Tag Archives: young adult fiction

Interview with Joe Sergi, Author of Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures

Sky-Girl-Front-CoverABOUT SKY GIRL AND THE SUPERHEROIC ADVENTURES

Being a teenage girl is hard enough, but for DeDe Christopher, it is proving impossible.

In addition to cliques, books, and boys, she has to worry about capes, apes, and aliens. Last year, DeDe discovered that she possessed fantastic abilities that were strangely similar to those of a comic book character named SkyBoy.

With the help of her best friend Jason, a self-professed comic geek, DeDe accepted her legacy and became Sky Girl. Now, DeDe must learn what it means to be a heroine as Sky Girl faces the all too real enemies and allies of SkyBoy, including the clever Quizmaster, the beautiful Penny Pound, the enigmatic Jersey Devil, and the magical MissTick.

DeDe must also face personal challenges as she discovers the secrets of her late father and his connection to Skyboy–secrets that will affect Sky Girl’s destiny.

Purchase paperback from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Girl-Superheroic-Adventures-Series-Volume/dp/1625530277/

Purchase digital version from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Girl-Superheroic-Adventures-Series-ebook/dp/B00D4FHE7U/

Purchase paperback or digital from Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sky-girl-and-the-superheroic-adventures-joe-sergi/1115472264

Q: Thank you for this interview, Joe. Can you tell us what your latest book, Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures, is all about? 

A: Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures is the sequel to Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy. In the first book, readers met DeDe Christopher, an ordinary teen with an extraordinary destiny to become Sky Girl. Being a teenage girl is hard enough, but for DeDe, it is proving impossible. In addition to cliques, books, and boys, she has to worry about capes, apes, and aliens. When we last left DeDe, she had just adopted the mantle of Sky Girl at the end of her sophomore year of high school. This book opens the day before she starts her junior year, so she’s had the whole summer to practice and train with her best friend and self-professed comic geek, Jason. She’s actually gotten quite good at being a costumed adventurer—except for her banter, which still needs work. Now, DeDe must learn what it means to be a heroine as Sky Girl faces the all too real enemies and allies of SkyBoy, including the clever Quizmaster, the beautiful Penny Pound, the enigmatic Jersey Devil, and the magical MissTick. DeDe must also face personal challenges as she discovers the secrets of her late father and his connection to SkyBoy–secrets that will affect Sky Girl’s destiny. 

Unlike the first book, which took place over the course of a week, this book covers the whole school year and allows for more diverse adventures. For example, Sky Girl faces off against Shadow, Jason faces off against Quizmaster, and they both have to face an angry horde of zombies. Each adventure stands on its own but is also part of a larger plot and expands on the mystery of what happened to DeDe’s father and Evil Brain’s plot for world domination. 

I guess the most important thing to note is that you don’t really need to read the first book to enjoy the second. 

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters? 

A: I love the relationship between the two main characters, DeDe and Jason, and enjoy writing scenes between them. DeDe is emotional and free spirited and Jason is analytical and restrained. I had a similar relationship growing up. And much like I was, DeDe is very different when she is with her best friend than when she is out in public because, with Jason, she actually gets to be her true self. (Of course, her Sky Girl persona helps DeDe overcome some of her shyness.) But, in order for the characters to grow as individuals, in the second book I split them up for some of their adventures. I’m a huge Star Wars fan and love the chemistry between R2D2 and C3PO in the first movie. Despite this, or maybe because of it, George Lucas decided to separate them in the second film and the results were pure genius movie making. I used that as an example in the second book and decided that Jason and DeDe should have their own adventures to realize how important they are to each other and to prove that each can be independent from each other. I always call Jason the sidekick, but they are really partners and I hope Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures helps establish that. I also wanted to ratchet up the tension in the second book, so I moved DeDe’s rival, Nicole, a little closer to DeDe’s inner circle. 

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination? 

A: It’s interesting how many people I went to school with say to me that they have figured out that, “Nicole is so and so, or Jason is based on so and so.” Popular theories are that DeDe is based on an ex-girlfriend from high school and that Jason is based on me. Actually, I wish I could have been Jason. I was never comfortable flying my geek flag until I was much older. In that way, I relate much more to DeDe/Sky Girl. She’s trying really hard to be the cool kid on the outside, but really she’s almost as much of a geek as Jason on the inside. Instead, I base a lot of these characters’ traits on my nieces and nephews. Jason is actually an amalgam of several people I know in the comics industry. A lot of people, editors and reviewers mostly, have a real problem with the formal way Jason talks, especially the fact that he never uses contractions. They think it sounds stilted – but that is the point. There really are people that talk like him in the real world. I can think of four off the top of my head. There is a lot of Adam that comes from one of my best friends/neighbors growing up. And, although I generally like everyone, Nicole is based on some people (men and women) who sadly have gotten under my skin. Of course, because she’s so evil, this also makes her the most fun to write. And, much to DeDe’s and my dismay, I frequently give Nicole the best lines. 

A lot of people ask for me to put them in my books. I think those people will be quite happy with Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures as I have managed to hide many Easter eggs in each adventure. 

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write? 

A: I usually have a general road map of where I want to go and an ending in mind. In the case of Sky Girl, I mapped out the entire trilogy. I knew exactly where I wanted to end, and how I was going to get there. Of course, when I started writing, I realized that my characters were taking me in a different direction than my road map and the ending of the third book. So, I had to go back and rework a lot of the earlier parts so they were consistent. Additionally, some things just didn’t work as well as I thought they would. For example, in the first draft, DeDe’s mother was remarried and DeDe had a little brother who was instrumental to the resolution of the plot. However, as I was writing, I realized that the brother wasn’t adding anything to the story. In fact, having DeDe’s mother being happily remarried prevented me from exploring how DeDe would react when her mother gets a new serious boyfriend. DeDe views this new guy as trying to replace her late father and must come to terms with that. So the brother vanished, which required a lot of restructuring. 

Q: Your book is set in New Jersey. Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular? 

A: The first book was set in my home town of Colonia, New Jersey. And while Colonia still continues to be the primary setting in Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures, I also was able to explore more locations. However, given that this book is a series of interrelated adventures, as opposed to an origin story, I was able to include a lot more locations outside of Colonia. A number of locations in New Jersey are featured in the book, including an attempted robbery of the First Bank of Colonia; a secret portal located at The Edison Memorial Tower and Museum in Menlo Park; and a hunt for the Jersey Devil in Jenny Jump State Park. I should also mention that there are cameos and references to many of the unique NJ places from my youth, like Merrill and Roosevelt Parks, the Menlo Park Mall, and the Krauzers convenience store where I used to buy my comics, as well as some imagined places, like the Colonia Memorial Cemetery. 

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story? 

A: I’m from New Jersey. My family still lives there and I visit the state as often as I can. New Jersey, and especially Colonia, is the perfect setting for this book. The fact that it isn’t New York (but close to it) makes it perfectly plausible that super villains would want to hide out there. It also allows Sky Girl to have a small town upbringing, while still being able to face big city challenges. New Jersey was Hollywood before there was a Hollywood and Las Vegas before there was a Las Vegas, and still has the best pizza in the world. The fact that two-thirds of the state is wide open space allows the potential for knock down drag out fights with no property damage or injuries in later volumes. Not to mention that New Jersey has its own cryptozoological creature, the Jersey Devil, which was a great character to play with in the Sky Girl story. 

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening? 

A: Good choice. This was an interesting page to write. Sky Girl has just arrived in the Mutardi Dimension in inner space. True to character, DeDe just rushed into the dimension without thinking. But, she isn’t really ready for what happens when she gets there. It was a challenge to write because I wanted to create a sense of peril while still being fun. 

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts? 

A: I don’t know if it’s my best excerpt, but my favorite villain to write was Alexander–he is a security guard that finds some of Professor Z’s equipment and decides to become a supervillain. He is horrible at it and it really lets me poke fun at the comic genre that I love. For example, in this short scene, Alexander tries to rob a bank, but is delayed by Jason, who engages him in a debate as to what makes a great villain. 

EXCERPT: 

Jason turned toward the tunnel, watching with a mixture of fear and excitement as the figure emerged from it. DeDe had run up against several villains in her short career as Sky Girl, but this guy was the big one: Professor Z. He was the cream of the crop, the greatest at being the worst. After all, Professor Z was the villain that had beaten SkyBoy. Jason squinted as the villain stepped into the bank from the tunnel.

An overweight, masked teenager dressed in black spandex and a black cape exited the Z-Gate. The ill-fitting spandex failed to fully cover his mid-section, and his stained white undershirt poked through. The tunnel vanished as quickly as it had formed, causing the villain to trip over his cape and sprawl out on the bank floor. As the villain regained his footing and tried to stand, Jason noticed that the fiend’s cowl-like mask had shifted and sat askew, so that one eyehole was blocked.

“Aw, man!” exclaimed the villain.

Jason cleared his throat, and the teenager in spandex turned to look at him. He smiled as his eyes met the villain’s uncovered one. ”Um, hi. Are you a super villain?”

“Hi. And why, yes, I am,” he said as he readjusted his mask.

“You know, they never mention in the movies how hard it is to keep the mask on.”

Jason nodded knowingly as he remembered DeDe’s many complaints over the summer during their mask trials. “I know what you mean. You know, a little spirit gum will hold that thing right in place.”

“Really? Spirit gum? Like the circus guys use? I hadn’t thought of that. Thanks.” The man smiled and then looked over at the wall.

“Well, okay then. Nice meeting you. I have, you know, villainous work to do.” He moved toward the vault.

Jason threw up his hands. “Wait!”

“Yeah, what?”

Jason stared at the overweight spandex-clad teen. “Um, you cannot just rob the bank.”

The villain stared at him. “I cannot? I mean, I can’t?”

Jason rolled his eyes. “Duh. First you have to announce your fiendish intentions and tell everyone your name.” Jason looked around the bank. Only the old woman remained.

The villain appeared to think for a moment. “Well, okay then. I guess there is some merit to that.” The villain took a deep breath and attempted to sound menacing as he spoke. “I’m Alex, and I’m here to rob this bank.”

Jason stared at him with an annoyed look.

“What?”

“Alex? Really?”

“What’s wrong with Alex?”

Jason glanced at his watch and hoped the police would be there soon. “It is a little plain. You want a name that invokes fear, like Professor Z, or Evil Brain, or Commander Chimp.”

Alex pursed his lips in thought. “I know—my mother always wanted me to be a doctor. So call me Doctor Doom!”

Jason shook his head from side to side. “That name is taken by a Marvel Comics villain. Trust me, you do not want them coming after you for infringement. They are owned by Disney now.”

“What about Doctor Destiny?”

“Nope. DC Comics.”

“Doctor Midnight?”

“No way.”

“Doctor Horrible?”

“Joss Whedon used that one. Neil Patrick Harris played him.”

“You mean that Doogie Howser kid?”

“Yeah.”

“I loved that show. How about Doctor Strange?”

“Marvel again.”

“Doctor Evil?”

“Oh, come on. You are not even trying now.”

The duo’s debate was cut short by the sound of sirens. Alex peered out the bank window. “Aw man, now the police are here. I didn’t even get to rob the bank.”

Jason smiled. “You had better go. You do not want to face them without a name.”

Alex, the nameless villain, pressed a button on his gauntlet and the tunnel reappeared. “Yeah, I don’t really have any weapons either.”

Jason chuckled. “Going back to your evil villain’s layer?”

Alex looked confused. “You mean my evil villain’s lair.” He stressed the last word. Jason pointed into the tunnel, and Alex read his spray-painted sign. “Darn it! You know, I thought I might have spelled that wrong.” Alex raced down the tunnel as the police broke into the bank. Jason watched as the glowing lights of the Z-Gate shrank away and vanished.

Jason threw up his hands as the police approached him. He could hear the security guard began to groan his way back to consciousness. “He is gone now. I do not think he took anything.” “Did he say who he was?” one of the officers asked.

Jason smiled. “Not really.” 

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Joe. We wish you much success! 

A: Thanks for having me. If you want to find out more, My author site is www.joesergi.net; Sky Girl can be found at www.SkyGirlNovel.com, and the official site for Great Zombies in History is www.GreatZombiesinHistory.com; my monthly column can be found at www.cbldf.org.

 

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Joe Sergi photoABOUT JOE SERGI

Joe Sergi lives outside of Washington, DC with his wife and daughter. Joe is an attorney and a Haller Award winning author who has written articles, novels, short stories, and comic books in the horror, scifi, and young adult genres. Joe is the creator of the Sky Girl series of novels and the editor of Great Zombies in History. His first novel, Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy was selected Best of 2010 by the New PODler Review. Joe is a life-long comic fan who regularly writes on the history of comics and censorship for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. A complete list of Joe’s titles is available at www.JoeSergi.net. When not writing, Joe works as a Senior Litigation Counsel in an unnamed US government agency and is a member of the adjunct faculty at George Mason University School of Law.

Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures Tour Schedule

Tuesday, September 3rd

First chapter review at The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection

Wednesday, September 4th

Book spotlight and giveaway at My Devotional Thoughts

Thursday, September 5th

Interview at As the Pages Turn

Monday, September 9th

Interview at Examiner

Wednesday, September 11th

Interview at Blogcritics

Thursday, September 12th

Book review and giveaway at Mommynificent

Friday, September 13th

Book spotlight at Literarily Speaking

Monday, September 16th

Interview at Literarily Speaking

Thursday, September 19th

Guest post and giveaway at Freda’s Voice

Friday, September 20th

Guest post at Paperback Writer

Guest post at Lori’s Reading Corner

Monday, September 23rd

Book spotlight at The Writer’s Life

Tuesday, September 24th

Guest post at The Writer’s Life

Friday, September 27th

Interview at Pump Up Your Book

Tuesday, October 1st

Guest post and giveaway at The Busy Mom’s Daily

Wednesday, October 2nd

Guest post at The Story Behind the Book

Friday, October 4th

Interview at Between the Covers

Monday, October 7th

Book spotlight at Review from Here

Tuesday, October 8th

Book review at Library at the END of the Universe

Wednesday, October 9th

Interview and giveaway at Tribute Books Reviews and Giveaways

Thursday, October 10th

Interview at Straight from the Author’s Mouth

Monday, October 14th

Book spotlight at YAdult Review

Tuesday, October 15th

Interview at The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection

Wednesday, October 16th

Interview at The Story of a Writer

Thursday, October 17th

Interview at The Dark Phantom Review

Monday, October 21st

Interview at Broowaha

Monday, October 28th

Guest post at Authors and Appetizers

Monday, November 4th

Book spotlight at Literal Exposure

Monday, November 18th

Book review at Mary’s Cup of Tea

Tuesday, November 26th

Book review at The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection

Wednesday, November 27th

Book tour highlights at The Book Rack

More tour stops coming soon! 

 

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An Interview with Beverly Stowe McClure, Author of LIFE ON HOLD

 

ImageWhen Beverly was a child she hated to read. Even though her eighth-grade teacher sent her poem “Stars” to a high school anthology and it was published in Young America Sings she hated to write. In spite of her rocky relationship with books, she managed to graduate from high school then attended Midwestern State University, where she read more books than she could count. After four years, she graduated cum laude with, you guessed it, a teaching degree. And somewhere along the way, perhaps reading to her sons or reading great Newbery winners with her students, she discovered what she’d been missing: reading was fun. Now she reads most every day. She also writes stories and articles for children and teens.

Beverly lives in the country with her husband, two cats, and a variety of wild critters that stop by for a handout or just to peek in the door. Besides writing, she plays the piano, searches for her ancestors, and teaches a women’s Sunday school class. She also has the most beautiful grandchildren in the world.

Website: http://beverlystowemcclure.wordpress.com

Blog: http://beverlystowemcclure.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/beverlysmcclure

Twitter: http://twitter.com/beverlymcclure

Goodreads:http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/11462.Beverly_Stowe_McClure

Congratulations on yet another book release, Beverly! How do you keep yourself so productive?

Thank you, Mayra. It is fun to see a new book, after so many months of writing and editing, finally in the hands of readers. As for being productive, I think as an older writer, realizing I’m in those supposedly “golden years” motivates me to stay busy. Each hour of every day is precious to me. I hate to waste time. Maybe my years as a teacher helps too, since I’m used to a schedule. Even though I retired years ago, I still write out my plans for each day, not that I always stick to them, but I try. Also, my sons are grown and away, leaving me time for myself, which is rare when you have children at home. I do not see how writers with young kids and even teens manage to write.

I write at least two hours every morning except Saturday, which is catch up day, and Sunday, church day. Sometimes, my words are not worth keeping. Other times, they flow onto the screen and a story forms.

What was your inspiration for Life on Hold? Sounds like a compelling mystery.

ImageOne day, I read an article in the local newspaper about a young couple that had a baby while they were still in high school. The girl’s parents made her give the child away. The teens eventually went their separate ways, married others, and had other children. Years later, a chance conversation between the boy or girl (I forget which one) and a friend mentioned an 18-year-old boy they knew that had been adopted when a baby. The article went on to tell how the former boyfriend and girlfriend, who no longer were married to their spouses, found each other again and decided to search for the son they’d given up. And, you guessed it, the teen mentioned was their son. They went on to have a wonderful relationship with him. I love stories with happy endings. I also imagine this story happens quite often.

Could you share with us what your process was like during the creation of this novel?

Most of the time, my stories start from something I read about, or sometimes a little voice speaks to me, or an event begs to be told. With Life on Hold, I basically started with the plot of a teen discovering her father really was her stepfather. At first, I wasn’t sure how the story would end or even how we’d get there. The characters carried me along, occasionally as confused as I was; other times knowing exactly where they were going. I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to my writing and try to write a little every day, as I mentioned earlier. My schedule is flexible, but mornings are my best writing time. It took me a bit over two years to write the story, including many revisions and then more edits with my great editor. Yes, I’m slow, but like the turtle I eventually reach my destination.

Did you hit any walls while writing the book? If yes, what did you do to overcome them?

Not walls exactly, but the final version had many changes from the original as I got to know the characters better. I keep each draft on the chance an earlier edition might have a scene I’d want to add back in. When a scene wasn’t working, I rewrote it in different ways to see what worked best. Many times the first thought was the best.

Did you celebrate when you typed The End?

I didn’t do anything special, but the words The End are two of my favorite words. They give me a sense of accomplishment, because many times in a story, I’ll wonder if it will ever end or if I should scrap the whole thing.  

What do you want readers to get out of this book?

I’d like for children/teens who are adopted or those that are step children to realize that bringing a child into the world does not make a man a father. (Or a mother, a mother) Holding, rocking, and whispering gentle words to a child when she’s sick make a father. Attending her programs at school, helping her with spelling, taking her to the movies make a father. A father and mother show their love by actions: love, discipline when necessary, and always being there when the child has a crisis, whether big or small.

What do you enjoy most about being a childrens book author?

The most exciting thing about writing for children to me is when a child or teen says he/she likes my books. What greater reward can an author wish for?

Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

You’ve heard it before, but it’s true. Hang in there. Never give up. I have enough “No thank you” letters to paper my whole writing room, but some of them also contain a word of encouragement. Cling to those comments. Use them to improve your story. Keep writing. Learn more. Attend conferences, Online ones if you can’t get to live ones. Keep writing. Yes, I’m repeating myself, but if you stop writing when times are tough, you’ll never be published. If you’re persistent, one day, you’ll succeed. Hint: Don’t expect to get rich, unless you write a blockbuster. Enjoy the writing. For me, the finished story is the reward.

Whats on the horizon? 

My chapter book, Kate, Little Angel Sometimes (title will be changed) is scheduled for a May/June 2013 release from 4 RV Publishing. January 2013 is the release date of my Tween paranormal A Pirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Cat,MuseItUp Publishing. My orphan train story, Scattered to the Winds, is under contract with Twilight Times, and Guardian Angel has Weird Noises in the Night,no dates set yet.

Is there anything else youd like to share with my readers?

Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read my thoughts. I hope they help you in some way. Visit me on my blogs. I love comments. If you read my books, please let me know what you think.

Thank you, Beverly! 

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A Boy Called Duct Tape – author interview – Chris Cloud

A Boy Called Duct Tape Book Tour

Christopher Cloud began writing children’s fiction after a long career in journalism and public relations. He graduated from the University of Missouri in 1967 with a degree in journalism. He has worked as a reporter, editor, and columnist for newspapers in Texas, California, and Missouri. His work has appeared in many national publications, including Time Magazine. Employed by Sun Oil Company as a Public Relations executive he later operated his own PR agency.

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Christopher-Cloud/144889658941239

 

Q: Thank you for this interview, Christopher. Can you tell us what your latest book A Boy Called Duct Tape is all about?

 

A:     It tells the story of Pablo Perez, a 12-year-old kid without much going for him. His classmates have dubbed him “Duct Tape” because his tattered, discount-store sneakers are held together with…you guessed it, duct tape. He can’t escape the bullying.

Pablo’s fortunes turn, however, after he finds a $20 gold coin on the river bottom while swimming near his home. Pablo later buys a $1 treasure map at the county fair. The map shows the route to the legendary “lost treasure” of Jesse and Frank James. Pablo can’t help but wonder: Is there a link between the map and the gold coin? He, his sister, and cousin are determined to find out.

 

 

Q: Is this your first novel?  If not, how has writing this novel different from writing your first?

 

A: This is my first middle-grade novel.

 

Q: How difficult was it writing your book?  Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

 

A: I didn’t experience writer’s block with A Boy Called Duct Tape, but I did twist myself into a pretzel with another middle-grade story I started a couple of years ago. I was 18,000 words into the story when I hit a wall. The story remains unfinished.

After writing an early draft of A Kid Called Duct Tape I sensed something not right with the story, and I changed the ethnicity of my major characters to Latino. It was exactly what the story needed. It was far more appealing, far more empathic, and far more engaging. The change led me to believe that young readers would now find themselves rooting for my characters.

 

Q: How have your fans embraced your latest novel?  Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

 

A: Shortly after finishing the novel, I e-mailed it out in pdf form to several middle-graders asking for reviews. One young reader named Alex had this to say about A Boy Called Duct Tape: “I am 12 and I absolutely loved your book. It’s my favorite realistic fiction book I’ve ever read!”

 

 

Q: What is your daily writing routine?

 

A: I write four or five hours a day, seven days a week.

 

Q: When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

 

A: If I’m not reading, I’m either on the golf course or catching the latest Hollywood flick.

 

Q: What book changed your life?

 

A: I read an adventure novel titled We Killed A Bear when I was in the third or fourth grade. I didn’t realize until years later that my love for middle-grade adventure stories was influenced by that book.

 

Q: If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

 

A: William Saroyan’s The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze. I have always been a risk-taker in both my personal and professional life.

 

Q: Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

 

A: My undying locality to family and friends.

 

Thank you for this interview Christopher.  I wish you much success on your latest release, A Boy Called Duct Tape!

 

 

About A Boy Called Duct Tape

 

 

Pablo Perez is a 12-year-old poor kid without much going for him. His classmates have dubbed him “Duct Tape” because his tattered discount-store sneakers are held together with…you guessed it, duct tape. He can’t escape the bullying.

 

Pablo’s luck, however, changes after he finds a $20 gold coin while swimming in a river near his home. Pablo later buys a $1 treasure map at the county fair. The map shows the route to the “lost treasure” of Jesse James. Pablo can’t help but wonder: Is there a link between the map and the gold coin? He is determined to find out, and he, his 9-year-old sister and 13-year-old cousin hire an ill-natured cave guide, and begin a treacherous underground adventure in search of treasure.

 

Purchase your copy in kindle or book form at Amazon.

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In Blackness – author interview – U.L. Harper

 

In Blackness Book Tour

 

U.L. Harper is an after-school program Site Director in Long Beach, California. Over one hundred students attend his program. He previously worked as a corporate manager, and a journalist for a now defunct news agency in Los Alamitos, California. Newspapers are part of his writing background but he also dabbled in poetry. His poetry was published in The Body Politic chapbooks. He is the author of In Blackness, The Flesh Statue and the short story book Guidelines for Rejects. You can visit U.L. at http://ulharper.com/  and his twitter @ulharper.

Purchase the book at Amazon

 

 

Q: Thank you for this interview, U.L. Can you tell us what your latest book, In Blackness, is all about?

 

A: To be blunt, it’s a coming of age story about three young adults. Through them you witness an alien invasion. The big question is this: How many would you let die to save yourself?

 

Q: Is this your first novel?  If not, how has writing this novel different from writing your first?

 

A: Nope, not the first novel. And, yes, this was quite different. The thing is I had grown as a writer since finishing my first novel The Flesh Statue. Almost without my knowing, I developed a taste for the slightly surreal. I’ve always loved taking an idea that is far out there and developing a tone around it that made it seem real. But the idea for In Blackness, to me, was completely out there. When you read it, there is a dark feel, sometimes almost like foreboding. A bit new for me but I think I got it done.

 

Q: How difficult was it writing your book?  Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

 

A: The difficulty was bringing it down to a level that made it feel authentic and to do this I had to cut and do some more cutting. Instead of explaining elements that weren’t clear I just lopped those elements off. I don’t like explaining story in exposition and I don’t like when characters overtly tell the reader what is happening. They can talk about it but a lot of times we authors feel insecure in what is happening and we just start explaining things, which I consider cheating. So to reiterate, a lot of elements that had a hard time shining through I had to cut. It took a while to both cut it and make the story feel whole. The result is a story that is a crisp 286 pages. I actually wanted it down to 250. But we can’t always get what we want. I don’t remember feeling blocked, however it was a challenge putting events in order. Sometimes I had to stop and think, does this make sense right here? At the same time, now I have plenty of material for the sequel.

 

Q: How have your fans embraced your latest novel?  Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

 

A: People who have read and liked The Flesh Statue are generally shocked at the pacing and style difference in In Blackness. I get a lot of “Oh my god” statements. I even remember first presenting the idea of aliens in the story to a friend of mine and he was like, are you serious? You have to understand that at first this was just a coming of age story for three teens. Dustin was searching for his mother, using his father’s journal to backtrack through time and therefore discovering his history. Well, my next draft had aliens in it. To tell you honestly, my friend’s reaction is the same reaction from those who have read it. Everything just seems surprising to them, yet somehow it feels real, like it could really happen.

 

Q: What is your daily writing routine?

 

A: I like a word count but I don’t live by them anymore. I just make sure I write in the morning and in the evening. So twice a day. If I can get 1,000 words in the morning that’s great. Then 2,000 words in the evening. Combine this with a brief edit to make the upcoming second draft not too cumbersome and that’s basically the routine. I can’t do it every day, but I can tell you it’s 7 a.m. right now as I write this. I’m going to go to back to bed, wake up, have a full day (peppered with some reading), write about 2,000 words, do some more reading and then call it a night.

 

Q: When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

 

A: I do what everybody else does. I watch movies, read books, play some basketball, make love, drink wine. Life is good.

 

Q: What book changed your life?

 

A: All the ones I liked. But I’ll level it off to Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I read it at the end of high school. I already loved books but that one proved to me that an author could really do a lot more than what I had previously read. I mean, he had himself in the story talking to his characters. He had Billy Pilgrim moving through time, having sex with porn stars. I was like, wow, I need to be, not just more creative, but also tell a more interesting story. I think Vonnegut is one of three authors whose work I’ll reread. I’m not going to name the other two right now, though one of them is me. Redrafting can be brutal.

 

Q: If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

 

A: Well, if you didn’t know, I’m a Black guy, so I wouldn’t mind the book being called—get this—In Blackness. It’d be perfect, right? It’d have a double meaning and all that; so any readers out there who were looking to write someone’s biography, I’m ready. Let’s do this.

 

Q: Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

 

A: …that I don’t like most things.” I’ve learned that I only truly appreciate what inspires me and everything else is pretty damned boring and I have very little respect for. I cheer on my subordinates at work and the kids they oversee but if I’m not at work and you’re doing mediocre crap I have nothing but disdain for what you’re doing. I think you hurt the world with your trite mess. I think it’s a negative influence on what could be a creative generation, and those mediocre boneheads either don’t know it or don’t care, so either way they get no respect from me. Now, I’m not talking about those who tried to write a great story and failed. I love them. I’m talking about those who have no intention of doing something great. They mean to be weak sauce because they believe the public is weak like they are. In fact, they make the public weak. We authors can be powerful. Why not act like it?

 

Thank you for this interview U.L. I wish you much success on your latest release, In Blackness!

 

 

About In Blackness

 

 

As kids, Lenny’s and Saline’s parents brought them to Southern California to escape the nightmares. But after their parents die in a horrible car accident, their adoption by longtime family friend, Busek, proves nightmarish in its own right. Busek is abusive to his son, Dustin, and does very little to hold the young family together. The trio of kids become friends and grow up as a family. Outwardly, they are unruffled by life’s events, yet as teens the emotional aftermath of Saline and Lenny’s parents’ death lingers and eventually catapults Lenny and Saline on individual journeys back to their old hometown.

Saline journeys with a small church group which has regular excursions to her old hometown in Lowery, Washington. She discovers the group is protecting a powerful secret that will change her life.

Lenny, on the other hand, becomes stranded in King City. There, he meets someone who unexpectedly and unknowingly guides him to a place in Washington where something might be waiting for him. Impulsively, he makes his way there and discovers that the simple world he has been living in is vastly different from what he could have ever imagined

Meanwhile, Dustin remains in Southern California and meets a group of youth who stumble upon the city’s plan to replace the local library with a jail. In the process of this discovery they learn of one of the largest secrets society has ever kept, a secret waiting for them underground, in blackness.

 

 

 

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Interview with Kailin Gow, author of ‘Rise of the Fire Tamer’

Kailin Gow is the author of over 30 books for all generations, but her specialty is the young adult/teen genre. Her books have been recommended by PBS Kids, the PTA, homeschooling organizations, and on the Best Teens Books list. She is a mentor for young women, has founded 3A for Autism (Actors, Artists, and Authors for Autism), and runs a publishing and production company known as Sparklesoup, a mid-size publisher and production company.

Her latest young adult fiction novel is Rise of the Fire Tamer.

You can visit her website at www.sparklesoup.com or join her Facebook Author page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/YA-Books-from-Kailin-Gow/104549539596369.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Kailin. How did the idea for Rise of the Fire Tamer come to you?

My 4-year-old daughter London inspired me to write a book about gamer teens.  She loves video games, and I wanted to write a series that would help girls (and boys) develop a sense of good sportsmanship, leadership principles, and teamwork with this series.  At the same time, I wanted to break stereotypes (especially among teens) with the characters in this series.

The story came about from my own experience having played video games and even having scripted and produced a video game before.  However, this isn’t a video game, but a novel much like Chronicles of Narnia and other fantasy adventure young adult novels.

The Wordwick Games is also a way of introducing SAT words into everyday vocabulary.  Incorporating SAT words into the novel as Ruler Words, their meaning and usage are reinforced over and over again in the story.

Q:  Explain the Wordwick Games.  What exactly is that?

The Wordwick Games in the series is a massive online game with millions of fans and users.  It is a virtual world like Avatar and Warcraft.  Gamers get highly involved.  The Wordwick Games was invented by Henry Word, who had set up a contest to find the best players of his game.  The best players happen to be the five teens who won the contest to go visit Henry Word and Word Castle, which is prominently featured in the game itself.

Q:  You have five teens involved in this…can you briefly tell us about them?

Most of the point of view is from Gem, who is the gorgeous rich cheerleader-type, but really hates being known as that.  She wants to be taken seriously, and she has a lot of depth in her, especially kindness and generosity.  She doesn’t take the easy way out and constantly proves herself beyond the stereotype.

Rio is the bad boy from East L.A. who is good-looking, charming, and knows it.  He thinks the world is out to get him, and he distrusts most people.  Throughout this quest, he learns that he has to begin trusting people at some time in order to survive.

Sparks is the clean-cut handsome football jock from Texas who seems like the obvious hero, but he has more to him than good looks and athleticism.

Kat is the Goth Girl from London who fits a gamer girl profile.  She loves to skateboard and loves a good challenge.  She can’t stand authority and her rebelliousness can help and hurt her.

Jack is a walking encyclopedia and a diehard gamer.  He wears glasses, is smaller and younger than the rest of the gamers, and is nervous around Gem.  The challenges and tests in Anachronia will either make him more confident or kill him.

Q: If you could live the life of one of your characters for one day, who would it be and why?

From Rise of the Fire Tamer (The Wordwick Games, #1), it would have to be Gem at the moment she wears Princess Chelsea’s dress and puts on the golden cloak.   That is a magical moment where her destiny is revealed.

Q:  Can you tell us more about Anachronia?

Anachronia is another world.  Based on the word, “Anachronism”, it is where everything is out of sync.  It is a fantastic world set in a fairy tale setting where there are castles, knights and ladies, dragons, ogres, trolls, werewolves, zombies, and wizards.  The world of Anachronia looks familiar to us because of its medieval appearance, yet  it is meshed with modern day technology, thanks to the Wordwick Games.

Q: Open a page at random.  What’s happening?

Gem and the players including the young wizard Goolrick and his men have just entered a cave inside the mountain where their next obstacle in the game resided:  the three-headed dragon.

A: p. 128 – “Every archway held human sized figures, some little more than bleached bone, some mummified and wrapped in bandages, while a few looked perfectly preserved.  Every figure wore armor of some sort.  It was battered and rusted, but Gem was willing to bet that it would still work.  So would the weapons, probably, and there were plenty of them.”

Q: Most, if not all, of your books are for young adult readers.  Why did you decide to write that particular genre?

There is so much going on in this age group that is rich for writing and also for discovering.  Things are new, things are dramatic, things are always a life and death situations.  I love that.  I can relate to that, but I’m also much older and have a lot more life experience to provide a wider perspective for teens.

On a personal note, I find myself becoming an informal mentor to a lot of teen girls and I’m constantly being asked for advice on relationships, career, whatever.  My mom friends also point their teen daughters my way whenever they want them to have a mentor or role model.  I’ve been a teen mentor, in this way, and even a college/young adult mentor, for years since I was in college.

I’ve always loved reading books in this genre, and they have helped shape who I am today.  I grew up reading Judy Blume, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien. And I read all the Sun Fire series and Sweet Valley High series.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring young adult authors?

Writing for young adult is different than writing for adults.  Get to know your audience and write your characters from that perspective.

Q:  Thank you so much for this interview, Kailin.  We wish you much success!

Thank you so much for having me.   You can find me on Facebook.  Add me as a friend and join my YA Books page there.  http://www.facebook.com/pages/YA-Books-from-Kailin-Gow/104549539596369

Believe it or not, I couldn’t get the domain name under my own name because someone else has it already?  So I have an official web page now called, Official Kailin  Gow.  Http://www.officialkailingow.com

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Interview with Stephen Masse, author of “Short Circus”

About Stephen V. Masse

Stephen V. Masse was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He wrote his first novelat age 13, handwritten into a school composition book.

Educated at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he studied creative writing, and was author of a weekly newspaper column, “Out of Control.” His first novel for children, Shadow Stealer, was published by Dillon Press in 1988. Short Circus is his second novel for children.

In addition to children’s books, Masse has written A Jolly Good Fellow, winner of the Silver Medal in the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards, as well as honorable mention in the 2008 New England Book Festival for best books of the holiday season.

The Interview

Q: Thank you for this interview, Stephen. Can you tell us what your latest book, Short Circus, is all about?

A: Twelve-year-old Jem Lockwood has been fatherless for four years and finally gets a Big Brother, but just as the best summer of his life is about to begin, he discovers that Jesse Standish’s rented house is about to be sold. Jem does all in his daring imagination to make Jesse’s house unmarketable, and the neighborhood unfit for prospective buyers. Sadly the city’s swimming pond has been sabotaged, and the city has to close it to all recreation after two boys are injured. Jem is sure he knows who did it, and helps carry out a plan to punish the evildoer. But Alpha qualities are not always perfectly aimed, and Jem learns about the consequences of jumping into action without sufficient knowledge or understanding.

Q: Is this your first novel? If not, how was writing this novel different from writing your first?

A: This is my third published novel, quite different from writing my first. The process of publishing the first novel taught me an incredible amount about finishing a manuscript professionally – a huge benefit for later novels.

Q: How difficult was it writing your book? Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

A: Writing Short Circus was probably my most pleasant writing project. There was no writer’s block, although in the many re-writes there was an occasional editing block where some tough decisions had to be made on what to keep and what to cut.

Q: How have your fans embraced your latest novel? Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

A: It’s probably too early to tell, since I’ve only had one fan mail. The reader wrote that “reading Short Circus is like taking a hit from the crack pipe of childhood memories.” Funny and flattering, though perhaps not appropriate for a dust jacket blurb on a book for young readers.

Q: What is your daily writing routine?

A: I don’t make my living by writing, so having a daily writing routine would be a luxury. When I’m in the midst of a writing project, I try to write as much as possible each day, taking a break for eating, and hoping to reach a logical stopping point in the narrative or editing.

Q: When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

A: Writing is my relaxation. Next to that I enjoy socializing, reading, watching a good movie, and music.

Q: What book changed your life?

A: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, which I read at 12 years old.

Q: If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

A: Unauthorized: The Biography of Stephen V. Masse

Q: Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

A: I think people understand me fairly well. When they don’t, I make good effort to communicate where I stand.

Thank you for this interview Stephen. I wish you much success on your latest release, Short Circus!

About Short Circus

Twelve-year-old Jem Lockwood has been fatherless for four years and finally gets a Big Brother, but just as the best summer of his life is about to begin, he discovers that Jesse Standish’s rented house is about to be sold. Jem does all in his daring imagination to make Jesse’s house unmarketable, and the neighborhood unfit for prospective buyers. This three-ring circus romps with with Jem’s boyhood friends and older brother Chris, all recognizable kids who share in the rough-and-tumble delight of living in a northern Massachusetts city whose newspaper is delivered by kids on bikes, where kids play in the streets, and the local convenience store is owned by the family of Jesse’s girlfriend, Andrea. Sadly the city’s swimming pond has been sabotaged, and the city has to close it to all recreation after two boys are injured. Jem is sure he knows who did it, and helps carry out a plan to punish the evildoer.

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