Janet Gurtler is an author from Calgary, Alberta, whose debut novel I'm Not Her focuses on Tess, whose older sister Kristina—the "pretty" sister—has been diagnosed with bone cancer. The novel follows what Tess and her family goes through during the diagnosis and treatment, and is a title that readers of Sarah Dessen and Jodi Picoult should definitely check out.
I'm Not Her isn't the kind of story that I'd normally seek out, but Janet contacted us earlier this year and Crystal Allen of Raincoast was kind enough to send me an ARC. Despite that this isn't what I usually read, I found I'm Not Her to be heart-wrenching. However, it was Tess and her interesting sense of humor that pulled me through the novel.Indigo Teen Blog: I’m Not Her is a very emotional read. Was it difficult to write a novel about cancer?
Janet Gurtler: Well, first of all, thank you for saying it’s an emotional read, because it was certainly emotional to write! That said, I love books that make me feel things. Good and bad. I also admit a few tears may have slipped out when I was writing parts of I’M NOT HER. And that felt oddly good.
Writing about cancer though was difficult because cancer is such an invasive and horrible disease, especially when it happens to someone young.
As I was writing I’M NOT HER, I was fortunate to connect with a young woman who had gone through bone cancer and she helped me by sharing some of the medical and psychological effects it had on her. To me, I’M NOT HER, is less about the girl who has cancer and more about how cancer affects the whole family. Cancer certainly drives the events of the book and the development of the characters.
ITB: Do you see yourself as more like Tess or Kristina?
JG: I am definitely more like Tess, the quiet bookish sister. Kristina is gorgeous and sporty with many admirers both female and male. She’s an extrovert, but we learn through the story that she’s not as strong and put together as Tess thinks she is. Most people we think have it all, usually don’t feel the same way.
Tess is more introverted and lives in the shadow of her sister (and is mostly okay with being there.) I was quite shy as a teenager, and though not into art like Tess, I had a passion for reading and writing and could easily lose myself in both. Like Tess, I’m not overly fond of being the centre of attention, and like Tess I have a wee bit of an odd sense of humour once you get to know me.
ITB: One of the things I admired about Tess is her connection with her art. Her struggle against her family’s attitude toward her art is so heartbreaking. Do you ever feel like people don’t understand how important it is for you to write? How can teens push through that kind of adversity?
JG: Oh my GOSH that is a good observation! I had to read it aloud to my husband and he gave me a somewhat sheepish grin in return. Side note: My husband is a sweet and wonderful man, but he just does not understand what writing means to me. I can’t really expect him to as it is not his passion but I *may* have poured some of my angst at not being understood into Tess. Actually there is a passage in the book where Tess’s mom compares her love of art to her hobby of scrapbooking and Tess kind of loses it. You may assume I have felt those same feelings.
I think pushing through adversity takes a strong sense of believing in yourself. It’s not always easy to do, but I think gut instincts are pretty good things to follow. If your gut is telling you something, like you can become a contestant on Canadian Idol or run a triathlon or become the [next] female Prime Minister—whatever it is that you’re passionate about—chances are it’s something to pursue. Even it’s something others around you may not see the worth of (like a connection to art) staying true to who you are and what you want is crucial. Assuming of course it’s a healthy and productive yearning.
ITB: Is there a difference in telling a story for Canadian teens versus telling a story for American teens? Would you set one of your YA novels in Canada?
I don’t think there’s a difference in what Canadian teens and American teens like to read (for the most part). I have three teen nieces and they seem to love the same popular YA fiction that American teens do. I see the same YA books at Indigo that I see in bookstores in the USA.
I think, in general, Young Adult fiction is easier to write for the American market, because the Canadian market tends to publish more literary fiction. My books are rather commercial, and therefore more attractive to American publishers. I have an American agent and she pitches the books to US publishers. That said, I hope I have just as many Canadian teens reading my books as American teens!!
I usually have a Canadian character in my books. Actually, I’M NOT HER doesn’t, but my next book coming out in October, IF I TELL, features a hot boy from Canada who moves to the main character’s US home town. I also have an unsold YA novel set in Calgary (and featuring a boy who does Parkour).
ITB: What is the best part of being a published author? What is the most difficult?
JG: There are many bests to being a published author but I think the very best is getting first copies of the finished book. Okay, another close best is seeing books on the shelves in bookstores. I CAN’T WAIT to see I’M NOT HER at my local Indigo store!!!
There are also many difficult parts about being an author. The most difficult is learning to deal with rejection. It comes in many forms, first when you’re unpublished and waiting for someone to say the magical words, “We Want to Publish your book.” It’s hard to hear no. Often over and over. It takes a lot of perseverance and good old fashioned stubbornness to keep going sometimes. And it’s important to try not to compare your journey to someone else’s. Because someone else is always going to get published faster or better!
ITB: Can you tell us about what you’re working on next?
JG: Of course! Right now I’m working on a couple of books. The first is a re-write of the Parkour story I mentioned earlier, adding a female POV to enrich the story for female readers. I’m also close to finishing a paranormal novel called INSTINCT.
INSTINCT is about an adopted teen, Liv, who comes out of a coma from a car accident, able to “see” the memories and the future of people who touch her. She soon finds out she’s a VOYANT and her developing powers means an equally sudden change in a boy she must avoid, called a CAZADOR, a boy who has the instinct to strip her powers and destroy her. The problem is, she’s already met him. And fallen in love with him.
Thanks so much for having me and for great questions!
So when I discovered an ARC in our store’s shipment from Scholastic Canada with Garth Nix’s name on it, I was very much “I’ll take that one to read, thankyouverymuch.”
Troubletwisters is the new 9–12 fantasy series that Nix is writing with Sean Williams. I wasn’t previously familiar with Williams’ work, but I have come to expect certain things from Nix’s titles. Troubletwisters doesn’t fail to deliver them. Also, the narrative flows well and reads like it was written by a single author—always the mark of successful co-authors.
Jadie and Jack Shield are twelve-year-old twins packed up and sent to live with their mysterious Grandma X in seaside town of Portland—which is none of the Portlands we’ve heard of (according to the novel.) Grandma X talks to her cats and lives in a mysterious house—down a lane you could drive right past if you weren’t coming from the east—that sometimes has an extra door.
Twisting around the twins is a plot of otherworldly evil and ancient magic, which isn’t uncommon in the 9–12 section. However, the magic system is innovative and the book is spilling over with Cool Things. Plus, there are some genuinely creepy scenes that should satisfy the demanding tween reader who loves to be scared. (I still shudder at the thought of all the cockroaches.)
Jaide and Jack have powers that may be even cooler than the ones possessed by the demigods of Rick Riordan’s books—and a grandmother who is both awesome and untrustworthy. The book, like some of the others from this section, has that troupe where adults trying to shelter children only end up making things worse because of misunderstandings. However, as the reader doesn’t know whether or not to trust Grandma X, the misunderstanding angle in Troubletwisters is believable.
With Keys to the Kingdom, Nix took us within a House that held an entire world, and in Troubletwisters he and Williams use a small town to stage a grand adventure and an epic battle between magic and The Evil. For me, that’s why the creep factor worked so well—it was all readily available real animals that were doing the creeping.
Aspects of this novel reminded me of the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones, and like Percy Jackson and The Olympians, I see Troubletwisters being a novel that parents and children will enjoy reading together.
According to what I could find, this is the first book of a planned five. I’m looking forward to where this series will go and recommend it to anyone who wants to read innovative and magical fantasy appropriate for all ages.
Today we have a guestpost for you from Maureen McGowan, a Toronto author whose novels Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer start with fairy tales we know, bring them to contemporary times, and twist them up so that Disney wouldn't recognize them. Take it away, Maureen!
Some readers of Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer assume I was inspired by the choose-your-own-adventure stories from decades past, but I have a confession. Before starting the Twisted Tales series, I’d never read those books and was only marginally aware of their existence.
When I began to explore adding reader interaction to updated fairy tales, I had no idea how to pull it off, but I knew what I didn’t want to do: I didn’t want to include “wrong” paths or unhappy endings.
Fairy tales by their nature promise happy endings—and pretty specific happy endings in some cases—so, I decided that each book in the series should have a single ending. As I started to write, I did look at a few choose-your-own-adventure stories, hoping for hints or clues as to how to structure my books, but I didn’t like the “bad choice—you die!” aspects of some of those “old school” stories.
The way I see things, each day we face choices, and the alternatives aren’t necessarily right or wrong—just different. Smart heroines (and smart readers) will make smart choices, so I wanted to present reasonable alternatives at each decision point without making it obvious which choice was better. Also, a capable heroine—even if she makes a mistake—should be able to face whatever challenges her choices place in her way.
When I decided on the structure, I didn’t realize what a difficult path I was laying out for myself as a writer! My choices created challenges for me—almost as tough as those facing Cinderella in her magic competition, or Lucette when she’s the only one awake and facing vampires in the night.
Because I decided to have alternate paths that loop into common sections, I had to be very careful to ensure the key story elements either: occurred in the common sections; or occurred in different ways but with similar outcomes, in the alternate paths. Confusing. I know.
Cinderella: Ninja Warrior follows a structure of 1 => Choice => 2 or 3 => 4 => Choice => 5 or 6 => Choice => 7 or 8 => 9. In Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, the second decision point comes earlier so the structure changes slightly, but it was equally hard to keep straight. There were times while writing these books when my head was spinning so badly I didn’t know which end was up!
But beyond the reader interaction, the real fun for me was creating stories that had elements of the traditional fairy tales, but “fixed” some of the problems I saw in the originals.
While I’ve always loved the romantic aspects of traditional fairy tales, I wanted to write stories in which the heroines were strong and capable, and not waiting around for a prince to save them.
For example, it always bothered me that Cinderella had a victim mentality in the original. If life was so bad with her stepmother, why didn’t she leave? I understand that girls in past centuries didn’t have as many choices as we do today, but I wanted to write a story relevant to modern readers. Another thing that bothered me about the original was that the prince falls in love with Cinderella because of her beauty, yet he can’t remember what she looks like the next day—when she’s in rags—without the help of a slipper. That’s not my idea of true love.
In Cinderella: Ninja Warrior, Cinderella’s trapped in her stepmother’s house by a series of black magic spells that she doesn’t have the knowledge or confidence to break, and yet Cinderella’s already plotting her escape when the book begins. During the course of the story she develops her skills and confidence, and then saves herself! In Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, the heroine, Lucette, isn’t a victim hoping her parents will protect her from the horrible curse put upon her as a baby. She learns to fight and saves not only herself, but her parents and the entire kingdom, as well.
Ultimately I wanted to add more action and adventure to the traditional fairy tales and to create stories that would be inspiring and fun for readers of any age—10 to 100!
Maureen McGowan has always been making up stories—her mother called it lying, her teachers creative talent—but sidetracked by a persistent practical side, it took her a few years to see the light and channel her energy into writing novels. After pummeling her sensible side into submission, she quit her career in finance and hasn't looked back.
Aside from books and writing, she's passionate about art, dance, films, fine handcrafted objects and shoes. Maureen (and her shoes) go to a lot of movies in Toronto, Canada.
Cinderella: Ninja Warrior
Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer
One of the aspects that I talk about a lot when doing reviews for this blog is world-building. If I can predict where a story is headed, but the world keeps me immersed and intrigued enough, then I'll probably keep reading. I'll also dislike a book if it's world reads as arbitrary or lacking thought or inconsistent.
When you chose on Twitter for me to attend the How To Build a World panel for RT Teen Day, I was excited to find out what some of our favorite teen lit authors have to say about their processes...
The first question moderator Holly Black posed to the panel at RT Teen Day was: How does an author create a world?
Sarah Rees Brennan proceeded to do a demonstration with help from Ally Carter and her watch that can be summarized as authors “see things [they] like and take them.” (Sarah asked to see Ally’s watch. When Ally handed it over, Sarah sat down and declared the watch was now hers and that was how to build a world. It got a huge laugh from the entire room).
Cassandra Clare added: “Writers are magpies.” She explained this by saying that authors often take their “favorite pieces” from other sources and “put them together to create something new.”
Ally Carter, who might or might not have gotten her watch back, suggested: “Answer all of your questions [about the world] and hopefully you’ve have answered 80–90% of your readers’ questions.”
Holly then asked the authors if they started with the world or the characters.
Sarah Rees Brennan said it wasn’t so much the world as the situation that she started with and then she asked herself what kind of world creates those characters.
According to Cassandra Clare, she always started with the characters and their relationships. The world build from that.
Aylson Noel agreed that for her premises are always character-driven.
The third question was: How do you make sure the world is in balance?
Ally Carter answered: Vulnerabilities and limitations, both physical and emotional. She reminded the room: “Where would Superman be without kryptonite?”
Cassandra Clare pointed out that if you’re using magic, it needs to have limitations. She cited an essay entitled “The Price of Magic,” which helped her to consider what her magic system would cost the characters using it.
Jeri Smith-Ready cautioned us to “only put in world-building details as needed” and explained that some times defining the world too much can write an author into a corner for later books.
Holly’s fourth question for the panel was related to how an author creates what she referred to as the “feel” of the world. As she pointed out: “some stories only work in certain worlds.”
Jeri Smith-Ready said for her it’s often done through language choices. Different characters will use different words to describe their worlds.
Ally Carter said that an author “is like the director of a movie.” She “writes the movie in [her] head” and reminded aspiring authors to use their chosen POV to see and feel in 360 degrees. Also, to use places to set a scene’s emotional tone. “There’s always something going on with the setting—weather, smells, etc,” she said.
The last question from Holly was: What frustrates you most as a reader about world-building in other stories? What would be a deal-breaker?
Jeri Smith-Ready replied: “Unlimited power.” All of the authors agreed with her—and most of the audience, too.
Sarah Rees Brennan added: "When stories don’t set up what they’re going to do." She used an example from The Dark is Rising movie to illustrate how frustrating it is for an audience when a story uses an "ass pull" to accomplish a twist.
Over explanation of “the rules” was a big no-no for Alyson Noel. She’d prefer to “know rules as [the reader needs] to know them” and that authors “reveal [the world] as [it] needs to be revealed.” She said a reader doesn’t “need to know about the wall before the character reaches it.”
Ally Carter was also frustrated by rules, but she took issue with ones that “exist for the author and not for the story.”
The authors agreed that a story breaking the rules for no logical reason will also stop them from reading.
Cassandra Clare said her number one pet peeve was when the “evil” in the story “only wants to mess up the characters’ love life.”
After this, Holly took questions from the audience then wrapped things up so that we could all head to the Teen Day Party, which was a meet and greet with all the authors and attendees. That was where I got my copy of Heist Society signed by Ally Carter and she told us that she loves Indigo!
RT Teen Day was an amazing experience for fans of teen lit and I'd like to thank all of you on Twitter who helped choose events to attend, books to get signed, and tweeted and RTed during the day with us.
During Author Speed Dating, I ended up sitting at the table that was short an author for the first few sessions. Instead, we had a discussion about eReading versus traditional books.
The biggest question I have as more and more of us transition to eReading is: What will happen to author signings?
One of the teens who primarily does eReading took around a notebook and collecting author signatures that way. And I wish I could remember who it was who said this—it may have been Margaret Stohl—but there was a great quote during RT week of “cellphone photos are the new autographs.”
There will always be a desire to meet and interact with the people behind the stories we love. That’s why Indigo store events are so important—like the Holly Black and Cassandra Clare event in Chapters Metrotown, all the Kelley Armstrong events, and the upcoming Meg Cabot event at Chapters Queensway.
Author Speed Dating was like a whole bunch of mini author events. Here’s some of what our table learned:
Ally Carter’s Heist Society is an open-ended series. She sees each book as a different heist. While writing Heist Society she researched the art that was stolen during the Holocaust and told us about the museum that Hitler had planned to create. UNCOMMON CRIMINALS comes out in June.
Jennifer Lynn Barnes told us all about her time on Monkey Island, and the behavior patterns she learned while studying monkeys. Did you know that she and the other researchers had to eat their lunches inside a cage—so it was like a reverse zoo! Her first novel is Raised by Wolves and its follow-up TRIAL BY FIRE comes out in June.
Richelle Mead gave us the dish on BLOODLINES, her Vampire Academy spinoff:
• It releases on August 23
• Same characters as Vampire Academy
• It’s Sidney’s story
• Richelle thought it would be cool to see how humans see the world of Vampire Academy
• Jill, Eddie and Adrian are the other POVs
Colleen Houck sat down and give the single best example of how to pitch a book. “[Tiger’s Curse] is Twilight meets Indiana Jones,” she told us and I thought “SOLD!” Within five minutes she convinced me that I have to read it. TIGER'S QUEST comes out in June.
Alyson Noel talked to us a little bit about Soul Seekers, which is the NEW series she’s working on. It takes place in New Mexico. She also promised that EVERLASTING ties up the entire Immortals series. “It all comes full circle,” she said and admitted that she was really sad when she finished writing it. Also, Riley Bloom fans, the next Riley book comes out in September. It’s called DREAMLAND and it features Riley visiting the place where dreams come from and encountering a boy who is making nightmares…
After that, it was off to Speed Reading. Stories come to life when they’re read aloud, and the following four authors impressed me the most:
Holly Black read two of my favorite passages from Red Glove. There were the scenes that made me stop and go “wow, I LOVE this book” while I was reading it, so it was awesome to get to hear her read them aloud.
Cassandra Clare read a Jace and Simon scene from City of Fallen Angels, and it made me remember how much I missed her world and characters. It was funny and well-paced, and you could tell that Cassie knew what her characters would sound like when speaking.
Sarah Rees Brennan read a scene from The Demon’s Lexicon involving Nick and Mae with her customary flare and good humor. Full disclosure: Sarah is one of my new favorite people, and if her books are only a tenth as entertaining as she is then we all should be reading them!
Rachel Vincent read a scene from IF I DIE involving Kaylee and Tod. You may know from Twitter that I have a huge bias toward Tod being the greatest character in Soul Screamers, so of course I was thrilled—in fact, I wanted all of IF I DIE as soon as Rachel finished reading.
Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Hunter & Cinderella: Ninja Warrior by Maureen McGowan: These are two of the Twisted Tales, which feature fairy tales modernized and given a "twist." Also, they're choose your own adventure style stories that allow you to make 3 decisions that change the way the story goes! Maureen will be stopping by later this month for a guestpost.The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong: Fabulous Kelley needs no introduction here in Canada, and The Gathering is the start of her new YA trilogy The Darkness Rising. This one is set on Vancouver Island—yay for Canadian settings—and features a new cast of characters.
City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare: Fourth book of The Mortal Instruments, first book of the second trilogy... however you want to define it, CoFA is one of this year's big big titles. Been wondering what Clary, Jace, Simon, Alec, Isabelle, and Magnus have been up to? You'll find out in this installment! Don't forget that the audiobook version features Ed Westwick of Gossip Girl!
Red Glove by Holly Black: The second installment of The Curse Worker's series is even better than the first! The stakes are higher, the twists are twistier, and Cassel Sharpe will need all his wits to out-con the mob. You can read our review here.
Teeth Vampire Anthology edited by Ellen Datlow: A collection of vampire short stories featuring Melissa Marr, Cassie Clare & Holly Black, Garth Nix and a really wonderful set of lyrics from Neil Gaiman. I loved a few of these stories, found most of them good, but was a little underwhelmed by a couple, as well. The introduction alone makes this one a must for vampire fans!
Enclave by Ann Aguirre: A dystopian set in NYC. People live underground and no one is really expected to live far into their 20s. In fact, you don't even get a name until you turn 15. The excerpt I heard read aloud at RT Teen Day made it sound interesting.
The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide By Stephenie Meyer: The fan art gallery and the international covers are very nice. Also has character profiles and other goodies for the Twihards.
Department 19 by William Hill: For those of you looking for a reminder that vampires have fangs and hunt people, how about this one? A debut from UK author Will Hill. Love the idea of a secret UK government department who hunt vampires. It's gruesome—and we'll have a more detailed review later this month.
The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter: The start of The Goddess Test series, this is book one this month featuring Hades as a love interest (April 19).
Eona by Alison Goodman: The follow up to Goodman's Eon, about the first female dragoneye. Sort of an Ancient China-style setting with political intrigue, girls fighting for recognition, and dragons (April 19).
Defiance by Lili St Crow: The latest in the Strange Angels series. (April 19)
Abandon by Meg Cabot: Who doesn't love Meg Cabot? This time she's retelling the myth of Persephone and Hades in modern day. Coworkers who read early copies have simply adored this one! (April 26).
Summer And The City: A Carrie Diaries Novel By Candace Bushnell: The second of Carrie's diaries, the series about famed Sex and the City Carrie's high school days. (April 26)
If you were following @IndigoTeenBlog on Saturday, then you saw the photos of authors at the book fair and found out which titles we got to giveaway to you. Also, you got the play-by-play for the Speed Reading sessions and commentary on the World Building panel with advice from some authors in less than 140 characters.
Ok, and you also heard about the crazy prize-fighting pigeons that used the outdoor table behind me at lunch as their ring (I named the scrappy tall one Cassel after Cassel Sharpe in honor of his shaggy haircut, which was mentioned in Red Glove).
In other words: If you weren’t following, you seriously missed out. But not everyone has a Twitter account, and to be fair to those of you who missed Saturday’s tweetable hijinks, there will be a post soon that recaps some of the events. Plus, I’ll share what I learned from authors during the Speed Dating session!
There will be a separate post next week, once I’ve processed all the notes and advice from the authors who did such an amazing job on the How To Build a World panel.
Now, for prizes; we asked on the blog and Twitter about which authors you’d like to win signed books from, and we’ve got 5 of their those titles from the RT Teen Day Book Fair. Also, the winner of each signed book gets a bonus signed bookmark from another YA author.
This contest will run daily from Apr.13 to 17. Each day's contest ends at 6 p.m. EST, just like the Cassie Clare and Kelley Armstrong giveaway contest from a couple weeks ago. Check the rules here, and below are the details for each day’s prize pack. Follow us on Twitter to get the daily tweets!
There’s a certain exhilaration to being a teenager. You’re close enough now to being an adult to taste the thrill of independence, the stinging bravery it takes to stand behind your choices, the heady rush inherent in the promise of things. The make-believe of childhood is gradually put aside for the tangible grit of experience and exposure that circles out in greater and greater arcs. And books come at you with complicated relationships, gruesome dystopia, high stakes drama and attempts at the hippest, most happening slang. Books are passed to you in a fever from friends and bear social consequence. Books are advertised to you from their films, by celebrities, by television, by clever marketing and in the dizzying sensory overload of it all you attempt to discern your own taste.
And if you’re lucky, really lucky, you stumble into a forgotten bookshop nook or perhaps into a cozy blog, livejournal or such and come across a book filled with the nostalgia of attics and wardrobes and secret passageways reminding you of the thrill of your first fairytales. You bury your nose in this treasure and forget everything you are becoming and just linger about the pages and passageways being who you were and always will be. I came across Entwined by Heather Dixon in a friend’s livejournal, in which she reveled in the gorgeous cover art, and knew by the dress that this book was going to be mine.
Azalea, the eldest of twelve sisters, does her best to care for them as they spend a year in mourning for their beloved mother. The clocks are stopped, the windows are draped and they are forbidden from going outside, wearing anything but black and dancing. Dancing, which was so loved their mother. The castle is a very old one and still holds bits of old magic from the time of a mad King. When Azalea discovers a hidden passage to a beautiful pavilion, the promise of dancing again blinds her to what might be terrible danger. To save herself and her sisters she must unravel the mystery of the castle’s magic before it’s too late.
This is the sort of crafty story that can be read again and aloud. It’s a lovely retelling of the classic with some nifty call-outs to items from the original tale (like the invisibility cloak!). But the best part of the whole story is, hands down, the characters. It takes a deft hand to make twelve sisters discernible in one book but I knew them all by the end and cared for each. I think every character in here went through an arc, villain included, and the surprising turns of who blossomed and how the family came together were unexpectedly heart-warming. In particular, the relationship between Azalea and her father, the King, was very touching.
Then there’s the romance. Yes, I have saved the best for last. You see, Heather Dixon is a storyboard artist by trade and so I have decided my feeling is well founded that the three delightful romantic heroes—the foppish, endearingly foolish Lord Teddie; the tidy, serious Prime Minister Fairweller; and the dashing Captain Bradford (whose crooked smile matches his crooked cravat and begs to be straightened)—are sketched with loving care and diligence. The whole book is worth reading just for these three, in my humble opinion.
Speaking of sketches, Heather Dixon is hosting a contest on her blog for any of you feeling artistic. She has drawn three of the princesses and invites you to colour one in any medium you like (including digital). The prize is a copy of the book. You have until April 22nd to email a scanned copy of your artwork. For those of you familiar with the artist community deviantart.com, Heather has an account there called BetterThanBunnies, featuring some of her work (including further sketches from the book, and some Mary Poppin, which made me love her even more!). This is where I discovered that an artist friend of hers designed the book’s lovely cover art. It’s something very like discovering a treasure in an attic in discovering that an author is nifty, nookish and had a friend do her beautiful cover art. It’s almost as nifty and nookish as reading said beautiful book and treasuring every page.
He pulled me through White Cat—him and a world so real you smell leather gloves and concealed handguns as you turn the pages. He was flawed and manipulated and so conflicted between doing the family work and having a life outside of the worker underground (I love an anti-hero.)
Lila scared me—and that was fascinating, too. She’s so fierce, so powerful—not someone I’d want to befriend, but the kind of girl I believe grew up as the daughter of a crime boss. If you’ve read White Cat, you know what happens in the last few pages of the novel and how you can’t help but want to read the next one to see how that plays out.
With Red Glove, the world and character dynamics are already set up; all we need is a quick bit of catch up before we dive deeper into the intrigue. I think that’s why this second book appeals more to me; I feel it’s better paced and the stakes are higher, which is what you demanded of a follow-up. Someone near to Cassel has been murdered, and the only clue he has to go one is a video of a female in a long black coat and a pair of red gloves.
This mystery blends with Cassel’s past bad deeds coming back to haunt him, his mother being out of prison, worker rights, the “romance” between him and Lila, and his friends at Wellington. That’s right, friends. This book is the one where I believe that Cassel finally allows himself to think of Sam as more than a mark, and the redemption path that Cassel has started walking only adds to his allure.
Admittedly, for the first few chapters I was waiting for Cassel to reach conclusions that were obvious to me. But I was hooked from page one and I never felt I waited too long; I just wondered why he didn’t clue in that there are no coincidences in his life (but you know, he did get worked by a memory worker so…).
Holly Black isn’t one to hand over a happy ending and noir novels aren’t known for their warm and fuzzy dénouements. As Red Glove draws to a close the pieces line up on the board with the promise that BLACK HEART will be a breath-taking, heart-pounding oh-my-Cassel-what-are-you-going-to-do-now third installment.
Plus, I can’t wait to meet Holly Black at Chapters Burnaby in Metrotown on April 18 to get the ARC of RED GLOVE that Simon & Schuster Canada sent me signed!
Jackie Morse Kessler's YA debut, Hunger, is the first book in a series about the Four Riders of the Apocalypse. The novel expertly wove the concept of being Famine into a young woman's struggle with anorexia. It's a funny, thoughtful book with enough of a fantastical element to intrigue those of us who don't usually read mainstream issue books.
I read Hunger in a single sitting and have been waiting somewhat impatiently for RAGE, the follow-up about a self-injurer who takes up the sword of War. RAGE releases next week, so I'm pleased that Jackie took some time from her deadlines to answers some questions for the blog (we're sort of previously acquainted as we share the same literary agent).
Indigo Teen Blog: You have a "semi-secret identity" as adult author Jackie Kessler. For you, what’s the difference between writing for adults and writing for young adults?
Jackie Morse Kessler: Very little. The adult stuff may have more cursing and sex (may? Who am I kidding? My adult novels have more cursing and sex, without a doubt). Whether writing for teens or adults, what matters most is being honest to the story.
ITB: How important is humor to your writing?
JMK: It depends (don’t you hate those answers?) In the Riders of the Apocalypse series, Death has a penchant for gallows humor (it goes with the territory) — but that’s probably due to his being around for millennia, which is bound to give someone a rather warped view about what’s funny and what’s not. But in another story I wrote for the AFTER HOURS anthology, a ghost is trapped in what she believes is Hell, and there’s no humor in that story at all. There couldn’t be; it would have ruined the tension. That’s what a lot of the humor is in my stories: a tension breaker.
ITB: What I love about HUNGER is how despite all the fantastical elements, it’s very much a book about an anorexic girl. RAGE is about a self-injurer who takes up the sword of War. They may seem like obvious connections once they’re mentioned, but did you find it easy to match an issue to each of the four Riders?
JMK: Thanks! The thing about HUNGER and RAGE is that you can take out the Riders aspect to the books, and you’d still have a story. A very different story, granted, but still a story. But if you take out the eating disorder in HUNGER and the self-injury in RAGE, there’s no story there. The Horsemen tell the story of the protagonists, not the other way around.
The next book, LOSS, is very different. It’s about a bullied teenage boy who is tricked into becoming Pestilence. In this book, the Horseman aspect is woven into the story from the very beginning, and it’s crucial to the book. So is the fact that Billy, the protagonist, is bullied in school and, to a different degree, at home, where he’s forced to take care of his Alzheimer’s-stricken grandfather.
As for Death’s story, BREATH... **rubs hands gleefully.** Stay tuned.
ITB: One of my favorite parts of Hunger is how the battle between Famine and War is seen as a battle between Loas.
JMK: Oh, I really like that scene. It was organic to the story. Lisa, as Famine, was in Haiti (although I don’t mention the country by name), and she helps a girl who is destined to grow up to be a powerful Mambo, a voodoo priestess. How could the scene not be about the battle between Loas?
ITB: Other than your Death, of course, which is your favorite fictional Death?
JMK: I’m extremely partial to Neil Gaiman’s Death in The Sandman comics, as well as Sir Terry Pratchett’s ALL CAPS speaking Death in the Discworld novels. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Piers Anthony’s Death in his Incarnations of Immortality series—specifically, in the novel ON A PALE HORSE (I actually have a hat-tip to that book in LOSS. You’ll see).
ITB: I know you're a comic fan. What are three comic series that you’d recommend all young adults read?
JMK: Yay, comic books!
1) THE SANDMAN by Neil Gaiman — fabulous, groundbreaking stuff. And I’m not just saying that because Neil is my god of writing.
2) WATCHMEN by Alan Moore. Saw the movie? You still have to read the series.
3) A new favorite: IRREDEEMABLE (and its companion series, INCORRUPTABLE) by Mark Waid (who is evil — and I have the t-shirt to prove it). Basically, imagine Superman snapping and becoming the most powerful supervillain ever. He wouldn’t rob banks. He’d slaughter people. And that’s exactly what the Plutonian does in the very opening of IRREDEEMABLE. It’s amazing beyond words.
ITB: Thanks, Jackie! Now a bonus question for your Death: Many guests have stopped by Post Mortem, the blog radio talk show you host on Jackie’s site. Who has been your favorite?
DEATH: I don’t pick favorites. How could I? They’re all marvelous. Mortals do such spectacular things in the time they’re allotted. For example: Twinkies. I promise you, God would never have come up with that. You people are amazing.