November 24th, 2014

We Were Liars

by E. Lockhart

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[Twitter]

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

 

The Sinclairs have it all: old money, social standing, and a kingdom of dimpled children whose blond heads have never known the sufferings of the real world. But with great financial power come great responsibility, and this family’s epic would not be complete without tight-lipped family politics, carefully kept secrets, and scandal upon scandal covered up with untruth upon untruth.

I admire the audacity obvious in Lockhart’s portrayal of her characters. As she told me previously (my interview with her and Sarah Mlynowski is to come), she chose to write them riddled with as many flaws as any real human being, and there’s something courageous in that. It takes guts—especially in a teenage novel—to write such an imperfect love interest, such an unlikable romantic lead, and yet still manage to convey the absolute strength of first love.

The realism with which E. Lockhart painted her characters and the relationships between them was paralleled only by the distortion wrought by their lies.  As you may have guessed, the novel’s title was aptly chosen. That being said, I found the narrator’s unreliability deliciously appealing. The uncertainty associated with not knowing whether or not I was being lied to by a novel’s main character—the only character a reader can trust in the blind faith of first person narration—was unfamiliarly rocky ground for me, and I loved it. If E. Lockhart’s goal was to shake things up in the world of YA literature, she succeeded in more ways than one.

I was of course, as simultaneously curious and horrified to uncover the summer’s truth as our protagonist. And now– I know what she did last summer, and I am aghast. I think I may have cried. The novel’s twists and turns, especially towards the end, have not yet ceased to unnerve me. They were beautifully written, wonderfully executed, and staggeringly dark.

All in all: 4.7/5 stars. This book had me hooked from cover to cover, and I adored it. Do not be fooled by its summer setting– it is many things, but a beach read is not one of them. It will far exceed your expectations.

 

But then again, I could be lying.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

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October 16th, 2014

Interview with Daria Snadowsky

[Twitter]

A huge thanks goes to Daria Snadowsky for taking the time to let me conduct this interview over email!

See my reviews of Anatomy of a Single Girl and Anatomy of a Boyfriend here.

 

Q: What inspired the series? Why write the books with such forthrightness and honesty?

A: Thank you! I’m asked this question a lot, so here’s my standard reply:

I remember my first hall meeting during freshman year of college–we were introducing ourselves and discovering that nearly half of us had boyfriends from high school. Then by the following semester, almost everyone had dumped or been dumped by her high school sweetheart. So I wanted to focus on that part of a girl’s life when she’s simultaneously excited for and scared of how college will change things. In the book, Dominique, the protagonist, says, “I used to think of college acceptance letters as emancipation proclamations. Now they’re like divorce papers.”

It was important to me to write a straightforward, nonjudgmental treatment of the emotional roller coaster of love. I resent that all of the words associated with romantic love are so pejorative. We’re often called “nuts,” “obsessed,” “head over heels,” “infatuated,” and “addicted”. Why is love saddled with such negative words considering that any one of us, no matter how brainy, sane, or logical, can feel this way? The Anatomy books concern a girl whose intelligence is above average but still longs uncontrollably for her crush. Her behaviors may seem crazy, but in truth what she’s experiencing couldn’t be more natural and human.

Q: The many breakups in the books were absolutely refreshing. But why not allow your protagonist to ride off into the sunset with her prince charming?

A: My aim was realism. Although I know people who ended up deliriously happy with their high school sweethearts, I know many more who did not.  And by and large that’s a good thing.  Breakups are excruciating and humbling, but they can also be empowering.  Rejection forces us to face and overcome our deepest fears and insecurities, and it gives us a greater capacity for compassion.  To me, happily ever after doesn’t have to include a significant other…it can be about feeling fulfilled on your own.

Q: What’s your dream cast for Anatomy and Anatomy?

A: Unfortunately I’m not too familiar with young talent today, so I’d cast teen versions of the following actors:

Dom:  Emma Stone

(Source)

 

Amy:  Christina Ricci

(Source)

 

Wes: Paul Bettany

(Source)

 

Guy:  Jason Segel

(Source)

 

Calvin: Michael Cera

(Source)

 

Q: Who are your favourite YA authors?

A: Judy Blume, Judy Blume, and Judy Blume.  Did I mention Judy Blume?  Her books basically got me through adolescence, and I dedicated Anatomy of a Boyfriend to her.

Q: When you were in high school, did you know that you were going to write a book? What did you want to be?

A: Gosh, no.  I thought I’d be a journalist or a professor.  I didn’t begin writing until after college and I got laid off as a magazine editor.  I wrote the first draft of Anatomy of a Boyfriend in the year and a half between losing my job and starting law school.

Q: Can you tell us 3 random facts about yourself?

A: 1) I used to be obsessed with Anthony Hopkins.  That’s not an exaggeration.  You can read about it here.

2) I wrote my college thesis on Ang Lee just so I could have an excuse to watchSense and Sensibility over and over again.

3) Forgive me, but I enjoy movies more than books.

Q: If you could take five things with you onto a deserted island, what would they  be?

A: A sonar power generator, a smoothie maker, my computer, sunblock, and a satellite phone.

Q: What are you working on next?

A: I have nothing to report on at the moment, but you can preview the first three chapters of Anatomy of a Single Girl here.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

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November 23rd, 2013

Interview with Lauren Oliver

[Twitter]

On November 18th, 2013, the Ottawa Public Library was lucky enough to host Lauren Oliver during its Teen Author Fest, and she was generous enough to let me conduct a one-on-one, face to face interview. I am still fan-girlishly giddy about this. Can I ever say thank you enough?

Hearing her story was sensational. I haven’t met very many authors– although I’ll post my photos with Lemony Snicket later– but it was so inspiring to hear how many times Lauren Oliver failed before making a break into the budding world of YA. Also: I am beyond excited for the release of her new novel, Panic, this March. It sounds like a Hunger Games meets  Monopoly meets high school type thriller: awesome.

 

Q: Just right off of the the top, what are five things that you’d take with you onto a deserted island?

A: A bottle of ketchup, definitely coffee, the Harry Potter series, which we’ll count as one, moleskin notebook, pen. I should have probably said a ship to get off the island, but anyway.

Q: What’s the best YA book you’ve read in a while?

A: I just read Ask the Passengers by A.S. King, and I really loved it.

Q: I have to ask– are the cover models on your books what the characters really look like?

A: No, no, no. Did you know that that [the cover of Before I Fall]‘s actually a five-year-old boy’s photoshopped image? It’s pretty disturbing. You’ll never look at it the same way again. I don’t even know who that’s supposed to be; it doesn’t look like Sam. It kind of looks like Juliet. But it’s cover art; it’s supposed to be evocative of what the characters are supposed to look like, but it doesn’t have to be identical necessarily.

Q: Did you like high school?

A: Did I like high school? Well, I loved my friends. I had a good group of friends and we’re still friends. But no, I was pretty deeply unhappy in high school. Not really related to high school, my parents were going through a really tumultuous divorce, and I was suffering from a lot of depression. I was pretty troubled in high school.  I mean, there were good moments and I had fun with my friends and my sister, but it certainly was nowhere close to the happiest time of my life.

Q: So what was– or is– the happiest time of your life?

A: I’m getting happier every day.

Q: I know that you didn’t really want to close anything off, but I loved Before I Fall. Can you tell me where the characters would be now?

A: Well Kent gets with Lindsay– just kidding! That’s the thing, I can’t answer this because I have specific ideas, but I want my readers to engage with it and have their own ideas. So whatever you think happens, happens. What do you think?

Q: I think that Lindsay is at university studying psychology. I really do.

A: Yes! I think she is too.

Q: Can I ask you about your tattoo?

A: I have 19 tattoos. I have one on my wrist, the initials of my ex-boyfriend who died. After he passed away, I got the first line of an E.E. Cummings poem, “I carry your heart with me,” on my back. I have an ouroboros, which is a snake eating its own tail. It’s a symbol of regeneration and rebirth, and I have a phoenix for the same reason. I have Latin phrase which means ‘truth is sacred’. I’m getting two more tomorrow when I get home– I have tattoos everywhere. But ask your mom before you get one.

Q: Thank you again, Lauren!!

 

I’ll keep you posted,

 

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[Twitter]
Different species. Mortal enemies. It’ll never work, but they’ll die trying.

Autumn Rossi thought she was a normal teenager. Suddenly, she can outrun creatures in the forest, making her wonder if she’s even human.

When the new guy at school, Zack de Luca, witnesses a questionable scene, he unfairly pins her as stuck-up. He acts like he hates her, yet he keeps bailing her out of trouble. Not only is Zack insufferable and irresistible, he seems to sniff her anytime he gets close.

As passion flares between them, Autumn isn’t sure which is more dangerous: her psycho ex-boyfriend, or falling for Zack — who’s risking his life just by being near her.

Happy spring break (ish) to all of you students! What better time of year for a beach read? You’ve been searching and searching, but you need search no further: I have the book for you. Veronica Blade’s series debut will no doubt sate your thirst for lighthearted entertainment.

My Wolf’s Bane incorporates all of the ingredients necessary to fluffy reading: new boys at school, magical powers, and psychotic ex boyfriends. Sure, sometimes the romance was a tad exaggerated– think frivolous obsession with an all-too-perfect love interest– but, hey, that’s all part of the enjoyment.

So grab your flip-flops and secure your straw hats, ladies and gents, and get ready for one helluva whirlwind romance. Oh, and check out my interview with My Wolf’s Bane one and only protagonist, Autumn Rossi:

 

ANA: Do you have any future career in mind, or are you just planning on improvising?

AUTUMN: I like doing design stuff. Sometimes, when I’m slaving away for my dad, I’ll do website changes for him or whatever else he needs. I’d like to take a college class or two and get better at it. Design is something I can do from anywhere, so long as I have a laptop– which I do. If I end up running from werewolves, having mobile work will come in handy.

ANA: Ah yes; I love using my laptop. Buying it, though? Not so much. You, however, seem to go on quite a few shopping sprees. What’s your style like?

AUTUMN: Obviously, I try to stay stylish, but the limited allowance my parents give me forces me to be creative. Like browsing the sale racks to help me stretchy my dollars. Choosing neutral colours, so I can mix and match. I’m still a fashionista, just a practical one.

ANA: I feel your pain! Unfortunately, I blow all of my cash on books. I know that you’re not much of a reader, but what’s your favourite YA book?

AUTUMN: Oh, I totally read! It’s just that lately, I’ve been distracted by other stuff, like finding out that I have super-human powers, meeting the guy of my dreams and my ex trying to kill me. Things like that make me neglect my to-be-read pile. Grrrrr. As for my favourite YAs? Paranormals rock. Some of my favourites of Shiver and Twilight.

ANA: Yes! Maggie Stiefvater for the win! I loved her Raven Boys! But before I go on a total fan girl monologue, describe yourself in five words.

AUTUMN: Strong-minded. Loyal. Slightly snarky. Stylish. :)

ANA: What’s your personal motto?

AUTUMN: Sometimes, you have to do the right thing, even if it might mean risking your life.

ANA: Speaking of risking your life, you say that Daniel was charming when you first met. I can’t believe that such a whack job could ever be appealing. Care to clarify?

AUTUMN: What can I say? The guy had me fooled. Daniel seemed super sweet at first, I swear. He used to ask me what I wanted for lunch, then wait in line and buy it for me. Whenever my car broke down– which was way to often– he’d drive me to and from school. And you know how guys can be gross with the lewd gestures and stuff? Well, Daniel always told them off. Of course, now I know it was all an act to reel me in. And as far as our first date goes, he didn’t really ask me out. It was more like, “Yeah, a bunch of us are going to Bill’s Bean and Brew. Need a ride there?” Classy, right? Not.

ANA: Well, good luck with that. I hope that you can get that asshole out of your life. Do you have any clue as to what the future holds?

AUTUMN: Well, I can’t see the future but I can tell you that I just found a birth certificate with a different last name for me. And the parents listed… Well, they’re names I don’t recognize. Zack and I are thinking about going on a road trip to the hospital where I think I was born, which’ll be awkward since our relationship is still so new and we’re going through some rough times right now. And then there’s the whole hotel room dilemma. One bed or two? And, OMG, Gina is a total bitch! Do you know she framed me for cheating? If the principal contacts my parents, I’m so screwed. Plus, there’s this new werewolf in town and I’m just gonna say that he scares the HELL out of me. Veronica Blade will tell you all about what’s happening with Zack and me in Wolves at the Door, releasing summer 2013. See you then!

 

A big thanks goes to Crush Publishing for making this possible!

 

I’ll keep you posted,

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Buy Dark Promise on Amazon

Rylie has it all – great friends, dream boy, loving family. But on the eve of her sixteenth birthday, her perfect little world shatters. A stranger claiming to be her real mother appears with a secret: Rylie is a faery whose powers will be unleashed on her birthday. Captured and forced into a new life, Rylie struggles to keep everything she loves and discovers a terrifying truth: some promises cannot be broken.

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First things first: I want to thank TBG Tours for including me in this one. I am seriously loving these things. I mean, reading free books and swapping witty comments with their characters? If paradise isn’t the word, then I don’t know what is.

Now, I know exactly what you’ve been thinking since seeing Dark Promise‘s cover: Faeries. Spelled with an ‘e’, no less. Haven’t we been through this already? Haven’t we already familiarized ourselves with this supernatural element? Haven’t we already seen all there is to see when it comes to these winged beasts?

To answer your questions: yes. You’re right in every way of the word. Miss Crane and Miss Jager don’t actually have very much to add to the already abundantly overwrought YA faery world. I don’t think that there is much to add to it. Since that flying trend a while back, everything else faery is just more of the same.

What’s important to grasp here is that that’s okay. So you’ve seen all that faery jazz, so what? There’s a reason the fay became popular in the first place. And, hey, I’d take faeries any day over stalker-eyed mermaids. Besides, Dark Promise‘s supernatural realm involves gloomy castles, magical gardens, mysterious artwork, and– this is the fun part– one  love-triangle-initiator who just  happens to be tall, dark and handsome. Oh, and did I mention that this guy’s father kidnapped Rylie in adherence to his super evil plan? Oh, wait! This isn’t mutual attraction, this is Stockholm Syndrome!

But apart from that whole kidnappee-falls-for-kidnapper thing (otherwise known as a certifiable psychological affliction) and some minor characterization issues, I really did enjoy Dark Promise. It was a completely escapist no-brainer read, and everybody needs one of those once in a while. I’m giving it a sturdy 3.0/5 stars. This one is for the people who don’t automatically roll their eyes when they see “faery” spelled with the ‘e’.

But here I am talking about letters when I could be talking to our protagonist of the hour. On to my interview with Rylie herself!

 

ANA: Okay, let’s start with the basics. What’s your favourite subject?

RYLIE: I’m really not a fan of school, but if I had to choose I guess it would be web design. I like things to be neat and orderly, and when you are coding a site you have control of the outcome.

ANA: Ah, a neat freak. Completely understandable. So, I’m guessing that you’re not a pleasure reader, per se, but out of all of the YA books that you’ve read, which is your favourite?

RYLIE: Don’t judge me, but I’m a huge Twilight fan. I feel really bad for Robert Pattinson. I can’t believe Kristen would cheat on him with that gross older man. I’m hoping they get back together.

ANA: I hold no disrespect for Twi-hards, but I will say that I never would have guessed that you’re one of them. On other things I don’t know about you, what’s your personal motto?

RYLIE: Don’t follow the beaten path. Go your own way and leave a trail.

ANA: Do you have any idea about your career after high school? A web designer, maybe?

RYLIE: I guess it depends on if I have to marry Kallan or go off to college with Adam. I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. I guess I should start thinking about that.

ANA: Speaking of your future, I’m sure that you’d want it to involve Adam, your lovely boyfriend. I know that you two have been BFFs forever, but tell me: how did he ask you out?

RYLIE: It was really sweet. After Adam won an important baseball game, he said the only thing that could make the day any better was if I would be his girlfriend. At first I thought he was joking, because we had been friends for so long. I didn’t think he thought of me that way. But when his lips touched mine, I knew it wasn’t a joke. We’ve been attached at the hip ever since. He really is a great boyfriend.

ANA: Sounds romantic, too. Well, Adam definitely passed the boyfriend test. Moving on, the colour of a faery’s wings must mean something. Why do you think that your wings are pink and purple?

RYLIE: That is a great question, and one I do not have the answer to. I’ll have to ask Azura next time I see her. It does seem like light faeries have pastel colours and dark faeries have darker coloured wings.

ANA: Although your faery name is Oleander, you prefer to go by Rylie. Do you have anything against flowering bushes that come in a multitude of colours?

RYLIE: I really hated the name Oleander at first, but it’s starting to grow on me. Just don’t tell Azura or my mom. I’m trying to accept my heritage—it’s not easy.

ANA: No, I don’t imagine that it would be. Oleander does have a sort of ring to it, though, so you’re lucky in that sense. After all of the misadventures with your name and other obstacles in the faery realm, how is going back to your ‘normal’ life working out for you?

RYLIE: It has been strange going back to the human realm and knowing that another world exists so close by under our noses. I shouldn’t admit this, but I miss Kallan.

ANA: Ooh, my daily gossip quota has officially been filled. Thank you for that juicy little tidbit. Finally, do you have any clue as to what the future holds? Or, in more specific terms, what do you think the next book-worthy happenings in your life will be?

RYLIE: I heard a rumor that Kallan is going to be visiting the human realm soon. I’m nervous, because I love Adam, but part of me is drawn to Kallan.

ANA: Folks, I believe that we have a teaser. I knew that this was going to be a great interview! A big thanks to Miss Crane and Miss Jager for making it happen.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

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Cassandra Rose Clarke is the author of two up-and-coming YA novels, The Assassin’s Curse (a wild fantasy involving magic and pirates), and The Mad Scientist’s Daughter (a self-proclaimed tale of love, loss and robots). Here, she delves into the obvious coolness of assassins, the origin of her cat’s name, and her passion for gangster movies.

 

ANA: It takes a pretty huge imagination to come up with a world involving magic, assassins, and pirates. What inspired you to come up with The Assassin’s Curse’s world?

CASSANDRA: I get asked that question a lot and I feel like I can never come up with a satisfactory answer for it! A lot of the inspiration came, I guess, from wanting to write something that wasn’t set in the usual pseudo-medieval European fantasy world, mostly just because I find that setting somewhat dull. And I’ve always enjoyed pirates and have read up on the history of piracy some, so that’s how they worked their way in. And assassins are just cool. That’s an objective fact.

ANA: Well, obviously. And assassins mixed with pirates? I am so there. Moving on, though, what’s your dream cast for The Assassin’s Curse?

CASSANDRA: For Ananna — Keisha Castle-Hughes (she played the main character in Whale Rider).

For Naji — Although at this point he’s about thirty years too old, I kept picturing Oded Fehr whenever I wrote Naji.  He’s most known for his role in The Mummy.

ANA: Okay, Oded Fehr is better than perfect; that is exactly how I pictured Naji. Speaking of him, romance certainly did not play a huge part in The Assassin’s Curse. Did you consciously choose to let Ananna and her journey take centre stage?

CASSANDRA: I did. I mean, I knew that there would be a romantic element when I sat down to write the story, mostly because I almost always incorporate some sort of romantic element into my writing, but I wanted Ananna to be her own person before she got to that point. In real life, a romantic pairing involves two complete people; why should books be any different? I tried to write the romance so that neither Ananna or Naji were defined by the other — hopefully I was successful!

ANA: You were definitely successful! Additionally, the role reversal with your characters (Ananna exuding the confidence of the typical YA male lead and Naji possessing the insecurities of the classic YA heroine) was absolutely refreshing. Did you purposefully develop your characters in this way?

CASSANDRA: Yes and no. Although I did purposely write Naji as more insecure than Ananna, I didn’t really think of it as a role reversal. It pleased me quite a bit when I saw people point that out, though, because it’s always fun to see those happy accidents in your writing. I largely wrote Naji as insecure because that’s how I imagined the character — as someone whose physical attractiveness, his handsomeness, was a big part of his identity. When he perceives that as being taken away (since it really wasn’t), he has to struggle to re-find himself. Ananna, on the other hand, didn’t allow her appearance to define her identity, and so she doesn’t have that particular struggle.

ANA: You really aren’t kidding– Ananna doesn’t let her appearance define her to such an extent that in The Assassin’s Curse, we never veritably find out what she looks like. So, how does she look?

CASSANDRA: Well, I actually drew a picture of her awhile back, so I’ll just show you that!

This is her at the start of the book, right before she’s about to get married off to Tarrin of the Hariri.

ANA: I love the doodle! When you were in high school, did you know that you were going to write a book? Because, darnit, if I could draw like that, I would seriously be thinking about personally removing the ‘starving’ from ‘starving artist’.

CASSANDRA: I had no idea what job I wanted when I was in high school — my conceptualization of the future stopped at college.  I enjoyed reading, writing, and art, so I imagined my future would involve at least one of those three things. I do remember constantly writing the starts to novels, but I never finished them. By college, though, I knew I was going to write a book eventually.

ANA: Who is your favourite YA author?

CASSANDRA: Francesca Lia Block. I first read her when I was in high school, and I still love her books now that I’m adult.  Her stories tend to be somewhat minimalist, but I always related to her characters, who tend to be outcasts in one form or another struggling to find their place in the world. Her writing is gorgeous, evocative, and poetic, and her books have single-handedly made me want to move to Los Angeles.

ANA: Well, I’ll have to check her out. But in the meantime, can you tell us 3 random facts about yourself?

CASSANDRA:

1. I’m teaching myself Spanish using Rosetta Stone, children’s books, and fanfiction.

2. I named my cat after Robert Baratheon, from George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books. (My cat’s full name is Robert Barcatheon.) I chose this name when he was a kitten because he’s black of fur, but as it turns out, he has Robert Baratheon’s exact personality, too.

3. I love gangster movies. I have no idea why — there’s a lot about most gangster movies that should probably annoy me, but I just devour the things.

ANA: Gangster movies. Huh. My personal guilty pleasure is cheerleader movies, and so I completely get what you’re saying about the annoying thing. That’s sort of what makes them so enjoyable, though, isn’t it? Anyway, if you could take 5 things with you onto a deserted island, what would they be?

CASSANDRA:

1. The largest MP3 player in existence crammed with as much music as possible (and some way to charge it, I guess)

2. Drawing pens (also useful for writing stuff)

3. Stacks and stacks of drawing paper (also useful for writing stuff on)

4. A cast-iron frying pan

5. A spatula (figured I should have a couple of practical choices)

ANA: Please give us a teaser for the sequel!

CASSANDRA:

I made it to the spring without incident, which left me feeling more than a little smug. The woods were still and the sky thick with the threat of rain. Nothing moved but me: no shadows, no creeping curls of mist, no beasties watching me from the trees. Even the spring seemed calm, nearly stagnant–just a few faint gurgles let me know it was still running.

I dropped the bucket into the spring and took a long drink. It tasted steely and cold like always. Then I filled the bucket to the brim and stood to walk back to the shack.

Something small and sharp zipped past my head, so close I felt the swish of air from its movement, and impaled itself into a nearby tree. I dropped the bucket, water sloshing over my feet and legs, and slammed against the ground. I was tense and ready to defend myself, but at the same time I couldn’t help thinking, Damn it, Naji was was right.

ANA: Oh, the suspense. I can barely stand it. Thank you so much for the interview, Cassandra!


I’ll keep you posted,

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Michael Mullin shares the specifics of his journey from an almost FBI academy student, to a writer of The Nightmare Before Christmas prequels, to the mastermind behind the TaleSpins series.

 

ANA: What inspired your TaleSpins (retellings of fairytales) idea? What inspired you to write 8 specifically?

MICHAEL: When I was a copywriter at Disney, it was my task to write for Disney merchandise in a way that was more contemporary and “edgy” (whatever that means). After a product meeting with a team from Japan, I wrote two sequel stories to Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. I met with Burton, and he approved The Nightmare Before Easter and my Valentine’s story/Shakespeare parody titled A Midwinter Nightmare Scream. I left Disney shortly thereafter and came up with Creepy the 8th dwarf as an original follow-up to appeal to the Nightmare audience. The Burton sequels never got published, though, so I forged ahead, sticking to fairy tales (Disney influence I guess…) and came up with the name TaleSpins. (The other thing I did at Disney was branding, so I’m big on that.)

ANA: Okay, so the twisted fairytale idea is great. But why the verse?

MICHAEL: That’s easy. With the Nightmare sequels, I followed the rhyming verse format of Burton’s original picture book (the one that inspired the movie). Because I was continuing on for that same audience, I just kept writing that way. But future stories may not always be like that. (Hint! Hint!)

ANA: That makes sense. But is it particularly hard to write in rhymes? What’s your writing process like?

MICHAEL: I have a sporadic, spare-time-when-I-can-get-it method of writing. The process usually involves coffee or scotch (depending on the time of day. I’ll let your readers infer….). Writing in verse has its challenges for sure, because everything is so sparse, yet has to be rich and meaningful to the story. Much of my editing is combining/condensing story points from, for example, 4 lines to 2 (or even 1!) Another big part is replacing generic rhymes with more interesting ones.

ANA: When you were in high school, did you know that you were going to write stories? What did you want to be?

MICHAEL: High school was when I first was alerted to a “talent” (for lack of a better word), but at that time I had plans to follow in the footsteps of an uncle and cousin who attended the FBI Academy and became agents. I went to college as an Economics major, but switched to English and was more or less focused on writing by my sophomore year.

ANA: Can you tell us 3 random facts about yourself?

MICHAEL:

1)      I taught both preschool and college.

2)      I have 5 sisters (and a brother).

3)      I went to the same high school as JFK.

ANA: If you could take 5 things with you onto a deserted island, what would they be?

MICHAEL: Assuming a boat is not an option, I’d take a box of books, a lighter, a case of red wine and a corkscrew. After I’d used up those items, I’d rely on my 5th: a serious flare gun.

ANA: Are you currently working on another Talespins story? If so… please give us a teaser!

MICHAEL: Funny you should ask . . . I recently posted the intro to TaleSpins 3, which is titled: Jack’d. Here’s the link:

http://talespinsbooks.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/talespins-3-revealed/

Comments very welcome.

ANA: I can’t wait to read it! In the meantime, though, I’ll have to rely on your other TaleSpins. Thank you so much for the interview!

You can read my review of Mr. Mullin’s original twisted fairytale, 8: The Previously Untold Story of the Previously Unknown 8th Dwarf, here.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

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Experienced (and indie) author Elle Casey reveals her take on high school society, the imagination of adults, and Reese’s Pieces.

ANA: What inspired you to write Wrecked?

ELLE: I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be on a deserted island, trying to survive and if it would be even possible.  After years of living in Florida and actually visiting these kinds of islands, seeing they do actually have bananas and coconuts and bamboo and all the things I included in the book, I realized it was possible.  All I had to do then was find a way to get the castaways on the island and come up with some characters who I thought normally wouldn’t mix, and see what would happen when they didn’t have the pressures of school, parents, and regular life on them.

ANA: Huh. And here I thought the bananas and coconuts were forced into Wrecked’s world solely for the development of the plot. I guess deserted island clichés exist for a reason. Moving on, what’s your dream cast for Wrecked? If I had my way, Sarah would definitely be played by Rachele Brooke Smith (who just happens to be the mean girl in Bring it On: Fight to the Finish).


ELLE: Honestly, I’ve never thought much about it.  Probably because the chances of any of my work being turned into a movie would be like winning the lottery!  I love when fans do that though, send me pictures of who they’d like in different roles.  I get a special thrill when they pick someone just as I’ve described or seen in my mind.

ANA: You’ve written more than one YA novel, including My Vampire Summer and the War of the Fae series. How is Wrecked different from your other books?

ELLE: Wrecked is my only Action/Adventure novel.  But all of my books feature teen characters and a prominent theme is life without adult influence or very little adult influence.

ANA: This is a very intriguing theme. But why do you think it’s so important for teens to be removed from their environment in order to develop in such fantastic ways?

ELLE: I think it’s important for teens to be removed from their environment in order to change in such fundamental ways because it’s almost impossible for a person to see the influences on her/his life until they are removed and replaced with something different.  There is no motivation to change when nothing around you changes.  In fact, change seems impossible, as if you are just going with the flow of the world, of society, unable to do anything but move along with it.  Most people don’t see that their perspectives and opinions and thoughts, even, are influenced very strongly by the people they spend time with and the rules they function under (like at home or school or even social rules out with friends).  Sometimes it takes a fundamental shift in reality to get the brain to start thinking in different ways.  Sometimes, like in the movie The Breakfast Club all it takes is putting people together who would normally never be together, forcing them to spend so much time in isolation that you cause them to start having conversations they never would have considered before.  I knew for my characters, it would need to be something much more pronounced than an afternoon of detention.  :)

ANA: Wrecked was a great story, but do you believe that four teenagers could survive on a deserted island in real life? And what about four adults?

ELLE: Yes, I really believe four teenagers could survive on an island together.   People have a tremendously powerful instinct to survive that drives them to do any manner of things (even resorting to cannibalism so they won’t starve!)  I did a lot of research for Wrecked, much of it taken from my real-life experiences living in Florida in a tropical environment, and visiting tropical islands.  None of the items (food, flora, fauna) I mentioned in the book were “fantastic” or not possible. Yes, the book is fiction, but it’s as realistic as it could be, which was important to me.  I wanted readers to be able to fall into the story and feel as if there were there, not having to question everything that was happening, doubting it and losing track of the story.  Hence, the lack of elephants or other animals that don’t naturally occur in places like that.  :)  I think adults also would survive also, but maybe not in such creative ways as kids.  Adults tend to lose their imaginations as they get older, their grown-up brains always saying “that couldn’t happen” which blocks the creativity.

ANA: What new book are you currently working on?

ELLE: Apocalypsis, a 3-book series.  Sci-fi, post-apocalyptic/dystopian.

ANA: Who is your favourite YA author?

ELLE: That’s tough!  If I were to pick one author who really influenced me, I’d say Madeleine L’Engle.  A Wrinkle In Time was one of my favorites.  Loved Judy Blume too.   Loved JRR Tolkien.  There are many!

ANA: I agree wholeheartedly. Madeleine L’Engle is still one of my favourite authors. Speaking of which, when you were in high school, did you know that you were going to write books? What did you want to be?

ELLE: I had no idea I was going to write books.  I did a lot of writing though, for fun.  I probably should have pursued it more, but I was lazy in high school.  All I wanted to do was travel in Europe and goof around.  I was a lost soul in high school.  It took me a lot of years to feel comfortable in my own skin.

ANA: Can you tell us 3 random facts about yourself?

ELLE: I live in France.  I love Reese’s Pieces and anyone who visits me from the U.S. has to bring me a bag of them.  I love the beach but sit under an umbrella the entire time and complain about the sand.

ANA: The only items that your characters were able to grab before being wrecked are some standard survival supplies and a Louis Vuitton makeup case. (I approve.) But if you could take 5 things with you onto a deserted island, what would they be?

ELLE: A very sharp hunting knife, an axe, a thick plastic tarp, a satellite telephone, and a big-ass battery for the phone.

ANA: Wrecked’s ending was a bit of a cliffhanger. Are you planning a sequel for it? If so… please give us a teaser!

ELLE: Yes, there is a sequel, called “Reckless” that is planned for December, and all four characters will be in it.  And maybe a fifth.  :)

ANA: Oh, the drama. I can’t wait to see how this mysterious fifth character will shake things up in the tight-knit group. Thank you so much for the interview, Elle.

Have you read Wrecked yet? If not, what are you doing? Go enter to win it here!

I’ll keep you posted,

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Kate Grace, an  improvisation comedy group member turned freelance author, shares her thoughts on The Hunger Games, fears of failure, and pitchers of margarita.

 

ANA: What inspired you to write Burden of the Soul?

KATE: There are two answers to this. I was inspired to write my first novel by going through a terrible time that ended up being a blessing in disguise. There was nothing left to lose, so there was nothing left to fear about failing. I was inspired to write Burden of the Soul by how my imagination started coming to life during that time. I was recovering from an illness that zapped all physical energy, so I was cooped up at home in a New York City apartment all summer. I was mentally bored, so my imagination sort of took over. We lived down the street from Central Park and that’s the only change of scenery I ever got because that’s as far as I could go. On the way each day I passed this gorgeous apartment building and I started wondering about the people that lived there. Then I started making people up. I built up my strength by walking through the park, but I had to stick to lower traffic areas to make the most of the little energy I had. The Reservoir, Belvedere Castle and the Bramble were among my regular spots and all these different stories my imagination was building in these different areas starting merging until one day they started showing up on the page. So I stopped writing my “first” attempt at a book and just let Clara take over.

ANA: What’s your dream cast for Burden of the Soul?

KATE: That’s a tough one to answer because I see them as they are in my mind. They aren’t known actors or actresses, they’re just who they are. A few of the characters started off being inspired by people I knew, but during the writing and discovery process they just became themselves. So I’m going to flip this question on you and ask what’s your dream cast for Burden of the Soul?

ANA: Okay, this is really hard because– as I may have mentioned– I’m not a huge TV person and the closest I come to seeing actors in action is during the occasional really crappy movie. But, if I had my way, Dave would be played by Andrew Garfield (whom you may recognize from the newest Spidey movie).

And Clara would be played by Vica Kerekes.  Whom you may not recognize. This is the part where you thank Google for its miracles.


Actually, speaking of Clara, I noticed that you never provided the name of her spontaneously-developed blog. What is it?

KATE: Ah, there’s a reason for that and the answer will come in time. ;^)

ANA: Cryptic. Okay. Next question: do you belong to any particular team when it comes to the Dave versus Devin battle?

KATE: This is another impossible one for me to answer because I know how it ends and why, so I can’t give that away just yet. I can say the developments coming for Clara, Dave and Devin along with Grace and Brik cover massive ground and will make readers’ hearts flutter, then break and then hopefully heal. In the end, and I have to stay true to this, they will represent the realistic joys, challenges and struggles relationships bring.

But I’m going to flip this question on you as well. Do you belong to any particular team when it comes to the Dave versus Devin battle? Why?

ANA: No, actually. No, I do not. I don’t think I know enough about Dave or Devin to favour one over the other, but I’m hoping to get to know them a lot better in the next installment of the series and possibly come to a decision then.

Speaking of book series– who is your favourite YA author?

KATE: There are so many! Top notch for me in the YA genre is Suzanne Collins for The Hunger Games series. There is so much brilliance in those books in regards to coming of age and choices, all of which is layered with complexities of environment and survival. What I love most about her writing and her characters is she never waters herself down because her target readers are young adults. I come across a lot of YA literature that talks down to the readers because of their age, when really this group is the smartest and most challenging to write for (in my opinion). With teen and young adult readers imaginations are strong, open mindedness is present and honesty is of the highest importance. These readers are the smartest I’ve encountered and that’s why I love writing in this genre!

ANA: When you were in high school, did you know that you were going to write a book? What did you want to be?

KATE: I had no clue! And I loved reading! I think books were something I loved so much and respected so much that I put them on an unattainable pedestal. I wanted to be a photographer. I went to a creative arts high school and studied theater. Every since I got my first diary at age 9 I’ve been a writer, but because I loved it so much I feared it. I feared the thought of failing. I went to college for art (and took writing classes for the fun of it). I worked in magazines as an editor and finished graduate school in journalism. I continued to write, particularly with journalism, but I had convinced myself I didn’t have the imagination necessary to write a novel, let alone a few. I was living in New York City and performing with an improvisational comedy troupe regularly when the light went on and I realized, “If I have imagination to do this I can at least try.” Not long after that the bottom dropped out. I got sick. Lost my job. Had to move, and no longer had anything to lose by failing. So I started to write, and it just kept going. It’s funny looking back on all the different paths I took and seeing how they were shaping me to be an author despite how various and disconnected they seemed at the time.

ANA: Can you tell us 3 random facts about yourself?

KATE: I’m currently trying to teach my dog, Maddie, how to wave goodbye.

For my elementary school talent show I sang “Tomorrow” from Annie while wearing a Sunshine Bear (Carebear) costume my mom had made for me. Problem was the hole for my face to poke out was the bear’s mouth, so it just looked like a Carebear had swallowed a child whole.

I am currently rocking a major Farmer’s Tan due to my love of T-Shirts.

ANA: If you could take 5 things with you onto a deserted island, what would they be?

KATE: Pitcher of margarita

Another pitcher of margarita

Another pitcher of margarita

Another pitcher of margarita

And a getaway boat for when the margaritas have run out

ANA: That is seriously hilarious. I really hope to see more of this humour in your next book, but in the meantime…  please give us a teaser for the sequel!

KATE: Ha! Well it’s still too early for excerpts (my editor would kill me), but I’ll share a few facts with you.

- Readers have all the information they need… it’s action from here on out!

- I’ve always been able to picture the climactic scene of book 2, but my day job and a dear friend/co-worker named Kurt Meyland have brought it to life in a way that gets my blood pumping every time I read it!

- So far the two sides have been stationary waiting for someone to move. Now everyone is on the move!

- There’s a traitor among them. Which “them”? Not telling.

 

So, a big thanks to Kate Grace for the interview! I, personally, can’t wait for Burden of the Soul‘s sequel– if only to find out the URL of Clara’s mystery blog. For the moment, though, I’ll be satisfied–I’ll be thrilled– to get to know more YA authors, so stay tuned this summer; more interviews are coming up.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

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November 28th, 2011

Coming soon…

[Twitter]

Interviews with authors of Silver and Stone and The Dig, J.D. Thompson, and Audrey Hart! Yay! J.D. and Audrey are also furnishing us with giveaways of their books. How exciting! For more details, go to the giveaway page.

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