Tuesday, February 28, 2012

First Line Mix & Match - with prizes!

Update: We have a winner - the prize goes to SilentPages! But everyone else should totally play just for fun.

Below are five first lines, and five books. Can you match each first line with the book it belongs to? The first person to match them all correctly will get a signed copy of the book of their choice!

(And we're on the honor system - no looking them up! You can do it from memory or try to figure it out. Some of these are easy ones... next time, we might make it a bit more challenging...)

Ready... set...


1. "
Consuela wrestled with an armload of jeans, trying to catch the hangers on insufficient hooks."

2. "She knew every inch of the forest, every narrow path that twisted and wound its way beneath the silver branches."

3. "I awoke tied to a chair.”

4. "The eunuchs said the windows were ceiling height to allow the concubines their privacy, but Jin Lian knew it was also a way to keep them trapped."

5. "Last June, my parents jumped off a roof because of a pinky ring."



Monday, February 27, 2012


Fantastical literature has given us many different versions of the roguish goblin, from Christina Rossetti's seductive fruit mongers to J.R.R. Tolkien's violent and villainous fighters, from the bankers of Gringotts to the glass-toothed critters chronicled by Spiderwick.

The following Inkies have all written books about goblins, and this is what they have to say:

What a fun thing to be able to compare my goblins with those of other Inkies! The goblins in my books are from The Underworld Chronicles and are primarily in Book 1, Elliot and the Goblin War. This book tells the story of how 11-year-old Elliot Penster becomes king of the brownies and accidentally launches an interspecies war with the goblins.

One of the wonderful things about using goblins as characters is that there is a lot of latitude in the “classic definition” of what a goblin should be. Generally speaking, a goblin is a twisted sort of fairy: smaller in size and grotesque in appearance. They’re not necessarily evil, but they are lazy, disorderly, and mean. They also tend to be troublemakers to humans, but can be appeased if the family leaves food out for them.

These were exactly the qualities I wanted as antagonists for Elliot and the Goblin War, but I did make some changes so that these goblins would be unique to this series.

Primarily, I wanted to give the goblins some magical abilities that would make them even more threatening to Elliot. In particular, they have two abilities. The first is they can scare other creatures to death. If Elliot is lucky, he’ll get away from a goblin attack only having been scared half to death.

The second goblin ability is in blowing things up. This is a definite departure from traditional mythology, but I added it because…well, it was funny.

As the series progresses, the goblins definitely evolve as characters and eventually learn to get along with Elliot. To be sure, they were some of the most fun mythological characters I got to play with throughout the stories.
Cover art by Gideon Kendall
I have to confess, I’m not really sure what a “classic” goblin is. My vague, personal definition is a small, not particularly pretty humanoid, with some form of magic. And more important than any of the above; not particularly good, either. If not outright evil, goblins should at least be mischievous. So when I wanted small, mischievous, neither good nor evil creatures to torment my heroine, befriend her, and ultimately be championed by her—well, goblins sounded like a good fit.

Of course, then I had to evolve my goblins to suit my story, with differing magical powers that defined what types of goblin they were, and a social order built on equal trades, with a horror of being indebted to anyone because that left you unequal, always owing the person you were indebted to. Though they soften this rule for friends and family, so that when favors were done for those close to you only a token needed to be paid in exchange. And that token could be anything—a pinecone, a pretty pebble, a button. Which is why, after my heroine became the general of the goblin’s army, she always wore a vest covered with loosely stitched buttons.
Cover art by Cliff Neilsen

The idea that goblins used to be human, and that they used to be children, has always stuck with me. I'm pretty sure that I first absorbed this piece of goblin lore from George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin, and David Bowie later reinforced it when he kidnapped a potential new goblin babe in Labyrinth. Wherever I got it, I still find it haunting. Goblins are the vampires and werewolves of childhood. They are the monsters that you might become.

My own goblins are likewise small humans transformed. Everyone knows that they steal children, but not everyone realizes that they are the children that they steal. They are also traveling actors, which fits the mischievous temperament that goblins always seem to have. My hero runs off with this theatrical goblin troupe, and he has to decide whether or not he can possibly trust them.
Cover art by Alexander Jansson

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Far-Reaching Shamlessness

There's a lot of exciting news this week.  Um, I even have some for a change.  But more on that later...

New on shelves this week, Ellen Booraem's SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS is out in paperback, with a slightly modified cover. (But still with sparkles!). Official pub date was Feb 16. If you haven't gotten a chance to read this fantastic fairy novel, GET ON IT!

We're lucky here in the Inkpot to have some amazingly talented authors, and we always love it when one of them earns the recognition they deserve.  Grace Lin is just one example.  Her award-winning middle grade fantasy WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON is #26 on Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine's "100 Greatest Books for Kids."  She's in amazing company, too.  SO COOL!!!!

Grace isn't the only Inkie getting recognition. Nancy Holder's horror novel THE SCREAMING SEASON, is a Bram Stoker Award nominee. Winners will be announced at the World Horror Convention. How awesome is that??? Meanwhile, she sold a piece to ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE: FIGHT BACK!, the second in a trilogy of mosaic novels about a zombie pandemic, edited by Stephen Jones.

And not to be outdone, William Alexander's GOBLIN SECRETS received a starred review from Kirkus this week:
Alexander’s world, blending steampunk and witchy magic, is impressively convincing and evocative in its oddities. Though highly textured, it’s tightly woven and reassuringly seamless.

The result is wryly humorous and bearably yet excitingly menacing: Even while much is left unexplained, Rownie’s triumph is both gripping and tantalizing.
Steampunk goblins? WIN!

I have a review to share as well! POSSESS got a fabulous review in the School Library Journal's March issue, that called it a "fantastic YA debut":
This tale of possession, duplicity, angels, and demons is set in foggy San Francisco and is a wonderful addition to the field of paranormal romance. It's also a mystery and a tale of teenage outcasts and bullies, and loss of a parent. While some of the story is predictable, the humor and occasional twists will keep fans of the genre hooked and wanting to finish this book in one sitting.

Which leads to the last piece of shamelessness for this week...

I was finally able to reveal my cover for TEN this week! To celebrate, there's a huge contest going on at Me, My Shelf and I - an online scavenger hunt for ten clues (see what I did there???) and the grand prize is a signed, annotated copy of the unbound galley of TEN!

Are you ready for the cover?

And yes, I totally freaking LOVE it!  :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Interview with Sybil Nelson, Author of the Priscilla the Great Series

If you haven't already done it, check out the high-action superpower fantasy series, Priscilla the Great. Think The Incredibles meets Kim Possible, with some Alex Rider thrown in for good measure. Please welcome the rather amazing Sybil Nelson to The Enchanted Inkpot!

Okay, first of all, tell us a little about your nice, strong action heroine, Priscilla the Great, and her series.

Priscilla the Great [Book One] is about a quirky, spunky, tomboyish twelve-year-old girl who one day discovers she can shoot fire out of her fingers. A couple of things that set apart this book from your average superhero books are the humor and the family element. Priscilla has a hilarious sense of humor and a quick wit. She often gets herself into outrageous situations. Throughout the novel she also grows closer to her family and they all learn to appreciate each other a little more.

Then there's you—writing multiple books as Leslie Dubois and Sybil Nelson, working on a Ph.D. in Biostatistics... please explain your seriously underachieving life!

I’ve always been somewhat of an overachiever and I have such diverse interests that I can’t limit myself to one thing. I won’t even get into my musical talents. I’m currently practicing for a piano performance.

I have to ask a time-honored question: How did you come up with the idea for the Priscilla the Great books?

Do you want the real answer or what I tell everyone? I’ll give you both and let you choose... [Editor's Note: Sybil agreed to share both of these answers!]

Truth: Due to a change in birth control, I ended up having my period for a month straight. I was so annoyed and wished that my period could bring me something besides cramps and chocolate cravings. I thought it would be cool if my period could also bring me superpowers. So I got the idea for a girl who got superpowers on her first period. I wrote the entire book in less than 30 days. When HarperCollins showed interest in the book, The Adventures of PMS Girl, they convinced me to get rid of the period concept and to change the book to Priscilla the Great. After eight months of editing with them, they ultimately rejected the book. It was later picked up by WorldMaker Media and is now published with Little Prince Publishing.

What I tell everyone: I really wanted there to be a book that triumphed the power of being a girl. There are lots of great action books for boys, but not so many for girls. I used to love reading comic books as a kid and I am addicted to the X-Men. I thought there needed to be a superhero book for girls that are like me when I was young.

Anyway, once I had the concept down, on came Priscilla’s personality. I was a high school teacher while I wrote this book and Priscilla is a combination two of my students, Ellen and Helen. (The rhyming of their names is purely coincidental). Helen would come to class every day with a different story of something ridiculous that had happened to her. I still remember having to delay class after she told me she had spent the whole day with her hands in her armpits because she shaved without shaving lotion and it was still burning her. I was laughing too hard to teach. Then there’s Ellen with her red hair and freckles. I always thought she was completely adorable, so I modeled Priscilla after her.

Thirteen is a tough age, and I like how you make that age come to life with Priscilla. Do you draw on memories of your own middle school days to write about her?

Not really, actually. My nose was almost completely stuck in a book during that time period. I think I more closely resemble Priscilla’s friend Tai.

Team Kyle or Team Marco? Or should we be watching out for Team Ian? Can you tell us a little more about Priscilla's budding love life?

Personally, Kyle is my favorite. He’s sweet and fun and totally into Priscilla. And while Marco does have that brooding, strong, silent type thing going on, I’m not sure he’s spirited enough to keep up with Priscilla. As for Ian, he’s just a thorn in Priscilla’s side. He even annoys me and I created him.

It is interesting to note that Marco will be the first character in the Priscilla universe to get a spin-off. I’m already working on Dark Marco, which tells of Marco’s life before he met Priscilla.

You've got a kind of mad scientist thing going with these books, and of course, you are obviously a science person. What part does your science background play as you write the series?

My science background has a lot more to do with these books than you might think. I can’t count the times I’ve been sitting in a lecture or at a conference and come up with an idea for the book based on actual science. Of course, I switch it up and make it fit a middle school book and a lot of it is completely out of my imagination, but real science definitely inspires what I create. The entire fifth book of the series, The Time Traveling Bullet, is based on these actual bullets that can bend around objects at the nano level. After listening to what Airy Bullets could do, I outlined the major plot development for that book.

How did you choose Priscilla's superpowers?

I write really fast and I write whatever comes to me. I originally wrote the book in less than 30 days and I just randomly picked a power as I needed it and they stuck. I wanted to make sure she wasn’t all powerful, though. That’s just boring. She has to have some weaknesses. So while most of the other Specimens have telepathy and super speed, Priscilla doesn’t.

These books are action-packed, plus you include pop culture references. Are you a fan of action movie or thrillers? Tell us about your cultural influences.

I am huge X-Men fan. And I love action movies. Literally, all it takes to entertain me in a movie is a few explosions. Add in a car chase or two and a few fight scenes and I am one happy camper. I am also a fan of pop music. I love pop music more than Priscilla does. I used to hide that fact, but I don’t care anymore. I love Justin Bieber and I don’t care who knows it! I also love Justin Timberlake, Usher, Big Time Rush, Kelly Clarkson, Ke$ha, Jason Mraz, Ludacris, Eric Hutchinson, PussyCat Dolls, etc. But for some reason I can’t stand Katy Perry or Rihanna. Ugh.

Being book people, we also need to know what you like to read. What were your favorite books when you were a kid? What about now?

I read so much as a kid I wouldn’t be able to pick a favorite. I do distinctly remember going through reading phases. I had a comic book phase, a romance phase, a Babysitter’s Club type book phase etc. I remember in high school going through a British Literature phase. All I read for a year was Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, the Bronte sisters, and Shakespeare. I think that phase has stuck a little because I’m completely addicted to historical fiction. I don’t know why, but I love reading about people who lived hundreds of years ago. Phillipa Gregory is one of my favorite authors right now. I also love to read contemporary Young Adult novels.

There's been a lot of talk in the past year or two about representations of minority characters in children's literature, both on book jackets and inside the books. As a black woman who has written books with white, black, and Latina main characters, can you give us a few thoughts on race in MG/YA fiction?

I could probably write a book just on this topic alone. But I’ll try to keep my thoughts short.

In a study by Andrew Weaver from the University of Indiana, he took made-up movie synopses and created six different movie posters, one with an all-white cast, one with an-all black cast, and several with different combinations. He found that white participants were more likely to want to see the movie with the all-white cast no matter what the plot was. It wasn’t a matter of racism, just a matter of them feeling that the movies with the black cast weren’t intended for them. I feel the same can be said about books. I think the publishing industry agrees.

Here is a great article by Justin Larbalestier about the subject. Her book Liar is about a black girl named Micah. But when Bloomsbury published it, they put a white girl on the cover. The publishing industry believes that books with black people on the cover do not sell. In fact, some stores and libraries won’t even stock them. If they do, they are relegated to an entirely different section. When I was a teenager, I used to hate having to go to a different part of the library to find books with people that looked like me. It felt like literary segregation. I became a writer because I wanted there to be stories that I liked to read that featured people of many cultures.

The reason why books and movies with black people don’t sell is because they don’t get the marketing power behind them that other movies and books do. I mean, white movies and books that aren’t marketed well don’t sell either. There is no difference. And until the publishing industry decides to invest in books with multicultural characters, the issue will persist.

Notice how I didn’t mention the music industry in the above rant. I don’t think Columbia Records is worried about what race of people is going to buy the next Beyonce song. In the music industry, I think race actually matters less. It’s not uncommon to see white suburban boys listening to hip hop or teenage black girls singing Taylor Swift lyrics. The movie and publishing industries need to take a note out of the music industry songbook and market everything to everybody.

Anyway, with that in mind, I have a Celebrate Black Books blog hop planned in which participating blogs will have a giveaway of books with black main characters or with minorities on the cover. It starts February 24. Go to www.SybilNelson.blogspot.com to participate.

How did you become a writer? What is your advice for a young person who would like to write books?

I became a writer by writing. That’s really the only definition. Getting published doesn’t make you a writer. Getting that story inside of you on paper is what makes you a writer. I started writing because I saw that there were stories that needed to be told that no one else was writing. So I decided to write them.

You seem to have a really full life. How do you find time to write?

I don’t sleep. Literally, I get about four hours a night. That’s it.

Let's end with a few questions about you. What are a couple of your quirks? And an Inkpot classic—what's your favorite dessert?

I don’t eat a lot of desserts. I’m more of a salty person than a sweet. But I can’t resist cupcakes. There are actually not one, but two stores here in Charleston that only sell cupcakes. They are glorious.

Um, I think from reading my interview you can see some of my quirks. I’m a black biostatistician who loves historical fiction and pop music. Doesn’t get much quirkier than that! I’m also addicted to the TV show Hoarders. Have no idea why. And my dream is to one day become famous enough to go on Dancing With the Stars. Another one is that I hate feet. I even hate it when my own children put their bare feet on me. So, of course they do it at every opportunity. Oh, and I recently found out I have this thing called synesthesia which causes me to see numbers and days of the week as colors. I really thought everyone saw numbers as colors and argued with my husband about it for weeks. I thought he was crazy. I finally put it up on Facebook and through the comments realized that not everyone did. Turns out I’m the crazy one! Someone finally told me about synesthesia and I looked it up and yep, that’s me. Wow, I have a lot of quirks.

Synesthesia, cupcakes, a knack for science, and a strong dislike of feet—plus a very fun action fantasy series about girl power, Priscilla the Great! Thanks, Sybil!

Interviewer: Kate Coombs

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Above World! Interview with Jenn Reese

First you look at the cover and sigh blissfully.

Beautiful huh? Then you read the caption. “A suspenseful sci-fi escapade plucks two children out of the ocean for a thrilling adventure.” Middle grade science fiction? Awesome! And then you read it and you get sucked into a fantastical world filled with mythical and technological creatures, and all you can say is WOW!

I think I went around saying WOW for an hour after finishing it. So I’m very excited and happy to invite Jenn Reese to the Inkpot today to talk about her brand new middle grade novel, Above World.

Ello – Jenn, welcome to the Inkpot! I’m totally in awe of this fantastical world that you’ve created! The Kampii that turn into mermaids, the Aviar that are winged people, the Equians who are horse people, etc. It’s like you took the best of the myths and added a scientific twist to it. How did this idea come to you?

JR – Hi, Ello! Thanks for the enthusiastic welcome -- I’m thrilled to be here! The basic idea behind Above World came from a brainstorming session. I was trying to write a story set in space and asked myself  who might make a good spaceship captain. The answer that immediately came to me was “A mermaid!” She’d be used to maneuvering in all directions. That’s what gave me the idea to combine mythology with science fiction.

Ello – And what an unusual mermaid! Aluna is a strong, impulsive, kind-hearted, and brave protagonist. I love that she is clearly the leader and a warrior without having to become masculine. Were you modeling her after anyone in particular? What was the story behind how she came to being?

JR – I’ve been studying martial arts for over 10 years, and one my goals as a writer is to engender that passion in others – especially girls and women. So I knew at the start that I wanted Aluna to be a fighter. She isn’t modeled after anyone specific, except maybe the girl I wish I’d been…. the one who is brave enough to follow her heart and defy her father, regardless of the consequences. I think girls are so often taught to be polite, to think carefully before they say or do anything, and to strive to be well liked. I wanted a heroine who did none of those things. Writing her was freeing.

Ello – I love that! Now I was really intrigued at how you set out the different worlds. The Kampii just want to shut themselves away and hide from the rest of the world. And then there is their polar opposite. The Aviars, a world of strong, powerful women. Is there any wonder that they were my favorites? They were like Amazons with wings. How did you come about these different attributes? What was the thinking behind these different cultures?

JR – As a little girl, I loved learning about other cultures -- particularly their mythologies. This dovetailed nicely with my obsession with Dungeons & Dragons, wherein every fantastical race has its own societal rules, deities, history, and philosophies. I used to create new races all the time for fun. In fact, one of the races in Above World (the centaur-like Equian) is based off a race I created for a D&D game I ran in college (the Minrabi Horsemen). I am utterly in love with the world-building involved in creating societies. And for the record, yes – the Aviars were inspired by the Amazons. I just couldn’t resist.

Ello – What fabulously diverse characters you have here! Two water folks, an air creature, and a desert rider, except they can change into mermaids, birdpeople and centaurs. But for all the rivalry among these groups, the kids have no problems befriending each other. I thought that was a powerful message.

JR – One of the most important themes for me – in life, not just in writing – is that of “created family.” Sometimes we don’t get so lucky with our blood relatives, and it’s the special people we meet during our lives that become our true family. I wish I’d known that as a kid, and I’m thrilled that this message is coming through.

Ello – I love that you didn’t limit yourself to the myths when you created your world and your characters. Tell us about how you came up with your Deepfell and Upgrader characters?

JR – When I was first researching mermaids and how to make them scientifically viable, I decided that they’d have to live in fairly shallow water in order to survive the water pressure and cold and still look mostly human. Which made me wonder… what if you wanted to live deeper? You’d have to deal with greater pressure and intense cold, for starters. You’d have to give up more of what makes you human.

The Upgraders stem from my fascination with body modification. People do some wild, wonderful things to themselves even now, and in the future, these modifications are just going to get more and more extreme. (From grotesque to glorious, I hope!) Although the Upgraders in book one are mostly working for the villain, I personally love body modification as a form of self-expression, and don’t see technology as inherently bad.

Ello – So out of all the characters in Above World, I know that if I could be anyone, I would be an Aviar, hands down! I love the idea of flying and being a warrior. What about you?

JR – Don’t make me pick! I’ve always loved shapeshifting – it’s been my superpower of choice ever since I read T.H. White’s The Once and Future King as a kid, and Merlin turned young Arthur into all sorts of animals. Each race in Above World has a form that represents freedom to me. Freedom to swim like a dolphin, to fly like the birds, to run forever like a horse. I craved that so desperately as a little girl, and I still do as an adult. No, you can’t make choose. I want them all.

Ello – Sheesh, such an authorly answer! ;o) So I especially loved the training sequences where Aluna learned how to fight from the Aviars. She wasn’t learning how to fight from men, but from women warriors. Since you are a martial artist yourself, can you tell us how you work on your fighting sequences?

JR – I am incredibly lucky and get to train with several amazing martial artists, primarily Grand Master Carrie Ogawa-Wong and Master Phil Jennings of White Lotus Kung Fu. Over the years I’ve studied kung fu, tai chi, and traditional Chinese weapons such as staff, spear, and sword. Although I’m not particularly good at these things, I’ve learned enough theory and seen so many mind-blowing demonstrations that I can visualize and choreograph fight scenes in my head. I also watch a lot of documentaries and kung fu movies (the ones that don’t involve a lot of wires). Writing fight scenes is still very hard for me; I struggle to find the right words, the right details, and the best way to express character. But oh, how I love them!

Ello – I think you do an amazing job! What kind of research did you do for your book?

JR – As someone who does not particularly enjoy research, I mostly researched current science and cutting-edge scientific discoveries that might enable my various cultures to live in their respective harsh climates. Because Above World is set in the far future, I extrapolated wildly. At one point, I had pages and pages of notes on the biology of altitude sickness, as I was trying to see if a Kampii’s underwater breathing necklace would help its owner breathe in the high altitudes of the mountaintops. Science fiction is just fun.

Ello – I have to tell you that when I finished reading your book, I remember thinking very wistfully that I wish it had been available when I was a kid. It reminded me of my favorite childhood book, Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. They are very different books but they both gave me that wonderous feeling of reading something so very different and amazing. I felt like a kid again. What was your favorite books as a child?

JR – A Wrinkle in Time was a big one for me, too, as were The Westing Game, The Blue Sword, and the Narnia books. I consider The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene Dubois to be the first science-based science fiction book I ever read, and a huge inspiration for me. In it, a man crash-lands on the island of Krakatoa. The people there have constructed a strange utopia with a fascinating culture that relies heavily on helium balloon-based technology. The author took a scientific concept and extrapolated it to create a world with an incredible sense of wonder. I want to do that, too.

Ello – Tell us a little bit about book 2, if you can.

JR – In book one, the heroes travel around and we see a little bit of a lot of cultures. In book two, I wanted to settle in and explore one culture in more depth, so prepare to head into the desert and meet the Equians.  

Ello – Oh man, I want that NOW! Ok, this last question I ask all my interviewees so you shouldn’t be surprised!  You are on a deserted island and meet a genie who can’t get you off the island but can fill one very large and magical suitcase with 10 of your favorite things. Assuming that food (not including sweets and luxury items) and clothing (loin cloth at the very least) is already taken care of, what would that suitcase contain?

JR – If the suitcase is magical enough to carry living things, then I’d fill it with my friends and my cats, although I suspect none of them would thank me for it. If not, I’d like a Moleskine notebook and my favorite Sharpie pen, my laptop, smartphone, and Nook, and an array of geeky t-shirts and jeans.  I’d also like my kung fu weapons: my staff “Whisper,” my spear “Mr. Pointy,” and my sword “Blueberry.” Maybe with all that time to practice, I’ll actually get good. 

Ello - Seriously, I love that last question! Authors have the weirdest answers! But in good ways! Thanks Jenn for joining us today and best of luck on your fantastic debut!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What We're Reading

It’s time again for Inkies to answer that wonderful question, “Read anything good lately?” As a matter of fact, yes!

Keely Parrack: EMBRACE by Jessica Shirvington was an ARC I snatched up, a debut YA fantasy-romance that's out in March. What do you do when you find out the boy 
you've long fantasized about is actually part angel - even worse, you are too, and now you have to fight together against the forces of darkness, and you must never, ever 
fall for each other? This was a fast-paced, fun read -- gore, romance, and angels!

THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE - what can I say - would you believe background character research? My main character is not a zombie, but she's fascinated by them!

Ellen Oh: I
 recently reread Jenn Reese's ABOVE WORLD (ARC) which I adored. Amazing mix
 of mythology and science fiction that blew me away. And I'm getting ready 
to read INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows, UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi
 (these 2 I've been dying to read ever since I read about their book deals
 in Publishers Marketplace), THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green (ok I read
 the first chapter which really pulled me in - and that's why I bought the 
book), and GRAVE MERCY (ARC) by Robin LaFevers (oh yes, you all are soooooo 
jealous, I know!).

William Alexander: I'm rereading the STEAMPUNK! anthology, edited by Kelly Link & Gavin Grant, because I'm using it as the textbook for one of my classes this semester. The stories are delicious. They play gleefully with steampunkish stuff without fretting about what the word means--or might exclude.

Pippa Bayliss: Recently I've read MASTIFF, by Tamora Pierce, which is the third in a series I love for its MC, Beka Cooper, and its incredible world building. 
OKAY FOR NOW by Gary Schmidt was great. It's one of the best examples of a character keeping me hooked and engaged through every page.
 AL CAPONE SHINES MY SHOES by Gennifer Choldenko is another character-engaging story that I loved. 
At the moment, I'm in the middle of GOLIATH by Scott Westerfeld, his third in his Leviathan series, and I'm eager to see how it ends.

Cinda Chima: I have recently finished FURY OF THE PHOENIX, by Inkie Cindy Pon (I know, I know, everybody else has already read it!) and it was creative, fast-paced, totally immersive. I also read HUNTRESS by Inkie Malinda Lo (can you tell I've had a whole shelf of to-read books?) and loved that, too--romantic, action-filled, with two strong heroines. I read an ARC of SHADOW AND BONE, by Leigh Bardugo, which comes out in June. I loved it!! Such a deliciously sexy adversary.

Amy Butler Greenfield: VIII, by H. M. Castor, a gripping YA historical novel with fantastical
 elements, a challenging narrator, and seductive details of time and place.
 At the heart of the book is the question: How did the gifted, merry Prince
 Henry turn into the vicious killer Henry VIII? I ate this one up in one big

Kate Coombs: THE FALSE PRINCE is on my want list, of course, but I just finished reading COLD 
CEREAL by Adam Rex, and I'm finally reading his earlier book, THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY. Both are nutty in an exhilarating way, and Rex throws in some great 
metaphors. So far, I like SMEKDAY better than the new book. I also read Diana Wynne Jones' last book this morning. EARWIG AND THE WITCH is quite short and written for about third grade, but it's very funny. It's the kind of book where 
there's an extra layer of humor for adults.

Ellen Booraem: I'm reading THE NIGHT CIRCUS, Erin Morgenstern's debut novel, a fantasy for adults that so far seems like it could work for YA readers, too. I'm loving it. It reminds me of JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL, except the two senior magicians are scarier, chillier dudes and there are (thank heaven) no footnotes. Not sure there are faeries, at least not so far. Before this, I read the latest Montreal-based murder mystery by Louise Penny--my first by her, and now I'm planning to gobble up them all even though this one has spoilers for previous books. Really, really fun.

Grace Lin: I wanted to give a shout-out to the most recent book I've read which 
was THE BONESHAKER by Inkie Kate Milford! It was fabulous--creepy, 
believable and lots of fun. I'm actually not a gadget or steam-punk type of 
reader, but this book had me fascinated, regardless.

Leah Cypress: I'm reading UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi, which so far is a great read. I've been enjoying a lot of dystopias lately, but this is the first one that made me feel like I want to write my own dystopian novel. In non-fiction, I'm reading SECOND SIGHT by Cheryl Klein, a collection of short essays about writing and publishing - it's interesting and enlightening.

Anne Nesbet: I just finished Laini Taylor's DAUGHTER OF
 SMOKE AND BONE, which I kept eyeing for ages and finally grabbed from the 
shelf, and I did enjoy it. Romeo and Juliet with wings on! I also just 
read an early copy of Gina Damico's wonderfully funny CROAK, which is not
 about frogs, but about a rebellious teen sent to work for her Uncle Mort,
 whose profession is . . . well . . . let's just say there are scythes 
involved. Third of all, I just read with great pleasure A. J. Hartley's
stranded in Atlanta, where things quickly get fantastically out of hand.

Laura McCaffrey: I'm reading Franny Billingsley's CHIME. Her poetic 
language astonishes me, as does the story's creepy sense of mystery. 
It provides a vivid picture of a wholly unique world. Billingsley has this incredible ability to depict tough characters who also
 are so clearly vulnerable.

Lena Goldfinch: I just finished THE GATHERING STORM, by Robin Bridges. I heard about this book when a writer friend, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, posted the cover on Facebook. The cover is so gorgeous I had to click on the link to read more about it. This is book one in a historical young adult paranormal romance series, which I think fantasy readers would enjoy too. The heroine is a conflicted necromancer pitted against vampires and witches, all in a unique and richly drawn historical setting (Czarist Russia). I'll be picking up the next title in this series!

PJ Hoover: I'm currently reading and loving STARTERS by Lissa Prince and listening on audio to THE NAME OF THE WIND (The King Killer Chronicle, #1) by Patrick Ruthfuss. STARTERS has a great concept and a voice that really keeps me turning the pages and was totally one of the hottest ARCs to get at ALA midwinter. And THE NAME OF THE WIND is a rich adult (as opposed to YA) fantasy. I'm letting myself take my time and really sink into the world, which is something that adult fantasy with its longer word count allows for nicely.

Ridiculous Shamelessness

Sorry for the lateness of this post: yesterday was sort of insane for me, and I was going to pre-write the post on Friday but there was a day job meltdown so...yeah.

ANYWAY!  Good things come to those who wait, and today we have an AMAZING line up of shameless news!!!!

First, a new sale by Anna Staniszewski was just annouced!
MY VERY UN-FAIRY TALE LIFE author Anna Staniszewski's DOGOSAURUS REX, about a boy who comes home from the pound with a most exceptional new dog, to Sally Doherty at Holt, by Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency (World).
How freaking adorable does that sound?????

Megan Crewe's newest release THE WAY WE FALL has been tearing up bookshelves, and critics are practically falling over themselves to offer praise:
"This is the kind of book that makes you look up in alarm when someone near you sniffles. It viscerally conveys the horror of sudden, brutal illness and the struggle between being humane and saving your own skin." -Booklist

"Short chapters and brisk pacing keep the reader hooked. As might be expected, there are both ghastly and sorrowful scenes as the virus destroys friends and family members. But in the midst of all the horror and sadness, Kaelyn... evolves from a quiet girl who keeps a journal on coyotes to a strong young woman dedicated to helping the sick and searching for a cure. -VOYA

"Told in Kaelyn’s letters to her former best friend, the book offers a compellingly tight focus, relating the town’s descent into chaos with heartbreakingly vivid details.... The inclusion of more quotidian elements, such as Kaelyn’s emerging romance with a local boy and her reconciliation with a former foe, make the survival story even more harrowing." -BCCB
In celebration, Megan is offering signed bookplates and bookmarks to readers worldwide for the first month of THE WAY WE FALL's release (so, until Feb 24th). Details here!

THE CABINET OF EARTHS by Anne Nesbet is also getting some rave reviews, including one from Horn Book which calls Anne's debut "a-shimmer with magic."

In addition to fantastic reviews, we have a few Inkie books on "top ten" lists right now!  Sybil Nelson's PRISCILLA THE GREAT: BRING THE PAIN made it to the top ten hot new releases in children's books on Amazon; THE SHADOWS, volume one of Jacqueline West's middle grade fantasy series THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE, has been selected for the 2013 Illinois Bluestem Award Master List, and volume two of the series, SPELLBOUND, is a finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards in the Young People's Literature category; and WITCHLANDERS by Lena Coakley has been selected by the OLA (Ontario Library Association) for the Best Bets for Children and Young Adults list, Canada’s version of the YALSA booklists.  WOO HOO!!!!

And not to be left out, foreign rights have been sold for Jennifer A. Nielsen's ASCENDANCE trilogy, beginning with THE FALSE PRINCE (Scholastic, Apr `12) to La Galera in the Catalan language (primarily spoken in Andorra, and parts of France and Spain). THE FALSE PRINCE is also an Indie Next Book Pick for Spring `2012. In its review, The Horn Book wrote, "This book should appeal to fans of Megan Whalen Turner and Suzanne Collins as well as to readers not quite ready for those authors yet; its brisk pacing underscores the sure-fire mix of adventure, mystery, and suspense."

*happy sigh*  This has been one of those week's where I'm ridiculously proud to be an Inkie!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Interview with Megan Crewe--THE WAY WE FALL

It starts with an itch you just can't shake.  Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat.  A few days later, you'll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends.  Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in. 
And then you're dead.

Really, in this day of super bugs and super viruses, is that not one of our worst nightmares? Well, hold on to your box of Kleenex because Megan Crewe has written a powerful, gripping, creepy tale of just such an occurrence--and how one girl struggles to hold on to her humanity among such a crisis.

As BOOKLIST said: "This is the kind of book that makes you look up in alarm when someone near you sniffles. It viscerally conveys the horror of sudden, brutal illness and the struggle between being humane and saving your own skin."

This is very true, as I started the book when I had a cold and it so creeped me out I had to put it aside until I was well again. So I was very excited to be able to interview Megan about her new book!

1. The virus in THE WAY WE FALL is so realistic—it plays into all my worst hypochondriac fears! What sort of research did you do? Did you become germ-phobic while writing the book and find yourself washing your hands twenty times a day, just to be on the safe side?

Megan: It was very important to me to make my virus as realistic as possible, so I read several books about viruses and epidemics (the key ones are mentioned in the book's acknowledgements). I also checked some of my ideas with an author I was acquainted with, Jacqueline Houtman, who to my good luck also happens to be a microbiologist. I've always found viruses and epidemics scary, and it was pretty terrifying realizing that the facts are even more frightening than what I already knew. I've definitely become even more careful about hand-washing and other precautions like not touching my face when I'm out in public places.

2. What most surprised you about your virus research? Did any of the research take the story in a new or unexpected direction?

Megan: I think was surprised me the most is how mysterious many viruses still are to scientists. Even though Ebola first emerged 35 years ago, no one's sure where it came from or how to prevent new outbreaks for happening. I read about a case in the US not long ago where people started dying mysteriously, and it took weeks before doctors were able to determine the cause was a virus. After seeing this, I had to revise my imagined timeline for the story: how quickly the doctors would realize there was a real problem, how soon they might be able to test for it and attempt to create a vaccine. It also made me decide not to specify the source of the virus, because it seemed implausible that anyone would have figured that out in the timeline of the story, especially as they're losing resources. Which suited me just fine, because I think it's creepier not being sure how the virus emerged!

3. The journal entries were such an intriguing way to tell this story. How did you come to choose that form?

When I first started planning THE WAY WE FALL, I wasn't thinking of writing it as a journal. But as I figured out what sort of story I wanted to tell and imagined it on the page, I felt more and more that journal format was the only way that story could be properly told. I wanted my main character's relating of what was happening her to be part of the book, for it to feel like a record left by someone who was living through the epidemic, and to capture all the little moments that can make a big difference in a desperate situation, but are hard to fit into a more traditional narrative structure. My idea of how a journal format story could work was influenced by Susan Beth Pfeffer's novel LIFE AS WE KNEW IT, which I'd read a few years earlier. I found the format worked extremely well to make the events in her story feel real, and my appreciation of it stuck with me.

4. Which of the characters do you have the most in common with?

Definitely my protagonist, Kaelyn. In fact I'd say Kaelyn's probably the most like me (or at least, like me as a teen) out of all of the characters in all my books. Like her, I often feel socially awkward and uncertain, and I was even more so as a teenager. I gave her my love of animals, because it fit her character and made an interesting trait, but also because a lot of the information I needed her to know I'm familiar with myself, which made her easier to write authentically. The way she thinks and expresses herself is very similar to how I wrote in my own journals at that age.

5. The epidemic is such a ‘trial by fire’ for Kaelyn. Do you have an event or trauma in your past that shaped you in a similar way?

: Nothing like what Kaelyn goes through, thankfully! And I think, unlike Kaelyn, I've always had a pretty strong sense that I deserve to be able to pursue my dreams, so I didn't have quite so much insecurity to overcome. The most difficult period I've faced was a struggle with depression in my early twenties. For a time, I wasn't able to feel enthusiastic or passionate about anything, including my writing. Being through that made me appreciate how important it is to have passions and pursue them, how empty life is without them. Since then I've tried as much as possible to focus my attention on the activities and people I love, and to cut out those that get me down.

6. Kaelyn has a number of epiphanies through her interaction with and observation of nature. Has that been true for you as well?
Megan: Growing up in a large city, I haven't had as much chance to observe nature as Kaelyn has. But I did read a lot about wildlife, and we always had pets in the house, and it fascinated me to see how animal behavior is often reflected in the ways people behave.

7. THE WAY WE FALL was so different from your first book, GIVE UP THE GHOST. Did that worry you at all while you were writing it? Did you have a sense that it would be a much ‘bigger’ book than your first one?

Megan: The funny thing is, I actually don't think TWWF is *that* different GHOST. First person teenage girl narrators. Somewhat anti-social main characters. Contemporary setting with a speculative twist. Dark themes relating to death. You see? :)

The part I was concerned about is the journal format, because this is the first book I've written using that style, and I was worried both about whether I was pulling it off effectively and whether it would turn off readers (there seem to be a fair number of people who just don't like the format). Several times I second-guessed myself, but I just couldn't see writing the story any other way. And to be honest, I never thought of TWWF as being a "big" book--it seemed kind of quiet and thoughtful to me (which I also worried about, but that was the story I wanted to write, so I went with it). I've been taken aback by but incredibly grateful for the enthusiasm with which it's been received.

Thank you, Megan, for answering our questions and best of luck to you on your newest book!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

To Trope or Not To Trope: That is the Question

Readers come to the fantasy shelves looking for a specific kind of reading experience. They want to enter other worlds, or they want to enter worlds like this one and yet different, strange, magical. Maybe without realizing, they long for a specific set of tropes: characters, worlds, situations, or magic that resemble those in other fantasy stories they’ve read and loved.

But who wants to read the same story, with a few names changed, over and over? No one.

Writers sometimes have to perform a tricky balancing act. They have to serve up a story that can provide the pleasure readers are anticipating, while also offering something new, something surprising and unique.

To find some answers on ways writers might do this, I asked other Inkies to chime in.
Pippa Bayliss:
Using tropes is related as much to our individual style as our premise and characters are, so it's not easily buttonholed. In my experience my use of them developed as part of my world building.

Tamora Pierce's Beka Cooper series comes to mind as a brilliant example of using language and all forms of literary trope to enhance and create a unique world.

In my own writing, my MC uses unusual turns of phrase because that's who she is (and she's powered by my particularly unusual imagination). I try to keep her metaphors, idioms and comparisons appropriate to her age and life experience - and possibly more importantly, her nationality.

I love the rhythm of words and coming up with original ways of capturing and communicating the emotion evoked by my MC's situation, so those are my 'trope creating' moments. Sometimes they're right there and other times I lose sleep coming up with the best way to avoid cliche. Synonyms are my absolute favorite way of brainstorming - and I confess I'm partial to alliteration (in moderation ... at least, I TRY to keep it to a minimum).
Hilari Bell: 
I think we all use tropes, almost unthinkingly. Unless you're going for some very unusual setting, it's hard to avoid them. However, there's almost nothing that works better than turning a trope on its head, and doing the reverse of what's expected. On the other hand, even reversing tropes is becoming something of a trope itself. I think a writer's only real hope is to tell a story you love the way you want to tell it, and let the chips fall where they may.
Kate Coombs:
In THE RUNAWAY PRINCESS and THE RUNAWAY DRAGON, I deliberately take tropes and give them a little twist to create humor. For example, the princess is supposed to be languishing in a tower while princes vie for her hand in marriage, but she gets her friends to sneak her out, leaving the royal guards vigilantly watching over an empty tower. And the wicked witch in the woods wants to be left in peace to read romance novels, but when princes keep coming around bothering her, she rolls her eyes and rather reluctantly turns them into frogs so they'll leave her alone. I've had fun reinventing tropes!

Another way to keep tropes from making your work predictable is by creating rich characters--then even when you use tropes, the focus is on these characters who feel so real that readers love and cheer for them despite their flaws. Surprises are great, but they need to work with the logic of the storytelling and of characters' personalities. Besides, even if readers CAN predict, say, the ending of a book (um, the hero/heroine triumphs?), the road to get there can twist and turn in wonderful ways.

Some great answers here. For
myself, I too like twists. In ALIA WAKING, Alia wants very much to become a warrior, but she starts to question her goals when she sees the reality that exists along with the warriors’ ideals. Margot, in WATER SHAPER, begins as the classic romantic heroine, but her wants and needs as in individual complicate the romance she stumbles into. In my current WIPs, I find myself twisting tropes in a variety of ways, but mostly in regard to perspective. For example, is that guy really a bad boy with a heart of gold, or is he just a bad boy? And what do either of those things mean, anyway?

I did want to mention some great resources for those interested in thinking on tropes and how one might, or might not, want to use them. Try THE TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASYLAND by
Diana Wynne Jones and the many resources linked in “Beyond Orcs and Elvs,” an Omnivoracious interview with Stacy Whitman on writing cross-culturally.

Now, to get to some discussion. What about you? What tropes do you play with, and how do you play with them? Why do you play with them in the way you do?

Post author bio: Laura Williams McCaffrey is a full time writer and writing teacher. Her third young-adult speculative fiction novel is forthcoming from Clarion Books. She’s the author of two other young-adult speculative fiction novels: Water Shaper, selected for the 2007 New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age list; and Alia Waking, named an International Reading Association Notable Book. Alia Waking was also a nominee for the annual Teens’ Top Ten Books list and for Vermont’s Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award. Laura is a faculty member at Solstice, a low-residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College, and she teaches writing and literature at Pacem Learning Community, a learning center for homeschoolers. You can visit her website at: http://www.laurawilliamsmccaffrey.com/.  

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Shameless Winners!!!!!

For our first Shameless Saturday post on the new Blogger edition of The Enchanted Inkpot, I'm announcing the winners of our Inkies Extravaganza Book Giveaway 2012!!!!

Winners were chosen at random using the Random Number Generator. They were also chosen in the order which they get to claim their prizes. Ready? HERE WE GO!!!!

1. Jess Huch

2. Sarah Granville

3. Helen the Dreamer *dances*

Winners, please email me directly, and one of the Inkies will be in touch with instructions.  CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Interview with Jessica Spotswood - BORN WICKED

Our first new author interview at our new home is a big one! Last March I read about this deal in Publisher's Weekly:
Arianne Lewin, executive editor at G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, bought three books by Jessica Spotswood, including the debut novel Born Wicked (formerly called Thrice Blessed). Agent Jim McCarthy at Dystel & Goderich brokered the deal for Spotswood. Born Wicked, set in what the publisher calls "a world of tea parties, engagements, and elegant dresses," follows the Cahill sisters, a trio of teen witches who must hide their powers in order to save themselves from being shipped off to prison or a mental ward. Spotswood, who is from a small Pennsylvania town, lives in Washington, D.C.
Then I read this on the Born Wicked book page:
Our mother was a witch too, but she hid it better.
I miss her.
I was completely hooked. Witches who have to hide their power? This I have to read! And when I read it, I simply adored it! And if that isn’t testament enough, my 12 year old daughter, who is also a big reader, came home one day from soccer practice, dirty, exhausted and just wanting to take a shower and go to bed. But the bathroom was occupied. So she grabbed Born Wicked, sat in the hallway outside the bathroom to wait for it to be free. An hour and a half later, I come up to find her still on the floor of the hallway, obsessively reading, shower and exhaustion completely forgotten. It’s that good!

So I'm excited to be able to welcome Jessica Spotswood to the Inkpot!

Ello - Ok Jess, enquiring minds must know! How did the Cahill sisters become real to you?

JS – I was inspired by a dream I had about three sisters who were fighting over a magical locket from their mother. There’s no locket in BORN WICKED, but the idea of exploring the complicated relationships between three sisters with a dangerous magical inheritance stuck. Like Cate, I’m the oldest of three sisters, and I definitely drew upon my own relationships with them – the love, but also the petty rivalries and the way we define ourselves in relation to and in opposition of each other (i.e. she likes blue, I like pink; she’s messy, I’m neat; she argues, I’m the peacemaker). 

Ello – I loved the sisters, my favorite is Tess! I have a feeling there’s a lot more to her that we will probably learn in later books, right? But the sister dynamic felt right to me, especially the older sister to middle sister relationship. Clearly the relationship between the three sisters is the key to the whole series. I was talking about Born Wicked with another friend and she said your book was a great romantic story about a witch, and I said I’d categorize it as a great fantasy book about three sisters who happen to be witches. What would you say?

JS – Thank you! I joke that it’s about sisters and witches and kissing. I think the romantic subplot is vital to the story, and I do love writing the kissing scenes – but at its heart, the Cahill Witch Chronicles is about Cate and Maura and Tess. At the beginning of the book, Cate barely knows what she wants for herself anymore because she’s so preoccupied with her promise to her mother to take care of her sisters. Over the course of the trilogy, we’ll see her wrestle with her magic and what she wants to do with it and figure out who she is besides Maura and Tess’s big sister. She questions whether it’s even okay to want to be something besides that, to compete with them. And, yes, she loves Finn; she wants to marry him. But it’s important to me that that’s not the be-all and end-all for her.

Ello – I LOVE that you said that! I wish more authors would also recognize that a girl can save herself and not need to be helplessly waiting for a knight in black leather... Bravo Jess! 

What I particularly love about your book is the feel of it. Yes it’s alternate history, which I always think is so cool, but it is also Victorian/Edwardian. Why this time period?

JS – I love the idea of writing letters and candlelight and having teas and wearing incredible dresses. It seems so lush and sexy, though I’m sure it was less so in reality. Things were changing rapidly in terms of industry and technology and growing freedoms, but that era was still awfully repressive for women. I shifted things to make it even more so in Cate’s society. I suppose I wanted to play with that contradiction – the sensuousness of the high society dress and rituals with the rigid social expectations for women. 

Ello – I have many favorite scenes in this book, but one of my absolute favorites is also the most romantic scene I’ve read in a book. Hands down! I loved it! I’m quite envious because I find romance scenes the hardest to write. I can kill off a character in many unique and nasty ways but a romantic kiss makes me all squirmy and uncomfortable. I can’t do it. So share your secrets with us romantically challenged writers! How did you write one of the most romantic scenes ever?

JS –  Thank you so much! That was one of the first scenes I wrote in BW, and it remains one of my favorites. I think the fun thing is that it’s Cate’s first kiss ever. Wanting someone, especially someone so unexpected and unsuitable – it’s all new to her. Every touch, every look, every detail is new and fascinating. She’s totally thrown by it. Whereas Finn – he is so intrigued by her, by how there is obviously much more to her than he ever thought. She’s a challenge, and he’s attracted to that. Honestly, I just tried to make it about their feeeeeeelings.  And occasionally I have to figure out where all the arms go, and I make my husband be my kiss dummy. He’s cool with it.

Ello – And of course that romantic scene simply wouldn’t have worked but for the fact that Finn is such a fabulous romantic lead! He’s not your typical alpha male, which to be honest, is what I loved about him. He’s gentle and smart and sweet, but determined and protective and very sexy! I really liked him! I can’t help but wonder if he’s modeled after someone in real life. Hmmm?

JS – Well, my husband is a freckled, brown-eyed book-lover, and I am rather fond of him! Mostly, though, Finn was inspired because I was a little weary, as a reader, of brooding alpha-male love interests. I wanted Cate’s romance to be a genuine partnership, with someone who loves her despite her flaws, and respects her. Who wants to protect her but not boss her or contain her. If anything, Cate is the snappish, bossy one in their relationship. It’s an anomaly for their society, but Finn was raised by a clever, educated woman. He’d be bored by a subservient wife. 

Ello – And with that answer, Jess has clinched Finn's position as most romantic lead in my list! Now I’m always fascinated by the research process for a book. What was yours like? What was the funnest part to research? What was the most challenging?

JS – One of my favorite notes from my editor was to “ruffle my corsets” more, so I read up on Victorian fashion and home décor and social customs. Since BW is an alternate history, I was able to take some liberties, but I wanted to create a rich portrait of the Cahills’ world. The most fun part was looking at pictures of dresses. I think the most challenging part was that Cate loves gardening and flowers, and I know very little about that. I tried to check my facts with my mom (who is an amazing gardener) to make sure I didn’t have plants growing out of season, or describe things totally incorrectly, but I’m sure I made mistakes somewhere!

Ello – Well I think you succeeded very well!

All writers have deleted scenes or things that didn't make it to the final draft. Can you share with us something about Cate or her sisters that didn’t make it into this book? Some backstory that was too much for the book but kind of was important for character development?

JS – I actually have very few deleted scenes – my first drafts are spare, and I end up adding a lot in revisions – but I did totally rewrite the last fifty pages. The ending changed radically from the draft that went on submission. In the original draft, in order to save her sisters from the Brothers’ suspicions, Cate admitted to being a witch and was put on trial. Paul publicly announced their betrothal in order to try and save Cate's reputation.  Oh, and in that draft, Zara escaped from Harwood and was on the run! But obviously we went in a totally different direction for both of those things!

Ello - Very different! And we won't say anything else cause we don't want to spoil the read for all of you! But speaking of endings, I have to say that I was blown away by yours! I remember screaming in my head “NOOOOOO!” But it was so good! And of course it is the type of ending that leaves your readers banging their heads on the wall at the thought of waiting another year to read the next book. Can you share with us a little bit about what to expect in the second book? A little teeny tiny hint? Come on, throw us a bone here!!

JS – I’m afraid things are only going to get worse before they get better for Cate and her sisters! Cate loves fiercely, but she has a habit of thinking she knows what’s best, making decisions to protect people without consulting them. It’s sort of her fatal flaw, and there will be consequences for it in the second book. The Cahill sisters will get to learn more about their magical heritage and what’s expected of them in the coming war between the Brotherhood and the witches. As usual, they’ll be divided about how to handle the responsibilities they’re faced with. They’ll finally get to meet their godmother, Zara Roth. There will be scandalous romantic trysts, new friends, political uprisings, and heartbreaking betrayals! 

Ello – EGADS! I need that book NOW!!! 

Ok, last question. You are on a deserted island and meet a genie who can’t get you off the island but can fill one very large and magical suitcase with 10 of your favorite things. Assuming that food (not including sweets and luxury items) and clothing (loin cloth at the very least) is already taken care of, what would that suitcase contain?

JS – Oh, tough question! A box of Earl Grey tea, a box of Sweet ‘n’ Low, a very large college-ruled notebook, two pens, copies of GONE WITH THE WIND and THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS and CHIME, my cat, and a satellite phone so I could chat with my husband (assuming he wouldn’t fit in the suitcase). 

Ello - Sweet 'n' Low? We seriously get the most interesting answers to that last question! 

Jess, thanks so much for being here with us and Congratulations on your new book release!!!
 Posted by: Ellen Oh
Writer, lawyer, college instructor, donut-slayer, chocolate lover. Addicted to diet coke. Likes to quote extensively from the Princess Bride, Monty Python and Godfather movies. Never leaves home without her iphone, chapstick, a book and her American Express card. Her debut, PROPHECY, comes out in Winter 2013 by HarperCollins Childrens.