Wednesday, November 13, 2019

THE WICKED TREE by Kristin Thorsness

In writing a middle grade book, I'm also widening my reading palate to include more middle grade titles. One of the fall titles from Month9Books, THE WICKED TREE, offers just the right amount of "spooky" for middle grade readers:

Eleven-year-old Tavorian Kreet hates it when money troubles force his mom to move them in with his great-grandmother – though the historic house and grounds are pretty awesome. Tav is told to stay out of the estate’s woods, but he can’t resist the chance to explore.

After Tav’s first trip into the woods, he begins to have strange dreams about a supernatural tree. The dreams start out pleasant, but soon grow dark and menacing. On a dare, Tav ventures further into the woods with his new friend Harper, and they meet a mysterious, mute boy named Edward who lives in a decrepit cabin there. Though he’s unable to communicate where he came from or why he lives alone, in clear distress he scrawls two words: Bad Tree.

Tav knows what it’s like to be afraid. If he’d been brave enough to act four years ago, he could have saved his dad from the fire that took their home. But he wasn’t, and he’s been trying to redeem himself since. Now Tav is determined to help Edward. He enlists Harper, and together they search the estate for clues to Edward’s identity and how to help him.

While searching, Tav and Harper find antique photo albums, ancient diaries, and a secret laboratory. They piece together the Kreet family history, and discover a curse that’s been waiting generations for an heir. Tav’s dreams grow more ominous, and he realizes time is running short. To save himself and his friends, Tav must go to the heart of the woods, find the Bad Tree, and confront an evil magic before it consumes him completely.

In what ways, if any, did your experience as an elementary school teacher inform your writing?

I loved the five years I spent teaching 5th and 6th grade. Tweens are my favorite; they’re sophisticated enough to examine and question their world, yet still in a phase where anything—including magic! —feels possible.

While in the classroom, I met one-on-one with my students multiple times a week for reading conferences. We’d talk about the book they were reading, whether they liked it, why/why not, what they would change about the story if they could, etc. I chose books for read aloud based on these conversations and bought books for my classroom library that I thought would entice my more reluctant readers. I’d give recommendations to my students, and they’d recommend books to me too. I loved connecting with my students over books—it was always my favorite part of the school day.
At that time, I wasn’t actively thinking about writing books myself, but when I left teaching to focus on raising my kids and writing, I found those reading conference conversations popping up in my mind often. The insight they gave me into the reading lives of middle graders was invaluable as I started tossing plot ideas around. There was never any question in my mind about which age demographic I would write for, and I think that’s due to the enjoyable years I spent teaching, and the wonderful students I had.


What a great path you've been on! And I love the characters in THE WICKED TREE, especially Edward. How did the characters in this book come to you, and how do their journeys intertwine?

Thanks so much! Edward has an extra special place in my heart too. I don’t want to talk about him too much for fear of giving things away, but I love that he made an impression on you!

The two main characters, Tav and Harper, came to me in succession. Everything started with Tav. I had the idea for a story about a boy who would be plagued by a familial curse and I looked up lists of names that meant sadness or misfortune and the name Tavorian jumped out at me the moment I saw it. As Tav began to take shape into his introverted, worrying self, I realized that while I wanted him to have a bravery arc in the story, he wasn’t going to take those first few steps on his own. He needed someone plucky to help push him along. That’s when Harper started taking shape in my mind. She’s sure of herself, knows what she wants, and goes after it. Plopping the two of them into a spooky mystery together worked well. Tav recognizes dangers and overthinks all the possibilities, and Harper has the bravery and quick thinking under pressure to get them safely through.

Also, a fun fact, Mosley the cat is exactly modeled after my sister’s cat. The only difference is my sister’s Mosley is only five.


I love that Harper came about as a way to solve Tav's character flaws! What, in your opinion, is the most difficult part of the writing process? 

For me, drafting is the hardest part, hands down. I know many authors who say drafting is their favorite part, that they love the excitement of seeing the story come to life, but that’s not the case with me. I really struggle with self-doubt during the drafting phase. I worry that the words and scenes I’m stringing together won’t amount to an actual story in the end. To try and combat this, I always outline before I begin writing. That way, when the anxiety sets in, I can look at the outline and remind myself that there IS a full story and it IS going somewhere. This helps, but I still can’t make myself really and truly believe my story works it until I’ve typed the words ‘the end’. Once those words are down, I feel my spirits lift and I’m ready to settle into my very favorite part of the writing process: polishing a (complete!) story until it’s something I’m proud of.


Indeed. What are some of your current projects? 

I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say because the ink’s not quite dry, if you know what I mean, but readers who enjoy The Wicked Tree and wonder what happens to Tav next won’t be disappointed. 😉


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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Witchlands Series, by Susan Dennard

I've been a fan of Susan Dennard for a while. I first started following her newsletter, and then I saw her at YallWest earlier this year. There, I bought the first book in the Witchlands series, TRUTHWITCH...only to lose it before Susan could sign it! The most recent in the series, BLOODWITCH, debuted earlier this year:

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.




After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.



High in a snowy mountain range, a monastery that holds more than just faith clings to the side of a cliff. Below, thwarted by a lake, a bloodthirsty horde of raiders await the coming of winter and the frozen path to destroy the sanctuary and its secrets.

The Bloodwitch Aeduan has teamed up with the Threadwitch Iseult and the magical girl Owl to stop the destruction. But to do so, he must confront his own father, and his past.

I both love and appreciate the authenticity you bring to your author life, especially through your newsletter. In what ways do you feel this honesty has helped both you and your readers? 

I am someone who doesn't really know what she's feeling or thinking until she's put it into written form. So for me, the newsletter has been both extremely educational (oh! That's how I write a book!) as well as cathartic (dammit, that did suck, and that's okay).

And I know my honesty has helped readers and aspiring authors (published authors too!) since I hear it all the time. And I totally understand why, since it's the reason I started doing my blog and newsletter in the first place. You just want to know you're not the only person failing, and it is truly so, so, SO comforting to realize, "Oh, hey, I'm not alone!"

When I was aspiring and then my first few years of being published, I would cling to any kind of honest advice about failure and the difficulties of publication. But it was hard to find back then! These days--fortunately--there's been a real push for transparency, which is good for everyone.

Indeed it is. In BLOODWITCH, we get a glimpse into Bloodwitch Aeduan's past. In what ways, if any, did his journey surprise you? 

I mean...none? I've known where I was going with him for such a long time. In fact, that whole book was such a big pay off. I've been planting seeds and marching toward some of those moments, so getting to write them was amazing. And having readers read them was even better!!

I'll bet! What are some of your current projects? 

Right now, my focus is on the next Witchlands book--and of course, The Luminaries (on Twitter) which has now been going for almost 4 months. That's been a really fun break to dabble in each day. ;)


Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound




Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound




Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A PINCH OF PHOENIX, the third in the Lailu Loganberry (Mystic Cooking Chronicles) series, by Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski

Lailu Loganberry (Mystic Cooking Chronicles) has been one of my favorite Middle Grade series ever since I featured it here, along with Heidi Lang's book, RULES OF THE RUFF. A PINCH OF PHOENIX offers a high-stakes conclusion to the series, and it's a world I'll be sorry to see the back of:

Lailu is in hot water. After the events of the Week of Masks, Wren keeps sending insect-like automatons to attack Lailu. However, they’re more irritating than dangerous, and Lailu is more worried about the elves, who have been quiet so far. Too quiet.

When Lailu heads out of the city on a hunt with Greg, the elves finally strike. They put up a magical shield separating the Velvet Forest from the rest of the city. Now no human can enter…and unfortunately for Lailu and Greg, no human can leave, either. Ryon shows up to save them both, claiming they were caught unintentionally, but Lailu isn’t sure she believes him.

Tensions between the elves and the scientists are reaching a boiling point, and the question is which side will snap first. And in the middle of it all is Lailu. Trusted by both sides, she’s selected to deliver messages and help negotiate a truce between the parties before war becomes inevitable.

Easy as pie, right? Not so much. Lailu’s new role as mediator may be one recipe that's headed for disaster!


Book 1: A Dash of Dragon

A thirteen-year-old master chef has a lot to prove as she tries to run a five-star restaurant, cook the perfect dragon cuisine, repay a greedy loan shark, and outsmart the Elven mafia.

Lailu Loganberry is an expert at hunting dangerous beasts. And she’s even better at cooking them.

For years Lailu has trained to be the best chef in the city. Her specialty? Monster cuisine. When her mentor agrees to open a new restaurant with Lailu as the head chef, she’s never been more excited. But her celebration is cut short when she discovers that her mentor borrowed money from Mr. Boss, a vicious loan shark. If they can’t pay him back, Lailu will not only lose her restaurant—she’ll have to cook for Mr. Boss for the rest of her life.

As Lailu scrambles to raise the money in time, she becomes trapped in a deadly conflict between the king’s cold-blooded assassin, the terrifying elf mafia, and Mr. Boss’ ruthless crew. Worst of all, her only hope in outsmarting Mr. Boss lies with the one person she hates—Greg, the most obnoxious boy in school and her rival in the restaurant business.

But like Lailu always says, if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. And she’s determined to succeed, no matter the cost!

Book 2: A Hint of Hydra

Thirteen-year-old chef Lailu Loganberry must stop a war between the elves and scientists in this follow-up to A Dash of Dragon, which Kirkus Reviews calls “a recipe for success.”

It’s the Week of Masks, a festival held to chase away evil spirits. But Lailu doesn’t have time to worry about demons. She has bigger fish to fry—or rather, griffons, now that she’s been asked to prepare a mystical feast for the king’s executioner, Lord Elister.

Unfortunately Lailu’s meal is overshadowed by the scientists’ latest invention: automatons, human-shaped machines that will respond to their masters’ every order. Most people are excited by the possibilities, but the mechanical men leave Lailu with a bad taste in her mouth.

Even worse, the elves still blame the scientists for the attacks on them weeks ago, and Lailu worries that the elves might be cooking up revenge. So when she and her sorta-rival-turned-almost-friend Greg stumble across the body of a scientist, the elves are the prime suspects. With help from Greg, her best friend Hannah, and the sneaky, winking spy Ryon, Lailu has to discover the truth behind the murder, and soon—because hostilities between the elves and the scientists are about to boil over faster than hydra stew.

And just ask any chef: war is bad for business.


What do you enjoy most about collaborating together? 

KATI: Besides having someone to share ideas with, I like that when I'm struggling to write a scene I can pass it to Heidi and she might have an idea on how to write it.

HEIDI: I like that about collaborating, too. Also whenever I write, I have this terrible mixture of pride and also extreme self doubt. So I’ll write something, feel like it’s good, and then immediately worry it’s actually terrible. Knowing Kati will be reading through and revising helps me feel better about it - I know if it really is terrible, she’ll tell me, and then we can fix it.


Sounds like a great way to keep perspective. A PINCH OF PHOENIX is the final installment in Lailu Loganberry's story. What about this world will be hardest to leave?  

KATI: Definitely the characters. While I loved writing some of the action scenes and the jokes, the characters for me are what made the story so fun.

HEIDI: Same here. We started writing the first book back in 2011, so we’ve been with these same characters for a long time. I’m really going to miss them.


Me too! What do you think is the most common misconception about Middle Grade novels? 

KATI: People think middle grade novels are just for young kids, but they aren't. Middle Grade novels are for anyone who loves a good story.

HEIDI: Also, there is such a thing as upper middle grade, which fits in between middle grade and young adult. It’s hard to find, since all middle grade is lumped together, but it’s there. And it’s the space that I most enjoy writing in, generally geared toward kids ages 12-14ish.

I love writing for that age group also! If you each could pick three books that your readers would appreciate, what would they be and why?

KATI: MUSEUM OF THIEVES by Lian Tanner, because the concept is just so over the top and fun, I couldn't put the book down. MRS. SMITH'S SPY SCHOOL FOR GIRLS by Beth McMullen (also featured here) has strong girl characters and non-stop action. And THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL by Soman Chainani had a such a unique idea and world. :)

HEIDI: Ooh, good choices. I would add Anna Meriano’s LOVE SUGAR MAGIC because it’s excellent, and it also combines magic and cooking, although in a very different way. PRISONER OF ICE AND SNOW by Ruth Lauren, because it’s set in a unique fantasy world and also features a heroine who will stop at nothing to achieve her goal. And coming in early October, Sarah Jean Horwitz’s THE DARK LORD CLEMENTINE, because it is also full of characters who are in that gray area between good and bad.


Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound




More in the Lailu Loganberry (Mystic Cooking Chronicles) series:


Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound




Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL by Stacey Lee

I've been a fan of Stacey Lee ever since I featured her here. I'm even more excited about her newest book, THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL. It's a historical novel about a servant who moonlights as an advice columnist, and it's gotten tons of great reviews. Have a look:

By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady's maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, "Dear Miss Sweetie." When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society's ills, but she's not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender.

While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta's most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light.

In our last interview, you said, "My favorite thing about writing is that it gives me a chance to make people feel something." Is this still true, and are there other favorite things you've discovered?

It is still my favorite thing. In terms of the actual writing, I love
writing dialogue and I love creating unique scenes. One of my favorite
parts of writing THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL are the porch scenes between Jo
and Nathan, the love interest, when she's trying to stay in character
as Miss Sweetie. The best scenes have things going on 'behind the
scenes.'

They definitely do. And the original title for THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL was "Dear Miss Sweetie," wasn't it? In what ways do you feel the finalized title best captures Jo Kuan and her story?

I think it brings in the concept of being hidden away as well as the
idea that there are levels in society with the serving class
downstairs, and the the served class upstairs. (No, I haven't seen
Downton Abbey yet but I believe this shares a similar concept!)

It does--but I also think that your story adds an extra layer of intrigue. It was also really helpful to hear you talk about THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL and how the story developed in ways you didn't expect. What would you tell writers who are currently grappling with a manuscript and they're not exactly sure where the real story is?

Take some time away from it; share your problem with critique
partners, and get their feedback. Also, I think that the struggle
helps you build a better story. I wouldn't have figured out the true
story unless I had gone in several wrong directions, felt them out,
realized why they were wrong, and then from there, figured out the
right path. Failure isn't the opposite of success but a part of it.
Keep struggling, and you'll get there.

Great advice. If you could tell your younger writer self one thing, what would it be and why?

To live life to its fullest; it sounds so cliche, but those life
experiences will actually help you tell a richer story. You can't
quite describe a heartbreak until you've gone through one.


Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound





Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound





Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound





Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

WRITER'S DIGEST GUIDE TO MAGAZINE WRITING and other books by Kerrie Flanagan

I met Kerrie Flanagan (who also writes under the pen names C.K. Wiles and C.G. Harris) at this year's Colorado Writing Workshop. Kerrie was not only one of the event's main organizers, but she presented a really helpful workshop on publishing.

In The Writer's Digest Guide to Magazine Article Writing, accomplished freelance writer, author, and instructor Kerrie Flanagan demystifies the idea that writing for magazines is a difficult process meant only for those with journalism degrees.
Drawing from her 20 years as a freelance writer and instructor, Flanagan takes you step-by-step through the entire process, sharing her knowledge and experiences in a friendly, conversational way.

With more than a dozen sample articles, expert advice from magazine editors and successful freelance writers, practical tips on researching potential publications and instructions on crafting compelling query letters, you'll find the tools needed to write and publish magazine articles.





Kristin Hughes swore she would never work in the theater again, but that’s exactly where the employment agency sent her for her first accounting job. When performer and old flame, Devon Dashner appears, he doesn’t recognize his ex-lover. Kristin would rather smack Devon than work with him, but with money tight and desperation even tighter, she sets out to finish the job and keep her identity, and her emerging desires private—at least for now.

After she’s had a taste of the theater owner’s crazy antics, and a bookkeeping system from the dark ages, Kristin wonders if she made a mistake agreeing to stay, but Devon’s cunning charm and shirtless work attire are too tantalizing to ignore. After an evening of unwitting voyeurism and a party filled with costumes and lavish libations, Kristin’s secrets are threatened and she must make a choice; disappear or expose everything, and risk being rejected all over again.




Gabe is recruited to join the most dangerous organization the world has never heard about. As a double agent he has to fight within their ranks to stop them, all with no training, no experience and no support. If he’s caught, they will tear him apart. But that’s not the real twist.

Gabe is dead, he lives in Hell and Judas Iscariot just became his new boss.

Judas assigns Gabe a beautiful new partner with plans to sow a disease that could wipe out the modern world. Without revealing his true identity, he must find a way to deal with insect wielding super agents, firestorms, and worst of all, the nauseating envisage travel to get Topside to save the earth.


I enjoyed your workshop on publishing. What do you think is the biggest myth that holds writers back in the publishing process?

I don’t think there are big myths that hold writers back. Most seem to understand that publishing isn’t easy. But what I do see holding back writers is fear. The fear of rejection, and the fear that their work isn’t good enough. For many this can be paralyzing, and they end up not doing anything with their novel, short story, essay… and it sits in a desk or on a computer, never be read by anyone else. Fear is a powerful deterrent, but it can be overcome with a shift in mindset. Just like every person is unique, every writer is unique. If I give a writing prompt to a group of 100 writers and each one would create something different. There may be similar elements, but the voice, word choice, style will be unique to each individual writer. And because of that, writers should feel a responsibility to share the stories, essays, poems they felt compelled to create, because if they don’t put it out into the world, no one will. When we hold back our writing because of fear, we lose any opportunity to have our work resonate with readers.


This is so true--and exactly what I needed to hear! SHOWTIME RENDEZVOUS, which you published as C.K. Wiles, takes place in a theater setting. What about this backdrop was most fun to write? 

My co-author and I chose this setting, because it seemed unique and theaters are full of entertaining, quirky people. Theaters also have lots of different types of settings within the building. There are offices, backstage, the lobby, balcony, the stage, dressing rooms, catwalks… we had so much fun exploring our fictional set and creating different scenes in the various locations. Because of all the options, we never had to leave the building. The characters did leave, but that was always “off camera” and could be talked about by them, but everything in the stories took place in the theater. Even after three books, there were still places we hadn’t used yet and in book three a secret is revealed that added even more possibilities!

Exciting! You also have books with photography and poetry. What do you like about each of these mediums, and in what ways, if any, do they help you refill your creative well?




The Words & Images coffee-table books I did with Suzette McIntyre pushed me creatively and I loved it. I have always enjoyed photography and playing around with poetry. Suzette is a professional photographer, as well as a writer, and one day we were talking about these mediums; individually these they’re great, but what if we combined the two? What if we approached them in a way where they enhanced one another? The idea got us both excited and we created a class that combined them. She taught the photography and I taught the poetry.

The class was success and it inspired us to make the books together. While working on them, I definitely refilled my creative well and at times it was over flowing. At the core of creativity is a curious spirit and surprising your brain with something new. With this project I approached photography and poetry differently than I had in the past, keeping my mind constantly engaged. Suzette was an amazing partner in this venture and inspired me to think outside the box with my photos.


We were working on the last book in the series, Reflection and I had a trip to France planned and I told her I was bummed because it was supposed to be rainy while we were in Paris. Suzette got excited and said that it was wonderful. I thought she had lost her mind. She went on to explain that with rain, comes puddles and puddles reflect the world around them. During my visit to the Eiffel tower, while everyone looked up, I looked down. Sure enough, in one of the large puddles, was a beautiful reflection of the tower. Now, I became excited about the rain.

Once I had all my photos, I went back through and added the poetry. The purpose was not to explain what was in the photo but to enhance it. To think about what couldn’t be seen in the image; smells, sounds, emotions… By themselves the photos and poems were great, but together, they were powerful.

Extremely. What are some of your current projects? 

I love to try new things and have a variety of projects going at once, because as I mentioned earlier, it keeps my brain engaged. One current project has me very excited.

The other project I am really excited about is the urban fantasy series, The Judas Files, I am writing with my incredible co-author, Chuck Harrelson. It is like a mash up of Dresden Files, Sandman Slim and Good Omens. In the first book, The Nine, the main character, Gabe, is making the best of his afterlife in hell and all is going well until he gets summoned to the office of Judas Iscariot who insists Gabe become a double agent for the Judas Agency.

I love working on these books. One reason is because Chuck and I have a great writing partnership making the whole process fun and fuels our creativity. The engaging story line is filled with action and adventure, so we are never bored writing it. Plus, the banter between Gabe and his new partner is a ton of fun to write. We have started the second book, The Dominion, and I look forward to digging deep into that storyline.

We are super excited because the audiobook version of The Nine was just released. We found the best narrator who makes the story come to life. MacLeod Andrews narrated the Reckoners series and the Sandman Slim series, along with many others. When we heard him, we knew he was the perfect narrator for The Judas Files. He does more than just read the book he performs it with different voices and does an incredible job.

You can listen to a sample here: https://soundcloud.com/thenine_cgharris. This is our first audiobook and we are very excited to share it with everyone. It will be available on all audiobook platforms and through Author’s Direct: https://shop.authors-direct.com/collections/c-g-harris


Kerrie’s Bio:
Kerrie Flanagan is an author, writing consultant, presenter, and freelance writer with over 20 years’ experience in the publishing industry. She’s the author of, The Writer's Digest Guide to Magazine Article Writing and creator of the Magazine Writing Blueprint. In addition, she has published twelve other books with a co-author, under the pen names, C.K. Wiles and C.G. Harris. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications and anthologies including Writer's Digest, Alaska Magazine, The Writer, FamilyFun, and six Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her background in teaching, and enjoyment of helping writers has led her to present at writing conferences across the country and teach continuing studies classes through Stanford University. www.KerrieFlanagan.com.

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Monday, October 14, 2019

BERTIE’S BOOK OF SPOOKY WONDERS by Ocelot Emerson

Just in time for Halloween, we have BERTIE'S BOOK OF SPOOKY WONDERS by Ocelot Emerson, a half-cat, half-person, who is also a screenwriter under another name. The book comes out October 15, 2019:

Twelve-year-old Bertie Blount is great at causing trouble. When she's forced to leave behind her dad and friends in North Carolina so her mom can marry the most boring optometrist in the world, Bertie has a chance at a fresh start.

But when Bertie arrives in Pennsylvania, she doesn’t just bring trouble; she brings disaster. In a moment of anger, Bertie unwittingly triggers an accident that puts her future stepbrother in a coma.

Broken and desperate to make things right, Bertie prays for a miracle. Instead, the universe gives her a pair of supernatural sunglasses, a wise-cracking doppleganger, and a terrifying ghost that sends Bertie on a dangerous mission to find the one thing that just might save her stepbrother’s life.



Question One:  How did you escape from the X Prison of Wayward Creatures?  

Rats.  In prison there are always a population of rats.  And these rats know things.  Now usually I eat rats.  You might think that’s disgusting, but I’m a cat it’s what I do.  Not to mention cats really aren’t concerned by what others think — like at all.  That being said, back to the question.  I made a deadly alliance with the rats.  It was simple a deal — I’d stop eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner and they would show me a secret escape route out of the secret prison.  The rats drew me a map.  My feline sense told me the map was actually a trap, however.  So I ate the rat who drew it and asked the other rats if they would like to try again. They drew another map.  And I knew in an instant this map was the real deal. This was my pathway to a new pathway in life. And even though I have nine lives, I was grateful.  Filed with a hope I’d never known before.  Even so, I ate the second rat on principal, and away I went from the sinister confines of the secret evil prison into the dark mystical woods. A doorway to brave new world. Or so I thought…

Question Two: BERTIE’S BOOK OF SPOOKY WONDERS, has both tragedy and comedy. How do you find balance between these two very diverse set of emotions when composing your work? 

Stay with me on this answer, there’s a super important point I’m going to make.

We’re all two people, aren’t we (or in my case I’m half-cat/half person)?
Don’t you have a voice inside your head commenting on just about anything and everything you do?
It’s actually exhausting.  The voice goes on and on, from inner arguments about what you should wear in the morning, or the inner debate over whether or not everyone is staring at that pimple on your cheek (they are), or the inner judgement about those awful shoes your friend is wearing (what is she thinking)!

But here’s the rub — we’re so used to this voice, we don’t even notice it.  It’s 100% crazy.
No joke, ff people could actually hear our inner voice, nobody would want to be our friend.  They’d think we’re nuts.  Because, well, we are.  The voice in our head is unrelenting and it is essentially more harsh to ourselves than it is the rest of the world. 

Now comes the point:  We are comedy.  We are tragedy.  So the stories we read and watch feel most authentic when they are both as well.  As humans (or half-humans) we are comedy and tragedy on two legs (and hopefully good shoes) (or good paws). Here’s another point:  My cat senses tell me that the more we quiet the nutjob voice in our heads, the more chill we are.  The less we judge, and the more we let go, the more we purrrrrrrrrrr.

Oh, I looooooove to purr, baby.

Question Three:  As a half animal, half human, it must be difficult to blend in. What do you wish more people knew about you?

I don’t blend.  I shine. Big and bright.  Blending is boring.
That being said, people usually think I’m in some sort’ve of costume.
But, as previously mentioned, I don’t give a rat’s behind what people think.  It’s the beauty of being Oceloty.  And lemme tell ya, it’s a thousand times better than being humany.

Question Four:  What are some of your current projects?

Ocelot is also a screenwriter under another name.  Cats have many different sides and each side digs privacy.  I’ve written a diverse slate of stories from animation movies, to monster movies, to inspirational true movies.  Right now, I’m meeting with several studios who want to turn Bertie’s Book of Spooky Wonders into a feature film or TV show.

Thanks for reading Bertie.
You’re a better person for it.
That’s a scientific fact.  Spiritual one too.
No lie, everyone says you look like ten times more attractive right now.
FYI:  Even when others adore you, you really don’t have to care.
Hold up, it’s not about being apathetic, beautiful person, it’s about being authentic.
When you’re authentic you’re naturally grateful (and draw people to you like moths to the flame.  BURN, BABY, BURN!)
How fabulous are you?!!!!


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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The RULES FOR THIEVES series by Alexandra Ott

I happened upon the Rules for Thieves series when Alexandra Ott was having a Twitter giveaway. I was lucky enough to win a book, and as soon as I did, I couldn't wait to feature it:

Rules for Thieves

After twelve-year-old orphan Alli Rosco is cursed with a deadly spell, she must join the legendary Thieves Guild in order to try and save herself in this high-stakes debut.

Twelve-year-old Alli Rosco is smart, resourceful, and totally incapable of keeping her mouth shut. Some of these traits have served her well during her nine years in Azeland’s orphanage, and others have proved more troublesome…but now that she’s escaped to try her luck on the streets, she has bigger problems than extra chores to contend with. Surviving would be hard enough, but after a run-in with one of the city’s Protectors, she’s marked by a curse that’s slowly working its way to her heart. There is a cure, but the cost is astronomical—and seems well out of her reach.

Enter Beck, a boy with a gift for theft and a touch of magic, who seems almost too good to be true. He tells Alli that the legendary Thieves Guild, long thought to be a myth, is real. Even better, Beck is a member and thinks she could be, too. All she has to do is pass the trial that the King of Thieves will assign to her. Join the Guild, collect her yearly reward and buy a cure. Plus, Alli hopes the Guild will be the home—the family—that Alli has always wanted. But when their trial goes wrong, innocent lives are put in danger, and Alli has to decide how much she can sacrifice in order to survive.

Alli must risk everything to save her new family from a rogue organization that is threatening the Thieves Guild’s existence—and the lives of all its members—in this high-stakes sequel to Rules for Thieves.




The Shadow Thieves

Alli Rosco, former orphan and thief, is free after her disastrous Thieves Guild trial, which left an innocent woman dead while Alli’s partner-in-crime, Beck, fled.

Now Alli is getting more than just a fresh start: her long-lost brother, Ronan, has come forward to claim responsibility for her and let her live with him on a trial basis. They try to mend the rift that started when Alli was dropped off at the orphanage while Ronan became a lawyer in Ruhia. But as determined as she is to make things work, Alli can’t seem to stay out of trouble.

To make matters worse, Alli finds a surprise guest on her doorstep one night: Beck.

He’s on the run and brings news of the Shadow Guild, a rogue organization that is trying to overthrow the current king of the Thieves Guild. Their friends are in real danger. And Beck needs Alli’s help one more time to bring the Shadows down.

Once again, Alli is forced to make a hard choice: save her friends, or lose her last chance to have a true family.

According to your website bio, you live in Oklahoma with your "canine overlord." Can you elaborate on this overlord and their expectations?

My canine overlord is a Lhasa Apso who is very vocal about how she expects her humans to serve her. Among her demands: 1) The delicious food called “popcorn” must be shared with her; 2) Humans must lift her up onto her couch and her bed themselves, since jumping is beneath her dignity; 3) The office blinds must be left open so that she can look out the front window and bark at potential intruders. She also doesn’t understand why people keep calling her by the name “Penny” when the proper form of address is obviously “Your Majesty.”

"Her Majesty" sounds adorable! THE SHADOW THIEVES is a sequel to RULES FOR THIEVES. In what ways did Alli's story expand in ways you didn't expect? 

It’s tough to talk about The Shadow Thieves without spoilers, but I’ll try! I’d say that I went into this sequel knowing what the focus would be and where I wanted it to end, but I didn’t know exactly how I was going to get there. Several new characters are introduced in The Shadow Thieves who weren’t in the first book, so that was one of the biggest areas of exploration—figuring out exactly who these characters are and what makes them tick. There are some new villains, for example, who were quite fun to write about once I figured out their story!

I'll bet they were! What do you love most about Twitter giveaways, and in what ways (if any) can they be a helpful marketing tool?

I love how engaged the book community is on Twitter. It’s such a great way to find new readers who I might otherwise not have been able to connect with. Some of the bloggers I’ve met via Twitter are such passionate and dedicated readers! I don’t know how effective it is as a marketing tool, but I’m glad that it gives me the ability to connect with readers so easily.

I'm not sure about Twitter as a marketing tool, either. Every book has its reader--and the hope is that enough people (including bloggers) can spread word so that more potential readers can be reached. Your next middle grade novel, SEEKERS OF THE WILD REALM, is forthcoming from Aladdin/Simon and Schuster in summer 2020. Is there anything you can tell us about it yet?

I’m so excited about Seekers of the Wild Realm! Like the Rules for Thieves series, it’s a middle grade fantasy adventure story. But it’s about a new protagonist—a young girl named Bryn who’s determined to win a competition to become a magical creature caretaker/trainer. But there’s a problem: she’s the first girl ever to compete, and she isn’t allowed to train with the boys. So Bryn will have to find her own way to train—even if it means caring for a baby dragon in secret...






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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

THE LIBRARY OF LOST THINGS by Laura Taylor Namey

As soon as I saw this book in my Facebook feed, I had to feature it. It's set to debut on October 8, a week from today:

From the moment she first learned to read, literary genius Darcy Wells has spent most of her time living in the worlds of her books. There, she can avoid the crushing reality of her mother’s hoarding and pretend her life is simply ordinary. But when a new property manager becomes more active in the upkeep of their apartment complex, the only home Darcy has ever known outside of her books suddenly hangs in the balance.

While Darcy is struggling to survive beneath the weight of her mother’s compulsive shopping, Asher Fleet, a former teen pilot with an unexpectedly shattered future, walks into the bookstore where she works…and straight into her heart. For the first time in her life, Darcy can’t seem to find the right words. Fairy tales are one thing, but real love makes her want to hide inside her carefully constructed ink-and-paper bomb shelter.

Still, after spending her whole life keeping people out, something about Asher makes Darcy want to open up. But securing her own happily-ever-after will mean she’ll need to stop hiding and start living her own truth—even if it’s messy.

Earlier this year, you posted about your spring trip to Japan. What, if anything, did you discover on your trip that surprised you?

Japan was a dream. I traveled with my family to Tokyo and Kyoto, and besides my surprise over the actual amount of ramen that can be consumed by one 5’3” woman, I was incredibly touched by the graciousness of the people I encountered. Nearly everywhere we went, we were greeted with the warmest hospitality, kindness, and patience. I can’t wait to go back.

My husband and I are planning a trip to Japan this coming spring, and now I can't wait! In the THE LIBRARY OF LOST THINGS, literary genius Darcy Wells is forced out of her bookish comfort zone. In what ways did you feel this was a necessary part of her character growth? 

When we first meet Darcy, she's created an extensive library to escape her mother’s hoarding and compulsive shopping. Darcy shelters herself––literally and virtually––within her book walls, which leaves her devoid of some aspects of human experience. Darcy finds safety in consulting and drawing upon the past successes of book characters. And this works for her, until a pressing family situation can’t be solved by lingering between pages. She has to get out, act, and look for new strategies. When this also brings the possibility of love, she has to figure out how a relationship could fit into a life she’s kept so closely guarded and hidden. This grows her––heart, soul, and mind.

Darcy comes of age in my story. I believe an essential component of growing up is exploring your own voice in the world, and your own place and purpose. Previously, books and book characters have fulfilled and grown Darcy. In THE LIBRARY OF LOST THINGS, she learns what it means to live out her own story.

An important way to live indeed. What do you love most about words, and what do you feel are the necessary parts of a good story?

I love that words contain the power to invoke emotion. As a writer, there is nothing I love more than finding the right word, or the perfect combination of words that makes a reader feel and remember.

For me, a good story presents a cast of characters that I care about. They don’t all have to be likable, but they have to be compelling. Then, I look for a conflict with personal stakes, a sense of emotional resonance, and creative world-building in the physical setting, as well as in the interior worlds inside every character. Lastly, I look for a voice that draws me in and makes me want to stay a while.

I agree completely. What are some of your current projects? 

I recently finished a YA contemporary tribute to my Cuban heritage. In this story, a teen Miami Cuban baker finds herself in England the summer after high school graduation. As she heals from heartbreak and shares her cuisine, she faces new people, places, and opportunities that challenge her beliefs about what her carefully plotted future should look like.

And now, I am drafting again! I am working on a YA contemporary featuring ten years of ride-or-die friendship, and one act of betrayal that could tear three girls apart forever.


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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

THE MUSIC OF WHAT HAPPENS by Bill Koningsberg

I've long admired Bill Koningsberg, and I got a chance to meet him at the IReadYA booth at this year's YallWest. I was particularly inspired by the speech he gave at last year's NCTE conference. His newest book, THE MUSIC OF WHAT HAPPENS, explores facing fears--and how we can grow when we let go of denial.

Max: Chill. Sports. Video games. Gay and not a big deal, not to him, not to his mom, not to his buddies. And a secret: An encounter with an older kid that makes it hard to breathe, one that he doesn't want to think about, ever.

Jordan: The opposite of chill. Poetry. His "wives" and the Chandler Mall. Never been kissed and searching for Mr. Right, who probably won't like him anyway. And a secret: A spiraling out of control mother, and the knowledge that he's the only one who can keep the family from falling apart.

Throw in a rickety, 1980s-era food truck called Coq Au Vinny. Add in prickly pears, cloud eggs, and a murky idea of what's considered locally sourced and organic. Place it all in Mesa, Arizona, in June, where the temp regularly hits 114. And top it off with a touch of undeniable chemistry between utter opposites.

Over the course of one summer, two boys will have to face their biggest fears and decide what they're willing to risk -- to get the thing they want the most.


I love the unique detail you have in your stories, especially regarding your characters. How do you decide which details to include and which to leave out? 

Good question. A lot of the choices I make are instinctual, but I suppose if there are ground rules, it would be something like this: include it if the detail evokes character, or if it makes the setting come to life in and of itself. Leave out if it feels generic or uninteresting. I think of Jordan's 80s bordello bedroom. I am not the kind of writer who is going to overload readers with detail, so I want each detail to do a lot of work. They have to land.

Finding that "best" word or phrase that makes all the difference. In THE MUSIC OF WHAT HAPPENS, both characters are confronted with their fears. What do you hope readers can glean from their journey?

I think a lot of what I've been learning in my own life is how important it is to move away from denial. And by that I mean all sorts of denial: denial of reality, of feelings... I was really focused on how Max has been told to ignore his emotions, and how much I was told that in my life, too, and the impact of that. On boys and also on society. That which we resist does tend to persist, at least in my experience. I've been really enjoying a TV show called The Bold Type, about three 20-something women working in the fashion industry in New York City. What I notice is how often the plot tends to come down to the characters having to dig down and deal with what is, and what they are feeling. It begins to feel like the most important thing in life, in some ways.

It certainly is. You gave a very poignant speech about the dangers of marginalization and what it does to teens. What do you wish more people knew about these teens and their experiences?  

I wish people--and I guess I mean non-allies here--understood that this isn't about sex or sexuality. I think a lot of the "queasiness" some people feel about LGBTQIA issues is that it seems like it's about something private, but really it isn't. Not any more than someone acknowledging their heterosexuality is about sex, and we seem to do that with great ease. This is about identity, and being open and honest with ourselves and others, and most importantly it's a health and safety issue. We simply must work harder to lower the horrifying numbers of LGBTQIA teens who attempt and die by suicide. Particularly trans youth. It's not acceptable, and it shouldn't be acceptable to anyone.

Indeed. We live in a heartbreaking world, and I'm thankful that teens (and others) have access to your books within it. What are some of your current projects?

I'm finishing up edits on my next novel, THE BRIDGE, which will come out next fall. THE BRIDGE is about two teens, a boy and a girl, who meet atop the George Washington Bridge in New York City. They are both there to jump, and they interrupt each other. Then, based on what happens as the two teens sit, facing each other, 100 feet apart, with one leg each over the ledge, the world splits into four separate realities: one in which the girl jumps, one in which the boy jumps, one in which they both jump, and one in which they both decide not to. It's a book about the huge impact of our choices in those moments when we are depressed and we think no one would care if we died, and how we impact the world around us greatly, each of us. Not just our families and friends, but those who we would not expect to be impacted. I'm so excited to have this book out in the world!

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

For Bill Koningsberg's other books, click here.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Release Feature: DEMON IN THE WHITELANDS by Nikki Z. Richard

Happy release day to Nikki Z. Richard and DEMON IN THE WHITELANDS! The full interview can be accessed here.

Sometimes no matter how hard you try, some things cannot be explained.

Sixteen-year-old Samuel, son of devout cleric, has endured shame and prejudice his entire life. Although he is destined to become clergy too, he longs for an ordinary life in the whitelands away from demons and holy roots.

When the mayor claims to have captured a mute demon girl, Samuel is forced to become her caretaker. But as Samuel gets to know the prisoner, he finds her not to be very demonlike. Instead, she is intelligent, meek, and an exceptional artist. Despite her seeming goodness, some more concerning things cannot be explained. Samuel is hard-pressed to reconcile her uncanny strength and speed, missing arm, ambiguous gender, and the mysterious scars covering most of her body.

Samuel forms a deep attachment to the girl with predator eyes and violent outbursts, against his father’s advice. Their friendship could turn into something more. But when Samuel discovers the mayor’s dark intentions, he must decide whether to risk his own execution by setting her free or watch as the girl is used as a pawn in a dangerous game of oppression, fear, and murder.


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Monday, September 16, 2019

MERGED by Jim Kroepfl and Stephanie Kroepfl

This month seems to have a theme of collaborative writing! Like last week, we have another writing duo, this time a husband and wife team, whose book, MERGED, is set to debut tomorrow, September 17:

Seven of our country’s most gifted teens will become Nobels, hosts for the implantation of brilliant Mentor minds, in an effort to accelerate human progress.

But as the line between what’s possible and what’s right, draws ever blurrier, the teens discover everything has a cost.

Scientists have created an evolved form of living known as Merged Consciousness, and sixteen-year-old Lake finds herself unable to merge with her Mentor.

Lake, the Nobel for Chemistry and Orfyn, the Nobel for Art, are two from among the inaugural class of Nobels, and with the best intent and motivation. But when Stryker, the Nobel for Peace, makes them question the motivation of the scientists behind the program, their world begins to unravel.

As the Nobels work to uncover the dark secrets of the program’s origins, everyone's a suspect and no one can be trusted, not even the other Nobels.

As the Mentors begin to take over the bodies and minds of the Nobels, Lake and Orfyn must find a way to regain control before they lose all semblance or memory of their former selves.

How did you know you wanted to collaborate together?

We fell in love when we were nineteen years old. We were pursuing business majors in different fields, and then spent our corporate careers working separately. Our lives changed when we moved to a tiny town at the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. The natural beauty is truly inspiring. It was finally time to pursue something we’re passionate about, and do it with each other. We’re both avid readers and have always written for our careers, so the idea of creating stories together fulfilled a lifelong dream.

Wonderful. How did the premise of MERGED come to you, and in what ways did writing the book surprise you?

Three death-related incidences occurred within days of each other. First, an older friend was in hospice, and just before he died he shared amazing stories about his life that none of us knew. Then, Brittany Lauren Maynard, a younger woman with terminal brain cancer, decided to intentionally end her life “when the time seemed right.” Finally, friends had to put down their old dog, and it was fascinating how their lives changed afterwards. It got us thinking about all the things that would change if people—in good health—had more time. This led to the concept of merged consciousness, which provides those who are making world-changing differences another lifetime to continue their work.

The aspect that surprised us is the STEM vs. STEAM theme. One of our protagonists, the street artist Orfyn, appeared on the page as if by magic. He was too fascinating a character not to incorporate into the story, and it changed the entire plot line. Jim is a musician and Stephanie is an artist, and it was a huge part of our lives while growing up. Without being preachy, we wanted to show how valuable it is to include right-brained people when solving problems, and how their artistic contributions enrich our world.

What a great way to encompass the importance of art in story! What is the most difficult about writing emotionally?

It is challenging to ensure each major character has their own unique character arc. Meaning, while the characters are moving through the story, they need to change and learn from their experiences and interactions. Otherwise, what’s the point of the story? Every person reacts differently to emotional situations, and each reaction must feel true for that particular character.

We don’t believe a scene or chapter is complete until one of the characters experiences a significant emotional shift. When a character begins with one emotion and then goes through a dramatic emotional change, it needs to be something visceral that the reader (hopefully) actually feels—a roller coaster ride of tension and release. And that’s where the hard work comes in. We have to show that emotional shift and not merely tell the reader what’s happening to the character.

Hard work--but also necessary! What are some of your current projects?

We’re busing promoting MERGED, and also writing the sequel RE-MERGED. We’re speaking at high schools and colleges about the craft of writing a novel and the business of getting published. We have a number of novels in various stages of development, but we also love writing short stories and have recently had “The Patch” published in the Northern Colorado Writers anthology, “Change.” This is a story about a group of teens who travel to the Pacific Garbage Patch to colonize a new homestead for their religious sect back on the troubled mainland. These short stories are often the basis of our future novels, so we’re working on developing this story into something bigger. Finally, we’re constantly brainstorming and keeping notes on future characters and book ideas.


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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

UNPREGNANT by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Kaplan

I met Jenni and Ted at this year's YallWest, and as soon as I heard about their book, UNPREGNANT, I couldn't wait to read it. The book debuted today, September 10, 2019:

Seventeen-year-old Veronica Clarke never thought she would wish she’d failed a test until she finds herself holding a thick piece of plastic in her hands and staring at two solid pink lines. Even the most consistent use of condoms won’t prevent pregnancy when your boyfriend secretly pokes holes in them to keep you from going out-of-state for college.

Veronica needs an abortion, but the closest place she can legally get one is over nine hundred miles away—and Veronica doesn’t have a car. Too ashamed to ask her friends or family for help, Veronica turns to the one person she believes won’t judge her: Bailey Butler, Jefferson High’s own little black cloud of anger and snark—and Veronica’s ex-best friend. Once on the road, Veronica quickly remembers nothing with Bailey is ever simple and that means two days of stolen cars, shotguns, crazed ex-boyfriends, truck stop strippers with pro-life agendas, and a limo driver named Bob. But the pain and betrayal of their broken friendship can’t be outrun. When their fighting leads to a brutal moment of truth, Bailey abandons Veronica. Now Veronica must risk everything in order to repair the hurt she’s caused...


How did you know you wanted to collaborate on a novel together?

Well, to be honest we didn’t set out to write a novel. We’ve been screenwriting partners for a while and UNPREGNANT started out as a feature length script. We wrote it as spec (a completed screenplay that would be then be shopped to producers) but our agents at the time thought the story would be nearly impossible to sell. For context, this was during the Obama administration, so you know, no one was panicked yet about things like basic human rights. Anyway, Jenni was pregnant at the time, so we put it aside for the time being. But we still loved the story, and more than that we believed it was important — especially after the 2016 election. So we decided to do something crazy, something we’d never imagined we would do, we decided to try to turn the story into a novel. We figured that as a book the story would be a finished product that could stand on its own, unlike a screenplay which would require millions of dollars and lots of different people’s involvement before anyone would see it. Ultimately, we are glad we took this path because it turns out, writing books is super fun. It allowed us to delve much deeper into the story than we could in the limited timeframe allowed in the screenplay.


This is definitely a story that deserves to be covered in depth! I love that UNPREGNANT takes place in the southwest. How did you know that was the right backdrop for Veronica’s story? 

The initial idea for the story came to us from an NPR report about abortion access for minors in the middle of the country and the restrictive parental consent laws most states have. From Missouri, the closest two options are New Jersey and New Mexico. We chose to send the girls to New Mexico because there’s something iconic about the southwest. Everything is vast, open and seems to stretch on forever. It’s a great visual metaphor for the transition from childhood to adulthood, full of possibility and also terrifying. Also, everyone knows there are no aliens in New Jersey.


Definitely not! And I know what you mean--I used to live in New Mexico, and the skies are as wondrous as the wide open spaces. Unpregnant will also become a movie! Congratulations. Where were you when you heard the news?

Jenni: Sadly this is not a very exciting answer though probably indicative of the “glamorous” life of a writer. I was on the way to a coffee shop to work because my desk at home was covered with a Lego project. When I got to the parking lot there was an email asking if I was available for a conference call. I was starving because I’d been running around doing mom stuff all day and hadn’t had lunch yet, so I grabbed a bagel sandwich and sat in my car. I was just shoving the last bit into my mouth when the call came through and they told us they’d found a director and distribution and would be moving ahead to production. The book had been optioned shortly after it had been sold (almost a year previous) and we’d been lucky enough to be hired to write the screenplay ourselves, but we knew from working in the industry that a lot of books get this far, and then get stuck. So it was a huge surprise that things were moving so quickly. I basically let Ted do a lot of the talking and tried not to choke on bagel from shock.

Ted: My memory was that we had been told the producers wanted to “talk” and that’s always terrifying when you don’t know why. Did they want another rewrite, another writer, was it stalled, did they find out that there was another teenage abortion road trip being made by Miley Cyrus?!! Gah!!! So I was laying on the couch of my office taking deep breaths while we took the conference call hoping that it was some good news. And boy was it! Not only did they find a distributor but an amazing female director, something that had always been on our wish list. After the call, we called each other just to make sure we had heard the same thing. We still call each other periodically in case this is all a really long dream sequence.


I'm glad it wasn't! What are some of your current projects? 

How coy are we allowed to be? We have another book coming out from HarperTeen and we are in the process of drafting it. Like Unpregnant, it’s another friendship story, but this time with two guys. There are lots of feelings and messy emotions, but also dick jokes and a shark.


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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

THERE WILL COME A DARKNESS by Katy Rose Pool

I've known about this book for awhile, and I'm ecstatic that it's finally available. THERE WILL COME A DARKNESS contains characters from multiple diverse backgrounds in a world on the verge of destruction; it debuted on September 3, 2019.

The Age of Darkness approaches.
Five lives stand in its way.
Who will stop it... or unleash it? 

For generations, the Seven Prophets guided humanity. Using their visions of the future, they ended wars and united nations―until the day, one hundred years ago, when the Prophets disappeared.

All they left behind was one final, secret prophecy, foretelling an Age of Darkness and the birth of a new Prophet who could be the world’s salvation . . . or the cause of its destruction. As chaos takes hold, five souls are set on a collision course:

A prince exiled from his kingdom.
A ruthless killer known as the Pale Hand.
A once-faithful leader torn between his duty and his heart. 
A reckless gambler with the power to find anything or anyone.
And a dying girl on the verge of giving up.

One of them―or all of them―could break the world. Will they be savior or destroyer?

According to your website bio, your father was a screenwriter. In what ways, if any, did this influence your own writing? 

It’s definitely been a huge asset to me, because we would discuss movies and stories and how they work from a very early age. That way of analyzing stories and their plot beats has become so ingrained in me that it’s fairly effortless for me to plot a book and make sure it’s hitting the right beats at the right time. That said, my approach to story is so different from his! Obviously film and novels are two very different mediums, and beyond that my dad is extremely concept and premise-driven whereas I am much more interested in character and my stories usually start there. But it’s been kind of fun to think that I’m sort of carrying on the family legacy!


Speaking of characters, I love the variety of them in THERE WILL COME A DARKNESS. How did they come to you, and did any of them surprise you?

As I said, my characters are usually the first thing I start to figure out in a story. In There Will Come a Darkness, these characters all kind of came with a central question in mind--which is, what happens when you have to face your worst fear? Each of them has to grapple with this and figure out if they are really the person they believe themselves to be. The character who surprised me most was probably Beru--her role in the story grew quite a bit from when I’d first conceived of her, and her reactions to certain things in the book were very different from what I’d planned.


I love when that happens! What, in your opinion, is the most challenging part of the writing process?

For me it’s probably building momentum. I’m a fairly slow drafter, and a slow reviser, and I think it’s because I just tend to overthink things and be a perfectionist about them. I really like to consider every angle of a plot or character and that constant re-evaluation can really slow me down.


Indeed. What are some of your current projects?

Right now I’m super focused on the sequel to There Will Come a Darkness! I am very excited for where the second book takes the characters and I can’t wait for people to read it.


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