Author Interview: Joanna Hathaway

Pen Friends, I’m so excited to introduce you to debut YA Author, Joanna Hathaway who will talk about her YA Fantasy (with Historical aspects), Dark of the West, which comes out February tomorrow, the 5th!!! Let’s hear what she has to say about books, publishing, marketing and more!

JHSP: Hi, Joanna! Thanks for joining us! Congrats on your debut coming out in February! I bet you’re getting excited!  But 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? 

JH: Thanks so very much for having me! Yes, it’s getting very exciting, and as you mentioned, Dark of the West is my debut. It’s my first book to be published — but it’s also the first book I’ve ever finished! I started working on it when I was in university, over a decade ago, and it was the only story that stuck with me through the years. I like to say that I “grew up” as a writer with this book. I’ve revised it so many times, and in so many different ways, that it’s taught me most of what I know about craft at this point. I know many authors write a few different books before they reach The One, but for me it took agonizing over countless drafts to makeDark of the West become The One!Dark of the West

SP: Your debut, Dark of the West, will come out February 5th! From the first moment I read your description, I knew I would LOVE this book!

Here is a blurb:

Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.

Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe. Continue reading

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Book Review: Just For Clicks

just for clicks book mockup photoTitle: Just For Clicks  (Release date: February 19, 2019)

Author: Kara McDowell

Blurb: Mommy blogs are great . . . unless the blog happens to belong to your mom.

Twin sisters Claire & Poppy are accidental social media stars thanks to Mom going viral when they were babies. Now, as teens, they’re expected to contribute by building their own brand. Attending a NY fashion week and receiving fan mail is a blast. Fending off internet trolls and would-be kidnappers? Not so much. Poppy embraces it. Claire hates it. Will anybody accept her as “just Claire”? And what should Claire do about Mom’s old journals? The handwritten entries definitely don’t sound like Mom’s perfect blog persona. Worse, one of them divulges a secret that leaves Claire wondering what else in her life might be nothing but a sham . . .

Review: If you love Contemporary YA, especially ones with swoony unique characters, slow burning romance, fresh concepts and plot twists you CANNOT guess, then you will love Just for Clicks!

I had the privilege of reading an early copy this book–be jealous! kara mcdowell author photo 2

 

Characters/Voice: One of the aspects I love most about this book is the VOICE. So well done! Claire is one of the most relatable characters and I could identify with her immediately. Poppy and Rafael, even her mom, get under your skin too because you get to know them all in a very real, vulnerable way.

Pacing: The pace and plot were steady and fresh the whole time and kept me turning pages and man– the twists— I did not see them coming. Well done, Kara. Sorry, y’all == no spoilers!

Plot:  As for the story, the plot is wonderfully executed and thought out. (see synopsis above!) I thought the plot (& concept) was genius for today’s audience and I was amazed at how well Kara wrote it! The phenomenon of youth online, blogging, texting, youtube, reality shows, etc. It was so real to me, I felt that this could be an actual story online the entire time! lol.

Setting: Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in Arizona and I loved it. It was so different from where I’ve lived that learning about how the weather at Thanksgiving could be 90 degrees and how that effected life made me feel the setting in a fresh way. The high school was a typical American set-up, but in each place Kara set the moment, whether at home or outside. I was there.

Themes: “Breezy and fresh meditation on privacy and relationships in the internet age, with a likable protagonist who would rather code than braid her hair for a fashion vlog.” (Fiction. 12-18)

**This is a clip from the Kirkus Review, which I recommend reading the full review here.

Audience: I would totally recommend this book to younger and older teens (and even moms!)

wagas cafe author photo 1

 

Nova, Author of YA Contemporary Action/Adventure & Fantasy, signing off! See Nova’s book stuff here.

Author Interview: Astrid Scholte

Pen Friends ~ As a 2016 PitchWars mentee, I’m giddy to tell you that my fellow 2016 PW tribe member, and YA debut author, Astrid Scholte‘s incredible, fast-paced, and highly anticipated fantasy, FOUR DEAD QUEENS will be out in the world in February! Her story of perseverance and hard work is inspiring. Enjoy the interview!

 

marketing_astridscholte

SP: Hi Astrid! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE for you to share with our readers a bit of your inspiring (never-giving up) writing journey. Who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

AS: Thanks so much for having me! Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be an author, writing my first “novel” at age 5. Another love of mine was drawing so I thought a picture book illustrator would be the dream job. Back then, I thought I could illustrate my own books. It wasn’t until much later that I found out most authors don’t also illustrate their work.

While my passion for writing was there from a young age, I pursued a career in 3D animation and visual effects as I also had a love for the magic of movie making. I studied 3D animation at university and have worked (and still do!) in the film, TV and animation industry for the past 10+ years. Working in film production is a taxing job, with long hours, so my writing took a back-seat for a few years. It wasn’t until 2012 that I finally finished a novel. It was a YA paranormal romance and I thought for sure it would get published!

I attempted to be published here in Australia, where you can submit to publishers directly. After getting close with one publisher (or what felt like close at the time as they gave a detailed, positive rejection) I decided to query agents in the USA. Over 100 rejections later, with only one full request, I realized that like many of the characters in YA paranormal novels, the genre was also dead.

That year, I attempted Nanowrimo for the first time and wrote 50K words of what would become my second completed YA novel, an elemental YA fantasy. This time, I went straight to the USA, as I’d been told that speculative fiction was a difficult sell in Australia. I amassed around 80 rejections, but has 12 full requests and some positive feedback. The common feedback I kept hearing was that YA fantasy was over saturated and mine wouldn’t stand out in the market.

So I decided to try one more time. (In truth, I’m sure I would’ve kept going!) I wanted to combine all the things I loved about YA and fiction, including twists, morally gray characters, forbidden romance, secrets and murder mysteries. I also wanted to query as quickly as possible as I’d spent years on failed manuscripts. This book was Four Dead Queens and it ended up getting into PitchWars in 2016, landing me an agent a week after the competition ended, and a publishing deal less than two weeks after going on submission! Luckily I didn’t give up!

Overall, it took me 10 years of writing seriously and 5 years of attempting to get an agent and publisher before I got my offer.
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

Author Interview: Sarah Carlson

Pen Friends ~ You’re in for a treat today! We have debut Ya author, Sarah Carlson, here to talk about her upcoming book, All the Walls of BelfastFind out she got her agent and what keeps her going as she shares about her querying, publishing, marketing, traveling dreams, and writing process & journey. Learning from and listening to other authors can help us a lot. Enjoy!

SC, pic

SP: Hi Sarah! Thanks for joining us. First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

SC: Hey, thanks for having me! I write contemporary YA that touches on issues that make you think. By day, I’m a school psychologist working at an elementary school; my focus is on supporting mental health and behavioral needs. I also work to support and directly intervene around children who have been exposed to trauma. I’ve loved writing since 4thgrade, when I got picked to represent my grade at a writing competition. In middle school, it was hundreds of pages of Stephen King fan fic scrawled on loose-leaf paper. Then high school saw me creating an epic universe for a sci-fi novel that grew to over 240,000 words and will never again see the light of day. Continue reading

Book Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Legendary cover

Title: Legendary

Author: Stephanie Garber

Blurb:

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name. Continue reading

Author Interview: Brittany Fichter

Pen Friends ~ Get ready for a long string of author interviews this month! We just love learning from other authors and hearing their stories from dreams to publication. We hope you do too!

Today’s interview is fantasy and fairytale-inspired author, Brittany Fichter! If you love fairytale spin-offs and heart throbbing arcs and characters, you have a list of books to choose from–See below for Brittany’s book pics!

Brittany Fichter

 

SP: Hi Brittany! Thanks for joining us. First, please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

 

Continue reading

How to (somewhat) be a Productive Writer. Guest Post by Ellen McGinty

How to be a Productive Writer – a (somewhat) unhelpful guide from a mom with three kids under 5.

Writers, we are all busy people so I’m going to break this into easy bullet points. But first, my (somewhat) unhelpful tip to be a productive writer and have a balanced family life.

That is, DON’T.

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Life will never be perfect – need I say that? When I strive to balance everything I’m stressed, hair falling out and ghosted by writerly angst.  No matter how good I am at multitasking, I still have to choose where my energy goes. I don’t know about you, but if I have to choose, it’s family.

So how does this help me be a productive writer? 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

Author Interview & Book Release: Lorie Langdon / Olivia Twist

Photo Lorie Langdon

Pen Friends, Welcome YA Author Lorie Langdon as she talks about her new book, Olivia Twist, an historical retelling of a loved classic! 

SP: Congrats on your latest release, Olivia Twist!

Thanks so much!

SP: Can you tell us how you got the idea?OliviaTwist_cover.jpg

Like all the best stories, this one began when I was a child. After my Grandma took me to see a rerelease of the movie musical Oliver!, I became obsessed with the story and would sit in my room and listen to the double album soundtrack for hours, making up new stories about the characters. In my favorite daydream, Oliver had been born a girl and was disguising her true gender as a safety measure. This way, I could imagine myself as the heroine of the story and the Artful Dodger as the hero. In my childhood fantasies, the two would have endless adventures and eventually fall in love and escape from poverty. I blame this train of thought on the actor Jack Wild, who played Dodger in the film and became my first celebrity crush!

As a teen, I devoured every bit of historical fiction I could get my hands on, including the classic Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist. I quickly realized two things: The Artful Dodger was not the hero I’d envisioned, and the film had missed a major character; Oliver’s half-brother, the villainous Monks. When I began writing my own books, the dynamic duo of Jack and Olivia would not leave me alone, and a mash-up of the original novel and the film began to solidify in my mind.

SP: How long did it take you write Olivia Twist?

I began the first draft of Olivia Twist in 2011. I continued to work on it in-between writing the DOON Series and finally finished it in 2013. Sadly, the young adult publishing world wasn’t ready for a historical novel without steampunk elements or vampires, so I received rejection after rejection. But I didn’t give up hope. After four years of being on submission to publishers, it sold to Blink YA Books. Now, it is receiving strong reviews and is my first book to be sold in Target stores across the US!

SP: The ever popular DOON series (who’s rights recently sold to a TV studio!) is also a retelling of Brigadoon. Do you think retellings are your thing?

I really do love writing retellings. I wrote a YA thriller, GILT HOLLOW, which is a contemporary mystery with all original characters. (Gilt Hollow just released on audiobook!) But I do enjoy reinventing classic stories and giving those characters fresh life for a new generation.

I’m currently working on a top secret spin-off of Olivia Twist that features the orphan leader Brit a few years in the future, and it is a retelling of sorts.

SP: Do you see any parts of yourself in Olivia?

Like Olivia, I’ve learned that perseverance is the key to accomplishing my goals. Despite the constraints that society puts on females of her time, Olivia finds ways to overcome obstacles in order to help others. Her selflessness actually inspires me to want to be a better person!

SP: When writing and crafting Jack- did you have a person we might know in mind?

I did have a physical character model for him…the actor Matt Lanter. You might know him from Timeless or the remake of 90210. The characters I’ve seen him play have that indefinable rakish quality that fits perfectly for The Artful Dodger. Not to mention he has the straight dark hair, ice blue eyes, dashing smile of Jack!

SP: If Olivia and Jack were living today, which cause do you think they would go after?

Child hunger and homelessness for sure! It isn’t an epidemic in the U.S. as it was in Victorian England, but nevertheless, they would fight to eradicate it!

SP: Now, fun stuff — if you could be any character in Olivia Twist, which one would you be?

Of course, Olivia! Because Jack… ;-D

SP: You will also travel to Asia to do an International Writing Workshop — which part are you most excited about? Teaching? Exploring?

I have a heart for educating and encouraging aspiring authors, so the workshop is what drew me originally. But now, I can’t wait to meet readers and writers at our various visits in China! The exploration is the icing on the cake!!

SP:  In May, you will also help judge a Travel Writing Contest in which the winner can win a free trip to TIBET! And last year you were in Ireland– so, what is your DREAM adventure and where and if you could take one fictional character with you, who would it be?

Oh my, that’s a tough question…so many possibilities! I think I would chose to visit Alloway, Scotland and the real Brig o’ doon with Vee and Kenna. We’d stay at Aunt Gracie’s cottage (which is based on an actual cottage you can rent there), visit Poet’s Corner Coffee shop for cinnamon hot chocolate, and perhaps find our way to the mythical kingdom to meet a couple of kilt-wearing princes!

SP: That sounds soooo nice. Can I come?

Thank you, Lorie!!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANova, signing off!