Sunday, February 28, 2010

Speaking with Laurie Halse Anderson

Hey Readers!
Happy Sunday! And it’s even happier Sunday than most other Sundays because today I have another author interview for you! (I sort of lied in the headline of this post, though, because I didn’t actually speak with Laurie, we communicated by email. But you all get the allusion, right?)
I present (drum roll, please) … an interview with Laurie Halse Anderson!
C: Most of your books deal with important topics that are, typically, tough to talk about. Are your books ever challenged by individuals or groups? If so, how do you, as an author, defend your books?
LHA: The criticism mostly comes from people who feel that by talking about these problems, I am somehow encouraging teens to dive into dangerous behaviors. A book banner in California once called me a "pornographer" because I wrote SPEAK! That mindset is ridiculous and deadly. The only way to reduce the incidence of dangerous behaviors and to help heal emotional wounds is to talk about the things that are hard. To pretend that things like date rape, emotional abuse, eating disorders, and cutting (just to name a few) don't exist - and to ignore the pain that causes them - guarantees sadness and tragedy. I'm going to keep writing about what is real and hard because speaking the truth is the only way to make things better.
C: You write both historical fiction and realistic fiction. How does the writing process differ between the two genres? Do you enjoy writing one genre more than the other? 
LHA: My historical fiction novels start in plot; the characters evolve out of it. My YA novels always start in character. The plot grows out of the conflicts faced by the characters. Because of the research involved, it generally takes twice as long to write a historical novel as a YA novel. I am a huge history geek, but I am also very passionate about kids and the issues they face, so I enjoy both genres.
C: You came to the First Annual Teen Book Festival in 2006! What was your favorite part of the festival? 
LHA: The enthusiasm of the crowd was like nothing I had ever seen before. It completely validated my theory that teens love books and book events and authors. Can't wait to come back!
C: What was the last book that you read for pleasure? 
LHA: “Shades of Grey” by Jasper Fforde
C: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Fifth Annual TBF? 
LHA: Several old friends - Terry Trueman, Ellen Hopkins, Coe Booth, and Holly Black. I'm looking forward to meeting Barry Lyga because we've been trash-talking each other on our blogs about the writing process.
Thanks so much, Laurie, for such a great interview. We can’t wait to see you at TBF 2010 in 75 days!
Readers, do you have any questions for any of the authors that I haven’t interviewed yet? Let me know and I’ll ask them!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How To Know A Little Bit More About Simone Elkeles

What’s up, readers?
I’ll tell you what’s up here. I just finished the most frantic two weeks of my life (including four tests over the past three days). I’m so tired, I’ve done nothing but sit in my dorm room and watch “16 and Pregnant” on Hulu for the past hour and a half. (I know – that show is ridiculous, but I’m totally and completely addicted.) 
Of course, you could probably care less about my crazy week and my “16 and Pregnant” addiction, so let me tell you the really exciting news for today. Today Simone Elkeles sent me her answers to the interview questions I asked her, so I can now share those answers with you!
C: What kind of research did you do in order to write “How to Ruin a Summer Vacation?” Have you, like Amy, been to Israel?
SE: I didn’t have to do any research because my father was Israeli and my husband is Israeli. I’ve been to Israel more times than I can count (I even got married there) and spent many summers in Israel. My family lives on a moshav in the Golan Heights where the book is set. Everywhere Amy goes in the book, I’ve been.
C: I love the “Perfect Chemistry” rap video book trailer! Did you get to help with the production of that trailer? (And do you procrastinate by watching it over and over again like I do?)
SE: I produced the trailer and helped write the rap, but I hired a director and actors who really did most of the work. I do think it’s hilarious. I just made one for How to Ruin Your Boyfriend’s Reputation that I posted on YouTube and my website...and ALERT **I just finished a MOVIE TRAILER for the sequel to Perfect Chemistry called Rules of Attraction (really a book trailer that is going to look exactly like a movie trailer) and Alexander F. Rodriguez (the groom in the Katy Perry video for Hot and Cold) to play Alex Fuentes and Giancarlo Vidrio will play his brother Carlos. These boys were totally amazing and the movie trailer/book trailer will blow you away. I hope to post it really’s in post-production right now. I posted pictures of the video shoot on my Facebook page...enjoy!
C: There’s a twist at the end of “Leaving Paradise.” Did you have that ending in mind when you began the book or is it something that came along as the book progressed?
SE: I totally knew that the twist was going to happen. It was hard for me, because I knew it and I needed to reveal it in little bits. There are many many hints throughout the novel...I can point them out to you one day!
C: What was your favorite book when you were a teenager?
SE: Okay, I have to admit I didn’t actually read much when I was a teenager. I hated reading, so I write books that I think I would have liked as a teen. I do remember reading "Forever" by Judy Blume, "Sooner or Later" (which became a tv special with Rex Smith), and "Cute is a Four-Letter Word." But here’s the problem...none of the girls in those books ended up with the guy. I love happy endings!
C: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Fifth Annual TBF?
SE: Patrick Jones – I want to know how he gets his long hair to stay so straight...what’s his secret?
So there you have it, readers! Thanks so much, Simone, for answering all our questions. We can’t meeting to meet you at TBF in May!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

We Heart You, Lisa Schroeder!

Hey Readers!
This is the most exciting week that I’ve had in a long time because I’ve had THREE author interviews in one week! Keep reading to find out what Lisa Schroeder, author of “I Heart You, You Haunt Me,” “Far From You,” and “Chasing Brooklyn,” had to say when I interviewed her!
C: You write your novels in verse. Have you always liked reading and writing poetry?
LS: Yes, I have. I loved writing poetry when I was a kid, and I also had some children's poetry books that I enjoyed reading. I still have one of them, actually, one with beautiful artwork and little verses on every page.  When I started writing books for kids about ten years ago, I wrote picture books, because I was instantly drawn to writing in rhyme. I loved the challenge of getting the meter and rhythm right while telling a story in the fewest words possible at the same time. It's interesting that now I'm writing novels in a similar minimalist manner, although not in rhyme, which would be REALLY hard.  I hear people say sometimes that they are scared of reading a verse novel. Like it will be hard to understand, or will just be a bunch of poetry without a story. I always cringe when I hear this because I try very hard to walk that fine line between being poetic and being accessible. I want my books to be accessible. And the fact that “I Heart You, You Haunt Me” was chosen as an 2009 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers shows, I think, it's not a book that's difficult to understand. I always say - a verse novel is still a NOVEL. There are characters to fall in love with, a story to get lost in, etc. If anyone reading this is hesitant, I hope they'll challenge themselves to give one a try!
C: Your novels deal with loss and grief in one form or another. What role do you think novels can play in the grieving process?
LS: One of the things a book can do for a person, and not just a book about loss and grief, is to show the reader a character who is able to get through a difficult sitatuation and make it through to the other side.  Death is as much a part of life as eating and sleeping, and eventually, we all have someone close to us pass away. We may not be sixteen when it happens, but it DOES happen. In my books, you'll see characters who struggle with that loss. It hurts. But through the course of the book, they get through it. While my books are about loss and grief, they are also very much about healing and hope. And that's what I hope people will take away.
C: I’ve heard through the grapevine that you have a children’s book due out in March. How does the writing process differ when you’re writing for teens versus when you’re writing for children?
LS: Yes, “It’s Raining Cupcakes” will be out with Aladdin in March. It's a book for 8-12 year olds. For me, the process isn't much different, it's more about making sure the voice is true for that age group and finding things kids that age struggle with. It's more about friendship than romance, for example, which is a big theme in YA books. One of the fun parts is I think you can be a little more quirky with characters in middle grade books, and kids like that. In YA, quirky doesn't always go over as well.  I have the strongest memory of books during that period of 8-12, so I have a soft place in my heart for middle grade books, and I'm thrilled I get to have a book on the shelves for younger readers.
C: What was the last book that you read for pleasure?
LS: “Some Girls Are” by Courtney Summers, an intense, hard-to-read book that is at the same time impossible to put down. She shows us a side of teenage life we want to forget about - the cruel, painful side. I am in awe of Courtney's ability to make me care for a character I should be hating, because Regina, the main character, used to be a bully too, before she was frozen out of the popular group.
C: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Fifth Annual TBF?
LS: All of them!!! I'm so, SO excited to be a part of the festival. As a fan girl, I'm excited to meet Laurie Halse Anderson for sure. On a personal level, Jennifer Smith, because we have e-mailed each other over the past couple of years, and she is so sweet, and I can't wait to finally meet in person.
Lisa, thanks so much for all the great answers! My readers and I can’t wait to meet you in May at TBF 2010!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

An Astonishing Interview with Barry Lyga

Hey Readers!
This is a superweek! I have ANOTHER awesome author interview for you today! Today’s interview is with Barry Lyga, the author of “The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl,” “Boy Toy,” “Hero-Type,” and more!
C: Your novel "Boy Toy" deals with an issue that I have never seen covered in any other teen book. How did you decide to write about the topic (the sexual abuse of a student at the hands of his teacher)? 
BL: The school district where I grew up (and, at the time, lived) went through a student/teacher sex scandal, and I became sort of obsessed with the case. Then, as I started looking into other, similar cases, I noticed common elements. It also occurred to me that while we always heard from the adults and learned what they thought of the situation, we never, ever heard from the kids because they were minors. They were protected by the system. So I wanted to give them a voice in some way, and my thinking on that turned into Boy Toy.
C: What is the hardest part of the writing process for you? 
BL: Probably deciding if it's worth pursuing a particular project. There are so many different ideas I have and so many books I could write, but there's no way to know which ones are actually going to turn out to be any good, and I can only write so many books. So I spend a lot of time thinking about each book and sort of investigating all of its various permutations to figure out if it's something I really think will turn out well for me and for the readers.
C: Are you currently working on any projects that you can tell us about? 
BL: Oh, boy! I'm working on a bunch of things! Colleen Doran -- a terrific comic book artist -- is currently drawing my first-ever graphic novel. I have a new middle-grade series called ARCHVILLAIN coming out in the fall, about a kid who gets superpowers and decides to be a villain instead of a hero. And I just started working on I HUNT KILLERS, about a teenager whose father is the world's most notorious serial killer. It's really gruesome and dark and bloody.
C: What was your favorite book when you were a teenager? 
BL: When I was a teenager, I was sort of obsessed with short stories, especially science fiction short stories. One of my favorite books was DEALING IN FUTURES by Joe Haldeman, which just had an amazing collection of some of the most imaginative fiction I'd ever read. Terrific stuff.
C: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Fifth Annual TBF? 
BL: Well, I'm looking forward to seeing just about everyone (especially Laurie Halse Anderson, who I never seem to get to talk to when we bump into each other!), but the person I'm most looking forward to seeing is Robin Brande. Robin and I are old friends, but our schedules have kept us both very busy and we haven't actually seen each other in something like three years! So it'll be good to see her.
Thanks for the awesome interview Barry! I know I speak for all my readers when I say, we can’t wait to see you in May at TBF Live!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A (Cyber) Chat with Amy Kathleen Ryan

Hey Readers!
Today is a great day because (a) it stopped snowing, and I won’t have to scrape my car again! (b) I have internet in my dorm room again! and, best of all, (c) I have a new author interview for you! Today I have an interview with Amy Kathleen Ryan, the awesome author of “Shadow Falls,” “Vibes,” and (due out soon) “Zen and Xander Undone.”
Here’s what Amy had to say when I emailed her some questions – enjoy!
C: In “Vibes,” Kristi, your main character, can read minds. Have you ever wished that you could read minds like Kristi?
AKR: Yes, there have been times when I've found people confusing, and I've wished I could know what was going through their mind, especially when they do something that hurts my feelings. But I think that VIBES grew more out of some life lessons I'd learned, namely that when you think you know what someone is thinking, you're actually more likely to misunderstand them. People are deep mysterious beings, with such varying complexity that it's almost impossible for one person to really predict another. The only way to bridge the gap is to talk, and that's precisely what Kristi does not do. I wanted her to learn this lesson, because I knew she would be happier if only she would start talking and stop assuming. 
C: Do you see yourself as being more like Annie, from “Shadow Falls,” who captures the beauty of life through a camera, or Cody, her brother, who physically connects with the earth through rock climbing? 
AKR: I'm definitely more like Annie. Even if she lost her desire to be a climber, she's still pretty outdoorsy, but in a quieter way than her brother. Like her, I love walking in the woods, and for a while I was into photography. For me, communing with nature is more about experiencing creation through my five senses rather than challenging myself. There is nothing on earth more beautiful than the mountains in Wyoming, and I miss them if I'm away from them too long. 
C: I am lucky enough to have read an ARC of “Zen and Xander Undone.” As a sister, I’m always fascinated by the relationships of fictional sisters. Do you have a sister? If so, is your relationship with your sister similar to the relationship between Zen and Xander? 
AKR: I have a brother, and we were very close growing up. I think my relationship with him informed my portrayal of the sisters, but I have also drawn from some lifelong friendships with women, too. As far as whether the characters represent me or my brother, the short answer is no. Zen and Xander are their own people, but they have characteristics of my brother and me, sort of all mixed up. My brother is brilliant like Xander, and shy like Zen. I am self reliant like Zen, but fiery like Xander. 
C: What was your favorite book when you were a teenager?
AKR: If I had to narrow it down to just one, it would be "A Ring of Endless Light" by Madeleine L'Engle. I loved how the protagonist, Vickie Austen, gets to swim with dolphins, and how she can communicate with them telepathically. But the book has such heavy themes, such as death and self destruction, but they're dealt with lovingly, the same way L'Engle always treated her characters. I think that book heavily influenced Shadow Falls, in a way, because Annie develops a powerful relationship with a grizzly bear. 
C: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Fifth Annual TBF?
AKR: Barry Lyga and I are pals, so it will be nice to see him. Also it would be great to run into an old classmate from the New School, Coe Booth.
Amy, thanks so much for answering these questions. I loved reading your answers and I’m sure the rest of my readers loved it too! We can’t wait to meet you in May at TBF!
Well, readers, that’s all I have for today. Keep checking back for more posts! 

99 Bunches of Books on My Shelf ...

I can't believe it, but yesterday I missed a momentous occasion. I know you're wondering, "What momentous occasion? Groundhog Day was TWO days ago!" But I'm not talking about Groundhog Day, I'm talking about the 100 day marker!!! That's right, yesterday marked 100 days until the 5th Annual Teen Book Festival. 
I know, I can't believe I didn't realize it either.
But don't worry, because since yesterday was 100 days, that means today is 99 days. And that means that I have a song ... We all know the song "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall," but I bet you don't know MY version of the song. Today, what will be running through my head all day long (and now running through YOUR head all day long), is "99 Bunches of Books on My Shelf!" 
99 bunches of books on my shelf, 99 bunches of books, take one down, pass it around, 98 bunches of books on my shelf!
I'll restrain myself and not go any further. I'm pretty sure I've cemented it in your head. :)
Anyway readers, 99 days means get reading! (At least for me it does - I have five or six more authors to get through!)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Hi Readers!
Are any of you old enough to remember the Nickelodeon show “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” (Please say yes, please say yes, please say yes! I’m really hoping I haven’t reached the age where I can say, “You know, when I was a kid …”) Well, anyway, if any of you do remember that show, then you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that Vivian Vande Velde has written a collection of short stories that are WAY scarier. 
For those of you who were able to attend our awesome Read-a-Thon, you know that Vivian is a local author (from Rochester!) who made a special guest appearance and signed some autographs. I picked, from her HUGE selection of YA and children’s books, “Being Dead” and had it autographed. Then, the book sat on my shelf for several months because I COMPLETELY forgot I even had it. Boy, do I wish I’d remembered it around Halloween time because it’s the PERFECT Halloween read. 
The first story in “Being Dead” had me so thoroughly creeped out that I slept with a night light. (That’s not an easy confession to make, either. I am sacrificing my reputation to convince you readers to read this book. Don’t let me down!) I hate to give away too many details – I don’t want to spoil any of the stories. You’ll just have to take my word for it when I say read this book (with the lights on …). 
Keep reading! (And comment, comment, comment!)