Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Interview with Kirsten Hubbard and a Like Mandarin ARC Giveaway!

So, I have a confession to make. When I nabbed an ARC of Kirsten Hubbard's Like Mandarin, I was a little worried. Don’t get me wrong—I’d been dying to read the book for over a year. But during that wait, I met Kirsten several times, and she’s like this unbelievably awesome person. Almost as crucial: we totally color-coordinated at ALA.

What if I read Like Mandarin and it just wasn’t for me? What would I say?

Um, yeah…RIDICULOUS worry. Why? Because Like Mandarin is freaking amazing, that’s why. This book really blew me away with its lush setting, its timeless feel, and its intricate portrayal of two very different female characters and their unexpected relationship—all of it showcased by Kirsten’s lyrical prose.

But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself by reading my interview with Kirsten below, and then entering to win an ARC of Like Mandarin.

Which character are you more like, Grace or Mandarin?

You know, I’m not much like either one of them! I’ve always read a ton, like Grace, but I’m definitely not the shy, wallflower type. I’ve always been more outspoken, like Mandarin (often to a fault) – but that’s really where our similarities end. They’re more the types of girls I was fascinated with, especially Mandarin.

Setting plays a huge, awesome role in Like Mandarin. What made you choose Wyoming?

The Wyoming badlands are in my blood, even though they’re as far as possible from the Southern California suburbs where I was born and raised. My mother grew up in small-town Wyoming, and we used to visit my grandparents there in the summertime. Everything about that setting fascinates me; I’ve felt it as strongly as I’ve ever felt any sense of place.

Did you ever compete in a beauty pageant, or have any friends who did?

Nope. I think I was first intrigued by pageants after reading The Baby-Sitters Club #15: Little Miss Stoneybrook… and Dawn as a kid (no, seriously!) and I’m sure my twin sister and I threw together a couple pretend pageants. But I never participated in a real one, nor did my friends. They weren’t really on the radar where I grew up. I do vividly remember JonBenet Ramsey’s murder, and seeing her woman-child face on the cover of every magazine in the supermarket was both fascinating and repellant – which I think describes child beauty pageants well.

Mandarin does some pretty crazy things in the book. What’s the nuttiest thing you ever did in high school?

Every night of the Ventura County Fair, they’d set off fireworks over the beach beside the fairgrounds. The summer before junior year of high school, a friend and I stripped to our underwear and drove into the freezing ocean. There was nobody around, but it was one of those epic, unforgettable teenage moments, where we felt like we were in a movie, with our wet skin changing colors under the lights. It really was cold though.

Like Mandarin has such a lovely, classic feel to it—which books/authors inspired you?

Thank you! I didn’t read much YA the first time I wrote Like Mandarin (version 1.0) about four years ago, though I’ve more than made up for it in since. My favorite books are a total hodgepodge, though they tend to be literary, and in most cases I cry at least once. So, from LM’s early days: Watership Down by Richard Adams, Atonement by Ian McEwan, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, everything by Louis Sachar and Roald Dahl.

If you had run away from home in high school, which five personal items would have been in your backpack? (besides clothes)

I graduated from high school in 2001. It doesn't seem like that long ago, and yet, I didn’t have a laptop, cell phone or digital camera back then, which are the first things I’d bring now! So, realistically...

1) Watership Down (my favorite book in high school)

2) A big, fat hardcover sketch journal and pens

3) my gray-blue Jansport backpack with the leopard-print fabric I sewed on the pocket

4) Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins (a tossup between that and Siamese Dream, but Mellon Collie was a 2-disc set!)

5) my stuffed lamb, for sentimental reasons

Do you have any advice for YA writers attempting to get published?

My two favorite pieces of advice are:

Give readers what they want, not what they expect. In other words, never stop surprising them – in a good way. Satisfy them – unexpectedly. Don’t be predictable – but don’t alienate your readers, either. Give them the ending they want – even when they had no idea they wanted it.

Write that next book. Too often writers cling to their first project, revising it so much they aren’t seeing it anymore, waiting while they endure the query-go-round instead of writing. The best remedy for rejection, the best time warp for long waits, the best thing ever, period, is getting excited about a new project.

Which YA Highway member do you love the most? HA—KIDDING! How about: must-have writing snack food?


My two standbys are Tazo chai tea, and Trident Tropical Twist gum. Neither one’s really a snack, though. I eat a whole lot of Peanut Butter Puffins. And those light Laughing Cow cheese triangles. Not together. Though maybe I’m missing out?

(Debra's note: Mmmmm, Peanut Butter Puffins! But where is the chocolate???)

Thanks so much for the interview, Kirsten!

Now, want to win my ARC of Like Mandarin? (Pssst: you do, you do, you TOTALLY do). All you have to do is leave a comment, telling us the nuttiest thing YOU ever did in high school. Entries close Monday at noon, PST.

And if you don’t win? Don’t worry. Check out Like Mandarin at Goodreads, then order your copy at Amazon or Indiebound, just in time for its March release!

Cover Love!

It's time for more cover love!
Let's start with something wicked...

(From left to right: US, German, Spanish)
What I like about all three covers is that they use shades of purple. My favorite is the US version. The flower and the way it's frozen is simply gorgeous!

(French, Indonesian)
I don't like those covers. I just don't think the French cover reflects the plot of Wicked Lovely. Somehow it reminds me a bit of the cover of UGLY by Scott Westerfeld. The Indonesian cover looks too young.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

(US, Dutch, Catalan)
I love the font and its color and the mysterious atmosphere of the US cover. I don't think the Dutch and Catalan covers can keep up with the US original. The Catalan cover in particular is too dull. The dark yellow of the title just doesn't do it.

(German, Bulgarian, French)
I like the German cover, especially the green of the girl's eyes and of the title. But I must admit that when I first saw it on the shelf in my local bookshop I thought it was a werewolf book because I mistook the raven for a little wolf. I'm meh about the French and Bulgarian cover, not sure I would have picked up the book with one of those covers.
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

(US, Turkish, German, Bulgarian)
The US cover is gorgeous. I mean, come on, I'm a girl so I can't resist a nice chest! That's why I'm a bit sad that the Turkish cover shows the back of the guy. I wonder why they did it...maybe a naked chest is considered too revealing in Turkey?
Usually, I'm a fan of German covers, but this time: not so much. The cover looks like it belongs to a Middle Grade fantasy book. Don't misunderstand me. I like Middle Grade fantasy books, but the fact remains that City of Bones isn't a Middle Grade fantasy book.
I must admit that I kind of like the Bulgarian cover.

(Polish, Czech)
Not very fond of the Polish cover. Looks uninspired and the guy looks too young. But it's nothing, absolutely nothing in comparison to the Czech cover.
Okay, seriously, Czech pub what happened here? I mean that guy on the cover looks like he's wearing a wig. And what the heck is that thingy in the front? The cover reminds me of a really bad c-movie poster for an even worse horror shocker.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Interview with GotYA Girl and Debut YA Author Debra Driza

First off, the winner of the ARC of Cindy Pon's FURY OF THE PHOENIX is *drumroll* Kathryn Packer Roberts! Please email Deb at - houndrat (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Debra Driza, my fellow GotYA girl and agent sister, recently snagged a three-book deal from Katherine Tegen/Harper Collins after writing sample scenes based off of a proposal. It was both my honor and pleasure to have the opportunity to interview Debra on her debut series and the road to a unique and awesome achievement.

What was the first thing out of your mouth when you found out you were going to be published?

Um…would you believe “EGADS, I’m quite excited! I shall run and tell my husband now!”? No? Yeah, me either. I don’t remember exactly, but it was probably more alone the lines of “Holy FREAKING CRAP!” followed up by a phone call to hubs “OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!”

Your book deal happened a little backwards. Not everyone gets the incredible opportunity to write a novel after they already know it will be published. Can you talk a little about how you got signed on?

Sure! A couple months after letting her I know I was interested, HC Editor Claudia Gabel contacted me with a proposal for a YA series and asked if I’d be interested in writing sample scenes. After reading the proposal and really, really loving it, I agreed. In essence, I was “trying out” for the role of writer. Wow, that sounds really weird when you say it out loud.
Anyway, Claudia ended up loving my scenes, and after getting approval, offered me the opportunity to write the books.

According to your PM announcement, your deal is for a YA scifi-thriller. Were you ever planning on writing something in that genre before this opportunity came along?

You know, I never thought of myself as a sci-fi writer before, so my gut reaction was to say “heck no!” But after pondering this question a bit, I realized that some of my writing already has sci-fi-esque elements. And I could definitely have seen myself writing a thriller.
Honestly, the one genre of YA that would probably have made me break out in hives? Historical. (And I graduated with a BA in History—go figure).

How does it feel toiling away on a project that already has a pre-made plot? Does it still feel like your own?

So glad you asked this question! I wondered about that when I first agreed to write the scenes—would it be weird, writing based on someone else’s premise? It’s crazy, though. Once I started writing, it felt my own story, just as much as something that totally originated from me. And the characters, well—they totally feel like my babies. You have to realize, I only got about two lines per each one in the proposal—the rest was up to me. I actually think it was my take on the main character that helped me get the offer.
The way I see it? I’m getting paid to have an amazing editor walk me through the process of writing an amazing story. How the heck can you beat that?

Now that you have general release period, does having a deadline make you feel pressured?

No, not really. I’m one of those people who does better under pressure. When I have no deadlines, I sometimes tend to, um, goof around a bit more than I should. (cough, Twitter, cough cough) So deadlines are my friend. Also, I tend to first draft pretty quickly, so that probably helps alleviate pressure. (Hopefully I didn’t just curse myself by saying I first draft quickly. I totally did, didn’t I? EEEEK!)

Can you tell us when more information, such as a synopsis of the book, will be released?

Probably late summer/early fall—YAYYYYYYYYYY!

Name some YA writers that inspire you, and why.

Courtney Summers, for her no-holds-barred voice and ability to make me empathize with even the most flawed characters.
John Green, because, well, he’s John Green! So freaking funny---and so real online.
Jandy Nelson---for writing a book that melded both Amazing Voice and Amazing Prose and for showing me, yes, you can have humor and deep emotional stakes, all in one book.
On a more personal level, I’m pretty much inspired on a daily basis by all the YA writers out there, for keeping at it and not giving up. There’s such a positive energy in being surrounded by that kind of determination, it’s unreal. And those of you I critique and beta with, the ones who keep growing as writers and push me to do the same, who give a never-ending supply of cheers and hugs? YOU are beyond inspiring.

Can you tell us a bit about the kind of kid you were back in high school?

You know, that’s such a tough one to answer, since I feel like I went through so many changes in high school. I went through a random shy spell freshman year and tried to cover it up (yes, me—SHY—I know, right?), which I think probably came across as snobbery to some. I was always a good student, so a few people probably pegged me as a nerd (though at my school, academic achievement was a positive thing). I was a swimmer for 12 years, so maybe others thought of me as a jock. Overall, though, I think the word that best describes me back then is GOOFY (shocking, right?)—especially around those people who really knew me. I don’t feel like I really became comfortable in my own skin—or owned my inner-random in public—until senior year.

What was your favorite childhood snack?

Oh, boy…will my kids read this? Because I was a TOTAL sugaraholic as a kid. Horrible. I’d probably have to go with those pink and white iced animal cookies, or Grandma’s Vanilla Sandwich Cookies. I was seriously the kid at school who gave away all her healthy food at lunch, and then went and bought extra crap from the snack bar. (Sorry, Mom---*waves*)

Thanks so much, Debra! And for our readers, Debra's first book in her scifi-thriller trilogy will be released late 2012. Check back here for future updates, as well as Debra's website:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Interview with Cindy Pon and Fury of the Phoenix ARC Giveaway!

At ALA this year, I was lucky enough to grab an ARC written by one of my favorite writerly-type people: Cindy Pon. Fury of the Phoenix is the AWESOME sequel to Cindy’s critically acclaimed debut novel, Silver Phoenix, and guess what? I’m giving it away so I can share its awesomeness with you! Not only that, but Cindy generously agreed to throw in a paperback copy of Silver Phoenix! Details on how to win are at the end of this post, but first, please read my interview with Cindy, who is honestly one of the most upbeat and inspirational Young Adult writers I’ve ever met. When you’re around Cindy—whether in person or online—you can’t help but smile.

Here’s the Fury of the Phoenix blurb:

Cindy Pon’s debut novel Silver Phoenix was called “fluid and exhilarating” in a starred review from Booklist, and Meg Cabot called it “an addictive gem.” In this companion novel, seventeen-year-old Ai Ling—her powers stronger than ever—stows away aboard a cargo ship in order to protect devastatingly handsome Chen Yong during his quest to locate his father. Masquerading as brother and sister, Ai Ling and Chen Yong face demonic predators on the ocean voyage, but their biggest threat comes from the kingdom of the dead. Part supernatural page-turner, part love story, and altogether stirring, Fury of the Phoenix further heralds the arrival of Cindy Pon as a stellar author of paranormal romance and fantasy.

Doesn’t that sound amazing? Trust me: it is!

Now for the interview:

Can you tell us how writing a sequel is different than writing a first novel? Is it easier, more challenging, just different?

Honestly, writing Fury was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I'm not quite sure how I did it or how I survived it. hah! Not only is there the challenge of working under deadline, there is the added stress of meeting expectations. What if you suffer the sequel slump and your second novel is horrible? My initial drafts were difficult to send to my editor--Silver Phoenix was so much more polished as I worked on it for two years versus four months. But in the end, with my editor's guidance, I was able to write a sequel I'm very proud of.

Which character in your books resembles you the most, if any? Do you inject personality traits of people you know in real life into your characters, or are do they all just kind of come to you organically?

Ai Ling is like me in that she enjoys a good meal and she is a brush artist. This really allowed me to paint the world from her view through my own eyes. Li Rong is my male alter ego. =)

I love how you take one of the villains from Silver Phoenix and really unravel his story in Fury. Did you plan this while writing Phoenix?

I love Zhong Ye's storyline and I really enjoyed writing from his point of view--it was the first time I did with a male narrator, and I found him a lot easier to understand and write than I did Ai Ling for Fury. And no, I didn't plan it while writing my debut. Silver Phoenix was meant to stand alone, so I didn't go on sub assuming editors would buy a sequel. I'm so glad mine did, however.

How would you describe the main differences between Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix?

I would say that Silver Phoenix was a very epic journey, and this one is much more personal. The conflicts are mainly internal.

Is writing romance something you particularly enjoy?

Are you saying my books are romantic? haha! I don't think it's a strong suit. I really had to work on my sexual tension and romance in Fury with much prodding on my editor's part. But in the end, I did enjoy it quite a lot. I would find it very challenging to write actual love scenes though.

Now for the random!

What’s the origin of what has to be your favorite expression: BOOTAY SHAKE!?

I have no idea! I just thought it was a fun and funny way to express my encouragement. My own bootay ain't all that. ha!

Your novels make it pretty obvious that you’re a foodie. What’s your favorite restaurant in San Diego? Your favorite dish?

Oh. Really tough. Depends on my mood. But I always love the taiwanese places like Tea Station and also am a huge fan of Extraordinary Desserts. I love mapo tofu. My mother's recipe is in the Silver Phoenix paperback under extras!

One of the things I really admire about you is the way you manage to stay upbeat and positive, no matter what happens. Can you let us in on your secret?

I know you've seen me sad, angsty and emo. haha! But really, this business is SO tough and you need to have a thick skin and be able to roll with it. Also to allow yourself sadness, frustration, disappointment, and then be able to make yourself move on. Lingering in a negative place never helps in your own endeavors. So I guess that's what I try to do!

How excited are you to be doing a picture book using your own Chinese brush paintings?

I am very excited! And also very scared. haha! I know if anyone can help mentor me, it'll be my editor, Virginia.

Favorite writing snack:

Tough. But I always do like to have an espresso drink of some kind or a chai latte on hand.

Thanks so much for having me, debra!! /bootay shake!

And thank you, Cindy—we love you here! =D

Now, for the ARC contest. We know Cindy’s favorite expression is bootay shake—what’s yours? Leave it in the comment section for a chance to win the Fury of the Phoenix ARC AND a paperback copy of Silver Phoenix (with recipes? YUM!) Entries close on Monday, February 21st at noon PST. Also--follow our blog if you don't already--you MUST be a blog follower to win! The winner will be chosen by either random number generator or my son…because I am also random.

GOOD LUCK, and check back in soon for an ARC Giveaway of Kirsten Hubbard's Like Mandarin!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cover Love!

Yes, that's right. More cover love!!!

I've read and loved all of the books I'm showing you today.
So let's get started with Evernight by Claudia Gray. The first in a series. The fourth book 'Afterlife' will be published this March.
And here are the covers:

(Left to right: US, German, Spanish, French)
I have the US cover on my shelf. I'm not a huge fan of red, so I'm not so sure about it, but I really love the font. It's intricate and just gorgeous. I prefer the color scheme of the German cover, though I can't say that I love it. The cover I like least is the French, though the blood running from the girl's lips is nicely creepy!
Favorite cover: Hm... don't really have one.
Next: The Agency- A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee. A wonderful Victorian murder mystery with a kickass heroine.

(left to right: US, UK, German, French)
I have the UK cover but I wish I had the German version. It's elegant and just beautiful. I also like the US cover, though it can't top the German. The French? I don't think it shows that the book is a historical mystery. Just looking at the cover it could be anything.
Favorite cover: German

I've showed you the UK, US, German and Hungarian cover of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, but I discovered so many beautiful versions of this book that I simply had to feature it in another cover love post. Here it is:

(Left to right: Dutch, Italian, Lithuanian, Estonian)
I love all of the above. You simply can't walk past the Italian cover. It's eyecatching and shows that Thirteen Reasons Why might deal with some serious topics. The Dutch cover conveys a certain sense of sadness and forlornness. Beautiful! The Estonian and Lithuanian can't quite keep up with the other two, but I like them.
Favorite cover: Dutch

Now three slightly...extravagant versions of Thirteen Reasons Why:

(Polish, Korean, Czech)
Well...they're not my cup of tea. The Korean version looks like it might be about fashion and the Polish reminds me maybe MG action with a boy protagonist. Not sure.
And the Czech cover? Umm...what the heck happened there?
So tell me what are your favorites? Oh and I'm open for suggestions: Are there any books you'd like to see in the next cover love posts?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Where does censorship begin?

censorship |ˈsensərˌ sh ip|noun
the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts
from the Merriam-Webster dictionary

I was watching American Idol with a friend the other night, something I'd never really watched until this year, and we got into the discussion about how many people didn't win, but went on to have better careers than the winners. This led to a comment from my friend, "When that guy came out of the closet, it hurt his career." To which I replied, "It shouldn't matter what the sexual preference is, it's about performance." This led to a few more comments to which I replied, "You're homophobic." She countered, "No, I'm just prejudiced."

Now, I have to give her credit for realizing what she is and admitting to it. I don't have to agree with her beliefs and she doesn't have to agree with mine, but the topic changed and she made the statement, "I wouldn't want a Muslim or homosexual teaching my kids." To which I replied, "What if the teacher worships the fairies in the backyard?" "Not them either." Whoa. Really? There are people who actually feel this way? Unfortunately, I was a coward and didn't ask this Bible-belt Christian how she would feel about a Jew teaching her children. I just didn't want to find out.

This discussion led to a discussion among a group of friends about "sensitive" subjects in books. I got railed about having the "token homosexual" characters to sell books. First of all, they aren't token characters, it's who they are. Am I happy that the guy I had picked out in my wip to be the LI is more than likely gay? No, I was half in love with him myself. But I found a better LI for her in the long run.

So this discussion, which began very benignly over American Idol winners eventually morphed into a discussion about "questionable books". Some of these women said they wouldn't let their teens read certain books with openly gay characters or other things that they disagree with AND would ask the library to remove them, thereby, pushing their views on others. After reading Deb's post about the Bitch Media list, I was reminded of this conversation. This is one of the places where censorship begins.

Where will it end?

Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. ~Alfred Whitney Griswold, New York Times, 24 February 1959

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cover Love!

The GotYA decided to make the Cover Love post a monthly feature (YAY). So here I am again!
There are so many amazing and sometimes strange covers; they deserve more attention!

First up are the covers of Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Uglies describes a future world in which a compulsory operation at sixteen wipes out physical differences and makes everyone pretty by conforming to an ideal standard of beauty.

(From left to right: UK(?),US, Indonesian)
(From left to right: Thai, Portuguese, German)
I think the German, UK and Indonesian covers reflect the plot of Uglies best. The US cover with the girl behind the leaves could have been for The Hunger Games as well. It doesn't exactly give a hint about the plot. I like if the cover reflects the book somehow.
The Thai cover? Not exactly sure what it shows. I don't think that it would appeal to teens, but maybe I'm wrong?
My favorite cover: Indonesian.
Next: The covers of The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson.
Set in a near future America, the book takes readers on an unforgettable journey through questions of bio-medical ethics and the nature of humanity.

(from left to right: US hardcover, paperback, UK, French)
If you've read the book you know that the butterfly is mentioned throughout the book (it's too spoilery to say why), so it makes sense to have it on the cover. That's why I really like the US hardcover with the butterfly on the girl's hand, but I'm not really fond of the French cover. It's a bit boring in my opinion. I think the paperback version with the puzzle pieces is the one that reflects the book best.
My favorite: US paperback
Next: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan:
(from left to right: US, UK, German, French)
There's one thing all of the above covers have in common: they are deliciously creepy and that reflects the mood of the book perfectly. I have the UK cover on my shelf and I really like it, but I prefer the German cover because it's the creepiest (I loooove creepy!).
Next: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White:

(UK/US, Russian)
I absolutely love the US/UK Paranormalcy cover. The atmosphere of it is mysterious and the dress of the girl is gorgoeus. But that's not the reason why I included Paranormalcy in my post. Maybe you remember my last cover love post and the Bulgarian cover of Hex Hall that I presented in it?
I want to show at least one strange/funny cover in each post and this time my decision fell on the Russian cover of Paranormalcy. As Kiersten mentioned on Twitter when she revealed the Russian version, there is nobody in the book who has pointy ears...So who's that girl? And is it only me or does the man's throat in the front scream "romance" or "erotica"?