22

Sarah Bromley: TINDERBOX

We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. One author, four questions.  Today we’re talking to Sarah Bromley, author of TINDERBOX.  Here we go!

Hey, you’re getting published!  How’d that happen?

I’m not going to lie. It’s been a long process. I began writing fiction in grade school and knew by high school that I wanted to be a YA novelist. I’d gotten an agent as a minor, but that person didn’t sell anything for me and thankfully quit the business. I kept writing throughout college and had a requested revise & resubmit with a great publishing house, but two things derailed me: losing my mother, who was my biggest supporter, and enduring a horrid case of post-partum depression after my daughter was born not long after. I was burned out. Then in November 2008, I began writing TINDERBOX. It wasn’t until I wrote the next book that I signed with my agent, Miriam Kriss of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. While the book was on submission, I told Miriam about TINDERBOX. I rewrote it and put it on sub in April 2011. With a heck of a lot of persistence and belief that story needed to find a home, TINDERBOX was acquired by Month9Books, LLC in November 2012, almost four years to the day after I began writing it! The day I got the THE CALL that TINDERBOX sold was the same day I adopted my dog Isabella from a shelter in the middle of nowhere, so I had no cell phone reception and actually missed the call. It was the day before Thanksgiving, so it was a very, very long weekend before I got to talk to Miriam.

What’s your debut book about?  Can you share any cool details with us?

Here’s the short blurb:

16-year-old Vayda Silver has secrets: who her family really is, why she prays every night no one will find them, and what her empathic abilities do to those she loves. Keeping her secrets is almost impossible when her twin brother Jonah flaunts his powers where anyone can see. Vayda trusts only Ward, the misfit son of a has-been rockstar, who swears he doesn’t scare easily, but maybe that’s because he doesn’t know what Vayda is doing to him. Over the course of a cold, dark winter, Vayda must face her family’s past while hoping that Ward, the one person who makes her feel safe, won’t destroy her future.

Vayda’s an empath, and when she absorbs too much emotion from other people, the energy comes out of her in bad ways: shattering light bulbs, frying computers, and worse. With Ward, I kept picturing what if someone like Kurt Cobain and continued to struggle with drugs while raising a son–what would that boy be like, how he’d be so closed off, and what someone like Vayda would do to him. Also, I love Gothic fiction and wanted to set a novel with a Gothic sensibility in the north during a brutal, cold winter. There are double identities, secret meetings in the woods, and a family scandal where the sins of the mother are passed down to the daughter.

What do you do in your daily life outside of writing?

Most of my time is spent being Mom to my daughter, age seven, and two sons, five and twenty months. My dad died when I was seventeen and my mom when I was twenty-three, so family time is important to me. Life is short and unpredictable, so you had better spend your time doing what truly makes you happy. For me, that means family game night where we sit around and play Clue or watch Scooby-Doo movies, and I also volunteer at a therapeutic riding stable where I work with horses and disabled riders of all ages. Animals are my other great passion apart from writing, and you will rarely find me without my pug Hazel or chug Isabella curled up beside me. (Isabella is staring me down right now, matter of fact.)

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

I am technically a Little Person. I am 4’10” inches tall, and Husband is 6’1″. He spends a lot of time getting things off shelves for me.

I’ve known Husband since I was a baby and have a photograph of my mother-in-law holding me as a newborn with Husband, then two years old, grinning at me. I married him when I was still a teenager and promptly moved 300 miles away from home to a place where I knew no one, and that was the scariest thing I’d ever done.

My family owned a funeral home and had quite a few morticians in the bloodline. My dad bucked the trend and became a musician. I guess that’s why my mortician great-aunt was so horrified with me when I told her I wanted to be a writer. “That’s not a real job! Be something sensible.” To be fair, I entertained becoming a hospice nurse.

I wrote the first 200 pages of TINDERBOX by hand in one weekend. Even though I’m ambidextrous, my hands have never been the same since!

Sarah Bromley likes the quiet time at dawn when she can drink coffee while staring into the woods behind her house and wondering what monsters live there. She lives near St. Louis with husband, children, and dogs, and volunteers at a horse stable for disabled riders when she isn’t writing. Her debut novel, TINDERBOX (Month9Books, LLC) will be released in Fall 2014.
4

GETTIN’ LUCKY: Interview with Megan Shepherd, author of THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER

madmancoverNEWIn the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.

~~~~~

First of all, I want to say that I am in the middle of reading THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER and had incredibly vivid, Mr. Moreau-ish dreams last night. I can’t stop thinking about it, even when I’m unconscious. It’s that kind of book, people. So without further ado, I want to say thank you to Megan Shepherd for dropping by our blog and answering some questions.

Of all the characters you’ve created, who was the most difficult to figure out? Why?

My main character, Juliet Moreau, is the daughter of a notorious surgeon banished for cruel experimentation on animals. She grew up wealthy but her father’s scandal left her poor and orphaned, and at 16, she is struggling to make ends meet. It took me a long time to nail her voice, making her sound both historical and modern. She’s a good person at heart, but she struggles with how cruel the world can be to her, and how much she is like her father. Creating such a complex character took a lot of trial and error!

In THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER, you’ve built upon an idea many of us are already familiar with (the island, the experiments, the doctor). Was it nerve-wracking to expand it? Were you ever worried that some readers might be irritated that you’ve taken liberty with the idea?

It’s always challenging to do a spin on a classic. I went about it with the mindset that I wasn’t trying to compete with or replace The Island of Doctor Moreau; rather, I wanted to compliment it. I tried to stay true to the book’s themes, while providing an alternative, original story. Though the general framework is similar, this is uniquely Juliet’s story. And of course, I also wrote this with the hopes that young readers would pick up The Island of Doctor Moreau and revisit the classics.

Do you have any rituals surrounding your writing? Coffee? Music? A specific time and place, or do you write anywhere, anytime?

I’m lucky enough to have a great home office with a desk, sofa, and bookshelves. That’s where I do most of my writing, especially when I’m knee-deep in revisions and need all my charts and post-it notes around me. I’m a big tea drinker, which is one reason why I designed a custom tea blend (it’s called “Sweet Madness”) as giveaways for readers. As far as time of day, I tend to be most creative and productive in the mornings, so that’s when I brainstorm or write first drafts. The afternoons and evenings are more for rewriting and editing. I rarely write at night, but when I do I produce some of my best atmospheric writing.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your book?

I wrote three manuscripts before The Madman’s Daughter, none of which sold. I think the major difference was that I didn’t sufficiently revise any of those other books. I thought “editing” and “revising” meant running spell-check and rearranging a chapter or two. I had no idea what real revising entailed until I wrote The Madman’s Daughter: several times I literally threw the old draft out and started from a fresh page, and then painstakingly analyzed every character, every scene, and ended up tearing the book apart. I think I went through about nine drafts, all of which had major changes.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A zoo keeper! This will probably surprise a lot of people, because The Madman’s Daughter includes several scenes of animals being operated on in a cruel manner. The truth is, I’m a huge animal lover and animal rights advocate. Nothing disturbs me more than animal cruelty, which is precisely why I was able to make those scenes so scary—because they terrified me. As an author, if you don’t feel the emotion you’re trying to elicit, your readers won’t either.

How did you come up with the title of your book?

I went through a dozen title possibilities, but The Madman’s Daughter just felt right. (And my publisher agreed, because they kept the title.) The story is so focused on Juliet that I knew the title should be about her. And because the major conflict in the story is about her relationship with her father, it made sense that she would define herself this way (at least at first), as a madman’s daughter.

What was the most difficult part to write?

Well, the animal experimentation scenes made me queasy, especially all the research I had to do. But the hardest scenes were the action scenes. I just don’t like writing them! It’s very challenging to block out the action and keep the pace fast.

Finally, as this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid.

Well, obviously I’m a big fan of the classics, and that’s mostly what I read as a kid. I think the classic that stuck with me most was LORD OF THE FLIES. I was also a huge fan of Lois Lowry’s THE GIVER, and Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME. All these books were highly entertaining, but went beyond that to introduce shocking new ideas about the world and our roles in it.

MSH52WEBsized

Megan Shepherd grew up in her family’s independent bookstore in North Carolina. An avid reader and world traveler who spent several years in the Peace Corps, Megan now lives with her husband in Asheville, North Carolina. The Madman’s Daughter is her first novel. You can visit her online at www.meganshepherd.com, her twitter feed, and on Facebook. She is represented by Adams Literary.

Thank you Megan! I am going to return to the book now, because I left off at a critical moment…

Amber Lough lives in Syracuse, NY with an astrophysicist and their two kids, Future CEO and Future Comedian. She spent half her childhood in Japan and the Middle East, but majored in Russian because she likes a challenge. She quit her job in Air Force Intelligence to write, which she’d always wanted to do in the first place. Her Middle Eastern fantasy, THE FIRE WISH, is due from Random House Children’s in Fall 2014.
16

Emery Lord: OPEN ROAD SUMMER

One author, Four questions. Today we’re talking to Emery Lord, author of OPEN ROAD SUMMER. Here we go!

What’s your debut book about?

OPEN ROAD SUMMER is about a girl who tries to outrun her problems by going on tour with her country singer best friend…only to find more problems, thanks to the beautiful, annoying, kind-hearted, arrogant boy who is dating her friend as a publicity stunt. But, mostly, this book is about being seventeen, which means it is full of aches and tiny bursts of glory and the songs that change you and the friends that clasp your hand along the way.

Can you share any cool details with us?

Here is a weird fact, considering the music tour I wrote about: on the pie chart of the music I listen to, country music is one of the smallest slivers, even though there are a few records I really love. The biggest pie pieces are indie/alt-folk/singer-songwriter stuff, whether cheerful or deeply melancholy, pop anthems that most indie/alt-folk/singer-songwriter fans would be ashamed of, but I am not, and classic rock/soul that I grew up with: Fleetwood Mac, Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Joni Mitchell, you get it.

What inspired OPEN ROAD SUMMER?

A few years ago, I was spending a lot of time driving down the highway that connects Columbus (where I lived) to Cincinnati (where my boyfriend lived). A few times, I passed country music tours which were also traveling south from Columbus, and I wondered what happens on those buses during all the in-between spaces. As far as characters, the book I had worked on before ORS featured an introverted good-girl as narrator. I wanted to shake things up and step far away from my comfort zone. One day, I was blasting Cooler Than Me by Mike Posner while driving down said highway and started wondering what it would be like to write from the perspective of a girl who thought she was cooler than everyone.

All that stuff was in my weird little mind-blender, and, once whirled, it made a story about small towns and a music tour, narrated by a confident, mouthy girl, with whom I have basically nothing in common.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

  • I am still as completely, gob-smackedly in love with reading as I was as a kid. I told my parents I needed a nightlight for YEARS even though I wasn’t scared of the dark at all. I just needed it for when they made me turn off my bedroom light, assuming I’d go to sleep. Instead, I’d sneak out of bed and sit on the carpet next to my nightlight and keep reading. I still read until 2AM if I feel like it, even when I have to be up in the morning. And it’s still worth it.
  • My dad’s from England, and my mom is a member of the DAR. I blame this for all my contrariness. (Please see: illicit nightlight reading)
  • I was born in Baltimore and had lived in Virginia Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Chicago, and Columbus by the time I was in fifth grade. (In other words: I love Old Bay on my French fries/everything, I can be in the ocean all day, I’m a master snow sculptor–snowmen, igloos, polar bears, whateva, and I have tried every flavor of Jeni’s Ice Cream that presently exists.)
  • On that same note, my very first summer job was at an ice cream shop. My boyfriend worked at the movie theater down the road and had to wear a tuxedo with a cummerbund as his uniform. He’d pick me up after work in his formalwear, smelling like movie theater popcorn, and we’d drive the backroads of our hometown and blast music and stay out too late and laugh and laugh. Then, some years later, I married him, and it comes as no surprise that we still eat a LOT of ice cream and popcorn and still stay out too late and blast music in every room of our house and laugh and laugh.
  • …I realize none of these facts are, like, cool cool. And neither am I. I just think it’s better that you know now, so we can get that out of the way and be nerds together.
Emery Lord lives in a pink row house in Cincinnati, Ohio, with an upright piano, a ukulele, one husband, and two rescue dogs. She spends her time impulse shopping, laughing so loudly that other people in the restaurant shoot dirty looks at her and her friends, and reading book after book after book. Her debut novel, OPEN ROAD SUMMER is out with Walker/Bloomsbury in Winter 2014.
14

Michelle Painchaud: PRETENDING TO BE ERICA

We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. Today, we’re talking to Michelle Painchaud, author of PRETENDING TO BE ERICA. One author, four questions. Here we go!

Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen?

*laughs hysterically* This is the part they jump out and yell “candid camera”, right?

I literally don’t know. I mean, technically I know. I know that I was picked up by a fabulous agent and then a fabulous editor. And I’m very excited and grateful! But I don’t know if I’ll ever really believe it, at least not until I have a copy in my hands, you know?

I spent about four years in the querying ring, writing seven books and faffing about. Trust me when I say I know the querying game and how ugly it is. By comparison, my submission round was relatively painless and much more fun!

I think there was a moment between those six other books and ERICA, a moment I realized; “Instead of writing books, I’ll write a story“. And that’s when it clicked for me. There was a lot of pressure from myself to write what everyone else was, to follow a sort of formula that seemed to work for my writer friends, but when those pressure hit a head I went; “I can either fit in or stand out. Either way I’ve got nothing to lose. I might as well try to stand out”.

And so I wrote ERICA.

What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?

Pretending to be Erica is the story of a teenage congirl, Violet, raised by her conman father and groomed to steal a painting worth millions from a rich family in Las Vegas. The family’s daughter, Erica, was kidnapped at the age of four. Violet’s been primed to take Erica’s place as a ‘returned daughter’ all her life, but when she falls in love with Erica’s ‘life’, she has to make a choice – Erica’s life, or Violet’s? She can’t have both.

This book is really close to my heart. Violet pretends to be someone she isn’t just so people will love her. I think everyone does that on a certain level, so it’s a book I hope will connect with a lot of people. Violet isn’t just a character – she’s everyone. Everyone who feels like no one will like them for who they are. Everyone who hides their real selves. And that’s everyone in the world, I think.

Some trivia about it!

  • I set the book in Las Vegas after watching way too many Ocean’s Eleven movies.
  • I modeled the piano-prodigy love interest, James, after Heath Ledger.
  • Violet isn’t the only conkid her conman father has raised. There are more. *insert spooky noise here*
  • Sailor Moon was an important part of the first draft.

Image

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

Saying ‘everything’ would be cliche!

Let’s see…I’m ‘drank-five-redbulls’ excited about seeing the cover at ALL TIMES.

But I’m most excited for the first person who reads it and says; “This made me cry”. That’s all I really want. And all I could ask for. And the only thing that could possibly make me happier.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

  • I’m into astrology (tell me your birthday/year and I can calculate your Western/Eastern signs pretty fast!)
  • Pastries are my life
  • I watch way too many corny foreign horror movies
  • In seventh grade I stuck candy up my nose to impress a boy (spoiler: he was not impressed)
  • My last name in french means “Hot bread”
  • I’m blood type B-. Just in case you’re a vampire and have preferences.
  • I once read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in three hours.
  • This is starting to sound like a dating service
  • I love you all please date me I’ll make you food and let you lick cookie batter spoons

 

Michelle Painchaud is a 22-year-old baker of burnt monstrosities and a recovering anime addict. She spends too much time on Twitter (@michelleiswordy) talking about cats and food and how awesome she isn’t. Her debut novel PRETENDING TO BE ERICA, a thriller about a teenage conman, is out 2014 from Viking Children’s.
4

GETTIN’ LUCKY: Interview with Kristin Halbrook, author of NOBODY BUT US

We’re thrilled to welcome to the blog Kristin Halbrook, author of NOBODY BUT US, which releases today from HarperTeen.

nobody but usBonnie and Clyde meets IF I STAY in this addictively heart-wrenching story of two desperate teenagers on the run from their pasts.

They’re young. They’re in love. They’re on the run.

Zoe wants to save Will as much as Will wants to save Zoe. When Will turns eighteen, they decide to run away together. But they never expected their escape to be so fraught with danger….

When the whole world is after you, sometimes it seems like you can’t run fast enough.

Nobody But Us, told in alternating perspectives from Will and Zoe, is an unflinching novel, in turns heartbreaking and hopeful, about survival, choices, and love…and how having love doesn’t always mean that you get a happy ending. Described as “beautiful, heartbreaking, and exhilarating” by Kody Keplinger, author of The DUFF, Nobody But Us will prove irresistible to fans of Nina Lacour, Jenny Han, and Sara Zarr.

First of all, thanks so much to Julie for these great questions and to OneFour Kidlit for hosting this interview. You’re awesome!

1. NOBODY BUT US is told from both Zoe’s and Will’s perspective. Both voices are so distinct. Was one voice more challenging that the other?

Writing these two voices was definitely a tough, but fantastic learning process. Zoe’s voice is a bit more like the voice I naturally write with–the phrasings, the rhythm and timing–so hers was easier for me. Will’s voice was more challenging. I had to get to know his character really well–the places he’s been, what he’s learned–before writing an effective voice. I had to go outside my natural style to create a difference sentence rhythm and feel to his voice. And I had to be careful not to overdo it. I didn’t want him to come off as a caricature of himself. Luckily, I have a fabulous agent, editor and group of critique partners who let me know when it was too much, or not enough.

2. When Zoe and Will run away, they hit the road and head west in Will’s Camaro. Are you a road trip girl? If so, where did your most epic road trip take you?

I do enjoy road trips. I take short-ish ones to explore the natural beauty of Washington State, and I take longer ones to vacation and see family and friends. One of my favorite road trips was to Yellowstone. I loved the scenery through the forests of Idaho, and Yellowstone itself blew me away. It’s such a fabulous, unique place. Another favorite road trip was last summer to Black Rock City. Driving through Oregon ghost towns in the middle of the night, with an orange moon in the sky, was haunting. And the Black Rock Desert is like a landscape from a futuristic novel. Beautiful.

3. Like Zoe and Will, you’re running away. You can take one person and a backpack. Who do you take and what do you bring in your backpack?

I’m going to assume this question can’t include my family, because they’d have to go with me, of course! So, outside of my family I would probably take fellow author and BFF Kirsten Hubbard. We’re both wanderlusty and are laid-back about sleeping in strange places. It would be an adventure! My backpack would include lots of sensible items like a small first aid kit, wallet, clothes and lotion. It would also have small gifts from where I’ve been to give to the people from where I’m going.

4. NOBODY BUT US takes place over the span of a few days. As a writer, I see all the difficulties this presents, but as a reader I love this format and you do it so wonderfully. Did you find this challenging? And if so, how?

The nice thing about only a few days is that there’s a built-in pacing mechanism that works to keep the story on track. But there are definitely challenges. I worked carefully with characterization and thought a lot about how much two people could really change in just a few days–especially people with the kinds of pasts, hurdles, worries and insecurities as Will and Zoe. I wanted these changes to be realistic. At one point, Zoe makes a huge decision and, for her with her history and personality, it really is HUGE. That was a massive change in a short period of time for a character like that, but I think it’s realistic. It also shows that she’s on a certain path from that point on, hints about the changes to come for her.

5. Can you talk about what you have lined up next for your readers? Will there be more kissing? More heartbreak?

I’m working on lots of projects at the moment. My next contemporary will have more kissing and some heartbreak! Not quite at the scale of Nobody But Us, but there’s definitely lots of soul-searching and agony. I like writing emotion.

6. And as this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid.

Tough question! LITTLE WOMEN was my first real foray into classic literature. I was in fourth grade when I read that one and loved it. It set me up for reading books in the canon, which I’ve enjoyed to this day. I also always loved the Anne of Green Gables books. So sweet and fantastic characterization. A Wrinkle in Time was definitely an inspiring read. It broke the mold for me, bringing to life this fabulous new world that I adored.


Kristin HalbrookKristin Halbrook is the debut author of YA novel NOBODY BUT US. You can find Kristin by visiting her website, Facebook Fan Page, and Twitter feed. For more on NOBODY BUT US:


This interview was conducted by OneFour member Julie Murphy, whose YA novel SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY releases from HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray in 2014. This interview is part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Lucky13s —- YA, MG, and children’s books authors debuting in 2013.

37

Rebecca Behrens: WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE

We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. One author, four questions.  Today we’re talking to Rebecca Behrens, author of WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE.  Here we go!

Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen?

I’ve always been a book lover, so I started working in publishing after I graduated from college and then went back to school to get a master’s degree in comp lit. But from age ten to twentysomething, I never wrote my own fiction. I really thought that I only wanted to be a reader and an editor, despite the fact that I had all these stories of my own to tell. After I finally finished grad school, I realized that something was missing from my life: writing. I decided to try working on a novel, and a little less than a year later, I signed with my fantastic agent, Suzie Townsend. About two years after that, we sold my upper-MG debut to Sourcebooks. Hooray!

What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?

WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE is an upper-MG novel that blends contemporary and historical fiction. Here’s the pitch: Life at 1600 Pennsylvania gets a lot more interesting when lonely Audrey Rhodes discovers Alice Roosevelt’s diary hidden beneath some floorboards. Alice’s outrageous exploits–smoking on the White House roof, shocking State visitors with her pet snake, smuggling contraband in her elbow-length gloves, and racking up speeding tickets in her runabout–inspire Audrey to find her own ways to “eat up the world.”

Alice Roosevelt was an incredible (and pretty wild) person, and it was so much fun to explore her life for this book. One of my favorite Alice quotes is: “If you can’t say something good about someone, come sit right here by me.” She actually embroidered that on a pillow, which Jackie Kennedy kept in the White House. (See it here!)

One of the coolest things I did while researching contemporary White House life for the book was attend the White House Fall Garden Tour. It was awesome to wander around the South Lawn and imagine my main character, Audrey, getting into trouble there.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

Everything! I can’t wait to see my cover, to hold an ARC in my hands, and to see my book on a shelf in the store. I am oddly excited about doing copy edits in the future (probably because by day I’m a production editor at a Penguin imprint, so this is my chance to switch roles). Most of all, I’m so excited that people (other than my mom and my writer friends) are going to meet my characters. The first time someone added my book to their Goodreads shelf, I thought I was going to burst from happiness and gratitude.

What are your desert-island books?

This is a really tough question. I’m going to break it down by categories:

Picture book: THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK (I read it so many times as a kid that the cover fell off); Middle grade: THE WESTING GAME or WALK TWO MOONS; Young Adult: THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE or THE FAULT IN OUR STARS; Classic: JANE EYRE and FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS; Adult fiction: STATE OF WONDER or THEN WE CAME TO THE END or STILTSVILLE; Celebrity author: BOSSYPANTS; Writing book: ON WRITING and BIRD BY BIRD.

And if I had all of these, I would probably be okay with never being rescued.

Rebecca Behrens lives in New York, where she works as a production editor. Her favorite things are em-dashes, Central Park, running, and doughnuts. Her MG debut, WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE (Sourcebooks, Winter ’14), tells what happens when a lonely first daughter finds Alice Roosevelt’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of a White House closet.
32

Mary Elizabeth Summer: CATCH MY GRIFT

Even more debut authors coming your way from OneFour KidLit! Today we’re talking to Mary Elizabeth Summer, author of Catch My Grift. One author, Four questions. Fasten your seat belts!

Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen? (aka, what was your path to publication)

It all started many moons ago when I was in fifth grade and checked a book out of the library called How To Write A Novel. I devoured that book. I took notes on that book. I slept with that book to absorb its teachings. I practically ate that book for breakfast (don’t tell the librarian).

Then I decided I wanted to be an astronaut, realized no one would ever pick me to be an astronaut, decided to be a mechanical engineer and build myself a spaceship, and then came to my senses just in time to graduate college with a major in Creative Writing so that I could write stories about spaceships. And then I wrote a story about a teenage con artist instead.

All joking aside, I started seriously working toward publication about 7 years ago. I wrote two full novels, half of another novel, and a detailed synopsis of a trilogy before writing CATCH MY GRIFT. But I didn’t try to get an agent until I finished CMG. Then I entered a query contest at Cupid’s Literary Connection and snagged my DREAM agent Laura Bradford (seriously, I’d been cyberstalking her for a year before she requested CMG during the contest).

After I incorporated her few suggestions into the manuscript, she pitched it to 13 editors. Seven months later, I got 3 offers! My kick-ass agent then ninja-ed her way through the negotiation process, and I ended up with the amazing Wendy Loggia at Delacorte as my editor. I’m extremely excited to be working with such a talented, experienced team, and I know CMG will be miles better for it. It still won’t be a spaceship, but it will be just as big a thrill ride.

What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?

It’s about a teenage con artist raised by her father in the old-school art of grifting. But she wants out, so she goes to a fancy Chicago private school her dad can’t afford, paying for tuition by pulling small cons for her classmates. Then one day she comes home to find her apartment trashed and her dad missing, and she has to follow a trail of clues her dad left to find him before his mark finds her.

I like to say it’s equal parts law-breaking, clever disguises, family secrets, and snark, with a little bit of romance on the side. There’s also a lot of action, some beautiful cars, and a few twists you might not expect. But to give you an idea of what it’s actually about, the unofficial tagline I’ve got kicking around in my head is: “When you can be anybody, how do you know who you are?”

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

Three facts you might not know about me:

1.   Most of my family is at least a little psychic. My dad and mom are kind of a lot psychic. My dad was a remote viewer for the US Army and still teaches people how to do it. My mom bends forks and channels. I have various cousins who are slightly psychic as well. So far, my brothers and I have not caught the wavelength, but you never know.

2.    I’m the exact opposite of the protagonist in CATCH MY GRIFT. I’ve never broken the law—well, never on purpose. I’m an introvert, and I embarrass easily. I cannot lie to save my life. And once I actually did look up the definition of ‘gullible’ in the dictionary to see if my picture was there, and it totally was! I’d be a juicy mark, but a lousy grifter.

3.    For most of my life, I wanted to be an astronaut, went to Space Camp and everything. Oh, wait—we already covered that.

Do you have any writing quirks–places you need to write or things you need to have with you?

Nope. I can write pretty much anywhere, anytime, on anything. Having a full-time job, an involved (and also busy with her own stuff) partner, a punishing television schedule, and a toddler has burned this superpower into me like an irradiated spider bite into unsuspecting human tissue. There are several things I like to have, like coffee, my writing-project-du-jour playlist, and Scrivener. But I wrote the last third of CMG on my phone while standing on a train commuting to and from work, and I’m pretty sure I would scratch stories onto a cell wall with a nail if I had no other option. So I guess that officially makes me an addict. 😉

Mary Elizabeth Summer is an instructional designer, a mom, a champion of the serial comma, and a pie junkie. Oh, and she sometimes writes books about teenage delinquents saving the day. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her daughter, her partner, and her evil overlor–er, cat. CATCH MY GRIFT, a YA mystery, will be released by Delacorte in Fall 2014.