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Monday, 10 December 2012 00:50

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

Ladies and Gentleman, readers of discerning tastes who seek the finest of entertainments, may we interest you in a fabulous new tale from Toronto resident, Lady Adrienne Kress?

Kress describes The Friday Society, her Teen debut, as "Steampunk Charlie's Angels—without the Charlie." It's an incredibly accurate description: imagine the fun, adventure, action, and female-friendships of Charlies Angels set in the Edwardian period—and then add the utter coolness of steampunk to the mix.

Are you a fan of Cassandra Clare's The Infernal Devices or Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy? Then you're going to adore The Friday Society. This is a book of three bright, bold young ladies who band together to thwart crimes and save their city. Kress balances the multiple POVs of the girls, giving each character her own distinct personality while maintaining a unifying tongue-in-cheek style of narration, and resolves the interweaving plots in a satisfying way.

I admire how Kress emphasizes the camaraderie of Cora, Nellie, and Michiko—a trio of go-to "Girl Fridays" who assist three powerful men of London. While I like each of the girls, Michiko might be my favourite; Kress writes an English as second language character in a way that's both respectful and realistic.

In general, Kress has a knack for characterization and culture-building. Reading The Friday Society, one can tell that she's an imaginative author who has taken the time to immerse herself in the culture of steampunk, but she presents it in a way that is fun and accessible. Kress' flavor of steampunk is vivid, lively, and fantastical—she doesn't try to emulate Victorian-style prose. She has created something very much her own.

While this book acts as an origin story and therefore stands alone, I hope The Friday Society will be the first of several novels featuring these lovable characters. Can't wait to see where Kress' imagination takes the girls—and us—next!

The Friday Society is now available.

Published in Teen
Tuesday, 06 November 2012 10:12

Best of Teen 2012

It's time for the most exciting post of the year: The Top Ten List! This year all the members of Team Teen worked together to compile a master list of the must read Teen books from 2012. We're very proud of this one; it's a perfect mix of all the books we love and the books we think you'll love, too.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. When we asked around the office, this was one of the titles everyone mentioned. We loved Green's endearing characters from page one; his quirky humour had us laughing at a cancer book—something we never thought we'd do. (Our review and Q & A with John Green.)

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. We want to get in the Pig (Gansey's car) and go on adventures with Stiefvater's mature and well-developed cast. From smart commentary on wealth and privilege, to witty banter and magic, this lyrical book is like a teen Indiana Jones with Welsh mythology. (Our Q & A with Maggie Stiefvater.)

The Diviners by Libba Bray. Team Teen pos-i-tute-ly thinks this Jazz Age fantasy is the bee's knees, the elephant's eyebrows, and the cat's pyjamas. This is the 1920s as only Libba Bray can write them with her observant blend of humour, intrigue, and magic. Surprisingly creepy—but we aren't complaining! (Our Q & A with Libba Bray.)

Cinder by Marissa Meyer. When Beijing’s number one mechanic, Linh Cinder, finds herself repairing the Prince’s beloved android, she unlocks a galaxy’s worth of adventure in this sci-fi take on the classic Cinderella. We love this re-imagined fairy tale’s high stakes action, beloved supporting cast, and Whedon-worthy delicious snark.* (Our review and Q & A with Marissa Meyer.)

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Seraphina lives in a medieval world where dragons can fold themselves into human shape. They live among humans as gifted academics, who are baffled by human emotion. Seraphina is a talented musician with a head for solving mysteries, who quickly finds herself deep in palace intrigue as she tries to keep her own dangerous heritage a secret from those closest to her. We can’t get the melody of this lyrical tale out of our heads.* (Rachel Hartman's guestpost.)

Insurgent by Veronica Roth. We were early fans of Divergent and Insurgent has more action, more danger, and more Four! We loved learning about the other Factions, and we can't wait to see how Tris will save her world in the third book of Roth's trilogy. (Our review and Q & A with Veronica Roth.)

Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garica & Margaret Stohl. The final book of The Caster Chronicles was everything we hoped for—and a reminder of why we fell in love with Beautiful Creatures. We'll miss Gatlin, with all its secrets, magic, and pie. (Our review.)

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare. We always love catching up with the Shadow Hunters—and City of Lost Souls returned our favourite antagonist to the series! We're really looking forward to Clockwork Princess to help make the wait for CITY OF HEAVENLY FIRE easier. (Remember the amazing COLS Scavenger Hunt Contest?)

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. Grave Mercy had us at assassin nuns. Really, do we need to say more? (Our feature.)

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan. Unspoken charmed us, made us laugh out loud, and then broke our hearts. From lady detectives who do victory shimmies, to dangerous bad boys with hearts of gold, this book has everything we love! (Our review.)

Honorable Mentions

Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel. We're big fans of Oppel's The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein and enjoyed last year's This Dark Endeavour, but this sequel is one of those rare gems that outdoes the first book in the series. Can't wait for the next one! (Our review.)

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver. The follow-up to Delirium introduced us to new characters, answered some questions, and left us starved for next year's Requiem. (Our discussion post and Q & A with Lauren Oliver.)

If you're looking for a handy-dandy reference page, we recommend our Teen Best of 2012 Shop. We also have our Teen Top 10 of 2011 and Teen Top 10 of 2010. Happy Reading!

Published in Teen

Rachel Hartman’s Governor General award-nominated debut novel, Seraphina, is filled with rich prose and exquisite storytelling that holds the rare magic of a timeless tale between its pages.  The scope of the world in Seraphina is dazzling, earthy and medieval, with a freshness that is transformative.  This is an old world touched by new magic, whose heroine is called to find a place for herself in a homeland that may not welcome her.

 We have the pleasure of presenting a guest post from Rachel Hartman.  And, as you will see, the landscape of Canada had a hand in the shaping of this wonderful novel.

****

The Hon. David Johnston became Governor General of Canada in October of 2010, just a week or two before our Canadian citizenship test. My husband and I had been studying; we joked that it was fiendishly sneaky of Immigration Canada to change one of the answers at the last minute. I repeated the new name to myself, however, as we drove through the drizzle to our testing site, half convinced I was going to choke.

Being named one of the GG Literary Award finalists almost exactly two years later holds a certain poignancy for me, therefore. It has me remembering my Canadian as well as my literary journey, two paths I’d never seen as parallel until now.

 I began writing Seraphina when I moved to Canada. Coming from the States, I had not anticipated culture shock, but Canada is more complicated than her southern neighbours believe. I was learning to navigate new motherhood and a new country all at once, living far from family and friends. I squeezed writing into the cracks and crannies of my day, like a glimpse of sunshine amongst Vancouver’s clouds. Writing makes great therapy, but my theraputic writing made for a sorrowful and lonely book.

Once I finished that first draft, however, something changed. My self-pity was spent; I began to look around me. It felt like climbing out of a hole, blinking at the unfamiliar light and stretching my unused limbs. I had landed someplace beautiful without really appreciating that fact, but it wasn’t until I finished that first, myopic draft that I really began to feel like I lived here.

I rewrote the novel for a prospective agent; it came out brighter the second time. Beautiful bits of Canada began working their way into the text: the fierce, mist-breathing mountains; the moody, textured sky; the ubiquitous Vancouver crows in shrill rookeries. I drew strength from nature and inspiration from the friends I was beginning to find.

The book went through two more iterations for different editors. I wrote much of the final version while studying for my citizenship exam; subconsciously, I began to weave in civic themes, justice and fairness, began to give my fantasy world more subtle and complicated politics. I had created a world where dragons can take human form; this raised all kind of questions about tolerance, prejudice, and even multiculturalism.

I can’t pretend everyone is good in my novel; there is bigotry, misunderstanding, and unhappiness, alas. Stories require conflict. But the underlying tone is hopeful and reflects what is, to me, the spirit of Canada: the idea that well-intentioned people of good will can find a way to work together, to draw strength from their differences, and to leave the world a better place than they found it.

 I am moved and humbled to think that this country I have grown to love, my home if not exactly native land, loves me back, even a little. Thank you Canada. I wrote this book for you.

Published in Teen
Tuesday, 23 October 2012 12:14

Beautiful Redemption: A Review

Reading the last book in a beloved series is a bittersweet moment. The final volume of The Caster Chronicles, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Redemption, is the book that I’ve been waiting for all year. The Caster Chronicles and I have a history; each book arrives with an understanding that I’ll be up reading until it’s finished. It's a conversation with friends that lasts far longer into the night than you intended, but you can't bring yourself to leave. Beautiful Redemption is the last meeting of old friends, so each word—each time it makes me smile or brings up a memory of what we’ve been through together—means all that much more.

How late was I up? Well, I was fortunate enough to receive a publicity copy early from Hachette Book Group Canada. As I had been rereading the previous three books (Beautiful Creatures, Beautiful Darkness, and Beautiful Chaos), when I finished my reread I started Beautiful Redemption. It was 11:00 pm on a Saturday night, and I thought I’d read a chapter or two. Uh yeah, that didn’t happen. I stayed up until 4:30 AM on Sunday morning because I didn’t want to let it go.

After I got a good sleep Sunday night, I started rereading Beautiful Redemption. This time I read it slow and savoured each chapter. Beautiful Redemption is the best of the series—my favourite by far. (That had previously been Beautiful Darkness.) This is a fair ending, a real ending, and it finishes the story that the series set out to tell.

While it's true The Caster Chronicles is the love story of Ethan Lawson Wate and Lena Duchannes, it’s always been so much more than that to me. These books are about being Claimed—by your family, your friends, your town, and yourself. I’m so pleased with the way these characters have grown together through all of the trials they’ve faced and adventures they’ve had.

One of the best parts about Beautiful Redemption is how it allows us to get inside Lena’s head, so we get to see what she thinks of characters we’ve come to know via Ethan. One of my favourite scenes is Lena and Link driving in the Beater when she makes all the lights turn green for him. It’s a tiny little detail, but it tells you so much about how well she knows him.

But what I love most about this book is Ethan and his journey. This entire series has been about finding one’s place, and Ethan Lawson Wate undoubtedly finds his. It’s not an easy task—after Beautiful Chaos it’s a rather difficult one—but to quote Amma: “The easy thing and the right thing are seldom the same.”

This sentiment has been the perfectly-formed crust of the narrative; in Beautiful Redemption, it is matched with a line from Macon Ravenwood that completes its blue-ribbon winning pie: “These things are difficulties, not impossibilities.” Ethan and Lena have faced difficulty after difficulty, but they come to understand it’s not impossible to do what needs doing—and you don't have to do it alone. Anytime your friends realize that, it's a proud moment. (Whether they're imaginary or not.)

If you’ve not read these books, you must give them a try. They are a whole lot of very true things wrapped up in fun and romance and magic hidden in plain sight. While I am sad to say goodbye to them, I know we'll see each other again in February for the movie. I can't wait.

Published in Teen
Monday, 22 October 2012 10:10

A Q and A with Becca Fitzpatrick

Tomorrow, October 23, is the Finale of Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush series. We've all been waiting to find out if Nora and Patch will get to stay together despite all the odds, and the fact that destiny wants them to be enemies! Patch is one of the baddest of fallen angel bad boys and it was obvious from the moment I saw the cover of Hush, Hush that it was going to be a hit with readers.

If the amazing trailer is any indication, this last book is going to be a hit, too.

Becca was kind enough to answer three quick questions about writing her series to help get us through this final day in your Finale countdown. Welcome, Becca!

Indigo Teen Blog (ITB): What was it like to see Hush, Hush adapted as a graphic novel?

Becca Fitzpatrick (BF): So. Very. Cool. My publisher asked for input from both me and readers, which made the process that much more special. Like most kids, I read comics when I was young, and I enjoyed getting an insider's peek into the process.

ITB: What impact has knowing that you have readers waiting had on your writing?

BF: With every book, I've felt pressure to give readers the best story I can. I want fans to love every book more than the last, and that's a big challenge! My best work typically comes when I push aside the worry and doubt, and immerse myself in the story. It's hard to say goodbye to Patch and Nora after spending so much time with them during the past several years, but I feel good about their ending. Like, somewhere out there, their story lives on.

ITB: What’s a great thing that this series has brought to your life?

BF: The chance to meet readers and fans all over the globe. Before Hush, Hush was published, I didn't own a passport, can you believe it? I didn't realize how one book can unite so many different people. I feel blessed to do something I love, and share it with others.

***

Thank you to Becca Fitzpatrick for answering our questions and our friends at Simon & Schuster Canada for facilitating this interview. Finale is available online and in-stores tomorrow, October 23!

Published in Teen
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 11:29

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Do you enjoy witty banter, great characters, daring adventures, lady sleuths, bad boys, mysterious manor houses, and tasty pastries? Meet your next favourite book: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, the first book in The Lynburn Legacy trilogy.

Fact: I have a love for everything Sarah Rees Brennan writes. Also fact: Unspoken is her finest, funniest, and most fun book yet. It’s no mystery why Unspoken is one of Team Teen’s top reads for this year.

Here's the set up: Kami Glass has always had an imaginary friend named Jared. She hears him in her head, and he's gotten her through every awful moment and celebrated every wonderful thing that has happened in her life. He's the person closest and dearest to her. Her family and friends think this is, well, a bit strange but they love Kami and this quirkiness is part of her normal life. But one day Kami finds out that Jared is a real person who exists outside of her head.  It's bad enough he knows what she's thinking and feeling, but he's also one of the Lynburns—the mysterious family revered and feared in Kami's hometown of sleepy little Sorry-in-the-Vale.

Kami isn't about to let this stop her. No, she is a journalist—an earnest investigative reporter who understands you occasionally need to overlook property laws in order to get to the truth. There are creepy noises in the woods on the Lynburn estate, someone tried to shove her down a well, and the Lynburns are definitely involved.

So Kami gets her friends Angela and Holly, and her new friend Ash—who is Jared's cousin—and Jared, who is her now-not-so-imaginary friend, to help her investigate. (By which I mean she tells them they're all investigating with her.) Kami’s investigation leads to the truth about both Sorry-in-the-Vale and the Lynburn family—and her connection to them.

If you aren’t fully convinced that you and all of your friends should read this book IMMEDIATELY, let the other members of The Team Teen Nosy Parker* present their evidence:

Unspoken is delightful, fun, and beyond CHARMING. Aside from a perfectly dreamy setting and clever writing, I found myself totally enchanted by the excellently angsty characters. Kami is like Veronica Mars; sleuthing her small town into submission and dazzling with her smarts.  This one is an excellent read for mystery fans, paranormal lovers, and really any Teen book reader who loves a good turn of phrase. Did I mention the charm factor? Because it is. Charming. And I can’t wait for the next book.” —Kate Newman, Teen Assistant Category manager

“This book makes my checklist of charm!  Clever sleuthing, delicious snark, imaginary friends that turn out to be real and might be your soulmate, a town full of secrets, myth and sorcery and, did I mention the delicious snark?  Prepare to be lulled into a gentle sense of YA security as you hang out with these lovely characters ONLY TO HAVE YOUR----------well, I’ll stop there.  You’ll see.” —Natalie Garside, Teen Inventory Analyst

* Another reason to read Unspoken is so you get this joke!
Published in Teen
Monday, 24 September 2012 02:13

A Q and A with Maggie Stiefvater

One of the books Team Teen is most excited about this fall is Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys. In this first book of her new The Raven Cycle series, Stiefvater introduces us to Blue Sarget and the Aglionby boys: Gansy, Ronan, Adam, and Noah. Blue is the daughter of the town pyschic in sleepy Henrietta, West Virgina, who has grown-up being told that if she kisses her true love, she will kill him. The boys all attend the private Aglionby Academy. They have no reason to cross paths until one St. Mark's Eve when Blue sees Gansey walking the ghost road.

This means two things:

1) Gansey is going to die in the next year.

2) Either Gansey is Blue's true love or she will be the one who kills him.

Add in a quest for a long-lost Welsh king, ley line magic, and heart-squeezingly well-written relationship dynamics and you get a story that is kissed with magic and prophecy, filled with adventures and friendships, and an observation of the bonds created by money, family, and friendship. It is, in my opinion, the best book Stiefvater has written yet.

We are so delighted to have Maggie Stiefvater here to answer a few questions. She also shares a peek into Gansey's infamous journal. Welcome, Maggie!

Indigo Teen Blog (ITB): For our readers: what can they expect from The Raven Boys?

Maggie Stiefvater (MS): Rich boys, fast cars, helicopters, magic and all kinds of Latin. It's the first book in a four-book series, so the trouble that goes down in this book is just the beginning.

ITB: How does your musical back ground influence your work?

MS: Oh, well, in three big ways. The first is that I have to listen to music while I write — I rely on it heavily to keep my chapter in the mood I want for it. And secondly, in that I think of my books as a mix CD, where the tone and length of each chapter builds on the last just like in a well-made mix CD (I spend a lot of time reading my words out loud, too, for rhythm). And finally, because I write music for each of my books — all those songs are available for free download on my website (www.maggiestiefvater.com) and are also the background for the trailers for each book.

ITB: Is there a “real” Gansey’s notebook and may we see it?

MS: There are actually two of them. One of them is somewhere in the Scholastic offices in NYC, and the other is in my office in Virginia. YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE IT? I thought you'd never ask.

msjournal

 

msjournal2

 

msjournal3

 

ITB: What made you choose ley lines and the lore of an ancient king?

MS: This is a hard question to answer as it requires considerable memory-work on my part. I wrote the first draft of this novel when I was 19 or so — 9 or 10 years ago. And it wasn't the sleeping king novel idea wasn't a new idea for me even back then, either. As a history major, I'd been entranced by the combination of history and myth for a long time. Now, the ley lines — that I remember. I needed a way to get a long-dead Welsh king over to Virginia, and the ley line stuff tied in perfectly. Marriage made in medieval heaven.

ITB: Did any major plot points change as you did researchfor this story?

MS: I have yet to write a novel where they didn't. The biggest challenge, however, was balancing the personalities of the boys. Because they were so tightly knit, just one tweak of one character would create a domino effect through the rest.

ITB: The Raven Boys is delicately balanced between dark and light, levity and heartache. We know you worked with David Leviathan. Do you feel he helped create that balance through editorial support or was this something that you found on your own while drafting?

MS: I love working with David; the fact that he's an author in his own right means that his notes come already translated into writer-language. Convenient! But generally by the time he gets a manuscript, it is pretty complete. The folks who see it in bits and pieces from the very beginning are my critique partners, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff. Even then, their job is not to impose their own styles but rather to see what I'm trying to accomplish and make sure that THAT is what ends up on the page.

ITB: The locations are beautifully built out for readers from Blue’s house to the woods. Is it important to you, as a writer, to set spaces that are as evocative as the characters?

MS: Absolutely. Our settings make us who we are. To not build them up as lovingly as the people in them is to only tell half the story.

***

Thank you again to Maggie Stiefvater for answering our questions and our friends at Scholatic Canada for facilitating this Q & A. The Raven Boys is available now, and you can meet Maggie Stiefvater at Chapters Brampton on September 25th at 7 pm!

Published in Teen
Monday, 17 September 2012 19:02

A Q and A with Libba Bray

Libba Bray's newest novel, The Diviners, is the bee's knees. It's already a fall favourite among Team Teen, so we know that you're going to love it, too.

Set in the roaring '20s, The Diviners follows a diverse cast of characters through a New York populated with jazz clubs, flappers, and secrets. People with psychic abilities, known as Diviners, are reappearing. Why are so many of them gathered in New York? What purpose do the Diviners have?

This first book in Bray's new series focuses on Evie "Evil" O'Neill, a Zelda Fitzgerald-like teen flapper, with a talent for getting into mischief. Evie can also see people's pasts and learn their secrets by touching their personal items. In fact, this unnerving skill is the reason Evie had to leave sleepy Ohio to come to New York. She's staying with her uncle Will, who happens to be the curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--or as everyone else calls it: The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies. When a serial killer named Naughty John begins stalking the streets of New York, can Evie solve the crime?

We're pos-i-tute-ly thrilled to have Libba Bray on the blog to answer a few of our questions about The Diviners! Welcome, Libba.

***

Indigo Teen Blog (ITB): Part of what gives The Diviners such an authentic tone is its use of 1920’s language. The words the characters speak really help to identify them and the social group they belong to. Is there any difference in crafting the language of a historical period versus a contemporary one? What kind of research did you do into the era?

Libba Bray (LB): There’s pos-i-tute-ly a difference.

As part of my research, I looked into the slang of the day, which was really delicious. When you have access to phrases like, “flour lover” (a girl who might want to go easy on the face powder next time), “the elephant’s eyebrows” (something awesome), “dewdropper” (a real slacker of a guy), “ossified” (drunk) or “Bank’s closed” (Sorry, pal, you’re not getting a kiss out of me tonight), it makes your job a lot of fun. Who wouldn’t want to drop those into a conversation?  I also find reading the fiction of the time period to be extremely helpful because it’s a bit of a time capsule. Reading newspapers and advertisements opens a window as well. As a former advertising copywriter, I look at ads because they give you a sense of what people valued, what their aspirations—and in many cases, their fears and prejudices—were.

In terms of broader 1920s research, about four years ago, I started reading up on the period. Some of the books I found useful include Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s by Ann Douglas. Playing The Numbers: Gambling in Harlem Between the Wars by Shane White, Stephen Garton, Dr. Stephen Robertson, and Graham White.  Only History: An Informal History of the 1920s by Frederick Lewis Allen. Jesus and Gin: Evangelicalism, the Roaring Twenties, and Today’s Culture Wars by Barry Hankins. The Harlem Renaissance: A Brief History with Documents by Jeffrey B. Ferguson, and From The Folks Who Brought You The Weekend: A Short, Illustrated History of Labor in the United States by Priscilla Murolo, A.B. Chitty, and Joe Sacco, among many, many others.

Then there were trips to the New York and Brooklyn Public Libraries, the New York Historical Society, the Paley Center for Media where my terrific assistant, Tricia, and I could listen to old radio broadcasts, and the MTA Archives and Museum where we waded through countless pictures of 1920s New York City and where we sat in an actual 1920s subway car. (Today’s factoid: It had ceiling fans.) I employed the expertise of two historians who led walking tours through Harlem and the Lower East Side, and, I hit up my librarian friends like Elizabeth Irwin High School librarian, Karyn Silverman, who used to teach a unit on the 1920s. Finally, when it became clear that the breadth of what I needed/wanted to know was too vast for my puny, haphazard, untrained research skills, I hired an expert: librarian and self-proclaimed “research maven” Lisa Gold came to my rescue, helping me find what I needed, everything from primary sources on Ziegfeld Follies girls toimmigration statistics to the etymology of the word “honey” as a term of endearment to answer a fact checker’s query. Lisa is amazing. Visit her here: www.lisagold.com

Obviously, I couldn’t have done this without a village. As I say, when the going gets tough, the tough get a librarian. Truth.

 

ITB: Did you dress in costume to help you get in the mood to write? Listen to specific music?

LB: I only write in costume. This will be interesting when I finally write that llama pirate-anarchist-Dolly Parton musical the world has been clamoring for. (Truth: Mostly, I write garbed in comfy jeans and concert t-shirts. For sartorial splendor, look to other writers.) I do make a playlist for everything I write and The Diviners was no exception. The act of figuring out which songs will create just the right mood for the book is a part of the writing process for me. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself when I’ve missed my deadline once again because I’ve been messing around on iTunes. (You can find my playlists on my website—www.libbabray.com—if you’re so inclined. And if you’re really inclined, you might be a hill.)

 

ITB: How did you approach writing the characters from multiple points of view?

LB: With fear and trepidation. And lots of coffee.

Given the nature of the book, I didn’t see any other way to do it than to write from multiple POVs. It’s a big, sprawling series, and I really wanted that omniscient, old-fashioned storytelling feel. I’d done multiple POVs for Beauty Queens, but that was smaller scale compared to The Diviners and, I will not lie, I was absolutely terrified. Many a morning, I’d wake in a sweat, thinking, “What have I done? I can barely organize my sock drawer. In fact, I do not organize at all. What made me think I could tackle all of this?” And then I’d swill some antacid, put a bullet between my molars[1], and place my fingers on the keys.

I took comfort from rereading one of my favorite books, Stephen King’s Salem's Lot. He is terrific at shifting from one POV to another in a way that is seamless and doesn’t make you feel lost. By the time you finish that book, you’ve been in the heads of almost everyone in town. So, when trying something that feels scary to you as a writer, I say look to those who do it well, like King, as your mentors. But when writing outside of my culture, I approach that with humility and respect and as much research as I can gather.

 

ITB: There seems to be a rise in interest in the turn of the last century and the first few decades. Why do you think that is?

LB: I think because so much of what was happening then resonates with what we’re facing now. Obviously, in the current economic climate, we can’t help but look back to the 1920’s and 1930’s, with the stock market crash and the Great Depression.

Certainly, the 1920s were a rich historical period, something that felt entirely new and exciting—glamorous flappers, jazz, Prohibition, the emergence of radio, the Harlem Renaissance, gangsters and bootleggers, wild parties and political scandals like the Teapot Dome affair. And the fact that we know this wild party is all leading up to a very big crash informs the period with a certain suspense that makes for great, thoughtful reading.

 

ITB: You speak to many different political and social conflicts during the period. How do you think that contemporary readers will relate to what happened then to what is happening now?

LB: That really was my inspiration for writing The Diviners. I wanted to write about post-9/11 America and to explore the things that were troubling me as an American, like the Patriot Act, the almost casual way we were ceding our civil liberties in exchange for “Homeland Security,” the elevation of corporate greed above human interest, the justification of torture as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” the rise in xenophobia and far right-wing hate. I came across that famous quote, oft attributed to Sinclair Lewis: “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in a flag and waving a cross.” And I thought, “Hmmmm…”

I began to wonder, question, “Well, what does it mean to be ‘American’? Who are we?” As I began to research the 1920’s, I saw interesting and, at times, disturbing parallels between where we were then and where we are now: Labor unions were under attack. A wave of post-WWI terrorism in the U.S. had bred fear and a suspicion of “foreigners.” There was a nasty streak of nativism that found its way into everything from the eugenics movement to the KKK to the Immigration Law of 1924. Evangelicalism was on the rise, with popular evangelists such as Aimee Semple McPherson and Billy Sunday preaching about the loss of “traditional American values” even as capitalism became the new god, with advertising executive Bruce Barton’s book, The Man Nobody Knows, presenting Jesus as “The Founder of Modern Business.” The famous Scopes Trial about the teaching of evolution in the public schools had taken place in 1925. Modern advertising began to shape the ideals and aspirations of Americans through campaigns that capitalized on their fears and desires, advocating keeping up with the Joneses and lionizing a youth culture. And of course, there is the run-up to financial collapse and the Great Depression.

Today, nearly one hundred years later, we’re still facing many of the same issues: We’re arguing over the teaching of evolution in schools. The flames of anti-immigration fervor arebeing fanned by certain segments of the population. We’ve suffered an economic collapse. Fears of terrorism have created a whole “Homeland Security” state and fostered a sense of xenophobia. Racism is alive and well.  Labor unions are under attack. The religious right influences politics, trying to enact “prohibitions” that harken to a murky, mythic past of “traditional American values.” Corporations reign supreme and there’s a huge wealth gap. Everybody wants to be a millionaire, and our various media vie for our product dollars by shaping our desires, fears, and aspirations into needs which can then be exploited.

This is why it’s good to read history.

 

ITB: Naughty John is immensely creepy! Can you discuss your inspiration for him? And do you imagine what those markings he has looked like? Is there a place we can see them?

LB: Why, thank you. I’m often complimented on my creepy. Oh, wait…

Barry Lyga was writing I Hunt Killers while I was working on The Diviners, and we sometimes compared our serial killer notes. (That statement pretty much just killed any chance at future dinner invitations for us, I’m sure.) I borrowed a bit from H.H. Holmes, for sure, what with the house of horrors, as well as drawing inspiration from “Sweeney Todd”, carnival barkers, Victorian photographs, and my overactive, anxiety-ridden psyche.

I also took inspiration from religious zealots like David Koresh and Jim Jones. Having grown up in the church (my father was a Presbyterian minister), I’m always fascinated by questions of religion and spirituality, by that fuzzy line between idealism and the danger zone of religious fanaticism.

 

ITB: If we wear headache bands and bake cupcakes, will you come over for tea?

LB: You had me at cupcakes.


[1] Bullet might be a slight exaggeration. “Bullet” may, in fact, refer to chocolate chips, straws, ice, and jelly beans. Please do not put bullets between your teeth. They’re a choking hazard and it makes your dentist unhappy.

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Thanks again to Libba Bray for answering our questions and to our friends at Hachette Book Group Canda for facilitating this Q & A. The Diviners releases this week, so make sure to get your copy.

Published in Teen
Monday, 10 September 2012 15:41

A Q and A with Stephen Chbosky

Both Charlie, the narrator of Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I grew up during the 90's. I'm a few years younger than he is, but we speak the same language of shared cultural experiences. The highs and lows of Charlie's first year in high school, those moments that shape his friendship with Sam and Patrick, remain relatable to both teens and adult years after the novel was first published. This is one of the best books I've read. (Like, ever.) There are great truths in it.

The film adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower had its first public screening at TIFF over the weekend. We're on pins and needles here at Indigo, as we're all super excited for this movie. (Charlie has friends beyond Team Teen wishing him well.)

When Simon & Schuster Canada asked us if we'd like to interview the author/director, all of Team Teen collaborated on the questions. Welcome Stephen Chbosky to the blog!

Indigo Teen Blog (ITB): It has been roughly 12 years since The Perks of Being a Wallflower was written. What do you hope this new generation of readers will gleam from this story?

Stephen Chbosky (SC): I want young people to find validation of and respect for what they go through every day. I wanted to show the great times and infinite times as well as the tougher things that people rarely talk about. All of those things are part of growing up, and I want young people to see the movie and read the book and know they are not alone.

ITB: The letters/diary format is so personal and intrinsic to the novel. How does this form work into the film?
SC: Charlie's letters proved to be as intrinsic to the movie as they were to the novel.  Of course, the novel is highly subjective since it's all written in Charlie's voice. So, I needed to find the right cinematic language to tell the same story and characters objectively. But his letters are still the cornerstone of the story. And they still remain the most personal writing I've ever done. I loved writing new letter passages for the movie. It's been awhile since I wrote in Charlie's voice.

ITB: The Perks of Being a Wallflower is so closely tied to the music of its time-setting. Are there songs today that Charlie could connect with as strongly?
SC: Charlie would love The Swell Season, Mumford & Sons, Phoenix, Coldplay, The Strokes, Bon Iver, Landon Pigg, Brandi Carlile, Regina Spektor (especially "Samson"), Fun., Stars (especially "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead"), Imagine Dragons (especially "It's Time"), and so many other great artists. I would break your server answering this question if I did not stop myself now. But I have to add that he would have discovered The Tragically Hip's "Ahead by a Century" by now, and his life would be better for it.

ITB:  You’re both a screenwriter and a prose writer. When you wrote the novel, did you find yourself envisioning parts of it as they would adapt to screen, or are prose writing and screenwriting two very separate processes for you?
SC: My dream was always to write the book and then make the movie. So, when I wrote the moment when all the kids run after the sunset after the last day of school, I hoped someday I would get to film it. The same goes for the moment when Charlie holds his hands up in the tunnel. Filming that was a dream come true. As for prose writing and screenwriting, they are completely different processes. Writing a novel is closer to the process of directing for me. It's about creating a world and a tone and an intimate connection with the reader (or viewer). The process of writing a screenplay is more difficult because you don't have 213 pages, but you have just as much story to tell. So, you have to constantly focus the story and when you can, find the picture that's worth the thousand words.

ITB: One of my favourite parts of the novel is when Charlie describes feeling infinite. Would you share with us a time that you felt that way?
SC: I felt infinite the day my daughter was born. And the day I married my wife. But since those are very private to me, I will share another story about Perks. We were shooting the first tunnel scene. I was in the camera car. Emma Watson was in the truck. And on the last run of the night, something magical happened. For whatever reason, Emma let go in that moment, and as she put her arms in the air, I realized that I had never seen more joy on a young person's face. My young friend was completely free and  happy and alive. I felt infinite in that moment just witnessing it. I will never forget that moment as long as I live.

ITB: This is more of a comment that maybe you can speak to. Throughout our lives we develop many coping mechanisms to protect ourselves. When we become teens, it is the first time that we really begin to see the world in a new way and find that our coping mechanisms no longer work. As well, we tend to ponder our place within the world and novels, such as yours, are a way for readers to safely tap into these questions. 
SC: Books, songs, and movies are more than entertainment when we're young.  They help all of us discover who we are, what we believe, and what we hope our life can be.  When I was growing up, movies like Dead Poets Society and The Breakfast Club helped me.  Classic films like The Graduate and Rebel Without a Cause did the same.  Of course, a lot of what is sold to young people is just entertainment, but every now and then, a great band like The Smiths or a classic book like The Catcher in the Rye comes along and changes how we look at youth.

ITB: What’s your favourite part of The Rocky Horror Picture Show?  If you’ve ever gone to a show, who did you dress up as?
SC: My favorite part of Rocky is the beginning of "Time Warp" to the end of "Sweet Transvestite." As far as I'm concerned, that 10 minute sequence is one of the greatest in musical history. Of course, I have gone to dozens of shows, and I always dress as the same person. The shy writer in the audience who worships the performers. My wife likes the look, so I'm sticking with it.

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Thank you again to Stephen Chbosky for taking the time to answer our questions and to our friends at Simon & Schuster Canada for facilitating this Q & A. The Perks of Being A Wallflower opens on September 21st.

Published in Teen
Thursday, 06 September 2012 16:17

A Q and A with Melissa Marr

Best-selling author of the Wicked Lovely series, Melissa Marr, returns with Carnival of Souls. This new novel is the first of a duology set in a world full of violence, magic, and pacts. Populated with intriguing characters who are fighting to make their lives  better,  Carnival of Souls is an exploration of the bonds between family and reluctant allies.

Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong will be joined by many other fabulous authors for the three Smart Chicks Kick It 3.0 tour stops across Canada at Chapters Westside in Edmonton (9/13), Chapters Pointe-Claire in Montreal (9/15), and Chapters Dartmouth in Dartmouth (9/16). Please see our events page for more details! If you have an opportunity, you have to go as this will be the last of the Smart Chicks tours. (We met with many of these authors during their first tour, and have this great Indigo Minute from the second tour.)

Welcome, Melissa, to the blog!

Indigo Teen Blog (ITB): Family—mostly adoptive or created family—is a huge theme in Carnival of Souls. (Like with Adam and Mallory or Kaleb and Zevi.) Is blood thicker than water? Or is pack more who you make it to be?

Melissa Marr (MM): I think there are people who get hung up on biology, but I’ve never understood that notion.  Love and family are choices. My daughter isn’t of my blood; my son-to-be-born infant won’t be either. I chose to be their mother, just as I chose to be the mother of the son I grew inside my body.  I feel no difference between the love I hold for each of them, so I have to conclude that “choice before blood” is the answer.

ITB: One of the things that impressed upon me about Aya was her firm resolve not to have children and the lengths she went to preserve her choice. Since your novels are often about choices, can you tell us more about this one? Did Aya evolve from her world or did the restrictions of her world evolve from her?

MM: I think it was both. In a society decimated by war, for a species fighting for survival, children would be vital.  So, in The City, the restrictions on women make sense from a world-building stance. However, women’s rights are limited in so many countries, so gender equity concerns tend to be on my mind a lot. In particular, the legislation stripping away reproductive rights in the past year in the US currently serves as a reminder that we have to remain vigilant even once we get progressive laws—because, as we’re seeing, those rights can be taken away again.  So, it’s probably safe to say that Aya’s thread evolved from both the post-war society of the text and my own interests.

ITB: From “The Goblin Market” to Something Wicked This Way Comes to The Night Circus, readers have a fascination with circuses and carnivals. Did you have any historical or literary influences for Carnival of Souls?

MM: I’ve never read The Night Circus, and it’s been years since I read Something Wicked This Way Comes, but “Goblin Market” is one of my most beloved pieces of literature. Rossetti’s writing was what led to my initial “I want to study literature” epiphany, so her “Goblin Market” is undoubtedly an influence. I see more from the non-text influences, though: I attend FaerieCon and FaerieWorlds, and I had been in Italy right before writing this.  The FaerieWorlds events are filled with costumed and masked people, artists, food, and music. In Italy were street vendors, the Coliseum, and open-air markets.  I think those experiences swirled together to create the carnival in my book, but I won’t ever dismiss the influence of classic lit! Teaching those texts was my career for over a decade.

ITB: I loved Graveminder so much, and I’m eager to see another adult book from you. Can you share anything about The Arrivals?

MM: The Arrivals was such fun to write, but I have no idea what genre it is. My typical explanation is Wild West meets wormhole meets monster-hunters.  The protagonists are an 1870s saloon girl, a 2012 recovering alcoholic, a 1930s triggerman, and assorted other killers and misfits. There are monsters and boomtowns, corruption and romance, and a lot of violence.

ITB: This is your third year of the Smart Chicks Kick It tour. What’s one of your favourite memories so far from Smart Chicks?

MM: I’m not sure that’s a fair question! I organize the tour with a good friend, Kelley Armstrong; all the authors are people whose books I enjoy; and I’ve met thousands of readers in the US and Canada.  I have pretty much only favourite memories.  I’m sad that this is the last year; it’s been a lot of fun.

ITB: We’re all thrilled that you and Kelley Armstrong are writing THE BLACKWELL PAGES. It sounds like it’s going to be fantastic. Did anything surprise you during your co-writing process?

MM: Writing with Kelley is such a kick! Our processes are so different that we were worried, but it turns out that the differences are assets. I write till about 4 or 5am—which is when she wakes up.  Since we only write the initial drafts when we’re in the same building, we write 24hour/day in a shared file. It creates a pressure to Not Slow Down. If I don’t get my chapter done, she can’t do hers (and the inverse). So it’s this crazy process that we sort of stumbled into at the beginning, but it works for us.  We’re already in revision on book 2 in the trilogy (Odin’s Ravens), and the first one (Loki’s Wolves) isn’t out until May 2013.

ITB: As you’re one of the authors whom I trust when I’m looking for my next great read, are there any amazing titles coming out this fall that I should put on my TBR list?

MM: I read several books a week, but at best I only finish 1 out of every 8 books I start. These are the ones that have wowed me of late. I don’t know release dates, so these may be Fall or Winter.

  1. Splintered – A.G. Howard (companion to Alice in Wonderland; simply delicious and polished writing)
  2. The Darkest Minds--  Alexandra Bracken (dystopian future; teens held in detainment camps and on the run; very thought-provoking and well crafted)
  3. The Madman’s Daughter—Meghan Shepherd (inspired by The Island of Doctor Moreau; polished writing, historical setting, unsettling plot)
  4. Unspoken—Sarah Rees Brennan (Gothic meets funny; if you’ve ever seen Sarah at an event, this is the book you’ve been waiting to read. I laughed out loud on a plane while reading)
  5. Time Between UsTamara Ireland Stone (contemporary romance/time travel; I smiled a lot while reading this.)

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Thanks to Melissa Marr for answering our questions and to our friends at HarperCollins Canada for arranging this interview. Carnival of Souls is available now.

Published in Teen
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