Monday, March 31, 2008

Author-Illustrator Feature: Peter Hannan

Peter Hannan is a writer, producer, and artist. He is the creator and executive producer of the Nickelodeon animated series, "CatDog," overseeing all aspects (writing, storyboarding, character design, art direction, post-production) of a hundred and twenty-something 11-minute episodes and holiday specials. He produced "Fetch," the "CatDog" theatrical short and a ninety-minute TV movie called "CatDog and the Great Parent Mystery." He wrote and sang the "CatDog" theme song, which he will sing for you even if you don't want him to. He wrote many other songs for the series, five of which are included on "The Newest Nicktoons" from Kid Rhino.

He has a new animated television series in development and is working on a variety of other film, TV, game, and book projects, including his current series of middle-grade illustrated novels for HarperCollins called Super Goofballs (2007-), featuring a staggering group of avenging lunatics: Super Goofballs #1: That Stinking Feeling, Super Goofballs #2: Goofballs in Paradise, Super Goofballs #3: Super Underwear...and Beyond!, Super Goofballs #4: Attack of the 50-Foot Alien Creep-oids!, Super Goofballs #5: Doomed in Dreamland!, and Super Goofballs #6: Battle of the Brain-sucking Robots!

Next up is a picture book and another series of middle-grade illustrated novels—also for HarperCollins—called Wally, King of Flurb in which an Earth kid is abducted by aliens and taken to the planet Flurb, where—to his utter amazement—instead of being eaten or at least vaporized, he is proclaimed king.

Hannan wrote and illustrated The Sillyville Saga: Sillyville or Bust, Escape from Camp Wannabarf, School After Dark: Lessons in Lunacy, and The Battle of Sillyville: Live Silly or Die! He contributed stories to the anthologies Speak! Children's Illustrators Brag About Their Dogs and Purr! Children's Illustrators Brag About Their Cats. He has written and illustrated newspaper and magazine pieces with titles like "The Incredible Shrinking Christmas;" "The Good, the Bad, and the Irish;" and "Mike Royko Moves to the Suburbs." He has done lots of illustrations for newspapers, magazines, books, and advertising. His single-panel cartoons (The Adventures of a Huge Mouth) have appeared in Harper's, Esquire, the Chicago Reader, many other periodicals, and in a book from Chicago Review Press. He has exhibited his paintings, illustrations, and cartoons. His work has been transformed into everything from toys to T-shirts to cheese crackers.

He grew up on the Erie Canal in upstate New York, where he had a three-legged dog, named Tipper, who once got his front paw caught in his collar and ran home using two legs on the same side of his body. Hannan lives in sunny California with his perfect wife and kids, except when it's rainy California and then they get kinda pruney.

How did you come to this point in your career?

When I came out of college I had a vague romantic notion of being a painter, but I really had no plan. Actually, that's not true...my plan was to be a starving artist. And for a while I had great success at that.

On the side I did everything from manage a revival movie theater to produce TV shows with Chicago blues musicians. I had a partner and we shot concerts with Muddy Waters, Albert King, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, and many others, and tried to produce other TV stuff, but none of it led to what you'd call financial gain.

Then I got married and we were expecting our first child and it occurred to me that there might be certain advantages to actually making money. I got together a portfolio of illustration and started doing lots of editorial work for magazines and newspapers, some advertising work, and then a single-panel cartoon called the Adventures of a Huge Mouth for the Chicago Reader and subsequently lots of other periodicals around the country.

Then I did some kids' books, one of which---Escape From Camp Wannabarf--got optioned as a feature film and was in development for several years. It never got made, but since I'd gotten a Hollywood agent, I started pitching movies and TV shows.

This eventually led to CatDog and moving to Los Angeles. It was a wild, fantastic experience because I went from working alone in a dungeon-like studio in the basement of my Chicago house, to having a huge crew in Burbank--and another in Seoul--all working to realize my vision. TV is a hugely collaborative process, but similar to the newspaper business with its crazy deadlines and frenetic energy.

Anyway, since then I've developed lots of shows, and I'm working on some new TV things now, but writing and illustrating these chapter books (Super Goofballs and Wally, King of Flurb) has been sort of a welcome homecoming to the more sane and solitary world of a writer-illustrator. No crazed crewmembers or hysterical network execs (don’t get me wrong, I love them all)…just me in a room with a computer, a big jar of pencils, and a great editor three thousand miles away.

Congratulations on your new Joe Hemingmouse cartoon at JacketFlap! Could you tell us a little about it?

Joe Hemingmouse is a weekly single-panel cartoon about a hardworking, hard-struggling writer-illustrator mouse, who wants desperately to break into the children's book world. He is talented, but he really doesn't know what he doing. His confidence level can go from supreme to zero in two seconds.

How did you come to be doing this?

I stumbled upon JacketFlap and really liked it. Tracy [Grand, CEO of JacketFlap (interview)] and I exchanged a few emails, and she asked if I'd be interested in creating some content for the site. I immediately thought of doing a single-panel because, since the site is all about writers and illustrators, I thought it would be perfect to combine words and pictures in a bite-sized package. Plus, I missed doing this kind of thing.

What can readers expect?

I'm not completely sure where Joe Hemingmouse's journey will lead. I know the road will get a little rocky along the way, because it does for almost everyone.

What do you love about this kind of project?

I love that Joe really wants something. He is absolutely driven. He is naïve and will make lots of mistakes, but he will never, ever, ever give up. He may be an undiscovered genius or just a dreamer or both. I love being able to develop a character like this…revealing him little by little, not just to readers, but to me and even to Joe himself.

What are its challenges?

Time is always a challenge. That's one of the hardest things about all this stuff---figuring out when to work on what. I've got a lot on my plate now, but I really love doing this cartoon and there's tons of material—from real life and almost-real life—to go on indefinitely.

Congratulations on the Super Goofballs series (HarperCollins, 2007-)! What was your initial inspiration for creating these books? What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

Back in the early nineties, I did a book proposal called "A Few Superheroes You've Probably Never Heard Of." It didn't get published---I only really showed it to one editor—but all these years later I came back to it and changed the name to Super Goofballs.

It's about a superhero kid (Amazing Techno Dude) and his crazy-but-loving superhero grandma (the Bodacious Backwards Woman), who are flat broke and need to take in roommates. They end up taking in lots of borders---all ridiculous superheroes.

Originally, one of the characters was a two-headed guy called Amazing Catdog Man. He had a man's body with a cat and dog head on its shoulders. He/they would try to save the day, but never succeeded because they couldn't stop fighting with each other.

I fell in love with the idea of opposite personalities stuck together in one character and that eventually led to a little detour called CatDog.

Years later, when I came back to Super Goofballs, I replaced Amazing CatDog Man with the Impossibly Tough Two-Headed Infant. The others are Super Vacation Man (vacation-oriented powers: super-surfing, super-jetskiing, super-lounging-by-the-pool), Mighty Tighty Whitey (the super-est underwear ever: “Fantastic! Elastic! Sarcastic!”), Wonder Boulder (pretty much just a rock with a cape), Pooky the Paranormal Parakeet (tiny turban-wearing, mind-reading bird), SuperSass CuteGirl (super sassy, super cute, super girlish), the Frankenstein Punster (monstrous master of super-bad jokes and riddles), and last but not least, the spectacularly incompetent Blunder Mutt (super-brave, super-enthusiastic, super-super-super dumb: “Whole wide worldy, hear me call…Blunder Mutt be save you all!”)

Together, the Super Goofballs must save Gritty City from a motley crew of deliriously evil super villains: Queen Smellina—The Shrieking Stinkbug of Stench, Fabian the Flatulent Fiend, Mondo Grumpo, LaundroManiac, Supreme Commander Cockroachia, Antglop the Awful, Ratzorg, Dr. Killdream, the Big Bad Blob of Blah, and others too numerous and disgusting to mention.

What advice do you have for beginning writers? For beginning artists? For beginning goofballs?

A lot of my advice tends to be a bit clichéd, but sometimes clichés exist for a reason. Working for yourself in these kinds of creative fields is really like perpetually looking for a job. It can be nerve-racking, and it's not for everyone. But it can be very rewarding.

The main thing is to know that rejection is part of the package. You need to look at rejection as your friend and use it as fuel to fight back and fight on. Because no matter who you are, most of what you think up will never see the light of day, at least not immediately. You need to keep drawing, writing, acting, singing, whatever.

Don’t get hung up on one dream project and then ram your head against the wall forever. That'll just give you a bad headache. Keep the ideas flowing—why have one dream project when you have multiple dreams?

I have always been a compulsive scribbler, and I have sketchbooks full of ideas for stories and characters and projects. Never throw anything away. Things have a curious way of resurfacing.

Plus, I think you need an agent who loves your work and is comfortable---more comfortable than you---in singing your praises. Self-promotion is more unseemly and time-consuming than having someone else do it for you. And the agent needs to be well connected and have real relationships with real editors and publishers.

Part of it is also figuring out what you can do that others can't…how you are uniquely suited to tell particular stories and/or make particular art. When I first started doing illustration, I tried to figure out what people wanted and then put that into my portfolio.

One day I realized that if I succeeded, the dream would have turned into a nightmare: I'd have plenty of work doing something that I didn't care about or even really want to do. From that day forward I have tried to do it my way…in art, writing, books, TV, etc. It hasn’t always worked…but, luckily, sometimes it has.

What can your fans look forward to next?

Super Goofballs #5: Doomed in Dreamland is next. In this one, Dr. Killdream is out to single handedly destroy the dreams, daydreams, and hopes and dreams of all the Goofballs and—oh right—all of mankind. Then there’s Super Goofballs #6: Battle of the Brain-sucking Robots in which The Big Bad Blob of Blah, a vile villain of vast proportions, is hell-bent on enforcing worldwide conformity and despises anyone who dares to be different. Clearly the Super Goofballs are a threat to his worldview.

Right now I’m working on the first book in my new series Wally, King of Flurb and a picture book and a few TV and other projects I can't talk about yet.

One of my dreams is to become a rock star when I'm eighty.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Giveaway of By Venom's Sweet Sting by Tiffany Trent

Congratulations to Tiffany Trent on the release of her latest Hallowmere novel, Between Golden Jaws (Mirrorstone, 2008)(sample chapter)!

From the promotional copy: "Will Corrine make a deal with the dark Fey Prince? Corrine and her friends race to London, in the hopes of finding a rathstone that will help them end this terrible war with the Fey. The girls search the Victorian city only to find that their plan has led to more danger than ever before. With the girls' lives on the line, the Fey Prince offers Corrine a deal: become his consort and her friends can go in peace. Will Corrine fall into the Fey Prince's arms to save her friends? Or can she find another way?"

Need to catch up first? Enter to win a copy of By Venom's Sweet Sting (Mirrorstone, 2007). To enter, email me with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST April 30! Please also type "By Venom's Sweet Sting" in the subject line. Note: one copy will be awarded to any Cynsations YA reader, and one copy will be awarded to a member of Tantalize Fans Unite! at MySpace. Please identify yourself accordingly as part of your entry!

Read a Cynsations interview with Tiffany. More recently, Tiffany writes about "My Other Life" at AlmaNews. Here's a sneak peek: "Our boys had claws like banshees and voices to match." Find out what she's talking about.

More News & Links

Presenting Melissa Marr, also from Tori at Journey of an Inquiring Mind. Here's a sneak peek: "The type of faeries I'm interested in are the ones from old lore: complex characters with sometimes impenetrable motivations, moody faeries with volatile tempers, faeries who play with semantics when they speak." Learn more about Melissa's latest release, Ink Exchange (HarperCollins, 2008). Read a Cynsations interview with Melissa.

2008 Amelia Bloomer List "includes books challenging the young women of today to take a new look at what it means to be feminist, showcasing who fought for our rights." Highlights include: The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Jim Rugg (Minx)(author interview). Source: Original Content.

Take a sneak peek at design elements of The Adoration of Jenna Fox from Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt, 2008), which is one of my fave YAs of all time. More on that later! Read a Cynsations interview with Mary, and learn more about her forthcoming release.

Make May Vampire Month from First Second. Note: Download-able vampires and vampire activities.
More Personally

Thanks to Zoe at BookPeople in Austin for highlighting Tantalize as a staff selection! Zoe says: "Pick up this book and go behind the scenes at Sanguini's restaurant--it's quite a treat!"

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tantalize Audio at iTunes, Tantalize Named NYPL Book for the Teen Age 2008; Giveaway Reminder

The Tantalize audio (Listening Library, 2008) is available at iTunes!

I'm also pleased to announce that the prose version of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) has been named a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age 2008! I'm hugely honored!

Reminder: this month you can enter to win a hardcover copy of Tantalize from the Imperial Beach Teen Blog of the Imperial Beach Library in Imperial Beach, California. Runner-ups will receive an author-signed bookmark!

Spooky News & Links

City of Ashes by Cassanda Clare (Book Two: The Mortal Instruments)(McElderry, 2008) is the first CosmoGirl book club pick, and in celebration, the magazine is offering an "exclusive alternate chapter" by Cassandra, among other cool features. Read a Cynsations interview with Cassandra.

Hot Off the Press: A Sneak Peek at Publishers' Newest and Hottest Titles from CBC Magazine. Featured books include A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Arthur A. Levine, 2008)(above) and Magic Pickle Vs. the Egg Poacher by Scott Morse (Graphix, 2008).

Human Oddity: a new blog from author Annette Curtis Klause. Annette is the award-winning author of Alien Secrets (Delacorte, 1993), The Silver Kiss (Delacorte, 1990), Blood and Chocolate (Delacorte, 1999), and most recently, Freaks: Alive on the Inside (Simon & Schuster, 2006). Read a Cynsations interview with Annette.

Q&A with Mary E. Pearson by Sue Corbett from Publishers Weekly. Here's a sneak peek: "I wanted the world to be believable but I had to be careful not to date the book and not to make it read like a science textbook. It required me to learn a lot of stuff about medical technology and ethics and then forget it so I could write the story." Read Cynsations interviews with Mary and Sue.

LGBT Children's/YA Book Nominees for the Lambda Literary Awards include: Split Screen by Brent Hartinger (Harper Collins Children's Books)(author interview).

Congratulations to debut author Elizabeth C. Bunce on the release of A Curse Dark as Gold (Arthur A. Levine, 2008). From the promotional copy: "As Charlotte struggles to manage the difficulties she inherits along with Stirwaters Woollen Mill, she discovers a shadow world at the fringes of the familiar: Dark magic, restless spirits, a mysterious Helper. A wicked uncle, an age-old curse.... How can Charlotte prevail with such forces allied against her? In this novel inspired by "Rumpelstiltskin," the miller's daughter of the fairy tale comes to life as a young woman determined to save her family and her mill--whatever the cost." Visit the Class of 2k8.

Congratulations to P. J. Hoover on signing with Laura Rennert at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and congratulations to Laura for signing P. J.!

Pickled Pixel Toe offers: "Writing and illustrating humor and inspiration. Funny shirts to wear to conferences." Source: Editorial Anonymous. Note: reminder to conference planners, review etiquette.

Video Sunday: Trailers, Cats, and Calligraphy by Elizabeth Bird at a Fuse #8 Production. Note: I particularly enjoyed the Harry Potter fandom video. Very entertaining!

My favorite comic of the week was Wonder Woman #18 (DC, May 2008): "Return of the Khund!" It's no secret that, while the art is usually fantastic, over the years Wonder Woman as a character has suffered as writers seem to struggle with offering a strong, smart, peace-loving warrior who doesn't come off as wooden or preachy. I'm pleased to report that these days the Amazon princess is mighty and good-hearted with a refreshing sense of humor that grounds the character and makes her more accessible. On another note, if you're not already reading "Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon's Season Eight" (Dark Horse), I'm pleased to report that, in issue #12, Dracula is back.

First Look: Benicio Del Toro as the Wolfman by Lindsay Soll of Entertainment Weekly. Source: Gene Brenek.

Of late, I took the challenge to offer up 15 odd trivia facts about myself and tagged a few local friends. The latest entry comes from Jennifer at Jennifer Ziegler Word Processor. Here's a sneak peek: "I once made the New York Times' Bestseller List. Swear to god honest. On November 3, 2002, I made it to number ten on Children's Paperbacks. It was for a mass market prequel novel based on the TV show 'Alias.' The story was called Alias: Recruited and was published under my pen name Lynn Mason. Note: trust me when I say the previous admission pales beside Jennifer's discussion of the mysterious "Pig-Dog." Read a Cynsations interview with Jennifer, and don't miss the previous posts! Don at Devas T Rants and Raves answered with 15 Random Things, Jo at Jo's Journal responded with 15 for Team, and Alison at Alison's Journal shared her own Funky 15.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spooky News & Links

Survival Stories: a bibliography from The Horn Book. Note: an interview with Susan Beth Pfeffer, author of Life As We Knew It (Harcourt, 2006)(excerpt), is coming soon to Cynsations. Read a Cynsations interview with Roger Sutton, editor of The Horn Book.

3 Evil Cousins: Book Reviews 4 and By Teens offers interviews with Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, and Libba Bray! See also Cynsations interviews with Cassandra, Holly, and Libba!

More Personally

My apologies to anyone hoping to see me and Greg at the Illinois Reading Council conference in Springfield this weekend. As we tried to check our bags at the Austin Airport, we were informed that our flight was canceled, nothing else that day was going to Springfield, and that the soonest we could get to Chicago (and rent a car to drive the rest of the way) would be 10 a.m. the next day. We were supposed to speak at 8 a.m. We felt terrible and frustrated and considered driving, but, after some debate, decided we wouldn't be worth much after 17 hours on the road. Again, my apologies. Note: no reason was given for the flight cancellation by American Airlines.

The winners of the Tantalize audio giveaway (including a Sanguini's T-shirt) were a YA reader from Los Vegas and a librarian from Lebanon, Tennessee. Congratulations to the winners, thanks to all who entered, please watch this blog for future giveaways!

In other exciting news, this month you can enter to win a hardcover copy of Tantalize from the Imperial Beach Teen Blog of the Imperial Beach Library in Imperial Beach, California. Runner-ups will receive an author-signed bookmark!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spooky News & Links

The Adoration of Jenna Fox book trailer (click to view) celebrates Mary E. Pearson's latest YA novel. Note: stay tuned for a new interview with Mary. In the meantime, read a previous Cynsations interview with Mary.

Author Darcy Pattison offers a variety of articles on publishing. Those recently added to her site include: The Power of Myth (2003); The Bad Guys Wear Black: Villains (2004). Read a Cynsations interview with Darcy.

The Scene of the Crime: Investigating New Mysteries by Jeanette Larson from Book Links. See Bringing Mysteries Alive for Children and Young Adults by Jeanette Larson (Linworth, 2004) from Cynsations. Read a Cynsations interview with Jeanette. See also Cynsations interviews with Jeanette's recommended mystery authors Bruce Hale, Candice Ransom, Marion Dane Bauer, April Lurie, Alan M. Gratz, and R.L. LaFevers.

Let's Talk About Luck by Justine Larbalestier. Here's a sneak peek: "It's true that the surest path to publication is to keep on writing and writing and writing. Then you have to keep submitting. It also helps if you're talented. Those are the facts. But there are a small percentage of people who just can’t get a break." Note: Justine also references a couple of links of particular usefulness, The Real World Book Deal Descriptions from Whatever, and Getting Paid, Or Don't Quit Your Day Job, from Justine herself, (on advances and "earning out." Read a Cynsations interview with Justine.

More Personally

Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog features recent and upcoming WriteFest books--The Curse of Addy McMahon by Katie Davis (Greenwillow, 2008)(author interview)(debut novel); Going Bovine by Libba Bray (Delacorte, forthcoming)(author interview); Good Girls by Laura Ruby (HarperCollins, 2006)(author interview); The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum, 2008)(author interview)(debut novel); and Wonders of the World by Brian Yansky (Flux, 2007)(author interview). Cheers to all!

In other exciting news, this month you can enter to win a hardcover copy of Tantalize from the Imperial Beach Teen Blog of the Imperial Beach Library in Imperial Beach, California. Runner-ups will receive an author-signed bookmark!

The trade edition of Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001) has gone into another reprint. Thanks to all for their enthusiasm and support! In addition, through the Maxwell Grant project, students at Franklin Youth Academy in Tulsa have received bookplate-signed copies of the novel. Note: the students voted to receive Rain Is Not My Indian Name from a selection of contemporary Native-themed novels for young readers.

Attention JacketFlap subscribers, in case you missed these because of the server changeover (a lot of posts were downloaded after the fact), check out: Author Interview: Cassandra Clare on City of Bones (Book One, The Mortal Instruments) from Cynsations.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tantalize Audio Giveaway

Enter to win one of two audio production copies of Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith, performed by Kim Mai Guest (Listening Library/Random House, 2008), each offered with a Sanguini's T-shirt (in celebration of the fictional vampire restaurant in the book)!

From the promotional copy:

Quincie Morris has never felt more alone. Her hybrid-werewolf first love threatens to embark on a rite of passage that will separate them forever. And just as she and her uncle are about to debut Austin’s red hot vampire-themed restaurant, a brutal murder leaves them scrambling for a chef.

Can Quincie transform the new hire into a culinary dark lord before opening night? Will Henry Johnson be able to wow the crowd in fake fangs, a cheap cape, and red contact lenses? Or is there more to this earnest fresh face than meets the eye?

As human and preternatural forces clash, a deadly love triangle forms and the line between predator and prey begins to blur. Who’s playing whom? And how long can Quincie play along before she loses everything?

One prize will given to a librarian and one any YA reader! To enter, email me with your name and address by 10 p.m. CST March 11! Please type "Tantalize audio" in the subject line. Note: librarians, please indicate your library with your contact information.

Cynsational Notes

Tantalize is available in hardcover from Candlewick. The novel also will be available in paperback later this year (Candlewick, fall 2008).

Check out the Sanguini's logo (left), which appears on the giveaway T-shirts. More Sanguini's logo items may be purchased from Printfection and CafePress. Read a Cynsations interview with designer Gene Brenek. Notes: (1) Gene is highly recommended for logo and related promotional design; (2) I don't make any money off of this merchandise; (3) don't you love the fang marks over the "I"s?

In other news, the SCBWI Bologna 2008 series is ongoing here at Cynsations! Don't miss today's interview with Sarah Odedina, senior publishing director with Bloomsbury Children's Books in the U.K. Here's a sneak peek: "I think the rule of thumb is 30 pages. If something is not exciting me by then, I reckon it probably won't."

Check back tomorrow and beyond for more insightful question-and-answer interviews with agents, editors, authors, and illustrators about the U.S. and international youth publishing scene.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Author Interview: Cassandra Clare on City of Bones (Book One, The Mortal Instruments)

From Cassandra Clare's website: "I'm a writer from Brooklyn, New York. I am a huge fan of fantasy and Gothic horror, and my first fantasy novel for young adults, City of Bones, was published this March by Simon & Schuster. The next book in the series, City of Ashes, will be released in March 2008 and the third, City of Glass, will come out in March, 2009." Read Cassandra's journal, and visit her MySpace page. Visit the official Mortal Instruments website. Don't miss these additional related links!

What were you like as a teenager?

Really, really quiet, which is always a shocker for people who know me now. I was the quiet kid in the corner, reading a book. In elementary school, I read so much and so often during class that I was actually forbidden from reading books during school hours by my teachers. I've always thought that was something of a counterproductive measure. I mean, shouldn't you want kids to read? Admittedly maybe not during biology class.

What inspired you to write for the young adult market?

I don't think I ever intended specifically to write for the young adult market. It's just that when the idea for City of Bones came to me, I knew the main characters were teenagers. I even had an editor at some point express interest in the manuscript and ask me if I could age the characters up to make it an adult novel. I thought about it and said, "No, I don't think I could." In my mind they were just very clearly the ages they were, which turned out to mean it was a YA novel.

If you could go back to your apprentice writer self, what would you tell her?

"Don't be so hard on yourself," I guess. I thought everything had to be perfect before I could show it to anyone, which means I never got any feedback on anything, and without feedback I couldn't work on improving. It was a vicious cycle. Eventually, I learned to share work with people even when it was in its rough stages without worrying that they'd be filled with scorn and hatred. After all, I can read their rough work without turning on them like a wildebeest.

Congratulations on the publication (and best-selling status) of City of Bones (Book One, The Mortal Instruments)(McElderry, 2007)! What was your initial inspiration for writing this story?

Well, I had the idea for the romances and the twist at the end, before I had the general idea of doing a series where the magic system revolved around tattoos. And that came from a friend of mine who worked in a tattoo shop in the East Village. I was in her tattoo shop looking through the flash book--not that I have any tattoos myself, as I am not that cool, but I find them fascinating--and I got this idea about skin runes that offered protection against demons and how neat that would be. And then I thought, I should combine these two ideas.

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the key events along the way?

I started writing the book in early 2004. After almost a year of endless revisions I had — not a complete book, but about ten chapters. I had met my agent, Barry Goldblatt, at a reading at the KGB Bar in Manhattan; he represented a friend of mine, and she introduced us, and told him I had this novel I was working on that she really liked. He agreed to take a look at it, and offered representation based on those ten chapters. He had me revise them again, and then we sold the book off those chapters and a detailed outline of the plot of the next two books in the series.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

Well, City of Bones was my first novel, and I'd just never written anything like it before. It went through dozens of revisions--this was before I trained myself to write straight through, so I'd start a chapter, then go back and revise it, then write a little more, then go back and revise from the beginning again. Essentially I was just rewriting the first chapter over and over, and never figuring out what happened next.

Finally I decided to skip the beginning entirely and write through from chapter three, and for whatever reason that worked for me--I was able to work through building the world, and then go back later and establish that world more fully in the beginning, because now I really knew it.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Write what you want to read. So many people think they need to write a particular kind of book, or imitate a successful style, in order to be published. I've known people who felt they had to model their book on existing blockbusters, or write in a genre that's supposed to be "hot right now" in order to get agents and publishers interested.

But if you're writing in a genre you don't like, or modeling yourself on a book you don't respect, it'll show through. You're your first, most important reader, so write the book that reader really wants to read.

How about those writing YA urban fantasy in particular?

A lot of people feel like urban fantasy is a shortcut that gets you around world-building, because it's set "in the real world." But it doesn't really work that way, as I found out. You have to come up with just as consistent an internal cosmology and magic system as you would if you were writing high fantasy.

And you have the added difficulty of choosing between a closed urban fantasy and an open one--in a closed urban fantasy, the magical world is secret and no one knows about it. In an open urban fantasy, everyone knows about it. So with a closed fantasy, you have to figure out how the world keeps itself secret, and with an open one, you have to figure out how knowledge of magic has altered the world we know.

What do you do when you're not reading or writing?

I love to travel. In March I'm going to England, Ireland and Italy; in April, I'm going on book tour, and then in May, I'm going to Tuscany and to spend two weeks writing in Paris. My boyfriend always says that if it weren't for him I'd probably get rid of my apartment and live nowhere, and he's right.

What can your fans look forward to next?

Well, City of Ashes, the sequel to City of Bones, will be out this month. I've also got a short story coming out in the Little, Brown anthology Geektastic, about online role-playing games of all things, and then a short story in the HarperCollins anthology Vacations from Hell. Then City of Glass next Marc

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Spooky News & Links

Simon Pulse Blogfest 2008 will be hosted March 14 to March 27 by Simon & Schuster. Featured authors include: Franny Billingsley, Holly Black, Janet Lee Carey, Cassandra Clare, Melissa de la Cruz, Kathleen Duey, Susan Fletcher, Lorie Ann Grover, Annette Curtis Klause, Amanda Marrone, Scott Westerfeld, and many more!

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: fights censorship and defends First Amendment rights of comic book professionals.

The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle (Atheneum, 2008): a review by Norah Piehl from BookPage. Here's a sneak peek: "Life in the suburb might seem orderly, but there's a darker side. What happens to the people who suddenly disappear? And why is the government threatening to recall the latest batch of Wonder Children, the precocious kids—like Martin's sister Cassie—who are asking too many questions?"

What I'm Working on Now (Viewer's Choice Blog) from Libba Bray. Note: WriteFest Update Alert! Read a Cynsations interview with Libba.

Author Interview: Rosemary Clement-Moore interviewed by her character Maggie Quinn. Read a Cynsations interview with Rosemary.

Do you love Austin, Texas? Do you love YA books? Visit BookPeople Teens, new at MySpace!

More Personally

Of late, I took the challenge to offer up 15 odd trivia facts about myself and tagged a few local friends. Don at Devas T Rants and Raves answered with 15 Random Things, Jo at Jo's Journal responded with 15 for Team, and Alison at Alison's Journal shared her own Funky 15 (bonus points for her son's Yoda impression). Read Cynsations interviews with Jo Whittemore and Don Tate. Visit Jo and Don at MySpace.

Question of the Week Thursday: Cynthia Leitich Smith from Robin Friedman's JerseyFresh Tude. Robin asks me: "What's it like to write so many different kinds of books?" and I discuss pros and cons. Thanks, Robin!

Visit Robin's official author site, Facebook, and MySpace. Learn more about The Girlfriend Project (Bloomsbury, 2007), and watch her eat ribs on YouTube. Read a Cynsations interview with Robin.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Spooky News, Links & Giveaway

Enter to win one of two paperback copies of Moongazer by Marianne Mancusi (Love Spell/Dorchester, 2007)(excerpt)!

From the promotional copy:

"Imagine every night entering a nightmare world you can't escape and being told real life is a dream. Skye Brown has it all: the cool job, the hot boyfriend, the apartment on New York's Upper West Side. But lately she can't enjoy any of it. She's having dreams of a post-apocalyptic world. Of a bleak futuristic wasteland. Of a struggle against oppression. And she's been told she's a...MOONGAZER.

"But what is that? And what is reality? In her dreams, she's not Skye Brown at all, but Mariah Quinn. In her dreams there's Dawn, the beautiful yet haunted soldier, and Skye is but the empty shell of a girl he once loved. And there was a betrayal, a great betrayal. Ripped between Dark Siders and club kids, the mundane and the mystic, Skye must discover who she is, what she wants and who wants her. And why. But in the glow of the moon, it's not always easy to recognize the face in the mirror."

Read Mari's blog, and visit her at MySpace. Join Boys That Bite, Mari's group at MySpace. Note: you can also find her at YA Paranormal Authors.

Two paperback copies of Moongazer will be given away to any Cynsational reader over age 18! To enter, email me with your name and address by 10 p.m. CST March 3! Please also type "Moongazer" in the subject line.

The winner of the autographed copy of Brothers, Boyfriends & Other Criminal Minds by April Lurie (Delacorte, 2007) was Brent in Maine!

Read April's blog, April Afloat, and visit her at MySpace! Read a Cynsations interview with April!

More News & Links

Author Heather Brewer has opened her bin of Minion Stuff! Products include the hoodie of Vladimir Todd "(as featured on the cover of Eighth Grade Bites (Dutton, 2007)(excerpt))" and a fangalicious T-shirt "(as featured on the cover of Ninth Grade Slays (Dutton, 2008)(excerpt))." Visit Heather at MySpace!

P.J. Hoover: official site of the debut author of The Forgotten Worlds Books, published by Blooming Tree Press. From the promotional flap copy of the first book, The Emerald Tablet (Blooming Tree, October 2008): "Benjamin and his best friend Andy are different from normal. They love being able to read each other's minds and use telekinesis to play tricks on other kids. In fact, they are getting all set to spend their entire summer doing just that when Benjamin's mirror starts talking. Suddenly, Benjamin's looking at eight weeks of summer school someplace that can only be reached by a teleporter inside the ugly picture in his hallway. And that's the most normal thing he does that summer." Read P.J.'s blog, Roots in Myth. Visit P.J. at MySpace!
More Personally

Listening Library's audio production of Tantalize is now available! Actress Kim Mai Guest is the reader of the book. Listen to an audio excerpt. Note: I appreciate that the excerpt zeros in on the murder mystery that in many ways drives the story. Learn more about the text novel from Candlewick Press.

Candlewick Press will publish a paperback edition of Tantalize on its Fall 2008 list. The cover will be the same as the hardcover (above) with my byline and the title slightly larger. An excerpt from Eternal (Candlewick, 2009), which is set in the same universe and currently nearing production, will be included in the back matter.

Of late, Greg Leitich Smith talks about the line-edits of my forthcoming YA Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) and explains how primary voting works in Texas. Note: Greg's blog is syndicated at LiveJournal.