Thursday, October 4, 2018

Author Interview and Giveaway: POLAR BEAR ISLAND by Lindsay Bonilla

I'm happy to post my interview with the wonderful Lindsay Bonilla, author of POLAR BEAR ISLAND which just came out with Sterling on October 2nd! Below Lindsay and I talk growing up an avid reader, her inspiration for the book, and why she's drawn to writing picture books among other things. I will also be giving away one signed hard copy of POLAR BEAR ISLAND to one lucky winner!


“Welcome to Polar Bear Island. NO OTHERS ALLOWED!” Parker is the mayor of this peaceful, predictable island, and he wants to keep it just the way it is. But Kirby, a penguin, thinks the place is paradise, and she wants to stay. Parker says no, but the other polar bears love Kirby —and soon they’re begging Parker to let Kirby (and her family) move in. Will Parker agree . . . and make the island fun for EVERYONE? With its gentle message of inclusivity, this playful and lighthearted story will delight children.

"The text is accessible and good fun to read aloud. A good bedtime read."--Kirkus Reviews



You were an avid reader AND writer as a kid. What sorts of things did you like to read and write about? 
I think my first love was reading about animals. I got the Ranger Rick magazines as a kid and was fascinated by them. Growing up, I had two dogs, Bernie and Wickett, who were the main characters in many of my early stories. I also created many different animal kingdoms based on some of the animal facts I learned. I still have the notebook with all of those writings and drawings. 

Where did you get the initial idea for POLAR BEAR ISLAND?
I think it was building for awhile, but there was one day in particular that my husband, Estith, a Colombian immigrant, came home from work very frustrated. A supervisor on a job he was managing had avoided speaking with him because of his accent. He felt both disrespected and hurt.

A few years prior to that some other Colombian friends were walking through a store parking lot when a random person yelled at them, “Go back to Mexico! We don't want you here.” Of course that was an ignorant comment on more than a couple of levels, but the fact that someone would just shout at two wonderful people who were going about their business, not bothering anybody, was upsetting to me on so many levels.

I think I really started to pay attention to the negative attitudes toward immigrants right out of college. That's when I'd taught English as a Second Language classes to a group of seasonal laborers from Mexico. At the completion of the class, they told me and the co-teacher that some of their best times in the US were in our class because we treated them like people.

So I think it was a slow build with tons of other incidents along the way that kept pushing me to tell this story. But the pivotal moment was that day with my husband. That's when I finally said, “I want to tell a story that paints a different picture of immigration, one that children can connect to.” I honestly don't remember how it came to feature polar bears and penguins, but I think maybe the grumpy polar bear was the first thing that came to mind. 

The art style for POLAR BEAR ISLAND is so much fun! What were your first thoughts when you saw it? 
I loved it! I'd gotten to see some examples of Cinta's work before she began working on POLAR BEAR ISLAND, and I knew whatever she did was going to be amazing. But when I saw her sketches for the first time I was ecstatic. I felt like she really nailed the characters, especially Parker – and I loved the way she gave each of the penguins such unique personalities with her special touches. 

What has been your favorite part of the publishing process so far?
Lately I've been posting on Twitter about how picture books aren't created in a vacuum. There's a whole team of people involved in putting a book together, and I'd say it's this collaborative aspect of publishing that I love the most.

I adore the whole editorial process. Working with someone else who is just as passionate about your story as you are is a gift. I love going back over my manuscript and pinpointing the additions, changes, and improvements that came about thanks to my editor, agent, and critique partners.

That is followed closely by seeing the illustrations for the first time. That is quite a thrill too!

What draws you to write picture books? What do you think is the most difficult part of writing for this age range? 
Probably the fact that I still feel like a kid.  No matter how old I get, I feel like I haven't grown up. Sure, I have adult responsibilities, etc, but the things I loved as a child -- to create, imagine, act things out – it's all the same. I love that anything is possible in picture books – talking animals, kids who can do/be anything. That's the kind of world I want to live in – one full of possibility – so it's fun helping to create that.

As a parent, I also see the impact that reading books together has on children. It's not just about the book, it's about the relationship that is created when you read together. To be part of creating an experience that strengthens relationships between parents and children, teachers and students, etc – it's just an amazing thing.

I think the most difficult part of writing for kids is making sure that I'm giving my young readers enough credit. It's tempting to try to wrap up every story with a nice, neat moral, but that's not necessary or desirable. Kids are astute. They can understand and appreciate nuance, sometimes with greater clarity than adults, if we let them. My four year old has blown me away with some of his observations in the books we've read – so I want to be sure that my writing leaves room for children to draw their own conclusions about a story. 

Tell us about your work with National Storytelling Network! 
The National Storytelling Network is an amazing organization advancing all forms of storytelling in our communities. I don't work for them directly, but I am a member, and as a professional storyteller, I owe a lot to them in their commitment to keep the art of storytelling going strong. Through their conferences, I have met and learned from some amazing storytellers. The storytelling community is very similar to the kidlit community – tight-knit, giving and very warm and encouraging.

I do an interactive style of storytelling that incorporates my background in theatre and creative drama and that gets the audience to participate both vocally and kinesthetically. I focus on telling multicultural folktales because I love introducing people of all ages to other cultures through folklore. I also love the way that folktales, which have been passed down for generations, still resonate so deeply with listeners of all ages today.
  
How has being an actor shaped your writing? 
Probably one of the biggest ways is that when I'm writing I tend to think in dialogue. When you're reading a play, all you have is the dialogue, with only a few other sparse details to help you create the world of the characters.  I tend to visualize my stories playing out in my mind, as if my characters were in a stage play. I can see and hear their voices quite clearly. In college and beyond, I wrote a lot of dramatic sketches.  I also wrote two screenplays which were turned into films under the direction of a friend who is an indie filmmaker friend.  These experience so writing dialogue is probably one of the easiest/most enjoyable parts of writing for me.

Are there any certain plays you’ve been in that inspired certain books?
I don't know that any plays I've been in have inspired particular books directly. I actually haven't done any stage acting for about ten years now. I moved over to the world of storytelling not long after I got married. As much as I love the stage, storytelling gives me more flexibility so that I can be home most nights and weekends with my family.

Being immersed in folklore and fairy tales has definitely inspired some of my stories. I think that all great art inspires my creative process. Sometimes I'll see a play, hear a song or read a book and think to myself, I want to create something that makes readers feel the same way I'm feeling now, or that strikes that same chord or theme from a different angle. That happens quite a lot actually.

You’ve traveled quite a bit! What have your travels taught you, and how have they helped your writing? 
Yes, I LOVE to travel. I could probably write a book about all that I've learned, but one of the biggest lessons I've learned is that there are many different ways of doing things. We all grow up in a particular culture that influences the way we do things and how we see the world. Culture is such a powerful shaping force in our lives, but we don't realize it. We think that our way of doing something is THE way of doing it. Then we travel or become friends with people from other places and realize that's not the case.

For example, when I moved to Spain, I was shocked that people didn't eat dinner until 10pm. My first inclination was to think, “What!? Dinnertime should be between 5 and 7pm. 10Pm is just WRONG!” I had the same reaction to the siesta. How could all of the businesses in the city of Madrid shut down for 3 hours right in the middle of the day at precisely the time I needed to do my shopping? Again, everything in me said, “This is wrong!”

But in time I came to appreciate that these things weren't wrong –  just DIFFERENT. In fact, I've come to love some of the aspects of other cultures that I've experienced and wish we could incorporate some of them into our way of doing things here.

I think all of my travel experiences have given my writing a more global perspective. In fact, I'm sure I'd never have written POLAR BEAR ISLAND if not for my time living in Spain. (That's actually where I met my husband!) Additionally, I think my travels have taught me to be more open-minded and humble, and I try to bring both of those postures into my writing process.

Lindsay Bonilla performs interactive folktales for her company, World of Difference Ltd., and teaches children about foreign countries and cultures. She lives in North Canton, OH, with her husband, sons, and rescue dog. 

You can pick up a copy at AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound, Target and your local bookstore! A discussion guide and activity kit are available here!



You can follow Lindsay on Twitter and go to her website!





Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Author Interview and Giveaway: A TOUCH OF GOLD by Annie Sullivan


I'm thrilled to put up my interview with the wonderful and talented Annie Sullivan whose debut YA fantasy A TOUCH OF GOLD debuted today with Blink/HarperCollins! A TOUCH OF GOLD has been featured in USA Today’s Happy Ever After, The Nerd Daily, Hypable,  B&N’s 50 Most Anticipated YA Fantasy Novels of 2018, and 19 Most Anticipated YA Debuts of 2018 (July to December) among others. Below Annie and I discuss her debut, inspiration, her promo tips for authors and much more. I'm also doing a giveaway. One lucky winner will receive a signed hardcover of A TOUCH OF GOLD and a tote!

King Midas once had the ability to turn all he touched into gold. But after his gift—or curse—almost killed his daughter, Midas relinquished The Touch forever. Ten years later, Princess Kora still bears the consequences of her father’s wish: her skin shines golden, rumors follow her everywhere she goes, and she harbors secret powers that are getting harder to hide.

Kora spends her days locked in the palace, concealed behind gloves and veils, trying to ignore the stares and gossip of courtiers. It isn’t until a charming young duke arrives that Kora realizes there may be someone out there who doesn’t fear her or her curse. But their courtship is disrupted when a thief steals precious items from the kingdom, leaving the treasury depleted and King Midas vulnerable. Thanks to her unique ability to sense gold, Kora is the only one who can track the thief down. As she sails off on her quest, Kora learns that not everything is what it seems—not thieves, not pirates, and not even curses. She quickly discovers that gold—and the power it brings—is more dangerous than she’d ever believed.
Midas learned his lesson at a price. What will Kora’s journey cost?
From author Annie Sullivan comes A Touch of Gold, the untold story of the daughter King Midas turned to gold, perfect for fans of Cinder and The Wrath and the Dawn.

"A dazzling retelling full of adventure with a dash of betrayal, A Touch of Gold will grab your heart and not let go." --Brenda Drake, New York Times bestselling author

"...a diverting addition to the genre." --Booklist



A TOUCH OF GOLD has such a unique premise! Where did you get the initial idea for this book, and what led you to tell the story from the perspective of King Midas’s daughter? 
I came up with the idea for A TOUCH OF GOLD after watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. There’s all that cursed gold, which led me to thinking about King Midas. But I like to write strong female characters, so I focused on King Midas’s daughter because I knew she had to have a story to tell after being turned to gold as a child.
  
The cover for A TOUCH OF GOLD is so beautiful! What was your reaction when you first saw it? 
It’s amazing! I couldn’t believe it when I first saw it. I love the burst of gold at the top and the hand holding the rose. Basically, I love everything about it!  

What draws you to writing fantasy and fairytales? 
Growing up, my mom read me countless fairytales, and I watched every Disney Princess movie I could find. But when it came to writing my own stories, I didn’t want to write about princesses who have to be saved all the time. I wanted to create a new generation of fairytales that today’s readers could relate to. 

You’ve traveled a lot! Where have you been that’s had the most influence on your writing? Was there anywhere in particular that inspired parts of A TOUCH OF GOLD? 
I love traveling, and I think bits of it find its way into all my stories. I’ve been a few cruises, and many of the scenes that take place on the ship are inspired by that. I’ve also been to Greece, so I kept those memories in the back of my mind as inspiration when I created the fantasy world in A TOUCH OF GOLD. 

What has been the most exciting part of your path to seeing A TOUCH OF GOLD published? 
Honestly, all of it is exciting. From getting the call that I had a deal to see the advanced copy of the book to seeing the final copy. I think I’m also really looking forward to seeing the book on store shelves!

 What was your favorite scene to write and why? 
There’s a scene where Kora, the cursed daughter of King Midas, and her cousin face off against some mythical creatures, and they really have to save the day. It’s all up to them. The whole scene shows how powerful they are and shows Kora that maybe things she thought were flaws about herself aren’t really flaws after all.
  
I bet you had to do some pretty hefty research for A TOUCH OF GOLD! What was the most interesting thing you learned? 
I did a lot of research into Greek mythology. Just learning about the personalities and attributes of the gods was pretty inspiring. 

You’ve done a ton of promotional work for A TOUCH OF GOLD. What advice would you give to other authors looking to branch out in that area? 
I could write a whole book about all the marketing that I did! I think I had a lot of success gaining followers by doing giveaways on Twitter and Instagram. I chose books with audiences similar to mine and tried to give signed copies of books away where I could to draw in a bigger audience. This requires planning ahead if you’re going to an author signing so you can buy an extra copy just to give away.
  
Who were some of your favorite teen authors growing up? Who do you love to read now? Growing up I loved Madeline L-Engle, Robin McKinley, Shannon Hale, and Meg Cabot. Some of my recent favorite authors include Marissa Meyer, Elly Blake, Mary E. Pearson, and Stephanie Garber.
  
What’s the best part for you of being part of the YA author community? 
The YA writing community is so supportive. I don’t know of any other job where people are so willing to support each other by reading, blurbing, and promoting each others work. It feels like a big family, and I love that! 

Can we have a sneak peek of what projects you have in the works? 
Well, hopefully A TOUCH OF GOLD will have a sequel, so get ready for that! But I’m also working on a few new fairytale and fantasy retellings that I think readers are really going to love. Stay tuned! 

Annie Sullivan is a Young Adult author from Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has been featured in Curly Red Stories and Punchnels, and her novel, Goldilocks, won the Luminis Books Award at the 2013 Midwest Writers Workshop. She loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling and exploring new cultures. When she’s not off on her own adventures, she’s teaching classes at the Indiana Writers Center and working as the Copy Specialist at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, having also worked there in Editorial and Publicity roles. 

You can pick up a copy at AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound, Target and your local bookstore!

You can follow Annie on InstagramTwitter and go to her website!

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Illustrator Interview and Giveaway: Colleen Kong-Savage



I'm beyond excited to post my interview with the amazing Colleen-Kong Savage, illustrator extraordinaire, today along with a giveaway of her debut THE TURTLE SHIP (a hardcover signed by both the author and illustrator!) which came out with Lee & Low this month to great reviews, including a starred review from School Library Journal!


Long ago in Korea, a young boy named Sun-sin spent his days playing with his pet turtle Gobugi and dreaming of sailing around the world. As a poor villager, though, his dream to travel seemed impossible. Then one day, the king's court announced a contest to find the best design for a new battleship to defend the land from invaders. The winner would sail the ocean with the royal navy.

Determined to win, Sun-sin attempts to build an indestructible battleship with a few found items. Each attempt fails miserably against the powerful sea, and with it Sun-sin s dream also sinks to the bottom. Turning to Gobugi for comfort, Sun-sin notices how his pet turtle is small but mighty, slow but steady, and impossible to sink. Suddenly, Sun-sin has a great idea.

Loosely based on the true story of Admiral Yi Sun-sin and his Turtle Ship, this delightful tale by debut author Helena Ku Rhee and debut illustrator Colleen Kong-Savage introduce young readers to a fascinating episode in Korean history and naval engineering.

“Kong-Savage’s collage illustrations bring the story to life through almost 3-D imagery and are beautiful to look at…A great mix of myth and history for most picture book collections.” —School Library Journal starred review

“The splendor of Kong-Savage’s paper collages adds to the storytelling with rich overlapping compositions and patterns.  This debut packs a double punch modeling the experimental process while spotlighting an intriguing historical figure and his warcraft. —Kirkus Reviews

“…Kong-Savage’s striking, precise paper-collage scenes are equally effective in conveying the sweeping drama of ocean views and the personality and warmth in close-ups of Gobugi’s small, green face. An afterword about the story’s historical roots closes this engaging tale with a strong STEM focus from two debut creators.” –Publishers Weekly


Could you tell us about your previous illustration work?
In my other illustration life I make pictures and do graphic design for small businesses and nonprofits. I help create their visual brand to communicate their personality and what they’re about. I also have design a collection of cards called Konga Line. One day it will be a greeting card empire, but for now it’s distributed through Greeting Card Universe. 

What made you want to work with kids books?
Who wouldn’t want to work with kids books? You draw characters that make you grin as you go along. You play with a colorful palette. If you work in mediums that you can touch, people won’t consider you outdated. Nobody considers you old-fashioned for holding a pencil instead of a stylus.
  
What was your favorite illustrated book growing up?
The Monster at the End of this Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover! written by Sesame Street writer/producer Jon Stone, illustrated by Michael Smollin. It’s brilliant, and Grover is indeed lovable. 

Who are some of your favorite illustrators? Who do you look to for inspiration?
Two of my favorite illustrators are Robin Rosenthal (https://www.robinrosenthal.com/) and Mikela Provost (http://www.mikelaprevost.com/). I follow them on social media. Robin’s characters are such characters—some take themselves very seriously and have no idea how hilarious they are. Mikela’s images are also often funny, and very sweet. Her paintings are beautiful and warm. I’m also a fan of Lane Smith—I love his humor, and there’s always so much texture in his illustrations, no matter how complex or simple. Emily Gravett—again, I am charmed by characters—and Shaun Tan, I love them both for their mastery in drawing. Jane Ray for her color. Paul Zelinsky for being a chameleon, always experimenting with styles. And of course, Ezra Jack Keats for his beautiful collage/painting style, for color, for his sweet characters, and because his pictures just make me feel good inside.
  
What initially drew you to THE TURTLE SHIP?
I was drawn because the editor said, “It’s a historical fiction, so it involves research,” which made the assignment sound like a lot of work (and it was), but now I had an excuse to learn about a whole new culture in 16th century Korea. What did they wear? Where did they live? What does the palace look like? What’s the story behind the turtle ship? Who is this Admiral Yi Sunsin? Why is he such a hero? I’d go to the art museum and call it work. I’d watch a blockbuster Korean movie and call it work. Surf the internet… Creating the world in which this story existed was like assembling a puzzle.
  
Could you talk a bit about the process you went through illustrating THE TURTLE SHIP?
Half the process was revision: drawing, rethinking, redrawing with feedback from the art director. I did four rounds of pencil sketches for almost every spread. Final illustrations were done in collage, which made a mess of my apartment (paper bits everywhere), and now color was in the mix. So after sending Lee & Low home scans of “final” illustrations, more edits were requested and made before I delivered final artwork to the office to be professionally scanned. Upon delivery, I spread all the collages across the conference table, and folks in the office stopped by to oo and ah—it was so gratifying… And after I received the professional scans of the original artwork, another round and a half of edits done in Photoshop. 

Was THE TURTLE SHIP different from your usual illustration process?
Yes. Usually when I illustrate for clients, they say, “Great!” My clients usually aren’t art people—that’s why they hire me and trust my judgement. With a picture book art director and editor, it’s a different story. I had a lot of freedom, but each time I came back to them, they would point me in a slightly different direction to strengthen the story or consider the reader. 

What was it like working with your art director and Lee & Low?
Awesome! This was my first picture book assignment, so I learned a ton. I learned how much processing goes on before settling on a final image. I learned simple rules, like illustrate all motion going from left to right to match the flow of the pages, or let the reader see the character’s face as much as possible because that is how readers connect best. And with repeated prodding, I learned just how complex in detail I can make my art. I’d get pages of notes, and feedback was always clear. If I disagreed with a call, the art director and editor always heard me out and sometimes even agreed with me. The process was a dialog. 

What was the most challenging part of illustrating THE TURTLE SHIP for you?
The most challenging part was trying not to go blind as I cut out all the tiny details. My eyes got tired easily. I finally got a magnifying lamp. Before that, I would literally not be able to see what I was cutting. I was looking at a blur in my fingers as I snipped the paper, hoping it was coming out right.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ll take away from the process?
Biggest lesson: just when you think you’re pretty darn good at what you do, you’ll discover there’s a whole lot more to learn.
  
What would you say to others who aspire to illustrate books for children?
The process of breaking into the industry is a marathon, so be prepared. It can take years, even if you are a fantastic illustrator. There is so much noise, so much talent, and I think publishers are hesitant to take chances with new artists because they have no idea how easy or difficult you will be to work with. You need to put in the hours. Always be building up your chops because the competition is fierce, always be looking at what’s out there in picture books and through social media. Keep sending out your work. The amount of your success directly correlates with the amount of rejection you can tolerate (illustrator David Gordon taught me that). Join SCBWI, go to their conferences to gather information, feed your spirit, meet fellow artists/writers, and be a part of a community. This is a tough climb with some jagged rocks. Connections you make with fellow creatives will keep you going.

Any fun facts about you?
I fall asleep a lot when I sketch, particularly when I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m struggling with the composition. Brain goes on strike and shuts down. Somewhat inconvenient.


Colleen Kong-Savage is a full-time illustrator and graphic artist. When she first moved to New York City, Kong-Savage worked at an art supply store, where she spent half her paycheck on decorative papers. For this debut picture book, she spent countless hours researching the clothes, living conditions, and landscape of the Joseon Dynasty, and then finding the right paper for each item. The papers used in this book come from around the world, including Korea where traditional paper is handmade from mulberry bark. Kong-Savage lives in New York City.

You can pick up a copy at AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound, Lee & LowTarget and your local bookstore!

You can follow Colleen on InstagramTwitter and go to her website!


  • The giveaway is open to US entrants only.
  • When the winners are chosen, it will be announced here and the winners will be emailed.
  • Please enter your email address in the Rafflecopter form and not the comments.

Monday, March 5, 2018

SELFIE SEBASTIAN by Sarah Glenn Marsh: Story Time and Giveaway!

I'm excited to share my very first Author Story Time with Sarah Glenn Marsh. In the video below, Sarah gives a sneak peak of her debut picture book, SELFIE SEBASTIAN, publishing with Sterling tomorrow (March 6th, 2018)! I am also giving away one hardcover copy of the book to one lucky winner! Enter below. 


Sebastian is one handsome fox—and he really, really loves to take selfies. But somehow, no matter how camera-ready he is, his pictures always lack a certain something. And he can’t put his paw on exactly what. So Sebastian sets off on an elaborate quest to take the perfect selfie, dashing from a glamorous red carpet in Hollywood to the vast expanse of the Grand Canyon. He even zooms to the Moon! Still, none of Sebastian’s photos make him happy. Could it be that the secret to his special selfie is right where he started . . . at home, with his friends?




Sarah Glenn Marsh writes young adult novels and children’s picture books. An avid fantasy reader from the day her dad handed her a copy of The Hobbit and promised it would change her life, she’s been making up words and worlds ever since.

When she’s not writing, Sarah enjoys watercolor painting, ghost hunting, and pursuits of the nerd variety, from video games to tabletop adventures. She’s never met an animal or a doughnut she didn’t like.

Sarah lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and their tiny zoo of four rescued greyhounds, three birds, and many fish. She is the author of  Fear the Drowning Deep, the Reign of the Fallen duology, and several picture books.

You can pre-order SELFIE SEBASTIAN on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and IndieBound

Follow Sarah on Twitter @SG_Marsh and visit her website.



  • The giveaway is open to US entrants only.
  • When the winners are chosen, it will be announced here and the winners will be emailed.
  • Please enter your email address in the Rafflecopter form and not the comments.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Cover Reveal: Stef Wade's A PLACE FOR PLUTO illustrated by Melanie Demmer

I am so excited to do Neverending Stories' first ever cover reveal for the wonderful Stef Wade's A PLACE FOR PLUTO illustrated by Melanie Demmer which comes out this August/September with Capstone

Pluto got the shock of his life when he was kicked out of the famous nine. His planet status was stripped away, leaving him lost and confused. Poor Pluto! On his quest to find a place where he belongs, he talks to comets, asteroids, and meteoroids. He doesn’t fit in anywhere! But when Pluto is about to give up, he runs into a dwarf planet and finally finds his place in the solar system. This feel-good picture book combines a popular science topic with character education themes of self discovery, acceptance, and friendship. It has bonus material in the back matter to support curriculum. 

Ok, get ready! The cover is about to be revealed!

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Is this not the cutest? I totally want to be Pluto's friend and maybe it's just me but this brings me back to 4th grade when I learned about the planets and Pluto was still a planet. My Very Energetic Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas anyone? :)

Melanie Demmer perfectly captured Stef's text. Can't wait to see this on shelves! 

You can add it on Goodreads here! and I'll add pre-order links when they're up! Comment below. We'd love to hear what you think!


Stef Wade used to write about cardboard boxes, but thinks writing books is far more exciting.
She was the co-creator and writer for the former cooking and home blog Haute Apple Pie, featured in Taste of Home, local Milwaukee press and nominated for multiple web awards. Stef is a Chicago-born media maven with a passion for philanthropy, fashion and Italian beef sandwiches.
She holds a BA in advertising from Marquette University and an MBA in Integrated Marketing Communication from DePaul University.
Stef is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She’s bounced all over the midwest with her college sweetheart husband and her three historically and literary named brood of boys and currently resides in the greater Milwaukee area.
You can follow Stef on Twitter and visit her on her website!

Melanie Demmer is a freelance illustrator and designer in animation based out of Los Angeles, California.

Originally from Michigan, Melanie is a graduate of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, where she earned a BFA in Illustration.

Melanie is represented by the Bright Agency.

She has previously worked as a 2D Prop Designer at PUNY Entertainment on a cartoon for Amazon called Danger and Eggs.

You can follow Melanie on Instagram and Twitter or visit her on her website!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Author Interview: Betsy Aldredge and Carrie Dubois-Shaw

 I virtually sat down with co-authors Betsy Aldredge and Carrie Dubois-Shaw to talk about writing, becoming published authors and their debut YA, Sasquatch, Love and Other Imaginary Things which came out in August to some great reviews and nice buzz! 

I'm also running a giveaway. One lucky winner will receive a finished, autographed hardcover copy of Sasquatch, Love and Other ImaginaryThings along with some swag! Enter at the bottom of the post below through Rafflecopter. You can enter between 9/6 at 12am through 9/13 at 12am. Get those entries in!  









Pride and Prejudice meets Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot in this humorous and heartfelt debut about a loving, quirky family on the hunt for the mythical Sasquatch.
Hunting for monsters was never so awkward. 
It’s bad enough that Samantha’s parents, charter members of the Northern Ohio Bigfoot Society, have dragged their daughter around forever, hunting for yetis. But now they’re doing it on national TV, and worse, in front of an aristocratic prep-school crew including a boy who disdains Samantha’s family.
But when he scorns her humble Ohio roots, she becomes determined to take him down. As they go to war, their friction and attraction almost distract them from the hint that Sasquatch may actually be out there somewhere…
PRAISE FOR SASQUATCH:
Samantha’s first-person narration is marked by her sarcastic, wry, and delightfully snarky humor. ‘Squatching’ doesn’t get any funnier than this.” Kirkus
“The most hilarious, charming, feminist Sasquatch-hunting book ever to grace a bookshelf.” –Alison Cherry, author of For Real
“I fell head over Bigfooted heels for this delightfully quirky and downright hilarious debut! Sasquatch, Love, And Other Imaginary Things will have you believing in adorkably ever afters and more.” –Darcy Woods, award-winning author of Summer of Supernovas
“Everything you want in a Jane Austen retelling: reality TV, Sasquatch sightings, and young love at odds.”– Stephanie Scott, author of Alterations, a 2017 RITA® Award Finalist
“An original, magnetic, and endearing debut seamlessly spun by two sharp new voices. Fans of nature, Austen, family, reality TV and Wood Apes will devour this story (that basically means everyone. Yes, I mean you. Stop reading my raving–get to reading this book already).” –Lindsey Leavitt, author of GOING VINTAGE
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This was your first book. What was the most surprising part of the publishing process for you?
Book people are the best. The most surprising thing has been how awesome and supportive other writers, bloggers, and readers have been. It’s like finding “your people” for the first time in high school. Also, publishing is much slower than we imagined. There’s a whole lot of waiting. We think whomever first said “patience is a virtue,” must have been a writer!

Every author has their own creative method. What is each of yours like individually, and can you describe your process for creating books together?
Betsy: I like to have a basic roadmap of where a story is going but be surprised along the journey. Some characters come to me fairly fully formed and some surprise me.
Carrie: I like more structure and to make a detailed outline of everything before digging in. And then I break the outline down into very small, bite-sized pieces and work on it bit by bit. Otherwise I feel overwhelmed.

Together we have a method that works for us. We brainstorm and plot together. Then Betsy tackles the first, messy draft and just writes the heck out of it. Then she sends it off to Carrie to be whipped into shape. Carrie then does all sorts of cool timelines, graphs, and other things that involve tons of color coded post it notes in order to revise it and shape the story. After that huge overhaul, we make multiple more passes for different reasons (setting, minor character arcs, etc.) until it’s in good enough shape to be read by other people. Then, based on feedback, we revise some more.

What drew you to YA (as opposed to writing for younger kids or adults)? YA audiences are so passionate. We really feel like what we read at that point of our lives had a profound effect on us. Also, we’re not sure we ever got over high school. Does anyone?

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?
Keep writing, and make friends with other writers whether at conferences, through online contests, or writers groups. It’s so much better when you have that support.

What was the most interesting (or funniest, weirdest, most memorable, etc.) fact you learned in your research for this book?  Researching this book was a blast. We learned a lot about different methods of tracking Bigfoot, from studies animal droppings and foot prints to knocking on trees. There’s a lot to it!

This book has such a great cast of characters. Who’s your favorite?
Betsy: I think while I’m fond of all the Berger sisters and their parents, some of the smaller characters were extra fun to write, like Hal the camera guy who’s a little too obsessed with Roswell and Yoda, but also loves a good romance.
Carrie: Hal’s my favorite too, with Caroline a close second. It was so much fun to flesh out her character from typical pretty, rich, mean girl into something more three-dimensional and interesting. (That was a great suggestion from our agent!)

Why Sasquatch (as opposed to any other mythical creature)? Bigfoot believers are so passionate and have such a good sense of humor about themselves that the subculture just seemed ripe with opportunities for high stakes and hijinks…

There have been supposed Sasquatch sightings all over the US. What made you decided to set the story in the Pacific Northwest? 
There’s something magical about the huge trees and forests there that appealed to us. We studied Shakespeare in college and loved the idea that forests are a metaphor for change. Characters go into the woods and come out transformed - much like the transformations we go through when growing up. It seemed perfect.

If you could meet any creature from myth, folklore or legend, other than Sasquatch, what would it be and why? 
Betsy: I’d have to say a unicorn, because it would make me much cooler in the eyes of my 7-year-old daughter if I could hang out with unicorns.
Carrie: I’m really interested in the Mothman right now. It’s a giant moth…who is also a man. That’s just awesome. Of course his appearance usually foretells an impending disaster so maybe meeting the Mothman is not a great idea.

Are you Sasquatch believers yourselves?  Sure! Why not? There are stranger things out there...like the platypus.
 You can buy Sasquatch from these retailers: Indie BoundBarnes & NobleAmazonTarget and Simon & Schuster.
You can visit Betsy and Carrie’s website and follow them on Twitter:  @carriedubois @BetsyAldredge