GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Elisabeth Dahl, author of Genie Wishes

Today, we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Elisabeth Dahl, whose book Genie Wishes hits the shelves on April 2!

GenieWishesThis sweet, funny novel follows fifth-grader Genie Kunkle through a tumultuous year. From the first day of school, Genie knows there will be good, bad, and in-between. The good? She’s in homeroom with her best friend, Sarah. The bad? Sarah’s friend from camp, Blair, is a new student at their school, and is itching to take Genie’s place as Sarah’s BFF. The in-between? Genie is excited to be elected to write her class’s blog, where she’s tasked with tracking the wishes and dreams of her class. But expressing her opinion in public can be scary—especially when her opinion might make the rest of her class upset.

Elisabeth Dahl authentically captures the ups and downs of a tween girl’s life, and the dramas—both little and big—that fill the scary transition between childhood and adolescence.

I cannot wait to get my hands on Genie Wishes. What was your inspiration for the novel?

Before I wrote Genie Wishes, I had only ever thought to write for adults, but volunteering in my son’s elementary school library reminded me what amazingly committed readers kids are. So I decided to write a novel that would capture what it felt like for one girl (Genie Haddock Kunkle) in one place (Baltimore, Maryland, USA) to be a fifth grader today. I also wanted to try developing a main character and story from three different angles: her first-person narration, her blog posts, and her line drawings.  Although I’m an underachieving blogger myself, I wanted to see what it would be like to introduce this newish mode of communication into a book.

Can you tell us a bit about the road to publication? Anything particularly surprising happen along the way?

My road to publication was of the slow and steady variety. There were no preempts or auctions or other whooshing, glamorous moments, but every stage remained thrilling anyway. In April 2009, I finished a first draft. In April 2010, I signed with an agent, Marissa Walsh. In April 2011, we got an offer from Maggie Lehrman at Amulet/ABRAMS. And now, in April 2013, ABRAMS is releasing the finished book.

Some of the most exciting moments were the small ones. Getting an ISBN, for instance: Not really a big deal, right? But it felt huge!

I’ve worked as an editor, copyeditor, and proofreader myself for many years, so I was both excited and anxious about being on the other side of a book-length manuscript project. Would I like the changes my agent suggested? What about my editor’s? But Marissa (who has since left agenting, sadly) and Maggie were the best. I was incredibly fortunate.

Since the manuscript had a visual component—Genie’s/my line drawings—I was anxious too to see what the designers at ABRAMS would do with the look of the book. From a visual standpoint, the book came out so well.

From reading the blurb and viewing the book trailer, Genie has such an amazing voice. How did you channel your inner fifth grader?

Thank you so much. For various reasons, my fifth-grade year made a deep impression, and my inner fifth grader remains remarkably close at hand. As an added bonus, my son was in fourth grade when I started the book, so elementary school felt especially immediate to me again. Genie is both savvier and more relaxed than I was in fifth grade though.

Born and raised in Maryland myself, I absolutely love that the setting is in Baltimore. (Go Ravens!) How does your hometown play a role in Genie Wishes?

I definitely tried to bring some Baltimore specifics into the book. For instance, Genie lives in one of the city’s thousands and thousands of row houses. She spends part of her birthday at the Walters Art Museum. And she discusses the taste of sky-blue snowballs (local bright-blue-syrup-over-ice summer treats) with a classmate. But, at a deeper level, I hope the book contains some of the same charms as the city and its people.

Genie Wishes releases this week! How do you plan to celebrate the big day?

I’m hoping to keep it on the quiet side. I have a launch party scheduled for the following Saturday, but I want the release day itself to be ordinary. Once I’ve done some writing or editing work, I might do some gardening or housecleaning. Faced with the still-sometimes-daunting reality of having a book in the world, I want to make sure my house is in order, literally and figuratively.

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.

I loved an encyclopedic book called Tell Me Why, which explained all sorts of everything (Why do people hiccup? Why does it rain?). I read and reread Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends; bits of those poems still come to me sometimes. But above all, I adored Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, which I read and reread in my tween years. Genie Wishes owes a lot to that book.


Elisabeth, thank you so much for stopping by!

Thanks so much for the interview, and good fortune to all the OneFour KidLit-ers!


elisabeth dahl  GENIE WISHES, a middle-grade novel with line drawings, is Elisabeth Dahl’s first book   (forthcoming from Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS, in April 2013). She has just completed her second book, a novel for adults. Her writing has appeared at NPR.org, at TheRumpus.net, and at Baltimore Fishbowl. Elisabeth holds a bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and a master’s degree from Georgetown University, where she was a Writing Center Associate Fellow. She now lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

You can find her online via her WEBSITE, GOODREADS, TWITTER, or FACEBOOK.

This interview was conducted by OneFour member A. Lynden Rolland, and is part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Lucky13s —- YA, MG, and children’s books authors debuting in 2013.

A. Lynden Rolland is a mother of two and a former high school English teacher who moonlights as a writing tutor and gymnastics instructor. When she isn’t chasing her two rambunctious boys, she can be found hiding behind a laptop at her local bookstore. Her debut YA novel, OF BREAKABLE THINGS, will be released from Month9Books in the spring of 2014.

Liz de Jager: The Blackhart Legacy Series

We’ve got a great group of debut authors here at OneFour KidLit. Today we’re introducing Liz de Jager, author of The Blackhart Legacy series. The first book coming to you in Spring 2014 from Tor UK, an imprint of Pan Macmillan UK.

One author, four questions. Here we go!

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

My dad was a great storyteller.  As most little girls tend to do, I thought my dad knew all the stories in all the world.  He raised me pretty much on a diet of Westerns and retellings of Jules Verne and H Rider Haggard.  My mum despaired as stories to her were a waste of time as she was a firestarter, always creating things with her hands, running around being active.  So reading for me became something special and secret and when I started writing my own stories I hid them away like a secret thing to be ashamed of.  I loved my mum but she was fierce and so it wasn’t until I got to high school and teachers were telling me that I could actually write that I took what I scribbled seriously.

I met and married my husband and moved to the UK.  I joined SCBWI British Isles in 2008 after completing my first novel, a middle grade action adventure.  I thought I was pretty hot stuff back then but I had a lot to learn and SCBWI helped me a lot; they put together classes that taught members about characters, plotting and revision.

I wrote the first book in my trilogy and entered it into the SCBWI BI Undiscovered Voices competition and got long listed.  I was devastated that I did not make the short list but I was so excited for my friends who did make it.  On the back of the long-listing, I received some interest from agents and sent it off to two of them.  I received one very polite rejection and one very personal hurtful rejection that utterly broke me.  I didn’t write for three months.  But after a chat to a friend, she told me to pull up my big girl panties and get writing because quitters don’t find their books in bookshops.  This scared me and so I did what she instructed.  I dumped the entire manuscript and started from scratch.  And it soared.  I utterly fell in love with my main character, Kit Blackhart, and the world I had created just grew and grew.

I approached an agent I knew from twitter in my capacity as a SCBWI Volunteer to invite her to come to our Agents’ Party.  She responded with enthusiasm and we chatted amicably for a few days until she told me she’d be interested in seeing my manuscript as she was building her YA list and she loves fantasy and urban fantasy.  I literally freaked out.  I sent the requisite three chapters off to her (in a ridiculously formal email) during the Olympics here in London and got an out of office reply.  My heart sank as I realised she was travelling.  My boss sent us all home early to avoid travel chaos and en route to my station I felt my phone buzz and it was from the agent asking me to send her the rest of the manuscript as she loved the opening three chapters so much.  The following day, a Saturday, she sent me an email to tell me how much she loved the manuscript and she wanted to meet with a view to offer representation.

We met up and we talked extensively about the manuscript and the characters and other stories I had in mind.  She suggested a few minor changes and one major big breathtaking change and I remember thinking: she’s got guts and obviously knows of what she speaks! We shook hands after out chat and hugged and suddenly, I had an agent. I went away, made the changes and edits she suggested, sent it back to her a few weeks later after which she sent along a few line edits and then at the beginning of January 2013 sent it off to a hitlist of editors and publishers.  We got some interest, some said no pretty quickly, but mostly the rejections were so lovely, you could not take them personally.

Within a few weeks of visiting a handful of publishers and listening to a smattering of editors and publicity people talk about Blackhart we went to auction and after extensive sober and very grown up chats, we chose Tor UK as the home to The Blackhart Legacy trilogy.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

All of it, really.  Meeting my editor and her team, hearing their thoughts on the covers and the titles we’re choosing for the three books, joining Onefourkidlit and having to change my Facebook and Twitter profiles! It’s the small things, you know? It makes it real.  It’s a year until the first book is released and there’s a lot of work to be done but I am so looking forward to it. Also: telling my friends and people I work with, that I’ve got a bookdeal and then having to explain it all to them, how it works.  And assuring them that my wealth is nowhere near JK Rowling’s…unless I win the lottery.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

I owned a motorbike in South Africa.  She was called Black Betty even though she was purple.  I loved her and rode her badly.  I also have a tattoo in the shape of a Brian Froud pixie on my shoulder.  I am a wild child.  (not really)

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

I love Moleksine notebooks but am only able to write in the plain / unlined notebooks.  I have hundred of them and I wish I was exaggerating but I’m not.  I can pretty much write anywhere if my laptop is charged – the noisier the better and I also have a huge writing playlist that consists of a lot of movie soundtracks – so a lot of big orchestral pieces.  I am unable to watch The Lord of the Rings or The Kingdom and hear the music and not suffer pangs of: “I have to write immediately!” feelings.  Very Pavlovian.

Liz de Jager, although originally from South Africa, now lives in London, United Kingdom, with her husband Mark and their Jack Russell Terrier, Sparrow. Her house is brimful of books and she spends most of her free time writing, reading, drinking too much tea and dreaming of kick ass heroines saving the day. She’s also obsessed with folklore and fairy tales. She can be found on Twitter: @LizUK

Elissa Sussman: STRAY

We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. Today, we’re talking to Elissa Sussman, author of STRAY (Greenwillow Books, 2014). One author, four questions. Here we go!

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

Even though I had the very basic idea for STRAY (Fairy Godmothers! Magic! Fantasy!) back in college, it took years for me to actually write the damn thing. That was in 2010, also known as the year of perpetual revisions, in which I probably scrapped and rewrote my first chapter at least six times (first chapters are the WORST, am I right?) before I felt ready to start querying.

Then, exactly one year and one day after I started the first draft of STRAY, I received an offer of representation from Samantha Shea of Georges Borchardt, Inc. After that it was back to revisions until finally, my wonderful agent told me that she felt it was ready to go on submission. A month later, it sold to the lovely folks at Greenwillow Books about a year and a half after I had started.

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

STRAY was pitched as THE HANDMAID’S TALE meets Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It’s the first in a series about a world where magic is a curse that only women bear and society is dictated by a strict religious doctrine called The Path.

I’m an obsessive plotter, so even though the first book is the only one that’s been written, the entire six book series has already been planned and outlined.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

I’m a huge animation nerd but can’t draw (or animate) to save my life. Luckily I’m really good at bossing people around and can build a killer spreadsheet, which made me perfect for my former life in production management. I’ve had the opportunity to work on a bunch of really amazing movies and you can see my name in the credits of THE CROODS, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, TANGLED and THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG.

Can you share a few of your favorite books from childhood?

I was a total indoor kid (and by was, I mean, I still am) so I read ALL THE TIME. But there are a few books that I loved then and continue to re-read now, like DEALING WITH DRAGONS by Patricia C. Wrede, REDWALL by Brian Jacques, THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH by Norton Juster and JACOB HAVE I LOVED by Katherine Peterson.

Elissa Sussman is a fairy tale nerd and lover of freshly baked bread. Her debut, STRAY (Greenwillow, Harper-Collins), is a homage to both. She lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend and their rescue mutt, Basil.


We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. Today, we’re talking to Sara Raasch, author of SNOW LIKE ASHES (Balzer + Bray, Fall 2014). One author, four questions. Here we go!

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

Very slowly. I started writing SNOW LIKE ASHES when I was twelve (then it was called GIVING LIGHT) and actually wrote the entire trilogy before I was fifteen. I was madly in love with this book and took 7+ years of rejections before I realized I should move on to something else. But the story and characters never left me, and after two agents, six other books (two of which went on submission over the span of two and a half years), and a LOT of chocolate, I took a step back and analyzed who I wanted to be as an author. GIVING LIGHT was always IT for me, the story that made me fall in love with writing and really defined who I am as an author, and so in the summer of 2012 I morphed it into SNOW LIKE ASHES. I revised with my agent through the fall of 2012, went on submission in January 2013, and had interest within a week. By the end of January, I had accepted an offer from the amazing Kristin Rens at B+B, and I couldn’t be more starstruck. I mean, more excited 😀

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

SNOW LIKE ASHES is about a sixteen-year-old refugee/spy named Meira from the Kingdom of Winter who has to help the other refugees free their enslaved people from Spring. There are eight kingdoms in Meira’s world — four Seasons, or kingdoms stuck in eternal seasons (Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring) and four Rhythms, or kingdoms that move through the normal rhythms of natural seasons. Because Meira is from Winter, I have a slight obsession with winter and snow. Or slight superstition, I should say.

I went on submission with SLA in January, which is peak snow-season in Utah. And every time I got good news while on submission (an editor is interested, they’re going to acquisitions, you sold!) there was a HUGE snowstorm where I live. Like big, fat flakes that stick to everything and ice falling in sheets and white, white everywhere. And while everyone else around me complained about the weather and how awful it was, I’d just smile and squeeze a handful of snow and tell myself that The Universe was pulling for me this time, that this book would really be IT — the culmination of my lifelong dream tying together in the book I’ve loved all my life. I still get giddy when it snows because it’s a reminder that good things happen just like blizzards — first one flake falls, and it doesn’t look like a whole lot. But soon dozens of flakes are falling and you can’t see anything through the white, and all you know is the glorious wonder of cold and beauty, and you can’t remember ever feeling anything but happy.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

I’ve envisioned seeing my book on a shelf in a bookstore since I was five years old. I still get a little fainty when I think about it.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

1) I have the world’s most ambiguous degree and even I’m not entirely sure what it’s for: BS in Organizational Leadership.

2) I met my fiance on match.com. Yep, we’re one of THOSE couples.

3) This is more of a weird quirk than cool fact, but I have the strangest celebrity crushes. No, seriously — most people swoon over Josh Hutcherson and Chris Hemsworth, but I remember sitting in the theater for Iron Man 2 thinking “Hmm, Mickey Rourke…” In my defense, anyone who uses a Russian accent gets 200% hotter just by talking.

Sara Raasch has known she was destined for bookish things since her friends had a lemonade stand and she tagged along to sell her hand-drawn picture books too. Her debut YA fantasy, SNOW LIKE ASHES, is coming out Fall 2014 from Balzer + Bray. It does not feature her hand-drawn pictures. She can be found on Twitter at @seesarawrite and blogging over at the Valentines. She is represented by Charlotte Sheedy Literary.

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

Today, we’re interviewing Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, whose book Forest Has a Song comes out today.

A spider is a “never-tangling dangling spinner / knitting angles, trapping dinner.” A tree frog proposes, “Marry me. Please marry me… / Pick me now. / Make me your choice. / I’m one great frog / with one strong voice.” VanDerwater lets the denizens of the forest speak for themselves in twenty-six lighthearted, easy-to-read poems. As she observes, “Silence in Forest / never lasts long. / Melody / is everywhere / mixing in / with piney air. / Forest has a song.” The graceful, appealing watercolor illustrations perfectly suit these charming poems that invite young readers into the woodland world at every season.

Isn't it beautiful?

Isn’t it beautiful? I could stare at the art for hours, and don’t get me started on the poems themselves! I’d like to add that it has already made an impact in our household. My first-grade daughter and her friend love to pore over it, reading out loud together, and both of them want to know how the artist did “such a good job.”

In Forest Has a Song, each poem is like an instrument solo and together, they make a beautiful opus. What inspired you to write a collection of poems that unite in such a way?

My family lives on the edge of a forest, we’ve spent a lot of time camping, and I grew up playing in the woods. Back in 2006, I realized that I had written many foresty poems and thought I would see how many I could gather.  Lee Bennett Hopkins has been a very generous teacher to me, and he taught me about how to do this kind of gathering and shaping.

I love each of the poems, especially the haikus, but my favorite is “April Waking”. Is there a poem that is closest to your heart?

I like “First Flight” because it makes me think about our children and being a mom, and I also like “Fossil” because of the magic.  It’s funny, but usually my favorites among my own poems are those I do not actually feel I wrote.  It’s almost as if they were whispered to me, and I served simply as reviser.  It’s strange and wonderful, really.

Which poem was most troublesome to write, and why?

“Farewell”, the last poem in the collection, was probably the trickiest for me because I initially had a different concept for the ending of the book.  When that changed, I needed to come up with a new poem, and that required me to get out of my old mindset.

Your journey to publication has been as varied as anyone’s, but the illustrations were certainly worth the wait! Which part of the publication process surprised you the most?

Everything was new to me, and so I was met with many surprises.  But the beauty of Robbin Gourley’s artwork is has been the most humbling part of it all, to know that she read and considered each poem so carefully.  I was surprised to feel so close to a person I had never met.  Robbin and I are friends online now, and we call the girl in FOREST HAS A SONG “our girl”.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did that desire lead you to where you are today?

I always wanted to be a teacher just like my mother and my grandmother.  And I have always loved making things and writing. My work as a fifth grade teacher led me to studying writing with Lucy Calkins at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the act of teaching writing deepened my own writing greatly.  I am fortunate to be able to write and to work with teachers and students around writing.  These two parts of my work nurture each other.

As a teacher and mother, how do you squeeze in time to write? Do you have any rituals or special places you like to write in? 

I write in the small spaces: over breakfast, in my head while driving, walking down the road.  And sometimes I fall asleep at night with my face in my notebook.  (It’s funny to read those entries in the morning.)  I love curling up in front of the heater with papers, books, and a black pen.  And I have a great old desk.  My blog, The Poem Farm, helps keep me on schedule as I post there two times each week. The ritual of blogging has changed the rhythm of my life.

Did you write any of the poems while actually in the forest, listening to the snaps and squeaks?

I do not believe that I actually sat in a forest to write any of these poems, but each one was written from real experiences and real things I said and thought in my life’s forests.  I have, indeed, said, “I wish I had moss socks!” when tiptoeing to the outhouse at our family’s camp…and this found its way into a poem.

Finally, as this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know which authors and poets inspired you as a kid.

I was a big Shel Silverstein fan as a girl, and I also adored A CHILD’S BOOK OF POEMS, illustrated  by Gyo Fujikawa.  I remember being scared at the ends of NANCY DREW chapters and I remember stacks of library books each week.  I was an avid reader, but I was an equally avid creator and explorer.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to share here at OneFour KidLit, Amber.  It has been a privilege.
Amy Photo Red Vest

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is a writer and writing teacher living at Heart Rock Farm, south of Buffalo, NY, with her husband and three children.  Amy’s poems appear in numerous anthologies, and she is the author of two poetry books for children: FOREST HAS A SONG (Clarion, 2013) and READING TIME (WordSong, date TBA).  Amy is also co-author of the professional book, POETRY: BIG THOUGHTS IN SMALL PACKAGES (Heinemann, 2013) and maintains a searchable blog full of hundreds of poems and mini lessons at www.poemfarm.amylv.com as well as a notebooking blog at www.sharingournotebooks.amylv.com. She is represented by Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown Ltd.

The illustrations–which are incredible–are by Robbin Gourley.  Forest Has a Song is published by Clarion and edited by Dinah Stevenson.

This interview was conducted by OneFour member Amber Lough, and is part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Lucky13s —- YA, MG, and children’s books authors debuting in 2013.

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 the Air Force to write stories about other worlds and times. Her Middle Eastern fantasy, THE FIRE WISH, is due from Random House Children’s in Fall 2014.

Rachel Searles: THE LOST PLANET

We’ve got a great group of debut authors here at OneFour KidLit. Today we’re introducing Rachel Searles, author of THE LOST PLANET, coming to you January 2014 from Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. One author, four questions. Here we go!

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

I’ve known I wanted to be an author since I was six years old. During my childhood I filled countless notebooks with my stories, but as I grew older, exposure to the “real world” convinced me I needed to pursue a “real job” and get “real life experience.” I studied political science and journalism, lived abroad for a few years, got a corporate job, and I didn’t do much (any) creative writing for a solid decade or so, even though publishing a book was still a goal somewhere in the back of my mind.

Eventually I started writing again, and after several false starts on some especially awful manuscripts, it took a New Year’s resolution (and a little bit of panic when I realized how easy it would be for me to let that goal slide forever) for me to finish writing what would become THE LOST PLANET. That first draft had a lot of issues, but it also had potential, so I spent a year and a half getting critiqued and revising it into the story I wanted to tell. Then Lady Luck paid a visit: After querying in small batches for half a year, I won a random drawing for a full manuscript critique by brilliant agent Joanna Volpe, who’d been closed to queries for an eternity and (though I didn’t know it then) was on the cusp of opening her own agency. I had big hopes, but no expectations, so I was pretty shocked when she called and told me she wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if she didn’t offer representation. We did a couple rounds of light revisions together, and got the first offer two weeks after it went out on sub.

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

THE LOST PLANET is an upper middle grade space adventure about a 13-year-old boy named Chase who wakes up on a colony planet with a terrible wound to the head and no memory of who he is. After disaster strikes the planet, Chase is hunted through the galaxy with two unlikely allies while trying to discover the truth about his past. Cool details? Well, the book was pitched as a young Star Wars and includes double-crossing mercenaries, a sentient jungle, and a vengeful alien crime boss named Rezer Bennin.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

I still kind of can’t believe I’m going to have a book published next year, and so far most of my reactions to good news have been a sort of amused disbelief. I think the most exciting thing will be to actually hold that hardcover in my hands, stare at its beautiful cover (which I’ve seen, and I LOVE it), and inhale that wonderful smell of ink and paper!

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

I grew up in the peaceful small town/wilderness splendor of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but I’m more of a city person and have lived only in metropolitan areas ever since, including Munich, Istanbul, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. I’ve spent the last nine years working at a company whose name is now a commonly used verb. I enjoy travel and studying languages, and I speak fluent German, decent French and a respectable amount of Turkish. Other character details: Coffee drinker. Cat person. Challenge accepter. Stubborn Taurus. If you ask me whether I prefer Star Wars or Star Trek, I’ll say both please with a swirl of Battlestar Galactica and a Firefly on top.

Rachel Searles once thought she’d be a journalist but found she vastly prefers writing about made-up things. A Midwesterner at heart, she lives in Los Angeles with her rocket scientist husband and their two feline overlords. Her debut novel, THE LOST PLANET, is a rip-roaring space adventure coming from Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan in January 2014.


We have a lot of fantastic debut authors at OneFourKidLit and we’re excited for you to get to know them! Today Anne Blankman is with us, author of PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG, coming from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in spring 2014.

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

I’ve always loved writing and reading, and as a youth services librarian, I’ve had the chance to do plenty of both. But I wasn’t sure I had the talent to get published. One day an idea took hold of me and wouldn’t let go, and I knew I had to write this story. I wrote PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG in little pieces, squeezing an hour of writing here and there during my baby’s nap or at night. Once I felt it was ready, I submitted the first ten pages for a critique session at a regional SCBWI conference. My top choice agent was there and, amazingly, we got matched with each other. Meeting her felt like meeting a wonderful new friend. I signed with her about a week or so later, and three weeks after that, we had a three-book deal at auction. Obviously, I was incredibly lucky, and my experience is by no means a typical one!

What’s your debut book about?

PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG is a YA romantic historical thriller set in Munich shortly before Hitler’s rise to power. Here’s the blurb I used in my query:

Obey. Smile when Hitler comes closer. And never, never question him.

These are the three rules in seventeen-year-old Nazi Gretchen Müller’s life. They’ve kept her safe since Papa died, protecting old family friend Adolf Hitler during a street fight years ago. Until the night in 1931 when Gretchen meets a young, fearless Jewish reporter she’s supposed to despise. But she can’t stop herself from listening to his story — that her father, the adored martyr, was actually murdered. Together, Gretchen and the reporter vow to do whatever it takes to uncover the truth. Even if it means breaking all of Hitler’s rules. Especially the most important one of all: Don’t fall in love with the enemy

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

Wow. I can’t pick only one thing. Working with my editor, Kristin Daly Rens, who is not only smart and funny and patient but asks brilliant questions that get me thinking about my story in new ways. Meeting my agent, Tracey Adams, and knowing within minutes that I wanted to sign with her agency. Knowing that people in New York City were talking about my manuscript. And, of course, seeing my cover for the first time and realizing that this is really happening.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

I rowed on my high school and college crew teams, which is why I have no fear of wearing unisuits. Not, I hasten to add, that I wear them anymore! Let’s be clear about this!

I used to fence competitively. Saber was my main weapon, so I got to compete mostly against REALLY. BIG. GUYS. Did I mention they were big?

My husband played football at our college, and I still don’t understand any of the rules. Not a one.

Every room in my house has a bookcase, except for the bathrooms. To me, a house without books is like a person without a personality.

A native New Yorker, Anne Blankman currently lives in southeastern Virginia with her husband and young daughter. She’s lucky enough to be a writer and a librarian. Her debut novel, PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG, comes out in 2014 from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins.

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Lindsay Ribar, author of THE ART OF WISHING

Today we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Lindsay Ribar, whose debut novel THE ART OF WISHING hits the shelves this week.Art-of-Wishing-cover-199x300

The Art of Wishing is about Margo McKenna, who has a plan for just about everything–from landing the lead in the school play to getting into a good college. So when she finds herself in possession of a genie’s ring and the chance to make three wishes, she doesn’t know what to do. Why should she put her life into someone else’s hands?

But Oliver is more than just a genie–he’s also a sophomore in Margo’s high school, and he’s on the run from a murderer. As he and Margo grow closer, she discovers that it will take more than three wishes to save him.

A whole lot more.

What was the piece of this story that first inspired you? Was it an image, a character, or an idea? 

The starting point for The Art of Wishing was an idea that very quickly led to a character.  I’d wanted, for a long time, to write a paranormal boy/girl romance where the girl was the alpha of the relationship – and when the genie idea occurred to me, I knew I’d found the right vehicle for that kind of story.  Genies are interesting because, unlike many supernatural beings, they often play a submissive role to their human masters, whether by choice or by necessity.  Usually, though, submitting to a master pisses them off.  They want more power than they have, so they screw around with their masters, usually by deliberately misinterpreting wishes.  But that kind of genie has become so common and expected (seriously: look up “Literal Genie” and “Jackass Genie” on TVTropes.org), that I found myself wanting to explore something a little different.

That was how Oliver began: the genie who actually enjoys what he does.  The guy who gets his kicks by being bound to a master, and by giving other people what they want.  Sort of the classic beta male.  He was the idea/character that kickstarted The Art of Wishing.  But if Oliver was the core of the premise, Margo was the core of the plot – because it takes a unique sort of girl to fall for that particular sort of guy.

Your book is set in the very relatable world of high school–but with genies! What was it like adding a magical element to an otherwise realistic setting?

Surprisingly easy!  I read a lot of paranormal YA, and I love shows like Buffy and The Vampire Diaries, all of which use similar conceits.  But besides being constantly immersed in paranormal high school stories, I was one of those people who never quite felt comfortable in school when I was a teenager.  I had things that made me happy, sure – like performing in the plays, singing in the choir, and learning French – but overall, it was a weird experience.  I constantly felt, as I’m sure most of my peers did, like I was the odd one out.  Like I was experiencing the world in a different way than everyone else around me.  From there, it’s not actually a huge leap to get to “Magic is real, and I’m the only one who knows about it.”

You’ve created a genie mythology all your own in this book. What kinds of research did you do to write about them? How did you decide which “classic” genie qualities to keep, and which to change or create on your own?

One of my favorite things about writing this book was that I got to rewatch Disney’s Aladdin (don’t ask me how many times) and call it “research.”  My research was all over the map, actually: Aladdin, old episodes of I Dream of Jeannie, bits of the Quran, stories from The Thousand and One Nights, hours of poking around on TVTropes… you name it.  And the most important thing I found out was this: Genie mythology is the least consistent thing in the entire world.

In some ways that was frustrating, but in other ways it was liberating, because that basically meant that I got to do whatever I wanted.  There were certain classic elements that I wanted to keep – namely, the idea of a genie being bound to an inanimate object (in Oliver’s case, a silver ring), and the three-wishes thing ** – because they provided a structure within which I could feel comfortable working.  And a structure that readers will find familiar, too.

But aside from those two things, anything was fair game.  I pulled some things from other systems of magic; I made other things up completely.  Nothing like writing a paranormal romance to make you feel like a tiny god.

** This isn’t as classic as you’d think, actually.  Although the three-wishes trope itself goes back to Ye Olden Dayes of Yore, “three wishes” and “genies” didn’t intersect until less than a hundred years ago, as far as I can tell.

This book is about music as much as it’s about magic. What music did you listen to while writing it? Like Margo, did you do musical theater in high school?

Oh, not just high school.  I was actually a musical theater performance major in college.  (“Thank goodness that phase is over,” says everyone who’s ever known me.)  So I definitely pulled from that cache of experiences in order to write the rehearsal scenes.

Weirdly, though, my novel soundtrack (yes, I have one; don’t judge me) doesn’t include any musical theater at all.  When I write, I tend to find that I can listen to specific artists, albums, and songs as a means of getting into my characters’ heads.  If I want to access Oliver’s thought processes and mannerisms and such, I listen to Carbon Leaf or Great Big Sea or Matt Nathanson.  For Margo, it’s Neko Case or Brandi Carlile.  For Xavier, it’s Suzanne Vega or the Indigo Girls.

The upside of those associations is that I know I can always come back to those artists if I need inspiration.  The downside is that I’ll probably always associate some of my favorite songs and artists with Margo’s insecurity, Oliver’s evasiveness, and Xavier’s, um, homicidal tendencies.

Yours is one of my very favorite titles: THE ART OF WISHING. How did you come up with it? Did you always have it in mind, or did the title evolve as you wrote the book?

Well, hey, I’m glad you like it!  I definitely didn’t always know this book would be called The Art of Wishing.  When my agent sold the book, its title was The Fourth Wish, which is plenty evocative, but doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.  Before that, working titles included Wish and That Genie Thing and, occasionally, Arrrrgh.  The current title is the result of much brainstorming that happened in a long email chain between my editor and me.

Let’s pretend that you found Oliver’s ring instead of Margo. What would your three wishes be?

Well, I know my first would be a health-and-fitness sort of thing: to always be in the best possible shape, physically and mentally, for my age and body type.  And if I had enough power, I’d make that apply not just to me, but to as many of my friends and family as possible.

The second one: probably some kind of financial stability.

And the third? Hmmm. I’ll have to get back to you on that….

Since this is a trilogy, what can we look forward to in future books (and when can we read them)? 

Well, without giving too much away, I’ll say that The Art of Wishing ends with Margo’s life changing in a pretty drastic way.  She spends a lot of the second book dealing with the fallout from that change – and trust me, there is plenty of fallout.  Margo also delves deeper into Oliver’s past, finds out more about the nature of his relationship with Xavier, and comes across some information that might have the power to change both their futures… all while still in rehearsals for Sweeney Todd.

There is also some serious gender-bendiness, a lot of secret-identity shenanigans, and (shockingly) kissing.  Like, way more kissing than in the first book.  And possibly a little bit more than kissing, too….

Hooray! 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:

First of all, that is the best motto ever.

Second of all, I’ve been narrowing this down steadily over the years, and I think the three books/series that stick out the most for me are:

The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin

Redwall by Brian Jacques

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Thanks for stopping by, Lindsay, and congrats on your debut! 



Lindsay Ribar grew up in New Jersey, where the only logical thing to do after high school was to move to New York. She majored in drama and English literature at NYU, and now works in book publishing, where she reads other people’s novels by day and writes her own by night. She owns approximately twelve bazillion CD’s, attends far too many concerts, and mainlines nerdy television shows like it’s going out of style. She is fond of wine, Ireland, musicals, long walks around Manhattan, and the color blue.

Online you can find Lindsay on her WebsiteGoodreads, or Twitter.

This interview was conducted by OneFour member Rebecca Behrens, and is part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Lucky13s —- YA, MG, and children’s books authors debuting in 2013.

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.

Stefanie Gaither: FALLS THE SHADOW

We have a lot of fantastic authors here on OneFour Kidlit, and we’re excited to introduce them to you! Today we’re talking to Stefanie Gaither, author of FALLS THE SHADOW, coming from Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers in 2014. One author, four questions. Here we go!

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

The short version: I wrote a book. It was terrible. Agents rejected it. I wrote another book. Same thing happened. I wrote another book. Agents started saying really nice things to me, but ultimately still said no. So I wrote lucky book number four. And then lots of agents started saying really nice things to me, and several of them even used the words “I’d like to offer you representation.” One of the users of those words was Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary. There was acceptance, and much rejoicing, and some revising, and then off on submission we went, and then one day a magical email with the magical word OFFER floated into my inbox, and then I drank lots of celebratory margaritas. The end.

The shorter version: A crap ton of hard work, an unhealthy level of stubbornness, and the developing of a skin so thick that you could bounce knives and ninja stars off of it.

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

FALLS THE SHADOW is about a girl, Cate, in a near-future world where cloning backup copies of “just-in-case” children is a common–though hotly protested– trend among the parents wealthy enough to afford it. Her whole life, Cate has had to deal with anti-cloning crazies and orginizations harassing her, and with lies about her family being splashed across every tabloid website in the nation. Things go from bad to worse when her sister, Violet, dies and is actually replaced by her “just-in-case” clone.

And then things go from worse to completely catastrophic when the new, cloned Violet ends up the prime suspect in a gruesome murder.

Now, while dodging protestors, police questioning, paparazzi cameras and more, Cate has to try and discover the truth about what really happened. Easier said than done, though, in a world filled with copies and lies, where nothing and no one is completely what they seem.

Oh, and of course there are also a couple swoon-worthy boys (bromance included!), fast cars, and cool weapons. And a bodycount. Because really, where’s the fun without all that? 😉

The title, though it could very well change, comes from one of my favorite poems– “The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot, which shares a lot of similar themes with my book (at least as I interpret it).

What are you most excited about in the debut process?
All of it. No, seriously. This is all so surreal, still, that I feel like I will love every little moment that makes it feel that much more real. The first look at potential covers, the first time holding a completed book in my hands, the first positive review, the first negative review, the first time seeing my book on a bookstore shelf, the first gushing email from a reader, the first email from a reader who thinks I am a complete and total hack, the first time seeing someone reading my book (my book!) out in public, etc…

Really, I’m just an excitable person in general.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

  • I live in an apartment behind (what used to be) a coffeeshop that my husband and I ran for a few years. It’s now been transformed into a different restaurant with a different manager, but I scored a commercial espresso machine in the process. It is gigantic, and it now takes up half my kitchen counter, and I love it.
  • I legit cannot snap my fingers. Many, many people have tried to teach me, all have failed. I’m a kick-butt whistler, though.
  • I have a dog named Shakespeare. He controls our home, and everyone in it.
  • I changed my major no less than six times in college before settling on English/Creative Writing. At one point I even majored in Spanish.
  • I don’t speak a word of Spanish.
  • I can, however, recite the entirety of the LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring movie, and most of the other two LOTR movies, more or less from memory. I’ve put this useful skill on a resume before (and yes, I did get the job).
  • I have a strong affinity for giraffes. Strong as in, my house is decorated with giraffe pillows, giraffe statues, giraffe pictures…etc… I mean, have you ever looked at a giraffe? They’re just so fantastically awkward.
Stefanie Gaither (blog)Stefanie Gaither writes YA novels about killer clones and spaceships, with the occasional romp with dragons and magic-users thrown in for good measure. Said writing is generally fueled by an obscene amount of coffee and chocolate, as well as the occasional tennis and/or soccer break. Her debut novel, FALLS THE SHADOW, is forthcoming from Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers in 2014.

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An interview with Liz Coley, author of PRETTY GIRL-13

Today the fabulous Liz Coley answers some of my questions about her thrilling debut, PRETTY GIRL-13. Here’s a blurb to get y’all started before we jump into talking to Liz:

Angie Chapman was thirteen years old when she ventured into the woods alone on a Girl Scouts camping trip. Now she’s returned home…only to find that it’s three years later and she’s sixteen-or at least that’s what everyone tells her.

What happened to the past three years of her life?

Angie doesn’t know.

But there are people who do—people who could tell Angie every detail of her forgotten time, if only they weren’t locked inside her mind. With a tremendous amount of courage, Angie embarks on a journey to discover the fragments of her personality, otherwise known as her “alters.” As she unearths more and more about her past, she discovers a terrifying secret and must decide: When you remember things you wish you could forget, do you destroy the parts of yourself that are responsible?


Doesn’t that just send chills down your spine? Okay, on we go to the behind-the-scenes of PRETTY GIRL-13.

Well, I guess we should start with the question everyone always wants to know: Where did the idea for PRETTY GIRL 13 come from?

PRETTY GIRL-13 was the collision of a character in search of a story, a question in search of a vehicle, and a title in search of a novel. In my mental bank, I had the goal to write a story where the protagonist had Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and the question “if you could obliterate your most painful traumatic memories, should you?” When the image of a book cover with PG-13 as the title jumped into my head, everything fell into place. Of course, the abbreviation is now used only by me, but the title was the final catalyst for the novel.

In PRETTY GIRL-13, Angie is sixteen, but she has no memory of the last three years. What was the biggest challenge in writing a character whose sense of self was so fractured?

Angie’s emotions and affect were the trickiest balance. To keep the reader engaged, Angie has to feel the all the confusion and frustration of her situation. She has to experience the pain and anger of having three years stolen from her. At the same time, one effect of DID is a flattening of emotion, a certain numbness to the swings, because blunting dangerously strong feelings is part of the DID self-defense system. Because the alters themselves were so vividly individual in my mind, writing their stories was easier than writing Angie’s.

PRETTY GIRL-13 is full of twists and turns and a lot of tension and high stakes. Do you have any tips for other thriller writers, on how to keep the tension of the story moving forward?

I once attended a SCBWI workshop session in which the instructor, Katherine Ayres, talked about making things difficult for your protagonist. She said, “My character needed to swim across the Ohio River, so I broke his leg.” That made quite an impression on me. In a thriller, things just keep getting worse and worse. The candlelight glimpsed at the end of the tunnel needs to be snuffed out quickly. Some people may criticize—how could so many bad things happen to one person? But I think we all know people who get into a disaster spiral, or people who are bad luck magnets. And if real life isn’t fair, certainly fiction doesn’t have to be, at least in the conflict development section.

You’ve visited in a ton of places, from Croatia to Slovenia. Do you have a favorite?

There are so many wonderful, historical, colorful places in the world. England always tugs at my heart—the smell of leaves burning on a damp morning makes me homesick for English villages. I loved Belize, which was the inspiration for my first self-published novel OUT OF XIBALBA.

What is something that you wish someone would’ve told you about writing when you were starting out? 

I think I actually got excellent advice along the way, thanks to my instructors at CONTEXT and at the SCBWI annual conferences in Cleveland. The most pithy advice was “writers write and submit” and “act like you already are what you want to be.” The first piece of advice speaks to productivity, effort, persistence, and resilience. The second speaks to projecting professionalism and developing a supportive community around yourself. I am really glad that no one with a crystal ball told me just how long it would take from my first baby steps to publication.

Can you walk me through the process of publishing PRETTY GIRL 13? What was your journey like?

I wrote most of PRETTY GIRL-13 during November 2009’s NaNoWriMo. It came together very quickly, and I sent it off to my agents faster than any previous novel. We spent over a year in revision, mostly working on Angie’s voice and a couple of plot points. By January 2011, it was ready to go on submission. There was one early low offer which I was advised to turn down. That was a heart-rending moment that demanded all my trust in my agent, because I’d been writing seriously for almost ten years at that point, and I’d had representation for four years without a sale. As life turned out, it was the right decision, but I chewed my fingernails for the six months it took to get “the call” again. The manuscript was almost print-ready at that point, so it has been a long wait to go through edits, first pass pages, copy editing, second pass pages, and into production. We had one late addition of an Author’s Note that threw off the page count and had to be finagled. Most of 2012 was spent networking with the Lucky 13’s and trying to develop more on-line presence and a revised website. The last couple of months have been dedicated to preparing for a blog tour and a few bookstore signings. Everyone says, “You must be so busy,” but actually it’s a lot of waiting.

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.

This is easy, since I just prepared blog posts on each of these books and what they meant to me. HOP ON POP by Dr. Seuss was the first book I learned to read all by myself, which opened the door to the rest of my life. I HAD TROUBLE IN GETTING TO SOLLA SOLLEW also by Dr. Seuss is my favorite kid book and the most perfect hero’s journey story. THE SECRET GARDEN wove a spell over my imagination, even more than Narnia or Middle Earth. It’s such a beautiful tale of redemption and renewal and yet it takes place in the real world, no actual magic required.

Liz, thanks so much for taking time to chat with us! We can’t wait for the world to get their stomachs twisted in knots, reading PRETTY GIRL-13.

You can buy PRETTY GIRL-13 here
You can watch the PRETTY GIRL-13 Book Trailer here


Want to know more about PRETTY GIRL-13’s author? Check out Liz’s website here, follow her on twitter or on facebook.