Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Conversation with Meradeth Houston, Author of COLORS LIKE MEMORIES and CHEMISTRY OF FATE

Meradeth Houston, Author of Colors Like Memories and Chemistry of Fate

Hi Meradeth! I'm so happy you agreed to stop by the blog for a chat. I've had so much fun watching your career with Muse It Up Publishing develop, along with your Sary novels, Colors Like Memories and Chemistry of Fate. What attracted you to a digital publisher?

Goodreads Link

Hi JRo! Thanks a million for asking me to be here today! And a very good question here, right out of the box. I'll admit, I'm totally debating on how to answer this--there's the very honest answer, and the answer that sounds more professional. But, as one of my students told me the other day, I honestly have no filter, so I'm going with the honest one :) I wrote Colors Like Memories and went through a million rounds of revisions, had a ton of agent requests, several revise and resubmits, and was planning to go the traditional route. I really felt the book was good enough, but I'm probably a *bit* biased. Anyhow, it came down to trunking the thing, which I just couldn't do, or finding my own publisher. MuseItUp had a ton of complements from writers who'd gone with them, and after looking into them, I decided it was worth a shot. I've really loved the community the house has, but I am seriously praying to go with something more traditional on the book I'm currently shopping. The main reason? Marketing. I know I'll still have to do a ton on my own even with a larger house, but as it currently stands, I'm getting no help. And it makes me feel like I'm drowning most days. I can't help but think all the time I put into it could be time I'm writing. *Sigh* Okay, yeah, I know, break out the tiny violins, right? Still, it's a whole other ballgame on the other side of the publishing fence.

Wow, that was a whole lot of randomness! Sorry! I guess I had a lot to say :/

I'm glad you answered honestly! It's different for each person. I chatted with an author who chose the self-pub route a few weeks ago and she's super happy with her decision. But I know you, like me, have a demanding 9-5 career as well as your writing career. Marketing help is crucial. 

So, you teach college level anthropology. And your books I mentioned in the last question are about the Sary (simplifying, but they are guardian angels), a bit time-travelish, and thus a bit historical. (Confession - I haven't yet read Chemistry of Fate but it's on my Kindle) Are the two related? Or is writing an escape from the former?

Goodreads Link

The two are kind of related, but mostly that's because I work with college students and teens a lot. This really helps while writing NA and YA. I get to be a fly on the wall for the stuff they talk about, their language, and tastes. It's really a ton of fun! (Until I have to grade papers...then I kind of wonder about the future of our country...but, yeah, I won't go there!) Writing did start out as my release and escape though, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't still serve that function. After my insane 60 hour weeks, I'm desperate to get back to my own little world. Or sleep. Lately, sleep has been winning a lot :)

Ah sleep, one of my favorite activities. So, your Sary books are some ridiculously low price over at the big A - why don't you explain a bit about how you came up with the concept and where the idea came from so my readers can run out and add them to their e-readers!?

Yes, do go add them to your e-readers! :) LOL! And there's even a paperback in the mix now, for those who like that kind of thing ;) Anyhow, let's see, I came up with the idea of the Sary when I was about 11, after reading Many Waters by Madeline L'Engle. I was really curious about some of the characters in there and wished there were more to learn and read about them. So, one minor epiphany later, I decided to write it myself! And many, many changes, drafts, and other shenanigans later, the Sary were born. Now they inhabit my brain and generally don't get out enough to play.

And though you can read about it in her book descriptions, the Sary are angels who have been assigned to watch over certain humans who may have slightly higher risk factors than others? Correct me if I'm wrong. Okay, so you mentioned in your first answer that you're working on something that you hope to find a traditional publishing route for, is it another paranormal or are you tinkering in a new genre?

You're totally right! The Sary are kind of like cosmic counselors :) Except, I don't get into the nitty gritty of the psychological side of them helping the people their assigned to. Anyhow, the book I currently have out is a sci-fi New Adult. It's light on the science side (even though someday I will write a really science-y book!), but has aliens, an invasion, a hot guy, and well, it's a lot of fun. Plus, lots and lots of amazing Mexican food (which I crave all the time since I moved to Montana where their idea of a good Mexican dish comes with tatertots...). Shoot, now I really want a tamale! 

Great. Now I've got the craving. But it's sort of a good segue into our fifth and final question (though I have to pause to say aliens and mexican food - that sounds like a tequila night to me!). So tell us -  the next three books in your TBR pile, what liquid is in your cup, and what's playing on repeat. And thanks so much for stopping by for a chat!

Margaritas at my place--any time! And, let's see, next three books in my TBR mountain are: a cute Christmas collection for a blog buddy, Eleanor and Park, and...I don't actually have a plan for the next. That has to actually be a first! The liquid in my cup: hot chocolate. As always. I'm addicted to the stuff. What's playing on repeat: the iTunes 3 of a kind channel for The Killers, Imagine Dragons, and Neon Trees. iTunes radio and I have started a rather intimate relationship lately--I kind of love their selections. 

Thanks a million for hosting me! This was definitely a ton of fun :)

Thank you, Meradeth!

Next week be sure and stop in when I'll be chatting with author pair, Lindsay Currie and Trisha Leaver about their co-written novel, CREED.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

PitchWars Alternate Showcase!

Welcome to the Alternate showcase!

I am so excited to be hosting some of the AMAZING writers who participated in a six week boot camp where published/agented authors and industry interns mentored a team of writers to help them polish their manuscripts for agents. The mentors picked one to go into the agent round on Brenda Drake’s blog ( and two alternates in case their top pick dropped out of the competition. 

BUT LET ME TELL YOU, THE ALTERNATES WERE THE BOMB, TOO!! So we wanted to showcase their talent and manuscripts as a reward for all of their hard work. Following this post you’ll find the pitches for the writers I’m hosting. 

And, hey!!! This is not exclusive to the agents signed up for Pitch wars. All agents are welcome to make requests in the comments of the posts!

This is not open for critiques. So if you’re not an agent, you may comment only if you want to show some love to the writers. Again, please do not critique in the comments.

Thank you!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Conversation with Danielle Vega, Author of THE MERCILESS

Danielle Vega, Author of THE MERCILESS, (Razorbill/Penguin July 2014)

Hi Danielle! Thanks for stopping by. Your debut novel, THE MERCILESS, sounds absolutely terrifying. Being locked up in a house with a bunch of perfect girls is frightening enough without an exorcism to boot. What made you decide to write an all-girl cast horror story (and I'm assuming it's all girls due to the Goodreads blurb - am I right?)?

I didn't even realize my book was up on Goodreads until you mentioned it here. Yes, it's all girls I love horror novels, but I feel like they're aimed at boys most of the time. I really want to write something where the girls are in the spotlight (or maybe I've just seen The Craft too many times?)

True confession. I am not so much a horror movie girl. I can read horror novels, but the music in movies kills me. I like my scary with a side of "shut the book" option. So tell us, why YA horror? What about the genre is awesome to you?

I totally get you not being a horror movie girl. My husband actually HATES anything horror-related. He's reading a Tana French book right now and keeps having nightmares and not being able to finish. Not sure how he's going to deal with my new profession...

I think you have to get into the scary stuff really early to learn to love it. It's an acquired taste, like coffee or wine. My mom used to tell me really scary stories when I was a kid, and I just always kind of loved the adrenaline rush that comes with being truly terrified. You know how all of your instincts kick into high gear? I live for that feeling, but when you start reading/watching horror really early in life, it takes more and more to get you afraid. Eventually it just seemed like a good idea to write something I thought was terrifying rather than wait around for someone else to take care of that for me. Hence, The Merciless. 

Does that help? I'm reading Stephen King's Danse Macabre right now (it's his treatise on the horror genre), and he spends chapter and chapters trying to explain the "Why Horror?" question. I think it's one of those impossible questions, like "Why do you write?" 

Oh, I actually love Tana French. Like I said, I don't mind a good book scare, it's just that dang movie music that gets me. I have to cover my eyes and if it's a DVD, I end up fast forwarding and watching events sped up so I don't hear the ominous dum-dum-dum.

So I guess my next question has to be "why do you write?". Snort. Kidding. But why don't you tell us about your writing habits and habitats. Do you have a perfect time of day, a desk, special chair? Do you have rituals to get you in the mood to write the freakiest scenes? (I ask this because author friend, Pat Esden, burns scented candles for certain scenes and manuscripts which I've always thought was cool.)

Ooh, I love the scented candle thing! Might have to steal that. I remember reading on Maggie Stiefvater's website that she has special playlists to get her into the mood of each scene, which I love as well. 

I am SO boring because I actually don't have any rituals. For the longest time I worked one (and sometimes two or three) jobs while going to school and trying to write, so I became a master of sneaking in words whenever I had a spare moment. I learned to be comfortable with writing everything out longhand on whatever was available and, when I got home, I'd transfer what I'd written on scraps of napkin or the backs of homework assignments onto the computer. Now I write full time, which gives me much more freedom, but I still manage to get flashes of brilliance when I'm on the subway or out to dinner with my husband, so the scraps of novels still find their way into my tote bag. 

The only other odd thing I can think of is that I write in my closet. I live in NYC, land of teeny tiny apartments. My husband and I got really lucky because our apartment has these two huge closets on either side of our itty-bitty one bedroom. I shoved a desk on the wall opposite my hanging clothes and voila: walk-in-closet/home office. We NY writers have got to be creative. 

Okay, so you're writing in this closet in your teeny tiny NYC apartment. (sounds kind of cool and cozy actually!) What are the things that fuel the scare in your fiction?

Hmm...this is a difficult one. I don't get scared all that easily, so I try to take note of what does manage to freak me out, and what scares others. The idea for my book, THE MERCILESS, actually came from a newspaper article about a similar real life situation, where some teenagers tried to perform a violent exorcism on a girl they thought was possessed. That was a great spark for the story, but I think the real challenge came from trying to twist the idea into something fun, as well as scary. For instance, the girls in THE MERCILESS are cool. They're not cold, humorless church girls--they're a little bad, those popular girls in school that you always wanted to have a slumber party with. This is my favorite part about horror novels because then, when the scary hits, the stakes are higher. I want you to like these characters, so that it'll terrify you to think of anything bad happening to them. 

Holy cow! This started as a snippet of real news? That is scary!
We're coming to an end and I have a few final questions. Tell us the next three books in your TBR pile, what liquid is in your cup, and what's playing on repeat. And thanks so much for stopping by, Danielle! THE MERCILESS sounds like an intense and awesome read.

The next three books in my TBR pile: A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan, Vicious, by V.E. Schwab and Dr. Sleep, by the King himself. In my cup? Coffee, taken black as midnight on a moonless night (Twin Peaks reference, anyone?) And what's playing on repeat--The Hazards of Love album, by the Decemberists. 

This was a blast! Thanks for including me.

Thanks again to you, Danielle!

And be sure and stop in week after next (next week is PitchWars) when I'll be chatting with CHEMISTRY OF FATE author, Meradeth Houston.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Get to know Nina Moreno, my PitchWars Mentee, author of HURRICANE DAUGHTER!

Today I'm introducing my amazing mentee, Nina Moreno. Her novel, Hurricane Daughter, wowed me at first reading. I had to fight for it. I had to pry it out of the hands of her other mentor choices. But my persistence and a bit of bargaining wore them down. She is an amazing writer that has written the best kind of tear jerker romance. I've sobbed over and over at the end of her book. Not only that, she's taken on her revisions with gusto, taking my suggestions and running with them. I suggested a POV switch and the next thing I know she'd not only done the first few chapters, she'd done the entire novel!

I can't wait for the agent round to watch the requests build. In the meantime, you can read her answers to my questions and get a taste of her lovely writing voice.

1. Give us the Twitter pitch for your Pitchwars manuscript (140 characters or less)!

YA SouthernGothic Beau’s from the wrong side of the swamp; Daisy doesn’t care. Family feuds, moonshine and a wildfire on the horizon #PitMad

2. Stephanie Perkins does this cool thing for her books called a Love List, explained here:, what is the love list for your novel?

an orange grove
red cowboy boots
static from an old country station
a battered Braves hat
the burden and blessings of family
a frayed knot
the sweet, soft smell of orange blossoms
the growl of an old black truck driving down a county road
slow ceiling fans
an anchor in a storm
a mason jar of moonshine
open windows and warm breezes
ashes in swamp water
wild fire

3. Name a handful of writers whose work inspires you, along with a short explanation of why!

Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is carved onto my soul. It's just always going to be The One for me. I read it at the exact right moment and it got tangled with all my roots. I was a Cuban girl from Miami who grew up in a tiny town in Georgia and my voice comes out Spanglish with a twangy accent and finding writers like Junot Diaz, Julia Alvarez and Sandra Cisneros was big for me. I loved PAPER TOWNS by John Green in a very personal and selfish way. It was so painfully seventeen and central Florida. Jennifer Echols writes the YA I want to be best friends with. GOING TOO FAR is in my top ten forever and ever. Her characters are flawed, dimensional and interesting and the romances always cut me deep. Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips got me into romance as a whole, though. They kept my heart racing and head in the clouds in college when dissecting assigned readings might have killed the fever.

4. Why PitchWars?

I'm so brand new to the online contest game I'm the new kid that doesn't know where to sit in the cafeteria yet. I heard about Pitch Wars after taking a stab with Agent Treat, which introduced me to Brenda Drake and everything she does for writers. The mentoring aspect of Pitch Wars was the friendly face telling me I could totally sit here. I  wanted that. I wanted it bad. Not just for my manuscript but for me as a writer trying to get out of my own cave. Pitch Wars has been that and more. It's teaching me how to be a part of this community and how to write out loud. It's been the biggest deal for me.

5. When you self-identify as a writer, what does that mean to you? How does it make you feel?

It means finally claiming myself. Writing was always this secret thing I put so much of myself into, but left in the drawer with all the old stories instead of talking out loud about them. I was terrified of actually answering to it. How would I validate this quiet, isolated thing I did that maybe would never be more than that? What would I say if someone asked me about it?
"So, you write? Really? What do you write?"
"God, don't ask me that."
All my friends and family knew I wrote since I was always posting my feelings on some Livejournal or blog post or my mother was bringing out the books I printed back in elementary school where I poetically described my love for zebras. I had folders and floppy disks filled with stories I'd written, but I still wouldn't call myself a writer. Getting the guts to write this book and not feel guilty or ridiculous for the time I gave to writing meant getting the guts to call myself a writer. Out loud. To other people. I'm now claiming the stories as much as the girl who writes them.

6. Next 3 books on your TBR pile, what liquid's in your cup, and what's playing on repeat!

THE FIERY HEART by Richelle Mead. FORTUNE'S PAWN by Rachel Bach. VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon (Och aye, I'm finally reading the Outlander series). Coffee or Diet Coke is always in my cup. I'm in a bluesy, rusty place with my music and Charlie Parr, Johnny Cash and Mumford & Sons are all on repeat.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Conversation with Kristi Helvig, Author of BURN OUT

Kristi Helvig, author of BURN OUT
Hi Kristi! I'm so excited to have another of my awesome YA Vals on the blog for a chat. Your novel, Burn Out, is debuting in April, and I have to tell you - I've been waiting anxiously for my chance at our group ARC. I love future set novels that have an environmental twist. What was the prompt for you to to turn the sun into a "red giant?"

Goodreads for all the Buy This Linky Links!

Hi there--what a fun idea for a way to structure interviews! Okay, here goes about: My hubby and I watch a bunch of science documentaries on NatGeo, the Science channel, etc. One of the documentaries was about our solar system and how the sun will eventually burn out. I remember thinking "What if something happened and the sun burned out early?" That night I had a very vivid dream about Tora and James (my main character's of the novel) and this catastrophic world they lived in. I woke with her voice in my head, demanding that I tell their story. I started writing that day and finished the first draft in six weeks. 

"What if" questions have to be the best story starters - seriously. Okay, so watching science programs on TV does not a scientist make - was there a ton of research involved to make the science legit for the book? And is it a hard science sci-fi or a sociological sci-fi or a blend of both?

Ha—that's so true, though I wish it weren't because aside from being an armchair scientist, I would make a great armchair Iron Chef and House Hunter. Anyway, I did a crazy amount of research for this book. I started with Google and quickly discovered that every idea I had for how the sun could burn out early wasn't feasible—e.g. if every nuclear bomb was sent into the sun, it wouldn't even make a difference. I was totally stuck at that point and contacted a highly regarded astrophysics program at a university. They directed me to one of their top astrophysicists who suggested the only way he could think of that our sun could burn out early—thankfully, it's not probable, but it's possible, and that's what I needed. He made other suggestions as well that really helped with the science aspects of the book. As far as the genre of sci-fi, I don't consider it hard sci-fi as it's more sociologically based. However, after I finished writing the book, I discovered that one of the futuristic technologies I mentioned in the story is already being researched and could happen much sooner than I anticipated. I'm working on the sequel now and have a whole new host of science issues to resolve, so I'm really grateful for smart, science-minded people who help me! I'd really like my own personal Sheldon (from BBT). 

I'm with you on the armchair house hunting! Especially the international ones. So I peeked on Goodreads and Burn Out is getting super favorable reviews. It's been compared to the Hunger Games, with a sarcastic heroine and a comparison to Firefly as well! How does it feel to know that people are reading and loving Tora, your main character? 

I'm thrilled because I had so much fun writing her character. After I had that initial dream about Tora and the premise of the book, I couldn't get her out of my head. I love her personality and toughness, yet she also has a vulnerable side that others don't often get to see. I've had several readers call Tora the "female Han Solo" which is just one of the coolest compliments you can get. 

I love the dream part of your story. The muse is generous sometimes! You've been, are?, a clinical psychologist. I think this would be so helpful in figuring out character arcs and motivations. I know I spend a lot of time on back story with my characters. What kind of pre-planning, if any do you do when a story idea settles into your brain?

Yes, I'm a clinical psychologist and am currently doing part-time private practice work, so I definitely get to see a variety of personalities. I used to manage a locked residential unit of teenage girls who had either been committed through youth corrections or social services, and met many smart, tough girls who had lived through some really difficult circumstances. I loved working with them and helping them try to overcome some of the obstacles life had put in their way, and I'm sure that has been part of my calling to write YA.

As far as pre-planning goes, that is something that has changed over time. The first book I wrote (before BURN OUT) was completely pantsed. I just wrote until I knew what would happen next. Needless to say, revising that one took forever. With BURN OUT, after 'the dream,' I jotted down five sentences that were major things I knew happened in the book and then started writing the book. So there was a tiny bit of planning (about 10 minutes worth) before I started writing, but again, my muse was extremely generous because the dream was quite detailed. It took six weeks to get that first draft down and didn't require nearly as much revising as that first book. I also read SAVE THE CAT during that time, a screenwriting book that is one of my favorite books on writing, and it really helped me to think things through as I wrote. I'm working on the sequel to BURN OUT now and took a little longer to pre-plan as I have to make sure all the threads from the first book carry through in the second one. I wrote a few pages of plot threads that needed to be addressed, but I already know my characters so well which makes that part easier. Basically, I'm gradually becoming more and more of a plotter rather than a pantster with each book. 

I love Save The Cat - I tend to use it at the planning stage as well to hammer out key turning points. I've heard many different authors who've gotten to the published stage talk about this shift from pantser to plotter. I'm still somewhere in between.

Well, our conversation is coming to a close, but there's one last question I want you to answer - well actually three :0). Tell us the next three books in your TBR pile, what liquid is in your cup, and what's playing on repeat. And thanks so much for stopping by! Hopefully by the time this posts, I'll have gotten my hands on our roving ARC of Burn Out!

My next three TBR's: A friend just gave me WOOL by Hugh Howey this weekend, I have THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray sitting on my desk, and I just went to Marie Lu's signing and bought the entire LEGEND trilogy (oh, and I'm waiting on the next ARC from our YA Valentines group). That's more than three-lol.

As far as the liquid in my cup, my hubby just walked over and refreshed my coffee as I was typing this. I know I should drink more water but it just doesn't taste like coffee. ;)

I love Counting Stars by One Republic. I also admit to having an 80's station set on Pandora because it's impossible to be in a bad mood while listening to Bon Jovi or Flock of Seagulls. Thanks so much for having me, and I can't wait to read NO PLACE TO FALL! 

Thanks again, Kristi!

Be sure and stop in next week when I'll be chatting with Danielle Rollins about THE MERCILESS.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Get to know Chelsey Blair, Author of DISCORDANCE, #TeamonFire Third-in-Command!

I'm going to continue to shout and scream about how wild I am about my PitchWars team! Because these women are amazing writers and I am the lucky one who has watched them dig in and pry their words apart and come out, rising from the flames with "hallelujah's and hell yeah's!". 

Chelsey's smart, witty, poignant contemporary manuscript, Discordant, was the first one I asked for additional pages from and they didn't disappoint. I fell in love with Meridian and the music and the creative soul of these pages. I asked Chelsey some questions and she was gracious enough to provide me with answers to share with y'all. Please! Read! She's a force!

1. Give us the Twitter pitch for your Pitchwars manuscript (140 characters or less)!

After losing a leg in a stage-diving accident, 17-yr-old guitarist Meridian must shed a fear of falling or give up the spotlight

2. Stephanie Perkins does this cool thing for her books called a Love List, explained here:, what is the love list for your novel?

Eek! I love all things Stephanie, and the Love List in particular. I keep a Pinterest board for all my MSs, and so my love list is based on that:

Rock and roll
Sassy French girls
A rainbow of balloons
Hair dye
Night swimming
Red haired boys on crisp autumn days
Harvard Square
Living statues
Drag queens

3. Name a handful of writers whose work inspires you, along with a short explanation of why!

Anyone who writes meaningful YA contemp, like Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Maureen Johnson, Holly Cupala, and Sara Zarr; but also, authors who are just really awesome people like Sarah Rees Brennan. The book that has most inspired me over my whole life is Ella Enchanted, with King of Shadows by Susan Cooper running a close second. Really, any books that show characters with real emotions whose experiences are a little larger than life.

4. Why PitchWars?

I'd started querying a bit in the summer, but then I had a spinal fusion to cure pretty major scoliosis (and a chance to fact check parts of my novel that took place at Boston Children's Hospital!). My recovery put me behind on writing in a lot of ways. I'd planned on reviving my writing schedule with an adaptation of NaNoWriMo in November, but I wasn't physically ready. By the beginning of December, I was kind of losing confidence, but the submission day for PitchWars was a good day--turned out to be a day the pain turned a corner--so I got my applications in, just in case. The time commitment has been perfect to ease back into writing, and who knows, it may give my career the boost I'm hoping for now that I'm well!

5. When you self-identify as a writer, what does that mean to you? How does it make you feel?

I've known pretty much my whole life that I would be a writer, from first grade or so, and at sixteen was writing half a chapter of a YA time-travel/dystopia every night whether or not I'd finished my calculus homework. (Ten years before the dystopian trend, unfortunately). I got my MFA in writing for children last year (finished in June!) and I remember being surprised when people in my classes didn't write every day, because by then it was already so much a part of who I was. I plan my life around giving myself the best chance at writing success possible, even if it means that I'll spend the rest of my twenties working part time at the Apple Store, or something, instead of an entry level position that would require my writing brain power. It's who I am. 

6. Next 3 books on your TBR pile, what liquid's in your cup, and what's playing on repeat!

I have a ton of books downloaded, but I give myself permission to delete what i don't like and never admit to it. However, the next releases I'm dying for are NEVERWAS, DIAMONDS AND DECEIT, and GOING ROGUE. I have a peppermint mocha on the bedside table. My favorite song changes daily, but I've been listening to a lot of Green Day through this revision.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Get to know Sarah Cannon, Author of Celerity, #TeamonFire Second-in-Command!

Can I shout and scream about how wild I am about my PitchWars team? Because these women are amazing writers and I am the lucky one who has watched them dig in and pry their words apart and come out, rising from the flames with "hallelujah's and hell yeah's!". 

Sarah's Sci-Fi pitch for Celerity snagged me with plot, wooed me with pretty words and blew me away with world-building. And SCIENCE,  people! I asked her some questions and she was gracious enough to provide me with answers. Please! Read! She's stupendous.

1.              Give us the Twitter pitch for your Pitchwars manuscript (140 characters or less)!

I’m playing with a couple of these, but here are my current favorites:

YA SF: A boy who’s kidnapped by interplanetary poachers is the tipping point in an ecological desert where microbes are commodities. #pitmad 

YA SF Western: A boy from a diverse and well-hidden planet must turn the tables on robber barons intent on harvesting its microbes. #pitmad

YA SF Western: A boy from a diverse and well-hidden planet must turn the tables on robber barons intent on exploiting it. #pitmad

2.              Stephanie Perkins does this cool thing for her books called a Love List, explained here:, what is the love list for your novel?

A sea of grass
Giant capybaras
Family of choice
Ruffled, be-ribboned trick riders who talk to the dead
A new and boundless horizon
An unusually cordial villain
A kickass female starship captain
The new Wild West
The man in the velvet jacket
A dinosaur
Peanut butter
The re-interpretation of “home"

3.              Name a handful of writers whose work inspires you, along with a short explanation of why!

Gosh, I love so many authors for so many reasons, but I’ll focus on the writers who inspired me most during the process of writing Celerity. I love Peter S. Beagle’s work, particularly The Innkeeper’s Song. What’s not to love about a book that combines diversity, genderbending, magic, and the evolution of deep love and loyalty ties between characters who, at first glance, have little in common? I’m definitely a fan of Robin McKinley, Rachel Hartman and Kristin Cashore, all three of whom write wry and complex main characters. Rae Carson’s Bitter Kingdom series and Lloyd Alexander’s Westmark series inspire me with their heartbreakingly wonderful ensemble casts. When I look at them together like this, all the titles on my list provide fantastic adventure, delve into family of choice, and communicate deep friendship and love between characters.

4.              Why PitchWars?

Let me tell you, the entire time I was revising CELERITY, I had this contest in my sights. I had several friends in it last year, and cheered and stressed out and compulsively refreshed. I thought the mentorship model was inspired, and you know what? I was right. You’ve helped me push a manuscript I’ve put my heart and soul into to a new level, and I’m so grateful. This has been an amazing experience. I highly recommend it.

5.              When you self-identify as a writer, what does that mean to you? How does it make you feel?

That’s a thinker. I have several things going on in parallel. On the one hand, there’s the me that’s alone with my craft, usually late at night after my children are in bed. It can be magic, and it can be a slog, but it’s deeply satisfying either way. Then there’s “writer community” me. I work alone, but I crave fellowship with other writers and readers. Twitter in particular is invaluable for that purpose. Finally there’s the driven, competitive side of me that’s counting the years until I have a kid in college, and pushing so hard to have the best thing for my writing career also be the best thing for my family.

6.              Next 3 books on your TBR pile, what liquid's in your cup, and what's playing on repeat!

ALLEGIANT, by Veronica Roth, ETIQUETTE & ESPIONAGE, by Gail Carriger, and UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY, by Chuck Wendig. There is ALWAYS coffee in my cup, even during polar vortexes, and lately “O’ Be Joyful”, by Shovels and Rope, is playing at high volume on the daily.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Conversation with Robin Constantine, Author of THE PROMISE OF AMAZING

Robin Constantine, Author of The Promise of Amazing

I'm so, so happy you agreed to stop by the blog and have a chat, Robin. The Promise of Amazing is a delightful contemporary romance and it's your LAUNCH WEEK!!!! Tell us, what's it been like leading up to this moment?

Linky Buy Links at Goodreads

Well, thank you for having me on your lovely blog, Jaye!!   Wow…this entire year has been a whirlwind, roller coaster, surreal, cross country, psychedelic bus tour.  It’s everything I imagined, and nothing I imagined, if that makes sense.  When you’re working toward publication, you have your eye on this brass ring - you know, being unpubbed you dream about getting that delicious phone call from your agent letting you know you have an offer and the call is wonderful, it really is, but it’s only a gateway to a whole new arena.   I think most of us know that going in, but I don’t think you fully understand it until you’re experiencing it for yourself.  One of the things I’ve learned by meeting other debut authors is that everyone’s journey is different.   

The debut bubble is such a lovely place to be.  After years of getting rejections and all kinds of people saying no - to hear a YES and realize that you have a team of people working on your book can be really overwhelming.  It was for me.  There are definite moments of panic - “They do mean MY book right?”  and complete joy  - “Look at that cover!!” and of course despair  “Will I get these edits finished by deadline?” and in the midst of all of this you still need to work on something new, and put dinner on the table, and take your vitamins and work out and deal with laundry and jobs.  You know, life goes on!  Being able to balance everything is also part of the challenge.  

Each little milestone is fun!  Your editorial letter, cover comp, meeting your editor face to face, seeing your book in print from, then getting an actual galley!! Woo-hoo!!

And then you start getting reviews…(cue scary music) and the good ones are nice and the bad ones sting and the snarky ones make you lose your faith in humanity and the debut bubble bursts and you eat some chocolate or gripe with a friend, and then it hits you thatPeople are reading my work!  And that’s a really great feeling - even with all the good, the bad and the snarky. 

As for right now, in this moment, mere weeks away from my release?  It’s as if I almost don’t have time to worry about it with everything else I have going on, and yet, I kind of feel this low-grade, underlying panic at all times.  I’ll be washing my face and suddenly realize that my neighbor is going to read my book and what are they going to think of me? (or worse, what if they don’t read it?) Or my mom will call and remind me that I should put something in our hometown paper about the release and I get all weirded out by the thought of doing that, even though you know, it would be really good to let people know that I’ve written something.  Or I’ll take a quick peek at the book and suddenly realize it’s not mine anymore.  It’s this whole other entity, apart from me, whatever that means.   I recently read a great post on author Allison Cherry's (RED) blog where she mentions that author Rebecca Stead calls the month leading up to publication “Nausea Month”.  So no one is immune!!  And well, yes, that pretty much sums it up.  Pass the wine and the TUMS and call me in January.  (but you know, there will be confetti and cupcakes on New Year’s Eve!)

Well, by the time this goes live, you'll be in a cupcake hangover! Anyway, I adored Wren and Grayson. The thing I really loved most about The Promise of Amazing, was it was just a real teen story. Family, friends, school issues, mistakes. All things to make your characters super relatable to teens. I admired Wren for her practicality and her tendency toward NOT being a drama queen. There were things in the book she could have flipped out over, but she had such a sincere, balanced way of dealing with stuff. Did you intentionally set out to write her this way, or did she take over the process (as characters are sometimes prone to do)?

A cupcake hangover…YUM that sounds like fun!!  And I’m so happy you liked Wren and Grayson!!   I always knew Wren was going to be a quiet character so it was just a matter of listening to her and letting her do her thing.   It’s part of her nature to think things through. So where someone else might jump all over something, she’s more apt to wait awhile and look at all sides of a situation before reacting or making a snap decision.   I know in the book she gives Grayson A LOT of leeway, some of the times I was even like…hmm…could he really go that far without her just saying I’m out of here?  I do think the fact that she saved his life, has something to do with her feeling like she wants to continue to help him (of course the fact that he is cute is a perk!) in spite of some of the things he’s done in his past.  She is extremely forgiving but I look at that as more of an asset as opposed to a weak spot.  To me Wren is strong and sees the best in people, even when they don’t see it in themselves.  

Yes, I saw that, too, and it's a quality I admire in people. In Grayson (hottie!), I really felt like his parent's divorce was a big bit of backstory factored in to the "things" he did during his player days (no spoilers, people!). Do you think about backstory when you write?

Absolutely!  I could take any character in this book and tell you their backstory.  Grayson may come off as a colossal jerk at times, but he’s definitely masking his pain.  The tricky part in writing him was that even HE doesn’t realize that’s what he’s doing.  It’s the rare seventeen year old who sits around and ruminates about why they are doing the things they do.  And now there’s all these studies about brain development that back that up (and yes, I factored that into this too!)  It’s the reason we can all probably think back to a moment (or many moments) in our teenage years and think “What possessed me to do that?”    I think that’s why I love to write about high school because it’s such a visceral, in-the-moment time of life.   Everything IS dramatic.   That’s not to say Grayson's backstory absolves him from his actions either.  I think this is what he slowly comes to realize through the course of the book, even though he has a few backslides when he’s trying to get free of his past.  

Okay, so I have insider knowledge that you are writing a companion book for 2015. Since Maddie & Josh would probably have to be New Adult (with Josh in college), please tell me it's Jazz and the boy she runs from at Andy's party. I definitely saw a spark there and I really thought Jazz was an interesting character. Am I right? If yes, tell us more! If not, then spill the correct deets, please. (And will Wren & Grayson make an appearance?)

One of my favorite parts of writing The Promise of Amazing was experiencing Wren’s relationship with her friends.  For me it was such huge part of the story!  I adore Jazz but the story will be from Madison’s POV and a new boy POV.  I actually thought about Josh but logistics wise I didn’t think it would work out because of the college thing, and well, when I started writing - this new character just popped up and he’s been so lovely to get to know!!   And yes, Wren, Grayson and Jazz are in the book too.    Madison’s story is front and center of course, but their stories play out as well…so you may just see Jazz and the boy she runs from in there.   It’s been so much fun writing from Madison’s POV because she’s so different from Wren.  I can’t say much about the book right now, but there will be yoga, music and of course…kissing! Not all at the same time…I think.

Okay, I'll accept Madison and new boy. And I'm glad the rest of the cast will be around. And, YES, what a different POV than Wren. Fun to write the saucy friend, I'm sure.

So we're coming to a close but here's what we need to know- the next three books in your TBR pile, what liquid is in your cup, and what's playing on repeat. And thanks so much for stopping by for a chat!

Coming to a close already…oh, drat!!  THANK YOU so much for having me!!

Hmm..let’s see, my TBR pile has been piling up, but the next three are…September Girls, by Bennet Madison, Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith and 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma.

Coffee with cream, no sugar is in my cup.

Song on repeat is:   “Do I Wanna Know?” by Arctic Monkeys  

Thanks again for letting me visit, Jaye!!

And enjoy your release week, Robin! (Robin will be having a launch, next Sunday, January 12th at Park Road Books in Charlotte, NC - 2:00PM)

Be sure and stop back next week for a conversation with Kristi Helvig, author of Burn Out (April-Egmont)