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

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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
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ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Trisha Leaver & Lindsay Currie, co-authors of CREED

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CR

Sona Charaipotra taking over the blog today! And since my debut, Tiny Pretty Things, is a collaboration with one Dhonielle Clayton, I was thrilled to be able to interview the All Four Kids debut duo of Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie, who collaborated on the super scary CREED, which hits bookstores today. We chatted about publishing craziness, crafting a scary story, balancing mothering and writing, and how they write together with more than 1200 miles between them! And they rock. Herewith, Trisha and Lindsay!

CREED is available today at Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

Can you tell us a bit about the book?

CREED is the story of tree teens — Dee, Luke, and Mike —who accidentally find themselves stranded in town run by charismatic leader, Elijah Hawkins. It chronicles their three day long struggle to free themselves, not only physically but mentally, from Elijah’s control. The playlist below speaks to the desperation, fear, and hope that kept them alive, fighting for a way out as opposed to blindly accepting their fate.

The “official” Creed Blurb:

Three of us went in.

Three of us came out.

None of us a shadow of who we once were.

When their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Dee, her boyfriend Luke, and Luke’s brother, Mike, seek help in the nearby town of Purity Springs. But as they walk the vacant streets, the teens make some disturbing discoveries. The seemingly deserted homes each contain a sinister book with violent instructions on disciplining children. The graveyard is full of unmarked crosses. Worst of all, there’s no way to contact the outside world.

When Purity Springs’ inhabitants suddenly appear, Dee, Luke, and Mike find themselves at the mercy of Elijah Hawkins, the town’s charismatic leader who has his own plans for the three of them. Their only hope for survival is Elijah’s enigmatic son, Joseph. And his game may be just as deadly as his father’s….

Did you guys ever scare yourselves while writing? (Don’t laugh — I’ve done this before!) 

Trisha: No, but I have a pretty high tolerance of “scares.” That said, I am quite sure my search history would have more than one person questioning my sanity! LOL!

Lindsay: Nope, but occasionally if I shut my eyes and envision some of the things we write, I can creep myself out. Especially the sirens and crop fields at the beginning of CREED. Terrifying.

How did you and Lindsay start collaborating (and meet?) — and how did the concept for CREED come together? 

Trisha LeaverTrisha: Once upon a time, in a land far, far away… just kidding. We were critique partners long before we started collaborating on CREED. We had similar writing habits and styles, so it started off as more of an experiment…a way to keep our minds off things while we both had solo projects making the rounds. I’d write a scene and toss it at her, she’d tack on another scene and toss it back. And so it went until we had 64,000 half-way decent words sketched out.

You guys are 1200 miles apart. How did collaboration work? Are you pantsers or plotters?

Trisha: I am a panster 100% of the time. I have a rough idea of where the story starts and ends, but everything in the middle…well that is fair game until the words get typed out. As for how we collaborate form 1200 miles apart—lots of emails and phone calls.

Lindsay: Ditto. I’ve tried writing with an outline and it generally ends up reading like a forced mess.

What has the debut author journey been like? Does it help having a partner on this wild ride?

Trisha: In one word, I would have to say the entire experience has been surreal. You spend days…months…years crafting this story, slaving over every word choice, questioning every plot point. And then one day, you have to let it go, let the world take a peek inside your creative mind. It’s scary and exhilarating and exhausting, and…well, surreal.

Lindsay: WILD! I really think publishing is a lot like a roller coaster for me. The highs are amazing, but the lows damn near kill you sometimes. It’s nice to have a partner along for the journey, especially someone as level-headed as Trisha.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve experienced on your publishing journey? 

Trisha: How absolutely supportive the author community is. From beta reading, to holding your hand through a difficult revision, to raising a virtual glass of wine to you when you hit a milestone, the author community is small and tight knit, and full of the most generous people I’d ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Lindsay: How many NOs it often takes to make a yes. I won’t say how long it took me to get an agent, but it wasn’t fast. And it’s hard when you’re in those trenches to remind yourself that the overnight successes are actually very rare. The longer journeys – the ones that take years of blood, sweat and tears – those are more often the norm.

Are you planning to collaborate further? What’s next for each of you?

Trisha: On the solo front, my YA Contemporary, THE SCECRETS WE KEEP, drops April 28th 2015 from FSG/Macmillan. I am insanely excited about that one. It’s about the complicated bond between twin sisters and the lengths they will go to keep each other’s secrets safe.

On the co-authored front, we have two books forthcoming. HARDWIRED, a co-authored sci-fi, is set to release fall of 2015 with Flux. Based in a contemporary world, HARDWIRED deals with the fall-out of genetic testing and the idea of nature vs. nurture. Our third co-authored work, SWEET MADNESS, is a retelling of the infamous Borden murders from the point of view of Lizzie’s Irish maid, Bridget Sullivan. I will be published sometime in 2016 by Merit Press.  

You each have three kids. How do you get any writing done? Tips about work/life balance please!  

Trisha: I am lucky — all three of my kids are school age so I have a solid six hours of writing time a day. I also have a husband who likes to cook and isn’t averse to doing laundry so that helps too!

As for life work balance…I may be a panster in my writing but when it comes to life, I’m an incessant plotter. I’m the kind of person who formulates a back-up plan for my back-up plan. Every morning I make a list, the items that absolutely need to get done are written in red, the rest get jotted down in black. It could be as complicated as re-work the closing scene to a WIP or as mundane as defrost the chicken for dinner. Do they all get done…hardly ever, but I find the list keeps me on track.

lindsay author photoLindsay: Ah, the million dollar question. Honestly, it’s hard and I won’t try to say it isn’t. There have been times I’ve looked at the laundry pile and sighed, or shook my head at the fact that I’m ordering carry out again. But my husband and kiddos are supportive and they never cease to amaze me with their patience.

There is one priceless thing about juggling writing with kids and that’s that my kiddos have watched Mommy go after her dream and achieve it. It may not have happened right away. It might not have been without a tear or two, but it happened. And I think seeing that kind of resilience and determination is better than a crisply ironed shirt and home made casserole any day!

As this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of — and something you are not afraid of!

Trisha: I am deathly afraid of snakes.  Spiders, mice, and other sketchy type animals I can totally deal with, but not snakes.  They are slimy, and like to hide, and have the oddest looking eyes—it’s like they are looking at you and everything else at the same time, sizing up what the best angle of attack is.  Yeah…just no!

As for what am I not afraid of…criticism. I used to terrified of “what people thought” of me. It would keep me up at night, trying to figure out a way to make everybody happy, often at the expense of myself and my family. If there is one thing this crazy path to publication has taught me is that as long as you are true to yourself, and kind and generous to the people you love, then what your third cousin twice removed thinks is really of no consequence

Lindsay: I am not afraid of the dark…I used to be when I was a child, but not anymore. Evening is the quietest time in my house, the one time I can sit down and write. I am, however, deathly afraid of flying. It’s not the long security lines or cramped seats, it’s the whole crash and burn aspect that I hate.

 

Sona CharaipotraAn entertainment and lifestyle journalist published by The New York Times, People, Parade, ABC News, MSN, Cosmopolitan and other major national media, Sona Charaipotra is the co-founder of CAKE Literary, a boutique book development company with a decidedly diverse bent. A collector of presumably useless degrees, she studied journalism and American Studies at Rutgers before getting her masters in screenwriting from New York University (where her thesis project was developed for the screen by MTV Films) and her MFA from the New School. When she’s not hanging out with her writer husband and two chatter-boxy kids, she can be found poking plot holes in teen shows like Vampire Diaries – for work, of course. Her debut, the YA dance drama TINY PRETTY THINGS is due May 26, 2015 from HarperTeen. Find her on the web at SonaCharaipotra.com, CAKELiterary.com or Twitter: Sona_C.

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.

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

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

About BEWARE THE WILD:

Beware The Wild - Natalie C. Parker

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

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

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

AMAZON | B&NINDIEBOUND | GOODREADS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Natalie:

Natalie C Parker

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

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

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

WEBSITETWITTER | FACEBOOK

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Kate:

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

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

ALL FOUR KIDS: Interview with Jennifer Mathieu, Author of The Truth About Alice

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Today, we are with Jennifer Mathieu, the author of the remarkable book The Truth About Alice. Here’s a bit about the book: 

Alice_FINALEveryone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party. When Healy High star quarterback, Brandon Fitzsimmons, dies in a car crash, it was because he was sexting with Alice. Ask anybody.
 
Rumor has it Alice Franklin is a slut. It’s written all over the “slut stall” in the girls’ bathroom: “Alice had sex in exchange for math test answers” and “Alice got an abortion last semester.” After Brandon dies, the rumors start to spiral out of control. In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students tell all they “know” about Alice–and in doing so reveal their own secrets and motivations, painting a raw look at the realities of teen life. But in this novel from Jennifer Mathieu, exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there’s only one person to ask: Alice herself.

Hi Jennifer, thanks for being with us on the Fearless Fifteeners blog.

I really enjoyed the use of alternating perspectives in your book. Not everyone can do this well but you managed to create four distinct voices and a real need for the story to have all four. What was this process like for you? Did you write the book the way it appears, alternating narrators chapter by chapter, or did you write each character’s narratives and then split them up?

Thank you so much for having me.  I’m glad the voices felt distinct!  The story evolved over many drafts.  Kelsie is actually the product of two different characters I blended together, and there was another girl – another outcast who didn’t fit in as neatly into the plot – that I removed after the first draft.  It was just too many characters to keep track of, so I narrowed it down.  But once I got my four main characters down their voices just came to me.  I switched on and off from character to character as I wrote which was a lot of fun and kept the writing process fresh for me.  I’d never written in a boy’s voice before, and I’m still surprised at how easily Josh and Kurt’s voices – especially Josh’s voice – came to me!  I guess it comes from teaching high school boys for a living.  🙂

Was it always written in multiple perspectives? Did the character of Alice come to you first, the situation or one of the other characters?

Yes, I always planned to write it in multiple perspectives.  I love books with alternating points of view, and I love stories where you put the pieces of the puzzle together over time.  The initial kernel of Alice’s story came to me first and then the other characters’ stories evolved from there.  A huge influence for the idea is the Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.  I read it in high school for a drama class and it stayed with me.  It’s a series of epitaphs from residents in a small town, and as you read each epitaph you put together all these stories and understand what made the town tick and how the residents were connected to one another.

Was one of the character’s voices easier for you to write? One harder?

Kurt’s voice came to me quite easily.  Maybe because I was pretty bookish in high school although I wasn’t a total social outcast.  I just loved writing him and cheered him on the entire time.  The hardest was Elaine.  It took me a while to fully understand her motivations.  The scene with her and Alice in the hair salon was one of the last scenes I wrote and it took the most time to get the tone just right. Even I’m a little afraid of Elaine O’Dea.  😉

I like how the book begins: Elaine listing the facts of the drama. We get a real strong sense of who she is off the bat. Some of the characters in your book do some pretty unlikeable things. You do a good job of off-setting this by using backstory and character depth. Did you struggle with the likability of your characters?

This is something some readers may hate, but I love my characters, even when they’re doing awful things.  I love them so much.  I know they do terrible things, but something I tried to do was give each character humanity.  They do awful things because they’re young and under pressure and some – like Kelsie – have these wildly difficult situations at home that they can’t even name much less deal with.  But I felt for them so much.  My heart broke for all of them.  I’ve read comments online with some readers saying they hate Kelsie, and I’m like, “But can’t you see what she’s been through?  Can’t you see how she’s suffered?”  I know Alice suffered, too, tremendously.  But all the characters suffered in one way or another.  One quote that kept running through my mind as I wrote this story – and I’m not sure who said it – is that everyone has a story inside of them that if you only heard it, it would break your heart.  I think if we all treated each other with that knowledge in that front of our minds – that everyone is going through something personal and painful – we would all be nicer to each other.  Obviously characters like Kelsie and Josh struggle in following that advice, but that doesn’t mean that they themselves are immune from that saying.  They are struggling, too, and enormously so.

Bullying is a core issue in this book. Is that a topic you feel strongly about?

As a mother, teacher, and human being, of course.  But I don’t think the way we’ve addressed bullying is really very smart.  I could write an entire essay on this, but bullying rarely takes place like we see on the movies with the nerd being stuffed in the locker.  And not every tough situation a young person endures with friends is necessarily bullying.  I would rather we eliminate the word bullying or stop using it to label everything negative and instead just focus on being kind to each other and providing young people with resources, including trusted adults, that they can really talk to when they’re feeling down, under pressure, or isolated.

The football-obsessed, small-town Texas setting seems vital to this story. Do you think Alice’s story would be different if it took place somewhere else?

I do think girls are labeled sluts regardless of where they live.  Like Elaine says toward the end, she knows that even in a place like New York City, a girl like Alice would still have been called a slut.  What makes the setting important in this story, I think, is that the fishbowl environment of the small town just heightens everything and makes it even more intense and difficult for the characters living there.

And now, because we are community that is fearless, please name something that you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.

I’m very afraid of small spaces and had difficulty riding elevators for a few years.  Something I’m not afraid of that seems to put others into a panic is speaking in front of crowds.  I actually sort of enjoy it!  I think my years as a teacher have helped me there.  🙂

Thanks so much!

Thank you!  I loved your questions!

MATHIEU_PHOTO_BY_GEORGE_HIXSON_COLOR1.sizedJennifer Mathieu (pronounced Muh-two, but if you speak French you can pronounce it better than that) is a writer and English teacher who lives in Texas with her husband and son. A native of the East Coast and a former journalist, Jennifer enjoys writing contemporary young adult fiction that treats teenagers like real people. She loves to eat and hates to cook.

 

 

CordeliaJensenAuthorPhotoCordelia Allen Jensen graduated with a MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2012. Cordelia’s YA Novel in Verse, SKYSCRAPING, is forthcoming from Philomel/Penguin in early 2015. Cordelia was Poet Laureate of Perry County in 2006 & 2007. She’s a Writer in Residence at The Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Philadelphia where she teaches creative writing classes for kids & teens and does author interviews for their blog. Cordelia is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc. You can find her at www.cordeliajensen.com and on Twitter @cordeliajensen