Five Stars to THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE by Sarah Harian

THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE – Book 1 in the Chaos Theory series
By Sarah Harian
Release Date – March 18th, 2014

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Amazon / B&N

Description:

 Evalyn Ibarra never expected to be an accused killer and experimental prison test subject. A year ago, she was a normal college student. Now she’s been sentenced to a month in the compass room—an advanced prison obstacle course designed by the government to execute justice.

If she survives, the world will know she’s innocent.

Locked up with nine notorious and potentially psychotic criminals, Evalyn must fight the prison and dismantle her past to stay alive. But the system prized for accuracy appears to be killing at random.

She doesn’t plan on making friends.

She doesn’t plan on falling in love, either.

Sarah Harian’s debut THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE, the first in her Chaos Theory series, is proof to me of several things. Proof that it’s still possible to have an original slant on a dystopian world. Proof that you can have characters who’ve done terrible things and keep them likable—proof that characters who’ve done terrible things are way more interesting than characters who haven’t. Proof that a book can be a blood-splattered, unflinching, sexy rollercoaster ride and still explore human nature in the kind of thought-provoking way that my English professors were always sure that blood-splattered, unflinching, sexy rollercoaster rides of books couldn’t.

THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE is the story of Evalyn Ibarra, the most notorious in a group of young criminals serving out a month-long sentence in the Compass Room, a technologically-advanced prison that weeds out the truly guilty from the innocent. Survivors are vindicated, but survivors are few. I won’t spoil too much, because the mechanics of the Compass Room are terrifying, fascinating, and a treat to discover for yourself, but I will say that we learn a lot about the sometimes-gritty, sometimes-hideous, and sometimes-understandable crimes of its inmates.

Evalyn’s crime was so devastating that the entire country knows her name—and hates it. But we begin to wonder about the true nature of Evalyn’s guilt as we’re taken through flashbacks that explore her old life, a stark contrast to her shattered universe today. How could someone with so much love for her (adorable!) baby brother, someone who we can’t help rooting for from the beginning, be capable of such a crime? Harian finally delivers the truth with the punch and unwavering confidence that marks every word she writes.

And the other characters. Oh my God.

“In prison, alliances are created so inmates can watch each other’s backs for potential attackers. But I don’t know what an alliance here means.”

It turns out that the alliances that form in the Compass Room mean survival, but not in the way we expect. Ensemble casts tend to be tricky, but Harian fleshes out each of her characters with vivid detail—Valerie, somehow simultaneously terrifying, hilarious, and lovable; Jace, who kept stabbing my heart; and Tanner, with his Dahmer glasses, the kid of the family. WICKED is a survival story first and foremost, and if you’re looking for those kinds of desperate heart-pounding thrills you won’t be disappointed (oh you will definitely not be disappointed), but it’s also a story about the friendships that broken people form in the most unlikely place. The progress of their friendship was a bright spot, bringing laughs in the middle of all the darkness. And CASEY. I love when the romantic lead gets a solid dose of character development, and the book is worth reading just to see Casey change and come to terms with his past and what he’s done.

Obviously, it’s worth reading for a lot of other reasons as well.

THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE is an unstoppable force of nature that you want to get swept up by. I read the whole book in five hours, stopping only to be grossed out by the fact that my hands were literally sweating from all the tension. (I also may or may not have applauded when one of the deliciously-written horrible side characters got killed off. Sweaty applause.) I can’t wait to see the splash this book makes, and I will be counting down the days until the next book is released.

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Interview with Melissa Grey, Debut Author of THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Grey, debut author of YA Fantasy THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT, which will be out Spring 2015 from Delacorte. From Publisher’s Weekly, THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT is about Echo, a pickpocket runaway adopted and raised in New York City by a race of creatures with feathers for hair and magic in their veins. The series follows Echo as she becomes involved in an ancient war and a centuries-old love, and discovers startling truths about the world she lives in.

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Melissa Grey penned her first short story at the age of twelve and hasn’t stopped writing since. As an undergrad at Yale, she learned how ride a horse and shoot a bow and arrow at the same time, but hasn’t had much use for that skill since graduating in 2008. Her debut novel, THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT, will be published by Delacorte/Random House in spring 2015. To learn more about Melissa, visit melissa-grey.com and follow her on Twitter @meligrey.

Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for your debut book?

The first seed for THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT was actually its main character, Echo. She existed before any other element of the story, including the premise. Echo’s personality guided the way, even if some of the finer details about her backstory changed as the plot developed. She’s always been a runaway, a thief, an outcast, and a fiercely loyal friend.

I was heavily inspired by firebird mythology in Slavic folklore. I’ve diverged from the source material in an extreme way, but at the core of the firebird legend is the quest narrative. In THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT, Echo and her friends are tasked (some more reluctantly than others) with finding the elusive firebird, which is prophesied to end an ancient war. Traditionally, the firebird serves as the culmination of a quest and it’s one of those things that’s both a blessing and a curse. I liked that, as a mythical being, it was neither good not evil. Moral ambiguity is such fertile ground for storytelling.

How did you come up with your title? Were there any you considered first?

Mother of pearl, do I have tales of title trauma. The working title I queried with was FIREBIRD, but there are approximately 30,000 books out there with that title, so I knew it wasn’t going to stick. I exaggerate, but it was too generic.

My agent and I then came up with FEATHERS AND FLAME, which is what we used when we went on submission. It’s a pretty title, but if you look at the current and upcoming crop of YA books, there are a lot of X AND Y titles. It’s a trendy formula, so we needed something that would stand out.

After a long, arduous process, my editor at Delacorte Press came up THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT, and I love it. It’s evocative and mysterious and absolutely perfect. As the title would suggest, there are many things afoot at the stroke ofmidnight, and Echo is at the heart of it all.

What was the hardest part of writing this particular book?

Early on, I struggled with how I wanted to tell the story. I started out writing in first person present tense. That didn’t work. I tried first person past. That didn’t work either.

My next draft was dual point of view between Echo and another character named Caius. Caius is pretty much Echo’s foil: she’s a thief, he’s a prince (naturally, sparks fly). They operate on opposing sides of the conflict at the heart of the story. Writing their POVs was great, but something was still missing.

As I was writing, it became clear that I needed multiple narrators to tell my story, a la A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. Having more than two narrators was a gamble (especially in YA), but once I embraced it, writing came easy. And I found a great home at Random House with a wonderful editor who believes in the story as much as I do, so no regrets.

Is there anything that helps you get into the writing zone – music, for example?

Ideally, a writer should be able to work anytime, anywhere, but when I have the luxury of setting the mood for myself, atmosphere is very important. I write my first drafts by hand, but even when I’m working on my laptop, I like to write by candlelight. I came across the band MS MR when I was starting the first draft, and their music automatically puts me in the zone. They’re a big part of THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT playlist, which you can listen to here.

What is it about young adult fiction that draws you in as a writer?

The time period between fourteen and eighteen is bursting with an urgency of emotion, and the pivotal events of those years help shape what kind of person you’ll become. There’s something beautiful and resonant about coming of age stories, no matter how old or young you are as a reader.

My editor was on a panel at New York Comic Con, and someone asked her how she felt about the YA designation. I think her answer resonated with a lot of people and it definitely summed up how I feel about writing for a young adult audience. To paraphrase her response, YA has an obligation to tell a story. As a writer, you can’t get lost in our own meandering, masturbatory prose. The story has to come first.

Was there ever a time when you seriously considered giving up on your writing dream?

Nope. Never. I decided when I was querying that I was going to finish my trilogy even if no one read it but my critique partners. I’m happiest when I simply let writing be the goal of writing.

Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published?

Take your time. Develop a thick skin. Do not rush. Not your story. Not your craft. Not your query. Do. Not. Rush. Writing is a skill. Take your time to master it. Read profusely. Know your genre. And always research agents and publishers thoroughly and target your submissions carefully. I could go on, but that should do.

Can you say anything about your next project/s?

Right now, I’m focusing Books 2 and 3 of THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT trilogy (slated to come out in 2016 and 2017, respectively). I’m working on the first draft of Book 2, and I’m already dreading titling it! Having my debut novel be the first installment of a trilogy is daunting, but in a delightfully masochistic sort of way. As for what I’ll write after all three books are done . . . it could be the stress talking, but a standalone novel might be a nice change of pace.

Thank you so much, Melissa! I, for one, can’t wait to read THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT.

You can find Melissa on Twitter, on Goodreads, or at her blog.

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Guest Post by Amber Forbes, Author of WHEN STARS DIE

The simple idea for When Stars Die wasn’t influenced by any books at all, until I began to write it. I knew I wanted Amelia to be in a convent begging for her god’s forgiveness, as her younger brother is a witch–witches are the most hated things in her world. What Amelia doesn’t immediately know is that she is a witch as well, so I wanted to make it a sort of blasphemous thing that there are two witches in a church setting, one who wants to become a nun in the hopes of being forgiven, and one who doesn’t want to be there at all. I have Carolyn Meyer’sDuchessina: A Novel of Catherine de’Medici to thank for giving me a little bit of insight into how convents work. Of course, further research proved that each convent has its own unique standards, but I drew off Carolyn Meyer’s novel to help create mine; however, the convent in that book was a mere skeleton to create my own convent for the novel.
 
I also knew I wanted When Stars Die to take place in the 19th century, not only because I find the time period to be fascinating, but because of all the decorum, mannerisms, and strict rules for how women should behave, especially around males. A woman of this time period had little say in who she was married off to, and marriage wasn’t about love: it was about convenience. There is a point in the book where Amelia can no longer be at Cathedral Reims because her Mother Superior didn’t think she was yet ready for the rigors of being a nun; thus, Amelia goes back home and decides to live her father’s dream, which is to go to a finishing school, have her season, and be married off to a husband of her father’s choice. I have Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty Trilogy for helping me with the bulk of my research into this time period. Cassandra Clare’s A Clockwork Angelalso helped, and even though I still did my own research, those two books took care of most of the research into m foray of the 19th century.
 
There was something in me as well that said that The Stars Trilogy, overall, needed to be dark, and that darkness would have to be set up in When Stars Die. I have several books to thank for this: Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games Trilogy, Ryan Carrie’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth Trilogy, Lauren DeStefano’s The Chemical Gardem Trilogy, and Elizabeth Scott’s living dead girl. All of these books have a dark nature to them.
 
When I first began When Stars Die several years ago, I didn’t think the darkness was enough, so I made Amelia a very psychologically troubled character. In fact, there was this one scene where she punches her mirror, takes the shards from that mirror, and cuts herself all over. When going through and taking another crack at When Stars Die, I learned that that was too dramatic for her, that the darkness needed to occur outside of her external self. I needed to break her down as much as possible while trying to keep Amelia determined to survive it all, even if she temporarily gives up near the end of the book because of what happens with her brother–he is her entire world since she’s convinced her parents can’t be there for them.
 
I think I’ve struck the right balance with the darkness. I thought some of my readers would think it too dark, but it seems they think the darkness is just enough. Even so, they warn readers who are sensitive to what is present in the book to tread carefully when reading mine. I take that as a compliment, because it’s what I was going for.
 
As what influenced the idea of the witches in my book, there weren’t any book influences, save for The Minister’s Daughter by Julie Hearn. This is the book that set in motion my fascination for witches. Of course I had read other books about witches, but these real witches in these fantasy and paranormal novels were not hated, and I wanted mine to be hated so much that people’s lives revolved around their hatred for them. So my twist on witches came from my own mind. Basically, you’ll have to read When Stars Die in order to find out what separates my witches from others. Read some of the reviews on Goodreads. They can attest to this.
 
As for the paranormal element, I think once I threw witches in there, it had no choice but to be a paranormal. I at first struggled with the genre because the paranormal genre in the YA section didn’t really exist yet, not until Stephenie Meyer’s inception of The Twilight Saga. That’s when I knew I had to put the paranormal label on my book. The romance part was tagged on to it as well because at the beginning of the book, there is a priest named Oliver Cromwell, who is infatuated with Amelia, and she is infatuated with him as well. They’ve been best friends for quite some time. While forbidden love isn’t an original concept, their’s is forbidden because nuns and priests have to take vows of chastity, so relationships aren’t possible. Eventually they break those vows, but several of my reviewers did say it can’t really be  paranormal romance because of what happens in the ending. But genre is just a label, after all, to market a book, and apparently paranormal romances are still popular from what I’ve seen on the shelves, though my book isn’t in a bookstore yet. It’s in a boutique in Tennessee, however.  
 
So all of the books listed above are the books that inspired me while I was revising When Stars Die.
 
Thank you all for taking the time to read this post. I hope you enjoyed it.
 
 
Thank you so much, Amber! 
 
ImageYou can find Amber on her blog, her website, and on Goodreads!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
ImageBe sure to pick up WHEN STARS DIE on Amazon or Smashwords. 🙂
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Interview with Francesca Zappia, Debut Author of ASK AGAIN LATER

I’m so excited to post this interview with the lovely Francesca Zappia, debut author of YA Contemporary ASK AGAIN LATER, coming from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in early 2015 (yay fellow ’15 debut!)

Francesca Zappia’s debut ASK AGAIN LATER is about the ultimate unreliable narrator, a schizophrenic teenage girl unable to tell the difference between reality and delusion who discovers — thanks to her Magic 8-Ball, her little sister, and a boy she thought was imaginary — that sometimes there really is someone out to get you.

ImageFrancesca Zappia lives in Indiana and majors in Computer Science at the University of Indianapolis. She writes all genres of YA fiction. Her debut, ASK AGAIN LATER, is a YA contemporary coming from Greenwillow/HarperCollins. She is represented by Louise Fury of the Bent Agency.

Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for your debut book?

Ask Again Later was inspired a lot by my interest in the brain, and how things like mental illness and autism affect different people. Alex, the narrator, is a paranoid schizophrenic. Much of the book is about her perception of reality and perception of reality by people in general. The other main character, Miles, is undiagnosed autistic, and another big draw for me was developing how he related to other people, especially Alex, and Alex’s slow unraveling of how he perceives reality and why he acts the way he does.

How did you come up with your title? Were there any you considered first?

Ask Again Later actually came from my agent and her interns. Alex sometimes consults a Magic 8-Ball for help making decisions, especially where reality is concerned. Before that it was calledAlexithymia, which is kind of hard to pronounce and not a lot of people know what it means, haha. Right now, we’re in the process of finalizing the title, so be on the lookout for another change!

What was the hardest part of writing this particular book?

It was definitely making sure Alex’s schizophrenia felt real and that she was a thoroughly unreliable narrator. Both of those things are kind of strange things to have to work into a story, because they can’t be too mechanical and forced, but they also can’t be too vague. It’s like trying to hold water in your fist: you can’t squeeze too tightly or too loosely. It was a good thing Alex’s voice was so clear in my head. I don’t think I would have been able to get it done if I didn’t have a good picture of her as a person.

Is there anything that helps you get into the writing zone – music, for example?

Always, always music. When I’m really in a slump, music is usually the thing that pulls me out of it. And there’s nothing like a new song to give me a burst of inspiration. Reading other books can also do that, and other books can give me great ideas for a particular voice or tone of a story if I can’t figure it out myself.

What is it about young adult fiction that draws you in as a writer?

I’ve always loved the freshness of YA fiction. There’s always this sort of “What’s Next?!” mentality, both in regards to trends in the category and in story ideas themselves. I’m always wondering who’s going to come up with the next cool concept (and who’s going to be able to pull it off). Plus, I love the teen readership. I’m not sure how to explain it, but there’s a vitality to YA readers that I don’t sense a lot in Adult readers, and it’s kind of contagious. You want to be part of not just the worlds inside the books, but of the YA world as well.

Was there ever a time when you seriously considered giving up on your writing dream?

Honestly, I don’t think there was. I’ve been writing since I was eight years old, since the first time I read a Harry Potter book. Being published was never my end goal; writing is just a thing I do. It’s so ingrained in my identity, I’m not sure who I would be without writing. But there were times when I was querying agents that I was very depressed, and positive that writing would only ever bethat thing I do, instead of That Thing I Do, the thing you tell people about when they ask how you spend your days. So while I never considered giving up writing, or even giving up on being published, there were times when I became very, very tired of trying.

Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published?

Don’t give up. I know it seems like an easy thing for someone who’s going to be published to say, but it’s the foundation for all other advice. I didn’t get an agent until I was clinging to the end of my rope. You’ll hear a lot–a lot–of success stories from people who got an agent right out of the gate, or who had publishers chomping at the bit to acquire their book, and it can be really tremendously discouraging. Don’t give up. Just because those things aren’t happening for you doesn’t mean your book or your skills aren’t worth it.

Can you say anything about your next project/s?

I can say that I usually work on a lot of things all at once, and at the moment I’m not exactly sure what’s coming up next. It could be another strange little contemporary I’m drafting, or it could be one of my forays into science fiction. But I can definitely say that there will be something next!

Thank you so much, Francesca!

You can find Francesca on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and on her blog!

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Interview with Danielle Jensen, Debut Author of STOLEN SONGBIRD

Guess what day it is…

THURSDAY!

Meaning it’s time for a debut author interview!!

I really need to come up with a cool graphic for these…

Anyway, today I got to chat with Danielle Jensen, debut author of STOLEN SONGBIRD, Book 1 of The Malediction Trilogy. It’s a YA fantasy, and it’ll be out from Strange Chemistry on April 1st!

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For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for your debut book?

STOLEN SONGBIRD was somewhat inspired by a dream I had about a city covered by rubble, but mostly it came swimming out of my imagination. It makes me wonder what else is hiding in there!

How did you come up with your title? Were there any you considered first?

This book has had so many titles! Its very first title was TROLL, and I actually still call it the troll-book most of the time. It had a different title when my agent offered me representation, which any intrepid Google searcher can probably find. My agent and I tried out a few different titles while we were going through edits, and then when it sold to Strange Chemistry, it was agreed at the outset that the title would change again. Lists circulated around and around, but credit for STOLEN SONGBIRD actually goes to my agent. The series as a whole is called THE MALEDICTION TRILOGY, which was one of the original titles I pushed for.

What was the hardest part of writing this particular book?

The revise, resubmit part. My agent didn’t offer me representation the first time she read STOLEN SONGBIRD. She gave me a list of things she thought needed work, and told me she’d read it again if I made the revisions. It’s embarrassing to admit, but it took me a bit of time to get over myself and actually make those changes. So I guess for me, the hardest part about this book was figuring out how to tame the ego-monster and accept critique.

Is there anything that helps you get into the writing zone – music, for example?

I have a procrastination routine that involves circling the Internet a few times before settling down to work. I prefer to write in absolute silence, but when I’m editing, I listen to classical music. Anything with words, and I start singing. And believe me when I say, no one wants that!

What is it about writing for young people that draws you in as an author?

Young people are much more open-minded about what they read – they’ll pick up anything as long as it interests them.

Was there ever a time when you seriously considered giving up on your writing dream?

Find me a writer who HASN’T felt like giving up! I was actually in an absolute pit of despair a few days before I got THE CALL from my agent offering me representation. One of those what am I doing? Why do I bother? I’m never going to succeed moments that I think are all too familiar for querying writers. What has helped me stay the course is the desire to spend my life doing something I love. I don’t want to look back on my life when I’m old and feel that I gave up on my dreams because of a few years of rejection. I would rather work harder doing something I love than have an easy ride doing something that bores me. Nothing worth having ever comes easy, right?

Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published?

The best thing you can do is to keep working at becoming a better writer, because that’s the one thing you really have control over.

Can you say anything about your next project/s?

I am currently working on finishing the sequel to STOLEN SONGBIRD. I have another project on the backburner, but I haven’t mastered the art of working on more than one project at the same time.

Thanks, Danielle! 🙂

You can preorder STOLEN SONGBIRD on Amazon. You can also add it on Goodreads! Find Danielle on Twitter, Facebook, or on her website.

 

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Interview with Robin Herrera, Debut Author of HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL

It’s time for my weekly debut author interview! Today I spoke with Robin Herrera, debut author of the contemporary MG HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL from Amulet Books. It’ll be out March 11th, so mark your calendars!

ImageTen-year-old Star Mackie doesn’t have a mullet, even though everyone at her new school seems to think so. She doesn’t have any friends, either, so she decides to start a club, like her older sister Winter did at her old school. And she doesn’t have a father, though that changes when Winter reveals that she knows where he lives, and offers to take Star with her to see him. Filled with hope for the things to come, Star prepares for her Emily Dickinson Club and her upcoming visit with her father. But the visit doesn’t go as planned, and the Emily Dickinson Club is more trouble than Star thought. Despite everything, Star continues to hope. But will that be enough when things get even worse?

ImageRobin is a lover of cats and books. She has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

 

Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for your debut book?

Star Mackie, the main character, came to me during a computer science class I was taking in college. I have the tendency to doodle on my class notes, and I drew a girl with a very strange haircut in the margin of my notebook paper. I decided that in real life, her hair would look like a mullet. So then I asked myself what kind of kid would have this huge, David Bowie-esque mullet, and the rest of the novel grew from there. (Eventually. It took a couple years before I had enough bits to write the story.)

How did you come up with your title? Were there any you considered first?

I’m terrible at titles! At least sometimes. The original title for this book was Star Mackie: Queen of Fifth Grade. It was definitely a working title, something I imagined Star mockingly calling herself. Then it was (my favorite) Star Mackie Vs. The Fifth Grade. THEN it became In the Words of Star Mackie, which is what it sold as, and over the course of editing, my editor at Amulet and I brainstormed some titles. She came up with Hope Is a Ferris Wheel, though for a while I wanted to call it Hope Is the Thing. (Hope Is a Ferris Wheel is a much better title, I now realize!)

What was the hardest part of writing this particular book?

The first draft of this book came really easily. The few people who read it at that stage really liked it, but it was a kind of slow, meandering, character-driven novel, and even though I love those, I knew this needed something that would really grab readers. With every revision the plot strengthened, but it was a tough go. Another hard part was figuring out what Star’s father would be like. I went through many different versions of him.
Is there anything that helps you get into the writing zone – music, for example?

I use music when I’m pre-writing and brainstorming, and it helps me play out scenes and think of different plot points. Every draft of my novel has had a different “theme song” that I listened to a lot while combing out the plot details. The final version’s theme song is “Grow Up and Blow Away” by Metric.

What is it about young adult fiction that draws you in as a writer?

I’ve been asking myself this for years. One thing I like about young adult fiction is how inventive it is. When you’re writing for kids, the sky’s the limit. Your audience has the whole world ahead of them and they’ll go along with whatever you say, as long as you can convince them! I also think childhood is a much more exciting time than adulthood. It’s cool when something fantastic happens to a kid, but it’s odd when it happens to an adult. The wonderment isn’t there, and the adult’s often just like, “Okay, this is happening.”

Was there ever a time when you seriously considered giving up on your writing dream?

Not really, although for a time I had to put writing aside while I got my life together. This was around the end of 2011, a pretty bad year for me. I stopped writing altogether while I figured out what I wanted and how I was going to get it. A year later everything had fallen into place for me, so I slowly began to get back into writing. It was hard, and I’m still not all the way there, but I’m getting back to it!

Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published?

My best advice is to keep working at it. It REALLY helps to have a friend/teacher/cheerleader who tells you to keep going. I can’t imagine what I’d do without mine!

Can you say anything about your next project/s?

Sure! I’m working on a YA novel right now, vastly different from Hope Is a Ferris Wheel, but just as weird. I write weird books.
Thank you so much, Robin.
You can preorder HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL at Indiebound, Powell’s, and Amazon.
Find Robin on Twitter, Tumblr, and on her website!
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Interview with Veronica Bartles, Debut Author of TWELVE STEPS

It’s debut author interview time! Today I chatted with Veronica Bartles, whose debut YA contemporary, TWELVE STEPS, will be out from Swoon Romance on March 25th, 2014 (coming right up!)

 

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Sixteen-year-old Andi is tired of being a second-class sibling. She could be better than her sister, Laina, if people gave her a chance. But when Andi’s crush asks her to fix him up with her sister, she decides to stop waiting. The only chances she’ll get are those she takes for herself.

Andi devises a twelve step program to wrangle the spotlight away from Laina and make it her own. Step one: admit she’s powerless over her perfect sister and her life really, really sucks. Step four: make a list of her good qualities, even if all she’s got going for her is really good hair. Step seven: demand attention for more than just her shortcomings.

But when a stolen kiss from her crush ends in disaster, Andi realizes the prince isn’t as charming as she thought. And when Laina’s flawless façade begins to crumble, the sisters work together to find a spotlight big enough for both to shine.

 

(And I have to say how much I LOVE that cover.)

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As the second of eight children and the mother of four, Veronica Bartles is no stranger to the ups and downs of sibling relationships. (She was sandwiched between the gorgeous-and-insanely-popular older sister and the too-adorable-for-words younger sister.) She uses this insight to write stories about siblings who mostly love each other, even while they’re driving one another crazy.   When she isn’t writing or getting lost in the pages of her newest favorite book, Veronica enjoys knitting fabulous bags and jewelry out of recycled plastic bags and old VHS tapes, sky diving (though she hasn’t actually tried that yet), and inventing the world’s most delectable cookie recipes.

 

Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for your debut book?

When my little sister read the manuscript for my first novel, she sent me a one-page bit of “fan fiction” from the perspective of Andi, the little sister in that story. “You have to write this one next,” she insisted. “The little sister needs her chance to set the story straight.”

I laughed it off, but the idea stuck with me, and last November, I decided to write Andi’s story, just for kicks and giggles. By the time I was finished writing, I was totally in love. So (against the advice of every single one of my critique partners, who thought I was giving up too soon) I put my first novel aside to focus on TWELVE STEPS. (I plan to go back to the first one at some point, because I do still love that story too.)
 

How did you come up with your title? Were there any you considered first?

My first manuscript was called KISSING FROGS, so I originally wanted to go with that same fractured fairy-tale vibe. My little sister suggested THE PRINCESS APPRENTICE, so that was the original working title. But then I wrote my first line: “There should be a support group for kids with perfect siblings.” And I realized that Andi would be the kind of girl to create her own twelve-step program for dealing with life as a “second-class sibling.” And so my title changed to TWELVE STEPS.

 

What was the hardest part of writing this particular book?

I had to work from an outline for the first time ever (I’m usually more of a “pantser” when it comes to writing), because Andi is a list-making, highly-organized character, and without the outline I couldn’t be sure the story would actually flow from one step to another the way it was supposed to. This was really quite an adjustment for me, because I’m not used to having such detailed structure to my stories from the beginning. Ironically, about halfway through, the story took an unexpected twist that basically left my carefully plotted outline in the dust, so the final novel didn’t end up the way I planned at all. But that’s kind of fitting, since Andi’s carefully constructed schemes and plans don’t always turn out the way she expects them to either. 😉

 

Is there anything that helps you get into the writing zone – music, for example?

I have a special collection of pencils that I only use for writing my stories. I started collecting pretty pencils when I was in 3rd grade and announced to everyone I knew that I wouldn’t even sharpen any of them until I was ready to write my first published book. (I sharpened the first story pencil for NaNoWriMo in 2008 to write KISSING FROGS, the novel that inspired TWELVE STEPS.) I only use these pencils for writing my stories (to-do lists and other mundane tasks have to be done with other writing utensils), so whenever I pick up one of my special story pencils, I know it’s time to step into the creative zone.

I also like to create a soundtrack for each manuscript that I’m working on. I try to step into the mind of my main character and create a playlist of her favorite songs. For TWELVE STEPS, Andi’s playlist was an eclectic mishmash of boy bands, country and classic rock. Other projects have required playlists of classical music (heavy on the Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi) or movie soundtracks. Every time I switch gears between projects, I can easily step into the right frame of mind by loading the appropriate playlist.

 

What is it about young adult fiction that draws you in as a writer?

It’s quite possible that I’ve never actually grown up. 

 

Was there ever a time when you seriously considered giving up on your writing dream?

Many, many times. In fact, when I graduated from college, fear of failure took over, and I put aside my writing dream for a really long time. I didn’t pick up my story pencils for ten years. Then, in 2008, I pulled my pencils out and wrote my first novel for NaNoWriMo. I’ve had plenty of self-doubt crises since then, but luckily I have very supportive friends and family who wouldn’t let me quit. They keep me moving forward when I start to wonder if I’m good enough.

 

Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published?

The first, and most important advice I can give is: Don’t give up! You may be closer than you think to reaching your goal, but you’ll never get there if you stop moving forward. Everyone should have people who love and support them unconditionally. You need cheerleaders who will tell you that you’re wonderful when you’re feeling not-so-great, and who won’t let you quit when you’re ready to give up.

The second, equally important, thing is to find a good critique group, or at least several critique partners who aren’t afraid to give you honest feedback on your manuscripts. If you’re only getting feedback from people who tell you that you’re wonderful and perfect, you’re not likely to improve. You need people who aren’t afraid to tell you when your writing isn’t good enough, and who will help you improve. Some of the best feedback I’ve ever received was the kind that made me cry and throw things. It’s hard to take sometimes, but without fail, these honest, and difficult critiques have made me a better writer.

 

 

Can you say anything about your next project?

I just signed with literary agent, Jessica Sinsheimer, for my Upper MG contemporary novel. (Yay!!!!)

(Interviewer’s note: CONGRATULATIONS!)

LETTERS FROM HEAVEN is about twelve-year-old Missy Tuttle, whose mother dies from a brain tumor. Dad starts dating too soon, her best friends have gone AWOL, and Missy has no one to turn to. But then, a letter arrives, signed Love, Mom. When the letters keep coming, referencing events Mom couldn’t possibly have predicted, Missy realizes she’s receiving actual letters from heaven.

This was the most difficult, emotional and deeply personal manuscript I’ve ever written, and it took me a full three years to complete the manuscript (because I had to keep putting it aside to work on “easier” stories), but I also feel like it’s the most important story I’ve ever told.

 

 

Thank you so much, Veronica!

You can find Veronica online at the following places:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Swoon Romance Author Page

 

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