Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda

Cindy: Sarwat, thank you so much for visiting us here at The Enchanted Inkpot! I am so excited to discuss your latest novel, The Savage Fortress, just released by Arthur A. Levine Books. I remember so well the first time we met at ALAN 2010, and you speaking so enthusiastically about bringing more diversity into the stories we write and publish. It's wonderful to see you having actively done that and succeed in releasing so many fantastic novels (Sarwat's great young adult novels include The Devil's Kiss and Dark Goddess) that do include diverse characters and interesting lore from all across the world.

I think what really drew me immediately to The Savage Fortress was the Indian mythos you used in the story. Could you tell the inkies what inspired you the most, or drew your interest, when you initially had the idea to write this novel?

Sarwat: I lived in the Far East for a couple of years and spent a while travelling around the place. While I love fantasy it’s often based on familiar North European clichés of knights, castles, goblins elves and dragons. Ironically it makes it less fantastical. But there are amazing places out east. For real. Cities like Lhasa, Kathmandu, Varanasi and Jaisalmer are straight out of myth with temples, palaces, holy men and gods and goddesses on every street corner. It amazed me these cultures weren’t being explored more.

Cindy: Having read all your novels, I know that you were never one to hold back when it came to the gruesome details of demon hunting and fighting evil. You write some quite horrifying scenes in The Savage Fortress. Did you feel you had to approach your storytelling differently since you were writing middle grade versus young adult?

Sarwat: Nope. Not at all. If anything the shock should be greater within Mid-grade as my YA series the characters lived violent lives, so to a degree, the violence was part of their day to day lives.

What I focus on, and want the reader to feel, is the consequences of the bad things that happen, often the death of someone significant. I don’t believe in doing stuff like that off stage. It’s a cop out. There’s a line between voyeuristic blood and gore for entertainment and that’s what I try and avoid. But with all things there’s some personal taste and experience involved. I don’t write ‘nice’ stories and some amount of reader discomfort is intentional, especially regarding morality. Who decides who or what is good or evil?

Cindy: As much as I loved your world building and monsters, I think what I loved most about this novel was the relationship between Ash, our hero, and his younger sister, Lucky. Family is important in Ash's world, and in this story. And the sibling relationship tied the threads of the story together so wonderfully. Was this something you set out to do?

Sarwat: Again it was to avoid the trope of the orphan hero. Most of us belong to and are a part of a family, so why is this often ignored within children’s fiction? I wanted it to be central to the plot and I do have sisters and love that dynamic. Ash’s test is the one we all consider when we have family. Who would you die for? Where is the line between familial loyalty and love?

Cindy: We've both discussed our passion for bringing more diversity into young adult and middle grade books. Now that you are a seasoned author with three published novels and two more to come--how do you feel is the state of inclusiveness now? What books or projects are you hoping to work on in the future?

Sarwat: I think children, especially younger ones, are the most open to diversity. They want to explore the world. This is reflected in younger fiction where nobody bats an eyelid if the protagonist is a teddy bear.

With characters from ethnic backgrounds they face a peculiar challenge, especially as the reading age increases. They can’t just be, their ethnicity has to be about something, it has to mean something. If he’s Muslim, the common trope is terrorism. If it’s a female protagonist there’s often an arranged or forced marriage theme. Black teen boy? Then it’s his struggle against gang culture and drugs. Characters need to be morally ‘worthy’.


Day One my editor (Cheryl Klein at Arthur A Levine) and I agreed Ash would be utterly unworthy. He’s just a 13 year old boy. He’s got no hang ups about the injustices of race, the British Empire or anything like that. He just is what he is. And what he is is totally and utterly BADASS.

Cindy: And last but not least, what is your favorite pastry or dessert?

Sarwat: Oh I love cheesecake but had the BEST EVAH pecan pie when I was in Texas. I still dream about it.

Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, was released in April 2011. Her first published short story is featured in Diverse Energies, a multicultural YA dystopian anthology from Tu Books (October 2012). Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Visit her website at

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Interview with Morgan Keyes, author of Darkbeast

I'm pleased to welcome to the Inkpot Morgan Keyes, whose debut mid-grade fantasy, Darkbeast, is in stores now! The premise of this novel - that every child has an animal companion he or she must kill before reaching adulthood - fascinated me as soon as I heard about it, so I leapt at the opportunity to ask Morgan some questions. And best of all, there is a giveaway for a free copy of Darkbeast - just comment to enter!

1. In your novel, every child has a darkbeast who takes his or her negative emotions – and who the child then kills before reaching adulthood. As a mother of three, I have to admit I can’t imagine a child without strongly-expressed negative emotions! How are the children in your book different from children we know, and how does that affect the world they live in?

In many ways, Keara is a typical twelve-year-old girl.  She has strong feelings about the world she lives in, about all the injustice she witnesses (both not being allowed to eat all the sweets she wants and being required to sacrifice her darkbeast.)  She is on the cusp of assuming responsibility for her actions, for the day-to-day choices that she makes, even when they affect others in the world around her.

At the same time, Keara is different from many of the children in my real-world life.  She lives in poverty, constantly on the edge of going without necessary food and clothes.  In fact, her mother has hidden her from the Primate's tax collector for the past year, because the family cannot pay her annual head tax.  As a result, Keara has a deeply-rooted awareness of societal expectation – she knows that every one of her choices will have an impact on her family, her darkbeast, and her village – on all the people she truly loves. 

2. Your main character’s darkbeast, whom she loves too much to kill, is a raven. Ravens, of course, have a long history in fantasy… was your choice of a raven deliberate?

Darkbeast grew out of a short story that was originally written for an anthology where all the stories involved children and animals.  Alas, when I spoke with the editor for that anthology, my first-choice animal (a griffin) was already taken.  Ultimately, though, I'm thrilled to have chosen a raven.

I continue to be surprised by the number of ravens that appear in fantasy literature and by their extremely varied personalities.  In just the past month, I've read works with ravens that are harbingers of doom (Poe's totemic raven, reread for approaching Halloween), single-minded guards intent on murdering anyone with a hint of magic (Tiffany Trent's Raven Guards, in The Unnaturalists), and something rather more complicated (Jonathan Auxier's birds in Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes, which begins with the image of an infant whose eyes have been plucked out by ravens.)

Caw has the wit and wisdom of many of his brethren.  He's a combination of pride and humility, guiding Keara even as he is bound to follow her.  Of course, Caw might be the hungriest of all ravens in literature; I very much enjoyed layering in that aspect of his personality.

3. The idea of an animal companion who forms a part of a person’s soul will, I suspect, inevitably draw comparisons to The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. Did Pullman’s book have any influence on your work? How do you feel about those comparisons?

Of course, I've read Pullman's His Dark Materials, and I loved Lyra and Pan and all the other human/daemon pairs in that series.  As I wrote Darkbeast, though, it never occurred to me that I was writing a story that some readers would compare so directly.

Pullman's daemons are meant to complete their human companions, providing a solidity and balance for life.  That "completeness" is represented by the animals' physical beauty and by the gender opposition of animals and humans.  Daemons are a physical expression of a spiritual soul.

My darkbeasts, on the other hand, are despised creatures who represent their hosts' most negative impulses.  Humans cannot wait to be freed from their bond, released from the constant reminder of their weaknesses and their failings. Darkbeasts have far more in common with the Biblical notions of "scapegoat" than of "soul."   

Pullman's novels are magical; when I first read them, I was fully drawn into his words.  I can only hope that the readers of Darkbeast experience the same sort of awakening to a world that might have been, some other place, some other time.

I feel fortunate that none of my theatrical productions was ever shut down by the authorities.  And I never needed to flee town because people disliked my shows.

But I folded my real-world theater experience into the sense of wonder that Keara feels when she watches the Travelers perform.  She sees theatrical tricks (a fire that burns bright but does not consume the stage, a whisper that can be heard at the far end of a village green), and she allows herself to be carried away on the tide of excitement from those productions. 

Keara's enchantment survives the moment when she learns some of the hard truths of theater – there are costumes to be repaired, sets to be built, blocking to be memorized and changed and memorized again…  When I stage managed plays, I always hoped that the audiences would leave the theater somewhat transformed.  I wanted them to think about what they had seen, about what the play meant, about how it was performed.  And I think that Keara wants all those same things.

Many thanks to Leah and the Enchanted Inkpot, for allowing me to visit and tell you about my Darkbeast.  Due to the generosity of my publisher, Simon & Schuster, I will give away a copy of Darkbeast to one commenter chosen at random from all the comments made to this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT October 31.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What's Your Inner Mythology?

Here in Southern California, we've had a spate of cloudy/drizzly/downright rainy days recently (I had to use my windshield wipers on the way to work this morning! joy!), and every single time I am filled with hope, with flutters of possibility. Dark clouds always feel like something big, something good, is about to happen. I feel like I'm living in a movie, or a fairy tale.

this is where my daydreams live
And that got me wondering about others' go-to mythologies, the ones they are always drawn to, whether it's the comfort and nostalgia of revisiting childhood daydreams, or the allure of otherness, the unknown, the endless what-ifs.

So I asked them, and got some great answers. For my part, as I mentioned above, I think I will always be drawn to British & Celtic fairy tales & mythologies, and two recent releases build on and use them in very different ways. Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys is about the search for a centuries-old dead and missing king, which is such a weird premise I had no idea what to expect (hint: it's pretty amazing), and Talia Vance's Silver has descendants of the goddess Danu (the forebear of the Sidhe in Ireland) mixing it up with other fey-type folk.

Speaking of Celtic mythology, here's what Erin Cashman had to say:

I love all kinds of mythology. As a teenager I was obsessed with Greek mythology. I really enjoyed the Percy Jackson series. Since my mother was born and raised in Galway, Ireland, and always shared Irish stories, I am particularly drawn to Celtic mythology. My WIP, Legend of the Four, is loosely based on the Tuatha Dé Danann from Celtic mythology.

Kate Milford:

I'm a folklore girl, and for no particularly good reason it appears to be that Americana's my default. I particularly like hunting down regional lore, and I like finding obscure stuff best. Since American folklore draws from the traditions of all the cultures that emigrated here, I often wind up following strings elsewhere, which always feels to me like following old roads around to oddball towns. :)

The Jack tales and crossroads lore are big inspirations for me; the big villain in the background of The Broken Lands (and a character in The Boneshaker) is Clever Jack, and the story in which Jack beats the Devil after getting three wishes from Saint Peter is a big part of the mythology of both books. Both The Boneshaker and The Broken Lands are based on the idea that there's great power to be had at a crossroads, because a crossroads is a place of potential and choice--and the crossroads is a perfect example of a bit of folklore that has variations all over the world. So while The Boneshaker plays with Southern crossroads traditions, the crossroads in The Broken Lands is very different.

As a reader--I guess as a reader, I gravitate toward obscure stuff, too. I'm trying to think of examples, but frankly, I've been reading 1812 histories and Civil War stuff for about the last year with no end in sight, so frankly I can barely remember what fiction I've read in the meantime.

And gallons more under the jump!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

LOTS of Shamelessness!!!

I've got a ton of news today, mostly because I accidentally skipped a week in there somehow.  OOPS!  I've been on the road promoting TEN and, well, I'm old and forgetful.  ;)

Anyway, enough excuses.  Here we go!

The BIG NEWS this week - we have some finalist for HUGE AWARDS!!!!

William Alexander's GOBLIN SECRETS is a finalist for the National Book Award!

Lena Coakley's WITCHLANDERS and Megan Crewe's THE WAY WE FALL have just been nominated for a White Pine award, Canada's children's choice award for teen readers.  And it just so happens that WITCHLANDERS is now available in paperback.  How convenient!

Inkies are so talented.

As if to emphasize that, DIVERSE ENERGIES, an anthology featuring Ellen Oh and Cindy Pon, is now on sale!  Booklist gave it an amazing review:
It starts off with a fabulous one-two punch: Ellen Oh’s devastating “The Last Day,” about a future global war and the horrific Hiroshima-like aftermath; then “Freshee’s Frogurt,” a wild, violent, and funny excerpt from Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse (2011). In general, the subsequent stories fall on the more thoughtful, brainy side of the sf spectrum. Two standouts are Paolo Bacigalupi’s “A Pocket Full of Dharma,” about the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama on a portable storage drive; and Cindy Pon’s “Blue Skies,” a wistful have/have-not tale from a smog-filthed future Taipei. A solid introduction to a number of highly talented writers.
Speaking of talent, Amy Butler Greenfield is sharing her blurbs for CHANTRESS and they are quite a line up:
“Wonderfully felt, seen, and dreamed, Greenfield’s debut fantasy is an enchanted read.” - Franny Billingsley, National Book Award finalist and author of CHIME

“Chantress is one of those rare books that’s so beautifully written you want to read it slowly and savor every word, but the story is so compelling you want to race through the pages! I loved it.” - Mary Pearson, author of THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX and THE FOX INHERITANCE

“With a spirited heroine, fearsome monsters, and luminous worldbuilding, this story had me hooked from the first page. CHANTRESS is truly enchanting.” - Jessica Spotswood, author of BORN WICKED

“Chantress is like the best kind of magic – absorbing, mysterious, and delightful.” - Rebecca Stead, Newbery Award winning author of WHEN YOU REACH ME, FIRST LIGHT and LIAR & SPY

“A pure and elevated pleasure, like strawberries of the perfect ripeness or a gorgeous aria.” - Katherine Sturtevant, author of AT THE SIGN OF THE STAR and A TRUE AND FAITHFUL NARRATIVE

“Chantress is a beguiling and mesmerizing story, full of mystery and song. From the first word, I was enchanted by Amy Butler Greenfield’s unique twist on English history and by her compelling, magical, and loveable heroine, Lucy.” - Nancy Werlin, NYT-bestselling author of IMPOSSIBLE and EXTRAORDINARY
And last but never least,Cinda Chima Williams's THE CRIMSON CROWEN launches October 23, 2012! It's the fourth book in the Seven Realms series and Cinda will be traveling the world--er--the eastern U.S. You can find author tour information here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Two & Twenty Dark Tales: An Interview with Georgia McBride

Two and Twenty Dark Tales is a YA anthology of Mother Goose retellings edited by Georgia McBride and Michelle Zink, and published by McBride's own Month9Books. Some of the stories read like secret histories, as though the familiar nursery rhymes are eroded fragments of something much older and darker. Some play with the actual history of the rhyme; Nancy Holder's "The Lion and the Unicorn" offers new and sinister explanations for the witchy obsessions of King James. Other stories shift the rhymes into contemporary settings and entirely new layers of meaning; Gretchen McNeil's "Tick, Tock" has cell phones, pop culture references, and imperiled babysitters.

The Inkpot: Last year the critic Meghan Cox Gurdon complained of "Darkness Too Visible" in the Wall Street Journal. Notable responses to that pearl-clutching editorial include Maureen Johnson's in The Guardian and Sherman Alexie's in the WSJ. Can you recap for us how Two and Twenty Dark Tales came out of that controversy?

Georgia McBride: I have always thought fairy tales and lullabies were dark, especially Mother Goose Rhymes. When I was asked to respond to the article, I talked about how dark Disney stories are, and yet, parents don't seem to mind dark cartoons or fairy tales so long as there is a happy ending. I listed themes like death, servitude, blackmail, starvation, imprisonment, abduction, poisoning, murder and more in these stories. I began to think then that we had it all wrong, that YA hasn't become dark. That lullabies sung sweetly can soothe and relax us, but just beneath many of them is a hint of something... dark. We grow up with these stories as the foundation for our imagination. YA literature is the natural extension of this dark foundation. And that is how my idea to do dark retellings of Mother Goose rhymes came about.

Define darkness. What is a "dark retelling"?

GM: I asked my writers to take the rhymes they were most fond of and imagine the darkest motivations behind them. Why is Wee Willie Winkie running through the town in his pajamas in the middle of the night? Why would Humpty Dumpty, so frail a being, climb so high atop a wall? And why would Jill push Jack down the hill? We all know that is what REALLY happened.

Talk about the importance of unhappy endings. 

GM: Painting happy endings to tragic and worrisome stories does not always allow for the reader to calm the unsettling feeling of some stories--because the reader knows it isn't authentic. Some stories are supposed to end badly. Some stories are supposed to be told at night, with all the lights on, or around the campfire. Some stories are meant to be dark.

The protagonist in Leah Cypess' "Clockwork" learns courage from years of living as a mouse, and she faces down a predatory witch because she's used to that kind of fear by now. She draws power from her mousey powerlessness. What other sorts of power are explored in these tales? What sorts of power do you want your readers to notice and take away with them? 

GM: That is one of my favorite stories from the anthology. It sends a powerful message indeed. There are themes of powerlessness throughout the anthology, but it is that feeling that often forces the characters to act. Sometimes the acts are heroic and courageous and, at other times, in the case of Humpty Dumpty, readers will be left in tears. Other important themes in the anthology are love, loss, fear, and, of course, magic! Wouldn't we all love to have a bit of magic?

What's your own earliest memory of Mother Goose rhymes? Which rhymes have continued to haunt you into adulthood and parenthood?

GM: My parents always sang Mother Goose Rhymes to us like “Ring Around the Roses,” and read rhymes such as Jack and Jill and Humpty Dumpty. I continue to be haunted by questions surrounding Jack and Jill's possible sibling rivalry and the troublesome Humpty Dumpty. It sparked me to tell Humpty's story in poem format in the anthology. Every time I think about poor Humpty, it brings me to tears.

This unique collaboration’s proceeds (from the first 5,000 copies sold) will be donated to, an organization that fosters the advancement, reading, writing and acceptance of young adult literature worldwide.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Get Ready for the Hobbit Group Read!

I'm going to take a wild guess and suppose that most of you have heard about a certain movie coming out this winter.

You know...

This one?

But since you are visiting us here at the Enchanted Inkpot I am also going to guess that you know something else came first.

Cover of the Hobbit, by J R R Tolkien, featuring a watercolor image of trees and a river with barrels floating down it

So, to celebrate the upcoming release of The Hobbit (Part I), we're planning a week-long Group Read of the original novel by J. R. R. Tolkien! And we want you to join us! Share your love of favorite scenes, burning questions, critical comments, or fangirl/fanboy joy.

On Monday, November 12th, Erin Cashman will start us off with a summary and discussion of chapters 1-4: An Unexpected Party, Roast Mutton, A Short Rest, and Over Hill And Under Hill.

On Tuesday, November 13th, Ellen Booraem will cover chapters 5-8: Riddles in the Dark, Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire, Queer Lodgings and Flies and Spiders

On Wednesday November 14th, Anne Nesbet will cover chapters 9-12: Barrels Out of Bond, A Warm Welcome, On the Doorstep, and Inside Information

On Thursday November 15th, Tricia Hoover will cover chapters 13-16: Not At Home, Fire and Water, The Gathering of the Clouds and A Thief in the Night

And finally, on Friday November 16th, Pippa Bayliss will bring the discussion to a close, covering chapters 17-19: The Clouds Burst, The Return Journey, and The Last Stage

So go dig out your copies now and start reading, so you can join us to discuss one of the great classics of fantasy: The Hobbit!

Deva Fagan is the author of Fortune’s Folly, The 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

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Interview with Mike Jung - Captain Stupendous himself!


Today I have the great pleasure of introducing an old friend back to the Inkpot. He is also my Ninja beta reader and zombie buddy and an incredibly talented, hysterically funny writer. He was a founding member when we first started the Enchanted Inkpot and I'm so pleased to be able to do an interview with him for his debut book. Please welcome our very own Mike Jung!

Copyright ThatGuyGil's Tumblr

Ello - Hi Mike! Welcome back to the Inkpot! I'm so happy to be able to celebrate your book release with you! So let's start off with the burning question of the day. Why superheroes? Why did you write a superhero book and why do you think that there is such a universal appeal for these type of stories?

Mike - I’m a big believer in the idea that we should write the kinds of stories we ourselves would have enjoyed as kids, and as a kid I was an old-school Silver Age Marvel and DC Comics fan. My older brother was a pretty serious collector – he owned all 18 issues of Silver Surfer Vol. 1 AND every issue of The Fantastic Four that the Surfer originally appeared in, for example, and I’m sure I did him a serious injustice by reading a lot of the resale value out of his collection. I read those comics incessantly (sometimes to tatters), and I spent a lot of time drawing the characters and writing my own stories for them. It was a hugely formative experience for my future creative life. I don’t know if I can speak to the universal appeal of these stories, but I know for me they served an important function. I had a hard adolescence, and I often felt completely alone on a psychological and emotional level. I needed to be able to believe that some people were actually interested in championing the underdogs of the world, rather than trying to hurt or even destroy them. I knew that Superman and his ilk weren’t authentic representations of reality, but even the fantasy of individuals who used their strength in a selfless way made me feel some hope, especially in times when I didn’t otherwise feel it at all. Also, superheroes are just huge fun - the powers! The canned dialogue! The ridiculous costumes!

Ello - Who is your favorite superhero?

Mike - Spider-Man, probably, and yes, the hyphen must be included in the name. Like so many Spider-Man fans, I really identified with what was, at the time, a completely new kind of superhero: a scorned, dismissed, and insecure young teenager, who can’t escape self-doubt and pain despite the fact that he possesses this set of superhuman abilities.

Ello - Huh, you know I never thought of him like that! So how did the idea come to you?

Mike - I started writing Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities after my daughter was born, and my initial thought was to write a book about a girl who discovers that her father is actually a superhero. I know, “wow Mike, that’s so egotistical,” but I was immersed in thoughts and feelings about the father-daughter relationship. The book eventually moved pretty far afield from that concept, but it’s how I got the ball rolling.

Ello - I think that is ridiculously sweet, BTW. How long did it take to write Geeks?

Mike - I started rattling the keyboard in late 2006, I secured my book deal in late 2010, and Geeks hits the shelves in late 2012. So, from conception to bookshelf it’s been just about six years.

Ello - You have one of the best publication stories I’ve ever heard. Care to share it with us here?

Mike - OH SURE, YOU TWISTED MY ARM… Like a lot of people, I had a particular editor right up at the top of my “OMG I want to work with this person” list, and like a lot of those same people, I thought it was faaaaaar from likely that I’d ever actually do it. So imagine my surprise when one day I got a Facebook message informing me of a friend request from that very editor, a Mr. Arthur A. Levine. Shocking, right? We later ascertained that he’d been reading the comments I’d been making on Lisa Yee’s FB posts, thought I was funny, and wanted to get acquainted. Once I fully understood that this was Arthur A. Levine the editor of Harry Potter, and not Arthur A. Levine the air conditioning repair specialist, I accepted the request, and over the next few months we joked around and got to know each other a bit.

A couple of months later my brain melted and dribbled out of my ears when I got an actual email from Arthur, sent from his work address, requesting my manuscript. It was hard to send it to him with my brain all melted like that, but I did. Arthur A. Levine Books is both deluged with submissions and perpetually understaffed, so I was prepared to wait it out, but a couple of weeks later I registered for the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference and realized Arthur was teaching his first-ever intensive class. “It’s fate!” I screamed, startling my daughter and upsetting my wife, and I signed up for the class. I was incredibly fortunate to communicate with Arthur via Facebook before the conference, because otherwise I don’t know if I’d have summoned up the nerve to suggest we grab a cup of coffee and sit down to chat. We talked about writing, Lisa Yee’s publication story, picking a school for our kids, growing up with brothers…everything but my manuscript, which was a very deliberate choice on my part. I didn’t want to mess up the rapport we seemed to be developing. I left the conference feeling like I’d struck up a really terrific new friendship, which isn’t something I do very easily, and I felt unusually serene about the manuscript situation – it would play out however it played out, I told myself, and I’d be at peace with it either way.

Two days later I got a call from my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, who informed me that Arthur had gone home from the conference, read my manuscript as soon as he got back to his desk, and decided on the spot that he wanted to acquire it. Which he did. It was the beginning of the most fulfilling and enjoyable experience of my professional life – my expectations for working with Arthur were absurdly high, but he exceeded them. My respect and affection for him are impossible to overstate.

Ello - Seeing you guys together is always awesome. It's obvious how much you both respect and like each other. I think whenever you guys are together this is what happens:

Ello - Well your illustrated cover is beyond awesome. It is stupendous! Can you share with us your reaction when you first saw your cover?

Mike - I looooooooooove my cover. That was pretty much my first reaction, quickly followed by “Dude, the robot has a serious Jack Kirby vibe,” and “This guy draws way better than me!" I’ve heard enough cover-related horror stories to know how lucky I am to be so deliriously happy with it.

Ello - What is the best part of being an author?

 Mike - It’s hard to pick any one favorite thing – it’s ALL been enormously fun. Building worlds, developing characters, and crafting language in order to convey a story is a deeply satisfying way to spend my time. If you’re talking about publication, however, I’d say it’s the people. I get to work with smart, talented, passionate, funny, warm, amazing people - the friends and colleagues I’ve met during the journey to publication have enhanced the quality of my life so, so much.

Ello - Books now are so different than when we were growing up. If you were a kid right now, what books would be your favorite?

MIke - The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex would knock me over at any point in my life, and of course as a child Harry Potter would probably have blown my mind to an even greater degree than it did as an adult. And I suspect I’d still consider Lisa Yee’s Millicent Min, Girl Genius to be the gold standard for funny, moving, painfully truthful children’s fiction, as I do now.

Ello - So what’s next for Mike Jung?

Mike - I’m working on the proposal for my next book, a middle-grade fantasy that’s grounded in Korean mythology and touches on themes of cultural assimilation and alienation. It’s very different from Geeks. I also have essays in two forthcoming anthologies, Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves (2012, Zest Books), and Break These Rules (2013, Chicago Review Press).

Ello - And on a personal note, I get to gloat about the fact that I am a beta reader for Mike and his awesome new book!

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

Mike - Can I count “a pile of 500 books” as one thing? If so, cool, that’s thing one. If not, WHY NOT?? Okay, okay. I’d bring my guitar, because there’d be plenty of time to practice; a capo, because I’m not very good at playing barre chords on my guitar; an All-Clad copper-core 4 quart saucepan, because it’d provide maximum cooking flexibility and that unparalleled All-Clad heat distribution; a 1996 Klein Mantra Pro mountain bike (I sold mine years ago! What a mistake!); my Superman logo fleece robe, which is really just a blanket with sleeves stuck on it but is also really warm; a copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, because it’s the best book about writing ever, and the island might have birds; my Chrome messenger bag, because it’s an awesome bag; an industrial-size barrel of ibuprofen, because I’m a broken down old man; a bucket of Popeye’s fried chicken, because I never get to eat that kind of stuff anymore; and if the genie could provide unlimited wireless internet access (what kind of loser genie couldn’t do that?) I’d bring my iPad, because I’m a hopeless social media addict.

Ello - Well that wraps up our interview with the amazing Mike Jung. Thank you Mike for being here with us today and celebrating your release! In parting, I just want to leave you all with a little ditty Mike composed and sang at his book launch this past weekend. It's so catchy that I find myself singing it all day long! So go ahead and buy a book or 10! Enjoy!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Interview with THE UNWANTEDS' Lisa McMann!

Today, the Enchanted Inkpot is thrilled to welcome Lisa McMann, a prolific and respected author whose titles include The Wake Trilogy, Cryer’s Cross, and her most recent release, the second book in the Unwanteds series: ISLAND OF SILENCE. This series has been called the “perfect cure for post-Potter depression.”

Lisa, what a treat to be able to interview you! First, can you tell us a little about the world and characters of The Unwanteds?

The first book begins in the dystopian world of Quill, where all are gathered for the yearly Purge – a day where creative children are deemed Unwanted and sent to their deaths. Twins Alex and Aaron Stowe await their fate. Aaron has never been caught being creative, so he is marked as a Wanted and will attend university. But Alex has been caught several times drawing with a stick in the dirt, and he is declared Unwanted, along with nineteen others, and sent to his death. But as we follow the Unwanteds to their horrid end, we discover a magician named Mr. Marcus Today, who has been secretly saving the Unwanteds and hiding them in the magical world he created, called Artimé. There, Alex and his new friends (Meghan, Lani, and Samheed) learn to use their art as magic for fun, but also as weapons, in case the secret world is ever discovered. 
Where did the idea for this series come from?

It was inspired by my kids. One day when they were twelve and nine, they came home from school with a letter that said that the arts programs were going to be cut due to budget problems. I was sad for them, because they loved those kinds of classes. I remember saying, “I’m so sorry, guys. It kind of feels like you’re being punished for being creative.” And then I paused, and with my writer hat on, said, “Hey, what if there really was a world where kids were punished for being creative?” And my son, who was twelve, said, “Not just punished. Sent to their deaths!” And I said, “Yeah!” And that’s how it came about.

For those already in love with this series (or to entice new readers to give it a try!), what can you say about Book 2 that will most whet their reading appetites?

Well, the twins are in very different positions after the events at the end of book one, and one is seething for revenge. The action ramps up in this book, and in the midst of it, two young strangers on a raft show up in Artimé with mysterious metal thorn necklaces embedded in their necks. Friends go missing, attacks are on the rise, and then something completely unthinkable happens…and that’s all I’ll say because I don’t want to give anything away.

Ooh – so exciting! Lisa, you’ve written for both YA and for MG, and in different genres. What has drawn you to MG fantasy writing?

Since my kids inspired the series, I wanted to write it for them (they were twelve and nine at the time), and I wanted to build a world like ones I loved at that age, and still love today – Narnia, for one, was an influence. And I’m enjoying it so much, even though my kids are eighteen and fifteen now. I love going back and forth from YA to MG. It gives me a lot of variety in my job.

And what can we see coming up from you next?

You can expect a total of seven books in the Unwanteds series—book 3 will be out next year. In January 2013 my new YA Visions series starts with CRASH, and in February 2013 my book in the Infinity Ring series will be out—it’s an MG series about kids who have to travel through time to fix breaks in history, and each book is written by a different author. It’s been a blast to work on. 

Those sound fantastic, and I’ll bet Infinity Ring is going to be one of the coolest series of all time! (Okay, full disclosure – I’ll be writing Book 6. J) How can fans find you online?

I spend most of my social media time on my Facebook fan page and Twitter. You can also find out more about all my books on my website

Finally, answer quickly and briefly…

The one book you’d have to bring on a deserted island?
The Count of Monte Cristo.

Mountains or Ocean?
Ack, tough one! Ocean.

Your guilty pleasure dessert?
I don’t really like sweets, but I do sometimes enjoy a chocolate chip shortbread cookie.

The book of yours you’d most love to see as a movie?
Any of them if they are done well!

THE UNWANTEDS 2: ISLAND OF SILENCE is now available where books are sold. Support your local indie first or look for it here!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

At Last, At Last! It's Release Day for STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY!

Know what happens on very special Tuesdays? BOOKS ARE RELEASED! Today is one of those very special days: It's launch day for Grace Lin's Starry River of the Sky! If you're not jumping up and down in your seat, what's wrong with you?

Rendi is a boy on the run until he's discovered stowing away on a wine merchant's wagon and kicked off in the tiny and isolated Village of Clear Sky. Luckily for Rendi, the master of the inn has a need for a chore boy. Luckily too, the Village isn't as deadly dull as it first appears. There are long-standing feuds to sort out, a batty old man who makes a pet of a strange toad, and a beautiful and mysterious woman full of tales to share who convinces Rendi to begin to share his own stories. Not only that, the moon itself seems to have disappeared from the sky, and only Rendi can hear the cries of loss that seem to be coming from the starry river above.

Starry River of the Sky shares a lot with Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. For one thing, they are both exquisitely beautiful objects, illustrated throughout in full color. Opening either one is a delight even before you start reading. For another thing, both incorporate folklore throughout, and not just folklore but storytelling. For the young Rendi, both the stories he is told and the stories he is persuaded to tell to others are critical stepping stones on his journey. There are other links between the two books for those who look for them, too. And, as with Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, when the tales come together at the end of Starry River of the Sky, it's like a wonderful puzzle being assembled before your eyes.

But you're not here to listen to me talking about the book, and I'm so excited to have had a chance to talk with Grace Lin about Starry River of the Sky. So without further ado...

KM: I love how folklore functions in these books--it informs the world and helps to move the story forward, but the story is completely your own. How did you craft this book (and was it the same for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon)? How did the tales and the big story come together? What came first?

Grace: Hmm, that's a hard question to answer as I'm not a very organized writer. Before I start anything, I usually have the beginning and end in mind. From there, for the publisher's sake, I write a one sentence summary of each chapter of how the beginning will get to the end, which I call my outline. However, I've never ever followed my outline once I start writing. And the neither the big story or the tales come first, really. I research a lot of folktales and some just naturally link together and inspire the larger story; sometimes I go in search of a tale that would fit what I think is a blank spot in the large story. It's really just a big mess in my head that comes out and only gets organized during the revision process.

KM: I know just enough about Chinese folklore to recognize certain familiar motifs in Starry River of the Sky (and in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon), but so far I have yet to recognize any specific stories--but then again, I'm an absolute beginner. How much of the storytelling is drawn from specific pieces of lore, and how much is your own creation? What approach do you take in crafting these tales?

Grace: For Starry River, I would say about 60-70% is from specific lore, though all highly embellished by me. I usually write the folktales from memory and add my own details, settings and descriptions. I want to stay true to the spirit of the original legends but I also want to the freedom to tell my own version of them.

KM: I love how WangYi and his wife, much like the Old Man of the Moon, are introduced and brought so fully to life through tales told about him before either character appears "in real life" to Rendi or Minli. Can you talk a bit about how you manage this? It reads as effortless, but at least in my experience it isn't that easy a thing to pull off.

Grace: I'm glad it reads effortless. I would interchangeably worry that it was too obvious and then too subtle. I really wanted the readers to figure it out themselves, but in a way that they would have to think about it--anything too easy is no fun! I have to say it was my editor and subsequent readers who helped massage it--encouraging me to take out certain references in some areas and to add hints in others.

KM: Traveling is a big theme in this book, as well as in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and this is also a subject near and dear to my heart. It seems deeply tied to the ideas of home and destiny and family, and while I never get the sense that the world of the books discourages people from leaving home, their paths always do seem to bring them back to where they started. Can you talk a bit about this? 

Grace: Hmm, I never really thought about it that way but you are completely right.  It must because these books are partially inspired by my own trips to Asian countries. While I loved my travels and feel many of them were life changing, it was the returning home that made the experiences feel complete.

KM: Much is made in both books of the differences between the perception of power and the reality of responsibility--and, maybe related, maybe unrelated, the wisdom of children as compared to the wisdom of their elders. In each book, also, it falls to the young protagonists to work out who to trust and who not to trust, and when to follow their own instincts. Can you talk a bit about this?

Grace: Typically in Asian culture, it's the older generation who are revered; they are the wise ones and the decision-makers. But in contemporary, American children's literature it's the child who must drive the action and make the decision. These books are my attempt to blend those two. While Rendi makes the ultimate decision he is guided by the older characters of the book.

KM: Can I ask what might be a silly question, since I can't draw to save my life? Does your artists' background figure into your writing of a book like Starry River--meaning, are you ever guided towards writing a scene in a particular way (or at all) because you'd like to paint it, or do you sort of flip that switch afterward when you choose the images you'd like to illustrate? 

Grace: Very rarely does the art come first. While I write and think of ideas, images to float in and out but I never put pencil to paper until the writing is done. So the "switch" is half on while I write but never full on until all the writing is done!

KM: Thank you so much, Grace. Congratulations on another gorgeous book, and thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Readers, I'll leave you with Starry River of the Sky's new trailer. Enjoy, then join the online launch party at Grace's blog, where today there are some exciting things going on in the way of contests and giveaways and general celebration. Everybody's invited!