From New York Times Bestselling Author, J.C. Reed, and USA Today Bestselling Author, Jackie Steele, comes a new standalone novel.
Kaiden Wright and I were never supposed to be roommates.
I was clingy, he was a manwhore. I lived to love, and he lived to play. I dreamed of a white picket fence, and he strived for success.
We couldn’t be more different. Me, a normal nurse, he a successful CEO. I wanted to love while he wanted to run. Yet, despite all our differences, we had one thing in common. We both fought hard for what we wanted.
Kaiden Wright wasn’t my future, and I wasn’t his past, but we had moments. Moments that defined us. Moments that felt as though the present was ours and ours only.
Maybe it wasn’t about ending up together.
Maybe it wasn’t about loving someone so deeply you would do anything for them without expecting anything in return.
We were pulled into each other’s lives like magnets, close enough to kiss, close enough to touch. Stolen secret moments that changed our lives forever.
What will happen when our borrowed time is over?
Author’s note – Counting On You is a full-length, standalone novel with no cliffhanger.
Preorder it now for $2.99 (changing to $4.99 after release)
J.C. Reed is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author. She writes steamy contemporary romance with a touch of mystery and suspense. When she's not typing away on her keyboard, forgetting the world around her, you can find her chatting with her readers on Facebook.
I met K.M. Rice after an exquisite panel where she spoke about publishing. Check out her book, DARKLING, as well as her contribution to the upcoming book, MIDDLE EARTH: FROM SCRIPT TO SCREEN, set to debut this fall.
How far would you go to save your family?
Midsummer used to be a day of feasts and bonfires. A day when cares were set aside for the joy of grass between our toes, warm hands in our palms, laughter in our hearts. Our celebrations dimmed with the light. Something upset the balance of our woods. Something so deep that even our bonfires can't lure the sun back. And he has something to do with it. Of that we're sure, which is why I'm being given to him.
DARKLING is K.M. Rice's suspenseful debut novel about a young woman's sacrifice to save her village and the unexpected strength that comes from first love.
For the first time ever, the epic, in-depth story of the creation of one of the most famous fantasy worlds ever imagined--an illustrious compendium that reveals the breathtaking craftsmanship, artistry, and technology behind the magical Middle-earth of the blockbuster film franchises, The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy and The Hobbit Trilogy, directed by Peter Jackson.
Richly illustrated with thousands of film frames, concept art and behind-the-scenes imagery, many previously unseen, Middle-earth: From Script to Screen follows in the footsteps of the Fellowship of the Ring and the Company of Thorin Oakenshield, visiting the realms and landscapes of Middle-earth and uncovering their secrets. Accompanying this stunning gallery, cast and crew reflect upon their experiences, share brand-new stories and insights into how the wildernesses and soundstages of New Zealand were transformed into a magical world of hobbits, Dwarves and Elves, resulting in one of the most spectacular achievements in cinematic history.
With foreword by Sir Peter Jackson and additional writing by K.M. Rice; illustrated with final film imagery, behind-the-scenes pictures and conceptual artwork, including places not seen in the final films, this monumental compilation offers unique and far-reaching insights into the creation of the world we know and love as Middle-earth.
In addition to writing, you have also been involved with TheOneRing.net. What has this experience meant to you?
TheOneRing.net has enriched my life in so many different ways. I started off as a fan, obsessively checking the site for updates once the Hobbit films were announced. For a lot of us, TheOneRing has been the resourced for Tolkien-related news for years. An opportunity arose to help out the staff at San Diego Comic Con (a nerd’s dream come true, right?!) so my little sister, Alex, and I leapt at the opportunity and are so happy that we did. It was such a joy to be surrounded by other Middle-earth fans, and we quickly found a way to contribute to the site and officially become staff by launching our very own webseries called Happy Hobbit. You can find the show on YouTube, and each episode strives to bring Middle-earth into your daily life.
Happy Hobbit has made me a very happy hobbit! Other than the joy of connecting with other fans around the world, our little show caught the attention of Sir Peter Jackson in the summer of 2013. He shared a video of us reacting to the trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on his social media, then filmed his cast reacting to our reaction! That not only made Happy Hobbit go viral and appear in international news, but it also made us recognizable to the cast and crew.
As such, TheOneRing asked us to be press on the black carpet for the Hollywood premieres of The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies. We even got to meet our namesakes, Fili and Kili, for that is what we’re called in Happy Hobbit. It truly was a Middle-earth fan’s dream come true.
But amazing as it was to a part of the action on those memorable nights, the greatest reward from TheOneRing.net and Happy Hobbit has been the incredible friendships we have made along the way, and getting the opportunities to go on adventures with my sister, who is my other half, and our mom, who loves to travel and tag along! In about two years, I went from someone who had always wanted to go to a convention to being on a panel at San Diego Comic Con!
Breathtaking! Your first novel, DARKLING, explores the connections between people and nature. How did this story come to you, and what do you hope readers take away from it?
That’s a very astute observation. I don’t immediately think of Darkling as focusing on the relationship between people and nature, but of course, that is the crux of the plot.
Darkling was actually the third book I had ever written, and the main story came to me in a dream that most would consider to be a nightmare. I was the main character, Willow, and the emotions and setting felt so vivid that the dream lingered with me long after. I write in a rather manic manner. Once a fancy takes ahold of me, it is difficult for me to stop. I don’t outline, so I often think that I am writing quickly because I am entertaining myself with the story as I skip along!
Though the dream lingered in my mind, I didn’t have a world for it until an eerie piece of music unlocked some sort of door in my subconscious, and the words then vomited onto the page, for lack of a better description. “The woods are dark” was typed onto a blank page, and within twenty days, I had my third novel. I also actually only wrote on 15 of those days, so this is why I used the gross idea of retching up words. When they come, they come!
I hope that readers can, firstly, forgive me for being so gross up above! But in all fairness, Darkling can get quite gross at times. I have a friend who teaches it to his college students as an example of Gothic literature, but it is an odd mixture: part Gothic, part Victorian, Dark Fantasy, with a healthy dose of Romance and Feminism. I am somewhat allergic to writing damsels in any form.
So I hope that my readers are not only entertained, but inspired. While the story is fast-paced, the subtext is about recovering from loss, which is something we have all been through in some form. I have looked into the darkness. I have felt its all-encompassing pull. I have heard the whispers that tell me to give in to fear and to push people away for fear of being hurt. Darkling is about traversing this grief and stepping out on the other side, all the stronger for it. I hope that readers can vicariously experience this change through the story and that it may bolster their own radiance.
Life isn’t about the goodbyes. It is about the hellos.
It is indeed. You are also crowdfunding an effort to turn DARKLING into an audiobook. How did this come about?
Some time ago, I was approached by the voice artist Gail Shalan. She had come across Darkling and thought it was the perfect material for her, and after she sent me a sample of her reading the first chapter, I couldn’t agree more! Gail is incredibly talented and has the warm, youthful tones needed to convey the heart and soul of Willow.
This project needed to happen, but since I am an independent author, I would have to pay Gail out of pocket, which I simply couldn’t afford to do. She and I kicked around various ideas and eventually settled on crowdfunding to raise the money. It was tempting to just slap something up online and hope that people would start chucking money at us, but we both knew that would not be the case. So we waited, and I brainstormed.
I spent the end of 2015 working in Wellington, NZ., at Weta Workshop. Weta is the special effects and props company that helped bring to life Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Narnia, and many other beloved films. In fact, I was there assisting author Daniel Falconer by doing additional writing and research on a brand new book out this fall called Middle-earth: From Script to Screen, which is available now for pre-order. Helping him write this book goes back to your first question: my geek life and my professional life came full circle! While working on this epic of a book, I started chatting with my friends there about my crowdfund, asking if any of them would be willing to donate an art piece for me to use. After all, these are Oscar-winning concept artists!
Lindsey Crummett, who I have had the pleasure of knowing for a few years now, had read Darkling when it first came out. Loving a good ghost story, she offered to make me an illustration. Nearly two years later, here we are! Lindsey was a concept designer on both The Hobbit and Avatar, and her illustration of Willow is now available through my crowdfund as both an art print and as the cover for the limited edition. Gail and I really would not have been able to do this without Lindsey’s generosity, kindness, and incredible talent, so we are so very thankful.
Wonderful! What are some of your current projects?
I’ve already mentioned Middle-earth: From Script to Screen, but it bears being mentioned again.
I also set out to write new content for the limited edition of Darkling and got carried away. What was meant to be a short story accidentally birthed a novel (you should always use protection when writing short stories or else this may happen to you!). This new book is a companion piece to Darkling and is called The Watcher. I’m really excited for Darkling fans to sink their teeth into it, for it provides much more depth to the story and I have been asked to write more in that world ever since Darkling’s release in 2013.
My true book child, however, is a four-book series called Afterworld. All the books have been finished for some time, but Afterworld Book 1: Ophelia is a bit late out the gate because I am fulfilling the demands of my friends who read it and making sure that I give any interested publishers a chance to have a look at the manuscript before I launch the series by publishing it independently. I am happy to wait so that I can put my best foot forward, however, I am very much chomping at the bit. Readers often ask me for updates on its release and as I said, the Afterworld books are truly my “book children.” I have invested so much in the characters and the story. I am as delighted as I am terrified to let these children out into the world.
I also have my author vlog which I film somewhat regularly, so if you feel the need for some writing advice, please check it out on YouTube.
To keep up with my upcoming releases and news, I always encourage people to not only follow me on social media, but to also subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wildling Adventures. I call my readers and community “wildlings” because we all have the wildish nature to create inside. We just have to unleash it. Overall, that is what I hope my stories can do for people: unleash their wildish nature.
Andrew Carnegie funded fifty-nine public libraries in Kansas in the early 20th century but it was frontier women who organized waffle suppers, minstrel shows, and women's baseball games to buy books to fill them.
Now, a century later, Angelina returns to her father's hometown of New Hope to complete her dissertation on the Carnegie libraries, just as Traci and Gayle arrive in town - Traci as an artist-in-residence at the renovated Carnegie Arts Center and Gayle as a refugee whose neighboring town, Prairie Hill, has just been destroyed by a tornado.
The discovery of an old journal inspires the women to create a library and arts center as the first act of rebuilding Prairie Hill after the tornado. As they work together to raise money for the center, Traci reveals her enormous heart, Angelina discovers that problem-solving is more valuable than her PhD, and Gayle demonstrates that courage is not about waiting out a storm but building a future.
Can you tell us more about your time with the National Endowment for the Arts? In what ways do you feel the arts benefit people in their daily lives?
My time with the National Endowment for the Arts was beyond fabulous, maybe the best job that ever existed. I served as a liaison between the chairman's office and the field. First, I was based in the Midwest, serving a region from Minnesota to Texas; then I moved West to serve on the Pacific Rim, including Hawaii and Alaska as well as California, Washington, and Oregon. I spent my life meeting regional artists and those supporting them. I made frequent trips to DC, sat in on discipline panel and National Council meetings with some of the most extraordinary, committed, and articulate artists in the world.
Behind the glamour was hard work and a wicked travel schedule as we tried to figure out how to stretch limited federal dollars to do the most good. (The NEA has never cost the individual taxpayer more than the price of a postage stamp.) One of the things its critics don't realize is that the NEA is about ACCESS to the arts as much as it is about creation. Throughout this country, you'll see artists in schools, murals in neighborhoods, new plays being produced in small theaters, thanks to the NEA. Fifty years from now, I think the NEA will be lauded for the support it gave to diverse voices of a variety of ethnicity, geography, and sexual preferences, further defining the essence of our great country. Its work has permeated our rural towns and inner city neighborhoods, stretching our imaginations. A life without music or dance or literature or a photograph of beauty is a drab life indeed.
Indeed it is. What great work you've done to spread creativity. You also have a long history with and love of Carnegie libraries. What was your process of building the story of TO THE STARS THROUGH DIFFICULTIES around these libraries?
I grew up in the Carnegie library in Manhattan, KS. I started going before I learned to read and kept going until I graduated from high school. When I started working for the Association of Community Arts Councils of Kansas, I noticed Carnegie libraries sprinkled across the state, some of them being converted into arts centers. Early on, I began to see similarities between the (mostly) women I was working with and the pioneer women who'd taken the initiative to get a library into their towns. For over 30 years, I kept notes on the two eras, not sure how I would use them, but knowing the story would be of the women, their efforts, and their discovery of their own power and self-esteem in the process. Because the libraries were central, I needed Angelina, a library science PhD candidate, to provide a lot of facts. Because I wanted to show the re-purposing as an arts center, I developed Traci, the artist-in-residence. And because I wanted the issues to be as immediate as possible, I created a tornado survivor who had to start from scratch and prioritize.
The way these three characters connect definitely makes for an uplifting story. If there was anything you could tell your former writer self, what would it be and why?
Not to be afraid. Does every writer say that? I don't regret the fulfilling career I have had, and I'm not sorry I tore up my homework and withdrew from my freshman creative writing class, because I would have missed many adventures between then and now. I have no illusions that my life would have been more glamorous or fulfilling had I spent it writing, because I know how hard the work is. But I find myself trying to remember all the truisms I've preached to artists all these years. "Anything worth doing never should've been attempted in the first place." "The hardest time isn't when you're doing the work, nor when you've adjusted your marketing, but when you've done everything right, and the payoff hasn't come. Persistence is what separates artists from the 'wannabes'."
Very true! What are some of your current projects?
My life is full of promoting the book right now. I want to stay focused enough to help it find its place in the world and to create book events that encourage people to read my book and to take their own actions in their communities. That said, I'm getting such positive reinforcement, my brain continues to play around with ideas for the next book, which may very well feature some of the same characters.
I met Tara Sim during the release of V.E. Schwab's A Conjuring of Light, and saw her again last weekend at YallWest. TIMEKEEPER takes a look at how time can twist fates, and is great for those looking for a page-turning mind bender.
Two o’clock was missing.
In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.
It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.
And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.
But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.
What is something people would not expect to learn about you?
This is something a lot of people probably know already, but I'll say it anyway: I'm half-Indian, though I don't look like it. It tends to cause double takes and follow up questions. Since I grew up very close to that culture, it's definitely inspired my writing and what sort of characters/settings I like to write about.
I'll bet it has. And I love the idea that hours can go missing. How does this drive TIMEKEEPER's story, and in what ways does it affect the characters' relationships with time?
Time, obviously, is the central theme of the trilogy--how it moves us forward, how finicky it can be, and what might happen if forces beyond our ken mess with it. TIMEKEEPER opens up with a scene where two o'clock is literally missing, and that's because I wanted to throw the reader into the world asking questions that gradually get answered as the book goes on. Time is already a strange concept to us IRL, and it's even more so for my characters, who perceive it as a sort of magic that only a few can tap into. Danny's relationship with time, for example, is complicated; he loves being a clock mechanic, but a recent accident in a clock tower makes it difficult for him to be completely at ease anymore. Then he meets Colton, who is basically time personified, and it gets even more complicated when he starts to fall for him. Essentially, I wanted to write a story that kinda taps into our fascination with time and give it a magical twist.
You've definitely woven together a fantastic plot, heightened by beautifully written prose. The beginning of TIMEKEEPER also has a quote from William Blake. Why did you choose this quote, and what do you hope readers will glean from it?
I chose this quote because it felt right for the story. Time is a rather poetic theory to me, so using Blake's poetry to kickstart the book seemed fitting. I hope readers will see the connection between Blake's words--"infinity in the palm of your hand" and "eternity in an hour"--and how Danny personally relates to the time magic used in TIMEKEEPER. If only we could all have "eternity in an hour." What are some of your current projects?
Right now I'm working on a couple of short stories, which is odd for me, since I tend to avoid them! But I also have a WIP that I like to say is Avatar: the Last Airbender meets Pirates of the Caribbean, and I'm brainstorming another WIP that's THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA meets A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC.
I met Gretchen McNeil at YANovCon, and after hearing her speak on a panel, I had to feature her and her books. Check out her latest, I'M NOT YOUR MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL:
Beatrice Maria Estrella Giovannini has life all figured out. She's starting senior year at the top of her class, she’s a shoo-in for a scholarship to M.I.T., and she’s got a new boyfriend she’s crazy about. The only problem: All through high school Bea and her best friends Spencer and Gabe have been the targets of horrific bullying.
So Bea uses her math skills to come up with The Formula, a 100% mathematically guaranteed path to social happiness in high school. Now Gabe is on his way to becoming Student Body President, and Spencer is finally getting his art noticed. But when her boyfriend Jesse dumps her for Toile, the quirky new girl at school, Bea realizes it's time to use The Formula for herself. She'll be reinvented as the eccentric and lovable Trixie—a quintessential manic pixie dream girl—in order to win Jesse back and beat new-girl Toile at her own game.
Unfortunately, being a manic pixie dream girl isn't all it's cracked up to be, and “Trixie” is causing unexpected consequences for her friends. As The Formula begins to break down, can Bea find a way to reclaim her true identity and fix everything she's messed up? Or will the casualties of her manic pixie experiment go far deeper than she could possibly imagine?
According to your website bio, you are a a former coloratura soprano. What is a coloratura soprano, and in what ways, if any, has music influenced your writing?
In classical music, voice types are called "fachs" and different roles are categorized by a singer's voice type. A coloratura soprano is a fach, characterized by elaborate ornamentation and an extremely high range. Think The Queen of the Night from Mozart's "The Magic Flute" or Zerbinetta from Strauss's "Ariadne auf Naxos."
Unfortunately, I wasn't a very good coloratura soprano. Or at least, not good enough. But the lessons I learned about storytelling on stage have absolutely influenced my storytelling on the page. I actually teach workshops to show writers how to use acting methods, specifically the Stanislavski Technique, to help plot story.
What a wonderful way to teach writing! I love how you weave mathematics into Beatrice's story. In what ways do you hope readers can see themselves in her experiences?
I love writing about STEM girls in my books (3:59, GET EVEN and GET DIRTY all feature girls who love math and science) and my goal is to destigmatize these disciplines which for so long have been considered "for boys." You can be a normal, fun, functional member of high school society AND be into STEM fields without morphing into a The Big Bang Theory stereotype.
True that. I love the design of your website, as well as its usability. What recommendations, if any, do you have for authors looking to build and/or update their online platforms?
Branding is important. Website, Twitter, Official Facebook Page - they should all have the same look, the same content, and the same voice. That way, fans know they've found the real you immediately. You want a clean man page for your website where users can easily find what they're looking for: bio, info about your books, upcoming events. And if you have a newsletter, make sure the sign up page is right there front and center!
And a quick word about your bio: I have three versions on my website - long, short, and mini. When you're doing events, organizers and moderators are going to go to your website to find a bio to read. Give them options! Sometimes, they'll want to read the whole long shebang (if you're a keynote speaker, or a guest of honor, etc.) as an introduction, and other times, a short version will do (like if you're on a panel with four other authors). Make your bio easy to find, easy to download, and keep them updated!
Great bio tips! What are some of your current projects?
My next book comes out in the spring of 2018 with Disney/Freeform. It's called #MURDERTRENDING and it's set fifteen minutes in the future where a reality TV "star" turned President of the United States has sold the criminal justice system to a Hollywood producer and turned San Francisco's Treasure Island into Alcatraz 2.0, a penal colony where criminals are sent to live in a faux suburban environment and are hunted down by serial killers. Their deaths are filmed and streamed live on an app for people's phones and tablets. When a seventeen-year-old is falsley convicted of killing her stepsister and sentences to Alcatraz 2.0, she must stay alive long enough to figure out who framed her and why.
Did I mention it's a comedy? Well, a horror comedy. :)
Gretchen McNeil is
the author of several young adult horror/suspense novels for Balzer + Bray
including POSSESS, 3:59, RELIC, GET EVEN, GET DIRTY, and the award-winning TEN.
In 2016, Gretchen published her first YA comedy I'M NOT YOUR MANIC PIXIE DREAM
GIRL, and her next novel will be the horror-comedy #MURDERTRENDING for
Disney/Freeform. The film
adaptation of TEN starring China Anne McClain (Descendants 2, Black Lightning) and Rome Flynn (The Bold and the Beautiful) premieres
later this year.
I've been a fan of Brigid Kemmerer for a long time, and I interviewed her a few years back. I'm excited to announce that she has a brand new book out, and it looks spectacular:
Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.
Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.
When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.
In our last interview (from 2012), you said, "I'm a firm believer of putting conflict on every page, and that includes the opening." Is this still true? In what ways, if any, have your novel openings evolved since?
This is absolutely still true! My writing has definitely improved, but sometimes I'll still get emails from my beta readers saying, "I think you might have started this one a little too fast..." I like to jump right into the action. My goal is to grab a reader so they can't put a book down once it starts.
A goal you've attained many times! I always love romances written through letters. Did Juliet and Declan's story come to you at once, or did it weave itself together over time?
For the most part, it came to me all at once. It was the first book I've ever sold on proposal (meaning Bloomsbury bought the book before it was fully written), so I had to write out a full synopsis with the twist and everything. I was worried that would sap my creativity, but it was actually really helpful to have an outline by my side as I was writing.
Indeed. I wish I'd embraced outlines sooner! I also love the book's cover--what about the design do you like the most?
I love the cover! I think I'm most excited about the fact that Bloomsbury's art department actually hand-wrote letters from the book, and then superimposed those on the flower petals. It's incredibly detailed and beautiful, and I love the juxtaposition of words about blood and death being superimposed on something delicate and beautiful like the flowers.
I didn't know those were the actual letters! What a poignant way to symbolize the story's themes. What are some of your current projects?
My next novel will be More Than We Can Tell, a contemporary YA companion novel to Letters to the Lost. After that will be A Curse So Dark and Lonely, a contemporary/fantasy crossover, hopefully coming mid-2019.
I met Effie Seiberg at this year's FOGcon, and I was immediately struck by both her engaging personality and unique writing voice. Her stories can be found in the "Women Destroy Science Fiction!" special edition of Lightspeed Magazine (winner of the 2015 British Fantasy Award for Best Anthology), Galaxy's Edge, Analog, Fireside Fiction, and PodCastle, among others.
You've worked a variety of places, including Google, IBM, and Tor. What was your favorite job, and why?
My favorite job is my current one. I have my own strategy and marketing consulting business where I work primarily with tech startups. Being independent means it's easier to carve out time for writing, and working with lots of types of businesses means I get to learn a lot of new things! Learning more about 3D printing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, sneaky types of mobile phone tracking, and more, is all great fodder for science fiction.
I'll bet it is! What brought you to writing, and what do you wish you'd learned sooner?
I've always loved to read, in particular science fiction and fantasy. When I was in college I did a bit of creative writing for a few classes, but it took another ten years for it to become a substantial endeavor! I wish I'd known how much I really loved it and stuck with it back then, since then I'd have ten more years of practice under my belt. Now if only I could find a Time-Turner /TARDIS/ DeLorean...
I wish that too--until I remember what William Shatner said: “The journey must be taken in individual moments. Enjoy the ride for the ride.” Speaking of an exciting ride, you recently did a reading event with Peter S. Beagle. What was that like?
Not even gonna hide my fangirling here - Peter S. Beagle is one of my literary heroes. (When I was in middle school, "The Last Unicorn" was my all-time favorite book. In fact, I still have that old copy, which he's now signed!) So meeting him, chatting with him at the pre-reading dinner, and then actually reading with him, was an unbelievable honor. The guy is sort of a real-life version of the butterfly from "The Last Unicorn" - he peppers the conversation with references from the common (Shakespeare) to the semi-obscure (France's national poet in the 70s), and throughout is woven humor and deep wisdom. That sprinkling of references is something I've picked up in my own writing, and it took me until that conversation with him to see why! I hadn't realized just how influential he's been on my work.
I read a short story called "Recipe: 1 Universe" (2016, Galaxy's Edge), and an upcoming short story called "Carbon Dating" (2017, Galaxy's Edge), both of which are lighthearted pieces with a sliver of social and philosophical commentary. He read an upcoming short story about the origins of Schmendrick the Magician from "The Last Unicorn", which was of course wry and witty. I'm always going to treasure that experience!
And thanks for sharing it with us! What are some of your current projects?
Coming in May in Galaxy's Edge, "Carbon Dating" is a story written in collaboration with Spencer Ellsworth (http://spencerellsworth.com/), and is the story of the Internet gaining consciousness and scanning itself for dating advice. Predictably, internet dating advice is not always the most sound, and hijinks ensue.
Coming this year in PodCastle, "The Thirty-Seven Faces of Tokh-Bathon" is a story of a strict religion where monks devote their lives to solving a complicated logic puzzle, and of the little girl who cleans the temple and accidentally breaks the pattern of truths and falsehoods.
And separately, I'm currently working on a middle grade novel tentatively titled "The Bird Job", which has a mob war and con artists and a heist that goes terribly awry when a fire-breathing chicken-parrot hybrid hatches in the bank vault and imprints on the thieves. Hard to be stealthy with a squawking thing following you around and shooting fireballs into the air!
You can read more of my stories on my site, effieseiberg.com, and if you want daily musings, bad puns, and pictures of my dog Yoyo, you can follow me on Twitter at @effies.
I've met Victoria (V.E.) Schwab on a few occasions, and each time I'm more convinced that she's an author every writer should aspire toward. The final book in The Shades of Magic series, A CONJURING OF LIGHT, debuted last month, and if you haven't read this series yet, DO. It's a fast-paced fantasy filled with unique world-building and gorgeous writing.
Kell is one of the last travelers--magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.
There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King--George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered--and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London--a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.
It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell's possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland's dying body through the rift--back into Black London.
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games--an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries--a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.
THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED...
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.
WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell - once assumed to be the last surviving Antari - begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?
WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace - but never common - thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.
WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.
While you at it, also check out her Monsters of Verity YAduology--the second book, OUR DARK DUET, comes out this June.
There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.
Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.
Kate Harker is a girl who isn’t afraid of the dark. She’s a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human, no matter how much he once yearned for it. He’s a monster with a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.
Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own.
You've said that while you don't dislike romance in YA novels, that romance doesn't necessarily have to be the only thing that drives the stakes in a story (which I completely agree with). What kinds of stories resonate most with you as a reader and why?
The stories that resonate with me most—or more precisely the relationships in those stories—are the ones that involve antagonism and adversaries. I love putting people who DON’T obviously match up. Either rivals or siblings, strained family pairings or those with philosophies at odds. I love being surprised by characters, being won over. I’m all about the long con when it comes to relationships in books, and I can’t stand stagnancy. I want the relationships to evolve and change in realistic ways, whether that’s coming together or shoving apart.
That's a good thing to remember when crafting characters--and likely why yours have such great voices. A CONJURING OF LIGHT is the last book in the Shades of Magic series. In what ways, if any, did the final plot threads twist in ways you didn't expect?
I plan and write the ending of my books first, so I knew where each and every thread would end, and only one plot thread (a character arc, actually) surprised me. I can’t specify which one (spoiler) but suffice it to say that what I wanted as the writer and what I wanted as the reader went to war for a bit. I’m really, really happy with how the ending turned out, but it was harder to write than I anticipated.
The best stories are usually the ones we struggle most with as writers. Speaking of struggle, I love how your novel VICIOUS explores the point-of-view of villains. What did you find most enjoyable about exploring alternate moral perspectives?
My goal when I set out to write VICIOUS was to write a book without heroes, and then to make the reader root for one of them. It was an exercise in the theory that it’s not about what people do, but why they do it. My favorite aspect of the process wasn’t just writing the villains themselves (though it was wonderfully refreshing to write characters unburdened by morals) but watching readers struggle with their own moral compass while reading!
Indeed we have, and it's one of the things that makes VICIOUS stand out most. What are some of your current projects?
Well, right now I’m finishing up copyedits on OUR DARK DUET, the second half of the Monsters of Verity duology, which comes out June 13th! I’m also working on a middle grade series I’m really excited about, and about halfway through my next adult novel, VENGEFUL (a sequel to VICIOUS). As you can probably tell, I’ve never been good at sitting still.
When I saw this book series, I knew I had to feature it--I mean, who doesn't love a ninja librarian? The first book is called THE ACCIDENTAL KEYHAND, and the second book, THE SWORD IN THE STACKS, came out last June. Jen Downey will be talking kids’ books and intellectual freedom at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest on April 21-22nd (https://sokybookfest.org), and at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 20th (http://www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org). You can find out more on her website, www.jenswanndowney.com.
Dorrie Barnes had no idea an overdue library book would change her life. When Dorrie and her brother Marcus chase her pet mongoose into the janitor's closet of their local library, they accidentally fall through a passage into Petrarch's Library -the headquarters of a secret society of ninja librarians who have an important mission: protect those whose words have gotten them into trouble. Anywhere in the world and at any time in history.
Dorrie would love nothing more than to join the society. But when a traitor surfaces, she and her friends are the prime suspects. Can they clear their names before the only passage back to the twenty-first century closes forever?
Dorrie is eager to do well at her practicums, and prove her worth as an apprentice, but before she can choose between "Spears, Axes, and Cats: Throwing Objects with Precision and Flair” and "First and Last Aid: When No One Else Is Coming", mistakes made by Dorrie in the past cause trouble for the lybrarians.
The Foundation, once nearly destroyed by the Lybrariad, now has the means to rise from its ashes, and disappear reading and writing from the world. To make sure it succeeds, the Foundation sets in motion a dark plan to increase the power of a cruel figure from the fifteenth century.
To stop the Foundation, Dorrie, Marcus and Ebba will have to burglarize Aristotle, gather information among the suffragists and anti-suffragists of 1912 London, and risk their lives to wrest a powerful weapon out of the Foundation's hands - all while upholding the Lybrariad's first principle of protecting all writing, appreciated or despised. If they fail, reading and writing will only be the first things to disappear.
What do you love most about libraries? About librarians?
Well let’s start with the pure metamorphic magic of the situation! Libraries LOOK tame and demure, but that’s merely a clever disguise, twitched around the wild world of imagination and possibility. What is a library but shelf upon shelf, aisle upon aisle of these largely unremarkable rectangular cuboids we call books? The physical ingredients are prosaic: some variant of ink and paper. Orderliness and findability, not artfulness, dictate their arrangement. But each book is an un-popped kernel of corn, a sleeping giant, a nuclear reactor with ingredients still in separate containers a pile of kindling arranged to become a flaming bonfire before the right eyes. Books defy their dimensions, containing vast emotional and physical landscapes, epic battles, hearts stretched to the breaking point, and fresh vistas at every towering mountain pass, and hellish gate. I have to love a place that can hold all that alchemical energy!
Another thing I love about libraries in their ideal form is that they can act as potent bulwarks against self-deception and limited perspective. A library encourages both imagination and humility. Humility is such an important counterweight to arrogance when the project is to develop knowledge. Without humility, the knowledge development process stalls. In a library we have the chance to test our most cherished assumptions about the way the world works, or might best work through books that challenge our original points of view. In librarians, we have people who privilege the availability of different viewpoints to the public, over the option to shape a collection according to that librarian’s favored opinions.
Speaking of alchemical energy, I love The Ninja Librarians series. Where did the concept come from, and what has been the most rewarding part of writing the series?
Thank you! So glad you’re enjoying. The concept had some of its roots in my view of librarians as quiet (and sometimes not so quiet!) heroes because of their role in ensuring and protecting free access to information, and a basic belief among many librarians that people need free access to and not protection from ideas. The rewards have been numerous! I love history, and writing the books have so far given me an excuse and reason to focus on learning more about ancient Greece, medieval Timbuktu, and 1910s England. Even more lusciously, I’ve had a chance to roam historical archives in search of figures from past centuries such as Cyrano de Bergerac and Hypatia of Alexandria, whose recorded actions and attitudes indicate that IF the Lybrariad existed, they might have joined! The third wonderfully satisfying part of Ninja Librarian-ing has been the fun of creating the purely fantastical time-port headquarters of “Petrarch’s Library” with its sumptuous maze of interconnected rooms, and imagining the fun I would have had in it as a kid!
I would have had fun in it too! What is something you wished you'd known when you started your writing career?
I wish I’d known that I wasn’t really ready to submit to agents when I did. I got extremely lucky in that my agent was building her list at the time, and truly liked something about the voice in the manuscript, and was willing to help me develop it further, but I could have wasted a lot of agent queries with my half-baked manuscript. So, writers, take your time! When you are sure its really ready to send, that’s the time to put it into the hands of a trusted critique partner, and get another round of feedback, both from the critique partner and from your own self once you’ve been away from it for at least a few weeks.
I don’t know if the second thing I want to talk about is so much a matter of wishing that I’d “known” a particular thing as wishing that I’d been CAPABLE of doing a few things differently. For instance, I “knew” better than to get caught up in a fantasy that my first book (a fantasy! : ) would be an instant blockbuster success, but I indulged in it nonetheless. It made me very jittery in the six months following publication, and it was difficult to put it out of my head, and focus my energies on writing my next book. I wasted countless hours keeping tabs on Goodreads reviews and Amazon ratings, and scanning for new reviews…looking to the literary establishment for a version of writerly salvation — If the book became wildly popular, I’ll have “got there” and THEN I could relax, be productive, or some such nonsense. Understandable nonsense, but nonsense all the same.
So writers, attend to your writing. Do your writing in such a way that it continues to bring you joy, and allows you to PLAY, no matter where you are in terms of engaging in writing as a profession. It’s easy to get caught up in the feeling that on the brink of publication one is holding a lottery ticket, and that its very important to stare at the television in case your number is called. Fuggheduboudit! Really. Try. With all your might. Once your book is out there. To. FUGGHEDUBOUDIT! Instead, start a meaningful relationship with your next book’s characters and plot and place and point. Go THERE.
Sage advice for writers at all levels! What are some of your current projects?
In my office, I have three project piles on my desk, and a whole lot of index-card covered boards standing around like drunken soldiers. Two of the projects are MG novels (The 3rd Ninja Librarians book & a story about a kid who can’t make up her mind to save her life, until she has to save somebody else’s). The third project is a YA about a sixteen-year girl in a fantastical past who is an excellent nanny and an even better thief. Just when she’s saved up enough money to abandon her uh... more lucrative ”trade” and enroll in the local University for Wannabe Scryers, her plans are dashed to dangerous pieces. The Queen’s Intelligence Service gives her a choice: Help the Perimeter Security Office solve a pressing mystery in the distant Witch Meadows that endangers all of Aaachenland, or be thrown to the council court-worms. She opts to live. What she finds out in the Witch Meadows will challenge everything she thinks she knows about how scryence is practiced, and how the world works. If she survives, she might just become a powerful Scryer after all.