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Monday, March 31, 2014

Q&A Session with Jeff Strand, author of I Have a Bad Feeling About This

Author Jeff Strand is at The Hiding Spot today to answer a few questions about his newest book, I Have a Bad Feeling About This, and more! Jeff is the author of many demented books and a Three-time Bram Stoker Award finalist. Three-time Bram Stoker Award loser. Four-time Bram Stoker Award Master of Ceremonies. You can find out more about Jeff and his books on his website and on Goodreads. Don't miss my review of I Have a Bad Feeling About This here!

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?

The book basically had the "easy" half and the "hard" half. The first half of the book has lots of scenes where our heroes (a small group of teenaged boys who are way out of their comfort zone) have to go through various wilderness survival exercises. It wasn't a case of "Gosh, this book just wrote itself!", but it's not that difficult to squeeze comedy out of scenes where kids who've never spent any time in the woods try to, say, build a shelter that won't fall apart. In the second half of the book, a trio of gangsters show up and the situation suddenly becomes much more serious. I wanted the second half of the book to be just as funny as the first, so it took more work to get the laughs in there.

If you were sent to Strongwood’s Survival Camp, how would Max respond to your performance and survival skills?

Max would not be impressed. At all.I'm really glad this book is fiction.

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

The book was sold based on a very brief pitch and I didn't have a title for it, so I was calling it Grimwoods Survival Camp, even though that was never going to be the real title. (And I ended up changing the name of the camp.) The publisher wanted to call it Camp Doom, which I really liked, so that's the title on the contract. Later, the marketing department decided that Camp Doom sounded like more of a middle grade novel than a young adult novel, so they proposed I Have A Bad Feeling About This. I counter-proposed This Can't End Well. A quick glance at the book's title shows how it turned out!

What book or author has most influenced you as a writer or in general?

It's probably a combination of Douglas Adams, Dave Barry, and Richard Laymon.

What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing?

Retail clerk, dishwasher, telemarketer, photocopier, general ledger guy, remittance processing analyst. Aside from using the occasional detail in a book, these jobs really haven't shaped my writing. I've been at my current job for seventeen years, and it's the perfect blend of "keeping my mind occupied all day" but not "sucking away all of my creative energy." Because I spent a few weeks as a telemarketer, I used to be understanding when people called me to sell me stuff, but I'm long over that.
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?

Kumquat. Because it's such a goofy word that it's hard to believe it's an actual name for a kind of fruit, and it also sounds dirty even though it's not. I've got a kumquat tree in my backyard, although that's unrelated to my feelings for the word. Also, I wrote a novel called Kumquat. I'm waiting to hear back from a publisher. If they buy it, it'll be even more my favorite word. If I'm unable to find a publisher for this one, I will disavow my love of the word, and make it my lifelong quest to slap kumquats out of the hands of people who are eating them, which is not a very ambitious quest since I have not, as far as I can recall, ever actually witnessed somebody eating a kumquat. It's bound to happen sometime, and I'll be ready.

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

Jeez, this feels like the kind of question where I should have a really fantastic answer, especially since it's the last question of the interview. But really, it's just "I put on my iPod and go for a walk." I love my iPod.

Check out my review of I Have a Bad Feeling About This here.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weekly Wrap Up (10)

Weekly Wrap Up is a summary of the current week's blog posts and offers a look at what you'll find on the blog next week!
This Week at The Hiding Spot
Review: Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule (Review)
Review: I Have a Bad Feeling About This by Jeff Strand (Review)
Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton (Review)
Q&A Session + Giveaway: Emmy Laybourne/Monument 14 (Interview)
Cover Reveal + Giveaway: Caela Carter/My Best Friend, Maybe (Win it!)
Q&A Session + Giveaway: Natalie Lloyd/A Snicker of Magic (Interview)
Next Week
Q&A Session: Jeff Strand/I Have a Bad Feeling About This (Interview)
Review: Learning Not to Drown by Anna Shinoda (Review)
Review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige (Review)
Review: The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson (Review)
Giveaway: Bracelet of Bones by Kevin Crossley-Holland (Win It!)
Story Time: New and Notable Picture Books (Feature) 
Review: Uninvited by Sophie Jordan (Review) 
Read This Week

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
This book killed me. It doesn't hurt that I'm a sucker for epistolary novels and music-love in books, but, even if those two elements didn't get me every time, I would have loved this book. I think I bookmarked a quote on every other page... This one is a must-read for April! (Goodreads)

To Be Perfectly Honest by Sonya Sones
This one came out August 2013 and I regret taking so long to read it! It's a verse novel (perfect for April, which is Poetry Month!) featuring an unreliable narrator - a self-proclaimed compulsive liar. I seriously couldn't put this one down and read it in one sitting. (Goodreads)

The Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi
At this point, I can't even imagine reading a book for Jessica Verdi that doesn't carry immense emotional weight. Seriously. This sophomore novel features a young girl who, in a last ditch effort to hold her family together, is spending her summer at a religious camp that promises to  make her straight. As you might imagine, things don't turn out exactly as planned. (Goodreads)

Returning to Shore by Corinne Demas
This was a surprisingly quick read despite the fact that it dealt with some pretty heavy issues: abandonment, father-daughter relationships, homosexuality, and even endangered animals. It might seem odd that it was so short with such heavy themes, but it actually worked quite well. (Goodreads)

The Dyerville Tales by M.P. Kozlowsky
I really wanted to like this one, but it didn't really work for me. It had a Neverending Story vibe going on that I liked, but even that couldn't salvage my opinion of it. There was so much going on and none of it ever really seemed to fit together... I kept waiting for that one chapter or moment when everything magically came together, but it didn't happen. I also feel like good villains need some type of motivation to be believable, which this novel was missing. This isn't one I'd recommend, but others seem to be liking it. (Goodreads)

Tell me what you've been reading in the comments! Have we read any books in common lately?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Q&A Session + Giveaway with Natalie Lloyd, author of A Snicker of Magic

Today the immensely talented Natalie Lloyd is at The Hiding Spot to talk about her debut MG novel, A Snicker of Magic! I adored this book about young Felicity Pickle, a word collector who travels the country with her mother and little sister in their van (the Pickled Jalapeno) before landing in the small town of Midnight Gulch. Midnight Gulch used to be full of magic, but things have changed in the years following a fateful fallout between talented brothers. But Felicity is still convinced there's a snicker of magic left in Midnight Gulch and she hopes her mother's wandering heart will finally feel at peace here so Felicity won't have to leave the people she's come to love behind. Don't miss my review of A Snicker of Magic here, then check out the interview below and, at the end, enter for a chance to win a finished copy of the novel!
A SNICKER OF MAGIC is rife with scenes and characters that seem to shimmer into existence, lingering in the reader’s consciousness. There wasn’t one character that seemed secondary or flat, each had a distinct personality and it almost felt like each had their own story to tell… Your writing feels very full and like your characters are out living their lives somewhere in a real-life Midnight Gulch somewhere. Can you speak a little bit about your writing process and your character development?

Thanks so much for such a wonderful compliment! Characters are my favorite part of a story. Even if I’ve collected all sorts of ideas for a story, I can only start when I have the right voice. A Snicker of Magic began with a storm of gorgeous music. Based off some of the lyrics in the Beatles song “Across the Universe,” I began thinking about what it would be like to see words as tangible things. And then I wondered what a character would be like if she had that ability, if she could see words floating, slithering, and sliding through the air. I opened the idea-file on my computer and typed: Felicity Pickle; Poem Collector. I didn’t think I would do anything with that idea for a while, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Felicity. One day I opened a new document and typed: “We watched Mama drive away in the Pickled Jalapeno …” and knew I had to write that character. Felicity’s voice pulled me into the story from the beginning. I loved the vulnerable, open-hearted way she approached the world. I liked the measured hope I heard in her voice, and her sensitivity to people. It takes time for me to know my characters though. In the first few drafts, I feel like I’m meeting them. In later drafts, thanks in part to incredible feedback from my editor, I was able to understand their hearts more and figure out the journey they were on. As far as process, I remember watching a YouTube clip of Kathi Appelt saying, “Type like your fingers are on fire.” That advice stuck with me, and it’s what I tried to do initially. I typed the first draft in a fury, just to get it out so I’d have a first draft to work with. But then it took several revisions for me to find the heart of the story.

I feel certain that Jonah, Felicity’s newfound best friend with a heart of gold and a giving spirit (who just happens to be in a wheelchair) is going to be a reader favorite. It’s easy to understand why Felicity so quickly comes to love this singular young man. Did Jonah’s character, as readers know him in the published novel, exist in your early versions of the story?

Jonah existed from the beginning. Initially, I thought “The Beedle” would be more of a word-guru, kind of a nod to the Venerable Bede. But I “saw” Jonah the same time Felicity saw Jonah, and I knew from that moment that word-magic isn’t what he would bring to the story. He had his own magic. It took a few drafts for me to realize how Jonah and Felicity complement each other; both in terms of personality and the magic they have. But Jonah existed from the beginning. And from the beginning, he was the Beedle, plotting anonymous good deeds for the citizens of Midnight Gulch.

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

I had to recalibrate most scenes, or the sequence of events as a whole, at some point or other. My rough drafts are really rough. But there was one scene, in particular, that was pure fun for me to write. It’s my favorite scene in the book; when Felicity is with her aunt, uncle, mom, and sister at Snapdragon Pond. It’s like it was on the edge of my heart, just waiting to be written. I wrote it in a day, and it didn’t change much through the revision process. I think every writer gets one or two scenes like that; days when the words flow and you get caught up in the magic of it all. If only every day could feel that way!

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

The original title was There’s Magic in Midnight Gulch. But after talking with the team at Scholastic, we thought A Snicker of Magic was a better reflection of the story. Jonah tells Felicity only “a snicker of magic” is left in Midnight Gulch; a snicker meaning his word for “a little bit”. Through the course of the novel, I feel like Felicity realizes a “snicker” of anything – courage, hope, love, friendship – can bloom into something bigger than she ever imagined. I feel like that’s been the title all along now.

What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing?

When I first graduated from college, I worked at a church in teen outreach. I planned lots of events for students, and my favorite part of that job was helping create an environment where everybody felt like they belonged. I’m quite shy, and I know how it feels to be on the fringe and not know anybody. I like for people to feel connected; to know that they matter. In some ways, I feel like I try to get my characters to that kind of place, too. I love writing characters who are brave enough to wear their hearts on their sleeve ... and therefore feel a bit left out, a bit self-conscious. I like for them to realize they matter, that they’re already capable of magic.

A job at a doctor’s office also influenced my writing, though I didn’t realize it for a long time. I applied to answer phones and sort files, but the office manager thought I’d be great with patients. So I ended up going into rooms before the doctor to update charts and make sure films were displayed correctly. These patients were all battling cancer; and they all had such gusto for living that the room felt charged with their courage and hope. It was a job I took just to make extra money while I was writing. But it made me so conscious of time, of how none of us really knows the amount of days we have, or the amount of words we get to say. I remember thinking about that experience when I decided to pursue publication. I only have a certain amount of days, so why not try to be published? Why let fear win the day when every day matters so much? Within my writing, I think there’s always at least one character who is genuinely passionate about living life to the fullest. You know that saying, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been”? I’m smitten with characters who embrace that philosophy. In this story it was Ramblin’ Rose. Most people would have thought she was past her prime, too old to pursue her dreams. Instead of listening to them, she embroidered red roses on her cowboy boots and decided it was time to sing. She ran at her dreams. I’d like to be more like that.

If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why? If Felicity plucked your favorite word from the air, what would it look like?

I love this question! My favorite words change, but there are two I’m certain Felicity would see.  This first is the word “love,” and it would be as small and easily missed as a looped piece of silver thread shimmering over my heart - barely a whisper that binds everything together. Another word I adore is firefly. I like the pairing so much; fire that represents a caustic energy (or is it destruction?) with wings that represent freedom (or recklessness?). I remember catching fireflies with my cousin when I was little. I remember breezy twilights and the way fireflies prickled against my skin, just tiny stars poised for flight on the back of my hand. I remember summer nights when they flooded the woods behind my house with flickering light. I thought they were dazzling. There’s a lyric in the song “Firefly” by Small Town Poets that I’ve always adored: “Fragile wings bring little messages of light.”

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

I love that books are your escape. I know that feeling. One of my most favorite escapes is my room on a rainy day, with my dog beside me and a book in my lap. And any time I’m with my family (including my dog), my anxieties fade for a bit, and I feel like my heart has a place to rest. Love is the best magic, I think.
Find out more about Natalie and her books here!
Follow her on Twitter here!
Check out my review of A Snicker of Magic here!

Win It!

Giveaway will close April 25, 2014. Prize provided to Scholastic. Open to US mailing addresses only per publisher.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter

Today I have the pleasure of revealing the cover of MY BEST FRIEND, MAYBE, the sophomore novel from author Caela Carter! I loved Caela's debut, ME, HIM, THEM & IT, a contemporary YA novel that tackles teen pregnancy with honesty and tact!

Technically, this is a cover (re)reveal because Caela, Bloomsbury, and I released the original cover concept for this book back in October 2013. Since then, Bloomsbury decided to rework the cover, giving the two girls featured in the cover art a more "dynamic" pose. Things that have stayed the same: the color palate and the number of girls on the cover. Things that have changed: a lot. 

On this reworked cover, the girls are shown from a distance and they aren't headless (win!). They're wearing different outfits (still cute, but not as cute as the dresses in the original). The title is in different colors (though the font looks the same to me). The location of the title and the author's name have changed as well (for the better, in my opinion). And, instead of being surrounded by water, the girls are surrounded the bright blue sky!

If Bloomsbury was going for more "dynamic," they nailed it! While I have a soft spot for the original cover (the dresses the cover models were wearing were so dang cute!), I like this one too... especially when I realized that I couldn't immediately think of another cover that is similar. That's important when it comes to YA, a genre in which cover art can sometimes blur together! 

Check out the new cover and learn more about the book below!

My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter
Bloomsbury / Available June 3, 2014
Colette has been bored and lonely ever since her best friend, Sadie, dumped her the summer before they stared high school. She tries to be perfect for everyone left in her life: her parents, her younger brothers, her church youth group, even her boyfriend, Mark. But Colette is restless. And she misses Sadie.

When Sadie tells Colette that she needs her old friend to join her on a family vacation to the Greek Islands, one that leaves in only a few days, Colette is shocked to hear their old magic word: need. And she finds herself agreeing.

Colette tries to relax and enjoy her Grecian surroundings but it’s not easy to go on vacation with the person who hurt you most in the world. When the reason for the trip finally surfaces, Colette finds out this is not only a fun vacation. Sadie has kept an enormous secret from Colette for years...forever. It’s a summer full of surprises, but that might be what Colette needs.
For more about Caela and her books, check our her website and follow her on Twitter! And don't forget to add My Best Friend, Maybe on GoodReads!

Win It!

My Best Friend, Maybe won't be in stores until June 3, 2014, but you can enter to win an advanced reader copy by filling out the Rafflecopter form below! This giveaway will end April 29th, 2014.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Q&A Session with Emmy Laybourne + A Pre-Order Campaign Giveaway [Blog Tour]

Hi everyone! I'm Emmy Laybourne, author of the MONUMENT 14 series, and I'm delighted to be here on The Hiding Spot. It's my first time here!

I'm here to promote a contest and free Exclusive Bonus Content only available to those who pre-order my third novel SAVAGE DRIFT.

Q&A Session

What was the most proud moment in your career?
I think it was when I got the call from my publicist that the New York TImes would be reviewing MONUMENT 14, and that it was a good review! I remember standing on my driveway - it was the middle of autumn and the tree canopy overhead was like stained glass, lit up with gold and orange. I felt such hope and joy - it had been a hard and long road to becoming a novelist, and receiving that call made me feel like I was standing at the top of a hill, with a future-view laid out before me.
Tell us about a moment you felt fear, in terms of your career?
Uch, I feel it all the time. I feel it as stress, and it usually hits… Well, it hits right about now, when it comes time to promote a new book. You've poured your heart and your energy into this slim, typeset being and you're about to put it out on shelves all across the country. Will people like it? Will it be reviewed well? What if no one buys it except your mother?! Daily meditation helps me to keep the fear at bay, as does playing with my kids and dancing to Pharell's HAPPY!
What fictional character would you like to have coffee with?
Oooh!!! Will you call me terribly sappy if I say Laura Ingalls Wilder? No, you know what - PA! Pa Ingalls, that's who I'd like to meet. And I'd ask him to bring his fiddle.
Which fictional character do you have a secret crush on?
Not Pa. 

Mmmmm, I'll pick Corlath, from Robin McKinley's THE BLUE SWORD. If you haven't read this gripping, passionate and beautifully told fantasy - GET IT NOW! And Corlath is a very hunky reason to pick it up. Strong, silent, handsome, deadly - just how I like my men.

Thanks so much for having me here, Sara! It's been a real pleasure to connect with you and your readers!

More about SAVAGE DRIFT:
It's over.    
Dean, Alex, and the other survivors of the Monument 14 have escaped the disaster zone and made it to the safety of a Canadian refugee camp. Some of the kids have been reunited with their families, and everyone is making tentative plans for the future. And then, Niko learns that his lost love, Josie, has survived!
Or is it? 
For Josie, separated from the group and presumed dead, life has gone from bad to worse. Trapped in a terrible prison camp with other exposed O’s and traumatized by her experiences, she has given up all hope of rescue. Meanwhile, scared by the government’s unusual interest in her pregnancy, Astrid—along with her two protectors, Dean and Jake—joins Niko on his desperate quest to be reunited with Josie. 

In Monument 14: Savage Drift, the stunningly fierce conclusion to the Monument 14 trilogy, author Emmy Laybourne ups the stakes even higher for a group of kids who have continually survived the unthinkable. Can they do so one last time? 

Win it!

Emmy is running a Bonus Content giveaway for people who pre-order her book! Click on this link to go to her website and get your short story!

To help spread word about the campaign, we’re running an ADDITIONAL giveaway! Enter this rafflecopter to have your choice of two prizes. You can either win a Mega Swag pack or a signed paperback of both MONUMENT 14 and SKY ON FIRE.

Thanks for joining us today! Here’s the full rundown for this blog tour. Come hang out on another stop, learn more and get additional chances to enter the giveaway!

Saturday, March 22
Official tour kickoff!

Sunday, March 23
Why Max Skolnik?
Emmy discusses why she picked Max as a subject for the Exclusive Bonus Short Story.

Monday, March 24 
Sneak peek from SAVAGE DRIFT

Tuesday, March 25
Exclusive interview - Learn what superpower I’d pick

Wednesday, March 26
An intimate interview with Emmy

Thursday, March 27
Killer Cover Art – see the process behind the cover for this Exclusive short story

Friday, March 28
Jen Ryland
Ya Romantics
Hitting The List – hear Emmy’s behind the scene’s view about watching her friends hit the list on the Fierce Reads tours