Monday, June 24, 2013

Author Interview With Tara Sullivan About Her Debut Novel GOLDEN BOY

Today I want to welcome Tara Sullivan, whose debut novel GOLDEN BOY sounds like a beautiful and moving story. And isn't that a gorgeous cover? It's already received a starred review from Kirkus among other high praise, and I'm betting we'll be hearing a great deal about this novel in the months to come.

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, GOLDEN BOY. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

GOLDEN BOY tells the story of Habo, a boy who has never been able to blend in. His white skin, yellow hair, and light eyes set him apart from his Tanzanian family. When poverty forces the family from their small farm and they seek refuge in Mwanza, Habo finally discovers there is a word for what has always been different about him: albino. But they kill albinos in Mwanza. Their body parts are thought to be lucky, and soon Habo is hunted by a fearsome man wielding a machete. To save his own life, Habo must run, not knowing if he can ever stop.

Sadly, though GOLDEN BOY is a work of fiction, it is based on reality. About three years ago, when I came across a news story that told about the kidnapping, mutilation, and murder of African albinos for use as good luck talismans, I was horrified, and struck by the topic on multiple levels. The grown-up in me, the one that studied for a dual Masters in Non-Profit Management and International Studies and worked with village micro-finance and refugee resettlement programs, wanted to publicize this human rights tragedy. The kid in me, the one who grew up overseas, burning in the tropical sun and drawing stares in every crowd, wanted to tell a story about what it must feel like to be a kid who has those problems in the extreme. So I wrote GOLDEN BOY.

How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

This is my first publishable effort. Five years ago, after grad school, I decided to take advantage of the time I was job hunting to really give writing the best shot I could. I took classes in craft, attended conferences, and produced a picture book, and early reader, and a young-MG chapter book. But none of them had strong enough stories to pull me through the revision process like GOLDEN BOY did. 

Can you describe your path to the publication of GOLDEN BOY?

I kind of snuck in the back door finding my amazing agent, Caryn Wiseman of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency—she offered to read my full manuscript after doing a presentation to my writers group. (You can read all about it here if you like!) During our editing process I took a trip to Tanzania and walked the path of the book to make sure I was getting everything right. A few full-book edits later, Caryn sold GOLDEN BOY to Stacey Barney at G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin. I was incredibly fortunate to have this happen, because Stacey put in tons of hard work to make my book better than I ever imagined it could be. And now… over a year and a half since it got acquired, GOLDEN BOY is hitting shelves!

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Get ready to work really, really hard. Surround yourself with a writers group that is professionally committed to improving their writing and yours. Develop a thick skin fast and be willing to listen when people tell you things aren’t working. Remember that they’re just trying to make your story better, not attacking your core idea or you as a person. Write through writers block—it won’t go a way otherwise. And lastly, but most importantly: try to keep perspective on how amazing it is to do this! There are bumps at every stage along the road to publication, but I for one feel so fortunate to be able to spend this much time pursuing my dreams I think it’s important not to lose that gratitude as we jostle along.

Readers take note: this is all excellent advice. Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

I hope that the future will continue to have a balance of the things I love about where I am right now: teaching high school Spanish, writing contemporary middle-grade fiction, and spending time with my family and my big furry mutt. If I could add one more thing in and not go crazy, I would go back to learning fiddle too.

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

Indeed! I’m deep into writing another book—not a sequel, but another stand-alone human rights book. I’m traveling to Haiti next month to do some on-the-ground research and I hope next year I’ll be pushing that story along the path to publication too.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about GOLDEN BOY?

I’m also to be found on GoodReads (, Twitter @SullivanStories ( , and kind-of-sort-of on Facebook (

Bonus question: chocolate or ice cream? Dog or cat? Mountains or ocean? 

Ice cream… usually.
Dog, unless it’s small and yippy.

Ocean only if it’s cold & rocky.

Thanks so much, Tara!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Guest Post: Demitria Lunetta and Her Character Amy From IN THE AFTER

When I invited 2k13 debut author Demitria Lunetta to write a guest post about her debut YA IN THE AFTER she agreed, and offered to explain the situation in her story from her character Amy's point of view. And what a story this is! Thrilling and chilling, this tale of post-apocalyptic horror sounds like an awesome read. You can find out more about the novel and Demitria here:

Here's what Amy thinks about her frightening situation:

I only go out at night.

The creatures are everywhere during the day. They shuffle around in the sunlight, searching for food. I have nowhere else to go, so I hide on the roof of my house and peer at them through binoculars. They seem so decrepit. Their skin is a sickly pea green, their eyes milky yellow-white. They can't see very well, but even now They search. They hunger after human flesh. But They will not find what They crave. All the people are gone, devoured by them within the first few days.
They may not look like They should be a threat, but They are incredible hunters. They hear even the most silent of footsteps. Every breath, every sound. Even now, one of the creatures' head jerks around at the sound of a pigeon landing on a nearby garbage can. In an instant its posture completely changes. No longer does it wander aimlessly. It snaps to attention and in a flash pounces on the bird, grabbing it mid flight with its long yellow claws. I close my eyes as feathers fly and the creature bites into the bird's flesh. I force myself to open my eyes and watch as it greedily bites into the pigeon, consuming it, bones and all, in seconds.
I've had enough of watching Them. It's time to retreat into my house and read about how life was Before the creatures came. I slowly stand and turn toward the stairs, only to clumsily let my binoculars slide from my fingers and fall to the ground with a horrifying crash, the glass lenses shattering. I freeze as all the creatures within hearing range rush to my house. I drop into a crouch and watch Them throw themselves against the electric fence, their pale, puke colored skin sparking where it touches the metal. I crawl slowly backwards, out of view, and wait for the sounds of struggle to stop. They will forget in a moment, wander off. They may be deadly, but they are not smart.

I rest my head in my arms and wait for Them to lose interest. How have They beat us, these mindless, hungry creatures? I ask myself. How did we let ourselves become food for another species? How can aliens be real? I cradle my head and wonder how long can I survive this half life, alone in the After.
- Amy Harris, Age 14

Monday, June 10, 2013

Kate Quinn, About Her YA Debut Novel ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE

Today on the blog I'm delighted to host debut author Kate Quinn, answering questions about her YA novel ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE. Here's a short take: "The spine-tingling horror of Stephen King meets an eerie mystery worthy of Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series." It sounds amazing, and it's out tomorrow!

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

The story is about a girl who disappears from a school party covered in blood and then is found a year later, hundreds of miles from home with no memory of who she is or where she's been. What makes this different from other amnesia stories out there, is that as Annaliese begins to remember she becomes more and more convinced that she is not really Annaliese and that she has done something terrible. I have no idea what inspired this story, it really came together piece by piece, in pretty much the same way that the story unfolds for Annaliese and the reader. 

Eerie! How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

This is my first young adult book. Previous to this book, I'd written a romance novel and an urban fantasy for adults - both of which are now hidden at the bottom of the 'my documents' folder on my computer. 

Can you describe your path to the publication of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE?

I think my path was pretty typical. I wrote the book, sending bits of it to my wonderful crit partner along the way so that I could incorporate her feedback. After I finished writing the first draft, I let it sit for about a month before tackling revisions. Then it was time to query agents. Since I already queried two other books, this was relatively easy. Easy, as in I knew what to expect. NOT easy as in, I'd learned to laugh in the face of rejection, because no, rejection always stings. However, I was lucky in that a month after I'd sent out my first query I received an offer from an agent - and then three other offers as well. I ended up signing with Alexandra Machinist of Janklow & Nesbit. I did a quick round of revisions for Alexandra and then the book went out on sub. Again, I was a lucky. It only took a week before my book sold to HarperTeen!

Wow - that's not just luck; that's talent. Good for you! Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

It's the worst advice, because it is so easy and yet also so hard. JUST KEEP WRITING. I still struggle with this. Generating ideas inside my head is simple, but pushing them out onto paper is much more difficult. When I am writing a first draft especially, I really have to force myself to sit down and write. 

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

As of now my plan for the future is to keep writing for as long as I possibly can. This is what I've wanted to do since I was in second grade. It took me awhile to get there, which was painful at times since I tend to be rather impatient and want things now. But, looking back, I have to say - the journey was worth it. 

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

I am right now working on the second set of edits for my next book with HarperTeen titled (DON'T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME 

What a great title - I'm already humming the song. Where can readers connect with you and learn more about ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE? 

Oh lots of places. 
Twitter @katekaryusquinn

Bonus question: what's your superpower?

I am Super Worrier. I can see the potential danger in even the most mundane of activities, and subsequently worry myself silly over it.