Wednesday, December 23, 2015

THE SUSPECT'S DAUGHTER, Book 4 in the Rogue Hearts series by Donna Hatch

Looks like December is turning into a month full of Book Fours! I featured Book Three of Donna Hatch's Rogue Hearts series last year, and Book Four, THE SUSPECT'S DAUGHTER, released last week on December 15:

Determined to help her father with his political career, Jocelyn sets aside dreams of love. When she meets the handsome and mysterious Grant Amesbury, her dreams of true love reawaken. But his secrets put her family in peril.

Grant goes undercover to capture conspirators avowed to murder the prime minister, but his only suspect is the father of a courageous lady who is growing increasingly hard to ignore. He can’t allow Jocelyn to distract him from the case, nor will he taint her with his war-darkened soul. She seems to see past the barriers surrounding his heart, which makes her all the more dangerous to his vow of remaining forever alone.

Jocelyn will do anything to clear her father’s name, even if that means working with Grant. Time is running out. The future of England hangs in the balance...and so does their love.

Donna also answered some follow-up interview questions:

In our last interview, you mentioned how it was important to have well-developed characters and well-plotted stories before drafting. Do you still find that this is true, and in what ways, if any, has your writing process evolved since? 

That’s absolutely true. My writing process has changed in very subtle ways. I write tighter, meaning more succinct. And I am very choosy about time—some scenes I slow down time to create strong emotional impact. Other times, I transition between scenes with only a few words so as to quickly move the reader to the next significant event. I’ve always done that, but I’ve gotten more careful about it. And I’m highly sensitive to words that feel as if they come from a narrator rather than from the characters themselves.

I am too. THE STRANGER SHE MARRIED flowed well when I read it, and I'm sure THE SUSPECT'S DAUGHTER will too. How has the world expanded since the first few books?

I’ve added more characters but I often bring back others who appeared in previous books—both main characters and secondary characters so it feels as if the characters all live in the same town. I’ve also started studying maps and including mention of real places that existed during the Regency.

What a fun way to add extra layers! Especially with the great dynamic between Jocelyn and Grant. What about them was the most fun to write?

I love their verbal banter. She says exactly what she thinks and takes delight in teasing him. It’s a game to get him to smile, something she does not succeed at doing until much later in the book. He is a man of deep feeling but it’s buried underneath a very thick layer of protection. He delights in being snaky (not a Regency term, of course) and he seldom says what he thinks so she has to learn to read between the lines. There is a lot of verbal parrying between them.

Definitely a case of opposites attracting! When we last spoke, you were editing a YA futuristic novel--is it still in the works?

It’s on the back burner. Right now, I’m working on developing my brand of being a historical romance author. But someday, I plan to find an agent who represents YA futuristic novels and look into getting it published.

Sounds like a good plan! Thanks, Donna, for another excellent interview!

Donna Hatch, author of the best-selling “Rogue Hearts Series,” has won writing awards such as The Golden Quill and the International Digital Award. A hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, she discovered her writing passion at the tender age of 8 and has been listening to those voices ever since. She has become a sought-after workshop presenter, and juggles freelance editing, multiple volunteer positions, and most of all, her six children. A native of Arizona who recently transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, she and her husband of over twenty five years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.

To grab a hold of THE SUSPECT'S DAUGHTER, and the other books in the Rogue Hearts series, feel free to click the links below:


Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound


Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound


Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound


Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

MANNERS & MUTINY, Book 4 in the Finishing School series by Gail Carriger

I've been a fan of Gail Carriger ever since I learned of her first novel, SOULLESS, and saw her post on what authors can expect after they sell their first book. Since then, she's published a ton of great steampunk novels that are loaded with humor. MANNERS & MUTINY is the fourth and final installment in her Finishing School series for young adults, which began all the way back with ETIQUETTE & ESPIONAGE:

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.

Lessons in the art of espionage aboard Mademoiselle Geraldine’s floating dirigible have become tedious without Sophronia’s sweet sootie Soap nearby. She would much rather be using her skills to thwart the dastardly Picklemen, yet her concerns about their wicked intentions are ignored, and now she’s not sure whom to trust. What does the brusque werewolf dewan know? On whose side is the ever-stylish vampire Lord Akeldama? Only one thing is certain: a large-scale plot is under way, and when it comes to fruition, Sophronia must be ready to save her friends, her school, and all of London from disaster—in decidedly dramatic fashion, of course.

Gail was also kind enough to answer some interview questions:

When you spoke at the Tucson Festival of Books, you discussed the humor in your novels. You've also said, "it is harder to make people laugh than cry." What do you like most about writing humor, and what do you find most challenging?

I love love love the fact that when people talk about my books they always say how reading them left them smiling. I think it's a noble quest to bring people joy and I try to do that with my writing. I figure the world is already pretty tough, why add to that with fiction. The hardest part is simply making that happen. Not everyone has the same sense of humor. So I try to include all different kinds of humor in my books from slapstick to wordplay to puns to callback to farce so that someone can find something to laugh at at least once every few pages or so.

You've definitely made me laugh multiple times! I love all your books, and the Finishing School series has to be one my favorites. You've described Sophronia as a "smart observer of society." In your newest book, MANNERS & MUTINY, Sophronia’s skills are finally put to the test.  What about her journey has most surprised you, and do you think she's finally reached self-actualization?

Thank you! Sophronia actually didn't surprise me much. I was always confident in what path she needed to walk and how she had to mature. It's very close to my own high school experience, minus the exploding wicker chicken, of course. I think she is as self-actualized as any young woman of that age can be. We all change and keep growing further into ourselves as we mature, or is it that our notion of ourselves is what changes?

Probably some of both--the world changes, and we're often redefined in our experiences within it. And an exploding wicker chicken or two definitely wouldn't hurt! As a fellow tea lover, I always have a cup of something hot when I write. When and where did you discover your love affair with tea, and what tea flavor would you pick to have in infinite supply?

My favorite tea is Twinings Gold Label (black box) English Breakfast (or 1706 Strong) imported from the UK. It can be a little pricey, so if I could have an infinite supply it would be preferable.

I'm sure people feel the same way about your books! I just saw the new cover of IMPRUDENCE, and it's gorgeous:

After going back to Egypt in this book, what worlds are you interested in exploring next?

Well Rue and her crew actually go all the way into Africa to Lake Victoria in this book, and then on to Zanzibar. I don't know exactly what's next but I'd love for her to visit Peru and also Japan.

I can't wait to find out which! Thanks, Gail, for such an excellent interview.

© Vanessa Applegate
New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger writes steampunk comedies of manners to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. Miss Carriger then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She resides in the Colonies, surrounded by fantastic shoes, where she insists on tea imported from London.

Miss Carriger's books are published in eighteen different languages. All thirteen of them are New York Times bestsellers via seven different lists (Mass Market, Hardcover, eBook, Combined Print & eBook, Young Adult, Children's Series, and #1 in Manga). She has received the Alex Award from the American Library Association, the Steampunk Chronicle's Reader's Choice Award in YA, and the Prix Julia Verlanger and Elbakin Award from French readers. In 2012 she was honored with a Starburner Award in Literature for her "contributions to the steampunk community."

To get your velvet-gloved paws on the entire Finishing School series, feel free to click the links below:

Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound

Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound

Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound

And be sure to check out Gail's other books:

Parasol Protectorate (5 books) 

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)     Changeless (Parasol Protectorate, #2)     Blameless (Parasol Protectorate, #3)      Heartless (Parasol Protectorate, #4)     Timeless (Parasol Protectorate, #5)

The Parasol Protectorate Manga (3 books)

Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 1 (The Parasol Protectorate Manga)    Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 2    Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 3

The Custard Protocol (2 books)

Prudence (The Custard Protocol, #1)     Imprudence (The Custard Protocol, #2)

(images and links ©2015 Goodreads Inc)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

THE NEVERSEEN, Book 4 in The Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger

I'm excited to feature Shannon Messenger a week after I featured Suzanne Young, and not just because they're both fabulous authors. I also met them practically at the same time during the ALA conference last June.

I bought the THE NEVERSEEN for the library, and since it's the fourth book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, it had a lot of patron demand. Have a look:

Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has a secret. She’s a Telepath—someone who hears the thoughts of everyone around her. It’s a talent she’s never known how to explain.

Everything changes the day she meets Fitz, a mysterious boy who appears out of nowhere and also reads minds. She discovers there’s a place she does belong, and that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known.

Sophie has new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.”

There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory—secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans—that other people desperately want. Would even kill for.

Sophie Foster is on the run—but at least she's not alone.

Her closest friends from the Lost Cities have gone with her to join the Black Swan. They still have doubts about the shadowy organization, but the only way to find answers is to start working with them. And as they settle into their new lives, they uncover secrets far bigger than anything they’d imagined.

But their enemies are far from done, and unleash a terrifying plague that threatens the safety of an entire species. Sophie and her friends fight with everything they have—with new allies joining them—but every choice has consequences. And trusting the wrong person could prove deadly.

Shannon also passed along some book recommendations:

Five books I recommend for my readers: (I’m going to cheat, since I write series—and view series as really one long book—and give 5 series instead)

The Unwanteds series, by Lisa McMann

The Sisters Grimm series, by Michael Buckley

The Beyonders series, by Brandon Mull

The Missing series, by Margaret Peterson Haddix

The Artemis Fowl series, by Eoin Colfer

Shannon Messenger graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts where she learned--among other things--that she liked watching movies much better than making them. She's studied art, screenwriting, and film production, but realized her real passion was writing stories for children. She's the bestselling author of the middle grade series, KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES, and the SKY FALL series for young adults. Her books have been published in numerous countries and translated into ten different languages. She lives in Southern California with her husband and an embarrassing number of cats. Find her online at

To get a hold of THE NEVERSEEN, or the other books in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, click the links below:


Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound


Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound


Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble


Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

HOTEL RUBY and THE PROGRAM by Suzanne Young

I first met Suzanne Young at the ALA Annual Conference last June. Since then, I've purchased her newest debut, HOTEL RUBY, and her bestselling series, The Program, for my library system. Each setting offers a compelling premise:

When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn't have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she's met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…Welcome to the Ruby.

In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.

Suzanne was also kind enough to answer some interview questions:

According to your bio, you're both a novelist and an English teacher. In what ways, if any, do both careers feed your creativity?  

I love teaching high school, but in recent years there’s been a shift in education that I think stifles creativity. So when I’m in the classroom, I try to be a spark for the students. I try to inspire them. Best way to do that is by letting them be creative. I plan hands-on activities where they can create movies, magazine, or models based on classic books we read. Most recently, they created an entire marketing plan for a unit on advertising.

In writing young adult fiction, I also try to inspire. I hope I write books that people want to read. Because when I help someone discover their love of reading, when I reach reluctant readers, I’m happy. And both teaching and writing helps me accomplish that.

Your writing reaches more people than you know. Currently, I'm selecting teen books for a local youth detention facility, and they've asked for The Program series specifically. I also love how HOTEL RUBY is about healing. What inspired the story, and how did the characters develop as you wrote them?

Although I love the horror elements of HOTEL RUBY, the tale of a family’s grief is always what spoke to me. It’s a love story—but not between Audrey and the guy she meets. It’s a love story of a family and how one girl will do anything to heal them. She will do anything to keep from losing them completely.

The story started with the intention of making it a YA “Hotel California”. Then I added characters, and the deeper I got into their lives, the less it became about a haunted hotel and the more it became about personal demons for the characters.

I think those human elements are what makes Audrey and her brother so relatable. Similarly, The Program series grapples with depression, and the consequences of burying feelings so deeply they almost become forgotten. Along these themes, what do you hope teens might gain from Sloane and James's story?  

Ultimately, The Program series is about hope. The characters are in a dark emotional space—the pressure, the loss, the loneliness—but they kept fighting. Sloane and James never gave up. Not on each other, but more importantly, not on themselves. Sure, they made mistaken and had moments of weakness, but those are the parts of them that are real. So I hope readers understand their pain, but in the end, feel the sense of hope that is waiting at the end.

I definitely felt that when I read it. What are some of your current projects?

In April 2016, I have THE EPIDEMIC (yay!) coming out. It is the sequel to THE REMEDY and the prequel to THE PROGRAM. It ties the two books together. In the fall, I have a contemporary novel called ALL IN PIECES. Stay tuned for more details on that.

I certainly will! Thank you, Suzanne!

To get a hold of HOTEL RUBY, or the books in The Program series, click the links below: 


Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound

The Program series:


Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound


Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound


Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound


Pre-order: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

I figured since we're all off enjoying turkey, ham, turducken, or whatever floats our buckets this Thanksgiving, that blog viewership is likely thin on the ground. So, no interview this week, but stay tuned next week, when I'll be interviewing the amazing Suzanne Young!

This set was gifted to us. I've dubbed the woman Scary Pumpkin Lady, especially when she moves.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

RIDE THE WIND and SPARK by Starla Huchton

I met Starla at this year's UTopYA conference (now known as Utopia Con), and was immediately taken by her cover art. Her newest book, RIDE THE WIND, debuted November 2, and is the latest in her Flipped Fairy Tales series. Have a look:

From Goodreads:

Once upon a time, I made a promise to a stranger. Though I'd never seen her face, I cared for her above all others.

Once upon a time, I broke my vow. In trying to save the one I loved, I condemned her to a cursed life and stripped her of all freedom in a single, misguided step.

Once upon a time, I set out on a journey. Though it might never earn me forgiveness, I would set her free or die trying.

Starla also has a follow-on to her Evolution series under the name S.A. Huchton, starting with the book SPARK:

A shadow looms over every day of Phoebe Lawrence's life. The child of two of the most powerful superheroes on the planet, she's never had the choice to be anything less than perfect. Making mistakes isn't an option, and being normal is definitely off the table. Being a Superkid is far from easy, and controlling her newly awakened ability feels nearly impossible. Fear finds her around every corner, and her potential for absolute destruction is a demon that not only haunts her nightmares, but chars the edges of her waking moments at the slightest lapse of control. When the Supers of ISLE start getting sick one by one, it falls to Phoebe to step up and take her parents' place. With her world crumbling around her, it's up to her to uncover the source of the disaster, and with her parents out of commission, a boy she barely knows might be her best, and only, hope. All she has to fear is herself but can love truly conquer any demon?

And here are Starla's answers to some interview questions:

I love your covers. What goes into each design, and how do they develop as you go along?

This varies really widely. A lot of it involves getting to know the story, characters, and setting for each book, but a big part is also researching design trends and new techniques. Each book faces its own challenges when it comes to a cover. That can be anything from finding the right cover model that hasn't been seen a bazillion times already, expressing a completely abstract concept with color and shape, or figuring out how to add the right amount of fire to a person's hair to make them look paranormal rather than like an arson victim. My questions for my clients are more or less the same as ones I ask about my own books. It's not the job of the cover to give away every detail about the story inside, only to tease at those things enough to make a reader want to know more. This is somewhat easier when I'm working for someone else, as I can't always whittle down the most crucial elements of my own words. It's a forest for the trees sort of thing. First I get the basics (genre, tone, age range, general idea of the plot), then move on to specific details I think I'll need for a successful cover. That could include anything from character descriptions and personality, to setting, to objects that play an important role, to the focused themes of each story. Some are easier to work out than others, and the design falls into place immediately. Others might take hours of trial and error with different ideas before I finally figure out what works for an individual book. No two projects ever play out the same way, so it keeps me from getting bored. :)

So true. And I love that paranormal heroine and arson victim aren't that far apart! Since SPARK is the first in the follow-on to the Evolution series, how did you know more of it needed telling, and how did the new story form?

There was one particular thread from the Evolution series I thought needed more exploring, but I wasn't able to tell that story within the confines of the trilogy. The rest was really me asking myself what would happen if these superheroes went on to have children. Those two things formed the groundwork of the overall plot of The Chronicles of ISLE, which was just brain fuel for more what-ifs.

I'm glad you got to further explore plot elements and make them into reality. And I'm excited about RIDE THE WIND. The concepts in your Flipped Fairy Tales series are always so unique. In what ways do you build on existing elements to make them your own?

When I first started writing SHADOWS ON SNOW, I never intended my Flipped Fairy Tales to go further than the one book, but it turns out these ideas are like rabbits. You just end up with more of them. In telling the tale of Snow White as a prince, I unintentionally found myself seeding ideas that could easily be used as ties to other fairy tales. The "formula," in as much as one exists, is to look at each story and pick out the defining themes and plot points of each, and then expound on them. For Snow White, the theme is "true love conquers all," but there are different forms of true love, not only romantic. In SHADOWS ON SNOW, love is found not only between Raelynn and Leo, but also among her and her sisters, to show how deep devotion can run and how powerful it can be if you embrace it. Because that's also the trick to it. Love is work, and you have to let it work, and encourage it to work, and foster it before anything will come of it.

That's the more complex issue of theme. Plot structure is already built into the original fairy tale. Here's a short list of original versus flipped elements from Shadows on Snow as an example of what I do:

Evil Queen obsessed with beauty/Evil King obsessed with power
Princess attacked by huntsman while picking flowers/Prince attacked by his soldiers on a hunting trip
A corset, a golden comb, and an apple/Golden flax, a knife, and an apple

So you can see how I sort of pull these things in order and use the original as a loose basis for the flipped story. Fairy tales are simply the skeletons of full stories. It's my job as an author to put the meaningful flesh and soul around that structure.

Very well put--and your examples were great! If you were stuck on an island, which three books would you pick to have with you and why?

There are only a few books I've read multiple times, so this is a fairly easy question to answer. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'engle, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. All three are very different, and so bring various qualities to the table that would keep me occupied during my island exile.

Those sound great! Thanks, Starla, for an excellent interview!

To buy Starla's books for yourself, check out the links below:

Flipped Fairy Tales series:


Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound


Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound


Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound


The Chronicles of ISLE series:


Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound   

The Evolution series:

Evolution: ANGEL

Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound

Evolution: SAGE

Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Evolution: HEX

Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


I met Tim at this year's NCIBA (Northern California Independent Booksellers Association) Conference, and remembered his novel WILLFUL MACHINES from when it came across my library desk. It's a great science fiction story, and a unique take on A.I. See for yourself:

In the near future, scientists create what may be a new form of life: an artificial human named Charlotte. All goes well until Charlotte escapes, transfers her consciousness to the Internet, and begins terrorizing the American public.

Charlotte's attacks have everyone on high alert— everyone except Lee Fisher, the closeted son of the US president. Lee has other things to worry about, like keeping his Secret Service detail from finding out about his crush on Nico, the eccentric, Shakespeare-obsessed new boy at school. And keeping Nico from finding out about his recent suicide attempt. And keeping himself from freaking out about all his secrets.
But when the attacks start happening at his school, Lee realizes he's Charlotte’s next target. Even worse, Nico may be part of Charlotte’s plan too.

As Lee races to save himself, uncover Charlotte’s plan, and figure out if he can trust Nico, he comes to a whole new understanding of what it means to be alive ... and what makes life worth living.

Tim also answered some interview questions!

Let's start on a happy note (pun intended). What is your favorite song from Les Misérables, and in what ways, if any, has music influenced your writing (or vice-versa)?

I have to admit I love pretty much all the songs from Les Miz, but the one I’ve probably spent the most time singing in the shower is “On My Own.”  I also sometimes do “A Little Fall of Rain” and then fake-die.  Of all the characters, I definitely vibe with Eponine most—which is probably a little sad, considering she’s such a tragic figure.

I do find music makes its way into my writing at times.  When I write, I like to draw inspiration from all sorts of other art forms.  For example, although music doesn’t play a big role in WILLFUL MACHINES, Shakespeare’s plays do.  In my second book, TATTOO ATLAS, which comes out next year, music figures into the story in a fairly big way (as does painting, poetry, and, of course, tattoo art).

I love "On My Own," and I can't wait to see how the elements of music play out in TATTOO ATLAS. And while Shakespeare plays a big role (pun intended?) in WILLFUL MACHINES, you also find unique ways to explore artificial intelligence and its dangers. How did Charlotte come to you, and what do you want readers to take away from her and Lee's story?

One of my goals in WILLFUL MACHINES was to turn the whole Terminator-style robot takeover scenario on its head.  Instead of portraying Charlotte and the other A.I.s in the story as cartoonish monsters, I sought to make them as three-dimensional as any human character.  And I wanted to question the assumption that machines, once they become sentient, will automatically want to obliterate mankind and take over the planet.  I mean, maybe they will.  I honestly don’t know.  But in my story I wanted to take things in a different direction.

I also wanted to use the story to explore some other A.I.-related questions that have intrigued me for a long time.  Namely, as machines get more and more sophisticated, how are these advances changing the way we think about ourselves as human beings?  What, if anything, sets us apart from machines?

Not as much as we think, I'm sure! According to your website bio, you graduated from Boston University with a master's in writing. In what ways did this help you grow as a writer, and what advice, if any, do you have for writers considering master's programs?

I had a wonderful time at B.U. and learned a lot there, but I certainly don’t think having a master’s is a requirement for being a writer.  For one thing, in the world of fiction writing, no one cares if you have a degree or not.  For another, I don’t believe most aspects of writing fiction are necessarily teachable in a traditional, structured, classroom sort of way anyhow.  Writing fiction is such a complex, nuanced pursuit, with a few guidelines but no fixed rules, and I think you mostly just learn by reading a lot, writing a lot, and getting as much helpful feedback on your writing as possible.  You don’t necessarily need a graduate program for that.

That said, I do think master’s programs offer a few things for writers.  One of those things is time.  When I was at B.U., I appreciated having the time to focus on my writing without a job or anything else distracting me.  Another is community.  Writing is usually so solitary, and I loved having a group of other writers I could hang out with and talk about writing with.  It kept me motivated.  And thirdly, I learned at B.U. a very important skill: how to take feedback.  Like a lot of writers, I felt really vulnerable whenever I gave my work to other people to read.  Each story felt like a piece of my soul on paper.  But after getting critiqued by my professors and fellow students week after week, I learned how to separate myself from my writing and not take it personally when someone else pointed out something that wasn’t working.

Sounds like an excellent way to approach craft. What are some of your current projects? Will WILLFUL MACHINES have a sequel?

As I mentioned, I have another book coming out next year, also from Simon Pulse.  It’s called TATTOO ATLAS, and it’s a psychological thriller about a teen sociopath who receives an experimental brain surgery that gives him a conscience.  Right now I’m working on finishing edits for that.  And then … I’m not completely sure.  I do have a story arc mapped out for a sequel to WILLFUL MACHINES, but I also have at least two other concepts I’m extremely excited about, and I’m not sure which of these projects I’m going to dive into next.  I definitely hope to get back to Lee and Nico and the WILLFUL MACHINES universe at some point, though.

I hope so too! Thanks, Tim, for an excellent interview!

To grab WILLFUL MACHINES for yourself, click any of the links below:

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