Release Day: Where I Watch You and Not After Everything in 3 Gifs

Standard

Here it is! Happy release day for From Where I Watch You, summed up in 3 Gifs!

giphy-6

Stalker

 

giphy-4

Baking

 

giphy-5

Kissing

From Where I Watch You is available NOW! Thank you for reading!

IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Soho Teen

Add to your Goodreads!

 

And Happy Book Birthday to Not After Everything!

giphy

giphy3

giphy 2

About the book: Tyler has a football scholarship to Stanford, a hot girlfriend, and a reliable army of friends to party with. Then his mom kills herself. And Tyler lets it all go. Now he needs to dodge what his dad is offering (verbal tirades and abuse) and earn what his dad isn’t (money). Tyler finds a job that crashes him into Jordyn, his former childhood friend turned angry- loner goth-girl. She brings Tyler an unexpected reprieve from the never-ending pity party his life has become. How could he not fall for her?But with his dad more brutally unpredictable than ever, Tyler knows he can’t risk bringing Jordyn too deeply into the chaos. So when violence rocks his world again, will it be Jordyn who shows him the way to a hopeful future? Or after everything, will Tyler have to find it in himself?

Not After Everything is available now! Happy reading!

AMAZON | B&N BAM | INDIEBOUNDGOODREADS

 

Shannon writer photo crop 2Shannon Grogan teaches 2nd grade 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, August 2015.

Michelle Levy squaredMichelle Levy grew up in Littleton, Colorado, but moved to Los Angeles as soon as she was legally allowed because she hates driving in the snow. When she’s not writing, she’s likely working at her other job as a casting director for film and television or skulking about (and occasionally posting—she’s working on that) on Twitter. Her debut, NOT AFTER EVERYTHING, will be released on August 4, 2015 from Dial.

Release Day: THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND … in 3 Gifs!

Standard

I can’t believe it’s today!

I started writing THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND in 2012, sold it in 2013, and now—February 17, 2015—it is officially on the shelves. While I continue to remind myself to breathe, why don’t you gather around the fire with me?

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND is about two journeys. There’s a physical one, when Hallelujah “Hallie” Calhoun, her former friend Jonah, and new girl Rachel get lost in the Smoky Mountains and have to find their way back to civilization. But there’s also Hallie’s emotional journey—arguably the tougher of the two—wherein she has to figure out how to bounce back and redefine herself after an incident with the preacher’s son turned her into a social outcast. I hope the book will take you on a journey as well, whether you’re an avid hiker/climber/camper/nature lover…

giphy

…or you’re allergic to the Great Outdoors.

I’m doing a mini-blog-tour this week to celebrate the book’s release, and you can learn more about that HERE. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND!

distancebetween_final cover_4_1.indd

Ever since the night of the incident with Luke Willis, the preacher’s son, sophomore Hallelujah Calhoun has been silent. When the rumors swirled around school, she was silent. When her parents grounded her, she was silent. When her friends abandoned her…silent.

Now, six months later, on a youth group retreat in the Smoky Mountains, Hallie still can’t find a voice to answer the taunting. Shame and embarrassment haunt her, while Luke keeps coming up with new ways to humiliate her. Not even meeting Rachel, an outgoing newcomer who isn’t aware of her past, can pull Hallie out of her shell. Being on the defensive for so long has left her raw, and she doesn’t know who to trust.

On a group hike, the incessant bullying pushes Hallie to her limit. When Hallie, Rachel, and Hallie’s former friend Jonah get separated from the rest of the group, the situation quickly turns dire. Stranded in the wilderness, the three have no choice but to band together.

With past betrayals and harrowing obstacles in their way, Hallie fears they’ll never reach safety. Could speaking up about the night that changed everything close the distance between being lost and found? Or has she traveled too far to come back?

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | INDIEBOUND

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.

INTRODUCING NATASHA SINEL

Standard

Here’s how to become a published author in five steps. (Notice I didn’t say five easy steps. Nor did I say they’d all be forward-moving steps.)

1. Live Your Childhood Inside Books

I was a reader. When I finished one book, I’d start the next. Books dictated the ups and downs of my moods (This probably confused the hell out of my parents—well, what is she crying about now?) I wrote stories too. People would say, “She’ll be a writer someday.” But people aren’t books, so I didn’t listen.

2. Go to Business School by Default

Having grown up in Washington, D.C., I assumed I’d be a lawyer, a lobbyist, or a politician. But…eh. A doctor was out of the question—I was one of those faint-at-the-sight-of-blood types. So, I went to business school. Maybe I’d be some sort of business-type person.

3. Do Something That Makes You Feel Horrible About Yourself

During business school, I miserably failed my internship at one of the big investment banks. (Why did I even try it? Because someone—I won’t mention names, but it starts with a D and ends with a D—always told me I could do anything I set my mind to. Investment banking, however? Not in my “anything” category.) Turns out, I wasn’t interested in any of the MBA-type jobs at banks, consulting firms, and product marketing companies. I had no job-worthy interests, period. Then, after listening to me whine long enough, my dad asked one simple question:

“When you pick up the New York Times, which section do you read first?”

The Book Review, duh. Also TV and movies. So something clicked there, and I set my mind to a more appropriate “anything.” After a grueling independent job search, I landed a job at Showtime Networks. I was on the business side, but I was working in TV. I loved watching TV! One of my interests plus job equals happy/successful.

4. Spend $$ on Gas and Parking

Many years later, I put work on hold to start a family. I had an idea for a story, so I signed up for a YA novel workshop. Driving an hour to SoHo every week would give me a kick in the pants to write, and that would make me feel creative, productive, and good. What I hadn’t expected was for my instructor (fabulous author/yoga instructor Kristen Kemp) to say, “Girl, you can write. There is no reason why you can’t get published, if that’s what you want to do.”*

Whoa. That was an option? Sure, I’d fantasized about being an author. Who doesn’t? But, that was just fantasy, right? But something clicked, and I set my mind to another “anything”—being a writer.

5. Fail and Fail and Fail Some More

After ten years, two and a half manuscripts, and numerous heartbreaking but necessary failures, the fantasy is a reality. And it feels like the right “anything.”

*My fellow Fearless Fifteener, Sona Charaipotra (PRETTY LITTLE THINGS) was in that class with me, and I’m so glad to reconnect with her here during our debut year!

Here’s a description of my debut YA contemporary THE FIX, which comes out this September:

One conversation is all it takes to break a world wide open.

Seventeen-year-old Macy Lyons has been through something no one should ever have to experience. And she’s dealt with it entirely alone.

On the outside, she’s got it pretty good. Her family’s well-off, she’s dating the cute boy next door, she has plenty of friends, and although she long ago wrote her mother off as a superficial gym rat, she’s thankful to have allies in her loving, laid-back dad and her younger brother.

But a conversation with a boy at a party one night shakes Macy out of the carefully maintained complacency that has defined her life so far. The boy is Sebastian Ruiz, a recovering addict who recognizes that Macy is hardened by dark secrets. And as Macy falls for Sebastian, she realizes that, while revealing her secret could ruin her seemingly perfect family, keeping silent might just destroy her.

The Fix follows two good-hearted teenagers coming to terms with the cards they were dealt. It’s also about the fixes we rely on to cope with our most shameful secrets and the hope and fear that comes with meeting someone who challenges us to come clean.

“First shot out of the gate, Sinel bravely addresses tough topics, demonstrating that the weight of secrets can pull us under—and their release can save us from drowning.” —Holly Schindler, critically acclaimed author of A Blue So Dark and Feral

“A bewitching, beautiful, and brave debut. Readers will marvel at Macy’s resilience. Natasha Sinel’s writing devastates and uplifts, by turns. An important story of one girl’s journey to rewrite the blueprint of her own life by facing the truth inside herself.” —Carrie Mesrobian, award-winning author of Sex & Violence and Perfectly Good White Boy

Natasha Sinel writes YA fiction from her home on a dirt road in Northern Westchester, NY. She drives her kids around all afternoon, but in her head, she’s still in high school, and hopes no one near her can read minds. Find her on Twitter and on YA Outside The Lines. Natasha’s debut YA novel THE FIX will be out from Sky Pony Press in September 2015.

ALL FOUR KIDS: INTERVIEW WITH JOSHUA DAVID BELLIN, AUTHOR OF SURVIVAL COLONY NINE

Standard

Fonda Lee here. Today I’m excited to be interviewing Joshua David Bellin on the release of his debut YA science fiction novel, SURVIVAL COLONY NINE. I had the pleasure of advance reading the book, and it is a gripping post-apocalyptic thriller that had me flipping the pages well into the night. Here’s the skinny:


SC9 Cover mediumForget the past.  Fight to stay alive.

Querry Genn is in trouble. 

He can’t remember anything before the last six months. And Querry needs to remember. Otherwise he’s dead weight to the other members of Survival Colony 9, one of the groups formed after a brutal war ravaged the earth. And now the Skaldi have come to scavenge what is left of humanity. No one knows what the Skaldi are, or why they’re here, just that they can impersonate humans, taking their form before shedding the corpse like a skin.

Desperate to prove himself after the accident that stole his memory, Querry is both protected and tormented by the colony’s authoritarian commander, his father. The only person he can talk to is the beautiful Korah, but even with her, he can’t shake the feeling that something is desperately wrong. And that his missing memories are at the very center of it.

INDIEBOUNDAMAZON │BARNES & NOBLE

Fonda Lee: Josh, congratulations on your debut! Tell us about what inspired you to write SURVIVAL COLONY NINE.

Joshua David Bellin: Thanks, Fonda! And congratulations to the Fearless Fifteeners as you begin your own journey to publication!

SURVIVAL COLONY 9 has two primary sources: a story idea I jotted down years ago about a teen with memory loss, and a much more recent dream I had that provided me the novel’s desert setting and the idea of the human groups—the survival colonies—that had lived through a time of catastrophic loss. But in another respect, my inspiration was my own children, thanks to whom I rediscovered my love of YA. My daughter was twelve when I started writing my book, and she was the first to read a few pages and encourage me to keep writing.

FL: Querry’s story takes place in a desperately bleak future. I swear I could feel the baking sun on my skin and the dust in my eyes the whole time I was reading. What led you to create this world, and do you think there’s something particularly appealing to you about post-apocalyptic settings? 

JDB: The dream I mentioned a moment ago gave me the broad outlines of my novel’s world. But I had to make it convincing, and I felt there was no way to do that without making it bleak. It’s a world where human society has just about crumbled due to war and climate catastrophe, and where not only the material culture of the past but the memory of the past has been swept away. So in a sense, all the characters are like my narrator, Querry Genn, a fourteen-year-old with amnesia: they’re all traumatized, all coping with horrific loss. But they’re also all survivors, which means they have a reserve of strength that enables them to go on.

I can’t pin down the one thing that led me to create such a world, but I do know I’ve long been fascinated by Holocaust narratives, with their twin, conflicted imperatives to remember and to forget. I have relatives who escaped the Nazi genocide, and I’ve taught students who survived the Rwandan genocide. Such subjects might seem a bit heavy for YA science fiction, but I believe YA—and science fiction—have an obligation to wrestle with difficult truths

FL: Although SURVIVAL COLONY NINE features a menacing exterior threat in the form of the Skaldi, what stuck with me are the human relationships in the colony, and how the dire circumstances bring out the best and worst in people. There is a “marooned on an island together” dynamic going on here. Tell us a bit about how you developed your cast of characters. Were any of them inspired by real or fictional people?

JDB: I’ve always felt that the best monsters represent our own internal conflicts. Anyone can throw a lion’s head on a snake’s body and call it a monster—but if it doesn’t tell us anything about the inner struggles of the human characters, it seems kind of pointless to me.

So in SURVIVAL COLONY 9, I thought of the Skaldi as an external manifestation of what threatens the colony internally: malice, suspicion, loss of faith in each other. I wanted to create a human society that was incredibly fragile, a society that’s lived through horrors and is still living with horrors that could cause them to turn against each other at a moment’s notice. So I was determined to create characters who were complex, conflicted, haunted by personal demons—not simple “good guys” and “bad guys.” Laman Genn, the colony’s commander, is an example: he’s strong, capable, charismatic, caring—but he’s also domineering, deaf to criticism, and capable of making terrible mistakes. And it’s when those cracks appear that the Skaldi are able to infiltrate the colony.

Whether Laman or any of the other characters is based on real or fictional people is a question I never thought about. In Laman’s case, I would say I probably modeled him on the father in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road—except I thought McCarthy’s father-figure was a bit idealized. I wanted to create a father whose best quality—his protectiveness—could also become his worst.

FL: Tell us about your journey as an author. What was the path to publication like for you?

JDB: Long! Depending on how you look at it, I’ve been traveling this path for over thirty years, with my first completed novel (an epic fantasy) written when I was sixteen, and my first YA (a story about friendship and death) written two years later. I took a major detour to write academic prose after graduate school, and when I found my way back to fiction in 2008, I was in no way ready to tackle a novel-length project. Three years, many short stories, two unfinished novels, and one finished but unsalable novel after that, I completed SURVIVAL COLONY 9—and then had to educate myself about seeking an agent, writing a query and synopsis, and all that. I signed with one agent, parted ways with her when it turned out our vision for the novel didn’t match, conducted the search process again, found a wonderful advocate in Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency, and went on submission. From there, it was a fairly speedy road to acceptance. But if anyone had told me at age sixteen that I might not publish my first novel until I was almost fifty, I probably would have stopped writing. Fortunately, no one did!

FL: I understand you are a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy books and films (*geek fistbump*). What are some books or films that had a big impact on you and perhaps influence or inform your writing?

JDB: Far too many to name, but let’s start with Tolkien’s works, which blew me away at age thirteen with the depth, complexity, and conviction of the imagined world. I’d also add Roger Zelazny’s Amber series, which is not only a brilliant fantasy but the first work I ever read with an amnesiac narrator. Throw in some of the classics of science fiction—Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds—and some great modern YA science fiction—Chris Howard’s Rootless, Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker, Mindy McGinnis’s Not a Drop to Drink—and you’ve got me. If, that is, you also add classic monster and horror films, especially the masterpieces of Willis O’Brien (King Kong) and Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts) and eighties-era creature features like Alien, The Thing, and The Fly. And wait, did I mention Star Wars?

Okay, I think I’ve proved my geek cred. We’ll talk more later.

FL: Yes, we will. There will be a sequel to SURVIVAL COLONY NINE, so I hear? Can you give us any hints as to what’s to come?

JDB: The sequel is titled SCAVENGER OF SOULS. (A friend of mine told me I should title it SURVIVAL COLONY 10, but I rejected that idea pretty quickly.) It’s the middle book of a planned three-book series, but as of this moment its publication date hasn’t been set. I’m kind of reluctant to say much about it lest I spoil the fun for those who haven’t read the first book, but I will say this: it’ll surprise readers of SURVIVAL COLONY 9. It’s a much bigger-canvas novel than its predecessor: Querry gets to see much more of his world, to encounter people with backgrounds and histories he had no awareness of, and to unravel huge secrets about his own and his people’s past. And the antagonists—well, let’s just say the Skaldi aren’t the only monsters in Querry’s world!

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

JDB: I’ll give a writer’s answer to that. I’m not afraid of a lot of things writers typically fear: selling poorly, receiving negative reviews, being misunderstood. It seems to me publishing a novel is a rare enough privilege without worrying about junk you really have no control over. But I am afraid of writing becoming the only thing in my life. It seems to me that happens to some writers, especially with all the pressure to promote your current novel and to produce your next one. So I hope I can always find balance between writing and the rest of my life, and I hope I can always remember that no one ever said on their deathbed: “I wish I’d spent more time at the keyboard.”

Wise words for all us writers, Josh. Thanks for the interview and good luck with SURVIVAL COLONY NINE. 

Bellin author photoAbout Joshua David Bellin: 

Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). He taught college for twenty years, wrote a bunch of books for college students, then decided to return to writing fiction. Survival Colony 9 is his first novel, but the sequel’s already in the works! Josh is represented by the fabulous Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency.

Josh loves to read (mostly YA fantasy and science fiction), watch movies (again, mostly fantasy and sci-fi), and spend time in Nature (mostly catching frogs and toads). He is the self-proclaimed world’s worst singer, but plays a pretty mean air guitar.

Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.

WEBSITE │BLOG │TWITTER │FACEBOOK │GOODREADS 

FJLee HeadshotFonda Lee is an author and recovering corporate strategist who was born and raised in Calgary, Canada (land of hockey, rodeo, and oil reserves) and now lives with her family in Portland, Oregon (land of rain, hipsters, and Powell’s books). When she is not writing she can be found training in kung fu or searching out tasty breakfasts. Her debut upper YA science fiction novel, ZEROBOXER, will be published by Flux in Winter 2015. You can find Fonda at www.fondalee.com and on Twitter @fondajlee.

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

Standard

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.

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

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.

Website | Twitter

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: An Interview with Rachel M. Wilson, Author of DON’T TOUCH

Standard

Today we welcome OneFour KidLit author Rachel M. Wilson, whose YA debut, DON’T TOUCH, releases September 2nd!


About DON’T TOUCH:

Caddie has a history of magical thinking—of playing games in her head to cope with her surroundings—but it’s never been this bad before.

When her parents split up, don’t touch becomes Caddie’s mantra. Maybe if she keeps from touching another person’s skin, Dad will come home. She knows it doesn’t make sense, but her games have never been logical. Soon, despite Alabama’s humidity, she’s covering every inch of skin and wearing evening gloves to school.

And that’s where things get tricky. Even though Caddie’s the new girl, it’s hard to play off her compulsions as artistic quirks. Friends notice things. Her drama class is all about interacting with her scene partners, especially Peter, who’s auditioning for the role of Hamlet. Caddie desperately wants to play Ophelia, but if she does, she’ll have to touch Peter…and kiss him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter—but the other part isn’t sure she’s brave enough to let herself fall.

From rising star Rachel M. Wilson comes a powerful, moving debut novel of the friendship and love that are there for us, if only we’ll let them in.

AMAZON | B&N | INDIEBOUND | GOODREADS | BOOK CLUB GUIDE

LG: Congratulations on the release of DON’T TOUCH! It’s a powerful, tough story that’s told beautifully. What inspired you to write it?

RMW: Thank you so much! I was inspired in part by my own experience with OCD and anxiety, and in part by those more ordinary fears that can keep up from the life we want to be leading. It’s possible to waste so much time with fear, to become completely paralyzed at the thought of change, and that’s something I wanted to explore. I also wanted to get into stigma—both from the outside and the inside—the fear of being seen as strange or off-balance and all the complications that can bring to relationships. In a way, I think I was writing to my younger self, wanting to say, “yes, I see how bad this can be, but it also won’t be the end of your world.”

I gave an interview at Disability in Kidlit that goes into more depth about OCD for anyone who’s particularly interested in that.
.
LG: How much research when into creating Caddie’s anxiety, and Caddie herself?

RMW: Well, even though I experienced OCD and anxiety myself, Caddie’s symptoms and life circumstances are different from my own, so I still did a bunch of reading about OCD and other anxiety disorders. At one point, I tried focusing on a touch phobia as opposed to OCD, but I found that the magical thinking I’d built into the story belonged more properly in the OCD world. I think I was scared of writing too close to myself, or of misrepresenting something I ought to know well in the process of making fiction. But ultimately, I decided I’d given a healthy amount of attention to those fears and it was time to put them aside. I consulted with a couple of psychiatrist friends to ensure that Caddie’s symptoms rang true for them. And while writing my author’s note, I checked in with a couple of counselor friends who work with youth to make sure I wasn’t unintentionally saying anything harmful.

In terms of Caddie’s character, I used a lot of the character creation techniques I learned while studying acting – playing with metaphors, free-writing, interviewing her. I also created a Pandora station of music that suited Caddie to get myself in her headspace.

LG: Theatre plays a large aspect within the book. Why did you find theatre important for Caddie’s story, aside from the fact that it’ll force her to touch Peter? And why Hamlet?

RMW: She’s always acting, always putting on a show that everything’s okay. One of the titles I considered for this book was Cadence Finn Is Fine—but that sounds a lot like a chapter book. Even before theater was a part of the story, I knew I wanted that element of performing for others to be in Caddie’s character. Out of all the scenes in the book, some version of that first lunch scene has survived from the very beginning, and it was always about that, trying to pretend like nothing bothers you when inside you’re falling apart. I was using acting as a metaphor before it became a concrete part of the storyline. In an earlier draft, Caddie was a ballerina—as with OCD, I think I was afraid of writing Caddie too close to myself. It helped me to write Caddie’s story with those degrees of remove and then bring the ingredients that I knew well back into the story. Not the most efficient process, but hey, it made a novel.

Hamlet came into the picture fairly late in the game as well. Early drafts used The Glass Menagerie, but I wanted to use lots of text from the play and worried about securing permission for that. Plus, that play introduced resonances that didn’t match up with Caddie and Peter’s relationship. A mentor suggested Hamlet after seeing how many scenes involved water imagery or swimming pools; I’d been thinking about that myself, so I reread the play, and was like, “Yeah, that’s right.” There’s so much language about fear and doubt, and Hamlet’s the classic character who’s always acting but afraid to take action. Ophelia was the obvious foil for Caddie, but I became equally interested in how Hamlet relates to Caddie’s character.

LG: What was the hardest part of writing your story? And what was your favorite part?

RMW: The hardest part was probably finding that external storyline—as may have been suggested above, I tried several. I really wrote two or three potential books in tandem, so at some point, I had to perform major surgery and sever the one that survives from all the other possibilities.

My favorite part was drafting those scenes that seemed to come out of the aether. Many of these went through major revision later on, but while writing, I’d get that feeling, this, this is my story . . . this will be a part of my book no matter what. Because I wrote so much that was exploratory and fumbling, writing those scenes I felt confident would stick was a huge boost.

LG: In general, when did you figure out you wanted to be writer, and what inspired you to become one?

RMW: I didn’t figure that out until my senior year of college, and my inspiration came out of theater. I’d been studying acting, but as an actor, you’re always a player in someone else’s story—the playwright’s, the director’s. I needed a creative outlet where I had total control. *laughs maniacally* My acting teacher required us to freewrite every morning, and out of that came a desire to write fiction. I was already very into the adaptation of literature for the stage. Writing adaptations was a kind of stepping stone to writing original fiction because it forced me to take apart and study all the elements of a text. Eventually, I started creating original characters and stories, and I ran with that.

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

RMW: As will probably be clear to readers of DON’T TOUCH, I’m afraid of change, but I’m more afraid of stasis. I have a recurring nightmare about being in a house full of other people’s junk that I don’t know how to get rid of, and I think that comes from a fear of being stuck in the past or tied down by old stuff. I’ve rarely met a horror movie I didn’t like, but I could never make it through an episode of Hoarders.

I’m not at all afraid of heights, or at least, it’s a fear I enjoy–that thrill of standing on the edge of something. The fear’s natural, and it’s fun to stand there in spite of it.
596343About Rachel M. Wilson:

Rachel M. Wilson studied theater at Northwestern University and received her MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Originally from Alabama, Rachel currently writes, acts, and teaches in Chicago, IL. DON’T TOUCH is her first novel. Rachel can best be found on her blogTumblr, or Twitter.

lauren gibaldi squaredLauren Gibaldi is an author and public librarian who lives in Orlando, FL with her husband and overflowing collection of books. She likes dinosaurs, musicals, and the circus (two of which she’s participated in. Hint: It’s not being a dinosaur). Her debut YA novel, THE NIGHT WE SAID YES, will be released summer 2015 with HarperTeen/HarperCollins.

All Four Kids: An Interview with Emery Lord, Author of OPEN ROAD SUMMER

Standard

Today, I’m thrilled to highlight Emery Lord’s debut novel, OPEN ROAD SUMMER, a contemporary YA about friendship, love, and learning to trust yourself and others. It releases today!

Open Road SummerAbout OPEN ROAD SUMMER: After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

 AmazonIndie BoundBarnes & NoblePowell’sBooks A Million

CR: Can you start by telling us about how you became interested in writing YA and about your publishing journey?

EL: I found a Sarah Dessen book at the library when I was 13 and fell down the YA rabbit hole. Haven’t left since! I majored in English Lit, and so many Important Works I read lacked YA’s emotional honesty and unflinching earnestness. Once I started writing after graduation, it was always going to be contemporary YA–my first love!, and here I am! (Okay, that’s a really truncated version 😉 There were many late nights represented by the “and” in last sentence.)

CR: Reagan is a complex character on the mend after some serious events in her life linked to people she once trusted. Yet, she loves, supports, and protects Dee. I like that we see multiple sides to her, that she is not one- or two-dimensional. Can you talk about creating her as a character?

EL: Thanks! Unlike Reagan, I grew up with a happy, stable home life, and I stayed pretty close to the straight-and-narrow. In fact, I think Reagan is someone I would have judged…because she comes off cold and she wears very small clothes and, frankly, isn’t nice to other girls, or anyone. So that’s exactly why I wrote her the way I did. In the hopes that I could dig beneath the icy veneer to a hurt but fierce girl who has a lot to offer. I believe so much in the power of will, especially as a teen. Sometimes changing your life is a simple as a decision or two, and that’s what I wanted to show with Reagan.

CR: I love that this story is as much about best friends as it is about falling in love. How refreshing that it wasn’t a love triangle! Can you talk a little about why you decided to develop both of these relationships in Reagan’s life?

EL: Thanks! I was really interested in Reagan being a fully all-or-nothing girl, including her relationships. Dee is her only friend, really, but she’d do anything for her. I like the idea of very devoted friendship, chosen sisterhood, because it’s a part of my own life. My girl friends are not people I spent time with on the way to finding my husband. They’re like family to me, permanent fixtures even if we change or move or fight or whatever. It was fun to write a relationship like that because I know it well! 🙂

CR: What inspired you to write this particular story? Are you a singer or musician?

EL: Until I started writing, I never really thought of songs as writing! So I was partially inspired by that overlap, between penning fiction and music. Personally, I’m nothing special as a musician, but I have a lot of talented friends who are. So, I’m familiar with the particular swooniness of a boy writing a song for you, haha 😉

CR: Can you tell us anything about your next novel, which comes out Spring 2015? Is it also being published by Bloomsbury?

EL: Yes! It’s out with Bloomsbury! It’s another contemporary YA, about a girl named Paige who is determined to use her junior year to become herself again, after a tragic loss at the beginning of her sophomore year.

CR: As this community is “fearless,” we’d like to know one thing you’re afraid of and one thing you’re not afraid of.

EL: I AM afraid of driving through an actual downpour. I am NOT afraid of driving through life in a metaphorical downpour 😉

Emery LordAbout Emery Lord:

Emery Lord is a 20-something Midwestern girl who writes stories about high school and best friends and weird families and the crushes that make you feel combustibly alive and also more awkward than you thought was possible. If you’re not sure how to pronounce Emery, try slurring the name “Emily,” and that will get you really close.

She lives in Cincinnati in a 100 year-old pink row house with her BFF/husband, a closet full of dresses, and lots of books. If karaoke-ing in grocery store aisles or guzzling coffee while impulse shopping were illegal, Emery would be writing her overemotional YA books from jail. Also, she makes up words sometimes. Like combustibly.

OPEN ROAD SUMMER, her first YA novel, is out April 15th, 2014. A second YA novel TBD will be released Spring 2015. You can contact her at emerylord@gmail.com and you can find her on Twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, and her website.

CindyRodriguezCindy L. Rodriguez is a former journalist turned teacher and fiction writer. She is a middle school reading specialist and an adjunct professor. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant and The Boston Globe. She lives in Connecticut with her young daughter and their rescue mutt. Her contemporary YA debut, WHEN REASON BREAKS, will be published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books in Winter 2015. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.