Friday, October 30, 2009

New Voice: R. J. Anderson on Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter

R. J. Anderson is the first-time author of Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter (HarperCollins, 2009)(read R. J.'s LJ). From the promotional copy:

There are humans at the bottom of the garden, and a glimpse inside their forbidden House convinces the fierce young faery hunter known as Knife that they have knowledge that could help her dying people.

But if the human world has so much to offer, why is the faery Queen determined to keep her people away from it? Is there a connection between the House and the faeries' loss of magic? And why is Knife so drawn to the young Paul McCormick — that strangest of creatures, a human male?


What inspired you to choose the particular point of view – first, second, third (or some alternating combination) featured in your novel? What considerations came into play?

I've made many changes to Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter over the years, but I always knew it had to be written in the third person– I never even bothered trying anything else.

I think first person can be great and I'm not afraid to write it, but for this book it would have been all wrong: Knife is not a chatty character, she's not emotionally self-aware, and since she's a faery, her perspective on the world is so different from the reader's that a first-person narrative would be confusing or even incomprehensible.

Knife is also a very physical character and gets involved in a lot of action scenes where there isn't time for her to think about what's happening, let alone describe it. So it was good to be able to pull back a little when necessary and use the third-person "camera," so to speak.

But at the same time, I didn't want readers to get too distant from Knife. I wanted them to see the world through Knife's eyes, identify with her, and follow her steps as she tries to solve the book's central mystery.

And I especially wanted readers to imagine how certain aspects of human life we take for granted--not just our technology, but our creativity, and the way we relate to each other--might appear startling and amazing to a faery who'd never encountered those things before.

So in order to do that, I had to immerse the reader in Knife's point of view and never leave it, even once I had other significant characters on the scene. Which meant using a very strictly limited third person POV--no omniscience, no head-hopping, no shortcuts. It's all Knife, all the time.

As a fantasy writer, how did you go about building your world?

I knew from the beginning that my story was going to take place in the real, modern world and not on some invented planet or magical fairyland, so in a way that made things simpler.

But I still had a lot to figure out about how to make the very isolated society in which the faeries live seem plausible. Since the faeries in my book have lost nearly all their magic and can no longer cast spells at will, they can't just conjure up food and clothing--they have to forage and hunt for everything. And since they are small faeries, it's only natural that they'd be at constant risk from predators.

So I had to do a lot of research about plants and herbs, pioneer methods for making soap and candles and tanning hides, what kind of weapons you could make if you didn't have metal...and also the habits of carnivorous birds and animals who could pose a threat to the faeries if they weren't careful.

I also had to think about ways in which the faery world might be different from the human one, not only in terms of technology but in terms of social interaction.

A lot of faery folklore implies that the faeries are lacking in some way, that the beauties of faeryland are an illusion and that if you look at the faeries themselves you may find them hollow inside. And that made me think about ways in which my faeries might also be "hollow" in terms of lacking emotional awareness and connection to each other, and how that would affect the way they relate on a day-to-day basis.

Once I'd figured out that they bargained for everything (faeries in folklore are also said to be fond of bargaining) and really had no concept of friendship or family, it helped me a lot in defining the differences between the human and faery worlds and also gave the developing relationship between Knife and Paul more impact.

None of this was easy. It took me many years and a lot of savvy editorial criticism to make my imagined faery society internally consistent and logistically plausible. But I learned a lot from the process, and I'm glad I went through it. Especially now that I'm hearing readers tell me the world-building's one of their favorite aspects of the book.

Spooky Notes

The New Voices Series is a celebration of debut authors of 2009. First-timers may also be featured in more traditional author interviews over the course of the year.

Spooky News & Giveaways

Reading beyond reality: Interview with Cindy Pon, author of Silver Phoenix, by Stacy Whitman at Tu Publishing. Peek: "I've read beyond my comfort zone and favorite genres since deciding to become a writer--and I would encourage all readers to do the same. If you only read romance, try some mystery. If you only read high fantasy, try contemporary or urban fantasy, etc." Read a Cynsations interview with Cindy.

Indie Bookseller Interview: Maryelizabeth Hart of Mysterious Galaxy by Cindy Pon from the Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: "What's most rewarding is probably the reader who comes back and expresses appreciation for a recommendation, when I successfully tell someone about a book I enjoy that I think is a good match for their tastes."

100 Best Book Blogs for Kids, Tweens, and Teens from Online School. Peek: "Whether you are interested in literature for the very young, teen and young adult literature, or specialized genres such as multicultural literature, poetry, or comics and graphic novels, these blogs will help you find the best books available–leaving you more time for reading and enjoying this literature." Note: I'm honored to see Cynsations on the list.

Thanksgiving Giveaway: Giving Thanks to Public and School Librarians from the Class of 2k9: Middle Grade and YA Debut Authors. Peek: "Between now and Thanksgiving weekend, the Class of 2K9 will be celebrating the many wonderful librarians who've supported us throughout the year by offering...three sets of books." These include a full set for public libraries and a set for an elementary/middle school and high school respectively.

2009 Debut Library Giveaway from the 2009 Debutantes. Peek: "To celebrate Teens Read Week, the YA and MG authors of Debut 2009 are giving away a 46 book set of their debut novels to one lucky library, anywhere in the world! From Oct. 18 until Dec. 31, we'll be taking entries from librarians only- public and school libraries are eligible."

Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest: "Serendipity Literary Agency, in collaboration with Sourcebooks and Gotham Writers' Workshop, is hosting its first Young Adult Novel Discovery Competition for a chance to win a one-on-one consultation with one of New York's leading YA literary agents!" See details.

Gothic Fantasy and Suspense for Teens and 'Tweens from from Children's Book Author Cynthia Leitich Smith. An annotated bibliography of spooky reads, links to author interviews, and writing resource links.

A Touch of Grace: Grace Lin's new novel is a tribute to her late husband--and a reminder of what really matters by Madeleine Blais from School Library Journal. Peek: "'Basically, I spent two years contributing to the world’s landfills,' she says. An unusual tone of self-satisfaction creeps into her voice: 'And then, a wonderful thing happened. I lost my job.'" Read a Cynsations interview with Grace.

The Reverse Snobbery of Low Literary Aspirations by Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "...there is definitely something that is lost in the over-celebration of mass appeal and the lowest common denominator and the dismissal of experts, and I really think it can be taken too far. What about aspiring to create something that is great, rather than merely popular." Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Twitter Chats for Writers by Debbie Ridpath Ohi from Inkygirl.com: Daily Diversions for Writers. Peek: "If you want to say something in the chat, just post your comment to Twitter, but make sure the hashtag is included somewhere in your post so other people in the chat will see it. That’s the simplest way to participate in a chat so if you’re in a hurry, there’s no need to read further." Source: Jessica Lee Anderson.

More Personally

Around the kitlitosphere, I loved this peek into a Liz Garton Scanlon preschool event. Gorgeous photography! You can almost see the fairy dust! I also enjoyed Jody Feldman's report on P.J. Hoover and Jessica Lee Anderson's signing party!

Cynsations: a recommendation from Elizabeth Burns (Liz B) at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy: All I want: like Buffy, I want a chair. A fireplace. A tea cozy. And to talk about stories. Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea. Peek: "If you're reading children's and young adult books; writing them; reviewing them; or just want to know more about what is going on this part of the book world? Read Cynsations." Note: this post means a lot to me.

Round-up of Quotes from my Tantalize Interviews from Jo Ann Hernandez at BronzeWorld: Latino Authors. Peek: "Tantalizing tidbits abound as Cynthia dishes on writing, Gothic lit, favorite things and her latest novel."

Halloween Review: Eternal by Miss Attitude from Reading in Color. Peek: "This book will stay with me for close to eternity I'm sure! It was funny, sweet and thought-provoking in a very subtle way. Oh and I now officially love vampires. I understand the craze, because even though vampires are evil in Eternal, there is just something about them that draws you in." Note: enter to win copies of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) and Asleep by Wendy Raven McNair (CreateSpace, 2009) from Reading in Color. Deadline: midnight CST Oct. 31; see more information.

Highlights of the week included the Austin Teen Book Festival. My fan girl moment? Meeting Heather Brewer, pictured here with Austin authors Bethany Hegedus and Shana Burg.

Another thrill? Seeing rock-star YA author Carrie Jones (behind the book).

Varian Johnson with a yellow rose from the Texas Sweethearts.

Sweethearts Jo Whittemore and Jessica Lee Anderson.

The Westlake (TX) High dance team performing "Thriller" for the authors at lunch.

My gift bag! I especially loved the original art card. The vampire-mouth candies were fun too!

It was an amazing line-up--also including keynoter Libba Bray, Daniel Waters, Jennifer Ziegler, Justine Larbalestier, Rick Yancey, Lisa McMann, Matt de la Pena, Deb Caletti, and Terra Elan McVoy--sorry for the lack of pics! As I was still coughing (just a cold), I kept my distance to the extent practical from my fellow speakers (for their own protection).

Thanks so much to the speakers, teens, parents, BookPeople staff (especially my moderator Emily), and librarians who made this debut event such a success! Special thanks to the YA readers who drove in all the way from Houston to see me! Wow!

Last Call Spooky Cynsational Giveaway

Reminder: In celebration of the "Read Beyond Reality" theme of Teen Read Week, which is scheduled for Oct. 18 to Oct. 24, and the spooky season now upon us, I'm offering the biggest, winner-take-all Cynsational giveaway ever, with an emphasis on Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) and spectacular read-alikes!

You can enter to win: Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2009); Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors (Walker, 2009); Far From You by Lisa Schroeder (Simon Pulse, 2009); How to Be a Vampire: A Fangs-On Guide for the Newly Undead by Amy Gray (Candlewick, November 2009); Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey (Harcourt, 2009); Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler (Simon Pulse, 2008); and Vamped by Lucienne Diver (Flux, 2009). To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Read Beyond Reality" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message me with the name in the header; I'll contact you if you win).

You will get an extra chance to win for each of the following: (1) you blog about the giveaway and link to my related announcement posts at Cynsations at Blogger, LiveJournal, JacketFlap, MySpace or Spookycyn (send me the URL to your post with your entry); (2) you post the link to your Facebook page or tweet it (find me at Twitter and Facebook and CC me on those systems so I can take a look); (3) you are a YA teacher, librarian, or university professor of youth literature (indicate school/library with your entry); (4) you are a book blogger (teen or grown-up)(include the URL to your blog with your entry message). Deadline: midnight CST Oct. 30. Good luck and stay spooky!

Cynsational Events

The Texas Book Festival take place Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 in Austin. Featured children's-YA authors include: Jessica Lee Anderson, Libba Bray, Janie Bynum, Kristin Cast, P.C. Cast, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Keith Graves, Heather Hepler, K.A. Holt, Jacqueline Kelly, Rick Riordan, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Rene Saldana, Jr., Tammi Sauer, Liz Garton Scanlon, Anita Silvey, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Samantha R. Vamos, Rosemary Wells, Kathy Whitehead, Mo Willems, and Sara Zarr. See the whole list! Note: I'll be speaking on a panel "Deals with the Devil: Writing about Faustian Bargains" with Daniel and Dina Nayeri from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 31 at the Texas State Capitol Building, signing to immediately follow. Hope to see y'all there!

SCBWI-Illinois' Fifth Annual Prairie Writer's Day: Brick by Brick: The Architecture of Our Stories will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 14 at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois. Speakers include: Stacy Cantor, associate editor at Walker; Nick Eliopulos, associate editor at Random House; T.S. Ferguson, assistant editor at Little, Brown; Yolanda LeRoy, editorial director at Charlesbridge; Cynthia Leitich Smith, award-winning author and Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty member; and Michael Stearns, agent and co-founder of Upstart Crow Literary.

Destination Publication: An Awesome Austin Conference for Writers and Illustrators is scheduled for Jan. 30 and sponsored by Austin SCBWI. Keynote speakers are Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson and Caldecott Honor author-illustrator Marla Frazee, who will also offer an illustrator breakout and portfolio reviews. Presentations and critiques will be offered by editor Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, author-editor Lisa Graff of FSG, agent Andrea Cascardi of Transatlantic Literary, agent Mark McVeigh of The McVeigh Agency, and agent Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown, Ltd. Advanced critique break-out sessions will be led by editor Stacy Cantor of Bloomsbury. In addition, Cheryl and author Sara Lewis Holmes will speak on the editor-and-author relationship, and Marla and author Liz Garton Scanlon will speak on the illustrator-and-author relationship. Note: Sara and Liz also will be offering manuscript critiques. Illustrator Patrice Barton will offer portfolio reviews. Additional authors on the speaker-and-critique faculty include Jessica Lee Anderson, Chris Barton, Shana Burg, P.J. Hoover, Jacqueline Kelly, Philip Yates, Jennifer Ziegler. See registration form, information packet, and conference schedule (all PDF files)!

2010 Houston-SCBWI Conference is scheduled for Feb. 20, 2010, at the Merrell Center in Katy. Registration is now open. The faculty includes author Cynthia Leitich Smith, assistant editor Ruta Rimas of Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins, creative director Patrick Collins of Henry Holt, senior editor Alexandra Cooper of Simon & Schuster, senior editor Lisa Ann Sandell of Scholastic, and agent Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Voice: Megan Crewe on Give Up the Ghost

Megan Crewe is the first-time author of Give Up the Ghost (Henry Holt, 2009)(see Megan's blog). From the promotional copy:

Cass McKenna much prefers the company of ghosts over "breathers." Ghosts are uncomplicated and dependable, and they know the dirt on everybody... and Cass loves dirt. She's on a mission to expose the dirty secrets of the poseurs in her school.

But when the vice president of the student council discovers her secret, Cass's whole scheme hangs in the balance. Tim wants her to help him contact his recently deceased mother, and Cass reluctantly agrees.

As Cass becomes increasingly entwined in Tim's life, she's surprised to realize he's not so bad--and he needs help more desperately than anyone else suspects. Maybe it's time to give the living another chance...


Could you tell us about your writing community--your critique group or 
partner or other sources of emotional and/or professional support?

I consider myself lucky to have had many fabulous sources of support throughout my writing career so far. Most of them have been online, and I think that's one of the best things about the Internet--the way it allows us to connect with so many like-minded people we might never have gotten to know otherwise.

When I was first starting out with short stories, I got most of my critiques at the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. It's full of amazing critiquers who helped me identify the strengths and weaknesses in my stories. Ultimately I found it didn't work quite as well for me when it came to novels, but I ended up meeting a couple of critique partners through the workshop I continue to exchange manuscripts with to this day.

In the last several years, I've gotten most of my feedback from one-on-one critiquers, met through workshops and writing communities. They've been invaluable. There's nothing like getting a reader's eye view of an entire novel, and my books have gotten much stronger for it. And a few of my critique partners have also been close friends, people I can turn to and who can turn to me when we need reassurance or guidance.

As well, I have an in-person writers group that I meet with once every two weeks. It's wonderful being able to hash out everything from the details in one scene to the plot line of an entire book face-to-face. And we also do a yearly writing retreat with all of the same plus lots of writing, swimming, canoeing, and roasting marshmallows!

Since selling my first novel, I've also had the pleasure of joining a couple of amazing groups of writers: the 2009 Debutantes and the Class of 2K9. I don't know how I could have made it through the last year and a half without them! We share tips on everything from writing and revising to submitting and promoting, and if anyone's ever feeling down or stuck, we're always there for each other to cheer on or find a solution.

Really, I've only had good experiences when it comes to the children's and YA writing community. I think we all recognize that it can be a long and difficult journey, and we're happy to help each other along the way.

As a paranormal writer, what first attracted you to that literary 
tradition? Have you been a long-time paranormal reader? Did a particular 
book or books inspire you?

I've always enjoyed reading stories that go at least a little beyond the boundaries of "reality as we know it." There's so much room for surprises, for the unexpected. And there's something thrilling about seeing a character faced with a problem they never thought could exist. What do people do when faced with the (supposedly) impossible?

Naturally, I enjoy writing those sort of stories, too. Making my characters face the unexpected. Pondering the many "what ifs" that open up when you allow for the existence of things like ghosts. It's those sorts of "what ifs" that get me excited about a story. I love realistic fiction as well as speculative as a reader, but when it comes to writing, the ideas that grab me and won't let me go always have a paranormal or fantastical element.

Two of my favorite authors growing up were Roald Dahl and Zilpha Keatley Snyder.

Dahl's books are almost always fantastic, but what's so wonderful about them is that he rarely lingers on the "wow, that's so fantastic" part of the story. He gets straight to the consequences and how the characters deal with them. Okay, there are witches, there are giants, we know this now, let's get on with the story.

That always appealed to me, because it's the story of what happens after you've discovered the magic that I find truly interesting--not so much the story of the discovering itself. Which is probably why I tend to skip the discovering in my books.

Give Up the Ghost begins four years after Cass saw her first ghost; it's about someone for whom the supernatural has become almost natural and what that means for her.

Zilpha Keatley Snyder writes some fantasy (like the Green-Sky trilogy (Atheneum, 1975-1977), but most of her books are realistic with just a touch of something magical--often something that's only imagination.

I say "only," but that's inaccurate, because Snyder presents imagination as a very powerful force. It's the intricate worlds that Martha and Ivy make up that gradually help Martha come into her own as a young woman in The Changeling, my favorite of Snyder's books, for example.

Reading those stories, I think, inspired me to try to have a balance of the realistic with the paranormal in my books. To show that everyday concerns like bullying and sibling rivalries are just as affecting as something supernatural.

Give Up the Ghost may be a paranormal novel, but the most important element is how Cass ends up dealing with the real life troubles she's experienced.

Maybe this is a funny thing for a paranormal author to admit, but really, what I like most about writing the fantastical is finding the realism inside it.

[Watch this book trailer for Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe.]



Cynsational Notes

The New Voices Series is a celebration of debut authors of 2009. First-timers may also be featured in more traditional author interviews over the course of the year.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Spooky News & Giveaways

Linda W. Braun: YALSA Teen Read Week --- Reading Beyond Reality from Teenreads.com. Guest post from the president of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). Peek: "Teen Read Week also promotes the idea that reading for pleasure doesn’t happen just with books. Reading magazines, graphic novels, blog posts, sports websites, etc. are ways in which teens can enjoy content."

Your Inner Blogger, Advice for Blogging Authors, and Social Media Tips from Jama Rattigan at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup. A Kidlitcon 2009 report. Peek: "I am more apt to pick up a book by someone who has taken the time to share who they are as human beings, engage with others, voice honest opinions, and express an interest in something other than 'me, me, me.'"

Author Websites part 1.75: What Not to Blog from the Intern. Also includes recommended topics. Under "not": "Anything mean. You will regret it. No exceptions."

Angie Frazier: new website from the debut author of Everlasting (Scholastic, 2010). See also Angie Frazier: Adventures of a YA Novelist.

The Federal Trade Commission and Book Bloggers--update from Kidlitcon 09 from Charlotte's Library: fantasy and science fiction books for children and teenagers. Peek: "Book bloggers who don't get paid by publishers to act as shills for their books are independent reviewers, regardless of how many books they might get from publishers." See also An Introvert Goes to the Kidlitosphere Conference by Jennifer R. Hubbard from Shrinking Violet Promotions.

Missed Opportunities by Brian Yansky at Brian's Blog: Random thoughts on the art and craft of fiction writing. Peek: "The good thing about fiction is a missed opportunity isn’t really missed. We get do-overs all the time. We get the gift of revision." Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

Marvelous Marketer: Michael Stearns (Upstart Crow Literary) from Shelli at Market My Words. Peek: "Do I Google new authors? Sure. Am I looking for the oft-bandied-about-but-never-adequately-defined-buzzword 'platform'? God, no. I wouldn’t know a platform if I saw it."

Publishing 101: What You Need to Know by Jerry D. Simmons from Writer's Digest. Peek: "Here's your step-by-step guide to the publishing process–how it works, why you need to know and how you can play an influential role in your book’s success." Source: April Henry.

Congratulations to the Teens Top Ten books of 2009 (and their authors)!

Want your name in my book? an auction from L.K. Madigan at Drenched in Words. Peek: "I'm offering up for auction two minor character names in my 2010 YA fantasy, The Mermaid's Mirror, scheduled for release in Fall 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt." Deadline: midnight Nov. 1.

From Page to Screen: "Where the Wild Things Are" movie review by Claire E. Gross from the Horn Book. Peek: "...it's the movie's willingness to run with its new themes, darker than those of the book (yet, paradoxically, more invested in the underlying innocence of childhood) that allows it a measure of success."

The 2009 Kirkus Reviews Teen Book Video Awards from Teenreads.com Blog. Peek: "To watch these enticing book trailers, vote for your favorite, and read more about the competition and each of the filmmakers, visit http://www.barnesandnoble.com/kirkusbva/. We had a lot of fun watching the videos, and can’t wait to see who wins. Which video excites you about reading a book the most? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!"

First Drafts by Brian Yansky at Brian's Blog: Writer Talk. Peek: "Michelangelo was very eloquent about his approach to sculpting. He said, 'I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free.' Oh, yes, very nice indeed. Very pretty. Lucky bunch, those sculptors." Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

Writing Contest: Create Another Another Faust from Daniel & Dina. Peek: "Write a 3000 word (max) retelling of the Faustian Bargain ("Another Another Faust") set in any time, place, dimension, or world. Your story can be from any viewpoint, and you can get as creative as you’d like! Don't exceed 3000 words, but don’t give us filler either. You can certainly tell an amazing story in just a few words." Deadline: Jan. 31. See details.

See the book trailer below for Another Faust by Daniel and Dina Nayeri (Candlewick, 2009).



More Personally

Happy Teen Read Week! Thank you to everyone who turned out for my readergirlz chat with Holly Cupala and Lisa McMann on Wednesday night! See chat transcript! And don't miss tonight's readergirlz chat with authors Dia Calhoun and Sylvia Engdahl!

Cynthia Leitich Smith Celebrates Teen Read Week: a quick "Beyond Reality" Q&A from the YA Authors Cafe. Peek: Q: "What is the strangest thing you've ever seen?" A: "The yard gnome that Libba Bray gave me. I swear it comes to life at night."

My latest review is from AudioFile Magazine of the Eternal audiobook from Listening Library (2009), though kudos really go to actors Allyson Ryan and Jesse Bernstein. Audiofile raves: "Together the narrators create magic: Listeners will both love and hate Miranda as she drinks her way through Chicago's population, and the suspense is thrilling as Zachary desperately tries to figure out a way to save his undead princess." Listen to a clip from Listening Library/Random House.

Highlights of the week also included Kate DiCamillo's signing last Saturday and Jessica Lee Anderson and P.J. Hoover's signing last Sunday, both at BookPeople in Austin.

Let's start with Kate:

Here's Kate, taking questions from a standing-room-only crowd, and this is on Texas-OU game day, which of course makes the turnout even more impressive. Kate's new release is The Magician's Elephant (Candlewick, 2009).

Here she is afterward, signing books. Note: I'd feature more pics of Kate, but this was about as close as I could get to her; it was one of those events where you had to get your specially color-coded bracelet in the morning.

Fans in attendance included writers Erin Edwards, Julie Lake (author of Galveston's Summer of the Storm (TCU Press, 2003), and recent VCFA grad Jennifer Taylor.

Read a recent Cynsations interview with Kate about The Magician's Elephant!

And now let's go to P.J. and Jessica's event! (P.J. is the taller of the two and has lighter hair).

Note the very cute T-shirts.

Note the authors' family members, also in T-shirts!

Jessica and P.J. shared the stage, talked about their books, read, and took questions from kids in the audience. Jessica's new book is Border Crossings (Milkweed, 2009), and P.J.'s new book is The Forgotten Worlds Book 2: The Navel of the World (CBAY, 2009).

P.J. and Jessica signed their books!

Here's 2009 YA debut voice Bethany Hegedus (green)(author of Between Us Baxters (WestSide, 2009) with Austin SCBWI regional advisor Tim Crow and YA author Jennifer Ziegler (purple). Bethany has newly relocated to Austin from New York!

Here's another first-time Austin author--K.A. Holt, whose debut book is Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel (Random House, 2009)!

Tim again, this time with Betty X. Davis, the grand lady of our writing community.

Writer Erin Edwards with Emma J. Virjan, debut author-illustrator of Nacho the Party Puppy (Random House, 2008)!

Jo Whittemore with her husband. Jo is the author of The Silverskin Legacy trilogy (Llewellyn, 2006-2007) and Front Page Face-Off (Aladdin MIX, 2010).

A handful of us grabbed lunch at Opal Divine's on 6th Street afterward. Going around the table, here's YA author April Lurie (lighter green), picture book author Frances Hill, YA author Brian Yansky (end of table), Greg again, author Debbie Gonzales, and Bethany again (darker green). Note: in this pic, not everyone has arrived yet.

Afterward, a couple of the authors visited my house and were kind enough to sign their books. Here's Jessica and Bethany, both together and individually!

See also A Book Release Party and Other Random Bits from P.J. at Roots in Myth and An Interview with P.J. Hoover from Tabitha Olson at Writer Musings.

Spooky Cynsational Giveaway

Reminder: In celebration of the "Read Beyond Reality" theme of Teen Read Week, which is scheduled for Oct. 18 to Oct. 24, and the spooky season now upon us, I'm offering the biggest, winner-take-all Cynsational giveaway ever, with an emphasis on Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) and spectacular read-alikes!

You can enter to win: Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2009); Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors (Walker, 2009); Far From You by Lisa Schroeder (Simon Pulse, 2009); How to Be a Vampire: A Fangs-On Guide for the Newly Undead by Amy Gray (Candlewick, November 2009); Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey (Harcourt, 2009); Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler (Simon Pulse, 2008); and Vamped by Lucienne Diver (Flux, 2009). To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Read Beyond Reality" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message me with the name in the header; I'll contact you if you win).

You will get an extra chance to win for each of the following: (1) you blog about the giveaway and link to my related announcement posts at Cynsations at Blogger, LiveJournal, JacketFlap, MySpace or Spookycyn (send me the URL to your post with your entry); (2) you post the link to your Facebook page or tweet it (find me at Twitter and Facebook and CC me on those systems so I can take a look); (3) you are a YA teacher, librarian, or university professor of youth literature (indicate school/library with your entry); (4) you are a book blogger (teen or grown-up)(include the URL to your blog with your entry message). Deadline: midnight CST Oct. 30. Good luck and stay spooky!

Cynsational Events

From BookPeople: "The first Austin Teen Book Festival: Read Beyond Reality will be this weekend, on Oct. 24 at Westlake High School. From 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., the school will be filled with a who's who of YA authors signing and selling their newest books."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Teen Read Week: Lisa Schroeder on Far From You

Learn about Lisa Schroeder.

We last spoke in May 2008, after the release of I Heart You, You Haunt Me (Simon Pulse). Could you briefly remind us what it's about? Do you have any updates for us on this title?

I Heart You, You Haunt Me is the story of a girl, Ava, whose boyfriend dies and he loves her so much, he doesn’t want to leave her and comes back as a ghost. It’s a story of love and loss, healing and hope.

It was voted a 2009 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. It's also a 2010 New Hampshire Flume Reader’s Choice Nominee and a 2009-2010 South Dakota Library Association YA Reading Program Selection!

Congratulations on the publication of Far From You (Simon Pulse, 2009)! What is the book about?

Far From You tells the story of sixteen-year-old Alice, who lost her mother to cancer years ago, and time hasn't quite healed the wound. She copes the best she can by writing her music, losing herself in the love of her boyfriend, and distancing herself from her father and his new wife.

But when a deadly snowstorm traps Alice with her stepmother and newborn half sister, she'll have to face issues she's been avoiding for too long.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

Each of my books generally starts with a few seeds of ideas, and this one was no different.

First, I had been thinking about that wonderful, award-winning novel, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (Scholastic, 1997) and how, as you read, you can almost taste the dust and feel the heat radiating off the page.

I then had the idea of going in the opposite direction with the temperature, and writing about people stuck in a blizzard.

In Oregon, where I live, we had recently followed the tragic story of the Kim family in the news, so it seemed timely as well.

Next, I had always wanted to write a book about a girl who was a singer/songwriter, and I had always wanted to write a book that contained Alice's Adventures in Wonderland [by Lewis Carroll (1865)] elements. So, I combined all those things, and Far From You was born.

What was it like, writing your "sophomore" novel?

It was hard. And exciting. And scary. My first novel had been so easy to write, and this one wasn’t anything like that, so I worried that meant something. But I don't think it really does. The process for each book is going to be different, and that’s okay.

With the second book, I was keenly aware that if I could finish it and make it something my editor might like, people would be reading it and judging the writing. It's a much more difficult place to write from, with that noise going on in your head.

I found music helped immensely. I've never been one to write to music really, but that changed with this book. I'd write for hours with ear buds in my ears, listening to music that helped me get inside Alice's head.

I think when we struggle, we need to look around and try different things. Try new ways of plotting, try new and different places to write, or different times of days. What has worked before may not work this time around.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

I will admit it's challenging at times, especially because I have a day job too. For me, unfortunately, promotion probably doesn't get as much time as it should. I've always believed that the best thing you can do as an author is to keep writing books. So, first and foremost, that's been my priority. By spring of next year, I'll have four novels out in three years, and I'm proud of that.

The rest of it, I do what I can and try not to stress about it. The thing about promotion is that there's always more a person can do, and it's so easy to feel badly that you aren't doing enough. Most of the promotional stuff that I do is online, because I can do that early in the morning or on the weekends when I'm not working.

When I'm working on a new book, I try to write at least thirty minutes a day. I also spend time most days doing blog posts, answering interview questions, responding to reader e-mails, etc. I find it's best for me to spend time on both each day, even if it's just a little time each day.

What one promotion tip would you like to share with fellow authors?

Figure out what you like to do and do that. Think about what your strengths are in regular life and figure out how to use that in your promotional stuff.

Maybe you think like a teacher because you are a teacher or have been a teacher. How can you promote your books for teachers and get into schools? You’re going to know that better than someone like myself who has never been a teacher. So play to your strengths, and don't feel badly that you can’t do everything.

What do you do when you're not writing?

A big chunk of my time is spent working in Human Resources at a large teaching hospital.

For fun, I love to walk my dog, play games with my kids, read books (of course!) watch favorite TV shows like "Project Runway" and "Friday Night Lights," read blogs, and bake delicious treats for my family.

What can your fans look forward to next?

In January, Chasing Brooklyn (Simon Pulse), another ghost story told in verse, will be released. This one is told from the POV of two characters, Brooklyn and Nico, who are both being haunted by two different ghosts. I’m hoping fans of I Heart You, You Haunt Me will like this one.

In March, my first mid-grade novel will be released. Called It's Raining Cupcakes (Aladdin), the book is about a girl who dreams of traveling the world but is stuck in a small town in Oregon trying to help her mother get a cupcake shop off the ground.

"A Revision Medley" by Lisa Schroeder



Cynsational Notes

Read a previous Cynsations interview with Lisa.

Teen Read Week is Oct. 18 to Oct. 24, 2009! From ALA/YALSA: "This year's theme is Read Beyond Reality @ your library, which encourages teens to read something out of this world, just for the fun of it."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Teen Read Week: Beth Fantaskey on Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

Learn more about Beth Fantaskey.

What were you like as a teenager? What were your favorite books and why?

I was a geeky, gawky, shy teenager who was lucky enough to have a really wonderful, if small, set of amazing friends.

I was also lucky to live within bike-riding distance of my local library, and I read tons of books. I was a huge fan of Tolkien and, oddly enough, James Thurber, the classic humorist. I've tried to get my students at Susquehanna University to connect with Thurber, and they all think I'm crazy. I guess I've always had a twisted sense of humor!

What first inspired you to write for young adult readers?

I didn't set out to write for a YA audience. I just dreamed up a story that featured a young heroine, and the next thing I knew, I was a YA author.

I feel very lucky, though. I love how readers of YA fiction interact with authors. It's a really interconnected audience. I feel like I've actually made friends with a lot of readers.

Could you tell us about your apprenticeship as a writer?

My whole career has centered on writing, and each editor I've worked with has imparted new lessons, so I've basically been apprenticing for my entire adult life.

However, I would say my biggest learning experiences took place at my first PR job, where my boss was a brutally honest--and skilled--editor. I was assigned to write a lot of speeches, and during the first year, everything came back marked up with red pen to the point that I nearly wanted to cry.

He did me a great favor, though. After a year, I was a solid writer. I could stand on my own.

What was the single best thing you did to improve your craft? What, if anything, do you wish you'd done differently?

I think writing is a skill that you can only learn by doing and revising and getting feedback from editors. Therefore, I'd say the best thing I've done is to write on a consistent basis and submit my work to newspapers, magazines, and, eventually, an agent and publisher.

I really don't think I would have done anything differently... except maybe try to write fiction even earlier. I was almost forty before I focused on novels.

Could you tell us about your path to publication, any sprints on stumbles along the way?

"Sprints and stumbles" pretty much sums up the whole experience! I wrote Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (Harcourt, 2009) fairly quickly, over the course of summer 2006, and it sold to Harcourt on Oct. 31 of that year. You'll then notice a pretty big gap between sale and publication! It was a long process--but worth it.

Congratulations on the success of Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (Harcourt, 2009)! In your own words, what is the book about?

It's the story of a very rational girl who is forced to come to terms with a very irrational truth about herself--that she is actually a vampire princess betrothed to a vampire prince. If they don't marry, according to a pact signed at their births, their rival clans will go to war.

Unfortunately, Jessica doesn't believe in vampires--and she doesn't even like her promised husband--at least not until it seems to be too late...

What was your initial inspiration for writing this story?

My children are both adopted, and we sometimes wonder what their biological parents were like. I took that to the extreme by imagining that my adopted heroine, Jess, was born to vampire royalty. That's the root of the story.

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

My editor at Harcourt couldn't recall any other time they'd hired a freelance Romanian translator to help finish a book!

If you could go back and talk to your beginning writer self, what would you tell her?

The same thing I'm constantly telling myself now: Sit down and write. Get to work!

So far what is your favorite YA book of 2009 and why?

I honestly haven't read any other YA fiction this year. I'm trying to finish up my doctoral dissertation, and when I read, it's basically nonfiction about female reporters in the 1920s. If I ever get done with that, I have lots of great fiction waiting for me!

What do you do when you're not writing?

I like to think while I run, so that is like a hobby for me. Right now, I'm also training for a "sprint triathlon" with a couple other women, but I have yet to get in the pool, so we'll see...

Other than that, I like to just hang out with my friends and my kids. We live near an amusement park, so I ride a lot of roller coasters with my girls.

What can your fans look forward to next?

My next book is called Jekel Loves Hyde, and it's due out next year. It's also a YA romance with a paranormal twist, so I hope readers will like it!

Cynsational Notes

Don't miss reading The Wedding of Anastasia Jessica Packwood and Lucius Valeriu Vladescu at Beth's website.

Teen Read Week is Oct. 18 to Oct. 24, 2009! From ALA/YALSA: "This year's theme is Read Beyond Reality @ your library, which encourages teens to read something out of this world, just for the fun of it."

readergirlz Chat Tonight with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Lisa McMann & Holly Cupala

"Beyond Daily Life" readergirlz Chat will feature Cynthia Leitich Smith (Eternal), rgz diva Holly Cupala (Tell Me a Secret), and Lisa McMann (Wake) on Oct. 21.

"It all happens at the rgz forum (http://readergirlz.blogspot.com) beginning at 6 p.m. Pacific Time (7 p.m. Mountain Time, 8 p.m. Central Standard Time, 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time)."

See the whole readergirlz "Read Beyond Reality" chat schedule for Oct. 19 to Oct. 23. See also more information.

See a book trailer below for Eternal.



See a book trailer below for Wake.



Celebrate all week with readergirlz!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Teen Read Week: Lucienne Diver on Vamped

Learn more about Lucienne Diver.

What were you like as a teenager? What were your favorite books and why?

I was/am a geek. A D&D playing, chorus-singing, braniac thespian. You know, the kind who took extra art and English classes because study hall and lunch were just wastes of time. I did junior high, high school and community theatre because, you know, all that homework wasn't enough to keep me busy.

I was also a voracious reader and was caught several times reading fiction behind my text books--everything from Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov to Madeleine L'Engle, Elizabeth George Speare and Margaret Mahy to Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, Mary Stewart and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

I didn't and still don't care what genre is listed on a book's spine, as long as between the covers there's a good story with wonderful characters.

All-time favorite YA books?

In no particular order: Watcher in the Woods by Florence Engel Randall (Atheneum, 1976), The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance by Margaret Mahy (J.M. Dent & Sons, 1984), The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Houghton Mifflin, 1958), Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (Houghton Mifflin, 1960), The Monday Horses by Jean Slaughter Doty (Greenwillow, 1978).

I'll never forget writing to Ms. Doty when I was a kid and receiving a letter back. It was one of the high points of my young life.


What first inspired you to write for young adult readers?

I didn't so much decide to write for young adults as have a young adult character, Gina from Vamped (Flux, 2009), introduce herself to me. Well, maybe it wasn't as formal as all that.

Gina started talking in my head one day, a recently vamped fashionista who finds true horror in the realization that she no longer has a reflection, no way to do her hair and make up. Eternal youth is completely wasted if she has to go through her whole unlife a total schlub.

So she decides to turn her stylist, a decision her geekboy sire isn't too excited about until she tells him to get with the plan or pick up the styling slack.

The only way to get her out of my head was give her a story. Everyone loved it. "But this is a vignette," they said, "and it really wants to be a novel." They were right.

The thing was, I didn't have a plot. Turns out, that was only a minor hurdle. If it meant more face-time, 200+ pages rather than ten, Gina was going to get right on that.

I know it's weird that I talk about my character as though she really exists, but when I'm in the zone with a book, it feels more like I'm channeling my heroine's voice than developing my own. The book practically writes itself.

Could you tell us about your apprenticeship as a writer?

I've written since the fifth grade when my wonderful teacher Mr. Hart divided the entire classroom into writing groups and gave us assignments to write, critique, and revise on a regular basis.

I was hooked. I'd always had stories in my head. I'd just never committed them to paper.

Mr. Hart was also greatly encouraging about my work. I felt as though I'd found my calling.

In high school, I edited our literary magazine. In college, it was our anthropology publication. I had pieces published in both.

But the big bad world of professional publishing was a harder road to hoe. I have many apprenticeship works (aka trunk novels) that will never see the light of day, where I got all the clichés and said-bookisms out of my system (I hope).

My writers' group was an amazing help and dragged me, kicking and screaming, to some realizations without which I'd never have seen publication. Even now that I've hit that stage, my critique partner, readers, and agent are invaluable for their input. I still need that push every now and then. Makes me a better writer.

What was the single best thing you did to improve your craft? What, if anything, do you wish you'd done differently?

I used to have trouble torturing my characters. When I first started writing, all my heroines were sort of the "she I want to be." I think I identified too much.

When Gina started talking to me I knew exactly where she came from--the big-haired girl with the "reputation" who used to torment my sister in high school. Oh, it was so easy to torture her. Fun too! But once I set out to give her a novel, I had to develop and chance the character so she was someone I wanted to spend an appreciable amount of time around. I learned a lot from that experience. I don't think it's a coincidence that it's the first of my works to sell in a big way.

One of my biggest epiphanies, though--and here I'm about to get a little personal--was when one of my critique partners, a former editor and very successful author, challenged me to write characters who emote. See, that "she I want to be" meant no messy emotions. Tough as nails, confident, untouchable. I'd grown up in a family that saw emotions as a weakness, but as a writer, well, let's just say they’re a necessary evil.

Anyway, that's the biggest realization I was drawn to, kicking and screaming. If I could have done things differently, I'd have seen that a lot sooner. I don't think I'd have nearly so many trunk manuscripts if I had.

Could you tell us about your path to publication, any sprints on stumbles along the way?

As you can probably tell from my long-winded answer above, it was not smooth sailing. I had a lot to learn and a lot of dreck to get out of my system before I was ready for publication.

The successful part of my path started with "The Problem with Piskies," a buddy cop story...if the cop is on a bender while recovering from a werewolf attack he's yet to come to terms with and the buddy is an annoying little pisky named Bob, AKA Bobbin, AKA Kneebob on the run.

It placed in Quantum Barbarian's fiction contest and was published in the final issue of the webzine under my pseudonym Kit Daniels. And it paid! (Not well, but hey....) Next it was my romantic comedy Playing Nice, which sold to Five Star (2006), another short story....

I chose an alternate name because I didn't want anyone judging my work based on the fact that I was an agent or my agenting on the fact that I write, as I've always done. Ultimately, though, I decided that I wasn't cut out for a secret life, thus "Kit" has faded into obscurity.

Congratulations on the success of Vamped (Flux, 2009)! What is the book about?

Here’s the blurb I used on my press release:

From “Valley Vamp Rules for Surviving Your Senior Prom” by Vamped heroine Gina Covello: Rule #1: Do not get so loaded at the after prom party that you accidentally-on-purpose end up in the broom closet with the surprise hottie of the evening, say the class chess champ who's somewhere lost his bottle-cap lenses and undergone an extreme makeover, especially if that makeover has anything to do with becoming one of the undead.

Gina Covello has a problem. Waking up dead is just the beginning. There's very little she can't put up with for the sake of eternal youth and beauty. Blood-sucking and pointy stick phobias seem a small price to pay. But she draws the line when local vampire vixen Mellisande gets designs on her hot new boyfriend with his prophesied powers and hatches a plot to turn all of Gina’s fellow students into an undead army to be used to overthrow the vampire council.

Hey, if anyone's going to create an undead entourage, it should be Gina! Now she must unselfishly save her classmates from fashion disaster and other fates worse than death.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

I’m not sure about the exact timeline. I'd say that the initial draft took between four and six months to write, but the story went through so many drafts after that that I'd estimate the overall time it took to write Vamped was about a year.

Once it went out on submission it probably took another four months (and one more revision at the suggestion of the acquiring editor) to sell.

I can tell you exactly when that happened–Superbowl weekend 2008. I know because I got the call when my family and I were in the airport on our way to see friends, and I practically turned cartwheels right there in the terminal.

Then it was about fifteen months (from February 2008 to May 2009) for publication.

It’s funny, all the major events seemed to happen when I was traveling. The cover came in during another trip. I was so excited that I printed it out at an Internet café and showed it everyone I met, whether I knew them or not. I had to fend off a few men in white suits who wanted to lure me into their nice padded wagon, but the buckles on the jacket they wanted to fit me with were just so '80s that I had to turn them down.

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

The biggest challenge is in finding the time to write. I've had to carve it out of sleep, waking up before my inner editor every morning so that I can find time to write that isn't already committed to anything else.

If you could go back and talk to your beginning writer self, what would you tell her?

Oh, there are crafty things I'd love to have taught myself early on so that I might have gotten farther faster, but in truth, I think sometimes an author needs to cure.

I became a better writer after my son was born. I don’t know if it conferred a new maturity or depth of feeling, but I do know that something in me shifted.

I think/hope that I’m improving all the time. Maybe in another ten or twenty years, I'll actually have wrestled into submission some of the elements that continue to fight me.

So far what is your favorite YA book of 2009 and why?

Ack, that’s so tough! Both Rosemary Clement-Moore (Highway to Hell (Delacorte) and the forthcoming Splendor Falls (Delacorte)) and Rachel Caine (Carpe Corpus, Fade Out (Signet, 2009, both from the Morganville Vampires series) have new YA novels out this year and both are so amazingly fabulous that I just can’t choose.

What do you do when you're not writing?

Agenting, reading, wrestling with the puppy (or my husband), playing with my son, sunbathing, beading, shopping. Is there time for anything else?

What can your fans look forward to next?

I’m very excited that Revamped (Flux) will be out next fall.

In the meantime, I’ve got a short story coming out in Strip Mauled, an anthology edited by Esther Friesner (Baen, 2009). It's sort-of a sequel to "The Problem with Piskies," though you can certainly read one without the other.

I also have a vampire story coming out in an as-yet-untitled Esther Friesner anthology to be published by Baen Books in 2010.

Cynsational Notes

Teen Read Week is Oct. 18 to Oct. 24, 2009! From ALA/YALSA: "This year's theme is Read Beyond Reality @ your library, which encourages teens to read something out of this world, just for the fun of it."