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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: The F-It List by Julie Halpern

With her signature heart and humor, Julie Halpern explores a strained friendship strengthened by one girl’s battle with cancer.

Alex’s father recently died in a car accident. And on the night of his funeral, her best friend Becca slept with Alex’s boyfriend. So things aren’t great. Alex steps away from her friendship with Becca and focuses on her family.

But when Alex finally decides to forgive Becca, she finds out something that will change her world again--Becca has cancer.

So what do you do when your best friend has cancer? You help her shave her head. And then you take her bucket list and try to fulfill it on her behalf. Because if that’s all you can do to help your ailing friend--you do it.

Julie Halpern brings something new to the "YA cancer lit" subgenre with The F-It List... simply put, I love this book.

Most YA cancer novels feature either a teen who has cancer or who has a parent with cancer, but this is the first time I've seen that the main character is the best friend of someone with cancer. The fact that Alex is the best friend, not the patient, adds an entirely new perspective to the mix. When you consider the fact that Alex has recently lost her father (to a car accident), her boyfriend (after he slept with her best friend, Becca), and her life is now a complete and utter mess, then throw in Becca having cancer, you know that Halpern is going to steer readers towards some pretty heavy topics.. What you might not expect is that there will be plenty of laughter, plenty of hope, and even more living within the pages of The F-It List.

One of the defining elements of The F-It List was Alex and Becca's relationship. It isn't every day you come across best friends like these two. Sure, they've done some pretty horrible things to one another, but, honestly, what best friends don't find themselves in those situations? Becca, in a moment of misguided weakness, sleeps with Alex's boyfriend... the day of Alex's father's funeral. In response, Alex refuses to speak to or see Becca for the entire summer following the funeral and betrayal. But, the first day of the new school year, Alex goes in search of Becca... because they're best friends and people make mistakes sometimes and deserve to be forgiven. Best friends are sometimes selfish and sometimes entirely self-sacrificing: Alex and Becca have been both, they understand and accept one another, and they're stronger because of it.

For a cancer book, The F-It List, is surprisingly funny. It's easy to expect quirky and/or touching when it comes to "cancer lit," but I can't remember the last time I literally laughed aloud; there is usually a lot more crying than laughing happening. Alex and Becca, however, keep living, with the help of the f-it list, and never give into the cancer that threatens Becca's future. It's clear from the start, when Becca flashes her neighbor to fulfill a goal on the f-it list and decides to shave her head to beat the chemotherapy to taking the hair she's so proud of, that she isn't the type to go down without a fight.

In the midst of Becca's struggle, Alex has other things vying for her attention. Like the father she's recently lost, her mother and two brothers who feels broken without her father, and a mysterious and distracting boy, who should be the least of her worries with all the death and drama currently surrounding her days, but who somehow keeps inserting himself into the forefront of her mind.

I truly appreciated that Halpern never made Alex's issues seem less than Becca's. Instead, the two girls were a united front. They were each fighting battles, sometimes together and sometimes separate, but neither was more or less important. 

I highly recommend Julie Halpern's The F-It List. It deals with difficult topics in a very real, alive sort of way. There are tears, but there is also laughter and real, genuine happiness because Alex and Becca refuse to stop living, no matter what life throws their way.

Feiwel & Friends, November 2013, Hardcover, ISBN:  9781250025654, 256 pgs.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Interview: Swati Avasthi, author of Chasing Shadows

I'm thrilled to welcome, Swati Avasthi, author of Chasing Shadows and Split! Check out the interview to learn more about Swati, which character's prose she struggled with, the original title of Chasing Shadows, and her favorite type of word!

The Interview

Did you have trouble writing any of your characters or specific scenes within the novel? Or, were any characters or scenes particularly easy to write?

What surprised me the most was that storytelling in the visual format, the graphic sections, was the easiest part for me.  I hadn’t written in that form and never really thought of myself as a visual writer. Being so comfortable in the form was a pleasure.

 On the other hand, the prose for Savitri — the PoV that you would think would be the easiest for me since she is probably the character who is most like me both in terms of racial identity and personality — was a real struggle.
Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication?
BIDDEN was the working title for a few drafts.  As the story developed, it became clear that Holly wasn’t being called to the Shadowlands. Rather she started pursuing the Shadowlands and so a word like “chasing” seemed like a better fit. I named the Land of the Dead “the Shadowlands” because of a biblical association (“though I walk through valley of the shadow of death”).  Since I wasn’t talking about ghosts but about the idea of absence, shadows seemed like the right fit too.
What book or author has most influenced you as a writer or in general?

Oh a ton, of course. For CHASING SHADOWS, there are a few texts that directly influenced the book.  The Hindu legend of “Savitri” is retold and intentionally mistold in the book.  Certainly American superhero comics influenced this book from DC to Marvel to Vertigo (but not really in the same way since I came to them as an adult) and, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gillman, which is a wonderful story. 

All these texts influenced me as a person – helping to inform my understanding of what it meant to grow up, to stretch loyalty to the breaking point, and to lose people you loved.  Since they influenced me as a person, they ended up influencing me as a writer, too.
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a writer/published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing?

Jobs – lots of varied jobs from teacher/grader to paralegal to mom.  Although being a paralegal and coordinating a domestic violence clinic really influenced my first novel, SPLIT, even more than that was working in the theater because it has really shaped my writing.  I think of characters as whole people whose desires drive the action of the story and that comes from the theatrical notions of superobjectives, objectives, tactics, and beats.
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?

Wow, that’s even harder than picking a writer. I love words – the way they sound, the way the feel in your mouth, the way they carry a meaning and associations.  I love words that are nouns and verbs like “stain” or “swallow” or “split” (all titles of my publications) and I picked the titles in part because I loved the word itself.  So today, I’ll say, “grasp” because it has energy, a clear visual picture, and multiple meanings.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?

In every place I’ve lived I've come up with a local spot – watching Lake Michigan break against concrete blocks by myself in the early morning at “the point” in Chicago, up in the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque New Mexico hidden in a copse of Aspens, walking on a shale beach beside Lake Superior. But I can’t easily to get to most of those, living in Minneapolis proper, so I opt for my bedroom. We have light blocking curtains and when I really want to escape, I turn off all the lights in the house, close the door, pull the curtains and breathe.  It’s the closest thing to a sensory deprivation tank that I think I could stand.  I revel in not being able to see my hand and just disappear into the darkness.
Find out more about Swati and her books here! 

Giveaway: Little Fish: A Different Kind of Memoir by Ramsey Beyer

The fabulous team at Zest Books is offering a great Little Fish prize pack for one lucky winner here at The Hiding Spot! I truly adored Ramsey Beyer's memoir and will definitely be looking for more from her in the future. I also think that Little Fish is a must-read for girls like me who are heading off to college and away from home for the first time... And, by a girl "like me" I mean girls who might be a big fish in a small pond... girls who grew up in a small town (Midwestern or otherwise) but are venturing out to somewhere bigger, more diverse, and entirely new. In other words, most girls. Maybe even, in one way or another, all girls. 

More about LITTLE FISH
Ramsey Beyer's debut autobiographical graphic novel, Little Fish: A Memoir from A Different Kind of Year, is the coming-of-age story of a small-town high schooler's transformation into an independent city-dwelling college freshman. Told through a blend of journal entries and lists plus comic-style artwork and collages, the book touches on challenges every student meets when facing the world for the first time on their own, and the unease - as well as excitement - that comes along with those challenges. Everyone can relate to Ramsey's journey from childhood to independence - from adjusting to being away from home to navigating new friendships and finding the right path.
 More about Ramsey Beyer
Ramsey Beyer grew up on a farm in Paw Paw, Michigan, before escaping to city life in Baltimore, where she earned a BFA in experimental animation. She currently lives in Philadelphia and Little Fish is her first (traditionally) published book. 


Review: Little Fish: A Memoir From a Different Kind of Year by Ramsey Beyer

Ramsey Beyer was a teenager from a small town in Michigan, looking forward to her first year living in a city far away from home. She chronicled that year in a series of zines featuring personalized lists (such as "things I can't wait for" and "top 10 worst sounds") alongside comic illustrations. Through her blog, Ramsey also reflected on her struggles with loneliness, friendship and potential romance. Her new book, Little Fish: A Memoir from A Different Kind of Year, weaves all of these materials into a poignant, beautifully illustrated, and deeply reflective graphic memory detailing her transformation to an eighteen-year-old city dwelling art student. Little Fish perfectly captures that time in a young person's life when the past feels abandoned, the future seems totally open, and every day is a revelation.

There were two things about  Ramsey Beyer's memoir, Little Fish: A Memoir From a Different Kind of Year, that immediately convinced me I needed to read it: 
1. Ramsey is from the small town of Paw, Paw, Michigan, which is very close to where I attended university.. I left my small northern, Michigan town to move to Kalamazoo, which is much bigger than where I grew up, and I, like Ramsey, felt like a little fish in a new, big pond.
2. Little Fish is a memoir told in various formats, including illustrations, lists, and blog entries. As a blogger who writes lists constantly and has a deep appreciation for contemporary graphic novels, I couldn't imagine Beyer creating something any better suited to my tastes!

Little Fish follows Beyer as she leaves Michigan, and her comfortable life and close-knit circle of friends, to attend art school in Baltimore. In many ways, Beyer could represent any recent graduate who moves away to attend university after high school, but I felt a special connection with her, as a small-town girl and a fellow Michigander. Though Beyer moved much further away than I did for university (all the way to the East Coast!), I went through a very similar experience following my graduation, and I can vouch for the honesty of the feelings and experiences described in Little Fish
Beyer perfectly captures the excitement, confusion, and emotional ups and downs associated with a young adult's first big move from home. Multiple times throughout the novel, Beyer refers to how secure she felt in Paw Paw and how that was both a good and bad thing. There are times when she just wants to escape the small town life. She yearns for diversity and change, but, other times, she fiercely misses home. While she enjoys the new people she's met at school, she misses the people from small town Michigan... though she can't quite explain just what quality the people from home possess that her new acquaintances do not. Later, she can't imagine spending vacation away from Baltimore and her new friends, who have quickly become constant companions, but, by the end of break, she isn't so sure she's ready to return to university life. She admits that, if she could come up with a good enough reason, she might never have small town life behind.  These parts of the novel really resonated with me, as I went through the exact same things when I was at university. At school, I was constantly saying that I couldn't wait to go "home," but when I was back in my hometown, I was couldn't wait to go "home" to university. Beyer tactfully addresses this confusing issue of having two homes and divided feelings about both, which often goes unmentioned and ignored when kids are considering the changes they'll experience when leaving for school, but later ends up being an emotional and confusing issue.

I immediately fell in love with Beyer's easily accessible graphic style and her penchant for list writing. There's something very fresh and perhaps even novel about Beyer's memoir that feels very fitting, given the topics and themes found within. Considering that this memoir addresses so many different firsts - freshman year of university, moving away from home, becoming independent, finding oneself, and experiencing one's first serious relationship - I can't help but feel that Little Fish would be a great first introduction to graphic novels for those who haven't read one before. It mixes in plenty of text, in the form of lists and blog-like entries, so the comic elements are somewhat spaced out. The illustrations aren't overly complicated and I never felt like I might be missing some hidden meaning within the images, which I've sometimes felt when reading graphic novels... and that I fear might be off putting to those who are hesitant about picking one up. To me, Little Fish would be a great stepping stone for readers who would like to branch out into graphic novels, but who have been a bit shy about it.

I highly recommend Little Fish to readers of memoirs, graphic novels, and YA. Beyer's debut offers something to each of these genres individually, but also unites them in a unique and interesting way.
More about the Little Fish Blog Tour.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

Post-apocalyptic novels are usually populated with badass characters, but, even so, Lynn from Mindy McGinnis' Not a Drop to Drink, stands out. Raised by her mother to survive, she's more likely to shoot first and ask questions later and quickly learns to trust no one except herself. When Lynn's mother dies in a horrible accident, leaving Lynn completely alone, she can only rely on the lessons her mother taught her and her wits to survive. But Lynn isn't her mother and she sees shades of gray where her mother only saw black and white. Suddenly, the  lessons she thought she could rely on to guide her actions don't seem to apply and Lynn is a facing a whole different kind of danger: friendship, love, and duty. Lynn develops relationships that introduce her to new found emotions and an unfamiliar sense of connectedness... and, suddenly, her survival might not be the most important goal.

I immediately felt a connection with Lynn. I think I was especially drawn to her no nonsense attitude and the practical skills she's been taught by her mother, things I feel the women in my own family also inherit from generation to generation. She's a strong, resourceful, intelligent individual who thrives in the barren life she's been given. She has no experience with other people, apart from her mother, yet she has an innate sense of compassion, seemingly at odds with the bleak, solitary lifestyle she's necessarily adopted. This coupling of hardness and almost maternal softness make for a compelling mix.

Though the description of Not a Drop to Drink mentions the romantic elements of the novel, I must caution that the romance is definitely not the focus of the story. While I did enjoy this aspect of the plot, it was, overall, a side story. I have to say that I actually preferred it this way. Having Lynn fall head over heels and lose herself in her feelings for a boy wouldn't have felt genuine. Lynn is not the type of girl to completely lose her head, in any situation. Instead, the romance functions as a way to show another side of Lynn - a side she herself didn't even realize existed - and offers comfort and connection in a harsh, sharp-edged landscape.

While most of Not a Drop to Drink takes place in the empty wilderness, there is mention of more populated cities where things are much different than the world Lynn knows. A world where technology still exists and, at least for the wealthy, some luxuries. I'm curious to see what else we'll learn in subsequent novels, as well as what will become of Lynn and her new family, as Not a Drop to Drink ended with some intense, game changing events. 

Mindy McGinnis has wowed me with her debut. Not a Drop to Drink introduces readers to an intense, unforgettable world and an incredibly strong main character sure to win readers' hearts with her courage and compassion.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Interview & Giveaway: Peggy Eddleman, author of Sky Jumpers

I'm thrilled to welcome, Peggy Eddleman, author of Sky Jumpers, the first book in a new series by the same name! Check out the interview to learn more about Peggy, including the writer that's influenced her most (he doesn't write novels!), why she feels bad for her favorite word, and the long journey to deciding on Sky Jumpers as the title of this first book!

The Interview

Did you have trouble writing any of your characters or specific scenes within the novel? Or, were any characters or scenes particularly easy to write?
Action scenes are, by far, the easiest for me to write. They come out so naturally and are so much fun, and it's so easy to make it chock full of emotion and great pacing. If it wouldn't make for an awful story, I'd write a book with nothing but action scenes.
Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication?

The title did change. It was actually a very long and involved process. It began as THROUGH THE BOMB'S BREATH. We had considered changing it several times, but nothing had sounded right. Then, as the cover got closer and closer to being final, we decided that it needed to be different. My editor and I brainstormed more than a hundred titles and narrowed it down to a dozen. Then we polled nearly 500 middle grade-aged kids on what their favorites were. When we took that information to Sales & Marketing, they fell in love with the name SKY JUMPERS. We decided, though, that SKY JUMPERS made a fabulous series name, and that we would keep the book name THROUGH THE BOMB'S BREATH. Ultimately, though, having a strong series name actually split the focus. When people asked the name of the book, it was hard to know whether to say SKY JUMPERS (because it was larger on the cover) or THROUGH THE BOMB'S BREATH (because that's the book name). So we decided to drop the book name, and have SKY JUMPERS be the name for both the series and for book one.
What book or author has most influenced you as a writer or in general?
My most influential author doesn't actually write books--- he writes movies and tv shows. Joss Whedon. It's hard not to pick him because I learned so much about writing while watching his commentaries on the episodes he wrote, when I was just barely on the cusp of deciding to be a writer. Hearing the reasons why he made the decisions he made on each plot turn gave me the tools I needed to become a writer and plow ahead, hungry to learn more.
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a writer/published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing?

My first job, at age fourteen, was as a newspaper delivery girl. Then I moved on to laundromat cleaner, fast food worker, bank teller, technical support for computer software, technical writer, and most recently, I worked with fourth graders struggling with math and literacy. But the one that most shaped me as a writer is that of being a Mom. Not only does it mean I get to hang out with middle grade -aged kids all the time, but it means I get to read them lots and lots of middle grade books.
 If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?
As a kid, it was antidisestablishmentarianism (28 letters long), because my dad told me that it used to be the longest word in the dictionary until supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (34 letters) kicked it out. It didn't seem fair that a fake word could strip it of it's title AND get a song made up about it! I kind of felt for the word, you know?
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
Movies! But only in the theater. (If they leave the theater before I watch them, there's a .001% chance I'll ever see it. It's all about getting distance from my to-do list, and not being able to do anything else while I'm there.) For some odd reason, I crave movies ferociously whenever I'm in edits. There's an amazing theater a mile from my home that has tickets for $3.50 and popcorn for a buck. No joke.  I'm pretty sure they can guess exactly when I get each edit letter.
Find out more about Peggy and her books here! 

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Review: The Eye of Minds (The Mortality Doctrine #1) by James Dashner

An all-new, edge-of-your seat adventure from James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, The Eye of Minds is the first book in The Mortality Doctrine, a series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.
And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.
But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

I wasn't sure what to expect from James Dashner's The Eye of Minds. After all, I liked The Maze Runner well enough after listening to it on audio, but I was hazy on the details and never felt especially compelled to read the next two books in the trilogy. Now, after getting sucked into and genuinely enjoying this first book in The Morality Doctrine, I'm wondering if his first trilogy doesn't deserve another try.

The Eye of Minds is set primarily in a virtual world called VirtNet, a world much preferred over the boring reality of most peoples' normal, everyday lives. Daily, people slog through their necessary jobs and responsibilities with the promise of slipping into their virtual lives at the end of the day. The main character, Michael, is one of these people. He's one of the best, a talented hacker, and determined to make it the next coveted level in the game. Michael's normal, laid-back life of exploring and having fun in VirtNet with is best friends, Bryson and Sarah, is thrown off-kilter when Michael witnesses a suicide within the game - a true suicide, not a simple thrown-back-into-reality-to-begin-again death, a normal occurrence. Reports of suicide and other malfunctions are becoming more and more common and the cause of it all seems to be a mysterious and deadly hacker named Kaine. After witnessing the suicide, Michael and his friends are recruited to track down Kaine, before he's able to strike again. The stakes are high and the lines between the game and reality are becoming dangerously blurred.

The Eye of Minds starts with a bang and never truly slows. From one thrilling situation to the next, the pressure is on for Michael, Bryson, and Sarah and, when I reached the final chapter, I was a bit in awe of how much happened in just over 300 pages. If readers appreciated the action in The Maze Runner, they'll be happy to see that Dashner doesn't drop the ball in this new trilogy - in fact, he stepped it up.

I really liked Michael, Bryson, and Sarah as a team. In my opinion, there aren't enough examples of true, supportive friendships in YA literature, especially between guys and girls. While I could see some type of romantic relationship developing later in the series, there was nothing to hint at it in this first book and I really appreciated that. I liked that the three were just friends with similar interests who trusted and relied upon one another. The banter between them felt genuine and I quickly became invested in their friendship.

I'm by no means a gamer, but I soon became immersed in the world and concept of VirtNet. I could definitely understand how a person could feel the urge to spend large amounts of time in something like VirtNet, where they could look any way they wanted and experience virtually anything. For kids like Michael, who are skilled hackers, it'd be even harder to stay away. Imagine a world you can change in substantial ways at your whim. Being able to eat anything you want and never gaining a pound. Doing crazy and dangerous stunts without any fear of dying. That kind of experience could be addicting and drawing the line between what's real and not could become increasingly difficult. 

This first installment of The Mortality Doctrine is delightfully twisty. I was never sure what would happen next because the characters were never sure. Normal rules don't apply within VirtNet, so Dashner was able to throw some crazy twists and turns in and all I could do was try to brace myself for the next surprise.

I'll definitely be reading the next Mortality Doctrine book, especially after the cliffhanger of an ending in The Eye of Minds. The last few pages of the book left me spinning and anxious to know what happens next.

Delacorte BFYR, October 2013, Hardcover, ISBN:  9780385741392, 320 pgs.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Interview & Giveaway: Caela Carter, author of Me, Him, Them & It

Author Caela Carter, who debuted her first novel back at the beginning of 2013, joins us at The Hiding Spot for this final day of the Fall Festival! I loved Caela's debut, Me, Him, Them & It. It's definitely my go-to recommendation for YA fiction that deals with teen pregnancy, but it's also just one of my favorite realistic fiction novels. Check out my review, here, find out more about Caela and her writing below (I loved this interview!), and enter to win your own copy of this great title!

The Interview

Did you have trouble writing any of your characters or specific scenes within the novel? Or, were any characters or scenes particularly easy to write?

Man, the whole thing felt hard to write. It felt like taking a chisel to my chest and ripping it until the hole was large enough for Evelyn to escape onto the page. I don’t remember the drafting of the novel that clearly except for it being incredibly draining and exhilierating at the same time. I remember being wrapped in blankets in a freezing apartment and that the chair I sat in dug into the back of my thighs. And the sound. I remember the sound of my old computer clicking under my fingers.

But I can’t remember if there were any characters or scenes that I fought with while drafting.

I do remember the scenes I had to write over and over and over again. In particular, there’s a scene about a third of the way into the book where Evelyn’s parents give her their plan. It changed about a thousand times before anyone even read it, and then it felt like all of my betas and my agent and editors had a different reaction to it, so it kept changing after that. I still think about that scene all the time. Maybe it’s just a disturbing one.

Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication?

The title changed completely. At first I resisted titling it at all. I had always heard that the author has no say in the title. My father is a newspaper reporter and as a child I was fascinated by the fact that he didn’t write his own headlines. I didn’t want to title it as I wrote it because I didn’t know what it was yet. But, I started writing what eventually became ME, HIM, THEM AND IT as a class assignment for my MFA program and my teacher, Hettie Jones, wanted us to title our work so we could talk about it in class. I had only about twenty pages written when I slapped the first title I thought of onto the manuscript. And it was a bad one: BABY STEPS.

I ended up calling it BABY STEPS the entire time I was drafting and I even queried using that title. But, I didn’t like it. I thought it was cutesy and sweet and it did not match Evelyn or her manuscript at all.

It was dumb of me to query with a title I didn’t like. But, that’s how it happened.

Before I signed with Kate McKean we were already talking about a new title. I think she was a little nervous to tell me that she thought we should change the title before submitting but I said, “Oh, absolutely.” Together we came up with a list of titles and eventually chose ME, HIM, THEM, AND IT. During that process, I remember trying to shave down the layers of the manuscript and asking myself a lot “What is this book? What’s it really about?”

One of my writerly friends said “It’s not about pregnancy, it’s about her” and that helped me think about a way to focus the title.
What book or author has most influenced you as a writer or in general?

Oh, jeez! There are so many.

I had a hard time learning how to read as a child, but since then I’ve always been a voracious reader. My love of Karen from the Baby Sitter’s Little Sister series helped me make that transition. So, in general life, I’d say Ann M. Martin was my biggest influence. Her books were the first I remember reading for fun. And, I honestly don’t know who I’d be if I hadn’t spent my childhood buried in books, so I’d say that’s pretty significant.

I read my way through most of my hometown library in middle school, but I’ll never forget the first time I read Cynthia Voigt. The first was called COME A STRANGER and it’s one of the lesser known volumes in the Tillerman cycle. At the time I didn’t know it was related to any other books. I only knew I was hooked. It wasn’t just entertaining, it was beautiful: the nuanced characters, the layers of story, the ribbons of sentences. I wanted to write like that.

I still do.
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a writer/published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing?

Oh yes. I was a teacher for six years. Somehow it took me six years of their almost-constant company to realize that I was writing for teenagers.

I was working at a school that was dedicated to helping young people use their education to better their lives. My students were fearless, compassionate, and determined and the admiration I have for 12 to 15 year-olds definitely effects my writing of characters those ages.

Also, my students taught me so much about how to love. And, ultimately, I write because I love.
 If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?


Because anything could come next.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?

Well, books, of course. Well-crafted television. Really, any kind of story. Documentaries, conversations, talk radio. I’m into story-telling in general.

And if all else fails, a hug from my husband makes any crappy day better.
Find out more about Caela and her books here! 

More about Me, Him, Them & It
ME is Evelyn Jones, 16, a valedictorian hopeful who's been playing bad girl to piss off THEM, her cold, distant parents. HIM is Todd, Evelyn's secret un-boyfriend, who she thought she was just using for sex - until she accidentally fell in love with him. But before Evelyn gets a chance to tell Todd how she feels, something much more important comes up. IT. IT is a fetus. Evelyn is pregnant - and when Todd turns his back on her, Evelyn has no idea who to turn to. Can a cheating father, a stiff, cold mother, a pissed-off BFF, and a (thankfully!) loving aunt with adopted girls of her own help Evelyn make the heart-wrenching decisions that follow?
Earn extra entries by following the Fall Festival blogs listed here!
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