Interview with Award-Winning Author Edward Bloor

Get to know Edward…

Edward Bloor is the author of seven young adult novels including the million-selling Tangerine. He was born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey; attended college in New York City, and currently resides in Winter Garden, Florida. Here is a list of his novels and some of their achievements: 

Tangerine (1997) American Library Association Top Ten Best Books  for Young Adults; Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination for Best Young Adult Novel.

Crusader (1999) New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age.

Story Time (2002) Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination for Best Young Adult Novel; New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age.

London Calling (2006) Virginia Readers’ Choice Award nominee.

Taken (2008) Sunshine State Readers Award Selection; Grand Canyon Readers Award Selection.

Memory Lane (2010) e-book exclusive, available on Kindle and Nook.

A Plague Year (2011) Random House paperback available November 2012. 

More information is available at his site.

Let the conversation begin!

Can you share a nugget of writing wisdom?

Yes: Understand what your audience wants. That sounds simplistic, and bromidic, but I believe it is the one factor holding a lot of good writers back. They do not know or perhaps do not care what their potential readers want; that is, what would get a person to pick up a book and walk it to the cash register or, more currently, to click a button to buy it.

What book are you reading right now?

I am sorry to say I am backed up with books from fellow authors that I have promised to read. And I will read them. I will.

Coffee or Tea?

Coffee; lots of it.

Why do you write?

To bring order to chaos; to leave something behind.

When are you the most productive?

6 am to noon.

If you could only wear one color for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Blue; 16 years of Catholic school.

As a teenager, what was your favorite musical group?

The Beatles.

Is there a story behind your name? What is it?

My grandfather, my father, and I were all named Edward, but we were all called something else. Curiously, my grandfather and father were both called Barney, perhaps due to a shortage of nicknames during the Great Depression. I was called Billy, which I came to despise. That’s why I take care with people’s names, and only call them what they want to be called. I take care with characters’ names, too, for the same reason.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Broadway. I am working on a play tiled Centennial, which is about The Great War. I started out wanting to be a playwright, and I hope to end up there.

Worst possible name for a child?

There’s a discussion in my new e-novel Memory Lane about people who are mismatched with their names. Don’t name your child anything that could possibly wind up in that discussion.

Best part of writing? Worst part?

The best part is completing the book. The worst is facing—for lack of a better word—a book’s flop in the marketplace. That’s bad for everybody involved with it.

If you could only write one more book, what would it be about?

Just in case it is my last book, here’s what the current one is about: It’s a novel, titled Summer of Smoke, about the race riots that erupted in the US in 1968 following the assassination of Martin Luther King. I was surprised to learn how many kids today have no idea that the US was embroiled in a bloody race war that summer.

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Jerry Spinelli

Get to know Jerry…

One day in second grade Jerry Spinelli dressed up in his cowboy outfit, complete with golden cap pistols and spurs on his boots. He went to school that way. It was not Halloween. When the teacher asked if he “would like to do something for the class,” he got up and sang “I Have the Spurs that Jingle Jangle Jingle.” Shortly thereafter he ceased to be a singing cowboy and decided to become a baseball player. In eleventh grade he wrote a poem about a high school football game. It was published in the local (Norristown, PA) newspaper. He traded in his baseball bat for a pencil and became a writer. The story of his life to that point is told in his memoir Knots in My Yo-Yo String. His sixth novel, Maniac Magee, was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1991 for “The Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children.” His eighteenth book, Wringer, received a Newbery Honor. Several are optioned for film. Jerry Spinelli’s books appear in more than 40 languages. Anti-apartheid forces in South Africa recruited Maniac Magee to their cause. Stargirl is translated and distributed throughout the Middle East to encourage peace between Arab nations and the West. Stargirl Societies are springing up. Village audiences in rural Japan view stage performances of Loser.  The author graduated from Gettysburg College. Jerry Spinelli lives with his wife and fellow author, Eileen, in Wayne, Pennsylvania. They have six children and—at last count—16 grandchildren. For more info, visit his website.

Let the conversation begin!

You just completed HOKEY POKEY. Can you tell us your inspiration for writing this book?

I was making notes for a science fiction story but it just wasn’t coming together, and suddenly I found myself writing what turns out to be the first page of HOKEY POKEY. And before I knew it I was writing about childhood–not as a time but as a place. A place where there’s no tomorrow. A place inspired–since you ask–by something almost every post-kid has uttered at one time or another: “Kids–they live in their own little world.” 

What parts of the writing process for HOKEY POKEY surprised you?

I guess the extent to which I found myself writing what others may want to call “fantasy,” in view of the fact that I’ve never been a big fan of fantasy. I think of HOKEY POKEY as told from a particular point of view–in this case, kids’–so complete and absorbing and real to them that, if I had to call it anything, I’d say “alternate universe” rather than “fantasy.” 

Who was the hardest character to develop? Easiest? 

None of the characters was especially hard to develop, as I’ve been living with them all my life–as playmates, as kids, as grandkids.  

What did you learn while writing HOKEY POKEY? 

I learned that mixing the florid melodrama of the old pulps with an Old West setting was just right for “their own little world.” 

How did you celebrate your first book being published? Has the excitement worn off with each book you publish? 

I spiked my ballpoint pen and did an endzone TD dance. I still do. 

What is the easiest part of the writing process? Hardest? 

I guess dialog comes easiest for me. Hardest? Maybe puzzling out the plot. 

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre? 

I don’t. Because I’m allergic to sales pitching in all forms and am all too happy to let my publishers do it. 

Do you come up with your book titles? 

For the most part, yes. Two exceptions: SPACE STATION SEVENTH GRADE and WHO PUT THAT HAIR IN MY TOOTHBRUSH? On the former, I originally called it STUFF. The editor didn’t like it, said send me another. I sent him 23 other titles. He didn’t like any. So the book to this day 30 years later carries his title. Different editor but similar story with TOOTHBRUSH. They were my first two published books, and two of my own favorites. 

Best part of today was: 

Remembering that tomorrow we’ll get a visit from the newest granddaughter: two-year-old Lulu. 

If today was your last day to live, what would you do? What would you say? 

I’d stuff myself with chocolate almond ice cream and snuggle up with Eileen (Stargirl’s inspiration, by the way) and say secret things to her. 

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Author Interview with Kristina Springer

Get to know Kristina…

Kristina Springer is the author of THE ESPRESSOLOGIST, MY FAKE BOYFRIEND IS BETTER THAN YOURS, and JUST YOUR AVERAGE PRINCESS. She has a Masters in Writing from DePaul University and she resides in a suburb of Chicago with her husband and children. For more info, visit her website

Let the conversation begin!

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

I’m revising the end of my latest YA book, THE PAPARAZZI PROJECT, for the tenth time. It’s a super fun book that tabloid loving teens will hopefully love.

Coffee or Tea?

Coffee. Always. 

When are you the most productive?

When I’m working away from home. Usually a coffee shop.

Daily word count?

I don’t do daily word counts. I just write whatever I can, whenever I get a chance. 

As a teenager, what was your favorite musical group?

New Kids on the Block. I was the president and founder of our local fan club. My favorite was Joey.

Who is your best friend? Why?

My husband. I know, cheesy but we’ve been together since we were both 22 and I tell him everything. 

If you could live anywhere for one year, all expenses paid, where would you live?

Oooh, Paris I think. Or Italy. 

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a kid I wanted to be a rockstar (stage name: Tina Rockafina). Then I wanted to be a nurse. Then a teacher. I didn’t settle on author until almost 30.

What is your favorite season? Why?

Fall. I love the leaves and the pumpkins and the pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks. 

Is the glass half empty or half full? What is in the glass?

Half full. Iced Mocha.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Hopefully still writing lots of books!

What do you miss about being a child?

The freedom of not having responsibilities.

What is the best part of writing?

The first draft.

Worst part?

The never-ending revision/editing. 

If you could only write one more book, what would it be about?

Probably a memoir.

How long have you been writing? Does it feel like yesterday?

I wrote my first book 6 years ago. And yeah, it doesn’t seem like that long ago. 

What specific thing have you done that impressed yourself?

Giving birth to four kids. Still kinda amazed that really happened.

What’s your passion?

My family.

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Author Interview with Lynne Kelly

Get to know Lynne…

Lynne Kelly grew up in Houston, lived in a couple of much colder places, then returned to the Houston area, where she works as a sign language interpreter and writes novels for children and young adults. For a few years she was a special education teacher, until she realized it was a job for people with good organizational and planning skills. CHAINED is her first novel. For more info, check out her site

Let the conversation begin!

If you could have one super human power, what would it be?

I don’t suppose invisibility counts as a super human power, does it? That’s more like a straight up superpower. It would be really fun to be invisible and go wherever we wanted and listen to whatever conversations were going on, wouldn’t it? But if it can’t be invisibility, I think we’ll all agree that the best super human power would be to maintain a perfect body on an ice cream diet.  

What is the craziest (or stupidest) thing you have ever done?

There must be many stupid things, but the one that comes to mind first is going into my middle school when it was closed for a teacher inservice day (I mean really, who goes to school just to wander around when it’s not a school day?) and getting locked in the band hall storage room.

What is your favorite season? Why?

Fall, when the bone-melting heat of Houston is finally going away.

When are you the most productive?

I’m not a morning person, so I take time to really wake up, but I work best in the late morning and early afternoon hours. And it’s best if I’m at home by myself; I’m too easily distracted to get much done if anyone else is around.

Daily word count?

Somewhere between 0 and 3,000.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Hopefully still at the laptop, writing a new book. On the front porch of a beach house, ideally.

What is the worst possible name to call a child?

Renesmee.

What do you miss about being a child?

Spending the day wandering around to explore the neighborhood.

What is the best part of writing? Worst part?

The best part is discovering how the story unfolds as I write. The worst part is when I have no idea what’s going to happen next, or when I’ve spent time working on a scene I really like and then have to cut it if I realize it’s not going to work with the story.

If you could only write one more book, what would it be about?

Ugh, that would be really sad! My favorite book are ones that make me both laugh and cry, and have some mystery to them, so I’d write something like that. Some book that would look like the love child of J.K. Rowling and John Green.

How long have you been writing? Does it feel like yesterday?

Just since 2006. And yeah, it’s really weird that things seem to move so slowly in publishing, but in some ways it’s flown by.

What does your room look like?

Usually kind of a mess, since cleaning takes away time from reading and writing. But there’s always a stack of books next to the bed.

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Sarah Prineas

Get to know Sarah…

Sarah Prineas is the author of middle-grade fantasy novels The Magic Thief (HarperCollins, 2008), The Magic Thief: Lost (HarperCollins, 2009), and The Magic Thief: Found (HarperCollins 2010).  Foreign rights to the series have been sold in 19 languages, and audio versions are available in English, German, and Dutch.  On its release, The Magic Thief received three starred reviews, and was a Booksense Top Ten Pick for spring/summer 2008.  In addition, the book was a 2009 E.B. White Read-aloud Award honor book, was on the 2008 New York Public Library’s 100 Books for Reading and Sharing list, was a 2009 National Council of Teachers of English Notable Book in the Language Arts, was a Booklist Top Ten Debut Novels for Youth 2008, and was a 2008 Cybils Award finalist in the middle-grade fantasy category.  The Magic Thief  is on 13 state reading lists and is Beehive Award winning children’s novel of the year in Utah.  Forthcoming books from Harper Collins include Winterling (2012), its sequel, The Summerkin, and one yet-to-be-named book.  Sarah has a PhD in English literature and has taught classes at the University of Iowa and Cornell College.  Sarah lives in Iowa City with her mad scientist husband, two odd children, two perfectly normal cats, and the best dog in the world.

Let the conversation begin!

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

The best writing advice was from my friend and fellow author Greg van Eekhout, who said, “NEVER SURRENDER!”  Writing is hard, and getting published is even harder, and you have to be determined to overcome the challenges.    

Daily word count? 

There’s never a set amount.  Sometimes I write 3000 words, and sometimes I write 0 words. I’m not a very disciplined writer.  But I’ve never missed a deadline! 

Outliner or a seat-of-the-pants? 

Oh, very much a pantser. The reason I wrote The Magic Thief was that I’d written the first chapter as a short story and I had no idea what was going to happen next.  I had to write the whole novel in order to find out! 

Ever let anyone read your work-in-progress?

Because I’m not a planner, I have to do a lot of rewriting and rearranging as I go, so nobody reads my work as I’m writing it.  Once it’s done I have a couple of trusted friends, all of whom are writers, read it over.  They’re great critiquers, so I revise according to their suggestions and then send the book to my agent, who is a brutal editor and sees everything before it goes to my actual editor at HarperCollins.    

What initially drew you to writing?

I started writing because babies are boring.  Really!  My family was living in Germany at the time, and I had a newborn. I didn’t speak very good German, and I was very lonely and bored.  So I started writing to have something to do while my baby napped (he was a very good napper), and something clicked.  I realized that writing was something I was meant to do–that I had to do. The boring baby is now eleven years old, and the second Magic Thief book is dedicated to him.  

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Author Turf interview with Erin Downing

{3E9F903A-F66A-4752-9997-1E6AE288286F}Img100Get to know Erin…

Erin (Soderberg) Downing has written more than a dozen books for kids, tweens, and young adults. Her new YA romance—None of the Regular Rules—was published as an e-book exclusive on November 20, 2012. The first book in her forthcoming middle-grade series, The Quirks: Welcome to Normal, will be published by Bloomsbury in May 2013 (written under the name Erin Soderberg). Erin’s next novel for tweens—Best Friends Forever (or Until Someone Better Comes Along) will be published by Simon & Schuster in January 2014. Before turning to writing full time, Erin worked as a children’s book editor and marketer, spent a few months as a cookie inventor, and also worked for Nickelodeon. She lives, writes, and eats out in Minneapolis with her husband and three young children. More information about her books can be found here.

Let the conversation begin!

When are you the most productive?

I’m always most productive in the mornings, right after I drop my kids off at school. I have a first grader and twins who are still in preschool, so I only have about two hours a day in which to write. Sometimes, I manage nothing at all…but other days I can crank out 2,000 words in my short little window of time! 

Daily word count?

I usually aim for 1,000 words a day during the week. I like to take weekends off—unless I have a deadline, and then I work every day! Sometimes, I can squeeze out 3,000 words or more for a few days in a row when I have a book or revision due. 

What was the first live concert you ever attended?

I can’t remember my first concert, but I remember the best one! I went to the Britney Spears Toxic tour when I was living in Stockholm, Sweden, and it was amazing. It was the tour where she wore a naked suit made out of diamonds or something. What could be cooler than that? 

Is the glass half empty or half full? What is in the glass?

It’s half full, unless it’s wine—and then it’s half empty, so I obviously need to pour myself some more. 

What is the worst possible name to call a child?

Stupid. 

What do you miss about being a child?

I wish I didn’t get so cold when I go out to go sledding as an adult—I seem to remember staying outside for hours when I was a kid, but now my feet go numb when it’s freezing out. 

b5391ff0-e62d-4092-9ff0-3a0a0b7fb26aWhat is the best part of writing? Worst part?

The best part is getting to make stuff up everyday. I’m an only child, so I spent a lot of my childhood making up stories and friends for myself. Now, I get paid to make those things up and lie all day! The worst part is the self-doubt. There are days (months, sometimes) when you feel absolutely terrible about yourself—but as your own boss and only coworker, there isn’t really anyone who can tell you you’re doing a good job and to just get over yourself already. Actually, my agent is really good at doing that, but I don’t always like to let him see all my neurotic moments! 

How long have you been writing? Does it feel like yesterday?

I’ve been writing with an eye toward publication for about ten years. I always loved to write, but I never saw myself as a “writer.” I wrote my first book while I was living in Sweden (I probably started right around the time of that Britney Spears concert, actually!), and I’ve been churning out a book or two a year ever since. 

If you could snap your fingers and appear somewhere else, where would you be?

Tuscany. Or maybe Paris. I went to both of those places on my Honeymoon, and would love to get back there every year if I could! 

If you could date any celebrity, who would it be and why?

I wouldn’t actually want to date anyone famous (too much hassle!), but I would love to spend some time with a celebrity chef. I love to eat, and it would be fantastic to have access to amazing restaurants and meals! 

What specific thing have you done that impressed yourself?

I have changed a diaper in almost every location imaginable. Quite a few of them were remarkable feats. 

What’s your passion?

Eating, playing with my kids, swimming in lakes, spending time with my husband and friends, writing, reading—I’m passionate about a lot of things! 

What does your room look like?

The walls are all painted bright colors and filled with pictures from all the places I’ve lived. There are piles of clothes everywhere, but I always have a nicely made bed! 

If you could have one super human power, what would it be?

I’d love to be able to fly—I hate airplanes, but love travel. It would be great if I could get places without getting on a plane! 

What is your favorite season?

Fall! My birthday is in October! 

What’s the best dinner you ever had?

Something called Gnocchi alla Nonna at a tiny little restaurant in Siena, Italy. It was gnocchi hand-stuffed with pistachios!

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Jo Knowles

Jo-Knowles-of-Hartland-with-Fred-left-and-GeorgeGetting to know Jo…

Jo Knowles is the author of See You At Harry’s, Pearl, Jumping Off Swings, and Lessons from a Dead Girl. Some of her awards include the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, the PEN New England Children’s Book Discovery Award, YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, and Bank Street College’s Best Books for Children. For more info, visit her website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter

Let the conversation begin!

What is your very favorite part of the day?

When my family is sitting around the dinner table. 

What is your best scar? How did you get it?

I have a scar on my left cheek from an epic battle with my sister. I think it was over a hairbrush. 

If you were a spy what would your alias be?

You will have to ask Libba Bray. She is responsible for all of my aliases. 

What do you want people to remember you for?

Just me, I guess. 

What is the best thing you have done in your life?

I think I still have work to do on that one. 

If you were blind for the rest of your life, what would you miss seeing the most?

My son’s smile. 

What chore do you hate the most?

Emptying and cleaning the compost bucket. 

What is your most disappointing moment in life?

When I see or hear people being mean to each other. 

When have you laughed the hardest?

Over a story a friend who shall not be named told about a celebrity who shall not be named and a mysterious third party. 

What is the best reward anyone could give you?

Telling me something I said or wrote helped them look at the world a little differently. 

If you had a band what would you name it?

I am already in a band but we play in secret. So… The No Names? 

Favorite meal of the day?

Dinner. 

If you were a pirate, what would your name be?

Wimpy. 

Pen or Pencil?

Pen. And more specifically, Sharpie. 

What is one thing about you people are surprised to learn?

Sometimes when people get to know me they say,“I always thought you were a snob but now I realize you’re just super shy!” This is meant to make me feel better but is actually kind of horrifying. I’m trying very hard to be less shy to avoid this ever happening again.

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Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Adam Rex

Get to know Adam…

Adam Rex grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, the middle of three children. He was neither the smart one (older brother) or the cute one (younger sister), but he was the one who could draw. He took a lot of art classes as a kid, trying to learn to draw better, and started painting when he was 11. Later he got a BFA from the University of Arizona, and met his physicist wife Marie (who is both the smart and cute one).

Adam and Marie live in Tucson, where Adam draws, paints, writes, spends too much time on the internet, and listens to public radio. Adam is nearsighted, bad at all sports, learning to play the theremin, and usually in need of a shave. He can carry a tune, if you don’t mind the tune getting dropped and stepped on occasionally. He never remembers anyone’s name until he’s heard it at least three times. He likes animals, spacemen, Mexican food, Ethiopian food, monsters, puppets, comic books, 19th century art, skeletons, bugs, and robots.

His first picture book, THE DIRTY COWBOY by Amy Timberlake, was published by FSG in 2003. His picture book FRANKENSTEIN MAKES A SANDWICH, a collection of stories about monsters and their problems, was a New York Times Bestseller. 2007 saw the release of his first novel, THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY. His second, a book for teens and adults called FAT VAMPIRE, was published in July 2010. For more info, visit his site.

Let the conversation begin!

Can you share a nugget of writing wisdom?

I think the first thing I needed to get through my head before really devoting myself to writing–and I learned this from Anne Lamott–was that it was perfectly acceptable that I had no idea what I was doing.  What I was doing, or where anything was going, or whether or not it was any good.  That I had to give myself permission to write badly, because I was going to write badly, but to nonetheless write and write often.

Even after being published, do you still have times where you feel you don’t know what you’re doing?  

Oh, all the time. I’m not sure that ever goes away.  In fact, I’m not even sure if you want it to. Being an artist, in any discipline and at any level, is about always attempting to reach just beyond yourself, to push your own limits.

That said, I’m constantly anxious about getting exposed as a charlatan or something with regards to writing. Maybe because I started as an illustrator, and have in some way been training to be one my whole life.

What do you do to curb self-doubt and temporary writer’s block?

I fish for compliments. I’m like a competitive-level compliment fisherman. I could have a show on the Discovery Channel.

Speaking of fishing, what are your hobbies? How do you recharge your creative batteries? 

I don’t think I really have any hobbies.  As a kid my primary hobby was drawing and painting, and now those are just two of the activities for which I now get paid. If I felt I had more free time I’d probably draw and paint strictly for myself.

I read a lot, of course.  I watch TV with my wife.  I think that’s about it. 

What was the last book that made you angry? 

I suppose the last book to make me angry was the last book I read: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I’m still working through my feelings about it. I was bowled over by the writing, ideas, the blistering intelligence of it. I fell in love with a couple of the characters. And after a thousand pages I narrowed in on the end and realized there was no way he could answer all the questions he’d raised and tie off all the loose ends before it was all over. And indeed, he didn’t resolve anything.

People complain about the ending to my novel Fat Vampire, but it wrapped up like an eighties sitcom compared to Infinite Jest. 

What was the last book that knocked your socks off? Was it the characters? The plot? The setting? The message?  

Same book. And I think it was the ideas. The thoughtfulness.  The wisdom and insight and nakedly human ideas of it.

If you could have dinner with David Foster Wallace, what would you ask him? 

Assuming there was some time travel involved, I suppose I’d ask him not to hang himself. But I’m guessing he had a lot of good people in his life asking him the same thing.

Tell us the book you’re working on. 

I’m working on two books at the moment.

One is Unlucky Charms, the sequel toCold Cereal.  My heroes are on the run from the villainous breakfast cereal company from book one, and on a mission to prove to the world that the Queen of England has been abducted and replaced by two goblins in a queen suit.  The new book is written, but I have some 40 pages of illustrations to complete before it can be published early next year.

I’m also illustrating a picture book of my own called Moonday.  It’s a project I’ve been working at off and on for something like twelve years.

Was it easier to write before or after you were published?

Hmm, that’s a good question.  I suppose I’d say it was easier before I was published, because frankly I only did it when I really felt like doing it.  My first novel (The True Meaning of Smekday), for example, was started more as something fun to do when I was avoiding all my real work.  It was procrastination.  But now it’s my job and funny cat videos are my procrastination.

But I write a LOT more now, because I accept that it’s something I have to do when I have to do it.  And frequently that kind of adorably insignificant suffering actually leads to some of my best stuff.

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