YouTube: Inspiration by Robin Constantine

This month’s YouTube topic is INSPIRATION, and Robin Constantine, author of  THE PROMISE OF AMAZING, is up today talking about some of what inspired her main characters and plot. 

Robin Constantine is a born and bred Jersey girl who moved down South so she could wear flip-flops year round. She spends her days dreaming up stories where love conquers all, well, eventually but not without a lot of peril, angst and the occasional kissing scene. Her YA debut, THE PROMISE OF AMAZING, will be released in 2014 by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

YouTube: Inspiration by Sara Raasch

This month’s YouTube topic is INSPIRATION, and Sara Raasch, author of the YA fantasy SNOW LIKE ASHES, is up today talking about inspiring things, rejection letters, and secret shames.

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.



We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. Today we’re talking to Robin Constantine, author of THE PROMISE OF AMAZING, coming from Balzer + Bray Winter 2014. One author, four questions. Here we go!

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

How much time do you have?

I’ve been seriously writing for fifteen years.  Not chained to my desk, hammering-out-a-word-count kind of writing, but seriously pursuing this dream of being an author since about 1997.  I joined SCBWI with the hopes of writing picture books but soon found my heart (and my voice) was in young adult.  I wrote when my son napped. I joined a critique group.  Went to conferences.  Got some “good” rejection letters on my first YA manuscript.  I was thrilled. I was on my way!!

That manuscript didn’t sell.  I kept writing.

Fast forward to Spring 2009:  Another kid. A new state. A new critique group. When my second YA novel was polished and ready to submit, I began querying agents.  At the same time, a writer pal suggested I enter The Get Your Stiletto In The Door contest run by a sub-group of RWA, ChickLitWriters.com.  There were two judges, one agent and one editor, for each category. Even if I didn’t win, I knew I’d get valuable feedback. Well, I won!  The agent for my category, the fabulous Tamar Rydzinski of The Laura Dail Literary Agency, requested a full.  I polished that manuscript even more, sent it off and about two weeks later, she offered representation.  I was thrilled.  I was on my way!!!

That manuscript didn’t sell.

Undaunted, I wrote another novel and over the course of a year went through several rounds of revisions with Tamar until we felt it was ready to submit.  THE PROMISE OF AMAZING went out on submission the Monday after Thanksgiving.  I tried not to obsessively check my email because I figured chances were I wouldn’t hear anything until after the holidays. When I got the call from Tamar, it was honestly surreal. I’d been in the middle of shopping online for a hard-to-find Lalaloopsy doll for my niece when my phone rang.  Donna Bray was interested in my book! After a nail biting week and a half, while all sorts of scenarios danced through my head and no Christmas shopping was done, my manuscript sold! Best. Christmas. Present. Ever.

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

(Modified PM blurb) THE PROMISE OF AMAZING is a story about a girl trying to break out of her shell, a boy trying to reform from a troublesome past and what happens after she saves him from choking.  Oh, and there are some fist fights and kissing but way after the choking happens.

Hmmm, cool details – I worked in a themed catering hall much like my main character but never saved anyone from choking.  I did, however, get a $20.00 tip for giving a man a turkey carcass so he could play a practical joke on a family member during a wedding.  That was so NOT in the job description!

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

My desk is my least favorite place to write.  I draft at my kitchen table because it’s closer to the coffee maker and has a nice view of my yard. I revise in my dining room because it’s this really calming shade of green and the natural lighting helps me focus.  I’ve written in coffee shops and libraries but prefer writing at home because I tend to make faces and talk to myself a lot.  I hope this comes across as quirky, not, um, insane.  Occasionally, I wear wrist warmers when I type because my house gets drafty.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

Truly?  Everything.  Specifically?  About a month ago I walked into  Barnes and Noble and got a huge, involuntary grin on my face.  Granted, that’s usually how I walk into a bookstore but suddenly the realization that my book is that much closer to being on the shelves made me giddy. I also love, Love, LOVE working with my amazing editor, Donna Bray.  She’s made the process, dare I say…FUN. And I’ve loved connecting with fellow One Fours.  That has been a really cool, unexpected perk of the debut process – sharing in everyone’s excitement as we head toward 2014!

Robin Constantine is a born and bred Jersey girl who moved down South so she could wear flip-flops year round. She spends her days dreaming up stories where love conquers all, well, eventually but not without a lot of peril, angst and the occasional kissing scene. Her YA debut, THE PROMISE OF AMAZING, will be released in 2014 by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An interview with Emma Pass, author of ACID

Today, we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Emma Pass, whose book ACID hits the shelves on April 25!

Here’s the blurb:

2113. In Jenna Strong’s world, ACID – the most brutal, controlling police force in history – rule supreme. No throwaway comment or muttered dissent goes unnoticed – or unpunished. And it was ACID agents who locked Jenna away for life, for a bloody crime she struggles to remember.

The only female inmate in a violent high-security prison, Jenna has learned to survive by any means necessary. And when a mysterious rebel group breaks her out, she must use her strength, speed and skill to stay one step ahead of ACID – and to uncover the truth about what really happened on that dark night two years ago.


Wow. Jenna seems like my kind of heroine and I’m dying to get my hands on this book. I’m intrigued in how you developed Jenna as a character. Do you see a little of yourself in Jenna or is she completely from your imagination?

Jenna stormed into my head more or less fully formed, demanding that her story be told. It was impossible to ignore her! I could see her in her prison cell, doing sit-ups, toughening herself up, and I started to wonder what she was doing there and why she had to be so tough.

As for seeing myself in Jenna, I’m such a wimp compared to her it’s not true! I could never be that brave or tough, which is why she was so much fun to write!

As you wrote ACID, which scene had the biggest emotional impact on you after writing it?

Hmm… probably the scene with Jenna and Jacob in the library – but I’m not going to say any more than that, because I don’t want to spoil it for readers! It was a creepy scene to write. Hopefully it will be a creepy scene to read!

On your blog, you mentioned your love for writing developed at an early age. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer and what instigated this?

I always loved writing stories, but until I was 13, I was convinced I was going to be an artist or a musician when I was older. Then I went to see the film ‘Jurassic Park’. Afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and started writing a sequel. 125 whole pages later, my first ‘novel’ was written, and I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life.

I love your pictures with your hound. Beautiful! Did he have any part of inspiring scenes in ACID?

We didn’t have a dog when I started writing ACID, but a year or so after starting the book, I decided I needed to do something to stave off the dreaded writer’s butt, so we got our first dog, The Hound, a gorgeous ex-racing greyhound. Sadly, he passed away last year, but we now have another greyhound, G-Dog, who makes us smile every day. Going out walking is a great cure for writer’s block, and there’s nothing like having a 60lb hot water bottle snuggled up to you on the sofa as you write on a cold winter’s day!

What was the toughest part of your publication journey for ACID and how did you overcome that obstacle?

The toughest part was trying to get published. I have a wonderful agent who loved the book and really got behind it, but getting rejections from publishers always knocks your confidence, no matter how hard you try not to let it. I did reach a point where I started to wonder if I was kidding myself, and was never going to get there. I dealt with it by starting another book (which is going to be my next novel, THE FEARLESS, out in the UK in 2014) so I had something to take my mind off waiting to hear from publishers! Even if ACID hadn’t sold, though, I would have kept writing. You never know – your lucky break could be just around the corner, but if you give up, you’ll never know.

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.

That’s a hard question! I think everything I’ve ever read has influenced me in one way or another. But if I had to choose…

I loved Enid Blyton as a kid, especially her ‘Adventure’ series. One that stands out (because I wanted to be able to fly, and in the book a group of characters are developing anti-gravity wings which allow people to do just that) is THE MOUNTAIN OF ADVENTURE. OK, it’s not great literature, but EB was a cracking storyteller!

I also loved EMILY OF NEW MOON by L.M. Montgomery, because Emily was so feisty and independent. Perhaps she’s partly the inspiration for Jenna! I always found Anne Shirley (of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES) a bit too good to be true – Emily was much more realistic. Plus, she had violet eyes and wanted to be a writer. What’s not to like?

Finally, I’ll pick Robert Swindells BROTHER IN THE LAND, which is about a boy fighting for survival in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. I read it when I was about 9 or 10 years old, and found it utterly chilling. It also left me with a fascination for post-apocalyptic and dystopian scenarios that continues to influence my writing today!

Emma & The Hound 2
You can find Emma online here:
And you can buy ACID here:
After teaching and traveling internationally, Christina Farley started writing about her adventures, tossing in a little fiction for fun. This inspired her to write GILDED, a YA about a Korean-American girl with a black belt and deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows to be published by Amazon Children’s spring 2014. Besides writing, Christina loves traveling, running, hanging out with her two Jedi warriors, and eating dark chocolate.

Kelsey Macke – DAMSEL DISTRESSED + Imogen Unlocked

We’ve got a great group of debut authors here at OneFour KidLit. Today we’re introducing Kelsey Macke, author of DAMSEL DISTRESSED (Spencer Hill Contemporary). This book is being presented with “Imogen Unlocked“, an album of original songs written for/inspired by the book, performed and recorded by the author’s indie-pop band, Wedding Day Rain. 

One author, four questions. Here we go!

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

(First, let me say that I am ZOMGSOEXCITED to be a part of OneFour KidLit!)

The long version of this story can be found here and here. (all my gory details laid out…)

The short version is that I wrote a book that I really, really believed in. During the winter of 2012, I found two people who understood my story completely: my agent and my editor. Those two people came to know of my manuscript at different times and in different (non-traditional) ways, but somehow, we’ve all found our place and are working together to make this story the best that it can be!

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

I have to say that one of the coolest things about the debut process, for me, is that I get to debut TWO parts of the story at once!

My book, DAMSEL DISTRESSED, is being presented with a companion album of original music!

I’ve been a singer/songwriter for as long as I can remember, and I am half of a folky-pop duo, Wedding Day Rain! Together, we’ve written songs that continue and enrich the story that is told in my book. The book is whole on its own, as is the album. But together, they tell two complementary and compelling versions of Imogen’s story.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

Well, I’m pretty much an open book, so it’s hard to find things that I haven’t blabbed to some corner of the internet, but… (HA!)

As I already mentioned, I’m a singer and have been writing songs for ages. I am also an actor and work in local musical productions as often as I can! (Favorite roles include “Maureen” in RENT, “Lucy” in AVENUE Q, and “Christine” in DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS.)

I’m also a middle school teacher, I LOVE potatoes more than any reasonable person should, I’m addicted to horrible science fiction movies, I know almost every word of the film Pretty in Pink (and Pitch Perfect (YAY “P” movies!)), and I can bend my thumb around backwards, almost 180 degrees. (Seriously. It’s gross AND awesome!)

I’m also a card carrying NERDFIGHTER, and have my own vlog for writers (and other creative type folks) with new episodes every Friday! 🙂 Here’s the episode where I announced my book + album, and here’s my second favorite episode: 10 reasons writers are crazy.

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

I suppose I have a few writing quirks. When I’m drafting I almost NEVER stop in the middle of a chapter. Even if I’ve finished a scene within a chapter, I’m unlikely to stop until I think the whole chapter is at a stopping place.

I also really can’t listen to music much when I draft. I get so caught up in the lyrics, or even the structure of the music (in the case of classical), so I often have the volume so low that it’s almost totally inaudible, or, I listen to “sea scapes” style sounds on pandora… things like ocean waves and jungle sounds. 😀

It’s also rare that you’ll find me without 14 different colored ink pens beside me–even if I’m not writing anything down. I like my writing implements.

Kelsey Macke has been creative for as long as she can remember. Her formative years were a swirl of bad poetry, journals full of songs, and absolutely TONS of jazz hands. Her debut, DAMSEL DISTRESSED (Spencer Hill Contemporary) is being presented with Imogen Unlocked, a full album of original songs inspired by the book and performed by her band Wedding Day Rain.

The OneFour KidLit’s YouTube Channel


As you probably remember, we have a YouTube Channel. We have put together a great line-up of awesome topics to talk to you about our books.

Here’s what we’ve got in store for you:

Apr.- Inspiration- What inspired you to write your book or what do you use for inspiration?

May– Music- music our character would listen to or soundtracks that would go with our books or playlists

June– Lights/Camera/Action- Act out a scene from your book.

July– Summer fun- What would your main character’s ideal vacation spot be?

Aug.- “It’s hot as hell out, who am I going to call to go see a movie or jump in the pool with?”

Sept.- Back to school- Talk about your character’s school.

Oct– Costumes- Discuss the clothing style of your book’s characters. Or come up with a Halloween costume for your book.

Nov.- Food! What are your character’s favorite foods?

Dec– Holidays- What type of holiday does your character celebrate?

As you can see from the list, this month is all about what inspired us to write our books.

Check out Stephanie Diaz’s vlog on the inspiration for EXTRACTION here.

Today, I’ve vlogged about my inspiration for GILDED here.

We hope you’ll subscribe and come hang out with us on our channel!

After teaching and traveling internationally, Christina Farley started writing about her adventures, tossing in a little fiction for fun. This inspired her to write GILDED, a YA about a Korean-American girl with a black belt and deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows to be published by Amazon Children’s spring 2014. Besides writing, Christina loves traveling, running, hanging out with her two Jedi warriors, and eating dark chocolate.

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Mindy Raf, author of THE SYMPTOMS OF MY INSANITY

Today we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Mindy Raf, whose debut novel THE SYMPTOMS OF MY INSANITY hits the shelves this week.

mindy cover

When you’re a hypochondriac, there are a million different things that could be wrong with you, but for Izzy, focusing on what could be wrong might be keeping her from dealing with what’s really wrong.

I almost raised my hand, but what would I say? “Mr. Bayer, may I please be excused? I’m not totally positive, but I think I might have cancer.” No way. Then everyone at school would know, and they would treat me differently, and I would be known as “Izzy, that poor girl who diagnosed herself with breast cancer during biology.”

But Izzy’s sense of humor can only get her so far when suddenly her best friend appears to have undergone a personality transplant, her mother’s health takes a turn for the worse, and her beautiful maybe-boyfriend is going all hot and cold. Izzy thinks she’s preparing for the worst-case scenario, but when the worst-case scenario actually hits, it’s a different story altogether—and there’s no tidy list of symptoms to help her through the insanity.


SYMPTOMS is partly based on my own experiences as an adult with my mother being sick, and as a teenager dealing with a lot of unwanted attention from boys. My goal was to write something funny, but also relatable. I also wanted a little girl power in there too.

Izzy, your main character, is such an amazing protagonist–she’s funny and smart and capable, but doesn’t quite know how to deal with all the pressures of her life and insecure and uncertain to the point that when she’s wronged by others, she’s not always willing to place blame where it should go.  In other words, she’s having an incredibly authentic experience of adolescence.  What was your process of creating Izzy? Did anything about it surprise you? How does she speak to the universal experience of growing up?

I’m not much of an outliner, so Izzy was created through free writing monologues. At first Izzy’s comedic voice was very similar to my own. Yet as both the story and Izzy evolved, I was surprised by how much she led the way and took on her own comedic perspective. Izzy is on a quest to find the important people in her life; that much needed support system.  I think that search, and the mistakes she makes along the way, is something that’s universal to both the adolescent and adult experience.

In Izzy’s world, there are all kinds of daily perils of young womanhood: a mother who constantly criticizes Izzy’s appearance, a school culture that victim-blames girls.  At the same time, there are incredible moments of female friendship and redemption between young women who’ve hurt one another.  What made you want to tackle these issues and make them so key to Izzy’s life?

There are so many books and movies out there that depict girls being so mean to each. I just really wanted to represent some girl power in my writing. I wanted to keep the story lighthearted, but also send out the important message that girls need to support each other and band together.

I don’t want to give out too many spoilers, but Izzy’s love interest Blake: Ahhhhhh!!  Super fascinating character who makes surprising choices.  Did you always know the path he would take?  What was it like writing him?

I always knew what path he’d take, but I wasn’t always clear why. Blake definitely started out more black and white than grey. He’s actually one of my favorite characters now because he came so far. It was a challenge for me trying to flesh him out and show his perspective on some of those “surprising choices” through Izzy’s eyes.

You have a background in comedy, which is awesome! It shows in the book.  How does your comedy background influence your writing?

My comedy background (telling stories onstage, writing and acting out scenes, and writing one liner jokes) really helped when writing dialogue. Finding the comedic  rhythm between two characters came naturally to me. That’s definitely due to my comedy writing experience.

What were the toughest and the best parts of writing this book?  

The scenes between Izzy and her mom in the last half of the book were very tough for me to write. My mom passed away as I was revising. Izzy’s relationship with her mom wasn’t parallel to my own and that sometimes got confusing. I realized through emotional trial and error how easy it was write myself into Mindy-Mom –Izzy-Linda circles.

Any exciting plans to celebrate your release day?

Yes! On Thursday April 18th release day I’ll be doing a book launch party and comedy show at Wix Lounge in NYC.  Some of my favorite performers will be singing and telling funny teen stories. I’ll be reading from SYMPTOMS, and I might do an interpretive dance to Jewel’s Pieces Of You album. No. Maybe. Okay, yes. But. . . no

I hope there’s a video of that somewhere.  One last question! As this community is “All for One and OneFour KidLit,” we’d love to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid!

I loved and still love Judy Blume. FOREVER, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET. You can’t go wrong with Judy Blume.

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


mindy raf

Mindy Raf is a writer, comedy performer, and musician based in Brooklyn, NY. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, and grew up in a Detroit suburb right around here (visualize someone pointing to the inner part of their thumb). She has written for VH1 and CollegeHumor.com. The Symptoms of My Insanity is her first novel.

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

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

twitter picKelly Loy Gilbert lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she writes (on good days, anyway) and works with teenagers. Her debut, CITY ON A HILL (Disney*Hyperion, Spring/Summer ’14) is about a high school baseball star whose father has just been arrested for a possible hate crime of which the boy is the only witness.


OneFour KidLit is absolutely plump with brilliant and amazing new writers. Today we’re going to introduce you to another: Patrick Samphire, author of the middle grade adventure, SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, to be published by Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt / Macmillan).

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

“Path” is a little bit too generous a word for my trip to publication. Path implies some kind of direction.

For me, it was more like waking up in the middle of a bleak and windswept moor, and then wandering about dazed until I finally stumbled to a shelter. Or something like that.

Ah, here’s a pie-chart to explain it all:

Pie chart pretending to show path to publication.

The blackberry-and-apple-pie chart of publication.

Wasting time – 40%
For almost ten years, from when I went to University, I didn’t actually achieve anything. I wanted to be a writer. I read how-to-write books. I occassionally wrote the odd sentence or paragraph. But most of the time I did other stuff.

In fact, if the Fates hadn’t got fed up with me noodling around, I might still be doing that. Instead, they dropped me into the most insanely boring job I’ve ever done. Every day, I sat behind a computer with nothing to do. Absolutely nothing. So, I started to think about writing again. I joined the online critique group Critters and started writing and critiquing short stories.

Short stories – 19%
Some writers — particularly science fiction writers — will tell you that if you want to learn how to write, you should start with short stories.

I’m not sure I agree; there are too many differences between the forms, and most of the skills you need for a novel aren’t the same as you need for short stories. This is why many great short story writers can’t write novels, and why many great novelists can’t write short stories.

Anyway, I took the advice and started with short stories, mostly for adults. I think I ended up getting seventeen or eighteen stories published in some pretty good magazines, and I’m still really proud of those stories.

But the truth is, I’m not a massive fan of short stories. Some are brilliant, no doubt. They can be beautiful and heartbreaking and terrifying and hilarious. (If you haven’t read Light of Other Days, or Flowers for Algernon, or Slow Birds, or Gauging Moonlight, or The Last of the Winnebagos you’re missing out.) But when I have to choose something to settle down with, it’s always going to be a novel, and normally a big, fat fantasy novel.

Eventually, I figured that if I was ever going to write the stuff I loved reading, I was going to have to just get on and do it. So I stopped writing short stories.

The adult diversion – 12%
I actually wrote a couple of pretty hefty adult fantasy novels, but they didn’t really spark. The less said about them the better. Suffice to say that the trees of the world do not regret that I never tried to get them published.

Almost but not quite – 11%
I started writing middle grade novel almost by accident. I certainly hadn’t been intending to. But one day I had an idea that really could only be only told as a older middle grade or younger YA. It was a contemporary, magical realism called Touching Ice. If I had to compare it to anything, it would be to David Almond’s books. It got me an agent and nearly sold at a couple of publishers, but it never quite made it.

I don’t think it’s an exageration to say that middle grade liberated me. Writing adult novels, I could never free myself from worrying about what cynical adult readers would think, and it stunted my writing. I think if you’re going to write, you have to throw yourself in headfirst. If you’re looking over your shoulder all the time, you’re going to break your neck. Or, er, something.

Middle grade readers are demanding, but they’re not cynical or self-conscious. If they hate your book, they’ll say it, and if they love it, they’ll say that too. They’re honest and open. I stopped worrying about what readers would think, and just wrote what I loved writing.

My next middle grade book was an alternate-world adventure based on Norse mythology, and that nearly made it at a couple of publishers, too.

Win! – 18%
Finally, I wrote SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB. I changed agents to my current, brilliant agent, Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary, who threw herself 100% behind it and sold it to Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt / Macmillan).

Right now, I’m writing the sequel, provisionally entitled THE EMPEROR OF MARS. Well, not right now. Right now I’m writing this blog entry. But I should be writing the sequel.

And that’s how I wandered into being published. Take it as a cautionary tale. There are better ways of doing this…

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

In my head, I think of SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB as Indiana Jones meets Bertie Wooster and Doctor Who on Mars. With dragons.

But here’s how I’m describing it on my website:

Mars in 1816 is a world of high Society, deadly danger, and strange clockwork machines. Pterodactyls glide through the sky, automatic servants hand out sandwiches at elegant garden parties, and in the north, the great dragon tombs hide marvels of Ancient Martian technology.

Fourteen-year-old Edward Sullivan has always dreamed of becoming a spy like the ones he reads of in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales. Instead, he spends his days keeping his eccentric family from complete disaster … that is, until the villainous archeologist, Sir Titus Dane, kidnaps Edward’s parents as part of a scheme to loot an undiscovered dragon tomb.

Edward sets off in pursuit across the Martian wilderness. With him are his brilliant and outrageous little sister, Putty, his impossibly starchy older sister, Olivia, and his secretive cousin, Freddie. Together they must evade Sir Titus’s minions, battle mechanical nasties, and escape deadly Martian hunting machines. If they can’t, they will never uncover the secrets of the dragon tomb and rescue Edward’s family.

You can find SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB on goodreads.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

I started dreaming of being a writer when I was fourteen years old. I figured, How hard can it be? I was sure I would have a novel ready and published by the time I was eighteen…

Now, about mumble-mumble years later, it’s finally happening.

And, somehow, I’ve been doing this so long that it doesn’t seem real at all.

But there is one thing that I totally wasn’t expecting, and that’s what I’m really absolutely most excited about. My book is going to have illustrations!

I can’t wait to see a copy, a real copy, with real pictures done by a real artist of my story. It’s going to be awesome! I may do nothing but stroke the book for several years.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

– I spent a big chunk of my childhood living in a small town in rural Africa, where my dad was teaching. I think I still remember how to make a brick out of mud and straw. To get to school, I had to sneak across an airfield, avoiding the guards.

– I’m married to another writer, Stephanie Burgis, who also writes middle grade novels. Her first book, Kat, Incorrigible, was published in 2011, and her most recent book, Stolen Magic, has just come out. I’m racing to catch up!

– When I’m not writing, I design websites and book covers.

– I live in Wales, U.K., right beneath a mountain that looks just like a volcano. So far it hasn’t erupted, but it can only be a matter of time, right?

– If you want to make me happy, take me out for an Indian meal at Prashad near Bradford, U.K. Seriously, they make the best food in the world. Okay, now I’m drooling in an incredibly undignified way.

Photo of Patrick Samphire.Patrick Samphire’s first book, SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, is a cracking MG adventure set on 19th century Mars. Patrick has been a teacher, physicist, editor, web designer, explorer, and dinosaur hunter. He’s lived in Africa, South America, Europe, the U.K., and on several small asteroids part way between Mars and Jupiter. You can often find him on twitter: @patricksamphire. Not everything in this biography is true.

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Erin Bowman, author of TAKEN

Today we’re talking with Erin Bowman, author of TAKEN (book one of a dystopian YA trilogy), now in stores everywhere!


There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.

They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.

Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?

1) TAKEN is set in a very strange (and creepy) world. What inspired you to create it? Did you do any special research?

Gray, TAKEN’s protagonist, was the inspiration for the story. One moment I was revising a separate manuscript, and the next this young boy was wandering around my head, fearing his eighteenth birthday. I started asking why, and the world began to form.

Gray’s home is rather primitive, and as a result, I did end up researching some weird things over the course of drafting the novel. To name a few: soil composition in particular climates, how to set snares and traps, how to skin and gut certain game, archery (anatomy of bow/arrows, technical terms, etc), the process of making homemade alcohol/mead. I never go into explicit detail on any of these topics in the novel, but I think the research helped me craft Gray’s world in a more realistic manner.

2) What was your road to publication like? Did you get any lucky breaks, or was it blood, sweat, and tears all the way?

My publication journey was a bit of a whirlwind. TAKEN was not the first novel I completed, but it was the first I ever queried. In the course of five months I went from un-agented, aspiring writer, to represented writer with a contract at HarperTeen. I was incredibly fortunate to have so many things fall into place so quickly. It is still as surreal to me now as it was two years ago when the book initially sold.

3) First novels are hard. (Well . . . all novels, really.) What was the most difficult part of writing (or editing) TAKEN?

VERY MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!! (I don’t think it will drastically ruin anything for most readers, but fair warning.)

Gray’s narration of certain technology was tricky in the second half of the novel. He moves from a primitive location into a much more modern world, and doesn’t know how to identify a lot of things. eg: When Gray first sees a car he can’t outwardly call it such until he hears someone else identify it. Finding a way to keep Gray’s voice and reactions authentic while still ensuring the reader could easily discern what he was seeing was definitely a challenge. Thankfully, this has grown easier as the series progresses. (I’m drafting book three now, and the more time Gray spends in the modern world, the more familiar and commonplace these things have become for him.)

4) Time to boast! What part of TAKEN are you most proud of?

TAKEN is narrated in first person. Gray is a boy. I am not. I’m pretty proud of being able to slip into his head and write him realistically.

5) TAKEN is the first of a trilogy. Can you give us any hints about what might be coming in the next two books?

So much has changed by the end of TAKEN, so it’s hard to give hints without risking spoilers. I will say that some new characters join the cast in book two, and just like in TAKEN, there are plenty of twists and turns, with nothing being quite what it seems. And birds–which play a special role in the first book–will continue to be present throughout the rest of the series.

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

I was (and still am) one of the biggest Harry Potter nerds around. As a kid, I spent the wait between installments managing a HP fansite I’d made on geocities (remember geocities?) and tracing Mary GrandPre’s chapter illustrations on tracing paper. Before Harry, I was also deeply moved by stories that blended realism and fantasy (Bridge to Terabithia, Tuck Everlasting, The Giver), but I happily read anything and everything. Books were my TV–no really, we didn’t have cable–and I inhaled them.

Thank you, Erin, and congratulations on your debut!

4774653Erin Bowman used to tell stories visually as a web designer. Now a full-time writer, she relies solely on words. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and when not writing she can often be found hiking, commenting on good typography, and obsessing over all things Harry Potter. You can find Erin at her website or on twitter.

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

Rosamund Hodge loves mythology, Hello Kitty, and T. S. Eliot. After earning a master’s degree in Medieval English from Oxford, she moved to Seattle to get a job with computers. Her debut novel, SUNDERED–Greek mythology meets Beauty and the Beast–is due out from HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray in Winter 2014. Her agent is Hannah Bowman at Liza Dawson Associates

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An interview with Jennifer McGowan, author of MAID OF SECRETS

Today I’m excited to introduce my agent-mate, Jennifer McGowan, and her fun historical spy thriller, Maid of Secrets. Here’s the blurb:


Seventeen-year-old Meg Fellowes is a wry, resourceful thief forced to join an elite group of female spies in Queen Elizabeth’s Court. There she must solve a murder, save the Crown, and resist the one thing that will become her greatest freedom–and her deadliest peril. 

For Meg and her fellow spies are not alone in their pursuit of the murderer who stalks Windsor Castle.

A young, mysterious Spanish courtier, Count Rafe de Martine, appears at every turn in the dark and scandal-filled corridors of the Queen’s summer palace. And though secrets and danger are Meg’s stock-in-trade, she’s never bargained on falling in love…


Thank you so much for having me! I’m delighted to share the stories BEHIND the story of MAID OF SECRETS with you all.

Obviously, a ton of research went into Maid of Secrets. What was the most challenging part to research? 

I knew a fair amount about Elizabethan England as a fan of the time period, but that all changed when I began to actually write about the era. I had to double check everything, and make my own decisions when the historical “facts” conflicted between one resource and another. The most difficult research for Meg’s book centered on how exactly Windsor Castle was laid out in the 1500s. I take a few liberties (particularly below the Castle!) but I tried to stay as true to the old drawings and accounts as possible.

Meg Fellowes, your main character, is one of an elite group of Queen’s maids who also serve double duty as spies. Was this concept a ‘what if’ sort of scenario or is it based in reality?

Actually, the validation for the idea of MAID OF SECRETS came from a single line in a mid-1560s accounting of Queen Elizabeth, wherein the author remarked that the Queen’s advisors were sometimes surprised that Elizabeth knew more about what was going on in the Castle and the country than they expected her to know. The natural question was: well, how did she find these things out? And thus the five spying Maids of Honor were born. In the Maids of Honor stories I have the following spies: a thief and actress (Meg), a court insider who is a master manipulator (Beatrice), a seer just coming into her powers (Sophia), a genius puzzle-solver (Anna), and an assassin (Jane).

Taking off from the above question, why Elizabethan England? What made this time period the right one for this story? 

I chose Elizabethan England because of its Queen. Elizabeth was only twenty-five years old when she came to power, but ended up remaining on the throne for just over four decades… and she never married. For a story essentially about girl power, it was the best fit possible. And, of course, I love the time period, and I’ve wanted to set a book in that era for over a decade!

Each of your spy girls has a unique skill that adds to the group as a whole. If you had your own spy skill, what would it be? And will we get a closer look at any of the other maids in future books?

If I could have any spy skill I would choose perfect recall—I would love to be able to see a room or a page and be able to remember it exactly! So you could call me Maid of Memory.

And yes! In book 2, MAID OF DECEPTION (out Aug. 2014) we’ll see the world of the Queen’s court from Beatrice’s eyes. If we continue with the series, book 3 will hopefully be Sophia’s story, MAID OF WONDERS, then Anna’s story, MAID OF MYSTERY; then Jane’s story, MAID OF SHADOWS.

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?

They would have to be Madeleine L’Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME, C.S. Lewis’s THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, and then Tolkien’s RETURN OF THE KING. All high fantasy, now that I think of it!

Thank you again for inviting me to visit!

JennStarkYA_Book copy


Jennifer McGowan was born in Ohio, raised in Montana and studied in Paris. Now living in Ohio as a full-time writer, she pens Young Adult romance full of swash and buckle. Her first novel, MAID OF SECRETS, debuts May 7, 2013 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.


Jaye Robin Brown, or JRo to most everyone but her mama, lives and writes in the Appalachian mountains north of Asheville, NC. She’s fond of dogs, horses, laughter, the absurd and the ironic. When not crafting stories she hangs out with teenagers in the high school art room where she teaches. Her debut novel, SING TO THE WIND (Harper Teen, Fall ’14), is a love song to small town girls and mountain music.