Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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Today I’m excited to interview Laurisa White Reyes about her debut novel THE ROCK OF IVANORE that was released on  May 15, 2012. Laurisa is one of the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday bloggers too. I love fantasies and one of the things I loved about Laurisa’s book was watching Marcus journey on his quest with his companions and his discovery of his own magic.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

The annual Great Quest is about to be announced in Quendel, a task that will determine the future of Marcus and the other boys from the village who are coming of age. The wizard Zyll commands them to find the Rock of Ivanore, but he doesn't tell them what the Rock is exactly or where it can be found. Marcus must reach deep within himself to develop new powers of magic and find the strength to survive the wild lands and fierce enemies he encounters as he searches for the illusive Rock. If he succeeds, he will live a life of honor; if he fails, he will live a life of menial labor in shame. With more twists and turns than a labyrinth, and a story in which nothing is as it seems, this tale of deception and discovery keeps readers in suspense until the end.

Middle readers will find that The Rock of Ivanore fits nicely among the traditional fantasies they so enjoy. They will also appreciate its fresh and inventive take on the genre.

Hi Laurisa. Thanks so much for joining us.

  1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you became a writer.
 I think I was born a writer. I wrote my first poem when I was five and have been writing ever since. After college, I worked for various magazines and newspapers, but my dream was always to write novels. So six years ago I switched to fiction and I love it.

  1. I wish I had been born one. World building is so important in your book, especially since Marcus and his companions go on a quest. World building is not only the setting but also the magic. I loved your use of the key and Xerxes, the walking staff. Can you share some of how you developed your world and its magic? Where did you get the idea for the key and Xerxes?
 I’ve always loved reading fantasy. The Hobbit, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, Harry Potter, Eragon… all some of my favorites. And I’ve read them to my children, particularly at bedtime. One night several years ago, my son Marc asked me to make up a story instead of reading one. So I did. That story grew over time and eventually became The Rock of Ivanore.

How did I think of the key… Like so many kids his age, Marcus lacks confidence in his abilities. The potential is there, but he needs that little something extra to help him along. I chose a key because in my house I have a bookcase that contains some of my favorite books. It has an old fashioned lock with Victorian style brass key. I borrowed that key for the book because I thought it was cool.

Xerxes…many people say he’s their favorite character. He is snarky and a little arrogant. Originally he was nothing more than a walking stick, but as the story progressed, he developed into a very important character. I’m not sure how that happened. It just did.

  1. I love reading fantasies and the sames ones as you. That is so awesome how you came up for the idea for the key and I agree that Xerxes is such a cool character. One of the things I loved about Marcus was that he was not that proficient at magic at the beginning of the story. Tell us about his character development and how his magical growth plays into that.
 One of the reasons I waited so long to write fiction is that I was convinced I couldn’t do it. I was fine writing magazine articles, but to tackle a 300+ page story seemed impossible. But when I actually dove into it, I found that it came quite naturally to me. I think Marcus always has the ability to do magic, but his confidence is shaky.  I think my readers can relate to that. We all have something we’d like to do better at, but sometimes we need someone else to believe in us before we can believe in ourselves. Master Enchanter Zyll is that someone for Marcus.

  1. I think adults, including me, can relate to that too. I loved the plot twists that I didn’t see coming all the way to the end of the story. Did you know your entire story when you started or did it come to you as you went? Do you have any tips on weaving in plot twists that still leave the reader guessing?
 Yes, actually, I had the entire story worked out before I ever wrote down a single word. Some of the details came out as I wrote, but I knew how I wanted it to end and how I would get there. You should have seen the sticky notes all over my walls! While I was writing the first draft, I happened to be reading Dan Brown’s books The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons (not kids books, of course). He is the master of suspense and plot twists. I tried to mimic his cliff hanger chapter endings in my own book, but scaled down for a younger readership. My goal was to keep the suspense going until the very last page. I hope it worked.

  1. Your book is written in third person and not always from Marcus’ POV. I love writing in third person limited POV. Most people who switch POV use first person, at least for some of characters. What made you decide to stay with third person? Do you have any advice on multiple POV’s in third person?
 I’ve read several YA books in first person switching POVs between two characters where each chapter begins with that character’s name. That never worked for me. I felt that a reader shouldn’t need to be told whose POV they’re in, but that it should be obvious by the story itself. Also, I was told once that switching POVs in a children’s books is a no-no, that it’s too confusing for kids. But at the time I thought, if Dan Brown can do it, why can’t I? I believe today’s young readers are quite capable of keeping track of multiple POVs and I set out to prove that.

  1. That's great how much you learned about technique from reading his book. Tell us about your road to publication.
 It was a long one. I wrote a YA manuscript before The Rock of Ivanore, but after countless rejections, I junked it. It really was awful. When I started submitting Ivanore, I decided that if I got 50 rejections, then I’d know I wasn’t cut out for this after all. Over the course of two years I got about 45 rejections. I was pretty discouraged. But I didn’t give up. Finally I got an email from Tanglewood Press asking if the book was still available. That was three years ago. So, from the time I started writing it to the day it hit the shelves was six years.

  1. So glad they e-mailed you. It reminds me of Jay Asher's story that if 13 REASONS WHY didn't get published, he was going to quit writing. I’ve read interviews with you where you’ve said that it’s different marketing a middle grade book than a YA book, especially on the Internet. I’ve heard this before and many of us see this, which is one reason we try to promote middle grade authors through the Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays. Share what you mean by this and what you’ve done to try to overcome some of the challenges in marketing a middle grade book.
 When I first set out to promote The Rock of Ivanore, I approached it the only way I knew how – through book bloggers. But I quickly learned that while there are hundreds of YA (young adult) book blogs out there, there are only about 125 blogs that review middle grade books, and even fewer who bother with high fantasy. The reason for this seems to be that teens are online all the time. YA authors can market directly to their audience. Younger readers do not have the same access to blogs, facebook, twitter, etc. that teens do. The only way middle grade authors can directly reach their audience is by visiting schools. When it comes to social media, we are actually marketing to parents, teachers and librarians rather than the kids themselves.

As an author, I found it very difficult to track down those few blogs who were open to reviewing my book. The few blog directories out there always combine middle grade blogs and YA blogs on the same lists, so I had to slog through hundreds of YA blogs to find a few dozen MG blogs. It was very time consuming and frustrating. I couldn’t believe that every MG author had to go through the same tedious process that I did. So I created a new directory called Middle Grade Mania listing only blogs that review or post about middle grade fiction. This resource is available for authors, educators, librarians and anyone who is interested in middle grade fiction. Here’s the link: http://middlegrademania.blogspot.com

  1. That's such an awesome resource you created. And I love high fantasy but know what you mean about some blogs, agents and publishers not being interested in it. You’ve written a great post on turning failures into success. Can you tell us about this and how it’s worked in your own writing career?
In my school visits, I encourage kids to discover what it is they want to accomplish, whether it is an immediate goal, such as passing their next math test, or a long term goal like writing a book or playing for the NBA. I talk about several famous people known for their successes and how it took a lot of failures to get to where they are today. The key is that they never gave up. I tell kids to “Find Your Magic.” That’s what Marcus has to do in my book, and that’s what we all have to do to succeed in life.

  1. That is such great advice and I love the magic connection. What are you working on now?
I just finished the sequel called The Last Enchanter. I also completed the first book in a parallel series about Jayson and Ivanore called The Crystal Keeper. In addition, I have a YA paranormal/suspense book called Contact that has caught the attention of my publisher. I’m hoping for good things for all of them.

Can't wait to read the next book in your series. You can find Laurisa at her blog and website

Laurisa generously provided an ARC of THE ROCK OF IVANORE 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 July 27th. I’ll announce the winner on July 20th. 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.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by ShannonWhitney Messenger to spotlight middle grade authors. Check out the other Middle Grade group:

Brennan and Meyrick Murphy
Andrea Mack
Laurisa Reyes
Kim Aippersbach
Akossiwa Ketoglo
Julie from That's Swell
Jemi Fraser

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday this week Casey has a guest post scheduled with Shannon Wiersbitzky on staying focused and she's giving away THE SUMMER OF HAMMERS AND ANGELS.

The following Monday I'm interviewing Lenny Lee for my ASK THE EXPERT series and sharing and giving away UNRAVELING and THE SELECTION. Remember I need your help next week. Lenny is an amazing kid and I'd love for him to have a good turnout for his interview. And I need a lot of comments to show Harper Teen so I can get more hot ARCs to share with you.

Then Wednesday that week I'm interviewing Leigh Bardugo and giving away a copy of her fantasy SHADOW AND BONE. I've heard such amazing things about her book. I've been saving it to read this week and I can't wait for her interview. 

And don't forget Tuesday Tips and Casey's Thursday Agent Spotlights.

See you next Monday!


Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for the great interview - lots to think about here!

Anonymous said...

Excellent interview! I love really well-done high fantasy for younger readers, but you're right - it is hard to find, and not many people seem to want it anymore. Which is a shame, because the common themes in high fantasy are the themes that MG readers need the most!

Kristin Lenz said...

Congrats Laurisa! The Rock of Ivanore sounds like a book my daughter would eat right up. I don't think I've discovered your blog yet - will check it out now!

Barbara Watson said...

I'm looking forward to reading your book, Laurisa, and would love a chance at an your ARC. Great interview too.

Thank you for the insight into MG publishing--both your journey and the marketing aspect. And THANK YOU for creating Middle Grade Mania! What an awesome resource.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Great interview and insights.


The Busy Author said...

This looks like something my DD (8) would love, also my niece (12). What a great evocative cover too!

Rachna Chhabria said...

This book looks like something I would just love to read. Middle grade Fiction is what I write and I look for new books that hit the shelves.
Congrats Laurisa and good luck :)

Leslie S. Rose said...

I've read The Rock of Ivanore and LOVED it. I can't wait for the new school year to start so I can put it in the hands of my students. It will lure those reluctant middle grade boys to dive into a book.

cleemckenzie said...

Sounds great. Laurisa certainly chose some wonderful books to inspire her, so I'm sure this one of hers will be a fantastic read for those middle graders.

Liesel K. Hill said...

Great interview! I love the insights on world building! :D

Beth said...

This books sounds wonderful! I love all the books that influenced her. Aren't school visits the best?

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Congrats, Laurisa, and best of luck with the book. I'd love to win a copy! I've read all those same books you listed as your biggest influences. And I think it's wonderful that Rock of Ivanore started out as a bedtime story you told your own son.

Very thorough interview, as always, Natalie! I love that you're interviewing one of our own -- A Marvelous Middle Grade blogger and a writer! How cool.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh. Loved this interview you two.Thanks! I am looking forward to reading this one...alot. Great resource that you've created for us Laurissa!! Thanks for that.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Congratulations on your book, Laurissa! It looks lovely.

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

We already follow you and I just asked Lupe to grab Larissa/s Middle Grade mania button for Pen and Ink. This is Susan and I can't figure out how to do it. I definitely want to read the Rock of Ivanore. Sounds like it ought to be on my Magic List

Rosi said...

There's a lot of buzz about this book. I'd love to read it. Nice interview, too. Thanks.

Mart Ramirez said...

What an excellent interview! I love how you inspire the kids to find their magic. And how perfect it ties into your book. Congrats on your release! And thank you so much for sharing that MG review link.

Once again another fabulous interview!

Natasha said...

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

Books4Learning said...

Excellent interview. I enjoyed learning about her writing/publishing journey. Thanks for the middle grade fiction blog list too. Looks like a great resource.

Carmen said...

If I don't win it here, I put it on the list to pick up. :)
I love MG fantasy.
cerickson at integra dot net

Stina said...

Great interview, Natalie and Laurisa. The MG fiction blog list is a great idea.

Mary Preston said...

A fabulous post thank you. I would love to read "The Rock of Ivanore" thank you.


Laurisa White Reyes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurisa White Reyes said...

Hope you enjoy the blog (A Thousand Wrongs), and I've started a new blog dedicated to my book series: http://www.celestinechronicles.com I'd love to know what people think, even though it is still in the beginning stages.

Laurisa White Reyes said...

The cover art is by veteran cover artist Tristan Elwell. You might recognize his work on such books as Crispin and the Cross of Lead by Avi & Boy At War by Harry Mazer.

Laurisa White Reyes said...

Hi Leslie! If you'd like to visit your class sometime, just say the word. :)

Laurisa White Reyes said...

Wow, Natalie, you have so many very nice readers. Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog, and thank you for all the nice comments. They've really made my day.

Sherrie Petersen said...

Congrats, Laurisa!! Your story is inspiring and I'm so excited for you that Ivanore is out there for the world to read :)

Laurisa White Reyes said...

I am hoping Middle Grade Mania will become a viable resource for everyone. If you have any suggestions, please send them my way. :)

Laurisa White Reyes said...

Sorry it took me so long to respond. :) But anyone who would like the button can go right to the blog and copy the html code right below the button on the right hand side. You can paste it into your blog via the gadgets. If you need some assistance, feel free to email me at laurisawhitereyes at yahoo dot com

Laurisa White Reyes said...

Hi Sherrie!

Rachel said...

Congrats! I am so looking forward to reading The Rock of Ivanore! Thanks for the chance to win :)
Rachel R (malibu311 at gmail dot com)

collkosinski said...

Great interview. Sounds like a fun read!

Unknown said...

Nice interview. Sounds like a good book. Would love a chance to win.
bookaholicholly @ gmail . com

Also, shared this on FB @ https://www.facebook.com/KinomiyaMichiru/posts/208987675894709

marc zucker said...

thanks for the interview!

Unknown said...

I would love to win a copy of the Rock of Ivanore. It sounds like a great book. And your success is very inspriring, especially your perseverance. When I heard you were being published, I was very excited.
Thank you also, for setting up the Middle Grade Mania blog and speaking so freely about the issue around Middle Grade publications.