Friday, May 30, 2008
I asked each one of them some questions about being bloggers AND writers or illustrators. Tanita S. Davis, Elizabeth Dulemba, Sarah Miller and Colleen Mondor. They had interesting comments - as is expected from such intelligent women.
So, please, check it out. If not for me, then just because those four are FAR better bloggers than I.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
I'm happier with this one than I was with either of the last two, so I'm hoping you guys will enjoy it too. Let me know by COMMENTING. 'Sides, I'm totally asking questions again of you kidlit bloggers! I know you have opinions, experiences. Let me know what you think. I really do what to know - and so does everyone else.
It's called if you are curious: "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Reading Log" It'll go up sometime today. Check back later if it's not up yet (I'm writing this in the middle of the night since I've got this in the morn and won't be on the interwebs. Thank you Blogger for finally letting us schedule posts.).
"Anne Green wakes up in the dark. She can't move. She can't see and she can't cry out. Her last memory is that of being hanged for a crime she did not commit. As she relives the events that led to her execution, there are people gathering around her motionless body. These people aren't her loving family assembled for her funeral, but doctors and students preparing to dissect her for science...The best part? It's based on true events from 1650."
Well, at least it worked on Erin and Sarah Miller (damn. linked to her again. I must stop.).
So, peaked by interest and my life-long love of historical fiction, I was lucky to interview her:
1. Is this the first time your main character has been based on a real person? How is writing historically based people different than characters you create? I imagine that it’s more constraining.
I love using real people (Nell Gwyn, Dr Dee, the wicked Earl of Rochester, Aphra Benn and so on) because then you can think: these people actually existed, it could really and truly have happened like this. And I quite enjoy being constrained, or otherwise the choices for the ways people can act can become too great and you (the writer, I mean) can get bewildered.
(Jac says: Way to be ignorant, Jac. Nice.)
2. You’ve written books set around this time period before. I know you researched Anne Green’s life, but was there a new approach that you needed to take to set the piece in the world that concerned Anne?
This was the first time I’d based an entire book on a real-life incident, so I wanted it to be as accurate as possible. As, however, there were (at least) three different pamphlets about Anne printed in 1650, I decided to take the most interesting and amazing bits from each, rather than use a pamphlet in its entirety. I knew next to nothing about life under Cromwell, so there was this aspect to investigate, too.
3. READER: WARNING, DO NOT EAT WHILE READING THIS NEXT BIT:
“…a crone wearing heavy leg irons who’d been hunched into a far corner was found to be dead – and to have been dead for some days, too, for when they went to move her, it was discovered that her legs had quite rotted away from her body” p 147.
EW. SERIOUSLY. EW. I’m assuming that really happened. Did you find an account of it? It is the single sentence that most convinces the reader (ok, me) of how ghastly conditions were at that time. In my opinion it’s the single most horrifying sentence in the book - and there were some grisly events. What else can you tell us about prisons, and that lovely piece of imagery, that might not have made it into the novel?
I found an account of such a thing when I was researching Clink Prison (in Southwark, London) for The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose. It was too ghastly for Eliza, which is for a slightly younger readership, so I saved it up! I think the most fantastical thing about prisons at that time is that, if you were rich enough, you could live the life of Riley and come and go from your furnished private prison apartment as you liked. If you were poor, however, you’d be lucky to survive a hot summer what with dysentery, gaol fever, lice and worms. (Is that grisly enough for you?)
(Jac says: Yep. Plenty. Readers, how about you? Ghastly enough?)
4. I’d be interested in a novel that focused on Robert, or at least featured him. Any chance of that happening? I felt his story wasn’t finished.
Um…I have not attempted a whole book from a man’s point of view. Something else would have to happen to Robert to enable him to star in his own book.
5. Anne was repeatedly struck in the chest both while hanging and while on the dissection table (from the original pamphlet appended: “…a lusty fellow that stood by, he [thinking to do an act of charity in ridding her out of the small reliques of a painful life] stamped several times on her breast and stomach with all the force he could” p 2 of the appendix.) did you find any evidence or conjecture that suggested that they may have inadvertently kept her heart going by those actions?
Good thinking! This hadn’t occurred to me and I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere before now. Maybe it’s possible that this did happen.
(Jac says: I'm fascinated with archaic medicine. Go leeches!)
6. Anne was a victim of a grossly unjust law that targeted poor women – at what point did that law change? And how?
Although the law didn’t actually change until 1803, I get the feeling that once the Monarchy was restored in 1660, the world gradually became more enlightened and this patently unjust law was not applied so rigorously. (I have absolutely no proof of this so feel free to correct me if I‘m wrong).
(Jac says: Makes sense to me.)
7. You’ve written about the same number of historical novels for teens as you have contemporary. Besides the added burden of research, what makes writing the two genres different? Which is harder for you?
Oh, it’s not a burden at all! It’s the best bit. The planning, plotting, agonising and actual writing are the burdens, but research is the bit where you discover all the wonderful things that are going to bring your story to life. This is where I discovered that Christopher Wren was present at the “dissection” and that Charles I chose Sir Thomas Reade’s house to say goodbye to his queen in.
What makes them different? Modern YA novels, to make them authentic, should include stuff about Blackberries, ipods, text messaging and mobile phones. Yawn.
(Jac says: Yawn, indeed.)
Historical novels, meanwhile, can have dashing highwaymen, glamorous mistresses of kings, quack doctors, quaint customs, crystallised rose petals and frost fairs. No contest! I now find it much more difficult to make a modern novel compelling, and intend to stick to historicals.
(Jac says: Now that's more like it!)
8. I’ve noticed that most of your historical novels are primarily set in the 1600s. What is it about that era that appeals to you most? Are there other time periods that interest you?
I particularly like the Restoration period, when the monarch regained the throne and everyone went a bit mad with relief. Of course, two major incidents happened during this time on consecutive years: the Great Plague in 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666, so they are a bit of a gift to an historical writer. I intend to write a Victorian Gothic novel next, so that period is about to interest and enthral me.
(Jac says: Victorian Gothic?! Fantastic!)
9. Are there any British writers for teens that you think Americans should pay attention to?
Anne Cassidy (Looking for JJ) writes great, gritty crime novels.
(Jac says: That pic comes from the British stage adaptation!)
10. What would you recommend to teen fans that liked Newes from the Dead?
My other historicals, for a start! And Celia Rees’s Witch Child if you haven’t already read it.
Thank You Mary Hooper!
The Rest of your Friday SBBT:
Varian Johnson at Finding Wonderland
Jincy Willett at Shaken & Stirred
John Grandits at Writing & Ruminating
Meg Burden at Bookshelves of Doom
Gary D. Schmidt at Miss Erin
Javaka Steptoe at Seven Impossible Things
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Your Thursday & Friday SBBT Schedule, and an entirely pointless meme forced upon me by an evil person.
Elisha Cooper at Chasing Ray
Dar Williams at Fuse Number 8
Jennifer Bradbury at Bildungsroman
E. Lockhart at The YA YA YAs
Mary Hooper at Miss Erin
Charles R. Smith at Writing and Ruminating
Mary Pearson at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
Varian Johnson at Finding Wonderland
Jincy Willett at Shaken & Stirred
John Grandits at Writing & Ruminating
Meg Burden at Bookshelves of Doom
Gary D. Schmidt at Miss Erin
Javaka Steptoe at Seven Impossible Things
Mary Hooper at Interactive Reader
Right, and now on to the meme. Sarah Miller. I really need to stop linking to her so much. Sarah: stop being funny. There. That should help. But really, can I help it if she tags me with these things?
Everyone seems to have done this whilst (don't you love that word?) I lived under that rock. It was a cozy rock. Softer than you think. Surprisingly clean. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Okaaay. Now that the crazy has past...on to the official blah-de-blahs before we get to the meme part.
1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read the player's blog. (this, will probably not be met by Jackie. Because she's lazy.)
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer (Sarah? Are you paying attention? 'Cause I might forget this step.).
What were you doing five years ago?
Er. May 2003. Waiting for my acceptance into Library School. Working 2 jobs and an internship. Not sleeping much.
What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order)?
1. Be on time for work.
2. Get the post in to ForeWord.
3. Worry incesently that the ForeWord post will be no good.
4. Call kids who've filled out the volunteer apps and convince them they should be on my Teen Advisory Board.
5. Not kill the patrons.
What are five snacks you enjoy?
1. Anything chickpea/garbanzo bean related.
5. ice cream
What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?
1. Start a foundation specifically for teen services in libraries; especially the creation of teen spaces in them and collection expansion.
2. Travel the world.
3. Pay for friends and family to travel with me. It's more fun that way.
4. Take a good long sabbatical from a paycheck-driven life just to see what would happen.
5. Save for retirement, 'cause we SO can't count on social security.
What are five of your bad habits?
2. being late
3. laying in bed too long in the morning (are we sensing a theme?)
4. Driving Kyle crazy with my need for cleanliness bordering on sterility
5. Not being a productive as I think I should be.
What are five places where you have lived?
1. Muskegon, MI
2. Grand Rapids, MI
3. Allendale, MI
4. Spokane, WA
5. Seattle, WA
What are five jobs you've had?
1. Outdoor Ice Rink/pond Monitor
4. Adult Librarian
5. Teen Librarian
The good, the unlucky, the tagged:
Let's get out of the kidlitosphere. Shane. Kyle. Dan. Angie. Kip.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Ben Towle at Chasing Ray
Sean Qualls at Fuse Number 8
Susane Colasanti at Bildungsroman
Robin Brande at Hip Writer Mama
Susan Beth Pfeffer at The YA YA YAs
Debby Garfinkle at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
Jennifer Lynn Barnes at Writing and Ruminating
Delia Sherman at Chasing Ray
Ingrid Law at Fuse Number 8
Polly Dunbar at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Tera Lynn Childs at Bildungsroman
Siena Cherson Siegel at Miss Erin
Barry Lyga at At Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Also, if you could be so kind as to check out this plea from Cybils Queen Anne. She's having some difficulty getting prizes to a handful of winners, and would love some help.
Monday, May 19, 2008
1. Um, holy cow. the dead & the gone IS way darker than Life As We Knew It! How did you get there? How did you find the worst and then make it even more horrible? How did you know when you made it grisly enough? Did you ever think that you had gone too far? Did you take anything out, or abandon any ideas as too far-fetched or dark? Is that enough questions?
I don't remember having a lot of problems figuring out the story for the dead & the gone. I knew it would be darker than Life As We Knew It because the situation I set up for Alex, not knowing what had become of his parents, would make him much more vulnerable. Miranda is protected a lot by her mother and older brother; Alex has to take that role on himself (which he does with mixed success). I suppose the book is more grisly, because there's more death on the streets. Miranda's story is about her world getting smaller and smaller; Alex's is about his world getting more and more dangerous.
I was never worried about taking things too far. I named the book almost immediately, and figured anyone reading a book called the dead & the gone would understand there's going to be a lot of dead and gone in the story.
(Jac says: Touché)
2. Without giving anything away, there were a few scenes, especially the stadium, that were particularly emotional to read. Briana was also often hard to read about. Do you have that kind of approach some authors talk about where they feel a connection with their characters? Did you find any part of the novel especially difficult to write, revise or read?
I have to admit, after I got my first copy, I skimmed through the book, and thought, "Whoo this is dark." I use the Yankee Stadium scene as a readaloud (and there's a link to it on my blog - for anyone who wants to read it). It separates very neatly from the rest of the book, and gives a strong sense of all the themes. So it's lost its power to shock me, just from familiarity.
A character I'm very fond of dies during the book, and when I skimmed through it, I forgot which scene it happened in, and I got upset all over again.
Actually, a larger number of important characters die in LAWKI than in d&g.
(Jac says: If we are thinking of the same character, I liked him/her a lot, too, and that death was just wracking. I just didn't know how to bring it up without giving anything away. She's not kidding about the amount of death, either. Teens will love it.)
3. How did you settle on making your central characters Puerto Rican?
When I started coming up with the idea for d&g, I wanted it to be as different as possible from LAWKI, boy/girl, urban/rural, lower middle class/upper middle class. Miranda's family wasn't religious, so I wanted religion to be central to Alex's life. Making Alex's family Puerto Rican just felt right.
4. Religion is a major theme of the book. Faith is central to Alex's sister Bri's life, to the point where she believes in things that aren't rational. There was a small character in Live as We Knew It, Miranda's best friend, who essentially starved herself for her faith. On whole the treatment of religion in the dead & the gone is far different from the first book. Can you tell us a little about this?
When I first came up with the idea for LAWKI, I decided Miranda and her family wouldn't be religious. I didn't like they idea of their praying for conditions to improve, when I (their creator) was commited to making things worse rather than better.
(Jac says: Remind me never to lobby to be a character in one of her books, k?)
But there was no way of writing an end of the world book without some religious overtones, so I gave that viewpoint to one of Miranda's friends. Someone pointed out to me that by the book's end, Miranda is doing for love of family what Megan did for love of God.
Bri comes off as more religious than Alex or Julie (the youngest sister), but really, they're all very devout. Bri trusts in God in a way her brother and sister don't, but none of them turn away from their faith.
5. One thing that everyone says about these two books is that they really make them want to go stock up on canned goods. Have you personally thought about what you would do given some cataclysmic event? Have you a plan? A basement full of supplies?
I'm deadmeat. My cats will do okay, if they can figure out how to open cans. I'm a stockpiler by nature, but most of what I have in the house is cat food.
(Jac says: Two Months. Two months it took me after reading LAWKI to get over the urge to stockpile everytime I went past the grocery store. Not better this time.)
6. You've written A LOT of books for all ages – do you approach them differently due to their intended audiences? Are some age groups harder to write for than others?
I certainly aim different kinds of stories for different age levels. I would never write anything as dark as LAWKI/d&g for younger kids, and when I hear that young kids have read them, it upsets me (fortunately, I don't hear it often).
I have a grand total of one picture book in my collected writings. I like real little kids, but I don't understand them. But after that, I've written for just about every other age group except grownups. Most of my stories have to do with families, a subject that works very well in kids' books.
7. Why the special punctuation for the dead & the gone? Why no capitals?
When I wrote the dead & the gone, it was The Dead And The Gone (and it still is in the UK). But then I read an interview with my editor, where she referred to it as The Dead and the Gone. That looked kind of clumsy to me. I figured everything should be capitals or nothing should be. Then I decided an & would be kind of sexy. Harcourt was real nice about it. But that's actually just the way the title is on the book jacket. In the LAWKI paperback, the teaser calls it the dead and the gone. And the Harcourt website for it (which just takes you to my blog) is www.TheDeadAndTheGone.com
8. Were you at all surprised at the reception of Life As We Knew It? You said that it was the one book you never told anyone you were writing? Why was that? Did that one feel different to you?
When I wrote LAWKI, I did it purely on spec, and mostly to entertain myself. I told my brother, one of my cousins, and two close friends that I was working on it, but no one else (not even my mother, as she reminds me on occasion). I wasn't sure I'd finish the book, and I certainly had no idea what would happen with it. I figured the fewer people who knew about it, the fewer people who'd ask what had become of it.
I loved writing LAWKI. Some books are a joy to write, and LAWKI was one of them. I was immensely involved with it. I'd reread sections every night before going to bed. That's very unusual for me.
9. Last I noticed (and this is exceptionally dated awareness, I might add – and apologize for) on your blog you were talking about ideas for a third book – but also mentioning that there's no contract for another. Has that change? Will we get a full trilogy? 'Cause I really want one (that counts, right?)
I want a third book also, but it's Harcourt's decision. My guess is if d&g does well enough, Harcourt will give me the go ahead. If the dead & the gone turns into the dud & the gone, then we'll never know what becomes of the characters.
(Jac says: People. Buy. The. Book. Do it for the children.)
10. What other teen authors' books do you always look forward to?
I read very little fiction for any age level. I read biographies and history mostly, and choose books based on subject matter (I just finished reading a biography of Anne Boleyn's sister-in-law).
Why don't you read fiction? That seems unusual for a writer of fiction. When you do read it, what do you lean toward? What age group? What genre?
All right- when I read fiction, I favor suspense novels. I have a real fondness for American or British suspense novels from approximately 1946-1960, standalones where the wife is planning on murdering her husband or the husband is planning on murdering his wife. They're mostly by people I've never heard of and aren't that easy to find anymore.
As a kid, I read all the time, but I liked non-fiction as much as fiction- the Childhood of Famous American series and Landmark Books, for example. My interest in Tudor England comes from the Landmark Book on Queen Elizabeth and the Spanish Armada (although even as a kid, I didn't find Queen Elizabeth all that interesting, but I loved the beginning of the book about Henry VIII and his wives).
I absolutely adore movies though. They're my favorite form of storytelling.
(Jac says: dang. The perfect opportunity to ask what her fav. movie is. I blew it. Sorry guys.)
11. Can you recommend any books for fans of Life As We Knew It and the dead & the gone? You know, dark, painful books where most of the world dies and reader can't put down?
Actually, I can, but it's non-fiction. It's called Catastrophe and it's by David Keys. PBS showed a two part documentary based on it a while ago. I read it before coming up with LAWKI, and it was definitely an influence. It's about various horrible things (plague and famine and the suchlike) that happened during the dark ages, that the author believes were the result of a volcanic eruption.
(Jac says: Non-fiction are books too! And, I'll be checking at my library for that DVD.)
12. One extra question: I have a colleague who is featuring Life As We Knew It in her Summer Reading Program – all the kids in her community will be reading it. She'd like to know if you have any advice on cool related activities.
It makes me deliriously happy when I learn LAWKI is being used in summer reading programs and in schools. I went to a parent/kid discussion group about it where the librarian brought different foods mentioned in the book and we had a grab bag (did I get the chocolate? No, I got the Lime Jello).
(Jac says: I like lime Jello. Mom used to shred cabbage into it, which tastes WAY better than it sounds...I swear. It's the only thing I'll allow to float in my Jello.)
A school I know about had its students do a make believe shopping without telling the kids what the book was about. They were just told to buy the things they'd think they would need in an emergency. I'm told a lot of disposable razors were "purchased."
Another school had its students write diaries from any LAWKI character's viewpoint that they chose. One kid wrote a diary for Peter (the doctor) and another one wrote for Horton (the cat).
Harcourt is working on a teachers guide for both books, and they may include related activities.
Thank you Sue!
The rest of your Monday SBBT:
Adam Rex at Fuse Number 8
David Almond at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast
R.L. Lafevers at Finding Wonderland
Dave Schwartz at Shaken & Stirred
Elizabeth Scott at Bookshelves of Doom
Laurie Halse Anderson at Writing & Ruminating
Friday, May 16, 2008
And then I devolve into touchy-feely musings again. But Hey! There's nothing wrong with knowing how you feel! Stop looking at me that way.
Just go read the article (can I call it that?).
And then follow the link for your SBBT line-up. But don't get too attached. It might get bigger. And bigger is better. Everyone knows that. Or, at least Texans do (I am not a Texan).
Thursday, May 15, 2008
John Flanagan "was still in a state of mild shock when he got another phone call a week later, this time from [Paul] Haggis. 'I felt an instant connection,' Flanagan says. 'I knew he wouldn't lead my work astray and that he'd let me have as much control of the project as I wanted. The real clincher was that he wanted to get cracking on the script right away; he didn't just throw it into a drawer for later."'
Sorry, I just really love that series. Even if I haven't gotten around to the latest title yet.
Read the whole article.
Friday, May 09, 2008
SO, make me feel better. Go read, GO COMMENT.
Bonus Feature: IF you are an aspiring stalker or have known me since before I wore color, there's a new picture. Of me. In case that needed clarification. I thought about just giving them the picture of the lawn chair, but I figured that would be cheating. If you haven't realized how much I hate pictures of myself, let me give you some idea: Just last night I finally relinquished photos my boyfriend has been asking for since December...
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Vlad's different. He's always been different. When he gets hungry or angry he grows fangs. He can eat anything, but the only thing that actually sustains him is blood. Luckily, his aunt is a nurse and has access to the blood bank. Even among vampires (not that he's met any) he's a bit different. You see, his dad was a vampire, but his mom was human, so all the lore doesn't quite match up to his reality. Normal adolescence is hard, but when you've got powers you don't know what to do with? Yeah. When people start to disappear, and strange people show up in his little town, Vlad starts to look closer at himself - and his parent's deaths three years before. Hopefully, he'll learn enough to keep himself safe.
It's a light, quick read. Which is actually odd, since several people die. One death in particular is a little on the gruesome, unsettling side. I'm ambivalent about the book. I won't have a problem recommending it, but it's not a must read. I don't feel that there was any significant character development beyond exactly what you'd expect for Vlad. The supporting cast didn't have any dimension. I was especially disappointed with Vlad's best friend. Henry was interesting and dynamic, but there wasn't anything behind it, and his role at the end of the book was disappointing. It is however littered with amusing lines:
"Girls like Meredith Brookstone didn't date boys like Vladimir Tod. Besides, the hickeys would be a nightmare" p 15.
The sequel, Ninth Grade Slays just came out.