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 Lauren Magaziner, MG author of THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES.

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

The quick pitch:

THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES is a humorous middle grade fantasy. Like if Roald Dahl’s THE WITCHES and Louis Sachar’s WAYSIDE SCHOOL had a wonky, silly, and slightly twisted lovechild.

The forever-and-a-half version:

Rupert Campbell hates Mrs. Frabbleknacker so much that he would rather be gummed to death by toothless bunnies than sit in her fifth grade class. She forbids Rupert’s classmates from talking to each other before class and after class. Worst of all, she trades dissected frog guts to Gliverstoll’s resident witches in exchange for gruesome potions, which she likes to test on her students.

So when Rupert sees an ad to become a witchlings’s apprentice, he knows that the job is an ideal after school pick-me-up and a surefire way to make a friend. Witchling Two is the battiest person Rupert has ever met, with a hankering for lollipops and the magical aptitude of a toad.  She can turn sweaty socks into chicken pox, but she can’t conjure up a simple milkshake—which is completely useless, in Rupert’s opinion. And unless Rupert can help Witchling Two improve her spell-work before her Bar Exam, she’ll be stripped of her powers and forced into exile.

But once the Witches Council finds out that one of their own enlisted Rupert’s help, he is in grave danger—especially from the notorious head witch, The Fairfoul Witch, who would love nothing better than to boil his knuckles into Knuckle Soup (which tastes like very crunchy clam chowder).  It’s up to Rupert to do it all: help Witchling Two, avoid the Witches Council, bamboozle his witch-fearing mother, and complete Mrs. Frabbleknacker’s 500,000 word essay on worms!

As for some fun and interesting facts:

1.  One of Rupert’s classmates (But I won’t say which one!) is an extremely exaggerated caricature of a certain best friend of mine.  And that character might just be my favorite of Rupert’s classmates.
2.  I wrote it while studying abroad in Edinburgh… in some of the legendary cafes where JKR wrote Harry Potter! See the picture (to the left) of the city that inspired all my witchy thoughts!
3. I wrote the first draft in two months, which is one of the fastest drafts I’ve ever done. (But surprisingly, not the fastest!)
4. I stole the name of the Head Witch (The Fairfoul Witch) from a gravestone in St. Andrews, Scotland.
5. The book officially sold to Penguin on 11/11/11.  Talk about a LUCKY DAY!

Where did you get the idea for this story?

In the end of March 2011, I had been living in Edinburgh for three months, and the castles, myths, ghost tours, and history were starting to seep into my thoughts.  I wanted to write a witch story—a good, original, cackly witch story.  I tried to set the story in Edinburgh with a dark narrative voice, but it wasn’t working. I could tell something was off, but I didn’t know what.

Flash forward two weeks, and I was taking my spring break in Italy.  I was in Positano with a friend, which is the most beautiful place ever.  On the morning of departure, my friend and I decided to take a taxi to the Naples train station (instead of catching a bus to catch a bus to catch a train to Naples.  Yeah, Positano is remote).

As soon as we stepped into the cab, my friend fell asleep, and I was all alone in a speeding taxi as it rounded the bends of the Amalfi coast at speeds that were probably not legal.

I kept looking behind me, watching Positano get further and further away as the taxi got closer and closer to the edge of the cliff.  I clung to the car door for dear life and thought, What a beautiful place to DIE! WAHHHHHHH!

And then everything clicked.  Instead of watching my life flash before my eyes, I thought of Rupert, the eager fifth-grade apprentice to a witch—no, a witching! A silly, garbled witchling. And of course, they lived in a seaside town, built into a rocky mountain—with a view like Positano.  And this rocky seaside town had resident witches, plenty of them… a cackling hoardeful!

Later, I found pen and paper—and scribbled down a few pages.  Three days later, I wrote the first chapter (which is now the third chapter) in the air on a turbulent budget airline flight back to Edinburgh.  (Nothing like near-death vehicles to get me inspired!)

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

SPOT ILLUSTRATIONS. Can I say that with any more enthusiasm?!?! (Hint: probably not!!!)  I can’t WAIT to get an illustrator—for the cover and the insides.  There are some funny action sequences and slapstick moments, and I am excited to see how that translates into illustrations. Illustrations have the ability to transform a book into a much more visual experience!  And I’m psyched because if I did my own illustrations, they’d look like this:

(Aka terrible.)

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

  • I’m a recent, proud graduate of Hamilton College!  (Also the college of authors Sarah J. Maas and Meagan Spooner. HamiltonKidLit represent!!!)
  • I’ve been writing books since I was thirteen, and I’ve completely lost count of how many complete manuscripts I’ve written. I’m thinking maybe it’s about 10ish total… maybe?
  • I once broke my arm tripping over my shoelace.
  • I’m OBSESSED with Harry Potter to an unhealthy degree.  I have memorized the first three movies, quote book lines at any/every opportunity, and I even ran a Harry Potter and Philosophy discussion group at my college, where we debated the ethics of magic, the metaphysical problems of separating the “soul” from the original body via Horcruxes, and whether which house you’re in can influence the person you grow to be (would Voldie have been a softie as a ‘puff?  Do we, as Dumbledore says, sort too soon?). Deep stuff, dude!
  • I’m also obsessed with Doctor Who.  (10th Doctor, obviously.  Molto bene!)
  • And I’m obsessed Avatar: the Last Airbender.
  • Actually, just color me a generally obsessive fangirl of all fandoms.
  • People tell me I have a great Gollum impression.  (No, I can’t do it for you here because the Internet is forever, preciousssssss.)
Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches entirely too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like very chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those things is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who secretly becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous witches who love Toecorn—is forthcoming from Dial/Penguin in Summer 2014.

Mary McCoy: DEAD TO ME

Today we’re talking to Mary McCoy, whose debut novel DEAD TO ME will be published by Disney-Hyperion in Fall 2014. 

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

DEAD TO ME is a YA crime noir set in 1940s Hollywood, because how could it not be? Even if I’d set out to write a romance novel set in 1940s Hollywood, it probably would have ended up with a body count.

The book is about a 16-year-old girl named Alice who is investigating the attempted murder of her older sister, an aspiring actress-turned-teen runaway. Along the way, however, she uncovers something even more sinister.

It’s full of nifty little tidbits about Golden Age Hollywood, glamorous night spots (and less glamorous flophouses), notorious crimes, and corruption in high places. I spent a lot of time digging through old microfilm and maps and photographs so I could get the atmosphere just right.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

My parents are actually much cooler than I am – my dad is a beekeeper who can fix anything and my mom has a cake decorating and cookie-making business. As for me, I’m a librarian who wears too much black and owns too many pairs of boots. I had a misspent rock and roll youth, during which I was a bass player in several bands of little to no renown, and I once appeared in an episode of History Detectives on PBS.

Also, I never met a cheese plate I didn’t like.

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

I love baseball, so between April and October I usually have a game on in the background when I write. I’m lucky enough to live in Los Angeles, which means that sometimes the baseball announcer is the brilliant Vin Scully, who has been calling Dodgers games since 1950. Just the sound of his voice is a surefire cure for writer’s block. I believe that if an 85-year-old man can spin a baseball game into poetry the way that Vin always does, I can certainly sit down and write a few lousy pages.

What are your desert island books?

These are the books that I’ve read and re-read, and even though I almost know many of them by heart now, they teach me something new (about life and about writing) every time I read them:

The BFG by Roald Dahl, The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter, Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, The Owlstone Crown by XJ Kennedy, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, The Old Forest by Peter Taylor, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (incidentally, Fitzhugh was Peter Taylor’s niece – I love that two of my favorites are related), The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, and I, Claudius by Robert Graves.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t include The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale. I’ve had the same copy since high school, and I still use it frequently, habitually, recurrently, customarily, often, and as a common thing.

Mary McCoy is a librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library. Her debut novel, DEAD TO ME (Disney-Hyperion, Fall 2014), is a YA mystery set in the glamorous, treacherous world of Golden Age Hollywood. She likes new dresses and old cookbooks.

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An interview with Elsie Chapman, author of DUALED

dualed_final_heroToday, we’re happy to interview Elsie Chapman, author of DUALED, which releases today!  Here’s the blurb.

Two of you exist. Only one will survive.

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

DUALED has a fascinating premise. Everyone is born with an Alternate, and they have to kill their Alt in order to survive to adulthood. How did you come up with it?

My son asked me out of the blue one day how did we know for sure we all didn’t have an other out there and just didn’t know he or she existed. The question was the spark, so to speak, and then I started thinking about what it could mean if only one of the pair could continue to exist.

If you were activated today, how would you go after your Alt? And which of your weaknesses could your Alt exploit to kill you?

I think I’d have to rely on being sneaky or tricky because I’m not physically coordinated enough to pull off much in terms of direct action. For my Alt, all she’d have to do is scare me by pretending to be a ghost or something. Anything supernatural scares the crap out of me.

West is a great shot with a gun, and a less impressive knife thrower. Do you have any real life weapons experience?

Not at all. I can barely cut vegetables without hurting myself. Even my kids can’t watch me handle a knife without cringing. And I’ve never held a gun in my life (unless water, nerf, or glue guns count).

Death and killing obviously play a central role in DUALED. And it occurs in many contexts. Sometimes people die so that their Alt can live. Other people die accidentally as “peripheral kills” when Alts are battling each other. And yet others are killed by strikers, hired by their Alts to do their dirty work for them. As you were writing this, what were your thoughts about portraying killing and its ethical implications in all its different contexts?

I guess writing all those death scenarios was my way of exploring human loss and all the ways we learn to cope with it. So it was more the aftermath I was interested in looking at, versus the act itself that led to it, whether it was a direct killing or an accidental death.

What’s your best advice for writers in the 1) drafting stage, 2) querying stage, 3) submission stage and 4) post book deal, pre-release stage?

1) Drafting stage: Write what feels right, not what you think you should be writing. It’s smart to pay attention to the market if your end goal is to be published, but don’t it be what drives you.
2) Querying stage: It’s okay to get down about rejection, and you will be rejected. The important thing is finding a way to move past it and keep writing. It only takes one agent to love your book.
3) Submission stage: Same as above, except it can be even harder because mentally, you’re always thinking, this is it, this is the last stop. Which isn’t necessarily true since there’s lots of houses to which your agent can submit your manuscript. But it’s hard to remember that, so just work on something new while you wait. Whatever it takes to keep from going crazy.
4) Post book deal, pre-release stage: Goodreads is not your friend, and you’ll save yourself a lot of mental anguish by staying away. You also don’t need to be reading reviews, good or bad, because none of that will help with your writing (and if there is anything you do need to see, your editor will let you know). Enjoy the good stuff because there’s going to be a lot of it, and do your best to let the not-so-good stuff roll off your back. Getting published is an incredible thing, and there is a reason why you’re getting published. Don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise.

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.

Instead of picking just two or three individual books, I can tell you what authors I used to always look for in the library. I loved Christopher Pike as a kid, also VC Andrews, Lois Duncan, and Stephen King. I read anything they wrote, they were my go-tos.

Livia Blackburne is a fantasy writer and recovering neuroscientist. She wrote her debut MIDNIGHT THIEF while conducting her dissertation research at MIT on the neural correlates of reading in children. She blogs about the intersection of psychology and writing on her blog A Brain Scientist’s Take on Writing.


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 Robin Talley, YA author of LIES WE TELL OURSELVES.

What’s your debut book about?

Here’s a summary:

It’s 1959, and 17-year-old Sarah Dunbar is the first black student to integrate the all-white Jefferson High School in Davisburg, Virginia. No one wants her there. Hundreds of white students line the school halls, screaming, spitting, and throwing rocks at Sarah and her friends.

When Sarah meets Linda Hairston, the two girls have every reason to hate each other. Linda’s not only white ― she’s the daughter of the town’s most ardent segregationist. But the world is changing fast. And whether they like it or not, Sarah and Linda are changing too. Both of them are beginning to feel something they’ve never felt before. And they’re both determined to ignore it.

Because it’s one thing to be frightened by the world around you ― and another thing altogether when you’re terrified of what you feel inside.

Did you do a lot of research for your book?

Quite a bit! I spent months researching the history of school desegregation and life in the 1950s before I wrote the first word of LIES WE TELL OURSELVES. This included a lot of listening to oral histories, reading newspaper archives, and pouring through vintage high school yearbooks.

For a taste of it, here are some of my favorite photos from 1950s yearbooks:

(If you love this sort of thing as much as I do, I posted some more vintage yearbook photos here.)

Where did you get the idea for this story?

I was first inspired to write LIES WE TELL OURSELVES during a road trip with my parents. We were talking about their school days back in the 1950s and 60s, and the conversation turned to their fears that the schools would be closed due to the state government’s efforts to resist school desegregation.

Both of my parents were students in all-white Virginia high schools during integration. They both saw first-hand the torment that the few black students in their schools were subjected to. These were stories I’d never been taught in history classes, even though I grew up in Virginia too.

I did some research and discovered just how well-organized opposition to the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board desegregation ruling had been throughout the South, especially in Virginia. In the city of Norfolk, 10,000 students missed out on half a year of their educations ― because the governor closed down the white schools rather than let 17 black students into their classrooms.

I wondered what it would’ve been like to be one of those 17 black students. And what would happen if you were dealing with that ― and if you were gay, too. In 1959, being gay wasn’t something you could tell anyone about. Not unless you wanted to risk everything.

By that point, I was sucked in. I had no choice but to write Sarah’s story.

Do you have any tips for beginning writers?

Figure out what works for you, and do that. There are a million writing guides out there ― books, articles, podcasts, videos, conferences, crit groups, you name it. None of it is useful unless it works for you. Try different tricks and techniques until you find what works, and then stick with that. Don’t second-guess your own instincts.

Robin Talley lives in Washington, D.C., with her ornery cat and her opposite-of-ornery fiancée. Robin’s debut novel, LIES WE TELL OURSELVES (Harlequin Teen, September 2014), follows a black girl in 1959 Virginia who’s the first to desegregate an all-white high school, and winds up falling in love with a white girl in the process. Robin tweets at @robin_talley.

Whitney Miller: THE VIOLET HOUR

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 Whitney Miller, YA author of THE VIOLET HOUR.

Hey, you’re getting published! What was your path to publication?

A little over four years ago, I started a job that requires me to commute by bus for two hours every day. Ugh, right? Well…maybe not! I decided I would use that time to pursue something creative. I’d always wanted to write, and I’d just gotten sucked into TWILIGHT (yes, I’m one of those). I started spending my time on the bus writing. A year later I got my agent (Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary) and the rest was history. Well, the rest was a lot of late nights, drafting, re-drafting, throwing things at the wall, and re-drafting again. But you get the basic idea.

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

The “pitch”: Harlow Wintergreen is keeping a dark secret. The daughter of a charismatic cult leader, she hears a sinister voice that whispers to her, showing her visions of a dizzying, blood-soaked alternate reality. When those visions begin to literally bleed into reality, Harlow must choose to either  expose the evil within or endanger her family, her friends, and the boy she loves.

The “cool” factor: THE VIOLET HOUR takes place all around Asia – Japan, China, Cambodia, and Vietnam. I adore international adventures in real life, and I love to take readers on them in book life!  TVH also has a hot, broody love interest with mysterious tattoos all over his body. So there’s that, too.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

This is going to sound weird, but writing the acknowledgements. They’re my favorite part of every book, and I always read them first. I am determined that, if nothing else, my debut will set the gold standard for acknowledgement writing. 😉

What are your desert island books?

Obvi I have to choose TWILIGHT as one, because it’s what set me on this life-changing journey and it’s the only book I’ve ever read more than twice. It’s also the only movie I’ve seen shmershmer times, but we won’t get into that. On to that I’ll add A WRINKLE IN TIME, A HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, and THE BOOK THIEF. On to that I’ll add an e-reader with unlimited adds because you didn’t specify any rules and I can’t be stuck on a desert island with only four books.

It’s been so fun talking to you. Thanks for having me!

Whitney Miller lives in San Francisco with her husband and a struggling houseplant. She’s summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, ridden the Trans-Siberian rails, bicycled through Vietnam, done the splits on the Great Wall of China, and evaded the boat police in Venice, but her best international adventures take place on the page! Her YA Horror THE VIOLET HOUR drops in March 2014 from Flux.


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 Bethany Crandell, YA author of SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS.

Bethany CrandellWhat’s your debut book about?

Here’s the Goodreads synopsis: Spoiled, Versace-clad Cricket Montgomery has seventeen years of pampering under her belt. So when her father decides to ship her off to a summer camp for disabled teens to help her learn some accountability, Cricket resigns herself to three weeks of handicapped hell.

Her sentence takes a bearable turn as she discovers the humor and likeability of the campers and grows close to fellow counselors. Now, if she can just convince a certain Zac Efron look-alike with amazing blue eyes that she finally realizes there’s life after Gucci, this summer could turn out to be the best she’s ever had.

Can you share any cool details with us?

No way! You have to read for all the juicy tidbits. I can tell you though, that it’s highly irreverent and painfully honest. Chances are you’ll feel a little uncomfortable at certain points, but you’ll hear yourself laughing none the less.

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

I watch a lot of TV, eat more guacamole than is healthy, and complain about things. My most recent gripe is that my favorite grocery store is closing. It may seem insignificant, but I’m all about routine. Dropping me into an unfamiliar place with an empty cart and a self-imposed, 45 minute or less deadline, is my own personal purgatory.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

It’s probably cliché, but walking into the book store and seeing my little book on the shelf. That’s going to be pretty exciting—and overwhelming.

What inspires you to write?

A better question would be what doesn’t inspire me to write. My two girls are the obvious go-to, but my husband, my spatially-challenged dog, my boss, the homeless dude by the 7-Eleven, a jaw-dropping sunrise, or bowl of guacamole…I find inspiration anywhere and everywhere. The key is using it for got instead of evil…

Bethany Crandell and her husband Terry live in San Diego with their two daughters and a chocolate Labrador who has no consideration for personal space. She writes Young Adult novels because the feelings that come with life’s ‘first’ times are too good not to relive again and again. SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS is coming spring 2014 from Running Press.


Today, we’re talking to Sarah Combs, author of BREAKFAST SERVED ANYTIME. One author, four questions. Here we go!

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

My story was conceived in the waning hours of November 30, 2010, during what my husband and I refer to as “Adult Swim,” i.e. the golden part of the evening when our two young boys are safely asleep and we haven’t yet collapsed ourselves. We were musing about the upcoming year and my husband wondered aloud: Are you gonna write that book, or what?

I remembered an announcement that had lately arrived in my Inbox—something about a YA Novel Discovery Contest, the requirements for which were still, in that moment, within the realm of possibility: Before midnight on November 30, submit only the title and first 250 words of a YA novel or novel-in-progress. With maybe an hour to spare, I parked myself in front of my laptop and entered exactly 250 newborn words into this online submission box. Then I went to bed and promptly forgot about the whole business until the following February, when I was shocked (and horrified and ashamed, truth be told, because I didn’t have a novel! I had 250 words that were lost to the ether because Smart Girl hadn’t even bothered to make a copy!) to learn that BSA had won the contest.

The contest win fueled me to finally commit to paper the story that had been occupying my heart and imagination for so long. I wrote during my boys’ naps, and it took me almost a year to complete the manuscript. Just to see if my accidental success was in fact the fluke I suspected it was, I submitted the first 10 pages to another YA Novel contest, this one sponsored by She Writes. When BSA was selected as one of five winners, it earned a glance from several editors and agents including Elizabeth Kaplan, who became my agent when I sent out a round of formal queries shortly thereafter. The book sold to Candlewick’s Nicole Raymond, who happened to be one of the final judges of the first contest I entered. It was kismet all around, and proof positive that truth is waaaaaay stranger than fiction. There’s no way I could make this stuff up, and I’m still not sure I believe any of it.

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

Breakfast Served Anytime follows 17 year-old Gloria to Geek Camp, where she and her misfit classmates follow a series of scavenger hunt-esque clues left by a professor called X. It’s a coming-of-age book; a summer-that-changed-it-all book; a book about butterflies, the literal and the figurative kind. Mostly, though, it’s a story about Finding Your Tribe. It’s also a love song to my native Kentucky, and, because I’m of the opinion that there’s not a book or a life that can’t be enhanced by the presence of a dog, there’s a dog in it: a raggedy-eared Boxer puppy named Holyfield.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

I’m inordinately excited about writing my Acknowledgments Page. I cannot wait to start Acknowledging people all over the place. If I’ve learned anything in this process, it’s that bringing a book into the world is not unlike bringing a child into the world in that it takes a village, and my Village rocks. The high school English teacher who made us memorize Strunk & White’s Elements of Style; my teenage students and the writers whose lucky student I’ve been; the girlfriends whose voices ring through my ears as I write; my modern-day-Atticus-Finch of a husband, whose acquaintance I first made at a Geek Camp not unlike Gloria’s almost two decades ago…there are so many Villagers, and this story belongs to them as much as to me.

Also? I’m inordinately excited to see if Interpol (the band, not the international police organization) will grant us permission to use a handful of their lyrics in the all-important Makeout Scene.

What are your desert island books?

Carson McCullers’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Donna Tartt’s Secret History, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings, and J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey. As proof of my devotion to that last one—and as a reminder that a good writer is one who can write about the contents of a medicine cabinet and make it entirely fascinating—I keep a marble in my medicine cabinet. The marble would need to accompany me to the island, too, of course.

Sarah Combs is an erstwhile high school Latin teacher and former librarian, but she still loves dead languages and books as much as ever. These days she leads writing workshops at a nonprofit literacy center in Lexington, Kentucky, where she lives with her husband and two young sons. Her debut YA novel, BREAKFAST SERVED ANYTIME, is coming from Candlewick Press in Spring 2014.