ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Danielle Ellison, Author of Follow Me Through Darkness

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As a fitting post-Halloween followup, today we’re featuring Danielle Ellison’s dystopian novel, Follow Me Through Darkness, which came out on October 21st from Spencer Hill Press.

First, the book cover and blurb to whet your appetite:

FMTDThe truth won’t always set you free.

Less than a year ago, Neely Ambrose’s biggest worry was having the freedom to follow a path that wasn’t chosen for her.

Less than a year ago, she believed she could trust the Elders who said they had everyone’s best interest at heart and who said they were keeping them safe from the outside.

Sixty days ago, she discovered what they had planned for everyone she loved—and that all of it centered around her.

Now she’s on the run through a dangerous wasteland full of killing machines, secret organizations, and people who want to sell her back to the Elders for their own safety. The whole world outside the Compound is living proof that everything in Neely’s life was a lie manufactured by the Elders, which may even include the boy she loves.

All Neely wants is the truth, but each new piece of it drives her further from what she thought she knew. With only forty days until everyone she loves falls under the Elders’ mind control, Neely must decipher who to trust, what questions to ask, and how to get one step ahead of the Elders, who will do anything to keep their secrets buried.

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I don’t know about you, but that blurb really raises some intriguing questions I want answers to! For now, here are some interview questions with Danielle:

ARJ: It sounds like the format of Follow Me Through Darkness, with its flashbacks and contrast between the Compound and the outside, could be either a playground or a minefield for a writer. What were your favorite (or easiest) parts to write, and the most difficult?

DE: It was definitely not easy to master. I wrote and rewrote and revised this book eight times, and the flashbacks weren’t part of the story until a later revision. You’re absolutely right: flashbacks can be a minefield. Part of the difficulty, for me, was figuring out the placement of the flashbacks. You don’t want to reveal the wrong info in the wrong order, you have to be careful how much info you reveal in one section and for me, I had to have some relevance between where I placed them and what was happening in the present day. I’d definitely say that in this book those were the most difficult to write. The easiest parts to write were any scene with Xenith because he was a very clear character and is the most fun to write from day one.

ARJ: What writers and books influence you today, and how many of those would have been on Teen-You’s list?

DE: I really love Jennifer Donnelly, Laini Taylor, Nova Ren Suma, Courtney Summers, Beth Revis, and Cecelia Ahern. I did read Harry Potter as a teen, but teen-me was really into movies and plays, and not so much books. But I think she’d like all of them. 🙂

ARJ: Did you have a playlist you listened to while writing Follow Me Through Darkness? Or some other ritual that puts you right into the pages when you’re working on the series?

DE: I have a huge playlist for FOLLOW ME THROUGH DARKNESS. The story was darker and I had to pull myself into it, and that meant music. I worked on the book for two years before it sold and then two years after, so the playlist kept growing and growing. There’s a full list here: http://www.xpressoreads.com/2014/10/follow-me-through-darkness-playlist-giveaway.html

Now though, I can just enter the world with ease, which means so far there hasn’t been a playlist for the rest of the series.

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

DE: I’m not really afraid of anything normal. I really really HATE bugs and spiders, but I’m not afraid of them. I’m most afraid of failure, which is a ridiculous fear because there’s no way I will fail if I don’t quit. I’m not afraid of heights. (I don’t think.)

Thanks so much for the interview, Danielle–it was so much fun to interact with another Publisher Sister!

About Danielle:

d-ellison

Danielle Ellison is from a small town in West Virginia. She spent her childhood pretending to fly, talking to imaginary friends, and telling stories. She hasn’t changed much since then. You can still find her pretending to work, talking to imaginary characters, and writing stories.

When she’s not writing, Danielle is probably drinking coffee, fighting her nomadic urges, watching too much TV, or dreaming of the day when she can be British. She is the author of five upcoming novels and you can find her on twitter @DanielleEWrites.

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

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

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

About WINTERKILL

Cover of Winterkill, by Kate Boorman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ABOUT KATE A. BOORMAN

Photo of Kate A. Boorman

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

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

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

The Winterkill trilogy is her YA fiction debut.

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

You can find Kate on Twitter or on her website.

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

ALL FOUR KIDS: Interview with Marcia Wells, Author of EDDIE RED UNDERCOVER: MYSTERY ON MUSEUM MILE

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Today we’re talking to Marcia Wells, whose middle grade debut, EDDIE RED UNDERCOVER: MYSTERY ON MUSEUM MILE released on April 1st!

marcia-eddie-book-cover

 

About the book: Sixth-grader Edmund Xavier Lonnrot code-name “Eddie Red,” has a photographic memory and a prodigious talent for drawing anything he sees. When the NYPD is stumped by a mastermind art thief, Eddie becomes their secret weapon to solve the case, drawing Eddie deeper into New York’s famous Museum Mile and closer to a dangerous criminal group known as the Picasso Gang. Can Eddie help catch the thieves in time, or will his first big case be his last?

 

 

GN: Congratulations on your debut, Marcia! What inspired you to write Eddie Red?

MW: Thank you! During the summer of 2010, I was reading some Latin American mysteries for a high school class I was teaching that fall. I was also reading a lot of industry articles about the need for more kid mysteries and books for boys. I woke up one morning and Eddie was there. He wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote his story.

GN: The setting in Eddie Red — New York City — seems to play a big role in the book. How did you decide where to set the book? And did you get to do any fun research trips? 

MW: I don’t remember making a conscious decision about setting it in NYC- my husband’s family is from there, and we were visiting them in the Adirondacks, so perhaps that’s when it all clicked. I did a lot of research online before visiting New York City and Museum Mile. (At the time of my visit my kids were pretty small, so I wouldn’t call it the most productive of trips- the internet has been my biggest research tool in this process.) Eddie’s next adventure takes place in Mexico, so I went with my family down to Cancun over Thanksgiving. THAT was a lot of fun!

GN: I love that Eddie Red is illustrated! Is that something you’d imagined for the book when you started writing it? How does the author-illustrator partnership work?

MW: I didn’t imagine it illustrated, although because Eddie is a police sketch artist, it certainly makes sense. I was thrilled when Houghton Mifflin told me the direction they wanted to go with the project. My illustrator Marcos Calo is perfect for the job. He did the sketches quickly, and then sent them to me for comment. There were very few adjustments to be made- he brought the characters to life perfectly! Working with him has been an amazing part of the journey.

GN: I marvel at writers who can pull off a mystery. How did you make it work?

MW: I just dove in- I didn’t realize how tricky it was until after the fact. Maybe that’s a good thing? I did A LOT of rewriting. I attended some great classes at conferences about how to write a good mystery. Those classes have come in handy while writing the second book. One writer said, “If you can plot a mystery, you can plot anything!” I have to agree- there’s a real need to examine the information given throughout the book and make sure that the pacing is where it should be. It takes some time.

GN: What are you working on now?

MW: I’m revising Eddie Red Two with my editor right now, and also waiting to hear back about a YA fantasy project (this one starring a 15-yr-old girl) Fingers crossed!

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

MW: Recently I fell while skiing and sustained a mild concussion. It has been an awful feeling, not being able to read and write. So I guess my biggest fear is not being able to create, to run dry on new ideas. I am not afraid of criticism of my work, and in fact, I welcome it. (After five years of trying to get published, I’ve developed very thick skin!) Some criticism really resonates with me, and I use it to produce something better in the end. Other criticism I confidently ignore. I’ve really gotten to know myself as a writer, and I am always open to learning new things.

 

marcia-headshotABOUT MARCIA WELLS: Marcia Wells has a Master’s degree in Spanish literature and has taught writing, Spanish and math to middle and high school students for the past fifteen years.

When she’s not visiting relatives in New York City and planning new adventures for Eddie Red, she’s at home with her kids, husband, and other farm animals in Vermont. 

Visit Marcia at her website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

 

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.