Exclusive Interview with Jake Burt, MG Author of Greetings from Witness Protection!

Hi guys! In exactly one month, I am going to be off to Washington, D.C., with my choir, and I am super stoked about it! I have always wanted to visit our nation’s capital, and I am super blessed that I have this opportunity to go there along with my fantastic choir that I have definitely bonded so much with over the last few months. Speaking of the government (haha, Kester, good/cheesy segue), today I am having Jake Burt, author of Greetings from Witness Protection! on the blog in this exclusive interview, and I am so excited to have him because if you had read my review of his debut, you’ll know why I loved it so much. I hope you enjoy this interview!

About Greetings from Witness Protection!Greetings from Witness Protection!

Nicki Demere is an orphan and a pickpocket. She also happens to be the U.S. Marshals’ best bet to keep a family alive. . . .

The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a mother, father, and son on the run from the nation’s most notorious criminals. After all, the bad guys are searching for a family with one kid, not two, and adding a streetwise girl who knows a little something about hiding things may be just what the marshals need.

Nicki swears she can keep the Trevor family safe, but to do so she’ll have to dodge hitmen, cyberbullies, and the specter of standardized testing, all while maintaining her marshal-mandated B-minus average. As she barely balances the responsibilities of her new identity, Nicki learns that the biggest threats to her family’s security might not lurk on the road from New York to North Carolina, but rather in her own past.



Jake Burt Interview

1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

First off, thanks for hosting me, Kester, and for all you do to support MG and YA literature! To answer your question, I fell in love with stories first. My dad used to read aloud to my brothers and me every night – stuff like The Hobbit and excerpts from Mark Twain’s Roughing It. It was easily the highlight of my day. Then, when I was in grade school, I discovered that I could create my own stories. I had a string of really good teachers who encouraged me (or, rather, at least tolerated my nascent attempts at authorship), and that allowed me to develop a love for the written word.

2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

Books: The Hobbit. Le Morte D’Arthur. James and the Giant Peach. The Last Unicorn. Charlotte’s Web. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Snow Crash. Are You My Mother? The Golden Compass. Faeries. Tuck Everlasting.

Genres: Fantasy. Sci-Fi. Choose-Your-Own-Adventure.

Authors: Tolkien. Malory. Dahl. Pullman. Basically anyone who wrote one of the above books. I’ve also got a special place in my heart for the authors of the books I devoured when I was a kid – sprawling Dungeons and Dragons fantasy novels by R.A. Salvatore; Lone Wolf game books by Joe Dever; sci-fi short stories by Bradbury, Vonnegut, et al. Given all that, you’d think I’d be churning out middle grade fantasy novels, right? I thought so, too. And yet, here I am with MG contemporary…and I couldn’t be happier with the stories I’m telling so far. As far as the writers who had the greatest impact on me and my writing style, though? If I’m being honest with myself, it’s probably TV writers – those behind-the-scenes authors of dialogue I’ve found particularly memorable, of scenes that have stuck with me long after the show is done. It’s often teams of people, so I don’t know precisely who to credit, but I can name characters on shows about whom I think, “I want my MC to talk like that,” far more than passages in books about which I think, “I want to write like that!” (not that I’d turn down having my descriptions compared to E.B. White’s, or anything…)

3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

I’m not sure if I’d describe writing as a job. It’s more like a passion. And lest that come across too tritely, I’m talking about the “If I don’t write this story down and get it out of my head, I’m never going to stop obsessing about it” kind of passion, rather than the “The heavens are my muse, inspiring me to the glory that is” sort. Writing IS work, of course, and often times it’s hard work. It just never feels that way to me, because it’s never monotonous. The same goes for my day job – teaching 5th grade. I love both of them, and for similar reasons: they’re nothing like the hardest job I’ve ever had. That dubious honor goes to working a hydraulic press in a gasket factory one summer in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was hard for me because it was repetition. The sameness of it about drove me mad; I have incredible respect for people who can manage it. I couldn’t, so I’ve spent most of my life engaged with careers that allow me to be as intensely creative as I can be. Writing and teaching provide those opportunities.Greetings from Witness Protection!

4. Your debut novel Greetings from Witness Protection!, which released last year, follows Nicki Demere as she joins the Witness Protection Program’s Project Family and adopts a new identity to help protect the Trevor family from those seeking to kill them. How did you research and learn more about WITSEC as you conceived your story? How did you figure out how to portray WITSEC for middle grade readers without sacrificing a thrilling story to avoid anything too “graphic” or “adult?”

I did what research I could on WITSEC, but as you can imagine, there’s not much to go on. It’s not like people in witness protection are lining up to let an author of middle grade fiction interview them about their experiences. I did access the US Marshalls’ website, Google Earth’ed the facility in Glynco, and read whatever accounts I could get my hands on, but much of what I did in portraying WITSEC and the witness protection program was fashioned after how it has been portrayed in other books, movies, and television shows. I figured if I couldn’t get at the truth about WITSEC (and that I couldn’t is decidedly a good thing!), then I could at least portray a version of it that was consistent with the rest of the body of fiction. As far as keeping it kid-friendly? I don’t necessarily know that I did. I hoped that my readers would be able to handle what I put my characters through, and as long as I was honest about the emotions behind it – Nicki’s desire to be part of something, Jackson’s anger, Brit’s trepidation – then it would read true for them. Those are real for kids, and I trusted that they’d relate. This sentiment was explored beautifully by Matt de la Pena in TIME recently, and both his essay and Kate DiCamillo’s response are modern-day required reading for MG authors, as far as I’m concerned. Check them out here: http://time.com/5093669/why-we-shouldnt-shield-children-from-darkness/

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Jake Burt, MG Author of Greetings from Witness Protection!”


Exclusive Interview with Chelsea Sedoti, YA Author of As You Wish

Hi guys! It is very rare for me to give a five-star rating to two books by the same author and also to name both of them as favorites, but Chelsea Sedoti managed to accomplish that feat! Now, she has a special place on my top 10 authors of all-time! Today, I have the wonderful honor of interviewing Chelsea on the blog! She has written two novels: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett and As You Wish, which just released from Sourcebooks Fire last month! If you want to see why I loved her books so much, you can check out my reviews of As You Wish and The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett here! I hope you enjoy this interview and check out her novels!

About the BookAs You Wish

What if you could ask for anything- and get it?

In the sandy Mojave Desert, Madison is a small town on the road between nothing and nowhere. But Eldon wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, because in Madison, everyone gets one wish—and that wish always comes true.

Some people wish for money, some people wish for love, but Eldon has seen how wishes have broken the people around him. And with the lives of his family and friends in chaos, he’s left with more questions than answers. Can he make their lives better? How can he be happy if the people around him aren’t? And what hope is there for any of them if happiness isn’t an achievable dream? Doubts build, leading Eldon to a more outlandish and scary thought: maybe you can’t wish for happiness…maybe, just maybe, you have to make it for yourself.


About The Hundred Lies of Lizzie LovettThe Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

Hawthorn wasn’t trying to insert herself into a missing person’s investigation. Or maybe she was. But that’s only because Lizzie Lovett’s disappearance is the one fascinating mystery their sleepy town has ever had. Bad things don’t happen to popular girls like Lizzie Lovett, and Hawthorn is convinced she’ll turn up at any moment-which means the time for speculation is now.

So Hawthorn comes up with her own theory for Lizzie’s disappearance.  A theory way too absurd to take seriously…at first. The more Hawthorn talks, the more she believes. And what better way to collect evidence than to immerse herself in Lizzie’s life? Like getting a job at the diner where Lizzie worked and hanging out with Lizzie’s boyfriend. After all, it’s not as if he killed her-or did he?

Told with a unique voice that is both hilarious and heart-wrenching, Hawthorn’s quest for proof may uncover the greatest truth is within herself.


Chelsea Sedoti Interview

1. Your sophomore novel As You Wish (which is one of the best books I read last year!) just released on January 2nd from Sourcebooks Fire. It takes place in the town of Madison, where everyone gets one wish on his or her 18th birthday, but as he approaches that milestone, Eldon quickly discovers how wishing has drastically affected the lives of those around him. If you had the ability to make one wish, what would it be? Would you even wish at all, knowing the possible consequences?

As I was writing As You Wish, I couldn’t help but ask myself what I would’ve wished for. And the answer is… I don’t know. After months and months of pondering it, I still haven’t managed to think up a wish that feels right (or that wouldn’t have any consequences).

But I know if I would’ve gotten to wish when I was a teenager, I wouldn’t be so hesitant. I probably would’ve wished for something completely ridiculous, like for my curly hair to be straight (but seriously, curly hair is a pain.) So it’s probably good that I didn’t get a wish when I turned eighteen, because it likely would’ve turned out horribly embarrassing.As You Wish

2. Magical realism is not a common genre in YA fiction. What inspired you to infuse the fantastic with the ordinary in As You Wish? Could you describe to us how you built the town of Madison, its inhabitants, and the Wish History?

As You Wish started with a “what if” question from a friend about if wishing were real. Long after the conversation ended, I kept thinking about it, wondering what it would be like if every person got one wish. And then I wondered, what if it wasn’t everyone in the world who got a wish, but only people in one tiny town. What would life be like there?

After that, the town of Madison took shape quickly. I started to wonder about the people who lived there and what they would’ve wished for. I also decided early on that this town would be set in the Mojave Desert, where I live. I’ve seen so many strange things in the desert and that strangeness helped me set the tone of the book.

3. Both your debut novel The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett (which I also loved!) and As You Wish are very character-driven. What were some of the challenges you faced as you focused each story to be more character-driven? How is the writing process different versus writing a plot-driven storyline?

This question is hard to answer, because my writing is always very character-driven. I often joke that I have to remind myself that books, you know, need plots too.

I find people to be fascinating. We’re all so very different from each other. Everyone has unique interests and wants and fears. I love to climb into other people’s heads and try to envision the world the way they see it. So, before I ever begin putting down words in a story, I spend a lot of time day dreaming about the characters, trying to figure out who they are and what the world means to them.

4. Who was your favorite main character to write, Hawthorne or Eldon? Who would you say most resembles you, and who would you take on one of your adventures?

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

Hawthorn and Eldon were so, so different to write—which was intentional. I wanted them to be totally unlike each other, otherwise I knew I’d get bored. In some ways, Hawthorn was more fun to write. She was unpredictable and got herself into such odd situations. I wanted to know what she’d do next. On the other hand, with her being a strange outcast, Hawthorn was a lot like me in high school. Eldon, a popular jock, was fun to write because he’s vastly different from me. I had to work harder to get into his head, and in the end, that might have made me love him a little more.

But I’d still probably choose to take Hawthorn on an adventure with me. I bet she’d be happy to explore abandoned houses and hope something spooky happens. 

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Chelsea Sedoti, YA Author of As You Wish”

Reclaiming Shilo Snow Scavenger Hunt: Exclusive Interview with Mary Weber + TWO Giveaways!

Hi guys! This is my first ever post that is a stop for a scavenger hunt! I’ve participated in a few as a player, especially the biannual YASH, but I’ve never been a host until now! As a member of Mary Weber’s Street Team, the Mad Hatters, I am super excited to be welcoming you to the Scavenger Hunt Tour for Reclaiming Shilo Snow by Mary Weber, in collaboration with Thomas Nelson & Zondervan Fiction and JustRead Publicity Tours! By the way, my scavenger hunt clue word is hidden in the Q&A, but it’s bolded and purple!

Title:  Reclaiming Shilo Snow
Series: Evaporation of Sofi Snow, Book 2
Author: Mary Weber
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Fiction
Release Date:  March 6, 2018
Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy

She was far more capable than Earth’s leaders had accounted for—and they had no idea what she’d do next.

Known as a brilliant mind that could hack humanity’s darkest secrets, seventeen-year-old Sofi Snow is the most wanted teenager alive. She found her way to the icy, technologically brilliant planet of Delon to find Shilo, the brother everyone but Sofi believes is dead.

But as she and Ambassador Miguel partner to find her brother and warn those on Earth of Delon’s dark designs on humanity, Sofi’s memories threaten to overtake her, distorting everything she holds true. She knows the Delonese kept her in a dark, deceptive place . . . and destroyed a portion of her life. Now, the more they discover of Sofi’s past, the more Sofi feels herself unraveling—as each new revelation has her questioning the very existence of reality.In this harrowing sequel to The Evaporation of Sofi Snow, Sofi and Miguel must trust each other and discover the secrets locked inside Sofi’s mind as the line between what’s real and what they imagine begins to slip away . . . threatening to take humanity with it.


The Evaporation of Sofi Snow


Title:  Reclaiming Shilo Snow

Series: Evaporation of Sofi Snow, Book 2

Author: Mary Weber

Publisher: Thomas Nelson Fiction

Release Date:  March 6, 2018

Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi’s dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth’s corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth’s Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi’s the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she’s convinced he’s been taken to the ice-planet.

Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there.

For Miguel, Earth’s charming young playboy, the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight’s bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he’s a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.

Buy The Evaporation of Sofi Snow Today!


Mary Weber Interview
The scavenger hunt word is hidden somewhere in this Q&A! It’s purple and bolded!

Hi there!! Thanks for having me on the blog!

1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

Okay, so here is my confession right off the bat – part of me always WANTED to write, but I considered myself rather horrible at it. Then about ten years ago, I went through this season where I just sort of hit pause on life. I distinctly remember feeling like I was missing a part of me. I even told my husband, “I know who I am as a wife, mother, youth counselor, etc…but I can’t find the other part of me.” During that time I began to write simply as a way to explore my soul and the beauty in others.

To be honest, I think that’s probably the reason I love writing so much – it feels a bit like a pause button in the midst of life’s busyness. One that allows us to take a step back, assess our thoughts, relationships, and perspectives on what we’re contributing to this world.

Mary 1

2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

AHHH I LOVE THIS QUESTION!! I think every book leaves a bit of itself in a reader’s soul, you know? Even years after we’ve moved on, we still owe aspects of who we are (as writers and humans) to those stories. For me, there are a bunch I could list (gah – I love them all)! However, a few that stand out are:

THE SECRET GARDEN (This is the first book I remember being given. I read and reread it more times than I know, and I still own my copy.)

WITHER by Destefano, & SHATTER ME by Mafi (Both were my first experiences with the type of gorgeous, first person narratives that are distinctive to YA and made me fall in love with it.)

AGATHA CHRISTIE (My teen years were spent reading every mystery of hers.)

DOSTOEVSKY (His ability in his stories to explore the depths of the human condition still astounds me, and it pushes me to dig deeper into my own stories.)

3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

Well…this is me.

Mary 2

And (like it is for most everyone else) life is pretty wild and busy these days.

I have three teens and a guy I’ve been married to for almost 20 years who is my best friend and anchor in life. (This is us.)

Mary 3

Writing and traveling to speak is definitely a full time job, but I also work part time as a youth counselor – which means I tend to fairly regularly have a houseful of teens sprawled throughout my kitchen and on the couches. I’m pretty sure I heard one of them recently refer to me as “Crazy, but sometimes wise,” so that should sum things up nicely for you. 😉 Outside of those, we live in California and love exploring the coast with our kids, hosting parties in our backyard under white lights, and slipping in time to read!

Continue reading “Reclaiming Shilo Snow Scavenger Hunt: Exclusive Interview with Mary Weber + TWO Giveaways!”


Exclusive Interview with Adrianne Finlay, 2018 Debut Author of Your One & Only

Hi guys! I am super excited about the books that 2018 is bringing in! Already, I’ve read some amazing debuts that have stunned me, and I am so glad to say that Your One & Only is one of them! It is already one of my favorite novels of all-time, and to celebrate its release, I have invited the author Adrianne Finlay to speak a bit about herself and her book in this exclusive interview! I hope you enjoy, and please go pre-order this amazing novel!

About the BookYour One & Only

Jack is a walking fossil. The only human among a sea of clones. It’s been hundreds of years since humanity died off in the slow plague, leaving the clones behind to carry on human existence. Over time they’ve perfected their genes, moving further away from the imperfections of humanity. But if they really are perfect, why did they create Jack?

While Jack longs for acceptance, Althea-310 struggles with the feeling that she’s different from her sisters. Her fascination with Jack doesn’t help. As Althea and Jack’s connection grows stronger, so does the threat to their lives. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?

Your One & Only is releasing from HMH on February 6th!


Adrianne Finlay Interview

1. Your debut YA sci-fi novel Your One & Only—which is set to release from HMH Books for Young Readers on February 6th—follows the story of Jack, the only human in existence, and Althea-310, a manufactured clone, as they fall in love and uncover hidden secrets about the community of Vispera. If you were a clone in Vispera, which model would you be and why?

Oh, that’s a tough question! The thing is, writing the different clones models—their actions, their dialogue, their motivation—forces me to imagine the world from their perspective. I can’t have a character act in a way that’s mean, for instance, without considering what drives them. In some measure, I understand and empathize with all my characters, because I have to. So trying to pick the one I identify with most is hard! I guess of the traits the different models hold, I’d probably imagine myself most aligned with an Inga, because they’re artistic, and I like to think I am too.

2. One of the main reasons why I love Your One & Only is that it examines the underlying question of “What truly makes each of us human?” How do you explore this theme throughout the novel, and how would you answer this question?

The clones have refined their DNA to foster the form of communication they have, where they commune. Because they commune—a sort of empathic ability that makes them feel the emotions their siblings and their community are feeling—they’re not forced to use their imagination to understand the feelings of someone else, someone different from them. That’s part of what makes us human, I think, our imagination. No other animal has our defined concept of the future or the past, and can’t contemplate its own mortality or the suffering of others. We have that ability, and when we use it to empathize with others, we become our better selves. One of the ways we enact this ability is through storytelling.Adrianne Finlay 2

3. Would you consider yourself to be more like Jack or Althea? Are there any similarities between you and any of the characters in the novel, and if so, what are they?

I’m not as volatile as Jack is—I don’t wear my emotions on my sleeve like he does, so in that way I’m more like Althea, logical and thoughtful. As a parent, and like most parents, I’m definitely like Sam. He worries about Jack, and feels a lot of concern about how Jack will navigate a world that in so many ways is a difficult world to be in.

4. Could you describe to us the world-building process you used to create the society of Vispera, from the nine models and the ceremonies to the Slow Plague and the history behind the community? What were some of the challenges you faced as you created this futuristic dystopia, and how did you overcome them?

One of the challenges was just making it clear how the cloning system worked. Early on, I tried to spell it out clearly in a way that didn’t feel like it was just plopped into the story. The clones create a new generation every ten years. The generations are made up of ten siblings, and there are nine sibling models. Another challenge was figuring out how the naming system would work. I knew from the beginning that all the clone siblings would have the same name within their sibling group, so then I came up with the numbering system that counts up, so Althea is Althea-310, and her siblings are Altheas 311-319.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Adrianne Finlay, 2018 Debut Author of Your One & Only”


Exclusive Interview with MG Book Village Co-Creator Jarrett Lerner, Author of EngiNerds

Hi guys! I am super excited to share today’s interview because the author I’m inviting today is super awesome and has inspired me to become more involved in the MG community (which is also very amazing). Jarrett Lerner is the author of EngiNerds, a book that is next on my to-buy list once I get out of my current buying ban, and he is also the co-founder of MG Book Village, a site dedicated to promoting and helping out the MG community. Please go check out his debut novel and the Village! We’d love to see new faces in the MG community!

About the AuthorEnginerds

The battle between boys and bots is on in this funny, fast-paced novel.

Ken is an EngiNerd: one of a super-smart group of friends—all nerds—who have been close since kindergarten.

They may be brainiacs, but they’re just like everyone else: they fight with one another, watch too much TV, eat Chinese food, and hate walking their dogs. Well, maybe not just like everyone because Ken’s best friend Dan has been building robots. He then secretly sent one to each of the EngiNerds, never letting them know he’s the mastermind.

At first Ken is awed and delighted: what kid hasn’t dreamed of having a robot all their own? Someone who can be their friend, clean their room, walk the dog, answer homework questions…how amazing is that?

But be careful what you wish for: Dan’s robot, Greeeg, may look innocent, but his ravenous consumption of food—comestibles—turns him into a butt-blasting bot. And once the other robots ‘come alive’ it’s up to the motley crew of EngiNerds to not only save the day, but save the planet!


Jarrett Lerner Interview

1. Your MG debut novel EngiNerds, which released last year in September, follows Ken and his group of best friends—the EngiNerds—as they fight against farting robots with insatiable appetites. Why do you believe it is important to instill into young readers a love for STEM using literature? How could adults such as teachers and parents help foster a love for math, engineering, and the sciences into their kids?

For a book to be worth writing and reading, I don’t think it has to have a mission beyond the basic, beautiful one of telling a good, gripping story. However, with kids’ books especially, there’s an opportunity to take advantage of a story’s specifics to teach young readers about various things outside of and beyond the book – STEM included.

More important than any one area of focus, though, is the lesson that books can be sources of ideas, inspiration, wisdom, and guidance. To teach a kid (or to provide the opportunities and careful input so that they learn themselves) that they can use a book to get new ideas, to find a new hobby, to gain vicarious experience, to meet people they otherwise wouldn’t, to guide them through a tricky or trying situation, to help them reflect on and reevaluate their behavior and beliefs and relationships – that is of paramount importance.

2. If you could build your dream robot, how would you design it? What would you program it to do?

My dream robot would take care of the two daily tasks that I dislike the most: shaving and cleaning the cat’s little box.

3. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

I fell in love with stories before I fell in love with writing. Really, I’ve always loved them – listening to them and then reading them and then, eventually, telling them, too. Stories are, I believe, the closest things us humans have to actual magic. They can be exciting, entertaining, and enchanting. They can let you see through the eyes of someone whose life you otherwise might not get to know a single thing about. They allow you to experience things – distant lands, made-up lands, moments both painful and triumphant – by simply moving your eyes across a page and using your imagination.

I started making up stories of my own when I was fairly young, first making comic strips and then longer comic books. I also had this big thick notebook that I called my “world notebook,” and in it I’d draw different made-up planets and then list all the crazy creatures and weird plants you could find on it. It was a sort of atlas of my imagination.

Throughout middle school and high school, I always enjoyed my writing assignments, and outside of classes I often took on writing projects by myself or with friends. I wrote some plays and scripts, in large part because my brother, who’s seven years older than me, was obsessed with movies and doing the same. Despite all this, though, it wasn’t until college that I ever realized I could maybe one day become an author. All those years, I’d carried around this assumption that authors were a special sort of person, and that to become one took something that I didn’t, and never would, have. Which is ridiculous, of course. But it took the convincing of friends and professors – and my meeting some authors myself – to believe that.

This is why so much of the work I do outside of my actual writing involves connecting with kids and shining a light on the awesome things they’re creating. I want to demystify the idea of the author/creator. We’re just normal people who love stories and playing around with words – or, in the case of illustrators, who love playing around with colors and lines. Everyone, on some level, is an author, even if the only stories they tell are the ones about themself that, from one day to the next, constitute and further shape their identity. And everyone can, if they put in the work and remain persistent, become an author professionally.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with MG Book Village Co-Creator Jarrett Lerner, Author of EngiNerds”


Exclusive Interview with Eliot Sappingfield, MG Sci-fi Author of A Problematic Paradox

Hi guys! We have an amazing lineup of 2018 debut authors in store for you this year, and we’re kicking off all the #2018debuts with Eliot Sappingfield, author of A Problematic Paradox! I loved this book so much because it gave me so many laughs and hilarious moments, and I am glad I have the opportunity to interview the author about it! Hope you enjoy!

About the BookA Problematic Paradox

Guardians of the Galaxy meets The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in this wild, warm-hearted, and hilarious sci-fi debut about a brainy young girl who is recruited for a very special boarding school.

Nikola Kross has given up on living in harmony with classmates and exasperated teachers: she prefers dabbling in experimental chemistry to fitting in. But when her life is axially inverted by a gang of extraterrestrials who kidnap her dad and attempt to recruit her into their service, she discovers he’s been keeping a world of secrets from her–including the school for geniuses where she’s sent for refuge, a place where classes like Practical Quantum Mechanics are the norm and where students use wormholes to commute to class. For Nikola, the hard part isn’t school, it’s making friends, especially when the student body isn’t (entirely) human. But the most puzzling paradox of all is Nikola herself, who has certain abilities that no one understands–abilities that put her whole school in greater danger than she could have imagined.

A Problematic Paradox releases tomorrow January 23rd from G. P. Putnam’s and Son’s!


Eliot Sappingfield Interview


1. Your debut MG sci-fi novel A Problematic Paradox is releasing on January 23rd from G. P. Putnam and Son’s, and it follows Nikola as she is sent to the School, concealed from the outside world and filled with extraterrestrial creatures and futuristic technology, after her father is kidnapped by a group of aliens called “the Old Ones.” If you had the opportunity to become enrolled in the School, would you go? What classes would you want to take, and what would you be most looking forward to as a student?

Absolutely! Practical Quantum Mechanics sounds like a lot of fun to me, even if I might not be able to keep up with the actual geniuses there.

There’s also the fact that since I wrote the place, I’d be kind of like a god, and could control reality and bend others to my every whim. I’d be cool about it, though.

2. Nikola struggles to both fit in as a genius in her old school and as a human in her new school mostly comprised of parahumans, extraterrestrial creatures with extraordinary capabilities. How do you want A Problematic Paradox to impact young readers, especially regarding the themes of bullying and fitting in?

I wanted it to be realistic. A lot of times, especially in those middle school years, kids find themselves in impossible situations and are given terrible advice for dealing with it. It’s not that adults want to give bad advice; it’s just that every situation is different and what works for one kid doesn’t always work for others.

Since that’s just a fact of life for some, what I really wanted to do was to focus not on overcoming bullies, but on not letting them make your whole world as ugly as they are. It can feel safer to close yourself off, and avoid people altogether, but that stops you from connecting with the wonderful people that are all around us, sometimes dealing with the same issues.

I had a tough time in school myself, but was lucky enough to make friends that made it all worthwhile. Today, looking back, I can’t recall the face of a single bully, because they’re ultimately forgettable (which might be why they’re bullies in the first place) but I still speak to some of the friends I made back then.

3. Since Nikola’s primary passion is science, why do you believe it is important to portray more empowering girls pursuing STEM-related careers as protagonists and deuteragonists in Middle Grade fiction?A Problematic Paradox

That was actually where the idea for the book came from initially. I wanted to write a science fiction story with a female hero, but one that wasn’t a “girl book”. My daughters complained that there weren’t enough science books with girl heroes, and challenged me to come up with one. I’ve heard the middle grade years are when a lot of young women turn away from the sciences and start embracing what they think are gender-normative goals, so I really loved the idea of creating a world where a girl being brilliant and deeply interested in science isn’t just possible, it’s the norm.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Eliot Sappingfield, MG Sci-fi Author of A Problematic Paradox”


Celebrating MLK Day with an Exclusive Interview with Alice Faye Duncan, Author of Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop

Hi guys! Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! Today we are remembering one of the greatest figures in American history who has inspired millions of people across the nation both in his lifetime and after his death to strive for greater racial unity and equality. To celebrate his birthday, I’m interviewing Alice Faye Duncan about her newest children’s picture book Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, which revolves around the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968 and Dr. King’s role in it. Honestly, I had never heard of the Strike until I was first introduced to this book by my author friend Linda Williams Jackson, and I’m very surprised I haven’t heard about this since this took place 50 years ago in my home state! I hope you enjoy this interview, and please go check out and pre-order this book for you or any children you know!

About the BookMemphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop

This historical fiction picture book for children ages 9-12 presents the story of nine-year-old Lorraine Jackson, who in 1968 witnessed the Memphis sanitation strike–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final stand for justice before his assassination–when her father, a sanitation worker, participated in the protest.

In February 1968, two African American sanitation workers were killed by unsafe equipment in Memphis, Tennessee. Outraged at the city’s refusal to recognize a labor union that would fight for higher pay and safer working conditions, sanitation workers went on strike. The strike lasted two months, during which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was called to help with the protests. While his presence was greatly inspiring to the community, this unfortunately would be his last stand for justice. He was assassinated in his Memphis hotel the day after delivering his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon in Mason Temple Church. Inspired by the memories of a teacher who participated in the strike as a child, author Alice Faye Duncan reveals the story of the Memphis sanitation strike from the perspective of a young girl with a riveting combination of poetry and prose.


Alice Faye Duncan Interview

1. Your picture book, Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop—is set to release in September (2018) and it has already become a #1 Amazon early release. This historical fiction tells the story of the Memphis Sanitation Strike through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl, Lorraine Jackson. What is the strike’s historical significance?

The Memphis Strike of 1968 was a non-violent protest where black sanitation workers left their garbage barrels on the curb in order to defend their dignity and demand economic justice in a city that abused their labor. White sanitation supervisors spoke to the men like children, called them buzzards and when it rained, they sent the black men home early without a full day’s pay.

It is important to know that Memphis sanitation workers initiated and organized the strike. This was not an idea conceived by Dr. King.  However, Dr. King chose to help the men in their struggle for justice. Also, children like my main character, Lorraine Jackson, missed school and black parents sacrificed time to march in the strike over 65 days.  Ultimately, it is Dr. King, who made the greatest sacrifice.  While helping the striking workers in Memphis, he was murdered on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

2. What do you want young readers to learn from your character, Lorraine Jackson and Dr. King?

Freedom is not free.  And to gain freedom and keep it, children and adults must be vigilant, courageous and ready to sacrifice their comfort.

3. Why did it take 10 years to write a story that is only 3,000 words?

It took 10 years to write MEMPHIS, MARTIN, AND THE MOUNTAINTOP because my proper entrance into the story, the right characters and organization for the plot, did not show up when I received the initial idea to write it. I wrote more than seven drafts for the story until I finally landed the perfect combination of poetry and prose.

4. What did the creative process for birthing this book teach you?

After writing for two decades, there is one thing that I clearly understand. The story that I am looking for is also looking for me.  It is also my opinion that the writer serves as a vessel or instrument, who carries the story until it is ready to emerge.  Writing is not easy. But, when the real germ of the story appears, there is clarity and the soul of the writer knows that she is on the train that will carry her and the reader to an ending that satisfies.

5. What makes this new book different from the other children’s books you have written?

Alice Faye DuncanI wrote my first non-fiction book in 1995.  It was titled THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM CELEBRATES EVERYDAY PEOPLE. That book was a chronology of the American Civil Rights Movement from 1954 – 1968.

MEMPHIS, MARTIN, AND THE MOUNTAINTOP is a historical-fiction that was inspired by the life of a Memphis preacher, Reverend Henry Logan Starks and his young daughter, Almella Yvonne. Almella marched in the sanitation strike with her mother and father.  She sang freedom songs at the strike rallies and she also heard Dr. King deliver his last sermon, “The Mountaintop Speech.”

Continue reading “Celebrating MLK Day with an Exclusive Interview with Alice Faye Duncan, Author of Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop”


Exclusive Interview with Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Newbery Honor Author of The War that Saved My Life

Hi guys! Today marks the last day of the last full week of school for the semester! I am finally so glad that it’s almost over–I can finally take a big breather from all the busyness of the holiday and finals season. I am planning on relaxing, reading, and blogging more over the break and catching up on some needed-to-be-written posts and reviews. Today, I have for you an exclusive interview with another author I met back at the Southern Festival of Books (let me tell you, after book fests, I usually invite many of the authors I meet onto the blog–look at all the SE-YA author posts!). Funny story, I actually met Kimberly in the line for a Korean food truck there and noticed her name badge and realized that she was having a panel with Alan Gratz. I loved meeting with her, and she’s a Tennessee author, which is awesome! Here is our exclusive interview, and I hope you enjoy!

About The War that Saved My LifeThe War That Saved My Life

An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.

Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.


About The War I Finally WonThe War I Finally Won

When Ada’s clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she’s not what her mother said she was—damaged, deranged, crippled mentally as well as physically. She’s not a daughter anymore, either. What is she?

World War II continues, and Ada and her brother, Jamie, are living with their loving legal guardian, Susan, in a borrowed cottage on the estate of the formidable Lady Thorton—along with Lady Thorton herself and her daughter, Maggie. Life in the crowded cottage is tense enough, and then, quite suddenly, Ruth, a Jewish girl from Germany, moves in. A German? The occupants of the house are horrified. But other impacts of the war become far more frightening. As death creeps closer to their door, life and morality during wartime grow more complex. Who is Ada now? How can she keep fighting? And who will she struggle to save?


Kimberly Brubaker Bradley Interview

1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

Wow, a tough question right off the bat. Why does anyone love anything? I was born loving both stories and books—I definitely loved reading before writing—but honestly, it’s just who I’ve always been.

2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

I like to think I have my own style. Childhood favorites included Madeleine L’Engle and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Right now I’m loving Jason Reynolds, Angie Thomas, Nic Stone, Holly Goldberg Sloan, Laura Amy Schlitz, among others. When I’m not reading children’s lit I like historical fiction and oddball nonfiction.

3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

Writing is the only job I have, so in that sense it’s full-time, but I don’t physically write 8 hours a day. There’s lots of research, for one thing. And I write best in 2-3 hour spurts. I work one afternoon a week at a local social justice center, and I ride my horse (and take care of our barn) and read a lot.

4. The War That Saved My Life is one of the best historical fiction novels I have ever read, and I loved following Ada as she discovers her strength and potential when she and her brother Jamie are evacuated to the English countryside and placed in care of Susan Smith, who at first does not want to take them in. How did you first stumble upon the mass evacuations of children in the United Kingdom at the start of World War II? What are some of the most interesting or surprising facts you’ve learned from your research?The War That Saved My Life

For me it wasn’t something I stumbled on—it’s a background fact in novels I read as a child, including Bedknob and Broomsticks and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Interesting facts—mmmm—well, I discovered why British people used to commit suicide by sticking their heads in gas ovens, but Americans never did and British haven’t since the 1960s—before that, British stoves ran on coal gas instead of natural gas, and coal gas is 10% carbon monoxide.

5. Ada was born and grew up with clubfoot. Why do you believe it is important to realistically portray characters that are going through both physical and mental challenges and their trials in MG and YA fiction?

Because children are going through physical and mental challenges.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Newbery Honor Author of The War that Saved My Life”


Exclusive Interview with Heather Kaczynski, YA Sci-Fi Author of Dare Mighty Things!

Hi guys! Today is the last full week of school for me, which is awesome! It’s also mid-terms week for me in two subjects, AP US History and AP English Language, so I’ll be focusing a lot on studying for them. What’s great for me is that I’m doing with most of my concerts, so my entire schedule is slowly easing up to where I can take a good breather on a weekday. You know what that means? More time to read (which I haven’t gotten enough of these past two weeks) and more time to blog! Today I have for you a special interview

About the BookDare Mighty Things

THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.

Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.

Cassie is ready for the toll that the competition will take; the rigorous mental and physical tests designed to push her to the brink of her endurance. But nothing could have prepared her for the bonds she would form with the very people she hopes to beat. Or that with each passing day it would be more and more difficult to ignore the feeling that the true objective of the mission is being kept from her.

As the days until the launch tick down and the stakes rise higher than ever before, only one thing is clear to Cassie: she’ll never back down . . . even if it costs her everything.


Heather Kaczynski Interview

1. Your debut YA sci-fi novel Dare Mighty Things (which I loved so much) released earlier in October from HarperTeen, and it follows Cassandra Gupta as she contends against the smartest and strongest young adults in the one of the most rigorous competitions to become the youngest astronaut on one of NASA’s classified missions. If you had the credentials and met the requirements to compete in this contest, would you join? What do you think would be your chances of winning, and who would become your allies and enemies?

I honestly don’t think I would! I like it here on Earth, where everything is safe and green and is mostly designed to keep us alive.

When I was younger? Maybe – I was a lot more competitive then. But I’ve been plagued by anxiety most of my life, and fear has kept me from doing a lot. That’s why it was so fun to explore Cassie’s story in fiction – living vicariously through someone who fearlessly goes after what they want was really cathartic for me.

But if I was drafted into a competition like this, I’d be most like Emilio – supporting my friends and just enjoying the ride. I’d stay far away from Hanna, though.

2. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Did you ever surprise yourself as you drafted and revised your book?

I have more of a stepping-stone method – certain plot points I know I want to hit, maybe even the ending, but I don’t usually know how I’m getting there. For DMT, almost every character other than Cassie jumped out of my brain and onto the page fully formed. I didn’t plan any of Cassie’s friends before they came into being.

They were probably the most surprising part of my book – how Emilio and Mitsuko were both just THERE, alive and talking to me. I never knew what was going to come out of their mouths until they spoke. A lot of their dialogue remained unchanged from draft 1.

Dare Mighty Things3. How has living in Huntsville, Alabama—”The Rocket City” and home to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (which is such a fun place to go, by the way)—influenced you as a reader and a writer? Has residing in Huntsville impacted Dare Mighty Things in any way?

I wouldn’t have written this book if I hadn’t grown up in Huntsville. It’s where my interest in space began. I’ve literally driven by a lifesize model of the rocket that took us to the moon twice a day for years. It made me think: here’s a testament to what humankind can do. And yet, this rocket – the whole space race and moon landing – is in our past. It ended years before I was born. It’s a relic of history.

It seemed so odd that we had gone so far and then stopped. That our greatest achievement had happened so long ago. Sci-fi is supposed to happen in the future, not the past. Everyone assumed back then that we’d be on Mars by now. What are we doing now? Are we regressing? Where might we be in the future?

I pondered this in the back of my mind for years. And then DMT was born.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Heather Kaczynski, YA Sci-Fi Author of Dare Mighty Things!”


Exclusive Interview with 2018 YA Debut Author Lyndsay Ely about Gunslinger Girl

Hi guys! Today I am having my first every 2018 debut author on the blog, and I know I’m going to have many more here soon! Before we start, I just wanted to say that right now I am super busy with everything from school to extracurriculars to music performances, so blogging has honestly not been as much of a priority as it was before. Believe me, views in November have dropped so much because I did not much time to share posts. But to all of you that still read and enjoy our posts, thank YOU so much. It means a lot that you all are our loyal followers and viewers, and we look forward to presenting many exciting interviews, reviews, guest posts, and more exclusive segments! Today, I am so glad to be interviewing Lyndsay Ely, author of Gunslinger Girl, which releases next month! I hope you enjoy this, and please support Lyndsay by pre-ordering her book!

About the BookGunslinger Girl

James Patterson presents a bold new heroine–a cross between Katniss Everdeen and Annie Oakley: Serendipity Jones, the fastest sharpshooter in tomorrow’s West.

Seventeen-year-old Serendipity “Pity” Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She’s been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great….
In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity’s struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.


Gunslinger Girl is releasing from Little, Brown & Co. on January 2nd, 2018.

Lyndsay Ely Interview1. Your debut YA novel Gunslinger Girl is slated to release from Little, Brown and Company on January 2nd, 2018, and it follows Serendipity “Pity” Jones as she lives in a dystopian Wild West after the Second Civil War. How would you describe the world-building process you used for the creation of Cessation and a lawless, futuristic Wild West?

This is a hard question. How we tend to picture the Wild West is based on a romanticized Hollywood version of it. Which isn’t to say I didn’t draw from that, along with other fictional inspirations, but I was also inspired by plenty of real life things, like Wild West shows and Reconstructionism. As to Cessation, I basically pictured a gritty, lawless mash-up of Deadwood and the Las Vegas strip.

2. Were there any wild west or dystopian literature, movies, TV shows, etc. that influenced Gunslinger Girl? If so, what were they and how did they impact the novel?

Oh, lots. Deadwood, Firefly, Hell on Wheels, Brisco County Jr., The Quick & the Dead (1995), The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, The Hunger Games, Preacher, Transmetropolitan…the list goes on. I wouldn’t say there was any one main influence. Every source listed had a little (or a lot) of something that I loved—a setting, a character, a tone—and some of those things worked their way into Gunslinger Girl.Gunslinger Girl

3. How does it feel knowing that James Patterson is presenting your book?

I feel very honored! I remember reading the acquisition announcement for Kerri Maniscalco’s Stalking Jack the Ripper and thinking how great it sounded—it really stuck in my head. When I got the offer from Jimmy Patterson months later and realized it was the same imprint, I was over the moon knowing that it was coming from a team with a similar taste in books.

4. If you lived out in the wild west during the frontier days, what do you see yourself as? Would you want to be a sharpshooter like Pity?

In fifth grade we did a colonial fair (or something like that) where we all had to pick a profession from olden times—like a blacksmith, etc. I wanted to be an herbalist. My teacher was a little weirded out, but he let me do it. So that’s who I’d probably be—the apothecary with a shop full of herbs and tinctures and balms for curing all manner of ailments.

5. Your bio says that one of your favorite hobbies is antiquing. What has been your favorite antique store that you have visited, and what is the most prized or valuable item you have found and bought?

My favorite antique store is the Vermont Antique Mall in Queechee, VT. My late grandparents lived in the area, and I’d go there pretty much every time I visited. (It doesn’t hurt that they have the Cabot cheese tasting room there too—free cheese, woot!)

I’ve found more amazing things than I can remember over the years, but a favorite is one of my first pieces: a medieval knight’s helmet that opens to reveal a mini bar with a bottle and glasses. I think I was fifteen or sixteen when I got it, and it’s been a great conversation piece ever since!

6. Since 2018 is approaching very soon, how does it feel like knowing that your first novel is going to be published in just a few weeks? What are you most looking forward to as a debut author next year?Lyndsay Ely

I’ve had some friends have books come out already, and it never gets old being able to walk into a bookstore and find their book on the shelves. So that’s what I’m most looking forward to. Other than that, it’s a little scary. There’s a part of me that still doesn’t quite believe that this is a thing that is happening!

7. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

I can’t really remember a time I didn’t like to read. At some point—I can’t quite remember when—I decided I wanted to tell stories too. I wrote and illustrated my first picture book in sixth grade, but it would be a couple decades more before I finished my first full novel draft. (I took a long detour through visual art; I wanted to be a comic book artist!)

8. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

I’ve always been very drawn to fantasy and adventure stories. Some of the books that influenced my tastes when I was younger were the Chronicles of Narnia, the Nancy Drew mysteries, and the Young Wizards series. I also read a lot of comic books, both then and now. I tend to be more influenced by individual stories than authors, but some names that jump to mind are Alexandre Dumas, Diane Duane, Warren Ellis, Stephen King, Scarlett Thomas, and Terry Moore.

9. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

Writing feels like a full-time job, because it’s rare for more than a few hours to go by without at least thinking about a plot or a character. But my real full-time job is as a marketing graphic designer at a publishing company. My life is books 24/7!

10. Because “What’s your cure for writer’s block?” is asked very frequently, what is one “cure” that did not work for you when you tried it?

I don’t have any “cures” that don’t work because the one I use always seems to work: taking a shower. I swear there’s something about thinking through a problem in the white noise of the water that works more often than not.

11. What could we expect from you in the future? Are there any secrets you would like to share about your upcoming works?

I don’t have much in the way of secrets, but my gateway genre was fantasy, so I’d really like to do something there.

12. Before you go, do you have any advice or words of wisdom you could share to any aspiring authors or writers?

Be persistent. Find a good critique partner or group. Be open to criticism, even when it hurts. Do your research (for your writing, for the agents you query, etc). And don’t worry if success doesn’t come quickly—there’s no time limit on it!

About the AuthorLyndsay Ely

Lyndsay Ely is a writer and creative professional who currently calls Boston home. She is a geek and a foodie,  and has never met an antique shop she didn’t like. Her favorite color is crimson, and her favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo.

Gunslinger Girl is her debut novel.

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Gunslinger Girl is available for pre-order from IndieboundAmazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, or through your local bookstore.

Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Are you excited for Gunslinger Girl? Do you like YA dystopian novels?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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