Saturday, March 31, 2012

Shameless Trio

#1: Hilari Bell's TRAITOR'S SON has just been released by Houghton Mifflin. It's the sequel to TRICKSTER'S GIRL and it's getting rave reviews!!!

#2: Anna Staniszewski's MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE is reviewed in the May issue of Discovery Girls Magazine. They call it: "A funny, fast-paced novel of magical mayhem."

Also, the sequel, MY WAY TOO FAIRY TALE LIFE, has a tentative release date! The book is scheduled for a March 2013.  WOO HOO!!!!

#3: Cindy Pon is contributing to DIVERSE ENERGIES, a multicultural YA dystopian anthology that boasts, among others, Ursula Le Guin!  Look for it Fall 2012 from Tu Books!!!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Interview with Jennifer Nielsen, author of THE FALSE PRINCE

We’re so excited to have a chance to discuss the first book in Jennifer Nielsen’s Ascendance Trilogy. Jennifer is a member of the Enchanted Inkpot, and we are thrilled about this wonderful new series written by one of our own!

THE FALSE PRINCE is a fascinating mix of impersonations and machinations. Could you tell us a little bit about the journey from the inspiration for THE ASCENDANCE TRILOGY to the actually writing it?

THE FALSE PRINCE in six words: Lose the Game, Lose your Life.

Without giving away any spoilers, what was the one thing that surprised you most while you writing THE FALSE PRINCE? (Did Sage behave?!)

Sage came to me as a complete character, so writing him was really more about letting the story reveal who he was rather than me creating new traits in him. So yes, a lot of things surprised me as I was writing.

In particular, there is one scene in the book where Sage gets into a considerable amount of trouble, which he could avoid if he would just back down. But he doesn’t –he won’t. Even as I was writing it, I was so frustrated with him for continuing to push, because I knew the awful consequences that were waiting for him.

Then I realized that Sage could not back down. No matter how foolish it is to stay on his course, he will never move backward. I hadn’t known that about him until that scene, and it was a fascinating discovery.

What draws you to fantasy?

I can really get geeky about`worldbuilding. I love doing research and then interweaving those details with things of my own creation.

For me, what’s wonderful about fantasy is that the world is limitless. If you can dream up the idea, then you can find a way to build it into your story. With fantasy, anything is possible.

What does your usual writing space look like? Do you listen to music? Do you have any rituals you observe--listening to music, eating or drinking specific things--while you're working?

My writing space is wildly unglamorous. There’s a loveseat near a warm window that I enjoy curling into as I write. And I almost always bring pages to bed with me and work on them before I fall asleep at night. However, one thing I’m nearly compulsive about is always having paper and a pen somewhere nearby, because I’ll get ideas all the time, in totally random places, and if I don’t write them down I risk losing them – and I hate that!

I can listen to music at certain phases of the process. For the first draft, I really need a quiet home. But in edits, I often set my playlist to “Writing Music,” and that’s really nice. I wish I could say that I had a ritual of eating dark chocolate as I write. But really, that would be a disaster, so it’s a good thing I don’t.

Did you decide to categorize THE FALSE PRINCE as a young adult novel at the beginning stages of working on it? Why do you think YA fantasy is so popular with both young adults and old adults?

The story tumbled out of me so quickly that I didn’t really make a choice for how to categorize it. Some people see THE FALSE PRINCE as a YA, and others as a middle grade. I think it’s really wonderful that people feel it might cross over to either genre.

I think part of the fascination with YA fantasy is that the teen years and the few years after that are often the most pivotal in one’s life. It’s the beginning of decisions that determine who a person will become. It’s also a time of feeling immensely powerful, when we’re stretching our wings, and before we fully appreciate our mortality. So YA writing inherently contains all of these elements that make for great story material.

How did you feel when you finished the last draft of THE FALSE PRINCE? What did you do to celebrate?

To be honest, I didn’t really celebrate. It was the Christmas season and so I planned to send the manuscript off to my agent right after the New Year (literally right after: I think I almost waited to midnight before I hit send). But by the last draft, I loved this story so much that I had this pit in my gut. What if my agent didn’t like it? What if she felt there was no market for the book at this time? What if she submitted it, but couldn’t find any takers? I’m not normally a worrier about that, but my heart and soul was in the manuscript, so I hated the thought that it might not find a home. I saved my celebrations until after Scholastic so enthusiastically bought it, at which time I couldn’t shout out my happiness loudly enough.

What's your favorite thing about being a writer?

I love the readers – the teens and tweens who are internet savvy enough to find ways to connect with me there, or who want to talk with me about the plots and their favorite characters. I love the younger kids who draw scenes from my books, or enthusiastically raise their hands at school visits to tell me about the story they’re writing. Writing can be a very solitary business, but when I hear from readers who love my books, I begin to feel connected with people everywhere.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Interview with Janet Foxley, author of MUNCLE TROGG

I am delighted to introduce to the Inkpot Janet Foxley who is the author of the delightful and charming fantasy MUNCLE TROGG, which straddles the divide between young reader and middle grade fiction and is hugely enjoyed by readers of all ages, but particularly those aged between 7 and 10.

The United Kingdom's been lucky to have enjoyed two adventures with Muncle so far, with the release of MUNCLE TROGG in February 2011 and MUNCLE TROGG AND THE FLYING DONKEY in January this year.  However we weren't able to keep him to ourselves and it's no surprise that he's gone global with sales into 20 territories (including Germany, China, Russia, Australia and Brazil) and the release of his first story in the United States earlier this month.  In March 2011, Sony Pictures acquired the film rights to MUNCLE TROGG and is currently developing it into an animated feature film.

MUNCLE TROGG is a small giant who lives in a community of other giants on Mount Grumble.  Laughed at by the other giants because of his tiny stature, he's frequently told that he's a Smalling (or as we call them, humans).  When he decides to see for himself what Smallings actually look like, he ends up befriending one of them - a young girl called Emily.  Together they make a series of surprising discoveries that might just help them to save the giants from a very deadly threat ...

In this interview, my questions are in bold and Janet's answers are in italics.

Hi, Janet, and welcome to the Inkpot!

In an interview you gave to the Booktrust last year, you said that. “All my stories start with a vision in my head of a character in a setting and in the case of Muncle I could see him quite clearly, dangling from his brother’s hand as flickering firelight cast his shadow on to an underground wall.”  Do you know what it was that sparked the idea of a small giant or did it just pop into your head?

I’d already decided that I wanted to write a story set in a fairy tale world, and giants were what appealed to me most.  I also wanted to write it from the point of view of a giant and not, as in most fairy tales, from the point of view of a human who encounters giants.  This was because what I most enjoy in writing is making up whole societies complete with their way of life, culture, belief systems etc. and I thought this was best described from within.  I could  also see more potential for humour in doing it that way round, with the giants’ disgusting habits and tastes being the norm.  I decided my protagonist would be a boy (to maximise the book’s appeal, because girls will read books about boys but not vice versa) and only then did I start to think about the plot.  What problem might my boy giant have to overcome?  Immediately it occurred to me that the worst possible thing for a giant boy would be to be small, and that was when I first had that vision of Muncle in his brother’s hand.

There’s a strong theme in MUNCLE TROGG about bullying in that Muncle’s younger brother, Gritt, picks on him, as do many of the other giants.  Was this something that came to you out of that first vision or was it something that really developed as you were writing?

I had a friend who was always worried that her smaller-than-average son would be bullied at school.  As soon as I decided that Muncle’s problem was his size the first problem I imagined him encountering was bullying.

You’ve previously said that you think through the “bare bones” of the story and what happens first.  Do you have a set method for approaching that or is your approach different for each book?  Linked into that, given that there is more than one book in Muncle’s story, do you think ahead for the story arc into other books as well or do you see what happens in each book as you complete them?

Until I was published I was a sit-down-with-an-initial-idea-and-see-what-happens sort of writer, although I usually had some idea of an ending.  MUNCLE TROGG was written in that way and started life as a stand-alone book.  When the publisher wanted to publish a sequel I had to produce a plot outline in two months.  As far as thinking ahead to future books is concerned, all I do is leave a way open for the story to continue if required.

Much as I love Muncle, I’ve got to admit that my favourite character is probably Princess Puglug, the spoilt daughter of the king and queen of Mount Grumble – mainly because she goes from being completely awful in MUNCLE TROGG to being still awful but also strangely awesome in MUNCLE TROGG AND THE FLYING DONKEY.  Do you have a favourite character in the books and if so, who is it and why?

I do, and it’s the same as yours – Princess Puglug.  She’s one of those characters who get away from their author and develop a personality of their own choosing.  She’s huge fun to write about and I think my love for her probably shows through and is what makes her popular with readers.

Can you share with us a taster of what will happen next in the MUNCLE TROGG books?  I’m particularly keen to know if we ever get to see a Wonder Donkey.

Well, we’ve left everybody literally up in the air looking for Back of Beyond.  Eventually the dragons get tired and have to land, but are they in Back of Beyond?  Muncle is not convinced until they spot a herd of Wonder Donkeys.  But the giants soon find themselves in trouble and it is Muncle, helped by the unexpected arrival of Emily,  who again has to save the day.

Do you have a particular approach to your writing?  For example, some authors will only write in the early morning, others prefer writing in long hand and then transcribing it to the computer.

I do household chores for the first half of the morning, then write till lunch.  After lunch I often have a nap (well, I am a pensioner!) followed by a cup of tea and then write again till dinner.  I normally write direct on to my desk-top PC, but I do take a little netbook with me if I’m away from home, and there are notepads dotted round the house for jotting down ideas that occur during chores, meals or in the night.

You’d been writing for 35 years before winning the 3rd Chicken House/Times Children’s Fiction Award in 2010 and since then MUNCLE TROGG has become a bit of a phenomenon, selling into 20 other countries and having the film rights bought by Sony.  How have you coped with the success and what’s been the coolest moment?

Much of the ‘coping’ is still ahead, as the success is only now beginning to sink in, a year after publication, with the foreign editions starting to arrive in the post and MUNCLE TROGG being short-listed for a few awards.  Sometimes I feel that I’m living two separate lives, one as me and one as a writer.  It has been quite a surreal experience.  Probably the coolest moment was the phone call from Barry Cunningham when I was in a busy street in Newcastle.  A bus roared past and I had to duck into a sports shop to hear him tell me how many dollars he’d sold the film option for.  It’s the only time in my life I’ve been in a sports shop!

But the most moving moments have been when I've received a message from a grateful parent, grandparent or teacher telling me that MUNCLE TROGG has been the book that has turned their reluctant reader on to reading.  That was not a consequence I foresaw when I was writing my little fairy-tale and it is worth any number of short lists and film options.

What are you planning to do once Muncle’s story is told?  Do you think that you’ll keep writing for children or are you looking to do something different?

I’ve got one or two ideas for stand-alone books, and one for a potential series, all for a similar age group to MUNCLE TROGG.  And I’ve just been invited by an educational publisher to contribute to a reading series for that age group.  If  I ever have a grown-up idea I daresay I might try writing a novel for adults, but I can’t see any grown-up ideas on the horizon at the moment.

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, Janet, and best of luck to Muncle on his quest for world domination!

MUNCLE TROGG is available in the United States from Amazon.

MUNCLE TROGG and MUNCLE TROGG AND THE FLYING DONKEY are each available from Amazon UK.

You can find out more about Janet and her books on her website here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What We're Reading Part 1!

Here at the Inkpot, in addition to writing, blogging, and cyberloafing, we've been reading up a storm since our last virtual bookclub meeting in November. We've devoured novels, short stories, graphic novels, in every genre from steampunk to dystopian to adult fantasy.

Here's part 1 of a roundup of what we've been reading, how we came to pick it up, and what format we're reading in! Look for part 2 here at the Inkpot on April 16!

CINDA CHIMA (that's ME!): While I've read several great dystopian novels lately,  I'm going to mention two fantasy novels, because I loved them so much. The first is SHADOW AND BONE, by Leigh Bardugo, releasing in June. I read that in ARC form, for a blurb. It's a fabulous Russian-themed high fantasy with multifaceted characters.We'll post an interview here closer to the release date!

The second is THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater. I had it on my to-read shelf in hardcover and my YA book club was reading any Printz nominee. It has it all--bloodthirsty, flesh-eating horses, strong female lead, high stakes and hot horse-whisperer type character. Up next: RED GLOVE by Holly Black. All of these are in print form because my to-read shelf is groaning.

P.J. HOOVER: Putting aside the science fiction and focusing on the fantasy, I just finished THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer A. Nielsen (paper ARC I picked up at ALA)! I absolutely loved it and could not put it down. In fact, I loved it so much, we're reading it for the fifth grade boys' book club I run! Also, I just started SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo (paper ARC sent by the publisher). I'm only a bit in, and the writing is just beautiful.  And next up will be BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore (also a paper ARC sent by the publisher). It's sitting on my bedside table tempting me!

DEVA FAGAN: I was shocked to discover upon looking at my Goodreads list that I haven't read *any *fantasy since mid-December, when I read the fantastic YA fantasy LIAR'S MOON, by Elizabeth C. Bunce, which I bought at my local bookstore because I'd so enjoyed the first in this series (STARCROSSED) about clever, pragmatic Digger and her plot-twisty, thiefly adventures. I'm making up for my fantasy hiatus now with two delectable ARCs I received for authors who will be joining us here on the Inkpot for interviews next month. First is Stephanie Burgis's MG historical fantasy RENEGADE MAGIC, which has already made me laugh with delight in the first three pages. It's so fun to read more about the delightful characters introduced in the first in this series (KAT, INCORRIGIBLE)! After that I have Zoe Marriott's YA fantasy SHADOWS ON THE MOON which I am excited for both because I've loved her other books, and because I've seen it described as a re-telling of Cinderella in a fairy tale version of ancient Japan.

PIPPA BAYLISS: I just finished GOLIATH by Scott Westerfeld which is steampunk (don't ask me if it's fantasy or sci-fi - it's FANTASTICAL so it counts imo). I had to finish Westerfeld's LEVIATHAN trilogy and this didn't disappoint in the least. It was a great conclusion to a great trilogy and since I was in such a hurry to read it, I got it in e-book form for my Kindle.

My latest read was by Ellen Booraem, whose first book, THE UNNAMEABLES made me a fan of hers. SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS is wonderful - I love the humor, her MC, Mellie, all the characters and everything about it. A great fantasy story at my reading level. I love, love, loved it.  ... Oh, and I'm going to lurk here to make a list of 'what to read next' :)

SYBIL NELSON: I'm currently reading THE SON OF NEPTUNE by Rick Riordan. Very entertaining.

DAWN METCALF:  I just finished re-reading the Parasol Protectorate series, getting ready to read the final book, TIMELESS by Gail Carriger.  It's a paperback series I have in my personal library. I  first heard about the series from a friend--word of mouth--who knew how much I loved steampunk and other cultures and Victoriana and mythic monsters and a big dose of humor. I came for the recommendation and stayed for the charismatic characters and witty voice. PS: I'm reading a *phenomenal* WIP from one of my crit partners that I can't talk about yet, but I can't wait to see it snapped up by readers!

CARMEN FERREIRO-ESTEBAN: Right now, I'm reading ASSASSIN'S APPRENTICE by Robin Hobb (the first volume in the Farseer trilogy) because it has been too long in my To Read list. I'm not sure if it qualifies as YA, but for those of us who write stories in Medieval settings it is a must. Her world building is formidable. It was first published in 1995, and I'm reading a paperback copy from the library. My next book to read will be THE SHAPE OF DESIRE - Sharon Shinn (shifting circle novel) in ARC.

Inkies William Alexander and  Keely Parrack have been reading short stories!

WILLIAM ALEXANDER: Lately I've been reading short stories in brief bursts--most recently from WE NEVER TALK ABOUT MY BROTHER by Peter S. Beagle. It's a solid, physical paperback. Very young protagonists star in at least a couple of the stories, so for our purposes I'll call them MG fantasy. How did I happen to hear about it... Well, there are some places in bookstores that I always visit, even if I've read all the books on that particular shelf and have already given copies to everyone I know who needs them. I do it just to say hello. So I spotted this one while aimlessly browsing and visiting the Beagle part of the bookstore. Up next: ABOVE WORLD by Jenn Reese.
KEELY PARRACK: I just re-read ST LUCY'S HOME FOR GIRLS RAISED BY WOLVES. It's a short story by Karen Russell - in print format from Granta literary mag. It's so brilliant, beautifully written completely absorbing and laugh out funny! I read it to my 11 year old son last night and we cried with laughter!

CAROLINE HOOTON: Probably the best fantasy book I've read recently was THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern. It's not specifically YA but I think that the characters and the setting would appeal to a teenage audience. It's about a boy and a girl who are brought up by different magicians who pledge them to fight a magical duel even though neither of them knows the rules. It's set during the turn of the last century and I found that the writing and the descriptions were just incredible and they keep lingering in my mind.

I'm an old school Luddite so I read it in hardback. The publisher did a beautiful job with the physical book design - the pages were edged in black and the cover was simple but also really striking. I heard about it because the author was a member of a writers board that I hang out at (Absolute Write) so I wanted to support her (but it didn't hurt that I'd also read some fabulous reviews for it in the British press, including an interview she did with the Guardian newspaper).

Next up on my list is OLIVER TWISTED by J. D. Sharpe, which is a YA dark fantasy/horror mash up of OLIVER TWIST by Charles Dickens. I've literally just started it and almost missed my bus stop because I couldn't stop turning the pages and was snickering at the dark humour. I picked up a copy at its book launch and will be interviewing the author for The Inkpot in May.

Cinda Williams Chima  is the author of the Seven Realms and Heir Chronicles teen fantasy series.  Her next novel, The Crimson Crown, releases October 23, 2012. Learn more about her here.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Interview with Kristin Cashore & Bitterblue ARC giveaway!

congrats to TJ who won the Bitterblue arc!
thanks to all for becoming new inkies and also
participating in the giveaway and expressing your
love for cashore's books!

The long-awaited companion to New York Times bestsellers Graceling and Fire.

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck's reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle--disguised and alone--to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn't yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

cindy: hi kristin, it is so wonderful to have you back at the enchanted inkpot! thank you so much for taking the time from your very busy schedule with Bitterblue tour and promotions to be with us! i thoroughly loved this third novel in your series! (as i knew i would.)
what really struck me was how different Bitterblue was from Fire as Fire was different than Graceling. i appreciate it as a reader but truly admire it as a writer. i know how painful it is to make yourself stretch, to take risks, to write something that you've never attempted before. and you do this with each and every novel you write. yet as different as each novel is from the other, there is also a similarity in spirit, for at its core, is you!

kristin: Aw, thanks! :) And thanks for asking me back! I’m happy to be here.

cindy: you mentioned how difficult it was to be in Fire's head while you were working on that second novel. because she was often mentally and emotionally in a dark and difficult place. i found Bitterblue to be much more innocent and naive; yet, surrounded by so many secrets, and mired in a kingdom where her people are trying to overcome the many abuses inflicted upon them by Leck, her father. how was it for you writing this third novel? what were the challenges of writing from Bitterblue's point of view? what were some joys?

kristin: Being inside Bitterblue’s head was SO much easier than being inside Fire’s. It was a relief to be inside the head of a character with no superhuman powers (especially mind reading, which was another of the challenges with Fire!). Because she’s an ordinary human, I was able to relate to Bitterblue in certain ways I couldn’t with Katsa or Fire, and she was very generous with me—she really showed herself to me, and let me in.

That being said, everything else about the novel was significantly harder than the previous books. The complications of the plot provided enormous mental challenges for my little brain. Also, there was nothing enjoyable in writing about the abuses of Leck. Writing the pain of the people he’d hurt was painful for me, and writing the scenes in which he has a presence was horrible. I would finish my work and feel haunted and dirty for the rest of the day. A scene that took you five minutes to read may have taken me a week or more to write. Sometimes I felt trapped with him!

At the same time, no book has ever given me so much joy. I didn’t really feel the joy until it was done—there were few joyous moments while I was writing, I was too worried about what a big pile of crap it was—but finishing it was enormously satisfying. Nothing feels better than looking at something you’ve written and feeling like you did what you were hoping to do. I still feel that joy!

cindy: congratulations through the struggle and the resulting joy, kristin! as honestly, Bitterblue is my favorite heroine of yours thus far as is this novel. i've personally found that so much of novel writing is about trusting your own process. have you found that your process has changed at all through writing these three novels?

kristin: My physical process was the same for all three books: sit down with a pen and notebook; write, write, write by hand; when I start to get paranoid about the house burning down, transcribe the writing to a Word document using voice recognition software (because I can’t type without pain); print it out; revise, revise, revise. Other levels of my process, however, seem to change with each book. For example, while writing both Graceling and Fire, I revised a lot as I wrote, never moving on until I was completely satisfied with what I had.

Consequently, my first drafts of both of those books were in not-too-terrible shape. But I couldn’t do that with Bitterblue. The plot was too complicated, and there were too many mystery elements. There were lots of times when I really couldn’t know what needed to happen on an earlier page until I figured out what happened on a later page. So I left a lot of questions in brackets, tried to forgive myself for leaving a mess in my wake, and pushed on. My first draft was a disaster. It took me three years and was 800 pages long. The second draft was an enormous project, but also a satisfying one; I beat a lot of things into shape and shaved it down to under 600 pages. I never could have managed it if I hadn’t created the mess of the first draft first, though. A few more drafts followed.

I didn’t have a lot of confidence while I was writing Bitterblue, because it was such a mess most of the time. I was plagued by discouragement that I had to force myself to ignore every day. I depended on my arrogance and determination to keep me going. But finishing it has left me with this wonderful, relieving boatload of confidence, at least for the time being—such that as I work on a new book now, my heart is a little bit lighter. I see that the new book is also an insufferable mess, but I know that it’s okay. The mess is just part of the process, and hopefully I’ll be able to fix it later.

cindy: you blogged recently with all the drafts of Bitterblue piled into your book shelf. that visual and what you've just told us is utterly amazing and inspiring! Bitterblue was an architecturally and artistically visual book. you've traveled quite a lot since publishing. do you take inspiration from real life places or from art that you've seen?

kristin: I take inspiration from everything, really. The sculptures in Bitterblue were inspired by Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, which I first saw in Rome many years ago. In the sculpture, Apollo is chasing Daphne, and to escape him, Daphne is turning into a tree. It’s simultaneously inspiring (Daphne finds strength by transforming into something impenetrable) and infuriating (Daphne has to give up her mobile, human form because some asshole is trying to rape her). It’s also just flatly a beautiful work of art. Things like that get me thinking, and a lot of my thinking works its way into my books :).

I’ll also mention that early on in the writing of Bitterblue, I began to appreciate one of the challenges I’d created for myself: as queen, Bitterblue never really gets to go anywhere. She’s in her castle almost all of the time. In my previous books, I’d written about journeys, oceans and mountains, changing landscapes. I realized that if I wanted Bitterblue to have a setting that came alive, I was going to have to start thinking about her castle as if it was an entire world, and challenge myself to make it interesting. This worked well with the ideas I had about who Leck had been and how he’d have renovated his castle and city. Hopefully it all came together.

cindy: it did. i found the novel very visual indeed. and that's an interesting writing challenge, but the castle never felt static to me--it felt alive, and full of secrets. although the focus and our heroine is Bitterblue, there is such strong “shades of Leck" haunting this story. that really resonated with me, that we cannot escape our histories nor instantly right or undo atrocities that have happened. just mere glimpses into the psyche of this man was terrifying. how "close" are you to Leck? is he a character that you would ever consider writing from, view point wise?

kristin: Your question actually made me shudder :). I can’t imagine ever writing more than a few pages from Leck’s viewpoint; I honestly think it would be bad for my mental health to try to do more. He really doesn’t have a single redeeming quality, and writing the glimpses into his psyche was a disturbing experience for me. I would write a scene, put it aside, spend the rest of the day trying to forget it; then come back the next day, read it, and realize with a sinking heart that it wasn’t creepy enough yet. So then I’d rewrite it, trying to make it more creepy. There were times when the realization that it wasn’t creepy enough yet would practically reduce me to tears, because I really didn’t want to spend any more time with him! The funny thing is that I never consciously planned to dwell in such horror. When I was writing Graceling, I wrote him as a fairly typical villain, and I had enough distance from him that he couldn’t hurt me. Then, in Fire, I had to spend some more time with him, but so little that it was actually kind of fun. Then I began Bitterblue and realized too late what I’d gotten myself into. I had to make him as evil in Bitterblue as I’d show him to be in the previous books—there was no way around that—but this time, in much more detail, at much greater length, and with no distance between us.
I can say with certainty that I’m happy to be done telling his story.

cindy: wow. it seems like it was a culmination, one that was unavoidable and necessary. and he truly is a chilling villain with a grace that caters so well to his cruel tendencies. will there be another novel set in this world, kristin? can you tell us a little about what other writing projects you are working on?

kristin: Right now, I’m writing something new, and the only thing I’m ready to say about it is that it’s not fantasy and is currently a pile of crap. But I’m working on it! :) As far as another novel set in my fantasy world goes—yes, I’m pretty sure I’ve got another one in me. Not sure what form it will take, but something is brewing.

cindy: not fantasy! i think that's very exciting and brave. i have every confidence that it will be brilliant in the end. also, i'm sure all your fans rejoice in knowing that there is at least one more novel set in the seven kingdoms! all fabulous news!!
the giveaway!

thanks again kristin for stopping by and giving such interesting insight into Bitterblue and your creative process! now, i'd like to give away my own Bitterblue ARC! (it's a little well loved, but perfectly readable! =)
to enter:

1. simply leave a comment in this post with your email (+1).

2. to increase your chances (+1) please twitter, fb status, blog (etc) and link to this interview and tell about the Bitterblue giveaway. make sure to comment with that link in this post.

3. to increase your chances (+1) please follow us at The Enchanted Inkpot! make sure to comment that you have become a follower.
giveaway runs through friday, 3/30 when i'll choose a winner by random. this contest is open INTERNATIONALLY. good luck!
cindy on twitter

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


This month I was so excited to get hold of an Advanced Reader's Copy of TRAITOR'S SON by our own Inkie - Hilari Bell! And even more to swipe the job of interviewing her about it! (Okay, it wasn't a swipe, more of a beg!)

TRAITOR'S SON is the second of THE RAVEN DUET books.

It's a great fast paced unputa-downable (yes, that's a real word), read, and it also stands alone, though you might want to rush out and read the first one afterwards! - I was busting with questions as soon as I finished it, so here goes...

Questions in bold - Answers in italics!

- TRAITOR'S SON has such a vivid sense of setting, it totally made me want to visit Alaska! I know you went to Alaska to research so I long were you there? Did your trip change the plot in any way, or add things you'd never have imagined? I know I'm cheating here and pretending this is one question!

Alaska is amazing, and if you can do it you really should go! I was talking to my editor, who has also been there, and she said the first time she and her husband went there they were “stunned silent” by it’s beauty. If I had to pick two words to describe it, the first would be grandeur and the second unearthly. And because I was going for novel research (it’s good to be a writer!) I got to be in Alaska about 40 days—and we took about 12 days to get there, and the same back.

I actually planned the trip for research (and because I’d always wanted to go) but plotting Trickster’s Girl and Traitor’s Son as I traveled was one of the most fabulous writing experiences I’ve ever had. I knew roughly what would happen in the novels, but I’d drive around a curve and realize that this was where Kelsa would heal the lake ley, and Whittier, with it’s looming abandoned towers was where Jase’s final battle had to take place. And Musk Oxen worked their way into the story, and tree frogs, and the taiga wasn’t at all what I’d expected, and, and, and....

To drive the same roads, and visit the places where my story was taking place made it come alive for me in a way that SF and fantasy usually doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love making up magical and alien worlds—but this experience was very different.

- Thanks Hilari, it definitely made me want to go to Alaska!

Of course I have to ask you about that amazing car - a Tesla no less! The details and the relationship between boy and car were so real, how did you do that?
Do you own a Tesla? Are you a secret girl racer? Did you collect toy cars as a kid? (like me?)

Photo, copyright The Tesla Society

Own a Tesla? Clearly you think writers make more money than they do! And I’m not independently wealthy, either. Nor am I a car fan, particularly. But the Tesla was the sexiest electric car I’d heard of, and I knew almost from the start of his character that Jase was a huge car fan—it’s part of him being a city kid, and so very divorced from his cultural heritage. I mentioned that it’s good to be a writer? There’s a Tesla dealership in Boulder, only about 50 miles from my house. My brother bet me they wouldn’t take a mere writer for a test ride—but I figured the worst they could do was say no, so I sent them an “I’m writing a book, and my protagonist drives...” email. They not only gave me a test ride, they answered weird writer questions like “What kind of magical spell could you cast on this car that would keep it from starting?” with a straight face. As for the ride itself...I may not be a secret girl racer, but the Tesla is a seriously cool car!

I might just have to write a character with a taste for classic Astin Martins next!

- I love the complexity of the story being set in the future but dealing with heredity, cultural expectations, breaking with that tradition and the consequences of those choices, especially as unusually you place the main character, Jason in-between an inter-generational row.
Did you always have that idea as the plot cornerstone, or did it creep up on you?

That idea, in a way, was the core of the novel right from the start. I’d seen the movie Eragon, and I have to confess I didn’t care for it—and maybe the book, which I haven’t read, is better. But in the movie the only character that really interested me was the son of the bad guy, who is himself a good guy and has a hard time convincing the other good guys that he won’t betray them. That was a wonderful conflict—so why not give it to a protagonist? The idea of a hero who was a villain’s son hung around in my head for a long time, till I started wondering what the core of my second Raven book could be—and it worked so perfectly, it made the whole story just fall into place.

- This is such a solid stand alone book, yet it is part of The Raven Duet. When you were working on TRICKSTER'S GIRL did you already know where the next book was headed? How much do you outline ahead?

As you may have gathered from some of my other comments, I’m a big outliner. Before I ever set off for Alaska, I knew that the museum break-in would happen in the Salt Lake City area, that the first ley healing would be in Craters of the Moon, that the bikers would start stalking Kelsa somewhere along the road, and that the climax would be her throwing the medicine pouch over the border. I also knew most of the bones of Traitor’s Son, that the core of the story would be the rift in his family, and that the final battle would take place in—and out—of the spirit world. That kind of thing.

- The dreamworld felt so real and compelling, I was truly worried Jason would get stuck! It reminded me so much of Aborigine dreamtime legend, it made me wonder where did you get your inspiration from, for such a richly dark alter-world? (I hope you noticed that was actually one question!)

The spirit world is loosely based on the dream/spirit worlds that appear in many, if not most, native cultures. It arose more from the Inuit myths than the Aborigine, but they’re all somewhat similar. And most of the details simply came from my own imagination. I have no idea, for instance, why Jase’s cell phone turned into a beetle and bit him before it flew off. In truth, I generally dislike dream worlds in stories, because there are no real consequences for what happens there—which to my mind pretty much kills suspense. So in my story’s spirit world, whatever happens to Jase there happens to his body back in the real world. If you’re hurt in the spirit world, those wounds are on your body when you wake up, and they heal in the normal way at normal speed. If you die won’t be waking up. Ever.

Scary thought!

- It seems to me that mentors play an important role in this novel, particularly Jason's relationship with his father, grandfather, and grandmother. Where there any mentors that made a big impact in your life, either as a writer or in your childhood?

Not mentors per se. But I did have a good creative writing teacher back in middle school. When I came by at the end of the year to pick up my final story, he asked me if I’d ever considered becoming a writer. I said, “Are you kidding? Writers starve in garrets and get paid peanuts.” He laughed, and said I should consider it. And as you can tell, that conversation stuck with me. I sent him a copy of my first book—and tracking him down was interesting too. The school secretary asked me, “And what was his first name?” “I was in Junior High. His first name was Mister.”

- Finally, what are you reading right now?

Right this minute I’m re-reading an adult alternate history novel—Fortune’s Stroke, number four in the Belisarius series by Eric Flint and David Drake. But the best YA fantasy I’ve read recently—in fact, the best I’ve read in a long time—is Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I know I’m not the first to say it, but it’s a stunningly gorgeous novel. The writing just blows me away.

Thanks so much for hanging out with us, Hilari!

For those of you hoping to write your own brilliant YA novel - Hilari has a heap of really great tips and writing advice on her website, here, WRITING TIPS. I'm going there right now!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Even MORE Middle-Grade Fantasy Covers

Welcome to day two of  Love that Cover, in which we see ghosts, great hair, contraptions and cartoons, not to mention muscle-men and prancing war-horses. What’s not to love?

Seriously, what’s NOT to love? My favorite today is a toss-up between two big guys: Hades, or the giant knight protecting his kingdom. (Hades is actually kind of hot. But then I suppose he’d have to be.)

Which do you like?


Great Hair Catches the Breeze



Doorways and Other Portals

Ghosts, Fog, and Assorted Wisps


Cool art


My, you’re big