A Teen Reader Interviews MarcyKate Connolly About MONSTROUS


Alexandra B. is an 8th grader at King Philip Middle School in West Hartford, CT. She recently read MarcyKate Connolly’s MONSTROUS and had a few questions for the author.

Alex: What part of this book is special to you and why?

MarcyKate: This is the hardest question! The whole book is special to me, but I think one of my all time favorite parts is when Kymera and Ren are just getting to know each other and he still has no idea what she’s really made of.  It’s both sweet and bittersweet because she gets to be herself with a human and gets a taste of everything she lost in her former life.

Alex: Is Kymera’s personality similar to yours? How?

MarcyKate: In some ways, yes, she’s a bit naïve like I was when I was 13, and that naiveté does get her into a bit of trouble…

Alex: How did you come up with the idea to write the book?

MarcyKate: I’d wanted to write a fairy-tale-inspired book for a while, but hadn’t quite found the right concept. Then one day, while stuck in gridlock traffic and literally parked on the highway, the first line of Monstrous popped into my head. I had to write that line and the rest of the first page down immediately, and for the rest of the day I could not stop wondering who would say that and why. The plot pretty much came together that day, and I was so taken with the idea and the character that I had to begin writing the book right away.

Alex: To you, is Kymera more a monster or a human?

MarcyKate: I think Kymera is a better person than most of the people who are physically human in the book, which was intentional. What we look like does not define our character or whether we’re good or bad.

Alex: What made you decide to end the book the way you did?

MarcyKate: I’m glad you asked this, and I’m going to try to answer without spoiling the book J

The ending is something I wrestled with a lot in the first few drafts. I tried writing a pat little Disney-fied ending but it was so wrong and completely out of character for Kymera. The final epilogue went through many iterations and tweaks along the way (its current form was the result of 11th hour line edits that had me rewriting the entire epilogue!).

First, the book is more like a Grimm’s fairy tale than a Disney one – it’s dark, and some characters do die. At the end of the book, the main character makes a decision to do something very dangerous to protect her friends and the result is…unexpected (I know what you’re thinking and no, Kymera does not die – it’s something else entirely!). She actually gets exactly what she wants, but in a way that never occurred to her. While it might sound like it would be easier to let an adult character do the difficult task or to change the rules of magic in the world, it’s crucial to the story and her character that it be her. Monstrous is Kymera’s story, her battle – letting someone else make the hard choices in her stead would take away her hard won agency. It would be a huge let down, and, really, kind of a cop-out.

Part of Kym’s struggle throughout the book is that she needs to realize she must step outside the barriers that others would set around her to protect her. She has to take responsibilities – and the responsibility of protecting her city belongs to her. At the start of the story, she only has inklings of what that entails. A big part of her internal arc is discovering what that truly means. Her character may be a monster but she is constantly caged by others. Her father gives her restrictions, her dragon friend would whisk her away to hide her in his mountain home, and even when she finally breaks free, she’s captured and caged by others who would do her harm. It isn’t until the end of the story that Kym has true freedom and agency and the ability to finally succeed at the mission she’s had from the very beginning.

In other words, having anyone or anything else complete her mission for her would send a rather negative message to readers, especially young girls. It’s critical to Kymera’s story and character that when she has real agency, she makes the choice to bear the full weight and cost of the responsibility she’s taken on. Importantly, her actions are not done out of hate (which she was acting on in the beginning), but out of love – because the love she has for her city, family, and friends has grown so much larger than that hate and they’re more important to her than anything else. Kymera may be a monster in physical sense, but she is truly the best person in the book.

MONSTROUS is available wherever books are sold, including:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

MarcyKate Connolly is an author and arts administrator who lives in New England with her husband and pugs and writes weird little books. She’s also a coffee addict, voracious reader, and recurring commuter. She blogs about all those things and more at MarcyKate.com, and can often be found on Twitter. Her debut upper MG/Tween fantasy novel,MONSTROUS, released with HarperCollins Children’s Books in Winter 2015.

A Teen Reader Interviews David Fulk About RAISING RUFUS


Delnaz is a 7th grader at King Philip Middle School in West Hartford, CT. She recently read David Fulk’s RAISING RUFUS and had a few questions for the author.

Displaying RaisingRufus.jpgFirst, here’s the book’s description:

Martin Tinker may be the smartest kid in the sixth grade, but who cares? His classmates just think he’s weird. To the good folks of Menominee Springs, Wis., he’s practically invisible. Even his dad has a hard time relating to his bug-collecting, woods-exploring, maddeningly oddball ways. But when Martin accidentally unearths an ancient, frozen egg in a local quarry, he’s in for whole new dimensions of oddness.

When the egg thaws and hatches, he finds himself surrogate mom to a bright-eyed little lizard with a voracious appetite for meat and a tendency to GROW at an alarming rate. Pretty soon Martin figures it out: What he’s got is a living, breathing, honest-to-carnivorous baby T. rex! Martin bonds with his prehistoric pet, but knows this outlandish creature must be kept a secret.

Teaming up with Audrey Blanchard, another misfit from school, Martin struggles to keep “Rufus” fed, entertained, and hidden from the world. But when Rufus grows to 7 feet tall—and starts getting in touch with his inner primeval predator—the secret is blown, and all of Martin’s worst fears come to pass.

Somehow he will have to find the strength and self-confidence he’s never had to save Rufus (or the town?) from an unthinkable fate—and finally, maybe, win a little acceptance from his peers and his dad.

Delnaz: Where did you get the idea to have a boy find a dinosaur egg?

David: In answer to this question, let’s do a multiple-choice quiz. Choose the correct answer from the following:

A. I got it at Walmart. Book ideas were on sale.

B. I was going to have him find an Easter egg, but a dinosaur egg was much more interesting.

C. I saw a boy walking his T. rex on the street one day, and I thought, hey, I could do a book about that!

D. It was originally going to be a girl finding the egg, but I thought, “Wait, I’m a boy,” so I did it that way.

E. I was basically sitting around trying to think up good story ideas.

If you answered “E,” you are correct! I know it’s kind of boring and disappointing compared to the others, but it’s true.

Delnaz: How long did it take you to complete this book?

David: Well, if you’re counting from the first germ of the idea to the final book―and I know it’s a bit shocking and I know I’m seriously dating myself by saying this―it was over 20 years! But I kind of have an excuse, because it was originally written as a screenplay (I used to be a screenwriter type). I shopped it around Hollywood, and even almost got a movie deal at one point, but not quite. So I decided to try it as a book, and that part of it took “only” about 8 years. But that was because I kept putting it aside, and didn’t get serious about finishing it until the last 3 years or so. So there’s your answer: 20 years, 8 years, and 3 years.

Delnaz: What was the hardest part about writing this book?

David: The hardest part was turning it from a screenplay into a book! In the screenplay, there were all kinds of scenes with just the other characters―Martin’s mom and dad, Ben Fairfield, the sheriff. Which is fine in a movie, but in a book, the rule is you have to tell the whole story from one character’s point of view. So I had to figure out how to do it all through Martin’s eyes. And, in spite of all my teeth-gnashing, I have to admit it works better that way!

Delnaz: What is your favorite scene and why?

David: You might be surprised by this, but it’s a scene that has nothing to do with Rufus. It’s when Audrey follows Martin and they go to his house and they first become friends. For some reason I got a little choked up writing that―probably because there’s just something special about that time when you first realize you like somebody and you can see yourself hanging out together. Especially if, like Martin, you’ve never really had a friend! So there, I said it: I’m a secret softie.

Delnaz: Who in this book do you relate to most?

David: Well, I could say Ben Fairfield, the greedy carnival guy, but then a) you’d probably hate me, and b) I’d be lying. Or I could say Rufus, but then you’d probably think I was slightly soft in the head. So I’ll fess up to what you probably expect: Martin. No, it’s not an autobiography (for one thing, my pet dinosaur was a stegosaurus, not a T. rex), and I didn’t grow up lonely in a small town. But I’ll have to admit a few of his characteristics probably came from yours truly. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which ones.

RAISING RUFUS releases Tuesday, June 9 and is available at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound


David Fulk is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter/director, and novelist. He grew up near Chicago and has lived in Missouri, Louisiana, Michigan, California, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, Belgium, India, and Wisconsin. He currently lives near Boston with his pet T. rex, Rosie.

He can be found here:

Web: www.davidfulk.com

Twitter: @davidfulkwrites

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davefulkthewriter

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/361905.David_Fulk

A Teen Reader Interviews Gail Nall about Breaking the Ice


Ashley G. is a 7th grader at King Philip Middle School in West Hartford, CT. She recently read Gail Nall’s BREAKING THE ICE and had a few questions for the author.

First, here’s the official description of the book:

20662374Kaitlin has always dreamed of being a champion figure skater, and she’s given up a lot to pursue her passion. But after having a totally uncharacteristic and decidedly NOT figure-skating-approved tantrum after getting her scores at a major competition she’s dropped by her coach and prestigious skating club.When no other club in town will have her, she’s forced to join the ridiculed and rundown Fallton Club, jokingly referred to as the Fall Down Club. At first Kaitlin thinks this is a complete disaster, but after meeting some of the other skaters, including a boy (who happens to have the most perfect hair she’s ever seen) Kaitlin thinks it might actually not be so bad.

But when she’s tasked with learning a whole new program right before Regionals and figures out that almost all the other skaters target Fallton, she thinks joining the Fall Down Club may just be the second biggest mistake she’s ever made.

In this figure skating themed debut, Kaitlin learns that when you fall down, you have to pick yourself up – even if it’s in front of judges and a crowd

Ashley: Are you a figure skater? If not, how do you know so much about the life of a competitive figure skater who is seriously training and trying to get to Nationals and then the Olympics?

Gail: I am! I grew up skating. I still skate for fun now, and I teach learn-to-skate. I loved competing, but I was hardly competitive. Meaning, I was never anywhere near Kaitlin’s level. I was more like Miyu. 🙂  So, I filled in the gaps of my knowledge for this book with a lot of reading and research, IceNetwork-watching, and paying attention when I went to the rink. What I love about skating is that it’s something you can do your whole life, whether you make it to an elite level or not. My favorite jump is the flip, and my favorite spin is a simple, fast scratch spin. And spirals — I love spirals!

Ashley: In the beginning of the book, Kaitlin places 11th out of 13 girls at the Praterville Open Ice Skating Competition. She is extremely disappointed and has a meltdown in front of the judges. She then loses her coach and her club. If you were her coach, Hildy, would you have abandoned Kaitlin? If you were in charge of the decision, would you have kicked Kaitlin out of the Ridgeline Skating Club? Do you think Kaitlin deserved these consequences?

Gail: If I were Hildy, or were in charge of the club, I hope that I would’ve been a little more tolerant. I would’ve much rather talked to a student who acted so uncharacteristically to find out what was going on, and then figured out together how to work through it. Kaitlin definitely deserved some kind of consequences for her actions, but probably not as drastic as what actually happens to her in the book. However … it would’ve been an awfully boring book if all she’d gotten was a lecture and warning to never act like that again. 😉

Ashley: Do you think the mistake ended up changing Kaitlin in a good way?

Gail: Oh, definitely! Not only does she figure out when it’s good to speak up (and when it’s not), but she also learns what a real friend is. One of my favorite things about writing this book was showing how Kaitlin’s experience affected her skating. I won’t give away how that happens, but it was interesting to think about, and fun to convey that change through the skating descriptions in the book. I think it was also important to show how it is possible to get back up and keep going even after it feels as if your life has fallen apart. Through this experience, Kaitlin learns about her own inner strength.

Ashley: At Ridgeline, Kaitlin had top coaches and a great facility, but no real friends. The Fallton (Fall Down) Skating Club had a horrible reputation, but Kaitlin made friends there. If you were/are a skater, which would be more important to you: A good reputation as a skater and getting to skate at a prominent skating club, or having friends to cheer you on and support you? Which do you think is more important to the average skater?

Gail: This is a hard one. I think a lot of skaters would love that elite club with the excellent reputation, but if it came at the cost of never having real friendships, it would be hard to stay there and be happy. I would much rather have friends that I enjoyed seeing every day, whether that’s at an elite club or at some place more like Fallton.

Ashley: What is your favorite scene in the novel and why? Does it present anything that happened in real life?

My absolute favorite scene is the one in which Kaitlin takes an ice dance lesson with Svetlana. That was the most fun to write because of awkwardness with Braedon, and, of course, Svetlana’s Russian accent and coaching style. I pulled the actual dance-related parts of that scene from real-life skating (because, wow, hitting that perfect position in dance can HURT!), but the rest is completely made up. (Thankfully. I’d have died of embarrassment if that scene had ever happened to me in real life!)

I have to mention my second-favorite scene too, which is the one where Kaitlin, Miyu, Addison, and Braedon are having a spin-off and jump-off. I played this same game with skating friends when I was that age, except we used to string together really bizarre, unrelated things — for example, a jump into a sit spin into a lunge into some weird move that someone would make up on the spot, etc. It was always hilarious watching everyone try to get through it all without falling over.

BREAKING THE ICE is out now and available wherever books are sold, including:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Gail NalGail Nalll lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. She spends her early mornings writing, her days practicing law, and her evenings trying to stay up past eight o’clock. She chats about writing and figure skating on her blog Writing and Stuff, and spends too much time on Twitter. Her debut contemporary MG novel, DON’T FALL DOWN, will be out from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster in Spring 2015.

A Teen Reader Interviews Krista Van Dolzer About The Sound of Life and Everything


Lauren M. is a 7th grader at King Philip Middle School in West Hartford, CT. She recently read an ARC of Krista Van Dolzer’s THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING and had a few questions for the author.

22521936First, here’s the official description of the book from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Ella Mae Higbee is a sensible girl. She eats her vegetables and wants to be just like Sergeant Friday, her favorite character on Dragnet. So when her auntie Mildred starts spouting nonsense about a scientist who can bring her cousin back to life from blood on his dog tags, Ella Mae is skeptical—until he steps out of a bio-pod right before her eyes.

But the boy is not her cousin—he’s Japanese. And in California in the wake of World War II, the Japanese are still feared and despised. When her aunt refuses to take responsibility, Ella Mae and her Mama take him home instead. Determined to do what’s right by her new friend, Ella Mae teaches Takuma English and defends him from the reverend’s talk of H-E-double-toothpicks. But when his memories start to resurface, Ella Mae learns some shocking truths about her own family and more importantly, what it means to love.

Lauren: Did the Clausens receive their son’s body? If so, why did they use the blood on the dog tags to attempt to bring Robby back if they had a whole person to work with?

Krista: This is a fantastic question, and if I’m being totally honest, I’ve never really thought about it. Many families never saw their loved ones again, but I do think Uncle George and Auntie Mildred would have gotten Robby’s body back. (I’ve seen pictures of the bodies of the Allied soldiers who died on Iwo Jima, and it looked like they were planning to ship them home.) I guess they used the dog tags because they were more accessible. Auntie Mildred wouldn’t have been able to keep what she was doing a secret if she’d exhumed her son’s body.

Lauren: How did you get your ideas for this book?

Krista: The first line came to me as I was falling asleep one night. The voice in my head intrigued me–though I didn’t know it yet, Ella Mae came to life at that moment–and I wondered what story she would tell. I started writing it down and didn’t stop for another 50,000 words. 🙂

Lauren: Why did you have Mildred Clausen change her mind about Takuma?

Krista: It was important to me to show that people can change their minds, that they can become better. Because Auntie Mildred was so dead-set against Takuma when he first came back to life, she was the perfect character to show this transformation.

Lauren: Did you have a hard time writing the book emotionally as you wrote how people reacted to Takuma’s ethnicity?

Krista: It did make me wince, especially as I tried to decide how and when to use the racial slur that appears in the book. But the whole point was to show how terribly some people treated Takuma so that readers could see how they grew and changed over time.

On a more personal note, my grandpa was Filipino, so I know that he experienced some of the same prejudices that Takuma faced. (The Philippines was one of our allies during the war, but when he immigrated to the United States, he found that the color of his skin still unsettled some people.) Despite the way he was treated, my grandpa never grew bitter, so I tried to draw on his example.

Lauren: How did Daniel die?

Krista: Daniel died in the Battle of the Bulge in January of 1945. The battle was fought in the Ardennes, a heavily forested region in northern France, and it was the last major German offensive on the Western Front. Daniel was part of the infantry, so he would have been exchanging rifle fire with his German counterparts. He died of a gunshot wound.

Lauren: What is your favorite scene in the book and why?

Krista: I have several favorite scenes, but the one that immediately jumps to mind is the scene in which Ella Mae, her mama, and Takuma go shopping at a department store in Los Angeles on a Sunday. When their small-town reverend won’t allow Takuma to set foot in his chapel, Ella Mae and her mama storm off in a huff and go shopping instead, but they’re horribly self-conscious. I know exactly how they would have felt, since I believe in keeping the Sabbath day holy, too, so that scene was an easy one to write.

THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING releases May 5 and is available for preorder.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

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

A Teen Reader Interviews Susan Adrian About Tunnel Vision


Rachel J. is an 8th grader at King Philip Middle School in West Hartford, CT. She recently read Susan Adrian’s debut novel, TUNNEL VISION, and had a few questions for the author.

22537667First, here’s the official description of the book:

Jake Lukin just turned 18. He’s decent at tennis and Halo, and waiting to hear on his app to Stanford. But he’s also being followed by a creep with a gun, and there’s a DARPA agent waiting in his bedroom. His secret is blown.

When Jake holds a personal object, like a pet rock or a ring, he has the ability to “tunnel” into the owner. He can sense where they are, like a human GPS, and can see, hear, and feel what they do. It’s an ability the government would do anything to possess: a perfect surveillance unit who could locate fugitives, spies, or terrorists with a single touch.

Jake promised his dad he’d never tell anyone about his ability. But his dad died two years ago, and Jake slipped. If he doesn’t agree to help the government, his mother and sister may be in danger. Suddenly he’s juggling high school, tennis tryouts, flirting with Rachel Watkins, and work as a government asset, complete with 24-hour bodyguards.

Forced to lie to his friends and family, and then to choose whether to give up everything for their safety, Jake hopes the good he’s doing—finding kidnap victims and hostages, and tracking down terrorists—is worth it. But he starts to suspect the good guys may not be so good after all. With Rachel’s help, Jake has to try to escape both good guys and bad guys and find a way to live his own life instead of tunneling through others.

Rachel: What inspired you to write this book?

Susan: I was actually originally inspired by a TV show that I love, called CHUCK. It’s about a nerd who gets the government’s secrets downloaded into his brain and is forced to become a spy. I riffed off of that for my own story, and ended up discovering Jake and his family.

Rachel: What made you think about making the character(s) have an ability to tunnel?

Susan: I’ve read about all different kinds of psychic abilities, and many involve personal objects. I wondered what it would be like to be able to connect to someone through their personal objects, and the idea spiraled from there.

Rachel: What gave you the idea to have Jake use his “ability” for the government?

Susan: That’s the natural use of that kind of ability, I think. He really is the perfect spy. I often see things on the news and think how easily Jake could solve them. Missing planes? Jake could find them with one object from one of those people. If I worked for a spy agency, I’d want to use him.

Rachel: Why did you name the book “Tunnel Vision?”

Susan: The book was originally called THE TUNNEL, for what DARPA calls Jake’s project, but I ran across the phrase “tunnel vision” and realized it was even better. Jake’s tunneling is a kind of vision, after all. He always called it tunneling in my head, though–because he tunnels through the object to the person he’s locating.

Rachel: Why did you add the girl into the story and suddenly have her caught up in Jake’s life?

Susan: Rachel was always in the story, but when I was asked to add an “act 3” to the story, she clearly was going to to be in it. He was thinking of her the whole time he was with the government–so what better conflict than to have her be the one who finds him?

Rachel: Will you be writing a sequel?

Susan: I am working on a sequel! I am hoping to release it sometime the end of this year. Keep your eyes out for it!

TUNNEL VISION is out now and available at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Susanadrian-smallSusan Adrian is a 4th-generation Californian who somehow stumbled into living in Montana. In the past she danced in a ballet company and worked in the fields of exotic pet-sitting, clothes-schlepping, and bookstore management. She’s settled in, mostly, as a scientific editor. When she’s not with her family, she keeps busy researching spy stuff, eating chocolate, and writing more books, both YA and MG. Her debut YA novel TUNNEL VISION was recently published by St. Martin’s Press. You can visit her website at susanadrian.blogspot.com.

Q&A with YA Author Lee Kelly


In this week’s Q&A YA Wednesday, we’ve got, Lee Kelly, whose CITY OF SAVAGES is out February, 2015. You can see the blurb and Lee’s bio at the end of the post—but first, check out her clever answers to our quirky questions.

1. You wake up one morning and, OMG, you’re a __________ ! What’s the first thing you do with your new ability?

I find that I’m a superhero with (a long coveted ability) to teleport. Before the rest of the family wakes up, I teleport myself to this little chocolate croissant stand in Paris that my husband and I were in love with, pick up some pastries, teleport to New York for our favorite cappuccinos from Joe, and I’m back to set the table in minutes.

2. Turns out your parents aren’t happy with your change. What fictional character do you ask to help you get out of the bind, and how do they “fix” you?

I’m not sure what my parents are so upset about, seeing as I’ll be able to spend more quality time with them with less of a commute, but I respect their feelings and dial up my sole option in this situation: the Star Trek team.  We debate the pros and cons of using a transporter versus good old-fashioned superhero abilities, and I decide to retain my power in secret.  No way I am giving this up (pizza in Italy, hot chocolate in Switzerland… am I talking about food too much?)

3. Back to normal, you arrive at school and literally crash into your crush. He/she asks you why you’re shaken up. What do you tell him/her?

Perhaps it’s kind of creepy that both me and my husband are both still walking around high school searching for each other, but I ignore this nagging thought and tell Jeff how I’ve discovered a potential key to all of our time management problems and needless to say, he’s thoroughly intrigued.

4. He/she isn’t convinced you’re telling the truth — after all, it’s a pretty far fetched story. He/she suggests going somewhere to talk about it more. Where’s this dream date taking place?

I manage to teleport me AND him to this little church-converted-into-restaurant in Florence, Italy called La Giostra.  After a lovely dinner, we teleport to Big Sur and watch the sunset over the cliffs.

5. It might not be true love yet, but there is a Happily Ever After in your near future. As a Fearless Fifteener, your book is out this year. Tell us about it in 140 characters or less.

Two sisters and their mother attempt to escape a war-torn Manhattan, after the discovery of certain secrets throws their whole world into question.




After the Red Allies turn New York City into a POW camp, two sisters must decipher the past in order to protect the future in this action-packed thriller with a dual narrative.It’s been nearly two decades since the Red Allies first attacked New York, and Manhattan is now a prisoner-of-war camp, ruled by Rolladin and her brutal, impulsive warlords. For Skyler Miller, Manhattan is a cage that keeps her from the world beyond the city’s borders. But for Sky’s younger sister, Phee, the POW camp is a dangerous playground of possibility, and the only home she’d ever want.When Sky and Phee discover their mom’s hidden journal from the war’s outbreak, they both realize there’s more to Manhattan—and their mother—than either of them had ever imagined. And after a group of strangers arrives at the annual POW census, the girls begin to uncover the island’s long-kept secrets. The strangers hail from England, a country supposedly destroyed by the Red Allies, and Rolladin’s lies about Manhattan’s captivity begin to unravel.Hungry for the truth, the sisters set a series of events in motion that end in the death of one of Rolladin’s guards. Now they’re outlaws, forced to join the strange Englishmen on an escape mission through Manhattan. Their flight takes them into subways haunted by cannibals, into the arms of a sadistic cult in the city’s Meatpacking District and, through the pages of their mom’s old journal, into the island’s dark and shocking past.

Lee Kelly has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper. An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced law in Los Angeles and New York. She lives with her husband and son in Millburn, New Jersey, though after a decade in Manhattan, she can’t help but still call herself a New Yorker. CITY OF SAVAGES is her first novel.



Today, 9781595147400_ZodiacI’m excited to chat with fellow author Romina Russell about her debut YA science fiction novel ZODIAC. Before we get to the questions, here’s more about the book:

At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain….

In a galaxy where your astrological sign determines which planet you call home, Rho, the 16-year-old Guardian of House Cancer, must find a way to unite the divided worlds of the ZODIAC before an ancient evil once believed to be mere myth returns to destroy them all. Embark on a dazzling journey with ZODIAC, the first novel in an epic sci-fi-meets-high-fantasy series set in Space that combines astrology, romance, and adventure!

Goodreads / Author WebsiteZODIAC Website / Twitter /Tumblr / Instagram / Author Facebook / ZODIAC Facebook 

Now to the questions! You created a world where your characters are (at least partly) defined by their Zodiac house. What made you decide that your main character Rho would be a Cancrian? Did you toy with the idea of giving her a different house or was she always firmly a crab?

What was awesome about creating the worlds of the Zodiac Universe was having a cheat sheet: I basically took the traditional horoscopes for each astrological sign and built out planets populated with people that fit each personality type. As for Rho being Cancrian, I was curious to explore the kind of hero whose strength was in her heart and not her body. I wanted to take a girl who wasn’t a traditional warrior and discover what weapon she would use to fight a war. I wondered how she would save the world(s)…and whether or not she could.

Hysan was one of my favorite characters.  When I mentioned ZODIAC on twitter, people immediately chimed in with “He’s our man!”.  He seems popular. Do you think Librans are just generally attractive or is there something special about Hysan?

Thank you! Yes, I’ve witnessed some Team Hysan v Team Mathias throw-downs on Twitter and thoroughly, evilly enjoyed myself. I know the proper book-parent thing to say is probably “I don’t have a favorite,” but I totally do secretly Ship a Ship in this series. (I’m a YA fangirl first, author second!)

Speaking specifically of Hysan, I think part of his appeal is certainly his Libran nature—after all, they’re the most charming and graceful creatures of the ZODIAC. Not to mention that House Libra’s number one focus is on education, so Librans are often more worldly and open-minded than others, making them amazing friends. Yet in Hysan’s case, he’s not the typical Libran, just as Rho isn’t your average Cancrian.

Hysan is fun because he hasn’t been raised by humans (I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but this sounds weird, I know!), and his whole life, he’s had to work harder than everyone else at simply putting up the façade of being normal—he fakes his parents, his identity, his averageness (a genius masquerading as an average guy). So I think there’s just a really intriguing element to his character that makes Rho (and hopefully at least a few readers) want to learn more about him.

Which we will in book two….

Being a debut author is such an exciting experience. What has been the most thrilling part of the experience so far? What has been the most surprising?

I thought the most thrilling part of being an author was writing the worlds of ZODIAC, until I held the published book in my fingers and had the chance to hand copies to my family—even my grandparents in Argentina—realizing a dream I’d been journeying toward since age nine.

Then the book went on sale. And holy crap, I had no idea how much better this ride could get.

I’ve been having the absolute time of my life getting to know ZODIAC’s readers on Twitter and Instagram and so on. I’m kind of a social hermit, so I had no idea how amazingly cool it would be to actually invite people over to hear the made-up stories in my head rather than guarding them fearsomely. The readers I’ve been talking to have blown me away with their insights and kindness and enthusiasm and theories and all-around YA scholarship…it’s also nice to get the chance to fangirl over all my favorite series with these bookish new friends.

This whole experience has helped me open up as a person and face some of my deepest fears (my first time public speaking happened this summer at Comic Con!), and I’m so, so, SO grateful for this opportunity…and I can’t wait to continue growing and evolving with Rho.

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

I’m afraid of ignorance, and I’m not afraid to be alone. Thank you for this awesome interview—I ❤ being a Fearless Fifteener.


Romina Russell (pen name for Romina Garber) is a Los Angeles based author who originally hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a teen, Romina landed her first writing gig—College She Wrote, a weekly Sunday column for the Miami Herald that was later picked up for national syndication—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. When she’s not working on the ZODIAC series, Romina can be found producing movie trailers, taking photographs, or daydreaming about buying a new drum set. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core.



Laurie McKay is an author and biology instructor who lives in Durham, NC. When she’s not working, she spends time with her family and her two elderly dogs. You can find out more and see pictures of her dogs at lauriemckay.net or by following her on twitter. Her debut MG fantasy novel, VILLAIN KEEPER, will be available from HarperCollins on Feb 3rd, 2015.



Hi everyone!  Sandra Waugh, here, interviewing the YA fantasy author Vicki L. Weavil for the Fifteeners blog today! Here’s the summary of her awesome CROWN OF ICE, which released from Month9Books in September:

VWeavil_CrownofIce_M9B_eCover_900x1350Thyra Winther’s seventeen, the Snow Queen, and immortal, but if she can’t reassemble a shattered mirror by her eighteenth birthday, she’s doomed to spend eternity as a wraith.

Armed with magic granted by a ruthless wizard, Thyra schemes to survive with her mind and body intact. Unencumbered by kindness, she kidnaps local boy Kai Thorsen, whose mathematical skills rival her own. Two logical minds, Thyra calculates, are better than one. With time rapidly melting away she needs all the help she can steal.

A cruel lie ensnares Kai in her plan, but three missing mirror shards and Kai’s childhood friend, Gerda, present more formidable obstacles. Thyra’s willing to do anything–venture into uncharted lands, outwit sorcerers, or battle enchanted beasts to reconstruct the mirror, yet her most dangerous journey lies within her breast.  Touched by the warmth of a wolf pup’s devotion and the fire of a young man’s desire, the thawing of Thyra’s frozen heart could be her ultimate undoing.

Here is where you can find this wonderful fantasy:

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Indie Bound

Now to the interview!

SW: Tell us about the inspiration to re-imagine Hans Christian Andersen’s THE SNOW QUEEN.  In particular, I’m wondering if this story has long been a favorite of yours and why?

VW: THE SNOW QUEEN was one of my favorite fairly tales when I was young (and I read a LOT of fairy tales).  Something about it always intrigued me–looking back, I think it was the fact that the supposed antagonist wasn’t really evil.  In Andersen’s tale, the Snow Queen’s actions harm humans (including the protagonists Kai and Gerda) abut she is really more of a force of nature than a true villain.  She has her own, self-absorbed, reasons for her actions, and they do cause damage, but she isn’t actively seeking to destroy the protagonists.  As a child, I found this concept of a character who was neither good nor evil fascinating. I guess I enjoyed the concept of a “gray” character even then.

One thing I would like to make clear–I had no inkling of the existence of any film based on THE SNOW QUEEN when I wrote my book.  In fact I didn’t hear about FROZEN until I was already querying CROWN OF ICE. So the popularity of that film had no influence on my choice because of the subject matter.  Ironically, one of the key phrases in my book–“Let it go”–became the anthem of the movie.  I promise there was no connection! (Unless it was one of those “collective unconsciousness” things).

SW: You chose the Snow Queen’s story rather than the fairy tale’s heroine, Gerda.  Please talk about that. 

VW: Actually, that was sparked by a discussion on Twitter.  I was following a Twitter exchange where several literary agents said they’d like to see more stories told from the villain’s point-of-view.  I’d been considering a fairy tale retelling, so when I read these tweets, THE SNOW QUEEN immediately popped into my mind–primarily because I love that fairy tale, but also because I feel the Snow Queen’s perspective could be an interesting “villain” POV.

As I developed the book, a major theme emerged–whether someone who has “frozen” their heart and emotions in order to survive can ever learn to love again.  This theme is very dear to me, because I believe there is always hope, even for those who feel they have no love in their life and never will.

When I created Thyra, in my mind were images of all the young people who deal with war, illness, family problems, abuse, mental illness, poverty, or other tragedies and challenges.  I believe those who survive often have to fight their way back to a sense of happiness and an ability to love, but I also believe it is possible for them to do so.

I always describe my protagonist, Thyra, as a survivor.  She isn’t a warm, fuzzy, character and she sometimes does things that aren’t particularly nice. But she’s still human and, beneath her “frozen” exterior, she still feels as deeply as others.  Having known the struggles of several friends–and having dealt with my own battles with depression–I really wanted to explore the growth arc of a character whose story begins in isolation and despair.  How does such an individual learn to embrace life again?

I realize Thyra is a very divisive character for some readers, and that’s okay.  I truly wanted to present a character who’s not particularly “loveable” in the beginning–a person who has become self-absorbed in order to survive.  I know such characters (and people) are not always easy to relate to.  I actually don’t expect readers to like such a “difficult” character at the beginning of the book.  I do hope, as they follow her journey to self-awareness, they learn to respect and care about her.

SW: I’m still brushing off ice crystals–Thyra’s world was so real!  What was it like immersing yourself in this frigid landscape? 

VW: Honestly, at one point, I wondered if I could find enough different ways to describe ice and snow!  It definitely was a challenge to create Thyra’s world, but I was able to draw on my own experiences a little bit.  I grew up at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains and when I was a child we did get significant snowfalls. I also spent a little time living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which taught me a great deal about the effects–and dangers–of cold weather.

SW: Your secondary characters are all as richly alive as Thyra, human and animal, so I’m wondering which secondary character was your favorite to write?  

VW: Oh, I love all my characters (even the villains) but one of my favorite secondary characters is Sephia.  I actually based her on the old woman with the magical garden from Andersen’s original tale However, as I was creating CROWN OF ICE, I embraced her as a more significant character and a true foil for Thyra–someone who’s also neither absolutely evil nor perfectly good.  Sophia has power over green and growing things, in direct contrast to Thyra’s power over ice, snow, and cold, but they are very much alike in other ways.  Like Thyra, Sephia has her own agenda, and isn’t about to let anyone or anything stand in her way.  But Sephia–whose name is a combination of “Persephone” and “Sophia” (or “Wisdom”) is much older than Thyra and has acquired knowledge and understanding over the years.  Even though she opposes Thyra at many points in the book, she also sees elements of her own younger self in this Snow Queen.

Of course I also loved writing the two animal characters, Bae and Luki.  Bae is actually based on a talking reindeer in Andersen’s original story, but Luki is my creation. I included animals as primary characters because I believe they’re an essential part of life.  We share our lives and our world with animals, and I think they can have a great influence over human beings.  (Just consider the joy of snuggling up with your dog or cat at the end of a long, hard day!) Luki is really the first creature in a long, long time to show Thyra affection.  His unconditional love and loyalty are a lynchpin in the plot–Thyra’s growth arc would not be the same without him.

SW: My heart always catches hold of certain details an author chooses to explore–in this case the fabrics in Mael Voss’s chambers.  What were you thinking as you were describing them?  

VW: I have a “secret” past as a costume designer, so fabrics are something that speak to me in a special way.  The materials a character chooses to surround themselves with, as well as wear, can tell the reader a lot about their personality and their inner feelings.  Voss has greatly extended his life through his use of magic, but he hasn’t really grown over all that time.  He’s still stuck in the past, which is reflected in the clothes he wears and the items he keeps in his chambers.  In one scene, he even wears a garment that reflects his long ago connection to another character–not certain how obvious that detail is to readers, but Thyra does notice!

SW: I understand you write poetry! How did that influence CROWN OF ICE? Writing in general?

VW: When I was younger, poetry was pretty much all I wrote.  I played around with short stories and started a few novels, but never finished one.  Poetry was my main writing outlet (and I did actually win a few awards for it).

Once I finally sat down and completed a novel (an adult sci-fi that is currently being revised) I discovered that certain aspects of poetry writing had crept into my prose.  For one thing, I’m very conscious of rhythm–how using certain patterns in sentences, paragraphs, and so on can create atmosphere or change the tone and (sometimes) meaning of what I write.  Also, because poetry is such a condensed medium, it requires to choose words very carefully.  This helps with writing descriptions–it makes me strive to convey the most potent image with the fewest words.  I haven’t perfected this yet by a long shot, but it’s something that’s always on my mind.

SW:  Without spoilers (!), I’m sensing your passion for learning.  Did you anticipate this as a theme in your story?

VW: The love of learning is so much a part of my life, I think it tends to just appear in whatever I write.  For CROWN OF ICE, this theme is essential because it shows a side of Thyra that hasn’t been “frozen” by her choices and circumstances.  The fact that she still has a passion for learning is the one thing that first connects her to another human, the equally education-obsessed Kai. It also raises the stakes.  Since Thyra values her intellect above all things, the threat of losing her mental abilities if she fails to reconstruct the mirror and becomes a mindless wraith is truly a fate worse than death.

SW: Speaking of fates worse than death, and because this community is fearless, what is something you are afraid of and something you’re not afraid of?

VW: Following up on my answer to the previous question, one thing I truly fear is the loss of my own mental faculties.  I sincerely fear that more than the threat of any physical disability or illness.  When he was older my father, a brilliant scientist, suffered a brain injury from a fall and lost much of his mental acumen.  I think somewhere deep down he knew, and was frustrated and saddened by this loss throughout the last years of his life.  That was a tragedy, and something I hope never happens to me.

One thing I’m not afraid of is change.  A lot of people have trouble with that, but I’m not one of them. I love to travel, to embrace challenges, and to continue to learn new things.  I think I could happily move to a new location every five years or so, just to experience different environments and cultures.  Certainly one reason I love writing is because I can create new characters and new worlds with every book!

We’re so glad to have you share this on our post! Thank you, Vicki!


Vicki Weavil 11

Raised in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Vicki L. Weevil turned her early obsession with reading into a career as a librarian and author.  She holds a B.A. in Theatre, a Masters in Library Science, and a M.A. in Liberal Studies.  Currently she’s the library director for a performing and visual arts university.

An avid reader who appreciates good writing in all genres, Vicki has been known to read seven books in as many days.  When not writing or reading, she likes to spend time watching films, listening to music, gardening, or traveling.  Vicki lives in North Carolina with her husband and some very spoiled cats.

Vicki is a member of SCBWI.  She is represented by Jennifer Mishler at Literary Counsel, NY, NY.

You can connect with Vicki here:

Website/Blog  Twitter  Tumblr 1 or  Tumblr 2  Goodreads  Pinterest  Facebook  Amazon


Sandra Waugh cropped final.Sandra Waugh grew up in an old house with crowded bookshelves, in walking distance of an old library with even more crowded bookshelves. It goes without saying that she fell in love with the old house in Litchfield County, CT because of its bookshelves and she lives there now with her husband, two sons, and Daisy the snoring goldendoodle. Her debut fantasy, LARK RISING, is out from Random House. SILVER EVE follows 9/15. Follow Sandra on Twitter at @sandrajwaugh.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Jaye Robin Brown, Author of NO PLACE TO FALL


No Place To Fall cover image

On our blog today, we have Jaye Robin Brown, author of NO PLACE TO FALL (Harper Teen). Here’s a synopsis of the book:

Amber Vaughn is a good girl. She sings solos at church, babysits her nephew after school, and spends every Friday night hanging out at her best friend Devon’s house. It’s only when Amber goes exploring in the woods near her home, singing camp songs with the hikers she meets on the Appalachian Trail, that she feels free—and when the bigger world feels just a little bit more in reach.

When Amber learns about an audition at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she decides that her dream—to sing on bigger stages—could also be her ticket to a new life. Devon’s older (and unavailable) brother, Will, helps Amber prepare for her one chance to try out for the hypercompetitive arts school. But the more time Will and Amber spend together, the more complicated their relationship becomes . . . and Amber starts to wonder if she’s such a good girl, after all.

Then, in an afternoon, the bottom drops out of her family’s world—and Amber is faced with an impossible choice between her promise as an artist and the people she loves. Amber always thought she knew what a good girl would do. But between “right” and “wrong,” there’s a whole world of possibilities.

Hi and welcome! Congrats on your debut! Now onto our questions…

Amber is an empathetic character who makes some questionable choices. Was it hard for you to write the moments where Amber makes mistakes?

Not really. I wasn’t perfect as a teen. The students I teach aren’t perfect. Things happen and you either sink or grow stronger from your mistakes. Amber was actually much more flawed and manipulative in early drafts, so she seems almost angelic to me in the final version!

Amber is a singer. As a reader, I longed to be able to hear her on stage. Did you listen to music a lot while writing this novel? Is there a famous musician who sounds like Amber does? Are you a singer yourself?

I can’t listen while I write, because I get sucked into lyrics, but I definitely listened to a lot of music to and from my day job. When I think of Amber’s voice, I think of great singers like Gillian Welch, Allison Krauss, and in particular, Emmy Rossum in the movie Songcatcher. That was probably the voice I heard most in my head. Though the version of Amazing Grace that I listened to over and over is Patsy Cline’s. Absolutely gorgeous. Sadly, I am not a singer. Correction. I sing all the time, but there aren’t many who would want to listen. I think writing Amber was my chance to finally belt it out and live that imaginary dream.

You do a great job of creating a complex family dynamic. They are all relatable and flawed in their own ways. Did you ever do any free writing from the perspectives of Amber’s family members? If not, how did you get to know them so well?

Oh, thank you so much! You know, I definitely have done free writing for other manuscripts, but with No Place To Fall, these characters were so ingrained inside of me already. As a transplant to the Appalachian Mountains, I’m always watching and listening and soaking situations in. Though none of the family was directly modeled on any one person I know, they were definitely stitched out of some pretty special cloth. Plus, with this being my first published novel, I probably had more time with it than people do with later novels and through each revision I got to know the characters on deeper levels. But mostly, they came to me pretty fully formed. I sure wish it was always like that.

The relationship between Amber and Will starts in a controversial way, although you also feel the deep connection between them as a reader. Did you know when you began the book that Will would be the central romantic relationship?

I’m so glad you asked this question! Actually no. When I first started the book, I thought Kush was going to be the love interest. I had a picture of the actor, Avan Jogia, that I’d pulled for inspiration and I even thought there might be a bit of Devon versus Amber stuff going on. I quickly realized that would be a terrible set up in a book. In another version, when Sean was pretty different from who he is now – a foster boy with totally different foster parents, Amber dates Sean but as a more manipulative move to piss off her father. But with each draft, the heartbeat of Will took over and it was like Amber was telling me, “Um, author lady, he’s the one I want.” (Best news…there’s going to be a Will’s perspective novella that follows some of the same timeline as the novel – his side of the story!)

That sounds awesome! 

What was your writing process like for this book? Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser?” When you began, did you know what you wanted the book to say?

I’m a plantser? I have major beats in my head but the rest is the muse and intuition. Unfortunately, that meant a bunch of major revisions, but my process is my process. I can’t say I knew exactly what I wanted the book to say, but the word longing was always attached to it. As was family and loyalty. Mostly I wanted to write a story about the area I’ve adopted as home, and show the strength of family in the face of flaws and ugly humanity. I’m also attracted to that moment as teens when we realize we are not our parents and we don’t have to be like them when we grow up. I think that’s one of the real revelations of entering that time of your life. It tends to show up in most of my stories. And of course the sweet simplicity of friends that get you, no matter what. Those friendships were important in the book.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about No Place to Fall?

Um. It’s awesome. You should read it. I can’t believe I just typed that. But you know what, I’ll keep it 🙂

Do you have any other writing projects in the works? I noticed that you are an art teacher. Do you have any dreams of illustrating one of your books?

I’ve been working on a couple of contemporaries and my agent, editor, and I are trying to figure out which one will be the follow up to No Place To Fall. You can be sure it will have a largish cast of characters, themes of family, finding one’s way in the world, and kissing. Because kissing is good.

As for illustration, no. I’m a doodler of ARCs, but the mediums I’ve dabbled in for money have all been of the three dimensional variety. Clay, silversmithing, a little bit of silk screening. Being a high school art teacher is a bit like being a jack of all trades and true master of none.

Lastly, as this community is fearless, what is something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of?

It is? That’s good to know because I often think writing is about the scariest profession on the planet. Okay. I am not afraid of speaking my mind. It took me years to get here but if I have a problem, I will go to the source and work it out directly. I am scared of ignorance and those who choose not to do the research to find out the big picture and make well-educated decisions about the world. That, and snakes. Ugh.

Thanks so much, Cordelia for the great questions!

Jaye Robin Brown author photo

Jaye Robin Brown, Jro to her friends, lives on a fourteen acre farm in the mountains north of Asheville, North Carolina. She is fond of dogs, horses, the absurd and the ironic. She truly believes laughter and music are the best medicine. When not writing you can find her in the art room of the high school where she teaches.





CordeliaJensenAuthorPhotoCordelia Allen Jensen was Poet Laureate of Perry County, PA in 2006 and 2007. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches creative writing in Philadelphia, where she lives with her husband and children. Cordelia’s YA Novel in Verse, SKYSCRAPING, is forthcoming from Philomel/Penguin in June 2015. Cordelia is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc. You can find her at www.cordeliajensen.com and on Twitter @cordeliajensen

All Four Kids: Interview With Benny Zelkowicz and Cam Baity, Authors of The First Book of Ore: The Foundry’s Edge


This week I am delighted to be chatting with Benny Zelkowicz and Cam Baity, the hilarious authors of THE FIRST BOOK OF ORE: THE FOUNDRY’S EDGE. Before we get to the interview, here’s a little more about the book:

oreTwo kids on a rescue mission.
A mysterious realm of living metal.
One secret that will change the world.

For Phoebe Plumm, life in affluent Meridian revolves around trading pranks with irksome servant Micah Tanner and waiting for her world-renowned father, Dr. Jules Plumm, to return home. Chief Surveyor for The Foundry, a global corporation with an absolute monopoly on technology, Phoebe’s father is often absent for months at a time. But when a sudden and unexpected reunion leads to father and daughter being abducted, Phoebe and would-be rescuer Micah find themselves stranded in a stunning yet volatile world of living metal, one that has been ruthlessly plundered by The Foundry for centuries and is the secret source of every comfort and innovation the two refugees have ever known.

The Foundry’s Edge is the first book in a trilogy that will transport young readers down a mechanical rabbit hole and send them on an adventure that explores the hidden costs of indulgence, the perils of unchallenged nationalism, and the world-altering power of compassion and conviction.

Amazon / B&N / Indiebound / Goodreads

The dreaded but inevitable question—what inspired the Books of Ore?

That’s actually an easy one for us. We are both stop-motion animators, so we have a tendency to look at objects differently, to invent their personalities and imagine how they might move if they were alive. As animators, we need to conjure the illusion of life out of inanimate lumps of wire, fabric, and foam all the time. We have to make decisions about every aspect of a puppet, from how gravity affects it, to its mood, its thoughts, and its physical capabilities. This process got us thinking about everyday gadgets, all the bicycles and remote controls and electric toothbrushes, and what they might be like if they were sentient. Who were they? Where did they come from? And most importantly, why are they no longer alive? This question into the origin of objects and technology sparked the concept for the Books of Ore.

So you wrote this book together. How did that come about? And what’s collaboration like? Which of you is Lennon and which is McCartney? Which of you is the brains and which is the beauty?

We’ve been working together for fifteen years, ever since we sat in the back row of our experimental film history class and found ourselves disagreeing on everything. It turns out to be our greatest strength! And like any relationship, our dynamic is constantly evolving. In fact, we are approaching book two of our trilogy with a very different method than how we wrote book one. But the general approach is this: Benny writes the good stuff, and then Cam comes along and mucks it all up.

Okay, not exactly. We hammer out the big picture together, working out a detailed outline, beat by beat. Then we leapfrog chapters, discuss the minutia to make sure we are seeing things in the same way, then we both draft. Next, we trade, discuss and argue, then we each take a pass on the other’s chapter. We go back and forth until we are both happy with the result. Rinse and repeat.

So in summation, Cam is the beauty, and Benny is Ringo. Sort of.

If your main characters Phoebe and Micah were going out for karaoke, what would they sing?

Phoebe has some significant pre-teen angst, so something like The Smiths would likely be in her repertoire. Micah would definitely be a fan of country-western music, though we can easily imagine him singing TV show theme songs, maybe something like “Secret Agent Man”, or (if this Karaoke bar magically has it) the theme song from his favorite TV show, “Maddox.”

What was your favorite scene in the novel to write? (spoiler free!)

Since we don’t really have a favorite, we will mention one off the top of our heads – the introduction of Mr. Pynch and the Marquis. These guys are a pair of bizarre but lovable rascals that our heroes encounter midway through their journey, and they have a lot of Cam and Benny in them. Benny is taller, a huge aficionado of silent movies, and a walking slapstick machine (like the silent, dapper Marquis.) Cam is shorter, gruffer, and fond of perspicillious words, like Mr. Pynch. The way they constantly bicker while still retaining a productive partnership and affection for one another is dear to our hearts.

What can we look forward to in the next book?

To momentarily eschew all modesty, some pretty spectacular stuff. At the end of book one, Phoebe and Micah find themselves in an unlikely position with an overwhelming responsiblility. Book two follows their desperate efforts to accomplish something so grand that it is almost certainly unattainable. We explore the conflict unfolding both in Mehk and Meridian, and the rules of this world of living metal come much more into focus. There is an emphasis on the species of Mehk and how they relate to one another, as well as a process of constant discovery as new lands and lifeforms appear, alongside new allies and terrifying enemies. Then it all winds up with a doozy of a climax.

Suffice it to say, we think it’s pretty cool.

What has the debut journey been like for you? Is there anything about publishing that surprised you?

It has been both the most challenging and most rewarding venture of our careers. The years of intensive labor put a strain on our wallets and our relationships, to be sure, but nothing compares to the smell of the first opened box of books with your name on it. And yes, there have been many surprises along the way, but the biggest would have to be the amount of marketing we have to do. Between establishing relationships with bookstores, setting up school and library visits, and trying to get on panels at conventions and expos, there is barely any time to do the actual writing. Marketing is not the most enjoyable part of the job, but it is necessary.

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

Cam is afraid of the “Idiocracy” effect, where our future is a dumber place. Cam is not afraid of failure.

Benny is afraid of “Mr. Boogedy”, from a mid 80’s ABC Tv movie of the week. That movie was freaky as hell. Benny is not afraid of spiders, unless they come bearing overdue bills.

cam and bennyCAM BAITY & BENNY ZELKOWICZ are writers, animators, and filmmakers who began collaborating after meeting at California Institute of the Arts. A Texas native, Cam has made several short films, which have been screened at festivals around the globe, including Cinequest and the BBC British Short Film Festival. With fifteen years of experience in the film industry, his work includes SpongeBob SquarePants, Team America: World Police, and Robot Chicken, for which he won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation. Canadian-born Benny studied science before turning his attention to animation, and his celebrated short The ErlKing was an official selection at both Sundance and the New York Film Festival. He has directed the BBC/CBC animated series Lunar Jim, and in the U.S. his work has been seen in The Simpsons and The LEGO Movie. Visit them and learn more about their books at  booksofore.com.

Mackenzi Lee is a reader, writer, bookseller, Diet Coke fanatic, unapologetic fangirl, and fast talker. Her YA reimagining of Frankenstein, THIS MONSTROUS THING, 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.