Monday, October 17, 2016

Interview with SJ Kincaid, author of THE DIABOLIC and US giveaway of her book!

Hey gang!
I'm so thrilled to have SJ Kincaid back on my blog. I loved her first trilogy INSIGNIA, which I describe as Harry Potter meets Ender's Game. The trilogy just got better and better with every book. So when I heard she was coming out with a new book, The DIABOLIC, I knew I had to get my hands on it immediately. And boy, was I glad I did! It's terrific, and she'll answer some of your burning questions about the book and her writing process, and you'll have a chance to win her book!

Goodreads Description: Red Queen meets The Hunger Games in this epic novel about what happens when the galaxy’s most deadly weapon masquerades as a senator’s daughter and a hostage of the galactic court.

A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.

Blurb about SJ Kincaid:
I’m the author of the INSIGNIA trilogy, and the November book, THE DIABOLIC. It took me seven books to sell my first novel, but it came at a fortuitous time—one week before graduating from nursing school. I was shaping up to be a terrible nurse, so I can genuinely say my writing has saved the world from countless tragedies. I’ve loved science fiction all my life and always wanted to be an astronaut. Instead, I’ve become a YA sci-fi writer who hopes to inspire interest in space, thus nurturing future scientists who will figure out ways to make space travel affordable and easy—therefore enabling me to go to space without being an astronaut. It’s a diabolical scheme but I hope for success.

Social Media:
Instagram/Tumblr/Twitter/Facebook: sjkincaidbooks

Interview Questions
1. You've now written a fantastic trilogy (INSIGNIA, VORTEX, CATALYST), and a standalone (DIABOLIC). Can you talk about how the experience writing a trilogy versus a standalone and how it was similar and different? Pros/cons of both?
            I originally wrote INSIGNIA just as I wrote THE DIABOLIC-- as a book that stood alone. I hoped with INSIGNIA that I'd sell the book and then write more in a series, whereas I really wanted THE DIABOLIC to complete a huge narrative by itself. Before getting published, I believed the more books in my contract, the better! I actually wanted a five-book-series for INSIGNIA! My agent pitched it as four, and Harper bought it as three.
            Thank God for that. There is so much pressure when it comes to meeting a contract’s requirements. Four books would’ve been too much and five would have killed me. As it was, I combined my plots for books three and four into CATALYST and loved the results.
Selling THE DIABOLIC involved a lot less terror. Anything I write from here is entirely up to me and it isn't set in stone. With INSIGNIA, as soon as the giddy amazement of selling a book subsided, I was faced with two more books to write. This caused me to give a great deal of thought to the viability of my current good guys and bad guys. The big bad of INSIGNIA was originally just going to be Dalton, but he was such a weak character, he couldn't sustain three books of villainy. So I added in Joseph Vengerov and made Dalton his lackey.
            As soon as I conceived of Vengerov, his personality and mannerisms overlapped far too much with the secondary villain of INSIGNIA, the programming instructor/soldier who controlled Tom's neural processor. I had to reimagine that character, and from that reimagining, I came up with James Blackburn.
            I really loved the movie PLATOON about a young soldier observing a battle between two older mentor/rival soldiers, one good and one evil in Vietnam. Because I loved that dynamic, I set up Blackburn and Vengerov to be arch rivals, both deathly dangerous to Tom in their own ways, and that really became the spine of the entire trilogy.
            So... Yeah. A long answer for you! Writing a trilogy meant a great deal more thought, and a lot of reevaluating of what was already there to make sure three books could be crafted out of the conflicts set up, whereas with THE DIABOLIC, I felt free to blow up everything I wanted in the first book.
            Of course, I'm a much more experienced writer than I was four years ago! That is a big help, as well.
2. Your books so far have been Science Fiction YA (which I am so grateful for because there is definitely so few in this genre!). Is there a reason you gravitate towards SciFi? Do you think you'll venture into different genres, why or why not?
            The first five manuscripts I wrote were contemporary (2) and paranormal (3). Number six was a mixture of paranormal and sci-fi. I always watched sci-fi growing up. I loved Star Trek, Babylon 5, Farscape, and so many others, so it felt really natural slipping into sci-fi. The truth is, as soon as I settled in sci-fi, I couldn't really write anything fantastical anymore. I love having to ground the ideas I'm writing in at least some semblance of reality, rather than having outline an arbitrary magic system. Yeah, most of the physics of stuff like Star Trek is so advanced, it's basically magic... But I kind of like the idea that maybe it's not. In fact, that's why I loved Star Trek more than, say, Star Wars. I could hold out hope Star Trek might happen, but Star Wars has the force, which is essentially magic-- and that can never happen.
            Well... In this universe, at least.

3. Being inside the mind of a DIABOLIC while writing must be intense, because it certainly was as a reader. Can you describe what it was like to write from Nemesis' perspective?
            It was so intensely refreshing for me. She is hard and cold and pitiless, and I just enjoyed immensely existing through her from this mindset. So many times, you write villains, and you then have to put your own characters through such frustration because your characters have ethical things they will not do. When writing Tom Raines in INSIGNIA, for instance, I was very aware of the violence whenever I had the kids doing anything. Simulation or VR violence? Fine. And I’ll make it sometimes disgustingly gory just like a proper Mortal Kombat game.
But I was very careful when it came to any infliction of real world violence (well, story real world) because there’s actual responsibility there. It's fun to watch stuff like Vampire Diaries where people die left and right, often at the hands of the current or future protagonists, and the Superman movie where the collateral damage racks up, but that requires turning off some ethical judgments. When writing violence myself through the eyes of Tom Raines, I really wanted to maintain not only his humanity, but that of everyone who exists in the world. Even if it means getting the big bad, I am not going to have Tom or anyone else blow up a building with ten-thousand of that guy's innocent employees inside. I feel like a lot of popular entertainment just brushes over such consequences, but it’s really twisted if you think about it.
            Nemesis changes things. She does not have that ethical pause in her thoughts. She has both by nature and nurture been shaped to lack consideration for anyone beyond the small number of individuals she cares about. It really liberates me as a writer to wreak terrible damage and depict great massacres, etc. but it also lends me room for her to begin moving more towards the humanity from which she is so removed. I don’t have to worry as much about whatever message I’m sending with her actions, because she is not a normal depiction of a person. She is very much unlike us in so many ways. And even she can grow.

4. So I have my own predictions, but can you tell me what houses you, Nemesis, Tyrus, and Sidonia would be sorted into at Hogwarts?
            This will sound bizarre, but I'd say Nemesis is Hufflepuff. Not for kindness, obviously, but she is totally loyal to those she loves.
            Tyrus: Slytherin. Maybe Ravenclaw. He's a smart guy.
            Sidonia: hmm. Maybe another Hufflepuff? Or some unexpected Gryffindor? A character I sort of had in mind was Melanie Wilkes, someone who seems fragile, meek, but in actually is immensely strong and determined beneath the outward delicacy… Actually, forget that. She loves learning and theories. She's a Ravenclaw.
            As for me, that's hard to say. I'd probably be Slytherin, to be honest. I am a very laid back and mellow person who is secretly very ambitious.

5. Do you use an outline or do you just free write and go back later? Why do you use the strategy you use?
            Oh, I never, never free write without a plan! I can't do it. One I tried a NaNoWriMo approach, and the manuscript I produced was a catastrophe because I hadn't built up to an ending, so I just pulled one out of nowhere. I had the guy kill himself, which made for a dramatic but absolutely stupid, stupid ending. I wasn't pubbed yet, so I sent this around, trying to find an agent. One contacted me midway through that she was really loving it so far! And then she read the end and sent me a form rejection. ;-)
            I learned from that. I can pants it, but I should not.
            It scares me to write without knowing the ending I'm writing towards. I usually have big scenes planned in advance. When I sit down to write for the day, I know exactly what scenes I'm going to write. They're developed in my head. Then I do it. I always write by scene, not by word count, and usually I exceed the word count I would have hoped for anyway.
            That's basically my process. I love first drafting because thinking of the plot is the greatest. After that, anything that feels wrong or clumsy to me, I rethink, usually making it more complicated, or twisty, or (ideally) excising it altogether. I always go for cutting if I can rather than adding. The flaw of the INSIGNIA books was really that it took a while for each story to get going and many lost patience... It doesn't matter if you get a freight train moving and really have some payoff if people don't stick around long enough to see it happen! So with THE DIABOLIC, I focused on pace. Just keeping that pace up, and keeping it up from the very start. Hopefully it worked.

6. What is the last read you fangirled about and why?
            I am constantly coming up with ideas, writing down a bit, then just leaving a file on my computer. So very often, I end up seeing a PM deal with an idea so similar to that, I have to delete the idea because it's been done. This was one of them. I wanted to write a story about an outcast stranded out at sea with popular kids, and then the kids start dying one-by-one. I started and stopped, because I couldn't get it going. I compromised by putting my stranded-at-sea, eaten by sharks, and cannibalism thing into INSIGNIA. I was still really interested in seeing how mean-girls-on-a-life raft written by someone else would turn out.
            I read it in one sitting. Such an awesome book, and a fantastic main character who discovers just how kickass she truly is. There aren't many books I read in one sitting anymore, so really, I must totally fangirl.
            Also-- big Rae Carson fangirl, and love the RANDOMS series by David Liss. Anyone who enjoyed INSIGNIA or any sci-fi geek will love it, too.

7. If you were allowed to be stuck in a room with one person living or dead, real or fictional, for one hour to ask them as many questions as you'd like, who would it be and why? And what would be your most burning question?
            God, I've thought about this a lot. There are so many candidates, but I'm going to go with my old choice: Henry VIII.
            Because I was hugely obsessed with Tudor England back in the day. I loved Elizabeth I. I always imagined how Henry VIII would react if he realized his daughter - his least favorite - by Anne Boleyn would be the greatest monarch in England's history and far overshadow him. He scorned Elizabeth for being a girl rather than a boy, and came to hate her mother, but I wonder how much he noticed of her cleverness, her potential for leadership. Anyway, yeah, I'd really just like to see that reaction when I told him how awesome his daughter ended up.

8. What are you working on next? Can we hope for a sequel to DIABOLIC?
            I have another project I am poking at-- a humorous middle grade sci-fi. I actually wrote the very first draft of it the month after finishing the first draft of THE DIABOLIC. INSIGNIA was such a mixture of humor and darkness, and THE DIABOLIC is the darkness from the POV of a girl who has absolutely no sense of humor. Nemesis could only be the straight man in a joke, which was a fun change, but I needed to do the silly stuff. So... There is that.
            As for THE DIABOLIC... I might have said 'no' a while back, since I thought I'd exhausted the ideas I had, but then new inspiration struck, and I think it might be very cool to write more. I will wait, though. The story stands entirely alone, and it ends in a satisfactory manner that I'm reluctant to demolish by expanding upon. I'd like to see how the story is received by readers.
            But if there is demand? I know what I'd do, and it will be awesome.

Well, there you have it, guys. Demand a sequel from her, and it sounds like it'll be worth the wait! I know I'll be clamoring for one! Now you have a chance to enter and win this amazing book! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In addition, she is running an amazing pre-order giveaway! 

E-mail a screenshot of your preorder along with a USA mailing address to to receive a bookplate and a swag pack!
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Monday, September 26, 2016

Blog Tour: THE MIDNIGHT STAR by Marie Lu, What Makes a Great Villain

Dear readers:
I am thrilled to take part in the blog tour for the final book in the terrific trilogy, the Young Elites by Marie Lu. If you haven't started reading this trilogy, you should do so immediately, so you can read the final fantastic installment (it gets 5 out of 5 couches from me, I'd give more if I could) as soon as it comes out on October 11, 2016.

So last year, I wrote a post on The Young Elites, and what made up a good villain. Re-reading it, it was more of a love song to The Young Elites as a book (which I still completely stand by), rather than an analysis on what makes a good villain.

This is a good thing because it gives me more space to do that this year prior to the release of The Midnight Star. I really love this topic because I feel having the right kind of villain is vital for a good three dimensional story.

First, I just want to briefly say that THE MIDNIGHT STAR does not disappoint, and in fact, is the perfect finale to one of the best trilogies I've read this year (and I've read a couple of really wonderful trilogies this year-- The Winner's Curse trilogy by Marie Rutkoski and The Kiss of Deception by Mary Pearson comes to mind, and The Young Elites now takes its place with these two heavy hitters). I will be posting my 5 star review very soon.

Goodreads Book Description (WARNING: don't read this description if you don't want any spoilers at all):  
28588345The thrilling finale to the New York Times bestselling Young Elites series from “hit factory” Marie Lu.

There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen.

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all that she’s achieved.

Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds when a new danger appears, putting not only Adelina at risk, but every Elite and the very world they live in. In order to save herself and preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest—though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger.

Bestselling author Marie Lu concludes Adelina's story with this haunting and hypnotizing final installment to the Young Elites series. 

My thoughts about villains: I believe a great (and frankly terrifying) villain is one that we can really empathize with because in those certain circumstances, we could see ourselves possibly making similar bad choices spiraling us down that same dark and lonely path.  

I touched on this a year ago, but I'd like to expand on that idea. In particular, Adelina is just that kind of villain. I loved the fact that Marie Lu took a fascinating character (which was originally a side character), and made her the anti-hero main character. Adelina has been through hell, and she has really good reasons to be angry, to want to fight back against all the injustice that has been done to her.  So when she gains powers that align with the dark, what would you expect? And yet, in the first book, you can see the light in her as well. It's struggling to be heard, and even though you just know, deep in your gut, that things are likely to take a turn for the worse, you just hope, really HOPE, that she'll catch a break. I honestly can't say that I wouldn't have made similar choices in her situation. Each time she is confronted with some new knowledge, it pushes her in a certain direction, and I very much sympathize with her as I can completely understand why she is going that way from her past history and what she has endured thus far. There are a couple of heartbreaking moments in The Young Elites, where support from one key person, could have changed her direction completely.

Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5)Another example of a more fleshed out villain that is from another recent read, Fairest by Marissa Meyer, from the Cinder Chronicles, where we finally get an inner peek into the twisted mind of Queen Levana. I felt sick reading this book and it haunted me for weeks afterwards, but I think honestly, it's some of Meyer's best work. While the other books are in the heroes' viewpoints, Levana finally gets a say. Levana has just a terrible, awful childhood, and she probably does have some underlying psychological pathology, born with sociopathic tendencies-- it's clear from the get go that she doesn't sympathize or empathize normally with other people even before the bad things happened to her. All she needed was a trigger to make her go the wrong way. She had not one trigger, but many triggers that were not her fault, unfortunately, and then the rest were of her own making. She has never had a conception of love, and no examples of true love. Top that off with an unfortunate ability to force people to do her will and disaster is eminent. Honestly, I try to think of every teenager I've ever known, myself included... we are all hormonally out of whack to begin with. Then combine that with her sociopathic tendencies and underlying traumatic childhood--that's an explosion just waiting to happen. Most teens (or people, really) have experienced unrequited love and wish they had the power to force it to happen. Most of us I would say would probably give in to that temptation at least temporarily. I as a teenager probably would have. This book terrified me because in certain circumstances, what says I wouldn't have chosen the same path?

24909852I just finished reading the wonderful Girl on a Plane by Miriam Moss that was recently published earlier this month. This is a fictionalized story that takes place during the real hijacking events in the 1970s from a Palestinian terrorist group. The reason I bring this up is because one of the best parts of the book is when the main character befriends a young terrorist, who tells her of the horrifying events that led to his joining the terrorist group. The character is warm, apologetic, and kind. It's an odd juxtaposition as his group has just strapped bombs to the bottom of the plane. And yet, he made the decision to threaten and possibly take innocent lives. He truly believes he is doing the right thing and is eager for her to understand his choices. He is a sympathetic character, and I get why he has made the choices he has, but that doesn't make them the right choices. How coincidental that I get this blog topic and then read about a villain that is as close to a real life villain as one can get.

The last character that I'd like to mention, who is not necessarily a villain, but definitely misunderstood, is Snape from the Harry Potter series. I love that he's not exactly likeable, but you get where he's coming from, and even though he actually does hate Harry, he does the opposite of Adelina and makes the right choices, even when many other people in his position would make the wrong choices. And the fact that he never even got the chance to see if his sacrifices were worth it still tears me apart to this day.

In all these four examples are characters who are villains in some way and above all, three dimensional. Life isn't straightforward and different experiences change us in different ways. I am fascinated to read about characters who are like me in some ways, but make different choices-- it's like a Choose Your Adventure sort of outlook on your own life.  In fact, for the Young Elites, Marie Lu mentions that her main character, Adelina, is modeled after herself, which terrified her. I absolutely love that. I could definitely identify with Adelina and sympathize with her. I also love that it was an incredibly risky move to write about a character who is so much like yourself.  Even more risky to make that main character a villain.

I highly recommend this trilogy and would love to hear your comments and opinions on villains-- what sorts of villains do you like to read about and why?

And here's the tour schedule because you'll want to see all of the rest of these great stops!

Week One
Monday, 9/26: Expresso Reads (Series Sensory Associations)
Monday, 9/26: Ensconced in Lit (TYE “What Makes a Villain” Discussion)
Tuesday, 9/27: Myriad Inklings (Review/Book Playlist)
Tuesday, 9/27: Two Chicks on Books (Top 5 Reasons to Read TYE)
Wednesday, 9/28: Mike the Fanboy (Villains/Anti-Heroes in Pop Culture List)
Thursday, 9/29: Reading Teen (Guest Post)
Thursday, 9/29: Twirling Pages (Favorite Quotes/Mood Board)
Friday, 9/30: Bibliophile Gathering (Review)
Friday, 9/30: Brittany’s Book Rambles (Favorite Quotes)

Week Two:
Monday, 10/3: Once Upon a Twilight (Guest Post)
Tuesday, 10/4: The Starry-Eyed Revue (Midnight Star Look Book)
Tuesday, 10/4: Arctic Books (Review + Favorite Quotes)
Wednesday, 10/5: Folded Pages Distillery (Review + Instagram)
Wednesday, 10/5: Fiktshun (Review)
Thursday, 10/6: The Book Nut (Review + Mood Board)
Thursday, 10/6: Bookiemoji (Top 5 Reasons to Read TYE)
Friday, 10/7: MundieMoms (Review + Favorite Quotes)
Week Three:
Monday, 10/10: The Fandom (Review + Favorite Quotes)
Tuesday, 10/11: Forever Young Adult (Guest Post)
Wednesday, 10/12: Owl Always Be Reading (Review + Quotes)
Wednesday, 10/12: Buttermybooks (Favorite Morally Ambiguous Characters)
Thursday, 10/13: IceyBooks (Quote Candy)
Friday, 10/14: Dark Faerie Tales (Guest Post)
Friday, 10/14: A Page with a View (Favorite Fanart)
Week Four:
Monday, 10/17: The Book Shire (Review + Favorite Quotes)
Monday, 10/17: Seeing Double in Neverland (Review)
Tuesday, 10/18: What Sarah Read (Guest Post)
Wednesday, 10/19: Adventures of a Book Junkie (Top 5 Reasons to Read TYE)
Wednesday, 10/19: YA Bibliophile (Review + Favorite Quotes)
Thursday, 10/20: Eater of Books! (Swoon Thursday)
Friday, 10/21: Me My Shelf and I (Bookish Scents)
Friday, 10/21: Oh the Book Feels (Review + Favorite Quotes)

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