Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch (Author Interview + Giveaway)

Hi guys! Today we're featuring one of the contemporary debuts that I'm looking forward to this year. I'm primarily looking forward to it because it deals with two things that I like: Gelato (I love all types of ice cream, especially gelato since it's generally sweeter.) and Italy (Who doesn't want to go to Italy?) I'm grateful for the opportunity to feature Love & Gelato and Jenna. We are going to end this event in two days time. I hope you guys would take the time to check the other debut authors and titles we're featuring by clicking here.

What or who inspired you to write Love & Gelato?
My life! When I was fifteen my family moved to Florence, Italy where I attended an international school, rode scooters, and ate more gelato than I had any business doing. Florence was and is a very magical place to me, and I wanted to show it through a teen's eyes--exactly the way I experienced it. Also, Lina's living circumstances are based on a friend of mine that I met while living there. Her father was the caretaker of the American Cemetery of Florence, and she grew up in a house on the grounds. Every morning she'd go on runs through the rows of headstones, and I guess that image stayed with me, because 8 years later I found myself writing a book about a girl running through a cemetery in Florence.

Could you tell us what kind of research you did to establish the atmospheric quality of Love & Gelato?
Lucky for me I had a lot of first-hand experience to draw upon, but I did end up doing a LOT of research for this book. There was the Italian language portion of the novel (mine has gotten rusty), lots of reading about art (which was very fascinating to me), plus a lot of time spent learning more about the "secrets" of Florence--things that most tourists don't know about. It made me want to go back there ASAP.

Just for fun - what are the things you like most about Italy that actually ended up in the book?
I love Italy so much, I tried to cram in as much of its charm as possible! There's the food, the art, but most of all I tried to capture the atmosphere of walking down a street in Florence. Also, from the beginning I knew I'd have a scene at a bridge in Florence called Ponte Vecchio--it is my most favorite place in the entire world!

Do you see yourself reflected in Lina as a character?
Somewhat! In my early drafts I based Lina on my own personality and experiences, but as I continued to work on the book I found her taking on a life and personality of her own.

All the Ren's of YA that I have met are gorgeous characters. Could you tell us about Ren?
I love Ren! He emerged in my mind much like he does in the novel--loud and very much himself. The thing I like about him is that he isn't quite the typical *perfect* heart throb, but he's a great friend and someone who Lina could really trust.

How did you develop the romance in the book, especially since you had to work with two budding relationships (Ren and Lina and Lina's parents) at the same time?
Two love stories was a little tricky! It was helpful to look at Lina and Hadley's stories as separate before intertwining them, and of course it was helpful that I loved both of those relationships!

Asking something based on the title: What is your favorite gelato flavor?
Bacio! Creamy dark chocolate with bits of hazelnut....mmmm.

Thank you, Jenna!

About the Author:

Jenna Evans Welch spent her high school years in Florence, Italy, where she drove a scooter, danced in fountains, and ate entirely too much gelato. She now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and young son. Read her blog, The Green Lemon, at JennaEvansWelch.com.

Find Jenna: Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter | Pinterest

Book Description:

Hardcover, 390 pages
Expected publication: May 3rd 2016 by Simon Pulse

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then Lina is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept from Lina for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.


Thanks to Jenna and Simon Pulse for this giveaway!
What's up for grabs: Finished Copy of Love & Gelato
Scope: US

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: Emerge by Tobie Easton (Author Interview + Giveaway)

Hi guys! I've been catching up on reading during the long weekend. I hope you're enjoying so far! Today, I'm featuring the only mermaid book in the group: Emerge by Tobie Easton. Some of my favorite novels revolve around mermaids. I'm particularly interested in finding out about the twist in the mermaid mythology that authors use in their books. Hope you enjoy the interview - and stick around for a giveaway!

The Little Mermaid is mentioned in the premise of the book. Could you tell us a little about this?
Absolutely. The Little Mermaid is the ancestor of my main character, Lia. Two hundred years ago, the Little Mermaid accidentally unleashed a curse on all the Mermaids and Merman. I don’t want to give too much away, but that curse changed the lives of the Mer and prompted some of them—including Lia and her family—to live on land, hiding their true identities from humans.

What is your twist in the mermaid mythology?
There are several twists on Mermaid mythology sprinkled throughout the book that I’m excited for readers to discover. One of the major ones (and one of my favorites) involves how Mermaids and Mermen manage to have legs while they’re on land, but you’ll have to read the book to find that one out ;)

Could you tell us a bit about the Mer people living in Malibu? How do they co-exist and remain hidden among humanity?
Great question! The Mer in this story have an entire community in place on land that helps them assimilate into the human world without detection. They’ve build grottos—glittering underground caves and tunnels flowing with water—underneath their beachside mansions. They also have some pretty incredible swimming pools! Still, when Lia is at school, surrounded by human classmates, keeping her true self hidden is definitely a challenge.

Did you encounter challenges while writing Emerge? Could you tell us about them?
When you’re writing a story that you love so much, a little voice inside your head wonders if anyone else will love it, too—if anyone will want to read it. It’s easy to have those doubts while you’re writing, but these characters and their secret world became so real to me that I just had to tell their story. That’s why the outpouring of support for the book from the blogging community and from fans who have heard about it early via social media has meant so much to me.

How different is the original version of Emerge (first draft) from the final version? Do you have deleted scenes that are close to your heart?
Actually, the final draft of Emerge is surprisingly similar to the first draft! The writing is cleaner now that I’ve polished it up, but scene by scene, it’s very close to my original outline and to the first draft. My editor suggested I add a scene showing how Lia and Clay (the human boy she has feelings for) first met. She was absolutely right; I love that scene, and I’m so happy readers will have it in the final version.

What is your writing ritual/style?
I mainly write at home on my laptop next to a steaming cup of green tea, but I also often write longhand in a notebook at cafés and coffee shops. Whole stretches of Emerge were written on weekends spent at beaches up and down the California coast. I have a secret, though: I do long brainstorming sessions in the bathtub!

Thank you, Tobie!

About the Author:

Tobie Easton was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, where she’s grown from a little girl who dreamed about magic to a twenty-something who writes about it. A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Southern California, Tobie is a private writing instructor and hosts book clubs for tweens and teens (so she’s lucky enough to spend her days gabbing about books).

She and her very kissable husband enjoy traveling the globe and fostering packs of rescue puppies. Tobie loves chocolate chip cookies and Oxford commas. Tobie is a member of SCBWI and YARWA, the Young Adult chapter of RWA.

Find Tobie: Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Book Description:

Paperback, 300 pages
Expected publication: April 19th 2016 by Month9Books, LLC

Lia Nautilus may be a Mermaid but she’s never lived in the ocean. War has ravaged the seven seas ever since the infamous Little Mermaid unleashed a curse that stripped Mer of their immortality. Lia has grown up in a secret community of land-dwelling Mer hidden among Malibu’s seaside mansions. Her biggest problems are surviving P.E. and keeping her feelings for Clay Ericson in check. Sure, he’s gorgeous in that cocky, leather jacket sort of way and makes her feel like there’s a school of fish swimming in her stomach, but getting involved with a human could put Lia's entire community at risk.

So it’s for the best that he’s dating that new girl, right? That is, until Lia finds out she isn't the only one at school keeping a potentially deadly secret. And this new girl? Her eyes are dead set on Clay, who doesn't realize the danger he's in. If Lia hopes to save him, she’ll have to get closer to Clay. Lia’s parents would totally flip if they found out she was falling for a human boy, but the more time she spends with him, the harder it is for her to deny her feelings. After making a horrible mistake, Lia will risk everything to stop Clay from falling in love with the wrong girl.


Thanks to Tobie for this giveaway!
What's up for grabs: Ebook of Emerge
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!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh (Author Interview + Giveaway)

Hi guys! I'm featuring another one of my most anticipated debut novels for 2016: Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh. It's one of a kind and it sounds absolutely intriguing. Julie did extensive research to write this book. I have always been drawn to history and anthropology, so that's another reason why I'm looking forward to this debut.

Ivory and Bone is set in the Ice Age period. What kind of research did you do for the novel?
I did lots of different things for research, from visiting museums to reading articles in science journals. I read four books about the first people to come to North America from Asia across the Bering Land Bridge. (It's not mentioned in the book, but that's the part of the world where the story takes place.) The book that I think gave me the most insight was FIRST PEOPLES IN A NEW WORLD, COLONIZING ICE AGE AMERICA by David J. Meltzer.

Could you tell us about your writing style?
Ivory and Bone is written as a story within a story. The main character—Kol—is telling the story to another character. I chose to write Ivory and Bone this way because it suits the time period—a time before written language—and it also lends intimacy to the voice. I wanted readers to feel like Kol was talking to them.

How different was the original version of Ivory and Bone from the final version? What changed?
To be honest, it didn’t change a lot! It did change from my original outline as I drafted—some scenes that distracted from the main story were cut. I liked those scenes mainly because they gave me a chance to dig into some minor characters more, so I saved them for Book Two. Once I was in revisions with my editor, most of the changes were for the sake of clarity. There are some secrets and lots of interwoven backstory, and my editor gave me some incredible advice to help me make all of that clearer for the reader.

Could you tell us about the social system/hierarchy, if any, in the book?
The world of Ivory and Bone definitely has its own social structure. Each clan has a council of elders, leaders chosen by the High Elder for their wisdom and selflessness. A High Elder can be male or female, and their leadership is considered ordained by the Divine, the female deity who created the clans and everything else.

Could you tell us about the culture and tradition of the period?
Most of what scientists believe about the daily life of the people who inhabited the Americas 12,000-13,000 years ago is based on artifacts found in a few significant archaeological sites. The interpretation of those sites can vary greatly depending on the archaeologists involved. The latest theories are reflected in the book—that the first people to come to this continent used boats to fish and to travel along the coast, and their lifestyle was more varied than simply hunting mega fauna like mammoths. Kol’s camp in Ivory and Bone is inspired by a real life archaeological site in Monte Verde, Chile, which dates to 13,800 years ago.

Could you tell us a bit about Kol?
Kol is the oldest son of his clan’s High Elder and the oldest of four brothers. He knows he will likely be the next leader of his clan and he takes that responsibility very seriously. He wants the best for the clan’s future, and when he meets Mya, he thinks maybe she could be part of that future, too. Unfortunately, as much as Kol is insightful about the world around him, he has a hard time understanding Mya.

Did you encounter challenges in writing about Kol? What are these and how did you deal with them?
When I write, I try to get the character talking to me in my head so I can tell their story. It may sound a little pretentious to say that I let Kol tell the story through me, but that’s how it feels to me when I’m writing. So as long as I was working on a part of Kol’s story that he wanted to open up about, it came easily. But the parts that were more private or maybe things Kol himself didn’t truly understand… those things I had to fight harder to get right. But Kol is a very thoughtful, reflective character, and little by little he gave me the story.

Romance is one of my favorite elements in a book. How do you manage the slow simmering romance?
Romance is one of my favorite elements, too! Kol and Mya’s romance could be called an unlikely romance, or even a star-crossed romance, because despite how they may feel in the present, there are so many aspects of the past that conspire to keep them apart. They also have to contend with a complex and delicate balance of power between their clans. Duty and responsibility are major forces in their lives, and sometimes those forces interfere with romance.

Thank you, Julie!

About the Author:

Julie Eshbaugh once produced an online video series for teens which received several honors from the Webby Awards. Now, she focuses her time on writing. Ivory and Bone is her debut novel.

Find Julie: Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Book Description:

Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: June 14th 2016 by HarperTeen

A prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.

Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.

As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.


Thanks to Julie for this giveaway!
What's up for grabs: Pre-order of Ivory and Bone + swag package
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!

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!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan (Playlist + Giveaway)

Hi guys! Today, we're featuring a debut that is both MG and written in verse. It's an interesting mix and I'm excited for you to try it out. If you're looking for a short read, a one-sitting read, this is probably it. Laura made a playlist for her novel and I hope you like it. ;)

1. “If I Had a Hammer” – Peter, Paul and Mary
Poem: “Questions” by Katie McCain

Even though the fifth grade teacher, Ms. Hill, never appears in THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, she’s an important character. Early on in the story, we learn that Ms. Hill has her fifth graders listen to old folk songs and write poems every morning. Katie’s attitude about poetry isn’t the greatest. She says, “Writing is hard enough without ‘If I Had a Hammer’/ pounding my head.

2. “Shake’s Mood” – Shakespeare in Jazz
Poem: “Ping Pong Riff” by Jason Chen

The poem “Ping Pong Riff” introduces one of my favorite characters, Jason Chen. He’s the kind of kid whose brain moves along at a wild pace, skipping from one subject to the next. Jason loves Shakespeare and plays the saxophone. He’d rather listen to jazz than Ms. Hill’s folk music.

3. “El Palomito” – Los Cadetes de Linares
Poem: “El Palomito” and “El Dueto” by Gaby Vargas

I first heard about this Latin American folk song on National Public Radio. The tune stuck with me. The character of Gaby needed a song to play with her crush, Mark, at the school talent show. Since both characters speak Spanish, I chose this song for them to perform.

4. “Big Yellow Taxi” – Joni Mitchell
Poem: “Big Yellow Dozer” by Jason Chen

One of the best things about Jason’s character is that he loves to write parodies. In this scene, Jason has taken one of Ms. Hill’s folk songs and updated it. Jason’s version is a protest against plans to demolish their school, Emerson Elementary.

5. “Belle (Little Town)” – Beauty and the Beast
Poem: “Tryouts” by Tyler LaRoche

Tyler is the only new kid in Ms. Hill’s class. In this poem, he decides to try out for the school play. The story of “Beauty and the Beast” has so many parallels to Tyler’s life. He says, “Making friends is hard. / At least Belle had all that singing silverware.”

6. “You’ve Got a Friend” – James Taylor
Poem: “You’ve Got a Friend” by Tyler LaRoche

Tyler writes this poem when Ms. Hill and her class are feeling pretty low. None of the things they have done to save their schools are working. This poem describes the way music can help turn your mood around. This is such a simple, upbeat song. Tyler writes, “That song was the helping hand/ our class needed/ to get us smiling again.”

7. “Blowing in the Wind” – Bob Dylan
Poem: “How Many Hours” by Rajesh Rao

I don’t want to give away any spoilers! Let’s just say that all of the folk and protest songs Ms. Hill has taught her students over the course of the book come in handy during a long, long Board of Education meeting.

8. “Let’s Go Crazy” – Prince, Covered by Incubus
Poem: “Moving Up Speech” by Jason Chen

I had so much fun writing this poem for Jason. I’m a HUGE Prince fan, and so is Jason. Of course, he had to work some of the Purple One’s lyrics into his speech at the fifth grade Moving Up ceremony.

Link to YouTube Playlist.

Thank you for sharing, Laura!

About the Author:

Laura Shovan was first published in second grade, when her short story “Snow Flurry” appeared in the PTA newsletter. After graduating from NYU’s Dramatic Writing Program, she taught high school, worked as a freelance journalist, and is now an educational consultant for teens with learning differences.

Laura is poetry editor for the literary journal Little Patuxent Review. Her chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone, won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize. She edited the Maryland Writers’ Association anthology Life in Me Like Grass on Fire: Love Poems and co-edited Voices Fly: An Anthology of Exercises and Poems from the Maryland State Arts Council Artists-in-Residence Program, for which she teaches.

Laura is a Rita Dove Poetry Award finalist and won a Gettysburg Review Conference for Writers scholarship. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, her novel-in-verse for children, will be published by Wendy Lamb Books/Random House in 2016.

Find Laura: Website | Goodreads | Twitter

Book Description:

Hardcover, 256 pages
Expected publication: April 12th 2016 by Wendy Lamb Books/Random House

Eighteen kids,
one year of poems,
one school set to close.
Two yellow bulldozers
crouched outside,
ready to eat the building
in one greedy gulp.

But look out, bulldozers.
Ms. Hill's fifth-grade class
has plans for you.
They're going to speak up
and work together
to save their school.

Laura Shovan's engaging novel is a time capsule of one class's poems during a transformative school year. The students grow up and move on in this big-hearted debut about finding your voice and making sure others hear it.


Thanks to Laura for this giveaway!
What's up for grabs: Signed Finished Copy of The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan + swag
Scope: US and CA

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith (Author Interview + Giveaway)

Hi guys! For today, we're featuring a YA contemporary novel. Based on the feedback I have read all over the blogosphere, the story - writing, most especially - is quite good. We're giving away an ARC later, so stick around! ;)

What or who inspired you to write The Way I Used to Be?
As a concept, I’ve wanted to write about sexual violence for a long time—it’s a reality for so many young people, yet there’s still so much silence surrounding this issue. But the true inspiration for the story came when I finally stumbled over the character of Eden as I was working on something else. From her perspective, I saw a chance to really explore what that silence means and feels like—and ultimately, what it might take to break that silence.

Your book is quite heavy as it deals with trauma. Did you encounter any challenges in writing this book?
Yes, because it does deal with trauma, there were points that were pretty tough for me to work through, emotionally. I found that I had to take some significant breaks from writing altogether—to recalibrate and make sure I was keeping a clear enough boundary between the world of the book and my own real-life world.

How did you mold Eden's character before and after the "incident"?
In the opening pages we get a sense who Eden is, or rather, was, prior to being raped. We get the impression that she’s been living in the background of her own life—she’s shy, a little nerdy, her world is small. But the assault shakes her whole foundation, and we see her beginning to question her old roles within her family and at school with her friends. By breaking the story down into four parts—one for each year of high school—I really wanted to show how the changes in her character escalate from one year to the next, as she tries to rebuild her identity and find ways to cope with what’s happened on her own (while not actually addressing the real problem), ultimately accelerating to the point of crashing.

Did you write the book with a specific message embedded within its pages?
There ended up being lots of messages, but I think the one thing they all have in common is self-worth: The importance of finding your voice and speaking your truth, standing up to abuse in all its forms—even the abuse we sometimes inflict on ourselves.

I have read reviews that commented on your writing. Readers are amazed with it - you're writing is raw and beautiful. Could you tell us a bit about your writing style?
Well, thank you so much! (*blushes*) I’m not entirely sure how to answer.... I actually try not to consciously think too much about style while I’m writing. Instead, I just try (as best as I can, anyway) to get inside the mind of my character, drawing on my own experiences, emotions, and senses to bring that voice to life.

Do you envision yourself trying out other genres, such as fantasy or science fiction? Why?
Great question! The contemporary “voice” feels so right to me, but I have thought I might like to try historical fiction at some point down the road. I have a master’s degree in art history, so I’m definitely very interested in time periods different from our own. As far as sci fi or fantasy...I really wish my mind worked that way! I think it would be so much fun to write in those genres, but I don’t see that happening.

What is next for Amber Smith?
I’m so excited about the book I’m working on right now. It’s another contemporary YA (slated for publication in the summer of 2017). It deals with domestic violence and tells the story of three siblings as they cope with the death of their abusive father at the hands of their mother.

Thank you, Amber!

About the Author:

Amber Smith grew up in Buffalo, NY and now lives in Charlotte, NC with her two dogs. After graduating from art school with a BFA in Painting, she earned her MA in Art History. When she’s not writing, she is working as a curator and freelance art consultant. She has also written on the topics of art history and modern and contemporary art. The Way I Used to Be is her first novel.

Find Amber: Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Book Description:

Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: March 22nd 2016 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

In the tradition of Speak, this extraordinary debut novel shares the unforgettable story of a young woman as she struggles to find strength in the aftermath of an assault.

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year.


Thanks to Amber for this giveaway!
What's up for grabs: ARC of The Way I Used to Be
Scope: US and CA

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

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (Author Interview + Giveaway)

I'm really excited about today's feature, because it is one of my most anticipated releases for this year. Let me correct myself, it is one of my top 3 anticipated reads for this year, together with The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski and Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. Ever since reading Colleen Houck's series on Indian mythology, I realized that there is so much more mythology out there that should be discovered. I am happy to know that there have been recent and upcoming releases of YA novels focusing on rich mythology from other countries, aside from Greek, Roman & Norse mythologies. I am already familiar with some of the creatures that would star in The Star-Touched Queen and I can't wait for everybody to read this gem of a book. I hope you enjoy this interview with Roshani!

PS. She is giving away a signed hardcover of The Star-Touched Queen later!

What is your story world like?
Indian mythology inspired a lot of my world building. I drew on a lot of descriptions about Otherworldly palaces, where gemstones lit up the world and magic and music reigned supreme. It’s kinda glamorous. Kinda goth. Kinda awesome. (I think).

Could you tell us a bit about your writing style/process?
I really like to plot out my books before I write them. I suffer from a lot of false starts, so having a battle strategy helps me fight against all the unknown and all the uncertainty when it comes to drafting. I think I’ve rewritten the beginnings of my books about fifty times each, and it’s not until I nail down that feel of how it should start that things fall into place. When I write, I like to visualize certain beats within the story. What do I want to accomplish by a certain wordcount? Who are my characters and what do they want? Those questions guide me in terms of pacing and plotting.

Could you tell us a bit of the characters from Indian mythology that make an appearance in The Star-Touched Queen?
The Star-Touched Queen has a large supporting cast of characters that I lifted directly from Indian folklore and mythology. There are rakshas (demons!) and bhuts (ghosts!). There are apsaras (celestial dancers, like nymphs) and gandharvas (celestial musicians). Maya herself is inspired by characters from folklore, like Shakuntula and Savitri.

Could you tell us about Maya? How did you develop her personality?
Maya is…hungry. She’s hungry for more out of her life. She’s ambitious, and a little reckless. She does her best to be self-aware, but sometimes gets in her own way. When I developed her personality, I had a clear idea of a girl who had a lot to offer but whose circumstances frustrated her.

Do you see parts of yourself in Maya?
I put a little of myself in all my characters :) Maya and I have the same favorite dessert. We’re both ambitious. We both become defensive (perhaps more than we need to) when we get criticized.

How did you develop Maya and Amar's relationship?
With Amar and Maya, I wanted to explore a relationship where both parties are equally matched in power and intelligence. Half their chemistry comes from their ability to debate with one another, and half their problems come from their obstinacy and not knowing when to back down.

How different was the original version of The Star-Touched Queen from the final version? What changed?
The original draft had a lot more characters. And it was written in third person. The final version was more streamlined, written in 1st person and overall more focused.

Do you have advice for aspiring writers?
There is no expiration date for success. Be kind to others and to yourself. Know that every set of words is something worth celebrating and that what you’re doing is brave and courageous even if you’re the only person reading. Don’t be precious with your work. Take criticism graciously. Read everything. Write things, and make yourself finish!

Thank you, Rosh!

About the Author:

Photo Credit to Aman Sharma
Roshani Chokshi comes from a small town in Georgia where she collected a Southern accent, but does not use it unless under duress. She grew up in a blue house with a perpetually napping bear-dog. At Emory University, she dabbled with journalism, attended some classes in pajamas, forgot to buy winter boots and majored in 14th century British literature. She spent a year after graduation working and traveling and writing. After that, she started law school at the University of Georgia where she's learning a new kind of storytelling.

Find Rosh: Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Book Description:

Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected publication: April 26th 2016 by St. Martin's Griffin

Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds friendship and warmth.

But Akaran has its own secrets - thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran's magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar's plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk - it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.

Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.

Inspired by Indian mythology.


Thank you to Rosh for this giveaway!
What's up for grabs: Signed Hardcover of The Star-Touched Queen
Scope: International

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

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: Consider by Kristy Acevedo (Character Interview + Giveaway)

Hi guys! Today, we're featuring a sci-fi debut: Consider by Kristy Acevedo. We're doing something a little different though - we're not going to have a playlist or an author interview, instead we will conduct a character interview with the protagonist, Alexandra Lucas. I hope you like it.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I'm Alexandra Lucas, almost eighteen. Most people call me Alex. My favorite color is red, and David Tennant is the best Doctor. I'm hoping to go to college and become a kick-ass defense lawyer, but choosing a college is stressing me out. My boyfriend, Dominick, wants me to go to school in Boston with him, but I don't know how I feel about leaving home yet. Seems like the holograms' prophecy is triggering Dad's PTSD, and Mom is clueless as usual. Someone has to watch him.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?
When I'm passionate about something, I won't stop arguing until I win. I'm a very compassionate person, which can get me into emotional trouble if I start feeling guilty about things that aren't my fault. I have general anxiety disorder with panic attacks, so sometimes I get stuck in my own irrational thoughts and can't always follow through with plans. When I'm afraid or embarrassed, I tend to spiral emotionally. I take Ativan when needed and that helps. My parents and friends are good about it, my brother not so much. He thinks it's all an act.

How is your senior year coming along?
Okay so far, I guess. It's a strange year--everyone is wearing these inappropriate hologram T-shirts to school. I kinda want one. Rita, my best friend, is trying to keep me motivated. Dominick won't stop stressing me out with college choices. If there's an apocalypse, will college even matter? My brother, Benji, is back home from the military service to guard the local hologram and vertex site. That's been hard. If he'd help out with watching Dad, that would be one thing, but all he likes to do is blame me for our family problems.

Could you tell us about your world before the holograms appeared?
I was having a great summer with Rita and Dominick, spending lots of time at the beach and traveling to Boston for concerts. I live on the coast in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, and I spend a lot of time listening to the ocean. The ocean has always been a calming source in my life.

What was the first thing that came to your mind when you saw the holograms?
I still have a hard time believing it's even real. Part of me was terrified when I first saw them, but part of me was mesmerized. It's like a sci-fi movie coming true in real life.

What are your theories about the holograms' prophecy?
It can't be true. I mean, NASA says there's no comet headed toward us. I don't know what to think. Why would they come here to warn us if it's not real? Are they planning a secret invasion? Is it a government conspiracy? I keep watching the news and checking social media to stay updated, tracking everything in my journal to reread and analyze later.

If the world is going to end soon, could you list down some of the things that you would like to do before it happens (bucket list style)?
Bucket lists stress me out. I don't like making long-term plans. It's hard enough for me to get through a week sometimes. If anything, I'd rather not die a virgin, but I don't know if I'm ready for kind of relationship with Dominick.

If you could visit a specific time and place (beyond the constraints of time), where would you go and why?
I'd go back to the women's suffrage movement to help fight for voting rights. If fantasy worlds count, I would definitely travel on the Star Trek Enterprise, the TARDIS, and visit Hogwarts.

Thank you, Kristy!

About the Author:

Kristy Acevedo is a YA author, high school English teacher, and huge Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter fan. When she was a child, her “big sister” from the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program fostered her love of books by bringing her to the public library every Wednesday. A member of SCBWI, her debut novel, CONSIDER (Jolly Fish Press, April 2016), won the 2015 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two daughters, and two cats (Milo and Khaleesi). She believes coffee and dark chocolate were put on this planet for the good of humankind.

Find Kristy: Website | Goodreads | Twitter

Book Description:

Paperback, 288 pages
Expected publication: April 19th 2016 by Jolly Fish Press

As if Alexandra Lucas’ anxiety disorder isn’t enough, mysterious holograms suddenly appear from the sky, heralding the end of the world. They bring an ultimatum: heed the warning and step through a portal-like vertex to safety, or stay and be destroyed by a comet they say is on a collision course with earth. How’s that for senior year stress?

The holograms, claiming to be humans from the future, bring the promise of safety. But without the ability to verify their story, Alex is forced to consider what is best for her friends, her family, and herself.

To stay or to go. A decision must be made.

With the deadline of the holograms’ prophecy fast approaching, Alex feels as though she is living on a ticking time bomb, until she discovers it is much, much worse.


Thanks to Kristy for this giveaway!
What's up for grabs: Signed Copy + bookmark of Consider
Scope: International

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

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: Curio by Evangeline Denmark (Author Interview + Giveaway)

Hi everyone! Today I'm featuring one of my most anticipated reads for 2016 - although it is already out, I have yet to spot a copy locally. I am really into fantasy and lately, into steampunk, especially after reading Revenge and the Wild. So I was very excited to interview Evangeline Denmark about her debut, Curio.

What is your world building process/writing style?
I’m an inside out writer, meaning I like to get into a story and then build outward in terms of story world and setting. Most of the time I get an idea and run with it, but then have to stop along the way for research and to hash out details. For instance, the Curio prequel, Mark of Blood and Alchemy, came about because I jotted down the outline of the story in the Notes document I kept for Curio. It was fun to get to flesh that out into a novella.

Do you have a writing ritual?
I get email and social media interaction out of the way and then commit to ignoring those tempting distractions for a certain amount of time. I usually listen to soundtracks I’ve put together for the novel I’m working on, and I keep nuts and trail mix at my desk so I have brain food on hand.

What kind of research did you do in order to complete Curio as a whole?
I researched alchemy, mining, and Colorado’s early days as a territory. Even though Curio is set in an alternate history I wanted to keep some of those details that make a setting feel real.

Could you tell us a bit about Grey's background and how you molded her as a character?
I wanted Grey to feel like she stuck out, because that is an experience we’ve all had. We’ve seen a lot of YA heroines of smaller stature lately, and that is fantastic. That serves a purpose, especially when used to heighten the concept of one person going up against powerful opposition. But I wanted Grey to have this strong, large-framed body, but feel powerless because of society’s restrictions.

She was raised not knowing her capabilities for her own protection and because of the delicate political climate in Mercury City. Her family had the best intentions, as families often do, but Curio is the story of Grey learning to embrace her strength. She comes to reject Mercury’s oppressive rules and the ridiculous beauty-worshipping culture in Curio City and grabs hold of what matters to her, which is justice.

I am interested with Grey's ties to Whitland. Could you tell us a bit about their background?
Grey and Whit grew up together, and they are each other’s first crush. A few readers have said they were surprised that Grey and Whit’s relationship didn’t go as they expected, and as far as I’m concerned that’s a good thing. This isn’t a love triangle book. This is a coming of age book that explores the discovery of oneself and with that a fuller understanding of love, friendship, and sacrifice.

Grey loves Whit and would do anything for him, but that is part of the true identity she uncovers. Whit is practically part of the family, and although their connection changes, it certainly doesn’t diminish.

How different was the original version of Curio from the final version? What changed?
Mercury City and the outside world changed a lot. Originally Grey’s home town had a more futuristic feel, but in order to bring out more of the Steampunk flavor, I moved the time period to the turn-of-the-century, so early 1900s. That allowed for a stronger western mining town setting and fit perfectly with my deranged alchemists turned Chemists who are mining both the hillside and the veins of their citizens.

Thank you, Evangeline!

About the Author:

Evangeline Denmark’s debut novel Curio was an RT Reviews Top Pick for February 2016, and USA Today’s HEA blog called the world-building “two levels of genius.” A Young Adult Steampunk Fantasy with shades of The Wild, Wild West and The Wizard of Oz, Curio sets coming of age and first love against a backdrop of steam-propelled greed and societal repression.

Evangeline lives in Colorado in a house stuffed full of animals and creative people that would surely go to ruin were it not for the watchful eye of a cattle dog named Willie. 

Find Evangeline: Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter |

Book Description:

Hardcover, 432 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Blink

Grey Haward has always detested the Chemists, the magicians-come-scientists who rule her small western town. But she has always followed the rules, taking the potion the Chemists ration out that helps the town’s people survive. A potion that Grey suspects she—like her grandfather and father—may not actually need.

By working at her grandfather’s repair shop, sorting the small gears and dusting the curio cabinet inside, Grey has tried to stay unnoticed—or as unnoticed as a tall, strong girl can in a town of diminutive, underdeveloped citizens. Then her best friend, Whit, is caught by the Chemists’ enforcers after trying to protect Grey one night, and after seeing the extent of his punishment, suddenly taking risks seems the only decision she can make.

But with the risk comes the reality that the Chemists know her family’s secret, and the Chemists soon decide to use her for their own purposes. Panicked, Grey retreats to the only safe place she knows—her grandfather’s shop. There, however, a larger secret confronts her when her touch unlocks the old curio cabinet in the corner and reveals a world where porcelain and clockwork people are real. There, she could find the key that may save Whit’s life and also end the Chemists’ dark rule forever.


Thank you to Evangeline and her publisher for this giveaway!
What's up for grabs: Finished Copy of Curio
Scope: US

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