9 Things I Learned My Debut Year

So Survival Colony 9 is here! Hallelujah!SC9 Cover medium

Here, in no particular order, are 9 things I’ve learned during this exhilarating, exhausting, extraordinary year.

  1. Hang on to your ARCs. No sooner will your ARCs arrive than people will appear out of nowhere asking you for them. Do not give an ARC to these people. They will not read it, review it, blog about it, mention it. Apparently, they want it only to prop up furniture.
  1. Stay off Goodreads, Amazon, etc. I checked my number of adds, my rankings, and all that stuff obsessively in the months leading up to my book’s release. The end result was: anxiety. There is simply no way for you to know how well your book is selling before it releases. And no very good way to know afterward.
  1. The YA writers’ community is wonderful. Really. These people are great. They’ll tweet you, support you, buck you up when you’re down, interview you, host you, congratulate you, console you, and otherwise make your debut year not only bearable but remarkable. If there’s a dark side to this community—backstabbers, cutthroats, wolves in sheep’s clothing—I haven’t seen it. Be thankful to belong to such a community, and do your part to keep it that way.
  1. Ask for help. From your agent, your editor, your friends, your colleagues, your family, your doctor, your mail carrier, your whoever. Most people will happily grant it. This year will be a roller-coaster, and you shouldn’t ride it alone.
  1. Don’t worry about negative reviews. In the big scheme of things, they’re meaningless. (In fact, any review, no matter how horrible, helps publicize your book.) You became a writer because you wanted to write. Negative reviews don’t stop you from doing that. Ignore them, and write on.
  1. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Print publishing is dead. Only self-pubbed authors make it big. Agents insist that you have 10,000 Twitter followers before they’ll deign to read your manuscript. Never start your book with a character waking up. I’ve read all these “truths” (and then some) online, and all of them are complete and utter garbage.
  1. There is nothing better than holding your own book in your hands. Well, other than holding your baby. Or saving someone’s life. Or gathering with your family. Or watching the home team win the World Series. Or staring into your partner’s eyes. Or lots of other things. But it’s still pretty great.
  1. Try to talk about something else for a change. Your spouse, your children, your family, your friends will be thrilled about your upcoming novel. But they will soon tire if it’s your only topic of conversation. Every so often, you might want to discuss politics, or religion, or armadillos, or screwdrivers. And you might want to listen when other people want to talk about such things too.
  1. Marketing is your friend. Marketing is your enemy. You really do need to self-promote if you want your book to be read. But as with just about everything, there’s a point of diminishing returns to marketing, and you have reached that point when you find yourself walking a tightrope in Times Square wearing only a thong with the contents of your book tattooed over your entire body. And when you haven’t written a word in two months because you were too busy down at the tattoo parlor.

Trust me. I’ve been there.

Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since age eight (though his first few were admittedly very short). His debut YA science fiction novel SURVIVAL COLONY NINE was published on September 23, 2014 (that’s today!) by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Josh likes (in no particular order) gorillas, frogs, monsters, and human beings.

When We Say YA: June Edition

It’s June, and it’s time for another edition of “When We Say YA”! This month, I asked my fellow One Four debuts the following question:

School’s out! How is the summer different for you as a YA writer (or reader)?

Here’s what they said:

no placeThis one is easy. I’m a high school art teacher who writes in the early morning hours before school. Summer means I get to sleep in a few extra hours, stay awake a few hours longer, and write to my heart’s content!–Jaye Robin Brown, author of No Place to Fall

girl called fearlessBecause I read YA year round as a buyer for an indie bookstore, each summer I do my “30 days of Middle Grade” project where I only read MG. During that month, I have a tantalizing stack of YA ARCs waiting to be read. It’s torture!–Catherine Linka, author of A Girl Called Fearless

gildedSince I’m not teaching in the summer, it’s all about having extra time to write. I do have kids at home, but I find that I’m not nearly as exhausted as I am during the school year when I’m working so I’m able to stay up later or get up before my kids do. This is one of the reasons why summers are a magical time. It’s the time I get the most writing done.–Christina Farley, author of Gilded

12 stepsI usually don’t get as much writing done in the summertime. This is when my kids are home, and we spend a lot of time hanging out at the pool and going places as a family, so I don’t have as much time to devote to my story notebooks. But I do have a lot of time to plot and plan and develop my characters in my mind as I hang out at the pool with my teens and their friends, so I guess it all balances out. :)–Veronica Bartles, author of Twelve Steps

push girlAnother teacher here, so my summers are completely dedicated to writing! Of course, I also have a ton of travel and fun things happening all summer long, but I have entire days I can dedicate to writing, so I get so much more done.–Jessica Love, co-author of Push Girl

wordlessMy summers are pretty unusual because I commercial fish in Alaska (in Bristol Bay) for sockeye salmon. So I’m not getting any writing done at all in June and July, when I’m out on the boat or at the dock (which is where I am now, using insanely slow internet). I’m also not getting much reading time in, though I inevitably take ten books out each summer, read one and a half, and get the rest of them wet and wrinkled. As tough as the job is on me (and my poor books), it’s awesome–both because it’s crazy-fun and because the entire rest of my year is free for writing!–AdriAnne Strickland, author of Wordless

dream boyI always have big plans at the beginning of the summer. I’m going to write a ton; I’m going to garden; I’m going to do crafty crap with my kids and go hiking and swimming and take trips to the zoo; one day we’ll make pancakes shaped like states; the next we’re going to watch all the Spiderman movies in a single afternoon! It’s sort of a New Year’s Resolution kind of thing for me, though. I still have to get my freelance jobs done; I still have to do the necessary soap-based tasks to keep us from living in a big wooden health hazard. So I start the summer with all the ideas about things I’m going to get done, but really it’s just like the rest of the year, but with a bit more chaos and the occasional opportunity to sleep late.–Mary Crockett, co-author of Dream Boy

girl from wellThis is my first summer both as a writer with a set publication date, and as a new mother. My son is going to be a month old by the end of June, and I’m already exhausted! No break times for me for awhile, but it’s worth it!–Rin Chupeco, author of The Girl from the Well

behind the scenesAlas, no real difference for me. The sadness of being an adult with a year-round day job…–Dahlia Adler, author of Behind the Scenes




Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since age eight (though his first few were admittedly very short). His debut YA science fiction novel SURVIVAL COLONY NINE will be published in September 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Josh likes (in no particular order) gorillas, frogs, monsters, and human beings.

Mary Crockett: DREAM BOY


I’ve always been a dreamer. Daydreams. Night dreams. Dreams of grandeur and dreams of escape. If I were an onion and you pulled back the papery outside, you’d find layer after layer of eye-watering dreams. And in the center, where there’s that little curlicue of onion heart? There’d be a puff of smoke from the dreams that burned away.


Annabelle Manning feels like she’s doing time at her high school in Chilton, Virginia. She has her friends at her lunchtime table of nobodies. What she doesn’t have are possibilities. Or a date for Homecoming. Things get more interesting at night, when she spends time with the boy of her dreams. But the blue-eyed boy with the fairytale smile is just that—a dream. Until the Friday afternoon he walks into her chemistry class.

One of friends suspects he’s an alien. Another is pretty sure it’s all one big case of déjà vu. While Annabelle doesn’t know what to think, she’s willing to believe that the charming Martin Zirkle may just be her dream come true. But as Annabelle discovers the truth behind dreams—where they come from and what they mean—she is forced to face a dark reality she had not expected. More than just Martin has arrived in Chilton. As Annabelle learns, if dreams can come true, so can nightmares.


Eerie, twisty, fast and funny, Dream Boy will forever change the way you see your dreams–and your nightmares. An exciting, imaginative look at what might happen when people from the corners of your mind suddenly show up in your real life.”– Lois Metzger, author of A Trick of the Light


One author, four questions. Today we’re talking to Mary Crockett, coauthor with Madelyn Rosenberg of DREAM BOY, coming July 1 from Sourcebooks Fire.

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

DREAM BOY is about a girl whose dreams are so powerful that she literally brings her dream boy to life.

In short hand: Girl dreams boy. Girl meets boy. Girl, boy, and friends save universe.

It’s kind of like the movie Inception, but in reverse… and in high school.

Probably what I loved most about writing this book, though, is how it plays with different genres. The book is contemporary, but a fantasy. There’s romance, but there’s some scary stuff, too. There are seriously comic moments… and some seriously serious ones.

All in all, I got to express a lot of different parts of myself while writing DREAM BOY with Madelyn—and that was so much fun for me as a writer.

What was it like writing a book with a coauthor?

The best! I love Madelyn. She’s both astoundingly creative and exceedingly patient—which is a wonderful combination in a coauthor.

We’d pass the book back and forth by email—each combing through whatever came before and then writing the next chunk. We both felt empowered to change whatever we thought needed changing, and for the most part, we agreed.

There were, of course, some points of difference—as you can see in this video Madelyn made about us working toward a compromise:

You can find out more about our coauthoring process here.

What are you most excited about for your DREAM BOY debut?

I’ve found the YA community so inspiring. Other authors, readers, bloggers, reviewers—they’ve all been incredibly welcoming. I’m just really excited to be able to share DREAM BOY with them!

Madelyn and I had soooo much fun writing this book; I can only hope someone might have as much fun reading it.

That said, it was also pretty cool to hold the Advanced Reader Copies of DREAM BOY in my hands for the first time.


What might people who read DREAM BOY be surprised to find out about you?

1. I’m a not-so-closet poet.

2. I’ve always harbored a secret desire to be the fortune teller for a traveling carnival.

3. I’m a big believer in keeping dream journals, but I stopped dreaming for about a year after I had my first baby. This may be because I also stopped sleeping for about a year.

4. My first job was as a toilet-seat hand model. (More about that here and here.)


MaryCrockett LookawayMary Crockett‘s debut novel DREAM BOY is about the aftermath of dreams, the nightmare of high school, and the mystical power of an awesome pair of shoes. Mary has worked as everything from a history museum director to a toilet seat hand model. In her other life, she’s an award-winning poet/professional eavesdropper. You can find her yakking it up at Twitter, Facebook, or pretty much any coffee shop in southwestern Virginia.

Add DREAM BOY to your Goodreads shelf.

Order DREAM BOY at Indie Bound, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.


From Undocumented Immigrant to Published Author

the secret side of empty, maria e. andreuWhen I was twelve I wrote in my diary, “Most of all, I want to be a writer.”  Today, decades later, that dream comes true.  The Secret Side of Empty, my debut novel, hits book shelves.

All publishing stories feel like a fairy tale.  I remember so intimately what it felt like to go to pitch conferences and writing groups and feel the frustration of wanting to be published but not achieving it.  But, besides the standard, “publishing is hell” roadblocks, for me getting here feels so laughably improbable that the fact that this day has arrived is nothing short of amazing.

When I was eight years old, I crossed the Mexican border into the U.S. with my mom.  We were what the news calls “illegal.”  I grew up under the specter of that, the thumping heart at every knock on the door, my parents’ hushed conversations in the next room, the secrets I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone.  When I became a teenager, I began to understand the impact of the decisions that had been made for me before I was old enough to chime in.  With no social security number, it meant I couldn’t get an after-school job, or a driver’s license or (had I even known what it meant), in-state tuition or financial aid for college.  As high school wore on, I learned that my options were dwindling.

My story has something of a Hollywood ending.  I got an amnesty that made me “legal” right when I turned eighteen and graduated high school.  It meant college, a job, virtually anything I wanted.  But most of all, for me it meant forgetting.  I wanted nothing more than to put my shame behind me.

So I went to college.  I concentrated on scrubbing off the poverty of my childhood, buying a house, being suburban.  My heart yearned to write, but I could never make it work.  Well, I wrote all the time, but I also yearned to publish.  So many voices said there was no chance of it.  There was the college professor that laughed and told me that no one makes a living writing.  The literary journals that all said no.  The little local magazine that published my pieces but then went out of business.  The more time passed, the more that “the writing life” seemed like a quaint, dusty fantasy from my childhood.

Then, after 9/11, I heard how ugly the rhetoric started to get around immigration and, especially, immigrants.  I remember the spot on the Palisades Parkway when the thought first struck me: “When pundits say that ‘these people’ are going to ruin our country, they are talking about me.”  I had kept my secret from everyone.  I had escaped it, transcended it, left it behind.  My best friend didn’t even know about my (former) undocumented status, never mind my neighbors and acquaintances. But after that moment, little by little, I started to let it out.  I wrote a piece for Newsweek about my experience.  I started helping out at a local non-profit providing lunches for (mostly undocumented) day laborers.  I began to share my story.

And, then, I tried my hand at publishing again and… it worked!  M.T.’s story is uniquely hers, but I poured all the hurts and all the triumphs of my own adolescence on the page.  The culmination of that loving and longing goes on bookshelves today.  I have grown tremendously in the process of transforming from the girl in the shack in Tijuana to the woman whose book is getting acclaim and has been chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection.  Most of all, I’ve learned that the things we keep secret, that we think make us broken, are some of the most beautiful and special things about us.

The Secret Side of Empty is on Amazon:  Click here.

Add The Secret Side of Empty to your Goodreads to-read shelf:  Click here

Maria E. AndreuTHE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY (Running Press/Perseus, March, 2014)
www.goodreads.com/book/show/18079898-the-secret-side-of-empty .


What I learned from my first Goodreads giveaway

As I learn how to get the word out about The Secret Side of Empty I grow more and more grateful for Goodreads, the social networking site for readers. Imagine a website full of people who love the very thing you hope to popularize (and which you also love)… books. Amazing, right?

That’s why Goodreads giveaways are a great way to help spread the word. You list a free book on their giveaways page and the people who find it intriguing enter to win it. If they really find it interesting, they also add it to their “to-read” shelf.

I just did my first Goodreads giveaway and I learned some tips and tricks that should help you make yours more successful.

Here are the stats on my Goodreads giveaway for my young adult novel:

I ran the giveaway for 3 days.
I had 652 people enter to win the book
I had 304 people add my book to their “to-read” shelf.

That’s an average of 200 entries a day – a really good number. My giveaway ran Saturday through Monday, 3:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. Eastern time. (So technically Tuesday. It doesn’t let you pick a time). When going for maximum entries, day of the week probably matters. I had over 200 entries on Saturday and Monday and less on Sunday, with Monday being the highest with over 250 entries. I was totally delighted that I averaged over 200 per day.

I have someone that I’ve never met to thank for this great initial success: the good folks over at NovelPublicity. See below for a link to their tip sheet.

Probably their best tip was to run the giveaway for a short number of days. I am a “more is more” kind of girl, so left to my own devices I would have probably run my giveaway for a long time and promised a whole lot of books, hoping to attract a lot of entries. But that overlooks two of the main ways that people find giveaways on Goodreads: the “Recently Listed” tab and the “Ending Soon” tab. When you first list your giveaway, it will naturally be listed in the “Recently Listed” tab. When it’s about to end, it will come up on the “Ending Soon” tab. If you list for a few weeks or a month, as I saw a lot of authors do, there is a whole lot of time in between when your giveaway is languishing in a sea of giveaways. Listing mine for 3 days meant I was getting entries constantly. I saw books with more entries than mine (some over several months) but few with that 200+ a day average.

Also, offering just one book did not slow down the rate of entries at all (other giveaways that were offering more weren’t necessarily getting entries at a faster rate). My theory is that if the book looks intriguing, people will enter whether you’re offering one copy or ten. (I mean, would you calculate your odds of winning based on entries divided by books available from book to book? I wouldn’t. I’m a writer, peeps, not a mathematician).

One other thing I did was employ my know-how from my marketing days. I know that you’ve got 3 seconds to catch someone’s attention. While deep and meaningful descriptions might sell someone on entering, potential entrants won’t even get to reading that unless you grab them right at the start. That’s why the first two lines of my giveaway were “Signed Copy” and “Junior Library Guild Selection.” If your book has gotten an award or an amazing review, put that up at the top where it will make you stand out from the pack.

Running this initial giveaway was a great learning experience. There are a few things I will do differently for my next one. For example, when tagging my giveaway, I looked to the list of tags and picked the one that made the most sense: young-adult. But it wasn’t until the giveaway was underway that I realized that you can tag with as many tags as are relevant, not just one. I didn’t edit it right then and there because I realized that giveaway changes have to be approved by the Goodreads staff, and approval of my giveaway took several days. When I made one edit pre-start date, it told me it had to be reviewed by the Goodreads staff again so I didn’t want to risk taking my giveaway off-line during its short run. I made a mental note to do it better next time. But that meant that if someone looked to narrow their search for giveaways to “YA,” (instead of young-adult, which is how I tagged it) The Secret Side of Empty didn’t show up.

Here are a few of the ones that are relevant to The Secret Side of Empty:

coming-of-age, ya, young-adult, new-adult, contemporary-fiction, love-story, teens, book-club, teen-fiction, book, books, young-adult-fiction, college, debut-novel, new-york-city, secrets, multicultural, sweet-romance, youth, family-relationships, ya-fiction, yalit, girls, author, juvenile-fiction, young-adult-romance, new-authors, first-love, ya-romance

Be sure to scroll through several pages of potential tags (list is to the right) so that you can jot down all the ones that are available for your genre.

Still, I am beyond thrilled with this amazing early exposure for the book. I thought I’d share my experience for authors finding their way through the wonderful world of Goodreads giveaways.

Write me or tweet me @WriterSideofM and let me know how your own Goodreads giveaways go!

And, in case you’re curious, here’s a link to my upcoming Goodreads giveaway (ending 1/24/14) so you can see all my tweaks in action. Click here.


Click here for the Novel Publicity tip sheet


GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Kara Taylor, author of PREP SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL

We’re excited to interview Lucky13 author Kara Taylor, whose YA Novel Prep School Confidential is a murder mystery that’s Gossip Girls meets Twin Peaks, and due out TODAY – July 30! Check out the blurb from Goodreads:

Prep School Confidential

Anne Dowling practically runs her exclusive academy on New York’s Upper East Side—that is, until she accidentally burns part of it down and gets sent to a prestigious boarding school outside of Boston. Determined to make it back to New York, Anne couldn’t care less about making friends at the preppy Wheatley School. That is, until her roommate Isabella’s body is found in the woods behind the school. 

When everyone else is oddly silent, Anne becomes determined to uncover the truth no matter how many rules she has to break to do it. With the help of Isabella’s twin brother Anthony, and a cute classmate named Brent, Anne discovers that Isabella wasn’t quite the innocent nerdy girl she pretended to be. But someone will do anything to stop Anne’s snooping in this fast-paced, unputdownable read—even if it means framing her for Isabella’s murder.

1. Mysteries can sometimes be harder to do in terms of plot and unexpected twists – and Prep School Confidential has loads of twists! Did you plot out every detail beforehand, or are you more of a pantser?

I’m usually a panster, but writing a mystery is like a Jenga tower. One wrong move or twist, and the whole plot can come crumbling down! I started with a vague outline for PREP SCHOOL and filled in all the details as I went to make sure everything fit well. But sometimes a twist would come to me as I was writing the book and I’d have to go back over everything to make sure it made sense!

2. Anne is such a smart, sassy MC who’ll match all comers wit for wit – are there any aspects of Anne that are based on your own experiences? What other things inspired Anne (or Anthony or Brent)?

It’s funny (and slightly embarrassing) because family and friends automatically equated Anne’s voice with mine. I tend to be very irreverent and blunt, like Anne is. But we’re also SO different. Anne is at the top of her school’s social hierarchy, and I was at the lower middle. Anne is gutsy and will walk into a dark alley alone, whereas I’m a total wimp. One thing we do have in common though is being an outsider at a school in Massachusetts. Like Anne, I’m from New York. I spent a year away at college in Boston, and I struggled to fit in because people have assumptions about New Yorkers. Also, we talk kind of funny.

3. Prep School Confidential is set in a boardinghouse where everyone’s got secrets. What made you choose this as a setting?

I love the boarding school setting because you have a bunch of kids with almost NO adult supervision. The potential for shenanigans is very high. Having a classmate murdered is terrifying enough, but at a boarding school, where the killer may live across the hall from you? I’m also fascinated by the boarding school relationship dynamics. In PSC, Anne notices that her core group of friends are more like a family. Everyone tries to avoid dating (you have to see the other person EVERY. DAY) which is a VERY foreign concept to Anne.

4. What was the toughest and the most exciting parts of your journey to publication so far?

The hardest part was letting go of the manuscript that landed me my agent. It was so close to my heart, my agent fell in love with it, but then it didn’t sell. I had a really hard time focusing on another project for a while. PREP SCHOOL was the book that pulled me out of my slump. Now, I’m thankful that the other book didn’t sell. I wrote it while I was 19/20, and I was in a VERY different place. I barely recognize the words on the page, let alone the person who wrote them. The book was a growing experience for me, and most importantly, it got me my agent. Most exciting, I would say, was getting blurbs from other authors. Also, seeing my cover for the first time!

5. What fun facts might readers not know about you?

I’m certified to teach middle/high school English, I played Pee-Wee Hermann in an 11th grade play, I write for television, I can recite all of the Honey Badger video from memory, and my father suspects my book deal is a scam.

6. Since this community is “All for One and OneFour KidLit,” we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid?

EEEP, only two or three? Okay, the obvious one is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I was seven when that book came out, and I still remember the day my grandmother bought it for me because “everyone was talking about it.” Also, I had a ton of colored-pencil Nancy Drew inspired short fiction in my fourth grade desk. I guess it’s not too much of a shock my first book a teen mystery!

Find Prep School Confidential at any of the following stores!

Kara Taylor Author Pic
Kara Taylor wrote PREP SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL in her first semester of graduate school, in between pulling all nighters and listening to her dad say writing isn’t a real job. Now, she lives on Long Island with a kitten named Felix and a Chihuahua named Izzy and writes full time. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary and Media. 
Despite an uncanny resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin has always maintained her sense of hummus. Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps eight pets: a dog, six birds, and a husband. She’s been a time traveler, a Starfleet captain, and a mutant, because real jobs are overrated. Her YA horror, THE UNNATURAL STATES OF DEAD GIRLS IN WELLS (Sourcebooks), pitched as Dexter meets the Grudge, is due out Fall 2014.

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with K.A. Barson, Author of 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS)

Today we’re interviewing Lucky13 author K.A. Barson, whose young adult debut novel 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS) hits the shelves today! Here’s a bit about the book:

ImageHere are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life:
She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her aunt Jackie is getting married in 10 weeks
and wants Ann to be the bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind:
Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less)
in two and a half months.

Welcome to the world of infomercial diet plans, endless wedding dance lessons, embarrassing run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen–and some surprises about her not-so-perfect mother. 
And don’t forget the last part of the equation: It’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin–no matter how you add it up!  

What inspired you to write 45 Pounds (More of Less)?

I wanted to write a story about a real girl—one who is overweight and has family issues, but who suffers more internally than externally. Some of it is based on how I felt as a teen, and some of it comes from teens I’ve been around since then.

Which comes first for you:  character or plot?

Character. Always character. Once I know what my character wants and what she’s going to do to get it, then I start to figure out plot.

You earned your MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. How has VCFA shaped your writing?

VCFA transformed my writing! First, the program taught me how to make writing a priority because I had to for the two years I was in the program. It also taught me about craft. That’s huge, obviously. Students learn craft by reading craft books, studying published work in the field, and by dissecting each other’s work. That’s not even counting the fabulous lectures, from faculty, visiting writers, and students. Most of all, I’m discovering that they taught me how to take criticism and not get defensive about it.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?  Something you absolutely need or a special place where you have to write?

I have to write alone, and it has to be quiet. With a husband, four kids + significant others, four dogs, and two grandkids, that’s sometimes easier said than done.  I also need snacks. Sometimes crunchy, sometimes smooth, for when I’m pondering.

 What is the most challenging part of the debut process?  The best or most unexpected?

The most challenging part is the waiting. The best and most unexpected part is all the little celebrations that creep up in the waiting—receiving editorial letters, meeting editorial deadlines, seeing the cover for the first time, revealing the cover, getting ARCs, reading blurbs and trade reviews. There’s always something happening.

There’s a scene in 45 Pounds (More or Less) where everyone dances Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance.   I really have to know…can you do the Thriller dance? 

I haven’t danced to Thriller since high school, which was a loooong time ago. I watched videos a lot while writing those scenes though.

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?

Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret and Forever. I also loved V.C. Andrew’s Flowers in the Attic series and anything by Stephen King.

Kelly, thanks so much for stopping by!  Congrats on your debut!  I can’t wait to get my hands on this book!!

To celebrate the release of 45 POUNDS (More or Less) Kelly is hosting a DANCE PARTY ON TUMBLR!! EVERYONE is invited to participate!!  Just post pics and videos of hideous prom or bridesmaids dresses OR of dancing to Thriller!  Better yet, dancing while wearing that dress!!  There will be a book giveaway too!!  How cool is that?

K.A. Barson.jpg
About the author:
K.A. Barson earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She and her husband live in Jackson, Michigan, surrounded by kids, grandkids, unruly dogs, and too many pairs of shoes.
Here’s where you can buy 45 POUNDS (More or Less):
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.

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An interview with Miriam Forster, author of CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS

Today on the One Four KidLit blog we’re pleased to interview Miriam Forster, who’s debut fantasy novel, City of a Thousand Dolls, was released on February 5th. Here’s the blurb.


Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.
Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.

You’ve managed to write a book that falls into the magical territory of being young adult but still something many younger readers can connect to. Did you set out to write a book that would span age groups or did it develop holistically?

Thank you! That was actually a total accident. When I first wrote City of a Thousand Dolls, it was a much darker book. The idea of a city where girls are trained to be anything has some really disturbing implications if you take it far enough, and I played around with some of those implications in the original draft. Also, Nisha started out as older. But as rewrites happened, and I started to cut subplots, the character’s age went down and the darker tones went away.

City of a Thousand Dolls is a superbly realized world. Tell us about your world-building process? Also names! Not only are the characters named in interesting ways, but plants, trees, and landmarks. What guidelines did you follow for this aspect of the world, if any?

Yay someone asked about the names! *does total geek dance*

A few of them are my own invention. My first novel was a western-style sword-and-dragon fantasy with all kinds of epic-type names. Names like the Long-Tailed Cat and the Mountains of the Dead are holdovers from that habit. Frost flowers, frost-flame trees and Earthsleep came about because of the unusual weather patterns of the Empire.

As for the rest, when I decided that the story was taking me to a South Asian setting, I became very laser-focused on the details, including the names. For people’s names, I turned to baby naming websites  Tanaya, Jina, Sashi, and Nisha are all real Hindi or Sanskrit based names. Many of the other proper names are modified versions of Sanskrit names, or modified Sanskrit words. (Except for the Arvi and the cats. Those naming systems are different.)  For example, the capital city of Kamal is named that because it’s the seat of the Lotus Court andkamala is one of the Sanskrit words for lotus.

(Told you I was a geek.)

In fact, I used modified words for a lot of the items in the city. The girls wear asars, which are long, one piece garments that resemble the saris that girls wear in India. Nisha fights with a lati staff, which is based on a South Asian weapon called a lathi. Some of the details are real things. Mukhwas mix for example, and jeera puffs. Lemongrass tea is a real thing, and the night queen flower referred to in the book is actually another name for night-blooming jasmine.

Modifying words did come with a risk though. There are at least two places where I tweaked a real name or a Sanskrit word and accidentally flipped the gender of the person’s name. I didn’t discover this until I had to look up pronunciations for the audio book and by then it was too late. (And no, I won’t tell you which ones they are. *grin*)

Cats play a major role in City of a Thousand Dolls. As a lover of books with animals as characters, did any book(s) from your life as a reader influence this decision? And do cats play a role in your own life?

I’m an animal lover in general, and many of my favorite books growing up were books where animals could talk, like the Redwall books, and fantasy stories where the hero was accompanied by/connected to animals, like Perrin in the Wheel of Time series.

We had lots of different kinds of animals when i was growing up, but the most constant were the cats. We always had at least one, usually two and once as many as four. I wasn’t always good at training our dogs–several of them were much stronger-willed than I was–but the cats could take care of themselves. As an independent, loner sort myself, I identified with them. Currently, my husband and I have a cat named Kona. He’s hilarious and crazy and I made him a Pinterest board because of reasons. 🙂


There’s so much I want to say about this book, but, gah, spoilers abound. How hard was it to write the mystery and pace the reader’s discovery?

So, so hard. Actually, the hard part wasn’t pacing the mystery, it was writing a mystery-paced book in a fantasy setting.  I like to joke that I have multiple writer personalities. I plot kind of like Agatha Christie and I world build kind of like J.R.R. Tolkien. Which can be a mess if you’re not careful. In the first few drafts, everything–including the characters–just served the plot and the mystery. And that style did not work in such a complex fantasy world. It was really hard for me to find the balance between taking the time to let the world and the characters flesh out and keeping the suspense up.

Because our blog is composed of authors just beginning the process of becoming publishing (and some, uh hm, with the same editor), can you tell us what your editorial process was like? High points? Low points?

Oh, the edits. That was….interesting.

So before we got the offer, Sarah my editor asked for some revisions of the first eight chapters. She wanted to be able to show the acquisitions people what she had in mind for the book, and since I figured I’d end up making the changes anyway, I said yes. And they were really good suggestions, tightening up the beginning, making the setting clearer, strengthening some of the relationships, etc.  The first round of revisions was actually an extended version of those notes. That round wasn’t super stressful, but it was REALLY tiring. Especially since I ended up rewriting the entire ending.

Then we did a couple rounds of smaller edits and line edits and that’s where I got stressed. It was actually a humbling experience, since I thought I was a pretty stable writer with a low level of crazy. But I was wrong.

Basically, I went into editing with the idea that my editor was my boss. It wasn’t a conscious thought, but after a decade in customer service I was very hyper aware of the need to “meet or excced expectations” at my job. And when writing started to pay, that “employee” part of my brain kicked it.

So I would fix something and it would come back in the next round with more notes because it wasn’t quite there yet and all I could think was I FAILED. And I’m not a good communicator when I’m stressed. I freeze up and have a hard time asking for help. So I was tired from the first edits and subconsciously waiting to get scolded for something and frustrated because I couldn’t get it right, and the whole thing just got more and more overwhelming.

I finally had a long talk with my agent, which helped immensely. And my editor was really patient and awesome too. But it took a while for me to let go of the constant fear of failing.

That being said, I really liked editing most of the time. Sarah had a lot of really amazing suggestions and thoughts and it was cool to see how the changes made the book stronger. It was like a magic trick.

And finally, 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.

As I said above, I’m was a huge Redwall fan as a kid. (Still am, actually.) There wasn’t much kidlit back then for a post-high-school-reading-level Jr.High student, so I started reading adult fantasy as well. I was really into the Xanth series by Piers Anthony for a long time. And Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles are still a favorite. I also read tons of Agatha Christie and all the Sherlock Holmes stories.

MIRIAMMiriam Forster learned to read at the age of five, wrote her first story at the age of seven and has been playing with words ever since. In real life Miriam is a recovering barista, a terrible housekeeper and a bit of a hermit. But in her mind she’s a deadly international assassin-ninja AND a fantastic dancer. When Miriam isn’t writing, she plots out fight scenes, obsesses about anthropology, nature shows and British television, and reads far too much.

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, SING TO THE WIND (Harper Teen, Fall ’14), is a love song to small town girls and mountain music.

Emily Lloyd-Jones: ADVERSE EFFECTS

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 Emily Lloyd-Jones, author of ADVERSE EFFECTS.  Here we go!

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

Emily on a benchThis story is pretty typical. I was a very introverted child who got her hands on a copy of Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. It was the first time I’d truly been immersed in a fantasy world. I remember looking at the tattered cover and thinking, This is what I want to create.

I began writing. Some of it was original fiction, some of it not. Most of it really sucked. I continued writing. Years passed. My writing slowly became less sucky. In fact, if you squinted and were sort of tipsy, it began to look like passable fiction.

Fast forward to July 2011 and I was watching far too many superhero movies when I should’ve been working on my master’s thesis. (See? Procrastination isn’t all bad.) While I enjoyed the movies, there was this nagging voice in the back of my mind. It kept whispering, “These are all unrealistic. Come on. What would really happen if humans suddenly ended up with superpowers?” I was unable to stop thinking about it. What followed was four months of frantic writing followed by four more months of revision.

In February 2012, I entered the querying trenches. I got rejections. Quite a few of them. I fretted and drank a lot of coffee.

In the end, I signed with a fantastic agent: Quinlan Lee of Adams Literary. My book was picked up by Little, Brown – something I will never stop being giddy about.

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

Well, it’s my interpretation of what would realistically occur if a small percentage of the population ended up with superpowers. The short answer: bad things happen. The long answer: people with powers are seen as the new atom bomb. They are the ultimate weapon – and the government knows that. Citizens who end up with superpowers (called “adverse effects”) face the choice of either joining up with the feds or trying to make a life outside of the system.

As for cool details… well, all of the superpowers in the book are based off of stage magic. When I was world-building, I wanted my characters to have somewhat realistic abilities. (No bullet-proof skin for my heroes.) I did some research into the several branches of stage magic and channeled each one into an adverse effect.

What inspires you to write?

To quote Gandalf: “Questions. Questions that need answering.”

I’m very much a what-if kind of writer. I get mentally hit upside the head by possibilities: what if superheroes did exist? What if we suddenly found out that magical creatures were real? What if giant genetically engineered woodchucks rose up and conquered humanity? What would really happen? How would people react? What would change?

If a question lodges itself in my brain – to the point where I’m thinking about it even when I’m supposed to be doing other things – then I know it’s worth pursuing.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

  • When I jot down my characters’ basic info, I include what Hogwarts house they’d belong to.
  • I’m sort of a music fanatic. Nearly all of my computer is dominated by my music collection and a lot is really obscure.
  • I was an anime nut in my teen years. I count Gundam SEED, Yu Yu Hakusho, Sailor Moon, and Orphen among my influences.
Emily Lloyd-Jones lives on the western edge of California, where she works in a bookstore by day and writes YA novels by night. She’s addicted to coffee, the internet, and snarky humor. When not writing, she’s usually online or playing with her neurotic cat. She wastes a lot of time on Twitter. Her debut, ADVERSE EFFECTS, will be released by Little, Brown in the spring of 2014.

Michelle Painchaud: PRETENDING TO BE ERICA

We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. Today, we’re talking to Michelle Painchaud, author of PRETENDING TO BE ERICA. One author, four questions. Here we go!

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

*laughs hysterically* This is the part they jump out and yell “candid camera”, right?

I literally don’t know. I mean, technically I know. I know that I was picked up by a fabulous agent and then a fabulous editor. And I’m very excited and grateful! But I don’t know if I’ll ever really believe it, at least not until I have a copy in my hands, you know?

I spent about four years in the querying ring, writing seven books and faffing about. Trust me when I say I know the querying game and how ugly it is. By comparison, my submission round was relatively painless and much more fun!

I think there was a moment between those six other books and ERICA, a moment I realized; “Instead of writing books, I’ll write a story“. And that’s when it clicked for me. There was a lot of pressure from myself to write what everyone else was, to follow a sort of formula that seemed to work for my writer friends, but when those pressure hit a head I went; “I can either fit in or stand out. Either way I’ve got nothing to lose. I might as well try to stand out”.

And so I wrote ERICA.

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

Pretending to be Erica is the story of a teenage congirl, Violet, raised by her conman father and groomed to steal a painting worth millions from a rich family in Las Vegas. The family’s daughter, Erica, was kidnapped at the age of four. Violet’s been primed to take Erica’s place as a ‘returned daughter’ all her life, but when she falls in love with Erica’s ‘life’, she has to make a choice – Erica’s life, or Violet’s? She can’t have both.

This book is really close to my heart. Violet pretends to be someone she isn’t just so people will love her. I think everyone does that on a certain level, so it’s a book I hope will connect with a lot of people. Violet isn’t just a character – she’s everyone. Everyone who feels like no one will like them for who they are. Everyone who hides their real selves. And that’s everyone in the world, I think.

Some trivia about it!

  • I set the book in Las Vegas after watching way too many Ocean’s Eleven movies.
  • I modeled the piano-prodigy love interest, James, after Heath Ledger.
  • Violet isn’t the only conkid her conman father has raised. There are more. *insert spooky noise here*
  • Sailor Moon was an important part of the first draft.


What are you most excited about in the debut process?

Saying ‘everything’ would be cliche!

Let’s see…I’m ‘drank-five-redbulls’ excited about seeing the cover at ALL TIMES.

But I’m most excited for the first person who reads it and says; “This made me cry”. That’s all I really want. And all I could ask for. And the only thing that could possibly make me happier.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

  • I’m into astrology (tell me your birthday/year and I can calculate your Western/Eastern signs pretty fast!)
  • Pastries are my life
  • I watch way too many corny foreign horror movies
  • In seventh grade I stuck candy up my nose to impress a boy (spoiler: he was not impressed)
  • My last name in french means “Hot bread”
  • I’m blood type B-. Just in case you’re a vampire and have preferences.
  • I once read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in three hours.
  • This is starting to sound like a dating service
  • I love you all please date me I’ll make you food and let you lick cookie batter spoons


Michelle Painchaud is a 22-year-old baker of burnt monstrosities and a recovering anime addict. She spends too much time on Twitter (@michelleiswordy) talking about cats and food and how awesome she isn’t. Her debut novel PRETENDING TO BE ERICA, a thriller about a teenage conman, is out 2014 from Viking Children’s.