Q & A Friday: Morgan Matson on Change, Weddings, and the Grant Family

Hi, there! Welcome to my last post in this series. If you wanted to read the previous posts I had in this series, you can read them here and here.

Today I’m going to talk about the swoon-worthy novel Save the Date by Morgan Matson. This was the second Matson book I read, and it was such a sweet read. I found the characters so relatable, and I loved the Grant family so much! If you wanted to know more of my thoughts on this book, be sure to check out my review. I can’t wait for you to read this interview I did with Morgan!

A little about Morgan:

morgan dog.jpg

Morgan Matson was born in New York City and grew up there and in Greenwich, Connecticut. She attended Occidental College as a theater major, but halfway through, switched her focus to writing and never looked back. She received an MFA in Writing for Children from the New School, and then a second MFA in Screenwriting from USC.

She is the New York Times bestselling author of five books, all published by Simon & Schuster. 

She currently lives in Los Angeles with her rescue terrier, Murphy, in a house with blue floors that’s overflowing with books.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Want to know more about Save the Date? Here’ the synopsis!

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster. There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo. Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractedly cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Interview

Hi, Morgan!! Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me about Save the Date. I can’t wait for everyone else to read it. It was such a fun read!

To start things off, why don’t you start by describing your book in 10 words or less.

Okay, I’ll give it a shot! I don’t write short books, so brevity is always a challenge for me. But how about this:

Wedding disaster, little sister, cute boys, unexpected dog, happy ending?

Perfect!! Weddings are so much fun. What made you want to write about one?

Aren’t they? I feel like there’s so much inherent drama in a wedding! All the family members coming together, and people from two different families joining up.  I’ve never been to a wedding where there wasn’t at least one last minute crisis, and so I thought it would be a great setting for a novel. And I also thought it would be fun to write about a wedding not from the POV of the bride or of a planner, but the younger sister, who’s both a part of the wedding and seeing it from the outside. It let me have my (wedding) cake and eat it too!

Charlie’s sister’s wedding goes through quite a few classic wedding disasters. What was the most fun one to write about?

I think the most fun one to write about was the decorations mishap. I thought to myself, what would be the worst event to have your wedding decorations mixed up with? And a nine-year-old’s Australia-themed birthday party seemed to be just the perfect amount of terrible. Nobody wants a wedding with koala decorations!

Yes! That scene was hilarious!! Who doesn’t love koalas anyway 🙂 Do you have a favorite part of a wedding (both fictional and in real life)?

I have two favorite parts of any wedding. The first is the moment when the officiant asks if anyone knows a reason why the couple should not be married, to speak now.  The part of me that loves drama is always holding my breath at that moment, even though I’ve never been to a wedding where anyone has ever said anything.  But we’ve all seen so many movies and TV shows that we’re primed for high drama at that moment!

And my other favorite is the couples’ first dance. It always makes me well up! I love that moment when these two people, who’ve been through this whole ceremony together, are now able to exhale and dance together as a married couple for the first time ever.  In every wedding, you can kind of see the couple look at each other like, “We did it! We’re married!” It’s just my favorite moment.

The dance is so touching! I love it too. I loved the Grant family! They reminded me of mine. Do you have a lot of siblings too? Does the Grant family remind you of your family?

Oh, I’m so glad you liked them! They were such a blast to write. I do not  have a lot of siblings – I have just one older brother, so we were a smaller family. But maybe because of that, I always wanted a ton of siblings and a big family.  I was even jealous of my friends who had three siblings in their families – it just seemed like there was always more going on!

So the Grant family was more of what I’d imagine a big family to be – lots of coming and going and drama and fights and laughter.  I wrote the big family that I always wanted to have! But of course, bits of my family made it in there too – the little sayings and rituals that are totally normal to your family that nobody else understands.  My mom, like Mr. Grant, is a really accomplished gardener, so that’s where that came from.  And parts of the Grant house, especially the front hall and the kitchen, were based on my family’s home in Connecticut.

I also noticed a lot of Easter eggs hiding within your book. How many did you include? What was your favorite part of writing them in?

Good eye! I love including little Easter eggs in my book – it’s one of my favorite parts of writing a new book, getting to check in with characters from other books.  My favorite part was probably getting a bunch of characters from Unexpected Everything in there, especially because in the past, many of my Easter eggs have just been passing references or little hints.  When I saw a way to actually have these characters engage with the Grants, in a way that didn’t feel forced, I got really excited.  I felt like I actually got to reconnect with the characters from Unexpected Everything, and catch everyone up on what they’d been up to.

There’s also a pretty quick reference to Amy from Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, and most of my books now have had a long-running reference to something first set up in Second Chance Summer, and it pops up again here too.

Charlie struggles a lot with change throughout the book, whether it be moving houses or choosing which school to go to in the fall. Is this something you struggle with yourself? How did your own experience help you shape Charlie’s?

This trait, of struggling with change, is absolutely something that Charlie and I both share.  I hate change, and have ever since I was little.  And Charlie’s feeling regarding going to college in the fall – her ambivalence about it – was my exact same feeling.  All my friends were so excited to be going to college and I just didn’t feel that way. It was like I could sense that what we’d had during our high school years was going to be very different very soon and I just wanted to hold onto it a little longer rather than rushing onto the next chapter.  But like Charlie, I soon realized that life moves only forward and if you can (it’s hard to do) it’s better to think of change like an exciting adventure rather than something to be dreaded.

But since I had this feeling that I hadn’t seen expressed much in books or movies, I wanted to give this to Charlie – and maybe someone else who feels this same way will see their feelings reflected!

I love this! Thank you so much for your time!

Big shout out to Morgan for being amazing! Her interview was awesome, and I had so much fun coming up with questions. Be sure to check out Save the Date if you haven’t already.

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂

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Q & A Friday: Brendan Kiely on Tradition

Hi guys! In the spirit of continuing my mini-series on some fabulous 2018 reads, I have an interview with the great Brendan Kiely, the acclaimed co-author of All American Boys. In 2018, Kiely published his latest novel, Tradition. This book tackles tough topics in an accurate yet sensitive manner. I devoured this book once I started it! I hope you love it as much as I did, and be sure to keep an eye out for a review of it on the blog soon.

Here’s some things you might want to know about Brendan:

Brendan Kiely

Brendan Kiely received an MFA in creative writing from The City College of New York. His writing has appeared in Fiction, Guernica, The AWP Writer’s Chronicle, and other publications. Originally from the Boston area, he now teaches at an independent high school and lives with his wife in Greenwich Village.

Find Brendan here: Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

Want to know more about Tradition? Here’s the synopsis below!

Prestigious. Powerful. Privileged. This is Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep

school where history looms in the leafy branches over its brick walkways. But some traditions upheld in its hallowed halls are profoundly dangerous.

Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.

Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us.

When Jamie and Jules meet, they recognize in each other a similar instinct for survival, but at a school where girls in the student handbook are rated by their looks, athletes stack hockey pucks in dorm room windows like notches on a bedpost, and school-sponsored dances push first year girls out into the night with senior boys, the stakes for safe sex, real love, and true friendship couldn’t be higher.

As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Interview

Hi, Brendan!! Thank you for taking time to sit down to answer some of my questions. I loved Tradition, and I can’t wait to discuss it!

Thank you so much for reading it, and caring, and thank you for this interview!

To start things off, why don’t you give a brief overview of your book.

            Tradition is about two outsiders, Jules Devereux, a whip-smart, confident, rabble rouser, and James Baxter, a tough, and sensitive kid on a hockey scholarship, who become friends as they learn just how dangerous the school’s old-boy, misogynistic traditions can be. When Jules is assaulted by an ex-boyfriend, she and Bax risk everything they’ve spent their entire high school careers working for to break the school’s culture of silence and complicity.

This is a very heavy, but important topic that you cover, and you write it in such a lovely way. What was it like trying to tackle it?

            Thanks for this question. It means a lot to me. I write contemporary realistic fiction, and though this is a novel, and Jules and James are characters, not people, I try to be as careful as I can because their stories are so viscerally similar to real people’s stories, and so, when I write, I try to listen to the characters with as much care and consideration as if they were real people sitting in front of me, telling me their stories.

I think writing, like living, is all about practicing empathy.

Did you write this book with a certain intention or message?

            All my books begin with a question that is deeply affecting me. In this case it was this: How can our community better listen to and support women, especially those who have been speaking out about misogyny, harassment, and assault for so long, and in particular, how can men become better feminists? I tried to address that question by writing Tradition.

Jules is so awesome. Can you talk a little about where the characters came from? Do you start with characters or a place?

            Thank you! I think Jules is awesome too, because she reminds me of some of those awesome students I had the honor to teach, advise, and watch soar out into the world. I worked in a high school for ten years, and the students who peered around the school’s walls and stared out into the wider world, are the students who inspired Jules. And Bax too. So many young men (myself included) grow up with so much pressure to try to be tough athletes, and when those some of those boys get together, in order to prove to each other how tough they are, how much of a “man” they are, they say terrible things about women, or worse, sometimes act in disrespectful or even harmful ways towards women. But then there are the guys who witness all this and think to themselves, “this isn’t right.” I remember those students too—the guys who did want to listen, the guys who turned around to the other guys and said, enough is enough. Bax and his big, soft heart reminds me of those guys who are out there too.  

I always start with characters. I write scene after scene after scene getting to know them, and though most of those scenes get thrown out, I do it because it takes time getting to know someone—just like in real life!

How did writing these characters and this story contrast from your other works?

I love this question, because I think Jules in particular is so different and unique. As a man writing a book in which half of it is from a woman’s perspective, it was essential for me to get feedback from women along the way. In order to try to be as accountable as possible, I asked nine women to read over my shoulder as I wrote Tradition—while I’ve always asked for feedback from readers while working on a project, I’ve never had so much feedback at once, and I’m forever grateful for the time, attention, and care!

There’s a distinction between a harmful tradition and a fun, silly one. Is there a fun one that you enjoy?

            Yes! Absolutely. Tradition itself isn’t a bad thing, it’s only when the tradition is used an excuse to protect some people while others are being harmed that it’s a problem. Every year in Barcelona, on April 23, couples exchange books and roses with each other, the tradition is called the festival of St. Jordi. It’s been going on forever, and no one really knows how it started, but it’s awesome and still continues today—it’s like a super bookish Valentine’s Day! And closer to home, right where I grew up, it was a tradition for many years that many of the neighborhood families would gather at my friend Adam’s house for Christmas Eve, and his father would make the same calzone every year, and we’d all sit around the piano and sing while another friend’s father played the songs. But what makes these traditions fun is that they are inclusive—everyone feels a part of it. The traditions that bother me are those designer to make some people feel excluded, or insignificant, or disrespected in some way. Those are the kinds of traditions Jules and Bax want to tear down and expose for their ugliness.

Is there anything you’re currently working on that you can share a little about?

            Ahhhh!!! This is always the hardest question because when I’m in the middle of something I never know what it really is until I get to the end of the first draft. I will say this though, I love telling stories that are full of heart and emotion and people learning how to better listen to each other, and my next project follows in the same… well… tradition. Ha! Thanks so much for asking!

Thank you so much to Brendan for taking the time to speak with me on the blog! I encourage you all to go out and get yourselves a copy of this excellent novel.

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂

Posted in Bloggers, Q & A, Sophie

Q & A Friday: Siobhan Vivian Talks Stay Sweet

Hi there! I hope you’ve had a good new year so far! I’m going to feature a few authors whose books I read and absolutely loved last year. I had the chance to interview them thanks to their amazing publicist.

Today I’m talking with Siobhan Vivian, author of Stay Sweet, and many other novels. (Read my review of Stay Sweet here.) Siobhan was actually the first author who did an interview on my blog here! You can read that here.

Here’s a little more about her formally:

Siobhan Vivian

Siobhan Vivian is the author of THE LAST BOY AND GIRL IN THE WORLD (April 2016), as well as THE LIST, NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL, SAME DIFFERENCE, and A LITTLE FRIENDLY ADVICE. She also co-wrote BURN FOR BURN series with her best friend JENNY HAN. She currently lives in Pittsburgh.

Website | Twitter | Instagram

I absolutely loved Stay Sweet, and couldn’t put it down when I took it with me over spring break! Here’s some more info about the book.

Summer in Sand Lake isn’t complete without a trip to Meade Creamery—

Stay Sweet

the local ice cream stand founded in 1944 by Molly Meade who started making ice cream to cheer up her lovesick girlfriends while all the boys were away at war. Since then, the stand has been owned and managed exclusively by local girls, who inevitably become the best of friends. Seventeen-year-old Amelia and her best friend Cate have worked at the stand every summer for the past three years, and Amelia is “Head Girl” at the stand this summer. When Molly passes away before Amelia even has her first day in charge, Amelia isn’t sure that the stand can go on. That is, until Molly’s grandnephew Grady arrives and asks Amelia to stay on to help continue the business…but Grady’s got some changes in mind…

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository |IndieBound

Interview

Hi, Siobhan! Thank you so much for taking time to sit down and answer my questions. It’s lovely getting to work with you again, but this time forJustine! I wish you the best with Stay Sweet, and I’m already looking forward to your next book We Are the Wildcats.

Thank you so much for the great questions, Sophie! It’s always a pleasure to “speak” with you! J

Let’s start with you describing your book in ten words or less.

Simply put, it’s about sisterhood, summer, ice cream, and romance.

A big part of this novel is about Molly Meade, a self-made woman who owned her own business. Where did you come up with the character of Molly?

Molly is based in large part on a teenage version of my grandmother, who was very resourceful, ambitious, and driven, particularly for a girl in the 1940s. And the more research I did about that time in American history, I realized that many of the challenges young women were facing back then parallel the issues of our time.

If you were the proprietor of your own business, what would it be? Why?

I would love to run a small coffee shop with homemade baked goods, because coffee and baked goods are fundamental to my daily existence. 

While it’s written in third person, this follows mainly Amelia. What was it like writing in her headspace? Did you think about writing a little from Cate’s perspective too?

I actually wrote several drafts of Stay Sweet in first person, and it just never felt right. I found it very difficult to capture the timelessness and history of Meade Creamery through Amelia’s contemporary perspective. I also didn’t like how the story transitioned from Amelia’s POV into Molly’s diary entries in first person. There wasn’t enough POW to the change in perspective. Once I made the decision to change it to third person, I felt more deeply immersed in the storytelling.

I love the best friendship in this book. It reminded me of all the girls who have been there for me in the same way. Did you draw on your own relationships to help build the friendship between Cate and Amelia?

Oh absolutely. I’m extremely lucky to have befriended several strong, successful, sparkly women throughout my life and I used lots of different facets of them to build the friendship between Amelia and Cate.

Have you ever worked in an ice cream shop yourself? If so, what was your favorite part?

I never did! But one of my former students at The University of Pittsburgh worked at a small ice cream parlor and she gave me many incredible details.

How did you come up with the flavor Home Sweet Home?

I had a really in-depth conversation with Katie Heldstab—one of the founders of Pittsburgh’s Leona’s Ice Cream (www.leonaspgh.com) –about what ingredients someone might use to sweeten ice cream if they didn’t have access to sugar. Katie is a graduate of the infamous Penn State Ice Cream program and super well-versed in the science and chemistry of ice cream making. Her input was beyond helpful!

Alright to wrap this up, is there anything you can share about your upcoming novel with us?

Yes! It’s a 24-hour clock, which is a device I’ve always wanted to use in a book. And I’m returning to a mutli POV ala my book The List. Finally, the story allows me to explore one of my favorite themes—all the complicated and magical ways that girls form friendships with each other.

Thank you so much, Siobhan, for taking the time to answer my questions! I can’t wait to read We Are the Wildcats!! Please be sure to check out all of her books — they’re divine!!

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂

Book Tour: Love Songs & Other Lies by Jessica Pennington

Welcome to out tour stop for Love Songs & Other Lies by Jessica Pennington! We’re so happy to host Jess here with an interview.

About the BookLove Songs & Other Lies Cover

Title: Love Songs & Other Lies

Author: Jessica Pennington

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: April 24th, 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Synopsis: It’s summer romance and second chances, the songs that stay in your head, and the boy you’ll never forget.

Two years after rock-song-worthy heartbreak, Virginia Miller is looking forward to a fun, carefree summer. Her friends just landed a spot on a battling bands reality show, and Vee is joining them for her dream internship on tour. Three months with future rockstars seems like an epic summer plan. Until she learns she’ll also be sharing the bus with Cam. Her first love, and her first heartbreak. Now Vee has more than just cameras to dodge, and Cam’s determination to win her forgiveness is causing TMZ-worthy problems for both of them. With cameras rolling, she’ll have to decide if her favorite breakup anthem deserves a new ending. And if she’s brave enough to expose her own secrets to keep Cam’s under wraps.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Powell’s

| Book Depository | Macmillan

 

 Jessica Pennington.jpg

About the Author

Jessica Pennington is no stranger to the combination of love and drama. She’s a wedding planner, after all. A writer since the age of ten—when she sought publication for her poem about a tree—Jessica likes the challenge of finding the humor in a sad situation or highlighting the awkwardness in a romantic one. She lives in a Michigan beach town suspiciously similar to the one in her books, where she’s currently finishing her second novel, WHEN SUMMER ENDS, out April 2019.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

 

Giveaway Rules:

1 winner will receive a signed hardcover of LOVE SONGS & OTHER LIES along with a swag bag filled with a t-shirt, bookmark, stickers, buttons, etc.

Rules are included inside the Rafflecopter giveaway

US only, 18+ or with parental permission

Ends on midnight May 12th, CDT

Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/f13123ce22/

Interview

Hi, Jess! So glad you could be here with us today. Why don’t you kick things off by telling us something we can’t find in your bio.

Hi, Sophie! I’m so excited to chat with you! I’m mildly obsessed with penguins. Is that in my bio? I don’t think so. But I am. I have a collection of penguin Christmas ornaments, and I don’t consider a zoo “legit” unless they have penguins on exhibit. The selfie I’m most proud of is one I took with a penguin (which was not easy!).

Describe your book in five words or less.

Oh, this is torture! Here goes nothing… first-love gets a second chance

A big part of this book is music (obviously lol). Do you listen to music while you write? What music got you through this novel in particular?

I listen to basically basically any time I’m awake. This book in particular, I listened to a lot of songs about love and breaking up. Which are my favorite kinds of songs anyway!

I love Vee! She’s an awesome MC. What was your favorite part about writing her?

Oh man, this is hard because I love a lot about Vee! I love how strong she is—even though she’s flawed and has fears like any teen girl—and also that she’s really open with people. I think there’s a real vulnerability about Vee and how she connects with people—you see it even in the way she connects with some of the crew on the tour bus.

If Vee were a song, which one would she be?

Well, most literally, she would be Meet Virginia by Train, because her parents named her after that song. But Yellow Shirt by The Icarus Account (which is Vee’s favorite song in the book) is one that I think describes her…she doesn’t see herself quite as clearly as those around her, but when she does, she’s this really magnetic kind of force.

There are a lot of details about touring and the music competition. Did you have to do a lot of outside research for this novel?

You know, there’s never been a reality TV show like the one in LS&OL (maybe there should be??) so I did have to rely on piecing together what I could find out about music tours and TV production and reality shows in general. I looked up layouts for tour buses, and for some of the venues they visit on the tour, and I had to map out the whole tour and how long it would take them to get from place to place. I have a whole road-trip map somewhere! That was actually one of the biggest pieces of research…figuring out the schedule for the whole show, and when they’d land where!

This is set after Vee’s first year at college which is awesome! I love books set in this time period. Why did you decide to write about that summer?

I didn’t set out to write anything set in college, or even to write a dual-timeline novel, it just happened! I had written most of the THEN chapters before realizing that their story wouldn’t end in high school. But I chose that timing for them to meet again, because I wanted them to have enough time to grow and change a bit, but not enough that they’d totally healed from what happened between them.

Okay let’s wrap things up here, if you could collab with any author who would it be and why?

Oh man, this is a hard question! I think I’d say Katy Upperman, because I loved her debut novel Kissing Max Holden, and just finished an ARC of her second, The Impossibility of Us, which left me reeling. I think we have similarities in the kinds of stories we like to tell and the way we tell them. And she loved Love Songs & Other Lies, so I think we have that mutual appreciation for each other’s work, which would be important when doing a collab!

*****

Thank you, Jess for this amazing interview!! Be sure to pick this awesome book up!! Follow the rest of the tour here:

Monday 16th

LILbooKlovers – Interview

Ashleigh’s Bookshelf – Review

Tuesday 17th

The Clever Reader – Dream Cast

Tale Out Loud – Review

Wednesday 18th

Smada’s Book Smack – Top 10 Quotes

BookCrushin – Review

Thursday 19th

My Fangirl Chronicles – Excerpt

A Blunt Book Blog – Review

Friday 20th

BookishBitsBlog – Guest Post

Books. Life. and Everything Else. – Review

Monday 30th

The Candid Cover – Interview

Belle’s Archive – Review

Tuesday 1st

The Cursed Books – Playlist

The Heart of a Book Blogger – Aesthetic

Wednesday 2nd

Portrait of a Book – Aesthetic

Vicky Who Reads – Review

Thursday 3rd

The Mind of a Book Dragon – Interview

Boundless Bookaholic – Review

Friday 4th

Claerie’s Tales – Fanfiction

Librarian Laura – Interview and Excerpt

Happy reading,

Sophie:)

 

Posted in Bloggers, Q & A, Sophie

Interview: Laurie Forest, Debut Author of The Black Witch

Hi guys! Happy release day to The Black Witch and Laurie Forest (among soooooo many others I’m excited for)! Today we have Laurie on the blog with an interview about her debut novel.

Displaying The Black Witch jacket.jpgIf you’re wondering what her book is all about click here for a link to my review and synopsis of the book.

Here’s a little bit about Laurie: 

Laurie Forest lives deep in the backwoods of Vermont where she sits in front of a wood stove drinking strong tea and dreaming up tales full of dryads, dragons and wands. The Black Witch (May 2017, HarlequinTEEN) is her first novel, and Wandfasted (The Black Witchprequel, Summer 2017, HarlequinTEEN) is her first e-book novella.

Displaying Laurie Forest photo, credit Beltrami Studios.jpg

Without further ado let’s jump into this interview!

Sophie: Hi Laurie! My name is Sophie and it’s pleasure to speak with you/work with you. I enjoyed the exploration you took while writing The Black Witch and I found everyone in the book fascinating! What inspired you to write this story?

Laurie: About eight years ago, my then pre-teen daughters started putting Harry Potter in front of me (I’d never really read any fantasy before, I preferred non-fiction almost exclusively). After watching them devour the books, dress up like characters in the books, style birthday parties around the books and get so excited about the movies, I broke down and cracked open the first book. I read through the entire series in less than two months.

I was instantly hooked and stunned that J.K. Rowling was able to tackle so many serious issues so effectively (and inspiringly) in a metaphorical/fantasy way. I started to read every YA fantasy book my kids handed me, and then some.

During this time, as I was immersing myself in vivid stories of dragons and werewolves and witches and wizards, a dramatic, real-life story was going on around us here in Vermont – the fight for marriage equality. My husband and I were involved in supporting marriage equality, which was a surprisingly hard battle. Prejudice I never knew existed came out of the woodwork against LGBTQ friends, completely blindsiding me.

This real-life story did have a happy ending – Vermont legalized marriage equality in 2009. But the darkness I had witnessed reverberated in my mind. It set me mulling over prejudice in more general terms (religion-based, gender-based, etc.) as I was reading The Golden Compass series. The spark of a story lit inside me – a fantasy story where people with wings are rejected by pretty much every religion/culture for no sound reason save tradition. On a lark, I started writing that first scene down and found myself as instantly hooked by writing as I had been by fantasy fiction (it felt like magic). My fledgling story rapidly found its own trajectory and rapidly veered off into pure fantasy territory.

S: Elloren is a character who is entrenched in her prejudices, what was it like writing a character like that? Why did you decide to write her brothers so different from her?

L: In The Black Witch, I really wanted to delve into where a prejudiced way of looking at the world springs from, so it was an interesting challenge to not only create a dangerous, destructive world-view, but to make it seem rational to the main character (via how sheltered she is and how many lies she’s been told – and there’s a strong religious justification for her world-view as well). My idea was to thrust the reader into that world-view along with the main character and then turn everything completely on its head. Elloren is a naïve sort who doesn’t start out very rebellious, so I think her easy acceptance of most of her cultural prejudices makes sense. Her brother Trystan, being gay, is already privately at odds with the culture, so I think it makes sense that he’d be a bit cynical about it all, although he becomes more of a rebel as the series goes on. They all do. And Rafe’s nature is free-thinking and open-minded, so I think he has a natural tendency to question everything and go his own way.

S: This book is riddled with difficulties Elloren must overcome, not to mention the political turmoil between the classes in that world. What was the most difficult part about writing this book?

L: The most difficult part was pulling so many threads into a coherent whole, especially since I wrote the book’s scenes out of order. I had to go back and streamline all the different cultures and the political timeline.

S: I found myself drawn to the Ulrich twins. Their sensitive natures and undying support really connected with me. Do you relate to any of the characters? Who?

L: At the moment I feel closest to Prof. Kristian. Or at least I want to be like him. He’s quietly heroic and very active, behind the scenes, in the Resistance. He has no magic, but he makes good use of the talents he does have (mainly his intelligence and knowledge of history) to try and shine a light on injustice and right it (we learn more about him as the series progresses).

S: My favorite character is definitely Diana! I love her fierce loyalty and strong character. Do you have a favorite? Why?

L: Right now my favorite is Ariel Haven, because she’s been so abused and misunderstood for so long, but she still hasn’t been completely broken. I feel like Ariel has the heart of a true hero underneath all the trauma.

S: Ariel is a great character. I really liked her rough edges. I don’t know how much you are aware of the negative reviewer on Goodreads, but I found her when I was adding The Black Witch to my “currently reading” shelf. Frankly, I was appalled and I disagree with what she is saying. Is there anything you’d like to say pertaining the message of your book?

L: The Black Witch, at its heart, is a critical exploration of the harmful nature of prejudice in whatever form it’s found. I think a narrative like this, with its condemnation of hate and dismantling of internalized racism, is quite relevant. My goal for the series is to promote diversity in an entertaining story. My overarching theme (I hope) is that any government or culture or religious system of belief that does not promote diversity can lead to a very dark place. Kind of the path to Mordor.

Or in the case of The Black Witch, Marcus Vogel’s vision for Gardneria.

S: The ending is such a cliffhanger! Are there any current projects you’re working on that you could share with us?

L: Book Two of The Black Witch Chronicles is written and I’ll be leaping into the editing/sensitivity readings of that very soon with my editor at Harlequin TEEN and sizable team of readers inside and outside of my imprint (it’s been important to me to have this narrative read by people from many different backgrounds to check for sensitivity – and I also get a lot out of online sensitivity discussions which have given me much guidance as well). We’re hoping to put

Book Two out next year. The e-book prequel to The Black Witch, Wandfasted, comes out July 1, 2017 (it’s currently up on Amazon for pre-order and the cover reveal is coming soon!). It’s being sold as a novella, but it’s around 250 pages – I can’t seem to write short, lol. Wandfasted happens 20 years in the past. It’s the love story of Elloren’s parents, Vale and Tessla (oh my, romance is fun to write). I like to think of it as Pride & Prejudice meets Lord of the Rings .

You get a glimpse of the original Black Witch on the front lines in this book (which was extraordinarily fun to write) as well as many characters from The Black Witch as young people – Aunt Vyvian, Uncle Edwin, Prof. Jules Kristian, Lucretia Quillen and Fallon Bane’s parents. And baby Gareth  Also, there are battling dragon armies in this e-book.

S: Thank you so much for your time, I had a pleasure chatting with you! Are there any closingcomments you’d like to make?

L: I’m looking forward to the book getting out there and hearing from readers. And I hope the book provokes further discussion! Thank you for taking the time to interview me and thank you for your review of The Black Witch 

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Be sure to check out The Black Witch!  I encourage you to read it and see what you think of it 🙂 If you lucky ducks live close to these places be sure to go see Laurie while she’s on tour!

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Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂

Posted in Bloggers, Q & A, Sophie

Q & A Friday: Laini Taylor & Cecilia Vinesse Interviews

I can’t believe it’s Friday already. I feel like this week flew by! I am so excited to share with you some interviews I did for Justine with Laini Taylor and Cecilia Vinesse. Both of these ladies had events in the past couple of weeks and I had the pleasure of speaking with both of them.

Laini and I played a quick round of 5 Quick Questions. It was fun to hear how she would place herself within her book. You can find the link to the full article here. Here is a snapshot of it:

Would you rather be a Godspawn or human?

Godspawn, if I could choose!

Who wins in a fight, Lazlo or Thyon?

Oh man, what kind of fight? I’m gonna have to go with Thyon.

(Originally published on justinemagazine.com)

I got to have a full conversation with Cecilia. It was so fun speaking with the debut author (Seven Days of You). Our full chat can be seen here. Here is one of my favorite responses from her.

Sophie: Hi, Cecilia! So glad to have you here today. To kick things off, why don’t you tell us something that isn’t in your bio.

Cecilia Vinesse: Hi! Oh my, something that isn’t in my bio. Hmm, let me think about this. I was a really, really big musical theater person for a really long time. I had the all original cast albums of different shows, and I had all the lines memorized. I used to, this is embarrassing, I’m sharing something embarrassing, I used to, when my family was out of the house, we used to have this really steep set of stairs so I would play the music really loud and I would sing it at the top of the stairs like I was in a production of the show. I really thought that was what I wanted to do, like I really thought that was—for a large portion of my teen years that was my dream, but then I realized I’m actually really nervous in front of crowds and that I like telling big stories, but maybe in a quieter way. So slowly over the years all of my Broadway posters came down off the wall. I still like it but not in the same obsessive way that I used to.

(Originally published on justinemagazine.com)

I hope you enjoyed both of them, I know I had a blast.

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂

Q & A Friday: The Mystery Blogger Award

Hi guys! I found this award over on Lauren’s blog Wonderless Reviews and thought it would be super fun to do. Thank you to Okoto Enigma for creating this award. Without further ado, here we go!

What is the Mystery Blogger Award?

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“Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion. – Okoto Enigma

Rules: 

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog (I picked an alternate version of the logo).
  • List the rules.
  • Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  • Mention the creator of the award and provide a link to their blog as well.
  • Tell your readers three things about yourself.
  • Answer questions of nominator.
  • Nominate 10-20 people.
  • Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question.
  • Share your link to your best post(s).

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Three Facts

  1. I’m from the Great Lakes state! (Michigan, Lower Peninsula – yes, I like to use my hand as a map.)
  2. I like cake without icing, but I prefer ice cream to either cake or frosting.
  3. I have an alter ego. Her name is Rosemary and she’s an old lady.

Lauren’s Questions

1. A series that you hope to start or finish this year?

Oh man I’m so excited for Always and Forever Lara Jean by the lovely Jenny Han.

2. Current favourite song?

If you know anything about me, you know how terrible I am at choosing a favorite. I’m digging everything from Celine Dion to George Michael to the Spice Girls. I also found a Spanish version of Stand by You by Rachel Platten and I love it so much.

3. ONE upcoming release that you could read right now if you had the chance?

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard!

4. What was your most recent 5 star read?

 

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini; I read this for my fem lit class and absolutely loved it. You have to give it a chance if you haven’t already.

FUN/WEIRD Question: You’ve instantly taken the place of the main character in the book you’re currently reading/last read. How screwed are you?

Well, I’m reading Passenger by Alexandra Bracken as well as The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. In Passenger I’m much better off than in the latter.

My questions

  1. What assumption do people make about your reading habits that is the most inaccurate?
  2. Favorite genre to read on a rainy day?
  3. What’s your go to read when you’re in a slump?
  4. 2017 cover you’re completely lusting over right now?
  5. *fun* question: You get to take over the life of a supporting character. Who is it and why?

My favorite posts

Interview with Siobhan Vivian

Interview with Cori McCarthy

Interview with Shannon M. Parker

Who I’m nominating

Beth | The Books Are Everywhere

Emma | Lost Amongst the Chapters

Emily | EmNEmily’s Books

Anyone who would like to do this!

And with that I am complete! I would love to hear your responses so feel free to link me below!

Happy  reading,

Sophie 🙂

 

Hi… I’m so so sorry for my terrible lack of posting over the last… well… forever. I’ve always been bad at the whole blogging thing- since my 3rd grade blog about penguins.

I’m also really bad at thinking of book related questions for myself, so I’ll leave you a list of bookish stats plus my personal essay for AP Literature.. Though if you have any and feel like treating me with the same amount of attention Sophie gets, I’d be glad to answer any and all via an actual, non-scheduled Q&A (sorry Soph..)

So yeah:

Last Book Read: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

Last Book Bought: Machiavelli’s The Prince

Dream College Themed book: Chasing Vermeer, Blue Balliet

Bookish Philosophy: there is little more underrated than children’s books… but other books are good too

Theme of Spring Break Reading List: Biography/memoir/giant bin of books borrowed from Sophie

Favorite publications: for news, BBC; for general entertainment, The Bloggess all the way

Most anticipated book  yet to be released: You Are Here, Jenny Lawson(shh i know its a coloring book)

Best beverage to pair with a book: tea latte or latte in general

Bookish Bad Habits: dog-earing, setting down book face open

MY AP LIT PERSONAL ESSAY

Literature is Not Important to Me

Literature is not important to me, in the same way that drinking water is not important to me. It is something I do frequently, but it is also something I have done for so long that it is no longer a conscientious activity.

I have always had a propensity for words and communication. According to my mother, I began speaking at nine months and my first word was “kitty cat.” At a year I could correctly identify the colors of my crayon box and by fifteen months I could name the letters in my alphabet puzzle. She recalls me reading words by age two, and there are several photos of a very tiny Maiya sitting on a small training toilet or on the floor of my bedroom engrossed in a book. I frustrated my preschool teacher with my refusal to listen to her lessons on letters, and she apparently managed to have me for nearly a year without realizing that I could read. As a first-grader in the Voyager program, I was moved up to a reading group with fourth and fifth graders, and I was quite close with our school librarian, often discussing gardening or crafting as I checked out my strange combination of novels and books on plants and crocheting.

As a result of my constant need for words, I read voraciously and with little discrimination. As a five-year-old, I read the microwave manual as part of a deal in order to be allowed to use the brand new machine, and my parents had to cancel their TIME subscription a few years later, because generally, one does not want their seven-year-old reading something with an intended audience at least a decade older. Many of my fondest memories of summers as an elementary schooler feature large paper bags and corrugated cardboard boxes filled with young adult novels my mother picked up at second-hand stores and garage sales. I would blow through them, and to this day, seventy-some percent of the books in our family library are mine.

A side-effect of my reading was a comically large vocabulary packed into a tiny person, and as many of the words I acquired were ones that I had only read, mispronunciation became a comedic portion of my family’s lives. I once mispronounced “sophisticated” as “soff’ is cated” to my mother’s amusement.

Another side-effect of my obsession with stories is, ironically, my inability to tell a story. The abundance of stories and their many commonalities lead me to jump from tale to tale, never finishing one and going off on a thousand digressions in an attempt to share a brief moment from my life.  

While many people will say that books and the characters within become their friends, I have never found this statement to ring true for myself. However, I will admit that books and my love for them have led me to make many friends, whether the librarians at each school or the girl behind me in eighth grade geometry with whom I would eventually start a book blog.

Like drinking water, reading is a necessary part of my life. Without water, I, as a carbon-based biological organism, would die. Without my passion for reading and the love of learning and knowledge that logically follows, my personality would die. Just as water keeps me physically nourished, burying my nose in books provides my mind with sustenance. This leads to an odd paradox in which literature has become so important it becomes commonplace. It is so ingrained within my life that without it, I would not be me.

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Small me, on a toilet, reading. This is my personal sacrifice for my lack of blogging

 

Q& A(ish) with Maiya

Posted in Bloggers, Q & A, Sophie

Q & A Friday: The Secret Life of Book Blogger Tag

Hi, guys! I’m here (a little late) with another tag for you. I don’t care that I’m doing another tag because I simply do not have much time on my hands for much else. I found this tag on Sporadic Reads and I really loved it.

secretlife

How long have you been a blogger?

I’ve been blogging a little over a year now and I love it.

At what point do you think you’ll stop blogging?

Hopefully I don’t stop any time soon! I really love using this as a creative outlet. It also relaxes me. I do want a real job though. This is a great way for me to keep writing and keep up with the book community.

What is the best thing about blogging?

The people! I love making new friends and sharing my enthusiasm for books with other people. I love how alive the book community is today!

What is the worst thing? What do you do to make it okay?

Ahh the consistent way I need to post for it to be a serious blog. I want to do a lot with this blog so I have discovered that keeping a schedule helps me a lot. At least I have a theme for a post for the day so I know what to talk about for the day.

How long does it take you to create/find pictures to use?

Not very long. Since I #Bookstagram I have lots of bookish photos. I have an editor on my laptop so I can do whatever I want thereafter. Sometimes it’s hard to find time to take photos but I can manage it pretty well if I do large chunks at a time.

Who is your book crush?

Let me name a *few* for you:

What do you wear when you write your blog posts?

Nothing special if this is what the question is asking. I blog when I can so whatever I happen to be wearing that day I write in.

How long does it take you to prepare?

How much am I trying to do at the moment? It depends if I’m multitasking or not, but usually I can write a review in about 20-30 minutes. The same goes for posts like these. I like to write ahead of the day, so I can schedule and I won’t have to worry about it the day of.

How do you feel about the “Book Blogger Community”?

love it!! It’s inclusive and always supportive of others. The #Bookstagram community is just as wonderful.

What do you think one should do to get a successful blog?

Be genuine! If you write genuine reviews, reach out to people you really want to know, it helps a lot. I love it when people reply to my posts and it’s fun to learn about everyone else.

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Who I’m tagging

If you have an E in your name I tag you! If you want to do this tag, please do it and let me know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂