Thursday, December 17, 2009

Author Interview - J.A. YANG

Everyone welcome author J.A. YANG! His debut YA book EXCLUSIVELY CHLOE came out this year from Puffin/Speak. The book is about a girl adopted into Hollywood royalty.

The illustration is of Chloe-Grace, the main character of EXCLUSIVELY CHLOE. She's sixteen, Chinese, and in the book she describes herself as (in comparison with her parents): "Bad enough I wasn't statuesque like my mom or the owner of chiseled cheekbones like my dad.  My face was a bit too oval, my nose a tad too flat, and my eyes a little too narrow to be considered classically beautiful."

1) Welcome to The Blog, Jon! What is EXCLUSIVELY CHLOE about?

Exclusively Chloe is about a girl who is adopted from China by two members of Hollywood royalty, a movie actress mother and a rock star father.  Chloe-Grace is now sixteen and she's tired of every undesired moment of the world's attention.  She's been on the cover of magazines since she was a baby and even had her embarassing middle school pictures plastered in glossies everywhere.  Now she's wondering what it's like to be a "normal" kid and on the heels of her parents' impending media drenched divorce, she decides to get a make-under and enter the real world.

2) What inspired you to write Exclusively Chloe?

Awhile back, my friends and I started a celebrity fantasy league (like fantasy football but with celebrities).  It was a long slow summer and we all worked together so this gave us something to look forward to every Friday, which was when the new issue of US Magazine would hit the stands.  For her team, one of my friends drafted "Maddox Pitt-Jolie" while another one drafted "Sean Preston Spears."  As it turned out, they were both on the covers of the magazine so much that they scored a ton of points.  That got me thinking about how these kids had their every step since childhood documented and what it would be like to grow up like that.

That was the beginning of the idea and my agency knew a publisher who was looking for young adult queries about celebrities and child adoption.  I was like, "I just spent the whole summer following this stuff in detail.  Pick me! Pick me!"

3) Can you tell us about some of the challenges you encountered while writing Exclusively Chloe? How did you overcome them?

The hardest part was making sure that I was capable of writing a whole complete work of fiction.  I wasn't an English or Literature major, had avoided any papers over twenty pages in college, and didn't have much professional experience writing until I did my non-fiction book on blogging in 2006.  But that was a very different experience so doing a work of fiction was new and that felt scary.  Things turned out well though because I naturally liked telling stories and creating characters and found that creating a fictional world, even one set in reality, was very enjoyable and fun to do.

4) What was your journey toward getting published at Puffin/Speak like?

It's been really great.  We submitted an outline, a synopsis, and a few sample chapters and Penguin/Speak came back with some revisions and then was kind enough to contract me to write out the full story.  So the process was actually really smooth, and I've only found out afterwards that it's not always that easy.  I consider myself really fortunate.

What's strange in this industry is that you can build these relationships with people over email and phone calls and never see them in person.  So I never actually met my editor until Exclusively Chloe was already done but it felt like we were already friends because we'd worked so closely together over the months.  And then when I visited their office my editor took me to their book room and just started handing me all these amazing books to read and take.  It was incredible.

5) Very nice! Please share with us your best writing advice!

Write every day, build that habit.  I know everyone says that but after having written two books, it's only dawned on me now that it's so much easier to just write a little each day, or when you can, instead of waiting for inspiration to strike and trying to capture everything before the feeling goes away.  I used to approach writing in great big bursts.  Wait and wait and then shut down the rest of my life for two weeks and just cycle between writing, eating, sleeping and then at the end of the tunnel I would be finished but exhausted.  Now I've learned to just take it a little bit at a time and to build the habit.  Even if it's just writing in a private blog, a few hundred words a day, I think it really helps a lot to have that repetition.

True advice! Thanks so much for joining us today and I can't wait to read EXCLUSIVELY CHLOE!

If you're interested in checking out EXCLUSIVELY CHLOE, you can purchase it here.



If you're an author, editor, agent, or illustrator and would like a five question interview and a drawing of your character (or of yourself), email me at rtlovejoy (at) yahoo (dot) com. Check out the FAQ page for more information! 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Recent Read - SOME GIRLS ARE

I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of
SOME GIRLS ARE by Courtney Summers and enjoyed reading it. Do you guys remember Courtney? I interviewed her over the summer--if you haven't seen it, check it out here! I am here to tell you how much I recommend SOME GIRLS ARE! First, here's the blurb:

Available January 5th, 2010 from St. Martin’s Press

Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard–falling from it is even harder. Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High… until vicious rumors about her and her best friend’s boyfriend start going around. Now Regina’s been “frozen out” and her ex-best friends are out for revenge. If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day. She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully. Friendship doesn’t come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend… if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don’t break them both first…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As soon as the first chapter opens, I am swept up in a realistic teen scene. Memories of high school years were swimming. I'm immediately gripped in suspense. I couldn't stop reading Some Girls Are!

Along with SE Hinton, Courtney Summers is an author with one of the most realistic YA fiction there is. There's survival, social consciousness, bullying, blackmailing, and all the gritty realities of what teen life can be like.

Not only is Courtney an honest writer with a strong voice, she is the master of pacing. She knows just the right amount of details to use. She is confidant in her prose, turning simple words into something strong, like a hammer driving the nail right in. Regina's tears of frustration were mine.

Courtney also has an excellently designed story arc for Some Girls Are. She starts the story straight away, knowing when to raise the stakes, and when to ramp up to the finale. Her scenes were so well constructed, a movie of it was playing in my head while I was reading.

I highly recommend Some Girls Are! It's coming out in January 2010, so get ready!

You can pre-order is at this independent book store or on Amazon here.

I'm looking forward to more work by the awesome Courtney!



Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Agent Appreciation Day!

Today is Agent Appreciation Day, brought to us by my agent sister, Kody Keplinger

Here are top five reason why I appreciate my hardworking agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe to pieces:

1. Honesty. I can always count on Jo to tell me her thoughts on my writing and art.

2. Friendship. She is truly kind and supportive.

3. Awesome. She is fun to work with and makes me laugh pretty often. I enjoy bouncing ideas off of her.

4. Smart. Her feedback is always spot on. She helps me grow as a writer and storyteller.

5. Consistent. She is always there for me.

I'm so grateful to have Joanna as my agent and that she believes in me. Cheers to all agents everywhere! :)


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Author Interview - GWYNNE GARFINKLE

Today we have author and poet Gwynne Garfinkle joining us! She has written a literary novel with vampires called THE POSTHUMOUS LIFE OF ELEANOR BELL, which she will tell you more about. Her agent is none other than the fabulous Diana Fox--whom was interviewed here not too long ago! Also, be sure to check out Gwynne's blog.

The illustration featured here is of Eleanor Bell, the main character of Gwynne's book. Since she was inspired by Sylvia Plath, I wanted to make Eleanor a little haunting and mysterious.

1) Thanks for joining us, Gwynne! What is your book about?

THE POSTHUMOUS LIFE OF ELEANOR BELL is about a sort of "vampire 
Sylvia Plath."  Eleanor Bell is a poet who becomes famous after her death.  Everyone thinks she killed herself, but she actually became a vampire.  She can't publish any new work, because when she sends it out under a pseudonym, the editors all think her work too derivative of herself!  In order to reclaim her career, Eleanor must "come back from the dead" and deal with the daughters she left behind.

2) I've always wondered what it'd be like to be an immortal author! What inspired you to write it?

I've been interested in the work and life of Sylvia Plath since I was a teenager (like many teenagers, I suppose).  I've been a fan of horror tropes for even longer, since I fell in love with the 1930s Universal monster movies when I was a kid.  Many years later, Buffy the Vampire Slayer reawakened my interest in those tropes, and I got to thinking about what a natural vampire Sylvia Plath would be!  When I began to write the novel, the character of Eleanor diverged from Plath in a number of ways, which gave me the freedom I needed to tell the story.

3) What did you learn from writing poetry and short stories?

From poetry, I learned to focus on the rhythms, sounds and meanings of words at a micro level, which is useful to a writer no matter what genre you're working in.  I don't write as many short stories as I would like to (though I have one coming out in the new Clockwork 
Jungle Book issue of Shimmer Magazine, and last year Strange Horizons published my story "In Lieu of a Thank You," about a mad scientist).  Generally when I come up with ideas for fiction, I gravitate towards the long form.  Working on a novel doesn't leave me much mental space for short stories, though I do sometimes write poems while writing a novel.  In the case of ELEANOR BELL, I included poems that were "written by" Eleanor.  Writing Eleanor's poems was quite a challenge, since Eleanor's poetic style is different from mine!

4) How do you like working with Diana Fox?

I love working with Diana.  During my agent search, I kept hearing advice about how important it is to find just the right agent for you, and I didn't quite get what that meant.  Then when I first talked to Diana, we really clicked, and I got it!  I feel so lucky to have the benefit of her expertise and advice, as well as her moral support.  She really gets what I'm trying to do with my writing, and her critiques of my work are spot-on.  The publishing business can be tough, and it really helps to have an advocate who is also a lot of fun to talk to!

5) Say you have a scene you are about to write...What's your process for writing it to your satisfaction? Do you plan it beforehand or explore the scene as you write it?

It varies from scene to scene.  I will have an idea of what purpose(s) a scene is going to serve, but I do like to leave room for the unexpected.  My characters often have strong minds of their own.  Sometimes I need to lay down the law, but sometimes it's better to let them have their way--if they surprise me, they may well surprise the reader too!

My scenes often begin as dialogue.  That's what comes easiest to me, and it's what I change the least.  (My dad was a screenwriter, so I may have inherited some kind of dialogue gene from him.)  Sometimes I'll write the dialogue, action and minimal description first, then go back and fill in what's needed.  At that point I may close my eyes and visualize the scene, then revise accordingly.  My fiction is often set in past time periods, so I also need to do a fair bit of research to include just the right evocative details.

I always begin with dialogue myself! It changes the least as well. Thank you so much for joining us, Gwynne! It was so great to interview you and draw Eleanor!



If you're an author, editor, agent, or illustrator and would like a five question interview and a drawing of your character (or of yourself), email me at rtlovejoy (at) yahoo (dot) com. Check out the FAQ page for more information! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for...




My super agent Jo...

My grandma for being in my life the past 24 years...

My cat, Baron, even though she's clingy... :)

All the amazing and talented people I meet...

I'm thankful that I'm always encouraged to keep growing...

And that two years ago, a story streamed into my mind, like this:

And this world impacted my life in unexpected ways--and it will always live in me forever.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Author Interview - SARAH BETH DURST

Brr--it's been getting chilly fast as winter approaches...but the good news is, it's the perfect time to read ICE by Sarah Beth Durst (published by Simon and Schuster)! ICE just recently came out a couple months ago and Sarah is here today to tell us more about her fantasy novel with the stellar cover art!

I was thrilled when she requested me to draw Bear! It's not often I get to draw an animal! I had a lot of fun trying to color the bear in arctic blues.

1) Thank you for joining us, Sarah! What is ICE about? 

ICE is set in the present-day Arctic and is about a polar bear, true love, and one girl's impossible quest across the frozen North.

2) Can you give us the story on what inspired you to write ICE? 

I wrote ICE as a love letter to my husband.  It's about the kind of love where you face the world as a team... the kind where you'd go beyond the end of the world for your love.

It's inspired by the Norwegian folktale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," which is a variant of "Beauty and the Beast" where the Beauty embarks on a quest to save the Beast.  I chose this tale because I was tired of all the fairy tales where the girl spends the whole story asleep or, y'know, dead.  I veered rather far from the original tale in my book, but at its heart it is still about a fearless girl and a boundless love.

3) The cover of ICE is gorgeous! Can you tell us about the artist and what you think about the cover?

I looooove the cover.  The artist is Cliff Nielsen.  He also did the cover art for the Mortal Instruments trilogy by Cassandra Clare and the latest editions of the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis.  I've never met him, but as I understand it, he starts with a photo shoot of a model and then he creates the art based on the photograph.  I recently learned that the model for Cassie is named Ashley Bohannon, and I think she's the perfect Cassie.  I don't think the polar bear was present for the photo shoot, but I could be wrong...  :)

4) What was your journey to publication like? 

I had a very standard journey to publication: write, submit, wait, repeat.  In other words, I wrote a manuscript and then sent queries to agents whom I thought might be interested in representing me based on research I'd done.  The trick is, though, that this process can take a while -- you need to get the right manuscript in front of the right person at the right time, and there are a LOT of people out there trying to do the same exact thing.  So you need to stick with it.  After you send out a query, don't wait around to hear back.  Write another manuscript and then another and another.

5) Can you share with us your writing process and advice?

Everyone's writing process is different.  It depends on how your brain works.  You need to find what works best for you and ignore advice that doesn't fit.  So with that disclaimer...  I write every day, and I highly recommend it.  If you write every day, then writing becomes a habit, rather than an enormous undertaking.  Don't wait for inspiration.  Don't wait for large stretches of time.  If you want to be a writer, then make writing part of your life right now.

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Great advice! Thank you, Sarah! I'm excited to read ICE--it sounds like a beautiful story.

If you'd like to purchase ICE, you may do so here. Cheers!



If you're an author, editor, agent, or illustrator and would like a five question interview and a drawing of your character (or of yourself), email me at rtlovejoy (at) yahoo (dot) com. Check out the FAQ page for more information! 

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Author Interview - JO ANN HERNANDEZ

We've got a contemporary author today! Jo Ann Hernandez has her book THE THROWAWAY PIECE (from Pinata Books) currently out.

The illustration is of the main character of THE THROWAWAY PIECE. Jewel is sixteen years old and she paints her hair to match her clothes.

Here is an excerpt about Jewel:

My mouth, I’m told, is way too smart. 

This is a confusing thought. 

Grown-ups preach all the time for me to 

get smart, 

act smart, 

think smart. 

Except when they don’t like 

what comes out of my mouth, 

they call me being too smart. 

They shake their heads and predict 

how my smart mouth is going to 

head me directly into trouble.

1) Thank you for joining us today! What is THE THROWAWAY PIECE about?

Jewel struggles with parentfication: the child taking care of her mother. Her mom believes a Mr. Right is out there just for her. Both of them endure through many Mr. Rights. The Latest, as Jewel calls all her mom’s boyfriends, promises the mom marriage if only she gets rid of Jewel. Jewel enters foster care.

Jewel goes through several foster homes before she finds one she can handle. You learn about the social worker assigned to Jewel’s case. The conflict between them is more than a generational gap; the conflict evolves from sensing each other’s similar injuries.

At the end of the line of foster homes, Jewel attends high school. The English teacher sees through Jewel’s tough exterior and asks her to tutor a classmate, Ronnie, in math. As Jewel and Ronnie become close, he introduces her to his friends. Just when Jewel thinks Ronnie is going to ask her out on a date, she meets his girlfriend. Distraught, she skips school and hangs out where the Punkers stay. While she is there, she gets hurt. 

You’ll have to read the book to see how it ends.

2) What inspired you to write the story?

I was a foster mom for eight years in Vermont. The girls would tell me stories of the things they had experienced. Jewel’s rules - that begin each chapter - come from many of the young ladies who were in my care.

When I moved to San Francisco to attend graduate school, I experienced the feeling of living out of my suitcase for a couple of months. I put the two experiences together.

Also, Jewel’s voice was very strong. I wrote the book in eight weeks. Jewel’s voice was dominant and clear in my mind. I followed her lead.

3) How did you do research for THE THROWAWAY PIECE?

As I wrote earlier, my experience as a foster mom contributed quite a bit of my working knowledge of the foster care system. However I have a firm belief. And those who follow me around will be bored to death to hear it again. I believe that all people have three elements in their life to satisfy. Everyone wants a voice/power to be heard and that ‘no’ means ‘no.’ Everyone wants to belong to something bigger than themselves. How you feel when someone’s eyes light up when you enter a room. Third, everyone wants to be loved and loving.

If you take any book apart, essentially you’ll find one or all three of these in the mix. Also, there have been some good articles lately about taking how you felt when you had a bad dream, then using that memory, to write a scary scene, with those same emotions. That’s what I mean. We are all the same in varying degrees. You can pretty much bet that if you write what is important to you, you’ll hit the bell for a whole audience out there.

For instance, Jewel has watched her mother go from man to man. Her understanding of what makes a good male/female relationship is thwarted. She keeps herself aloof to prevent herself from being hurt, yet the one time she hopes, her hopes are dashed. Who of us hasn’t had their heart broken? Who of us can’t recall a time when we built ourselves up so high on hope that when the event or person didn’t happen, everything turned bleak. All of us can take that experience and write of another going through the same ordeal and pretty much get it right. 

4) It sounds like you wanted to reach out to others as well. Was there a particular message you wanted to get across to your readers?

Each of my books has had a motive entwined in the story. In my first book, “White Bread Competition,” I left the heroine at the end of the book beginning the spelling bee. When I do presentations, the teens will ask me why. They want to know if the main character wins. I explain that she is already a winner. Because she showed up. Like their parents show up every day to a job they may not really like, but to provide their children with what they need, the parents keep showing up. Like showing up for football practice, or cheerleading practice, or school classes because showing up can be harder than winning. By showing up, they become winners.

With “The Throwaway Piece,” I demonstrate the way Jewel changed the life of everyone who became involved with her. Something like the movie with James Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life” where you see that if he hadn’t been around, events would have turned out differently and many not for the better. What Jewel doesn’t understand at the end of the book is that she does have purpose in her life. She does make an impact on this world. That who she is cannot be duplicated by anyone else. That her presence is a gift to the universe that only she can make. Exactly the same as each and every one of us. There are no carbon copies, and we all touch each other’s lives in ways we may never know. Remember to smile at that person at the store. Your smile may save their life.

5) Can you share with us your best writing advice?

Does this mean I have to follow the advice too? Haha.

The “right” answer is write, write, write. Oh I could write a whole other article on this and have. Watch adverbs. Be specific in your details. Have someone else read your manuscript out loud to you as you follow on your pages with a highlighter. Watch the articles. Short sentences for action scenes. I’m biased about the passive sentence because I am ESL (English as a Second Language). Everything is in the details.

However, one thing I have found in my numerous travels across these States is that girlfriends make a big difference. Of course, I also include spouses and guys that are friends. However, women friends contribute to each other in ways that are intricate to being female. When I’ve been weary, or dismissed my talent, my women friends remind me how important my voice is to this universe. 

Everyone needs a cheerleader. 

Thanks for joining us today, Jo Ann! 

Also, Jo Ann says if you read THE THROWAWAY PIECE and send her an email, she'll give you additional information about the ending.




If you're an author, editor, agent, or illustrator and would like a five question interview and a drawing of your character (or of yourself), email me at rtlovejoy (at) yahoo (dot) com. Check out the FAQ page for more information! 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Author Interview - GAYLE C. KRAUSE

We've got the twentieth interviewee on The Blog today! Welcome author Gayle C. Krause, the first picture book author to be featured here! Christmas is just around the corner and Gayle wrote a Christmas story called ROCK STAR SANTA (from Scholastic) that's perfect for kids this holiday season. The illustration here is of Gayle herself!

1)   It's good to have you here, Gayle! What is ROCK STAR SANTA about?


It’s Christmas Eve. The tree is lit and children await Santa’s arrival, only they’re not tucked snuggly in their beds dreaming of sugarplums. They’re stomping and clapping at a Christmas rock concertwhere Santa is the “star.” Santa’s snow-white hair is in a ponytail and he’s ready to rock. The rowdy reindeer band includes Donner on electric bass, eerily resembling Keith Richard. Blitzen has a Paul Stanley-like star painted on his eye as he plays the drums, and you can’t help but notice the resemblance of Comet to Slash, as he shoots across the stage.


But Santa is “THE MAN.” He takes the stage, ready to sing and the lights suddenly go out. The child wakes to find himself in bed. He thinks he dreamt the awesome concert until Christmas morning when he finds a torn concert ticket in his jeans.  Confused, he stares at a silver snowflake, like the kind that covered the concert stage, flittering outside of his bedroom window. A note from Santa thanking the boy for being his biggest fan hangs on his window and green sequins from Santa’s vest glimmers on the boy’s floor. ROCK STAR SANTA is an original, modern day retelling of a Christmas classic, but what happens on this night before Christmas is rockin’.


ROCK STAR SANTA is available through the Scholastic Book Clubs (See Saw, Lucky, and the Winter Gift Catalog). The flyers are distributed in pre-school centers and the early elementary classrooms.


2) That's a unique take on Santa! What inspired you to write about the rock star Santa?


It was Christmas of 2006 and I had been listening to Trans Siberian Orchestra. I’d seen them in a Christmas concert the year before and their rock influence on the Christmas carols must have made an impression on my imagination.


3) The art looks great for ROCK STAR SANTA. What was it like working with an illustrator for the picture book


Will Terry is a phenomenal illustrator. He has illustrated about twenty children’s books. When I wrote the rhyming manuscript I had no gender assigned for the main character or reindeer band. Will’s artistic talent brought them to life. He was responsible for the subtle references to known rock stars. Though I’ve never met him in person, we communicated through email. An illustrated picture book is a 50-50 proposition. The author must make sure his or her words have strong illustrative possibilities and the illustrator takes those words and designs the characters from them.


4) How did working as a teacher influence you as a writer?


I think being a teacher has given me a distinct advantage in writing for children. I taught in a technical education center where I guided young men and women who aspired to become teachers. I directed them in a laboratory Pre-K and they obtained college credit for their work in my class. Those students were my best critics. The juniors and seniors read my YA novels and the reaction I got from them helped me hone my craft to meet the needs of today’s teen readers. They also performed my picture books through creative dramatics and puppet presentations with the pre-schoolers, which allowed me to see which stories interested the children the most.


5) What do you love most about Christmas?


It would be the smells of the season.

·      The balsam tree that sends off a fragrance when the lights are on.

·       The molasses crinkle cookies and spice breads baking in the oven.

·      The cinnamon candles burning on the mantle and dining room table.

·      The logs burning in the fireplace.

·      And of course, the Christmas dinner.

Gayle--I think you perfectly summed up the best part of Christmas! Thank you so much for joining us today!

If you'd like to get ROCK STAR SANTA as a Christmas present, you can order it through Scholastics Book Club.



If you're an author, editor, agent, or illustrator and would like a five question interview and a drawing of your character (or of yourself), email me at rtlovejoy (at) yahoo (dot) com. Check out the FAQ page for more information!