Thursday, February 27, 2014

Interview with Lynne Matson

Recently I had the opportunity to interview the adorably sweet Lynne Matson about NIL, her YA light-sci-fi that's set to pub March 3rdYeah. That's right. It pubs in like four days. In hours and minutes and seconds, that's like...

*squinches up face*

Oh forget it. I stink at doing math in my head. The thing is, it's coming really soon. And you're going to want to read it. In case you've been hiding under a rock, here's a little bit about NIL (Macmillan/Henry Holt, 2014):

On the island of Nil, the rules are set.  You have one year. Exactly 365 days--to escape, or you die. 

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing Charley remembers is blacking out in an Atlanta parking lot, and when she wakes up, she’s naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley hunts for a way out. She discovers desolate beaches and human remains, but no sign of civilization--until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with hidden dangers, their greatest threat is time.

Think SURVIVOR meets LOST and THE MAZE RUNNER, add a lot of feels, and then strap in for a bumpy ride.

So who is this Lynne Matson I speak of?  Hum?  Read on, dear readers:

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Sure! I grew up in Georgia in a house full of books and a backyard full of gnarly pines that backed up to a cow pasture. Back then, I'd stay up late, reading Nancy Drew books under the covers (with a flashlight . . . a weak attempt at ninja stealth). I thought I’d be a journalist…or maybe a reporter, but I ended up being a lawyer. After my first son was born, I cut back my hours, and after my second son was born, I ended up quitting my law job altogether. Now I’ve got the best job(s) ever: being a mom to four cool boys, and writing young adult fiction. WIN!:)

Oh, and I still stay up late reading books and writing them. When I don’t have a book in my hand, you’ll find me listening to music, messing around with paint, or hanging out with my husband and our four boys . . . or all of the above.

What drew you into the young adult genre?

THE FEELS. Seriously, I LOVE young adult fiction because everything is so raw, so fierce--every first is so powerful, and every emotion is at its height. I can’t imagine writing anything else.

What is your writing process like?

Me, I’m a panster all the way! I get an idea and then run with it.

It goes like this: I get an idea--like what if a girl woke up naked and alone in a mysterious red rock field?! and it turns out she’s on an island…where she has to escape or die?. Once I get an idea, I run with the what-if. I figure out the ending and then fill in the middle. Once I have a first draft, then I go back and fill in plot holes, adding threads to tie sub-plots together and deepening the story, and character. 

Where is your favorite place to write?

Either on our screened-in porch, or in our sunroom. Always a place with lots of natural light.

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

Music! I can’t write without music. I do my best brainstorming while walking or running and listening to tunes. I also play music while I draft and revise. Sometimes it’s alternative music (some of my faves are 30 Seconds To Mars, Silversun Pickups, Snow Patrol, Rise Against, and Kasabian), but I also love the singer-songwriter vibe (like Jack Johnson or Hannah Trigwell), electronic ,or classical.  Nothing is off-limits!

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

Yes. I think every writer suffers from it from time to time; it’s just part of the process. What works for me? First and foremost, reading. Reading reminds me of why I love to write, and inspires me EVERY TIME.:) And the sure-fire cure? Writing. I make myself sit and WRITE. Getting words on paper--even if they’re not the right words--cures the block too.

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

Honestly, no. Yes, there were times the rejections were painful, and crushing. But I loved my stories and believed that one day someone else would too.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

How long do we have?! lol Anne McCaffrey, Mary Pearson, Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins, Kasie West, Lois Lowry, J.K. Rowling, Gayle Forman, Laini Taylor, Veronica Rossi, Tahereh Mafi…I’ll stop now.:)

What advice would you give your younger self?

Oh my gosh--great question! I’d tell myself to worry less and live more, to not be afraid to dream, to take chances and pursue my passions. And, to take astronomy in college (that’s the class that led me to my husband).

What was the hardest part about writing this particular book?

The hardest part was keeping every character’s days straight. I had an entire Day Chart, tracking Thad’s and Charley’s and everyone else’s. I couldn’t just remember them all; I constantly checked and re-checked my chart. My poor copy-editor suffered greatly with all the Days of NIL.:)

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

Sure! NIL is told from a dual POV: Thad, and Charley. 

Thad’s the veteran. When the book opens, he’s been on Nil for 267 days, and the daily survival has taken a toll on him. The reader learns a great deal about the island through Thad’s eyes. Charley, on the other hand, is the newcomer. The reader experiences the newness of NIL through Charley as she first arrives on the island, without the filter of experience.

Oh, and Thad’s Canadian, while Charley is American. Because as a reader learns quickly, the island of Nil pulls people from all over the globe.

Did you base your characters on anyone in particular?

Actually, no. Charley was inspired slightly by Gabrielle Reese, the pro beach volleyball player, but Thad is just Thad.

What other projects do you have coming up?

I’ve got another book in my agent’s hands as we speak, and hope to have news soon! And I’ve been toying with a NIL sequel….:)

Thanks for having me Marci!!!

My pleasure, Lynne!  I can't wait to get my hands on this book!


Lynne grew up in Georgia in a house full of books and a backyard full of gnarly pines. Back then, she'd stay up late, reading Nancy Drew books under the covers (with a flashlight . . . a weak attempt at ninja stealth). Now she still stays up late reading books and writing them. When she doesn't have a book in her hand, you’ll find her listening to music, messing around with paint, or hanging out with her husband and our four boys . . . or all of the above.

You can order a signed copy from her local indie at The BookMark

Also, NIL is also available from these lovely booksellers: Amazon

Find NIL on Goodreads

Author Links:  Lynne's Twitter, blog, and Facebook 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Interview with Hillary Monahan

Okay, confession time.

Horror novels terrify me. I know, I know...I'm a complete wienie, and there's probably a pie chart floating around out there to prove it. 

Still, though. Still. 


Regardless of all that, I can't wait to read Hillary Monahan's MARY: THE SUMMONING (Disney-Hyperion, 9/2/2014). Because--dang--it sounds amazing:

There is a right way and a wrong way to summon her.  
Jess had done the research. Success requires precision: a dark room, a mirror, a candle, salt, and four teenage girls. Each of them--Jess, Shauna, Kitty, and Anna--must link hands, follow the rules . . . and never let go.  
A thrilling fear spins around the room the first time Jess calls her name: "Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. BLOODY MARY." A ripple of terror follows when a shadowy silhouette emerges through the fog, a specter trapped behind the mirror. 
Once is not enough, though--at least not for Jess. Mary is called again. And again. But when their summoning circle is broken, Bloody Mary slips through the glass with a taste for revenge on her lips. As the girls struggle to escape Mary's wrath, loyalties are questioned, friendships are torn apart, and lives are forever altered. 
A haunting trail of clues leads Shauna on a desperate search to uncover the legacy of Mary Worth. What she finds will change everything, but will it be enough to stop Mary--and Jess--before it's too late?

*bites nails*
*thinks intensely about unicorns and kittens and rainbows*


For those of you who aren't familiar with Hillary, you're missing out. Because she's...well, she's Hillary. Refreshingly genuine. Laugh-out-loud funny. Totally unprecedented

Want more? Here's her bio:

At night, when the lights are dim and the creepy crawlies scuttle through the shadows, Hillary Monahan throws words at a computer. Sometimes they’re even good words. A denizen of Massachusetts and an avid gamer dork, she’s most often found locked in a dark room killing internet zombies. MARY: THE SUMMONING, her YA horror novel about four girls who summon Bloody Mary, will be published by Disney-Hyperion Fall of 2014.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Hillary about her forthcoming novel, her background as a writer, and basically All Things Hillary, and here's what she had to say:

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

My background is pretty much, "I grew up with a writer."  My grandmother worked in the industry for over fifty years.  You know those Hallmark cards with the cranky old lady on them?  Maxine, I think?  Gram was the original writer for the line.  In fact, she used to do a lot of greeting card copy and was really good at the short, clever quips.  I like to think I inherited a little of her humor.

I remember being Small Me and watching Gram plunking away at her typewriter in the front room.  While she worked, the house had to stay silent else all suffer the wrath of The Working Dorothy. She was up at the crack of dawn and wrote seven days a week.  There were breaks in the day—for The Price is Right and Young and the Restless—but after the shows were over, she was back at it.  Gram was a real professional and a shining example of writerly discipline.

What is your writing process like?

Wake up in the morning, shuffle to kitchen, procure mass quantities of caffeinated hot beverages.  Stumble blindly to desk in office, sit down, sip caffeinated beverage.  Fire up monitor.  Stare at screen.  Reread everything I wrote yesterday.  Mild tweaks and formulate a plan.  Rub sleep from face.  Drink more coffee.  Eat a donut.  Write three sentences. Pat a basset hound.  Write another sentence, get walked on by cat.  Fling cat after snuggles.  Write a paragraph.  Look at an internet video and hope it's not a Budweiser horse commercial or I'll cry.  Answer emails.  Write another two lines.  Get distracted by something shiny.  Examine shiny thing.  Refill caffeinated beverage.  Return to office.  Write another sentence.  Twitter check.  Facebook check.  Open YouTube and get caught in a cat video spiral.  Look at the time.  Notice it's past three and I've written almost nothing.  Regret poor life decisions and write fifteen hundred words in a frenzy.  Close MS Word and hope that it doesn't look like troll vomit in the morning. 

. . . I think that covers it.

What inspired you to write MARY: THE SUMMONING? 

I'm a huge horror geek.  There's a reason I started the YA SCREAM QUEENS blog.  I love horror and always have.  When I was a small, zygote Hillary I'd host slumber parties and force my less-than-enthusiastic friends to watch all sorts of crazy things.  Candyman, The Exorcist, The Watcher in the Woods (yes, it's Disney, but it's scary so stop judging me.)  I devoured Christopher Pike's books until I found Stephen King and then I never looked back.  I remember sitting in my bed at fourteen, THE SHINING perched on my chest, my face contorted into this half-reverie, half-OH GOD WHY expression.  I was terrified, but I never stopped thinking, "This. Is.  Awesome."

When I decided I wanted to write a YA that slanted more towards true, traditional horror, I plumbed the memory for things that freaked me out at fifteen, sixteen.  Bloody Mary was one of those things.  Mirrors did a number on my psyche for years after my introduction to the urban legend.  So I lassoed that fear, slapped it on the page, and hammered away until it made a quasi-functioning book baby.  And here we are.

What other projects do you have coming up?

Ravenstone, a UK publisher, has bought another one of my books which is super exiting!  Where Mary is scary, THE AWESOME is funny—pretty much opposite ends of the YA spectrum, but I never do anything easy.  I've decided to put THE AWESOME out under a nom de plume to separate my respective genres, so Eva Darrows lives and she's . . . well.  Me.  THE AWESOME will be available in early spring 2015. 

At the moment I am pecking away at a dark comedy.  Hopefully people will laugh as much reading it as I've laughed writing it.  I expect I'll be wrapping that by the end of March, and then it's onto MARY's sequel, wherein I attempt to make my monster even more creeptastic.  From there?  Who knows.  As my friend Eric says,"I go where the tingling takes me."  It's a good philosophy that's worked out well so far.

Thank you, Hillary!


Don't forget to check out Hillary's links!  

Hillary's Twitterwebsite, and Goodreads
MARY: THE SUMMONING on GoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes and Noble

You won't be sorry. :)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Interview with Mary Crockett

Today is your lucky day, Blogville! Yep: today is like a thousand Christmases feeding you chocolates in bed. What makes today so special? Well. I'm posting my recent interview with the adorable Mary Crockett, coauthor of DREAM BOY. And you get to read it.

For reals.


Check it out:

What inspired you to write DREAM BOY?

I've always been a little obsessed with dreams. I mean, how does it happen that we tell ourselves stories when we sleep? It's a remarkable thing—especially when those dreams have so much to tell us about our who we are and what we fear or want or believe.

To me, the interplay our dream-selves and waking-selves is fascinating. It seemed like it'd be a fun subject for a novel.

Can you tell us a little bit about your heroine?

Thanks, Marci, for giving me the chance to profess publicly for the first time that I absolutely LOVE Annabelle Manning. She's such a quirky girl, such a dreamer. I love how she looks at the world. She's an artist, so she notices things that other people wouldn't, but she doesn't say much out loud. Most of her thoughts are never verbalized through dialog. She might say, “yeah,” out loud and leave it at that—but meanwhile, while she's thinking a half dozen pretty cool things. I really enjoyed being in her head.

She'd get irked with me sometimes. I'm a poet in my other life and I love the ring of pretty words, so I'd try to get her something fancy to come out of her mouth. But she'd just stop me cold. It wasn't her, and she wasn't going to go there.

What drew you into the young adult genre?

It's pretty simple. I love teenagers. Maybe it's just their hormones kicking in for the first time, but they seem so alive. So full of ideas and drama and questioning and emotion and self-discovery and rebellion and outrageousness and humor and fun. Oh, and they're so smart. As smart as any adult, but they're not all “been there, done that” because they haven't been there, and they haven't done that. So much is happening to them for the first time—and that “firstness” makes it all so much more important and fresh and real.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I'd tell myself to pay attention to my gut feelings. To trust them. Usually in life when I've gotten into trouble, I've been ignoring my instincts.

And I'd tell myself to hold onto that olive green army surplus jacket. It was really cute and my daughter would probably love it.

Oh, and I'd keep taking education classes, even if they were boring. That time, I was trusting my gut, but my gut was lazy.

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

Having Madelyn Rosenberg as my co-author for Dream Boy helped a ton with writer's block. When I got stuck, I'd send it to her and it would come back in a day or so with a whole new scene! That was the best! 

Now I'm writing on my own, and it's so much harder. I'm pretty slow. Sometimes I can't entirely tell the difference between writers block and my normal snail's pace.

When I finally do realize, however, that I have had time to work on a project and I still haven't gotten anything done, I might try a couple of things:

  1. I reread the piece from the beginning—editing as I go. Sometimes that can help get me moving again.
  2. I read something else. The kind of book I might want to write. I let myself escape from my own words by reading someone else's story.
  3. I drink coffee. Usually I only let myself drink coffee when I start getting a migraine, so I am a much perkier version of myself with a bit of caffeine.
  4. Sometimes the fact that I'm going to be interrupted (generally by one of my children) keeps me from going to that DEEP PLACE where you have to go to push yourself forward in a story. When that happens, I get some child care and go to the library and sit in a little room and tell myself I don't have to make sense, I don't even have to be AWARE of what I'm writing, but I am not leaving until I get 500 (or 1000 if I'm feeling spunky) words of something.


DREAM BOY is due out July 1, 2014, by way of Sourcebooks Fire---just around the corner!  Here's its GORGEOUS cover and a little blurb about the story:

Annabelle Manning feels like she’s doing time at her high school in Chilton, Virginia. She has her friends at her lunchtime table of nobodies: Serena, Talon, and geeky, reliable Will. What she doesn’t have are possibilities. Or a date for Homecoming. Things get more interesting at night, when she spends time with the boy of her dreams. But the blue-eyed boy with the fairytale smile is just that—a dream. Until the Friday afternoon he walks into her chemistry class.
Will doesn’t trust him. Talon suspects he’s an alien. Serena is pretty sure it’s all one big case of deja vu. While Annabelle doesn't know what to think, she's willing to believe that the charming Martin Zirkle may just be her dream come true. But as Annabelle discovers the truth behind dreams—where they come from and what they mean—she is forced to face a dark reality she had not expected. More than just Martin has arrived in Chilton. As Annabelle learns, when dreams come true, so do nightmares.

Awesome, right?  I seriously can't wait for this to come out!!

Here's a bit more about Mary, who apparently is also rather skilled at featuring in adorably cute pictures while not even looking at the camera:

A native of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Mary grew up as the youngest of six children in a family of misfits. She has worked as everything from a history museum director to a toilet seat hand model. In her other life, she's an award-winning poet, professional eavesdropper, and the person who wipes runny noses. If you tweet at her (@MaryLovesBooks), chances are that she'll tweet back.

Lastly: Mary is everywhere! Check out her links (FYI you must see her website. Amazeballs).