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Gettin’ Lucky: An Interview with Alison Cherry, Author of RED

Hi, y’all! Julie here! I was lucky enough to read an early copy of Alison Cherry’s super stellar debut, Red. And it was A W E S O M E. Satire with some major heart. Fans of Pleasantville, Drop Dead Gorgeous, The Truman Show, or Tom Perrotta’s Election (or just awesome things in general) will devour this one. Despite me not having red hair, Alison was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, but first here’s a little more about Red:

13265540Felicity St. John has it all—loyal best friends, a hot guy, and artistic talent. And she’s right on track to win the Miss Scarlet pageant. Her perfect life is possible because of just one thing: her long, wavy, coppery red hair.
Having red hair is all that matters in Scarletville. Redheads hold all the power—and everybody knows it. That’s why Felicity is scared down to her roots when she receives an anonymous note:
I know your secret.
Because Felicity is a big fake. Her hair color comes straight out of a bottle. And if anyone discovered the truth, she’d be a social outcast faster than she could say “strawberry blond.” Her mother would disown her, her friends would shun her, and her boyfriend would dump her. And forget about winning that pageant crown and the prize money that comes with it—money that would allow her to fulfill her dream of going to art school.
Felicity isn’t about to let someone blackmail her life away. But just how far is she willing to go to protect her red cred?

JM: As if launching your debut novel isn’t enough work, tomorrow morning you wake up to find that you’ll be competing in a beauty pageant that same day. What’s your talent?

AC: Unfortunately, I have very little performing arts talent (or ability to walk in heels, which would make me a pretty terrible pageant contestant.) However, I am extremely good at writing funny Shakespearian sonnets about pretty much anything in twenty minutes or less. (Proper rhyme scheme, iambic pentameter, the works.) So I’d go out onstage before the talent portion began and ask for topic suggestions from the audience, then scurry back to the green room, write my sonnet, and dramatically read it aloud when it was my turn. In the past, I’ve written sonnets about how my old coworker might be a robot, ways to procrastinate when you’re studying for finals, how awesome my agent is, and Nyquil, so pretty much anything is fair game.

JM: Ah! I am dying for a sonnet! Felicity is an artist at heart, how did you come to make this decision and who are some of your favorite artists?

AC: Overall, Felicity and I aren’t very much alike, but that was me infusing her with a bit of my teenage self! I started getting really serious about photography when I was about fifteen—that was actually my major in college, and I did it as a career for a while before I became a full-time writer. My art classes in high school and college were always where I felt most free to express myself. Since Felicity spends her whole life trying to cover up who she really is, I wanted to give her one place she could be totally honest.

Some of my favorite photographers are Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, and Mary Ellen Mark, all of whom have (or had) a flare for capturing the dramatic, the absurd, and the unexpected. I’m also a big fan of Impressionist and Expressionist painting, especially Manet, Cezanne, van Gogh, Kirchner, and Munch.

JM: Oh! I love Richard Avedon, too! His In the American West series has always been a favorite of mine. If you could choose any one of your characters to be a living human being to be a part of your daily life, who would you choose?

AC: I’d take Felicity’s best friend Ivy, hands down. She’s my favorite character I’ve ever written in anything, not just in this book. I never had to think about what she’d say or do—she was just there in my brain right from the start being her snarky, funny, 100% individualistic self. I’m incredibly jealous that Felicity gets to hang out with her all the time and I don’t. (I’m also pretty sure I made one of my real-life friends because she reminds me of Ivy…)

JM: I adored Ivy. I often find that the characters who stay with authors are the ones who stick with readers as well. Felicty’s world is so fully developed. I imagine it was hard to get that out of your head and move onto the next project. Can you give us a taste of what you’ve got coming up next?

AC: I don’t think Scarletville will ever really leave my head—sometimes I find myself using words I made up for RED in everyday conversation, and I only realize I’m doing it when people start looking at me funny. My next book, FOR REAL, is another stand-alone contemporary YA. It’s about a pair of sisters who audition for a race-around-the-world reality TV show in order to get revenge on a cheating ex-boyfriend. I can’t tell you too much yet, but I will say that it contains elephants with painted toenails, a Greek man singing Lady Gaga, and a pomegranate-smashing contest.

JM: Ermahgerd! I can’t wait! One last question: 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!

AC: I read constantly as a kid, so it’s difficult to pick just three. But I’m going to go with The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, Matilda by Roald Dahl, and Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. The Phantom Tollbooth taught me that words could do playful, unexpected things and ignited my love for puns and portmanteaus. (I can FEEL my friends reading this and rolling their eyes… don’t even pretend you don’t love it, guys.) Matilda taught me that girls who love books are incredibly awesome and that having a strong brain makes you powerful. And Anne… I mean, come on, is there any better book for a little redheaded, freckled girl who loves to imagine?

JM: I love all of those books so much. I think you might be my spirit animal, Alison. Those are all the questions I have for today. Thank you so much for stopping by OneFour KidLit! And congratulations on your incredible debut!

Author photoUnlike Felicity, Alison Cherry is a natural redhead. (Yes, Cherry is her real last name.) Alison is a professional photographer and worked for many years as a lighting designer for theater, dance, and opera productions. If she could choose a superpower, it would be teleportation, and her favorite dinosaur is the stegosaurus. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. RED is her first book. Visit Alison online at www.alisoncherrybooks.com or on Twitter @alison_cherry.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

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.
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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 Peggy Eddleman, Author of SKY JUMPERS

Today we have the pleasure of featuring Lucky13 Peggy Eddleman, whose debut middle-grade novel SKY JUMPERS hits the shelves on September 24! Here’s the blurb:

SKY JUMPERS12-year-old Hope lives in White Rock, a town struggling to recover from the green bombs of World War III. The bombs destroyed almost everything that came before, so the skill that matters most in White Rock—sometimes it feels like the only thing that matters—is the ability to invent so that the world can regain some of what it’s lost.

But Hope is terrible at inventing and would much rather sneak off to cliff dive into the Bomb’s Breath—the deadly band of air that covers the crater the town lives in—than fail at yet another invention.

When bandits discover that White Rock has invented priceless antibiotics, they invade. The town must choose whether to hand over the medicine and die from disease in the coming months or to die fighting the bandits now. Hope and her friends, Aaren and Brock, might be the only ones who can escape through the Bomb’s Breath and make the dangerous trek over the snow-covered mountain to get help.

For once, inventing isn’t the answer, but the daring and risk-taking that usually gets Hope into trouble might just save them all.

And here’s the terrific trailer for SKY JUMPERS:

Peggy and I spoke about her inspiration for the novel and her road to publication.

Peggy Eddleman 2Congratulations on your debut, Peggy! In SKY JUMPERS, inventing is a crucial skill that will help the few people left on Earth rebuild civilization. Clearly, you had to be very inventive, too, to imagine a world in which some futuristic technology (like the “green bombs”) exists, but where a lot of the technology we have today has been lost. How did you achieve that balance?

The balance mostly came in during revisions. It was difficult to bring out just the right amount of references to technology that we have now, and mix it with the much lower level of technology that they had after the green bombs hit, especially since much of that technology was now impossible. One of the things that was most fascinating to me to think about was the fact that the main character, Hope, grew up with the way things are being “normal,” because that’s how they always were for her. But there are people in her town who were alive before the bombs, and know what it was like to live with all the technology we have now (and more). So, unlike the first time when technology advanced, people actually knew what was possible, and wanted to try to find a way to get to that same point again.

I found the geography of White Rock—where most of SKY JUMPERS takes place—fascinating. It’s basically a crater created by a green bomb, with the center of town at the lowest point. Is White Rock based on a real place, or is it completely a product of your imagination?

If it exists somewhere, I WANT TO GO THERE. No–it was just a product of my imagination, but I would seriously go there if I could. And I would sky jump regardless of the possibly dying. I would freak out, though, if my kids even thought of it. 😉 Using the crater as a place to live really came into existence because I wanted the book to take place on the great plains, but I needed mountains for the Bomb’s Breath to even be an issue. And what makes for a more unexpected, ironic setting than the few people who remained living inside the crater of the thing that wiped out most of the population?

In a key section of the book, the main characters must embark on a journey through a frigid landscape. You really made the cold feel real (to the point where I wanted to drink a hot cider in the middle of July!). Did you draw on any frigid experiences of your own to create those scenes?

Very much so. It gets pretty frigid in the winter where I live, and I’ve been out in my share of snowstorms. One of the biggest experiences I drew from, though, came from rain–not snow. I was a leader of a group of teenagers who were reenacting part of the trip where pioneers crossed the plains in the middle of winter. We were crossing Rocky Ridge in Wyoming–a place where the pioneers had to go on a forced march in a snowstorm to make it to safety. It was summer, but the weather turned so quickly that the temperatures dropped almost instantly, and the rain poured down so hard and so fast that we were soaked all the way through within seconds. We were only a few miles into a sixteen mile climb, and between the temperatures dropping so drastically and the freezing rain, the muscles in our legs quickly became numb. That’s when I finally understood why it was a “forced march” for those pioneers–if you stopped anywhere along that trail with the weather so bad and your legs so numb, your muscles would freeze and there’d be no way to go again. The only thing that was keeping your muscles warm enough to use was actually using them. It was an experience I was so grateful to have had (and not just because it really helped in writing those scenes :)).

Speaking of journeys, what’s been the most unexpected aspect of your journey to publication so far?

How awesome people are, and how much support comes from so many unexpected places along the way.

Since this community is “All For One and One Four Kid Lit” we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid.

The three books from my childhood that stand out the most because of the impression they made on me were:

  • The Boxcar Children, because I loved the concept of kids being able to make it on their own, and to find a way to survive. I also loved how inventive they were in coming up with solutions to the problems they faced.
  • The Dark is Rising, probably because of the snow! What kid doesn’t secretly wish that it will snow all the way up to the top of their house?
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, because the setting was so unique because it was seen from the point of view of a mouse. And the concept of the rats becoming as smart as humans was fascinating.

Thank you, Peggy!

Thank YOU, Tara! It’s been a blast being here. I wish you and the other 2014 debut authors all the best!

You can find Peggy online in the following places:

WEBSITE   GOODREADS   TWITTER   FACEBOOK

And here’s where you can buy SKY JUMPERS:

IndieBound   Barnes & Noble   Amazon  Books-A-Million   Indigo Books   Powell’s Books

Tara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering round-the-world honeymooner (two years, 74 countries!) who now lives in Colorado. Her debut middle-grade novel, ALL FOUR STARS (Putnam/Penguin, Summer ’14), tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who secretly becomes a restaurant critic for New York’s biggest newspaper.
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GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with A.B. Westrick, Author of BROTHERHOOD

Today we’re joined by A.B. Westrick, who has managed to make history come alive in the vivid, gripping Reconstruction-set novel BROTHERHOOD, which is in bookstores NOW! I wrote a term paper in high school about Reconstruction, but trust me, this book is SO much better. The pitch:

17402594 The year is 1867, and Richmond, Virginia, lies in ruins. By day fourteen-year-old Shadrach apprentices with a tailor and sneaks off for reading lessons with Rachel, a freed slave, at her school for African-American children. By night he follows his older brother to the meetings of a brotherhood, newly formed to support Confederate widows and grieving families like his. As the true murderous mission of the brotherhood—now known as the Ku Klux Klan—emerges, Shad is trapped between his pledge to them and what he knows is right. In this unflinching view of the bitter animosity that stemmed from economic and social upheaval in the South during the period of Reconstruction, it’s clear that the Civil War has ended, but the conflict isn’t over.

Check out the stirring trailer for BROTHERHOOD, complete with historical B&W photos from the era.

We sat down to discuss her road to published author, BROTHERHOOD, and literary inspirations.

Welcome to OneFourKidLit! What’s been your favorite part of the road to publication?
My favorite part has been fulfilling a dream I’ve had… like… forever. I’ve always been a huge reader, and I considered writing when I was young, then dropped it from consideration because it seemed so… hard. So daunting to write a novel! But now I’ve done it. And not only one, but three. So far, only one manuscript (Brotherhood) has sold, and without enormous revisions, neither of the other two will ever sell, and that’s okay; they’re part of my process. (I’m letting go of them.) I’m now working on my fourth.

Any part of the process you found surprising?
Yes! Every time a character does something I haven’t expected, it delights and surprises me. I don’t outline. I dig deeply into characters, interviewing them, and putting them in situations and watching them react. When they do something that I would never do, I love it. They become real to me as people.

What inspired you to set your novel during post-Civil War Reconstruction?
I’d seen a bazillion books written during the Civil War, but not much fiction set during Reconstruction. Often Reconstruction is handled with heady discussions about the politics of the time and the landmark amendments to the constitution passed just after the war (freeing slaves, establishing civil rights for all, and giving African-American men the right to vote). While this is important stuff, I wanted to explore what it might have felt like for ordinary, impoverished Southerners (tradespeople, not landowners) to live through the political and social upheaval.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
I live just outside Richmond, VA, capital of the former Confederacy–a Civil War historian’s must-visit city. I toured every museum and the VA Historical Society here, read newspapers in the archives at the Library of Virginia, read books and websites about Reconstruction and the KKK, and walked or drove down every street mentioned in the story. I also interviewed descendants of Confederate soldiers (many of whom are my relatives). I asked them and many Virginians why some Southerners still harbor grudges against Northerners. Boy, did they give me an earful! Their comments helped me craft the characters.

BROTHERHOOD deftly handles touchy subjects (slavery, the rise of the KKK, postwar struggles). How did you approach writing about these topics for a teen audience?
My editor wanted the book to be suitable for middle school readers and up, so I toned down some of the language that appeared in an earlier version. I also refrained from showing graphic violence, but I didn’t hold back on bigotry or bullying. My protagonist has grown up in a family and culture that is painfully prejudiced against African-Americans. I tried to write each scene as honestly as I could, and often my characters made me cringe. Teens know what it feels like to be bullied and to treat others badly, and I hope they cringe when they read this story. If they know it’s a toned down version of what really went on, maybe they’ll cringe even more.

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.
There were so many, it’s hard to name just a few! I’d have to go with… hmmm… in elementary school, ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS. In middle school, I read and loved GONE WITH THE WIND, and in high school, WATERSHIP DOWN.

Finish this sentence: If readers liked CHAINS by Laurie Halse Anderson, then they’ll love BROTHERHOOD.

Thank you so much for stopping by! BROTHERHOOD is in bookstores now, and it’s not to be missed. Add it to your shelf on Goodreads right this instant! You can find A.B. at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Philip Siegel grew up in New Jersey, which he insists is much nicer than certain TV shows would have you believe. After college, he moved to Los Angeles, where he became an NBC page. Currently, he works in downtown Chicago and writes novels while sandwiched in between colorful characters on the El. His debut novel, THE BREAK-UP ARTIST (Harlequin Teen), about a girl who runs a business breaking up couples, hits bookstores May 2014.
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GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Kate Kelly, author of RED ROCK

Today we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Kate Kelly, whose debut novel RED ROCK hits the shelves today! A little about the book:

Red Rock CoverThe ice caps have melted. The coastal areas we once knew are gone, and only scavvers now live in the flooded towns. The world has changed, but as 14-year-old Danni Rushton soon discovers, it isn’t the first time… Living with her uncle after the tragic death of her parents, Danni s world is turned upside down when her aunt is assassinated. With her dying breath, she entrusts Danni with a strange, small rock. Danni must not tell a soul that she has it.

But what is the rock for, and to what lengths must Danni go to keep it safe? This action-packed adventure takes the reader from the barren terrain of Greenland, to the flooded ruins of Cambridge, and on to a sinister monastery in Malta. In her effort to save her uncle and evade a power-hungry space agency, Danni discovers that friends aren’t always what they seem, and a rock isn’t always just a rock.

Welcome, Kate, to the OneFour blog, and kudos on the publication of RED ROCK! Can you tell us a bit about your path to publication? How did you get your agent? How long did it take before she placed your novel at Curious Fox?

Most agents find their clients through the slushpile, but I am one of the minority that took a different route. When I spotted that Julia Churchill, an agent at A.M. Heath, was offering 1-2-1 surgeries at a local literary festival I made sure I booked myself a slot. It was too good an opportunity to miss. I had just finished writing Red Rock and I thought this would be great to get some industry feedback before I started submitting.

Of course things never quite work out how you think they will. Julia loved my opening chapter and wanted to see the full. Weirdly she remembered an earlier effort of mine that she had rejected on a full about a year before and we ended up chatting about why that one hadn’t worked and not about Red Rock very much at all. Needless to say I was over the moon when she subsequently signed me. But that was only the beginning. The submission process is nerve racking—out your novel goes into the big wide world and then…you wait…and you wait…..

But at last the call came and I’ll never forget that moment. I was out on my mountain bike when my phone went with the news that Curious Fox wanted to acquire, and I took the call sitting on a grassy bank outside a farm watching the swallows skim back and forth between the outbuildings. It was a magical moment.

RED ROCK rocks as a MG sci-fi/thriller! What authors influenced you in writing these genres?

I have always been a huge fan of science fiction, and so many of the authors who have influenced me in this respect are the well know sci-fi authors – John Wyndham, Isaac Azimov and Ray Bradbury among others. But at the same time I have always loved a good adventure and none did this better that the Victorian novelist H. Rider Haggard. I used to seek out his books in second-hand bookshops and I loved the blend of lost civilizations and the age of exploration. I guess I wanted to capture something of this magic in my own work.

Global Warming causing ice caps to melt is at the heart of your story’s premise. Why did you select this environmental theme?

In a way I didn’t select it, it selected me. The fact that the Greenland ice sheet is retreating is fundamental to the plot, but you can’t just melt an ice sheet without taking into account the ramifications. Perhaps it is the scientist in me talking, but I then had to look at what effects this would have, and the more I investigated the more worrying the whole issue became. The sea level doesn’t need to rise by very much to have a devastating effect on large areas of the world. Not to mention the disruption of the ocean circulation patterns and the weather systems.

The settings are fascinating–Greenland, Cambridge, and Malta. Have you been to these places? What made you choose them? How did you research your settings?   

I always like to set my stories somewhere I’ve actually been. Admittedly these days you can do an awful lot of research online – you can even get right down to ground level and explore a place in google street view. But for me to write authentically about somewhere I need to be able to feel it, smell it, sense the atmosphere and the only way I can really immerse myself like that is to actually go there. I’m fortunate in that I’ve travelled quite widely to some fascinating places so I have a lot of experience to draw on. And should I decide to set a story somewhere that I haven’t been—well now I have the perfect excuse to go there.   

What will you be doing for a launch?  

I’m holding a party in my local village hall, and the theme is Red. I’ve asked the guests to wear red and I’ll be dishing out red cakes and red wine, (and cranberry juice for the younger guests).

As this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a child.

Well I’ve already mentioned H. Rider Haggard, and of course he is best known for his children’s book King Solomon’s Mines, so I reckon that one has to go on the list. Then, like so many kids, of both past and present generations I was a huge fan of Enid Blyton, especially the Famous Five books, but I really don’t think I could single out any one, so I’ll just say all of them. Finally The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff brought Roman Britain alive for me, and I’ve been fascinated by archaeology ever since.

Kate KellyABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lucky 13 debut author Kate Kelly has a love of the sea and literature. She was born in Scotland but grew up in rural Devon. Coming from a long line of seafarers she succumbed to the ocean’s call, studying geology and then oceanography at the university, and pursuing a career as a marine scientist. Kate’s passion for science and the sea influences many of the themes she explores in her fiction. Find Kate online at Twitter and Goodreads.

Amazon UK | Amazon Canada | Waterstones | Foyles | Kenny’s

Christine Kohler worked as a political reporter covering the West Pacific. Her YA novel is set on Guam during the Vietnam war: 15-year-old Kiko finds out that his mother was raped during WWII. When Kiko discovers a WWII Japanese soldier is hiding in the jungle behind Kiko’s house for 28 years, will Kiko take revenge? NO SURRENDER SOLDIER, Merit Press, Jan. 18, 2014.
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GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Caroline Carlson, Author of THE VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES #1: MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT

Today we’re here with Caroline Carlson, author of THE VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES #1: MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT. I had the privilege of reading this book early, and it is SO fun, whimsical, humorous, adventurous, and action-packed! Or, as they say in pirate speak, Arrrrrr, ye be wanting this here book, and here be the reason why, matey, in the form of the official flap copy:

Pirates! Magic! Treasure! A gargoyle? Caroline Carlson’s hilarious tween novel The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot is perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events and Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society.MagicMarksSpot_hc_c

Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors, and she already owns a rather pointy sword.

There’s only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.

But Hilary is not the kind of girl to take no for answer. To escape a life of petticoats and politeness at her stuffy finishing school, Hilary sets out in search of her own seaworthy adventure, where she gets swept up in a madcap quest involving a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn’t exist, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous—and unexpected—villain on the High Seas.

Written with uproarious wit and an inviting storyteller tone, the first book in Caroline Carlson’s quirky seafaring series is a piratical tale like no other.

SHIVER ME TIMBERS! Ahoy! Ye landlubbers ought to read this beauty–or I shall make ye swab the poop deck! Arrrr!

Caroline, upon hearing so many pirate terms right in a row, pops into the room.

“AVAST, YE BUCCANEER,” I shout at her. “WALK THE PLANK!”

After a pause, I hang the jib and quietly remove my eyepatch, bandana, sword, and stuffed-animal parrot. “Forgive me mutiny,” I say, still donning my most terrific pirate accent. “But ever since I’ve read about Hilary’s adventures I can’t stop being a pirate.” I tip my hat in apology and then remember that I asked her here for a round of pirate-y (and not so pirate-y) questions…

LM: Where did the idea for THE VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES: MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT come from?

CC: I thought it might be interesting for you to see some of my very earliest notes about MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, since I think they give a pretty interesting look at the evolution of an idea. Here’s the very first seed of the story, written about a year before I started drafting seriously:

a girl who tries to enroll in Piracy, but the admissions office refuses her application and instead forwards it to Young Ladies’ Finishing School. told partially in letters, postcards, ads, business cards, magazine clippings. imaginary world, very humorous.

I’m actually sort of surprised by how accurate this quick description turned out to be. Of course, the next thing I wrote wasn’t quite as true to the way the book ultimately turned out:

Cecily Kent escapes en route to (or directly from) the Finishing School, finds herself answering a want ad from a former/current pirate. Something about a wise woman who grows herbs in her garden. Maybe the pirate lives with his mom. Finishing School people come after her; they are also semi-powerful witches (Cecily’s mom was a garden witch but she has no powers herself). Everyone gets tangled up in some sort of journey/quest//treasure hunt during which Cecily gets to experience the high seas, etc. There is some sort of adorable sidekick…. Maybe a faux talking parrot – a talking rabbit? A talking…something else?

Over the course of my brainstorming notes, Cecily Kent becomes Hilary Westfield and the wise woman with herbs disappears, as do the witches. I abandon the idea of a talking rabbit (thank goodness) for a talking gargoyle, and my pirate gentleman no longer has to suffer the indignity of living with his mom. My notes get closer and closer to the final version of the story until, finally, I hit upon this idea:

The buried treasure is MAGIC.

If you’ve read MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, you’ll know that this idea is at the crux of the plot; it’s crucial to the story’s conflicts, and it shapes the setting and characters. But how did I think of it? With many pages of rambling about talking rabbits, I guess.

Also, I think I should state for the record that in my earliest notes about Hilary’s mentor, the pirate Jasper Fletcher, I refer to him as “the Cary Elwes pirate guy.”

HA! Cary Elwes pirate guy is the absolute BEST character note I’ve ever heard! You officially win at life, Caroline. Anyway, it’s amazing how much your story ideas evolved and changed! When you finally were ready to sit down and write MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, was the plot fully formed, or did you change things as you went along? Essentially… are you a plotter or a pantser? And what is your writing process like?

I’m mostly a plotter. Before I start writing a book, I like to know very specifically what will happen in the first 20 pages, and I like to have a general idea of what will happen after that. I also need to know what the climax of the book will be, and I usually have ideas for one or two scenes I’d like to include along the way.

I actually did very extensive prewriting for MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT; this was unusual for me, but I was a student at Vermont College of Fine Arts at the time, and my advisor, Martine Leavitt, asked me lots of questions before I began drafting: What does your main character want, and why can’t she have it? What is the moment of the story when her quest becomes hopeless? What is her moment of epiphany? How will the story’s ending mirror its beginning? I won’t lie: These questions intimidated me, and I couldn’t answer several of them right away, but just thinking about them helped me understand the broader shape of the story right from the very first draft. Now I challenge myself to think about all of these questions whenever I start a new story.

As much as I love to plot, I’ve also found that if I plot too much, I end up stifling my story because I don’t leave room for all those little moments of inspiration that can happen during the day-to-day writing process. For me, what seems to work best is knowing the broad strokes of the story in advance but leaving the details up in the air until the last minute.

As far as my writing process goes, I almost always write in chronological order, I try to write 1000 words a day (though I don’t always succeed), and I am physically incapable of writing a truly messy draft. This means I revise as I go, so I’m a fairly slow writer, but my first complete draft of a book is usually decently close to the final version. (And by “decently close,” I mean that I will only have to re-write a third of the book from scratch. For MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, I ended up re-writing the final third of the book from scratch. For its sequel, I re-wrote the first third of the book.)

Rewriting a third?!? WOW, that’s intense! I admire your dedication! And I love your description of plotting in advance but also leaving room for surprise inspiration. Was there a particular scene from the book or character that tumbled onto the page differently than you had imagined? What surprised you most about your own story?

The character who took me the most by surprise was Claire, Hilary’s roommate at finishing school. I hadn’t planned for Hilary to have a roommate; Claire just popped into existence out of nowhere as I was writing the scene in which Hilary arrives at school, and I decided to let her hang around for a while. Claire has turned out to be one of my favorite characters, and she’s very useful: She writes letters to Hilary throughout MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, providing crucial information about the situation on the mainland, and she provides a little comic relief when life gets tough for Hilary. Unlike Hilary, she’s not from a privileged background, and she loves traditionally girly enterprises like dancing and dressing up, so she’s often able to offer a point of view that contrasts nicely with Hilary’s. On top of all that, she’s very important to the plot of the second and third books. I can’t imagine the series without her, so it’s hard for me to believe that she started out as an unplanned whim.

Well, I LOVE Claire, so I’m glad she popped into existence, and I’m very excited to hear she’ll have a major role to play in the second and third books! Speaking of second and third books, what has publishing a series been like, and how do you think your debut experience differs from the debut experience of an author who is coming out with a stand-alone?

I didn’t originally conceive of MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT as the start of a trilogy, but from pretty early on, I could tell that it was the sort of book that might be able to support sequels: I still loved the world and the characters I’d created, and there was still plenty of good storytelling material that I hadn’t gotten to use in the first book. So when HarperCollins very generously offered me the chance to write two more books about Hilary and the pirate league, I said yes right away.

Having three books under contract is obviously a wonderful thing–barring catastrophe, I’ll have three books published, and I can make plans for the trilogy as a whole without waiting to find out if my publisher will be willing to pick up book 2 or book 3. I feel very fortunate to be in this position. But writing a series comes with a whole new set of creative and psychological challenges, too. You want readers who loved your first book to feel that the second and third books are worthy companions; you want to continue the story, ramp up the tension, and ensure that your characters grow and change. Oh, and you need to figure out what happens in those second and third books.

From talking to my fellow Lucky 13s, I know that writing a second book can be difficult for any author. You have to deal with worries that your second book won’t live up to your first, or that you are a one-hit wonder who will never be able to write a decent sentence again. If that second book is under contract, you might worry that you’ll let down your editor or your publisher; if you’re not under contract, you might worry that your new book will simply never sell. And when the second book is part of a series, you are learning how to write a series at the same time that you’re wrestling with all of the normal second-book jitters. I think what I’ve discovered over the past year is that writing a second book is immensely challenging, no matter what, and I’m thoroughly impressed with every author who achieves it!

Well, I’m sure you’ll prove equal to the challenge! I’m very glad HarperCollins offered on two sequels; I can’t wait to have more Hilary, gargoyle, and the rest of the Pigeon’s crew in my life! Speaking of your publisher, what was the most surprising thing about the publication process? And what was the most exciting part for you?

Hmm, good questions! The most surprising thing for me has been realizing how many people work incredibly hard to create a book. Of course I knew that agents and editors and designers and publicists and marketing teams and artists were all part of a publishing team, but I have been constantly humbled by how much thought, care and effort each person has put into making this book the best book it can be. MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT started off belonging only to me, but now it belongs to lots of wonderfully talented people, and it’s so exciting to see all of that collaboration come together in the finished book.

As for the most exciting part of the publication process, I’ve had lots of lovely moments so far, but the most exciting was the very first time a child read my book.

Awwww real live middle grade reader?!? That’s so cute! And it’s so lovely to hear about the team supporting MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT. Forgive the non-sequitor, but I was hoping we could do a speed round of questions….

E-readers or physical books? Physical books!

Fantasy or realistic fiction? Either, as long as it’s clever and engaging (and maybe even funny).

Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates or a Freelance Pirate Crew? Freelance pirates!

Parrot or gargoyle? GARGOYLE.

Eye-patch or peg-leg? Eyepatch.

Morning writing session or night writing session? Morning, definitely.

Writing with music or writing with silence? Silence–I’ve tried writing to music, but it just doesn’t work for me.

Rainy writing day or sunny writing day? I’m much more productive on sunny days.

Long-hand or computer? Computer.

Coffee or tea? Tea–particularly Yorkshire Gold tea.

And most important of all: cheese or chocolate? Chocolate is nice, but cheese–well, cheese is the food of the gods.

You are SO right about cheese. It’s DIVINE. One last question for you: 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!

HALF MAGIC and its companion books by Edward Eager are some of my all-time favorites; I love how they combine fantasy, humor, and wonderfully likable characters. I also adore the ANASTASIA KRUPNIK books by Lois Lowry, which are completely hilarious and also feature great characters who’ve stuck with me for years.

Arrrrr, thanks for joining us, Caroline!

CarolineCarlsonThanks for having me on the OneFour KidLit blog, Lauren! It’s been so much fun!

Meet the Author:

Caroline Carlson is the author of MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, a funny and fantastical seafaring adventure for young readers. She grew up in Massachusetts and holds a BA from Swarthmore College and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Caroline lives with her husband in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, amidst many stacks of books.

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forthcoming from Dial/Penguin in Summer 2014.
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GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Sara Polsky, author of THIS IS HOW I FIND HER

Today we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Sara Polsky, whose debut novel THIS IS HOW I FIND HER hits the shelves this week.

960HThis is How I Find Her (Albert Whitman) is about 16-year-old Sophie, who has always lived her life in the shadow of her mother’s bipolar disorder: monitoring medication, making sure the rent is paid, rushing home after school instead of spending time with friends, and keeping secrets from everyone.

But when a suicide attempt lands Sophie’s mother in the hospital, Sophie no longer has to watch over her. She moves in with her aunt, uncle, and cousin—a family she’s been estranged from for the past five years. Rolling her suitcase across town to her family’s house is easy. What’s harder is figuring out how to rebuild her life.

What was the piece of this story that first inspired you? Was it an image, a character, or an idea? 

A character, or rather the relationship between two characters —
Sophie, the main character, and her cousin, Leila. They were best
friends as children but aren’t speaking by the time the book begins.
That was all I knew about them when I first had the idea for This Is
How I Find Her, and as I worked my way backward to their personalities
and their families, I figured out the rest of the story.

What kind of research did you do to write This Is How I Find Her?

As a writer I’m interested in emotions, and memoirs are one way to get
close to how people feel about a particular situation, so I read a lot
of memoirs by people who had experienced bipolar disorder or
depression, or by people whose parents had had mental illnesses. I
also read some of the more straightforward guides to bipolar disorder
for patients and families, which helped me with some of the technical
details about medications, hospital stays, etc.

This Is How I Find Her deals with some difficult subjects, including
mental illness and suicide. What do you hope young-adult readers will
learn from this book, or how do you hope the book will affect them?

I write mostly to explore my own questions — in this case, about
topics like family and home and how to be there for loved ones who are
dealing with mental illnesses. I hope that readers with similar
questions will find some answers or comfort or sense of connection in
the story.

In This Is How I Find Her, it’s not the protagonist who has the
illness. Why did you chose this perspective?

I knew from the beginning that it would be Sophie’s mother, Amy, who
had bipolar disorder and Sophie who was taking care of her and seeing
her experience from the outside. That was always the story I wanted to
tell — I wanted to explore the way mental illness affects families
and friendships and the complicated emotions that Amy’s suicide
attempt raises for Sophie and her relatives.

Your protagonist, Sophie, is an artist. How did that affect her
characterization? How did it affect the voice and your use of
language?

I knew from the earliest drafts that Sophie’s mother would be an
artist, so I liked the idea of Sophie being an artist, too — it would
be something they shared aside from Amy’s illness. It was also
something that made Sophie easier to write. She’s a character who
spends a lot of time in her own head, and her artist’s perspective on
the world meant that her head was a visually interesting, imaginative
place to be (at least, I hope that’s what readers think!). As I
revised, I went back to the descriptions again and again to make sure
Sophie was using her artist’s eye all the time.

What was your biggest challenge in writing This Is How I Find Her?

It was challenging to write a character who is detached and closed off
the way Sophie is at the beginning of the book. There isn’t a lot of
dialogue early in the story, and Sophie tended to shut down any time a
conversation became revealing or personal. Making her an artist helped
with this, since it gave her more reason to observe the world around
her, and I also relied on flashbacks to show a happier, more open time
in Sophie’s life.

And 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:

The book that jumps to mind first when I think about books I loved as
a kid is Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. (I loved the whole series,
but that book was my favorite.) I ended up majoring in medieval
history and literature in college, so I also look back on TDiR as the
book that started me down a whole path of reading Arthurian legends
and books about the kings and queens of England and eventually
studying things like manuscript handwriting and Latin and Welsh (aka
the coolest college major ever). Other authors I read a lot of:
Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Cynthia Voigt, and Ann Rinaldi.

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

6993332

Sara is a writer and editor at Curbed NY, and her articles and essays have appeared in The Christian Science MonitorThe ForwardPoets & Writers, and other publications. Her fiction has appeared in Fictitious Force and Behind the Wainscot. She lives in New York City.

Online you can find Sara on her website, Goodreads, Facebook, or Twitter.

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

Rebecca Behrens lives in New York, where she works as a production editor. Her favorite things are em-dashes, Central Park, running, and doughnuts. Her MG debut, WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE (Sourcebooks; February 4th, 2014), tells what happens when a lonely first daughter finds Alice Roosevelt’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of a White House closet.
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GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Kelly Fiore, Author of TASTE TEST

Today on the blog we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Kelly Fiore, whose debut young adult foodie contemporary, TASTE TEST, releases TODAY!

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

If you can grill it, smoke it, or fry it, Nora Henderson knows all about it. She’s been basting baby back ribs and pulling pork at her father’s barbeque joint since she was tall enough to reach the counter. When she’s accepted to Taste Test, a reality-television teen cooking competition, Nora can’t wait to leave her humble hometown behind, even if it means saying good-bye to her dad and her best friend, Billy. Once she’s on set, run-ins with her high-society roommate and the maddeningly handsome—not to mention talented—son of a famous chef, Christian Van Lorten, mean Nora must work even harder to prove herself. But as mysterious accidents plague the kitchen arena, protecting her heart from one annoyingly charming fellow contestant in particular becomes the least of her concerns. Someone is conducting real-life eliminations, and if Nora doesn’t figure out who, she could be next to get chopped for good.

With romance and intrigue as delectable as the winning recipes included in the story, this debut novel will be devoured by all.

TASTE TEST is contemporary YA set in the world of contemporary cooking shows – a seriously awesome combination. What shows inspired the book, and did any of the contestants you’ve seen inspire the characters?

Top Chef was certainly a big influence in terms of the cooking – particularly the momentum of the challenges and the Contestant Interviews, stuff like that. But the actual characterization was more inspired by shows like Gossip Girl, Glee and Vampire Diaries. I watched a lot of Dawson’s Creek on Netflix when establishing Nora’s rough-around-the-edges exterior – she is very Joey Potter in my eyes and that’s totally intentional.

I will say that Marcel Vigneron from Top Chef Season Two definitely gave me some ammunition for some of Christian’s self-importance and backhanded “zingers” when sparring with Nora.

Southern food and barbecue are definitely the highlighted cuisines in the novel, though everything sounds delicious. What cuisine is closest to your heart and why?

That’s a good question – I’m a big fan of cooking local, fresh ingredients. Throughout the country, they have CSA programs – these are “Community Supported or Sustained Agriculture” and it involves getting a “share” of food from local farms. We’ve done this for four or five years now and it’s been amazing to work with ingredients literally just off the vine or out of the ground. When it comes to recipes, I think that my best dishes are the ones I grew up eating – my mom’s recipes. Maybe they just taste best because of the history and family connection, but they are called “comfort food” for a reason, right?

You have an MFA in Poetry and have studied under some really great writers. What are the odds of us seeing some in future novels, or even a novel in verse?

I’d say the odds are pretty good that you’ll see it in the future – not a novel in verse, necessarily, but poetry is never too far behind for me. Things I’ve written, lately, I can start seeing how it’s feeding into my prose. It’s pretty gratifying. I knew I’d use that poetry degree one day! 🙂

I couldn’t help but notice while I was already anxiously awaiting the release of TASTE TEST that you sold another book, JUST LIKE THE MOVIES. What can you tell us about the follow-up to your debut?

That it was a BLAST to write and research – this is the first time I wrote from alternating perspectives and it was so great to develop two teen girls with such different backgrounds and the same love of movies as each other (and me.) And I will say that the infamous Say Anything scene with John Cusack and his boom-box has gotten a 21st century makeover in my book 🙂

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.

My favorite book as a smaller child was Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban. I loved all the “Frances” books, but that one in particular had great food descriptions. I think it says a lot about why I wrote about food in my debut.

My favorite book in elementary school was Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. I LOVE THIS BOOK. If you are trying to teach figurative language, or you just want a refresher for yourself, this book and it’s metaphor and description are invaluable. I re-read it every couple of years and I always get something else out of it each time.

***

Kelly Fiore Picture 3Kelly Fiore is a foodie, a Fiat owner, and a hair metal enthusiast. She lives in Maryland with her husband and son. TASTE TEST is her debut novel.

You can add TASTE TEST on Goodreads, or buy it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Indiebound, Powell’s, and wherever else awesome books are sold!

Dahlia Adler is an Assistant Editor of Mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and writes contemporary YA and blogs at the Daily Dahlia and YA Misfits at every spare moment in between. She lives in NYC with her husband and their overflowing bookshelves. Her debut novel, BEHIND THE SCENES, releases from Spencer Hill Contemporary on June 24, 2014.
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An Interview with Jessica Young, Author of My Blue is Happy

MY BLUE IS HAPPYIn this story, even colors like gray, black and brown–colors not usually thought of as “pretty” or “favorite”–are presented as special and loved.

Today I’m excited to interview Lucky13 author Jessica Young, whose picture book My Blue is Happy is available NOW from Candlewick Press.

Jessica, this is such a beautiful story in so many ways!  The illustrations are lovely, so it’s beautiful in the most obvious way, but the prose is lyrical and lovely, too.  And beyond that, the concept of the story is a fresh new and intriguing one–that all of us don’t see colors the same way. 

How did you come up with the idea for “My Blue is Happy?”

Thanks so much! It definitely evolved over time. I’ve always been fascinated with differences – how we each see the world through a personal lens, and what that implies. The book was shaped by my experiences as a child and observations and interactions with my own kids and the kids I teach.

Since I was young, I’ve responded to color in a visceral way. Looking at paintings from Picasso’s Blue Period and listening to the blues made me wonder how a child would feel upon discovering that other people have disparate associations to a favorite color. That got me thinking about subjectivity and diversity and how it’s natural – even good – for people to see things differently. As an art teacher, I’ve observed kids who are always looking for the “right” answer: How do you draw a tree? What shade of green is grass? They want someone to tell them the solution. It’s hard to understand that in art there isn’t one correct way.

After those initial ideas, the title came first and the rest followed. In the beginning, the story was set in a classroom and had a more traditional narrative structure with a poem embedded in it. Another author critiqued it and suggested that the poem, itself, could be the story. I revised again, and it became two siblings going back and forth with their color associations. Eventually it evolved into the current structure.

What has your road to publication been like?

It’s been fun and hard, and I’ve had a lot of help from supportive critique partners, as well as my wonderful agent and editor who took a chance on My Blue and helped bring it to life.

After my oldest child was born, I started reading picture books and realized how much I loved them. I wrote a poem for him, and it became the seed of a manuscript. Then, not knowing what to do with it, I sent it to the author of one of my favorite picture books. (Whoops!) Luckily, she was receptive, giving me feedback and encouragement, introducing me to the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), and referring me to her editor. I sent the editor my manuscript and got a nice, hand-written rejection. It was enough to make me think more seriously about writing. For several years, I submitted off and on, targeting publishers I thought would be right for my handful of stories.

In 2007 I went to my first SCBWI workshop, where an agent gave me feedback on several manuscripts, including My Blue is Happy (and where I met a bunch of other people also trying to do what I was trying to do, which was exciting!). After that, the agent and I kept in touch as I worked on revisions for several pieces. Ultimately, she wasn’t looking to take on picture book clients, but her encouragement was enough to keep me going until I found an agent who was perfect for me.

I felt like My Blue might be a good fit for my agent, Kelly Sonnack, so I submitted it, and she asked if I wanted to work on an exclusive revision. I was thrilled when she offered to represent me.

With her keen editorial guidance I continued to revise, and we submitted My Blue to two editors who had seen previous versions and given comments. One of them had positive feedback but passed on it. The other editor who had seen it at an SCBWI workshop offered some suggestions, and I revised accordingly, creating two new versions. Yet I couldn’t seem to get it to feel right. As I struggled with the revisions, the Midsouth SCBWI conference came up and I decided to submit My Blue for a critique. I got Candlewick editor Kaylan Adair as my critiquer. She gave constructive comments that resonated with me and made suggestions I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to execute. But I could see that she really “got” the essence of the piece. I sat in the lobby of the hotel after the conference was over and started pushing and pulling the text around. About a month later we submitted it to her and after some pre-contractual revisions, she offered me a contract. I couldn’t believe it. In fact, I still can’t!

Looking back, I counted eighty-nine revisions of My Blue, not including the ones I didn’t save. There were so many directions I tried taking it, and I feel incredibly lucky to have had the help of wonderful crit partners and my fantastic agent and editor to support me in getting to the final version.

What are you most looking forward to about launching the book now that you’ve actually seen it and held it in your hands?

Seeing it in other people’s hands! I hope it sparks some good conversations about color, diversity, and perspective, and makes readers think about color in a different way.

Since this community is “All For One and One Four Kid Lit” we’d like to know what books inspired you as a kid?

As a kid I loved a Helen Oxenbury-illustrated version of The Quangle Wangle’s Hat by Edward Lear; Ferdinand; a lot of Sendak, especially the Nutshell Library stories; The Golden Wings by Leo Leonni; and Dr. Seuss.

Jessica Young

Jessica Young

Jessica Young is an art teacher and has worked as a curriculum consultant. My Blue is Happy is her first book. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

http://www.jessicayoungbooks.com

Jessica has generously offered a copy of My Blue is Happy as well as a tee-shirt as prizes for OneFourKidLit blog followers.  We’ll randomly choose a commenter on this post to receive this special prize!  So be sure to comment.  And may your blue always be happy too!

Gayle Rosengren loves story (and chocolate) in all forms. If she’s not at her laptop writing, she might be spotted at a bookstore, a stack of children’s books piled to her chin. She is endlessly fascinated by families–their quirks and their stories–as evidenced in her forthcoming book, WHAT THE MOON SAID (February 20, 2014, Putnam/Penguin).
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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!

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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.