Hudson Valley YA Society Event Sunday!

HudsonValleyYASocietyIf you’re in the Hudson Valley, come see me tomorrow, Sunday, April 28, at 4pm for a Hudson Valley YA Society event at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck!

Here’s more about the event featuring me, Lauren Morrill, Lauren Oliver, and Jess Rothenberg! RSVP via Facebook or email to the store.

And if you can’t make the event, you can order signed copies of my books and I’ll personalize them to you when I’m there!

Order 17 & Gone signed from me to you.

Order Imaginary Girls signed from me to you.

Order Fade Out signed from me to you.

Or… better yet… come see me in person. :)

Beyond the Buzz: Guest Post by Kimberly Francisco

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This week I have the last posts in the Beyond the (Latest) Buzz series, where I’ve asked YA & kidlit librarians as well as book bloggers to share books they think deserve more attention. Read on to see which book librarian Kimberly Francisco from STACKED wants to share… 


Guest post by Kimberly Francisco

biting the sun tanith leeWhen I was a teen, I became enchanted with dystopias, likely prompted by my early love for The Giver. I sought out books in the same vein, which led me to the classics (1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, Handmaid’s Tale), but there seemed to be a dearth of newer novels written for teens that featured teens.

In 2012, this complaint would be laughed at, but in 2002, I didn’t find much that adequately satisfied my hunger—until I stumbled upon Biting the Sun, a little duology by Tanith Lee.

Biting the Sun is two books in one: Don’t Bite the Sun and its sequel, Drinking Sapphire Wine. It’s set in a future world where consequences no longer really exist. In this world, if you were to die, your consciousness (or soul or life force) would be salvaged from your body and placed in a new body of your own design. For all practical purposes, death no longer exists.

I loved this concept, which seemed so new and fresh to me at the time. I loved how Lee worked with the idea of a consequence-free society, where people could change gender at will, jump from the top of the tallest building just to see what it felt like, walk around with real antennae for a few weeks, hook up with whomever they choose. The society is so technologically advanced that robots do everything for the people, so the people spend their days at leisure, dreaming up new and creative ways to kill themselves and come back in ever more ridiculous-looking bodies.

I figure at the mention of “robots” some of you made the leap to “sentient robots” and figure therein lies the conflict. Happily, that’s not the case. The conflict of the novel has much more to do with how humans—and one human in particular—find meaning in a world without consequences.

The book’s protagonist is a member of the Jang, a group of people similar to what we call teenagers, except the Jang are Jang for several decades instead of just a few years. The Jang are encouraged to act out, to be as wild and crazy as possible—sort of like how teenagers now are expected to act, but the behavior is sanctioned rather than oppressed. The protagonist—whose gender is fluid and is never named, a conceit made easier by the first-person narration—eventually grows weary of the lifestyle and decides to try and work, to find something meaningful to do that will improve the lives of others. When she (at the time) realizes that meaningful work is impossible, she decides to leave the environmentally-sealed world of Four BEE and see what it’s like to live outside.

Aside from not really knowing how to live in the “outside” world, her situation is complicated by the fact that there are those inside Four BEE who plan to do their best to stop her from leaving.

The books were actually published in the 1970s, so they aren’t as new as I thought they were when I first read them. But Lee’s writing and the concept hold up, and the world she’s created still seems fresh and new. She’s created a Jang culture that is believable, sometimes annoying, and weirdly fascinating (much like teen culture today), including a whole new set of slang. I re-read this book every couple of years and find that I continue to love it each time. Moreover, I loved that the ending was so different from the classic dystopias I had read before, all of which almost uniformly ended in despair.

Judging from the age of the reviews on Goodreads, I think Biting the Sun has seen a bit of resurgence lately, thanks to the recent dystopia craze, but I haven’t heard mention of it from anyone that I know or from people whose blogs or reviews I follow. It’s still in print as a mass market omnibus, and I think it fits in well with what’s being published today in this sub-genre (and is more unique and better-written than most of it to boot).

Technically, I believe the book was published for the adult market initially, but it’s a natural fit for teens. It features a teen protagonist, but more than that, it’s about growing up, about deciding who you want to be and in what kind of world you want to live—and then making it happen.

(I also gushed about Biting the Sun in my inaugural post at STACKED, which you can read here.)

Have you read and loved this book? Chime in and tell us what you think in the comments! 


stacked logoKimberly Francisco is a public librarian in Texas. While she has many duties, her favorite by far is managing the library’s collection of books and media for children and teens. At STACKED, she blogs about books and other related topics from a librarian’s perspective. You can find her on Goodreads or follow her on Twitter @KimberlyMarieF.

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Want more in the Beyond the (Latest) Buzz series?

Here are the posts in the series:

  • YA/middle-school librarian Jennifer Hubert Swan recommends Better Than Running at Night and Every Time a Rainbow Dies
  • YA librarian Kelly Jensen recommends a whole host of books including Sorta Like a Rock StarFirst Day on EarthFrost, and more
  • Youth services librarian Liz Burns recommends The President’s Daughter, Flora Segunda, and All Unquiet Things
  • YA librarian Angie Manfredi recommends Rats Saw God
  • YA librarian Abby Johnson recommends the top five books she read this year: The Berlin Boxing Club; Blizzard of Glass; Dogtag Summer; Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have; and A Girl Named Faithful Plum 
  • Book blogger Kari Olson from A Good Addiction recommends books including Freefall, I Swear, Like Mandarin, and more
  • Book blogger Wendy Darling from The Midnight Garden recommends UltravioletA Certain Slant of Light, and The Reapers Are the Angels
  • Book blogger Nicole from WORD for Teens recommends The Lost Years of Merlin
  • Librarian and children’s literature professor Laura Lutz from Pinot and Prose recommends New York City novels Kiki Strike, Better Nate Than Ever, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, The Night Tourist, Suite Scarlett, and Undertown
  • Book blogger and children’s literature MFA student Mackenzi Lee recommends Millions
  • Book columnist and reviewer Colleen Mondor recommends For Liberty
  • Book blogger Kellie at the Re-Shelf recommends Andromeda Klein, The Door in the Hedge, Dramarama, Leverage, I Do, Kill Me Softly, Secret Society Girl, and The Wicked and the Just 
  • Librarian Amber Couch recommends books that get overlooked in her library

Beyond the Buzz: Overactive Imaginations

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This week I have a couple last posts in the Beyond the (Latest) Buzz series, where I’m asking YA & kidlit librarians as well as book bloggers to share books they think deserve more attention. Here’s a different take on this question from librarian Amber Couch… 


Guest post by Amber Couch

AmberCrouchMy name is Amber Couch, and I’m a middle school and high school librarian in rural, southwest Virginia. My students are always asking me if I’ve read all the books in the library. Not even close! But I have read a lot, and that made the task of choosing just a few books for this blog post a real challenge. As I walked around my library, I kept saying, “Oooo! I love that book. Wait, no, this one!” Even as I’ve written this post, I’ve changed my mind a few times.

One thing I noticed about all the books was that they really targeted my overactive imagination. In all of them, the author was able to write in such a way that I was transported into the world of the characters. I wish I could live there forever.

AnneofGreenSo, of course, my first book I want to share is Anne of Green Gables. Anne Shirley is the epitome of overactive imaginations, and I was sure she was my absolute bosom friend. Lucy Maud Montgomery set the bar for how I measured all future best friends, and no boy would ever be as wonderful as Gilbert Blythe. Anne and her world made such an impression on me that college papers would be written about her, my best friends had red hair, and even my cat is named after her. Anne lived life with such joy and saw the world as magical. I try to embrace that every day. When students say they want something lighthearted, maybe some adventure or comedy, this is the first book I direct them to.

PreyWhen I got to high school, I started reading a lot of Michael Crichton novels. My biology teacher read Jurassic Park aloud to us when we were learning about genetics, and I was hooked. Michael Crichton scares me! And again, that’s because of my overactive imagination. His books (hopefully) couldn’t actually happen, but they are grounded in enough scientific fact that it makes you wonder. His scariest book, and my favorite, is Prey. This is a story about little nanobots that fly around in swarms and can get under your skin and possess you. The whole time I was reading it there was a buzzing in my ears and my skin was crawling. I would see a swarm of gnats and start wondering if there were actually microscopic robots coming to attack me. It didn’t help that the story took place within a few hours of where I lived. Michael Crichton was able to make the impossible seem almost plausible, which terrified me. When students ask for horror books, I always try to steer them towards his shelf.

FinnikinRecently I read Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. This is the type of book I wish I could write—fantasy, complete with wizards, magical beasts, sword fights, and princesses never really in distress. It reminded me so much of the books I kept hidden in high school for fear I would be too much of a nerd. Books like The Belgariad by David Eddings, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. To this day I want to believe that somewhere there really is a world where magic is possible, dragons soar through the skies, and knights ride in to save the day. Finnikin is the perfect hero and Melina’s book does a wonderful job of writing action scenes that get your blood pumping and tender scenes to warm your heart. I cry every time I read the ending and fall completely in love with Finnikin. I’m so excited that she has written a sequel, and I can’t wait to start reading my library’s copy. When students want fantasy adventures, this is right where I direct them.

One thing I’ve noticed about the books that get overlooked in my library is that they generally are older. Students want the books with the shiny covers that came out yesterday. If I tell a student that a book was one of my favorites when I was their age, they will generally put it back. The Fudge books by Judy Blume were my life in 4th grade and are still incredibly relevant. But, students don’t seem to be as interested anymore. So, my advice when trying to find a good book is don’t forget about those books that are older. Just because they were written before you were born does not mean they are a boring book. There’s a reason we call them classics, and I think it’s time to start giving that title to more amazing books.

If you have an older book recommendation for me, I would love to hear it. You can find me on twitter: @acouchwriter.


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Want more in the Beyond the (Latest) Buzz series?

Here are the posts in the series so far:

  • YA/middle-school librarian Jennifer Hubert Swan recommends Better Than Running at Night and Every Time a Rainbow Dies
  • YA librarian Kelly Jensen recommends a whole host of books including Sorta Like a Rock StarFirst Day on EarthFrost, and more
  • Youth services librarian Liz Burns recommends The President’s Daughter, Flora Segunda, and All Unquiet Things
  • YA librarian Angie Manfredi recommends Rats Saw God
  • YA librarian Abby Johnson recommends the top five books she read this year: The Berlin Boxing Club; Blizzard of Glass; Dogtag Summer; Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have; and A Girl Named Faithful Plum 
  • Book blogger Kari Olson from A Good Addiction recommends books including Freefall, I Swear, Like Mandarin, and more
  • Book blogger Wendy Darling from The Midnight Garden recommends UltravioletA Certain Slant of Light, and The Reapers Are the Angels
  • Book blogger Nicole from WORD for Teens recommends The Lost Years of Merlin
  • Librarian and children’s literature professor Laura Lutz from Pinot and Prose recommends New York City novels Kiki Strike, Better Nate Than Ever, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, The Night Tourist, Suite Scarlett, and Undertown
  • Book blogger and children’s literature MFA student Mackenzi Lee recommends Millions
  • Book columnist and reviewer Colleen Mondor recommends For Liberty
  • Book blogger Kellie at the Re-Shelf recommends Andromeda Klein, The Door in the Hedge, Dramarama, Leverage, I Do, Kill Me Softly, Secret Society Girl, and The Wicked and the Just 

Beyond the Buzz: The Re-Shelf Take

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This week I have a couple last posts in the Beyond the (Latest) Buzz series, where I’m asking YA & kidlit librarians as well as book bloggers to share books they think deserve more attention. Read on to see which books Kellie from the Re-Shelf wants to share… 


Guest post by Kellie

When Nova contacted me about doing a guest blog for her Beyond (the Latest) Buzz series about “overlooked” books, I instantly had concerns.

No. That’s not true. I was instantly flattered, excited, and thrilled to be asked.

But then I started thinking about what an overlooked book IS and then the concerns began. Are we talking within the last year? Within my lifetime (a time that included a barren YA wasteland [at least where I lived] and a subsequent YA boom that continues to grow and expand)? Of all time? And what does “overlooked” mean? Less than 100 reviews on GoodReads? The title is on a backlist? Didn’t win an award OR sit atop the bestsellers list?

Clearly, I have an issue with overthinking things.

Nova had this all planned out, though, and gave a huge amount of flexibility of how to view the series and the books. Basically, these are books we think should get some more attention.

That all squared away, I…still couldn’t decide what time period to talk about. So I made an executive decision! Cover them ALL. (Sort of.)

Ye Olde Books of Yore That May Have Been Forgotten Books

hedgeThe Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley. 

This may or may not be the book that spurned a passion for fairytale retellings in my life. I still haven’t found a new version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses that I like more than McKinley’s take on the matter. All four short stories included in this set are wonderful and may incur a desire to take advantage of alllllllllllll the retellings that have been pubbed lately.

idoAny book by Elizabeth Chandler.

For real. While her Kissed by an Angel series is pretty well known (and recently got a bit of a reboot with a sequel trilogy), my personal faves that I revisit year in and year out are from a series called “Love Stories.” Does anyone besides me remember these? Basically, it was a bunch of non-connected love stories written by a HUGE number of authors and sold under the series title. Chandler wrote a few but my particular favorites are I Do and At First Sight. I still get a little swoony thinking about those two. These aren’t published anymore, but if you see one in a used bookstore or your stacks—GRAB IT.

GoodReads Tells Me Less Than 500 People Have Read These Books and I Don’t Understand Why Books

andromedaAndromeda Klein by Frank Portman

Okay, if I’m honest, I find this to be a love-it or hate-it book. Personally, I adore Portman’s sophomore novel. Andromeda is a quirky, intense character and has Very Strong opinions as to how libraries run. Additionally, I learned a boatload from this book—about the occult, tarot cards, and inner-ear problems.

leverageLeverage by Joshua C. Cohen

Okay, Cohen’s debut has 562 GoodReads ratings [768 now, as of this posting! —NRS]. BUT STILL. Not enough. And while the material is intense, dark and, at times, tough to get through, the friendships in this book are unique and different and fascinating. Plus it puts an entirely different spin on sports books, bullying, and revenge.

A Decent Number of People Have Read These Books, but Not Enough for Me Because I’m Greedy Books

 

dramaDramarama by E. Lockhart

I am a theatre nerd. Like, for serious. And I’ve always felt this Lockhart novel gets lost amongst her other awesome novels. I also harbor a distinct affection for the gorg cover. That said, when reader’s advisory was a huge part of my job, I constantly used this book as a go-to read for many a-customers looking for a good read.

secretSecret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund

I have to give credit where credit is due: the only reason I know about this series of books (of which SSG is the first) is Leila at Bookshelves of Doom. Most places categorize them as adult fiction—the MC is in college—but I think they fit just as happily in the upper-YA range. I came for the secret societies, but I stayed for the interesting friendship dynamics, complex characters and storylines, and big, swoon-worthy moments.

Books from Last Year I Want Everyone to Read Books

wickedThe Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats

This is a very recent read for me and I was positively swept away by it. The historical details. The juxtaposition of our two MCs. Wales. 13th Century. Ugh. Loved it. Loved. It.

softlyKill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

Since we started with fairytale retellings, let’s end with one. In KMS, people are forced to live fairytale stories out in real time. This can be as lovely as finding the Beast to your Beauty or as awful as realizing the designated Beast is also the misogynist dude from high school. I loved how Cross played this story out and how she translated actions/characters from fairy tales into present-day reality. Such a fascinating new take on retellings that had me dwelling on the concept for days.

And that’s all she wrote. From The Re-Shelf, anyway. There will be way more hidden gems revealed throughout this series and I cannot wait to see them revealed!

Thanks for having me, Nova!

Have you read and loved these books? Chime in and tell us what you think in the comments! 


teaKellie makes her Internet home over at The Re-Shelf, where she reviews books—usually late at night. She is an academic librarian by trade and delights in all things entertainment. After a year living in Alaska, she firmly defines herself as an “indoor girl.” Currently, she is nursing obsessions with Sleep No More; She’s So Mean by Matchbox Twenty; Pitch Perfect; and dystopian novels. One day soon she plans on running away to New York City. Her dream is to be a one-hit wonder. You can also find her on the twitter.

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Want more in the Beyond the (Latest) Buzz series?

Here are the posts in the series so far:

  • YA/middle-school librarian Jennifer Hubert Swan recommends Better Than Running at Night and Every Time a Rainbow Dies
  • YA librarian Kelly Jensen recommends a whole host of books including Sorta Like a Rock StarFirst Day on EarthFrost, and more
  • Youth services librarian Liz Burns recommends The President’s Daughter, Flora Segunda, and All Unquiet Things
  • YA librarian Angie Manfredi recommends Rats Saw God
  • YA librarian Abby Johnson recommends the top five books she read this year: The Berlin Boxing Club; Blizzard of Glass; Dogtag Summer; Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have; and A Girl Named Faithful Plum 
  • Book blogger Kari Olson from A Good Addiction recommends books including Freefall, I Swear, Like Mandarin, and more
  • Book blogger Wendy Darling from The Midnight Garden recommends UltravioletA Certain Slant of Light, and The Reapers Are the Angels
  • Book blogger Nicole from WORD for Teens recommends The Lost Years of Merlin
  • Librarian and children’s literature professor Laura Lutz from Pinot and Prose recommends New York City novels Kiki Strike, Better Nate Than Ever, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, The Night Tourist, Suite Scarlett, and Undertown
  • Book blogger and children’s literature MFA student Mackenzi Lee recommends Millions
  • Book columnist and reviewer Colleen Mondor recommends For Liberty

Turning Points: Guest Post by Erin Bowman

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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 is Erin Bowman, debut author of Taken and one of my Anticipated Debuts for April 2013, sharing her turning point…

And be sure to enter the giveaway before it closes tomorrow!


Guest post by Erin Bowman

TakenI have always been a storyteller. When I couldn’t write, I rambled—imagining epic adventures for the family dog, the squirrels in the backyard, you name it—and then when I could write, I was an addict.

I went to writing camp over the summers during middle school (yes, really). I took some creative writing classes in high school and then minored in it in college. Even after graduating, when I started working as a web designer, I still wrote obsessively on the side. But despite all those years of writing—while I penned countless short stories and filled notebook after notebook with poetry and prose—I never once completed a novel.

I tried. Repetitively.

I’d have a spark of an idea and feverishly type a chapter or two. I’d revise and polish those two chapters until they shined. And then I’d lose interest. The manuscript would sit, lonely and forgotten on my hard drive, next to dozens of other abandoned projects. That “writing” folder was a sad graveyard of half-baked story ideas.

I liked to tell myself that this happened habitually because none of my ideas were The One. That, or I needed to mull a concept over more thoroughly before I was capable of writing chapter three. Or even if I did mull it over, I’d never have the time to craft it into the version of the story I had in my head so why fight an impossible battle? There just wasn’t enough time. After all, I was busy with school/work/wedding planning/holidays/friends/family/life.

The hard truth was this: It wasn’t that I didn’t have the time, but that I didn’t want to make the time. All the excuses were just a way to satisfy my conscience.

A month before my wedding in 2009, I lost my design job during a series of company-wide layoffs. I was devastated and shocked and felt like a total failure. Deep down, I knew I’d be able to secure another job, but that layoff really shook my confidence and the timing couldn’t have been worse. (Seriously! Right before my wedding!)

I was Eeyore that first week of unemployment, all doom and gloom.

But then something funny happened. In the quiet hours when my husband (then-fiancé) was at work, and in between my job hunting and last minute wedding planning, a new novel idea fell into my lap.

I wanted to write it, only this time, I told myself if I started, I wasn’t allowed to quit. I was getting married and eventually I’d have a new job, and with this new stage of my life, I decided I was also going to be a new type of writer: one who saw projects through. I was going to finish that novel no matter what.

So I started drafting. I got married. I found a new job. I fell back into my typical 50-hour workweek. We moved and suddenly I had an hour long commute each way.

But I kept writing.

And writing.

And I finished that novel.

I revised it. I started another. I finished and revised that. I was busier than ever (especially with that hellish commute), and yet I was writing at volumes I’d never before come close to.

At my new job, the creative director ran a book club. Every month she assigned the design and dev team an industry-related read, and then we’d all discuss it over lunch. I distinctly remember everyone reacting strongly to this quote about dreams and personal projects: “There is always enough time if you spend it right.” The co-authors of the book, Rework, went on to theorize that if you don’t have enough time, than maybe your personal project isn’t really your dream. And that’s totally okay if it’s not. Time is precious and you should absolutely spend your free hours doing the things you love most. But coincidentally, you forfeit the right to complain and mope about not reaching your dreams if you don’t actively pursue them.

I think this resonated with me in part because it was so plainly stated, but also because I’d learned this very truth in the months following my job loss. That unfortunate event made me move forward with redefined goals. I was unflinchingly honest with myself. I promised to stop making excuses and hold myself accountable. I would finish drafting a novel because I was making it a priority.

That pivotal moment came rather early in my writing career. Heck, it came long before I even considered pursuing publication. Back then, I had no clue what an agent did or what a query letter was and the only ARC I knew of was the America Red Cross. Sometimes I wish the enlightenment came even sooner, but in the end, I’m just glad it came. Period. Because once writing was a priority, it was amazing how much time I could carve out of an already busy day.

Last week my debut novel, TAKEN, released from HarperTeen. I can confidently say that had I not lost my job in 2009, I would never have written this book. When the idea for the story surfaced, it was so complex—packed with twists and turns—that even having a finished novel under my belt and knowing I was capable of typing through to the end, didn’t make the thought of drafting TAKEN any less daunting.

But I’d learned my lesson about goals and persistence, and I knew I could write the book if I made it a priority.

So I opened a new document. And I started typing.

Erin’s debut novel, Taken, came out last week from HarperTeen!


erinbowman_authorphotoErin Bowman used to tell stories visually as a web designer. Now a full-time writer, she relies solely on words. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband, and when not writing she can often be found hiking, commenting on good typography, and obsessing over all things Harry Potter. TAKEN is her first novel.

Visit her at www.embowman.com to find out more. 

Follow @erin_bowman on Twitter.


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

Turning Points: Guest Post by Leah Konen

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 is Leah Konen, author of The After Girls, celebrating her pub day today by sharing hers…


Guest post by Leah Konen

the-after-girls

THE AFTER GIRLS is on sale today, April 18, from Merit Press!

Taking to heart the wisdom of many a writing teacher and advice piece on the Internet, I wrote my first complete novel with a thorough outline. One with every scene and plotline planned out. I wrote several pages a day, on top of a demanding full-time job in magazine publishing. I was new to New York and didn’t have many friends, so my manuscript was often my Saturday night date. I completed a draft in about four months (I have my outline and lackluster social life to thank for that), and while I did revise extensively, both on my own and with the agent I signed with upon completion, I have to say I was pleased with how quickly I cranked it out. It was like a Writer’s Digest post on How to Write a Novel.

Set in the town where I grew up, the story was sweet and semi-autobiographical. It was what I had to write before I could write anything else. It got me a wonderful agent, but unless I go back to it, it will likely remain in the proverbial desk drawer for the remainder of my career. And I’m okay with that.

My turning point didn’t come in my first foray into novel writing. It came when I began The After Girls. The idea for the book came first as a title and a question: What would take a group of friends from before to after instantly? The concept came quick enough as I filled in the gaps—two high school friends shaken by their best friend’s suicide right after graduation, set against the eerie backdrop of a rural Appalachian mountain town—but the details were another thing. I was writing from the point of view of two girls instead of one. I added characters and removed them. I was walking a fine line between magical realism and contemporary. And I had no outline.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. I wrote outline after outline, hoping to find one that would work like the first one, with no success. I wrote 50 pages, rewrote those pages, and didn’t look at the manuscript for weeks or even a month at a time. I felt like a failure. I was the girl who could crank out a novel in mere months. Now I’d been months and months at a single idea and had very little to show for it. I wasn’t writing on a schedule. I wasn’t even writing regularly, for that matter, but I was writing—a page here and a chapter there.

At a certain point, The After Girls began to write itself. It was like that great E.L. Doctorow quote: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Page by page, I made the trip. The characters took over—they surprised me. The plot took twists—the ending changed multiple times. I even added a character in a few hours before I sent a final version to my agent, one that came to me in the shower when I thought I was almost done. At page 50, 100, 150, 200 … I still wasn’t sure of what would happen beyond the next ten pages. But in the end, the flexibility was what I needed to uncover the mystery of why a beautiful, smart young girl with great friends and a whole future ahead of her would take her own life.

Coming to terms with my new, almost improvisational writing process was my turning point. It was when I put away the guilt of not writing as quickly as I had before—and the doubts that came from not being able to distill the story into a digestible outline. It was when I recognized that each novel is different—it has its own personality, its own way of talking to you and revealing itself to you.

After the book sold, I had a conversation with my editor (a writer, herself), and when I told her about the process, she said that she could never have written a book that way. It only helped to show me that there is no right way to write a book. And that’s what makes every book so different and wonderful—we all do it differently.


Leah-Konen-author-photoLeah Konen is a writer living in San Francisco. She is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied journalism and creative writing. Her work has been published in Elle Decor, Good Housekeeping‘s Quick & Simple, Parenting, The Fiscal Times, and several regional newspapers and magazines. The After Girls is her first novel.

Visit her online at www.leahkonen.com.

Follow @LeahKonen on Twitter.


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

Anticipated YA Debut Interview: TAKEN (+Giveaway)

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Today I have an interview with one of the April 2013 Anticipated YA Debut Authors! Today’s featured author is Erin Bowman—and her first novel, Taken, comes out tomorrow, April 16, from HarperTeen! Read on to see how Erin answered my Q&A…

…And scroll down to see who won a signed finished copy plus some swag!


TakenNova: 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?” Surely you don’t carry around a copy so you can recite the description off the flaps, so how do you answer this question when asked?

Erin: I usually start by saying it’s a sci-fi/thriller novel for teens, and then try to be as succinct as possible: TAKEN is about a boy who grows up in an isolated community where all boys are Heisted on their eighteenth birthday, disappearing never to be seen again. If they seem genuinely interested, I’ll go into a bit more detail, but I’ve usually stumbled my way through the one-line pitch and been sufficiently awkward enough for them to just smile and nod. I am much better at talking about other people’s books than my own.

NRS: In my experience, novels transform themselves, sometimes unrecognizably, during the course of being written. Were there any shocking transformations that occurred between rough draft and final bound book?

EB: It’s funny, because my answer to this is yes and no. At its core, Gray’s story—his predicament in the opening pages of the novel and where he ends up by its close—has been the same since the first draft. But I also feel like TAKEN evolved so very much during editorial revisions. Certain scenes were expanded upon while others were cut altogether. I did tons of world-building work in the second half of the novel. The ending (with the exception of the last two scenes) was completely rewritten.

I guess what’s most shocking to me is how much TAKEN changed while not really changing at all. The integrity of the story remains. My editor just showed me how to make it better, stronger, more layered, and nuanced. I swear, writing is 90% revising.

NRS: So you’re here with me gossiping about your main characters behind their backs. What’s something they wouldn’t want anyone to know that might make them blush? 

EB: Gray isn’t so much quick to blush as he is quick to tell a person to shove it. True, he probably won’t like me telling you that he’s been in love with Emma since he was six. Or that he hasn’t slept well since his brother’s Heist. Or that I think he needs to work on his impulsive streak. But I still don’t think these things would make him blush. He’ll likely just shoot us a dirty look, say something rude to me for sharing the details, and then stalk off.

NRS: 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. 

EB: I wrote a few scenes of TAKEN from the rocking chair on my front porch. A couple more were jotted down in my local coffee shop. But most of it happened right on my couch, with me curled up under a blanket.

couch

To be honest, I can’t draft at my desk. My desk is for work. I can email and blog and revise there—and boy did a lot of revising occur at my desk—but the actual drafting? It has to happen somewhere cozy or I can’t seem to get lost in my characters’ world.

desk

In terms of an ideal writing spot…Hmmm. Is it lame that I don’t have one? It’s more like I have a list of required assets: comfy clothes, notebooks, headphones and playlists, coffee, snacks, more coffee. Give me that stuff and I can write anywhere.

NRS: To go along with the theme of this blog (and my life), what is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book? 

EB: The Internet. (It seems to be my biggest distraction from writing any book.) Sitting down to write is the easy part. It’s closing my browser and starting to type that’s always the greatest hurdle.

NRS: Imagine you’re on the subway, or 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 this person to us.

EB: The sun is glaring, so I can’t tell if this reader is a guy or a girl. I also can’t even estimate their age properly. All I can see is that they are walking through the masses, nose in the book, so absorbed by the story that they can’t tear their eyes from the page for even a second. That’s my ideal reader. (Which is vague, I know. But if they’re devouring my novel and can’t be pulled away from it, that’s all I need to apply the label.)

NRS: If you could go back in time to whisper a few words of advice into your own ear before you leaped into this writing career, what would you tell your young, impressionable self? 

EB: Writing is hard. The industry can be slow. Your self-confidence will be tested many, many times. But trust your instincts and always write the story you’re dying to tell. Write for yourself and—regardless of the outcome—you’ll never regret it. (Write what you think someone else wants you to write, or expects you to write, and the same is not always true.)

NRS: Dream question: If you could go on book tour anywhere in the world, with any author (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?

EB: As a self-proclaimed Harry Potter nerd, I have to pick J.K. Rowling. (Although, being in the same room as her would likely reduce me to tears, so it would be a very sniffly tour.) I think I’d want to go someplace that doesn’t see a lot of authors touring—a small town, maybe. Doesn’t matter where so long as there are kids who love reading in attendance. As for food? Chocolate Frogs, naturally. And Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, and Cauldron Cakes, and Acid Pops, and…Should I keep going? ;)

NRS: How do you plan to celebrate your book’s birthday tomorrow?

EB: If I’m not too antsy, I hope to sleep in. And then maybe wander to a bookstore…see if I can spot TAKEN in the wild. I’ll likely treat myself to a celebratory cupcake or two and video chat with good friends. Perhaps go out to dinner with my hubby.

It will be a special day and also a regular day, if that makes sense. Tomorrow doesn’t change me, just the fact that my story will finally be available for anyone to read if they so choose. All of which is pretty darn awesome.

Taken is on sale tomorrow, April 16, from HarperTeen. Read on for a chance to win a signed finished copy and some swag! 


erinbowman_authorphoto

Erin Bowman used to tell stories visually as a web designer. Now a full-time writer, she relies solely on words. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband, and when not writing she can often be found hiking, commenting on good typography, and obsessing over all things Harry Potter. TAKEN is her first novel.

Visit her at www.embowman.com to find out more. 

Follow @erin_bowman on Twitter.


NOW ANNOUNCING THE GIVEAWAY WINNER…

One winner was chosen to win signed finished copy of Taken plus some Taken swag!

TakenAnd the winner is…

Leslie Drake!

Congrats, Leslie! And thank you to everyone who entered!

Turning Points: Guest Post by Victoria Scott

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 is Victoria Scott, author of The Collector, sharing hers…


Guest post by Victoria Scott

THE_COLLECTORMy turning point came the day I quit my job. I’d been working in advertising for years, which was preceded by four years of college studying the same subject. Advertising. Marketing. Make the sale, write the copy, three times equals remembrance.

Most people who leave their job do so because they hate it. But I liked my job. I’m not saying I loved it, but I liked it. One day though, as my new husband and I were lounging at a country chic hotel in a small town, I said, “It’d be cool to run a place like this.” He agreed. I rolled over on the bed. “What else could we do? If we could do anything?”

All the way home, we made lists of what we’d want to do in a perfect world: run a small hotel, open a snow cone hut, be an interior designer, recruit talent for football teams. Be a writer.

It was fun making the list and even though we laughed through parts of it, I couldn’t help jotting each thing down, like I was afraid to lose the ideas. Over the next few days, I revisited that list time and again. I found myself thinking, Why not? And of course, the one that popped, the one that screamed, was:

Be a writer!

My husband earned enough so that we could pay our bills if I left my job. Barely. But I was still uncertain. Like I said, I liked my job. I liked the people I worked with. And my salary was the highest I’d ever earned. Financially, we were sitting pretty. Could I throw it all away for a chance at becoming an author? I decided to do a trial run. My husband was the first to toss out the idea. “Why don’t you finish one book as you continue to work? If you can do it, and you enjoy it, then quit.”

So I did. I wrote that first book during lunch breaks and in the mornings and on the weekends. It was the worst story ever. The worst. But I had so much fun penning it. And a week after I finished my prized manuscript, I turned in my two week notice.

Two months after I left my job, I found an agent for my next book—THE COLLECTOR.

A Harvard professor once said to make a list with three columns. List the things you like to do, the things you’re good at, and things that make you feel like you’ve done good for others. If you find one that overlaps in two categories, that’s a winner. If you find one that overlaps in three, you’ve found a calling many never will.

Make a list.

Chase your dream.

Believe you are destined to do something big.


Victoria Scott author photo

Victoria Scott adores all things dark and creepy, and gets her best ideas while strolling through the eighteenth century cemetery near her home. She’s the author is THE COLLECTOR trilogy (Entangled Teen) and the FIRE AND FLOOD trilogy (Scholastic). Victoria lives in Dallas with her husband and adores cotton candy.

You can visit her online at: www.VictoriaScottYA.com


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

Turning Points: Guest Post by Cat Winters

Web

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 is Cat Winters, debut author of In the Shadow of Blackbirds and one of my Anticipated Debuts for April 2013, sharing her turning point…

And be sure to enter the giveaway before it closes tomorrow!


Guest post by Cat Winters

You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.
―Madeleine L’Engle

BlackbirdsCoverFinalThanks to several encouraging adults, I grew up believing my writing was something special. My elementary school teachers passed my stories around to other teachers and spotlighted my poems on the walls during classroom open houses. When I was eight, I was asked to write poetry for the memorial service of a four-year-old girl who had died of leukemia. When I was thirteen, I won a trophy at a youth expo after submitting a short story inspired by old TWILIGHT ZONE episodes. By the time I was in high school, I was writing full-length novels.

John Steinbeck once said, “I nearly always write, just as I nearly always breathe,” and that’s exactly how I felt growing up. Writing wasn’t even my first choice for a profession; I wanted to be an actress. Creating stories was simply a part of who I was.

After graduating from college, I lost some of my desire to act and panicked about what to do for a day job. I tried teaching high school English but discovered I was terrible at teaching—unprepared and overwhelmed. I then worked at a publishing company in downtown San Diego.

One morning, while I was sitting in my little gray cubicle, having just seen the Tim Burton movie Ed Wood (in which a real-life screenwriter creates his own movies, despite his astounding lack of talent), it hit me: I wanted to be a writer. I truly, with all my heart and soul, wanted to embrace my lifelong love of storytelling and pursue a professional writing career. I started writing a historical novel for adult readers and luxuriated in every minute I spent inside my fictional world.

That wasn’t my big turning point moment. It was a turning point, but deciding to be a writer when you’ve been writing all your life isn’t really all that momentous.

My major turning point didn’t arrive until fifteen years later.

Even though I had started off as a child writing prodigy, I couldn’t sell my work. When I was twenty-seven, I signed with my first agent, but even then, my manuscripts never found publishing homes. My books didn’t fit into clear-cut categories like “romance,” and mainstream historical fiction was considered a dead genre. Editors fell in love with my work, but not marketing departments. I switched to contemporary fiction, I signed with a second agent, but still my writing crossed too many genre barriers and was considered unmarketable and risky.

My dreams crashed down around me, and my childhood writing achievements felt like a big tease. I almost felt bitter toward anyone who had told me I should be a writer and wondered why I had been sent down that particular path in life when it was leading me nowhere. The overnight success stories of other writers fueled my feelings of uselessness and failure.

Yet I kept on writing.

When I was thirty-eight, my agent and I had a conversation about one of my older manuscripts, another historical novel I had written for adult readers. We discussed switching gears and aiming for a young-adult audience, an idea I absolutely loved. Some of my favorite stories involving the world’s darkest moments are told by younger narrators, and I enjoy the honesty and rawness found in youthful voices. A brand-new story emerged out of the setting of that older manuscript, characters made themselves known, and In the Shadow of Blackbirds was born.

I wrote this novel for the book-loving teenager still inside me. I poured all my book-rejection frustrations into the pages and told a story through the eyes of a girl with a great deal of fight in her, for I wanted her voice to fight for me and this novel. The book jumped all over the place in terms of genre: horror, mystery, love story, ghost tale, thriller, apocalyptic fiction. I worried my work would once again be labeled “unmarketable” and “too risky,” but I wrote with courage, confidence, and passion, as if I were revealing a story that HAD to be told.

The book sold! The amazing and wonderful publisher Amulet Books offered to buy In the Shadow of Blackbirds one month after my fortieth birthday—thirty-three years after my second-grade teacher started passing my stories around to other teachers.

This failed child prodigy found success after switching to writing for children. If I had known when I was younger that I would have the most luck when I explored the farthest reaches of my imagination and paid tribute to the joys and pain of youth, perhaps I would have turned to YA sooner and endured a shorter publishing journey.

Or perhaps time just needed to pass, experiences needed to be lived, so that In the Shadow of Blackbirds could become my debut novel. I’m awfully proud of this book, so I can live with the theory that I simply needed to wait my turn.

Cat’s debut novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, came out last week from Amulet Books!


CatWintersBW_webCat Winters was born and raised in Southern California, near Disneyland, which may explain her love of haunted mansions, bygone eras, and fantasylands. She received degrees in drama and English from the University of California, Irvine, and formerly worked in publishing.

Her debut novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds—a YA ghost tale set during the World War I era—is now available from Amulet Books/ABRAMS. She currently lives outside of Portland, Oregon.

Cat’s online haunts:

www.catwinters.com

www.blackbirdsnovel.com

twitter.com/catwinters

facebook.com/catwintersbooks

www.goodreads.com/catwinters


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

Your Last Chance (for Now) to Take an Online Writing Class with Me!

Writers! Are you working on a YA or middle-grade novel and want some feedback and assistance polishing it up to submit to agencies and publishers? Well, maybe I can help.

I wanted to post quickly here to say that my eight-week online YA Novel Writing: Master Class with Mediabistro starts next week! I don’t want the class to get too big, but there are a couple spaces left, so I wanted to tell you.

The first assignment is due this coming Monday morning—and the first online discussion is this coming Wednesday night.

I don’t have plans to teach another class like this in the near future since I expect my schedule to be changing this year, so if you’ve been waiting to sign up, I’d say do it now! I may not lead this class again.

Here’s a post I made before, answering some frequently asked questions about the class.

And here’s where you can sign up to take the class with Mediabistro.

You should also feel free to email me directly to ask questions.

[ETA: Registration is now full—thank you to everyone who signed up!]