Author Interview: Kara Swanson

Pen Friends~ today’s interview is with YA Author, Kara Swanson, talking about her latest release, DUST, a peter pan sequel/retelling coming out with Enclave Publishing  this July (2020.) Kara’s path to publishing is really unique and I believe will be helpful for those in both traditional and self publishing. Her cover art has won awards and guys- she has friends & readers that create the most stunning fan art. See all below!

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

Hello there, friend!

It’s such a pleasure to be here with you today!

I’ve been writing since I was a young teen. I grew up overseas in Papua New Guinea as the daughter of missionaries. I was first published at seventeen, and that small taste of being an author was what made me realize I wanted to pursue this as a career. Several years later, while I was dealing with the worst season of having Lyme Disease (a sickness I still battle to this day), I wrote The Girl Who Could See, a novella that helped me process the unique perspective I had as a young person transitioning back to the US after having spent most of my life in another culture. It was a way to work through this sense that I’d had of always standing between two worlds, never quite a part of either. I continued writing and now at twenty-three, I have a Peter Pan retelling/sequel that releases with Enclave Publishing this year. 

SP: Dust will come out with Enclave Publishing in July 2020. Dust-by-Kara-Swanson-1331x2048

Here is a blurb:

The truth about Neverland is far more dangerous than a fairy tale.

Claire Kenton believes the world is too dark for magic to be real–since her twin brother was stolen away as a child. Now Claire’s desperate search points to London… and a boy who shouldn’t exist.

Peter Pan is having a beastly time getting back to Neverland. Grounded in London and hunted by his own Lost Boys, Peter searches for the last hope of restoring his crumbling island: a lass with magic in her veins.

The girl who fears her own destiny is on a collision course with the boy who never wanted to grow up. The truth behind this fairy tale is about to unravel everything Claire thought she knew about Peter Pan…and herself.

SP: Can you tell us how long it took you to write Dust and  how this story developed? 

Dust was originally a concept that I had stumbled upon while brainstorming with a close writer friend. We had originally planned on co-authoring the project, but then our lives went two different directions. Several years passed and the concept was shelved until my agent submitted a list of my potential story concepts to a publisher who loved my writing and wanted to see what else I had — and when they saw the really brief concept blurb for a Peter Pan retelling/sequel, that was the book this publisher wanted to see submitted. At the time, I didn’t have a single page written, and the majority of the book wasn’t even outlined. I touched base with my friend who gave me full permission to run with the concept, and then I outlined the full novel, and wrote and edited it over the course of several months. Once I had the novel finished and well edited, my agent submitted to the first publisher that had expressed interest, as well as to several others. In the end, Enclave ended up being the right fit, and I absolutely adore working with their team!

SP: Dust already has some incredible fan art! How did this come about? What is it like having fans making art of your story characters? (See art on her instagram!)

The Dust fan art was pretty natural, honestly. I had some early readers who really loved the story and wanted to craft some art. I really, really love story-related art and have commissioned character art in the past, but seeing a fan create their own art and seeing the way they translate the characters is so incredible and humbling ❤

SP: DUST is not your first story–Seaglass, a short story, is free for readers that subscribe to your mailing list and The Girl Who can See, which is available on amazon, has won awards and has been praised for that cover! Please tell us your designer!! So, here is my question: independently publishing–how did you do it? What was it like for you? Tips to those in the middle of it? 

the-girl-who-could-seeThe cover for TGWCS was done by Jenny at Seedlings Design Studio! (https://www.seedlingsonline.com)

As far as tips on independently publishing— I would suggest to plan well ahead. I created a six-month plan of each step it would take (writing my novella, editing it, setting up preorders on Amazon, getting a cover, creating the back cover blurb, marketing, etc) and then did a lot of research and completed each step to the best of my ability, including having several rounds of solid edits. If you are willing to put in the time, effort and funds, you can truly create a really good quality project and have some beautiful success with indie publishing. 

SP: You do such a great job on Social Media! You are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and have website that are updated and beautiful and share helpful tips and interesting parts of your journey. Any tips on marketing? Social media? Balancing time and marketing?

Awww, thank you! Thats so kind of you ^_^

I just try to be honest and authentic, while also bringing something of value to my online friends. I like to genuinely share what I’m doing and what interests me, while also sharing a bit of encouragement and anything helpful for my readers.

As far as marketing goes…again, plan in advance. Don’t rush things that should take time to set into place and build up. A huge part of marketing is just creating valuable friendships and connections and having something to offer in a way that doesn’t feel forced or sales-y. And that just takes time and a determination to be authentic as you go.

SP: Writing style–are you a plotter/pantster? How do you go about writing your first draft?

I am a plotter, for sure! I used to pants, but found that I write a much tighter novel when I take the time to plan things out and really invest in catching plot holes in the outlining stage, instead of having to do a hundred revisions. 🙂

SP: Now to lighten things up: 

Last book you read? Im still reading Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon!

Current dream vacation spot? London or honestly a whole Europe trip 🙂

Would you rather be a professional: Marine Biologist? Spy? Opera Singer? Brain Surgeon? Broadway star? Does that count?

Current fictional crush? Tom Holland’s Peter Parker 😉

Favorite childhood book?  Narnia! 😀

SP: Thank you Kara! We wish you the BEST of luck with DUST, Heirs of Neverland!

This was so much fun! Thank you so much for asking me to join you!

 

Nova, signing off.

 

Author Interview: Hanna Howard

Pen Friends ~ Today’s interview is such a treat! Debut YA Author, Hanna Howard, shares about her upcoming novel, IGNITE THE SUN and her beautiful (and somewhat painful) journey to becoming an author. Don’t miss the blurb to her novel. The premise is entirely captivating!

hhSP: Hi Hanna! I’m so excited to have you on the Spinning Pen to talk your upcoming debut, Ignite the Sun. But first, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you started writing? Continue reading

Book Spotlight: Blood Heir

Pen Friends~ I’m super excited to introduce you to a new book (and the author with an interview soon!) Blood Heir, written by YA Author Amelie Wen Zhao comes out today which means you can now buy it and read it and love it!

BLOOD HEIR

In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.

When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.

For those of you who don’t keep up on YA, it’s also a kind of miracle that we get to read Blood Heir, because we almost didn’t get that chance. Amelie & this book went on a crazy journey to get where it is today. Imagine this: from seeing your dream realized to dream book deals at auction to twitter mobs slamming you and pulling your book from publishing…but that wasn’t the end of the story. She did NOT GIVE UP. And, tomorrow is proof of her courage and integrity.

Amelie recently spoke on NPR about this journey. Check out her interview here:
https://www.npr.org/2019/11/17/780231746/am-lie-wen-zhao-on-blood-heir

Below, I’m also including her bio (she’s a total global girl!) and a quote from Amelie’s insta post. Readers, this book is going to be so good. Grab a copy and support 🙂

Bio from her website:

Amélie (yes, like the movie!) has adored putting pen to paper since she was in kindergarten. Born in Paris and raised in a multicultural community in Beijing, Amélie has a bone-deep love for traveling and immersing herself in new worlds and cultures. She lives in New York City, working as a full-time financial professional by day, and writer at night.
She hopes to empower young readers with messages of acceptance, strength, and courage through her works, and to continue to push the boundaries of young adult literature by exploring new, cross-cultural themes.

Quote from her Instagram:
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“Among the many topics I set out to explore when I wrote BLOOD HEIR were the historic instances of indentured labor and the modern-day crisis of human trafficking. These continue to exist and impact millions of victims today. My fiancé is himself a descendant of a Chinese indentured laborer.
⠀⠀
Literature should confront difficult truths and authors must be allowed to make their statements. I’m glad my perspective will shed light on these global issues, and that readers will have the chance to read my book, form their own opinions, and hopefully learn about new topics from my perspective as a Chinese woman living in the United States.”

Nova, signing off.
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Author Interview: Jessica Olson, Sing Me Forgotten

Pen Friends ~ I am so excited for you! In this interview you get to meet the lovely, writer mom, Pitch Wars Alum, YA Author Jessica Olson and hear about her incredible her debut, Sing Me Forgotten, out with Inkyard/Harper Collins in 2021. As you know, we are huge fans of championing author’s debut work, so click here to add it on Goodreads and enjoy all of the amazing gems she has shared in this interview!

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

JO: I’ve been writing books since kindergarten, and I’m pretty sure my parents still have stacks of the books I wrote and illustrated as a kid moldering up in their attic. Compelling stories about little girls that got castles for Christmas and went on picnics and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When I fell in love with Harry Potter as a young teen was when I moved on from writing (terrible) picture books to writing (even worse) novels. I was constantly scribbling stories in notebooks instead of paying attention in class during middle school and high school, much to my teachers’ frustration.

I started pursuing publication in college with a YA contemporary issue novel that I thought was the best thing ever written but was actually a pile of stinking garbage. I obviously was not able to get an agent with that manuscript, but I did not give up. I queried twice more over the next few years with two other manuscripts, slowly getting more and more interest in my stories—which showed I was improving—but no bites quite yet.

It wasn’t until I submitted Sing Me Forgotten to PitchWars in 2018 and was chosen as a mentee that things kind of took off. I received several requests from the PitchWars showcase, and I had my first offer of representation within 48 hours. After multiple offers, I chose to sign with Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis, and we went on submission shortly thereafter.

SMF went on to receive multiple offers from publishers, so Christa conducted an auction, which was a surreal and insane experience. I didn’t sleep or eat basically that whole week! Though all of the editors who made offers were wonderful, and they all seemed to be so excited for SMF, we decided to go with Lauren at Inkyard because she felt like the best fit for the book and shared the same vision I had for what the story could be.

smf2.jpg Continue reading

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

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.

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? 

EL: Spin the Dawn’s world is inspired by Asia during the Silk Road Era, though most of the book takes place in A’landi, which is loosely inspired by China. Maia’s relationship to her family, her respect for her ancestors, her superstitions and fear of demons, for example, are some of the more obvious nods to Chinese culture. But I also wove in references to a few of my favorite Chinese legends, like Chang’e and Houyi and the Cowherd and the Weaver. 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

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