Monday, April 30, 2012

TOTW: Ogres and Trolls

It occurred to me the other day that the wild things in Maurice Sendak's most famous picture book are actually a version of trolls or ogres. This makes sense when you recall how Sendak himself described the inspiration for the wild things:
Then, very gradually, these other people began to appear on my drawing paper, and I knew right away that they were my relatives. They were my uncles and aunts. It wasn't that they were monstrous people; it was simply that I didn't care for them when I was a child because they were rude, and because they ruined every Sunday, and because they ate all our food. They pinched us and poked us and said those tedious, boring things that grown-ups say, and my sister and my brother and I sat there in total dismay and rage. The only fun we had was later, giggling over their grotesque faces—the huge noses, the spiraling hair pouring out of the wrong places. So I know who those "wild things" are. They are my Jewish relatives.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Shameless Side of the Moon

It's just barely still Saturday here on the west coast, so I feel justified in slipping this Shameless Saturday post in under the wire!  And it's a good thing I did because we're got some awesome stuff this week!

Whenever I have news, I usually save it for the end of the post.  But this time, I'm being and putting it first.  Why?  Well (a) it's pretty awesome and (b) it involves our very own Nancy Holder.  Because I've got two shiny new blurbs for TEN!


"Gretchen McNeil's TEN is my new number one! I jumped at every creaking floorboard in my house and on the page. This is sure to be a teen thriller classic!" (Nancy Holder, Bram Stoker Award winning author of THE SCREAMING SEASON)

"TEN is a real page turner! Gretchen McNeil knows how to plot a thriller: Her setup is flawless and the suspense kept me on the edge of my seat." (Christopher Pike, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the THIRST series and REMEMBER ME)

I know, right?

And on the heels of these blurbs, I found out TEN will be published in Spain by Maeva. It was an awesome week!!!!

Speaking of Nancy Holder,participated in one of the thirty events held in thirty days about Edgar Allan Poe. Together with an acting team from Read Out Loud, she talked about Poe and his connection to horror. She and the team also passed out copies of Poe books for World Book Night. Also, Blonde Ambition, a hardback collection that includes stories from her Domino Lady comic books, went on sale. The cover is pretty awesometastic.

Nancy's not the only one with a new book out. Sybil Nelson's fifth Priscilla the Great book is out May 1st. That's next week!!!!  WOO HOO!!!!

Plus, Lena Coakley's paperback of WITCHLANDERS will be out this fall and Scholastic has licensed it for their fall book club.

And last but not least, Kate Milford's Kickstarter campaign we mentioned two weeks ago?  Yeah, it got a massive write up in Publisher's Weekly.  Go, Kate! Go!

That's it. "It."  Hahaha.  So much good news this week!  *dances*

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Enchanted Interview: Bethany Griffin, author of MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH

I first "met" Bethany Griffin back when we were both soon-to-be debut novelists as part of the Class of 2k8/2k9, when her contemporary YA novel Handcuffs was getting buzz. When I learned that her long-awaited new book would be a retelling of Edgar Allen Poe's "Masque of the Red Death," well, I think my squee was audible from the next county over!

Everything is in ruins.
A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.
So what does Araby Worth have to live for?
Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.
But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.
And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.

So I'm delighted to present our conversation with Bethany Griffin about her fantasy debut. ;)


I am a big, big fan of retellings, so this one has been in my TBR list for a long time!  So let's start with your inspiration for this novel, Edgar Allen Poe's short story by the same title. What drew you to it, and how did you go about adapting it into the original, full-length novel it became?

I think most of the re-imagining happened in the planning, and then I wrote the book without thinking too much about Poe (too intimidating). I knew the theme of the story (no one, no matter how wealthy, can escape death) so the story immediately had to deal with class warfare issues, and because of the plague had to be post-apocalyptic. Everything else sort of fell into place? The short story is so atmospheric and dark, which was exactly what I wanted the novel to be! So within the framework of Poe's plague and a world defined by that plague, I came up with the characters and the plot.

The setting of MASQUE is wonderfully dark, atmospheric, and beautiful, with touches of steampunk and Victoriana, as well as traces that feel startlingly modern. What went into building Araby's post-apocalyptic world--how much was Poe, and how much is pure invention? What about those crocodiles?!

 I'm terrified of all reptiles, more snakes than anything, but having killer crocodiles roaming the streets was terrifying to me, and repulsive, so I threw it in there! Building the world, well, in the very first partial, it was actually futuristic...the Debauchery Club was a dance club (in that version I think it was called the Morgue, which was a Poe reference, in the actual book, the Morgue was the club next door). But, as I considered the book and the idea for the book, I was also reading a biography of Poe, so it occurred to me to make the book somewhat historical, and then I was like, historical/post-apocalyptic, is that a thing? Turns out it's rather popular in video games, but not done so much in books, so the setting of the book grew from there. The elevator in the Akkadian towers is somewhat anachronistic in that the time period I was imagining would have only had very primitive elevators, but...I left it in there.

Many of Poe's tales are a natural fit for young readers attracted to the gothic and the macabre, and this month's release of the film "The Raven" will no doubt fuel lots more interest in his work. Do you have any particular recommendations for kids who loved your novel (or the movie) and want to read more? Are there any other Poe-inspired novel adaptations you can suggest?

Oh, well Nevermore by Kelly Creagh is a lot of fun and the sequel, Enshadowed comes out later this year. And I haven't read it yet, but I love the idea of Annabel by Mary Lindsey, so lots of Poe inspired YA books all of a sudden (which is great).

Your first novel, 2009's HANDCUFFS, was a straightforward contemporary. Speaking as a fantasy fan, I'm delighted you've crossed over! But what inspired the switch of genres, and how did you find the process? What are your plans for future books? Do you find one or the other a more natural fit for you, as a writer?

I don't think my agent will be pleased if I make another huge change! Honestly, my first love in books were always speculative, and on top of that I spent my middle school years reading all these gothic thrillers that my mom may or may not have given me because they were very tame from a sexual standpoint, but lots of atmosphere and dark settings, so having read so many mixtures of things, mixing genres came pretty easy to me. I feel like a lot of people can do what I did with Handcuffs (tell a high school story) and probably do it as well if not better.  But, what I did in Masque, which some readers at least have loved, is sort of my own mix of crazy influences, so I feel like I've sort of found my thing? And I'll probably stick with some mix of dark, speculative literature for the next few books.

In addition to writing, you're also a high school teacher. How does that demanding and rewarding career play into your writing for young adults? Do your students share your affinity for Poe?

Well, I teach 10th grade and Poe is technically 11th grade, so oddly I don't teach that much Poe, but I do touch on the poems, and maybe a bit of The Tell-Tale Heart, which I think is Poe's most accessible story. And it's always a mix, some love Poe, some not so much. 

Araby's story has such a surprising ending--please tell us we'll see more of her adventures!

Book 2 will be out in 2013, so yes, everyone can read on, go to the Masque and see if a certain young man can redeem himself! 

Thanks, Bethany, for stopping by the Enchanted Inkpot!

Elizabeth C. Bunce is the author of A Curse Dark as Gold and the THIEF ERRANT novels, StarCrossed and Liar's Moon
Visit Elizabeth at

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Special interview with Stacy Whitman, Tu Books, and Kimberly Pauley, author of Cat Girl's Day Off

We've got something special for you all today on the Inkpot. First let me tell you about the book.

Cat Girl’s Day Off is the newest release from Tu Books and I’ve gotta be honest, I absolutely adored it! I didn’t want to put it down! I was literally constantly snickering every other page or so and then there were moments where I just cracked up! This is one of the funniest, the funnest, and the most action packed joy ride of a book! Seriously, loved this book! I’m telling you that even if you aren’t a cat person, I’m not – I’m terribly allergic, you will adore this book.

 And today, for the first time, I get to interview both Editor and Author for an inside look into how this great book got to be published. So I’m very happy to present today’s interview with Kimberly Pauley, author of Cat Girl, and Stacy Whitman, Editorial Director of Tu Books.

 Ello – Welcome to the Inkpot, Kimberly and Stacy! So, for those of our readers who may not know about Tu, let’s start with a quick introduction to Tu Books.

Stacy – Tu Books is an imprint of Lee & Low Books. We publish diverse fantasy, science fiction, and mystery for children and young adults. We started because genre fiction for young readers needs more diversity, needs more characters of color starring in their own adventures.

Ello – I love Tu Books and I think Kimberly has been extremely lucky having Stacy as an editor. Kimberly, can you tell us about how Cat Girl came to you and how it ended up in Stacy’s hands?

Kimberly – I’d started with the very basic idea of a character that had a really stupid super power and didn’t want it. My original working title was “Super Freaks” and I’d thought it would be a series, with each book from a different character’s point of view. One of the other “stupid talents,” for instance, was a girl who could change her hair color depending on what she ate. The idea kept morphing and really took off in my head when I incorporated Ferris.

I knew Stacy from my first two books (she had worked for my old publisher) and I’d always liked her so I made sure my agent sent her the book when it was being submitted around. I’m glad I did! I think she made it a lot better.

Stacy – I knew Kim’s work from her first two books, Sucks to Be Me and Still Sucks to Be Me, which were published by the imprint I used to work for. When I started Tu, we had several conversations about diversity issues, and I asked Kim if she had anything starring an Asian character—as I’d just found out (since we’d never met in person and it never came up) that she was half Asian herself. Cat Girl ended up being the perfect fit.

Ello – I have to say that what I loved about Cat Girl was Nat, your main character, and how you just nailed her voice. She was alive in my head as I was reading. She made me snort diet coke out of my nose. I wanted to high five her. I wanted to hang out with her. I loved her especially because she is a strong, grounded, smart character. In other words, a great role model! Kimberly and Stacy, can you both talk about the importance of strong girl main characters?

Kimberly – I know books helped define who I was as a person. They were my escape, my solace, my…well, everything. I read a LOT when I was growing up. And I really searched out books even back then that had strong girl main characters. I needed that in my life. I think all girls do.

Stacy—I think that, just as kids need to see themselves reflected in the pages ethnically/racially (more below on that), girls need to see themselves reflect in the pages of a book. Validation and empowerment come from that. But also, I think that just as importantly, boys need to enjoy reading about girls, and need to know that just because book stars a girl doesn’t make it “not for them.”

Ello – Absolutely! I think boys need to read a lot more books about girls. A lot!
 Ok, let's talk about the cats. Oh my goodness! I am not much of a cat person but you’ve almost convinced me to go and adopt a cat. Almost!

Stacy—I’m all about the cats, if you ask my grandma. I grew up on a farm, and my closest connection to it now is that I have two cats, and my grandma tends to give me cat EVERYTHING. I do love them, though, and have always imagined it would be cool to be able to talk to animals. In fact, the only book I’ve ever started to write (never finished) involved a girl who could talk to cats, so this was most definitely the perfect book for me!

Kimberly – Really? I want to read it! Me, I’ve had a cat around nearly all my life. Strangely enough, this is the first time I haven’t had one (or any pet) in a long, long time. When we moved to London from Chicago we had to leave my cat Gracie with my mom. She was too old to make the trip and has since died from cancer. I do miss her though!  She was a serious Diva of a cat. She shows up in the book as Queenie. Other cats I’ve had show up as well (PD, probably my favorite cat in the book, is patterned after a cat I had named Harley, so named because he purred as loud as a motorcycle).

Ello – My girls are working me over hard for a cat but I haven't given in yet!  For the record, I want to let you both know that I have a Class A Talent. I too have hypersensitive olfactory perception and I would love to get a nose inhibitor also. My talent is both a curse and a blessing. So what are your talents, hmmm? Do either of you have the ability to talk to cats?

Kimberly – I don’t know that cats understand me, but I have been known to talk to them (especially before I had my little boy and was working in the house alone with my cats). As for my talent…hmmm…I’d say it’s probably the wealth of completely random information that my brain stores. Gobs of it.

Stacy—I have that Talent too! Usually spouted at times that get me strange looks. But my best talent is the tech-destroying bubble that surrounds me. This year, I’ve had two phones, one iPod, and a laptop computer die on me mysteriously, and the laptop has been a 3-month saga to finally get it up and running again.

Ello – (wonders how far-reaching Stacy's talent is as she nervously strokes her MacPro).  I also want to take a moment to share my love for Oscar! He really does try and steal the spotlight from Nat at times, but Nat is too strong a character to let him take over! I have to say that I was impressed with how even all your minor characters jumped off the page and became so very real. I think Kimberly must have had a lot of fun creating all these characters. So, any of them based on people you know?

Kimberly – Funny you should mention Oscar as he’s definitely based on a few different guys I was friends with in high school and college. I know some people might call him a bit over the top (he is awesome-squared as far as I’m concerned), but he’s actually pretty tame compared to some of the friends I had. Other than that, Nat is probably a bit like me.

Ello – Thanks for publishing a book with Asian characters that are not stereotypes in any way! It is so refreshing to see that! Even Nat’s family was real (well except for the talents part) and not caricatures. So that takes us to the diversity question, which is always a hot topic. Given Tu’s mission, can you both share with us how important diversity is to the both of you? What does diversity mean to you?

Stacy – To me, it means intercultural connections. I’m white, though of course that could mean a variety of cultures of origin (in my case, Swedish, Irish, Scottish, English, German, Prussian, and a little bit Cherokee and Choctaw), and growing up in the rural Midwest I knew so few people from anything other than a Swedish/German/English background. But throughout my adult life, I’ve met so many people whose experiences/cultural background/faces are different than mine, and I want to them (and the fantastic/science fiction versions of them) reflected in the books I read just as much as I want to see myself. As it’s been said so many times, books should be both windows and mirrors—we all need both.

Kimberly – Growing up, I don’t think I ever thought about how the characters in books didn’t look like me. It just wasn’t something that even occurred to me as I read about girl detectives with titian hair or English school children passing through magical wardrobes. Possibly the first time it really hit me was when I read Justina Chen Headley’s Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies), which wasn’t until 2007! I’ve since made it a point to look for more diverse characters. There aren’t as many as I’d like to see, that’s for sure, though I do think it is getting better. Slowly.

To me, I think we’ll be where we need to be when it’s something we don’t have to talk about anymore. That’s actually something I think I did okay with in this book. Nat’s half-Chinese, but it isn’t important that she is. The story isn’t about her race or ethnicity, just like it isn’t integral to the story that Oscar is gay. He just is. Does that make sense?

Ello – Yes, but that's why I love it and I think it's important. I want to see more books where it doesn't matter what the race of the MC is, just that the story is good. Because then we have true diversity without delineation among racial lines.

Ello – But let’s talk about the cover. I love it! That’s Nat! Stacy can you share with us a little bit about the cover decision process?

Stacy – We had a LOT of possibilities to choose from on this one. But given the influence of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I thought it might be nice to echo a movie poster (like this one). We found the perfect model in stock photography, and the designer was able to tweak it to put streaks in Nat’s hair and dye the cat pink (just as Rufus is in the story). The finishing touch that made it all come together was adding the speech bubbles for Nat and Rufus.

One of the reasons we chose to showcase Nat was that we strongly feel, as a publisher whose mission is publishing books about characters of color, that showcasing a character of color is not a detriment to a good cover.

Kimberly – I really like it! I love that Nat is, indeed, half-Chinese and that her hair has purple streaks and that Rufus Brutus the Third is a pink cat. And I love the little speech bubbles, too, and the bold colors.

That said, if I’m completely honest I have to admit that as much as I like it, it’s also a little scary to have a cover that’s different from most of what you see out there. There are bookstores that won’t stock books because they don’t like covers that don’t fit the mold. And readers that (sadly) won’t pick it up for the same reason. I really loved the original cover of Cindy Pon’s Silver Phoenix and even though the new one is really nice too, it’s much more race-neutral. (There’s a good post on this here: from S. Jae-Jones). I do hope that the new cover of Silver Phoenix helps attract new readers, though and that more bookstores will stock Cindy’s book. I’m not yet sure if the cover of CAT GIRL’S DAY OFF is making a difference or not with that, though I was told by a Barnes and Noble representative that they were “not stocking” my book at all (incidentally, if you don’t see CAT GIRL in your local bookstore, please ask—this is one situation where readers can make a huge difference to a book).

Stacy—I’d just add that B&N not stocking CAT GIRL wasn’t the cover (though I’ve experienced them turning books down because they didn’t like covers). In this and any case in which B&N doesn’t pick up a worthy book (in my personal opinion, the rough time B&N is having is affecting how much they order), one thing that really helps is readers walking into stores and ordering the book. Independent booksellers, particularly, will pay attention to a book that they constantly have to order, and will start to keep the book in stock.

Ello – How important do you think it is to have more books not only with diverse characters, but also having them right there on the front cover?

Stacy—As I said, we feel it’s important not to shy away from showcasing a character of color on the cover if it’s a great cover. Sometimes the better cover is a symbolic cover, or one that only shows part of the character and is more ambiguous about race. The cover of WOLF MARK, for example, doesn’t show the character’s face, and the forthcoming SUMMER OF THE MARIPOSAS has a *gorgeous* cover in which the five starring sisters are in silhouette. But I take it on a case-by-case basis depending on what’s best for the book, and to me, for this book, the echoes of Ferris Bueller really made this cover stand out to me.

Kimberly – I do think it is very important. Absolutely. Scary, like I mentioned above, but every book (and character) can make a difference.

Ello – So we come to the most important question… Sequel?

Kimberly – Um…I suppose I need to let Stacy handle that one! I will say that if there is one that I’ve got a rough idea of what the plot would include (a big cat, like a tiger or lion) and what I think the title would be (Don’t Call Me Cat Girl). It’s too soon to say any more than that, I suppose.

Stacy – I sure hope so! But that depends, business-wise, on how well book 1 does, so, um (sorry, here’s the sales pitch) maybe people should go buy it! And ask their libraries to order it! And ask their local bookstore to order it! :D It’s getting great reviews, which means more people are finding it that way, as well. The more people who show us they love book 1, the greater the likelihood of a book 2!
Ello - Absolutely! And we will do our part to spread the word! So guys, go on out and ask your local bookstore to order Cat Girl's Day Off if not for diversity, do it for me because I really really want to read the sequel! No seriously, do it cause it is a great book. And the fabulous people at Lee and Low are offering up two copies of Cat Girl's Day Off to our Inkpot readers. All you have to do is leave a comment and we will enter you in for a chance to win! So let the world know and enter in the drawing. Winner will be announced in next week's Shameless post!

Thanks to Stacy and Kimberly for being here today!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Interview with Stephanie Burgis, author of RENEGADE MAGIC

Today we welcome author Stephanie Burgis back to the Inkpot to talk about the second book in her fantastic and fun middle-grade fantasy series about the delightful Kat Stephenson. We first had Stephanie visit us last year to talk about KAT, INCORRIGIBLE, the first book in the series.

I adore these books for the fun, the magic, and the wonderful Regency-era setting, but most of all for the flawed-but-fabulous characters, especially Kat herself, who loves her family fiercely and gets into all sorts of trouble. So I was thrilled that Stephanie agreed to answer a few questions about the newest Kat book, RENEGADE MAGIC.

The cover of RENEGADE MAGIC, featuring a smiling Kat partly submerged in one of the Roman Baths, with magic all around her

Kat’s stepmother drags their family to the fashionable city of Bath to remove Kat’s sister Angeline from a most improper suitor. But unbeknownst to Stepmama, Regency-era Bath is full of notorious rakes, Napoleonic spies, and dangerous wild magic! When Kat uncovers a plot to harness the wild magic in the Roman Baths, she finds her brother Charles is unwittingly involved. Now Kat must risk her newfound magical powers as she defies the Order of the Guardians to foil the plot and clear her brother's name. -- From the author's website, where you can also read the first three chapters!

RENEGADE MAGIC is available now in stores, along with the new paperback edition of the first book, KAT, INCORRIGIBLE!

Thanks for joining us, Steph! We're so glad to have you here. One of the things that impressed me the most about RENEGADE MAGIC is how smoothly you remind us of what we need to know from the first book, KAT, INCORRIGIBLE. Can you share how you approached writing a sequel? Did you encounter any particular difficulties and if so, how did you overcome them?

Author photo of Stephanie BurgisOh, thank you for saying that! I worked really hard on it. Basically, my personal guideline was: only include the bare minimum of backstory! I really wanted RENEGADE MAGIC to stand alone so that new readers could pick it up whether or not they'd read KAT, INCORRIGIBLE, and I think if you put in too many references to the backstory, new readers can feel slapped in the face by all they missed. So I only included the bits of backstory that were absolutely necessary to understand Kat's new situation, and I tried to slide them in as smoothly as possible. I'm so glad to hear that it worked for you!

My other big guideline for writing a sequel (which, again, comes back to wanting it to stand alone and be satisfying for new readers) was: I could not let let myself relax and write it as if it was just the second-volume continuation of KAT, INCORRIGIBLE. ("The next day...") That meant that RENEGADE MAGIC had to start with just as satisfying an opening as the first book had - which, in practical terms, meant starting the book with Kat actively doing something essentially Kat-like, causing trouble by being herself: rambunctious, irrepressible and totally unladylike!

Your main character, Kat, seems to have a genius for getting into tricky (but highly entertaining) situations. Does she manage that all on her own, or do you find you need to push her to get into trouble?

When I'm in Kat's mind-set, it honestly just comes naturally...which is kind of funny, because in my own life, I'm much more like Kat's prissy, rule-abiding eldest sister, Elissa! (And in fact, in real life I AM the oldest sister in my family.) But maybe that's why it's so much fun for me to sink into Kat's voice - I can finally let all my repressed rule-breaking urges out to play. ;)

RENEGADE MAGIC takes place in a wonderfully realized alternate version of Regency England (with magic!). I loved all the little period details you included in both books, and can only imagine they are the result of quite a bit of research. Can you share with us how you approach doing historical research for your books? When do you do the bulk of it? Before, during, or after writing the first draft?

Thank you! I was lucky in that I'd been reading about Regency England for decades before Kat and her family ever appeared in my life. I'd been obsessed with the era ever since my dad first read me Pride & Prejudice. I fell in love with Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer - and since I'm a total history geek, I didn't stop with reading Regency romances, but moved on to devour biographies, letters and diaries of Regency-era women just for fun. So I had a good grounding in the era long before I started writing the series, but of course I ended up needing to research a thousand little details after I started writing the books.

Generally, I don't start writing any historical piece until I have a good feel for the time period, social rules, etc. (and again, biographies, letters and diaries are all perfect for this, along with more general history books). Once I do have that basic grounding, though, I go right ahead and write the story while I continue my research. As I write, I stick brackets around any small details I'll need to look up later (e.g., clothing descriptions, exact candle-lighting methods, etc). In general, that works out really well, and helps me figure out exactly which details I need to know, at which point, I can move into more carefully targeted research.

By far the best research sources I found for RENEGADE MAGIC were the various tourist guidebooks to Bath published in the early 1800s. They were a fabulous resource, so full of rich historical detail - I felt really lucky to have found them.

What is the strangest or most fun historical research you've done for the Kat series?

Trying out the (truly disgusting) Bath water! You can read a whole blog post I wrote about the experience, complete with photos. It was definitely worth doing for the sake of getting my descriptions right - but when you read about Kat choking down that horrific water, please spare a thought of sympathy for her author. ;)

Much of the action of RENEGADE MAGIC takes place in the city of Bath, renown for its extensive Roman baths and the restorative powers of its waters. If any of our readers visit Bath today, what should they be sure to see?

Ohhhh, I love Bath! I want to tell people to see EVERYTHING. But here are my personal top highlights, all linked closely to RENEGADE MAGIC: the Museum of the Roman Baths, which is amazing - the story of RENEGADE MAGIC came directly from how inspired and compelled I was by my first visit to the Baths, years before I'd ever conceived of Kat's series; the Pump Room where elegant Regency-era society used to congregate every morning to see and be seen (and where Kat ends up causing an awful lot of chaos!); and the Jane Austen Centre (a museum about Austen AND the Regency era as a whole, located in Jane Austen's old house and complete with a lovely tea room). I also love the Museum of Costume, which filled with amazing outfits from lots of different historical periods, including the Regency era.

You have a strong background in music. Are there any particular songs or albums that were inspirational for RENEGADE MAGIC?

Kat's theme song throughout the trilogy, for me, is Adam & the Ants's "Stand and Deliver!" For RENEGADE MAGIC, I also filled out my individual-novel playlist with the Doctor Who series 1 & 2 soundtracks, the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix soundtrack, and the new Star Trek movie playlist. All in all, they combined to give me a soundtrack of fantasy adventure and fun.

I love how your series includes such a wide variety of strong, interesting female characters. I find it particularly interesting how in Kat's own family, she and her two sisters and step-mother are the most active figures, while her lazy brother Charles spends most of his time sleeping and gambling, and her father is mostly interested in his studies, and in avoiding conflict (to the point where I really wanted to reach into the book and give both of them a good shaking). Was that a deliberate choice? 

Honestly, it wasn't - it was just how the family came to me. For Kat, her two sisters are the most important people in her life, because they basically raised her after their mother died and their father retreated into an emotional shell. Once their father finally remarried, their oldest brother was sent to live away from home for several years, first at boarding school and then at Oxford, so he really disappeared from his youngest sister's lives, and by the time he came back, he'd changed significantly, becoming someone Kat doesn't understand at all.

One thing I would add, though, is this: Kat doesn't know what happened to Charles at boarding school, because she was only 7 when he left, and she doesn't know any details of his life there at all. If you think about what might have happened to a boy who arrived at an upper-class boarding school (and these were pretty infamous for pupil brutality) at a later age than all the rest of the boys there who'd known each other for years, *and* with a scandalous background - because everyone else there would've known that his late mother was a notorious witch...well, Kat's never really thought about any of his life away from home, but I have. 

This trilogy is told from Kat's POV, not Charles's, so we only see her disappointment in him in this book, and the results of his behavior on his family - but if it were told from Charles's POV, we might feel more sympathy for the fact he feels like he HAS to fit in with his companions at any cost.

And his story arc develops a lot over the series, so you might be surprised by what happens with him in Book 3! :)

Excellent! And speaking of Book 3... While RENEGADE MAGIC was an entirely satisfying story all on its own, I will admit I turned the last page and let out an audible protest when I realized it was the end, because I wasn't ready to say goodbye to these delightful characters. So I am going to selfishly ask this last question: Can you tell us a little of what we might expect in the third Kat book?

Oh, thank you so much for telling me that! What I can tell you is that it involves smugglers on the north Devon coast, a grand society wedding, social disaster...and a very unlikely romance. ;)

Ooo, that sounds thrilling! I cannot wait!


Deva Fagan is the author of Fortune’s FollyThe Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle and Circus Galacticus. She lives in Maine with her husband and her dog. When she’s not writing she spends her time reading, doing geometry, and drinking copious amounts of tea. Visit her at

Monday, April 16, 2012

What We're Reading Part II!

Back on March 26, we delved into the eclectic reading choices of several of the Inkies. We'll follow up today to complete the list. I know I'VE found a number of books to add to my personal to-read-list. I hope you will, too!
I've been amazed by the diversity of reads! Are there any favorites" Well, several Inkies are reading/planning to read Anne Nesbit's  THE CABINET OF EARTHS.
ERIN CASHMAN: I am reading CABINET OF EARTHS right now and I love it!

KATE MILFORD: I just devoured in one sitting Anne Nesbit's CABINET OF EARTHS, which I read in print; it was an arc I snagged from McNally Jackson. I adored it, and immediately ordered a copy for my sister who loves fantasy a lot but loves Paris more.

LENA GOLDFINCH: I just finished Anne Nesbet's THE CABINET OF EARTHS and Erin Cashman's THE EXCEPTIONALS.
THE CABINET OF EARTHS is what I can't help calling "deliciously strange". At turns creepy, fun, tender, and deeply thought-provoking, it's filled with descriptions you want to read two or three times before continuing on. A book to be savored, not rushed through. And I fell into THE EXCEPTIONALS and didn't want to come back out.  I especially loved Claire's connection to the hawk and all the other "specials". I heard about both books through The Enchanted Inkpot blog. I'm now in the middle of CLOCKWORK PRINCE: Book Two of The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. I forget where I first heard about book 1, CLOCKWORK ANGEL, but I picked up Book Two because I loved Clare's Steampunk/Fantasy world and her characters. Though I've been reading more ebooks lately, I read these in hardcover.

I've been reading some wonderful books lately, including Leah Cypess's MISTWOOD. I loved the fierce and fascinating heroine, the gorgeous descriptions of her powers, and the twisty plot that kept me guessing right up to the end. (As a writer, I also noticed the fabulous transitions, which really quicken the pace.) 
Another great recent read is Holly Black's WHITE CAT. Such a great idea: a world where magic meets the mob. I fell hard for its black humor, its brilliant characterization, and the zany but impeccable logic of the plot.I missed both these books when they first debuted because I was dealing with a transatlantic move at the time - I think I lost almost a year of my life to that move! - but they've been on my radar for a while because I had friends who raved about them. Oh, and I read them both in paperback. I have a Kindle (a gift) but I tend to use it mostly for reading manuscripts. Next up: More Inkie books I've just bought, including Anne Nesbet's THE CABINET OF EARTHS  and Cinda Chima's THE DEMON KING.

LAURA McCAFFREY: I just burned through Bill Willingham's comic, FABLES: LEGENDS IN EXILE, and I can't wait to start the next collection in the series. The setting is Fableland, the underground home of the Fables, fairy tale characters, in New York. The Fables have been driven out of their homeland by an arch-enemy, the Adversary, and though they long to return to the lives they left, they've transformed into party girls and bureaucrats, bounders and detectives. A clever read for sophisticated teens. Another sophisticated read for teens: THE WINDUP GIRL by Paolo Bacigalupi. In this dystopia, money is measured in calories, and bio-terrorism has transformed a futuristic Thailand. Definitely for older teens and adults. It took me a bit to sort out all the factions - but once I did, I couldn't put the novel down.

KATE COOMBS: Just read a new YA fantasy called THIEF'S COVENANT by Ari Marmell and really liked it. The format was print. I think I saw it mentioned on somebody's blog.It begins with a girl clinging to the rafters in the shadows above a scene of mass slaughter. Next thing we know, she has reinvented herself as a thief and is carrying a pocket god around with her. In a series of flashbacks, we find out how she came to be in that room--even as scenes in the present show her being hunted by at least three different groups. And of course, she tries to solve the murder mystery!
Next up? Probably MY VERY UN-FAIRYTALE LIFE by our own Anna Staniszewski andNatalie Babbit's new book, THE MOON OVER HIGH STREET.

LEAH CYPRESS: At the moment, I'm mostly reading adult fantasy and science fiction so I can be an informed Nebula voter. But once I've read everything I need to, my next planned YA read is Kim Harrington's PERCEPTION. Actually, I'm not sure I'll be able to hold out until I've read through all the Nebula nominees - we'll see! I loved her first book, CLARITY (and interviewed her about it here), so I'm really looking forward to PERCEPTION. I will read it in print, because that's still my much-preferred reading format.

ELLEN BOORAEM: I just finished ANYA'S GHOST, a YA graphic novel by Vera Brosgol. I loved it, and last night it kept the curmudgeon I live with--a tough sell--awake and reading way past his bedtime. I'm now enthralled with A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness (inspired by Siobhan Dowd's idea). Also YA, it's simpler and sweeter than Ness's magnificent Chaos Walking trilogy, but just as harrowing in its own way. Next up is THE DEATH-DEFYING PEPPER ROUX, a middle-grade fantasy by Geraldine McCaughrean, which looks very cool. All are print media, from the library. I learned about the Ness and Brosgol books from the online drumbeat, the McGaughrean from browsing at the library.

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

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Dip in the Shameless Pool

Just a few bits of shameless news this week, but no less awesome.  :)

Starting off with a bang, Robin LaFevers's GRAVE MERCY received an amazing review in the New York Times this week.  I mean, how could you resist a book where the review starts off like this?
Getting bundled off to a nunnery is rarely a prelude to adventure.

But St. Mortain is no ordinary convent. The sisters there train young women to be assassins, “handmaidens to the god of death.” The reverend mother puts it bluntly: “We kill people.”
Yes, please. Sign me up. First in line. Can't wait to read this one!!!!

Meanwhile, SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS by Ellen Booraem has been named to the 2012 Best Children's Books of the Year list compiled by the Bank Street Center for Children's Literature.  A much-deserved honor, I must say.

And Kate Milford has an interesting new project in the works. She is using indie bookstore-friendly services to self-publish a novella companion to THE BROKEN LANDS, her follow up to THE BONESHAKER. THE KAIROSE MECHANISM will be available this fall, and Kate has a Kickstarter campaign going to help the process.

So that's it for this week.  But, as you well know, we'll always be back with more shamelessness.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Enchanted Interview with Rebecca Barnhouse, author of PEACEWEAVER

If it's not already obvious, I'm a big fan of smart, well-researched historical fantasy, and an even bigger fan of retellings--so I jumped at the chance to host the delightful Rebecca Barnhouse in a new interview with the Enchanted Inkpot, for her new novel, Peaceweaver, set in the world of "Beowulf."

Sixteen-year-old Hild has always been a favorite of her uncle, king of the Shylfings. So when she protects her cousin the crown prince from a murderous traitor, she expects the king to be grateful. Instead, she is unjustly accused of treachery herself.
As punishment, her uncle sends Hild far away to the heir of the enemy king, Beowulf, to try to weave peace between the two kingdoms. She must leave her home and everyone she loves. On the long and perilous journey, Hild soon discovers that fatigue and rough terrain are the least of her worries. Something is following her and her small band of guards—some kind of foul creature that tales say lurks in the fens. Will Hild have to face the monster? Or does it offer her the perfect chance to escape the destiny she never chose?
  --from the Random House website

Peaceweaver is in bookstores NOW, and here is our conversation with its fascinating author:

Tell us a little about the novel and its origins and about building Hild's wonderfully believable world. What is a "peaceweaver?"

I’m so glad you found it believable. Even though they’re both set in early medieval Scandinavia, and they’re both inspired by Beowulf, I wanted to give Hild’s world a different feel than Rune’s in The Coming of the Dragon. The society of the Danish nobility depicted in the first part of Beowulf—the hall of King Hrothgar and Queen Wealhtheow—was the impetus for the society in which Hild grows up. In Hild’s world, noble women wield power indirectly by influencing the high-status men when they serve them mead in the hall. That’s what Hild hopes to do, although things don’t work out the way she anticipates.

One role women in this society play is that of the peaceweaver (freoðuwebbe in Old English, if anybody wants to know!) who marries into an enemy tribe to help bring about an end to hostilities. Yet as Beowulf himself notes, the blade seldom rests no matter how worthy the bride. In many Anglo-Saxon stories, both the peaceweaver and the family she has tried to create come to grief when the peace she has been sent to weave is ripped apart. Hild knows these stories when she is chosen to be a peaceweaver.

This is your second novel inspired by the epic of Beowulf. Can you explain your process of adapting that material into a novel for modern young readers?

In The Coming of the Dragon, I retold the end of Beowulf, cleaving closely to the poem’s plot for much of my novel. Beowulf plays a much looser role in Peaceweaver. Instead of modeling my plot on it, I borrowed elements from the first section of the poem, as well as from other Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse literature. Although they gave me fun ideas to work with as I wrote, the story is Hild’s. The more familiar you are with Beowulf, the more you will recognize characters or lines or situations from the poem, such as the baby in the boat, which comes from the story of the Danish leader, Scyld Scefing, in the beginning of Beowulf.  But an appreciation of the novel requires no familiarity with the poem, or any other medieval literature, for that matter. 

When I first read Peaceweaver, I wanted to know how old Hild was, and you had a very interesting answer to that question--but I see now that the book does include Hild's age! I'd love to know more about the challenges of depicting historical young people for twenty-first century readers, and how you strike that balance of authenticity and approachability.

People in medieval Europe (not to mention in many modern cultures) would not have paid close attention to their ages. They might not have known how old they were; in fact, it would be more surprising if they did. But it’s a convention of middle grade and YA literature that readers get told exactly how old characters are. For several years, I struggled to balance scholarship with storytelling. It wasn’t until I finally loosened my death grip on my scholarly habits and allowed the needs of the story to win that I actually got published. Even then I feared that academics would come after me with pitchforks for things like having my characters know their ages. They didn’t, of course. On some matters of authenticity, however, I stand firm, especially in terms of not giving medieval characters modern attitudes. But I’ve finally realized that if readers won’t read the book in the first place, the historical accuracy doesn’t matter a whit.

Your first novel, the marvelous Book of the Maidservant, is straightforward historical fiction, but you've since written several books of historical fantasy. Do you find that there is a blurring of the fantastical and the natural in the eras you write about that is different from the way modern peoples view things?

The Book of the Maidservant is set in England and Europe at the very end of the medieval period, the 15th century. Johanna, the maidservant, lives in a world patterned by Roman Catholicism; it’s woven into every aspect of her life. Miracles and visions are an accepted part of that world and things that might seem fantastic to us would not to her. Johanna’s world is much more urban than Rune and Hild’s, the 6th-century Scandinavian characters in The Coming of the Dragon and Peaceweaver. They tend to find magical and/or religious explanations for natural events in their rural landscape (such as misty days or thunder or the success of crops). Although all three of them live in the Middle Ages, Rune and Hild are separated from Johanna by almost a millennium, and their animistic view of nature would be as foreign to her as it is to us.

Can you recommend any resources for young readers inspired by your books to learn more about this period in history?

Judson Roberts has a wonderful website about his research for the Strongbow Saga, which I highly recommend. Readers who want to know about the culture of the hall can find online material about archeological finds in Lejre, Sweden, where a hall that must have resembled King Hrothgar’s—the one Grendel attacks in Beowulf—has been found. One of my favorite sources is Benjamin Bagby’s performance of Beowulf in Old English, as he imagines an Anglo-Saxon scop, or bard, might have performed it. Excerpts are available on YouTube. And I’m a big fan of Kevin Crossley-Holland’s book of The Norse Myths, which I first read when I was in high school.

You have what I consider a fascinating day job in academia. How do you find the interplay between your academic life and the writing life?

I’m lucky because I get paid to think about literature and language and writing. I teach Beowulf and The Book of Margery Kempe (the inspiration for my first novel), so I frequently revisit these works and other medieval literature, which inevitably leads to story ideas. Although it can be difficult to find writing time during the semester, and my creative energy is devoted to teaching, there are definitely payoffs, such as long winter and summer breaks that I can devote to writing. Usually by the time summer rolls around, the ideas are bursting to get out.

Thanks for these great questions, and for having me on the Enchanted Inkpot!

* * *
Elizabeth C. Bunce is the author of A Curse Dark as Gold and the THIEF ERRANT novels, StarCrossed and Liar's Moon. She occasionally misses the chance to put her archaeology degree to work. Visit Elizabeth at

Monday, April 9, 2012

Topic of the Week: Is It Technology or Is It Magic?

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." —Arthur C. Clarke

The first time I used my smartphone, I remember thinking about the above quote by Arthur C. Clarke. I was using an instrument that I knew was technological, but the technology was so beyond my grasp that it honestly felt like magic. And that (as all things do) made me think about fantasy novels.

Often, fantasy contains some element of magic. Sometimes that magic is tied to nature, and other times it's relatively unexplained. And sometimes--as in the Artemis Fowl books--that magic is coupled with technology.

Personally, I love thinking about this link between magic and technology. Perhaps what we think of as magic is just some type of extremely advanced technology, and so the story is really science fiction. Thinking like that makes my brain hurt! But it's also intriguing.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this magic vs. technology idea. Have you read stories that you felt blurred this line? Did that make you feel more or less connected to the magic? At what point does technology start to feel like magic?

Anna Staniszewski is the author of My Very UnFairy Tale Life. The sequel, My Way TOO Fairy Tale Life, is coming in March 2013. Visit Anna at