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GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Brandy Colbert, Author of POINTE

Today we’re talking to Brandy Colbert, author of POINTE. You guys. You guys. This book blew me away. It’s powerful in a way that left me an emotional mess for days after I read it (but in a good way). You need to check this one out. Trust.

Theo is better now.

She’s eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor.

Donovan isn’t talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn’t do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she’s been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.

Thanks for joining us today, Brandy! I guess the million dollar question is where did the inspiration for POINTE come from?
I’ve always been interested in kidnapping stories. When I was young, I saw a TV movie called I Know My First Name Is Steven, which was based on a true story from the ’70s/’80s. I thought about it often, and followed the case and others like it for years. I’d always wanted to write a story about a kidnapping, but there are already so many well-done books from the victim’s point of view, so I wanted to explore what happens to the friend of the abducted child, especially if that abducted friend returns someday. The ballet came later, then my brilliant editor helped me weave it all together into a coherent story.

 
Speaking of ballet, POINTE’s main character, Theo, is an elite dancer, and the level of detail with which you describe Theo’s world is impressive. Do you come from a dance background yourself or was this a product of a good deal of research?
Thank you! I’m so glad to hear that, because it’s sometimes difficult to translate something you love to the page. Growing up, I took eight years of tap lessons, and several years of jazz, and I was on my high school’s dance team. I’m more of a spectator when it comes to ballet, and have taken the majority of my ballet classes from college on, so that did require a good amount of research. When writing about a performing art, you’re trying to balance that line between being too technical and conveying the beauty of the art. (But it was also a great excuse to watch my favorite dance movies and clips, so it’s honestly the best research I can think of.)
What I love most about this book is its almost blunt sense of realism—it’s gritty, it’s raw, and it’s so believable. It does deal  with several pretty tough subjects. Was it a hard book to write, emotionally? What was the most difficult part about writing it? Conversely, the easiest part?
You know, for this book, I think I was able to remove myself from from the material while writing. There were definitely some tough parts that made me step away from the computer at times—particularly the flashback scenes, with Donovan and at the abandoned park—but for the most part, I was able to move forward without getting too emotionally invested at the time. I think part of that is also related to Theo’s character. She pushes aside everything that’s happened to her so she can focus on her dance, and so it didn’t actually feel like these really dark, intense situations were going down, even as I was writing them. As for the easiest, the scenes set at school and the parties came pretty easily, which probably says a lot about why I enjoy writing young adult books.

What was your path to publication like?
Long. I started writing for publication in 2006, and queried my first book the next year. I got an agent with that book, but it wasn’t the right fit, so we cut ties. I wrote two more books that didn’t go anywhere, but I could tell from the agent feedback that I was getting better, so I was pretty hopeful when I started querying POINTE. I signed with my agent in 2011, we sold to my editor about three weeks after going on submission, and we worked on the book for quite a while to get it right. Publishing can seem to take forever, but looking back, I wouldn’t change any part of my journey.
That’s quite a journey, and I’m so glad it all worked out in the end and that the world gets to read POINTE. (Have I mentioned how much I love your book?) Ok, one last question: What 2 or 3 books inspired you as a kid? 
Ooh, great question! I read just about anything I could get my hands on as a kid, but two that stick out to me are: A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and SIXTH GRADE CAN REALLY KILL YOU by Barthe DeClements. I loved the classics for their language and the way you felt truly transported to another world. DeClements’ books were so realistic to me, and introduced me to developed characters and fantastic stories told through spare prose.
Thanks so much for having me!

And thanks so much to Brandy for joining us! You find out more about Brandy and POINTE on her website or on Twitter or Goodreads.

Brandy Colbert was born and raised in the Missouri Ozarks, has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, and has worked as an editor for several national magazines. She lives and writes in Los Angeles. Her first novel, POINTE, will be published by Penguin on April 10, 2014.

Meredith McCardle headshot smallMeredith McCardle is a recovered lawyer who lives in South Florida with her husband and two young daughters. Like her main character, she has a fondness for strong coffee, comfortable pants, and jumping to the wrong conclusions. Unlike her main character, she cannot travel through time. Sadly. Her debut, THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN, will be published by Skyscape/Amazon Children’s in Spring 2014. You can find her on Twitter.
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GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Melissa Landers, author of ALIENATED

Alienated-newcvrI know, it’s 2014! But we have one (awesome!) straggler from the Lucky 13s—Melissa Landers’s YA debut Alienated comes out tomorrow. Here’s the official blurb:

Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them.

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara’s classmates get swept up by anti-L’eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn’t safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara’s locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class.

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she’s fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

Welcome to the OneFour blog, Melissa! This is your first YA novel after publishing several for the adult market. What drew you to writing for teens?

Actually, ALIENATED is the first book I ever wrote. After rewriting the manuscript several times, I set it aside to gain some distance and penned a contemporary romance. That romance sold first, (in a three book deal with only 5 months between releases), which explains why ALIENATED is the fourth to publish.

To answer your second question, there was never a point where I said to myself, “I want to write for teens!” or “No, I want to write for adults!” My process is much more organic than that. I simply write the stories that excite me and then figure out the target audience.

One of the most distinctive differences about the L’eihr homeworld is the lack of vibrant color. Did something particular give you the idea for that detail?

I can’t recall what gave me the idea. However, it was always that way, right from the first draft. L’eihr’s lack of vibrancy is one of the few things that hasn’t changed over the course of five rewrites.

What are your favorite aspects of sci-fi?

I was raised on a steady diet of Star Trek and Star Wars. In fact, I still have my original Millennium Falcon toy ship, action figures, and C-3PO carrying case! Science fiction is in my blood. I love the way anything is possible. If the author crafts his or her world carefully enough, I can suspend my disbelief for anything, no matter how wild.

What are you most looking forward to about Alienated making its big debut?

More than anything, I look forward to sharing my characters with readers. Aelyx and Cara are very special to me. I’ve spent the last four years in their heads, and now it’s time to put them in yours. 🙂

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.

When I was young, YA as we know it didn’t exist. Young readers had two choices: read up or read down. I chose up. My favorite authors were Stephen King and JRR Tolkien. I’ll never forget the day my father handed me a tattered paperback of THE HOBBIT and said, “Here, try this one. I think you’ll like it.” Turns out he was right!

Landers Watermark (6392-006)Melissa Landers is a former teacher who left the classroom to pursue other worlds. A proud sci-fi geek, she isn’t afraid to wear her Princess Leia costume in public–just ask her husband and three kids. She lives outside Cincinnati in the small town of Loveland, “Sweetheart of Ohio.” For more information, or just to say hello, visit melissa-landers.com.

Find Melissa online:
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

Where to buy the book:
Amazon
IndieBound
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository


R.C. Lewis teaches math to teenagers—sometimes in sign language, sometimes not—and resists defining herself further since that definition remains in flux. Coincidentally, she enjoys reading about quantum physics. Her debut novel, STITCHING SNOW (Hyperion, October 14, 2014), takes Snow White into space.
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GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Amie Kaufman, co-author of THESE BROKEN STARS

Today we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Amie Kaufman, whose debut YA novel THESE BROKEN STARS  (co-authored by Meagan Spooner) hits the shelves today!

Here’s the blurb:

THESE BROKEN STARSIt’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

A timeless love story, THESE BROKEN STARS sets into motion a sweeping science fiction series of companion novels. The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.

Congratulations on your debut, Amie! THESE BROKEN STARS was a gorgeous love story with a haunting twist. (And that cover! Absolutely stunning.) Can you share where you found the inspiration for the book?

Thank you so much for having me! The inspiration for the book honestly came about piece by piece. My co-author Meg and I were playing with these characters for a long time before we ever thought about giving them their own book. We both love to write just for fun, and we’d put together little pieces about them and send them back and forth, get them into trouble and bail them out. The scenario we picked was because I wanted to play around with something involving a shipwreck, and Meg wanted space, so we crashed a spaceship and then let the story unfold from there! We’re both big science fiction fans and we love a good hate-to-love relationship, so we drew inspiration from years of reading, film and TV, from Firefly to Pride and Prejudice.

Tarver and Lilac come from very different worlds, and face an entirely new one after the disaster aboard the Icarus. How did you go about creating such a complex universe?

We gave it a LOT of thought. There’s a post on how we handled the development of gender, culture and class here, but obviously it went way beyond that. We did a lot of research, and consulted a lot of specialists to get our science right—we have a NASA physicist, a demolitions expert and a doctor on hand to help us out! Our editor had us write what we call the Starbound Encyclopaedia—dozens of pages about the universe our stories are set in.

What was it like co-writing the book? Did you and Meagan face any major challenges, and if so, how did you overcome them?

We love it! Honestly, if readers have half as much fun reading as we did writing, we’ll be delighted! Co-authoring means you’ve always got someone to brainstorm with, always got someone to help you fix a problem, or challenge you to make something better. People often expect we struggled with being on different continents, but with video conferencing, text and phone calls we found it easy, and the time difference meant we could each work while the other slept.

What’s been the most unexpected aspect of your journey to publication so far?

Hmmm. Good question! Silly as it sounds, I think what’s been most unexpected has been the support we’ve received from other writers, from readers and bloggers and everyone we’ve encountered. There are so many people willing to help you learn, share their wisdom and reach out often unprompted. It’s been wonderful.

THESE BROKEN STARS is the first in a trilogy. Can you share anything about the sequel(s) for us to be excited about?

The sequels are companion novels, so they’re set in the same universe, and the events are related to those in THESE BROKEN STARS, but you’ll meet new characters each time. (Though you may also spot a familiar face or two….) So mostly, I’m so excited to introduce readers to Flynn and Jubilee, our characters in THIS SHATTERED WORLD. Flynn’s a rebel, and Jubilee’s one of the soldiers sworn to stop him. It’s a bad situation all round.

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

I was SUCH a bookworm as a kid—I guess some things never change! I adored THE DARK IS RISING by Susan Cooper, and in fact I still read it every Christmas! I also loved SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS and its many sequels by Arthur Ransome, a series about a group of kids in the Lakes District who camp, sail and transform themselves into explorers and pirates every summer. And finally, 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA by Jules Verne was my introduction to science fiction, and I knew even as I read it that things were never going to be the same again.

Thanks for stopping by, Amie, and congrats on your debut!
Amie KaufmanABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Amie Kaufman is the co-author of These Broken Stars, the first in the Starbound trilogy, and writes science fiction and fantasy for teens. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, their rescue dog, and her considerable library. She is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary.

You can find Amy online here:
And you can buy THESE BROKEN STARS here:
Stephanie Diaz is 21. She graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in film production. She’s a Whovian, Browncoat, and publishing intern. Her work is represented by Alison Fargis of Stonesong. The first book in her debut YA sci-fi EXTRACTION trilogy will be published by St. Martin’s Griffin on July 22, 2014. You can follow Stephanie on twitter: @StephanieEDiaz.
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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 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:

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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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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).