Tag Archives: books

For the Love of Friends: Author Interview with Memoirist Julie Klam

Posted by February 6th, 2014

Julie Klam author photoAuthor Julie Klam is well-known for writing about her love of dogs: not one but two of her books chronicle her experiences rescuing Boston terriers in New York City. However, Julie’s newest book, FRIENDKEEPING, explores her relationships with her friends, many of whom who are also writers. I went to her to find out more about how to support friends who write, and how to write memoir about those you love most.

LS: So, do you consider yourself a memoir writer? How is the memoir genre changing?

JK: I definitely consider myself a memoirist. Even when I’m not telling about an event in my life, I still manage to insert my big butt into whatever I’m writing. I think the genre has exploded in the past several years. People realize it’s a way to tell a personal story, but it doesn’t have to be a whole life. When I wrote my first memoir (PLEASE EXCUSE MY DAUGHTER) in 2008, a lot of people said, “Aren’t you a little young to write a memoir?” Now people seem to get it more. It’s not an autobiography, it’s a certain aspect of a life and can take place over one year or 30 years. Of course, no one thinks I’m too young to do anything anymore, because, you know, I’m old.

LS: You write about your loved ones with affectionate candor. How do they react? Continue reading

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Q&A with GOLDEN BOY Author Tara Sullivan: “Books with heavy moral overtones are unpleasant for all ages”

Posted by December 19th, 2013

GOLDEN BOY coverTara Sullivan took time for a chat with us about her debut Middle Grade novel GOLDEN BOY. GOLDEN BOY is a harrowing story of 13-year-old Tanzanian albino named Habo, whose family is forced from their small village due to prejudice and misunderstanding. This book stood out to me as a serious and fascinating example of the powerful work that Middle Grade authors are writing. Read on to find out more about how GOLDEN BOY fits into the Middle Grade genre, but also strongly resonates with older teens and adults.

 

LS: You are a high school Spanish teacher, as well as an author. Tell me about how your experience in the classroom affected your writing.

TS: I have to say, I don’t know that there was much interaction between the two worlds—I write for middle grade readers and I teach high schoolers. The kids are always excited to hear book updates, though, and that’s fun.

LS: GOLDEN BOY has been embraced by the Junior Library Guild and School Library Journal. How do librarians play such a big role in the success of books for younger readers? What about teachers and librarians in the schools? Continue reading

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Member Spotlight: Meet NaNoWriMo Writer Caitlin Garzi

Posted by December 9th, 2013

Caitlin GarziPlease welcome writer Caitlin Garzi to the Member Spotlight this morning! Caitlin is a new member to the site, and found out about our Book Country community via her involvement in NaNoWriMo. Her NaNoWriMo project-a WIP called CORIANNE CASTLE–is available to read and review on Book Country.

LS: You participated in NaNoWriMo this year. Tell us everything about your experience–your project, how it felt to “do the Nano,” and what you learned about yourself as a writer.

CG: Last year, one of my fellow Kansas State English graduates participated in NaNoWriMo and I had the opportunity to read the novel that resulted from her effort. She was so excited every day about writing and managed to complete a herculean 50,000 words in November. She inspired me to try out Nano and see what I could do.

I had a whole list of potential YA novel ideas and so I selected my favorite, a novel about Corianne Castle, a 16 year old worker at Waverly Theme Park in the dilapidated town of South Keyes, Florida. Cori was abandoned by her father and is being raised by a mother who suffers from a slight shopping problem– she’s purchased practically every Mary Sue collectable item, from the Mary Sue Limited Edition New Year’s Baby right down to the Mary Sue official Movie Popcorn maker. When Corianne gets sucked into the universe of the occult, she sets off on a mission to rescue her mother’s sanity and end non-magical human torture, even if it means tearing down the thin barrier that separates wizards from the rest of the world.

I was excited about this idea because it allowed me to explore the social implications of many of the “wizard” books out there– from the real life “authentic collector” items that have proliferated to the hypothetical treatment of non-magical peoples of magical worlds. I knew anything I wrote would be “issue driven” young adult, and this idea fit the bill.

The first twenty pages were so easy to write! I breezed through the theme park descriptions, altercations Cori has with customers, and issues she has serving food to her snobby and unlikable classmates. I never knew I could write so much so quickly! Once Cori was ready to enter the world of magic, though, I hit some snags and needed to do some brainstorming. I’m sad to say I only made it 30,000 words into the Nano challenge, but it was still so rewarding and exciting!

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Behind the Scenes of a Literary Dystopia with Chang-rae Lee, Author of ON SUCH A FULL SEA

Posted by November 21st, 2013

 Chang-rae Lee (c) Annika LeeAward-winning Riverhead Books author Chang-rae Lee took the time to answer a few behind-the-scenes question for us about his new literary dystopia, ON SUCH A FULL SEA, which comes out in January 2014.

Lucy: The titles of your books (NATIVE SPEAKER, THE SURRENDERED, ALOFT) are easy to remember, but also poetic, evocative. Tell us how you choose titles in general, and how this title was chosen.

Chang-rae Lee: Choosing a title is rarely easy. I start thinking about possible titles early on in the writing, testing out candidates as I go along, for meaning and a certain ‘music’ – both have to feel right. ON SUCH A FULL SEA was especially difficult, and came quite late in the process. I happened to be reading JULIUS CAESAR by Shakespeare and came across the phrase in a famous quote by Brutus, in which he advocates via metaphor the seizing of an opportunity. I simply liked the ring of it, too, immediately picturing my heroine on the ‘tide’ of her adventure, and so leaped on it. Continue reading

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Re-imagining the World of Elizabeth Bennet: Jo Baker’s Historical Novel LONGBOURN

Posted by October 3rd, 2013

One of the books I’ve been most looking forward to reading this fall is Jo Baker’s LONGBOURN, coming out on October 8th from Alfred A. Knopf. LONGBOURN is a historical re-imagining of Elizabeth Bennet’s family (from Jane Austen’s revered novel PRIDE AND PREJUDICE), as seen from the point of view of the Bennets’ servants. I rabidly consume any and all Austen adaptations, and if I am a sucker for any trend in pop culture, it is the whole “upstairs-downstairs” dynamic of BBC/PBS shows like Downtown Abbey and (you guessed it!) Upstairs Downstairs. (Recent fiction has capitalized gorgeously on these themes, with excellent novels like MAISIE DOBBS, FEVER, and THE HELP.) Longbourn cover

I wrote to the Knopf publicity department to find out more about this book and Jo Baker’s inspiration behind it. Here’s an excerpt from the Q&A the Knopf team prepared for their media outreach for LONGBOURN. I wanted to highlight this book and author for Book Country members eager to delve into the past as inspiration for their fiction–Baker’s willingness to engage with PRIDE AND PREJUDICE’s implicit class divide was, to me, quite courageous and refreshing. Read on to see how these themes informed her work.

Knopf Publicity: Was there a specific incident that inspired you to write this book?

JB: As a child, reading Jane Austen, I became aware that if I’d been living at the time, I wouldn’t have got to go to the ball. I would’ve been stuck at home, with the housework. We’ve got some battered old silver cutlery at home, which we inherited from my great aunt. She and her sisters had been in service, and she always said the silverware was a gift from her employer when she left—my grandmother maintained, however, that she’d nicked it. Just a couple of generations back, my family were servants. And so once I was aware of that – of that English class thing – PRIDE AND PREJUDICE began to read a little differently. I noticed other presences. A footman enters, a housemaid is told to run along and do something. I also began to realize that some things that seemed to just “happen”– notes arriving, carriages being brought round, meals being served – would of course require human agency to make them occur. I became fascinated by these little flickers of activity: I started to see a whole other life going on below the surface of the book.

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Interview with Nora Price, author of ZOE LETTING GO

Posted by August 22nd, 2013

On a recent Friday afternoon, I came across a paperback copy of a Young Adult Contemporary novel by Nora Price called ZOE LETTING GO. Zoe, the main character, has been taken by her mother to a mysterious hospital called Twin Birch, where the only other patients are girls who are frighteningly thin. Zoe isn’t like them, so why did her mother bring her there? Terrified and confused, Zoe writes letter after letter to her best friend from home, Elise. But Elise won’t write back.

Within just a few pages of ZOE LETTING GO, I was absolutely hooked. I spent that entire Friday night on my couch, reading until I got to the end of Zoe and Elise’s story. Price really goes deep into their friendship, revealing bone-chilling insights about these characters and their world.

As writers, there’s a lot we can learn from the way ZOE LETTING GO engages with sensitive issues like eating disorders and self harm. I reached out to ZOE’s author, Nora Price, to find out more about how she avoided cliches in her work, as well as how she handled the intense struggles affecting her characters. Here’s what she had to say:

LS: In the back of my copy of ZOE LETTING GO, it says that “Nora Price is a pseudonym for a New York-based writer and journalist in her late twenties.” Can you share with us why you chose to write this book anonymously?

NP: Yes, absolutely. The answer is that I’m very shy! I get tremendously anxious speaking in public or having my picture taken, which are both things that many authors do (and do well!). When making the decision, I did spend a lot of time hemming and hawing; worrying that to publish under a pen name was irredeemably cowardly. I still think it is a little bit cowardly but I’m not sure I would have published the book otherwise, to be completely honest.

ZOE LETTING GO cover

The paperback for Nora Price’s ZOE LETTING GO came out this month from Razorbill/Penguin Young Readers Group.

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Guideposts for Writing Young Adult Contemporary Fiction

Posted by August 21st, 2013

One of the biggest additions to the Book Country Genre Map is Young Adult Fiction, on the east side of the map. If writing Young Adult Fiction interests you, by all means, explore it!

Young Adult is a genre rich with innovation, and by reading and reflecting on recently published Young Adult titles, we can learn a lot about good writing of any genre.

Over the next two weeks, I’m going to be sharing some approaches to writing Young Adult Fiction, especially Young Adult Contemporary. To go along with the Genre Map metaphor, I’m calling these suggestions “guideposts.” They aren’t rules. Instead, I’m imagining myself coming upon various crossroads in my Young Adult writing, and needing to make choices about the path I want to take through this area of the Genre Map. The guideposts are there to—you guessed it—guide those choices, with the ultimate goal of writing my best Young Adult Contemporary book.

Here’s the first:

How contemporary is contemporary in YA fiction?

Young Adult Contemporary Guidepost #1: How contemporary is contemporary?

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#BCReadalong: Reading THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER Like a Writer

Posted by August 18th, 2013

perks readalong draft 2One of the things we want to try with Book Country 2.0 is having a “readalong” every couple of weeks. What we envision is not just a book club (though I do love a good book club!), but rather reading a specific book as a community, from a writer’s perspective.

So what does it mean to read a book as a writer?

It means that we won’t just discuss what we like or don’t like about the book (though that’s fair game, of course!). We’ll also talk about the book as if the author was a Book Country member posting the manuscript for feedback. We’ll analyze what works and what doesn’t work in terms of structure, prose, dialogue, pacing, voice, and characterization. We can also talk about how this book was published, and what went into making it successful. Writing and publishing issues big and small will be up for debate, and the more people who join in on the conversation, the better!

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Meet Agent Deidre Knight

Posted by April 3rd, 2013

5 Questions with Kerry Schafer’s Agent

deidre_knight_photo_sm4“Out of excitement, writers pull the trigger too soon, and send a work out before it’s as sharp as it possibly can be.”

Deidre Knight is an accomplished literary agent and the founder of The Knight Agency. The agency boasts more than 2,000 titles sold to major and independent publishers, many of which have become bestsellers and received numerous awards. Deidre’s main focus as an agent is on romance and women’s fiction. 

Deidre represents Book Country member Kerry Schafer, whose sequel to BetweenWakeworld, comes out next year on February 14th. Last week, I chatted with Deidre to delve into her publishing expertise and get caught up on the most recent news about Kerry.

Nevena: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us, Deidre. Tell us, why did you become an agent? And how has agenting changed during your tenure?

Deidre: Books were always a huge part of my life growing up, as is typically the case for almost anyone in the publishing and writing professions. I began writing at age ten, when an essay of mine was published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. After studying Art History and English in college, I wound up working in the film and television business, but those crazy hours began to take their toll. So I eventually put my love of both sales/marketing and books to use by opening The Knight Agency.

I often tell people that agents are that quirky blend of both introvert and extrovert.  We have to love digging in to read and edit, but it’s also imperative that we connect with people on many levels—both with editors when selling a project or author, and in that intimate one-on-one client/agent relationship. That’s one reason why sometimes I have a very hard time finding time to actually *read*: I can get caught up in the more extroverted part of my job, like social media, or time on the phone with editors, or working closely with clients.

Needless to say our profession has changed a lot in the past seventeen years. In many ways, it was a more static profession when I first started, with a pretty set “track” to run on as an agent, at least in terms of working to be successful as possible. Now, I think the best agents must be as agile as possible, constantly making adjustments as the industry and the world around us change rapidly. To me, that just makes it a very exciting and dynamic time to do my job.  In the past, if I couldn’t sell a project to a major NYC publisher, or even to a more midsize or niche publisher, that project was something of a heartbreak for me. I’d been the work’s champion, but nobody would experience the magic that I had on the page. Now, of course, if I can’t sell a book to a major publisher, then there are all sorts of possibilities from small digital press to self-publishing to serializing the work…it’s all about being as creative as possible in strategizing what’s best for the author.

Nevena: So what kind of books are you looking for at the moment? What’s the one you wish would magically land on your doorstep?

Deidre: I am eagerly hunting for new clients right now, actually, largely in the romance and erotica area. Probably my first “shopping” choice would be a high concept single title romance—contemporary with a strong community. I won’t say “backdrop” of community because I personally want that world to be another character on the page, driving the action and the people we meet. I also love big historical romance with a big concept that links the series (family members, spinster friends, you name it!), especially series set in Victorian and Regency eras. I have a great love of women’s fiction with romantic elements, something with a ton of heart, emotion, and humor.

Nevena: I hope the Book Country members are taking notes! Deidre, you represent Kerry Schafer, whose book Between was discovered on the site. Kerry made her debut at #22 in the Bookscan Fantasy bestseller list, which is amazing! What drew you to the project? What’s next for Kerry?

Deidre: Kerry has a rare gift, especially when it comes to me as a reader. I started reading in the middle of a work morning, expecting to put the work down and move on down my “to do” list that day. Instead, I didn’t stop reading until I was about a third of the way into the book. She’s got a terrific gift for weaving a total world, one that sweeps you away in its freshness and magic. She was a truly wonderful find for me as a reader, not just as an agent. At the moment, she’s working on the next book in that series, Wakeworld. I can’t wait to see how things progress for these characters!

Nevena: Me too! Kerry crafted such a captivating world. You mentioned before that you found another writer on Book Country. How do you use the site to find new talent?

Deidre: I did sign on another author who I found on Book Country! I am shopping her work now, and will hopefully have good news to report soon. I use the site by reading what’s on there and if something really draws me in, then I ask to see more if it’s available. I’ve always marveled at the high-quality level of talent I find on the Book Country site and am itching to pay another visit soon.

Nevena: Thank you, Deidre. In your experience, what’s one common mistake that newbie writers make in submissions that our members should be mindful of? What parting words of advice do you have for our members?

Deidre: The biggest problem I see in submissions from newer authors is lack of editing and revision. Out of excitement, they pull the trigger too soon, and send a work out before it’s as sharp as it possibly can be. And as a writer myself, I certainly get that. The process of literary creation is so solitary, and in our ultra-connected world of social media and digitized everything, the act of isolated creation is more alien than ever. That said, to truly create the very best book possible really does require a certain amount of time, alone with the hands to the keyboard.

Now, the great thing about Book Country is that it conquers some of that isolation by allowing for feedback and interaction as part of the creative process. But writers should be sure that they are truly receptive to feedback and editing, not simply eager to hear how marvelous they are. Being an author is all about process, and always looking for ways to improve and grow; the day that ends, a writer’s work begins to grow stale.

Nevena: Thank you so much for your words of wisdom! I’m so glad you could join us.

Keep up with Deidre Knight on Twitter at @DeidreKnight. Learn more about her and The Knight Agency at the agency’s website. We recommend the agency’s newsletter to all budding writers! Deidre is also a New York Times bestselling author of paranormal romance novels. Visit her author website.

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Countdown to Kerry Schafer’s BETWEEN

Posted by January 18th, 2013

Join us to celebrate Book Country betafish and Penguin author Kerry Schafer and the release of her first book!

kerry_and_betweenBack in January of 2012, we announced the spectacular news that Book Country member and original beta user Kerry Schafer had been offered a two-book deal with Penguin’s science fiction and fantasy imprint Ace. Kerry’s debut novel, the urban fantasy BETWEEN, was workshopped on Book Country, where it captured the attention of Berkley editorial director Susan Allison. To get the full scoop about Kerry’s path to publication, click here for the USA Today story.

Now, finally, the book hits the shelves in only 11 days—on January 29th!

My colleague Colleen and I got our own copies of BETWEEN in the mail yesterday (and yes, we did do a happy dance), and today we wanted to take a moment to celebrate Kerry’s success and her book’s release.

CONGRATULATIONS, KERRY!

We’ll be hosting a Twitter chat with Kerry soon to talk about her book and her unusual pathway to publication, and we’ll be giving away copies to five lucky readers!  Follow our announcements on Twitter @BookCountry for more details.

UPDATE: The Twitter chat will be on Tuesday, February 5 at 9 PM EST. Join us!

BETWEEN tells the story of the intrepid ER doctor-turned-dreamshifter Vivian Maylor. Shuttled into a world between dream and reality, she has to guard the doorways separating the two. If she fails, all hell will break loose and magical creatures–deadly dragons–will spill into the physical world. (And I think it’s only fitting that there is a random penguin following Vivian from one reality to the other.)

If haunting, well-written prose and a smart, strong female lead are your cup of tea, then you’ll love BETWEEN.

9780425261149_medium_Between_2

Vivian Maylor can’t sleep. Maybe it’s because she just broke up with her boyfriend and moved to a new town, or it could be the stress of her new job at the hospital. But perhaps it’s because her dreams have started to bleed through into her waking hours.

All of her life Vivian has rejected her mother’s insane ramblings about Dreamworlds for concrete science and fact, until an emergency room patient ranting about dragons spontaneously combusts before her eyes—forcing Viv to consider the idea that her visions of mythical beasts might be real.

And when a chance encounter leads her to a man she knows only from her dreams, Vivian finds herself falling into a world that seems strange and familiar all at once—a world where the line between dream and reality is hard to determine, and hard to control…

You can keep up with Kerry and her progress with the second in the Books of the Between, WAKEWORLD, at her website: http://www.kerryschafer.com. Kerry Schafer is represented by Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency.

Photo courtesy of the author

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