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I have lots to share with you today. (Sorry in advance for the font changes in the post but Blogger is doing something weird today. Sound familiar?) Before I begin my awesome interview with Kim Harrington, I have a bunch of winners to announce. Yay!





The winner of CINDER is:


The winner of A MILLION SUNS is:






Congrats to all the winners. I'm so happy to pass on my books. E-mail me your addresses so I can send you your books. Some of you I've already contacted but for those of you who didn't leave your e-mail address, please e-mail me within 48 hours or I'll have to pick another winner.

Today I’m excited to interview Kim Harrington. She was one of the first debut authors I interviewed last year when I started blogging.  When I saw that she has a new middle grade series Sleuth or Dare coming out on May 1, 2012, I knew I wanted to interview her again. And as an unexpected bonus, Kim’s publisher sent me an ARC of PERCEPTION, the second book in her YA Clarity series, that was released February 29th.

Kim is a fantastic writer. I loved both the mystery in PERCEPTION and Clare’s emotional growth. Each chapter ended with me dying to know more. And in PARTNERS IN CRIME, the first book in the Sleuth or Dare series, we meet Darcy and Norah, two great middle graders who create a detective agency from a school project. 

Here’s a description of PERCEPTION from Goodreads:

When you can see things others can't, what do you do when someone's watching you?

Everybody knows about Clarity "Clare" Fern. She's the psychic girl in school, the one who can place her hands on something and see hidden visions from the past.

Only Clare would rather not be a celebrity. She prefers hanging back, observing. Her gift is not a game to her.

But then someone starts playing with her head . . . and heart. Messages and gifts from a secret admirer crop up everywhere Clare turns. Could they be from Gabriel, the gorgeous boy who gets Clare's pulse racing? Or from Justin, Clare's hopeful ex-boyfriend who'd do anything to win her back?

One thing is certain. Clare needs to solve this mystery, and soon. Because the messages are becoming sinister, and a girl in town has suddenly disappeared.

And here’s a blurb about PARTNERS IN CRIME from Goodreads:

When best friends Darcy and Norah have to create a fake business for a school assignment, they come up with a great idea: a detective agency! Darcy loves mysteries, and Norah likes helping people, so it's a perfect fit.

But then their pretend agency gets a real case. Someone is missing, and it's up to Darcy and Norah to take on the search. Unfortunately, there's someone else out there who doesn't want the two detectives stirring up any trouble. . . .

With the help of hidden clues, spy gadgets, and trusted friends, can Darcy and Norah crack the case in time?

Finally, here’s the blurb about SLEEPOVER STAKEOUT from Goodreads:

Norah and Darcy's detective agency, Partners in Crime, is taking on a new and chilling case. The girls' classmate, Maya, is hearing strange, crackling voices coming over the baby monitor while she's babysitting late at night. Maya is worried someone might be in danger.

To help investigate, Norah and Darcy join her for a sleepover stakeout. In between eating snacks and watching TV, the girls are on high alert for anything suspicious. Soon, they stumble upon a mysterious secret they never could have imagined -- but Norah and Darcy clash over how to interpret the new clues.

Can the girls get past their differences to see their way to the truth?

Hi Kim. Thanks so much for joining us.

1. You have had a busy year since your debut as an author last year. PERCEPTION was released and you have three books in the Sleuth or Dare series coming out in the next few months. Wow! Tell us a bit about how that happened.
Well, it seems like a lot all at once but due to publishing schedules they were really written quite far apart. Clarity was written in 2008, published in 2011. Perception was written in 2009, published in 2012. My 2013 book was written in 2010. So the only books I wrote in 2011 were the three Sleuth or Dare books. Still…busy! :)

2. Yeah, you've definitely been busy both writing and publishing-wise. Let’s talk about PERCEPTION first. Your first chapter is one of the best I’ve ever read with all the drama that made me dying to know more. Then you torture us in a good way by going back two weeks earlier in the next chapter, but did it so masterfully that we don’t mind. Why did you decide to write the story that way? Please share any tips you have on the important first few pages of a story. 
That was actually my editor’s idea! I had a flash forward opening at the beginning of Clarity, so my editor suggested I open Perception the same way. And it really works, so I’m glad she suggested it. Since I write mystery/thrillers, I always try to grab the readers right away in the opening pages.

3. What a great suggestion by your editor. Because it worked so well at grabbing me. Besides PERCEPTION being a great mystery, you also have a lot of character development for Clare. Tell us a bit about the inner challenges she grapples with and how you’ve plotted this out through your series.
In the first book, Clare is reluctant to get involved in the investigation and only does because she has a big personal reason to do so. She also is not completely comfortable with her psychic gift and sometimes wishes she was just like all the other girls. In book two, she really goes on a journey. Solving the mystery of the first book awakened this feeling inside of her that maybe this curse she has isn’t so bad after all, and maybe she’s meant for more than just doing readings for tourists. She develops a lot of self-confidence and learns some lessons on friendship as well.

4. Those are two of the things I really enjoyed about Clare in this book. Her willingness to help and all she learned about herself. What were some of the challenges in writing the second book in this series? What did you learn about writing a series from writing this one?

Well first you have to think about the readers—some may have read the first book and some may not have. You have to insert enough backstory to ground the reader but not too much. Just in case someone reads book two first, you want to try your best not to spoil book one. The biggest challenge, though, is that a first book sets expectations. A sequel must surpass them. The mystery has to be creepier. The romance hotter. The conflict more heart-wrenching. All the stakes need to be higher. I worked hard to make this happen and hope I succeeded.
5. You did such a good job with all of that Kim. And the backstory which is hard to get right, you had the perfect balance. You’ve definitely established yourself as a mystery writer with both the Clarity and Sleuth or Dare series. Can you give us some tips on plotting out a mystery?
The hardest part is making sure all the pieces of the mystery fit into place and finding the right balance between predictable and completely unforeseeable. I don’t want the villain to be someone from left field that the reader never could have figured out. But I don’t want the solution to be too obvious, either. Somewhere in between. I want them to have figured some of it out (because I think that’s satisfying as a reader) but I don’t want them to figure everything out. And that’s tough to do.

6. Let’s move onto talking about PARTNERS IN CRIME. What were some of the differences in writing a middle grade versus a YA book?

I found it very challenging. The characters can’t just hop in a car and drive where they want to go, some may not have cell phones, and certainly there’s more parental involvement. So you have to realistically figure that in when the kids are solving the mystery. Also, coming up with the plots was a challenge. I didn’t want to write a ‘who stole the ____’ mystery, but I also couldn’t have a serial killer leaving a trail of bodies through town. There had to be something in between. So I worked hard to craft plots that were age-appropriate yet also edgy, intriguing, and complex.
7. Yes, I think you hit on a lot of challenges in middle grade stories, especially ones that aren't fantasies, where the characters can go off on their own. I love Darcy and Norah, the two main characters. They are both smart but very different people. Tell us a bit about how you developed them as characters.

I knew from the start that I wanted them to be nerds and proud of it. Because I’ve always been a nerd and when I was that age I would’ve loved to read a series where nerds are the heroes. (Velma was always my favorite of the Scooby Doo Gang!) But, even though Darcy and Norah are best friends and have brains in common, I wanted them to be opposites in many ways, too. I wanted them to bring out the best in each other. 

8. Darcy uses a lot of techno techniques for finding clues. How did you come up with some of them and what research did you do to decide on them or do you have a detective background?

Some of them I got from simple Internet research or brainstorming. But, strangely, I also got a few ideas from the SkyMall catalog. You know, that magazine on planes that sells a random variety of weird items. Interestingly, they have A LOT of spy gear.

9. Oh my God Kim, that's so funny about the SkyMall catalog. I've thought about this answer more than once and laughed. See guys, read those magazines on the plane for inspiration. Tell us what you’ve learning about marketing for your debut book and how that’s influencing your marketing plans now. Is it any different for your YA versus your middle grade series?
In my debut year, I did a lot of self-promotion—blogging, contests, giveaways, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Tumblr, co-marketing groups, interviews, blog series, bookmarks, bookplates, library visits, signings, live chats. Basically anything I could think of, I tried. But I’ve learned that no one knows what works and what doesn’t, and the only things that can make a huge difference are things out of your control. So from now on I’m going to focus on what I find fun and interesting! I love Twitter, so that’s where I spend most of my time.

10. That's good to know it's okay to focus on what you like. What are you working on now?

After the Sleuth or Dare series, I have a standalone YA coming in January 2013 called The Dead and Buried. I’m very excited about it!

Thanks so much Kim for sharing all your great advice. You can find Kim at her blog, website, facebook, and twitter.

Scholastic, Kim's Publisher, has been incredibly generous here. They've sent me two  ARCs of both PARTNERS IN CRIME books and an ARC of PERCEPTION. So they'll be three winners today. One winner will get the ARC of PERCEPTION and two people will get the first two books in Kim's PARTNERS IN CRIME series.

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 by midnight on May 28th. I’ll announce the winner on May 30th. 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.

Don't forget to enter my two other contests listed at the top of the blog.

Before I wrap this up, I want to shout out about one of our followers, Laura Pauling
In celebration of the official release of A Spy Like Me, Laura Pauling is hosting a three-week blog series: A Spies, Murder and Mystery Marathon. Woot! Woot!

Authors galore, guest posts and book giveaways almost every day!
Gemma Halliday, Cindy M. Hogan, Elizabeth Spann Craig,
Nova Ren Suma, Elisa Ludwig, and Anne R. Allen....Just to name a few!
And here's why she's celebrating!

Stripping your date down to his underwear has never been so dangerous.
After dodging bullets on a first date, Savvy must sneak, deceive and spy to save her family and friends and figure out if Malcolm is one of the bad guys before she completely falls for him.
Head on over to Laura’s blog for the start of the Spies, Murder and Mystery Marathon. You won’t want to miss this sizzling series as we head into summer. Stock up on some great thrilling reads! If you dare…

Congrats Laura! So excited for you! Hope you'll all stop over at Laura's blog and congratulate her and check out her blog series.

Here's what's coming up. Next Monday I'm interviewing Christina, a 6th grader who blogs with Kristi at the awesome THE STORY SIREN and giving away a few newly released YA books. She's so mature you'd think she's in high school so I know you'll enjoy her interview. On Wednesday next week, I'm participating in Misty Provencher's blog tour for her debut book CORNERSTONE and giving away two copies of her books. 

And don't forget our Tuesday Tips and Casey's Agent Spotlights on Thursdays.

Hope to see you on Monday!


Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for this interview. I especially enjoyed reading about the challenges in writing a middle grade mystery -- I'll definitely be looking for these ones!

Matthew MacNish said...

Man. This whole post was a whirlwind of awesome. Congrats to the winners! Laura Pauling is the best, so it's cool to see her everywhere. And I haven't read any of Kim's books, but that MG mystery series looks especially good.

Will Overby said...

That MG series looks awesome! I'm a sucker for any kind of middle grade mystery! (will at willoverby dot com)

Barbara Watson said...

The covers of the MG series are wonderful, full of mystery and intrigue in and of themselves. Thank you for the thoughtful questions and responses, Natalie and Kim.

And I love seeing the love for Laura throughout the blogosphere!

Christina said...

This series looks all kinds of super cute.

GFC: Christina Franke
email: cynicalsapphire at gmail dot com

Donna K. Weaver said...

So many great sounding books. I got my copy of Laura's book yesterday and can't wait to read it.

Creepy Query Girl said...

Great interview! I didn't know Kim did MG too! I can see why it'd be more challenging than YA- so impressed! And yay Laura!

mshatch said...

Perception sounds like a very cool read and congrats to Kim! I don't know if I could make the jump from YA to MG.

Jessie Humphries said...

Holy post. That is some serious business you just took care of! Perception sounds awesome, and the Sleuth or Dare is too cute for words.

Beth said...

Congratulations to the winners! (So lucky.) And I'd love to win one of these books. They sound amazing!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Congratulations to all the lucky winners. Super interview with Kim. Her books sound great.

Heather said...

Wow, so many great things today! Congrats to the winners. And I loved Kim's interview. I didn't know she did both MG and YA! And huge congrats to Laura!

Jessica Salyer said...

Congrats to the winners. Sounds like some great books.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks Kim for sharing about all your new awesome books.

alicia marie said...

thanks for the great interview! this mg looks like a great read. it's definitely something i would've loved when i was younger and i'm sure i'd enjoy it now as well : )

Kristin Lenz said...

I didn't know about Kim's MG series. Sounds like another one my daughter would like - and there's a character named Maya - always fun!

Julie DeGuia said...

Great interview! Loved the questions and answers about series writing.

Vivien said...

I really enjoyed Clarity!! So refreshing. I'm really anticipating her MG series. Sounds like so much fun!


GFC: Vivien
deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Stina said...

Congrats to the winners!

I'm going to have to get those scholastic books for my daughter. They look perfect for her. Thanks for the great interview, ladies!

Jennifer said...

GFC- Jenny
I loved Perception! :)


Tweet: https://twitter.com/#!/fourheadjen/status/200370090942803968

erica and christy said...

Thanks! I'm teaching 5th grade again next year and can't wait to check out this series! And now and hopping over to Laura's. Thanks for filling me in on that too! Christy

TL Conway said...

Congrats, Laura, on the success of your book!

The Sleuth or Dare books look wonderful. I love the idea of using Sky Mall for inspiration!

Kristin Rae said...

Great interview. I always love hearing more from authors! I loved Clarity, and can't wait to get my hands on Perception!


Mary Preston said...

So much happening & it's all good.


Linda A. said...

Kim, you're on a roll. Natalie, you post some outstanding interviews. I'm definitely going to read some of the mystery titles posted here. Thanks for keeping us aware of great books and their authors.

Carmen said...

I've had Kim on my TBR list for a such a long time! I would love to win any of her books!
Thanks for doing another great interview, Natalie.

Cerickson at integra dot net

Carol Riggs said...

Great covers, and these books look great! I love psychic stories especially. :D I will definitely add PERCEPTION to my to-read list. Thanks for the interview!

Jennifer R said...

The Partners in Crime series sounds great! There don't seem to be enough new mysteries for middle graders, this should help fill the bill!

Natasha said...

Thanks for the awesome giveaway!! These books sound really good!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

Congrats to all the winners!

Holy cow she wrote a lot of books in a short period of time!

Jill the OWL said...

OMGosh I didn't realize it was her that wrote these. I've seen them and thought they looked awesome, but didn't put the author together in my mind.

I'd so love these :)

Reading Mind / The Loyal Book said...

Lovely interview! It's good when an author writes both YA and MG. I love to see the difference in narration and style!

T. P. Jagger said...

Looking forward to checking out the "Sleuth or Dare" series--sounds like one my 10-year-old daughter will really enjoy!

Veronika said...

I loved the interview big time! Thank you for taking time and making it! The book also looks great. I haven't read it yet, so it would be great to win it :)
GFC name: Veronika
also an email subscriber

verusbognar (at) gmail (dot) com

Iva said...

Thank you for both the interview and the giveaway! <3
GFC follower: Ivya
Shared this article on FB: https://www.facebook.com/ivyacz/posts/151982834934012


Ali B said...

I'm always up for a good MG read. A mystery, even better. Great books. I'll add them to my queue.