Friday, October 17, 2008

13 Questions with Marlene Perez

Marlene Perez is the author of DEAD IS THE NEW BLACK. She lives in Orange County, California, where she's always on the lookout for vampires roaming her sunny suburb. So far, she hasn't spotted any.

1) what's your book about?
DEAD IS THE NEW BLACK is the first book in a trilogy.

2) favorite Halloween candy?
mini mint Three Musketeers bars or those mellocreme pumpkins.

3) favorite spooky novel?
LOST BOY LOST GIRL by Peter Straub creeped me out. But my childhood favorite was WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE by Joan Aiken.

4) fangs or fur?
Fangs. Vamps rule and werewolves drool.

5) Monster Mash, Thriller, or The Time Warp?
It's a tie. I love The Time Warp, but Thriller has Vincent Price doing a voice-over.

6) cape or no cape?
cape. I'm old-school.

7) Bela Lugosi or Gary Oldman?
Gary Oldman! I know Bela Lugosi is the premiere vamp, but Gary Oldman rocked the house as Sid Vicious, Dracula and Sirius Black.

8) Trick or Treat?


9) favorite costume?
Hmm. On me or someone else? My best friend and I (our names both start with M) once dressed up as M&M candies. Not very scary, but fun.

10) favorite scary movie or television show?

TELEVISION SHOW: Buffy, of course

11) what really scares you? (like spiders or the dark or whatever)
Lots of things. I'm a wimp. Spiders, heights, people who don't vote.

12) what’s your favorite way to spend Halloween night?
The people in our neighborhood all hang out together, then a group of parents & kids go trick-or-treating. I stay home and hand out candy. Then after the kids have gorged themselves on chocolate and have crashed, my husband and I watch a movie.

13) what’s the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
When I was growing up, I lived in an old farmhouse that was haunted.

13 Questions with A.M. Jenkins

Bio: A.M. Jenkins likes Halloween best out of all the holidays. It
requires little work, and the payoff is tons of chocolate.

1) what's your book about?
I've got three out right now that deal with the supernatural:

Night Road ("vampires" take a newbie on a road trip).
Repossessed (demon takes over a teenager's body).
Beating Heart (dead girl stalks living guy).

2) favorite Halloween candy?
Right now, Milky Ways.

3) favorite spooky novel?
For spooky, I like true crime. Nothing says scary to me like serial killers.

4) fangs or fur?
Me personally, I'd be a werewolf. But if I had to choose a romantic
partner, I'd choose a vampire just to be on the safe side. I'm not sure
how much body hair werewolves have normally.

5) Monster Mash, Thriller, or The Time Warp?
Werewolves of London!

6) cape or no cape?
No cape, not nowadays. That's just freakin' weird.

7) Bela Lugosi or Gary Oldman?
Louis Jourdan!

8) Trick or Treat?
Treat (see above, #2)

9) favorite costume?
Anything with fake gore. The gorier the better.

10) favorite scary movie or television show?
Scariest movie ever: The Changeling, with George C. Scott.

11) what really scares you? (like spiders or the dark or whatever)
City ordinances about not wearing saggy pants. I lie awake nights,
terrified that my tax dollars are being used to nag somebody about their

12) what’s your favorite way to spend Halloween night?
Handing out stuff that's not candy, like glow-in-the-dark eyeballs,
while I eat the candy I bought to give out.

13) what’s the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
Having to give a keynote dinner speech to 400 sleepy, full-bellied

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

13 Questions with Kristopher Reisz

Find out more about Kristopher Reisz at

what's your book about?
Unleashed is a werewolf love story set in the crumbling, beautiful city of Birmingham. It's got lies, truth, a mushroom god, and as much merry hell as I could fit into 300 pages.

favorite Halloween candy?
Anything shaped like an eyeball.

favorite spooky novel?
I read Nick Mamatas' Move Under Ground earlier this year. It has Jack Kerouac fighting Cthulhu. If the sheer bad-assery of that idea didn't just knock you out of your chair and hurl you into the wall, my heart weeps for you.

4) fangs or fur?
Dainty little blood-sipping fangs or inch-long, bone-crusher, meat-ripper fangs? I've always preferred werewolves over vampires. How anybody can respect a monster that cleans under his fingernails is beyond me.

5) Monster Mash, Thriller, or The Time Warp?
I'll be difficult and pick Werewolves of London.

cape or no cape?
Cape does not allow wearer to fly.

7) Bela Lugosi or Gary Oldman?
Is this a real question? Gary Oldman is a good actor and probably a very nice guy. Bela Lugosi is a legend. It's like comparing apples to Jesus. The Jesus of creepy.

8) Trick or Treat?
Or? Who says there has to be an 'or'?

9) favorite costume?
Once I dressed up like a barrel of toxic waste. That costume got extra points for being environmentally savvy AND having lots of room for candy storage.

10) favorite scary movie or television show?
The Real World

what really scares you? (like spiders or the dark or whatever)
Heights. All my nightmares are about falling. Or different body parts turning into Jell-O. But my answer's still heights.

12) what's your favorite way to spend Halloween night?
Looking out for house-rollers and egg-throwers. Keeping watch over the night makes me feel a little like Batman.

what's the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
Once I was visiting Glasgow, fell down some stairs, and got a concussion. I left the hospital with four stitches in the back of my head and no idea where I was. I spent the night trying to find my hotel, but I kept blacking out, then realizing I'd walked God-knows-how-many blocks without remembering.

I wound up at a police station, but don't know how. The police dropped me back off at the hospital, who just sent me out again. It was a long, ugly n

13 Questions with Cynthia Leitich Smith

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the author of the YA Gothic fantasy novel
Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) and "Haunted Love," which appears in
Immortal: Love Stories with Bite, edited by P.C. Cast (BenBella,
2008)(exclusive to Borders/Waldenbooks).

1) what's your book about?
Tantalize is the story of Quincie P. Morris, who's trying to help save
her family's Italian restaurant by launching it with a vampire theme.
But just before the debut party, the chef is brutally murdered, and the
question lingers--is the murderer a vampire in wolf form or the hybrid
werewolf who's also Quincie's first love and best friend. Tantalize is
the first of three companion books, including Eternal (Candlewick, 2009)
and Blessed (Candlewick, TBA) in an overarching storyline, all from
Candlewick Press. Here's also a graphic novel adaptation in the works.

2) favorite Halloween candy?
Mini Snickers.

3) favorite spooky novel?
Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause.

4) fangs or fur?


5) Monster Mash, Thriller, or The Time Warp?

6) cape or no cape?

7) Bela Lugosi or Gary Oldman?
George Hamilton.

8) Trick or Treat?

9) favorite costume?

10) favorite scary movie or television show?
Classic: "The Lost Boys" (1987)
Contemporary: "The Faculty" (1998)

11) what really scares you? (like spiders or the dark or whatever)
Heights, germs, enclosed spaces, children under 3, lettuce.

12) what’s your favorite way to spend Halloween night?
Watching spooky movies with my very cute husband--having already had a
party for my pals the weekend before.

13) what’s the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
Farrah hair.

Monday, October 13, 2008

13 Questions with Annette Curtis Klause


Annette Curtis Klause was born in England and came to the U.S. as a teenager bringing her warped imagination with her. She has published four novels and several short stories in an attempt to rid herself of her demons. Apparently it's not working, so she'll just have to keep on writing.

Web Site:

1) what's your book about?
I'm working on two novels right now, but none are close enough to print for me to talk about--but be prepared for more weird romance and some very strange sisters. I do have a short story in an anthology coming out from Candlewick next year. The collection is called Sideshow: Ten Original Tales of Freaks, Illusionists, and Other Matters Odd and Magical. My story is "The Mummy's Daughter". and if you have read my book Freaks, Alive, on the Inside! you'll guess who she's related to.

2) favorite Halloween candy?
Skull Pops

3) favorite spooky novel?

Ghost Story by Peter Straub or Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand. I'd say anything by H.P. Lovecraft, except he wrote short stories mostly.

4) fangs or fur?

5) Monster Mash, Thriller, or The Time Warp?
Time Warp

6) cape or no cape?
It depends what's under it.

7) Bela Lugosi or Gary Oldman?
Geez--how can a girl choose?

8) Trick or Treat?

9) favorite costume?

My Bat Fairy costume I made from an old pink bridesmaid dress and lots of black felt.

10) favorite scary movie or television show?
Suspiria directed by Dario Argento and released in 1977.

A newcomer to a fancy ballet academy gradually comes to realize that the staff of the school are actually a coven of witches bent on chaos and destruction
It's totally surreal and visually disorienting with some great shocks. The psychedelic soundtrack is amazing and the incredibly tacky wallpaper in the spooky old school is one of the scariest parts of the movie. LOL

11) what really scares you? (like spiders or the dark or whatever)

Wow! So much scares me. I am a total coward. That's why I write books, so I can be vicariously brave. I think what scares me the most right now is a certain candidate for Vice President. Spiders I'm cool with, though.

12) what’s your favorite way to spend Halloween night?

Well, if I can't go to a rip roaring costume party with a loud punk band, then I like to be dressed as a ghoul, standing by my front door, next to the Victorian Child's coffin I bought on eBay, holding a witches cauldron full of candy in my arms, a skeletal hand emerging from the pot. I whip open the the front door growling as soon as someone knocks and I count how many children fall backwards off my steps. Yah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

13) what’s the scariest thing that ever happened to you?

In college, one of my overly-trusting house mates made friends with a guy who turned out to be nuts. We didn't want him visiting the house because he was creepy and violent. I remember one night after he had taken irrational offense at something someone at the house had said. He came to the house and stood on the street outside, screaming that he was going to kill us. We didn't know if he had a weapon or not, so we locked the doors and crouched by the windows peering out, hoping he wouldn't find a way in. He wouldn't leave and kept on screaming threats and finally someone called the police. It was like being in a mad slasher movie.

13 Questions with Kimberly Pauley

Kimberly Pauley loves a good book you can sink your teeth into. She majored in English at the University of Florida and took as many classes in adolescent fiction (and science fiction) as she could find. As her alter-ego, the Young Adult Books Goddess of YA Books Central (, she has been reading and reviewing books since 1998 and meeting tons of great authors. Sucks to Be Me is her first novel, though she has published various poems and short stories over the years that she will even periodically admit to. She now lives in Illinois outside of Chicago with a husband who loves her even though he hasn’t read a young adult book since he was about twelve and can’t quite comprehend what the whole fuss is about, a brand-new baby boy already completely surrounded by children’s books, and a devious cat who looks a lot like a tub of lard.

Website Address:

1) what's your book about?

Mina is a high school junior who has a pretty normal life, other than that her parents are vampires. When the local vampire Council discovers her existence, they give her a month to decide whether or not she wants to be one too. And they make her take vampire lessons to help her in her decision. Add in normal teenage girl stuff like drama over boys and stress over prom, and you've got Mina in the middle of a crisis. What's a girl to do, when blood is the last thing on her mind?

2) favorite Halloween candy?

Those really horrible peanut-buttery-ish (and I say "ish" 'cause they really aren't all that peanut buttery) candies in orange or black wrappers. Do they still make those?

3) favorite spooky novel?

Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Hands down. Love it.

4) fangs or fur?


5) Monster Mash, Thriller, or The Time Warp?

The Time Warp, definitely. I actually own the soundtrack...and the movie.

6) cape or no cape? cape...Didn't you see The Incredibles? Capes can kill you.

7) Bela Lugosi or Gary Oldman?

Bela Lugosi.

8) Trick or Treat?

Treat, definitely (I have a total sweet tooth)

9) favorite costume?

I have this kind of combo vampire / devil costume that I've worn at Halloween a couple of times (I got the horns at a Renaissance Festival). I have a picture of myself in it, but I was about 4 1/2 or 5 months pregnant at the time, so I am SOOOOOO not going to show that one to anyone.

10) favorite scary movie or television show?

Scary? Um...I'm not a big scary movie / tv show person, really. But I guess I could say Clive Barker's Hellraiser, but ONLY because a) I love Clive Barker because he is awesome (I interviewed him once and he's just so cool) and b) the movie is partly responsible for me meeting my husband Tony.

11) what really scares you? (like spiders or the dark or whatever)

Stupid people.

12) what’s your favorite way to spend Halloween night?

Passing out candy.

13) what’s the scariest thing that ever happened to you?

When I was about 13 or 14, I thought I saw a ghost in the middle of the woods at night (of course, you might be asking 'what the heck were you doing out in the middle of the woods at night??' and you'd have a very good question there).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Teen Read Week Books with Bite

Celebrate Teen Read Week at the YA Authors Cafe

Our guests will be:

Monday, October 13- Kimberly Pauley, author of SUCKS TO BE ME
Tuesday, October 14-Annette Curtis Klause, author of BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE and FREAKS
Wednesday, October 15-Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of TANTALIZE
Thursday, October 16, Kristopher Reisz, author of UNLEASHED
Friday, October 17, A.M. Jenkins, author of NIGHT ROAD
Saturday, October 18, Marlene Perez, author of DEAD IS THE NEW BLACK

Monday, September 1, 2008

DEAD IS THE NEW BLACK by Marlene Perez

It's here! It's here!
The first installment of Marlene Perez's hilarious and mysterious new trilogy debuts today! See what readers and reviewers are saying . . .

Teri Lesesne, YA goddess librarian says:
"Humor, romance, and the undead: a perfect combination of elements . . . "

The Hip Librarian's Book Blog:
"Strong female characters abound . . . "

Enchanting Reviews:
"If you're looking for a fun paranormal series, this is the one."

AND, it's a Seventeen Magazine Summer Buzz Book!
". . . a supernatural mystery featuring a new batch of characters that walk that Twilight fine line between hot and, well, undead."

And now, what do YOU say? Open up your coffins! Throw some confetti! Show off your fangs for Marlene! DEAD IS SO . . . worth it!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Alive and Well in Prague, New York by Daphne Grab

Matisse Osgood is a New York City girl through and through. She buys her clothes at Andy's Cheapies, watches indie films at the Angelika, and wouldn't be caught dead on a hayride. But when her father gets sick and Matisse's parents decide to leave Manhattan for a small town in upstate New York, her perfect world crumbles. As Matisse trudges through life in Prague, she dreams of waking up in her apartment on West 78th Street with a father who's well enough to walk with her in Central Park and a mother who doesn't pretend that everything is okay. When rumors surround Matisse at school and her father's symptoms worsen, Matisse realizes that the friends she's making in Prague are the kind you can count on. They help Matisse find the strength to reach out to her father, who may not be as far from her as she thought. And one particular farm boy shows Matisse that country living is a lot more magical than she ever imagined.

Daphne Grab grew up in upstate New York, so she knows whereof she writes! She holds a MFA in creative writing and is a member of the Longstockings group. We're delighted Daphne has dropped by the Cafe this week.

Melissa W: Tell us about your newest book

Daphne: ALIVE AND WELL IN PRAGUE, NEW YORK is about a girl whose dad has Parkinson’s Disease. The family is in denial as his symptoms are worsening and they’ve just moved from NYC to a small town so Matisse is taking on a whole new social scene in addition to trying to come to terms with her dad’s illness. There are boys and evil cheerleaders involved as well.

Melissa W: What is your favorite line, passage, chapter from this book?

Daphne: Ironically my favorite scene had to be cut from the book. It was when I was in my last round of edits and my lovely editor Jill Santopolo pointed out that I had too many flashbacks in the first two chapters. This scene was the one that was the easiest to cut and I knew it was the right thing to do, even though it was painful to press delete. But I was unable to let it go completely and it’s posted on my website. You can read it here.

Melissa W: Argh! The proverbial killing of the darlings! I feel for you. What are you working on now?

Daphne: My second book will be out spring 2010 and it’s about Louis, a 12 year old boy who is a bit of a misfit in school and a huge football fan. At the start of the story he learns that the baby his mom gave up for adoption 21 years ago is the best college football player in the country and he wants to come meet his biological family. The story is all the ways Louis’s life changes and he grows as his brother enters his life, and it includes bullies, girls and some pretty tough choices. My editor and I are just getting started working on it together so that is exciting (and a lot of work!).

Melissa W: What's on your nightstand right now?

Daphne: TOP 8 by Kate Finn. I was lucky enough to get an ARC and it is so good!

Melissa W: What were you like as a teen?

Daphne: Pretty insecure. I was obsessed with staying part of the cool crowd at my high school and spent way more time than I should have worrying about what people thought of me. It was really fun to write Matisse because she is so confident and could care less how people judge her.

Thanks so much for having me at the café!

Melissa W: Our pleasure!

~~~Cafe Note~~ As a regular part of our interviews, featured authors will pop back in for one week after their interview is posted to answer any other questions blog readers may leave for them. So if you have any questions or comments for Daphne, send them now! She'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott

Dani has been trained as a thief by the best--her mother. Together, they move from town to town, targeting wealthy homes and making a living by stealing antique silver. They never stay in one place long enough to make real connections, real friends--a real life
In the beach town of Heaven, though, everything changes. For the first time, Dani starts to feel at home. She's making friends and has even met a guy. But these people can never know the real Dani--because of who she is. When it turns out that her new friend lives in the house they've targeted for their next job and the cute guy is a cop, Dani must question where her loyalties lie: with the life she's always known--or the one she's always wanted.

Elizabeth Scott is the author of such popular and acclaimed books as Bloom and Perfect You and coming this fall, Living Dead Girl. As you can see, she's a busy girl and we're happy she took a moment to join us at the Cafe!

Melissa W: Tell us about your newest book, and what was your inspiration for this story?

Elizabeth: Stealing Heaven is about a girl named Danielle, who travels around the country with her mother, robbing houses. They focus on stealing antique silver. (For real!) But when they travel to a small coastal town, Danielle starts to really question what she and her mother do, and tries to decide what kind of life she wants.I got the idea for the story because I wanted to write a book about a mother/daughter thief team, and I wanted the daughter to *not* want to be a thief. The only problem was, what could they steal? I didn't want them robbing banks or anything like that, and after reading an article about someone who'd tried to steal antique silver, I thought "huh." It was just such an unusual thing to steal, and the more I thought about it, the more it felt like it was the right thing for my two thieves to chase after.

Melissa W: Do you remember writing the first words? Are they still the same?

Elizabeth: I do, and they are! (A rare thing, that!)

Melissa W: It sure is! What kind of research did you have to do for this story?

Elizabeth: I did a lot of research--I read about antique silver, of course, but I also read about thieves, and lock-picking, disabling alarm systems (they really have books about that), police work--all kinds of stuff, really.

Melissa W: So if you ever need a part time job, you'll have something to fall back on! What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Elizabeth: Revising. I have to do a lot of it, and there are times when I'm rewriting a story for the third (or fourth. or fifth.) time when I start to get pretty tired of it. It's one of the many reasons why I don't read anything I've written once it's published.

Melissa W: I'm with you on the revising! How did you become a writer?

Elizabeth: Totally by accident! I was 27, bored out of my mind at work, and decided to try writing a short story. I ended up finding a bunch of people who were willing to read it, and were very supportive, and from there I just kept going.

Melissa W: If you could be anything else besides a writer, what would it be?

Elizabeth: If I could get paid to read books, I would do that in a second. Half a second, even!

Melissa W: What were you like as a teen?

Elizabeth: Completely and utterly average!

Melissa W: Well, you are far from an average writer. Thanks so much for visiting the Cafe this week!

~~~Cafe Note~~ As a regular part of our interviews, featured authors will pop back in for one week after their interview is posted to answer any other questions blog readers may leave for them. So if you have any questions or comments for Jennifer, send them now! She'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith

When Ryan Walsh cuts class to visit Wrigley Field on the fifth anniversary of her father's death, she meets Nick, the new kid from her school, who seems to love the Cubs nearly as much as she does. But Nick carries with him a secret that makes Ryan wonder if anyone can ever really escape their past, or believe in the promise of those reassuring words: "Wait till next year." Is it too much for Ryan to hope that this year, this season, might be her comeback season?

Join us in congratulating Jennifer E. Smith on the publication of her warm and poignant debut novel.

Melissa W.: Tell us about your newest book.

Jennifer: It’s a love story about two kids who meet at a Cubs game, and the way they teach each other to hope, even when the odds are against them.

Melissa W.: Do you remember writing the first words? Are they still the same?

Jennifer: Yes, actually the whole first chapter is almost exactly the same. I’d been watching the Cubs lose for what seemed like the millionth time, and when I turned off the game, the movie Fever Pitch happened to be on another channel. I have nothing against the Red Sox, but I remember thinking that the Cubs have just as many curses and an even longer losing streak, and that their fans have done their fair share of suffering too. I went straight to my computer without knowing what I was going to write, but almost as soon as I sat down, the character of Ryan just kind of appeared in my head, sitting there on the train on her way to Wrigley Field, the way she does at the opening of the book. It only took me about an hour to write the first chapter, and it’s hardly changed at all. It was one of those really rare and lucky moments, when something comes so naturally that it almost seems like you’ve been carrying the story around forever, without even knowing it.

Melissa W.: It's a great feeling when that happens. What kind of research did you have to do for this story?

Jennifer: I’ve been to a lot of Cubs games over the years. It was a very tedious research process!

Melissa W.: What was your inspiration for this story?

Jennifer: It’s a story about hope, but it’s also about loss. A lot of people can’t bear to read sad stories, but I’ve always been really drawn to them, because they move you in a way that makes them really meaningful. My favorite books growing up were always the ones with a lot of heart, books like Where the Red Fern Grows and Bridge to Terabithia – the kinds of stories where you really feel like you’ve really been through something by the time you reach the end. Those are the ones that have stayed with me through the years, and I think there’s something to be said for that. So I guess I took inspiration from a lot of different places, but mostly I just wanted to write the kind of book I’d like to read.

Melissa W.: What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Jennifer: Finding the time to do it. I work in publishing too, so I spend a lot of time focusing on other people’s books. It’s something I love to do, but both writing and editing take a lot of creative energy, so it’s sometimes hard to balance the two. Overall, I think it’s a good thing – I think I’ve become a better writer because of the time I’ve spent editing books, and a better editor for being a writer. But it would be helpful if there were more hours in a day to do both!

Melissa W.: If you can work on that more hours thing, I know plenty of writers who would be grateful! What are you working on now?

Jennifer: Another YA novel called You Are Here, about a boy and a girl who come from different backgrounds and seem like opposites, but who get thrown together on a sort of haphazard road trip, and find out they’re more similar than they thought. It’ll be out from Simon & Schuster in Summer 2009.

Melissa W.: Sounds fantastic! I love a road trip story. What’s on your nightstand right now?

Jennifer: War and Peace (partly as decoration, partly as wishful thinking), Love in the Time of Cholera, Alice in Wonderland, and a somewhat chewed up copy of Beagles for Dummies (I have a three month old puppy who likes to eat books almost as much as I like to read them).

Melissa W.: Congratulations on your first novel, Jennifer and good luck with that puppy!

~~~Cafe Note~~ As a regular part of our interviews, featured authors will pop back in for one week after their interview is posted to answer any other questions blog readers may leave for them. So if you have any questions or comments for Jennifer, send them now! She'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Something to Blog About by Shana Norris

Shana Norris is the author of SOMETHING TO BLOG ABOUT, which is about a fifteen-year-old girl, Libby, who starts a secret blog after she burns half her hair off thanks to a run-in with a Bunsen burner. She starts writing about her secrets and her friends' secrets, but then she gets into a bit of trouble when the blog is found out and posted all over her school. Please visit Shana at

Marlene Perez: Do you remember writing the first words? Are they still the same?

Shana Norris: I do remember writing them! I save all of my old drafts, so I still have the very first one I wrote.The first words have changed since then. They used to be "Really, who gets a pimple on the bottom of their earlobe?" This was the first sentence of the very first blog entry I wrote for Libby.

Marlene Perez: What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Shana Norris: I know a lot of writers struggle with the first draft, but the hardest part for me is what comes after: revision. I usually write a first draft really quickly and don't worry too much about timelines or delving too deeply into subplots or consistency in names or personalities. During the first draft, I just want toget the main story down. So that means I have to do A LOT of cleaning up during revisions. I'm usually pulling out my hair while trying to make sense of my messy first draft!

Marlene Perez: What are you working on now?

Shana Norris: Right now, I'm working on my second book, which is a modern day retelling of a story from Greek mythology, set in high school. I don't want to say a lot about it right now since it's not done, but I'm really excited about it!

Marlene Perez: Tell us something about you that no one knows.

Shana Norris: I can recite all 50 United States in alphabetical order in less than 20 seconds. I was a bit odd as a kid and used to come up with things like that to challenge myself!

Marlene Perez: What is your favorite line, passage, or chapter from this book?

Shana Norris: There's a fight scene in the book. I won't spoil it for people who haven't read it yet, but that was my favorite scene to write. It's meant to be funny, so I really enjoyed writing it.

Marlene Perez: Was there any part that you struggled with or avoided writing?

Shana Norris: Developing the character of Seth, the love interest, was the hardest part for me. At first, he was a little too detached and mysterious, so I had to really work at him to make him into someone that Libby would be attracted to.

Marlene Perez:What's on your nightstand right now?

Shana Norris: Right now, I'm about to start on I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME by Lisa Schroeder and THE ASSASSIN KING by Elizabeth Haydon.

Marlene Perez: What are your hobbies?

Shana Norris: I like to knit, sew, and scrapbook. I also dabble a little into photography from time to time.

Marlene Perez: Have you ever wanted to quit writing? Why?

Shana Norris: I have, several times. Before I wrote SOMETHING TO BLOG ABOUT, I wanted to be a fantasy writer. I wrote a huge fantasy trilogy and tried to get an agent for it. But all of my queries were rejected without any requests for partials or fulls, so I fell into a deep funk and considered giving up trying to be published all together. Even after I wrote SOMETHING TO BLOG ABOUT, I had moments of wanting to give up. I remember getting a rejection from an agent for STBA the same day that my dog died and that sent me into a three month period of not querying or writing at all. I think any creative field is a very hard career to get into because your work is so personal and rejections can feel like an attack on you as a person rather than just one person's opinion on this work in particular.

Marlene Perez: If you could be anything else besides a writer, what would it be?

Shana Norris: An archaeologist. I've always loved history and I would love to go around digging up ancient cities!

~~~Cafe Note~~ As a regular part of our interviews, featured authors will pop back in for one week after their interview is posted to answer any other questions blog readers may leave for them. So if you have any questions or comments for Shana, send them now! She'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME by Lisa Schroeder

Lisa Schroeder, a native Oregonian, received her bachelor's degree from Oregon State University. Her debut YA novel with Simon Pulse, I Heart You, You Haunt Me, is a novel-in-verse that gives new meaning to the words "undying love." She is also the author of the picture book Baby Can't Sleep (Sterling, 2005). Lisa, the officialdog-walker of the family, lives with her husband and two sons near Portland, Oregon. Visit her website at for more information about her and her books

Please join me in welcoming Lisa to the Cafe.

MaryP: Tell us about I Heart You, You Haunt Me.

Lisa: It’s a novel-in-verse about a fifteen-year-old girl, Ava, whose boyfriend dies, and comes back to live in her house as a ghost. More than a ghost story, however, I believe it’s a story of love, loss, healing, and hope.

MaryP: Do you remember writing the first words? Are they still the same?

Lisa: I do remember writing the first words, because it was the morning after I had a dream about the characters. The first words initially were of Ava looking at her scribbles on a notebook from school, all of which included the words “Ava” and “Jackson” in one form or another.

That beginning is since gone, although the first words that are there now are ones I did write that first morning. During the revision process, I decided that although it was a sad place to start, starting the story at Jackson’s funeral made the most sense.

MaryP: What is your favorite line, passage, chapter from this book?

Lisa: It’s hard to pick, but one of my favorites is the following:

An excerpt from Beauty Everywhere

“The sun starts to set
and tangerine orange
turns to
cotton candy pink
and I wish
my man
Jackson was here
to give me some
cranberry red love.”

MaryP: What's on your nightstand right now?

Lisa: I received THE POSSIBILITY OF FIREFLIES by Dominque Paul for Christmas, and I’m enjoying that. Plus, being a member of the Class of 2k8 has its advantages, as I am currently reading an ARC of Debbie Reed Fischer’s BRALESS IN WONDERLAND, which is wonderful.

MaryP: What do you do to "unblock" writer's block?

Lisa: For me, writer’s block usually means I don’t have a clear idea of where the story is going. Or it may also be that I’ve chosen to go somewhere that isn’t working, and I need to backtrack and make some changes. I don’t do a detailed outline like some authors do, because so many wonderful things appear when I don’t have everything all planned out, but I do make notes on note cards about characters and plot. So, if I’m stuck, I pull out my notecards, look at what I already have, and write up some more and see if I can figure out what I’m missing to give myself more direction.

MaryP: Do you do other types of writing besides YA?

Lisa: I am one of those writers who likes to write whatever strikes a chord at the moment. My writing runs the full gamut – picture books, mid-grade novels, and YA. I have one picture book published – BABY CAN’T SLEEP, Sterling, 2005, and another one with Sterling under contract. Recently my agent and I have been trying to sell a mid-grade novel-in-verse, but we haven’t found the right editor. Yet.

MaryP: I am sure you will, Lisa! Thanks so much for joining us at the Cafe! We wish you much success with your new book!

~~~Cafe Note~~ As a regular part of our interviews, featured authors will pop back in for one week after their interview is posted to answer any other questions blog readers may leave for them. So if you have any questions or comments for Lisa, send them now! She'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher

Liz Gallagher grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and was an English major at Penn State. She worked on the editorial staff of Highlights for Children. She is a graduate of the University of Denver Publishing Institute and the Vermont College MFA program in writing for children and young adults. Her home in Seattle is within chomping distance of the Fremont Troll. This novel is her first, and her dream come true. Visit her online at

MaryP: Tell us about The Opposite of Invisible.

Liz: Sure! It's a story about a fifteen-year-old girl, Alice, who has been in a comfy cocoon (metaphorically speaking!) with her best friend, Jewel, a boy she grew up with. He's an outsider-artist type of guy, so she has that same reputation around school. But she's getting itchy to break out of their cocoon. She wants a date for the Halloween dance that's coming up at school,and that is totally not the type of event Jewel would attend, except as a joke. So when things start happening with a popular boy she has a crush on, she steps onto a new road. And Jewel starts spending time with uber-artist Vanessa, who has a bit of a rivalry with Alice. They live in Seattle, and one of the parts I like about the book is how the rainy setting works; it helps to heighten both cozy moods and uncomfortable ones.

MaryP: What was your inspiration for this story?

Liz: When I needed a piece for my first workshop in Vermont College's MFA program, I wanted to write about Halloween. I must've been walking to my old job at a school when I passed this junk shop in my neighborhood, and they had a Halloween display in the window. I don't think there was actually a witch dress in the window, but I loved the idea of buying the perfect costume at a junk shop like that. And then came the characters of Alice and Jewel, who shop at places like that and spend a lot of time walking around their neighborhood -- which is my neighborhood! I knew that Alice's dress would end up being an important catalyst for change. The first draft of this story opened with, "It all started because of this dress."

MaryP: It came out in Italy before it did here. Can you tell us about that?

Liz: Sure. One of the things that my agent, Rosemary Stimola, works toward is selling foreign publisher rights. With the help of her subsidiary rights agent, that happened for me with RCS Libri in Italy. I still can't believe that my words have been translated into Italian! The original publication schedule called for OPPOSITE to come out both in Italy and here in the states during September, 2007. When the American schedule changed (to January, 2008), RCS Libri decided to keep theirs the same. So the book, in Italian, did come out first over there!

MaryP: What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Liz: Without a doubt, it's sticking to a schedule and pushing the rest of my responsibilities out of my head!

MaryP: Oh boy, I think that's every writer's lament, including mine. How did you become a writer?

Liz: My kindergarten teacher encouraged me to write. I think that always stuck with me, and was reinforced by other teachers all the way through college. Still, knowing I wanted to work in the book world, I thought I'd be an editor. I didn't think I'd actually be a novelist until I decided to go to Vermont College's MFA program. In the program, with the help of the amazing faculty and of my classmates, I proved to myself that I can actually do it. I wrote THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE during the program, and started a few other things. Right before graduation, I signed on with my agent, Rosemary Stimola. And she talked to Wendy Lamb, and here we are!

MaryP: Was there any part that you struggled with or avoided writing?

Liz: Yes. The biggest struggle was how to take the character of Simon -- who is basically a popular jock -- out of the stereotype of a popular jock. For a lot of drafts, he was kind of mean and interested only in that proverbial One Thing. He was pretty flat as a character. I had to work hard to take him beyond that, and it was difficult. He went through lots of incarnations. He didn't just show up intact, like some of my characters do. In the end, though, I do think he is close to how I want him to be -- a kind, funny, interesting guy who just also happens to be popular at school and good at sports.

MaryP: What's on your nightstand right now?

Liz: My nightstand is home to my alarm clock and a pile of hair tie things that I pull out in my sleep. But I do have a BIG stack of books waiting to be read. The four on the top of the pile are advance reader's copies of books by some of my Class of 2k8 classmates! We're all first-time middle-grade or young adult novelists. I can't wait to read those books, and for the world to get to know these writers. Also near the top of the pile is Libba Bray's new one: THE SWEET FAR THING. So excited to read it, but sad for the trilogy to end. It was a door into the genre of not-quite-realistic fiction. I read magic-power books and vampire books as a kid, but not at all since then, until Libba's fabulous characters came around. The series also brought me back to historical fiction.

Thank you for the insights, Liz. We wish you and THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE much success!

~~~Cafe Note~~ As a regular part of our interviews, featured authors will pop back in for one week after their interview is posted to answer any other questions blog readers may leave for them. So if you have any questions or comments for Liz, post them in the comments. She'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A New Year of Great Books

Happy New Year! Here's to 2008 and another year of great reading!

Do you have a YA book that will be out in 2008? Or is there one you are looking forward to? Let's hear it! Give us the title, the pub date, and to make it fun (and challenging!) a ONE liner to describe it.