CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

THE LAND OF YESTERDAY through August 4th
A TOUCH OF GOLD through August 18th
WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS through September 1st

Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Query Critique Giveaways

Larissa Helena Agent Spotlight Interview on 9/10/2018
Wendi Gu Agent Spotlight Interview on 10/29/18

BRIGIT YOUNG INTERVIEW AND WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS GIVEAWAY


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Brigit Young here to share about her MG contemporary mystery WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS. I’m really into mysteries these days so am looking forward to reading this.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:


Whether it’s earrings, homework, or love notes, Tillie “Lost and Found” Green and her camera can find any lost thing—until a search for a missing person forces her to step out from behind the lens.

Ever since a car accident left Tillie Green with lasting painful injuries, she's hidden behind her camera. Through the lenses, she watches her family and classmates, tracking down misplaced items and spotting the small details that tell a much bigger story than the one people usually see. But she isn’t prepared for class clown Jake Hausmann’s request: to find his father. In a matter of days, Tillie goes from silent observer to one half of a detective duo, searching for clues to the mystery of Jake’s dad’s disappearance. When the truth isn’t what Jake wants it to be, and taking photographs starts exposing people’s secrets, Tillie has to decide what—and who—is truly important to her.

Hi Brigit! Thanks so much for joining us!

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

Thank you for having me here! As a kid, I always wrote, but I never considered myself “good enough” for things like the fabulous local Ann Arbor Poetry Slam team or writing awards in school. To be honest, I didn’t even think I was smart. But I did have a writing teacher back then who believed in me: Tracy Andersen of Community High School. Her support gave me confidence, and even though I didn’t immediately focus on writing when high school ended, in retrospect, her encouragement gave me a place to always come back to: the word. Consequently, when I was an aspiring young actress in New York City without a college degree and I experienced a painful heartbreak, I dove into writing as a way to heal. It soon became a way to entertain myself, and a way to speak out, and a craft to master. Eventually, I was publishing poetry and short stories on a steady basis and, after a big push from fellow writer Jacob M. Appel, I went back to school to get my Bachelor’s! I’d always worked with children, first as a nanny and then as a creative writing instructor, and when I began to work on the longer form of the novel, writing for kids was a natural fit.

2. That's great that you had your teacher's support. Where did you get the idea for your story?

The initial inspiration for the book came from a conversation with my lifelong friend, Tillie Spencer, an eternally creative spirit. I told her I wanted to write a book for kids and she said, sort of offhandedly, “I’ve always thought it would be neat to read about a girl who finds lost things.” And although my friend pictured that scenario in a fantasy setting (involving a magical Laundromat!), her “girl who finds lost things” became my contemporary realistic middle grade fiction muse. This girl, vivid and fully imagined, began to swirl around in my head. She had a camera on a ratty strap around her neck. She hid behind long, ashy brown hair. She’d experienced trauma. She was looking for something, for a way through the trauma, and also searching for her true self. I named this girl after my friend Tillie, introduced her to a slightly goofy boy named Jake who I’d formed in my head as well, and the story grew from there.

3. This is in part a mystery. How did you plot this out and what tips do you have for an aspiring mystery writer?

Although I love mysteries (shout out to Tana French), when I began Worth a Thousand Words I had never written one before. I look at mystery writers with the utmost admiration for their specialized skill. Mysteries are not easy! Before I began to write, I plotted out the entire mystery by getting to the answer first and working backward. I added in seemingly insignificant details throughout the story, trying to find those little moments that stick in a reader’s head but don’t raise any alarm bells. That way, when the reveal comes, the whole story retells itself in the reader’s mind with those objects, images and pieces of information gaining significance. My advice is to discover the ending, those details, and also– crucially - to let the protagonist’s personal fears inform the tension. When writing a mystery in the middle grade realm, my advice is to try to see the adult world through a child’s eyes and allow that to drive the plot. Kids can wildly misinterpret the actions of adults, and those misunderstandings can play a large role in any middle grade mystery.

4. I love your really practical advice on this. It sounds like Tillie goes through a lot of personal growth too. Share a bit about how she developed as a character for you.

As I mentioned earlier, Tillie appeared to me fully formed, and I instinctively felt a lot of her “what”
and “how” but I didn’t know her “why.” Yes, she’d been injured in a car accident, but why exactly did she retreat from the world behind her camera? When I began to play around with her relationship with her father, who blames himself for his role in the accident, I discovered the real reason for that retreat. Ultimately, Tillie’s physical trauma affects her day-to-day routine, but her father’s debilitating guilt is the most difficult wound for her to navigate. Sometimes it’s not the traumatic event itself that lingers, but the disappointing or maddening responses of those around us to said event. That aspect of trauma featured strongly in my development of Tillie.

5. What was a challenge that you faced in writing this story and how did you overcome it?

One of my greatest challenges in writing Worth a Thousand Words was my depiction of Tillie’s physicality and her own relationship to it. My vision of Tillie’s complicated experience with her body, specifically her right leg, sprung from my own intense chronic pain and my own “unusual” right leg. Now I know that I have fibromyalgia, but at the time I was writing the book my pain was a mystery. This mystery pain resulted in huge lifestyle and life choice changes, and for a while I felt devastated by the alterations in my plans (despite knowing I had so much to be grateful for). As I wrote about Tillie, I tried to put those emotions into the mind state of a younger me, of my mind as a child. How would this pain have changed me then, particularly if it had been significantly heightened, as it is in the book? And what if it sprung from physical trauma? I had to have a conversation with myself about that and work from there (as well as interview multiple physical therapists and people who share Tillie’s particular walk).

Although I was in a fairly angsty place with regard to my own chronic pain as I wrote, it was extremely important to me that Tillie have no self-pity. I wanted Tillie to have her own complex feelings about all aspects of her life, including her physical challenges, but to never wallow. Her body is just her body and that’s that. It’s really her father that wallows in the self-pity, and I wanted that contrast between them to be a lesson in itself, so I struggled to finesse that contrast.

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

It took me many years to get an agent. I wrote another book before this and it was rejected everywhere, and probably rightly so. I didn’t quite understand the market at that time, and I hadn’t read enough middle grade fiction. Once I began to read more middle grade, particularly Rebecca Stead and Hilary McKay, my own writing blossomed.

I sent out Worth a Thousand Words in two rounds. In the first, no one bit. I did what I thought was a minor rewrite, and in my next round I received real interest. Apparently the rewrite had not been so minor after all! In that second round, I queried agents who were actively seeking work that very much fit my book’s description, and who expressed a similar sensibility to me, like the types of characters they loved. When I received interest from Melissa, I knew immediately that I’d work with her. She spoke about my book with deep affection, which made it clear that she’d work hard to get it out into the world, and she also happened to be a witty and kind human being. She’s since proven to be a dedicated agent who is an incredible advocate for my work.

7. That's great that your rewrite had such an effect on the response to your query. Your book has already been published in Italy and you’re now just debuting in the United States. How have you promoted your book in Italy and connected with readers there?

I didn’t do any pre-promotion in Italy, and it was exciting to see how the ball can just roll somewhere even when you haven’t done interviews or tweeted or done giveaways! Worth a Thousand Words even received an Andersen Prize, which was a delightful surprise. I learned from that experience that there is truly so much that is out of a writer’s control, and a book will have a life of its own in ways you don’t expect. When the book came out in Italy, I made sure to re-tweet and repost as many reviews as I could on both Twitter and Instagram. This allowed me to promote the book as well as to make a connection with reviewers/readers. Fun fact: my dad can read in Italian, so he read the reviews in the original language. He could then impart the reviewers’ thoughts about the book to me so that I could see beyond the confines of Google Translate. That was nice!

8. That is a fun fact about your dad. What are you doing to market your book here and what advice do you have for other debut authors about promoting their first book?

Postcards, postcards, postcards! I strongly adhere to the advice of Caroline Starr Rose. I sent postcards to libraries, bookstores, and schools. Even if not as much comes from the postcards as I hope, it’s given me a task that I can control in the face of so much that is beyond my control! Additionally, I have tried to become more active on social media in the past two years and connect with people in a genuine way (the genuine part is key!). I’ve tried to engage in Twitter chats and Instagram challenges as well. They’re fun!

If you’re totally lost about all of this, which I was only a few months ago, I recommend Paper Hearts: Some Marketing Advice by Beth Revis. That book helped me get a handle on the world of promotion. And lastly, my lovely agent reminded me a few months ago that I’m my own best advocate. I should re-tweet reviews and proudly self-promote. That’s easier said than done when you’re a Midwesterner used to apologizing for yourself, but I’ve taken it to heart!

9. Great advice about the postcards. And I really found Beth's book helpful too. What are you working on now?

I’m revising my next novel, The Prettiest, out in winter 2020! It tells the tale of three very different eighth grade girls navigating the after-effects of an anonymously written list announcing the “Top 50 prettiest girls” in school. Banding together, the three girls attempt to resist the superficiality that has been hoisted upon them. Additionally, I’m scribbling away on the beginnings of another middle grade book, and I continue to try to get a poetry collection out there! One day…
  
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Brigit. You can find Brigit at:
Twitter: @brigityoung
Instagram: @brigityoungbooks
Website: brigityoung.com

Brigit has generously offered an ARC of WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS 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 September 1st. 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 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 (FYI I'm on my summer schedule.):


Friday, August 31st I'm participating in the Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, September 5th I've got an interview with debut author Rebecca Shaeffer and a giveaway of her YA science fiction NOT EVEN BONES and my IWSG post

Monday, September 10th I've got an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Larissa Helena

Friday, September 14th I'm participating in the Clean Your Shelf Giveaway Hop

Monday, September 17th I have an interview with debut author Amanda Rawson Hill and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC

Monday, September 24th I have a guest post by debut author Laura Weymouth with her agent Lauren Spieller and a query critique giveaway by Lauren and a giveaway of Laura's YA fantasy THE VANISHING KINGDOM


Hope to see you on  Friday, August 31st!


ANNIE SULLIVAN INTERVIEW AND A TOUCH OF GOLD GIVEAWAY AND IWSG POST



Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Annie Sullivan here to share about her YA fairytale retelling A TOUCH OF GOLD. It sounds like a great retelling of King Midas that has been described as fast-paced and beautifully written. Can’t wait to read it.

IWSG POST


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: Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery!

Optional Question: What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

I am not published, so I am looking forward to learning about pitfalls from you all. But I do think one pitfall is not being realistic about how hard this journey is. It can take a long time and many different manuscripts to write one worthy of publication, to get an agent if you want to go that route, to sign a publishing contract, and to be successful once you publish. And the road isn't always easier once you debut. That's what I've seen and come to know from watching authors debut and grow in their careers.

What pitfalls do you think we need to be aware of?

Now back to Annie’s interview. Here’s a blurb of A TOUCH OF GOLD from Goodreads:

King Midas once had the ability to turn all he touched into gold. But after his gift—or curse—almost killed his daughter, Midas relinquished The Touch forever. Ten years later, Princess Kora still bears the consequences of her father’s wish: her skin shines golden, rumors follow her everywhere she goes, and she harbors secret powers that are getting harder to hide.

Kora spends her days locked in the palace, concealed behind gloves and veils, trying to ignore the stares and gossip of courtiers. It isn’t until a charming young duke arrives that Kora realizes there may be someone out there who doesn’t fear her or her curse. But their courtship is disrupted when a thief steals precious items from the kingdom, leaving the treasury depleted and King Midas vulnerable. Thanks to her unique ability to sense gold, Kora is the only one who can track the thief down. As she sails off on her quest, Kora learns that not everything is what it seems—not thieves, not pirates, and not even curses. She quickly discovers that gold—and the power it brings—is more dangerous than she’d ever believed.

Midas learned his lesson at a price. What will Kora’s journey cost?


Hi Annie! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, but I love to travel. I’ve been to every continent and
over 50 countries! I also love fairytales. Growing up, I watched pretty much every Disney movie, and my mom would read to me all the time. I think that sparked my interest in becoming a writer because I loved hearing about far-off places and dreaming up my own fantasy worlds.

2. Wow! You did travel a lot. Where did you get the idea for A TOUCH OF GOLD?

I came up with the idea for A TOUCH OF GOLD after watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. It seemed so inconvenient to track down every piece of the cursed treasure. That got me thinking about cursed gold, which led to King Midas. But, I typically write about strong female characters, so that led me to King Midas’ daughter. None of the myths ever say what happened to her after her father turned her to gold. I wanted to explore her story—her curse!

3. What was your world building process like?

Anytime I’m writing about magic, I like to deal with that first. You want the magic to feel consistent, believable, and ingrained in the story. After I knew how the more fantastic elements worked, I set about creating the landscapes and the mythological creatures that belonged in them. Overall, it was a really fun process because I wanted to pay homage to the Greek myths while also infusing them with a bit of new life. So readers will see some familiar elements with a few new surprises along the way.

4. Yes, getting the world right is important but not always easy to set right away. Your story sounds like a real page turner. How did you keep the pace fast and what was your plotting process like?

I like to keep a fast pace because I know if I’m bored as the author, then the readers will be bored too. Keeping a high amount of energy subtly reminds readers there’s a lot at stake if the characters don’t complete what they need to in time. I do also like to throw in a few slower, more calm moments where you really get to know the characters because it’s just as important for the characters to have a chance to rest as it is for the reader.  

As for plotting, I’m a total pantster—meaning I fly by the seat of my pants when I’m writing. I don’t have a full outline. I have several guideposts along the way, but I like to leave the plot open to whatever crazy ideas occur to me while I’m writing. I get some of my best ideas by just letting the characters take the reins instead of forcing them to do what I dreamed up before I even got a chance to see them on the page.

5. Share a bit about Kora as a character. Did she come to you as a fully-developed character or did she develop more fully as you wrote her story?

Kora developed over time. She is the daughter of King Midas, and her father turned her to gold for three days when she was seven years old. Now that she’s seventeen and been turned back into a living, breathing human being, she has some lasting side effects of being turned to gold—like golden skin and abilities that are getting harder and harder to hide.

I always knew she was going to have golden skin and certain abilities, but the rumors that follow her around were an unintended consequence of that. And as a result of those rumors, Kora is a bit of an outcast. No one wants to touch the girl with the golden skin. This really shaped Kora’s whole character arc and how she interacts with others. So Kora’s character was definitely shaped as the book went on.

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

When I was looking for an agent, I created a spreadsheet to keep track of agents I submitted to. I actually used www.literaryrambles.com as my main of hub of finding agents to query. Christa was on that list, but before I sent her an official query, I saw on Twitter that she was having a contest on her blog. Participants had to post the first 250 words of their novel and a winner would be randomly selected. I didn’t win, but Christa read my first 250 words and loved them. Then she asked for more pages and more pages until she had the full manuscript. I ended up getting two offers from agents (and Christa’s offer even came while I was on vacation in Antarctica and didn’t have good Wi-Fi to respond!). Thankfully, my sister was monitoring my email account for me and was able to let Christa know I’d respond soon. I hopped on the phone with Christa, and I knew she was the agent for me because she and I had similar visions for not just my book, but my career too. We ended up going on submission with a different book while I completely overhauled A TOUCH OF GOLD. When I was done with revisions, Christa thought that A TOUCH OF GOLD was really strong, so we pulled the book that was out on submission and ended up getting a deal for A TOUCH OF GOLD! It was definitely a long, winding process to get published—but it’s been so worth it! 

7. Glad my blog helped. And so funny that you were in Antarctica when Christa e-mailed you. You also teach writing and are a copy specialist at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. How do you balance these jobs with your job as an author? What advice do you have for the rest of us who still work and have other commitments but want to be productive as a writer?

Sometimes it can be hard to balance, but my best advice is to find the moments where you’re wasting time or not using your time wisely. For example, I use my lunch break at work to get some writing in or do other book related tasks. I also honestly stay in a lot—weekend nights are great quiet writing time. If you want writing to be your career, then you have to treat it like a job. This means carving out time and making it a priority. Maybe get up an hour earlier or turn off the television one episode sooner.

8. I saw on your blog that you are participating in My Favorite Fairytale Blog Hop with 12 other fairytale writers. How did that blog hop come about and how did you connect with these writers?

That blog hop came about from a group of authors who found each other through a really great Facebook group dedicated to fairytales! An author named Shonna Slayton brought us together because she knew we all had similar audiences and could reach a wider group together. If you love fairytales, I highly recommend the group!



9. What else are you doing to promote your book?

As a debut author, I am expected to do a lot of marketing, and I have to try to draw readers in any way that I can. This is a grassroots movement, and it starts with me telling others. My family and Facebook friends have been great about getting the word out there too. I’m also going to be doing a preorder incentive in addition to having a street team help spread the word about the book. I’m doing giveaways, ads, Instagram pictures, and anything else I can think of to get my book noticed online. I’m also trying to go to as many in-person events as I can. This includes conferences like BookExpo and BookCon because these are great places to interact with both readers and writers.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a sequel for A TOUCH OF GOLD. We’re going to meet some really cool new creatures and encounter even more Greek mythology in this next book, so I can’t wait to share it with everyone. Outside of that, there are a few other retellings that I’m working on, so I’m busy at work bringing readers fun new fairytale and fantasy books.

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

Instagram: @annsulliva
Twitter: @annsulliva

Preorder/Buy links:

Annie has generously offered an ARC of A TOUCH OF GOLD for a giveaway. o 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 August 18th. 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 giveaway is international.

Here's what's coming up (FYI I'm on my summer schedule.):

Tuesday, August 14th I'm participating in the Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway Hop

Monday, August 20th, I have an interview with debut author Brigit Young and a giveaway of her MG contemporary mystery WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

Friday, August 31st I'm participating in the Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop

Hope to see you on  Tuesday, August 14th!



LAZY DAYS OF AUGUST GIVEAWAY HOP


Happy Tuesday Everyone! I'm excited to participate in the Lazy Days of August Giveaway Hop hosted by Stuck In Books. I hope you are having a good summer. I'm having a really good one but it's not lazy. Wish it was a little slower.

Anyway 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. I'm still hoping to read some of them in August. 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.


 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sorry, but I couldn't resist adding some new books that I heard of. 

 
 

 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 August 15th 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 (FYI I'm on my summer schedule.):

Wednesday, August 1st I have an interview with debut author Annie Sullivan and a giveaway of her YA fantasy/fairytale retelling A TOUCH OF GOLD and my IWSG Post

Monday, August 20th, I have an interview with debut author Brigit Young and a giveaway of her MG contemporary mystery WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

Friday, August 31st I'm participating in the Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop

Hope to see you on  tomorrow, August 1st!

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

K.A. REYNOLDS INTERVIEW AND THE LAND OF YESTERDAY GIVEAWAY


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author K.A. Reynolds here to share about her MG fantasy THE LAND OF YESTERDAY. It sounds like it has fantastic world building and a story that will really tug at your heart.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

A tender and fantastical adventure story perfect for fans of Coraline.

After Cecelia Dahl’s little brother, Celadon, dies tragically, his soul goes where all souls go: the Land of Yesterday—and Cecelia is left behind in a fractured world without him.

Her beloved house’s spirit is crumbling beyond repair, her father is imprisoned by sorrow, and worst of all, her grief-stricken mother abandons the land of the living to follow Celadon into Yesterday.

It’s up to Cecelia to put her family back together, even if that means venturing into the dark and forbidden Land of Yesterday on her own. But as Cecilia braves a hot-air balloon commanded by two gnomes, a sea of daisies, and the Planet of Nightmares, it’s clear that even if she finds her family, she might not be able to save them.

And if she’s not careful, she might just become a lost soul herself, trapped forever in Yesterday.

“Told with riveting language, this is a poignant tale that will resonate with readers of all ages and leave them reeling from such an emotional, gorgeous story.” (Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of Aru Shah and the End of Time)

“From its first words, The Land of Yesterday has the pure crystal ring of a classic, like The Little Prince or The Phantom Tollbooth—beautiful, unique, and shimmering with truth. It’s a balm for grief, and a bursting fantastical joy of a story.” (Laini Taylor, New York Times bestselling author of Strange the Dreamer)

Hi Kristin! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Hi Natalie, thank you for having me!

I’m an expat, born and raised in Winnipeg, MG, now living on an old farm in Maine. I have five kids—all artists and writers—a dog, cats, mice, guinea pigs, and work part time as a home care aid for the elderly.

The first time I recall writing creatively was soon after my mother passed away. It was a Shakespearean sonnet about my cat pooping on the dining room table and how I really love cats. *laughsforever* I read and wrote consistently through childhood and well into adulthood to help me cope with abuse, trauma, and pain. As an adult, my poetry had been published in several literary journals and magazines, but it wasn’t until I’d finished having babies that I wrote my first book. Writing has always been a huge part of me, and I can’t imagine my life without it.
  
2. Where did you get the idea for your story?

After querying four novels over almost five years and still not finding an agent, I was ready to give
up. I’d racked up hundreds of rejections, spent so much energy and many tears chasing this dream and had nothing left to give. I found myself in my bedroom one day, literally forehead to floor, ugly crying my little writer’s heart out after all hope had run dry. My dream was dead. It was time to move on. And I swear, not a minute after accepting this fate, the vision of a sad girl in her own bedroom came to me in full color. She had long midnight blue hair and was crying so hard her body had begun turning into paper. I watched as her sorrow spread out all around her until her bedroom started papering, too. I saw Cecelia so clearly, I stopped sobbing, jumped up, ran to the laptop and wrote her story in a great flood of words. Three weeks later, The Land of Yesterday was born.

 3. Sorry that your idea came from sadness but great that it came to you so clearly. It sounds like you have created a fantastic world with a hot-air balloon commanded by gnomes, a sea of daisies, and a Planet of Nightmares. Share a bit about your world building process.
  
As a pantser, much of my process is sitting at the laptop, clearing my mind, letting go of fear, and writing. When the words flow, it’s like magic, really. So much so, when I’m drafting, it feels like I’m some invisible entity’s office assistant transcribing the story they’re whispering to me rather than creating it on my own. But when the fancy invisible entity vanishes, and I’m left to my own devices, I find some of my most important world building comes from metaphor.

For example. Cecelia’s sorrow = Cecelia cries so hard her body turns into paper, and her sorrow spreads into the world around her. Widdendream, their old Victorian-style home, feels angry and vengeful = its features darken, grow black mold, grow scary-sharp black vines, etc. Cecelia’s doesn’t understand why or how her mother could leave her = Cecelia literally can’t understand the language her teachers and neighbors, and later, the gnomes who taxi her way to Yesterday, are speaking. Cecelia is afraid but wants to be brave = she must visit the planet of nightmares and face her fears. I use metaphors a lot to convey a visual path to understanding where sometimes words are not enough.

4.  That's great how you use metaphors in world building. You are also a poet and your prose has been described as beautiful. How did your poetry writing influence your writing of this story?

When I’m writing, I hear the beats of words like music and work them until they flow just right. I use the cut of a line and the way paragraphs come to a page to emphasize sound, meaning, and feeling. And I do love a good old-fashioned swoony string of words. But poetry isn’t just about pretty words and structure. It’s a way to explore the human experience through figurative language. To feel and be felt. To understand and be understood. To know your heart. Oftentimes, poetry is more about what isn’t written, rather than what is: an invisible question passed to the reader to answer for themselves. As to whether my background in poetry influenced The Land of Yesterday, I think it must have. I wrote this book with my heart; it’s the only way I know how to write.

5. Like Cecelia in your story, you have suffered a great loss as a child. Did you draw on your own emotions in telling Cecelia’s story?

Oh, most definitely. Drawing from my own experience is the best tool in my writer’s toolbox. Those emotions are evergreen, honest, real. They are sometimes very difficult to write or talk about, to slice open those old wounds. But it’s the sharing of these stories that connects us, brings us together, and breeds empathy. Grief is one of those stark realities that finds us all. I wanted to do it justice by giving it everything, so digging deep into my own grief was essential.

6. So true about grief. It sounds like your story is a real heartbreaker as well as being a riveting story. How did you get the balance right between the emotional growth of Cecelia and the plot-driven story that is necessary for a fantasy story?

First answer: I had a lot of help! I went through several revisions of this book and it went before many eyes. My CP’s, beta readers, agent, and editor helped guide me to where I needed to be to find the right balance. I’m the first to admit, for me, plot takes some doing. I’m much more emotional arc oriented, but I’ve learned how to draw on that strength to forward plot. When I draft, I listen to that invisible entity and type away, trying not to deviate too much from the voices in my head. When I’m finished, not all the story is there, but all the building blocks are. I draw off either plot or emotions (whatever is lacking) and ask myself questions to bring the hidden words to the surface. Cecelia’s haunted house wants to kill her; if a haunted house wanted to kill me, how would I feel? Cecelia is overcome with sadness; what’s a good metaphor for sadness to help me further the plot: her body turning into paper. Play to your strengths, ask yourself questions, and get as many trusted eyes on your book as possible.

7. Your agent is Thao Le. What was your road to obtaining an agent and book contract like?

Oy. It was dark and beautiful and threatening, filled with jugs of wine, kindred souls, and ghosts. But seriously, the road seemed never-ending at times. I’d been searching for an agent for almost five years, on four different books—adult and YA. I got very close. Won contests. Was a mentee two years in a row in Pitch Wars, etc. I’d been told, “Your writing is so beautiful, but . . .” And, “I love this concept, but . . .” so many times, but no agent loved them enough. Until I wrote this book. Then, I for four R&R’s. Did them—reluctantly—and got a second R&R from Thao! She really got my story and loved it from the beginning. The next revision for her was smaller. I did it with a hammering heart and sent it off! She emailed not long after and asked for a phone call!!! When Thao offered, after five years of ridiculously early mornings and all-day writing and tears and work, the walls of my house were thumping with joy. I got two more offers, but I knew from the start that Thao was The One.

Thao and I did two more small revisions I think before going on sub. But once it went out, we had an offer in two weeks. From HarperCollins. By a dream editor. 😊 I. Was. Floored. The road was long and hard and dark, my shoes were threadbare, and clothes torn, but when I got to the end it was all worth it. None of those years spent writing and failing were failures. They were school. They were learning what I needed to succeed and get to where I am now.

8. Glad you had a happy experience once you got your agent and publisher. How are you planning to promote your book? What advice do you have for the rest of us on developing our social platform and marketing our first book?

I’ve been doing giveaways, talking it up on social media, sending to book groups of teachers and librarians to read, share, and review. I made SWAG, am doing a pre-order giveaway, and joining other debut authors for group activities to promote our books. I’m also hoping to do some panels and attend some cons if possible, too.

I’ve been on social media for years and it’s been such a great tool. Twitter especially, but I also love Instagram. As far as advice? I’d say the best advice I can give is reach out to other writers. Make friends. Talk about the books you love and why. Don’t be afraid to tell your favorite authors how you admire them or love their work. And, just have fun!

I’m still learning about marketing, but my best advice here is: do whatever you can do and don’t stress about what you can’t. I have a lot of limitations on this end and I’ve had to learn to let some things go and not to beat myself up over it. Do what you can, play to your strengths, and try to enjoy this amazing time in your career.

9. Great advice! It might even help me get over my marketing phobia. What is something that surprised you about being a debut author?

That writing my contracted book two would be like trying to run a marathon on hot lava with an elephant on my back while the sky is melting and I have to pee really, really badly. *laughs/cries* I’d written books before, so why was this So Hard?!? It is still something of a mystery. But from talking to my debut group, where we have a separate group called Book 2: Trips on the Strugglebus, I know I’m not alone.

10. What are you working on now?

A few things.

My second MG fantasy, THE SPINNER OF DREAMS. This fairytale-ish story revolves around Annalise Meriwether, a girl with anxiety, panic disorder, and OCD, who must find the courage to battle the Fate Spinner inside an enchanted labyrinth for a chance at making her greatest dreams come true. This was a hard book to write and took two years to finish. At times, I wanted to give up. Thought it was trash. Thought I was a hack. That I couldn’t write it the way I envisioned it in my head. I was anxious and panicked and stressed more than ever, because living with mental illness and writing about it was . . . a lot. But, I wouldn’t let myself quit. Mental illness in middle grade is rarely explored, even less so when the main character is the one with the illness, yet it occurs more often in real life than many might think. As a child living with these mental illnesses, I’d have loved a book with a main character whose mind and body worked like mine. A book filled with magic that gave no magical cure for my mental and physical challenges, but showed me that I could still be strong, was still brave, and that I was magical and lovable, not despite my challenges, but because of them. But, Annalise is the sweetest character I’ve ever written. I fell in love with her, and hope others will, too.

I’m also drafting a secret project that is so different from my last two but has a voice I really love and am really excited about! And I have ¾ of another MG Fantasy written that I can’t wait to dive back into!
  
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kristin. You can find Kristin at INSERT YOUR LINKS


 Kristin has generously offered an ARC of THE LAND OF YESTERDAY 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 August 4th. 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 giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

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

Here's what's coming up (FYI I'm on my summer schedule.):

Wednesday, August 1st I have an interview with debut author Annie Sullivan and a giveaway of her YA fantasy/fairytale retelling A TOUCH OF GOLD and my IWSG Post

Tuesday, August 14th I'm participating in the Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway Hop

Monday, August 20th, I have an interview with debut author Brigit Young and a giveaway of her MG contemporary mystery WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

Hope to see you on  Wednesday, August 1st!