Here are my current Giveaway Contests

THE DEEPEST ROOT through October 20th
EVERLASTING NORA through October 20th
WHAT THE WOODS KEEP through October 27th
Spooktacular Giveaway Hop through October 31st

Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Query Critique Giveaways

Wendi Gu Agent Spotlight Interview on 10/29/18
Weronika Janczuk Agent Spotlight Interview on 11/26


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Katya De Becerra here to share about her debut YA fantasy/sci-fi/horror/thriller WHAT THE WOODS KEEP. It sounds like a really unique story that is also fast-paced and hard to put down.

Before I get to my interview, I have a few things. First, you can read the tips of other writers and me on how to overcome Writer's Block on Freewrite.

Follower News

Elizabeth Varadan's new MG THE CARNIVAL OF ANIMALS was just released. Here's a blurb: A collection of 13 tales for children, ages 7 to 60, set in different countries and based on Camille Saint-Saëns' musical fantasy, The Carnival of the Animals. And here's a buy link:

Now back to my interview. Here’s a blurb of WHAT THE WOODS KEEP from Goodreads

What the Woods Keep is the stunning debut of Katya de Becerra, who combines mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that will keep you mesmerized right up to the final page.

On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home—on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.

Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She's getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it's all catching up with her: her mother's mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father's outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden's own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.

As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbors whisper secrets about Hayden's mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible—something that threatens reality itself.

Hi Katya! Thanks so much for joining us.

1.  Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Thanks so much for having me, Natalie! I’m very excited to be here! From a young age, I’ve always been writing something (poetry, short stories, etc.), but I haven’t really started writing longer fiction until about five years ago. I fell in love with YA books again just around the time I started working on my PhD in anthropology, and from then on, I’ve been doing two things simultaneously: writing YA books while working at a university.

2. That's great that you could juggle the two. Where did you get the idea for WHAT THE WOODS KEEP?

I gravitate toward darker, spookier stories and I’m obsessed with mysteries and unexplained phenomena. I’m also a huge fan of forests, imagined or real. So for my debut, all these things naturally came together, resulting in this strange, spooky book about one determined girl’s quest to find out what really happened to her mom the night she disappeared into the local woods ten years ago.

3. That's one of the things that intrigues me about your book--that you incorporate so many different genres. You have a background in science and work in research now. How has this influenced this story and your writing process in general?

I’ve been either studying or working in social sciences for almost twenty years now, and have a PhD in anthropology. I also love all things STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) and, of course, physics. It helps having this background when I work on my YA books because I generally love doing research! I even still peruse my old college notebooks for information. Because in WHAT THE WOODS KEEP I draw various scientific concepts, it also helped having access to my university’s library and digital archives when I needed to make sure I got some stuff right.  

4. WHAT THE WOODS KEEP is described as new and unique and a real page turner that readers couldn’t put down. It’s not easy to get someone to say your story is new and unique. So tell us how you made yours so different and your tips on creating a fast pace like in WHAT THE WOODS KEEP.

You’re making me blush! I’m so happy and incredibly relieved to hear that so many readers couldn’t put down my weird little monster of a book.

I guess it’s the genre-blending aspect that makes my debut at the very least peculiar – and hopefully, engaging. While WHAT THE WOODS KEEP combines elements of science fiction, mythology, mystery and dark fantasy, in its core it’s all about rational thought clashing with something unexplained and possibly otherworldly; and it’s also about facing up to one’s primeval fear that can’t be rationalized or ignored. I find all that personally fascinating and hope readers will feel that way too!

5. You work full-time and sound committed to your day job too. What is your writing schedule and how do you stay productive enough to feel confident you can meet your writer deadlines while doing so in your other job too?

I’m at work five days a week and it’s usually pretty busy (I teach and do research). I only have my
commute to and from work and my lunch hour to write. Evenings are trickier but I can find time then if I’m on a deadline. I tend to jot down ideas while I’m on the train and then I sit down to write properly on weekends. It’s not ideal, but it is what it is at the moment. When my day job gets particular tough and demanding, I completely escape into writing whenever I can, and vice versa, whenever I experience an existential crisis as a writer, I throw myself into work.     

6. Okay, you're giving me hope that you can have it all even if you have a full-time job. Share a bit about your main character, Hayden and her growth as a character as you wrote her story.

Hayden starts off as a logical, rational person who (thinks she) can explain everything, even the strangest of things, with science and reason. However, the deeper into the eponymous woods she ventures, the more she starts to open up to the possibility that there are some things out there which perhaps escape – or bend – rational explanation. Another dilemma Hayden faces has to do with doing what’s expected of her versus making her own choices. She’s got a lot on her plate from the very beginning of the book, but it only gets more complicated the more time she spends in her strange hometown and begins to truly understand the real implications of what happened to her mom ten years ago and what this means for her now.

7. Your agent is Amy Tipton. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I’ve queried Amy the old-fashioned way and she offered representation. After first doing some minor revisions with her, WHAT THE WOODS KEEP eventually went on submission, got lots of rejections, but also a few R&Rs. Of course, I did the necessary revisions, resubmitted, and – DRUM ROLL – got a 2-book deal with Imprint at Macmillan. I couldn’t be happier! Sadly, Amy has now left agenting to pursue other ventures (*sobs forever*), but I’ve got a wonderful new agent now and the future is looking ever-bright once more.

8. You live in Australia and your book is being published in Australia/New Zealand, U.S./Canada, and later in the Czech Republic. How are you marketing your book in countries where you don’t live, especially in the U.S.?

Being based in Australia means I can do lots of local face-to-face promotion, which is great – I get to have a book launch, attend festivals, host signings, etc. Sadly, I can’t have these things in the US/Canada (or in Czech Republic) right now, but I hope that will change in the future. The good thing is that most of book promotion happens online anyway. Things like blog tours, writing various features and mini essays, running giveaways and contests on Twitter and Instagram and just genuinely engaging with readers and bloggers can all be done from the comfort of my home. And the more I do engage in book promotion, the more I learn what I like and dislike doing: for example, I love doing interviews and guest blogging as well as just chatting with readers and fellow authors on Twitter, but I find that giveaways can be exhausting if I run them myself. One key thing that I’ve done for my debut is run a pre-order campaign. Because I can’t mail swag like bookmarks and such (it’d cost me a fortune from Australia!) to reward those who preordered my book, I offered lots of digital exclusives, one mega top prize to one lucky winner, and query critique to everyone who wants it.   

9. What advice do you have for other writers about being a debut author and plans they should make leading up to their book release date?

Be ready to invest your own money into promoting your book. Unless yours was a major book deal (and even then!), you’ll have to help your publisher promote your work. Also, do more of what you like and what makes you excited and happy. If social media is your forte and it comes to you naturally – do that! If you’re really good at making short videos or cool graphics – make that the focus of your debut campaign. Play to your strengths and don’t force things. Debut year is a very stressful time. Self-care is very important. And just try to enjoy things – after all, you’re a debut author only once!

10. Those are all great tips! What are you working on now?
I’m working on revisions for my second book, OASIS, a standalone horror adventure set in Dubai and Melbourne, my Australian hometown. I also have a non-YA adventure novel I’ve been writing on the side for a while as well as my next YA book, a supernatural thriller about obsession and bodily autonomy.  

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Katya. You can find Katya at:

What The Woods Keep can be bought wherever books are sold: or check if your local bookshop/library has it.
Add What The Woods Keep to your Goodreads TBR:  
Find me on:
Twitter: @KatyaDeBecerra​ ​(
Facebook​:​ @KatyaDeBecerra (
Instagram​:​ @KatyaDeBecerra(​)​

Katya has generously offered an ARC of WHAT THE WOODS KEEP for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through October 27th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is International.

Monday, October 22nd I have an interview with author Sherry Ellis and a giveaway of her MG BUBBA AND SQUIRT'S BIG DIG TO CHINA

Monday, October 29th I have an agent spotlight interview with Wendi Gu and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, November 7th I have an interview with Melanie Crowder and a giveaway of her MG fantasy THE LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS and my IWSG post

Monday, November 12th I have an interview with debut author Melanie Sumrow and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE PROPHET CALLS

Wednesday, November 14th I'm participating in the Gratitude Giveaway Hop

Monday, November 19th I have an interview with debut author Megan England and a giveaway of her YA space opera THE DISASTERS

Monday, November 26th I have an agent spotlight interview with Weronika Janczuk and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!


Happy Friday Everyone! I'm excited to participate in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop hosted by BookHounds. I always love this giveaway hop and have participating in it for years.

Before I get to my giveaway, I want to invite everyone who lives near Ypsilanti Michigan to come see Shakespeare in Love, a play I'm producing and being the assistant director of for PTD Productions, a community theater group in Ypsilanti. I'm doing it for my boyfriend, and it's going to be fantastic. This is the first year that community theater groups were give the rights to produce it, and our group is one of three in Michigan given initial rights to do this. The play runs November 8th-November 17th. You can find more info on PTD Productions' website. Please stop by the box office or concessions to say hi if you come as I will hopefully be the manager of the front of house. And spread the word if you live nearby. Thanks so much!

Now back to my giveaway. I hope you find a book you like for yourself, a family member, or a friend in the choices offered. Don’t see a book you like? You can win a $10.00 Amazon Gift Card instead. I hope you'll all enter to win a book or gift card for yourself or as a gift for someone.

So here are your choices. I've got a combination of MG and YA books that I hope you're looking forward to reading. Remember, if you want an earlier book in any of these series, you can pick that instead as long as it doesn't cost more than the book here. You can find descriptions of these books on Goodreads.







If you haven't found a book you want, you can win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

To enter, all you need to do is be a follower anyway you want and leave a comment through October 31st telling me the book you want to win or if you want to win the Gift Card instead. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is international as long as Book Depository ships to you for free.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, October 15th I have an interview with debut author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her  YA mystery/fantasy WHAT THE WOODS KEEP

Monday, October 22nd I have an interview with author Sherry Ellis and a giveaway of her MG BUBBA AND SQUIRT'S BIG DIG TO CHINA

Monday, October 29th I have an agent spotlight interview with Wendi Gu and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!

And here's the other blogs participating in this blog hop:


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Marie Miranda Cruz here to share about her MG contemporary EVERLASTING NORA. It sounds fantastic. It is set in the Philippines and deals with issues of homelessness.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

An uplifting middle-grade debut about perseverance against all odds, Marie Miranda Cruz's debut Everlasting Nora follows the story of a young girl living in the real-life shanty town inside the Philippines' North Manila Cemetery.

After a family tragedy results in the loss of both father and home, 12-year-old Nora lives with her mother in Manila's North Cemetery, which is the largest shanty town of its kind in the Philippines today.

When her mother disappears mysteriously one day, Nora is left alone.

With help from her best friend Jojo and the support of his kindhearted grandmother, Nora embarks on a journey riddled with danger in order to find her mom. Along the way she also rediscovers the compassion of the human spirit, the resilience of her community, and everlasting hope in the most unexpected places.

Hi Marie! Thanks so much for joining us. 

I’m happy to be here!

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

I am not one of those authors who dreamed of being a writer as a child. I wanted to be an artist. I loved to draw and paint. But I loved writing in a journal which I began doing in the 6th grade. I was also an avid reader. Fast-forward thirty years—I didn’t become an artist. I majored in Biology and had a career in cytogenetics. I was in a bookstore one day shopping for books for my children and myself and after perusing the children’s section, I noticed books with stories about Chinese, Korean, and Japanese children and their families but no books about Filipinos or with Filipino characters. It suddenly occurred to me that I could write one. The idea consumed me! I knew I had a lot to learn and that it wouldn’t be easy but I had to give it a shot. So I began with picture book texts. My first picture book won an honorable mention at an SCBWI writing contest. After winning that award, I knew I wanted to keep writing. I wrote a few more picture book stories before turning my attention to writing my first novel. There was no turning back!

2. That wasn't my dream as a kid either. Where did you get the idea for EVERLASTING NORA?

I had a picture book story set in a cemetery in the Philippines, about a pair of brothers, a ball of wax,
and their strange encounter with a goblin on the night of All Saints Day. I wanted to expand this manuscript into a middle grade novel so I began researching cemeteries in the Philippines. I came across a blog post by an American missionary about an orphan named Grace who begged in the streets of Manila and slept in the cemetery at night. I was so touched by her story I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wondered how she became orphaned, how she survived, who her friends were, if she even had any. It was at that moment that Nora’s story began to form in my mind.

3. I know that you were born in the Philippines and spent a fair amount of time there when growing up. Did you draw on these experiences or did you need to do research for your story? What about for North Cemetery where Nora lives?

I used a combination of both! I spent part of my early childhood in the Philippines then moved to the U.S., where I finished elementary school. When my dad retired from the United States Navy, we moved back to the Philippines, where I went to high school and college. It was from this part of my life that I drew from. The sights and sounds of Manila and my hometown of Cavite City, the friends I’d made, the food I’d enjoyed, and the traditions that dictated the rhythm of day to day living, helped me create the landscape of Nora’s world. The Manila North Cemetery was a different matter. I used both my memories of cemeteries (mostly from my hometown) and research to give the setting of EVELASTING NORA its color and atmosphere. I read articles about the squatters living in Manila’s North Cemetery and spent hours looking through photography archives of the community living there. The visual immersion helped me imagine Nora’s world and my memories added all the sensory details necessary to make it come alive.

4. I bet the combination of your own experiences and the research really helped. Nora sounds like a compelling character that readers can really sympathize with both because of her situation and her as a person. Share what her character development was like for you.

I’m a visual person so I started with a picture. During my research, I came across a photo of a girl sitting with her back to a tomb, her hair a little messy, her eyes staring into the camera. She wasn’t smiling, as most children in the cemetery did when they posed for a picture. It seemed like the photographer caught her off guard, her expression was sad and a little angry. These were the two emotions I used as a starting point in developing Nora as a character. I didn’t grow up in a cemetery like this child so I decided Nora would be a new to the community. I felt I could portray this truthfully and explore how I would feel if I were Nora, encountering this level of poverty for the first time. This offered the opportunity to show her desire for home in a more concrete way since it comes from having had a home before. Placing myself in Nora’s shoes, examining my own experiences of living without electricity (our neighborhood experienced periodic power outage) and the daily lives of people I knew helped me bring out the strength of her desires and develop the courage that gets her through the difficult situations in the book.

5. What was a challenge that you had in writing or revising this and how did you overcome it?

The main challenge for me was adding lightness to the story. Nora’s life in the cemetery is dark and fraught with despair, especially when she first encounters it. When I drafted the novel, it was too dark. There needed to be some light moments in the story. During my research, I read about families who had lived there for generations, some of them had jobs and chose to stay in the cemetery where they could live rent-free. I recently heard from a friend in high school who told me about an experience he had in college. A classmate of his invited him home for a drink. My friend was astonished to find that his classmate lived in the cemetery, in an apartment built over a mausoleum. They had a couple of beers while looking out over an expanse of tombs. He said it was the strangest experience he’d ever had. It was moments like these, mixing the ordinary into cemetery life, adding descriptions of food, as well as including some of Nora’s happy memories that added lightness to the narrative.

6. Your agent is Paula Munier. Share how she became your agent and your road to publication.

I wrote EVERLASTING NORA over ten years ago and spent a couple of years revising before going into the query trenches. In the first year of querying, I received requests from agents who later passed on the book because they didn’t think they could sell it. I was disappointed and decided to set the manuscript aside and write another book. I drafted and revised a young adult novel about a Filipino American teen psychic living in San Francisco who becomes involved in the case of missing girl from her school. I sent a query letter to Paula Munier in May of 2012. She requested to read the full the same day. I sent it along and waited patiently (most of the time.) I heard back a few months later. She loved the book and offered representation! I was so happy and thrilled. After a couple of rounds of revision with Paula, I went on submission with my young adult novel. There was plenty of interest but in the end, many passes. I was disheartened. Then I remembered my middle grade novel and decided to send it to Paula. She loved it! We went on submission again.

In June of 2015, Paula pitched EVERLASTING NORA (at the time, the title was Cemetery City) to Diana Pho at Tom Doherty Associates, who requested to read it. In November of the same year, Paula had some hopeful news for me; Diana loved the book! The road to acquisition is long and intense, especially for a debut author.

Publishers acquire books through a committee process that involves sales, publicity, marketing, the editorial board, and the publisher. I had a strong advocate in Diana. When Paula called me to give me the news that Starscape, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, was to publish my middle grade novel, I was ecstatic. I think I walked around with a goofy smile on my face for a solid week. After years of struggle, of reaching for the dream, it finally happened. I was going to be an author.

7. Wow! That's a reminder to hold onto the manuscripts that you don't think you can sell. What was something that surprised you about being a debut author and the time leading up to your book’s release?

I’m an introvert and not much of a public speaker so when EVERLASTING NORA became one of five 2018 Book Expo Buzz Books for the middle grade category, I discovered that I would be participating on a panel at Book Expo! This surprise was both exciting and terrifying at the same time. I knew that authors did this but the surprise was that it was happening for my book, and me. I guess I imagined I would have a quiet author life, hoping for invitations to participate in local events—but being at Book Expo as a debut author was surreal. The other thing that surprised me was how much work it takes to promote yourself and your book. Being an introvert doesn’t help! I am so grateful to my agent, Paula, my editor Diana, and the staff at Tom Doherty Associates for their guidance. But I am most grateful to my debut group, the Electric Eighteens for their support, for the resources and the experiences they share because without them, I would be completely clueless!

8. I saw on your website that you are going on a book tour that includes Books of Wonder in New York City. How was that set up? What advice do you have to others who want to do the same?

Books of Wonder is a gorgeous bookstore! I had the chance to visit when I was in New York City for Book Expo last May. Having a book tour was another exciting surprise for me! I am super grateful to my publisher for sending me on this tour. My publicist was the one who chose the venues and made all the arrangements. All I had to do was make sure I secured the time off from my day job to do it! As to advice, all I can say is communicating with your agent and editor is the best way to learn about this process.

9. What else are you doing to promote your book and what’s your advice to someone who just signed a book contract on how to get ready for this?

I think the best thing I did to promote my book was engaging with teachers and librarians on social media, especially those who read, review, and share books. They form groups and use hashtags like #BookPosse and #CollaBookation. They are wonderful!

As far as advice, you can begin by making connections with your co-debut authors. You would probably spend that first year after signing your book contract revising your book and just learning how to navigate the industry so having the support of author friends and showing your support in turn is important. When it comes to promotion, seeing how other authors do it is very helpful in developing your own promotion strategy.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m working on my next middle grade novel! It’s about sisters who reunite on an island resort. It’s a story of friendship, sisterhood, and healing with a little Filipino mysticism mixed in.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Marie. You can find Marie at:

Marie's publisher has generously offering a hardback of EVERLASTING NORA for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through October 20th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Sunday, October 14th I'm participating in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

Monday, October 15th I have an interview with debut author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her  YA mystery/fantasy WHAT THE WOODS KEEP

Monday, October 22nd I have an interview with author Sherry Ellis and a giveaway of her MG BUBBA AND SQUIRT'S BIG DIG TO CHINA

Monday, October 29th I have an agent spotlight interview with Wendi Gu and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Sunday!


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Miranda Asebedo here to share about her YA contemporary/magical realism THE DEEPEST ROOTS. I always love stories with magical realism and this is a thriller too. Can’t wait to read it.

Before I get to my interview, I have my IWSG post.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday (Tuesday this month)of the month is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

The co-hosts this month are: Dolorah @ Book Lover, Christopher D. Votey, Tanya Miranda, andChemist Ken!

Optional QuestionHow do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?

I have gone through many life changes since I started writing. Many of the earlier ones, like death of my sister and many of my late husband's health challenges made life too busy to write with work, being a caregiver to him, being a mom, and maintaining this blog. My most recent life change is my most major one: the death of my husband suddenly, loss of job and career change, and become an empty nester within 18 months has been the most challenging. I've shared about it some before. I've lost a lot of who I used to be in the process.

My new career is as a contract writer at home, and I love the writer's life. In my low points, writing is comforting. I'm still figuring out who I am and how much writing stories fits into that. I don't know anymore and will keep you posted. I do know that I'm a really strong person and will this all out some day. It just takes time.

And I'm sorry that I'm not around as much as I'd like recently. Right now I'm producing Shakespeare in Love and being the assistant director for my boyfriend, who is the director. It's the first year that the play could be produced by community theaters and we're one of three in Michigan that got the rights. It's been a lot of work, which included getting about $1,200 in sponsors. The play runs 11/8-11/17. I'm excited about it but also looking forward to 11/19 when it will be over and I can slow down, visits blogs more, write for myself, and relax. Until then, I apologize if I don't stop by your blog as much as usual.

Now onto my interview with Miranda!

Here’s a blurb about THE DEEPEST ROOTS from Goodreads

Cottonwood Hollow, Kansas, is a strange place. For the past century, every girl has been born with a special talent, like the ability to Fix any object, Heal any wound, or Find what is missing.

Best friends Rome, Lux, and Mercy all have similar talents, but to them, their abilities often feel like a curse. Rome may be able to Fix anything she touches, but that won’t help her mom pay rent or make it any easier to confide in Lux and Mercy about what’s going on at home. And Rome isn’t the only one. Lux has been hiding bigger, more dangerous secrets.

As Rome struggles to keep her friendships close, she discovers the truth about life in Cottonwood Hollow—that friends are stronger than curses, that trust is worth the risk, and sometimes, what you’ve been looking for has been under your feet the whole time.

Hi Miranda! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became an author.

I grew up in rural Kansas, and I loved books and telling stories. I got my Bachelors and Masters degrees in English in Creative Writing and Literature, and then I got a job teaching at a university as an instructor. The great thing about this job was that it gave me a flexible schedule, so I was able to write and still have a “day job” to pay the bills. I took the traditional route of querying and publishing, and THE DEEPEST ROOTS was plucked out the slush pile at Nelson Literary Agency.

2. Where did you get the idea for THE DEEPEST ROOTS?

This is a fun story! A few years ago, I lived in a mobile home out in the middle of a huge, open field, and I waited too long to leave during a tornado watch. By the time I knew I had to get out of there and find a storm shelter, it was far too dangerous to leave, and the watch had turned into a tornado warning, sirens blaring. So I had to stay in the trailer and hope for the best. Talk about a terrifying hour of my life! But I was recalling that storm in the summer of 2016, and about how a storm could change the course of a person’s life. And I started imagining a teenage girl in that storm, and how she might react in that situation, and how it might affect her. That girl eventually became Rome, and that’s how I got the opening scene for the THE DEEPEST ROOTS.

3. Yikes! That sounds like a really scary experience. I’m a huge fan of magical realism. Share how you developed the magical elements into your story. What advice do you have for other writers wanting to write in this genre?

I knew I wanted to write a story that contained magic because I love stories with magic and ghosts and curses! I’m a huge fantasy fan, but I wanted this story to be contemporary, and to reflect the kind of modern problems that girls and women face in places like rural Kansas. So to give a very “ordinary” kind of world this sheen of magic was so much fun! Places like Cottonwood Hollow have a lot of history, so I first set up the backstory for the town, and out of that came the curse and the magic of the girls who live there. The talents that the girls possess are all skills/abilities that would come in useful if you were a pioneer woman out on the prairie, so in many ways the magic is framed around the setting of the story. My advice for other writers is to think not only of characters, but of setting when creating a system of magic. What kind of magic would characters need to survive or thrive in this environment?

4. Your book is set in Cottonwood Hollow, Kansas, not the most usual setting for any sort of fantasy. Share why you chose this as a setting and what your world building process was like.

I love this question! As I said before, I grew up in rural Kansas, and as a teen reader, I was always
disappointed that books were rarely set in a place that was recognizable to me. There were books set in New York, LA, and other huge cities. There were books set at the beach, or on vacation in France. There were not books set in towns where there are more cows than people. And that’s the world I grew up in. So when I decided to write this story, I knew it had to be set in rural Kansas. And I’ve been so lucky to hear from other Midwest readers who identify with the girls and their hometown. For me, the world building process was very easy because it was essentially “write what you know.” I grew up in a town of 150 people, so Cottonwood Hollow was “big” compared to my hometown!

5. Glad you gave us all this more normal setting. This book is also about the friendships between Rome, Lux, and Mercy. It’s been described as a very realistic friendship and messy. Which character was harder to develop of the three? Why?

I love all three girls, but there were aspects of Rome and Lux that were hard for me to develop. For example, Rome had a very hard time expressing herself, and as a writer, this isn’t usually a problem for me. I know how to use my words. So there were some scenes where I had to really put myself in Rome’s shoes and try to understand how she would show love or fear with her actions rather than with her words. For Lux, the most difficult part was the battle between her vulnerabilities and her sharp edges. Lux is dealing with some big problems at home, and so she’s trying to put up walls to keep it a secret from her friends. I wanted to show that Lux was trying to keep her distance so as not to reveal her crisis, and that sometimes that distance revealed itself as indifference, or sarcasm. But I also wanted Lux to be likeable as a character, and to show that her behavior wasn’t always so distant, so it was a struggle to maintain that balance.

6. It sounds like this story is filled with mysteries and is a real page turner. How did you weave your mysteries into the story and maintain a fast pace that makes readers want to keep reading?

Definitely through a lot of revisions! For me, a first draft is always really fast. But after that, it’s a matter of picking up all the threads of the story and weaving them a little more deftly together. So by the end I had my “reveal” of the answers to the questions throughout the book, but I had to pull all those threads through the story so that they’re always present, even if they’re not obvious.

7. Your agent is Kristin Nelson, someone I’ve always admired. Share how she became your agent and what your road to publication has been like.

Kristin and everyone at Nelson Literary Agency are fabulous. I am an old-school publication story! I didn’t do any Twitter events or go to conferences to pitch my book. I cold-queried after a lot of research on agents that I would like to represent me, and my query was plucked out of the slush pile. After I signed with Kristin, we did some revisions. Most books don’t immediately go from the slush pile to the auction block! There’s actually quite a bit of work that goes in before that. NLA has an in-house Director of Literary Development, Angie Hodapp, so she read through and gave me notes, as well as Kristin. When we felt the book was ready, we went on submission. THE DEEPEST ROOTS sold at auction a couple of months after that!

8. That's great to know the slush pile works. How are you planning to spread the word about your book? What advice do you have for others about marketing their debut book?

I’m doing a lot of work on social media to spread the news about my book. I’m also doing some signing events, author panels, and school visits. The best advice I have for authors is to start building your social media platform before you get your book deal! Most of my strongest supporters on social media are people I met online through Twitter or Instagram before I even had an agent. But your social media platform is the best, easiest, and cheapest way to get the news out about your book, so don’t wait to start working on it!

9. That's great advice. What is something that has surprised you about the time from signing your book contract and now debuting?

I think one of the biggest surprises was how many times I would read my own book! From edits, to copy edits, to pass pages, there are sometimes when I think I could recite the chapters by heart!

10. What are you working on now?

I am just finishing up edits for my second YA novel, A CONSTELLATION OF ROSES, which is out from HarperTeen in Fall 2019. Like THE DEEPEST ROOTS, it’s a contemporary with a twist of magic. It’s also set in the same world as THE DEEPEST ROOTS, so keep your eyes peeled for a few Easter Eggs!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Miranda. You can find Miranda at:

Miranda is generously offering a hardback of THE DEEPEST ROOTS for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through October 20th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, October 8th I have an interview with debut author Miranda Cruz and a giveaway of her MG contemporary EVERLASTING NORA 

Sunday, October 14th I'm participating in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

Monday, October 15th I have an interview with debut author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her  YA mystery/fantasy WHAT THE WOODS KEEP

Monday, October 22nd I have an interview with author Sherry Ellis and a giveaway of her MG BUBBA AND SQUIRT'S BIG DIG TO CHINA

Monday, October 29th I have an agent spotlight interview with Wendi Gu and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!