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.