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!”


This Month’s LILbooKtalk: “Healing through Stories: Two Novels of Uniting Families” with Corabel Shofner and Leslie Hauser

Hi guys! I am super excited for this month’s LILbooKtalk! I had the amazing opportunity to read both of these excellent debuts, and they share so many similar themes and conflicts that I had to invite both of the authors in our February panel. Today, we have Corabel Shofner, author of Almost Paradise, and Leslie Hauser, author of Chasing Eveline, on the blog today to talk about “Healing through Stories: Two Novels of Uniting Families.” It was definitely a fun chat to moderate, and I hope you enjoy it!

About Almost ParadiseAlmost Paradise

Twelve-year-old Ruby Clyde Henderson’s life turns upside down the day her mother’s boyfriend holds up a convenience store, and her mother is wrongly imprisoned for assisting with the crime. Ruby and her pet pig, Bunny, find their way to her estranged Aunt Eleanor’s home. Aunt Eleanor is a nun who lives on a peach orchard called Paradise, and had turned away from their family long ago. With a little patience, she and Ruby begin to get along―but Eleanor has secrets of her own, secrets that might mean more hard times for Ruby.

Ruby believes that she’s the only one who can find a way to help heal her loved ones, save her mother, and bring her family back together again. But being in a family means that everyone has to work together to support each other, and being home doesn’t always mean going back to where you came from.


About Chasing EvelineChasing Eveline

Sixteen-year-old Ivy Higgins is the only student at Carmel Heights High School who listens to cassettes. And her binder is the only one decorated with album artwork by 80s band Chasing Eveline. Despite being broken-up since 1989, this rock band out of Ireland means everything to Ivy. They’re a reminder of her mom, who abandoned Ivy and her dad two years ago. Now the music of her mom’s favorite band is the only connection she has left.

Even though Ivy wavers between anger and a yearning to reconnect, she’s one-hundred percent certain she’s not ready to lose her mom forever. But the only surefire way to locate her would be at a Chasing Eveline concert. So with help from her lone friend Matt—an equally abandoned soul and indie music enthusiast—Ivy hatches a plan to reunite the band.

The road to Ireland won’t be easy, though. And not just because there is no road. Along the way they’ll have to win over their Lady Gaga-loving peers, tangle with some frisky meerkats, and oh yeah, somehow find and persuade the four members to play a reunion gig. It’s a near-impossible task, but Ivy has to try. If she can’t let go of the past, she’ll never be able to find joy in the present.


LILbooKtalk 3

Questions are in bold

Kester: The first author we have today is the wonderful Corabel Shofner, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Southern Festival of Books last October. Her Middle Grade debut novel Almost Paradise released last summer, and I enjoyed it so much that I finished it in a day! Could you describe to us a bit about your book and yourself?Almost Paradise

Corabel: ALMOST PARADISE is a Middle Grade contemporary novel with lots of whimsy, humor and heartbreak. In some ways it is a reverse coming of age story, since Ruby Clyde had taken on the adult role in her family and needs to reclaim her childhood. I am a wife and mother who lives in Nashville, TN. I had a very colorful life before I settled in the suburbs and I love it out here. ALMOST PARADISE is my debut novel although I have written law, short stories, essays and such.

Kester: Thank you, Corabel! It’s so great to be having a local Tennessee author here on the blog! We also have the amazing Leslie Hauser, who I was able to interview on my blog last summer. I loved her Young Adult contemporary debut Chasing Eveline, which I also devoured in a single day! Would you also like to share with us a bit about your novel and your background?

Leslie: Hi! Thanks for having me here. CHASING EVELINE is about 16-year-old Ivy HIggins and her desire to reunite her mom’s favorite 80s band. She thinks it may be the only way to find her mom who left Ivy and her dad several years prior, but also the music is a way to keep her mom present in her life. It also has some humor and heartbreak–sounds like a good companion to ALMOST PARADISE! I am a middle school English and history teacher in California and CHASING EVELINE is my debut novel.

Kester: Chasing Eveline and Almost Paradise are definitely great companions! (And you provided the perfect segue for my next question, Leslie!) That’s why as I read both of your novels, I noticed that each of your main characters share the common goal of healing their broken families. How do you want readers to be impacted by Ivy’s attempts at finding her long-lost mother or Ruby Clyde’s actions to help her mother avoid being imprisoned? How do your characters learn what it means to love those around you?

Chasing EvelineLeslie: Losing someone is difficult. I realized after my aunt passed away that every year, the memories became dimmer. It’s to the point now where I can’t even see parts of these memories (like the picture in Back to the Future! If you’re familiar with that movie.) Ivy’s quest to reunite Chasing Eveline is her way of dealing with loss and trying to keep her mom present. I wanted to write a story that shows that there are productive outlets for grief. I would hope readers would see that as a takeaway.

Corabel: Hi Leslie, I haven’t written anything with music as an element but I love the way Ivy seeks her mother through her mother’s favorite 80’s band. Reminds me a bit of Guardians of the Galaxy where he’s stomping through puddles listening to his mother’s old music, on an old player. Ruby Clyde is a self possessed little thing. She willingly steps up to care for her fragile mother but when the Catfish (mother’s rascal boyfriend) launches off on a cross country trip and gets them both arrested, Ruby Clyde is consumed with a longing for home and a growing realization that she might not be able to single handedly save her mother from prison. I want my readers to feel brave. Bravery is contagious.

Leslie: Sounds like Ivy and Ruby both have to step up in their families. Ivy feels compelled to take care of her dad in her mother’s absence. Bravery is definitely important when dealing with these struggles.

Corabel: Everybody loves the precocious child, the ‘little mother’ or the one who takes care of everything because a parent is damaged. People should realized that these children pay a price by losing their childhood. My sister did that in our family and it did not end well. I’ve since seen other children try to play this role and it breaks my heart. But their old personalities in the miniature bodies is often hilarious.
Continue reading “This Month’s LILbooKtalk: “Healing through Stories: Two Novels of Uniting Families” with Corabel Shofner and Leslie Hauser”


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”


January Reading Re-Cap!

Hi guys! January was definitely a crazy month for me. I got off for an entire week due to snow, but I did win first place in DECA regionals! I met and chatted with so many amazing authors over the past few weeks, and I am really excited to see the blog grow even more in 2018. Also, I’m beginning to Bookstagram, which is going to be fun yet a bit challenging. Somehow, I managed to squeeze in 11 books this month, which is a remarkable feat considering my schedule, and I’m hoping to finish many more soon!

5 Stars

The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine

The Shadow Queen


Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

Tempests and Slaughter

Goodreads Continue reading “January Reading Re-Cap!”


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”


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”


This Month’s LILbooKtalk!: “The Importance of Historical Fiction for Young Readers” with Linda Williams Jackson and Gwen C. Katz

Hi guys! Today starts off the first full week of school for me, so I’m going to be a bit less active on social media since this semester is going to be hectic. Already, I have my DECA District Career Development Conference next Tuesday, so wish me luck in my competition! Today, I am also sharing with y’all my second ever LILbooKtalk (this will be a monthly post, so look out for February’s soon!), and I am so excited to have Linda Williams Jackson and Gwen C. Katz here to talk about “The Importance of Historical Fiction for Young Readers.” Historical fiction is my favorite genre, so I am super stoked to let you all read this discussion. Enjoy!

About Midnight without a MoonMidnight without a Moon

It’s Mississippi in the summer of 1955, and Rose Lee Carter can’t wait to move north. For now, she’s living with her sharecropper grandparents on a white man’s cotton plantation. Then, one town over, an African American boy, Emmett Till, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. When Till’s murderers are unjustly acquitted, Rose realizes that the South needs a change and that she should be part of the movement. Linda Jackson’s moving debut seamlessly blends a fictional portrait of an African American family and factual events from a famous trial that provoked change in race relations in the United States.


About A Sky Full of StarsA Sky Full of Stars

After the murder of Emmett Till, thirteen-year-old Rose is struggling with her decision to stay in Mississippi. Torn between the opinions of Shorty, a boy who wants to meet violence with violence, and Hallelujah, her best friend who believes in the power of peaceful protests, Rose is scared of the mounting racial tension and is starting to lose hope. But when Rose helps Aunt Ruthie start her own business, she begins to see how she can make a difference in her community. Life might be easier in the North, but Mississippi is home and that’s worth fighting for. Mid-Century Mississippi comes alive in this sequel to Midnight Without a Moon


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.


LILbooKtalk 2

(Questions are in bold; HF = Historical Fiction)

Kester: The first author we have today is Linda Williams Jackson, who wrote the stunning Rose Lee Carter series, which comprises of Midnight without a Moon and A Sky Full of Stars. A Sky Full of Stars just released last week on January 2nd! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your novels?Midnight without a Moon

Linda: Hi Kester. Thanks for doing this chat. I was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, which is where my novels take place. It is also where the Emmett Till murder occurred. That murder and the swift trial and acquittal of the accused are the historical part of my “historical” novel.

Kester: Thank you so much, Linda! I really loved both of your novels, and I am super excited to have you here today! Alongside Linda, we have the wonderful Gwen C. Katz, who I had the pleasure of interviewing back in October about her debut novel Among the Red Stars. Would you also like to share with us a bit about your book and your background?

Gwen: Hey Kester. Thanks for having me. I’m Gwen Katz and I wrote about the Night Witches, an all-female bomber regiment who served on the front in Russia during World War II. It’s one of those really cool yet inexplicably neglected historical topics and I just wanted more people to know about it.

Kester: That sounds awesome! I’m really looking forward to reading Among the Red Stars! This month’s LILbooKtalk theme is “The Importance of Historical Fiction for Young Readers.” Why do you both believe that it is critical for children and teens to be exposed to history through literature? How do your novels achieve the purpose of enlightening readers on the struggles of the past while conveying themes that could inspire generations?

Linda: I think it’s a more intriguing way to learn about history rather than in a textbook. As far as young readers are concerned, I think they would probably prefer reading a novel over reading a biography or a nonfiction book. HF also lends itself to tell stories that might get overlooked, such as the story Gwen has unfolded in Among the Red Stars. There is only so much space in those history books, so it’s up to us to tell the stories that get left out. And we can do this in an engaging way via HF.

Kester: Right. I definitely agree with you! Sometimes it’s hard to connect with history when I’m reading it from a textbook rather than a fiction novel.

Gwen: I think it’s important to expose young people to historical fiction because it allows them to make a personal connection to history. Historical events like wars and battles are often taught as a dry list of dates and locations and it’s easy for it all to feel very distant. Fiction helps us remember that every one of those war casualties was a real person with their own life, their own family, and their own dreams.

Linda: I love that answer, Gwen.

Gwen: And I definitely agree with Linda that a novel feels a lot more accessible to young people (and, for that matter, readers of all ages). Why shouldn’t learning about history be entertaining as well as informative?

Continue reading “This Month’s LILbooKtalk!: “The Importance of Historical Fiction for Young Readers” with Linda Williams Jackson and Gwen C. Katz”


First Post of 2018: My 18 Most Anticipated Releases of the New Year!

Hi guys! Happy New Year!!! It’s 2018! It’s another year full of new opportunities and new books to read! For the first ever post of the year, I am going to list my 18 most anticipated releases (get it, since it’s 2018!), which includes debuts, sequels, and ARCs I have already read (but you still need to read nonetheless). Certainly check out the books below, for many of the authors here are amazing people, and they would love your support! Enjoy!

Dazzling Debuts

Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay ElyGunslinger Girl

Release Date: January 2nd

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.


Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Ruth MeyerBeneath the Haunting Sea

Release Date: January 9th

Sixteen-year-old Talia was born to a life of certainty and luxury, destined to become Empress of half the world. But when an ambitious rival seizes power, she and her mother are banished to a nowhere province on the far edge of the Northern Sea.

It is here, in the drafty halls of the Ruen-Dahr, that Talia discovers family secrets, a melancholy boy with a troubling vision of her future, and a relic that holds the power of an ancient Star. On these shores, the eerie melody of the sea is stronger than ever, revealing long-forgotten tales of the Goddess Rahn. The more dark truths that Talia unravels about the gods’ history—and her own—the more the waves call to her, and it may be her destiny to answer.


Blood Water and Paint by Joy McCulloughBlood Water Paint

Release Date: March 6th

A stunning debut novel based on the true story of the iconic painter, Artemisia Gentileschi.

Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father’s paint.

She chose paint.

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome’s most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.

He will not consume
my every thought.
I am a painter.
I will paint.

Joy McCullough’s bold novel in verse is a portrait of an artist as a young woman, filled with the soaring highs of creative inspiration and the devastating setbacks of a system built to break her. McCullough weaves Artemisia’s heartbreaking story with the stories of the ancient heroines, Susanna and Judith, who become not only the subjects of two of Artemisia’s most famous paintings but sources of strength as she battles to paint a woman’s timeless truth in the face of unspeakable and all-too-familiar violence.

I will show you
what a woman can do.

Goodreads Continue reading “First Post of 2018: My 18 Most Anticipated Releases of the New Year!”