Tag Archives: Interviews

Chatting with Cynthia Leitich Smith

Today I’m chatting with Cynthia Leitich Smith, who is well-known in children’s literature for both her books and her informative blog. Here’s a chance to get to know her better — and to win an advance reader copy of BLESSED, due out January 25.

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of ETERNAL, TANTALIZE, and BLESSED (forthcoming), all Gothic fantasies from Candlewick Press. She also has written several YA short stories as well as books for younger readers. TANTALIZE was a Borders Original Voices selection, honored at the 2007 National Book Festival, and The Horn Book called it “an intoxicating romantic thriller.” A graphic novel adaptation of TANTALIZE is in the works. ETERNAL was a YALSA Teens Top Ten nominee, featured at the Texas Book Festival, and Publishers Weekly said, “…readers should be hooked by this fully formed world, up through the action-packed finale.” It debuted at #5 on the New York Times best-seller list and #13 on the Publishers Weekly best-seller list.

Wow, that’s an impressive bio. Cynthia, please tell us more about your books in your own words.

TANTALIZE is the story of Quincie P. Morris, a teen who’s trying to help save her family’s struggling Italian restaurant by re-launching it with a vampire theme. It’s supposed to be kitschy, all in fun. Then some real vampires show up.

ETERNAL is the story of a one-time guardian angel and the girl, turned vampire princess, whose life he failed to save.

BLESSED crosses over the two casts, picking up where TANTALIZE leaves off, and an additional novel is in the works.

I am also is in the process of writing two graphic novel adaptations, TANTALIZE: KIEREN’S STORY and ETERNAL: ZACHARY’S STORY.


Why did you choose to write in this genre? What inspires you?

I write Gothic fantasy, which is basically old-school horror, though my books are set in present day. These are stories with make-believe monsters, touching on timeless themes/circumstances like alienation, plague, invasion, gender-power politics, and the “dark” other (which, in Abraham Stoker’s day, translated to “Eastern European.”)

I’m writing for my young reader within. As a teen, I was an avid reader of Dean Koontz, V.C. Andrews, Stephen King, and mysteries—everything from Nancy Drew to true crime.

I remember my parents leaving me home alone in my early teens (I was old enough to have already begun babysitting). It was a dark and stormy night. Really. And I was reading King’s IT.

Is anything scarier than a clown? I don’t think so.

The house was quiet, and I was spellbound, reading in bed, hiding beneath the covers. I turned a page, half convinced that It was lurking on my own street, in the storm drain, when my dad leaped into the room and shouted, “Boo!”

I mean, really! “Boo.”

I screamed and jumped into the air, the book flying up to collide with my canopy.

Now, that’s effective writing.

Beyond that, I’m a huge Whedonverse fan and especially adored the girl-empowered, take-back-the-night theme in “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.” (Which is still required viewing, if you want to write Gothics for teens.)

And I learned how to read on picture books and superhero comics.

In sum, call me a Geek Girl. I’m happy to own that.

See the Eternal book trailer

Are there special challenges in writing speculative fiction? How do you deal with them?

World building is one of the biggest. In crafting my fantasy landscape, I did my homework. I studied the related YA novels and many of the adult novels that preceded them. I took a look at the films and pop culture representations. And from there, I dived into the classics and the traditional stories that inspired those. I compared, for example, shape-shifters from various cultures, looking for distinctions and commonalities.

But it wasn’t all book research. I also stepped directly into my fictional world. I took a camera and went to open houses, picking out places for my characters to live. I went to the Austin Nature and Science Center and interviewed the animals.

Of course there’s more to it than that. Measuring the cost of the magic. Making sure the monster is earned. But those are posts unto themselves.

Have you found any special challenges in finding publishers? In reaching readers?

Not really. TANTALIZE sold quickly, and Candlewick Press has been my principal YA house ever since. I’m in excellent hands. At CP, on every front, the quest for quality reigns supreme.

Prior to publishing Gothics, though, I was best known as a Native American author, and for some folks, it was an adjustment to think of me doing any other kind of work. I lost count of the people who warned me that Indian readers would be insulted by my “defection” to additional types of work.

They couldn’t have been more wrong. Many of my most enthusiastic readers are from the Native community.

It was odd. My Native characters were consistently praised for their diversity of interests, so I’m not sure why it surprised anyone that I’d want to do more than one kind of thing, too. But in any case, it makes me a stronger writer, shifting between formats, age markets, and genres. It’s also great fun!

If you could live in a sci-fi or fantasy world not of your own making, which would it be? Why?

“Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.” Maybe it’s the Kansas girl in me, but I clearly remember thinking once, when something terrible happened: I wish there was a Superman.

What would readers find surprising or interesting about you?

My favorite actors are Harriet Samson Harris (Bebe Glazer, “Fraiser;” Eve, “The X-Files,” etc.) and the late Lane Smith (Perry White, “Lois and Clark;” Jim Trotter, “My Cousin Vinny,” etc.).

Also, I strongly feel that Aquaman is shockingly underappreciated.

Visit Cynthia’a website or her CYNSATIONS blog for interviews with writers and editors, plus news and insights on the world of children’s literature. And don’t forget to post a response for a chance to win an advance reader copy of Blessed! The winner will be posted on Sunday. ETA: This giveaway is now closed. Try again in our next giveaway.

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Interview with Rhonda Hayter

CE: Today I’m chatting with Rhonda Hayter, who is offering a book giveaway of her contemporary fantasy, The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams! Post a comment on this interview, and we’ll randomly choose one lucky winner to receive a copy. Please be sure your post links to your e-mail or website so we can contact you, or check back on Sunday’s post to see the winner.

CE: Rhonda, please tell us about your book.

I’m the author of The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams, a middle-grade comic fantasy about a very normal girl, with regular problems like a strict fifth-grade teacher, too much homework and a little brother with some…um…behavior issues.  Abbie and her family also happen to be witches so her problems get complicated by things like her little brother losing his temper, turning into a werewolf and trying to eat his first-grade teacher.  But Abbie’s gifts also allow her to do some pretty incredible stuff, like meeting a great American from the past, who’s been enchanted by an evil witch determined to steal credit for his amazing inventions.

CE: Why did you choose to write in this genre? What inspires you?

When I started writing about Abbie Adams, who’s a fifth grader, I had a fifth-grader of my own in the house and I was immersed in the life of an eleven-year old. I heard eleven-year old voices in the back seat of my car, at birthday parties, soccer games, in the school yard and at the dinner table. So a voice like that started to come out of me when I wrote the book.  I wanted to teach some things in my book but I knew from the discarded books around my house that was the fastest way to get a book abandoned…so I made it as fun and magical as I could. That way no one notices they’re being sneakily edified.

CE: Are there special challenges in writing speculative fiction? How did you deal with them?

I suppose the challenge is in discovering the limits of your own imagination.  But that’s also the fun of course.  There’s also the importance of creating a solid, unshakeable logic for your imaginary world…because nothing destroys suspension of disbelief faster than for a reader to sense that the rules and boundaries of your magical universe have been broken.

CE: Have you found any challenges in finding publishers? In reading readers?

You bet I’ve found challenges!  But I’m not sure how special they are, I don’t think it’s easy for anyone.  It was a circuitous road to publication because my first publisher, a Canadian house, closed their doors after acquiring me. (I got to keep the advance though, so that was nice.)  A zillion passes later, Harcourt took me on and then Harcourt underwent all sorts of financial upheaval…which caused plenty of upheaval in me too…but finally, my editor, (and hero) Kathy Dawson left Harcourt and took me with her to Penguin. So I finally got published in April.  Everyone please feel free to sigh with relief. I certainly did.

The challenge in finding readers is on-going and so SO slow!!! I’m a proud member of the Classof2k10 debut authors and we cross promote, I’ve done blog tours and arc tours and every other thing I can think of to do…but I ain’t hit the 100,000 mark yet, I can tell ya.  Abbie’s coming out on the Scholastic book lists in the fall though, so I’m hoping for a big boost there. (From my keyboard to God’s ears.)

CE: If you could live in a sci-fi or fantasy world not of your own making, which would it be?  Why?

I’d leap onto the deck of the Starship Enterprise and start cruising the universe baby!  Even when it started in the sixties, it held a hopeful vision of the future that wasn’t yet being reflected in the world around it. Women on deck!  Russians and Americans working together! Equality between the races!  So okay, maybe Uhura was just a glorified switchboard operator and you still had a cocky white guy as the boss…but it was a great step in the right direction and its vision of the universe was so incredibly imaginative.  Sad to say, my boys won’t sit through it with me.  They think it’s the corniest thing they ever saw.  I’m working on getting them into The Next Generation though.

CE: What would readers find surprising or interesting about you?

Well, I’m just naturally fascinating of course, but beyond that it might be my day job, which is as a reader for a movie producer. And let me tell you, it’s a lot more easy-squeezy critiquing other writers, than it is putting yourself out in the world to be critiqued.  However it has put me in a position to offer a little valuable advice to people submitting work to be read…and here it is: Don’t subject a jaded reader (and they’ll all be jaded) to spelling errors, poor syntax or incorrect grammar and punctuation.  They’ll be predisposed to write you off as an amateur and your work will have to be that much more brilliant to merit a second look.

CE: Readers, simply leave a comment to be entered in the drawing to win a copy of The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams. Here’s a little more about Rhonda and her book:

THE WITCHY WORRIES OF ABBIE ADAMS debuted in April from Dial Books for Young Readers.  It will be appearing on the Scholastic Book Lists this fall and coming out in paperback from Puffin next April.  BOOKLIST says: …Abbie is an appealing, peppy protagonist who finds that there are “all kinds of magic in the world . . . with or without witchcraft.” Esme Raji Codell, author of HOW TO GET YOUR CHILD TO LOVE READING says, “The real magic of this book is that history is woven through the novel absolutely painlessly… The breezy pace, believable preteen voice (and vulnerability), good humor, eye of newt and toe of frog will work a spell of confidence-building success for reluctant readers.

Rhonda Hayter was born in St. Jean, Quebec. She was an actress for some time, appearing in plays on tour and in New York and Los Angeles.  Now she works as a story analyst for a famous movie producer.  When she and her husband found themselves with two little boys, one of whom morphed into a werewolf one day, The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams was born.

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Clare Dunkle

Today I’m chatting with Clare Dunkle. Be sure to sign on for the Special Brontë-themed giveaway—details at the end of the interview!

Chris: How did you become an author?

Clare: I started my career as a university librarian, with no idea of becoming an author—that wasn’t a goal I trusted myself to reach. But in 2001, I began writing fantasy stories for the sheer love of it and shared them with my teenage daughters. In the last seven years, seven of my novels have hit bookstore shelves, all in the genres of YA (young adult) fantasy or science fiction.

The first three, comprising The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy, are set in the Peak District of England during Regency times; they deal with the classic folktale races, goblins and elves. Next I wrote By These Ten Bones, a werewolf story set in the medieval Highlands of Scotland. Two science fiction stories followed: The Sky Inside and The Walls Have Eyes, both about a regular boy named Martin and his computerized dog. And this month, my new novel has come out. It’s a grim ghost story called The House of Dead Maids, a prequel to Emily Brontë’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights.

The House of Dead Maids
Chris: Why did you choose to write speculative fiction? What inspires you?

Clare: It never occurred to me to write fiction in any other genre. This is the genre I’ve loved from childhood, since I first pored over the beautifully illustrated D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths.

I find my inspiration in the books I loved as a teen and in folklore from around the world. I grew up reading books of myths and folktales, and I began studying them when I was in middle school. Ghost stories and systems of superstition hold a special appeal for me. They have strong parallels across countries and cultures. It is the stories that we have been telling and retelling down the millennia, and recreating spontaneously in schoolyards around the world, that fascinate me the most.

What I like is to take a particular thread from folklore and play what-if games with it. I like to find new explanations that use the folklore details in unexpected ways while still being faithful to the original sources. And I have a particular fondness for monsters.

Chris: Are there special challenges in writing speculative fiction?

Clare: I think the challenge would be writing realistic fiction. Our everyday world is such a dull place!

Chris: Have you found challenges in finding publishers? In reaching readers?

Clare: Nothing much to complain about. My path to publication is a fairy story in itself: when I submitted the unagented manuscript of my first novel to Holt BYR, I tripped over the pot of gold. I was a complete baby when it came to the industry, but my editor there, Reka Simonsen, took fantastic care of me. We’ve done five books together, including my newest one, and I hope we do many more.

It hasn’t all been smooth, though. Before going to Simon & Schuster to publish my two science fiction stories, I took it for granted that my publishing house would look after the marketing side of things. But books take a long time to get through publication. By the time The Sky Inside and The Walls Have Eyes came out, we were in middle of the economic downturn, and Simon & Schuster had changed their game plan. Everyone I knew at the house either quit or got laid off, and I considered myself very fortunate when the books turned out as well as they did. But their marketing was minimal, and I learned a lesson from that.

Chris: If you could live in a sci-fi or fantasy world not of your own making, which would it be? Why?

Clare: That’s  a tough one! I have to go for the classic: I want a set of rooms in Rivendell. Why? Because, as Bilbo realized, it would be a very comfortable life! And the perfect setting for a writer.

Chris: What would readers find surprising or interesting about you?

Clare: Lordy, I have no idea! So I polled my two daughters.

One daughter thinks it’s surprising that I didn’t go to my prom or high school graduation. Bless her heart, she’s lovely and popular—she has No Idea! In fact, I didn’t go to a single one of my three graduations. I don’t care about what’s happening today. I’m dying to get to tomorrow.

The other daughter thinks it’s interesting that I majored in Russian during the Cold War and that when I went to study at a language summer school, we students had our very own federal agent assigned to spy on us. She also thinks it’s interesting that our family lived in Germany for seven years. We visited thirteen countries while we were there, and we all learned how to get along in German. But once we got into a situation where English or German couldn’t help us, I was the designated speaker, whether it was ordering lunch in French or Spanish or buying train tickets in Italian. The rest of my family would go mute, and they would all stare hopefully at me, like a pack of golden retrievers.

Special Brontë-themed giveaway!
One Grand Prize winner will receive The House of Dead Maids, a gorgeous Brontë sisters pocket mirror, and the HarperTeen edition of Wuthering Heights! Two lucky runners-up will receive the two books. To enter, send an email to DeadMaidsBook@gmail.com with your name, email address, and shipping address (if you’re under 13, submit a parent’s name and email address). One entry per person and prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on October 31. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on November 1 and notified via email.

The next stop on the tour is Darkly Reading.

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Ideas for Speculative Books

Every writer knows that ideas are everywhere. Even for speculative fiction, which may be only loosely based in reality, story or book ideas can come from real-life facts or mysteries.

Here are just a few examples, from interviews I conducted:

Laura Ruby said, “I wrote my ghost story, Lily’s Ghosts, based on some stories my friend Andrea told me about her family’s “haunted” house. I got the idea for my fantasy-adventures, The Wall and the Wing and it’s sequel, The Chaos King, after I asked my then 12-year-old stepdaughter and her friends which superpower they’d like to have if they could have any. Three of them said they’d like the ability to fly; the fourth said she’d like the power of invisibility. I thought it would be great fun to write about a world in which everyone could fly, and it was.

Q. L. Pearce, author of three scary story collections, said, “I look at ‘average’ people in supermarkets, shopping malls, etc. and ask myself, ‘What are they hiding?’ Then I let my imagination run wild. I also love antique stores and swap meets. There are objects in such places that just ‘scream’ a story.”

Lois Szymanski and Shelley Sykes write the Gettysburg Ghost Gang series, which uses a contemporary setting with civil war era ghosts. “Our ideas come from our history research and our experiences on actual ghost investigations,” Szymanski said. “For instance, in our history research we found that hundreds of women fought in the Civil War dressed as men.” This inspired A Whisper of War.

Tom Sniegoski said, “Just flip on the evening news, or open a newspaper. There’s plenty of stuff to be afraid of. In Sleeper Code I have these untrustworthy government agencies set up for the good of the people, but their true purpose is anything but. That, I feel, is a real statement about the current mistrust in our administration.”

Cynthia Leitich Smith said, “The classics offer me inspiration and ensure my work is original. So does keeping up with new books in the genre. In crafting Tantalize (Candlewick Press, 2007), I drew my initial inspiration from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). Stoker’s classic includes as a secondary character a Texan, Quincy P. Morris, among its original vampire hunters. Intrigued by the Irish author’s choice, I brought the mythology “home” to Texas, offering my new protagonist, Quincie P. Morris—an updated and gender-flipped nod to Stoker’s old school.”

I honestly can’t remember where I got the idea for Haunted — it’s just been too long. It was before all the ghost hunter TV shows, though I might’ve heard of an early one. A WIP started as a realistic mystery, but I was struggling. At the Tucson Festival of Books this spring, I sat next to a fantasy author/illustrator during a signing. Someone asked him about writer’s block, and he explained that you just have to work through it. Then he said, “And if that doesn’t work, add more giants.” So when my mystery seemed slow to start, I thought, hmm, no giants for me, but maybe I need to add a ghost!

Chris Eboch with Haunted books

Chris Eboch think she’ll pull out every story and novel she ever wrote, and add ghosts. Lots of ghosts!

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Interview with Nick James

Nick James is the Seattle-area author of a forthcoming sci-fi series tentatively titled SKYSHIP ACADEMY. Hi, Nick, and thanks for talking to The Spectacle! Let’s dive in:

Q: Do you have a release date yet?

The first book in the series will be released by Flux in Fall 2011.

Q: Can you tell us a little about the story?

It takes place in a post-war America transformed into one big desert after a string of chemical bombings. Some folks have retreated into the sky, living on city-size crafts called skyships. Others have sought refuge in the Government’s Chosen Cities, protected from the elements by enormous domes. Both sides fight over mysterious green orbs that began falling from the heavens shortly after the bombings. They call them Pearls — and just one can power a skyship or Chosen City for months.

The story follows two teens on opposing sides of the struggle. Hapless slacker Jesse Fisher trains at Skyship Academy, preparing to steal Pearls away from the corrupt Surface government. Meanwhile, Cassius Stevenson works for an elite team of government operatives charged with powering the Chosen Cities. When the two clash — developing mysterious, frightening abilities — they’re pulled into a battle that threatens to unlock the true mystery of Pearls and trigger a new war.

Q: What drew you to this genre?

I was drawn to sci-fi and fantasy at a very young age. I grew up on comic books and went especially nuts over the big, multi-issue story arcs in my favorite series. Epics, I’d call them. I like reading about worlds that require some imagination, people that are relatable on a human level but get swept up in amazing, crazy adventures. I think children’s and YA writing is often the best example of this kind of storytelling. Kids aren’t afraid to express their imaginations and demand books that cater to that.

Q: What inspired this particular story?

I wanted to write a book that combined elements of some of my favorite contemporary adventure series (ARTEMIS FOWL, ALEX RIDER, MAXIMUM RIDE) with the kind of voice and characters from my favorite coming-of-age novels (THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER). So the initial spark was more of a mood and tone than a specific story. As the plotting fell into place, I drew on influences from my childhood, like the dialogue-rich storytelling found in comics and graphic novels. I ended up writing the series I would have picked up and loved as a kid, while making sure it was smart enough to appeal to my (slightly) more grown-up tastes now.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge so far in the writing or your path to publication?

I think any story that requires a lot of world-building is inherently challenging. You want to make the characters’ world feel plausible and real without overstuffing it and making it burdensome for the reader. A lot of my revision dealt with this. It was fun exploring this futuristic world and bringing it to life.

I feel that my path to publication has been relatively pothole-free. As with any author, it’s a lot of work, but I’ve enjoyed every step so far.

Q: What’s the craziest thing you believe in? Or how else is your imagination expressed in your life?

I really believe that life would be so much more interesting if it were a musical. I’m patiently waiting for the day when everyone suddenly bursts into song while going about their daily routines.

A few years ago, my fellow camp counselors and I decided to put this theory to the test and declared an all-singing day. The kids just sort of glazed over like we’d suddenly gone insane. The all-singing day lasted for about an hour. I guess that kind of shoots the whole thing down.

Q: Or maybe you’ll have to write that musical world! What did you read most as a kid?

I started out with comics, for sure. I was a really good student but always a little bit of a reluctant reader, as many boys are. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I started reading novels outside of school.

But I was always a writer. From my own fledgling comic book series, to an entire shelf’s worth of chapter books, I was my own little publishing empire.

Q: If you could live in a sci-fi or fantasy world not of your own making, which would it be? Why?

As clichéd as it sounds, I’d have to say Harry Potter’s wizard world. I’m not sure there’s a single person who’d turn down the opportunity to enroll at Hogwarts. It’s such a well-realized world. In fact, I even took a teaching internship at a school in England, half-hoping that they’d present me with a wand or something. Alas, no magic, but it was an amazing experience all the same.
Or maybe Philip Pullman’s England in the HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy. It would be fun to have my own daemon!

Q: What are you working on now?

The second book in the SKYSHIP ACADEMY series, which will be out in 2012. On top of that I’ve always got other projects in the works, some finished, some just beginning.

Thanks for dropping by, Nick! Readers interested in connecting with him can find him on Twitter and Facebook, and we’ll look forward to catching up again between now and next fall!

— Joni, who’s ready to enroll in the Academy now

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Mary Kole on Urban Fantasy

Mary Kole, an agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, has given us some great insights into the popular genre of urban fantasy. Mary  has also worked in the children’s editorial department at Chronicle Books and is currently earning her MFA in creative writing at the University of San Francisco. Her own blog, kidlit.com, offers book reviews as well as advice for writers (and she’s running a writing contest through Jan 31st!). Here’s what she had to say about urban fantasy:

On what characterizes urban fantasy other than an inner-city setting…

The “urban” in the name isn’t just a setting clue, it’s a state of mind. I think the name evokes the dark and gritty nature of the genre, as well as a modern or near-future time setting. The biggest factors in urban fantasy, for me, are a paranormal bent and a romance in the plotline.

On how “voice” affects urban fantasy’s dark, gritty style…

Believe it or not, some of the most successful urban fantasy stories are also some of the funniest, and that has everything to do with voice. Without humor, personality and wit, “dark” and “gritty” will soon become “bleak” and “grating.” Snarky, funny, quirky… all kinds of voice can give the darker and edgier moments in an urban fantasy story the humor and balance necessary to keep a reader from getting too far off-kilter.

On the reason for the rising popularity of urban fantasy…

I honestly think that urban fantasy, with its host of paranormal bad guys, gives characters the opportunity to kick butt. Also, paranormal guys are usually hotties. And who doesn’t want to go around kicking butt with a hottie on their arm? (Or on each arm?) Good urban fantasy is empowering, adventurous and racy.

On whether the market has become glutted…

Agents are seeing a lot of urban fantasy submissions, as are editors. The only bummer is that the Twilight craze hasn’t helped our slush piles, and writers are getting stuck on the same paranormal plotlines. But I know a lot of editors and agents will make an exception for urban fantasy that is truly unique, that doesn’t follow the same rules. This usually comes from voice or a very unique twist on the usual paranormal story, executed very well. We all know you’re gonna meet a paranormal hottie, who is mysteriously new in town, by page 10, but it’s your voice and what you do with that hottie that can really set you apart.

On foreign rights and flim rights sales…

Generally, [foreign rights sales] are very good. Paranormal is doing well overseas, according to our jetsetting foreign co-agents, as is romance. A combination of the two is finding eager audiences in country after country. Film is hard to say. A lot of books have been optioned but the movies don’t actually get made, which is where the real money is. So I assume the rights are selling, especially with the success of the Twilight movie franchise, but we’re not seeing a lot of those movies actually coming out yet. That could all very well change in the next few years.

On whether romance is required for YA urban fantasy…

Romance is definitely the way people are taking urban fantasy stories. I don’t know if it’s necessary or not. If you don’t want to do romance, do something that has similar qualities… make the heart of your story a tumultuous relationship that’ll provide a lot of conflict. I don’t know if a really intense friendship or sibling relationship will be enough of a hook but it’s worth a try and could actually differentiate you from the pack.

On how middle-grade differs…

I think middle-grade is skewing heavily toward magical realism or traditional fantasy right now. I really think urban fantasy, because of the grittier and sexier nature of it, is finding an older audience. That’s not to say that you can’t have a good paranormal story set in an urban setting for a younger audience, but I don’t think the same label would apply.

Parker Peevyhouse

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Interview with Louise Spiegler, part 2

LouiseSMore from author Louise Spiegler, this time about her forthcoming fantasy, THE JEWEL AND THE KEY, which Clarion will publish in 2010.  (Don’t miss the first half of her interview, either.)

Q: Can you tell us a little about JEWEL?

It’s a time-travel book set in Seattle at the beginning of the Iraq War and the beginning of World War I. The two time periods are connected by my drama-loving main character, Addie, an old theater named the Jewel, and Addie’s best friend Whaley, who is joining the army to go and fight in the Middle East.

Q: What inspired you?

A: I started writing it on the day the American military started bombing Iraq. The parallels with World War I were so powerful to me, as a historian – I wanted to capture the feelings and motivation of young people being swept up in both conflicts and I wanted to do it in a way that deepened both time periods by setting them in counterpoint with each other.

Q: Speaking of history (but not ancient!), what did you read as a child?

castleA: E. Nesbit was one of the first writers I fell in love with as a kid. I got THE ENCHANTED CASTLE from the library, adored it, and then was devastated to find that most of her books were out of print in the U.S. So I began ordering the books from the UK – FIVE CHILDREN AND IT, THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET, THE HOUSE OF ARDEN of Arden – all in hardcover, with colored plates and smelling very different from American books, somehow. Nesbit had a great sense of humor, a gift for creating magic, and wonderfully strong girl characters, especially for the early twentieth century. She was also a Fabian Socialist and a friend of H.G. Wells, and she  supported her large family when her husband lost his fortune to an unscrupulous business partner and contracted smallpox, to boot!  

darkSusan Cooper’s THE DARK IS RISING series also had a huge impact on me – I remember being swept up in the terror and beauty of the adventures of Will Stanton on the eve of his eleventh birthday. What I love about her (and other writers like David Almond) is their ability to combine contemporary experience – “real life” – with fantasy that is rooted in the actual history and folklore of a people. Finally, since I’m a completely infatuated history geek, I love Rosemary Sutcliff, who wrote about Roman Britain. The flavor of the era and the outlook of the people just spring to life.

 

Q: (Ooh, I’m a big fan of Rosemary, too. ) What are you working on now?

A: In the time that I’ve been waiting for edits on JEWEL, I’ve written a draft of a four-way fantasy novel with fellow writers Chris Eboch, Chris Cheng, and Molly Blaisdell. It’s tentatively titled THE FOUR WINDS. I’m also writing the first draft of a novel set in Ancient Rome. 

Wow, that collaboration sounds interesting and unusual. Good luck with both, Louise, and thank you!

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Interview with S.A. Bodeen, author of THE COMPOUND

 

The Compound

The Compound

S.A. Bodeen, aka Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, is the author of THE COMPOUND (Feiwel & Friends, April 2008), as well as several picture books that aren’t speculative at all. THE COMPOUND, which received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, tells the story of 15-year-old Eli who has lived underground with his billionaire family since their world was destroyed by a nuclear attack. Eli is haunted by the fact that his twin and his grandmother were left behind, and as some of Eli’s worst suspicions are confirmed, he has to take action to save his family from a threat that contradicts all he knows.

 

 The Spectacle recently caught up with Stephanie for a few questions. PLUS: Watch in August for a contest in which we’ll give away a copy of the new paperback edition of THE COMPOUND!

 Q: What drew you to this genre?

A: This genre is my favorite thing to watch and read. I’m a big fan of The X-Files, Stephen King, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Terminator, you name it. I grew up with two television channels and both had reruns of Star Trek every day after school. I’m actually a little surprised that I turned out picture books before the books in this genre.

 

Q: You chose to just use your initials S.A. for THE COMPOUND. Why?

A: I actually turned in the manuscript with just S. A. Bodeen. But then my agent thought we needed to capitalize on the name I’d already made for myself with my picture books. Then, when they were designing the cover, the “Stephanie” looked a bit innocuous on an otherwise sinister layout, so the publisher asked if we could go with initials. I’m not sure if people get that I’m the same person who wrote ELIZABETI’S DOLL

 

Q: What was the hardest part of writing THE COMPOUND?

A: At one point I got a second letter back from my agent about revisions. I realized I was on the wrong track. So I dumped 240 pages of the 250-page manuscript and started over.

 

Q: What has surprised you the most since its publication?

A: That so many English teachers are using it for a classroom read, and just to hear how much kids like it.

 

Q: What did you read most as a child?

A: As a child I read a lot. Favorites were Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis, L Frank Baum, Judy Blume… I got ahold of my first Stephen King book when I was 14 and it rocked my world. I would say he is still my all-time favorite. I love the Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon; they can’t translate his books fast enough. I also love John Irving, Amy Tan, Pat Conroy…

 

Q: What’s next for you?

A: My second novel with Feiwel and Friends, THE GARDNER, will be out next spring. We’re in the last of the revisions, and we just perfected the prologue, which will be included in back of the paperback edition of THE COMPOUND, which comes out in August. And my new picture book from Little, Brown, A SMALL BROWN DOG WITH A WET PINK NOSE, comes out in January.

 

Thanks, Stephanie! 

 

joniicon Reported by Joni Sensel, who blanches at the thought of tossing away  240 of 250 pages (and  would love to read the original 240).

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