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.

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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.

4. Do any of the characters in your novel share similar personality traits with you or anyone you know?

All my characters probably share traits from people I know. I had a “mom friend” in high school who was the mature one and looked out for the rest of us and gave advice – a lot of her became Mitsuko. Another character has my claustrophobia.  Emilio has the part of me that wants to be friends with everyone but is secretly insecure. While writing Cassie, I discovered asexuality as a concept and a lot things made sense in my own personal life. So yeah, a lot of them share traits of my own or bits and pieces of others, just magnified and intensified.

5. With women highly underrepresented in science-related occupations, why do you believe it is important for more young girls to pursue STEM? What are some ways that people can promote the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields as possible career options for young women around the nation?

Oh, I could write a whole book about this. I think Bill Nye summed it up best, so I’ll paraphrase him: “Half our population is female, so half our scientists should be female.”

For a long, long time in our history, everything in science revolved around men. Even now, a lot of our medical training uses men as the default, the basis. We assume whatever is true for men is true for all humans, which is obviously wrong.

That’s why girls are diagnosed less with autism – they often have different symptoms than boys, and we judge them on the same standard. Nobody tells women that heart attack symptoms can be different for them – they only know what symptoms present in men. Men are not the default human specimen. We need different perspectives to prevent both conscious and unconscious bias in science.

When we exclude half the population, we deny so much possibility. Who knows how much faster we might have advanced if we had allowed women to have equal access to knowledge and training for the last two thousand years?

Don’t even get me started on the Mercury 13 – women who would have been candidates for the moon program – some of whom were even more qualified than the actual men who were chosen – but were specifically excluded from consideration.

Some things we can do to help: people who have children or work with children can try to remove biases against girls in science by checking their own biases. People with little girls in your life – buy her STEM toy for her birthday. Ask her what her favorite book is. Involve STEM topics in your everyday life: talk about the chemistry of food and cooking, the engineering of bridges, the physics of how kites fly. Let her play in the mud and get dirty and catch bugs; don’t just tell her how pretty she is. Include girls. Encourage girls. Listen to girls and their ideas. Ask them what ideas they have to solve problems; let them use tools and build things and experiment. Reach out to girls and encourage them to join tech clubs, robotics clubs, computer clubs. Don’t say “I’m so bad at math” or “math is hard” – let them realize it’s okay to be smart and to own it.

Teach boys that girls are smart and their ideas are worthwhile. Don’t discourage them from having “girly” interests. When we denigrate girls and “girlish” interests to boys, it encourages lifelong bias against women and their ideas. Boys who think girls are dumb are going to grow up into men who won’t hire women to work on their computers. It’s an insidious, widescale problem that we’re constantly fighting against.

But the tide is changing. Part of why I wrote DMT was to show a smart girl who knew she was smart and didn’t care what other people thought of her. We need to normalize ambition and intelligence in girls.

6. As 2017 is winding down, how would you describe your debut year? How did you feel when your first book was released into the wild in October?

Tumultuous! So many highs and lows, and so much work – I’m exhausted, and quite ready for a break. J While it’s been a great year, I wouldn’t want to live it again. Balancing the promotion of one book and the writing of its sequel is nuts.

Releasing a book into the wild is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking; you realize people everywhere – your neighbor, your boss, kids from your high school, book reviewers, your grandma – are going to read your words. YOUR WORDS. They might hate them. It doesn’t mean they hate you, but it’s hard to separate out those feelings at first.

And then there is, of course, the ever-present fear of not being “good enough.” Almost as soon as your book comes out, people start to move on and talk about the next big book release. It’s hard on your ego, to be in the spotlight one moment only to have it move on immediately.

But it’s okay. Publishing is a long game. I just try to focus on what I’ve already accomplished, and realize that five years ago, this was still an impossible dream. Feeling like you’re good enough isn’t just going to happen. You have to remind yourself, every day.

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

My parents weren’t readers themselves; I’d never see them read anything more than a magazine in my life, other than when my own book came out.

But they made a point to read to me and my sister from the moment we were born. And they never restricted our reading habits or choice of books (except to make sure we didn’t read at the dinner table – most of the time), so that recipe made for two voracious readers. Writing almost inevitably followed, for both of us. I think when you love reading, and you read enough books, you begin to want to create your own imaginary worlds.

The first story I ever wrote was in second grade. It was about a boy fox and his little sister ditching their elderly babysitter to have adventures. It was called “Mischievous Maxie.” I remember asking the teacher for a dictionary to look up how to spell “mischievous” and she was surprised I knew the word.

I still can’t spell mischievous, but at least now we have spell-check.

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

I think the single greatest influence on my young self and my future writing style was the Animorphs series by K.A. (Katherine) Applegate. Any wonder why I write ensemble casts about teenagers saving the world with spaceships? One guess.

My favorite genres tend to be YA scifi and fantasy, but I also like adult crime mysteries and thrillers. I could never write one, though, since I am absolutely awful at guessing who the murderer is.

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

Writing is a whenever-I-have time job for me right now. I recently went to part time at my day job, but my hours can fluctuate between 25 to 35 hours a week, and I have a 3 year old daughter, which is a job in itself. It makes it kind of impossible to have a set schedule, so I write when I can.

10. Since “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’d say one of the cures I hear about that doesn’t help me much is to “just write through it.” It’s good enough in the sense that writer’s block is more accurately described as “I don’t want to write” or “I don’t know what to write” but for me, I’m usually blocked because I’m on the wrong path. So if I just keep writing through it, I typically end up deleting all of that later on when I realize I’m going in the wrong direction.

It’s still helpful – I still figure out where to go in the end – but I think the best thing, at least for me, is to fix whatever has led up to the block because in all likelihood, if I fix the snag that blocked me, I’ll figure out the right way to go from there.

11. One Giant Leap, the sequel and conclusion of the Dare Mighty Things duology, is set to release in Fall 2018. Without giving away any spoilers for book one, could you give us any secrets or hints as to what we could expect in book two?

I’m afraid anything I say will spoil book one! So, all I will say is that you will see your favorites again – and I’ll give you one hint, which is an epigraph from the beginning of ONE GIANT LEAP:

“Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” -John F. Kennedy

12. Before you go, would you like to share any advice you have to any aspiring authors or writers?

Be kind to your fellow writers, be compassionate, read widely, be patient, follow the rules, and learn to be brave!

Thanks so much, Heather, for coming onto the blog! It’s so great to have you!


About the Author

Heather writes books for teenagers and other people who like books about teenagers. They’re usually about teenagers saving the world, because she really believes they can.
Heather never got to go to Space Camp, so she had to settle for writing about it. After graduating cum laude with a degree in biology from University of Alabama in Huntsville, she returned to her first love of books, and now works in a library near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. She lives with her husband, their daughter, and cats named after mythological figures. She’s not nearly brave enough to go into space, but she did twirl a fire baton in high school.

She’s represented by Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Dare Mighty Things? Do you like YA sci-fi?

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

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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.

Goodreads

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!

Email | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Bloglovin

 

 

Exclusive Interview with Sandhya Menon, NY Times Bestselling YA Author of When Dimple Met Rishi!

Hi guys! This weekend is a very special weekend for me: Tomorrow I have my All State auditions and on Sunday I will be the Concertmaster for my community’s 50th Handel’s Messiah concert! (So your prayers would be greatly appreciated!)

Today, I am having a New York Times bestselling author who I met all the way back in May at her signing in Nashville, and a few weeks ago I posted a review of her debut YA novel When Dimple Met Rishi (which you can find here). I am SOOO excited to have Sandhya Menon with us on the blog today, and I hope you enjoy our exclusive interview!


About When Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Goodreads


Sandhya

1. I am a huge fan of your YA contemporary romance debut novel When Dimple Met Rishi, which follows Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel, two completely opposite teenagers who have been set into an arranged marriage by their parents and meet for the first time at the same summer program. Would you consider yourself to be more like Dimple or Rishi? What parallels do you see between you and the protagonists?

I am definitely a combination of both! I’m fiercely feminist like Dimple, but I’m a soft romantic artist like Rishi. I love so many traditions of my Indian heritage while also realizing we have a long way to go with feminism!

2. How would you describe your love for Bollywood film? If you and I were to go have a Bollywood movie marathon, what would we watch and snack on? (You can let your inner fangirl take over. 😉)

Ahhh, the Bollywood question! I love so many Bollywood movies. I’d probably treat you to Queen first, then Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, and then the classic from the 90s—Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.

3. You moved with your family from India to the United States when you were a teen, so did your experiences as you transitioned from one culture to another influence both you as a writer and the formation of When Dimple Met Rishi? How was it like trying to acclimate from the Indian way of life you grew up in as a child to the American lifestyle you first encountered?Sandhya Menon

Absolutely. I feel like When Dimple Met Rishi was a kernel inside me, waiting to be set free. Acclimating to the US as a fifteen-year-old Indian girl was terrifying! I felt like I was always two steps behind, and that people were constantly viewing me with either suspicion or comical bafflement. On the other hand, it helped me grow up so fast and I learned to find that solid core inside myself. I learned who I was earlier than people generally do, I think, and I’m so grateful for that.

4. Dimple and Rishi (along with many of the other characters in this novel) defy various Indian stereotypes. Why do you believe it is important to accurately portray racially diverse characters and their struggles, even among people of their own ethnicities?

I think the idea of a monolith of any culture is a farce. There’s no one Indian experience, just like I’m sure there’s no one Black/disabled/Latinx experience. We’re all products of the individual moments that make up our life, and that’s what I wanted to show. I feel portraying real people, fully fleshed out and living their lives, makes marginalized characters so much more relatable to people outside of that marginalization, something I feel we desperately need in this political climate in the US and around the world. And a big bonus is that it helps people who’ve never seen themselves as main characters in a novel before experience that, which can be incredibly powerful.

5. My favorite scene in the entire book (and I was laughing so hard from reading it) was when Rishi approached Dimple for the first time and said, “Hello, future wife. I can’t wait to get started on the rest of our lives,” and immediately afterwards Dimple threw her iced coffee at him and ran away. What was your favorite scene in the entire book, and which scene was the hardest to write?

Haha, thank you! I loved that scene, too—it’s definitely one of my top five! I’d say my #1 favorite scene is the non-date that—spoiler alert—turns into a date. 😊

The scene that was hardest to write was the one toward the end when Dimple begins to question everything and ultimately makes some decisions that make her and Rishi very sad. I don’t want to give too much away, but it was heart-wrenching to write that part.

6. Do you share Dimple’s love of iced coffee, and if so, where is the best place in the entire world to grab a cup to drink?When Dimple Met Rishi

Yes! I love my Starbucks caramel fraps. I also really loved Peet’s on the West coast!

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

I love writing because I love people’s stories. I’ve always been fascinated by how we think, feel, and love. I began writing as soon as I learned to string sentences together for school

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

I tend to read pretty widely, so I have quite a few! I absolutely love romance, especially romance with comedic elements, and I’m a huge Sophie Kinsella fan girl. I also really enjoy horror, and have loved novels by Shirley Jackson and Stephen King. Other writers I love and have influenced me in some way: Kate Chopin, Arundhati Roy, Khalil Gibran, Jenny Han, and Stephanie Perkins, to name a few.

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

Writing is now a full-time job, for which I am so grateful! When I’m not writing, I love spending time with my family and my dog, going on hikes, gazing at the mountains, playing board games or video games (point-and-click adventures are my fave), and reading.

10. As 2017 is slowly winding down, how would you describe your debut year as an author? Could you describe your feelings when When Dimple Met Rishi received a widespread positive reception and made it onto the New York Times bestseller list?

It’s been so mind-blowingly incredible! Sometimes I still can’t believe that this rom-com about an arranged marriage between two Indian-American teens got so much reader love. I’m so humbled and grateful for all the readers who’ve reached out to me (like you, Kester)!

11. Your next two novels From Twinkle, With Love and When Ashish Met Sweetie (the companion novel to When Dimple Met Rishi) are slated to release in the summers of 2018 and 2019, respectively. Could you give us any hints or secrets on what we could expect in each of them?

From Twinkle, With LoveYes! I’m so excited because From Twinkle, With Love is written entirely in diary entry/email/blog format. It was my first time writing an epistolary novel, and I’m eager to see what readers think. Get ready for girl friendships and girl power, questions about creating art and finding your voice, and angst about what to do when you fall in love with the wrong person.

And in Ashish’s story, we’ll get to see our fave cocky jock Ashish fall in love with a girl, Sweetie, who’s completely different from him. We’ll see him being vulnerable, there’ll be some big conversations about what it means to be fat (and how that’s not a bad word), and a lot of heartwarming friendships.

12. Before you go, would you like to share any words of wisdom to aspiring authors?

Never give up…but also give up!

Let me explain: If you feel like you should stop writing because the words aren’t coming out right or it’s really hard to get published or the world doesn’t really want to hear your story—don’t give up.

But if you’ve been working on the same book for years, you feel like you’ve outgrown the story, or just really aren’t feeling it anymore—don’t be afraid to start something new. Listen to your creative instincts, and keep on keeping on!

Thanks so much, Sandhya, for doing this interview! I’m so glad to finally have you on the blog!


About the AuthorSandhya Menon

My name is Sandhya Menon, and I’m a New York Times and national indie bestselling author. I write books for teens (and those who still feel like teens inside!). I currently live in Colorado, where I’m on a mission to (gently) coerce my husband, son, and daughter to watch all 3,221 Bollywood movies I claim as my favorite. Also, I love my pets a little too much, as you can probably tell.

My YA contemporary novel WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI is out now. Buy here or add it on Goodreads if you like!

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read When Dimple Met Rishi? Do you like YA contemporary novels?

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

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Exclusive Interview with Merrie DeStefano, Author of Fairytale Christmas

Hi guys! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! I know I did, especially since I had five days without any school. Now officially it is the Christmas season! Woo hoo! To celebrate Christmas coming upon us so soon, I am inviting Merrie Destefano, author of multiple YA novels–including Lost GirlsFathom, and A Dark and Twisted Heart–to talk about her latest book Fairytale Christmas. I am so glad I was able to talk to Merrie after the YA Halloween Book Bash a few weeks ago, and I fortunately won a copy of this gorgeous book! I hope you enjoy this interview!


About Fairytale ChristmasFairytale Christmas

“Three thousand years ago, a war began between the immortals and the mortals. It’s a war that continues to this day…

Before history began, a legendary queen battled a foreign army, braved the death of her husband, and faced betrayal at the hand of someone she trusted. This is the story of Eire, Queen of the Faeries, the Immortal One, and the leader of the Tuatha de Danann.

To this day, her homeland, Ireland, bears her name, and this is the story of the war that drove the Immortal Ones into exile. It’s also the tale of how she found help from an unexpected place, leading her to a love like she had never known before.

Fairytale Christmas is a story that spans thousands of years. It’s also the beginning of all of our fairytales and legends; it’s where mortals and immortals survive because they love one another, proving that love is the greatest gift of all.

This is the first installment in the Saga of the Fair Folk, a journey that lasts until the end of time.”

Fairytale Christmas is releasing from Ruby Slippers Press on December 4th!

Goodreads


Merrie

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

First, thank you very much for inviting me here today, Kester! I sincerely appreciate it. Now to answer your questions: Writing is my way of escape. I started writing when I was fairly young; I focused on it pretty heavily in junior high, abandoned it for awhile, but started it up again when I was about 22 years old. I’ve always struggled between art and writing, trying to balance them, but one has almost always won and overshadowed the other. I studied Fine Art in college, and I worked as a graphic designer/illustrator for many years. But I honestly think that today I’m a much better writer than artist.

Fairytale Christmas2. Your latest book Fairytale Christmas is releasing from Ruby Slippers Press on December 4th, and it tells the tale of Eire—the Queen of the Faeries—as she fights in a war that led to the exile of her people. Since this book is set in Ireland, were there any parts that were inspired by Celtic mythology? What are some of your favorite Celtic myths or legends?

I was absolutely inspired by both Celtic legends and Irish history. I went back to the original legends, so not that many people are familiar with them, which surprised me. The Tuatha de Danann were most likely a real tribe of people who lived in Ireland and may have been more advanced than the people who lived there before them—hence the legends that the Tuatha de Danann were gods. I wrote another book based on Celtic legends too: Fathom. That time, I wrote about Selkie legends.

3. Have you ever had the chance to visit Ireland? If so, what were some of your fondest memories and places you’ve been to? If not, where would you like to go?

Sadly, no, I’ve never been there! I’d love to go though. I don’t care which part I got to see. In my mind, every inch of it is gorgeous.

4. What are some of your favorite traditions that you and your family celebrate for Christmas?Lost Girls

I’m currently living a sugar-free life, but before that every Christmas had to have fudge and lots of it! I have a handful of Christmas movies that I need to see every year. They include The Bishop’s Wife, Christmas in Connecticut, Home Alone, and While You Were Sleeping.

5. Who or what would you say sparked your passion for reading and writing?

I think I was inspired by the SciFi/Fantasy books I read as a teenager. Anything can happen in a book like that. I love to be surprised and to go somewhere I’ve never been.

6. As a veteran author with ten novels and three art books under your belt, how has your writing process evolved from your first book to your current book?

I’ve learned to accept my process, which at best is chaotic. I no longer criticize myself for not outlining or for hitting a blank wall or for throwing out thousands of words. If that’s what it takes to get to the heart of my story, then that’s what it takes.

7. For over 20 years, you’ve worked in the publishing industry as a writer, editor, publicist, photo shoot director, jacket copy designer, and more. How has your background helped you as an author today? What are some of the most valuable lessons about publishing, marketing, editing, and writing that has greatly impacted you over the years?

FathomIt has all helped me because I’ve learned to look at a book or a story from every angle. I love that there are so many aspects to a good book, from cover copy to blurb to cover design to the actual story itself. Every part of it is crucial. Also, working as an editor has taught me to read my own writing with a critical eye. It helps me to see the flaws in my characters and my stories.

8. Out of all the books you have written, which one was the hardest for you to write, and how did you overcome your challenges?

Feast was definitely the hardest. First, I hit a wall half-way through the book and started over. Much later, I read those pages and saw that they were very good. I just didn’t know where to take the story next. In the end, that book was written and rewritten and rewritten. It was written in first POV, then third. It went from about 12 POVs to 5. It kind of drove me nuts! And it all came from my own inability to fall asleep. Hence, I created creatures that steal our dreams—you know those dreams you can’t remember when you wake up? Those were stolen.

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

I prefer SciFi/Fantasy and mystery. As a teenager I adored the classic writers: H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Tolkien. Now I love Holly Black, Laini Taylor, and Michael Connelly. Books like Pines, Doll Bones, and Lips Touch Three Times are like poetry to me.

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

I also work as a magazine editor for Victorian Homes magazine, Haunted: Myths and Legends magazine, and Zombies magazine. So that is my ‘day job.’ I also love designing book covers, but only for myself. Writing is one of those things that I can’t stop, but it is not an 8-hour-a-day job.

11. What can we expect from you in the future? Could you give us any secrets about your upcoming works?A Dark and Twisted Heart

Well, I have a great YA SciFi series coming from Entangled in 2019. I don’t know the date yet, but whoa, is it a good story and the characters are amazing. I can’t wait to get a cover for the first book, because I want to show it to everyone. In my self-publishing, I have a sequel coming to Fairytale Christmas in early 2018 called Wolf Haven. I’m almost done with the third story in my Dark Heart Chronicles. I also have a YA Post Apoc novella series starting soon—I really love that one too. It’s called the Outrunner Series.

12. Do you have any special advice or tips for any aspiring authors or writers who are currently reading this interview?

Don’t give up. Really, just don’t. It may take awhile to get published or you might publish your first book fairly quickly. But every story and every book that you write will help you to improve your craft. Learn from your mistakes, grow and study writing like the fine art that it is. Read a lot! And don’t just read books in the genre you’re writing. Read everything.

Thanks so much, Merrie, for coming onto the blog! It’s so great having you!


About the AuthorMerrie Destefano

CURRENTLY A FULL-TIME NOVELIST and magazine editor, Merrie Destefano’s next novel, LOST GIRLS, releases on January 3, 2017. Her other novels include AFTERLIFE and FEAST, both published by HarperCollins, and FATHOM, which was self-published. The editor of Victorian Homes magazine, she has also been the editor of American Farmhouse Style, Vintage Gardens, and Zombies magazine, and was the founding editor of Cottages & Bungalows magazine.

With 20 years experience in publishing, she worked for a variety of publishing/broadcasting companies that include Focus on the Family, The Word For Today, and PJS Publications (now Primedia). Besides editing and writing, her background includes print buying, writing/producing radio promos, directing photo shoots, developing new products, writing jacket copy for books, creating sales media packets and organizing direct mail campaigns.

Born in the Midwest, she currently lives in Southern California with her husband, two German shepherds, a Siamese cat and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies are reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, and her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies, listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time.

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Buy her books on Amazon!

Fairytale Christmas Lost Girls A Dark and Twisted Heart Fathom


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Are you excited for Fairytale Christmas? Have you read any of Merrie’s books?

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

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Nadine Brandes Talks about Faith and Fiction in Her Out of Time Trilogy and Unveils the Cover and Title of Her Newest YA Historical Fantasy!

Hi guys! One of my favorite Street Teams that I am a part of is Nadine Brandes’s Ninjas! Nadine’s Out of Time trilogy is one of the most inspiring, life-changing series I have ever read, and I am so glad that I get to have my Ninja leader here on the blog for a few questions. But today is also a HUGE day for her: she is unveiling the cover and title of her upcoming book, which is a YA historical fantasy!!! If you know how much I love historical fiction and fantasy, you know that I am EXCITED about this book. I just read A Time to Rise, which is her trilogy’s conclusion, and I enjoyed it so much (I am reviewing it later this week!) that I hope my excitement for Nadine’s upcoming book is going to rub off on you. Let me tell you, the cover and the blurb already has me pumped. I hope you enjoy my exclusive interview and cover reveal!


About A Time to DieA Time to Die

How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?

Parvin Blackwater has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside.

In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the crooked justice system. But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence.

What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her Clock is running out.

Goodreads


Nadine Brandes

1. I am such a big fan of your Out of Time trilogy, which follows Parvin Blackwater as she discovers God’s calling for her to challenge her country’s use of Clocks that determine when a person dies and the Wall in which Radicals (those without Clocks) are thrust onto the other side. What inspired you to incorporate your Christian faith into your fiction work? How has the series pushed you to pursue further shalom in your life?

A Time to DieIncorporating my faith into my work was never a choice—it’s who I am. Writing is a very personal thing—I think it’s that way for every author. Every book I write has a piece of me—a piece of my personal journey or question or recent enlightenment. It would actually be much harder for me to try and keep my faith out of my stories because that would be making the stories a lesser part of myself—less personal and real. (Does that make any sense?)

2. Would you want to have a Clock and know the day you’d die? If so, what would you do differently in your life? If not, how would you live day by day (something Parvin learns later in the series)?

No! I never want a Clock! LOL. I strive to live day by day already—content in the time that God has given me and living fully present each day.

3. Did you surprise yourself as you continued to write and revise the series? Without giving away any major spoilers, were there any events or character deaths that weren’t originally in your plans?

Ahem. Yes, I was surprised by a LOT. A certain injury, to note. Unfortunately every character death was planned far in advance because they were crucial to the plot. But there were a couple characters who lived that I’d originally intended to kill off. 😉 No, I’m not going to tell you.

4. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?24466484

Oh my. Do we really have time for me to list all my reasons? Probably not. One reason I love writing is because I get to create. I think that’s a huge part of being made in God’s image—being a fellow creator. And I connect with Him on such an intimate level. 🙂 I’ve always been a storyteller, but didn’t really try writing for publication until I was in college.

The Out of Time Series forced me to think about the question, “How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?” And I really had to examine if I was living a life the way it was intended to be lived. Writing that series really pushed me to a new level of intentionality.

5. What are some the craziest things you’ve done for book research? Why do you believe it’s important for authors to correctly portray certain experiences by doing them themselves?

I don’t know that every author needs to do the way I do book research. But it’s just what works for me. I’m an adventurer and I get all my best descriptions from doing things first hand. (In fact, I’m traveling to England in four days to do some more research!) What are some crazy things I’ve done? I’ve waded through a cattail marsh, rock climbed down a cliff (but with a harness), eaten raw potatoes, sailed through the Panama canal, chased a boxcar train, gone dogsledding….there’s really not much I haven’t done for the sake of book research. Ha!

6. You consider yourself as an adventurer! What are some of your favorite places that you’ve traveled to? Have you been to the cities and countries featured in your books (i.e. Unity Village, France, Russia, Panama, Antarctica, etc.)?

Well, Unity Village is a name I stole from a sign, but it’s certainly not a place that inspired my story. But other than that, I’ve drawn research from Russia, France, Panama, California…I really wanted to go to Antarctica, but that was a bit too big to swing. So instead I interviewed my grandparents who have been there!

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

Fantasy!! Harry Potter, Narnia, Lord of the Rings…those have all inspired me. I think Harry Potter probably inspired me the most to write in the speculative genres. And then Jill Williamson’s series—The Blood of Kings—really showed me how powerful fiction can be from a Christian worldview. 🙂

8. Your bookstagram photos are so gorgeous, and it has over 6,000 well-deserved followers! What’s your secret to creating such beautiful pictures?A Time to Rise

Aww, you’re so sweet! I love bookstagramming! It’s one way I relax after a long writing day. My “secret” is seriously just…practice. I’ve been bookstagramming for years and only just figured out how to fix the lighting for photos or how to edit them to look sharper and clearer. I finally settled into a theme I adore. But I had to be willing to experiment to find what I liked and didn’t like. My best advice would be…experiment! Try new things! Observe accounts you like and learn from them. 🙂

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

Writing is a full-time job. But it hardly ever feels like work! I love it so much that I’m never dreading Mondays or afraid of having to “work” all day. But there are times I need breaks and I’ll usually read or spend time with Mister Ninja (hubby).

10. So Ninja Master, how did you decide upon calling your street team the Ninjas?

Honestly, because “Ninja” started with N and so did “Nadine”. Ha! But “Nadine’s Ninjas” sounded so fun and cool and I totally see my readers as these stealthy brilliant warriors who go out and spread the word and save the world.Nadine

11. What can we expect from you in the future? Could you share any secrets about your upcoming works?

MORE BOOKS! [wink] My next two books will be historical fantasy—a new genre for me. And then I have some ideas for after that, but those are too secret for now. 😉 I plan to continue adventuring and digging into my relationship with Jesus because He’s the one who brings me on the best adventures!

12. Would you like to share any tips to any aspiring authors or writers?

WRITE THE THING. If you want to write, then do it. Write the book. Don’t worry about the first draft, it always has room to grow. Instead, write as though no one is watching. Write freely and enjoy the process. Every part of it is beautiful.

Also, my biggest piece of advice is to pray over your work. I know some people may not be the praying sort, but I’d just say…time to learn. 😉 God will change and grow your story in beautiful ways beyond even your fantastic imagination!! ❤

Thanks so much for having me!

Thank you so much, Nadine, for coming! I’m so honored to have you on my blog!


Now onto the cover reveal!

Let me tell you that this cover is one of the most GORGEOUS ones I have ever seen. I definitely need a copy once it’s printed to display at home. I cannot take my eyes off it because it is breathtaking. I’m going to give a few hints of what event the book covers before you read the blurb–the first one is that I’ve never seen any fictional book about this event so it’s intriguing me so much!

Scroll down to see the cover!

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Here’s a tiny hint:

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It’s set in England.

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That was very broad.

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It’s set a few years after the start of the 17th century.

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Do you have a guess?

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I’ll give you one last hint!

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I hope you remember, remember that certain date!

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Well, the book revolves around…

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The Gunpowder Plot of 1605!

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And here is the cover!

Fawkes

About Fawkes

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King James.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes will release on July 10th, 2018 from Thomas Nelson (Harper Collins)

Here is the link for the cover reveal announcement:

http://bit.ly/FawkesBook

Add Fawkes on Goodreads, and pre-order it from Amazon here!

Goodreads  |  Amazon


About Nadine BrandesNadine

I am an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. I never received my Hogwarts letter, but rest assured I’m no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family-size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. I write about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. My dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged me to pursue shalom, which is now my favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When I’m not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, me and my knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read the Out of Time series? What do you think about Nadine’s new book?

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

Email | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Bloglovin

 

Fragments of the Lost Blog Tour: An Interview with Megan Miranda

Hi guys! Happy Tuesday! Today I am super glad that I’m welcoming one of the biggest authors to come onto the blog! She has written multiple books for both young adults and adults, and her adult novel (which you might have seen and heard of) All the Missing Girls has reached the New York Times bestseller list! Please give a warm welcome to Megan Miranda, whose newest YA novel Fragments of the Lost is releasing next Tuesday!

FRAGMENTS OF THE LOST


About the Book:27797316

Title: FRAGMENTS OF THE LOST

Author: Megan Miranda

Pub. Date: November 14, 2017

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 384

Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Find it: AmazonB&NiBooksTBDGoodreads

Synopsis: Jessa Whitworth knew she didn’t belong in her ex-boyfriend Caleb’s room. But she couldn’t deny that she was everywhere—in his photos, his neatly folded T-shirts, even the butterfly necklace in his jeans pocket…the one she gave him for safe keeping on that day.

His mother asked her to pack up his things—even though she blames Jessa for his accident. How could she say no? And maybe, just maybe, it will help her work through the guilt she feels about their final moments together.

But as Jessa begins to box up the pieces of Caleb’s life, they trigger memories that make Jessa realize their past relationship may not be exactly as she remembered. And she starts to question whether she really knew Caleb at all.

Each fragment of his life reveals a new clue that propels Jessa to search for the truth about Caleb’s accident. What really happened on the storm-swept bridge?


Megan Miranda

1. Your newest novel Fragments of the Lost, which releases November 14th from Crown Books, follows Jessa as she uncovers more about the mysterious past of her ex-boyfriend Caleb, who dies in a car accident. Before writing this book, did you have the plot and ending set in your mind, or did you surprise yourself as your drafted and revised it? (No spoilers 😉)

I always surprise myself during the first draft! The early drafts are very much discovery drafts, where I’m learning who my characters are, what they desire, and the pieces of the puzzle at the heart of the story. In Fragments of the Lost, I started writing with only two elements in mind: The main character, Jessa; and the idea of a mystery that would be uncovered through the objects found in Caleb’s room.

Once I discovered all of those pieces in the early draft, I stepped back to create the mystery and plot, and then revised with that in mind.27797316

2. Did you ever base any of the events or characters in your novels (particularly your crime mysteries) off anyone or anything in real life? What is your research or brainstorming process like?

Not for the bigger plot ideas, but I usually find small similarities when I look back at a finished draft. For example, in this book, if you were to look around my office, the room would appear *very* similar to Caleb’s room.

I usually begin an idea with character before plot, so each story depends on the narrator. Once I figure out the mystery at the heart of the story, that’s when I dive into research. A lot of the research comes from talking to people who work in various professions (including police and lawyers), but the brainstorming phase for this book also included sending emails to my friends, asking: “Hypothetically, what kinds of things have you accidentally discovered in your teenager’s room?”

Continue reading “Fragments of the Lost Blog Tour: An Interview with Megan Miranda”

Dear Martin Blog Tour: Exclusive Interview with Nic Stone + Giveaway!

Hi guys! This past weekend, I attended the Southern Festival of Books and met some amazing authors! I’m planning on posting some pictures here on the blog soon, but today I am so excited to be kicking off the blog tour for Dear Martin by Nic Stone, which releases TOMORROW! Go get her book, and check out her lovely interview here below!

DEAR MARTIN


About the Book:DEAR MARTIN_05.03.17

Title: DEAR MARTIN

Author: Nic Stone

Pub. Date: October 17, 2017

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 224

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook

Find it: AmazonAudibleB&NiBooksTBDGoodreads

Synopsis: Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.

Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.


Nic Stone1. Your debut novel Dear Martin tackles the racism that many African-Americans face today, and it releases tomorrow October 17th from Crown Books! What compelled you to write Dear Martin? Did you use any of your own or others’ experiences to construct the story’s plot, characters, setting, etc.?

So Dear Martin is really the outflow of my needing to get a better handle on American Race Relations in the 21st century. I have two little boys, and after seeing so many unarmed African Americans killed over the past five years or so—often by police officers—I really wanted to examine… how we got here, I guess. I also kept seeing quotes from the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. misappropriated and used in opposition to the type of protests and marches he championed during the Civil Rights Movement of the mid 20th century, so that made me wonder: what would Dr. King say and do were he alive now? Thus, Dear Martin was born. And yes: most of the novel is based on actual events, whether from my own life or the lives of people I know, and even some things pulled (and remixed a bit for the sake of respecting victims) from the news. Hopefully the fact that people will recognize some of the novel’s elements will make it that much more compelling.

Continue reading “Dear Martin Blog Tour: Exclusive Interview with Nic Stone + Giveaway!”

Exclusive Interview with YA Historical Fiction Author Gwen C. Katz on Among the Red Stars

Hi guys! Today’s interview is the first one I have done is a while, but don’t worry- we’ll have some more amazing authors and fellow book lovers talk about their novels and other literature-related topics! Earlier in September, I had the wonderful opportunity to ask YA historical fiction author Gwen C. Katz a few questions about her debut Among the Red Stars, which I want to read so much because it’s set in World War II! I wasn’t able to get it posted last month, but I’m so glad I have the opportunity now to do so. I hope you enjoy!


About Among the Red Stars30122938

World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines.

As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.

Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war.


Gwen C. Katz

1. Your debut YA historical fiction novel Among the Red Stars, which released last week on October 3rd from HarperTeen, follows the story of Valka as she joins the Night Witches, one of the Soviet Union’s all-female aviation groups. How much research did you have to do to make your book as historically accurate as possible? What are some of the most surprising facts that you have stumbled upon?

I think what surprised me the most was just getting a full sense of how narrow our traditional view of World War II is. The vast majority of American media is about white men from either America or Britain. We saw that this summer in Dunkirk. They ignored Britain’s South Asian soldiers; they ignored the nurses, both of whom were present in large numbers. But the war was much bigger than that. China, for instance, lost 20 million people, but when are we going to get a movie about heroic Chinese soldiers?

IMG_45302. World War II historical fiction is one of my favorite genres! What inspired you to set your book in that time period? How did you find out about the Night Witches?

I found out about the Night Witches from my father-in-law. He’s a big World War I aviation buff and one time when we were playing Wings of War, I asked him if any female pilots had flown in World War I and he told me that Russia had female pilots. Naturally I had to go look them up, and I learned about their much more famous WWII counterparts. The rest, as they say, is history.

3. What was your character-building process for creating the three main protagonists—Valka, Iskra, and Pasha? Did you reflect any of their personality traits off you or anyone you know?

Valka’s attitude is definitely based on me! A lot of pilot/navigator pairs had this “odd couple” dynamic where the pilot was the daring one and the navigator was the sensible one. So that’s where Valka and Iskra came from. As for Pasha, I think YA really needs more boys who are quiet and gentle and not traditionally masculine. I’m very interested in all the men and boys who went to war who weren’t badass action heroes. What happened to them?

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with YA Historical Fiction Author Gwen C. Katz on Among the Red Stars”

Exclusive Interview with Debut Sci-Fi Author Scott Reintgen, Author of Nyxia

Hi guys! Today I am so glad to be welcoming an author who wrote one of my favorite reads of 2017! Nyxia was actually one of my most anticipated reads of this year, so it is such a great honor to welcome Scott Reintgen on the blog today. Also, Nyxia is releasing tomorrow from Crown Publishing, so please do NOT miss it! We are so glad to celebrate its release with this exclusive interview, so please enjoy!


About the Book27426044

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden–a planet that Babel has kept hidden–where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

Goodreads


Scott Reintgen

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

I love to write because I first loved to read. The magic of vanishing into another world just appealed to me so much that I started creating my own. I do have two very big steps forward in my love of writing that I remember. The first came in elementary school when our class “published” little books we had written. It was just so cool to see a book with my name on it. The second came in high school when a teacher illegally switched me into a Creative Writing class after reading a first chapter of a project. I’ve wanted to be an author ever since.

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

Too many to count! I’ve always had a thing for science fiction and fantasy. I’ve tried writing contemporary, but a dragon or a spaceship always shows up (though, no dragons on spaceships yet). I owe my love of reading to J.K. Rowling. A lot of my passion to be a better “technical” writer comes from George R.R. Martin. But I’ve had hundreds of others influence me: N.K. Jemisin, Pat Rothfuss, Marie Lu, Leigh Bardugo, etc. The biggest recent influence is Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy.

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

Writing is a full-time job. I used to teach as well, but these days I’m mostly changing diapers and writing books.

4. Nyxia is definitely one of my favorite Fall 2017 releases! It follows the story of Emmett, who is one of 10 competitors fighting for a spot to go to Eden, a planet that holds nyxia, a rare yet powerful substance, but he soon finds out that there’s many secrets lurking in the spaceship he’s in about Babel Corporation. Would you want to be recruited by Babel to have a chance to go to Eden? If so, do you think you’d be able to win a spot? Who would you ally with, and who would you become enemies with?

27426044I would not want to be recruited by Babel, but if they did get me on their spaceship, I’d definitely be in the thick of the competition. Emmett’s competitive nature is actually based on my competitive nature. I really do enjoy winning and the reason I came up with so many fun challenges and games for the book is because I wish I could actually try them out in real life! And the alliances question is really difficult. Emmett and I are too similar, so I’m not sure I would have picked him as an ally. I would have probably gone for someone who’s skills and strengths are different than mine. Maybe Katsu?

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Debut Sci-Fi Author Scott Reintgen, Author of Nyxia”

Exclusive Interview with Sci-Fi Author Mary Fan on Her Newest Book Starswept!

Hi guys! Earlier this Summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to review Starswept by Mary Fan, which releases TOMORROW! I loved it so much, and you can see my review of it here! Today I have the amazing opportunity to interview Mary Fan on the blog here, and I’m so excited to share it with you. I hope you enjoy!


About Starswepta0258-starswept-8002bcover2breveal2band2bpromotional

Some melodies reach across the stars.

In 2157, the Adryil—an advanced race of telepathic humanoids—contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris’s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce.

A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.

When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real—by way of telepathy—and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music.

But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he’s hiding something from her—and it’s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth’s alien allies that shatter everything she knows.

Goodreads


Mary Fan

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

Quite simply, I love writing because I love stories, and writing is my vehicle for bringing them to life. I’ve always been a huge reader, and even in elementary school, I was always making up my own stories and creating my own books out of construction paper and glue. It was around seventh grade that I started trying to write full-length books. It started out as being just for fun, but the more I wrote, the more I wanted to get good at it. Every kid has their after-school hobbies, and mine was writing stories.

Sometime around junior year, though, I stopped. I think it was for a variety of reasons… partly because I was feeling discouraged (I’d been rejected from a bunch of writing programs), and partly because I was discovering my love of music theory and composition (I’d been an instrumentalist since I was a toddler, but never really appreciated composition until then). So I set aside the writing for several years while I studied music in college. Then after college, I picked it up again… and I’ve been going ever since!

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

Oof, this is always a tough one! Asking me to name my favorite books is like asking me to name my friends… I never want to list them all because I’m afraid I’ll leave one out and feel bad later! I will say, though, that my favorite genres have always been sci-fi and fantasy. I just love out-of-this-world tales. I tend to lean a bit more toward sci-fi, and I think that’s because I’m just more partial toward the aesthetics of futuristic technology and outer space (though I do love castles and magic as well!). I can trace my love of sci-fi back to Jack Williamson’s Legion of Space, which I discovered around seventh grade. I then fell down a rabbit hole of classic sci-fi—Asimov, Bova, Bradbury, Pohl, etc. Come to think of it, I think my tween obsession with reading old-school sci-fi led to my writing habit… the first manuscript I completed (a silly story about Star Trek-style space explorers battling evil aliens) was a space opera. So I think it’s safe to say those had a huge impact on my writing.

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

I currently work a full-time day job in financial marketing, and I treat writing as my second job. I give myself a schedule and deadlines and everything—I’m my own tough boss haha. Of course, one can’t be working all the time—even when that work is also fun. I also love traveling—both around the world and within the United States. There are so, so many places I want to go! And, of course, I love going to live performances—operas, ballets, Broadway shows, rock concerts, circuses…

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Sci-Fi Author Mary Fan on Her Newest Book Starswept!”