Wednesday, April 18, 2018

YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE by Rachel Lynn Solomon

I've wanted to feature Rachel Lynn Solomon ever since I saw the cover for YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE in my Facebook feed. I love books that explore duality, and the dichotomy of these twins is significant as well as symbolic.

Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

According to your website bio, you used to work for NPR. What did you enjoy most about working there, and in what ways, if any, did it lead to (or supplement) your writing career?

My degree is in journalism, and for a while, I was certain my career was in public radio. I worked for two NPR stations in Seattle as a producer and (very) occasional reporter, and my favorite part was being involved in something that was so much bigger, being part of an organization that's such a force for good in the world. Ultimately, though, journalism was not for me long-term, and the major reason was that I really struggled to manage my emotions while working on heavy stories. Public radio is extremely competitive, though -- there are so few jobs that actually exist in the country, and only a couple places you can work in each state if this is something you really want to do. While it wasn't my path, I did pursue it with vigor for several years post-college, and I imagine that ambition carried over to writing. I tend to be very, very stubborn about my goals!

That's definitely a good thing! YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE explores the possibilities that arise with duality. What do you think it is about the book that most connects with readers?

That's such an interesting question. One thing I've noticed is that while some readers do connect more with one twin, many find themselves rooting for both, or even seeing themselves in both. Adina and Tovah are different, but they're far from opposites. In terms of plot, a lot of us with anxiety (including me) tend to catastrophize. The idea of these opposite fates -- one twin testing negative and one twin testing positive for Huntington's -- is heartbreaking, terrifying, and fascinating. There's so much tension in the premise alone.

Definitely. In your interview with Kit Frick, you talked about the "done-ness" of a book. In your experience, in what ways can a book be "done" as opposed to finished? 

Honestly, no book of mine has ever been "done" at this point except for YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE. I can't open up the document and tweak a sentence or fix a typo. I feel like all my projects are living documents; even after I send something to critique partners or my agent, I'm sometimes still fiddling. "Finished" for me often means it's not keeping me up at night. It means I'm not sending my friend five emails in a row with subject lines like "read this version" and "no wait, actually read this version" and "FINAL VERSION. FOR REAL." Being "done" was hard because I had to finally let go of the characters. They don't occupy space in my mind anymore; that's reserved for my works-in-progress. But I was ready to be done, ready for it to be out in the world.

I'm so glad it is. What are some of your current projects? 

I've just wrapped up final(ish) edits on OUR YEAR OF MAYBE, which is coming out from Simon Pulse in early 2019! So it's "finished" but not "done" :). It's dual POV, like my debut, and is about the aftermath of a kidney transplant between best friends, complicated by the fact that the donor is in love with the recipient. I'm also working on a YA romantic comedy and a short story for a Jewish YA anthology coming out next fall.


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Bio:

Rachel Lynn Solomon lives, writes, and tap dances in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of two young adult novels, You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone (out now from Simon Pulse) and Our Year of Maybe (out in 2019). You can find her online at rachelsolomonbooks.com and on Twitter @rlynn_solomon.


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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

ANATOMY OF A MURDERER by Tim Floreen

It's always a pleasure catching up with Tim Floreen, which I was able to do at this year's YANovCon. I couldn't wait to feature ANATOMY OF A MURDERER, the paperback edition of his book TATTOO ATLAS, which comes out on April 24.

A teenage sociopath is “fixed” after he gets an implant that’s supposed to cure him in this thrilling coming-of-age tale from the author of Willful Machines.

A year ago, Rem Braithwaite watched his classmate Franklin Kettle commit a horrific crime.

Now, apart from the nightmares, life has gone back to normal for Rem. Franklin was caught, convicted, and put away in juvenile detention for what he did. The ordeal seems to be over.

Until Rem’s mother selects Franklin as a test subject for an experimental brain procedure intended to “cure” him of his cruel and violent impulses. Suddenly Rem’s memories of that day start coming back to the surface. His nightmares become worse than ever. Plus he has serious doubts about whether his mother’s procedure will even work. Can evil really just be turned off?

Then, as part of Franklin’s follow-up testing, he and Rem are brought face to face, and Rem discovers…Franklin does seem different. Despite everything, Rem finds himself becoming friends with Franklin. Maybe even something more than friends.

But when another of their classmates turns up dead, Rem’s world turns upside-down yet again. Franklin insists that he’s innocent, that he’s cured, but Rem doesn’t know what to believe. Is someone else responsible for this new murder, or is Franklin fated to stay a monster forever? And can Rem find out the answer to this question before the killer, whoever it is, comes after him too?

On your website, you mention that you are "a little obsessed with Wonder Woman." Where did this "obsession" start, and what did you think of the Wonder Woman movie with Gal Godot?

 I’m totally dating myself here, but my love of Wonder Woman actually started with the Lynda Carter TV show, which began airing when I was three years old. Her glamour and power captured my imagination, and pretty soon I was having my mom make me a tiara and bracelets out of paper so I could run around tying up friends and family with my “magic lasso.” I’ve loved her ever since. Last year, though I was thrilled someone was FINALLY making a Wonder Woman movie, I was also nervous that my beloved character would get ruined. So it came as a huge relief when I saw the movie and found I LOOOOOVED it. It took all the classic elements of the Wonder Woman character and combined them in a way that felt completely new and fresh—while saying something quite profound about war and the nature of evil.

I agree! DC finally got themselves some decent screenwriters too. 
ANATOMY OF A MURDERER is the paperback edition of TATTOO ATLAS. Can you share what led to the title change in the latest edition? 

I think the publisher was concerned that the previous title, TATTOO ATLAS, didn’t give a clear enough idea of what the book was about. I came up with a list of alternate titles, and my editor chose ANATOMY OF A MURDERER, a play on the title of the classic movie ANATOMY OF A MURDER. This title definitely ties directly to what lies at the center of the novel: the body of the teenage sociopath Franklin Kettle—more specifically, his brain. AOAM is a psychological thriller that deals with the question of what might make the brain of a killer different and whether changing the way the brain works can actually make a “bad” person “good.” In other words, CAN EVIL BE CURED? (Cue dramatic music.)

A thought provoking question, indeed! In our last interview, you mentioned you were contributing to a "collaborative novel" project called FERAL YOUTH. What was the most rewarding part of this process?

I had a blast working on FERAL YOUTH. First off, I just love the idea of the project—a book that’s not quite a novel and not quite an anthology, but something in between. The premise is that a group of teens at a wilderness survival camp for troubled youth are passing the time telling each other stories, Canterbury Tales-style. Each of the involved authors wrote one of the stories and developed the character telling that story, and Shaun David Hutchinson wrote the framing narrative. I loved getting to work with him and all the other authors. Plus, it was so much fun writing a short story—something I hadn’t done in a while—and trying my hand at a noir-style revenge tale.

Looks like I'll have to add FERAL YOUTH to my TBR list!  If you could tell your younger writer self one thing, what would it be and why? 

Write for yourself, not for others. I wasted too many years writing the kind of fiction I thought I was SUPPOSED to write instead of the kind that truly filled me with joy. I’m much happier writing sci-fi thrillers for young adults. :)

ANATOMY OF A MURDERER (a.k.a. TATTOO ATLAS)





TATTOO ATLAS


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FERAL YOUTH



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WILLFUL MACHINES


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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

CHAINBREAKER, the second in the Timekeeper series, by Tara Sim

I first featured Tara Sim here, and as soon as I saw the exciting new cover for CHAINBREAKER, I knew a re-feature was in order. CHAINBREAKER builds on what happened in TIMEKEEPER, and puts it into a dramatic new setting: India.

Clock mechanic Danny Hart knows he's being watched. But by whom, or what, remains a mystery. To make matters worse, clock towers have begun falling in India, though time hasn't Stopped yet. He'd hoped after reuniting with his father and exploring his relationship with Colton, he'd have some time to settle into his new life. Instead, he's asked to investigate the attacks.

After inspecting some of the fallen Indian towers, he realizes the British occupation may be sparking more than just attacks. And as Danny and Colton unravel more secrets about their past, they find themselves on a dark and dangerous path--one from which they may never return.

In our last interview, you said, "Time is already a strange concept to us IRL, and it's even more so for my characters, who perceive it as a sort of magic that only a few can tap into." In what ways, if any, has time been magic for you?

There's a quote in Timekeeper that kind of expands on the idea of time seeming to shorten as you get older, which is definitely true. There's also a strange magic in the way that time both seems to stretch and somehow take forever, which I've never been able to figure out. There's always some difference in how time feels and how it's told, if that makes sense.

CHAINBREAKER deals with the British occupation in India. What about this era of history do you wish people knew more about?

Well, basically everything! I was always really sad that we never got to study India in school; the most we got was learning about Gandhi. I didn't even know all that much about the British Raj until I started doing research for Chainbreaker, but it was SUCH an important period in the country's history that ultimately shaped it into what it is today. India didn't even get independence until 1947, which really isn't that long ago. England had the country in its clutches before that, with a strong military presence that was able to snuff any and all rebellions that arose in that time.

Yes, didn't know much either, until I learned about the Partition of 1947 during my time as a librarian. Here's hoping more of India's history gets discussed in schools.
I've often heard second books in a series can be difficult to write. What was your experience with CHAINBREAKER, and what, if anything, did you learn from it?

When I wrote the first draft, I actually had fun with it, despite the amount of research I had to juggle. It definitely had its difficulties, particularly in regards to plotting--what information to reveal and where, and with which character--and how to write about India from a certain perspective. I think this book helped me learn even more about how to bridge books 1 and 3 of a trilogy, about letting the book have its own arc while continuing the overall trilogy arc.

Sounds useful! What are three books (besides yours) you would recommend to your readers and why?

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab, for more magical London hijinks.


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A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING by Jessica Cluess, for even MORE magical (Victorian) London hijinks.


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WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon, for cute Indian romance.


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THE TIMEKEEPER SERIES



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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

OTHER BREAKABLE THINGS by Kelley York and Rowan Altwood

I met Kelley York and her co-author, Rowan Altwood, at a Barnes and Noble book event, and was immediately intrigued by the premise of OTHER BREAKABLE THINGS. This story embraces second chances, and shows why no one should ever give up.


According to Japanese legend, folding a thousand paper cranes will grant you healing.

Evelyn Abel will fold two thousand if it will bring Luc back to her.

Luc Argent has always been intimately acquainted with death. After a car crash got him a second chance at life—via someone else’s transplanted heart—he tried to embrace it. He truly did. But he always knew death could be right around the corner again.

And now it is.

Sick of hospitals and tired of transplants, Luc is ready to let his failing heart give out, ready to give up. A road trip to Oregon—where death with dignity is legal—is his answer. But along for the ride is his best friend, Evelyn.

And she’s not giving up so easily.

A thousand miles, a handful of roadside attractions, and one life-altering kiss later, Evelyn’s fallen, and Luc’s heart is full. But is it enough to save him? Evelyn’s betting her heart, her life, that it can be.

Right down to the thousandth paper crane.

Kelley York also answered a few interview questions:

According to your website, in addition to being an author, you are also a graphic designer with a specialty in book cover design. What, in your opinion, are the necessary elements of a good book cover?

There are a lot of elements to this so I'm going to try my best to keep this answer concise: 1. Genre-matching (you don't want someone to pick up your YA contemporary romance thinking it's a sci-fi book, for instance), 2. Technical aspects (good compositing and typography, for instance), 3. Uniqueness, and 4.) the ability to give a reader some kind of idea of what they're getting into when they pick the book up.

The cover of OTHER BREAKABLE THINGS demonstrates this beautifully. Since you co-wrote this with Rowan Altwood, what was the collaboration process like when you wrote Luc and Evelyn's story?

It was my first time finishing something with someone else, and it definitely has it's own unique challenges, but at the same time, co-writing is exciting. We plotted out most of the book together first, so we knew what needed to happen as we alternated chapter by chapter and consulted one another on "our character's" reactions to things. Rowan is largely responsible for all things Luc, and I'm largely responsible for all things Evelyn.

Lovely. Another book of yours, SUICIDE WATCH, deals with the fragility of life and the complicated bonds we make with others. What parts of Vince's story were the most challenging to write and why?  

Suicide Watch is very much a book near to my heart, because a lot of Vince's struggles have been my own. Even down to a few small scenes in the book that were a direct reflection of things I've gone through or felt or thought. But while writing all of that was therapeutic in a lot of ways, it was also terrifying to share that part of myself. I had this deep fear I would put this book out there and readers might not "get" Vince, or might shrug off his issues, which in turn would be dismissing my own. To date, it's my most personal book and putting that much of yourself into your writing is scary.

Indeed it is, and I'll bet plenty of readers understood where Vince was coming from. What are some of your current projects?

I have an LGBT book set in Mare Island (remember that place from Other Breakable Things?) that's about halfway done, and I've been a little stuck on it. Actively, Rowan and I are working on another book together; this one is an LGBT horror/thriller set in a British boarding school in the late 1800's. It's halfway done, and we've been chugging away at it every single day this month. It might end up being the fastest book I've ever written, and I'm so ridiculously excited for it!


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Monday, March 26, 2018

Monday Feature: Video Conversation with Greg Neri, author of WHEN PAUL MET ARTIE and TRU & NELLE

I met Greg Neri at this year's YANovCon, and we had a lovely conversation. He talked about his newest picture book, WHEN PAUL MET ARTIE. It's about Simon and Garfunkel, and it debuted on March 20. Click the video below for more:



For more on Greg and his books, you can visit his website, https://www.gregneri.com/home/.


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Tru & Nelle:


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This post can be viewed on Wordpress here, and the video can also be viewed on YouTube.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

THE ART OF THE SWAP by Kristine Asselin and Jen Malone

I first heard about THE ART OF THE SWAP when it was featured in an email from a local bookstore, and I completely fell in love with the cover. It debuted last month, and it has a fantastic premise:


Two girls trade places in time to solve a legendary art heist across two centuries!

As the daughter of a caretaker for a mansion-turned-museum, twelve-year-old Hannah Jordan has spent nearly all her life steeped in the history of the Gilded Age of Newport, Rhode Island. The Elms, the mansion where her dad works (and they both live), is one of the most esteemed historical properties on famed Bellevue Avenue. Mysterious legends and priceless artifacts clutter every inch of the marble floors and golden walls, but Hannah is most drawn to the reproduction portrait of Maggie Dunlap, the twelve year-old subject of a famous painting stolen in a legendary art heist on the day of its scheduled unveiling in 1905.

Hannah dreams of how glamorous life must have been for the young oil-heiress, Maggie, at the turn of the century, but she never expects she’ll have a chance to experience it herself… until the day a mysterious mirror allows the two girls to change places in time!

In 1905, Hannah races to stop the art heist from happening—something she is convinced will allow the girls to trade back to their own eras—while in current times, Maggie gets a hilarious introduction to the modern digital age and a new perspective on women's roles in society while reveling in the best invention of all: sweatpants. So long corsets!

As the hours tick off to the recorded moment of the legendary art heist, something’s not adding up. Can the girls work together against time—and across it—to set things right... or will their temporary swap become a permanent trade?

Kris Asselin also answered a few interview questions:

THE ART OF THE SWAP is your first published Middle Grade (MG) book. What, if anything, was different in your writing process for a MG novel?

THE ART OF THE SWAP is my first published Middle Grade, but I've written several! The process isn't so different than YA for me, though it's much different from my nonfiction. I generally start with a kernel of an idea, and write a blurb...something like a query blurb...and then build from there. In this particular situation, I had the general idea of a girl who lived with a parent at a living museum. It got much bigger after brainstorming with my friend and writing partner Jen Malone. After a long car ride together, it became a time-traveling, feminist, dual POV project! Working with someone else was brilliant--having another brain to bounce ideas off of, and to share in the research and writing really made this project different from any other for me.

I'll bet, and I love how THE ART OF THE SWAP deals with changing places in time. If you found yourself in 1905, what would be the first thing you would do and why?

We picked 1905 because it really was the heyday of the gilded age in Newport, Rhode Island. If I found myself traveling through a portal back to that time and to that place, I'd love to try on a ball gown and attend one of those infamous society parties. I think it would be absolutely magical.

I'd also take a moment to look up at the stars--so fewer lights back then that I'm sure the sky was far more brilliant than today.

That sounds fantastic. I love the cover for THE ART OF THE SWAP! What, in your opinion, are the necessary elements of a book cover?

Thank you so much! We love our cover as well. We really wanted something that would appeal to both boys and girls--even though THE ART OF THE SWAP has a pretty strong feminist story arc, we think the subject appeals to readers of both genders. We didn't want the cover to be stereotypical  "girly." I think it's important for a cover to tell a story--for it to be something that will make people pick it up. There are some really beautiful covers being made these days!

And yours is definitely one of my favorites. What are some of your current projects?

I'm working on a new middle grade which we're tentatively pitching as "The Ghost Whisperer" T.V. show meets "The Classy Crooks Club" by Allison Cherry -- it's about a girl whose mother works as a professional mourner, and who begins solving mysteries using her ability to talk to the recently deceased. It's still very much a work in progress, but I'm having fun with the research.


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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

12 STEPS TO NORMAL by Farrah Penn

I met Farrah Penn at last year's YALLWEST, and when I found out that her book 12 STEPS TO NORMAL confronted the necessary issue of addiction, I knew I had to feature it. It debuted yesterday, and I'm sure it will appeal to a lot of readers.


Kira's Twelve Steps To A Normal Life

1. Accept Grams is gone.
2. Learn to forgive Dad.
3. Steal back ex-boyfriend from best friend...

And somewhere between 1 and 12, realize that when your parent's an alcoholic, there's no such thing as "normal."

When Kira's father enters rehab, she's forced to leave everything behind--her home, her best friends, her boyfriend...everything she loves. Now her father's sober (again) and Kira is returning home, determined to get her life back to normal...exactly as it was before she was sent away.

But is that what Kira really wants?



In addition to being an author, you work for Buzzfeed. What do you love most about both jobs and why?

One of the best things about working at BuzzFeed is the people. I love going into an office where I'm surrounded by talented, funny, creative, and collaborative co-workers. Working there also allows me to be creative with content in a way that's different from writing a novel because I'm writing up fun pieces about pop-culture or books that are immediately published, or working on a video that takes me a few weeks to edit and put out in the world, and both provide that feeling of instant gratification. Books take a *little* bit longer to get out in the world, and I love having the quiet alone time in my own head to work on a story. Both equally feed my extroverted and introverted sides!


Ah, an ambi-vert! Me too. 12 STEPS TO NORMAL not only talks about addition, but how it affects everyone surrounding the user(s). What do you hope readers can gain from this book when they're finished?

Alcohol addiction and substance abuse have a social shame surrounding it, which sometimes makes it hard to talk about. Growing up, I told very few people there was someone in my family struggling because on one hand, I didn't quite know how to talk about it, and on the other hand, I personally felt like it was shameful to admit. It was also heartbreaking losing friendships when family friends did find out and would therefore decide to distance themselves. So I hope this book provides readers with a little bit of empathy. I also hope it can act as encouragement to start a conversation or seek out help if they're going through something similar to what Kira is facing.


It's definitely a book a lot of people need. And I love your website. What led to its current iteration?

Thank you! I'm not a web designer by any means, but after scouring Pinterest I had an idea of the layout I wanted. My good friend Jon Moreaux was able to create it for me, and Omar Padilla built it out in a way that was manageable for me to update!


Checking Pinterest for web design sounds like a great idea. What are some of your current projects?

I'm not going to reveal too much, but I've been working on another YA contemporary that centers around sisters and — I hope — contains a lot of female empowerment.


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