Skip to content

Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: interview

Lauren Mechling’s the co-author of three novels: The Rise and Fall of a 10th grade Social Climber, All Q, No A: More Tales of a 10th Grade Social Climber, and Foreign Exposure: The Social Climber Abroad. Now she’s got a new series about a French girl who receives psychic dreams from a cameo necklace given to her by her grandmother.   The first, Dream Life, was published in 2009  and this January Dream Girl was released.

You can read my reviews of Dream Life and Dream Girl reviews.   Visit Lauren’s website at LaurenMechling.com

Can I say that Lauren is the fastest interview answerer I’ve ever met?!

A large plot element of both Dream Girl and Dream Life are the dreams of Claire, which are confusing and a mixture of different things.  Going off this theme, what’s one of the strangest dreams you’ve ever had?

There was a very sweet football player in my homeroom named Pete (well, that wasn’t his name, but let’s say it was). I dreamed that he had a kangaroo body and he stuffed me inside his pouch and I was stuck to his stomach all day long. Not only was it a weird dream, but it was very awkward–I could never look him in the eye after that.

Throughout the novels, Claire narrates what several characters are wearing, as well as her own ensembles. Which of Claire’s dresses or outfits would you want for your very own?

I would kill to have her colorful Givenchy dresses. They’d have to be simple, though–Im not the most adventurous dresser.

In other interviews, you’ve stated that all of Claire’s world in NYC is factual. I have two days to spend in New York City, and I’ve never been. In the voice of Claire, can you tell me what I should see and do?

You’ll have to forgive me–I’m writing something else now in the third person and I’m not feeling equal to re-infiltrating Claire (besides, I hardly know her anymore–it’s been a year and a half since I finished Dream Life and she was just on the cusp of in-her-own-skin greatness; can only imagine how much she’s grown since). Anyway, as ME talking, I’d say the best thing to do in New York is walk around as much as humanly possible and watch the neighborhoods change. Start in Dumbo Brooklyn and look up at the underbelly of the Manhattan Bridge (DUMBO=Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Walk 5 minutes to the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge and set out on the most glorious pedestrian experience of your life (assuming the bikes dont mow you down). When you get to Manhattan, ogle at City Hall and the Municipal Building, with its glittery gold top. Wander up Centre and Lafayette Streets, through Chinatown and into the East Village, which used to be where all the strung-out poets lived and now is filled with vintage clothing stores and vegan tea shops. End up at Momofuku Milk Bar, on 12th St and 2nd Ave. Buy yourself a piece of crack pie. Heck, buy a whole pie and make friends with the other customers. You’re on vacation.

What’s your writing process like? Do you outline, plan out plot points, or just do it on the fly?

My books have so many threads and subplots and supporting characters I have to outline like a maniac.

Women’s History Month is next month and I’ll be making a post or two related to the observance. Claire is such a fun heroine, with her plucky spirit and wry voice. Who are some are your favorite heroines, real or fictional?

I love Scarlett O’Hara, for her humor and foolishness; Anne Elliot, the 27-year-old spinster (!) in Persuasion for her refusal to settle; the writer Grace Paley for her gumption and grit; Julia Child for giving late bloomers a good reputation; Norma Klein for making everyone remember that children are smart.

What five celebrities (writers included!) living or dead, would you like to have dinner with? Do you have any particular questions you’d ask them?

I’ve met enough celebrities to know this would not be all that fun. I prefer my celebrities from afar.

What’s your favorite word?

Ort. It means uneatened morsel.

I always ask authors… If you could live inside any children’s title, which would it be and why?

Dream Life. Because it is my fantasy world.

Tags:

Lara and her beagle, Amos

Lara Zielin is the debut author of Donut Days. She’s also a model for the Bluggie, and you can view her hilarious advertisement for that here. The Bluggie is like the Snuggie, but with bling!  Donut Days is the story of Emma Goiner, who’s facing some serious issues after her pastor mother told their congregation Adam was a hermaphrodite. But first, Emma has to make it through the weekend at the Donut Camp, where fans of the Crispy Dream donut stores are camping. Her plan? Write a story for the local paper and win a scholarship to a non-Christian college.

I loved Donut Days, and you can read my review here. Be sure to check out Lara’s website at Larawrites.com and read Donut Days, now in hardback from Putnam Juvenile, and arriving in paperback September 16, 2010.

Lara was kind enough to offer a $10 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card to anybody who comments on this interview! Leave a comment  by February 18 and I’ll draw a name via random.org on February 19!

One of the plot elements of Donut Days features a donut camp, where diehard fans eagerly await the Crispy Dream store opening.  Have you ever camped out for any, such as movie tickets, etc? What was it like?  If not, what would you camp out for?

Waaaeeelll, not technically. But one time? I stayed up really late (well, late for me) and went to the 12:01 showing of the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. It wasn’t a campout though the wait was eternal and, let me tell you, I was surrounded by some die-hard fans wearing cloaks and swords and stuff and things that kind of scared me. It was pretty intense. But, okay, it was totally worth it. I might not wear the cloaks and Hobbit ears, but I love LOTR with a passion that admittedly borders on the obsessive.

What’s your favorite kind of donut?

I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to donuts. I love a really good powdered-sugar donut, or even a really good plain donut. Of course, if you give me a cruller or a cream-filled long john, I am SO not going to say no to it.

With a variety of characters, each contributing their own important part to Emma’s weekend adventures, was first person always your choice for Donut Days?

First-person makes a lot of sense to me when writing young-adult novels. It helps me get into the mind of the main character more, and helps me think about things from her perspective. In that way, I feel like I’m writing a more compelling protagonist who is going to be more vulnerable and authentic to readers. Of course, I don’t always execute that goal perfectly, but first-person definitely makes the most sense to me for YA.

What’s your writing process like? Do you have any lucky items, etc?

I write like I eat. I’ll go for a long while without doing anything, and then I’ll binge all at once. I wish in both areas I was a little bit more steady and didn’t behave in such a roller-coaster fashion. But with a full-time job, a house, a husband and a dog, my plate feels pretty full. So if that means I wind up writing 2,000 words over the weekend and not doing much during the week, I think I might as well stop fighting it.

I don’t have anything lucky in my writing space but … I have a writing space!! I am so happy that I have a room in the house that’s ALL MINE in which to do writing. I decorated it in pink and green, which are my power colors, and I have a huge comfy chair and an ottoman where I plunk myself down and get to work. I am so thankful for my sweet space!

There’s a heavy theme of Christianity and the inner struggle to be a “model Christian” in your novel, but it’s not marketed as Christian teen fiction. Few YA titles that are not Christian fiction approach this subject, why do you think this is?

The good news is, more and more mainstream YA novels are tackling the difficult—and often controversial—subject of faith. Eileen Cook, author of the fabulous WHAT WOULD EMMA DO?, joked with me about how similar our characters are. They are both named Emma, and they both wrestle with conformity in the church and feeling like they’re outcasts. Another awesome book is Robin Brande’s EVOLUTION, ME, AND OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE, which follows a Christian teenager who is caught up in the evolution debate and must figure out what she believes. And SHINE, COCONUT MOON by Neesha Meminger is an awesome book about a girl whose uncle shows up on her doorstep wearing a turban after 9/11. His “controversial” faith, which he shares with the main character in the weeks after the attacks, is dealt with thoughtfully and gracefully.

So, all that is to say that I think many authors are out there writing about faith and how hard it is for teens to sort out what they believe, especially amid pressure from people around them. And the more books on this, the better—if you ask me!

You recently wrote a blog post about the response to the Christian themes in your novel, mentioning some people told you they couldn’t relate or couldn’t even finish it.  Why do you believe this mentality exists?

I think religion is one of those things that, even in our politically-correct world, doesn’t always get a fair shake. If we were talking about race in a book, for example, it would be almost unheard of for someone to write to the author to say, “The main character is African American and I’m white, so I can’t read this because I can’t relate to it.”

Also, if a main character were African American and dealt with issues of race in a novel, would you call it an African American novel? I wouldn’t. I certainly didn’t call Sherman Alexie’s novel, THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, a Native American novel. I just called it a totally awesome book.

But DONUT DAYS gets called a Christian novel all the time. Why is that? Now I’m the one asking the questions—d’oh! I’ll step down from my soapbox, but I think all this illustrates that people sometimes think about religion in very limited terms, and books that deal with faith can get labeled in ways that are sometimes unfair.

Your next novel is titled PROMGATE. Can you tell me anything about it?

The book centers around the fallout when a pregnant teen is elected prom queen in a small Midwestern town. It’s loosely based on events that happened in my Wisconsin high school when I was a sophomore, and it’s due out in summer 2011.

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

WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS for sure! I was totally obsessed with that book going up. I loved the woods and hills and mountains where the book was set, and I’m a sucker for a good animal story. The two dogs in that book, Old Dan and Little Anne, were characters onto themselves. I also love the author’s personal story. He never thought he could be a writer, but with encouragement and support from his wife, he tried and look what happened! Yay!

John Lechner is an author, illustrator, animator, puppeteer, and designer. His newest books, The Clever Stick (read my review here) and Sticky Burr: The Prickly Peril are in bookstores now. Some of my favorite works of his are linked or pictured below.

Froggy in moonlight, ink and watercolor

He Was Me – an animated film about the inner child in all of us. Lechner directed this film with artwork by Peter Reynolds.

An ink and watercolor study of the endpapers of Lechner’s book, A Froggy Fable. This is so simple and pretty, the blues of the image illuminated by the white crescent moon.

For more about John Lechner, visit his website, including his new blog, The Untended Garden, where he muses on books, art, and nature.

Who are your greatest creative influences?

I’m inspired by illustrators like N.C. Wyeth, Arthur Rackham, Maurice Sendak, Bill Peet, and Hergé. Also a wide variety of writers, from Lewis Carroll and Sid Fleischman to Tolstoy and Melville. Also by filmmakers Charlie Chaplin, Jim Henson, and Hayao Miyazaki. They all managed to create very personal works that resonated with a larger audience.

What five artists and/or writers, living or dead, would you like to have dinner with?

I would have loved to meet N.C.Wyeth, who was so enthusiastic about life and art, and a great teacher. A few other amazing people to meet would be Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, Jim Henson, and Hayao Miyazaki.

Has there been a classic children’s story you’ve ever wanted to provide the illustrations for? Which title?

There have been many, especially classic adventure stories like Robin Hood, Peter Pan, and The Jungle Book. Often illustrators capture the visual style of these classics but they miss the spirit of the stories, which is even more important.

You work in a variety of media, including films, books, interactive games, etc. Do you have a favorite? How do you choose which medium is best to tell a story?

I enjoy working in all media, they all have their appeal. When I think of a story, I picture it in my head and usually it appears in one particular medium or another. Some stories are best told with words, others with pictures, others with music and movement. Usually the story chooses the medium, if you let it.

What projects are you currently working on? Can you tell me anything about them?

I am currently working on an interactive story, combining the elements of a book, a film, and a game. I’ve been working on it for over a year, and it’s completely different than anything I’ve done before. I’m also writing a novel, and continuing my web comics.

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

Illustrators should focus on their art and keep at it. It’s not something that you learn in art school and then you’re all set for life, that’s really just the beginning of your artistic development. It’s a lifetime of working and improving and developing your style. Draw what you like and have fun with it, and don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. You can’t stand still as an artist, or you stop being one.

What’s your favorite animated movie?

I don’t have a single favorite. Though one that inspires me a lot is Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Miyazaki. It’s older and a bit rough around the edges, but it’s such a powerful piece of storytelling, with amazing characters, complex themes, and brilliant direction. (I recommend the subtitled version.)

With a great deal of animated movies relying on CGI-animation, and gaining big box office, do you think we’ll see a demise of the traditional hand-drawn film, or even just the traditional style, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and the animated sequences in Enchanted? Do you believe the upcoming release of The Princess and the Frog, might bring a resurgence of the traditional style?

I think there will always be hand-drawn 2D animated films. The reason audiences stopped flocking to them wasn’t because computer animation was better, but because the stories were becoming stagnant and over-produced. Pixar succeeds because they focus on story first, not demographics or marketing. I think traditional animation is due for a comeback, but only if the writing is good.

When did you first know you wanted to be an artist?

I’ve been drawing all my life. When I was in first grade, I wrote and illustrated my first book about sailors who get swallowed by a whale and escape through the spout, and I’ve been writing and drawing ever since.

Has there been any medium you’ve wanted to work with, and haven’t yet?

Not really.

Where did you go to school for art? Did you receive any special training?

I went to Carnegie-Mellon University, where I studied art and creative writing. I took courses in drawing, painting and printmaking. But it took a long time after that to develop my style in both art and writing.

What’s one thing you want your art and/or writing to do for a child?

I would like my work to inspire the imagination, to make children think creatively about the world around them, and hopefully encourage them to tell their own stories.

Do you remember your favorite books as a child?

I loved Richard Scarry’s Busy Busy World. I also loved Babar, Curious George, and all the Bill Peet books. As I got older I liked Sid Fleischman, Edward Eager, C.S. Lewis and Tolkien.

You recently had two children’s books released, The Clever Stick, and Sticky Burr: The Prickly Peril. When both illustrating and writing a book, what’s your process like? How do you begin? Do you sketch first, then write, or do both in tandem?

When I come up with a story for the first time, I don’t think of the book at all. I simply write down the story, maybe with a few sketches. Once I’ve decided to turn it into a picture book, I’ll do a sketch dummy. Then another. Then another, each time revising the text and trying to make it better. When the words and sketches are as solid as they can be, I’ll do the final illustrations. (Though I still might change the words even then!)

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

That’s a difficult question, because some of my favorite books I wouldn’t necessarily want to live in. If I had to pick one that would be fun, I think I’d choose The Hobbit. It’s got great characters, magical places to explore, elves, dragons, and just enough danger to be exciting — what more could you want?

Tags: ,

In 1918, in a Russian cellar, Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov was murdered with the rest of her family.  Or so history tells us.  Thanks to old magics, Anastasia was rescued by the witch Baba Yaga and now spends her days confined in a tiny hut perched on chicken legs. With only the witch and a doll for company, Anastasia writes letters to her family, and waits.
Meanwhile, in present day Chicago, Anne Michaelson’s plagued by disturbing dreams of a girl in a white dress. Still dealing with the death of her brother, David,  she finds herself haunted by a mysterious boy, who she first glimpses staring at her during a Swan Lake performance. 
In the dreams, the two girls’ worlds converge. And each discovers, that despite the decades between them, they’re more deeply connected than anyone would ever guess.
I was first intrigued by this title because of the mystery surrounding the Romanovs, and most notably, Anastasia. To take the story of Anastasia, and weave a fantasy around it within dreams, seemed a most impossible task.  Then I read the world Joy Preble created, and was lost.  From the very first meeting of Ethan and Anne, you’re hooked.   Non-stop action, mixed with a bit of romance and fantasy, Dreaming Anastasia takes you from modern-day Chicago to Tzar Nicholas’ Russia, and the world in between.
There’s a fusion of elements and genres at work here, it’s hard to categorize Dreaming Anastasia. One of the strengths of the novel is its genre-wide appeal.  I’d recommend it to adults and teens, fans of fantasy, historical romance and fiction.  My favorite part was Preble’s use of the Russian fairy tale of Baba Yaga.   Before reading Dreaming Anastasia, I wasn’t familiar with Baba Yaga, and really enjoyed the moments where Baba Yaga featured heavily.
A few bloggers’ have commented on the small amount of time focused on Anne and her family’s reactions to her brother’s death, and mention they would like to see it explored a little more. I have to disagree. I felt the scenes regarding David illustrated perfectly the grief families face, such as Anne’s mother not eating and her tired demeanor.
Joy Preble has mentioned this won’t be the last readers see of Ethan and Anne.  I, for one, can’t wait. 
Copy for review provided by the publisher.
Title: Dreaming Anastasia
Author: Joy Preble
Date: September 1, 2009
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Pages: 320  
Format: Trade paperback
As part of Dreaming Anastasia‘s blog tour, I interviewed the author. You’ll find her answers below.

The story of Anastasia and the Romanovs has been the
subject of various works throughout the years – including the 1956 movie
starring Ingrid Bergman and the 1997 animated version. Are there any
depictions of the Romanovs that are a particular favorite of yours?
 

You know,
you are the first person to ask me that question! And the answer is an easy one
– I’m definitely a fan of the 1997 20
th Century Fox Animation
version by Don Bluth. It had romance and magic and Rasputin – lots of good
stuff. In fact, since you did ask, I will tell you a secret! My Happy Meal
Anastasia figure (or maybe it was from Burger King – I don’t really know at
this point!) has sat on my desk the entire time I was working on this project!
Now let me say that the
Dreaming Anastasia version of Anastasia is in no
way based on the animated film version, and in fact definitely doesn’t have the
film’s cheery outlook on things (can’t say any more or I would get all
spoilery), but I still liked the idea that some visual form of Anastasia was
watching over me as I wrote. Plus I love Meg Ryan, and I think she did
Anastasia’s voice in the film, didn’t she? And John Cusak – he was Dimitri, I
think. Love him, too! 
 

With such an intricate plot spanning centuries, and
weaving in Russian fairy tales, historical elements, and magic, Dreaming
Anastasia
appears to have required a good deal of research. How much
research and what kind did Dreaming Anastasia entail?
 

I
definitely did a lot of research. When you’re dealing with the creation of an
alternate history, you better know the real version first. So I spent a lot of
time reading about the Romanovs in books and on line at sites like www.alexanderpalace.org
, which links to numerous Russian resources, including some great primary
sources. I also studied up on Russian folk lore and fairy tales – the Baba Yaga
stories specifically, but also a variety of tales so I could get a true feel
for how the Russian folklore differed from, say, Grimm’s Brothers. I discovered
that a lot of people are fascinated with Baba Yaga – everyone from gamers to
fantasy lovers to new age feminists who embrace the “reclaiming the crone”
concept. It was actually very eye-opening to me and the more I studied, the
more I wanted to use Baba Yaga in a way that reflected a variety of those
aspects. And the magical elements really found their grounding in all of the
above, so that flowed out of everything else. It sounds like a lot of work, and
it was, but I have to say I really enjoyed it! 
 
One of Dreaming Anastasia’s themes is dreaming.
What’s the strangest dream you ever had?
 
Ooh!
Another question that no one else has thought of. (Let me say that when one is
on a 59 stop blog tour, this is actually rather remarkable, so yay!) I am one
of those people who actually does remember many, many of her dreams. I dream in
color and I am not always me when I dream, which is something that I gave to
Anne in the novel. A lot of the time when I dream, it’s like watching TV and
being one of the characters! Kind of crazy, but it certainly helps the whole
storytelling thing. Of the dreams I remember that I would choose to relate
here, I will tell you that I actually remember a dream I had when I was five
years old. I’d been sick and I had a sore throat and I dreamed that this bird
had walked into my mouth and I’d swallowed it! I woke up convinced that this
had really happened. Ick! 
 
You’re currently an English teacher, so I have to ask.
What are your top five favorite books?
 
I am such
an avid reader that that is actually a very hard question for me. It generally
depends on the year, my mood, what life is bringing my way. But if I can twist
the question a little to read “What five books do I think everyone should read
at some point?” I would say the following: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott
Fitzgerald; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle; The World
According to Garp
by John Irving; Hamlet by Shakespeare (a play not
a book, but hey it’s my answer!); and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper
Lee. Those are five that have resonated with me over the years and five which I
have re-read. Although like I say, it’s just the tip of the iceberg!   
 


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

I love this question. I’m going to take
“children’s title” as excluding YA, which would be another answer entirely. But
right this second, I’m going to pick one that I read over and over as a little
girl and say that I’d love to live inside the world of Sydney Taylor’s All
of a Kind Family
. I loved the gentle adventures of those turn of the 20th
century sisters – buying penny candy and taking books out the library and
playing this game where the mom hid buttons for them to find while they were
doing chores like dusting. I really did want to live in that book when I was
like seven!
 
 

Visit the other stops on the tour, they’re listed below!

Class
of 2k9
(8/29)
Story Siren (8/31)
EVEREAD (9/1)
Shelf Elf (9/8)
Book Journey (9/16)
Bildungsroman (9/17)
Booking Mama (9/18)
Book Nut (9/20)
Galleysmith (9/22)
My Friend Amy (9/23; 9pm
EST author chat)
Ms. Bookish (9/24)
BookLoons.com (9/28)

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?

I’m
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
black-and-white.


What are your top five “desert island movies”?

I
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?

I
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?

My
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
silence.

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
writing.

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?

Yes,
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
right.

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?

I’d
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
 



You
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 DaniNoir.com for more about Dani and Nova!




When he was six years old, a child was found in a locked bank vault in the city of Dunce. He’s suffering from amnesia and only a small scrap of paper offers a clue: his name, Bran Hambric. His parents’ whereabouts are unknown, and so according to Dunce law, whoever found him is responsible for his welfare. The task is entrusted to Sewey and Mabel Wilomas. But nobody, not even Bran, realizes how important the boy’s survival is, and his connection to the titular Farfield Curse.

Reading Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse, the similarities of Harry Potter will occur. However, after the publishing of the Potter series, such comparisons were inevitable. Literature throughout the ages has been littered with the archetype of the hero, a boy of extraordinary power and living in ordinary circumstances. Bran Hambric has another thing in common with Mr. Potter: A sharply written novel with engaging characters, a twisting storyline, and equal dashes of humor and action.

Author Kaleb Nation started Bran Hambric when he was fourteen years old. He completed the novel in 2007. It all started with his imagining a boy and a banker waiting on a rooftop for a burglar to arrive. As Nation tells it, he wrote five hundred pages in six to nine months. The result is a novel meant for middle grades but enjoyable by all ages.

Starting in on Bran Hambric, once I was invested in the story, I didn’t want to leave. You know a book is good when you’ll torture yourself on an elliptical for another thirty minutes to read it! The characterization is great, from the curmudgeonly yet likable Sewey Wilomas (my favorite) his health-obsessed wife Mabel to the characters who aid Bran Hambric in his search for the truth – Adi and Astara. The book is filled with scenes of Bran’s family life, Sewey’s outlandish behavior, the mysterious world of gnomes, mages, and etc. This wait for more action, however, might bore younger readers. With so many wild incidents (odd occurences at a town fair, an unusual bookstore visit), older readers should be entertained nonetheless. The villain, Baslyn, is amiss for a good deal of the book, but his evil presence still fills the novel, making the confrontation of him and Bran thoroughly creepy, and worthwhile.

Nation has mentioned he has enough material written by five more sequels, and hopefully, Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse leaves readers anticipating more, as Bran is a promising new character whose story has much left to tell.

Copy for review received from the publisher.

Title: Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse
Author:
Kaleb Nation
Date: September 9, 2009
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Pages: 336
Format: Hardback

I conducted an interview with Kaleb Nation as part of the blog tour, with the help of Sourcebooks. You’ll find it below!

The world of Bran Hambric is inventive, with a variety of magical creatures, items, and beings. If there could be one magic-related item, creature, or person from your novel that was in the real world, who or what it would be? Why?

I think (as most people probably already expect!) I would really enjoy having a gnome around! Gnomes are such wonderful creatures and can do so many things, and I think a gnome would be a wonderful friend to have as well.


We learn in Bran Hambric there’s several different types of mages. Into which category do you think you’d fall?


I think I would most likely be an Illian. Illians are drawn towards books and writing, and I think that I can relate to Adi in that way as well!

Who have been your greatest writing inspirations? What advice would you give to other aspiring young authors?

I think one of my greatest writing inspirations has been Stephenie Meyer, not so much of her writing style but because of the way that she interacts with her readers. She has an interesting way of making her readers feel as if she’s talking directly to them, even if there might be 500 or 1000 people at the event. I always want to have a connection with readers the way she does.

I think that the advice I would give to other young writers is to really stick with it and make sure that you enjoy what you are writing. There are a lot of rough times when you’re writing a book with little hope of it being published, so it’s important that you’re writing a story that you enjoy, not just something you think will sell!

One of my favorite elements of the novel is the diverse cast of the characters. Each of them was compelling in their own way, from Mabel’s constant paranoia about imaginary germs to the curmudgeonly yet still oddly likable Sewey. Do any of the characters within your book have facets to their personality that you’ve drawn from yourself or other people you know?

I think that every character in the book draws upon certain aspects of myself or people that I have met in real life. I think that Bran’s interest in drawing is very much his version of my interest in writing. Some of Sewey’s crazy driving was directly inspired by my early driving lessons! And my family went through some sort of a health craze for a year or two a long time ago, so I think that Mabel’s health obsession might have been inspired by that somewhat (though greatly exaggerated in her case!).

I know from your website you’re a composer yourself. A good deal of authors sometimes mention particular songs or genres that have influenced them, such as Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight and the band Blue October. Is this the case with you and Bran Hambric?

There were many songs and bands that I found over the years to fit with writing Bran Hambric. But since I wrote the book between ages 14 and 20, my musical interests naturally changed a lot over the years. At the beginning of writing, I almost entirely wrote with Enya playing in the background. Closer to the end though, I switched to a more random assortment or rock, with a lot of Anberlin and Shiny Toy Guns. Nowadays, it’s a mix of those bands and a lot of movie soundtracks, especially from the Lemony Snicket movie and Finding Neverland.

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

I think I’d love to live in the world of Lemony Snicket, as dreary as it might seem! It’s so quirky and strange I’d have a wonderful time exploring it.

My thanks to Kaleb and Sourcebooks for letting me participate in the blog tour. You’ll find the rest of the stops on the tour below. There’s some great stops, be sure to visit them all! Also check out Kaleb Nation’s Official Site, BranHambric (where you’ll find music composed by Kaleb for the novel), and Sourcebooks’ Bran Hambric page. You can download the first four chapters here and enter Sourcebooks’ contests for signed soundtrack CDs, Bran’s necklace, and more.

Blog Tour Schedule

Sunday, August 30th

Jenn’s Bookshelf

Homespun Light

Monday, August 31st

StevenTill.com

Dolce Bellezza

Bobbi’s Book Nook

Tuesday, September 1st

The Looking Glass Review

Edward-Cullen.net

Beth Fish Reads

SMS Book Reviews

James Holder’s YouTube Channel

Wednesday, September 2nd

Bookalicio.us

Reading Rumpus

Katie’s Literature Lounge

Ultimate Bookhound

Thursday, September 3rd

Brimful Curiosities

Charlotte’s Library

Friday, September 4th

BriMeetsBooks.com

Bran Hambric by Kaleb Nation

Saturday, September 5th

Library Lounge Lizard

Sarah’s Random Musings

Saulchichas

GreenFyr.com

Sunday, September 6th

Cindy’s Love of Books

Monday, September 7th

Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf

Grasping for the Wind

Life After Twilight vlog channel

Tuesday, September 8th

Shooting Stars Magazine

Mrs. Magoo Reads

Lori Calabrese Writes

Wednesday, September 9th

The Brain Lair

Dulemba.com

The Children’s Book Review

TV Watch Online

Thursday, September 10th

The Friendly Book Nook

Book Journey

Stephanie’s Written Word

Home School Buzz

Spidurmunkey.com

Friday, September 11th

The Inside Scoop With Chandelle

Booking Mama

Saturday, September 12th

Zoe’s Book Reviews

Lit for Kids

Sunday, September 13th

Never Jam Today

A Bibliophile’s Reverie

Monday, September 14th

Café of Dreams

Marta’s Meanderings

Galleysmith.com

A Book Blogger’s Diary

The Reader’s Quill

Tuesday, September 15th

a book in hand

MistiSchindele.com

Not Just for Kids

Wednesday, September 16th

Write for a Reader

CumpulsiveReader.com

Thursday, September 17th

Howling Good Books

The Written World

Friday, September 18th

Always Riddikulus

YA Books Central

Saturday, September 19th

Ms. Bookish

Into the Wardrobe


Sifting through my posts tonight, fixing up dead links, etc, I saw Blogger had this as a draft. What happened? No clue.

This was part of a summer blog tour.

Vivian French’s Robe of Skulls begins with a robe. Not just any robe, but a robe of the deepest black velvet with tiny skulls cascading down the hem. Like most villians, Lady Lamorna is concerned about her fashion. After all, where would Darth Vader be without his breathing suit or Hook without his…hook?

Vivian French’s The Robe of Skulls is macabre yet lively adventure of fairy tale proportions. Gracie Gillypot is pure of heart and overworked and under appreciated, living with her loathsome stepfather and stepsister. But fate comes in the form of an unlikely source – a chattersome bat, some Crones, and a peculiar prince.

The Robe of Skulls is a madcap fractured fairy tale of twists and turns that readers of any age can enjoy. It’s a really fun read, with laughs, mystery, and just a little bit of evil.

Title: The Robe of Skulls
Date: April 2008
Publisher: Candlewick (US print edition)
Pages: 208
Format: Hardback & Paperback

Copy for review provided by the publisher.

And now, there’s three books in the series of “Tales from the Five Kingdoms”! Visit Vivian’s website to learn more. Read a preview from the second book, The Bag of Bones, and from the third, The Heart of Glass, released this month from Walker Books.

And now, an interview with author Vivian French.

There’s a variety of fairy tale and folktale elements in The Robe of Skulls – from the traditional evil stepsister, to the royalty into frogs. What was the inspiration for this darkly whimsical novel?

I’ve always loved fairy and folk tales; my dad always read us stories before we went to bed, and later I read my way through all the Andrew Lang collections, together with Grimm and Perrault – anything and everything I could get my hands on. After a spell as an actor I became a storyteller, so I used to tell folk tales … but I didn’t mean to use them quite so much when I came to write the Robe of Skulls. I’d intended to write a very different book, about a boy called Thomas Catt, but it was DREADFUL. I wrote about 20,000 words, and had to delete the whole lot, and I was getting desperate! But then one evening I was in the kitchen (making my one hundredth cup of tea of the day), and I heard a voice from the TV next door … and the voice was talking about Evil. It was a very distinctive voice, and I remembered seeing a play with that particular actor in it … I remembered seeing her sweeping across the stage wearing a long black velvet dress. Bingo! I decided I was going to write a story about someone evil who wanted a long black velvet dress … and the other characters just sort of fell into place.

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

Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan. I’ve always absolutely loved that book, and I’d love to spend time with Sarah, and have her show me things, and talk to me about them. There’s the most beautiful truth and simplicity in the story; it makes me cry every time I read it.

You’ve written for various ages – from teens and toddlers. Are there different challenges with writing for individual age groups, and do you have a preference?

To be honest, I don’t really think too much about age groups once I’ve actually started writing. That probably sounds odd, but I think it might go back to my storytelling days; I had to choose a style of story that was right for the children I was faced with, and then keep going, or there’d be mayhem and chaos.


It’s an interesting question, though. I hadn’t realised before quite how instinctively I fall into different styles for different age groups … and I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. As far as a preference goes, I suppose I’d have to say I really REALLY enjoy writing for the Robe of Skulls age range, whatever that is. It seems to vary wildly; here in the UK I’ve had letters ranging from all different ages … including a grandmother of 62. I was very honoured.

The quick paced and lively style of The Robe of Skulls makes the novel an excellent candidate for a film version to me. What technique – live-action or animated – do you feel would be the best interpretation? Any thoughts on a potential cast?

Oh wowsers – I would absolutely LOVE someone to make a film of Robe! I’m inclined to favour animation (I’m a massive animation fan) but I’d be over the moon with live action too. Tim Burton would be my dream director … but then again, there are so many brilliant directors out there. Cast? Geraldine McEwan would absolutely HAVE to play Lady Lamorna, because it was her voice that gave me the idea right at the very beginning ….

Thank you so much for your questions – I really enjoyed answering them. I’ll go on thinking about the different age groups!