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GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Kara Taylor, author of PREP SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL

We’re excited to interview Lucky13 author Kara Taylor, whose YA Novel Prep School Confidential is a murder mystery that’s Gossip Girls meets Twin Peaks, and due out TODAY – July 30! Check out the blurb from Goodreads:

Prep School Confidential

Anne Dowling practically runs her exclusive academy on New York’s Upper East Side—that is, until she accidentally burns part of it down and gets sent to a prestigious boarding school outside of Boston. Determined to make it back to New York, Anne couldn’t care less about making friends at the preppy Wheatley School. That is, until her roommate Isabella’s body is found in the woods behind the school. 

When everyone else is oddly silent, Anne becomes determined to uncover the truth no matter how many rules she has to break to do it. With the help of Isabella’s twin brother Anthony, and a cute classmate named Brent, Anne discovers that Isabella wasn’t quite the innocent nerdy girl she pretended to be. But someone will do anything to stop Anne’s snooping in this fast-paced, unputdownable read—even if it means framing her for Isabella’s murder.

1. Mysteries can sometimes be harder to do in terms of plot and unexpected twists – and Prep School Confidential has loads of twists! Did you plot out every detail beforehand, or are you more of a pantser?

I’m usually a panster, but writing a mystery is like a Jenga tower. One wrong move or twist, and the whole plot can come crumbling down! I started with a vague outline for PREP SCHOOL and filled in all the details as I went to make sure everything fit well. But sometimes a twist would come to me as I was writing the book and I’d have to go back over everything to make sure it made sense!

2. Anne is such a smart, sassy MC who’ll match all comers wit for wit – are there any aspects of Anne that are based on your own experiences? What other things inspired Anne (or Anthony or Brent)?

It’s funny (and slightly embarrassing) because family and friends automatically equated Anne’s voice with mine. I tend to be very irreverent and blunt, like Anne is. But we’re also SO different. Anne is at the top of her school’s social hierarchy, and I was at the lower middle. Anne is gutsy and will walk into a dark alley alone, whereas I’m a total wimp. One thing we do have in common though is being an outsider at a school in Massachusetts. Like Anne, I’m from New York. I spent a year away at college in Boston, and I struggled to fit in because people have assumptions about New Yorkers. Also, we talk kind of funny.

3. Prep School Confidential is set in a boardinghouse where everyone’s got secrets. What made you choose this as a setting?

I love the boarding school setting because you have a bunch of kids with almost NO adult supervision. The potential for shenanigans is very high. Having a classmate murdered is terrifying enough, but at a boarding school, where the killer may live across the hall from you? I’m also fascinated by the boarding school relationship dynamics. In PSC, Anne notices that her core group of friends are more like a family. Everyone tries to avoid dating (you have to see the other person EVERY. DAY) which is a VERY foreign concept to Anne.

4. What was the toughest and the most exciting parts of your journey to publication so far?

The hardest part was letting go of the manuscript that landed me my agent. It was so close to my heart, my agent fell in love with it, but then it didn’t sell. I had a really hard time focusing on another project for a while. PREP SCHOOL was the book that pulled me out of my slump. Now, I’m thankful that the other book didn’t sell. I wrote it while I was 19/20, and I was in a VERY different place. I barely recognize the words on the page, let alone the person who wrote them. The book was a growing experience for me, and most importantly, it got me my agent. Most exciting, I would say, was getting blurbs from other authors. Also, seeing my cover for the first time!

5. What fun facts might readers not know about you?

I’m certified to teach middle/high school English, I played Pee-Wee Hermann in an 11th grade play, I write for television, I can recite all of the Honey Badger video from memory, and my father suspects my book deal is a scam.

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

EEEP, only two or three? Okay, the obvious one is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I was seven when that book came out, and I still remember the day my grandmother bought it for me because “everyone was talking about it.” Also, I had a ton of colored-pencil Nancy Drew inspired short fiction in my fourth grade desk. I guess it’s not too much of a shock my first book a teen mystery!

Find Prep School Confidential at any of the following stores!

Kara Taylor Author Pic
Kara Taylor wrote PREP SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL in her first semester of graduate school, in between pulling all nighters and listening to her dad say writing isn’t a real job. Now, she lives on Long Island with a kitten named Felix and a Chihuahua named Izzy and writes full time. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary and Media. 
Despite an uncanny resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin has always maintained her sense of hummus. Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps eight pets: a dog, six birds, and a husband. She’s been a time traveler, a Starfleet captain, and a mutant, because real jobs are overrated. Her YA horror, THE UNNATURAL STATES OF DEAD GIRLS IN WELLS (Sourcebooks), pitched as Dexter meets the Grudge, is due out Fall 2014.
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YouTube: Vacation Spots by Sara Raasch

For this month’s YouTube videos, we’re talking about ideal vacation spots. Today we’ve got Sara Raasch, author of the YA fantasy SNOW LIKE ASHES, here to satisfy all of your vacation needs.

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.

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Skylar Dorset: BREATHLESS

We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. Today we’re talking to Skylar Dorset, author of BREATHLESS, coming in June 2014 from Sourcebooks. One author, four questions. Here we go!

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

I have no idea. Magic?

Which is not to say that I don’t have a practical human story to tell you about the things that I did and then the things that other people did, etc., etc., but I choose to believe that somewhere along the way a bit of magic was added to the process.

I’ve been writing stories ever since I was a little girl, but I started writing BREATHLESS, the novel that’s going to be published, a few years ago, when I was no longer as little a girl. At that time, the story had a different title and a slightly different look but the core idea was there.

After I finished the novel, I thought, “I quite like this novel. Maybe I will try to get it published!” Which had been a long-cherished dream of mine. So I started crafting a query letter. That took months. I am not exaggerating. I had everyone I know read the query letter over. In fact, I think more people have read my query letter than my novel at this point! I edited the query letter and edited the query letter and edited the query letter…and THEN I started to send it out.

I was very orderly in the way I sent it out, and I refused to get dejected early on. People tell me Rome wasn’t built in a day and I guess I believe that’s true. I didn’t want to get myself overwhelmed by the process or fixated on hearing from people so I made myself send the query letter out to one agent per day–no more, no less. I ended up sending my query letter to a total of 40 agents. I was rejected a total of 27 times (and there were a few other agents I never heard from). I got my first request for my manuscript sixteen days after I started sending query letters out, which was SO EXCITING and gave me the strength to keep sending out query letters. My first offer of representation came about two months after that. I ended up signing with the awesome Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger about three months after I started querying.

And then I thought, well, of course, the hard part was done and the book would be sold immediately! We went out on submission, and we got back some requested edits. Andrea said it was up to me whether I wanted to edit the book according to the feedback we’d gotten or continue going out on submission. I thought about the edits and decided that they would make the book better, so I took a few months out of the submission process and revised the book. I’m so glad I did, because I think the book is better now. In fact, every time I finish a revision I think the book has improved, so it’s true what they tell you: Revision is hard work but worth it! After the revision, the book was sold to the fabulous Aubrey Poole at Sourcebooks not long after that. And I couldn’t be happier with the way things have turned out so far! (Whether magic was involved or not…)

What’s your debut book about?

When friends and family members who haven’t read it yet ask me this, I say, “It’s about faeries in Boston.” So I guess that’s my short version.

Here’s the longer version:

BREATHLESS is the story of Selkie Stewart, who thinks she’s a totally normal teenager growing up in Boston. Sure, her father is in an insane asylum, her mother left her on his doorstep—literally—when she was a baby, and she’s being raised by two ancient aunts who spend their time hunting gnomes in their Beacon Hill townhouse. But other than that her life is totally normal! She’s got an adventurous best friend who’s always got her back and an unrequited crush on an older boy named Ben. Just like any other teenager, right?

When Selkie goes in search of the mother she’s never known, she gets more than she bargained for. It turns out that her mother is fairy royalty, which would make Selkie a fairy princess—except for the part where her father is an ogre, which makes her only half of anything. Even more confusing, there’s a prophecy that Selkie is going to destroy the tyrannical Seelie Court, which is why her mother actually wants to kill her. Selkie has been kept hidden all her life by her adoring aunts, with the help of a Salem wizard named Will. And Ben. Because the boy she thinks she’s in love with turns out to be a fairy whose enchantment has kept her alive, but also kept her in the dark about her own life.

Now, with enchantments dissolved and prophecies swinging into action, Selkie finds herself on a series of mad quests to save the people she’s always loved and a life she’s learning to love. But in a supernatural world of increasingly complex alliances and distressingly complicated deceptions, it’s so hard to know who to trust. Does her mother really wish to kill her? Would Will sacrifice her for the sake of the prophecy? And does Ben really love her or is it all an elaborate ruse? In order to survive, Selkie realizes that the key is learning—and accepting—who she really is.

What inspires you to write?

EVERYTHING. Anything can strike a chord of inspiration with me; I never know what it’s going to be. The idea for BREATHLESS (the title, btw, is subject to change!) came to me in a dream. I sometimes have dreams that I think would make great stories. And then other times I have dreams where I’m with Emma Watson and we’re watching a group called Emo Vodka Hippopotami perform ballet. (Wait, actually, that could be a great story, too…)

I also get inspired by the things around me. I find certain places very inspiring. Some buildings I step into and feel a little frisson of excitement, thinking of all the stories that could happen in there. Little moments that happen in my life also sometimes make me think, “What if this had happened instead?” For instance, the other day my sister had a clogged pipe in her house and had to have a camera stuck into the pipe to see what was clogging it. I said, “What if you see a monster down there?” She didn’t. BUT SHE COULD HAVE. And that’s where my stories come from.

Sometimes I can just hear someone’s voice in my head, a first line, a little snippet of dialogue, SOMETHING. And I won’t be able to think of anything else until I sit down and figure out what that story is about.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

Meeting people! I’ve already gotten to meet my fellow debut authors, and now I can’t wait to meet readers! (And other authors, too, of course!) I love hearing other people’s stories, and I can’t wait for all the good ones I’m going to get to hear in the years to come! And I hope some of them are inspired by the stories I tell you!

Skylar Dorset is a born-and-bred New Englander, which is why Boston was a natural setting for her debut novel, BREATHLESS (Sourcebooks, June 2014). Skylar shares her home with lots of Mardi Gras beads from the time she spent living in New Orleans and a harp she’s supposed to be teaching herself to play. She’d like to get a dog.
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GETTIN’ LUCKY: An interview with Corey Ann Haydu, author of OCD LOVE STORY

Today on the OneFour KidLit blog we’re welcoming, Corey Ann Haydu, author of OCD LOVE STORY. This is shaping up to be an amazing year for young adult contemporary fiction! Here’s the short version of Corey’s story:

OCD

When Bea meets Beck, she knows instantly that he’s her kind of crazy. Sweet, strong, kinda-messed-up Beck understands her like no one else can. He makes her feel almost normal. He makes her feel like she could fall in love again.

But despite her feelings for Beck, Bea can’t stop thinking about someone else: a guy who is gorgeous and magnetic… and has no idea Bea even exists. But Bea knows a ton about him. She spends a lot of time watching him. She has a journal full of notes. Some might even say she’s obsessed.
Bea tells herself she’s got it all under control, but this isn’t a choice, it’s a compulsion. The truth is, she’s breaking down… and she might end up breaking her own heart.

Tell us a little bit about your path to publication. Was OCD Love Story your first novel? 

When I was first seeking publication I queried with a different novel, my first YA attempt that I had written during my first semester of graduate school at The New School. It’s a novel I still love, and it got some interest from agents, but they all pretty much wanted to know what else I was working on. One agent, Victoria Marini, gave me a big revision to do on that novel, which I took a lot of time to work out. After I turned that in to her, she also asked if I had any other projects I was working on. Luckily, the querying process was a very long, drawn out one, so I had already written 100 pages of another novel, OCD LOVE STORY! Victoria had a good feeling about our compatibility and wanted to see those 100 pages even though I was honest with her about how rough and new they were.
Between the revision I did for the other novel and the potential she saw in OCD LOVE STORY’s first 100 pages, Victoria ended up offering representation. We had a really special bond right away, a great ability to communicate and work together, and that was the key for me. we built an author-agent relationship based on mutual enthusiasm and a willingness to work hard together.
OCD LOVE STORY found a home pretty quickly, I think because Victoria and I both had a strong sense that Anica Rissi at Simon Pulse was the right editor for the book. All three of us shared a similar vision and, again, a willingness and interest in elevating the manuscript I had into the book it finally became.



What compelled you to write a character who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

I have struggled with an anxiety disorder for years. It wasn’t until maybe four years ago, however, that I learned that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was an anxiety disorder as well. I had always bought into the misconception that OCD was a more “psychotic” disorder, something impossible to understand. But when I delved into research, I quickly learned that OCD was just like any other anxiety disorder. OCD is simply a method of coping with anxiety. The people who struggle with it are completely aware of their disorder and the destructive effect it’s having on their lives. I related so strongly to the struggles of people with OCD because of my own anxiety that I felt compelled to write a character struggling with it. I knew it would be easy for me to access to emotional journey of someone with an anxiety disorder, and I was really excited to  write about something that has been so wildly misrepresented for so long.



What was the most challenging thing about writing Bea? Beck?

 Honestly, Bea came very easily for me. She and I exhibit very different behaviors, but our interior lives aren’t so different. I found it pretty easy to slip into her mindset. I naturally sunk into her frustrations with herself and with brain. Sometimes it was harder to write Bea’s interactions with other people, since often her interior life was so full and overwhelming. Living in her mind was easy, figuring out how she talked to her friends or boys was a little harder.
Beck was a little more difficult, simply because I wasn’t living inside his brain. We only see Beck through Bea’s eyes, and that makes it more complicated to give him a full personality. He is hiding a lot of secrets, and as the author I of course knew what they were, but Bea doesn’t, so that was a huge challenge.



You have a BFA in Theatre? What parallels do you find between dramatic arts and creative writing. Do you feel your work in theatre informs your writing?

I think working in theatre has had a huge impact on my writing. In general, what comes most naturally to me is emotional honesty in a scene, and my ability to do that comes directly from my theatre training. I studied an acting technique called Meisner, and the basis of that training is that the goal of acting is “living truthfully under imaginary circumstances”. This is the goal in writing, too, I think. Often when I’m writing I’ll take my hands off the keyboard and work myself into an emotional state, the same way I used to do to prepare for a performance. The only difference is that as a writer I have to find the words to record those emotions, whereas when I was acting I had to simply live them out on stage.
I feel so incredibly lucky to have come from that training, and from the Meisner technique in particular, because I think it taught me to much about imagination and honesty and attention to detail. My acting teacher pushed us to be specific and careful in the choices we made for a character’s emotional life, and I hear her voice in my head when I’m writing, too.
 
And for the final question: 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.

Let’s see, when I was in elementary school, my favorite books were THE GIVER by Lois Lowry– a book that I would still consider my favorite book probably– and Julie Edwards’ (Julie Andrews’ pen name!) books THE LAST OF THE REALLY GREAT WHANGDOODLES and MANDY. I read and re-read all three of those books incessantly. And I definitely had a certain thrill that one of my favorite musical theatre actresses, Julie Andrews, had also written two of my favorite books. It was like a special secret I felt we shared with each other. I was a child actress who loved writing, so I felt really inspired by the fact that Julie Andrews was a writer and actress as well.

As a teenager and I feel head over heels in love with THE BELL JAR. I had a lot going on when I was a teenager, and tended towards darker literature. Sylvia Plath in general really spoke to me. I loved her poetry as well. I read a lot of poetry at that age in general. It helped to have tough feelings explored with beautiful language. It still does!


Corey Ann Haydu is a young adult novelist currently living in Brooklyn, NY. Her first novel, OCD LOVE STORY, is coming out July 2013 from Simon Pulse. Her second novel, LIFE BY COMMITTEE will be out in Summer 2014 from Katherine Tegen Books at Harper Collins.

Corey_pic240

Corey graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she got her BFA in Theatre. After college, Corey worked as an actress and playwright (and waitress and telemarketer and real estate broker and nanny and personal assistant) She also spent a lot of time in Starbucks writing short stories.

After working in children’s publishing for a few years, and falling in love with YA literature,Corey received her MFA from The New School in Writing for Children. During graduate school Corey rounded out her list of interests with mochas, evening writing workshops, post-it notes, bi-weekly cheeseburgers, blazers, and board games.

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, NO PLACE TO FALL (Harper Teen, Fall ’14), is a love song to small town girls and mountain music.