Wednesday, April 25, 2018

THE FIRST TO KNOW by Abigail Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Release Feature: SKY IN THE DEEP by Adrienne Young

Happy release day to SKY IN THE DEEP, by Adrienne Young! It's already getting a ton of buzz. I first featured the book here, and I can't wait to read it:

Seventeen-year-old Eelyn’s world is war. Raised to fight alongside her Aska clansmen in a generations-old blood feud against the Riki, her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother's betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki if she wants to make it back to the fjord after the thaw. But when she begins to see herself in the people she's been taught to hate, the world Eelyn once knew begins to crumble. And after the village is raided by a ruthless clan many believe to be a myth, Eelyn is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend who has tried more than once to kill her. Together, they must end the blood feud between their clans or watch their people be slaughtered.

A lush, Viking-age inspired fantasy about loyalty, forgiveness, and the definition of family.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE by Rachel Lynn Solomon

I've wanted to feature Rachel Lynn Solomon ever since I saw the cover for YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE in my Facebook feed. I love books that explore duality, and the dichotomy of these twins is significant as well as symbolic.

Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

According to your website bio, you used to work for NPR. What did you enjoy most about working there, and in what ways, if any, did it lead to (or supplement) your writing career?

My degree is in journalism, and for a while, I was certain my career was in public radio. I worked for two NPR stations in Seattle as a producer and (very) occasional reporter, and my favorite part was being involved in something that was so much bigger, being part of an organization that's such a force for good in the world. Ultimately, though, journalism was not for me long-term, and the major reason was that I really struggled to manage my emotions while working on heavy stories. Public radio is extremely competitive, though -- there are so few jobs that actually exist in the country, and only a couple places you can work in each state if this is something you really want to do. While it wasn't my path, I did pursue it with vigor for several years post-college, and I imagine that ambition carried over to writing. I tend to be very, very stubborn about my goals!

That's definitely a good thing! YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE explores the possibilities that arise with duality. What do you think it is about the book that most connects with readers?

That's such an interesting question. One thing I've noticed is that while some readers do connect more with one twin, many find themselves rooting for both, or even seeing themselves in both. Adina and Tovah are different, but they're far from opposites. In terms of plot, a lot of us with anxiety (including me) tend to catastrophize. The idea of these opposite fates -- one twin testing negative and one twin testing positive for Huntington's -- is heartbreaking, terrifying, and fascinating. There's so much tension in the premise alone.

Definitely. In your interview with Kit Frick, you talked about the "done-ness" of a book. In your experience, in what ways can a book be "done" as opposed to finished? 

Honestly, no book of mine has ever been "done" at this point except for YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE. I can't open up the document and tweak a sentence or fix a typo. I feel like all my projects are living documents; even after I send something to critique partners or my agent, I'm sometimes still fiddling. "Finished" for me often means it's not keeping me up at night. It means I'm not sending my friend five emails in a row with subject lines like "read this version" and "no wait, actually read this version" and "FINAL VERSION. FOR REAL." Being "done" was hard because I had to finally let go of the characters. They don't occupy space in my mind anymore; that's reserved for my works-in-progress. But I was ready to be done, ready for it to be out in the world.

I'm so glad it is. What are some of your current projects? 

I've just wrapped up final(ish) edits on OUR YEAR OF MAYBE, which is coming out from Simon Pulse in early 2019! So it's "finished" but not "done" :). It's dual POV, like my debut, and is about the aftermath of a kidney transplant between best friends, complicated by the fact that the donor is in love with the recipient. I'm also working on a YA romantic comedy and a short story for a Jewish YA anthology coming out next fall.

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Rachel Lynn Solomon lives, writes, and tap dances in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of two young adult novels, You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone (out now from Simon Pulse) and Our Year of Maybe (out in 2019). You can find her online at and on Twitter @rlynn_solomon.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018


It's always a pleasure catching up with Tim Floreen, which I was able to do at this year's YANovCon. I couldn't wait to feature ANATOMY OF A MURDERER, the paperback edition of his book TATTOO ATLAS, which comes out on April 24.

A teenage sociopath is “fixed” after he gets an implant that’s supposed to cure him in this thrilling coming-of-age tale from the author of Willful Machines.

A year ago, Rem Braithwaite watched his classmate Franklin Kettle commit a horrific crime.

Now, apart from the nightmares, life has gone back to normal for Rem. Franklin was caught, convicted, and put away in juvenile detention for what he did. The ordeal seems to be over.

Until Rem’s mother selects Franklin as a test subject for an experimental brain procedure intended to “cure” him of his cruel and violent impulses. Suddenly Rem’s memories of that day start coming back to the surface. His nightmares become worse than ever. Plus he has serious doubts about whether his mother’s procedure will even work. Can evil really just be turned off?

Then, as part of Franklin’s follow-up testing, he and Rem are brought face to face, and Rem discovers…Franklin does seem different. Despite everything, Rem finds himself becoming friends with Franklin. Maybe even something more than friends.

But when another of their classmates turns up dead, Rem’s world turns upside-down yet again. Franklin insists that he’s innocent, that he’s cured, but Rem doesn’t know what to believe. Is someone else responsible for this new murder, or is Franklin fated to stay a monster forever? And can Rem find out the answer to this question before the killer, whoever it is, comes after him too?

On your website, you mention that you are "a little obsessed with Wonder Woman." Where did this "obsession" start, and what did you think of the Wonder Woman movie with Gal Godot?

 I’m totally dating myself here, but my love of Wonder Woman actually started with the Lynda Carter TV show, which began airing when I was three years old. Her glamour and power captured my imagination, and pretty soon I was having my mom make me a tiara and bracelets out of paper so I could run around tying up friends and family with my “magic lasso.” I’ve loved her ever since. Last year, though I was thrilled someone was FINALLY making a Wonder Woman movie, I was also nervous that my beloved character would get ruined. So it came as a huge relief when I saw the movie and found I LOOOOOVED it. It took all the classic elements of the Wonder Woman character and combined them in a way that felt completely new and fresh—while saying something quite profound about war and the nature of evil.

I agree! DC finally got themselves some decent screenwriters too. 
ANATOMY OF A MURDERER is the paperback edition of TATTOO ATLAS. Can you share what led to the title change in the latest edition? 

I think the publisher was concerned that the previous title, TATTOO ATLAS, didn’t give a clear enough idea of what the book was about. I came up with a list of alternate titles, and my editor chose ANATOMY OF A MURDERER, a play on the title of the classic movie ANATOMY OF A MURDER. This title definitely ties directly to what lies at the center of the novel: the body of the teenage sociopath Franklin Kettle—more specifically, his brain. AOAM is a psychological thriller that deals with the question of what might make the brain of a killer different and whether changing the way the brain works can actually make a “bad” person “good.” In other words, CAN EVIL BE CURED? (Cue dramatic music.)

A thought provoking question, indeed! In our last interview, you mentioned you were contributing to a "collaborative novel" project called FERAL YOUTH. What was the most rewarding part of this process?

I had a blast working on FERAL YOUTH. First off, I just love the idea of the project—a book that’s not quite a novel and not quite an anthology, but something in between. The premise is that a group of teens at a wilderness survival camp for troubled youth are passing the time telling each other stories, Canterbury Tales-style. Each of the involved authors wrote one of the stories and developed the character telling that story, and Shaun David Hutchinson wrote the framing narrative. I loved getting to work with him and all the other authors. Plus, it was so much fun writing a short story—something I hadn’t done in a while—and trying my hand at a noir-style revenge tale.

Looks like I'll have to add FERAL YOUTH to my TBR list!  If you could tell your younger writer self one thing, what would it be and why? 

Write for yourself, not for others. I wasted too many years writing the kind of fiction I thought I was SUPPOSED to write instead of the kind that truly filled me with joy. I’m much happier writing sci-fi thrillers for young adults. :)



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Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound


Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

CHAINBREAKER, the second in the Timekeeper series, by Tara Sim

I first featured Tara Sim here, and as soon as I saw the exciting new cover for CHAINBREAKER, I knew a re-feature was in order. CHAINBREAKER builds on what happened in TIMEKEEPER, and puts it into a dramatic new setting: India.

Clock mechanic Danny Hart knows he's being watched. But by whom, or what, remains a mystery. To make matters worse, clock towers have begun falling in India, though time hasn't Stopped yet. He'd hoped after reuniting with his father and exploring his relationship with Colton, he'd have some time to settle into his new life. Instead, he's asked to investigate the attacks.

After inspecting some of the fallen Indian towers, he realizes the British occupation may be sparking more than just attacks. And as Danny and Colton unravel more secrets about their past, they find themselves on a dark and dangerous path--one from which they may never return.

In our last interview, you said, "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." In what ways, if any, has time been magic for you?

There's a quote in Timekeeper that kind of expands on the idea of time seeming to shorten as you get older, which is definitely true. There's also a strange magic in the way that time both seems to stretch and somehow take forever, which I've never been able to figure out. There's always some difference in how time feels and how it's told, if that makes sense.

CHAINBREAKER deals with the British occupation in India. What about this era of history do you wish people knew more about?

Well, basically everything! I was always really sad that we never got to study India in school; the most we got was learning about Gandhi. I didn't even know all that much about the British Raj until I started doing research for Chainbreaker, but it was SUCH an important period in the country's history that ultimately shaped it into what it is today. India didn't even get independence until 1947, which really isn't that long ago. England had the country in its clutches before that, with a strong military presence that was able to snuff any and all rebellions that arose in that time.

Yes, didn't know much either, until I learned about the Partition of 1947 during my time as a librarian. Here's hoping more of India's history gets discussed in schools.
I've often heard second books in a series can be difficult to write. What was your experience with CHAINBREAKER, and what, if anything, did you learn from it?

When I wrote the first draft, I actually had fun with it, despite the amount of research I had to juggle. It definitely had its difficulties, particularly in regards to plotting--what information to reveal and where, and with which character--and how to write about India from a certain perspective. I think this book helped me learn even more about how to bridge books 1 and 3 of a trilogy, about letting the book have its own arc while continuing the overall trilogy arc.

Sounds useful! What are three books (besides yours) you would recommend to your readers and why?

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab, for more magical London hijinks.

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A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING by Jessica Cluess, for even MORE magical (Victorian) London hijinks.

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WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon, for cute Indian romance.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound


Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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