Author Guest Post: Lois Metzger, A Trick of the Light

I recently read A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger (review coming soon) and enjoyed both the story and the point of view from which it’s written.  Lois Metzger has written an important book, so I’m happy to feature her guest post today on the blog.

A Trick of the Light

Anorexia is a Liar
By Lois Metzger
Author of A Trick of the Light

My new book, a young-adult novel about a 15-year-old boy who falls victim to an eating disorder (“A Trick of the Light,” Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins) took me almost ten years to write. It’s not just that I’m a slow writer (though that’s part of it). It’s because I was researching anorexia, which took me down so many twisty paths I needed a long time to understand it.

Basically, as I can now see, there’s what anorexia pretends to be, and what it actually is. Anorexia convinces you that your world will be a better place if you are thin or fit. Anorexia promises you:

You’ll look great and feel great!

But, and this is the crux of the disease, anorexia is a liar.

Many young people and adolescents (though there have been children as young as seven with the disease) fall into anorexia because they are unhappy with their appearance. (Or they’re unhappy with something else, but the focus becomes fixed on the body.) They may begin by restricting certain foods to get rid of a few extra pounds, or exercising to get rid of a flabby stomach.

At first, there may be a few compliments: “You lost weight! You look terrific!” or, as in the case of Mike Welles, the main character in my book, who hasn’t had much experience with girls, a girl says to him, admiringly: “You been working out? It shows.”

This is all the encouragement anorexia needs. It pushes you to keep going, eat less, work out more. If goals are met, new goals must appear and be met (with no end in sight). Generally, in the case of girls and women, they want to see the numbers on a scale go down. For boys and men, it’s more about getting rock-hard abs or a six-pack. Mike, in my book, begins doing sit-ups and push-ups and running laps around a local park. It doesn’t matter if he can barely breathe or gets cramps that feel like a knife in his chest. He keeps going.

So it’s all about looking good or feeling fit, but after a while, these girls, women, men and boys don’t look so good anymore.

They may lose hair or eyelashes. Cuts and bruises don’t heal. They may have a soft coat of fuzz on their faces, backs and chests (because of a lack of food, the body can no longer produce heat, and this hair is the body’s attempt to get warm). Due to a lack of calcium, they may develop osteoporosis; they can’t stand up straight and their bones can break from a simple fall. Too little potassium may result in weakened heart muscles, which can lead to a heart attack.

And the intent — to look great — has actually been reversed. They look wasted, emaciated, skeletal.

In the first stages, they feel good. The compliments, the added energy. Even starvation can give you a bit of a high, and exercise can release endorphins. Mike’s senses are heightened; things look brighter and more vivid. He feels like he’s waking up to the world: “He sees his boring old neighborhood in a whole new way. The slanting light makes everything pop as if it exists in more than three dimensions, a kind of super diorama — front lawn, sidewalk, street, bus, trees, sky, universe, beyond-the-universe.”

But after this initial euphoria, they don’t feel so good.

Besides the dizziness and weakness that come with starvation, they can’t sleep because their bodies are actually de-volving to a kind of caveman existence. As a therapist tells Mike in the book, “A Cro-Magnon man didn’t sleep much — he was always thinking about getting the next meal. His senses had to be at full alert, so he could smell food that was ripe, see a small animal trying to hide in the bushes.”

Body temperature plummets. Getting heat to the heart, lungs and kidneys takes priority over the hands and feet.

So anorexics are cold all the time, and hungry all the time, and can’t sleep (even while protesting they are not freezing, not starving, not exhausted). Here, again, the intent — to feel great — has been lost.

But instead of fighting the disease, they still believe the lie. They are committed to it, or, more accurately, addicted. They deny the reality within them.

My book started out as the story of a boy struggling with an eating disorder. I didn’t really know what that meant, and it took me years to figure out that it’s the story of the struggle to see the lie for what it is.

© 2013 Lois Metzger, author of A Trick of the Light

Author Bio
Lois Metzger,
 author of A Trick of the Light, was born in Queens and has always written for young adults. She is the author of three previous novels and two nonfiction books about the Holocaust, and she has edited five anthologies. Her short stories have appeared in collections all over the world. Her writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, and Harper’s Bazaar. She lives in Greenwich Village with her husband and son.

For more information please visit http://www.loismetzger.com, and follow the author on Facebook

Guest Post + Giveaway: Kim Purcell author of Trafficked

Kim3-small_2Kim Purcell is celebrating the paperback release of her book Trafficked with a blog tour stop here at YA Love and giving away a copy of Trafficked to one lucky winner.  Her guest post today is on method writing which I’m excited to share since my students are working so hard this year to become stronger writers.  Make sure to check out the giveaway at the end of the post!

Summary of Trafficked (From Goodreads):

Hannah has struggled ever since her parents were killed and her beloved uncle vanished. So when she’s offered the chance to leave Moldova and become a nanny for a family in Los Angeles, it seems like a dream come true-and at first it is. But after weeks of working sixteen-hour days and not being able to leave the house, she still hasn’t been paid. As things go from bad to worse, Hannah realizes that things are not at all what they seem and she finds herself doing things she never imagined herself capable of. But as she begins uncovering the family’s crooked history, she may be exposing more than she bargained on-and putting her life in danger.

** “Method Writing” guest post by Kim Purcell **

Sometimes people ask me how I could write about a modern-day slave in America, an orphan girl from Moldova, someone so different from me. I did a lot to prepare myself before I started writing this book. I went to Moldova and had some scary experiences there, which I put into the book through Hannah’s perspective. I ate Russian and Moldovan food. I interviewed about forty different girls and women in Moldova and America and absorbed their experiences so that I could become Hannah.

I write a little differently from many other writers. I call it Method Writing, similar to Method Acting, which is when the actor becomes the character for extended periods and even becomes the character for periods of time, even when not acting. It’s the only way any good writing comes out of me. If I try hard to focus on craft and consciously try to write something beautiful, forget it. The writing will always be awkward. I have to put myself in a trance beforehand and become that character.

Before I even sit down at the computer, it’s my goal to be the character and see the world through her eyes. How do I get into the character? First, I need a little time walking or running to get myself into the character. I love to run with friends, but if I’m getting into character, I need to be alone. At first, my mind starts circling around my character. I start thinking her thoughts. I focus on my physical senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell. I try to experience these senses through the character’s eyes, ears, nose, etc. Once I am physically feeling like my character, I can write with the type of sensory detail that makes the writing come alive.

There are some downsides to this kind of writing. One of them is I feel everything the character feels, which means I also suffer through the things she’s suffering. If she’s running from something or someone who wants to kill her, my pulse is beating fast and my adrenalin is going. If she’s lonely and sad, oh man, I’m so lonely and sad. If she’s having fun and laughing, you’ll probably find me giggling at my computer screen.

If I wrote only happy scenes, it would be great, but I don’t specialize in happy scenes. Trafficked has some pretty tough scenes in it, and this is true for my next novel too. So, it messes with my body. Because I’m wrapped up in the story, my body will get itself into weird positions as I’m writing. Sometimes my feet rest on the desk or get curled under me and fall asleep. Sometimes my back is all curled up like a mad scientist. Sometimes my shoulders are pulled right up to my neck. Or my character is running so my feet are flexed and poised off the ground for thirty minutes. Later in the day, I wonder, hmm, how come my legs hurt?

Another downside is that if someone interrupts me in the midst of writing, like my husband or my kids, I’ll look up with a sort of dazed, crazed expression. “What do you want?” I’m not myself. Or their interruption might scare me and make me jump. Needless to say, I rarely write with them around. Sometimes I write in cafes because I feel like my house will distract me from my character because it’s messy or I have a bunch of things to do there. In a café, I put on headphones with really loud, fast music, nothing that I want to sing along to, just so I can block out any external noise. When I write at home, it has to be totally quiet and I like my office to be spotless (and preferably my house too) because I need that emptiness to transport myself elsewhere and completely lose myself in the writing.

Because I lose myself in my writing, things can happen around me and I may not notice. One time, this winter, I forgot to turn on the heat and I was shivering as I came out of my writing. My fingers were so cold they wouldn’t move and I realized that was what pulled me out of the character. Often I won’t stop to eat if I’m in the middle of my writing, so I’ll get dizzy before I realize I need to eat. I always bring a tea with milk and sugar now and a little snack to start off my writing. I can never put something in the oven without an alarm on – I’ve learned it will burn, for sure, and the house will be filled with smoke before I notice it. I also set an alarm so I finish when I need to finish and go do what I need to do for the rest of my life.

If I’m in the midst of an early draft of my book, it gets harder to maintain the separation between writing and life. I obsess about my character. I could think about her all day long if I let myself. Sometimes I dream about her and in the morning, I want everyone to go away so I can write. But this isn’t possible. I’m a mom, a wife, a sister, a friend. I have things to do, people who need me. And so, I hold that character in a little box in my mind while I get everyone out the door in the morning. After I’m done writing, I need a transition back to regular life too. If I take a shower and do a little yoga, this usually works. Then, I can act more or less like a regular person, and not like my character. Until the next morning.

** Author Bio **

 Kim Purcell is a journalist, teacher and novelist of Trafficked (Penguin). She dances anywhere a good song is playing, and she’d love to offer you a cup of tea.

** Win a copy of Trafficked **

Trafficked book cover

Giveaway open to US and Canada only
Giveaway sponsored by the author–Thanks, Kim!
Only one entry per person
Must be at least 13 years old to enter
Giveaway ends 3/26/13 at 11:59 pm EST
Winner will be notified via email and given 48 hours to respond

Blog Tour: Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally

I’m a big Miranda Kenneally fan, so I’m really excited to be part of this blog tour for Things I Can’t Forget (review).  I love how she creates realistic characters who face challenges teens can relate to.  Since I love the stories she writes, and since I spend five days a week with high school students, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share her list of things she’d change about her high school years.

Things I Can't Forget

Top Ten things Miranda Kenneally would change about her high school years if she could go back in time

1.      I would do my homework the night before school rather than 10 minutes before class.

2.      I would pull my pants up. Sagging was not cool then and it’s not cool now.

3.      I would not consider the daughter of the owner of the local car dealership a “celebrity.”

4.      I would not wear those two-inch long crocodile earrings. Really, Miranda, what were you thinking?

5.      I would accept the soccer captain’s invitation to come swim at his pool instead of wussing out.

6.      I would’ve waited for my first kiss. The guy I kissed first was not a good guy, and it wasn’t worth it just to say I’d kissed someone.

7.      I would confront the school guidance counselor, who told me I’d “fail” if I went to an out-of-state college. And if I got in trouble for telling her off? So be it.

8.      I would push harder for a role in Fiddler on the Roof instead of settling for stage manager again!

9.      That time me and some of the guys took my mom’s SUV mudding? Yeah, I would not do that again. Even 5 trips through the carwash didn’t get rid of the mud. What a nightmare.

10.  I would read more books instead of worrying about guys so much! :)

Summary (From Goodreads): Companion to Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker.

Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt…with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy…

Special Edition Cover & Author Guest Post: While He Was Away by Karen Schreck

While He Was Away is a popular book in my classroom, so I was really excited to be part of the new cover reveal.  I really like the original cover, and this new cover definitely appeals to a whole new audience.  What do you think?  Which cover do you prefer?

Summary (From Goodreads):

One year–he’ll be gone for one year and then we’ll be together again and everything will be back to the way it should be.

The day David left, I felt like my heart was breaking. Sure, any long-distance relationship is tough, but David was going to war–to fight, to protect, to put his life in danger. We can get through this, though. We’ll talk, we’ll email, we won’t let anything come between us.

I can be an army girlfriend for one year. But will my sweet, soulful, funny David be the same person when he comes home? Will I? And what if he doesn’t come home at all?…

“A tender and honest examination of love, longing, and loyalty in the face of modern war.”–Laura Ruby, author of Bad Apple

“While He Was Away is a wonderful love story with writing that is skillful and true.”–Amy Timberlake, author of That Girl Lucy Moon.

While He Was Away Special Edition Cover

***

While He Was Away Walmart-Exclusive Cover Reveal

and My Top Tips for Writing

Even When the Writing Gets Tough

By Karen Schreck

 

My birthday falls in January, just a few days after New Year’s Day.  This January, I received an incredible gift from my publisher, Sourcebooks Fire.  My young adult novel, While He Was Away, is being released nation-wide into Walmart with a brand new cover!

When my editor at Sourcebooks, Leah Hultenschmidt, graciously asked if I’d be open to this possibility last fall, I blinked, breathed deep, confirmed I wasn’t dreaming, and said, “Yes!”  I held on to the possibility until it became a reality.  Then, and only then, did I celebrate.

I won’t speak for all writers, but for me, writing is an act of faith.  I love the work deeply, or I wouldn’t do it.  I’ve generated a lot of pages that have never seen the light of day, written multiple novels that I’ve relegated to folders on my laptop.  Keeping the faith in anything, especially writing, can be hard.

The fact that Sourcebooks believed enough in While He Was Away to bring it to life the first time felt like a much-needed confirmation of years of hard work.  The fact that they are standing behind my book again in this way . . . well, it feels like a miracle.  I’m truly grateful.

 

Without further ado, here are my Top Writing Tips (they’ve help me a lot; I hope they help you in some way):

  1. Read a lot. Read voraciously. Read like a writer. Read some more. Read people who write in your genre or in a style that is similar to yours and take note of how they do what they do.  Read people who write in a completely different way to keep your head clear and give you new ideas.  Just. Keep.  Reading.
  2. Develop a ritual for your writing.  I wouldn’t think of telling you what to do.  You need to find what works for you, and sometimes that changes with your circumstances.  This year, I’ve been working at an ad agency in the city.  My ritual is to hunker down in the quiet car on the train and GET A LOT DONE.  Previously I’ve written in the very same quiet corner of my local library.  In basements.  On couches.  In bed.  By candlelight.  I’ve found that consistency and ritual can trigger my creativity.  Ring the bell and I’ll salivate.  Kind of like that.
  3. Don’t be afraid to be messy in your work.  Don’t be afraid to push forward even though it isn’t perfect.   Nothing is perfect!  Embrace that reality, and be kind to yourself.  And forgiving of the words on the page.
  4. Fall in love with revision.  “I’m not a writer,” I once heard a writer say.  “I am a re-writer.”  I LOVE that.  I love the word revision.  Re-vision.  Seeing again, anew, as if for the first time.  Revision gives great perspective.  And I think it’s where the real work gets done.
  5. Never give up.  Keep the faith.  Years may pass.  But the more you write, the more the very act of writing becomes rewarding.  Writing is soul-work; it lends meaning to life.  That’s what I believe, and that’s what sees me through.  Publication—well, that a wonderful thing.  But the writing—that’s where it’s at.

***

Home Run Blog Tour + Giveaway

I’m am super excited to be part of the Home Run Blog Tour for Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally!  I read Kenneally’s debut, Catching Jordan, in one sitting and did the same thing with her newest release, Stealing Parker.  My students are a big fan of her books as well.

I hope you enjoy Miranda’s guest post.  Make sure to enter to win a copy of Stealing Parker!

Summary (From Goodreads):

Red-hot author Miranda Kenneally hits one out of the park in this return to Catching Jordan’s Hundred Oaks High.

After her family’s scandal rocks their conservative small town, 17-year-old Parker Shelton goes overboard trying to prove that she won’t turn out like her mother: a lesbian. The all-star third-baseman quits the softball team, drops 20 pounds and starts making out with guys–a lot. But hitting on the hot new assistant baseball coach might be taking it a step too far…especially when he starts flirting back.

Peanut Gallery:  Where does Miranda get her inspiration?  Find out as Miranda speaks about her idea origins. As a bonus, Miranda shares the best advice that she ever got about being a writer.

Geez, this is a pretty hard question. I get my inspiration from all over the place. From conversations I have with friends and people at work. From inside jokes with my husband. I read lots of books, and see how my favorite authors write plot arcs and characterization, and then I set out to do that too, but with my own edge. I often look through my junior and high school yearbooks to remind myself of how I felt when I was younger. I also like to read my old diaries. One time I got a book idea from a true fact under a Snapple lid. Another time I got a book idea because somebody had broken into my car!

I got the idea for the “Jerry Rice fake baby home ec” project in Catching Jordan because I remembered this time I was out on the football field in junior high, and a football player was pushing another player around in a stroller.

The best advice I ever got as a writer?

  • An editor told me my strongest skill as an author is writing groups of teens goofing off and talking about nothing, so now I try to have my characters bantering while doing lots of wild and wacky things while trying to move the plot forward. And I have a great time doing it! I try to write silly scenes that I hope people will enjoy reading.

Giveaway Guidelines

Giveaway is sponsored by Sourcebooks Fire and open to residents of the US & Canada.
Must be at least 13 years old to enter.
One entry per person.
Only one winner.
Winner will be contacted via email & announced on Twitter.
Giveaway ends Friday, November 2nd, 2012 @ 11:59 EST.

Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler: Kiss N’ Tell Blog Tour + Giveaway

Who I Kissed is very much a character-driven novel, so I’m excited to feature Janet Gurtler’s guest post about the main character, Sam.

Thank you, Janet, for stopping by today! :)

Summary (From Goodreads):

She never thought a kiss could kill…
Samantha didn’t mean to hurt anyone. She was just trying to fit in…and she wanted to make Zee a little jealous after he completely ditched her for a prettier girl. So she kissed Alex. And then he died—right in her arms.
Was she really the only person in the entire school who didn’t know about his peanut allergy? Or that eating a peanut butter sandwich and then kissing him would be deadly? Overnight Sam turns into the school pariah and a media sensation explodes. Consumed with guilt, abandoned by her friends, and in jeopardy of losing her swimming scholarship, she’ll have to find a way to forgive herself before anyone else will.

Author Body-Swapping:  As a YA writer, Janet Gurtler often has to embody the lives and emotions of her character.  This time, we’re asking her to channel Sam and tell us some of the character insight we’re dying to know – first crush, most embarrassing moment, favorite books, music, & more!  And Janet reveals a little of how she creates such realistic teen characters.

***

“Sam, Sam, Sam. What are we going to do with you?”  

If you can’t tell, I’m using my mother voice. Also I’m talking to a fictitious character.  But we’ll ignore that part. When I write teen characters I have to turn my mother voice off.  (And embrace the crazy.)  Truth be known, I am able to remove my mother voice pretty easily and I find it kind of natural to slip inside the head of a teenager.  

I had a tough time when I was a teenager. I had a lot of internal struggles. I majored in insecurity and angst. And I remember many of those feelings really well. Really, really well.    

So, getting inside the head of a teenager isn’t as hard for me as if should be. Of course, my characters aren’t me.  I give them different challenges and different personality quirks. And then I have to try to think the way they would think. I have to slip into their shoes.

Fortunately, I enjoy imagining getting inside a character’s head. I like to go deep inside and look at things people sometimes try to hide. From themselves and from the world. I like to go there. To places that are uncomfortable. Especially with the challenges of today’s world around them. Technology. Expectations. Social media.

I took Samantha to some uncomfortable places in Who I Kissed. Imagine feeling responsible for the death of someone else. How horrifying would that be?  How would you possibly get over it? Especially when you’re dealing with your own issues.  Sam had some things to overcome even before the accident, but the accident brought them to the surface with a rush.  Ultimately, Sam has to learn to let other people in.  And that’s not always an easy thing to do.  To me she’s a fully formed person with a history and built in likes and dislikes. So let’s take a deeper look at Sam. Let me slide back into her skin for a moment and tell you some of her secrets.

Favorite Book- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time  Indian by Sherman Alexie.   

Favorite Song- Tonight Tonight by Hot Chelle Rae

Favorite Movie- The Avengers

Favorite Food- Jelly Bellies of course! But as far as real food goes, she likes Mexican.  Bean Burritos.  Even though they give her gas.  She probably wouldn’t eat them on a date.

First serious crush. Zee.  First heart aches. Zee.  Best kiss ever. Zee.

Celebrity Crush-   Corbin Bleu. She is waiting for his acting career to extend beyond High school Musical

Personal Hero-  Missy Franklin  

Secret Talent- Sam loves to dance. She practices in her room with her iPod. At some point, she’s going to try to convince her swim team to record a dance dare (dancing behind people without them knowing) for the Ellen show. She knows every dance step to Party Rockin by LMFAO.  

Most Embarrassing Moment- When her bathing suit split down the butt at a swim meet and she had to finish her race, which was thankfully backstroke.

***

Giveaway Details!

Thank you, Sourcebooks Fire, for the giveaway opportunity!
One winner will be chosen.
You must be from the US or Canada to enter.
You must be 13 years of age or older to enter.
Only one entry per person.
Giveaway ends Tuesday, October 30th at 11:59 EST.
The winner will be contacted via email and/or tweeted.
No extra entries are required, but tweeting/Facebooking this post is appreciated!

Ten Things You’ll Learn from Whispers at Moonrise by CC Hunter

C Hunter’s newest book in the Shadow Falls series, Whispers at Moonrise, released on October 2nd!  To help spread the excitement over this release, I’m featuring a guest post written by CC :)

Ten Things You’ll Learn from Whispers at Moonrise

  1. Kicking your boyfriend’s father’s butt might not be good for the relationship.
  2. Sometimes following your heart means breaking some rules.
  3. Getting trapped in a grave with three dead girls is not a walk in the park.
  4. Your parents breaking up sucks. Your mom having a boyfriend, and kissing him in front of you, sucks BIG TIME.
  5. When your boyfriend says one thing, but does another, what do you believe? His actions or his words?
  6. You can’t always protect the ones you love. Sometimes the only way to protect them is to tell them the truth—even if it hurts.
  7. When you are in love, you usually want to talk a lot more about your boyfriend than your girlfriends care to hear.
  8. You shouldn’t mess with magic if you don’t know what you’re doing. Especially when someone could end up sterile.
  9. Sometimes it is the little choices we make, and not the big ones, that define who we are.
  10. Be careful what you wish for or you might end up turning a bright shade of red in the boys’ bathroom.

Summary of Whispers at Moonrise (From the publisher):

 “It’s not often that I love a series as much as Shadow Falls. I find myself thinking of nothing else!  This has been one of my favorite series of all time.” –Open Book Society

Shadow Falls Camp is back in session with the most explosive installment yet.  A shocking new threat will rock Shadow Falls—changing it forever and altering Kylie’s journey in ways she never imagined.

 Even at a camp for supernatural teens, Kylie Galen has never been normal. Not only can she see ghosts, but she doesn’t seem to belong to any one species—she exhibits traits from them all. As Kylie struggles to unlock the secrets of her identity, she begins to worry that Lucas will never be able to accept her for what she is, and what she isn’t…a werewolf.  With his pack standing in their way, Kylie finds herself turning more and more to Derek, the only person in her life who’s willing to accept the impossible.

 As if life isn’t hard enough, she starts getting visits from the ghost of Holiday, her closest confidante.  Trouble is, Holiday isn’t dead…not yet anyway.  Now Kylie must race to save one of her own from an unseen danger before it’s too late—all while trying to stop her relationship with Lucas from slipping away forever.   In a world of constant confusion, there’s only one thing Kylie knows for sure.  Change is inevitable and all things must come to an end…maybe even her time at Shadow Falls.

Blog Tour: Jepp, Who Defied the Stars + Giveaway

I’m excited to tell you about a new title Hyperion is releasing on October 9th, 2012.  If you enjoy historical fiction and/or books based on true stories, then you’ll want to check out Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh. I hope you like the guest post as much I do! :)

Summary (From Goodreads):

Fate:
Is it written in the stars from the moment we are born?
Or is it a bendable thing that we can shape with our own hands?
Jepp of Astraveld needs to know.
He left his countryside home on the empty promise of a stranger, only to become a captive in a luxurious prison: Coudenberg Palace, the royal court of the Spanish Infanta. Nobody warned Jepp that as a court dwarf, daily injustices would become his seemingly unshakable fate. If the humiliations were his alone, perhaps he could endure them; but it breaks Jepp’s heart to see his friend Lia suffer.
After Jepp and Lia attempt a daring escape from the palace, Jepp is imprisoned again, alone in a cage. Now, spirited across Europe in a kidnapper’s carriage, Jepp fears where his unfortunate stars may lead him. But he can’t even begin to imagine the brilliant and eccentric new master–a man devoted to uncovering the secrets of the stars–who awaits him. Or the girl who will help him mend his heart and unearth the long-buried secrets of his past.
Masterfully written, grippingly paced, and inspired by real historical characters, “Jepp, Who Defied the Stars “is the tale of an extraordinary hero and his inspiring quest to become the master of his own destiny.

Author Guest Post: Katherine Marsh

 Greetings, YA Love readers and thank you, Sarah!

 From the time I was a kid, I’ve always loved history—in part because there are so many strange, yet true, stories that really happened. My new novel, Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, is based on a bunch of odd yet real stories from the 16thcentury. I discovered the character of Jepp when I was reading about the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. Brahe was one of the most accomplished stargazers of his day but he was also a very odd guy. He lived on an isolated island where he’d built his own futuristic castle, wore a copper nose (he lost his real one in a duel) and kept a beer-drinking moose as a pet. He also had a dwarf jester named Jepp.

 When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the paintings of dwarfs who lived at royal courts, serving as attendants and entertainers. They were both insiders, who saw the inner workings of the court, and outsiders, whose physical differences marked them as “others.” But there was almost nothing in the historical record about Jepp beyond that he was Brahe’s jester and sat at his feet. I decided to give him a story, one based on the real lives of court dwarfs.

 I was lucky to find two great sources of historical material to draw from. The first was a fascinating book called The Lives of Dwarfs: Their Journey from Public Curiosity toward Social Liberation by Betty Adelson. Adelson’s comprehensive and fascinating history enlightened me to the indignities that many court dwarfs suffered. Both treasured as possessions and treated as playthings, they were dressed up as birds and animals, forced to put on mock weddings, and even hidden in pies so they could burst out to surprise the court (an act that Jepp ends up having to perform).

 My second source was Diego Velazquez, a 17th century Spanish artist who painted a series of portraits of court dwarfs. It was these paintings that intrigued me as a kid and if you take a look at Las Meninas or Portrait of Sebastian de Morra you can see why. Velazquez captures the dignity, intelligence, and even anger of his dwarf subjects. His paintings gave me a window into how Jepp, and the court dwarfs he interacts with in my story, must have felt about their lives and treatment.

 Finally, after I had written a draft of my book, I gave it to a reader who also happens to be a dwarf. I wanted to make sure he found my portrayal accurate. There were so many things I wanted to get right—for example, the daily challenges of navigating a world constructed for people several feet taller. My reader not only gave me confidence in my portrayal of Jepp but helped me nail down such details as whether childbirth and mobility can be issues for dwarfs (answer: they can).

 The amazing thing I discovered as I wrote Jepp’s story is that his life as a court dwarf has a lot of similarities with that of an average 21st century teenager. The feeling of people thinking they know you because of what you look like. The feeling of being an outsider. The feeling of the world underestimating you. Even the feeling of finding people who are like you and how intense those friendships and relationships can be. Jepp’s story is ultimately less the tale of a court dwarf, than a universal tale about finding friends, falling in love and ultimately growing up to be the person you want to be.

About the Author

For more, check out katherinemarsh.com or follow me on twitter @MarshKatherine or on facebook/katherinemarshauthor

 Bio: I’m the author of the upcoming historical YA novel Jepp, Who Defied the Stars (out October 9th!), the Edgar-award winning The Night Tourist, and a sequel, The Twilight Prisoner (read if you like ghosts, New York City history, and Greek myths).

A few interesting facts about me: I used to write for Rolling Stone magazine, I’ve been a high school English teacher, and I have no sense of direction—thank god for the invention of the GPS!

 Giveaway Details
One lucky winner will win a copy of Jepp, Who Defied the Stars courtesy of the publisher.
One entry per person.
Open to the United States & Canada only.
Must be 13 years or older.
To enter, please leave a comment below.  No extra entries required.
Feel free to leave your Twitter name so I can tweet the winner.
Giveaway ends October 12th, 2012 at 11:59 pm EST.
Winners will be contacted via email and/or Twitter.

Author Guest Post: Lisa M. Stasse “Casts” The Forsaken + Giveaway

One of the assignments in my YA Lit class involves my students choosing actors they’d cast to play the role of different characters in the book they’re reading.  When Lisa M. Stasse and I started talking about guest post ideas, I told her about this assignment and she ran with it.  I love the actors she chose!  Lisa’s also providing one signed copy of The Forsaken for a lucky winner!  See the end of the post for giveaway details.

“If I Ran Hollywood: Casting the Imaginary Movie Version of THE FORSAKEN”

by Lisa M. Stasse

Although I live in Hollywood (well, nearby in Santa Monica), unfortunately I don’t get to run the town and make all the big decisions. But a girl can dream! ;) I am obsessed with movies, almost as much as books, so I’m always daydreaming about how awesome it would be if THE FORSAKEN got made into a movie or TV show. This is scarily possible–in fact, my agents are working on setting up something at the moment–but of course even when books get optioned, they rarely make it to any screen, large or small. I know about some of this stuff through my husband, who has written some popular YA novels and some screenplays, including one called BAD GIRLS which was under option for 5 years at MTV and Paramount, but never got made. At one point in time it was going to be a Lindsay Lohan vehicle, and I think my husband is pretty relieved that that never happened. Anyway, so I thought I’d write a bit about my daydreams and hopes for THE FORSAKEN. I have to admit, I have kind of eccentric tastes when it comes to actresses and actors, so I am probably the least qualified person on earth to “cast” any sort of movie or TV series, even in an imaginary capacity. But it’s fun to play around with this stuff, so here goes! These are my choices for a handful of the major roles in the book. By no means are they definitive. I think a lot of awesome actresses and actors could really do an amazing job with these roles.

For the role of the heroine, Alenna Shawcross: Hailee Steinfeld (a great actress from TRUE GRIT and the upcoming movie adaptation of ENDER’S GAME, one of my favorite books).

For the role of Liam, the hunter that Alenna falls in love with: Tyler Garcia Posey (a really underrated actor, from TEEN WOLF)

For the role of Gadya, Alenna’s fiery best friend: Chloe Moretz (awesome in just about anything, especially LET ME IN).

For the role of The Monk, the cult leader who rules the prison island: Viggo Mortensen (I could watch him in anything, really. He would be amazing in this role! I love him in LORD OF THE RINGS and THE ROAD).

For the role of David Aberley, Alenna’s mysterious friend: William Moseley (from the CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, assuming he still looks young enough to play a teenager!)

For the role of Alenna’s mom: Rachel Weisz (a great actress who has been in a ton of amazing movies–including ABOUT A BOY. She would be fantastic as Alenna’s mom).

So those are my thoughts for now! Thanks for reading. Come find me online at all the usual places, and check out the Official Book Trailer for THE FORSAKEN if you have a minute.
Links!
Giveaway Details
  • Lisa M. Stasse is providing a signed copy of The Forsaken to ONE lucky winner
  • Giveaway is open to US/Canada residents only
  • Must be at least 13 to enter
  • Giveaway lasts until Friday, August 31st @ 11:59 EST
  • No extra entries required, but spreading the word is appreciated! :)
  • Only one entry per person
  • Winner will be notified via email & will have 48 hours to reply

 

Nothing Special Blog Tour: Geoff Herbach Guest Post & Giveaway

I’m very excited to feature a wonderful guest post written by Geoff Herbach about why writing for guys is so important:

Stupid Fast has been out for almost a year.  It’s been really great.  I’ve traveled a bit, met lots of writers and librarians and bloggers.  Best of all, though, I’ve met “elusive” teen boy readers – both through my blog, email and in person.  Good stuff.

 I do have some concerns, though.

 A really smart 16-year-old from Brooklyn wrote to tell me how much he loved Stupid Fast.  He also said, “I hate books, always have.”  What?  A freshman at a high school I visited the other day told me: “I only like two books.  Stupid Fast and this other one I can’t remember.”  Okay…  I have had similar exchanges again and again in the last year.  It reinforces the reason I wanted to write Stupid Fast in the first place: there is a good-sized subset of kids who don’t have enough books to read.  I was that kind of kid.

 When I was fourteen-years-old, I played sports and played in the orchestra, tried out for plays and did okay in school. On paper I looked like a normal kid, maybe even a pretty high achieving kid.

 Here’s the truth, though: I was all crazy on the inside. I was all like: “I should shower again because… is there a weird smell? What are you looking at? I think Kerri and Audrey are laughing at me. I hate them!  My shirt doesn’t fit. What’s that smell?   I love Jenny. I love her. She hates me! What’s wrong with my shirt? There’s definitely something wrong with my ear. What are you looking at? What’s that weird smell?” ETC.

 Crazy. But… here’s the truth: not abnormal.

 Having taught writing to college kids for the last six years, I know something for a fact: Almost everyone (male or female) felt like a dork as a teen. They write essays about it. But, boy culture puts a premium on hiding the truth. The girls in my classes are better at expressing it.  Many have read books for years that help them make sense of things.  Boys, who need the help most, have very few books that address their concerns.  A few years ago, my son decided fantasy no longer spoke to him, then he read a few books that did then stopped reading, because he could find nothing that spoke to him.

 I had a similar experience.  When I was fourteen, I read. A lot. If I hadn’t read Catcher in the Rye my life would’ve been much worse. Holden Caufield’s thoughts were so familiar to me. Even if they were a little terrifying, and he was on the edge, I knew that I wasn’t alone. I began to devour anything with a male protagonist. The more gritty, the more down to earth, the better (this was a big change, because up until that point, I pretty much read fantasy). Vision Quest, The Chocolate War, I am the Cheese, A Separate Peace… But soon, I ran out of material.  I read some adult titles, but slowed down and almost stopped.

 The publishing industry believes that boys don’t read, so they don’t publish books for them.  My anecdotal evidence contradicts this belief to some extent.  The boys I’m meeting enjoyed reading books that were meant for them, that directly address their way of thinking – which isn’t always pretty, but isn’t dumb or simple, either.   

 I’m on a mission, I guess. I want to write good stories aimed squarely at teen boys. In a decade, I want to have dudes come up to me and list ten books they love.  The girls I’m meeting are able to do this!  Girls are so lucky to have dozens of great books coming every month that speak to their experience. 

 If you’re a writer, maybe think about writing for boys?  If you’re a reader, ask a librarian what’s new that speaks to boys.  They’ll know (because there aren’t many titles).  Maybe we’ll build a bigger market for these young men who need material so much!

 Yeah, that’s my dream.

Thank you, Geoff, for sharing this post with us and stopping by the blog today! :D

Not only is today awesome because Geoff Herbach wrote a post for my blog, but also because the fab people at Sourcebooks Fire are offering a copy of Nothing Special to one lucky winner!

Entry Guidelines:
To enter, please leave a comment about a book you recommend with guy appeal or a comment about the post :)
You must be a resident of the U.S. or Canada.
You must be at least 13 years old to enter.
No extra entries required, but spreading the word is appreciated!
The winner will be announced through a blog post here & emailed.
The winner will have 48 hours to respond.
Giveaway closes 5/19/12 @ 12:01 EST

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