publishing

Writing a Book is Hard #amwriting

Writing a book is hard. Wait, let me clarify: writing a good book is hard. The thing to remember is that people do it. People actually publish books, good ones–even while working full-time, even while raising families. Publishing a good book is doable and worthwhile. But it takes

A

Lot

Of

Work.

Start Your Book

First you need to come up with a story, something unique that can grab readers (and agents) in an elevator pitch of 15 words or less. Yes, you’ll need to write that elevator pitch and synopsis, but first the book…

You must decide how to start.

If you’re a natural-born plotter and/or smart enough to learn how, you plot your story in great detail before beginning to write the actual book.

On the other hand, if you’re a pantser, your book-writing journey will be much longer. If, like me, the only way you can come up with story ideas is by letting them flow organically while writing, so be it.

In other words, pantsers:

  • write a lot of pages just to get an understanding of the story and characters.
  • Read through all that pre-writing, take notes, plot everything in a way that makes sense.
  • Then write the real first draft.

-You create characters, each with their own quirks, histories, fears, goals, and desires–and conflicts, especially conflicts, both external and internal.

-You write all three acts of your book, yes, all three, even when you reach act two and realize, whoah, a book is big, so super big, way bigger than the original story idea I had. At this point you remind yourself that you are not a bad writer, you are not a bad writer, you are not–that the first draft is always bad. Verify this by reading what all published authors say. (ALL writers say their first drafts are bad.)

-You write all the scenes for your book, all of them, around a hundred. You ensure that each scene has a dramatic arc and an emotional arc and that the pacing is right–not too slow, not too rushed.

-You make sure your book falls within the standard word count for your genre, aware that agents and publishers are more receptive to first books with word counts that fall into the lower range. You remain calm as you logically deduce that the reason publishers prefer shorter books from first-time authors is so they don’t waste as much money on you in case your book bombs.

Revise Your Book

  • You rearrange all the scenes in your novel until the narrative makes sense. You add scenes, delete scenes, and completely rewrite scenes.
  • You make sure dialogue for each and every character is distinctive and packs a punch.
  • You craft your story in such a way that it’s not too ambiguous but also not too on the nose because you’re aware readers like figuring out things on their own.
  • While editing your book, you take multiple passes through it, each time focusing on only one or two elements to avoid becoming mired in an overwhelming mass of details that will make you. . .

Losing mind - businesswoman

Maintain Sanity

Balance is everything. While writing and editing, you maintain your sanity through:

  • social interaction
  • commiserating with fellow writers
  •  physical exercise
  • spiritual whatever.

Work with a Critique Partner (CP)

After you’ve written, revised, and brought out the shine in all elements of your novel, you hand your manuscript over to another person, preferably a critique partner (CP). But first, you must find said CP. This means putting yourself out there on social media, websites, local writers’ groups, workshops, wherever you can find fellow writers/potential CPs who understand your genre and are willing to swap full novel critiques.

You must read other people’s works in progress (WIPs) so they will read yours. It’s a fair exchange, and the time is well spent. When critiquing someone else’s work, not only are you helping out another writer, you are learning a LOT about what makes a manuscript work.

You make more changes to your novel based on CP feedback. 🙂

Work with Beta Readers

You send your manuscript out to beta readers. Again, you need to do the legwork first. Interact with fellow book lovers on blogs, Goodreads, wherever readers of your genre dwell in the wild. When your book is ready, summon the courage to ask those people if they’d like to read and provide feedback on your novel.

Make further revisions to your novel based on beta reader feedback. 🙂

Read, Read, Read

All the while, you read as many published novels as you can, not only because you love to read, but also to gain an understanding of what’s being published in your genre, what the trends are, and to get ideas on what you’d like to strive for and avoid in your own writing.

Research Literary Agents

In between all the writing, editing, and networking, you also research potential literary agents. And they can’t be just any agents. They must be agents who: represent the kinds of books you write, are good at what they do, are open to queries. Which means:

  • Every time you pick up a novel, you read the acknowledgment page (often it’s the first page you turn to), keeping an eye out for agent shout-outs.
  • You visit promising literary agents’ Twitter accounts and blogs, agency websites, and check out their #MSWL (manuscript wish lists). And you do web searches for their interviews to ensure they’re looking for what you’re writing.
  • You create a free account on querytracker.net to check out what other querying writers are saying about agents you’re interested in.
  • You study agents’ submission guidelines and follow them to a T, fully aware (without letting it freak you out) that literary agents are so inundated they’ll look for any reason to reduce their submission load. This means that every detail of the query letter, email, manuscript format, synopsis, etc. that you send prospective agents must exactly conform to their specifications.

Network with Other Writers

You make friends in the writing community who will console you when you’re overwhelmed with how hard it is to write a book, especially when you need to write a synopsis, which means summing up your entire novel up in 1-5 pages. That is really hard.

Follow Your Favorite Authors (not required but, oh, so fun)

Another thing you’re probably doing—though not specifically required—is daydreaming and getting ideas for your own writing career by following your favorite authors; seeing what they’re up to on their blog and tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest,Vine, Goodreads, Facebook, maybe even meeting them at book signings (a thrill every writer and reader should experience).

Maintain an Online Presence

While writing, revising, networking, reading,and researching agents, you also maintain your own blog and social media accounts, hoping that by developing an online presence as an author you’ll look legit to future agents, publishers, and fans.

Whew, good luck. Write and publish that book!

–Eve Messenger

 

 

 

ARC Review: The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs

Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs

Hello, fellow book junkies! I’ve been reading, writing and working a lot, plus I came down with a terrible stomach bug this week, so blogging and social media had to take a back seat. I’m back now! Isn’t it such a great feeling when, after you’ve been terribly sick, you finally feel better?

I wanted to share with you about an ARC I recently read. The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs is slated to be published in September of this year, and it had some of the finest writing I’ve ever read in YA. The topic it explores is one I typically avoid: high school mass shootings. I freely admit that when it comes to fiction I tend to stick my head in the sand and not read about issues that already feel so upsetting in the real world. However, I’m glad I decided to read this book.

Here’s my review:

THE LIGHT FANTASTIC by Sarah Combs – YA Contemporary, 320 pp.

Sarah Combs’ writing style has a poetic, stream of consciousness feel to it, like a river flowing through the minds of one character to the next, building an atmospheric exploration of what moves teens to engage in mass violence. The topic is terrifying, but this is not a blood and guts story. The story swirls around the collective human heart.

The writing is pretty much brilliant throughout. Some examples:

“The sky! How huge it is, how opposite a thing from the narrowing that has become her life.”

“She loves to laugh at her own First World problems even as she is wallowing in them.”

The Light Fantastic also masterfully touches on the close, even psychic, connection sisters can have.

The story’s weakness is in the looseness of the plot. At times, the narrative dwells too long inside a POV character’s head and begs to be stepped up to the next level through action or dialogue. The main character April has hyperthymesia, meaning she can recall in perfect detail every event connected with her life. As intriguing a trait as this is, April’s gift/curse quickly becomes an excuse to overload the plot with backstory.

Nonetheless, The Light Fantastic is a powerful story. For myriad reasons—cruelty from peers, mental illness, dropping into the rabbit hole of the internet—a person can lose touch with their humanity to the point where they think it is acceptable, even necessary, to engage in mass murder. This book serves as a reminder to us all to connect with other people IN REAL LIFE, to be the one to say something genuine and kind to acknowledge another person as a living, breathing, feeling human being. You never know what difference your words might make, not only in that person’s life but in the lives of others who, perhaps, that person might not decide to kill.

–Eve Messenger

Delightful Interview with Roshani Chokshi, Author of The Star-Touched Queen

In honor of this week’s release of the gorgeous new YA novel, The Star-Touched Queen, I am re-Roshani at ALA Midwinter Conferencerunning a delightful interview I did with author Roshani Chokshi back in February.

 

Why The Star-Touched Queen is a Must-Read:

The Star-Touched Queen is one of the most talked-about YA debut novels of 2016 for good reason. Sarah J. Maas calls Rokshani Chokshi’s writing “flawless.” Then there’s Indian mythology, great world-building (trees that bear memories instead of fruit!?), a unique protagonist you want to root for, plus a cover so beautiful it makes you feel like you’re stepping into a dream.

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Interview with Rokshani Chokshi

Eve:   Roshani, YA fans are already talking about your gorgeous Pinterest page. Where did you find such beautiful pictures to represent The Star-Touched Queen?

RC: Thank you! I guess I got ridiculously lucky on Pinterest. But I also typed in strange things in the search box, like, “gothic jeweled fruit” and “bloody hands.” You’ll get some interesting stuff…

Eve:  What made you fall in love with your novel?

RC: I love this question! I fell in love with it because of its ease. It’s not a new story. It’s threaded with a thousand and one familiar tales, from fairytales to folklore all across the world. But what made me so excited about writing it was tweaking little things and pushing the worldbuilding farther.

Eve:  Are you planning a book tour? If so, what is a question you hope someone asks?

RC: Not sure yet! I know we’re doing a blog tour, and I’m very excited for that. I hope someone asks me what my job would be in the wizarding (and witches!) world of Harry Potter.

Eve:  Now I have to ask. . . What would your job be in the wizarding world of Harry Potter?

RC: I would love to be MINISTER OF MAGIC!!!  Thank you for asking. 🙂

EveThe publishing industry is a notoriously slow-moving machine. From writing to publication, how long was the “birthing” process of your book? What have some of the highlights been?

RC: From writing to sale…about two years. The highlights have been working with my agent and editor who have been incredible champions throughout all my doubts, rewrites and crazy revision ideas.

Eve:  Many YA writers also seem to be music lovers. Did you create a playlist for your novel and, if so, what are some of the songs on it?

RC: Yes! “Satellite” by Guster, “Nagada Sang Dhol” from the Bollywood film Ram-Leela and, don’t laugh, “679” by Fetty Wap. My brain is a many-fangled beast…
spotify:user:227tl52wwdhignryikiunkm2y:playlist:3hE4yTjI7YOKBSMDtrDRve

EveYour eclectic song choices make me want to read the book even more! Speaking of music, YA authors Libba Bray, Natalie Standiford, Barnabas Miller, and Daniel Ehrenhaft have been known to perform at publishing industry events with their band, Tiger Beat. If you were in an authors band, what instrument would you play?

RC: Glass harmonica. It’s just so strange. I must possess it.


Eve:  I LOVE the glass harmonica. Great pick. . .  What are some books you recently read that you loved?

RC: UPROOTED by Naomi Novik recently ate my soul (in the best way possible) and I also loved RADIANCE by Catherynne Valente.

Eve:  Having an online presence is a big deal for writers. How do you balance writing and social media?

RC: I think putting my phone on Do Not Disturb has been the most helpful. Maybe it’s just me, but I  can get anxious on social media. So, if I’m not careful, it can take up way more hours of my day than it should.

EveIn the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

RC: Very much!!! But that’s part of the beauty of writing. We want it to be read, seen and felt. So taking that first step with beta readers and critique partners is a wonderful and terrifying moment.

Eve:  Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

RC: Yes. I found them on sites like Ladies Who Critique or Twitter!

Eve:  Your novel has such an evocative title. Who came up with the title, The Star-Touched Queen? Was this the same title you used when querying agents?

RC: When I queried agents, I used the title “THE GLASS GARDEN.” After signing with my agent, we sold the book when it was titled THE BRIDE OF DUSK AND GLASS. AFTER selling, we changed it to THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN thanks to the geniuses over at MacMillan.

Eve:  What’s your typical writing schedule? Do you reward yourself for meeting writing goals?

RC: I try to get most of my writing done in the morning-early afternoon. The light in myRoshani Chokshi fave reward cadbury bar favorite room is at its softest, and it makes me feel deliciously inspired. I do reward myself! Every 1k gets me half a Cadbury bar. I do, however, frequently break these rules…what are rules for after all…

Eve:  Many writers have dark moments while working on their novels, times when they’re not sure they’ll ever finish. If you encountered hurdles like this, how did you overcome them?

RC: When I get this way (and it does happen), I read my favorite books. I return to the worlds of Neil Gaiman, Laini Taylor and Catherynne Valente. I let them guide me back to why I love writing.

Eve:  Was there any particular epiphany you had while writing your novel when you said to yourself, “Hey, I can do this. I’m going to publish this thing.”

RC: No, actually! And I WISH I DID! When I finished TSTQ, there was a great surge of “wow. I did the thing!” But that was what I was celebrating. Not the idea that I could actually find it on bookshelves one day.

Eve:  Lately, YA book lovers seem to be saying there is an overemphasis on romance in YA fiction. What are your thoughts on this?

RC: I love reading romance in YA. But I don’t think it’s critical to a plot. There are some books, like SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo, which deftly handle characterization and takes the focus away from the characters’ romantic entanglements. Other beautiful books, like ALL OUR PRETTY SONGS by Sarah McCarry, have romance but focus on the friendship and the experience of growing. I have no problem with romance, but I personally prefer books where romance is not the ONLY motivation for the character.

Eve:  Who are some of your favorite fictional characters and why?

RC: Howl, from HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE because he was vain and wonderful and my first serious book boyfriend.    Howl from Howl's Moving Castle

Kaye, from Holly Black’s TITHE because she was fierce and gritty.      Kaye from Tithe

Razgut, from Laini Taylor’s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE trilogy because he was pitiful and deranged and wildly funny.

Eve:  What’s something you really hope people say after they read your novel?

RC: I hope they forget they were reading. I hope they think they’ve tasted fairy fruit and fallen in love and spent time wandering through Otherworldly palaces.

Eve: Best of luck to you, Roshani. Ever since I read your short story, The Star Maiden, in Shimmer magazine, I knew you’d be a great success. Thank you for all your fantastic answers to my questions.

RC: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about writing. I deeply appreciate it.

Eve: Where can your fans reach you?

RC: Pretty much everywhere!

 

 

Interview with Brenda Drake, YA Author & #PitchWars Rock Star #amwriting #amreading

Brenda Drake is a rock star of the writing community. In addition to being a fabulous YA writer in her own right, Brenda is known by authors far and wide as the mastermind behind the Twitter writing contest phenomenon known as #pitchwars. This year saw the publication of Brenda’s YA novel, Thief of Lies, which has a concept book lovers everywhere will adore: characters who time-jump between the world’s most beautiful libraries. Brenda was kind enough to take a moment out of her busy schedule to answer questions about the new book.

Brenda Drake Author Photo1

Interview:

Brenda, you’ve interviewed MANY writers and other industry professionals as part of your involvement in the amazingly successful phenomenon known as Pitch Wars. As a writer who has just released her first book, how does it feel to be on the other side?

It feels great! It’s been such a long journey, but I’ve been distracted enough by the contests and celebrating other writers’ successes that it almost flew by. The community has been so wonderful to me, and I love giving back to writers. I’m humbled by the generosity of the mentors and the participants behind Pitch Wars. It’s been a great run!

What made you fall in love with your novel?

So many things made me fall in love with it. First, there’s the libraries and the ability to jump through pages and end up in another beautiful library anywhere in the world. Then there’s the characters, especially Gia. I’ve been in Gia’s head for so long, she feels real to me.

The publishing industry is a notoriously slow-moving machine. From writing to publication, how long was the “birthing” process of your book? What have some of the highlights been?

This story has taken a long journey. Full of mistakes that took me off the path and on detours before bringing me back to the right road. I started writing this book in 2009. It’s seen me through changing agents and publishers. There were heartbreaking moments and many highlights. I think going through editing and molding the story to what it is today was definitely a one highlight. And when a reader loves your work, that’s a wonderful feeling. I try to tune out the negative now, though it’s hard. I have to say, my journey is what it was supposed to be. It’s what molded me into who I am today. And I couldn’t be more thankful.

The best writers are also huge readers. What are some books you recently read that you
loved?

I’ve been reading many of the Pitch Wars mentors’ books lately. Everyone should try them. They are so good! If you want to try them, they’re listed on my website on the sidebar. You’d be happy you did. A book other than from my Pitch Wars friends? I finished Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Loved it! It was so amazing. You all should read it.

Having an online presence is a big deal for writers. How do you balance writing and social media?

Lately? Poorly. I’m sort of all over the place nowadays, and I just hop on social media during breaks. When I don’t have so much going on, I schedule my day. In the morning, I grab coffee and do social media while I’m waking up. Then I write, hop on social media during lunch, run errands, or clean if I have to. When I’m done, I write until dinner. I’ll usually hop on again at night if there’s nothing going on or haven’t passed out.

In the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

I was terrified about sharing my work with others. I would take critique personally and want to give up. It was horrible. Then I grew up. Now, I tell my critique partners not to sugar coat their critiques of my work. I take it with a shot of whiskey and dive in.

Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

I have a small group of critique partners. I found them online. I met one during NaNoWriMo and the others during my contests. I don’t meet with a group here where I live. It’s all online. I have met my critique partners in person at conferences. They are my writer soulmates and I feel like I’ve known them all my life.

Many writers have dark moments while working on their novels, times when they’re not sure they’ll ever finish. If you encountered hurdles like this, how did you overcome them?

I’ve been through many dark times. I can fall into a depression that will take me time to get out of, so I’m careful. I change my setting – go to a Barnes and Noble or Starbucks to write. If that doesn’t work, I reach out to my writing friends who understand what I’m going through. After I talk it out and get in a better mood, I can jump (pun intended) over those hurdles and plow through what I have to get finished.

Bio:

Brenda Drake is the author of Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers Book 1) and Touching Fate (Fated Series Book1) both available now from Entangled Teen. She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up are of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Links:

brenda-drake.com
Twitter: @brendadrake
Instagram: @brendadrakeauthor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrendaLeeDrake
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7012713.Brenda_Drake

 

Reply Like No One’s Watching (Writing Tag) #amwriting

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Yay, I get to do a writing tag and answer questions thanks to my new writing friend, G. L. “Gwynne” Jackson. Gwynne has a lot of writing knowledge and offers great advice. I hope you get a chance to check out her blog.

G.L. Jackson’s Questions:

 1. It’s the old stranded on a desert island question! Which three books do you take with you? 

  • The Complete Works of Shakespeare because it will keep me occupied on the island for a good long while.  According to Goodreads, The Complete Works of Shakespeare is 1,745 pages long. Amazon says 2,016 (there you go exaggerating, Amazon). This book must weigh a ton. It’s probably what sank my boat.
  • Moby-Dick so I will finally finish it.
  • Whatever book comes floating my way. I like to be surprised.

2. Which author or authors would you cite as your inspiration? V.E. Schwab and Lauren Oliver.

3. What are some of your other creative pursuits beyond writing? Does blogging count? With a full-time job, part-time job, family to raise, and books to read, I’m afraid I don’t have time for other creative pursuits, but I used to be a songwriter.

 4. Tell me about the last TV show you binge-watched. What did you think? Sense8. I liked it!

 5. How did you get your start in writing?  I’ve had several “starts” in writing. In 1st grade, I wrote my first story (see exciting recap below). After college, I attended writing workshops where I learned a lot about craft. Then the “start” that finally took was an inspiring conversation with a friend. 

6. Do you remember the first story you wrote? Can you recap it? Umm, yes. A busy butterfly flies around to all the flowers and trees. A big wind comes, bringing with it a flying Christmas tree. I don’t remember what happens after that.

 7. Fast-forward 60 years into the future. What does society look like to you? (This is a big question, so feel free to narrow it down as you like.) I like to believe the human race figures things out and that the future is beautiful.

8. What’s your go-to guilty-pleasure genre to read? Thriller with a spicy sex scene.

9. Do you consider yourself to be an extrovert or an introvert?An introvert with decent acting skills.

10. What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to give to aspiring writers?Don’t believe the “tortured artist” myth. Do whatever you must to keep writing fun.

Tag, You’re It:

Let’s kick off this list off with three writing Kelly’s, shall we?

Kelly Deeny

Kelly Miles

Kelly F. Barr

Melanie Noell Bernard

Elena Johansen

Alyia J. Helms

Nicolette Elzie

Jennifer F. Santucci

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link to their blog and Twitter in your post.
2. Answer the questions that the blogger who nominated you has provided.
3. Nominate up to 10 other bloggers or Twitter followers
4. Create ten questions for your nominees and notify them of their nomination.

Eve Messenger’s Questions:

  1. What are three things you do really well as a writer?
  2. When you daydream about “making it” as a writer, what do you visualize?
  3. Do you have a regular writing routine? If so, when?
  4. Dogs or cats?
  5. What’s directly to the left of where you’re sitting right now?
  6. When do most of your plot ideas come to you? In bed, on walks, in the shower, while driving, when reading other books?
  7. What’s your most recent writing breakthrough?
  8. Are you able to write in noisy environments?
  9. Have you ever attended a book signing event for an author you admire? If so, what was it like?
  10. Are you better at coming up with titles or elevator pitches?

 

 

 

POLL: What’s Your Favorite Kind of Book Review? #amreading

In your epic pursuit of great books to read, you’ve probably run across hundreds thousands of book reviews, and occasionally you stumble across a real gem. . . of a book review, that is. Maybe it glows with the kind of genuine adoration that touches your book-loving heart, or is so sizzlingly snarky it burns a hole in your computer screen. Maybe the review is so clever and insightful you wish you’d written it yourself.

If you HAD to choose. . .

Would You Rather See the Movie Before or After Reading the Book? @amreading

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Hello, fellow book junkies!  Just a quick question. . . Do you prefer seeing a movie before or after reading the book?

I am freakishly averse to knowing too much about a story before reading it. I enjoy being tantalized by a vague notion of the plot and characters but am the first to cover my eyes at even a hint of a spoiler. Why? Because if I know too much about the plot, I won’t read the book! I can’t. Because, for me, the most enjoyable aspect of reading a book is the thrill of discovery. Without it, reading a novel feels like going through the motions, as in: Oh, that was nicely written, but I know the girl is going to wind up with guy #2 by the end. You get the idea.

As you may have guessed, my answer to the question of whether I’d like to see a movie before or after reading the book is a resounding AFTER. Reading the book beforehand also gives me a more complete picture of the characters and subplots, which makes watching the movie adaptation feel like a more complete experience.

What do you prefer? Are there good reasons for reading a book after watching the movie?

February Wrap-Up & Flash Reviews

Hello, fellow book junkies! In February I’m happy to report I was able to shorten my tower of owned books by four, and I read seven books in all (. . . sort of–see below). My “Rock My TBR Challenge” is looking good so far.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

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This book takes the reader deep into what it must have been like to grow up poor in Brooklyn in the early 20th century. I definitely felt like I was there, and learned a lot about cultural history. There were also some great observations about human nature and family relationships. I’m glad I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, though I didn’t love it.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

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A heavyset teen girl bucks the system and signs up for her small-town beauty pageant run by her mother, a former beauty queen. Good concept. I expected the main character, Willowdean (a.k.a. Dumplin’) to be a big girl who’s comfortable in her own skin, but she isn’t. . . or is she? The theme is frustratingly unclear. There’s a cute jock who loves Willowdean, but we never get any insight into the nuances of their relationship. The writing is good, and there are cute moments with lots of potential, but overall a disappointment.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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A Darker Shade of Magic was the  highlight of my month. I loved the writing, the darkness, the imaginative world-building, the memorable characters, and whoah does Victoria/V.E. Schwab know how to write villains. Her writing is so good that reading it feels as if it´s making me a better writer. Coincidentally, within a week of reading this, my first, V.E. Schwab book, the author tweeted she would be doing a book signing less than 15 miles from my house. Do not pass go, do not collect $200–I had to meet her! In a later post, I’ll share more about what it was like to attend my first book signing event.

Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle

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The title and concept grabbed me–something about a cult, a girl surviving the bizarre disappearance of her mother and father, and the apparent end of the world. This book veered hard into preachy agenda territory, but overall it turned out to be a good, solid read.

Angelfall by Susan Ee

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This plot grabbed me and did not let go until the epic ending. Excellent world-building, and a plot that new exactly where it wanted to go, like a bullet. The only thing I had a hard time with was that a 17-year-old human girl and a 2000-year-old archangel might have a romantic attraction. He’s gorgeous and doesn’t look like an old man, but he is. The angel also had the unfortunate nickname Raffe (pronounced Raffi), which solidly planted in my head an image of an affable guy strumming guitar while singing Baby Beluga to a bunch of kids. That’s just me, folks. The book was really good.

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

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A girl finds out she has inherited the ability to time travel. Sign me up, I thought, but as I read Ruby Red, I kept wishing more would happen. This book turned out to have good staying power, however, because a few days after finishing, I found myself wanting to  return to this imaginary world. I definitely plan to read the next book in the trilogy, Sapphire Blue. I was surprised to learn that the Ruby Red trilogy was originally written in German, which definitely added interest for a linguistics nerd like me. Translators deserve more credit! Sure, they’re translating someone else’s words, but they’re also WRITING A BOOK, so, kudos to Anthea Bell for doing a great job on the translation–not that I read German (I wish I did so I could read my favorite poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, in his original language), but the story read well.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

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I just want to start by saying I love author Jenny Han, her personality, her openness, her humor, just everything about her. But wait a minute. Hold up. Cue screech of a needle across record album. I could not finish this book. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before ended up being a DNF. The main character was sweet, the concept was intriguing (letters Laura Jean privately penned to all the boys she’s loved end up mistakenly being mailed to them), but as hard as I tried, I could not get through this book. I may have to face that saccharine,  very-young adult books might not be my cup of tea.

I’m sorry to end on a DNF note, especially re: a book that so many people adore but, all in all, it was a really enjoyable month of reading. I hope you’re getting to read lots of good books, too. 😀

–Eve Messenger

Best YA Debut Novels of 2016. Giveaway & Author Q&A: Kathryn Purdie – Burning Glass @KathrynPurdie #amreading

Hello, book lovers! As a special salute to this month’s Q&As with authors of 2016’s BEST YA DEBUT NOVELS, this final February interview includes a special GIVEAWAY of book swag from Kathryn Purdie’s debut novel, Burning Glass. For a chance to win, all you have to do is “like” this post before Saturday 2/27/16. The winner must also be willing to provide a mailing address so I can, you know, send you the swag. 🙂

Today’s Must-Read YA Debut Author Is . . .

Kathryn Purdie who, in addition to her obvious talent for writing, is a classically trained actress. Kathryn was inspired to write the Burning Glass debut trilogy while recovering from donating a kidney to her older brother.

Kathryn Purdie

Why Burning Glass is a Must-Read:

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An immersive page-turner with luscious writing and a complex heroine. Because of Sonya’s unique ability to physically and emotionally feel what those around her feel, she is forced into the employ of the emperor where she must protect him by sensing the intentions of would-be assassins.

The Interview

Eve: What made you fall in love with your novel?

K.P.: How surprising and flawed Sonya is as a character. She constantly shocked me and delighted me as I wrote her. Her unpredictability is my favorite thing.

Eve: When is your book’s official release date?

K.P.: My book releases March 1st. I haven’t seen the finished copy yet. I’m on pins and needles!

Eve: Many writers also seem to be music lovers. Did you create a playlist for your novel and, if so, what are some of the songs on it?

K.P.: I LOVE music, but I can’t listen to vocal music while I write, or I just want to sing along! So I write to soundtracks. I wrote almost all of BURNING GLASS to the film score of BELLE by Rachel Portman. The best vocal song that embodies the mood of BURNING GLASS is “Can’t Pretend,” by Tom Odell. I allow myself to listen to it while I revise, because revisions take less brainpower than drafting for me (so the vocal music isn’t so distracting).

Eve: Speaking of music.. . included in your book swag is a novel-inspired song you wrote and performed called “Song for Anton.” Clearly you are a musician. If you were in an all-authors band (like YA authors Libba Bray, Natalie Standiford, Barnabas Miller, and Daniel Ehrenhaft’s “Tiger Beat”), what instrument would you play?

K.P.: I would play the guitar—and I do play the guitar! My dad taught me when I was sixteen. I spent the rest of high school torturing all my friends with renditions of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” One funny thing about my guitar playing is I am the world’s worst strummerMy dad taught me folk songs and how to finger pluck, and that’s still the way I play.

Tiger Beat all-authors band Nicole Brinkley-YA Interrobang

Tiger Beat all-authors band – YA Interrobang/Nicole Brinkley

Eve: The best writers are also huge readers. What are some books you recently read that you loved?

K.P.: THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD by Emily Henry (Pure magic and a sweeping feeling of nostalgia, intellect, and true love.)

A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE by Brittany Cavallaro (Awesome twist on Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is a modern girl in this version.)

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir (Amazing world, execution, and the concept of Masks fascinates me.)

Purdie three recent favorite reads

Eve: Having an online presence is a big deal for writers. How do you balance writing and social media?

K.P.: I don’t balance it! I’m still trying to figure that out. I’ve recently downloaded the “Freedom” app to force me to stay offline while I write and revise. Wish me luck!

Eve: In the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

K.P.: I’m always shy about sharing what I’ve written. I’ve learned that I like to stay very alone with my concept and draft until I’ve made it the best it can be. Of course, I can’t do this anymore since I’m having a trilogy published. I have to discuss my future books often with my editor. But I don’t mind. She loves these books and is as equally invested in them as I am.

Eve: Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

K.P.: I met my critique group at the first writing conference I attended a few years ago. We hard core critiqued each other’s manuscripts the first years we were together. Now our schedules don’t allow for us to have time to critique everything (some of us are published and have tight deadlines), so we’re more of a support group now. But these ladies are very special to me and have gotten me through some intense times!

Eve: Who came up with the title of your novel? Was it the same title you used when querying agents?

My editor, together with the sales and marketing team at my publisher, came up with the name, BURNING GLASS. They wanted something moody, atmospheric, and symbolic. It’s not an obvious title. When you read the book, you have to think hard about why that’s the title. That’s why I love it! My original title for the book was AURASEER, which is the type of empath Sonya is in the story. That term remains in the book, but it didn’t stick as the title. 🙂

Eve: Many writers have dark moments while working on their novels, times when they’re not sure they’ll ever finish. If you encountered hurdles like this, how did you overcome them?

K.P.: I didn’t experience this for BURNING GLASS (a rare exception to my norm), but I have for the next book in the trilogy, which I’m still working on. To get through all that, I lean on my support group of author friends and my amazing husband, I get practical advice on things I’m struggling with (like turning off my inner editor), and I cling to a strong vision that somehow I’ll succeed. Writing a book is hard, and it truly takes a village.

Eve: Was there any particular epiphany you had while writing your novel when you said to yourself, “Hey, I can do this. I’m going to publish this thing.”

K.P.: From the moment I had the idea to write BURNING GLASS, I knew this book would be special and different. I had another book planned and outlined, and I set it all aside when this story popped into my head. It flowed out of me with little difficulty, compared to previous novels. In all ways, it really felt “meant to be,” and I had high hopes for it.

Eve: Where can your fans reach you?

Website: kathrynpurdie.com
Twitter: @kathrynpurdie
Instagram: kathrynpurdie
Tumblr: kathrynpurdie