CURRENT GIVEAWAY CONTESTS
Here are my current Giveaway Contests
THE PRINCESS AND THE PAGE through April 22nd
Natalie Lakosil Query Critique and THE STAR THIEF through April 22nd
Happy Easter Giveaway Hop through April 30th
Tracy Marchini Query Critique through April 29th
THE WINGSNATCHERS through May 4th
Lauren Spieller Query Critique through May 13th
Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Query Critique Giveaways
Loren Oberweger on 5/10/2017
Alyssa Jennette on 5/24/2017
Bibi Lewis on 6/12/2017
Kelly Van Sant on 6/21/2017
SARA LARSON INTERVIEW AND DEFY GIVEAWAY
I want to go over a few changes here before I get to my fantastic interview. First, like many of you, I’ll be cutting back my blogging. With all the changes in my job situation and being swim mom for the girls highs school team this summer and fall, I need to keep the blog more manageable so I can also have some time to write. I’ll be blogging most Mondays and no more than two Wednesdays a month. I’ll also be doing my monthly book giveaway blog hops that are my most popular posts. Once summer comes, I’ll probably be announcing more cutting back of my schedule as I start the busy swim mom duties.
Second, I’m changing my giveaways for my international followers. With losing my job, I have to cut my blog costs which have been over $400 a year (please don’t tell my husband!). I can’t justify paying $17 to ship a book internationally anymore since it’s the same cost as buying the book at The Book Depository. I've actually just bought the book for the winner on occasion. So for my non book giveaway blog hops, I’ll be mostly offering print books for US/Canada and e-books or $5 Amazon gift cards to international winners. I’ll also be offering the e-book or $5 Amazon gift card for books I spotlight that I don’t have physical ARCs of. I hope you understand.
Finally, I have a few winners to announce:
The winner of SOUL CUTTER is SHAH WHARTON!
The winner of MY SORT OF FAIRY TALE ENDING 3 book giveaway is DANIELLE H!
And the winner of the Midwinter’s Eve Giveaway Hop is ANASTASIA FALL who picked ALL OUR YESTERDAYS
Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can have your books sent to you. Please e-mail me by the end of Wednesday or I’ll have to pick another winner.
Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Sara Larson here to share about her YA fantasy, DEFY, that releases tomorrow. I’ve been dying to read this book since I saw Sara’s book deal in PW Children’s Bookshelf. It was totally worth the wait. I always love books about strong girls who find a way to defeat society’s role for them. Alexa is a fantastic character who avoids a horrible fate of being imprisoned in a terrible brothel/breeding house by pretending to be a boy and becoming a member of the Prince’s guard. One of the things I loved about this story was that from the beginning, significant events that impact on Alexa’s life are always happening. It was a real I-can’t-put-it down page turner.
Here’s a description from Goodreads:
Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.
The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?
Hi Sara. Happy Release Day! I’m so excited to share in your debut.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
I’m a Utah girl, born and raised. I have three beautiful, crazy children (two boys and a girl) and an amazing husband who has been my biggest supporter every step of the way. I love summer and everything that goes with it (swimming, boating, BBQs), but I also love curling up with a good book, hot chocolate and a fire in the winter. I've been writing for as long as I can remember. I have notebooks from 2nd and 3rd grade that are full of my books that I wrote way back then. Reading and writing has been an integral part of who I am for as long as I can remember, so I can't pinpoint any one moment that led me to want to write. I’ve always dreamt of being an author, so getting published has literally been a dream come true!
2. I swear there must be something in the Utah water. Because I know a ton of writers who live there. I’m always intrigued by how authors come up with the ideas for their stories. What was the inspiration for your story?
DEFY came from a very difficult period in my life, when I lost someone I loved. I was so upset by his death that I couldn’t write anything, but a friend of mine told me to stop trying to write a book and just write what I was feeling. So that’s exactly what I did. When I wrote that first scene I didn’t really have a plan for it to go anywhere, but the characters wouldn't leave me alone so I set out to discover who they were and how they ended up where they were. When I finally figured out that one of them was keeping a major secret from me, the plot suddenly clicked into place and the rest of the book flew out of me. (I finished writing it 2 weeks after I figured out that one, integral secret.) Even though it came from a place of grief, the story really took on its own life. It became a story of survival and moving forward, a story of what true courage and strength is, and a story about love and hope (even in the most desperate of situations) and risking everything for the chance of a better future.
3. Sorry for where the inspiration came from, but awesome how the story clicked when you discovered the major secret. Your plotting is fantastic in DEFY and you propel the story forward with all these events that majorly impact on Alexa. Share your plotting process and any tips you have for the rest of us.
Thank you, I’m so glad you thought so! I do try to surprise my readers, because I love a book that can
As for my own plotting tips, I’d say one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that if I’m feeling bored with what I’m writing, chances are my reader will, too. Whenever I start to drag or feel my excitement level start to sink, I take it as a signal that I need to amp things up again. I try to figure out how I can increase the tension and propel my plot forward. Basically, I start a fight, or throw a big twist at my characters, or have someone kiss someone. Picking one (or more) of those three, or something similar, usually does the trick. Just kidding, but you get the idea. Keep it interesting, and keep it moving forward.
4. That’s great advice. Maybe I should use your suggestions as the start of a list for when I get stuck. I loved Alexa and how she not only was a member of the Prince’s guard but was the best swordsman. And she has a vulnerable side that really comes out as she deals with some terrible tragedies, which I won’t say what they are to not spoil for anyone. Did you have any challenges in creating her as a character and how did you overcome them?
Alexa is a very complicated, and therefore fascinating, character to write. She is so tough and obviously skilled with a sword. But deep down, as you pointed out, she has this vulnerable side that she’s had to bury to survive. The more tragedies that strike and twists that happen in her life, the more she has to deal with that vulnerability becoming exposed. She has to learn what it means to truly be courageous—even in the face of fear, vulnerability, and loss.
Alexa came to me very strongly developed, and I had to make sure that as I wrote the story, I was being true to her character. How would she react to this or this? What would she really be thinking here? Although she’s had to pretend to be a boy, and she’s incredibly skilled and can take care of herself, she is still a teenage girl and she isn’t blind or without feelings. That’s part of what makes her so complex—reconciling her toughness with her vulnerable, feminine side (that she’s had to bury, but that starts to resurface for different reasons). I really enjoyed taking her on this journey of self-discovery and growth through DEFY.
5. I really liked seeing those two parts of her. Was your world building based on a real jungle setting or your imagination or both?
It came from my imagination, but I’m sure that was heavily influenced by my life-long fascination with jungles. I had the opportunity to go on a trip to Cancun, Mexico with my husband last spring and we did a couple of excursions that took us into landscapes that were very reminiscent of Antion (the jungle kingdom in DEFY). It was very surreal and SO amazing to be there. I’d tell my husband, “This could totally be from this scene in DEFY!” I’d love to go to the Amazon or Congo sometime, too, to visit a true rainforest.
Just recently, I did make a pinterest board with pictures that remind me of the world of DEFY, if you’re interested: http://www.pinterest.com/sarablarson/the-world-of-defy/
6. Your agent is Josh Adams. He’s at the top of my list of dream agents. How did he become your agent and what advice do you have for the rest of us who are starting to query?
I’ve been in the query trenches twice now, and both times it was AWFUL. I mean, let’s just be honest here. It’s so hard to get rejection after rejection. Between both times, I’m sure I’m well over 200 rejections. (I stopped counting after fifty or sixty the first time.) But my advice would be to never give up and to never stop writing. I learned the hard way that the once you have one book out, you need to start writing a NEW (aka different) book, just in case. I queried my first book for over two years, and wrote the sequel and part of the third book in the meantime. Yikes, right? I finally moved on to a new book and that’s when I got my first agent. After we parted ways, I queried THREE books before I signed with Josh. With DEFY, things went differently than they ever had before. I started querying on Monday, about fifteen queries. (All cold queries, by the way.) Then on Tuesday night, I saw that an agent I liked had just re-opened to queries. I sent one off, and was shocked to get a full request ten minutes later. And even more shocked to get an email the next day before lunch, asking to talk to me about the book! I ended up receiving more than one offer. It was the situation we all dream about, right? But it ended up being harder to choose than I thought it would be. However, when I talked to Josh on the phone he blew me away with his business savvy, experience, and enthusiasm. I had notes front and back on my paper, and sidewise up the side. I knew that he was the right agent for me. And he’s become a good friend, too, so I feel very lucky and blessed. It was just a huge testament to me that if you don’t give up, eventually you will write the right book at the right time.
7. Wow! If anyone loses faith, they should just read your answer and persevere. What was something that surprised you about working with your publisher at Scholastic?
How amazing it would be to work with my editor! I was always a little bit nervous about what it would be like to have an editor tell me what I needed to do with my book. But Lisa Sandell has been absolutely wonderful to work with. And beyond the actual work of editing and revising my book(s), I’ve gained such a great friend in her. It’s been such a long road to get to this point, with so much heartbreak along the way, but I’d do it all again to be able to work with both Josh and Lisa, and the rest of the incredible team at Scholastic. I regularly pinch myself to make sure it’s all real!
8. I read that your book was selected for the Winter 2013-2014 Kids’ Indie Next List. Congrats! Tell us about this and how you think it will help publicize your book.
I was so happily surprised to get this news from my editor! It’s actually really funny how I found out. My husband was out of town, and I was trying to get my kids in bed. My boys were in their room, being boys (aka loud and rambunctious), and I was sitting in the bathroom bathing my daughter when my phone beeped that I had an email. When I saw the subject (Kids Indie Next List), my heart leapt into my throat and I hurried to open and read the great news! I jumped up and screamed I was so excited, and scared my daughter to death so she proceeded to splash me and my phone. I tried calling my husband to tell him, but he didn’t answer (he was in a meeting I guess). So I continued jumping around the bathroom, soaked and hollering in happiness for just my kids to hear…since they were the only ones home to celebrate with. Ah, the glamorous life, right?
I am just so thrilled that they chose DEFY for the honor of making this list, and I’m very excited for the exposure it will give my book, especially in Indie bookstores, which I am a huge proponent of supporting.
9. Funny how those big moments happen in the middle of the mundane. Share some of what you’re doing to promote your book and what you’ve learned from this process that would be helpful to the rest of us.
I think everyone has to do what feels right to them. Some authors do a ton, and some barely do anything, and there isn’t any right or wrong way to do it from what I’m learning. My reach can only get so far, no matter how hard I try, so I decided early on that I didn’t want to suck myself dry putting all my energy into promoting my book. I think I fall somewhere in the middle of the crowd. I’ve done some giveaways, I’ve tried to be accessible to bloggers (such as yourself!) who are interested in interviewing me or reviewing DEFY. I’m also offering some fun THANK YOU packages to anyone who pre-orders DEFY. http://sarablarson.blogspot.com/2013/11/pre-order-madness-aka-my-way-of-saying.html But ultimately, I know I can’t really control how well DEFY does, no matter what I do to promote it. I did what I could do, and that was write the best book I knew how. I hope readers will love it and spread the word, and that would be the best promotion of all. In the end, the best thing anyone can do, in my opinion, is to focus on the one thing they can control, and that is writing the best book you know how and let the chips fall where they may.
10. That’s great advice to do what you can and don’t worry about what you can’t control. What are you working on now?
I’m working on revisions for DEFY #2 with my editor, I’m drafting another book, and polishing two others, and I just got this new amazing idea that I’m also trying to squeeze time in for somewhere along the way. So hopefully there will be many more books to look forward to from me in the future!
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Sara.
Thank you for having me! I’m so glad you enjoyed DEFY! I’ve used your blog MANY times before to research agents, and to read interviews, and it’s been an honor to be asked to take part in it!
You can find Sara at:
Order a signed/personalized copy of DEFY through The King’s English by calling 801-484-9100 or ordering online at www.kingsenglish.com
Sara’s publisher Scholastic generously offered an ARC 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 January 18th. I’ll announce the winner on January 20th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. This is a print book giveaway for US/Canada. International entries are welcome but the winner would get an e-book or $5.00 Amazon gift card.
Here’s what’s coming up:
Next Monday I’ll have another ASK THE EXPERT interview with a 9th grader and a giveaway of THE ENCHANTER HEIR, a fantastic urban fantasy by Cinda Williams Chima, one of my favorite authors and INTO THE STILL BLUE, the fantastic conclusion to Veronica Rossi’s dystopian trilogy.
Next Wednesday I’m participating in debut author Stina Lindenblatt’s blog hop to raise awareness about stalking in celebration of the release of her NA contemporary story, TELL ME WHEN. I'm so excited to help Stina celebrate her debut because she's a fantastic follower and friend.
The following Monday, I’m interviewing Rosamund Hodge and giving away an ARC of CRUEL BEAUTY, her fantastic fairy tale retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
And Wednesday that week I’m interviewing Stina Lindenblatt and giving away a copy of TELL ME WHEN, her contemporary NA story. Her characters are rich, complex people that I grew to love and even though I don’t read much contemporary stories, I read her book in two days.
And don’t forget Casey’s Tip Tuesdays and Agent Spotlights.
Hope to see you next Monday!
Posted by Natalie Aguirre on Monday, January 06, 2014