Wednesday, October 1, 2014

INTERVIEW WITH SANDRA WAUGH AUTHOR OF LARK RISING

Lark has foreseen two things—she will fall for a young man with sage green eyes, and he will kill her.

Sixteen-year-old Lark Carew is happiest close to home, tending her garden and gathering herbs for medicines. But when her Sight warns her that monsters called Troths will soon invade her village, Lark is summoned on a journey to seek help from the legendary Riders of Tarnec. Little does she suspect that one of the Riders, Gharain, is the very man who has haunted her visions. Or that the people of Tarnec have called her there for another reason: Lark is the Guardian of Life, the first of four Guardians who must awaken their powers to recover four stolen amulets. Together, the amulets—Life, Death, Dark, and Light—keep the world in Balance. To take back the Life amulet, Lark will have to discover her true inner strength and give in to a love that she swears will be her downfall. (From Goodreads)


And now, it is my great pleasure to introduce my fellow inkpot member, the immensely talented Sandra Waugh!

As you know, I loved LARK RISING! How did you come up with such an interesting and fresh premise?  
That a hawk stopped by on my porch one morning is old news by now, but truly—that was what that tied together loose threads of a story I’d been trying to understand. I sat down and wrote the first pages based on that brief moment and the rest followed, fleshed out over many, many lawnmowings (I think it’s also old news that I work out my stories while mowing the lawn!).  I followed a classic fantasy trajectory but hopefully (as you say!) from a fresh perspective.  It follows from all that mowing that so much of the story is about Nature and the fragility of Balance.

I work out most of my stories walking my dog, so I totally understand that!  Your fantasy world is so unique. I loved Lark’s connection to the earth and all of her creatures.  The world was both achingly beautiful, and at times, terrifying.  Can you describe your world building for us?
 It’s just past my doorstep.  I live in an old house with about four acres of grass and garden and woods—it’s my job (beyond just lawnmowing) to try and hold back the wilderness. It’s basically impossible. But even so, I kind of love the challenge because it has brought me up close and personal with my surroundings on a daily basis. I’ve watched Nature struggle and thrive, and some of the most beautiful moments—the first spring crocus, the fattest wild autumn raspberries; discovering a hummingbird moth (who KNEW there are such things as hummingbird moths!) or watching a crowd of fireflies dancing above the back field. There are, too, the dark things (hearing the coyotes at night closing in for a kill, or finding too late a vine has sucked the life from a tree) But… the magic is right there in all of it.

Well, you’ve certainly woven those elements of danger and beauty into LARK RISING.  I love that your magical world is really just a version of the one out your window! One of my favorite parts of LARK RISING was the heart pounding climax.  I could not stop reading!  Lark, who begins her journey as a timid girl who loves to toil in the garden and spend her time with her cousin, Evie, and her grandmother, must dig deep within herself and find the courage to face her fate, and the dangers that come with it.  Was the climax hard to write?  
Actually, I think it was my favorite part! I love action, and heart-in-mouth threat. I also love that Lark had grown enough to face such threat. And I loved her bravery in those moments.  But… there are some very sad moments as well and so admittedly I was often choked up while working.

I shed a few tears while reading it, too! Which is your favorite character from this book, and why? They are all favorites—after all, good or bad, you have to love your characters!  But today I’ll choose the Bog Hag. I had the best time writing her—all knobs, and sticks, and rage, and glee. She flew onto the page.

Which character are you most like? Or who would you like to be friends with?  
There are pieces of me in every character, but I am probably closest to Lark, and so I would love to have as my friends her best friends: Evie and Quin.  They are free where she is not.  They can cajole her out of her timidity as well as shield in difficult situations.  And best—they are true of heart.

I would love to have all three of them as friends!  I can’t wait to read the sequel (hand raised to interview you again!), which focuses on Lark’s cousin, Evie, who must take back the amulet of Death.  Can you give us a hint of what we can expect from SILVER EVE?  
Well… here’s a bit of blurb: A Healer without home or purpose Evie Carew has found the perfect place to disappear: Rood Marsh. She can easily fade into the vast wilderness of reeds and leave behind the violence now claiming her innocent world; leave behind the tragedy that broke her heart.  But the girl is not alone in the marsh. A Rider, a seer, and Breeders of Chaos all seek her, for they know something she does not—Evie is one of the Guardians, one who can help save the world from the coming destruction by reclaiming the amulet of Death. But fulfilling her destiny, meeting true love or a brutal death, is a matter of who finds her first.

And now, a few questions for our readers to get to know you better!

Favorite Book: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Favorite Quote: ‘I say there is no darkness but ignorance.’ Twelfth Night, IV, ii

Favorite Food: crusty baguette

Favorite Ice Cream: Rum Raisin

Favorite Place:  England.  All of it.


Thanks so much, Sandra! 

You can find Sandra on her website (http://sandrawaugh.com/) and on  Facebook,TwitterGoodreadsPinterest or Tumblr.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Child of Two Cultures, by Lou Anders, Author of Frostborn


It's my pleasure to introduce our readers to Lou Anders, Hugo award winning editorial director of Pyr Books, and author of Frostborn.  

Child of Two Cultures

Your mammas not American. She doesnt look American.

Those words were said to my son by another little boy on his little league team. I didnt know until afterwards, or I would have had a few things to say. About how long my wife worked to become American. About the interviews, the exams, the travel, the expense. About how maybe working your tail off for something counted more than just being handed it at birth. But really all I should have addressed is that absurd idea that theres a single American look.

When the President was elected, a family friend, who Im pretty sure voted against him and doesnt like his politics very much, nonetheless wrote to say how glad she was that my children had a biracial man in the highest office in the land to inspire them. I appreciated her words, particularly her choice of the word biracial. Not just a black man, which was historic enough, but a biracial man.

Frostborn is my first book, so you can imagine it means a lot to me. But mixed in with all that debut author excitement is my happiness at being able to give a gift to my children. I wanted to write a story that my kids could see themselves reflected in, a story for boys and girls both. My son is an obsessive gamer, and so, too, Karn Korlundsson is a gamer. You dont have video games in the year 986 AG in the land of Norrøngard, so he plays a board game called Thrones & Bones every chance he gets. My daughter is a tornado. Shes the youngest by several years, but I frequently have to order her to quit pounding on him. For her, I wanted to write a girl a strong female character, someone who was absolutely a co-lead, not simply relegated to the role of sidekick. And while Karn is a blond haired, blue eyed lad of what wed equate with Scandinavian stock, Thianna is a child of two cultures. Her father is a frost giant, and her mother hails fromwell, thats actually a secret in book one, but her dark hair, dark eyes, and olive complexion hint at what wed call a Mediterranean heritage.

Thianna is also seven feet tall. Which you might think is pretty big for a twelve year old, but in the frost giant village where she lives, its actually pretty short. Her darker appearance and her size mark her as different from her peers, and several of themone in particularmake her life miserable as a result. How she deals with this, as well as her own struggle to appreciate the differences she has always despised, is why I think so many readers are already embracing her so fiercely. I think struggles to fit in, or not to, resonate with all of us, whether our eyes are blue or brown. And as I write this Im realizing I didnt just write Frostborn for my own kids. I wrote it for that little boy in Little League who thinks theres only one kind of American. I hope Frostborn is a better response than the one I would have given that day.



------------
Lou Anders's research on Norse mythology while writing Frostborn turned into a love affair with Viking culture and a first visit to Norway. He hopes the series will appeal to boys and girls equally. Anders is the recipient of a Hugo Award for editing and a Chesley Award for art direction. He has published over 500 articles and stories on science fiction and fantasy television and literature. Frostborn, which Publishers Weekly described as thoroughly enjoyable (starred review), is his first middle grade novel. A prolific speaker, Anders regularly attends writing conventions around the country. He and his family reside in Birmingham, Alabama. You can visit Anders online at louanders.com and ThronesandBones.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter at @ThronesandBones

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Interview with Mary G. Thompson, author of Evil Fairies Love Hair

Today it’s my pleasure to interview fellow Enchanted Inkpot member, Mary G. Thompson, about her latest novel, EVIL FAIRIES LOVE HAIR!

Here’s a brief description:
What if you could get your fondest wish? You could be gorgeous, brilliant, a star athlete, or a great singer, or you could put a hex on your worst enemy. And all you have to do is raise a flock of two-inch-tall fairies. Easy, right?
            Wrong.
            Ali learns this the hard way when her flock starter fairies get to work. Raising them means feeding them, and what they eat is hair. Lots and lots of human hair.
            Where to get the hair is Ali’s first challenge. What about the beauty salon? Easy, right? . . .
            Before long, Ali’s friends, classmates, teachers, sister, and parents are entangled with the evil fairies, who have their own grandiose and sinister agenda. It’s up to Ali to overcome these magical troublemakers and set things right.


Hi Mary! First, let me tell you how much I loved EVIL FAIRIES LOVE HAIR! What a unique spin on fairy lore.  We have seen many types of fairies in children’s literature, but none like this one! The fairies were deliciously evil, yucky and hysterical – and I don’t think I’ve ever used those words to describe the same thing before! Where did you come up with the idea of these sneaky, hair loving fairies praying on the deepest hopes and wishes of children?

Like most of my ideas, the fairies sort of popped into existence out of nowhere. I was on the subway one night and the title “Evil Fairies Love Hair” popped into my mind. I wrote the opening scene in my notebook on the way home. The idea of growing fairies by feeding them hair seemed perfectly natural to me, and who wouldn’t do it for their fondest wish? I’d probably do it for nothing.

I would too! And I love the title by the way!  

I was immediately captivated by the richly painted fairy world, with all of its rules – including a contract and a rule book!  How did you create this fairy society?  What was your world building process like?

Well, being evil, the fairies had to have a scheming leader, in this case, the pompous and self-aggrandizing Bunniumpton, who likes to be called “Grand Miss Coiffure.” But I liked the idea that even though the fairies have magic, they don’t really control anything about the magical world. They are subject to rules just as much as the kids are, and the rules of the magical world are mysterious and nonsensical to us mortals. I wanted to create a world in which nobody can ever truly get the upper hand. If you think you have things under control, you will be humorously knocked off your pedestal. The adults have no idea what the kids are doing, the kids have no idea what the fairies are really doing, and the fairies are doing magic they don’t fully understand. So my world building was all about ensuring that everyone had just enough information so that all the right things could go wrong. The whole world is saying, “don’t take yourselves too seriously.”

I loved Ali, the protagonist, and I’m sure readers will easily relate to her and her insecurities. Who hasn’t lived in a shadow of a star sibling or friend?  And Michael was such a great contrast to her. All of the characters were so well developed.  Which character in the novel do you relate to the most?  And which one was the hardest to write?

It would be hard to deny that Ali is sort of based on me. Everyone who knows me exclaims that the cover looks exactly like me! Unlike Ali, I never had a problem with my grades, but my fondest wish would be to be smarter. You can never be smart enough, in my opinion. I wouldn’t say any of the characters were hard to write. Maybe the perfect little girl who torments Bunny. I hated her too!

In this book nothing as it seems.  The good kids aren’t really as good as you think, and the bad kids aren’t really as bad as you (and the adults!) think, and the adults that are supposed to be keeping an eye on the kids are clueless. There are so many twists and turns, and yet it is such a funny story.  I laughed out loud many times while reading this!  Was it hard to keep track of it all and weave the fantasy, humor and exciting plot together?

I wouldn’t really say it was hard. Humor, if it works, just sort of happens in the flow of things. Most of the adults’ cluelessness and the plot twists came from what seemed funny to me and what made me laugh. 

I loved watching Ali learn that she had to rely on herself and her own cleverness to foil the evil fairy plot. To me, the real magic occurs when she believes in herself.  This is far from a preachy book, but is there something in particular you would like readers to take away from the novel?

The truth is, I just want people to laugh. Yeah, believe in yourself, don’t believe magical creatures, be true to your friends … but mostly, laugh!

Well, I certainly laughed while reading the book, and I’m sure everyone else will, too! As the story progressed, the kids in the book re-evaluated what a wish is worth, what the price is, and if they really wanted their wish to come true.  The book explores the idea of careful what you wish for – you just might get it.  If those evil fairies gave you one wish, what would it be?

If I had to stick to the fairies’ list of options, I’d wish to be smarter. Like Ali says in the book, don’t go wasting your wish on a hex! If you’re smart, you can find a way to get all your other wishes.

Very good advice! What are you working on now? (if you feel comfortable sharing that)

I have many irons in the fire. Watch this space!


We will! Thanks so much, Mary!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Interview with Rosamund Hodge, author of Cruel Beauty

I am thrilled to welcome to the Inkpot Rosamund Hodge, whose debut YA fantasy CRUEL BEAUTY was released earlier this year. I am completely in love with this spectacular book. If you like fairy tale retellings, complicated heroines, unique worldbuilding, or tough romances, this book is for you. (Even if you don't, it might still be for you. It's that good!)



Cruel Beauty read to me like a re-telling mash-up of Bluebeard, Persephone, and possibly some other fairy tales as well. Did you plan it that way? If so, which legend was the spark that started the story?

Oh, yes, the mash-up was completely intentional—crazy potpourri is one of my favorite styles of writing—and the spark was realizing how some of the legends were connected.

True confession time: when I was a child, I actually was not a big fan of Beauty and the Beast. I liked it just fine, but it felt like nothing special to me. (Heresy, I know.) What I did love was the Greco-Roman myth of Cupid and Psyche. Briefly—an oracle tells the king he has to sacrifice his daughter to a “monster.” But the daughter, Psyche, isn’t devoured by a beast as she expects; instead, the wind carries her to a strange palace with invisible servants who tell her that she is a bride. And every night her husband comes to visit her—but he forbids her to see his face. When her jealous sisters persuade her light a candle anyway, she discovers that he’s Cupid, the god of love. But because she broke his command, he becomes a prisoner of his mother Venus, and Psyche must complete a series of impossible tasks—ultimately going to the Underworld—in order to free him.

As much as I loved the story of Cupid and Psyche, I never planned to write a retelling of it. In a way, it felt too perfect: what could I add? Then a few years ago, I read the fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, which is basically a half-and-half mix of Beauty and the Beast with Cupid and Psyche. (The girl marries a polar bear, who turns out to be an enchanted prince trying to escape the princess of trolls.) Suddenly I realized that all three stories were the same story, working itself out in different ways. That was when Beauty and the Beast became truly interesting to me, and that was the birth of Cruel Beauty.

I didn't even realize East of the Sun, West of the Moon was in there! That's another of my favorite fairy tales.

The world-building in Cruel Beauty is really unique (side note: seriously, everyone, you will not find anything like it anywhere). Its basis, though, is ancient Greece. How did you decide to base your world there? What kind of research did you do?

This is going to sound terrible, but I didn’t actually do much research. That’s because the world-building in Cruel Beauty isn’t intellectual so much as aesthetic. It’s an alternate Earth, but it isn’t the kind has a rigorously worked-out alternate history (like in Kate Elliot’s marvellous Cold Magic, for instance). Instead, the purpose of the world-building is to provide an appropriate atmosphere for the story. 

I knew the world had to be vaguely Greco-Roman, because of the Cupid and Psyche elements. But I also knew that it had to be vaguely Victorian, because Cruel Beauty is a mad, passionate melodrama, and you can’t do that properly without corsets and brooding Victorian houses. So I just threw all those elements in a blender. My “research” was basically a core dump of all the Greco-Roman material I had absorbed through a childhood obsession with mythology and a high school/college career that spent a lot of time on the Classics.

It doesn't sound terrible at all - it sounds refreshing! I tend to agree that the primary purpose of world-building is to serve the story. (And by the way, I've heard Megan Whalen Turner say more or less the same thing...)

I absolutely love your fierce main character. How did you manage to write a character simultaneously so full of hatred and so likable?

That’s kind of a funny question to me, because when I was writing Cruel Beauty, I actually tried very hard not to make Nyx too likable, and I ended up breaking my original outline to do it! But I did still want her to be sympathetic, and I guess the main thing I did was try to make her aware of when she was being hateful. I ended up drawing a lot on my own teenaged experience when writing her. I had a very happy childhood and my parents hardly ever sold me to demon princes. But I did have a bad temper, so I had a lot of experience with being furious while knowing I had no right to be furious. Back then, I would have loved to read about a heroine who struggled with her anger the way I did. So I tried to create that with Nyx. 

I think you did a great job. I also love the character of the sister, especially the way my perception of her changed throughout the novel. Any insight into her?

I have issues with the “sweet young innocent” character archetype. It used to be that a lot of authors and readers idolized them because they were too preciously good for this world. (Think of almost any 19th century novel.) Now a lot of authors and readers seem to hate them because they’re too stupid and weak for this world. (Think of how most people talk about Fanny Price in Mansfield Park.) 

I dislike both approaches, because they both assume that being innocent and kind means you have no interior life. You’re just a symbol, either of purity or stupidity, and either way you’re not a person. And that’s pernicious nonsense. Being innocent and sheltered does not make you less of a person. It also doesn’t mean you escaped psychological damage, or that you have no capacity for darkness.

So when I wrote Nyx’s sister Astraia, I wanted to create a character who was not only innocent in many ways, but who had been treated by her family as the precious, sacred innocent to be preserved at all costs—and who had been damaged by that protection almost as much as Nyx was damaged by trying to give it. 

Finally, I know you're working on a new book -- are there any hints about it you can share?

The new book is called Crimson Bound, and I just finished edits on it last week! It’s not connected to Cruel Beauty at all, except that it’s another fairy tale fusion. In this case, it’s inspired by Little Red Riding Hood and The Girl With No Hands. The heroine is a girl who trained all her life to fight the dark magic overtaking her world, only to end up bound to it instead. Then she gets one last chance to fight back.


I can't wait! Thank you so for a fascinating interview.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Shamelessness

Well, Inkpot fans, it's officially summer!  That means hot days, reading by the pool, and a whole new batch of shameless news from your favorite Inkpot writers!

National Book Award winner William Alexander has a new book out and GHOULISH SONG is already racking up some award nominations of its own: it's a finalist for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature!

Speaking of new books coming out, P.J. Hoover's new book TUT: THE STORY OF MY IMMORTAL LIFE (Starscape/Macmillan, September 16, 2014) got an awesome Kirkus review!  Here's my favorite line:
"the tension between Tut and creepy Horemheb is a well-placed and -paced plot driver.  A pyramid history buffs and fantasy fans will delight in excavating."
Awesome.

Not done yet!  Elizabeth Bird released her Newbery/Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition and you might just recognize #5 on the list: THE GREENGLASS HOUSE by Kate Milford!

And last but very much not least, Laurisa White Reyes has a new book coming out this week! CONTACT, a YA thriller about a girl who uploads people's psyches with a single touch, comes out on June 23rd with Hallowed Ink Press. It will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble & Indiebound.

I can tell you personally - this book is amazing.

And that's it!  Go grab your favorite book and enjoy the summer sunshine.  I'll be back soon with more!

Monday, June 2, 2014

TOTW: Beginnings, Middles, & Ends

"Which part of a book is hardest to write: the beginning, middle, or end?"

I was on a panel at Wellesley Books a few months ago, and when the events coordinator asked this question, I thought the answers would be boringly uniform. Obviously, the middle is the hardest part to write!

But apparently that's just me. For some writers, it's the beginning -- especially in fantasy, where you need to establish your world while avoiding the dread inof-dump. For others, it's the ending, which has to satisfy the reader -- and which will establish their lasting impression of the book. Or, yes, the middle, where you have to connect that beginning and end while keeping all the strands of the characters, plot, and world-building straight. (Or twisting them exactly the way you want!)

How about you? Which is hardest for you to write? (And don't say, "All of them." It may be true, but it's still cheating!)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Cabinet of Curiosities: the Curators Speak

The Cabinet of Curiosities is a disturbing little project helmed by four curators: Stefan Bachmann, Claire Legrand, Emma Trevayne, and me, Katherine Catmull. Each week on our web page, we post the stories—the unsettling, creepy, or quite terrifying stories—of some of the objects in our Cabinet of  . . . well, curiosities is a pleasanter word than horrors. 

A collection of those stories, entitled The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief & Sinister, was published yesterday by Green Willow/HarperCollins. It includes
eight never-before-seen tales and other new material, as well as cover and illustrations—awful ones, in the best sense—by Alexander Jansson

Both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly have awarded it stars, which we keep chained in a little silver birdcage under the stairwell.

To celebrate the book’s publication, I’ve roused my three fellow curators from their magnifying glasses and blood-smeared notebooks to answer a few questions. Also, see the conclusion of the interview for some astounding news.

Curator Catmull: How did this Cabinet business, in which one of us posts a story every week, begin? I know, of course. I am pretending I don’t for dramatic effect. 

Curator Trevayne: I was boiling my bones on a beach in Mexico when the idea of our collection came to me. Naturally, such an endeavor is best not attempted alone, so I quickly recruited the others for assistance. "Assistance" in this case meaning I found three people far more talented than myself and relaxed with a giant chocolate cake as they scurried around making the place neat and tidy and altogether more wonderful than I ever could have imagined on my own.

Stefan Bachmann
Curator Bachmann: I was terribly flattered to be asked to join this intrepid group of curators, as I had been known to shriek ecstatically about their writings at unsuspecting bookstore patrons long before they had any idea who I was, or that we would be embarking on these adventures together. I continue to be pleased by this fortuitous development almost every day, even when chasing nasty, pointy-toothed stories in Siberia.

Curator Legrand: In the fall of 2012, Curator Trevayne approached me asking if I would care to join her and Stefan Bachmann in a new and exciting venture--the telling of short stories for those souls--either young or young at heart--who crave tales of the strange and unsettling. I had read and thoroughly enjoyed Curator Bachmann's first book, The Peculiar, and had had a peek at an early draft of Curator Trevayne's Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times, and knew them both to be utterly talented. And I, of course, was eager to stretch my writing skills in new directions. So it took me no time at all to agree to join them--and I'm so glad I did.

Curator Catmull: And I was invited when—after careful calculations checked via abacus and a rusty, steam-powered computing machine—the other three determined that each month contains four weeks. They have been unable to shake me since, and I plan to die in the Cabinet, though not for several weeks at least, unless I miscalculate while animating these carved onyx cobras. 

Which brings me to my next question. Which is more fun—collecting the Cabinet objects, or writing about them? 

I’ll begin: for me, crawling on my belly through a nest of fire ants to reach a cursed goblet rumored to turn any beverage it contains into a flesh-devouring acid is considerably more enjoyable than writing. What about you?

Curator Trevayne: Being a person who quite likes comfortable cushions and readily-available cake, I should likely say that sitting in my rooms and writing the stories is more enjoyable, but I simply cannot deny the allure of visiting peculiar circuses, wandering bizarre museums, or riding the skeleton train to
Emma Trevayne
the sound of their violins. Those skeletons--how we danced and danced! It is always a relief to return home with all my fingers and toes (the former make eating cake that much easier) but also always a delight when I am called away on another escapade.

Curator Bachmann: I am a rather timid soul in essence if not generally in practice, and I do so prefer scribbling in the silent corners of my house to visiting deserted hollows at midnight or ripping out beating hearts, which alas, one is practically forced to do if one is curious (because what is a heart, really, and what dwells within it, pounding its little fists day in and day out as if it wants to escape?)

Curator Legrand: As much as I enjoy fighting my way through scorpion-ridden catacombs and running for my life through medieval villages overrun with goblins (did you know that we Curators can travel through not only time but also universes?), I must say that, for me, the writing of my stories is the most enjoyable thing. For often, when I am writing, I am happily ensconced in the Red Room at the Cabinet itself, which is my favorite writing spot. Sandwiched between the Bottomless Pit and the fairies' mortuary, the Red Room is...well, I shan't tell you why it is such a deep shade of crimson, nor why the air inside it is so pungent. Perhaps you will visit us someday and discover why for yourself.

Curator Catmull: Please tell us the collecting adventure associated with one of the stories in this book.

Curator Trevayne: Oh, what a great many grand adventures I've had in search of curiosities for the Cabinet, it is difficult to choose just one. However, what comes to mind is the strange incident detailed in "Spidersong." Having traveled quite far and wide for our dear collection, it was strange indeed to happen upon one very nearly on my doorstep. However, there I was, walking through a lovely forest with my dog, and I heard the oddest, most beautiful music. Being a music lover, I naturally followed it, only to run screaming in horror when I discovered its terrifying source--for though I am, as I said, a music lover, I most positively do not have the same affection for our eight-legged, er, friends. I fled home, dog at my heels, and immediately transcribed the tale.

Curator Bachmann: For years, I had been hearing whispers of a little house, small as a doll's, that could rush about on clickety spider legs; I could not have anticipated the difficulty of finding it, however. Its owner had it hidden away, walled up under a staircase. People always try to hide their wicked pasts, but it is we curators’ job to find them. We always do, eventually. And then we take great pleasure in publishing them in children's books for all to read.

Claire Legrand
Curator Legrand: To write about the silver-haired, pug-nosed girl called Quicksilver, I had to journey to the far north, and wander through many icy, underground labyrinths, to which I unhappily lost several digits. (Luckily, Curator Bachmann is a skilled brewer of tonics, and managed to concoct one for the re-growing of maimed body parts right before I returned home from that trip, largely digit-less.) There, I found a stranger hiding in the city hall of a hidden settlement far beneath the Arctic seas. The stranger had vibrant red hair and flaky white skin, but I could not tell if it was a man or a woman. It wore a strange necklace that vibrated with power. To obtain this fascinating artifact, I had to beat the stranger in a game of Nine Lives (which has nothing to do with cats, but rather with testing the skillset of the underground city's resurrectionist). It was a close game, but I eventually bested the stranger--I suspect not through my own virtue, but rather because the stranger, I think, was tired of bearing such a burden.

Curator Catmull: Obviously, we all share our Cabinet living quarters. But many are unaware that our individual rooms are—while contained within the Cabinet—located in entirely different cities. 

For example, my Cabinet rooms are located in Austin, Texas, a rather dry and dusty place where, in every single attic, mournful ghosts sing in harmony to the sound of lonesome guitars. I often wonder why it’s called “the live music capital of the world” when the dead musicians so very much outnumber us.

Curator Trevayne: My Cabinet rooms are located in London, England, a city filled with so many age-old mysteries it is rather difficult to believe someone didn't invent it for a story. Kings and paupers are buried here, as is an entire river which rushes, unseen, far below the streets. On quiet days, in the right places, you can hear it whispering...*

*I hasten to point out that this is, in fact, actually true.

Curator Bachmann: My own room is located in alpine Switzerland, surrounded by copious numbers of mountains and cheese, obviously, and with a lovely view of rolling pastures and a barn. The house that room belongs to is an old one, filled with new things, and sagging under the weight of all the many people who have walked through it over the centuries. There is a loose step on the front stairs, which I am convinced holds secret treasures, or at the very least a skeleton. There is a locked box in the basement that was there when we arrived and has never been opened. My room is under eaves, and was once the servant's quarters, and sometimes I am quite sure they never left, but have simply moved into the walls. . . .

Curator Legrand:  My Cabinet quarters are in a very old place called Princeton, New Jersey, where intellectuals who are very proud of their intellect attend classes and conduct research in an ancient university. I do believe the students think me odd whenever I go into town for supplies, for I can't seem to leave the Cabinet without taking some of it back with me. And Curating as we do is, of course, not something one can learn from a textbook.

Katherine Catmull
Q. Curatorial tale-spinning is not confined to the Cabinet. I myself am the author of Summer and Birdthe story of two sisters who wander into a land where a Puppeteer swallows birds alive, and where the earth and sky clash together like jaws—you know, that sort of thing. I am revising an even uncannier book right now, but on that topic I can say no more. What about the rest of you?

Curator Trevayne: I am the author of two novels about very strange music (Coda and Chorus, both available now), and one about a boy, a magical doorway, an evil sorcerer, a slightly mad Lady, and a clockwork bird (Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times, also available now). My next book, about maltreated faeries, will be available in 2015.

Curator Bachmann: My latest book is called The Whatnot and is the companion and concluding volume to The Peculiar. It concerns a brave girl with twig-hair fighting her way through a dreary and dangerous faerie world, desperate to return to the Victorian England she was stolen from. Furthermore, it concerns a boy with an eye that can see into a dying country, moving prisons, a woman with a porcelain face, cottages that are bigger on the inside than on the out, and one very nasty king. There are other books coming later, different sorts of books, about adolescents instead of children, about terror in deep places and running in the dark, but those are a long way off yet.

Curator Legrand: I have three other books either already out in the world or soon to be released. One is The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, about a practically perfect twelve-year-old girl who must face off against a nefarious headmistress to rescue her friend from an orphanage that is not what it seems. One is The Year of Shadows, about a lonely girl who must work with a group of friendly ghosts to save her father's failing orchestra--if, that is, some not-so-friendly ghosts don't first destroy her. The next is a book for young adult readers called Winterspell, and is a dark, romantic fantasy re-telling of the classic ballet The Nutcracker. 


ASTOUNDING NEWS. To celebrate the publication of The Cabinet of Curiosities, we are releasing a series of podcasts, in which each week one of the Curators reads one of his or her own stories. The podcast includes deliciously disturbing music composed and performed by Curator Stefan Bachmann himself, whose talents are almost injudiciously cornucopian. The first podcast, in which Curator Claire Legrand reads her unsettling tale “The Tin Man’s Price,” is available now--or you can subscribe to the entire series at iTunes.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Spring YA Covers: Yes, dresses--but also swords and fire and blood, blood red

There was a time when you could tell a fantasy was “Young Adult” because the cover featured a one-word title and a gorgeous dress or exceptionally great hair. Nothing wrong with that, of course.  But today’s covers—dark, mysterious, sometimes explosive—offer a refreshing variety of images.

Not that designers don’t get messages from the great hive mind. This season (meaning January-June 2014), the message seems to have been “darkly mysterious blue,” alternating with “eye-popping red.” Anything to drag us across that bookstore, right?

Also there are badass heroines and heroes, swords, eyes compelling or threatening, fire, shadow, explosions—and marvelous dresses. Can’t wait to read these books!

“Young Adult” in this case means age 12 to 18. As always, if there’s a cover we’ve overlooked, please link to it in the comments.

Tell us which is your favorite, and why!

(Click the link below to see the covers)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

CHANTRESS ALCHEMY with Amy Butler Greenfield!


This week I got to chat with the supremely talented, Amy Butler Greenfield, about her new book CHANTRESS ALCHEMY, the wonderful second part of the CHANTRESS triology.

Here is the awesome book trailer...
For ease of following our chat - my questions are in blue...

I love the mood you set at the beginning of this novel with the Chantress by the sea - as someone who grew up by the shore, I wondered if you had ever lived there, and how you researched for this? I imagine you walking the sands of Norfolk at night in the wind and rain!
 

Oh, I wish I could have done that! I’ve always loved the sea, and I expect that’s why there’s a lot of water and water magic in the Chantress books. Growing up, the coasts I knew best were all on the eastern US seaboard, especially the island of Nantucket, where my uncle was a lobsterman.  But ever since I first came to live on other side of the Atlantic, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the British coast better – though my explorations are hindered a bit by the fact that I live in landlocked Oxfordshire!
My favorite part of the British shoreline so far is the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. Initially I planned to start Chantress Alchemy there, but for all kinds of reasons I soon realized Norfolk made more sense.  Because my deadlines were tight I wasn’t able to travel there, but luckily we have friends and family who often go to Norfolk, and I also researched the exact bit of coastline I needed at the library and online. Almost none of the research made it into the book, but it helped make the setting real in my mind – which helped me make it real on paper.


How did this book idea come about and was it always meant to be a trilogy?
My friends and even my mom had ideas about what I should write next but I couldn’t find anything I wanted to start on. 

Then one day sitting in a coffee house, I thought, maybe this is it. I don’t have any more books in me. I always have my journal and pen in hand so I wrote, if I was only allowed one more book what would it be? And something shook itself free and I was able to start. And the three things that came to me were, singing, spy network, ruby, lost girl. And then I knew I really wanted to write this.



This novel is very much a stand alone, which I think is tricky especially for the second novel in a trilogy - so often they become a bridge between the beginning and end. Did you set out deliberately to make sure each part has its own distinct story, as well as an overall arc?

It IS difficult!  But it was something I very much wanted to do, as I always get frustrated when I read a trilogy where the books break off in mid-story – and I’ve always loved books like THE DARK IS RISING sequence and THE CHRONICES OF PRYDAIN (and in a looser sense, the WIMSEY-VANE mysteries and the MARY RUSSELL mysteries), where each book is both part of a whole and a story in itself.  



I underestimated how hard it would be to pull this off, though!  The characters need to develop and grow, and there needs to be some kind of epiphany in each book – and yet you always have to remember where you’re going with the overall arc of the series. And the same is true with the ending:  You need closure, but not so much closure that the reader has no reason to come back.   


I love and also despair at this ending - did you mean to break my heart? Seriously, I need to know what happens next, after you left us on such an 'oh, it had to be this way,' ending - how far into writing the third book are you?

I’m sorry that I broke your heart – but truly delighted that you cared so much about the characters!  I have to admit I cried when I wrote that last scene.  In fact, the first draft had a much happier ending, because I couldn’t bear to write it any other way.  But that ending didn’t feel true to me. So I dug deeper and let the story be what it wanted to be, and I found the ending that felt real.

Of course I left myself quite a job to do in the third book! But I have a full draft of that now, and my editorial letter has just arrived, so we’re on schedule for a Summer 2015 release.  Although it’s been tough writing on such a tight deadline, the book itself has helped keep me going, as it’s full of adventure and all kinds of Chantress mysteries and secrets—with Lucy and Nat facing their greatest dangers yet.

I love how aspects of the Flamel story intertwine with this one, and the elements of court life in seventeenth century England, can you tell how hard I'm trying not to give any spoilers away here? How much research did you do and was it hard to stop?

You are doing a SUPER job not giving away spoilers, Keely!  I adore research in general, but the research for this book was especially fun.  I visited historic houses, sampled old-fashioned foods, and swanned around a fashion museum admiring ballgowns and embroidery.  I even got to research chemical explosions and alchemical secrets. What’s not to love?! (Er, yes…  it was hard to stop.)



I have never heard of calendar houses and am now dying to visit one. Were there any other amazing things you found out that you would have loved to include but just didn't fit into this story?

A ton! But dearly as I love research, I’m a firm believer in only including what’s absolutely necessary for the story, and not letting the cool facts take over. To give an example:  I was fascinated by everything I read about the alchemist Sophie Brahe, but virtually all of it will have to wait for some other book. As will all those gorgeous (and truly wacky) illuminated alchemical manuscripts, and the brocaded seventeenth-century court shoes, and… sigh.  It’s hard not to include it all! But I try to keep in mind that with novels, research is like an iceberg: most of it should stay hidden.

Was it easier to write the second story, as you knew the characters so well, or does it bring its own unique challenges when you're working with the same personalities?

It really was a joy to come back to these characters. In a very real way I felt like I was getting to visit with old friends.  Occasionally I found myself constrained by something I wrote in the first book that I wished I could change, but that was rare. Honestly, I think I had the best of both worlds this time around, since there are also quite a few new characters in this book, and most of them were enormous fun to write. 

So, what is your next project? 
I’ve had the good luck to write about things I love and care about and have a few ideas, but I’ll wait until the end of this project to see which one grabs me, or it might be something completely different!
 
Okay, as Amy lives just outside of Oxford, and I'm an expat, Brit talk!
Hot buttered crumpets or cream tea? 
Cream tea – with clotted cream, please!
Earl Grey or black tea?  Oh, that’s hard.  But I’ll go for Earl Grey.
Pimms or G & T?  Pimms. It always makes me think of summer in England, which happily is almost here.

I cannot wait to read your next book and what a delight it was to meet you! Thank you Amy Butler Greenfield, for stopping by The Inkpot!






Monday, May 19, 2014

Spring MG covers: The Light! And the genders. Also hooves. And goldfish.

Ever since Harry, Ron, and Hermione, the two-boy-one-girl combo has been a winner. That’s apparent in this season’s roster of middle-grade fantasy covers, although we see pretty much every combination of genders. (Interestingly, there seem to be more all-girl covers than all-boy—we’ll leave you to debate what THAT means.)

The girls, we’re pleased to note, appear to be active  and self-sufficient—we didn't find any “boy reaches out to help girl climb the castle stairs” motifs. Girls have swords nowadays, and they know how to use them.

Once again this season, light is a big factor. Sometimes  our heroes run toward it, sometimes away, but designers know that a bright and mysterious light on a cover always will draw the eye.

Some publishers seem to be lowering the age-range for middle grade—we included several covers this time that were earmarked for ages “8 to 12” rather than the usual “9 to 12” or “10 to 14.” As a result, some of the covers look a little younger than in the past.

These covers hit the bookstores between January and June 2014. If you know of a great one we’ve overlooked, please link to it in the comments. 

And tell us which is your favorite!

(Click the link to see the covers . . .)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Interview with Karen Krossing, Author of BOG


In the midnight forests of the north, a cave troll named Bog has spent his young life hunting with his father and avoiding humans whenever possible. When his father is mercilessly turned to stone by the Troll Hunter’s followers, Bog sets out to find the murderers and avenge his father. But with no leads and little knowledge of the human world, Bog knows his journey won’t be easy. Along the way, he meets a huge forest troll named Small and a young human girl named Hannie. Together, they venture deeper into human territory, where they learn of the legendary Nose Stone—a rock rumoured to bring a stone troll back to life. Hope fills Bog’s heart, but when he discovers the Troll Hunter is also going after the Nose Stone to destroy it, his quest becomes a race of cunning, trickery, and wits.

Sounds wonderful, doesn't it?  Don't you just want to avoid whatever you're supposed to be doing, make yourself a cup of tea, and curl up with BOG?  (The book, I meanmaybe not the troll!)  Today we welcome BOG's creator, author Karen Krossing to our blog.

Lena: Welcome to the Enchanted Inkpot, Karen! As you know, I am a great fan.

Karen: Thanks for the interview, Lena. If Bog, were here, he’d affectionately yank your nose in greeting.

Lena: Well...I suppose I'd yank his right back, then.

You’ve been very busy lately, haven't you? Your book CUT THE LIGHTS came out in October, BOG is just out, and you’ve just come back from your TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour. Many Enchanted Inkpot readers are in the US and might not know about Book Week, so we’d love to have you tell us about it. Where did you go and what was it like?

Karen: I have been busy! I’m just back from Vancouver, where I toured local schools and libraries, giving writing workshops and readings. Book Week is a national celebration of books and reading, organized by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. For one week, touring authors and illustrators bring the magic of books and reading to over 25,000 children and teens. I was thrilled to be able to connect with readers—and to go looking for trolls in the forests of western Canada.

Lena: I know that you’ve been working on Bog for a long time, that it’s one of those labour-of-love books. How long did it take and what was the writing process like?

Karen: BOG took ten years to conceive, write and publish, and it certainly was a labour of love. I stopped writing BOG several times during those years because the story needed more time to mature. Some books just take longer to develop in the writer’s subconscious, I think. So I researched my characters and world further—both troll lore and the rugged, wilderness setting for my book—and I planned my plot twists and turns. I also approached other writers for feedback on my early drafts.

Lena: What made you decide to write about trolls? Did you research them, or did you make up the
details?

One of Karen's readings in British Columbia, Canada
Karen: I first conceived the idea for BOG after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and the ensuing war on terror. I wanted to write about cultural hatred fostered by learned biases from previous generations. But the novel is also a reaction to ethnic conflicts the world over—anywhere where there is prejudice against another cultural group instead of acceptance and understanding of differences.

I chose to write about trolls because, in literature, they’re traditionally considered vile to humans. The point of view of a troll character sets up humans as “monsters,” asking what morals and values make us human versus monster. For me, the novel explores the journey from hatred to tolerance.

I researched troll lore in Norse mythology as well as ingenious legends before creating my version of trolls. These trolls are family oriented and in tune with nature. They tend to avoid humans, and they have a rich storytelling culture. Like in traditional troll lore, they are night dwellers, since sunlight turns them to stone. It was great fun to imagine the details about my trolls and their world, but it was also challenging.

Lena: Bog is such an amazing character. He’s so complex and so flawed. How did you develop him?

Karen: When I started writing a book from the point of view of a cave troll, it fit with who I am. Somehow, writing about a fur-covered beast was natural to me. I developed Bog by thinking about his contradictions. He’s deeply caring yet deeply wounded by the loss of his father. He has adopted his father’s prejudices against humans as well as his strong commitment to family, so it’s hard for Bog to see beyond his family biases to the reality of his world. I think the conflicts that are built into his character make him appealing and fascinating.

Looking for trolls in BC forests
Lena: I love your fantasy writing, but you’re known more for your gritty contemporary stories like THE YO-YO PROPHET. Will you be writing more fantasy now? *crosses fingers*

Karen: Yes! I adore writing both fantasy and realistic contemporary fiction. Although my next book will be realistic (PUNCH LIKE A GIRL, Orca Book Publishers, Spring 2015), my current work-in-progress definitely falls within the fantasy genre. It’s tentatively titled THE WANTON CRIMINAL, and it’s about a fantastical trial of the absurd.

Lena: You seem to really get that middle grade and lower YA age group. What were you like back then? Were you a big reader at that age and if so, what were you reading?

Karen: I was terribly shy, quietly rebellious and fiercely independent. As a teen, I wrote angsty poems and rants, and planned to be a writer—maybe when I retired. I didn’t think writing could become a career, maybe because I’d never met any professional writers. I was also a reader, and I read anything I could get my hands on. I didn’t distinguish between literary and commercial fiction; I consumed everything from trashy romances and Archie comics to Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis and Judy Blume. I was hungry to understand the world from any source.

Lena: In addition to your writing, I know that you are very keyed in to the writing community in Canada. You’re the former president of CANSCAIP, you work with teen writers…. Do you find that this feeds your writing or does it take time away from it?

Karen: I find that connecting to other writers helps my writing in many ways. I’m a firm believer in writing groups and the value of quality feedback from trusted fellow writers. I also find that my community encourages me when the daily grind of writing becomes challenging. So I like to give back to that community. I feel it’s important to support the creators of literature for kids and teens, so that we can all have fabulous new stories to read.

Lena: Thanks so much for dropping by the Inkpot today, Karen!  If anyone would like to try their luck at winning a copy of BOG, Karen is having a Goodreads Giveaway.  And have a look at her book trailer!




Lena Coakley's first novel, Witchlanders, was called “one stunning teen debut” by Kirkus Reviews and won the SCBWI Crystal Kite award for the Americas.  It is a 2013 MYRCA nominee and a 2013 OLA White Pine honouree.  Lena is also the author of two children’s picture books and the former administrative director of CANSCAIP. Learn more about her at www.lenacoakley.com