Friday, April 29, 2011

15 Days and an Awesome Interview!

Alright Readers.

It’s been a while, I know, since I last posted.  And guess what? TBF. Is. 15. Days. Away. 

Yeah. 15 days. 

So I’m freaking out. Because there is SO MUCH left to be done.

So readers, no chit-chat, let’s get to it.  My interview with Torrey Maldonado!

Carly Reads: You were (still are?) a teacher.  How has your career as a teacher influenced your writing (specifically “Secret Saturdays”)?
Torrey Maldonado: I'm a Hip Hop fan and I taught in the middle school where Jay-Z was a former student. We're all sponges.  I can vouch for Jay; he absorbed the toughness of that school and neighborhood and poured that into his raps.  Like Jay-Z's music, “Secret Saturdays” is an outpouring of my life and the lives of students and families I've worked with over the last thirteen years.  People say, "This book is so real" and that's because I lived it.  I had the same struggles with friends, family, trust, keeping secrets, and bullying that my characters have.  The Housing Projects where I was born and raised became my book's setting.  The three years that I taught Conflict Resolution in schools all over New York City dipped my foot in the water.  Over the last ten years I've been with teens everyday, soaking up their worlds as a Social Studies (History) teacher.  I squeezed that into “Secret Saturdays.”  Readers tell me, "Your book is my life."  My book is also curse-free and sex-free and that reflects my teaching-career.  What sort of teacher would I be if my author-mouth needed to be cleaned out with Orbit?  

CR: As a teacher, what are your thoughts about incorporating popular young adult fiction (like your book and your fellow TBF authors’ books) into a school curriculum?  Do you think that these books have more to offer students than the “classics”? Less to offer? Are they even comparable in what they offer?
TM: I was just invited to speak at a college where Secret Saturdays is required-reading alongside a "classic" – S.E. Hinton's “The Outsiders.”  So, it's like American Idol: people choose and love TBF authors as much as the "classics".  TBF authors rock readers' worlds.  During a school-trip a student who hates school approached me and said, “Mr. T, I know a rap from your book by heart.”  I said, “Show me," not believing him.  He looked into the air and said a Black Bald rhyme so perfectly that you’d think he was reading the rhyme off a cloud or streetlight.  His teachers think he doesn’t enjoy school yet he memorizes parts of my book?  I did a signing alongside Barry Lyga – a TBF alum.  A high school girl was on his line CRYING.  Why do TBF authors trigger these reactions?  Is it because we wear AXE effect?  No.  Fans say we share something in common: today's youth are in our writing.  Oprah Winfrey made this quote popular: "When you know better, you do better."  If more schools knew about TBF authors, the better they'd hook teens to books.  

CR: How did your childhood and adolescence and your upbringing influence “Secret Saturdays”? Are any of the characters in “Secret Saturdays” autobiographical?
TM: There were points my life where I could have taken different turns and that would have drove my life over a waterfall to a crash ending.  In 1992, my elementary school principal (Patrick Daly) was shot in the chest and killed in my Housing Projects.  Years later, I became the first person in my immediate family to go to college.  As a Vassar College student, I ran into someone arrested for Daly’s murder in an upstate prison where I tutored.  The inmate was a boy I hung out with as a kid.  “Secret Saturdays” shows that choices lead to consequences, a lot influences the choices youth make, and youth can choose to follow their own path and be their best selves.  I had to keep secrets (even from my best friends) and that became a theme in my book.  Some people who know me say, "You're Sean."  Some say, "You're Justin" or "Kyle".  Who's right?  Everyone is right because “Secret Saturdays” is my autobiography in different ways. 

CR: What was your favorite book when you were a teenager?
TM: As a teen, I needed real thrills to distract my mind from the rough realities of my neighborhood and schools. In 1988 Life Magazine called where I grew up "the Crack Capital of the U.S.A." and one of New York’s "10 Worst Neighborhoods.” Violence, crime, drugs, and people trying to knock me off-track surrounded me.  Reading could have helped take my mind off my problems yet being a reader in my neighborhood brought new problems.  The crowd felt school equaled corny.  Where I’m from, female readers get called "geeky" but boys get called the other "g word' and I don't mean g-g-G Unit since people feel school is a "girl's thing".  So I read what guys in my neighborhood read to avoid being bullied.  Comic books.  In third grade I got hooked on them because they pumped me up the way sports, video games, shows, and movies did.  By age fourteen, I had almost two hundred comics.  So I didn't have a favorite book; I had a favorite type of book.  After my teen years, my college professors weren't forced to assign boring books so they introduced me to chapter-books with TBF swagger.  That's when I decided who I wanted to be as a chapter-book author and that's why “Secret Saturdays” is designed to deliver the same rush as video games, shows, movies, and comics. It's rewarding when teens tell me, "Your book should be a movie. I can picture it." 

CR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Sixth Annual TBF?
TM: I'm excited to meet a few authors and I also want to meet the teens because some will be our future published authors.  Readers of “Secret Saturdays” bring me their notepads, notebooks, and even though I wear a baldie haircut, I've heard some story-ideas that made my hair stand up in good ways.  I'm also looking forward to experiencing that at the Sixth Annual TBF.

Torrey, you won’t believe how many awesome teen readers you’ll meet at TBF.  You’re going to love it! And we’re going to love meeting you.  Thanks again so much for taking the time to answer these questions for me!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Interview Marathon Day 6 - Eric Luper

Hey Readers!

This is the final day of the Carly Reads Interview Marathon. :( A sad fact, I know, but it’s not the last of the interviews.  I’m hoping to hear back from some more authors so I can share their answers with you.  In the meantime, I’ll be posting book reviews and the results of the Would You Rather survey that I distributed to the authors.  But for now, my interview with Eric Luper!

Carly Reads: What kind of research did you do in order to write “Bug Boy,” which takes place in 1934 during the Great Depression?  Was there any particular reason that you decided to set “Bug Boy” during this time period?
Eric Luper: 1934 was an interesting time. It was the heart of the Great Depression and Prohibition had just been lifted. The rich were incredibly rich and the poor were destitute. Many rules at the track were changing too. Betting had just been re-legalized and there was a lot of corruption. Also, they had just invented the starting gate, so the horses were skittish and lots of injuries happened. For me, it seemed the perfect year to set a gritty book filled with corruption that showed the seedy underbelly of the track.
I did the bulk of my research at the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs, NY. They were incredibly helpful there, finding me any information I might need in the archives. I also did research at different area historical societies and at the New York State Archives in Albany. I also had the opportunity to interview different track personalities who actually remembered the 1934 season and I got to ride the racehorse simulator at the museum! The trouble was the more answers I got, the more questions I had!
The hardest part about writing that book was deciding what information to put in and what to leave out. I wanted that book to burst from the starting gate and keep moving fast until the end. And ultimately, the book is less about racing and more about love, friendship and loyalty.

CR: I was lucky enough to win an ARC of “Jeremy Bender vs. the Cupcake Cadets” in a contest that you ran a few months ago.  (It was a great book. I think I must be a 7th grade boy at heart because I love a good book about the adventures that middle school boys get themselves into.)  “Jeremy Bender” is a middle-grade book – did the writing process for “Jeremy Bender” differ from the writing process of your YA books? Do you prefer writing for one age group?
EL: First off, I’m hoping “Jeremy Bender vs. the Cupcake Cadets” appeals to both boys and girls. After all, it’s the fact that it’s so hard to be a girl that makes Jeremy and Slater’s antics so funny. Plus, the strong female characters were so fun to write!
The writing process was definitely different. My technique was the same (sitting at my laptop and writing/editing for hours on end while I drink coffee and eat junk food), but I found myself redirecting my humor from the bawdy naughtiness of Dimitri in “Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto” to the slapstick grossness of the younger boys. So… much… fun…!

CR: Did you always know that you wanted to be an author? What was your journey to published writer like?
EL: I only discovered I loved writing when I was in college. I was a biology major at Rutgers University and I took an introductory creative writing class as an elective. It felt so good to have work to do that did not involve textbooks and Scantron sheets. And I took to it like a rat to a dumpster.
For years, I struggled to write adult fiction, but whenever anyone read it, whether it was a professor or a friend, they always told me I had a more youthful feel to my writing and that I should try doing something for a younger audience.
I hated hearing that. Serious authors are supposed to write for grown-ups, right?
As soon as I started writing for teens, I never looked back.

CR: What was the last book that you read for pleasure?
EL: That is a really tough question to answer because I’m in the middle of three or four right now. The last book I finished was a re-reading of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. Even if you are not a sci-fi fan, you should read this book, or better yet the whole series. Adams’s use of words to create his humor is absolutely brilliant. Like the stuff legends are made from.

CR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Sixth Annual TBF?
EL: It’s weird because I’ve already met most of the authors coming to TBF at one event or another. Many of the others I feel like I know from Facebook or other online hiding places we authors like to go. Mostly, I’m excited to meet the teens. Just the thought of so many kids pumped about reading is awesome! See you there!

Yes, Eric, we will indeed see you there! And thanks so much for sharing your answers.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Interview Marathon Day 5 - Shari Maurer

Hey Readers!

This is the final day of the Carly Reads Interview Marathon.  Today: my interview with Shari Maurer!

Carly Reads: I saw on your website that you were a voracious reader as a child, but did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? What was your journey to becoming a published author like?Shari Maurer: I’ve always flirted with writing. In 6th grade, I took my favorite book, “Cheaper by the Dozen” and adapted it as the class play. I meant to get a job when I graduated from college, but had written a screenplay on a lark and submitted it to NYU Film School. Much to my surprise, I was accepted and I got my MFA in Dramatic Writing. Even when I worked on international versions of “Sesame Street,” one of my favorite things was reviewing scripts for our foreign partners. So it’s always been there, I think.
My journey to publication felt like it took forever, but it was only three and a half years from first putting pen to paper to the publication date. Looking back, that’s not so bad. I had my eye on WestSide Books, because I thought their issue-oriented fiction mission was a good fit for me. My agent submitted the book in September and we didn’t hear back from them until May. It was a long eight months, but certain worth the wait!

CR: I think this is cheating, but I’m going to do it anyway. I was reading your blog and I stumbled across your interview with another author in which you asked, “When you were 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?” I love that question! So now, I turn the tables … your answer to that question?SM: I love this question, too. I’m always so curious what people were thinking back then and how it has or hasn’t changed. I wanted to be a child psychologist. So in a way, now that I’m exploring characters and their personalities, it’s sort of related.

CR: Are you currently working on any projects (new books!) that you can tell us about?SM: I have three books at various stages of development. I’m hoping to find a home for them. I can’t give details but will say that if you enjoy “Change of Heart,” I think you’ll like these, too.

CR: What was your favorite book when you were a teenager?SM: Probably a tie between “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” and “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

CR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Sixth Annual TBF?SM: One of the nicest surprises about being a published author is how welcoming the writing community has been. I’ve made so many new writer friends, several who will be at TBF, and I’m looking forward to meeting the others. I’m especially excited to meet Elizabeth Scott. I’ve read several of her books and really admire her writing.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions for me, Shari. Looking forward to meeting you (in only 26 days)!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Interview Marathon Day 4 - A.S. King

Hey Readers,

I barely got this post in by midnight, but lo and behold, here it is on time for day 3 of the Carly Reads Interview Marathon.  Today’s interview is with TBF returned A.S. King.  This interview makes Amy the second author to have two interview on Carly Reads.  You can read her first interview here.  Amy got an extra question, because I wanted to provide her with a choice of questions regarding “Please Ignore Vera Dietz” and as awesome as she is, she answered both.  Thanks, Amy!

Carly Reads: “Please Ignore Vera Dietz” is, in my mind, a book with a lot of layers.  I related most personally to the theme about responsibility to a friend who hasn’t been such a good friend, but I also identified a theme about the role that parents play in their children’s lives, and you’ve said on your blog that you’ve “always considered ‘Vera’ a book that can show readers what a good man looks like.’ Did this proliferation of themes come about naturally as you wrote “Vera” or did you go into the writing process knowing that you wanted to focus on certain themes?  Is there any one theme that you consider more major or more important than the others?  

A.S. King: I’m a “pantser,” so I write completely by the seat of my pants. This means I don’t go into a book with any expectations of theme or plot. I didn’t even know what was under Vera’s car seat until she reached under and pulled it out. But as a book goes along, the themes polish up as I get to know my characters and see what they’re doing, so I can concentrate in future drafts about themes and thing like that.

As for any theme being most important, I just made up a theory thanks to this question. I think themes and messages and the general feeling of a book are a lot like bands and songs. There are melodies and harmonies and a rhythm section and a percussionist and maybe a horn section and they all work together to make a killer song. So all the themes in a book are of equal value and they all work together to make a great book. None can be more important than the others, and they all help illuminate each other.

And you know how an amazing song can be 300% more amazing just because the drummer hits a cowbell at the right times? Sometimes, little things in books can make a book extra special for a reader. I know a lot of readers have responded really positively to the pagoda in “Vera Dietz” even though the pagoda has the fewest words to say. So, in a way, the pagoda is the book’s cowbell. (Or maybe Ken Dietz’s flow charts are the cowbell. Either way, you get my drift.)

CR: The style of “Vera Dietz” is very unique.  It jumps from Vera’s perspective, to her father’s perspective, to her father’s flow charts, to the pagoda’s perspective, and every once in a while, Charlie throws in a word.  The story is not linear, but the structure is one of the things that makes “Vera Dietz” so incredible. How and why did you decide to write “Vera” in this fashion?  Did you write “Vera” straight through (in the order that it was published), or did you write it in parts and then assemble them into the story later on?   

ASK: The book came out nearly in the order you see it in now. I think a few Ken parts were rearranged—I wasn’t sure about his inclusion at first, but then he started making those flow charts and I realized he was supposed to be there. Once the first draft was written, I made a lot of color-coded tables of contents to keep things straight.

CR: Can you tell us anything about your upcoming books “Everybody Sees the Ants” (fall 2011) and “Ask The Passengers” (fall 2012)?   

ASK: Since this is my first time talking about “Ants” in detail, I am totally going to cheat and use the amazing “Everybody Sees the Ants” copy that’s online:

Lucky Linderman didn't ask for his life. He didn't ask his grandfather not to come home from the Vietnam War. He didn't ask for a father who never got over it. He didn't ask for a mother who keeps pretending their family is fine. And he certainly didn't ask to be the recipient of Nader McMillan's relentless bullying, which has finally gone too far.

Lucky has a secret--one that helps him wade through the daily dysfunction of his life. Granddad Harry, trapped in the jungles of Laos, has been visiting Lucky in his dreams--and the dreams just might be real: an alternate reality where he can be whoever he wants to be and his life might still be worth living. But how long can Lucky remain in hiding there before reality forces its way inside?

And “Ask The Passengers” is a novel about acceptance, small town gossip and airplanes.

CR: You use your blog to speak out on a variety of issues that you are passionate about, including internet piracy and violence against women.  What role do you see the written role as playing when it comes to educating people about these issues?  And do you anticipate that these issues that you are passionate about will ever work their way into any of your books?

ASK: I’m a pacifist kindness ninja, so I usually try to stay pretty mellow on my blog, but it’s true, in the last year, I’ve posted a few blogs about piracy that got a few extra hits. :) I don’t like people who steal stuff from other people. I can’t help it. *shrug* I’ve never thought about the piracy issue working its way into a book, but maybe one day it will. I’d never set out to write a book in order to educate anyone, though. I think it might seem too much like preaching. I do write about violence against women and domestic violence in most of my work. It just seems to show up. I think I just try to make accurate settings and characters, and my knowledge of statistics seeps into those settings and characters.

CR: What five books are on your list of “Books I Couldn’t Live Without”?

ASK: “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., “Breakfast of Champions” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., a thesaurus, “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, and “Jitterbug Perfume” by Tom Robbins

CR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Sixth Annual TBF?

ASK: This is a completely impossible question to answer. I look forward to meeting all TBF authors every year. But to give you a better answer: after perusing the Official TBF webpage, and reading people’s Fun Facts, I can say I am looking forward to seeing Eric Luper and saying, “Dude—you’re a chiropractor by day? That’s awesome!” Or meeting Rachel Hawkins and asking her to explain MacBeth to me. Or meeting Charles Benoit and saying, “You play tenor sax in a ska band, lived in Trinidad & Tobago, and scuba dive? That’s awesome!” Or meeting Shari Maurer and saying, “I met my husband at summer camp when I was 17 too! How cool is that?!” Or meeting Kathleen Duey and talking about self-sufficiency and saying, “Dude! You totally rock!” and other stuff like that. I love TBF Fun Facts. (Also, did you know Ellen Hopkins once saw Elvis in his underwear? Click the link! I’m telling you!)  Thanks for having me, Carly! See you all in a month! Can’t wait.

Thank you for taking part in TBF again this year, Amy! Looking forward to seeing you again soon.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Interview Marathon Day 3 - Patrick Jones

Hi Readers!

The Carly Reads Interview Marathon continues with my first second interview!  Confused?  Well, Patrick Jones is the first author to ever have two interviews published on the blog, so congrats, Patrick! Readers, check out my first interview with Patrick here, and then enjoy this second interview.  

Carly Reads: Your third Fun Fact says that there was a 16 year gap between writing and publishing your first novel.  What did you do during those 16 years? Did you continue to edit that first book? Did you work on other books? And how did you keep up hope that that first book would eventually get published?
Patrick Jones: During those sixteen years, in addition to a nine to five job working in libraries, I focused on writing about books for teens, in particular how libraries could connect with young adults. I wrote the first edition of “Connecting Young Adults and Libraries” as well as several other books, plus hundreds of articles and book reviews. I was also very involved in the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) during this time.  Still, I pulled out “Things Change” every now and then to work on, but didn’t get serious about rewriting it until we moved from Houston to Minneapolis in late 2000. Instead of taking a day job, I spent most of 2001 rewriting “Things Change” (several times), but it still took until March 2003 before I landed a contract.  “Things Change” I thought was a good story; it just took me a while to develop the skills to tell it.

CR: You are a former teen librarian.  How has career as a teen librarian influenced your writing?
PJ: My career was a tremendous asset in every part of my writing, in particular in getting “Things Change” published.  Rather than using an agent, I had – because of my work with YALSA – made contacts so I could “hand” my manuscript directly to Emily Easton at Walker Books for Young Readers.  The job helped tremendously since I was immersed in teen literature, and thought I knew what worked and what didn’t.  Finally, doing all of the professional writing not only helped me develop skills and confidence, but lead me to think about the lives, drives, and developmental assets of teens.

CR: Is writing your only focus right now, or do you also have a “day job”? If so, what is that day job? And if not, how do you spend a typical day? Do you write all day or only for a few hours? Do you write every day or only a few days a week?
PJ: I still have a day job as I don’t make enough money writing. I’m with a smaller publisher, and my content (sex, drugs, violence, profanity) keeps them out of many libraries.  Because of the content, I also don’t get a great deal of school visits.  The day job is to provide library service to people who face a barrier to using libraries in person, such as homebound customers, and people in county correctional facilities.  I do the direct work with juvenile offenders. 
My work pattern for writing seems to be a come up with an idea, think about for a while, and then start taking notes. At some point, I’ll do an outline or summary. And then I wait until it is time to write. Once the “clock strikes” I will write in huge junks of time – pulling all day marathons on the weekends, and writing from 6:00 to 10:00 (when Jon Stewart) is on.   Then, once I get to rewriting, I normally only do that two hours a day since it is hard work.

CR: What was your favorite book when you were a teenager?
PJ: Actually I wasn’t much of a book reader, so my favorite reading materials were probably pro wrestling magazines, the newspaper, and Rolling Stone.  That said, the “life changing” books for me were “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton and “Carrie” by Stephen King.  In my book “Connecting with Reluctant Teen Readers,” there’s an essay about why these books made a difference to me as a teen.

CR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Sixth Annual TBF?
PJ: All of them really because I think the YA writing community is pretty amazing. In particular, I hope I get to chat with Charles Benoit (who says he’s a fan), and Torrey Maldonado so I can crush him in Scrabble since he threw-down about that in his interview. I’d also better meet up with Eric Luper before we present together!

Thanks so much for your answers (again!), Patrick.  By the way, your day job sounds totally awesome.  I plan on asking you more about it once we meet in person. :) 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Interview Marathon Day 2 - Ellen Hopkins

Hola, Readers!

The Carly Reads Interview Marathon continues … with Ellen Hopkins!

Carly Reads: Your books are so unique in that they’re written in verse.  How did you decide to write your novels in verse?
Ellen Hopkins: I started my first novel, “Crank,” in prose, but the voice was all wrong. My voice, not "Kristina's." I put the book away and saw another verse novelist, Sonya Sones, speak at a conference. I've written poetry most of my life, so decided to give it a try. It worked for “Crank,” and then I discovered a talent for it.

CR: I’ve heard you say that some of the characters in  “Tricks” are based on young people that you’ve met in ‘real life.’ Do you often find inspiration for characters in real people?
EH: All the time. Some I know. Some I interview. Some I just observe.

CR: You’ve been to TBF multiple times! What is it about TBF that has you returning year after year?
EH: It's just such a great event, from the exceptional organizers, to the lineup of authors, to the wonderful reception we receive every year. I always have an amazing time.

CR: What five books are on your list of “Favorite Books Ever”?
EH: “The Great Gatsby,” “Sometimes a Great Notion,” “Catcher in the Rye,” “Of Mice and Men,” and “The World According to Garp.”

CR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Sixth Annual TBF?
EH: That's a really hard question because I'm connecting with several friends there, plus meeting a number of Twitter buddies for the first time. But Terry Trueman is always a hoot to be around, and I always look forward to seeing  him.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my interview questions, Ellen.  Looking forward to seeing you soon (29 days)!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Interview Marathon Day 1 - Melissa de la Cruz

Alright, Readers …

It’s day one of the Carly Reads Interview Marathon.  In case you haven’t noticed, TBF is 30 DAYS AWAY!!!! This means that I am in TOTAL PANIC mode.  I have sooooo many interviews left to post, soooooo many book reviews to write, and ummmm, yeah, a few books left to read.  Remember how last year, I said that I was going to be more on top of it and I wasn’t going to post three things a day for the month leading up to the festival? Yeah. That didn’t happen. 

So, enough talking – let’s get to interviewing! The lovely Melissa de la Cruz was kind enough to agree to an interview with moi, so here is what we discussed …

Carly Reads: I picked up your novel “Angels on Sunset Boulevard” because I was intrigued by the social networking theme.  What inspired you to take such an extreme approach to social networking?
Melissa de la Cruz: A couple of friends of mine were talking about MySpace (I wrote the book around 2005 or so) and I was intrigued by how they met people through the Internet, not in a chat room, and how they had these very personalized web pages, it was like having your bedroom walls (posters, quotes, etc) on the Internet. I was also fascinated by pyramid schemes, and also something I read about how 60% of American teens think they will be famous. It just seemed so odd to have your popularity online through the number of "friends" you had, and it just sparked my imagination to think of something evil behind it. Social networking was still pretty new about six years ago, so it was fun to think of how it might be used for nefarious schemes. :)  

CR: “Angels on the Sunset Boulevard” is very plot-driven.  I didn’t want to put it down until I had finished it.  When you begin a novel, do you know how it will progress and/or end? Or does it come to you as you write?
MC: I always outline all my novels, so I know all the plot points beforehand. I aim to write page-turners, so thanks for the compliment! But it's all a process, sometimes the story takes off in a different direction, so you need to keep pushing it until you get to the core of the story. Some things are planned, some things are surprises from the writing process. The easiest books to write are the ones where the plot is perfect from the outline, then I'm just fleshing it out. “Angels” was actually a difficult book, I had to keep rewriting it to figure out what the real story, the real plot was. I always know the ends of all my books though. That I know from the beginning. I know all my endings and I try to figure out the best way to get to them, so it builds up to the ending.

CR: Have you always wanted to be a writer? When did you know that you wanted to write for teens?
MC: Oh yes, ever since I could read. Being a writer was a dearly treasured childhood dream that I never gave up on, it was my life's goal. I knew I wanted to write for teens when I read "Gossip Girl.” I thought, "I could do this, I want to do this." I wrote “The Au Pairs” and never looked back.

CR: What are your top five favorite books?
MC: So hard to choose. But here goes. “War and Peace.” “Dune.” “Lord of the Rings.” “Wizard and Glass” (from the “Dark Tower” series). “Harry Potter.”

CR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Sixth Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
MC: My dear friends Ally Carter and Elizabeth Scott. I cannot wait to hang out with them, I don't get to see them enough! 

Thanks so much, Melissa. I can’t wait to meet you in person in 30 days! (Yikes!!!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Baby Book Festival (And the "Heist Society" Winner!)

Hello Readers!

I have an exciting announcement to make, and it’s all about babies.  Unfortunately, Beth Fantaskey will not be able to join us for TBF 2011.  But fortunately, it’s for a really good reason.  Two days before TBF, Beth will be boarding a plane to China to adopt a new baby!  So although we will miss her at TBF 2011, we are all so happy for her and her family and their newest addition.  Beth will be attending Teen Book Festival 2012, so we all look forward to hearing about her new baby (who won’t be quite so new anymore!).    

Beth isn’t the only member of our TBF community to be gaining a new family member, though! We have a new TBF Planning Committee baby! One of our amazing committee members had a beautiful baby girl only a few weeks ago.  I have yet to meet our newest little committee member, but I know that she’s a book-lover-in-training.  (I wonder if we can get a TBF t-shirt in a newborn size … or maybe Terry Bear will share his t-shirt with our newest TBF member.)  

So readers, all these TBF babies are keeping the storks busy. Congratulations to all the happy parents and their families! I can’t wait to see pictures!

I have also have a contest winner to announce!  The winner of a copy of “Heist Society” by Ally Carter is

Miranda E.

Miranda, send me an email so that I can get in touch with you to find out where to mail your book!

An interview marathon is coming, readers! An interview a day til I’ve posted all I’ve got. Check back tomorrow for the first one!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spying on Ally Carter

Hey Readers!

I think this is going to be an interview week because I’ve gotten an influx of responses from authors. (Yay!) So, today I’ll share my interview with Ally Carter with you. And … in addition to my interview with Ally, I’m running a contest! Courtesy of TBF Chair Stephanie Squicciarini and Disney Hyperion, Ally’s publisher, I have a gorgeous hardcover copy of “Heist Society” to give away to one lucky reader. 

In order to be entered to win a copy of “Heist Society,” leave a comment on this post answering the following question: What is your favorite book by Ally Carter? Or, if you haven’t read anything by Ally yet, which of her books are you most looking forward to reading?  The contest ends on Monday, April 11. Sorry, this contest is not open internationally.

So readers, enjoy Ally’s interview, and I wish you all luck in the contest!

Carly Reads: Where do you get your story ideas? I am particularly interested in how you came up for the idea for the Gallagher Girls series.
Ally Carter: Story ideas come from all kinds of places.  My very first novel (“Cheating at Solitaire”) came to me one night when I was making spaghetti.  “I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You” popped into my head during an episode of “Alias.”  Really, each book comes along in its own way and, as the writer, I just have to keep my mind constantly scanning and searching for the good ones.

CR: Do you have a favorite Gallagher Girl? I’m partial to Cammie, but I do love Bex’s personality!

AC: I honestly don’t have a favorite.  They each serve their purpose for the story and for their friendship.  I feel as if the girls balance each other out quite nicely so that, taken together, they’re a much, much stronger force.

CR: Are you currently working on my other projects (new books!) that you can tell us about?
AC: Right now I’m hard at work on the first draft of Gallagher Girls 5.  It doesn’t have a title or a specific release date just yet, but I feel confident it will be in stores in early 2012.  The next book that will be in stores for me is “Uncommon Criminals.”  It’s the sequel to Heist Society and it will be out on June 21, 2010.

CR: What was the last book that you read for pleasure?

AC: I just finished Megan Whalen Turner’s “The Thief.”  As a rule, if more than three people gasp when I say I haven’t read a certain book, that book goes to the top of my reading pile.  That was the case with “The Thief” and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed.

CR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Sixth Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
AC: Everyone!  It’s an amazing lineup, and while I can’t wait to catch up with old friends like Melissa de la Cruz, I can’t wait to meet new people too.  Really, that’s one of the greatest things about book festivals and one of many reasons we authors enjoy them as much as the attendees.

CR: You get a bonus question because Dr. Laura Jones, one of the TBF committee members, requested that I ask you: are you a spy?
AC: Well, if I said yes, I wouldn’t be a very good one!

Thanks, Ally! We can’t wait to meet you in May!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

You Should Read This Interview ...

Hello Readers,

Last week I reviewed Charles Benoit’s novel “You.” This week, I have an interview for you (Haha!) with Charles.

Carly Reads: “You” is your first young adult novel – you’ve previously written mysteries for adults.  What has your journey into the young adult lit world been like?
Charles Benoit: I have found the YA world to be very welcoming. The talent level scares me though – every YA book I pick up is freakishly well-written. It forces me to work harder on my on books, which is a good thing, yes, but man, it can be intimidating! I've been reading the books by the authors on my TBF panel (Torrey Maldonado, Jon Skovron and Josh Berk) and each one wow-ed the hell out of me. I hope I don't get all fan-boy during the panel... The other cool thing I've noticed: When you're doing book talks for adult books, 90% of the time no one will have read the book. When I've done talks for “You,” lots of folks in my teen audiences have actually read the book. The level of questions they ask are better then the questions I get for my adult mysteries. And they don't let you get away with vague, off-the-question answers. YA audiences are much more fun.

CR: “You” is written in second person, which I’ve heard you say was something you did to add an extra challenge for yourself.  Would you write another book in second person?
CB: Noooooooooooooooooooooooo. I spent months after finishing “You” trying to get that second-person voice out of my head. It was starting to freak me out. So, no, no more second person for me!  

CR: I don’t want to give too much away, but I love how “You” begins and ends in the same place. Is this something that you intended from the beginning? Or did it the full circle ending evolve as you wrote “You?”
CB: I knew before I started that that was how the book would start and finish – it was just everything in between I wasn't so sure of. For my adult mysteries I've always been a plotter, planning the whole book out from the start. But for my YA books I've let go of much of that, trusting the process a lot more. Now I find I just plot out a scene or so in advance. I know where I want to go – sortta – but the exact route is up in the air. 

CR: What was the last book that you read for pleasure?
CB: I'm reading a biography of the jazz legend Cab Calloway (“Hi De Ho” by Alyn Shipton) and I’ve got a couple chapters to go in “Buy Back” by Brian Wiprud. It's part comedy, part art heist book, which is coincidently the type of book I just finished writing. 

CR: What authors are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Sixth Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
CB: I've met a few already and I want to meet all the rest of course. I want to meet Svetlana since I love graphic novels; Ally Carter's “Heist Society” is sitting on my desk to read so I hope to meet her; Patrick Jones writes the kind of stuff I like to write, so I want to meet him and try to steal some of his ideas or maybe a finished manuscript I could pass off as my own. I wish I could play poker (I have a hard time with Go Fish), but the idea behind “Big Slick” is so intriguing that I hope to chat with Eric Luper; And I must meet Melissa Kantor since every one of her 5 Fun Facts are true for me, too. Erie, huh?

Thanks, Charles, for answering these questions for us! We can’t wait to meet you at TBF 2011!