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GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Mindy McGinnis, Author of NOT A DROP TO DRINK

Today I’m very excited to introduce Mindy McGinnis. She wrote one of the most harrowing tales of survival I’ve ever read. Her book, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is a gritty, gripping read and I reveled in every page of it.

Not a Drop to Drink Cover

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it…

 

There are quite a few post-apocalyptic stories these days, but yours has an incredibly unique twist. What inspired you to write about about water of all things?
The idea of a water shortage is something that sounds ridiculous – how could we run out of water? But, unfortunately it’s not that far out. I watched a documentary called BLUE GOLD which planted the seed of an idea. I went to bed that night ridiculously grateful for the small pond in my backyard. I dreamt about teaching a young child how to operate a rifle to help me protect the pond. I woke up knowing I had a novel there.

Lynn is a very willful main character. Yet at the same time, she still retains a sense of empathy. What was your favorite thing about writing from Lynn’s perspective? What surprised you about her?
Lynn is very tough, but that doesn’t mean she’s cold. She has to learn how to be not only a survivor in a brutal world, but also a human being. She was raised entirely by her mother, and had never even spoken to anyone else in her life, so there are some things she’s completely unaware of, like humor or flirting. What surprised me about her was how quickly she realized she couldn’t make it alone – protecting the pond, harvesting food, gathering water and cutting wood – without trading labor with her neighbor Stebbs once Mother is gone. She isn’t *happy* about admitting that, but she’s put common sense above pride, and I was glad I didn’t have to waste pages talking her into it.

I’ll admit it – next-door neighbor Stebbs was my favorite character. His wry humor provided a wonderful counterpoint to Lynn. What was it like developing the side characters of NOT A DROP TO DRINK?
Here’s where I admit Stebbs is my favorite character too! Man, I love that guy. The best thing about Stebbs was that I didn’t have to develop him at all – he simply was, from the beginning. Any time Stebbs walked into a scene, he owned it.

Lynn and her mother have a complicated relationship. They’re very close, but combative at the same time. How did you go about creating Lynn’s family life?
It was hard to imagine what teenage rebellion would look like when the only person you’ve ever met is your mother! I knew like all teens Lynn was going to question Mother’s choices at some point, but they’ve lived a life where Mother’s choices have kept them alive for years. Lynn literally owes her life to Mother, many, many times over. The sacrifices that Mother has made for her are without count, yet Lynn’s still going to wonder if there’s another way at some point. She couldn’t idolize Mother, yet she couldn’t question her overly — obviously the woman knew what she was doing. It was a fine line, but I think Lynn could alter some of the perspectives Mother had taught her without losing respect for Mother.

One of my favorite things about the book was the vivid struggle for survival. The dangers, human and environment alike, felt very real. What research did you do for this book? Did you draw from any real life experiences?
I did do some research, mostly about the very real threat of water shortage and cholera. One thing that I needed was a way to purify water without using any technology, and I was lucky to have remembered an article I’d read years ago in a National Geographic issue regarding the SODIS method. Using plastic bottles and the suns UV-A rays, you can get clean drinking water in 6 hours. Nice, huh? In the realm of real life experiences I can say that I didn’t need to research growing and canning your own food, or about rifles. These are both things I’m familiar. And, much to many people’s surprise, I also didn’t need to research how to field dress (gut) a a deer. I know how. 😉

You really didn’t pull any punches with the story. There are some tear-jerker moments, including quite a few I didn’t expect. How did you decide this was the story (gritty tragedies and all) you were going to tell?
That’s the thing about any story I write — I’m not actually writing it. All my stories write themselves. I’m just a conduit. One moment in particular (involving Neva) I wasn’t expecting either. It happened and I pulled my hands away from the keyboard and said, “What did you just do?”

What are you currently working on? Any future projects for us to be excited about?
Right now I’m working on a revision for a Fall 2014 release from Katherine Tegen Books, and I recently signed a contract for two more YA novels with Katherine Tegen slated for 2015 and 2016. So, I’m pretty busy!

As this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d love to know two or three books that inspired you as a kid!

I loved A Wrinkle In Time (the entire series), and The Black Stallion books. I read them obsessively.

Thank you for joining us, Mindy! 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mindy McGinnis Head ShotMindy McGinnis is a teen librarian who lives in Ohio. You can visit her online at www.mindymcginnis.com or on Facebook and Twitter @MindyMcGinnis.

Emily Lloyd-Jones lives on the western edge of California, where she works in a bookstore by day and writes YA novels by night. She’s addicted to coffee & the internet. When not writing, she’s usually online or playing with her neurotic cat. She wastes a lot of time on Twitter. Her debut, ILLUSIVE, will be released by Little, Brown in the spring of 2014.
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GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Eve Silver, Author of RUSH

Today I’m thrilled to present Eve Silver, author of RUSH (book one in the sci fi trilogy known as THE GAME).

I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC and I could not put RUSH down. It’s a thrilling, fast-paced adventure about a girl who finds herself in a game where the stakes are life and death.

Rush CoverSo what’s the game now? This, or the life I used to know?
Sixteen-year-old Miki Jones’s carefully controlled life spirals into chaos after she’s run down in the street, left broken and bloody. She wakes up fully healed in a place called the lobby—pulled from her life, pulled through time and space into some kind of game in which she and a team of other teens are sent on missions to eliminate the Drau, terrifying and beautiful alien creatures.
There are no practice runs, no training, and no way out. Miki has only the guidance of secretive but maddeningly attractive team leader Jackson Tate, who says that the game is more than that, and that what Miki and her new teammates do now determines their survival and the survival of every other person on this planet. She laughs. He doesn’t. And then the game takes a deadly and terrifying turn.
I have to ask the obvious question first. The concept of RUSH plays heavily into gamer culture/terms. Are you a gamer?

I remember my first system—a Super Nintendo—and the games I fell in love with—Donkey Kong Country, versions 1, 2 and 3. The mineshaft and the treetops and the saw blades were a blast. But, no, I’m not a gamer. I consider myself a game spectator. My husband and sons are gamers (Call of Duty, Gears of War, Bioshock, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Starcraft, Halo, Oblivion, to name a few), but my role is more observer than player. Some of these games have truly incredible story lines and I like to just sit back and watch them unfold.

Miki is a great heroine. I love the balance of ordinary problems mixed in with fantastical elements. On the one hand, she’s worried about her father’s drinking – and on the other, she has to deal with the fact she’s now a teenage soldier.  How did you develop her?

I aimed for keeping it real. Even though Miki faces fantastical challenges and issues, I wanted her grounded as a real person, someone you might know from English class, someone with genuine problems, likes and dislikes, interests and opinions. I hoped Miki would be an ordinary person faced with a situation that’s far outside ordinary, and that would allow readers to feel what she feels even though they aren’t likely to ever face a Drau.

In the world of RUSH, teens are given weapons and no training, then told to fight for their lives. Confession time: if you were put in this situation, how well would you do?

The whole fighting thing might be a problem for me. I have no training in martial arts or weaponry except for the one time I went to The Gun Store in Las Vegas and got to fire a Beretta M9, M4, and M249SAW. Given that I was terrified the whole time and that the power of the recoil on each one sent me flying, I suspect that handling an unfamiliar weapon would be a challenge. On the other hand, I’ve been known to stay cool in fairly adverse situations, so keeping a level head would probably count for something, right? (That wasn’t rhetorical…please say yes…)

Following up with that last question, who would you want on your hypothetical team? (Fictional or otherwise.)

Hmmm…in no particular order: Jason Statham, RDJ (as Ironman), Thor, Uma Thurman’s character from Kill Bill, Sigourney Weaver’s character from Aliens, Goku from DragonballZ, Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach, Claire Bennet from Heroes, Hit Girl from Kick-Ass, Master Chief from Halo, Sheppard and Garrus from Mass Effect. That should do it.

The whole concept behind the game is both really cool and really creepy. You managed to evoke the sense that there’s a conflict much bigger than any of the individual characters. How did you go about developing this world and its rules?

Usually, I’m a pantser—that means I just sit down and write the book by the seat of my pants without planning or plotting. I’ve written 18 published books that way (and a whole bunch more that are buried in the back yard where they belong). But in a book like RUSH, pantsing wouldn’t work because I needed rules for the game. So I started out by researching a number of video games and the systems of scoring. From there, I created a small manual that outlined the rules of the game in RUSH, the scores, the bonus points. I had that all planned out, but not the story itself. I just can’t write that way. So I pantsed the story, and paused to add rules to my little manual as I went and the plot became clear to me.

You started out writing for adults and then made the leap into writing for teens. What was the hardest challenge writing for a younger audience? How did your past writing experiences shape this novel?

Before I started the story, I was concerned about the shift to a younger viewpoint character, writing the book in first person present tense, and capturing a teen voice. It’s funny, but the things I was most afraid of ended up not being problematic at all. Once I started typing, Miki flowed. The story flowed. I had a ton of fun writing RUSH.

My past writing experiences shape every story I start. I constantly strive to make the story I’m working on the best it can be, better than the last, deeper, stronger, more resonant for the reader. I’ve learned a great deal since my very first book about pacing and action and how to weave emotion onto the page. And I hope that everything I learned from writing RUSH will help strengthen the next book and the next.

I won’t give any spoilers, but eeeek – that ending! Are there any juicy tidbits you can share about the sequel?

Hmm… I can tell you there will be action, aliens and adventure. The expected becomes unexpected. The truth becomes lie. Answers are shredded until they become questions. Romance. Kissing. And an ending that just might have you saying, “eeek—that ending!”

That didn’t help much, did it?

Definitely! 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.

As a little kid:
• Bread and Jam for Frances by Russel Hoban
• the entire set of Dover Children’s Classics fairy books (The Red Fairy Book, The Green Fairy Book, The Blue Fairy Book, etc. by Andrew Lang)
• The Ghost of Dibble Hollow by May Nickerson Wallace

and as a teen:

• Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
• The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
• anything and everything by V. C. Andrews

Thanks so much for inviting me to be interviewed!

Thanks for stopping by!

Eve Silver HeadshotEve Silver lives with her gamer husband and sons, sometimes in Canada, but often in worlds she dreams up. She loves kayaking and sunshine, dogs and desserts, and books, lots and lots of books. Watch for the first book in Eve’s new teen series, THE GAME: RUSH, coming from Katherine Tegen Books, June 11, 2013. She also writes books for adults. Visit Eve at http://www.evesilver.net and follow her http://www.twitter.com/Eve_Silver

Here’s where you can buy RUSH:

Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Books A Million – Indiebound – The Book Depository

Emily Lloyd-Jones lives on the western edge of California, where she works in a bookstore by day and writes YA novels by night. She’s addicted to coffee, the internet, and snarky humor. When not writing, she’s usually online or playing with her neurotic cat. She wastes a lot of time on Twitter. Her debut, ILLUSIVE, will be released by Little, Brown in the spring of 2014.
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Emily Lloyd-Jones: ADVERSE EFFECTS

We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. One author, four questions. Today we’re talking to Emily Lloyd-Jones, author of ADVERSE EFFECTS.  Here we go!

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

Emily on a benchThis story is pretty typical. I was a very introverted child who got her hands on a copy of Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. It was the first time I’d truly been immersed in a fantasy world. I remember looking at the tattered cover and thinking, This is what I want to create.

I began writing. Some of it was original fiction, some of it not. Most of it really sucked. I continued writing. Years passed. My writing slowly became less sucky. In fact, if you squinted and were sort of tipsy, it began to look like passable fiction.

Fast forward to July 2011 and I was watching far too many superhero movies when I should’ve been working on my master’s thesis. (See? Procrastination isn’t all bad.) While I enjoyed the movies, there was this nagging voice in the back of my mind. It kept whispering, “These are all unrealistic. Come on. What would really happen if humans suddenly ended up with superpowers?” I was unable to stop thinking about it. What followed was four months of frantic writing followed by four more months of revision.

In February 2012, I entered the querying trenches. I got rejections. Quite a few of them. I fretted and drank a lot of coffee.

In the end, I signed with a fantastic agent: Quinlan Lee of Adams Literary. My book was picked up by Little, Brown – something I will never stop being giddy about.

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

Well, it’s my interpretation of what would realistically occur if a small percentage of the population ended up with superpowers. The short answer: bad things happen. The long answer: people with powers are seen as the new atom bomb. They are the ultimate weapon – and the government knows that. Citizens who end up with superpowers (called “adverse effects”) face the choice of either joining up with the feds or trying to make a life outside of the system.

As for cool details… well, all of the superpowers in the book are based off of stage magic. When I was world-building, I wanted my characters to have somewhat realistic abilities. (No bullet-proof skin for my heroes.) I did some research into the several branches of stage magic and channeled each one into an adverse effect.

What inspires you to write?

To quote Gandalf: “Questions. Questions that need answering.”

I’m very much a what-if kind of writer. I get mentally hit upside the head by possibilities: what if superheroes did exist? What if we suddenly found out that magical creatures were real? What if giant genetically engineered woodchucks rose up and conquered humanity? What would really happen? How would people react? What would change?

If a question lodges itself in my brain – to the point where I’m thinking about it even when I’m supposed to be doing other things – then I know it’s worth pursuing.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

  • When I jot down my characters’ basic info, I include what Hogwarts house they’d belong to.
  • I’m sort of a music fanatic. Nearly all of my computer is dominated by my music collection and a lot is really obscure.
  • I was an anime nut in my teen years. I count Gundam SEED, Yu Yu Hakusho, Sailor Moon, and Orphen among my influences.
Emily Lloyd-Jones lives on the western edge of California, where she works in a bookstore by day and writes YA novels by night. She’s addicted to coffee, the internet, and snarky humor. When not writing, she’s usually online or playing with her neurotic cat. She wastes a lot of time on Twitter. Her debut, ADVERSE EFFECTS, will be released by Little, Brown in the spring of 2014.