May 24, 2016

MIRROR IN THE SKY by Aditi Khorana

Today I have the lovely Aditi Khorana, author of MIRROR IN THE SKY (June 21, 2016), on the blog! What an amazing book with great characters and a compelling premise. Definitely give this one a try and learn more about Aditi and her book in the interview below.

Book Blurb:
For Tara Krishnan, navigating Brierly, the academically rigorous prep school she attends on scholarship, feels overwhelming and impossible. Her junior year begins in the wake of a startling discovery: A message from an alternate Earth, light years away, is intercepted by NASA. This means that on another planet, there is another version of Tara, a Tara who could be living better, burning brighter, because of tiny differences in her choices.

As the world lights up with the knowledge of Terra Nova, the mirror planet, Tara’s life on Earth begins to change. At first, small shifts happen, like attention from Nick Osterman, the most popular guy at Brierly, and her mother playing hooky from work to watch the news all day. But eventually those small shifts swell, the discovery of Terra Nova like a black hole, bending all the light around it.

As a new era of scientific history dawns and Tara's life at Brierly continues its orbit, only one thing is clear: Nothing on Earth--and for Tara--will ever be the same again.
Hi Aditi! Thank you so much for joining me! I've been hearing more and more in the news about the possibility of alternate realities or infinite universes, but you wrote this book quite some time ago. Where did you originally get the idea?

I wrote the book in 2014, right around the time that Cosmos was airing on TV. I kept seeing all these articles in the news about the discovery of Earth-like planets, and I started to realize that we probably will discover intelligent life on other planets at some point in my life. But the original idea actually came from a Dear Sugar column: The Ghost Ship That Didn't Carry Us. This column gave me goose bumps and made me think about all the paths we don't choose. What happens to those possibilities? Are there alternate versions of us somewhere out in another dimension living the lives we didn't live? And what if we conclusively learned about the existence of our Other selves? What would that do to our collective conscious?

Very interesting! While this is a SciFi book, it is also a timely contemporary story about a group of high school friends just trying to figure their own lives out. How did you come up with such individual yet intersecting stories?

Oddly, many of these characters came to me in dreams. Like, specific facets of their personalities, even things they said in the book, and I developed them from there. 

I love how dreams can speak to us. Which character to you identify with the most and why?

I identify with Tara quite a bit. Like her, I was practically the only brown person at a predominantly white Connecticut high school, and like her, I'm a bit of an introvert. I also spent most of high school reading books under my desk, contending with daily microaggressions and basically wishing I could burn the place down (I actually don't think you're allowed to say that as a brown person because, you know, racial profiling).

Thanks for sharing that. Your story and Tara's story are very much needed to be heard. I loved how authentic Tara's voice and experiences were in the book. I can't wait to read more from you! Do you have a favorite writing tip? How about a query tip for newer writers out there?

I've always liked the idea of writing being a daily relay race. You want to get as far as you can to set the next person in the relay up for success. Except the next person is you, tomorrow, if that makes sense. So I always try and stay ahead of Tomorrow Aditi and set her up to be productive and happy.

Wow. I love that analogy! So powerful to intentionally set yourself up for success tomorrow. Will there be a sequel to MIRROR IN THE SKY? What are you working on now?

There are no plans for a sequel. At the moment, I'm working on two novels: a YA feminist fantasy set in ancient India during the time of Alexander the Great's imperial conquest of the region, and an adult novel. It's literary fiction about an immigrant family contending with a secret about their past.

I can't wait to read them, Aditi, and wish you all the best writing successes along your journey! Thank you so much for sharing here today.

Bio:
Aditi Khorana spent part of her childhood in India, Denmark and New England. She has a BA in International Relations from Brown University and an MA in Global Media and Communications from the Annenberg School for Communication. She has worked as a journalist at ABC News, CNN, and PBS, and most recently as a marketing executive consulting for various Hollywood studios including FOX, Paramount and SONY. MIRROR IN THE SKY is her first novel. She lives in Los Angeles and spends her free time reading, hiking, and exploring LA's eclectic and wonderful architecture. 

Twitter: @aditi_khorana
Instagram: aditi_khorana

May 13, 2016

BORN TO TREASON by E.B. Wheeler

I read E.B. Wheeler's BORN TO TREASON and truly loved it! This Historical Fiction/Romance has a Pride and Prejudice meets Beauty and the Beast feel set in Wales during the English Reformation. If covers are any indication of how good a book is, just look at this cover. Gorgeous and lush, just like the story itself.

BORN TO TREASON starts out with what I think is one of the best first lines and opening paragraphs I've read in a very long time. And then the rest of the book does not disappoint. Joan Pryce risks losing her faith or her life throughout this adventurous book which is set during the time when Catholicism had been outlawed by Queen Elizabeth I. Joan is Catholic and must balance her faith, family ties and new-found love discretely or risk her life. Through difficult choices, Joan learns not to judge others even in the midst of holding onto her convictions. She is a well-drawn, complex character who fully came to life in my mind. I did not want the book to end, and I will likely read this one again.

I highly recommend this book. A 5 star book. Click over to your favorite bookseller or visit your local indie bookstore and ask for BORN TO TREASON by E.B. Wheeler.

Description: Joan Pryce is not only a Catholic during the English Reformation but also Welsh, and comes from a family of proud revolutionaries. But when a small act of defiance entangles her in a deadly conspiracy, a single misstep may lead her straight to the gallows. Now, Joan must navigate a twisting path that could cost her life, her freedom, and her chance of finding love.

E.B. Wheeler grew up in Georgia and California. She attended BYU, majoring in history with an English minor, and earned graduate degrees in history and landscape architecture from Utah State University. She's the award-winning author of THE HAUNTING OF SPRINGETT HALL and BORN TO TREASON, as well as several short stories, magazine articles, and scripts for educational software programs. She lives in the mountains of Utah with her husband, daughters, various pets, and as many antique roses as she can cram into her yard. If she had spare time, she would spend it playing harp and hammered dulcimer, gardening, hiking, shooting archery, knitting, and reading.



Add to your Goodreads list or buy at: Amazon     Barnes & Noble

May 10, 2016

THE BFF BUCKET LIST by Dee Romito

I'm so excited to have the fabulous Dee Romito, author of THE BFF BUCKET LIST, on my blog today. If you need a fun, sweet, full-hearted read this summer, this is the one! Check it out and read on to learn more about Dee, her inspiration and even get a sneak peak at her next book!

Blurb:
Ella and Skyler have been best friends since kindergarten. Although lately, things have been different.

Ella’s determined to fix things with a fun project she’s sure will bring them closer together—The BFF Bucket List. But as new friends, epic opportunities, and super-cute boys enter the picture, the challenges on the list aren’t the only ones they face.

1. What is the inspiration behind THE BFF BUCKET LIST and your main characters? How did you make them come alive in the story and/or who do you most relate with?
I wanted to write a story that showed readers at that age that it’s completely normal for friends to drift apart and that it’s okay to want to have new experiences. When we’re kids, we’re often convinced that our friendships will always stay the same, but the truth is that they evolve and grow over time. Sometimes the strongest friendships are those that give each other room to discover their interests and goals. I’ve known some of my best friends since kindergarten.

I chose to write the story from two points of view because I thought it was important to see both sides of the story. It’s no one’s fault that the girls are drifting apart, and the reader gets to see more of what’s going on this way. Plus it was fun as an author to really dive into what each character was thinking and feeling.

I think I most relate to Skyler because I’m always making new friends and look forward to upcoming adventures. On the other hand, Ella’s the girl who will do anything to keep the friendship strong and that’s certainly me as well.

2. I love that you showed the two sides of the story. How long did it take you to get published, starting with writing your first draft? What was your path to publication like?
It was about three and a half years from the start of my first manuscript until I got my book deal. From the start of the journey to book launch day was five years.

I started that manuscript in 2011 and went to my first writing conference--Pennwriters in Pittsburgh, PA. I got an agent a year later, but that book didn’t sell, and for various reasons, we amicably parted ways.

Two years after that first conference, I went to Pennwriters again. I decided last-minute to do a pitch session, and I ended up signing with my current agent three days later. I got the book deal for THE BFF BUCKET LIST a little over a year after that.

In 2015, I went to the same conference again, but that time I was a presenter. I feel like that one event alone tells my publishing story. 

3. What is your favorite task on the BFF Bucket List? How did you come up with that one in particular? 
Probably the one depicted on the cover—going shopping in pajamas and having a shopping cart race. It was one that I instantly loved when I was doing my research, and from the beginning, I planned on making my friends do that one with me when the book came out. ;)

4. Now I want to be one of your friends, running through the aisles at my local grocery store! What is one of your favorite writing tips that would inspire other writers? How about a query tip?
I’d say to keep in mind that writing doesn’t have to be done in front of the computer. Your brain needs time to process new content and ideas, so sometimes, stepping away and doing something else is exactly what you need. I get some of my best ideas when I’m cleaning, going for a bike ride, or even sleeping!

My best advice when it comes to querying is to remember that you’re looking for someone who loves your writing and will really champion it. It’s hard to see the big picture when you’re so focused on getting an agent, but those rejections mean it’s not the right fit. At least not for that story or at that time. Do your research, be professional, and keep at it.

5. What are you working on now? Will there be a sequel to the BFF gang? Do you have a sneak peek to what you're working on?
I’m working on a couple middle grades that will release from Aladdin in 2017. ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES is about a twelve-year-old girl who’s used to flying around the country for her father's job. When she gets a chance to go to middle school for six weeks, she sets out to see what she can accomplish without her VIP status.

SEVEN SIDES TO EVERY STORY is one I’m writing with six other Aladdin authors! It’s told from the perspective of seven different, but intersecting characters, and is centered around a middle school dance.

And once those are turned in, I’m excited to go back to a football-themed, what if? kind of story that my son is actually helping me write. J

Yes, I’d love to do a sequel for the BFF gang, but there’s nothing in the works as of now.

A sneak peek? Okay, here are a few lines from Kenzie in an early draft of ARRIVALS & DEPARTURES. Although I can’t promise they’ll still be in it when the book comes out.

 "Middle school might not have room service, free shampoo, and random celebrity sightings, but it has more activities than even most front desks can offer. Now the question is, how far can I actually get on my own, as a regular kid with no VIP privileges? Only one way to find out."

That sounds great, Dee! I can't wait to read your next book. Thanks for joining me today and best of luck to you on your writing journey!

Dee Romito lives in her hometown of Buffalo, New York. You’re likely to find her on adventures with her husband and two energetic kids, at the local ice cream shop, or curled up in a comfy chair with her cats. She loves to write, travel, and giggle like a teenager with her friends.
Dee is a member of SCBWI and Co-Advisor of Buffalo-Niagara Children’s Writers and Illustrators. You can visit her website at DeeRomito.com.

THE BFF BUCKET LIST

April 25, 2016

COUNTING THYME by Melanie Conklin

So, if you hadn't noticed before, there were three other authors whose debut middle grade books released the same day as mine on April 12th. One of them was Melanie Conklin, the author of COUNTING THYME, a beautifully written, heartwarming story. Today, I am honored to interview her on my blog!

Book Blurb:
When eleven-year-old Thyme Owen’s little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move from San Diego to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. Thyme struggles to reconcile her longing to return home with her growing awareness of the significance of Val’s new treatment, and the fear that returning home would mean returning without him.

Thanks for joining me today, Melanie!

1. What inspired you to write COUNTING THYME? What is your heart behind this book?
The story of COUNTING THYME began with the question that prompts every creative endeavor: What if? I’d read several middle grade and young adult novels at that time that focused on a child facing a challenging circumstance, and I asked myself what it would be like to be that child's sibling. I thought it would be really difficult to reconcile loving your family members with your own wants and needs, especially as a middle schooler, when the world is just beginning to open up. This is the situation Thyme finds herself in—her little brother is battling cancer, so the whole family moves across the country to New York to get him the treatment he needs. It’s a time of great upheaval and hope for the whole family.

2. I think it's wonderful and needed that you wrote from the perspective of a sibling of someone going through a hard time. How did Thyme and Val come to life for you as you started this book out? Do you have any writing tips for making characters seem like real people?
Thyme showed up as soon as the idea for the story popped into my head—she was new to New York, and she didn’t like the city at all. As I dug deeper, I realized that her feelings about the city were tied to her fears about accepting what was happening with her little brother, Val. I felt like I knew Thyme’s heart from page one. With Val, it took several passes to peel back the layers into his character and discover the humor and strength at his core. Of course I drew from my own boys, who were close to his age, but Val ended up very much his own person—superhero and train obsessed, focused on the simple joys in life and tougher than I’ll ever be.

3. No wonder I fell in love with them! I'd love to know more about how you're giving back with this book? I heard something about cookies and that you're giving a portion of your proceeds to a worthy cause.
Thank you so much for asking! Many years ago (long before I started writing), I helped bake cookies to raise funds for pediatric cancer research with a group called Cookies For Kids’ Cancer. The struggles that these families faced in the course of treatment touched my soul and inspired parts of my story. After I wrote COUNTING THYME, I wanted to give back, so I partnered with CFKC to promote pediatric cancer awareness. A portion of my pre-order proceeds will support pediatric cancer research, and we’ve hosted wonderful bake sales at my launch events! It’s been a wonderful and fulfilling part of the journey.

4. Very inspiring to hear ways that authors can give back! What has been the most satisfying part of your journey as an author? What has been the most surprising or challenging part?
Perhaps the most surprising part of publishing is how supportive the writing community is of debut authors. I have been surprised again and again by the generosity and care that established authors show, and I aspire to do the same thing for others in the coming years. The flip side of that wonderful surprise is the sometimes solitary nature of the work. There were days that I felt overwhelmed and incapable. Writing isn’t always joyful. By now, I’ve learned to be a little kinder to myself. Sometimes you need to fill the well. Sometimes you need a milkshake! The work takes place in many ways, and it’s best to give your mind some space to breathe.

5. I absolutely agree...especially about the milkshake! What is one of your favorite writing tips for writers out there who are still in the query trenches? How about a query tip?
One piece of writing advice that I don’t think we hear often enough is to give your creativity room to grow. It’s very easy to heed the call of the laptop, but if you find yourself stuck, consider writing by hand. Try notebooks. Color. Paint. Doodle! There is great value in play. I have many of my best ideas when I’m just goofing around, or joking with a friend. As far as querying goes, my advice is to focus on the conflict your character is facing. What do they want? Why is that a challenge? We need to understand the problem they’re facing and what it will cost them if they don’t get what they want. The plot of a story can change—what we need to connect with is the heart.

That's great advice, Melanie. Thanks again for sharing your experiences here!



Bio:
Melanie Conklin is a writer, reader, and life-long lover of books and those who create them. She lives in South Orange, New Jersey with her husband and two small maniacs, who are thankfully booklovers, too. Melanie spent a decade as a product designer and approaches her writing with the same three-dimensional thinking and fastidious attention to detail. Counting Thyme is her debut middle grade novel, coming from G.P. Putnam’s Sons on April 12, 2016.

April 23, 2016

ARTIFACTS by Pete Catalano

Today, I have Pete Catalano on the blog for his debut MG, ARTIFACTS, which is a super fun and inventive fantasy adventure.



Description: It's funny how one little letter can change a person's life. Jax and his friends have been planning the summer of a lifetime at Camp Runamuck. However, when one of them is facing summer at a school desk for failing English, they watch those plans crash and burn!

At the last moment they're given a way out.

An extra credit assignment to find several fake artifacts for a fairy tale display their teacher is presenting at the local library.

Thinking they've hit the easiest-extra-credit-ever jackpot, they begin rummaging through any piles of junk they can find. As they start putting the clues together, they realize that what they're really searching for is one authentic artifact that can rewrite fairy tales!

Enlisting the aid of the Lost Boys, Jax and his friends battle fairy tale villains to see who can get their hand, or their hook, on it first.

 Thanks for joining me, Pete!

1. Can you share with us a bit about your path to publication? How long did it take for you to write your first draft? To find your agent or editor?

The Path to Publication is filled with waiting.
Waiting to see if your ideas can be woven so that they actually come together at the end.
Waiting while the person whose opinion you really value reads it.
Waiting while you rewrite it and try to find the right words.
Waiting while you submit to someone and see if they like it too.
Once you get through all the “not for me,” “doesn’t fit my list,” I’m sure someone else,” and finally get an “I would love to take a look at it,” then the waiting starts again.

I write quickly, so the first draft of ARTIFACTS probably took me four weeks.
From there I rewrote it a few times and then submitted directly to Month9Books. Georgia was kind enough to ask for it right away but the story really didn’t get a lot of life to it until it was read by my editor Tara Creel who laughed when it was funny and made me make some tough choices when it wasn’t. It took me a very short time to find my Editor, but I’m still trying to find my Agent.


2. What inspired you to write such a fantastical mash-up of a story with such great, fun characters?

I’ve always loved fairy tales and the books and movies associated with them. (My daughter and I went to see The Little Mermaid 17 weekends in a row when it first came out. LOL) My stories that work best for me are always of several friends together on sometimes a life and death adventure but no matter how dire the circumstances may be, never missing a chance to make fun of their friends. One day I thought of how cool it would be if there was an artifact that could rewrite fairy tales and, if there was, which one of the fairy tale villains would be sent to find it. That of course led to the question that was the fairy tale heroes found out who would they send to help the kids against them.


3. Which character in ARTIFACTS do you relate to the most and why?

Jax of course! He’s the idea guy. They need to go to camp together. Now they had to help Crunch with his extra credit so there would be no man left behind. Once he found out what Bartholomew was really up to he did put his life on the line a few times. I had the most fun in Jax’s interactions with Gaston and how he was always turning the tables on him and then poor La Fool took the brunt of it. Jax had to make a lot of decisions but he had good friends around him that he could trust. Any one of them could have been the hero in the story and at certain times they were.

However, I have to say that I think there really is a little bit of Crunch in everybody. And I relate to the James Hook who never made it on to Blackbeard’s ship in the first place and turned out to be a good man.


4. What is the craziest thing you learned or Googled while writing your book?

That Hook and Smee were both named Bartholomew. As Mouth said, “Who the heck in their right mind would name a pirate Bartholomew?”

I also had to create a lot of fantasy in this story, a lot of magic. How the thickets would react, what would body parts that were turned into cartoons act like, how fast would things appear or disappear once they used Jacob Grimm’s pen. As things were put into motion, suddenly other very unexpected things would pop up making the story even funnier.


5. What is your favorite writing tip? How about a query tip? 

Writing Tip: Write fast and let your story come out. You will have to go back and revise later anyway so don’t slow down and worry about every word choice the first time around. When I write I like to rewrite the last page I had written so I get back into the swing of things quickly. The one thing that has really worked for me is that as I write I’m seeing everything play through in my mind as if I’m watching a movie and then I just write it all down.


Query Tip:  Do your homework. Be selective. Don’t send out a thousand of them to anyone who has the word Agent in their title. Send out ten at a time and wait. You’ll have to do a lot of waiting in this business so this would be a great place to start.


Pete Catalano’s books are written for kids of all ages — and adults who secretly never grew up. He lives in Charlotte, NC with his adorably funny wife and two neurotic dogs. Pete was a theatre major in college and tries to keep the ‘suspension of disbelief’ in his life as much as he can.