Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Interview with Neal Shusterman and Introduction to His New Anthology GLEANINGS

Hi everyone! 

I am so excited to introduce this next book to you by one of my favorite authors, Neal Shusterman!


About Gleanings: 

The New York Times bestselling and popular adult crossover Arc of the Scythe series continues with thrilling stories that span the timeline in GLEANINGS by Neal Shusterman (on sale November 8, 2022; ages 12 and up). Storylines continue. Origin stories are revealed. And new Scythes emerge! 

There are still countless tales of the Scythedom to tell. Centuries passed between the Thunderhead cradling humanity and Scythe Goddard trying to turn it upside down. For years, humans lived in a world without hunger, disease, or death with Scythes as the living instruments of population control. 

Neal Shustermanalong with collaborators David Yoon, Jarrod Shusterman, Sofía Lapuente, Michael H. Payne, Michelle Knowlden, and Joelle Shustermanreturns to the world throughout the timeline of the Arc of a Scythe series. Discover secrets and histories of characters you’ve followed for three volumes and meet new heroes, new foes, and some figures in between.

GLEANINGS shows just how expansive, terrifying, and thrilling the world that began with the Printz Honorwinning Scythe truly is. Shusterman's exciting, page-turning plots and tight, fast prose make him a popular choice among tween and teen readers of all genders. 

What is the Arc of a Scythe series? 

The series is set in a futurist dystopia where humans have ended death, but death still comes in the forms of reapers called Scytheswho are empowered to take peoples' lives in order to maintain a balanced population. Since no one dies unless a Scythe mandates it, Citra and Rowan are chosen to learn the art of killingin preparation for the scythedom. What follows is a thrilling adventure where the two must work together to uncover the corruption in their supposed utopian society. With GLEANINGS, a fervent and multigenerational fanbase of readers will be excited to return to the world of Scythesespecially after its breathtaking finale! Scythe is also currently being produced as a feature film by Universal. 

You can buy this amazing follow-up at this link!

https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Gleanings/Neal-Shusterman/Arc-of-a-Scythe/9781534499973



Neal Shusterman is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty award-winning books for children, teens, and adults, including Dry, Roxy, the Unwind dystology, the Skinjacker trilogy, Downsiders, and Challenger Deep, which won the National Book Award.Scythe, the first book in his series, Arc of a Scythe, is a Michael L. Printz Honor Book. Neal has earned the respect and recognition of the library community; three of his books have been ALA Best Books for Young Adults and all of his books have been consistently well-reviewed. He's a popular speaker on the IRA/NCTE circuit, and at schools all over the country.He also writes screenplays for motion pictures and television shows. Neal is the father of four, all of whom are talented writers and artists themselves. Visit Neal at StoryMan.com and Facebook.com/NealShusterman.

 

Neal has been so kind to do an online interview with me! I was thrilled to get an inside look of his books and writing. Enjoy!

 

1.    One thing I noticed in most of your work is how you consistently bring up fascinating ethical dilemmas. Particularly, the UNWIND, SCYTHE, and the recent 2021 GAME CHANGER come to mind. What comes first, the characters and story, or the moral/ethical dilemmas in these scenarios? How does the story grow from there?

 

It always starts with the ethical dilemma.  The things I can’t stop thinking about, for which I don’t have a solution.  I grapple with an ethical question by creating a story that studies the problem from as many perspectives as possible.  It becomes a hall of mirrors, because once you start down that path, you realize the issue goes deeper than the simplistic ways we tend to approach problems as a society.  Our “solutions” always lead to unintended consequences that are often worse than the problem we were trying to solve.  Once I know the questions I want to pose, then I have to figure out the story in which to ask them, and populate it with compelling characters that act on their own, and don’t necessarily follow the story I wanted to tell.  That’s the fun part – when the characters come to life and really drive the story.

 

2.    You have written two books with your son, Jarrod, DRY and ROXY. He also contributed a story to GLEANINGS. What was that collaboration like? What was the most surprising aspect of that journey?

 

Collaborating with Jarrod has been great.  He’s a talented writer, and we are pretty much on the same wavelength when we write together.  The books we’ve written together have both first-person, and third-person narratives, but we didn’t divide it up by voice.  We both wrote in all the narrative voices.  I was able to match the voices of characters he started, and he could match the voices of the characters I came up with.  It got so you couldn’t tell who wrote what!  Often collaboration can take as long as writing a book alone, even though the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts.  But with Jarrod it actually did go much faster!  In fact, we delivered DRY six months early.  I never deliver books early!   Our latest collaboration, a story called “Persistence of Memory,” in GLEANINGS, includes a third collaborator—Jarrod’s partner Sofi, who really imbued the story (which takes place in her home country of Spain), with an authentic Spanish flair.

 

3.    In GLEANINGS, we return to the amazing and fascinating world of SCYTHE. How were the authors chosen for participation in the anthology? What was your biggest goal with the anthology?

 

I love the opportunity to work with author friends.  I’m a fan of David Yoon’s writing, and was thrilled that he wanted to work on a story for GLEANINGS.  Mike Payne is in my writing group, is a master of his craft, and his stories always wow me. His specialty is writing about sentient animals, so I pegged him right away to write a dog story—because so many fans have asked if pets get to live forever in the world of Scythe, too.  Michelle Knowlden is a good friend who I’ve written with many times before, and, after writing with my sons Brendan and Jarrod,  My daughter Joelle wanted a chance.  She contributed a free verse piece that was perfect to open the book with.  (My other daughter, Erin, is an artist – so one of these days we’re going to do a graphic novel together!)  As for what my goal with GLEANINGS was – it was to explore characters and story lines that I didn’t get the chance to before.  I mean, fans wanted to know what Scythe Curie and Scythe Goddard were like when they were younger—but I wanted to know, too!  I was curious about the Thunderhead’s experimental regions—particularly the communal dreaming that takes place in Antarctica.  And for every story that made it into the collection, there’s another than I wanted to write, but didn’t get to!  There is an extra story, though, in the Barnes and Noble special edition.  A new take on the idea of a game of chess with Death!

 

4.    SCYTHE is one of my favorite trilogies of all time. Was it always intended to be a trilogy, why or why not? What was the hardest part about writing the trilogy? The most rewarding?

 

First of all, thank you!  The most rewarding thing is to have people tell me that it’s one of their favorite trilogies of all time!  I knew from the beginning that it would be a trilogy, and I knew where it was going – but how it got there was an adventure! I had no idea, for instance, that Loriana – who only appears in one scene in THUNDERHEAD, and isn’t even given a name – would become a crucial character in THE TOLL.   The hardest part for me is wrangling all the elements of a story in, leaving nothing hanging, and making sure that the conclusion is satisfying – but also leaves the reader wanting more.

 

5.    Who is your favorite character in the SCYTHE universe? Why?

 

Without question my favorite character is the Thunderhead.  The god-like sentient Artificial intelligence having an existential crisis.  What must it be like to be almost-all-powerful and entirely benevolent?  A being whose sole purpose, and greatest joy is to love and serve humanity.  How it must suffer to realize it can’t save us from ourselves.  The Thunderhead is beautiful, and also tragic in a way, because it must sacrifice its own happiness for the sake of humanity.  We fear what AI could become… but I hope it doesn’t become a thing of nightmares.  I hope that when Siri, and Alexa become self-aware… that they’re like the Thunderhead.

 

6.    What will you miss most about writing SCYTHE?

 

The characters.  I’ll miss Citra, Rowan, and Grayson.  I’ll miss Scythes Curie and Faraday.  I’ll even miss Goddard, Rand, and Xenocrates – the scythes you love to hate!  And I’ll miss Kevin Tong’s amazing iconic covers! I think they’re the best covers of my entire career!

 

7.    What can we expect next from you? Any exciting works in progress?

 

So many things in the works!  A Holocaust-themed graphic novel called Courage to Dream, will be out in 2023, with artwork by Andrés Vera Martinez.  I’ve been working on it for about ten years now.   Also in 2023 there’s  a new middle grade humorous sci-fi series that I’m co-writing with Eric Elfman called The N.O.A.H. Files – the first book of which is entitled I AM THE WALRUS  (All the books in the series will be song titles with animals in them).  And on the horizon after that, toward the end of 2023, the first book of a brand new YA series.  Can’t talk about it yet, but I promise, it’s full of more big questions, compelling characters, and a whole new mind-bending world!


 


Thursday, July 21, 2022

Lucas Davenport "Prey" series by John Sandford

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During my listening binges, one of the first series that I binged and have since almost completely devoured is the Lucas Davenport "Prey" series. Before I was ill, I predominantly read YA books, which I still enjoy occasionally but right now, the easiest book for me to read is a thriller or a good mystery without a whiny teenaged protagonist (I have preteen children for that, so I get my fill!). 

 

I was merely looking for a series that had a ton of books in it because I was in a major binge mood after not being able to read or even listen to audiobooks for over two years. And I'm guessing I'm not the only one who likes familiar likeable but flawed protagonists that you get to see again book after book. So I randomly picked up Rules of Prey and was hooked.


There is not a big mystery to the majority of this series. Generally, the books start from the viewpoint of the murderer and goes through one of his/her murders. But many times we are told who the bad guy is and then the rest of the book is set up so that there is a long cat/mouse match (who the cat and who the mouse is may vary) between Lucas and the bad guy. But Lucas is a really interesting protagonist. I envision him looking kind of like Clint Eastwood and being all broody like. He is described as "liking women and women liking him," and I find his relationships refreshing because they are so not what I'm used to. He has many flings, sometimes at the same time, but it isn't just about the sex, while the sex is generally good. He is just really INTERESTED in the women as people, and that is amazing. And the women are also not catty, they understand who they are with, and generally, are not jealous, which may just be the kind of woman he is attracted to. Someone so confident that if he sleeps with another woman, they realize he likes her just as much, he just likes... a lot of women for different reasons. And they are realistic about this. 


Don't get me wrong. I'm the jealous type. I could never date or marry someone like Lucas. He is way too attracted to danger and women and violence. But he is very interesting to read about. But he isn't just a random cowboy gunslinger although he is that too. Lucas also dresses really well. He loves a tailored Italian suit. In addition to this, apparently he is a computer game designer whiz who on the side of his regular job as a police man, has built his own company and made millions. His best friend is a nun. He struggles with depression. He is many times a vigilante. I could go on and on. 


I'm not going to spoil you any more for the series although there is a LOT to talk about. I may put a spoiler alert on a future post so I can discuss some of the future characters that come up that are just too good to ignore, and some have even spawned their own spin off series, and rightly so. But if you need a good series to binge and not worry that the next book is going to be a bust (there are definitely better books in the series than others but you can always count on your favorite characters being there), I would definitely try this.


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

I'm back... for real this time

Hi everyone!

It's been... several years since my last post. Lots of catch up on. I guess first things first. Around the time my second child was born, 4 years ago, I started to feel super fatigued. It became really hard to do anything normal, and in time, that included reading books. This was a huge blow to me because reading, as you all know, has been more than just a past time. In many times of my life, it was a lifeline, a joy, a passion. To have that taken away with so many other things... it was devastating. Fast forward to last year, I was diagnosed with systemic Sjogrens. This is an autoimmune disease that is best known to attack your tear ducts and saliva glands but mine affects my whole body, which led to many of my sensory nerves dying and a lot of my other body functions to go insane. I was placed on the right medication finally, and a year later, I'm again able to read. Reading print books is still spotty. I can do it, but it takes a lot more effort. Audiobooks have become my lifeline so I have been blazing through hundreds of books this way while I work on rehabbing antiques. A far cry from my past life of mostly brain work, but my concentration was sapped first of everything. Honestly, I'm overjoyed to have any part of reading coming back to me. I am worlds better than I was even a year ago, and I am starting to slowly rebuild my body through intense physical therapy. I doubt I'll ever be able to read like I did before, but that doesn't mean I cannot participate. So anticipate a post once in a while from your good friend. Writing posts takes a lot of concentration so it will hardly be as often as before, but anything is better than nothing! I know I supposedly posted a couple of days ago but that was an old post. I blame the ghosts lol! I hope you are all doing well.


Monday, July 22, 2019

Interview with Rebecca Schaffer, author of Not Even Bones and the sequel, Only Ashes Remain, with US giveaway of an advanced copy of Only Ashes Remain!


Dear Readers:
Super excited to introduce this next author, Rebecca, who wrote one of my unexpected favorite reads in 2018, Not Even Bones, which is a YA gender bent Dexter. It's so much more than that too, but hopefully that's enough to get you running to grab a copy! HMH has generously agreed to give away a copy of the sequel, Only Ashes Remain, which just gives you a chance to binge read this worthy series.

Only Ashes Remain (Market of Monsters, #2) Goodreads description: After escaping her kidnappers and destroying the black market where she was held captive, all Nita wants is to find a way to live her life without looking over her shoulder. But with a video of her ability to self-heal all over the dark web, Nita knows she’s still a prime target on the black market.

There’s only one way to keep herself safe.

Nita must make herself so feared that no one would ever dare come after her again. And the best way to start building her reputation? Take her revenge on Fabricio, the boy who sold Nita to her kidnappers. But killing Fabricio is harder than Nita thought it would be, even with Kovit by her side. Now caught in a game of kill or be killed, Nita will do whatever it takes to win.


Review: 4 couches. I very much enjoyed this new installment of the Not Even Bones series. We launch right back in where we left off and the pace doesn't let up. We see some old faces and my favorite characters (other than our feisty main character) made a very prominent showing, so I was ecstatic. The way the book ended made me clamor for more and it will be a long wait until I get to read the bloody end of this terrific trilogy.

A little more about our author:
Rebecca Schaeffer was born and raised in the Canadian prairies. Her itchy feet took her far from home. You can find her sitting in a cafe on the other side of the world, writing about villains, antiheroes, and morally ambiguous characters. She is the author of Not Even Bones, the first in a dark YA fantasy trilogy.
Links
www.rschaefferbooks.com
Twitter: @rrschaeffer
Instagram: @rebecca_schaeffer

Interview
1. Now that you've written a sequel... which book did you enjoy writing more? Why? What was most difficult about writing a sequel?

Which did I enjoy writing more? Definitely the first one. Book one had no stress and no expectations attached to it. I was free to do what I wanted and no one cared. Once I sold it though, suddenly book two I had deadlines, and expectations, and the pressure definitely messed with me for a while. So book two was a lot more stressful, but I’m really happy with the finished book.


2. Nita and Fabricio with their game of cat and mouse are fascinating. Almost like Dexter's last season. I remember one of my fiction writing teachers telling us to throw two interesting characters in a closet and see what happens. Can you tell us your process of developing these characters and how they evolved over time?

I love cat and mouse stories, and I like forcing interesting characters to be at odds with each other. Whenever I’m developing two characters who are going to be at odds, I try and make them foils of each other. I give them one major personality trait that’s the same, and then one major one that’s the opposite, so that they can play off each other in interesting ways. There’s nothing quite as fascinating as seeing warped reflections of ourselves in others.


3. If the main characters could be sorted into houses at Hogwarts, which house would they go to? What is your Hogwarts house? (you can ignore this question if you haven't read Harry Potter)

I’m a Slytherin, through and through. My characters however, I think are in a variety of houses, but they’re all a little evil. I love to think of them as the dark side of each Hogwarts house. I think Nita is a Ravenclaw (or a Slytherclaw, if we can do hybrid houses), Kovit is a Hufflepuff (Hufflepuff can be evil too!), Fabricio and Adair are both Slytherin, and Diana is a Griffindor.


4. Are you excited about writing the last book? Sad? Why or why not?

It’s a strange feeling! I wrote the first chapter of Not Even Bones the summer of 2015, so by the time the third book comes out in 2020, I’ll have been working on and off on it for five years. It’s been a huge part of my life, and I’ll be sad to leave the characters behind, but I’m also excited to go in new directions and let other stories take the spotlight for a little bit.


5. Can you tell us about your writing process? Do you have a playlist? Do you write in a certain spot? Do you require certain items when you write? Do you schedule specific times of day?

Nope, no writing process! I move around a lot, and I’ve written everywhere from cafes, to airplanes, to hotel rooms, even on my phone while getting my hair done for a wedding. I always schedule time to write, but I leave myself flexible if things come up.


7. What is your favorite TV show? What media has inspired you?

This is a hard one! Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t even know that I have a favourite TV show—recently I enjoyed Killing Eve and Russian Doll. There’s a lot of things in media that have inspired me—specific characters or world building or subplots. But there’s not a lot that as a whole I can point to and say ‘this is my one true inspiration.’ 


8. What do you have planned after you finish the trilogy?

It’s a secret ;)

And now, enter the giveaway! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 19, 2019

Interview with Daniel Cohen, author of Coldmaker and INT giveaway!


Dear Readers:
I had the immense pleasure of interacting with the author, Daniel Cohen, on twitter when he very graciously gave away some of his ARCs by other authors. He also sent me a copy of his book, Coldmaker, and I really enjoyed it! I am excited to share it with you as well. To pay his generosity forward, I am giving away a mystery package of a few arcs (there will be a 2019 in it), so make sure to read everything and enter to win! If you are INT, I will send a few small swag items. And now, without further ado...

Coldmaker Goodreads description: Eight hundred years ago, the Jadans angered the Crier. In punishment, the Crier took their Cold away, condemning them to a life of enslavement in a world bathed in heat.

Or so the tale goes.

During the day, as the Sun blazes over his head, Micah leads the life of any Jadan slave, running errands through the city of Paphos at the mercy of the petty Nobles and ruthless taskmasters.

But after the evening bells have tolled and all other Jadans sleep, Micah escapes into the night in search of scraps and broken objects, which once back inside his barracks he tinkers into treasures.

However, when a mysterious masked Jadan publicly threatens Noble authority, a wave of rebellion ripples through the city.

With Paphos plunged into turmoil, Micah’s secret is at risk of being exposed. And another, which has been waiting hundreds of years to be found, is also on the verge of discovery…

The secret of Cold.


My review: 4 couches. I have not been impressed by many fantasies this year, and while I'm not positive which genre this book fits in, it drew me in like a proper fantasy. The world building was fascinating and the main character compelling. We learn secrets of his world as he does, and our outrage increases as he realizes everything that he's learned hasn't necessarily been the truth. The other characters are interesting, except one in particular, I'm not sure exactly if I trust him-- I don't really understand him to be quite honest. I feel like either there is a story there that hasn't been told yet, or something is missing. Despite that, the story comes together very nicely. It's interesting that the author writes in his acknowledgements some of the big names that inspired this book-- Patrick Rothfuss and Sanderson, because I felt their imprint on Cohen's work in a good way. I'm looking forward to the sequel!

More about our author: Having spent most of his life trapped in the frozen tundra of upstate New York, Daniel Cohen decided to dream himself somewhere new. It was from this quest for heat that the scorching world of COLDMAKER was born.

In addition to his writing career, Daniel is a semi-professional saxophonist in Austin, Texas, spending his days in front of the page and his nights in front of crowds. Sometimes the crowds cheer, and Daniel often wishes the page would do the same.


Interview
1. I absolutely love the world building in your book and about cold. Can you tell us first about your process of developing this world, any research you did/had to do, and what inspired cold as the starting point?


First and foremost, I wanted to explore a societal structure where the currency had a high inherent value, instead of just an assumed value.

Basically I wanted to explore the barter system on steroids.

I wanted the reader to feel the need for a particular currency, which in this world happens to be Cold itself, coming in five varying denominations (from least to most potent: Wisps, Drafts, Shivers, Chills, and the most holy of all, the Frost).
Even though the cold/hot trope has been widely explored, I’ve always found the idea of barren landscape to be simultaneously poetic and devastating. How do native peoples, desert travelers, and vagabonds survive in such harsh conditions? It takes a certain level of ingenuity (enter MICAH, the inventor protagonist of COLDMAKER) and a driving sense of survival in order to carry on. I figured a land as hot and barren as they come would give me the perfect set-up for this kind of desperate world, making Cold itself the currency, which automatically bestows that inherent value.


2. Micah was a great character as well as one of the main characters, Shilah. Can you tell us how you develop your characters and if plot or characters come first?


I’m one of the designated ‘pantser’ writers, who frantically find the story as they go along. On the first pass I find plot lifts the heaviest corner, and then on the second draft I begin to discover the characters and their motivations. Usually there’s a nice semblance of their deeper desires already on the page, and often I’m pleasantly surprised by how I’m not meeting my characters so much as they’ve already been their waiting.


3. If the main characters could be sorted into houses at Hogwarts, which house would they go to? What is your Hogwarts house? (you can ignore this question if you haven't read Harry Potter)

Well, both intuition and the official Pottermore test have told me that I’m a Ravenclaw. As for the main characters:

Micah= Ravenclaw

Abb= Gryffindor

Shilah = Gryffindor

Cam= Hufflepuff


4. What was the easiest part about writing this book? The hardest?


I’ve written nine novels, and some of them have come out as easy as an old breath, but I can’t say anything about COLDMAKER was easy. In fact, it’s conception and delivery were among the most painful bouts of my life. Front to back the process was five years of near agony. I think I put too much of myself into the book, which is great for the final product, but was terrible for my health, physically, mentally, and emotionally.



5. I have a lot of close friends that are authors. One thing they have always told me is to keep my day job, and have writing as a side job. Do you agree/disagree? Why or why not?


Considering I have two day jobs…. Strongly Agree.


6. Do you have beta readers? Why or why not?


I do, and I find beta readers invaluable. Mostly because writing is such a lonely art, and novels often take years before they’re ready to share with the world. It’s nice to have someone in the trenches with you while you're fighting and waiting. 


7. What has been your favorite read so far this year? What book inspired you the most to be an author and why?


Okay, so if anyone ends up following me on Twitter and scrolling through my history, they are likely to find an uncomfortable amount of reverential posts centered around a writer named ‘Theodore Sturgeon’. I discovered him last year, and I think he very well might be the greatest SFF short story writer of the twentieth century. His prose was consistently brilliant, tricky, inventive, as well as prolific, and I seriously can’t get enough. Fun Fact: he was the basis for Vonnegut’s famous Kilgore Trout.

“The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss made me want to write fantasy. I would be doing the book injustice if I said anything other than it’s a true MUST-read.

Other writers who consistently inspire me are:

Ted Chiang – IMO the greatest living SFF writer
Neil Gaiman
Ottessa Moshfegh
Philip K. Dick
William Goldman
Greg Egan
Brandon Sanderson 

8. What do you have on the horizon? Hopefully more in the Coldmaker series?

So the sequel to Coldmaker (Coldmarch) was actually released by HarperVoyager UK last November and I have the third and final book in the series (Coldmyth) scheduled to come out this upcoming January!

I loved his answers! And now, enter the giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway