Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Conversation with Middle Grade Author, Jen Malone, Author of AT YOUR SERVICE

Jen Malone, Author of AT YOUR SERVICE
Hi Jen! I'm so happy to have my first middle grade author conversation on the blog. Your debut, AT YOUR SERVICE, sounds adorable and as a life-long fan of Eloise, I'm really looking forward to reading about concierge, Chloe. I have to know, did Eloise inspire you at all? 

Goodreads Link

Hi, JRo! 

I’m so excited to be part of the first middle grade author conversation! I have to say, when I describe this book to people the two references I hear most often are Eloise and Suite Life of Zach and Cody. I think everyone is captivated by the idea of living in a hotel (I know I am!) I rediscovered Eloise a few years ago when reading it over (and over and over and…) to my daughter so, yes, she was a DEFINITE influence. In fact, she’s even name-checked in the book, when Chloe says, 

"Of course, just because I live in a hotel doesn’t mean I can get away with any of the stuff Eloise does in the book. Mostly because she’s the daughter of a guest (and guests are always, always, ALWAYS right) and I’m the daughter of an employee. Bigdifference. Speaking of Eloise, she might have thought the Plaza was the only hotel in New York City that let you have a turtle, but she was so, so wrong. We’ve totally had turtles here. And dogs, cats, ferrets, hamsters, teapot pigs, goats (once), and chinchillas. Pretty much the only New York City animal you will not ever find in the St. Michèle is a rat."

So as an author, let's presume you will spend lots of time in hotels in the near future. What would be the essentials you'd bring to make your hotel room feel more homey? And room service, what would you order after a long day of signing books and talking to students?

My job before writing was giving workshops at schools all across the country, so I definitely HAVE spent lots of time in hotels. I used to travel with a book, a small vanilla-scented candle in a tin, and a tiny bottle of bubble bath because I had twin babies at home at the time and a quiet evening was the height of indulgence for me. Sadly, the hotels where I stay now aren’t usually the room service type, BUT I did use to work as a publicist for a movie studio and lots of the actor interviews I had to set up took place in fancy hotel rooms. The Ritz Carlton in Boston has these adorable little glass jars that are teddy-bear shaped and filled with gummy bears. I always placed a room service order for those (thank you, 20th Century Fox!)

I'm going to have to find an excuse to stay at the Ritz Carlton in Boston so I can order the gummy bears. That is beyond cool. Would Chloe approve? In fact, what are some things about Chloe that make her an awesome concierge? Any things she wish she could provide for her clients that she hasn't been able to make happen?

Chloe would kinda sorta approve. She would love the gummy bears, but she’s a bit competitive about any hotel that isn’t the St. Michele! She’s more partial to the make-your-own-sundae room service cart she and her best friend Paisley order whenever they have sleepovers (sleepovers in a hotel are the best, BTW). I think Chloe’s greatest strength as a concierge is also her greatest weakness. She is fully prepared to go above and beyond to make her guest fall in love with the St. Michele and with her NYC hometown, but she often makes achieving those wins way more difficult than they need to be because she’s of the “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself” mindset. As far as wishes she couldn’t fulfill, there aren’t many, but she and her dad did have to draw the line when a very bratty and spoiled guest insisted that a dolphin be flown in to swim with her in the hotel’s rooftop pool. To be fair, they did check into it briefly, but the Board of Health said no way, no how. 

Chloe sounds awesome and I'm so looking forward to getting the ARC because it sounds like the margins will be ripe for doodles! (already planning dolphin in rooftop swimming pool ;))  - Which brings me to a you question. You started a project inspired by our OneFour Kidlit ARC tour. Will you tell my readers a bit about the Margin Project and how they can get involved? Links would be great!

Ooh, yes! I would love to talk about The Margin Project!! In fact I recently posted one of your doodles from Edith Cohn’s SPIRIT'S KEY on the project’s Pinterest page ( I have to say, your doodles are my favorite thing to encounter when reading ARCs from the tour and Im dying to have you draw all over AT YOUR SERVICE!! The Margin Project is really simple. The idea for it came about while reading those shared ARCs and realizing how much fun it was to see where my author friends laughed, cried, or sighed over a great line because they had commented (or doodled!) in the book's margins. It made reading the stories so much more fun- kind of like watching the Academy Award’s with my Twitter feed open- because the reading became a shared experience, even though we weren’t together. I’ve been trying to get my kids to join our library’s book club but they’re too shy, so I thought maybe this could be a fun way for them to share a book with friends. My 6th grade sons tried it and when their teacher noticed, she got excited to try it out in her classroom. Voila! The Margin Project was born. It’s quite simple- you can designate any book part of the project (I have free printable bookplates on my website at, if you want to be fancy and official) and it basically lets kids (or grown-ups!) know that it’s okay to write in the margins of that book. People put a little key to their pen color in the back so when it circles around everyone knows who said what. I’ve recruited a few more classrooms, a library book club, a mom and her long-distance granddaughter, and three penpals from a summer camp and I hope to spread the word far and wide. It’s meant to be easy, fun, and inexpensive, and offer people a slightly different and more social way to engage with books. 

 **Didn’t find this out until the whole site was designed, but the website host I use doesn’t offer easy links doesn’t work. Here’s the clunky one:!margin-project/cpa5)

I love this idea. In fact, I followed the Pinterest page this morning. If I host a YA book club again next year, this might be the perfect thing for us, as it allows single books to circulate and have everyone clamor about it, rather than needing club book sets.

Sadly, our chat has come to a close! But I can't let you go without asking three burning questions! Tell us what the next three books on your TBR pile are, the best drink ever, and the song you just can't shake these days.

Thanks so much, Jen! 

Thanks for the follow! If your YA book club ends up doing this, please share pics! Okay, burning answers to burning questions: 

Next three books on my TBR. 
1. Anne of Green Gables. I’ve never read and I think my editor wanted to drop me when she learned this. Luckily, she just repackaged a BEAUTIFUL version (I am obsessed with the cover art! and it arrived in the mail yesterday. 

2. The Babysitters Club. I know, I’m going retro with my next few reads! But everyone keeps comparing my new co-written series to TBC because ours is about a group of tweens who start a party-planning business (I’d take decorating cupcakes over changing diapers any day, though) and I’ve never read a single one. \

I’m pretty sure both of these revelations mean my kidlit card is getting revoked.
3. Jubilee, which just published this week by a friend of mine, Alicia Potter. It’s about a very unknown event in Boston history- a huge outdoor concert for peace (we’re talking the president showed up, along with thousands and thousands of others) that took place in the 1800’s, long before anyone dreamed up Woodstock!

best drink ever
Banana and peach smoothies

Song I can’t shake
Happy by Pharell. It’s on everywhere, but the thing is, I don’t mind because it actually does make me… happy. if I can add a second, Let It Go, because I have a seven year-old daughter, so every afternoon we’re treated to a Frozen concert. Not complaining about that one, either. I may or may not have tested it out with the acoustics in my shower. 

This has been so much fun- I love the back and forth!! Thanks so much for having me!!

Next week be sure and stop by when I'll be talking to author Sashi Kaufman, author of The Other Way Around.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Conversation with Meredith McCardle, Author of THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN

Meredith McCardle, Author of THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN

Hi Meredith! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog today. Your book, THE EIGHT GUARDIAN, releases this May from Skyscape. I'm so intrigued by the premise of a girl testing beyond her age range and having to leave everything and everyone she loves behind. Do you think that moment of first independence is important in Young Adult literature?


Oh, absolutely. For me, that budding sense of independence is what helps shape young adult literature. You find themes of independence--of figuring out who you are in this world--at play in most, if not all, YA. I think back to that time in my own life, and the memories that jump out most in my mind are those where I took those first few steps on my own, so to speak. Maybe that's why I've always been drawn to stories that feature, as you put it, the moment of first independence. 

Huh. I've never really thought about it before, but I think you're on to something, Jaye! Do you have a degree in psychology or something?? 

Armchair only, LOL :) - I think we authors have lots of armchair degrees, you know? Which bears the question, what's the strangest thing you had to research for The EIGHTH GUARDIAN? (or things!)

Oh my gosh, how much time do you have? Because THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN is time travel, it takes place in dozens of different time periods, which meant dozens upon dozens of questions popped up I had to research. Let's see, I researched everything from the price of gold at the turn of the nineteenth century to museum security systems in the 1990s to what, if any, makeup upper class colonial women would have worn. But hands down, the weirdest thing I did for this book was spending a solid two hours on the Internet trying to determine what year trash cans were added to Boston Common, a park right in the heart of Boston. That nearly stumped me. 

It's those little details isn't it when you're writing about different eras?

So on your blog I saw you were working on an edit letter for the second book in your Annum Guard series. What has been the biggest challenge of writing a sequel? Though I guess time travel must give you a little advantage!

I wrote the first book as a standalone, and my agent and I submitted it as a "standalone with series potential." And then it sold as a series. My first reaction was, "Yay!! I get to write a sequel!" But that soon turned into, "Crap, I have to write a sequel." 

When I ended book 1, I had a vague idea in my mind of what would happen next with the characters and the world, but as I started writing, it didn't take long to figure out that my original idea wasn't going to all. I had to go back to the drawing board three times before I figured it all out. It didn't help that I'd set up a very complicated set of time travel rules in THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN that I now how to follow. That was the biggest problem with my original idea--I realized it didn't follow those rules. At all. Can't have that! So trying to develop the plot in a way that played by the rules and was also dark and twisty--the hallmark of this series--was a challenge. But it all came together in the end! 

Okay, I'm veering in another direction but it's something I'm curious about. I notice there are quite a few lawyer turned writers in our class of debut authors (Lynne Matson and Jessie Humphries come to mind). Being a reformed lawyer yourself, why do you think this seems to be "a thing?"

Good question! I can only speak for myself, but my decision to walk away from law (at least for now) was a personal as well as practical decision. The short answer is that I wanted to have a family, and the type of law I was practicing (complex commercial litigation) doesn't lend itself very well to a part-time schedule. I realized that if I wanted to have quality time with my kids, I was going to have to make a choice: law or my family. I chose my family. 

But we lawyers tend to be the types who aren't happy unless we're busy, so writing was a logical next step. It's something that's intellectually stimulating as well as fun! I'm so, so blessed to be doing what I'm doing now. 

Secret Jro fact. For one brief moment of my life I was married to a lawyer. That job is insanity, I'd definitely want to step away.

Anyway, we're so glad you chose parenting and writing because now we all get to read about TIME TRAVEL!!! I'm so excited for the Eighth Guardian and I might even have read the ARC by the time I post this interview. (be very, very jealous everyone)

So last 3 questions. Next three books on your TBR pile, the best drink ever in your glass, and the song you can't shake from your head these days!

And thanks so much for taking time out of your busy revision schedule to chat with me, Meredith!! Y'all go pre-order her book today!

Oof. If there's one thing harder than being a lawyer, I'd have to say it's being married to one. :D

Okay! Next three books on my TBR list: OPEN ROAD SUMMER by Emery Lord (speaking of ARC tours…), THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS by Skylar Dorset (ditto), and THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS (because somehow I've never read this, and I need to fix that immediately).

The best drink ever in my glass was definitely a Gaja Barbaresco I bought as a birthday present for my husband many, many years ago. I'm a wine girl through and through. (Oh hey, fun fact. My dog's name is Peju, after a winery in Napa.) cute!

And finally, the song I can't shake from my head these days is probably the song that 90% of parents of young children can't shake: "Let It Go" from Frozen. I legit wake up in the middle of the night with "HEEEEEERE I STAND AND HEEEEEERE I STAY" looping over and over in my brain. Pray for me, y'all.

And thanks so much for hosting me, Jaye! I had a blast!

Next week stop by! I'll be hosting the first middle grade author in this series, Jen Malone, author of At Your Service.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Conversation with Natalie Parker, Author of BEWARE THE WILD

Natalie Parker, Author of Beware The Wild

Hi Natalie! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog! Your upcoming novel, BEWARE THE WILD, is set in the swamps of Louisiana. As a huge fan of Southern fiction, I want to know your take on it. Do you think it has a distinct flavor? What sets it apart from stories set in other regions? Do you have favorite Southern authors?

Hey Jaye! Thanks for having me. I'm always happy to chat with fellow fans of Southern fiction, not to mention fellow 2014 debuts, not to mention fellow bloggers, not to mention....okay, I just really like to talk, so thanks for giving me another place to do that. ;)

Favorite Southern authors? I'm probably supposed to lean back in my recliner and tell you about the very deep appreciation I have for William Faulkner (and believe me, I do), but if we're talking favorites, I'm going to have to push Eudora Welty and Barbara Kingsolver to the front of the line and cite reasons: mythology and prose. 

As for the what sets this novel apart, one of my favorite things about the South is that you can't go anywhere without encountering stories. Every place you go will come with its own, incredibly unique, incredibly strange mythology. Strangeness has an incredibly long shelf life, so its the really weird things that end up defining a place. This is one of the things I've tried to do with BEWARE THE WILD -- sink readers into a world where strangeness is just a really vivid piece of reality.

Of course, the short answer is: gatorgirls. 

I have friends who lived around the corner from Eudora Welty in Jackson. I always thought that was awesome. Barbara Kingsolver is amazing, of course. Another couple of Southern writers I love are Fannie Flagg and Mark Childress, both from Alabama. Oh, and Sue Monk Kidd! Great writers come from humidity.

And can I tell you how much I love this: "'s the really weird things that end up defining a place."

So can you fill us in? Give us a clue to a particular weirdness in your book that makes you smile with the oddity of it all. Is it a character? A place? A moment? Do tell!

One of the things I had the most fun with was the town's mythology. Sticks is a place rich with a gruesome, ethereal history centered around its swamp. Over the generations, all of those stories are captured, retold, illustrated, printed, bound, and sold in the General store. These are the stories kids tell at sleepovers, that adults whisper with caution, that grandparents delight in passing to the young. 

And the question at the very beginning of the novel is....are they all true, after all?

Hmmm, I see an opportunity for some cool graphic novel spin-offs of BEWARE THE WILD. 

You mention a question, which leads me to thinking about my next question. Do you have a typical way in which a story idea forms itself in your head? When I chatted with Joy Hensley she said she most often will imagine the climax first and build off of that. For me, it's often a single word or the voice of my character, or just an emotional feeling. For example, I have a middle grade built off the word justice, and a new WIP idea I'm simply calling Lonely Girl. How does a story idea implant itself firmly enough in your brain to merit the writing of it?

I almost always begin with an image. For BEWARE THE WILD it was the image of a girl emerging slowly from a dark swamp, climbing over a fence, and tugging free of magic that didn't want to let her go. The follow-up began with an image of something spoilery happening around the ever-blooming cherry tree in the center of the swamp. My future projects are similar in that they all revolve around some image that I then place inside a world. The characters develop after that. 

The plot always comes last. That's probably indicative of the kinds of stories I like to tell. Striking imagery! Compelling world! Dynamic characters! Oh, and they do things, too…

Oooh, love that opening image. Do you keep a Pinterest board for inspiration? Do you want to share it?

As a matter of fact, I do:

Okay, magic. What were the elements that guided you in creating the magic for your world? Did the magic relate to setting at all (since the swamp is key to the story)? And what of these gator girls I keep hearing whispers of!

I wanted the magic to feel as wild as the swamp. That meant it had to have elements of chaos and accessibility. In my mind, that translated into organic matter. (In all honesty, I was probably fighting crab grass in my backyard one summer and thought, WHAT FOUL MAGIC IS THIS?!) The magic of the swamp is very much a part of the ecosystem -- in many ways, it is a plant, growing and shrinking under the right conditions. And, as is so often the case with magic, it's those who use it who make it bad or good. The gator girls (and boys!) are not naturally occurring, but are created....*enter eerie music here*

I love how those real world moments can intersect with our fictional ones. I completely think it was the swamp talking through your crab grass!

And unbelievably, we've come to the end! I think I need to cling to you a bit longer so you can tell me swamp stories, but I suppose it will suffice for you to tell us about the next three books in your TBR pile, the best beverage ever in your glass, and the song you just can't shake.

Thanks, Natalie! I'm really looking forward to BEWARE THE WILD!

I'm doing my best to die by ARC this year and the next three in my TBR are: THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE by Jennifer Mathieu, SURVIVAL COLONY 9 by Joshua David Bellin, and THE FIRE WISH by Amber Lough.

The best drink ever in my glass? Home brewed pomegranate mead!

And the song I can't's one from the playlist for swamp book 2, Monsoons by Pucifer:

Thanks for having me, Jaye! 

Absolutely! And next week, stop back by when I'll be chatting with Meredith McCardle, author of the Eighth Guardian!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

YA Scavenger Hunt- TEAM BLUE - Meet Rachel Harris!!!

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This tri-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are TWO contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the BLUE TEAM--but there is also a red team for a chance to win a whole different set of twenty-five signed books!

If you'd like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt homepage.


Directions: Below, you'll notice that I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the blue team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!). 

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by April 6th at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.


Today, I am super excited to host Rachel Harris on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt! Rachel writes fun and flirty escapes about sassy girls-next-door and the hot guys that make them swoon. A Cajun cowgirl now living in Houston, she firmly believes life's problems can be solved with a hot, sugar-coated beignet or a thick slice of king cake, and that screaming at strangers for cheap, plastic beads is acceptable behavior in certain situations.

She homeschools her two beautiful girls and watches way too much Food Network with her amazing husband. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult romances and LOVES talking with readers!  

Find out more information by checking out Rachel's website or find more about My Not So Super Sweet Life here! And not just any book, but a SPECIAL DIGITAL EDITION (no time travel in this one, but definitely swoonier and this time, dual POV between Cat and Lucas! Yeah, baby)

Rachel's Website!

Cat Crawford just wants to be normal—or at least as normal as a daughter of Hollywood royalty can be. And it looks like fate is granting her wish: she’s got an amazing boyfriend, Lucas; her fabulous cousin, Alessandra, living with her; and her dad planning his second marriage to a great future stepmom. That is, until her prodigal mother reveals on national television that she has something important to tell her daughter…causing a media frenzy.

Lucas Capelli knows his fate is to be with Cat, and he’s worked hard to win her over once and for all. Unfortunately, Lucas has his own issues to deal with, including a scandal that could take him away from the first place he’s truly belonged.

As secrets are revealed, rumors explode, and the world watches, Cat and Lucas discover it’s not fate they have to fight if they want to stay together…this time, it’s their own insecurities.

Well, and the stalkerazzi.

(excerpt in graphic, full scene below in text)

Oops! Too late. YASH is over, but you can buy the book to read this steamy scene! Link above! (at the cover image)

I don't know about you guys, but I'm going to go stick my face in the freezer now! Smoking! 
And don't forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, Rachel Harris and many more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 17. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the blue team and you'll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!


To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author! The fabulous P.J. Hoover! Just click HERE!

And because I want you to get to know yet another of my amazing 2014 debut author friends, I'm giving away a pre-order of The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings, just fill out this Rafflecopter and you're in! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway