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!








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!