Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Hillary Fazzari Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 4/22/2024
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Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


 First I want to announce the winner of SEEING CINDERELLA. The winner is:


Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book.

Today I’m excited to interview Leah Bobet about her debut book ABOVE, which was released yesterday, April 1, 2012. Happy Release Day Leah! I really enjoyed the unique world of Safe and Above that Leah created. I found Matthew and the other characters so sympathetic because they were all injured in the light of society in some way.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Matthew has always lived in Safe, a community hidden far beneath the pipes and tunnels of the city Above. The residents fled to Safe years before to escape the Whitecoats and their cruel experiments, and now Matthew is responsible for both the keeping of Safe’s stories and for Ariel—a golden-haired shapeshifter, and the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen.

But one horrifying night, an old enemy murders Safe’s founder, Atticus, and the community is taken over by an army of shadows. Only Matthew, Ariel, and a handful of friends escape Above. Now they not only have to survive in a sunlit world they barely know, but they must unravel the mystery of the shadows’ fury and Atticus’s death. It’s up to Matthew to find a way to remake Safe—not just for himself and his family, but for Ariel, who’s again faced with the life she fled, and who needs him more than ever before.

An urban fantasy and a love story, Above is the breathtaking debut of an extraordinary new voice

Hi Leah. Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer. I read that you live in Toronto. I love that city though it’s been awhile since we’ve been there. Did you grow up there?

I grew up in a commuter suburb north of the city, one new enough at the time that there were still fields everywhere to toboggan in (most of them are now condos). I was going downtown with friends on the weekends by the time I was 13 or 14, though, since there’s not much of a cultural life in the toboggan fields, and moved into the city by 19. I haven’t left the downtown core since, and don’t really plan to: I love this city in the way you can only love something when you wanted it years before you could ever have it.

As for writing, I was one of those kids who always puttered at it. I stopped in high school for some reason I honestly can’t remember; there’s a story in there about a poem I wrote, and asked my high school boyfriend if he liked, and he said it was kind of melodramatic and that was kind of wounding, but that wasn’t why. I’d really stopped at least two years before that.

What I wanted to be in high school was a musician, actually: I was a music room brat, and did choir, concert band, vocal jazz choir, women’s acapella, musicals, and the straight drama department theatre productions every year, all through high school. I think I spent more time in rehearsal than in class. And I ran around with a pack of other music room brats, some of whom are now professional musicians. It was only when I found out, rather sharply, that I probably wouldn’t get to be a professional musician that I started writing again, and started publishing short fiction right away, almost, and since I was only 19 that little taste of success went directly to my head in the best kind of way. The rest? Kind of history.

2. How awesome that you starting getting published right away. The world of Above and the world of Safe below are so different. Tell us about how your world building and why you chose underground as the world of Safe.

I feel weirdly safe underground. It’s something about the quiet, and enclosed spaces, and the kind of dark that wraps around you like a blanket and doesn’t press you down. Underground feels like getting away with something, feels like secrets. So things like subway tunnels, and caverns, and so forth show up a lot in my fiction. It’s just this visceral association my brain has.

The worldbuilding that went into Safe was pretty hardcore, though: The whole start of the idea was the 1980s Beauty and the Beast TV show, where you had this underground society, but it was all very sanitary and marble-halled and people could just go up into New York City wearing a cape, like that was going to be a good disguise. Pssh. Really. And I started thinking, well, how would that really work? Which committed me to doing the research of how it would really work.

I picked a real place for where Safe would be — it’s somewhere around the Don Valley, for people who know their Toronto — using stuff like topographical maps, and where the subway lines were, and where people might not be found. And figured out all the living requirements, like electricity, fresh water, air exchange, and worked out ways for the residents to get those things. That meant figuring out what they couldn’t get, too, and building their society around what was plentiful and what just never got down there.

It took a few months to figure out all the bits and pieces. But it was worth it: Where Matthew grew up, and what he understood and what he didn’t, ultimately informed the whole story.

3. I always love how authors draw from their own experiences. Matthew, the main character, has a great voice. How did you develop his voice and do you have any tips for the rest of us on how to do this?

I realized just a few months ago, now that I have some distance from the draft, that I did a few dry runs in terms of Matthew’s voice. There are a few short stories of mine that have almost prototype versions of it — plucky young boy characters who don’t really know how in over their heads they are — and I have 30,000 words of an unfinished novel on my hard drive that had a viewpoint character who was very much a younger, much more cynical version of him. Their speech patterns are eerily similar. Looking back, I was growing that voice in my head for a few years before it ever came out into this novel.

As for tips on writing voice? Granted, this would be a thing that works for me, and may not work for you, but: Try speaking it aloud. Voice is something that’s spoken, that’s heard, and not something that’s naturally written. Voices have rhythms. If you think of it like a bit of music, I find that helps.

4. Ah, there's the musician in you which probably helps you hear the rhythms. That's a great tip to try to read the dialogue out loud. One of the things I loved about ABOVE was that Matthew and all of the other main characters were different physically and/or emotionally and considered damaged by society. How did you decide on these differences? Did the plot dictate them or did the characters come first?

Once I noticed the patterns forming and decided that yes, every character in the book would be marginalized in some way, I did actually sit down and try to assign people things. Some are diagnoses, yes, but others were what I called for the longest time “useless superpowers”. I mean, Matthew has lion’s feet and scales down his back. Jack can conduct electricity with his fingers, and sometimes shoot it, but he blows out any electronics he gets near and can’t touch people or he’ll shock them. Atticus has crab claws for arms, which means he can’t do up his own pants. Those are pretty useless superpowers there.

Some of them are integral to the characters. Some I tacked on as I went, because the characters didn’t figure strongly enough into the story that it would really matter. Most of them, if they weren’t integral to how the plot went, drove the plot later on with their consequences.

5. Unlike most antagonists, Corner is a very sympathetic character. I loved how she/he was both girl and boy. Tell us how you created this character and his/her distinctive voice.

Corner evolved a lot between the first little inkling and the final draft: a lot of the process of figuring out the novel itself, actually, centered around discovering what Corner’s story was — that question was really one of the central questions of writing the first draft, so it was very incremental and organic. When I did figure out Corner’s story, and where she was coming from, I think I burst into tears at the keyboard. And it unlocked the whole book.

I never really wanted Corner to be a villain, in certain ways. Part of the point of Above is that there really are no villains; just complicated people doing complicated things, and hurting each other in the process, sometimes. That’s life.

6. I think you did a good job of showing that. And that's one of the things I liked most about your story. The villain wasn't really a villain. Tell us about how Caitlin Blasdell became your agent and your querying journey to finding your agent.

My agent story is actually really, really textbook: Once I had a draft of the book that was good enough to query on (and it took about three drafts!), I made a short list of agents I wanted to query — either they represented authors I liked, or work I thought was stylistically close to mine, or just cool writers. I sent out queries to them, figured it was the first round of a long summer campaign, and went off to do other things.

Five weeks later, a few agents had the full manuscript, and I had an offer from Caitlin for representation. Once we talked and made sure that how we worked would actually mesh — she’s a very editorially-minded agent, and some people like that, and some don’t, and I very much do — we formalized things and that was that.

So sadly it’s not a very exciting story? But it’s kind of the standard one: Send queries, go through the partials and fulls, and eventually someone comes back saying something nice!

7. I think your story is one we'd all like to have. You found your agent match so quick! Cheryl Klein is your editor. I met her at a SCBWI conference where she gave me an awesome critique. I’d so love to have her as my editor. What’s it like working with her and how did she make your story better?

Cheryl’s really smart, and really perceptive, and knows how to get right to the heart of an issue in a manuscript. She’s amazing to work with, start to finish.

One of the more important ways she really improved Above between submission draft and final product was by, to be blunt, making me justify my crap. I can sometimes have a tendency to put something in just because it’s pretty and I like it, without necessarily caring if it makes 100% sense or justifying the logic. What’s that phrase mean? I don’t care! It sounds right! Go with it! And she made me really look at those things, and be really rigorous, and I think the book’s definitely improved by that.

She also noticed certain things that I never, ever would: I have a few prose-level tics; sentence constructions that I just like a lot. And she flagged them where I wouldn’t have seen, and made me pay attention, and that means the flavour of the prose in Above is more varied, and richer, and more engaging.

These sound like small things, but they’re really not: An editor who can not just edit your work to be better, not different, but can teach you things about your own writing and process? That’s the best thing there is.

8. I can so see Cheryl doing that from the little bit I know about her. She's got a great critical eye for all parts of writing. I know you’re part of The Apocalyspsies. How did you find out about this group and join it? What advice do you have for other debut authors who want to join such a group? When and how should we try to find these groups?

I was put onto the existence of the Apocalypsies by Jodi Meadows, who is part of the same loose used-to-be-a-crit-group that I am. She sold Incarnate around the same time that Above sold, and so here and there we’d kick each other a piece of information (“Hey, did you know there’s a 2012 Debutantes group?”).

As for joining one of the Debs groups, mostly you just have to say your book’s coming out that year and ask nicely. There’s not much to it!

9. That's great advice to connect with other debut authors and share information. Other authors have suggested similar advice. What are you working on now?

An odd little book about a girl and her farm, set in a world so post-apocalyptic they forgot how the apocalypse happened, where all the men just came back from a war against a wicked god; and what happens when they take on a mysterious hired hand for the winter, and the consequences of that war, and losing things, and rebuilding them.

Thanks Leah for letting us share your debut with you and for all your advice. Good luck with your book. You can find Leah at her website and on Twitter@leahbobet .

Leah's publisher generously offered an ARC of ABOVE for a giveaway.  All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on April 14th. I’ll announce the winner on April 16th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.

If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.

Here's what's coming up next.  Next Monday I'm interviewing Jennifer Nielson and giving away a copy of THE FALSE PRINCE. I LOVED this book so much that I immediately e-mailed Jennifer after I finished it to see if she'd be willing to be interviewed. It totally reminds me of Megan Whalen Turner's THE QUEEN'S THIEF series, which I also so loved. 

The following Monday I'm interviewing Ruth McNally Barshaw, an author and illustrator, and giving away two books in her Ellie McDoodle series. It's a great series and her illustrations just add so much to the stories. Her fourth book in this series is just coming out and as an experienced author, I'm sure she'll have lots of great advice for us. 

Hope to see you on Monday!


TerryLynnJohnson said...

oh, I would so LOVE an ARC. I've been drooling over this one since the cover came out. Gorgeous! And it features TO on it! (do I get points for knowing the Don Valley?)
How awesome. You always ask such interesting questions, Nat!
"Justify your crap" how great is that! Way to go for finding an agent like that. And I love the part about finding the rhythm of a voice. Great interview ladies! Thanks for the giveaway!

Christina said...

I'm a follower (GFC: Christina Franke) and I'm so excited about Above! I want to win so badly!

Tweeted: https://twitter.com/#!/Reader_Fictions/status/186791671118311425

Ishta Mercurio said...

Happy Release day, Leah! I live near Toronto - we should meet for coffee and talk writing sometime.

Casey and Natalie, I gave you a blog award today. :-)

Stina said...

Yay, Deb! Now I just need you to visit for lunch so I can borrow the book. :D

Wow, this is the first I've heard of ABOVE. It sounds like a great book. I'm definitely adding it to my list!!!!!

Love the advice about voice.

Martina Boone said...

This is definitely going on my list, too. It sounds rich and layered with fabulous worldbuilding. Thanks for a great interview, Natalie!


Kim Van Sickler said...

Go ahead and enter me! I can see getting caught up in the underground research for this book. Fun!

Anna Staniszewski said...

This books sounds awesome! I'm a follower.

Vivien said...

I've been looking forward to this book for MONTHS!!! It really sounds fantastic. The premise has me hooked. Definitely cannot wait to read it.
GFC: Vivien

deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Theresa Milstein said...

Congratulations to Deb.

Wow, what a stunning cover. I'm drooling too!

Barbara Watson said...

Sounds like quite a story. I love the part in the interview about speaking the voice and thinking of it in terms of music. I've never heard it stated that way.

Nicki said...

I am DYING to read this book! Would be lovely to win it!

cleemckenzie said...

This book sounds great. Here's to Deb Marshall for winning Seeing Cinderella!

Carina Olsen said...

I have actually read Above! :D And oh. I loved it so so so much. <3 It is amazing :) Thanks for the interview :D Pssst, I would love to have an ARC of the book (A) <3 It's just so pretty and good.
Love, Carina

Gayle C. Krause said...

Just my kind of story. Sounds amazing. I'd really like to win it. A giant thank you to Leah for sharing her journey with us and congratulations!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks Leah for letting us be a part of your debut and sharing all your advice.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

That cover is gorgeous! The book sounds like a winner, too. :-)

As always, great interview, Natalie! I can't wait to read your questions for Jennifer.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Loved hearing about the hard-core world-building that went into this book. Fascinating stuff!

And I already have an ARC, so don't enter me in the giveaway.

chihuahuazero said...

Wait, didn't Adventures in YA and Children's Literature showed that same book too?

All right, I definitely want it now.

Larissa said...

Wow. ABOVE sounds very interesting! Great interview!

Jemi Fraser said...

Wow! Unique setting and plot and characters - sounds like this one has it all!

Gigi said...

YAYYYYY! Thank you so much for the chance!! Beautiful cover and intriguing plot! Count me in! Fingers crossed! :P
Tweeted: https://twitter.com/#!/Gisselle_Alv/status/186961431684591616

Amy S. said...

I'd love to read this book. The cover is gorgeous! Thanks for the chance to win. amy dot swihart at gmail dot com

Khanada said...

Thanks so much for this interview, Natalie. I love what Leah had to say here, and it really made me want to check out this book!

-- Amy

Kali Skittles said...

GFC: Kali Skittles


Thanks so much!

Lexie@BookBug said...

Cannot wait for this book! Thanks so much for the giveaway!
GFC follower: Lexie@BookBug
Tweeted at https://twitter.com/#!/LexieBookBug/status/187013744239452161
lexie.bookbug at gmail dot com

Maji Bookshelf said...

Can't wait to get into this book! sounds fantastic
thanks for the giveaway!
GFC: maji bookshelf

- juhina

Mart Ramirez said...

Awesome interview! Your book sounds amazing. I also retweeted Casey's tweet mentioning this post.
martzbookz (@) sbcglobal(dot) net

Kiki Hamilton said...

Great interview! Can't wait to read ABOVE!

Stephanie Lorée said...

I hear there's a giveaway?

ABOVE is on my must read list for April. Thanks so much to Natalie for stopping by my blog and letting me know about this giveaway.

And a fantastic interview as well!

TayteH said...

Woohoo! Yay! I love the cover, and the interview was great. :D
Thank you!


Anonymous said...

Great interview! Thanks for the giveaway :)


GFC Koll

Natasha said...

Great interview, thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Leah Bobet said...

Thanks everyone! And especially thanks to Natalie for having me! :)

Mary Preston said...

A fabulous interview thank you. I would love to read ABOVE. It does look amazing.


collkosinski said...

Interesting interview.

Colleen at myartsite dot com

collkosinski said...

Interesting interview.

Colleen at myartsite dot com

Mundie Moms said...

What a great interview! Thank you for sharing!

Sandra said...

The book cover is gorgeous and the interview was fantastic! Thank you for this giveaway. :)

Certifible said...

I love the idea behind this story and charaters, thank you for the interview and the giveaway

scarlettkitty at hotmail dot com

Crochet Addict UK said...

Thank you ever so much, I would love to be entered in the giveaway: susand1408 at googlemail dot com

Crochet Addict UK said...

forgot to say I am a follower on GFC Susan D

Lioness said...


thanks :)

cigam9 at gmail dot com

Nicki said...

Thanks so much for the giveaway! I am excited to read this one!


Lyddz said...

I have been going insane over Above since the first time I saw the cover on a waiting on wednesday post a couple months ago. I came THISCLOSE to a copy of it at English Festival at YSU, and I almost died. I cannot wait to get my greedy paws on this book!!!

GFC - Lydia Maendel

gingerrodent AT aol DOT com

Carrie said...

GFC Carrie Ardoin

celjla212 at aol dot com

I have been wanting this book for a while. Thanks so much!!

Cathy C said...

i'm a follower

GFC catherine c

catherine0807 at hotmail dot com

Ellisa said...

Thank you for the giveaway! I've been mounting up interest in this book, actually, and have added it in my TBR list!

GFC - Ellisa

Georgette said...

Thanks for the giveaway. Leah, great interview and the book sounds fab! I am adding it to my TBR list on Goodreads also.
GFC-Georgette C

Anonymous said...

Thanks heap for the giveaway! Absolutely love the cover,and have been wanting to read Above for awhile now.
GFC- rachchan2006
Email: rachchan2006@yahoo.com.au

Sam said...

I follow you by GFC: Falling Books

Above looks awesome! Amazing interview.

- Sam @ Falling Books (http://bookcrazedreviews.blogspot.com)

Kaira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DustySE said...

I'm so excited to read ABOVE - sounds terrific.

Krista said...

I am seriously dying to read this! The cover is so beautiful and the concept is awesome! I loved the interview and thanks so much for the giveaway!!

kmritchie02 at gmail dot com

Krista said...

Forgot to mention I am a GFC follower: Krista R

Sarah W. said...

Gorgeous cover + sounds like it has a fantastic story!

I'd love to enter!

GFC Follower: Sarah (Inklings Read)
Email: inklingsread (at) hotmail (dot) com

Thanks for the giveaway!

Reading Mind / The Loyal Book said...

this sounds like a great read. I love the cover and this interview was really nice. As always very accurate!

GFC reading mind

aliasgirl at libero dot it

Unknown said...

Dying to read this book and have been for months now! Thank you for the giveaway!

GFC name: Heather Roddenberry
theflyleafreview at gmail dot com

Kim Aippersbach said...

Never heard of this book, but it sounds fantastic. And that was a great interview.

I'm a follower and I'd love to get a copy. aippersbach at shaw dot ca

Ryan said...

The book sounds great!

giddusadik said...

Very nice interview! I am so excited for Above, it sounds like a really great book!

GFC name: giddusadik
Tweet link: https://twitter.com/#!/naddawi11/status/188656054907838464
Blog sidebar (look at the end of the sidebar at the "Giveaways" tab, for the cover of Above): http://inabookshelf.wordpress.com/

email: floriv7 at gmail dot com

Cayce said...

Great interview! I'm really looking forward to Above (ever since I saw the cover:).

GFC Cayce
tweet: https://twitter.com/#!/Cayce_23/status/188789850978258944
cayce006 at yahoo dot com

Jessy said...

Above sounds really unique and I can't wait to give aIt a go. Thanks for the interview and copy up for grabs.

Tweet: @emma015

Findjessyhere at gmail dot com

Sarah Faulkner said...

Ms. Bobet, I actually spotlighted your book on my blog a few months ago. You can read that post here: http://inklinedwriters.blogspot.com/2012/01/fridays-with-first-timers-above-by-leah.html
I'm excited to read your book whether I get it from Goodreads, here, or the library.
~Sarah F.


Kimberly Gabriel said...

Sounds like a fabulous book! Great interview!

Sharmaine C said...

I really like the cover! Thanks for the giveaway!

GFC: Sharmaine Chan
Tweeted: https://twitter.com/#!/shaine_c/status/190151643524907008

me_winy AT yahoo DOT com DOT ph

Unknown said...

I follow through GFC-Christy M. My email is christy_n_jesse12@yahoo.com. Thanks for the chance to win!

Rebecca Hipworth said...

This book looks really good. :)
I have subscribed to your posts and mentioned giveaway on twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/HippieLouise/status/190456752301547521

My email is Becky01x@gmail.com.

Katie Robertson said...

Loving the giveaway. :D
This is a book I MUST read.

I follow your posts and I have posted it on facebook under katie robertson.

I hope I win. :)


grace crawford said...

Thanks for the heads up, will make sure I set aside some time to really get into this one. We have an ARC from Scholastic so we will get started reading soon!
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