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The Author’s Voice: interview with OneFour author Jaye Robin Brown

Serendipity, small towns and the Appalachian trail…. Jaye speaks with us about a few of the elements that create her YA contemporary debut NO PLACE TO FALL (HarperTeen). And she reads a particularly awesome snippet toward the end!

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Kate Boorman is an independent artist and writer from the Canadian prairies. She was born in Nepal (where she was carried up the Himalayas in a basket) and she grew up in a small Albertan town (where she rode her bike to Girl Guides). She is fond of creepy things. Speaking of! Her YA fantasy WINTERKILL is out now (Abrams/Amulet and Faber & Faber)!
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DON’T TOUCH Release Day

The day has come!

Don’t Touch is out in the wild, and I couldn’t be more grateful to the bloggers, reviewers, authors, librarians, and booksellers who have already supported this book. I’m also so grateful for my fellow OneFours–the wisdom they’ve shared has made everything from ordering bookmarks (thanks, Kristin Rae!) to scheduling events so much pleasanter.  And thanks to my fantastic family and friends who have shared so much excitement for this book’s release!

DONT TOUCH HC

Synopsis:

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back,
Touch another person’s skin, and Dad’s gone for good . . .

Caddie has a history of magical thinking—of playing games in her head to cope with her surroundings—but it’s never been this bad before.
When her parents split up, Don’t touch becomes Caddie’s mantra. Maybe if she keeps from touching another person’s skin, Dad will come home. She knows it doesn’t make sense, but her games have never been logical. Soon, despite Alabama’s humidity, she’s covering every inch of her skin and wearing evening gloves to school.

And that’s where things get tricky. Even though Caddie’s the new girl, it’s hard to pass off her compulsions as artistic quirks. Friends notice things. Her drama class is all about interacting with her scene partners, especially Peter, who’s auditioning for the role of Hamlet. Caddie desperately wants to play Ophelia, but if she does, she’ll have to touch Peter . . . and kiss him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter—but the other part isn’t sure she’s brave enough to let herself fall.

From rising star Rachel M. Wilson comes a powerful, moving debut novel of the friendship and love that are there for us, if only we’ll let them in.

Advance praise for Don’t Touch:

“Don’t Touch is fiercely compelling, darkly funny, and hums like a high tension wire with energy.” —Tim Wynne-Jones, author of Blink & Caution

“A tender love story about the beauty and the risk of showing someone who you really are.” —Nina LaCour, acclaimed author of Hold Still and The Disenchantments

“Offers a good look at Obesseive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and other anxiety disorders.” —School Library Journal

An insightful look at anxiety disorders and letting go of fear. —Kirkus Reviews

Launch events: 

If you happen to be in Birmingham, AL, or Chicago, IL, I encourage you to come out for a reading and signing to celebrate the launch!

Little Professor Don't Touch
Book Cellar Don't Touch 2

And be sure to visit the Fantastic Flying Book Club Tour, running all week!

You can purchase a copy of Don’t Touch from the following places, or request it at your local library! You can also request a signed copy when ordering from The Book Cellar in Chicago!

AmazonBarnes & Noble | HarperCollins | iBooks | IndieBound | Powell’s

 

Rachel M. Wilson‘s DON’T TOUCH stems from a personal vendetta against anxiety and a love of all things theater. After studying acting at Northwestern, Rachel earned her MFA in Writing for Children & YA at VCFA. Originally from Birmingham, AL, she now lives in Chicago, IL, where she writes, acts, teaches, and spoils a dog named Remy Frankenstein. DON’T TOUCH releases September 2, 2014 from HarperTeen.
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Rachel M. Wilson: DON’T TOUCH

DONT-TOUCH-HC-1(1)

DON’T TOUCH, HarperTeen, September 2, 2014

I lift my gloved hand to catch his wrist. It feels strong in my hand, and his fingers, his
palm, burn an inch away from my already hot cheek. It would be a choice to let him
touch me. I almost want to pull his hand to my face, close the gap and let go.

_________________________

Today, we’re chatting with Rachel M. Wilson. You know the drill: one author, four questions! Rachel’s YA contemporary, DON’T TOUCH deals with anxiety, theater, divorce, and so much love. It will be out from HarperTeen on September 2, 2014.

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

Well, my college roommate was a witch and . . . No. Nope. Not telling that story . . . For the record, while my debut is realistic contemporary, I’m a big fan of fantasy and horror!

In reality, I’ve been working toward publication for a long time. A few lines of this book were written when I was in college, but I didn’t develop the story into a novel until years later, when I was studying for my MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I wrote two full drafts during the program, and the second was a major rewrite. To give you some idea, the book used to be called Manatee, and a manatee played a major role in the plot. Today, the book contains a total of zero manatees.

After I graduated, I continued revising, cutting, adding, until I got the guts to submit to agents. My dream agent, the amazing Sara Crowe, had seen me read from the book at an alumni retreat at VCFA and seemed to like what she heard. When I queried her, she accepted, and the book sold at auction to the delightful people at HarperTeen in February of 2012.

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

Don’t Touch is the story of Caddie, a 16-year-old girl who’s recently been accepted to an arts high school to study theater. Caddie wants to play Ophelia in the academy’s production of Hamlet, and she wants to renew her friendship with her former best friend, Mandy, but she’s troubled by a fear of touching other people’s skin. Caddie’s parents are trying out a separation, and she creates a rule for herself that if she can avoid touch, she might be able to prevent her family from falling apart. Of course, it’s difficult to act without touching other actors. It’s hard for Caddie to act normal in front of her friends when she so clearly isn’t, and it’s hard to deal with her feelings for her fellow actor, Peter, who seems like a shoe-in for the role of Hamlet.

Cool details? I think it’s pretty cool that the book is set in Birmingham, AL, my hometown. Birmingham is a decent-sized city, an old iron town built around train tracks, but it definitely has some Deep South flavor–red-orange clay, hills covered in kudzu, plenty of BBQ and ham-laced greens and grits . . . There are some scenes set in old Irondale, by the train tracks, and around an abandoned swimming pool in the middle of the woods. These settings are inspired by real places. During revisions, my sister accompanied me in taking pictures for inspiration.

My sister Laura on the tracks

DSCN3745
Baby pool with the big pool in the background.

This is the wreckage of Irondale Swim & Tennis where I used to swim as a kid. I visited it while drafting Don’t Touch, and was surprised to find it abandoned. That inspired a scene which is still part of the book. The picture you see here was taken a year or two later–on my visit that inspired the scene, the pool had not yet been filled with dirt, much less grass, and still had water in the bottom.

Why the fear of touch?

As a kid, I had OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) starting around age ten. For several years I was afraid to touch lots of things–not just people–and I was a magical thinker, constantly worried that I might cause something bad to happen just by thinking about it. By the time I was in high school, I’d gotten help for it, but I still had a lot of anxiety, and that made it hard to be open with other people.

At the same time, I was good at putting on a happy face and hiding what was going on with me. Like Caddie, I loved acting because it allowed me to hide behind a character and to connect with people in ways I wasn’t bold enough for in real life. So while the plot and characters are definitely fictional, the novel had its spark in experience. Fear has loomed large in my life. I wanted to explore how fear can separate us from other people and from our passions, and how those same people and passions can sometimes combat fear.

I decided to focus on the fear of touch because it serves as an extended metaphor for Caddie’s struggle to be open and vulnerable to other people. You don’t have to have experienced mental illness to relate to that. Caddie’s fears are heightened versions of the fears we all feel . . . the fear of abandonment, the fear of change, the fear of coming into one’s own power . . .

What do you do when you’re not writing?

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That’s me, front and center, rocking my Halloween Monkey shirt

I do a lot of work with an amazing theater company called Barrel of Monkeys. We teach writing workshops in Chicago Public Schools and adapt the students’ writing for the stage, often with comedy and music. I coordinate our after-school program, teach, and play roles ranging from a homicidal church bell to a two-timing cheerleader to a rampaging American Girl Doll–whatever the kids can imagine. It’s the most fun ever. If you want a little taste, here’s a link to one of my favorite Monkey songs, “Bad Car,” which is adapted word for word by musical theater guru, Jonathan Mastro.

Aside from that, I do lots of odd jobs–the oddest involves pretending to be sick to help doctors learn. Sometimes, I get to pretend to be a surgeon or nurse and save mannequins’ lives. It’s always educational, and a not-so-terrible side effect is that I want to set all my scenes in hospitals these days.

Screen Shot 2014-02-08 at 9.59.19 PM

My coworker had a rough day.

Lately, I spend way too much time on Tumblr. For myself, for the OneFours, and for my PhD in Superheroes!

Thanks for asking!

Rachel M. Wilson‘s DON’T TOUCH stems from a personal vendetta against anxiety and a love of all things theater. After studying acting at Northwestern, Rachel earned her MFA in Writing for Children & YA at VCFA. Originally from Birmingham, AL, she now lives in Chicago, IL, where she writes, acts, teaches, and spoils a dog named Remy Frankenstein. DON’T TOUCH releases September 2, 2014 from HarperTeen.
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GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Erin Bowman, author of TAKEN

Today we’re talking with Erin Bowman, author of TAKEN (book one of a dystopian YA trilogy), now in stores everywhere!

taken

There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.

They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.

Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?

1) TAKEN is set in a very strange (and creepy) world. What inspired you to create it? Did you do any special research?

Gray, TAKEN’s protagonist, was the inspiration for the story. One moment I was revising a separate manuscript, and the next this young boy was wandering around my head, fearing his eighteenth birthday. I started asking why, and the world began to form.

Gray’s home is rather primitive, and as a result, I did end up researching some weird things over the course of drafting the novel. To name a few: soil composition in particular climates, how to set snares and traps, how to skin and gut certain game, archery (anatomy of bow/arrows, technical terms, etc), the process of making homemade alcohol/mead. I never go into explicit detail on any of these topics in the novel, but I think the research helped me craft Gray’s world in a more realistic manner.

2) What was your road to publication like? Did you get any lucky breaks, or was it blood, sweat, and tears all the way?

My publication journey was a bit of a whirlwind. TAKEN was not the first novel I completed, but it was the first I ever queried. In the course of five months I went from un-agented, aspiring writer, to represented writer with a contract at HarperTeen. I was incredibly fortunate to have so many things fall into place so quickly. It is still as surreal to me now as it was two years ago when the book initially sold.

3) First novels are hard. (Well . . . all novels, really.) What was the most difficult part of writing (or editing) TAKEN?

VERY MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!! (I don’t think it will drastically ruin anything for most readers, but fair warning.)

Gray’s narration of certain technology was tricky in the second half of the novel. He moves from a primitive location into a much more modern world, and doesn’t know how to identify a lot of things. eg: When Gray first sees a car he can’t outwardly call it such until he hears someone else identify it. Finding a way to keep Gray’s voice and reactions authentic while still ensuring the reader could easily discern what he was seeing was definitely a challenge. Thankfully, this has grown easier as the series progresses. (I’m drafting book three now, and the more time Gray spends in the modern world, the more familiar and commonplace these things have become for him.)

4) Time to boast! What part of TAKEN are you most proud of?

TAKEN is narrated in first person. Gray is a boy. I am not. I’m pretty proud of being able to slip into his head and write him realistically.

5) TAKEN is the first of a trilogy. Can you give us any hints about what might be coming in the next two books?

So much has changed by the end of TAKEN, so it’s hard to give hints without risking spoilers. I will say that some new characters join the cast in book two, and just like in TAKEN, there are plenty of twists and turns, with nothing being quite what it seems. And birds–which play a special role in the first book–will continue to be present throughout the rest of the series.

6) And finally, as this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know two or three books that inspired you when you were a kid.

I was (and still am) one of the biggest Harry Potter nerds around. As a kid, I spent the wait between installments managing a HP fansite I’d made on geocities (remember geocities?) and tracing Mary GrandPre’s chapter illustrations on tracing paper. Before Harry, I was also deeply moved by stories that blended realism and fantasy (Bridge to Terabithia, Tuck Everlasting, The Giver), but I happily read anything and everything. Books were my TV–no really, we didn’t have cable–and I inhaled them.

Thank you, Erin, and congratulations on your debut!


4774653Erin Bowman used to tell stories visually as a web designer. Now a full-time writer, she relies solely on words. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and when not writing she can often be found hiking, commenting on good typography, and obsessing over all things Harry Potter. You can find Erin at her website or on twitter.

Add TAKEN on Goodreads or buy it at:
Indiebound
Barnes and Noble
Amazon
Powell’s
Books-A-Million

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

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
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Courtney C. Stevens: FAKING NORMAL

Today at OneFour KidLit, we’re talking to Courtney Stevens, author of the YA novel, FAKING NORMAL. One author, four questions. Here we go!

What inspires you to write?

I never read contemporary fiction until I started writing it. One of the major turning points in my career was the decision to follow a story idea down a rabbit hole. I’d been writing epic-style fantasy for a couple of years and was completely happy. Until. Writers know that niggle. It’s like a weed breaking through concrete. Strong. I couldn’t let it go. So I put my fantasy on hold for a day and did some drafting. Then, I did some writing. And plotting. And then … voice and characterization. Of something very real. And I knew I’d found my place. Not fantasy. Contemporary. Not third person. First. Not story-telling. Story-living. (And then of course I had to read my first realistic book and size up my efforts and study.) I know that day changed my life. That turning point was the first domino in the chain.

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

A turning point in my journey was discovering SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I know many people can row across the ocean of publishing alone, but I am not one of them. I’m perpectually green and in need of miracle grow. SCBWI has grown me. It all happened because of tennis. I was watching one of my students compete in a varsity tennis match when the student’s mom asked me if I was still writing. When I told her yes, she said I should join SCBWI. I did. That night. Trying desperately to remember the initials in the correct order. And my career changed again. I got my craft/technique, critique group(s), my framily (friend-family), agent and editor through SCBWI.

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

Four facts about my novel:

1. I wrote the first 50 pages of Faking Normal between a Wednesday and a Saturday, and other than removing the first four pages, they didn’t change much. Some things eak out; some things gush. Faking Normal was an Old Faithful moment.

2. Faking Normal is fiction. I know that doesn’t matter much right now, but I believe when people read it they will wonder if it’s autobiographical. The story is fiction, but the pain is one I’m acquainted with.

3. My favorite character in the novel is not the main character; it’s Bodee (The Kool-Aid Kid).

4. Originally, the lyrics in the novel were not original. They were a wide variety of music that I thought brought great lyrical insight to the characters. But the cost of including was crazy and we decided to use my own songs. Which worked out okay, because I’ve been a songwriter much longer than I’ve been a writer.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

I didn’t drink much milk when I was a kid. (There’s a long reason, and I won’t go into it here.) Because I didn’t, milk was only a breakfast liquid. So was orange juice. (Which I also wasn’t crazy about.) When I was really young, I couldn’t remember which of the breakfast liquids went in the cereal. So I had more than one bowl of Honeycombs and Orange juice. (I promise I have it straight now.)

Courtney C. Stevens grew up in Kentucky and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She is an adjunct professor and a former youth minister. Her other skills include hide-and-go-seek, laser tag, climbing trees, and being an Olympic torch bearer. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Pinterest. FAKING NORMAL is her debut novel.
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Liz Czukas: ASK AGAIN LATER

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.