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From the Authors Blog

Covering the best and worst of the small screen and the silver screen
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 15:36

Cinder Q and A with Marissa Meyer

All good stories start with Once Upon a Time… and so the story of how I know author and fairytale retelling mastermind Marissa Meyer does too.

Once upon a time there was a Japanese manga called Sailor Moon that found its way to American television as a dubbed anime in the late nineties.  The love story that focused on a boy who teases a clumsy junior high school girl, unknowingly fights crime beside her as their alter-egos, and was also her prince a thousand years earlier on the moon, struck a chord around the world.

And as dial-up internet stabilized, and online communities became more established, fans found each other across great distances and wrote. Oh how they wrote. Mountains of fanfiction appeared alongside archives, contests, and interviews.  And best of all, uniquely lasting friendships.

One of the best fanfiction authors of the day was a girl who wrote under the penname Alicia Blade and I have been her friend and penpal for over ten years!  I have watched her diligently read, research and write, write, write.  She managed three novels in one Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and today the first novel in that series is poised to release this January to all of you lucky readers. 

That novel is Cinder, a thrilling sci-fi retelling of Cinderella, and that fanfiction author and Nanowrimo superstar is Marissa Meyer.

I now have the pleasure and privilege of interviewing my dear friend about her debut novel!  Ladies & Gentlemen:  Marissa Meyer

Indigo Teen Blog: Can you tell us a little about the full series and which Fairytales you’ll be using?

Marissa Meyer: Gladly! The series will progress with Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood), Cress (Rapunzel), and Winter (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves). Although Cinder will continue to be the main protagonist, in each book she’ll be joined by a new fairy-tale based heroine who has her own problems to solve and love interest to deal with. As their paths intersect, they join forces to fight against Queen Levana, the evil Lunar queen, who is set on ruling Earth through whatever means necessary.

ITB: What was it like writing the character of Linh Cinder?  Did she surprise you at any point during the writing?

MM: Cinder is still surprising me! I’m constantly impressed by her strength and level-headedness, even when things are falling apart around her. She has an uncanny ability to see what needs to be done and do it. I also never expected her to become so cool. A lot of her cyborg abilities (such as built-in Google-like search engines and lie detectors in her brain) came to me over many drafts, like I was slowly uncovering her secrets.

ITB: There are some Sailor Moon call-outs folded into this tale, a Moon Kingdom, a long lost Princess, can you touch on these without revealing any spoilers?

MM: Oh goodness, I’ve so long been a Moonie and written so much fanfiction that I think Sailor Moon is just a part of my brain now. Part of the origins of the Moon Kingdom and lost princess were inspired from a fanfic I’d written for a contest, which was a futuristic telling of Puss in Boots. When I first started brainstorming for the Lunar Chronicles, I’d toyed with the idea of expanding that fanfic into an original novel. While that idea got nixed pretty early in the outlining stage, the elements of a Lunar society and lost princess lingered. The funny thing is, these elements that my subconscious “borrowed” form Sailor Moon are probably what make Cinder and this series so different from other sci-fi titles out there right now.

ITB: Prince Kai read very squee-worthy as a Prince doing his best to rescue his people but in doing so unable to rescue himself.  Did you have that contrast planned out from the beginning?

MM: Actually, yes, this is probably one of the few elements of the book that stayed the same over many, many revisions. I always saw Kai as being caught in the middle—wanting things he couldn’t have, being constantly torn between his political duties as a leader and his craving a happy, normal life. And, of course, there was always this forbidden attraction to Cinder when he knew that a marriage alliance was a very real possibility for him. Sometimes I feel like Kai has the hardest role of any character in the whole series—while my other heroes and heroines get to go gallivanting around fighting for their cause, Kai is largely stuck at home trying to hold his country together while everything falls apart around him.

ITB: The different spin you put on various fairytale items from the original Cinderella (the shoe, the pumpkin, the dress) became something really fun to watch out for as I read.  Can you talk about what it was like planning out where you put those details and maybe give us a hint of items to come from the next three fairytales?

MM: Dropping in these little fairy tale hints has been one of my favorite parts of writing the books and I’m glad that readers are having as much fun hunting them out! Fairy tales are so iconic—oftentimes people will forget an entire story, but they’ll remember Rapunzel’s hair or Cinderella’s glass slipper, so I wanted to make sure that those iconic things were captured in my stories too. Just… futurized. A lot of them fell right into place, but for others it took some brainstorming and revising before I found the perfect way to update a specific element. You’ll be seeing the same sorts of twists throughout the series, but you’ll have to wait and see what they all are!

ITB: We have  a New Year’s/Valentine’s Day feature coming up here at Indigo with the hashtag #BookBoyfriends.  I know I’ll be nominating Prince Kai, can I ask who a few of your favorite YA Book Boyfriends are and why?

MM: Oh thank you! Kai would be so flattered. As for me, let’s see… I know there are lots of girls willing to fight me for this one, but I’d have to say Peeta for sure. I mean, he bakes for goodness sake! I’m also kind of crazy about Nate, the pirate in Lisa Mantchev’s Eyes Like Stars series. He’s rugged and loyal and talks with a sexy sailor brogue. Rawr! And since I have to throw in at least one prince charming, Prince Brigan from Kristin Cashore’s Fire. I love how smart and brave he is, and how much he grew out of his prejudice throughout the course of the book. Oh, and speaking of prejudice, definitely Mr. Darcy! Because it’s Mr. Darcy. And—okay, I’d better stop there.

ITB: And finally, as I know you are very well read in Fairytales, particularly the sometimes gruesome originals, may I ask which Fairytale you would choose to find yourself in one day and which you would like least to end up in?

MM: Cinderella would actually be a good one to be in—the good girl is rewarded without too much up-front horror, and even if you don’t become a princess, you still get to go to a ball! As for the tale I’d least like to end up in… probably Bluebeard. A psychopathic serial killer for a husband doesn’t sound like something you’d get over for awhile.

Thank you so much for inviting me to be on the Indigo blog, Nat-chan!

Read the first chapter of Cinder here.  Pre-order your copy here.  And keep watching @indigoteenblog and @chaptersindigo on Twitter for Cinder news and giveaways as the pub date approaches!

Find Marissa Meyer online:

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Published in Teen
Monday, 12 December 2011 21:37

Lesley Livingston's Once Every Never

Friend of the blog, Lesley Livingston, was recently given the honour of having her novel, Once Every Never, named YA Science Fiction book of the year in Quill and Quire. We also love Lesley and named Once Every Never as our Best Summer Vacation Book of 2011.

After the announcement, we asked Lesley if she would write a guestpost for us about the process of creating Once Every Never. This book is a little bit of everything and a huge lot of fun. As you read it, you can tell that she had a blast writing it. And here's Lesley to tell you more.

****

Once Every Never, my latest novel and the first in a trilogy, could probably best be described as a time-travel-romance-adventure-historical-fantasy-teen-chick-lit-sci-fi-rom-com-romp. Go ahead. Say that ten times fast—just don’t blame me when you sprain your tongue!

Now… you might think that cramming all of those disparate elements into a single story would have resulted in a weird, torturously convoluted, nigh-impossible writing process (and, if I’d actually paused for a half a rational second before writing the dang thing, I likely would have agreed with you on that very probability). But, in fact, it just so happened that all of those things came together in a smooth, seamless fashion (ha! I can say that now that I’ve blocked out all the late nights spent drawing myself colour-coded timeline diagrams on a white board festooned with sticky notes and speckled with tears of rage and frustration) and what started out as a fairly straightforward, slightly paranormal story of ‘Modern Girl Meets Ancient Super-Hot Druid Prince Boy’ ultimately became something much more than that. The reason it became something more, I think, is that somehow, during the whole process my little time travel tale wrapped itself around my inner nerd, gave her a big old hug, and invited her active participation.

I mean, let’s face it. Time Travel is one of the ultimate stocks-in-trade of genre fiction to begin with. And while my particular brand of Time Travel has its genesis, not in science but in magic, I still had to keep a very close eye on the practicalities and repercussions and theoretical what-ifs that accompany any situation where time-stream monkeying is a key component. So yeah. I think that, in itself, activated the nerdothalamus region of my writer brain.

And then, of course, there is the fact that the story—the actual plot of Once Every Never—itself has gloriously geeky roots: A trip to a museum, an encounter with ancient artefacts (including a bog body!) and a life-long fascination with a legendary figure from a somewhat obscure period of history. The subject matter is kind of… ‘niche’ I guess is a good way to put it. Unless you’re a History Buffy, you’re probably not going to be too overly familiar with the exploits of Boudicca the Iceni Warrior Queen.

So, in order not to risk alienating readers, I decided to approach the story from the perspective of an average teen who has absolutely zero knowledge of the subject matter, and less than zero interest it gaining said knowledge. Clare, at the beginning of the story, couldn’t care less about the perils and pitfalls of 1st Century British history, or the Roman invasion, or Druids—even if one of them (which she later discovers) turns out to be a total hottie. But then, in order to draw her—and the reader—into the story, I gave her a friend who does care about that kind of stuff. Clare’s best pal Allie is all about intellectual puzzles and historical minutiae. She lives to research. She is a nerd, proud and free.

Somewhere along the line, I upped my geek stakes even higher by throwing in Al’s cousin Milo—the uber-dork turned majorly dishy computer genius. Then, just for fun—and because I now had characters who could accommodate such things—I added in a few more conspicuously genre touches like Jedi in-jokes and Dr. Who shout-outs and duelling Star Wars/Star Trek references. And Milo’s T-shirts.

It wasn’t always easy (even if it was a lot of fun) though. I will admit that. Just trying to structure a cohesive plot where time travel is the inciting incident can tie your brain in one big ol’ spatio-temporal knot. In the book, when Clare tries to figure it out, it just gives her a headache. The best she can come up with is:

“It was like one of those word problems in math class crossed with that broken telephone game: if a brooch traveling through time leaves the first century at point A and a girl traveling through time leaves the twenty-first century at point B, then how many purple monkey dishwashers does it take to get to Carnegie Hall…?

Exactly, Clare. Exactly.

The really fun thing about this book is that it gave me the opportunity to unleash all of my geekisms in one swell foop! It was like the science-fiction lover, the fantasy-devourer, the history-buff… they all got together at a cool-kids’ pool party, put in their nose plugs, hung on to their horn-rimmed glasses, and cannonballed en masse into the deep end. The resulting splash was Once Every Never, my time-travel-romance-adventure-historical-fantasy-teen-chick-lit-sci-fi-rom-com-romp. Set thrusters to full, load photon torpedoes, and don’t forget to dodge the flaming arrows and super-cute blue-painted warrior boys!

*******

Thanks, Lesley, and congrats again! Check out this cool video of Once Every Never and remember that the book would make a great gift:

Published in Teen
Friday, 09 December 2011 16:03

Swept Off Our Feet by Clockwork Prince

This week saw the release of one of the hottest teen titles this year, Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Prince. The second in the smoldering Infernal Devices Trilogy, Clockwork Prince continues the story of Tessa Grey, Will Herondale, and James “Jem” Carstairs. We met these three in last year’s phenomenal Clockwork Angel, which took the fun fantasy of The Mortal Instruments and transported it to Victorian London.

We hear a lot of talk in the book selling business about the next Twilight, but if we’re looking for the books that generate passionate debate about Team X versus Team Y… well, obviously the successor to Stephenie Meyer is Cassandra Clare. Team Will or Team Jem? They’re both equally attractive options, and maybe who we choose says more about us than it does about Tessa. Will Herondale is that classic alpha male, arrogant but deeply wounded. We know his bad boy exterior—much like Jace in The Mortal Instruments—is just a front, and it’s that knowing that makes Clockwork Prince so hearbreaking for us to read.

And wonderful Jem, who is the decent and sensitive friendly beta male—much like Simon in The Mortal Instruments—who is there to pick up the pieces. Jem is also sickly and there’s an element of tragedy to any romance with him. Couple all of this with intrigue and a dash of danger, and you get what is essentially an engrossing historical romance.

Think about it… the heroine with the unknown past, the issues of the love interests being of a different class than her, and her heart torn between the good man and the rascal she can’t ignore. (Plus, with The Infernal Devices, there's the added bonus of Magnus Bane.) Have you seen the trailer? It’s a BBC drama begging to be made. And we love it. Unapologetically. Every older reader I talk to about Cassandra Clare books reads them for the fun of it.

So when you start feeling the stress of the season looming, grab the paperback of Clockwork Angel—one of my top ten books of 2011—and Clockwork Prince then take a holiday to a Victorian London that only Cassandra Clare could’ve imagined.

Published in Teen
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 00:29

Teen Top Ten of 2011

I have one rule when it comes to picking the top books for the year: They have to be amazing.

To be amazing, a story has to make a lasting emotional connection with me. I want the book I can’t put down—can’t stop thinking about—can’t walk away from. The book I’d read again. The book I want all of you to read.

Here are—in ascending order—my choices for the ten most amazing teen books published this year.

10. Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts. (Q&A) Bleak and unrelentingly dark—a combination of 28 Days Later and The Road. Destruction so fresh you can smell it and a reminder that hope shines brightest when your soul has been utterly crushed. Dark Inside is not the kind of book I would usually like, but it’s one of the best I’ve read this year. As an added bonus, it’s also written by a BC author and set mostly in Vancouver.

9. Delirium by Lauren Oliver. (review, Q&A) The dystopian romance to which all other dystopian romances are measured. Delirium is a powerful story of love grounded in plausible science, and I loved watching its perfect society slowly unravel through Lena's eyes. The only cure for this book is its follow-up, Pandemonium.

8. Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr. (review) The Wicked Lovely series brought me back to Teen fiction, and its ending is befitting and beautiful. I include this as an example of how to end a series well.

7. The Demon’s Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan. (Q&A) Have you heard of The Demon’s Lexicon trilogy? It’s one of the gems of the teen department. This brilliant trilogy about two brothers who hunt demons is like Supernatural, but better—because Supernatural doesn’t have Jamie. The Demon’s Surrender pulled me in so deeply that it caught me off-guard, even when I should’ve known better.

6. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. (review, Q&A) A lush, evocative novel with rich details, chilling magic and an intriguing cast of characters. Set in Prague, this book about angels stands apart from all the others. I can’t wait to see where this story goes.

5. Divergent by Veronica Roth. (review, Q&A) Special mention as best debut of 2011. What an emotional roller coaster! Divergent is everything I was promised The Hunger Games would be. We got behind this title early and I still feel it is one of the strongest titles this year. If you want to feel empowered to bring big change to the world, then Divergent is the dystopian novel for you.

4. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan. (review) Perhaps you thought this was a 9-12 book. Perhaps you are right. It’s still on my list for the sheer glee that reading it provided. The Son of Neptune marks the return of Percy Jackson, and it’s the best Rick Riordan book so far.

3. Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. (review) I waited all year for this book, and I read it in a single sitting until 2 A.M. When I finished, I wanted to start reading it again. The penultimate book of The Caster Chronicles series answers so many questions I had—and makes me ask more. Book Four, please?

2. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendra Blake. This book reaffirmed my faith in paranormal teenlit. I was done with it, I was walking away, and then Anna Dressed in Blood knocked me off my feet. Scary, romantic, and cool, it made me laugh out loud on the TTC and grin like at idiot at strangers. Plus, major points for being set in Canada.

1. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. (review, discussion, Q&A) Honestly, it was tough to decide between this or Anna Dressed in Blood as the Book of the Year. I love every book on this list, but Beauty Queens is one of the few that have changed the way I think about the world—about what I read, what I write, and what I watch. It’s not just a brilliant and hilarious book, it’s a book that everyone needs to read.

And your honorable mentions:

For the Best Love Triangle: Shift by Jeri Smith Ready. It’s the only love triangle I support. (Q&A)

For the Most Interesting Narrator: Red Glove by Holly Black. Cassel Sharp can lie to me any time he likes. (review)

For the Best Reimagining of a Classic: This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel. Victor Frankenstein before he was the mad scientist. (review, Q&A)

For the Best Summer Vacation Book: Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston. Who doesn’t want to time travel for their holiday? (Q&A)

For the Best Re-Release: Sailor Moon vol 1 by Naoko Takeuchi. What I loved as a teen, you can now love as a teen. How cool is that? (Q&A)

Published in Teen
It’s 1996. Emma has logged on to AOL for the first time, and a prompt at the bottom of her screen asks her to enter her email and password again. Not thinking anything of it, she does so… and finds herself looking at her Facebook profile from 15 years in the future!

Terrified of the miserable future she perceives herself to have, Emma tries to use what she sees in her status updates and on her friends' walls to guide her decisions in the present. If she never meets that boy or never goes to that university, then the future she’s dreading can’t happen…right?

Only one person knows about Emma’s strange situation, her former best friend Josh. Things got a little weird between them when Josh thought she wanted to be more than friends and Emma shut him down. But sharing this secret is bringing them closer together...

What would you do if you got a glimpse of 15 years into your future? It's not a new question, but presenting it through the filter of Facebook gives The Future of Us a fresh take on an old standard. For most of us, Facebook is an ever-present aspect of our lives in 2011. Even if you don't spend a lot of time on FB, you're aware of how it works.

But in 1995, most teenagers didn't have the internet. The biggest innovation in "smart phones" was having a cordless handset, and dial-up was cutting edge technology. Reading The Future of Us is incredibly nostalgic for any child of the 90's; more importantly, it's reaffirming that our teenage desires and rites of passage haven't changed. (Technology has certainly changed the way we execute them, by making them that much more public, but at the core there's not a lot of difference between being fifteen in 1996 and being fifteen in 2011.)

We want to be loved and happy. We want to take care of our friends and sing along with our favourite songs and go to that party everyone is talking about. Because of that, connecting with Emma and Josh is very easy whether you're fifteen or thirty. The Future of Us is another one of those wonderful books that everyone can read.

This is a book of connections--about how technology separates us and then brings us back together. It's also about that intangible thing we call "the future" and how we interact with it. Some of us dread it; some of us long for it, and every choice we make now reshapes what then will look like. Also, focusing too much on what might be can seriously damage what is.

Admittedly, I wondered "how do you log onto Facebook from the past?" There is an explanation given, and because this isn't a science fiction novel it can avoid getting into the wibbly-wobbly mechanics of how it works. It's refreshing to see something where concept doesn't overshadow the story; The Future of Us is about Emma and Josh, with all of these other fantastic discussion points happening in relation to them.

Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler are celebrated contemporary teen fiction authors, and their writing compliments each other as the chapters alternate between Emma and Josh's perspectives. In fact, the success of the co-writing reminds me a lot of Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

The Future of Us is about big questions and five-year-plans and ultimately realizing that what matters are the people right in front of you and not hypothetical strangers you may meet five years from now. Your future happiness depends on your present happiness, and that’s something that’s true if you’re in 1995 or 2011 or 2026.

Published in Teen
Wednesday, 16 November 2011 13:39

November Teen New Releases

The top news in teen books this month is the much anticipated release of Inheritance by Christopher Paolini and Breaking Dawn Part 1 hitting the theatres. But releases like Crossed by Ally Condie and Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi are also getting attention. Books I enjoyed this month are: Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts and The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler.

Here are 15 books and 2 manga titles to get you through this penultimate month of 2011.

Crossed by Ally Condie. Second in the Matched trilogy. Uprisings, double-crosses and Cassia still torn between Ky or Xander.

Dark Eden by Patrick Carman. Patients with crippling phobias are sent to Fort Eden to confront their greatest nightmares in hopes of being cured. But what is really going on in this isolated facility?

Liar's Moon by Elizabeth C Bunce. Bunce's first novel, A Curse Dark as Gold, got a lot of attention when it debuted. Her new novel is a noir fantasy about a girl pickpocket who falls in love with an accused murderer.

Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts. A fantastic and disturbing YA dystopia debut, Dark Inside is like 28 Days Later meets The Road—and set mostly in Vancouver.

Last Breath by Rachel Caine. The latest of The Morganville Vampire novels.

Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul by Leanna Renee Hieber. "The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and set in NYC 1882. Also, the main protagonist is a mute girl.

Reckoning by Lili St Crow. The final book of the Strange Angels series.

Tiger's Voyage by Colleen Houck. Third in the Tiger's Curse series.

Playground by 50 Cent. This is a book about a 13 year old bully from his perspective, and it explores what pushed him to become a bully. Apparently it's inspired by 50 Cent's life.

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini. The finale in The Inheritance Cycle. So ends the epic battle of Eragon and Saphira against Galbatorix.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. Lots of online buzz for this dystopia about a girl whose touch can kill learning to love and trust people. (Which is a good thing to learn to do.) It also has an interesting narrative style where the protagonist is censoring her own thoughts via strikethrough text.

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting. Words are power. Language creates class. A girl named Charlie can understand them all in a kingdom where such a thing can get you killed—or worse. A fresh new world from the author of The Body Finder series.

The Space Between by Brenna Yavanoff. A new novel from the author of The Replacement. I've seen this described as being about a girl learning how to feel and a boy who doesn't want to. (And I wish I could remember who to attribute that description to.) Fallen angel girl, human boy. Our world is scary and strange.

Death Watch by Ari Berk. This boy named Silas learns his father was an Undertaker—he guided the souls to the Afterlife, but something went wrong and he was killed. Silas finds this thing called the Death Watch that allows him to see the dead. And it kind of sounds a little like a teen boy verison of Melissa Marr's Graveminder.

Sailor Moon vol 2 by Naoko Takeuchi. It's got Sailor Mercury on the cover! The second volume in this epic shojo manga series.

Codename: Sailor V vol 2 by Naoko Takeuchi. The second and final volume of the spin-off of Sailor Moon.

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. Jay Asher is famous for 13 Reasons Why. This is his second book and Carolyn Mackler co-wrote it. It's 1996 and two teens are about to log on to Facebook—and get a glimpse of their lives 15 years in the future.

Soul Screamers Omnibus vol 1 by Rachel Vincent. Collected for your reading pleasure the prequel novella (never before in print) and the first two books in this fabulous paranormal series: My Soul to Lose, My Soul to Take, My Soul to Save. (Team Tod all the way!)

Legend by Marie Lu. June is born of the elite class of the Republic (the former US.) Day is the Republic's most wanted crimminal. June's brother gets murdered and Day gets framed for it. But things are not as they seem... Can June and Day overcome their differences to undercover the truth?

Published in Teen
Tuesday, 08 November 2011 02:12

Christopher Paolini's Legacy

Christopher Paolini is a name that resonates in the world of fantasy fiction. Known for being a young author of YA fantasy, his name carries the same weight as JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer. While each of them writes a completely different series, they all have huge international fanbases. This trio of authors raised a generation of readers.

Even if you didn’t read young adult fiction in 2003 or just skirted the edges of the genre, Paolini’s story of publication is probably one you heard. It’s passed around writer groups and livejournals in whispered tones that bards of old saved for the tales of Beowulf. Paolini is legend.

And like most legends, there were various versions of the circumstances that led to his being published. The actual story is that his parents self-published Eragon when he was fifteen and then it made its way to a publisher. It was edited and then republished by a major publisher when he was nineteen.

Nineteen years old and a New York Times bestselling author. It’s quite the heroic tale, and it convinced a generation of young writers that your age didn’t determine your chances of being published. Whether or not those young writers get published at nineteen, they want to try—and that’s what matters.

Paolini is also known as an author who made his readers wait. The final book of his epic The Inheritance Cycle, Inheritance, was delayed from its original publishing date; this was after what was originally planned to be a trilogy expanded into a quartet. Brisingr, the third of The Inheritance Cycle, was published just over three years ago. Three years between books is an eternity in the Teen section.

When I first started working in a Chapters store, one of the most common questions asked by customers was: “Do you know when book four is coming out?” The second most-common question was: “Why can’t I find Christopher Paolini?” and was always asked by someone standing in the adult fantasy section.

The Inheritance Cycle has huge crossover power. That’s what puts it on the same level as Twilight and Harry Potter. As big as The Hunger Games is, it hasn’t quite gained the same reach (yet.) The Inheritance Cycle is the last of the trailblazers. Regardless of what you think of the books, you have to admit—like Rowling and Meyer—Paolini has left a huge impression on this genre and expanded its readership. These are the titles that broke down the walls so that adults could cheer as Katniss fired her arrows at the Capital and Clary fought demons with Jace.

I can’t imagine what it must be like more than ten years later to finish something that you grew up writing. That’s the end of a personal era, never mind a literary one. So congratulations, Christopher. May you have the happiest of birthdays on November 17th. I hope you’re celebrating it on the NYT Bestseller List.

Oh, and for those of you who have been asking? Inheritance is available now. It even comes in a beautiful complete set.

Published in Teen
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 12:42

Dark Inside Q&A with Jeyn Roberts

Jeyn Roberts has put Canada on the map for post-apocalyptic novels with her debut, Dark Inside. Bleak, terrifying--but ultimately uplifting--Roberts crafts a view of an apocalypse and the world after where zombies and aliens are not the threat, but we humans are. Possessed by the strange "darkness" freed during a massive earthquake, humans turn on each other. These violent Baggers kill and ravage and the only way to know one is by the strange dark veins around their eyes. Worse, no one knows why or how people become Baggers.

Told through the alternative perspectives of four teens--two girls and two boys; two Canadians and two Americans--Dark Inside is chilling. It's the kind of book that crawls beneath your skin and gnaws on your bones. It's The Road meets 28 Days Later with a little bit of The Stand thrown in for good measure, and it's the best of all of them.

Maybe it's knowing Vancouver and being able to see the streets where all of this is happening that drives this novel home, but all the readers I've been talking to about this one are genuinely freaked out by Dark Inside. But if you want to read something that will scare you and make you uneasy and force you to think about the bad so you can better appreciate the good, then Dark Inside is for you. This beautifully terrifying novel would be perfect for next All Hallow's Read.

We're very happy that Jeyn agreed to answer some questions for us about her amazing debut. Welcome, Jeyn!

Indigo Teen Blog: First things first. Where in Vancouver will you be holed up after the apocalypse happens? 
Jeyn Roberts: I’d spend the first few days in my apartment. It’s a good location to a food source at least I’d have my own bed. After that, I’d probably load up the cats and head north. The farther away the better. I’m hoping there would be less Baggers up north.

ITB: You have four main characters: Aries, Mason, Clementine and Michael. How did you choose where in North America to make your characters from?
JR: Because I live in Vancouver, I wanted that city for my main location. Mason is from Saskatoon which is where I grew up. I chose Iowa for Clementine because I love the book What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. That left Michael and I wanted to put him somewhere in the middle so I chose Montana.

ITB: Was it difficult to manage four different plotlines?
JR: Not really. But sometimes I’ll be hooked on a plot line and I don’t want to move on to others.

ITB: I noticed the voice of “Nothing” is the only one who narrates in first person. (Admittedly, it’s also my favourite POV in the book.) Why did you include these interludes?
JR: The book started with Nothing. I had the line in my head ‘I’m standing on the edge of existence’ and it went from there. He/she’s been one of my favourite characters to write about because I get to be so crazy with him/her. He/she can say the weirdest things and they make sense coming from his/her thoughts.

ITB: Can you tell us anything about the sequel?

JR: Book two will be released next year. We still don’t have a working title but there are some good ideas being thrown around. Basically, the story begins a few months after the first one ends. Aries, Michael, Mason, and Clementine are still together and now they’re trying to keep the group together and continue to stay alive. The Baggers have upped the stakes; they’re sending white vans around the neighbourhood, promising sanctuary to those who want it. But of course that’s all a lie. They’re rebuilding society to their own rules. Those who don’t participate, get removed.
      There will be some great new characters introduced, including a Chemistry major named Raj and a crazy leader named Ryder.

ITB: Sounds good. Did your studies of psychology help you write Dark Inside?
JR: I’d like to think so. I also studied sociology in University and I found that helped a lot. I’m very fascinated with the way people behave in groups. I think a lot of that comes out in my writing.

ITB: Your website mentions that you love to travel. What’s the one place that you recommend everyone visit?
JR: Seoul, South Korea. It’s an amazing city and there’s so much to see. I also really love Cuba. The people there are friendly and Havana is a beautiful city.

Thanks, Jeyn! Also thanks to our friends at Simon & Schuster Canada for setting up this interview and providing me with an ARC.

Published in Teen
We have a special out-in-the-field guestpost this week from @readandriot, who has a review of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater for you. Terri tells me that The Scorpio Races may be the best book she's read all year. Here she is to tell you why!

SYNOPSIS:
During the month of October, the capiall uisce are restless.  They live in the water, but come up on shore and on land during this cold month.  They are dangerous, for the capaill uisce are bloodthirsty and the sea still sings to them.

The town of Thisby is home to The Scorpio Races, because this is the only place capaill uisce exist.  Every year, on November 1st, men race on the capiall uisce that they have captured. Every year, someone dies.

One must not trust the capiall uisce.  They would sooner kill you and return to the sea from whence they came, then care about winning some foolish race.

Sean Kendrick is the one to beat in the Scorpio Races.  His name is known by all.  Sean rides Corr, a red capiall uisce that his father rode before he died.  Legally, Corr is the property of Sean’s employer, Mr. Malvern, but it’s obvious that Corr truly belongs to Sean.  During this scorpio season, Sean takes the biggest risk, because winning the Races isn’t enough anymore.  He wants Corr.

Kate Connolly, known as Puck Connolly, never cared about The Scorpio Races, but now she has a reason to.  Her older brother Gabe, is planning to leave Thisby, and to stall him, Puck tells him that she is going to be riding in the Races.

What starts as a simple solution, creates discord and havoc among the people of Thisby. The Scorpio Races is not a woman’s game.

This is a Scorpio Race Sean nor Puck can afford to lose.

REVIEW:

Anything I say about this book will come up short.  Simply put, emotion seeped through the pages, and took hold.  This book had the power to make you fall in love with the story.

There was more to the story than just a boy, a girl, and some water horses.  It was more than just a horse race.  There was so much more.

History is painted and carved into the story’s background.  There was a very clear picture of the town and everything Thisby was all about.

Once you got a taste, you couldn't help but want to delve deeper into the story.

The Scorpio Races was very musically written. The writing flowed and held its own rhythm.

The plot was threaded so intricately; there were many story lines woven together.
The chapters alternated between Sean’s and Puck’s point of view, and each chapter ended in such a way that made you wish it would continue.  You were sucked in and needed to know what happened next.

This book was completely different from Maggie Stiefvater’s 'The Wolves of Mercy Falls' series, and even though her style could still be recognized, there was a completely different tone to this story.

The Scorpio Races was a piece of art.  It was beautiful and memorable.

It was impossible not to love these characters.  You begged the story-line to keep certain characters safe, while having a death wish for others.

Sean Kendrick was made for Thisby (or Thisby was made for him, it really could be either).  His blood belonged to the sea and the sand.  There was one thing that Sean loved more than Thisby, and most everyone thought that thing was the Scorpio Races, but it wasn't.  Sean Kendrick loved his capiall uisce.  He loved Corr.
Corr was just as strong a character as Sean, and together, they were perfection.

Puck Connolly was grown from Thisby soil, and she loved it deeply.  She was very spirited and full of sarcastic humour.  She was also extremely brave, and someone not to be tampered with.

Puck's brothers were essential to the story, and they impacted who their sister was.  Everything Puck did, she did for or because of Gabe and Finn.  It wasn't until the end that Puck realized what she was capable of doing for herself.

Her parents were killed by the capiall uisce, so it shook her brothers when she entered the Races.  Only Puck had her best friend beside her:  her horse, Dove.  It was one regular horse against a group of capiall uisce.  Dove shouldn't have stood a chance.

George Holly was a potential buyer who visited the Malvern stables, but he took a liking to Sean and became someone who could be confided in.  Mr. Holly didn't miss a thing.  He added some sugar and sweetness and surprises.  His presence in the plot was very welcome.

The betting, and animosity, and courage that made up the The Scorpio Races was just as important as the actual Race itself.

The Race was fast, bloody, and unbelievable.  It was both a wretched and wonderful thing.

This race wasn’t about competition but rather about dominance, death, and dignity.  For Sean and Puck it wasn’t about the winning title but about the cash prize that came with it.  Even then, the money was only important, because without it, it kept them from what they loved most.

The Scorpio Races was made of many love stories.  It was a love story between Sean and Corr.  It showed love between Puck and her brothers.  It was the loving friendship between Puck and Dove.  It was a story between men, greed, and glory.  It was a love story between every character and the island of Thisby.  It was a story that not everyone survived.

Sean and Puck’s relationship wasn’t rushed or pushed or forced.  They were weary of each other, and were unlikely allies, so trust built up throughout the pages.  It was very natural for them to be together.  Their friendship and budding romance was seamless.

Both the ending and the beginning of this book were so powerful that they couldn't be forgotten.  Even so, everything in between wasn’t overshadowed.
The ending was heartbreaking and so lovely.

If given the chance, The Scorpio Races will capture your heart.

I know that The Scorpio Races is a book that I will read again (and again) because I already miss it.

Let the magic of The Scorpio Races draw you in...

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About Terri:

I've been working in Indigo for just over three years now, and I'm also a student.  About 90% of my spare time is spent with my eyes glued to a book.  This year I started reviewing books on my blog, Read & Riot.  I love that I have yet another place to talk about books.  Harry Potter is still my favourite series, but I read The Princess Diaries (by Meg Cabot) first. I'm very excited to contribute to the Indigo Teen Blog.

Published in Teen

You know a good series when you read it, because it stays with you. It occupies a place in your memory—and it’s so solid that you feel like you know its streets. Maybe better than those who live there, because you know its secrets. You also know its residents; you may not like all of them, but you’ve forgotten life before knowing them. 

Each time you read a book in a series like this, you go home and you share what’s changed in the time that’s passed since you were last there.

Let’s just say a lot has happened in Gatlin, which is strange considering we were told when we first arrived there—with Beautiful Creatures—that there are no surprises in this small South Carolina town. Funny, because there are always surprises whenever I visit Ethan Lawson Wate and Lena Duchannes.

The Caster Chronicles is the teen series that I wait all year for. There are many good books, but this is the series that continues to stand out and deliver a lush world full of characters who I can’t wait to see again. Each book manages to both delight and reduce me to a weepy mess. While I don’t always like what happens, I never leave Gatlin feeling disappointed.

I received a copy of Beautiful Chaos a week early from HBG Canada, and I swore that I was going to take a few days and really savor it. Then I started reading and I didn’t stop until I ran out of book at 2:00 AM. It’s not that I accidentally read this book in a single setting that you should take heed of, it’s that after I finished I had to stop myself from going back and reading it again.

At the end of Beautiful Darkness, Lena claimed herself—choosing to be both Light and Dark Caster. But her choice has had serious consequences: The Order of Things is broken. Both the Caster world and our Mortal world are suffering—and the price of fixing them is going to cost our friends dearly.

Beautiful Darkness was the book where Ethan and Lena were separated. Because of that, Ethan built—or at least realized he had—a strong support group beyond just his Caster girlfriend. In Beautiful Chaos, Ethan and Lena’s relationship is more stable… and it’s Ethan’s support group who is threatened.

Involving his support group in the tension keeps me from feeling like I’m only reading about relationship drama. It’s also more realistic to me that as a character’s entire world changes and expands, those effects would also impact the people in his life. That’s a big part of why I love this series; it’s never been just about a boy and a girl.

Of course, as it is a teen novel there is a little bit of teen romance drama in Beautiful Chaos. Fortunately, it doesn’t overshadow the plot. There’s this amazing scene where Liv says to Lena everything I was thinking in Beautiful Darkness. It’s cheer-worthy! Also, I enjoyed how this book changed my mind about John Breed. I didn’t like him in Beautiful Darkness, but by the end of Beautiful Chaos I can say that he’s all right.

Another thing I appreciate about these books is that there are adults like Macon and Marion, who are cool and help the young adult characters. These adults don’t necessarily solve the problems for Ethan and Lena, but they remind us that we have people in our lives who care about us. (There are also adults who aren’t supportive, but that’s representative of life.)

As the penultimate book, Beautiful Chaos does feel a little bit like bridge between what happened in Beautiful Darkness and what will come in the final novel. I think the biggest factor in what gives me this impression is the book’s cliffhanger ending that you probably don’t want to reach at two in the morning. Let’s just say it’s hard to get to sleep when all you can think is how desperately you want to know what happens next.

Published in Teen
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