Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Interview with Ann Jacobus

Today we're hanging out with the adorable Ann Jacobus, fellow Fall Fifteener and author of Romancing the Dark in the City of Light, which I recently read/loved/fangirled over. :)

Check it out:



Eighteen year-old Summer Barnes is ready to end it all. Even though she‘s now in Paris, the most romantic city in the world, she’s been kicked out of yet another boarding school for drinking, smoking, snorting and flunking.

Then Summer meets an awesome Arab guy, nicknamed Moony, at the Paris American International School where they’re both seniors; and mysterious Kurt while she’s out scoping a celebrity cemetery. He’s so hot, he may be out of her league.

Moony barely survived a horrific car crash as a kid. He’s totally upbeat about life and he wants Summer to embrace her own, maybe starting with a little less solo champagne drinking? Summer needs Moony’s friendship desperately, but no way will he put up with her bad choices much longer.

Kurt, on the other hand, is all about self-destructive fun. It gets harder and harder for Summer to resist him. He wants her to understand that life, and death, are in her own hands.




1. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I grew up in Texas and Arkansas, the daughter of a Yankee father and a southern mom. We moved a fair amount when I was a kid and before I was eighteen I had also lived in New Mexico and Arizona. As an adult I spent almost two decades overseas (in the Middle East and Europe). I’ve also lived in New York City and San Francisco, the latter being home base now. I’m married and have four kids, the youngest of whom is still in high school. The older three somehow made it to young adulthood, knock wood. All these moves and kids have made me a little hysterical. And I don’t mean funny.

2. What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Many things were hard about writing this story, not least that it’s ultimately about suicide and I had to spend a lot of time inside the head of a depressed and suicidal 18 year-old.  But revising it a million times was even harder.

3. What is your writing process like?

My writing process is routine. Butt in chair, every day. But I also have so many wonderful ways to procrastinate. I try to honor each and every one of them, and sometimes they even serve productively as time to stew and compost. Which is what I think my brain does before it can spit out something creative. I also like to snack while I write.

4.What advice would you give your younger self?

To commit to writing earlier. To begin studying the craft of writing carefully and thoroughly as soon as possible and write and read more. There’s a lot more to learn than I imagined, and than can be covered in one lifetime.

5. Who are some of your favorite authors?

I have SO many favorite authors. You are one of my most recent ones, as I loved THE ONE THING. But here are some others I admire, although this is just scratching the surface:
Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Thornton Wilder, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jeffrey Eugenides, Annie Proulx, Ursula Le Guin, Michael Cunningham, Madeline L’Engle, Polly Horvath, Sharon Creech, Nancy Farmer, Rebecca Stead, Walter Dean Myers, Robert Cormier, Richard Peck, Jack Gantos, Gary Schmidt, Rita Williams-Garcia, Margo Lanagan, Libba Bray, Emily Lockhart, Jandy Nelson, Andrew Smith.

Most of these authors are on my list because there is at least one book they wrote that I love wholeheartedly. But it’s hard to like everything an author writes. Even the very best have some mediocre in them. This is reassuring to me because conversely, maybe once or twice the mediocre can turn out something truly exceptional.



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Ann Jacobus’s debut YA thriller, Romancing the Dark in the City of Light is out October 6, 2015 from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press/Macmillan. She earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in San Francisco with her family and lap dog, Louie.

Say hi to Ann on her website, Twitter, and Facebook





Friday, June 26, 2015

Interview with Natasha Sinel

Today we're chatting with my fellow Fall Fifteener, the effervescent Natasha Sinel, author of The Fix (Sky Pony Press, September 1, 2015), which sounds absolutely incredible.

Must.
Read. 
NOW.

Check it out:



One conversation is all it takes to break a world wide open.

Seventeen-year-old Macy Lyons has been through something no one should ever have to experience. And she’s dealt with it entirely alone.

On the outside, she’s got it pretty good. Her family’s well-off, she’s dating the cute boy next door, she has plenty of friends, and although she long ago wrote her mother off as a superficial gym rat, she’s thankful to have allies in her loving, laid-back dad and her younger brother.

But a conversation with a boy at a party one night shakes Macy out of the carefully maintained complacency that has defined her life so far. The boy is Sebastian Ruiz, a recovering addict who recognizes that Macy is hardened by dark secrets. And as Macy falls for Sebastian, she realizes that, while revealing her secret could ruin her seemingly perfect family, keeping silent might just destroy her.

THE FIX follows two good-hearted teenagers coming to terms with the cards they were dealt. It’s also about the fixes we rely on to cope with our most shameful secrets and the hope and fear that comes with meeting someone who challenges us to come clean.



Preorder THE FIX on Indiebound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Add THE FIX to your to-read list on Goodreads 





What is your writing process like?

I’m always trying to figure this out. I wish I had one. Generally it goes like this—I carry a notebook around with me (seriously from room to room) for when I have ideas, thoughts, and details about what I’m working on. If I have an idea for a new project, I write NEW IDEA in large print at the top of the page so I’ll know it’s recorded and I can forget about it until I need it.

Outlining is my weakness. Stories come to me in bits and pieces—fully-formed scenes play out in my head, and I write them, but then they don’t always add up to a great plot—or at least in the right order. But writing these scenes helps me know my characters and their motivations. Sometimes, I get to use the original scenes in the novel, sometimes I don’t.

I rewrite A LOT. I’m hoping to streamline my process for my next novel by creating a more solid structure before I start writing.


Where is your favorite place to write?

I used to write in my local libraries and at Borders (sad face). Now that my kids are in school, though, I write at home. I should write in my office at my ergonomically correct desk, but I tend to sit at the kitchen table or on the couch.


Is there anything in particular that gets you in the writing zone?

I think I’m in the minority here—I don’t really have anything in particular. I don’t make a cup of tea or put on lucky writing socks. I don’t listen to music when I write; I prefer quiet. On the other hand, I’m okay if there’s background noise, like at a cafe. What usually gets me in the zone to write is opening up my laptop and getting my fingers on the keyboard. A few years ago, I broke my shoulder, so I couldn’t type. I tried writing a few scenes longhand. It was really interesting to see how the scene flowed differently. I’d like to try doing that more, but I’m pretty attached to my laptop.


Do you ever get writer's block? Any tips to get past it?

Of course there are times when I feel like I can’t write—like I’m blocked and I can’t get past it. But the truth is, I’m happiest when I’m writing, so I don’t like to let it go too long. I have taken long breaks away from a story. And I’ve also forced myself through a block by refusing to get up until I’ve figured out what’s blocking me.

Even though I don’t write everyday, I do something writing-related—blogging, reading, editing, etc—pretty much all day every day. When I get stuck, sometimes it helps to Skype with a critique partner to just bounce around some ideas. Often I’ll think I’m stuck because I don’t know what happens next but when I talk it through I realized that I’m struggling with a character’s motivation. Once I figure that out, what happens next falls into place. Also, when I really don’t feel like writing, I put my phone in another room, and shut down the Internet.


Was there ever a time that you considered giving up on your aspiration to write?

I’ve never wanted to stop writing, but there was one moment that I seriously considered giving up on my dream to be a published author. After a seemingly endless rollercoaster with my first manuscript, my second manuscript (The Fix) was finally ready to go on submission. I loved my agent, all was going well . . . until she told me she was leaving the business. After that phone call, I wanted to give. I’d already been through so much, and things had finally been looking up. But my giving-up phase lasted about two hours. That night, I dove back into researching agents and ended up sending out a few queries the next day.

When I’m on a down cycle in the process, I try to remember this great motivational quote, and this helps:

“I love writing more than I hate failing at writing.” --Elizabeth Gilbert



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Natasha Sinel writes YA fiction from her home on a dirt road in Northern Westchester, NY. She drives her kids around all afternoon but in her head, she’s still in high school and hopes no one near her can read minds. You can find her on Twitter or Facebook. The Fix is her first novel.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Interview with Shannon Grogan

Hello, lovelies!

Today I'm chatting it up with the adorable Shannon Grogan, author of From Where I Watch You, an amazing YA thriller due out August 4, 2015 via Soho Teen. 

YESSSS....

You guys. I recently read this story and--HOLY CATS--it. is. insane. Check out the blurb:


Sixteen-year-old Kara McKinley is about to realize her dream of becoming a professional baker. Beautifully designed and piped, her cookies are masterpieces, but also her ticket out of rainy Seattle—if she wins the upcoming national baking competition and its scholarship prize to culinary school in California. Kara can no longer stand the home where her family lived, laughed, and ultimately imploded after her mean-spirited big sister Kellen died in a drowning accident. Kara’s dad has since fled, and her mom has turned from a high-powered attorney into a nutty holy-rolling Christian fundamentalist peddling “Soul Soup” in the family cafĂ©. All Kara has left are memories of better times.


But the past holds many secrets, and they come to light as Kara faces a secret terror. Someone is leaving her handwritten notes. Someone who knows exactly where she is and what’s she’s doing. As they lead her to piece together the events that preceded Kellen’s terrible, life-changing betrayal years before, she starts to catch glimpses of her dead sister: an unwelcome ghost in filthy Ugg boots. If Kara doesn’t figure out who her stalker is, and soon, she could lose everything. Her chance of escape. The boy she’s beginning to love and trust. Even her life.




Can you tell us a little bit about your background? And what drew you into the young adult genre?

I originally tried to get into the children’s book market as an illustrator. I was fresh out of art school and ready to illustrate picture books! Back then, every art director I met or sent my work to in Seattle said I had to move to New York if I wanted to succeed. I didn’t. I just sent my postcards around to every publisher I could. I had a lot of rejection, and some of ‘we like your work and we’ll keep you on file if something that fits your style comes up’. I got a little bit of freelance work from those postcards and I realized then that I didn’t want to illustrate other peoples stories, I wanted to do my own. I was working on it when I realized that I wanted to go back to college and pursue my second career choice: teaching. I did. Then I got married, had kids, taught kindergarten. In the back of my mind was the picture book writing and the illustrating, but after having kids I lost all of my art mojo! During the summer before my youngest started kindergarten I read all of the Harry Potter books. I was a substitute teacher at the time and when my son started kindergarten I was DESPERATE for a distraction, for something to do when I wasn’t subbing. When I finished that last Harry Potter book I was so inspired! I always knew someday I would write novels, but for adults, and after I’d lived about 70 years so I’d have a lifetime of experiences to draw from. But those HP books inspired me and made me feel like I could do it now and I didn’t want to wait! So I bought a new notebook (one of my favorite things in the world to buy) and started plotting out a story about a 12 year old girl and her guardian angel. I was so excited about it! My kids were both in school all day, I was subbing, and I had some time. But we were in a situation where we needed me to be making more money so when I had the opportunity to go back to full time teaching, I had to take it. And there went all of my writing time. For awhile. I kept hearing about this book called Twilight. And there was a movie coming out and everyone telling me ‘oh, you must read this book Twilight’ and I’m all like, yeah, whatever, if you say I HAVE to read it then I won’t. Just like how I dragged my feet with starting to read the Harry Potter books. In the winter, my sister shocked me, absolutely shocked me, when she told me she was writing a book! I can’t even remember if I told her I had started my girl and angel story. But she was one of those people forcing Twilight on me at a time when I needed a brain escape from the stress of a teacher’s life. So I read it. Then I read it again. I loved that book because it was so fun! Not to be outdone by my sister, I dug out that angel story and got back to work on it! But, after reading Twilight, I changed my characters ages to teens, so I could have more romance in it, and kissing. Fun! That is how I got into writing YA. Via Harry Potter and Twilight!


 What is your writing process like?

1. I use the W plot method with a bit of Save the Cat methodology  to visually plot out the story, with all of my colored Sharpies (here is the one for FWIWY)

2. I fill in a rough outline based on all the points of the W plot/Save the Cat and leave lots of space so when I print it out I can handwrite it. The outline this way, with lots of space is usually about 15 pages. BTW, it really really helps later on when you need to write a synopsis!
3. I write a crappy crappy fast first draft. And when I mean fast, I mean like two months max, and it never has the ending in it.

4. I focus in on the first few chapters and send it off for critique so I can find out if I’m headed in the right direction or if I need to re focus entirely.

5. I’m almost done with my third full novel and the revision takes the longest. I revise in layers. The book I am working on now is getting close to two years of revision. I think it takes me a long time to get to really know my characters.
I read through and revise for one thing at a time, like for a character trait, or a relationship. Always in layers.

6. When I am to the point where I can’t do anything else on my own then I send it to critique partners. And then I revise again.


  Where is your favorite place to write?

My favorite place to write is at my dining room table, with my grandma’s shawl draped over me, and my vanilla candle lit, and a cup of coffee or tea next to that. It’s right next to my desk, where I never write because it’s usually piled high with writing stuff and teacher stuff.


 Can you tell us a little bit about your heroine?

My MC Kara is dealing with a huge betrayal by her sister. She wants to forget it, she wants to escape it, and her entire life. She’s trying to do this by winning a baking contest which will help her escape her life, escape all of this if she wins.


What was the hardest part about writing this particular book?

The hardest part of writing this book was the sexual assault scene. My editor ended up wanting to cut some of it, and I was partially relieved, but also in a way disappointed. Because although she’s not actually raped, she is assaulted and my intent was to show that just because someone might not be raped, it doesn’t make what happens any less hurtful or any less wrong. But the focus of the story is really about betrayal and forgiveness, so I can live with what has been deleted. And I had to write it to get the most out of Kara.


What other projects do you have coming up?

My current WIP will be on sub sometime in the near future so I can’t say much, but it is a YA thriller set on a summer beach in Washington State. So if you know the Pacific Northwest, you’ll know that sometimes on the beach in the summer you have to wear a sweater!


 ***************



Shannon Grogan is a second grade teacher who writes at night (and while her kids are at ballet and baseball) in a small logging town east of Seattle. She holds degrees in education, and graphic design/Illustration. When she isn’t writing, she's baking, reading, watching scary movies, and wishing she were at the beach. You can find out more about her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.



Friday, May 8, 2015

Interview with David Fulk

Ooooo...guys. GUYS. You're in for a huge treat today, because right here, on my humble little blog, I'm interviewing my fellow Fearless Fifteener, David Fulk, MG author of RAISING RUFUS, which is releasing June 9th by way of Delacorte Books for Young Readers. 

(cue the excited gasps)


    Martin Tinker may be the smartest kid in the sixth grade, but who cares?  His classmates just think he’s weird.  To the good folks of Menominee Springs, Wis., he’s practically invisible.  Even his dad has a hard time relating to his bug-collecting, woods-exploring, maddeningly oddball ways.  But when Martin accidentally unearths an ancient, frozen egg in a local quarry, he’s in for whole new dimensions of oddness.

    When the egg thaws and hatches, he finds himself surrogate mom to a bright-eyed little lizard with a voracious appetite for meat and a tendency to GROW at an alarming rate.  Pretty soon Martin figures it out:  What he's got is a living, breathing, honest-to-carnivorous baby T. rex.  Martin bonds with his prehistoric pet, but knows this outlandish creature must be kept a secret.

    Teaming up with Audrey Blanchard, another misfit from school, Martin struggles to keep “Rufus” fed, entertained, and hidden from the world.  But when Rufus grows to 7 feet tall—and starts getting in touch with his inner primeval predator—the secret is blown, and all Martin’s worst fears come to pass.

    Somehow he will have to find the strength and self-confidence he’s never had to save Rufus (or the town?) from an unthinkable fate—and finally, maybe, win a little acceptance from his peers and his dad.




Preorder RAISING RUFUS on Amazon, B & NIndiebound, and Porter Square Books
Add it to your to-read list on Goodreads
Read the first chapter 


Can you tell us a little bit about your background?


I suspect my journey has been a bit different from most other middle-grade authors'. For one thing, I have a Y chromosome, which makes me an outlier from the get-go. For another, I'm sure I'm quite a bit older than your typical debut novelist (I could give you a number, but then I'd have to kill you). And I never really set out to write books for kids until very recently. My previous writing has been for stage and screen.

What drew you into the middle-grade genre?
That's actually kind of interesting, because RAISING RUFUS started out as a screenplay that I developed with the help of a producer friend. But we couldn't quite get it to the big screen. It was what you'd call a "family" movie. But when I decided to do it as a book, I quickly learned that from a business standpoint, there's no such thing as a "family" novel (even though there are plenty of novels that appeal to all ages!). You have to pick an age range. So I decided middle grade would be best.


What is your writing process like?
Very painful! At least in the early stages. When you're first fleshing out your story, there are so many decisions to be made, any one of which can take it in a whole new direction. And if it turns out to be not a good direction, the rewriting and rethinking process gets all the more drawn-out and frustrating. So I tend to work slowly and deliberately, trying to dodge as many of the land mines and pitfalls as I can before they gobble the whole thing up.


Where is your favorite place to write?
I like to write longhand, so I guess I would have to say my soft blue easy chair. For me, there's something about working directly on a computer that gives it too much permanence. I like to tweak and revise as I go along, and I prefer to do that on paper. So I've got a whole bunch of notebooks filled with cross-outs and arrows and scribbles all over the place, illegible to all but me. And even to me, sometimes.

Do you ever get writer's block? Any tips to get past it?
Do I ever not? It's the bane of my existence! It's that early-in-the-process paranoia again. Writing a novel is such a huge investment of time and energy, I want to feel absolutely sure I'm on a good path before embarking on it. Probably the best advice I've heard to confront it is to just start writing. Write something, write anything, even if it has no chance of becoming your next project. Get in the habit of moving thoughts from brain to page.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Wow, so many. Since we're talking middle grade, I guess I'll stick with that. Neil Gaiman. Rebecca Stead. Sharon Creech. Avi. Kate DiCamillo is a master storyteller. For me, Gary D. Schmidt can do no wrong. He has a way of grabbing you by the heart and not letting go.


What inspired you to write RAISING RUFUS?
Well, I was brainstorming with my producer friend about my next screen project, and I said, "Wouldn't it be cool to have your own pet T. rex?" It clicked for us immediately, and it was off to the races.

What was the hardest part about writing this particular book?
Going from screenplay conventions to novel conventions involved a bit of a learning curve for me. In a movie script, "POV" means camera angle. In a novel, it's a character's figurative point of view. There are usually multiple character POVs in a movie, and that's the way I did my early drafts of the book―which my critique group tactfully pointed out was verboten. So I had to do a lot of reworking, which wasn't easy, but I eventually got it. I would have to say, though, that since then I've read several highly acclaimed books where the POV jumped all around―so I'm still a little suspicious of that rule.

Can you tell us a little bit about your hero?
As a committed science geek, Martin is a social misfit―partly because of the way his peers treat him, and partly because of his own social inhibitions, So when he suddenly gets hit with the challenge of raising a T. rex from birth, it forces him to approach life in a whole new way. He has to find his own inner T. rex, you might say.

Did you base your characters on anyone in particular?
Not any one particular person, but Donald, the stinker from school who torments Martin, is sort of a composite of a few guys I went to grade school with. Our class was famous for being the worst bunch of snakes ever to slither through white suburbia! (Not me, of course. I was a model child.)


What other projects do you have coming up?
Here's a minimalist answer: It will be another middle-grade story with a boy hero and a fantasy element. But no T. rexes. Dang! Now I've given away too much...


************************

About the author:

David Fulk is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, director, and (now) novelist living near Boston. He grew up in the Chicago area and has lived in Missouri, Louisiana, Michigan, California, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, Belgium, India, and Wisconsin.  He used to own a T. rex, but he had to return it to the pet store after it ate his labradoodle.

Say hi to David on his website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Interview with Kelly Jones

Today we're hanging out with Kelly Jones, author of UNUSUAL CHICKENS FOR THE EXCEPTIONAL POULTRY FARMER. Which I would buy because of the title alone. Because really. It's so awesome. Also, check out the cover and blurb and et cetera, all of which equally awesome: 



Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown feels like a fish out of water when she and her parents move from Los Angeles to the farm they’ve inherited from a great-uncle. But farm life gets more interesting when a cranky chicken appears and Sophie discovers the hen can move objects with the power of her little chicken brain: jam jars, the latch to her henhouse, the entire henhouse....

And then more of her great-uncle’s unusual chickens come home to roost. Determined, resourceful Sophie learns to care for her flock, earning money for chicken feed, collecting eggs. But when a respected local farmer tries to steal them, Sophie must find a way to keep them (and their superpowers) safe.

Told in letters to Sophie’s abuela, quizzes, a chicken-care correspondence course, to-do lists, and more, Unusual Chickens is a quirky, clucky classic in the making. 




Sounds amazing, right??! 
Preorder at Amazon or B & N and 
add it to your Goodreads 



And now....(drumroll): a few words with Kelly:




What is your writing process like?

I almost always start with a character and something they care strongly about. But when it comes to writing their story, I’m an under-writer: I write a skeleton version of the story for my first draft, and then go back and give it layers of detail and depth until it makes sense. (It’s more common for my editor to ask me to add more than to delete sections.) Then, somewhere along the way I try to make sure it has a plot. That’s the hardest part for me, and often involves shuffling bits around until they’re in the right order.

Was there ever a time that you considered giving up on your aspiration to write?

Yes, I did give up writing for about three years while I was earning a master’s degree in library sciences and working full time. Back then, it felt like the end of my writing dreams, but now it feels more like a hiccup along the way. If it happens again, I hope now I’d tell myself to enjoy the break and not worry about it so much! If writing is truly important to you, I think you’ll come back to it when you’re ready.

What advice would you give your younger self?

To spend more time watching how people live in the world, all the details that make them individuals, and much less time worrying about which font to use and how hard it is to be a professional writer.

What inspired you to write UNUSUAL CHICKENS FOR THE EXCEPTIONAL POULTRY FARMER? 

Getting my first chickens! Apparently most people enjoy the eggs and go about their regular lives. I sat in the backyard and watched mine for hours, thinking up superpowers that would be useful to chickens.

What was the hardest part about writing this particular book?

I knew exactly who Sophie was from the beginning of this story – and that was an enormous gift and also a huge writing challenge for me. I’m white, Irish-American, and I didn’t know if I could write a Latina character’s experience that would feel authentic to readers. There were so many details I didn’t know, or wasn’t sure of. So, I did the best I could, and then I asked for help. That was hard too – it felt awkward and uncomfortable to ask Latina writers to see how my words felt to them, if Sophie’s experiences and reactions made sense to them. But it made the book much stronger, and was the best thing I could have done for this book -- and it made me much more confident about asking for help when I need it. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your hero/heroine?

Sophie Brown, age twelve, moves from Los Angeles to a rural farm with her white father and Mexican-American mother. She misses living in a diverse urban community and finds it hard to fit in to her new town, but she especially misses her grandmother, who died recently. Sophie’s quiet and shy, but she has a strong commitment to doing the right thing. So, when chickens with superpowers turn up and it’s her job to protect them, she’ll do whatever it takes. I would describe her as a quiet, brave, steadfast person, with a great sense of humor.

What other projects do you have coming up?

My second book is a YA Regency costume drama with magic called GLAMOUR, about Miss Annis Whitworth, who, when orphaned at sixteen, decides she’d much rather be a spy like her father than a governess. (Unfortunately, the War Office does not agree.) 




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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kelly Jones (curiosityjones.net) is a curious person, interested in chickens, magic, farm life, spies, sewing, the odd everyday bits of history, how to make sauerkraut, how to walk goats, superheroes and what makes them so super, recipes to make with a lot of eggs, anything with ghosts (particularly friendly ghosts), how to draw chickens that actually look like chickens, and any story she’s never heard before.

She’s also a writer: Her debut novel (Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer (http://www.randomhousekids.com/books/detail/236937-unusual-chickens-for-the-exceptional-poultry-farmer?isbn=9780385755528#.VT7ghs5xAk9) , about twelve-year-old Sophie and her magical chickens, is forthcoming from Knopf Books For Young Readers in May of 2015. It’s for kids ages 8-12.

Her second book, Glamour (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23113602-glamour), is set in 1818, England, about sixteen-year-old Annis, who would like to become a spy like her father and who does not see why the War Office should put up such a fuss (with bonus magical dressmaking!) is forthcoming from Knopf Books for Young Readers in Spring of 2017.