Cover Reveal: CALCULATED by Nova McBee + YABC Giveaway

I am so incredibly excited to share with you all the cover for my debut young adult novel, CALCULATED!!! Isn’t she stunning?

Three important things!

  1. Its available for pre-order now! Find the links to the paperback and kindle preorder on my website or amazon !
  2. YA Book Central is giving away 5 paperbacks of Calculated so go enter the giveaway here: YABC GIVEAWAY
  3. You can now add it to Goodreads!
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Why Sci-fi?

Why Science Fiction?


“Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible.” Rod Sterling

I love to read—and watch—both science fiction and fantasy, but when it comes to writing, I find myself consistently drawn to science fiction. Even ideas that start as fantasy often get taken over by technology or space travel or aliens.
What makes science fiction so fun? The improbable made possible. The things that sound exciting or intriguing or frightening or far-out-there, told in a way that makes us believe it could one day happen, maybe even to us. As enjoyable as fantasy is, this is one element it lacks. (Although I’m still holding out hope for my Hogwarts letter…)


Science fiction is a broad and complex genre that can include many elements, but here are some that I find most intriguing that you might consider when writing.

Technology

I love to think about how advanced technology might go wrong. Stories are about problems, so if an invention works perfectly, it’s far less interesting than if characters have to deal with unintended side effects. The more advanced the technology, the greater the possibility for terrible consequences.

It’s also fun to consider how an invention would affect every area of life. A transporter would make traveling the world much easier, but what would it do to warfare? How would criminals use it? How would change an average person’s life?

Society

The fun thing about science fiction is, you can imagine a future going whichever direction you want it to as long as there’s a reason. Think about common elements of daily living—school, transportation, entertainment, fashion. How they might change in the future or with new technologies?
For a while, people thought virtual school was the way of the future. And even though that’s what many are experiencing now, it’s hard to tell if the method will stick or people will celebrate a return to in-person school. Fashion comes and goes in cycles. What if your futuristic society decides Victorian dress or Roman togas make sense?


Themes/Humanity

People remain the same regardless of technology or location. With science fiction, especially when the world seems improbable or humans dwell among the stars, it’s extra important to ground the reader with characters who want relatable goals and feel the same emotions we all experience.


Outer Space

Science fiction doesn’t have to be set on a space ship or another planet—Earth-based settings can be just as interesting, whether they’re set in the present or the future. But I’ve always been fascinated by the wonders of the galaxy, by how much is out there that we’ve barely begin to see. And since we know so little, it’s a fertile ground for your imagination to run wild. Unique planets, strange aliens, unknown phenomena…make the improbable seem possible, and take readers to a new world!

What do you love about science fiction?

Becky Dean, signing off.

Author Interview: Sam Taylor

Pen friends~ So happy to introduce you to another of my 2016 PitchWars alum gang, Sam Taylor, who will release her debut, We Are the Fire in February 2021!

SP: Hi Sam! Thanks for joining us! Before we start talking about your debut, We Are the Fire, can you share a bit about you and your writing journey? 

ST: One of the most unique things about my journey is that I landed my book deal for WAtF before signing with an agent! That’s definitely not the usual order of events, at least for traditional publishing. WAtF was the third manuscript I’d seriously queried. It wasn’t having good luck with agents, but my wide pool of early readers loved it, and this story means so much to me personally. So I began exploring alternate paths to publication. That was when I turned to Swoon Reads (more on them below). I thought to myself, “Agents aren’t responding to this book right now, but readers love it. Maybe readers can help me get it published.” And they did!!!

SP: Can you tell us a bit about your PitchWars experience AND Querying & Agents?

ST: My Pitch Wars journey was completely unorthodox in that I was an unofficial mentee (which I don’t think they do anymore) who was made official right before the showcase. I worked on the sidelines with Kip Wilson (author of the powerful novel-in-verse WHITE ROSE) on a YA fantasy inspired by Babylonian culture and magic. It was a phenomenal experience, I learned so much from her, and turned into a dream when right before the agent showcase I was invited to become an official Pitch Wars mentee and have my story included in that showcase. But then… I didn’t get a single agent request during the showcase week. That was really hard; talk about a whirlwind of emotions! But I found so much support and strength among my fellow Pitch Wars mentees, some of whom have become good writing friends. That support kept me going as I went on to query that Babylonian fantasy–most Pitch Wars mentees still get their agents through regular querying! Alas, that book did not land me an agent, though I did come very close. WAtF was the book I worked on after Pitch Wars, by the way. Sometimes achieving that publishing dream just takes a different project.

SP: Now we want to hear all about your upcoming novel, We Are The Fire releasing with Swoon Reads/Macmillan on February 16, 2021.

Here is a blurb: 

Two magical, fire-wielding teen soldiers in love, pitted against each other as they fight to tear down the empire who kidnapped them. It’s An Ember in the Ashes with fire magic, twisted alchemy, and ash-gray morals.

SP:  How did this story idea come about?

ST: I was trapped in a work environment with some very corrupt people. No matter how much I wanted to fix things, I didn’t always know how to make the situation right, and definitely wasn’t rewarded for my efforts. I was frustrated and angry and wanted to watch something burn. So I had the idea of these characters who, with a breath and a spark, can ignite bonfires. And they have to figure out how to use this magic forced onto them to win back their freedom. The right choices aren’t always clear for them, either, and often they don’t come without steep cost. But these characters keep fighting anyway to take back their lives.

SP: Swoon Reads is very unique, can you tell us more?

ST: Swoon Reads is an imprint of Macmillan (one of the Big 5 publishers), but it is unique in that the books it publishes are selected from a website where writers are invited to post their YA manuscripts. Anyone can read these manuscripts for free, and readers are invited to rate and comment on the ones they like best. Stories with strong ratings and reviews can grab the attention of an editor at Swoon Reads. A few times a year, they’ll select manuscripts that would work well for their list, and extend an offer of publication to those authors.

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

ST: I loved the romantic and moral tension between Oksana and Pran! It was so challenging to write these two with such different perspectives on their world, yet they are united by their dedication to each other. Even–and especially!–when it seemed like they were tearing apart their world and each other, there was always that yearning for them to be together again. Emotions were always high, and that made it easy to be deeply invested in their story, even when writing it pushed me to the limits of my abilities.

Sepp surprised me the most, of all the characters! Over the course of a few drafts, she went from an extremely minor character to one who’s crucial for the story. I think readers get to see this a bit, in how on both Oksana’s and Pran’s side of the story, she goes from being a character mentioned in asides, to someone who’s always at their sides!

SP: What excites and terrifies you about your book coming into the world?

ST: I’ve been invested in all the manuscripts I’ve written, but I had a passion for this story that did not exist for my previous two manuscripts. Maybe because it came out of such a painful time in my life? This was a story I was deeply invested in, yet there was a long span of time when querying was not going well, and I really thought this book would never find its way into readers’ hands. So I’m thrilled that it does get the chance to be a real book out in the world, and it feels right that this is the book I debut with, the one that launches my author career.

As for what terrifies me… this book does get quite dark in places. There are scenes that were particularly divisive among early readers. Yet when this book is deeply exploring moral ambiguity, and the characters are trying to outsmart people who have zero scruples, and dominoes are lined up along precarious paths… there come points when the characters only have intensely difficult decisions to make. And I didn’t shy away from having the characters make them. That wouldn’t do this story justice. I just hope that I’ve done the actual writing justice, so readers can understand what I’m doing on the page, even when the story events turn dark and difficult.

SP: Writing habits — can you let us into your process/writing life? How do you get the job done? Any tips for us?

ST: My process has changed quite a bit since becoming a mother! I’ve been getting up at 5am to have some quiet time to myself while Little T still sleeps. Though I’ve always been a morning person, I never used to get up that early, and it’s definitely been challenging to stick with. But I’ve found that early morning time is crucial to getting enough work time in, especially once I had a book under contract. I also write during Little T’s naps (and thus, have kept him on a pretty strict nap schedule. He needs that sleep time to be in his best mood, and I need the break during the day to recharge and be my own person through my writing).

My advice to others is that if they want to write, they’ll need to make time for it. Find what works for you! Someone else’s schedule won’t necessarily fit, and there’s no one “right” way to make writing time happen. Doesn’t have to be early morning, or even every day. But make time for writing, and honor that time. Learn to tell other people ‘No” and defend anything that would infringe on that time (there will always be something!) Even a little time, regularly taken, can add up to a lot of words after a while.

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

ST: It’s certainly changed the experience I’d been picturing! For instance, I’d planned on attending BookExpo in NYC this past May. That’s a huge book conference lots of industry professionals attend, with so many opportunities for networking! It’s been on my radar for six years; I’d promised myself I’d attend when I had a book to promote. Early this year I’d bought my first ticket for it… alas. Next year, maybe? But a lot of online events have sprung up in place of in-person, including conferences, workshops, book festivals, and launch parties. And I have to say, I’m loving these online events and the accessibility of them all. For myself, traveling is no longer so easy, since I’m mom to a toddler, and as I write this, my second baby is a month away from being born. But with these online events, I’ve been able to participate in conferences I’d never have been able to travel to this year, even without the virus. I’ve joined in the launch parties of friends who live many states away. And I’m looking forward to organizing some of my own online events next year to promote WAtF. I do hope that this a trend that keeps up even after COVID-19 finally leaves us, that there are increased opportunities for online events (or, options to tune in online to in-person events) to include more people in bookish activities.

SP: Now, to lighten things up! 

Is SAM a…

Plotter/pantster? 

Planster! Haha. I always have an outline–can’t draft without it. But every time, as I actually start writing a new story, I’m struck by new ideas that come to me as I sink into the story world and characters’ lives. I always give myself the freedom to explore these new ideas, especially in the first few drafts, because often they result in my best and most creative story elements.

Last book you read?

Just finished Nafizaa Azad’s The Candle and the Flame (amazing and atmospheric! Gorgeous writing, stunning world-building, a compelling romance, and food descriptions that will leave you drooling). Currently, I’m reading an ARC (advance readers’ copy) of Louisa Onomé’s Like Home, a contemporary YA novel about gentrification and friendship on the rocks. Look for this book next February!

Current dream vacation spot?

Iceland! Took a short trip to Reykjavík in Spring 2019 to explore the setting of another one of my books. Mostly I stayed in the city; now, I’d love to go back and see more of the country. You know, when traveling is safe again…

Something always in your fridge? 

Almond milk! Is that a boring answer? I switched over to drinking it while I was pregnant with my first child (Little T)… then realized I liked it so much better than cow’s milk, so I kept on drinking it.

Would you rather be a professional: Marine Biologist? Spy? Opera Singer? Brain Surgeon? OR?

I think being a spy would be thrilling! Don’t know that I’d be any good at it–I’m such a nervous person! But sneaking around uncovering useful secrets seems really empowering.

Favorite childhood book?  

The Velveteen Rabbit. I just love the gorgeous writing, and the meditation on the question, “What is real?” What does it mean to be a real, genuine living being?

SP: Thanks so much for sharing with us, Sam! We are eagerly anticipating your book!

Be sure to connect with SAM!

ADD social media links here.

Buy links:

Nova, Signing off

Nova McBee, author of Calculated & The Never Vows

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: Sara Fujimura

Pen Friends ~ Welcome YA Author Sara Fujimura as she shares about her latest book, Every Reason We Shouldn’t that came out with TOR TEEN in March!

sara fSP: Hi Sara! Thanks for joining us! Every Reason We Shouldn’t was released in March–a crazy time for a book to come out! Before we get to that, let’s hear about the book.

Here is a blurb:

Sixteen-year-old figure skater Olivia Kennedy’s Olympic dreams have ended. She’s bitter, but enjoying life as a regular teenager instead of trying to live up to expectations of being the daughter of Olympians Michael Kennedy and Midori Nakashima…until Jonah Choi starts training at her family’s struggling rink.

Jonah’s driven, talented, going for the Olympics in speed skating, completely annoying… and totally gorgeous. Between teasing Jonah, helping her best friend try out for roller derby, figuring out life as a normal teen and keeping the family business running, Olivia’s got her hands full. But will rivalry bring her closer to Jonah, or drive them apart?

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SP: Can you tell us how long it took you to write Every Reason We Shouldn’t and how this story idea came about?

It took about eight years for this book to go from idea to physical book. The sad thing is this was my fastest book to produce out of all three! So the idea that my next project, “Book #4” right now with Tor Teen, will come out in less than two years is a little mind-blowing.

I own a pair of figure skates and occasionally go ice skating, but I am not very good at it. What inspired EVERY REASON WE SHOULDN’Twas Apolo Ohno’s autobiography ZERO REGRETS, specifically the account of his teenage years. Ohno was at the crossroads of his career and had to make a decision: Walk away from the sport with the wins he already had or press on to see if he could make it to the Olympics. Spoiler alert: Ohno has eight Olympic medals in short track speed skating. I think he made the right choice. Jonah’s character came to me first, and Apolo Ohno very much influenced him. I saved the crossroads story for Olivia, though. I have two ultra-talented girls (now young women) in my life, and I got to see—thanks to their moms—what it’s like to be that one-in-a-million teen and all the unique challenges that come with being that high level of an athlete/performer. One is a dancer and the other a singer, but I wanted a girl who was into ice sports to work better with Jonah’s character. As super cheesy as it is, I love THE CUTTING EDGE. I wanted to write an updated (and much more realistic) version of the movie with teen skaters. Continue reading

Prompt: Pandemic Dystopia

Pen Friends ~ Many people out there are looking for a ways to get through this crazy time. Joelle, a teen writer I know who lives in Asia,  just finished Laura Francis’s SLAVE, and was inspired to write a short dystopian prompt inspired by our current situation. After she sent it to me, we decided that we need to include you all in this.

andrew-amistad-4dGRiOoqudg-unsplashThe Prompt is Pandemic Dystopia.

Give us your best world, and scenario, adventure, romance, bravery, sneakery, and more. Post it in the comments or send it to me via thespinningpen@gmail.com, and I will add to our post! Let’s at least use our creativity during our crazy shut-ins.

Here is Joelle’s Prompt:

Setting: New Bend, United Republic. Year 3030. Character: Gen Avery, Female. Plot: none.

Fifteen days ago.

I don’t know what compelled me to do it. I’m not stupid. They told us to avoid public gatherings. But one night, around seven, buying my groceries after dinner, I took a detour. I guess I was that desperate for social interaction.

I walked into that bar, groceries and all, and watched everyone else watching me. We were all staring at each other over our masks. You’re crazy for being here during quarantine, we judged. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

I’d never been in a bar. That was the stupid thing about it. I didn’t know what to do and everyone was watching the crazy lady with the groceries. I wasn’t normal.

Therefore, I was a target.

I ordered a Corona from a strangely quiet bartender and sipped silently, looking around the room. The whole place was eerily quiet. Most of the people in here were probably regulars and sad alcoholics who were here for the drinks, not the activity.

And then what would I know but a man came and sat next to me on the bar. Suddenly I was scared. I didn’t care about being social. I wanted to go home to my dog and my kdramas where I was safe from the disease and creepy guys.

Signing off, Nova

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. Continue reading

Author Interview: Dante Medema

Pen friends ~ Another fantastic interview from debut author, Dante Medema, talking about her upcoming book, The Truth Project, coming out with Harper Teen this fall! She also shares about her querying journey, her 5-editor 6 figure auction dream acquisition story (& the crazy event that followed that news!), and her thoughts on dreamy Alaska settings.

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

DM: Thanks for having me! I’ve always loved writing. I took a creative writing course in college and I remember thinking “I can’t believe how much fun this is!” Then after my husband and I started our family, I stayed home with the kids, and it became my outlet. Somewhere in there I thought “maybe I could try to do this for real” and I made a go of it! 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