on August 4. 2015 from Dial.

ONE FOUR KIDS: Interview with Natalie C. Parker, author of BEWARE THE WILD

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Today we’re interviewing OneFourKidLit author Natalie C. Parker, whose young adult southern gothic BEWARE THE WILD released yesterday!

About BEWARE THE WILD:

Beware The Wild - Natalie C. Parker

It’s an oppressively hot and sticky morning in June when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp — the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn’t return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed.

Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp’s done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance — and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her.

This debut novel is full of atmosphere, twists and turns, and a swoon-worthy romance.

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NKT: What a compelling pitch! What was the inspiration for BEWARE THE WILD?
NCP: Such a hard question. I imagine inspiration is very like a rain storm. It may seem to arrive all at once, but really it’s been building for a while, traveling great distances, and waiting for all the right conditions to let loose. Which is my way of saying….I really don’t know. I suspect it was something to do with spending much of my childhood in the south, especially during the long, hot summers, and also with a preoccupation with the idea of gatorgirls and boys.

NKT: What kind of things can we expect from your main character, Sterling? What kind of person is she, and what drives her?
NCP: Sterling is devoted, stubborn, and impulsive. She goes after what she wants and doesn’t always wait to consider if she’s chosen the best course of action. This tends to get her into (and sometimes out of!) tight spots.

NKT: Do you have a favorite scene you can tell us a little about?
NCP: Oh, the cruelty of this question! Fine. I will tell you which of my children I like best. I will always, always come back to that opening chapter as one of my darlings. I love meeting Sterling in the context of her beliefs about her brother and the swamp. I love the moment she watches a girl climb over the split-rail fence behind her house. And I love the moment Sterling’s world shatters around a single word… “sister.”

NKT: Do you have any other books in the works?
NCP: I do, indeed. But I don’t think I’m allowed to share much. Suffice to say that there is more to say about this small, swamp town.

NKT: Intriguing…! Tell us about your book’s journey from first draft to publication. Did it undergo any major revisions?
NCP: Oh, did it ever. After signing with my agent, Sarah Davies, I rewrote the whole thing from scratch. After it sold, I rewrote it again for my editor. That time, though, I only rewrote half of it completely from scratch. The rest was more like a face lift.

NKT: What has surprised you most about the publication process? Any words of advice for our Fearless Fifteeners?
NCP: Not much has surprised me about this process, but I have learned that being kind to yourself becomes a tricky thing when you are surrounded by ambitious, talented people. There is this pressure to squeeze writing into every spare second you can find, but life is a lot bigger than publishing. Practice dismissing the guilt you will inevitably feel for doing the things you love. It won’t make your writing less.

NKT: Great advice! And finally, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of.
NCP: Something I’m afraid of: JELLYFISH, UNHOLY SPAWN OF UNHOLY THINGS
Something I’m not afraid of: Dead Jellyfish

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

About Natalie:

Natalie C Parker

Natalie C Parker grew up in a Navy family where having adventures was as common as reading fairy tales.

She graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in English, then went on to earn her MA in Women’s Studies at the University of Cincinnati. Continuing her efforts as a lifelong scholar, she currently works on a project studying climate change at the University of Kansas where she eavesdrops on the conversations of brilliant scientists gathering fodder for future novels.

Though still baffled by having ended up in a landlocked state, she lives in Kansas with her partner in a house of monsters.

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NK TraverAs a freshman at the University of Colorado, N.K. Traver decided to pursue Information Technology because classmates said “no one could make a living” with an English degree. It wasn’t too many years later she realized it didn’t matter what the job paid—nothing would ever be as fulfilling as writing. Her debut, DUPLICITY, a YA cyberthriller pitched as BREAKING BAD meets THE MATRIX, will release from Macmillan/Thomas Dunne Books March 17, 2015.

ONE FOUR KIDS: Interview with Linda Vigen Phillips, Author of CRAZY

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Today we welcome Linda Vigen Phillips whose book, CRAZY, comes out today from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.


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Laura is a typical fifteen-year-old growing up in the 1960’s, navigating her way through classes, friendships, and even a new romance. But she’s carrying around a secret: her mother is suffering from a mental illness.

No one in Laura’s family will talk about her mother’s past hospitalizations or increasingly erratic behavior, and Laura is confused and frightened. She finds some solace in art, but when her mother, also an artist, suffers a breakdown, Laura fears that she will follow in her mother’s footsteps. Left without a refuge, can she find the courage to face what scares her most?


Set in the 60s during the time of JFK’s death, CRAZY is a touching story about a teen girl trying to live a normal life while her mother completely unravels before her eyes. Laura’s struggle is summed up beautifully in the following verse from the novel:

How do you keep things normal
in a household where
craziness is as common as
fruitflies in the summer?

YA novels often feature teens who are attempting to avoid turning into their parents. What makes CRAZY special is that it features a teen who knows that turning into her mother may be inevitable. And this terrifies her.

Laura’s plight is heartbreakingly real. This story will haunt you long after you put down the book.

And now for some questions with Linda!

HB: This story is based on your own personal experience. Did that make it easier to write or harder?

LVP: I am about half way through my second book, and I’m having to work a lot harder because that well of memory and personal experience is not there.  Even though CRAZY was shaped over more years than you want to hear about, it came rolling out relatively easily, sometimes as if I was replaying an old movie.  Of course it is still fiction based on facts, so I did have to do some actual thinking and inventing, but the parts that are closest to the real happenings were the easiest and most exciting to write.

HB: Do you think Laura’s reaction to her mother’s illness would be much different if you set the story in 2014?

LVP: Well, there are definitely resources today that were not available in the sixties, but I am also increasingly amazed at the number of people who still don’t talk about mental illness or quite know how to deal with it in themselves or their loved ones.  So I think a teenager today could potentially have reactions similar to Laura’s, but it would, of course, depend on the resources available to her and the nature of her family and social networks.


About Linda Vigen Phillips

Linda Vigen Phillips

Linda Vigen Phillips is a retired teacher living with her husband in North Carolina near her sons and two grandkids. CRAZY, a YA novel written in verse, is her debut book drawn from her own experiences coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness while growing up in Oregon. You can connect with Linda on Twitter and Facebook.

About Holly Bodger

Holly Bodger is the author of 5 TO 1, a novel in half-verse coming from Knopf on May 12, 2015. You can find her complaining about the Canadian weather on Twitter and Facebook.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with R.C. Lewis, Author of STITCHING SNOW

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Today we’ve got the delightful R.C. Lewis here on the Fifteeners blog talking about her debut YA Sci-fi STITCHING SNOW. It’s a gritty retelling of Snow White (in space!) with one of my favorite heroines ever. (And just look at the gorgeous cover!)

Princess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.

Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.

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MK. I adore the idea of a bad-ass cage-fighting princess! What sparked the idea for STITCHING SNOW?

RC. This is the one story idea of mine where I know the exact spark! I was driving home from work and heard a line in a Florence + The Machine song (“Blinding”) about Snow White stitching up a circuit board. That was the spark, and the whole story grew from there.

MK. Not only does STITCHING SNOW feature a badass main character, but you also crafted a wonderful cast of supporting characters, including my personal favorite, Dimwit, one of the seven drones. If this were a reality show, what would the drones say about life with Essie in their one-on-one camera moments?

RC. Here’s a transcript of what a few of them would say in their confessionals.

Ticktock: Essie’s performance of critical maintenance tasks falls within acceptable parameters ninety-one-point-four percent of the time.

Dimwit: Essie Cusser fix Cusser.

Cusser: $#@!*, Dimwit.

MK. Do you have a favorite scene you can tell us a little about?

RC. There’s a scene near the end where Essie has to make a split-second decision, not knowing what the outcome will be, what price will be paid. Her fear and pain and desperation in that moment became “real” to me very quickly.

MK. STITCHING SNOW is a reimagining of the fairy tale Snow White – did you encounter any particular challenges taking a classic character into space? Any tips for those who might be considering penning their own retelling?

RC. The main things I had to decide were which elements to incorporate literally, which to twist figuratively, and which to leave out altogether. A core idea of the original fairy tale is that Snow is very passive, naïve character, and that’s one thing I did NOT want. After that decision, it was a matter of, “How can I make this still Snow White, but my take on it?”

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

RC. I’m afraid of speaking in front of a bunch of adults. I’m not afraid of being in front of a crowd of teenagers. Go figure.

Thank you so much for stopping by, RC!


ABOUT RC LEWIS

R.C. Lewis teaches math to teenagers—sometimes in sign language, sometimes not—so whether she’s a science geek or a bookworm depends on when you look. That may explain why her characters don’t like to be pigeonholed. Coincidentally, R.C. enjoys reading about quantum physics and the identity issues of photons. Her debut novel Stitching Snow is a sci-fi retelling of Snow White, releasing October 14, 2014 from Hyperion.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Goodreads

 

MarcyKate Connolly is an author and nonpofit administrator who lives in New England with her husband and pugs and writes weird little books. She’s also a coffee addict and voracious reader. She blogs about all those things and more at MarcyKate.com, and can often be found on Twitter. Her debut upper middle grade fantasy novel, MONSTROUS, will be out from HarperCollins Children’s Books on 2/10/2015.

It’s October Fifteenth, and You Know What That Means…

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News! We’re less than three months away from our first releases, so things are ramping up. We’ve got quite a few cover reveals to catch up on, so prepare to feast your eyes!

Interviews and Cool Posts

The Huffington Post features our own Melissa Grey, Anna-Marie McLemore, Cindy L. Rodriguez, and Adam Silvera in this article on the YA market and Hispanic Heritage Month.

The Cybils Awards appoint Anne Boles Levy as a judge in the Young Adult Speculative Fiction category.

Cindy L. Rodriguez‘s WHEN REASON BREAKS has an official trailer.

The American Booksellers Assocation names a slew of Fearless Fifteeners as Indies Introduce New Voices.

I.W. Gregorio opines on why we need diverse LGBTQI books.

The Latina Book Club interviews Valerie Tejeda about her day job, her night job, and HOLLYWOOD WITCH HUNTER (and includes a link to an ongoing giveaway!).

Cover Reveals

Hypable reveals the cover of Lori Goldstein‘s BECOMING JINN.

Hypable also has the cover of Alexandra Sirowy‘s THE CREEPING.

The Book Smugglers reveal the cover of I.W. Gregorio‘s NONE OF THE ABOVE (and you still have a day to enter their giveaway for an ARC!).

K.E. Ormsbee reveals the cover of THE WATER & THE WILD.

El Space has the cover of Cordelia Jensen‘s SKYSCRAPING.

Stephanie Oakes reveals the cover of THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY.

YA Highway reveals the cover of Lauren Gibaldi‘s THE NIGHT WE SAID YES.

YA Highway also has the cover of Michelle Falkoff‘s PLAYLIST FOR THE DEAD.

Sheila Grau tweets the cover of DR. CRITCHLORE’S SCHOOL FOR MINIONS.

RT Book Reviews reveals the cover of Maggie Hall‘s THE CONSPIRACY OF US.

And Krista Van Dolzer reveals the cover of THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING.

One Four Kids: Interview with Kelsey Macke, Author of Damsel Distressed

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Kelsey Macke’s amazing debut, DAMSEL DISTRESSED, is out today, and you are crazy if you’re not out buying your copy this very second!

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Hot girls get the fairy tales. No one cares about the stepsisters’ story. Those girls don’t get a sweet little ending; they get a lifetime of longing.

Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever after-in fact, she doesn’t think they are possible. Ever since her mother’s death seven years ago, Imogen has pulled herself in and out of therapy.
When Imogen’s new stepsister, Ella Cinder, moves in down the hall, Imogen begins losing grip on the pieces she’s been trying to hold together. The only things that gave her solace–the theatre, cheese fries, and her best friend, Grant–aren’t enough to save her from her pain this time.

While Imogen is enjoying her moment in the spotlight after the high school musical, the journal pages containing her darkest thoughts get put on display. Now, Imogen must resign herself to be crushed under the ever-increasing weight of her pain, or finally accept the starring role in her own life story.

And maybe even find herself a happily ever after.

 

I’m Jessica Taylor and I had the incredible pleasure of reading this book and interviewing Kelsey. DAMSEL DISTRESSED is a contemporary fairy tale that manages to be light and heavy hitting at the same time. It touches on the issues of self-harm and OCD in a way that broke me into pieces (there’s a scene regarding Imogen’s scars, between Imogen and her friend, Brice, that had me sobbing). Imogen is sarcastic and wry, yet always completely relatable and sympathetic—a difficult balance that Kelsey Macke has artfully achieved. One of my favorite things about the book was the love interest, Grant, and the subtle and realistic development of the relationship. There’s beauty in the support system built into their friendship. I desperately wanted them to get together! The secondary characters are so well-developed and compelling. You will undoubtedly love Jonathan, Brice, and Antonique almost as much as Imogen. The book hits a wide range of emotional notes—you’ll laugh and cry as you navigate Imogen’s world. DAMSEL DISTRESSED is for theater lovers, fans of fashion, lovers of Disney, haters of Disney, women of all ages, men of all ages, french fry aficionados, and basically anyone with a beating heart. Get yourselves to a real live bookstore or your favorite online retailer immediately!

Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indie Bound.

Kelsey is a writer, teacher, a Vlogger, and half of the indie-pop group Wedding Day Rain. I had the amazing pleasure of meeting Kelsey in real life at DFWCon last year, so I can also tell you that she’s hilarious, super sweet, and always wears a stylish shade of lipstick. I had so much I wanted to say about DAMSEL DISTRESSED that I asked Kelsey about some topics that aren’t as closely related to the text itself. On to the interview!

J- Kelsey, you are a true renaissance woman! Everywhere I go on the internet, I find more of your amazing creativity–from your vlogging skills to your band Wedding Day Rain. I see that you and your talented husband (as Wedding Day Rain) have even produced a soundtrack to DAMSEL DISTRESSED called Imogen Unlocked. Tell me about the process of writing and producing 12 original songs to complement DAMSEL DISTRESSED.

K- Writing songs is VERY different than writing a book, so they absolutely require different skills. That said, working on the album was a collaboration with my husband, so I never really had to go it alone. Creatively, writing a soundtrack for the book was very fulfilling. I like to think of Damsel Distressed as Imogen’s thoughts–the ones she’s aware of. The music, to me, feels more like her subconscious thoughts. She might not ever know that those are her exact feelings, but they’re deeply true and occasionally they’re projections of things she fears or thinks other people believe to be true.

The actual production process is one that Daron and I are very familiar with, but making an album is no joke. So many long nights in the studio, not to mention the long nights revising and re-writing. To do both at once was absolutely crazy. We’re very hopeful that it will prove to have been worth all of the work in the end. 🙂

J- You have one gorgeous cover! It’s so hard to stand out in the current YA market, yet the cover for DAMSEL DISTRESSED is eye-catching, evocative, and most importantly unique. You found your cover artist through a DAMSEL DISTRESSED cover contest. How did that process result in such an incredible cover?

K- I remember being pretty scared at first when Spencer Hill Contemp agreed that a cover contest was the way to go. We’d been talking back and forth for so long about what we wanted and how we wanted the cover to look. We all knew so much of what we didn’t want, but finding what we DID want proved to be very challenging. I have to say that I believe Jenny Zemanek’s design was one of the single most important things to happen to Damsel Distressed. We had something like 50-60 covers submitted and Jenny had submitted a few designs. In the end, two of her designs made the top ten, and the pair of them held the MASSIVE majority of the more than 10,000 votes. She just nailed it.

Like it or not, books get judged by their covers all the time, and I can’t even tell you how many people have stopped dead in their tracks at events or book expos and said, “WOW. That is an awesome cover.”

I can never thank Jenny enough for that. Her cover design is perfect. Moody and evocative. Her contribution has been utterly invaluable.

J- DAMSEL DISTRESSED is the Gold Medal Winner of the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for YA, and MTV Act said [Kelsey Macke is] “changing the state of YA books as we know it with her must read novel.” How does it feel to have your debut novel already receiving critical acclaim?

K- I’m still reeling over that MTV act blurb. I often cover it with my hand when I’m holding my book just because those are BIG WORDS and they’re pretty intimidating–though endlessly awesome. I wouldn’t ever say such a thing about my own work, obviously, but it’s pretty cool that the book + soundtrack pairing is very new, if it’s ever been done in this way before at all.

And the Gold Moonbeam Award gives me the same feeling. I am just so floored to find that human beings are reading it, let alone liking it, let alone having emotional responses to it. This story has been just mine for so long, it’s hard to explain the feeling of possessiveness that has flooded my mind over these past few months. Now that it’s out though, all of that has melted away. It feels ready to be read; now I just have to let her fly.

It is a great joy to be able to share something of myself with the world, and words and gestures such as these great honors return that joy to me tenfold.

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Kelsey Macke has been creative for as long as she can remember. From an early age she was on stage singing, penning poetry, and writing notebooks full of songs. When the idea for her debut novel, DAMSEL DISTRESSED, popped into her head, she was undeterred by the fact that she had no idea how to actually write a novel. Her bff, the internet, was her guide, and after much trial, error, and candy, she finished it, and set out to get it published… a process far more difficult than, the internet (now her mortal enemy), had lead her to believe.

Her whirlwind adventure was made even more unbelievable when she signed with fabulous agent, Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency and, shortly after, Danielle Ellison of Spencer Hill Contemporary bought her debut.

 

This innovative, mixed-media art project has given Kelsey an incredibly unique opportunity to join two of her passions: writing and making music with her husband as half of the folky, indie-pop band Wedding Day Rain. Visit her online at http://kelseymacke.com/ or follow her on Twitter @KelsNotChels.

Jessica TaylorJessica Taylor is an author and fashion industry professional. She adores sleepy southern settings, unrequited love, and characters who sneak out late at night. She lives in Northern California with a sweet-yet-spoiled dog and several teetering towers of books. Her debut, INVINCIBLE WILD, a young adult magical realism novel, is slated for Fall 2015 release from Egmont USA.

ONE FOUR KIDS: AN INTERVIEW WITH SARA RAASCH, AUTHOR OF SNOW LIKE ASHES

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Hey guys, I’m Sabaa Tahir, here interviewing the delightfully fun YA fantasy author Sara Raasch for the Fifteeners blog today. Here’s the summary of her awesome book, SNOW LIKE ASHES, out from Balzer & Bray on October 14:

17399160A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

ST: In your dedication, you mention that you’ve been planning this story since you were 12. How did you come up with idea and how long did it take you to write the book?

SR: My memory being what it is, I don’t actually remember where I got the initial idea. I do have the first handwritten draft of SLA, though, and my oh my, is it ever awful. But the foundation of the story is the same — a badass girl named Meira fighting for Winter’s freedom.

I wrote the first draft of the trilogy (yep, the entire trilogy) in my teenage years. Which should have helped when I decided to rewrite it a few years back, but really, only the first books shared any similarities. The final two books in the trilogy are entirely different.

ST: Have you always been a big fantasy reader? Who are your favorite fantasy authors? 

SR: Oh yes! I constantly babble about how much I love her, but my favorite fantasy author is Sharon Shinn. I’ve reread the Twelve Houses series more times than any other books. The world, the characters — it all just feels like coming home.

ST: The world-building in your story is incredible. I loved the tidbits about the Winterian people–their customs and ceremonies and traditions. Without giving anything away, can you tell me a little bit about what inspired that worldbuilding? 

SR: *blushes*

Pinterest inspired the world building. No, seriously — I don’t know how I ever world built before it. Being able to visualize entire cultures and piece together what they do/who they are/how they look is invaluable. Pinterest = an author’s best friend.

ST: Who is your favorite character in the book?  

Well, obvs, Meira, but since that is obvious, I’ll tell ya my second favorite: Sir. Poor, tortured, mysterious Sir. He has a lot of issues, but he’s also, at heart, a very simple dude, and it’s that complexity that makes me love him. Also, in my head, he’s Mads Mikkelsen, so that doesn’t hurt either.

ST: Does Snow Like Ashes have a sequel? If so, can you tell me a little bit about it? When will it be out? Where will the story take us? (Ok, this question is me wanting spoilers, but it was worth a try….) 

Yes! It’s a trilogy. Book 2 comes out in Fall 2015 and Book 3 in Fall 2016. I’m currently editing Book 2, and this book is much darker and more political than SLA. We get to explore the other kingdoms we didn’t touch on in Book 1: Summer, Yakim, and Ventralli. AND we get to meet one of my most favorite characters from the entire series, the Summerian princess, Ceridwen. If you thought Meira was badass, hold onto your chakrams 😉

In terms of spoilers, I will say that I’ve taken to calling Book 2 “the book where everyone dies” because of how many people, well, die in it. Muahahaha. *dramatic music*

ST: What advice do you have for fledgling authors–those just starting out on their writing journey?

Keep moving forward. (And watch Meet the Robinsons when you’re feeling down.)

ST: Last question! Since this is a Fearless Fifteeners interview, I have to ask: What is something you’re afraid of? And what’s something you’re not at all afraid of?  

Failure. Which I think is a fear of every writer. I try to adopt a mindset of positivity with life — dwelling on the possible bad outcomes only feeds more energy to the bad things.

Something I’m not afraid of: saying no. It’s taken me a LONG time to come into this, but being able to stand up for yourself is a hugely important trait. Especially in this industry, where it’s all too easy to get bombarded by requests and tasks and lose yourself in the chaos. Saying no is glorious.

Thank you so much for having me! 2015 will be EPIC 😀

Sara

Sara Raasch has known she was destined for bookish things since the age of five, when her friends had a lemonade stand and she tagged along to sell her hand-drawn picture books too. Not much has changed since then — her friends still cock concerned eyebrows when she attempts to draw things and her enthusiasm for the written word still drives her to extreme measures. Her debut YA fantasy, SNOW LIKE ASHES, is coming out Fall 2014 from Balzer + Bray. It does not feature her hand-drawn pictures. She is represented by Charlotte Sheedy Literary.

 

 

Sabaa 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.

ONE FOUR KIDS: INTERVIEW WITH KRISTEN LIPPERT-MARTIN, AUTHOR OF TABULA RASA

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I’m here to introduce you to Kristen Lippert Martin, whose debut novel, Tabula Rasa, came out just a few short weeks ago, on September 23.

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Sixteen-year-old Sarah has a rare chance at a new life. Or so the doctors tell her. She’s been undergoing a cutting-edge procedure that will render her a tabula rasa—a blank slate. Memory by memory her troubled past is being taken away.
But when her final surgery is interrupted and a team of elite soldiers invades the isolated hospital under cover of a massive blizzard, her fresh start could be her end.

Navigating familiar halls that have become a dangerous maze with the help of a teen computer hacker who’s trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, Sarah starts to piece together who she is and why someone would want her erased. And she won’t be silenced again.

A high-stakes thriller featuring a non-stop race for survival and a smart heroine who will risk everything, Tabula Rasa is, in short, unforgettable.

Buy on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Indiebound

First of all, congratulations on your debut! How did you come up with the idea for this book?

Oh, boy, this book was borne of many things – some intentional, some not. I had been on sub with another book for about a year when I started Tabula Rasa. I remember at the time being so frustrated and thinking, “I’m just going to write something completely different from what I’ve written before.” It was almost an act of defiance. What that “something completely different” turned out to be was an action-thriller.

Also, at the same time, I’d noticed that most of what I write about seems to be characters who are trying to seek redemption. They’re largely driven by shame and guilt. That got me thinking about kids in juvie and the idea of changing someone’s future by changing his past. I wondered, “Would you be innocent again if you couldn’t remember what you’d done?” And it just went from there.

I love books that flirt with the line between reality and science fiction. How much research did you do into the medical elements of the novel to make the science-fiction elements feel realistic?

Honestly? Basically none. When I came up with the memory modification process, I didn’t want it to be something antiseptic like simply taking a pill. I wanted it to be a bit more invasive. So what would that be? Brain surgery, of course! Long ago, I’d seen this show about how they keep patients awake during brain surgery so they’ll know if what they’re doing is having the intended effect or possibly causing damage. And so that’s where that came from. The rest of it came from thinking about the logical requirements of that brain surgery. Stuff like, OK, if she’s going to have repeated surgeries, she’d probably need to be bald, etc. So I guess I took a sci-fi element and just drew my own conclusions based on that premise.

The book dropped us into this strange new world that we got to learn about just as Sarah/Angel did, and crazy things started happening right away. How did you decide where the story should start?

I usually have the problem of starting stories in the wrong place. Almost always I have to lop off my first two or three chapters and move the story forward in time, but with this, it was a rare occasion where I knew the surgical theatre scene was the place to start. I did end up cutting about five to ten pages after that—I shortened the sequence where she escapes from her hospital room—but amazingly enough, that opening scene stayed pretty much the way I wrote it in the first draft.

Another impressive thing about the book was the pacing. The situation started out intense, and then we moved pretty quickly into hard-core action. How did you go about balancing action and character development?

It probably helps that there really isn’t much of her character to develop initially. Sarah doesn’t know who she is and so she exists entirely in the here-and-now. As I thought about what it would be like to be in that situation, I kept thinking about that old adage, “Actions speak louder than words.” At first, Sarah believes that she doesn’t even care if she lives or dies but when put to the test, she proves to herself that she really wants to live. And that she has formidable skills to keep herself alive.

From there, I decided that I had to put her fears up front. You really get to know a lot about a person if you know what she’s afraid of. Her worries about what she’s done and whether she’s a bad person say a lot about her. Do bad people fear that they’re really villains? Probably not. I hoped that her preoccupation—that question of “Am I a monster?”—would sustain the reader’s interest until the answers finally came.

Action scenes can also be really hard to write. What did you do to figure out the logistics of some of the more complex scenes, such as the (not-quite-a-spoiler-alert) exploding fish tank (which was amazing, by the way)?

I’d never written action scenes until this book, and I was like, “Hey! I think I may have found my calling!” Romance? That’s hard for me to write, but action sequences came like second nature.

That fish tank scene, for example. Man every time I go to an aquarium I wonder, “Wow, what if this glass were to blow out?” Mostly, I was just trying to push Sarah to her physical limit as much as possible. Like, it’s not enough for her to have to be outside in a roaring blizzard, she’s got to be soaking wet too! You know how people say, “Things could always be worse”? I felt like it was my job to think of exactly how and in what ways that worse could be.

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

Fear: I’m really not too keen on heights, even if there’s some huge fence or gate that would prevent me from falling. I really want no part of looking out over scenic vistas of any kind.

Non-fear: Public speaking. Eh, it used to bother me but now? *shrugs* I tell myself, “My dog will still love me even if I totally bomb.” That always helps. 😉

tabula rasa head shotKristen Lippert-Martin has an MFA from Columbia University. She’s worked at Time magazine, the world-renowned Brookings Institution, and even did a stint as a stand-up comic before turning to writing full-time. She was awarded the SCBWI’s Work-in-Progress grant in 2010. She likes to write stories about people who are secretly awesome and just need to find the right circumstances—often difficult—to discover themselves.

She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband and four children. Tabula Rasa is her first novel.  Visit her online at www.kristenlippertmartin.com and follow her on Twitter @KLipMart.

After living on both coasts, Michelle Falkoff has most recently traded Iowa winters for Chicago winters, which may not have been the most effective life strategy, though so far she’s been really happy in Chicago. Sticking to the word limits in Twitter is killing her, but she’s trying: @michellefalkoffAdd PLAYLIST FOR THE DEAD on Goodreads, or preorder on BN or Amazon.

ONE FOUR KIDS: AN INTERVIEW WITH LISA MAXWELL, AUTHOR OF SWEET UNREST

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I’m delighted to interview Lisa Maxwell, whose debut SWEET UNREST is out today! If you’re seeking ghostly love stories, rich Southern settings, and a dash of history, look no further.

sweet unrest

 

Lucy Aimes has always been practical. But try as she might, she can’t come up with a logical explanation for the recurring dreams that have always haunted her. Dark dreams. Dreams of a long-ago place filled with people she shouldn’t know…but does.

When her family moves to a New Orleans plantation, Lucy’s dreams become more intense, and her search for answers draws her reluctantly into the old city’s world of Voodoo and mysticism. There, Lucy finds Alex, a mysterious boy who behaves as if they’ve known each other forever. Lucy knows Alex is hiding something, and her rational side doesn’t want to be drawn to him. But she is.

As she tries to uncover Alex’s secrets, a killer strikes close to home, and Lucy finds herself ensnared in a century-old vendetta. With the lives of everyone she loves in danger, Lucy will have to unravel the mystery of her dreams before it all comes to a deadly finish.

I know — you want it right now. Here’s where you can find it!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Powell’s | Books A Million | Book Depository

DG: You masterfully balance the contemporary, the historical, and the supernatural to make Lucy’s world come to life. What was the spark that inspired the story?

LM: I’m not sure that there was just one spark, but it kind of started with an idea to write a book where a girl time travels in her dreams. The original idea was a lot different than what SWEET UNREST turned out to be, but that was definitely the starting point. I was also thinking about writing a book about zombies when I started planning the novel, but the more I researched about zombies, the more I learned about Voodoo (which is where we get zombies in the first place), and the more interested I got in New Orleans.

That delta region of Louisiana has such an incredibly complex history—it was really very different (and still is in a lot of ways) than any other part of the country during the 1800s, and I wanted that history and that uniqueness to be an important part of the book.

DG: What kind of research did this story require, and what challenges did you face as you wrote?

LM: I had to learn a lot about Voodoo and a lot about New Orleans—especially sugar plantations and the way that class and race worked historically in New Orleans. When I started writing the book, I’d never actually been to the city, so going there was an important part of my research. We took a rather ill-fated trip (never take a 2 year old to New Orleans) so I could get a better feel for the city and visit the plantation that I based Le Ciel Doux on. I’ve been back to New Orleans since then, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the city.

The biggest challenge facing me as I wrote this was the issue of race in the book. I purposely set out to write a book that was as much about race as it was about made up magic. Armantine does what she does in the book because she can’t imagine a world in which her relationship can work out the way she wants it to—all because of her race and the society she lives in. Voodoo is a Diaspora religion—it’s based in traditions from Africa, carried across the Atlantic by slaves, and transformed by the experiences of African descended peoples in different parts of the Americas and Caribbean. And the cast of characters in the book is hugely diverse. The entire time I was writing, editing, and trying to sell the book, I worried about whether I was being respectful and really representing these characters as complex, fully developed people. I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t misrepresent the importance of Voodoo for the people who practice it. I’ve taken a lot of liberties in the book with the magic involved, but I tried to make it clear through the characters that the dark magic (the stuff I made up) wasn’t Voodoo, but something else. That balance between inventing things for the story and being true to what is a very real history and real religion was one of the most difficult challenges i faced. I hope I did it justice.

DG: Without giving away any spoilers, what’s your favorite line or moment from the novel?

LM: I have a real soft spot for Mama Legba. Her scenes are some of my favorite in the book. When she reads Lucy’s cards, you get a real sense that Lucy has met her match.

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

LM: Next up is the second book in the world of SWEET UNREST. When I planned this book, trilogies were a big deal, so I’d always planned for there to be more to the story. I’m so lucky and happy that Flux agreed to let me write it. THE GATHERING DEEP should be out in Fall of 2015. (DG’s note: YAY!) It picks up where SWEET UNREST leaves off, but it tells a new story from a secondary character’s point-of-view. I know I’ve seen a couple reviews that have hoped for a sequel or that have wondered about some loose threads at the end of book 1, so I’m hoping those readers will be happy with how the story is wrapped up in book 2.

Then, in Spring of 2016 I have my Peter Pan retelling out from Simon Pulse. It’s really dark, kind of twisted, and features a dark, broody pirate boy that puts Hook from Once Upon a Time to shame.

DG: Finally, since we the Fifteeners are fearless, what’s something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of?

LM: I’m usually terrified of walking into a room full of people that I don’t know and having to mingle. There is really nothing worse for me.  But, strangely enough, I’m not at all nervous about public speaking.

Thank you, Lisa!

Lisa Dunick-Outdoors-53-Edit

Lisa Maxwell is the author of Sweet Unrest   (Flux, Fall 2014) and Heartless Things (Simon Pulse, Spring 2016). When she’s not writing books, she’s an English professor at a local college. She lives near DC with her very patient husband and two not-so patient boys. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and her website!

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

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Elissa Sussman, author of STRAY

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Hi all! Anna-Marie McLemore here, and today I get to talk with Elissa Sussman, whose YA fantasy debut depicts a world in which girls are marked by the colors they wear, and traditional notions of fairy godmothers are just the beginning. Here’s a little more about STRAY:

STRAY coverPrincess Aislynn has long dreamed about attending her Introduction Ball, about dancing with the handsome suitors her adviser has chosen for her, about meeting her true love and starting her happily ever after.

When the night of the ball finally arrives and Nerine Academy is awash with roses and royalty, Aislynn wants nothing more than to dance the night away, dutifully following the Path that has been laid out for her. She does not intend to stray.

But try as she might, Aislynn has never quite managed to control the magic that burns within her-magic brought on by wicked, terrible desires that threaten the Path she has vowed to take.

STRAY is available now from Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Powells | Amazon | Book Depository

Anna-Marie: Thanks so much for joining us to talk about your debut, Elissa! Can you tell us about some of your favorite fairy tales, and which fairy tales influenced STRAY?

Elissa: Some of my favorite fairy tales are a few of the lesser known ones, like the extremely bloody Bluebeard and the romantic Twelve Dancing Princesses (which has inspired quite a few excellent retellings lately, much to my delight). My absolute favorite however is East of the Sun, West of the Moon. The first half is a mix between Beauty and the Beast and the story of Cupid and Psyche, while the last half is a quest in which the heroine has to save the prince. In short, it is awesome.

For STRAY, though, I chose more familiar and popular fairy tales to help develop the world. There are influences from Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood and most especially, Cinderella.
A-M: Speaking of fairy tales, STRAY reimagines the idea of fairy godmothers, giving them rich and often tragic pasts. Could you tell us a little about how they came to be such an important and harrowing part of the story?

Elissa: The center of the story has always been the exploration of fairy godmothers, who are common, yet often unexplored characters within fairy tales. Why do these women only use their powers to grant the wishes of others and are capable of extraordinary magical feats, when they aren’t even given their own names?
A-M: Colors play a huge role in STRAY, dividing the characters and determining how others see them and how they see themselves. What inspired you to include this aspect of STRAY’s society, and how did you choose which colors would signify what?

Elissa: Since class is so important to the Path, I really wanted to have something that was a visual delineation of rank. Something that was inescapable for Aislynn and her peers. I wish I had an interesting explanation as to how I assigned each level of society their color but alas, they are just colors that I liked.
A-M: The complex relationships between the many women in STRAY is one of the book’s richest aspects. Can you tell us a little about the process of how these friendships, rivalries, and enmities evolved?

Elissa: I have a lot of amazing women in my life. As someone who didn’t date much as a teenager, it was my friendships that constituted my most important relationships. But the bond between young girls can be really complicated. I wanted to write a story that both acknowledges how our culture supports the idea that all females are in competition with each other, yet explores how much we can benefit from the support and love of other women. And so Aislynn experiences all of that – belief that you can only win if another girl loses, but also the incredibly powerful bond that can develop when you’re able to push past that zero-sum mentality.
A-M: I love that way of describing it—both Aislynn’s journey and what we as readers can take from it. During the story, Aislynn lives in two different academies for young girls, one where she is a privileged but suspiciously regarded student, and another where she works as a servant. How did you build the details of these settings during your writing?

Elissa: It’s interesting, because in my mind, the two academies are very similar, in both their layout and their decor. But because of the change in Aislynn’s position, she sees them from a very different perspective, not unlike the contrast between Sara’s room and Becky’s attic in A LITTLE PRINCESS. So while we’re at the first Academy, we get a glimpse of the luxury that Aislynn is accustomed to. That changes drastically when she is Redirected and becomes a fairy godmother. But similarly to A LITTLE PRINCESS, Aislynn goes from a place that was more privileged, but very lonely, to a situation where she experiences a wealth of friendship and love, despite her more destitute circumstances.
A-M: Bread and baking play important roles in the story; STRAY even includes one of the central character’s recipes. Are you an avid baker yourself, and what inspired this element of STRAY?

Elissa: I am! My love of baking is something I discovered while working in film production. Like writing, making an animated movie is a long, and often frustrating process. Baking, on the other hand, is something that can be started and completed within an hour or two. For me, it’s immensely satisfying to be able to create something within the span of an afternoon. I wanted Aislynn to have something that brings her comfort, yet is both fairy tale-esque and an act somewhat unbecoming of a princess. I also wanted it to be something that I knew about. Because of that the baking scenes were some of the most fun to write.
A-M: What can you tell us about what you’re working on next?

Elissa: I’m currently working on the follow up to STRAY. Set in the same world, BURN will introduce two new characters, while still following the adventures of Aislynn and her friends.
A-M: As we are the Fearless Fifteeners, can you tell us one thing you’re afraid of and one thing you’re not afraid of?

Elissa: I am absolutely (and admittedly irrationally) terrified of sharks. If I can’t see the bottom of a body of water, I’m not going in, despite being an excellent swimmer. However, I am not afraid of going to the movies alone. I rather love it.

 

Elissa Sussman

Thanks so much for talking with us about your fabulous debut, Elissa!

Elissa Sussman received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and in a previous life managed animators and organized spreadsheets at some of the best animation studios in the world, including Nickelodeon, Disney, Dreamworks and Sony Imageworks.You can find her name in the credits of THE CROODS, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG and TANGLED. She lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend and their rescue dog, Basil. STRAY is her first novel.

 

 

 

Anna-Marie McLemore writes from her Mexican-American heritage and the love for stories she learned from her family. She lives in California’s Central Valley with a boy from the other side of the Rockies. Her debut novel THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a YA contemporary love story with a magical twist, will be released in 2015 from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. You can find her on Twitter @laannamarie.