ALL FOUR KIDS: INTERVIEW WITH DANIELLE L. JENSEN, AUTHOR OF STOLEN SONGBIRD

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Hello, hello, hello! I am so excited to bring yet another interview with OneFour Kidlit Author. Today’s center of attention is none other than Danielle L. Jensen, author of the YA novel Stolen Songbird AND a Strange Chemistry sibling!

If you haven’t heard about Stolen Songbird, let me fill you in, courtesy of GoodReads.

Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy, #1)

ABOUT THE BOOK: For those who have loved Seraphina and Graceling comes another truly fabulous fantasy…

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

Doesn’t that just make you want to rush out and get this book right away? I KNOW… ME, TOO!

Okay, Danielle, I have to get to the first question!

Sarah: Cécile is a strong, logical, creative character. What inspiration did you draw on to create her? And on the flip side, how did you strike the balance between making Tristan being amazingly sweet and disgustingly repulsive?

Danielle: Cécile is meant to be a bit of the underdog. Often times, the main characters of fantasy novels are the top dogs from the first page. They are the best sword fighters in the land. The most feared assassins. They are highly educated. They are worldly beyond their years. So is it any real surprise when they win the day given they have very nearly all the tools they need from the beginning of the novel? I wanted Cécile to go into the story almost destined to fail, and then have her survive and thrive off her own hard work, tenacity, and initiative. (Note: There are many novels that I love where the MC is badass from the beginning, but it wasn’t what I wanted to write.)

Tristan is one complex troll. I think whether I’ve successfully balanced his behavior is quite dependent on the reader grasping and buying into the idea that Tristan’s nasty attitude is absolutely necessary not only for his own survival, but for the survival the revolution he is secretly leading. If the reader doesn’t buy into that, he’s pretty much going to come off as a spectacular jerk.

Sarah: Was there any part of the story that took you by surprise or didn’t turn out the way you originally had in mind when you started writing Stolen Songbird?

Danielle: The joy of being a pantser is that it’s all a surprise! I’d have to say the weight of the political intrigue is much greater than I originally thought it would be. But I’m quite happy about that now.

Sarah: Ah yes, the panster method. I’m more of a hybrid girl myself. Now, as a writer, I’m always curious about how long the concept to final draft process takes. How long did it take you to write Stolen Songbird from concept to query status? Did you ever run into a point where you weren’t sure where you were going to go next and how did you handle it?

Danielle: It took about two years of drafting before I started querying. My agent asked me to revise and resubmit, and it took me about six months to make those changes. After I signed with her, we did about another five months of revisions before it went out on submission. I’d say the revise and resubmit changes were the most difficult – the bulk of the political intrigue in the novel came out of those changes, and there were times when I didn’t think I’d be able to make it work. I handled it by not working on it at all until I’d thought the problems through.

Sarah: That’s a great piece of advice. I’m going to have to remember that. Okay, I won’t give anything away, but I felt there was this epic “Scarlet O’Hara-As God is my witness” cliffhanger for Stolen Songbird, so I think it’s safe to assume we’ll be reading more about Cécile and Tristan in the future. Do you have any other upcoming projects?

Danielle: Stolen Songbird is the first book in The Malediction Trilogy, and the second book will be coming out in 2015. I’m very nearly finished writing the sequel, but I expect the bulk of the next few months will be consumed by editorial work. Then it’s on to the third book, which is set to be published in 2016. No rest for the wicked.

Sarah: Well, no rest for writers who created wickedly awesome story arcs, anyway! Moving on to the publishing aspect of writing, what surprised you the most about crossing the threshold from aspiring writer to debut author?

Danielle: How much time I’d have to spend on stuff that isn’t writing another book, and how difficult it would be to write to a deadline.

Sarah: Tell me about it! I used to bore my non-writing friends when I rambled on about revisions and plot structure. Now I’m pretty sure they take a shot whenever I say the words marketing and platform. On more big question before the finale and this one is about titles. A lot of people don’t realize what goes into coming up with the perfect title. For me, there was a flurry of emails between my agent and editor where more than 70 titles were tossed around and then out. Was Stolen Songbird your original title or a brilliant collaborative effort between you and the amazing Amanda Rutter from Strange Chemistry? 

Danielle: Stolen Songbird was about the hundredth title this book had. So many lists circulated between Amanda, my agent, and me, but my agent came up with Stolen Songbird. I think it was an amalgamation of a couple suggestions Amanda had come up with. I hate coming up with titles, and I was borderline useless during the process.

OMG! ME TOO. When I started the first draft of It’s A Wonderful Death the working title was, and I am not making this up, The Butler Did It. And even that was a title I stole from a CP. Needless to say, there is no butler and it’s not a mystery. I was just desperate.

Alright! We’re almost done. All that’s last is my Fast Five!

If you were stranded in a land filled with, oh let’s say trolls, what one of each of the following would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

Book: Machiavelli’s The Prince. I’m going to need it to hang out with the trolls.

Musical Instrument to learn to play: Piano

Craft or Hobby supplies: Crayons and a massive coloring book. That is about the limit of my crafty skills.

Comfort Item: Red wine

Recipe for the kitchen to make for you whenever you wanted it: The phone number for magical Pizza delivery. I hate cooking.

Fair enough! Danielle, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me and I wish you much success with Stolen Songbird. And my dear readers, please make sure to put this amazing book on your TBR list… better yet… pick up a copy today and curl up with a glass of whatever you curl up with when you read!

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ABOUT THE DANIELLE: Danielle was born and raised in Calgary, Canada. At the insistence of the left side of her brain, she graduated in 2003 from the University of Calgary with a bachelor’s degree in finance. But the right side of her brain has ever been mutinous; and in 2010, it sent her back to school to complete an entirely impractical English literature degree at Mount Royal University and to pursue publication. Much to her satisfaction, the right side shows no sign of relinquishing its domination.

SarahJSchmitt_color_lowresSarah J. Schmitt is a K-8 school librarian and Youth Service Professional for Teens at a public library. She lives outside of Indianapolis with her husband, two kidlets and a cat who might actually be a secret agent. Her debut novel, IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH, comes out Fall 2014 from Strange Chemistry. Check out her antics on Twitter.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with M.G. Buehrlen, author of THE FIFTY-SEVEN LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE

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We are so excited to share with you an interview with M.G. Buehrlen, whose YA Sci-fi THE FIFTY-SEVEN LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE is out right now!

 For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that The57LivesOfAlexWayfare-144dpimake her feel like she’s really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair.

But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can’t explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal’s office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them.

It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren’t really visions. Alex is a Descender – capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.

Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever.

And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.

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SG: Hi, M.G.! Congrats on the release of THE FIFTY-SEVEN LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE! Where did the idea for this story come from?

M.G.: I’ve been collecting story ideas since I could put pen to paper, and this particular main character came on the scene when I was 16 years old. Alex’s name was Susan back then (mostly because one of my favorite films at the time was The Parent Trap, the Hayley Mills version) and all I knew about this new character was that she kept getting randomly dropped into different time periods. I didn’t yet know why or how. I wrote a lot of scenes with her throughout the years, some in Puritanical New England, some in Victorian London. It wasn’t until I started watching Doctor Who that I realized Alex was a time traveler. After that detail came into play, everything clicked, and the story flowed from there.  

SG: How did you come up with the title?

M.G.: Actually, my publisher, Strange Chemistry, came up with it. My working title was The Descenders, because that’s what the time travelers are called in the book. But I love this new title. I think it’s far more intriguing and mysterious. 

SG: Is this your first book?

M.G.: This was my second novel, actually. The first novel I ever finished is in a drawer somewhere, and I might try to sell it one day. I’d love to see it in readers’ hands. I spent about six years revising that one single manuscript, which is where I honed my craft for 57 LIVES. While other authors wrote several books before they were published, I just kept shaping my first one over and over again. I guess it’s the same sort of learning process, although for me, I couldn’t seem to let those characters go or “cheat on them” with new characters. I still miss them and think of them fondly. 🙂

S.G: Do you outline? Use any visual plotting method?

M.G.: I do outline. I actually use the prompts from The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watt to “unlock” all the secrets of the story, then I plan it all out in 3 major acts. But I leave lots of room for changes. I don’t like to outline with strict boundaries. I still love it when my characters surprise me and take the story in a whole new direction. (Btw, I highly recommend The 90-Day Novel to any writer looking for a swift kick in the right direction.)

SG: What are your favorite revision tools?

M.G.: Besides Scrivener, my must-have revision tools have been peanut butter cookies (lots of them) and coffee (even more of that). My brain basically runs on sugar and caffeine at that point.

SG: Where do you write?

M.G.: I’m currently in the process of moving, but here’s a photo of the treadmill desk my husband built for me in my old writing room. I love this thing! Even though nothing beats a cushy recliner when you’re drafting, I like the discipline of the tread-desk. While I’m working on a manuscript, I post photos that inspire the story as well as outline post-its on the wall.

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SG: Did you research much for this story?

M.G.: Oh, gosh yes. With time travel, you have to meticulously research each time period to get all the little details as accurate as possible. I worked my butt off to get it *just right* for the reader, and I hope I succeeded.

SG: How long did it take to write the first draft? Revisions?

M.G.: It took me three months to write the first draft. Again, I was using The 90-Day Novel, and I was determined to finish in 90 days. And I’m a fast reviser — probably because of all the sugar and caffeine. It took me one week to finish the final revisions for 57 LIVES. I’m pretty proud of that (but I’m still trying to catch up on sleep).

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

M.G.:

Afraid of: Falling and failure. The two Big Fs. I’m not afraid of heights, just the possibility of falling from them. And failure — ugh. Is there anything worse? I’m working on accepting that failure means progress. Failure leads to success. I have to remember this.

Not afraid of: Being myself. I used to. Oh, how I used to. But not anymore. I think something beautiful happens once you enter your 30s. You just don’t care what people think anymore. It’s so freeing and exciting. I only wish I’d entered that stage much earlier than my 30s. I may not have missed out on so many opportunities. So youngsters take note! Chuck those cares to the wind and BE YOURSELF.

SG: That’s great advice! Thanks so much, M.G.!

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When she’s not writing, M.G. moonlights as a web designer and social media/creative director. She’s the current web ninja lurking behind the hugely popular website YABooksCentral.com, a social network for YA (and kids!) book loversTHE FIFTY-SEVEN LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE is her debut novel. M.G. lives nestled away in the Michigan pines, surrounded by good coffee and good books, with her husband and son and three furbabies. Say hello on TwitterFacebook, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

 

Shannon writer photo crop 2Shannon Grogan teaches kindergarten by day, and writes at Starbucks while her kids are at ballet and baseball. If she can stay off Twitter and stay awake, she writes at night, in a tiny logging town near Seattle, Washington. Her debut, FROM WHERE I WATCH YOU, will be published by Soho Teen, Spring 2015.

Introducing: Sarah J. Schmitt

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Hello everyone! I’m Sarah J. Schmitt and I’m a Fearless Fifteeners premie. My YA Ghost story, IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH, comes out from Strange Chemistry (Fall, 2014).

When I was in fourth grade, I proclaimed to my mother that I was going to be a writer. Many decades later, that dream is finally coming true. I even came in second in a county wide writing contest when I was a freshman in high school. (I lost to my English teacher’s son… I wanted to cry fix, but they showed me the shiny trophy and I was distracted.) When I got to college, I decided I needed to get serious and got a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Psychology, but I kept writing a few pages of fiction here and there. When I graduated, I was pretty directionless. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so when someone commented that I would be a good college administrator, I thought, “Sure, what the heck.”

Best and worst decision of my life. Worst decision because midway through my first semester of graduate school, I realized I was tired of school and just wanted to be a writer. Best decision because I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life and I met so many amazing people who encouraged me to follow my dreams. They continue to be the greatest cheerleaders of all time. I graduated with my Masters, came home, wrote seventeen chapters of a horrible novel, had two babies and thought this is as good as it’s going to get.

Then one day, when I was folding clothes and watching The Ellen Show. Ellen was interviewing Stephanie Meyer about Twilight and I remember Stephanie saying she had three small kids at home and had never wanted to write a book before but she had to know how the dream ended. I thought to myself, “Hey. I only have two kids and I’ve always wanted to write a book. If she can do it, why can’t I?” That week I started writing and within 6 months had a first draft. It was that moment, on October 3, 2009, that I knew this is what I was supposed to do with my life.

Three years and two completed manuscripts later, I decided that I was FINALLY going to “win” NaNoWriMo, but instead of saving the world like my other books, I just wanted to save the cheerleader… a snarky, self-centered, barely redeemable cheerleader. I finished in 23 days and then revised for six months before sending out my first batch of query letters. A week later I signed with my agent, Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency and five months later received my offer from Strange Chemistry.

I’m looking forward to the year to come and celebrating the successes of my Fearless Fifteeners! This is a crazy wicked talented group of writers!

Here’s the summary of IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH.

Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll. But in her quest for mortality, she becomes a pawn in a power struggle between an over-zealous arch angel, who has grown tired of the white wings and harps, and the Hawaiian-shirt wearing Death Himself.

While she waits for the decision of the Tribunal charged with determining whether her life is worth rewinding the hands of time, RJ wanders through the afterlife where she meets several colorful characters including the Cornhole-playing St. Peter and Al, the handler for the 3-headed Hound that guards the gates to Hell. Finally, the Tribunal present her with two options: she can remain in the Lobby, where souls wait to be processed, until her original lifeline expires or replay three moments in her life in an effort to make choices that will produce a future deemed worthy of being saved. It sounds like a no brainer. She’ll take the walk down memory lane. How hard can changing her future be?
But with each moment, RJ’s life begins to unravel until this self-proclaimed Queen Bee is a social pariah. She begins to wonder if walking among the living is worth it if she has to spend the next sixty years as an outcast.
SarahJSchmitt_color_lowresSarah J. Schmitt is a K-8 school librarian and Youth Service Professional for Teens at a public library. She lives outside of Indianapolis with her husband, two kidlets and a cat who might actually be a secret agent. Her debut novel, IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH, comes out Fall 2014 from Strange Chemistry. Check out her antics on Twitter.