Posts Categorized: Author Interview

The Debut Dish: Kerry Winfrey, Lauren Karcz, & Katy Upperman (+ Giveaways)

July 23, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 3

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Kerry Winfrey (Love and Other Alien Experiences), Lauren Karcz (The Gallery of Unfinished Girls), and Katy Upperman (Kissing Max Holden).


Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey
July 11, 2017 from Feiwel & Friends
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I’m never going outside again.

Mallory hasn’t left the house in sixty-seven days–since the day her dad left. She attends her classes via webcam, rarely leaves her room (much to her brother’s chagrin), and spends most of her time watching The X-Files or chatting with the always obnoxious BeamMeUp on New Mexico’s premier alien message board.

But when she’s shockingly nominated for homecoming queen, her life takes a surprising turn. She slowly begins to open up to the world outside. And maybe if she can get her popular jock neighbor Brad Kirkpatrick to be her homecoming date, her classmates will stop calling her a freak.

In this heartwarming and humorous debut, Mallory discovers first love and the true meaning of home–just by taking one small step outside her house.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Anxiety, aliens, homecoming, and kissing.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Probably the scene where some of the characters go to an amusement park after hours. Not to spoil anything, but it involves all the stuff I like to write about: romantic tension, subtext-laden conversations, and someone barfing.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I wish it happened somewhere glamorous or exciting, but I was just at my desk in my home office. Maybe I should make up a better story.

What’s your favorite junk food?
I could eat a truly obscene amount of chocolate chip cookies. Like, imagine how many you think a person could eat, and then double that, and then it’s probably more.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
My Louis Tomlinson/One Direction key chain. 1D may be on hiatus, but his benevolent presence watches over me always.


The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz
July 25, 2017 from HarperTEEN
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Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile since her award-winning piece Food Poisoning #1 last year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is lying comatose in faraway Puerto Rico after suffering a stroke. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she never has before. She can share her deepest secrets and feel safe. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. As her life continues to crumble around her, the Estate offers more solace than she could hope for. But Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Girls, court, art, and danger.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
It’s a kissing scene. It’s the midpoint of the book. Those middle scenes are always my favorite to write, actually. The midpoint is usually either a false victory or a false defeat for the main character. For my main character, Mercedes, she’s got herself a false victory, which she finds out just one scene later. Alas.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at my day job. I saw an e-mail from my agent that HarperTeen had officially made an offer on my book… and then I immediately had to go to a meeting with my boss. I remember I was shaking practically the whole meeting, amazed that my manuscript was going to have readers outside my agent and my critique group!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Dark chocolate covered pretzels. Trader Joe’s brand would be my preference.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
It’s a notebook with a picture of a white cat on the front. The white cat isn’t the weird part — it’s that I’ve had this notebook since I was about 8 years old. I found it in a drawer a couple months ago and saw that it was still about half blank, so I started using it for to-do lists and critique notes. But it’s also got relics from Little Me in it: my 4th grade best friend’s phone number, drawings of characters I used to write about, star ratings of every movie I saw when I was about 11 (The Sound of Music and North by Northwest each got four stars). Such an interesting time capsule.

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Kissing Max Holden by Katy Upperman
August 1, 2017 from Swoon Reads
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Kissing Max Holden was a terrible idea…

After his father has a life-altering stroke, Max Holden isn’t himself. As his long-time friend, Jillian Eldridge only wants to help him, but she doesn’t know how. When Max climbs through her window one night, Jill knows that she shouldn’t let him kiss her. But she can’t resist, and when they’re caught in the act by her dad, Jill swears it’ll never happen again. Because kissing Max Holden is a terrible idea.

With a new baby sibling on the way, her parents fighting all the time, and her dream of culinary school up in the air, Jill starts spending more and more time with Max. And even though her father disapproves and Max still has a girlfriend, not kissing Max is easier said than done. Will Jill follow her heart and allow their friendship to blossom into something more, or will she listen to her head and stop kissing Max Holden once and for all?

Describe your book in five words or less.
Girl kisses boy; trouble ensues.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My book is called KISSING MAX HOLDEN for a reason — there’s a lot of kissing! But not all kisses are created equally. Jilly’s first kiss with Max isn’t exactly romantic, and it creates a lot of problems for the two of them. But later, there’s this mistletoe kiss that totally makes up for that messy first smooch. I love this particular scene because it’s swoony and also sort of funny, and it’s one of the few scenes that’s remained almost entirely unchanged through years of rewrites and revisions.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I had just climbed into my car after a full day of substitute teaching. I checked my email before pulling out of the parking lot, and found a letter from Swoon Reads, asking if we could schedule a phone call to chat about them possibly publishing my manuscript. Needless to say, I was THRILLED!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Any sort of sweet, carb-heavy baked good. I make an especially tasty chocolate chip cookie, but I love brownies and carrot cake and croissants with chocolate drizzle and jelly beans, too.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Probably my collection of makeup brushes. My desk is multipurpose — I write at it, and it doubles as a vanity.

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The Debut Dish: Jennifer Honeybourn, Matthew Landis, Laura Silverman, Jennifer Fenn & Emily Bain Murphy (+ Giveaways)

July 9, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 6

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Jennifer Honeybourn (Wesley James Ruined My Life), Matthew Landis (League of American Traitors), Laura Silverman (Girl Out of Water), Jennifer Fenn (Flight Risk), and Emily Bain Murphy (The Disappearances).


Welsey James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn
July 18, 2017 from Swoon Reads
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Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend—until he ruined her life, that is.

So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score all at once—by getting him fired.

But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to just get over it.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Light, funny, love-hate, romance.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
One of my favorite scenes is near the beginning of the book, when Quinn realizes the hot guy who was just hired at Tudor Tymes, the medieval England style restaurant she works, is in fact her nemesis from elementary school, Wesley James.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
It was spring break and I was at home when I received the email from Swoon Reads. One of the best moments of my life. Still pinching myself!

What’s your favorite junk food?
I’m going to have to go with chocolate. Any kind, any time.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A lamp shaped like an owl.

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League of American Traitors by Matthew Landis
August 8, 2017 from Sky Pony Press
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National Treasure meets Hamilton in a breathless history-based thriller from an outstanding new voice.

Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. . . .

When seventeen year-old Jasper is approached at the funeral of his deadbeat father by a man claiming to be an associate of his deceased parents, he’s thrust into a world of secrets tied to America’s history—and he’s right at the heart of it.

First, Jasper finds out he is the sole surviving descendant of Benedict Arnold, the most notorious traitor in American history. Then he learns that his father’s death was no accident. Jasper is at the center of a war that has been going on for centuries, in which the descendants of the heroes and traitors of the American Revolution still duel to the death for the sake of their honor.

His only hope to escape his dangerous fate on his eighteenth birthday? Take up the research his father was pursuing at the time of his death, to clear Arnold’s name.

Whisked off to a boarding school populated by other descendants of notorious American traitors, it’s a race to discover the truth. But if Jasper doesn’t find a way to uncover the evidence his father was hunting for, he may end up paying for the sins of his forefathers with his own life.

Like a mash-up of National Treasure and Hamilton, Matthew Landis’s debut spins the what-ifs of American history into a heart-pounding thriller steeped in conspiracy, clue hunting, and danger.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Traitor offspring seeks ancestral redemption.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Near the climax, there’s this moment when Jasper, my main character, realizes just exactly what it means to finish this quest–to really see it through: namely, taking a life. It’s the individual’s life he’s taking as well that makes this all the more morally complex, but since that’s a spoiler, I’ll let you find out…

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At my kitchen counter, incessantly refreshing Gmail. I was nearing the end of the submission period and just waiting on about 3 presses to rejection us before we pulled together a plan for round two. Phew.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Fritos.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A framed picture of the Rock.

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Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
May 2, 2017 from Sourcebooks Fire
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Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Surfer girl in landlocked Nebraska.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Ooh! Too many! I’ll pick an early one – the nighttime beach bonfire scene with Anise and her friends!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I can’t remember exactly where I was, but I remember my agent calling me, and I was so confused because we always use email not the phone. It was completely surreal and such an amazing, happy moment! I seriously couldn’t believe it!

What’s your favorite junk food?
French fries FOR SURE. I could eat french fries every day of my life to be honest.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Probably a volume of the Talmud (a collection of Jewish writings) I use to raise up my laptop so it’s at eye level haha!


Flight Risk by Jennifer Fenn
July 18, 2017 from Roaring Brook Press
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A debut novel inspired by true events, about a teenage boy who has stolen―and crashed―not one, but three airplanes. And each time he’s walked away unscathed.

Who is Robert Jackson Kelly? Is he a juvenile delinquent? A criminal mastermind? A folk hero? One thing is clear: Robert always defies what people think of him. And now, the kid who failed at school, relationships, and almost everything in life, is determined to successfully steal and land a plane.

Told as an investigation into Robert’s psyche, the narrative includes multiple points of view as well as documentary elements like emails, official records, and interviews with people who knew Robert. Ultimately, Flight Risk is a thrilling story about one teenager who is determined to find a moment of transcendence after everyone else has written him off as lost.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Teenage airplane thief!

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
In “Flight Risk,” Robert Jackson Kelly is an eighteen year old boy who has stolen and then survived crashing several commuter planes. He ends up a notorious celebrity on the run from the law. At one point, Robert is inside a plane, on the runway, trying to escape police who have guns drawn. He hesitates, though, because he doesn’t want to hit a goose with a broken wing that’s been abandoned by its flock. I think that scene is a tense one, and also reveals a lot about Robert’s character.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
In my home office/attic and I screamed so loudly I startled myself.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Jelly beans. I also love a good Frappuccino.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A “Wizard of Oz” coloring book and a plush pig puppet.


The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy
July 4, 2017 from HMH Books for Young Readers
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What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home–and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together–scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream–vanish every seven years.

No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible–and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind.

As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone’s secrets for long before it starts giving them up.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Magical historical mystery and Shakespeare.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There’s a certain kissing scene after a slow-burning build to a romance and I love how the scene turned out, and the realization that leads to it happening. The very last scene of the book is one of my favorites, too.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was driving home from New York City to Connecticut and my agent called! I had to pull off at a little rest area. I sat there for a little bit, grinning. Then I sat there for awhile longer and called my husband and my parents. I’m sure all the truck drivers enjoyed my happy car dancing on the rest of the way home.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Strawberry, banana, and Nutella crepes. Or warm chocolate chip cookies.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A pair of Crooked Kingdom dice, a Lightning McQueen car that my son just made out of beads, and a little bottle of Rescue Remedy in case of emergencies because public speaking makes me feel the teensiest bit panicky. ;D

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The Debut Dish: Kayla Olson, A.V. Geiger, Gillian French, Gwen Cole, & Christina June (+ Giveaways)

June 18, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 6

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Kayla Olson (The Sandcastle Empire), A.V. Geiger (Follow Me Back), Gillian French (Grit), Gwen Cole (Cold Summer), and Christina June (It Started With Goodbye).


The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson
June 6, 2017 from HarperTeen
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When all hope is gone, how do you survive?

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected.

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Survival—but at what cost?

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Ahhh, such a tough question! So many of my favorites are close to the end of the book, or at places where there are big reveals. I also love any time there are quiet moments on the island’s beach, where the girls are trying to figure out their new normal—how to be, with themselves and each other, in this new place. I also love the big flare-up moments that happen while they’re trying to figure those things out, too.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
In my office, lying on the floor, listening to a podcast—and then my phone rang, and everything changed. It was all very surreal!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Dark chocolate, for sure! The darker the better, bonus points if there is a spicy element to it.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Probably this shiny gold robot whose head pops off to reveal a ballpoint pen? I also have a dilophosaurus made of Legos, which I might have permanently borrowed from my little guy’s collection…

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Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger
June 6, 2017 from Sourcebooks Fire
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Tessa Hart’s world feels very small. Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, her one escape is the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn. When he tweets to his fans, it’s like his speaking directly to her…

Eric Thorn is frightened by his obsessive fans. They take their devotion way too far. It doesn’t help that his PR team keeps posting to encourage their fantasies.

When a fellow pop star is murdered at the hands of a fan, Eric knows he has to do something to shatter his online image fast—like take down one of his top Twitter followers. But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…

Told through tweets, direct messages, and police transcripts.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Fangirl + Popstar + Twitter + Love = CREEP-ITUDE

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scenes are all the Twitter direct message conversations between the two main characters. Tessa and Taylor develop a rich friendship through their shared celebrity obsession, but they’re both hiding secrets from one another. I love the interplay of truth and concealment as their friendship turns into something more… and all their lies come back to bite them.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was in my office on a Monday morning. I didn’t expect to hear anything that day. I’d been told the week before that the book had gone to acquisitions, and I should expect an answer by Friday afternoon. Friday came and went. I heard nothing. I assumed the silence meant they had passed. I spent the weekend drowning my sorrows with raw cookie dough and a marathon of New Girl episodes. Then, Monday morning I got the news. I’ll leave my reaction to your imagination. (It involved more cookie dough and lots of screaming.)

What’s your favorite junk food?
Currently obsessed with chocolate peanut butter cups.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Besides the 7,000 empty peanut-butter-cup wrappers? Probably the pile of scrap paper where I was practicing my author signature. Book signings will be a new experience for me!

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Grit by Gillian French
May 16, 2017 from HarperTeen
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His presence beside me is like heat, like weight, something I’ve carried around on my back too long.

It’s summer in rural Maine; when seventeen-year-old Darcy Prentiss isn’t raking berries with her sister, Mags, and cousin, Nell, during the day, she’s drinking and swimming with the boys in the quarry by night. She knows how to have a good time, just like anyone else, but when you’ve been designated the town slut, every move you make seems to further solidify your “trashy girl” reputation.

But the fun is what’s been keeping Darcy’s mind off the things she can’t forget: a disturbing secret she shares with Nell, the mysterious disappearance of her ex-best friend, and that hazy Fourth of July party that ended with Darcy drunk, on her back, wondering how she let it get this far.

Then someone in town anonymously nominates Darcy to be in the running for Bay Festival Princess—a cruel, almost laughable gesture that can only be the work of someone with a score to settle. Everything Darcy has been trying to keep down comes bubbling to the surface in ways she wasn’t prepared to handle…and isn’t sure if she can.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Dark, suspenseful, heartfelt.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I’m not sure I can do this without spoilers! I’ll just say that it’s the climatic scene at the quarry; you’ll have to read it to find out more.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
In my living room. My husband played back the telephone message my agent had left (we had a landline and an old-school answering machine at the time) and found out HarperCollins was interested in Grit! I burst into tears; it had been a long road getting to that point.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Dark chocolate, hands-down.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
The hospital wristbands that my youngest son wore after his birth (he was born 2/1/17.)

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Cold Summer by Gwen Cole
May 2, 2017 from Sky Pony Press
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Today, he’s a high school dropout with no future.
Tomorrow, he’s a soldier in World War II.

Kale Jackson has spent years trying to control his time-traveling ability but hasn’t had much luck. One day he lives in 1945, fighting in the war as a sharpshooter and helplessly watching soldiers—friends—die. Then the next day, he’s back in the present, where WWII has bled into his modern life in the form of PTSD, straining his relationship with his father and the few friends he has left. Every day it becomes harder to hide his battle wounds, both physical and mental, from the past.

When the ex-girl-next-door, Harper, moves back to town, thoughts of what could be if only he had a normal life begin to haunt him. Harper reminds him of the person he was before the PTSD, which helps anchor him to the present. With practice, maybe Kale could remain in the present permanently and never step foot on a battlefield again. Maybe he can have the normal life he craves.

But then Harper finds Kale’s name in a historical article—and he’s listed as a casualty of the war. Kale knows now that he must learn to control his time-traveling ability to save himself and his chance at a life with Harper. Otherwise, he’ll be killed in a time where he doesn’t belong by a bullet that was never meant for him.

Describe your book in five words or less.
A non-typical time-travel book.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
It’s actually the first WWII scene in the book, where the MC is sitting in a foxhole with another guy. It’s one of the first scenes that came to me when I starting writing the book.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At home—boring I know. I love all those cool stories about people crying in public, but mine was nothing like that. My agent already told me Sky Pony was interested, so I kinda knew what was coming when the call finally came. Still an awesome moment, though.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Cheetos and Oreos (original double stuffed).

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Actually, I don’t have a desk. Our house is pretty small, but one day I will have an office with a great desk. And when that day comes, the oddest thing will be a couple gamer figurines.


It Started With Goodbye by Christina June
May 9, 2017 from Blink/HarperCollins
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Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Modern Cinderella with no magic.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene is the very first one I wrote. My main character, Tatum is feeling sorry for herself because she’s found herself in a pickle, both legally and with her family. She’s been forced to attend an event for her stepsister. There, she bumps into a cute stranger with whom she has an undeniable connection. Tatum also takes the first step in advertising her new graphic design business at this event. So, it’s the scene where things start to take a turn for her, in some unexpected ways.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I think I had gone home from work sick that day and was actually laying in bed when the email came through. I burst out crying and called my husband, still in disbelief.

What’s your favorite junk food?
All of it? I love chocolate, pizza, all carbs, but the one I munch on mindlessly while writing is popcorn.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I’m not sure if this counts as odd, but I have a Golden Girls mug right next to my monitor. My mom gave it to me because one of my characters in ISWG is a big fan of the show.

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The Debut Dish: Katie Nelson, Kate Watson, & Karen M. McManus (+ Giveaways)

May 28, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 8

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Katie Nelson (The Duke of Bannerman Prep), Kate Watson (Seeking Mansfield), and Karen M. McManus (One of Us Is Lying).


The Duke of Bannerman Prep by Katie Nelson
May 9, 2017 from Sky Pony Press
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Words are weapons. Facts can be manipulated. And nothing is absolute—especially right and wrong.

Tanner McKay is at Bannerman Prep for only one reason: the elite school recruited him after he brought his public school’s debate team to victory last year. Bannerman wants a championship win. Debate is Tanner’s life—his ticket out of his poor-as-dirt life and family drama, straight to a scholarship to Stanford and the start of a new, better future.

But when he’s paired with the Duke, his plans for an easy ride seem as if they’ve hit the rails. The Duke is the quintessential playboy, beloved by everyone for his laissez-faire attitude, crazy parties, and seemingly effortless favors.

And a total no-show when it comes to putting in the work to win.

But as Tanner gets sucked into the Duke’s flashy world, the thrill of the high life and the adrenaline of existing on the edge becomes addictive. A small favor here and there seems like nothing in exchange for getting everything he ever dreamed of.

But the Duke’s castle is built on shady, shaky secrets, and the walls are about to topple down.

A contemporary retelling of The Great Gatsby, Katie Nelson’s taut debut is perfect for fans of John Green’s Looking for Alaska, Kate Brian’s Private series, and anyone who’s encountered the cut-throat world of competitive high school.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Great Gatsby meets debate team.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There is a scene where the characters go to the beach for the first time. I love it because there have been some significant conflicts up to that point, and many of them get resolved there. But it opens the door for the drama that is to come in the rest of the novel.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at home, doing something extremely exciting like washing dishes or folding laundry (I can’t remember). I got an email from my agent, but she didn’t have a bunch of details at that point. I remember texting my husband and friends and just being so thrilled!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Mint brownies and diet Pepsi. They cancel each other out. ;)

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A pile of Starburst wrappers (all pink).

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Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson
May 16, 2016 from Flux
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Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, the Bertram’s son Oliver. If she could just take Oliver’s constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she’d finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater.

When teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move next door to the Bertram’s, they immediately set their sights on Oliver and his cunning sister, Juliette, shaking up Finley and Oliver’s stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Harlan finds his attention shifting from Juliette to the quiet, enigmatic, and thoroughly unimpressed Finley. Out of boredom, Harlan decides to make her fall in love with him. Problem is, the harder he seeks to win her, the harder he falls for her.

But Finley doesn’t want to be won, and she doesn’t want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver’s heart—and keep her own—she’ll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Jane Austen meets Stephanie Perkins.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
One of my favorite scenes in the book has my main character, Finley, in a club setting, which is one of the most uncomfortable and triggering places that she can be. She gets a text from one of her godparents’ sons–Tate–that he needs something, and because she’s Finley, she runs to help him. In the course of ten minutes, she interacts with one of the sons, then the other, though in very different ways. The way they interact with her pushes her into wanting to do something she hasn’t done before: speak up. The scene ends with her seeing the famous Harlan Crawford and yelling at someone (him) for the first time in her life.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Sitting at my kitchen table, working on another manuscript while my toddler was napping. I think I screamed loud enough to wake her up, but for once, I didn’t care (and if you’ve ever interacted with toddlers, you know how sacred nap time is). I called my husband immediately to tell him the news, and then I called my sisters and screamed some more with them. It was a pretty great day.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Here’s the reality: I *should* be contractually obligated by Diet Pepsi and Cadbury Mini Eggs to name them, given how much I consume them, how much I post on social media about them, and how much money I’ve given them. They really should be paying me at this point. But they’re not. So, um, water and…apples. Yeah, that’s right. Water and apples. (Take that, Diet Pepsi and Mini Eggs.)

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A sweater. It’s “spring” in Phoenix, which is code word for pushing 100*, so the presence of a sweater anywhere in my house is a sign that maybe I’m having a bit of a breakdown of some kind. Send help. Also ice. Or an ice cold Diet Pepsi…shoot. I’m advertising for them again, aren’t I?

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One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
May 30, 2017 from Delacorte Press
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One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Describe your book in five words or less.
The Breakfast Club, with murder.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
One of the best parts of having four narrators is throwing them together and letting them react to one another. In one scene, Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy and Nate are all called to the principal’s office after their secrets have been revealed. They’re suspicious of one another as possible murderers, but also drawn together as the only four people who can understand this strange, shared experience. That mix of distrust and reluctant bonding was fun to write.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at a potluck dinner at my son’s school, chatting with his librarian, when the email came through. She was the first person I told.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate-covered pretzels.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Not odd, exactly, but my publisher made pens with my characters’ names on them and I’ve gotten very attached to the Addy pen. It’s a great purple color. I keep writing notes I don’t need just so I can use it.

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The Debut Dish: Erin Beaty, Heather Maclean, & Kelly Garrett (+ Giveaways)

April 30, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 9

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Erin Beaty (The Traitor’s Kiss), Heather Maclean (Toward a Secret Sky), and Kelly Garrett (The Last to Die).


The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty
May 9, 2017 from Imprint
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An obstinate girl who will not be married.
A soldier desperate to prove himself.
A kingdom on the brink of war.

With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.

As the girls’ military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Jane Austen with espionage.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I love them all, even the ones I cried about (either from angst from what was happening in the scene or because I was struggling to get it right), but the one that pops in my mind is when Sage goes to apologize to the matchmaker. I had an end result from the conversation in mind, but the way it ended up getting there was not what I expected. It became much richer and made the matchmaker a complex and likable character.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was in our family room with a movie on in the background – North and South, I think – ironing a whole bunch a shirts for a wedding when I found out I was going to an acquisitions board. When I got the news of an official offer, I was at my in-laws’ house, getting ready for the wedding’s rehearsal dinner – interestingly the very same room I was in when I got my future agent’s request for the full manuscript.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate covered pretzels. I hardly ever eat them, though, because if I do I eat them ALL.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A packet of stick-on bindis I got from Shaila Patel.

Extra Important Information:
Erin will be on the FierceReads tour May 9th-16th and also at the RT convention May 6th, so stop by to say hi if she’s near you!

Click here for details about Erin’s pre-order giveaway!

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Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean
April 4, 2017 from Blink
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Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Scotland, secret society, adventure, romance.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
When Gavin, the hero, is forbidden from entering Campbell Hall and must watch his love, Maren, enter on her own. His powerlessness makes him crazy, and he starts bashing his head against the trees. I love extreme physical fits of passion!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Driving carpool. My three kids go to three different schools, so I’m pretty much always driving carpool.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Snickers Bites. They should come with an addiction warning.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
My husband’s sgian-dubh (“SKEE-in due”), a traditional Highland knife he wears in his kilt hose.

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The Last to Die by Kelly Garrett
April 4, 2017 from Poisoned Pen Press
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Sixteen-year-old Harper Jacobs and her bored friends make a pact to engage in a series of not-quite illegal break-ins. They steal from each other’s homes, sharing their keys and alarm codes. But they don’t take anything that can’t be replaced by some retail therapy, so it’s okay. It’s thrilling. It’s bad. And for Harper, it’s payback for something she can’t put into words-something to help her deal with her alcoholic mother, her delusional father, and to forget the lies she told that got her druggie brother arrested. It’s not like Daniel wasn’t rehab bound anyway.

So everything is okay-until the bold but aggravating Alex, looking to up the ante, suggests they break into the home of a classmate. It’s crossing a line, but Harper no longer cares. She’s proud of it. Until one of the group turns up dead, and Harper comes face-to-face with the moral dilemma that will make or break her-and, if she makes the wrong choice, will get her killed.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Bling Ring meets Heathers.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
The final scene of the novel is one of my absolute favorites. I can’t say much with spoiling the book, so this will be a bit vague, but Harper, the anti-hero protagonist, has come a long way and grown a lot.

I also had a blast writing the opening scene. The opening line is one of the best sentences that I’ve ever written.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was finishing up a three-mile-run and looked at my phone to check the time, and saw the email with publishing offer. So I had dual a endorphins and happy glow thing going on.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Thai Peanut Butter Cups from Alma Chocolate. Coconut milk, Thai chiles, ginger, lime, and red volcanic sea salt, and peanut butter all combine to form a slightly spicy treat.

Sometimes I buy salted peanut butter cups from Alma instead of the Thai version, and they’re also amazing. They’re not very sweet but they’re oh so addictive.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
My coaster with a photo of a bacon on it is a bit odd, but it’s useful. My Alice In Wonderland pillow that’s shaped like an open book is quirky, and isn’t particularly useful on a desk so I should really find a better home for it.

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The Debut Dish: Sonia Belasco, Andrew DeYoung, Jessika Fleck, & Joanne O’Sullivan (+ Giveaways)

April 9, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 4

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Sonia Belasco (Speak of Me as I Am), Andrew DeYoung (The Exo Project), Jessika Fleck (The Castaways), and Joanne O’Sullivan (Between Two Skies).


Speak of Me as I Am by Sonia Belasco
April 4, 2017 from Philomel Books
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A moving story of grief, honesty, and the healing power of art—the ties that bind us together, even when those we love are gone.

Melanie and Damon are both living in the shadow of loss. For Melanie, it’s the loss of her larger-than-life artist mother, taken by cancer well before her time. For Damon, it’s the loss of his best friend, Carlos, who took his own life.

As they struggle to fill the empty spaces their loved ones left behind, fate conspires to bring them together. Damon takes pictures with Carlos’s camera to try to understand his choices, and Melanie begins painting as a way of feeling closer to her mother. But when the two join their school’s production ofOthello, the play they both hoped would be a distraction becomes a test of who they truly are, both together and on their own. And more than anything else, they discover that it just might be possible to live their lives without completely letting go of their sadness.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Love, death and Shakespeare.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I really like the scene in my book where one of the protagonists, Damon, confronts a memory of his friend Carlos outside of the U.S. Capitol. Carlos is so vivid to Damon, even though he’s dead, and in that moment Damon realizes how much he didn’t know about his best friend, even though he thought he knew everything.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
When I got the news from Penguin, I was actually at my parents’ house in DC. It was awesome because I got to tell them in person, and I hadn’t had the chance to share any of my other publishing news that way.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate. Chocolate is definitely my vice.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I have a photograph of my grandfather with President Johnson. My grandfather worked in the White House under Johnson, and I keep it there as a kind of reminder of the importance of the hustle. My grandfather believed in hard work, whatever it was you were doing. In my less motivated moments, that photo helps me push through.

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The Exo Project by Andrew DeYoung
April 4, 2017 from Boyds Mills Press
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This fast-paced, sharply written multiple-perspective YA science-fiction debut opens on a future Earth ravaged by solar radiation. Desperate for money to save his sick mother, seventeen-year-old Matthew agrees to participate in the Exo Project, a government plan to save the human race by flying across the galaxy in search of a habitable planet for resettlement. He thinks he’s been given a death sentence: 100 years in cryostasis, followed by a quick death on some barren world. But then he lands on Gle’ah, discovering the strange, beautiful creatures who live there, including Kiva, the captivating teenage girl who leads her planet’s matriarchal society. Kiva views Matthew as a threat and for good reason—if he tells Earth that he’s found a suitable planet, it will mean the end of her people’s way of life. But then Kiva and Matthew discover an emotional connection they never expected—and as they begin to delve into the secrets of Matthew’s mission and the dark truth behind the seeming paradise of Gle’ah, the choices they make will have consequences for both of their worlds.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Boy meets alien. Worlds collide.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
This is hard! I think I’d pick the scene where Kiva, the girl who leads a matriarchal society on another planet, tells Matthew, the human boy who’s come to her world in search of a replacement for Earth, her people’s creation myth. I love it because I got to try my hand at creating a new mythology for a fictional alien race, and also because of a bit of dialogue that happens after Kiva’s done telling the myth.

Matthew asks, “Is it true? Did it really happen like that?”

And Kiva answers, “It’s a story. It doesn’t have to be true to be true.”

I love that line.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was in a birthing class with my wife, who was expecting at the time. (Our daughter is now a year and a half old.) We were learning about something or other—breathing techniques? The stages of labor? I was having a little trouble concentrating, because I knew that we’d gotten some interest on the book and my publisher was chatting with the publishing company that had expressed interest. Then my phone buzzed and I glanced at the screen to see it was an email from my agent. During a break in the middle of the class I furtively checked my email to discover that it was now a done deal—I was going to be published!

What’s your favorite junk food?
In Minnesota we have these things made by a local candy company called Nut Goodies which are a layer of maple-flavored cream covered in chocolate and peanuts. My temptation to buy one basically every time I go to the grocery store is strong.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A big wooden ampersand. I honestly don’t know where it came from. I share a desk with my wife, who’s a designer and a super-crafty person who’s always making something or other, so it’s probably a leftover from one of her projects.

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The Castaways by Jessika Fleck
April 3, 2017 from Entangled Teen
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“A page-turning fantastical mystery with heartfelt characters.” -Julie Cross, New York Times bestselling author of Tempest

The Castaway Carnival: fun, mysterious, dangerous.

Renowned for its infamous corn maze…and the kids who go missing in it.

When Olive runs into the maze, she wakes up on an isolated and undetectable island where a decades-long war between two factions of rival teens is in full swing.

Trapped, Olive must slowly attempt to win each of her new comrades’ hearts as Will—their mysterious, stoically quiet, and handsome leader—steals hers.

Olive is only sure about one thing: her troop consists of the good guys, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help them win the war and get back home.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Cornmaze. Stranded. Family. War. Be.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Oh man, this is a tough one. So many options! Without giving any spoilers, one of my faves is definitely when Olive arrives on the island. She’s taken in by one group of kids and ends up pretending to be knocked out. Eyes closed, she tries to figure out what’s going on, who’s who, what sort of shelter she’s in, if these people are kind or not, etc… Being in Olive’s point-of-view, I had to explain everything minus her visual cues. Also, this is the first scene the reader meets anyone from the island and there are four characters, other than Olive, in one room. It was a great challenge and so fun to write.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At home. I was about to make lunch for my kids and my (now) editor emailed me with the news. Her first line said, “Are you sitting down?” (I was) I read it, whispered, “Holy crap”, stood up, walked in a few circles, sat back down, reread it, and then responded.

What’s your favorite junk food?
French fries. In ketchup. Covered in cheese. Slathered in mustard. Dipped in ice cream. All. Day. Long.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A wooden plague doctor-esque skeleton. If you push your thumb under the stand, it bends and moves. I love odd.

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Between Two Skies by Joanne O’Sullivan
April 25, 2017 from Candlewick
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Hurricane Katrina sets a teenage girl adrift. But a new life — and the promise of love — emerges in this rich, highly readable debut.

Bayou Perdu, a tiny fishing town way, way down in Louisiana, is home to sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley. She has her best friends, Kendra and Danielle; her wise, beloved Mamere; and back-to-back titles in the under-sixteen fishing rodeo. But, dearest to her heart, she has the peace that only comes when she takes her skiff out to where there is nothing but sky and air and water and wings. It’s a small life, but it is Evangeline’s. And then the storm comes, and everything changes. Amid the chaos and pain and destruction comes Tru — a fellow refugee, a budding bluesman, a balm for Evangeline’s aching heart. Told in a strong, steady voice, with a keen sense of place and a vivid cast of characters, here is a novel that asks compelling questions about class and politics, exile and belonging, and the pain of being cast out of your home. But above all, this remarkable debut tells a gently woven love story, difficult to put down, impossible to forget.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Love, loss, longing and hope.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
It’s the penultimate scene of the book, when after a very sad event, fate intervenes to bring my main character exactly what she needs and wants. I like it because it has that bitter-sweet feeling that often accompanies some of the most important things that happen in life!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
On my couch with my then 13-year-old daughter. But only for a second because then I got up and started jumping around and pacing! : )

What’s your favorite junk food?
Nutella.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A pair of glasses that my dog chewed up. First, it’s odd that he chewed up glasses- what is appealing about that for him? Second, it’s odd that I kept them. They are undeniably beyond repair! But they were my favorite frames and somehow I can’t let go!

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Beastia Author Zoe Cruz | Beauty & the Beast Interview Series

March 31, 2017 Author Interview 0

Remember A Week of Beauty and Beast, a special blog event hosted by Bonnie at A Backwards Story and me? We it was the perfect time to host an event devoted to one of our favorite fairy tales, seeing as how Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast came out in theaters this month! Woohoo! We shared our love of this tale as old as time with you, and hope you enjoyed! But here were are again with a tiny revival because Zoe Cruz wanted to participate in the interview series! Make sure you enter to win a Beauty and the Beast themed book of your choice, which ends tonight!


Today Bonnie and I are hosting an interview with Zoe Cruz, author of Beastia. Zoe talked a bit about her book here on That Artsy Reader Girl a week and a half ago, so head over to that guest post if you’d like more information!

Author Interview – Zoe Cruz

What are a few of the ways in which your retelling differs from the original tale?
It actually differs a lot. I wanted it to be something on it’s own, deconstruct the retelling and rebuild it. The first thing is that Beauty is the Beast and vice versa. Secondly, it’s set in Chicago and is a contemporary novel. No magic is involved, but at it’s a heart it’s a Beauty and the Beast tale.

If you could be a household object, what would you be?
I think a lamp or a candlestick would be my choice. Something about lighting dark places seems intriguing to me. I’m also more awake at night and that’s the perfect time to use a candle.

If you were taken by the Beast, what’s one comfort item from home that you’d want?
There are some books that I’m very partial to that say home to me. If I had to pick one of those books it would be The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.

What song would you want to dance to with the Beast?
“Ever More” by Josh Groban would be at the top of my list.

If you looked in a magical mirror that would show you your heart’s desire, what would you see?
Is it the Mirror of Erised? But…seriously, my heart desire would probably be finding a way to live in Spain forever. I kind of love it there. It has European castles and Arabic palaces straight out of a fairy tale.

Read the rest of the interview here!

Beastia by Zoe Cruz
March 14, 2017 from Createspace
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The meanest of the mean girls, Rebekah Austin rules her Chicago school with sharp outfits and an even sharper tongue. She has a way of making even the most beautiful and brilliant girls in her class feel like dirt. But underneath the queen-bee façade is someone who feels ugly, repulsive…beastly.

When Rebekah falls prey to a madman, the bully becomes the bullied. Scarred and tormented, she abandons her previous life and adopts a new identity, but her ghastly appearance haunts her everywhere she goes. Only with the help of determined friends can she move past her horrifying experience—and maybe even let herself be loved.

And if the madman returns to finish what he started, will she be ready, or will she give up hope?


About Zoe Cruz

I love traveling, writing, reading, and binge watching my favorite shows on Netflix.

I’m a geek too. Anything from classic Tortallan and Hobbit lore to a DS9 Trekkie and a Browncoat. I love any good sci-fi and fantasy book, show or movie.

I’ve lived in Spain for almost four years, so adapting back to U.S. life for now.


The Debut Dish: Sara Biren, Whitney Taylor, Jessica Strawser, Danielle Mages Amato, & Michael Miller (+ Giveaways)

March 26, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 5

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Sara Biren (The Last Thing You Said), Whitney Taylor (Definitions of Indefinable Things), Jessica Strawser (Almost Missed You), Danielle Mages Amato (The Hidden Memory of Objects), and Michael Miller (Shadow Run).


The Last Things You Said by Sara Biren
April 4, 2017 from Amulet Books
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Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

Describe your book in five words or less.
First love, loss, grief, forgiveness.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene takes place at Ben’s cousin’s wedding. The wedding itself was inspired by my niece Maria’s wedding in July of 2011, the month I started writing the book. There’s so much tension and longing between the two main characters, and an unexpected slow dance, followed by harsh words and more heartbreak.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At my kitchen table, about to make dinner for my kids.

What’s your favorite junk food?
White Cheddar Cheez-It Grooves.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
The Minnesota Motor Vehicle Registration Card for my very first car, a 1987 red 4-door Pontiac Sunbird, which I sold in August of 1998.


Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor
April 4, 2017 from HMH Books for Young Readers
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This heartbreaking, humorous novel is about three teens whose lives intersect in ways they never expected.

Reggie Mason is all too familiar with “the Three Stages of Depression.” She believes she’s unlocked the secret to keeping herself safe: Nobody can hurt you if you never let them in.

Reggie encounters an unexpected challenge to her misanthropy: a Twizzler-chomping, indie film-making narcissist named Snake. Snake’s presence, while reassuring, is not exactly stable—especially since his ex-girlfriend is seven months pregnant. As Reggie falls for Snake, she must decide whether it’s time to rewrite the rules that have defined her.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Depression. Fear. Friendship. Love. Hope.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There’s an awkward scene in which the MC, Reggie, gets stuck taking her arch-frenemy and crush’s baby mama, Carla, to a birthing class. It was one of my favorite scenes to write because it’s a refreshing break from the heaviness of the book, and starts to sew the seeds that eventually blossom into an unlikely and satisfying female friendship.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Honestly? This may be TMI….but I was on the toilet. (My agent called me a few minutes after she said she would, and I couldn’t hold my pee any longer! Sue me!)

What’s your favorite junk food?
Good ol’ fashioned potato chips. Salty. Greasy. Will probably clog my arteries and kill me one day. Just my speed.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A package of tissues that I refuse to blow my nose in because they’re cute.


Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser
March 28, 2017 from St. Martin’s Press
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Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin,Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

Describe your book in five words or less.
“Perfect” couple questions fate’s role.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Because the story is not told chronologically, it’s virtually impossible to describe any of my favorites without inadvertently including a spoiler–which is lucky for me, because it lets me off the hook of having to decide which one is my top pick! (I’m awful at choosing favorites.)

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I’d taken the day off work to chaperone my 4-year-old’s pre-K pumpkin patch field trip, and saw that I’d missed the call while corralling the kids under cover when it started to rain on the farm. I didn’t have good enough cell phone reception to call my agent back until I was well into my drive home–the suspense was killing me!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Ice cream (preferably with some sort of chocolate and peanut butter ripples involved) with pretzels sprinkled on top.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I’m at my daytime desk at the Writer’s Digest office right now, so here, it’s a tie between an origami elephant (sent in a holiday card from one of our contributors) and a 16″ lifelike Mark Twain doll (which, believe it or not, came with my house, left for me by the previous owners after they learned I was an editor and writer).

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The Hidden Memory of Objects by Danielle Mages Amato
March 21, 2017 from Balzer + Bray
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Megan Brown’s brother, Tyler, is dead, but the cops are killing him all over again. They say he died of a drug overdose, potentially suicide—something Megan cannot accept. Determined to figure out what happened in the months before Tyler’s death, Megan turns to the things he left behind. After all, she understands the stories objects can tell—at fifteen, she is a gifted collage artist with a flair for creating found-object pieces. However, she now realizes that her artistic talent has developed into something more: she can see memories attached to some of Tyler’s belongings—and those memories reveal a brother she never knew.

Enlisting the help of an artifact detective who shares her ability and specializes in murderabilia—objects tainted by violence or the deaths of their owners—Megan finds herself drawn into a world of painful personal and national memories. Along with a trusted classmate and her brother’s charming friend, she chases down the troubling truth about Tyler across Washington, DC, while reclaiming her own stifled identity with a vengeance.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Mystery, History, Murderabilia, Grief, Adventure

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I might have a favorite character rather than a favorite scene, because I pretty much love every scene that Eric Bowling (my book BFF) is in. He was a joy to write, because he’s just so wholehearted and curious and quirky and unafraid. Which made it a pleasure to unleash him anytime he appears.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at the DENTIST, of all places, waiting in the lobby to have my teeth cleaned. When my phone rang and I saw it was my agent, I stepped outside to take the call. Screaming and jumping up and down followed. Of course, I had overlooked the fact that I was standing in front of a big picture window, so everyone inside the dentist’s office could see me. When I came back in, they all demanded to know what had happened. That is how a room full of random strangers knew I was going to be a published author before my own family did. All the strangers clapped — they were probably the happiest group of people in a dentist’s office ever. Then I had my teeth cleaned.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Anything that combines mint and chocolate. In any form. Anywhere. Thin mints, peppermint patties, peppermint bark. MUST CONSUME.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I have two young children, so there is never a shortage of odd things on my desk (and in my purse). Right now there’s a handful of feathers, some plastic doll hair, and assorted mini bouncy balls. But the oddest thing *I* keep on my desk is probably a set of Abe Lincoln salt and pepper shakers. Keeping it honest! :-)


Shadow Run by Michael Miller and AdriAnne Strickland
March 21, 2017 from Delacorte Press
Add to Goodreads | Michael Miller’s Website

Firefly meets Dune in this action-packed sci-fi adventure about a close-knit, found family of a crew navigating a galaxy of political intrigue and resource-driven power games.

Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can’t resist her, even if her ship is an antique.

As for Nev, he’s a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.

But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.

Nev’s mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power–and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.

Note from Jana: Debut author Michael Miller is the one answering these questions.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Firefly meets Dune!

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My absolute favorite scene in the book is when Qole, our seventeen year old starship captain, finds herself very out of her element on a world very different from her own. My co-author actually wrote it, but it’s by turns funny, touching, insightful, and tense. An all around excellent bit of writing.

If you mean that I actually wrote, my absolute favorite scene would be riddle with spoilers. There is a scene earlier in the book where we visit the home planet of Basra, the genderfluid trader on board the Kaitan. It was a chance to introduce a number of characters that feature only briefly, but actually have tremendous back stories. I love that sort of stuff.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Wow, good question! I vividly remember where I was when I first talked to our agent, because I was in the middle of an on-site with a client and had to duck into an empty conference room. But when the deal was actually closed with Delacorte? Again, at work, but it didn’t feel real until later… so the moment didn’t sink in until clashing beer glasses with my co-author to celebrate.

What’s your favorite junk food?
I love all chips, chips are truly one of the great leaps that humanity has made, but in the pantheon of chips, one chip rules supreme: The Dorito.

Nacho Cheese, specifically.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
My desk is typically my lap, as I’m footloose and fancy free with this laptop of mine. So I can’t answer! At least not in any way that wouldn’t be somewhat surrealist.

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Barefoot On the Wind Author Zoë Marriott | Beauty & the Beast Interview Series

March 17, 2017 Author Interview 0

I hope you’re enjoying A Week of Beauty and Beast, a special blog event hosted by Bonnie at A Backwards Story and me! We thought this would be the perfect time to host an event devoted to one of our favorite fairy tales, seeing as how Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast is coming out in theaters on Friday! Woohoo! We’re excited to share our love of this tale as old as time with you, and hope you enjoy what we have planned! Make sure you enter to win a Beauty and the Beast themed book of your choice. And if you want to join in on the fun, link up your B&B themed posts so we can come see!


Today Bonnie and I are hosting an interview with Zoë Marriott, author Barefoot On the Wind. Barefoot On the Wind is a beautiful retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in Japan. It’s the second book in Zoë’s The Moonlit Lands series, but it can be read as a standalone. As per usual, we’ve split the interview between our two blogs. When you’re done here, head over to A Backwards Story to read the rest!

Author Interview – Zoë Marriott

What inspired you to reinterpret Beauty and the Beast?

Beauty and the Beast is one of my all time favourite fairytales. I read Robin McKinley’s YA classic Beauty at around age eleven, which was same year that I first saw Disney’s version of the story. These wonderful retellings made a massive impression. They’re the reason I started my career as a YA writer with a fairytale retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans. I never felt equal to the challenge of writing my own re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, though; it seemed as if the tale had been told so well by others that there was nothing else to say. But one day I pulled out my favourite fairytale read, Robin McKinley’s Beauty, and suddenly it struck me that the Beast, my ideal fictional hero since I was eleven… doesn’t really act like much of a hero at several points in the story.

Because, you see, Beauty and the Beast is supposed to be about true love. About learning to perceive and value inner beauty. Which is great, and all that. BUT. It’s actually the heroine Beauty who is asked to learn this lesson, despite being blameless. She’s the one who’s asked to love a Beast. That seems a bit unfair? Especially when the Beast – the one who is supposed to be learning not to be so cruel and shallow – imprisons her for months at a time with only a single week’s leave, until she finally agrees to marry him. He never has to learn to see beyond Beauty’s outer appearance. She’s already physically lovely. She’s also kind, good and loving, but the Beast doesn’t care about that when he arranges to lock her up. He just wants someone, anyone, to marry him and break the curse.

All these years we’ve been told the story is about true love conquering all. But really, when you get right down to it, it’s about using coercion to get your own way and being rewarded for it. Although Beauty is still my favourite comfort read because Robin McKinley’s writing is so amazing that she makes you forgive the Beast, I felt… disturbed. That was the seed that grew into BAREFOOT ON THE WIND.

Would you rather have The Rose or The Mirror in your Bedroom?

Neither, thanks! Those would both be a sign that I’ve done something very wrong and was living under a curse. I prefer a peaceful sleeping environment.

If you could be a household object, what would you be?

A pen! One that never runs out.

If you were taken by the Beast, what’s one comfort item from home that you’d want?

My ereader! So long as I could keep charging it up and downloading new books, of course.

What song would you want to dance to with the Beast?

I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie. Or A Thousand Years by Christina Perri. Or No One’s Gonna Love You by Band of Horses. Or Brightly by Sleeping At Last. Or Hex, by Mt. Wolf. Or…. well, you get the idea.

If you looked in a magical mirror that would show you your heart’s desire, what would you see?

Harry Potter special. I’d see my father, my lovely dog Finn, and all the other people and pets I’ve loved and had to say goodbye to over the years.

Read the rest of the interview here!

Barefoot On the Wind by Zoë Marriott
September 1, 2016 by Walker Books
Series: The Moonlit Lands #2
Add to Goodreads | Buy from Book Depository (currently not available in the USA)

A companion title to Zoë Marriott’s critically acclaimed Shadows on the Moon, BAREFOOT ON THE WIND is a darkly magical retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” set in fairytale Japan.

There is a monster in the forest…

Everyone in Hana’s remote village on the mountain knows that straying too far into the woods is a death sentence. When Hana’s father goes missing, she is the only one who dares try to save him. Taking up her hunting gear, she goes in search of the beast, determined to kill it – or be killed herself.

But the forest contains more secrets, more magic and more darkness than Hana could ever have imagined. And the beast is not at all what she expects…


About Zoë Marriott

I’ve known that I wanted to be a writer since I finished reading my first book; ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ by Enid Blyton. I think I was about eight, but I’ve never changed my mind in all the years since then.

I got my first publishing contract when I was twenty-two, but had to wait until I was twenty-four to see that book published (it was The Swan Kingdom).

I live in a little house in a town by the sea, with my two rescued cats, one called Hero after a Shakespearian character and one Echo after a nymph from a Greek myth. I also have a springer/cocker spaniel called Finbar (otherwise known as The Devil Hound). There’s a picture of him on the left.

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Withering Rose Author Kaitlyn Davis | Beauty & the Beast Interview Series

March 15, 2017 Author Interview 1

 

I hope you’re enjoying A Week of Beauty and Beast, a special blog event hosted by Bonnie at A Backwards Story and me! We thought this would be the perfect time to host an event devoted to one of our favorite fairy tales, seeing as how Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast is coming out in theaters on Friday! Woohoo! We’re excited to share our love of this tale as old as time with you, and hope you enjoy what we have planned! Make sure you enter to win a Beauty and the Beast themed book of your choice. And if you want to join in on the fun, link up your B&B themed posts so we can come see!


Today Bonnie and I are hosting an interview with Kaitlyn Davis, author of Withering Rose. Withering Rose is the second book in Kaitlyn’s Once Upon a Curse series (although it can be read as a standalone) and it turns the tables on the original tale as we’ve always known it. This time Beauty is cursed and the Beast is the one who has to do the saving. Just like yesterday, we’ve split the interview between our two blogs. When you’re done here, head over to A Backwards Story to read the rest!

Author Interview – Kaitlyn Davis

What are a few of the ways in which your retelling differs from the original tale?

The most obvious difference in my version is that Beauty is the one who is cursed, and the Beast is the only one who can save her! My Beauty, Omorose, is cursed with a type of magic that is slowly killing her. If these two mistrusting souls could learn to form a truce, the Beast might just hold the key to saving her life.

If you could be a household object, what would you be?

Hmm…so tough! Definitely not cleaning supplies or anything having to do with the bathroom! Probably a pen, because it’s what I use the most! Or a coffee mug…actually, that might be more accurate…

What magical/beautiful surprise would you hope the Beast had for you? (Belle’s library, Feyre’s art gallery, etc.)

This might not be very original, but I’d want a library too! So many books and so little time! But, I would prefer to turn a little section of the room into a coffee/frozen yogurt bar :) Then I would never ever leave!

Read the rest of the interview here!

Withering Rose by Kaitlyn Davis
May 17, 2016
Series: Once Upon a Curse #2
Add to Goodreads | Buy from Amazon

What if Beauty was cursed, and the Beast was the only one who could save her? Don’t miss WITHERING ROSE, a dystopian romance from bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis that reimagines the classic fairy tale of Beauty & The Beast.

“As the heat finally disappeared, I felt the bloom blossom in the very core of my soul, a rose just like my name–a ticking clock hidden behind a façade of beauty. From that moment on, my life would become a countdown, and all I could do was wait and watch as the petals of time slowly started to fall.”

Omorose Bouchene has a secret–magic. There’s only one problem. At the age of seven, an earthquake struck, catapulting her into a new world. A land made of skyscrapers and cell phones. Fast cars and fluorescent lights. A land where magic isn’t supposed to exist and anyone who wields it is the enemy.

But after ten years of hiding, she’s desperate to find a place where she can be free. Because all magic comes with a curse, and her curse is time–every ounce of power she uses strips days off of her life. The clock is winding down, and the only option left is to escape to the realm of the Beast. But the king of monsters isn’t what he seems. And the more Omorose opens her heart, the more she comes to realize that the only person she may need to fear is herself.


About Kaitlyn Davis

Kaitlyn Davis, a bestselling author with over a quarter of a million books sold, writes young adult fantasy novels under the name Kaitlyn Davis and contemporary romance novels under the name Kay Marie. Publisher’s Weekly has said, “Davis writes with confidence and poise,” while USA Today has recommended her work as “must-read romance.”

Always blessed with an overactive imagination, Kaitlyn has been writing ever since she picked up her first crayon and is overjoyed to share her work with the world. When she’s not daydreaming, typing stories, or getting lost in fictional worlds, Kaitlyn can be found playing fetch with her puppy, watching a little too much television, or spending time with her family. If you have any questions for her–about her books, about scheduling an event, or just in general–you may contact her at: KaitlynDavisBooks@gmail.com

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