Saturday, December 31, 2011

Debut Author Challenges: 2011 Wrap-Up, 2012 Start-Up

I've finally had the chance to look through everything I've read this year and pull out the debut novels -- as you might remember, my original goal in the challenge was to read 30 debuts.

Well, I surpassed that a little bit.

I read a total of 56 debut novels in 2011. I didn't review them all simply out of time's sake. In all that reading, I got to meet some great new voices and I'm eager to check out what many of these authors do next.

As you know, I've been talking about debut novels over at The Hub, YALSA's book blog, and doing this challenge helped me become familiar enough with the books to talk about them.

So I'm going to join again in 2012.

I think I'll raise my goal a tiny bit this year and aim to read 32 debut novels. I'll update my list as the year progresses, linking to reviews.

1. The Girls of No Return by Erin Saldin
2. May B by Caroline Starr Rose
3. Me & Earl & The Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
4. Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic
5. Various Positions by Martha Schabas
6. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M Danforth
7. Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield
8. Black Boy, White School by Brian F. Walker
9. Kiss the Morning Star by Elissa Janine Hoole
10. Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
11. Survive by Alex Morel
12. Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price
13. The Princesses of Iowa by M Molly Backes
14. All These Lives by Sarah Wylie
15. Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
16. Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
17. Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock
18. The Little Woods by McCormick Templeman
19. Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne
20. After the Snow by SD Crockett
21. Personal Effects by EM Kokie
22. Long Lankin by Lindsay Barraclough
23. Cracked by K.M. Walton
24. Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham
25. Butter by Erin Jade Lange
26. Send Me A Sign by Tiffany Schmidt
27. Through to You by Emily Hainsworth
28. What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton
29. Skinny by Donna Cooner
30. If I Lie by Corrine Jackson 
31. Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos
32. Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Maldonia
33. This is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell
34. What She Left Behind by Tracy Bilen
35. Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things by Katherine Burak

I'm not going to make a list of everything I plan on reading because I found that didn't do much for me last year. I'd rather discover things along the way, rather than feel stuck to some sort of list. But a handful of debut titles I am really looking forward to diving into in 2012 include:

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham
Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Through to You by Emily Hainsworth
Survive by Alex Morel
Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt
Me & Earl & The Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

I've got a stack of other books sitting beside my shelves, too. I'm eager to dive in and hit that lofty 2012 challenge goal. I'm going to do better about reviewing after finishing, as I'd like to try to review more of the titles I read in the coming year.

Continue reading...

12 Days of Class 2k12 @ STACKED: Wrap up

Thanks for stopping by and reading through the posts by some of the members of the Class of 2k12. This is only a handful of the members of this group of debut novelists, so I encourage you to drop by their website and find out more about those who will be releasing their novels later in the year.

If you want a chance to win a pre-order of any one of the books talked about in our Class 2k12 series, make sure you've read and commenting on a post or two from the series (you can see them all right here). I'll pick a random winner and announce that later this evening.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm excited to experience a host of new voices in the coming year! I hope you enjoyed this series as much as I did and hopefully, you found a book or two to add to your 2012 reading lists.

Continue reading...

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Great ALA Midwinter YA Blogger Meetup: Texas Style, Ya'll

We're on again, and this time, we're in Texas. Dallas to be exact.

Why is this important? Well, STACKED was founded in Texas and two of the three of us will be able to make the meet up. So that means something to us!

Come on out for the low key event for YA bloggers (a loose term, of course, for those who blog about or write young adult books). I haven't made reservations and don't plan on it. The Iron Cactus has a big bar area, so we'll just grab a couple tables and have a low-key get together. It's pay your own way, with no obligation to stick around long.

Feel free to pass the word along to anyone else who might want to join and we'll put out another reminder as it gets closer.

Continue reading...

Guest Post: Lynne Kelly on her collection

The last guest post in our 12 days of the Class of 2k12 comes from Lynne Kelly (Chained, FSG, May). She's here to talk about her collection -- and it's one that shouldn't surprise you too much!

I've always loved elephants, but I wasn't until I was writing CHAINED that I started hoarding collecting them. They sit on the writing desk as inspiration. Certainly I have enough, but it seems like I always find another one that really, really wants me to take it home.

Here's one of the more recent additions, from an Etsy seller in Greece:

Adorable, isn't he? And he looks great with the rest of the family:

I should introduce the rest of the herd:
  • The dark wooden one I found on eBay
  • Horton, of course
  • In the back is a leather bank from Bookpeople in Austin
  • The light-colored figure is from a shop in Hawaii where the little shop owner nearly tackled my mom when she tried to leave without buying anything
  • The set in front are metal, from the Chautauqua bookstore when I was there for the Highlights Institute in 2008
  • And the round metal thing is an elephant bell, also from eBay.
That's not even the entire collection--there's also a wooden mother and baby, and a wooden elephant bell I ordered when I was writing a scene for CHAINED in which a character carves one. (So that one was really necessary, wasn't it? It's research!)

And I have enablers. Sometimes people who know I love elephants will pick up elephant things for me...

...and people love to tell me about cute elephant things they've seen, and of course I have to check them out and maybe buy them.

I can stop anytime I want, really.

Continue reading...

Twitterview: Lynne Kelly (Chained)

Lynne Kelly, author of Chained, a middle grade novel due out from FSG/Macmillan in May, is the last of our featured authors to stop by for 12 Days of Class of 2k12. She'll share her Twitterview today and tomorrow, we'll share her guest post, since hers comes complete with images. You can find Lynne Kelly on her website.

Pitch your book in 140 characters:
Two friends, one a boy, one an elephant, want to escape the circus and return to their homes, even if it means saying goodbye to each other.

Who will this book appeal to?
Readers who love elephants! Also anyone who'd like to read an adventure about a kid trying to find his way back home.

Favorite moment or character in your book:
I really liked writing about one of the secondary characters, Ne Min, because he has an interesting back story.

What's your writing routine?
It varies a lot, like my work schedule, & starts when I finally convince myself to get off the Internet & write.

What's your best piece of writing advice?
Find a good critique group you trust and listen to their advice.

What's been the most surprising part of the publishing journey?
How everything takes so long, when everything else seems to fly by.

What did you do when you learned your book would be published?
Reminded myself that running up and down the halls screaming at work would probably get me escorted out.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've received?
Even if you don't feel like writing, sit down to do just 15 minutes' worth; you'll probably end up doing more. Works for housecleaning too.

What are your top three favorite books?
The Sky Is Everywhere, Looking for Alaska, The Hunger Games

What's next for you?
A humorous YA mystery that's close to home, so it requires far less research!

Continue reading...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Guest Post: Sarvenaz Tash on her literary party

I'm so glad Sarvenez Tash (The Mapmaker and the Ghost, Bloomsbury/Walker, April 24) chose to write about her literary guest list, dinner menu, party games, and other activities for her guest post. I promise I don't say that only because she talks about the importance of glitter. Or handcuffs.
First of all, I LOVE throwing theme parties. My birthday is right before Halloween and for the past few years I've taken advantage of that and made my friends put those costume sales to double-use! I've thrown an 80s party, a 1920s murder mystery, a 90s prom, and a Beatles Rock Band party, to name just a few…

A literary party would be right up my alley. In fact, I may be getting an idea for next year [twirls imaginary mustache]…

Anyway. Guest list:
  • Elizabeth Bennet & Mr. Darcy (because the romantic banter would be killer)
  • Ron Weasley (for comic relief)
  • Hercule Poirot & Sherlock Holmes (I expect this dinner party to turn into a murder mystery and I would love to see these two butt heads over how to solve it)
  • Dolores Umbridge (well, if it's going to be a murder mystery, someone has to die, right?)
  • Turtle Wexler from The Westing Game (I bet she could even teach Poirot and Holmes a thing or two)
  • Harriet from Harriet the Spy (I'm guessing she and Turtle would get up to some precocious shenanigans)
  • Jamie Fraser from Outlander (just for the dreaminess factor: I had to do it!)
  • Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factor (who I imagine will add a healthy dose of insanity)
For dinner, I expect an elegant 4-course meal of roast pheasant, etc. such that Mr. Darcy is accustomed to. Dessert will likely be a preposterous 20-course affair such that Willy Wonka is accustomed to.

Obviously, the game that we'd play would be "Who Killed Dolores Umbridge?" I imagine this would take up much of the conversation as well (barring, of course, the romantic witty banter and comic relief).

As for parting gifts, someone is leaving in handcuffs! The rest, with the knowledge that justice has been served. Oh, okay, and something glittery. In my expert opinion, all parties are more successful with glitter.

Continue reading...

Twitterview: Sarvenaz Tash (The Mapmaker and The Ghost)

Sarvenaz Tash is the author of the forthcoming The Mapmaker and The Ghost, a middle grade novel due out from Bloomsbury/Walker April 24. You can find her on her website here.

Pitch your book in 140 characters:
Goldenrod is an 11-year-old explorer in for an adventure of a lifetime when she decides to map the forest behind her house.

Who will this book appeal to?
Boys, girls and anyone who likes adventure stories and funny going-ons (and maybe belly button lint).

Favorite moment or character in your book?
There's a point where "the Ghost" first appears to Goldenrod (my MC) and his dialogue makes me laugh to this day.

What's your writing routine?
Write a few pages, do some character sketches, outline, write a terrible first draft. Revise, revise, revise.

What's your best piece of writing advice?
Don't worry if you feel your first draft is rubbish: ALL first drafts are.

What's been the most surprising part of the publishing journey?
How much waiting is involved even after your book is accepted for publication!

What did you do when you learned your book would be published?
I went to Barnes & Noble and took a picture of the spot it would occupy on a shelf there.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've received?
From one of my fave screenwriting teachers: the ending needs to be inevitable yet unpredictable. (Very hard to do!)

What are your top three favorite books?
So hard! I'll say Pride and Prejudice, the Harry Potter books (cheating, I know) and Roald Dahl's The Witches.

What's next for you?
Working on a couple more MG books. One is a fantasy adventure and one is a contemporary mystery.

Continue reading...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Guest Post: J Anderson Coats on her best library memory

Talking about favorite library memories is apparently a popular topic, as J. Anderson Coats (The Wicked and the Just, Houghton Mifflin, April 17) chose to talk about hers today.

At Linwood Elementary, you looked forward to the fourth grade. That’s when you could apply to be an after-school library helper. Everyone – even the cool kids, among whom I definitely did not number – wanted to be a library helper. Being a library helper meant you got to hang out with Miss Wagner.

Miss Wagner was the kind of librarian who remembered not just your name, but what book you read last, what grade your brother was in and the color of your cat. She could identify any book ever written from the vaguest description. (“Umm. . . there’s a girl in it. . . I think she has blond hair. . . and there’s a pirate ship. . .”) And she had a way of listening when you talked that made it seem like the two of you were the only people on the planet.

When you were accepted to be a library helper, you chose the day you wanted to come in. And choosing “every day” wasn’t allowed. But there was something quietly magical about coming into the school library when everyone had gone home for the day. It was like a staging area for a hundred different little plays, waiting but not empty. Just being there made you a part of it.

I was too young to snicker at the mangy orange carpet or the chipped formica counter. I only saw the stuffed dragon presiding over the paperback corner and the bulletin board crammed full of book reviews written by kids. And there was Miss Wagner, surrounded by a crowd of eager library helpers, showing us how to shelve books, how to use the card catalog (the old-school one with honest-to-dog cards), and how to stamp due dates in those little boxes.

Mundane little tasks, true, but to fourth-grade me they were evidence of a world beyond the books themselves as artifacts, a way in which you could make a living surrounded by words and readers and stories.

I’d always loved visiting the library, but after three years as a library helper for Miss Wagner, the library became a place I belonged.

Continue reading...

Twitterview: J. Anderson Coats (The Wicked and the Just)

J. Anderson Coats stops by today to talk a bit about The Wicked and the Just, due out April 17 from Houghton Mifflin. You can find her on her website.

Pitch your book in 140 characters:

1293. English girl unwillingly moves to a walled town in north Wales. Welsh servants are fun to torment. Life is good. If you’re English.

Who will this book appeal to?

People who like secondary worlds (including the past), snarky girls, power struggles, justice, cruelty, comeuppance, and a body count.

Favorite moment or character in your book:

At the end, there’s a scene where Cecily realizes the consequences of her actions. It’s gripping, abrupt and devastating, and it changes her completely.

What's your writing routine?

Alarm goes off at 5 am. Shower. Write till 6:30. Daydream about the middle ages while at the day job. Daydream while doing dishes and laundry. Write between the cracks.

What's your best piece of writing advice?

Don’t be afraid to write crap. You can fix weak plot, infodump and transparent motivation in the next draft. You can’t fix what isn’t there.

What's been the most surprising part of the publishing journey?

Copyedits. I thought they’d be a breeze since I’m a big grammar nerd and took four years of Latin, but I ended up getting taken to school.

What did you do when you learned your book would be published?

Enjoyed the moment. Honestly, I always knew I’d get here. I worked too hard not to. I just didn’t know when.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've received?

Learn to write this book. Don’t get hung up on rules and formulas. Every book is different. Write it the way it wants to be written.

What are your top three favorite books?

THE NAME OF THE ROSE by Umberto Eco. The LITTLE HOUSE series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson.

What's next for you?

More snarky girls in the middle ages. A curse. Some battlefield medicine. A higher body count. Maybe a boy or two.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Guest Post: Eve Marie Mont on her best library memory

Eve Marie Mont is sharing her favorite library memory as part of the 12 Days of the Class of 2k12 today.

When I was a child, our home was always filled with great books. My parents are both classicists and teachers, so the study of history and language was an integral part of our upbringing. But my parents were no intellectual snobs. They read Dr. Seuss along with the Greek myths, Winnie the Pooh along with the Bible. As we grew older, they shared with us their own beloved favorite books: Little Women and Nancy Drew for my mom, Sherlock Holmes and James Herriot for my dad.

I can attribute my love of reading today to the way I was taught to love and appreciate books as a child. And while my mother was the one who usually read us our bedtime stories, my dad was the one who took us to the library. Some of my fondest childhood memories take place at the Fox Chase Library, where my dad would leave us to our own devices for an hour or more while he went to look for his own books. I loved to explore the stacks, reading the blurbs on the back jackets, eyeing the fascinating covers, and adding to my stack. It was there at my local library that I discovered “Choose Your Own Adventure” books and Sweet Valley High, Judy Blume and Lois Duncan, Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury, Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë. To this day, whenever I dream about a library (and I really do dream about libraries), I conjure up the library of my childhood.

Even now, one of my favorite things to do is go to my local library and amass a huge stack of books, then take them home and spread them all around me. My reward is to allow myself an hour in which to read the first chapter of each book, putting them in the order in which I want to read them. When I tell my students about this odd ritual, they think I’m a huge nerd, which of course, I am. But I don’t care—my love affair with books has been one of the most enduring and enriching of my life.

When I hear about budgets being slashed and libraries being closed all over the country, I am disheartened to think that some day, children might not have the opportunity I did to discover their passions and personalities in the pages of a library book. For now, I will continue to support and frequent my local library and hope that people never start believing libraries are frivolous nonessentials. I’d hate to live in a world that had forgotten that the best things in life—love, friendship, nature, and yes, reading—are truly free.

Continue reading...

Twitterview: Eve Marie Mont (A Breath of Eyre)

Eve Marie Mont, author of A Breath of Eyre (Kensington Books, April 1), can be found at her website, Facebook, Twitter, Blog, GoodReads, and Youtube. I may have let her go over the 140-character limit, too.

Pitch your book in 140 characters:

A girl gets transported into Jane Eyre, falls in love, and must decide whether her destiny lies in the pages of Jane’s story or in the unwritten chapters of her own.

Who will this book appeal to?

Fans of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, literary retellings, Victorian manners, dramatic weather, brooding men, thwarted love, lush romance.

Favorite moment or character in your book:

I’d have to say Gray is my favorite character. Haunted. Brooding. Complex. Sensitive. Protective. And since he’s from Boston, wicked sexy.

What's your writing routine?

Binge-write like mad for a few weeks, stall out, set book aside, ponder and marinate, rinse and repeat.

What's your best piece of writing advice?

Don’t forget to shower, brush your teeth, eat, and exercise. Allow yourself crappy first drafts. Find beta readers. Stay off the Internet. Above all, have fun.

What's been the most surprising part of the publishing journey?

I spend almost as much time emailing, blogging, and social networking as I do writing fiction.

What did you do when you learned your book would be published?
First I screamed. I might have cried. Then my husband bought a bottle of Prosecco and we went to our favorite Italian restaurant to celebrate.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've received?

Butt in chair.

What are your top three favorite books?

Jane Eyre (of course), The Secret Garden, and A.S. Byatt’s Possession.

What's next for you?

A Touch of Scarlet, the sequel to A Breath of Eyre, which continues the adventures of Emma Townsend as she travels into Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

Continue reading...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Guest Post: AC Gaughen on her literary guest list

AC Gaughen, author of Scarlet (February 14, Bloomsbury/Walker), is talking today about her first literary party, including who would be invited, what would be on the menu, what the topics of conversation would be, and much more.

My guest list would be of the paramount importance. First, I would like to put Elinor Dashwood and Heathcliff together for dinner so that her sensibilities could be deeply offended and he could start shredding his napkin into furiously tiny pieces (in a wounded, endearing way, of course). Then I would put the young Alanna (Tortall series, Tamora Pierce) next to Katniss, so that they could argue over who is tougher and over all cooler. Then Katsa from Graceling would walk over and rock both of their socks off.

And who would be at my table? Well, I would take Magnus from the Mortal Instruments series, Clay from 13 Reasons Why, and Robin, John and Much from my own SCARLET. Is that not allowed? Because I would so like to hang out with all of those guys. Magnus likes to throw out all these sassy references from having lived for hundreds of years while still being fabulously gay, Clay is moody but sincere in a way that I would really like to get to know better, Robin is a huge grump with a total hero complex, John’s a ladies man with a heart of gold and Much is just a total sweetheart. However, I cannot stress enough that I will be the only girl allowed at this table. It’s my party, and I want some attention.

Let’s keep it small; we’ll cut the guest list off there. It’s better if Howl and all the other characters who think they are just so special don’t get invited this time so next time they’ll be dying to come.

Now, this is some pretty good company, so obviously I’d be attempting to make myself look good. I’d make crab cakes for an appetizer, because I really do make a great crab cake and they reheat well, so I wouldn’t be stressing about food instead of primping for the party. Priorities, people! Then I’d make my amazing slow cooker barbecue chicken for the same reason--it’s easy, stays warming, and I don’t have to fuss. Then I would buy cornbread from Tennessee BBQ but say that I made it myself.

And for dessert? I am a cupcake wizard, and I have recently perfected a peanut-butter filled chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting to go along with my Nutella filled vanilla and butter cream cupcake. By the time the dinner party rolls around, I will have learned to make an insane carrot cake cupcake, I assure you, and will serve this trifecta of deliciousness to my guests.

Then after that? WORLD DOMINATION.

Continue reading...

Twitterview: AC Gaughen (Scarlet)

AC Gaughen is the author of the forthcoming Scarlet, to be published on Valentine's Day by Bloomsbury/Walker books. You can find her on her website, on Twitter, and on Facebook (her fanpage and her book's fanpage).

Pitch your book in 140 characters:
SCARLET is a YA version of Robin Hood, with a butt kicking girl where Will Scarlet once stood.

Who will this book appeal to?
Teen girls looking for a slightly tougher, grumpier heroine!

Favorite moment or character in your book:
A scene where Rob and Scar fight and end up confessing secrets. While wrestling.

What's your writing routine?
Go to Panera, plug in earphones, and block out the world. With refillable caffeine.

What's your best piece of writing advice?
Just keep going.

What's been the most surprising part of the publishing journey?
How awesome working with other people in publishing is!

What did you do when you learned your book would be published?
Bawled. And tried not to get into a car accident. While bawling.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've received?
“It will happen, because it has to happen,” from Anthony Horowitz

What are your top three favorite books?
Don’t make me pick favorite children, it’s cruel.

What's next for you?
Currently working on a contemporary YA about art and graffiti in Boston. Totally different!

Continue reading...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

12 Days of Class 2k12 @ STACKED

The first half of our 12 Days of the Class of 2k12 comes to a close today, and we hope you've enjoyed getting to know Sarah Tregay, Caroline Starr Rose, and Megan Bostic. They've told us a bit about their books and offered us up an interesting assortment of guest posts. You can go back and read them all by clicking here.

Don't forget -- at the end of next week, one commenter will win their choice of pre-orders from among the books featured.

We're taking today and tomorrow off for the holiday, but we'll be back starting Monday, featuring authors AC Gaughen, Eve Marie Mont, J. Anderson Coats, Sarvenaz Tash, and Lynne Kelly.

Continue reading...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Guest Post: Megan Bostic on her super creature

Today, Megan Bostic (author of the forthcoming Never Eighteen) talks a little bit about what her super creature would be. The actual prompt for the guest post was this: Zombies, vampires, werewolves, fairies, mermaids, and other creatures have left a mark on our society. Your mission is to combine a well-known creature with something from our world and develop a super creature. Explain what it is, what its strengths and weaknesses are, and why we should be afraid to sleep at night. Megan even went the extra mile and shows us an image of this creature.

My super creature is a Leopryad. It’s part Leopard, part tree nymph. The legend is, in the time of early man, a hunter came across a pregnant, slumbering leopard. He approached silently, and hit her over the head with a club, then stabbed her. She woke and attacked and killed the hunter. Injured, she crawled into the recess of a nearby tree, where she and her unborn cubs died. Her spirit became one with the tree, creating the Leopryad. Her babies followed suit as saplings.

Now the Leopryads are born from trees, and they become their birth tree's guardian. They not only live among the trees, but are able to merge with them, essentially becoming part of it. They use this gift as camouflage, and it’s best not to seek them out. They asexually reproduce, so now can be found worldwide, though they prefer to live where there are clear skies and an abundance of trees.

They are peaceful by nature and despise violence; however, they fight to protect the trees from the enemies of nature. They are especially dangerous during the Christmas season.

Leopryads are elusive, and largely nocturnal. They are very agile, and can run at over 40 mph and jump up to 20 feet.

Being carnivores with a voracious appetite, hunting for food is a natural instinct and not considered violence. Like the leopard, they stalk their prey silently, pounce on it at the last minute, and strangle its throat with a quick bite.

Land development has forced the Leopryads to venture into more urban areas to hunt. They will prey on any living creature they come across, however, prefer human flesh to the gamey meat of wild animals. They’ve been known to especially target those they know have violated the trees—whom they kill slowly. Leopards have no reservations about entering houses to feed their need for flesh, so it’s best to keep your doors and windows locked at night.

Mostly mute, Leopryads communicate with one another with body language, facial expressions, and vocalizations. They are one with each other as they are one with nature, and when not hunting or defending the trees, can be found frolicking and dancing together in the deepest realm of the forests.

Continue reading...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Twitterview: Megan Bostic (Never Eighteen)

Megan Bostic is the author of the upcoming Never Eighteen, due out January 17 from Houghton Mifflin. Check out her website here, where she also links to her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts.

Pitch your book in 140 characters:
Austin Parker, seeing the world through dying eyes, wants his loved ones to see the value of their own lives before it’s too late.

Who will this book appeal to?
Teens and adults, alike, who like books about friendship, life, and love. Anyone who wants to make a difference in the lives of others.

Favorite moment or character in your book:
When Austin and Kayle hike up Mt. Rainier to see comet falls and talk about what the future may or may not hold for them.

What's your writing routine?
Organized chaos. I sit, I write, no stopping, no outlining. I always make sure there are pens, coffee, and a pile of sticky notes close by.

What's your best piece of writing advice?
Never surrender and always work to be better.

What's been the most surprising part of the publishing journey?
How utterly long it takes from conception to publication.

What did you do when you learned your book would be published?
I went to Disneyland. I’m kidding. I was in Disneyland when I found out, so I celebrated on the rides with my family.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've received?
To never stop trying to improve my craft. As writers we will never reach perfection, but we should try hard to get as close as we can.

What are your top three favorite books?
This answer probably changes daily. Today I’m going to say, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Stand, and Fahrenheit 451.

What's next for you?
I’m working on another YA novel that I’m hoping will find its way to the shelves in the next couple of years.

Continue reading...

2011 in Review: Kimberly's Picks

This was a good year for science fiction. On the SFF scale, I've always leaned more towards fantasy. Lately though, the YA fantasy field has been overcrowded with paranormal books (which really aren't my thing). There just haven't been many well-written books along the lines of Graceling (where the magic doesn't occur in our own world). Science fiction is a different story. It started with the dystopia movement and I'm pleased to say it's progressed beyond that subgenre to some straight-up old school scifi goodness. The trend continues beyond this year. I am very much looking forward to it.

All of that is to say there were some real standouts in science fiction this year. In fact, despite my deep and abiding love for all things dystopian, the standout sci fi novels weren't dystopias. Of course, my favorite book of the year was a fantasy, and a paranormal one at that...

Best book of 2011: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
No need to recap why - I've said it at least half a dozen times already.

There are a smattering of runners-up, and here is where the sci fi shines: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan, A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan (which I didn't review, but Kelly did), and Tankborn by Karen Sandler. Karen Healey's moving fantasy The Shattering and A. S. King's literary novel Everybody Sees the Ants round out my top picks of the year.

Even the almost-great science fiction offerings were better than usual: Variant by Robison Wells, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and Ashes by Ilsa Bick all exceeded my expectations. Keep it up, authors. The science fiction field is so fertile for new and genuinely innovative stuff. I except to see some of that in 2012.

Book I most look forward to sharing in 2012: Cinder by Marissa Meyer
If Cinder is any indication, my wish for 2012 will be granted. Look for a review of this very early next year. I know it's been getting a lot of buzz. It's deserved.

Most anticipated sequel of 2012: Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan (July) and the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone (September) are neck and neck here. Insurgent (May) is a solid third, but I don't feel the itch to get my hands on it like I do the others.

Most disappointing: Chime by Franny Billingsley & Dust and Decay by Jonathan Maberry
These two share the dubious honor in this category, but for very different reasons. Chime was almost the polar opposite of what I enjoy in a book, whereas Dust and Decay was well-written and exciting but too much of a rehash of the first book in the series to be in satisfying.

Cutest: Long Tail Kitty by Lark Pien
By a long shot. Is there anything cuter than this book? No, there is not. Dare I say it - it might be even cuter than some of your children. (This is a 2009 book, but I read it this year, so I'm including it.)

Best surprise: Clarity by Kim Harrington
I was so surprised - and pleased - by how much I enjoyed this mystery with a paranormal twist. Clare's voice is among the best I read all year.

Book most in need of some judicious editing: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
It had potential. When I'm at my most grandiose, I like to think I could have whipped this book into shape. And then I remember that writing and editing are always harder than they seem.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Guest Post: Caroline Starr Rose on May B's Inspiration

Today's guest post from Caroline Starr Rose is a behind-the-scenes look at the inspirations and research behind her novel May B.

I’ve always had an interest in the women of the frontier, stemming from my love for the Little House on the Prairie books. As a child, I’d talk about Laura Ingalls Wilder as if she were someone I personally knew and spent hours wondering about her world.

When I got older, I thought about pioneer life through the eyes of a teacher. In those days, the schoolhouse focus on recitation and memorization favored students able to do these things well. But what about the kids who found these in-front-of-the-class lessons difficult? How did they manage?

There’s a character in the Laura books named Willie Olsen, an ill-mannered boy who often sat in the corner during lesson time. As a kid, I labeled him a bad boy; as a teacher, I wondered if there was something more going on. Maybe Willie was a poor student and a goof-off because he had a learning disability. Maybe he couldn’t grasp his school work not because he wasn’t capable, but because no one had taught him how.

I actually began my frontier research without any clear idea where I was headed but trusted the story would come to me as I became familiar with the era. Originally, I thought my character would be a mail-order bride abandoned by her new husband. It’s interesting to note that I do make mention of mail-order brides in MAY B. and that much of the story hinges on May’s abandonment.

Two books that really spoke to me during the research phase were PIONEER WOMEN: VOICES OF THE KANSAS FRONTIER and READ THIS ONLY TO YOURSELF: THE PRIVATE WRITINGS OF MIDWESTERN WOMEN, 1880-1910. Journals and letters from this era were terse accounts of the mundane, literal and immediate. Recorded events followed a safe, predictable pattern. Once I noticed these things, I knew how to approach my story. I stopped writing prose and moved into a novel-in-verse format, where I felt I could get as close to the bone as possible with this character and her situation.

As for the survival aspect of the story, two books and one movie influenced my writing: THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, HATCHET, and CASTAWAY. My seventh-grade English teacher introduced me to THE COUNT, a book that remains my favorite to this day. I was especially drawn to the prison scenes, where Edmund Dantes is left alone in a dark cell, presumably for the rest of his life. I didn’t discover HATCHET until my college adolescent literature course, but immediately fell in love with this survival story full of despair, self-discovery, and ultimately rescue. The movie CASTAWAY captured my imagination, especially the challenge of telling the story of a person all alone who didn’t talk much (unless it was to a volleyball).

Putting it all together
In many ways, May’s story started years ago, before I knew her, back before I even dreamed of writing. That’s the way it works for me -- the blending of ideas, memories, questions, and impressions to make something new.

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