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YA Wednesday: Walter Dean Myers 1937-2014

BEA2012_WalterDeanMyers_250I'm so sad to hear that Walter Dean Myers passed away. I had the pleasure to meet him at BEA in 2012 (pictured here), when he was the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, and he was delightful.  Myers said that books gave him solace during troubled times as a young person, and in turn his books have touched many young lives. 

The author of over 100 works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, Myers won the Coretta Scott King Award multiple times, including a 2014 Coretta Scott King Honor for Darius & Twig.  He also received two Newbery Honors (for Scorpions and Somewhere in the Darkness) and his book, Monster, was the inaugural winner of the Michael L. Printz Award, a National Book Award Finalist, and a New York Times bestseller.  His futuristic young adult novel, On a Clear Day will be published this fall (September 23).  He will be sorely missed.

"I think my life is special. In a way it seems odd that I spend all of my time doing only what I love, which is writing or thinking about writing. If everyone had, at least for part of their lives, the opportunity to live the way I do, I think the world would be a better place.”--Walter Dean Myers

YA Wednesday: Best YA Books of 2014 So Far

Scary, but true--2014 is basically half over. There are still a LOT of great books to look forward to this fall (Skink--No Surrender, BelzharThe Infinite Sea, etc.,) but this is the time of year when we look back at the ones we've loved over the first six months of the year and do the painful work of picking our 20 favorite YA novels.  The first five are below, and you've heard me rave about them all before so I will spare you another round.  Just know that all the books on the list are ones that I highly recommend--I'm hoping you see some of your own favorites and find a few new ones here, too.

                     Best Teen & Young Adult Books of 2014 So Far

 BOTYSF_YA_Collage

 Here's a taste - the first five:

1. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: Not kidding. love love love this book.

2. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor:  A perfect example of how fantastic YA literature can be, whether you are 16 or 46A must-read trilogy in my book.

3. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs:  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a tough act to follow but Hollow City is compulsive reading and well worth the time between books.  I hope Riggs hurries up on the next one, though...

4. The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkowski:  Star-crossed love and a new heroine to watch.  Throw in a richly imagined world of class warfare, politics, intrigue, and constant action and you've got the first book of an original new trilogy.

5. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson: A powerful and ultimately hopeful contemporary novel about the effects of war on those left behind.  Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest.

See the whole list here

 

What to Read in Litchfield Prison: Dana Reinhardt on "We Are the Goldens"

WeAreTheGoldensI'm a big fan of the show Orange is the New Black, and it's been interesting to see the commentary on binge-watching since the long-awaited second season released.  Many readers can relate to this experience, it's basically the same thing as when you "just-one-more-chapter" yourself into finishing a book that's sucked you in, even if it's 4 a.m. and you have to work the next day. 

I recently had the unique experience of binge-reading Dana Reinhardt's book, We Are the Goldens (one of our Best Young Adult Books of June), and also binge-watching Season 2 of Orange is the New Black, where I was very pleasantly surprised to see the same book I'd just burned through, being read on the show by no less than the maven of Litchfield prison herself (that would be Red). 

I wanted to find out if Reinhardt was already a fan of Orange is the New Black, and what it was like to see her book on the T.V. show everyone's talking about.  Here's what I found out about these questions and more:

Q: For a reader just learning about your book, tell me about We Are the Goldens

Dana Reinhardt: We Are The Goldens is about two sisters, Nell and Layla, who are extraordinarily close, and it’s about what happens when that sort of closeness is threatened, as it inevitably will be, by individual choices. It’s written in the form of a confessional from Nell directly to Layla as she struggles with whether to keep her sister’s secrets. It’s about kids of privilege growing up with overly trusting and distracted parents. It’s about inchoate morality. It’s about the blurry lines between love and friendship. And it’s one big (slightly twisted) love letter to the city of San Francisco.

Q: The book is shown on the new season of Orange is the New Black – were you already a fan of the show?  What did that feel like, to see your new book in that context?

Dana Reinhardt: I’m a huge fan of the show. I think it’s some of the smartest writing on television. The characters are so complex and I love the way as a viewer you get to know them before you really know them, that is, before you know who they are outside of the microcosm of the prison system and what set of circumstances led them there. Seeing Red, the grand dame of Litchfield, reading my book was an absolute thrill, particularly as that moment arrived on our screens just as the debate blew up about whether adults should be embarrassed to read YA literature. Clearly Red is not embarrassed. Nor are the many other OITNB characters shown with YA novels in their hands.

Q: What do you think makes We Are the Goldens such a good crossover adult read?

Dana Reinhardt: I see most young adult fiction, especially realistic young adult fiction simply as coming of age literature, and who doesn’t love a good coming of age story? I know I do. But this book in particular works for the adult reader because it raises some questions about parents and teachers and the environments we trust our children to that maybe aren’t simple to answer. I didn’t want to write a black and white story, and though I know some young readers will see it that way, I don’t think adult readers will.

Q: You’ve said that To Kill a Mockingbird is your favorite book – were you a teenager when you read it, and was it assigned reading?

Dana Reinhardt: I don’t remember what grade I was in when I first read To Kill a Mockingbird, maybe 9th? I know I didn’t come to it on my own, because left to my own devices I’d have just re-read a Judy Blume book for the thousandth time. But whenever it was that I was assigned that book, my sense of the world forever shifted. It moved me on every level and I remember thinking: this is a perfect book. I go back to it every 10 years or so, often with a sense of trepidation. What if it isn’t as good as I remember? What if it isn’t perfect? It is. And it is.

Q: What are you reading now and how do you decide what to read next?

Dana Reinhardt: I often read several books at once. Usually I’m listening to something on audio while I take my daily walk in Golden Gate Park with the dog. Sometimes I choose silence, if I need to work out a plot point in whatever I’m currently writing, but most often I listen to YA. I find that most YA lends itself well to audio and it’s where I do the vast majority of my YA “reading”. Right now I’m listening to Siobhan Vivian’s The List, which is wonderfully complex. As far as books that I hold in my hands, I know I’m a little late to the party, but I just recently discovered Tana French. I’m not generally a reader of mysteries or detective novels so I resisted her for a long time, but finally enough people I know and trust pushed hard enough and all I can say is… Whoa. She is a gorgeous writer. I’m also currently re-reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights, her companion books on grief and loss and aging. They are the sorts of books to which you will want to return as, inescapably, their themes will impact your life in some way. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

 

YA Wednesday: Leigh Bardugo and Marie Rutkoski Talk Heroines and Books They Can't Live Without

RuinRising300 WinnersCurse300Leigh Bardugo and Marie Rutkoski are two of my recent favorites authors of YA fiction.  Rutkoski's first book of her new trilogy, The Winner's Curse was a Best Book of the Month in March, and I'm trying to be patient waiting for the next one...  On Tuesday (6/17), Bardugo wrapped up her Grisha trilogy (I loved the first two books, Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm) with the finale Ruin and Rising.  And, just so you know, it's fantastic. 

Both authors have written brilliant heroines and created big, satisfying worlds for their readers.  Below, you'll see what they have to say about both, and the soundtrack they would pair with their books.  We also find out the book they couldn't live without (both hedge their bets, which I can totally relate to...).

Q: What qualities in your heroines do you most admire? What do you most relate to?

Leigh Bardugo: That's a tough question. I guess I admire Alina's courage and resilience a great deal, but I think I respect her honesty the most. She is very much herself even when she doesn't think that's the person people want to see. I suppose I relate most to her sense of humor. Even when things are at their worst, Alina can still laugh at herself. Marie, I loved Kestrel's intelligence, but also that it wasn't a kind of singular intelligence—it was only part of who she was and what she valued. 

Marie Rutkoski: For my part, Leigh, I loved that Alina never forgot where she came from. She’s presented with some very seductive things—power, luxury, attractive young men—but to me she’s always the girl who rubs a scar on her hand and knows exactly where she got it, and how.

Kestrel is very smart, even cunning. Sometimes she’s capable of manipulation. But what I admire most is her kindness. She means well. She senses other people’s limits and respects them. And she’s kind in a very old sense of the word (“kind” means “alike”; it has the same origin as the word “kin”—i.e., “family”). She tries to understand other people’s perspective. In other words, Kestrel is empathetic. I try to be, too.

Q: World-building is a huge part of what makes both of your books so great. What would you like/dislike about living in the worlds you created?

Leigh Bardugo: Dislike? The looming threat of imminent death comes to mind. I'm also not sure how I'd feel about eating roasted lynx or cuckoo. Ravka is a tough place to live if you're not of a particular class, but even if you are, it's a country in the midst of tremendous upheaval. So it's hard for me to imagine sleeping well at night. But I would love to attend the Winter Fete at the Grand Palace, or see the Grisha in their workshops, or spend an afternoon aboard one of Sturmhond's ships.

Marie Rutkoski: Um, can I spend an evening aboard Sturmhond’s ship? I would like that very much, thanks.

I wouldn’t mind living in Herran well before the invasion. It was a place that revered the arts. I confess: I’m kind of arty.

But living in Kestrel’s time and place would be very difficult. Her people are constantly at war, are very good at it, and enslave the populations they conquer. Living in a society that practices slavery would be abhorrent. And even if I weren’t a soldier, I would find it hard to live in such a militaristic society.

Q: If your book/series had a soundtrack, what songs would be on it?

Leigh Bardugo: Placebo's cover of "Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush is basically the Darkling's theme song as far as I'm concerned. "Cosmic Love" by Florence + the Machine, "I Will Come" by Alpha Rev, "Mountain Sound" by Of Monsters and Men, "Stubborn Love" by the Lumineers, "Sorcerer" by Stevie Nicks, and "Polegnala e Todora (Love Song)" from Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares.  Also, nothing would ever get written without Ludovico Einaudi.

Marie Rutkoski: “Sigh No More” by Mumford & Sons, “Bloodbuzz Ohio” by The National, “Half Light II (No Celebration)” by Arcade Fire, “Dancing on My Own” by Robyn, “A+E” by Goldfrapp, “Limit to Your Love” by James Blake, “If It’s True” by Anaïs Mitchell featuring Justin Vernon and Greg Brown, “Green” by Brendan James (but a live, acoustic version a friend gave me that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. I suspect it’s bootlegged. I don’t care for the original recorded version).

The song I listened to a lot while writing the sequel to The Winner’s Curse is Florence + the Machine’s cover of “Take Care.”

Q: What book do you own that you couldn’t live without, and why?

Marie Rutkoski: This question makes me wish I had a precious first edition or a book passed down through generations of my family. The book I most enjoy rereading is Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; I tend to read it when I’m sick. Makes me feel lots better. But if we’re talking about one book that I’m going to be reading over and over again for the rest of my life, I’d have to go with the collected works of Shakespeare, since he’s a big reason why I’m a writer, and because I know I can reread anything of his and never get bored. But that’s a cheating sort of answer.

Leigh Bardugo: It's a strategic sort of answer. Pride and Prejudice is a big comfort read for me too. (Weirdly, when I was a kid, my comfort read was Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King. Maybe because high school was basically prison.) I think I'm going to waffle and go with either Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles (in which case I also need a great dictionary and maybe an OED) or the complete Harry Potter.

Q:  What was the best piece of advice you ever got?  And from whom?

Marie Rutkoski: A friend of mine, Jeremiah, who died much too young, said that it’s best to accept people at face value. Believe what they say. A former adviser in graduate school, James Shapiro, when I was working on my dissertation, said, “People just want to hear a good story. What’s your story?” That’s true for writing--even academic stuff, which I sometimes do--but also for life. If you listen and look, you’ll see that people are telling stories all the time: through gossip, memories, images, songs. And Matthew Arnold, in a poem, said, “Ah, love, let us be true / To one another!” That might be the best advice.

Leigh Bardugo: That answer makes me so sad that we're not touring again together. (Anyone reading this should know that Marie Rutkoski is a lovely person to be stuck in an airport with.) The best life advice I ever got was probably from Frank Herbert's Dune. That book is all about adapting and preparation. Also, vengeance. But the words that come to me most often, particularly with respect to writing, is by Yeats: "Be secret and exult, / Because of all things known / That is most difficult."

YA Wednesday: "The Fault in Our Stars" Movie Exclusive

TFIOS_300 TFIOS_MTISo, last week was Book Expo America, the giant tradeshow in New York that consists of authors, books, and events that bring booksellers and authors together.  One of these events was a special screening of The Fault in Our Stars movie.

I'm a huge fan of this book so I had my concerns, but they were needless. The movie was fantastic, as was the soundtrack--something I hadn't even thought about (and could have gone horribly wrong...). Swedish hip hop? Um, yeah! 

Before the lights went down, author John Green told the audience how happy he is with the team at Fox 2000, the cast (seriously star-studded!), and the resulting film.  After the movie, a Q&A session moderated by Lev Grossman included one of the producers, the screenplay writers, the director, John Green, the president of Fox 2000, and Nat Wolff (who plays Isaac in the movie). As they answered questions and joked about how The Fault in Our Stars became a cinematic reality, it was obvious that there is a lot of affection amongst this group, for each other and the story they set out to tell. 

Exclusive photos of John Green on the set during filming:

Green on set
Green with Shailene Woodley
Green and Laura Dern
Green talking to Laura Dern

On the way into the theater, we were given popcorn, sodas, and a packet of tissues with The Fault In Our Stars covers (the original, and the one with movie art) printed on them.  If you haven't read this book yet (and I hope you will) please know that there is a lot of laughter mixed with the tears.  And for me the tears are good tears, born of the characters tugging my heart strings and how much Green's story makes me appreciate family, friendship, and that truly-madly-deeply feeling of falling in love. Yes, I'm a total sap, but I dare you not to be moved by this book.

Green on set
Before the movie
Green and Laura Dern
After the movie

 

What's next for John Green on the big screen? Paper Towns is set for release in 2015 with the same screenwriters and producers, starring Nat Wolff (Isaac in The Fault in Our Stars) as Quentin Jacobsen. Fingers crossed that it's as faithful an adaptation as this one.

 

YA Wednesday Amazon Asks: Cassie Clare on Mortal Instruments, Motorcycles, and Being Frodo

CityHeavenlyFire300Yesterday the long awaited (yet another bittersweet wait...) sixth and last book in the Mortal Instruments series finally released.  City of Heavenly Fire takes all the build-up of the last five books and brings it all home in a world-changing confrontation between Shadowhunters and demons.  Cassie Clare has been crazy busy in the course of this series, wrapping up her Infernal Devices trilogy and then of course, the City of Bones movie.  You might think she'd want to catch her breath for a minute, but instead Clare is embarking on a whole slew of new projects.  In the Amazon Asks below, we found out about her next book projects, her latest obsession, and what she bought with her first royalty check:


The final book in the Mortal Instruments series is out now, do you already have something else in the works?

I have three more trilogies about Shadowhunters planned—The Dark Artifices, The Last Hours, and The Wicked Powers. The first book of The Dark Artifices, Lady Midnight, will be the first one released. I’m also collaborating on Magisterium, a middle grade series that isn’t set in the Shadowhunter universe, but instead in a world of alchemy-based magic. The first book of MagisteriumThe Iron Trial, will be out in September 2014. I’m co-writing the series with Holly Black.

What's the most important book you never read?

Finnegan's WakeI know I should read it, especially since I love Ulysses and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. But it is unbelievably hard to get through. Every time I start reading it, I fall instantly asleep. I think it may in fact not be a book but a sleep aid.

What is the book that changed your life?

It's hard to pick just one! The Borderlands books changed my life when I read them as a teen in the sense that the changed the way I looked at fiction and fantasy. I tended to think of fantasy as something that took place in worlds separate from our own. I think it was the first time I encountered real urban fantasy, where modern life was entirely mixed up with magic, where you could have elves and also motorcycles, and sometimes elves on motorcycles.

Continue reading "YA Wednesday Amazon Asks: Cassie Clare on Mortal Instruments, Motorcycles, and Being Frodo" »

YA Wednesday: Faeries and Falconers

Falconer250One of my favorite YA books this month is Elizabeth May's debut novel, The Falconer, the first book in a planned trilogy. A mash-up of a Victorian setting, faerie fantasy, and steampunk, I fell right into the world May created.  Her protagonist, Aileana, is a young woman straining against the rituals and requirements befitting a Victorian lady of her standing while she would much prefer crafting new inventions, many designed for her primary activity: hunting faeries and other nasty creatures surfacing from beneath the city.  There is suspense, romance (a bit of a love triangle), and Scottish lore in abundance and I can't wait for the next book. 

Best-selling author Jennifer Armentrout (her latest novel is the edge-of-your-seat thriller, Don't Look Back) interviewed Elizabeth May for Omni and got the scoop on faeries (good or bad?), living in present day Scotland, and more.

Jennifer Armentrout: Lady Aileana is a faerie killer? I thought fairies were good? Tell me more about the evil fairies!

Elizabeth May: Yesss! I love talking about faery lore! Friendly faeries are really a result of the Disneyfication of certain stories, so they’ve gotten a lot of great PR during the last century. The Falconer follows traditional Scottish lore, in which faeries are considered to be dangerous creatures that people should avoid at all costs. Some are considered “friendlier” and they help humans from time to time, but are still both temperamental and capable of a great deal of harm. The majority of faeries in Scottish lore tend to be considered evil; they slaughter on a whim, kidnap the helpless (including children and babies) and are capable of cursing people.

“Faeries” in stories were really something like a genus that consisted of a number of species, and all supernatural creatures in Scottish lore were considered fae. So there were faeries that were like vampires, werewolves, demons, spirits . . . and people wore charms to protect themselves from these creatures, and sometimes left offerings to appease them. Faeries were believed to be quick to anger, and their wrath capable of a great deal of destruction. These are the types of stories and ideas I kept in mind when I came up with The Falconer. I wanted to write about the types of faeries people felt the need to ward themselves against.

Jennifer Armentrout: You were born in the US but you live in Scotland now. How has living in Scotland influenced you as a reader and writer? What are some of the differences between Americans and Scots?

Elizabeth May: I’ve lived in Scotland for years now, so it’s definitely influenced me a great deal.  I grew up in a not-so-safe city in Southern California, amid a concrete expanse with very little green space and smoggy, brown air. When I moved to Scotland, it was completely different.  Though I still live in a city (Edinburgh), the atmosphere and the buildings have character and atmosphere that feels so much like something out of an urban fantasy novel. If you walk in the dark during late hours in Edinburgh, it feels very eerie, very haunted and sometimes even empty.

When I moved here I definitely noticed myself appreciating setting and sense of place more. The smells and seasons and changing from day into night. At first because it was all unfamiliar, and then later because it really affects the way the city and landscape looks and feels: from bright and friendly to grey and foreboding.  A lot of Scotland is like that. I start to notice when certain types of flowers bloom to cover the countryside, and how different the light is in summer and winter. Living here has given me the ability to travel all over the country – from the Highlands to the Isles – and take in the differences in landscape. There’s certainly a mood to Scottish cities and the country’s rural landscape that is inspiring for fiction.

As for differences: many, many, many. But I suppose the most immediate difference – at least for me – is how easy it is to strike up a conversation with people here. I’m a socially anxious person by nature, so I find it very difficult to meet new people, and yet I’ve had hours long conversations with strangers in pubs. No awkwardness, no contact info exchanged afterward. Just a bit of banter and a goodbye at the end.

JA:  You’ve gone from modeling for YA SciFi book covers to an author photo on the flap. How did become a cover model? I’ll bet you have good stories to share.

EM: It all started by chance. I used to have a really active and popular photography account on Deviantart, and a cover designer for Harlequin Australia saw my photos and messaged me about possibly using one for a cover. Honestly, I got so many weird messages through DA that I had no idea if she was legit. So I just forwarded her message on to the agent who handles my photos, and she followed through with buying the license for it. And that was my first cover. From there the covers just snowballed: a few more that year, then a dozen more the year after...I’ve been on almost one hundred covers internationally by now. Some of them I’ve seen and some I haven’t. I think the best part is when I end up on the repackaged covers for books I grew up reading, or on covers for authors I admire. I still get a fangirl thrill!Falconer_LJ_Smith_Cover

I read L.J. Smith as a teen, so I pretty much died when I found out I was on the cover of this one. One of my other photos (not of me) ended up on the Volume Three, as well. So exciting!

JA: Aileana and her mom are the original makers. How did you research inventing and tinkering? What’s your favorite invention in The Falconer?

EM: It was difficult to research certain inventions in the world of The Falconer, because they either don’t exist (the stitchers), or they’re still in the design stages (the lightning gun), or they’re beyond my knowledge of technical know-how (pretty much all of them, to be honest). Next to the historical information, the inventions took up a great deal of my reading time. Mainly, I started with a general idea of what I wanted and then researched accordingly.

For example, the lightning pistol Aileana uses was something I had in mind before I researched. But I wanted to have a general sense of how something like that would work (because Aileana would know exactly how it would work), so I looked into a lot of prototype ideas on the internet for lightning pistol designs. For other inventions, I merged ideas. Like with Aileana’s flying machine (which was definitely my favourite), which was a combination of Leonardo da Vinci’s designs for ornithopters and steam powered vehicles of the Victorian age.

Facloner_da_vincis_ornithopter This is the original da Vinci design, which was a single person ornithopter. It was the primary inspiration for Aileana’s flying machine.

I do have to say: researching for the inventions was so fun! I’m sure I’m on a government watch list for my searches (“how to make a flame thrower”!), but I learned a lot to make the technical aspects sound authentic.

JA: How would you have fared with all of the social restrictions on a young lady in Victorian Scotland?

EM: If modern me were suddenly plunked down into Victorian-era Scotland, I’d probably find it very difficult to adapt. The restrictions put on upper class unmarried ladies are so removed from contemporary Scottish society that my habits would probably be considered really uncouth and vulgar. But if I were brought up in the 19th century, maybe I would have bucked against certain societal expectations. Plenty of women in the Victorian-era challenged traditional women’s roles, and I like to think that if I were raised then, I would have been one of them.

JA: What books were your favorites as a tween and teen? What influence did they have on your writing?

EM: I grew up reading such a wide range of books in different genres. I loved fantasy novels by Garth Nyx, Charles de Lint, Mercedes Lackey, Anne Bishop, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Science fiction by Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Ray Bradbury. Historical romance novels by Julia Quinn and Georgette Heyer. I had a huge collection of books growing up; I went to the library every weekend and picked up new things to read. I’ve tried bits of everything, and I honestly believe that accounts for my habit of genre mashing. I had a review in Starburst Magazine that referred to The Falconer as “a Scottish-monster-hunting-steampunk-adventure-romance.” When I read that, it really struck me for the first time that instead of writing books in separate, distinct genres that I enjoy, I’ve formed a habit of spinning them together in my writing.

JA: Who would you cast in the movie version of The Falconer?

EM: I don’t really think of any actors when I write, but I loved Rose Leslie in Game of Thrones, and I think she would make a fantastic Aileana!

JA: As a debut author, what’s surprised you about the process of publishing?

EM: Definitely what an emotional journey it is. I wrote a lot of manuscripts before The Falconer that never made it to publication, so I never went through the long process of cleaning them up and watching them change for publication. The Falconer went through so many different incarnations, so it was rewarding to see how different the final, complete draft is compared to the first one I ever wrote. Being invested in a single work for that long . . . it’s a really emotional thing for me to see it finally completed for people to read.

JA: How excited were you when you saw the cover of The Falconer?

EM: So excited! I’ve been blessed with great cover work for The Falconer that really brings out Aileana’s character and the feel of the book. I literally gasped aloud when I saw the cover. It was that perfect.

JA: I’m on the edge of my seat for the next novel in The Falconer series! How much of the trilogy is planned, and how much happens as you’re writing?

EM: Thank you! :D Such a great question! The largest plot points have been planned since I started working on The Falconer. I always imagined Aileana’s story would take place over three books, so I mapped out the major events in each book, as well as the final book’s ending, so I have a general sense of where I’m going. From there, the events in each book follow a very fluid outline. I know where I want the stories to go, and even have certain scenes plotted, but how I get there and how the scenes play out are very spontaneous. Working this way gives me an equal sense of structure and seeing how the characters guide me.

 Thank you so much for the lovely interview! It’s been wonderful!

YA Wednesday Amazon Asks: Ann Brashares on Forbidden Love & What to Pack for Time Travel

HereAndNow250I wonder if Ann Brashares is tired of talking about the pants. I'm sure she'd never say so, and the Pants (as in Sisterhood of the Traveling) series is still much beloved by old and new readers alike. But still...I imagine it's like having concert-goers always requesting a band's early hits even when they are touring the new stuff.  And the new stuff, in this case, is pretty brilliant.

Like her other novels, The Here and Now is captivating and emotionally resonant. This time, travel takes her main character, Prenna, from the harsh world of 2098 to our present day, and while there are no special pants in this story, there is a New York Giants sweatshirt that plays a very important role...you'll see.


How would you describe your book to someone who doesn’t know anything about it?

It’s the story of a girl, Prenna James, who immigrated to the New York area in the present day when she was twelve from the year 2098. By that time the earth is in pretty serious disarray, and everybody is looking for a way out—space stations, other planets. The only scheme that works is a colonization of the past. Prenna’s immigrant community is bound by rules designed to protect the flow of time, most critically: NO emotional or physical intimacy with anyone outside their community.

As the book begins, Prenna is seventeen and drawn into a friendship with Ethan Jarves, a “time native” who seems to know far more about her than he should. It’s a story about forbidden love, the strange perspective gained by seeing our present world from a dark future, and whether it’s right to knowingly mess with time in the hope of a better outcome. It’s also about mosquitoes.

If you could go back in time, what decade/era would you choose to visit?

I guess I’m drawn to hopeful, before-the-fall moments—like England just before the First World War or even this country in the late 1950s. Maybe I’d go back to the suburban Pennsylvania high school in 1957 where my mom was a cheerleader and my dad was a football player and everyone seemed confident in the idea of progress. 

If you could only take one thing from your life now on your time travel journey, what would it be?

By “thing” I’m guessing you don’t mean my husband, four children, and dog. So I guess it would have to be my iPhone. I would not expect to get service or anything, and the recharging might pose a problem, but it has many, many books and songs and pictures on it, and those are the main things I’d want with me.

What's your most memorable author moment?

Soon after my first book was published, I was going through an airport and I saw a girl reading my book. It took that concrete experience for me to get the idea that it was a real book and it existed in the real world to be read by real people. I guess I am very literal. 

Now that The Here and Now has been released, do you have plans for what’s next?

I am working on a new book, most likely YA. It’s in that fragile stage where if I try to talk about it, it might dissipate. I think it was Norman Mailer who said, “Don’t talk away your book.”

 


This has been floating around a bit, but if you haven't seen it yet Ann Brashares and Ana Gasteyer (of Saturday Night Live fame) made one of the funniest promo videos I've ever seen for a book.  It's all about the pants...

 

YA Wednesday: Dreaming of Gods & Monsters with Laini Taylor

At the beginning of this month Laini Taylor came to town and we got together to talk about Dreams of Gods & Monsters, the final book in her trilogy.  I first met Taylor in 2011 when I interviewed her here in Seattle for Daughter of Smoke & Bone and we bonded over our shared love of YA novels and John Fluevog shoes.  At the time, I tried not to sound like an obsessed fan girl. Even though I kind of was. And am. 

If you haven't read this trilogy yet, prepare to get hooked on a beautifully told otherworldly story of angels, monsters, and a couple of key humans, enmeshed in love and hate, bound by friendship and family. The detail is so rich, but not cumbersome, that now I picture other angels or monsters as Taylor describes hers, in all their glorious variety and contradiction. I would wear a sandwich board for these books.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters is our spotlight pick for April's Best YA Books, and in this final piece of the puzzle Taylor introduces an additional main character, a woman named Eliza, who ties all three books together in a stroke of storytelling genius.  In the video below, Taylor and I discussed Dreams of Gods & Monsters, the happiness of organic storytelling, and resurrecting Mark Twain.

As for the shoes...well, some things never change and so it was that three years later we had ourselves another Fluevog moment.  Shoe lovers, scroll down to see photos from the interviews.

 

The Interview Shoes:

Daughter of Smoke & Bone interview, 2011 / Dreams of Gods & Monsters interview, 2014

MeLainiShoes2011MeLainiFluevogs2014

YA Wednesday: The Best Books of April

Usually it's May that has a ton of amazing books, but this year April is tearing it up with goodness.  So much so, that when it came time to whittle them down to a list of four books for Best of the Month, it just wasn't gonna happen.  So there are six books on April's Best Books list, every one a keeper. 

AprilBOTMIAprilBOTMII AprilBOTMIII

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor
Anyone who knows me has probably heard me talk about how much I love Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy. This is the final book that I've been waiting for for two long years, and it was worth it.  Taylor wraps things up beautifully but without closing the door on the possibility of more from the incredible world she built in these books.  An important new character and setting is introduced and some of my favorite things from the earlier books are revisited.  It's hard to talk about without giving too much away, but suffice it to say that I would wear a sandwich board for this series.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Ava Lavender is a girl born with wings. Not angel wings, but bird wings. Aside from this, she is a normal teenage girl and what unfolds in these pages is Ava's self-discovery, the history of tortured love that plagued her family for generations and may or may not continue, and the mad imaginings of Nathaniel Sorrows who becomes obsessed with Ava and brings this incredible tale to a crescendo.  There is  magical realism, passion, love lost and love found. A powerful debut novel from an author to watch.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Page
We are not in Kansas anymore...Amy Gumm is living a lousy life in Kansas when she gets caught in her trailer during a tornado and dropped into Oz. In this Oz things are very different than when Dorothy arrived.  In fact, ol' Dorothy is no longer the sweet innocent who just wanted to go home, but instead she returned to Oz, seized power and became an evil tyrant, cruelly punishing all who defy her.  And Amy Gumm, the new girl from Kansas? Turns out she's the one who needs to kill Dorothy and free the land. This twist on The Wizard of Oz is dark, disturbed, and may have L. Frank Baum rolling over in his grave.  And guess what?  There's a sequel. :)

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
April is when it really starts feeling like summer is just around the corner, and this follow-up to My Life Next Door sets just the right tone with a coastal island romance.  But don't get me wrong, there is meat on these bones.  Fitzpatrick knows how to write a love story that also has powerful discoveries and consequences that give her characters authenticity and make her books more than just fluffy summer romance reads.  Gwen Castle is a teenager who just wants to escape it all--her hometown, her family legacy on the island, and especially rich boy Cass Somers.  A coming-of-age story wrapped in a love story that is the best kind of read for days spent on the beach, or just wishing for summer.

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares
This is time travel for even the non-science fiction reader.  A group from many decades in the future goes back to 2014 in order to correct things that led to the harsh world they came from. These visitors are supposed to assimilate as much as possible, but are also given a strict set of rules about their behavior and are closely monitored by the leaders.  Prenna is one of these travelers and a high school student who starts falling for a "time-native" and simultaneously questioning what she's been told about the group's mission and motives.  In her latest, Brashares has written an instantly inviting novel that led me to a reinvigorated appreciation of love and freedom.

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer
Reality shows have effectively replaced the sitcom, and if you watch reality TV or ever thought about what it would be like to participate in one of the series', you'll want to read The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy.  Set at an arts high school in Minnesota, Ethan and his closest friends are the outliers who don't appreciate the taint of For Art’s Sake, a reality t.v. show being cast and filmed at their school. As Ethan and the others' underground protest takes hold, questions and betrayals crop up in unexpected places.  Vigilante Poets is a funny contemporary novel about friendship, standing up for your beliefs, hamster love, and the truth in "reality."

Omnivoracious™ Contributors

October 2014

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