Girl Made of Stars: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I had the wonderful honor of receiving a copy of Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Blake from HMH Teen. This book is due out in May 2018.

Before I start this review, there are two things to note:

  • This review will contain minimal spoilers so no need to click away.
  • If you are triggered by sexual assault, please take caution reading this book. Sexual Assault is the plot and deals not only with this, but with consent, slut-shaming, victim blaming, and how sexual assault is handled by the criminal justice system.

With that being said, let’s dive in.

Girl Made of Stars is one of the most powerful, heartbreaking, and hopeful books I’ve ever read. I will not say it is an easy read, because the subject matter is heavy and an overwhelming problem in society, but this book puts it all on the table. Ashley Blake challenges the notion of choosing the easy way out, of being complacent, of what happens when trust is obliterated.

31351689The story opens up with a glimpse into Mara and Owen’s lives. They are twins and they are as close as expected, a pair that has always found comfort in storytelling and constellations. You immediately feel their genuine bond and their unwavering security in one another. You also get a glimpse into their family and social circles. For being teenagers, their lives have a solid foundation.

But all of this unravels quickly as Hannah, one of Mara’s closest friends, doesn’t show up to school and a phone call to her parents reveals Hannah’s family wants to sue for what Owen did to her. It doesn’t click in Mara’s head at first. Her brother wouldn’t rape anybody, let alone Hannah. On the opposite end, Hannah wouldn’t lie about being raped. Quickly, Mara is thrown into a whirlwind of not only deciphering what’s real and what’s not, but memories of her own past she hasn’t allowed herself to discuss. She is also dealing with breaking up with her girlfriend Charlie, as she doesn’t want their friendship ruined by dating.

Throughout the story, we see Mara break apart and the strings connecting her to her family and to her twin snap. We see her trying to deal with a past that has been weighing her down for so long. We see her trying to reconcile with Hannah, if there is anything she can say that will fix what her brother has done. We see her trying to figure out if she is immediately a bad person because of her brother’s actions and if there is any way to mend that relationship. We see her trying to understand love. Ashley Blake tosses us into a whirlwind as Mara breaks apart and it is up to her how she chooses to piece herself back together.  There is no easy way to deal with rape, to have the image of someone you’ve known all your life be destroyed. She is pulled in two directions: needing to be what her family wants her to be and doing what she knows is right.

This book made me angry for all the stories that get swept under the rug, for everyone this happens to without any justice.

This book made me sad because my heart broke for Mara and for Hannah and for anyone who has suffered this.

This book made me hope because Ashley Blake doesn’t leave her readers drowning in darkness and confusion and pain. She offers stepping stones, small bits of light to cling to, to pull yourself up.  She in no way makes it sound as if dealing with sexual assault is easy.

You will not forget this book. I know I won’t. It is thought provoking, emotionally challenging, and leaves you speechless. It takes a close look at sexual assault and how many people it truly affects.  It pulls at your heart strings and it is so well done.

When this book comes out – if you’re able to – pick it up and prepare yourself for a powerful narrative that needs to be read.

Xx

Megan

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What to Know: Publishing

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So you want to work in publishing?

YAY – shoots confetti from a cannon- The publishing world is happy to have you, but there are a few things you should know. These tips are mostly from my experience with publishing as well as some friends of mine and in no way dictate the experience you will have. Also note that I work in the United States so not all of this information may apply to international publishing houses.

Before Applying for a Job in Publishing:

  1. A large percentage of jobs will require a college degree. The most commonly asked for degrees will be a B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) in English or Creative Writing. I’ve seen some jobs extend outward to Communications, Journalism, and even just an arts degree in general, but the main two are listed above. The reason for wanting these degrees is so employers know that you’ve had experience with critical reading and writing.
  2. Be familiar with Microsoft Office. Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel are three main programs used constantly in publishing. Get acquainted with them now. Learn how to do track changes in Word, which is critical for reviewing manuscripts, how to set up PowerPoints, and how to format a data sheet in Excel. Upon getting a job, you will likely be trained on software that is specific to your company. This software will hold all of their information regarding their books, authors, and the like.
  3. Know the market beforehand. This is a super impressive thing when you’re meeting with potential employers and companies. They want to know that you’re paying attention to their brand, but also to a genre’s audience, trends, and popular books. If you want to work in fiction, it wouldn’t hurt to browse through a list of best-selling books, top publishing houses, and social media.
  4. Get an internship. Not everyone may have the time or means to acquire an internship, but if you can, please do. These will help make your application stand out and show employers you’re working towards your goal. Also, your chances of getting a job increase for a particular publisher if you’ve interned there before.I will warn you that a lot of internships are unpaid. You will either be offered a small stipend or request that you do the internship in exchange for college credit. Another important fact is the majority of internships are not offered to graduates (those going for a master’s degree or above). Publishing internships are geared for seniors in high school and those attending college. If you want an internship, plan ahead. Some publishers offer internships all year round, while others strictly in the summer.
  5. Publishing is not an easy business to get into. It is very competitive and often constrained to major cities, New York being a central hub. It took me six months to land a job. For friends of mine, it took over a year. Prepare for this, both physically and mentally. It can wear you down.Some companies offer remote positions, where you can work from anywhere, or chances to work from home. Unfortunately, these are still the minority.
  6. Where to look. Here are the sites that I used to search for jobs.http://bookjobs.com
    http://jobzone.publishersweekly.com/
    https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/jobs/
    https://www.mediabistro.com/

    A publisher’s website. A lot of the times, a publishing company will have their own section on careers and how to apply.

    Twitter. Editors and sometimes publishing companies post when jobs are open and the contact person to go to. Keep an eye on these!

 

The Interview:

Congratulations, you’ve secured an interview, maybe even several. Here is where you should go from there!

  1. Have a writing sample or portfolio ready. A good handful of jobs I applied to wanted a writing sample or several pieces gathered into a portfolio. Plan ahead and organize which pieces you want for this. They should be pieces that showcase your talent, voice, and how you analyze a text. Sometimes, the company will tell you what to write about and in that case, it’s up to you to craft a piece.Bring these samples with you, (I suggest two to three copies), to your interview even if you send them ahead via email. There could be multiple people who want to see your work or have a physical copy to read later as they make their decision.
  2. Include your social media on your resume. Publishing is very much an industry about getting the word out and that is mainly through social media, bloggers, etc. If you have a blog related to publishing, writing, editing, or similar topics, mention it on your resume. Note: This should only apply if it’s mainly professional and updated regularly. Employers don’t want to read about your daily life, but rather things that relate to the field. This can help show them your engagement.
  3. Questions you’ll be asked. No interview is the same, but there are some questions you should have answers prepared for. Taking time to think is fine. However, you don’t want to be caught on the spot with a potential employer. Interviews are already nerve-wracking enough.A) What’s your favorite book or a book you read recently?
    B) How do you react under pressure/how do you stay organized?
    C) What do you know about (insert genre, publishing house, assigned task here)?
    D) Why did you choose our publishing house?
    E) What is your biggest strength?

 

The Work Itself:

You’ve got yourself a job! I hope you’re celebrating because this is a big deal especially if it’s your first one in publishing or your first one out of college. Here’s what you should know.

  1. Timelines change. There are so many things that can happen that affect a schedule you were originally given. Be prepared for sudden changes that can either push back a book, make it jump weeks in the schedule, or make you scramble for documents you thought you had ready ages ago. Like any job, publishing relies on a lot of hands and not everything runs smoothly. Keep a schedule, a planner, post-it notes, tons of computer folders-whatever you need to stay on top of things.
  2. People can suck. You’re going to have to talk to a lot of people on a daily basis, whether it be other editors, different departments, or authors. When you work with authors who put a lot of time and effort into their projects, they can get upset/angry if you have to tell them no, change schedules, or give edits on their manuscript. This is bound to happen, hopefully not daily, but there are occasions where you’ll get a nasty email or voicemail. There isn’t much you can do other than be as understanding as you can or realize in your mind their words are not valid and they’re venting because the process didn’t go as they wanted. Or you know, they wonder why you didn’t take them when they’ve written the next Harry Potter.Don’t take the harshness to heart. If something is really bothering you, talk to a coworker of your boss or even step away if you can.
  3. Book people everywhere. My favorite part about my job is being surrounded by book lovers. A few weeks ago, I went to lunch with my coworkers and had an hour long conversation about classic literature-what we love, hate, and want to reread. It makes time fly and also puts me in a comfortable place. You will hopefully get this feeling as you enter publishing, because you can’t do this job if you don’t have a love for reading and stories.

Those are my main tips, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Xx

Megan

Books, Books, Books: Chatting with Amanda Foody

Hello Readers & Writers,

I had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Foody, author of Daughter of the Burning City which just came out July 25th from Harlequin Teen. This is wonderfully dark young adult fantasy with characters you won’t forget and an ending that will make your heart race. If you’re interested in my review of it, click here.

Amanda also has a brand new book coming out April 24th, 2018 from Harlequin Teen called Ace of Shades, and she was super sweet to talk to me about both.

Before I kick off the interview, here is a synopsis of Daughter of the Burning City and Ace of Shades.


30237061.jpgSixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

No cover yet for Ace of Shades is available, but I’ll put it here once it is. 

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she’ll need to play.

Out of Character Questions:
1. Through talking with authors, I’ve found that some have always written in one way or another while others start later in life. When did you begin writing? 
Amanda: I started writing around the time I started reading. I genuinely don’t even remember a beginning. I took myself very seriously as a child, and I was always pretty ambitious. At eleven years old, I was checking out those Writers Digest Guides to Literary Agents at my local library, writing and finishing children’s novels, and fantasizing about being published as a teenager. It didn’t quite happen that way, but that drive to work hard no matter what fueled me then and still fuels me now. I take my dreams seriously. 

2. DOTBC or Daughter of The Burning City for those who have yet to read your lovely debut novel, is a pretty dark fantasy. What inspired the characters and the circus setting? 
Amanda: I started the project as an assignment in a creative writing class during a free-writing session. I didn’t have a ton of inspiration, honestly, for that initial project. I just wrote a genre-bending story of fantasy and mystery that I thought was weird and fun, as I usually used my creative writing courses as an opportunity to experiment. A year later, once I actually sat down to write the novel, I read THE NIGHT CIRCUS and fell in love with Erin Morgenstern’s carnival atmosphere. I tried to capture a lot of that in DOTBC as well. 

3. What was your biggest challenge writing DOTBC? 
Amanda: Combining fantasy and mystery. It really does blend the genres, mixing the plot of a classic whodunit with an over-arching world in conflict. It also means combining the mystery elements with the magic of the world itself. I felt like I was building its plot out Jenga towers and praying my readers could envelop themselves in the fantasy world enough that, when magic becomes part of the answer to the mystery, it still feels satisfying. I like to think I pulled it off (hopefully!).

4. If you could bring any of your characters from DOTBC to life, would you? And if so, which one? I want to vote Luca because he’s definitely a favorite of mine. 
Amanda: Luca would definitely be fascinating. I think I’d pick Nicoleta, though, who is Sorina’s very responsible older sister. She started as a true side character before quietly demanding more of the story, and I’ve grown very fond of her. I’d love to give her a hug.

5. Switching gears to your second novel, Ace of Shades, did you have a different writing process for this than DOTBC? Based on the description, it sounds like it falls into the crime genre. 
Amanda: Well, I started ACE in high school. I don’t even remember my writing process–margins of my physics notebook, revisions revisions revisions until the story is unrecognizable from its original form. I’ve rewritten it five times since then (so you know I have to love it to suffer through that!). It is YA fantasy. I’m not positive what genre of fantasy to call it. High fantasy is probably best, as the world and its magic and everything is entirely fiction and fantastical, but it is honestly nothing like any fantasy setting I’ve read recently. The era is circa 1915, the very end of the Belle Epoque, so there are motorcars and public transport and telephones and department stores, with magic blended into all of this. Crime is such an important part of the novel, as the city where it takes place is full of mafias and street gangs, and every character is or becomes a delinquent in one way or the other. I call it SIX OF CROWS meets SPIRITED AWAY.

6. What do you want readers to take away from Ace of Shades? 
Amanda: I’m working on the sequel now, so I’m hoping readers love the world and the characters enough to stick around to read book 2 (because it’s already feeling pretty epic to me!). ACE does have a little bit of everything in it: heartless, shiver-inducing villains; romance that has already made a lot of people yell at me in my DMs; a magic system and world that are absurdly complex but also incredibly unique; group cast moments to warm your heart; and an exciting culmination that sets the stage for the sequel, when essentially the whole world is on fire (No one is safe. I aim to build worlds and break hearts).
 
Also, there are boys kissing at cabarets and girl gangsters. There’s a lot to love right there.

7. Can you share a fun fact about Ace of Shades? This may be a bit of a self-serving question as I’m so ready for this book, LOL.
Amanda: Three of its main characters are based, in part, on three characters in Spirited Away: Chihiro, Haku, and Yubaba. There might even be a No Face (and he’s so awful you would literally rather serve No Face a thousand meals than stand in a room with this guy).

In-Character Questions:
For these last three questions, Amanda picked any character of her choosing to answer. 🙂
8. You’re stranded on an island. What three things would you want to have?
Luca, from DOTBC: his favorite watch, a good book, and a bottle of gin

9.  If you can have anything, without consequences, what would it be?

Levi, from ACE OF SHADES: glory


10. Tell us your favorite joke or any joke that tickles your fancy. 
Villaim, from DOTBC: I cook with wine. Sometimes, I even add it to food (from W.C. Fields that Villiam would def appreciate)

Author Bio: 

amanda_foody_author_photo_2016.jpgAmanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she works as a tax accountant in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.

DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY, her first novel, will be published by Harlequin TEEN on July 25, 2017. Her second, ACE OF SHADES, will follow on April 24, 2018.

If you’d like to follow Amanda and her work, here are some links:

Website: amandafoody.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmandaFoody
Tumblr: https://amandafoody.tumblr.com/

Once again, a huge thank you to Amanda for taking the time to answer my questions! Be sure to pick up a copy of DOTBC and preorder Ace of Shades.

Xx
Megan

Publishing 101 for Teens

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Publishing is a complicated business that takes time and experience to fully grasp. However, even with these tools, one has to be able to adapt. The market changes often as do the writers and literature that emerge.

Because of this, and the recent discussions on twitter about the lack of listening to teen voices, I decided to open up the door to teens to freely ask any questions they have about publishing. The response has been fantastic and thus I have my first blog post on the issue.

Q1: What should you major/study in college if you want to have a career in publishing?

A: For publishing, I would highly advise a B.A. in English or Creative Writing. When you apply for jobs, these degrees are often the baseline education requirement alongside experience (internships, summer programs you may have taken, previous jobs etc). There is some leeway here. You can major in other arts/humanities courses, but what publishers look for in a potential employee is the ability to write well, analyze and critique a piece of writing, pay attention to detail, and know your way around a computer. What is greatly important, and if anything the number one thing to bring to a job interview, is your passion for the industry. Do you like to read a lot? Have you taken interest in books and research in school? Have you kept up with the market? Even the blog you run can make you stand out. Competition is high for publishing jobs and unfortunately, they’re often centered in major cities. Freelance and remote opportunities do pop up, but the same rules as above apply.

I advise to keep in mind that this answer does not stay the same for what major do you need if you want to be a writer. That question is a little trickier for the answer is anything you want. What you need to be a writer is passion, patience, the desire to work hard, understanding rejection and critique, as well as wanting to learn. These skills do not link up side by side with any major. They are about you and what you want out of your writing. If you want to be published, great! If you don’t, that’s fine too. Success is not merely measured in publication.

Q2: How do you break through and be successful in such a competitive industry like publishing?

A: Following from my answer above, it comes down to what makes you stand out. With the growth of social media, I strongly recommend getting an account on Twitter. This is the number one marketing site for writers. It’s quick, fairly easy to learn, and the writing community is only growing larger. Make connections with others. Hear about their journeys and what they have done. Share what you’re working on. Everyone’s publishing road will be different, but it is important to stay connected and have a presence. You never know what will happen from there.

Q3: How do you find a critique partner around your age and a mentor?

A: I would definitely utilize the twitter community here. There are lots of wonderful people offering to be critique partners or mentors.

For teens, I recommend the following hashtags to find critique partners:

#YATeenSpace
#Teenpit *This happens certain times out of the year, but it is definitely a good way to connect and find other writers, agents, and editors who are willing to help teens.*
#Ontheporch

Note: For the latter, it is not catered for teens, but it is a spot where people post about their WIPs and connect in all things writing related. If I find others, I will definitely add them here!

Another way is to simply post if anyone wants to exchange stories. Most of these posts get a handful of responses as everyone is looking/needs another pair of eyes on their story.

As with any exchange, especially writing, make sure you check out the person beforehand and make sure you’re comfortable with sharing your work. If anything seems off or questionable, don’t follow through or check in with trusted friends/peers.

Q4: Do you know about getting published as a teenager – if it dramatically lowers your chances of getting an agent, if you should disclose that you’re underage in your query? Also, what are the legal requirements for getting published underage?

A: I haven’t had too much experience with agents, but I did do some research on the matter. Putting your age in your query is up to your discretion. If you do get a publishing contract, I would prepare yourself for the work it brings and the steps you’ll need in order to get from your draft to a completed book. I would also research one’s background before you sign with an agent. Unfortunately, there are some who are inexperienced or looking to take advantage of those who are not familiar with the industry.

I can’t entirely say if placing your age into a query will lower your chances. I feel like that would vary by agent and publisher – some not minding/encouraging a younger author while others would shy away from it.

You will have to disclose your age if an agent expresses interest and ultimately decides to represent you. This is important because if you’re under 18, you will likely need a parent or guardian to cosign a contract.

If I find out any more information, I will definitely update this!

Q5: How long does each phase of writing and publishing take? 

A: Writing will always vary based on the individual. Some are able to writer faster than others. Some may need to rethink their plot. Some may have to rework their entire story. There will never be a specific amount of time for any of these stages.

In terms of when you’re signed, you will likely be given a due date for your edits and your final manuscript. Your editor will read them over, give their comments, and you will once again be given edits to complete until the final draft. These will likely take a few weeks to a few months.

I can’t give a specific date for how long the whole process takes, but writing a book is very much a long term gratification experience. You won’t see your book by the end of the week after you submit your manuscript, but in a year, maybe even two, it will be there. If you’re willing to wait and put in the work, it will be worth it.

Q6: What if your manuscript is always rejected?

A: Rejections are probably the hardest part of the writing process, especially when you put so much work into your story only to see the same email over and over again. There are several things that can be done in this situation.

  1. Keep trying. Sometimes, you need to find the right agent or the right publisher to represent you. Even famous authors received hundreds of rejections before success found them. I know that sounds daunting, but trust me, keep trying.
  2. Find beta readers and critique partners. Maybe something in your story isn’t working. Have another set or sets of eyes read over your manuscript. Do the same for your query letter and synopsis. A simple rewording could make all the difference.
  3. Make sure you’re following guidelines when submitting. A handful of publishers and agents will not read your work if it is not properly formatted nor fits the mold of what books they’re searching for.
  4. Step away from the story. If you constantly work on the same piece, you may be overthinking it and have to take a breather. Come back to the story in a while with a clearer head. You may notice something you hadn’t before and be able to strengthen your story.
  5.  Your story may be rejected by publishers and agents due to their schedule or inability to give your story the attention and detail it needs. Don’t take it personally. Not all rejections are about your writing or about you. I can’t stress this enough. Sometimes, it just can’t work out.
  6. Don’t stop writing. This story may not be the one picked up by publishers, but it doesn’t mean your next one will follow the same direction. Write the story you need. Write what feels right. Just keep doing it.

Q6: How much should we write each day?

A: There is no correct amount of words to write per day nor is there a correct way to write. Me personally, I don’t write everyday. I used to as a teen, but life and stubborn muse got in the way so now I write when I can and often in large chunks. This is my method, but you most certainly have to find your own as a writer.

I definitely enforce getting into the habit of writing often, even if it’s not everyday. It’ll keep your thoughts and motivation fresh, but I also understand why this can’t always happen. As long as you’re moving towards your goal, I think that is important.

I would also mention taking into account achievements that may not be writing. For example, reading a good book or watching a movie that inspired you. Taking a long walk through a park or simply having a passionate conversation with a friend or family member. Each of these things can build up to writing and push it forward. Take rewards in both the big and small and finish whatever story you have in your head.

This is the first in what I hope to be more blog posts on this issue. If this has helped you, or you think it would be beneficial to someone else, please share this. It is greatly appreciated. If you’re a teen and have questions, feel free to message or tweet me and I’ll get to your questions in the next post!

Xx

Megan

Normalcy Doesn’t Work

Hey Guys!

It’s been a while since I’ve had publication news to share, but I’m back to say my short story Kaleidoscope was published in Shift the Zine! I couldn’t have been happier to receive their email saying they accepted my work.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to come from this piece when I wrote it. It was done in one sitting, but as I reread it, I felt like it wasn’t quite right. This story was originally double in length and jumped around a lot. Before I chopped at it in the editing process, it was definitely a realistic fiction/contemporary piece.

I’ve written contemporary pieces before and I love reading them, but something about this story begged for a new genre. There was a little inkling in my brain that slowly turned into: “hey, why don’t you make Jared’s painting come to life?”

I promise you’ll understand that question once you read my story.

pexels-photo-94736Once I decided to go through with the plan, the story read easier. I cut most of the original draft and settled on an odder, more emotionally charged piece. For the main character Jared, who I’ve written before, but never in a story I submitted, he’s an artistic guy. He heals through what he creates. He takes his emotions and shoves them onto a canvas. My desire to alter the story came from the needed exploration of what Jared’s art can do for him especially after suffering from heartbreak.

This story couldn’t have been possible without the help of one of my dear friends Kristie, who created the character of Ash and through her, I have been inspired to create so many things.

If you’d like to give Kaleidoscope a read, click here, and be sure to share your thoughts with me (if you’d like), in the comments.

Xx

Megan

Discussing Other Breakable Things With Kelley York & Rowan Altwood

Hello Readers & Writers,

I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelley York & Rowan Altwood, authors of Other Breakable Things from Entangled Teen. This is a rather emotional novel, but one with an incredible premise.

Before I kick off the interview, here is a synopsis of Other Breakable Things:

According to Japanese legend, folding a thousand paper cranes will grant you healing.

Evelyn Abel will fold two thousand if it will bring Luc back to her.

Luc Argent has always been intimately acquainted with death. After a car crash got him a second chance at life—via someone else’s transplanted heart—he tried to embrace it. He truly did. But he always knew death could be right around the corner again.

And now it is.

Sick of hospitals and tired of transplants, Luc is ready to let his failing heart give out, ready to give up. A road trip to Oregon—where death with dignity is legal—is his answer. But along for the ride is his best friend, Evelyn.

And she’s not giving up so easily.

A thousand miles, a handful of roadside attractions, and one life-altering kiss later, Evelyn’s fallen, and Luc’s heart is full. But is it enough to save him? Evelyn’s betting her heart, her life, that it can be.

Right down to the thousandth paper crane.

Q1: Where did the inspiration for Other Breakable Things come from? It’s a rather heavy hearted tale.

Kelley: I think a lot of my books have that heavy quality; even Dirty London, which is overall more light-hearted and optimistic, has some heavy themes, like addiction, tucked beneath the surface. When I talked Rowan into writing something with me, she had the idea for Luc and his ailments, and we decided a book on euthanasia and the Death with Dignity act would be a good one subject to tackle.

Q2: Given the subject matter of the book, did you ever have to take a break to gather your thoughts?

Rowan: Not really. We both thrive on this kind of stuff.

Kelley: For me, it’s therapeutic. It gets emotional at times and you really feel the “character bleed,” but some of my best writing (I think) comes when it gets emotional.

Q3: What made you tie in the Japanese legend behind folding paper cranes?

20657470Kelley: I read a book as a kid called Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr. It’s a historical fiction about a little girl (who actually existed) in Japan who contracts leukemia after the bombing of Hiroshima. She starts folding cranes in order to be granted a wish. I first read this book in grade school, and the idea of this legend has stuck with me so strongly ever since. It’s a great kid’s book and I suggest everyone check it out.

 

Q4: What do you want your readers to take away from this book?

Rowan: Nothing is black and white; the hardest decisions in life are made in shades of grey.

Q5: What do you admire most about the characters you created?

Rowan: I like Luc’s sass. I know people think he comes off as a douche a lot of the time, but honestly if you think about how much time he’s spent being sick and in hospitals in his life, he hasn’t had a normal upbringing or socialization. He’s awkward and doesn’t like to admit it. I like his sarcasm probably because a bit of that comes from me.

Kelley: Evelyn’s loyalty, I think, and the growth she displays throughout the story. She starts off pretty meek and go-with- the-flow, and gradually learns to stop letting everyone else’s needs come before her own.

Q6: Describe Other Breakable Things in three words.

Kelley: Painful, hopeful, emotional.

Q7: Where is one place you’d like to go on a road trip to and why?

Rowan: If I only had one stop? Point Reyes National Seashore.

Kelley: Same. It’s our go-to vacation spot.

Q8: What’s your writing process like?

Rowan: I throw words at a page and hope Kelley can make sense of them.

Kelley: I arrange words, throw more words at a page, and hope my editor can make sense of them.

Q9: Do you have any projects in mind for the future?

Kelley: I have a few books in the works, and no idea which I’ll finish first. I have one my editor really wants to see from me, an LGBT dark contemporary, another road trip-esque kind of book (very, very different from OBT), and the beginning to a fantasy series.

Author Bio:

Kelley York and Rowan Altwood are a wife and wife writing team living in central California with their daughter and way too many cats. Kelley is the author of Hushed, Made of Stars, and Modern Monsters, and Other Breakable Things is Rowan’s debut.

Social Media: 

 

Once again, a big thank you to Kelley and Rowan for joining me today. To see more book related posts on my end, keep an eye on the blog.

Xx

Megan

Author Sitdown with Jessika Fleck

Hello Readers & Writers,

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessika Fleck, author of The Castaways due out April 3rd, 2017 from Entangled Teen.

Before I kick off the interview, here is a synopsis of The Castaways:

The Castaway Carnival: fun, mysterious, dangerous.

Renowned for its infamous corn maze…and the kids who go missing in it.

When Olive runs into the maze, she wakes up on an isolated and undetectable island where a decades-long war between two factions of rival teens is in full swing.

Trapped, Olive must slowly attempt to win each of her new comrades’ hearts as Will—their mysterious, stoically quiet, and handsome leader—steals hers.

Olive is only sure about one thing: her troop consists of the good guys, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help them win the war and get back home.

Q1: Congratulations on being a debut author. It’s a great accomplishment. How does it feel?

Thank you, Megan! I’m so thrilled to be here at Written Infinities! So, how does it feel to be a debut author…? Surreal, overwhelming, exciting, chaotic, dreamy, and a lot of OMG how did I get here?! Basically, it’s a whole slew of emotions all rolled into one, but I’m mostly grateful and just trying to take it all in.

Q2: What inspired The Castaways?

The Castaways came to me in two parts. The first was about me becoming more and more aware of kids being bullied in schools, especially after a good friend’s daughter endured some serious cruelty at the hands of a group of girls and right under the noses of teachers and administrators and other students. It was heartbreaking and not right.
As I had this sort of bullying narrative playing over TheCastawaysFINAL COVERin my mind, that Halloween, we took our kids to a pumpkin patch. Of course we explored the gigantic corn maze. Now, I’ve always found corn mazes creepy-beautiful. There’s something undeniably majestic and sinister about being trapped in a field of dried out cornstalks surrounded by nothing. As I followed my daughter through the maze, encountering dead ends and turning sharp corners it hit me: what a perfect place to run away AND what if when you ran away, you ended up somewhere else? With that, an early conception of The Castaways was born.

I definitely don’t take it lightly that bullying plays a deep role in this book. I very much thought of my own daughters reading this story as I wrote it, and how they might receive it’s messages, from the more subtle just be to the more blatant finding your strength.  My hope is that kids who read Olive’s story, despite where they might fall on the bully-bullied-observer spectrum, will be inspired to stand up for what’s right and speak up for those with smaller voices.

Q3: Who’s your favorite character in the book and why?

I adore Bug. She’s that secondary character who deserves a whole, entire book for herself. I love her back story and that she’s so wise beyond her years and strong (mentally and physically) as all get out, but still a goofy, sassy kid. She’s basically my hero. I also have some serious hair envy.

Q4: What kind of reactions do you want to see from readers in regards to The Castaways?

In a perfect world, I would love readers to leave the story feeling empowered and entertained and satisfied and with a spark in their hearts to do something good for themselves and for someone else. But at the end of the day, if readers complete The Castaways content that their time reading my words was well spent and if even one person is inspired to do something kind for another, I’ll be happy.

Q5: You’re marooned on a deserted island – what are three things you would want to have on your person?

Coffee, flint (for fire to boil water for said coffee), and the complete Harry Potter collection (What? That totally counts as one thing!).

Q6: Are there any traits that you share with your main character, Olive?

I can definitely relate to the motto Just be. It’s sort of her version of You do you. I’m all for celebrating individuality and following your passions in life and respecting the inner beauty in all of us. Also, like Olive, I’m not a fan of being the center of attention… ::side-eyes calendar as my book launch event nears:: Olive and I share a love for cats. And lasagna.  Also, I’d choose the cool, spritzy Oregon coast over the heat and flatness of Texas all day long (I grew up in Texas).

Q7: What are some things (movies, books, songs etc.) that inspire you to write?

Definitely music. I’m a total sucker for lyrics. I create a playlist unique to each novel I write as well as a Pinterest board. For The Castaways I focused on a mix of music that reminded me of the beach and a sort of surfer vibe with Family of the Year, Jack Johnson, and Vance Joy, along with a folksy feel for Olive’s Texas side from artists like Noah Gundersen and Mumford and Sons, and then to youthful sounds from Alessia Cara to Ed Sheeran to Birdy. I also love finding images and quotes that apply to the story and characters. Here’s the Pin board for The Castaways: https://www.pinterest.com/jessikafleck/the-castaways/ And here’s the Spotify playlist:
https://open.spotify.com/user/1212358948/playlist/4JlRrfkbnWBwoKdoT02eI6

 Q8: Do you have plans for future books?

Yes! Amazing publishing shenanigans are afoot. My YA fantasy, THE OFFERING, is being published by Swoon Reads/Macmillan fall 2018. You can find more on that here: https://swoonreads.com/m/the-offering/ I also recently signed with literary agent Victoria Marini and we have several plans in the works. All in all, it’s a ridiculously exciting time and my writing career is in some very capable hands.

Q9: Summarize The Castaways in three words.

Oh man, this is like asking an artist to paint a picture in three strokes, lol! But, here goes… Self, Strength, and Family. ::wipes sweat from brow::

Author Bio:

Author Pic3_FleckJessika Fleck is an author, unapologetic coffee drinker, and knitter — she sincerely hopes to one day discover a way to do all three at once. Until then, she continues collecting vintage typewriters and hourglasses, dreaming of an Ireland getaway, and convincing her husband they NEED more kittens. Her YA debut, THE CASTAWAYS (Entangled TEEN), releases 4/3/17. Her next YA novel, THE OFFERING (Swoon Reads/Macmillan) is due out in the fall, 2018. Jessika is represented by Victoria Marini of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

To keep in touch with Jessika and to learn more about her debut book, see below:
Twitter: @jessikafleck
Instagram: @jessikafleckwriter

Once again, a big thank you to Jessika for joining me today. To see more book related posts on my end, keep an eye on the blog.

Xx

Megan