Category Archives: Author Q&A

The Cage Contest + Blog Tour Q&A with Megan Shepherd

the cage blog tour
Today, we are thrilled to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for The Cage by Megan Shepherd, in stores next Tuesday. We have an exclusive Q&A with Megan, plus keep reading to learn more about the book & enter for your chance to win!

Megan ShepherdFor readers unfamiliar with the premise, give us your 140-character “Twitter pitch” for THE CAGE.

Six teenagers from around the world are abducted by an all-powerful species and caged in a “human zoo”

This sounds like a major deviation from THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER trilogy. What drew you away from Gothic horror to science fiction?

I will always love Gothic horror, but when I had the idea for THE CAGE, I knew I had to pursue it. It was a challenge to write about contemporary teenagers in a more traditional science fiction setting, but it was really fun.

Each book in THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER trilogy took inspiration from a different classic novel. What inspired THE CAGE?

An author friend was telling me about her spouse’s job as a wildlife biologist at a writing retreat, and that got me thinking about zoos. I knew the “human zoo” concept had been done a little in fiction (like in the TWILIGHT ZONE and SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE), but I didn’t know of anyone who had done it yet in young adult literature.

cage, theWhere do you find the most inspiration for all of your writing, in general?

From day dreaming. It’s tough these days, since we’re all tied to our phones and computers constantly. But I look for those moments of mental silence, like walks with my dog or drives in the car with the radio off, to think.

What are some human “oddities” that you think would confuse and/or fascinate an alien race observing us in a zoo, like in THE CAGE?

I had a lot of fun with this in the book. The alien race in THE CAGE, the Kindred, are able to “cloak” their emotions in public, releasing them only in private. So they’re fascinated by humanity’s wild emotional outbursts: love, anger, but also concepts like forgiveness. They’re interested in human music and art, though they don’t quite understand it. And they think we can be satisfied with distractions like candy, toys, and games, and don’t understand that we have deeper needs.

FLASH QUESTIONS:

Favorite villain?

JARETH in LABYRINTH

Pen or pencil?

Pen

Favorite piece of clothing?

A cozy sweater I wear to write in

Song you can’t get out of your head right now?

CENTURIES by Fall Out Boy

Most recent vacation?

Sailing along the Turkish coast—a lifelong dream!

5 things that are always in your purse?

Phone, book to read, CAGE bookmarks, pen & notebook in case I get inspired, laptop

contest2
1 winner will receive a signed ARC of THE CAGE with a CAGE bookmark and sticker sheet. US Only.

Enter by filling out the Rafflecopter form HERE

about the book
The Maze Runner meets Scott Westerfeld in this gripping new series about teens held captive in a human zoo by an otherworldly race. From Megan Shepherd, the acclaimed author of The Madman’s Daughter trilogy.

When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn’t know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn’t alone.

Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora’s past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren’t from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.

As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage?

Find it: AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooks, Goodreads

about the author
Megan Shepherd grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina, where her family has owned and operated an independent bookstore for over 35 years. Shepherd attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in international studies and went on to live and work in Costa Rica, Senegal, Scotland, Spain, and many other countries. Now, Shepherd has returned to Western North Carolina and is a full-time writer of young adult novels.

She is represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.

Author Photo by Kristi Hedberg Photography

Website/Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/Goodreads

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

Week Two:

Exclusive Q&A with Strays author Jennifer Caloyeras

Strays Feature Banner
Today, I’m pleased to bring you our exclusive Q&A with Strays author Jennifer Caloyeras. Enjoy!

jennifer_caloyeras_high2You write about dogs regularly, but tell us what inspired the story behind STRAYS?

I have been the dog columnist for the Los Feliz Ledger for the past ten years. Many years ago, I wrote a column about an organization in Santa Monica called K9 connection that matches teens in continuation high school with homeless dogs. Through the program, the teens train and bond with the dogs. As I was writing this column, I thought, this would be a great idea for a young adult novel!

STRAYS really highlights the unique bond that can form between people and animals. Tell us about any such bonds in your life.

My home is full of animals! We have our beloved twelve year old rescue mutt named Reba and our new rescue puppy, Dingo. We also have two guinea pigs, Gunther and Cleo and a host of fish and a turtle. All of our animals are family, but none more than our dogs. We love taking them hiking and on walks around the neighborhood. Dogs are such amazing and intuitive creatures and can really sense if you’re having a bad day. I think until you’ve had a bond with an animal, you can’t imagine how special it is.

straysThere are so many great messages in STRAYS — what do you hope readers take away from it the most?

I think the idea that reaching out and helping others, whether it be a person or an animal, is the key to happiness and community. While Iris is “forced” into this animal program, it is she that ends up being on the receiving end of so much growth and love.

You’re a columnist, short story writer, and novelist. What are some of the challenges of writing in these different mediums? What never changes, regardless of what you’re writing?

I love working in different genres. I’ve also written screenplays, plays and I’m working on my first middle grade chapter novel. I think I like serving the story in whatever medium is best to tell my story. I know I’d get restless working in the same genre again and again. What never changes is the importance of what is at the heart of a story.

FLASH QUESTIONS:

Favorite villain?

Jaws.

Pen or pencil?

Pencil!!

Favorite piece of clothing?

Pajamas

Song you can’t get out of your head right now?

“Just Give Me A Reason” by Pink (and Nate Ruess from F.U.N.) I can’t stop singing it but I need to find someone to sing Nate Ruess’s part.

Most recent vacation?

I had a great girls weekend to San Diego a few weeks ago.

5 things that are always in your purse?

Sunglasses, sunscreen (this is L.A. after all), Chapstick, dog treats, and a book (right now it’s May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes.)

Connect with Jennifer online:

Exclusive Q&A with The Game of Love & Death author Martha Brockenbrough: Part 3

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Today, we are pleased to bring you part32 of our exclusive Q&A with The Game of Love & Death author Martha Brockenbrough. If you missed it, catch part 1 here & part 2 here. Today, it’s time for FLASH QUESTIONS!

marthaFavorite villain?

Vizzini in the Princess Bride. It’s true. No one should ever get in a land war in Asia.

Pen or pencil?

Pen.

Favorite piece of clothing?

Impossible to choose. Probably my Frye harness boots. I wear them everywhere.

Song you can’t get out of your head right now?

Fever by Peggy Lee.

Most recent vacation?

I’m just back from San Francisco and Los Angeles, visiting old and dear friends.

5 things that are always in your purse

I’m not a purse person. I carry a backpack that has my wallet, my laptop, at least one book, my house keys and some form of lipstick or lip gloss to ward off the universe and its chapping ways. Oh, and dental floss. That’s six things. (I don’t carry a calculator, apparently.)

Thanks, Martha! Tune in for part 2 of our Q&A on Wednesday and part 3 on Friday.

Exclusive Q&A with The Game of Love & Death author Martha Brockenbrough: Part 2

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Today, we are pleased to bring you part 2 of our exclusive Q&A with The Game of Love & Death author Martha Brockenbrough. If you missed it, catch part 1 here.

marthaIn THE GAME OF LOVE & DEATH, you talk a lot about love and courage and meaning. What, do you think, is the most courageous thing you’ve done in your life?

Compared to Bessie Coleman, who faced outright discrimination in the states, and worked her way to flight school in Paris as a manicurist, I am a chicken. But, it was a big deal for me to become a writer. I’d always wanted to, but people kept telling me to “have something to fall back on.” I put all my time and energy into failing, and did quite well! I won awards as a journalist and went on to be the editor of MSN.com, which was at the time one of the largest websites in the world.

When I was 30, I had my first child, and I couldn’t bear to have her live that way—that our dreams were unimportant, and that fear of failure should be our ruling force. I didn’t want to set that kind of example. After being told I couldn’t manage a team part time, I quit my corporate job altogether and started working for myself, freelancing and building websites and doing other things that would give me the flexibility in my schedule that writing seems to demand. I gave up as secure a financial future as you can have for the life I always wanted, and while it has not been easy or predictable, I have no regrets.

Game of Love and DeathChanging topics a little bit, you’re also the founder of National Grammar Day. First of all, thank you. Secondly, how did that come about?

 Ha! You are most welcome. One of the part-time jobs I’ve had along the way is as a teacher. My high school students, who were wonderful and inspirational, sometimes struggled with basic grammar. I’d written a column for the now-defunct online encyclopedia Encarta about secret societies, and the two things came together with an organization called SPOGG: the society for the promotion of good grammar. I was its unnamed head, and in the voice of SPOGG, I would offer authoritative, funny, but firm corrections. I also made lunch boxes and other swag, because who doesn’t love lunch boxes? It was so enjoyable that I started thinking about how to make it bigger. National Grammar Day was the result of that, and the first one took place a few months before my grammar book, Things That Make Us [Sic], hit the shelves. For me, it’s been about loving language and showing people how the effective use of it—very often but not always by following convention—can be an advantage in life.

You’ve written such a diverse body of work already – YA, children’s picture books, children’s nonfiction, trivia questions, etc. – what’s next?

More of the same, I hope! My ambitions know no bounds. I’d also love to write a television show for children. And a screenplay. And probably greeting cards, even though no one seems to send those anymore.

I absolutely love writing. Letters, status updates, tweets, books. This is how I love the world and the people in it, and I’m OK with that. (It’s much better than if I tried to do the same by singing.)

Thanks, Martha! Tune in for part 2 of our Q&A on Wednesday and part 3 on Friday.

Exclusive Q&A with The Game of Love & Death author Martha Brockenbrough: Part 1

TGOLAD_BotM_Banner
Today, we are pleased to bring you part 1 of our exclusive Q&A with The Game of Love & Death author Martha Brockenbrough. Thanks for stopping by, Martha!

Game of Love and DeathWhich pair came first for you – Love and Death, or Henry and Flora?

Love came first. And then Henry and Flora, although they had different names because their first appearances were in contemporary times, and when I moved the story back to 1937, I wanted their names to feel of the age.

I had to get to know each character individually, though. They existed first as individuals. And then I had to figure out how they would fit together, which took quite awhile and then suddenly felt inevitable in the way the click of a door unlocking after you’ve struggled with the key is satisfying, relieving (and maybe thrilling if you’ve been standing outside in the rain).

Death was the last of my characters to find me, but she does answer the question: Who is Love’s antagonist? The obvious answer would be Hate, but as we know from real life, that isn’t actually the case. Love and Death have so much more power than something as petty, transient, and unnecessary as Hate. And even though this is fiction, I wanted the book to ring with the human truth that death is our true heartbreak, and that grief is the price of love (and a price worth paying, but oh!). Hate’s a sideshow, and one for a book I most likely wouldn’t write.

marthaYou mentioned to me that in many ways, Death is your favorite character. What do you love so much about her?

As a reader, my favorite villains are the ones with some texture. You know how sometimes people are just Evil because they want to Rule the World? I don’t understand that motivation myself. I have no desire for global domination. It’s hard enough for me to keep my desk under control.

Death, if she wanted to, could rule the world. She could kill everyone in it at any moment. And she must kill. This is how she was made by whatever mysterious force in the universe that summoned her from the stars.

Her hunger to feed on humans is like an incurable addiction. As she feeds, she experiences memories of the lives of the humans she’s consuming, and—although she wouldn’t admit it—she falls in love with them and keeps their stories inside her forever.

As much as she sees of humanity, loving and despising them for their foolishness, she doesn’t see herself clearly at all. And this is where I really came to love this character. It’s so hard to see ourselves with any clarity. We are often all too critical of how we are made, without appreciating the things that make us lovable and uniquely beautiful. We all have things about ourselves that we would change if we could, but we can’t—and maybe even shouldn’t. Death is as clear an example of that as I could make. Even with her grotesque purpose and her flaws, there is something worth loving in her. We read to discover what this is complex characters, just as when we are living well, we discover this about ourselves.

There is SO much historical context in this book. Where did you even begin your research? Did you learn anything surprising during the process?

I did not set out to write a historical book originally. I have the greatest respect for authors who do this well. Think Elizabeth Wein. Judy Blundell. Robin LaFevers. (And so many more!) As much that can go wrong with a story set in contemporary times, even more can go wrong with a historical novel. When you don’t know what you don’t know, you can’t know that you need to research it. So it’s a scary prospect.

I guess I’d say I began my research without even knowing. I was just following things that fascinated me. Many moons ago, when I was in college, I was lucky enough to read some fantastic books that made me think about this time in history (more or less), as well as characters who might have been like mine. One I loved was called Passing, by Nella Larsen. One of the characters, who is black, passes as white and marries a white man. And in this book, “passing” wasn’t just about concealing your race. There are other ways to pass. That notion influenced me deeply—the way the world sometimes demands for us to appear as someone we aren’t. There might be good reasons to do so, but the cost is extraordinary.

This is more about the emotional impact of that than specific details of the historical period, of course. But to me, the emotional truths are just as important, if not more so. So one thing I was thinking about with this book is the world’s expectations of us, and how sometimes those are at odds with the truth of our hearts. We will all die someday (spoiler alert!). But maybe we should not fail to live before then.

In terms of other research, I read books by jazz musicians, chief among them Milt Hinton’s Playing the Changes, which spans far more than the era and is full of photos and really showed me what music meant to the performers of that era. Seattle also had a thriving jazz scene, which I read about in a number of places. The epicenter of it is just a couple of miles from my house, so I drove the stretch and thought about what it must have been like back in that day. I also benefited from the rich trove of photographs of Seattle taken in 1937, the year the book is set. I saw houses, cars, people walking the streets in their hats and gloves.

One scene involves the crash of the Hindenburg. I encountered an audio recording of this when I was in a sixth-grade science class, so my emotional reaction was already there. But I did study the video online so I could describe what it looked like for a zeppelin to catch fire.

I visited places that I wrote about: Venice and San Francisco, for example (I didn’t make it to New Jersey, though). There was a lot of picky little research, too. I can’t remember if this detail survived revision, but I did have Flora putting on a real shade of 1937 lipstick. I made sure the cable car fare was correct. And every moon phase in the book is accurate, and so are the days of the week. The types of tennis balls, the color of the box that holds the tire-patch kit. These things emerged as details in the writing, and I researched the accuracy of them afterward. I could have made this stuff up, but I enjoy that sort of thing and think for any reader who discovers the accuracy, it gives a little thrill of pleasure.

The most surprising thing I learned, though, was that a character like Flora was entirely possible. We all know about Amelia Earhart, but before Amelia, there was Bessie Coleman, the first black female pilot, and the first black pilot to hold an international aviator’s license. Her story is remarkable, and more people should know it.

Thanks, Martha! Tune in for part 2 of our Q&A on Wednesday and part 3 on Friday.

The Descendants: Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz: Exclusive Q&A + Giveaway

exclusive
Last week, we had the chance — along with a few other select bloggers — to chat with best-selling author Melissa de la Cruz about her newest project, Disney’s The Descendants: Isle of the Lost, a prequel to Disney Channel’s upcoming original movie about the children of classic villains. (In stores now!)

Check out our conversation with Melissa below, then keep reading to learn more about The Descendants: Isle of the Lost and enter to win an AMAZING prize pack!

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IsleoftheLostCoverSara: I wanted to talk to you a little bit about villains and why we love them so much.

I mean Disney villains have had a fan following for a long time. And then you have franchises like The Avengers. And everyone’s in love with Loki, even though he kills people. So I wanted to sort of get your take on what makes bad guys so appealing?

Melissa de la Cruz: Oh. They are appealing. You know, people who don’t follow the rules, who break them, who are larger than life. And I think what’s appealing about them is that they really know what they want, you know?

So their motivations and their desires are kind of naked and grasping. And, you know, it’s out there. Maleficent, she wants to get revenge for not being invited to the party. Jafar wants to rule Agrabah. The Evil Queen wants to be the fairest of them all.

So it’s kind of like we know them really well because we know what they want. And even though what they want isn’t very good or noble, having that desire is very human, and that ambition.

So I think we really relate to that. And I think we’re kind of drawn to people who can really say without apology this is what I want. I’m going to get it, and I’m going try.

And the funny thing is when I was watching all the movies again of course they’re all happy endings, but unhappy endings for all of my characters. I mean I didn’t realize how many of them had been destroyed.

You know, Maleficent is like in a puddle of green. The Evil Queen falls off a cliff. Cruella falls off–there’s a lot of cliff falling. So, I was like, oh, my God. They’re all destroyed! How do I bring them back? So I had this line that being on the island without magic is worse than death.

And some of them were brought back from death.

Sara: Yes, I chuckled when I saw that part.

Melissa de la Cruz: Right? I was like, oh, my God. I’ve got to bring them all back. No, but, they are completely defeated. I mean they’re all failures. And I think that’s the other thing that we find really appealing about them.

We relate to that because they don’t get what they want. They try and they fail. And what’s more human than that?

Sara: I think that’s probably what’s so fascinating about Isle of the Lost, is it focuses on the children. But, at the same time it’s like okay, villains, you had these grand schemes, and they failed. So, now it’s time for the rest of your wicked life.

Melissa de la Cruz: Exactly.

Sara: So, we talked about why villains are so popular. I thought maybe let’s talk about why fairy tales are still so popular and why there’s been so many different ways of telling fairy tales.

I feel, especially lately, we have TV shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time, and then you have books like Isle of the Lost. And there’s countless others, especially in YA, of ways that fairy tales are being retold and turned upside down and told from the villain’s perspective or modernized.

MelissadelaCruzWhat do you think is so perennially appealing about fairy tales that we’re still finding new ways to tell them even years later?

Melissa de la Cruz: Yeah. I think that somebody said there’s, like, three plots in the world, you just kind of rewrite them, you know? I think it was Shakespeare or something.

And I think it’s because we know the stories, the timeless stories so well. So you have to use that when you’re doing your retelling. Like the kids know this is the story of Cinderella. This is the story of Swan Lake. This is the story of Sleeping Beauty.

And then you kind of twist it a little bit. So I think knowing what the original story is and how timeless.

And I think it’s because they’re kind of dark, you know? Like, they do have real villains. And it’s not this gray story. It is black and white. The villains are really bad and really want terrible things to happen.

And I think as kids you’re kind of sugar coated and you’re kind of sheltered. When you read these stories it’s like there’s evil in the world.

There’re parents who abandon their children. There are witches and fairies. There’s Cinderella, you know, her parents died, and she’s been really abused by her stepmother and made to work as a servant.

So I think those resonate because they’re the first stories we hear that are kind of dark. And then this resurgence of wanting to play with them and trying to tell other stories within them, I do think it’s still–it begins from Harry Potter and Twilight and the trends toward myth and towards these bigger than life stories that we’re into, fantasy.

And I think it is this fantasy, part of the fantasy resurgence, which is really fun, you know? And I think those were the books that I was drawn to as a kid. And I’m still really interested in them as an adult, you know?

I like reading all the retellings. I like watching Once Upon a Time. It’s really fun to still kind of play that world.

Sara: Well, thank you. I, obviously, am a big fan of them as well.

Melissa de la Cruz: Yeah, I know, and when you find an interesting one, I remember the Robin McKinley ones. There’s a retelling of… I think it’s Sleeping Beauty. And it’s very interesting.

It’s like the girl, the Princess Aurora, is raised in a cottage. And she actually doesn’t even want to go back to being a princess. She likes being a girl out in the meadow and working, you know?

So the magic becomes when her friend, who was not born as a princess, but more of like a princess-like person kind of takes that role. So, I thought that was kind of interesting.

Sara: So, my last question is I know writing Isle of the Lost you had to fit sort of within certain parameters because of the script and the movie and what Disney had already kind of made plans for.

So, my question is, if you had been able to incorporate, like, another villain or another villain’s kid into the story more, whose–which villain’s kid would you have wanted to include more?

Melissa de la Cruz: I think I’ve put in that I like the stepmother’s grandnephew in. He’s very handsome and very evil. So I kind of wanted to play with him a little bit more. I think we are going to have Captain Hook’s daughter have a bigger role in the next book. So that’s going to be really fun, sort of like an evil girl pirate.

So, I think both of those, I wanted to see a little bit more from the stepmother’s and the evil stepsister’s kids having kind of like a mean lord. I like a mean lord. And then I like an evil girl pirate. So, I’m excited.

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Enter to win a MEET THE DESCENDANTS prize pack

DescendantsPrizePackOne (1) winner will receive:

  • copy of The Isle of the Lost;
  • branded tank top, water bottle and temporary tattoos;
  • and a GadgetGrip smartphone home button sticker.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. Contest runs through midnight (PT) on Wednesday, May 13th.

Prizing and samples provided by Disney Publishing.

Enter by completing the Rafflecopter form HERE, and tell us in the comments who is YOUR favorite Disney villain, and why.

about the bookEvil tree. Bad Apple?

Twenty years ago, all the evil villains were banished from the kingdom of Auradon to the Isle of the Lost–a dark and dreary place protected by a force field that makes it impossible for them to leave. Stripped of their magical powers, the villains now live in total isolation, forgotten by the world.

Mal learns from her mother, Maleficent, that the key to true darkness, the Dragon’s Eye, is located inside her scepter in the forbidden fortress on the far side of the island. The eye is cursed, and whoever retrieves it will be knocked into a deep sleep for a thousand years. But Mal has a plan to capture it. She’ll just need a little help from her “friends.” In their quest for the Dragon’s Eye, these four kids begin to realize that just because you come from an evil family tree, being good ain’t so bad.

Isle of the Lost is the spell-binding prequel to Disney Descendants, A Disney Channel Original Movie Event this summer!

Learn more:

about the authorMelissa de la Cruz is the author of many best-selling novels, including all the books in the Blue Bloods series: Blue Bloods, Masquerade, Revelations, The Van Alen Legacy, Keys to the Repository, Misguided Angel, Bloody Valentine, Lost in Time, and Gates of Paradise. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband and daughter.

Lies I Told by Michelle Zink: Blog Tour Contest + Author Q&A

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Today, I am so honored to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for Lies I Told by Michelle Zink. For today’s stop, we have an exclusive Q&A with Michelle, plus your chance to win TWO amazing prize packs!!! Yes, that’s right, TWO prize packs. So keep reading for all the details!

lies i toldThis is your first contemporary YA novel. What prompted the switch from the paranormal?

I’ve never been “good” at sticking to one genre. I’m such a story junkie. I love them all! I guess this must make me hard to brand, but I’ve always taken opportunities to try something different, and I honestly feel that it’s made me a better writer. I’d written four historical fantasies and one contemporary fantasy when I got the idea for LIES I TOLD (which was originally titled GRIFT), and it just seemed like a good time to try my hand at something else.

What has been the biggest challenge writing contemporary? What has been the best part?

To be honest, I haven’t found it very difficult. At least not because it’s contemporary! There are other challenges relating to craft that I imposed on myself, because I always want to be better. One of the things I love most about writing is there’s never a time where I think I’ve “got” it. There’s always something new to learn, and I’ve spent a lot of the last two years really focused on craft. I feel like it all came together in this book, and its stellar reviews (including a star from Kirkus) seem to confirm that feeling. In a way it’s comforting, validation that we CAN keep getting better, and if we do, it will show in our work. The best part is that I didn’t have to build an entire world from scratch, although Playa Hermosa is probably more like a tropical otherworld than many real-life locations.

Michelle ZinkWhat do you think will attract fans of your paranormal books to LIES I TOLD?

I really try to walk the line between being character-focused and plot-focused in my books. Many of them have what’s called a “high concept” plot, but it’s always a framework for something deeper. In LIES I TOLD, Grace is struggling to reconcile the person she might become against the idea of who she is based on the things she’s done. This is just as weighty thematically as Lia in PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS trying to reconcile the differences between her and her sister, and also trying to find the strength to be who she believes herself to be instead of who the prophecy tells her she is. Grace also has to find the strength to depart from what she knows, which is in line with Helen in A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS being thrust out into the world with very little knowledge and forced to fight for her life. Lastly, Grace has to learn to believe in something other than the con and the twisted brand of family of which she’s been apart, similar to the way Clare struggles with disbelief in THIS WICKED GAME. I think what has drawn people to my work in the past has been those deeper themes of identity and self worth and belief, something with which all human beings across all walks of life can identify, and my voice, which I think is present in all my work. I’m confident readers of my previous work will still “hear” me in this new book.

In LIES I TOLD, Grace has lived a life of crime. What were some of the challenges and pleasant surprises of writing about such a flawed character?

It’s always difficult to write a protagonist that on paper should be unlikeable. This was a huge challenge in Raum in A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS (people still write me pissed about it), and it was a challenge with Grace as well. But this is where the really fascinating work of writing is for me. I want to turn readers’s expectations and preconceptions on their heads, to illustrate how very gray we all are in a world where people want to believe things are black and white (it’s so much tidier that way). So that was hard, walking that line between making Grace real in her capacity as a con artist and also making her likable enough that you would root for her. But it was also so rewarding to see her through this journey. I confess that I get teary when I read Promises I Made and see how Grace (and all the characters) come full circle. It’s a joy to elicit that kind of reaction, and to see notes from my editor in the margin that read, “You’re killing me right now!” (that book will be out in November). ;)

FLASH QUESTIONS:
Favorite villain?

Alice Milthorpe, who won the Best Villain award in the Teen Read Awards against Lord Voldemort.

Pen or pencil?

Pen. I hate that scratching sound pencils make.

Favorite piece of clothing?

This giant, ugly sweatshirt from the 80s that has seen me through four pregnancies and lots of very cold writing winters.

Song you can’t get out of your head right now?

An instrumental piece called QUIET by This Will Destroy You.

Most recent vacation?

Ha! Vacation? What’s that? Seriously, it was four years ago – two weeks in Maine with my kids.

5 things that are always in your purse

My wallet, tinted lip balm, a coupon organizer (I know, I’m a nerd, right?), a small bottle of hand cream, and hand wipes. Gah! This makes me sound like an old lady!

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about the book

What if, after spending a lifetime deceiving everyone around you, you discovered the biggest lies were the ones you’ve told yourself?

Grace Fontaine has everything: beauty, money, confidence, and the perfect family.

But it’s all a lie.

Grace has been adopted into a family of thieves who con affluent people out of money, jewelry, art, and anything else of value. Grace has never had any difficulty pulling off a job, but when things start to go wrong on the Fontaines’ biggest heist yet, Grace finds herself breaking more and more of the rules designed to keep her from getting caught…including the most important one of all: never fall for your mark.

Perfect for fans of Ally Carter, Cecily von Ziegesar, and Gail Carriger, this thrilling, high-stakes novel deftly explores the roles of identity and loyalty while offering a window into the world of the rich and fabulous.

about the authorMichelle Zink lives in New York in an old converted barn on four acres. Her first book, Prophecy of the Sisters, was one of Booklist’s Top Ten Debut novels, and her work as been included in the Lonestar List, Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best, and New York Public Library’s Stuff for the Teen Age. Michelle’s work has been published in over twenty countries. LIES I TOLD is her sixth book.

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contest2
LIT_Blog_Tour_PPEnter to win one of the following prize packs:

  • Harper Mystery ARC Prize Pack – Featuring assorted ARCs of upcoming Harper Teen books!
  • LIES I TOLD Prize Pack – Featuring a copy of LIES I TOLD, a pocket mirror & a bookmark

Enter by telling us below about a lie you’ve told, then fill out the Rafflecopter form here. Contest is open to the U.S. only, and runs through midnight (PT) on Monday, May 4th.

Exclusive Q&A with The Walls Around Us author Nova Ren Suma: Part 3

The Walls Around Us_BotM_banner
Today, I’m excited to share part 2 of our exclusive interview with The Walls Around Us author Nova Ren Suma. If you missed it, here is part 1 and here is part 2.

nova ren sumaFavorite villain?

Maleficent, the storybook version. I remember being fascinated and terrified of her when I was a young girl.

Pen or pencil?

Black ink pen.

Favorite piece of clothing?

Writing sweater, striped.

Song you can’t get out of your head right now?

“Fuck It and Whatever” by the Echo Friendly

Most recent vacation?

I haven’t been on a true vacation in years. But this past summer, I did a writing retreat with a friend in Florida. We wrote all day, got massages, ate grilled cheese sandwiches, and didn’t swim at all. It was glorious.

5 things that are always in your purse.

Strawberry gum, electronic access key to the Writers Room, loose change, an emergency pen.

 

Exclusive Q&A with The Walls Around Us author Nova Ren Suma: Part 2

The Walls Around Us_BotM_banner
Today, I’m excited to share part 2 of our exclusive interview with The Walls Around Us author Nova Ren Suma. If you missed it, here is part 1.

nova ren sumaThere’s a very unique balance to the real world and the supernatural in THE WALLS AROUND US. What were some of the challenges — and the pleasant surprises — of writing the story in this way?

The challenge for a story like this is that it is steeped in the real world but also needs to find a way to slip in the supernatural elements in the most believable way possible. So the big question is: How and when to first introduce the otherworldly twist? Or at least the initial hints, the breadcrumbs that will all make sense later? I spent a long time moving reveals and information and shocks around, trying to determine when to show my hand. My editor, Elise Howard at Algonquin, was instrumental in helping me come to terms with this. The best editors always help a writer rise to the challenges.

As for the pleasant surprises in balancing the real world and the supernatural, those can be found in the moment, on the page. I would be writing a scene that I had planned out and thought I knew what would happen and then, suddenly, out of the darkness would come this supernatural little twist that then ripples out and changes everything. I love when a scene surprises me like that.

walls around usWhat do you like about writing magic realism? When did you first discover magic realism?

I first really discovered magical realism in a seminar course in Latin American fiction in my MFA program, when I was twenty-two or twenty-three, so this was quite a number of years ago. Of course we read One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I loved so much I have since read it at least three more times, but the book from this course that most struck me, and that haunted me for years and was one of the inspirations for my first YA novel, Imaginary Girls, is Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo. It’s about a man searching for his father in an actual ghost town, and it’s stunning and eye-opening and unsettling and beautiful. A book I will never forget.

I didn’t write magical realism right away, even though I loved reading it. I confined myself to writing stories set in the real world, with no otherworldly twists stepping in, until I started writing Imaginary Girls, inspired by Pedro Páramo but also by the surreal work of David Lynch, especially Twin Peaks. Now, with The Walls Around Us, I have embraced the idea that the worlds I am writing always have a door open to the unexpected and I should let in whatever wants in. It’s become an addiction. I don’t know if I could stop myself from slipping in something strange and surreal into my stories now.

Catch part 3 of our Q&A on Friday!

Exclusive Q&A with The Walls Around Us author Nova Ren Suma: Part 1

The Walls Around Us_BotM_banner
Today, I’m excited to share part 1 of our exclusive interview with The Walls Around Us author Nova Ren Suma. Thanks to Nova for taking the time to chat with us!

nova ren sumaThere are so many wonderful elements at work in THE WALLS AROUND US. Can you tell us what came first? How did the rest develop?

The Walls Around Us came in two pieces, and at first was two different projects. I wanted to write a ghost story set in a prison, and I thought that was one novel. And I wanted to write about “bad” girls who do “bad” things, and I had this vision of these ballerinas on the run after a murder, and that was another novel. I couldn’t decide which book to write next. There was a moment when these two ideas converged, when a character from one story overlapped into the other, and I realized it was one single book. Now I can’t see The Walls Around Us any other way. These two ideas were always meant to be melded together.

walls around usAmber and Violet both carry guilt — but in very different ways. Can you talk about the different ways these two characters approach their guilt? Was one character easier to write than another?

Violet is in complete and total denial. She would never see herself as guilty of a thing—all blame is shoved onto everyone else around her. And Amber carries guilt quietly, burying it deep inside her where not even she can can find it most days. I connect so much with Amber, and she was easier to write because I saw so much of myself in her. I connected with the way she gravitated toward the book cart in the prison, how books saved her, because in my own life books have saved me. Books were her escape, and her way of not thinking about her past and her lack of a future. I went in deep with Amber, and sometimes it was hard to climb out.

What sort of research went into writing THE WALLS AROUND US? Did anything you learn surprise you?

The scenes from the ballet school were taken from my own memories of studying ballet (and jazz and modern and a little tap) from when I was six years old until I was sixteen, though I should assure everyone not to worry: No one got murdered. But the scenes inside the juvenile detention center came partly from research as well as from my imagination. I learned about the prison system from documentaries, letters from prison, and other research, but there came a time when I had to separate myself from fact and statistics and the reality of the prison industrial complex in this country. I had to imagine the walls of the Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center for myself, and what it would be like to be confined in them at the young age of thirteen or fourteen or fifteen. I was taken off-guard at how easily I could put myself there. I wasn’t as separate from this at all. That surprised me.

Thanks again, Nova. Be sure to tune in on Wednesday for part 2 of our Q&A.