CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

THE LOVE AND LIES OF RUKHSANA ALI through March 30th

Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Guest Posts w/ Debut Authors & Query Critique Giveaways

Katelyn Uplinger Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 3/25/2019

Mary Cummings Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 4/10/2019

Devin Ross Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 4/29/19

Jim McCarthy/Remi Lay Guest Post & Query Critique Giveaway on 5/14/2019

Brent Taylor/Rajani LaRocca Guest Post & Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2019

Kirsten Wolf Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 6/12/19


SABINA KHAN INTERVIEW AND THE LOVE AND LIES OF RUKHSANA ALI GIVEAWAY


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Sabina Khan here to share about her YA contemporary/multicultural the love & lies of Rukhsana Ali. It is set in Bangladesh and sounds like a poignant story about family and being true to yourself.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective.

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?
 

Hi Sabina! Thanks so much for joining us.

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


First of all, thank you so much for having me. So a little bit about me: I’m an immigrant from Bangladesh and I’ve now lived in North America for 26 years which is longer than I’ve lived anywhere else which includes Germany, where I was born and lived until I was 8, Bangladesh, where I spent my childhood and teens and Macao, where I completed my first 2 years of university. I live in British Columbia now with my husband and daughters and a puppy who is the centre of our world. I’m an educational consultant by day and work with students who are struggling with Math, Chemistry and other subjects at school. I became a writer because I was tired of never seeing characters who looked like me in all the books I read and then seeing that pattern continue as my daughters became readers.

2. I bet that you'll be able to really get inspiration from all the places you lived in your writing. Where did you get the idea for the love & lies of Rukhsana Ali?

When my daughter came out us a couple of years ago, we had a lot of conversations about other teens who were struggling about coming out to their families for fear of rejection or even worse, for their safety. I wanted to write a story about a Muslim teen who goes through all of the pain and difficulty of trying to stay true to herself but comes out stronger while also changing the hearts of the people she loves along the way. I wanted to highlight the many different mindsets within a single community and how there is much work to be done but that there are also many allies.

3. Your story is partially set in Bangladesh, and I know that you lived there once. How much did you rely on your own experiences and how much on research in using this as the setting for your story?

I relied mostly on my experiences growing up there. I lived there from the time I was 8 until I was 25 years old, so I have many meaningful memories that I cherish. I also have a lot of family still living there, so it’s easy to keep up with the changes that have occurred in the 25 years since I left.

4. That's great you could draw on your own experiences and those of family. Your story tackles some heavy issues, like being gay, dealing with traditional Muslim family values, and being forced into an arranged marriage that was not happy. How did you incorporate this all into your story in a way that was accurate, compelling, but not preachy?

I have some personal experience with being on the receiving end of discrimination and judgement for whom I decided to spend my life with, and a lot of those feelings made it into the story in some way or another. But I also wanted to make sure that readers were aware that no culture or religion is a monolith. Rukhsana finds unexpected allies within the Bengali Muslim community and struggles to make her American friends open their minds to try and understand her circumstances. A lot of the emotions are ones I and my family have felt living both here and in our respective homelands and I think it goes a long way towards being compelling if you’ve actually lived through something similar.

5. Share a bit about your main character, Rukhsana. Did her character development come easy to you or was it a struggle? Why?

Rukhsana’s character is based heavily on both my daughters, although her experiences are quite far
from anything my daughters have ever been through, so it wasn’t too difficult to write her in a natural way. And thankfully, my daughters gave me a lot of valuable feedback as I was writing her story. Some parts of her character are based on my own younger self, especially when she lashes out at the way she’s being treated by both her family and her friends.

6. Your agent is Hillary Jacobson. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like? 

I entered Pitch Wars in 2016 and was paired with an amazing mentor, Natasha Neagle, who helped me polish my manuscript and get it ready for the agent round. I had offers from several agents afterwards and after careful consideration I decided to sign with Hillary. It was undeniably the best decision of my writing career. Hillary is a highly intelligent, savvy and incredibly supportive advocate and I rely on her valuable insight every step of the way.

7. I've been hearing lots of good things about the pitch wars. Your book was released on January 29, 2019 in the United States. How did you promote your book both pre-release and when it came out both in British Columbia where you live and the U.S.?

I did an international pre-order campaign, giveaways, interviews and event appearances. I am fortunate to be working with a publisher like Scholastic, who have done so much to promote this book. I know that this is not always the case and I am immensely grateful to them for their unwavering support and incredible promotional efforts.

8. What do you think worked and what you do differently in the time from signing your contract with your publisher until your book’s release in terms of building your social platform and getting the word out for your book? 

I honestly can’t think of anything right now that I would do differently and even though it’s too soon to quantify, I’m sure every little bit helped in different ways and to a varying extent. I was already pretty active on Twitter when I signed and in the two years since then I’ve been fortunate to find a very supportive online community. We support each other and promote each other’s work as much as possible. I’ve relied on the encouragement and wisdom of my fellow debut authors as well as those who have already been on this journey.

9. What are you working on now?

At the moment I’m working on another YA Contemporary which deals with Islamophobia and immigration. Hopefully I’ll be able to share much more soon.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Sabina. You can find Sabina here:

Sabina has generously offered an ARC of the love & lies of Rukhsana Ali. 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 March 30th. 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. The book giveaway is U.S. and the query critique giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, March 25th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Uplinger and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, April 3rd I have an interview with debut author Gillian McDunn and a giveaway of her MG contemporary CATEPILLAR SUMMER and my IWSG post

Monday, April 8th I have an interview with debut author Swati Teerhadla and a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT

Wednesday, April 10th I have an agent spotlight interview with Mary Cummings and a query critique giveaway

Monday, April 15th I have an interview with author Tanya Drecker and a giveaway of her MG fantasy MUSIC BOXES

Monday, April 22nd I'm off

Monday, April 29th I have an agent spotlight interview with Devin Ross and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!






LUCKY LEPRECHAUN GIVEAWAY HOP



Happy Thursday Everyone! Today I am excited to participate in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop hosted by by BookHounds. I've got a lot of new releases to share with you this month.

IMPORTANT NEWS

Right now, there is no giveaway hop scheduled in April. If there isn't one, I'm planning to start a newly released MG and YA giveaway the third Friday of the month starting in April. So my first post will be on April 19th. It's a way for me to feature new books, and hopefully you all will want to stop by and enter the contest. I'll continue them if I feel there is enough of an interest.

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 throughMarch 28th. 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. This giveaway is International.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, March 18th I have an interview with debut author Sabina Khan and a giveaway of her YA contemporary/multicultural the love & lies of Rukhsana Ali

Monday, March 25th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Uplinger and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, April 3rd I have an interview with debut author Gillian McDunn and a giveaway of her MG contemporary CATEPILLAR SUMMER and my IWSG post

Monday, April 8th I have an interview with debut author Swati Teerhadla and a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT

Wednesday, April 10th I have an agent spotlight interview with Mary Cummings and a query critique giveaway

Monday, April 15th I have an interview with author Tanya Drecker and a giveaway of her MG fantasy MUSIC BOXES

Monday, April 22nd I'm off

Monday, April 29th I have an agent spotlight interview with Devin Ross and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!

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




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VICTORIA LEE, HOLLY ROOT, & TAYLOR HAGGERTY GUEST POST W/ THE FEVER KING AND QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm excited to have debut author Victoria Lee here with her agents Holly Root and Taylor Haggerty to celebrate her YA fantasy THE FEVER KING. The magic sounds really unique, and it's great to see a fantasy with a male main character.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:



In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.


Now here are Victoria, Holly, and Taylor!


Taylor and Holly to Victoria:


  1. Please tell us everything you know about psychology and the human brain in one paragraph. If that is too much, I guess we’ll settle for how does your research/teaching work influence your writing?
Probably the biggest influence is on my writing that stems from psychology/neuro research is my interest in character development. For better or for worse, I spend a lot of time thinking about why everyone in my books does what they do...including the villains. But I think there’s also an element of bringing psychology knowledge to inform how I structure a book, too. There’s a whole field of psychology that focuses on narrative and what we find most compelling or surprising or thrilling in a story. And when I’m reading a book I often find myself asking why I enjoy the parts I enjoy--or am surprised when I’m surprised--or bored when I’m bored. And a lot of times the answer is psychological--like: “I’m not personally experiencing enough cognitive dissonance from this book, so the tension feels manufactured.”

  1. You are the master of the writers retreat. What are the must-have ingredients for a perfect writing getaway?
Well, me and my writing friend have noticed a trend: every airbnb we’ve rented for a writing retreat has come complete with taxidermied animal heads. Is the presence of a couple skulls necessary to pound out a few thousand words a day? You tell me. I will say that whiskey comes in handy, as does the perfect soundtrack, carefully-scheduled breaks, writing sprints, and a cheeseboard.

  1. What do you do for self-care, given the demands of your two brilliant careers?
I have started doing Muay Thai, which is a style of martial arts. It’s been great for reducing my anxiety and building confidence. Plus, who doesn’t like to hit things sometimes?


I also really recommend bath bombs. Particularly the sparkly kind.

  1. What have you discovered about yourself as a writer during the writing of your second book?
I’ve learned that it’s really important to plot even more than I’m already plotting. By which I mean: I need a still-more-detailed outline, so I avoid those mid-book crisis moments of “shit, something else needs to happen before this next part, but I have no idea what.”


I’ve also gotten better at just letting myself push past awkward scenes and telling myself I’ll fix in revisions.

  1. You’re an *excellent* follow on Instagram. What accounts do you love to follow?
In terms of bookish accounts, my favorite is Tes at paperbackbones. She loves all the same books I do (Grishaverse, The Secret History) and her aesthetic is really on point.


I also recommend spinatale, booknerd_reads, and printedalphabet.


In terms of non bookish accounts: helena.moore’s style is incredible.

  1. One of the things we loved about your book was the setting. Can you tell us more about how you built the physical world of The Fever King, and how you balanced real locations with your alt-history worldbuilding?
So the book is set in my hometown, as y’all know, and so writing in this setting was very close to my heart. I very much started from that—the foundation of reality—and built the alt history world building on top of it. All the differences between the Durhams end up being subtle in some ways...but they have major ramifications.

  1. If your main characters, Noam and Dara, had to pick a crush from another novel’s cast of characters--who would their book-love be?
Noam would probably be in love with either Vasya from The Bear and the Nightingale or literally-Satan from The Master and Margarita.


Dara, on the other hand, would definitely go for a bad boy type like Ronan from The Raven Boys.

8. In The Fever King, your characters have to master the underlying scientific principles associated with their powers before they can make use of their magic. If you acquired witching powers today (ideally without the virus!) what powers would be 1) the most fun and 2) the most difficult for you to master?
“Without the virus” being the operative phrase! Hmm. Well, I think teleportation would be most fun because space is time so you could space travel and time travel. But it would probably also be the most difficult for me to master cause...physics. Ha.

  1. Without giving too much away, what can readers expect from the sequel, The Electric Heir?
Ummm. It’ll be very dark. And twisted. And I’m so sorry. I really am.


Victoria to Holly & Taylor:


  1. What is the most exciting part of being an agent for both of you?
Taylor votes for the joy of telling clients good news and the excitement of finding something new in the slush that you love and can’t wait to share with others. Holly thinks it’s getting a front-row seat when a book takes off and really finds its readers.

  1. What is the least exciting part of being an agent?
The endless, oppressive, never-ending tide of email. Too bleak? Just giving you our truth here. Ha!

  1. If you had to do any other job in the world, what would you be?
Holly has spent perhaps too much time thinking about this! But she’s still here, so clearly it’s all good. She would either go to medical school or run an adorable bra shop. Taylor would own a beachfront aerial yoga studio (ideally next door to Holly’s bra shop!).

  1. What does a day in the agent life look like for y’all?
Every day is a little bit different, depending on whether we’re trying to get a submission out the door,
go over a tricky royalty statement, close a new deal, or strategize about an upcoming marketing plan. In general though, we find that it’s really important to set and protect our priorities for the day, because there is so much work to be done that you could do nothing but react to your inbox all day. And some days that’s what happens, but if you’re only ever reacting, you can’t advance your clients’ goals as much as you want, and that’s one of the biggest ways we’re adding value for our clients. So striking a balance between responsiveness and accomplishing the important--rather than just the momentarily urgent--is a big part of the day to day balance.

  1. How do you know you’ve found an author you want to work with?
For Holly, it’s usually a book that moves me beyond the “should this be published?” and into “I have to be the one selling it.”  Taylor wants to connect with the voice above all else. For both of us, we really pride ourselves on working with wonderful humans--kind, compassionate, thoughtful--and so we’re also looking to get a feel for whether an author has a similar mindset.

  1. Do you see writing as a business? What suggestions do you have for authors about viewing themselves as entrepreneurs?
The IRS definitely sees writing as a business, and so to that we say: Keep your check stubs. KEEP YOUR CHECK STUBS. Seriously though, keep your check stubs. Every year we guide authors through tax season, and we have dealt with Schedule C ourselves too, so we speak from experience when we say the best thing you can do is right now, this very minute: designate a spot where you put every scrap of documentation related to money received or spent on your career as an author. If you’re next-level, also pop this data into a spreadsheet. Your book purchases, travel, commissions withheld by your agency, etc. are all deductible and keeping them all in one place is the best gift you can give your future self.

  1. What is your top advice for anyone who might want to become an agent themselves?
The best way to learn this job is to work in very close proximity to someone who is doing it. We both came up under the apprenticeship path--working for established agents as assistants, then taking on our own clients--so we’re biased toward it, but also it is a proven, great way to learn the business. It’s really hard to get the kind of deep insight we both benefited from working remotely, which I know is a challenge for many people interested in the field. If there are reputable agents near you, it can never hurt to email and make your case for why you would be an asset to their agency; agent your way into an assistant gig by pitching something (yourself, in this case) in a way that makes people want to get onboard! You might not hear back, but what if you get a job that opens every door?

  1. What is your top advice for writers who are a) querying; b) about to go on submission to editors; c) new debuts; d) established authors?
A: Be selective about who you send to and don’t settle for an agent who isn’t as great as what you and your work deserve.
B: Take up yoga and/or stock your wine cellar (i.e. find ways to take care of yourself through the process); start writing a new (unrelated) book.
C: Look for the joy in each milestone along the way instead of the fear. Remember that comparison is the thief of joy. Also, the Internet is forever.
D: Honestly all of the above! Ha!

  1. What are some non-client books you each read lately that you loved?
Circe by Madeline Miller, Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing, The Big Ones by Lucy Jones & On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

  1. Would you rather have to bathe in vanilla coke every day for the rest of your life, or wear only clothes made out of meat a la Lady Gaga?
VANILLA COKE. Very much the vanilla coke option. We are unanimous.

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


Victoria twitter: twitter.com/sosaidvictoria
Victoria instagram: Instagram.com/sosaidvictoria
Victoria site: victorialeewrites.com

To find Holly and Taylor:


Root Literary site: rootliterary.com
Holly twitter: twitter.com/hroot

Taylor twitter: twitter.com/tayhaggerty

Victoria has generously offered a signed copy of THE FEVER KING and Holly and Taylor are offering a query critique 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 March 23rd. If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. 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. The book giveaway is U.S. and the query critique giveaway is International.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, March 18th I have an interview with debut author Sabina Khan and a giveaway of her YA contemporary/multicultural the love & lies of Rukhsana Ali

Thursday, March 14th I'm participating in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Monday, March 25th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Uplinger and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, April 3rd I have an interview with debut author Gillian McDunn and a giveaway of her MG contemporary CATEPILLAR SUMMER and my IWSG post

Monday, April 8th I have an interview with debut author Swati Teerhadla and a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT

Wednesday, April 10th I have an agent spotlight interview with Mary Cummings and a query critique giveaway

Monday, April 15th I have an interview with author Tanya Drecker and a giveaway of her MG fantasy MUSIC BOXES

Hope to see you on Thursday!

GAIL SHEPHERD INTERVIEW AND THE TRUE HISTORY OF LYNDIE B. HAWKINS GIVEAWAY ANDS IWSG POST


Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Gail Shepherd here to share about her MG historical THE TRUE HISTORY OF LYNDIE B. HAWKINS. It’s got a great setting—1985 Tennessee—and sounds like a story that will really pull at your heart. It releases on March 26


Before I get to today's interview, I've got 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 is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

The co-hosts this month are:  Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard!

Optional Question: Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

I have never written from dual POVs and have always written from the hero's perspective. I think it's easier to get close to the protagonist, at least for me. But I do think about my villain and like to know about his life and not just make him the bad guy because I need a villain. I want that person to be a complex character too and have motivations for doing what he/she does.

What about you? Whose perspective do you write from?


Now let's to Gail's interview. Here’s a blurb of her book from Goodreads

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

A Southern MG debut about a history-loving girl, Lyndon Baines Hawkins, whose relentless, hilarious, and heartbreaking search for the truth puts her in direct opposition to her fusspot grandmother’s need to keep up appearances. Lyndie knows lots about history: she can tell you who President Lincoln’s best friend was, the gruesome diseases of Civil War soldiers, and where her Hawkins ancestors built log houses near her home town of Love’s Forge, Tennessee. But when it comes to her Ma and Daddy, her knowledge is full of holes. Nobody talks about what happened to her veteran Daddy during the Vietnam war and why he “came home different,” or why her Ma stays locked in her room for days, or how come they had to sell the house Lyndie grew up in and move in with her strict grandparents. And Lyndie’s grandma, Lady, is determined to mold Lyndie into a “nice” southern girl who knows how to keep quiet about family secrets.

Lyndie struggles with universal questions: How can you help your daddy fight a battle with himself? What’s the difference between charity and love? When can you tell your grandmother exactly where she can stick all her well-I-nevers and don’t-you-dares? For fans of THREE TIMES LUCKY, BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE, THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE and WISH, this is an affecting novel with an irresistible and irrepressible voice.

Hi Gail! Thanks so much for joining us.

Hi Natalie, I’m thrilled to be here!

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

My first literary effort was the school Thanksgiving play, Poor Mr. Turkey, presented to the whole school in 4th grade, to mixed reviews. I wrote a lot of pretty good poetry in elementary school, lots of bad poetry in high school, and finally ended up with a creative MA in poetry/creative writing. After that I wrote anything anybody would pay for: book reviews, articles about rebar, ads for ladies’ underwear, catalogue copy for skateboards. I did some real journalism as a stringer for People magazine and Agence France-Presse. I published an indie newspaper with my brother, and then I got hired at Village Voice Media. I wrote long form crime stories and investigated our local white supremacist group for them; my favorite job there was as a restaurant critic. But I gained 20 pounds and regularly got food poisoning, so that was not a great long-term career option. The whole time I was writing fiction. When I got laid off from the paper eight years ago, I turned to writing a middle grade novel.

2. Awesome that you've always written. Where did you get the idea for THE TRUE HISTORY OF LYNDIE B. HAWKINS?

I started this story about 30 years ago as an adult novel. I grew up in the shadow of the Vietnam
War, which profoundly influenced my view of American history. I wondered what it would be like to grow up as the child of a veteran who was still suffering in the aftermath of that war. My mom’s family is deep south, from Alabama and Florida, so I wanted to put Lyndie in a southern family grappling with notions of truth, loyalty, and secrets that can be dangerous to keep.

3. Your story is set in Love’s Forge, Tennessee in 1985. What made you decide on this setting and time period? How did it shape your story?

The fictional town of Love’s Forge in the Smoky Mountains sits right at the crossroads of some pretty contentious history—The Trail of Tears, the vast Cherokee lands, white settlement, the Civil War where families were often split and fighting on opposite sides. Lyndie is struggling to make sense of that history—she knows what she’s been reading in her school textbooks doesn’t tell the whole story of her town or her country. And similarly, she’s not getting the real story about what happened to her daddy in the war, either. She’s a kid beginning to make sense of the world, to figure out who her family is and how she fits into it, and to find her own truth. Love’s Forge is riddled with historical conflict, with pride of place, so it mirrors what Lyndie is feeling.

4. This story is definitely character-driven and about Lyndie’s struggles with her family situation and her relationships with friends. How did you plot out her character growth or did that come to you as you wrote her story?

I’m definitely a pantser (or a plodder, although I’d love to be what my friend Maika Moulite calls a “prancer”). In other words, I really never know where a book is going until I’ve written the first (or sometimes second or third) draft. Lyndie was composed over several years, and questions about what knowledge is true, and how we shape our telling of history, became more and more pressing over time. So I wanted to show how she grappled with those questions. I’m also interested in how we misjudge or misunderstand people, even people we are very close to. And what charity is required of us. And how our friends can help us find the best parts of ourselves. I kind of grew with Lyndie as I wrote and revised her story, so I was making emotional and personal discoveries right along with her.

5. I love your term "prancer." What was a challenge you faced when writing this? How did you overcome it?

Originally I conceived Lyndie as Vietnamese American; her mom was a Vietnamese woman evacuated at the end of the war. As time went on and the #ownvoices movement began to evolve, I realized that writing a story about a biracial child of war was not my story to tell. And in fact, I’d been using that filter as a way to distance myself from my own story. You have to dig deep to write middle grade fiction as much as adult fiction, and it requires you to revisit some sad and confusing childhood places you may prefer not to. So the challenge was to let go of my original conception and go to places in my own history that were less than comfortable. My editor, Kathy Dawson, encouraged me to take up that challenge, and I’m boundlessly grateful to her for it.

6. That's great that you could make such a drastic change. Share about your road to publication. Did you represent yourself or do you have a literary agent?

I queried my first book, a middle grade sci-fi, widely and was signed by a generous and intelligent young agent, Kristin Miller, at D4EO, when the agency had a satellite group of kidlit agents. Kristin got out of the business to focus on her own writing—she’s now a successful MG author herself, writing as K.D. Halbrook. The head of the agency Bob DiForio kindly agreed to take me on when she left.

7.What social media platforms have you decided are the right ones for you? Why? How are you connecting with authors, bloggers, and readers on them?

I’m still working out my relationship with social media. I decided to be active on Twitter just with author-related content—craft stuff, writing news, giveaways, boosting other authors. I’m mainly connecting with authors, teachers, and librarians on that platform. But social media can, at times, make me feel a kind of existential nausea—it’s a lot of information to process. It’s kind of the opposite of the deep work you have to do as a writer. So balance is important, and it can be tough to maintain. I have to be very strict with myself to keep from being sucked into the vortex. But I’ve made a ton of online friends who have opened up countless opportunities for me. I’m particularly grateful to the ARC tour groups of teachers, authors and librarians, groups like #bookexcursion, #bookvoyage, and many others, who pass advance copies from reader to reader and are a bedrock of support for middle grade authors.

8. I"ll have to check them out. How are you planning to market THE TRUE HISTORY OF LYNDIE B. HAWKINS? What advice do you have for other authors who are planning for the release of their debut book?

I think debut authors tend to swing wildly at first—trying to do it all, marketing-wise, until they find that’s completely untenable. But the number one thing debut authors MUST do is join a debut group. The Novel19s (novel19s.com) have been invaluable. I’ve learned so much about the publishing business from that group, I haven’t even been able to absorb all of it yet. The Novel19s have a subgroup for middle grade writers, and we are pretty much all madly in love with each other. I’m also a member of the Class of Y2K Books (classY2kbooks.com), twenty YA and MG authors who have pooled financial resources to market our books—including placing ads, creating mailings, running social media contests and giveaways, and organizing events and conference proposals. They are an incredibly generous and talented group of people. And some Latinx debuts are also in yet another group, Las Musas (lasmusasbooks.com). I can’t recommend connecting with these groups highly enough. They will save your sanity in your debut year and give you all the tools you’ll need to market yourself and your books for years to come.

9. What are you working on now?

I’m drafting what I hope will be my next published middle grade novel, a historical story set in a Florida sawmill town in 1937. It’s about a trio of kids—a herbalist, a forensics nerd, and a young WPA photographer--who set off to rescue a mysterious creature and save the swampland they love. I’m also planning to write some short-ish middle grade stories to dramatize as podcasts with my sister, who is an amazingly talented screenwriter. And I have a couple of ideas for picture books I may fool around with. I was lucky to hear the novelist Sarah Aronson talking about the power of author “play” recently. I plan to do a lot of playing.

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

Twitter: @gailshepherd@gailshepherd

Gail has generously offered an ARC of THE TRUE HISTORY OF LYNDIE B. HAWKINS 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 March 23rd. 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. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, March 11th I have a  guest post by debut author Victoria Lee and her agents Holly Root and Taylor Haggerty with an ARC giveaway of Victoria's YA fantasy THE FEVER KING and a query critique giveaway by Holly and Taylor

Thursday, March 14th I'm participating in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Monday, March 18th I have an interview with debut author Sabina Khan and a giveaway of her YA contemporary/multicultural the love & lies of rukhsana ali 

Monday, March 25th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Uplinger and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, April 3rd I have an interview with debut author Gillian McDunn and a giveaway of her MG contemporary CATEPILLAR SUMMER and my IWSG post

Hope to see you on Monday!