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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: contest

Nova Ren Suma spent years writing short stories and ghostwriting for children, tweens, and teens, but now she’s got her own book, with just her name on it.

She wrote a kick-ass novel that I adore.  DANI NOIR is one of my favorite reads for 2009, and is one of those books I will enthusiastically talk up to anybody.    You can read my review here

DANI NOIR’s first chapter is available to read here!   And a synopsis:

Fade-in on thirteen-year-old Dani Callanzano. It’s the summer before
eighth grade, and Dani’s stuck in her nowhere mountain town with only
her favorite noir mysteries at the Little Art Movie Theatre to keep her
company. But when a big secret invades the scene in real life, Dani
decides to bring the truth to light. Armed with a vivid imagination, a
flair for the dramatic, and her knowledge of all things Rita Hayworth,
Dani sets out to solve the mystery, and learns more about herself than
she ever thought she could. All she knows is someone’s been lying and
thinks they can get away with it. And it all has something to do with a
girl in polka-dot tights…

Nova agreed to an interview about movies, DANI NOIR, what superpower she’d have and other important things.  I also got her to tell me a little bit about her new YA novel, IMAGINARY GIRLS!


What to you is the appeal of noir films?  In this age of indie
darlings and explosive action sequences, have there been any movies
lately that you felt captured the noir sense?

The first thing that draws me in is simple: I love
black-and-white. Black-and-white photos, black-and-white films… deep
dark contrast and moody shadows and hot highlights. So gorgeous. I’d
totally live life in black-and-white if I could.

But more than that, I love the kinds of characters you find in noir
films. I’m a sucker for a good femme fatale, just like my narrator,
Dani. I like strong, mysterious female characters who keep secrets and
break hearts. Noir films are filled with them.

I’m a huge fan of indie coming-of-age movies—maybe that’s a whole
other book, huh?—and I love current films that combine the two. I’m
thinking of
Brick—a classic noir mystery set in a modern high
school; one day I’d love to write something like that, but I’d have the
protagonist be a girl, obviously.

Into which genre would you file the movie of your life? What would be the title, and who would play you?

afraid my life is no noir movie at the moment; I’m hardly a femme
fatale. I know! So disappointing! But I guess the movie of my life
would probably be one of those quirky romantic dramadies where the
socially awkward semi-weird girl falls down a lot and spills food all
over her shirt, but against all odds the guy still finds her adorable.
(Um, ask my husband.) The title’s up for grabs, so if anyone has a good
suggestion, do let me know. And if I get to pick my star, I want Zooey
Deschanel to play me. Oh, and for a twist let’s film it in

What are your top five “desert island movies”?

have such a hard time with top-five lists because I change my mind
constantly, but if I were being shipped off to a desert island first
thing tomorrow morning, these are the five movies I’d shove in my
go-bag tonight:
Edward Scissorhands, Donnie Darko, Amélie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and a classic, because you always need a classic and I feel like watching this one again right now: Harold and Maude.

Weird. I must be in a colorful mood, because none of those choices are in black-and-white.

You know, one time I went away to a writers colony for a
month—where you stay alone in a cabin without TV or wifi or any other
distractions; it’s a little like going off to write on a desert island,
in the best way possible because they feed you and bring you fresh
sheets. Anyway, I took only one DVD with me to play on my laptop in
case I needed entertainment and it actually wasn’t a movie. It was the
box set of
My So-Called Life. So I guess when it comes down to it that’s my desert island movie.

Were you anything like Dani at age thirteen? Have there been any elements of your own experiences growing up that you drew upon?

was intensely shy when I was thirteen, so, no, I wasn’t exactly like
Dani. In some ways, I was more like Taylor—the best friend Dani
discards and then might maybe miss after all—who tends to get caught up
in things and is afraid to speak up for herself. But in other ways,
Dani is very me. She desperately wants to escape the world she’s living
in, and I sure fantasized about that at thirteen. Dani is the girl I
wanted to be in junior high. She does what I never would have done. She
says things to people I would have wanted to say but never could. She’s
braver than I was. She’s also far cooler than me, because I didn’t
discover noir films till I was in my twenties.

I remember being thirteen very vividly; I can’t seem to get away
from it. So a lot of my own experiences found their way into the mood
of this book. I grew up in small upstate towns and had some pretty
lonely summers; my parents did divorce (but when I was way younger).
Even though Dani’s life isn’t mine, we do share one thing: a close
relationship with our moms. My mom and I were very close when I was
thirteen. She was one of those cool moms you could tell absolutely
everything to, still is.

Ala movie posters, can you give me a catchy tagline for Dani Noir?

I like “What Would Rita Hayworth Do?” Also there’s: “Life is nothing like a noir movie… or so you think.”

Can you describe your writing process?  Do you listen to music? Outline beforehand, etc?

New York City apartment is way too tiny to write in, so a lot of times
I write in cafés. I think it’s due to all the writing out in public
surrounded by (loud!) strangers that I always listen to music when I
write; it drowns out the background noise. I’m just not used to

As for the rest of my writing process, I work full-time, so I have
a little routine going where I write in the mornings before work and
then all day on weekends. It’s hands down the best part of the week.

The first thing I do when starting a new novel is write the opening
chapter or two to find the voice—this happens before I even know what
the plot is going to be. I always write in first-person—I love
first-person—so getting into the character’s head and seeing how she
talks and sees the world is essential. The story itself usually comes
out of that. Anyway, that’s how DANI NOIR came to be: Dani’s voice came
alive and suddenly she’d decided to “run away” because she didn’t want
to spend the weekend at her dad’s. I just went with it.

After I write the first couple chapters and feel secure with the
voice, then I usually go back and do a plot outline. “Outline” is a
funny word for what I do. It’s not as organized as all that, and there
are no numbers or bullet points. My outlines are more like snippets of
scenes and notes that sometimes break out into full-out dialogue.
Probably no one else should see them but me. It’s a process that helps
me know where I’m headed in a novel, and then when I’m actually writing
the novel I don’t need to look at the so-called outline anymore. It’s
enough to have written it. And I love when things change as you’re

A chase scene in DANI NOIR happened out of the blue—it was
something I hadn’t planned originally, but all of a sudden the scene
was spilling out. It was a total surprise, and it’s now one of my most
favorite parts of the book.

Can you divulge anything about your next book, Imaginary Girls?

I’m so excited about it! I’m writing it right now as we
speak—seriously, a window is open as I answer this question and I’m
working away at a big scene. IMAGINARY GIRLS is my first YA novel, so
it’s a little older than DANI NOIR. It’s the story of Chloe, little
sister of Ruby, the girl everyone in town looks to and wants to be. But
one night something goes horribly wrong and a dead body is found. When
the sisters are torn apart, Ruby will do whatever she can to make it

Dutton is publishing the book, and it’s tentatively scheduled for
Summer 2011… but I have to finish writing it first, so stay tuned!

What’s the last film you watched?

Gran Torino was the last film I watched from Netflix. I would have watched Garden State on
TV the other night, but when I was switching through channels my
husband saw me hover over it and was like, Don’t you dare put that on
again! So I skipped it, for his sake 🙂

If you could live inside any children’s book, which title would it be and why?

move in with Dorrie the Little Witch, who starred in a series of kids
books by Patricia Coombs. I read them when I was really little and I
connected to Dorrie because she was such a slob. And so clumsy! She
always wore two different color socks, which I still do because I can
never find the matches, and she’d always get into some kind of trouble
in the book that her mom, Big Witch, would forgive her for in the end.
I’d feel right at home with Dorrie.

What’s your favorite  film quote?

“I can never get a zipper to close. Maybe that stands
for something… What do you think?”

—Gilda, from the film Gilda

worked as an editor for X-Men comic books, and in your Simon and
Schuster Q&A, you named Mystique as your favorite fictional
villain. If you were a superhero, what would be your power?

I think being an assistant editor at Marvel Comics was probably the
most exciting—and the most difficult—day job I ever had. I have a soft
spot for Mystique because she was the star of the first comic book I
edited on my own. Now, maybe it was my brief stint in the X-office, but
I’ve spent a lot of time considering what I’d want my superpower to be.
This is a VERY important life question and I suggest everyone mull it
over right now. What if you can have only one superpower? How to
choose! So, after much consideration, I decided that my superpower
would be complete and total control over time. I could travel in time
forwards and backwards, and I could stop time whenever I wanted. If I
really had that power, I’d probably stop time right now to keep the
weekend from ever ending so I could write some more, but that’s not
very exciting. I guess I could stop time and rob a bank. I’ll have to
think on it.

Thank you so much to Nova for giving me such a great interview!

And because I loved DANI NOIR so much, I asked if we could do a giveaway.  Publisher Simon and Schuster graciously provided TWO hardback copies of DANI NOIR.

Because the book is so fabulous and you’re going to want a copy that you’ll love, mark in, and cover with your tears like your battered diary of yesteryear, I’m going to make you be a little creative:

Come up with a noir character name for yourself, and leave it as a comment with your email!  

And now you’re saying.. but I don’t know what my noir character name would be!  Let me help you out:  Noir characters aren’t run-of-the-mill people. Their names have mystery, intrigue, pizazz.  Pick the name that lends itself to a smoking gun, a fedora, a glamorous gold dress, a cast-in-shadow individual in the alley.

I asked Nova what her character name would be, and she responded:

“My character would be a femme fatale—how could she be anything else?
I’ll call her something simple like Natasha S. No one knows what the S
stands for, at least not yet. She just walked into the room and is
standing over there in the shadows. Who is she, and what does she want?
She’ll never tell… but if you follow her, you might find out.”

And I chose Roxie Danger as my own.  So add yours, and be entered in the DANI NOIR giveaway that’s open to US/Canada residents. 

DANI NOIR arrives in bookstores September 22 but you have a chance to get a free copy here!

Giveaway starts September 11 and ends September 21.  2 winners will be chosen  soon after and notified within 3 days of contest end.

You can get an extra entry by tweeting this contest. Please include your Twitter name and a link to the tweet in your comment.

Visit for more about Dani and Nova!


My first contest here! Exciting. I received duplicates of the first three books in the new teen memoir series. I’m going to be holding a contest for one winner to win the books Emily, Chelsey, and Marni. I’ll be posting reviews of these later in the week.

You can read more about the series at and also take a look at my post on the series’ live chat.

Chelsey by Chelsey Shannon

Chelsey was dealt the unthinkable.

When her only surviving parent, her beloved father, was violently murdered days before her fourteenth birthday, Chelsey’s life was forever changed.

Forced to come to terms with a new home life, a new school…a new identity as an orphan, Chelsey struggled to make sense of her personal tragedy and find a way to flourish despite the odds.

Emily by Emily Smucker

Emily’s the sick one. All of the time.

Plagued with some sort of cold or fever or bizarre ache or pain for much of her life, Emily thought the dizziness and stomachaches at the start of her senior year were just another bout of “Emily flu.” But when they didn’t go away, she knew something serious was wrong.

Eventually diagnosed with the rare and incurable West Nile virus, Emily watched her senior year and the future she had planned for go up in smoke.

Marni by Marni Bates

Marni pulls. Her hair, that is.

Struggling with the stress disorder trichotillomania, Marni’s compulsion to yank out her eyebrows, eyelashes…even the hair from the top of her head, makes surviving high school no easy feat.

When Marni first started pulling, it helped her turn off her brain and escape the stresses of the world around her. Unfortunately, she didn’t realize she was hooked until it was way too late.

To enter, just leave a comment on this entry with your name and email!

Bonus entries:

+ 1 for tweeting about it (include your twitter name in your comment)

+ 1 for following me on twitter

+ 1 for linking to this post on your blog or website

The Information:

This contest is open to US and Canada citizens only.

Contest begins August 12, 2009 and ends September 9, 2009.

Winner will be chosen using a randomizer and notified within 3 days of the contest end.

Prize will be shipped to winner via media mail with delivery confirmation.