Wednesday, April 29, 2015

POWER DOWN, LITTLE ROBOT by Anna Staniszewski

I've featured Anna Staniszewski quite a few times on my blog. Namely here, here and here. So I was excited to learn she has a forthcoming picture book! Have a look:

It’s time to power down for the night, but Little Robot isn’t ready! He quickly opens his stalling program. Luckily, Mom Unit knows exactly how to get him into his sleep module.From a debut picture book author and the illustrator of Little Boo, this funny twist on a familiar nighttime routine will click with bedtime avoidance experts everywhere.

Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and eating far too much chocolate. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series, the Dirt Diary series, and the forthcoming Switched at First Kiss series, all published by Sourcebooks, as well as the picture book Power Down, Little Robot, released from Henry Holt in March. Visit her at

Anna also shared five authors that inspire her. Take it away, Anna! 

Five Robot-Inspiring Authors, by Anna Staniszewski

When I think about the authors who’ve helped shape my writing over the years, the list is endless! But I’ve decided to take on the challenge of whittling it down to five awesome authors. Without them, I’m pretty sure my first picture book, Power Down, Little Robot, would have never been born.

1. Jane Yolen
I first read Owl Moon when I was an adult, and I was struck by its mood, its non-traditional story arc, and its spare but impactful language. When I checked out Jane Yolen’s other picture books, I realized they were the kinds of stories I’d always been drawn to—emotional, often funny, and innovative but classic at the same time. Since I thought of myself as a children’s novelist for years before I dared to dip my toe in the picture book pond, it was also inspiring to see an author have such success writing for a wide range of age groups. 

2. Chris Barton
Shark vs. Train, with its clever humor and non-traditional storyline, was an instant keeper when I first picked it up. It’s rare to find an illustration-heavy book with a different author and illustrator, but that was one of the things that most impressed me about the book. The words and pictures perfectly blended together and played off of each other, and the story’s tension built at a steady pace even though the narrative didn’t have a traditional beginning, middle, and end. I was inspired to think of ways to make a non-traditional storyline work, even if I wasn’t able to illustrate my own ideas.

3. Ammi-Joan Paquette 
Not only is Joan my wonderful agent, but she’s also a prolific author who writes stories for all ages, from picture books to young adult novels. Joan’s work, especially for younger audiences, is always energetic and full of heart. When I set out to write a picture book, I knew that was the kind of story I wanted to write, and it was immensely helpful to have Joan’s feedback on the manuscript as well as her example to help guide me.

4. The Writers’ Loft
This is cheating a little bit because it’s not so much one author as it is a whole group of them. This non-profit in Sherborn, Mass—founded by my awesome friend Heather Kelly—is not only a supportive writing community, but it’s also a great creative resource. When I first had the idea for Power Down, Little Robot, I asked the Lofters for help thinking of things that kids do to delay going to bed. The result was a whole list of possibilities that I could translate into robo-speak. I’m not sure the story would have ever taken shape without the Lofters’ help.

5. Jules Feiffer
If I had to choose a favorite picture book, it might have to be Bark, George by Jules Feiffer. Besides the book’s off-beat humor and unexpected ending, what I find fascinating about it is the fact that some people really don’t get it. The story takes chances and pushes the envelope, and if you read it too literally, it might not work for you. I tend to be drawn to books like this, probably because they’re so wacky, and they also remind me not to worry about people “getting my work.” If you write a whole story in robot-speak, not everyone will love it, but hopefully there will be some like-minded robot enthusiasts out there who will enjoy it. Bark, George and other similarly dark/slightly bizarre picture books out there remind me to be brave!

And we certainly admire your bravery! 

To order POWER DOWN, LITTLE ROBOT, feel free to click the icon below:

Or you can order the Dirt Diary series:

Or the My Very Unfairy Tale Life series:

Or you can order the books that Anna recommended:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Characters We Can Root For

This week on Operation Awesome, I talked about writing characters that readers can root for. You can read more about it here. 

And here's a .gif to go along with the overall theme:

From Tumblr: "A Girl Worth Fighting For"
Stay tuned for next week, where I'll be re-featuring author Anna Staniszewski and her new book, POWER DOWN, ROBOT!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

RODIN'S LOVER, by Heather Webb

Last year, I interviewed Heather Webb about Becoming Josephine, a historical romance about Rose Tascher and her suitor--a man that would become Napolean Bonaparte.

Heather's newest book, RODIN'S LOVER, also takes place in historic France. The voice and tone of the book are exquisite, and put me right into the story. Have a look for yourself:

As a woman, aspiring sculptor Camille Claudel has plenty of critics, especially her ultra-traditional mother. But when Auguste Rodin makes Camille his apprentice—and his muse—their passion inspires groundbreaking works. Yet, Camille’s success is overshadowed by her lover’s rising star, and her obsessions cross the line into madness.

Rodin’s Lover brings to life the volatile love affair between one of the era’s greatest artists and a woman entwined in a tragic dilemma she cannot escape.

Heather also answered some follow-up interview questions:

In our last interview, you said you grew significantly as a writer while you penned RODIN'S LOVER. Can you elaborate on what changed for you, and how your writing process developed?

I think, if writers are truly growing, they push themselves with each new book. That was certainly the case for me with Rodin's Lover. I learned so much about both my research process as well as how I construct the overall structure of the novel. I've learned to be more efficient in shorter periods of time and I had far fewer drafts this time as all of the plotting I did saved a lot of time in edits.

It's comforting to know that efficiency can be gained with practice! RODIN'S LOVER takes place about one hundred years after BECOMING JOSEPHINE. What drove the decision to set the novel there, and what sorts of elements (besides mental illness) did you get to play with?

The first time I had ever heard of Camille Claudel was in my French film class in college. There's a fabulous 1988 movie that won all kinds of awards about her life and love affair with Rodin. It doesn't go nearly as in depth as my book (but that's almost always the case with movies anyway, isn't it?), but still worth seeing. While finishing Becoming Josephine, I started thinking about a new topic. I kept running into renditions of Rodin's The Thinker everywhere and I took that as a sign! I re-watched the film and fell in love with their story all over again. 

Beyond mental illness, I spent a lot of time learning about sculpture and the art of sculpting itself. That was utterly fascinating! After all of that research, I still marvel at the way people envision some gorgeous, emotionally gripping piece in a block of stone. And then there was all of that historical research about artists of the day and the scandals they caused. Good, juicy stuff!

I love that you've included some of the sculptures in the book too! On January 27, RODIN'S LOVER had a Facebook party and giveaway. What other ways have you spread word about your books? Do you feel blog tours are effective? 

This is a question more for writers than readers. It's hard to say what works, honestly, outside of good ol' fashioned word of mouth and writing more good books. Other than that, maybe ads and publicity coverage, which writers can't really control. That's in the hands of our publishers, mixed with some serendipity and much homage to the gods. Ha!

Speaking of writing more good books, what are some of your current projects? 

I'm currently working on a short story for an anthology called A FALL OF POPPIES that centers on the first and controversial Armistice Day during WWI along with 8 other authors. That will be released from HarperCollins next year. I'm also working on a full length novel that's shaping up to be a Gothic thriller set during Belle Epoque Paris once again. It's a retelling of a popular story that I can't talk too much about just yet. After that, I'm headed to New World!  

And we can't wait to go there with you! Thanks, Heather, for another wonderful interview!

To grab RODIN'S LOVER and/or BECOMING JOSEPHINE for yourself, feel free to click the Amazon icons below:



Heather Webb is the author of historical novels BECOMING JOSEPHINE and RODIN’S LOVER.  A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. Find her twittering @msheatherwebb or contributing to her favorite award-winning sites and

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

NEVERLAND, by Shari Arnold

When I saw the cover and premise for NEVERLAND by Shari Arnold, I knew I had to feature it. And as luck has it, the book released yesterday! Have a look:

It’s been four months since seventeen-year-old Livy Cloud lost her younger sister, but she isn’t quite ready to move on with her life — not even close. She’d rather spend her time at the Seattle Children’s hospital, reading to the patients and holding onto memories of the sister who was everything to her and more.

But when she meets the mysterious and illusive Meyer she is drawn into a world of adventure, a world where questions abound.

Is she ready to live life without her sister? Or more importantly, is she brave enough to love again? In this modern reimagining of Peter Pan, will Livy lose herself to Neverland or will she find what she’s been searching for?

Shari was also kind enough to answer some interview questions!

According to your blog, Daily Distractions, when the idea for NEVERLAND came to you, it wouldn't leave. How did you gauge this new idea with the deadline you had, and can you tell us more about juggling multiple projects?

I try to stay on one project at a time but occasionally something will creep in. I keep an idea journal for those occasions. I write ideas down ALL THE TIME. If I don't they disappear completely. Texting myself in the middle of the night also works if I'm feeling lazy.

Yep, that's why I leave my phone by the bed. Sometimes ideas will come and I can't go back to sleep until I record them. 
Meyer, NEVERLAND's male protagonist, is really compelling. What about Meyer do you think readers will love the most?

Meyer has that boyish-charm thing going for him and his air of mystery completely drives Livy crazy. He approaches life as though it is an adventure and helps her break free of her sorrow. His accent doesn't hurt either. =)

Ooh, I love a good accent. You also wrote a YA Paranormal novel called KATE TRIUMPH. How did the idea come to you, and what do you want readers to take away when they've finished the story?

KATE came to me one night when I was trying to sleep. Her name was the very first thing to arrive. I knew immediately she was going to be a strong, determined character with amazing possibilities. She continues to change and grow into something I never could have predicted at the time. I hope readers can relate to my characters, but mostly I want them to take the journey with me. I love setting my books in reality with just a hint of magic. One should always believe in magic.

So true. And speaking of magic, I love the design of your Daily Distractions blog. What advice, if any, do you have for authors wanting to build an online platform?

I do my best to read about the authors I love (I think I'm not alone in that) so I think it's important to have a website. I've always had a blog because before I was published I read and reviewed books like crazy. It's also important to have a presence on Twitter and Facebook. The best thing I ever did was join a group of YA authors on Facebook. Those women are my support team.

Supportive online communities are definitely worth keeping! What are some of your current projects?

I am currently working on the sequel to KATE TRIUMPH and getting my third YA novel, MYSTIQUE, ready for its release in Fall/2015. Oops. I guess I do work on more than one project at a time...

And we appreciate it! Thanks, Shari, for a great interview!

To snag Shari's books for yourself, click the pictures below:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

WISH GIRL, by Nikki Loftin

So, it's no secret that I love Nikki Loftin's books. I've featured them previously, as well as over on Operation Awesome. And I was lucky enough to get an ARC of her newest book, WISH GIRL, in the mail. WISH GIRL is completely un-put-down-able; the writing is superb, and the characters are beautifully unique. See for yourself:

A dying girl gives a boy the strength to live in this lyrical novel that will break your heart and lift your spirit. 

Peter Stone’s parents and siblings are extroverts, musicians, and yellers—and the louder they get, the less Peter talks, or even moves, until he practically fits his last name. When his family moves to the Texas Hill Country, though, Peter finds a tranquil, natural valley where he can, at last, hear himself think.

There, he meets a girl his age: Annie Blythe. Annie tells Peter she’s a “wish girl.” But Annie isn’t just any wish girl; she’s a “Make-A-Wish Girl.” And in two weeks she will begin a dangerous treatment to try and stop her cancer from spreading. Left alone, the disease will kill her.

But the treatment may cause serious, lasting damage to her brain.

Annie and Peter hatch a plan to escape into the valley, which they begin to think is magical. But the pair soon discovers that the valley—and life—may have other plans for them. And sometimes wishes come true in ways they would never expect.

Since two of Nikki's books, NIGHTINGALE'S NESTand WISH GIRLhave both been labelled as magical realism (which is sort of an oddity in MG literature), here’s a list of five authors Nikki recommends for readers who pick up WISH GIRL and like it (I'm sure many people will!). Take it away, Nikki!

1. Pam Munoz Ryan. Her book Esperanza Rising is a classic, and uses magical realism in such a subtle way. The book deals with immigration, so it's an important book for kids to read… and the magical realism gives it a feeling I don’t get from a lot of straight contemporary fiction. Magic, hope, a sense of deeper currents.

2. Kimberley Griffiths Little. Her books, like The Healing Spell, are set in Louisiana, and Little uses the creole magic of the bayou to create stories about families and friendships that stay with the reader.

3. Anne Ursu. Breadcrumbs, a wonderful blend of fairy tale re-telling and magical realism.

4. Laurel Snyder. Both Seven Stories Up and Bigger than a Breadbox are wonderful!

5. David Almond. His Skellig is still one of my favorite magical realism stories ever.

Thanks, Nikki! To grab a copy of WISH GIRL for yourself, click the link below.

And here are Nikki's other books:

And here are the books Nikki recommended:

Happy reading, everyone!