Wednesday, December 20, 2017


I've been a fan of Jessica Brody for a long time, and I was happy to feature her earlier this year. Besides having a delightfully ambiguous title, THE CHAOS OF STANDING STILL offers a unique take on the grief process:

Ryn has one unread text message on her phone. And it’s been there for almost a year.

She hasn’t tried to read it. She can’t. She won’t. Because that one message is the last thing her best friend ever said to her before she died.

But as Ryn finds herself trapped in the Denver International Airport on New Year’s Eve thanks to a never-ending blizzard on the one-year anniversary of her best friend’s death, fate literally runs into her.

And his name is Xander.

When the two accidentally swap phones, Ryn and Xander are thrust into the chaos of an unforgettable all-night adventure, filled with charming and mysterious strangers, a secret New Year’s Eve bash, and a possible Illuminati conspiracy hidden within the Denver airport. But as the bizarre night continues, all Ryn can think about is that one unread text message. It follows her wherever she goes, because Ryn can’t get her brialliantly wild and free-spirited best friend out of her head.

Ryn can’t move on.

But tonight, for the first time ever, she’s trying. And maybe that’s a start.

In our last interview, you said, "I’m always juggling a million projects at once." Is this still true, and in what ways, if any, do you find creative balance?

Haha, well, given that these interview questions were two weeks late to you, I’d say, I’m NOT finding balance right now. LOL. Yes, I’ve been juggling a lot lately. Right now, I’m finishing a first draft of my next sci-fi novel, the first in a new series, called A SKY WITHOUT STARS. I’ve just turned in the revised draft of my next contemporary (title to be announced soon!)  and I’m currently revising my first non-fiction book, SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL, all about plotting novels. This has been an unusually busy year, but basically my strategy has been dividing my day into slots or sections. Like I have a drafting slot (always in the morning when I’m freshest) for first drafts of books. Then I have an afternoon slot that is dedicated to revising. And I try to insert promotion and marketing slots between those. This way I can always stay focused on the task at hand and not get distracted.

Sounds like a great process--and I'd love to read SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL. Speaking of plot, I love how THE CHAOS OF STANDING STILL deals with grief. Was this theme always a part of the story or was in woven in gradually? Or both?

Actually the grief was never part of the original outline!

 Originally, I just wanted to challenge myself as a writer, to see if I could write a rom com set in an enclosed setting and have the two characters believably fall in love in only 24 hours. So I set out to write a book about two teens who meet while trapped in the Denver airport during a snow storm. And although all of that is still in there, something interesting happened as I starting writing.

 Suddenly, out of nowhere, a new character appeared. Her name was Lottie. She was unlike any character I’d ever written. She was vivacious. She was bubbly. She spoke her mind. She was funny. And she was very, very dead.

 I had no idea what to do with that. Dead Lottie was definitely not in my original rom com outline. But once Lottie was unleashed into the story, everything changed. It was no longer a cute, fun rom-com about a girl getting trapped in the Denver airport and falling in love. It soon became so much more than that. It became a story about a girl who lost her best friend and has been unable to let her go. Literally. Lottie is trapped inside Ryn’s head, still talking to her, still guiding her in death, just like she did in life.

 So the story quickly morphed from a carefree, cute rom com to a rom com with this extra layer to it. A layer of unresolved grief. A topic I’d never touched before in my career.

I love when characters appear out of nowhere like that--and how they inevitably change a story. Stories can change in all kinds of ways--for example, your books also have foreign editions. What has been the most challenging about this process, and what's been most rewarding?

 The most rewarding part is ALWAYS seeing my book with all of these cool different covers! But on the flip side, you have very little control over the foreign publication process. That’s sort of a challenge. Most of the time I don’t even know what the book will look like until it’s out. Some publishers have actually run cover ideas by me before proceeding but I’ve found that doesn’t happen all the time. So you sort of need to learn how to let go of control when it comes to foreign editions.

Letting go of control can be difficult, but it's often a necessary process. If you could tell you younger writer self one thing, what would it be and why?

I think I would tell teen Jessica Brody that no matter what she chooses to do with her life, she can always change. I was a financial analyst for many years before I got laid off and decided to write a book. I think teens get very stressed out about making huge life decisions at such a young age. But hey, nothing is set in stone. You can always change careers. I did and it turned out pretty great!

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Looking for Jessica Brody's other U.S. book releases? Find them here. 

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

SKY IN THE DEEP by Adrienne Young

SKY IN THE DEEP doesn't debut until next year, but I'm so excited about the premise and story that I couldn't wait to feature it. In addition, Bustle just featured SKY IN THE DEEP as one of its 27 most anticipated YA Fantasy Books hitting shelves in 2018.

Seventeen-year-old Eelyn’s world is war. Raised to fight alongside her Aska clansmen in a generations-old blood feud against the Riki, her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother's betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki if she wants to make it back to the fjord after the thaw. But when she begins to see herself in the people she's been taught to hate, the world Eelyn once knew begins to crumble. And after the village is raided by a ruthless clan many believe to be a myth, Eelyn is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend who has tried more than once to kill her. Together, they must end the blood feud between their clans or watch their people be slaughtered.

A lush, Viking-age inspired fantasy about loyalty, forgiveness, and the definition of family.

On to the FAQ page on your website, you said, "I didn’t pursue publication until I was 26 and it took several books and many, many rejections before I sold SKY IN THE DEEP." What kept you going through those many rejections, and how did you prioritize which projects to focus on? 

Honestly, I had to learn to let go of the first project that never sold. It was really hard because I'd put so much of myself into it and I'd learned how to write a book through that experience. I was really attached to it and it took a while to finally admit to myself that it was time to move on. I studied the market a lot more and made my best guess about what would work and which idea inspired me the most and that's how I decided where to go next. As far as perseverance in rejection, I'm fortunate enough to have people in my life that didn't let me lose sight of my dream. It's really easy to give up when you're facing so many obstacles, and I needed those voices around me pointing me in the right direction when it was most difficult.

Those voices are necessary--and I'm glad they were there. THE SKY IN THE DEEP is Viking-age inspired fantasy. What about the Viking age do you find most compelling, and in what ways does Eelyn find her place within that world? 

So, I'm a huge fan of history in general. There really isn't a culture or time period that doesn't interest me, but I do love the Viking culture for many reasons. I think they were culturally very rich and one of the things that are most compelling to me is the role of women in that society. I wouldn't say that women had equal rights, but they definitely had more than most of the women during that time in that region of the world. I find it fascinating. Eelyn finds a place in that world as a warrior, fighting right alongside the men of her clan. We also see female spiritual, community, and political leaders in this story and I love that.

Me too. And I love your monthly newsletter! How do you determine the kind of content that is included each month, and what do you recommend to writers wanting to start a mailing list? 

I am not really a fan of newsletters myself, so when I was developing the format, I tried to only include things that I would want to read. And I also try to keep things short and sweet! No need to ramble. If you're wanting to start your own, I say just be authentic. Be yourself and let it come through in your newsletter, but be sure to edit. Less is always more.

Indeed. What are some of your current projects?

Right now I am working on a companion novel to Sky in the Deep that I am really excited about! After that, there are a lot of ideas I want to get cracking on but they are all under wraps for now.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

ROYAL BASTARDS by Andrew Shvarts

Andrew Shvarts is an absolute delight. I met him at a recent author event, and when I found out that his book, ROYAL BASTARDS, was "The Breakfast Club meets Game of Thrones," I knew I had to snatch a copy immediately.

Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .

According to your website bio, you were born in the Soviet Union, but immigrated to the US when you were four years old. In what ways, if any, has this shaped your experience, and can you tell us about your journey toward becoming a published author? 

Interesting question! I think there certain elements of the immigrant experience that leave an indelible impression on your perspective, and that comes out in all my writing. I think there are certain themes I come back to a lot, like the illusory nature of home, the limits of ideologies, and ambiguity of the notion of nations and Kingdoms, that comes directly from that experience.

As for my journey, I always knew I wanted to be a writer, ever since I was a kid. When I graduated college, I was sure I'd be the next Stephen King, so I wrote a bunch of horror and scifi... none of which sold. My lucky break was when I got a job writing for a mobile videogame, Surviving High School. It was middle-grade comedy, so the opposite of what I used to, but I discovered I really liked it. That's how I got into writing YA, and a few years on the job, I gave fiction writing a try. After the usual struggles of publishing (one novel that went nowhere, another that died in submission), I got my big break with Royal Bastards!

I like how you said, "The usual struggles of publishing." It really helps those of us still on the journey. ROYAL BASTARDS has been described as Game of Thrones meets The Breakfast Club. How did the story come to you, and what do you hope readers will take away from it? 

ROYAL BASTARDS began as the combination of two different ideas that I was trying to get going. The first was a contemporary story about a group of very different teens who get framed for a murder and have to go on the run. The second was an attempt to do a truly YA version of Game of Thrones, with that series world-building and feuding Houses and backstabbing intrigue. The breakthrough came when I realized these were actually the same idea!

In terms of read takeaway, that's an interesting question. I hope readers have a great time and love the action and the humor (and maybe cry a little). More broadly, in terms of themes, I think ROYAL BASTARDS is about the moment in adolescence where you realize that your parents are not the perfect models you thought they were, that the values and beliefs you were brought up in might be flawed or even harmful. It's about challenging your upbringing and finding yourself as an individual.

Well said--and that's a journey that many of us, myself included, definitely identify with. And, I love the stories you tell. What is one of your favorite anecdotes?

Ha, thank you! I recently remembered a pretty good story about my favorite celebrity encounter. It was back in college, during a play. A buddy of mine went to the bathroom during intermission, and after using the toilet, he flushed it... and it started backing up, overflowing, the whole mess. My buddy decides, not his problem, and starts to leave the stall... only to run into none other than Tom Hanks walking in. Turns out he was on campus to give a talk and decided to catch a play. So my friend is just standing there, stunned, and Tom Hanks looks in and sees the overflowing toilet and says, "Were you really going to just leave that for the next person who came in?" And my friend sheepishly nods. So Tom Hanks goes in, gets the plunger, and plunges the toilet, all to my friend's deep shame. And as my friend is walking out, Tom yells, "You tell everyone! You tell them that Tom Hanks cleaned up your mess!"

Ha! That's awesome! And a good moral for us all. :) CITY OF BASTARDS, the sequel to ROYAL BASTARDS, will debut in 2018. Is there anything you can tell us about it yet? 

Ooooo, let's see. It's set in the city of Lightspire, the capital of the Kingdom, and is structurally almost more of a murder mystery. You'll get to see the heart of the Kingdom, and encounter shadowy cults, charming revolutionaries, and the creme de la creme of the nobility. Also, there's a masquerade and maybe the secret nature of magic. Maybe.

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