Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black (Author Interview + Giveaway)

Hi guys! Today, I'm featuring a retelling that is unlike most I've read in the past. This particular debut deals with the 'devil at the crossroads' tale. I think this retelling might just be a hybrid of some sort - it's a mixture of different elements that in the end, turned into something beautiful. I interviewed Jennifer about it and we're giving away a finished copy - open internationally!

Could you tell us about your writing style?
I typically spend some time getting to know a character before I start writing about them. It’s a little like having a silent partner join me on my errands, and on my walks, and when I’m brushing my teeth. By the time I start writing, I know where their story starts and where it’s likely to end, and maybe a little about what happens between those points. But for me, so much of writing is going on a journey with my characters. I enjoy not knowing everything that’s going to happen, and enjoying the writing is pretty important when I’m facing tens of thousands of words.

Could you tell us about the twist that you made on the devil at the crossroads folklore?
Not really. Well, not without giving away some things best left for the story.

I can say that the figure Blue Riley meets when she goes to the crossroads with her mother’s guitar is not the one she had imagined. To begin with, it’s a woman. The woman in the red dress, to be precise. And the woman in the red dress takes many forms over the course of the book, rather than being locked into a particular body.

Could you discuss the fantasy elements of the book?
While as a reader I completely love fantasy with wands and portals and objects of power, as a writer, I’m interested in magic so close to this world that we can just about touch it. DEVIL AND THE BLUEBIRD is very much a reflection of that. The roads Blue travels are filled with ghosts, but their presence, the magic they create, is meant to be the sort that we might all feel at various points in our lives.

Could you tell us about Blue? Did you encounter any challenges in writing about her?
Bit by bit, Blue’s connections to the world have been/are being stripped away, leaving her with two options: to lose herself completely by trying to be what others expect, or to find and honor the essence of who she is. I think it’s a point we all come to in life, often more than once, though not usually in quite as dramatic a fashion.

The biggest challenge was writing the various locations her travels take her. At the time I was writing, I had no budget for travel of any sort, so following her tracks myself was out of the question. As a person who connects very strongly to place, it felt more difficult to imagine the way a forest in Minnesota smells than it did to think about where the woman in the red dress might turn up next.

Do you find pieces of yourself in Blue?
I’m a fairly silent person. J More seriously, I think Blue shares some of my own experiences around creating—songwriting in her case, stories in mine. That sense of wonder and confusion and drive that makes the process more than just lining up nouns and verbs. The creative urge is a human one. Unfortunately, modern society too often makes creativity feel like something that must have a monetary value in order to have a right to exist. One summer when I was working in apple orchards, a Chinese graduate student was secretly writing poetry (in Chinese characters) on tree bark with a Sharpie. It was beautiful and perfect, with absolutely no dollar value. I wanted that for Blue: to work on music because the music worked on her, much the way I feel about writing.

Based on the reviews I have read so far, you have an amazing ability to make minor characters special and filled with life. How do you manage to do this?
As I mentioned before, I like to get to know my main character/s. I do the same with the minor ones. I am not-so-secretly fascinated by people. I like hearing their stories, all of them. To me, the minor characters have to have lives of their own in order to exist in a truly written world. I don’t need everyone to know everything about them, but I must in order to do my job.

I have this kind of gross thing that’s sort of my mantra. Ready? It really is gross, so you may want to skip it! Basically, I tell myself that if I can’t imagine how someone might sweat—whether they’d smell like sunscreen or hotel soap or plain real sweat—I don’t know them well enough to write about them. Really, that’s just shorthand for knowing where they come from, where they’re going, what the motor that runs them is.

How different was the original version of Devil and the Bluebird from the final version? What changed?
The changes were relatively minor. Mostly it got shorter. My editor was a superstar and helped me work on preserving scenes by cutting lines. A whole lot of lines. The biggest changes happened back when I was drafting it. Some of things that felt right at the beginning revealed themselves as wrong as I moved deeper. For example, I started with a friendship as Blue’s anchor, then had a eureka moment when I realized her friendship need to be falling apart in order to encourage her to leave Maine.

Thank you, Jen!

About the Author:

Jennifer is a lifelong fan of most anything with words. She’s checked for portals in every closet she’s ever encountered, and has never sat beneath the stars without watching for UFOs. Her stories have appeared in The Sun, Strange Horizons, and Daily Science Fiction, among others. DEVIL AND THE BLUEBIRD is her first novel. She lives in Massachusetts.

Find Jennifer: Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Tumblr | Blog

Book Description:

Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: May 17th 2016 by Amulet Books

“Devil-at-the-crossroads” folklore finds its way to YA via this moody, magical tale

Blue Riley has wrestled with her own demons ever since the loss of her mother to cancer. But when she encounters a beautiful devil at her town crossroads, it’s her runaway sister’s soul she fights to save. The devil steals Blue’s voice—inherited from her musically gifted mother—in exchange for a single shot at finding Cass.

Armed with her mother’s guitar, a knapsack of cherished mementos, and a pair of magical boots, Blue journeys west in search of her sister. When the devil changes the terms of their deal, Blue must reevaluate her understanding of good and evil and open herself to finding family in unexpected places.

In Devil and the Bluebird, Jennifer Mason-Black delivers a heart-wrenching depiction of loss and hope.


Thanks to Jen for this giveaway!
What's up for grabs: Finished Copy of Devil and the Bluebird + book plate
Scope: International

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full schedule and links to the posts!


  1. This sounds amazing! I love the premise. It sounds so interesting.
    Interesting characters are a must for me, and this sounds like it delivers :)

    1. I love the premise, too! It really sings to me.

  2. I love the title, Devil and the Bluebird. I'm looking forward to finding out more about the significance.

    1. I hope you get a chance to read the book. Goodluck!

  3. I've read some stellar reviews and trust this is going to be a well-crafted novel...and the plot sounds compelling, of course. I'm eager to start reading! Thanks for this chance to win. Cheers, Kara S

    1. Hi Kara! I hope this meets your expectations. <3 Goodluck!

  4. There's a guitar in the cover & i'm screamingggggggg

  5. Such a gorgeous cover 😍 I can't wait to read it, I've heard great things from reviewers!

  6. This book sounds so cool! Why haven't I hear of this the devil at the crossroads folklore? I mean, I've heard stories of people being on the street at night and being visited by the devil who grants them one wish in return of something. Is that just it or there's a story? I'm going to look that up!
    I found so interesting the way Jennifer Mason Black got to know her characters!

  7. Love the title! Sounds promising!

  8. This was such a lovely interview! I am so excited for Devil and the Bluebird! I am definitely looking forward to reading about the fantasy elements. I love fantasy! Thank you so much for the chance! <3

    Talina @ Sassy & Dangerous