November 21, 2016

Happy book birthday to Audrey Coulthurst! I'm looking forward to reading her LGBT fantasy, OF FIRE AND STARS

Congratulations to Audrey Coulthurst on her debut, an LGBT fantasy. The book has drawn rave reviews for the sweet, gentle romance woven through this adventure tale. And it has a blurb from Mercedes Lackey, which I still can't believe.

The Story

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. Soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

The Reviews

“A powerful and exquisite love story”
--Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A deeply romantic, bold, and nuanced fantasy. You will be captivated by Denna and Mare and their star-crossed love for each other.”
--Malinda Lo, Author of Ash and Huntress

“I devoured Of Fire and Stars in two sittings; it’s a delightful debut, full of all the things I like best in a fantasy story, including not one but two wonderful heroines. I’m looking forward to seeing what Audrey does in the future!”
--Mercedes Lackey, New York Times bestselling author

Coulthursts’s debut is an absolute delight; I loved seeing these smart, fierce princesses fall in captivating, slow-burn love as they investigate political assassinations and unravel magical conspiracies.”
--Corinne Duyvis, author of Otherbound and On the Edge of Gone

Romantic, compelling, and bursting with fascinating characters, Of Fire and Stars is the fantasy novel we’ve all been waiting for.
--Amy Tintera, author of Ruined

The Interview

Q: Where did you get the inspiration for your book?
OF FIRE AND STARS is a tribute to all the things I love to read about--magic, horses, music, and girls who fall in love with other girls. I wrote the book I wish I'd had as a teenager, and have a little more to say about that in a guest post I wrote for Malinda Lo's blog.

Q: Describe your writing process, from idea to final draft.
My writing process has changed a lot over the years, but in the case of OF FIRE AND STARS, the first draft was completed relatively quickly, and then I spent a long time revising. I'm a retroactive outliner, meaning that I tend to write a first draft, then outline it, and then use the outline as a blueprint for the revision.

Q: Tell us about your journey, from finding an agent to publication.
My path was straightforward and traditional. I spent a long time writing and revising before querying. I entered Pitch Wars in late 2013 (fellow Class of 2k16 author Elizabeth Briggs was my mentor!) and then began querying in early 2014. I signed with my agent that summer, and she sold OF FIRE AND STARS the following spring.

Q: Why would someone want to buy your book?

Anyone who loves fantasy books full of horses, magic, and intrigue will find something to enjoy in OF FIRE AND STARS. It's all about falling in love with the wrong person and trying to make peace with the parts of ourselves that are the hardest to face.

Q: What are your favorite books? What are you reading now?
It's too hard to narrow down the list, so I'll provide some of my favorite books featuring same-sex relationships: Summit Avenue, Fingersmith, I'll Give You the Sun, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Ash, and Huntress.

Check out the book on Amazon and on Goodreads

Read more »

November 10, 2016

Tara Sim's TIMEKEEPER is out in stores now!

I'm excited to finally see Timekeeper out in the world! Tara Sim's LGBT steampunk novel has drawn great reviews for it's innovative world-building and cool alternate-historical setting.  

The Story

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time--and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It's a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny's new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower's clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield's time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he's fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he'll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

The Reviews
"Timekeeper is an extraordinary debut, at once familiar and utterly original. Between its compelling world, its lovely prose, and its wonderful characters, the pages flew by." 
—Victoria Schwab, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"Alive with myth, mystery, and glorious romance, Timekeeper will keep hearts pounding and pages turning til the stunning conclusion. Reader beware—there's magic in these pages." 

—Heidi Heilig, author of The Girl from Everywhere

"Part mystery and part romance, this fantasy novel delves into what it means to grow up and make important decisions. With an easily relatable main character struggling to fit in, the novel has a realistic and contemplative voice. VERDICT: A must-have richly written fantasy novel that will have readers eagerly anticipating the next volume." 

School Library Journal

"Sim creates a cast of complex and diverse characters, as well as a mythology to explain how the clock towers came to exist . . . an enjoyable, well-realized tale." 

Publishers Weekly 

“[M]ystery, LGBTQ romance, and supernatural tale of clock spirits and sabotage that explores how far people might go for those they love. Its strongest elements are the time-related mythology and the supernatural gay romance.” 

"This LGBTQ steampunk romance sports a killer premise and admirably thorough worldbuilding, helpfully annotated in the author’s afterword. The characters—even the bad guys—are sympathetically drawn and commendably diverse in sexuality and gender." 

Kirkus Reviews

The Interview

Q: Where did you get the inspiration for your book?
I studied abroad in London in 2010, and while I was there I fed my fascination with Big Ben. I’ve always loved the clock tower for some reason, and I even bought a little keychain replica of it while I was there. A couple years later I was trying to think of a story idea as I drove to work, and I happened to look at the keychain dangling by my hand.
I started to wonder if clock towers somehow created areas of time—and if something happened to the towers, something happened to time, too. If mechanics would be assigned to fix them. If one of these mechanics found a broken boy in a broken clock tower. It went on from there!

Q: Describe your writing process, from idea to final draft.
This actually changes for each book I write, but for TIMEKEEPER I had the idea almost first thing in the morning and spent the entire day scribbling in a notebook. I jotted down character ideas, plot ideas, world ideas. And when I went home that night I was so revved up that I went ahead and started writing the first scene. I usually don’t hop into the story that fast, but it worked for TIMEKEEPER!
Usually I’ll let the idea marinate for a while—a few days, a couple of weeks, a month. Then I’ll write the first draft, which takes anywhere between one and three months. I tend to draft fast. I’ll then let it sit for a bit, read it through and revise it to the point that it’s acceptable for human eyes, and send to critique partners. With their feedback I’ll revise it however many times as necessary to get the story where I want it. In those revisions it’s not unusual for me to add more layers of worldbuilding/plot.

Q: Tell us about your journey, from finding an agent to publication.
After being in Pitch Wars 2014 (which was so much fun and a lot of hard work), I queried Laura Crockett at Triada US because I heard that she enjoyed historical and fantasy, and also loved England. So I thought, why not? She asked for the first few chapters, and pretty soon after that said it wasn’t enough and wanted the full. Later I learned she had sped through the whole MS on Thanksgiving Day because she couldn’t put it down! Shortly after that she offered me representation, and so far it’s been a happy union.
We did one round of revisions on TIMEKEEPER before sending it out. This was around the time I went to India, so that was a good distraction. After a little while we heard from Alison Weiss at Sky Pony Press that she wanted to acquire the whole trilogy, and I was ecstatic!

Q: Why would someone want to buy your book?
There are magical clock towers, for one thing. For another, there are cute boys. And time magic. There’s also a mystery element to it, as well as long-lost gods/mythology and a steampunk-flavored Victorian London.
It’s also a story about loss and love, and trying to reconcile sorrow with joy.

Q: What are your favorite books? What are you reading now?
Some (*some*) of favorite books of all time are The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Song of the Lioness, The Great Gatsby, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Outlander, I’ll Give You the Sun, The Grisha Trilogy, The Song of Achilles—I can go on and on.
Right now I’m reading This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee. A gothic steampunk retelling of Frankenstein? Yes, please!

Read more »

September 27, 2016

Congrats to Paula Garner on the release of her debut, PHANTOM LIMBS!

Paula Garner's story of love and grief (and sports!) has drawn raves for its realism and intensity. And, after a long wait, it's finally out today!

The Story

Otis and Meg were inseparable until her family abruptly moved away after the terrible accident that left Otis’s little brother dead and both of their families changed forever. Since then, it’s been three years of radio silence, during which time Otis has become the unlikely protégé of eighteen-year-old Dara—part drill sergeant, part friend—who’s hell-bent on transforming Otis into the Olympic swimmer she can no longer be. But when Otis learns that Meg is coming back to town, he must face some difficult truths about the girl he’s never forgotten and the brother he’s never stopped grieving. As it becomes achingly clear that he and Meg are not the same people they were, Otis must decide what to hold on to and what to leave behind. Quietly affecting, this compulsively readable debut novel captures all the confusion, heartbreak, and fragile hope of three teens struggling to accept profound absences in their lives.

The Reviews

This debut novel is a story of loss, love, and friendship, about a teenager coming to terms with the past and dealing with repressed memories that are resurfacing...Readers will find Otis relatable and endearing in his first-person perspective of first love and heartbreak, as well as his unwavering loyalty to his friends. Meg and Dara round out a cast of well-developed characters who have extensive troubles of their own. Most teenagers will find a little bit of themselves in this well-executed work; a must-have for most YA collections.
—School Library Journal, starred review

The inability to let go of the past pushes all three white teens beyond their comfort zones into uncharted territory, Garner slowly and steadily guiding readers through these journeys. A heavy read weighted by intense emotions and grief, the novel sifts through tough memories, searching for the silver lining.
—Kirkus Reviews

Otis’ journey—as a competitive swimmer and as a grieving brother—is a poignant one...It’s tough-talking, reckless Dara who will intrigue readers. Her struggles with her father, her sexuality, and the dreams deferred because of her accident complement Otis’ story, elevating this to a narrative as much about human connection as it is about sports.

Garner’s debut sensitively portrays Meg and Otis’s bruised emotions, both recovering from deep loss. Though the description of Mason’s accident is a gut-punch in its realism, much of the plot unfolds predictably. The novel’s strongest moments go to Dara, whose no-holds-barred personality—"she was the human equivalent of a Venus flytrap"—livens and complicates the novel.
—Publishers Weekly

The Interview

Q: Where did you get the inspiration for your book?

The idea came from thinking about the attachment between Kevin and Winnie in the Wonder Years, and the belief that they would have feelings about one other for the rest of their lives. I wondered, what would happen if two neighbors/best friends/first loves were separated suddenly, without closure? How would that affect them, and what would happen when they saw each other again years later?

Also, my son was a high school swimmer and I spent a lot of time at swim meets. J

Q: Describe your writing process, from idea to final draft.

Usually what happens is I’ll write a draft in a fairly short time and then discover OH HEY, THAT’S NOT EVEN A STORY; it’s more a Whole Bunch of Information for the Author. Then I spend a painful number of drafts trying to find the story. In PHANTOM LIMBS, virtually nothing remains from the first draft. I hope in the future to achieve better math.

Q: Tell us about your journey, from finding an agent to publication.

I was chosen for PitchWars in late 2013, which changed my life. I made amazing friends and CPs, received multiple offers of representation, and signed with a great agent in February 2014. We worked on revisions for about six months, and she sold PHANTOM LIMBS that fall.

Q: Why would someone want to buy your book?

PHANTOM LIMBS pulls no punches. It deals with various kinds of grief that we don't see in many books. It’s a coming-of-age story about childhood friendships and first love and loss. It follows a grieving competitive swimmer named Otis, and Meg, his one-time best friend and first love, who mysteriously disappeared on him three years before. There is also Dara, a troubled amputee and formal Olympic hopeful, whose grip on Otis tightens when she finds out Meg is coming back to town. There is a dilapidated summer home packed with memories. And a magnolia tree. And a very large serving of pasta carbonara.  

Q: What are your favorite books? What are you reading now?

I tend to become cross when asked to name favorite anythings, but books I’ve loved: The History of Love, Olive Kitteridge, Tell the Wolves I’m Home, Night of the Comet, Norwegian by Night, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,  I'll Give You the Sun, Bone Gap, The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

Buy it now on Amazon or read more on Goodreads.
Read more »

September 20, 2016

Happy book birthday to Jessica Cluess! Her debut, A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING, is out today.

Today is Jess's release day! Her tale of a Victorian era England beset by demons has drawn rave reviews for its world-building, fast-paced plot, and emotional intensity.

The Story
Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty's sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she's the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city--and the one she loves?

The Reviews
"Vivid characters, terrifying monsters, and world building as deep and dark as the ocean."
—Victoria Aveyard, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Red Queen

"Unputdownable. I loved the monsters, the magic, and the teen warriors who are their world's best hope!" 
—Tamora Pierce, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"The magic! The intrigue! The guys! We were sucked into this monster-ridden, alternative England from page one. Henrietta is literally a 'girl on fire' and this team of sorcerers training for battle had a pinch of Potter blended with a drop of [Cassandra Clare's] Infernal Devices."
Justine Magazine

"A fun, inventive fantasy. I totally have a book crush on Rook." 
—Sarah Rees Brennan, New York Times bestselling author

"Pure enchantment. I love how Cluess turned the 'chosen one' archetype on its head. With the emotional intensity of my favorite fantasy books, this is the kind of story that makes you forget yourself." 
—Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen

"A glorious, fast-paced romp of an adventure. Jessica Cluess has built her story out of my favorite ingredients: sorcery, demons, romance, and danger."
—Kelly Link, author of Pretty Monster

The Interview

Q: Where did you get the inspiration for your book? 
Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens. I was thinking about the scene where Nicholas physically stops an assault on a helpless boy, and wondered how that act would work if his gender was flipped. So I imagined a girl in Victorian dress doing things like throwing a rock or grabbing a knife, and then had an image of her opening her hands and shooting fire out of her palms. That image of Victorian girl wielding magical fire was the spark I needed to get started.

Q:Describe your writing process, from idea to final draft. 
I tend to write a very rough outline, no more than two single spaced pages. I get the bare bones in place, like the catalyst, the mid point, the darkest moment, etc., and then I write. I usually need three drafts and a polish before the book’s ready to go to readers. Once I give the book to my CPs, I wait for the notes, and then see if multiple people have made the same complaint. If they have, I fix it right away. If the book’s especially tricky, I might get a new batch of readers to look over the new version. Then, after a polish, I’m usually done.

Q: Tell us about your journey, from finding an agent to publication.
I found my agent on twitter during #MSWL. I got lucky, because he offered a week after I’d sent him my query letter. Short waits are very nice. After I signed, we spent several months passing the manuscript back and forth and editing and nitpicking. It seemed exhaustive at the time, but I’m glad we did that, because it made the book as tailor-ready for the market as possible. Once on submission, we had an offer in less than two weeks. It’s amazing how fast it all went, since I’d spent a year writing the book before querying it, and I’d spent two years writing another book before that that went nowhere. You never know when the lucky moment will strike.

Q: Why would someone want to buy your book? 
Hopefully, because they want to be entertained! I love depth and nuance in the books I read and the stories I tell, but I really love it when something makes my heart pound. If you like girls battling horrible monsters with a side order of romance, there’s a good chance you’ll want to buy my book. That’s the dream!

Q: What are your favorite books? What are you reading now? 
I love Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, Dune by Frank Herbert, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman…honestly, the list goes on and on. I love every book I’ve read from a fellow debut this year, and it’s amazing to be surrounded by so much talent and kindness. 16 is a lucky number!
Read more »

September 13, 2016

Congratulations to Traci Chee on the release of her debut, THE READER

Congrats to Traci on the release of the first book in her trilogy! The Reader has been getting rave reviews all over the place for its complex themes and beautiful language.

The Story

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.
The Reviews

“I was spellbound from the first page. An utterly transportive tale of swashbucklers and sharpshooters, masterfully written. Traci Chee has penned a beautiful novel about the power of story, complete with a fantastic cast of characters and an expertly rendered fantasy landscape. This is a book you will not soon forget.”
—Renée Ahdieh, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn

 “Deftly rendered in beautiful prose, narrated through three shifting time lines woven into an interconnected history of duty, honor, and magic. . . . This is a must-have for all those who value a good read with genuine character growth, mystery, unique world-building, adventure, unyielding bonds of loyalty, and pirates. . . . A fresh, diverse fantasy; highly recommended for fans of Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart and female-powered adventures.”
School Library Journalstarred review

“Commanding storytelling and vivid details, particularly of the magical process of reading, bring the story to life… the first of what promises to be an enchanting series.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Chee’s debut is an intricate, multilayered reading experience… An exploration of self-determination and the magic of the written word, Sefia’s story is an absorbing introduction to the Sea of Ink and Gold series.”
Publishers Weeklystarred review 

“With evocative language, fascinating world building, multifaceted characters, and a compelling plot, this is a series fantasy lovers will want to sink their teeth into.”
Bookliststarred review

The Interview

Q: Where did you get the inspiration for your book?

The Reader came out of my love of books, from the beautiful words they contain to the materials they’re made of and the different forms they can take. Books have the power to change people. To alter perspectives. To open minds and hearts. To change the world.

If you know how to read, you have power.

And that’s something I wanted to explore in The Reader. What if words were actually magic? What if only a handful of people controlled them, and what if that control slipped from their grasp? Who would be hurt? And how would they retaliate?

Q: Describe your writing process, from idea to final draft.

The more I write, the more I realize that for me, every story takes a different process. Sometimes I study other pieces of fiction. Sometimes I journal. Sometimes I open up a fresh Word document and start typing. Sometimes I write with music. Sometimes I write in silence. Sometimes I make charts and maps. Sometimes I fill out character sheets. It all depends on the project.

The most indispensable part of my writing process, however, is revision. The Reader was up to thirty-eight drafts by the time it hit the copy editing stage with my publisher! For me, nothing gets to the final stage without alterations, changes, polish, and spit-shine, because revision is where I really find out what a story is about, where I dig out themes and shape character arcs. It’s my writing happy-place, where everything comes together and all the magic happens.

Q: Tell us about your journey, from finding an agent to publication.

In September 2014, I was lucky enough to be chosen for Pitch Wars, an online contest run by the inimitable Brenda Drake. After two months of working intensely with my mentor, the fabulously talented Renée Ahdieh, author of The Wrath and the Dawn and its sequel, The Rose and the Dagger, I landed with my dragon-riding agent warrior Barbara Poelle, who got The Reader and me to Putnam/Penguin shortly after. Read the full story here.

Q: Why would someone want to buy your book?

I’d like to think I’m doing something quite different with The Reader. It’s fantasy. It’s literary. It’s got a huge cast of characters and twisted nonlinear storylines and one fiercely independent girl at the center of it all. It’s both a book at the same time as it’s a love letter to books. Inspired by the spirit of the American Wild West, it’s got cowboy pirates, treasure hunts, magic, assassins, sharpshooters, and a dash of romance. And without spoiling too much, I can promise you a few bookish surprises you may not have seen before!

Q: What are your favorite books? What are you reading right now?

In no particular order, here are some of the books I keep coming back to again and again: A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle), His Dark Materials (Phillip Pullman), The Book Thief (Markus Zusak), The Hunger Games Trilogy (Suzanne Collins),Dune (Frank Herbert), Lord Of The Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien), One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler (Italo Calvino), House Of Leaves (Mark Z. Danielewski), Pale Fire (Vladimir Nabokov), Watership Down (Richard Adams)

But at the moment, I’m having a wonderful time reading ARCs of my fellow Sweet Sixteens’ and Class of 2k16’s books. 2016 is already shaping up to be a fantastic year for young adult and middle grade literature!
Read more »

August 3, 2016

Rahul Kanakia shall now celebrate the release of his debut, ENTER TITLE HERE, by interviewing himself

Congratulations to Rahul Kanakia, whose debut novel Enter Title Here, released yesterday. This is a great novel. A fantastic novel, really. It's gotten a ton of good feedback for it's, like, metatextuality and its strong voice. Everybody loves it. Pay no attention to the man behind the blog post. He's obviously completely impartial.

The Story

I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.
Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What's a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent's help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she's already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

The Reviews
Kanakia’s mordantly funny story of an overachiever who takes “write what you know” to new extremes will give college-bound readers (and their parents) a gentle wake-up call that success can come in a variety of forms.

Rahul Kanakia’s debut is a definitive metafiction experience. Readers will question whether Reshma is a satirical antihero who reflects today’s convoluted race relations, education system and need for fame, or simply a teen who wants acceptance and love. Readers may not always like Reshma, but they won’t forget her story.

An outrageous girl who’s selfish, smart, and thought-provoking! Reshma is socially terrifying and easily the most unlikable character we’ve ever ended up rooting for, but her brutal honesty also happens to be LOL hilarious. The great characters, perfect plot, and social commentary make this one a fresh read.
--Justine Magazine

The Interview
Q: Where did you get the inspiration for your book? 

I got the idea from the book in the summer of 2012, when I was reading an article about Korean students who were protesting in the streets about their high workload. As they protested, they’d shout, “We are not study machines.” I loved that,  I thought it was such an evocative phrase. And I thought about writing a dystopian novel about a world where everyone had to study really hard. Except then, as I was thinking about it, I realized that there was no need for the dystopia, since, for many students, we already live in that world. So I decided to write a story from the point of view of a “study machine”: a person who worked really hard in school and had zero life. I wanted my book to be full and fair and to try to capture the things that might drive a person to work like that and to, in some way, evoke some kind of respect for that person.

Q: Describe your writing process, from idea to final draft.
I don't really have one? I've tried for years to settle down to some routine, but it's never quite worked out. Every book ends up coming out different. Sometimes I outline and sometimes not. Sometimes I write it all and feel like the first draft is perfect, other times I need to make a thousand tiny and large revisions before it's at all readable.

Q: Tell us about your journey, from finding an agent to publication.
I placed second in this contest, the Tu Books New Visions Contest, and the winner, Valynne Maetani, is/was the most gracious person on earth, and she put me in touch with her agent, John Cusick (now at Folio). The novel that placed second in the contest didn't sell, but in the meantime I'd written this one. John loved it. We did some revisions. He sent it out. The book went to auction, and eventually sold to Disney. Three months later, my editor at Disney left to take another job! I was in editor limbo for about nine months, which eventually led to my book being pushed from 2015 to 2016. However the editor I ended up with, Kieran Viola, loved the book and both gave great feedback and has been a great advocate for it. So not everything is a disaster all the time!

Q: Why would someone want to buy your book?
Really I think they'd want to read it because the protagonist is unlike anyone else you've ever read. She's not charming. She's not quirky. She's not fun. She's bold and merciless. She doesn't even like to read books! What kind of YA protagonist doesn't like to read books. But no, she thinks they're a waste of time. She's every girl you hate in high school, but come to secretly respect ten or twenty years later.

Q: What are your favorite books? What are you reading now?
Right now I'm reading Bonjour Tristesse, which is a French novel, by Francoise Sagan. The book was a phenomenon when it came out in 1954, and it made a celebrity of its eighteen year old author. It's about a daughter and a father who live on the seaside in an air of dissipation and casual love--both carry on multiple affairs--until finally he gets engaged to a woman his own age who threatens to shut down the party. I'm not finished with the book yes, but I'm pretty sure the girl, Cecile, is gonna have something to say about this...

The other, very similar, book I've recently read is Marguerite Duras' The Lover. This is one of those novels that sounds both uninteresting and possibly skeevy when you describe it. The book is about a fifteen year old white girl in colonial Vietnam, in the 30s, who has an affair with a very wealthy thirtysomething Chinese man. The book is about this girl’s sexual awakening: her realization that as a woman she has a power that both enlarges and reduces her. And it’s just very…complex. Because she is a colonizer. In this land in which she has lived for her whole life, but which isn’t really hers, the color of her skin makes her in some way ineluctably superior to this much-older man.

I cannot recommend The Lover enough. It's an unbelievably subtle book. I haven't even mentioned the way that time and point of view shift and wrap around on themselves, creating a much fuller picture of the past and future life of this girl.

Anyway, that is what I have.

Check out Enter Title Here on Amazon, B&N, Indiebound, and Goodreads. And if you're interested in me, you can check out my WebsiteBlog, or Twitter.
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