Author Interview: Jennieke Cohen, Dangerous Alliance

Pen Friends  ~ Our author interview today is with Jennieke Cohen, (who I met through the 2016 PitchWars gang.) Not only does she share about her debut, Dangerous Alliance, (which you can pre-order!) but about perseverance, Jane Austen, favorite books, fictional crushes, publishing, and more. Enjoy.

JenniekeCohen Headshot

SP: Hi Jennieke! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and how long have you have been writing?

JC: Thanks so much for having me! Even as a child, I liked telling stories and acting them out, and by high school, I thought I wanted to work in the film industry. I wrote my first screenplay—a dark, suspense story about a serial killer—in high school and even made it into a movie for one of my classes. After college, I started my first novel, which would later become Dangerous Alliance. Having ruled out working in the film business, I decided to intern with a literary agent (I later got promoted to her assistant), and then at Prima Games (then an imprint of Random House) while I pursued a master’s degree in professional writing from the University of Southern California. Nowadays, in my spare time, you’ll find me re-watching and over-analyzing old movies (a hard habit to break!), singing opera arias and show tunes, or discovering new foodie spots with my husband.

SP: Your debut, Dangerous Alliance, will come out December 3rd, 2019.

Here is the blurb:DA

Lady Victoria Aston has everything she could want: an older sister happily wed, the future of her family estate secure, and ample opportunity to while her time away in the fields around her home. But now Vicky must marry—or find herself and her family destitute. Armed only with the wisdom she has gained from her beloved novels by Jane Austen, she enters society’s treacherous season.

Sadly, Miss Austen has little to say about Vicky’s exact circumstances: whether the roguish Mr. Carmichael is indeed a scoundrel, if her former best friend, Tom Sherborne, is out for her dowry or for her heart, or even how to fend off the attentions of the foppish Mr. Silby, he of the unfortunate fashion sensibility. Most unfortunately of all, Vicky’s books are silent on the topic of the mysterious accidents cropping up around her…ones that could prevent her from surviving until her wedding day.

SP: Can you tell us a bit more about how this idea came about?

JC: This may sound somewhat cliché, but when I was twelve, I read Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre and they had a much bigger impact on me than I could have guessed. I was expecting them to be dry and boring because they were “classics,” but the witty intelligence Jane Austen brought to her novels spoke to me in a way not many of the other books I’d read had. And I simply loved the romance and mystery elements of Jane Eyre. I found myself looking for all the historical novels I could find. That led to reading a lot of adult fiction and nonfiction because, at the time, there were very few European-set historical novels written specifically for teens and young adults. With Dangerous Alliance, I wanted to create the kind of novel I would have really enjoyed reading as a teen.

SP: Which character in Dangerous Alliance should we watch out for? As in, which character surprised you the most while writing him/her?

JC: One of Vicky’s love interests, Simon Carmichael, surprised me in a couple ways, but without revealing too much, I think I shall just say that his charm is quite beguiling. 😉

SP: Is Dangerous Alliance your first book? How long does it typically take for you to write a book?

JC: It is my first book! I don’t think I have a typical writing time yet. All told, Dangerous Alliance took me about 11 years to write. I wasn’t working on it that entire time, to be fair, but I kept coming back to it. I’m hoping my next book will be a much…ahem, shorter experience.

SP: What kind of research did you have to do for Dangerous Alliance? Anything thatsurprised you along the way?

JC: Besides all the research I had to do about the world of Regency England, such as what people ate and how they got around and how long it took to travel from place to place, I had to do quite a bit of in-depth research into the murky legal world of how women could get a divorce. In a lot of Regency-set fiction, it’s taken as a given that women were stuck in their marriages. But I really wanted to write a book about teenagers with supportive parents who would help their daughter get out of a terrible, abusive marriage (which is what happens to my main character’s sister). I was surprised to find that under certain circumstances, there were ways to make that happen.

SP: You’re pretty open about your love for Jane Austen books, so if you could live any one character’s life who would it be and why?

JC: I think Emma has the best life of all the Austen heroines, so I’d probably try hers on for size (even though she’s not one of my favorite characters). I’m not sure I could handle all of Elizabeth Bennet’s embarrassing family or the indignities most of the characters have to deal with—well, I could, but if I’m going into an Austen book for a vacation, Emma’s life of privilege sounds pretty good!

SP: Who was the first person to read Dangerous Alliance (any drafting stage) and what was their response?

JC: My then boyfriend (and now husband) was my first reader way back when, and he always had every confidence that I would one day get it published. I’m thrilled to finally prove him right!

SP: Publishing is a tricky business, often slow and buzzing in all directions except for straight. What has your publishing journey been like so far?

JC: This will take a long answer! After I got my master’s degree, I had every expectation that I would soon have an agent and be well on my way to getting published before I turned 25. Instead I spent years querying, getting some requests, getting some feedback, but never an offer. I’d take another year or so to revise the manuscript and try it all over again. Each time, the novel got better but I still had no offers. I took a few years off to start other novels and do other things, and then in 2016, I decided to do one final pass on Dangerous Alliance. My plan was to do one last round of querying, and if nothing panned out, I would self-publish the book.

At the same time I finished revising, I found out that the submission window for PitchWars was open. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I applied. And, then, miraculously, I got a request! But since I only got one request (and was so inoculated to getting requests that didn’t pan out), I didn’t get my hopes up. Then, even more miraculously, I was chosen! I have a whole post on how I got my agent here, but suffice it to say, after Pitch Wars, things seemed to move faster. I signed with my agent in April 2017, we went on submission in late May, and by September we had an offer! I didn’t know how I would handle the waiting until my release date in December 2019 came along, but now it’s almost here! The waiting was always agonizing, but I don’t think that ever changes. The only thing to do is come up with distractions, whatever they may be, and enjoy the good moments when you’re in them!

SP: Any tips for aspiring (& querying) authors?

JC: Do NOT self-reject!! In other words, don’t talk yourself out of submitting your writing to X contest, or Ms. Bigtime Agent. You’ll never know who will like your writing until you send it to them!

SP: Now to lighten things up: 

Favorite fictional crush? So tough! I think I’ll go with Henry Tilney from NORTHANGER ABBEY, though Mr. Darcy runs a close second!

Best recent read? HEARTS, STRINGS, AND OTHER BREAKABLE THINGS by Jacqueline Firkins (It’s a contemporary MANSFIELD PARK retelling with such a great voice!)

Favorite childhood book? THE NINE DAYS QUEEN by Karleen Bradford (Another book that influenced my love of British history.)

Fav drink/food while writing? Tea—all types!

Dream Vacation spot? Tetiaroa, Tahiti

SP: Thanks so much for sharing with us, Jennieke! We wish you the greatest success as Dangerous Alliance enters the world!

Readers, don’t forget to add Dangerous Alliance on Goodreads or PRE-order on Amazon, and connect with Jennieke on Twitter, Instagram, or her website!

Nova, signing off

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7 Killer Approaches to Writing a Killer Opening Line

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As we know, a good first line of a book (and chapter) can do much more than just begin the story. It grabs our attention, sets the tone, reveals something to come, lets us taste the narrative & voice, gives the first impression, and can be locked into our memory for years to come IF it is done well.

Look at the 7 approaches below and study them. (FYI: Thanks to Lorie Langdon for sharing these with us!)

I’ve also added links to some of the most popular first lines in YA Literature. Compare, enjoy, and then mentally put them into their correct categories. Then look at your own first lines. Where does it fit? Practice rewriting your first sentence. And if you are so bold, share it in the comments!

  1. A statement of eternal principle

– Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

– Paper Towns by John Green: “The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle.”

 

  1. A statement that conveys the narrative

– Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa: “I had a farm in Africa.”

– Stardust by Neil Gaiman: “There once was a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire.”

 

  1. Characterization

– Stephen King’s 11/22/63: “I have never been what you’d call a crying man.”

– The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway: “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish..”

 

  1. Start mid-action

– Lorie’s current WIP:A brisk gale whipped the sea into peaks that pitched the Skylark around like a leaf in a flooded stream.

– The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner: Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.

 

  1. A statement of paired facts

– Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo:Joost had two problems: the moon and his mustache.

– A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

  1. 6. Statement laced with significance and/or conflict

– Heather Webb’s Becoming Josephine: The missive arrived in the night.

  • DOON by Corp and Langdon:I skidded to a halt in the crowded corridor, totally unprepared for a showdown with the evil witch of Bainbridge High.
  1. 7. Start with setting that evokes emotion, establishes mood, or raises questions

-A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas:The forest had become a labyrinth of snow and ice.

-Maria V. Snyer’s Poison Study: Locked in darkness that surrounded me like a coffin, I had nothing to distract me from my memories.

 

LINKS:

https://www.bustle.com/articles/164702-20-ya-novels-that-will-hook-you-from-the-first-line

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/teen/15-of-the-best-opening-lines-in-ya/ 

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/38-best-first-lines-in-no_b_8836484

 

Thanks Lorie, for sharing your tips with us! *Find Lorie’s books on amazon here & her website.

Nova, signing off!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview: Annie Sullivan, Tiger Queen

Pen Friends ~ Today’s interview is with YA Author Annie Sullivan talking about her latest book, Tiger Queen! We also just learned that she and Lauren Mansy (from our last interview) will go on tour together promoting, The Memory Thief, and Annie’s Tiger Queen, (& her debut, A Touch of Gold!) Be sure to check them all out!

as

SP: Hi Annie! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and your writing journey? 

AS: Thanks so much for having me! I’m the author of fairytale and fantasy young adult novels. I love taking stories readers are familiar with and giving them an unexpected twist—whether that’s a new character or a new ending. I have a master’s degree in Creative Writing from Butler University and have been writing seriously since college. It’s always been a dream of mine to be a published author, and now, I’m so excited that it’s come true!

SP: Tiger Queen was just released into the world! Congrats! Can you tell us how this idea & its characters came about?tgg

AS: Tiger Queen is actually a loose retelling of Frank Stockton’s infamous short story “The Lady or the Tiger,” which has a cliffhanger ending. Ever since I read the story in grade school, I’ve always wanted to give that story the ending it always should have had (in my opinion.) So I’m so excited that I was finally able to make that happen in Tiger Queen as we follow Princess Kateri as she fights suitors in an arena to win her right to rule.

Here is blurb:

In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.

But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger. Continue reading

Author Interview: Lauren Mansy, The Memory Thief

Pen Friends ~ Today’s interview is with YA Author, Lauren Mansy, talking about her debut, The Memory Thief. From what we have heard it has incredible world building and an intriguing premise! You can still pre-order it and it will arrive on your door on when it releases on October 1st!

LM

SP: Hi Lauren! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, could you share a bit about you and your writing journey? 

LM: Thank you so much for having me, Nova!

I’m from the western suburbs of Chicago, where work alongside my parents in our family business. In my free time, I love grabbing coffee with friends, staying active outdoors, and traveling – I have two nephews in California, so I’ll use any excuse to spend time with them! 🙂

My writing journey first began the summer after my college graduation. I’d hoped to go into children’s publishing, but my senior year, I’d been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, a form of lymphatic cancer. I’m so thankful to say that I’ve now been cancer-free for seven years, but that was a very difficult time for me. After completing my treatments, I wasn’t healthy enough to find a job, so my parents suggested I do something creative to help in my healing process. For some reason, all I could think about was writing a book. And once I started writing, I found that I never wanted to stop! Writing fiction helped me express myself in ways that I’d never done before and helped me process through some of my most difficult memories. I’ll be forever grateful for that! Continue reading

My Hero Academia: Two Odd Observations

Hold on a moment while I put on my nerd cap, to talk about a fabulous series called My Hero Academia, by Kouhei Horikoshi. For those totally oblivious to anime (and manga – the written comic form of popular Japanese story-telling), My Hero Academia is one of the top hits currently being published and animated for TV. (check Amazon Prime and Hulu)

A short synopsis: Izuku lives in a world where 80% of the population has been born with a Quick – think X-Men, but even zanier. Unfortunately for Izuku, who longs to be a professional hero, he’s Quirk-less, just a normal kid – which isn’t so normal anymore. Just when his dreams are in danger of being crushed by bullies and reality, he has an encounter with the #1 Hero of the age, All Might, and gets the chance to become the next greatest hero himself.

As much as I want to plug the series (go watch it! Now!) I actually want to touch on two characters and two themes, that I see running through Horikoshi’s story. Continue reading

Author Interview: Elizabeth Lim (Spin The Dawn)

Hi Pen Friends~ Ready for another YA author interview? Today’s guest is the ever-talented Elizabeth Lim, author of SPIN THE DAWN. Check out that cover below. A beauty, huh? And the words inside it have been spun wonderfully too. Now, on to the good stuff!

Elizabeth Lim

SP: Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for joining us! Spin the Dawn, came out in July and is getting A LOT of positive attention. People are enamored. And much deserved, I’d say.

Here is the blurb:

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of 12 tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.
Spin the DawnSP: The blurb line “the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars” pretty much sold me on the book 🙂 

Can you tell us a bit more about how this idea came about? 

EL: The idea behind the dress is inspired by a French fairytale called Donkeyskin, in which a princess asks her father for dresses of the sun, moon, and sky. But there wasn’t ever really much description about the dresses aside from that, and having a background in music, I really wanted to evoke a poetic image whenever I described Amana’s dresses, and also evoke the legend and mythology behind them that I created for the world of Spin the Dawn.

SP: Can you tell us a bit about using Chinese culture in Spin the Dawn’s world & story building?  Continue reading

Book Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely

CURSE SO DARKTitle: A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Blurb (from Amazon):

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.  Continue reading

When to Make the Leap to a New Series

fmd_cru6otk-cathryn-laveryHave you ever written a note from yourself to yourself?

I did.

It was back when I first started writing. I wasn’t convinced I could finish writing an entire book, much less beat the odds and get published.

So I wrote a note to myself promising my future self that I would not give up on writing until I’d received over a thousand rejections for my manuscript.

Fast forward to heavy rewrites, beta readers, countless vacations spent editing, and slashing my word count like a ruthless ninja, and my novel still isn’t where I want it to be. The second book in the trilogy is nearly written, the characters loveable and the plot thickening, and yet… the first book in the series is still not query ready.

Ever found yourself in this boat?

The pressures of new jobs, moves, injuries and more steal you away from your love of writing and you can’t quite seem to get where you need to be?

That’s where I was.

Then a major life event happened. I moved from Texas to Beijing! Continue reading

Book Review: Finale

finaTitle: Finale

Author: Stephanie Garber

Blurb (from Amazon):


A love worth fighting for. A dream worth dying for. An ending worth waiting for.

It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own, and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist.

With lives, empires, and hearts hanging in the balance, Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend or a former enemy. After uncovering a secret that upends her life, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change and define him.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win, and those who will lose everything.

Welcome, welcome to Finale. All games must come to an end… Continue reading