The Last of the Debut Interviews, the Giveaway Winners Announced (so Far), and What’s Upcoming

The first chapter of my 2012 YA Debut Interview Series—featuring ten Winter/Spring 2012 debuts—ended on Friday, and if you missed the final week of interviews, check them out:

[Click on each of the covers to go to the author interview—and three of the giveaways are still open! You only need to leave a comment on the post to enter.]

Thank you so much to the authors for being willing to answer my questions, and to everyone who stopped by to read the featured interviews and comment.

I’ve also chose five winners from the first week’s giveaways! I chose the winners using random.org (and counting anyone who tweeted the giveaway twice). Here they are:

Winner of a pre-order of Slide by Jill Hathaway: Sebrina Cassity

Winner of signed ARC of Fracture by Megan Miranda: tonya.

Winner of a signed ARC of Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi: Katherine Skye

Winner of a signed bookplate and an ARC of Where It Began by Ann Stampler: Mardou

Winner of a scythe pendant and a signed ARC of Croak by Gina Damico: Nicole@ The More the Merrier

Congratulations to everyone who won! I’ll be emailing you to ask for your mailing address.

And there are still three giveaways open…  Just leave a comment on the interviews to win a poster and a signed ARC of The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg, and a signed ARC of Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne, and stickers and a signed ARC of The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth.

There is also one more way you can win one of these books…

Tomorrow there will be one last giveaway—open internationally—to win a pre-order of the book of your choice. Come back and enter!

And late this winter I’ll be featuring ten more 2012 YA debuts… this time from the Summer 2012 season. If there’s a Summer 2012 debut YA novel you’re especially looking forward to, let me know in the comments! I’m still deciding who I should ask to interview.

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2012 YA Debut Interview: THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST by Emily M. Danforth (+Giveaway!)

It’s the last day of this season’s 2012 YA Debut Interview series—and the last book I’m featuring for Winter/Spring 2012! As I’ve been saying in every post these past two weeks, my favorite part about a new year (besides building a wobbly tower of unrealistic expectations for how much I’ll write in the coming year, yay!) is the thought of all the new voices I’ll get to discover. I hope you’ve enjoyed the new series of short interviews on this blog featuring some of these new voices. (And I hope you’ve entered the giveaways accompanying these interviews—some are still open.) And don’t forget: On Monday there will be a chance to win a pre-order of your choice.

But now! The last Winter/Spring 2012 YA debut interview…

Read on to see how Emily M. Danforth answered my questions about writing The Miseducation of Cameron Post and more (and if you comment on this post, you could win a signed ARC and stickers!)…


2012 YA Debut Interview:

Emily M. Danforth, author of The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins, forthcoming February 7, 2012)

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?”

Ugh: the dreaded question the second I get in the door, not even an hors d’oeuvres round to ease me in. But if you’re forcing me, here you go (remembering that you asked for this):

I have the following on my website, but I think it’s apt, I really do. (And I intend it with no snark—not even a little—just with my complete and total agreement with what’s being said.) In her useful (and wholly quotable) book on the craft of fiction writing, Mystery & Manners, Flannery O’Connor wrote: “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word of the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anyone asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story.”

So, there’s that. But, I understand how unsatisfying an answer that is, of course it is. I just hate reducing a novel to a summary or a synopsis. If I could get at everything I was attempting to “get at” with The Miseducation of Cameron Post (heretofore tMoCP) in a summary, I’d have just written a summary, you know? A novel is the experience of reading it, not its plot synopsis. However, since I’m undoubtedly annoying some folks right now (and forgive me that, please), here’s the jacket copy:

When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to live with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship—one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self—even if she’s not quite sure just who that is.

THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules.

So, now there’s that. And I’ll also offer this: my novel is a voice-driven coming-of-age story told from the point of view of its recently-orphaned eponymous narrator, Cameron Post. I started with her voice, and built a character around that, and I wanted to use this novel to watch her make sense of the world and her place in it from a young age. I love these kinds of books: I return to them again and again. If you think about the classification broadly, and I do, the “coming of age novel” covers a wide range of styles and approaches, from Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao to Jane Fitch’s White Oleander to Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, or Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle and Marilyn Robinson’s Housekeeping. And that’s without even mentioning the perennial favorites of To Kill a Mockingbird or Catcher in the Rye. (And the titles I’ve listed barely scrape the surface.) These books have been sold to adults and to teens, as literary fiction and as popular fiction. Some of them, like Nick Burd’s excellent The Vast Fields of Ordinary, have been sold and marketed as YA, many others have not. My novel follows Cameron from the age of 12 to the age of 17, and though she’s telling the story of those years with a little reflective distance, it’s not much. I imagine her to be a narrator who’s just barely hit her twenties, now looking back. So she’s certainly not fully yet dealt with all of this stuff, or put it behind her.

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? Was there ever a moment when it misbehaved?

Something tricky for me was negotiating the balance between wanting The Miseducation of Cameron Post to reside firmly in the land of the voice-driven, American, coming-of-age novel—a tradition that I so love—and also effectively utilizing the months of research I’d done concerning Biblically informed conversion/reparative therapy as a way to “change” sexual attraction/orientation/identity. In case you’re not clear as to what I mean by this: these are the people who believe that with strict, theologically-based instruction, therapy, and personal faith, one can change one’s sexual orientation/identity/attraction(s); or, at the very least, suppress all “sinful same-sex attractions” and go on to live happy and productive “Christ-centered” lives. As horrifying as I find this practice (and system of beliefs)—particularly when forced upon adolescents, as it is in my novel—I wasn’t writing an angry polemic against conversion therapy—this isn’t Down with Conversion Therapy: The Manifesto (though I would happily read that)—it’s a novel, and as such, using my characters merely as puppets so that I might rail against conversion therapy for two hundred pages wasn’t only unappealing, it’s not, to my mind, actually writing fiction. At least not the kind of fiction I admire.

For all kinds of complicated reasons (like cultural and religious conditioning and heteronormativity) some adolescents (and adults) really do want these kinds of “therapies” (I use the term loosely) to change them; they’re desperate for them to do so. They want their extreme faith and willingness to adhere to sets of strict guidelines—guidelines concerning everything from how to dress to how to speak to how to manage “unwanted, sinful thoughts”to make them free from any same-sex attraction. And when this doesn’t happen, or when, more often, they can’t maintain the charade of “change” (which is really what it is—a charade, a performance) they believe that it’s because they didn’t have true enough faith, or because they didn’t work the system as effectively as they should have. They believe that they have failed—not that their system of change is a complete failure from the outset. (Which, of course, it is.) But rather that they are responsible—this is what they’re told by those in charge of these programs; which is pretty handy, if you think about it: “No, there’s nothing wrong with our methods, it’s YOU who doesn’t have faith enough, strength of will enough, to change.”

This is, of course, not a position I take (as an out lesbian in a committed, eleven-year relationship with the same woman). However, as uncomfortable as it frequently made me, to write this novel I had to explore the mindsets of the people who are proponents of these kinds of “treatments.” Why do they cling to them? Why, with everything else we’ve stopped taking literally from the Bible (such as all the Leviticus “laws” concerning things like not wearing clothing made of mixed fabrics and putting all adulterers to death, no questions asked), do some Christians take a few passages concerning “a man who lies with another man” out of context and into contemporary practice? Why do this?

Moreover, as uncomfortable as it was, I wanted to attempt to get at the situation of people who just aren’t sure about any of this—especially teenagers. They’re confused about their emerging sexuality, they’re confused about their systems of belief, their religious ideology—Cameron Post isn’t at all sure what to believe, or who to believe, or should she believe in anything at all? (Don’t most of us struggle with this?) I felt like it was important to chronicle that confusion, not just to make my eponymous narrator my mouthpiece and have her, as a teenager, speak eloquently about why conversion therapy is not only absurd but is, quite frankly, akin to torture. She problematizes the practice from the start, and she does find her voice, but it’s a process, and one I wanted to represent accurately. All of that—getting the rhetoric of these therapies right, and effectively using my research without just dumping information on the page, as well as giving more “credit” to some characters than I’d give to similar people in “real life”—was challenging. And, finally, importantly: there’s much more to Cameron’s story than her being sent to this facility. I understand that, for some readers (maybe most), conversion therapy is the hook, the thing that might first interest them in my book, cause them to notice it; but for me it’s really just one part of Cam’s story. I’m equally interested in the quiet moments—and the novel has many of them—first kisses, strange obsessions, the small ways we make sense of our world when we’re that age. I love all of that material, and to me it’s not just the texture of this novel, it is the novel.

What is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?

The coursework associated with my Ph.D in English, as well as the creative writing workshops and literature courses I was concurrently teaching at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I mean, they weren’t so much a distraction as a useful and important thing I was doing with my life, but all of that was, you know, something that kept me from spending as much time with this novel as I might have otherwise. (Also, for the sake of honesty: the invention of the DVR, my subsequent purchase of said machine, and cable television.)

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.

I wrote this novel in my home office in Lincoln, Nebraska—which is no longer where I live. While I miss that room, I actually sort of like that TMoCP—my first novel—will always “belong to” that space. The office was the very first room my wife and I completely gutted and remodeled in that house, which was also the first property we owned together (Lincoln was a place of many firsts for us). It was a Victorian from 1900 and was actually built for the in-laws of then Governor Thayer—his house, the former gubernatorial mansion, was next door. Given that ours was a house in need of many, many major renovations—renovations that we drew out over the course of five years—the fact that we tackled the office first tells you two things: 1) It was among the very worst rooms: horse-hair plaster that crumbled in chunks from the walls if you happened to, oh, walk past them; vines literally pushing their way through cracks and into the room from the-overgrown side yard; decades-old water damage covered by a piece of likely 1960s-era orange and pink floral-print fabric. It was, as they say, a mess. 2) That my wife is incredibly supportive of my writing. (Because, trust me, the kitchen was just as bad, possibly worse, and we didn’t start our renovations there.) The office was huge, with plenty of room for us both to have desks, bookshelves, an antique drafting table, and space to spare. It was also filled with natural light from three giant windows—those Victorian windows that run nearly the length of the wall and pop with fancy trim. (We were able to keep an ornamental orange tree—and have it bear its sweet white blossoms and then its tiny fruit, again and again—in all that light.)

One of those windows was directly next to my desk: as in I could rest my mug of coffee on its windowsill (which I often did). Just outside this window was a Fire Bush (do not make inappropriate Lohan jokes here), the kind that sparks aflame with bright red leaves in late October. And once its leaves fell off and it was just a puffy nest of sticks, that bush was always—I mean always—chock-full of blue jays and cardinals. (See photos below.) Sometimes there were as many as two or three of each kind of bird, which—against the backdrop of grey and snow, during a bleak and seemingly endless winter in Nebraska, the whole world feeling like it’s on mute—was an incredible thing to be able to look out my window and see, not five feet from where I sat at my computer.

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?

The thing is, it’s felt “real” a whole bunch of times (each that you mentioned in your question, actually), but that feeling never seems to last very long. It’s not, for me, anyway, something that suddenly felt real and then stayed that way. I guess I need to be continually reminded of its reality. So, for instance, the very afternoon that I accepted the offer from Balzer + Bray, probably not two hours later, my wonderful editor, Alessandra Balzer—who I knew, at that point, based on one brief phone conversation—sent me the loveliest welcome and I’m so excited to work with you and we all dig your novel email, and receiving that from her, especially seeing the @HARPERCOLLINS email address, was a moment of “realness.” I think I even printed that email and put it on the fridge. (Yes: I’m that person.) But that feeling didn’t last. And then, when the editorial letter came and it was on stationery with HarperCollins letterhead, for sure: another moment where all of this seemed to be “for real,” and actually happening to me. (Apparently seeing official publishing house logos, etc, helps me with this process of acceptance.) But, that moment didn’t last, either. Same with seeing the cover and getting the box of ARCs. Same with seeing my book available for pre-order in various places. (For whatever reason, I was especially pumped about finding it in the i-tunes bookstore.) Each has been a complete delight, I’m excited every time, but I can’t say that I completely believe the whole thing yet. I think—and I know this must be a writer cliché, it must—but I think I have to physically see my book on a shelf somewhere, for sale, before I’m going to believe that I wrote and published a novel. I think that will be the moment. Let’s hope.

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?

The writer friends I have are much too fantastic and excellent a group for me to pick and choose among them, so I’ll go with two writers I don’t know (or, in one case, can’t know, because he died in 1984): Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Not only are they both writers I admire so much, I like that they were friends with such a long history (friends who quarreled, to be certain, but then how many friends with long histories don’t?). This works for my book-tour fantasy because I’m the newbie in this relationship. Sure, they’re going to have decades’ worth of inside jokes and plenty of Monroeville, Alabama, stories for which I’ll have no context (I can only playfully reference the Maycomb of To Kill a Mockingbird so many times before they’re gonna catch on), but I get to be not only the exciting and unknown new addition to this trio, but also the neutral party: should old wounds resurface between them I’ll be Switzerland. In my fantasy, our tour together takes place after Capote and Lee have spent their time in Holcomb, Kansas, doing the research that would become Capote’s In Cold Blood, but before that book actually comes out—so early 1960s. (How my novel fits into this fantasy—it being set in the early 1990s and all—don’t ask. We’ll pretend, for the purposes of said fantasy, that I’ve written speculative 1990s that will turn out to be eerily, remarkably, accurate.) So on this tour: Truman Capote will read from the beginning of In Cold Blood (which he actually did, quite a lot and to much praise, before he actually finished writing it); Harper Lee will read from To Kill a Mockingbird; and you know what I’ll be reading from. We’ll be doing a sweeping tour of the US, hitting every major city in every single state—Anchorage to Cleveland—a real literary lollapalooza. Oh, we’ll be sick of each other by Billings, Montana—no question—but we’ll work it out. We have our ways: marathon sessions of the board game Clue on our tour bus; escaping one another in the back row of some late-night picture show; valium. Sometimes we serve flaky (lard) crust southern fruit pies (peach and apple and berry), and good coffee/sweet tea at our readings. Other times it’s daintier, much more elegant fare: petit fours and hand-dipped truffle chocolates and fizzy beverages made with soda water and natural syrups in flavors like pomegranate-lime and ginger-orange-blueberry. Two of us do not take ourselves very seriously at all, but only two. I’m saying nothing more about that.


emily m. danforth has an MFA in Fiction from the University of Montana and a Ph.D in English-Creative Writing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her first novel, The Miseducation Of Cameron Post—a Booklist starred review—is forthcoming (February 2012) from Balzer+Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers. emily’s short fiction has also been published in a variety of literary magazines, both print and online.  She teaches creative writing and literature courses at Rhode Island College in Providence and is also co-editor of The Cupboard, a quarterly pamphlet of innovative prose eagerly awaiting your submissions.

emily was born and raised in Miles City, Montana, a town best known for its Bucking Horse Sale—which was once listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for hosting the most intoxicated people, per capita, of any US event. She has an eraser collection, an iced-coffee addiction, and a penchant for neologisms, which can be something of a scandalamity for some readers.

Visit her at www.emdanforth.com.

Read emily’s blog at somuchflotsam.tumblr.com.

Follow @emdanforth on Twitter.


Do you want a chance to win The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth? Emily is giving away a signed ARC and stickers to ONE LUCKY COMMENTER on this post. Just comment below and you’re entered to win.

(If you tweet about this giveaway you get +1 extra entry… just let me know you did.)

RULES: One winner will be chosen randomly. The giveaway to win a signed ARC and stickers of The Miseducation of Cameron Post ends Friday, December 23 at 5:00 p.m. EST. To win this giveaway, you must have a US mailing address. Be sure to include your email in the comment form (it is private and only I will see it), so I know how to reach you if you win.


And hey! Come back on Monday for a chance to win a pre-order of your choice from the ten featured Winter/Spring 2012 debuts!

2012 YA Debut Interview: HARBINGER by Sara Wilson Etienne (Artwork Reveal + Giveaway!)

It’s Week 2 of my 2012 YA Debut Interview series! My favorite part about a new year (besides building a wobbly tower of unrealistic expectations for how much I’ll write in the coming year, yay!) is the thought of all the new voices I’ll get to discover. There’s a whole crop of debut YA novelists coming out with books in 2012, and I can’t wait to read them! So, to share my excitement with you, I’m doing a new series of short interviews on this blog.

From December 5 through December 16, I’m featuring ten Winter/Spring 2012 debut authors who wrote books I want to read! Look for giveaways accompanying these interviews—as well as a chance to win a pre-order of your choice at the end of the series. Last week I featured five debuts… and this week I’m featuring five more.

Read on to see how Sara Wilson Etienne answered my questions about writing Harbinger and more (and if you comment on this post, you could win a signed ARC!)…

…and as a special addition to today’s interview, this post includes a Harbinger artwork reveal! Read on.


2012 YA Debut Interview:

Sara Wilson Etienne, author of Harbinger (Putnam/ Penguin, forthcoming February 2, 2012)

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?”

Plagued by waking visions and nightmares, inexplicably drawn to the bones of dead animals, Faye thinks she’s going crazy. Fast. Her parents think Holbrook Academy might just be the solution. Dr. Mordoch tells her it’s the only answer. But Faye knows that something’s not quite right about Dr. Mordoch and her creepy prison-like school for disturbed teenagers.

What’s wrong with Holbrook goes beyond the Takers, sadistic guards who threaten the student body with Tasers and pepper spray;  or Nurse who doles out pills at bedtime and doses of solitary confinement when kids step out of line; or Rita, the strange girl who delivers ominous messages to Faye that never seem to make any sense. What’s wrong with Holbrook begins and ends with Faye’s red hands; she and her newfound friends—her Holbrook “Family”—wake up every morning with their hands stained the terrible brown red of blood. Faye has no idea what it means, but fears she may be the cause.

Because despite the strangeness of Holbrook and the island on which it sits, Faye feels oddly connected to the place; she feels especially linked to the handsome Kel, who helps her unravel the mystery. There’s just one problem: Faye’s certain Kel’s trying to kill her—and maybe the rest of the world, too.

A rich and tautly told psychological thriller, Harbinger heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in YA.

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? Was there ever a moment when it misbehaved?

Harbinger wanted my soul! When I wrote the first draft of it ten years ago, Harbinger was only 90 pages, told from a different POV, and had almost no dialogue. But the story stuck with me. Over the years, I picked it up again and again. Learning how to write, how to create three dimensional characters, how to get this complicated plot to play nice and make sense. And each time I rewrote and revised it, I found something new in the story. Something new about Faye. Harbinger was truly a passion project.

What is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?

Fear. It’s the thing that always slows me down. That little voice that tells you your book will never be good enough. You’ll never be good enough. But I have to say that eventually, my main character, Faye, taught me how to kick its ass.

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.

Most of Harbinger was written in my messy office. Oh, it always starts out clean… but the longer I work on a draft, the worse it gets. Mugs of half drunk coffee, cereal bowls, and scraps of scribbled notes become a shrine to that revision. It’s always a relief to send off a draft and unearth my desk!

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?

Honestly, I just get these occasional moments of clarity. Most of the time, I go about the business of writing or promoting and it just seems like this fact. My book is getting published. Then every once in a while I have these flashes where I understand what that really means. That Harbinger will be sitting on library shelves, in bookstores, that strangers are going to be reading this story that lived in my head for so long. In those moments, the reality of it blows my mind.

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?

Wow! Awesome question! At first I was going to pick Madeleine L’Engle because she’s one of my favorite writers, but she might be a bit of a deep thinker to endure jetlag with. So I’m gonna go with Libba Bray, who is hilarious, a genius at dialogue, and who I can imagine being an amazingly fun book tour buddy. And Dianna Wynne Jones. That way if we get into trouble or an event gets boring, she can just open up a parallel universe for us!

I would have to go to Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Because I’ve never been to any of them and they sound awesome. A bit greedy? Why yes, I am!

And I’d serve baklava and incredible coffee. No one would be able to turn the pages of the books because they’d have honey all over their hands. But it’d be a great party.

How do you plan to celebrate your book’s birthday on February 2?

Well, on that day, I’ll probably kidnap a few of my friends and make them have cake and tea with me at Jin Patisserie. And I’ll pop a bottle of champagne with my husband, Tony, who illustrated the inside of Harbinger. Then, that weekend, on Saturday, Feb 4, 2012, I’ll be having a launch party and signing at Children’s Book World in Los Angeles. It’s one of my favorite bookstores ever, so I can’t wait! So everyone please come by and help me celebrate!


Sara Wilson Etienne went to college in Maine to become a marine biologist. But when research on leatherback turtles transformed itself into a novel, she realized that she loved fantasy more than fact. Though she didn’t become a scientist (or, luckily, publish that first story) the craggy coastline and wild seas stayed with her and became Harbinger.

Learn more about the book at www.holbrookacademy.com.

Read Sara’s blog at www.sarawilsonetienne.com.

Follow @wilsonetienne on Twitter.


In addition to her interview today, Sara is also letting me reveal the next piece of Harbinger-inspired artwork, as part of a wonderful series of artwork reveals connected to her book.

Here Art Reveal #8:

Walk the Path! Explore the whole gallery of Harbinger-inspired artwork at www.holbrookacademy.com/sketchbook.php

Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne debuts February 2, 2012.


Oh wait… there’s also a giveaway today!

Do you want a chance to win Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne? Sara is giving away a signed ARC to ONE LUCKY COMMENTER on this post. Just comment below and you’re entered to win.

(If you tweet about this giveaway you get +1 extra entry… just let me know you did.)

RULES: One winner will be chosen randomly. The giveaway to win a signed ARC of Harbinger ends Thursday, December 22 at 5:00 p.m. EST. To win this giveaway, you must have a US mailing address. Be sure to include your email in the comment form (it is private and only I will see it), so I know how to reach you if you win.

And stay tuned for the end of the 2012 Debut Interview Series—for a chance to win the pre-order of your choice out of all ten featured authors!


What is the next Winter/Spring 2012 debut novel I’m looking forward to? Come back tomorrow to find out.

2012 YA Debut Interview: WHEN THE SEA IS RISING RED by Cat Hellisen

It’s Week 2 of my 2012 YA Debut Interview series! My favorite part about a new year (besides building a wobbly tower of unrealistic expectations for how much I’ll write in the coming year, yay!) is the thought of all the new voices I’ll get to discover. There’s a whole crop of debut YA novelists coming out with books in 2012, and I can’t wait to read them! So, to share my excitement with you, I’m doing a new series of short interviews on this blog.

From December 5 through December 16, I’m featuring ten Winter/Spring 2012 debut authors who wrote books I want to read! Look for giveaways accompanying these interviews—as well as a chance to win a pre-order of your choice at the end of the series. Last week I featured five debuts… and this week I’m featuring five more.

Read on to see how Cat Hellisen answered my questions about writing When the Sea Is Rising Red and more…


2012 YA Debut Interview:

Cat Hellisen, author of When the Sea Is Rising Red (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, forthcoming February 28, 2012)

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?”

In sixteen-year-old Felicita’s world, magic is strictly controlled—or so those in power like to believe. After her dearest friend, Ilven, kills herself to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege. She fakes her own death and leaves her sheltered life as one of Pelimburg’s magical elite behind. Living in the slums, scrubbing dishes for a living, she falls for charismatic Dash while also becoming fascinated with vampire Jannik. Then something shocking washes up on the beach: Ilven’s death has called out of the sea a dangerous, wild magic. Felicita must decide whether her loyalties lie with the family she abandoned . . . or with those who would twist this dark power to destroy Pelimburg’s caste system, and the whole city along with it.

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? Was there ever a moment when it misbehaved?

I do try and block the actual trauma of writing out of my mind, but I think it went okay. I wrote it in order and then had to cut the final third and do a complete rewrite. It also went through a lot of revisions before it actually sold. My story needed a lot of discipline, poor rebellious child that it was.

What is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?

The internet. Hands down.

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.

I wrote this book while in an old miner’s house with wooden floorboards and pressed ceilings and an infinite army of cockroaches. I no longer live there. This is possibly a good thing. Now I write on the world’s oldest, ugliest, and most uncomfortable couch with a view of a bottle brush tree and a slice of mountain.

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?

There are moments when it felt more real—the cover was definitely a big “real” moment, as was ripping open the envelope with my ARCs. I think I’ll only truly believe the book exists when I see it in a bookstore.

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?

If I could have a book signing with Clive Barker and Enid Blyton, that would be cool just for the entertainment value. It would have to be in a ramshackle Victorian house in Cape Town, filled with assorted sea-junk, and I would have people make their own pizza dough animals and bake and swap them. It goes without saying that there would be kegs of Austrian beer involved. Also, Clive better do a painting for me. (Hey, you said dream signing, right?)

How do you plan to celebrate your book’s birthday on February 28?

In a ramshackle Victorian house in Cape Town…ha, you thought I was kidding. I’ll be doing a joint art exhibition/book launch with the artist Jo Doe, who is working on paintings inspired by When the Sea is Rising Red, in a little Victorian Quaffery called A Touch of Madness. Although strictly speaking that’s going to happen two months after the official launch in the US, thanks to the wonders of sea travel.

On the actual day I’ll probably be freaking out on the internet and drinking crates of champagne.


Cat Hellisen lives by the sea with a bunch of people, some shorter and furrier than others. She does drink tea, but she doesn’t start revolutions or have access to magical drugs.

Visit her at www.cathellisen.com.

Follow @hellioncat on Twitter.


What is the next Winter/Spring 2012 debut novel I’m looking forward to? Come back tomorrow to find out.

2012 YA Debut Interview: BREAKING BEAUTIFUL by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

It’s Week 2 of my 2012 YA Debut Interview series! My favorite part about a new year (besides building a wobbly tower of unrealistic expectations for how much I’ll write in the coming year, yay!) is the thought of all the new voices I’ll get to discover. There’s a whole crop of debut YA novelists coming out with books in 2012, and I can’t wait to read them! So, to share my excitement with you, I’m doing a new series of short interviews on this blog.

From December 5 through December 16, I’m featuring ten Winter/Spring 2012 debut authors who wrote books I want to read! Look for giveaways accompanying these interviews—as well as a chance to win a pre-order of your choice at the end of the series. Last week I featured five debuts… and this week I’m featuring five more.

Read on to see how Jennifer Shaw Wolf answered my questions about writing Breaking Beautiful and more…


2012 YA Debut Interview:

Jennifer Shaw Wolf, author of Breaking Beautiful (Walker Books, forthcoming April 24, 2012)

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?”

Haha, just had the doctor experience. Here’s the pre-approved book summary from the back of the ARC:

Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a tragic car accident—including her memory of the event. She doesn’t remember driving on the cliff road. She doesn’t recall jumping from the truck just before Trip lost control. All she has left are the scars and a sneaking suspicion that the crash wasn’t an accident after all.

When the police reopen the investigation, it quickly turns on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around their small town. As the threats begin and the survivor’s guilt sets in, Allie’s memories collide with a dark secret about Trip she’s kept for too long. Caught somewhere between her past and her future, Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free?

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? Was there ever a moment when it misbehaved?

This novel wanted to be written, fast. Most of the time, I honestly couldn’t get it out fast enough. A couple of times I was afraid of what was coming out. I felt like “How can I write about this?” Or “This is too tough of a subject.” At the same time I didn’t feel like I could quit. I had to do some research before I felt comfortable continuing.

Near the end I hit another point where I was ready to quit. I had written about twenty pages that I didn’t think were getting the story where I wanted it to go. It was painful, but I had to completely cut all those scenes and go back before I could move forward again. I’ve learned to recognize this point in writing a novel as transition (like transition in labor). You have to make yourself get past that point if you want to reach the all important “The End.”

What is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?

My biggest distraction from writing any book is my own lack of confidence or fear. It takes different forms; my family, my house, the internet, my own to-be-read list, whatever. What I’ve learned (and am relearning all the time) is that distraction is another word for fear. As a writer, I get distracted most when I’m afraid to move forward. What if this doesn’t work? What if I spend all this time and it’s is no good? What should I be doing instead of writing? What if I’m wasting my time? (This thought is usually followed by a couple of hours on Twitter or Facebook, looking for some self-affirmation.) Finishing a book (no matter how rough) is a triumph over distractions and fear.

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.

My couch in front of the fire was my favorite place to write this book, but I wrote a lot of it on the go. A good portion was written in the car on the way up to the ski hill. I also wrote while I waited for my kids to get finished with piano lessons, football, or soccer practice. Basically, my laptop was with me everywhere I went.

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 is going to sound BIZARRE, but it was actually when I got the box of bookmarks I had ordered for Breaking Beautiful. At that point I’d already held my ARC in my hands, but my life was so crazy when I got it that maybe it didn’t sink in. Maybe the bookmarks made it real because then I had something to concrete to hand people when they asked about my book—see, this is really happening.

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?

I would want to tour with Stephenie Meyer and Agatha Christie. Stephenie Meyer, because I would love to get to know her and, frankly, I know we’d draw a crowd. Agatha Christie because she was one of my favorite authors when I first got into mysteries. I love her plotlines and would love to give them a modern twist.

The three of us would cruise the Mediterranean and treat all of our fans to boysenberry cheesecake, Twizzlers (my favorite candy), and really good chocolate truffles.

How do you plan to celebrate your book’s birthday on April 24?

All the details aren’t planned out yet, but I’m looking at a local Indie bookstore that I really like. I want a room full of my friends and family, and my kids’ friends. I want food (cheesecake, Twizzlers, chocolate truffles, and maybe something salty) and balloons. We’ll have a showing of my book trailer and a slide show from the area of Washington that Breaking Beautiful is set.

I’ve been to book launches that were way too subdued for my taste. As much as I hate to be the center of attention, I want this to be a fun gathering of all the people who’ve helped get me to this point. I want it to be a party! Heck, I only get one first book launch.


Jennifer Shaw Wolf grew up on a farm in the little town of St. Anthony, Idaho, where she spent many cold mornings milking cows in the dark. She’s always been a writer, whether it was sewing together books to read to her little brothers or starting an underground newspaper in sixth grade. She met the love of her life at Ricks College (now BYU Idaho), after he dropped her on her head. She graduated from Ricks and later Brigham Young University, Provo with a degree in Broadcast Communications. Now she lives in beautiful, green, (rainy) Lacey, Washington, with her husband and four kids. She loves to produce videos, ski, ride horses, and read, but really all she has time for is chasing kids and writing.

Visit her at www.jennifershawwolf.com.

Read Jennifer’s blog at  www.wolftalez.blogspot.com.

Follow @jenniferswolf  on Twitter.


What is the next Winter/Spring 2012 debut novel I’m looking forward to? Come back tomorrow to find out.

2012 YA Debut Interview: THE CATASTROPHIC HISTORY OF YOU AND ME by Jess Rothenberg (+Giveaway!)

It’s Week 2 of my 2012 YA Debut Interview series! My favorite part about a new year (besides building a wobbly tower of unrealistic expectations for how much I’ll write in the coming year, yay!) is the thought of all the new voices I’ll get to discover. There’s a whole crop of debut YA novelists coming out with books in 2012, and I can’t wait to read them! So, to share my excitement with you, I’m doing a new series of short interviews on this blog.

From December 5 through December 16, I’m featuring ten Winter/Spring 2012 debut authors who wrote books I want to read! Look for giveaways accompanying these interviews—as well as a chance to win a pre-order of your choice at the end of the series. Last week I featured five debuts… and this week I’m featuring five more.

Read on to see how Jess Rothenberg answered my questions about writing The Catastrophic History of You and Me and more (and if you comment on this post, you could win a signed ARC and a poster!)…


2012 YA Debut Interview:

Jess Rothenberg, author of The Catastrophic History of You and Me (Dial/Penguin, forthcoming February 21, 2012)

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?”

The Catastrophic History of You and Me is about a fifteen-year-old girl who literally dies of a broken heart and must pass through the five stages of grief before she can move on to the afterlife and, ultimately, restore her faith in love.

The story is sort of this big mix of light and dark, funny and sad—all about first love, first loss, and learning that sometimes a broken heart isn’t the end of the road… it’s just the beginning. 🙂

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? Was there ever a moment when it misbehaved?

My novel wanted a lot of things. First, it wanted to be written really, really fast. Then it wanted to slam on the brakes and torture me a while. Then it threw a tantrum and forced me to rewrite it almost entirely, again. Then it wanted a meatball sandwich, even though it had previously claimed to be a vegetarian. Very demanding, this book.

What is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?

Oh, the dreaded internets!

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.

I wrote a good deal of Catastrophic History curled up in front of the fireplace in my parents’ home in Charleston, South Carolina. The crackling heat against my back was this great mix of cozy and calming, and really helped me focus. Plus, I got a tan in the middle of winter, so that was an added bonus!

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?

Definitely when I held the ARC in my hands for the first time. The whole experience was sort of magical: it was the last day of my family’s beach vacation, and I’d been waiting since breakfast for the book to arrive. All day long, whenever I’d hear a car passing, I’d tear back to the house, desperate to see the truck. But by sunset, it still hadn’t come, and I started to worry since we were leaving the next morning. I called the local post office in a last attempt to track the package down, and what followed was basically a sappy UPS commercial. The lady was like, “He’s pulling up RIGHT now!!” and when I spun around, there was the truck bouncing toward me down the sandy road. I basically attack-hugged the delivery guy while my family clapped and cheered and took pictures (I know, I know). Then I discovered my editor had wrapped the ARC with a beautiful, sparkly red ribbon, which made the whole thing even more special. I didn’t stop smiling all night. It was a pretty great moment.

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?

Oooh, tough one! I’d probably pick a coastal town somewhere in rural Ireland, one of my most-favorite-ever places, with Roald Dahl and Maurice Sendak, two of my most-favorite-ever authors! Even if only a couple of sheep showed up to the book signing, it would still be awesome. Plus, after reading the recent, rather hilarious interview with Mr. Sendak in The Guardian, I have a hunch that sharing a couple of pints with those two after the signing would be pretty entertaining.

(And p.s., I’d serve endless amounts of pizza, like my Catastrophic characters get to eat in their version of the afterlife, a pizza parlor called Little Slice of Heaven.)

How do you plan to celebrate your book’s birthday on February 21?

Haha, probably by visiting a bunch of NYC bookstores and weeping with joy at the sight of my book on actual shelves! Also, by throwing a REALLY fun release party with lots of friends, lots of champagne, and lots of dancing! Details to come, everyone’s invited!


Jess Rothenberg grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, graduated from Vassar College, and spent most of her twenties editing books for teens and middle grade readers (like the bestselling titles Vampire Academy, Strange Angels, and I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil & I Want to be Your Class President, to name just a few). She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she now writes full-time, dances interpretively, and dreams of one day owning a sheepdog named Leo.

Visit her at www.jessrothenberg.com to find out more!

Read Jess’s blog at  www.jessrothenbergbooks.blogspot.com.

Follow @JessRothenberg on Twitter.


Do you want a chance to win The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg? Jess is giving away a signed ARC and a poster to ONE LUCKY COMMENTER on this post. Just comment below and you’re entered to win.

(If you tweet about this giveaway you get +1 extra entry… just let me know you did.)

RULES: One winner will be chosen randomly. The giveaway to win a signed ARC and poster of The Catastrophic History of You and Me ends Monday, December 19 at 5:00 p.m. EST. To win this giveaway, you must have a US mailing address. Be sure to include your email in the comment form (it is private and only I will see it), so I know how to reach you if you win.

And stay tuned for the end of the 2012 Debut Interview Series—for a chance to win the pre-order of your choice out of all ten featured authors!


What is the next Winter/Spring 2012 debut novel I’m looking forward to? Come back tomorrow to find out.

Saturday Randoms: the YA Debuts, the Resolution, the Artist Colony, the New Blog Series, and the You’ll-Have-to-Tear-These-Pages-from-My-Cold-Dead-Hands

It’s Saturday, and we just had a week’s worth of debut interviews and giveaways!

Maybe I should clarify something while I have you here: Since this new series of YA debut interviews began this week, I’ve had many people contact me asking how to be a part of the next round of interviews (next come the Summer 2012 YA debuts, and then Fall 2012). Thank you so much for being interested! But I should tell you, I have one criteria and one criteria only for the debuts I’ve picked to interview: They’re simply books I want to read. That’s it! I combed through publishers’ seasonal catalogs and Goodreads debut lists and debut blogs and read about these books and picked ones I wanted to read. Then I reached out to each of these authors asking if I could interview them because I was excited about their books. So… there’s nowhere to sign up, sorry. I haven’t read any of the books yet, but I can’t wait to. I guess what I’m saying is, basically, this 2012 Debut Interview series is just me… celebrating new books ’cause I like to.

If you are excited about any 2012 debuts, tell me in the comments. I absolutely love discovering new voices.

So! What are the Winter/Spring 2012 debuts I’m excited about so far? Slide by Jill Hathaway, Fracture by Megan Miranda, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, Where It Began by Ann Stampler, and Croak by Gina Damico.

[Click on each of the covers to go to the author interview—and enter the giveaways to win their books! All of the giveaways are still open, and you only need to leave a comment on the post to enter.]

Starting Monday, I’m featuring five more YA debut authors. So come back to find out who they are, read their interviews, and enter the giveaways.

What else?

If you visit this link on the Modge Podge Bookshelf, you can get a peek at my writing resolution for next year—and also the best book I read in 2011 and more.

Now you’ll know where in California I’ll be writing for a whole month this spring—I just noticed that the list of 2012 artists is up on the Djerassi Resident Artists Program site. It’s really happening!

Thank you for voting in my poll to help me choose the theme for the next blog series I’ll be hosting here. I’ve chosen the theme with the most votes: “What was your turning point as a writer?” (A theme inspired by a blog I wrote about just that last year—about deciding to write YA after reading Laura Kasischke during my day job at the children’s book publisher.)

I’ve already started soliciting some wonderful authors to take part in the new blog series… and many have said yes! I can’t wait to read their guest blogs. Expect the Turning Points blog series to begin in January 2012! (If you’ve already guest-blogged for me and are wondering why I haven’t asked you again—it’s simply an attempt at not being annoying. But if this theme really inspires you, please email me.)

And last but not least, I’m about to finish a draft of the proposal for my next YA novel. This is the novel that will (?? if it gets bought) come after 17 & Gone. I’m not telling you the title or anything about it yet, but I have over 65 pages and I’m close to letting go and being a mature, professional writer and showing my agent to see if he thinks it has legs. Very close. I need to finish it this weekend.

It’s just that there’s a part of me that never ever wants to let go of my writing and gets all scary possessive like it’s mine! I’m going to revise this forever! you’ll have to claw my pages out of my cold, dead hands! grr!

Or something.

Ever get like that?