Author Interview & Book Giveaway: INHERITANCE by Malinda Lo

inheritance-finalcover-525wJust last week, while I was away, the sequel to Malinda Lo‘s heart-pounding, gripping, sexy Adaptation series, Inheritance, entered the world—and now that I’m home I have an interview with Malinda to celebrate its release! I’ve asked Malinda to answer some of my favorite author interview questions, and here’s what she said…

Scroll down to see who won a set of signed hardcovers of Adaptation and Inheritance


NRS: I’ll start with the dreaded question you may be hearing from strangers on elevators, long-lost family members, and your doctor while you’re sitting on the examination table in the paper gown during a checkup: “So what’s your next book about?” 

Inheritance is the sequel to Adaptation. The duology (with bonus ebook-only companion novella Natural Selection!) is an X-Files-inspired science fiction thriller about what happens when birds start attacking airplanes, sending them crashing to the ground. Why are the birds doing that? Why is all the information about the crashes being wiped from the internet? Is the president of the United States telling the truth? And seriously, is that a bisexual love triangle? (Yes. Yes it is.)

So, it’s about crazy birds, conspiracies, secret military bases, and loooooove.

inheritance-finalcover-525wNRS: Did you learn any deep, shocking truths while working on this novel—about writing in general, or about yourself?

ML: I learned that my favorite thing to do as a writer is to set my characters down a path that seems like it’s going really well, and then to completely pull the rug out from beneath them. I think it’s because I had two books and about 900 pages to set them up and knock them down. By the time I got to the climactic portions of Inheritance, I’d been waiting to get there for about 700 pages (counting Adaptation) and I could not contain my evil authorial glee!

I think this is just part of becoming more conscious about my writing, though. With every book I write I become increasingly aware of the tools and techniques I have available to me, and I get really excited about using them.

NRS: Do you ever write fiction snatched from real life—your own, or someone else’s? Is there a secret or not-so-secret piece of this novel that came from something we may not realize is “real”?

ML:  Yes. I don’t get this question much because I’ve written fantasy and science fiction, but of course, parts of my books come straight out of real-life experiences I’ve had. However, I’m not going to tell which parts! I reserve the right to write a memoir someday, and then people can try to match things up if they want.

NRS: What is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book? How did you overcome it?

ML:  The internet! I have all sorts of tricks for avoiding being sucked into the internet, but mainly I use Mac Freedom, which is this software that disables all access to the internet on my computer for a set amount of time. I’ll set it for up to three hours, and even if I click on my internet browser by accident, no websites will load. Also you can’t disable Mac Freedom once it’s running except by forcing your computer to shut down, and that freaks me out because I’m worried I’ll lose data, so I never do that. I use Mac Freedom all the time.

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

ML:  It would be Gillian Anderson or David Duchovny reading Adaptation or Inheritance with the cover easily visible, preferably while on a stakeout in a black car, and I would totally photograph them with my phone and tweet it immediately.

(Seriously? I think I’d be super excited to see anyone reading any of my books in public. I’ve never seen that before!)

NRS: What do you know now that you wish you’d known as a debut author? 

ML: Not much. I feel like part of being an author is experiencing a kind of gradual disillusionment with the job that forces you to genuinely engage with why you want to write at all. That sounds grim, but it’s actually not. Most debut authors are filled with a natural enthusiasm and excitement because it’s their first book—and I wouldn’t want to diminish that joy. Having your first novel published is a wonderful thing that should be treasured.

By “disillusionment” I mean coming to understand the nuts and bolts of the business, which can seem really mysterious and sort of fantastical before your first novel comes out. It’s all deal announcements and cover reveals and book tours—until you learn what goes into making a deal, creating that cover, or negotiating those public appearances. It can be quite difficult to deal with all this prosaic, financially minded reality, but the fact is, if you want to be an author with a long career, you’re going to have to learn how to deal with it.

The biggest challenge for me (and probably for many authors) is learning how to balance those often frustrating business matters—plus a lot of public judgment—with nurturing the creativity you need in order to keep writing. Every author has to figure out what works for themselves, and that takes time. It would do no good to know everything at once, and in fact it would probably be terrifying. You need to work your way through it gradually.

NRS: If you had to pick one sentence, and one sentence only, to entice someone to read your book, what would it be? 

ML: This was so hard! In Inheritance most of my favorite sentences are dialogue that either make no sense outside the context of the scene, or are too spoilery for me to post. But I did find one sentence I really like that’s in one of my favorite scenes, and it’s about the liminal space that occurs between choices, and maybe more broadly, the liminal space of adolescence itself. Anyway:

“For a moment it was like being suspended in time—just the two of them in this room, divorced from everything that had come before, poised on the brink of what might come after.”


(Photo by Patty Nason)
(Photo by Patty Nason)

Malinda Lo is the author of several young adult novels including most recently the sci-fi duology Adaptation and Inheritance. Her first novel, Ash, a retelling of Cinderella with a lesbian twist, was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, the Andre Norton Award, and the Lambda Literary Award. Her novel Huntress was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Malinda lives in Northern California with her partner and their dog. Her website is www.malindalo.com, and she tweets @malindalo.



ANNOUNCING THE GIVEAWAY WINNER…

inheritance-finalcover-525wOne winner was chosen to receive a set of signed hardcovers of both Adaptation and Inheritance, and that winner is…

Marthapao!

Congrats! I’ll be in touch for your address so you can claim your prize!


If you’re a YA or middle-grade author with a new novel coming out by a traditional publisher and you’d like the chance to answer some of my interview questions to celebrate your release, let me know!

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: COUNTING BY 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Goldberg-Sloan_Holly_290sqI’m excited to tell you that I have Holly Goldberg Sloan here today, answering some questions about her new middle-grade novel, Counting by 7sand more! I’m a huge fan of Holly’s debut, I’ll Be There, a heart-pounding, emotional, gorgeous novel that still makes me choke up when I think about it. Now Holly has turned her talents to a younger audience, and I can’t wait to read it.

And scroll down to see who won the giveaway!


NRS: You have a new novel coming out—COUNTING BY 7s, from Dial. I’ll share the jacket copy to give everyone a delicious tease:

In the tradition of Out of My MindWonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle-grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

Counting-by-7s-by-Holly-Goldberg-SloanMy response to this? …Wow. Cannot wait to read. COUNTING BY 7s is on sale tomorrow!

HGS:  Yes. Book launches are exciting and anxiety filled. It feels as if you wait for a long time after you’ve finished for the book to be edited and printed and get to the bookstore. And then all of sudden after all the waiting the day is upon you.

Your first novel I’LL BE THERE (from Little, Brown) is difficult to place in a category.  It’s contemporary realistic fiction, but if you had to put a label on it (and I see from COUNTING BY 7s that labels interest you), what else would you say?

HGS:  I think I’d call I’LL BE THERE a thriller. The category exists in the adult book world, and usually involves crime/detectives/murder. But in the YA world, I think you can have thrillers, which is another way of saying page-turners. Things HAPPEN. Or that’s what I hope anyway. And there is an element of danger.

But COUNTING BY 7s, your new book, is not a thriller.

HGS:  No.

It’s….?

HGS:  A story about loss. But it’s also about being found. It’s very personal to me, in many ways. Or at least the underlying emotions are very personal. One of my closest friends from college, Lisa Gaiser Urick, passed away from cancer. And the father of my sons (we had divorced when they were very young and I have remarried but stayed very close to my first husband) died of heart failure while swimming in the ocean. It was very sudden and we were not prepared. I was on a walk and my phone rang and I saw that it was my ex-husband. I spoke to him almost every day so that was not unusual. But he had just left for a vacation in the Virgin Islands. He would call me when he was out of town, so again I didn’t think anything when I answered the phone. But when it wasn’t him on the other end of the line, I knew something was very, very wrong. I think on some level, I’ve been in shock ever since. It’s been over two years and I still have trouble processing that he’s gone. And the same is true of Lisa. I still believe that it’s possible, somehow that I can find her.

And yet your book is not just about that kind of shock of sudden loss, it’s about what happens next.

HGS:  Exactly. And I have tried to do that embracing humor, and hope.

Do you think your books have magical realism? Do you believe that the things you write about could happen?

HGS:  That’s a hard question to answer without giving away spoilers, which I don’t want to do. There is almost nothing that irritates me more than reading a review where the plot is revealed. But I understand the point of the question and I will say this: almost everything that happens in my books has happened to someone that I know, or I’ve heard about. So to me, these characters and what they go through are real. They are grounded. I can answer that in a specific way if someone has read the book. But again, I retreat to the position of saying sometimes crazy things go down. People are not predictable. You think they are, but they surprise you. In all kinds of ways.

tumblr_mrhih0lcMc1r0yglfo1_500

What would you be if you hadn’t become a writer?

HGS:  I’m very interested in architecture, so that would have been a possibility. And I also would have considered politics. I was a Political Science major at Wellesley (and also English literature) and at one point I thought that I’d live in Washington DC and work in government. My youngest son is there now, so maybe he’s fulfilling some kind of family destiny.

Holly Goldberg SloanI know you have another book coming out after COUNTING BY 7s. Tell us a little about it.

HGS:  I have written a follow-up to I’LL BE THERE.  It’s titled JUST CALL MY NAME. It’s coming out in 2014 from Little, Brown. I’m very happy with the novel, which I believe stands on its own merits and does not require reading I’LL BE THERE. Of course that might enhance the experience, but the characters in the first book had a lot of ground still left in them. I’m excited for that to come out next year.

So am I! I’m excited for both of your new books—and, lucky us, we don’t have to wait for the next one: COUNTING BY 7s comes out tomorrow, August 29, from Dial!

HGS:  And I guess now is the time in the process where I’d say “Read my blog,”—except I don’t have one. And I’d also say follow me @HGoldbergSloan on Twitter—but I’m a shy tweeter. What’s a bird with a very low voice? That’s me in the electronic world. So I’ll just end by saying thank you, Nova. You are a great writer, and great to writers.

Aw, thank you, Holly—and congratulations!


ANNOUNCING THE GIVEAWAY WINNER…

Counting-by-7s-by-Holly-Goldberg-SloanCongrats to Jocelyn Smith!

You won a copy of Counting by 7s!

Hope you love it.

 

Anticipated YA Debut Interview: TAKEN (+Giveaway)

Web

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!

Anticipated YA Debut Interview: IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS (+Giveaway)

Web

Today I have an interview with one of the April 2013 Anticipated YA Debut Authors! Today’s featured author is Cat Winters—and her first novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, comes out today, April 2, from Amulet Books! Read on to see how Cat answered my Q&A…

…And scroll down to see the THREE WINNERS of the swag pack!


(On sale today, April 2!)
(On sale today, April 2!)

Nova: I’ll start with the dreaded question you may be hearing already from strangers on elevators, long-lost family members, and your doctor while you’re sitting on the examination table in the paper gown during your next checkup: “So what’s your book about?” 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?

Cat: In the Shadow of Blackbirds is the story of a sixteen-year-old girl named Mary Shelley Black who’s forced to deal with WWI-era America, the deadly 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, and the early-1900s trend of turning to séances and spirit photography to cope with grief. She’s a highly educated, scientific, rational young woman whose world is turned completely upside down when she starts to see the ghost of her first love, Stephen Embers, who was killed in battle overseas.

My protagonist was named after the author of Frankenstein, but she’s not related to her.

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?

CW: I originally created a major subplot involving a German family who befriended Mary Shelley while they were facing the anti-German prejudice that was occurring in WWI-era America. There was even a romantic interest: the family’s oldest son. Along the way, I was told those characters were distracting too much from the main plot of Mary Shelley’s connection to the unsettled ghost of her first love. The German family is now gone, but I kept references to the time period’s anti-German behavior.

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? 

CW: There’s a rather intimate scene in Chapter 22 that Mary Shelley and Stephen wouldn’t want me talking about, and I’m sure it would make them blush. They don’t ever seem embarrassed or apologetic about their nerdy sides or their intellectual hobbies (the word “nerd” wasn’t around in 1918, but it fits them). Yet these two long-time childhood friends are sensitive when people discuss the blossoming physical nature of their relationship—which manages to continue, even when one of them is a ghost.

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. 

CW: My writing place is typically my home office. Thankfully, we have an extra room that I can use as a getaway from the rest of the house. For a change of scenery, I love writing in my local indie coffeehouse.

CatWinters_office

My fantasy writing spot would be a grand, library-style room with enormous windows overlooking a lush English garden. The novel doesn’t take place in England, but it would be wonderful to write while overlooking the grounds of a place like Downton Abbey.

CatWinters_EnglishGarden

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? 

CW: Ah, that would be the lure of the internet. I often sought out writing spots that didn’t offer free wi-fi so I would be forced to stay off the web and focus on my manuscript.

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.

CW: Hmm…that’s a hard one. I hope the book appeals to a wide variety of readers, but I suppose I would feel the greatest sense of satisfaction if I looked up from my park bench and saw a reader who looked a little out of place, a little weary, as if he or she didn’t quite fit in with the world at the moment. In the Shadow of Blackbirds is all about learning how to survive the darkest times in a person’s life while remaining true to who you are deep inside.

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? 

CW: “It’s going to take a ridiculously long time before you ever sign a contract with a publisher. I won’t even tell you how long you’re going to have to wait or how many manuscripts you’ll need to write, because it might break your spirit and determination. But it will happen. Keep going. Ignore the voices of doubt inside your head.”

NRS: 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?

CW: Daphne du Maurier, Harper Lee, and I would travel the U.S. with a bird-themed book tour celebrating Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, du Maurier’s classic short story “The Birds,” and my own In the Shadow of Blackbirds. We’ll serve cupcakes decorated with artsy little bird toppers (which I’m actually doing at my real book launch), and we’ll welcome visitors with bird-themed music like “Mockingbird” and The Beatles’ “Blackbird.” du Maurier and Lee will then talk for hours about their writing, while I sit there, dreamy eyed.

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

CW: I’ll probably stay home to take care of tweets and emails (and work a little on my next book), but I plan to head out to a couple bookstores to look for In the Shadow of Blackbirds in the wild and perhaps enjoy a nice lunch. The real celebrating will begin during the following days, when my mom and sister fly in from out of state to attend my April 6 book launch party at Powell’s Books in Beaverton, OR.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is on sale today, April 2, from Amulet Books. Read on for a chance to win a signed prize pack! (Three winners will be chosen!)


CatWintersBW_web

Cat 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.

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

Follow @catwinters on Twitter and like her on Facebook.


NOW ANNOUNCING THE GIVEAWAY WINNERS…

*THREE* winners were chosen to win signed swag packs for In the Shadow of Blackbirds! Here’s what they won:

Blackbirds_swag_Mar2013

Congratulations to…

Christine!

Krystal M.! 

Jennsie!

Congrats to all the winners and thank you to everyone who entered!

Anticipated YA Debut Interview: IF YOU FIND ME (+Giveaway)

Web

Today I have an interview with my second March 2013 Anticipated YA Debut Author! Today’s featured author is Emily Murdoch—and her first novel, If You Find Me, comes out on March 26 from St. Martin’s Griffin! Read on to see how Emily answered my Q&A…

…And be sure to scroll down to find out who won the giveaway!


IF YOU FIND ME debuts on March 26!
IF YOU FIND ME debuts on March 26!

Nova: I’ll start with the dreaded question you may be hearing already from strangers on elevators, long-lost family members, and your doctor while you’re sitting on the examination table in the paper gown during your next checkup: “So what’s your book about?” 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?

Emily: First, thank you so much, Nova, for spotlighting my novel. As a fan of your work (and gorgeous writing!) just to be here having this conversation is a down-the-rabbit-hole moment. That said:

If You Find Me is the story of a teen abducted by her mother, hidden in the woods, and returned to society ten years later.

The consensus (so far) is that tissues are required.

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?

EM: Mostly, this novel came out whole, as if it were meant to be.

However, there is a revelation at the end of the novel that didn’t exist as first written. I’d sent my agent, Mandy Hubbard, a cryptic message stating, “There’s a part I want to ask you about, where I might need to ‘go there,’ but didn’t. I’ll wait to hear what your thoughts are after you read.”

Being the intuitive author she (also) is, Mandy wrote back, “I know what you’re talking about, and I think you have to go there.”

When we talked on the phone later that week, she knew exactly what I was talking about. Not what happened to Carey. What Carey did.

Now, I can’t imagine the story unfolding any other way.

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? 

EM: Oooooo, good question!

Carey wouldn’t want anyone to know how much the hugs from Melissa mean to her, or how her heart plumped up after being carried up the stairs in her father’s arms.

She’s practically a grown-up, after all. She’s supposed to be in charge—not just of Jenessa, but of herself. Feelings are super-private for Carey, and the touching moments are moments she replays over and over in her mind.

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. 

EM: In order to take a picture of where I write, I’d have to clean up dinner dishes first, which I don’t plan to do until after this Q&A flies off on its merry way. That said:

I work at the kitchen counter, which is the heart, the hub, of our home. From the kitchen, I can keep an eye on the dog kennel out the front window (especially when rattlesnakes swarm in April) and watch the horses out the side window, usually with a terrier on my lap and another at my feet. (Heaven!)

The TV is situated behind me for music or news. The counter is bar-style, so I can spread things out, like first pass pages or notes. I have a candle burning whenever I can. I like to invite the light in.

It’s easy for me to tune out my surroundings, so it’s nice to have my husband watching television behind me in the evenings, writing being such a solitary endeavor when a writer is actually writing.

However…my dream spot is a writing room (when Hubs isn’t home) filled with bookcases crammed with books. A crackling fireplace in the corner. An overstuffed chair for reading, and a comfy chair for writing at my antique, roll-top desk replete with secret compartments. (I’ve dreamt of such a desk my entire life.)

The desk faces a large picture window overlooking acre after acre of pristine land, and every lucky once in a while, I get to look up in wonder at a herd of wild mustangs galloping or meandering by.

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? 

EM: None! I was lucky that way, as this was my NaNoWriMo ’10 novel, and my third year of successful NaNoing. I’m fiercely competitive with myself. No way was I going to lose!

Pirate’s ahrrrrrrr!

I finished the first draft of If You Find Me in 24 days. And did the kitchen dance around my husband who was getting the turkey ready for its pre-Thanksgiving brining. Then, I realized—this means I have Thanksgiving off! and I danced some more.

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.

EM: So fun! Okay:

Music drifts from a staticky station, something grounding and homey, life-soundtrack-worthy, like Chicago: Saturday, in the park, I think it was the Fourth of July. People dancing, people laughing, a man selling ice cream…

What was that terrible clatter? Everyone stops what they’re doing and looks up. Anvils and pianos and toilet seats rain from the sky, but our Dear Reader doesn’t notice. She’s too engrossed in Carey’s tender tragedies as the tears waterfall down her cheeks.

A toilet seat hula-hoops around her neck and settles there, a porcelain necklace. Dear Reader doesn’t notice. A barmaid with eyes as large as drink coasters streaks past in a Renaissance Fair gown with one sleeve half-torn, juggling an armful of shrieking triplets. Dear Reader remains oblivious.

Finally, with a satisfied burst of laughter-through-tears, Dear Reader devours the novel’s last line, looks up, and gasps. The world is gone, Neverending Story-style! Pitch black nothingness! All that’s left is our Dear Reader, her trusty park bench with a drizzle of pigeon poop on the far arm, and a copy of If You Find Me in her hand.

Thank Atreyu my iPhone has a flashlight app, she thinks. Dear Reader turns on the light, flips to page one, and begins again.

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? 

EM: This: just because you possess a scrap of natural ability and the glimmer of a chance, it doesn’t mean you won’t have to work your fanny off to lasso that star.

Things will happen when they happen, when they’re supposed to happen, and you have to trust that. (Writers have to trust that.)

Your job, in the meantime, is to write. No more. No less!

NRS: 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?

EM: Let’s have fun with this, too!

Sounds simple, but I’d go to New York City for a reading in Central Park. I’d invite a gaggle of present-day authors to read from their current work, in a sort of book-Woodstock.

My two guests of honor would arrive by carriage, freshly-risen from the dead that morning, with a character in tow—their +1s. We’d have Lucy Maud Montgomery and Anne (with an e) Shirley, and Louisa May Alcott and Jo March. Imagine our surprise to learn that Jo and Anne have been bosom buddies for years! Kindred spirits! So close are these two that back on their storybook planet, they’re known as “JoAnne.”

Every publisher would contribute their author’s favorite food. Thank you, lovely publishers! Being NYC, mine would be pizza. Grease-running-down-your-forearm-to-drip-off-your-elbow, cheese-bubbling, New York City pizza.

Everyone’s dogs and children would be welcome! There’d be Frisbees fashioned from bacon for the dogs to catch, and unbirthday cake for everyone to eat at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, where the children would gather under adult supervision. As the stars filled the sky and the stage, nervous authors would clear their throats and wait for their names to be called.

Our little group clusters on a chenille blanket on the lawn. Anne Shirley turns redder than her ginger hair as she begs Lucy Maud not to read aloud the part where Anne gets Diana drunk, and Jo March, looking suspiciously like Winona Ryder, talks about Concord this, rag money that, Marmee this and Laurie that.

In the middle of Nova Ren Suma’s reading, a ruckus ensues! We watch wide-eyed as two burly men break up the fight, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath still swinging as park security struggles to keep them apart.

The two women are wearing the exact same dress. Uh-oh.

“You can have your stupid dress. My poems are better than yours and you know it! I won awards and stuff,” Sylvia shouts.

“Like I didn’t? And that’s Anne with an e to you.”

“You stole that from Anne Shirley,” Sylvia says, hands on hips.

“So? Who are you, the alphabet police?”

Lucy Maud leans over and whispers in my ear. “You think this is bad? You should see them back at home.”

Nova waits by the microphone smiling sweetly as Security escorts the two women from the park, their Betty Page dresses limp, their little white gloves covered in grass stains.

Afterward, we all breathe a sigh of relief. And take another bite of pizza. And clap as Nova resumes reading from her newest novel, 17 & Gone…

Anne Shirley twists toward me, her eyes twinkling as she leans very unladylike over Jo March. “Are you ready, Emily? You’re up next…”

NRS: How do you plan to celebrate your book’s birthday on March 26?

EM: I haven’t decided yet, as of this writing. I’m not the belle of the ball type. But, one thing I do know? No NYC pizza.

But who cares! My book’s coming out!

If You Find Me is on sale March 26 from St. Martin’s Griffin. Read on for a chance to win a copy of the book!


Emily Murdoch

Emily Murdoch lives in the Arizona desert with her husband and adopted dogs, spending her days operating a sanctuary for slaughter-rescued horses and burros. At night, she writes furiously by candlelight, capturing the ideas inspired by the day.

Visit her at emilymurdoch.wordpress.com to find out more. 

Follow @leftywritey on Twitter and add her on Facebook.


NOW TO ANNOUNCE THE GIVEAWAY WINNER…

One lucky winner was chosen to win a signed hardcover of If You Find Me!

If You Find Me coverAnd the winner is…

Kaye!

Congrats, Kaye! I’ll be in touch for your mailing address. Thank you to everyone who entered!

 

Anticipated YA Debut Interview: DR. BIRD’S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS (+Giveaway)

Web

Today I have an interview with one of the March 2013 Anticipated YA Debut Authors! Today’s featured author is Evan Roskos—and his first novel, Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets, comes out tomorrow, March 5, from Houghton Mifflin! Read on to see how Evan answered my Q&A…

…And scroll down to see who won the giveaway!


Evan Roskos cover 300Nova: 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?

Evan: DR. BIRD’S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS is an upbeat book about mental illness. James manages his depression and panic attacks by reciting Walt Whitman poems and hugging trees. When he finds out a troubling secret about his sister Jorie, who’s been kicked out of the house by their abusive parents, he needs to find the strength to help her and, ultimately, himself. But can anyone rely on a kid that talks to a therapist that’s an imaginary pigeon named Dr. Bird?

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?

ER: Actually, the biggest transformation is too much of a spoiler to explain specifically, but there was a scene towards the end where James learns something and it kept causing major logistical issues. I finally figured out a year after I finished the first draft that the problem stemmed from who in the scene was right about something and who was wrong. Once I switched that around, the run-up to the climax gained an amazing power.

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? 

ER: “Did you see that James kid hugging a tree across the street from school the other day? It was a serious hug. Doesn’t he know being a tree hugger is, like, a metaphor?”

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. 

ER: I wrote DR BIRD’S ADVICE at my local coffee shop. My preferred seat was near a window that gets blasted with afternoon sun, which made it particularly uncomfortable at times in the summer. There’s a large black radiator next to the table, much appreciated in the winter but also great year round for the extra surface area since the tables are somewhat small. I’m in a corner, allowing me to look out into the street and not have anyone peek over my shoulder and judge me. 

I’m not sure I have a fantasy spot, though maybe a more comfortable chair that keeps my lower back from aching after weeks of typing would be nice. I need to write somewhere other than my house because naps are my weakness and it gets very sleepy at home, especially thanks to the rhythmic snoring of my dog.

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? 

ER: My biggest distraction is a lifelong love of napping. Writing out at a coffee shop helps, but then conversations and the internet intrude a bit. Still, I wrote the first draft of this book rather quickly (3 months) and wrote another book there in just two months. Perhaps I’m not as distractable as I feel!

DrBird - iStock_000010241833Medium

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.

ER: My ideal reader would likely be sitting in the park, alone. I can’t say what he or she would look like because my ideal reader’s physical appearance matters little; their internal appearance would likely involve a brain that blasts out radiation of self-doubt, depression, buzzing anxieties, and a grim view of life after high school. Ideally I’d see them smile, perhaps hear them laugh, as they read.

I would not linger because my ideal reader needs to be left alone; but I’d hope they’d finish the book and go find someone they can talk to about James and Dr. Bird and, most importantly, themselves.

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? 

ER: Skip the PhD. Also: short stories are fun to write and teach you tons of stuff about control, focus, efficiency, and plot. But the path to publication requires a novel, not a short story collection, so get busy.

NRS: 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?

DrBird - Whitman - iStock_000011717278SmallER: Walt Whitman will happily join me. I let him walk at his own pace and have no problems listening, which will give him plenty of opportunity to recite his poems and wow the crowds. I’ll ask F. Scott Fitzgerald, but he’ll only go if I can promise there will be women to flirt with and lots of good alcohol. Toni Morrison turns me down because I refuse to invite William Faulkner along. Finally, Flannery O’Connor agrees to come with us and tell hilariously grim stories about people from her community who all deserved to be smited.

Our tour will make stops across America starting in Camden, NJ, (where I raise Whitman from his grave). Then we head out through to Cleveland to visit the Rock n Roll hall of fame. Whitman falls in love with David Bowie, while O’Connor buys a CD by The Talking Heads after hearing “Take Me to the River.” In Chicago, we serve our fans NY Style Pizza and take turns reading aloud from one another’s work, which causes a rift between Whitman and O’Connor thanks to their incongruous views of sexuality and god.

In Arizona, we tell people the three of us are married, just to get a rise out of people, then flee to San Francisco, where Whitman gets some tattoos, makes a ton of friends, and finally leaves us (much to O’Connor’s simultaneous pleasure and moral objection). We stop in to meet with John Steinbeck, who helps us give out fresh fruit to our readers. Steinbeck and O’Connor discuss the power of literature, agreeing that killing characters is an effective and acceptable way to end stories in order to emphasize the need to be compassionate.

O’Connor leaves us, claiming she misses her peacocks. Steinbeck and I quarrel about who gets to pay for dinner at a local diner. I return home, finally, to find a tipsy Fitzgerald waiting on my doorstep with two suitcases full of alcohol and a pile of short stories he hopes to sell to my readers. “When do we leave, old chap?” He asks. “I’m calling Zelda,” I’d say, much to his dismay.

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

ER: I hope to avoid the internet and maybe eat some delicious cupcakes. I suspect one of those things will not happen.

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets is on sale tomorrow, March 5, from Houghton Mifflin. Read on for a chance to win a copy of the book!


RoskosHeadShot-smileEvan Roskos lives in New Jersey, a state often maligned for its air and politics but rightly praised for its produce. One of Narrative’s Best New Writers, Roskos’s short fiction has appeared in Granta’s New Voices online feature, as well as in journals such as Story Quarterly, The Hummingbird Review, and BestFiction.org. His debut novel Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) releases March 5, 2013.

Visit him at evanroskos.com to find out more. 

Follow @evanjamesroskos on Twitter and like him on Facebook.


NOW ANNOUNCING THE WINNER OF THE GIVEAWAY…

One lucky winner just snagged a signed finished hardcover of Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets, stickers, and a journal featuring a Walt Whitman quote on the cover!


Evan Roskos cover 300And the winner is…

Bethanne O’Donnell!

Congrats, Bethanne! And thank you everyone who entered!

Anticipated YA Debut Interview: THE REECE MALCOLM LIST (+Giveaway)

Web

Today I have an interview with another February 2013 Anticipated YA Debut Author! Our featured author is Amy Spalding—and her first novel, The Reece Malcolm List, is on sale today, February 5, from Entangled Teen! Read on to see how Amy answered my Q&A…

Scroll down to see who won the giveaway!


The Reece Malcolm ListNova: 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?

Amy: First of all, I absolutely WILL read my flap copy to people because I am terrible at pitching my own book. But when forced to improvise, The Reece Malcolm List is about sixteen-year-old Devan, who moves to L.A. to live with her mother, the New York Times bestselling author Reece Malcolm, who she’s never met before. She enrolls in performing arts school, meets friends, deals with boys, and has to figure out how to build a relationship with the enigmatic mother she’s never known. And I promise that even though Devan’s father has died, this isn’t a grief book!

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?

AS: Well. I originally got the idea for The Reece Malcolm List many, many years ago. MANY. I had the vague idea about writing a long-lost mother book, and even though fairly quickly I honed in on Devan and Reece’s characters…the rest was a mess. I had no idea how to actually write a book. I just wrote a bunch of things happening. Honestly it’s still a struggle for me to write a book. I tend to just want to write a bunch of people hanging out, people parlaying witty banter, and people making out. You may think this is enough for a book but apparently it’s not.

I also used to really think if I was going to bother writing, I should only write A Serious Novel. I didn’t even read that many serious novels, but I thought no one should set out to write anything less. So I really tried to push it in that direction for a long time, but I didn’t even like what I was writing. Luckily I realized I didn’t have to write A Serious Novel. I could just write what I wanted.

So ultimately The Reece Malcolm List isn’t that different from the initial vague idea I cooked up in my head, but it still took a long time getting there.

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? 

AS: It’s definitely interesting writing a character who keeps a lot of her emotions to and even from herself.

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. 

AS: I have no one main location. I definitely spent a lot of time writing not only on my old ugly floral print couch, but the beautiful (and non-floral) new one I replaced it with. I spent some Serious Time revising at my desk, but it’s rare for me to sit so upright. And I must give props to Starbucks and Kaldi in Atwater Village, where lots and lots of this novel was churned out or revised.

Coffeeshop writing is actually my favorite, but my dream would be for there to always magically be a table with an outlet available for me, and eggnog lattes all year long.

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? 

AS: Just one? If forced to name only one distraction when I’m an incredibly distracted person, I guess I have to say the internet. If you want more specificity, let’s blame Twitter specifically. Sorry, Twitter. You’re just so great!

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.

AS: Any person reading my book is my ideal reader!! I would have to force myself not to run over and ask how far they are and what do they think about boys with good hair.

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? 

AS: STOP FREAKING OUT, SPALDING.

NRS: 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?

AS: I would want to book tour with some author pals who already were invested in our friendship and wouldn’t care that I get cranky without coffee and snore in hotel rooms. I don’t want to tour with literary heroes and learn their gross habits.

If magic was possible, I’d want to serve all the L.A. food referenced in the book! One of my friends called The Reece Malcolm List “food porn” which is not the kind of blurb you put on the cover, but true nonetheless. Burgers from In-N-Out and Umami, sushi from Teru, enchiladas and chile rellenos from Mexicali, and a big stack of pancakes from Dupar’s.

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

AS: The life of an author with a dayjob means I’ll be spending it like I spend all my weekdays: looking at Twitter whenever I have the time.

The Reece Malcolm List is on sale today, February 5, from Entangled Teen. Read on for a chance to win a signed copy of the book plus bookmarks!


amy-spalding-headshot

Amy Spalding grew up outside of St. Louis. She now lives in Los Angeles with two cats and a dog. She works in marketing and does a lot of improv. The Reece Malcolm List is her first novel, and Merrily We Roll Along is her favorite Stephen Sondheim musical.

Visit Amy online at www.theamyspalding.com.

Follow @theames on Twitter and like her on Facebook.


ANNOUNCING THE GIVEAWAY WINNER…

Someone won a signed finished copy of The Reece Malcolm List plus bookmarks!

The Reece Malcolm ListAnd the winner is…

Rachel!

Congrats, Rachel! I will email for your mailing address. And thank you to everyone who entered!