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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Guest Post: Victoria Hanley on the Evolution of the Young Adult Genre

If you're an aspiring YA writer then listen up! Victoria Hanley is here today to talk a little bit about her newest book Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market and the Evolution of YA as a genre. Wild Ink is filled with interviews with YA authors, editors, and agents as well as tips, advice and writing exercises to keep you inspired! Take it away Victoria...

Victoria Hanley loves to nurture emerging writers. She is a YA novelist published in 13 languages, and her books for teens have received awards and honors in the U.S. and abroad, including the International Reading Association Young Adults’ Choices list, the Colorado Book Award, the Kallbacher-Klapperschlange Award (Germany), Colorado Authors League Top Hand Award, Publishers West Silver Award, and New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. Her work has also been placed on state award lists in Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, and Colorado and has earned a Carnegie Medal nomination in the United Kingdom.
Visit her at www.victoriahanley.com

Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing 
and Publishing in the Young Adult Market
Release date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Prufrock Press
Buy: Amazon - Barnes & Noble - IndieBound

 What do you need to know to break in to the flourishing young adult (YA) market? With humor and a solid grounding in reality, author Victoria Hanley helps readers understand the ins and outs of the YA genre, how to stay inspired, and how to avoid common mistakes writers make in trying to reach teens. This book includes unique writing exercises to help readers find their own authentic teen voice and dozens of interviews with YA authors, blogging experts, editors, and agents to give inspiration and guidance for getting published. Chapters include writing exercises and self-editing techniques tailored to YA, along with encouraging words on dealing with self-doubt, rejection, and lack of time.

If you’ve recently read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling, it won’t surprise you to hear that it’s not just teens who are reading books in the YA genre. Recent surveys confirm that adults  check out plenty of “teen” titles from the library—for their own enjoyment.

Like everything else in the publishing industry, the YA genre is rapidly evolving. Once defined as stories for readers ages 12 and up, YA now includes 3 categories.

The 12+ category is the most traditional, and it’s been around for a long time. But 14+ (also known as Grade 9 – 12) is relatively new; it’s reserved for stories about young characters grappling with pretty severe hardships in more adult situations. For example, in Todd Mitchell’s The Secret to Lying (14+) the protagonist almost destroys himself by creating a terrifying rift between his inner and outer selves. In Amy Kathleen Ryan’s Glow (14+) the teen characters are on a cross-generational journey on a spaceship, only to be thrown into pain and chaos when their ship is attacked and all the adults on board killed or captured.

As dire as these situations are, they’re not any more challenging than those faced by Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. The difference? Both The Secret to Lying and Glow include a sex scene, whereas The Hunger Games does not. Sex and/or profanity used to get YA books banned; now sex and profanity place a book into 14+.

At the same time, because today’s young people are exposed to a lot more content much sooner than people a generation ago, many of the books that would once have been 12+ are being moved to the category of 10+. I expect that this particular grouping of YA will soon change again and end up merging with what is now known as Middle Grade (MG), which is designated for ages 9 -12.

Plenty of books fall in the 12+ range, and all three categories are still part of the bigger umbrella of YA. (And just to keep things confusing, different review services will sometimes put the same book into different categories.)

As a genre, YA contains some of the most dazzlingly well-written page turners around (not that I’m biased). Whether you enjoy contemporary realism, dystopian adventure, romance, sci-fi, fantasy,  horror, or some other subgenre, there’s an excellent YA novel just waiting for you!

More Author Insight: Social Media

Social media can be a distraction for writers, but what's its biggest benefit?

"I'm so the wrong guy to ask this. I'm pretty bad at social media and I know I don't use it to its fullest potential. I'm sorry to say that I don't really think of it in terms of benefit -- it's a nice way to keep in touch with people I know and to hear on occasion from people who've liked my work, and I just enjoy it on those terms." - Barry Lyga, author of I Hunt Killers

"I had no idea about social media when I started writing. Now, yes, I have to put myself on a social media diet daily. Biggest benefit: meeting people across the globe. That astonishes me constantly." - Huntley Fitzpatrick, author of My Life Next Door

"Community! I love meeting other readers, writers, and people who nerd out over the same things I do!" - C.J. Redwine, author of Defiance.

"'There’s nothing better than being up at 1 am and getting a tweet from a reader in Germany or Spain or Korea writing to tell me they loved Starters. Or a 12-year-old who says it’s her best book ever." - Lissa Price, author of Starters. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (16)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine 
that highlights eagerly anticipated books.

Drain You by M. Beth Bloom
Release Date: July 24, 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen

There’s normal, and then there’s paranormal, and neither is Quinlan Lacey’s cup of Diet Coke.

Quinn’s life is a red carpet of weird fashions, hip bands, random parties, and chilling by the pool with her on-and-off BF Libby. There’s also her boring job (minimum wage), a crushed out co-worker (way too interested), her summer plans (nada), and her parents (totally clueless). Then one night she meets gorgeous James, and Quinn’s whole world turns crazy, Technicolor, 3-D, fireworks, whatever.

But with good comes bad, and unfortunately Quinn’s new romance brings with it some majorly evil baggage. LA is crawling with gangs of the undead, all aching to drain something. Now, to make things right, Quinn has to do a lot of things wrong. 

Quinn’s goal: to stay sane, cool, in love, and alive.

With a one-of-a-kind protagonist, high-fidelity friendships, wicked LA nightlife, and a restless romance, this unforgettable debut from M. Beth Bloom is perfect for fans of Heather Brewer and John Green.
*Description from Goodreads.
Why can't I wait?
1. It is my duty to completely inform you that the 90's girl in me loves a Nirvana reference.
2. The description says this is recommended for fans of John Green, of which I am one (DFTBA!).
3. A paranormal read that's funny, light-hearted, and not full of morose, dark and twisty characters fearing the end of all humanity with every breath?
Yes please.

The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova

Release Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: E-galley
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Pages: 384
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
For Tristan Hart, everything changes with one crashing wave.

He was gone for three days. Sucked out to sea in a tidal wave and spit back ashore at Coney Island with no memory of what happened. Now his dreams are haunted by a terrifying silver mermaid with razor-sharp teeth.

His best friend Layla is convinced something is wrong. But how can he explain he can sense emotion like never before? How can he explain he’s heir to a kingdom he never knew existed? That he’s suddenly a pawn in a battle as ancient as the gods.

Something happened to him in those three days. He was claimed by the sea…and now it wants him back.
The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova got me really excited to read a story about mermaids from a guy’s point of view and it all sounded so dark and mysterious. The beginning of the story was really promising and introduced us to Tristan’s world as a part time lifeguard and guaranteed hottie who is fighting off girls with a stick so it seems.  One day, there is a particularly large storm and he swims out to rescue someone but gets dragged under the waves and disappears for three days with no memory of what happened.  Family secrets drift to the surface and Tristan finds out about the legacy that has been kept from him until now.

I want to start by saying that I enjoyed Tristan’s voice although I hated the fact that he was a bit of a man slut by reputation but I actually think he just doesn’t know how to say no, can’t stop himself from being flirty and friendly with everyone and basically needs to grow a pair.  Case in point, Tristan’s relationship with his best friend Layla which is frustrating at best.  He’s practically in love with her for the entire book but doesn’t actually ever tell her.  I get the “it’s complicated” vibe but come on Tristan! The only redeeming quality about Layla is that she is a strong independent girl who’s all “I belong to no one” which of course is how it should be.  The fact that she hangs around the school hottie all the time when they’re “just friends”?  Rather you than me is all I’m going to say although she never comes out and says she likes him in that way either although I think it’s obvious that she does and that makes her a glutton for punishment. 

With regards to the story, I could just about accept fish coming through the taps (faucets) and then turning into merfolk but I think this book lost me around the time we were introduced to creatures that looked liked men but had fish heads.  I get the feeling that either consciously or not, Cordova was heavily influenced by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as my brain kept on pulling up imagery from the film.

Then all sorts of other fantastical creatures came into play like fairies, vampires and shifters and I just thought it was all a bit ridiculous.  I would have preferred to keep those worlds separate to be honest as I was only ever interested in the merfolk story.  If I’m being completely honest, I wanted to stop reading the book at one point but I don’t quit easily and I don’t like leaving things unfinished (I’ve only ever had to stop reading a book once) so I carried on until the end.  I was frustrated at the lack of resolve – the relationship between Tristan and Layla hasn’t really changed, the quest is still ongoing and the creepy, evil mermaid with razor teeth is still out there.

I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it more as I really wanted to love it.  I thought the beginning was really promising and I liked the idea that the story featured mermen which is something that we don’t often come across in stories (it’s usually just about mermaids) but it was a bit fantastical for me when other supernatural beings joined the foray and I felt frustrated with the lack of resolve in the story.   Unfortunately, this has meant that I’ve cancelled my pre order for the simple reason that shelf space is severely limited as it is (I have no more room for any more book shelves) and so I’m having to be very picky about what books I buy now.

I’m seeing a lot of positive reviews on Goodreads for The Vicious Deep so I’m not sure if it’s just me or not.  There were parts of the story I enjoyed but overall, I was disappointed.  As always, I would suggest looking at other reviews and/or reading it yourself and making your own mind up.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Author Insight: Social Media

Social media can be a distraction for writers, but what's its biggest benefit?

"I just love being able to interact with readers and fans, because it wasn’t that long ago that I was the reader and fan (and still am … Stephanie Perkins? Meg Cabot? Sarah Dessen? Let’s be friends!). The readers are the whole reason I do this, and socially media helps me stay connected to them and remember that. I’m writing for them!" - Lauren Morrill, author of Meant to Be.

"It’s funny, and anything that makes a dark fantasy writer LOL is a good thing. And it shows you stuff you’d never find yourself in a million hours of Internet trawling." - Margo Lanagan, author of The Brides of Rollrock Island

"Connecting with readers is fantastic. But even that doesn’t negate the massive time sink social media is for a writer. The internet kills productivity." - Dan Krokos, author of False Memory

"Writing is a solitary task. Social media by definition is the opposite. It's nice to know we're not alone in this adventure. Before I let myself write (I used to work in a big company), social media was just starting. There was this site called Six Degrees. I joined because I was curious and because it was my job to know about such things. But I never wanted to give enough information so that I'd join 'the cloud,' which is what they called the links to other people. Before I was doing what I really wanted to do—write—I didn't have that interest in connection. I think I knew I wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing with my life, and I didn't want to broadcast that inauthenticity." - Martha Brockenbrough, author of Devine Intervention

Monday, June 25, 2012

Interview: Sarah Lieberman of Simon & Schuster Audio

Sarah Lieberman, director of marketing for Simon & Schuster Audio, is stopping by to shed some light on some of the decisions made during audiobook production and how the finished product gets marketed. 

Sarah Lieberman 

What goes into selecting a narrator for a novel being turned into an audiobook?

A lot goes into selecting the narrator for an audiobook . . . the voice makes or breaks the production.  

We get a manuscript very early on in the production process & immediately begin a wish-list for the reader.  Is the narrator male or female?  Young or old?  From a particular geographical region?  Required to read dialogue, or present complex ideas, or be funny?  All the demands are weighed & we then try to cast the right voice for the book and make the best-possible marriage. Often, too, the writer is involved in the casting decision.   No one better knows the tone & personality of a book than its author.  When David McCullough does not record his books himself, he almost always requests Edward Herrmann.  Herrmann, a devoted reader of McCullough, seems to be one with the writing, and perfectly matches his delivery to McCullough’s beautiful storytelling.   

How do you determine what format an audiobook with be produced on (CD, MP3 CD, Digital, etc.)? 

Everything we publish will be available digitally, and will be available on CD for libraries.  We still publish the majority of our list on CD for the retail market, but as the available retail space shrinks for CD, we are getting more selective.  In some cases, particularly for authors early in their career, it’s better to hold off on a CD publication rather than put out very few copies that are hard to find, which creates a poor perception in the eyes of our accounts.  MP3 CD is a format that holds some promise, and we continue to experiment with it.

How do you keep up with what readers like and dislike about the audiobook experience?

We are always trying to stay in touch with the listening audience and certainly over the last few years social media has developed into a terrific way to do so. Facebook and Twitter in particular have become a great way to learn more about narrators that people particularly enjoy, where and when people are listening to audiobooks, and of course sales figures give us a sense of what titles stand out at retail. We are always looking to make the best consumer experience and to get new listeners to give audiobooks a try. I have always found that once someone tries one audiobook they’re hooked, but sometimes it’s a hurdle to get readers to try that first listening experience. Encouraging people to do that is really one of the biggest challenges we face and also our biggest opportunity.

How is promoting an audio title different from promoting a print title? How is the market different from that of a hardcover or paperback?

Most of the titles we publish are based on a book that has a full marketing and publicity plan behind it.   So, the first thing we do is to make sure the audiobook is incorporated into those plans as much as possible.   Then our task is to focus on spreading the word about what’s special about the audio. Online tools like bloggers, reviewers, targeted advertising, and of course social media have become great vehicles for promoting audiobooks.  One thing we’re trying to highlight is the connection between authors and narrators.  We love to do video and audio interviews with the authors and narrators and to post that material online along with excerpts from the actual programs. We also use that content as bonus material on the audio programs themselves. Just recently we had a huge response from fans thrilled to hear Stephen King narrating his Dark Tower audiobook The Wind Through the Keyhole, and as a bonus we included an excerpt of Steve reading from Doctor Sleep, his forthcoming sequel to The Shining. Similarly, we just shot a fantastic video of Brad Thor and his longtime narrator, actor Armand Schultz. We’ll be using excerpts from the video promotionally online and the full audio interview with the pair will be included on the July release, Black List.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Recorded Books JIAM Celebration and Giveaway

Recorded Books is helping us to celebrate June is Audiobook Month with a giveaway! They're also hosting a couple fun features and activities...

What do audiobooks mean to people? Recorded Books wants to know! They are inviting audiobook lovers, librarians, and educators to record a short video (one-minute max) to share their favorite audiobook moment or talk about what audiobooks mean to them. Videos can be submitted to Recorded Books at facebook.com/recordedbooks, twitter.com/recordedbooks, or email (kjennah[plus]JIAM[at]recordedbooks[dot]com). At the end of the month, two winners will get a personalized voicemail message for their library read by AudioFile Golden Voices George Guidall or Barbara Rosenblat.

Favorite moments. The Recorded Books Blog will be featuring favorite moments in audio from narrators including Simon Vance, Robin Miles, Barbara Rosenblat, Christina Moore, Jenny Sterlin, Andrew Garman, Robert Ian Mackenzie, George Guidall, Carol Monda, Johnny Heller, Mark Turetsky, and many more.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Release Date: June 19, 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Pages: 224
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.

I don’t usually read many books involving military stories or soldiers going off to or coming home from deployments.  I’ve known so many brave soldiers in my lifetime that it’s virtually impossible for me to separate the aspects of the story I’m reading with the aspects of the stories of my own personal soldiers.  It always hits me close to home and close to my heart, and I know my limits in that way.  However, the buzz about the amazingness of Trish Doller’s debut Something Like Normal caught my attention, and I decided to give it a chance.  While I believe my own hesitations are still valid, I totally fell for Travis, for Harper, for Charlie, for Something Like Normal.

When we meet Travis Stephenson, he’s reentering his former civilian life for the first time since his deployment to Afghanistan.  He’s been ordered to take two extra weeks on top of the two weeks given in order to help him deal with the death of his fellow soldier and best friend Charlie.  We see through Travis just how hard it can be to come back to a place that doesn’t understand you, and we feel his pain when he realizes you can’t truly come home again.

Travis is the best and most authentic male narrator I’ve ever read in YA.  Not only does he sound like a 19-year-old boy, he sounds like a 19-year-old Marine.  He curses and mocks his friends relentlessly and drinks and makes some ridiculous mistakes that a 19-year-old Marine on leave would make.  Doller really did her research, because this is true to life in the best and worst ways.  Honestly, it’s Travis’s voice that shines throughout the story.  If he wasn’t written in such a dynamic and brutally honest way, I wouldn’t have loved it nearly as much.  Travis is relatable, even if you’re not a Marine. 

My previous opinions regarding military-themed stories, while valid, didn’t affect my reading experience the way I thought they might.  Instead, I feel Travis’s story is so real that he could represent a whole generation of Marines in Afghanistan.  This struggle to come to terms with the loss of his closest friend as well as his own transition away from the boy he was into the man is becoming is universal.  It’s so powerful.  This is a soldier’s story told in a soldier’s voice, and it resonates on so many levels.  I want to wrap Travis in hugs and tell him he’s strong enough to make it through this.

And then there’s Harper Gray.  I hope the readers realize this one thing: There are too many Paige Mannings in this world.  Don’t be a Paige Manning.  Be a Harper Gray.  Be willing to see a different side of the person who made a mistake half a lifetime ago.  Be open to change.  Take a chance when there’s a chance to take.  Be yourself, even when it’s the hardest thing to do.  Don’t let anyone make you feel like you deserve anything less than the very best.  Be a Harper Gray.

This is one of the novels where you should believe the hype.  Pick up a copy of Something Like Normal, take this journey with Travis, and I know you won’t regret it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

More Author Insight: Intimidating Ideas

Have you ever gotten an idea you were afraid to write or didn't feel ready to write? Did you ever take it on?

"A few years back, I was going to write a book about a gay teen who makes the decision NOT to come out to his friends and family. I wanted it to drive home to straight kids how their actions can terrify gay kids, but I just couldn't get my brain-fangs to sink into the story, so I didn't do it. It's not that I was afraid -- I just couldn't figure out how to write it without making it seem like I was discouraging gay kids from coming out, and that certainly was NOT the message! I think about it every now and then, so I may come back to it." - Barry Lyga, author of I Hunt Killers

"Whoa. Great question. No, the ideas I was afraid to write usually turn into the best ever. I just close my eyes for the first few chapters." - Huntley Fitzpatrick, author of My Life Next Door

"Yes! And yes, I took it on. Defiance comes out this August and was one of those 'this might be too big for me' books. I believe every book I sit down to write should feel too big. I want to always push myself to the edge of what I'm capable of doing." - C.J. Redwine, author of Defiance.

"'No, I just get ideas that I don’t have the time to write." - Lissa Price, author of Starters. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (15)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine 
that highlights eagerly anticipated books.

Nerve by Jeanne Ryan
Release Date: September 13, 2012
Publisher: Dial Books

When Vee is picked to be a player in NERVE, an anonymous game of dares broadcast live online, she discovers that the game knows her. They tempt her with prizes taken from her ThisIsMe page and team her up with the perfect boy, sizzling-hot Ian. At first it’s exhilarating—Vee and Ian’s fans cheer them on to riskier dares with higher stakes. But the game takes a twisted turn when they’re directed to a secret location with five other players for the Grand Prize round. Suddenly they’re playing all or nothing, with their lives on the line. Just how far will Vee go before she loses NERVE?
Why can't I wait? 
Video games of death! As if they aren't bad enough for you as is, right? I'm really interested to see how the author pulls this one off. It could be awesome or it could fall completely flat... But I'll play. 

Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik

Release Date: Aug. 2, 2011
Publisher: HarperTeen
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: Kindle
Source: Purchased
Pages: 304
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound
Description: Amazon
Will Elise’s love life be an epic win or an epic fail?

At Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles, who your parents are can make or break you. Case in point:

As the son of Hollywood royalty, Derek Edwards is pretty much prince of the school—not that he deigns to acknowledge many of his loyal subjects.

As the daughter of the new principal, Elise Benton isn’t exactly on everyone’s must-sit-next-to-at-lunch list.

When Elise’s beautiful sister catches the eye of the prince’s best friend, Elise gets to spend a lot of time with Derek, making her the envy of every girl on campus. Except she refuses to fall for any of his rare smiles and instead warms up to his enemy, the surprisingly charming social outcast Webster Grant. But in this hilarious tale of fitting in and flirting, not all snubs are undeserved, not all celebrity brats are bratty, and pride and prejudice can get in the way of true love for only so long.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that I will read, watch, and devour any version of Pride and Prejudice that exists in this world.  If it’s a modern retelling YA version, I’m doubly there.  Because the story of Lizzie and Darcy is so dear to my heart, I’m often very nitpicky about the way it’s told, and I haven’t been impressed with most of the YA P&P’s I’ve read in the past.  However, Claire LaZebnik’s Epic Fail was easily my favorite one.

In Epic Fail, Elizabeth Bennet becomes witty 11th grader Elise Benton and Mr. Darcy becomes the son of Hollywood royalty Derek Edwards.  They meet on the Bentons' first day at the prestigious Coral Tree Prep School, where Elise's mother is the newly appointed, awkwardly strict principal.  Her Coral Tree classmates are all rich and/or famous, while Elise and her sisters Juliana, Layla, and Kaitlyn are not, so they immediately feel like outsiders.  While Juliana adapts quickly after meeting the popular and handsome senior Chase Baldwin and his snobby sister Chelsea, Layla will stop at virtually nothing to be in with the in crowd.  Now, I could tell you more, but by this point, you should know what's going to happen: someone's pride and someone else's prejudice will stand in the way of a connection.

The aspect that works best about Epic Fail is the way LaZebnik translates the classic characters into their modern counterparts so effortlessly. Elise Benton is an exemplary Lizzie, and she’s  the main reason this works so well (as far as modern Ms. Bennets go, Elise is only topped in my mind by Lizzie in the vlog series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries).  She is snarky as all get out, hilarious and honest with a biting wit.  Lizzie’s sense of humor is so vital to her character, and it often gets watered down or even left out in these retellings.  Here, Elise is laugh-out-loud funny.  And Derek!  Since his parents are two of the biggest movie stars on the planet, his distrust of new people makes perfect sense.  He comes across as awkward and uncomfortable, but with a sweetness and understanding just below the surface.  In other words, a very fitting Darcy.  Juliana and Layla are pitch perfect as Elise’s sisters.  I especially like how Juliana and Elise’s closeness contrasts brilliantly with Layla’s isolation, but you never doubt that they care about one another.  And, if possible, I dislike Webster Grant more than Wickham.  Smarmy bloke.

The other reason I enjoyed Epic Fail more than other retellings I’ve read is because it doesn’t try too hard.  Yes, it carries the basic plot of the original work, but it also strays when it needs to in order to make their story work, rather than simply keeping it exactly the same.  The themes of the story are more important than recreating every single word or handshake.  Elise’s mother can be annoying with being obsessed with marrying off her daughters, since the latter isn’t really something that happens in society nowadays. 

Epic Fail was a charming little read that I know I will enjoy again and again.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Author Insight: Intimidating Ideas

Have you ever gotten an idea you were afraid to write or didn't feel ready to write? Did you ever take it on?

"Not particularly. I’m a 'dive right in' kind of writer. If it’s not working, I’ll just set it aside, but nothing has every stopped me from giving it the old college try. What’s that saying? Something about trying and failing, then trying again and failing better. That’s pretty much my writing motto." - Lauren Morrill, author of Meant to Be.

"No, my ideas tend to come to me in shrunken form and then have to be kicked repeatedly to get them to grow to a respectable size. At the start of things I’m very unambitious. I’m all about not frightening myself." - Margo Lanagan, author of The Brides of Rollrock Island

"There’s a really elaborate fantasy I want to write. I don’t think I’m there yet. I want to be better before I take it on. I want to have more patience while I’m writing." - Dan Krokos, author of False Memory

"That describes pretty much all of my ideas worth pursuing. If they don't scare me, then they are not sufficiently awesome." - Martha Brockenbrough, author of Devine Intervention

Monday, June 18, 2012

Interview: Paul Gagne on Audiobook Production

Paul Gagne, director of production for Scholastic Audio and Weston Woods Studios, has worked on nearly 300 audiobooks to date, including some pretty outstanding titles such as Beauty Queens, the Ghost Buddy series, The Eleventh Plague, The Scorpio Races, and The Raven Boys.  He's here today to help us celebrate June is Audiobook Month, tell all about what it takes to produce an audio book, and give away some audiobooks. 

Explain the role of an audiobook producer in the production process.

The role of producer can vary a lot from one company to another.  As Executive Producer for Scholastic Audio, I am responsible for budgeting new titles, assigning titles to producer/directors, coordinating casting decisions taking into account input from the producer/director, the author, and on occasion the author’s editor, keeping up to date on the production process overall to make sure we’re staying on schedule and within budget, and on occasion taking a more hands-on role by attending recording sessions, co-directing talent and working with composers to create the intro/outro music used in our productions.  I have also directed several productions.

For Weston Woods I have been much more involved in a hands-on capacity, directing most of our recording sessions, working with composers, and sometimes doing some of the editing, mixing and mastering.  I started as a sound editor at Weston Woods in 1978, so I’ve had an extensive background in audio production.

What elements have to come together in pre-production to make the recording of an audiobook possible? What has to be done prior to entering the studio? 

I think the most important single element in pre-production is finding the right voice for the story, someone who not only has the right sound and range of talent for whatever character voices might be required, but who can relate to and “get inside” the story, conveying its emotional nuances.  For both Weston Woods and Scholastic Audio, we usually consult with our authors for their input on the kind of “inner voice” they may have had in mind while writing the story, what they’d like to hear in the audiobook, and we try very hard to cast accordingly.  In an ideal situation, I think that half the job of directing a project is really casting the right voice, and with the right producer/director for a project — ideally, someone who can also relate to the book -- coaching the best possible performance out of the reader is something that just naturally falls into place.  Prior to entering the studio, both the director and narrator should have read the entire text.  Not only should they both have a sense of the overall arc of the story, but they should have done their homework in terms of knowing all of the characters’ personalities and what they require in terms of different character voices, and researched any unusual names or words for pronunciation.  The sessions go a lot smoother if everyone is well-prepared.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Summer Listening Winner

Tina B. 

Congratulations! I'll pass your information along to the publisher, and they'll get these audiobooks out to you ASAP. Thanks to everyone who entered and to Simon & Schuster for offering up this awesome prize pack. 

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Release Date: June 12, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Pages: 398
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret—one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

Sometimes, when you least expect it, a story comes along that latches onto your heart and won’t let go.  It’s delightful and heart-breaking, perfectly gut-wrenching, and it’s exactly what you need at exactly that moment.  That’s how I feel about For Darkness Shows the Stars, Diana Peterfreund’s retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, with a dystopian sci-fi twist.

Elliot North is a Luddite, meaning she was raised to follow a certain set of protocols in order to keep herself safe from genetic experimentation, so her generation doesn’t become like the Reduced.  Her best friend Kai is a Post-Reduction offspring, and he has dreams of becoming more than just the mechanic to the North estate like his father before him.  Four years ago, Kai left, and Elliot didn’t go with him.  Now he’s back as Captain Malakai Wentworth, bringing his impressive record and a fleet of friends with him.  Elliot has some secrets of her own, a room full of them in the barn where she and Kai used to pass their time and pass each other letters, and these secrets can change her entire life as well as the lives of everyone on the North estate.  Can Elliot and Kai forget the past, forgive the mistakes of what’s already happened?  Can Elliot finally stand up to her Luddite-to-the-core father?

Friday, June 15, 2012

BEA Recap Part 2

The old adage "it's a marathon, not a sprint" totally applies to Book Expo America, and after two days of warm-up the endurance test began. Up before the sun, and don't stop till your feet fall off. Re-attach and repeat. 

By 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning the line to get into the Exhibit Hall at the Javits Center was longer than anyone in our group had ever seen it, at least at that hour. Excitement combined with the fact that some highly anticipated titles, including The Diviners by Libba Bray and The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, were dropping that morning contributed to the extra-long entrance queue. 

Jessica and I wound up in two different lines to get in and were like speeding trains passing each other for at least the first hour. When I finally encountered her again, she looked like this: 

Baby's first BEA. Awww...
Carnival of Souls mask and The Great Meat Cookbook apron. *sigh* And only an hour or so into the expo. 

We all buzzed about that morning snagging books that dropped. Stacey, Wes and I wound up in Ruta Sepetys line at the Penguin booth to get Between Shades of Gray signed and pick up a super-early advance copy of Ruta's next book, Out of the Easy. Emily was supposed to be in line with us but was detained on the other side of the Javits. Luckily, Wes was there and able to get a copy for her. Emily was so thrilled she texted me something to the effect of: "I will kiss him!" Wes' equally emotional response can be seen to your left. 

Jess, John Green fan girl extraordinaire, had a mostly silent freak-out when she saw him pass by. On finally approaching him, did she profess her undying love for his work? Nope. She said star penis. (Click it and read the whole story. You know you want to.) It must have made an impression though, because she made John's BEA video

Thursday, June 14, 2012

More Author Insight: Written Off

What genre of fiction do you read and respect but would never write?

"There are genres I admire and haven't written for…yet. I have trouble saying I would "never write" in a specific genre. If I enjoy a particular genre, the odds are I'll at least try to write in it someday. I never thought I would write a thriller, but then I wrote I Hunt Killers, for example." - Barry Lyga, author of I Hunt Killers

"I love and am in awe of dystopian and paranormal etc…but I cannot do it. I try and it just comes out very silly." - Huntley Fitzpatrick, author of My Life Next Door

"Hmm. Nothing, actually. I like to blend genres in my books, so any genre I love is up for grabs!" - C.J. Redwine, author of Defiance.

"'Never' is a big word. 'Never' applies to the genres I don’t read. Every genre I read is something I hate to say I’d never do." - Lissa Price, author of Starters. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (14)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine 
that highlights eagerly anticipated books.

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone
by Kat Rosenfield
Release Date: July 5, 2012
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Author Website: http://katrosenfield.com/

An arresting un-coming-of-age story, from a breathtaking talent

Becca has always longed to break free from her small, backwater hometown. But the discovery of an unidentified dead girl on the side of a dirt road sends the town--and Becca--into a tailspin. Unable to make sense of the violence of the outside world creeping into her backyard, Becca finds herself retreating inward, paralyzed from moving forward for the first time in her life.

Short chapters detailing the last days of Amelia Anne Richardson's life are intercut with Becca's own summer as the parallel stories of two young women struggling with self-identity and relationships on the edge twist the reader closer and closer to the truth about Amelia's death.
Why can't I wait?
A coming of age story told from the alternating viewpoints of poor dead girl Amelia Anne Richardson's in her last days and the summer of smalltown "prisoner" Becca.  The description sounds simultaneously gorgeous, haunting, and a little Twin Peaks-ian; therefore, I am so very intrigued.  Nothing like a good creepy summer read.

BEA Recap Part 1

Book Expo America is crazy on steroids. That's the only way to explain it, although a written and pictorial account of the insanity follows. 

No matter how many times I go (and this is year three for me), it's always an absolute whirlwind. If the show itself isn't enough to overwhelm you, throw in a break-neck pace and a healthy dose of chaos and voila! Crazy cupcake with drama icing. And I mean that in the best way possible! 

It all kicked off last Sunday when I crawled in the car around 7 a.m. after roughly three hours of sleep and took to I-95. After two hours, just south of D.C., I picked up Jessica. Forty more minutes and one state line later, Wes joined the party. Both were caffeinated and thankfully Wes' general apathy about, well, everything negated Jess' particular brand of perky. 

Don't worry. Six hour car rides and living in a shoebox for a week will really bond you. We were still friends by the end of the conference, see? 

Jess, Wes and Susan AKA The Wastepaper Prose Team. 
Fast forward through a lot singing which Wes deftly ignored by sleeping, and we made it to the hotel without incident. Once we arrived, the hotel staff informed Jess several times that it was a very small hotel. The statement was a constant reprise and seemingly their answer everything. They weren't lying either. The hotel was so small that you couldn't walk a circle on any floor because the elevator was in the way. The rooms weren't much better. Members of our room block came to refer to them affectionately as our cubicles. 

Once we settled in, we collected Stacey, Monica and her sister Jessika and headed out into the city to get a meal despite the drizzly weather. Enter the Skylight Diner and an obscene amount of bacon. Pancakes and bacon. Bacon cheeseburgers. Even a napoleon with a side of bacon. Apparently bacon is BEA fuel.