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Interview and giveaway: Pearl North's The Book of the Night!

September 15th, 2012 (01:22 pm)
current location: The Victorian Dollhouse
current music: Qntal's "Spiegelglas"

I am delighted to have Pearl North join us again as she celebrates the release of the third and final book in her Libyrinth trilogy, The Book of the Night. (Read my first interview with her here.)

Pearl and her publisher, Tor Teen, have generously offered up three copies of The Book of the Night to commenters in the U.S. and Canada! Just leave a comment at the bottom of this entry or its Dreamwidth mirror by 11:59 EST on Saturday, 22 September, and I'll use to pick the winners.

The blurb: "The world of the Libyrinth has experienced a series of wrenching changes. After the Libyrarians and their longtime foes the Singers discovered their common heritage, a young healer named Po found the Lion's Bloom, an ancient and enormously powerful artifact capable of rewriting reality.

Behind the mysteries of their shrouded past has always been the legendary Book of the Night. Sought for generations, both feared and revered, it is the key to this world of wonders. When vain, grasping Queen Thela steals the Lion’s Bloom and imperils the very reality of the world, only the Book can heal what she has rent asunder. An epic journey through strange lands, a perilous encounter in a clockwork city, and the revelation of the truth beyond reality will lead those who find the Book to a moment when their world will either be saved...or cease to exist.

Told with the grace and skill that only Pearl North can bring to the tale, The Book of the Night is a breathtaking adventure that will linger in the memory long after the final page is turned."

And now, onto the interview!

Congratulations on finishing the trilogy, Pearl! Now that I've had a chance to read the book, which I really enjoyed, I have some questions for you.

1. First of all, without spoiling anything, you seem to play with tropes: what is fantasy, what is science fiction, even what is the meaning of story and myth? Could you talk a little about that?

Sure. I like to examine my assumptions as much as my awareness of them will allow. Any time I make a story decision automatically, without debating over it at all, that's a red flag to me. So it seems natural that in the course of this trilogy, which is by far the most complicated thing I'd ever written, I'd eventually get around to questioning all kinds of things. As you say, what is story? Is it something separate from what we call reality, or is reality really just another story? Yeah, it can get kind of deep inside my head. :)

2. There's a steampunk city in the Libyrinth universe! With lots of gears and dangerous springs! What was the inspiration behind that?

I'm a bit of a pantser, so I sometimes surprise myself. For example I didn't know much at all about Thesia when I first mentioned it in Libyrinth, the first book of the trilogy. By the time I got to The Book of the Night, I knew that Thesia was where the minerals and metal goods came from on my world. And then into the story came the Tollkeeper. He just sprang right out of my head and on onto the page, and lo and behold, he was all decked out in Victorian garb and was messing around with gears and such. I said to myself, well, I guess the Thesians are steampunks.

3. Finding your own family seems to be a prominent theme in the novels: Selene chooses the Libyrinth, Queen Thela chooses Jolaz to replace her, and of course, Haly and Clauda rely on each other. Could you speak a bit to that?

The drive to find a place and a group where we are valued as ourselves is something that I have always identified with. It is a theme that shows up in my work again and again. I find something at once painful and beautiful in that search, and I experience, still, a strong emotional catharsis when my characters find their true home.

4. The Ancients have pretty sophisticated technology. Whether that is a positive or negative thing, I'll leave up to the reader, but what do you as author think about technology and our future?

I love technology! No, I'm not entirely uncritical of it, and I do think it is important to thoroughly examine the ramifications of technological developments and the process by which technology is made. But I and many others who are dear to me would not be alive today without technology. And on a slightly less dramatic note, the internet and the rise of ebooks has vastly improved my life as an author.

There's something deeply ironic about the fact that at the same time I was writing the Libyrinth novels, which valorize print books, I was also exploring ebooks and digital publishing in a different genre. The technological shift in publishing happened so fast that by the time I was writing The Book of the Night, it was an entirely different landscape from the one in which I initially conceived of the idea for the Libyrinth. I hope that the conclusion of the trilogy leaves room for a broader perspective on both books and technology--and books as technology.

5. The question of balance comes up often. Balance between faiths, between genders, between peoples, balance between those with enough to eat and those without. Do you think we can ever really find true balance between all those things?

Perfect balance would probably mean stasis, which would probably mean death, though we're speaking quite abstractly here. I think that in real life, balance is a process, not a state. We are always adjusting, correcting, balancing--moving. That's what's important I think. Keep moving!

6. Finally, on a much less philosophical note, what can we expect from you in the future?

That's hard to say. I have no immediate plans for another Pearl North book at this time, but I am always writing. At the moment I am working on a science fiction romance under another name. You can always check out my website,, for links to all of my current projects.

Thanks so much, Pearl! And as I said before, readers in the U.S. and Canada, just post a comment (including a way for me to contact you) to be entered to win one of three copies of The Book of the Night!

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

Good morning, good morning!

November 1st, 2011 (11:12 am)

current location: The Victorian Dollhouse
current mood: happy
current music: The hum of the heater

It's a bit of a chilly morning. Brr!

That winter storm the East Coast just got was something else. At least the snow skipped us, for which I'm grateful. aryasura and I spent the day snuggled up, watching movies. He picked Sinbad pieces (totally his choice, not mine), and we alternated them with Studio Ghibli films. Thanks to coraa, rachelmanija, and starlady38, I've decided to dive into the world of anime and see what I can learn. To start, I checked out a bunch of Hayao Miyazaki's work from the library. Some I've liked better than others, but a couple really moved me. Fun!

Also, happy belated birthday, dear rachelmanija!

Let's see; what else? My birthday's on Thursday, and I get married in eighteen days. Eek! Eek, eek, eek! There are still last-minute details to resolve. And before that, alankria is coming to the States for a visit, so ecmyers and I will get her company at my birthday dinner on Friday. Yay!


Also, I promised to tell you about my day in NYC and then never did. I had sooo much fun with csecooney and skogkatt. Claire is a walking ball of fire and mischief and hilarious bawdy poetry. She'll link arms with you and just start quoting while strolling through Central Park. It's awesome. As for Julia, she sings songs in Spanish and wears gorgeous purple dresses that look like they belong in a fairy tale and is very thoughtful and funny.

So I arrived at ellen_kushner's and deliasherman's gorgeous apartment sometime in the morning, where I was immediately greeted with joy and made to sit and partake in a tea party. :D We ate cheese and crackers and chocolate and apples and drank lots of tea. Delia chatted with us about knitting and cat allergies and her new book that's about to release, The Freedom Maze. I got to see a copy. It's hardback, with a lovely cover, and I can't wait to read it.

Then Claire, Julia, and I went into the cozy, comfortable living room, and Julia wound a ball of yarn for Delia while Claire and I took turns reading from our novels in progress. I had a captive audience--because they didn't dare to leave, muahahaha!--and I really enjoyed Claire's. One day, Julia will have to read for us, too!

After that, Ellen returned home with delicious Thai food for all of us, so we had a great lunch before getting ready to head out to Central Park. Once among the trees and grass, Claire, Julia, and I cozied up to lampposts for pictures, skipped, and tried to ride a carousel, but the carousel closed just as we reached it. Boo! We also dodged lots of runners and wrote a poem about drowning New York City. (No darkness in our hearts, that's for sure!)

Once Claire had had her fill of the park, we made our way toward the theater where her play Selkie would be performed. We saw bits of the city and beautiful architecture and finally met up with her friend Cavan. We then found an Indian restaurant, where we ate and ate and met up with Cavan's and Julia's partners. When I wished the proprietor a happy Deepavali (as that day was the Hindu festival of lights), he brought us all gulab jamun on the house. A perfect finish to the meal!

So then we hopped, skipped, and jumped over to the theater. Claire's play was put on with four others, all ten minutes long, and hers opened the night. There was a beautiful tree adorned with medicine bottles, and I thought the main actress did a fantastic job. The other plays were interesting, too, and afterward, we parted ways with Cavan and headed back to Ellen's and Delia's while practicing our rusty French skills.

There, Ellen and Delia were thrilled to have me go through every room with a candle and chase out the shadows of the old year while lighting in the new one. This is something to be done with a diya, an oil lamp, but we didn't have one, so a candle had to do. It was lovely, walking through the space led only by a flame, with everyone following. Since I wan't home to perform the ceremony, I'm glad I could do it there. It turned out to be Ellen's and Delia's wedding anniversary, so we blessed them, too, and then worked on signing cards Julia had made.

Julia and Moss left, and while Delia and Ellen packed for World Fantasy Convention, Claire and I chatted a little. Then it was time for bed, but I couldn't resist the shelves and shelves of books, so I got about fifty pages into The Folk Keeper before falling asleep.

In the morning, I raced to get my things together, because Claire was leaving with Ellen and Delia for the airport. I met Julia at Penn Station, and we had a great breakfast together consisting of fluffy omelets, wonderful conversation (radishes and queens. Who needs cabbages and kings?), and coffee that our waitress gloried in telling us was Green Mountain brand. She was really, really proud of this. I mean, really proud. So Julia and I couldn't help giggling.

And finally, far too soon, I stood in the rain for my bus back to Philly. What a great twenty-four hours!

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

Author Interview: Beth Bernobich on her YA novel Fox and Phoenix

September 26th, 2011 (09:04 am)

current location: The Victorian Dollhouse
current mood: tired
current music: None

Hello, dear readers! Today I surface from the land of trying desperately to meet various deadlines (including Sirens, eep!) long enough to bring you an interview with Beth Bernobich (beth_bernobich), author of the upcoming YA novel Fox and Phoenix. I got to read an early draft of this, and I loved it! It's releasing on 13 October.

Beth in her own words:

"I am a writer. I am also a person who likes to reinvent herself, sometimes in several directions at once. Some of these directions include a year of studying German at Heidelberg Universität, writing speculative fiction, learning karate, and battling the intricacies of software engineering. My obsessions include coffee, curry, and writing about men (and women) without shirts."

1. Fox and Phoenix started out life as a short story in an anthology (Magic in the Mirrorstone: Tales of Fantasy). Could you tell us a bit about the story and how you came to expand its universe into a novel?

"Pig, Crane, Fox" is structured around the old fairy tale about the prince who must perform three impossible tasks in order to win the hand of the princess. In this story, however, the main character isn't a prince. He's a street rat named Kai, and he's more interested in the money than any snobby princess. He and his street gang friends figure out how to crash the contest and get past the first two tasks. Then the princess gives Kai the third task--to fulfill her heart's desire. Kai wins the contest and the money, but in ways he most definitely didn't expect.

After I wrote the short story, several readers told me they wanted to hear more about Kai and his friends. When I thought about it, I realized they were right. Here is a kid who wins his heart's desire, and a princess who wins hers. What comes next after the fairy-tale ending? What if their heart's desire is a dangerous thing?

So I sat down to noodle about what happened next. A couple of things were already in place. Lóng City, where Kai lives, is a small mountain kingdom. More were mentioned in the short story, so I named the region the Seventy Kingdoms. And the Phoenix Empire was already large and wealthy. It was an easy step from there to making the empire hungry to expand its borders. Once the plot fell into place, I knew how to fill in the details.

2. You also write adult novels. What's it like, switching between tones and registers--and juggling so many projects at once?

It helps that each series is very different in tone and register, actually. The difference has nothing to do with YA vs. adult, but the characters themselves.

See, before I can write a story, I have to know the voice and tone for that story. Getting it just right takes some time and maybe a few false starts, but once I'm anchored in the world and the characters, I can slip into the tone without a lot of trouble. So when I write about Kai, I know how he thinks and talks. He cares about his friends and his mother. He also likes to snark. All that determines what he thinks about and how he expresses himself. Ilse from Passion Play is almost the same age as Kai, but her background is so very different, there's no mistaking her story for his. Even when I add in more viewpoints to Ilse's story, the theme of the books, and the characters themselves, are so different from Kai and his friends, that I have no trouble going between the two. It's almost like switching radio channels.

At some point, I'd like to write a YA book that riffs off Mansfield Park, but with polyamory and folk magic. The tone there would be closer to my River of Souls books, but definitely YA in focus. That's when I'll likely have more trouble switching between projects, but we'll see how it goes. *g*

3. Like me, you spent a year studying in Germany when you were an undergraduate student. Mir fehlt Deutschland! What's your favorite memory from that time?

I have so many wonderful memories of that year, but here's one that always comes back to me. My friend Diane and I decided to take a weekend away from our studies to travel. It was December and the day before my birthday. We landed in a small town we had picked out and spent some time wandering through the Christkindlmarkt (Christmas Market) and eating grilled wurst we bought from a street vendor. Eventually we headed toward the youth hostel.

Except the directions we had didn't quite match the streets. After a while, it started to snow, and we hurried, thinking that we would never make it to the hostel before the 7PM curfew. We were still shy with our German, and everyone we passed seemed in too much of a hurry to ask for directions. Finally, with the sky darkening and our backpacks getting heavier and heavier, we paused to review our useless map. A couple fresh-faced boys came by, walking slowly. "Excuse me," we said in our slow, careful German. "Could you tell us where the youth hostel is?"

They all looked at each other. One of them grinned and pointed down the street. "Right there."

We blinked. Indeed, there it was, a miniature fairy-tale castle, all luminous white and turreted, with snow swirling all about it in the falling dusk. It really did look magical.

(Postscript: we had the girls' room to ourselves. Dinner was delivered by dumbwaiter, and when the innkeeper saw our passports, and that my birthday was the next day, she cooked us an extra large breakfast on the house.)

4. Do you have any recommendations for multicultural novels that don't get a lot of press (or that most people haven't heard of)?

Nnedi Okorafor is getting attention, but I think we can't mention her name often enough. I just finished her adult novel Who Fears Death, which is simply amazing. Right away, I plunged into her YA novel, Akata Witch, which is equally amazing in its own way, and I'm sure I will end up buying all her other books. Everyone else should too.

5. What can readers expect from you in the future? Will you be writing more books in the world of Fox and Phoenix?

My next few books are from my River of Souls fantasy series from Tor Books. Queen's Hunt comes out next year in July. Allegiance, which comes out the following year, ends the trilogy, but there's a fourth stand-alone book, The Edge of the Empire, which tells the story of Ilse and Raul in a previous lifetime.

Once those are done, yes, I want to write more books about Kai and the Seventy Kingdoms. I have detailed notes for a possible sequel to Fox and Phoenix, which I'm calling The Phoenix War. And just recently, I had the glimmer of an idea for a story told from Kai's son's point of view.

6. Do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share?

Yes! I love all kinds of food, but one recipe that I love for chilly autumn days is Chicken and Sausage Cassoulet. It's easy to make, it tastes great, and the leftovers are also delicious. I discovered it when I was teaching my son how to cook.


5 chicken drumsticks
1 pound turkey sausage
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained
2 teaspoons basil
2 teaspoons oregano
2 tablespoons parsley
olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
2 bay leaves

Brown the drumsticks in a large skillet with olive oil, then set them aside in a large bowl.
Brown the sausage and add that to the same bowl.
Add the chicken broth and wine to the skillet and simmer until the liquid reduces to half.
Pour the liquid over the chicken and sausage.
Add beans, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and spices into your crockpot and stir thoroughly.
Layer the drumsticks and sausage on top of this mixture.
Pour the liquid on top of all this.
Cook on *high* for 3 hours or *low* for 6 hours.

7. Pick a question you would like to be asked and answer it.

Okay, I have one. What's the hardest part about writing for me?

Getting it right. I love research, and I love exploring new-to-me worlds and languages and cultures, whether those are based strictly on the real world or entirely new worlds that Fred-the-Plot-Guy (my muse) dropped on my head.

But fantasy doesn't mean you just make stuff up. You have to make it plausible, which means research. And if you're writing alternate history (which I do), you need to research what did happen, deep enough that you can convince readers about what might have happened. And if you do draw inspiration from real-world history and languages and cultures, you need to be thorough. Get the names right. Get the allusions right. Get everything right, or as right as you can. Double-check your sources. Then check again.

What often keeps me awake at night is the nagging suspicion that I didn't check my research enough, or that I missed something vital. Once, when I was proofreading my Middle High German magic language for Passion Play, and cursing diacriticals, I wondered if I should stick to the so-called easy stuff. (Whatever that is.) But then I thought, no, I write--and read--fantasy because I want to discover the new. So no matter how often I stress about getting things wrong, I keep on with the new and the different. I do more research. I try to learn from my mistakes, and aim to write a better book. Because that's what makes it all worthwhile.

You can learn more about Beth and her books at her website. I also highly recommend checking out her free short story, "Pig, Crane, Fox," to get a taste of Kai and his world.

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

Say Yes to Gay YA and Main Characters of Color!

September 12th, 2011 (05:29 pm)

current location: The Victorian Dollhouse
current mood: determined
current music: 2002's "Child of the Sun"

rachelmanija, my awesome friend and Sirens partner, and sartorias, also amazing and inspiring, have just gone public on Publishers Weekly with their experience of trying to get an agent with a novel featuring characters who were both people of color and gay. It. . .was not good.

Say Yes To Gay YA

By Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith

We are published authors who co-wrote a post-apocalyptic young adult novel. When we set out to find an agent for it, we expected to get some rejections. But we never expected to be offered representation… on the condition that we make a gay character straight, or cut him out altogether.

Our novel Stranger has five viewpoint characters; one, Yuki Nakamura, is gay and has a boyfriend. Yuki's romance, like the heterosexual ones in the novel, involves nothing more explicit than kissing.

An agent from a major agency, one which represents a bestselling YA novel in the same genre as ours, called us.

The agent offered to sign us on the condition that we make the gay character straight, or else remove his viewpoint and all references to his sexual orientation.

Go read, and please consider reposting the article. And if you tweet the link, use the hash tag #YesGayYA.

One day, things will change. We just have to keep working toward it.

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

What happens after happily ever after? Interview with Samantha Sotto

August 29th, 2011 (10:13 am)

current location: The Victorian Dollhouse
current mood: chipper
current music: The Thompson Twins' "If You Were Here"

Well, this past week was. . .interesting. First we had an earthquake (at least it didn't do more in our area than shake my chair and then our house), and this past weekend, we enjoyed a hurricane. Again, it wasn't too bad in our area, except for knocking out power for a day. We just got it back about twenty minutes ago, which means I can post this. :)

I know people elsewhere in the state had terrible flooding and damage, and I send love to them. May September be a kinder month to the East Coast.

For now, I've got an interview for you with Samantha Sotto, author of the debut novel Before Ever After!

About Before Ever After: Three years after her husband Max's death, Shelley feels no more adjusted to being a widow than she did that first terrible day. That is, until the doorbell rings. Standing on her front step is a young man who looks so much like Max--same smile, same eyes, same age, same adorable bump in his nose--he could be Max's long-lost relation. He introduces himself as Paolo, an Italian editor of American coffee table books, and shows Shelley some childhood photos. Paolo tells her that the man in the photos, the bearded man who Paolo says is his grandfather though he never seems to age, is Max. Her Max. And he is alive and well.

As outrageous as Paolo's claims seem--how could her husband be alive? And if he is, why hasn't he looked her up?

Sam in her own words:

"In an alternate universe, I am Dr. Who’s faithful companion, traveling through time with him and constantly rearranging furniture on the TARDIS. I am also Oprah’s best friend and Ellen’s favorite Friday night poker buddy. And did I mention that I have legs that would make Giselle Bundchen hang her head down in shame? In this one, I am a five foot two rabid Dr. Who fan (I miss you David Tennant) who still can’t imagine her life without the Oprah show, but is consoling herself with large doses of Ellen and bread pudding."

1. Before Ever After straddles genres: mystery, magical realism, romance--even a tour through time. Could you tell us a bit about how this novel came to be?

The Doctor Who marathon I emerged from may have had something to do with it ;-) Having said that, I'd like to clarify that while Before Ever After does span several historical periods, it is not a book about time travel. It does, however, have different narrative timelines.

The idea for the book popped into my head when I was stuck in traffic. Max, my main character, hitched a ride with me and introduced himself. I learned five things about him: he had a penchant for not dying, he was a tour guide, he believed he could get through anything if he had a chicken, he had a grandson who was as "old" as him, and he had a widow named Shelley.

2. As a debut author, what's the publishing process been like for you? Any surprises along the way?

The entire process has been a surprise. The biggest shock has been how my sense of time has changed. The agent hunt and the submission period to publishers felt excruciatingly slow. Lately though, things are moving so fast that it's all a blur. If you find the pause button, let me know.

3. So you like poker, Dr. Who, and bread pudding, but what’s something your readers might not know about you?

(Confession: I cannot play poker to save my life. I just threw it in there is case Ellen popped by my blog and needed to fill a seat. :D)

I got engaged after jumping out of an airplane.

4. Do you have any recommendations for multicultural novels that don't get a lot of press (or that most people haven't heard of)?

Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange by Amanda Smyth. It's a lush, absorbing, and textured story set against the backdrop of the Caribbean.

5. What can readers expect from you in the future?

If I manage to survive writing the chapter-that-is-trying-to-slurp-my-brain-out-with-a-straw, a second (standalone) book could be on the horizon.

6. Do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share--like, oh, the super delicious-sounding baked eggs recipe Max makes with eggs from his beloved chickens?

I still can't divulge Max's secret recipe, but I did share some of the fave baked eggs recipes that we like to cook at home on the The Recipe Club.

7. Pick a question you would like to be asked and answer it.

What is the meaning of life?

*shakes Magic Eight Ball* "YES."

Thanks so much, Sam! Readers, you can learn more about Sam and her upcoming projects at her website.

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

Kissed by Bubbles, or The Midsummer Faerie Celebration of Awesome!

June 30th, 2011 (12:27 pm)

current location: The Victorian Dollhouse
current mood: happy

songtoisis made such wonderful recaps that any attempts of mine would be put to shame. Instead, I'll gleefully borrow pictures (since I was lazy and let others with their good cameras take the shots) and do a photo essay for you. (Is it plagiarism if you use others' pictures to make an essay?)

And a bit of summary of course, because I do like to talk. . .

Last Thursday, I ignored my GPS and went the long way to upstate New York. I should've listened to the GPS; it would have cut a couple hours off my driving. But I enjoyed the scenery; New York state is so lush and green and curving. In the evening, I finally arrived at the house of the wonderful author Alice Loweecey, who wrote Force of Habit, a mystery novel starring an ex-nun amateur sleuth. Alice made me grilled pizza and chocolate cake (!), and we chatted about books and writing and having ridiculous amounts of snow (pretty much the only thing keeping me out of upstate New York/Canada). She even gave me a red scarf she'd knitted. I left there feeling so loved!

Then it was off to Care-A-Lot Cottage, home to mermaiden and willow_cabin, their menagerie of pets, and a large meadow for a backyard. It is such a cute house, decorated in such a creative and beautiful way. I told them I imagined my writing room of the future would be a lot like that, and they should help me come decorate it. :P

I was a little nervous, being new to the group, but everyone was so welcoming and inclusive, I felt right at home. Thank you so much, all. ♥

We made good use of our days, walking through Swallow Hollow (a local nature preserve), having dinner at a nearby vegan restaurant, wearing faerie wings while eating cupcakes and drinking tea during the Faerie Tea Party in Sarah's and Jenn's backyard, hula hooping (my first time since I was little!), wearing the beautiful felt flowers Jenn made for all of us (mine's purple), participating in a new baby naming ceremony, going to Olcott Beach and riding a gorgeous restored carousel and playing Skeeball (I trounced everyone, heh), talking from our hearts, and just enjoying one another's company.

Poor Sarah got sick, so she had to miss the beach outing, but she rallied and performed our evening ritual, which was so, so lovely. (I feel the rituals were sacred, so I won't talk more about them here.)

So, to the pictures!Collapse )

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

Munching on Pomegranates With Sarah Diemer

May 17th, 2011 (09:55 am)

current location: The Victorian Dollhouse
current mood: excited
current music: Dead Can Dance's "Severance"

Author Sarah Diemer (mermaiden) joins us today to celebrate the release of her debut novel, The Dark Wife, a lesbian revisionist retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth.

Three thousand years ago, a god told a lie. Now, only a goddess can tell the truth.

Persephone has everything a daughter of Zeus could want--except for freedom. She lives on the green earth with her mother, Demeter, growing up beneath the ever-watchful eyes of the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. But when Persephone meets the enigmatic Hades, she experiences something new: choice.

Zeus calls Hades "lord" of the dead as a joke. In truth, Hades is the goddess of the underworld, and no friend of Zeus. She offers Persephone sanctuary in her land of the dead, so the young goddess may escape her Olympian destiny.

But Persephone finds more than freedom in the underworld. She finds love, and herself.

1. Welcome, Sarah! Can you tell us a little more about The Dark Wife, and what moved you to retell the tale?

The Dark Wife is a young adult novel about the Greek goddess Persephone and how she falls in love with the goddess of the dead, Hades. There are many versions of the original, old story, and most of them say that Persephone was kidnapped and raped. My favorite goddess and myth is Persephone, and--as a feminist--it bothered me.

I do a lot of myth work in my own life (using the archetypes of myth and legend to learn truths about yourself and the human psyche), and believe that any myth can be reclaimed, and that's what I sought to do with Persephone's. Also, as a lesbian, there are no myths that I can relate to. I wanted to change that.

2. As an LGBT and indie author, what's something you want to see more of in YA fiction?

I know that people do their best, and positive mentions of the GLBT community should be applauded, but I'm very tired of seeing the quirky gay best friend. We are main characters in our own lives, and we have so few stories that we can relate to, because precious few stories have the courage to claim a main character as gay. I want to see stories with GLBT MCs, unabashedly courageous in themselves. I don't want to see stories that degrade us, that lessen us, that relegate us to a token because an imaginary quota needed to be filled. There are gay kids and teens who desperately need role models in fiction and life, and our generation of writers needs to have the compassion and passion enough to deliver.

3. Do you have any recommendations for LGBT novels that don't get a lot of press (or that most people haven't heard of)?

Holy heavens, yes! There is this wonderful author, Hayden Thorne, who writes gay YA books that are NOT issue books (focused around coming out, bullying, the difficulty of being gay), and are simply amazing stories with gay characters--everything I pray for from the publishing industry, perfectly nestled between the front and back cover of her novels. :) She self-publishes, too, and she puts her entire heart into everything she does. They are absolutely amazing, and every single one should be read and adored:

4. Your wife and you sell a wonderful line of pendants on Etsy called Glamourkin, crafted by coupling neglected fairy tale books with beautiful phrases. How did you two come up with Glamourkin?

One of the reasons Jenn and I fell in love was our rampant love for fairy tales and the faerie culture. We were even married in fairy wings! We love the idea of reclaiming unloved things, and do most of our shopping for everything we need in life at thrift stores. We noticed all of the old, torn, broken fairy tale books, that someone once loved, and we knew we wanted to give life to them again. Glamourkin was born. Essentially, we cut apart an old fairy tale book, use the images and collage combinations of words to create something magical and special--a spell of love for whoever it's meant to find (we believe every Glamourkin is meant for a specific person!). Since we're both writers and jewelry makers, it was the perfect marriage of words, fairy dust and wearable art for us to create. :)

5. Clearly you have a lot on your plate! What can we expect from you next?

My next book, Ragged, should be out by August 1st, hopefully! :) Ragged is a YA novel about a girl named Talula, a postapocalyptic world, fairies and fairy queens, true love and being gay, faith and saving the planet. I'm ridiculously excited about it, and as we get closer, I'll be posting the actual blurb and excerpts on my blog, (muserising) :)

6. I hear you're a huge fan of cupcakes (and sparkles). Me, too! Got a favorite recipe to share with our hungry readers?

Oh, cupcakes, how do I love thee? Let me count the nommable ways! Do you believe that I used to hate cupcakes? I'm not really a sugar-type-person, preferring fruit to cakes and cookies, but my lovely wife Jenn LOVES cupcakes, and I totally mushily admit that she added so much sugar to my life that I fell in love with cupcakes, too. ;)

My absolute favorite cupcake recipe is from the book, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World -- Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes. The recipe here is very similar. They really DO take over your world! ;D

7. Pick a question you would like to be asked and answer it.

"Do you think straight people could read this novel?"

Yes, and I pray with every fiber of my being that they do.

Jenn and I went to see this amazing play a few weeks ago: "Radio Golf" by the literary genius, August Wilson. It's about black people, written by a black man. . .and the audience of hundreds, save for two or three, were white. In the ask-and-answer section before the play, the amazing actress who played Mame was giving articulate answers to some hard-hitting questions, when a guy raised his hand and sheepishly asked: "Does it bother you that almost everyone here is white?"

She smiled hugely, laughed and shook her head. "No. It NEEDS to be white. How can you ever know our struggles and know our stories if we just tell them to each other, if we just keep them close? How can you ever look at us with complete and pure love and compassion if you don't know who we are, how we're not so different, how we're all brothers and sisters if you have no idea what we go through, what we think, how we love and live? We need the audience to be white, because art touches people, stories touch people, and the only way we can know one another and love one another is through understanding each other's stories."

I was in tears the entire time she spoke. It's true, every word of it was true. How will you know what being gay is like if you never read a gay story? How will you know what we feel, what we think, how we love and live? How are we ever going to get the rights we need, the rights we're denied, if people think we're completely alien to everything they understand? If you read a gay story, and you are not gay, for a few days you step into the story's space, and you learn what it means to love someone the world might think you shouldn't be with, how love can be so beautiful no matter who loves who, how our hearts are just the same as yours.

The world needs straight people to read gay stories. And, if you're straight, I hope you will~ :)

Thank you so much, Sarah! Readers, you can learn more about Sarah at her website or her blog. The Dark Wife is available on,, and Smashwords in eBook format, and in print here.

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

Hey, NYC folks, where will you be on Saturday?

May 12th, 2011 (12:04 pm)

current location: The Dollhouse
current mood: bouncy
current music: Dead Can Dance's "American Dreaming"

Because Jennifer Walkup and I will be listening to Cindy Pon, Malinda Lo, and others speak and read at the second New York City stop of the Diversity in YA tour! (This will be my first trip to the Big Apple since September 2009. *boggle*) Just look at that lineup below; I'm so excited!

Diversity in YA Fiction is a website and book tour founded by two young adult authors, Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon, to celebrate diverse stories in YA.

DIYA is a positive, friendly gathering of readers and writers who want to see diversity in their fiction. We come from all walks of life and backgrounds, and we hope that you do, too. We encourage an attitude of openness and curiosity, and we welcome questions and discussion. Most of all, we can't wait to have fun sharing some great books with you!

Friday, May 13 at 6:30 p.m.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
208 West 13th Street
New York, NY 10011

Highlighting LGBT YA books with authors Cris Beam, David Levithan, Malinda Lo, and Jacqueline Woodson. Books available for sale from Mobile Libris. $10 suggested donation for entry, to benefit the LGBT Center (no one turned away for lack of funds).

Saturday, May 14 at 1 p.m.
Books of Wonder
18 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011

With authors Matt de la Peña, Malinda Lo, Kekla Magoon, Neesha Meminger, Cindy Pon, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Jacqueline Woodson, and moderated by Cheryl Klein

If you're in the area, you should come, too! If you can't do Saturday, go for the Friday one! They both promise to be amazing.

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

Link salad with a side of delicious prose

May 11th, 2011 (10:02 am)

current location: The Dollhouse
current mood: cheerful
current music: an equally cheerful medley of music

I finished the second draft of my anthology story! Yay! Now it's just a matter of chewing on fingernails while waiting for feedback from my critique partners. Or, you know, working on another story.

In the meantime, since I haven't said much about social justice lately, how about a post with some great links?

First, definitely read this Tiger Beatdown article on feminism, intersectionality, and reproductive rights. (Hat tip to kate_nepveu.)

"Reproductive rights has tremendous intersections with race, class, sexuality, and disability. These are not 'side issues' that people should pay lip service to when they have a chance, or address at some point. They are key, critical issues that must be addressed in any and all discussions about reproductive rights. Whether or not you are allowed to have children can be determined by race, class, sexuality, and disability status. Minority communities have a fundamentally different relationship with the reproductive rights movement than the majority community. Our relationships include not just the fight for bodily autonomy in an oppressive world, but the fight for basic humanity within social justice movements, the need to constantly assert our own personhood in a movement that often rejects us or silences us."

Second, I believe I've talked about this essay before, but it's absolutely worth a second mention. Ekaterina Sedia (squirrel_monkey), author of The Secret History of Moscow and The House of Discarded Dreams, on writing in a foreign language and the assumptions that come with it:

"In fact, about a year back I wrote one focusing on how broken language meant to signify foreigners (in translated books or books by Western authors about foreign people) works to provide easy exoticism, othering without understanding. This essay is a follow-up to that post. As an immigrant writer, I feel that I'm expected to peddle in exoticism, but couched in terms the American readers are most familiar with. I had editors tell me that I should focus on books that are more me, as they put it. When asked for explanation, they said that I should be writing more about Russia, since it's my culture (of course, the very same editors do not hesitate to acquire books by Americans writing about foreign cultures).

So it's an interesting thing: as an immigrant or foreign writer, one is frequently pushed into a certain ethnic or cultural niche; yet, one is also expected to share this cultural niche with American writers. Don't get me wrong: I don't mind Westerners writing about other cultures; I do, however, take issue with their perspective being privileged over that of the natives by the American reading public (as well as with being pushed into a particular niche, but that's for another day.)"

Third, my friend Sarah Diemer (mermaiden) is releasing her debut novel next week, a YA lesbian revisionist retelling of the Greek Hades and Persephone myth. I'll be interviewing her soon, but for now, you can read an excerpt of The Dark Wife here. It looks fantastic.

The jacket copy (E.T.A.: Updated jacket copy to appear with interview.):

"Three thousand years ago, a god told a lie. Now, only a goddess can tell the truth.

Persephone has everything a daughter of Zeus could want--except for freedom. She lives on the green earth with her controlling mother, Demeter, growing up beneath the ever-watchful eyes of the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. But when Persephone meets the enigmatic Hades, she experiences something new: choice.

Zeus calls Hades 'lord' of the dead as a joke. In truth, Hades is the goddess of the underworld, and no friend of Zeus. She offers Persephone sanctuary in her land of the dead, so the young goddess may escape her Olympian destiny.

But Persephone finds more than freedom in the underworld. She finds love, and herself."

As a bonus, Sarah wrote this terrific post on reclaiming archetypes in the GLBT community. Enjoy!

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

Three Days of Fey: Day Three With Karen Mahoney

February 25th, 2011 (07:54 am)

current location: a nice, quiet room
current mood: curious
current music: the spinning of the washing machine

For our final stop in this year's Three Days of Fey, Karen Mahoney offers us a great essay on how the mythology in her debut novel, The Iron Witch, came to be, along with a chance to win said novel!

Karen Mahoney is the author of The Iron Witch, the first book in a trilogy that continues in 2012 with The Wood Queen. She has also published stories about a kick-ass teen vampire called Moth in The Eternal Kiss and Kiss Me Deadly. Karen is British and currently lives near London with way too many books, though she dreams of one day living in Boston. She doesn't mind if you call her Kaz.

The Iron Witch has many different influences, all sort of thrown into a giant pot and stirred together. Obviously, alchemy plays a large part – as my main character is born into an Order of alchemists operating in the shadows of the modern world – but I've talked about that in other places. The other two 'main' elements are: the folklore that initially inspired me to write about Donna Underwood and her iron-coated arms, and my own interpretation of the fey. These two things go together and I can't talk about one without the other.

Ever since I read Midori Snyder's essay, 'The Armless Maiden and the Hero's Journey' in the Journal of Mythic Arts, I have been fascinated by the many versions of this tale.

The Handless Maiden has many meanings, but one of its major themes is that of the 'rite of passage' – in this case, the journey from adolescent girl to adult woman. It's the perfect folklore to use as a basis for young adult fiction, and I'm surprised that more writers don't borrow from it! ;) Of course, it's also pretty grim – as are all the best tales – what with the physical mutilation of the heroine and her gradual journey back to wholeness. There's something shamanic about the traditional story, too; the idea of being remade in some way is one I've always found interesting. This theme isn't just significant for Donna, and you'll hopefully see how it informs many of my characters – specifically the half-fey Xan.

'The Handless Maiden' by Lucy Campbell (2008)

The Armless or Handless Maiden narratives have spread throughout the world, and one of my favourite versions is that told by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés in her wondeful book, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. Here we find the focus put on the maiden's journey into the underground forest, and that was another part of the tale that spoke to me. How, I asked myself, could I use this archetype in my own story? I imagined the dwindling remains of a once powerful woodland, Ironwood Forest, on the outskirts of my created city of Ironbridge – the last earthly home of the cruel wood elves.

More 'regular' faeries do exist in my world, but they have long since departed the human world and returned to Faerie, their own realm, leaving behind some solitary fey (who try to blend in with humanity) while also deserting the entire race of elves. The wood elves – or dark elves, as they become known in my world – have grown bitter and twisted over the centuries, resentful of their fate, forced to make a home on the edges of human existence. The alchemists in the mythology I created are charged with protecting humanity from the fey, and the dark elves are all that are left in terms of a real threat.

My elves are nothing like in The Lord of the Rings, though! As Navin Sharma says in The Iron Witch after seeing his first one: "It didn't look much like Orlando Bloom…" If they have any 'Tolkienesque' qualities at all, I'd say they're closer to Gollum than Legolas, although their limbs are made of living wood and they are almost entirely covered with lichen and moss. To be honest, I didn't really base them on any one specific thing in mythology or folklore – they came out of a particularly dark corner of my imagination because I love the idea of creatures made of earth and tree; part of nature and yet separate, as they don't even belong in the human world. They are outcasts, which in some ways mirrors how Donna feels about her life and the things that make her different.

There might be one or two elements of Norse mythology that have slipped into my interpretation of the elves, but only things like how some Scandinavian sources say that the elves were aligned with demons (demons become more important as The Iron Witch trilogy develops).

The other folkloric element that I used was that of the 'Black Dog' tales and urban legends. Coming from England, I've often encountered these mythical creatures – of course, I mean in literature and film, etc. (not in person!) – especially on childhood vacations to Jersey. :)

Pub sign of 'The Black Dog Bar' at Bouley Bay, Jersey

These creatures are said to be more ghost than fey, but I've often wondered if in fact they belong more in the world of Faerie – they could almost be the fey equivalent of a Hellhound. You might find a Skriker (one of the many names these Black Dogs are given) lurking in the dying forest of my book, and I had a lot of fun incorporating these stories into my mosaic of mythology.

That's what I love about folklore, myth and legend: there is so much wonderful material for the stories that we tell today – I can't ever imagine running out of ideas!

Thank you so much, Karen! Readers, Karen's offering up a copy of The Iron Witch here. All you have to do is leave a comment by 11:59 P.M. EST on Wednesday, 2 March, to be entered. (Either LJ or Dreamwidth is fine.) I'll use to pick the winner, and yes, it's open internationally because Karen rocks like that.

If you'd like to find out more about Karen and her books, check out her website here.

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

Three Days of Fey: Day Two With Link Salad

February 23rd, 2011 (07:38 am)

current location: an overly warm room
current mood: excited
current music: A bird cawing in the distance

Due to the recent earthquake in New Zealand, Karen Healey (karenhealey) was unable to make her post for today. Karen is okay, but you can find out more here. Please send good thoughts to the inhabitants of the town and to Karen, and definitely check out her book, Guardian of the Dead.

I am leaving you with links, and I hope they brighten your day.

First, we have a double issue of the Journal of Mythic Arts, in which there are faeries and other native spirits. Click here to partake of the all the goodness!

Then, a lovely post by Terri Windling on myth and writing.

Finally, please head over to earthspirits's journal to see beautiful dolls which she crafts to go along with the characters in her stories. She'll be guest posting in the spring.

Love and lotuses to you all!

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

Three Days of Fey: Day One With Karen Lord

February 21st, 2011 (09:05 am)

current location: snug as a bug in my bed
current mood: sleepy
current music: birds chirping outside

Hooray, it's time for Three Days of Fey! This year, we have three Karens (how funny is that?): Karen Lord, Karen Healey, and Karen Mahoney. Karen Lord will start us out.

Karen Lord is a Barbadian author of speculative fiction. Her first book, Redemption in Indigo, won the 2008 Frank Collymore Literary Award, was published by Small Beer Press in 2010, and recently won the William L. Crawford Award for best first fantasy book by a new writer. Redemption in Indigo also gained starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review, and appeared on the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010.

Her second manuscript, The Best of All Possible Worlds, won the 2009 Frank Collymore Literary Award. She is represented by Sally Harding of The Cooke Agency.

Could you tell us how you worked with the source material/folklore to come up with the fey mythos in your novel?

The West African folktale which inspired chapters two, three and four of Redemption in Indigo, has no talking animals, no invisible spirits, and no magic Stick: only a straightforward tale of a woman who leaves her husband. All the fantasy elements in the novel are fresh additions, drawn from pure imagination and a variety of traditions. I call them fantasy elements, but I believe some fantasy is only science viewed through a glass darkly, unexplainable only at present, and awaiting the mathematician, physicist or psychiatrist capable of making the necessary paradigm shift to discover new rules and realities.

But before we delve deeper into that concept, let's examine these entities I call djombi – what are they exactly? They are a blend of names and concepts, mainly based on the West Indian jumbie with a slight nod to the Middle Eastern djinn. And what are jumbies? People give them various names and descriptions. They seem human until they shed their skin at night, and they can steal the voice of the living to impersonate them. They may be undead who once lived, or undying who were never born. They could be capricious but harmless, like a poltergeist, or downright dangerous. A rolling calf with flaming eyes or a steel donkey rattling through the village, a child with its feet facing backwards (dwenn) luring children into the forest, a beautiful woman with one cloven hoof (djablès) walking down a country road on a moonlit night, a malevolent imp trapped in a bottle (baccoo) wreaking havoc when released – all these are jumbies.*

They could be any sound, or light, or movement, or sudden dread that could not be explained – and more. Whether misperception, hallucination, or actuality, their shapes, their names, and their modus operandi embodied the hidden fears and secret anxieties of those who encountered them.

The djombi depicted in Redemption in Indigo have the power, unpredictability and symbolic resonance to be taken and mistaken for several myths and legends the world over. I had to include Anansi, that Caribbean spider-man of African descent, but all other individual djombi are their own cobbled creation. Still, they are not Pratchett's gods or Kipling's fairies, dependent on human belief for existence or relevance. Neither are they Pratchett's elves, off in a parallel world from which they view us as game in every sense. They are made from the fabric of the real world – in a way they are the world. Imagine a sentient Nature, not as a single Gaia consciousness but rather a conglomerate of entities who channel the flood, ride the wind, direct the lightning bolt, and also work with (or toy with) the organic-bodied intelligences in their midst.

Imagine beings who do not always choose to cooperate; who have hierarchies and duties and delinquents; who hate humans, or like them, or are indifferent to them; who see time and space very clearly and very differently; whose main motivation is to enjoy existence for as long as they can and as best they can. Such are the djombi: both like and unlike humanity in interesting ways, and thus an apt tool for a writer to use as shadow, foil or animus/anima.

Consider also that this fantasy creature, this djombi, has powers which not magical, but are are entirely constrained by fictional and factual rules of science. The source of its knowledge is not mystical, but the ability to see probabilities in both directions for a short distance along the timeline. It moves from place to place not by portal, but travelling efficiently through more than three spatial dimensions. It performs miracles not by might, but by knowing how to be in the right place at the right time when the improbable (yet possible) occurs.

That is what I mean when I say that some fantasy can be described as science viewed darkly, and that, to me, is the essence of fey: lurking on the edge of what we can comprehend, mysterious and yet familiar, alien but still kin.

* See Allsopp's Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage

Thank you so much, Karen! Readers, I loved Redemption in Indigo and heartily recommend it. More information can be found on Karen's Wordpress blog (which provides news and reviews for Redemption in Indigo), and also at Goodreads, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Dreamwidth.

Tune in on Wednesday for Day Two with Karen Healey (karenhealey)!

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

Books to curl up with while the snow buries us so deep, we're never seen again

January 11th, 2011 (05:54 pm)

current location: Deep in hibernation
current mood: creative
current music: Enigma's "Mea Culpa"

Well, it's no secret I like books. I also like talking about books. (Ask poor aryasura, who prefers nonfiction but is occasionally forced to listen to me babble about why I liked what this author did or why I didn't buy that character's actions at all. Sometimes I challenge myself to break the record of how quickly his eyes glaze over.)

So while waiting for the impending snowfall that they claim will send us all into hiding, I'll talk a bit about books. In particular, three I'd love to see receive more attention.

1. The first is a short story collection by one of my writing heroines, Theodora Goss. I first learned about Ms. Goss from Small Beer Press, who inspired me to run out and hunt for a copy of the chapbook A Rose in Twelve Petals. (Hope you're enjoying it, seaya!) I loved the stories so much that I immediately ordered In the Forest of Forgetting. (Is that a great title, or what?)

Goss's tales are something else, lush and rich and strange, full of Eastern European flavor and woven through with a delicate but spider silk–strong sensibility. I so yearn to write like her one day. If you haven't tried her work already, you must—and you can start with "The Rapid Advance of Sorrow."

2. Next up is Ekaterina Sedia's The House of Discarded Dreams (another fantastic title). I was fortunate enough to read an early draft of this and just loved it. Kathy writes some of the most inventive adult speculative fiction out there, and this novel is no exception.

Oh, right; I should tell you what the book is about.

Trying to escape her embarrassing immigrant mother, Vimbai moves into a dilapidated house in the dunes. . .and discovers that one of her new roommates has a pocket universe instead of hair, there's a psychic energy baby living in the telephone wires, and her dead Zimbabwean grandmother is doing dishes in the kitchen. When the house gets lost at sea and creatures of African urban legends all but take it over, Vimbai turns to horseshoe crabs in the ocean to ask for their help in getting home to New Jersey.

Just. . .just go read it, already. I mean, dwellings that float on the ocean and house people with portals for hair and ancestral ghosts! African urban legends! A main character of color! What are you waiting for?

3. Finally, I'd like to introduce you to Jazz in Love, Neesha Meminger's follow-up to her young adult debut, Shine, Coconut Moon. Neesha writes what she wants to see, YA fiction starring South Asians, and she does it well.

Jasbir, otherwise known as Jazz, has always been a stellar student and obedient, albeit wise-cracking, daughter. Everything has gone along just fine--she has good friends in the "genius" program she's been in since kindergarten, her teachers and principal adore her, and her parents dote on her. But now, in her junior year of high school, her mother hears that Jazz was seen hugging a boy on the street, and goes ballistic. Mom immediately implements the Guided Dating Plan, which includes setting up blind dates with "suitable," pre-screened Indian candidates. There's only one problem: the new boy at school, the very UNsuitable hottie, is the one who gets Jazz's blood boiling. When Jazz makes a few out-of-the-ordinary decisions, everything explodes, and she realizes she'll need a lot more than her genius education to get out of the huge mess she's created. Can Jazz find a way to follow her own heart, and still stay in the good graces of her parents?

I'm pleased to say Neesha's given me a copy to pass on to one of you lucky readers, so please check back tomorrow for a mini-interview and giveaway!

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

I'd like a slice of cherry, please, but hold the pie!

January 6th, 2011 (05:51 pm)

current mood: happy
current music: Tangerine Dream's "Force Majeure"

Hello, dear readers! Today we have Dia Reeves visiting, author of last year's acclaimed Bleeding Violet and its companion novel, A Slice of Cherry, which just came out this past Tuesday.

To quote Steph Su of Steph Su Reads, "Dia Reeves is like a bucket of cold water on YA lit's face…and I mean that in the best way. Her debut novel, Bleeding Violet, turned paranormal inside out and made it fascinating, in a sexy and gruesome sort of way. Her sophomore novel, Slice of Cherry, is like a twisted childhood fantasy come true. Which is to say that I LOVED it."

When she's not out manning space missions for NASA and scaring little children, Dia spends her time tweeting naughty stuff and reading and writing eleventy billion books, though usually not at the same time. (She's also a librarian near Dallas, Texas.)

1. Your books don't shy away from things like mental illness and serial killers. Could you tell us a bit about what inspired your Portero series?

After growing up watching stuff like The Twilight Zone and reading about places like Castle Rock, I knew I wanted to write about a small town where weird, spooky stuff happens as an everyday occurrence. If you start from a weird place then things like mental illness and serial killers don't seem so difficult.

2. You're a librarian when you're not writing. How has that affected your thoughts on writing, if at all?

It hasn't. I just work to pay the bills. It is cool being surrounded by books all day, though. Distracting, but cool.

3. As a debut author, what's the publishing process been like for you? Any surprises along the way?

It's been pretty uneventful. I'm not one of those authors with a cool story about being rejected a thousand times before finally hitting it big. It took me two and a half years to write my first book, but only a couple of months to get an agent and a book contract. The only real surprise is how turtle-slow the publishing business moves.

4. What's something you want to see more of in YA fiction?

More diverse characters. And I don't mean just race. Sometimes I feel like some YA characters are totally interchangeable--they want the same things and think the same thoughts and do the same predictable things. That's why my characters are so off the wall. I write the books I want to read.

5. Do you have any recommendations for multicultural novels that don't get a lot of press (or that most people haven't heard of)?

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon (A girl looking for her missing father has to battle all kinds of hideously cool monsters along the way)

Imago by Octavia E. Butler (An alien/human has to find humans to bond and breed with or it will die; I say "it" because it's neither male nor female--very trippy. It's the last book in a trilogy, but you don't need the first two to understand/love it)

Daddy Was a Number Runner by Louise Meriwether (it's basically A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but with black people. (A girl grows up poor in Harlem, but rich in love. At least until her family, and the whole neighborhood, falls apart. It depresses the crap outta me, but it's one of those books that stays with you)

Sport by Louise Fitzhugh (Everyone goes apesh*t over Harriet the Spy, but my favorite book in that series is this one, which is about Harriet's friend, Sport. What I really liked was that Sport's best friend was a black kid named Harry who spoke with a (fake) British accent. He was so weird and cool. Sport's other friends are diverse as well. It's just a great, funny read about a boy who has to keep his household running because his goodhearted dad is kind of an idiot. But when Sport inherits millions of dollars, his horrible absentee mother shows up and tries to get a share of the wealth)

6. What can readers expect from you in the future?

I'm writing a book now about a girl born without a heart. It's shaping up to be pretty bizarre. ;)

7. Do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share?

I can share my peach cobbler recipe:

8" x 8" baking dish
At least one can of peaches in heavy syrup (I like two)
1/2 cup of sugar
1 stick of butter
1 cup of self-rising flour (or 1 cup of regular flour, 1/4 tsp of salt, and 1 tsp of baking powder mixed together)
1 cup of milk

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt the butter in the baking dish, then remove from the oven.
Mix the flour, sugar, and milk together until smooth.
Pour the batter into the dish over the butter, but don't stir.
Spoon the peaches over the batter, but don't stir.
Bake for 45 minutes or until the crust has risen to the top and is golden brown.

8. Pick a question you would like to be asked and answer it.

Would you feel weird/angry if someone wrote fan fiction about your work?

No. I know some writers are annoyed by it, but I think it's harmless fun. And the idea that anyone would want to immerse themselves in a world I created is the height of flattery.

Thank you so much, Dia!

I can't wait to dig into both of these, and I suggest all of you do, too! You can learn more about Dia and her work at her website.

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

What is a sugar-plum, anyway?

December 16th, 2010 (10:47 pm)

current location: The Victorian Dollhouse
current mood: exhausted
current music: None.

The best surprises are those that come as a result of you being yourself, doing what you feel moved to do. I had a bit of good news recently, but I can't say anything about it just yet. Suffice it to say it totally made my week!

Speaking of this week, wow, it has just been dragging its feet. It's like 2010 realized it was racing by, jumping over hills, leaping over bridges, and suddenly, its time is almost up, so now it's digging in those heels, holding on for all it's worth.

Well, too bad! I say. You had your chance, now step down and go gentle into that good night. No bad-tempered blizzards, no ice storms, no sulky attempts at freezing the blood in our veins and the marrow in our bones. Give it up, already.


I'm neither Christian nor pagan, but I really enjoy some of the secular elements of Christmas. (Malinda Lo has an interesting post on mixing traditions from different cultures.) The colors are gorgeous and glittering, some of the songs are fun, and I love nibbling on chocolate mint cookies and gazing at houses bedecked in lights like jewels. Buying presents for our little nieces and nephews (I love presents, both giving and getting them!), knowing I'll see aryasura's family soon, hoping for that bread machine I asked for, reading lots of books and working on my novel--all great things.

aryasura and I might check out the Christmas Village in Philadelphia this weekend. It's modeled on the German Weihnachtsmarkt, and I'm excited. I loved that so much when I lived in Germany, being able to sip from a decorated mug full of steaming Glühwein (mulled wine) while strolling from stall to stall of wares. I could use the cheer to counter the dark and cold of winter, this season of cocooning. A cup of hot cocoa spiked with mint schnapps would help, too. . .

A Weihnachtsmarkt in Jena, Germany

Things are in transition in a lot of ways right now. It's scary but also exciting. I'm working toward realizing my dreams and unearthing others. I'm getting a chance to cheer on friends the way I've been cheered on. What's around the corner? (Hopefully not a snowstorm. *glances out the window* Huh. That's exactly what just came around the corner. Not. Funny.)

Well, while I wait for the fall of white powder to cease and the ice on the roads to be cleared away, I'll write some more.

I find I want to be quieter lately, listen for secrets, hide under blankets with hot drinks and things to read or watch. It's harder to spend time on the Internet, harder still to find things to post about. One of the most challenging things for me is figuring out the balance between being too personal and keeping this a professional journal. I want to be genuine and share bits of my experience, especially if they can help or encourage others. But some things need to remain sacred and just for me.

Of course, I'm always happy to talk about books. We can never have enough of those, no way, no how. Along those lines, Ari (blackteensread) has her list of the best YA novels by or about people of color she read in 2010. Have a look!

If you'd like to try your hand at winning a number of YA titles, here's YA Highway's Second Annual Winter Giveaway.

Also, in the spirit of Tim Burton and his Nightmare, here's the description for csecooney's delightfully creepy-sounding novella, The Big Bah-Ha, due out on the twentieth:

"A macabre post-apocalyptic fairy tale, a rollicking fantasy of a band of near-feral children who brave a plague-ridden landscape on a desperate quest. To rescue one of their own, they will ally with the monstrous and enigmatic Flabberghast--who arrived only after the world ended and eats the bones of the dead--and penetrate the mystery of Chuckle City, home to ravenous packs of balloon aminals, murderous Gacy boys, and the elusive Gray Harlequin."

Finally, I'm all about magic and wishes and dreams, so tell me: What's one thing you want, tangible or intangible, this year or next? Inquiring minds want to know!

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

Link salad with cranberry walnut cookies for dessert

November 16th, 2010 (11:15 pm)

current location: The Victorian Dollhouse
current mood: satisfied
current music: "Hector the Hero"

1. I've been remiss in posting about this, but the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship fundraiser is going on right now. It was set up in Octavia's memory to send a writer of color to study at one of the Clarion speculative fiction writing workshops. Read ktempest's moving story about why you should consider entering the raffle for an e-reader (three kinds available!) or simply donating what you can.

"Entrants will have the opportunity to win one of two (2) available Barnes & Noble Nooks, one of two (2) available Kobo Readers (with Wi-Fi), and one (1) Alex eReader by Spring Design. Drawing tickets cost one US dollar ($1).

In addition, each eReader will come pre-loaded with books, short stories, poems and essays by writers of color from the speculative fiction field. Some of the writers include N. K. Jemisin, Nisi Shawl, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Terence Taylor, Ted Chiang, Shweta Narayan, Chesya Burke, Moondancer Drake, Saladin Ahmed, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, and there will be many more." The raffle is open until midnight on 22 November.

I went to Clarion, and while the scholarship wasn't awarded until the next year, I can say Clarion is a fantastic opportunity for any aspiring speculative fiction writer. It's like writing boot camp. Please help if you feel so moved.

2. Also, two delicious adult novels released from Prime Books today: The House of Discarded Dreams by Ekaterina Sedia (squirrel_monkey) and Sleeping Helena by Erzebet YellowBoy (erzebet). One I read in early draft form and can't wait to see in its final incarnation, and the other wins me over just from the tiny excerpt of prose I've seen. Happy book birthday!

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

And their lips rang with the sun--and honey!

November 1st, 2010 (07:56 pm)

current location: The Victorian Dollhouse
current mood: tired
current music: Tori Amos's "Lust"

We haven't had an author interview for awhile, so why not begin November with one? Today we chat with the enchanting Amal El-Mohtar, whose luscious way with words leaves me dazed and delighted.

Amal is a Canadian-born child of the Mediterranean, and would have you believe that her longing for fruit in all seasons is in no way the result of her having compromised her virtue with goblin men. She's currently pursuing a PhD in English at the Cornwall campus of the University of Exeter, where, living in an Old Library built from dismantled ships, she still drinks copious amounts of tea, plays harp, and reads books. She reads lots of books. In fact, it has been suggested by some that her editorial favour might be bribed by gifts of bookshelves. Such rumours are unsubstantiated, and are, of course, likely to be dirty, dirty lies... still, dark shelves are best, preferably with an oak or walnut finish.

Amal's favourite colour is blue. She also keeps an LJ somewhat tidy.

Papaveria Press describes The Honey Month as "[a] fascinating experiment in literary synesthesia in which the scents, tastes and textures of assorted honeys are transmuted into a wordsmith's cycle of fey mischief. These bewitching poems and stories unwind a fevered world of magic and longing and young women who chance the uncanny and gain wisdom beyond their years."

1. Tell us a bit about this particular book and how it came together.

It was a complete surprise to me, at just about every step of the way! It all started in a New Jersey diner (which I will never forget because it was called, fabulously, The Diner), when a few convention-going friends and I were escaping the hotel's horrible restaurant in order to acquire something edible. I had a sore throat, and as I was dolloping honey into my tea, struck up a conversation about honey with Danielle Sucher, to whom Catherynne Valente had just introduced me. We discovered we shared a passion for honey, all the different colours and flavours and kinds, and I suggested it might be cool to swap honeys with each other when we were back in our respective homes -- she in New York City, I in Ottawa -- since we both had some we wanted to share with each other.

Did I mention that Danielle's a fabulous gourmet who ran her own Occasional Restaurant for years? No? Neither did Danielle, in that particular conversation. So I was very much not expecting it when a box of thirty-five different kinds of honey in 1/2 ml vials showed up at my house a couple of months later.

Since I only had about seven or eight that I was going to send her, I didn't feel the exchange was fair, and offered to write her something spontaneous for the balance. I decided that for every day in February, I would pick up a vial, describe the colour, scent, and taste of the honey inside, and then as quickly as I could, before the flavours faded from my tongue, write the first thing that came to mind. Sometimes it was poetry, sometimes it was prose -- but 28 days later (oops!) I had about sixteen thousand words, and people were nudging me to make a chapbook of it. Then Erzebet YellowBoy said she wanted to make it into a book, and I said YES PLEASE, and the rest is history!

2. You write poetry and edit a speculative poetry magazine (Goblin Fruit). What made you decide to start this magazine, and what are you looking for?

Jessica Wick and I had talked about doing an editing project together for years, but mainly we started the 'zine because we weren't seeing enough of the kind of poetry we really loved -- poetry that we might find an instance of in this 'zine here or that 'zine there, but not really consistently. We wanted lyrical, imagistic, emotionally powerful stuff with more myth and folklore to it than we were accustomed to finding in the wild, so we figured, hey, let's take what seeds we can and plant our own orchard, hmm? Thus, Goblin Fruit.

We want poetry that surprises us and makes us ache and sigh and gasp, poetry that leaves us breathless or shivering, poetry that teaches us a slantwise way of seeing a familiar story, or place, or person. We want poetry with gorgeous language, poetry that expands the borders of our world while enriching what's already within it.

3. You sing and play the harp! How did you come to that? Does this influence your writing?

I do, and do! Singing I've done as long as I can remember; one of my earliest memories of singing is of making up a song about ladybugs and dragonflies for my two year old sister to stop her from crying. As we grew up, she and I would sing together all the time, memorize all the songs in all the Disney films (most of which we still know by heart) and sing as we did the dishes or ran about outside. I came to the harp via Loreena McKennitt's music, which devastated me by wedding the Celtic sounds I'd fallen in love with to the familiar music of my childhood, growing up in a Lebanese family. I really credit her music with making me feel, in a way I couldn't quite articulate to myself at the time, that I could have both things together -- both my Middle-Eastern heritage and the language in which I had been taught to think, both the culture I'd inherited and the culture that fascinated me and teased me in all the books I was reading and loving.

4. Do you have any recommendations for multicultural novels?

Gosh. I've been in the thick of my PhD for the last two years, and so novel-reading's been on the back-burner. But I read Nora Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms this summer and really enjoyed it; anything by Catherynne Valente is guaranteed to have a great deal of thoughtful multicultural representation and engagement, showing people of various colours, and faiths, and sexual identities. I also read Mary Anne Mohanraj's Bodies in Motion, and adored it completely: several interlacing stories exploring the experiences of different members of two Sri Lankan families over several generations. It made me cry in public, on a train. I can't recommend it enough.

5. What do you want to see happen as the speculative fiction genre continues to evolve?

I want to see it diversify naturally, organically, of its own accord, with love and curiosity instead of fear, distrust, and contempt; I want to see it legitimised in the eyes of the mainstream; I want to see people embrace the term "science fantasy" and cease to organise their views of F&SF along gendered lines.

Oh, and I want all my brilliant, novel-writing friends to sell them to excellent publishers so I can see their spines on my shelf.

The spines of my friends' books. Not, like, my friends' spines. Honest.

6. What can readers expect from you in the future?

Ooh, let's see: I have a story about assassins, librarians, and a girl who's a book coming out in Apex on November 6 [Ed. note: It's already live, so go read it!]; a poem coming out in the Welcome to Bordertown anthology in May 2011, edited by Ellen Kushner and Holly Black; a story about an artist, a singing fish, and the critics they destroy in Ann and Jeff Vandermeer's Thackery T. Lambshead's Cabinet of Curiosities, also sometime in 2011. I have something like five different novel ideas bouncing about my head, none of which I can properly work on until I'm done my PhD on representations of fairies and other supernatural creatures in Romantic-Era British writing. So it goes!

7. Do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share?

Alas, no! My mother never taught me to work from recipes. All's I can say is, if you fry up some onions and garlic and add stuff to it? You're pretty much okay. :)

8. Pick a question you would like to be asked and answer it.

Hmm. "What's your favourite kind of tea?" Currently, Whittard's "Spice Imperial" blend, containing vanilla, orange peel, and cinnamon. Smells of winter comfort.

So what are you waiting for? It doesn't get any more delicious than this. Go check out Amal's wonderful, slim volume of gorgeous words and amazing flavors, The Honey Month, and prepare to sink into the sticky, the sweet, the savory.

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

I'd like to go on a magical misadventure, wouldn't you?

July 21st, 2010 (08:12 pm)

current location: The Victorian Dollhouse
current mood: tired
current music: the air conditioner

Today we have an interview with Deva Fagan (deva_fagan), the author of the really awesome middle-grade novel The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle. (A brown girl who gets to be a witch without it being an issue! Go read this book, folks.)

Deva in her own words: "When I was younger I wanted to be a marine biologist and study dolphins and whales. Then I wanted to be an astronomer and study black holes and supernovae and find alien life. Then I wanted to be a mathematician and prove theorems and study geometry.

All that time I was also writing stories. Because as much as I wanted to explore the universe and figure out how it worked, I also wanted to find out about people: How we decide to do the things we do, how we make sense of the big, bad, glorious world around us, how we fight and love and make our own destinies."

1. Tell us a bit about why you wrote this particular book.

I don't generally set out to write books for a specific reason. That is, I don't sit down and think "And now I will write a book about this Important Moral Lesson." Rather, my stories first start popping up as a premise and/or as characters. In this case, it was the characters that came first: a witch-girl who gets kicked out by her family because she can't curse, and a thief-boy who wants to be a hero.

Once I began exploring those characters and discovering their world, more elements fell into place: the themes about choosing to be your own person and dealing with people who fear things that are different. And if readers do find "messages" in the book that are meaningful to them, then I am very happy about it--but really, to me it is primarily the story of a girl and a boy having adventures. :-)

2. One thing that really stood out for me when reading Prunella's story was the conflict between self-reliance and teaming up with others, particularly when it involved Prunella's unintentional traveling companion Barnaby. Could you talk a little about that?

Yes, that's definitely one of the key components to Prunella's character arc. She starts out being very outwardly independent and self-reliant, to the point of not really knowing how to work with someone or to have a "friend." But at the same time her sense of self is very much based on external recognition from her family, and especially from her Grandmother. So much of what she does is based on a desire to make her family proud of her.

But as the story progresses Prunella is forced to work with others, even to trust others, and it's not always easy for someone as prickly as she is. On the other hand, she simultaneously has her external source of self-worth (her family) stripped away, and must figure out for herself what kind of person she wants to be, and what she needs to do to feel proud of herself.

I myself believe that it is important to be both self-reliant and to be able to work with others, so that is indeed an undercurrent to Prunella's story.

3. According to your website, you play the fiddle! What drew you to that?

I started studying classical violin back in grade school, and my favorite part of that experience was playing in the school orchestra. I loved the feeling of being a part of this group of dozens of other people, creating this complicated, beautiful thing that was bigger than any of us. But I set that aside in college due to the pressures of schoolwork and never really went back to it.

Later on I discovered world music and began listening to a lot of Celtic fiddle music. I loved the emotion and playfulness of that music, and the inventiveness of the musicians, who add a ton of improvisation and embellishment to the traditional reels, jigs, etc. I dreamed of being able to play like that, but it was a scary prospect: I'm the kind of person who likes schedules and lists and order, and this music was so free and unstructured. But I wanted to challenge myself, so I slowly started working on a few traditional jigs and reels.

I'm still not very good at it, I'm afraid, and don't play as often as I might wish (since most of my "free" time goes to writing these days). But I do really enjoy playing and I am getting slowly better at daring myself to improvise and just experiment.

4. Do you have any recommendations for multicultural MG novels?

Some of my favorites from the past few years are:

The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor, which takes place in a futuristic Africa and is full of marvelous imagery and talking camels and cities made of living plants and a tough, determined girl who can speak to shadows.

Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee, which is hilarious and touching all at the same time.

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins is technically YA, I think, but would probably work for an older MG reader. I loved this, although it is heartbreaking knowing that it reflects real world situations going on today. But it also reflects a belief in the strength of the human spirit and compassion that is enormously inspiring.

And on my own to-read pile right now is 8th Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, which I am really looking forward to!

5. You say, "I am particularly drawn to stories with fairy-tale or mythical echoes in them, usually with lashings of adventure and magic and fun." What are some of your favorites?

The very first fairy tale retelling I read was probably Beauty, by Robin McKinley, and I have continued to enjoy her work. Other books from my childhood that stand out to me for their fairy-tale/mythic inspirations are Lloyd Alexander's books, especially the Chronicles of Prydain, and Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series.

More recently I've really enjoyed Lisa Mantchev's Eyes Like Stars, which features gorgeous prose and several characters plucked from the storytelling tradition, Maggie Stiefvater's Lament and Ballad, which draw upon traditional fairy-tale lore, and Laini Taylor's Lips Touch: Three Times, which draws upon a number of different mythic elements.

I'm also really looking forward to Cindy Pon's Fury of the Phoenix, the second book in her Kingdom of Xia series [ed. note: the first is Silver Phoenix].

6. What can readers expect from you in the future?

My next book, Circus Galacticus, is scheduled to be out in 2011. It's the story of a 15-year-old girl named Trix Ling who runs away to join an intergalactic circus. I sometimes describe it "Dr Who meets Cirque du Soleil." I'm very excited about it--three of my goals for this one were (1) to make it "down to earth" enough that it wouldn't scare people off who might otherwise be leery of scifi, (2) to develop a large cast of cool secondary characters who were just as interesting as the main character, and (3) to create a rich world where you feel like you could zoom in on any little piece and find more detail. I don't know if I succeeded, but it was enormously fun to try!

7. Do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share?

Sure! Since it's summer in my part of the world (Maine), here's one of my favorite no-cooking-required summer salads:

Corn-Tomato Salad

Combine in a large bowl:

1 or 2 (depending on your tastes) pints of grape or cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 package super-sweet corn, defrosted, or an equal amount fresh corn sliced off the cob
Juice and zest of 1 or 2 limes (depending on your tastes)
One bunch cilantro, chopped
1/4 red onion, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

We like this with chips, or over greens. You can also add chopped avocado and/or black beans to make it more substantial.

8. Pick a question you would like to be asked and answer it.

Q: How can readers help promote the books they love? Especially in light of the discussions around the blogosphere where we keep hearing that "covers featuring non-white faces don't sell."

A: The obvious answer is "buy them," but that's really just the beginning, and quite possibly not even the most important on an individual level. Readers have enormous power when they join together. Most people agree that word of mouth is THE biggest and most effective promotion any book can get. So if there are books out there that you love, tell other people about them! Write reviews on GoodReads, on Amazon, on B&N, on Powells, on LibraryThing. Blog about them. Tweet about them. Tell people why you think they are good. Tell your local library about them and see if they will order a copy.

It's easy to feel like we are all in the power of these faceless big chain buyers who control what the majority of the book-buying population gets to choose from. But we do have the power to make a change and to promote the books we love.

Learn more about Deva on her website, and go buy her book! It's so much fun! Witches, unintentional traveling companions, secrets, adventure. . .how can you go wrong?

Oh, and you can even read an excerpt here!

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

Dancing and jingling and tantalizing: Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith

June 3rd, 2010 (08:20 pm)

current location: The Victorian Dollhouse
current mood: happy
current music: The whirr of the air conditioner

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of Eternal and Tantalize (both Candlewick). Her award-winning books for younger children include Jingle Dancer, Indian Shoes, and Rain Is Not My Indian Name (all HarperCollins). She is a member of the faculty at the Vermont College M.F.A. program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Her website was named one of the top 10 Writer Sites on the Internet by Writer's Digest and an ALA Great Website for Kids. Her Cynsations blog was listed as among the top two read by the children's/YA publishing community in the SCBWI "To Market" column.

1. Tell us a bit about why you wrote your latest YA novels.

Tantalize sprung from a handful of inspirations.

First, when I started writing Gothic fantasy in 2001-2002, there was a vacuum in the market. Nobody was really publishing that kind of book--one with classic monsters--for teenagers. And I loved spooky stories. As teen, I was a huge fan of Stephen King and the V.C. Andrews' series books.

I also had a hankering to tell a Texas tale, as I was living on Congress Avenue in south Austin.

The answer came when I did my homework.

When you incorporate a classic mythology into your writing, you typically want to research its origins so you know what's already been done and can make a fresh and thoughtful contribution to the conversation of books. That process brought me back to Bram Stoker's Dracula.

In studying Stoker, I noticed that his master vampire could take the form of a wolf, and I thought it might be interesting to write a murder mystery in which the central question was whether the villain was a vampire in wolf form or a werewolf.

Even better, one of Stoker's heroes was a Texan, Quincey P. Morris, so in some ways, I was bringing the tradition "home" to Austin.

From there, I drew on my own adolescence. In my youth, I worked summers as a waitress at a Mexican chain restaurant and, later, at the restaurant of an athletic club.

Being a waitress is kind of like running your own little business. In your "station," you manage the experience of customers at that section of tables and even tip out, say, service assistants, the bar, etc.--you pay them for the assistance they provide to you.

People tend to think of vampires as more drinkers than diners, so I thought a restaurant setting could add some fresh blood to my story. I juxtaposed those make-believe monsters against a fictional Italian restaurant on south Congress and, to get the plot going, killed the chef. Well, I didn't do it. The bad guy did, but you know what I mean.

I also took the idea of the waitress "business within the business" a step farther. I made my teen protagonist the owner of the restaurant (held in trust until she's 21) and gave her a myriad of responsibilities there.

With Eternal, I wanted to move closer still to Stoker and from the day-to-day people of the world-restaurant managers, vice principals, police officers--to its hierarchy, the vampire royalty on the side of evil and the angels on the side of good.

The setting begins again in central Texas, but quickly moves to Illinois--Chicago and just north of it. We find ourselves in a castle where heirs to the Dracula legacy rule the underworld and a "slipped" angel seeks to save a girl who was damned when he broke heaven's rules, trying to save her life.

2. There is no way I could interview you and not talk about Cynsations, your ridiculously amazing, information-packed blog about children's literature and authors. School Library Journal even said, "If you're going to read only one blog, this is it!" Can you tell us a little about what inspired you to start it and what keeps it going?

Back in 1998, I launched an e-mail list and Web pages of book recommendations/resources beyond what you'd normally find on a standard author site.

I did this for a couple of reasons--first, I wanted to raise awareness of multicultural children's/YA literature and voices, and second, my inner journalist wanted to report some good news.

In terms of the main site, though, it was a challenge to focus on time-sensitive news. I didn't want to, say, upload a notice of an award or special event, only to worry about taking it down later.

When blogs came around, their diary format offered a perfect solution. I could focus on news of the day and keep moving forward.

By then, I'd also expanded my coverage to youth literature, writing for young readers, publishing, the book community, and more. I'm a person of diverse interests within the field, and so my coverage is both wide and deep.

3. You're in the unusual position of both writing children's literature and teaching it. How has that affected how you see writing and publishing, and what, if anything, would you want aspiring authors to know?

I teach at the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. It's a low-residency program, so we're in quaint, lovely Montpelier in January and July for over a week of long but inspiring days and nights, focusing on craft, critique, and literary analysis.

It's certainly changed my writing for the better. Over the years I've worked with and learned from such luminaries as Kathi Appelt, Marion Dane Bauer, Norma Fox Mazer, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Tim Wynne-Jones.

In conjunction with our special programs, I've also had the opportunity to hear industry professionals like editor Melanie Kroupa discuss in an in-depth way what speaks to her in a manuscript.

Moreover, there's something about having to articulate points of craft in critique that makes that knowledge and those related skills more accessible. It's like you're constantly clearing away the brain dust.

What I've gained above all else is a commitment to constantly pushing to a higher level of excellence, even if it means taking on new challenges, new formats, new devices and perhaps stumbling for a while.

Don't take the easy way out. It's not enough to publish, if you're not continuing to grow.

4. Do you have any recommendations for multicultural novels that don't get a lot of press (or that most people haven't heard of)?

I'm not sure how much attention these are receiving, but regardless, they deserve more:

The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee (Candlewick)
Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos (Atheneum)
Border Crossing by Jessica Lee Anderson (Milkweed)
First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover and First Daughter: White House Rules by Mitali Perkins (Dutton)
The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzales (Knopf)
Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson (Delacorte)

5. What's something you want to see more of in fiction?

I'm longing for more humor at every age level but especially for teenagers. I'd also like to see more speculative fiction with protagonists from underrepresented ethnic/racial groups and more middle grade/tween novels with boy appeal.

6. What can readers expect from you in the future?

Let's see. My upcoming children's picture book, Holler Loudly, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton, Nov. 2010) is an original southwestern tall tale and a love letter to libraries.

On the YA front, I look forward to the release of Blessed and Tantalize: Kieren's Story (both Candlewick, Feb. 2011). Blessed will pick up where Tantalize leaves off and cross over the cast of Tantalize with the cast of Eternal.

Tantalize: Kieren's Story is a graphic novel from the character Kieren Morales's point of view, brought to life by illustrator Ming Doyle.

There's more in the works, but that's probably enough to focus on for now.

7. Do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share?

Sorry, I am capable of making scrambled eggs. Everything else has to come out of a box or can. However, I excel at ordering Chinese food.

8. Pick a question you would like to be asked and answer it!

Who are your fictional role models?

Princess-senator Leia Organa, Wonder Woman, and Kit from The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to read her books! Go check them out, and learn more about Cynthia at her website or her wonderful blog, Cynsations.

Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ [userpic]

Three Days of Fey: Day Three With Carolyn Turgeon

February 26th, 2010 (07:52 am)

current location: Land of the Neverending Snow
current mood: cranky
current music: None

Welcome to the third and final post of this year's Three Days of Fey. Today we have Carolyn Turgeon (carolynturgeon).

Carolyn Turgeon is the author of the novels Rain Village, about a trapeze girl in an old-time circus, and Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story, about Cinderella's fairy godmother living in present-day New York. Her third novel, Mermaid, is a retelling of the original little mermaid story and comes out in March 2011.

What qualities define the fey? I'd love to hear about your take on the fey and what that means for your writing.

So I didn't set out to write about fairies when I started Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story. I set out to write about Cinderella, and when I decided, after a few months, to tell the story from the fairy godmother's perspective, and then decided that the fairy godmother was now an old woman living in New York City, an old woman remembering being Cinderella's fairy godmother way back when and telling us what really happened on the night of the ball. . . .Well. Then I realized I was going to be writing about some fairies.

And when I thought about fairies I thought about little winged creatures flitting about being completely gorgeous at all times. Sparkling, shimmering, glittering little things, like in Midsummer Night's Dream and Peter Pan and Sleeping Beauty, and those spooky black and white photos those little girls faked 100 years ago in England, and probably a thousand other little stories that I read as a kid and that are now tucked so deep in my brain they just feel like things that I know, and have always known.

I figured if I was going to write about fairies I really ought to do a little studying up, and I actually went and bought a few books on the subject. But I didn't get far. I had this terrible resistance to all the names and categorizations, all the lists of places where fairies dwell. I figured they're fairies. They're magical creatures who can do magical things, and I can make them up. (In fact I was taken aback when a few early readers questioned my making my fairy's wings feathered and insisted that fairies have wings like insects instead. But they're not real, I said. But I changed it nonetheless, making it that fairy godmothers have feathered wings, but no other fairies do. Sigh.)

And I figured this: So say this old lady in New York City in the present day used to be a real, full-on fairy. Say she was supposed to get Cinderella to the ball, and that for some reason this was an important task, and she failed it. (Why? Maybe she wanted what she was supposed to give to Cinderella? Maybe she fell in love with the prince herself???) And as a result was banished from the fairy world. Say she remembers now, what it was like, back then, being this magical being. I figured for this I don't need to read books about old fairy lore. I just have to tap into that feeling that things were perfect and shining and beautiful once, and now they're not.

Who doesn't know that feeling?

So for me that's what the fey--a word I've never used, actually, but I like it--came to represent, in my book, anyway. A lost, shining world full of leaves and water, creatures who never know desire because everything is perfect already. A world where things are so perfect that you might actually become jealous of Cinderella's grief and longing, they're so alien to you. And that's what became the crux of my story.

Plus, in the fairy world? Things glitter. A lot. This I am 1000% sure of.

Thank you so much, Carolyn! I loved Godmother and heartily recommend it to everyone. Go learn more at her Web site. (Her LiveJournal is hilarious, too.)