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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Interviews, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,655
26. The Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight Spills His Gut

Kid Lit Reviews is proud to have Dragon—and a captive Knight—here today to talk about Penny Parker Klostermann and Ben Mantle’s debut picture book There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight. Tomorrow, Kid Lit Reviews will review this gorgeous and humorous picture book (read it here). Please welcome Dragon and Knight. Hi Dragon! Thanks …

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27. Interview: Marisa Acocella Marchetto’s Ann Tenna and Your Place in the Universe

By Victor Van Scoit Marisa Acocella Marchetto’s name might be most familiar as a cartoonist for the New Yorker or as the author of the acclaimed graphic memoir Cancer Vixen. Her newly released graphic novel Ann Tenna tells the story of Ann Tenna, an influential gossip columnist who because of a freak accident meets her […]

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28. #731 – Where Are My Books by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Where Are My Books? Written & Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi .    Simon & Schuster BYR        5/12/2015 .                          .978-1-4424-6741-5 .                         .40 pages       Age 4—8 …

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29. Padgett Powell: The Powells.com Interview

"Padgett Powell is an extravagantly talented writer," raves The New York Times Book Review. We also think he's one of the funniest, saddest, and most innovative writers that you might not yet have read. His first novel, Edisto, was nominated for the National Book Award, and he's also won the Prix de Rome of the [...]

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30. Festival by Pixelatl Director José Iñesta: “Animation Can Change the Fate of Mexico”

The director of Mexico's leading animation conference speaks with "Cartoon Brew" about the future of Mexican animation.

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31. Young Spencer Talks About Where Are My Books?

Today, Kid Lit Reviews is pleased as a fat whale flopping in the ocean to welcome Spencer. Spencer’s story has been memorialized in Deborah Ridpath Ohi’s first solo picture book, Where Are My Books? (Simon & Schuster). Spencer has an interesting story that may have happened to you or your child. One-by-one his favorite picture books …

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32. Introducing Kelly Van Sant!

Hi, gang, JJ here. Today I am very, very excited to be introducing our newest contributor, Kelly Van Sant. Kelly and I go way, way, way back—she is my former roommate, critique partner, book enabler, and publishing mentor. She taught me everything I know about writing and editing, and I’m over the moon she’s willing to share her wisdom with all of you!
Kelly & JJ

Kelly & JJ

How did you get your start in publishing?

The old-fashioned way: networking. And by accident.

I had been writing and reading for as long as I could remember, but never thought much about the process by which a book is made. I mostly imagined them springing onto my bookshelves fully formed, a la Athena from the head of Zeus. After graduating college I emptied my bank account, stuffed a red Jansport backpack with as many clothes as it could hold, and ran away to New York City to find my fortune. There may also have been a handsome guy waiting for me at Grand Central Station—most of the questionable decisions I’ve made in my life involve a handsome guy. Although I had no apartment of my own I got a job in a restaurant on the Upper East side that same day and spent the next few months couch surfing and loving life, as only a 22 year old girl could do. But I knew I didn’t want to wait tables forever.

At the time a friend was doing reader reports for a literary scouting agency. When she got a full-time job at a big publisher, she recommended me to the agency and I took up the task.. After a few months another friend introduced me to the head of the internship program at a prestigious literary agency and encouraged me to apply. I almost didn’t. Things had ended terribly with the handsome guy and I was content to spend the rest of my life in my pajamas waiting for the next disk of Buffy to arrive from Netflix (this was back in the olden days, before streaming). But allure of all those shining, possible books was too much to resist. I was granted an internship and upon completion of the program I was hired on as an assistant. Things took off from there, and nearly a decade later I’m still working in this industry and love it as fiercely as ever.

We both love archetypes, so I have to ask: Which member of the Babysitters Club are you?

I’m Mary Anne. I’ll own it. With maybe a smidge of Dawn.

For years and years and years, I resisted being labeled Claudia because I didn’t want to be identified with the only Asian girl in the group. (C’mon, too obvious!) Also Claudia wasn’t a good student, which offended my straight-A sensibilities. However, I have finally come around to admitting that, yes, I am Claudia Kishi, and I’m okay with it.

Kelly and JJ, at a bar on the Lower East Side with a bunch of other publishing people, back when they both lived in NYC.

JJ and Kelly, at a bar on the Lower East Side with a bunch of other publishing people, back when they both lived in NYC. Also, check out the couple visibly making out on the street behind us.

We go out and suddenly it’s no longer a PubCrawl but a Pub BRAWL! What weapon are you wielding?

Hermione Granger’s wand. Boss witch.

If you could craft the perfect “literary cocktail”, what would it contain?

Friendship, adventure, a generous sprinkling of humor, deft and wonderful prose, riveting conflict, and a touch of believable romance. Magic often helps.

Kelly SquareKELLY VAN SANT is a Publishing Gal Friday with nearly a decade of experience in the industry. Currently she handles contracts for Quarto Publishing Group and provides a variety of services through Pen & Parsley Editorial.

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33. Five questions for Sophie Kinsella: Crossover Week edition

Photo: John Swannell.

Photo: John Swannell.

Sophie Kinsella, author of the Shopaholic series for adults, is known as “The Queen of Romantic Comedy.” Her new book, Finding Audrey, is her first foray into YA territory…and it’s a good one. Kinsella graciously submitted to The Horn Book’s Five Questions treatment during Crossover Week.

1. Your portrayal of anxiety disorders is so vivid and true. How did you do your research?

SK: I have always written what I see around me, and I see more and more young people struggling to deal with the pressures of the world and modern teendom. I particularly looked at CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), which I believe has a great role to play in helping people deal with anxiety issues.

2. We never find out exactly what Tasha, Freya, and Izzy did to Audrey — which, in some ways, makes it all the more terrifying. Did you have in mind what they did as you were writing, or did the specifics not matter?

kinsella_finding audreySK: In my first draft, I actually wrote a section that explained what happened to Audrey — but then I took it out. I feel it diminishes the story if the reader has a full explanation, because it distances the reader from Audrey. They might think, “That wasn’t so bad,” or they could be so traumatized that they’d focus on her experience rather than the recovery. This way, any readers who suffer or who have suffered from bullying or social anxiety can relate to Audrey’s journey.

3. There’s humor in this book, your YA debut, but it’s not nearly as light and frothy as your very entertaining Shopaholic books for adults. How did you strike the right balance, given the serious subject matter (bullying, anxiety, family problems, etc.)?

SK: I didn’t deliberately set out to write a more “serious” book. I find that when I write, the appropriate tone and scenes come to me as I’m planning. I knew that with a character like Audrey, it wouldn’t be right to have a lot of slapstick comedy — although I always like to see the comic relief of life, which is how Audrey’s family came to be as they are! I knew that Audrey would be a wry character who keeps her humor despite all her difficulties, but I also wanted to portray her plight in a realistic tone. She’s in a pretty bad place.

4. Is Land of Conquerors a real game? (And are you a secret gamer?)

SK: No, it isn’t — and no, I’m not a secret gamer, I’m afraid. I’m actually quite rubbish at computer games! But I have seen quite a lot of gameplay of DOTA 2. That’s what comes of having teenagers in the house…

5. What did writing adult novels teach you about writing YA, or vice versa?

SK: I didn’t really set out to write a YA book when I wrote Finding Audrey. The story just came to me, and I saw I had to tell it through Audrey’s eyes. So I haven’t approached YA in a very different way, as far as the writing goes. Having said that, when you’re writing a story about teenagers, you do feel a responsibility to treat their very difficult problems accurately. I consulted my own teens along the way, which I would never normally do. I think they were quite pleased to have me deferring to them!

For more on crossovers, click here.


The post Five questions for Sophie Kinsella: Crossover Week edition appeared first on The Horn Book.

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34. Written and Drawn by Liniers

I never want to pander [to] or patronize kids. They aren’t idiots.
They’re just below eye level.”


This morning over at Kirkus, I talk to Argentine cartoonist Ricardo Siri, otherwise known as Liniers. We talk about a few things, including his newest book, Written and Drawn by Henrietta.

That link will be here soon.

Until tomorrow …

* * * * * * *

Photo of Liniers taken by Nora Lezano and used by his permission.

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35. Interview: Ben Hatke meditates on friendship in newest graphic novel, Little Robot

Renowned for his wonderful children’s series, Zita the Space Girl and last year’s Julia’s House for Lost Creatures, Ben Hatke is one of the leading talents in young person’s graphic literature. His latest effort, Little Robot, which releases in stores today, tells the tale of a young girl who discovers a robot in the woods. […]

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36. Lisa Graff Talks with Roger

Lisa Graff Talks with Roger
Talks with Roger is a sponsored supplement to our free monthly e-newsletter, Notes from the Horn Book. To receive Notes, sign up here.

graff_lost in the sunIn Lost in the Sun, a companion to Umbrella Summer, Lisa Graff explores the consequences of one boy’s death on the other boy who inadvertently caused it. How do you get over that? And how, I also wanted to know, does having once been a children’s book editor (Graff worked at Farrar, Straus and Giroux) affect the way one goes about writing for children?

Roger Sutton: Let’s dive in because I have a lot of questions about Lost in the Sun. It seems like such a risk to use an unreliable — well, is unreliable the right word? Unsympathetic, maybe — narrator. How did it occur to you to do that?

Lisa Graff: I’m not sure it was a conscious decision. Though now that you say that, I’m remembering that my graduate thesis at The New School was on unlikable protagonists in middle-grade literature, so obviously it’s something that’s interesting to me. A couple of my narrators have been unlikable. I’m fascinated by kid characters, especially, but by all characters who seem on the surface to be people we wouldn’t want to spend time with. How they got that way, what they’re thinking, and what’s going on behind them.

RS: How do you, as a writer, keep a reader invested in that person? I thought, “This guy Trent is so screwed up.” But I fell for him.

LG: It’s funny, because with all of my characters that are “unlikable,” I really love them. They’re usually my favorites, and it doesn’t occur to me at first that the reader might not love them. It’s a matter of finding what makes them do the things they do — the bad decisions — and what makes them tick. We can connect with whatever the emotions are, if not necessarily the actions themselves.

RS: One thing you do early on in the book is let us know why Trent is acting the way he is. So we don’t just think he’s an asshole.

LG: He still is, a little bit. But you know why.

RS: Right. Here we have this protagonist who’s been involved in something terrible. He really didn’t do anything wrong, but you can see why he feels like he did, and now he has to learn to come to terms with it. How do you stop that from turning into a problem novel? Or is it a problem novel? What do you think of that term?

LG: It makes me cringe, even though every book deals with issues and problems. If they didn’t, they’d be boring. But the term is kind of horrific.

RS: It has a lot of bad history.

LG: My early drafts were definitely problem novels. When I write my first several drafts, everything is really big and broad and cheesy, and there are huge moments and huge emotions. I usually overwrite so much at the beginning. My first draft of this novel was probably five hundred pages. It was enormous. And a mess.

RS: Multiple victims. Crawling on the ice.

LisaGraff_200wLG: And then I go through and pick up the moments that really feel truthful. Those tend to be the quiet moments. They’re the ones that if I were to outline — which I don’t often do but, but if I were to — probably wouldn’t even make it in the outline, because they’re not big events. But they’re the ones that really matter. I keep those, and I throw everything else out.

RS: That makes me wonder about outlining as a technique for putting a novel together. I wonder if people miss things, because they’ve got this list, dammit, and they’re going to stick to it. I guess it’s different for everybody.

LG: I think so. I’m not an outliner, because when I do — after I’ve spent all that time and hated every moment of it — I realize that my outlines are all about things that the characters understand and emotions they’re having. There’s no actual plot in the entire outline, and it doesn’t work.

RS: Oh, plot. Plot.

LG: My books are not particularly plot-y. That’s not the way I think. The plot is very secondary to me. I just can’t outline.

RS: But you do have things happen to your characters. I’ve read some books where it feels like the plot is just an excuse to move the characters from place to place so they can have another conversation.

LG: It’s all in the rewriting, the revision. Where can I put these characters, and what would best show us what’s happening to them?

RS: What has your previous career as a children’s book editor done for you as a novelist?

LG: That’s a great question. I sold my first two novels just about three months after I started at FSG, so I was really learning how to be an editor at the same time as I was learning how to be a writer. It was wonderful, though very difficult. Being an editor has probably helped me to just take my time. At first it was hard, because I was working with all these wonderful writers and wonderful books, and I would try to edit myself too much. But after a while of seeing the process so many amazing writers go through — how some projects start not as amazing as they end, and the very different ways that people go through drafting and writing books — I realized that it was okay to start from a really terrible place. What was important and necessary was to just work through the process the way you need to do it. So counter to what you might expect, being an editor has actually helped me take my time more.

RS: Do you feel like you’re nicer to yourself as an author, maybe?

LG: At the beginning of a book, yes. Then I’m brutal and cruel in the middle, which is also very important. There’s no greater satisfaction to me than slashing out entire pages of a draft. I get a sick pleasure out of it.

RS: Just sort of lacerating yourself with self-hatred — is that what you’re doing?

LG: I want the book to be as concise as possible, and since I know I’m someone who overwrites in drafts, I know that the cutting stage is part of my process. Often I’ll make myself some word count — I have to cut twenty-five words on every page in a draft, say. That’s actually fun for me, because I see what’s crucial to the story. Sometimes passages or paragraphs or even whole pages that were my favorite things to write can be unimportant to the story.

RS: That’s something I had to learn as an editor as well. Sometimes design dictates you can only use so many words and no more, and it becomes like a puzzle. How am I going to get all the words into the allotted space?

LG: Love that.

RS: It is kind of fun. And how far will you go with this before you share a manuscript with your editor?

LG: It depends on the project. Jill Santopolo has edited all my middle-grade books, and I like to show her my projects when I know they need work but I don’t know what else to do to them. That’s my ideal situation, though it doesn’t always happen that way because of time constraints. There have been a couple of times, too, when I’ve hit a spot where I have no idea what I’m doing, and it’s just a mess. I’ll show it to Jill, and she’s amazing because she can see through all that, and she’ll point me in a direction and say, “Okay, this is your story,” or “This is your main character,” and I can go back to square one with that little piece.

RS: Do you feel like it’s done when it’s done? I know writers who are never satisfied, even when the thing is published.

LG: When I was working on my first published book, The Thing About Georgie, I remember having this moment when I realized that I could just revise this thing until the end of time, and it would become a different book. There was something kind of wonderful and scary about that. But there does come a moment when it feels like it’s the story that I was trying to write, even if it’s not perfect in every regard. That’s the point where I want to stop. Usually what happens is after that draft where I think I’m done, and I go out for a nice dinner to celebrate, two days later Jill emails me another revision letter. This has happened with every single one of my books. She says, “Okay, just one more draft.” And then after that one I’m really done. She’s always right.

RS: Let’s talk about the end of this book. I loved it. But I noticed that even the Horn Book review has some questions about the ending. I don’t want to give anything away, because it is a great surprise of an ending, so let’s talk around it a little bit. What kinds of reactions have you had from readers?

LG: You mean the very, very end, right?

RS: The very, very end.

LG: There have been some people who were surprised and upset, but most of the responses are positive. I think most people felt it was the best, natural ending to the story. For me there was never a question. It seemed like the truest way to tell these characters’ stories. I’m trying to find the best way to talk around it.

RS: I know.

LG: I think it speaks to one of the central themes of the story, which is that it’s not the events in our lives that are important so much as how we respond to them. That’s what I really wanted to get across.

RS: That’s the theme of your novel all the way through. The big central propelling event of the story happens before the first page.

LG: Absolutely. In essence, it could have been anything that happened. It’s the way that Trent reacts. It’s not that event per se that shapes him, it’s what it did to him.

RS: Right. Had he been someone else, it would have been a completely different story. Because it’s about what happens to that character, not what happens to a person, when a tragedy like that occurs.

LG: Exactly. The idea for this book came from a book I wrote several years ago, Umbrella Summer, which is about a character, Annie, dealing with the tragedy of her brother dying. It occurred to me at the time that someone had to have hit the hockey puck that struck her brother. There was nowhere in the book to address it, so I just ignored that side of things. But the idea sat in my head, and it wasn’t until maybe five or six years later that I decided I wanted to write a book about the boy who’d hit the hockey puck. And then it wasn’t until the book was finished that I figured out why I wanted to focus on Trent’s character, who I hadn’t realized at the time was based on someone I had known, whom I was very close to. That was my jumping-off point.

RS: There’s this new book by Sophie Kinsella — she writes those Shopaholic novels. But she’s written her first YA, Finding Audrey. It’s about a girl who has become intensely agoraphobic. She even wears sunglasses so she doesn’t have to look at anybody. All we know is that something happened at school between her and this clique of girls, but we never learn what it is.

LG: Oh, interesting.

RS: Similarly, she’s dealing with the fallout and recovery from this event. The actual whatever happened happened before the book began. We never find out what that was, and it becomes all the more powerful because you don’t know. That’s kind of how I feel about what we’re trying not to discuss.

LG: I always feel funny about that, when kids ask me what happens to these characters after the book ends. I’m like, “Whatever you want. It’s fiction. It’s not real.” But yes, I do feel like I know what happened.

RS: I got so mad when J. K. Rowling told everyone that Dumbledore was gay. Not because I care that Dumbledore is gay. Be as gay as you want, Dumbledore. But it’s like she took that power that you’re talking about away from readers. She didn’t write that he was gay.

LG: I had that same reaction. It’s not on the page, so it’s not true. I feel like once you write a book it belongs to the reader. It doesn’t belong to you anymore, so it doesn’t matter what you think, or what your backstory is for those characters. It’s everyone else’s.

RS: You have done your part. And the reader has a job too. And if you don’t give readers the room to do that job, I suspect they’re not going to get invested in your story.

LG: It’s interesting to read people’s interpretations of my books, because there are times when I think, “That’s absolutely not why the character did that.” But that’s just my interpretation. Readers can think whatever they want. They have that freedom, and it’s great.

RS: But it must drive you crazy when people do actually misread what you have put on the page.

LG: Yeah, that’s annoying. It says it right there! But I remember being in a grad school workshop, and someone was giving me notes. I cut in, which we were never supposed to do; we were supposed to just remain silent while they gave us their comments. But I cut in and said, “That’s not what I meant.” My thesis adviser said, “Lisa, you can’t sit over everyone’s bed while they read your novel and tell them what you meant.” Which is really true.

RS: And kind of creepy.

LG: So I try to remember that.


The post Lisa Graff Talks with Roger appeared first on The Horn Book.

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37. Interview: Paul Johnson on “Mercy,” “Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight,” and “The Invisibles”

by Alex Dueben Paul Johnson worked in comics for a relatively short time, but during those years, the British artist and painter worked with some of the most talented writers in comics. His collaborators included Neil Gaiman (Books of Magic), James Robinson (London’s Dark, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight), Grant Morrison (The Invisibles), Steve […]

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38. Bill Clegg: The Powells.com Interview

In January of this year, eight months before its release date, the buzz was already starting to build for Bill Clegg's Did You Ever Have a Family. Bookseller colleagues were passing around the few advanced reader copies we could get a hold of and telling each other, "You have to read this!" Four major review [...]

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39. Interview (Part 3) With Ashley Hope Pérez, Author of OUT OF DARKNESS

Happy Monday! We're back again today with the final installment in our interview with the wonderfully articulate and interesting Ashley Hope Pérez, who has stopped by on her blog tour for her forthcoming novel Out of Darkness. The story is based on... Read the rest of this post

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40. Interview: Descender’s Mail-Bot Speaks About Plutona and All Things Jeff-Bot

Descender's Mail-bot reveals comic creators who are in fact actually robots and speaks about all things Plutona. The answers may shock you.

1 Comments on Interview: Descender’s Mail-Bot Speaks About Plutona and All Things Jeff-Bot, last added: 9/2/2015
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41. Interview (Part 2) With Ashley Hope Pérez, Author of OUT OF DARKNESS

Welcome back to our conversation with author Ashley Hope Pérez, author of the forthcoming YA historical novel OUT OF DARKNESS, which is based on real-life events of the March 1937 gas leak which caused a massive explosion and killed almost 300... Read the rest of this post

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42. Interview and Giveaway: Fire Me Up by Rachael Johns


[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Rachael! Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Rachael Johns] Cheerful, optimistic, friendly, crazy and loud.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Rachael Johns] My iPhone

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Rachael Johns] Empty Diet Coke cans, my diary, decks of FIRE ME UP cards, which I’m planning to use for giveaways.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?

[Rachael Johns] Does Diet Coke count as a snack? If not, pretty much any chocolate I can get my hands on.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Rachael Johns] Nora Roberts

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week.  Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Rachael Johns] Is flying a superpower? I’d really love to be able to fly!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Rachael Johns] Maisey Yate’s Part Time Cowboy; Always a Bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk; Fiona’s Flame by Rachael Herron.

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Deacons of Bourbon Street #2
Rachael Johns
Releasing Sept 1st, 2015

Can a scorching affair with a bohemian beauty tame a motorcycle man with a dark side? Rachael Johns takes the wheel in the sexy series co-written with Megan Crane, Jackie Ashenden, and Maisey Yates.

Travis “Cash” Sinclair values only two things from his days with the Deacons of Bourbon Street: his prized Harley Davidson and the man who gave it to him. But now Priest Lombard is gone, and Cash has inherited the Deacons’ clubhouse—not to mentions its unexpected tenant. She’s exactly the type of woman he tries to avoid: all incense and art, with a sharp tongue that promises trouble. So why does Cash want to push aside those flowing skirts and lose himself between her legs?

Billie Taylor fled a bad marriage to start a new life among the grit and glamour of the French Quarter. She refuses to let another man distract her from her dreams, especially an outlaw biker with nothing to offer except hot sex and an eviction notice. Cash is dangerous, with an untamed streak he tries desperately to conceal. He drives Billie wild, sending her too close to the edge for her own good. And she won’t fall under his spell—or into his bed—without a fight

“This room is mine,” she said, folding her arms and glaring at him with more bravado than she felt as he turned to look at her with his dark, smoldering eyes. She shivered despite herself and almost forgot to add, “If you insist on staying, you’ll have to choose from one of the others.”

He took his time replying, his gaze sliding downward, scalding her body as if he’d actually touched her. For a moment she thought he was going to object—tell her that not only would he share her house but also her bed—but eventually he shut her wardrobe and nodded. “I always preferred the one next to this anyway.”

She swallowed. Of all the rooms in the house, he wanted to choose the one right next to hers? How would she sleep knowing he was mere yards away? Still, she was hardly in a position to argue, and if it would get him out of her personal space, well, that was a start.

“Fine.” She stepped back and gestured for him to leave. The only good thing about having Travis right next door was that she could keep an eye on him. Or was that a bad thing? Argh.

Surprisingly, he obeyed, stalking past her and smirking again as he did. She hated that she caught a waft of some raw, masculine cologne, which sent ripples of need through her body, rousing places she’d given little thought to over the last year. How ironic that the first sign of life down there had sparked because of a man who seemed intent on messing up her life. Why were the sexiest guys, the best-looking ones, always the biggest jerks?

He didn’t head straight for his room, instead going into the kitchen, and she found herself following. Her hackles rose as he opened the refrigerator and leaned inside, giving her a perfect view of his perfect butt. Oh help me, God! Had any guy she’d ever known looked so damn fine in faded jeans? Her thighs involuntarily clenched.

“No beer,” he said as he straightened.

Despite the traitorous hormones rushing through her body, she shook her head. It went against the grain of every single cell in her body not to be hospitable, but then again she hadn’t invited him to stay here with her. “Nope. Sorry. But there’s a bar next door.”

She wished he’d go back to it. He had to be one of the Deacons that had been hanging around The Priory the last few days. Sophie had given her a brief history of the motorcycle club—apparently it had disbanded around the time of Katrina—and informed her that it would be unlikely any of its members would hang around after her father’s funeral. But, dammit, it looked like she’d been wrong on that account. Billie needed to go see Sophie, make sure this guy was for real. For all she knew he could be anybody. He hadn’t shown her any proof that he owned the building, but something—maybe the way he’d leaned into her face when he told her no one tells him what the fuck to do—made her cautious. He was like a wild animal, and she didn’t want to make any sudden moves.

He smiled wickedly and leaned back against the counter, looking her over again, making her feel aroused and insulted all at once. “I know it. The bar and this place used to be my home.”

“Is that right?” She wondered about Travis Sinclair. He had the leather jacket, the swagger in his step and the don’t-mess-with-me attitude of a biker, but there was something about him that didn’t fit the image. He wore no patches like a couple of other guys she’d seen hanging around next door, but that wasn’t it. There was something else she couldn’t quite put her finger on. “And where is your home now?”

She waited for him to tell her it was none of her fucking business, but he shrugged off his jacket, hung it over one of the odd chairs that sat around her kitchen table and then pulled back the seat and straddled it. “Tallahassee,” he said as he leaned down and yanked a laptop out of his pack. It was a flashy MacBook Air—not at all the type of computer she’d expect of a biker. He didn’t even glance her way as he put it on the table in front of him, lifted the lid and tapped his boots against the tiled floor as he waited for the computer to spring to life.

No idea where Tallahassee was—geography had never been her thing—she vowed to google it later. Leaning back against the kitchen counter, she wiped her palm across her brow, feeling hot and more than a little bothered. Being warm in itself wasn’t unusual in New Orleans or in Western Australia where she came from, but the weather had nothing to do with the rise in her body temperature. And that disturbed her.

Her eyes zoned in on the bad-boy ink that traveled the length of his sculpted and tanned forearms, and the heat that had been simmering inside her boiled over.

Until this moment she’d have said she wasn’t a fan of body art—personally, she preferred her art on walls or in gardens—but Travis’s tattoos changed her opinion. And that was bad, because with her divorce only recently official, the last thing she wanted in her life was another man who thought he could walk all over her.


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Rachael Johns is an English teacher by trade, a mum 24/7, a supermarket owner, a chronic arachnophobic, and a writer the rest of the time. She rarely sleeps and never irons. She writes contemporary romance for HQN and Carina Press and lives in rural Western Australia with her hyperactive husband and three mostly-gorgeous heroes-in-training. Rachael loves to hear from readers and can be contacted through her website at www.rachaeljohns.com

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43. An Interview with Monster & Boy — Not To Be Missed!

Today I am honored to have two wonderful guests from the Monster & Me series, including the recently released Monster Needs Your Vote (reviewed here). You might remember them from another interview (read it here). There is no better way to get at the story than from the view point of the characters.


Monster and Boy cut to the chase as they answer a few of my hard-hitting questions. Of course, you’d expect nothing less from an interview with a political candidate. Monster is vying for President! Yep, he doesn’t play around folks (well, not much), and aims for the top! Monster’s long-time friend goes along on the campaign trail, giving guidance and help as only Boy can. (NOTE:  Kids, any Boy—or Girl—and any Monster can aspire to this relationship, as enviable as it is.)


Welcome Monster and Boy. Your new book Monster Needs Your Vote is in bookstores now. The author, Paul Czajak, chose an interesting topic for your 5th book:  politics. What did you think, Monster, when you found out you would be running for president?


“First off thanks for having me, any opportunity to get the message out I am up for!”

“MONSTER 2016!! Turn your voice into a roar!”

b5“Monster we’re no longer campaigning, remember? You already saved the library.”

m4“Oh yeah, I forgot. Sometimes I forget stuff. Anyway I want to point out when I was running I was my OWN Monster and not an imaginary Monster created by Mr. Paul Czajak. I decided to run for President when I found out I wasn’t old enough to vote. Which is not fair!”


True, at first, you simply wanted to vote. Have you ever voted before that day? I know I’m not supposed to ask, but my curiosity is overpowering my good sense. Which candidate did you vote for?

m1“I never voted before. In fact I didn’t even know what it was until that day. Once I heard about it I thought, “How cool is that?! Being able to voice your opinion on how decisions are made! What an awesome responsibility!” Then Boy told me I wasn’t old enough to vote yet, UNFAIR! So I figured I would run for President and help change that rule.”

Boy has always helped you, like when he helped you choose a Halloween costume, find a Christmas tree, and when he helped you go to sleep. How did Boy help you on the campaign trail?

m1“Well, he’s very good at making posters, and he’s great at coming up with campaign slogans. He created “A chocolate cake on every plate, a pie in every pot!” I thought that was very clever.”


“Thanks, Monster!”

m4“Even though I really liked that slogan, Dessert For Dinner was probably not the best platform, or issue, to run on. Boy helped me figure out that I should stand behind something that isn’t about what I need but what everybody needs, like a library staying open. But honestly who wouldn’t want chocolate cake for dinner?”


“I like vanilla.”


“You’re so difficult.”

Boy, I’m curious again. You have a giant amount of confidence when guiding Monster, but he is, like, 100 times bigger than you. Aren’t you afraid Monster might, well, become a monster?


“I don’t get it? Monster is a monster, that’s why his name is Monster. He can’t become a monster since he’s already a monster. Any idea what she’s talking about?”


“Sorry I wasn’t listening, I’m still thinking about chocolate cake.”

In Monster Needs Your Vote, both of you use some odd words and combinations of words, like soapbox (a box of soap?), oratory, platform, grassroots movement (moving grassroots?), “give a voice” (you can do that?) and “all for naught” (who is naught?). What do these words mean and why are these important when running for president?


“This sounds an awful lot like a “gotcha question.” Where’s my agent?”

“Monster, you don’t have an agent. Plus, I think she just wants to know how you got such a big vocabulary.”


“Oh! Mr. Czajak teaches me lots of big words. No reason not to use them when the opportunity presents itself,

“New Hampshire, then to Iowa he caused a rousing raucous,
“Speaking to the voters at the primary and caucus.”


“Monster, no one likes a show off.”


“Tell that to Trump.”

People running for president usually have a running mate, why isn’t Boy your running mate instead of your campaign manager? (Did the author veto that idea?)


“He was going to be my running mate!”

“Monster needs a running mate, “So who’s it going to be?”
“Monster said, “My only choice is you for my V.P.”

“But I never got to that point since it turns out you have to be 35 to run for President. Which, again, is unfair! I know, I’ll run for President and change that rule too!”

I don’t recall from your first adventure, Monster Needs a Costume, if we found out where you came from. President Obama had to show his birth certificate to prove he was born in the U.S.  Running for President is tough to do. Did anyone ask to see your birth certificate?

m5“It all happened during a debate with one of the other candidates, I think I still have the transcript.”

“A Monster can’t be President, he has no expertise!
“Who is Monster? Where’s he from? I think he may have fleas.”

“Fleas are not the issue, this is just something that misleads
“This country needs a Leader that will focus on the needs.”

“After the debate the officials asked for my birth certificate which showed I wasn’t 35, dumb rule.”

“Also, I would like to go on record that Monster does not have fleas. That man was just being mean.”

What I really like about Monster Needs Your Vote is all the other monsters Wendy Grieb brought out. There are some interesting-looking monsters. Monster, there is one that sure looks like he/she could be a relative. Do you know any of these monsters?


“A lot of them came to my Birthday Party this past April! It was such a surprise when I came home from Pirate Land and found all my friends in the house.”


I’m so sorry. I missed your birthday party. I bet it was a frightful affair!  Anyway, I think Monster would be absolutely terrific at any sport or getting fit (kids need that—adults, too). Boy, what is next for Monster?




“We will focus on Monsters message of “Reading Turns Your Voice into a Roar!” for the rest of the election. Then I think Monster might go to school next fall… His sports career will have to wait a bit. Though he will definitely get involved in something.”


m1“Yup, like basketball, or swimming, or tennis, or yoga, or maybe surfing or cheerleading…”


Ah, Monster, you are such a dreamer . . . I mean you have great dreams . . . um, what I really mean to say is, “Yes! You go Monster!”  So, is there anything either of you would like to say directly to the readers?



“Read! Read! Read! And support your local library!”


“What he said, it’s why he’s the best candidate.”


That is a fantastic message! Monster and Boy, thank you for stopping by . . . Oh, wait! I forgot to ask one BIG QUESTION. In Monster Needs Your Vote (you have my vote)—DID YOU WIN?



“Well I guess someone didn’t read the book. It’s only 350 words, it’s not like it would take that much time.”


“Monster, I think she’s just pretending to have not read the book to build up suspense. You know, a bit of suspended disbelief on the part of the interviewer.”

a2“Suspended what?”

“Suspended Disbelief, when something doesn’t make sense, but you let it go for the sake of the story. You know, kind of like if someone wrote a story about a monster who’s too young to vote but then decides to run for President.”


“You lost me.”

Monster and Boy, thank you for stopping by Kid Lit Reviews once more. It is always a delight and a surprise!

Boy and Monster, what a pair. You got to love them and I believe you will while reading the Monster & Me series. This is one series that has never disappointed me. The stories and illustrations are full of humor, bold images, and a gentle message no one, not even a Monster, tries to blast at you.

You can start the Monster & Me series with their the latest, Monster Needs Your Vote (reviewed here), as each book can stand on its own (and no, Monster, I do not mean that they actually stand on their own, but that you can read any story without having to read the story before it).

Soon it will be Halloween, a good time to read Monster Needs a Costume (reviewed here). And then Christmas will be upon us and Monster Needs a Christmas Tree (reviewed soon) is the perfect holiday story.

If holidays are not your thing (really, could that be true of anyone?) how about a birthday party story with Monster Needs a Party (reviewed soon), or a story to help you nod off with Monster in Monster Needs His Sleep (reviewed here)?

It sounds like Monster will be heading off to school—for the first time—next Fall and maybe joining a sports team—or the cheerleaders. I cannot wait for those stories. Until then, I hope you have enjoyed this latest interview with Monster and Boy.

And don’t forget to “Read! Read! Read!” Support your public library, and VOTE FOR MONSTER!

#5 needs your vote


Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved


Full Disclosure: Monster & Me by Paul Czajak & Wendy Grieb, and published by Mighty Media Kids. Monster and Boy’s interview answers by Paul Czajak. Images copyright © by Wendy Grieb.  The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monster & Me Series

Monster Needs a Costume

Monster Needs a Costume

Monster Needs His Sleep

Monster Needs His Sleep

Monster Needs a Christmas Tree

Monster Needs a Christmas Tree

Monster Needs a Party

Monster Needs a Party

Monster Needs Your Vote

Monster Needs Your Vote



Purchase at  Amazon  IndieBound Books  Mighty Media Kids




A HUGE THANKS to Paul Czajak!

Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Favorites, Guest Post, Interviews, Picture Book, Series, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: Boy, Mighty Media Kids, Mighty Media Press, monster, Monster & Me series, Monster Needs a Christmas Tree, Monster Needs a Costume, Monster Needs a Party, Monster Needs His Sleep, Monster Needs Your Vote, Paul Czajak, Wendy Grieb

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44. Katherine Applegate: My Kirkus Q&A

I don’t think there are many middle-grade children’s books that talk about the ‘working poor’ — about the stresses that come when parents juggle multiple low-paying jobs and there still isn’t enough food on the table or maybe even a place to call home. Children may not know what being ‘food insecure’ means, but they understand much more than we give them credit for, especially when it comes to money.”

* * *

Over at Kirkus today, I talk to author Katherine Applegate about her new middle-grade novel, Crenshaw (Feiwel and Friends), coming to shelves next month.

That conversation will be here soon.

Until tomorrow …

* * * * * * *

Photo of Katherine used by her permission.

2 Comments on Katherine Applegate: My Kirkus Q&A, last added: 8/20/2015
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45. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Daniel Miyares

Author and illustrator Daniel Miyares—whose most recent picture book is Float, published by Simon & Schuster in June (and the subject of my Kirkus column here)—visits for breakfast this morning. Normally, he tells me, he has merely a hot cup of Earl Grey tea with a splash of milk in the fabulous mug his wife gave him, pictured below. (“She gets me,” he adds.) If he’s taking the time to sit down and eat in the mornings, he says, he goes with biscuits. “I grew up in South Carolina,” he tells me. “It’s kind of a requirement.”

Hey, I’m in Tennessee and get this, so biscuits and tea it is.

Daniel is relatively new to picture books, at least in the grand scheme of things, and I thank him for visiting today to tell me and my readers more about his career, his books thus far, and what’s next on his plate.

Let’s get right to it.

* * * * * * *

Daniel’s breakfast mug-of-choice

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Daniel: Author/Illustrator, but my entry point into a story idea is usually the visual narrative.


(Click to enlarge spread)


(Click to enlarge spread)


Spreads and cover from Float (Simon & Schuster, June 2015);
Visit this 2015 7-Imp post for sketches from the book

(Click each to enlarge)


Jules: Can you list your books-to-date? (If there are too many books to list here, please list your five most recent illustrated titles or the ones that are most prominent in your mind, for whatever reason.)

Daniel: I’ve illustrated: Waking Up Is Hard To Do (Imagine Publishing, 2010) and Bambino and Mr. Twain (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2012).

As author/illustrator: Pardon Me! (Simon & Schuster, 2014), Float (Simon & Schuster, 2015) and Bring Me A Rock! (to be published by Simon & Schuster, Summer of 2016)

Jules: What is your usual medium?


Spreads and cover from Pardon Me! (Simon & Schuster, 2014);
Click here to see early sketches and development work from the book

(Click each to enlarge)


Daniel: I use inks, watercolors, gouache, acrylics, and digital tools to build my images.

Jules: If you have illustrated for various age ranges (such as, both picture books and early reader books OR, say, picture books and chapter books), can you briefly discuss the differences, if any, in illustrating for one age group to another?


(Click to enlarge)


Daniel: I’ve gotten to try a variety of book-type projects. I’ve made picture books, did a novel cover, and when I was first starting out I got to illustrate some serial books for the Kansas City Star newspaper. No matter who the book audience is, I try to use the same approach to visual storytelling. The principles of design and timing speak to all age groups, I think. I have learned, however, that young children have an easier time appreciating where a story wants to take them. Something about getting older dulls our ability to imagine and tolerate the absurd. I’ve found that in the picture books I make I can paint what something feels like and not just what it looks like. Sometimes to tell a proper story you need the freedom to break with truth and reality. Kids get that in a big way.

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Daniel: I live in the middle of the map as they say, the city of Overland Park, Kansas. It’s just south of Kansas City.

Daniel, age four

Jules: Can you briefly tell me about your road to publication?

Daniel: My first book gig was a collaboration with Singer/Songwriter Neil Sedaka. He was working with Imagine Publishing to bring some re-works of his hit songs to life as picture books. The first one they wanted to do was Waking Up Is Hard To Do [pictured below]. It was 2009. I had just finished building a portfolio with my artist rep (Studio Goodwin Sturges), when they said there may be an opportunity for me, but … you would need to do a sample piece for the story on spec. It wasn’t like I had another project going on at the time, so I said sure. I’m assuming they had a handful of other artists contending for the book as well. We went a few rounds on the samples to define my take on the story, and in the end I got to do the book. For a young illustrator, it was like jumping off the end of the pier to learn how to swim. The stakes felt high. The deadlines were tight. I learned so much about who I was as a book maker, as well as who I might want to be going forward. Also, I realized just how amazing of a creative family I had in my Studio Goodwin Sturges partners. They really gave me an education on the nuts and bolts of bookmaking.

Neil was a force. I really admire his passion for music and passing that on to his grandchildren. You could tell he was totally smitten by them. Before I knew it he was on the Today show talking about our book with Kathie Lee and Hoda.


(Click to enlarge spread)


It was a wild first adventure as a book illustrator. Pretty soon after that, I started to feel the pull to tell my own stories.

Jules: Can you please point readers to your web site and/or blog?

Daniel: danielmiyares.comm or on Instagram @danielmiyaresdoodles — and on Twitter @danielmiyares.

Jules: If you do school visits, tell me what they’re like.

Daniel: I try to tailor my presentations to the audiences.

If it’s a large school-assembly kind of situation, I’ll do a slide show and discussion that starts with when I knew I wanted to be an artist (at about age four).

I also like to share what I think an Author/Illustrator really does. No matter what the age group is, if I ask what an Author/Illustrator does, I get the same answer: “They write the words and draw the pictures.” Technically, they’re right, but I’m convinced there’s a lot more fun and adventure in it than that. To prove it, I share an example of a three sentence story that I wrote for a children’s book class I taught a while back at the Kansas City Art Institute. First I share it with just the words and I ask if it’s a good story. Usually I get a resounding NO! Sometimes I get a boo or two. (Kid-honesty is the best.)



Next, I share the same story again, except I’ve added some rough sketches to it. This time I usually get belly laughs and cheers. Really I just want to share that words and pictures don’t have to be serious, intimidating business. Telling stories can be a lot of fun.


(Click each to enlarge)


I also do readings of my books. The kids are usually so respectful and well-mannered. I invite them to take part in the readings. They help me figure out what’s going to happen next or shout out questions or suggestions. I’ve learned so much about my books through those interactions. Secretly, my goal is to get them whipped up over a story. I want the students to have as much joy and excitement as possible around the reading experience.

My finale is usually a live drawing demo. I make the wild claim to the crowd that it’s possible to make any animal in the world out of basic shapes. Mostly they don’t believe me, so I ask for a shape suggestion from the audience. I draw that on the pad of paper. Then I ask for the animal. If all works out, we end up with some pretty fun stylized animal drawings. As time allows, I’ll get some other brave souls up there to convert shapes into animals, too.

For smaller groups (like the size of one classroom), I’ll change it up to be more hands-on. I like having an activity where we make something together. If they’re on the older side, I break out the three-sentence story assignment for them. It’s a lot of fun, plus I like leaving things behind that they can keep working on or do again in their own way with their teachers.



Daniel’s That-Neighbor-Kid series

Jules: If you teach illustration, by chance, tell me how that influences your work as an illustrator.

Daniel: When I’ve had the opportunity to teach classes, I’m always amazed at how much I grow personally. There’s something about taking on the responsibility of helping others connect dots that inevitably leads to my own dot-connecting.

I was teaching a children’s book class at the same time I was working on Float. When we covered basic principles, like pacing and composition, I would bring in-progress art from my book to speak to. They enjoyed talking about real world examples, and I got some straightforward feedback on how things read. There’s a wonderful accountability that goes along with being transparent.

Also, the student’s passion and curiosity for art and design is infectious. It’s really hard to replicate that energy outside of a classroom.


Cover art for Leah Pileggi’s Prisoner 88 (Charlesbridge, 2013)
(Click to enlarge)


Jules: Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?

Daniel: I just wrapped up the art on my next book with Simon & Schuster. It’s called Bring Me A Rock! It will be released Summer of 2016. It’s about a megalomaniac insect king on a power trip and the little bug who saves the day.


(Click each to enlarge)


Also, I am in the middle of illustrating a new book that Kwame Alexander wrote for North South, called Surf’s Up.


(Click to enlarge cover)


Mmm. Coffee.Okay, we’ve got our eggs, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with six questions over breakfast. I thank Daniel again for visiting 7-Imp.

1. Jules: What exactly is your process when you are illustrating a book? You can start wherever you’d like when answering: getting initial ideas, starting to illustrate, or even what it’s like under deadline, etc. Do you outline a great deal of the book before you illustrate or just let your muse lead you on and see where you end up?


: In describing my process, I have to mention Uri Shulevitz’s book Writing With Pictures. A friend turned me onto it when I was building my first book concepts as an author/illustrator. In the second paragraph of the first chapter, Uri says, “A picture book says in words only what pictures cannot show.”

This simple idea helped the tumblers fall into place for me. Don’t let your words try and do what your pictures are doing and vice versa. The magic for me is that space in between word and image. Now when I’m working on a book idea, I do rough loose thumbnail drawings and write at the same time. I also like drawing and writing quickly so nothing is too precious in early stages.


Dummy and final spread from Float
(Click final art to enlarge)


Dummy and final spread
(Click final art to enlarge)


Dummy and final spread
(Click final art to enlarge)


My ideas for stories come from all over the place. I wish I had a clean formula for generating a great idea. As best as I can tell, I usually start with a personal struggle or anxiety. I know that doesn’t sound very uplifting, but I believe that if you can show real human struggle and how it’s overcome or redeemed, people will connect to it.

Float was a different one for me. I didn’t start with an idea at all. I was flying home from my aunt’s funeral, and on the plane I did a small drawing of a boy floating a paper boat in a puddle. As I looked at it I wondered what happened just before that moment — and I drew it. Then I wondered what happened after and I drew that. I went on like this until I found the beginning and end of the story. It felt like carving something out of stone. The plot line was in there already; I just needed to knock off what didn’t belong to uncover it.


Dummy and final spread
(Click final art to enlarge)


Dummy and final spread
(Click final art to enlarge)


Dummy and final spread
(Click final art to enlarge)


When it comes to making art, I usually always make a quick rough sketch to start from. I try not to overdraw my sketches. Many times I’ve fallen in love with a drawing that says it all and then proceeded to choke the life out of a finished painting of it. Now I try to let my sketches give me the energy and spirit I want in my finished piece but not take it too far. I think I have the best outcomes and the most fun when I make some discoveries in my finished paintings.

I use a variety of media. I use inks, watercolors, gouache, acrylics, and digital tools. I paint the elements for my pieces separately and compile them digitally. It allows me to focus on mark-making, edges, and surface texture in a free way. So, for instance, in Float I painted most of the backgrounds with inks and watercolors wet into wet. I wanted it to feel rain-soaked throughout, but for the little boy I cut shapes out of some of my hand-painted textures on the computer. You know how rain slickers are kind of stiff and have those harsh distinct creases in them? It seemed like a fun contrast to those deep, washy, rolling neutral greys.


Dummy and final spread
(Click final art to enlarge)


Dummy and final spread
(Click final art to enlarge)


Aside from the hours upon hours holed up in my studio drawing and painting, making books for me has to be a team sport. The collaborations with my reps, editors, and design partners have truly helped to make my books the best they can be. I hope I never feel like I’ve got it all figured out.

2. Jules: Describe your studio or usual work space.


: My workspace now is a studio/office in the lower level of my house. We moved in not too long ago, and I’m thrilled to have a separate room set aside to make stuff in. Up until now, our finished attic doubled as our bedroom and studio. My wife is some kind of saint for putting up with all those late nights.

I like painting on this old reclaimed library table a friend of mine gave me when I first moved to Kansas City many years ago. Painting flat suits my love of wet media. Since I use digital tools, too, I like to be just a chair-swivel away from my Mac.


(Click to enlarge)


I have realized that when I’m cooking up ideas for stories and concepting new projects, being out and about works well for me. I spend lots of time in coffee shops and libraries with my sketchbooks.


(Click to enlarge)


3. Jules: As a book-lover, it interests me: What books or authors and/or illustrators influenced you as an early reader?


: Shel Silverstein really ignited my imagination as a kid. In the third grade, I had a teacher read to us from A Light In the Attic. I couldn’t believe we were allowed to read things like that in school. It seemed unfair, like we were getting to skip our school lessons.

Later on, it was Mark Twain’s short stories that got me. And poetry — Langston Hughes, E.E. Cummings, and the imagist poets. I quickly saw that language could evoke the most visceral of feelings.


Spreads and cover from Bambino and Mr. Twain
(Charlesbridge Publishing, 2012)

(Click spreads to enlarge)


4. Jules: If you could have three (living) authors or illustrators—whom you have not yet met—over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose? (Some people cheat and list deceased authors/illustrators. I won’t tell.)

Daniel: Ok, as long as it’s between us. Let’s see … I might have to do both living and non.

William Joyce — I’d love to throw around book ideas with him. I don’t know him at all, but he seems like a great idea man.

Alice and Martin Provensen — I’m rather intrigued with how the collaboration worked, but really because The Glorious Flight is one of my all time faves.

Lynd Ward — Because his drawings are ridiculous! Maybe we could’ve drawn together. A friend pointed me toward The Silver Pony, and I can’t stop going back to it.


(Click to enlarge)


5. Jules: What is currently in rotation on your iPod or loaded in your CD player? Do you listen to music while you create books?

Daniel: I do listen to tunes when I work. Currently I’ve got Dave Brubeck, R.E.M., Sam Cooke, The Cure, Spoon, Dr. Dog. …



6. Jules: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Daniel: I’m a huge John Cusack fan. Whenever he does a new movie—good, bad, or horrible—I have to see it.


Daniel: “A friend of mine recently saw Float
and made me a plush paper boat.”


7. Jules: Is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do? Feel free to ask and respond here.

Daniel: I usually don’t get asked about my family, but they’re so much a part of what I do. My wife and I [pictured below] have a six-year-old daughter, named Stella, and a three-year-old son, named Sam. I didn’t grow up dreaming about making picture books. After my daughter was born, it started to make a lot of sense to me. Seeing the world through my children’s eyes has been a real privilege. I never expected they would have such an impact on my creative pursuits. Plus, they constantly remind me of what’s important in life. If left to my own devices, I worry I would be all work and no play. They keep me in a healthy balance.



* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Daniel: “Quietude.”

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Daniel: “BOGO” (not the deal, just the acronym).

Jules: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Daniel: Good art, films, poetry, the fam, drawing just because, down time.

Jules: What turns you off?

Daniel: Doing the same things over and over and small-mindedness.

Jules: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Daniel: Does “poop” count? In my house, it counts.

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Daniel: Belly laughs.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Daniel: Silent cries. (You know, those out-of-breath kid-cries, where it takes the sound a minute to catch up to the face.)

Jules: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Daniel: Teacher.

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Daniel: Accountant. (No offense. It just ain’t me.)

Jules: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Daniel: “Welcome.”

All images are used by permission of Daniel Miyares.

The spiffy and slightly sinister gentleman introducing the Pivot Questionnaire is Alfred, copyright © 2009 Matt Phelan.

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46. Interview and Giveaway: Delayed Penalty by Sophia Henry

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[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Sophia! Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Sophia Henry] Driven. Compassionate. Funny.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Whats one thing you wont leave home without?

[Sophia Henry] Lip product of some kind. I’m addicted. I feel like a zombie without it. A dry-lip zombie.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Sophia Henry] Computer, a stack of books for a future giveaway, and a silly little bobblehead of a cat wearing gold chains that my grandpa bought me.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Whats your favorite snack when youre working on a deadline?

[Sophia Henry] Sour Patch Kids. I eat all the Sour Patch Kids when I’m writing!!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Sophia Henry] (Detroit Red Wings Forward) Tomas Tatar’s girlfriend? ;) Sorry to my husband…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week. Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Sophia Henry] This is such a hard question for me, because “with great power comes great responsibility,” ya know? I’ll say invisibility, because then I don’t need to be Tomas Tatar’s girlfriend, I’ll just be invisible in the Red Wings locker room for a week. I think more naughty than I write.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Sophia Henry] I’ve read so much awesome recently. Missing Pieces by Meredith Tate, Game of Love by Ara Grigorian, Across the Distance by Marie Meyer, The Rearranged Life by Annika Sharma, Run Away by Laura Salters, The List by Kate L. Mary, Letting Go by Jessica Ruddick. So many. I love to read (Obviously – ha). And love to support my fellow authors.

**Thank you so much for having me on your blog!

Pilots Hockey #1
Sophia Henry
Releasing Sept 1st, 2015
She closed her heart long ago. He just wants to open her mind. For fans of Toni Aleo and Sawyer Bennett, the debut of Sophia Henry’s red-hot Detroit Pilots series introduces a hockey team full of complicated men who fight for love.
Auden Berezin is used to losing people: her father, her mother, her first love. Now, just when she believes those childhood wounds are finally healing, she loses something else: the soccer scholarship that was her ticket to college. Scrambling to earn tuition money, she’s relieved to find a gig translating for a Russian minor-league hockey player—until she realizes that he’s the same dangerously sexy jerk who propositioned her at the bar the night before.
Equal parts muscle and scar tissue, Aleksandr Varenkov knows about trauma. Maybe that’s what draws him to Auden. He also lost his family too young, and he channeled the pain into his passions: first hockey, then vodka and women. But all that seems to just melt away the instant he kisses Auden and feels a jolt of desire as sudden and surprising as a hard check on the ice.
After everything she’s been through, Auden can’t bring herself to trust any man, let alone a hot-headed puck jockey with a bad reputation. Aleksandr just hopes she’ll give him a chance—long enough to prove he’s finally met the one who makes him want to change.


I’m pretty sure there were only two ways Crazy Hair could have looked better than he had at O’Callaghan’s. The first was as he did right now: sitting on a bench in the locker room wearing nothing but the lower half of his uniform, including his skates, sweat rolling over his sinewy pecs and creating a happy trail all the way into his hockey pants.

The second way—I can only assume—would be if he were completely naked.

“Aleksandr, this is Auden Berezin. She will be your translator.”

“I don’t need a translator.”

I almost laughed, because he’d said he didn’t need a translator in Russian.

“You must talk with the media at some point, Sasha. They’re riding my ass to get better answers from you than ‘was good game.’ ”

Aleksandr Varenkov, hot Russian hockey god, laughed, showing the perfect set of white teeth I’d noticed at the bar.

“You have your teeth in, but you haven’t even showered yet?” Orlenko asked.

Was Orlenko a mind reader? I sure hope not, because I would be fired for thinking about my client naked.

“I wanted to look good for pictures.” Aleksandr winked at me. Then he stood, and drops of sweat raced down the hard planes of his chest.

I’d never been so envious of perspiration in my life.

“Sometimes I talk in the shower. Will she translate for me in there?”

My cheeks began to burn, so I averted my eyes, lowering them to the black Cyrillic script tattooed down his sides, then thought better of that line of sight and studied the soiled beige carpet below my feet.

“Aleks—” Orlenko sighed, rubbing his forehead.

“Zhenya,” Aleksandr began. “You know I’m kidding, yes?” He shoved a towel onto the shelf above his nameplate and walked away without waiting for an answer.

“Yes,” Orlenko hissed. He’d said it under his breath, but I heard him and wondered what my grandpa had gotten me into. “Well, that was Aleksandr Varenkov, your client. He’s a talented player and a good man. But he can be a little—”

“Douchey?” I offered in English. I shouldn’t have said it, considering Grandpa’s professional reputation was in my hands. Then again, Evgeny Orlenko was Grandpa’s friend first, so maybe he wouldn’t be too hard on me. Besides, Grandpa knew what kind of mouth I had, and he’d sent me for the job anyway.

Orlenko laughed, and continued in Russian. “Wild was the word I was looking for, but your adjective may not be that far off.”

“I’ve got it, Mr. Orlenko.”

“Are you sure?” He inspected me through thick black-rimmed glasses that were too small for his puffy face.

“As a college student with an active social life, I’ve learned how to handle arrogant douche bags.” This time I was being paid to handle one.

“I shouldn’t be having this conversation about one of my clients,” Mr. Orlenko said, his lips quirking up, then back into a tight line. At least he was trying to keep a straight face. “You’re like a breath of fresh air, Audushka. I hope you stay that way even with his off-ice antics.”

Off-ice antics? What the hell did that mean and why would I have to deal with them? “Will I have to hang out with him outside of the arena? I thought I was here to translate for media interviews after games and some practices.”

“Aleksandr speaks very little English. He’ll need your assistance in all aspects of his career; interviews, community service. At least, until he gets acclimated. Vitya said you were here for the month, is that correct?”

“Yep. All of winter break.”

“You’ll be putting in a lot of hours.”

“I’m a hard worker. And I need the cash. Got cut from the soccer team, and I have to replace the scholarship money I lost.” I was running my mouth again. Maybe I did need to tone it down.

“Well, I’m sorry to hear that. The being-cut part.” He cleared his throat. “Here’s my card. I wrote my cell number on the back. If you have any trouble or if Aleksandr makes you uncomfortable in any way, please give me a call.”

“Thanks.” I scanned the card wondering if I should try to memorize his number now, since I wasn’t sure how stable this client sounded.

After Orlenko left the locker room, I realized I hadn’t asked him what I should do next, and he hadn’t given me instructions as to where I should wait while Aleksandr showered. Since I wasn’t part of the media, I was extremely aware of being the intruder standing in a room of half-naked men. A shower shouldn’t take very long, so I dug my e-reader out of my messenger bag and sat down on the stool that Aleksandr had just vacated.

“Ewww.” I jumped up and skimmed my palm against my damp backside. Hadn’t even thought about any runaway sweat that might’ve dripped from Aleksandr’s lean, hard body onto the stool.

Stop. Just stop thinking about the shiny, wet flesh covering his impeccably carved frame.

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Sophia Henry, a proud Detroit native, fell in love with reading, writing, and hockey all before she became a teenager. She did not, however, fall in love with snow. So after graduating with an English degree from Central Michigan University, she moved to North Carolina, where she spends her time writing books featuring hockey-playing heroes, chasing her two high-energy sons, watching her beloved Detroit Red Wings, and rocking out at concerts with her husband.

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47. Five questions for Steve Sheinkin

Steve Sheinkin 2.13Steve Sheinkin’s young adult history books — including Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon (a Newbery Honor Book, a National Book Award finalist, and the winner of both the Sibert Award and the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults) and The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights (a 2014 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner and also a National Book Award finalist) — are acclaimed for a reason. They are meticulously researched nonfiction books written with the pace, drama, and suspense of fictional thrillers. His latest, Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War (Roaring Brook, 11–14 years), is no exception, as Sheinkin spellbindingly unfolds the entwined stories of the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, and Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers — “seven thousand pages of documentary evidence of lying, by four presidents and their administrations over twenty-three years.”  

1. What originally drew you to Daniel Ellsberg’s particular story, within the larger narrative of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal?

SS: The very first thing that grabbed me was that a team of secret operatives, under direct supervision of the Nixon White House, actually broke into Ellsberg’s doctor’s office in search of information they could use to destroy him. I didn’t know the story well at that point, and wondered: what could this guy have possibly done to provoke such an incredible — and incredibly illegal — response from the president and his top advisors? Also, Ellsberg is one of those people who is considered a hero by some and a traitor by others, and that has always fascinated me.

2. President Johnson emerges as a particularly tragic figure, almost Shakespearean in his ego, in the cruel subversion of his ambitions (the War on Poverty, etc.), and in his inability to escape the quagmire that was the Vietnam War. I ended up feeling (conflictedly) sorry for him. Did you?

SS: Yes, very much so. You can really feel his agony as he makes these decisions, and the most unsettling part of all is that he seems to know all along that he’s heading for disaster. There’s a great line in his memoir about the presidency being too big for any one person to handle — there’s just no way to control events the way Americans seem to expect their leader to be able to do. But while I sympathize with him, I always end up getting angry at him, too, because I think, ultimately, his fear of political consequences was the main reason he escalated the war.

3. This story is a study in contrasts. On the one hand it’s loaded with farce. All the wigs and disguises; the botched burglaries (those conscientious employees re-locking doors!). But of course it’s a serious and important story of a defining era in our nation’s history. How did you hit upon the right tone?

SS: This story has a lot of you-can’t-make-this-up situations and characters, which makes for great material to work with in nonfiction. And I think the darkly comedic moments of bungling and farce are really essential to the overall story. It would probably just be too depressing without that stuff. It’s a matter of taste, but to me the best comedy is usually found in very serious stories — Breaking Bad did that brilliantly, to give one example. So I tried to keep the tone even, and hopefully the reader is pleasantly surprised by those comic moments.

sheinkin_most dangerous4. You make the point that Ellsberg’s legacy is as a First Amendment hero, while Edward Snowden, for example, has been lambasted by President Obama and Secretary Kerry. How do you think today’s political climate compares to that of the 1960s and 1970s?

SS: Maybe the most amazing photo I came across in my research was in a 1971 newspaper article showing Daniel Ellsberg shaking hands with a young anti-war veteran named John Kerry! And now, as you say, Kerry calls Snowden a traitor. In Kerry’s case, I think the main change is that he was an outsider then and he’s an insider now. Overall, while our country’s political discourse does seem to have gotten stupider, I’m not sure the political climate has changed that much. When the Pentagon Papers story first broke, the response was mainly along partisan lines — Ellsberg’s leak was praised by one side and blasted by the other, exactly like Snowden’s. I think it’s mainly time and distance that have tipped the scales in Ellsberg’s favor, in terms of public opinion. I suspect the same will eventually happen with Snowden, but we’ll see.

5. What do you hope readers will come away with after reading this book?

SS: I always start with the same goal: to tell a good story. So I hope teen readers are engaged with the drama and action and moral dilemmas in this one. Beyond that, I hope they come away thinking about how alive and current this story is, how much we’re still wrestling with the same kinds of questions. And of course the best result of all is for a reader to finish the book and be unsatisfied — that is, inspired to find out more.

From the August 2015 issue of What Makes a Good…?


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48. Interview: Gary Leib Talks About Creating ‘American Ultra”s Animation Sequence

How an indie animator in New York City added a unique animated touch to a major Hollywood film.

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49. MATT CHATS: Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman Building Their ‘Invisible Republic’

Though it’s called Invisible Republic, the Image series from Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko has quickly made its presence felt. In five issues the husband and wife duo (along colorist Jordan Boyd and designer Dylan Todd) have managed to introduce a rich futuristic setting and a compelling set of characters. To celebrate the release of the first volume […]

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50. Interview (Part 1) with Ashley Hope Perez, Author of OUT OF DARKNESS

Welcome to Part 1 of our 3-part interview (we just couldn't stop chatting!) with Ashley Hope Perez, author of the forthcoming YA historical novel Out of Darkness, which is based on real-life events (and which we reviewed here).Not only was this a... Read the rest of this post

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