Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Interview with Ellen Oh, author of WARRIOR

It's always a great day at the Inkpot when one of our favorite people publishes another book--and the Inkpot throws parades and launches fireworks when it's a second book in a series that is as good as the first one (because we know how hard that is), so we are truly cheering and dancing today for Ellen Oh, whose thrilling WARRIOR grabs the story her PROPHECY started and runs off with it at a sprint!
Here's what the back of the book has to say: "Kira, the yellow-eyed demon slayer who fiercely protected her kingdom--and the crown prince--has been proclaimed the Dragon Musado of the prophecy. With the help of the first lost treasure, the legendary tidal stone that controls the seas, she defeated the evil shaman. But her quest is far from over. Her father always said one person can change the world. Will it be Kira?"  
What do think? Will it be Kira? Will it? Will it? Why, yes!
Anne, on behalf of the Inkpot: Oh, Ellen, how much did I love this book? A dragon's worth! As I started reading, I noticed that PROPHECY's characters and places had stayed with me so vividly that I didn't have any trouble figuring out where we were and what was up at the start of Book Two. That's hard to pull off. Could you give us a glimpse of how you handled writing a sequel, not to mention a second book in a trilogy? How did you go about giving just enough backstory so that your audience is caught up, but still managing to dive right into the new story? Any tricks or tips for would-be series writers?
Ellen Oh: To be honest, I probably gave too much backstory and relied on my editors to trim it down for me. And I also relied on notes from my editors that would say things like "Here's a good place to remind readers what happened before!" So i can't take the credit for it, that is the work of amazing editors. 

Anne: What I think you do so beautifully in these books is combining action (and not just a little action, but lots of it), with a real sense of the bonds that hold a family together. Kira's brothers can be blunt with her, but you can tell they love and respect her (and that respect grows over the course of the story). Do you have brothers of your own?
EO: No, but I always wished I had an older brother. I'm the oldest and I had too much responsibility piled on to me. So the idea of a big brother who teaches you and guides you and looks out for you is so very appealing. In real life I know brothers can be just as annoying as sisters, if not worse, but for me, I guess it is the appeal of what I don't have.

Anne: Seems to me your heroine Kira, even though she's not technically an older brother, has got those "teaching and guiding and looking out for you" skills woven deep into her nature! Kira's relationship with her young cousin Taejo, who is also the future king she is sworn to protect, is really touching. They really care about each other, and Taejo is slowly maturing over the course of the books. Again, the way the characters care about each other makes us care deeply about them, too. That is not just true about Taejo and Kira, but about almost all of WARRIOR's positive characters, many of whom could be described as "fiercely protective." What do you think the ideal proportion of fierceness versus tenderness is in a heroic character--so that we not only admire her/his prowess but care deeply about her/him, too?
EO: I think it is just a representation of people's capacity to love and care for each other. And above all, especially in Korean culture - honoring your elders, looking out for your younger family members, and being loyal to the family is an absolute. that's how I was raised and so I don't know any differently. When you truly love someone, you would do anything for them. And that is why "fiercely protective" shouldn't be at odds with love and tenderness, if that makes sense.
Anne: Yes, I can see that. Of course, to bring out that loving/tender/fierce protectiveness, you have to put your poor characters into jeopardy! There are some very creepy scenes in here--deserted villages in the snow, zombie-like creatures marauding, demonic children.  Did you have to tone the horror elements up or down as you were revising? Did anything get nixed because it was too scary for kids, or did you find your story becoming more frightening, from draft to draft?
EO: Actually, I toned down PROPHECY as it was originally more violent, more frightening, and actually had a lot more death in it. I was not shy about killing characters off. It was actually my oldest daughter who demanded that I not kill a few key people off which changed the course of that novel. So for me, WARRIOR and KING (the 3rd book) follow completely in line with the level of violence and scariness of the first book. At least that is what I think. Now I'm curious, did you think WARRIOR was scarier? 
Anne: Good question. I think they're scary in different ways: in PROPHECY the scariness comes from Kira's being torn away from her family and thrown into very difficult and unsettling situations--it's all new for her, and disorienting, which of course is frightening. But the actual dangers in WARRIOR are perhaps scarier! She's more equipped to deal with them by now, but as a reader I kept ducking behind her and peeking over her shoulder, with my teeth rattling.
Okay, let's move from terror to beauty: I love the way you use the landscapes and mythology of an ancient/mythological/alternative Korea in your books! Have you had any reactions from readers in Korea yet? Are there zombie-like creatures in Korean mythology, or did you make that up? How about that absolutely fabulous nine-tailed fox demon, the kumiho? Is she a creature we might find in other Korean stories?
EO: Well the kumiho and the dokkaebi are definitely creatures straight out of Korean mythology and I loved being able to work them into WARRIOR. I believe that they were by far my favorite parts of writing WARRIOR. Anything regarding the demons and half-breeds were purely from my own twisted imagination. :o)
Anne: And speaking of the kumiho, another thing I love about Warrior is the way you give depth to your portraits of dangerous characters: demons, dragons, and villains are not all one-dimensional in your books. Kira seems to be learning that the world is far more complicated than any black-and-white theories would suggest: sometimes even villains may redeem themselves. Does this mean that Kira will end up questioning some of the things she has held sacred all her life, as we get into Book Three? Do you think the world is developing more "gray areas" for Kira as she gains experience?
EO: I will only say this. Something majorly unbelievable happens to Kira in book 3 that will test her like nothing else ever has. And I definitely think it takes her into a new area of gray that she must learn to navigate or die trying.
Anne: !!!!!!!!!!! 
Anne again, still slightly trembly: Speaking of Book Three, what is its title, and when can we expect to find it on the shelves? The ending of WARRIOR does not leave the reader in a comfortable place for waiting and waiting, you know . . . . 
EO: I don't believe in cliffhangers for the first book in a series. I think it is kind of a mean thing to do. But I'm a big Empire Strikes Back fan so a cliffhanger in the second book is I think the best place to put one. :o) I know it is still mean but it was inevitable. KING comes out December 31, 2014. And like I alluded to before, there is something that happens to Kira that no one will ever guess. NO seriously, if anyone could guess it, I would buy them a box of donuts and ship it to wherever they were. .
Anne: Really? Donuts??? You're in trouble now, Ellen. Guesses are going to be pouring in like there's no tomorrow. But I'll sneak mine in before the crowds arrive: taking your Star Wars reference as a clue, I assume we discover the demons are green-tentacled alien invaders from a different planet--right? Right? Ellen? .  . . Don't look at me that way . . . . Okay, okay, no donuts for me . . . .
So, what else have you been working on recently? What can we look forward to reading, someday, from Ellen Oh?
EO: I've been finishing off KING and have been working on a few projects that I love. One is a contemporary horror using a Korean Shaman as the main character. The other is an epic fairytale creatures war novel set in Washington DC. I am enjoying the mash up of fantasy and modern world as it is so different from the PROPHECY world.  
Anne: Those sound extremely fabulous. I'm ready! Another question: what kind of response from a reader moves you the most?
EO: Any response I get moves me. I love them all. I love the emails and fan art. I love the cards and the torn pieces of paper with writing or doodles on them. I love hearing about it in person. It never gets old. 
Anne: Do people really send you doodles? That's really, really lovely. Of course, once you have a nine-tailed fox demon show up, doodles have GOT to follow. 
Anne, after a few minutes spent attempting to doodle a nine-tailed fox demon--not a success, I'm afraid!: Food gets a lot of loving attention in this book! What's a real comfort food for you? If you were slogging through the snow and arrived finally at a snow-bound village, what would you be hoping for for supper?
EO: Steak and potatoes. Most favorite thing to eat in the whole wide world. But I eat it Korean style. I like it with rice and kimchee, ha ha. Other than that, shoot, it would be so hard to pick. I'm such a foodie. I just love to eat way too much. I'd be pretty happy with any good hot home-cooked meal.  
Anne: Kira is incredibly brave and very loyal. If you were her age and met her by chance, do you think you'd get along well, or would there be some clashes? 
EO: I would be best friends with her! I'm biased cause I created her but I really like her a lot and think she would be the friend you would want to have all through life because she would always have your back. always believe in you.  
Anne: I think she would love you, too, Ellen! How about places: what location (or scene) did you most wish you yourself could magically visit, as you were writing about it?
EO: In PROPHECY, that would be when I wrote about the Diamond Mountains where the Heavenly maidens reside and in WARRIOR it would be Mount Baekdu. They are real and both are actually in North Korea, which is not safe to visit. But some day I hope I will see them with my own eyes.
Anne: Until that day comes, you have given us all glimpses of beautiful, dangerous places we may not have thought about before, so thank you!
And thank you for being such a fabulous interviewee and writer, Ellen Oh! Try those cookies over there--I put some caramelized ginger in them, so they're a combination of scary and warm, like your books. :) Good luck to you and to all the PROPHECY novels!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Resolutions from Fantasy Creatures

New Year, New Resolutions! And we're not just talking about people. Creatures have their own resolutions, and we here at the Enchanted Inkpot have taken the opportunity to interview some of these creatures and find out what their New Year's Resolutions really are! So sit, back, relax, and prepare to be entertained!


Creature interviews c/o Dawn Metcalf...

"I resolve to only eat people who are very, very bad. Or taste like chicken." - Werewolf
"I resolve to cut down to only 3 pints a day." - vampire (or) "Go vegetarian."
"No more switching babies." - bad fairies
"Lose 1000 lbs." - giant
"Just keep swimming!" - Loch Ness Monster
"Kick the salt water habit." - mermaid
"Find that one, perfect someone that completes me." - Frankenstein's monster
"Stop falling to pieces at every little thing." - zombie
"I will help out more around the house." - the 7 dwarves
"Be nicer to the downstairs neighbors." - ghost
"Give to charity." - dragon
"Call Grandma more often." - Red Riding Hood
"Let my hair down." - Rapunzel
"Not be afraid to introduce myself." - Rumpelstilskin
"Wake up early every day and exercise." - Sleeping Beauty/Aurora/Briar Rose
"I resolve this year to be more perfect than I already am!" - Prince Charming

Creature interviews c/o Anne Nesbet...
"I will stop poking at things with my horn unless I KNOW they are non-staining." --youthful unicorn

Creature interviews c/o Lena Goldfinch...
"To become more visible...and lose weight." -The Invisible Man

Creature interviews c/o Keely Parrack...
To do no evil and fly faster in case mischief accidentally occurs - faerie in training

Creature interview c/o Mike Jung...
I resolve to stop drowning, gutting, and eating anyone who calls me a "hippogriff." - Hippocampus

Creature interviews c/o Ronald Smith...
“I will try not to drag my feet so much.” - Zombie
“I will stop obsessing over my hair so much in the mornings.” - Urban faerie

Creature interview c/o Miriam Forster...
This year I'm going to put a warning sign up so I can practice my voice lessons in peace. --siren

Creature interview c/o Lisa Gail Green...
"This year I'm going to give myself three wishes, starting with a bigger lamp."  - Genie

Creature interview c/o Hilari Bell...
I'm going to stop hiding my valuables in weird places and get a bank account.  Maybe invest in bitcoins?  --Leprechaun

Creature interview c/o Ellen Booraem...
I am going to go out for cheerleading. Maybe join the glee club. –Dementor

Creature interview c/o Jen Nielsen...
“To find a project (for once) that I can’t sink my teeth into!” - Vampire

Creature interview c/o Erin Cashman...
I resolve to look where I'm walking and sitting, so that I stop accidentally squishing people to death -- Troll


P. J. Hoover is the author of the dystopia/mythology YA book, SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 2013), the upcoming Egyptian mythology MG book, TUT (Tor Children's, September 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.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Back in the Shameless Groove!

I'm back! <guitar chord>  Back in the Shameless groove...

Sorry, that's one of my husband's favorite songs, and it seemed only appropriate to mark my return to Shameless Saturday posts here at the Inkpot!

First off, you read that correctly. HUSBAND. Part of my absence was my marriage late last fall, and subsequent much-needed honeymoon! Another factor was a hellacious set of revisions for my fourth book that took like twice as long as normal. I barely finished them before my wedding. So yeah, the fall was...stressful!

But enough about me. We have some shameless news to promote!

Shall we start out with a bang and announce a new book deal for Shelley Moore Thomas? Why yes, I think we should!
Sarah Zhang at Boyds Mills Press has acquired two picture books by Shelley Moore Thomas: Kitten Wants a Puppy and There Are No Dragons in This Book. In the first book, a kitten can't understand why she isn't allowed to have a puppy and a few other not so cat-like things, and in Dragons, an interactive book, readers search for dragons that aren't there (or are they?).
I can already tell you that Kitten Wants a Puppy is going to be on my bookshelf.

And Leah Cypess has two amazing something somethings to share! (1) Teen Vogue put Death Sworn on its list of "The 15 Most Exciting YA Books Coming Out This Year."

(2) Death Sworn got a starred review from Kirkus: “A thoughtful exploration of identity and responsibility wrapped in a twisty, suspenseful mystery and set in a gorgeously realized fantasy world.” - Kirkus (STARRED REVIEW)

Death Sworn hits shelves this March!

So, just a sprinkling of news for my first weekend back, but I have a strange feeling that 2014 is going to be...amazing.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Interview with Sara B. Larson, author of DEFY

I am excited about today’s interview for a bunch of reasons! Sara B. Larson is not only a friend, and an editor mate, but also a debut author, and you will be able to say you knew her from the beginning. Beyond that, her YA fantasy, DEFY, is fantastic, with romance, action, and some heart-stopping intrigue. It has been named to the Winter `14 Indies Next list and was Scholastic’s featured book at the prestigious 2013 Winter Institute.

From Goodreads: Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

Thank you for having me! I’m so glad you enjoyed DEFY! (Especially since I’m such a huge fan of your books. Seriously, they are amazing.)

No, thank you. Mutual author love, right? Okay, on to some questions…

Sara, readers always want to know where the idea for the story came from. What prompted you to write DEFY?

DEFY came from a very difficult period in my life, when I lost someone I loved. I was so upset by his death that I couldn’t write anything, but a friend of mine told me to stop trying to write a book and just write what I was feeling. So that’s exactly what I did. I sat down and wrote a scene, not intending for it to go anywhere…but then I got curious about the characters. This whole fascinating world unraveled itself and I realized Alexa had a very intriguing, difficult, but ultimately amazing story that needed to be told. I threw myself into that writing and from there the story took on its own life. It became a story of survival and moving forward, a story of what true courage and strength is, and a story about the many different kinds of love, and hope (even in the most desperate of situations) and risking everything for the chance of a better future.

I really loved how tough Alexa was, but at the same time, she retains a vulnerable feminine core. How did you strike that balance in her character?

Alexa is a very complex, fascinating character, and I absolutely loved writing her story. She is a very tough, strong, and determined young woman. She’s incredibly talented at fighting—and she’s worked extremely hard to reach that level of skill. Alexa has dealt with some horrible losses and situations in her life, but she’s always done what she had to do to protect herself from the horrific fate orphan girls in Antion face. Instead of just surviving, she earns a place for herself on the prince’s guard. However, that’s not the only side to her personality—the tough, fighting machine. Though she’s pretending to be a boy, buried deep down beneath her fa├žade she’s still very much a girl, and as some events in DEFY occur, her feminine core, as you put it (which I like a lot!), begins to break out a bit more. I’ve never believed that being a girl, with tender emotions and hormones and everything else that comes with it, is a weakness. I think it’s part of what makes us wonderful, beautiful, and strong in our own way. A big part of this story is Alexa’s journey to find the balance between the person she’s portrayed herself to be, and who she truly is, and finding out what real strength and courage is—as her true self. Finding that balance between a tough warrior (which she is) and a vulnerable girl with confusing feelings and emotions (which she also is) was interesting and at times tricky. But I tried to stay true to her voice in my head, especially as she went through the different challenges facing her.  

Without giving away spoilers, do you have a favorite scene from the book? Something you keep turning back to as you revisit the pages?

Oh boy, there are so many scenes in this book that I love. I love writing the scenes where she’s kicking some serious butt, or scenes with fast moving dialogue and action. But there is one that comes to mind that isn’t TOO spoilery. I’m definitely a big sucker for romance; I love a scene with some awesome tension. I’d have to say one of my favorite scenes to write was a certain one in a tent…when she’s literally stuck between two pretty dang attractive men and the awkwardness and tension that arose from that situation. I’m not going to lie, that scene was pretty fun to write.

You’ve had an up and down road on the way to publication. What did you learn from that process that helps you now as an author?

Yes, it was quite the road to get here. I think what I learned is to never give up and to never lose sight of the real reason you’re doing this—because you love to write. Because you can’t NOT write. (At least, that’s how I feel about it.) When bumps in the road come along, I always go back to that. I’m so incredibly blessed to be doing what I love, to have finally made my life-long dream come true, and that is amazing, even if it’s also hard at times. It’s taught me to be grateful for any success I have, no matter how big or small. (It might just be getting another chapter written on a particularly crazy day!)

Finally, what are you working on now? (Please say it’s Book 2!) Can you give us any hints about it?

You’re in luck—I am indeed in revisions with my amazing editor, Lisa Sandell, for the sequel to DEFY. Hmmm, not sure what hints I can give, except that in DEFY, we see a fairly limited view of Alexa’s world, because it’s from her point of view, and she has a pretty limited knowledge of what’s going on. But in the sequel, that view begins to crack open, expanding and bringing in much more information about what’s really going on in Antion, Dansii, and Blevon (the three kingdoms in DEFY), and of course there’s even more fighting, kissing, twists and political intrigue to hopefully keep you flipping pages!

And quick answers here:

Oh man, I’m so bad at these, because I’m so indecisive! Okay, I’ll try.
Beach or Mountains? Ooh, tough because I love them both SO much. But I’m going to go with beach. There’s nothing better than laying out in the sun with a great book and the ocean in the background.

Dessert You Can’t Refuse? A really amazing brownie sundae. Or fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Or anything with caramel. I just really love dessert. (See, I told you I stink at this, ha!)

Craziest Item on Your Bucket List? I’ve always wanted to go to Africa as a volunteer to help with medical aid. But because I didn’t finish my nursing degree I’ve adjusted that dream to at least go on a safari someday, and maybe visit the Congo or Amazon, because jungles fascinate me (in a terrifying sort of way). (Obviously, if you’ve read DEFY.) And maybe I could still volunteer in a different way.

Book on Your Nightstand Right Now? I’m beta reading an amazing book by my very talented friend and agent sister, Kathryn Purdie, and I’ve got two ARCs that I’m dying to start…FIRE & FLOOD and a certain third book in a certain amazing series…!

If you want to learn more about Sara, visit her website here. You can also read more about DEFY on Goodreads here. And if you decide to buy a copy for yourself, please support indie bookstores first!


Jennifer Nielsen is the NYT Bestselling author of The Ascendance Trilogy. The final book, THE SHADOW THRONE, will be released by Scholastic in February 2014. Read about it here or visit Jennifer's website here.