Francesca Zappia: ASK AGAIN LATER

We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. Today we’re talking to Francesca Zappia, author of ASK AGAIN LATER, coming from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in 2014. One author, four questions. Here we go!

Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen? (aka, what was your path to publication)

Well, I think I started writing when I was about eight? It was after I’d read my first Harry Potter book, and I realized writing books was a Thing real people did. And I was pretty terrible for a while, but I kept doing it because I liked it. I started querying agents around the same time I started high school, and finally last summer I signed on with my agent, Louise Fury, who I sometimes think would go on crusades for her favorite books. After that we revised, and revised some more, and finally went on submission.

Then HarperCollins happened. Which was amaaaazing, because ever since I began actually paying attention to which publishing houses published which books, HarperCollins has been one of my very top favorites. (And my imprint, Greenwillow, also originally published The Hero and the Crown, my favorite book of all time, which I just found out a few weeks ago and FREAKED OUT about.)

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

ASK AGAIN LATER is a YA contemporary novel about Alex Ridgemont, a seventeen-year-old girl with paranoid schizophrenia. In some ways it seems very contemporary in my head, and in other ways it’s just as weird as all my other ideas. Here’s the short summary from Goodreads:

Francesca Zappia’s debut ASK AGAIN LATER is about the ultimate unreliable narrator, a schizophrenic teenage girl unable to tell the difference between reality and delusion who discovers — thanks to her Magic 8-Ball, her little sister, and a boy she thought was imaginary — that sometimes there really is someone out to get you.

I think the best part about it is the tone. When you say your book is about paranoid schizophrenia (or really any mental illness), people tend to assume it’s dark and twisted and depressing. I like to think the opposite is true about ASK AGAIN LATER. There are sad parts, and there are twisted parts, and there are certainly dark parts. But overall, it’s pretty upbeat. There’s a lot of humor, especially from Alex, who has an off-the-wall way of thinking about things. Some parts are really serious, and some are really silly. Which is kind of like life, I think.

You can add it on Goodreads!

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

I guess what I’m most excited about isn’t necessarily just about being a debut, but being an author in general. I’m dying to meet fans. I mean, I have CPs who give amazing critique, and I have friends who have read my book and liked it, but there’s never really been anyone who has been invested in the story the way fans get invested in a story, where they can sit and ask you question after question and talk to you about your world for hours on end. I cannot wait to talk to fans, however few or however many there are. (Isn’t this true for all authors? There’s nothing better than someone being as invested in your world as you are.)

Okay, okay, I’m also dying to go through the rest of the process. Seeing cover art, getting ARCs, holding a finished copy in my hands… that’ll be amazing, too.

What inspires you to write?

It’s kind of crazy how much stuff inspires me to write. Music is a big one. TV, movies, other books, phrases, words, certain times of day, specific scents, and especially procrastination. If I have a bunch of other things I need to do (like when I need to study for finals, for example) I have ALL THE INSPIRATION to write.

Something that also always inspires me to write is drawing. I do a lot of artwork for my stories, and sometimes all I need to do to get past writer’s block is draw a little bit. A lot of the stuff I have right now is for ASK AGAIN LATER, and you can find it on my DeviantArt page. (Okay, another thing I’m excited about as a debut/as an author: fan art!) Here’s one of my favorites that I’ve done:

Lobster Genius

Francesca Zappia is 20, lives in Indiana, and writes about pirates, aliens, crazy people, ghosts, skysurfing, nightmare hunters, underwater prisons, and anything else that catches her attention. She also likes to draw a lot. Her debut novel, ASK AGAIN LATER, is coming from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in Fall 2014.

Elissa Sussman: STRAY

We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. Today, we’re talking to Elissa Sussman, author of STRAY (Greenwillow Books, 2014). One author, four questions. Here we go!

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

Even though I had the very basic idea for STRAY (Fairy Godmothers! Magic! Fantasy!) back in college, it took years for me to actually write the damn thing. That was in 2010, also known as the year of perpetual revisions, in which I probably scrapped and rewrote my first chapter at least six times (first chapters are the WORST, am I right?) before I felt ready to start querying.

Then, exactly one year and one day after I started the first draft of STRAY, I received an offer of representation from Samantha Shea of Georges Borchardt, Inc. After that it was back to revisions until finally, my wonderful agent told me that she felt it was ready to go on submission. A month later, it sold to the lovely folks at Greenwillow Books about a year and a half after I had started.

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

STRAY was pitched as THE HANDMAID’S TALE meets Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It’s the first in a series about a world where magic is a curse that only women bear and society is dictated by a strict religious doctrine called The Path.

I’m an obsessive plotter, so even though the first book is the only one that’s been written, the entire six book series has already been planned and outlined.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

I’m a huge animation nerd but can’t draw (or animate) to save my life. Luckily I’m really good at bossing people around and can build a killer spreadsheet, which made me perfect for my former life in production management. I’ve had the opportunity to work on a bunch of really amazing movies and you can see my name in the credits of THE CROODS, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, TANGLED and THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG.

Can you share a few of your favorite books from childhood?

I was a total indoor kid (and by was, I mean, I still am) so I read ALL THE TIME. But there are a few books that I loved then and continue to re-read now, like DEALING WITH DRAGONS by Patricia C. Wrede, REDWALL by Brian Jacques, THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH by Norton Juster and JACOB HAVE I LOVED by Katherine Peterson.

Elissa Sussman is a fairy tale nerd and lover of freshly baked bread. Her debut, STRAY (Greenwillow, Harper-Collins), is a homage to both. She lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend and their rescue mutt, Basil.

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.

Jaye Robin Brown: NO PLACE TO FALL

We’ve got a great group of debut authors here at OneFour KidLit. Today we’re introducing Jaye Robin Brown. One author, four questions. Here we go!

Jaye Robin Brown (blog)What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?

NO PLACE TO FALL is a Southern flavored young adult contemporary about family, friendship, lust, love and the confusion that comes with those things when you’re sixteen and from a small town. Here’s the blurb I used in my query:

Singing and boys. The two ways Amber Vaughn is able to escape. Because her family, well, they’re one big mess. When a representative from NC-Arts hears about Amber’s talent, he invites her to an audition. Amber seizes the chance. It’s the thing that could help her rise above. But her brother-in-law has other plans. He knows about Amber’s extra-curricular activities and gives her a choice. Help him steal prescription drugs or he’ll tell her Mama the only angelic thing about Amber is her voice. Before the audition. And whichever way she turns, Amber’s going to lose. Either the something she’s been dreaming about, the someone who’s found his way to her heart, or her reputation, where it matters most. At home.

Cool details about the book — I overheard a wild story in my classroom that was the spark (teenagers – your teachers might be novelists, be careful what you say!), then I heard Amber’s voice on my drive in to work. I swear she could have been in the passenger’s seat. I immediately wrote a couple of paragraphs to nail her voice, and tucked it away in my future projects file. I hated this book halfway through. There were so many threads and so much craziness that I would type things into the body of the manuscript like “Gah, this bites. You are going to need a total rewrite here.” But funny thing, when I read back through it, it wasn’t nearly as awful as I thought.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

Working with my editor, Sarah Dotts-Barley, and everything I’m going to learn from her. It’s amazing to have her as my guide and mentor in shaping NO PLACE TO FALL. She was the first editor to read, due to a cool set of ‘only in NYC’ circumstances, and ended up with the book.

Hanging out with the OneFourKidLit debut authors for a couple of years. Excellent.

Seeing my cover. I mean, come on, what debut author isn’t stoked about that?

And getting Amber out into the world so you can all learn to love or hate her little flawed self. One of my students said it best. She said, “It’s just so cool that you can create situations where people are going to connect with these characters you’ve made and they’re either going to love them or hate them, but they’re going to have, like, feelings about what you wrote!” And that’s really the crux of it, isn’t it?

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

I’m originally from L.A. – Lower Alabama that is. My childhood home’s front yard was Mobile Bay (not too terribly far from where the Bubba Gump shrimp boat was docked in Forrest Gump) and I spent my teenage years in a bathing suit tanning, on our Sunfish sailboat, or on the back of my horse, Rocker, harassing the neighborhood.

I was a full-time metalsmith for many years with my own line of handcrafted silver jewelry. I traveled around the country doing art fairs, selling to galleries, and driving back roads.

My uncle is a Grammy award winning songwriter and his daughter, my cousin, is a Sundance-nominated documentary filmmaker.The Browns are a creative tribe.

It’s not a cool fact, completely uncool really, but unlike my protagonist I can’t sing at all. Well I can, but it would ruin your ear drums. Seriously. A great voice is my first request if I get a chance at reincarnation!

What are your desert island books?

Like others before me, I’m totally cheating on this and going with desert island authors. John Irving because I love his layered, complex cast of characters and the quirkiness, humor, and humility that infuses his writing. Tom Robbins because he writes about flea circuses, hot cowgirls shot by silver bullets, and the goat god, Pan. There’s always something new to discover when reading his books. Besides, they’re smart and funny which is the best combination out there. Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series because there are flying dragons (um, versus the walking kind?) and sexual innuendos and they were the books of my young adult world.  J.K. Rowling because, well, yeah, Luna Lovegood. Kate DiCamillo because her books give me all the Hallmark commercial feelings and I never tire of grabbing the box of tissues to wipe away the tears. And finally, Jandy Nelson, who I hope by the time I land on this desert island will have published more than just her COMPLETELY AMAZING debut novel, The Sky is Everywhere.

Jaye Robin Brown, or JRo to most everyone but her mama, lives and writes in the Appalachian mountains north of Asheville, NC. She’s fond of dogs, horses, laughter, the absurd and the ironic. When not crafting stories she hangs out with teenagers in the high school art room where she teaches. Her debut novel, NO PLACE TO FALL (Harper Teen, Fall ’14), is a love song to small town girls and mountain music.


One author, Four questions. Today we’re talking to Liz Czukas, author of ASK AGAIN LATER.

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

I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but I didn’t really think I could make a career out of it.  So instead, I went to school for Anthropology (Indiana Jones inspired me), History (because I love all kinds of stories), Classics (more stories), then Nursing (because I needed a job), then Midwifery (because…well, I can’t really explain that one because I ended up not liking it very much).  All the while, I was writing on the sly and not talking about it like it was some kind of gambling addiction or a cult.

I got serious about writing again when my son was born.  Naptime meant I had a lot of time when I couldn’t leave the house or make too much noise.  Writing stories was the perfect way to spend my time.

After that, I’m a slush pile success story.  Write, query, get rejected, repeat, until I finally signed with my awesome agent, Laura Bradford.  After that, there was a bit more of the old write/get rejected cycle, until I wrote ASK AGAIN LATER.  It was my third time out on submission and it was over so fast I barely had time to breathe!  Overall, it took a little over a year and a half from signing on with Laura and making my first sale.

What’s your debut book about?

Seventeen year-old Heart LaCouer relies on the flip of a coin to choose between two unwanted prom invitations, causing reality to split as Heart lives out two hilariously awful prom nights simultaneously.

What are your desert island books?

This is probably the meanest question you can ask a writer.  I’m going to straight up cheat and count series as one book.

  • The Stand – Stephen King
  • The Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
  • The President’s Daughter series – Ellen Emerson White
  • Divergent – Veronica Roth
  • Everything written by Maureen Johnson, and E. Lockhart…

WAIT!  Why wouldn’t I just bring my kindle?  That makes way more sense.  In fact, I’ll just bring FIVE KINDLES all loaded to capacity with as many books as they’ll hold!  Perfect!  And they won’t even take up that much space!  I’ll just have to make sure I also have the Professor from Gilligan’s Island with me so he can rig up some kind of coconut generator to recharge those babies.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

First let me say, that after reading some of my fellow OneFour-ers’ posts, I think it’s safe to say that I am one of the most boring members of the group.  But, here are some random things about me anyway.

  • I went to all-girls high school.
  • I once accidentally snuck into Italy.
  • I learned how to speak enough Spanish to talk to my patients while I was a nurse, but I can only talk about being pregnant and having a baby, which is crazy not helpful if you’re on vacation in a Spanish-speaking country.
  • My superpower and my curse is memorizing song lyrics.  Seriously, I’m stuck with so many songs, jingles, TV theme songs, and commercials…it’s a wonder I can remember my own name.
  • I will never give up the double space after a period when writing.  NEVER!!
  • I am technically an only child, but I have 2 step sisters, 1 step brother, and 2 half sisters.
  • My critique partner is J.A. Souders, who debuted with RENEGADE last year.  Our writing styles and strengths are so completely different, you’d probably be shocked we work together, but we totally do.
  • I’ve been a vegetarian for twenty years, and I can’t remember what bacon tastes like.
Liz Czukas is a freelance writer living outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin. ASK AGAIN LATER (HarperTeen Winter 2014) is her first novel. She collects college degrees she doesn’t use, types too loud, and always has a song stuck in her head. In high school, Liz went to two proms, but not at the same time.

Natalie C Parker: BEWARE THE WILD

We’ll be continuing our introduction posts over the course of this month and next…possibly even longer. There are a bunch of OneFours to introduce! Today, we’re introducing YA author Natalie C Parker. 

Yes, this is me at 3 years old. Tap-tap-tapping away at something. I’m sure it was brilliant…

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

It was a dark and stormy night. I’d been traveling with the crew of the GatorHead for many moons, but on that night, when the deck was slick with blood and moonlight, I strode up to Captain Ne’er Do Well and said, “No more! I want to write!”

At which point he grinned and said, “Then I’ll do ye a favor and give ye a drink,” then threw me overboard….

Okay, so the real story has fewer pirates (but not by much!). After college and grad school, I set off on a professional path, but somewhere along the way I decided I needed to balance my profession with doing something I loved. It seemed a good time to return to the childhood hobbies I loved most – playing the cello and writing. I surrounded myself with writing peers and mentors and after 18 months felt ready to query. Two weeks later, I’d signed with the indomitable Sarah Davies of The Greenhouse Literary Agency and together we entered a near-year of revision. When we both felt that novel (now a shiny new novel) was ready, it went out on submission and, again, the deal with HarperCollins Children’s Books was sealed in about two weeks. Long gaps and big leaps, that’s the sort of game it’s been for me.

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

Here’s a bit of a blurb about BEWARE THE WILD:

The entire town of Sticks, Louisiana, fears the swamp that sleeps in its center, surrounded by an all too fragile split-rail fence. For 16-year-old Sterling Saucier, the swamp has always been a place to avoid – until the day her brother Phineas climbs over the fence in a fit of rage and doesn’t comes back.  One day later, a strange, ethereal girl named Lenora May crawls out of the murky water, claiming to be Sterling’s sister. Suddenly, nobody but Sterling remembers Phin and the entire town accepts Lenora May without question.

Cool details? Though this story had been budding for some time, the first words were born of a conversation I had with Carrie Ryan sitting on a porch swing during a skin-meltingly hot summer in New Orleans. One year later, struggling with revision of this same story, I found clarity in a conversation with Brenna Yovanoff sitting on yet another porch swing in New Orleans. Friends and porch swings. That’s how this story’s been built.

Three things readers might not know about you?

  1. A a kid, I was a fledgling equestrian vaulter. I trained on a horse named “Graceful.” His name was ironic as he was given to tripping just as I’d reached whatever precarious position I was practicing. I ate a fair amount of dirt in those days.
  2. I’ve been SCUBA Diving to 137ft. That’t 37ft past the recommend recreational limit. The experience/accident landed me in a hyperbaric chamber with a bunch of Navy Seals. They are a STERN bunch.
  3. I learned the play the koto, the 13-stringed Japanese harp, as a high school freshman living in Japan.

What are your desert island books?

That depends. HOW BIG IS THE ISLAND?

Okay. Kidding. My must haves are THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN by Lloyd Alexander and THE DARK IS RISING SEQUENCE by Susan Cooper for nostalgia. THE DISPOSSESSED by Ursula K. LeGuin and THE EARTHSEED SERIES by Octavia Butler for my sci-fi/dystopian fix. And finally, I’d take LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov and THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbara Kingsolver for beautiful, beautiful words.

Natalie C Parker is a writer, professional project coordinator, and future zombie slayer. When not saving the world, she can be found on Twitter (@nataliecparker). Though once determined to never live in a land-locked state, she resides in Kansas with her partner in a house of monsters. Her southern gothic YA debut, BEWARE THE WILD, is due from HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2014.