The Author’s Voice: interview with OneFour author Robin Constantine

Tacky hors d’oeuvres and longing glances!

Robin speaks with us about her YA contemporary The Promise of Amazing (Balzer + Bray, 2014).

Kate Boorman is an independent artist and writer from the Canadian prairies. She was born in Nepal (where she was carried up the Himalayas in a basket) and she grew up in a small Albertan town (where she rode her bike to Girl Guides). She is fond of creepy things. Speaking of! Her YA fantasy WINTERKILL debuts in November 2014 (Abrams/Amulet and Faber & Faber).

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.


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.

Rosamund Hodge: SUNDERED

We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. Today, we’re talking to Rosamund Hodge, author of SUNDERED. One author, four questions. Here we go!

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

It’s a Beauty and the Beast reimagining about a girl promised since birth to marry the demon who rules her country. All her life, she’s trained to die destroying him. But when she’s finally delivered to him, he doesn’t hurt her. Instead, he begins to attract her, while his magical, ever-shifting castle enthralls her. She also finds that his shadow is a living creature, and she becomes convinced that it’s really the last prince of her country, magically trapped as a slave. But if she’s to free the prince–or herself–she has to discover the truth of what happened to her country nine hundred years ago.

When I started writing SUNDERED, there were three things I really wanted to do:

(1) Write a completely shameless loved melodrama. I’ve always loved melodrama, but I spent years trying to write stories that were dignified, until I realized that if I’m not stupid crazy in love with a story, what is the point?

(2) Write a Victorian England/Greek mythology mash-up. I’ve loved Greek mythology all my life, and I have long believed that Beauty and the Beast is just another form of Cupid and Psyche. (Seriously, it is. And East of the Sun, West of the Moon is the halfway point between them.) I knew that I had to meld those stories together. But I also felt that a proper melodrama should have a goth Victorian aesthetic. So SUNDERED takes place in the world where a pseudo-Greco-Roman empire colonized pseudo-England and was never driven out. (Bonus: I got to include household gods.)

(3) Write an angry heroine. When I was a teenager, I struggled a lot with keeping my temper. So I always loved it when books featured female characters who were angry, who were sometimes wrong in their anger and did wrong things because of it–but who were still sympathetic and got to find happy endings.

And that’s how I came up with my heroine, Nyx. She hates her father for making the bargain that doomed her. She hates her twin sister for being the one who will survive. But most of all, she hates herself, for being so reluctant to save everyone.

She also hates her husband. But of course, that quickly gets complicated.

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

Blood, sweat, and tears.

(Just kidding! I never actually cried.)

The idea for SUNDERED came to me one evening in September 2010. For the next few months, I wrote like a madwoman, and then I started revising. On May 30, 2011, I decided I was done and started querying agents.

And kept querying. Over the next seven months, I was rejected by 62 agents and started to convince myself that I was the worst writer in the whole world. Even in my saner moments, I was seriously considering that I should just trunk the novel.

But then one afternoon, as I was wasting time on the internet, I ran across somebody saying that there was a new agent named Hannah Bowman at Liza Dawson Associates. I jumped to query her; after a few revisions, she took me on, and she’s been wonderful ever since. We worked on more revisions for a little over a month; Hannah sent SUNDERED out to the editors in mid-March, and it sold to Sara Sargent at Balzer + Bray two weeks later. I’m still trying to believe it really happened.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

I think what I’m most excited about is when I finally get to see a real, physical copy of my book on the shelves of a real, physical bookstore. I have only been dreaming about that since I was eight years old!

But I’m also really excited about when we unveil the cover art for SUNDERED. I love cover art as a genre, and in the last ten years, YA cover art has become really amazing. I have seen the preliminary design for SUNDERED’s cover, and it is everything I hoped for.

What inspires you to write?


When I’m actually putting words on the paper, music inspires me a lot, and each of my projects has a playlist. But when it comes to getting the actual ideas–for me, stories come from other stories. As soon as I read a book or watch a movie, I start thinking, What if this happened instead? How would it feel to be that character? I don’t like this ending; there has to be another way. This bit is awesome; I must reuse it. I wish somebody from this story could talk to the people in that one.

I’ve mentioned that SUNDERED was inspired by years of thinking about the background fairytales/mythology. But the way it all came together is this: I was watching Disney’s THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG. One of the delightful little details in the movie is the evil witch doctor’s shadow, which moves about on its own and sometimes seems to be afraid of him. It’s like his shadow is his prisoner, I thought, and instantly I knew that I was going to write a story about a girl forced to marry a supernatural husband who is evil, and whose shadow is an independent person who becomes the girl’s friend. Two months later, I had a first draft.

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


We have a lot of fantastic debut authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. Today, we’re talking to Julie Murphy. One author, Four questions. Here we go!

You could say I like cats.

You could say I like cats.

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

The short version is that I wrote a book and my agent (Molly Jaffa) sold it soon after! But, seeing as I write novels, I’ve never been prone to short storytelling. So here goes: about two years ago, I graduated with my Bachelor’s in political science. I was torn between graduate school and law school when I decided to take a year off to write–something I’d always wanted to do. SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY was the second book I wrote that year and the one that landed me an agent. Last August marked the end of my “Year Off to Write.” As of right now, I don’t have any back-to-school plans, but I hope to go back someday. One of the most well known phrases in publishing is, “Hurry up and wait.” My journey to publication was sort of the antithesis of that and I know just how rare that is. I always like to give the disclaimer that my story is not the norm. My dear friend Jenny once told me it takes two of the following three to get published: luck, persistence, and talent.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book? Any cool details? What inspired you to write it?

Former ballerina, Alice, learns that she’s terminally ill. In response to this news, Alice makes a list of things to do and people to ruin. She enlists the help of her kindhearted childhood friend Harvey. All of Alice’s scores are settled until she goes into remission. SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is about how you go on living after you’ve already learned how to die.

What most people don’t know is that not only is SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY non-linear, but it is also told from both Alice’s and Harvey’s points of view.

I’ve always been obsessed with the ways people die, (How morbid is that?) and last words and meals, but especially with the things we might do in those final moments. I think it’s easy to have this beautiful image of deathwith dignity and honor in our heads, but I think death is such an ugly thing. This is bizarre, I guess, but I remember, from a very young age, being obsessed with prisoners on death row. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of knowing that death was coming inevitably soon. I’m not kidding. In sixth grade, I did a research paper on death row and obsessed over this list of last meals I’d found in one of my books. I was a strange child. And I’m rambling. What I’m trying to say was that the inspiration was always there.

The rest is kind of a funny story. Until recently, I had worked with teens at a public library. At one of our gatherings, the teens and I got into a heated discussion about the zombie apocalypse and where we would all barricade ourselves should we be stranded in the library. This topic quickly evolved into a discussion about all the things that we weren’t allowed to do in a library that we might do if all bets were off. That combined with my weird childhood obsession gave birth to SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY. Am I so weird? Are y’all still reading this?

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

Would it be so shallow of me to say that I can’t wait to see my cover? Ha! I’m in the midst of the editorial process, and it has been so incredible to see where my novel started versus where it’s headed. I’m also scared/excited/nauseated for that moment when readers will (Hopefully!) connect with Alice and Harvey.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

  • As a kid, I wanted to be a chiropractor.
  • I’ve written a screenplay that currently resides beneath my bed. It’s horrible. No, really.
  • I don’t cook, but love to bake.
  • I can’t tell time, but you can stick me in the middle of nowhere and I can tell you North, South, East, and West.
  • I hail from Bridgeport, Connecticut.
  • I have a pretty sizable WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE tattoo. (I also have a Harry Potter tattoo!)
  • I’ve lived in nineteen different residences.
  • In college, I participated in Model Arab League–much like Model U.N., but nerdier.
  • I graduated college with honors, but barely graduated high school.
  • Despite popular belief, I am an introvert at heart.
  • I celebrate Halloween like it’s a sport. (Growing up, we didn’t celebrate Halloween, so I overcompensate now.)
Julie Murphy lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cats who tolerate her. When she’s not writing or trying to catch stray animals, Julie can be found on Twitter or in a library smelling old books and manning the reference desk. SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray) is due out in 2014.