Monday, September 16, 2019

MERGED by Jim Kroepfl and Stephanie Kroepfl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did you know you wanted to collaborate together?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

UNPREGNANT by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Kaplan

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

THERE WILL COME A DARKNESS by Katy Rose Pool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


Indeed. What are some of your current projects?

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


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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Release Feature: ONLY ASHES REMAIN by Rebecca Schaeffer

I featured Rebecca Schaeffer's Market of Monsters series here. At long last, the second book, ONLY ASHES REMAIN, is out in the world!


After escaping her kidnappers and destroying the black market where she was held captive, all Nita wants is to find a way to live her life without looking over her shoulder. But with a video of her ability to self-heal all over the dark web, Nita knows she’s still a prime target on the black market.

There’s only one way to keep herself safe.

Nita must make herself so feared that no one would ever dare come after her again. And the best way to start building her reputation? Take her revenge on Fabricio, the boy who sold Nita to her kidnappers. But killing Fabricio is harder than Nita thought it would be, even with Kovit by her side. Now caught in a game of kill or be killed, Nita will do whatever it takes to win.



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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

DEMON IN THE WHITELANDS by Nikki Z. Richard

DEMON IN THE WHITELANDS is the debut novel from Month9Books author Nikki Z. Richard. This book is a LGBTQIA YA Fantasy that will debut at the end of September 2019.

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

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

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

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

According to your website bio, you are pursuing a Ph.D. How do you balance this with your writing commitments?

Balancing schoolwork with my other writing commitments has never been an easy task, but I honestly don't think I've known another way of doing life. School is a place where you're forced to read a bunch of different things, and then you're forced to write about what you've read. College is probably one of the best environments for a writer. I wrote my first short story as an undergraduate student at LSU in a Fiction workshop course, and since then I've been writing creative works (poems, short stories, novels, screenplays, etc.) alongside my more traditional academic writing projects. In a way, learning how to write a strong research paper on racial and gender inequality in Chimimanda Adichie's Americannah helps me know how to write a really good story with those same thematic elements. I guess that's a very braggadocios way of saying, "I'm a nerd and I love school!" And I never sleep, and I drink a lot of coffee.

I also love school. I think that's one reason I became a librarian. I'm intrigued by the mute "demon" girl in DEMON IN THE WHITELANDS. How did she come to you?

For me, Zei is a perfect representation of the voiceless other. People tend to fear what they don't understand. It's a cliche saying, but I've always found it to be true. Zei is an intelligent humanoid being with superb physicality, but lacks sexual organs and the ability to speak. Because of this, Zei's identity is postulated and imposed by others, mainly those in power. Is Zei a human, a demon, a monster, or something else? The mayor claims Zei to be some sort of "demon." In his naiveté, Samuel assigns gender and sexual identity to Zei, because Zei "looks like a girl." It's only when Samuel gives Zei access to writing tools that he is able to learn their true name. Instead of prescribing identity and intentions towards someone or something we don't understand, I believe it's our responsibility not to simply try and "listen," but to make sure the voiceless are given access to the tools they need to be heard.

Absolutely. What do you feel is the most difficult part of the writing process and why?

The most difficult part of the writing process is actual writing-it-down part. I could live in my head all day, and I have a hundred different ideas for stories I'm always mulling over, but it's like pulling teeth sometimes to get me to sit still long enough to punch the keys and write the words down. I really enjoy editing, so for me that's the easy part. It's that initial leap of faith, taking time out of your life to write down words that may or may not work out into a worthwhile project, that always kicks my butt. But, thankfully, I've been getting better at forcing those 1st draft ideas out.

First drafts are indeed challenging--I have to remind myself there are no wasted words. What are some of your current projects?

My biggest upcoming project is a new-adult queer dystopian love story that's sort of a hybrid between Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. It's actually going to serve as my creative dissertation for my PhD! And, of course, I've already working on the sequel to Demon in the Whitelands, which will bring a lot more answers in regards to Zei's origins.


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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

TURNING DARKNESS INTO LIGHT by Marie Brennan

I first featured Marie Brennan here. I saw her again at last year's WorldCon, and when I found out that that there would be a novel featuring Dragon Naturalist Lady Trent's granddaughter, I couldn't wait to spread word about it. The book debuted yesterday, and is now available.

As the renowned granddaughter of Isabella Camherst (Lady Trent, of the riveting and daring Draconic adventure memoirs) Audrey Camherst has always known she, too, would want to make her scholarly mark upon a chosen field of study.

When Lord Gleinheigh recruits Audrey to decipher a series of ancient tablets holding the secrets of the ancient Draconean civilization, she has no idea that her research will plunge her into an intricate conspiracy, one meant to incite rebellion and invoke war. Alongside dearest childhood friend and fellow archeologist Kudshayn, must find proof of the conspiracy before it’s too late.

In our last interview, you said, "[Objectivity] still requires you to sort through the advice you get and figure out which parts ring true, and that's much easier said than done." Which situations or projects have you found it most difficult to remain objective as a writer?

That’s a tough one! I think some of the hardest projects in that respect have been ones where the idea has been with me for a really long time, because they’re so ingrained in my mind that it’s difficult to change them.

I ran into that particularly with LIES AND PROPHECY, which was (in its original draft) the first novel I ever finished. I *know* it has structural flaws -- the viewpoint structure being the most significant one -- but they’re so baked into the concept that in the end, I could only do so much to change them. In the end, the book is what it is, and I can’t make it be something different.

I have sort of the opposite problem with another idea whose earliest roots date back to junior high school. It started out as fanfic of something else, and during late high school and college I started working on filing off the serial numbers so that I could make it an independent piece of fiction, while keeping the bits that were important to me. But there were so many bits that felt important, and yet they didn’t all fit together sensibly without the supporting elements I’d taken away, that I wound up trunking that for a long time, hoping I’d get the distance (and objectivity) I needed to really strip it down to the essentials and then build up again from there. Instead what’s happened is that I’ve gone back to look at it, and when I try to pick out the core bits I really want to keep . . . the whole thing crumbles to bits. I’m not sure any part of it has been strong enough to really survive and win back my attention. So if that thing ever sees the light of day, it will be as something only tangentially related to what it was before.


It makes sense that the longer you are with a project, the harder it is to complete the often necessary process of figuring out which parts to keep and which to throw away. You also drew from an existing universe in TURNING DARKNESS INTO LIGHT. Audrey Camherst, Lady Trent's granddaughter, makes her way into the foray of her own Draconean journey. When did Audrey first come to you, and how did you know her story needed to be told? 

I owe roundabout thanks for this to a girl named Elizabeth, whom I met at the Tucson Book Festival.

When I was signing a book for her after a panel, she asked if I’d thought about writing anything else in that setting. I started giving her my stock answer, which is that I’d love to do a kind of “nonfiction” companion volume for the Memoirs with Lady Trent’s field notes and such . . . and then out of nowhere, I got mugged with an idea.

That idea was not the idea I wound up writing! My first notion was to do a kind of in-world historical novel, written by someone in Isabella’s own country, about ancient Draconean civilization. But I’m more inclined to mythology, so my thoughts drifted from “historical novel” to “mythological epic” -- which doesn’t entirely work as a novel in the real world, since those tend to operate differently from modern fiction. On the other hand, an epic lent itself nicely to the scholarly angle you see in the Memoirs, so I had the notion of interleaving sections of a Draconean epic with sections of story about the people translating that epic, with intrigue and adventure surrounding the finding of the text and its meaning for the present day.

At that point it was only natural to make one of the translators someone connected to Lady Trent -- to wit, her granddaughter. Audrey popped straight into my head: a more 1920s kind of young woman, compared to her late Victorian grandmother, and struggling against the weight of expectation placed on someone connected to so illustrious a family.


What a great way to interweave story! How do you know which projects to prioritize and which to shelve?

It’s a complicated dance. Ideally I could just decide based on what has fired up my imagination enough that the story is demanding to be written -- and sometimes I get to do that. But just because I’m passionate about something doesn’t mean that editors will be, so there are various projects that have gotten shelved for lack of interest on that end.

I try to pay at least some attention to what will segue well out of what I’ve done previously, too. When I signed a contract with Tor for the last two novels of the Memoirs plus one more novel, our tentative agreement was that the latter would be a book called THE CHANGING SEA. But as I wrapped up Lady Trent’s story, I looked at that idea and realized it wouldn’t make anything like a good follow-up to what I’d been doing: its setting is a strange ocean that exists between worlds, its main characters are a bunch of people cursed for their sins in life, and the protagonist is a guy. I think it’s a cool concept, but that didn’t really seem like the right time for it. So my editor and I agreed to put that aside, and instead I wrote TURNING DARKNESS INTO LIGHT.

Shelved isn’t the same thing as chucked out, though. I do still hope to write THE CHANGING SEA someday, or one of the other projects currently on hiatus.


It's nice to be reminded that shelved projects aren't necessarily dead in the water! If you could tell your younger writer self one thing, what would it be and why?

Honestly, Younger Me had her head screwed on pretty well. This kind of question is usually about steering yourself away from mistakes or dead ends, but I don’t have any that I truly, profoundly regret -- there are certainly things that could have gone better, but in the end those things still got me to where I am now. So I think that I’d mostly just give Younger Me a pep talk, reassurance that yes, this is indeed a long game, that it may take me a while but I’ll break through. I believed that was true at the time, but there were stretches where it would have been nice to have the confirmation.


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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

THE DANCING GIRLS and TAKEN TO THE GRAVE by M.M. Chouinard

When I met M.M. Choinaurd, and heard about her book THE DANCING GIRLS, I knew I had to spread word about this crime thriller series and its amazing heroine. The second book, TAKEN TO THE GRAVE, just went up for pre-order on Amazon:


When Jeanine Hammond is found dead in a hotel in the picture-perfect town of Oakhust, newly-promoted Detective Jo Fournier is thrown into a disturbing case. Who would murder this shy, loving wife and leave her body posed like a ballerina?

Jo wants to know why Jeanine's husband is so controlling about money, and where Jeanine's wedding ring is, but before she and her team can get close to the truth, another woman is found strangled in a hotel, arms placed gracefully above her head like a dancer.

While digging through old case files, Jo makes a terrifying link to a series of cold cases: each victim bears the same strangulation marks. But the FBI won't take Jo seriously, and if she disobeys direct orders by investigating the killings outside of her jurisdiction, it will mean the end of the career she's already sacrificed so much for, even her relationship.

Just as Jo is beginning to lose hope, she finds messages on the victims' computers that make her question whether these small-town women were hiding big lies. Jo thinks this is the missing link, but she knows the murderer is moments away from selecting his next victim. Will it lead her to the most twisted killer of her career in time, or will another innocent life be lost?


When a girl’s body is discovered in a park in the sleepy Massachusetts town of Oakhurst, local detective Jo is shocked to the core. Because the girl is the second innocent victim to turn up dead in three days. And just like the first, a tarot card has been left by the body. The meaning of the card: betrayal.

After uncovering a series of threatening messages targeting the girl, a student at the university, and the first victim, her teacher, Jo thinks she’s locked the killer in her crosshairs. The primary suspect is a volatile ex-military student with an axe to grind for failing grades, and the frightened town is out for his blood. But the next day, a much-loved member of the community is found dead in her home, a tarot card in her mail. There’s no clear motive to link her death to the others, and the message on the card this time is even stranger: domestic bliss.

With a fourth body and card appearing the following day, Jo knows she’s running out of time to crack the code and bring the killer to justice. And the pressure only gets worse with heart-breaking news about Jo’s father forcing her to choose between helping her family heal or the victims’ families get justice. Can Jo find the twisted murderer sending the town into a panic before another life is lost? Or this time, will the dangerous killer find her first?


You are the owner and operator of Lacquer Or Leave Her!, a nail polish and nail art blog. What originally got you interested in nail art? 

I’ve always loved nail polish, to the point where an ex-boyfriend teased me once that my nails were only ever without polish for the time it took me to remove and reapply. Fast forward years to me as a professor working such crazy long hours and combine that with a niece who started sending me all sorts IG photos and YouTube videos of cool nail art. I’d given up all the artistic outlets in my life because of the hours I was working, so nail art seemed like a relatively low-time investment artistic outlet. I discovered nail stamping and it became a first step on my journey to find balance.

A journey to find balance is definitely relatable. I love the character of Jo Fournier in THE DANCING GIRLS. Did Jo come to you fully formed or did she develop as you wrote her? 

I’m so glad you like her! She developed over time, or rather, she revealed herself to me over time. My first attempt to write a detective was influenced by the ones I’d fallen in love with as a young girl—Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, etc—mostly males. But as I wrote my male detective, I struggled to write one that interested me and that I wanted to spend time with—and if I didn’t want to spend time with them, my readers certainly wouldn’t. I stepped back and thought it through with the help of my critique group, and realized that as much as I loved those characters, I didn’t connect with them on a personal level the way I did with my favorite PI, Kinsey Millhone. So, I switched gears and wrote a woman detective, one who struggles with issues more in line with those that professional women deal with (at least, in my experience). While her specific struggles are different than mine, the more I write her, the more I believe they share something universal with the choices all woman have to make, and with the societal pressures on women. Jo’s specific struggle to find balance is different than mine, but the general struggle is universal across women—we all have to decide how many of our very limited hours we’re going to spend on career, family, self-care, and we all have to deal with the consequences of those choices. But despite those struggles, I also wanted to write a woman who was damned good at her job without turning into a mega ball-breaking bitch in the process; I think that’s an unfortunate corner many women are backed into if they want to be taken seriously. And as I write her, Jo teaches me something new in each book about what strength really means, and how much more powerful it is when paired with compassion.

Wonderfully put! You've also published flash fiction pieces. What do you like most about writing within a smaller story space?

I love the time I get to take on each word in the story. It’s like a puzzle you’re trying to solve, trying to get as much impact into every word as possible. I love reading a flash piece that takes a just a few minutes to read but stays with me for days—flash pieces are like stealth punches in the gut!—so trying to craft that myself is a lovely challenge. And it’s a fun way to use ideas I have that won’t work for a whole novel.

It is indeed! What are some of your current projects?

My second book in the Detective Jo Fournier series, TAKEN TO THE GRAVE, just went up for pre-order. I also have a traditional mystery about a woman who solves her late husband’s murder—and two others—with the help of an enchanted tarot deck that I’m trying to find a home for. And I’m currently writing a stand-alone thriller about a mysterious old-school text adventure game that appears on the dark web and turns out to have clues the players must hunt down in the real world—to deadly consequence, of course.


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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

TARNISHED ARE THE STARS by Rosiee Thor

I met Rosiee Thor at this year's YallWest in Santa Monica, and when I heard about her debut novel, TARNISHED ARE THE STARS, I had to feature it. Even better, it's set to debut on my birthday, October 15:

A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher's chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog -- donning the moniker Technician -- to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner's tyrannical laws.

Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner's son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father's respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father's elusive affection is worth chasing at all.

Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner's secrets at any cost -- even if it means betraying her own heart.

When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic -- before the Commissioner ends them first.


What originally drew you to steampunk?

I'll be honest, I don't actually remember what drew me to steampunk. I remember liking it, and I remember feeling like the essence of steampunk vibed with the themes I wanted to explore, but I don't remember the initial spark. It might have been an interview I saw about the steampunk community, or it might have been a pinterest photo, or maybe just the overwhelming desire to write about big hats. What I do know is that steampunk allowed me to explore the concept of technological advancement in an exciting way and really embodied the attitude of rebellion through technology, fashion, and social-constructs I wanted to partake in--and really, what more could you ask of a genre?

I think it's that sense of rebellion that draws me to steampunk too. I love that TARNISHED ARE THE STARS is a queer adventure story. What do you hope readers will take away once they've finished reading it?

I have a lot of hopes... probably more than is wise, if I'm being honest. But really the main thing I hope readers take away from this book is that adventure belongs to queer people too. So often I see queerness used as a plot device, and I wanted to write something where queer characters could be queer without that being the point of their story. I wanted them to exist and fight for what they believe in and solve mysteries while being queer without their queerness being a roadblock of some kind. I think issue books can be so important, and we need those, but we also need books where queer kids get to save the day without anyone telling them they can't simply because of who they are.

We absolutely do! I love the design of your website. What suggestions, if any, do you have for authors looking to build (or expand) their online presence?

Thank you! My website was designed by Gail Villanueva, who is an amazing graphic designer, and also a kidlit author! She did such a fabulous job of translating my personal aesthetic into a website and I could not be happier with it. As for advice, I think the best thing I ever did was give myself permission to be myself. So often I think people look for their personal brand and try to cultivate it, but the thing is... we all have personalities already, and most of the authors I see with successful online presences use their personality as their brand. Yes, it's good to be cognizant of what we say online and how that connects to our author brand, but more often than not you already have the tools you need to build your brand right there in your handy dandy personality--you don't have to pretend to be anyone you're not.

Well said! What are some of your current projects?

I can't talk a ton about my current projects yet, but I can say I'm working on another YA book. It's got some fantasy... and some science... and lots of fire! It's also starring queer characters, and while it isn't steampunk, it's got a similar vibe to my debut in that it's grounded sff with a super fun aesthetic! Hopefully I'll get to share more soon 🤞


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

This post can also be viewed here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Release Feature: MRS. SMITH'S SPY SCHOOL FOR GIRLS: DOUBLE CROSS by Beth McMullen

I'm excited to announce that MRS. SMITH'S SPY SCHOOL FOR GIRLS: DOUBLE CROSS by Beth McMullen is out today! I featured this book here, along with the other titles in the series.



Abby and her classmates have all been invited to Briar Academy to participate in The Challenge, a prep school competition where teams compete for prizes and the glory of being the best of the best. While there, they figure out their nemesis, The Ghost, is using Briar as headquarters to plan a devastating attack on his enemies (a.k.a.: pretty much everyone) using a brand-new invention Toby developed. And this time, The Center and Mrs. Smith will be of no help as Abby suspects there is someone working for The Ghost on the inside—and they can trust no one.







Other books in the series:


After a botched escape plan from her boarding school, Abigail is stunned to discover the school is actually a cover for an elite spy ring called The Center, along with being training grounds for future spies. Even more shocking? Abigail’s mother is a top agent for The Center and she has gone MIA, with valuable information that many people would like to have—at any cost. Along with a former nemesis and charming boy from her grade, Abigail goes through a crash course in Spy Training 101, often with hilarious—and sometimes painful—results. But Abigail realizes she might be a better spy-in-training than she thought—and the answers to her mother’s whereabouts are a lot closer than she thinks…




Abby and the rest of her friends go international as they embark on their first “official” Center mission in this second book in the Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls series.

After discovering the truth about her spy school/boarding school—and her super-spy mom—Abby Hunter is ready for her next adventure, but what’s about to happen is something she never would have guessed…

Everyone at The Smith School is obsessed with Monster Mayhem, the latest reality video game craze. But when Drexel Caine, the mastermind behind the game is suddenly kidnapped, it becomes clear that the kidnappers are playing for more than just special badges.

After Drexel’s son—who is Abby’s friend, Toby—receives a cryptic message, Abby and her friends discover the kidnapping is part of a bigger scheme that could take down The Center for good.

With the help of Abby’s frenemy (and reluctant mentor), Veronica Brooks, the group tackles their first official Center Mission. They tangle with the world’s most notorious hacker, get in trouble for the possible theft of the Mona Lisa, and prepare for the ultimate showdown in London. But not before they have to contend with one more hurdle: the agonizing Smith School Spring Formal. Along the way, they discover they are much stronger as a team they can ever be alone.

And with a little luck, they might just save the world.



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




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




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


Release Feature: #MURDERFUNDING by Gretchen McNeil

Happy release day to #MURDERFUNDING, the follow-up to #MURDERTRENDING by Gretchen McNeil! The full interview with Gretchen McNeil can be viewed here.

WELCOME TO WHO WANTS TO BE A PANIAC?, the latest reality TV show on the hunt for the next big-hit serial killer. But don’t worry—no one is actually going to murder anyone, as real as the fake gore and pretend murder may appear . . . uh, right?

Seventeen-year-old Becca Martinello is about to find out. When her perfectly normal soccer mom dies in a car crash, a strange girl named Stef appears to let Becca know that her deceased mom was none other than one of Alcatraz 2.0’s most popular serial killers—Molly Mauler. Soon, Becca ends up on Who Wants to Be a Painiac? to learn the truth about her mom’s connection to Molly Mauler, but things turn sinister when people are murdered IRL. Will Becca uncover dark secrets and make it out of the deadly reality show alive? Or will she get cut?




WELCOME TO THE NEAR FUTURE, where good and honest citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society's most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0. 

When seventeen-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she's about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn't commit. Can Dee and her newly formed posse, the Death Row Breakfast Club, prove she's innocent before she ends up wrongfully murdered for the world to see? Or will The Postman's cast of executioners kill them off one by one?









Wednesday, July 31, 2019

THE BUSINESS OF BEING A WRITER by Jane Friedman

I've followed Jane Friedman for quite a few years, and she's an excellent resource. I also saw her keynote at a recent conference, and she is an amazing speaker. Her newest book, THE BUSINESS OF BEING A WRITER, is great for anyone who wants to know more about the current warps and wefts of the publishing world:

Writers talk about their work in many ways: as an art, as a calling, as a lifestyle. Too often missing from these conversations is the fact that writing is also a business. The reality is, those who want to make a full- or part-time job out of writing are going to have a more positive and productive career if they understand the basic business principles underlying the industry.

The Business of Being a Writer offers the business education writers need but so rarely receive. It is meant for early-career writers looking to develop a realistic set of expectations about making money from their work or for working writers who want a better understanding of the industry. Writers will gain a comprehensive picture of how the publishing world works—from queries and agents to blogging and advertising—and will learn how they can best position themselves for success over the long term.

How did The Hot Sheet first come about? 

In 2011, journalist Porter Anderson began contributing guest posts at my site (JaneFriedman.com) with news and analysis on the publishing industry. After a few years, we eventually wrapped up that effort, as it wasn’t really an income generator for him or me, aside from a smattering of sponsorships.

So after that ended, we were talking about what else we might do together, and came up with the idea of a paid subscription email newsletter for authors, something that built on my expertise and understanding of the author community, and his industry access and travels to publishing conferences. Our oft-repeated tagline was “no drama, no hype.” We wanted to offer news and analysis that avoided the bias and rancor that can characterize discussions in both the traditional and self-publishing community. (Indie authors tend to excoriate traditional publishers and authors; traditional authors and publishers tend to demonize Amazon and look down on indie authors.)

No drama/bias/rancor is a welcome relief; it's also nice to hear about the parts of publishing that not many people talk about. In THE BUSINESS OF BEING A WRITER, you dispel the myth that publishing is harder now than it used to be, despite the current "cognitive surplus." How might writers' impressions play into some of these perceived barriers? 

Social media makes it immediate and easy to compare notes with other authors, and learn about how often and common it is to get rejected. While the information sharing and camaraderie is valuable, it can also encourage unproductive thoughts and anger (e.g., focusing on an unfair system, seeing editors/agents as idiots or disrespectful, etc). But the historical record shows that the relationship between authors and publishers has always been strained and occasionally adversarial. Even Horace complained about his publisher!

That said, discoverability today is harder. There's no sure way to make your book or  name stand out when so much potential media competes for readers' attention. This is why so many authors will give away their work for free or cheap: the attention is worth more to them than payment. The act of publishing, whether you traditionally publish or self-publish, isn’t all that hard. Selling what you publish—that’s when authors find out where the real difficulty lies.

The other thing I'll add is that while it is a challenging environment for debut novelists, more novels are published today than at any other time in history. The opportunities are greater, but the number of people competing at a high skill level are also greater. So I think it ends up being a wash as far as whether it's more difficult to get published. But to the writer it's always going to feel hard. (Some say it should feel hard to weed out the unserious.)

I've often heard conflicting opinions about giving away work on the free or cheap, and it's reassuring to know that writers can find opportunities in most situations. Between writing, consulting, maintaining your online presence, speaking, and everything else on your plate, to what degree do you find work/life balance and avoid burn-out? 

First, I like what author Alain de Botton says on this topic: let’s stop pretending such a thing even exists. “Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life,” he says. I agree.

Still, I have put in place protections for my own sanity.
  • I try to limit client appointments to three days a week so I have uninterrupted time to focus on writing and editing work.
  • I check and respond to email about once a day, in the afternoon.
  • I segment some social media to specific parts of the day rather than checking in frequently.
Because I work from home, it’s important that when I step away from the desk at the end of the day, I don’t return unless it’s an emergency. I say “no” to just about anything that would require me to work from home in the evening.

I also keep work email off my phone, even during work travel. That is probably the No. 1 way I preserve my mental health and I highly recommend it. Yes, it’s caused a few headaches here and there, but it’s a rule now. I don’t email from my phone, ever.

All of those are excellent ideas--especially separating email from the phone. In what ways do you see authorship further evolving amid current and new developments?

It depends on what sort of author you’re talking about. For traditionally published authors, we’re going to see increased pressure on novelists especially to become better marketers and promoters of their own work. The publishers just can’t effectively market or support every title, and sales of fiction are trending down. It’s harder to get that attention I mentioned earlier.

Indie authors are feeling more pressure than ever to advertise their books to keep sales up—to use social media ads, BookBub ads, and Amazon ads in particular. But knowing how to advertise well, and maintaining effective campaigns, is time consuming and something I considered a specialized skill. I hate to think that success in the future will depend on authors becoming online advertising experts (or having the funds to advertise), but that’s what it feels like right now.

All authors can invest in their long-term success by getting readers and fans onto an email newsletter list, so they can stay in touch with people most likely to buy their books. I know everyone’s sick of hearing about email marketing, but it works—and it’s by far the best defense against the power and control of platforms like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and others.


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



For Jane Friedman's other books, click here

For more about Jane Friedman, click here

This post can also be viewed here

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

FOREVER NEVERLAND by Susan Adrian

I first connected with Susan Adrian over Twitter when we discovered we had a mutual connection to UC Davis. Her latest book, FOREVER NEVERLAND, provides an interesting perspective within a familiar tale:


Clover and Fergus are the great-great-grandchildren of Wendy Darling (yes, that Wendy). And now Peter Pan wants to take them to Neverland for the adventure of their lives! But Clover’s a little nervous–she’s supposed to look after her brother. Fergus is autistic, and not everyone makes him feel welcome. What will happen to him in this magical world?

Fergus isn’t nervous at all. To him, Neverland seems like a dream come true! He’s tired of Clover’s constant mothering and wants some independence, like Peter and the Lost Boys have. He wonders, Why can’t the real world be more like Neverland?

Neverland is fun and free, but it’s also dangerous and even scary at times. There are unfamiliar creatures lurking in the shadows and strange sounds coming from the waters. And then the mermaids start to go missing. . . .


What brought you to Montana? And what, if anything, do you miss about California?

I came to Montana for a job. In 2003, my husband and I were both laid off, with a new baby. We both did a nationwide job search, and I was offered a wonderful job at the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology as a scientific editor, on the Montana Tech campus. My husband later became the Executive Director of the Montana Tech Foundation. We've been here ever since. Butte is a wonderful place to raise a family. We do go back to California once or twice a year, for the sunshine and the ocean.

Sounds wonderful. In FOREVER NEVERLAND, one of the characters is autistic. How did this character find his way to you?  

The two characters in FOREVER NEVERLAND came to me together, very strongly. I was interested in the dynamic between the two, with Clover being very overprotective and Fergus wanting help...but also just wanting some space and independence. Once I realized I needed to write both characters' points of view, I did extensive research to make sure I got Fergus right.

Interesting that both characters showed up at the same time, and dual points of view always offer such great opportunities to show the dynamics between characters. According to your website bio, you once danced in a ballet company. Did any of your experiences find their way into your book NUTCRACKED, debuting in October 2019?

There are many of my experiences dancing that showed up in NUTCRACKED. I was fortunate for that book in that I did not have a time of research to do, at least for the ballet parts. I remember that time very vividly. I was a dancer from the ages of 8 to 16, and I did get to play Clara when I was 13. It was a remarkable experience to relive some of that time and relay those experiences – having mice chase me across the stage, and watching the tree grow – to readers.

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

I am currently working on another middle grade project (working title THE WILD SIDE OF ROWAN MCKINNON) that I'm very excited about. It's about a girl who learns that her mother – who left when she was three days old – is really an Irish shapeshifter, called a pukka. Rowan sets out on a journey to find her mother and learn about who she is. There are wild horses, eagles, and good friends, set in the high lands of Montana and Wyoming. Like all my books, it has magic.


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




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



For Susan Adrian's other books, click here

This post can also be viewed here

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL by Aminah Mae Safi

I first featured Aminah Mae Safi here. Her newest book, TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL, debuted in June, and this enemies-to-lovers story should definitely be on your To Be Read list:

Sana Khan is a cheerleader and a straight A student. She's the classic (somewhat obnoxious) overachiever determined to win.

Rachel Recht is a wannabe director who's obsesssed with movies and ready to make her own masterpiece. As she's casting her senior film project, she knows she's found the perfect lead - Sana.

There's only one problem. Rachel hates Sana. Rachel was the first girl Sana ever asked out, but Rachel thought it was a cruel prank and has detested Sana ever since.

In our last interview, you said that girls and women "don’t have to be perfect to take up space in this world, to take up space in the pages of stories." What do you wish for girls and women who have difficulty accepting themselves?   

You've got to believe in yourself. This is something I struggle with. But part of accepting yourself is honestly believing in yourself and trusting yourself. Learning to listen to yourself. Learning to spend time with yourself and your own thoughts. It's all these things we try to actively prevent girls from doing when they're growing up.

There's this quote from the modern remake of the movie Sabrina: “I sat in a cafe, drank coffee and wrote nonsense in a journal, then suddenly it was not nonsense – I went for long walks and I met myself in Paris" and I think that's what I wish for all girls and any marginalized person, particularly if they have trouble accepting themselves. Get to know yourself. Know you're okay. We're all imperfect beings in this life trying to figure out the best way to make a life for ourselves. We all feel that way. Feeling that way doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to believe in yourself. Develop enough of a sense of yourself so that you know how to trust yourself and know how to listen to yourself. I think that’s where belief starts.


It certainly does--though it can be, as you said, challenging to maintain. In TELL ME HOW YOU FEEL, I love how the relationship between Sana and Rachel evolves. Did you know how their story would unfold before you started drafting, or did it develop as you wrote it? 

It's always both, isn't it? I mean, I sold this book on proposal, so I definitely had an outline. But things change as you draft. They always change. Many of the key scenes are as I envisioned them. Some new moments popped in at the last minute and really took hold in the story.

This is a bit metaphysical, but when I think I always know the story, I'm just finding it again. It's like, the real story is always in there-- waiting to be pulled out of whatever I've written. But I've got to get all the words down first— many of them the wrong ones— and then continue to edit and find that true story as I work.

So in the end, it genuinely feels like this was always the story and the romance couldn't have unfolded any other way. But maybe that's just a trick I tell myself so I can easily cut scenes and characters when they're not serving the overall book. But Sana and Rachel turned out exactly as they were meant to and their love story unfolded exactly as it should have.

Lovely. What do you feel are the most difficult aspects of writing romantic comedies? 

You've got to be rooting for the characters to get together, almost from the first pages. You've got to establish who the characters are and where they need to go, quickly. There are quite a few rules— mostly unspoken— with rom-coms that you've got to understand and acknowledge, even if you decide to break them along the way. Any kind of genre with structure, you've got to know when to play by the rules, and when to break them. You've got to know which tropes serve your overall story and structure, and which ones will only bog you down.

With a rom-com, you've got to do all of this, while also making it feel fun and effortless to read. Effortlessness is always difficult. Introducing people who are essentially two strangers to your readers and getting them to root for their love story is also difficult.


And it's definitely a lot to think about. If you could tell your younger writer self one thing, what would it be and why?

You're going to be alright, kid. Just keep showing up. We don't control a lot in life, but we do control our own thoughts and our own actions. So quit worrying about other people and keep showing up.

Incidentally, I still tell myself this. Works wonders.


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


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

This post can also be viewed here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

HAPPILY & MADLY by Alexis Bass

I've met Alexis Bass at a few author events, and recently saw her on a conference panel about mystery writing. Her book, HAPPILY & MADLY, is a thrilling story that would appeal to fans of We Were Liars.

Maris Brown has been told two things about her destiny:

1. She will fall happily and madly in love.
2. She could be dead before she turns eighteen.

The summer before that fateful birthday, Maris is in the wealthy beach town of Cross Cove with her estranged father and his new family--and the infamous Duvals. Since the youngest member of the Duval family, Edison, is back from college and back in the arms of Maris's new stepsister, her summer looks to be a long string of lazy days on the Duval's lush beach.

But Edison is hiding something. And the more Maris learns about him, the more she's given signs that she should stay as far away from him as possible. As wrong as it is, Maris is drawn to him. Around Edison, she feels truly alive and she's not willing to give that up. Even if it means a collision course with destiny.


According to your website bio, you are "a huge advocate of long beach vacations." Is this what inspired the setting for HAPPILY & MADLY?

Absolutely! The setting of Happily & Madly was inspired by the many beach vacations I’ve been on over the years—beaches on both coasts as well Hawaii and South America.  Even lake-beaches! Cross Cove is a fictional place so I was able to incorporate the best off all beaches into the setting.

What a beautiful way to capture setting! And even though the backdrop is idyllic, HAPPILY & MADLY offers a plot that hinges on concealed truths. What is the most challenging part about giving necessary information, but not revealing too much? 

It’s definitely challenging to figure out how to divulge information, making it authentic to how the main character would receive it, while at the same time doing service to the story. I rely on a little bit of intuition and also studying how other novels I’ve really enjoyed have parsed out information and measuring if that will work for my particular story.

Going along with the plot, there was a music playlist for HAPPILY & MADLY on the Tor Teen Blog; how do these songs best capture the mood you needed for this story?

The playlist posted on the Tor Teen Blog perfectly captures the mood of the story—the fun of summer and living large, the desire of forbidden love, and the twisted parts of the plot.

Wonderful. What are some of your current projects? 

I can’t yet announce what’s next for me, but I have a Young Adult project in the works that I will hopefully be able to discuss soon. I’ve also been working on and off on a novel written in second-person about a woman accused of murdering her wealthy husband.


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

For Alexis's other books, go here

This post can also be viewed here

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Release Feature: WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power

I'm excited to announce that WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power is out today! I featured this book here, and it's already getting plenty of buzz:

It's been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty's life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don't dare wander outside the school's fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there's more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.


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




Wednesday, July 3, 2019

STAY THROUGH THE STORM by Joanna Rowland, illustrated by Lorian Tu

Joanna' Rowland's picture books have a way of gently guiding readers through life's challenges, especially her book MEMORY BOX, featured here and ALWAYS MOM, FOREVER DAD, featured here. When composing my monthly newsletter last May, I saw that she had a new picture book--STAY THROUGH THE STORM--and I couldn't wait to feature it.


When a storm approaches, a friend encourages another to stay until it passes, sipping cocoa, building a fort indoors, and sharing memories.

Since our last interview, MEMORY BOX has been translated into different languages. What has been the most rewarding part of seeing this book make its way into the world?

So far, the Memory Box: A Book About Grief has sold Dutch foreign rights. It was read to over 140 families from around the world at St. Jude’s hospital on their Day of Remembrance which is an annual event for bereaved families. What has been special to watch with The Memory Box is to know it has been helpful for some families during one of their most heartbreaking times in their lives. I love reading reviews on Amazon (I know I’m not supposed to read reviews) but hearing from people I’ve never met that the book has touched has been so rewarding.

What a lovely journey the book has taken--and I have no doubt it will touch many more readers. I love how STAY THROUGH THE STORM encourages bravery. In what ways did the story develop as you wrote it?  

 During Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm in January 2017 I was watching snow fall at the cabin and I wrote the word storm down. I knew I wanted to write about a storm, I just didn’t know what the heart of my story was. I’d drive around listening to Imagine Dragons' Thunder and Lightning song and just think. Nine months later on one drive I was thinking about my friend Scott that died by suicide and how I wished he had stayed. Then the metaphor and title hit me – Stay Through The Storm. I knew where the heart of the story was now. It’s really about friendship through a real storm but I hope readers can see that maybe it relates to life storms as well.

And it's also a good reminder of how important it is to weather those storms together. What do you think are the necessary elements of a good story?

For me a good story has to connect to me on some emotional level. Does it make me want to laugh, cry, reminisce? I find the best stories are the ones that linger long after the book is closed.

Beautiful. What topics do you think should be covered more in picture books and why?

My heart is drawn to writing about the harder topics children face such as grief, divorce, and heartbreak. Kids don’t always have the ability to express their emotions during those hard times. Reading a book about other children going through difficult times can help. Books are a beautiful and safe way for children to navigate the world around them and to help open the door to conversation.

STAY THROUGH THE STORM

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



THE MEMORY BOX


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


ALWAYS MOM, FOREVER DAD


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


This post can also be viewed here