Friday, July 31, 2015

PPLYAFest Interview #3 with Mindy McGinnis

Rounding out my interviews from the PPLYAFest is Mindy McGinnis, who is seriously the most pleasant and enthusiastic person I have ever met. She was so delightful and has hooked me as a reader from sheer personality. Even if you find her writing only half as awesome as she is, you still won't be able to put her books down.

Interview with Mindy McGinnis

Raychelle: What were you doing when the inspiration to write Not a Drop to Drink struck? Was this your first idea for a book and if not, do you have any plans to revisit some of those ideas?

Mindy: I watched a documentary called Blue Gold. Its about how we are draining the world of water. There are too many people and not enough water, it's a very simple math equation. I was watching this documentary and thought that is terrible because that is something that all of us have to have. It doesn't take much for human beings to go straight to violence. I have a pond in my backyard and I had this really selfish thought right before I went to bed. I thought I have a pond, I will be ok, everyone else is screwed. My niece was fairly young at the time, and I dreamt that we were in my basement and I was teaching her how to operate a rifle so that she could help me protect the pond. I told her that she is going to have to kill to survive and I'm sorry but this is our life now. I woke up and thought that was terrible role modeling but it would make an awesome book. I thought of this little girl whose parent or role model was telling her that she had to kill to survive because she is more important than anything else. So I dreamt the characters and then grew the plot up around it.

R: Did the story stay pretty true to the first draft or did it change significantly along the way?

M: It got edited down a lot but it was true to my original concept. I don't necessarily have a lot of survival skills but I do live in the middle of nowhere. I can my own food, collect rain water, and can skin a deer. I'm not a survivalist, it's just a way of life. There were probably 50 more pages of just mother and Lynn and how they lived. There was a lot of stuff that was cut out that was practical knowledge that was cut for plot purposes. So it pretty much stayed true and it is what I wanted it to be.

R: Was this your first idea for a book and if not, do you have any plans to revisit some of those ideas?

M: Not a Drop to Drink was my fifth finished book and my first published. Interestingly enough, the first book I ever wrote, I wrote in college. The book was terrible, but the concept was great. I actually reread it recently and I didn't even finish it because it was so terrible. It was the first thing I ever wrote so it sucked. I spoke to my editor and he asked what else I had and that he wanted to see me write a contemporary. I told him that I didn't really have a lot, but I had this book I wrote in college. It's a vigilante justice, rape revenge story. I first wrote it about adults, but I was confident that I could make it into a YA. He was sold and told me to write it. So, it's kind of cool that the very first book I ever wrote is getting published, but it's not. The only thing that is the same is the title which is The Female of the Species and it will be out in 2016. The main character is the younger sister of a girl who was abducted and killed. Everyone pretty much knows who did it but there is no evidence to prove it and he walks. She takes justice into her own hands and gets away with it. It really messes with the social structure. The book is actually set three years later. She has been withdrawn and is starting to develop relationships. She is trying to redeem herself through working in an animal shelter even though she doesn't really realize that's why she is doing it.

R: How have your experiences in Ohio influenced your writing? 

M: Everything. All of my books are set in Ohio. A Madness So Discreet is set in Athens at the Insane Asylum at Ohio State. You write what you know. I want to write books for the kids that know what the wind sounds like blowing through a corn field.* 

*We had a great conversation about Riverview kids knowing all about it and living in the middle of nowhere. ;-)

R: You have a new book coming in October, A Madness So Discreet, which is a gothic historical thriller. What else can you tell us about it?

M: It's about a girl who is pregnant because her father is molesting her. If you were inconveniently pregnant in that time period, it was pretty common for the family to send her to the Insane Asylum to have her baby and tell everyone that she is on her "European Tour." Then when she has the baby and slims back down, the family will bring her back. She is from a good quality Boston family, a political family. It is really inconvenient because 1)her father is the one molesting her and 2)the girls from those families are not supposed to be pregnant. Grace Mae knows that is what is going to happen to her and she doesn't want that. She sees a doctor performing lobotomies and the people that are walking out of there. She decides that she wants one. She has a very keen eye for detail and can remember everything that happened and she doesn't want to remember. She is angry at her family, including her mother who knew what was going on and she knows that they will have to face the truth if she gets a lobotomy. She asks the doctor to perform one and he says no because it would be immoral. The doctor, who is somewhat of a Holmes-ian character, looks at her, knows her story and sees that she has that keen eye. He tells her that he has a new job in Ohio studying Criminal Psychology, which was a really new science back then but was basically criminal profiling. He will tell everyone that he lobotomized her and she will go with him as his assistant and stand at the crime scenes holding his bags. Although In reality, she will actually be memorizing the crime scene. So she agrees and they end up in Ohio on the case of a serial killer. She has a younger sister in Boston and she gets the feeling that the abuse is going tot transfer to her soon and she knows that she can't let that happen.

R: What were some of the influences that inspired you to write and particularly to write A Madness So Discreet?

M: I just know a lot about lobotomies. I know that's weird, but I'm interested in brains and the science of the brain. We still know very little about our brains. I'm fascinated by how the brain works. I'm fascinated by Criminal Psychology, especially early Criminal Psychology because I'm amazed they ever caught anyone. Also, the medical treatments of the time and the advancement of women, which were treated horribly. There were just so many things that combined to make this book.

R: What do you think is the most memorable line in A Madness so Discreet? Do you have a favorite?

M: There is a character named Falsteed, who you never actually get to see because they are in the dark. He talks to Grace and he keeps her alive just by talking to her when she ends up down there after assaulting the Asylum director. Falsteed is a doctor and he believes that he can smell cancer. Back then they were familiar with inoculations, and Falsteed is terrified of cancer, so he thought he could inoculate himself of cancer by eating peoples tumors. So he would operate on his patients and then eat their tumors. He has this perfect logic. If you put small pox in someone, they won't get small pox, so if I eat cancer, I won't get cancer. It makes sense to him. He tells her that she and he are the most sane people in this place and they put them in the basement in order for the insane people above them to build a strong foundation for their own sanity.*

*Actual quote from the book below, courtesy of Mindy. 
"But that’s neither here nor there in the darkness. This particular darkness, anyway, the one you and I find ourselves denizens of. We are here because we’re the sanest people in this establishment, so they put us down here as the bedrock on which to gain a foothold for the wanderings of their own minds. They call us insane, then feed their own insanities on our flesh, for we are now less than human."

R: Tell me a little bit about your writing process…

M: I love being outdoors so I have to write when it is dark or snowing. 

R: What book would you recommend, regardless of preferred genre?

M: It depends on the person, but the one that I always recommend is Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson. Everyone likes Speak and it is a good book, but Twisted in underrated. It is a really good book for everyone. 

R: Give me one unique fact about yourself…

M: I have really, really fat thumb pads*. 

*Guys, this is so incredible that I had to take a picture. See below.

R: Is there a character that speaks to you the most? What do they tend to say?

M: It is always the supporting characters. In Drink, it was Stubbs and in Dust, it was Fletcher. For Madness, it was Nell and in Female it is Pee Kay, who is the Preacher's Kid. The main characters are tougher. With Lynn, she wouldn't give me anything. I had to fight her.

R: Do you tend to focus more on the development of the storyline or the dialogue first?

M: Dialogue and characters because it doesn't matter how great your plot is if people don't care about the characters. You have to make people care about things that happen to people that don't exist. It is harder to make someone laugh. I can make people cry and be proud of that but if I make someone laugh that is awesome.

More about Mindy

Mindy McGinnis is an assistant YA librarian who lives in Ohio and cans her own food. She graduated from Otterbein University magna cum laude with a BA in English Literature and Religion. Mindy has a pond in her back yard but has never shot anyone, as her morals tend to cloud her vision.
Learn more about Mindy on her blogwebsite, or twitter

More about Not A Drop to Drink

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water. 

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

You can buy Not a Drop to Drink on IndieBound | BN | Amazon | BookDepository

More about A Madness So Discreet

Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

You can buy A Madness So Discreet on IndieBound | BN | Amazon | BookDepository

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

PPLYAFest Interview #2 with Cinda Williams Chima

Continuing today with the PPLYAFest is my interview with Cinda Williams Chima. Get to know more about her and her books below. 

Interview with YA author Cinda Williams Chima

Raychelle: You have previously mentioned that your fantasy stories were influenced by authors such as Tolkein and George RR Martin. Was there any other inspiration for the direction of your stories?

Cinda: I am constantly learning through reading. There are a lot of really great YA novels out right now and they are constantly creating a better experience.

R: What is one thing you want readers (new or established fans) to know about your books?

C: My goal in writing, first and foremost, is to write a great story. I think anytime a writer loses sight of that and they are writing to an agenda or to teach lesson, that generally comes between the reader and the story.

R: What are you currently working on, if anything, and can you tell me a little about it?

C: I am working on my new series called the Shattered Realms*, which is set in the world of the Seven Realms, but a generation later. You will see some of the same characters, actually some of the children of the characters. 

*The first book in the series is called Flamecaster.

R: I imagine that you get a lot of requests for events. What is one place that you would love to be sent on tour? Where is the most requested location?

C: I have never been to San Diego Comic Con and I have heard so much about it. The only thing about some of these really big events is so often some of the actual reading fans, the crowds are so large and they have trouble getting in to some of the events. I do like book fests because there is always someone to talk to. There are other authors there and it's an opportunity to meet with readers that don't already know my books. I get a lot of love from Texas, and I find that the teachers and librarians there really kick-butt and I always have a warm welcome there. Some other great reading areas are the Pacific Northwest. There are a lot of great bookstores and a lot of readers. 

R: What does your writing process consist of?

C: I think it's important for writers to figure out when their best time is and for me that is in the morning. The earlier I get started the better. Everyone is different and it's important to know that there are no standard rules for writing. Don't let anybody tell you there is only one way to do it. Like a lot of authors, I have an editor in my head saying that this is no good or this is terrible, and I have found that she sleeps late. Like this morning, I was working my way through some different plot issues and it's almost like a dreamlike state and you don't have the restrictions like you do sometimes later. 

R: Since you have two long series, how do you prepare for the next book?

C: It depends on the series. In the Heir series, it's more of a standalone. With the Seven Realms series, there is one story arc over four books, so it is more a matter of breaking off the story and starting in again. Sometimes there isn't even a day between. Usually, within any given time I am working on two books at once, the one that is still a rough draft and the one that is getting polished. 

R: Do you have an unwinding process to relax between deadlines?

C: I find exercise and taking walks is very helpful. Some writers don't like to read when they are in the middle of writing, but I am always writing so it doesn't bother me. I am also fond of wine. 

R: Give me one unique fact about yourself…

C: I am interested in genealogy  I have done a lot of family history research and a lot of the names of my characters come off my family tree. I have gone back as far as the 1600s. They are mainly scallywags and moonshiners.

R: Is there a character that speaks to you the most? What do they tend to say?

C: I have a special place in my heart for Seph McCauley (the Wizard Heir). He is a bit of a darker character and the protagonist in the Warrior Heir. He's worldy, he's been a lot of places, he's something of a cynic and so I really enjoy him. Princess Raisa ana’Marianna in the Seven Realms. I have given her a lot of traits that I wish I had. Sometimes I make them tall, but not in her case. She is smart and courageous and she sticks to her principles.

R: Do you tend to focus more on the development of the storyline or the dialogue (at least during your first draft)?

C: I would say the storyline. The dialogue comes out of story and should move the story along. It's just one tool that you have. You shouldn't have any dialogue that doesn't move the story along, unlike in real life.

More about Cinda

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cinda Williams Chima grew up with talking animals and kick-butt Barbies. She began writing poetry and stories in third grade and novels in junior high school. These days she writes fantasy fiction for teens of all ages. Her Heir Chronicles contemporary fantasy series includes The Warrior Heir(2006), The Wizard Heir (2007), The Dragon Heir (2008), The Enchanter Heir (2013) and The Sorcerer Heir (2014).

Chima’s high fantasy Seven Realms series launched with The Demon King (2009), followed by The Exiled Queen(September, 2010) The Gray Wolf Throne (2011) and The Crimson Crown (2012).
Both series have been New York Times bestsellers.

Chima’s Shattered Realms high fantasy series is forthcoming from HarperCollins. The first novel, Flamecaster, is scheduled for Spring, 2016.   

Chima’s books have received starred reviews in Kirkus and VOYA, among others. They have been named Booksense and Indie Next picks, an International Reading Association Young Adult Choice, a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, to the Kirkus Best YA list, and the VOYA Editors’ Choice, Best Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, and Perfect Tens lists. Her books also appear on numerous state awards lists and won the Buckeye Teen Book Award in 2011. 

Chima was a recipient of the 2008 Lit Award for Fiction from the Cleveland Lit and was named a Cleveland Magazine Interesting Person 2009. She lives in Ohio with her family, and is always working on her next novel. 

Find Chima online at or She is on Facebook at and on Twitter @cindachima .

About the Seven Realms

When 16-year-old Han Alister and his Clan friend Dancer encounter three underage wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea, he has no idea that this event will precipitate a cascade of disasters that will threaten everything he cares about.

Han takes an amulet from one of the wizards, Micah Bayar, to prevent him from using it against them. Only later does he learn that it has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. And the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.

Han’s life is complicated enough. He’s the former streetlord of the Raggers—a street gang in the city of Fellsmarch. His street name, Cuffs, comes from the mysterious silver bracelets he’s worn all his life—cuffs that are impossible to take off.

Now Han’s working odd jobs, helping to support his family, and doing his best to leave his old life behind. Events conspire against him, however. When members of a rival gang start dying, Han naturally gets the blame.

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna has her own battles to fight. As heir to the Gray Wolf throne of the Fells, she’s just spent three years of relative freedom with her father’s family at Demonai Camp—riding, hunting, and working the famous Clan markets. Now court life in Fellsmarch pinches like a pair of too-small shoes.

Wars are raging to the south, and threaten to spread into the high country. After a long period of quiet, the power of the Wizard Council is once again growing. The people of the Fells are starving and close to rebellion. Now more than ever, there’s a need for a strong queen. 

But Raisa’s mother Queen Marianna is weak and distracted by the handsome Gavan Bayar, High Wizard of the Fells. Raisa feels like a cage is closing around her—and an arranged marriage and eroded inheritance is the least of it.

Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. With the help of her friend, the cadet Amon Byrne, she navigates the treacherous Gray Wolf Court, hoping she can unravel the conspiracy coalescing around her before it’s too late.

About the Heir Chronicles

One March day, Jack Swift, a high school student in a small college town, forgets to take the medicine he’s taken daily since he was an infant. There ensues a cascade of events that puts him in mortal danger. 

Jack discovers he carries a secret within him that has made him a target of the ruthless wizards of the Red and White Rose. Jack is a Warrior Heir, the last of a dying breed, sought after by the Roses to fight in the tournaments that are used to allocate power among the Wizard Houses. Unknown to him, Jack has lived all his life surrounded by members of the Magical Guilds: wizards, enchanters, soothsayers, and sorcerers. They are determined to save him from the Roses. 

With the aid of his aunt, a beautiful enchanter, Jack desperately tries to acquire the skills that might save his life. Jack and his friends, Will and Fitch, unearth a magical sword from a cemetery and fight off the wizards who would take it from them. Jack begins training with the dark and dangerous Leander Hastings, a wizard with a mysterious past. 

Meanwhile, Jack is torn between his attraction to Ellen Stephenson, a new student at Trinity High School, and Leesha Middleton, his former girlfriend, who decides she wants him back.
Discovered and besieged by treachery at home, he flees to the Lake District of England. There he is confronted by the greatest challenge of all.

Monday, July 27, 2015

PPLYAFest Interview #1 with Jody Casella

If you haven't heard, the Pickerington Public Library just hosted its YA Author Fest on Saturday and I highly recommend it. There were panels and workshops and signings as well as food trucks for lunch.  About 20 awesome authors participated this year and they were some of the best people (to meet and read). As a blogger, I was given the opportunity to interview three authors participating in the fest. Jody Casella, Cinda Williams Chima, and Mindy McGinnis were my authors of choice and I was lucky enough to have time with each of them. It was so much fun getting to sit down and talk with them and I have so many new questions for next year! To kick off my interviews, you will find the Q&A with Jody Casella below. Don't forget to check out her book, Thin Space, after seeing how she came up with the idea. Side note: Jody's answers are not word for word, but a paraphrasing of my notes.

Interview with YA author Jody Casella

Raychelle: Your novel, Thin Space, is based upon the Celtic belief of thin places, where the veil between our world and the spiritual world thinner. What was your research process? How long did it take to nail down the idea for Thin Space?

Jody: It's often said that two ideas that have nothing to do with each other create a story and that is what happened with Thin Space. One day while picking my son up from the bus, I saw an older boy exiting behind him who was completely barefoot. It was in cold weather and my initial reaction as a mother was worry but as a writer I wondered about his motivations. I thought he would make an interesting character but I didn't have a tory for him yet. Then a couple months later while out to dinner, I read a clip* in a local magazine about the Celtic belief of thin places. These two seemingly unrelated ideas sparked the story. I wrote most of it during NanoWriMo and then had about a 1 year revision process.

*Article clip via Jody's website: "The Celts believed in thin places, where the veil between this world and the Other is, well, thin... In these places the seen and unseen world are most closely connected and inhabitants of both worlds can momentarily touch each other."

R: You mentioned that two different ideas inspired you to write Thin Space, one of those being the barefoot boy behind your son on the bus. I’m curious if you ever learned more about him or if he knows he sort of inspired Marsh.

J: He doesn't know that he inspired Marsh or the idea of being barefoot to go through thin space. I didn't learn any more about him either but I did meet other people who knew of him. I was talking about how the idea formed for Thin Space and it sparked conversation among the people in the group who knew of the barefoot kid, but no one knew why he was always barefoot. I met a girl who used to date him and when I asked her about it, she couldn't remember him ever mentioning a reason. She just thought he hated shoes. You may be thinking, what school would let a kid walk around all day barefoot, but they did. I visited the school for a presentation and they couldn't believe that a school would let someone walk around without shoes and I told them it was this school, but they didn't believe me.

R: Do you have any plans to revisit some of your unpublished novels? Can you tell me a little bit about them?

J: There is a sequel to Thin Space that I would like to revisit and try to get published, but right now I am working on something else.

R: Can you tell me about your current project?

J: I don;t know if I should say much about it, but it is currently called Splintering. Greek Mythology and Driads play into the story which was partly inspired by my parents cutting my favorite tree down while I was at camp one year.

R: You’ve lived in a couple different states, from CT to TN to KY and now OH. How has that played a role in your writing? (Geographical setting, etc)

J: It definitely plays a role. I have lived in OH for 8 years and when we moved here, we moved into a creepy old home so that sets the scene for writing creepy and supernatural stories like Thin Space.

R: What have been some of your biggest learning experiences throughout the writing/publishing process?

J: There is so much out of your control but it is a dream come true and I have learned to just let things happen. I will always keep writing, even if no one reads it because I love to write and create stories.

R: Give me one unique fact about yourself…

J: A dog bit my face when I was younger so I hated dogs for the longest time. Now we have a dog named Zooey and I love her so much. Most of what I post are pictures of Zooey.

More About Jody Casella

Jody Casella is a former high school English teacher with a degree in Creative Writing from Rhodes College and a Masters in English from the University of Memphis. Her first novel Thin Space, a paranormal YA mystery published by Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster, received a starred review from Kirkus. She lives with her husband and two teenagers in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to writing books, she visits schools, libraries, and book clubs to talk about the creative/revision process, sporadically cleans her house, and walks her dog. A lot. 

Visit her website or Goodreads to learn more.

About Thin Space

There’s a fine line between the living and the dead, and Marshall is determined to cross it in this gut-wrenching debut novel.

Ever since the car accident that killed his identical twin brother, Marshall Windsor has been consumed with guilt and crippled by the secrets of that fateful night. He has only one chance to make amends and set things right. He must find a thin space—a mythical point where the barrier between this world and the next is thin enough for a person to step through to the other side.

But when a new girl moves into the neighborhood, into the same house Marsh is sure holds a thin space, she may be the key—or the unraveling of all his secrets.

As they get closer to finding a thin space—and closer to each other—Marsh must decide once and for all how far he’s willing to go to right the wrongs of the living…and the dead.

You can buy Thin Space at these retailers: BN | Amazon | IndieBound | Books-A-Million |
Visit Cover to Cover (614-263-1624) to order a signed copy.