My Interview with Aisha Saeed at Story and Chai

Today’s post comes via Story and Chai, a fantastic website about diverse narratives created by Jennifer Zobair. I’m talking with fellow YA author and agent-sister Aisha Saeed about The Chance You Won’t Return, mental health, writing from outside your own experience, and more.

Aisha asked lots of thoughtful questions, and I’m so glad to have the opportunity to talk about The Chance You Won’t Return and what I hope readers get out of it about Alex and her family’s situation.

Click through to see the full interview, and make sure to check out the rest of Story and Chai!

Ten Reasons Why You Should Read…Hexed by Michelle Krys

I grew up in the era of Buffy and Charmed and stories about paranormal worlds and girls with superpowers, so of course I was excited to read Hexed by Michelle Krys. Needless to say, it’s just as fun and thrilling as I hoped. Here are a few of my reasons you should read Hexed:

1. Banter
Okay, in a book about witches and sorcerers, the banter is at the top of this list? Yeah, that’s right–Michelle’s writing and her character’s voices had me laughing and giving mental high fives the whole way through. Indie’s narration and the dialogue of all the characters gives Hexed such a fun, fresh tone.

2. Magical Factions
Let’s be real–the magical powers side is pretty awesome, too. I love how Michelle sets up the Family vs. the Priory, and how Indie is stuck in the middle of these warring factions because of her family’s Witch Hunter’s Bible. She sets up this world well, and I’m excited to see more of how these sides work and fight–and what they want from Indie.

3. Indie, Unlikely Hero
So often through Hexed I kept thinking of very early Buffy–the Buffy who wanted to be popular and a cheerleader and could the vampires just quit it for one night? But also the Buffy who didn’t put up with crap and was funny and clever and was gonna kick ass. I think readers are going to have a similar connection with Indie, who’s smart and sassy, but maybe not your initial idea of a magical heroine.

4. Paige
Paige was such a delightful addition to the story! She seems like the awkward friend character from TV, but grows into so much more–she’s smart and confident in her own way, and a wonderfully loyal friend to Indie during a totally unstable time. Another example of how Michelle plays with some tropes and makes them into complex, lovable characters.

5. That One Moment That Literally Made Me Jump
No, I’m not going to say what it is. But seriously–jumped in my chair. I had to read the paragraph over again to make sure I got it right because WHAT OH MY LORD HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?

6. Stakes–and No, I Don’t Mean Vampires
Yeah, the stakes are pretty high in Hexed. (Like in that one moment above.) Michelle doesn’t pull any punches in her narrative, which I really appreciate. So often I read and think “Oh, this person won’t really get hurt because we’re only about halfway through the book.” Um, no. The Priory and the Family are out for their own interests and they don’t care who’s caught in the crossfire.

7. Twists and Turns
Outside of that one moment, lots of other great twists and turns throughout. It makes for a really fun, dynamic reading experience, and makes me think Michelle should be the head writer for a TV show.

8. Humor
Fortunately, with all these dramatic twists and turns, there are also a lot of hilarious comments and funny moments. It helps keep the novel fresh and light, even when seriously bad things are happening to the characters.

9. Cliffhangers
So I’m really glad that the sequel comes out next year, because Michelle gives readers some major cliffhangers. I need to know what happens next, Krys!!!

10. Michelle Krys, Magically Delightful
I’ve gotten to know Michelle through the OneFours, and she’s lovely and funny and supportive of her fellow writers. I’m really excited to see Michelle’s career know and see readers get to know her for the wonderful person she si.

Hexed is out now, so pick up your copy today!

Friday Fifteen

Hurray for Friday! And how is it already the last Friday in June? In my mind, it’s still May. Gotta get in these last few June micro-book-reviews while I can.

1. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
I find myself still thinking about Piddy and her nuanced world. Feels timeless.

2. Meet Felicity: An American Girl (American Girls: Felicity #1) by Valerie Tripp
Felicity Merriman, cross-dressing animal rights activist.

3. Brave Navigator by David Valdes Greenwood
The play I asked to keep after my grad school playwriting class ended.

4.The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
I have a soft spot for retold fairy tales and this one is way fun.

5. A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
Hilarious and touching and so my heart; my favorite kind of middle grade.

Links Galore

A few good links for the middle of the week:

Friday Fifteen

Holy cow, this week got away from me. Let’s settle down with some book reviews in fifteen words or under.

1. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Wein does it again. Stunningly written, compelling history, all the feels ever.

2. The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events #11) by Lemony Snicket 
Always a fan of undersea adventures, but this added too much mystery before the end.

3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling
One way I can pretend I’m a Hogwarts student with a summer reading list.

4. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
Even as a grown-up, I want to do read-alouds of this book.

5. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee 
I was more interested in everyone surrounding the main character, which made for a slog.

Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, everyone! Let’s kick things off with some good ol’ book reviews in fifteen words or under.

1. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Fun (especially the DJing), but I think my expectations were too high for this one.

2. Madeleine L’Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life by Madeleine L’Engle
Mostly quotes, but lots of thoughtfulness from a stellar writer.

3. Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming
Two things kids love combined; which I’d thought of it.

4. Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan
All the feels for Habo. Super lucky to be in Tara’s crit group!

5. Don’t Make Me Stop Now by Michael Parker
Mostly bought for one story as told through community college essay; worth it.

The No-Guilt Approach to Reading YA

Every so often, people write disparaging articles about YA and the adults who enjoy the category. One such article came out recently, in which the author claimed that adults should feel guilty for reading these books and that they don’t approach literature the way books for adults do. (Not going to link to said post here, because it’s click-bait-y and I don’t want to give them more traffic.)

This month at Ploughshares, I tackle the issue of YA as a literary genre and why readers shouldn’t feel guilty to reading wonderful books, no matter what their target age audience is.

Also I get to make references to both Faulkner and Mean Girls.

I’m sure all of my readers already know this, but no one should make you feel guilty for reading things you enjoy, whether that’s YA and children’s literature or graphic novels or sci-fi or romance or anything. Life’s too short to read books you don’t love.

My Interview with the Fearless Fifteeners

Today I’m at the Fearless Fifteeners blog, talking with my wonderful agent-sister and 2015 debut author Anna-Marie McLemore about The Chance You Won’t Return, writing, romance, neurological differences, and what I’m not afraid of.

Anna-Marie asked some fantastic questions, and I’m excited to share the interview with you all. We actually had to cut some material because we talked too much. But here is a little of the extra Q&A:

I’ve heard you say that one of your favorite writing tips is not to develop writing rituals. How has this proven good advice for you?
I know I would use rituals as a crutch (“I only write at night!” “I need to have coffee while I write!”) so telling myself that rituals don’t get the work done means that I can potentially sneak in writing time anywhere/anytime. Not that I always do, but at least it’s one less excuse. ;)

Do you have any writing rituals that have crept in anyway? A favorite time of day to draft? A favorite drink or snack while revising?
As much as I love coffee and tea, my favorite writing beverage is lots and lots of water. Woohoo hydration! I also tend to like drafting at night, but that might be because I do the day job thing so most of my writing time is in the evening. My biggest ritual is probably having carefully crafted playlists for each project. I can write without them, but I love having a book soundtrack playing in the background for inspiration.

Make sure to check out the Fearless Fifteeners blog for the full interview, and get to know some awesome 2015 debut authors like Anna-Marie.

2014 48 Hour Book Challenge Finish Line

photo (7)Another 48 Hour Book Challenge completed and another wonderful weekend of reading. I went into the weekend without major plans for joining the challenge, but I’m so glad I did. I got to try out our porch (a great reading spot, if coated in pollen), check out some new series and authors, and take a few more books off my “to read” list. The final stats:

  • 12.5 hours read
  • 1556 pages read
  • 5 books finished
  • 2 cups of iced coffee consumed

So overall less than last year’s totals, but I’m still calling it a success.

The Books

Books veered more toward the unreal this year–three were some kind of fantasy (Linger, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and September Girls) and one was sci-fi (Adaptation). A Crooked Kind of Perfect was the only realistic book I read. The last few books I’d read were realistic, so this was a nice change of pace. And three (Linger, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Adaptation) are part of a trilogy, so I have even more of those characters and worlds to look forward to.

I think a weekend of reading was just what I needed. Things have been kind of hectic and stressful lately, so it was nice to take some time to focus on something I really love and something that (unfortunately) can easily get put on the back burner.

Thanks to Mother Reader for hosting such a great event and to Hannah for inspiring me to join this year’s challenge!

Update #5: 48 Hour Book Challenge of 2014

Finished one more book for the challenge.

photo (5)Update #5:

  • 2 hours reading time (12.5 total)
  • 240 pages read (1556 total)

The Books

Review #5:

I’d started September Girls by Bennett Madison a little while ago and figured that, since I didn’t have a lot of time left in the challenge, I might as well use my time to finish it up. It feels like Madison took Catcher in the Rye, “America’s Next Top Model,” and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, put them in a blender, and the result was September Girls. And that’s a pretty interesting smoothie right there. At time I really dug the voice and sense of sadness and desperation. At other points it kind of dragged, and I never really connected with Sam. But I think this is less of it not being a good book than it is it not being the book for me.