The Author’s Voice: interview with OneFour author Bethany Neal

Fragmented memories and irreversible decisions: Bethany speaks with us about her YA thriller debut, MY LAST KISS (FSG, June 2014).







Kate Boorman is an independent artist and writer from the Canadian prairies. She was born in Nepal (where she was carried up the Himalayas in a basket) and she grew up in a small Albertan town (where she rode her bike to Girl Guides). She is fond of creepy things. Speaking of! Her YA fantasy WINTERKILL debuts September 9th, 2014 (Abrams/Amulet and Faber & Faber).

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with J.R. Johansson, Author of INSOMNIA

ImageToday’s Lucky13 interview is with J.R. Johansson, author of the YA thriller INSOMNIA.  I had the opportunity to read an eARC and could NOT put it down.  Totally creeptastic!!  Here’s a blurb to get us started:

-Her eyes saved his life. Her dreams released his darkness.-

After four years of sleeplessness, high school junior Parker Chipp can’t take much more. Every night, instead of sleeping, he enters the dreams of the last person he’s made eye contact with. If he doesn’t sleep soon, Parker will die.

Then he meets Mia. Her dreams, calm and beautifully uncomplicated, allow him blissful rest that’s utterly addictive. But what starts out as a chance meeting turns into an obsession; Parker’s furious desire for what he needs pushes him to extremes he never thought he’d go. And when someone begins terrorizing Mia with twisted death threats, Parker’s memory blackouts leave him doubting his own innocence.

What inspired you to write INSOMNIA? Were there any special challenges writing from a male point of view?

I’d been complimented a lot on my writing in super tense, action-packed scenes and I have always been obsessed with abnormal psychology, so I thought I’d put the two together and see how it worked. Turns out…it’s kind of freaky.

There were definitely special challenges to writing in a male PoV. I called on some male beta readers just to help me be authentic to the voice, and they were extremely helpful. I made quite a few alterations based on their suggestions and I’m really happy with the results.

The first line of the novel—It’s been four years since I slept, and I suspect it is killing me.— drew me in immediately!!  Was this always your first line?  Or did it take some tweaking?

No, it originally started with,

Most people don’t know it, but they always make an appearance in their own dreams. They can’t always see themselves and sometimes feel like they’re only watching.  But it doesn’t matter, they’re always there.

And I can always see them.

Which I still really like, but I like the sentence I ended up changing it to better.

I think dreams are extraordinarily hard to pull off in a novel — so many come across as contrived — but you do it so seamlessly!   Like, how did you do that?  

Haha… I’m not entirely sure. I think it works really well in this scenario because dreams are extraordinarily real to Parker. He knows how dark, dangerous and truth-filled they can be. It brings the dreams to life in a different way, on a different level.

Parker goes through some really harsh physical issues due to lack of sleep – did you do any special research for that aspect of the book?

Absolutely! Obviously, because of the fact that he is a Watcher (a purely fictional problem) I was able to take some creative license with how it would take 4 years instead of a much shorter length of time to die of sleep deprivation. I also got to play with how the addiction to sleep would interact with the sleep deprivation and speed up the effects. Other than those two things all the physical ramifications of sleep deprivation that happen to Parker in the book is absolute truth. Tremors, lack of focus, poor decision making, hallucinations and everything that comes with them would happen to any of us if we pushed ourselves for several days without sleep. It was fascinating (and kind of terrifying) to research.

One of my favorite characters was Parker’s best friend Finn!  (I loved his t-shirt collection!!)  If the teenage you had to spend the day at the mall with one of your characters – who would it be and why?

Haha, yeah, Finn is definitely a highlight for me as well. Hmm…I’d say Finn except I’m afraid he’d drag me to some old Kung Fu movie. So I’ll pick Addie. Neither of us are huge on shopping and we’d probably just grab something to eat, chat and then see a movie we’d actually both like. 🙂

INSOMNIA is a series.  Did you have that in mind when you began to write the novel?  How many books are planned?  Any teasers you want to share?  Any new projects you are working on? (this could be a separate question if you’d like.)

I didn’t know if it would be a series when I started, but by the time I wrote the end I realized it needed to be. There will be two books, so it’s a duology. As far as teasers…let’s just say that book 2 will bring in more characters, more psychological thriller elements (with more than just Parker), and more of Finn’s shirts.

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?

Hmm…good question! As a kid, I loved Pride and Prejudice, before that A Wrinkle in Time, and before that it was anything by Dr. Seuss. I still consider him an absolute genius.

Great interview! It was so much fun! Thank you for having me! 🙂

Thanks for stopping by Jenn!  And Happy Book Birthday!!

IMG_8183_CROPPED_WEBJ.R. JOHANSSON is a young adult thriller author published with Flux & FSG/Macmillan. Her debut, INSOMNIA is coming June 2013. She has a B.S. degree in public relations and a background in marketing. She credits her abnormal psychology minor with inspiring many of her characters. When she’s not writing, she loves reading, playing board games, and sitting in her hot tub. Her dream is that someday she can do all three at the same time. She has two young sons and a wonderful husband. In fact, other than her cat, Cleo, she’s nearly drowning in testosterone.

You can find Jenn here:

Twitter  / Blog  /  Website / Tumblr / Facebook / Goodreads Author page / Goodreads INSOMNIA page

Here’s where you can buy INSOMNIA:

The Book Depository /  Indiebound  / Books A Million / Barnes & Noble / Amazon

Robin Constantine is a born and bred Jersey girl who moved down South so she could wear flip-flops year round. She spends her days dreaming up stories where love conquers all, well, eventually but not without a lot of peril, angst and the occasional kissing scene. Her YA debut, THE PROMISE OF AMAZING, will be released in 2014 by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.


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

What’s your debut book about?

BLOOD AND SALT – YA romantic thriller:

Seventeen year-old New Yorker Ash Larkin unearths a history full of alchemy, sacrifice and revenge when she meets the mysterious Katia. A bizarre and bloody exchange with her beautiful five hundred year old ancestor ignites something within Ash—something both terrible and seductive.

Katia’s blood pulses through Ash’s veins, making her feel things she’s never felt before: lust, empowerment, and the lure of gaining control over nature itself. It would be so easy for Ash to give in, to become a part of something more potent than she could ever imagine. But there’s something even more powerful within her grasp…a love worth dying for.

If only Ash could die.

BLOOD AND SALT is unabashedly sexy and equally horrifying. At its core it’s a possession story, but there are so many parallels to first love. Because let’s face it, if you’re doing it right, falling in love is a lot like being possessed.

Favorite quote from book: “When you fall in love it will be like dropping a stone into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

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

I’m the type of person who does everything the hard way. Maybe it’s because I’m an Aries. Maybe it’s because my sister dropped me on my head the day I came home from the hospital (true story; she later admitted to doing it on purpose). Or maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a masochist, but for some reason getting an agent and a book deal was relatively quick and painless. The before…not so much.

I decided to write a book. Most people thought I was nuts. As a kid, I was a terrible student, plagued with dyslexia and ADHD. But like I said, I’m stubborn, and I had a story I felt compelled to tell.

A year later, I submitted my first draft to a handful of agents. Got a few revision letters and a lukewarm offer for representation. Bottom line: lots of interest, but no one screaming, “I have to have this!”

And that’s what I wanted. I wanted someone to fall suicidally in love with my book and I wasn’t going to settle for anything less. I got tough on myself. I went through my novel and picked out the scenes I couldn’t live without—all six of them.

Ruthlessly, I gutted the rest of the book. Seven months later, I reached the end of my revision and honestly had no idea if it was genius or complete shite. As in most good stories there’s an element of perfect timing. I attended Lorin Oberweger’s Your Best Book workshop in Charlotte, NC, and the reaction I received from my peers and the staff encouraged me that it was time to bite the bullet and submit again.

I’d put everything I had into this revision and I kept thinking, ‘what if my best just isn’t good enough’. I sat on my living room floor, my finger hovering above the send button, weeping. Blood And Salt was more than a book to me. It was everything I am as a human being wrapped up in those 260 pages.

Finally, I mustered up the courage to submit the full manuscript to my top five agents and the following day I had two offers of representation. The next day I had two more. Bonkers.

As I’d brazenly announced to anyone who would listen that I would only sign with a female agent who lived in NYC, it was only natural that I would sign with Josh Adams of Adams Literary (a male agent, from Charlotte, NC).

What can I say? He was THAT impressive. Three weeks later I had a two-book deal with Arianne Lewin at Putnam/Penguin. Nuff’ said.

When Ari called and told me that she grew up reading V.C. Andrews and Stephen King, I knew I’d found my match. She’s a tough editor with a scary laser beam brain for weak spots in my writing. I’m damn lucky to have her.

What do you do in your daily life?

My husband is a musician and I have two surly teens: one artist/activist, and one skateboarder. So my life is all books, music, art, Bandaids and angst. I lucked into an amazing group of YA writers here in NYC, all of whom are just as obsessed as I am. We write side-by-side about four nights a week.

Occasionally, we share our work, but it’s not about that. It’s about keeping each other on task, supporting each other through the process. We’re all working toward a common goal, to create something magical. I can’t imagine going on this journey without them.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

I put so much time and effort into honing my book and then finding the right agent that I never really thought much beyond this point. There’s so much more to learn. I’m looking forward to not being so clueless all the time.

Kim Liggett lives in NYC with her jazz musician husband and two grotesquely beautiful teens. Her debut novel, BLOOD AND SALT– pitched as Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn– is due out Fall 2014 with Putnam/Penguin.

Elle Cosimano: NEARLY GONE

One author, Four questions. Today we’re introducing OneFour debut author, Elle Cosimano.

Elle2Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen?

I was attending a real estate seminar and we were doing one of those painfully cliché icebreakers. I was supposed to introduce myself and talk about the accomplishment I was most proud of. Problem was, I didn’t know what to say. The career I’d spent over a decade building felt so far from the person I’d always told myself I was going to be.

So, you know that whole philosophy on goal setting, and how the first step to achieving a goal is to say it out loud and make yourself accountable to others? I told every single person in that banquet hall, “I’m writing a novel.” Present progressive. As in, I am doing it now. And I am making progress.

Only I hadn’t written a word. All I had was a bottle of Tums and a looming fortieth birthday. So when a few people started asking, “what’s your book about?” I figured it was time to do something. The next week I let myself daydream, and the next month I wrote some notes, and that summer I finished my first manuscript. I took that manuscript to a writing workshop, certain that someone would tell me it wasn’t good enough and that I should chalk it up to a midlife crisis and go back to selling real estate. Instead, they told me my pitch and writing showed promise. Two months later, I queried and signed with the extraordinary Sarah Davies of The Greenhouse Literary Agency. One year (and several revisions later) we sold in a two-book pre-empt to my dream editor at Dial/Penguin.

What’s your debut book about?

NEARLY GONE is a YA thriller, in which a math-whiz from a trailer park discovers she’s the only student capable of unravelling complex clues left by a serial killer who’s systematically getting rid of her classmates. It’s a mystery with a little math, a lot of murder, and just the right amount of making out.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

  • When I was a teenager, I worked on a fishing boat, baiting hooks, scrubbing decks, and lugging buckets of chum.
  • I am the daughter of a prison warden and an elementary school teacher who rode a Harley. I had a very eclectic upbringing.
  • I wrote NEARLY GONE in a jungle tree house in the Mayan Riviera.
  • I’ve herded cattle through the mountains of Wyoming. (I never said I was good at it.)
  • I am a homeschooling mom to two wild and wonderful boys, and the wife of a very patient man.
  • NEARLY GONE will be among the first books published under a new Penguin imprint, Kathy Dawson Books.

Do you have any writing quirks–places you need to write or things you need to have with you?

More like things I can’t have with me. I’m one of those writers who can’t have any distractions. No noise, no music, no kids, no puppies, no social media when I write. I have to completely disengage from the rest of the world. Sometimes I sneak away to a local library. Often I rent a cabin or hotel room and retreat. And there’s always the tree house.

Elle Cosimano drinks too much coffee and is a professional puppy and little boy wrangler. She majored in Psychology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and set aside a successful real-estate career to pursue writing. She divides her time between her home near Washington, DC and a jungle tree house in the Mayan Riviera.