Wednesday, June 20, 2018


I first met Aminah Mae Safi at this year's YALLWEST conference--where, unsurprisingly, she ran out of Advanced Reader Copies of her debut, NOT THE GIRLS YOU'RE LOOKING FOR. The book just came out, and I can't wait to buy it:

Lulu Saad doesn't need your advice, thank you very much. She's got her three best friends and nothing can stop her from conquering the known world. Sure, for half a minute she thought she’d nearly drowned a cute guy at a party, but he was totally faking it. And fine, yes, she caused a scene during Ramadan. It's all under control. Ish.

Except maybe this time she’s done a little more damage than she realizes. And if Lulu can't find her way out of this mess soon, she'll have to do more than repair friendships, family alliances, and wet clothing. She'll have to go looking for herself.

You're agented by Lauren MacLeod at the The Strothman Agency. What was your query process like, and how did you know Lauren was the right agent for you?

I queried this book a couple of times, but I went through re-writes each time I queried. The time when I found Lauren, I did #DVpit. It was amazing to be able to pitch this book in a space that was so supportive and so excited for a main character like Lulu. She’s mixed race and she’s Muslim and pitching during #DVpit made me feel like there was a whole community of readers and writers that were ready for her.

The rest of the query process was pretty standard. I queried the agents that showed interest from the pitch event. I had a request from Lauren for a partial, and then a couple months later for a full and then an offer. I think she’d been traveling in the summer. Lauren and I just jived on the phone, which was amazing. She saw the core of my book and wanted to preserve that Not the Girls You’re Looking For is ultimately about friendship.

My piece of advice when you do get to the point where you talk to an agent is this— ask them what they want to change. Because you’ll likely do a round of revisions with your agent. Lauren and I were on the same page with what we wanted to change and what we wanted to preserve. She was also excited about upcoming projects I had in mind.

Excellent advice! On your website, you've said that NOT THE GIRLS YOU'RE LOOKING for is your "ode to mean girls, messy friendships, and bad decisions." What do you hope readers take away from Lulu's story?

That they don’t have to be perfect to take up space in this world, to take up space in the pages of stories. And also, that we can all push past our worst days and our worst selves and grow into better people.

Indeed we can. You also have an art background. What do you love most about art, and in what ways does it let you stretch your creativity? 

Art history has been a love of mine for as long as I can remember, even before I actually knew what it was. So much of art history was, for me, taking the visual arts and connecting them to the time and place and people who made them. Art is at the heart of culture, of politics, of religion, and even of science. Art is about the stories we tell and why we tell stories is what keeps me going back to all kinds of art— watching movies, listening to music, visiting the paintings hanging in museums, as well as writing my own books.

When I get blocked, I often go to the museum. I think there’s something about looking at art that helps me get out of my head and keeps me from stagnating in my own storytelling problems. Nine times out of ten, that’s what works.

Wonderful. What are some of your current projects?

I’m currently working on an enemies to lovers rom com set in LA as two girls work together to make a film and try very hard not to fall in love. I started it when I was up in the Bay Area and homesick for LA— so it’s my love letter to the city, to my favorite places, and my more complicated relationship to films in general. It will be out June 2019, so look out for more info on my Instagram (@aminahmae) or my website ( soon!

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

RABBIT & ROBOT by Andrew Smith

Once I saw the cover for Andrew Smith's new book, RABBIT & ROBOT, I knew another feature was in order. This book breaks all the right rules, and Andrew had some interesting new things to share as well.

Cager has been transported to the Tennessee, a giant lunar-cruise ship orbiting the moon that his dad owns, by Billy and Rowan to help him shake his Woz addiction. Meanwhile, Earth, in the midst of thirty simultaneous wars, burns to ash beneath them. And as the robots on board become increasingly insane and cannibalistic, and the Earth becomes a toxic wasteland, the boys have to wonder if they’ll be stranded alone in space forever.

In our last interview, you said, "I don't think there has been anything that has educated or impacted me more than traveling and meeting people from unfamiliar places." What has been one of your most favorite unfamiliar places to travel to, and why?

It's impossible for me to pick a "most favorite" because everywhere I've been has been unique in ways that set it apart from anywhere else. I like the experience of newness. That said, last summer I took my son to Europe and during part of our trip we stayed with my friends Els and Guy at their home in Geraardsbergen, which I had never been to before and I thought it was lovely. They took us to the city of Ghent, another place I'd never been, and I thought it was one of the most spectacularly beautiful little cities I've ever seen. There are these candy sellers in Ghent who set up carts about five feet away from each other, and they make the same product, candy noses, so they compete with each other. And they hate each other, and have even gotten into fistfights before over whose candy noses are better. It's quite an interesting and bizarre story. Here's a picture of one of the guys with his candy noses:

I can't imagine anything better than rival candy nose vendors! And speaking of petty arguments, I like how RABBIT AND ROBOT explores the consequences and chaos of human destruction. What do you think matters most about what makes us human, and what hopes, if any, do you have for the human race? 

The fact that you like an exploration of chaos and human destruction is quite telling, Karen. But then again, so do I, so... um...

There is a point in the novel where the narrator, a kid named Cager Messer who is obsessed with all the things he's never had the opportunity to do, says, "I figured it out: love and hope are what make us what we are. I couldn't see this before we came to the Tennessee. So the Tennessee saved us, and doomed us, too, all at the same time."

So there you have it in a nutshell: love and hope are the things that essentially define us as human beings, and then there's the whole doom and chaos and destruction thing going on as well.

Do I have any hopes for the human race? That's a tough one to answer since it's in our nature to hope, to visualize an outcome that puts us in a better place. I suppose if everyone on the planet reads Rabbit & Robot, and then as a result decides to stop doing all the shitty things we're doing to the planet, to each other, to kids, to economic systems, to ourselves, then just maybe. But I'm not the first writer who's imagined the possibility of a grim future given the path we're on. Just take a look at some Orwell, Huxley, or Vonnegut, whose novel Player Piano is chillingly becoming our reality. There's a good academic paper in there somewhere.

And because Rabbit & Robot makes a rather dark prediction about where capitalism is taking us, here's a picture of my son standing in front of a meeting hall for socialists in Ghent.

A dark prediction--but a beautiful building. The cover of RABBIT AND ROBOT was designed by Mike Perry. What do you like most about the cover, and in what ways do you feel it honors the story?

Coincidentally, I just sent Mike an email yesterday about that cover. I think I've been so fortunate and blessed when it comes to cover art, across all my eleven novels and their reiterations in paperback and foreign editions. But the cover for Rabbit & Robot is probably my favorite one so far. The style of the art--its wild colors and jittery, frenetic appearance--really captures the sound palette of the story. 

When I first saw Mike's design, I spent hours looking at it, hunting for all the little story elements he was able to incorporate. It is a fantastic, unforgettable, and beautiful piece of art. And I'm one of those readers who likes to keep looking back at the cover of what I'm reading to see how well it fits with the content. I'm highly satisfied when that connection is there, and I'm kind of appalled when a publisher just gets it wrong. I even had business cards made from the cover art. Here's a picture of some of them (admit it, you want one): 

I completely want one! If you could tell your younger writer self one thing, what would it be and why?

This is a tough one.

I always loved writing, and for as long as I can remember I always wanted to be a writer. But "being a writer" to me just meant someone who writes stuff--NOT someone who gets PAID to write stuff. I never thought about it as a job, because jobs were always so unsatisfying to me. I was a serial quitter at all jobs. Even after I got out of college and actually did get paid to write for newspapers and radio stations, I was unsatisfied, mostly because I resented being told what to do. So I'd quit and drift, quit and drift, repeat and repeat.

It was the right thing to do.

And I kept writing; always writing. I was being a writer without being A WRITER.

Later on in life, when I was dared by a dear friend to submit something for publication, I submitted something that directly got published--my first novel, which wasn't nearly my first. I had been writing novels since I was in high school (they were terrible, but I wasn't focused on BEING a writer, I was only focused on writing). And to be perfectly honest, I didn't really WANT my stuff to be published, because I didn't really want anyone to read the stuff I'd been writing for all those drifting decades. And I especially didn't want it to be yet another "job". I just took the dare because it was a dare, kind of like when I ate grasshoppers.

Here's a picture of me when I was seventeen years old. I was in Austria here, taking one of many semesters off from being an undergrad (and yes, I was writing stuff then; mostly terrible poetry and angry song lyrics):

So, yesterday, I got this, from an amazingly talented writer, and one of my favorite musicians ever, Courtney Barnett:

I love it. And I love what she said to me, because it's exactly what I would say to my younger writer self: to keep on keeping on. To me, it means this: Don't lose sight of the fact that the purest kind of writing you can do, what will give you the greatest sense of satisfaction, is the writing that you do for yourself. It's why I have found myself receding at times, so I can try to get back into that solitary internal space where nothing else matters.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A LIST OF CAGES by Robin Roe

I had the honor of meeting Robin Roe at YANovCon, and when I found out that the main characters in A LIST OF CAGES were foster teens, I knew I had to feature it:

When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian—the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years.

Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kindhearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives…

According to your website bio, you’ve been a counselor for adolescents and a special education teacher. What was most rewarding about both careers, and what ways, if any, do they show up in your writing? 

When I was working with teens, there was this daily joy and the feeling that I was doing something that mattered. Writing is much more solitary, so I miss that part of my life. However, being an author is incredible, and I love spending my days in a creative state of flow.

What a wonderful place to be. A LIST OF CAGES has a beautiful beginning. What do you think are some necessary elements of a book's first few pages?

Thank you—I really appreciate that. What draws me into a book is the main character. If I care about the character, I care about the story. So I’d say that it’s important to do anything you can do as a writer to make us care as soon as possible.

Indeed. I love your website. What advice, if any, do you have for authors wanting to either build or update their online platform? 

I do think having a website is important, but I’m finding that, for me, it’s better if I use social media sparingly. I know some writers are amazing at balancing social media and their work, but I’m not sure if I’m one of those people. I post when I have an event or to answer my readers, but not much apart from that.

Social media can be a vortex, and it's probably good not to get overly tangled within it! What are some of your current projects? 

I have quite a few things in the works, but my next book will also be a YA contemporary. Like A LIST OF CAGES it explores the psychology of the victim, but this one will delve further into the psychology of the offender.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me: by Carrie DiRisio

When I first followed the Twitter handle @broodingYAHero, it left me in stitches--all the YA stereotypes and tropes--it was too much!

Here are some favorites:

So imagine my excitement when I got to get my hands on the book, BROODING YA HERO: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me:

Have you ever wished you could receive a little guidance from your favorite book boyfriend? Ever dreamed of being the Chosen One in a YA novel? Want to know all the secrets of surviving the dreaded plot twist?

Or maybe you're just really confused about what "opal-tinted, luminous cerulean orbs" actually are?

Well, popular Twitter personality @broodingYAhero is here to help as he tackles the final frontier in his media dominance: writing a book. Join Broody McHottiepants as he attempts to pen Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me, a "self-help" guide (with activities--you always need activities) that lovingly pokes fun at the YA tropes that we roll our eyes at, but secretly love.

As his nefarious ex, Blondie DeMeani, attempts to thwart him at every turn, Broody overcomes to detail, among other topics, how to choose your genre, how to keep your love interest engaged (while maintaining lead character status), his secret formula for guaranteed love triangle success, and how to make sure you secure that sequel, all while keeping his hair perfectly coiffed and never breaking a sweat.

Carrie DiRisio also scored me an interview with Broody McHottiepants himself:

Besides yourself, who is your favorite YA hero or heroine? If you took him or her out to lunch, what would you both eat?

It's hard for me to just pick one, because there are so many main characters I'd like to get to know better. That being said, I think hanging with Gen from Megan Whalen Turner's THIEF novel would be a lot of fun. We'd eat something awesome, and probably stolen.

Stolen food tastes the best. What did you enjoy most about writing your book and why?

I really enjoyed getting a chance to share all of my brilliant thoughts with even more people. It's not fair that only Authors ever get to write books. Us characters have a lot to say too. My other most favorite part of the book were the beautiful illustrations done by Linnea Gear. She captures my adjective and adverb worthy face with perfect artistic flair.

Indeed she does. What, if anything, did you learn from interviewing yourself? Would you rather be the interviewer, or the interviewee?

Well, I learned that it is very hard to think in complete sentences when confronted with my brilliant gemstone-colored gaze. No wonder so many love interests faint when I make eye contact with them.

I think I'd prefer to be both. I'm not sure I can trust anyone else to ask the deep questions that I ask, like "what is your favorite color?"

Darn--that's what I should have asked! Why do you think YA heroes are sometimes misunderstood? What do you wish people knew more about? Can you explain? 

Well, we're very good-looking, incredibly arrogant, often wealthy, and usually lacking in moral character... so I don't understand how anyone could ever misunderstand us.
I wish more people knew I had a softer side. I always ask my author to give me a puppy, plucky orphan sidekick, or a pet fern to highlight my softer side, but sometimes they don't comply.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

DEVILS UNTO DUST by Emma Berquist

I first learned about Emma Berquist's book DEVILS UNTO DUST via Twitter, and I immediately fell in love with the premise. If you're looking for an horror story that takes place in the old west, you should definitely pick this one up.

Ten years ago, a horrifying disease began spreading across the West Texas desert. Infected people—shakes—attacked the living and created havoc and destruction. No one has ever survived the infection. Daisy Wilcox, known as Willie, has been protecting her siblings within the relatively safe walls of Glory, Texas. When Willie’s good-for-nothing father steals a fortune from one of the most dangerous shake-hunters in town, she finds herself on the hook for his debt. With two hunters, including the gruff and handsome Ben, to accompany her, she sets out across the desert in search of her father. But the desert is not kind to travelers, and not everyone will pass through alive.

According to your website bio, you currently live in New Zealand and you avoid the beach. What do you love most about New Zealand, and why no beaches?

 New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Just driving to the grocery store there are views that would make you gasp, and I haven’t even explored the South Island yet. (Plus, publicly funded healthcare is great!)

I have a long-standing aversion to the beach. Not only do I hate sand, but I get sunburned in about 10 minutes unless I’ve slathered every exposed inch of me in sunscreen. NOT A FAN.

And now I'm more of a fan of the grocery store than the beach! DEVILS UNTO DUST is set in the West Texas desert during the post-Civil War era. In what ways, if any, did this setting shape the story, and what was most challenging about bringing it to life?

This story actually started with the setting. I was in Palm Springs, a small desert town in southern California, and the scenery was making me nostalgic for the hiking trips I took as a kid in Texas. I started thinking about what a beautiful but harsh landscape the desert is, and how it’s the last place you want to be if there was something chasing you, because there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. I was able to draw on a lot of my memories for the descriptions of Glory, but it was more challenging to get the details of the time period right. I had to read up on the Reconstruction Era and the realities of the old west to make sure everything was as accurate as I could make it.

What a beautiful way to shape a setting. In your interview with BookPeople, you said the hardest thing about writing was, "Having to actually sit down and get the words on the page. It’s easy to come up with an idea but a lot harder to turn that idea into an entire book." What helps you keep motivated when the process of creating a book from an idea becomes challenging?

I’m not a fast writer, so I put up a whiteboard to keep track of my word count. Even if I only write a little bit every day, seeing the physical progress of a book taking shape (albeit slowly) helps to keep me motivated to push forward. If I start to get too discouraged or feel creatively drained, it always helps to read books that inspire me, or watch movies that remind me of the power of storytelling.

Huzzah to the power of storytelling! What are some of your current projects?

 I’m starting edits on my second book, which is a contemporary ghost story. I also have a few new story ideas that I’ve been bouncing between, trying to figure out which one has the most potential. I keep switching back and forth, but hopefully I’ll narrow it down soon!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

HULLMETAL GIRLS by Emily Skrutskie

I first featured Emily Skrutskie here. Her newest book, HULLMETAL GIRLS, debuts on July 17, 2018, and I can't wait to read it:

Aisha Un-Haad would do anything for her family. When her brother contracts a plague, she knows her janitor's salary isn't enough to fund his treatment. So she volunteers to become a Scela, a mechanically enhanced soldier sworn to protect and serve the governing body of the Fleet, the collective of starships they call home. If Aisha can survive the harrowing modifications and earn an elite place in the Scela ranks, she may be able to save her brother.

Key Tanaka awakens in a Scela body with only hazy memories of her life before. She knows she's from the privileged end of the Fleet, but she has no recollection of why she chose to give up a life of luxury to become a hulking cyborg soldier. If she can make it through the training, she might have a shot at recovering her missing past.

In a unit of new recruits vying for top placement, Aisha's and Key's paths collide, and the two must learn to work together--a tall order for girls from opposite ends of the Fleet. But a rebellion is stirring, pitting those who yearn for independence from the Fleet against a government struggling to maintain unity.

With violence brewing and dark secrets surfacing, Aisha and Key find themselves questioning their loyalties. They will have to put aside their differences, though, if they want to keep humanity from tearing itself apart.

In our last interview, you said, "Allowing myself to leave a question stated, but unsolved, is very, very difficult for me, and it’s one of the reasons coming up with short stories is so much harder for me than figuring out novel plots." What is the last unsolved question you had, and how did you resolve it?

That's the thing about storytelling: it's nonstop problem solving all the way down. Little things like how a character transitions from the first emotional beat of the scene to the second, which is a matter of untangling thought processes and understanding how the mind follows trains of association. Big things like how the overarching external conflict of a book reflects a character's overarching emotional journey. And usually solving one question creates several others, so it's difficult to isolate them. This is also a difficult question to answer in detail because either you don't know what I'm talking about or I'm spoiling something by telling you both the question and its answer!

It's a helpful answer all the same! HULLMETAL GIRLS explores collaboration in the midst of conflict. What was the most challenging part of writing Aisha's and Key's story?

HULLMETAL GIRLS is the first time I've tried to tackle dual first person POVs. The story started out in only Aisha's perspective, but as I got deeper and deeper into that first draft, I realized that Key had a lot more going on beneath the surface and needed a voice in the narrative. And even though they're two very different characters, it took multiple attempts to really nail the distinctions between them. Aisha and Key come from vastly different classes, which affects their way of thinking. Key's more likely to throw a fit when told she can't do something, whereas Aisha is more likely to accept it (but quietly seethe). Key wears her anger on the surface because she's never had to hide it, whereas Aisha is more likely to hide her emotions for the sake of the people around her. Key's the foul-mouthed cynic to Aisha's more poetic voice, which affects the writing down to the sentence level.

And then, of course, I made everything a thousand times more complicated by having the two of them mentally linked. There are moments in the story where Aisha will swear because Key's vocabulary has bled into hers or Key will use a more Aisha-like turn of phrase. Keeping two perspectives straight, allowing them to mix, and making it clear whose voice is whose were the most challenging aspects of writing this story.

What a fascinating way to explore character! This year, you participated in Colleen Houck's bi-annual YA Scavenger Hunt. How did you get involved with this, and what has been most rewarding about it?

I was invited to join the hunt back before THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US was released, and I've been doing it ever since. One of my favorite things about doing the YA Scavenger Hunt is coming up with unique bonus content. It's always a bit of a challenge to figure out something to create that would be both interesting for the unfamiliar reader and valuable for the familiar one. In the past, I've done playlists, lists of easter eggs, and this season I wrote a letter from Dr. Isaac Ikande, the head of Medical in HULLMETAL GIRLS, explaining the process of becoming Scela. Not only was that a fun way of introducing new readers to an important part of the book, it was also a unique writing challenge for me. I had to figure out both what Isaac's written voice sounded like and how he would write a letter to a group of people he knew were mostly about to die.

And now I want to read that letter. What are three books you would recommend to your readers and why?

Readers of HULLMETAL GIRLS absolutely need to check out THIS MORTAL COIL, by Emily Suvada. It's a sci-fi thriller with all sorts of fun (and occasionally SUPER GROSS) body mod stuff, extremely good science, and a disease that EXPLODES PEOPLE. And if you love sci-fi action with enhanced humans and rebellion, definitely check out Fonda Lee's EXO, which is about a boy trapped between the alien invaders who turned him into an enhanced soldier and the human resistance trying to throw them off the planet. I also deeply enjoyed HONOR AMONG THIEVES, by Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine, because who DOESN'T want to read about psychic space whales that you travel the cosmos inside?

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Emily's recommendations:

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

GOODBYE DAYS by Jeff Zentner

I've been a fan of Jeff Zentner ever since The Serpent King came out, and I was delighted to meet him at YANovCon earlier this year. His newest book, GOODBYE DAYS, explores the different shapes of grief in a very unique way.

One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts.

The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?

Which one of your tattoos is your favorite, and why?

My tattoo with my son’s name on it. As for why, it’s because I really like him a lot.

Makes sense! GOODBYE DAYS does well in handling the many shapes grief can take. What do you think is most helpful for people dealing with the kind of loss Carver encounters in the book? 

I think just letting yourself feel things and not trying to rush the grieving process. It looks different for everyone.

Indeed it does. Your novel, THE SERPENT KING, explores the consequences of self-destruction. What about this was the most compelling to explore?  

I found it fascinating exploring the root causes of what makes people head down self-destructive paths. So often we’re judgmental of self-destructive decisions without understanding or empathy for why people make them.

And having that empathy would make a difference for other people, as well as ourselves. What are some of your current projects?

My third book, RAYNE & DELILAH’S MIDNITE MATINEE, comes out next spring. It’s about two girls who have their own creature feature on their local public access station, and whether the show they make together will be able to take each where they want to go in life.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018


I was lucky enough to meet Alex White at this year's San Francisco Writers' Conference. He has a lot of great books, and has even penned the newest and latest foray into the land of Xenomorphs, ALIEN: THE COLD FORGE.

A dramatic new Alien novel, as Weyland-Yutani seeks to recover from the failure of Hadley's Hope, and successfully weaponize the Xenomorphs.

With the failure of the Hadley's Hope, Weyland-Yutani has suffered a devastating defeat--the loss of the Aliens. Yet there's a reason the company rose to the top, and they have a redundancy already in place. Remote station RB-323 abruptly becomes their greatest hope for weaponizing the Xenomorph, but there's a spy aboard--someone who doesn't necessarily act in the company's best interests. If discovered, this person may have no choice but to destroy RB-323... and everyone on board. That is, if the Xenomorphs don't do the job first.

What is the most fascinating aspect of watching people blacksmith?

I love the repetition of it. In many ways, smithing is identical to the publishing process. You put all of this fire and energy into an immutable thing, you take it over to your anvil and you beat on it with everything you can before it cools. When that's finished, you've barely changed anything at all. To the untrained eye, you've basically gotten nowhere. Then you do it again, and again shaping the object into the future you want to see. You can't rush it, or all of your efforts will be ruined, and you have to start over. Blacksmithing is the combination of patience and hard effort over long periods of time in punishing conditions. I can't think of a more apt metaphor for breaking into publishing.

Neither can I, and yours is a great one. Your latest book, ALIEN: THE COLD FORGE, offers a new glimpse into the land of Xenomorphs. How did this novel come to be, and what do you hope readers take away from the story?

The publicist for my first book, Lydia Gittins, moved from Solaris to Titan Books in the middle of the production cycle for EVERY MOUNTAIN MADE LOW. She emailed me to let me know that if I ever wanted some free Titan books, she could provide, so of course I hit their website immediately because I'm a sucker for that. I saw they had Alien as a license and called my agent, Connor Goldsmith, to say, "Get me an Alien deal." He delivered brilliantly, setting up the pitch meetings with editor, Steve Saffel. From there, it was a wait, pitch, wait, pitch game for about two years. Once the contract came through, I had four months to write the book.

I want people who read THE COLD FORGE to look at the consequences of inhumanity. The Xenomorphs are far from the worst things on the space station. The real danger comes from the Weyland-Yutani corporate culture and their willingness to do anything for the bottom dollar.

Inhumanity in its worst form can offer great (and terrible) lessons for us all. Speaking of EVERY MOUNTAIN MADE LOW, I was fascinated by how the book deals with the effects of haunting. What did you enjoy most about exploring Loxley Fiddleback and her world?

Loxley is a unique protagonist because of her autistic worldview. She's clever and adaptive while dealing with extreme social difficulties. She's braver than most other people, too. The ghosts of EVERY MOUNTAIN MADE LOW are terrifying and cruel, completely inhuman, but she's still willing to approach them if she can solve the murder of her best friend.

That takes definite tenacity. What are some of your current projects?

I'm extremely excited about the first entry in my Salvagers space fantasy series: A BIG SHIP AT THE EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE, which hits shelves on June 26th! The book follows Nilah Brio, a pampered race car driver, and Boots Elsworth, a once-famous treasure hunter turned con artist. The two women accidentally uncover a galactic conspiracy and have to team up with some of Boots's old friends to locate a legendary warship. There's magic, intrigue and romance among the stars. What's not to love?

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

This post can also be viewed here

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Cover Reveal: A LIGHT AMONGST SHADOWS by Kelley York and Rowan Altwood

I featured Kelley's book, OTHER BREAKABLE THINGS, which she co-wrote with Rowan Altwood, and I was excited to learn they have another forthcoming book, A LIGHT AMONGST SHADOWS, which will release on June 1. See below for the cover reveal and Rafflecopter giveaway:

James Spencer is hardly the typical troubled youth who ends up at Whisperwood School for Boys. Instead of hating the strict schedules and tight oversight by staff, James blossoms, quickly making friends, indulging in his love of writing, and contemplating the merits of sneaking love poems to the elusive and aloof William Esher.

The rumours about William’s sexuality and opium reliance are prime gossip material amongst the third years…rumours that only further pique James' curiosity to uncover what William is really like beneath all that emotional armor. And, when the normally collected William stumbles in one night, shaken and ranting of ghosts, James is the only one who believes him.

James himself has heard the nails dragging down his bedroom door and the sobs echoing in the halls at night. He knows others have, too, even if no one will admit it. The staff refuses to entertain such ridiculous tales, and punishment awaits anyone who brings it up.

Their fervent denial and the disappearance of students only furthers James’ determination to find out what secrets Whisperwood is hiding...especially if it prevents William and himself from becoming the next victims.
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RowanFB Page | Twitter

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

THE FIRST TO KNOW by Abigail Johnson

I met Abigail Johnson at this year's YANovCon, and was immediately excited about her book for two reasons. First, the book is set in Arizona, a state I lived in for four years. Second, it features a relationship between a sister and her half-brother, and I have two half-brothers. Most importantly, this book explores the fragile ties that hold families together, and how easily they can be wrenched apart:

Dana Fields's father never knew his parents. When Dana secretly does a DNA test for her dad, hoping to find him some distant relatives for his birthday, her entire world implodes. Instead of a few third cousins, Dana discovers a half brother her age whose very existence means her parents' happy marriage is a lie.

Dana's desire to know her half brother, Brandon, and the extent of her dad's deception, clashes with her wish not to destroy her family. When she sees the opportunity to get to know Brandon through his cousin, the intense yet kind Chase, she takes it. But the more she finds out about Brandon, her father's past and the irresistible guy who'll never forgive her if he discovers the truth, the more she sees the inevitable fallout from her own lies. With her family crumbling around her, Dana must own up to her actions and find a way to heal the breach—for everyone—before they're torn apart for good.

What is it like to go bodysurfing in Mexico? Is it an experience you would like to write about?

It’s a blast! I’ve always loved the water and I especially love that feeling of weightlessness I find in the ocean. It can be as scary as it is exhilarating though. I got caught in a riptide the last time I was in Mazatlán and even though we never got sucked out too far I couldn’t completely quell that flash of panic when the beach started getting further away. I would absolutely like to write about it at some point. That’s actually a really good idea!

Oh, wow. I'm glad you're okay! There is a cameo of a character from IF I FIX YOU in THE FIRST TO KNOW. In what other ways, if any, are your standalone books connected?

I loved dropping that little cameo in THE FIRST TO KNOW! My first two books are both set in nearby towns in Arizona so the general area is the same, but I think that might be it.

In your experience, how is a second book different than a debut in terms of marketing, and what marketing strategies have worked well for you? 

As far as strategies go that’s all my publisher. I’m so fortunate to have an amazing marketing team at Harlequin Teen. They flew me to a lot of bookseller trade shows and events for my second book, four times as many as with my first book. My job is to say yes to as much as possible. I did connect up with a handful of bloggers for reviews and giveaways on my own which I think is always a great way to get the word out. I also try to come up with a few fun things to post on my social media accounts. This was my favorite one for THE FIRST TO KNOW. Oh, and I did make up some customized lip balm swag that I pass out at events. Those have been a huge hit.

Lip balms are great--and I can't help but be reminded of a book title whenever I use one. What are some of your current projects? 

I have two more books coming out from Harlequin Teen. The first one is called EVEN IF I FALL and it will be published on January 8, 2019. It’s about a figure skater coping with her brother's murder conviction while falling for the last person she ever expected: the victim's brother. The book after that will be hitting shelves in 2020 but I can’t talk about the story just yet 😉

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

This post can also be viewed here.