A Sneak Peek at 17 & GONE (If You Want One!)

I mentioned this yesterday, but here is a post to say this and only this:

I’m notoriously private about my novels and rarely show people until my book is edited and done. This is because so much changes in the editing, and I like having only a very few people know the early stages of what the novel was in the beginning. My editor makes me look better than I am, and I’d like to keep it that way. But even beyond that, I’m kind of superstitious about talking about novels in specifics before they’re complete (not including with E, my agent, or my editor—they get to know… other people, I’d rather they not know, no offense). Talking about a novel too soon can deflate it and sap its magic. Talking about a novel too soon with the wrong person—even if that person means no harm—can ruin the whole novel, for me. Some people’s ideas flourish by talking. Mine like to be kept secret and private until the time comes to let them out into the light.

Told you I’m superstitious!

But I can talk about 17 & Gone now—not only because it’s done, but because, as of yesterday, some of its pages have been released into the world and people I don’t know—anyone who wants to!—can read them. I’m kind of freaked out. Excited, yes, and freaked—can’t I be both?

So here, excite me and freak me out further and go read the opening chapters of 17 & Gone in the Penguin Teen Spring 2013 Preview:

Penguin Teen Spring 2013 Preview!

The Inadvertent Creative Break

(The view from my new writing desk.)

I haven’t announced this or made a big deal of this, but it appears that I’ve been on some kind of quiet walk through the woods of my brain lately. It’s dark in here and there’s lots going on and I kind of don’t want to come out just yet.

This isn’t a formal break or a true sabbatical like one of my favorite authors, Sara Zarr, is taking (for inspiration, I highly recommend you read her blogs about her sabbatical if you aren’t reading already). No, this is nothing so well-thought-out and maturely faced.

It’s just that after finishing the last round of revisions for 17 & Gone in July, and my computer breaking and not getting replaced until late August, I discovered that I am not sure what book I want to write next. I have so many ideas for YA novels—and other kinds of novels, too—so it’s not for lack of ideas. It’s more: What should be next? Where does my heart want to live for the next year, two years? What would my editor and agent want of me? What would my readers want of me? But most of all—more than anything, I admit: What do I want of me?

I thought I knew, and I did have something almost ready, but my heart doesn’t want that to be the book anymore, so a proposal that was almost ready to get submitted has been set aside for the time being while I try my hand at something else to show my agent. I’d expected this would take me a week, maybe two, and look where we are now: the end of September.

Every time I think about this I go through a bout of panic, beating myself up for what I’ve done, and yet I can’t seem to speed it up, either. The new idea I’m working through needs time. It changes and shifts and emerges with new heads each day I work on it.

So I guess I’ve slowed to a crawl.

I think part of this is fear, of course. Fear of not having a new book under contract and worrying what will happen when I try. Fear of 17 & Gone coming out this spring. Fear.

But at the same time, it’s wanting to have my third YA novel be the right one. And—no matter how scared I am, no matter how nervous and knotted up and annoyed at my snail-like pace I become—the truth is, I’m not writing on command here. I want to write something I truly love and that’s important to me and speaks to me and speaks through me. And sometimes this just takes time.

So, privately, that’s what I’m dealing with. Publicly, you can find me in two places, if you’re so inclined.

This weekend I’ll be at KidLitCon in New York City. Maybe I’ll see some of you there.

And online, I wrote a guest blog in WORD for Teen’s “Characterize” series. Who did I write about? Ruby from Imaginary Girls. Hope you’ll go read my contribution.

One last thing to tell you: While I was writing this blog—admitting to my fear, and thinking of my brand-new idea in progress and wondering when I’ll be able to let it go—something pretty awesome happened.

Penguin Teen released its Spring 2013 sampler, and 17 & Gone is in it! Maybe this is telling me something… To not be afraid. To not make excuses. To not worry about spending the time finding the right idea and the right way to approach that idea.

To be brave.

So, bravely, I will share the link with you…

Do you want a free peek at 17 & Gone—among such amazing company with other Penguin Teen authors like Lindsay Ribar, Gayle Forman, Maureen Johnson, and Ruta Sepetys? Go read the opening chapters of my new novel, and I hope you like them!

Turning Points: Guest Post by Shannon Messenger (+Giveaway)

This guest post is part of the Turning Points blog series here on distraction no. 99—in which I asked authors the question: What was your turning point as a writer? Here, less than a week before her middle-grade debut Keeper of the Lost Cities comes out, is Shannon Messenger revealing hers…


Guest post by Shannon Messenger

Coming October 2 from Simon & Schuster / Aladdin!

I didn’t want to make the same mistake again.

By mistake, I mean jumping headfirst into a career I knew absolutely nothing about. Like when I switched to a film major, even though I had no idea how Hollywood actually worked (or even what being a film major meant—but that’s a whole other story altogether). A few years later I had a degree I never planned to use, interning experience for jobs I didn’t want, and a whole lot of pride swallowing to do when I made the terrifying decision to leave LA.

But that’s not the turning point I’m here to talk about.

I’m talking about the after.

The part where I realized I’d lost something when I set aside my dreams of writing for the silver screen. I missed sinking into another world and falling in love with the characters and getting swept away in all the excitement as the plot unfolded. I still had stories swirling around in my head—but now I was fighting them, snuffing them out, and the loss made me ache in ways I didn’t fully understand.

The more I missed it, the more I started to wonder if I should try writing again. But not a screenplay—never a screenplay again.

A children’s book.

I had an idea for a middle-grade fantasy series that was refusing to be ignored. And while I knew zero about writing novels, I’d spent years studying screenwriting. Surely everything I’d been taught would still apply. Screenplays couldn’t be that different, could they?

I quickly discovered that yes, yes they were. Of course there were overlaps—but when it came down to it I had no idea what I was doing. And after a few months of dragging embarrassingly bad files to a “deleted scenes” folder on my laptop, I started to wonder if I should just give up on the whole idea.

But the real problem wasn’t my inexperience with novel writing.

I was struggling to put the proper effort into polishing my craft because the whole thing felt like a waste of time. It seemed pointless to really invest my energy into writing a book if I wasn’t going to try to have it published. And pursuing publication felt too much like chasing another crazy Hollywood dream—and I knew how that had worked out for me. I wasn’t going to commit to something like that again. Not without knowing what I was getting myself into this time.

I tried to do my homework by reading articles and blogs—anything I found that told me about the book business. But none of that could show me what it was really like to be an author. How it would affect my life. And that was the crucial piece of information I needed before I could decide.

So when I heard about an event called Project Book Babe, where a group of children’s authors were teaming up to raise money for a book buyer friend battling breast cancer, I begged my husband to let me buy tickets. Yes it was expensive—and yes it meant driving to Arizona for something that he did not think sounded nearly as exciting as I did—but it was for a great cause, and he agreed it was a perfect chance for me to meet authors at all different stages of their careers and hopefully figure out if this was something I should do with my life.

A few weeks later we made the five-hour trip to Tempe, Arizona. And I’ll confess, I spent most of that drive watching the barren desert landscape whizz by and wondering if I was losing my mind.

I’d walked away from Hollywood because I absolutely did not belong. The constant networking to get ahead. The inescapable competition. It just wasn’t me. All I’d wanted was an outlet to tell my stories. I’d never had any hunger for fame—and the longer I was around it the more I realized how incredibly destructive fame could be.

But being an author was a level of fame too. A smaller, quieter one. But still—fame. So I didn’t see how publishing could ever be a right fit for me.

Until I got to Project Book Babe.

Poster from the Project Book Babe event

As I sat in that high school auditorium listening to the amazing authors talk about what inspired them and how they felt about their characters and what they loved about writing, it felt like they were speaking for me—not to me. Like they were channeling everything I’d ever thought about storytelling and what I wanted from a career and broadcasting it straight back to me. And the event was about as un-Hollywood as you get. No red carpet or paparazzi. No special spotlights for the authors who’d sold more books or won more awards. Just ten people at tables with poster-board signs, answering questions and auctioning off items they’d donated to help raise money for friend—and not because that friend was some uber-powerful publishing mogul who might help further their careers. They were helping her because they cared about her and she’d been an awesome cheerleader for their books and because she deserved it.

These were my kind of people.

And I knew—right there, right then—that this was it.

I was so sure I remember leaning over to my husband and whispering, I can do this. 

This was me. This was a career that fit. And I suddenly wanted it more than I’d ever wanted anything. Even though I had a lot to learn. Even though I knew it would be hard. This was it—the dream that was finally worth chasing. And I was going to race after it with everything I had.

I left Project Book Babe armed not only with that newfound determination, but also a new way of approaching my draft. One of the authors had talked about writing everything the character did to get from Point A to Point B—even though it meant throwing lots away at the end—because they discovered amazing things along the character’s journey. It was the exact opposite of how I’d been working, with my rigid outline, and the first day I tried it I had a breakthrough. A new character popped into my story—one who quickly wormed his way through the entire series—and with him in my arsenal the whole plot finally started to come together.

It still took me two more years and twenty drafts (yes, really) to finally tell my story the right way and make it good enough to sell. But all that work paid off. Keeper of the Lost Cities will be published by Simon & Schuster this fall. And I hope it will be the first of many books to come.


Shannon Messenger graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts where she learned—among other things—that she liked watching movies much better than making them. She also regularly eats cupcakes for breakfast, sleeps with a bright blue stuffed elephant named Ella, and occasionally gets caught talking to imaginary people. So it was only natural for her to write stories for children. KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES is her first middle-grade novel, launching October 2, 2012. LET THE SKY FALL, a young adult novel, will follow in Spring 2013. She lives in Southern California with her husband and an embarrassing number of cats.

Find her online at shannonmessenger.com.

Follow @SW_Messenger on Twitter.


ANNOUNCING THE WINNER OF THE GIVEAWAY…

The winner of a signed finished copy of Keeper of the Lost Cities… plus the Project Book Babe poster signed by Stephenie Meyer, Shannon Hale, Brandon Mull, Laini Taylor, Dean Lorey, Chris Gall, Janette Rallison, James A. Owen, Jon S. Lewis, P.J. Haarisma, and Frank Beddor is…

…Ren White! 

Congrats, Ren! I’ll email you for your mailing address. And thank you so much to Shannon for offering up this generous prize and to everyone who read her post and entered!


There’s more in the Turning Points series. Catch up with any posts you may have missed here.

My Upcoming Presentation at KidLitCon

If you’ll be at the Kidlitosphere Conference at the New York Public Library this weekend, look for me there! You’ll find me giving a presentation on blog series with the amazing Kelly Jensen from STACKED on Saturday at 12 noon—we have a great talk prepared for you and can’t wait!

And if you’re a blogger/reviewer/librarian/reader who has any interest in my upcoming 2013 novel, 17 & Gone, you should stick around and come up to me at the very end of that presentation. I’ll have ten *signed* 17 & Gone ARCs to give away to those who want one, which means you’ll get a hold of an ARC way early.

The ARC mailing to bloggers will likely be going out end of November! So this way, you’ll have an ARC two months earlier than most…

…And if I have any ARCs left over, I’ll give the rest away on this blog. I’ll let you know.

Hope to see some of you at KidLitCon! Just heard registration is full, wow!

Fall 2012 YA Debut International Giveaway!

Want one last—international!—opportunity to win one of the Fall 2012 YA debut novels I featured in my interview series? Well, here it is. Enter and choose the book you most want from the ten I featured by filling out the entry form embedded in this post…

Need some help deciding? Here are the authors’ most favorite lines from their books…

“NERVE’s a game of truth or dare, without the truth part.” —Nerve by Jeanne Ryan

“The first time Miranda Blackwood checked the back of her closet for a portal to another world she was eleven.” —Blackwood by Gwenda Bond

“You’ve always been our monster,” says Adrian. “Don’t ever forget that.” —The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

“Tomorrow is nothing after two months of never again.” —Through to You by Emily Hainsworth

“Gyver—the boy who’d visited every day in the hospital, whose voice chased away my fear, and whose hands knew just when to hold me—wasn’t mine.” —Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt

“I think of a forgotten lake and hopeful poppies.” —What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton

“I don’t want to be kept safe! I don’t want to be kept, not by anyone.” —Skylark by Meagan Spooner

“Sometimes when I fall, I don’t just remember. I forget.” —Fall to Pieces by Vahini Naidoo

“Winter stopped hiding Tricia Farni on Good Friday.” —Blind Spot by Laura Ellen

“As my head broke the surface it all became clear. I had died…again.” —Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini

Giveaway now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Don’t Miss These Debuts

If you missed any of the debut interviews this week, be sure to check them out:


What Happens Next and Colleen Clayton:

“There is nothing like holding a book in your hands with your name on the front of it. . . . I would run my finger down the spines and think: Wow. I did it. I really did it.”

Read my interview with Colleen Clayton and enter to win a signed and personalized finished copy plus 10 bookmarks!


Meagan Spooner and Skylark:

“I made a promise to myself that I would write at least 500 words a day, every day, until the book was done. Weekends, holidays, sick days, days I was on an airplane for 16 hours… didn’t matter, the writing still got done.”

Read my interview with Meagan Spooner and enter to win a 16X24 poster of the Skylark cover!


Vahini Naidoo and Fall to Pieces:

Fall to Pieces wanted to be written nearly nonstop during a crucial exam period in my senior year of high school, which was a bit bratty of it, really. I appeased it by giving it its way—what can I say, I’m a bit of a pushover.”

Read my interview with Vahini Naidoo and enter to win a pre-order!


Laura Ellen and Blind Spot:

“It is dark, 3 or 4 a.m. and just a small table lamp is on. My ideal reader is huddled in bed, hunched over Blind Spot, its spine clutched in her hands. She is dog-tired, eyes barely open, but she cannot put the book down because she has to see what happens next.”

Read my interview with Laura Ellen and enter to win a signed ARC plus bookmarks! 


Kimberly Sabatini and Touching the Surface:

“If I had to pick one moment that has made me suck in my breath and say wow, I think it was being given an ARC of Touching the Surface to give to Laurie Halse Anderson. She was the first person I ever heard speak at a conference and it changed me—deeply. I was able to give her the first book I’ve ever signed. It was a very moving, full-circle moment for me.”

Read my interview with Kimberly Sabatini and enter to win a signed finished copy, a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card, and some swag!


And come back tomorrow for an international chance to win one of the ten Fall 2012 YA debuts featured… your choice!

First Round of Debut Giveaway Winners!

Today I’m announcing some winners for the Fall 2012 YA Debut Interview giveaways! First off, thank you so much to everyone who read the interviews and shared them online—and to all the authors who answered my questions and offered up their books for prizes!

Here are the first five winners from Week 1 of the interviews:

The winner of a signed finished copy of Nerve by Jeanne Ryan:

Catherine Knox

The winner of a signed finished copy of Blackwood by Gwenda Bond and a home-made swag duct tape rose pen:

Steve Thomas

The winner of a finished copy of The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna:

Jessica Secret

The winner of a signed and personalized ARC of Through to You by Emily Hainsworth:

Diana

And the winner of a signed finished copy of Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt:

Rachel Thomas

I’ll be in touch with all the winners to ask for their mailing addresses. Congrats, everyone!

I’ll announce the second week of winners next week.

And don’t forget: Even if you didn’t win this time, come back on Monday for an INTERNATIONAL chance to win the debut of your choice…

2012 YA Debut Interview + Giveaway: TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini


It’s the very last day of my Fall 2012 YA Debut Interview series! I’ve been excited to feature these debut novels from the fall season, and I hope you’re now as intrigued to get your hands on them as I am. Our final YA debut author of the series is Kimberly Sabatini—her first novel, Touching the Surface, comes out October 30 from Simon Pulse / Simon & Schuster. Read on to see how Kim answered my Q&A…

…And be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a signed and personalized finished copy of book, plus swag, plus a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card. (Wow!)


Coming October 30 from Simon Pulse!

Nova: I’ll start with the dreaded question you may be hearing already from strangers on elevators, long-lost family members, and your doctor while you’re sitting on the examination table in the paper gown during your next checkup: “So what’s your book about?” (Feel free to use the jacket copy, or describe in your own words. Up to you.)

Kim: Life altering events are meant to alter lives.

When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she knows she must have messed up, big-time. She doesn’t remember how she landed in the afterlife again, but she knows this is her last chance to get things right.

Elliot just wants to move on, but first she will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of people she’s hurt, people she’s betrayed…and people she’s killed.

As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of her past, Elliot must find a way to earn the forgiveness of the person she’s hurt most, and reveal the truth about herself to the two boys she loves…even if it means losing them both forever.

In my experience, every book wants to be written differently—and each one behaves differently from the one before it. Some novels like it out of order, and some rigidly insist on being written from start to finish. Some novels come out fast; others are excruciatingly slow. Some novels torment you, and some sing you to sleep. What did your novel want? How did you appease it? Did it ever misbehave? 

Touching the Surface is the story of my heart, only I didn’t know how to write it when I started. After attending my very first local SCBWI conference I learned that K.L. Going was going to be hosting an intimate local workshop where she would be providing critiques. I was so inspired by her and the conference that I decided to go and to start writing a novel to get critiqued.

One of K.L. Going’s workshops I attended.

That first one-on-one session with K.L. would begin a three-and-a-half-year growth period for me. I took in every piece of information and advice I could get, because the truth was that I knew nothing. But because I had so much learning to do during the writing process, I have enough drafts of this story to build a house with.

I tend to think of those three and a half years like one of those scientific pictures of the body with the clear overlays on it. Each time you lay down a new page, like adding the circulatory system or the digestive system, the picture gets more complicated. That was Surface. It started out kind of basic and thin, and with each thing I learned, I added another layer of depth and texture to the story.

It was a long, frustrating, amazing, completely satisfying experience. And I can’t believe I’m doing it all over again with book 2. You never stop learning and growing, so if you’re comfortable you’re probably not doing it right. *head thunk*

Tell us about the place—as in the physical location: a messy office, a comfy couch, a certain corner table at the café—where you spent most of your time writing this book. Now imagine the writing spot of your fantasies where you wish you’d been able to write this book… tell us all about it.

My desk (signing my first book contract)

I’m a bit of a writing nomad. I write at my desk, on my bed (particularly if my hamstrings are being difficult after a run), and on my enclosed front porch. Sometimes I write sitting on the driveway while I’m waiting for the kids to get off the bus. I write in Panera and one of my local coffee shops. I’ve written at the playground and if I can’t squeeze in a spot to write, I write in my head while driving or taking a run, knowing that the words will go down so much smoother if I’ve laid them out in my mind ahead of time.

My writing buddy (Beans) when I’m on the bed. Or anywhere for that matter.

Imagine you’re on the subway, or the bus, or sitting in a park somewhere minding your own business… and you look up and see the most perfect person you could imagine devouring your book. This is your ideal reader. Set the scene and describe him or her (or them?) for us.

For me it could be a boy or a girl. A man or a woman. Who they are isn’t what I focus on, because let’s face it, who doesn’t dream of reaching a broad audience? But what I would love to see is someone who is so engrossed in the story that the rest of the world has faded away. Why? Because that’s how I am when I read books that I love, and the perfect reader of me is someone who loves it.

What was the moment when the upcoming publication of your novel felt “real” for the first time—when you got your editorial letter, when you saw the cover, when you held the ARC in your hands… or something else? Or if it doesn’t feel “real” yet, when do you think it will?

It does not feel real yet. Not completely. Sometimes I hope that it never will—the way I secretly wished no one would spill the beans about Santa and the Easter Bunny—even when I knew inside. There is a piece of me that realizes there’s something special about the way this feels and I’m reluctant to completely give it up. But I also know that there’s something very exciting about what’s coming next. I think the trick is to live fully in every moment of the process.

But…if I had to pick one moment that has made me suck in my breath and say wow, I think it was being given an ARC of Touching the Surface to give to Laurie Halse Anderson. She was the first person I ever heard speak at a conference and it changed me—deeply. I was able to give her the first book I’ve ever signed. It was a very moving, full-circle moment for me.

A pic that was snapped when I gave my ARC to Laurie Halse Anderson. <3

Another pic that was snapped when I gave my ARC to Laurie Halse Anderson. <3

Dream question: If you could go on book tour anywhere in the world, with any two authors (living or dead), and serve any item of food at your book signing… where would you go, who with, and what delicious treat would you serve your fans?

Oh, man. This is just a fun question. I would go on tour with J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins because it doesn’t get bigger than that. And I’d sit right smack between the two of them. LOL! I would also try really hard not to embarrass myself by drooling and forgetting my own name. (But that could be really entertaining for those MILLIONS of people on line to see THEM.) And the truth is, if I got to hang out with THEM, it wouldn’t matter where we went—you know it’s true. But if I had to choose, I’ve been longing to back to Italy and eat pasta and gelato. And that would make the “delicious treat” part of this question easy to answer.

If you had to pick one sentence, and one sentence only, to entice someone to read your book, what would it be? (I almost hate myself for asking you this question and making you choose! Almost.)

“As my head broke the surface it all became clear. I had died…again.”

This is two sentences, but they completely functions as one. Don’t make me take out that period and add a double dash. That’s just mean. Pretend I hypnotized you and you don’t even notice. Great. Moving on.

Touching the Surface comes out October 30, 2012, from Simon Pulse / Simon & Schuster. Read on for a chance to win a signed and personalized finished copy of the book and more!


Kimberly Sabatini is a former Special Education Teacher who is now a stay-at-home mom and a part-time dance instructor for three- and four-year-olds. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and three boys. Kimberly writes Young Adult fiction and is represented by Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency. Touching the Surface is her debut novel.

Visit kimberlysabatini.com to find out more. 

Follow @KimSabatini on Twitter.


NOW ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

You could win: a signed and personalized finished copy of Touching the Surface plus a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card, and some swag!

Coming October 30 from Simon Pulse!

How to enter:

1. Just leave a comment on this post, or

2. Fill out this entry form.

If you do both, you will be entered TWICE!

And to gain another entry, just tweet about this interview and giveaway—and let me know you did in your comment or on the form—and you’ll be entered THREE TIMES.

This giveaway is open in the US only. This giveaway closes on Friday, September 28 at 8pm EST. Good luck!


Thank you so much for reading the YA debut interviews this season! If you missed any, here are the rest of the debuts from the series:

…And come back on Monday for an INTERNATIONAL giveaway to win the featured debut of your choice!

2012 YA Debut Interview + Giveaway: BLIND SPOT by Laura Ellen


Welcome back to my Fall 2012 YA Debut Interview series! I’m excited to feature these debut novels from the fall season, and I hope you’re as intrigued to get your hands on them as I am. Today’s YA debut author is Laura Ellen—her first novel, Blind Spot, comes out October 23 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Read on to see how Laura answered my Q&A…

…And be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a signed ARC and bookmarks!


BLIND SPOT comes out October 23!

Nova: I’ll start with the dreaded question you may be hearing already from strangers on elevators, long-lost family members, and your doctor while you’re sitting on the examination table in the paper gown during your next checkup: “So what’s your book about?” (Feel free to use the jacket copy, or describe in your own words. Up to you.)

Laura: Ugh, I am so bad at the “elevator pitch.” :) Quick version: Blind Spot is a YA thriller about sixteen-year-old Roswell Hart, who is legally blind and desperate to prove she is just like everyone else. When her special-education classmate Tricia Farni is found dead six months after the night she disappeared—the night Roz fought with her, the night Roz can’t remember—Roz finds herself in a desperate race to clear her name and find a murderer.

In my experience, every book wants to be written differently—and each one behaves differently from the one before it. Some novels like it out of order, and some rigidly insist on being written from start to finish. Some novels come out fast; others are excruciatingly slow. Some novels torment you, and some sing you to sleep. What did your novel want? How did you appease it? Did it ever misbehave? 

Blind Spot was that novel that had to be written; the one that wouldn’t let me give up on it no matter how many revisions it took to get there. I based Roz on my own experiences growing up with a visual impairment and there was just so much I wanted to say and so much I was afraid to say. I struggled quite a bit at first. I found as I wrote that there was a lot I had never actually dealt with—stuff that was bottled up inside, neglected, forgotten, ignored—and delving into that was difficult. On top of that, I wanted the focus to be this kick-ass, can’t-put-it-down thriller NOT Roz and her visual impairment, and I found those two plot aspects butted heads—A LOT! I had to write several versions—even switched from first to third and then back to first person—in order to find the right balance between the two.

Tell us about the place—as in the physical location: a messy office, a comfy couch, a certain corner table at the café—where you spent most of your time writing this book. Now imagine the writing spot of your fantasies where you wish you’d been able to write this book… tell us all about it.

I wrote Blind Spot in my old home office (since then we have moved and I have a new office). At that time, it was the den and both my desk and my husband’s desk were in the room. Many times I’d be writing and my husband was a foot away watching some YouTube video or reading some joke email to me, so finally I asked if I could kick him downstairs and have the den to myself—of course, being the sweetheart he is he obliged. :) Once I had it all to myself, I filled the space with all that inspires me—wall-to-wall books, artwork and pottery by my kids, music readily available, and an area to sit by the window. My new office is very similar.

Imagine you’re on the subway, or the bus, or sitting in a park somewhere minding your own business… and you look up and see the most perfect person you could imagine devouring your book. This is your ideal reader. Set the scene and describe him or her (or them?) for us.

It is dark, 3 or 4 a.m. and just a small table lamp is on. My ideal reader is huddled in bed, hunched over Blind Spot, its spine clutched in her hands. She is dog-tired, eyes barely open, but she cannot put the book down because she has to see what happens next. (I say she, but it could be a dude too, Blind Spot is definitely guy-friendly.)

What was the moment when the upcoming publication of your novel felt “real” for the first time—when you got your editorial letter, when you saw the cover, when you held the ARC in your hands… or something else? Or if it doesn’t feel “real” yet, when do you think it will?

This still doesn’t feel “real” to me—maybe when I see it in the bookstore? When I got my ARCs though and saw my words on the pages inside a book, that definitely was a feeling I can only describe as surreal. And weird. Very weird!!

Dream question: If you could go on book tour anywhere in the world, with any two authors (living or dead), and serve any item of food at your book signing… where would you go, who with, and what delicious treat would you serve your fans?

Hmmm, okay this would be a really strange combination for a book tour, but my ideal book tour companions would be Jane Austen and Holly Black. I know. I told you it would be strange! But I love everything Jane Austen and Holly Black. As far as locale, I would be totally selfish and choose Italy because I have always wanted to travel there. And food? I’d love to serve chocolate fondue even though it would be super messy and would probably get all over the books….but I could sign with chocolate fingerprints instead of my name.

If you had to pick one sentence, and one sentence only, to entice someone to read your book, what would it be? (I almost hate myself for asking you this question and making you choose! Almost.)

My first line. I LOVE that line:

“Winter stopped hiding Tricia Farni on Good Friday.”

Blind Spot comes out October 23, 2012, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Read on for a chance to win a signed ARC and bookmarks!


Laura Ellen spent many nights reading thrillers, horror stories, and mysteries into the wee hours of the morning in her hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska, when she was growing up. She still loves the draw of the mystery, the suggestion of a conspiracy, the hint of the unknown and tries to infuse those aspects into whatever story she may be writing. Laura is a former language arts teacher and now writes full-time from her new home in Scottsdale, Arizona, where she lives with her husband, children and, yes, a dog :). Laura is represented by the awesome Jill Corcoran of The Herman Agency.

Visit www.lauraellenbooks.com to find out more.

Follow @lauraellenbooks on Twitter.


NOW ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

You could win: a *signed* ARC of Blind Spot plus bookmarks!

BLIND SPOT comes out October 23!

How to enter:

1. Just leave a comment on this post, or

2. Fill out this entry form.

If you do both, you will be entered TWICE!

And to gain another entry, just tweet about this interview and giveaway—and let me know you did in your comment or on the form—and you’ll be entered THREE TIMES.

This giveaway is open in the US only. This giveaway closes on Thursday, September 27 at 8pm EST. Good luck!


What’s the next Fall 2012 YA debut novel I’m looking forward to—and the very last book in the series? Come back tomorrow to find out.

…And stay tuned for Monday, when I’ll host an INTERNATIONAL giveaway to win the featured debut of your choice!

2012 YA Debut Interview + Giveaway: FALL TO PIECES by Vahini Naidoo


Welcome back to my Fall 2012 YA Debut Interview series! I’m excited to feature these debut novels from the fall season, and I hope you’re as intrigued to get your hands on them as I am. Today’s YA debut author is Vahini Naidoo—her first novel, Fall to Pieces, comes out October 2 from Marshall Cavendish / Amazon Children’s Publishing. Read on to see how Vahini answered my Q&A…

…And be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a pre-order of the book!


FALL TO PIECES comes out October 2!

Nova: I’ll start with the dreaded question you may be hearing already from strangers on elevators, long-lost family members, and your doctor while you’re sitting on the examination table in the paper gown during your next checkup: “So what’s your book about?” (Feel free to use the jacket copy, or describe in your own words. Up to you.)

Vahini: To be honest, I usually say something along the lines of, “Um…” Accompanied by a nervous laugh and shifty eyes. Which gets me some weird looks in response. I’m pretty bad at pitching my work in person. If pressed a bit more, though, I’ll usually say that it’s about a girl committing suicide in front of a garden gnome and how that affects her best friends.

In my experience, every book wants to be written differently—and each one behaves differently from the one before it. Some novels like it out of order, and some rigidly insist on being written from start to finish. Some novels come out fast; others are excruciatingly slow. Some novels torment you, and some sing you to sleep. What did your novel want? How did you appease it? Did it ever misbehave? 

Fall to Pieces wanted to be written nearly nonstop during a crucial exam period in my senior year of high school, which was a bit bratty of it, really. I appeased it by giving it its way—what can I say, I’m a bit of a pushover—and it rewarded me by drafting itself in a period of three weeks. Unfortunately, the bratty streak returned during revisions and I had to smack away at the manuscript until it would behave.

Tell us about the place—as in the physical location: a messy office, a comfy couch, a certain corner table at the café—where you spent most of your time writing this book. Now imagine the writing spot of your fantasies where you wish you’d been able to write this book… tell us all about it.

I wrote most of Fall to Pieces while lying on my bed. I’m one of those bizarre people that likes to eat, sleep, study, read, write, play, etc. all on their bed. I do also write in cafes quite often, and if I wasn’t supposed to have been studying for exams and I’d had more money as a seventeen-year-old, I would quite like to have written the manuscript at a quiet, charming cafe with an interesting clientele and an excellent cappuccino.

Imagine you’re on the subway, or the bus, or sitting in a park somewhere minding your own business… and you look up and see the most perfect person you could imagine devouring your book. This is your ideal reader. Set the scene and describe him or her (or them?) for us.

Well, obviously my perfect reader is the most attractive person about. They’re decked out in gear that would make even the most ironic of hipsters shed a genuine tear of jealousy. He/she is sitting right up the back of the bus, and there’s a book in their hands. The book is anything but Fifty Shades of Grey or Freedom and they’re concentrating intensely enough that there’s a tiny furrow between their brows. They’re so lost in their story that they don’t even register that the guy beside them has farted and the entire bus has taken on the smell of rotten eggs.

What was the moment when the upcoming publication of your novel felt “real” for the first time—when you got your editorial letter, when you saw the cover, when you held the ARC in your hands… or something else? Or if it doesn’t feel “real” yet, when do you think it will?

It felt a lot less surreal when I first held the ARC in my hands, but I still don’t think it feels entirely real. I think it will feel entirely real once it’s realised. Or, if not, then when a friend gives me their likely overly candid thoughts on the book.

Dream question: If you could go on book tour anywhere in the world, with any two authors (living or dead), and serve any item of food at your book signing… where would you go, who with, and what delicious treat would you serve your fans?

Ooh, I’d like to tour all of the US, road tripping with Christopher Marlowe and JK Rowling and serving chocolate, orange and chilli tart at all book signings.

If you had to pick one sentence, and one sentence only, to entice someone to read your book, what would it be? (I almost hate myself for asking you this question and making you choose! Almost.)

“Sometimes when I fall, I don’t just remember. I forget.”

Fall to Pieces comes out October 2, 2012, from Marshall Cavendish / Amazon Children’s Publishing. Read on for a chance to win a pre-order of the book!


Vahini Naidoo is a University student from Canberra, Australia. She spends inordinate amounts of time consuming instant noodles and novels. Her debut, Fall to Pieces, will be released by Marshall Cavendish in Fall, 2012. You can read more of her rambly thoughts on her blog.

Follow @VeeNaidoo on Twitter.


NOW ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

You could win: a pre-order of Fall to Pieces!

FALL TO PIECES comes out October 2!

How to enter:

1. Just leave a comment on this post, or

2. Fill out this entry form.

If you do both, you will be entered TWICE!

And to gain another entry, just tweet about this interview and giveaway—and let me know you did in your comment or on the form—and you’ll be entered THREE TIMES.

This giveaway is open internationally—to wherever the Book Depository wil ship. This giveaway closes on Wednesday, September 26 at 8pm EST. Good luck!


What’s the next Fall 2012 YA debut novel I’m looking forward to? Come back tomorrow to find out.

…And stay tuned for the end of the interview series, when I’ll host an INTERNATIONAL giveaway to win the featured debut of your choice!