Due to her family experiences with Asperger’s syndrome, author Chapman shows her knowledge of the condition within her books as well as an overall love for science. Although she does write non-fiction books, her fiction novels are just as passionately romantic as they are scientific. In an time where science fiction, romance and a hint of mystery is #winning, reading Chapman’s books will not disappoint.
What are the key components to making a great mystery novel? Why are they important?
I actually consider myself primarily a fantasy writer–but i think my challenge with mystery–is I either reveal too little or too much. I rely on my agent and first readers to help me find somewhere in the middle.
How easy or hard has it been to tie in your love of science into your fiction novels? Do you feel that using science is what makes you stand out as a writer?
No, it is who I am, so it comes out in every story. I think I see things in my own, particular perspective–but I know many who use science..they are usually MY favorite writers as well.
What inspired your latest book “Boneseeker”?
I love The Sherlock canon and all the adaptations. And the ‘what if’. Sherlock had difficulty fitting in socially in his time period. How much more difficult would it be for a brilliant young woman, in society so set in values and the woman’s role.
Why did you choose to write Young Adult books as compared to Adult fiction?
I do write both…but I just believe my voice is somewhere in the young adult-new adult-crossover range. *shrugs
Finally, what mark would you like to leave on the literary world?
I really just want people to identify with my characters. To give them a break from their everyday life, and wish to return to my stories.
The amazing thing about this author is she used her love for typography and layout to perfect her craft of poetry which lead her to a love of fiction writing. Meet Sarah Tregay, a writer who appreciates the written word as well as the paper it is written on.
How does being part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program help inspire you to keep writing books for YA and Middle School-ers?
Like many of the young people I meet, my “little sister” from Big Brothers Big Sisters is very creative. She is always drawing characters and writing stories. When we are together we share story ideas and bounce plot ideas back and forth. Spending time with creative people is one of the best ways to be inspired—their enthusiasm is contagious.
How has writing poetry helped you write a novel?
My first novel, Love and Leftovers, is written entirely in poems. Because poetry is concise, it helped me focus on each scene and/or emotion.
My first draft of Fan Art was also written in poems—and was later changed to prose (regular paragraphs) with poems between the chapters. The poems in the first draft helped me capture my character’s voice and get my ideas onto the page without being bogged down with descriptions or transitions. Once I got my ideas in order, I could go back and work on these other elements.
What makes you different from other writers? How would you describe your writing style?
My writing experiments with different formats, particularly poetry. And while Love and Leftovers isn’t the only verse novel out there, a novel written in verse has a different feel and pace than one written in prose. Readers often find verse novels a quick read with space on the page to bring their own experiences into the story.
Fan Art also experiments with formats. Slipped between the chapters of Jamie’s first person narration are poems and artwork by the other characters. Melissa DeJesus did the lovely illustrations for Challis’s character.
What is the emotion you are hoping readers will feel after reading your latest book, Fan Art (to be released in June 2014)?
Fan Art is a sweet YA romance where Jamie falls for his best friend, Mason, and (spoiler alert) it has a feel-good happy ending. I hope that the ending will warm readers’ hearts
Finally, why did you decide to stick to writing YA and not adult books?
I love young adult fiction. It is fast-paced, packed with emotion, and open to different styles and formats. YA is written from the perspective of the teen protagonist, close to the heart and raw around the edges. It tackles big issues, but ends with a kernel of hope. With so much to embrace, I don’t feel the need to write adult fiction.
Diversity is an important part of literature. Although in the past, it hasn’t been pushed as much as it is today, it doesn’t make it any less important. If nothing else, history has proven that diversity, true and honest diversity, can change how people see and interact with the world around them.
Meet Crystal Chan, an author who makes it her life mission to not only write but to also speak for the less heard and remind people, children and adults, through diversity talks, how important it is to not be a jerk.
How hard was it for you growing up as a mixed-race child in Wisconsin? Has those experiences in your childhood influenced your writing in any form?
It was hard, yes, growing up as the only mixed-race person I knew (besides my brother), probably the only mixed family in town. Everyone around us was white, all the TV actors were white, everyone in magazines and catalogs (!) were white, so I thought I was white, too. Except when we’d eat chicken feet at dim sum, or beef tripe, or friends would come over and see Chinese newspapers strewn around the house. Or when kids would call me “Chink”. Or Dad would speak Chinese on the phone to his family overseas. Or he’d talk about the importance of our last name, our family name. So it’s weird, I guess: we really stuck out but tried really, really hard to blend in.
And that worked better some times than others. My characters, unsurprisingly, want to be normal but can’t be. Because they aren’t: in Bird, Jewel is mixed race and her friend, John, is a transracial adoptee – in the middle of Iowa. I draw from my own experience a lot for this. And yet, especially as Bird has sold in eight countries around the world, I’m finding that there’s a universal story that Bird taps into, one that transcends race and culture, even, one that taps into the workings of the human heart. In that way, the publication of Bird has been really healing for me: I didn’t expect Bird to sell, much less connect with people in other countries. It’s really taught me that there is a universal, human experience, and that we’re all wrapped up in it somehow.
In your bio, you state you are a professional storyteller. What exactly makes a person a professional storyteller? Is it the fact that you share stories with those who are not family or because you share stories publicly?
In my twenties, I had a number of paid storytelling gigs performing at concerts and schools, and I loved it. I’m finding that life is coming back full circle, as I’m going into schools now talking about Bird, yes, but really, I’m just telling stories again.
What inspired your debut novel “Bird”? Why did you choose to write a middle-grade novel?
I had just finished reading Keeper, by Kathi Appelt, and was sick at home from work. I had also finished my first manuscript and was fretting that I might not have another idea for another novel. Ever. I was thinking about this for hours, and finally I got so sick of myself that I said, Crystal, either you get up out of bed and write your next book, or you go to sleep because you’re sick. But you’re not going to lie in bed thinking about not writing your next book.
And then I started thinking more about Keeper, and how I loved that story; it’s about a girl who thought her mother turned into a mermaid and goes out to sea in search of her. And I thought, a girl who thinks her mother was a mermaid – that’s such a great idea – But what if… instead… there was a girl whose brother thought he was a bird, but then he jumped off a cliff because he thought he could fly … Then the voice of the protagonist, Jewel’s voice, started speaking and I got out of bed and wrote the first chapter.
What are you currently reading?
I have a book on hold for me at the library right now, and I’m dying to go pick it up: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. Rick Riordan was talking quite a bit about it, so I jumped on along.
Finally, how would you rate the success of your first novel?
Ooooh, that’s a tricky one, bringing up the “S” word! [laughing] Success is so slippery because it means such different things for different people, and if you base success on the market, it can turn on a dime. For me, I define success as the ability to tell the story I want to tell, and clearly, so people can follow along and be swept up by the story – but even more than that, as the author, did I stay true to my characters? Are they acting and reacting and loving and fearing with total authenticity? And I have to say, yes. Jewel and John and Grandpa and the gang are all their messy selves, come what may. And to that end, yes, I successfully told my story.
I love introducing new authors to you all. It’s an amazing feeling when I get to interview someone new to know only a specific genre but to the literary world completely. Meet author Robin Herrera, I recently reviewed her book Hope is a Ferris Wheel, so it is a pleasure to have a moment with Robin and discuss her love for words and why poetry was so dominated in the this book.
“Hope is a Ferris Wheel” focuses a lot on writing and poetry. Were you inspired by the poets listed in the book to write or did an appreciation of poetry come after your love of comic books?
The poetry kind of fell into the book – originally, it was not in there at all except for a single week of vocabulary words inspired by Emily Dickinson. But that aspect grabbed me and over the six drafts I ended up writing, Emily Dickinson became more and more prominent. As for the writing, I’ve always been a writer, though I didn’t know it! I used to write very intricate vocabulary sentences in school. I had a lot of fun with the words, but, like Star, I didn’t always turn things in.
My love of comics didn’t happen until I was in high school, though I religiously read
Garfield, Calvin & Hobbes, For Better or Worse, and Zits as a child.
On your website you highly recommend going to college and going to get a masters’ degree. What is the importance of education in your life? How has it help you as a writer?
Oh, I should reword that. What I meant to say is that if you’re thinking of going to colleges, those are two I have personal experience with and can therefore recommend, especially if you plan on being a writer.
However, I don’t think college is for everyone. The education system itself isn’t for everyone. I have a lot of problems with our education system, though it worked really well for me. I think there’s something to be said for non-traditional schools and not going to college at all. (One of the reasons why I liked Monsters University.)
Education is important to me, personally. I like learning new things. And when I’m in classes, I tend to come up with lots more writing ideas because I end up doodling and daydreaming during lectures. A lot of my story ideas have come from doodling in the margins of my class notes.
What connection do you have with the main character (of “Hope is a Ferris Wheel”) Star? Did you base her on research, yourself or someone you knew/know?
I think Star is based off me in some ways, though we’re very different people. I made Star very naive, which some people have commented on positively or negatively, but that’s me right there! I’m a naive person. I’ve gotten less so, but as a child I was very optimistic and clueless, even though I was also smart and worldly.
My family was never as poor as Star’s, but I used some of my experiences growing up when writing about Star’s home life. Like buying clothes at thrift stores and off department store clearance racks and eating nearly expired (or definitely expired) food. Some things, like Star’s mother not having a job and her sister going to alternative school, were taken from other poor families I knew growing up.
How is your job at Oni Press inspiring you to write?
I don’t know if it “inspires” me to write as much as it “allows” me to write. When I worked other jobs, I would come home exhausted and feeling terrible about myself, and all I would want to do was get lost in something, like a book or TV show. Or sleep. Working at Oni is (a) more stable and (b) leaves me less tired. Also, working with comics and creators all day doesn’t fizzle out my desire to write like my other jobs did.
Finally, are you planning on writing a comic book? If so, any hints at to what it is?
No comic book plans! Sorry to disappoint. There are some comics I’m editing the tail-end of (they were wrapped by another editor before me, I just took care of the very last details) which are coming out soon and which I’m really excited for: I Was the Cat by Paul Tobin and Benjamin Dewey, and Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocksby Jamie S. Rich and Dan Christensen. Both are gorgeous and very well-plotted. I think people are really going to like them, so look for them this summer!
It interesting to meet an author who loves one thing but writes about something else. But what is really interesting is to meet an author who is actually good at writing that something else. Readers, meet Natalie Whipple, a force to be reckon with in the YA Paranormal gene.
Your latest book “House of Ivy & Sorrow” is to be released in April, what inspired you to write that book?
I’d always wanted to write a story about witches, and in fact I’d tried before. That was my 5th and House of Ivy and Sorrow was my 13th (appropriately ;P). The first story really didn’t work, but it gave me a lot to think about and learn from.
Then I had one of those “lightning moments,” you could say. I was driving in an older part of
town, and I happened to cross paths with a house that was very, very close to a freeway bridge. Like, right next to it. And I thought to myself, “Man, who would live there? Who would insist on keeping that gorgeous little Victorian house standing despite the freeway for a neighbor?” And because I’m a writer I thought, “Witches, of course.”
So I wrote the first paragraph about a house like that, and it is probably one of my favorite paragraphs I’ve ever written. I kept going, writing about this family of witches living there and why they refuse to leave (because the land is full of magic, obviously) though they have people hunting for them.
How has your other books (“Transparent” & “Blindsided“) prepared you for this story? What have you learned as a writer from your past books?
Interestingly enough, House of Ivy and Sorrow was written before Blindsided. That’s the funny thing about publishing—it’s really hard to tell when the author first wrote the book. Here is the timeline for my soon-to-be four novels out this year:
How has your other books (“Transparent” & “Blindsided“) prepared you for this story? What have you learned as a writer from your past books?
Transparent: First written in 2009, released in 2013 Blindsided: Written in 2013, released in 2014 House of Ivy & Sorrow: Written in 2011, released 2014 Relax, I’m a Ninja: Written in 2008 and early 2009, released in 2014
As you can see, it *looks* like I’ve written a lot in one year because many of my books happen to be releasing this year. But in reality some of these stories are up to five years old. So as far as preparation goes, I suppose having a lot of practice writing has helped me understand my process (just finished my 16th novel draft in December), but there are also elements to every book that are new or difficult. Each story has its own set of problems, you could say. That’s what keeps writing interesting.
Why did you choose to write paranormal books? And most importantly Young Adult Paranormal?
I think YA picked me, I guess. I’d tried picture books and middle grade, didn’t really like adult. When I found my first teen character it felt natural and my voice took off. I write all sorts of YA—from paranormal to sci-fi to contemporary and even fantasy—so I’m not sure if I have a reason for choosing paranormal other than I like it and it’s fun to write. That’s really how I pick any story I choose to write down.
Do you have any plans to write anything other than Young Adult?
Not really. I love where I’m at.
Finally, what kind of mark do you wish to leave on the literary world?
That’s a rather grand question! I’m not sure I have a plan to leave a mark—I kinda think my mark will be made whether I intend it or not, and it may or may not be one I expected. I love to write stories and I hope people read them and enjoy them. If I can bring a smile to someone’s face by book’s end, then I will consider myself successful.
Your style of writing focuses on YA and Fantasy . . . what drew you toward those genres? Do you have a favorite author or book? Or do you feel these genres are lacking something you feel you can add?
I’m sure I started writing fantasy simply because I’ve always read a lot of fantasy. I was just playing when I started writing, and it was natural to play in the genre I like best. My reading tastes have broadened in the past few years as I’ve followed the recommendations of bloggers I trust into genres that are outside my typical range, but I still can’t really imagine wanting to write, say, contemporary romance. I expect I’ll always fall naturally into fantasy.
To me, YA isn’t a genre so much as a marketing device. I don’t really distinguish between YA and adult fantasy when I’m reading – I mean, when I was a teenager, the YA category didn’t really exist, at least not as it does today. So I just read everything.
Today, I still barely distinguish between YA and adult fantasy when I write, which sometimes creates a challenge when I actually need to slant a particular book one way or the other. When I needed to write the second book of the Griffin Mage trilogy, for example, all that would occur to me were YA plots and protagonists. Finally I just said, Fine, the protagonist is 42 years old. You can bet that decision gave that novel a hard shove toward the adult end of the spectrum, which was very helpful.
I’m sure I have too many favorite authors to even begin to list them. I think Patricia McKillip writes the most beautiful, lyrical fantasy – I think she’s the single best writer in fantasy today. I think Martha Wells does the most fantastic, visual, panoramic worldbuilding. I just read The Bones of the Fair by Andrea Höst, an author who is one of my favorite discoveries from 2013.
I wouldn’t say that anything is lacking in today’s genre fiction; there’s so much out there, it’s hard to see how anything could be lacking, though of course it can be hard just to discover the titles that you would most love. I’m not really trying to achieve something – I’m more just trying to tell the kind of stories I most love as a reader.
Your latest book, BLACK DOG, has just been released. How were you inspired to write this book?
BLACK DOG is a departure for me, because it’s much more paranormal-ish than anything else I’ve written, and set in world that looks almost like ours, at least to a first glance. This is very different from my secondary world fantasy, and presented new challenges and pleasures.
I was drawn to write BLACK DOG because I fell in love with Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, and then with several other paranormal and urban fantasy series. I really wanted to write something like those series, only of course not too similar. BLACK DOG was the result. I do think my black dogs present a somewhat different spin on the “werewolf” tropes, though.
Do you feel that diversity or lack thereof in YA Fantasy is a concern, or do you feel that it is already where it should be?
My impression is that there are a lot of authors thinking about diversity issues right now, so I expect to see an increase in diversity of protagonists and important secondary characters in the next few years. I think many white, straight authors are probably nervous about trying to write diverse protagonists in case they get it wrong, but I also think it’s important for authors to take that risk, and I think more are.
Something that annoys me more than a non-diverse cast of characters is “tokenism”, where an author sticks one or two diverse characters in a book in order to “make a statement.” I think that it’s usually very obvious when an author does that; it comes across to the reader as manipulative and artificial. I don’t think there’s any excuse for substituting A Statement for a real story.
I think it’s very important to have great characters who also happen to be diverse, not a token secondary character who is The Black Character or The Gay Character. One great example – this is contemporary YA – is offered by FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB by Antony John, in which the protagonist is a beautifully-drawn, complex, realistic girl who also happens to be deaf.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as a writer?
Finishing my first book. Or maybe finishing my second book. Or, at the moment, I would be pretty thrilled to finish my current work-in-progress. Actually finishing a complete draft is always reason to celebrate.
I will say, writing both the second and third Griffin Mage books in six months total was quite an accomplishment. I would prefer not to have quite such a tight deadline again, though!
When someone reads your books, what feeling do you want them to be left with?
What an interesting question.
I don’t write (or read) grimdark, which I think is unrealistically nihilistic and bleak. That kind of
hopeless despair about the world and the people in it is the exact opposite of what I want to infuse into my stories.
Grim things can happen to good people in my stories. Certainly that’s true of BLACK DOG. But, not to provide a spoiler or anything, in my books, the good guys are going to triumph in the end.
I want to leave my readers with the feeling that in the end, good guys do win. That in the end, striving to overcome evil and make the world a better place is worthwhile, both because of what the effort means to the world and what it means to you
It is rare that I have a chance to interview someone that constantly works with books and never loses their passion for it. Meet author Nicola L. McDonald, a librarian working in the Big Apple, who lives and breathes books everyday. In this interview we find out she feels so strongly about YA and having people of color represented.
You state on your website that you work as a YA librarian in NYC. What made you decide to write your own YA book? Was there something missing in the YA genre you feel your book can fill?
My library system serves urban communities, needless to say that a large majority of teens who use our libraries are from very diverse backgrounds. The YA genre has lacked diversity in representation for quite some time, although this seems to be changing very slowly. I wrote Transformed because I believe that all readers should be able to see themselves in the books that they read and that the availability of materials shouldn’t be one-sided, as it mostly tends to be. Many YA books with characters of color tend to depict them in utterly stressful or depressing situations, which is not necessarily the ideal circumstance that people of color in general relate to when seeing themselves.
Why did you choose to write about paranormal/romance?
Again, there’s a big void in diverse representation of characters of color. This is hard to ignore as a librarian serving diverse youth and offering book recommendations to patrons – and even harder to ignore as a writer. Paranormal, fantasy, and science fiction are popular genres among a large number of readers, but when you look at the covers of most YA books they show just one set of people. As the genres that mostly encourage readers to dream and use their imaginations to see themselves in other worlds and circumstances, I wonder about the message we are sending to readers who don’t ever see themselves represented within the pages they read. Are they to see themselves always as the underdog and never as the hero or heroine?
I think that many people of color have low expectations of themselves, and I believe that the views society portrays have a lot to do with it. The books that are published each year do send a certain message or portrayal of how things are and should be, whether people choose to see and accept it or not. As with everything, there are many underlying layers that affect the whole way of things, but change has to begin somewhere and I think it’s long overdue in the area of producing/publishing/making available a diverse set of YA books to all readers.
How has your experience been as a self published author? What difficulties have you faced?
I published my first book over ten years ago when self-publishing meant something totally different than what it means today. The process was a lot more challenging and required more resources, including monetary. That for me was a great experience and is what encouraged me to go the self-publishing route again. The greatest challenge I’ve faced is time – not having enough of it – or particularly not wanting to use my time to do everything that self-publishing requires. I can market, but I don’t necessarily want to be solely responsible for it as it takes away from my writing time. And working a full-time day job, where I’m professionally active in various organizations makes time even more of a challenge. But I do what I can when I can, and I’m glad that my book is out there and available to readers.
How important do you it is to have a strong African American lead character in the YA genre?
I believe that it’s imperative to have a diverse representation of lead characters in YA novels, and this includes black characters. It makes a difference to people when they can see themselves reflected in the things that surround them, and what they read is no different. This cause becomes even more significant with constant readership because there is a certain message being sent, whether clearly or in undertones. The lead character is obviously the center of attention and more often than not tends to rise above their circumstances. I believe that stories have special powers and something as simple as seeing themselves in a lead character can bring readers to stand taller and accept that they too can in fact be heroes and heroines of varying circumstances, and not just the tales often told of drugs and betrayal and neglect to reflect them.
Finally, there is not much information about you personally on the Internet beyond your career as a librarian. Why the disconnect?
I prefer to keep my life as private as possible, especially since I work in a public setting. But I can be reached via my website which also serves as my writing blog,www.nicolalmcdonald.com I haven’t updated the site in a while, but I look forward to being able to get back to it at some point.
The retelling of mythology is so popular that if you haven’t read any stories yet you really should start. Fairy Tales aren’t the only stories worth retelling and author Luciana Cavallaro reminds people of that with her books and short stories. In this interview, not only does she give advice fro those wanting to retell mythology but she explains how she is able to keep the myth pure in her stories.
On your website you state that your travels influenced you to write about historical fantasy/mythology. What exactly during those travels happened that caused you to write this genre? Was it the scenery? A class you took? Etc . . .
My sister and I went on a Contiki tour of Europe in 2000. It was an experience I’d never forgotten and vowed to return, which I did in 2004 and 2010. The pull to go back is growing stronger and I hope to visit again very soon. While on the flight to London, the movie Gladiator was on which I watched but the impact of the film hit home when we arrived in Rome and visited the Colosseum. I still get goosebumps. It is an extraordinary piece of architecture and the atmosphere was spellbinding. Strange, I know considering what happened there but you can’t ignore the magnificence of the structure. From there we had a guided tour of the Roman Forum and that was it. I always had an interest in ancient history and mythology but visiting the ancient sites in Rome brought it to life for me. I wanted to learn more and then came the passion to write about it.
What is your favorite myth and why is that your favorite?
I had to think hard about this question, but the myth of Atlantis is my favorite plus it is featured in the trilogy I am writing. I first came across the myth when I was 15 after reading Charles Berlitz’s book on the Lost Continent. Later, I read Plato’s works Critias and Timaeas where the mythology of Atlantis was born. I wanted to know more about this amazing place where the people were unique, had built towns and palaces with sewage and hot and cold water and baths plus toilets long before the Greeks and Romans.
In your books how are you able to keep the integrity of the myth while also doing something creative and original?
Most people are familiar with Greek myths and even if they don’t know the entire story, they will know parts of it. I want readers to be familiar with the stories and so I didn’t want to change the myths, they are wonderful as they stand but thought what if I put a different spin on the stories? Change the perspective of the storyteller and provide a different point of view of the same myth.
Would you ever step out of this genre and write something else or is this where you will stay?
One day perhaps I will try and write in a different genre but at the moment I’ve been guided to write Historical Fantasy/Fiction. Although having said that, a few of the stories do have contemporary settings.
Finally, what advise would you give someone who is trying to write stories based on myths? Read lots of myths and research! It will help write better stories and add fuel to one’s creativity. Passion is another element which I believe is very important. I love ancient history and mythology and I hope that comes through in my stories.
Chick Lit has always been a popular genre but as of late, it is growing even more steam. Readers meet author Cindi Madsen who is not so much a new author but an author that everyone should be familiar with. In this interview she describes what is romantic about romance and how she wants you to feel.
Have you always been a writer? If so what keeps you writing? If not what did you do before and why did you decide to become a writer?
I’ve always had stories in my head and been a big reader, but I didn’t think about writing one down until about ten years ago. Once I did that I was hooked. New ideas come to me all the time, and I get excited about the characters or story, so I write notes, and when I can, I work on that next book.
How are you able to handle a household while also trying to
stay active and creative when it comes to your writing?
I’m not sure I do handle it–it gets pretty messy around here! Lol. I’ve learned I can’t be supermom and super writer, so I let a few things go, like having to have an immaculate house, for more time writing, or even time off to hang out with my kids. It’s all about balance all around, which is something I’ve had to work on so I’m sane enough to write and create stories, as well as I don’t feel like I’m neglecting my family.
Why did you choose to write about romance? What makes romance romantic to you?
I love writing about people falling in love. There’s all the chemistry and sparks, and letting someone in. We’re all flawed, and the beautiful thing is, the right people love us anyway. Little gestures are romantic to me. That my husband knows what I need when I need it, or that he does little things that show he cares.
What makes your books stand out from the rest?
I strive to make books that make people laugh and swoon. Humor is important, and I also hope to make strong heroines people will connect with. And heroes who make them swoon of course.
Finally, what kind of feeling do you want your readers to have after they read your books?
I want them to close the book and have a smile on their face. For the book to have been a nice escape that made them happy.