Ask an Author – Jennifer Echols

December 29, 2009

Today, I have an author interview from Jennifer Echols, the author of one of favorite reads of 2009, Going Too Far. Jennifer is also the author of several Simon Pulse romantic comedies and Forget You, which will be released in 2010.

1. If you could only use one word to describe Going Too Far, what would you use and why?

Dark. This book is very unlike my romantic comedies–it goes places those books don’t go. Also, almost the entire book is set at night.

2. Do you enjoy writing YA romantic comedies or dramas more? Why?

I enjoy both, and the book I’m working on at the moment is always my favorite ever. That is the truth. I like writing a comedy and then a drama, back and forth, because that keeps my writing fresh. I don’t like writing the same sort of story over and over.

3. What is your favorite thing about being a YA author?

Messages from fans! I was a reader long before I was a writer, and I know exactly what it’s like to love a book so much that you read it ten times. When someone tells me they’ve enjoyed my books as much as I’ve enjoyed books by other authors…that is the best feeling in the world.

4. What is your least favorite thing about being a writer?

The uncertainty. Even best-selling authors know they’d better stay on top of their game, because if just one of their titles doesn’t sell well, they may have a hard time getting another book contract, ever. It’s like the constant fear of being laid off from your job, times ten.

5. What were your favorite books as a teen?

I was a big fan of Lois Duncan, Paula Danziger, and Judy Blume, but my absolute favorites were The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart and The Beginning Place by Ursula K. Le Guin.

6. Do you have any advice for teens?

Enjoy this time safely! You will remember it fondly for the rest of your life.

7. What can you tell us about your upcoming novels?

Oooh, I can’t wait! Forget You is a romantic drama coming from MTV Books on July 20. When swim team captain Zoey wakes up from a car accident with partial amnesia, she is torn between the boy she remembers…and the one she doesn’t.
Two weeks later, on August 3, Simon Pulse will publish my romantic comedy Endless Summer, the sequel to The Boys Next Door. After breaking curfew, Lori and Adam are forbidden to see each other. Lori thinks going out with boys scarier than Adam will force her dad to give in…but Adam’s jealousy may ruin everything.

Special thanks to Jennifer for participating in this interview. 🙂 If you would like to know more about Jennifer or her novels, visit her website or blog.


Ask an Author – L.K. Madigan

November 17, 2009

First of all, I totally should have posted this up sooner, but life can get in the way sometimes. Anyway, L.K. Madigan is the author of Flash Burnout, which you should read if you have not already. My review can be found here.

1) Where did you get the idea behind Flash Burnout?

Blake was a minor character in a novel I wrote before FB. I eventually abandoned that book, but I liked Blake’s class clown personality. I thought he might have interesting things to say in a future book … but I didn’t have a plot for him. Then a friend who is a medical examiner (who, sadly, sees a lot of meth cases) asked if I’d ever considered writing about the meth epidemic. Ideas began to careen around inside my cranium. First I thought Blake’s girlfriend might be the one to have an addicted parent; then I realized it had to be his girl FRIEND. Instant conflict!

2) Do you have an interest in photography? If so, how far back does your interest go?

I can remember begging to use my dad’s old 35mm Zeiss Ikon camera when I was in probably the fifth grade. Back then you had to wait till your photos were developed to see if they turned out! I took a lot of blurry photos as I was growing up.  So I’ve always had an interest, but my skill level is just average. I’m better with words than images.

3) Are there any characters in the book based on people you know in real life?

Yes and no.

I think writers can’t help but infuse their characters with traits of people they know … sometimes even people they’ve seen only once across a room! There’s probably a little bit of me in almost every character in the book, too.

I know teenage boys, photographers, the grown child of addict parents, a hospital chaplain, a medical examiner … but none of those people are actual characters in my novel.

4) If you could only use one word to describe Flash Burnout, what would you pick and why?


Blake really struggles to be the best Friend and Boyfriend he can. That takes heart.

5) What research did you do for the novel?

I visited a medical examiner’s office.

I read photography books, and took tons of photos. I learned to use Photoshop, and had my manuscript read by a professional photographer to check for glaring errors.

I read newspaper articles and did online research about the effects of methamphetamine use on the body and brain.

6) As a teen, what novels did you like?

Wow – I read anything I could get my hands on. I especially loved “problem” novels, THE BELL JAR, Judy Blume, ghost stories, Stephen King, and Tom Robbins.

7) What is your favorite thing about being a YA author?

My world has expanded – no, exploded (in a good way) – since I sold my book. I’ve met so many other writers, readers, booksellers, and bloggers in the online community, and even BETTER, I’ve met some of them in person. I’m so happy to be an author in the age of the Internet. It seems like it would have been a lonely job even a decade ago.

8 ) Are you in the process of writing any novels? If so, what can you tell us?

I have a second novel coming out in 2010 – it’s pretty much the polar opposite of FLASH BURNOUT. It’s a fantasy about a girl surfer who finds a mermaid. No, really: it is.

9) Is there anything else you would like to add?

Since I’m answering these questions during Banned Books Week, remember to support your local libraries and fight to keep ALL books on the shelves. Other people’s parents should not dictate what YOU (or your child) can read.

Special thanks to Lisa for answering my questions! If you would like more information about Flash Burnout or the author, then go to L.K. Madigan’s site or blog.

Ask an Author – Jessica Wollman

August 3, 2009

Jessica Wollman is a children’s, MG, and YA author. Her book, Second Skin, was released on July 14.

1. Did you ever want to be more popular in high school?

I went to a very, very, very small all girls school from the 5th to the 12th grade. There are, for obvious lack-of-guy reasons, drawbacks to attending such a place, BUT a nice plus was that popularity didn’t really exist. By the time we got to high school we all knew each other so well and were so comfortable at the school that the whole social-hierarchy thing became sort of a moot point. I must admit, I did occasionally fantasize about attending a more “normal” sort of high school and, of course, in those fantasies, I was spectacularly popular, but it really wasn’t an obsession.

2. Where did you get the idea behind the second skin?

I’ve always liked the idea of “commoditizing” coveted, hard to attain states of being such as wealth, fame and popularity. I’m also a firm believer in the whole “be careful what you wish for” cliche. I guess Second Skin was a natural outgrowth of both lines of thought.

3. Are any of the characters based on people you know in real life?

Not really, although I suppose there are shades of my own voice in Sam’s.

4. In the book, Sam’s friend, Gwen, loves food. Do you have a love of food like her?

I definitely love food (and since I’m several months pregnant now I’m definitely loving food more than ever!) but sadly, I’m not the gourmet Gwen is.

5. Do you have any advice for teens?

I just remember being so stressed out when I was a teen – if I had to do it again I’d be a lot more relaxed. Life has a way of happening, regardless of your stress level!

6. What do you like about writing YA novels vs. children’s or MG novels?

I love the diversity and flexibility the whole YA genre offers. In a YA section of a bookstore, I’m always amazed by how many different types of books there are — no matter what type of a reader you are or what appeals to you, you can always find a book. That same diversity and flexibility is a huge plus when sitting down to plot a YA book — there’s really very little you “can’t” do or few topics you “can’t” explore.

7. What is your writing process?

First I come up with a basic idea. Then I obsess about it for literally months and months. Next I write a proposal, send off to my agent…and keep my fingers crossed!

8. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes – I really hope it stops raining! This summer has been absolutely miserable!

Thank you Jessica for participating! If you would like to know more about Jessica Wollman or her books, visit her website.

Ask an Author – Sally Rippin

June 30, 2009

Sally Rippin is an Australian author and illustrator. Most of the books are for children, but she has written YA novels, including Chenxi and the Foreigner. 🙂

1. What inspired you to write and rewrite Chenxi and the Foreigner?

The novel was inspired by my time as an art student in China in the late 80s, early 90s. I wanted to record my experience there but I find writing fiction much more enjoyable that straight memoir because I can exaggerate the drama and conflict to create an interesting story.

2. What do you love about Shanghai?

There is lots to love about Shanghai, but the Shanghai of today is nothing like the place I lived in nearly twenty years ago. Now it is a shining modern metropolis. When I lived there the tallest building was only twenty stories high. Obviously I am very attached to the old Shanghai of my student days but I imagine it’s an easier place to live now.

3. About how much of Chenxi and the Foreigner is based on your experiences?

Everything I write begins from somewhere inside me. There is lots of Chenxi and the Foreigner based on my own experience but obviously I added drama to make it more interesting. Now, my novel feels so real to me I often forget which were the true bits and which bits I made up!

4. What is one thing you would like people to know about the Chinese?

They’re not so different to us. I think people would find that true about any nationality and culture once they got to know people as individuals. Humans are basically humans all over the world, no matter what they speak, eat, wear or who they pray to.

5. What was it like moving between countries as a child?

I didn’t have anything to compare it to, and most of the kids in the international schools I went to had pretty much the same experience, so it wasn’t until we returned to Australia that I began to feel different. But I was also a teenager by then and I think many teenagers go through a stage of feeling different even if they’ve spent their whole lives in one place.

6. How did you decide to be an author?

I have always written and illustrated, even when I was a child. I had a very inspiring year 8 English teacher in Hong Kong, who used to read my stories out in class. I think he used to really inspire me to keep writing

7. Are you working on any upcoming YA novels?

Yes! I am very excited about my new novel, but as it is still being read by my publisher Text Publishing here in Australia, I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it too soon! It’s something very different for me…

8. Is there anything else you would like to add?

It’s really exciting to be read by an audience outside of Australia, Krista, so thanks for your support! And all the best for your blog. It’s really great.

Thank you for participating. 🙂 If you have would like to find out more about Sally Rippin, then visit her website.

Ask an Author – Melissa Wyatt

May 27, 2009

Melissa Wyatt is the author of Funny How Things Change and Raising Griffin. She currently resides in York, Pennsylvania with her husband Andy and two sons, Ned and Will.

1. How did you go about researching for Funny How Things Change?

The idea for the story came during one of our trips to West Virginia for my husband’s semi-annual family reuinion. We’d been going down there since we’d been married, so a lot of the research was already done over those years only I didn’t know it. I just kept thinking “Why would anyone stay here?” (because I didn’t much like it there at first.) And after while, I realized that was a great central question for a novel.

Once I settled in to write, I did a lot of reading on perceptions and misconceptions about Appalachia–because I admit to having my own, even after years of visiting there. I also read a lot of contemporary Appalachian writers. And then I took a horrifying crash course in something I had not known existed: mountaintop removal mining. Where–literally–the top is removed from mountains and dumped into the valleys so that nothing like a mountain remains. It’s a fast and dirty way to get at coal. Remember that the next time you hear the term “clean coal” because it’s not all about how the coal is burned. It’s also about how they get it out of the ground and the irrevocable damage this particular method causes.

And then there was all the snake bite research. At one point in the first draft, (I can’t believe I’m admitting this) Remy was bitten by a snake (mercifully, this was cut before anyone else ever saw it) and I spent a lot of time reading up on the treatment and complications of snake bites. Having a delicate consitution, this meant I would read a paragraph and then have to put my head between my knees to keep from passing out and then read a little more, put head back between knees, etc. And all for nought! It ended up in the cut file.

2. How long did it take you to write the novel?

About a year from the time I finally decided to give in to the idea and write the story. The first half took most of that year and then I kind of got hung up on the last half and how to bring it around to where it wanted to go. But when things finally clicked, the last half only took about three weeks. So a lot of that year was more thinking and whining and complaining than writing.

And then, of course, you’re still not done because there were revisions–revising on my own and then with my editor. So altogether from the first idea until the book when to the printer was probably about three years.

3. Did you have anyone in mind when you wrote Remy’s character? How about other characters?

There is one minor character in the book that is a tribute to a real person, and that’s Cousin Helen. The real Helen passed away a few years ago, and I miss how every year at the Wyatt family reunion, she would charmingly try to force me to eat her hummingbird cake, so she had to go into the book.

But Remy just developed on his own. Even though the book reads like a character-driven novel, I think it’s actually more of a setting-driven novel. So when I started it, I was thinking more in terms of setting than character, so I got to know Remy through his relationship to the setting as I wrote.

4. Would you want to live in Dwyer? Why/Why not?

Oo, excellent question. You know, I don’t think I would. I’d love the small town atmosphere, but Dwyer is too isolated for me. The Appalachian Plateau is very beautiful but also very extreme. I need more horizon around me. But given the fact that I *do* still live in the town where I was born, I understand how a place makes an impression on you and how, for some of us, we need to maintain that connection.

5. Why did you choose to write a male protagonist over a female?

I ought to have a deep, process-oriented writerly response to this, but the truth is that I write what I like to read, and somewhere around the time I turned fourteen or so, I wanted to read about boys because they had suddenly become fascinating. They still are, especially since I live with a couple of them, so I think I’m still trying to figure them out in real life and in writing.

6. Is there anything you would like readers to take from the novel after they’ve read it? If so, what?

When I write a book, at first it’s for me, and I’m usually in love with my main character. So when it gets into the hands of readers, I mostly hope they enjoy the trip and like my main character. Beyond that, if I’m saying anything, it’s “Here’s something I’ve been thinking about. Take a look and see what you think.” If the book makes someone think about something they haven’t considered before, that’s great.

7. What novels did you enjoy as a teen?

How much space do we have? I read a TON as a teen, all kinds of stuff. My mother used to buy boxes of books at yard sales and we would root through them and read whatever appealed to us. So I read everything from classics to trashy romance to biographies of movie stars. One of the best books that came out of those boxes was The Princess Bride, still one of my favorite books of all time. I read everything Mary Stewart ever wrote. I was and still am a big L. M. Montgomery fan. I also loved Madeline L’Engle and still carry a torch for Adam Eddington.

But the author that most influenced me and made me want to write YA was a British author named K. M. Peyton, best known in this country for her Flambards novels. My favorite of her novels is The Right Hand Man, a rare Regency YA with a very virgorous, manly point-of-view.

8. Are you working on any upcoming novels?

I am working on my own Regency YA, but it isn’t vigorous and manly at all. It’s very girly and feminine, with some supernatural mystery stuff thrown in.

Thank you for participating! If you would like to find out more about Melissa Wyatt, just visit her website or blog. 🙂

Ask an Author – Lisa Schroeder Answers

February 10, 2009

Lisa Schroeder is the author of I Heart You, You Haunt Me and Far From You. All the of questions she answered were written by me. In a later post, I will post more about changes to Ask an Author (so I can actually get questions sent or scrap the idea). Without further ado, the questions! 🙂

1) Where did you get the idea behind Far From You?

For me, a book often starts with a few seeds of ideas that I sit down and play around with and see what they might grow into. I had been thinking about that book OUT OF THE DUST which makes you feel dusty and hot as you read and I thought, what would be the opposite of that, which made me answer, cold and snow. And I thought of snowflakes and snow angels and realized I could probably do some poetic things with that subject. I had always wanted to do a book where the main character was a singer and songwriter, so I decided this would be that book, and it worked out really well, because the songs worked nicely in the story. And finally, I had wanted to do a book with Alice in Wonderland elements, and decided to make that part of this book as well.

2) Who’s your favorite character from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and why?
Oooh, good question. I really love Alice. I love that she is a girl full of imagination. And I like that she doesn’t like rudeness and doesn’t tolerate it much in others.
3) Have you always wanted to write in verse, or was it something that just happened?
Yeah, people often ask why I chose to write my first book, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME in verse and really I didn’t choose it as much as it chose me. I sat down to write and that’s how it came out. It created an atmosphere for the story that I don’t think I could have created otherwise. Not all books are going to work in verse, and I know that. But when it does, and there’s an emotional experience for the main character I want to maximize, writing in verse works really well for me.
4) Did you always want to write for young adults and children?

I think it was in the back of my mind for much longer than I realized. I was at a crossroads in my life trying to figure out what I wanted to do. When I got quiet and asked myself, what’s the dream in your heart, a small voice said, write for kids, write for kids. And so one day I thought, why not try and see what happens? And I haven’t looked back since.
5) As a teen, what authors did you enjoy reading?

Judy Blume, of course, V.C. Andrews, and that’s about it. I read a lot in late elementary and middle school, but once I hit college, and we were reading things like THE GREAT GATSBY in high school, I didn’t read much for pleasure. If only I’d had the amazing selection of books we have today!!
6) Read any good books lately?

I read an advanced review copy of Elizabeth Scott’s latest one coming out next month, called SOMETHING, MAYBE and I really enjoyed it. I also read PRINCESS BEN by Catherine Murdock and that was a fun read. I have a huge pile of books here to get through – there’s never as much time to read as I would like!
7) What are your favorite bands or singers?

I love singer/songwriters. I’m a huge fan of Lifehouse, Matt Nathanson, and the Goo Goo Dolls. I also love Taylor Swift and Sarah Mclachlan.

8 ) Hot or cold?

I would much rather be hot. With a cold drink in my hand. And a book in the other.

9) How much do you love pie?

Mmmm, I love pie to the moon and back! Warm blackberry pie with vanilla ice cream is my favorite! I make at least one every summer, usually two or three, picking the blackberries myself and everything!
10) Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for having me here and for your thoughtful questions!!
I’d like to thank you too for taking the time to answer my questions. 🙂 To visit Lisa Schroeder’s website, click here.

Ask an Author deadline EXTENDED.

January 31, 2009

I’m extending the deadline to enter questions for Lisa Schroeder to answer for another week. So the new deadline is February 8, 2008 @ 2:00 PM EST.

Also, if you have any suggestions about Ask an Author feel free to tell me.  I’d also like to know what you think of the feature itself. Your feedback will be greatly appreciated. Who knows, maybe I’m even thinking of having a secret contest of some sorts. (That’s a *hint* *hint* in case you didn’t catch it.) 😉

Again, just comment here or e-mail me at towerofbooks(at)gmail(dot)com. Thank you.