Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Interview with Susan Fletcher, Author of FALCON IN THE GLASS

I’m delighted to welcome Susan Fletcher to the Inkpot today, to talk about obsession, persistence, craft, and her new middle-grade novel, FALCON IN THE GLASS (McElderry / S&S, July 2013).

The award-winning author of SHADOW SPINNER, ALPHABET OF DREAMS, and many other books, Susan also teaches in the Vermont College MFA program. Everything I’ve ever read by Susan is beautifully written, and FALCON IN THE GLASS, set in Renaissance Venice, is no exception.  Here’s a summary of the action:

In Venice in 1487, the secrets of glassblowing are guarded jealously. Renzo, a twelve-year-old laborer in a glassworks, has just a few months to prepare for a test of his abilities, and no one to teach him. If he passes, he will qualify as a skilled glassblower. If he fails, he will be expelled from the glassworks. Becoming a glassblower is his murdered father’s dying wish for him, and the means of supporting his mother and sister. But Renzo desperately needs another pair of hands to help him turn the glass as he practices at night.

One night he is disturbed by a bird—a small falcon—that seems to belong to a girl hiding in the glassworks. Soon Renzo learns about her and others like her—the bird people, who can communicate with birds and are condemned as witches. He tries to get her to help him and discovers that she comes with baggage: ten hungry bird-kenning children who desperately need his aid. Caught between devotion to his family and his art and protecting a group of outcast children, Renzo struggles for a solution that will keep everyone safe in this atmospheric adventure.

Renaissance Venice and Murano come alive in FALCON IN THE GLASS, richly present in everything from the ferocity of the guilds to the smell of wood smoke and tar.  What inspired you to set a story there?

            Obsession. Well, it wasn’t a throw-it-all-away-and-join-the-circus kind of obsession, but ever since I saw a documentary on Venice many years ago, I’ve been dying to explore it both in person and through story.  What is it about Venice? I think it’s partly that it’s so stunningly beautiful, and when you wander through those old streets and canals you can almost imagine that the 21st century has dropped away and you’re living in the 15th century or before. And it’s also partly that Venice is, you know, sinking, and there’s this awareness that it’s not going to be around forever. And I think this sort of connects on a deep level to the sinkingness of everything beautiful in life. Wait! I mean, I don’t want to be maudlin but…  Everything beautiful is temporary, yes? And that’s part of what makes it so precious. And Venice reminds me of this in a piercing way that has haunted me for years.   

The “bird people” in FALCON IN THE GLASS fascinated me.  Their relationship with birds was eerie and magical, yet wholly believable.  Did you draw on existing legends to shape this, or did you strike out and create your own mythology? 

            Oh, I’m so glad you liked those guys! The bird people came out of my Dragon Chronicles series; in those books, people who can speak telepathically with dragons can also “ken” with birds. In my last book, Ancient, Strange and Lovely, I brought the bird people into an alternate 21st century. I began to wonder what the bird people had been doing all this time.  They’re different, so definitely they would have provoked fear and rage. That’s just what happens historically to people who are perceived as different.  Maybe they would have been forced to move from one place to another. Also, there’s a kind of neither-here-neither-thereness to the magic of the bird people. I mean, there are horse whisperers in real life; why couldn’t there be, like, bird whisperers, too?  One of the things that makes me want to spend time in my imagination with the bird people is that I can almost believe they might exist for real.

Craft and artistry play a big role in this book and in the life of the young apprentice Renzo.  Midway through, you write that Renzo reaches a point where he “no longer strove to master the glass but only to know it, to play.”  How does this idea of play resonate for you as a writer?

            Some people say you should write what you know, a piece of advice I flagrantly disregard at every opportunity. Well, okay, that was flip, and not entirely accurate. But I am often attracted to write about things I don’t know much about; I find out about them in the process of writing and research. However, it occurred to me that I spend the bulk of my days thinking about, teaching about, writing about, and in the act of attempting to create something original and harmonious. And that it might be interesting to try to write about that.
            For me, finishing a novel requires a kind of dogged persistence. It’s a long process requiring a suite of hard-won skills. But when I approach a book with a sort of grit-your-teeth determination, I can crush all the life out of it. My best writing comes when I lighten up and approach it in a spirit of play. For me, writing a novel is a delicate balancing act of craft, persistence, passion, and joy. And I imagine that this is true of other art forms, too.

As well as being a writer, you teach writing, too.  Has teaching changed the way you work as a writer?  Did it affect the way you saw the master/apprentice relationships in the book?

            I’m not sure that teaching has changed the way I write, but it has forced me to be more conscious about things I used to do by the seat of my pants. How do we know when there’s too much exposition, or when subplots are overshadowing the main plot? I’ve had to sit down and really think about stuff like that. Because of teaching, I have more experiences of seeing writers grappling with and transcending a difficult problem; I can sometimes borrow my students’ energy and hope and bring it to my own work. I’ve learned so much from my students. And from my colleagues at Vermont College, who are scary-smart and wise in the ways of art-making. 
            But I love your question about the master/apprentice relationships. As I wrote FALCON IN THE GLASS, I was thinking about this relationship only from the apprentice’s point of view, seeing it through Renzo’s eyes. So what does the book (inadvertently) say about mentors?  Well, Renzo is hungry to learn, as are many of my students. He gets bored with repetitive lessons. His love of the art originated with a nurturing mentor (his father) but the stress of an impossible challenge posed by an unsympathetic mentor forces him to create something entirely original. Hmm! Maybe what I’ve said (without thinking consciously about it) is that a hungry student can thrive despite his mentor’s personal style? That a nurturing mentor and one who poses seemingly impossible challenges can both be beneficial?

FALCON IN THE GLASS is filled with wonderful historical details—from the tools of the glassmaking trade to the Bocca di Leone, the Lion’s Mouth through which Venetians could accuse someone of heresy or witchcraft.  Can you share any tips about historical research?  How to do it well, and how to keeping it from overwhelming the story?

            I’m not an expert on historical research. Fortunately, I know how to find experts! A number of wonderful librarians helped me unearth the information I needed, including those at Vermont College, who, through interlibrary loan, have access to an array of books and articles that seems just about unlimited. 
            Also, there’s this whole serendipity thing, which I have heard other writers speak of as well. Sometimes when I’m casting about for someone who knows a lot about my subject matter, things just click into place in ways that seem almost miraculous. It happened to me again with FALCON IN THE GLASS. One example: A writer friend, Emily Whitman, mentioned to me that Patricia Fortini Brown, a Princeton professor and expert on Renaissance Venice, would be speaking at a local college in a few days.  I went to the lecture and introduced myself; Dr. Brown offered to vet my manuscript and answer questions. Her generosity knocked me out—and she was a huge help in confirming details and digging out little-known information.
            Yes, research is delicious, and it’s such a temptation to put in every cool fact I’ve discovered! And it’s also true that a detail, like a Bocca di Leone, can inspire an entire scene. But I try to put in only what my viewpoint characters would plausibly notice in the moment, and let the rest of it fall away.

Excellent advice!  I'm curious:  Are you an outliner?  Or do you like to see where the story takes you?

            Usually I’m not an outliner, but FALCON IN THE GLASS was an exception. I had taken a screenwriting class from my friend Cynthia Whitcomb, and she had demonstrated a technique of outlining an entire screenplay in advance. I thought, Hmm, I wonder… To my surprise, in a couple of weeks I had the outline of this novel. Even more surprising—the outline held up until I was about ¾ of the way through the first draft. I found that I didn’t mind knowing in advance generally where I was going. There were enough surprises along the way to keep me exploring. The next book is perking along without an outline, so I don’t know when I’ll try Cynthia’s method again.

Falcon in the Glass is a wonderfully original blend of history and fantasy for middle-grade readers.  What draws you to write for this age group?  What is it about the combination of fantasy and history that appeals to you?

            The worst year in my life was the year I turned fourteen.
            Most of my protagonists are fourteen or fifteen years old.
            Coincidence? Don’t think so. But the connection is not deliberate. I just want to write about kids that age.
            Sometimes I wonder if subconsciously I’m just trying to get fourteen right. Kind of like the movie Groundhog Day, where the Bill Murray character has to keep living the same day over and over until he stops making a total hash of it.
            I can’t go back and actually be fourteen. So maybe I have to do this, instead.
            As to the fact that FALCON IN THE GLASS lives in the borderland between historical fiction and fantasy…  I have always been attracted to the long ago and faraway. Can’t tell you exactly why.  And I love books with a little bit of maybe-magic. The kind of magic that wicks across the boundary between reality and imagination, suggesting there’s more to this world than meets the eye.

"Maybe-magic" is a beautiful way of describing it.  Thank you so much for stopping by the Inkpot today, Susan!


Interview conducted by Amy Butler Greenfield, who was on her way to a history Ph.D. when she gave into temptation and became a novelist. Her most recent book is the YA historical fantasy CHANTRESS (McElderry / S&S, 2013).  She lives with her family in England, where she eats chocolate, bakes cakes, and plots mischief.

Monday, July 29, 2013

10 Books About Awesome Aliens

I just love aliens, so I decided to come up with a list of some books about aliens at different age levels. This is a random list! It is not a “best of” list or a “favorites” list or anything aiming to be definitive. I just want to highlight some kids’ books about aliens, a subject that will never, ever get old for me! I’ve only read a few of them so far, and I can’t wait to read the rest. Personally, I prefer books where the aliens are the good guys. Call me naïve, but I hope that if humans ever do encounter aliens, they won’t be trying to kill us. Will they look just like the hottest boy in school? Well, I’m not that hopeful :). But they might speak with Australian accents …

Middle Grade:

1. Herbert’s Wormhole (series) by Peter Nelson and Rohitash Rao. Three friends travel to the future and meet the friendly, wig-wearing G’Daliens who speak in Australian accents for no particular reason. Except—awesome!

2. Aliens on Vacation (series) by Clete Smith. A boy discovers that his grandma’s boring bed and breakfast is really an inn for aliens. Way more interesting than a regular inn, if you ask me.

3. The Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson. Two kids must use their wits to unravel an alien plot and stop the invasion!


4. Roswell High (series) by Melinda Metz. The hottest guy in school is an alien. Enough said.

5. Obsidian (series) by Jennifer Armentrout. Another hot alien guy! Like I said in the intro, I’m not counting on it, but it would be cool if it happened.

6. Rush (series) by Eve Silver. A girl is kidnapped from her life and forced to kill aliens for reasons she doesn’t understand.

Picture Books about Aliens:

7. The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Mark Fearing. The Three Little Pigs except with aliens. In case you were sick of pigs and love aliens!

8. Baloney (Henry P.) by John Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith. Henry P. Baloney is an alien who is always late for school and has lots of excuses.

9. Aliens Love Underpants (series) by Claire Freedman, illustrated by Ben Cort. Aliens come to Earth to steal people’s underpants. Some of the aliens are green and some are orange, but they’re all from strange planets that lack underpants.

Classic Alien Book:

10. The Tripods Trilogy by John Christopher. I wanted to write about newer books, but I couldn’t write about alien books without mentioning the Tripods. I don’t know if this was my first alien book, but I remember it that way. The worst thing about the tripod aliens was that they took away your free will. The coolest thing was the giant tripods. And the fact that they came from outer space—that too!

Well, there you have it. Ten books about aliens! Does anyone have a favorite alien book?

Mary G. Thompson is the author of Wuftoom and her own alien book, Escape from the Pipe Men!

Photo credit: africa

Sunday, July 28, 2013

It's the Weekend - I Can Still Be Shameless!

After a massive YA author event and two birthday parties yesterday (er, attended, not thrown) I dropped the ball on Saturday Shamelessness.  But it's still the weekend, so I figure, it counts.

We've got another awards winner here in the Inkpot! Katie Carroll's YA fantasy ELIXIR BOUND took second place in the June You Gotta Read cover contest.  And you can see why.  Gorgeous!

More great reviews for Ellen Booraem’s TEXTING THE UNDERWORLD, which comes out August 15. Publishers Weekly called the story of a boy visited by a young banshee “affecting, funny, and provocative,” while The Horn Book praised it for “complex characters, a moving story line centered on family and courage, and plenty of exciting moments.” Ellen starts a three-week blog tour August 5 at The Childrens Book Review with a guest post about banshees, the Irish ancestral spirits who wail as death approaches.

And last but not least, we have a NEW INKIE BOOK coming out this week!!!!

INDELIBLE by Dawn Metcalf hits shelves JUNE 30th!!!!

You definitely want to check this one out!

That's all for this installment.  Next week, many of us will be gathering at SCBWI LA.  We'll be sure to post photos!!!!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Interview with Lena Goldfinch, Author of SONGSTONE

It's my pleasure to interview fellow Inkie Lena Goldfinch as she talks about her latest release the YA fantasy SONGSTONE. I fell in love with the island setting of this book; it reminded me of my honeymoon in Tahiti!

The Goodreads blurb of SONGSTONE: 

Kita can meld song into stone. In a world with no written word, storytelling—the ability to meld (or magically impress) song into stone—is greatly honored. The village honors her master as their medicine man, but Kita knows he's secretly a sorcerer who practices black magic using drops of her blood. She fears he’ll use her beautiful gift for a killing spell, so she conceals it from him. Each day, his magic tightens around her neck like a rope. His spells blind the villagers, so they can’t see him for what he really is.

Not that anyone would want to help her. She was found in the forest as a baby and would have died if a village girl hadn't brought her home. But the villagers saw Kita's unusual coloring and decided she belonged to the mysterious tribe who lives in the forests of the volcano, a people feared for their mystical powers. So they fear her too. Now seventeen, she can barely admit her deepest longing: to know who she really is and where she belongs.

Then Pono, a young journeyman, arrives from the other side of the island. He's come to fulfill a pact between their villages: to escort a storyteller back to his village--a storyteller who'll be chosen at the great assembly. Finally, in Pono, Kita sees her one slim chance at freedom and she'll risk her life to take it.

A dark, twisty tale of sorcery, tummy-tingling romance, and adventure, inspired by the folklore of New Zealand's Māori people.

Lena, why don’t we start with you telling us a little about yourself?

Well, I'm one of the blog admins here on the Inkpot, my speciality being managing the sidebar over there, making sure the upcoming interview covers get updated. I love doing it because I get to see all the awesome covers first. I'm also responsible -- with my cohort, Amy Greenfield -- for posting the recent guessing game post on fantasy book covers with their titles and author names stripped off. That was fun.

In regular everyday life, I live in a small town about 35 minutes outside Boston (if there's no traffic! ;-)) with my husband, two kids, and a very spoiled Black Lab. I've worked as a software engineer and a web designer, but now write full time and run a small freelance business doing book design (ex. designing book covers and doing print book layout). For fun, I enjoy reading (of course!), walking down by the lake near our house, or just hanging out watching movies with my family or rooting for my favorite football team. (Go, PATS! :))

Kita lives in a culture that has no written word and instead has storytellers who sing stories into stone. Were the magical elements of the story invented purely from imagination or inspired by a specific real-life culture? Or some combination?

The magic of melding song into stone came from my own imagination. The original concept for that came very early on, in fact. I was musing about how there are different ways of communicating stories, but whatever the method, whatever the culture, stories are so integral to our lives. The very first page of notes I wrote for Songstone has a line about having a different way of communicating stories, either magical skywriting (I'm still intrigued by this concept!) or storing stories somehow into rocks. :) This partly came from reading online discussions way back when ebooks were first becoming popular. It occurred to me that stories are stories are stories, no matter how we receive them. We want them and we need them. No delivery method is more perfect than another. (Although, I do admit to loving holding a beautifully designed print book in my hands. I also love the ease of downloading an ebook and having it there -- pfffsstttt -- in seconds for me to devour.)

Some of the other elements in Songstone, such as the existence of a supernatural mountain tribe with mysterious powers and a medicine man who practices black magic, among other elements, were inspired by Māori folklore.

Did you do any particular kind of research for the exquisitely detailed island setting of Songstone? (Please tell me you got to visit an exotic island and write it off as a business expense!)

No tax write-off, alas, but I've been to Hawaii's The Big Island a couple of times with my family, several years ago now. I definitely drew on those experiences when I was writing Songstone. I also drew on every experience I've ever had being on a beach or island. My dad is a retired Navy commander, so our family often lived near the beach (near as in "near enough to drive to" :)). My mom would often take us kids to the beach. I remember collecting shells, searching for shark's teeth (I was quite good at it ;)), and what it feels like to drag your bare feet through wet sand. The initial vision of a girl on an island came while I was on vacation on Bear Island in New Hampshire. The only way onto the island was by boat (which we had to rent), and it was all a very unsettling experience for me (Not being able to jump into a car and run up to the store. It freaked me out ever-so-slightly! ;)). Anyway, it was also evidently a huge spark to my imagination. I'll always remember bolting out of bed one morning at 5:30 am, while everyone else was still asleep, and sitting on the screened in porch with a yellow legal notepad, jotting down notes as quick as I could, as if my ideas might evaporate any second. And stretched out before me in the early morning light was Lake Winnipesaukee, with gently rippling water, gray mist swirling across the surface. It felt like I was the only one alive looking out over the lake.

Hmmm.... Maybe I CAN write that trip off -- do you think?? LOL

Songstone has very strong themes of belonging and identity. Did you start writing the story with intentions of dealing with those themes or did they come out later in the writing process?

I'm not entirely sure.... Early on I knew this girl (later to be named Kita) was on an imperative/transformative quest and had to face dangers with the help of a journeyman (a young handsome journeyman ;)). As an adoptive mom I think the themes of belonging and identity wormed their way into the book because I was working some things out in my own heart and head. Playing them out in a fantasy setting was a way for me to explore some painful issues, separate from the here and now, and apart from my personal experiences. So in that sense the story is somewhat allegorical. As it became more evident what the themes were, I'll admit writing the book grew more and more emotionally exhausting. I had to step away from it many times, regroup, and come back to it later.

What was your favorite part about writing the story? Least favorite?

I think the character of Pono was my favorite part. I just love him. I don't know where he came from, but I'm so glad he arrived. :) I also love the island setting, with its primitive culture, the magical elements (especially the whimsical touches that save the story from being too dark), and the challenge of exercising my descriptive muscles. For example, you can't say something is "electrifying" when there's no electricity. The island is also loosely based on New Zealand, where there are no native snakes -- just as one for instance. So I couldn't compare a snare to a snake. I could have create an island world with snakes, and I considered it, but decided I liked the idea of limiting myself. It forced me to 1) stretch myself and 2) I had to immerse myself in my island setting so deeply that I was looking at shells, sand, sky, flowers, volcanoes, bones, everything... in a fresh way. Same thing for my character names and made-up words: I limited myself to the Māori alphabet and linguistic conventions (with a few of my own twists). I love all things language and culture, so that kind of thing is fun for me.

Least favorite was the emotionally-draining aspect. I think writing from a place of pain made this a better book (at least I hope so), but it also meant I was pouring myself out pretty much constantly. As a work-in-progress, I would not-so-jokingly refer to it as that "stupid book": as in "am I ever going to finish this stupid book?" :) It seems so strange to me now to say that, because I adore Songstone now. I love Kita and Pono and that whole world.

Songstone is your second full-length self-published book (your first being the YA fantasy Aire). What has the publishing process been like for it?

A whole lot of work. LOL But I love it. I love the creative control, everything from the covers to working with freelance editors to scheduling release dates to, well, everything. It's a two-edged sword though: you have all this freedom, but all the responsibility is also falling on you. You are a publishing company. I'm not just Lena Goldfinch, I'm Me Inc., publisher. That said, I believe in getting help and recognizing your limitations; I pay for what I can't do myself and barter where I can. It works well for me. I also think you have to have a certain type of personality to make it work – and self-publishing (in the current publishing climate) just happens to work well with both my personality and my skill sets (my professional background in computers and web design is a huge help). It took me a while to get to the point where I decided to dive in, however. It took a huge shift in the publishing world, where digital self-publishing became a viable, affordable, and accessible option, and also seeing some of my writer friends having success with it. I was also where I needed to be as a writer and person.

And finally what can readers expect from you next?

I'm going to have no rest this summer because I have a ghostly little novella that I need to finish up called Haunting Joy. It's a departure for me, a contemporary first-person ghost story. Something short and fun that I'm writing as a break between fantasy books. After that I have a big YA fantasy that's waiting for me called Through the Spyglass. It's a Gaslight/Steampunk sort of fantasy with enchanted objects (ex. a spyglass), so that book should feel right at home here at the Enchanted Inkpot. ;)

Thanks so much for the interview, Katie! I've enjoyed it a lot!

You're welcome, Lena! Through the Spyglass sounds so intriguing...can't wait to read about it on the Inkpot!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Re-imagining the Witch in YA & MG lit

Double, double toil and trouble; 
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

The three witches in Macbeth are the epitome of the traditional Western witch— malevolent women, sometimes warty, casting spells and causing mischief.  But storytellers love to play with this stereotype—and sometimes even turn it on its head.  

One of the reasons witches continue to be so popular in literature is because authors can use them to symbolize so many different ideas.   Here are a few of our favorite witchy books and the themes they explore.

Coming into magical powers (or accepting their lack) as a metaphor for coming of age:

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy
The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle by Deva Fagan
Bras and Broomsticks by Sarah Mlynowski

Witches and Persecution:

Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Witch Child by Celia Rees
The Goblin Wood by Hilari Bell
Walking with Witches by Lynn Huggins-Cooper

Using witches to question good and evil/beauty and ugliness:

Chime by Franny Billingsley
The Witches by Roald Dahl
Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Exploring witch legends of many cultures:

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (Nigerian Ekpe societies)
Goblin Secrets by William Alexander (Russian Baba Yaga folktales)
A Third Magic by Wilton Welwyn Katz (Welsh King Arthur/ Morgan le Fay legends)
Plain Kate (Russian Rusalka folktales)

Witch books with a great romance:

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey
Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle

Books about the power of sisterhood:

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
The Twitches series by H. B. Gilmour and Randi Reisfeld
Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
(not to mention Charmed!)

Witches that just make us laugh:

Equal Rites, The Wee Free Men (and many others) by Terry Pratchett
Which Witch by Eva Ibbotson
The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

Witches, whether good or evil, fascinate us.  For me it’s because I have a secret wish to have a little bit of their power and mystery.  What are some of your favorite witchy books and why do you love them?

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Interview with Lisa Amowitz, on BREAKING GLASS and Ghostly Demands

Today we have with us fellow Inky & debut YA author Lisa Amowitz, who's ghostly Breaking Glass releases this month.

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, he's 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.

Breaking Glass is a gripping, emotionally-raw story. Jeremy's story is at times reality-bending, but heartbreakingly real. It's a gritty YA mystery with creepy supernatural elements, that explores some disturbing & mature issues. The pov character, Jeremy Glass, is deeply flawed, but also sympathetic. I was routing for him — even yelling at him at times! — but always on his side. I flipped through the pages greedily, wanting to know what was going to happen next.

Hi, Lisa, thanks for chatting with me today! Jeremy Glass is such a wonderfully complex character. He's a terribly flawed boy--even self-destructive--and yet he's also so sympathetic. What do you think it is about Jeremy that makes  him so appealing to readers (or what is it about him that appeals to you as the author)?

LISA: What I love about Jeremy is that no matter what, his mind is always working — he's clever and funny. And though I guess his ability to mask his pain is what makes him able to hide it so well, I think it is also what is so endearing about him. His heart, underneath the pain, is essentially pure and caring —his wacky humor and nerdiness are the defenses he has constructed to protect it (along with some other not so endearing habits).

If you were haunting someone, theoretically, of course, what three items would you demand to appease you and send you off happily to the afterlife?

1) A really good strong cup of coffee with half and half — hot in winter, iced in the summer. Even as a ghost I know I will want that — whether I can drink it or not.
2) Pandora so I can still listen to my favorite music — no music would really be HELL.
3) Supernatural email — there must be an internet in the afterlife, right? Or would I just be able to speak to whomever I wanted into their minds?
4) Really nice shoes. Hey — even ghosts need to look their best.

I'm sure I'm going to make a really lousy ghost — I am way too high maintenance!

That's four, but anything for you, Lisa! I love the idea of Supernatural email. :-)

Where did the initial idea for Breaking Glass come from? 

LISA: Oh boy..I've answered this so many ways. But I'm going to back to the very beginning like my friend Kimberly Miller who wrote TRIANGLES did. In a recent interview she said her book started as a few lines in a file. So did mine. It was back in the winter of 2009, and I wrote something like:

Recuperating boy raises missing girl from the dead...hanky panky ensues. 

Okay — those weren't the exact words, but I do remember that I called it Spectacular. Initially I was going to have ghost posess the boy's current girlfriend, but nixed that idea fast. I didn't actually start writing Breaking Glass until the winter of 2011, by the way.

What's your favorite scene? 

LISA: I have a few, but one of them is when Jeremy comes home from the hospital on a snowy winter night a few weeks before Christmas, in deep physical and emotional pain. His father is also devastated and, as usual, has a terrible time trying to communicate with Jeremy — so what does Jeremy do? He makes a lame but totally barbed joke that makes his poor dad feel even worse. I have a son, so that's how I learned all this stuff. To me, that scene captures the dynamic between Jeremy and his dad perfectly and illustrates how stuck they both are. It also captures some of the bleak angst people who are not so happy often feel around the holidays.

If you could cast Jeremy in the movie version of Breaking Glass, who would the actor be? 

LISA: Ahhhh! No!!! It's so hard. The only person who could do him justice is Jesse Eisenberg or Michael Cera, but they are both too old and too well known and not really cute enough! But they are smart enough.

I love it! I can picture Jesse Eisenberg for Jeremy! Thanks for the interview, Lisa. That was a lot of fun. To learn more about Lisa, her books and her art, visit her blogAnd get up a copy of Breaking Glass. It would be a great (creepy) book for one of those summer thunderstorm days when you're curled up in a cozy armchair (praying your house doesn't get hit by lightning ;)). 

We leave you with this serious question: 

If you were a ghost, what three things would you demand before you went off to the afterlife? (We'll assume in your ghostly form you can actually appreciate corporeal items. ;))

Monday, July 15, 2013

Refueling Your Inspiration

Let’s be honest – we don’t have great ideas all the time. In fact, sometimes we don’t have any ideas. Other work gets in the way, with all those memos and meetings, or with the digging and polishing, the measuring and pouring. Then there are the dishes, the school concerts, the potlucks for the community soccer team, and the back of the fridge in need of cleaning. (Actually, there might be some great inspiration there for pandemic infections.) Sometimes the many demands of the real world can get in the way of imagining fresh ones.

Or sometimes, after writing several stories, we begin to think all our ideas are gone. Used up. Every time we put something on the page, it seems stupid or silly. It seems to have been said a million times already. We end up staring at the ceiling, which is as blank as the page on the screen.

What to do? Here are some answers from a few Inkies, as well as some story starters to help spark a few ideas.

To start with, when I need inspiration, I read fairy tales and folklore. Also, I read nonfiction books and articles, anything full of cultural details and individual stories. I especially like letter collections. I walk or run to clear my head. I amble around and take photographs.

William Alexander: “I have a very simple refueling trick. If my typing slows to a trickle, I turn off the computer and start scribbling in my notebook. If I run out of ink (metaphorically or literally), I switch back to the keyboard. Chocolate also helps.”

Lisa Gail Green: “The best fuel for me, when I seem to be writing stale, is reading a good book. It's really the best medicine and I find myself recharged and ready to go.”

P.J. Hoover: “I find that chatting about the story, even topically, with friends (not only writing friends), can really help kick start ideas. Also, simple brainstorming techniques like writing words that come to mind about a certain subject can really help get creativity going and help me avoid the clichés.”

Keely Parrack: “I find reading a huge help, preferably something really well written that has nothing to do with whatever I'm working on. I just read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and Her Fearful Symmetry (both of which let me escape into totally different worlds. And today I spent two hours working really productively on a pb while my kids went to the movies – another great refueling trick - coffee and limited time!

“Also just get out, go to a movie, visit an art gallery, walk in a cemetery - all opportunities to let your mind wonder and be inspired by new experiences. And if you can, travel is brilliant for helping you see everything with a fresh lens!”

Any ideas to add? What are some ways you refuel?

For those of you who could use a bit of a nudge this week, try some of the story starters below:
  • I saw it sideways, out of the corner of my eye. But it couldn’t have been there. Impossible.
  •   In the last two years, here’s what I’ve determined: lots of people in New York go to church on Sunday; lots sleep in. Mike and I found the perfect middle ground and meet for pizza. Sure, maybe both of us will end up in hell, but life will taste good until we get there. 
  • The light was a shade of, blue? Green? It was gray, or maybe something without a name. I reached toward it. 
  • The present he’d given her wasn’t entirely what she’d expected. In fact, it wasn’t what she’d expected at all.
  • Spring didn’t come, nor did summer. Four feet of snow at the end of July.
  • She opened up her mouth, and all that rose out of her was birdsong.
  • She wasn’t a witch, exactly. At least, that’s what she told everyone.
  • It had no power source: I was certain of that. Yet the metal form began to rise.