CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

THE LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS through November 24th
THE PROPHET CALLS through November 24th

Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Query Critique Giveaways

Weronika Janczuk Agent Spotlight Interview on 11/26

MELANIE SUMROW INTERVIEW AND THE PROPHET CALLS GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I have debut author Melanie Sumrow here to share about her MG contemporary THE PROPHET CALLS. It sounds like a gripping story that tackles issues we don’t usually see in a middle grade book.

WriteOnCon Is Back

Before I get to Melanie's interview, I want to share about an online conference you may be interesting in. WriteOnCon is back! It's a three-day online conference February 8-10th. For $10, you can get an extended admission to read and watch to all the content through March 10th. There's online presentations by authors and agents where you can submit questions and blog posts throughout the three days of the conference. You can also purchase critiques from authors and agents. You can find out more on WriteOnCon's website. I just registered and am excited to attend from the comfort of my home. 

Here’s a blurb of Melanie's book from Goodreads:

Born into a polygamous community in the foothills of New Mexico, Gentry Forrester feels lucky to live among God’s chosen. Here, she lives apart from the outside world and its “evils.”

On her thirteenth birthday, Gentry receives a new violin from her father and, more than anything, she wants to play at the Santa Fe Music Festival with her brother, Tanner. But then the Prophet calls from prison and announces he has outlawed music in their community and now forbids women to leave.

Determined to play, Gentry and Tanner sneak out. But once they return, the Prophet exercises control from prison, and it has devastating consequences for Gentry and her family. Soon, everything Gentry has known is turned upside down. She begins to question the Prophet’s teachings and his revelations, especially when his latest orders put Gentry’s family in danger. Can Gentry find a way to protect herself and her family from the Prophet and escape the only life she’s ever known?

This realistic, powerful story of family, bravery, and following your dreams is a can't-miss debut novel from Melanie Sumrow.

Hi Melanie! Thanks so much for joining us. 

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

I was working as a lawyer and really missed having a creative outlet when another lawyer had recommended a book to me: Twilight. I thought he (yes, a male colleague recommended it) was pulling my leg, but he kept going on and on about how awesome it was. Long story short, he lent it to me and I read it, and then I picked up the next one in the series and the next and impatiently waited for the last book. I thought they were so fun! And then I started to pick up more books written for teens and devoured them. When I heard Stephenie Meyer had written the first book while working outside the home and being a full-time mom like me, I thought why not? I had always loved to read and I’d always enjoyed writing, so the idea really energized me. As luck would have it, a flyer came through the mail advertising a series of creative writing classes that I could take at night through my local university, while still practicing law during the day. From my first class, I was hooked!

2. As a former lawyer, I can relate to not feeling being one was creative. And I know many attorneys who became writers. Where did you get the idea for THE PROPHET CALLS and the polygamous community that is at the center of the story?

I received my undergraduate degree in Religious Studies and have maintained a long-term interest in
studying world religions. A couple of years ago, I was guest teaching a class on religious radicalism. For that class, I had updated my research on various religious sects, including the polygamous community known as the FLDS. Within that same time period, my agent called me and indicated an editor had contacted him (sort of as a shot in the dark), saying she was interested in polygamous communities and wondered if he happened to know anyone who could write about that subject for a middle-grade audience. Of course, my agent was very excited because he knew I possessed the knowledge, even though I’d never written MG. I started from scratch on an entirely new story, and that same editor fell in love with The Prophet Calls.

3. That's such an interesting way to get a story idea. Your story is set in a polygamous community in New Mexico? Why New Mexico and what research did you have to do on your setting and life in a polygamous community?

New Mexico has always held a special place in my heart, especially the foothills north of Santa Fe. I have been going there almost annually since I was a teenager, and I needed a somewhat isolated setting for this book. It was really fun to place Gentry and her family somewhere that has been so dear to me.

As for researching the polygamous community, my Religious Studies major and continuous research really came in handy. When I started to write the book, I updated my research by reading or re-reading memoirs of those who had left the community, watched documentaries and read books by members of law enforcement who had interaction with the FLDS.

4. Gentry goes through some heavy experiences as a middle grader with The Prophet trying to exert influence from jail. How did you make this realistic while recognizing the age group you’re writing for?

I put myself in the shoes of this barely thirteen-year-old girl and viewed her community through that lens. If this way of life was all I had ever known, I wondered how I would react to what was happening around me. I wouldn’t have the benefit of taking a step back and examining things from an “outsider’s” perspective. Given that lens, it helped me to keep the story appropriate for the upper MG audience.

5. That's great advice on a good approach to take. Gentry sounds like a strong, sympathetic character. Tell us about her as a character and something that surprised you about her as you wrote her story.

Gentry is strong, smart and loves her family. But she’s beginning to question her faith and the inequitable treatment within her community. She is totally devoted to her younger sister, Amy, and loves to play her violin. When she plays, it is the only time she feels like she can truly be herself.

When I first started writing the book, I knew how much Gentry loved her family. But it surprised me how fiercely loyal she was to them, even to certain family members who wronged her.

6. Share what your road to publication was like.

Long and winding.

I shelved my first manuscript. I queried my second manuscript, and received many requests. I read every rejection and, if I saw a common thread, I would go back and revise. After over 100 cold queries and many revisions, I received three offers of representation. Although that book was well received by publishing houses, it ultimately did not sell. I was working on another YA book when the call came in from my agent to ask if I would consider writing for the upper MG audience. I did and got my first book deal with The Prophet Calls. We recently announced a second book deal for another upper MG book, The Inside Battle.

7. I saw on your website event page that you are part of a middle grade panel at Books of Wonder at New York City. How did you set that up? Would you recommend other debut authors try to do something similar?

I am part of a group of debut MG authors that are a subset of the Electric Eighteens (which consists of both MG and YA debuts). One of the MG authors put a call out to see if anyone would be interested in joining her on a panel that her publicist could pitch. I raised my hand and, with the help of our publicists, ultimately five of us participated in a Great MG Debuts panel at Books of Wonder.

If you are a debut author, I would highly recommend connecting with other debuts, especially since no one is yet familiar with your work. I think the chances of finalizing an event definitely goes up when you pool your resources. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!

8. Yes, I think it's really good to connect to a debut group like this. What else are you planning to do to promote your book? What have you already done to build a social platform and generate excitement for your book?

I have upcoming signings and events, plus a blog tour. Since The Prophet Calls has a strong girl at its center, I have had fun running giveaways with an ARC of my book, plus another MG book that features a strong heroine. That way, I get to talk about some of the other books I’ve read and loved. This past year, I have also really enjoyed connecting with teachers and librarians via social media and through the various ARC-sharing groups.

9. What advice do you have for someone who just signed a book contract for getting organized for his/her debut and book release?

I have been fortunate that my publisher has been very helpful in this regard. They know I’m a debut and have been so kind to answer my (many) questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your publisher. And, if you haven’t already, I would also recommend connecting with the authors in your community for advice about the industry as a whole. Finally, join your debut group, which will be comprised of people from all over the world. There is nothing quite like having a community of writers who are going through the exact same thing to help you with the ups and downs of your debut year.

10. Yes, getting advice and being a part of a supportive group sounds really helpful. What are you working on now?

I recently turned in my second upper middle-grade novel, The Inside Battle, which is set to release in the fall of 2019. It is the story of a boy struggling to win his father’s approval, but when the boy follows his dad inside a racist, anti-government militia group, he has to choose what’s more important: his father’s approval or speaking up for what is right.
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Melanie. You can find Melanie at http://www.melaniesumrow.com or on Instagram & Twitter: @melaniesumrow.

Melanie's publisher has generously offered a hardback of THE PROPHET CALLS 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 November 24th. 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:

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

Wednesday, December 5th I have an interview with debut author Elizabeth Tammi and a giveaway of her YA fantasy OUTRUN THE WIND and my IWSG Post

Monday, December 10th I have an interview with debut author Rebecca Caprara and a giveaway of THE MAGIC OF MELWICK ORCHARD

Friday, December 14th I'm participating in the Midwinter Eve Giveaway Hop--my last post of the year

Hope to see you on Wednesday!




MELANIE CROWDER INTERVIEW AND THE LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS GIVEAWAY and IWSG POST

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Melanie Crowder back on the blog to share about the release of her new MG fantasy THE LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS. It's being released on November 13th! I interviewed her in 2013 when her debut MG PARCHED was published and have been excited to see how many books she’s published since then. I want to read her new book just from reading the blurb.

First I want to share about the play that I am the producer, assistant director, and front of house manager for.  I want to invite everyone who lives near Ypsilanti Michigan to come see Shakespeare in Love. 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. And spread the word if you live nearby. Thanks so much!

And sorry if it takes me several days to get to everyone's blog. Dress rehearsals are going to 11:00 pm or later. It's a really busy week.


Before I get to my interview with Melanie, I want to post this month’s 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: Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Ann V. Friend, JQ Rose, and Elizabeth Seckman!

Optional Question: How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

Well, for years and years I have had little time to devote to my creative writing. I've written about that extensively so won't repeat it here. But surprisingly, since I started writing again last year after about four years of not writing, I have to say my creativity and ability to tell a story has improved dramatically. I can tell from my critique partners comments and just how I think about pacing, character development, and plot when working on my current manuscript. Reading of course helps. But I think my contract writing, which are articles on areas of law for attorney websites, has really helped me. It's taught me to see clearer, write more concisely, and see the big picture of what I'm writing more easily. We'll see if the self-discipline I've learned rubs off when I start writing more regularly soon. Just 11 more days until this wonderful play I'm working on is done, and I am going to have a lot more time to myself. Freedom! I can't wait! I'll keep you posted.

Now onto my interview with Melanie!

Here’s the blurb for her book that's got me excited to read it from Goodreads

Griffin and his father tend to their lighthouse on the craggy coast of Oregon with the same careful routine each day. There are hardly ever any visitors, but they like it that way. Which is why, when a group of oddly dressed strangers suddenly appears, Griffin begins to see just how many secrets his father has been keeping. He never imagined that his lighthouse contains a portal to strange and dangerous worlds, or that a Society of Lighthouse Keepers exists to protect the Earth from a fearsome enemy invasion.

But then Griffin’s dad is pulled through the lens of the lighthouse into one of those other worlds. With his father gone, nobody from the Society is giving Griffin any answers, so he’s on his own. Armed only with a book of mysterious notes from his parents, Griffin is determined to find his dad, no matter what dangers lurk on the other side of the portal. 

Hi Melanie. Thanks so much for joining us!

Thank you! I’m thrilled to be here.

1. For those who don’t know how your writing career began, tell us about it.

I was nearly 30 and in a job where I felt like a cog in a machine—and I was losing faith in the direction that machine was headed. I knew I was capable of more, and I dreamed of working toward something I really believed in. I asked myself: Where do you find joy and purpose? and How can you do that for a living?

The answer for me was a) books, and b) I have no idea.

Fast forward 8 years, several “learning” manuscripts, and an MFA in Writing and my career as an author began. PARCHED was published in 2011; I was then and am to this day immensely proud of that book.

2. Glad you figured out those questions. I'm still working on them. Where did you get the idea for THE LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS?

When you go hiking in Colorado, if you know where to look, you’ll come across relics of the state’s
mining history—hundred year old rusted cans of beans, telegraph insulators, and even tiny leather shoes that could only have belonged to an infant. It’s impossible for me to walk among the ghosts of that era and not imagine what it was like to live that cold, hard life.

On one particular hike, I was in a region of the state where Nikola Tesla was active, and I got to thinking that technology must have seemed like magic when it first appeared in remote areas of the country. I thought to myself, what it if actually was? What if Fresnel lenses in lighthouses and AC currents powering mines and looking glasses on fire watchtowers really were magic?

The idea wouldn’t let me go, and this story is the result!

3. When you wrote your debut, an upper MG story, it was only 144 pages. You’re continuing your tradition by making this book only 192 pages. Share how you plotted out this story to make it so concise. And why do you love shorter novels so much?

I do love shorter novels—you’re absolutely right!

Part of the answer is that it’s simply my nature. I write thin. My drafts are always short and the fattening comes in revisions. 
But the other part of the answer is that I really do believe that the simplest way to say something is usually best; that the tighter the prose and the plot, the stronger the story will be overall.

I plotted THE LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS by acts, using sticky notes on a wall in my basement and physically shifting scenes around until things seemed to align. Plotting and structure only gets me so far, though, before I let my intuition take over.

4. I really like to write shorter books too but I've not tried to write one as short as yours. I love portal stories. What was your world building process like?

Me too! The possibilities are endless.

The first thing I needed to do was decide how and when the eight linked worlds were formed. That set the first tier of parameters around what was possible. Next, each world had a different magic source, and there was the second tier. You need limitations on a magic system, otherwise you sap the strength out of your conflict.

Once I had set those parameters, I got to play, inventing worlds from scratch. It was so much fun!

5. Griffin sounds like a compelling character. Did his character come to you already formed or did he grow into a fuller character over time?

I’m glad to hear it! Griffin definitely grew into being, and I have my editor to thank for this—she challenged me throughout the revision process to continually dig deeper. Those endless possibilities I mentioned above?—it made characterization a particular challenge this time around. But once my world(s) were set, Griffin found his place in them.

6. Your agent is Ammi-Joan Paquette. What has it been like working with her in the years since your first book released? Has it changed at all over time?

Yes! We’ve been together for 7 years now. Joan is fantastic. She’s both an author and agent, so not only does she have an agent’s perspective on the industry, but she also really understands what it’s like on this side of the table.

We’re not constantly in communication—we only really email when there is business to be done, and we chat on the phone when there are contracts to discuss. I know some authors lean heavily on their agents for editorial feedback and moral support, and when I need those things, Joan is absolutely available to me. But my deadlines come in such quick succession, I often don’t have time to ask her to give a story a read before my editor needs it on her desk.

She’s come to Colorado for conferences several times this year, so we’ve gotten to hang out a little, which is a really nice bonus!  

7. You’ve published a number of books since you were a debut author. THREE PENNIES, A NEARER MOON, and AUDACITY are some of them. How have you grown your career and what do you recommend for other new authors wanting to do the same.

There are so many different paths to publishing, and the same is true once you arrive. From the beginning I wanted to write across age groups and genres. And I have! I’ve written middle grade and YA, hard-hitting historical fiction and otherworldly fantasy, quirky contemporary and futuristic climate fiction. It’s been immensely fulfilling.

If you want a “brand” as an author, don’t follow my path! I’ll be perfectly honest—it’s easier to find and keep a consistent readership if you give them the same kinds of books over and over again. But if what motivates you is a career where you decide what’s possible and where you get to constantly explore new territory, I say go for it!

8. What are you finding to be effective ways of building your social platform and marketing your books? Why?

The best way I’ve found to build a platform is to write books that resonate with people. And the best way to market those books is to form meaningful connections with colleagues, booksellers, and readers.

I also travel to conferences to speak to teachers, librarians, and writers. I really do love that work—and again, it creates the authentic person-to-person connections that I value.

9. What are you working on now?

I’m currently revising the LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS’ sequel. It’s more world-hopping middle grade portal fantasy—this one is called A WAY BETWEEN WORLDS and should release in Fall 2019. I can’t wait to share it with you all!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Melanie. You can find Melanie at www.melaniecrowder.com

Melanie has generously offered a hardback of THE LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS 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 November 24th. 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:

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!





AGENT SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH WENDI GU AND QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY


Today I’m thrilled to have agent Wendi Gu here. She is an associate literary agent at Janklow & Nesbit Associates.

Hi­ Wendi! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Wendi:

1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.

I was on my way to Singapore to do an internship, and my flight connected through New York City. I had a few hours to kill, so a friend’s mom gave me quick car tour of Manhattan, as I hadn’t been since I was a toddler. Even from within the mini-van, I knew that I had to live here after college. I’d been a Midwestern suburban girl my whole life, and I was completely enamored by what I saw and felt.

I’d always loved books the most, and I’d always been curious about book-making. And when I learned that that publishing industry thrived in New York, I saw my path bright and clear before my eyes. So for my final college internship summer, I applied wildly to every publishing internship I could find. I landed one with Brenda Bowen at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, and became her literary assistant after I graduated from Northwestern University in 2013. I learned so much with Brenda. She taught me how to pitch, sell, and advocate for my clients. With her encouragement and support my list began to grow.

About a year ago, I started at Janklow & Nesbit to join Brooks Sherman start the kid lit department!
As an agent, I want to work with books that unveil a little-known piece of American history. These unsung hero stories are important pieces of our country’s story. I also love contemporary, deeply emotional stories about underdogs who learn to find their voice.

About the Agency:
2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

Janklow & Nesbit offers incredible support for their clients. It’s like having an army behind you. All of my colleagues are very, very good at making deals for their authors and illustrators. The publishing industry can feel very byzantine to navigate at times, but the team of agents (combined with our legal and accounting teams) are always looking ahead for their authors.
I would also like to take the opportunity to plug JNA’s growing children’s book department, fearlessly lead by Brooks Sherman!

What She’s Looking For:
3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?

I represent fiction and nonfiction picture books, middle grade, and YA. I am looking for multicultural stories, coming-of-age stories that deal with mental health and family relationships, and female friendship. For funny, I don’t much like slapstick. Weirdo humor is a plus. Otherwise, give me a book that makes me cry! I am a big, sloppy, softie.

4.  Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?

Immigrant stories! And, Asian-American everything.

What She Isn’t Looking For:
5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

I’m not as interested in high fantasy or science fiction, but not closed to it! For example, I loved how Tomi Adeyemi’s CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE deals with colorism, and Dylan Farrow’s HUSH deals with female empowerment.

Agent Philosophy:
6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?

Making a book is deeply personal stuff, yet we’ve created an entire industry out of it. With every client, I endeavor to find a strong balance of the professional with a personal touch. As business partners, it’s important that we communicate clearly, openly, and with accountability, but that both sides try to keep the relationship an enjoyable!
   
Editorial Agent:
7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?

Yes! Most of the books I work on go through at least two rounds of edits before submission. I like to start the process with a call or in-person conversation, and then I’ll send them the manuscript with track changes. These track changes are a mix of line edits and comments. While I like writing edit letters, I often find that it’s easier to point to the exact moment that requires attention.
I should also add that I love editing picture book biographies. I love editing picture book texts in general – right now, that is my bread and butter.

Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)
8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?

They should follow the agency guidelines at www.janklowandnesbit.com.

9.  Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

Make sure I know why you thought I might be the right agent for your book!

Response Time:
10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

I try to respond within 6-8 weeks. Unfortunately, I cannot respond to each and every query, but if I am interested, I try to make it known to the author within that time frame.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Wendi.

­Wendi is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follower button if you're not a follower) and leave a comment through November 10th.  If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an international giveaway.

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.


SHERRY ELLIS INTERVIEW AND BUBBA AND SQUIRT’S BIG DIG TO CHINA


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have author Sherry Ellis here to share about her new MG BUBBA AND SQUIRT’S BIG DIG TO CHINA. It sounds like a great book for younger MG readers with its short chapters and fast-paced plot.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads


You can’t dig a hole to China!

Squirt doesn’t believe Bubba can dig a hole to China. But when the hole swallows them, the kids find themselves in Xi’an, China, surrounded by Terracotta Warriors.

It gets worse when the ghost of the first emperor of China appears. He tells them they can’t go home until they find his missing pi. The kids don’t know where to begin until they meet a girl and her grandmother who promise to help find the pendant.

Soon they realize they are being followed. And they are no closer to finding the missing pi. Will Bubba and Squirt ever make it back home?

Hi Sherry! Thanks so much for joining us.
Hi, Natalie! Thanks for having me here today.

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

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I never thought I’d be a published author. The journey started about fourteen years ago, when my daughter was three years old. Her little brother was a terrible sleeper who kept the family up all night. While I was sitting in the rocking chair during those long nights, I came up with a story:  That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN! I shared it with my daughter who thought it was good enough to be a book. That got my wheels turning, and the rest is history.

2. Where did you get your idea for BUBBA AND SQUIRT’S BIG DIG TO CHINA?

When I was a kid, I tried to dig a hole to China. Since I lived in Florida at the time, I got nothing but a hole full of water. But I wondered, what could happen if you were able to dig one? Bubba and Squirt’s Big Dig to China explores the possibility.

3. What a fun way to come up with the idea for a book. I love that this is set in Xi’an China because I’m pretty sure my daughter and I went there on a heritage tour of China. What research did you have to do into this location and historical time? 

I knew about the Terracotta Warriors and thought it would be cool to have Bubba and Squirt see them as they emerged from the hole. As far as research goes, I went to the library and read a lot of books about the warriors, Emperor Ch’in Shi Huang-ti, China, and its culture. My mom had taken a trip to Xi’an in 2007. I looked at all her pictures and asked questions about her experience there. By putting it all together, I was able to create the story.   

4. Awesome that your mom went there. Your book has been described as a page turner. Share your tips on how you plotted this out and how you were able to tell a complete story with shorter chapters. 

As I outline a story and do the research, I think about what kind of interesting things can happen in each chapter. I always end the chapter with a cliff-hanger, so readers will want to keep going. My publishing experience has been in writing picture books. When you write those, it’s important to consider every word and tell the story in as few words as possible. So, writing a short story really wasn’t a problem for me. I have more trouble writing longer novels.

5. I agree with you that every word counts in a picture book. I'd have a hard time with that. What was a challenge you faced in writing this story? How did you overcome it? 

Bubba and Squirt’s Big Dig to China takes place in a period of less than twelve hours. The challenge was to come up with enough interesting material to create the story as well as allow readers to get to know and connect with Bubba and Squirt. To overcome these challenges, I had to create subplots and a back story as well as give the characters quirky, distinctive personalities.

6. I believe that you signed your book contract with Dancing Lemur Press through a Twitter contest. Share how your book deal came about. 

Yes. I participated in a Twitter pitch sponsored by the Insecure Writers Support Group. I hadn’t been
submitting the manuscript because I had been working on other picture books. When I saw the pitch, I decided to jump in and see what would happen. Dancing Lemur Press liked my pitch. Following submission instructions, I sent the manuscript. The publisher liked the story but had some suggestions for making it better. I rewrote some things and added a subplot, which gave it more depth. I resubmitted, and it was accepted!

7. For anyone that does not know about The Insecure Writer's Support Group, this is a great resource for you. This is not your first book. Tell us about your writing and publishing career so far. 

My first picture book was published in 2005. Since then, I’ve had three others: That Mama is a Grouch, Ten Zany Birds, and Don’t Feed the Elephant (also released this year). Bubba and Squirt’s Big Dig to China is my first middle-grade book. 

8. How are you promoting this book? What have you learned about publishing over the years from publishing your other books? 

Right now, I’m doing a lot of online promotion, using social media and blog visits. Stage two will be library, bookstore, and school visits. I have found that in-person visits for children’s books works best for getting the word out. I’m hoping to get some good reviews which will also spark some interest. It’s like running a marathon. You can’t peeter out the week after your book is released!

9. What are you working on now? 

I’m working on a possible second book of Bubba and Squirt’s adventures:  Bubba and Squirt’s Mayan Treasure. The first draft has been written. Now I’m revising. I’m hoping the first book does well, so that we can have a second. Or more!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Sherry. You can find Sherry at Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Blog, Website, Amazon Author Page.


Sherry's publisher has generously offered a hardback of BUBBA AND SQUIRT'S BIG DIG TO CHINA 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 November 3rd. 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:

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!

KATYA DE BECERRA INTERVIEW AND WHAT THE WOODS KEEP GIVEAWAY


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:  https://www.amazon.com/Carnival-Animals-Elizabeth-Varadan/dp/172581546X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1538934161&sr=1-1&keywords=carnival+animals%2C+elizabeth

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: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250124258 or check if your local bookshop/library has it.
Add What The Woods Keep to your Goodreads TBR: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29748448-what-the-woods-keep  
Find me on:
Twitter: @KatyaDeBecerra​ ​(https://twitter.com/KatyaDeBecerra)
Facebook​:​ @KatyaDeBecerra (https://www.facebook.com/katyadebecerra/)
Instagram​:​ @KatyaDeBecerra(https://www.instagram.com/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!