#14Debuts Day 6: Danielle L. Jensen and Stolen Songbird

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Welcome to the first day of #14Debuts, all about great 2014 YA debuts and their amazing authors! Stay tuned for guest posts, interview, dream casts and some great giveaways. Today I’m featuring:

Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

Publication Date: April 1st, 2014
Publisher: Strange Chemistry

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For those who have loved Seraphina and Graceling comes another truly fabulous fantasy…

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

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I have always loved fantasy of any and every kind. It is (dare I say it?) my favorite genre. (Fantasy-action-adventure the most, but that’s beside the point). When I heard about Stolen Songbird, I was beyond excited for it. I received an ARC copy and LOVED it. You can read my review here and enter to win a signed copy and SS swag below!

Guest Post — Danielle L. Jensen: The Course of True Love (And Publication) Never Did Run Smooth…

We’ve all heard stories about authors who wrote a book, sent out a couple of queries, got picked up by a major agent, and signed a huge publishing deal (after an auction) within a week of going on submission. We’ve also heard stories of authors who have twenty finished manuscripts in their electronic desk drawer, but never a book deal have they found.

My story falls somewhere in the middle.

I’m going to skip the particulars of why I started writing and those early struggles, and jump right to the point of having my first finished manuscript that I was convinced was ready for publication (spoiler alert: I was wrong).  I sent my first query letter out on April 1, 2009 for an adult epic fantasy novel, and WOOP! had my first partial request a couple days later.

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I was quite convinced that this was it, but two weeks later I got a form rejection. You can imagine how well I took it. HOWEVER, I kept sending out query letters, revised the manuscript, wrote the sequel to the novel, went to the Backspace conference, etc. But I had pretty much zero luck. So I started working on another book, this time a YA post-apocalyptic novel. I had lots and lots of full requests for this novel based on queries and pitch contests, but every one of those agents rejected it. All for different reasons. While I was going through that process, I started working on a YA fantasy novel about trolls. This would have been in 2010. It took me until the fall of 2011 to finish drafting and polishing the novel before I deemed it ready. I then sent a bunch of queries out into the world.

All were rejected.

So I went back to revising, and while I was doing that, I entered MSFV’s Baker’s Dozen contest. Low and behold, my little manuscript was aggressively bid on and won by my now-agent, Tamar Rydzinski. She read the manuscript within the week, then sent me an email saying that she really liked it, but that there were a bunch of things that she thought needed to be changed. She invited me to make the revisions and resubmit in the future. This was December of 2011.

University, life, lack of creativity, and my ego muddied the writing waters for me in the first part of 2012, and I didn’t get back to her with a revised manuscript until that summer. It was around that time that I really began questioning whether publication was ever going to happen to me – it was without a doubt the lowest moment of my writing career. BUT, in August of 2012, I got THE CALL offering me representation. A week later, I was signed. Then began the revisions…

FIVE months and SEVEN rounds of revisions later, STOLEN SONGBIRD (under a different title) went out on submission in January 2013. It sold to my wonderful editor, Amanda Rutter of Strange Chemistry, in March 2013. A few months later, I learned that it would be published April 1, 2014. Which you may have noticed is exactly five years after I sent out my first query letter.

April 1 has come and gone, and I’d like to thank everyone for helping me welcome STOLEN SONGBIRD into the world.

Connect with Danielle: 
Find Stolen Songbird:
 
4.14.14. stolen songbird by danielle jensen feature guest post
Danielle was born and raised in Calgary, Canada. At the insistence of the left side of her brain, she graduated in 2003 from the University of Calgary with a bachelor’s degree in finance. But the right side of her brain has ever been mutinous; and in 2010, it sent her back to school to complete an entirely impractical English literature degree at Mount Royal University and to pursue publication. Much to her satisfaction, the right side shows no sign of relinquishing its domination.

#14Debuts Day 5: Melissa Petreshock and Fire of Stars and Dragons

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Welcome to the second day of #14Debuts! Today I’m featuring:

Fire of Stars and Dragons by Melissa Petreshock

Publication Date: April 29th, 2014
Publisher: Swoon Romance

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Following the death of her uncle, twenty-one-year-old CAITRIONA HAYDEN finds herself in the midst of a trio of quintessential alpha male suitors in 22nd century sovereign America where human females should be seen and not heard.

Theo Pendragon claims her as his ward, ordained to guard her through to a long-awaited destiny unbeknownst to Cait, but finds more than he expected when passion ignites within the dragon for the first time. Always drawn to the pursuit of knowledge rather than the heat of desire, powerful demigod Dante cannot deny everything his future holds in Caitriona. America’s monarch, ancient vampire Corrin, has no interest in the frivolity of love, yet marrying Cait could be the answer to his continued survival.

Soon, Cait goes from studying for college exams to choosing a husband knowing the consequences are eternal, the love undying, and the bond timeless.

 

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I’ve been needing a good NA read recently, and this sounds like just the thing. As a lover of fantasy in all it’s forms, I’m really looking forward to seeing what Melissa has cooked up.

Video — Melissa Petreshock: Top Ten Playlist

Connect with Melissa: 
Add Fire of Stars and Dragons on  Goodreads
4.14.14. fire of stars and dragons melissa petreshock
Melissa A. Petreshock is a full-time writer and member of the Romance Writers of America with past experience in the medical and educational fields, though she has primarily devoted her adult life to raising a family. Born and raised in Kentucky, Melissa spent a number of years in Massachusetts, living outside Boston and in Springfield before returning to her home state where she now resides on a small farm. She enjoys quiet married life and the silliness of her three children, indulging hobbies of music, Zumba, and a minor television addiction in what little free time she finds. Melissa’s interests include causes demanding social change such as mental health awareness and teen suicide prevention. FIRE OF STARS AND DRAGONS is her debut NA Fantasy Romance novel.

#14Debuts Day 4: Skylar Dorset and the Girl Who Never Was

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Welcome to the first day of #14Debuts, all about great 2014 YA debuts and their amazing authors! Today I’m featuring:

The Girl Who Never Was by Skylar Dorset

Publication Date: June 1st, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

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THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS is the story of Selkie Stewart, who thinks she’s a totally normal teenager growing up in Boston. Sure, her father is in an insane asylum, her mother left her on his doorstep—literally—when she was a baby, and she’s being raised by two ancient aunts who spend their time hunting gnomes in their Beacon Hill townhouse. But other than that her life is totally normal! She’s got an adventurous best friend who’s always got her back and an unrequited crush on an older boy named Ben. Just like any other teenager, right?

When Selkie goes in search of the mother she’s never known, she gets more than she bargained for. It turns out that her mother is faerie royalty, which would make Selkie a faerie princess—except for the part where her father is an ogre, which makes her only half of anything. Even more confusing, there’s a prophecy that Selkie is going to destroy the tyrannical Seelie Court, which is why her mother actually wants to kill her. Selkie has been kept hidden all her life by her adoring aunts, with the help of a Salem wizard named Will. And Ben. Because the boy she thinks she’s in love with turns out to be a faerie whose enchantment has kept her alive, but also kept her in the dark about her own life.

Now, with enchantments dissolved and prophecies swinging into action, Selkie finds herself on a series of mad quests to save the people she’s always loved and a life she’s learning to love. But in a supernatural world of increasingly complex alliances and distressingly complicated deceptions, it’s so hard to know who to trust. Does her mother really wish to kill her? Would Will sacrifice her for the sake of the prophecy? And does Ben really love her or is it all an elaborate ruse? In order to survive, Selkie realizes that the key is learning—and accepting—who she really is.

 

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I’m long overdue for a new book about fae and The Girl Who Never Was sounds really promising! And I love the cover!

Guest Post — Skylar Dorset: What Fuels My Love of Fantasy

There are some things that are so much a part of you that they’re there with you from the very beginning, ingrained into some part of your DNA or something. My love of fantasy is like that.

When I was four, I asked Santa Claus if he would leave me Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Not forever or anything like that, I understood I had to share him, I just wanted to hang out with him.

When I was five, my very favorite thing to do was to sit and flip through this illustrated encyclopedia of myths and legends that we had. I remember especially being fascinated by the legend of the thistle, for some reason. And of the mandrake (you can imagine my delight when they showed up in Harry Potter).

When I was six and first sat in front of a typewriter (it was the olden days) to write a story, it was about talking squirrels.

When I was seven, I thought it might be within the realm of possibility that I would marry Reepicheep from the Narnia books (that’s if things didn’t work out between me and Justin the rat from “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH”).

I was just never a child who wanted to live in the real world. I always thought there was something more interesting out there that I was meant for, some magical world where animals talk and plants scream and the stories you tell are all true. So my love of fantasy was always a part of me.

And it’s precisely because I have just never gotten over the idea of there being MORE. The things that you can imagine, they can be TRUE. Maybe only in your head, but if you lock the stuff in your head into words that you put on paper, then you can make them be true for longer, more permanently, for more people. You can open up your most fun ideas for all to see and say, “Wouldn’t it be AWESOME if Boston was founded by wizards and ogres and goblins and gnomes? Come and play in this world with me.”

I love Boston, everything about it. But I undeniably think Boston would be more fun if the reason the subway breaks down all the time really is because of goblins. C’mon, isn’t that infinitely more interesting than the generic announcements of track switching issues? GOBLINS, YOU GUYS. Makes that traffic jam so much more interesting!

Sometimes you get stuck in a rut, a routine, a day-after-day, and you know what breaks you out of it? Thinking of goblins crossing your path, of faeries flirting with you, of rats that can tell you stories and enchantments that can change your world. You never know what’s coming next. ANYTHING could be coming next. And that’s what fuels my love of fantasy: I want ANYTHING to be around the bend, both in my reading and in my writing. It keeps life fun.

Connect with Skylar: 
Find The Girl Who Never Was:
 
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Skylar’s first story was a tale of romantic intrigue involving two feuding factions of squirrels. Think “Romeo & Juliet” but with bushy tails and added espionage. She was seven.

Since that time, Skylar’s head has been filled with lots of characters and lots of drama. She is delighted to be able to share some of it with all of you now, because, honestly, it was getting pretty loud and crowded in there.

Skylar is a born-and-bred New Englander, which is why Boston was a natural setting for her debut novel, THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS. Skylar shares her home with a cardboard cutout of the Tenth Doctor, lots of Mardi Gras beads from the time she spent living in New Orleans, and a harp she’s supposed to be teaching herself to play. She’d like to get a dog.

#14Debuts Day 3: MG Buehrlen and the 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare

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Welcome to the third day of #14Debuts, all about great 2014 YA debuts and their amazing authors! Today I’m featuring:

The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare

Publication Date: March 4th, 2014
Publisher: Strange Chemistry

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For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she’s really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair.

But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can’t explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal’s office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them.

It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren’t really visions. Alex is a Descender – capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.

Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever.

And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.

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The first time I heard about this book it was through Cuddlebuggery when they ran their giveaway. I have to admit, when I first heard about the past lives of Alex, I first thought of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Except the Fire Nation isn’t out to get Alex. And she’s not an air bender. However, I have full confidence that Alex will be just as awesome as Aang and I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of this book!

Interview

1) Describe THE 57 LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE in four words. 
Time travel. Reincarnation. Lies.
2) What inspires you? 
Beautiful writing. Strong coffee. Napping outdoors, specifically in the untouched wilderness where breezes roll, coyotes howl, and leaves whisper. Flowers in spring. Colors in autumn. New notebooks and pens.
3) What has been your favorite part of the writing journey for THE 57 LIVES so far? 
Finally getting it into the hands of readers and hearing their reactions. I love the theories they are coming up with for Book 2.
4) Do you have a certain routine you go through before you write? 
Usually I can just jump right in, no matter where I am, but if I need to get in the writing mood, I’ll find a comfy chair, make myself an espresso and a plate of cookies, and settle in for the long haul. It’s also nice to have a purring cat at your feet.
5) If you could meet any character from any story ever told, who would it be and why? 
I’d love to meet Merlin. There are so many reincarnations of him in literature that I’m not quite sure which to adhere to. I’d love to meet the REAL one. The right one. Was he young? Old? Bearded? Clean-shaven? Born with his magic or did he have to study to become great? I need to know these things!
6) I love the cover of THE 57 LIVES! What did you think when you first saw it? 
I’m so glad you like it! I loved the colors. It’s exactly how I pictured the ethereal colors in Limbo. And the wisps are just how I picture the soulmarks. It’s lovely, and I’d love to be walking alongside Alex in that wood right about now.
7) If you had fifty six past lives and you could go back to one–forever–what time period would you want to go back to? 
I’d like to go back and try my hand at life during the American pioneer days. I think I could hack it. I’d go all Laura Ingalls Wilder on that past life.
8) Do you have any advice for aspiring writers out there? 
Find a close group of critique partners, other writers, preferably those who know the publishing ropes, who can read your work and give you valuable feedback. Choose them wisely. Make sure they know you, your vision for the book, and what you’re trying to accomplish with it. Don’t just let anyone read your work. Too many differing opinions can cripple a writer and leave them standing still. Choose critique partners who will help propel you forward toward your goal, not cut you off at the knees with self-doubt.
Connect with MG: 
Find Queen of Hearts:
 
4.14.14. the 57 lives of alex wayfare mg

When she’s not writing, M.G. moonlights as a web designer and social media/creative director. She’s the current web ninja lurking behind the hugely popular website YABooksCentral.com, a social network for YA (and kids!) book lovers. The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare is her debut novel. M.G. lives nestled away in Michigan pines, surrounded by good coffee and good books, with her husband and son and three furbabies. Say hello on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

 

#14Debuts Day 2: Mary Crockett and Dream Boy

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Welcome to the second day of #14Debuts! Today I’m featuring:

Dream Boy by Madelyn Rosenberg and Mary Crockett

Publication Date: July 1st, 2014 
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

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Annabelle Manning feels like she’s doing time at her high school in Chilton, Virginia. She has her friends at her lunchtime table of nobodies. What she doesn’t have are possibilities. Or a date for Homecoming. Things get more interesting at night, when she spends time with the boy of her dreams. But the blue-eyed boy with the fairytale smile is just that—a dream. Until the Friday afternoon he walks into her chemistry class.

One of friends suspects he’s an alien. Another is pretty sure it’s all one big case of deja vu. While Annabelle doesn’t know what to think, she’s willing to believe that the charming Martin Zirkle may just be her dream come true. But as Annabelle discovers the truth behind dreams—where they come from and what they mean—she is forced to face a dark reality she had not expected. More than just Martin has arrived in Chilton. As Annabelle learns, if dreams can come true, so can nightmares.

 

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LOVE this cover, and the book in general sounds really interesting. Excited to be featuring Mary here today!

Interview

What inspired this story?
I’ve always been obsessed with dreams. I mean really, why do we tell ourselves stories when we sleep? How weird is that!
But the idea for Dream Boy specifically came from watching an old Ginger Rogers movie in the wee hours of the morning. I was more asleep than awake, but I did remember that there was this guy in an Indian costume who seemed to pop out of Ginger Roger’s dream.
The next day, I contacted my friend Madelyn Rosenberg and asked her the big “What if?” What if a dream boy walked out of a girl’s dream and into her life?
 
We decided together to write the story as a way of answering that question.
How would you describe it in five words?
Dream boy becomes real. Tada!
What was the journey of writing this story?
Madelyn and I started with a very general story arc (one that could be summed up in maybe two sentences) and a few ideas about some key characters. Other than that, we didn’t have any set plans. There was never an outline or anything of that sort. We just set to work—finding our way through the writing.
Since we live in different towns, we emailed the story back and forth. I might start writing and when I ran out of steam, I’d send it to Madelyn. She’d comb through what I’d written, making changes as she went, and then add to it. She’d send the new stuff to me, and I’d do the same.
The whole way, it was sort of like the bunny hop—two steps forward, one step back. But that bunny got us across the finish line! And once we got there, the book was that much better because we each scratched its ears so much along the way.
Was it hard to move from writing poetry to YA?
I think I might be more of a natural wordsmith than I am a natural storyteller. So, yes, there were challenges involved in moving from writing poetry to writing a novel. They ask different things of you as a writer. It was hard work at times—but good work. And fun work, too.
I’m glad I started with a YA novel, though, instead of some hoity-toity literary fiction piece. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there’s just too much baggage involved with literary fiction.
With YA, I felt much more free. I could concentrate on telling an interesting story with realistic characters and compelling ideas—and I could have a great time while doing it!
What was your favorite/least favorite part of writing DREAM BOY?
Favorite: Writing with Madelyn. Fun fun fun!
 
Least favorite: That point in the middle of writing a novel where nothing seems clear and all progress grinds to a stop. Yeah, we’ve written the beginning, and yeah, we know where we’re heading. But how do we get there? That’s tough.
Do you see yourself in any of the characters in DREAM BOY?
OMG! I never really saw this coming, but when you asked that, it hit me: Revelation!
I see myself in Will.
Not Annabelle. Will.
Some time ago (when I was jotting down a similar question for a writer I was interviewing), it occurred to me that someone might one day ask me which character I identified with in Dream Boy. At the time, I assumed I would think it through and likely decide that I identified with Annabelle. After all, she’s the main character—and most importantly, shetells the story. It’s hard to be inside someone’s mouth for a few years without identifying with her!
But as soon as you asked me the question for real, I saw the answer. Utter clarity. Will. Yikes! Weird.
If you could meet any character from any story ever told, who would it be and why?
Ask me another time, and I would probably have another answer, but at this particular moment on this particular day, I would like to meet Ella Fannie from Ella Fannie’s Elephant Riddle Book. When I was a kid, I checked that book out of the school library every week for a year.
There were riddles like QUESTION: “Why did Ella Fannie paint her toenails red?” ANSWER: “Because she wanted to hide in the cherry tree.”
The riddles didn’t really make sense, and yet they were gorgeously constructed nonsense.
After years of fruitless searching (I had misremembered the name as Ellie Elephant’s Elephant Joke Book, so Google wasn’t any help), I stumbled across a copy of that Ella Fannie book at a library sale. JOY! When I read it with my husband, he said Ella Fannie had likely shaped my sense of humor more significantly than any other single factor in my life.
Plus, I kind of miss her. I’d like to hear some new jokes. So yes, right here, right now, it’d be her.
Were there any lessons or morals you were trying to convey through DREAM BOY?
Nope, not really. I mean, there are ideas in the book—ideas about what makes us human, how we can take control of our own lives, the value of friendship, the necessity of family. But no lessons, exactly.
Who was the character you felt closest to when writing this book?
Now, that would be Annabelle. It’s a point-of-view thing.
Any hints as to what’s next for your writing?
I’m always juggling a bunch of projects, but the one that has the firmest grip on me right now is quite dark. Dark and realistic. (Which is much more disturbing to me than dark and fantastic.) The voice is comic, but the subject is very dark.
Connect with Mary: 
Find Dream Boy:
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Mary Crockett’s debut young adult novel DREAM BOY is about the aftermath of dreams and the desire to figure out how you fit into the puzzle of your own life. It’s also about cute guys, epic kisses, and the mystical power of a really awesome pair of shoes. A native of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Mary grew up as the youngest of six children in a family of misfits. She has worked as everything from a history museum director to a toilet seat hand model. In her other life, she’s an award-winning poet, professional eavesdropper, and the person who wipes runny noses. If you tweet at her, chances are she will tweet back.

#14Debuts Day 1: Colleen Oakes and Queen of Hearts

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Welcome to the first day of #14Debuts, all about great 2014 YA debuts and their amazing authors! Stay tuned for guest posts, interview, dream casts and some great giveaways. Today I’m featuring:

Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

Publication Date: February 14, 2014
Publisher: SparkPress

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A Father’s Betrayal. A Kingdom with a Black Secret. A Princess Slowly Unraveling. 

As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

 

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I seriously need to read the Splintered series by A.G. Howard. I NEED it. But while I’m on my Alice in Wonderland-like run, I guess I’ll pick up Julie Kagawa and head to the Nevernever and explore Queen of Hearts with Colleen Oakes.

Interview + Dream Cast

Who and what inspired Queen of Hearts? 

I was driving to meet a friend at the mall (honestly, I only go there like once a year, just so this doesn’t sound ridiculous) and the idea just popped into my head. I had been thinking about Alice in Wonderland, and the Queen, and I think the thought that started it all was “Why is the Queen of Hearts so angry all the time?”  I had wanted to venture into fantasy and a more serious story than the Elly in Bloom series was giving me, and once the idea hit I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  By the time I made it to California Pizza Kitchen, I had already figured out the characters. I grabbed a napkin and began mapping out a plot.  When I actually started researching, I stumbled across a quote from Lewis Carroll describing The Queen as “an embodiment of blind fury”.  At that moment, I knew I would write it and when I did, it would be a story of love denied on an epic scale.

In the preface of the book you quote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Was it a love for Lewis Carroll’s book that led you to write about Dinah?  

While I do love Alice in Wonderland, I would say that my complete fall into that world happened when I was writing the book. Now I’m deep into the mythos of that world and that book, which was so wonderful to revisit as an adult as I prepared to write Queen.

How dark is the twist on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?

It’s pretty dark, and at times macabre and gruesome.  I would say that those are among my favorite parts to write. There is a twisted part of me that loves to be a little bit terrified and a little bit dark without going too far over the edge.  Movies like Coraline, Sleepy Hollow and The Others are just my cup of tea because they creep but not scare – and I think that’s my approach to the darker side of things. I wanted a distinctly dark fairy tale in the style of Lewis Carroll’s original vision.

Some of the imagery in the book reminds me of watching the Disney movie Alice in Wonderland as a child. Did the movie play any role in the development of your story? 

That was a strange area for me – did I even consider the movie when I was writing the book, especially considering how vastly different they are? In the end I decided to embrace both the political satire that is Carroll’s book and the whimsy of the Disney movie and the culture that has come with that film.
What’s your favorite fantasy series? 

It’s a toss-up between the Harry Potter series and The Song of Fire and Ice Saga by George R.R Martin. Both were epic reads that completely transported me into another world and made a drooling fan-girl out of this otherwise mature woman.

Tell us why readers will enjoy your new release. 

I believe that Queen of Hearts is different than any other fairy tale retelling out there, simply because it’s the story of a princess who became a villain. We are going to see a girl being very, very bad and very, very heroic.  I think that prism of her character will attract readers who are looking for a little bit more dimension in their characters and in their Wonderland. What is your favorite motivational writing quote? For writing, I really have two favorite quotes. The first is “Hold the vision, trust the process.”  I repeat this to myself daily, even when it feels like I am writing really slow.  The other is by Stephen King: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all else: read a lot and write a lot.”
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Dinah

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Wardley

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Harris

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The King of Hearts

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Cheshire

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Charles

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Vittiore

Connect with Colleen: 
Find Queen of Hearts:
 
4.14.14. queen of hearts colleen
Colleen Oakes is the author of the Elly in Bloom Series and the upcoming YA fantasy Queen of Hearts Saga, both published via Sparkpress. She lives in North Denver with her husband and son. When not writing, Colleen enjoys swimming, traveling, and immersing herself in nerdy pop culture. She is currently at work on the last Elly novel and another YA fantasy series called Wendy Darling.

Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill: Fun, Cute Read–but Characters Were Definitely Not MTB

Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question.

It’s one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she’s queen of following rules and being prepared. That’s why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that’s also why she’s chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB (“meant to be”).

But this spring break, Julia’s rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she’s partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.

Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.

This was a cute, entertaining read that I had fun with. It had it’s moments, and I can definitely recognize Morrill’s style in the writing. However, it’s characters felt a little bit off. In this case, the only person I really enjoyed was Jason, whereas with BSJ, I enjoyed all the characters immensely.

Julia wasn’t all bad. At times she was funny, at times she was annoying, then she would be judgy, and then she would be fussy. But then she would be fun again. It was an okay experience getting to know her, and I suppose she did change in the end, but really–sometimes I just cringed because of her actions and the change didn’t feel natural. It felt forced, almost. She acted like a grandma instead of a teenager.

And then there was Mark. The thing is, Julia loves Mark. It’s like something out of a Taylor Swift music video.

{insert-music-video-with-little-kids-who-are-love-written-by-a-girl-who-is-a-jerk-to-all-her-boyfriends-and-then-writes-annoyingly-catchy-songs-about-how-they’re-all-HORRIBLE.}

But really.

Julia and Mark are apparently MTB. But really, as soon as he arrives in London Julia sees what a jerk of a guy he is. AND THOSE THINGS ARE OBVIOUS. There’s little to no comparison to Jason, so it wasn’t all his influence. So really, the minute he came back–she should’ve sensed a change. Especially if she pays oh-so-much attention to him.

Now I sound like I hate the book.

I don’t, honest. Really, the characters just weren’t doing it for me in this story. And the texts make absolutely no sense until you reach the end of the book. It was a nice little twist there, and I enjoyed rereading it with fresh eyes because of it–but I can’t say I didn’t see an inkling of it coming.

Overall, the plot and pacing wasn’t too bad. Plot was fun and I’m glad all the ends were tied up nicely. Chris and Chris were a nice couple and I’m glad the way things turned out. This was a cute story, and even though I didn’t enjoy the characters too much, I still like this book. 2.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 304