Thursday, May 17, 2018

TBF Author Interview with Brigid Kemmerer

Hello TBF readers!


So, I lied. This is the last TBF author interview, and I am delighted to share it with all of you! I chatted with Brigid Kemmerer, author of MORE THAN WE CAN TELL. Take a look:

Miranda Reads: Your latest book, MORE THAN WE CAN TELL has been getting a lot of buzz. What is it about?

Brigid Kemmerer: MORE THAN WE CAN TELL is about a gamer girl named Emma who starts getting harassed in a game she designed -- but problems between her parents keep her from going to them for help. She meets Rev, a guy who was cruelly abused by his father when he was young, but has since been adopted by a loving couple -- except that he's just started receiving taunting letters from his abusive father and he doesn't know what to do about it. Rev and Emma confide in each other and help each other through their ongoing trauma, and a few sparks fly as well.
Miranda Reads: What was the inspiration behind MORE THAN WE CAN TELL?
Brigid Kemmerer: Rev was actually a side character in LETTERS TO THE LOST, my first YA Contemporary, and from the moment he arrived on the page, I wanted to tell his story. I came up with Emma because I kept thinking about how much hidden harassment girls go through online, especially in gaming communities. 

Miranda Reads: Out of all of your characters, which one resembled you the most as a teen?
Brigid Kemmerer: Oh wow, this is a hard question! Probably Nick Merrick, from my Elemental Series. Everyone assumes he has it all together because he's just a smart, capable, hard-to-ruffle kid -- while on the inside he's flailing all the time. He's just good at keeping that bottled up.
Miranda Reads: Do you outline a WIP or do you just dive right into it?
Brigid Kemmerer: I used to dive right into it, but now I loosely outline in advance. I used to think that outlining would rob my story of any chance to be creative, but that's not true.
Miranda Reads: Which TBF Author are you most excited to meet this year?

Brigid Kemmerer: Oh my goodness, ALL OF THEM! I'm excited to see old friends, but also for the chance to make new ones too. 

Thank you so much, Brigid! We can't wait to meet you THIS SATURDAY!

That is all for today, friends! See you all soon!


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

TBF Author Interview with Alisa Kwitney

Hello TBF readers!

FOUR MORE DAYS UNTIL TBF! I chatted with Alisia Kwitney, the author of CADAVER & QUEEN. Take a look:

Miranda Reads: Your first YA novel CADAVER & QUEEN will be released in February. What can readers expect with this book?

Alisa Kwitney: I call the book my “Feminist Frankenstein meets Grey’s Anatomy,” because it’s part reimagined Frankenstein and part medical school drama. My heroine, Elizabeth Lavenza, is the only female medical student at a school that manufactures Bio-Mechanicals—mechanized cadavers intended to serve in Queen Victoria’s army. Bio-Mechanicals aren’t supposed to have any thoughts or feelings, but Lizzie discovers one who seems to have self-awareness—and memories of his former life as Victor Frankenstein, a former student who died under mysterious circumstances.

As a reader, I enjoy reading about the kind of romantic conflict that challenges characters’ sense of themselves and the way they see the world. I also like it when a story has a range of emotional tones—moments of lightness and humor, moments of emotional intensity, and moments of horror or suspense. So when I write, I try to deliver the kind of story I like to read.

Miranda Reads: What was the inspiration behind CADAVER & QUEEN?

Alisa Kwitney:
I have been fascinated by Victorian death culture and medicine for ages. I first got the germ of the idea years ago and thought it might make a good YA graphic novel, but as the idea germinated I realized I wanted to explore it in prose first.

In terms of the inspiration, there were a few different elements that sparked my interest. First, there’s the setting. On the surface, the Victorian period appeals because of the dark glamor of the gothic architecture and clothes and jewelry, but underneath, the social issues are startlingly similar to the ones we face. Also, we tend to think of the Victorians as being melodramatic or sentimental, but teenagers and people in their twenties were perfectly capable of humor and snark. They talked about feeling down as “getting the morbs,” which is the perfect way to puncture a Heathcliffian hero’s boughts of brooding.

I was also intrigued by the question, “When are we our truest selves?” Are we most fully ourselves when we are at our best? What happens if we are injured or get sick or lose confidence and can no longer perform the way we once did?

Last but not least, I was inspired both by Mary Shelly’s novel and the stories of how she came up with the idea during a ghost story competition with her husband, the poet Shelly, and their friend Lord Byron. Two of the characters in the novel, Byram and Will Frankenstein, Victor’s younger brother, are loosely based on Byron and Shelly. And gender swapping the main role (in Shelly’s novel, Elizabeth Lavenza is Victor’s fiancee) felt like an important way to reconsider the themes of the original novel. I remember a friend of my mother’s coming up to me and suggesting that, when I had children, I would no longer have the same need to create stories—as if writing, for a woman, was just sublimated baby-making. I wanted to write a story that didn’t pit a woman’s ambition against her desire for love.

Miranda Reads: Is there a different writing process when writing for comic books versus writing a full-length novel?

Alisa Kwitney: Writing comics is collaborative, and even if I don’t know who the artist is while I’m working on the script, I try to keep him or her very much in mind. In a way, I’m writing for the artist, trying to use my words to spark their imagination but not make them feel overly directed. In writing for DC Comics, there’s also more editorial give and take based on which characters are available and what’s being done with them elsewhere. In a way, it’s a little more like writing for TV—these are not just your babies and your vision, although your take on them is the critical factor.

Also, the bulk of what I do in comics is invisible—it’s the structure of the story and the pacing and choice of scenes, and all the art direction to the artist. What goes into captions and word balloons is a tiny fraction of the work, but it’s the only part the reader sees.

That said, my comics writing has definitely influenced my prose. When I started out writing, I was definitely not a visual writer. The longer I worked in comics, the more I’ve learned how to visualize scenes, which has informed my prose writing.

Miranda Reads: Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what do you listen to? Do you have a playlist?

Alisa Kwitney: I listen to music when I’m walking around or driving and plotting, but not when I’m actually writing, because I’m a bit ADD and too distractible for outside stimuli when I’m trying to write. Some of the songs I listened to while plotting: Strange Music (ELO); Come Out of a Lady (Rubblebucket); Alison (Elvis Costello); Walpurgisnacht (Faun); Least Complicated (Indigo Girls); Wuthering Heights (Kate Bush); Walk Away from Love (Yaz).

Miranda Reads: Which TBF Author are you most excited to meet this year?

Alisa Kwitney: I have met Tamora Pierce twice before, but am extremely excited to see her and hear more about her new book. I’ve also been hearing great things about The Belles, so I’m looking forward to meeting Dhonielle Clayton.

Thank you so much, Alisa! We can't wait to meet you this weekend! (My hands are shaking at the thought of meeting all of these authors this weekend!)

You can purchase CADAVER & QUEEN at Barnes and Noble or Amazon (Be sure to use Amazon Smile and make the Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival your charitable organization) or check out it out at your local library!

That's it for today! This is the last week of book reviews and fun posts before TBF so you do not want to miss it!


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Book Review: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Hello everyone! TBF is only a little over a week away! For my last book review this season I read I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga. It was a little different from what I normally read but it was a blast!

Jazz is a likable teenager. A charmer, some might say.

But he's also the son of the world's most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, "Take Your Son to Work Day" was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could--from the criminals' point of view.

And now, even though Dad has been in jail for years, bodies are piling up in the sleepy town of Lobo's Nod. Again.

In an effort to prove murder doesn't run in the family, Jazz joins the police in the hunt for this new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret--could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

When you find out that a criminal had a difficult childhood, it’s kind of society’s reaction to think oh that’s why they grew up to be like that. In a way, this book challenges that quick assumption by giving us a character who's probably more susceptible to their mentally scarring childhood than anyone in real life- Jazz, son of the most prolific serial killer of his time. This story really imparts to us that a person is not necessarily the product of their upbringing, and that there is always a choice.

This story is on some level a struggle between nature and nurture. Jazz struggles with not knowing whether he is fundamentally good or bad, and morally gray characters like him are my favorite. There’s a lot of internal conflict as Jazz struggles to emerge out of his father’s shadow, and his moments of hopelessness and inner turmoil make him more human. He’s desperate to prove to others, and possibly to himself, that nature will triumph over nurture. His mentality as a “could-be” killer is fascinating, and I found he just drew me into the story (and it definitely helped that he has the type of dark and deadpan humor I really appreciate). And his friends too- I adored Howie and Connie. They were very much their own independent characters while still providing their unending support to Jazz.

I also love the attention to detail regarding crime in this novel, and how it’s not just from the side of the law. The advice that Jazz’s father used to give him provides us with an interesting perspective, however sick and twisted it is. And I think that’s what makes serial killers so morbidly fascinating- their mentalities, their motives, their thought processes are so twisted and different- and this book brings us along to discover them.

In all, this novel reminds me a little of Sherlock Holmes with a twist and I would recommend it to anyone who likes crime shows.

Wishing everyone an amazing time at TBF 2018!


Find I Hunt Killers at GoodreadsBarnes & Noble, and the Monroe County Library System

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

TBF Author Interview with Claire Legrand

Hello TBF readers!

TBF is 11 days away! Are you excited?! I chatted with Claire Legrand, author of  WINTERSPELL, FOXHEART, SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS, and FURYBORN. Take a look:

Miranda Reads: Your latest novel FURYBORN will be released in May. What is it about?

Claire Legrand: The official pitch: FURYBORN is about a centuries-long war between angels and humans, and the two young women--Rielle and Eliana--who must fight at the heart of this war. The choices they make, and the surprising connections between them, will ultimately determine the fate of their world, and of each other. The unofficial pitch: This is AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER meets HIS DARK MATERIALS meets GAME OF THRONES (without the gratuitous violence against women). It's the story of two passionate, flawed, ferocious girls who make a lot of mistakes on the road to discovering who they really are and how best to use their tremendous power.

Miranda Reads: I understand that it took you 14 years to write FURYBORN and its sequels. That is some serious dedication! What was it about FURYBORN made you keep writing? What advice do you have for inspiring writers who are stuck on a WIP? 

Claire Legrand: Books 2 and 3 aren't written yet! I'm working on Book 2 right now, in fact. But I have indeed been planning this trilogy since I was 18 years old, and the thing that's kept me writing is my all-consuming love for Rielle and Eliana. I've lived with them for almost half my life; they are my heart and soul. To writers who are stuck on a WIP, my advice is this: Sometimes it's best to set aside a project that's giving you trouble, and work on another project instead. Or maybe, instead of working on another project, you could take some time to refill your creative well and gorge yourself on stories. Over the years, I've stepped away from this trilogy a few times to work on other books and improve my writing, and each break has made me a better writer--and better able to tackle this beast of a story.

Miranda Reads: What was your favorite novel as a teen? 

Claire Legrand: I didn't read a lot as a teen; I was so busy with school and extra-curricular activities that the bulk of my reading was assigned. But I of course loved the Harry Potter series, and when I was in middle school, my favorite book was A WRINKLE IN TIME.
Miranda Reads: Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind of music do you listen to? 

Claire Legrand: Music is an integral part of my creative process; I make playlists for each of my books, and I usually listen to music while I write. My favorite musical genre is film scores. Right now, I'm obsessed with the scores for the TV series THE CROWN, composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams and Lorne Balfe.

Miranda Reads: Which TBF Author are you most excited to meet? 

Claire Legrand: I adore Rachel Hartman's SERAPHINA duology and can't wait for her latest, TESS OF THE ROAD. I can't wait to meet her and tell her how much I admire her writing!

Thank you so much, Claire! We can't wait to meet you next week! (OMG, we can actually say that now!)

You can purchase Claire's books at Barnes and Noble or Amazon (Be sure to use Amazon Smile and make the Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival your charitable organization) or check out her books at your local library!

That's it for today! Be sure to check out the blog again for more author interviews, book reviews, and fun posts!


Saturday, May 5, 2018

TBF Author Interview with Jon McGoran

Hello TBF readers!

Happy Saturday! I am here to share a TBF author interview with all of you. I chatted with Jon McGoran, author of Spliced. Check it out:

Miranda Reads: Your first YA book Spliced came out in November. What is it about?

Jon McGoran: Spliced takes place a few decades from now, in a world slightly altered by climate change, flu epidemics and technological advancements. Biohackers have made a controversial gene splicing technology available on the street, and some young people modify themselves by splicing animal genes into their own, for all sorts of different reasons. They are called chimeras.

Sixteen-year-old Jimi Corcoran doesn’t think too much about chimeras, but when her best friend Del finally escapes his sadistic father, she is horrified to learn he intends to get spliced. As Jimi plunges into the world of chimeras to save Del, the rest of the world erupts in a backlash against them, and the group Humans for Humanity, or H4H, pushes through a new law that strips chimeras of their rights as people.

As Jimi learns to respect, understand and even love the chimeras she meets, she also learns a terrifying truth: Those behind the backlash have a hidden agenda more hateful and horrific than anything she could have imagined.

Miranda Reads:
What was the inspiration behind Spliced?

Jon McGoran: There were many inspirations behind Spliced. The first came while I was researching a series of biotech thrillers I wrote, Drift, Deadout and Dust Up. I read about some biohackers or DIY biologists, who are doing genetic engineering in garages and basements. Some of them are highly educated and trained and some know just enough to splice different genes together and see what happens. On the one hand I thought it was really cool—a democratizing force in science and part of a great tradition of amateur citizen-scientists. But I also thought it was really unsettling, because things could go very wrong. I knew immediately I wanted to write about it in some way.

Initially, I thought about some horrible plague that escapes from a garage somewhere, but then I wondered what would happen, given a little time, when today’s cutting-edge technology becomes so commonplace and so accessible that it’s available on the street. I knew that if it was possible to splice animal genes into your own, there were people who would do it—I was sure of it. But then I had to wonder why, and the answer was, for a whole lot of different reasons.

I figured it would take a few decades for gene splicing to become available on the street, and that meant a world in which climate change was having more and more of an impact, and that a lot of animals at risk of extinction now would be gone by then.

The idea of the chimeras resonated with me. Getting spliced is a big deal, and fraught in ways, but it is also really empowering in how these young people are proactively deciding who they want to be, which is part of what young adulthood is all about.

But I also wondered how the rest of society would react to the chimeras, and looking around at the world today, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. A lot of the book is about the bigotry and hatred and exploitation the chimeras face.

Miranda Reads: Do you have a favorite snack or drink when you write? If so, what is it?

Jon McGoran: I try not to snack too much when I write, partly because if I do, I just go on autopilot and snack until whatever I am eating is gone. But I am partial to a nice hot cup of strong, black coffee.

Miranda Reads: Latest favorite book that everyone should read?

Jon McGoran: Right now I’m reading Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly, and I'm loving it. I finally just read Starters by Lissa Price and that was amazing, too. And I loved Scythe by Neal Shusterman and can’t wait to read Thunderhead (my wife, who is a librarian, just finished it and she keeps telling me to hurry and finish what I'm reading so we can compare notes on Thunderhead!)

Miranda Reads: Which TBF Author are you most excited to meet this year?

Jon McGoran: I'm excited about a lot of them! I heard (and briefly met) Barry Lyga at a conference a few years ago when I was considering writing my first young adult novel, and he was part of what convinced me to give it a try, so I’d like to thank him for that. I’d love to meet Roshani Chokshi and Bruce Coville (and if I get a chance, I hope to tell Rachel Hartman how much my wife loves her books!).

Thank you so much, Jon! We can't wait to meet you later this month at TBF!

You can purchase Spliced at Barnes and Noble or Amazon (Be sure to use Amazon Smile and make the Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival your charitable organization) or check it out at your local library!

That's all for today! Be sure to check out the blog again for more author interviews, book reviews, and fun posts!


Friday, May 4, 2018

Friday Fun Post: Dear Rachel Hartman

Hey TBF readers! It seems that spring has finally sprung around here, an you know what that means. Flowers, allergies, and most of all, TBF! That's right, our big event is only a few weeks away! In the meantime, I have a great post for you today, so read on and get excited! TBF is almost here!

Dear Rachel Hartman,

I haven't been a fan of your books for very long now, but they captured my attention immediately. As I read Seraphina, I knew I was in love with your characters, your writing, and the world you had created. I have always been a big fan of dragons above many other topics within the realms of fantasy, and your take on the creatures and characters were truly fascinating. I loved how Seraphina and all the other half dragons were brought together and I really connected with each step of the journey she took to really find her place in the world, having always been an outcast. I found reading your books a great relief between doing schoolwork and sleeping. Sitting with a good book has always put me at ease and your's is easily one of the best. I haven't yet gotten a chance to read Tess of the Road, but I really am looking forward to another adventure in Goredd, with all new characters and dragons to get to know. You can't imagine how overjoyed I was to hear you'd be joining us at TBF this year. I hope you really enjoy TBF when you come. Rochester, and Nazareth College's campus, can be very beautiful in the springtime and you'll also have plenty of volunteers around on the day of TBF to help with anything you may need. Rochester has such a strong community of readers, and everyone is already so excited to meet you. TBF is coming up on us fast, so I hope to be able to meet you very soon!

Warm Regards,

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Book Review: Promise of Shadows

Hey readers! Can you believe TBF is this month? After all of the incredible books I've read and loved this year I'm beyond excited for the big event. For my last book review of the year I read the wonderful Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland.

Zephyr Mourning has never been very good at being a Harpy. She’d rather watch reality TV than learn forty-seven ways to kill a man, and she pretty much sucks at wielding magic. Zephyr was ready for a future pretending to be a normal human instead of a half-god assassin. But all that changes when her sister is murdered—and she uses a forbidden dark power to save herself from the same fate.

Zephyr is on the run from a punishment worse than death when an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend (a surprisingly HOT friend) changes everything. Because it seems like Zephyr might just be the Nyx, a dark goddess made flesh that is prophesied to change the power balance. For hundreds of years the half-gods have lived in fear, and Zephyr is supposed to change that. But how is she supposed to save everyone when she can’t even save herself?

I've loved mythology novels ever since I read Percy Jackson as a small second grader, but I did not know what I was in for going into this novel. Promise of Shadows is a whole new realm of retelling. Much bleaker, much more gritty, but in that, much more accurate to the darkness of the original myths. Ireland's portrayal of the Ætheral were more unforgiving and terrifying than any of the Greek Gods I've read in the past, which is incredible. And so even though appearances of the 
Ætheral were occasional, I loved reading their scenes as well as all those in all of the other mythological places I've known for so long from the main setting of Tartarus, to places like the harsh River Styx.

But my other favorite part of this novel was the characters. The entire cast of characters was diverse, well written, and even the secondary characters were important and played their own parts to the story. Zephyr is the kind of protagonist I've been wanting to read about for so long. She's a heroine who is deeply flawed, and who acknowledges that fact, which is a breath of fresh air compared to some of the other protagonists I've read about. She remains rational and uses the skills she has for all the novel, even when standing face to face with the grim Hades.

In the end, from the incredible world-building to the authentic yet still fierce main character, this novel was a ride. 
Make sure to check out Promise of Shadows and go see Justina this month at TBF!


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

TBF Author Interview with Erin Spencer

Hello TBF readers!

Happy May! Do you know what that means? TBF is 18 days! Let the countdown begin! I chatted with Erin Spencer, the audiobook performer for Dana Mele's People Like Us. Take a look:

Miranda Reads: As an actress, what are the joys and challenges of being an audiobook narrator? An audiobook director?

Erin Spencer: The joys and challenges can be one and the same! It’s so FUN to embody a character that I can never be in real life - a curmudgeonly old man, a French shop owner, or an African American boy living in the deep south. But, at the same time, it’s challenging because I want to make sure I get it right. I want to get their voice right, their accent right and most importantly their essence right.

As a director, well, I love working with actors! I love co-creating the story and the characters together in the studio. It can be a challenge on the rare occasion when an actor is inflexible at first, but I’ve found that finding common ground and creating a personal connection can really open someone up so we can go on a creative journey together.

Miranda Reads: What was it about People Like Us that made you enjoy narrating the audiobook?

Erin Spencer: As someone who went to boarding school I understand the very unique relationships that are developed between teenagers in that environment. And, even though my own personal high school experience didn’t result in a scavenger hunt who-done-it, I loved that I got to narrate one that did! I also appreciated the diverse cast of characters I got to play with!

Miranda Reads: Do you have a routine or ritual before you perform?

Erin Spencer: If I’m working from home then my routine is to give my dog, Derby, a thorough petting and lots of kisses, put her on her bed OUTSIDE my booth (just in case she starts snoring) and then GO! If I’m working at someone else’s studio, like at Penguin Random House, I usually just socialize and get a bottle of room temp water before we start. There are lots of narrators that do lots of things before they go in the booth - I’m just not one of them!

Miranda Reads: What are some of your hobbies outside of performing and directing?

Erin Spencer: I am always up for an adventure! White water rafting, eating new foods, bungee jumping…you name it and I’ll probably do it. My goal this year is to do the Machu Picchu hike!

Thank you so much, Erin! We can't wait to meet you at TBF!

You can purchase the book or the audiobook of People Like Us at Barnes and Noble or Amazon (Be sure to use Amazon Smile and make the Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival your charitable organization) or check them out at your local library.

That's it for today! Be sure to check out the blog again for more author interviews, book reviews, and fun posts!