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Lifestyle Blog

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Tuesday, 20 September 2011 23:21

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

I almost didn't read Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan, because on the back of the ARC it declares "GLOW begins the most riveting series since The Hunger Games." C'mon, we all know the most riveting series beginning since The Hunger Games is Veronica Roth's Divergent.

Glow, however, is deeply satisifying. It pulls you through, giving you an exciting action story with great pacing and clean prose that's easy to devour in a single sitting. More than that, it's an intelligent book using its space opera setting to explore different ideologies effectively. It's a story about faith and the power of religion and questions of how that faith can co-exist with science. About love and the rights of women over our bodies and our hearts. About the cost of doing what's right and the pain that comes when two opposing ideas of what is "right" collide.

Also, it's a very balanced book—in that it manages for the most part to present both views, so the reader can make a decision about who is "right."I really enjoyed that the book alternates between Waverly and Kieran's parts of the story, so you can see how it all fits together. That's what makes me curious about where the story is going next; not so much where will Ryan take us as will these two different philosophies reconcile so that we can hope for a happy ending.

Amy Kathleen Ryan was kind enough to provide an interview for us, where she interviews...Amy Kathleen Ryan. This is no doubt accomplished by a complicated wibbly-wobbly space-time trick that we shouldn't spend too long contemplating.

So here's Amy—and Amy.

Amy: Hello Amy.
Amy: Hello yourself.
Amy: So readers will want to know, is GLOW based on your own life at all?
Amy: Yes, I spent my childhood on a spaceship traveling across the galaxy. You know what they say: Write what you know. Heh heh.
Amy (Courtesy laugh.): Moving on. Is there anything of Waverly in you?
Amy: She is taller, better looking, more athletic, smarter, and a heck of a Scrabble player. There is really only one thing we have in common: We have an abiding fondness for pickled white asparagus. This doesn’t come up in the book, though.
Amy: Funny, I like pickled asparagus too.
Amy: Imagine that.
Amy: I’m imagining it right now…
(Awkward pause in the conversation.)
Amy: Could you tell your faithful readers where your idea for GLOW came from?
Amy: Where all good ideas come from: Coffee. And lots of it.
Amy: No, really.
Amy: (Sighs, rolls eyes.) At first I set out to write about life on a spaceship during an inter-generational voyage in outer space. As I wrote, the characters took me hostage and the story wrote itself. So it isn’t like I got the huge idea all at once. It’s more like I got thousands of little ideas, bit by bit, building on each other with every word, sentence, paragraph until they added up to a book.
Amy: That would have made you sound authorial if it wasn’t so facile.
Amy: Thank you.
Amy: So is there anything else you’d like your readers to know?
Amy: I want the boxed DVD set of Star Trek: The Next Generation for Christmas.
Amy: I mean to do with the book.
Amy: Just a suggestion. If you have attitudes about sci-fi, don’t think of it as science fiction. Think of it as a political drama set in space.
Amy: Thank you. And might I say you have lovely eyes.
Amy: Please do.


Glow is available now. Thanks to Amy Kathleen Ryan for the interview and to Macmillian for arranging it.

Published in Teen
Wednesday, 14 September 2011 23:40

September Teen Releases

Fall is a big season for Teen books, and September kicked things off. Collected for you below are 20 books of note, two manga re-issues to gobble up, and a magical adult book that I recommend for older teens—and those older than teens—to put on their must read list.

Titles are now available, unless a future release date is indicated.

Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson. Alison has confessed to the murder of the most popular girl at her school. But there's no body and even Alison isn't sure how it happened.

Vanish by Sophie Jordan—the follow-up to Firelight.

The Fallen 3: End of Days by Thomas E. Sniegoski—latest in The Fallen series.

Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey—caught between two feuding witch families, can Brandon find peace and the boy of his dreams—especially if they're destined to be enemies?

Sailor Moon vol 1 and Codename Salior V vol 1 Naoko Takeuchi—one the most influential manga, Sailor Moon introduced a generation of girls to anime... and this must-read series is finally back in print! (Codename Sailor V—it's about Sailor Venus—is the series Takeuchi wrote first, which lead her to create Sailor Moon.)

Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst—a hilarious debut about a vampire who gets stabbed by a unicorn and finds herself having warm fuzzy feelings about people.

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins—the companion to Impulse, and Hopkins' latest verse novel.

Fateful by Claudia Gray—The tale of the Titanic... and werewolves. Maybe an iceberg wasn't why it sank?

Circle Nine by Anne Heltzel—amnesia and Dante references... Sam says he knows who Abby is, but can she trust him?

So Silver Bright by Lisa Mantchev—the conclusion to The Theatre Illuminata trilogy.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern—A black and white circus that opens at nightfall. Two young magicians unknowingly forced to duel. Think The Prestige meets Romeo and Juliet, this stunning and debut is worth a trip out of the Teen section for sophisticated readers.

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan (Sept 20)—Two spaceships with two different ideologies... and two young lovers caught in the heat of the battle. An action-packed sci fi title!

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (Sept. 20)—Elisa is not what you expect a princess to be, but she's the chosen one... and an entire kingdom wants to use her for their own agendas.

Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong (Sept 20)—the anthology which grew out of last year's Smart Chicks Kick It tour, each of these stories involves a journey of some kind.

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld (Sept. 20)—The much-anticipated conclusion to the Leviathan trilogy! We have an exclusive art reveal here.

If I Die by Rachel Vincent (Sept. 27)—Fifth in the Soul Screamers series! Kaylee's borrowed time is running out and those who love her will do anything to save her...

Lost in Time by Melissa de la Cruz (Sept. 27)—the sixth book in the Blue Blood's series.

The Mephisto Covenant by Trinity Faegen (Sept. 27)—Jax—an immortal son of Hell—has spent a thousand years searching for Sasha, but can he convince her to love him and give up her mortal life?

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Sept. 27)—Mara wakes up with no memory to discover she's the only survivor of a tragic accident that killed her best friends. Worse, one of them may be dead—but he's definitely not gone.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (Sept. 29)—Rippermania in modern London, and only Rory saw the culprit...even her sister, who was standing beside her, didn't see him. Maureen Johnson's first foray into paranormal.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Sept 27)—A delightfully distinct and elegantly written novel; an angel book for people who are growing weary of angel books. Read our review here.

All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin (Sept 30)—Set in 2038, Anya is the 16 year old daughter of the NYC's most notorious crime boss. Her family traffics in the contraband substance of...chocolate.

Published in Teen

The much-anticipated conclusion to Scott Westerfeld's epic Leviathan trilogy releases next week with Goliath, but our friends at Simon & Schuster Canada have arranged for us to reveal an exclusive sneak peek: one of the illustrations by Keith Thompson.


The following artwork and description has info about a scene from Chapter 15 of Goliath, so don't look if you want everything to be a surprise.

Here's what Scott has to say about "Firefight in the Air":
"In Chapter 15 of Goliath, there's a scene where Deryn is trying to get from the rookery (where the strafing hawks and messenger birds are kept) to one of the engine pods, which is on fire. She has to slide down a cable connecting the two. At the same time, a German Zeppelin is passing by below, shooting rockets up at the stricken engine pod. It's a rather tense situation and, as you can see, Keith decided to draw the whole thing looking almost straight down. This is the first time he's drawn the spiny ventral fin of the airbeast, which is one of the weirder parts of the Leviathan. So 'Firefight in the Air' turned into one of the most vertiginous, and scary, images in the book!"

Here's Keith's amazing vertiginous image:



Published in Teen

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a debut author? With the help of Simon & Schuster Canada, we spoke to three new YA authors and asked them to share a little bit about their experiences.

Michelle Hodkin, author of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (9/27)

Indigo Teen Blog: Has publishing your first novel been anything like you expected it to be?
Michelle Hodkin: To be honest, I didn’t have any expectations when I began writing because I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be published. I've always loved books and reading, and I’m lucky enough to have been raised by a mother that always let me read any book I wanted to read. But even though my mother taught me when I was little that I could grow up to be anything I wanted, I had too practical and cautious of a personality to even attempt writing a book. Becoming a lawyer seemed like a safer bet— I could go to school, do well, pass tests, go to more school, pass more tests, and graduate with fancy pieces of paper saying I was qualified to do it. Now I have five or six fancy framed pieces of paper…and I'm doing something else that doesn't require them. Had I thought too much about how hard writing a book would be or how much stamina and dedication it would take, I probably wouldn't have done it. But the story just kind of took over, and I wrote it, and only realized all that stuff after it was too late to back out. So here I am.

ITB: Was YA fiction your first love, or did you try writing other genres?
MH: The first words of fiction I ever wrote were the first words of THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER. So YA chose me, and I couldn’t be happier.

ITB: Can you share what has been the coolest part of your publishing process?
MH: I think I have to say BEA (Book Expo America) 2011. It's interesting because BEA holds sort of a magical place in MARA DYER's history—in 2009, immediately after I started writing the book (which I began on May 15), I emailed a friend who was querying her novel and asked her for advice. She told me to "get it all down," and then told me to read industry blogs to learn more about the publishing process. So I started to read them, and during those weeks the blogs were all about BEA 2009 madness. So I found myself early in the process thinking: "Someday, I really want to be there."
          Little did I know that the following year, Simon & Schuster would win the auction for MARA DYER during the first night of BEA. I was able to announce the deal in person during BEA 2010 madness at BEA, in the company of my agent, my editor, my publisher, and so many new blogger and writer friends. And that was truly special—an experience I'll never forget. And then in 2011, my book, the one I began a little over two years ago, was chosen as one of the YA BEA Buzz titles, and I had the incredible chance to listen to my editor speak so eloquently about it to a packed room filled with hundreds of people, including my brothers and my best friend, who came to support me.
           So while I am so grateful to be able to say that there have been many exceptional moments during my path to publication, BEA 2011 was very, very cool.

Lena Coakley, the author of Witchlanders (now available)

Indigo Teen Blog: Has publishing your first novel been anything like you expected it to be?
Lena Coakley: Well, people told me it would be a roller coaster, and it’s certainly that!  I published two children’s picture books with a small publisher eight years ago (now out-of-print) and I’m amazed by the changes in the publishing industry since then.  There is so much more an author can do in terms of promotion.  I know many older authors who complain that they are now expected to blog, tweet, be on Facebook, etc., but I see it as an opportunity to have some control over what happens to my book.  As a shy and somewhat introverted person, I didn’t expect to love social media as much as I do, but it’s a great way to connect with readers and writers.

ITB: Was YA fiction your first love, or did you try writing other genres?
LC: I’ve never loved reading quite so much as I did when I was fourteen years old curled up with The Lord of the Rings or an Ursula Le Guin novel so, yes, YA fiction is most definitely my first love.  But I’ve also written poetry and short stories for adults, and, as I mentioned, I’ve written children’s picture books as well.  For the foreseeable future I’ll be continuing to write YA fantasy novels both because I love them and to build on the fan base I’ve developed for Witchlanders.

ITB: Can you share what has been the coolest part of your publishing process?
LC: Getting to know other authors, both published and aspiring.  There is such a wonderful community out there!  My philosophy is to be pretty much a member of everything: CANSCAIP, SCBWI, SFWA, etc.  I also love to chat on message boards and Twitter.  I’m sure I wouldn’t be published if it weren’t for the support I’ve gotten from other writers.  Writing is such a solitary business that it seems strange to say that it’s forced me to be more social, but I think it definitely has.

Elizabeth Miles, the author of Fury (available now)

Indigo Teen Blog: Has publishing your first novel been anything like you expected it to be?
Elizabeth Miles: Honestly, no! The world of newspaper publishing (in which I've worked since graduating from Boston University in 2004) is quite different from the world of YA fiction publishing. Among the things I didn't expect: All the early interest/support from the blogosphere; all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the publicity/marketing side of things; how many tiny decisions need to be made about the cover, website, etc.; how much I would love doing promotional stuff and meeting bloggers/readers.

ITB: Was YA fiction your first love, or did you try writing other genres?
EM: Well, like I said, my first professional career was (and is) as a newspaper writer. I work for an alternative newspaper in Portland, Maine, writing about politics, policy, culture, and society. As an alt-weekly, we get to take the kind of "long view" — offering commentary and analysis (some is serious, some is edgy/funny). I love it. However, my first love as a READER was certainly young adult lit — it was through Judy Blume books and Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie that I discovered the true magic of the written word. So I guess the answer to both your questions is yes!

ITB: Can you share what has been the coolest part of your publishing process?
EM: The coolest part for me has been getting to share this so closely with Lauren Oliver (author of Before I Fall and Delirium, among others), one of my closest and oldest friends (we've known each other since second grade and we've been besties since eighth). I feel lucky to be able to call on her for advice, support, and encouragement — and to be able to plan (even if it's just in a dream-world stage right now) a joint, giggling, food-obsessed book tour!

Thank you, ladies, for sharing your stories with us! May you have many more books published for us to read.

Published in Teen
Friday, 02 September 2011 00:18

The 2011 Top Teen Summer Read is...

You voted and your 2011 Top Teen Summer Read is Veronica Roth's Divergent!

Over 1500 votes were cast in a tight race that pitted Kelley Armstrong's The Gathering against Divergent, with Sarah Dessen's What Happened to Goodbye following in third place.

But it was more than the poll, Canada. You came back each week and read the interviews; you played along on Twitter, RTing and answering trivia questions to win books to read this summer. So thank you for making this a success!

We'd also to offer one more huge THANK YOU to our author guests and their publishers. HarperCollins Canada rallied the Canadian Dauntless to come and vote—proving yet again that we love Tris and Four!

If you happened to miss any of our Teen Summer Reading Series interviews, here they all are:

• Kelley Armstong

Moira Young

• Kieran Scott

Maggie Stiefvater

Veronica Roth

Scott Westerfeld

Sarah Dessen

Libba Bray

Lesley Livingston

Kenneth Oppel

So what do you think: Shall we do this again next summer?

Published in Teen
Saturday, 27 August 2011 19:49

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

I asked on Twitter, and the response was that you wanted to see a review for Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. You have good taste, Twitter, excellent decision on your part.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a delightfully distinct and elegantly written novel—an angel book for people who are growing weary of angel books. A star-crossed lovers tale for people who don’t want to read another rehash of Romeo and Juliet.

Karou is an art student in Prague—her blue hair grows that color, she speaks many languages, and all her outrageous lies are true. Raised by Chimera, Karou has grown-up in the mysterious shop of the imposing Brimstone who collects teeth in exchange for wishes, and his shop door can open onto many places in the world.

While there is a great romance plot, I enjoyed how Daughter of Smoke and Bone is about all of the love in Karou’s life—her friends and her family are as important as how she feels about Akiva. Karou is a brilliantly strong protagonist who balances her toughness with vulnerability. All the characters read as real—they dwell in a space that existed before the book starts and they continue to live and breathe after that last page. Zuzana is my favorite.

Also making this book a joy to read is the wit Taylor so effortlessly threads through the character’s thoughts and dialogue. From the glories of Prague to the markets of Marrakesh to the strange towering citadels of Elsewhere, you just want to get lost in Daughter of Smoke and Bone—to savor all its delights and shiver at its horrors, as you would soak up the atmosphere in Poison Kitchen with Karou and Zuzana.

Why not get lost in the story? It wants you to. As you read, you realize there were things in the beginning that meant more than you thought. This is a novel that invites you to reread it. Books that do this are always welcome on my shelf.

I’ve seen Daughter of Smoke and Bone compared to Neil Gaiman, and I tend to get nervous when someone does that. But it’s justified here; Laini Taylor has crafted a story that’s odd and magical and dark and twisted and funny and saying a great deal of truth about the world and ourselves.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone comes out September 27th. I highly recommend it as what to read after The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, reviewed by the Fiction blog here, because they are sister books in the way that they are different stories and worlds but the aspects that I love about them are the same.

Published in Teen
Wednesday, 24 August 2011 22:42

Teen Summer Reading Series: Kenneth Oppel

Canadian author Kenneth Oppel has his own shop on, and he's best known as the author of the Silverwing and Airborn books. Last summer, Half-Brother hit the teen shelves to ask serious questions about animal testing and what it means to be human. The big buzz this summer is focused on his newest novel, This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, which releases on August 30th. We have an early review of it here.

Because we're so excited for This Dark Endeavour, you should know that we couldn't be happier to have Kenneth Oppel as our final guest for the Teen Summer Reading Series. Welcome, Kenneth, and thanks for helping us end on a high note.

Indigo Teen Blog: What books are you looking forward to reading this summer?
Kenneth Oppel: I've heard great things about Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, so am looking forward to checking that out. I'll also be reading the latest from Tim Wynne-Jones (Blink & Caution) and Arthur Slade (Empire of Ruins.)

ITB: What's been your most memorable summer read and why?
KO: Last year I finally got around to reading The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler and was completely blown away by it. Such an amazing (anti)hero and story — and told with such energy and panache.

ITB: Describe your ideal summer day?
KO: My ideal summer day involves water — ideally the seaside, but Lake Ontario is good too, especially around Ward's Island and Centre Island, where I like to sail. Sailing, the company of family and friends, a good meal (overlooking water, of course) and a good glass of wine, and I'm happy. Maybe an episode  of Mad Men thrown in afterwards...

ITB: Summer eats/treats you can't live without?
KO: Well, I love salads in summer, especially Caprese salad, with fresh mozzarella and basil. I'm also a huge fan of ice cream, preferably Italian gelato, but I'm not picky.

ITB: What drew you to writing about a young Victor Frankenstein?
KO: Mary Shelley's classic, Frankenstein, is one of my favourite books, and in its early pages she very quickly describes Victor's childhood — but there are a few tantalizing clues about some of the things he got up to, which inspired me to write about his teenage life, and how on earth he became the "mad scientist" we're all familiar with in popular culture!

ITB: What's the difference, for you, between writing a 9-12 novel and a Teen novel?
: Virtually none. The approach to the writing is exactly the same. The age of your protagonist dictates, to a certain extent, the events that might happen in the novel. But the process of writing for me involves trying to inhabit my character(s), get inside their skin, and see the world through their eyes, whether they're 9 or 16. I consider myself an escape artist: I want to give my readers an amazing experience, and take them someplace they've never been before.

ITB: If you could give your 14 year old self a message from the future—without worrying of completely disrupting your timestream—what would it be?
KO: Don't be quite so sarcastic and cynical — or self-conscious! Being comfortable with yourself is the coolest thing ever.

Great advice for anyone! Thanks to Kenneth for answering our questions and our friends at Harper Collins Canada for arranging the interview.


Our complete Teen Summer Reading Series:

Kelley Armstong

Moira Young

• Kieran Scott

Maggie Stiefvater

Veronica Roth

Scott Westerfeld

Sarah Dessen

Libba Bray

Lesley Livingston

Kenneth Oppel

Published in Teen

Lesley Livingston is the Teen Read Award-nominated author of Wondrous Strange, Darklight, and Tempestuous—the the three novels in the Wondrous Strange trilogy. Her new book Once Every Never is roaring good-time, a hip and smart time-travel historical romance that—like most of Lesley's writing—takes itself just seriously enough to pull off what it's attempting to do. Zany adventures, humor, plus historical facts blended with intrigue and romance make Once Every Never a perfect summer book—and the first in a promising new series by this Canadian author.

Welcome, Lesley!

Indigo Teen Blog: What books are you looking forward to reading this summer?
Lesley Livingston: Ooh… so many books, so little time…
      I can’t wait to get my hands on the latest book in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, GHOST STORY. Butcher writes devilishly fun, “paranormal noir” with wit and style and heart and I can’t wait to find out what happens to Private Eye/Wizard Harry Dresden next. Especially after the massive cliff-hanger ending from the last book!
      I also want to finally get around to reading TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (I know! I know! I can’t believe I haven’t read it yet, either!).
      Lauren DeStefano’s WHITHER is also on my radar.
      And, and… well, that’ll do until I get the edits back on my latest manuscript!

ITB: What's been your most memorable summer read and why?
LL: I think I’d have to say Guy Gavriel Kay’s FIONAVAR TAPESTRY trilogy. These books were faves of mine when I was a teen and I still bring them out ever year or two just so I can sink back into that sweeping, epic fantasy world. The story is both fun and fulfilling, stuffed with adventure, romance, heartbreak and triumph of good over evil—which is what I call a great summer read!

ITB: Describe your ideal summer day?
LL: Sitting on a lounge chair in the shade on a sunny day with just a few fluffy clouds and a hint of breeze, somewhere near a sparkling body of water, with a cool drink in one hand and a book in the other. Oh, sorry… isn’t that the actual dictionary definition of an ideal summer day?

ITB: Summer eats/treats you can’t live without?
LL: Ice Cream Drumsticks. I mean… I can live without them. But why?

ITB: You must have done a great deal of research to write Once Every Never. What is one of your favourite fun facts about the time of the Celts?
LL: Thank you! I did do rather a lot and I’m glad you noticed!
      I love the fact that, contrary to popular opinion, the people of the Celtic tribes were by no means benighted barbarians living in dark, smelly huts wearing animal pelts and eating haunches of meat with their bare hands. In fact, the Celtic culture was a rich, artistically vibrant one, overflowing with artists and craftsmen. They were a people who loved music and storytelling and beautiful things. The ornamentation and the fine, detailed work on jewellery and implements left behind from that period attests to that fact. In ONCE EVERY NEVER, I refer to actual historical artifacts—like the Snettisham Great Torc—that are breathtaking to behold, they are so marvellously made.

ITB: Normally I’m as fond of time travel ideas as Al and Milo—but I was really impressed with how Once Every Never works. Was it difficult to write a book about time travel and handle it in a mostly realistic way?
LL: Ha! I’m glad you think it worked! I will admit to it being quite a challenge keeping everything straight when I was working out the various plot loops and whorls and curlicues as I was writing. Occasionally I got brain-cramp following the bouncing time-lines, but things would always smooth themselves out eventually and I was always delighted at the ways in which they would.
      As far as realism goes, I very much wanted to—even though Clare’s abilities are based in magic—keep the time-travel as grounded and plausible as I could within in the context of that mystical framework. Having real, historical events and personages to hang the story on helped immensely in that respect.

ITBI read on your blog that Once Every Never is going to be a three book series. Can you tell us about what awaits Clare, Milo, and Al in the next book?
LL: It is! I’m very excited about it! I don’t want to give away much, but I can tell you that the story continues with a bit of a perspective shift and brings back most of the characters from the first book, while introducing a few new ones. Clare and Al find themselves once more caught in a shifting temporal web—although not, exactly, as they were in the first book. There is adventure. Romance. Danger. Magic. Milo is, of course, back. So is Maggie. So is…
      Look! Over there! Monkeys!
      *sneaks out the back door of this interview before spilling any spoilers*


Thanks to Lesley for answering our questions and Penguin Canada for arranging the interview.

Follow our Teen Summer Reading Series:

Kelley Armstong

Moira Young

• Kieran Scott

Maggie Stiefvater

Veronica Roth

Scott Westerfeld

Sarah Dessen

Libba Bray

Lesley Livingston

Published in Teen

This week we welcome Tabitha Suzuma, the author of Forbidden. Maybe you've seen the cover of Forbidden; maybe you've already heard the buzz about this book. It's the story of a brother and sister who fall in love. If you just went "um...what?!" you're probably not the first. With help from her publisher, Simon & Schuster Canada, we arranged this guestpost from Tabitha to discuss why she chose to write about the controversial topic of incest.

So here's what Tabitha has to say:

It wasn’t an easy decision. When I first decided to take the plunge and write a love story between a brother and sister, I was, quite frankly, terrified. My first concern was that it would be dismissed out of hand as an unsuitable subject for teenagers. My second, that it would have to be so heavily censored that the physical side of the relationship would be glossed over, rendering the story over-romanticized and unrealistic. My third concern was that teenagers themselves would be put off—looking at their own brothers or sisters and feeling disgusted at the mere thought. It was a book that I wasn’t sure would ever be published, let alone sell, so I was full of trepidation as I embarked on what would turn out to be one of the most difficult journeys of my life. But despite these concerns, I was determined. I craved the challenge of writing a book about a subject that was universally seen as twisted and disgusting, and making it romantic and heart-wrenching by almost forcing the reader to fall in love with the two main protagonists so that they would feel their pain and understand what it might be like to be in such a situation. Most of all I wanted to show teenagers that this could happen to anyone—even them.

Three of my previous books have been about characters battling mental illness, and in many ways Forbidden was not such a huge departure from that: the idea that anyone can suddenly be struck down by a mental illness, that there isn’t an ‘us’ and a ‘them’, that people don’t choose to be ‘normal’ any more than people choose to be ‘abnormal’—that it’s all about luck: upbringing, genes, brain chemistry, life circumstances . . .

I decided that I wanted my next book to be a love story—a tragic love story: star-crossed lovers who had to fight against the world to be together but were ultimately torn apart. I wanted to write a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, and I tried to think of a situation that would force two lovers apart despite their every effort to stay together. I had one basic stipulation—that the book had to be set in contemporary Britain . . . But therein lay my problem: what situation would totally and absolutely prevent two people in love from being together? Religion, culture, age-difference, teacher–pupil all crossed my mind, but as my protagonists needed to be older teens in order for their love to be taken seriously, there was always the option of eloping, running away from families or a community that condemned their relationship. I had to come up with something stronger. I had to think of something that would be universally condemned. So it was by a process of elimination that I ended up with incest: the last taboo, something that would never be accepted by the outside world; something that instantly provokes in people such strong feelings of disgust. We are biologically wired to react strongly against the mere idea of being romantically and sexually involved with a sibling or any close family member. For good reason of course: interbreeding usually produces deformities in any offspring. So our reaction is Darwinian and innate. But, like a mental illness, things can go wrong—biologically or circumstantially or both.

About a year earlier I had toyed with the idea of writing a book about child carers, having been one myself. Young people can be forced to become carers when a parent becomes ill or disabled, or are neglected by their parents to the point where they have to fend for themselves and younger siblings at the most basic level. This latter scenario was the one that struck a chord in me. Growing up as the eldest of five with an abusive and absent father and an overworked mother, I always had difficulty making friends at school, instead turning to my brothers and sisters. When my fourth sibling was born—a brother, fourteen years my junior—I happily took over the role of main carer. I left school the week he was born, and from then on did the school run and the morning and bedtime routines—recognizing his extraordinary musical talent when he was only ten months old and teaching him the piano. I thought of him as my son; I wanted him to be my son. I even changed his name! My sister, too, ten years my junior, spent the first year of her talking life calling me ‘Mummy’.

I realized that here were circumstances exceptional enough to feed an incestuous relationship—and the story of a carer to younger siblings was the most natural and easiest for me to write. With two child carers sharing the responsibility of parents, I could see how they might come to love and support and depend on each other in a way that the average brother and sister do not—the absence of parental love and the huge demands and responsibilities placed upon them pulling them close. In these circumstances they might seek comfort in each other, becoming isolated from the outside world and sharing a difficult and stressful existence that only they could understand, ultimately drawing them together into an inevitable but doomed romantic relationship.

Published in Teen
Thursday, 11 August 2011 01:54

Teen Summer Reading Series: Libba Bray

Libba Bray is the author of The Gemma Doyle Trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing), the Michael L Printz award-winning Going Bovine, and most recently, the amazing Beauty Queens. Her books are fun and thought-provoking, and her sense of humor has won her many readers and followers online.

It's no secret that we loved Beauty Queens, and we're thrilled she's here to talk a little bit about it and her summer with us. Welcome, Libba!

Indigo Teen Blog: If you were on a possibly deserted island, what three things would you bring with you?
Libba Bray: Let’s see—snacks and water, because I like me some snacks, and I am completely ill-equipped to forage outside of, say, pizza foraging. I would bring toilet paper; I don’t trust those leaves—just sayin’. And I would bring HOW TO GET YOURSELF OFF A DESERTED ISLAND FOR DUMMIES, because I would really, really need to get back to civilization as soon as possible.

ITB: What would be your talent if you were in a beauty pageant?
LB: The ability to avoid answering any question I didn’t have a good answer for, like this:
       Q: Libba, how would you characterize Milton Friedman’s theories of economics, and how would you compare and contrast that with Ayn Rand’s Obectivism?
       A: (pause) I like you. Can I smell your hair?

ITB: Your next project, The Diviners, is set in 1920s Manhattan. Obviously, it’ll be awesome but can you tell us anything more about it?
LB: I’m going to try to remember that [it] will be “obviously awesome,” because right now, it is totally kicking my boo-tay. This one is a sprawler. It’s four books set over the course of a year. My pitch line is “X-Files with flappers.” I have no idea if the series resembles this ridiculous pitch line in any way, but it sounds good. I’m getting to play with some of my favorite things: the supernatural, historical fiction—or alt history, politics, mystery, monsterish things, the creepy, New York City, showbiz, great clothes.
       You know what, let’s just call it “X-Files with flappers.”

ITB: What books are you looking forward to reading this summer?
LB: Well, mostly, I’m reading a lot of non-fiction—research on the 1920s. But I’m looking forward to reading Jo Knowles’s latest, Pearl. She’s a wonderful writer. And I can’t wait to read David Levithan’s EVERY YOU, EVERY ME (early September).

ITB: What's been your most memorable summer read and why?
LB: There are two that spring to mind. The first is THE THORNBIRDS by Colleen McCullough. I read it the summer I was eighteen and home recovering from a serious car accident, and it did that thing that books can do—it completely transported me and made me forget my troubles for a bit. The second is THE PRINCE OF TIDES by Pat Conroy, which I read a few years later while recovering from major surgery (due to that same accident). Apparently, I like to read sweeping family sagas in the summer. Just in case you’re looking for a summer present for me.

ITB: Describe 3 ingredients necessary for your ideal summer weekend:
LB: Good food. Good friends. Good weather.

ITB: Summer eats/treats you can't live without?
LB: I am pro-treats, for sure. Summer treats: watermelon, peaches, guacamole, grilled fish, lemonade, mint iced tea, chips & salsa, ice cream, and key lime pie. Mmmm. Okay, so who’s cooking?


Thanks to Libba for answering our questions and Scholastic Canada for arranging the interview.

Follow our Teen Summer Reading Series:

Kelley Armstong

Moira Young

• Kieran Scott

Maggie Stiefvater

Veronica Roth

Scott Westerfeld

Sarah Dessen

Libba Bray

Published in Teen
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