Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Cynthia Leitich Smith

Feral Nights FinalGet to know Cynthia…

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of TANTALIZE, ETERNAL, BLESSED, DIABOLICAL and TANTALIZE: KIEREN’S STORY (Candlewick). Her award-winning books for younger children include JINGLE DANCER, INDIAN SHOES, RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (all Harper Collins) and HOLLER LOUDLY (Dutton).

Her website was named one of the top 10 Writer Sites on the Internet by Writer’s Digest and an ALA Great Website for Kids. Her Cynsations blog listed as among the top two read by the children’s/YA publishing community in the SCBWI “To Market” column.

Quirky Questions

What one word describes you?

Evolving.

If I gave you a brick, what would you do with it?

Set it on my editorial revision letter.

What do you do when you see a spider in your house?

Say, “Howdy, Charlotte.”

Do you bake or buy?

Marry someone who bakes.

Do you believe in UFOs?

Yes.

What song best describes your work ethic?

“What Doesn’t Kill You” by Kelly Clarkson

If you could be anyone else, who would you be? 

Joss Whedon for all the obvious reasons.

What is your concession stand must-have at the movies?

Buttered popcorn. Real butter. Good popcorn.

Which is worse, being in a place that is too loud or too quiet?

Too loud.

What is one quality that you really appreciate in a person?

A sense of humor.

What is the most distinguishing landmark in your city?

The University of Texas Tower.

What is your favorite board game?

Clue.

What would you rather have: a nanny, a housekeeper, a cook, or a chauffeur?

Housekeeper.

Image 23Writing Questions

What inspired you to write your first book?

A desire to see contemporary Native Americans reflected in children’s-YA literature.

Do you have a specific writing style?

No, I employ whatever style best suits the specific manuscript—its protagonist(s), age level, setting(s) and theme(s).

What do you think you do best in your writing? Bragging is encouraged.

Straddle the line between commercial and literary fiction.

What books have most influenced your life?

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. I so identified with Kit. I may have never lived in Puritan, New England. But I’m sure if I had, I would’ve been accused of witchcraft, too. Besides, we’re both book people.

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause, which coupled with the “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” TV series, put me on the road to writing genre-building YA fiction with strong female (and male) protagonists.

What book are you reading now?

I just re-read The Elephant of Surprise by Brent Hartinger, the latest addition to the Russell Middlebrook series. I love everything Brent does and can hardly wait to see the movie adaptation of his Geography Club.

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in writing?

A shocking ineptness at anything domestic. Given the slightest talent at it, I might have become a chef. (Or perhaps a Lego artist). But as it is, I’ve started four kitchen fires and been banned from using the stove.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Own your awesomeness, support your community, and sweat blood. I’m rooting for you.

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Author Interview with Donna Jo Napoli

9780385908917_zoomGet to know Donna…

You know, I have a standard bio, but I’m sort of sick of it.  So let me try a new one. I never wanted to be a writer. I became one by accident.  And now I’m so glad I am.  Because I need writing.  I need the outlet – the place where I am in charge – where all kinds of surprises can happen. I’ve published over 70 books and I’m still making a zillion mistakes.  But it’s so very good to be “out there” – to be telling people what I need to tell them.  It’s a lifeline.  At this point I can’t imagine life without it. For more info, visit my website

Let the conversation begin!

What kitchen utensil would you be? 

A butter knife. I love soft cheeses. 

Which is worse, being in a place that is too loud or too quiet?

Too loud. I hate having to shout to be heard and I hate asking others to shout. 

What is your earliest childhood memory?

Maybe watching my brother play the piano. 

What food item would you remove from the market altogether?

Okra, offal of any sort. 

What do you think you do best in your writing? Bragging is encouraged.

Maybe it’s sad to say, but I think where I excel is in research.  Probably because I love it so much. I’ll just find out a zillion things about the time and place of my story, and that makes it a lot easier to imagine my character moving through that time and place, and a lot easier to understand what kinds of actions and reactions are possible/ probable for my character. 

What one word describes you?

Indefatigable.

h29549If I gave you a brick, what would you do with it? 

Put it in a pot, add dirt, plant a water lily, and stick it all in a pond. 

What do you do when you see a spider in your house? 

Move.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? 

Anne Tyler. Reading her helps me to realize I’m allowed to linger in characterization. 

What book are you reading now?

The Bonobo and The Atheist.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? 

YES. I would give my main character some very, very lovable characteristic.  She’s a very ordinary girl who makes a serious mistake – and then repents and pays for it – but I’m finding that people don’t like her and that kills me.  I could have easily given her a hook – I wish I had. 

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Over and over I realize anew how important reading is. Just read read read. Your brain will be working as you do it. 

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Interview with Award Winning Author Cat Patrick

15790886Get to know Cat…

Cat Patrick’s first novel, Forgotten, sold in more than 20 countries; won first prize at the Worcestershire Teen Book Awards in the UK; and was an Indie Next Pick. She wrote the VOYA-starred Revived, and also The Originals, which earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly and was dubbed “provocative” by Kirkus. Up next is Just Like Fate (August 2013), which she wrote with Suzanne Young (A Need So Beautiful, The Program). For more info, check out her website!

Let the conversation begin!

Do you have a specific writing style?

Does mentally vomiting onto the page count as a writing style? 

What do you think you do best in your writing? Bragging is encouraged.

I hope that I do two things well: write relationships and write real. Otherwise, I’m done. (Just kidding.) 

What books have most influenced your life?

Fahrenheit 451 made me feel like writing “strange” was not just okay, but welcomed. I loved and still love that book. 

Name one entity that supported your writing journey outside of family members.

My creative writing teacher my senior year in high school reminded me how much writing was a part of me.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Oh sure…that’s why I probably won’t read it again.

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in writing?

I wrote from the age of seven or eight so I don’t think it was a conscious choice…it was just something I did.

If I gave you a brick, what would you do with it?

Stand on it. I’m average height but I’d like to be taller. 

What do you do when you see a spider in your house?

Really? I freak out a little, then kill it. Does that make me a bad person? 

Do you believe in UFOs?

Totally. I’ve been abducted several times. 

What is one quality that you really appreciate in a person?

The ability to make me laugh. 

What is the most distinguishing landmark in your city?

In my small town of Snoqualmie: the falls. In the metro area of Seattle: Space Needle. In my hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming: the gleaming dome of the capitol building. 

What is your earliest childhood memory?

Staring at myself in the mirror when I had chicken pox, thinking, “I’m spotted!” 

What is your favorite board game?

Catch Phrase. 

What food item would you remove from the market altogether?

None. I don’t like some foods, but someone likes those foods, so I wouldn’t deny them. 

Would you rather be trapped in an elevator or stuck in traffic?

Elevator! I don’t like small spaces but perhaps I’d meet an interesting person: At least you can talk to other humans in an elevator. 

What inspired you to write your first book?

Temporary, post-baby, mama-brain induced stupidity.

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Interview with Bestselling Author Jenny Gardiner

gardinerGet to know Jenny…

Jenny Gardiner is the #1 Bestselling Kindle author of the award-winning novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver; the memoir Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who’s Determined to Kill Me; the novels Slim to None (#1 bestseller on Kindle); Anywhere but Here; Where the Heart Is; and Accidentally on Purpose and Compromising Positions (writing as Erin Delany); and is a contributor to the humorous dog anthology I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship. Her work has been found in Ladies Home Journal, the Washington Post and on NPR’s Day to Day. She and her family live in Virginia. Check out her website here.

Let the conversation begin!

Would you rather publish a string of mainstream books or one classic?

I’d like to publish lots of books–I love to write so the more books I can publish the better! 

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

That’s a tough question. I have absolutely no idea! But I’d want it to be a fabulous story! 

Do you begin with character or plot?

I start loosely with a plot but my books tend to be character-driven. 

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

That’s hard to say because I’m always working on several books at once–and I don’t like to disclose anything about them till they’re ready to see the light of day! 

What is your favorite quote? 

Play the ball where the monkey drops it. I overheard someone talking about this once while I was in line at a bookstore. She was saying that her husband had been on a vacation golfing in Thailand, and apparently the monkeys tend to run off with golf balls, so the rules were to just hit the ball wherever the monkeys leave them. I thought it was a great metaphor for life: you gotta play the hand you’re dealt. 

Describe your perfect day.

After a great night’s sleep I wake up to a beautiful sunrise, on board a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands. We (family and good friends) spend the day island-hopping, stopping at the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke island, then tool over to Foxy’s on the other side of the island. Definitely some snorkeling throughout the day. Cook dinner on the sailboat, maybe sip champagne at sundown. Just kicking back with family and friends and having a fun and relaxing time. 

What was the best thing that happened to you this weekend? 

Funny you ask! We had a day-long meditation retreat that was the culmination of a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class I’d been taking. It was “mandatory” and I wasn’t sure if I was looking forward to a day of silence and meditation but it was absolutely amazing–a real gift. I’d highly recommend it to anyone! 

Who inspires you and how are you a bit like them?

Oh, my. I take inspiration from all sorts of people and places. I’m inspired by fabulous writing to be a greater writer. I’m inspired by good people to be a better person. I’m inspired by a beautiful sunset or a powerful thunderstorm. 

If you were an animal, who would you be? 

Well….I have taken to being a little bit obsessed with baby polar bears ever since they showed that adorable baby polar bear Siku in Denmark. He is just so adorable I can’t stand it. 

Where do you get your ideas?

I get my ideas from all sorts of places. Sometimes I pull characteristics from all sorts of people I come across in my life and create them into composite characters. But I also pull things from things I hear in the news and just sort of use that for launching points in my books. 

What advice would you give to new writers?

Trust in yourself and don’t give up.  And don’t let success get to your head. 

What was the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?

Ha! Long ago we traveled in Africa and in Zaire we ate truly disgusting fondue (cooked in thick, cloying palm oil) and the meats served were boa constrictor, elephant ;-(, crocodile, and monkey. In Nairobi we ate ostrich, which is now more mainstream here since people farm ostriches. 

new-gardiner-book-stitchWhat do you consider to the most valuable thing you own?

My family, though it’s not something I “own” but it’s the most valuable thing to me. 

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

One time John Grisham told me you have to write every day to be a writer. I think that’s the only writing advice I ever remember getting, so I guess I’ll put that down.

What one word describes you?

Determined. If only you knew what the amount of effort I’ve put into making it in this business you would certainly agree that I’m doggedly determined! No doubt it is rooted in the fact that I suck at math so my professional options have been more limited so it made it all the more incumbent upon me to succeed as a writer! 

What would you like your life to look like in ten years?

Lots of bills paid off (please!), we’re able to travel a lot. Am writing a book or two a year and they’re self-sustaining enough that I don’t have to spend a ton of time doing marketing and publicity. Maybe I’d be a grandmother then. Yikes! 

Most embarrassing moment?

When I was a high school cheerleader. Our little basketball team was in the playoffs, it was being held at a Catholic school, the court was like part of the church and the stands were in balconies, we had to run up and down the steps every time there was a time out. It was getting heated, the fans from the other school were being really ugly. It went into overtime, there was a time out, we ran downstairs, out onto the court, did our cheer. The other fans were yelling nasty things to us, we ended up cheer with our arms up in a “V”. And then I impulsively flipped the finger to the jeering crowd. Not my most shining moment, I admit… 

What’s the first item on your bucket list?

I don’t have a bucket list! 

The work is done. How do you recharge?

Love to go out to dinner with friends. That or just sit home with a fire in the fireplace and catch up on TV with my family. 

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

Probably ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE. It was just an impulsive book I wrote after reading an article about a woman who’d been impregnated twice by a donor’s sperm and then she made this weird ritual with her children sort of idolizing their “donor” and then they ended up tracking him down and moving to the city where he lived and tried to insinuate themselves into his life. He was mildly intrigued with his progeny but had no interest in forming a family. I found that so fascinating so just started noodling ideas of doing something with a donor. It was also easy because it was early in my writing career before marketing and promotion sucked my time away, which is a great frustration. 

Hardest book is whatever I’m currently writing because it is so hard to just find time to focus on that and not be distracted with the myriad marketing/promo things I have to do to sell books. 

Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress?

Honestly I’d probably enjoy having someone read my work while I write to get a sense of if they like it, but it’s hard to find someone to actually commit to reading something in a timely manner. I used to try to get people to do it but it usually didn’t work. 

Outliner or seat-of-the-pantser?

Total pantser. Outlining gives me hives. 

What element would you add to your writing space if money wasn’t an issue? 

A spa. How about a lovely meditative waterfall? That would be peaceful. A really comfortable chair, some soundproofing maybe. 

In grade school, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer! (Partly because I sucked so much in math). 

Easier to write before or after you were published?

Before, simply because now the demands on my time have become so great. 

Earliest childhood memory?

It’s hard to know, it might just be from pictures that I remember it. But there’s this time when I was little dressed up in cute little girly girl clothes with a “mink” stole around my shoulders, while wearing a combat hat and with a toy machine gun slung over my shoulder, teetering around in a pair of my mom’s high heels. 

What is your secret talent?

I can tie maraschino cherry stems in knots with my tongue. 

What’s one rule you’re dying to break?

How about the rule that you can’t eat whatever you want and not gain weight? 

If this was your last day on Earth, what would you do?

Spend it with my family. 

What initially drew you to writing?

Books always spurred my imagination, and well-written books always motivated me aspire to that skill. 

If you could spend a vacation with three authors, who would they be?

I love Jean Shepherd’s memoir IN GOD WE TRUST ALL OTHERS PAY CASH. His writing is so spot-on, clever, funny, compelling: I have a feeling he’d have been a really interesting person to hang out with. I loved CATCHER IN THE RYE a lot but JD Salinger, I don’t know, a bit hermit-ish to vacay with…I’m sure there are other authors I’d enjoy hanging with but off the top of my head can’t think of any. Certainly some of them who are friends of mine–that’d be fun! 

Daily word count?

Hard to say. I write in spurts, sometimes I’ll knock out a ton, and then not do anything for weeks. Other times I am writing a lot but it’s for other things, not whatever novel I’m working on (i.e. freelance writing jobs, writing blogs, etc).  When I get going on a book though I’ll just hunker down and block out the world and write. Feast or famine maybe. 

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Author Interview with Kendare Blake

girl of nightmaresGet to know Kendare…

Kendare Blake lives and writes in Lynnwood, Washington, with her weird husband and their fangless cat-son. When she’s not writing, she feels like a useless blob who should be writing. She enjoys eating most foods, moderately strenuous hikes, and slow motion tennis. ANTIGODDESS is available Sept. 10th. For more information, visit her blog and Twitter.

Let the conversation begin! 

If I gave you a brick, what would you do with it?

Paint eyes and a tail on it and name it Victor. 

If you were to attend a costume party tonight, who would you be?

I would be Daniel-san, from the Karate Kid. Because I have the costume on hand. Unfortunately, since I’m Asian, it would look more like Miyagi in Daniel-san’s clothes. 

What is your concession stand must-have at the movies?

Can I just sneak in an entire hot meal? Because I love an entire hot meal at the movies. I’ll sit way far off by myself and have totally silent packaging, I promise. 

What inspired you to write your first book?

The sheer need to get it out of me. If you have a book clawing at the insides of your head and nothing short of narcotics will shut it up, chances are, you’re a writer.

What do you think you do best in your writing? Bragging is encouraged.

Dialogue. I do dialogue okay. Or at least the characters in my head always know what they want to say.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing? What comes easily?

The middle. Oh, how I dread the middle. It seems to go on forever, like I’ll never see the other side. I’m about to start something new this month, and I hope I can stretch out the beginning, have one line of middle, and then hop to the end. I mean, that’s realistic, isn’t it?  

Who’s your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about his/her work?

Caitlin R. Kiernan is probably my most admired writer. Her voice is so strong, and she always nails the tone. It doesn’t matter what she writes, if it’s about a man or a woman, a young girl or a changeling, the tone and the voice is right on. Sometimes I’ll read something and am very aware that I am reading it. Me. That my mood or circumstance is coloring the read. But not with Kiernan. Her worlds are HER worlds, and you don’t forget it.

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