The Book of Your Heart Series: Ryan Graudin

thebookofyourheart-FEATUREDWhen an author says a book she’s written is the Book of Her Heart, what does that mean? In this completely irregular ongoing blog series, I’ve invited guest authors to reveal what they consider the Book of Their Heart—and share why this book holds a distinct and special place apart from all others they’ve written.

Here, to celebrate her book birthday tomorrow, I have Ryan Graudin sharing why The Walled City is the Book of Her Heart…

Guest post by Ryan Graudin

Headshot-1Whenever I try to describe what writing is like to my non-writer friends, I usually resort to Harry Potter references. “My books,” I tell them, “are like Horcruxes. All of them have little pieces of me inside.”

But some books/Horcruxes have a little more of me inside than other books/Horcruxes. Something about The Walled City was different from every other project I’d ever written. It felt… truer, deeper, rawer than anything I’d ever put to paper before. It was a book I wrote solely for me. I honestly thought, during those early months, that no one would want to read, much less buy a YA novel where the plot revolved largely around Asian street children and human trafficking. I’d never read anything quite like what I was creating, and the usual fears of No one will buy this. This is all for nothing. set in.

I wrote anyway. Because I had to.

People always ask me where my inspiration comes from. I tell them travel, which is almost always true. The heart of The Walled City was inspired by two very distinct trips I took in my college years.

walledcity_final coverWhen I was twenty-years old I went to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for a summer. The purpose of the trip was to experience (and therefore understand) third-world poverty. I lived with a family in the slums, eating only what they ate, sleeping on the floor. I met children who lived in tarps. Children who had nothing to eat but what they could scrounge from trash heaps. Children who seemed to have no guardians to speak of. Children who deserved so much more.

When I was twenty-one years old I traveled to Bolivia, where my future sister-in-law worked (and still does) educating sex workers, providing them with health awareness, child care and (if they desire it) the means to learn the life-skills needed to support themselves if they wanted to leave the industry. Meeting these women, listening to their stories, eating a meal with them, was such a humbling experience. One that forced me to strip away all of my judgments and look at them in a new light.

Through both of these trips I came to realize that people are so much more than their circumstances. So much more than the passing labels or judgments I was so quick to give them. I wanted to help, and not just to help, but to understand. I wrestled and mulled and held these experiences inside. I tried to answer so many questions that seemed unanswerable.

People have many, many different ways of processing. The largest and most obvious of mine is writing.

So I wrote.

I wrote about street kids and trafficked girls. I wrote to try and understand their view, their world. I wrote to try—in some small way—to make sense of the pain and poverty I’d seen. I wrote to try and make sense of my own personal demons. I took all of the questions of my heart and crammed them into the form of a story.

Perhaps one of the reasons this novel has earned its place as my “heart book” is because it’s the most honest I’ve been with myself on the page. The Walled City is a book about trust, and how difficult it is to open yourself up to people after you’ve been hurt. It is a book about pain and isolation. But more than anything I think, it is a book about hope.

There are no simple answers when it comes to issues like poverty and trafficking. But it is my hope that by writing this book and inviting readers into my own search for answers, that I can help others see a world that is usually far in the shadows. A world my twenty-one-ish self only just brushed upon. A world that wrenches your heart, but deserves to be known about.

Ryan Graudin was born in Charleston, SC, with a severe case of wanderlust. When she’s not traveling, she’s busy photographing weddings, writing, and spending time with her husband and wolf-dog. She is also the author of All That GlowsThe Walled City is her second novel. You can visit her online at

Order a copy of The Walled City!

Thank you, Ryan, for sharing your Heart Book with my readers. Happy Book Birthday!

The posts in the Book of Your Heart series:


The Book of Your Heart Series: Amy Reed

thebookofyourheart-FEATUREDWhen an author says a book she’s written is the Book of Her Heart, what does that mean? In this completely irregular ongoing blog series, I’ve invited guest authors to reveal what they consider the Book of Their Heart—and share why this book holds a distinct and special place apart from all others they’ve written.

Here, to help celebrate her book birthday for her new edgy, contemporary YA novel Damaged, I have Amy Reed opening up for the first time about the book of her heart…

Guest post by Amy Reed

A Reed author photoAll of my five books have a piece of my heart in them. My new book, DAMAGED, will always be special to me because I was in my first trimester of pregnancy when my husband and I embarked on the cross-country road trip that would serve as the basis of the story. I battled a combination of morning sickness, carsickness, and weird food aversions (including water), all for the sake of art. My daughter was with me, the size of a blueberry, as the story of DAMAGED was born.

But I think the true books of my heart will always be my most autobiographical. BEAUTIFUL is by far the most autobiographical of my books, based on my experience moving from a rural island to a suburb of Seattle in seventh grade, experiences I’ve been very open about in the past. I’ve been less open about CLEAN. It is also very much autobiographical, but I’ve remained vague in interviews about how close I was to the story. After publishing five books, maybe it’s time to open up about why CLEAN is the book of my heart.

clean-coverCLEAN is based on my own experience in rehab when I was sixteen. I wrote it during my first year of sobriety after my second rehab, at age twenty-nine. I am now over five years sober and the happiest I’ve ever been, and I think my recovery plays a huge part in all of my novels since. I started drinking and using in much the same way as Cassie in BEAUTIFUL—I was thirteen, lonely, terrified, and I wanted to be cool. I fell in with a group of “friends” who were unlike anyone I had ever met, and I did whatever I thought I had to do in order to fit in. I had no foundation of self-esteem to help me say no, or to even ask myself what I actually wanted. I was addicted from the very beginning. I didn’t get high for fun like everyone else. I did it because I had to. It was the only way to keep myself from feeling all the horrible feelings that kept piling on the more I went in the wrong direction and the more I kept hurting myself.

By the time I was sixteen, I was exhausted and battling depression in addition to my drug abuse. I finally asked my mom for help, and after an evaluation, it was decided that month-long in-patient treatment would be the help I needed. I remember being scared, but more than anything, I remember feeling relieved. It felt good to let go of that secret, to ask for help, to stop trying to do everything on my own.

I learned a lot in rehab and I was clean for over a year afterwards, but I didn’t stay sober. To me, sobriety means much more than just being free from drugs and alcohol; it requires a whole shift in thinking, it requires growth and change and constant active effort to repair broken behavior and thought patterns. I did none of this. I was doing everything the same as before, just without drugs and alcohol. All the feelings I had been pushing away came back with a vengeance, and I was without the only tools I ever had to deal with them, and I wasn’t learning any new tools. I was miserable.

I relapsed shortly after high school graduation, and the next decade of my life was spent riding the downward spiral of addiction and alcoholism. I had gotten into the college of my dreams, but I dropped out just weeks before the end of sophomore year because of depression and an out of control cocaine problem that stole my soul. When I moved to San Francisco at age twenty, that’s when my drinking really took off, and I spent the next several years just barely getting by. Fortunately, I think some part of rehab stuck with me through these dark times, and I’d manage to pull myself out of serious trouble before it got too bad. But I’d always inevitably fall back into it again.

By the time I was in my late-twenties, I was exhausted. I decided to get help. Again, the feeling of relief that I didn’t have to do it alone. This time, I was serious about getting sober. I had too much to lose—a husband, a career, a home. This time, I knew I was going to have to change everything if I wanted to keep anything.

And so, CLEAN was born. I was able to access the raw vulnerability of the characters because I was going through the same things they were. I think of the main female characters—Eva, Kelly, and Olivia—as three parts of myself as a teenager, and it was healing to get in touch with them. I was Eva, the depressed poet misfit. I was Kelly, the pretty girl who didn’t know how to say no. I was Olivia, the perfectionist. In writing their stories, I got to let them go.

Style: "Porcelain vivid"So now, five years and four novels later, I have a life beyond my wildest dreams. I am wife to an amazing partner who inspired me with his love to become a better person. I am mother to the most astonishing 18-month old girl who teaches me new ways to love and laugh every day. She has never seen me drunk or high, and hopefully she never will. I am blessed to be able to do what I love for my profession, to write books and reach teens who are a lot like I was, lost and scared but full of heart. I get the most amazing letters and emails from readers who are going through similar things as my characters, and I feel so incredibly honored to help them feel less alone, to inspire them to get help. Everything I have in my life now is a result of my getting sober and changing my life. It is an honor and privilege to share it with you all, and I am forever grateful.

Amy Reed is the author of the edgy, contemporary YA novels BEAUTIFUL, CLEAN, CRAZY, and OVER YOU. Her new book DAMAGED released yesterday, October 14, 2014.

Find out more at

Buy DAMAGED at your local indie, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon

Buy CLEAN at your local indie, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon 

Thank you, Amy, for sharing the Book of Your Heart with my readers. Happy Book Birthday to Damaged, which is now on sale as of yesterday… everyone, go grab it!

The posts in the Book of Your Heart series:

The Book of Your Heart Series: Andrea Hannah

thebookofyourheart-FEATUREDWhen an author says a book she’s written is the Book of Her Heart, what does that mean? In this completely irregular ongoing blog series, I’ve invited guest authors to reveal what they consider the Book of Their Heart—and share why this book holds a distinct and special place apart from all others they’ve written.

Here, to help celebrate her book birthday this week for Of Scars and Stardust, I have Andrea Hannah sharing the deep heartache that inspired her book…

Guest post by Andrea Hannah

AndreaHannahTomorrow, the book of my heart releases into the world. I’m thrilled and emotional and blissful and a whole bunch of other things that I expected to be when I’ve imagined seeing Of Scars and Stardust on the shelves. What I didn’t expect is the sheer terror.

Writing this book saved me from self-destruction in the same way Goosebumps saved me in fifth grade, and Speak saved me my senior year of high school. The only difference is I wrote this one. And now everyone can see it. Everyone can see me.

Growing up, my childhood was the definition of chaotic. My parents split when I was four, and my mom and I moved around a lot. As an adult, I can see my mom’s dependence on me was pretty unhealthy, but at the time I thought that this intense pressure to be what she needed—what everyone needed—was normal. Past Andrea didn’t yet realize that she spent hours and hours every single day devouring stories that were so unlike her own life so that she could escape the pressure of the one she already had. So in flooded the talking Chucky dolls and aliens and a team of rag-tag teen entrepreneurs documenting their adventures in babysitting.

In high school, my mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness. A different kind of pressure, this time to figure out how to navigate the world without my primary parent. More books, only these ones laced with themes of loss and guilt and grief and confusion and all those you’re supposed to feel when someone you love is about to die.

The thing is, I didn’t feel anything. Not yet. So while books gave me permission to feel terrified and heartbroken, I just…couldn’t. There’s a paragraph in Of Scars and Stardust that actually talks about this delayed reaction, right after Claire finds out her sister is missing. She says, “I waited. And I felt nothing.” That was true for me, too.

All of those things came years later, as a newly-married adult, and the guardian of my little brother. Only they didn’t show up right after I signed those custody papers when my mom got too sick to care for my brother and quietly passed away; they came about a year after that. Everything had been settled; my brother was stable, and everyone else in my family had done their grieving while I held space for them. That’s when I let myself lose it.

Of Scars and StardustOnly I didn’t have the emotional tools or supports to deal with the unexpected grief. I imploded, which translated into exploding all over everything I’d built up around me. I was angry, and I made sure everyone knew it. After a particularly horrible day, I sat down at my computer and began angry-typing out a story. No one was home for me to be furious with, so my only relief were the keys.

I wrote about two sisters, one who loved the other so fiercely that she would follow her into the mouths of wolves and past the depths of her own understanding and sanity. Claire wanted her sister back so badly that she would put herself and everyone else she loved in danger to do it. Her desperation was palpable in those first few pages, her sadness cutting. I cried for the first time in years. Then I kept going.

I fought through every ounce of grief to figure out how to live without my mom while I was writing this book. And at the end, I was less angry. Somehow more stitched together than I was before. It’s weird that a book about sisters was actually about processing my relationship with my mom, but Claire’s feelings of grief and undying hope all mixed together are what I imagine are part of the human experience when they lose someone they love, whether it’s through death or mythical wolves with snapping, yellow teeth.

This book will always own my heart because it’s the story that put it back together, that helped me figure out who I actually was when I wasn’t my mother’s daughter anymore, at least not in the physical sense. I don’t know if I’ll ever write anything that I cherish as much as this story (I haven’t yet), but I’m extremely thrilled this is the first one on the shelves. And even though I feel incredibly transparent and naked and terrified about letting the mass public in on Claire’s progression through her grief, I’m grateful that this story is out there for anyone who needs it, whenever they’re ready for it.

Andrea Hannah lives in the Midwest, where there are plenty of dark nights and creepy cornfields as fodder for her next thriller. She graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A. in special education. When she’s not teaching or writing, she spends her time chasing her sweet children and ornery pug, running, and dreaming up her next adventure.

You can find her at and on Twitter @andeehannah.

Thank you, Andrea, for sharing the touching, emotional story of the Book of Your Heart with my readers. Happy Book Birthday to Of Scars and Stardust!

The posts in the Book of Your Heart series:

The Book of Your Heart Series: Justina Chen

thebookofyourheart-FEATUREDWhen an author says a book she’s written is the Book of Her Heart, what does that mean? In this ongoing blog series, I’ve invited guest authors to reveal what they consider the Book of Their Heart—and share why this book holds a distinct and special place apart from all others they’ve written.

Here, to help celebrate her book birthday this week for A Blind Spot for Boys, I have Justina Chen sharing with us the two books of her heart, and how they exposed different pieces of her heart in different ways…

Guest post by Justina Chen

Justina Chen Machu Picchu 2“Attitude!” the legendary editor overseeing our weekend writing retreat intoned.

The word sizzled in the conference room the way scandalous ideas do when they’re brought into the light. An intake of breath. A nervous smile or two as the twenty-five writers around me all tried to decipher where we were going with this.

We waited for more, but Patti Lee Gauch, former editorial director of Philomel, fell silent. She twiddled a ruler in her hands while we tasted that word in our heads: Attitude! Was this the cryptic method she used when working with the likes of Eric Carle and Brian Jacques? As if in answer, Patti kicked off her flat shoes, stood before us in her socks: four-foot-ten-inches of life-crackling wisdom. Four-foot-ten inches of conviction that can only come from a lifetime of wordcraft. Only then did she wield the ruler to punctuate her main point as if it was a sword in her personal battle against boring prose.

“We need characters”—point!—“who sass”—slash!—“the world.” The ruler fell to Patti’s side, but the command might as well have been written in white, hot electricity.

Attitude! Sass! They were twined strands of a story’s DNA. They obviously catalyzed the writers around me who were tapping away at their keyboards, word-inspired. Unlike me. I set my pen down, defeated. How do you write with attitude when the world itself has sassed the sass right out of you? A few years ago, I found myself the unwitting co-star in a midlife cliché. Eight weeks into what was supposed to be a two-year move to China, my then-husband admitted that he’d been having an affair with his secretary in Shanghai. Hence, our move. Hence, my return to a full-time job after finding that our finances had been ravaged. Hence, a writing pace that had dwindled to a few halfhearted sentences a day. And that right there was the crux of my writerly problem: my heart had been ripped in half.

But far, far worse, I watched helplessly as my kids fell into emotional catatonia, prone and unmoving on the rug for days after they learned that their father was leaving us…in a country where we barely spoke more than ten words of the language and hardly knew anyone. Weeks later, when my pre-teen son grunted at his dad on the phone, no longer even deigning to form words, I knew then that the most tragic legacy of the ensuing divorce wasn’t a broken family. It was my children’s broken hearts.

Chen_ReturnToMeHC FINALSo I did what I think any writer-mom would do: I wrote my kids a love letter. A long love letter that became Return to Me, a novel that illuminated the pain and upheaval of betrayal. A novel that detailed the power of true, abiding love. A mother’s love. It spilled over with love. Sass, not so much.

But attitude—that exhortation traveled from Patti’s lips to my ears. A sweet nudge to laugh again—and to make my readers laugh. A wise hand beckoning to me: Come, create with joy—so my readers would be filled with joy. Still, like Prufrock, did I dare disturb the universe? Did I dare sass again as I had in my previous novels filled with girls who sassed the world’s definition of beauty and success and racial identity?

Before the cataclysm in my life, I had confessed in passing to my agent how I went to thirteen proms. Yes, thirteen proms. (Boys from other high schools; a headstart in freshman year. It’s possible. Do the math.) He started laughing. Guffawing, actually, if you want to be perfectly accurate. When he finally stopped gasping for air, he said, “There’s your next novel.” But then the dark period washed over me, and Thirteen Proms sounded like a horror story. And sorry, I was already living my own. So the idea shriveled and was shelved…until those beckoning words: sass and attitude.

Chen_ABlindSpotforBoysHCSo sass I did through a major rewrite about Shana Wilde, a girl deemed a Wilde child just because she hit the gene lottery with the trifecta of blonde hair, long legs, and willowy figure. Sass I did for a girl who’s catnip for boys, the Helen of high school. Sass I did for a girl nursing a secret that no one—not even her best friend—knows: she’s been dumped by her much older and very much clandestine boyfriend. As a result, she puts herself and her stomped upon heart on a Boy Moratorium. Well, life cannot take attitude away forever, not for Shana who is a sassy girl at heart. And not for me.

Books, like life, have a reason and a season. So if Return to Me was the book of my broken heart written in a season of sorrow, then A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS is the book of my joyous heart written in a glorious season of sassiness.

I dare you not to like the book.[1]

Sass, how nice to be reacquainted with you.


[1] That said, it’s cool if you don’t so long as you aren’t mean about it. Woman to woman, let’s make a pact not to dehydrate anyone of a single ounce of sass. Life will take care of that all on its own if we allow it to. We women, instead, need to sister each other.

Justina Chen is an award-winning novelist for young adults whose most recent book, A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS, was called “an emotional and beautiful story” by Booklist. North of Beautiful was named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus and Barnes & Noble. Her other novels include Girl Overboard (a Junior Library Guild premiere selection) and Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies), which won the Asian Pacific American Award for Literature. Additionally, she co-founded readergirlz, a cutting-edge literacy and social media project for teens, which won the National Book Foundation’s Prize for Innovations in Reading. When she isn’t writing for teens, Justina is a story strategist for executives and leads storytelling workshops at companies like Disney and AT&T. She loves kicking back with her coconut black tea and hanging out with her kids.

Visit her online at or follow her on Facebook or on Twitter at @JustinaYChen.

 Thank you, Justina, for sharing the Book of Your Heart with my readers! Happy Book Birthday Week to A Blind Spot for Boys!

 If YOU are a traditionally published author and would like to write about the book of your heart, feel free to contact me.

The posts in the Book of Your Heart series:

The Book of My Heart: Imaginary Girls

thebookofyourheart-eThank you for reading the Book of Your Heart series this week, and special thanks to the authors who let me share their beautiful posts about their heart books. Today, on the three-year anniversary of Imaginary Girls, I wanted to tell you why I consider this book the “book of my heart” apart from all books I’ve written or will one day write.


In December of 2006, I was working as the senior production editor at Grosset & Dunlap / Price Stern Sloan, managing the copyediting of a great many mass-market children’s books and movie tie-ins and every known version of Mad Libs, and I was also quietly, in my downtime, a writer. I would get up early before work and write at a coffee shop near the office until it was time to go in. That December, I started writing a short story called “Werewolf.” (I may or may not have been listening to this song on repeat, from an album and artist my little sister introduced me to.) The story was about two sisters, the older one who lives with a violent, rageful man and the little sister who lives with her because she can’t live with their parents. The sisters dream of escaping to Paris. Instead they rarely leave the house. There wasn’t actually a werewolf in the story, but just go with it.

I wrote this short story on the side, cheating on the adult novel I was telling myself I should revise, again, and try to query agents with, again. The story started off as a diversion, a simple piece of writing that was entirely separate from the disappointment and hope and years of work that had gone into the novel. Untainted. Fun.

The original sketchy, unfinished file of “Werewolf” from December 2006 contained this paragraph from the POV of the little sister, Chloe, about her older sister, Ruby:

“I knew her another way. She did have a tongue, and she used it to lick peanut butter off a spoon, her most favorite snack. She was beautiful, truly, what I wouldn’t give for the way our collective features arranged themselves on her face, for the greener eyes, for the silkier hair, for the five distinct freckles that cast themselves over the bridge of her straighter, smaller nose. But he hadn’t seen her when we hennaed our hair, the mud we’d mixed for the most copper color dripping down her face and turning her ears orange. he hadn’t seen her after a crying fit, hadn’t seen her throw the rocks at our parents minivan when they picked up and drove it away. No one else had seen her that way, only me.”

I wrote that and sat up straight in my chair—or let’s say I remember I did. Let’s say I knew something important had happened. Let’s pretend.

In truth, I worked on that short story—changed its name from “Werewolf” to “Mythical Creatures,” but never changed the heart of the story between the two sisters, Ruby and Chloe, never ever let go of that—from the end of 2006 through 2008. I brought it to a short-story workshop with the full intention of polishing it up and sending it to a literary journal. That was its fate, if I were lucky, I figured.

I didn’t know it would become a novel.

I didn’t know it would become a YA novel, and that I’d become a YA author.

I didn’t know it would become the novel of my heart, the most true piece of writing I’ve ever set down on the page. The novel about my hometown. The novel about two very close sisters. The novel that became a love letter to my own sister—and though my sister is really the little sister, and I’m the big sister, pieces of us are tangled up in both Ruby and Chloe.

The novel that was wishful thinking. The novel that would become very important to me, in a whole other way.

Imaginary Girls hardcover coverImaginary Girls was published on June 14, 2011, three years ago today. Though Imaginary Girls wasn’t my first published novel (haha, you think that I’m talking about Dani Noir, don’t you? My first published novel was actually a paperback series novel written under a pseudonym, on assignment), and though Imaginary Girls wasn’t the first original novel I wrote (that was a novel called Bardo, which got me my MFA, but not much else), Imaginary Girls was my first true novel. The first novel that was really me and felt worthy at the same time. If I die tomorrow, the creative part of my life will have been complete because I wrote this book. I would have no regrets.

It’s the book of my heart for this reason, yes, and another. I’m going to tell you about the other.

I always knew that it was a book dedicated to my little sister, but something happened during the writing of this book. Something that feels so connected to everything the book is that I can’t now separate it.

While I was writing Imaginary Girls, she was going through some health problems and having difficulty getting a diagnosis. She was having trouble with her eyes. She kept getting tests. I was aware of this, and concerned, but it didn’t truly hit me until she called me one day with the news. I was under deadline, frazzled, a mess, doing revisions and unable to focus on anything else. But I remember stopping everything and sitting on my bed while she told me over the phone from where she lives in Philadelphia.

She told me that the test results had come back. She had been diagnosed with MS.

It was the summer of 2010. She was just about to turn twenty-six years old.

What can I say here to explain how I felt about my little sister so you can sense the impact? How much I love her? How when she was born, when I was nine and a half, it felt like she came into this world for me and only me? How can I explain how after that phone call it all came down on me and I didn’t know what to do and there was nothing I could do and my heart felt broken and I cried for two solid days? Why I had to suck it up and tell my agent what was going on, and ask him to please tell my editor, and that I wasn’t going to make the deadline because I couldn’t word an email to explain it myself? Because how could I work on a stupid book? How could I think anything I did was important when my sister, at not even 26, was facing this? How can I explain how I Googled “multiple sclerosis”—the symptoms, the treatments, the reality, the possible future—and how until that moment I didn’t realize what exactly this degenerative disease was, and that there is no cure? There is no cure. How can I even put to words how it felt to be so helpless, apart from my sister, knowing I couldn’t do a thing, realizing I had no true sense of what she was going through, and I didn’t know how to express to her how I would always be there for her, forever forward, until we were both old ladies, and how empty those words sounded? How much I loved her, how much I meant those words?

Oh, maybe you know. If you’ve read Imaginary Girls, it’s there. The way Ruby loves her little sister, Chloe? What Ruby does and would do for Chloe to keep her safe?

It’s there. It’s all right there. It’s in the book.

That’s why it’s the book of my heart. For that reason and all reasons beyond it. Because it felt like the first real piece of me I published and put out in the world, because it features my hometown in the way I sometimes remember it, but mostly because the beating heart at the center of the book is really my heart beating.

It’s what I didn’t know how to say to my sister—before I even knew I’d need to say it.

I’d written it down already. It was in the book all along.

To celebrate the three-year anniversary of the book of my heart, I gave away signed copies of the book to three readers. Congratulations, Jessi S., Alessa, and Penny! I’ve emailed you for your mailing address.

Imaginary Girls hardcover cover
Imaginary Girls paperback cover

If you would like to order a copy of Imaginary Girls, some buying links are below.


The posts in the Book of Your Heart series:




The Book of Your Heart Series: Corey Ann Haydu

thebookofyourheart-eThree years ago as of this week, the novel I’d consider the “Book of My Heart” was published. Tomorrow, on Saturday, June 14, when Imaginary Girls is officially three years old, I will tell you all why it connects so deeply to me and why I’d consider it the book of my heart apart from all books I’ve written or will write. I’ll also hold a giveaway for some elusive hardcovers!

So what is a book of an author’s heart, you may ask—and why say such a thing about one book and not others, when we love all our books and put pieces of ourselves into every one? I’ve asked a few author friends to share the book that holds a distinct and special place in their heart and tell us why. 

Here is Corey Ann Haydu revealing how hard she tried not to write the book of her heart, but she did, and you’ll be able to read it in the fall of 2015. Here’s how it came to be…

Guest post by Corey Ann Haydu

corey-ann-haydu-1I tried not to write The Book of My Heart. I tried so hard not to write it, that I didn’t, in fact, write it. The first draft of RULES FOR STEALING STARS had most of the elements that are in the book today. Four sisters. A troubled family. A bit of magic. A girl named Silly.

But it didn’t have my heart.

The problem with writing RULES FOR STEALING STARS is that I wanted to write about a kind of grief that I understood, but without actually writing the hard parts. The parts where you watch your world crumble. The real panicked, hopeless moments that are sometimes part of families and childhood and life, in general.

So I wrote the After. I thought I was writing the hard part. I would have told anyone who would listen that I was writing the hard part. But I was writing the After. I was writing the moment after the hardest moment.

I was not asked to add the hard part. I don’t think anyone knew I had skipped the hard part except for me, and I only knew because of a note my editor gave me on my first draft. It was an open-ended, big picture sort of question which is the best kind of question to get asked by your editor. A question that makes you think but doesn’t give you the answer.

Something’s missing in the plot, she said. She didn’t say what. She mused about different characters and their journeys and how building up or tearing down bits and pieces of their journeys might solve the problem.

As soon as the question was asked, I knew the answer.

I had to write the thing I didn’t want to write. I had to write the messy parts of families. Not the after, but the before. The DURING. Not when something is already gone, but when you are in the process of losing it.

Sometimes a hard story is when something is taken from you. Lots of wonderful moments take place in the year after a death or a loss or a trauma. But the story of Silly and her sisters is one where they are watching things fall apart. I was scared to write those scenes. I know a little something about watching things fall apart.

RULES FOR STEALING STARS is the book of my heart not because I went through exactly what Silly goes through at the exact age she goes through it. It is the book of my heart because while I was writing it, I was also in the process of loss. The during. The watching and the waiting. Not the before and not the after. I wanted to write the after, I tried to write the after, because in some ways I wanted to be there. I maybe even thought I was there.

Sometimes when we’re writing we skip over the most important parts. The hardest parts. The emotional parts. We do that to protect ourselves. It takes some amount of hurt to write hurt, in my experience, and we skip those hard parts so that the characters don’t have to feel the full extent of the pain of life, and neither do we.

I skipped the hard parts, but it took a little while for me to see it. It was unpleasant to admit that I had written the wrong part of the book. That while I’d been congratulating myself for how brave I’d been, I’d actually shied away from the scary parts.

So I rewrote the book.

The revision process for RULES FOR STEALING STARS was the hardest I ever had. The emotional journey of the characters had to be reimagined, and the heart of the book had to grow and shift and find a new way to beat.

The book of my heart has to be the book that is about the hardest parts and the things that break us. And because I am a girl who believes in the After and the What’s Next and the Surviving, it also has to be a book about hope. So it is both a book about the things that break us and the things that put us together. About the things that seem hopeless and the places we find hope.

It is a book about a girl and her sisters and the During. And the hope, hope, hope for an After.

Corey Ann Haydu is the author of OCD LOVE STORY (S&S 2013), LIFE BY COMMITTEE (HC, 2014), MAKING PRETTY (HC, 2015), and RULES FOR STEALING STARS (HC, 2015). Visit her at or follow her on Twitter @CoreyAnnHaydu.

The posts in the Book of Your Heart series:

Come back tomorrow for my own post about my book of my heart, and for the giveaway of Imaginary Girls!

The Book of Your Heart Series: Dahlia Adler

thebookofyourheart-eThree years ago as of this week, the novel I’d consider the “Book of My Heart” was published. On Saturday, June 14, when Imaginary Girls is officially three years old, I will tell you all why it connects so deeply to me and why I’d consider it the book of my heart apart from all books I’ve written or will write. I’ll also hold a giveaway for some elusive hardcovers!

So what is a book of an author’s heart, you may ask—and why say such a thing about one book and not others, when we love all our books and put pieces of ourselves into every one? I’ve asked a few author friends to share the book that holds a distinct and special place in their heart and tell us why. 

Here is Dahlia Adler revealing that her first book, Behind the Scenes, out this month, may not be the “book of her heart,” but we will soon get to read the one that is…

Guest post by Dahlia Adler

DahliaAdler (533x640)This month, I release my very first book. It’s called Behind the Scenes, and it’s fun and sexy and I’m thrilled it’s going out into the world. I worked hard on it, and I love it, and I hope readers will too. But there’s a truth behind it that I don’t talk about very much, and that’s this:

I would never have written it if I hadn’t had to shelve the book of my heart.

For most of my adolescence, I’d worked on a series of books set in one particular world, but then, about five years ago, I got an idea for something completely new. It started with a character’s name and something that’d happened to me in college and swirled out from there until it took on a life of its own. Then I got an opportunity to take a class on writing YA, and I took it as the ultimate sign that this book was meant to be.

I’d been writing for years, but this time, I was falling in a deep and true love I’d never felt before. I loved and related to my main character, with all her quirks and flaws and sense of humor. I loved the secondary characters, who made me laugh and challenged my comfort zone. I loved the love interest, who was so much more than that, and the way it was sort of a slow, tentative burn into the brightest, steadiest of flames. And I loved that I continued thinking about the characters and what was happening in their stories long after the end.

In nearly twenty years of writing, I’d always been reticent about sharing my work, but this time I happily threw it all over the place—to classmates, to friends…dear reader, I queried. Seriously. And I got a lot of requests, too! Such encouragement! Such love! People were going to adore my characters and story as much as I did!

Until they didn’t. Sure, they found things to love, but ultimately, it just wasn’t the right fit for any agents. And it took about fifty rejections until I got the one that made clear why:

The pacing was awful. The tone was completely uneven. The book was entertaining, sure, but it was like two different books crammed into one. It didn’t matter if people thought it was funny or romantic or thought-provoking—from a writing perspective, it was kind of a disaster.

So I shelved it. And I determined I would write a plot-driven, well-paced YA, one where I didn’t get so lost in my love for the characters that I was blinded to structure flaws.

behind-the-scenes-adler-coverThat book goes on sale in two weeks.

Since then, I’ve written many more books, but the characters of that first book—the book of my heart—have never left me. And even the story—that flawed, oddly paced story—still pulls me back. So when my editor, who’s also a friend with whom I happen to share reading taste, asked me for something fun to read one day, I actually thought to say, “Well, I do have this one thing you can read for fun that I think you’ll like…”

And she did. She fell head over heels for the characters the same way I did, and thought about them long after the end. The difference was, she had magic words at the end of that process: “If you want this to be your Book 3 [of your 3-book deal], I am totally cool with that.”

Just like that, the book of my heart had a pulse again for the first time in three years. And it’ll take a lot of work to get it to where it needs to be, but I can’t imagine work more worth doing. It’s like I’m going to get to introduce the world to my first love. And though with a release date of November 17, 2015, it’ll be my third impression on the world rather than my first, I hope it’ll charm its way into the hearts of both people who’ve read Behind the Scenes and Under the Lights and people who haven’t.

But the beauty of having a book of your heart is this:

When it comes down to it, it doesn’t even really and truly matter how much other people love it. Because when you write that book that lives on inside you no matter its publication fate; the book whose characters are practically family and whose setting feels so real to you that you can close your eyes and transport there in an instant; that book you love so much, that years later you’re still throwing it at people to read, and unknowingly saving its life in the process—you remember exactly why you do this in the first place. And there’s just nothing better than that.

Dahlia Adler is an Assistant Editor of Mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and a YA author and blogger at every spare moment in between. You can find her on Twitter at @MissDahlELama, and blogging at The Daily DahliaYA Misfits, and Barnes & Noble. She lives in New York City with her husband and their overstuffed bookshelves. Behind the Scenes is her debut novel.

The posts in the Book of Your Heart series:

Come back tomorrow for another Book of Your Heart guest blog! And look for the giveaway of Imaginary Girls on Saturday, June 14!