Category Archives: Author Q&A

Q&A with The Young Elites author Marie Lu

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Today, I am so pleased to share a recent interview I did, along with a handful of other bloggers, with Legend series author Marie Lu, about her new book, The Young Elites. Check out our question for Marie, and some other highlights from our chat below, then keep reading to learn more about the book!

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young elitesNovel Novice: Part of what I thought made The Young Elites really fun to read was the fact that Adelina is not really the traditional likeable main character, but just the fact that she’s definitely her own person and she’s a very distinct character.

And so, I love that she’s very well-formed as a character despite her less desirable characteristics. So, I was wondering, what about that kind of nontraditional main character made her fun and/or challenging to write about?  

Marie Lu: Thank you. I’m so glad and really relieved to hear you say that.

Photo credit: Paul Gregory

Photo credit: Paul Gregory

Adelina was by far the hardest character I’ve ever had to write. It’s difficult for all the reasons that I mentioned already, but it was also kind of fun and liberating, I guess, to write about somebody who just–she just doesn’t care sometimes. She just doesn’t care that she’s really angry at the world and she feels very entitled to that.

And I feel there’s something kind of empowering about letting yourself be bad. I guess it’s why we want villains so much. I mean, I love, you know, Loki and Magneto. You can kind of feel for them in a way. Like Loki, he kills lots of people, but he loves his mama and, you know, he’s had some feuds with his brother. And I think it’s fun to kind of imagine that space, because I think we all have issues in our lives.

And we all have that moment sometimes where you’re stuck in traffic and someone cuts you off, and you’re just like, “I just want to kill you right now. I just want, like, some force to come eat your car.” And then, I thought, you know, what if I create a character who actually acted out some of that stuff? And then, afterwards she’s like, “Oh, shit, I actually did this horrible thing that I wanted to do at the time, but now I kind of regret it.”

And it’s fascinating and kind of an unsettling way to write some of that stuff, because she feels powerful when she thinks that and does those things, but then afterwards she never feels great about it. So, it’s kind of like don’t always act out your demons–your inner demons kind of thing.

Perpetual Page Turner: What was one of the most difficult parts of writing your own world and the rules to that world?

Marie Lu: It was a completely different experience from writing Legend. It’s hard making up all of your own thinking. You kind of have to base some of it off of real life, so I don’t think anything can be completely my own. For The Young Elites, I did a lot of reading about Renaissance Italy and Renaissance Venice and what life was like back then, and what people ate and how they dressed.

The Compulsive Reader: I was just kind of fascinated by the idea of The Young Elites being an origin story of a villain, which is something that I didn’t actually know as I was reading the book … And so, I was just wondering, did the trajectory of Adelina’s story sort of differ from your previous writing, knowing that you were writing the villainess, and how does that, if it does, differ from any of your previous books?

Marie Lu: It’s totally different. It was really, really hard to get into that mind space, and it’s still very hard for me. I’m working on book two right now.

[When I started writing The Young Elites], it actually starred Raffaele instead of Adelina, and Raffaele was a totally different character too. He was very, very bland, just sort of like your every-boy, and he was going to university and he thought he was a Young Elite.

It just–it was a very, very sort of bland story. And I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong with it, but I knew I wanted to write something about these types of people. So, I gave the first hundred pages to my agent, and she was like, “Well, who is this side character over here? She’s kind of interesting.”

And Adelina was a side character who is total evil. And after my agent said that, that was when I was like, “Hmm, I never thought about writing it from her point of view, but that might be an interesting exercise.”

And it was totally different from Legend, because Day and June, they live in a really dark world, but they’re inherently good people at heart. They have good families who treated them right, and I feel like that really made them who they are as people when they grew up.

And Adelina is totally different. Her family is twisted and terrible, and that rubbed off on her a lot. And it was kind of disturbing to have to get into that headspace, because I didn’t experience any of that. And to be able to try to figure out a way to make this person do horrible things but also not make her totally unlikeable so that you’re like, “God, I just want this character to die already” was a bit of a challenge too.

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THE YOUNG ELITES
by Marie Lu
In stores October 7

Some hate us, think us outlaws to hang at the gallows.
Some fear us, think us demons to burn at the stake.
Some worship us, think us children of the gods.
But all know us.

young elitesABOUT THE BOOK:

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

Visit the Official Website and read an excerpt here.

Pre-Order The Young Elites:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Marie Lu is the author of the New York Times bestselling Legend series. She spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing Assassin’s Creed, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with one boyfriend, one Chihuahua mix, and two Pembroke Welsh corgis.

Learn More at her Official Website

Exclusive Q&A with Salt & Storm author Kendall Kulper + Blog Tour Contest

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Today’s post is serving double-duty — both as our Book of the Month Q&A with Salt & Storm author Kendall Kulper … and as an official stop on the blog tour!

In addition to our Q&A with Kendall, you’ll also find a blog tour giveaway and more information about the book, so be sure to scroll all the way down.

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In the author’s note for SALT & STORM, you mention having little knowledge about whaling before writing this book. So why did you write a book about 19th century whaling?

I really didn’t set out to! I wanted to write about islands, and since the only island I know much of anything about is Martha’s Vineyard, I decided to set the book in New England. When I started thinking about the story, I looked into New England folklore and found stories of women who would make good luck charms for sailors. I thought that was so fascinating, especially combined with the history and culture of whaling in the area, so despite my lack of knowledge, I dove right in!

Kulper_Headshot_Small2I love the beautiful blending of historical fiction with fantasy in SALT & STORM. How did the two elements come together for you as you were working on the book?

I knew I wanted there to be a fantasy element in the book because I wanted to write about those women. I love books that treat magic as something real, accepted, and integrated into society—I think it’s so fascinating how most people assume having magic would make life so much easier, when it probably would just make life more complicated.

As for blending historical fiction and fantasy, sailing has always had a close relationship with magic and superstition. A lot of the magic described in the book (like the idea that sailors can buy winds or that tattoos offer protection) came from real-life accounts that I found in my research. It’s not surprising, given how wild and unpredictable the sea is, that you’d want to try to put some faith into charms and magic.

Kulper_Salt&Storm_HCTell us a bit about your decision to write a prequel to SALT & STORM. What can readers expect, and why not a sequel? (Or is a sequel still a possibility?)

I have to give the credit to my editor, Bethany Strout, for suggesting writing another book in this world. I don’t think there will ever be a sequel—I always knew that Avery’s story would begin and end with SALT & STORM—but I had been kicking around a couple of ideas for a prequel, focusing on some of the other Roe witches. Writing SALT & STORM, I had to come up with a lot of backstory that ended up not being used in the book, so this was a great opportunity to delve into some of that.

The prequel was also a chance to see this world beyond just the island where SALT & STORM takes place. Avery mentions other magical people out in the world, and with the prequel, I’m able to show more of those people and how the rest of the world treats them.

What’s the most interesting tid-bit of information you learned while researching SALT & STORM?

I learned so much, but one of the things I found most fascinating was how these island communities dealt with the reality of a huge population of men being gone for several years at a time. Whaling trips took, on average, two to three years, and in that time the women back at home were expected to act as the heads of their households. They created these really tight-knit communities of mothers and wives, working together and supporting each other during the years their husbands were gone.

When the men came back, they would sometimes be on leave for only a few weeks or months before heading out again. I can only imagine how difficult and lonely that would be on both sides, especially given whaling’s extremely high mortality rate and the very likely possibility that married couples would never see each other again. But there was still real love and affection within these families; so many of the little things sailors made to pass the time were presents for their wives and sweethearts.

A lot of the history of whaling focuses on the men, but the struggles and successes of the women they left behind are just as deserving of attention.

You’re about to become a mother (congrats!). We know there are plenty of big differences between the two, but what is one similiarity between having a BOOK baby and having an ACTUAL baby?

Thank you! The real baby arrived August 21st, and she is wonderful J. I would say there are lots of similarities between birthing a book baby and real baby! Sleepless nights, needing lots of help, the long long wait for them to get here, and then that moment when you’ve got them in your arms (baby) or on the shelf (book) and think about how all that work and time and expectations led you to this moment—it’s just an indescribably wonderful, happy feeling!

FLASH QUESTIONS:

Favorite decade?

Well, I married the love of my life in 2011, sold my book and adopted my beautiful pup in 2013, and published that book and had a baby girl in 2014, so the 2010s are looking pretty good so far!

Must-have writing snack?

I always start the day with a cup of tea served in my fine porcelain tea set, which was a wedding present. It always looks so pretty, and it’s such a nice, relaxing way to ease into things.

Favorite Disney movie? 

Oh man. I’m going to have to say Newsies, because even though I haven’t watched it in years, between the ages of 13 and 18 I was pretty much obSESSED with it. I had a website devoted to it (~*~kENDALL’S nEWSIES pAGE~*~), wrote massive amounts of fan-fiction, watched the movie literally daily with my friends. A few years ago I saw the show on Broadway and it was like a full-on nostalgia bomb.

The beach or the mountains? 

Mountains, definitely. Which I realize is probably surprising, given SALT & STORM, but I actually don’t really like the water. Beaches can be lovely, but I am a huge hiker, and there’s something about climbing a mountain that gives you such a different perspective on life.

Song that can always get you dancing? 

Right now it’s Happy by Pharrell. But I’m biased because it’s also baby girl’s favorite song!

Name 5 things currently on your desk (or in your writing space), and share a photo, if possible 

A menagerie of origami animals (which will eventually become my daughter’s mobile), a teeeeeny red LeCrueset pot that I use to store paperclips and odds and ends, my grandmother’s old makeup compact, my personalized beer stein from my college dorm, and lots of cards from friends and family about the new baby.

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About the Book 

Title: SALT & STORM
Author: Kendall Kulper
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pub. Date: September 23, 2014
Find it: Goodreads|Amazon|Barnes& Noble

A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder–and the one boy who can help change her future.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island’s whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she’s to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane–a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

Kendall Kulper writes historical fiction with a fantasy twist for teen readers and knows more about nineteenth century whaling than she ever imagined. Her debut YA novel, SALT & STORM will be published by Little, Brown September 23, 2014. She graduated from Harvard University with a degree in history and literature in 2008 and spent several years as a journalist before deciding to write full-time. She grew up in the wilds of New Jersey and now lives in Boston with her husband and chronically-anxious Australian Shepherd mix, Abby.

Website/Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads/Tumblr

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And now it’s time for your chance to win a copy of Salt & Storm. Two U.S. winners will each receive a hardcover copy of the book. Enter the Rafflecopter form HERE. (Be sure to check out our Seaside Writing Contest for another chance to win, too!)

Salt&Storm blog tour
Salt & Storm
Blog Tour Schedule:

Week One:

Week Two:

Exclusive Q&A with The Bridge from Me to You author Lisa Schroeder – Part 3

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Today, we bring you part 3 of our exclusive Q&A with The Bridge from Me to You author Lisa Schroeder … FLASH QUESTIONS! If you missed it, catch part 1 here and part 2 here.

lisa schroederFavorite decade?

I think I have to go with the 80s.

Must-have writing snack?

Tea.

Favorite Disney movie?

The Aristocats

The beach or the mountains?

Both!

Song that can always get you dancing?

“Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince

Name 5 things currently on your desk (or in your writing space).

  1. Mother’s Day card from my youngest son
  2. chapstick
  3. a fabric cupcake
  4. too many notebooks
  5. a turtle a fan made me.

Exclusive Q&A with The Bridge from Me to You author Lisa Schroeder – Part 2

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Today, we bring you part 2 of our exclusive Q&A with The Bridge from Me to You author Lisa Schroeder. If you missed it, catch part 1 here.

charmed life1You also have a series of middle grade books coming out this year. Tell us a bit about the CHARMED LIFE series.

The series is about four girls who meet at summer camp and think they’ve found a lucky bracelet. Before they each return home, they promise each other that they will take turns wearing the bracelet and writing each other letters and sharing about their experiences with the bracelet. Each book is from one of the girl’s point of view – the first one is about Caitlin in Connecticut, the second one is about Mia in southern California, the third one is about Libby in England, and the fourth one is about Hannah in Tennessee. There are some really unique elements in each of the books, because I wanted to write about things you don’t see often in middle grade novels. So, for example, there is bird watching in the second book and a sweet shop in the third book. They are supposed to be fun reads, and I worked really hard to make them so.

lisa schroeder2What’s it been like, switching back and forth between writing YA and writing middle grade? What are some of the challenges? What are some of the benefits?

I really like working this way. I heard another author say that switching back and forth is a nice way to cleanse your palate, and it’s true! After I’ve written and revised a YA and I’m doubting everything about writing YA, I can start in on a middle grade, and life is good again. I suppose the challenge is that if I’m trying to publish at least one of each every year, I don’t get much down time. But overall, I really like it and I feel fortunate to be able to write both.

What are you working on next?

I just finished drafting a MG fantasy and I need to revise that soon so I can send it to my agent and see what she thinks. Right now, I’m doing revisions on my next YA which will be out summer of 2015. I haven’t announced it yet, so I can’t say too much, but I can say this – it has a pretty unique premise and I think people are going to be a little bit surprised when they hear about it. And I’m really excited about it!!

Edited to add: Lisa’s new YA project has been announced. Here is the announcement from PW:

Amanda Maciel at Scholastic has acquired world rights to Lisa Schroeder‘s new YA novel, All We Have Is Now. With just 28 hours left until a giant asteroid is due to destroy the U.S., a 17-year-old runaway and her best friend make it their mission to fulfill as many people’s last wishes as they can, until she realizes there are things left undone in her own life. It’s slated for summer 2015; Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger was the agent.

Exclusive Q&A with The Bridge from Me to You author Lisa Schroeder – Part 1

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Today, I am so pleased to be bringing you part 1 of our three-part exclusive interview with Lisa Schroeder, the author of The Bridge from Me to You (among other great titles). Thanks, Lisa, for stopping by!

bridge from me to you, the - largeI know you & I have talked before about the many things that influenced THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU. Tell us a bit about the different elements that lead to this book.

It all started with some tweets by Rachel Hawkins, which goes to show that twitter is not necessarily a complete waste of time! She had just read a book featuring a small town, and she started tweeting these descriptions that instantly took me back to my teenage years, going to school in a small town in Oregon. Things like – big sky, wide open roads, driving aimlessly in the country, and field parties, to name a few. And I thought, why haven’t I written a book about small town life, since I LIVED that life? I got a notebook and started jotting down thoughts and ideas. Ever since CHASING BROOKLYN, which many teens have told me is their favorite book written by me, I’d been wanting to do another dual point of view, and I decided this book would do that. I wanted one character who was new to town and trying to figure it all out and another character looking ahead, thinking about leaving town and the mixed feelings that come along with that. And so, Lauren and Colby were born.

lisa schroederYou grew up in a small town in Oregon. How much did your own experience go into creating the town of Willow?

Willow, Oregon is a fictional town, and I actually first created it when I wrote It’s Raining Cupcakes. At the time, I wanted a small town where kids rode their bikes to places like the library, and to the diner that served awesome chocolate shakes and french fries. When I started writing THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU, I decided I really liked the idea of using a fictional town, and my thoughts drifted to Willow. It seemed like it could work well to use that town here, and simply expand on what I’d already created. So that’s what I did. I’ve changed the names of the roads and the creek and the hill where the kids go to party, but all of that came from my memories of growing up in and around Lebanon, Oregon. So yeah, there are probably more of my own experiences in this book than in any other book I’ve previously written. Even the cards that Colby’s teammates carry around in their wallets came from my high school days. The football coach at the time did all of that which is described in the book, and we went all the way to the state championships two years in a row. Following that team around the state and cheering them around my sophomore year is some of the most fun I’ve ever had.

You’ve written prose before, and you’ve written in verse before. But I think this might be the first time you’ve combined the two so significantly in a single book. What was it like alternating between verse and prose for the different chapters?

With every book, it’s about doing what will serve the story the best. Lauren’s part wanted to come out in verse and Colby’s didn’t. Lauren is dealing with a lot of emotional stuff, and the verse allowed me to really get to the heart of all of that. I honestly wasn’t sure how it would work out to alternate between verse and prose when I started, but the more I went along, the more I really liked it. The nice thing is that if people aren’t huge fans of verse, it won’t get in the way of them enjoying the story. I’ve already had one reader tell me she liked the book, even though she doesn’t always like verse novels. But for teens who enjoy my verse, they’re going to be happy too. So it’s actually nice to have a combination this time around.

Thanks, Lisa! Tune in for part 2 on Wednesday!

Exclusive Q&A with Deadly Delicious author K.L. Kincy

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As part of our week-long feature on Deadly Delicious,today we bring you an exclusive Q&A with the author, K.L. Kincy!

Karen - author photo2DEADLY DELICIOUS was your first foray into middle grade. Did anything surprise you while writing MG?

Deadly Delicious was supposed to be a young adult book, actually! When I started writing it, I realized that Josephine was younger than I’d thought. Then I revised the book to make Josephine officially 12 years old. Everything started to click after that. The sweet romance, the friendship drama, and the growing pains of a witch.

I love the idea of mixing magic with cooking … I mean, a good recipe really CAN taste like magic! If you had powers like Josephine and her mom, what sort of conjure would you cook up for yourself? 

I would totally bake some DeLune DeLuxe doughnuts. Who wouldn’t want happiness, confidence, and good luck in a delicious doughnut?

The setting for DEADLY DELICIOUS is really great, and your descriptions of it are so vivid. Have you traveled to those areas? Did you research the locations? How did you bring them to life? 

My grandparents live in Sikeston, Missouri, and I know the Kincy family has lived in the area for over a hundred years. When I was a kid, I was fascinated by all the katydids, Osage oranges, stick insects, and magnolias. While writing Deadly Delicious, I also collected inspirations on a Pinterest board.

Deadly Delicious - ebook coverI adore your cover. How did you get such an awesome cover? 

My cover artist, Kirbi Fagan, did an awesome job. You can see some of the earlier drafts of the cover on her website.

What are you working on now? 

I’m writing dieselpunk romance for adults, and I’m also drafting a young adult regency that involves ladies with a tendency to transform into cats.

FLASH QUESTIONS:

Favorite decade?

I’d say the 1950s, for writing this book. ;)

Must-have writing snack?

Cherry cream cheese danishes at a local cafe, but sparingly!

Favorite Disney movie? 

Aladdin. I loved that movie when I was a kid, and watched the old VHS tape almost to death.

The beach or the mountains? 

Beach! Mountains involve climbing and panting for breath.

Song that can always get you dancing? 

“Lose Yourself to Dance” by Daft Punk, with Pharrell. Once I was getting ready to run a 5K race and the song came on, so my whole running group started skipping to the song.

Name 5 things currently on your desk (or in your writing space), and share a photo, if possible

I have my writing notebooks by my computer and a few toys. The hedgehog came from a Japanese bookstore in Seattle. The stingray came from the aquarium in Denver. I got to pet and feed real stingrays there, and they felt like wet mushrooms!

 Karen's writing stuff

Exclusive Q&A with Brazen Author Katherine Longshore – Part 3

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Today we bring you part 3 our exclusive three-part interview with Brazen author Katherine Longshore. If you missed it, check out part 1 here and part 2 here.

Katherine_Longshore_1589_CL_57_WFavorite decade?

The 1920s.

Must-have writing snack?

Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups.

Favorite Disney movie?

The Lion King

The beach or the mountains?

Both.

Song that can always get you dancing?

Love Shack by the B-52s

Name 5 things currently on your desk (or in your writing space).

Besides, my computer, I have:

  1.   Aphotograph of my parents (I like to think my dad is watching over me)
  2. A photo of the YA Muses
  3. My “Kings and Queens of England Family Tree” coffee cup
  4. A glass paperweight for my 3×5 cards
  5. And a pad of paper.

Thanks again for stopping by, Katherine!

The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming: Blog Tour Q&A + Giveaway

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Today, I am pleased to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming – an exciting new non-fiction book for teen readers.

family romanovYep, non-fiction. We don’t see a lot of YA non-fiction, so I’m really excited about this. Plus, a book about the Romanovs? You KNOW it’s gonna be good. Check out our Q&A with the author, then keep reading for your chance to win a copy of The Family Romanov!

Most YA readers tend to veer towards fiction. What about THE FAMILY ROMANOV will entice fiction readers?

It’s such a compelling, heartbreaking and, at times, downright weird story.  Imagine this: The Russian royal family is living a fairy-tale existence. The richest man on the planet, Tsar Nicholas II owns one-sixth of the world’s land, thirty palaces, five yachts, an endless collection of priceless painting and sculpture, two private trains, countless horses, carriage and cars, and vaults overflowing with precious jewels. The Romanovs have it all! But Nicholas is a man of limited political ability. He’s simply not suited to rule Russia. And a charismatic, self-proclaimed holy man named Rasputin spellbinds his wife, Alexandra. She believes Rasputin can save her hemophiliac son, Alexei, from bleeding to death. Desperate, she will do anything – anything — including handing over the reins of power to the evil monk.  Meanwhile, in the palace there also lives four, beautiful grand duchesses – Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia. But they are kept isolated from the world by their paranoid and overprotective parents. They don’t attend balls or banquets. They don’t have any friends their own age, or suitors, as they grow older. The have only each other. Living in this bubble stunts them emotionally. Even at age twenty, Olga giggles like a schoolgirl and blushes when she sees an onscreen kiss. With all this craziness going on inside the palace gates, no one is paying any attention to the dark clouds gathering outside them. Starving, war-weary Russians are tired of Nicholas and Alexandra’s inept rule. They revolt, and the Romanov’s fairy tale lives come crashing down, leading to ninety days in captivity, a horrific and bloody mass murder, hidden bodies and rumors of escaped princesses. Wow, if that’s not a great story, I don’t know what is!

Photo by Michael Lionstar

Photo by Michael Lionstar

The sort of research involved in a book like this seems so daunting to me. Where did you even begin your work?.

The research for this book followed four paths. The first, of course, was primary research.   After all, the heart of all research is the firsthand accounts and eyewitness testimonies of those who lived through an historical event. And so I read reminiscences written by the children’s’ tutors, and Alexandra’s ladies-in-waiting and Nicholas’ courtiers. I delved into the royal family’s letters and diaries and other personal papers. I read Yakov Yurovsky’s chilling account of the murders; statements from the guards; depositions from the priests and cleaning women who visited the Romanovs in their last hours. All of it was so personal, so intimate. If you think about it, it really is the height of nosiness… and probably the reason I love this sort of research so much. I get to be part detective, piecing together testimony from all that conflicting testimony, and part gossip, reporting on all the juicy details I uncover.

My second path? Secondary source material. There are hundreds of books about the Romanovs and the Russian Revolution (although very few for young readers). Dozens of scholars have made the rigorous examination of Russia’s past their life’s work. They’ve written insightful, enlightening histories. And I read dozens of them. For months every night I curled up with books with titles like The Russian Revolution of February 1917 or The Fall of the Romanovs. There’s no denying that my book stands on the shoulders of these works.

My third research path leads to experts – scholars, historians, and other writers. They are, I’ve learned, incredibly generous. All my nonfiction titles have been immeasurably improved by their time and effort. But perhaps no one was more helpful than Dr. Mark Steinberg, professor or Russian, East European and Eurasian studies at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. While doing research, I came to rely on Dr. Steinberg’s work – his accessible histories of Russia, his impeccable translations of documents recently released from the Russian archives, his re-examination of Nicholas’ leadership abilities, his new and brilliant scholarship on Lenin, his admiration for Maxim Gorky. Can you tell I am a fan? So as the first draft of the book neared completion I approached him tentatively. More than anything, I wanted him to read what I’d written. I wanted his opinion, his knowledge. I wrote him, explaining my purpose and my readership.   Then I crossed my fingers and hoped he’d answer. He did… enthusiastically.   Over the course of the next six months, he read my draft, made suggestions, pointed out errors, suggested more appropriate source material and forced me to look at the evidence in different ways. He sent along books and articles he believed would help in my work.   He re-read portions of the book I’d reworked based on his comments, and patiently answered what must have felt like a tireless stream of questions throughout the entire publication process. That’s generosity!

Last, but certainly not least, my fourth research path leads to travel. I believe it’s imperative to visit the places where the story happened. Landscapes speak and houses hold memories and secrets. This was especially true when writing The Family Romanov. In August 2012 I traveled to Russia where I followed in the Romanov’s footsteps, wandering the shady paths of Tsarskoe Selo and traipsing through the hallways of the Alexander Palace; visiting Rasputin’s apartment; exploring worker’s neighborhoods, Lenin’s headquarters and the dark, dank jail cells of the Peter and Paul Fortress.   Just walking the streets and feeling the air brings my biographical subjects closer.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned about the Romanovs and the uprising against them during your research?

Probably the most surprising and important discovery I made during my research for The Family Romanov came while visiting the Alexander Palace. In none of my sources had anyone mentioned how close the palace sat to the front gate. I’d assumed it was somewhere in the middle of the park, away from prying eyes. Not so. The tall, main gate with its golden, double headed eagle opens directly onto the palace’s circular driveway. Every day the family could look through its iron grillwork to the town of Tsarskoe Selo just on the other side. It gave me pause. The family was so close to it’s people. They were right there, just on the other side of the gate. The Romanovs could look out their windows and see them. They could hear their people’s voices from the palace balcony. They could smell their cooking. They really weren’t as physically removed from the people as sources led me to believe. It gave me pause. Why, I wondered, didn’t the Romanovs feel more attachment to their subjects? I mean, they were right there. The question led me down entirely new paths of thought.   And it eventually led to the book’s inclusion of first hand worker and peasant accounts under the title, “Beyond the Palace Gates.”

This is one of several nonfiction books you’ve written for teen readers. Any idea on what subjects you might be tackling next?

I’m tackling William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody next. Actually, I’m in the throes of writing it now. After that, who knows? I’m challenged and intrigued by the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. I recently read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s account of those terrible, terrible days when she waited for news of her son. And I’m filled with questions. For me, that’s the first sign that a new piece of nonfiction is brewing.

FLASH QUESTIONS:

Favorite decade?

The 80’s – I was a carefree, college student back then. Believe it or not, I even had purple hair!

Must-have writing snack?

Skinny Pop Popcorn – love that “no artificial anything.”

Favorite Disney movie?

It’s a toss up between The Ugly Dachshund (does anyone remember that one… Dean Jones!) and 101 Dalmatians. I’m a sucker for dog movies.

The beach or the mountains?

The beach along Lake Michigan’s southern rim. There’s nothing I love more than escaping to those endless, sandy shores for an afternoon. I pick up beach glass, hum in my head, and let the world fade away. Ahhh!

Song that can always get you dancing?

“What I Like About You” by the Romantics. Embarrassing, but I pogo to it. The 80’s again, you know?

Name 5 things currently on your desk (or in your writing space), and share a photo, if possible

  1. A gold bust of Nicholas II I purchased at the Alexander Palace.
  2. A shadow box of objects and fancies collected by my partner, Eric Rohmann and I, on our many travels. If you look closely you’ll see things like an iguana claw from Costa Rica, an antique glass bead from Venice, Italy, and an animal cracker from the National Zoo in Washington D.C.
  3. A crystal ball. So far it has not foretold my future.
  4. A Henry VIII eggcup for holding my paper clips. It also serves as a reminder to stick to the Skinny Pop.
  5. A two-headed rubber ducky – it’s just weird.

WIN A COPY OF THE FAMILY ROMANOV

Now here’s your chance to win! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form here and you’ll be entered to win a copy of The Family Romanov, courtesy of Random House.

U.S. or Canada only. Contest ends at midnight (PT) on Wednesday, July 23rd.

family romanovHere’s more about the book:

New from Candace Fleming, THE FAMILY ROMANOV: MURDER, REBELLION, AND THE FALL OF IMPERIAL RUSSIA (Schwartz & Wade / On sale July 8, 2014 / Ages 12 up) offers up non-fiction at its very best. From the acclaimed author of Amelia Lost and The Lincolns comes a probing look at Russia’s last tsar, his family, and their crumbling dynasty.

When Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, inherited the throne in 1894, he was unprepared. With their four daughters (including Anastasia) and only son, a hemophiliac, Nicholas and his reclusive wife, Alexandra, buried their heads in the sand, living a life of opulence as World War I raged outside their door and political unrest grew.

Deftly maneuvering between the lives of the Romanovs and the plight of Russia’s peasants—and their eventual uprising—Fleming offers up a fascinating portrait, complete with inserts featuring period photographs and compelling primary-source material that brings it all to life. Tragedy, melodrama, and I-can’t-believe-it moments make this a read that both kids and Romanov aficionados will devour. History doesn’t get more interesting than the story of the Romanovs.

For the comments: What intrigues you about the Romanov family?

Exclusive Q&A with Brazen Author Katherine Longshore – Part 2

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Today we bring you part 2 our exclusive three-part interview with Brazen author Katherine Longshore. If you missed it, check out part 1 here.

Katherine_Longshore_1589_CL_57_WFor anyone wanting to learn more about the Tudors, what resources would you recommend?

The library! Whatever part of the Tudor history interests you most, you should be able to find something to satisfy your craving. Want to know details on how life was lived and the workings of the court? Try Alison Weir’s Henry VIII: The King and His Court. Fascinated by the king and his relationships? David Starkey’s Six Wives is a great place to start. Love Anne Boleyn? Eric Ives wrote the definitive biography. Need to know more about the Howard family after reading BRAZEN? House of Treason by Robert Hutchinson tells the long, corrupt story.

brazenWhat was one of the most surprising things you learned while researching BRAZEN (or any of your novels)?

Because I had been reading about Henry and his court for about five years before I started Gilt (my first novel), it became difficult to find anything that surprised me. Once you spend five years in a place where a woman can be executed for treason in her 70s (Margaret of Salisbury) or a man can go from nothing to being the king’s most trusted advisor (Thomas Cromwell), all of the Tudor machinations and betrayals and trysts and servility become frighteningly commonplace. I suppose, though, on a more detailed and material level, I was (surprisingly) surprised to discover that the Tudors (and Henry in particular) were masters at re-gifting. Though the term originated with Seinfeld, the Tudors practiced regifting all the time—with no apparent chagrin.

Do you have other Tudor-era books planned? Who else would you love to write about?

None planned at the moment—I’m actually working on a contemporary novel right now. But I would love to write the story of a young Elizabeth, or Lady Jane Grey (any of the Grey sisters, actually!) or one of Elizabeth’s young maids in waiting when she was queen. Lettice Knollys (Elizabeth’s second cousin, who ended up marrying Robert Dudley) springs to mind.

Tune in for part 3 on Friday!

Exclusive Q&A with Brazen Author Katherine Longshore – Part 1

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I’m so excited today to be kicking-off our exclusive three-part interview with Brazen author Katherine Longshore. Thanks to Katherine for stopping by today, and to the folks at Penguin for helping arrange this interview!

Katherine_Longshore_1589_CL_57_WThis is your third book set during the Tudor era. What first drew you to this specific time in history? What keeps drawing you back?

I kind of fell backwards into my love of Tudor history. I started with Richard III, after seeing Ian McKellen in the film adaptation of the Shakespeare play. I thought, no one could really be that bad and set out to find the truth. It seemed a natural progression from Richard to Henry VIII. It’s the characters who keep drawing me back (and preventing me from moving chronologically forward on my historical quest). The chimeric king, his highly individual wives, the courtiers—ambitious, brutal, backstabbing, poetic, artistic, loyal, craven, adulterous, victimized or just plain in the wrong place at the wrong time. All human life is here.

brazenMary Howard is not a name most people are familiar with. What drew you to telling her story in BRAZEN?

During my research for TARNISH, I came across a little-known historical artifact called the Devonshire Manuscript. It is believed that it was passed around the court during the 1530s and 40s, and that many hands contributed to the collection of poems, notes and cryptic messages enclosed within. The initials stamped on the cover are MF—Mary FitzRoy—and two of the primary contributors are Margaret Douglas and Madge Shelton. I fell in love with the idea of a 16th Century literary brat pack and imagined Mary—the owner of the book—at the center.

What are some of the biggest creative licenses you took when writing BRAZEN?

The very biggest was placing Mary within the court during the three years the action takes place. There is no concrete evidence that she was there or that she served Anne Boleyn as queen during that time. There are hints—she participated in Anne’s first mass as queen and in Elizabeth’s christening, and one chronicler mentions her as one of Anne’s greatest supporters. I took that mention as license to build a friendship between the two women.

The second biggest license was the relationship between Mary and her husband, Henry FitzRoy. Nowhere does the historical record relate that they even saw each other after their marriage, much less got to know each other. But for me, Fitz (like Anne) had to be an integral part of Mary’s story. And just because something isn’t mentioned doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, right?

Thanks again, Katherine! Tune in for part 2 of our Q&A on Wednesday!