Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Featuring POISON by BRIDGET ZINN c/o her husband BARRETT DOWELL

Hi, P. J. Hoover here, and today I am beyond excited to be able to feature a book that I fell in love with.

POISON by Bridget Zinn (March 12, 2013, Hyperion)

I participated in a launch event for POISON at BookPeople here in Austin, TX, hosted by Bridget's family, and had the wonderful idea that even though I couldn't feature Bridget here on the blog, I could feature someone very close to her, Barrett Dowell, her husband.

At the BookPeople launch event
L to R: Me, Barrett Dowell (Bridget's husband), Nikki Loftin, Cory Putman Oakes, and Mary Zuniga Johnson (Bridget's cousin)

Members of the Austin writing community signed the book.
A stamp with Bridget's signature was also used. 
You can have one of the signed copies from the event mailed to you.
Contact BookPeople for more information

Barrett, thank you so much for being her with us today! And now, let's get on with the questions!


PJHoover: The release of POISON has been such an amazing thing! What do you think would have made Bridget the happiest about the whole release?

BarrettD: There is a lot happing with POISON's release that would have thrilled Bridget and made her extremely happy. I think seeing how the international community of book lovers has rallied to support and promote POISON would have put Bridget over the moon. I know she would have been extremely grateful.

I also think the letters from readers about how POISON and Bridget's own story of battling cancer has impacted them would be quite touching for her. One letter mentioned how Bridget's words have "taken away the scary" from their own battle against cancer. It is so amazing how Bridget continues to put happiness in the world through her words.

PJHoover: When we talked, you mentioned there were some things in POISON that were "special" to Bridget. Can you share some of these with us?

BarrettD: The character Fred in POISON was named in honor of Fred Weasley from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels. Bridget was a huge fan of warm pockets of life in books. She loved those real moments when a characters connect and you see their real friendships. The Weasley twins brought humor to some of the darker parts of Rowling's novels and that is what Bridget loved in the books. She like many fans felt a loss after reading The Deathly Hallows and when Bridget was writing POISON she thought the name Fred was the perfect homage to a missed character.

Rosie, the katzenheim piglet that joins Kyra on her quest, is a character inspired from Bridget's own childhood. The name Rosie was borrowed from a lifelong friend who grew up just through the woods from Bridget's childhood home in northern Wisconsin. There are also nice moments between Kyra and Rosie in POISON that remind me of Bridget's relationship with our bengal cat, Harpo.

PJHoover: What has been your biggest surprise since the release of POISON?

BarrettD: My biggest surprise since the release has been the amount of help and support I have received from friends and people from around the country who have helped promote POISON to ensure it reaches readers. I am so thankful.

Another awesome surprise was Disney Publishing Worldwide's announcement of its donation of 1,000 brand new, hardcover copies of Poison to FirstBook in dedication of Bridget. This meant so much to me and to Bridget's father, Dick Zinn. We are both grateful to Disney Publishing Worldwide and so proud of Bridget.

PJHoover: Can you share with us some memories from the time POISON was being written?

BarrettD: Writing a book is a huge undertaking and Bridget had lots of support. She had a fantastic writers' group which she met with regularly. Their encouragement and critiques kept her on track and helped her craft POISON along with many other novels Bridget has written, but not yet published.

Bridget's agent, Michael Stearns of Upstart Crow Literary, had tremendous impact on our lives. He came in at the right moment and was the perfect addition to our team. It meant the world to Bridget to have someone she respected in the industry understand and believe in her work. Bridget signed with him about a month before her diagnosis of having fourth stage colon cancer.

PJHoover: If you could let the world know one special thing about Bridget, what would it be?

BarrettD: Bridget taught me to appreciate the moment. I think she said it best in her last tweet, "Sunshine and a brand new book. Perfect."

PJHoover: Thank you so much for being here!



Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.
But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.
Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she's the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.
Praise for Poison:
"A frothy confection of a fairy tale featuring poisoners, princesses, perfumers and pigs, none of whom are exactly what they appear (except maybe the pigs) …. Good silly fun—a refreshing antidote to a genre overflowing with grit and gloom."—Kirkus Reviews
Extraordinary." —Jennifer L. Holm, New York Times best-selling author

"Bridget Zinn's POISON is an absolute charmer of a book, full of adventure and romance and fun. I give it five stars—with an extra star for the cutest pig character you will ever meet." —Sarah Prineas, author of The Magic Thief series and the Winterling trilogy


P. J. Hoover is the author of the upcoming dystopia/mythology YA book, SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 2013), the upcoming Egyptian mythology MG book, TUT (Tor Children's, Winter 2014), and the middle-grade SFF series, THE FORGOTTEN WORLDS BOOKS (CBAY, 2008-2010). You can read more about her and her books on P. J.'s website or blog.

Monday, May 27, 2013

TOTW: What’s in a Name (Female Heroines)?

I’m guilty as charged. My main character’s name, Katora of Elixir Bound, is part of a naming trend I’ve noticed of female heroines’ names beginning with the letter K. Admittedly, not bad company to be with Katniss of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Katsa of Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Karou of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, and Kira of Prophecy by Ellen Oh.

Why the letter K? Perhaps because it’s a hard consonant; a strong sounding name conveys a strong character. This works for non-K starting names as well. Think of Quintana from Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta and Beka Cooper from Terrier by Tamora Pierce. Good strong names for these brave females.

Then there are the heroines whose names are symbolic of their characteristics. America Singer of The Selection by Kiera Cass and Aria of Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi are fittingly both singers. The title characters from Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder are both a play off of Cinderella, which means girl from the ashes or little cinder girl. No shortage of symbolism there. I recently read an interview in which Maggie Stiefvater said Blue from The Raven Boys was so named because her mother (a psychic) said her daughter’s aura was blue.

Not to mention Grace, Mercy, Hope, Faith (and the various spelling of these), who either display their namesake characteristics or may even be the opposite of them. Or the characters names after flowers or plant: Rose, Lily, Ivy, Violet…you get the point.

Another trend brought to my attention is the name Aisling, see Malina Lo’s Ash, and its variations. To note a few: Aislinn from Wicked Lovely by Melissa Mar, Ashling from Texting the Underworld by Ellen Booraem, and Ashlinn from Wanted by Annika James.

What naming trends have you noticed lately (female heroines or otherwise)?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Embarrassed by the Shamelessness

So apparently its been like a month since I did a Shameless Saturday post. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?  I swear I'm losing my marbles, on deadline for this new book.

Whatever.  I'm here now, right?  DOESN'T THAT COUNT FOR SOMETHING???

On with it.

Book Expo America 2013 is rapidly approaching, and several Inkies will be in attendance. Lisa Amowitz will be signing BREAKING GLASS at the Spencer Hill Pres booth #2567 on Thursday, May 30th at 9:00am.  Dawn Metcalf will be stopping by the Harlequin Teen booth #1238 on Thursday, May 30th.  Amy Butler Greenfield will be at Simon & Schuster's blogger preview party Tuesday night, May 28th.  And I will be signing copies of 3:59 at Table 12 in the autographing area Thursday, May 30th at 10:30am.  Yeah, BEA is going to be nuts!

We've got a cover reveal!!!

The cover and title for the sixth book in Scholastic's INFINITY RING series has been released. BEHIND ENEMY LINES by Jennifer Nielsen, takes our heroes, Dak, Sera, and Riq into the heart of World War 2 where they must help the allies succeed with a most dangerous spy plan that will either chance the course of the war, or else destroy any hope for victory and freedom. It will be released on November 26, 2013.  Wanna see?

In addition, Jennifer's THE FALSE PRINCE is a double 2013 Whitney Award winner for Best Middle Grade Book of 2013 and also Best Overall Youth Book of 2013. In addition, it is a nominated title for Yalsa's Teens' Top Ten books!  Phew.  That's a lot of news!!!!

Speaking of awards, both THE CABINET OF EARTHS by Anne Nesbet and THE EXCEPTIONALS by Erin Cashman are on the Bankstreet Best Children's Books of the Year list, 2013 edition! Plus, Lena Coakley's Witchlanders was named an Honour Book for Canada's White Pine Award at the Forest of Trees, Festival of Reading, Canada's largest children's literature festival. And Goodreads named Amy Butler Greenfield's CHANTRESS one of its top 6 "Movers and Shakers" for May YA releases. Plus there's a swag and finished copy giveaway running at this week.

We've got some great news for brand news books here at the Inkpot. Ellen Booraem’s TEXTING THE UNDERWORLD, due out in August, got its first journal review—and it has a star attached! Noting that the book has death as its major theme, Kirkus Reviews said:
“Booraem applies a light touch to her heavy subject . . . . But she doesn’t avoid staring death in the face, saddling her likably unlikely hero with an agonizing decision that, though framed in fantasy, is all too gut-punchingly real. Like Conor, readers will emerge from this adventure a little better equipped for heroism.”
Makes me want to snatch it up!

On the announcement side of things, new Inkie Katherine Catmull and three other middle-grade authors, Stefan Bachmann, Claire Legrand, and Emma Trevayne, have been posting creepy/spooky/unnerving short-short pieces at since January 1. This week Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins) announced that they will publish a collection of the stories, tentatively titled THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, in summer 2014.

And on the debut side of things, Lisa Gail Green's THE BINDING STONE (the first book in the Djinn series) is now available on Amazon!

Lisa also has amazing blurbs from both Nancy Holder and Lisa Desrochers!
"I dream of Lisa Gail Green! The Binding Stone is magical in so many ways. My Djinn asks for my third wish? The sequel, of course!" - NYT bestselling author Nancy Holder

"Genies like you’ve never seen them, THE BINDING STONE is a wild ride of treachery and deception. For my first wish, I’d like a sequel, please." - PERSONAL DEMONS author Lisa Desrochers
Rock on.

See what happens when I forget to post?  Things get crazy.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Interview with Lisa Amowitz, author of BREAKING GLASS

Lisa Gail Green here to bring you an amazing interview with the one and only Lisa Amowitz!

First a little about the book:
(From Goodreads)
On the night seventeen-year-old Jeremy Glass winds up in the hospital with a broken leg and a blood alcohol level well above the legal limit, his secret crush, Susannah, disappears. When he begins receiving messages from her from beyond the grave, hes not sure whether they're real or if he's losing his grip on reality. Clue by clue, he gets closer to unraveling the mystery, and soon realizes he must discover the truth or become the next victim himself.

I cannot WAIT to read this book. So let's get to the questions!

1. Give us some background on Lisa Amowitz. When did you start writing and why?

I guess I was always attracted to words. Anyone who spends more than five minutes around me knows that I LOVE to talk--I think it may be my superpower. But seriously, I've mostly been an image person my whole life. I started drawing at age 3 and went on to earn a BFA in Illustration and an MFA in Painting. I teach Graphic Design. But in Iooking back, I realize that I have always been a storyteller. My students are not surprised that I love to write, given my love of typographic design.

Growing up, my most influential book was the Golden Book of Fairytales with lush and magical illustrations. I was obsessed with it and struggled to create my own version of that world. Then I decided I needed to write my own stories to illustrate. Years and years later, after many false starts and attempts I finally managed to complete an entire book that was not an excuse to make illustrations. And it was awful. But I was bitten by the writing bug. I went on to write five more books, the fifth being BREAKING GLASS.

2. Why Breaking Glass? Where did the idea come from and why a male MC?

I'm not sure I have a really straight-forward answer to this. While our kids were growing up, we spent entire summers in various locales in Upstate New York. Most of my books emerged from the places we stayed. Breaking Glass partly formed while we were staying on a horsefarm. I don't know what it is about that house, maybe it was the fights between the weirdly uptight owner and her spoiled rotten daughter who could not seem to find happiness in such an idyllic setting, but in my mind their house is where Jeremy lives. However, the twisting winding roads of the more suburban town of Croton-on-Hudson where our close friends live, became the locale. Croton is not all that far from Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow and has its own eerie vibe that I love. My son used to fish on the Reservoir there with our friends' son. So, the town is a mash-up of a few places.
As for Jeremy Glass, I'm not really sure where he comes from other than as a mother of a son I have learned that male teens use humor to dodge almost any issue. The idea that a boy could work so hard to hide his emotions and do such a good job of it, fascinates me. I guess I wrote from the male POV out of curiosity. Also, as a teen myself there were always those boys who would become obsessed--the less you wanted them the more they wanted you. So, in a sense, as the mother of a son and a daughter, I wanted to explore both sides of the coin. Plus, I just love a good mystery.

3. We know you create gorgeous covers, it must have been really cool to do your own. Can you tell us a bit about that? 

It was probably the very thing that convinced me to sign with my publisher, Spencer HIll Press. I could not believe they would give me such an amazing opportunity. But based on my previous work, they agreed to give it a go. It took SO MANY mockups. I was so nervous and unsure and Kate Kaynak was SO patient. It was finally at the insistence of my daughter and her two best friends (all target audience, btw!) that I go with the creepy cover I have and I am very pleased with it.

4. Was there any part of the story that did not come naturally to you? What was the hardest part to write? 

Getting started was the hardest part. I had this idea sitting around for two years before I started writing. Then I could not figure out how to present Jeremy. I knew I wanted him smart and snarky, but also troubled. It was only after a conversation with a therapist friend (who is, coincidentally the same friend who lives in Croton) that the motives and psychological underpinnings of a closet drinker became clear. I am not an alcoholic, and am fortunate not to have this disease in my family, but once I understood WHY Jeremy drank, I have to admit, the book wrote itself. In fact, in June of 2011 an author friend challenged me to finish the last third of it in two weeks. I balked, she pressed, and I did just that.

 5. Plotter or Pantser?

A little bit of both. To make an analogy--I'm like a person who buys a map, plots out the route and the important stops along the way, then tosses out the map and goes off road. I always equate writing to a journey. I like the unexpected aspect of it, though I usually do have a definite destination in mind. One thing I spend a lot of time on is building my characters. I need to know them very well before I start writing, but I get to know them much better once I do.

6. Guilty pleasure? I know mine include coffee and chocolate. Sometimes wine. 

Coffee! But I am not at all guilty about it, so I think my main guilty pleasure is an iced chai with cream, and in the summer a rootbeer float with vanilla ice cream. I try to keep off the calories, so if I splurge I have terrible guilt and need to head immediately to the gym.  I have no guilt whatsoever about a little wine here and there--it's healthy!

I like that answer! *sips wine* Seriously, folks - go mark this book on Goodreads and preorder on Amazon

Monday, May 20, 2013

Let's Play "The Book Dating Game!"

I think we've all had this experience: You read a fantasy novel you love, but when you go search for a book with the same feel to it, the two of you just don't have that same chemistry. But hey, they say that getting set up through friends is a great way to make a book-love connection, so let's see if the Inkpot Hivemind can do just that.

Just put your "what I'm looking for" request in the comments and we'll try to fix you up with the perfect book. Then chime in with your own book-dating recommendations.

Ready? I'll go first. Here's what I'm looking for in the perfect book:

-A story set in a somewhat realistic past with touches of magic and a bit of a fairy tale feel. Some of my favorites include Magic Under Glass and Sorcery and Cecelia.

Okay, it's your turn. Let the book matchmaking begin!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Interview with Anne Nesbet, on writing a BOX OF GARGOYLES

First - wow!! You wrote a book about my three favorite things - chocolate croissants, gargoyles and Paris!

Thank you :)

Anne Nesbet

Q: Seriously, I love that the book starts with a BANG - really not a spoiler unless you haven't read the first word, but I was so intrigued by what happens next and the whole consciousness of the stone becoming self aware. It's such an unusual creative idea I wonder how it came to you?

A: The first few chapters of A BOX OF GARGOYLES were written and rewritten about three thousand times! Sequels are hard, especially when you really, really want the sequel also to be able to stand alone in a pinch. I kept experimenting (let's have Valko be the main character this time! let's start with a really long recap in the narrator's voice!), and my editor, Rosemary Brosnan, who is the best kind of loving perfectionist, kept sending me messages that basically amounted to "try again, please, dear."  Finally I was brainstorming on the telephone with her, and in total desperation I said something like, "Oh, forget all this--I'll do the beginning from the point of view of the WALL!" And Rosemary said, "Wait, YES!" So that's how the opening was born.

Q:  I haven't read the first book *blushes* but this really stands alone well. Did you conceive this as a separate story? Will there be more?

A:  I wanted this book to be something you could read and enjoy without having THE CABINET OF EARTHS in mind very clearly, if at all. So it makes me very happy to hear you didn't feel too lost or confused!  My model for sequels-that-stand-alone is probably Madeleine L'Engle's A WIND IN THE DOOR, which can absolutely be read by someone who somehow missed A WRINKLE IN TIME, though knowing the first book deepens a person's experience of the second book.

As to whether there will be more--who can say? My third book is not about Maya and Valko, though it continues to play with the ways science and magic collide. I do have a rough outline of a third book about Maya's family hidden away in a notebook in a secret drawer, though. So perhaps I will come back to these characters again someday.

Q: This is a really interesting exploration of fate, wiggle room and free choice. Where do you stand on fate versus free will? And did you have to do much research on these philosophies?

A: The problem of fate and freedom is something my brain has been chewing on for years and years like a very hard biscuit. I remember talking about determinism and the Uncertainty Principle with my high school physics teacher. I think at that time I was very stubborn about free will being impossible (I have mellowed since then), and I remember Mr. MacDonald looking at me and saying, "Thanks, Anne, for ruining my whole day!" I think everything about the universe has become more mysterious since I was in high school, however.

But of course in our day-to-day (or fictional) lives, it isn't so much what happens on the quantum level that worries us. It's the problem of feeling trapped, and wanting to find some wiggle room within all the unwiggly things that bind us. Middle school, for instance! You have to get up at some awful early hour, make the bus or the carpool on time, turn in your homework, eat your prescribed lunch at a certain hour (I once had a job, by the way, where the hours were 7:36 to 4:18, with a 42 minute lunch: I kid you not), and all the while behave according to a thousand picky laws and rules--where's the room for free will there? So I think there is a natural bond of sympathy and solidarity between your average middle-school student and your average Greek tragic hero. Maya, who is trapped in a bind that's even worse than having to eat cafeteria food in 42 minutes, has to figure out where the wiggle-room is in the awful spell that has trapped her. And I think she is very ingenious and resourceful about how she goes about it!

This is Anne thinking about wiggle room - or some serious plot points at least!

Q: It really reads like you've been to Paris - maybe even lived there - did you? And if yes, where were your favorite haunts and if no - how did you create such a vivid version of Paris? This is from someone who used to be dragged there every year as a kid - so your kid's view of Paris really felt real to me!

A: Yes, I've lived in Paris. When I was little my father worked sometimes in a lab outside Paris, and so when I was seven and ten and thirteen I was dragged (like you!) to Paris, and sometimes plopped right into the local schools. That was so much fun that I've kept returning to France all my life, sometimes dragging my own children along, poor things. (But how many kids can say they have gone snowshoeing on the decks of the Eiffel Tower?) I have many favorite corners in Paris, and I keep discovering new ones, because Paris is astoundingly full of magical corners.

Here's one story about a magical corner: for A BOX OF GARGOYLES, I needed an apartment building on the other side of the Seine from the Eiffel Tower for a slightly crazy new character to live in. I was thousands of miles away from Paris when I was writing that chapter, so I just opened a map of Paris on my computer and plonked my finger down on the screen and said, "She'll live THERE!" So then when we were next in Paris, I naturally thought it would be interesting to go take a closer look at this building I had chosen. And guess what? When I looked at the buzzer by the side of the door, I found the family name of one of my main characters right there on the list! Look, look: I'm getting goosebumps all over again, just thinking about that . . . .

Okay, so now I have goosebumps too!

Little known fact - most writers I know love graveyards! The Fourcroy Tomb - yes, it's really there! These are Anne's photos taken at Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.

Q: I love the violin scenes and the Dance Macabre - do you play and if so did you play like Pauline?
 A: I play violin and viola, which is like a larger violin. Many, many jokes are told about the viola and violists, so people who love the viola quickly develop either a sense of humor or a thick skin or both. And do I play like Pauline? Hey, what are you implying? Remember, she's bound to get tons better in another nine thousand hours!

HA! Sounds like me with a guitar!

Q: The Bulgarian aspect is very tightly woven into this tale, is that from your own cultural background or did it insist on being in there?

 A: It insisted! It absolutely insisted. Although I teach Russian literature (and Russian and Bulgarian are close cousins), I didn't know all that much about Bulgaria and Bulgarian mythology when I started writing these books.  I have always liked yogurt, though!

Q: I love the creepiness of so many scenes but especially the singing - no spoilers! Which made me wonder what are your favorite creepy movies, books or plays?

 A: Ooooh, sorry, but it's way too late at night right now for me to be talking creepy movies! If you're looking for creepy stories, though, Hans Christian Anderson would be happy to oblige. And Neil Gaiman's CORALINE does a lovely job of being creepy in a twenty-first-century sort of way.

Coraline is pretty creepy in the best kind of way!

Q: This story seems really bursting with sensory delights to me, taste, smells, touch, sounds and sights, all amplified. Did you have a sound track for this story or a stash of chocolate nibbles, or some other magical writing aid?

 A: My secret writing aids: good tea and long walks with the dog in the hills. And I am not averse to some dark chocolate, here and there. Not averse at all! But when I get really stuck, I eat something spicy to wake up my brain.

Interesting - I've never heard of that before!

And finally some quick fire questions...

What are you reading right now? 

A: Several things at once, of course! Dickens's THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP, Catherynne Valente's THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRYLAND AND LED THE REVELS THERE, and--as soon as I can pry it out of my kids' hands--P.S. BE ELEVEN, by Rita Williams-Garcia.

What movie did you last see?

A: In a theater? Fran├žois Ozon's IN THE HOUSE. It's a French movie about a teacher who gets a little carried away trying to turn his student into a good writer, and I saw it with my absolutely amazing father-in-law, because we always go to some wild foreign film together when I'm in town.

Croissant or Danish?

A: Croissant, of course.  With one exception: there's a bakery (Nabolom) in Berkeley with a blackberry cheese danish guaranteed to make even tired tastebuds stand up and dance. But otherwise: croissant, please!

Thank you so much Anne, it was a joy to read your book and an even greater joy to meet you! 
P.S. We are meeting up at Nabolom, right?

Monday, May 13, 2013

The School for Good and Evil-Interview with Soman Chainani

I have fallen madly in love with a book. From its stunning cover to each magic laden page inside, I’m just absolutely crazy about The School for Good and Evil. It even has the most epic trailer I’ve ever seen for a book! 

So how awesome is it that I get to present Soman Chainani, author extraordinaire, to the Inkpot, and also a chance to win a SIGNED hardcover of THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL! I admit that I’ve been quite shy around him. Soman is basically a genius. He is a Harvard summa cum laude and a graduate of the MFA Film Program at Columbia University where he walked away with the school’s top prize, the FMI Fellowship for Writing and Directing. See what I mean? He’s totally brilliant and he wrote this marvelous book I adore and admire so much. Kind of how I feel about J.K. Rowling is also how I feel about Soman. But how lucky am I that we have the same wonderful editor at HarperCollins, which meant I got to read an ARC early on and get my own personal introduction! And what I found was that this brilliant author is also a really nice, awesome guy. Even in the midst of preparing for his big 11-city tour and writing the screenplays for the movie adaptations of SGE as well as finishing up book 2, he still made time to stop by the Inkpot. So please welcome Soman!

(EO) - Hi Soman! Thanks for stopping by the Inkpot! You know how much I love your book. I pretty much twitter stalked you obsessively after reading it. And after reading SGE, I found myself running to the library and taking out all the Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books again, the ones that came in all the colors. I felt so nostalgic for them. Did you read those as a child?

(SC) – First off, let me say that long before we made contact, I’d heard so many wonderful things about you, as both a writer and a person, that I felt quite honored when you read my book, let alone enjoyed it. So it’s quite a privilege to be here at Enchanted Inkpot.

I feel quite ashamed to say I haven’t read Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books, even though I was deeply obsessed with fairies as a child. I used to make paper doll fairies out of tissue paper, slather them with glitter, and enact grand melodramas with them under the bed. My mother couldn’t understand how I could go through an entire box of tissues a day, but just learned to put up with it. I think she always did – and continues to – find me quite mysterious.

Your question brings up another funny story. When I was in England a few years ago pitching new project ideas, the studios over there kept demanding I do “something like ‘the Fairy Books’” because they were apparently a cash cow. I heard it about ten times before I trekked over to Foyle’s, the massive bookstore in Leicester Square, and discovered the Rainbow Magic Fairy Books… which look EXACTLY to me like Andrew Lang’s, now that you mention it. In fact, I can’t quite tell the difference between them. So like werewolves and vampires, it seems like fairies are constantly rebooted these days too. However, the fairies at the School for Good and Evil, as the trailer points out, are much trickier creatures. For one thing, I wouldn’t get too close to them. And second, I have boy fairies, which are non-existent in most fairy books. (Ludicrous!)

(EO) – Oh the Rainbow Magic Fairy Books ARE the same thing! Ok so, when I heard that you wrote your thesis at Harvard on why evil women make such irresistible fairy-tale villains, I immediately thought, now there’s a thesis that I want to read! So I have to ask you, who are these irresistible fairy tale villains to you and why?

(SC) - To me, I never understood why Disney used female villains so sparingly. In the 50 or so animated films they’ve made, only six or seven have wicked women – but these are the ones we love the most. Ursula, Maleficent, Cruela, the Wicked Queen… (not to mention the rather effeminate qualities of Scar and Jafar). What makes female villains so alluring is the fact that they cannot rely on brute strength. Instead they must deliciously manipulate – through subterfuge, seduction, and disguise. Only with the females do we really sense the attraction of Evil and the sheer charisma, cleverness, and force of personality it requires to vanquish Good.

(EO) – Yes, Malificent was always my favorite villain and really the only reason I liked the Sleeping Beauty film, to be honest. I do think that a great villain can make a story great. But in SGE, you muddied up your own thesis by playing around with the idea of good and evil! You have the classic battle of good versus evil, and yet nothing is as it seems. It’s like you took all our fairy tale notions and said “OK, let’s have some fun with this!” And then you literally let all hell break loose. I bow down to your genius, by the way. While the idea of playing with the fluidity of good and evil is not new, this is seriously fantastically original stuff. And it’s definitely more Brother’s Grimm than Disney. I love that! So what came first for you? The plot, the character, the world?

(SC) – It’s funny, I started writing THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL about six months before the fairy tale craze started happening in Hollywood and in publishing – and I remember asking myself the same questions everyone is asking now. Why do fairy tales matter so much? Why do we respond so deeply to them in every age? And I think the answer is that they feel like a Survival Guide to Life, no matter what age you are. They present such a clear-eyed view of the world, without Disneyfied happy endings or even the expectation of happy endings. At the end of the Grimms’ stories, kids often end up baked into pies, losing tongues, or being turned into birds, just for making poor decisions.

So with THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL, I wanted to start in that kind of world with true consequences – and where there is balance between Good or Evil (which is in fact the reality of our world today. Balance might even be called optimistic.) And I wanted to deal with the notion that Good has been winning everything… and what did that mean? Why does Good always win these days in stories? And is that what children really need to learn?

So just by starting with fundamental questions, I realized I could actually conceive a school around these principles. And so the book begins with the quite provocative idea that every child’s soul fundamentally skews towards Good or Evil, that each child is born the inclined to create… or to destroy.

(Which seems quite accurate to me, by the way. To play with this idea, I created the entrance exam to The School for Good and Evil on the book’s website, which tests what percentage of your soul is Good and what percentage of your soul is Evil. Over 10,000 people have taken it so far… and it’s pretty balanced between Evers, or those that skew Good, and Nevers, or those who skew Evil.)

To take the exam - go here. 

(EO) – Speaking about your main characters, I seriously adore Sophie and Agatha. I think you have accomplished so much in this brilliant novel, but what I love the most is how you literally had me switching my allegiance from Sophie to Agatha, back to Sophie, back to Agatha, and then the absolute best, most satisfying conclusion I could have ever hoped for! Can you tell us a little about how you came up with your two main characters? Who are they like? Who did you channel?

(SC) – This question makes me light up, precisely because one of my biggest goals in the novel was to keep the ground shifting under your feet. Disney films always open with the blond princess singing her big ‘I WANT’ song, where she speaks of her wish for true love, or a new mother, or a different life – and Sophie practically opens the novel the same way. So subconsciously, readers invest in her as the protagonist. It’s been fascinating to watch the reactions once Agatha is introduced and she and Sophie begin their fraught relationship. Certainly some readers are uncomfortable with shifting allegiances (they want their Good Good and their Evil Evil) – but I wanted to tell a story where you’re forced to judge the characters’ actions instead of investing in an abstract archetype.

As for who they’re like, it’s not a coincidence that the SGE Playlist that is hosting is littered with Madonna songs and videos. There’s a lot of Blond Ambition in Sophie. My family, meanwhile, would answer your question differently. When my brother was reading the book, he called me up and said “You know this Sophie girl… She’s the real you.” Though it’s a rather uncharitable assessment, I have to say that writing Sophie is the highlight of my day. She delivers monologues as if the whole world is listening and I relish the tightrope act of making her at once ludicrous and alluring. In fact, Sophie was born first – I heard her voice for weeks, bawdy, cooing, and warm. In time, Agatha’s began to answer her, throaty, brutish, and cold. I wanted to create the ultimate odd couple – the idea that they’re at once inverses of each other and yet can’t live without each other.  

(EO) – Also, I want to say off the bat that anyone trying to make any comparisons to another magical school for children couldn’t be more wrong! The School of Good and Evil and the fairy tale creatures that inhabit it is both a dreamland and a nightmare, on both sides! Its more Wonderland than Hogwarts because everything is so strange and wondrous and also quite terrifying. I kept wondering, what was Soman thinking when he came up with this?

(SC) – One of the strangest elements of writing a fantasy novel is that you have to abandon all control. I can’t even begin to tell you why the world looks like what it does. It’s just how it surfaces in my imagination as I write – and I try not to doubt it. But I remember looking at Iacopo Bruno’s mind-blowing full-color map that opens the hardcover edition – and having this moment where I had to admit to myself… This world doesn’t exist. It’s all in my head. It was a sad moment, actually.
I think the biggest relief so far is that no one has compared this book to Harry Potter at all. And you hit the nail on the head – I think the reason why is because in Rowling's series, we know who our protagonist is. We know what Good and Evil is -- and Hogwarts is a safe place of learning and good intentions, for the most part.

At the School for Good and Evil, all of that is destabilized. We have no idea who's Good. We have no idea who's Evil -- and we're not even sure which one is supposed to win. There's nothing even remotely safe about this world. You choose to attend Hogwarts. You're kidnapped to the School for Good and Evil.

(EO) – This next question is a bit of a spoiler so I'm going to change the font very light. If you want to read it, just highlight it. I do want to talk a little about one of my absolute favorite scenes of the book. Agatha has always thought she was ugly and she undergoes a makeover, or so she thinks, and believes she is beautiful. But in actuality, nothing physically had changed, except her confidence. To me, this was a powerful message. When you are always told you are ugly, you come to believe it. But when you are self-confident in your worth, than you are beautiful. This is such an important message and you captured it brilliantly.

(SC) – I remember in my notes for the outline, I had that she comes out of the Groom Room ‘changed.’ In my head, I always assumed she’d have a makeover. So when I wrote that scene, I started envisioning this physical transformation – and felt myself nauseous over it. I just couldn’t do it. Then I realized why I’d been so vague in the outline. My subconscious knew all along – this was the story of a girl who had discovered beauty from the inside out. But would audiences believe it? That was the difficult part. So I really had to dig in and make Agatha feel so deeply, so honestly that you put yourself in her shoes.

And honestly, I think her transformation is far more authentic than a Pygmalian makeover. I always thought of myself as a bit of an Agatha growing up and despised the way I looked. But I fought past it, accepted myself… and realized that the world just mirrors back how you feel about yourself. I had a line that I had to cut, but I’m sure will show up somewhere else: “Even the boys started smiling back at Agatha. Like monkeys, they reflected the face you gave them.”

(EO) – I completely agree with you and I thank you. There’s so much I want to talk about, and yet I can’t because it would be too spoilery. But I just want to tell everyone to please, please read this book and when you get to the gargoyle scene, you’ll know when you get there, please come back and comment here. Because it is the scene where I cried. I think you win the award for best gargoyle use in a fantasy book.

(SC) – That scene was never in the outline. I was in a hotel in Boston, having just finished this emotionally grueling tennis tournament and was writing Chapter 8, which just wasn’t going in the direction I wanted to. I remember fighting and fighting myself and then being too tired to fight… And the entire rooftop episode came spilling out: the wish fish, the stampede, the gargoyle… All in one go. I remember going to sleep that night thinking, “My god. Why am I trying to write this book consciously? Let go.” It was such an important lesson. Just let go and let the elves do their work. 
One of the things that I love about Phoebe Yeh, our mutual editor, is that she trusts an author’s intuition. She knows when I’m doubting myself and won’t have it. What’s so remarkable about her is that she’s 100% dedicated to making sure the book turns out the way the author wants it – so she’s constantly asking questions and probing to make sure each scene achieves the effect we want. In a way, she’s a bit like that mirror barrier on Halfway Bridge, constantly testing if we’re staying true to ourselves.

(EO) – Oh yes, I think we are so fortunate to have Phoebe and Jess and the fabulous Harper team! OK, I need to talk a little bit about the conclusion. There’s so much I want to say about it, and ask about it, but I can’t because it would spoil the book. But there’s just no words to express how much I loved it. And I wanted to thank you for the unexpected and yet perfect ending. Did you know how it would end when you first came up with the idea or did it come out of writing the whole thing?

(SC) – I did. It was the ending that made me know I had to write the story. Because no one could possibly predict it! It just felt like an opportunity to really bring two girls on a massive journey to a brand new place, both literally and emotionally.

(EO) – And you do a magnificent job! Now I know you are working on the screenplays for the movie version, which I can’t wait for because this is a book that BEGS to be made into a film! And you are also working on book 2. Can you tell us a little of what comes next?

(SC) - You know, it’s a funny thing, because I’d love to – but Harper will kill me. To even tell you who’s in the sequel will spoil the surprises. But let’s just say you can’t possibly predict what’s going to happen in this one either. It’s an even wilder ride than the first, with a lot more provocation, mischief, and intensity. It isn’t your classical Year 2 book, that’s for sure. And the truth is, where writing the first book was a bit daunting, I’m having a blast with the second one. I’m sure you’ll agree with this, Ellen -- once you’re done writing the first book, you can spread your wings and just fly.

(EO) – Oh kill me now! I can't wait. Thank Soman! I don’t know if you set out to do this, but you have written a wonderful tale of girl friendship, strength and empowerment. SGE is a wonderful Girl Power book and one I would gladly give to my daughters and buy copies of to every girl I know. And I, for one, seriously can’t wait for the next installment!!

(SC) And I can’t thank you enough for your support and encouragement. For such a talented writer to help other writers get their work read is a testament to your character, energy, and passion for good books. Thank you so much for having me!

My wonderful editorial team at HarperChildren's has very generously provided a SIGNED hardcover copy of THE SCHOOL OF GOOD AND EVIL for one lucky Inkpot winner! All you have to do is leave a comment about what your favorite fairy tale is and why!! One random winner (US only) will be chosen. Enter as many times as you want! The contest will run for two weeks and the winner announced at the following Shameless Saturday post!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Interview with Amy Butler Greenfield, Author of CHANTRESS

Today we welcome author (and Enchanted Inkspot member) Amy Butler Greenfield, to talk about her new YA historical fantasy CHANTRESS. If you are looking for a beautifully written, atmospheric fantasy with a fascinating and complex magic system and a determined heroine seeking to make her own future, then you much check this one out!

Cover of the novel Chantress, depicting a young woman in a cloak holding a glowing red stone

Sing and the darkness will find you. 

Shipwrecked on an island seven years ago, Lucy has been warned she must never sing, or disaster will strike. But on All Hallows Eve, Lucy hears tantalizing music in the air. When she sings it, she unlocks a terrible secret: She is a Chantress, a spell-singer, brought to the island not by shipwreck but by a desperate enchantment gone wrong.

Her song lands her back in England — and in mortal peril, for the kingdom lies in the cruel grasp of a powerful Lord Protector and his mind-reading hunters, the Shadowgrims. The Protector has killed all Chantresses, for they alone can destroy the Shadowgrims. Only Lucy has survived.

In terrible danger, Lucy takes shelter with Nat, a spy who turns her heart upside-down. Nat has been working with his fellow scholars of the Invisible College to overthrow the Lord Protector, and they have long hoped to find a living Chantress to help them. But Lucy is completely untrained, and Nat deeply distrusts her magic. If Lucy cannot master the songspells, how long can she even stay alive?

CHANTRESS is available now in stores! You can also learn more about Amy and her books at her website!

You've previously published several other books (VIRGINIA BOUND, historical fiction for young readers set in colonial Virginia, and A PERFECT RED, described as "A true story of mystery, empire, and adventure, in pursuit of the most desirable color on earth"). But CHANTRESS is your first published work with fantasy elements. What drew you to write a historical fantasy? What do you think draws readers to fantasy and magic?

The past is a strange and amazing place, full of wonderful true tales, and until I wrote CHANTRESS I always went to great lengths to depict history as it really happened. But a few years ago, I found myself wanting to tell a different kind of story, a story that asked “What if?”

My favorite “what if” had to do with 17 th-century England, when even brilliant scientists like Isaac Newton and his crowd believed in the possibility of magic. What if history had been different? What if the magic those scientists believed in had been real? And what if the magic belonged not to them, but to someone who ordinarily wouldn’t have had much power: a young woman, a singer of songs?

A wild flight of fancy for a sedate historian like me! But I’ve loved fantasy fiction since I was small, which helps explain why I made this huge leap into the unknown. Pretty soon I was reworking the course of English history, dreaming up a magical system, and conjuring up whole dynasties in the blink of an eye.

I can’t speak for all readers, but for me that “leap into the unknown” is a powerful part of magic’s appeal. And when it came time to write about the magic itself – well, in all honesty, I felt as if I’d sprouted wings! To write about anything is a bit like working magic, I think. But in writing about magic I felt that tenfold.

While CHANTRESS features a number of fantastical elements, they are grounded in a real-world historical setting. How do you balance the need for historical research with the needs of the story you are telling? Do you do the bulk of your research before you start drafting, or during the drafting or revision?

I was lucky enough to come to CHANTRESS with a good grounding in my chosen setting, which was a huge help. But even so, I was always hitting points where I’d say, “Wait, would a pork pie really keep that long?” or “What kind of sound would a clock like that make?” and it was incredibly tempting to start hunting for exact details then and there. But as much as possible, I’d make my best guess or put in a placeholder and keep going. I know from experience that it’s way too easy for me to get caught up in research, and I needed to keep my head in the story.

In CHANTRESS, the main character, Lucy, discovers her own abilities to work a rich and complex music-based magic. Can you tell us a bit about how you developed Chantress magic? Did the origins and mechanics of it change during drafting and revision? Do you have any advice for writers who want to include a system of magic in their stories?

At first the whole idea of creating my own magical system scared me. But once I got going, working out the magic turned out to be one of my very favorite parts of writing CHANTRESS.

I knew from the start that the magic was worked by singing, and how it sounded. The origins were always clear in my mind, too. But it took me several drafts to work out the relationship between Wild Magic and Proven Magic. I’m fascinated by the difference between what we’re taught and what we know by instinct, and that turned out to be key to the magic I wrote about.

It helped me a lot to ask “real world” questions about my magic: How did it start? How is it passed on? Has it changed over time? Does it need just one practitioner, or many? Is there a wrong way and a right way to do it? What are the consequences and costs of the magic? What are its limit? How have people
tried to control it? Can the magic be countered – either by mundane means or with other magic?

The magic in CHANTRESS is strongly based on music. Do you sing or play any instruments yourself? Were there any specific songs that inspired the music in CHANTRESS?

I grew up in a house that was filled with music. Singing and playing the piano were big parts of my life. But in my twenties, for complicated reasons, I stopped, and it left a huge hole.

One of the best gift CHANTRESS gave me is that it made me realize how deeply I longed to make music again. We now have a piano, and I sing in a choir.

Although I can’t point to a specific song that inspired CHANTRESS, I can think of a silence that was crucial – the silence that comes after you’ve sung a song with everything that’s in you. Even in our world, that silence is powerful. It feels as if magic could happen, or has happened. In CHANTRESS, I wanted to write about a world where that magic is real.

One of the themes in CHANTRESS that most intrigued me was that of magic and science. Nat, the young spy who helps Lucy, is highly involved in a society of scholars and favors scientific observation and experimentation. Do you see any parallels to the tensions we see in our real world, between mystery and knowledge, between the numinous and the known? What sort of questions do you hope readers will ask themselves when reading CHANTRESS?

I’m a writer, but my dad is a scientist, my husband is a mathematician, and I myself was really torn in college between science and the arts. So I guess it’s no surprise that I’m very interested in the different ways of “knowing” that are possible. I’d love it if readers found CHANTRESS a good way to explore some of that territory.

In the real world, it’s all too easy for people to dismiss a way of knowing that differs from their own. I’ve tried to reflect that in CHANTRESS, particularly in the tensions between Nat and Lucy over Chantress magic. It was fun — and also deeply satisfying — to let Nat and Lucy challenge each other and ultimately to come to respect each other’s point of view.

In CHANTRESS, scientists and magic workers have to work together to set the world to rights again. Although I didn’t consciously set out to write the book that way, I’m very happy that’s how it turned out.

While CHANTRESS stands alone (at least in this reader's opinion!) and resolves Lucy's story in a satisfying way, I believe I am not alone in wondering what she will do next. Can you tell us anything about your next project? Will we get to read more about Lucy and her adventures as she learned about her Chantress powers?

I like stand-alone books, and I thought CHANTRESS would be one. And I’m thrilled to hear that you found the story satisfying just as it is. But when I was midway through drafting CHANTRESS, I had a thunderbolt moment when I suddenly saw that Lucy’s full story might actually take 3 books to tell. I scribbled down everything I could that day and tucked my ideas away in a folder. Years later, when my agent and editor asked if I could write more books about Lucy, I was delighted to pull those notes out again.

There will be two more books about Lucy. The next one is called CHANTRESS ALCHEMY (at least for now!), and I had a wonderful time writing it. It should be out next year.

I can't wait! Thank you so much for answering all these questions, Amy!

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, May 6, 2013

TOTW - Fresh Fairy Tales

Fairy tales – they’ve been told and retold, but maybe you’re drawn to tell one again. And you’d be in good company.

Even many of the versions of fairy tales we think of as “collected” were actually retold in ways that made them distinctive. A number of today’s popular fairy tales were invented by actual authors, often women, in the French salons of the 17th century. These salons were creative and intellectual outlets for women shut out of other intellectual institutions. (For more on the French Salons, read “Introduction: The Rise of the French Fairy Tale and the Decline of France” by Jack Zipes in Beauty and the Beast and Other Classic French Fairy Tales.) Later, in the nineteenth century, the Brothers Grimm made significant changes to tales they collected from their sources, most of which weren’t peasants in the German countryside but educated young women. (For more on this, read the introduction by Jack Zipes to The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.) The Grimms also reshaped the tales for their intended audiences. Perhaps you would like to join such an august company of re-tellers.

But what more can be said with these stories? Bookshelves in YA and children’s libraries are full of fairy tale retellings. How might you craft fresh versions?

Perhaps the more appropriate question is this - Why do we still enjoy reading these tales? Why are many of us drawn to write them?

The simple answer is that they continue to have relevance for contemporary readers. What follows is a list of suggestions for finding unique relevance in old stories – the unexplored but rich terrain in fairy tales.

Consider the Historical Parallels or Significance. What are the connections one might make to tales and historical events? How might a tale represent what happened in the past? Jane Yolen, for example, used “Sleeping Beauty” to tell a sophisticated story of the Holocaust in Briar Rose. An alternative would be to consider contemporary parallels or significance, as Alex Flinn has done in a number of her novels. 

Draw a Cultural Picture. What stories are too little told? How might they depict cultures and peoples misrepresented or underrepresented in literature? Grace Lin used Chinese folk and fairy tales to inspire the wonderful MG fantasy Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. However, those of us considering writing outside our cultures should think carefully on the if’s, when’s, and how’s of such a decision. 

Find Logic in the Illogical. Often, the things that occur in fairy tales don’t entirely make sense. Why doesn’t Red Riding Hood notice that her grandmother has a hairy face? Why is Cinderella so obedient as she’s robbed of her position and possessions? Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted offers an answer to this last question that’s both humorous and emotionally resonant. Great stories can come from making sense out of nonsense. 

Tell the Tale from Another Side. Every character has his or her own story: the prince, the witch, the servant girl who walks into the tale briefly and then walks out. Try seeing the story from all sides, and writing it from an alternative perspective. To read an example of this kind of story, track down Donna Jo Napoli’s Zel or The Magic Circle, both of which offer the perspectives of witches. 

Kindle the Emotional Heat. Fairy tales might be about magic and once-upon-a-time, but they’re also about fathers who abandon children, lovers who must see past the ugly outward appearance of a beloved to the sweetness beneath, girls who make the wrong choices and must try to save themselves. These stories are, at their cores, about situations people continue to face every day. When we’re drawn to a particular tale, we might ask, why? What truths are we finding in it? The answers to these questions led me to write a version of “Hansel and Gretel”. Robin McKinley provided two sets of answers in two novels that retell the story of “Beauty and the Beast”, Beauty and Rose’s Daughter

I’m sure I’ve overlooked some ways of approaching old and yet compelling stories. How do you create unique stories from already-told tales? 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Interview with Mette Ivie Harrison of THE ROSE THRONE

Today, the Inkies are thrilled to host author Mette Ivie Harrison, whose latest release, THE ROSE THRONE, comes out this month.

Here’s the Goodreads summary:
Ailsbet loves nothing more than music; tall and red-haired, she's impatient with the artifice and ceremony of her father's court. Marissa adores the world of her island home and feels she has much to offer when she finally inherits the throne from her wise, good-tempered father. The trouble is that neither princess has the power--or the magic--to rule alone, and if the kingdoms can be united, which princess will end up ruling the joint land? For both, the only goal would seem to be a strategic marriage to a man who can bring his own brand of power to the throne. But will either girl be able to marry for love? And can either of these two princesses, rivals though they have never met, afford to let the other live?

Now to some questions I’ve been dying to ask!

Mette (pronounced to rhyme with Betty, by the way), where did the idea for THE ROSE THRONE begin for you?

I have been wanting to write a story about a deep, complicated friendship between two women for a long time. There are lots of bromances, but sromances seem few and far between. Most of the time, two female characters end up in competition for a guy and the friendship falls by the wayside.

Magic plays a fascinating role in this story. What process did you go through in building a world that feels historically realistic while balancing that with your magical rules? Did you draw from any actual time period?

When crafting this story, I used my old obsession with Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots as a bit of a backdrop, and the world owes some of its scaffolding to Tudor England/Scotland. The magic grew gradually from draft to draft, but it began with the idea that Elizabeth had been a queen who played with gender roles. She was ruthless at maintaining power, but at the same time was very much “the Virgin Queen” and quite as vain in many ways as her father was, though with a feminine twist.

The two princesses, Ailsbet and Issa, are different in how they approach their troubles, but their individual strengths and strategies they each employ to survive make for a fantastic read. Was it hard to build such different heroines?

Ailsbet was the easier heroine for me to write to begin with. Her personality was so strong that it seemed to just write itself. But it was also tricky to make her sympathetic to the reader. Issa, on the other hand, was more passive in earlier drafts. I really struggled to make her come alive as an independent voice, with her own wishes and motivations. She was easier to like, I think, but harder to write. I think that a lot of this has to do with our expectations of femininity, though. Women are generally considered more feminine if they are passive, but that can write them out of the most interesting parts of stories.

Without using spoilers (of course) can you share with us a favorite line or brief scene from the book?

I love the scene when Kellin finally declares his love for Issa. It’s clear to the reader that Issa has a crush on him for quite some time, but Kellin is a spy and he’s very closed. What he feels isn’t clear until this scene, but when he can’t hold back any longer, there’s quite a bit of sizzle.

You’ve been in this business for some time. What have you learned that you wish you had known at the beginning of your career?

I don’t know that I would really wish to change any part of my career, but one of the most important lessons I have learned along the way is to write the books that you think will never sell. For one thing, it’s really hard to know what will sell or won’t sell, but for another, constantly chasing sales numbers can make you artistically bankrupt. I really like to toy with weird ideas that no one else would dare try, and I love to break rules.

Now to some fast and furious questions about yourself:

Mountains or Beach?


Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, or Doctor Who?

I really liked the first two seasons of Downton, and I haven’t loved the latest season of Doctor Who. I loved the books of Games of Thrones, but haven’t seen the series. So . . . I guess I would say The Tenth Doctor.

Magical ability you wish you had?

The ability to see myself from the outside.

When you’re not writing, you are probably…

Working out.

Book on your nightstand right now?

Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson, a medieval noir mystery.

THE ROSE THRONE will be released on May 14th. Please support your Indie bookstores first, and you can also order online here.