Fearless Friday…now with wings: Anna-Marie McLemore

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AMfairyandtreetrunkHola, everyone!

Anna-Marie McLemore here, author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, flitting in for a winged edition of Fearless Friday.

So THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS is a book about mermaid performers and tree-dancers who wear wings. I’ve already documented my exploits in a mermaid tail.

Mermaid Anna-Marie McLemore

Mermaid Anna-Marie

Water, swimming, wearing a mermaid tail. No problem for me. But, um, the tree-climbing thing. Never happened. I am afraid enough of heights that I managed to get through my childhood without ever having climbed a tree. Sure I’d hopped up on a low branch. But, like, climbing a tree high enough that I could actually fall out of? Forget it.

Knowing this, for TWOF, I enlisted a tree-climbing consultant. Yes, you read that right. A tree-climbing consultant. He’s about as comfortable in trees as Cluck Corbeau is, so I knew he’d be able to help with the details. What I didn’t know is that he was not going to let me get away with this never-having-climbed-a-tree business.

So he found a tree of both decent height and relatively easy climbing mechanics, and he took me up.

AMfairyandboughAll he told me was to wear comfortable shoes. The wings and fairy makeup were my idea. If I was going to plummet to my death, I thought I might as well do it in style.

I’m not going to say I wasn’t shaking or clinging to the branches, but once I was up there, I was glad I did it.

Until I realized I had to get down. This of course did not involve me clinging to a branch, telling my tree-climbing consultant, “No, I’m good, thanks, I’ll just stay here” while he tried to give me instructions on lowering myself onto the branch underneath me. Because no self-respecting, AMfairy1professional author would ever admit to something like that.

But as you probably guessed, I’m not typing this from up in the tree, so the tree-climbing consultant successfully half-talked me down, half-caught me when I made my less than graceful descent.

There you have it, friends.

AMfairybright

I have vanquished my fear!

I have climbed a tree!

I have decided I am probably never doing it again!

*slips into mermaid tail and swims away*

AMmermaidswimming

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, is out now from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. You can find her on Twitter @laannamarie.
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Introducing Anna-Marie McLemore

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¡Encantada! I’m Anna-Marie McLemore, author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a YA magical realism novel coming September 15, 2015 from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. Here’s a little about the story:

TheWeightofFeatherscoverThe Palomas and the Corbeaus have long been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find.

Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she’s been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.

THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS is a story of the tension between two families, the meeting of two different cultures, and the draw between a boy and a girl who’ve been raised not to go near each other. 

For my Fearless Fifteeners introduction, I wanted a share a few things about FEATHERS, and, since it’s a story about performers in traveling shows, a little about my background in the performing arts:

Five things about THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS:

  1. The initial spark for the novel was a story my father told me about a mermaid show, and a day I spent in a national forest wearing a set of wings. You can find a little more about that here.
  1. One family in the story, the Palomas, are Mexican-American, as am I. The other, the Corbeaus, are French and Romani, neither of which I am. I was originally inspired to write about Romani traditions by talking with someone close to me about his family’s history.
  1. I’ve spent much of my life involved in the performing arts. However, both Lace and Cluck work in aspects of their families’ shows that I haven’t often been part of: Lace does make-up not just on herself, but on the other mermaids, and Cluck makes costumes, specifically his family’s wings.
  1. The color of Lace Paloma’s mermaid tail, and the significance of it, draws on quinceañera traditions.
  1. I knew that Cluck Corbeau’s name was Cluck before I knew anything else about him.

Five things about me and the performing arts:

  1. The first time I ever climbed a lighting scaffold, I got stuck up there. Like a cat. If the audiovisual technician hadn’t climbed up and talked me down, I might still be up there.
  1. As a teen, I competed in Irish dance feisanna. My dress was lipstick red, and weighed about ten pounds.
  1. The most nervous I’ve ever been while running the light board was for a Lorca play, because I was in love with the soundboard operator.
  1. I realized I was in love with him when I accidentally said the name of the Scottish play three minutes before curtain. To make sure a disaster didn’t befall the production, I had to run around the outside of the theatre and spit over my shoulder before the stage manager called places.
  1. When, instead of playing a cue of barking dogs, the soundboard operator accidentally played a track of mariachi music, I realized he was in love with me too. A few years later, I married him.

Thank you so much for stopping by to read a little about THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS! And please come say hello—I’d love to hear from you!

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.

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.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Annie Cardi, author of THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN

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Anna-Marie McLemore here, and today I’m thrilled to interview Annie Cardi, whose debut blends a contemporary setting, captivating history, complicated family life, and new love. Here’s a little more about THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN:

Chance_HJ_comp copyDriver’s ed and a first crush should be what Alex Winchester is stressed out about in high school — and she is. But what’s really on her mind is her mother. Why is she dressing in Dad’s baggy khaki pants with a silk scarf around her neck? What is she planning when she pores over maps in the middle of the night? When did she stop being Mom and start being Amelia Earhart? Alex tries to keep her budding love life apart from the growing disaster at home as her mother sinks further into her delusions. But there are those nights, when everyone else is asleep, when it’s easier to confide in Amelia than it ever was to Mom. Now, as Amelia’s flight plans become more intense, Alex is increasingly worried that Amelia is planning her final flight — the flight from which she never returns. What could possibly be driving Mom’s delusions, and how far will they take her?

THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN is available now from Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Powells | Amazon | Book Depository

A-M: Thanks for stopping by to talk about your fabulous debut, Annie! How did the idea of a girl whose mother thinks she’s Amelia Earhart come about?

Annie: I get a lot of story ideas from random lines or phrases that pop into my head. This one began when I was spending the summer in Chicago. I was walking around when the line “My mother thinks she’s Amelia Earhart” came to mind. I was really intrigued by who this narrator was and who her mom was and what kind of disruption this would cause in a household.

A-M: Alex’s mother may have dreams of piloting Amelia Earhart’s plane, but Alex doesn’t even want to take driving lessons. What inspired you to write a character who’s so reluctant to get behind the wheel?

Annie: Although I didn’t have Alex-levels of paranoia, I had a lot of driving-related anxiety when I was a teen. My parents were kind of baffled that I didn’t want to get behind the wheel and drive off into the sunset. Driving is seen as a rite of passage for teens, but it’s also a big, powerful machine and the road can be so chaotic–there are a lot of pressures associated with driving. At the beginning of the novel, Alex is feeling lost and overwhelmed, and the driving thing seemed to be the perfect challenge for her.

One of the unexpectedly fun parts of having TCYWR out in the world is that so many people have admitted they hate driving, too, and had a horrible time with drivers ed. It’s way more common to freak out about driving than most YA novels or teen movies would have you think!

A-M: I know I wish I’d had a Jim Wiley teaching me to drive! How did the romance between Alex and Jim take shape during the writing process?

Annie: Would that we all had a Jim Wiley for driver’s ed! 😉 I wanted to see Alex and Jim come together naturally, both as people who are attracted to each other and as people who are dealing with rumors at school and issues at home and their own sets of secrets. I started off knowing that Jim was an artist and that, for some reason, he’d driven into the side of his house. It was fun to see them come together as characters who feel like they’re both kind of on the outside of a lot of things.

A-M: TCYWR not only features Alex’s mother’s struggle with mental illness, it also has another character with a neurological difference. Without giving too much away, what inspired you to write a character dealing with this?

Annie: I knew this character had something going on that wasn’t what everyone else thought they were dealing with, but it wasn’t until I was in the middle of the first draft that I realized the “secret” was a neurological difference. (It’s not even a “secret” really, in that it’s not a big dramatic reveal and it’s not something the character is hiding, but it’s not generally common knowledge.) For me, it was a reminder that people are dealing with all sorts of differences and challenges all the time without the rest of us necessarily knowing about them. For Alex’s mom, her delusions and depression were a big deal. For this other character, it was a small deal. So much of what I want readers to get is that everyone is dealing with something, and that mental health issues or neurological differences are totally common.

A-M: Each of the chapters in THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN opens with an Amelia Earhart quote. Do you have a favorite?

Annie: I’m a big fan of chapter 7’s quote: “I didn’t realize it at the time, but the cooperation of one’s family and close friends is one of the greatest safety factors a fledgling flyer can have.” I totally feel this in my own life and writing career–surrounding yourself with people who love and support you can make a huge difference when you’re putting yourself out there and taking risks.

A-M: So true, and what a wonderful quote to take from TCYWR! What are you working on next?

Annie: I’m currently working on another contemporary realistic YA novel. This one is also about a teen girl dealing with family drama and changes at home and what it means to claim your own identity, but (I hope) the tone is a lot more comic. I’ve had this character’s voice in my head for a while, so it’s been a lot of fun to write.

A-M: As this community is fearless: what’s something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of?

Annie: I’m a total arachnophobe. I don’t even like seeing pictures of spiders! When I went to see The Hobbit 2, fellow YA author Emily Kate Johnston warned me in advance of when the giant spiders would appear and when it was safe to watch again. I also get unreasonably nervous about a lot of things, like pumping gas (I’m afraid something is going to spark and I’ll blow up) and driving places I’ve never been before and calling people on the phone.

Something I’m not afraid of is being alone. I almost never think “I’m bored or lonely, I need to hang out with someone.” I love being by myself! It’s when I get to dance around the room to cheesy pop music.

A-M: Thanks so much for sharing about THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN, how you write, and your solo dance parties, Annie! 🙂

Annie CardiAnnie Cardi holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and a BA from the University of Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in The Georgetown Review, Vestal Review, Juked, and other publications. In 2011, PEN New England selected her as a winner of the Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award for the manuscript that would become her debut young adult novel, The Chance You Won’t Return. Annie lives near Boston with her husband and a portrait of a sea captain. You can find her sharing funny gifs and pictures of corgis at:  Blog Facebook Twitter Tumblr.

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.

Anna-Marie McLemore on #MyWritingProcess

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AMroadWPHi, all! I’m Anna-Marie McLemore. We haven’t been officially introduced (my introduction is coming soon!), but in the meantime I’m stopping by to join the #MyWritingProcess blog tour. I was tagged by Kelly Loy Gilbert, who’s not only one of my favorite people, but also a fellow Fifteener, and author of the heartbreakingly realistic, startlingly funny debut CONVICTION.

You can find Kelly’s post here. She also tagged fabulous Fifteener Sabaa Tahir, whose post you can find here. And here’s a little about what I’m up to:

What am I working on?

I’m wrapping up revisions on my debut THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, about two teens from rival families of traveling performers who fall in love despite a longstanding feud.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My stories often involve cultures coming up against each other, how the folklore of one tradition diverges from and entangles with that of another. But writing about cultures meeting isn’t just about clashing, it’s also about overlooked commonalities. In THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, one family is Latino and the other is Romani. Though in some ways the Mexican-American background I come from contrasts sharply with Romani tradition, in others, they have more common ground than I ever imagined before I started researching for FEATHERS. Those differences and that overlap may not be the center of the plot, but they’re an undercurrent, a kind of steady hum throughout the story.

Why do I write what I do?

I didn’t realize I was writing magical realism until other people told me I was. I probably had that blind spot because of the cultures I come from. Magical realism feels natural. It feels like the stories I heard as a child and the traditions I grew up in. It feels like home.

How does your writing process work?

I did a lot of traveling with my dad growing up, and for each trip, he always created a dizzyingly detailed itinerary. Right down to what bus we’d catch. What museum opened its rare book room on Monday mornings. What route we’d take when we were walking from one town to the next. But then he wouldn’t stick to them! Let’s get a later train! How about that museum? Why don’t we stop at that other village over there?

It drove me crazy. Why put so much work into a plan if you’re just going to scrap it? But now, in my writing, I do the same thing. It takes me almost as long to plot out a story as to get the first draft down. Yet inevitably, about halfway through, I’ve thrown out the outline. A roadmap can be liberating rather than limiting. My dad’s itineraries gave him the plans he could stick to or stray from. My outlines hold my hand until I find my footing in the story.

Next on the #MyWritingProcess tour, I’m tagging:

Mackenzi Lee, who writes some of the most gorgeous and innovative historical YA I’ve ever read.

Diversity-promoting superhero Kaye of Watercolor Moods, her blog of reviews, book recs, writing updates, and generally wonderful posts.

Thanks for stopping by! Happy writing and reading!

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.