Author Interview: Hope Bolinger & Alyssa Roat

Pen Friends ~ When these lovely authors shared their blurb and cover with me, I loved the concept and was eager to share it! Who doesn’t love a good hero-villain story? Come meet co-authors, Hope Bolinger and Alyssa Roat, as they share about DEAR HERO releasing September 28th.

SP: Hello Ladies, so happy to have you on the Spinning Pen! So, how did this story, DEAR HERO, come about? How did you decide to co-author it?

H: Most of that summer was pretty fuzzy, so I don’t know if I can remember the exact circumstances. But it all started when Alyssa and I created parody YA twitter accounts to make fun of YA tropes. She was a cliche YA villain, I, a cliche YA hero. My friend back home was also on a lot of dating apps, and I’d read a novel that was a series of letters between two people dating. The idea sort of all just clicked: what if there was an app, like Tinder, that matched you with your nemesis in the superhero world? We took the idea and ran from there. 

A: Once we had the idea, co-authoring was a no-brainer. We’ve co-written shorter pieces and articles before, so we knew we work together well.

SP: Co-authoring must be an interesting process–can you tell us a bit about your process? How long did it take you to write DEAR HERO as a team? Any obstacles?

H: So yeah, we didn’t do the typical co-authoring process with this. Basically, we hopped on a Google doc and each took on the personality of different characters. I was the hero, she was the villain (and we playacted other characters who later pop up like an 80-year-old henchman who is a dragon and a theatre-nerd/frat boy sidekick). We’d spot-check each other as we went for consistencies and had a skeletal outline we were following in terms of plot. The “obstacles” if we could call them that were that we never expected what the other person would write. We had to roll with the punches to get to our plot destination points whilst balancing two different visions for the book. But I think we worked together really well.

A: Confession time: we wrote the first draft in nine days. We were having so much fun we just couldn’t stop. (A lot of edits came afterward, don’t worry.) Basically, it was nine days of fingers flying, grinning in a room by myself at Hope’s quips, and trying to remember that oh yeah, I do have jobs to do as well.

SP: What was your favorite part about writing this book? Which character surprised you most?

H: I think what surprised me was how fun it was to write. I kept saying, “We shouldn’t be allowed to have this much fun writing.” I think the speed of writing the book in 9 days (don’t worry, we edited it a TON afterwards) caught me by surprise. We’d originally planned to write the thing in 60 days. 

A: My favorite part was waiting to see what hilarious thing Hope would come up with next. We had a loose outline, but lots of room for imagination. Honestly, all of the characters surprised me—I didn’t expect to fall in love with them so much! I knew the book was going to be funny, but I didn’t expect how much I would feel for the characters and how much we would watch them grow. And of course, there’s that plot twist that neither one of us saw coming!

SP: Writing tips–how do you stay focused? What is your revision process?

H: I usually don’t personally have a problem with focus. I often call a version of myself “beast Hope” where I’ll forget to eat or sleep because I’m so absorbed with the project. As for the revision process, it did look a little different for this project. Alyssa and I edited each other as we went and edited the document after numerous times. We had some betas give it a read and give their thoughts. The publisher and us also went back and forth a lot to make sure we caught lots of typos and inconsistencies. 

A: The problem is UN-focusing, haha! Hyper-focused Alyssa comes out with big projects like this and forgets to do important things like eat food. As for revising, it was really nice having someone clean up behind me in real time as I typed, and I did the same thing for Hope. Then we did broad revisions and a couple copy edits. I’m the nitpicky one to a fault, so I did a couple rounds of proofreading as well.

SP: Who is one author that influenced your writing?

H: I’ve been told John Green, which I think is high praise. His snark but also ability to pull no punches does often seep into my writing.

A: For this book, I think Rick Riordan had a lot of influence on tone. Plenty of snark and silliness, but with deeper character emotions and themes as well.

SP: Launching during COVID 19 must be an interesting experience- in which ways have you seen positive things come of it?

H: It’s opened up a lot of opportunities for online events. I usually do about 20 speaking engagements per year, but because of COVID, that has doubled for 2020. I do miss in-person events because they’re so personal, however. 

A: It definitely turned a lot of my marketing plans on their head, but in some ways it’s given us more opportunities. Since I have dysautonomia/POTS, traveling and speaking puts a lot of strain on my body. Being able to attend conferences and events from home has meant I’m able to do much more without any fainting adventures!

SP: Now, to lighten things up! 

Are Hope and Alyssa…

Plotter/pantster? 

H: This is actually funny because we’re complete opposites. I’m a plotter. I remember telling Alyssa, “This is the most pantsing I’ve done for a manuscript.” And she said, “This is the most plotting I’ve done,” when we talked about Dear Hero. 

A: Poor Hope. My writing style gives her secondhand stress. I pants everything and usually have no idea what’s going to happen next.

Last book you devoured ?

H: The Thing about Jellyfish. I’m getting into middle grade now. Absolutely beautiful book. 

A: I just finished A Conjuring of Light, the final book in V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic, a series I really should have read a long time agoCan you see how the two of us ended up writing a contemporary speculative novel? I devour anything spec fic/ fantasy, and Hope loves her contemporary fiction.

Current dream vacation spot?

H: Probably a secluded forest or some obscure national park. I’m convinced I’m half-fairy. Alyssa will probably agree. 

A: If Hope is a fairy, I’m the kooky old lady who lives in the woods. I’d like to be in a secluded cottage where I can write to my heart’s content. But barring that, I’m always down for a trip to London.

Something always in your fridge? 

H: Cookie dough. Always. 

A: Cheese!

Would you rather be a professional: Space-X Rocket Scientist? Spy? Food Critic? Paleontologist? OR?

H: PALEONTOLOGIST! I’ve been obsessed with dinosaurs since I was four. I once corrected a docent at a museum, when I was six, when she got her Dino facts wrong.

A: Maybe this is why Hope and I are such good friends. I was obsessed with dinos as a kid, and I may have missed my calling as a paleontologist. 

Any recent fictional crushes?

H: Oh gosh, LOL, I always go for the bad boys: Loki, Bullseye from Netflix’s Daredevil (not so much in the comics … he’s a little more psychopathic in those) and Zuko. And can I really be honest if I don’t put Darcy in here? Again, I’m like a cinnamon roll, so I’m not sure why I’m going for these dudes. 

A: My biggest crush will always be Captain America. Always.

Favorite childhood book?  

H: You know, it just depends. For a while it was Harry Potter, but I think I’m edging more toward Percy Jackson now. 

A: This is a cruel question. I thought I was supposed to be the villain. I can’t even pick a favorite childhood genre. I loved everything from Hattie Big Sky to Redwall to A Wrinkle in Time. 

SP: Thanks so much for sharing with us, ladies! Congratulations on your book!

Be sure to connect with Hope and Alyssa:

You can find Hope on most social media @hopebolinger 

And Alyssa is @alyssawrote:

Website: https://alyssawrote.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alyssawrote

Insta: https://www.instagram.com/alyssawrote/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/alyssawrote/

Signing off,

Nova McBee, author of Calculated & 2020 PitchWars Mentor!

Author Interview: Alicia J. Novo

Pen Friends ~ Please welcome YA Author Alicia J. Novo talking about her upcoming debut, UNWRITTEN, publishing journey, writing tips, favorite books & book-crushes, launching a book during COVID, and so much more! Do NOT miss her book cover. *It is beyond gorgeous and made by my favorite cover designer, Micaela Alcaino.

Alicia J NovoSP: Hi Alicia! Thanks for joining us! Before we start talking about UNWRITTEN, can you share a bit about you and your writing journey?

Absolutely! I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was six. I remember the exact moment. After I won an inconsequential writing contest and saw my story printed in the school newspaper. This is what I’m meant to do, I thought. But it took a long time and many turns before I decided to embrace writing professionally. I told myself I was too practical. Now, I think I was too scared. Instead of English or History, I studied Economics and became a technology executive. Not that I regret it. I enjoyed it. I’ve lived and worked in different countries and learned a lot about business, and people, and the world. Stories are in my blood, though, and eventually I had to accept writing is my calling. The journey since then has been bumpy but also satisfying because there is nothing I’d rather be doing than immersing myself in stories.

SP: Now, congrats on, UNWRITTEN, which will come out in March 2021!Unwritten_Cover
Here is a blurb: 

Books whisper to Beatrix Alba. But they aren’t the reason she has never fit in. Bullied at home and school, she keeps a secret—a power of violence and darkness.

When the spell that keeps her hidden fails, she’s catapulted into the Zweeshen, a realm where all tales live, and her dream of meeting her favorite characters comes true. But wishes are tricky, and behind its wonder and whimsy, the Zweeshen is under attack. A character is burning bookworlds in pursuit of a weapon to rule both stories and storytellers. To succeed, he needs a riddle in Beatrix’s keeping.

Now he’s hunting her down.

Joining forces with William, a cursed conjurer, Beatrix must face an enemy who knows her every weakness in a realm where witches play with time, Egyptian gods roam, and Regency heroines lead covert operations. And with her darkness as the only weapon, she may have to sacrifice everything to save a world that rejects her.

SP:  How long did it take you to write UNWRITTEN and how did this story come about?

I began writing this book almost seven years ago. It sounds crazy long. In truth it was a discovery process, and I feel I’ve written three different UNWRITTEN novels during that time. The final version, the UNWRITTEN which is being published, is about three years old, and it’s the best of that exploration. It contains what I’ve learned, not just in terms of writing, but life as well. Even though UNWRITTEN is not an issue novel–it does touch on concerns that feel pressing today, such as bullying, discrimination, and tolerance. So it was enlightening to find some answers through Beatrix and her challenges.

The original idea for UNWRITTEN is even older. Remember the six-year-old who wanted to become a writer? Well, she didn’t have a lot of friends and adored book characters. So she invented a place where they all went after the end of their books. I picked up that old concept and used it to develop the Zweeshen, a universe where characters from all stories live. UNWRITTEN grew from there in ways that surprised me.

SP: What has been your favorite process about launching this book? Any marketing tips you can share with debuts?

My favorite part was growing a community on Instagram. I wasn’t active at all on the platform before UNWRITTEN, but it has proven such a boon, especially because COVID has limited the impact of other more traditional channels. The bookish world on Instagram has been so fun and supportive!

In general, playfulness works for me. It’s one of the reasons I like fantasy so much. Because as a writer you get to play. Subvert the way of things. For marketing, I’m a huge fan of bookish swag. I had a great time creating bookmarks, finding props and designing a charm and a keychain. I even have a funko pop based on amazing character art of Beatrix Alba. But I am also a planner. I created a marketing plan and put every single idea I could find in there. The goal isn’t to do them all but have the pressure out of my head. I take it one day at a time. One action per day at least. And I try to have fun with it, turn it into a game.

SP: What was your favorite part about writing this book? Which character surprised you most?

My favorite part was discovering the world of the Zweeshen through Beatrix’s journey. I always try to challenge my main character to the breaking point, so the Zweeshen had to evolve to test Beatrix. The Zweeshen would be a completely different place if not for her particular issues. It ended up becoming a much richer world than it was originally.

The character who surprised me the most was Emma. She’s younger than Beatrix, so I had planned to keep her on the sidelines. Emma wouldn’t have it. She kept taking over scenes and expanding her role. In time, I stopped fighting her because she made Beatrix better. Emma has changed the least too. She was fully-developed and idiosyncratic from the start. Now she’s one of my favorites.

SP: Writing tips and revision– what helps you stay focused on finishing a book?

I think a book is no different than a painting in that you have to expect multiple passes. You have to let the paint dry before adding the next layer to create a specific effect. I’d say embrace the process, try to enjoy each step. My biggest writing tip is to get stuff down. Whether for a first draft or a scene or even a paragraph. Often my first try is full of Xs. They stand for a word or a sentence I know I’ll have to include. Something that would force me to slow down to get it right and would break the momentum. Let ideas flow first. There will be time to revise. To agonize over the perfect word or sentence structure.

You asked about staying focused. For me, it’s less about focus and more about maintaining the right distance. That place where you can still assess the work with a level of objectivity, detached enough to prioritize. If I’m revising for plot, every comma shouldn’t stop me, and I have to let some things go. One of my biggest challenges is cutting too much. It’s the opposite of struggling to kill darlings. I have a murdering bent. Feedback is mana to me, so all someone needs to say is “that portion dragged a little”, and I will chop a whole chapter off. Learning to cut more judiciously is one of my goals.

SP: As an author, what have you learned about the publishing world that you think is important to share with upcoming authors?

Here are my top 3:
1) You already heard publishing is slow. Well… It’s slow. Slower than slow. So slow you want to pull your hair out. Slower than the sloth from Zootopia. So make sure you arm yourself with patience and keep yourself busy while you travel through whatever stage you are in.
2) Expect things to work differently than you hoped and differently from everyone else. Even though there’s a process, each journey is personal. Have faith and believe you will get there. There is no one way. This is your jungle. Love the path you’re clearing. When in doubt, get yourself a bigger machete.
3) Speak up. Ask. Question. Do not suffer your uncertainty in silence. If there’s something you feel strongly about, request it. I had always envisioned UNWRITTEN having a map, so I was disappointed when it wasn’t mentioned in the planning discussions. I agonized over it. When I finally brought it up, my publisher loved the idea. I’m delighted with the final map in the book.


SP: Launching during COVID 19 must be an interesting experience- in which ways have you seen positive things come of it? 

A huge challenge, yes. COVID forced me to accept changes, delays and a feeling of constant flux. Everyone is doing the best they can, but we all work with limited information and make the best choices possible on any given day. I had to make friends with that relinquishing of control. It’s a work in progress 🙂 The cancellation of live events and signings is the saddest loss from my perspective. I really like interacting with people. Still, there are silver linings. Small bookshops have been forced to develop their online presence, which will help them long term. As a reader and local shopper, I love that.

For writers, the move to online has opened up possibilities to participate in events that would have been out of reach. Not everyone can travel constantly for conferences. I recently participated in the SCBWI Summer Spectacular which was amazing. If it had taken place in person, I would have missed it.

Also, and It is too early to tell if this will be a permanent shift, I think COVID has served as an equalizer. Small and independent presses struggle to get into the limited shelf space in bookstores which is dominated by Big 5 releases. The internet is more democratic. The online focus is a win for readers’ chances to find quality books that would have otherwise gone under. Bloggers, online reviewers and cool sites like the Spinning Pen help with that too because people turn to them for honest recommendations and that is more important than ever during COVID.

SP: Now, to lighten things up!

Is Alicia a…

Plotter/pantster?

Plotter without a doubt. I have outlines, lists, mindmaps. I have charts of my charts. But I am willing to blow them all up and go with something a character wants because, in the end, the best laid plans…

Last book you read?

I just finished rereading Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, and I love it more every time. The prose is lyrical and the story is rich, enthralling and full of mystery. And it’s a book about books–I can never resist those.
Current dream vacation spot?

Bali. I crave sun and sand and turquoise water. I’ve always wanted to stay at one of those huts that sit on stilts in the ocean.

Something always in your fridge?

I feel like I should say something cool and healthy like avocado (which I love) or Kale (which I kind of tolerate) but actually diet coke. Not cool and not healthy but my vice. Especially when on a deadline. And champagne. There always has to be a bottle in there just in case. Either to celebrate a surprise success or enjoy just cause.

Would you rather be a professional: Kick boxer? Archaeologist? Dog Groomer? Mechanic? OR?

Archeologist. Hands down. I’m fascinated by history and trying to recreate the stories of the past, to reconstruct the world as it used to be. It requires imagination, logic and quite a bit of detective work. It sounds mesmerizing to me. There’s a character in UNWRITTEN, Jane, who used to be an archeologist before arriving in the Zweeshen. I had lots of fun working on her backstory.

Any recent fictional crushes?

No, not lately. It’s a question I’ve been working on from a writing perspective. What makes a character dreamy? Why do we fall in love with him or her? Especially for male supporting characters, how do we create a love interest that is attractive and strong in his own right, while being respectful; masculine without having to save the damsel or become too overbearing? As a mom of a son, finding that answer matters to me.

Favorite childhood book?  

Anne of Green Gables. I admire Anne’s positivity, lack of fear or self consciousness. The willingness to be herself at all times regardless of what anyone thought. Plus, she loved stories and ended up a writer, so a kindred spirit.

SP: Thanks so much for sharing with us, Alicia! We are eagerly anticipating your book!
Be sure to connect with Alicia!– 

www.alicianovo.com

Instagram: @authoraliciajnovo

Twitter: @aliciajnovo

facebook: alicianovoauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20323098.Alicia_J_Novo

 

Signing off, NOVA MCBEE Author of Calculated and 2020 PitchWars Mentor

Author Interview: Sarah Allen

Pen Friends ~ Get ready for a stream of amazing interviews this coming week. We’ve got Agents, Editors, and a bunch of mega talented debut authors!

Next up is Middle Grade Author, Sarah Allen, my dear friend and fellow 2016 Pitchwars Alumni. Her book, What Stars are Made of, will come out with Macmillan in March, fyi, its open for preorder now. (link above!)

sa111SP: Hi Sarah! I’m so excited to have you on the Spinning Pen to talk about your debut, What Stars are Made Of! Before we get to all the book questions, can you tell us a bit about yourself and writing journey? 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

Book Review: Bridge of Clay

BOCTitle: Bridge of Clay

Author: Markus Zusak

Blurb: The breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance.

At the center of the Dunbar family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge—for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle.

The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome? Continue reading

Book Review: Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles)

cinder

Title: Cinder (The first book in The Lunar Chronicles.)

Author: Marissa Meyer

Blurb: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. Continue reading

Author Interview: Kara McDowell

Pen Friends~ today’s interview is special because I was along side YA debut author Kara Jean McDowell as a fellow 2016 PitchWars mentee, witnessed her get an agent, and then a book deal, and now her book, Just For Clicks, will come out in February!

kara mcdowell author photo 1

SP: Hi Kara! Thanks for joining us. Before we dive into all the book stuff, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

KM: Hello! Thanks for having me! My name is Kara McDowell. I live with my husband and three young kids in Arizona. When I’m not writing or reading, I like to boat, bake, go on road trips, and watch Netflix.

SP: Your debut, Just for Clicks, will come out Feb 2019. First, we LOVE your incredibly adorable, genius, and timely idea!

Here is a blurb: Continue reading

The Querying Show, Episode 3. Gently Rip Apart His Query, Please.

peter-lewicki-411606-unsplash

Welcome to The Querying Show’s Third Episode!

For the next six months you will witness every juicy (or completely stagnant) detail of our SP Staff Member’s querying life in the SLUSH PILE!

(Check out our rules and reasons in our intro post here!)

Will CR’s/Write_Or_Left achieve AGENT success? Or will it result with a querying and MS reboot? Dying to know? Follow us to see how Write_Or_Left ‘s querying journey will end up!

***Please forgive our late post. Autumn colds took over last week! 

SO…..Today is the 3rd week of CR’s journey. Today we will do something a bit different. We will SHOW YOU CR’S QUERY and ask YOU for feedback!

But first, let’s check in our with brave querying fellow and see how things are progressing. (Click below for Episode 1 & 2.) Continue reading

Book Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

to all book

Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (first of a trilogy)

Author: Jenny Han

Blurb: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

jenny han

Review:  To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was on my TBR list for quite a while. Unfortunately—or fortunately?—the movie adaptation came out on Netflix and I couldn’t resist all the gushing reviews, so I—GASP!—watched the movie first. Let’s just say the book immediately jumped the queue on my reading list and was just as enjoyable as the flick. You’ll cheer Lara Jean on from start to finish, swoon over Peter Kavinsky, and crave a bite of every cookie Lara Jean bakes. The story is charming and will give you all the warm and fuzzies as it takes you back to your first crush and first love. Continue reading

Book Review: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

StarfishTitle: Starfish (standalone)

Author:Akemi Dawn Bowman

Blurb: Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin. Continue reading