Wednesday, April 26, 2017


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.  :)

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For Gretchen McNeil's other books, go here.

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.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

LETTERS TO THE LOST by Brigid Kemmerer

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.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Carbon Dating, Ro-Sham-Bot, Recipe: 1 Universe, and other short stories by Effie Seiberg

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 (, 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,, and if you want daily musings, bad puns, and pictures of my dog Yoyo, you can follow me on Twitter at @effies.

Buy: ~ 

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Shades of Magic series and the Monsters of Verity duology, by Victoria (V.E.) Schwab

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 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.

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?

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.

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 YA duology--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.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Pre-order: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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