Blog Tour & Giveaway: The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr


For my stop on the Penguin Teen Blog Tour, I was able to interview Emily Barr about her first young adult novel, The One Memory of Flora Banks!  Not sure what this book is about?  Check out the synopsis below!

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

Now that you’re all informed about what this book is about, let’s get to the interview!


Midsummer Reads-Jess:  After years of writing adult fiction novels, what made you want to delve into the world of Young Adult fiction?

Emily Barr (EB): It was really the book that came first: Flora’s story was in my head even though I was trying to write something completely different. When I started writing, it as an adult book, but it didn’t quite working. I tried making her younger and writing it as Young Adult fiction and everything fell into place. That opened up a whole new wonderful world for me!

MR-Jess: What was your inspiration for Flora’s story?

EB: The thing that came first was the Arctic setting. I was dreaming of a book set in the endless daytime of an Arctic summer, with a protagonist who didn’t quite know what she was doing there. Also, I’d always wanted to write about memory and amnesia because I think that human brains are incredible, and this felt like the time to do it.


MR-Jess: What kind of research did you do on short term memory loss/anterograde amnesia in order to make the book true to reality and true to your narrative?

EB: I did a lot of reading. I read books by Oliver Sacks and others, and read medical research and papers. I have an old university friend who works in this area and who was incredibly helpful to me.

From our Instagram @Midsummerreads


MR- Jess: How did you keep the “Boy Cure,” stereotype out of your novel? Did you purposefully want to circumvent that?

EB: Yes I did! I know it looks like a “boy cure” initially from Flora’s unreliable perspective, but as the story progresses it becomes clear that things are not at all as straightforward as they seem. I wanted to take that stereotype and subvert it.


MR- Jess: Why does the memory of her kissing her best friend’s boyfriend stick around? Why did you pick this specific moment for her to remember?

EB: It was a heightened moment for her, and it meant that her memory could be pinned to a specific person which would give her a mission: she would be consumed by the need to find the person again and see whether being close to him again made her memory work.


MR – Jess: What made you choose Svalbard, Norway?  Why was the Arctic such an important narrative choice for you?

EB: I just had it in my head: I’m not sure where it came from but I was longing to write a book set in the Arctic. I did some research about locations, and Svalbard seemed to be the exact place that I was imagining. In the end I couldn’t shake it off, so I cracked, cleared a week and went there. It was everything I’d dreamed of, and more, and the book flowed straight from that visit.

In fact I wrote so much about not going there in winter (when Flora visits, it’s May and daylight all the time; people are always telling her not to go in winter when it’s dark all day and night) that I got intrigued, and went there last January. It was dark and incredibly cold, but there were Northern Lights in the sky and the whole experience was spectacular.


MR-Jess: What are you working on next?  Can we expect another Young Adult Novel from you?

EB: You can! It’s set in Rio (pretty much the opposite of Svalbard in many ways) and it’s about a girl discovering, as her life falls apart, that nothing has been what it seemed. It’s a very fast paced twisty thriller.
Special thanks to Emily Barr and Penguin Random House for this interview and the chance to read FLORA!

Giveaway:

Enter for a chance to win one (1) of five (5) copies of The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr (ARV: $17.99 each).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on May 1, 2017 and 12:00 AM on May 22, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about May 24, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

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The One Memory of Flora Banks


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Author Spotlight: Kelly Jensen

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World is the Young Adult feminist anthology I didn’t know I needed as a teen, but am glad I got to read as an adult. As the last stop for her book tour, editor Kelly Jensen was at BookPeople in Austin, and I was lucky enough to sit down with her before the event.

Midsummer Reads: Hi
Kelly Jensen: Hi
MR: Thanks for agreeing to do this
KJ: Of course
MR: So, let’s just jump right in, when did you first get the idea to do this anthology?
KJ: So, I’d been doing a blog series on stacked for a few years about girls and reading, and why it is we talk about boys and reading but never the opposite. I had for a number of years invited different people in the book world (authors, editors, agents) to write about girls and reading in different aspects in YA fiction and I found I really loved curating these essays and putting together these series, so I wanted to do something similar but do it in a format that teenagers could pick up. Because a teenager is probably not going to read a blog, some will, who are super into it, they will. But I want that kid who is walking around the library looking for something to read. That sort of inspired the idea of doing an anthology and I’d always been fascinated by the conversations that go on online about feminism and it just sort of felt like a good fit to marry the two.

MR: What made it really start coming together, this book in particular? Was there a catalyst?
KJ: I didn’t think that I would be able to do it, in part, because I didn’t have an agent. So, I had no idea how to go about pitching an anthology with literally, like nothing. Nothing to show, except for my own writing. I actually tweeted about it, and my now editor reached out to me and said, “we should talk.” So, we talked and she brought in another editor from Algonquin, we all had a really great conversation, we were on the same page about what we wanted this to look like, both in terms of content and also visually.
MR: Visually, it looks great, it’s really cool.
KJ: They did a great job, they killed it. It was at that point that Elise said, “well, write me a proposal” so I wrote a proposal and then I waited and then I had a contract. And after that I had so many questions through the whole process because I didn’t have an agent, so I couldn’t ask contract questions. They had suggested then, that I find an agent. Apparently, you can do that, after you’ve sold the book

MR: What is the editing process like for something like this?
KJ: I was surprised. I edited the pieces as they came into me and each person had a totally different style and different thing that they needed in terms of editing. It was really neat to see people who wanted to have my input, or bounce ideas off me, the whole way through and then the people that turned in a draft that was pretty much perfect the first time and trying to provide feedback to both of them in a way that is substantial. I really liked seeing how people – their processes are so different. You know, when you’re working with 40 different people and you have 40 different processes, it’s really – it makes you feel better about your own process. When I turned in my manuscript to my editors, there really wasn’t a whole lot in terms of what they had to edit, it was mostly making sure we fit within a page. We had something like 9 or 10 pages over what they can print, so we just had to go and find the places that could be shortened or cut.

MR: So how did you go about getting the authors and their stories? Were there some that you knew you absolutely wanted?
KJ: So, I made two lists. One list was writers who I know had talked about feminism or had some interest in feminism that would at least open an email. And then there’s this dream list of people who weren’t necessarily in the book world but who would have a really interesting perspective. Because from the start we had talked about doing this anthology as making sure it wasn’t just YA writers, so any reader could pick it up and be like, oh this isn’t just in one world, this impact everybody. So, I make this dream list of people I’d like to have in there. I thought to myself well, Wendy Davis really – was a lot of fun to work with. She’s so smart and articulate. When she responded, I didn’t actually expect that to happen, so that was awesome. Some of the pieces are reprint so I just found stuff I liked and then I went through the process of getting the rights to print them. That was nice in terms of rounding out topics and issues and voices, a little of everything. And then as pieces started to come together, I could see where there were holes or places that could use a little bit more or another perspective. It was nice to have this massive list of people, to find someone else. The contributors also suggested other people and that was really helpful to give a broad picture. I got to work with some people who I hadn’t heard of before and that was fun.

MR: One of the stories I really connected with was “Girl Lessons” by Sarah McCarry and I remember reading it, sitting outside on my lunch break just reading and I started crying because I connected so much with this story. Were there any that you really connected with like that?
KJ: Hers is so good. Hers was one that as soon as I read it, I got that feeling as well. The one that really got me, and I was sort of surprised – reading as an editor is totally different than reading as a reader, in terms of, yes, you get the same impact of what a story is trying to tell, but you’re trying make that story have that real “pow” for the reader. So, it wasn’t until I was reading pass pages, I was reading everything out loud, and this time as a reader instead of an editor. I got halfway through the book when Jessica Luthor’s piece comes up. Hers is about her relationship with her husband, she’d been with him for a long time, and sort of how different they are in the relationship as individuals and the relationship together has changed over the course of their time together. I just started crying my eyes out, this is such a nice piece and I related to a lot of what she said in it. I thought it was a beautiful piece about what relationships are like and that’s the type of conversation you don’t have when you’re younger and it’s nice for her to be like, it’s work. This doesn’t happen magically, it takes work and it takes compromise and sometimes terrible things happen and you get through it if you work together.
MR: I remember hers, and I remember at the end she says, this is my relationship, it’s not going to be the same for everyone, I thought that was a really great addition to that piece.
KJ: Yeah

MR: One of the other things that really struck me was me was the conversation with Courtney Summers and Laurie Halse Anderson, specifically how people call stories like theirs “rape stories.” Could you speak a little bit about why when men write women getting raped for the sake of their stories and why those aren’t called “rape stories?”
KJ: You know, it seems to me that whenever there’s a girl at the center of a story and it’s written by a woman, it’s a book that is for girls and women and it’s very geared towards that specific readership and it gets marketed that way and we don’t see the same thing when men write about women and girls. We don’t see the same thing when men write these epic fantasies and do very similar things. Culturally we see it as a women’s issue and we don’t see the broader impact. It’s an issue of frustration. There is this idea that we already have a rape book, we don’t need another one. And yet, you get 12 fantasies in a row written by men with rape scenes that are just there with no purpose other than to develop the male character and devalue the female character. And that’s an issue. Culturally, outside of reading, that’s a thing that we are really complacent in. [insert really long tangent about Game of Thrones and how dudes should just stop writing]

MR: Speaking of Courtney Summers, though, her other piece was about unlikeable girls. What are some of your favorite unlikeable girls in media?
KJ: I like Theo, in Brandy Colbert’s Pointe, she’s just this really complex character and not particularly likeable, and she’s working through so much internal [stuff] that it sometimes manifests in not likeable ways. But that’s also reality. I regularly say that I’m not likeable person, and most of the time I’m not and that’s fine.
MR: You don’t have to be
KJ: Exactly, I think that’s just how you survive in the world. There are ways to be competent and respectful and pleasant but-
MR: You don’t always have to be nice
KJ: Right, like we’re complex, we’re not one-dimensional people. In music, I don’t know if you know Marina and the Diamonds?
MR: Yess!
KJ: She’s super, at least in the persona that she gives, not likeable but yet I love her and I know so many other women love her. I think because she represents this idea of like, here’s what you think women are, and yet this is not reality.

MR: So, what is next for you?
KJ: I am working on another anthology, it’s another YA anthology on mental health. I’ve got 20 contributors so far. The pieces that they have been submitting are out of this world good. It’s hard, it’s such a different topic than feminism. As much as they are personal stories in feminism, it’s a little bit different –
MR: Mental health stuff – you have to be in the right headspace to go through that kind of stuff.
KJ: Right, and I can only read one at a time and I need so much space between them. Because it’s so much about – how do you tell someone, “can you talk about this terrible time a little bit more?”
MR: Like, “I need you to push a little deeper”
KJ: Yeah, it’s like they’re probably already at that limit. And I also don’t want myself to be so impacted that I can’t work now. It has been interesting in terms of editing since these are people that we are having an open conversation about mental health and we can say, “listen, things aren’t good right now and it’s going to take me a little extra time.” And it’s nice to be able to know that that’s the reason and be okay with it and know that it will get done without pushing.
MR: That sounds great, I’m excited for that. Thank you so much for this!
KJ: Yeah, you’re welcome, this was fun.

Author & Event Spotlight

The Event: Nemesis Book Launch

Where: Barnes and Noble at the Arboretum, Charlotte NC
When: Tuesday, March 21
Who: Brendan Reichs and Renée Ahdieh

This was by far one of the most original panel discussions I’ve ever attended for a book launch, and it might be one of my favorites!  Brendan came prepared with a list of random questions for him and Renée to start off the event.  Those in attendance were treated to a lively conversation where we learned that Brendan’s least favorite word is Pamphlet and Renée’s is one that rhymes with “oist,” although I think everyone dislikes that word (not just you, Brad!).  Both authors told about their Hogwarts houses, Brendan apparently tried to rig the quiz to get Gryffindor, but still ended up a Ravenclaw (Yaaaaas!) with an Eagle Owl patronus (#Same).  Renée is a proud Slytherin, who used to lie about being a Gryffindor, apparently a very Slytherin thing to do and the patronus of a rat, which she is fine with because Ratatouille.

My favorite part of this part was that after asking the audience to choose a number between 1 and 50, they took turns reading a small snippet from each other’s newest releases to the crowd. Someone hollered out 23, so I got this part on video for everyone! They then followed up with a brief summary of their inspiration for these books and what they are about. You can definitely tell these two are good friends and are hilarious together.

After asking each other a few rounds of questions about their books, Brendan was equipped with a Polar Express Conductors hat full of random rapid fire questions for himself and Renée, and coincidentally, those of us in the front row. Some of these conductor questions included Magic Wand or Light Saber, Hogwarts Headmaster or Starfleet Captian, Ghost or Ghostbuster, Prehistoric Times or the year 3010, and on and on.  It was pretty fun and I think it allowed the audience to feel more engaged, although I’m a bit partial since I was able to do the participating.

Brendan and Renée then signed books for the crowd (and there was an impressive one!).  Check out more photos below sprinkled between my interview with the star of the evening, Brendan Reichs!

Midsummer Reads (MSNR): Thanks so much for sitting down with me, are you excited?

Brendan Reichs (BR): I’ve very excited, tonight is the first night I’ve ever done a book event for Nemesis, so it’s a big deal.

MSNR: Yes! And it’s in your hometown.

BR: It is, it’s fun to do it at home. It’s actually a little nerve wracking to do it at home just because you know a lot of people in the audience, so it’s not like having that distance you have with a normal crowd, but it’ll be great.

MSNR: Are a lot of people you know coming?

BR: Uh, they better.

MSNR: That’s how I would be; Uh, I’d better see you or someone’s going to get hurt.

BR: I’m taking names.

MSNR: So this book is super complex.

BR: It is.

MSNR: I was reading it and I was like, SO MANY THINGS HAPPENING. Could you describe it in one sentence to a reader?

BR: I actually try. That’s why it was so hard to actually sell the idea because trying to describe it was too crazy to get it into one sentence. Basically…

MSNR (interrupting because I’m rude): You can describe it in a run-on sentence

BR: I would describe Nemesis as Min is a girl at 16 years old and every two years on her birthday she is murdered by the same person except she doesnt die like a normal person, instead she wakes up about a half a mile away without a scratch on her every single time. So on her 16th birthday after she’s been murdered for the 5th time she’s finally had enough and decides she needs to figure this out.  No one is really paying attention to her because there’s this world wide calamity going on where there’s an asteroid heading towards the planet and no one knows when it’s going to hit. And there’s this bit national/international human existence story going on. So there’s very little attention being paid to the trials of a teenager in Idaho.

MSNR (Interrupting, again, because I’m the worst): Right, because no one pays attention to teenagers.

BR: Right, exactly. And there’s another character, and this book has been fun because it’s the first time I’ve written a male point of view in my career, so Noah is having the same things happen to him except that he’s a little bit less stable than Min.  He’s a – kind of one of those guys that on the outside he – he’s a rich kid and she’s a poor kid – he’s trying to keep everything together but really he is a mess. Because he’s been having the same thing happen to him but he doesn’t trust himself to know that it’s even real. So these two things are happening and they eventually decide and they start to investigate that everyone around them starts to be suddenly implicated and you can’t trust anyone. And they find out that they might be at the center of a vast government conspiracy that may implicate all life on Earth.

MSNR: That is a big run on sentence. I’m okay with it.

BR: Yes, it is.

MSNR: So when I was reading it, I found it to be kind of a commentary on human emotion and the way that human nature really plays into the certain aspects of the two characters, specifically, and how they react to this outside force that’s coming onto them.  Very much like Lord of the Flies, like, they are put in this situation, how are they going to react?

BR: That is an essential influence, and I think the publisher likes to use the tagline of “Orphan Black meets Lord of the Flies,” which is an interesting combination, but there’s no good parallel anyway. But that’s what you want and I appreciate that you say that, because you want the story to be about the characters. Ultimately there’s a lot of plot going on in this book and if you stick with it it will all unwind itself, but it winds up pretty heavily at the beginning where you’re not really supposed to know what the hell is going on for a large portion of the book, and then it’s really good that it’s supposed to be centered on the characters because ultimately that’s where every story either fails or survives is on how good the characters are, because the best plot in the world doesn’t survive if you don’t care what happens. So I spent a lot of time trying to put the characters together, I hate the term strong female protagonist because that implies that your female antagonist has to be masculine or different in a way, you know, I just like to think of her as a strong person, and it shouldn’t be noteworthy that she is female, and it was interesting to get to write a male character’s perspective, although I’ve not read the entire breadth of YA, but I’d never read a YA where the male lead was basically kind of a mess.

(Literally this whole time I’m nodding my head and agreeing, because Brendan has taken over the interview **in a good way**) 

BR (continued): So i thought that would be fun because that’s normally assigned to a female character, so you get to overcome their internal difficulties, which can be boring, but what if this is a 15 to 16 year old boy who is putting the good face out there but doesn’t really have an idea of what he is doing with his life. I mean what is happening to him and stuff. So that was the motivation for that. If you like the characters then that’s exactly what I’m about.

MSNR: I actually assigned them songs: Um, I put Min as being very much like Titanium by David Guetta and Sia.

BR: That’s very good.

MSNR: And then I put Noah as more of the Bleachers, I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, um, Jack Antonoff, and it’s called I Wanna Get Better. It’s about mental health and screaming at himself “I wanna get better,” I want to be better than this, and that’s kind of exactly how I see Noah.

BR: Somewhere in the blogosphere (*waves* hey everyone!) there’s a, and I believe it’s for YA Highway, I’d have to look it up, but I did make two playlists. On the Min Playlist, the first song is a Halsey song, because when I listened to her album that just clicked to me, I was like, this is that kind of angry but not a pushover type vibe that I was getting. Like she was pissed off and isolated, but she’s also not asking for favors.

MSNR: Which I really like. Because sometimes girls are perceived as being, you know, weak and asking for help a lot. At least in the South, which is what I grew up with.

BR: And there’s some great YA being written right now with female lead characters, so this is in no way sort of any genre defining effort, just that in the beginning the came fully formed to me, and that she would be isolated and damaged by what had happened to her, but NEVER broken by it. Just that she’s a fighter and she stays that way even though it does have it’s affects. YOu know she acts like she has no friends..

MSNR: Awe, but I like Tack though. Even though he never knows when to shut up.

BR: No, he doesn’t And Tack is sort of my character, and every one of my books that I write, there’s basically one character that’s sort of me talking through the book, you know what I would say in each situation, because I’m kind of a smart ass that doesn’t know when to be quiet either, and that’s sort of Tack in this book.  He’s basically saying the things that I would be saying when I shouldn’t be, you know, running my mouth.

MSNR: Honestly there’s a little bit of all of us in Tack, probably, especially when we were teenagers and never knowing quite when to be quiet.

THIS IS THE SPOT WHERE WE TALK ABOUT SPOILERY THINGS. 

PROMISED BRENDAN IT WOULD BE OFF THE RECORD *SINGS* LALALALALALA

BR: This was the last piece that fell into place for the book. I’m a big planner and when you write books like this that are so plot oriented they have to make sense and you have to keep track of what’s happening.

Matchy-matchy!

MSNR: So let’s just refer to it as “The Twist,” so where you plotting the book and then “the twist,” fell in or you were influenced by outside research?

BR: Most of the time the best ideas that come to me when I’m writing come to me about 2/3rds of the way through the first draft. This is when I’ve been living with the idea for about two months, and I’ll wake up one day, and typically in the shower, it will come to me and will have connected overnight. And this was one of the last pieces to come in and it was really three book ideas that all really came together in this crazy boo, which is why it’s so overbaked in terms of that there’s so much in it and because I had all this stuff and I managed to slot it all in together.

MSNR: I know, but I like that it has so much in it because it keeps you on your toes. I literally had to put it down to go to sleep, and I was so concerned about trying to figure out what was happening!

BR: And this is the stuff that I like to read…

Renée Ahdieh (RA)  shows up being adorable: Totally crashing!

MSNR: Hi, how are you!

RA: Good, how are you?

MSNR: Good!

RA (to BR): What’s up, how are you feeling?

BR: Good, good.

MSNR: This is weird, but you smell really good. (I still think this is weird but I had to keep this in haha)

BR: She always smells good, it’s a signature.

RA (wanders away, being fabulous): *laughing at us* I do like that.

MSNR: So, I’m not going to lie. The guy in the black suit? I totally pictured him as Agent Smith from the Matrix the whole time, and maybe that’s because I grew up with the Matrix, but yeah.

BR: No, that’s fair. And for our generation it would be an Agent Smith type- I mean- for me he looks a little different. Although for me, and this is probably not something I should admit to an audience, but I find the way the character looks, and in the book I’m consistent in the way the character looks but in my head that’s never how the character looks.  it’s just a weird dissonance that no one’s ever called out before because no one knows what things look like in my head.

MSNR: In my head he looked like Agent Smith.

BR: Right, for me he’s more of a Guy Pierce, but yeah you know it’s like a flat hair, flat face individual. And I just finished drafting the second draft of the sequel…

MSNR: So we are going to learn more about the project?

BR: It gets darker and deeper and a lot of the Lord of the Flies aspects are really going to come to the fore, because one of the questions I was dealing with was, the main premise, which was that I wanted to fight the finality of death, and what if death was not final; but not in like a zombie way or a ghost way or a resurrection way, but legitimately if it just didn’t work. Like, you died but you didn’t.

MSNR: As long as Tack isn’t Piggy the whole time.

BR: Right. Well, there’s a lot of, and you know I read Lord of the Flies, and you realize only two people die in that.

MSNR: Yes, but you get it.

BR: But they played it and it’s so beautifully written and you get their dissent. And with my book, I’m hoping to get that same thing, but also that a lot of people die. Because you know with Min’s experience in this book, death has not been permanent and that is such a central question. How would you deal with that? How do you deal with the idea that something that you know should be the end of something isnt? And you can’t really control it?

MSNR: I think the last question I have for you, because I don’t want to keep you too long, is that why you decided to do it on their birthdays, and you know not on…

BR: That is a question that will be revealed, and there’s a lot of little detail strings that are still out there and that’s because you don’t really know at the end of Nemesis, what is next. This book leads you to a point, but it doesn’t take you past that.  And a careful reader would ask themselves, “wait, why was this happening,” but I haven’t gotten to that yet.  That’s a great answer. You know if I didn’t answer it, “Oh, it’s in book 2!” And then I’m like, will you write that down and send it to me? Just in case I made a mistake.

MSNR: When can we expect book two?

BR: Uh, it should be a year. I mean I’m putting in the drafts now so I expect roughly the same time next year.  You know, we don’t have much say. I really like Spring releases, which you never know, but I assume it would be next spring.

MSNR: Well, thank you so much for talking with me!

BR: No, thank you so much.

MSNR: It was so good to meet you in person!

BR: Good to meet you too, and I’ll see you..

MSNR: Yep, you’ll see me in a few minutes!

 

A huge and special thanks to Brendan Reichs, Penguin Teen, and Renée Ahdieh for the event on March 21.

Nemesis is available NOW! Go pick up a copy.

 

 

Author Spotlight: Caleb Roehrig

book-birthday

Unfortunately technical difficulties attacked Team Midsummer and we had to transcribe the interview with the fabulous and wonderful Caleb Roehrig.  We hope he forgives us, because we adore him!

We were lucky enough to connect with Roehrig when he was promoting his book at the Texas Teen Book Festival in Austin, TX on October 1, 2016.

A Midsummer Night’s Read (MSNR): What inspired you to write this novel?

Caleb Roehrig (CR): Well, I love thrillers, especially anything with missing persons.  But also there was very few young adult books when I was growing up, and even less with LGBT protagonists. So I wanted to write a 25036310book that combined both of those elements and it ended up coming out as Last Seen Leaving.

MSNR: Well, you kind of answered this question already, but did you set out to write an LGBT novel?

CR: Yes, as I mentioned, there were very few novels that were written featuring LGBT characters and I really wanted to be able to show readers that there are characters and people like them in literature and in the world. 

MSNR: What is your writing process like? Do you outline, or do you just sit down and write?

CR: Well, I don’t know if you’ve heard but there are two types of writers, pantsers and plotters. I am definitely a plotter, otherwise I will go in too many directions. One time I wrote 160,000 words, but I kept writing myself into a corner, then took forever writing myself out of a corner, then wrote myself into ANOTHER corner.  I definitely have a start and an end, but sometimes I figure it out from there.

MSNR: What was your favorite part about writing this novel?

CR: I think it was being able to put red herrings in everywhere to deter readers from the actual answer. Although I did keep giving everyone an airtight alibi at first, so that made it difficult!

MSNR: What can we expect from you in the future?

CR: Well, I have two finished manuscripts, but my publisher is trying to decide which one will come out next!

MSNR: That’s awesome!

MSNR: What do you hope readers take away from this book?

CR: Well, I really want them to be in suspense and to be thrilled, but also for LGBT readers to see themselves in the main character, oh I think I just gave away a spoiler. SPOILER ALERT. Although the main goal is for all readers to identify with the journey that Flynn takes through the story. 

MSNR: So, your biography says you’ve lived in a lot of different places, where has been your favorite place to live?

CR: It is really hard to choose, because I’ve liked everywhere I’ve lived! I lived in Michigan, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Europe.  We did just move back to LA, and I guess that means I chose LA? I remember not liking it at first when I moved there, but once I found my tribe and my place in LA, I loved it. So, if you go to LA, you have to find your LA.

MSNR: Where would you like to live that you haven’t lived?

CR: Hmmm, well, I’ve always wanted to live in Sweden! 

MSNR: Because it’s neutral?

CR: That and it just seems like such a nice place to live!

MSNR: What do you want to say to young LGBT readers, maybe something that you didn’t hear? 

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Jess sucks and this photo is blurry, but he’s awesome.

CR: Okay, you might hear this a lot, it does get better. Everything feels heavy when you’re a teenager and that it might be the end of the world, but it really does get better. Please, never stop having adventures.  You’ll always have time for new ones.  I mean, I just started this whole new book adventure, and that could be you. 

Thank you so much to Caleb and Fierce Reads for being so enthusiastic about Team Midsummer. We are so honored to support this sweet and enigmatic debut author and his novel!

Be sure to keep an eye out for our review of Last Seen Leaving in our celebration of LGBT History Month.

Also, we not so low key are in love with Caleb, so you should be too.

You can follow Caleb on his social media outlets:

Twitter. Instagram. Website.

Order his book now!

 

 

Author Interview & Book Launch: Renée Ahdieh

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Jess and Renée

Thanks to Penguin Teen, I was given the opportunity to interview the author of one of the most anticipated novels of this Summer.  Renée Ahdieh has become a pretty well known in the young adult community thanks to fellow authors giving her debut novel, The Wrath and the Dawn some serious promotion.  Not only were all of the promotions by Lauren DeStefano, Carrie Ryan, and many others completely spot on, but you can also check out my 5 Bard review of Ahdieh’s novel here.

Plus, Ahdieh is local to the Charlotte, North Carolina area, which is where most of us reviewers for Midsummer live!  So myself (Jess), Christine, and Maedchen hopped in the car and drove down to the Barnes & Noble for Ahdieh’s book launch and had a nice sit down in the Starbucks.  Side note: can you look at her? She’s gorgeous. Beautiful and talented to boot, can we all be her?

Note: This interview was transcribed by hand.

A Midsummer Night’s Read (MR): I am really excited about your book, which I have unfortunately not had a chance to read yet. So I’m going to start off with some generic questions and then I’m going to poke you for details.

Renée Ahdieh (RA): Okay!

MR: The first question: is it super nerve-racking to have your debut novel out in the world in such a big genre? And everyone is so excited about it! Twitter blew up today.

RA: I am a little bit nervous, but I think I’m mostly overwhelmed by all of the support that I’m getting from the YA Community, from bloggers, and everyone has just been so wonderful. So I’m just in that place of being overwhelmed and I don’t want to cry.

MR: Is it kind of like putting your baby out there?

RA: You know, I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to talk to others who’ve already had books come out. Some debut authors and some more established authors so they kind of prepped me and they were like, “You need to be okay prior to and letting it no longer be just yours.” So I’ve been kind of ready for that.  Right now I just hope everyone loves it as much as I’ve loved writing it.

MR: Well, I was on Twitter today and there was just so much love for your book all day, and I was just like, “This is awesome! And I get to go talk to her later!” So my other question is why 1001 nights? And while I was writing that question, it reminded me that it is sometimes called Arabian Nights and has anyone sang that Aladdin song to you?

RA: Oh yeah. A lot. In all fairness I’ve sung it so it’s okay! I mean I think there are a couple of blogs that I even wrote where I did the Whole New World like Aladdin with Jasmine on the magic carpet flying up into the sky. I love that movie. So I can go off on a Disney tangent, so I’m sorry what was your question?

MR: Why 1001 Nights? It’s okay, I kind of went off on a tangent there too. Because I thought to myself, “If no one has sang it to her, I’m going to sing it to her.”

RA: You can sing it!  Go ahead and I’ll join in!

Jess, Renée, Maedchen, Christine

Jess, Renée, Maedchen, Christine

MR: But yeah, why 1001 Nights?

RA: You know it’s kind of two-fold, the reasons behind it. The first one is that I’m a child of mixed nationalities and when I was growing up I didn’t have or see a lot of books for kids from diverse backgrounds. It was really important to me that if I was writing a book I wanted to do it from a different perspective because I’m fascinated by that.  Secondly, my husband is Persian, and the narrative of Scheherazade is actually the frame story surrounding 1001 night and it is a Persian story.  So I decided when I was going through deciding what it was I wanted to write that it would be kind of cool and that I could make it a YA narrative. So that was kind of my rationalization.

MR: Well, no one else has done it and I think that’s great. I’m so excited about it.  Is there anything specific that you want readers to take away from The Wrath and the Dawn? Like a theme?

RA: I don’t know about a theme so much.  I wanted the story to be about, and one of my friends Lauren DeStefano said that this book is about bad decisions, and I love that because it is.

MR: I read her review about it and she said something about how Dr. Phil would quit.

RA: I love her review, I laughed so hard when I saw it. I thought it was fantastic. And that is really what the book is about, it is about choice and consequence. And I think that it is definitely what I want people to take away and I hope that everyone is transported to another world.

MR: That’s really cool. I’ve also heard that it is a pretty epic romance. So did you take anything from your relationship with your husband and make it more epic to influence Khalid and Shazi?

RA: I think that… I love my husband very much, and I think it is difficult to say that you take anything from your own life, because I feel that I wanted people to fall in love with the characters and falling in love as Shazi and Khalid fell in love. Romance is really important to me because I’m a huge fan of romance, and I wanted it to be a huge deal in the book. I wanted it to not be kind of “insta-lovey,” but have it be a slow burn and I hope I achieved that.

MR: Can you tell me one of your favorite romances you’ve read recently?

RA: Oh my gosh, I’m a big fan of Marie Rutowski’s The Winners Curse and The Winner’s Crime.  I also love Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes. I also really like to read historical romances. I mean I think there are a lot of really good romances, I’m a fan of Stephanie Perkins, Libba Bray, so I just love YA Romance and I think it’s wonderful.

MR: Me too.  There’s such a wealth of books out there in YA romance.  And I’ve not read one that is completely boring or terrible, because they are all different and it’s great, which is another reason I’m excited to read yours.

RA: Aww.

MR: So what can readers expect from book 2, without giving away too many spoilers?

RA: Lots of sword fighting and lots of swooning and possibly a tear or two.

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Author Q & A

MR: Is it going to be influenced by another classic work? Or is it still going to be on the theme of 1001 Nights?

RA: It’s very similar to The Wrath and the Dawn.  It is tentatively titled The Rose and the Dagger, and I’m working on edits for that right now.

MR: I’ve heard they (edits) can be a pain.

RA: I keep telling myself that it is going to be worth it and that it’s going to be a better book.

MR: I just always see on Twitter that authors are always editing.

RA: Especially for book 2! And I didn’t believe that until I started writing it, and I was like, “Oh, this is tough!”

MR: Well, I’ve been following, ever since BEA last year, the We Need Diverse books initiative and I’ve read some of the articles you’ve posted on your website.  Do you have any events or panels about these soon?

RA: There are definitely some panels coming up. I think I’m supposed to be on one soon, but I don’t have my schedule in front of me! I know at BEA Book Con there is a big signing happening that will have a lot of the We Need Diverse books authors.  I think it’s on Friday?

It was at this point in the interview where we started discussing travel and how much Renée has traveled around the world.  We invited her to join us for dinner, and she invited us to her after party (which we couldn’t attend, so sad about that!)

 

Not only is Ahdieh’s novel worth my 5 Bard review, but having her here in Charlotte means that we might run into her again!

Renée Signing

Renée Signing

Thank you so much to Penguin Teen and Renée Ahdieh for allowing us to interview you.

You can catch Renée at Book Expo America this week in New York City, and if you are a Charlotte Local then you can see her at ImaginOn with fellow YA authors Brendan Reichs and Carrie Ryan on June 16, 2015.

 

Author Spotlight: Ken Baker

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Ken Baker is the E! News/E! Online Senior Coorespondent and Breaking New Editor, an acclaimed author, producer, public speaker, and former pro-hockey player.

Ken reports breaking news, conducts celebrity interviews, delivers investigative reports and hosts a range of news segments for E! News, E! Online, E! International, E! News specials, and the network’s live events.

Baker has published six books.  His newest work is a novel due out in April 2014 titled “How I got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love,” a story about an obese teen who is pressured by her family to go on a reality show to lose weight and, in so doing, learns the real meaning of freedom.

His debut novel, “Fangirl” (Running Press, 2012), told the story of a pop star who falls in love with a fan amid a sensational tabloid drama.  Ken is adapting “Fangirl” into a movie in collaboration with Converge Media.

Ken is currently at work on a series of Hollywood-themed thrillers set for release in 2015.

Be sure to check out my review of Baker’s newest novel, How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love.

As part of the blog tour, I had the opportunity to send Ken Baker a few questions concerning his newest novel!  Not going to lie, it was a bit intimidating considering how successful Baker is as a journalist/tv personality.

Here is the interview!

1. As a former sufferer of an eating disorder, it was both liberating and extremely hard to read about the struggles that Emery had with her weight. What inspired you to write about such a controversial topic?

I’m sorry to hear of your struggle. But you are definitely not alone. My guess is that the percentage of people who suffer from eating disorders is much higher than scientifically reported – especially amongst teenage girls and young women. There is just so much damn pressure to have the perfect “bikini body” or to look like that model in the magazine or your favorite celebrity. It really takes a toll on a person’s body, mind and spirit. It’s damaging.

The reason I chose this topic to explore in my novel is because an issue that impacts so many of us is one worth examining in a deeper way that only a novel truly can. It’s an issue that is one people’s minds, that they can relate to, and I want to write stories that connect and ring true for the audience.

2. Did you look to any non-fictional reality shows when you were constructing this story? If so, which ones and why?

The show in the book is called “Fifty Pounds to Freedom,” and it honestly is a fictional show. But, if there is any reference point to existing reality shows, it would a little bit of The Biggest Loser, mixed with some Keeping up with the Kardashians, with a dash of The Amazing Race and Survivor thrown in as well. In other words, the show is something of a melting pot of the hugely popular reality TV programs out there now. A funny story is that last year I told a friend of mine about the book I was writing. She is a reality TV executive, and when I told her about the outrageous reality challenge show I created in my novel she goes, “Oh, that would be a great show!” I love my friend to death, but I think she might conclude differently after reading about Emery’s experience on it!

3. I love Emery’s sarcastic cadence and innate wittiness. Did you always picture her as headstrong and intelligent over the lazy standard obese teenager stereotype? How did her character blossom from conception to completion? 

Thanks! In part, Emery is based on some young women I have known who have struggled with their weight. I actually interviewed several while I was outlining and researching the novel. I wanted Emery to feel real and, as a journalist, the best way I know how to do this is to interview actual human beings who are similar to the character I am writing. There was one anonymous young woman who was obese during high school, who generously opened up to me in my researching process, and I am forever grateful to her. So, yeah, that is the “secret” behind how a grown man could depict the inner workings of a teenage girl. Research!

4. Since I did struggle with eating issues, I have to ask, do you think that Emery would have continued on a healthy diet with no harmful cheats, or do you think that old habits might die hard?

When the story ends, Emery is in a transformative place in her life. She has gained valuable insights and drawn conclusions about herself and how she wants to live and treat her body moving forward. I don’t know what happens to her, but she probably is just like the rest of us – perfectly imperfect – and faces her daily battle with heart and humanity.

 5. The novel really focuses on self love and focusing on a healthy sense of self.  Can you give readers one tip to help them achieve this?

My novel is far from a self-help book, or a weight-loss manual. It is a fun story written about a serious topic. But I am not Dr. Oz or Dr. Drew. However, my favorite quote from Emery, and there are many zingers in the novel, is this one: “The difference between being ugly and beautiful has zero to do with your appearance.” And I think that is a valuable nugget of take-away wisdom.

 

Connect to Ken!

Twitter: @KenBakerNow

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KenBakerNow

Buy Ken’s Book!

    
WIN Ken’s Book!

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Thank you so much to Ken Baker for stopping by A Midsummer Night’s Read and we hope you will go and pick up a copy of his novel!

Author Spotlight: Adi Rule

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Be sure to check out my review of Strange, Sweet Song!  You can find it here.

 A Midsummer Night’s Read (AMND): Adi, thank you so much for stopping by our blog and giving us the opportunity to pick your brain about your wonderful novel, Strange, Sweet Song!

Adi Rule (AR): Thank you so much for having me! I’m thrilled to be here.

AMND: Did Gaston LeRoux’s Phantom of the Opera or Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom inspire you during the plotting and writing process? I actually was thinking this prior to your character’s actually mentioning it!  And if they did, which do you prefer? LeRoux’s or Webbers?

AR: I didn’t have The Phantom of the Opera in mind in terms of adapting it or using it as a framework, but I love that story. I’m sure it influenced me under the surface. The original novel is so beautiful and heartbreaking! As far as adaptations, I think my favorite is Phantom by Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit. The music is gorgeous. (And it was the first big show I was ever in, when I was 14. I was in the chorus and had one line and a scream.) I like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s adaptation, too, but for me, ALW is all about Cats! 

AMND: The dynamics of Strange, Sweet Song remind me of whether you planned the main character’s storyline to mimic Christine’s and focused on the possibility of what could have happened had the Phantom been more humanized and lovable.  Is Ryan supposed to be a Raoul and Nathan a Phantom?

AR: That’s an interesting question. I think the Felix is the closest thing to a Phantom of the Opera in this story. She’s homicidal, a bit mythical, and was once grand and glittering but has been cast low. Nathan has quite a lot of bitterness going on as well, though, and he does have the creepy tower and dark mentor angle. And Ryan is the handsome, popular guy, just like Raoul. But Nathan’s intentions are pure, like Raoul’s, and Ryan is more about advancing his personal agenda, like the phantom, so in that way I think they’re opposites.

Sing’s rising star, met with equal parts jealousy and adoration, does mirror that of Christine. They’re very different people, though. Sing isn’t an ingenue off the street; she has been raised in the highly competitive world of classical music and groomed to succeed. She also is very much in control of her personal trajectory, whereas Christine always seemed to me to be a lovely, precious object that is manipulated for good or ill by stronger forces.

AMND: Your bio states that you are a soloist and chorus member at the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  Are you a soprano like Sing?

AR: Yep, I am a soprano. I’m definitely not as talented as Sing, though! 🙂

AMND: What is your favorite piece to perform?

AR: My favorite audition piece is “Je veux vivre” from Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, my favorite choral work to sing is Brahms’s A German Requiem, my favorite role was the Witch in Into the Woods, and I’m not sure I could pick a favorite karaoke song. Some friends and I recently utterly demolished “Buddy Holly” by Weezer. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

AMND: Will we see any more of Sing’s story?  Or is Strange, Sweet Song a standalone? (It is strong on it’s own, but I just loved the characters!)

AR: I’m so glad you loved the characters! I’m very attached to them, too. It’s a standalone right now — my next book from St Martin’s is a whole different cast — but I’ve definitely kicked around some ideas about where the characters in Strange Sweet Song would go next.

AMND: Do you have any advice for readers who are aspiring writers?

AR:  I find a lot of people are looking for someone’s — anyone’s — permission to write. So that’s the first thing, just knowing that you don’t need anyone’s approval to do it. Go for it! The second thing is to read and write a lot. A lot lot. All the genres you can put up with. When you’re ready, find a person or people who can give you honest, helpful feedback. (So no bullies and no cheerleaders.) Write, revise, repeat. Remember the best and most efficient route to publication, if that is your goal (and for many writers it isn’t, and that’s totally fine, too), is to create the best, most polished stories you can.

AMND: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, and we are looking forward to your next novel, Redwing!

AR: You’re very welcome. It was fun popping by. Thanks for reading, and for connecting with readers every day. 🙂

 

Be sure to pick up a copy of Strange, Sweet Song–you won’t regret it!

Links to buy! Amazon, Books-a-Million, B&N

Follow Adi Rule on Twitter: @luciferadi

 

Author Spotlight: C.C. Hunter

When St.Martin’s sent me the advanced reader copy for C.C. Hunter’s Whispers at Moonrise, I almost squealed with delight. Then, to even get the opportunity to ask C.C. some questins about the series? Yes, please.  

MSNR: Christie, thank you so much for agreeing to do an interview with A Midsummer Night’s Read! I loved Whispers at Moonrise and will be crossing my fingers that I get an ARC of the final book, Chosen at Nightfall. My first question is how you came up with the idea for the Shadow Falls series? It is inherently different than a lot of other YA Paranormal series on the market.

C.C.: First I’d like to say thank you for having me Jessica! I love bloggers. I think they have a special place in Publishing Heaven. And yes, I think that it exists. It’s where you have all the time in the world to read each and every book you want.

Now for your question: The idea of the paranormal summer camp actually came from my editor Rose Hilliard at St. Martin’s Press/Griffin. And that’s all she said to me, too—”paranormal camp.” She expected me to come up with the rest. But you know what? Those two words were enough to get my imagination going. Once I got Kylie figured out, the rest of the characters sprang to life, and each of them brought a piece of the plotline with them. Now, I’ll be honest. When I started Born at Midnight, the first book in the Shadow Falls series, I had no idea how the story would end. And now that I’m writing the final book, Chosen at Nightfall, I’m still figuring things out. But that’s okay. That’s how my writing process works—I learn the specifics of the book as I write it. And I gotta be honest, I think that’s why I love writing so much—I love finding out how the story ends, right along with my characters. As for what makes Shadow Falls different? I might have to point to my little flaw/gift. You see, down deep inside, I’m a nonconformist. It was probably the reason it took me so long to sell my second book in 2006, which was a humorous romantic suspense novel. I had decided to write the way I wanted to write—which meant breaking a few of the general rules for writing romance novels. For my Christie Craig books I was writing a romantic suspense, but it was also a mystery, and a romantic comedy—sort of a blend of genres. I wanted my readers to both laugh and cry in my books. I decided I wanted to tell the story of more than just the hero and heroine. So not only did I include lots of characters, but every character I wrote had their own story going on. And when I was asked to write a YA series, I believe my editor knew I would bring the same techniques to my young adult series. So, in the Shadow Falls series I include both humor and heart. I write a blend of paranormals elements along with a touch of a ghost story. I write action, romance, and I include topics about family and friendships, and you’ll also find a mystery in every book. I’m not the only one who adds these elements. However, I think my blending of genres, adding the vast emotional landscape, as well as introducing a wide cast of characters is a part what makes my series a little different.

MSNR: When it comes down to Kylie learning exactly what she is, you did an excellent job building suspense and tension. What do readers have to look forward to in Whispers at Moonrise and Chosen at Nightfall with her development?
C.C.: Thanks. I love teasing my readers. It’s so much fun. LOL. And for your question, I’m not going to spoil it for you. 😉 But I will say in Whispers at Moonrise, Kylie is stumbling across powers that scare the bejeebies out of her. And in Chosen at Nightfall, she discovers even more. She also learns how to control all those powers to protect those she loves. In Chosen at Nightfall Kylie’s journey is finally complete. It’s both sad and thrilling at the same time.
MSNR: You sure you won’t consider expanding the series? I just don’t want it to end yet!
C.C.: I have learned the hard way to never, ever, say, “NEVER.” And again, I can’t tell you how hard it is to write this final book. It reminds me of when I moved away from my childhood home and knew I was going to miss all my hometown buddies. And while I’d love to return to Shadow Falls somewhere down the line, what I can tell you is that I have already sold my next series and it’s not about Kylie or anyone at Shadow Falls. However, I think my readers will find all the things they love about Shadow Falls in the new series: a unique paranormal world, characters you can easily fall in love with, a book about friendships and family, hot guys, lots of emotion, and tons of laughter. I’m going to have a blast writing it.
MSNR: I can’t let you get away without asking for some information about Lucas and Derek. Both boys have such interesting qualities that could benefit Kylie in the long run, will we finally get our answer in the final installment?
C.C.: Yes, readers will get the answer. I’m still writing it right now. And would you believe me if I told you Kylie and I are still wavering on who it will be? I really did myself and Kylie an injustice by creating two great heroes. This was my first real love triangle to write and no one told me that one of the guys really had to outshine the other. So now I have two wonderful guys and Kylie and I are going to have to break someone’s heart. And that breaks mine just a little bit.
MSNR: Which character in the series do you relate to most? Della is one of my personal favorites.
C.C.: Oh, this is a tough question. Each of the characters in Shadow Falls has a little bit of me inside them, which makes them so relatable to me. Della is my rebellious side and don’t we all have one of those? However, Miranda is dyslexic, which means she gets her spells wrong sometimes. And I relate to her because I’m dyslexic, too. But of all the characters, I think I relate to Kylie the most. I based a lot of her back story on things that happened to me when I was a teenager. I had a family member die when I was around her age, and my parents got a divorce, too. That was so hard for me. Plus, I had girl friends making some bad decisions where boys were concerned, just like Kylie’s friend Sara did. I used all of the emotions I felt, all of the insecurities and uncertainties I experienced as a teenager when I molded Kylie’s character, and I think it helped bring her to life. I guess you could say I plagiarized my life to create Kylie. However, Kylie is a lot cooler than I ever was. Thank you again for the interview. I hope everyone enjoys Whispers at Moonrise. And I love hearing from readers. Maybe your readers could tell me in the comment section which of my characters they relate to the most. 

Did you hear that readers? Let’s give C.C. an idea of which Shadow Falls character you relate to most!
Check back on Monday for a Whispers at Moonrise newsletter from C.C. Hunter!
Special thanks to C.C. and St. Martins/Griffin!

Author Spotlight: Jennifer Nielsen

Jennifer lives at the base of a very tall mountain in Northern Utah with her husband, three children, and a naughty puppy. She loves the smell of rainy days, hot chocolate, and old books, preferably all at once. She is a former speech teacher, theater director, and enjoyed a brief but disastrous career as a door-to-door pollster. In her spare time, Jennifer tends to panic, wondering what she has forgotten to do that has allowed her any spare time.

A Midsummer Night’s Read (MSNR):  All of us here at A Midsummer Night’s Read would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to interview you and for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us!
First and foremost, we want to congratulate you on the success of The False Prince and tell you again how much we enjoyed it! So the first question here is how did you come up with Sage’s story?
Jennifer Nielsen (JN):  Thank you very much for having me here. I’d actually had the seeds for this story in mind for some time, but never could get the right protagonist. One day I was listening to the song, Guaranteed, by the amazing Eddie Vedder. A line in that song, “I knew all the rules, but the rules did not know me, guaranteed” caught my ear, and my imagination. Sage was born in that line, and once I had him, I had his story.
MSNR: Was his story essentially the same when you first started writing it? Or did certain aspects change through the writing and editing process?
JN: Minor things changed, as always will happen in a story. But The False Prince was actually the most linear, quick manuscript I’ve ever written. Sage came to me complete, so writing this book wasn’t really about creating his story, but rather it was about getting the words down to let the story unfold.
MSNR: Is there any real life inspiration for Carthya and the situation concerning Sage and the other orphans?  Was it hard to create your own world rather than use other historical events?
JN: Sage is a completely unique character, but I do confess this: many years ago when I was a high school debate teacher, I had a student who was popular, brilliant, and talented…and also a bit of a thief. He used to steal wristwatches from our bus drivers before tournaments. Luckily, he always returned them at the end of the ride, usually with the bus driver thanking him for his honesty. I did think of this student a few times when Sage was stealing something.
About the world creation, I love the freedom of basing my settings on actual history but then adding in original details that give it a fantasy feel. I do a lot of research to ground the story in events or traditions that could have happened, though of course, much of it never did.
MSNR: Speaking of which, do you know if the purchase of orphans as servants happened in reality? I was wondering that the entire time!
JN: From my understanding, there were many instances of the wealthy purchasing people as indentured servants (my great-grandmother actually came to this country after buying her freedom as an indentured servant), but I think in most cases, both parties entered willingly into the contract. In my research, I never found an example of servants being taken against their will. So what happened to Sage is a sort of combination between indentured servitude and slavery.
MSNR: What can you tell us about the upcoming sequel?
JN: I can tell you the title, The Runaway King, and that it should be out next spring. I can tell you that for Sage, things will get worse. And um, I can’t say anything else.
MSNR: Will readers see Imogen and the betrothed battle for his attentions and his affections?
JN: There is a definite chance of this possibly happening. Or not. (Cheeky grin)
MSNR: Will Connor be returning as a foe in the future? Or will Sage be facing new enemies?
JN: See my snarky, unhelpful answer above.
MSNR: Will we find out who really killed the royal family?
JN: Other than what is revealed in The False Prince? Hmm, that’s a great question!
MSNR: We could keep asking questions about this wonderful book all day, but we know you need to keep some secrets for the upcoming installments! So just a few standard questions for our readers.  What made you want to become a writer?
JN: When I was choosing a career, I never actually gave any serious consideration to becoming an author. I’d never met any authors, and so it never felt like a real career choice. (This is where I pause to give a plug for schools bringing in authors, or for parents taking their children to local book signings – it’s invaluable to young writers!) Then one day I was reading a book by an author I had always loved. All of a sudden, it wasn’t enough to live in someone else’s fictional world. I wanted to create my own. That was when I knew I wanted to turn my hobby into a career.
MSNR: Do you have any advice or suggestions for readers who are interested in becoming authors?
JN: My advice comes from a quote by Winston Churchill: “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.” There are so many talented people who abandon their dreams because they become discouraged too soon. Success may not happen on your first or second or third manuscript. It may not happen in the way you expected, or as quickly as you’d hoped. But if you keep writing, keep improving, and keep submitting, you will one day find success.
MSNR: Thank you so much again, Jennifer, for stepping away from Sage and his friends to discuss their trials with us!  We can’t tell you enough how much we enjoyed The False Prince and how invested we are in Sage’s future.  We will try to wait patiently to find out what happens!
JN: Thank you. It’s been an honor to visit here, and I very much hope you’ll find that The Runaway King was well worth the wait!

Check out our review of The False Prince
Buy The False Prince

Author Spotlight: Diana Peterfreund

Diana Peterfreund has been a costume designer, a cover model, and a food critic. Her travels have taken her from the cloud forests of Costa Rica to the underground caverns of New Zealand (and as far as she’s concerned, she’s just getting started). Diana graduated from Yale University in 2001 with dual degrees in Literature and Geology, which her family claimed would only come in handy if she wrote books about rocks. Now, this Florida girl lives with her husband and their puppy in Washington D.C., and writes books that rock.

A Midsummer Night’s Read (MSNR):  Welcome to A Midsummer Night’s Read, Diana!  Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy promotion schedule to stop by.  Congratulations on the success of your most recent release, For Darkness Shows the Stars, we loved it!

MSNR: I have to say that For Darkness Shows the Stars was nothing like I expected, and I love what you did with Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Why Persuasion out of Austen’s works?
Diana Peterfreund (DP): I love Persuasion and I feel like it’s one of Jane Austen’s novels that doesn’t get the same amount of attention as, say, Pride & Prejudice. There have been dozens of retellings of that one, and Emma, of course, has Clueless, among others. I wanted to see what could be done with my favorite.

MSNR: Can you tell us a little bit about the world building you did to create Emma and Kai’s rebuilt society? Why choose that setting to retell Persuasion?
DP: My first concern was creating a society where the notion of class was a real, quantifiable thing. I also wanted to make sure this was a society whose class system was about to break down, even if the Powers-That-Be weren’t entirely aware of it yet. That’s what you have in Persuasion: a landed nobility that thinks they’re better than everyone, even though they might be in debt to an up and coming, industrious middle class. Everything else sort of built from that need, and when I came up with the concept of the anti-technology Luddites and the world that made them that way, I realized it would be an excellent way to incorporate the sort of pastoral, historical feel of Austen into my futuristic world.

MSNR: Not going to lie, I desperately want to have more from Elliot and Kai’s world, especially with the way For Darkness Shows the Stars ended.  Is there a possibility for more? Or is it definitely a stand alone?
DP: There’s always the free prequel, “Among the Nameless Stars.” It’s funny; I specifically set out to write this book as a standalone because I haven’t done that before and because there’s a real dearth of them in the YA market now. But I’ve been asked about a sequel so often I understand why everyone else likes to write series! I will never say never. Besides, I’ve kind of got a reputation for writing short stories set in my book worlds, so…

MSNR: I have to say I enjoyed the tortuous relationship between Elliot and Kai, and as much as I wished there was more KISSING in For Darkness Shows the Stars, I think that the payoff was much better this way. Were you tempted to throw some in there that eventually didn’t make the final draft?
DP: Ah, the kissing. Well, there were a few thoughts going into that one. I thought not shoving in a big make-out session was probably more true to Austen. Additionally, Kai and Elliot are extremely private people, so a big public makeout session wouldn’t be on their to-do list under any circumstances. There was a question during edits about whether she was in his cabin there at the end (which I guess means Ro would be there too?), and I decided to leave it as “cabins” and let the reader draw the conclusion that felt most comfortable to them. And of course, I’ve gotten a lot of question about what exactly happens in the letters after Chapter Nine!

MSNR: What inspired the beautiful Star Cavern in the novel?
DP: The star cavern was inspired by the beautiful glow worm caves found in New Zealand, where For Darkness Shows the Stars is set. When I visited New Zealand in 2004, we visited these caves in the North Island and I was utterly enchanted. I felt like a natural miracle was one that would mean a lot to the nature-loving Luddites in my book, and it had a beautiful resonance with the story of Noah and the rainbow and the olive tree, so I made it a sacred space for them.


MSNR: Can you tell us scientifically what caused the Reduction? Or is it something left to the imagination and God?
DP: I actually did a ton of research on epigenetics and endogenous retroviruses that didn’t make it into the novel because it wasn’t part of Elliot’s story or Elliot’s POV. The former is truly a fascinating field, less about genetic changes (which rely more on inheritability, which of course is not 100%) and more about the expression of genes we already have. As for endogenous retroviruses, our DNA is full of both genes that don’t work, and remnants viruses that our ancestors have fought off but have somehow become incorporated into our DNA — “junk” that we think isn’t useful to us anymore, like resistance to diseases that no longer exist. But they aren’t really junk, as occasionally, they unexpectedly “switch on,” and scientists still aren’t sure exactly why, or how to get them to “turn off” again. One example of this is that a gene that makes people susceptible to Crohn’s disease is suddenly switching on in people again after thousands of years. Is it modern diets? Genetically modified wheat? A retrovirus? There have been other studies that show levels of ERVs (endogenous retroviruses) in people with certain mental disorders are higher than in the general population. At it’s very, very simplest, my story imagines a world in which genetic engineering centered on using enhanced forms of artifically induced retroviruses to switch on “good genes” to make our bodies stronger and better– but it went terribly wrong, and activated swaths of “bad genes” in the process.  And I could go into more detail, but it would take charts and scientific papers.

MSNR: If you could choose any Austen novel, besides Persuasion, which would you recommend to readers, and why?
DP: If they haven’t read any Austen, I definitely recommend Pride & Prejudice. There’s a reason most people read that first, as it’s the one most suited to our modern tastes in terms of character and pacing. The heroine, Lizzy, is hilarious, and her story is one that will resonate with modern readers a lot.

MSNR: Would you consider adapting another classic novel into a modern YA story? (I mean you did so wonderfully on this one!)
DP: Thank you. And yes. And my lips are sealed. 🙂

MSNR: You have been in the publishing world for a while, so what advice would you give to young adults that would like to become an author?
DP: Do not be in too much of a hurry to become “an author.” The day you do, your writing stops being for YOU, and you want to make sure you have a very clear sense of what you are a writer are before that happens. If you want to write, then write. Write anything and everything (journals, limericks, a rock opera!), read as much as you possibly can, but also learn a whole lot outside of reading and writing so that you have something interesting to write about. Travel and talk to people and study some completely unrelated subject. I learned very little in the creative writing classes I took that I use in my work, but I can point to several stories that arose directly from stuff I learned in a (non-writing) class at school – geology, history, sociology, even linguistics!

MSNR: Any hints on upcoming projects? J
DP: My next book is really frocktastic. Frocktacular. Frockalicious. After four books where my heroine wears essentially jeans and sneakers (with the occasionally black robe), two where the heroine wears hunting camos the whole time, and one where poor Elliot’s never heard of velvet or touched silk, and is shocked by anything in bright colors, it’s nice to write one about a real clotheshorse. I love clothes myself, so I really went to town. And that’s all I’m going to say.

MSNR: Thank you so much for stopping by A Midsummer Night’s Read! I can’t wait to read what you have next, and I will definitely be re-reading Persuasion (it’s been a while) soon.
DP: Thank you so much for having me! I hope you enjoy your re-read of Persuasion. I am curious if, coming into it after For Darkness, you’ll see something different in the characters, or make connections between my characters and their Austenian counterparts that you hadn’t before. I’ll admit, if my book can get more people interested in Persuasion, I’ll feel like I’ve done my duty!
Check out our review of For Darkness Shows the Stars
Purchase Persuasion 
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