Author Interview

Q & A with K. Ancrum

Happy Thursday, booknerds! Today is kinda special because this post is my 10th author interview. I’m so happy because I continue to meet amiable and talented authors in the YA community. Today’s post features K. Ancrum, debut author of The Wicker King. I found this book to be so weird, but it was not in a bad way. If you want to know more about my thoughts on it, check out my reviewThe Wicker King comes out this fall (October 31), and I hope that you will enjoy reading it. 🙂

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  1. Mental health is a prevalent theme in YA books nowadays. With that in mind, what made you decide to write a book about codependency?

“It’s an incredibly under-discussed phenomenon. When we think about toxic relationships, we nearly always categorize someone as the aggressor and someone else as the victim. With codependency, both parties contribute to the issue—acting as aggressor and victim simultaneously—both inflicting damage, whether intentional or accidental. With August and Jack, a primary aspect of the book is the neglect that both of them suffer and their attempt to resolve their emotional needs in each other. They spiral into codependency because they are both taking from one another in volumes that the other cannot satisfy without destroying himself. They take from one another because they are lacking the traditional sources for their needs, and they make poor decisions because there is no real authority around to guide them not to. It’s a sad and dangerous situation and its entirely too common to be as under-discussed as it is.”

  1. August and Jack are not necessarily likable characters. Were they intentionally crafted to be that way?

“Yes. They’re not designed to be liked. They’re more designed to be cared about or worried about. My goal was to make readers feel protective of them—regardless of their faults.
Also, upon finishing the book, I wanted readers to view them with a sort of wary caution and feel more reflective about their circumstances and the topic at hand, than have a ‘favorite’ between them. That unbalanced emotionally conflicted mood you felt after finishing the book was entirely intentional.”

  1. How did your knowledge in literary theory/criticism influence your writing process? (i.e. Did it make it more unique or meticulous?)

“I—as you’ve probably guessed— greatly enjoy queer theory. When I first drafted the manuscript, the relationship between August and Jack was even more subtle because I enjoyed the ambiguity of the situation (as well as its comparison to old queer coded text, in a way that echoes the fairy tale feel of the story). The only hints of interest originally came from secondary characters who verbally assert their observations that August has feelings for Jack to his face—a fact that he’s not ready to recognize until the end of the book. However, as the manuscript grew and matured, I began to value representation over artistic subtlety.   I originally wrote it as a meticulous, queer-coded ode to older braver stories (Like Marie de France’s Bisclavret). But refined it into something that would resonate much stronger with my intended audience. Not everyone has sat through Uni level Arthurian literature and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to respect and value that.”

  1. With whom do you identify the most, August or Jack? Do you love them equally?

“This is so hard.Well. I care about August a lot, but by god, my heart beats for Jack. The manuscript is written from August’s perspective of course—but he’s an unreliable narrator. If you have time to re-read the book from Jack’s perspective (or take a gander at the e-novella which is written in Jack’s perspective which is to be sold separately) the amount of love and sheer terror that he hides behind his teeth, even while he’s shouting demands, is stunning. Even as he twists himself into something terrible to suit August’s terrible needs, you can see him shivering in fear. There is not a second in this book where Jack is not looking at August and begging to be loved.  There is a feral-ness to that kind of hope that absolutely makes my veins sing.”

  1. What message do you want to impart to your research, particularly in regards to mental health, abusive relationships, and sexuality?

“The themes that I wanted to cover are: The negative effects of parental neglect, the devastation as a result of ignoring offered help when you need it, the importance of mental healthcare being appropriately suited to the needs of the patient, the wretchedness of our policing system when dealing with mental health fallout, and how students can slip through the cracks when their school cares more about their grades and classroom behavior than their overall wellbeing.

“As for sexuality, I feel a tenderness towards the ‘Questioning’ stage many people go through when navigating their identity. Jack is just a bi kid being bi. August, on the other hand, takes ages to correctly identify attraction: trying to fit that square block into round holes of ‘responsibility’ ‘duty’ ‘allegiance’ and ‘ownership’, before settling into a wordless yearning Meanwhile, he denies other people’s subtle suggestions the whole way. Sometimes it takes a bit of time and that’s okay. I also wanted the resolution of the feelings they had for each other to be the one good thing they got out of their wretched journey. I’m a sucker for happy endings.”

  1. Between August and Jack, whom would you pick to be your boyfriend/best friend/husband?

“August would be a fun boyfriend. Jack would be steadfast in a way that would make him a good husband. However, I think that separately they are both lacking and in order to have good balance they need to be together. Which, consequently, is exactly what happens: In my next book THE WEIGHT OF STARS (which is set in the same small town, 25 years in the future, about a different group of seniors attending the same school) the Main character’s best friend is Rina, August and Jack’s child. So you’ll get to see a taste of what healthy Polyamory looks like, as well as meeting August and Jack as adults.”

     7. What are the perfect songs to listen to while reading The Wicker King?

IM A HUGE NERD AND MADE A SOUNDTRACK AGES BEFORE THE ARCs WENT OUT SO HERE YOU GO.

You can also find the CD playlists that each of the characters have in the book HERE


 

About the author:

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K. Ancrum grew up in Chicago Illinois. She attended Dominican University to study Fashion Merchandizing, but was lured into getting an English degree after spending too many nights experimenting with hard literary criticism and hanging out with unsavory types, like poetry students. Currently, she lives in Andersonville and writes books at work when no one is looking.

Visit K. Ancrum’s website

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Author Interview

Q & A with Chelsea Bobulski

Hi, booknerds! I am so thankful to God for the opportunity to feature another special author. Chelsea Bobulski is the author of the upcoming YA fantasy novel, The Wood. I really enjoyed this book for many reasons (I gave it 4 out of 5 stars), so if you want to know what they are, check out my review. I hope that reading this interview will encourage you to pick up The Wood when it comes out on August 1, 2017. I personally loved her heartfelt answers. Have a great, bookish day! ^^

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  1. Who or what inspired you to write The Wood? Is it a metaphor for something in your life?

“My writing process for The Wood was unlike any other book I’ve ever written. At the time, I had been pursuing traditional publication for four years. I was on my fourth manuscript, which I had been working on for almost two years, and while it kept getting *really* close to being the one, it kept coming up short. After what must have been my tenth massive revision on the book (it’s hard to say for sure as I lost count of how many revisions I actually did on it), I was really starting to lose confidence in my abilities and, even worse, I was starting to lose my love for writing. Knowing I had to rediscover why I loved writing in the first place, I sat down at my keyboard, put on some instrumental music, and started free-writing whatever came to mind.

“What came out, over the course of several weeks, was the first fifty pages of The Wood (pages which, aside from the inclusion of a couple new scenes, have not changed much from that first draft). Winter’s voice came to me out of nowhere and just started talking to me about this magical wood and the time-traveling portals inside of it that she protected. It was as if she’d been waiting there all along in the recesses of my mind for me to tell her story. Once I got fifty pages in, I realized I should probably stop free-writing and start plotting before I lost all of the threads Winter and Henry kept hurtling my way, since this thing was clearly going to be A Book.

“I didn’t realize it when I was writing it, but The Wood really did become a metaphor for what I was going through at the time. I had received so many rejections over the years and kept getting closer and closer to publication, only to get the door slammed in my face over and over again, that I was really starting to doubt whether this was something I was actually meant to do with my life, or if I’d just been wasting the past four years. It took me to a really dark place for a while, where I felt like I should’ve done something more sensible with my life, like go to law school, even though telling stories was something that had been embedded in my very soul. I couldn’t imagine not writing, but at the same time, I kept wondering if the fact that I kept getting rejections was a sign that I was going down the wrong path and really messing up whatever plan God actually had for me. So the twisting, turning paths in Winter’s wood and the monsters that come out at night really did start to represent my journey to publication and the doubt monsters that would creep in whenever I felt like my writing wasn’t good enough. Writing THE WOOD ended up being a form of therapy for me, as I dealt with a lot of things from my past, both professionally and personally, and I am so thankful to have come out the other side feeling extremely happy and extremely blessed, finally living the dream that has been in my heart since I was a little girl.”

  1. What life lessons can readers glean from your book?

“I think a lot of the life lessons that Winter personally deals with center around learning how to handle the various (and often overwhelming) responsibilities in her life, both the ones she chose for herself and the ones that chose her. Life throws a lot of curveballs at all of us, and I think for the most part Winter is able to handle her responsibilities with grace, but she is human, so she does mess up from time to time like we all do.Winter also has to come to terms with the fact that you can’t ever really know everything that makes up a person—everyone has so many layers, so many factors accumulated from every experience, big and small, of their lives—even the people you’re closest to. No one really sees things the same way either, which means people will let you down, but that doesn’t necessarily make them purely evil, and people will love and take care of you, but that doesn’t necessarily make them purely good. It’s the gray space that people inhabit that makes them truly fascinating, and also extremely unpredictable. This can be a hard thing to learn when you think you know someone only to find out they aren’t who you thought they were, and Winter has to deal with the ramifications of that.”

  1. If you were given the chance to spend a day with Winter and Henry, what would you do?

“I would love to walk through the wood with Winter and see all of the magic and the mystery unfolding around me. As for Henry, I would love to take him to the mall, or maybe a football game, just to see how he would react (I can guarantee it would be hilarious!).”

  1. If you were a character in The Wood, who would you be, and how would you affect the plot?

“I would love to be Meredith, Winter’s best friend, and I would really love to bust in on Winter’s wood and finally figure out what the heck she’s been hiding. I just think Meredith would have such a funny reaction to it and such a different take on the whole thing that it would be very interesting to see.

Perhaps some fodder for a possible sequel…? ;)”

  1. If you could use the Wood for personal reasons, what would you do? (i.e. Would you go to the past and relive a happy memory?)

“I would *definitely* time travel (even though it’s against the rules). I wouldn’t want to go back and change anything, or affect the past in any way, but I would just love to witness it, everything from when dinosaurs roamed the earth all the way up through modern day. I would love to walk through ancient Egyptian palaces and the alleyways of medieval Venice. I would love to witness the signing of the Declaration of Independence, or attend an Edwardian dinner party at a fine country estate. I would just love to see the history I’ve been obsessed with ever since I was a child come to life in front of me, especially the quiet, everyday moments of all of these people who lived and breathed and loved long before we were ever here.

“On a personal level, I would also love to visit my grandpa. To go back and sit with him in his favorite recliner and watch the Masters while passing lemon drops back and forth to each other. To tell him how much I love him and how much he means to me one more time. He passed away when I was in seventh grade, so I was too young in the moments we spent together to realize they wouldn’t last forever. That there would come a day when I couldn’t hug him anymore, or hear his voice. I’d love to go back and tell him just how much he impacted my life, and how grateful I am that he was mine.

  1. Reading your acknowledgements made me see The Wood in a brand new way. How did your faith affect your writing process?

“As I mentioned before, I was going through a really rough time while writing The Wood, both professionally and personally. Professionally, I was plagued with doubt and anxiety and wondering if I’d made a huge mistake. Personally, my husband and I were dealing with a very shocking family tragedy, while also trying to get pregnant with our first child for over a year, to no avail. Feeling like I was losing hold of my two biggest dreams—becominga published writer, and becoming a mom—while simultaneously dealing with this other life-shattering thing put me in a very dark, very depressed, and very anxiety-driven place.

“I would not have been able to claw my way out of that dark place if it weren’t for Christ being right there beside me. I was raised a Christian and believed in God all my life; I prayed about everything, but I didn’t really understand what it truly meant to trust God and give everything up to him completely until I was going through this difficult time. My parents divorced when I was very young, and out of that experience I developed this frantic need to stay in control of everything, because I knew what it was like to have your entire world turn to dust, there one day and gone the next. So that’s what I tried to do as everything seemed to be falling apart around me—desperately stay in control. But the more I tried to control what was happening, the worse things got.

“Through it all, I felt God compelling me to give everything up to Him. To trust that He had a perfect plan for my life, and to be okay with the fact that I may never be published, and that I may never be a mom, because if those things weren’t meant for me, He would lead me to the life that I was meant to live. I just had to trust. It wasn’t easy, and I fought it quite a bit for a while, but when I finally gave in, things began to happen. I got the book deal I’d been dreaming about for five years. And, after nearly two years of trying, my husband and I became pregnant with our beautiful baby girl (who will be one year old this August!). God answered all of my prayers—He just wanted me to trust Him first, and learn to give Him control over everything. Once I did that, I not only received blessings in those areas of my life, but I learned how to recognize and appreciate the million other blessings that make up my life, and all of that combined is what got me out of that dark place and into the happiest, most peaceful placeI could ever imagine.

“Now, I don’t write a single word without asking God for guidance and inspiration first. My entire writing process has changed due to my ever-deepening faith, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it. Suffice it to say, I walked through a very deep, very dark wilderness while writing THE WOOD, and my faith is what got me through to the other side.”

  1. Can we expect a sequel or companion novel to The Wood? I’m still not over that ending. xD

“There’s nothing in the works yet on the sequel or companion novel front, but I am definitely rooting for one! There is so much more I want to explore, both in Winter’s life and in the wood itself, which let me tell you has a whole host of secrets left to uncover! There’s always hope that if The Wood does well enough and its fans are vocal with their desire for a sequel, that my publisher may ask for one, so the best thing anyone can do to try to make this happen is recommend the book to friends and family and generally everyone they meet (I would be eternally grateful for this!) and to also ask their local libraries to order it. Posting reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, and sharing the book on social media, are also great ways of getting the word out there. But regardless of if there is a sequel, I am just so thankful for the opportunity to get to share this story with everyone, and I pray it does for others what great books have always done for me—transport them to another world and give them a fun escape from whatever they may be going through at the time. The best books, after all, take you on an adventure and make you feel like you’ve lived a whole other life inside your own. My biggest dream is that The Wood will make someone out there feel this way, as this is why I fell in love with books—reading and writing them—in the first place, that beautiful, transporting magic that is uniquely theirs.”


 

About the author:

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Chelsea Bobulski was born in Columbus, Ohio, and raised on Disney movies, Broadway musicals, and Buckeye pride. She graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in history, and promptly married her high school sweetheart. As a writer, she has a soft spot for characters with broken pasts, strange talents, and obstacles they must overcome for a brighter future. She now lives in Northwest Ohio with her husband, her daughter, and one very emotive German Shepherd/Lab mix. Her debut young adult novel, THE WOOD, will be published by Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan on August 1, 2017.

She is represented by Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Inc.

Visit Chelsea’s website

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Author Interview

Q & A with Andrew Shvarts

Last week, I finally experienced crying over a book. This special debut novel, entitled Royal Bastards, just came out a week ago. I’ll never forget how it positively wrecked me. If you want to know more about my thoughts and feels, check out my review. I loved reading this book, so I am grateful for the opportunity to get to know its author. Hopefully, other readers would feel the same way.

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  1. Did your love for video games manifest in Royal Bastards? (P.S. I love Final Fantasy and other JRPGs)

“What a great question! I hadn’t really thought much about it, but now that you mention it, I definitely think there’s a lot of jRPG DNA in Royal Bastards. Growing up, a lot of those games (especially ones like Final Fantasy 7 and Chrono Trigger) were incredibly influential, and in a lot of ways, made for my favorite kind of stories: groups of misfits and outcasts, coming together for a great journey, overcoming their demons and bonding along the way.”

  1. What was your inspiration for the world and magic system in Royal Bastards?

“Hmmm, I think there were a lot of different influences. Obviously, there’s a little bit of Westeros in the mix, with the different noble Houses and the way the world is run on violence and intrigue. But I also wanted to do something different than the typical ‘European pastiche’ fantasy, which is why the geography resembles the Pacific Northwest. The magic system just sort of wrote itself, honestly… I knew I wanted it to be based in something physical, like Rings and martial forms, and to have clear rules and parameters. I tend to like fantasy worlds where magic is rare but powerful, and where it’s explicitly shaped the contours of society.”

  1. Which character was the hardest (and easiest) to write about? Do you have a favorite character?

“Easiest and most fun was Jax; he’s all heart and jokes, which meant any scene with him was an absolute delight. Zell was a lot trickier; because he’s so stoic, guarded, and taciturn, he’s pretty much the opposite of me, so it took a lot of effort to figure out his voice.”

  1. Zell (who reminded me of FF8’s Zell) was sometimes called a “barbarian.” With that in mind, how did you implement diversity in your work?

“I believe diversity and positive representation in fiction is incredibly important, and something I strive for in everything I write. From the start, I knew that Royal Bastards would be a diverse fantasy world with many POC characters and cultures; beyond just the social good of writing diversely, I think it makes for vastly more interesting fiction.

“Regarding Zell, I hope it’s clear that any perception of him as a ‘barbarian’ by the non-Zitochi characters is purely their own prejudice, refuted on the page; the Zitochi, with their rich history, democratic government, and egalitarian norms, are arguably the most modern and progressive culture in the novel.

“On a thematic level, I think ROYAL BASTARDS is about that point in adolescence when you really start to question the way you were brought up; that means realizing your parents aren’t the heroes you may have always believed, but also realizing that some beliefs you’ve been brought up with are actually harmful prejudices.”

  1. Gleaning upon your novel, how do you think bastards/illegitimate children are seen and treated in our own society nowadays?

“Interesting question! I think, by and large, we’ve moved away from seeing a given child’s ‘legitimacy’ or heritage as critical to their role in the world, which is unquestionably a good thing. I think categorizations like that tend to exist to reinforce power structures, which invariably serve as systems of oppression. This is something you’ll see explored more in the sequels to Royal Bastards, the extent to which a given culture’s ingrained norms exist primarily to ensure that the powerful stay in power.”

  1. How did being color-blind and tone-deaf affect your writing process?

“Tone-deafness hasn’t affected much, except my ability to sing karaoke, but being color-blind has had a fairly formative impact on how I tend to think. When you’re color-blind, you just have to accept that your own perception is wrong, and rely on others; no matter how much your eyes tell you two colors are the same, if you want to function, you need to trust others when they say they aren’t. I think that’s made me more open to feedback as a writer, and more willing to question my choices.”

  1. Can you disclose anything about the sequel(s)?

“I can’t say much, but I will say that you’ll learn a lot more about the nature of magic and the history of the Volaris… and that I wrote an action scene that has my favorite kill I’ve ever written!”


 

About the author:

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Andrew Shvarts is an author of novels and video games. He has a BA in English Literature and Russian from Vassar College. He works for Pixelberry Studios as a designer, making mobile games like High School StoryChoices, and more. Andrew lives in San Jose, California, with his wife, toddler and two kittens.

Visit Andrew’s website

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Author Interview

Q & A with Erin Beaty

I recently managed to partner with Macmillan International, and they sent me an ARC of The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty. To be honest, I requested this book because of the controversy surrounding it. Still, I delved into the book with an open mind so that I could form an objective opinion. Thankfully, my optimism paid off; I enjoyed the book a lot, so much so that I wished to have a written interview with the author. If you want to know more about my thoughts on TTK, you can check out my review. Overall, I honestly believe that TTK is a great start to a riveting trilogy. I hope that you will enjoy getting to know the author as much as I did. ^^

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  1. What was your inspiration for the not-so-fantastical world in TTK? I actually enjoyed it because it reminded me of The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski.

“I get compared to that trilogy a lot, which is a huge compliment, but I honestly didn’t read it until I was in the final stages of editing TTK with my publisher. It was a bit of bummer to see all the similarities because it meant I hadn’t done something as unique as I’d thought. My inspiration was drawn heavily from my background in personality typing, which always made me curious about dating websites that used those kinds of tests in matching people. Coupled with phase of reading a lot of Tudor-era books, both fiction and non-fiction, with all the marriages and divorces for political advantage, it set the wheels in motion for wondering if a matching system would have worked or been handy in those times. I could see it being necessary to hold a weak nation together and also see the women running the system as a way to protect each other. It could easily become more powerful than most people (particularly men) realized. But if one group can game the system to their advantage, so can another. Who would even notice it but the matchmakers? Plot!”

  1. What made you decide to feature colored characters in your novel? What is your take on the importance of diversity in YA literature?

“I mostly created a world with a history of several different cultures and environments, some that were related to each other in development and some that weren’t. When it came to nailing down what people from regions generally looked like, I mostly relied on the geography and climate I’d created. In a couple of cases I made people look specifically unlike the real-world people they were kind of based on or the people they were working with or against. You have to be able to both tell people apart and tell where someone’s from by their looks. When it all came together, it seemed fairly diverse, but there wasn’t really a super conscious effort to make it so. Diversity is important, though, because the real world is diverse. If one particular ethnicity or skin color or gender or sexuality is always the good guy or the bad guy or the sidekick or absent altogether, it’s harmful. Good and bad exist across the spectrum, just like people.”

  1. How did your educational background (your degree in rocket science) affect your writing of TTK?

“Engineering at its heart is about the interaction of forces and the creation of complex systems, and I love that stuff. If that background helped, it was in always looking for the way events interact. Real world societies are a product of engineering – internal and external events coming together and functioning as a team of sorts. It also can make me obsess over getting some details right. My friends are teasing me about how I’m frustrated that the physics of an event in Book 2 aren’t working and need major revisions, but dang it, that’s important to me!”

  1. Sage is undeniably an empowered female protagonist, and her male peers gradually learn to appreciate her true worth. With that in mind, what gender roles/stereotypes did you aim to explore/debunk in TTK?

“You say that like I meant to do it. I love the butt-kicking female protagonists I grew up reading, but I found few friends interested in those stories because they felt intimidated by or unconnected to a girl who likes to hit things. A friend once told me women doctors and fighter pilots and dragon slayers are inspiring, but she hated feeling like she was inadequate or wrong because she didn’t want to do any of those things herself. I totally understand that – nurses and teachers and mothers are just as worthy of admiration. As for me, a 5 foot 6, medium build woman, I only look threatening to my kids, so what made me formidable or a legitimate authority in a male-dominated Navy? Rank will only get you so far. You have to be willing to learn, ready to act, and one step ahead of the crowd. Sage is all of those things, and she does it mostly within the confines of a traditional gender role. In fact, that’s her advantage. There are things only she can accomplish because she’s a woman, and a smallish one at that. Additionally, I think her finding romance with a military man is appropriate because competency is what matters most to them in succeeding. I guess if there’s a message to young women, it’s work with what you got where you are. There are many, many ways to make a difference or save the day – find the one that fits your strengths.”

  1. What inspired you to explore or emphasize the political aspect of marriage in TTK? If you were in Sage’s shoes, would you be willing to marry for power or connections?

“Political marriages were historically important across all cultures, and still are in many places of the world, so everyone is familiar with it. That’s not to say it’s right, just realistic. But I love the idea of “powerless” women turning that system to their advantage. As for being in Sage’s shoes, in her case there’s no real advantage to marrying her, which is incredibly freeing. Anyone who married her would have to really want to. If there were some advantage or peace between nations to be gained, then I might be willing to accept marrying under those circumstances. Might. Possibly sacrificing my own happiness to save lives is a worthy cause to consider. Very logical, in fact: the needs of one versus the needs of many. But I would go into it with open eyes, and I would make sure my husband did, too.”

  1. As a debut author, how do you respond to both praise and criticism?

“I try to avoid seeing much of either, and I respond sparingly, even to the nice stuff. If it’s praise, it can give a false sense of security and pride, which makes you lazy, not to mention high-and-mighty. Or it can make you insecure because you feel you don’t deserve it. Criticism (and praise) often has as much to do with the critic as the work, so it’s important to take it all with a grain of salt. Things that come from outside my target audience matter less, but criticism always hurts. Always. And that can be just as damaging to the creative process, not to mention mental health. But I do need to know what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong and how I can improve, so I can’t ignore what people are saying either. I see what others point out to me, mostly. It gets filtered by people with less of a personal stake in the work. Veteran authors have said that’s the best strategy. It helps that I have a busy life outside writing, so I just don’t have much time to deal with it anyway.”

  1. What can you tell us about the sequel to TTK? Does it already have a title?

“I’m hacking my way through the jungle of revisions right now, so I both don’t know what I’m allowed to say and what I can say because plot points are still in flux. I can say that even people who love each other very much still have a lot to work out, and we all carry our own demons. As for bad guys, sometimes they aren’t really bad people, they’re just caught in a bad situation, fighting for their survival. It does have a title (as does #3!), but I think there’s going to be a reveal down the road, so I have to keep it to myself for now, sorry!”

Fin

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About the author:

Erin Beaty was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, which means she can’t drive a tractor, but she won’t eat veggies that come from a can. She graduated from the US Naval Academy with a degree in rocket science and somehow always ended up writing her study group’s lab reports. After serving in the fleet as a weapons officer and a leadership instructor, she resigned to pursue her side hobby of populating the Church of Rome. It still amazes her when other people want to hear the stories that come out of her head.

She and her husband have five children, two cats, and a vegetable garden and live wherever the navy tells them to go.

Visit Erin’s website

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Author Interview

Q & A with Rosalyn Eves

Last month, I had the pleasure of reading Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves. It turned out to be one of the most refreshing and enlightening novels I have read this year. If you want to know more about this debut novel, feel free to check out my review. BRB has been on sale since March 28, and I hope that this interview will encourage you to read it. It’s never too late to join this book’s growing fan base! ❤

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1. What do roses signify in your book? Are you particularly attached to them?

“I’ve always loved roses–I blame the fact that my favorite fairy tales as a kid all featured roses prominently (the rose hedge that grew up around Sleeping Beauty’s castle, the roses in Robin McKinley’s Beauty). In my head, roses are connected with folklore and magic. In the book itself, roses serve minor roles–Anna’s older sister Catherine has chosen a rose as her soul sign (an illusion she casts to signify her magic), and roses play a small role in a pivotal scene at the climax of the book. The roses on the cover are a little more significant. Not only do they nod to the title, but my designer choose them as a symbol of feminine strength–the fact that Anna is a strong character while also being a fairly typical Victorian teenager.”

2. What was your inspiration for the intricate magic system in Blood Rose Rebellion

“I’m not sure that I had a specific inspiration, but I really love the magic system in Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse (and also knew I didn’t want to duplicate that!). I spent a lot of time brainstorming possible divisions of magic with my husband and we came up with four and then spent a couple hours with an English-Latin dictionary looking for possible names (magic that manipulates living things–Animanti; magic that manipulates thoughts and dreams–Coremancer; magic that controls elements–Elementalist, formerly Alchemist; and magic that influences forces–Lucifera).”

3. If you were a character in Blood Rose Rebellion, what kind of Luminate would you be (and why)?

“I’d probably be Elementalist simply because that is the most common type–but I’d secretly want to be Lucifera, as they are often the most powerful. If readers are interested in finding out what order they’d belong to, I have a quick quiz on my website: http://www.rosalyneves.com/extras/.”

4. YA Dystopian novels have been relatively low-key nowadays. With that in mind, what made you decide to write one, and what did you do to make your novel stand out?

“This is an interesting question, as I haven’t really thought of my story as dystopian (in my mind, they’re usually present day or futuristic), but I can see how the controlling government in Anna’s world could be seen that way. I’m always interested in the ways that people navigate oppressive governments, how they decide to speak and when to stay silent, and a lot of those themes were playing through my mind as I wrote. As far as standing out, I think the setting in Eastern Europe (specifically, Hungary) with the links to Hungarian folklore is something readers haven’t seen very often.”

5. Blood Rose Rebellion explores the struggle between the upper and lower classes. How do you think can we solve this problem in real life?

“Wow, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I think we see lots of friction around class and socioeconomic divides in today’s world–and I think if the solution was easy someone would have figured it out already. Personally, I think it’s important for there to be social programs in place to help people who are most vulnerable, but I also think that we have to work as individuals to expand our own empathy. Outside of interacting with people who belong to different classes and social groups, I think reading is one of the best ways to do this.”

6. Blood Rose Rebellion is also a very educational novel in light of its historical content. Gleaning upon this, what do you think is the modern significance or relevance of the Austrian-Hungarian War?

“Another great question! One of the parallels that seems striking in light of recent world events is the rise of nationalism in 19th century Europe. While the nationalistic fervor brought on lots of useful reforms (in Hungary, for instance, Latin, not Hungarian, was the language of government until well into the 19th century, and the rise in nationalism encouraged a flowering of Hungarian literature), it also created a lot of tension that (temporarily) fractured the Austria-Hungarian empire and revolutions in lots of surrounding countries. I find it incredibly ironic that even as Hungarian patriots fought for recognition and independence from Austria, they didn’t recognize similar claims within their own borders from Croatians and Romanians living there. I think a certain degree of patriotism is natural, but when it veers into nationalism it can be dangerous as it leads us to ignore voices outside that particular nationality.”

7. If you were given the chance to live in a book, which book would you choose (and why)?
“This is probably not the most original answer, but I would love to live in JK Rowling’s world–I want to go to school at Hogwarts and try all kinds of sweets at Hogsmeade–and while this world was dangerous under Voldemort’s tenure, it seems less likely to kill me than some of my other favorite fictional worlds! (Like the Grishaverse or Middle Earth).”

Fin

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About the author:

Rosalyn Eves grew up in the Rocky Mountains, dividing her time between reading books and bossing her siblings into performing her dramatic scripts. As an adult, the telling and reading of stories is still one of her favorite things to do. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys spending time with her chemistry professor husband and three children, watching British period pieces, or hiking through the splendid landscape of southern Utah, where she lives. She dislikes housework on principle.

She has a PhD in English from Penn State, which means she also endeavors to inspire college students with a love for the English language. Sometimes it even works.

Visit Rosalyn’s website

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Author Interview

Q & A with Brigid Kemmerer

I recently read Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars in light of its intriguing premise and very meaningful content. You can check out my full review here. I hope that this interview will encourage you to read LTTL when it comes out on April 4, 2017 (next week).

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1. What was your inspiration for LTTL? Were you guided/motivated by a particular experience in life?

“I remember sitting on the couch watching You’ve Got Mail and thinking, “I wish I could rewrite this as a teen story. But darker. Like maybe if someone was leaving letters in a cemetery…” And then it just kept evolving from there until it became its own story.”

2. If you were in Declan’s shoes, would reply to Juliet’s emotional letter? If yes, what would you tell her?

“Well, I’m a 39-year-old mom, so I would probably write back to her with a mother’s perspective and tell her how her memories of her mother are nothing anyone can ever take from her. And I would tell her that grief takes time, and it wasn’t something she could rush. And finally, I would tell her to come over to my house for dinner and cry on my shoulder and it would all be OK.”

3. Both Declan and Juliet have big problems to overcome. With that in mind, which character was the most difficult to write about?

“They were both difficult to write about. Their stories are so emotionally charged. I sobbed over Declan, I sobbed over Juliet, and in Rev’s book, More Than We Can Tell (coming March 2018), I sobbed over him too.”

4. LTTL explores the repercussions of the human tendency to be judgmental or presumptuous. What do you think should we do to overcome it?

“I think that we’ve gotten to this place with society where everything is expected to be fast and immediate. We make snap judgments all the time, based on an incredibly small sampling of information. I think that’s beginning to take a toll on interpersonal relationships. I mean, a lot of people date using an app where you swipe left or right if you’re interested in someone. You’re making a dating judgment from a thumbnail picture! I’m not saying that’s wrong, but there’s no way it can’t bleed into our personal lives and how quickly we judge and react to others around us, and we should be aware of it.”

5. In LTTL, Rev is depicted to quote a verse from the book of Proverbs. How would you react if readers would classify your novel as “Christian”?

“I’d be surprised, since Rev is not the main character, but I’d be okay with it too. I was raised Catholic, and while I’m not religious now, I consider myself a spiritual person, and I love learning about others’ faiths. I find faith and religion to be fascinating, and I love hearing different people’s interpretations of it and learning about their relationship with God.”

6. If you became a teenager again, would you be able to fall in love with someone through an anonymous, pen pal relationship?

“Absolutely!”

7. Briefly describe Declan and Juliet’s perfect date.

“Oh wow. Probably somewhere quiet that they could walk and talk. I live near Annapolis, Maryland, where the book is set, and there are a lot of beaches and waterways here. (We’re on the Chesapeake Bay.) I can see them going to one of the local parks to walk by the water and talk. Holding hands, of course. 🙂

“Thank you so much for having me!”

Fin

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About the Author:

Brigid Kemmerer is the author of Letters to the Lost (Bloomsbury; April 4, 2017), a dark, contemporary Young Adult romance;  Thicker Than Water (Kensington, December 29, 2015), a New Adult paranormal mystery with elements of romance; and the YALSA-nominated Elemental series of five Young Adult novels and three e-novellas which Kirkus Reviews calls “refreshingly human paranormal romance” and School Library Journal describes as “a new take on the supernatural genre.” She lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and four sons.

Visit Brigid’s website

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Author Interview

Q & A with Christina June

Hi, booknerds! Dessa and I recently read an ARC of It Started with Goodbye by debut author Christina June.

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We genuinely enjoyed this contemporary retelling of Cinderella (both of us gave it 5 out of 5 stars), and we can hardly wait for the rest of the YA community to read it. If you want to know more about ISWG, feel free to check out our review. We hope that this written interview will encourage you to pick up ISWG when it comes out on May 9, 2017. Happy reading!

1. The title of your book is open to interpretation, so what does it mean to you personally?

The original title of the book was VALEDICTIONS, which is just the long word for saying goodbye, usually at the closing of a letter.  My publishing team came up with something a little more catchy, but the definition of a valediction will appear on the back of the finished copy–both what the dictionary says and Tatum’s more snarky explanation.  I’m glad it survived!  At the beginning of the novel, there are many goodbyes–Tatum to her father, Tatum to her best friend, Tatum to her summer of fun–that turn into new beginnings and opportunities, so I think the title fits well.”

2. What version of Cinderella do you like more, the Grimm version or the Disney version?

I grew up on the Disney version, and Disney-like versions in the fairy tale anthologies my mom would read from at bedtime.  I like that it has a hopeful ending and that Cinderella gets away from her unfortunate home.  But, I do enjoy the Grimm’s version as well.  I like the step-family getting a little justice.  I used an awesome website out of the University of Pittsburgh when I was doing research that lists the Cinderella trope in all the cultures where it occurs.  It’s fascinating how the same story cropped up, just different details, all over the world.”

3. Romance is a minor theme in your novel. Was this done intentionally, and would you describe Tatum and SK’s relationship as true love?

I would certainly say Tatum and SK are a great match and could definitely fall in love down the line.  While romance is pretty central to the original Cinderella story, I purposely made sure all the relationships in Tatum’s life–family and friends–were examined as well.  Not every teen falls in love, or is hoping to, but I believe we all need a strong support network.”

4. Tatum and her stepmother had a really tough relationship. What is your message to those who are in the same situation?

I would hope that readers would feel empowered to stand up for the things that are important to them.  Just because someone you love has a different idea of what happiness or success looks like doesn’t make your dream less valid.”

5. What is the story behind Tatum’s name? (It inevitably reminded us of Channing Tatum) xD

Honestly, it’s just a name I like and not one that I’ve seen much in YA.  It does make me think of Channing Tatum, though, and that’s never a bad thing.”

6. ISWG deals with family and friend issues. Is the book somehow inspired by a significant part of your life?

No, nothing specific from my own life informed this story, but universal emotions certainly did.  I observe a lot of teens struggling with the moment they discover their parents, or other important adults in their lives, come with their own baggage.  It can be a hard pill to swallow, but as we see from Tatum’s story, having that context can be really eye-opening.”

7. What did you like about the process of writing a fairy tale retelling?

I love that fairy tales are easily recognizable and make for a good starting place with a brand new story.  It was really fun taking the classic elements and turning them into something new.  A lot of retellings, especially in YA, are fantasy or science fiction, so I wanted to do a contemporary story with no magic.  It was important to me that Tatum feel like an “everygirl” and not a damsel in distress.”

Fin

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About the author:

Christina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor.  She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters.

Christina is a voracious reader, loves to travel, eats too many cupcakes, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland.  She lives just outside Washington DC with her husband and daughter.

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