Friday, 15 April 2016

Flashback Reading: An Interview with Jodi Meadows

As many of you know, I've been a fan of Jodi Meadows since I picked up an ARC of Incarnate many moons ago. In fact, I finished reading her most recent release, The Mirror King, just last week and plan to have a review up soon. But for now, I was thrilled when Jodi offered to come do an interview to talk about the Incarnate trilogy, the books that started it all.

In your own words, how would you pitch the Incarnate trilogy?

INCARNATE is the story of the only new girl in a world where everyone else is perpetually reincarnated. She needs to figure out why she was born, and what happened to the person she replaced. 

What inspired this series?

I really wish I could remember! I had the idea for Incarnate in 2006 (that's ten years ago now!), but I didn't feel like I could properly write such a challenging idea until 2009 -- when I felt I had nothing to lose by trying. Somewhere in the three years the note for the story sat on my computer, I just . . . forgot what inspired it. 


How did you feel about releasing Incarnate in the months leading up to it? Did releasing Asunder and Infinite feel different?


Oh yes, they felt different! Before Incarnate came out, I was both nervous and excited. There was this feeling that everything would be completely different on January 31, 2012. Completely different. I had so much anxiety and apprehension and anticipation for that day, but ultimately, nothing really changed, except that I had a book on the shelves of my local bookstore. Which *is* life changing, but also not. In a way, I'd built the day up so much that the actual day was a bit anti-climactic. Not in a bad way, just . . . nothing really changed. I still had to write my next book.

With every book I've released since then, there's been a minor sense of that life-changing possibility, but nothing remotely to the level of Incarnate. Which is nice. That was exhausting! 

Any exciting launch day memories for the books?

For Incarnate, I went to one of my local bookstores only to find that they'd lost a couple copies of my book, and when they went to the back to hunt down the ones they could find, they just asked if I wanted to buy one. So that was great? But my other store had a HUGE display of the books. Which WAS great.

For Asunder, I got stuck on a plane next to an older gentlemen who wanted to know if I wanted to move to Argentina with him and write about adults. (No thank you?) And then a car almost ran me over in a Whole Foods parking lot when I was lost on my way to my agent's house. But then we had my launch party and there was rainbow cake.

For Infinite, I think I was literally the last flight out of Atlanta before it closed for . . . snow! And Texas (where I'd gone for my launch) was basically shut down for ice. But lots of people still came to the launch party and I got to see my sister and her family for the first time in years (they'd been stationed in another country). 

Do you have any reader reactions that really stood out to you?

Oh gosh, yes. There were people who cried all through the first book because they identified so hard with Ana. And there were people who told me that the books changed their lives. There are people who've read the books almost as many times as I have. This is kind of amazing to me!
Now that you've finished up your second series, how does the feeling of releasing your first book compare to releasing books now?

I think . . . instead of extreme anticipation, I've been feeling more a sense of satisfaction. I mean, there's always anticipation. There's always worry. I have a constant fear that my established readers won't like whatever new thing I write. The fear of disappointing readers can be overwhelming. 

But . . . when I just think about my books making it to shelves, it's more satisfaction. I'm happy I've been able to work on them. I'm happy readers are buying them and allowing me to continue doing the job I love.
Because I'm a music junkie - did you make a playlist for the books in this series or do you have any songs you associate with them?

Yes, absolutely.

One of the songs I wrote most of the first of Incarnate to was "Drought" by Vienna Teng. That song will always be associated with Ana and Incarnate for me. Even thinking about the song puts me back in the snowy forest with Ana as she begins her journey to discovering herself. 

Was the writing process different for you in writing the Incarnate series vs. writing The Orphan Queen duology?

In a way, yes. In general these days, I try to do a bit more plotting out my series before I get started. There are always changes. The changes I made to Infinite -- because of edits and writerly growth in the first two books -- are pretty massive. The first draft of that book is almost unrecognizable from the final product. But of course there are similarities -- and the end point did not change. 

With OQ and MK, I wasn't quite as good about plotting to the end -- deciding that all-important end point for the characters -- as I should have been. This created a whole lot of trouble when I needed to write MK on a deadline. 

The Mirror King just released, finishing up another series. So what comes next?


Yesss. I'm so happy about THE MIRROR KING. It was one of the most difficult books I've ever written, but I am so, so proud of how it's turned out.

Next up, we have MY LADY JANE, a collaborative book between Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and me. It's about Jane Grey. We didn't like the way such an awesome girl died, so we decided to fix it. 

And following that is a new fantasy trilogy (from just me this time) that may or may not keep the series title: The Fallen Isles. The books themselves do not have titles, but I have been calling them Cell Story. 

There are dragons.
Anything else you want to mention?

All my books have had code names. Incarnate was Reincarnation Story. Orphan Queen was Broadway Story. Cell Story is Cell Story. 

Only two out of three actually have anything to do with the book. Broadway Story was proposed because of my friend CJ Redwine. Something about an attacking army of show-tunes singing centaurs. Those aren't in the book, either, but that sounds either wonderful or a more terrifying threat than the wraith. 
Thanks so much for stopping by, Jodi! I loved hearing about the differences that came with these two series that I love. If you haven't had the chance to check out the Incarnate series, I strongly recommend you do! You can read my review of the first book here and add it on Goodreads here. And, of course, you can check out more info on The Orphan Queen here. Also you should really follow Jodi on twitter and on Instagram because there are many photos of books, cats, and knitting. 

--Julie

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Blog Tour: The Winner's Kiss Mini-Review, Fancast & Playlist

The Winner's Kiss 
by Marie Rutkoski


Summary: War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.
At least, that’s what he thinks.
In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.
But no one gets what they want just by wishing.
As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?
I'm actually not going to write a full review of the book, because most of what I'd like to talk about would contain spoilers, so I'm just going to say this -- I loved it.

It was an excellent end to the trilogy, it had just the right balance of happy and sad. The pacing of the plot wasn't perfect, sometimes it went too fast, sometimes too slow but that didn't ruin my overall enjoyment of the book.

And the characters? I still loved the characters, particularly getting to see more of Roshar, he's one of my favourites.  I thought Kestrels character development in this one was great too, she was always so conflicted in the other books between being who she is and being who other people want her to be, but in this one she's so unapologetically herself and I loved that.

I'd rate the book 4.5 stars out of 5, it definitely lived up to the high expectations set by the previous books.



Fancast & Playlist

Now, as part of the UK/Australia blog tour for the book, I'm going to do a fancast and playlist for the book.


Kestrel



Description: I think her hair was described as being long and blonde/strawberry blonde? Usually worn braided. Fair skin which freckles a bit in the sun. Brown eyes.

With Ginny and Florence, it's based just on how they look because I've not seen much of their acting, but Skyler is based on the description and her acting.

Alternatives: Lily James, Dove Cameron

Arin


Description: I don't remember too much about his description. Dark hair (brown or black, I can't remember). Skin darker than Kestrel's, darkened more because of time spent in the sun (but a different race than the Dacran people). Gray eyes.

I really wasn't sure which race to picture Arin, because the Herrani are a different race to both the Dacran people and the Valorian's. Avan and Luke are probably closest to how I pictured him while reading though.

Alternatives: ...Zayn Malik? *shrug* Purely based on physical appearance.


Sarsine & Verex


These were the only two actors I pictured for their characters really. Although, with Sarsine she had to look like she was of the same race/ethnicity as Arin so she doesn't match all of my Arin choices.

Inisha, Roshar, & Risha


The reason I have two choices for each is because I couldn't choose between Kiersey and Lupita, so I chose Kenyan actors to go with my Lupita choice (I'm indecisive, is what I'm trying to say, and I adore all six of these actors). 

Alternatives: I also like John Boyega or Alfred Enoch for Roshar.

I also made a playlist for the books. It's kind of an odd mix, but I was going for lyrics that sort of matched up rather than sound/tone...




1. Bloodsport by Raleigh Ritchie

"Although you love me, sometimes we're mean
Things can get ugly, but we're still a team"

2. Love Song by Caveboy

"Lookin' for the strength to get us from our knees,
Is the desert ever goin' to let us be,
Can you save me"

3. The Cave by Mumford & Sons

"‘Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be
[...]
And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again"

4. Soldier by Ingrid Michaelson

"I don't believe in anything but myself
But then you opened up a door, you opened up a door
Now I start to believe in something else
[...]
And so it goes, this soldier knows
The battle with the heart isn't easily won"

5. Thousand Eyes by Of Monsters and Men

"I lie awake and watch it all
It feels like thousand eyes
I am the storm"

6. I Giorni by Ludovico Einaudi

7. Scars by James Bay

"We live through scars this time
But I've made up my mind
No, we can't leave us behind anymore

We'll have to hurt for now
But next time, there's no doubt
'Cause I can't go without you anymore"

8. All The Things Lost by MS MR

"Treasured moments become lost treasures when you can't recollect"

9. Hurricane by 30 Seconds to Mars

"Tell me would you kill to save a life?"

10. Bleeding Out by Imagine Dragons

"I bare my skin
And I count my sins
And I close my eyes
And I take it in
I'm bleeding out
I'm bleeding out for you"

11. Like I'm Gonna Lose You by Jasmine Thompson

"We're not promised tomorrow
So I'm gonna love you
Like I'm gonna lose you
I'm gonna hold you
Like I'm saying goodbye wherever we're standing"

12. Russian Roulette by Rihanna

"I get a scary thought
That he's here - means he's never lost"

13. I Will Love You by Gin Wigmore

"I will love you
Until the blood all leaves these veins
Don't you let us,
Lose to an early grave
Give me a lifetime
And then fifty more to find the words
That will never explain
How I need you"

Anyway... If you haven't checked out the series yet, I really recommend it, I adore it.

Later.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Lady Renegades by Rachel Hawkins

Lady Renegades
Rachel Hawkins
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
[April 5, 2016]
ARC from Publisher

**this summary and the review will contain spoilers for Rebel Belle and Miss Mayhem**

Just as Harper Price starts coming to terms with her role as David Stark's battle-ready Paladin, protector, and girlfriend—her world goes crazy all over again. 

Overwhelmed by his Oracle powers, David flees Pine Grove and starts turning teenaged girls into Paladins—and these young ladies seem to think that Harper is the enemy David needs protecting from.  Ordinarily, Harper would be able to fight off any Paladin who comes her way, but her powers have been dwindling since David left town, which means her life is on the line yet again.

Now, it’s a desperate race for Harper to find and rescue David before she backslides from superhero to your garden-variety type-A belle.

The way Miss Mayhem ended was mildly (majorly) devastating, so finally getting my hands on this one lead to many squeals and screams of delight and it did not disappoint. I devoured most of it while commuting Thursday and Friday and then couldn't imagine waiting until Monday and finished it off this weekend.

Harper Price is the biggest badass and she does it all in heels. And in Lady Renegades, it includes a road trip to track down the boy she loves who wants her dead. Kinda complicated, you know? But Hawkins managed it well and did what was true to Harper.

I loved especially how this book was so focused on female friendships. Friendships are always important in Hawkins's novels, but this was a straight up supernatural road trip between Harper, her best friend, and her enemy, who all need to work together to have a chance at accomplishing something. This meant that a lot of the focus of the story was on the relationships between these three girls, which have gotten very complicated over the course of the past two books and still aren't easy. Their dynamics and developments and little nods to things the girls know but don't have to say was so strikingly real - so much of my closest friendships is little things that acknowledge how the other feels without discussing it too deeply.

Even though it was a road trip, it was still a paranormal road trip. Lady Renegades didn't slack on the action and the fight scenes and the scares. It was even more captivating knowing that Harper was struggling so there was always that question of how well she'd do and how it'd be figured out. It was fun to read from Harper's perspective and also helped break up the road trip some.

I just loved this book so much. Lady friendships and a fantastic resolution that made sense to the characters and the ever present, very fun, voice-y writing of Rachel Hawkins. This lady knows how to write a book and she really knows how to finish a series. If you haven't read the first two books and just let yourself get spoiled, go back and read the other two. If you've read and loved them, you'll love this one too.

--Julie

Friday, 1 April 2016

Flashback Reading: Guest Post from Leanne Renee Hieber + Giveaway

Flashback Reading is a new feature on the blog in which we feature backlist books. But instead of just reviewing them - which is also on the plan book for 2016 - I thought it'd be fun to interview or have guest posts by the authors specifically to focus on their pre-2015 releases. I've been sitting on this post for AGES because I'd keep opening up a blog post and then forgetting I did it and not remembering until I got to bed and I've been exhausted lately and not up for blogging much, but no more! So, without further ado, a guest post from Leanne Renee Hieber!


If you want advice on how to write the next blockbuster novel that will take you soaring to J.K. Rowling heights, I am not your lady. If you want to know how to be an odd, cross-genre black-clad duck who has carved out her tiny niche in Gaslamp fantasy, well, have a seat. I’d like to think this post will apply to anyone interested broadly in books, in writing, and where things get placed on shelves and the drive to keep writing no matter what. Sometimes it’s a bit of a mystery. The process of getting books into readers’ hands seems to me, after 9 full length novels, countless novellas and short stories, to be as mysterious as writing the book itself- which also doesn’t get any easier like I thought it would. Darn you, expectations and artistic preconceptions! (For my advice on getting onto a shelf in the first place, please visit my writer’s resource guide on my website.)
When I first started in publishing after years as a professional Shakespearean actress in the regional theatre circuit, it was the mid-2000s. I was querying a lyrically lush Gothic novel about Victorian Ghostbusters with elements of YA, fantasy, mystery, romance, horror, suspense, paranormal, historical/alternate history and mythology/esoterica (I wasn’t trying to be difficult, genre-stew is how I think). Said novel; The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, first in my Strangely Beautiful saga, received responses from agents and editors like: “I think this manuscript has some promise, but we don’t know where to shelve it.” Cross-genre was still a bit taboo. But thanks to the expansion of YA and other cross-genre foremothers and forefathers blazing trails in Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy and Speculative Fiction, I could add myself to that cross-genre number when Gaslamp Fantasy was trying to distinguish itself from the rising Steampunk tides.
The house that finally took a chance on me after countless rejection letters was primarily known for its romance line, so, because my Strangely Beautiful books had a prominent romance that tied into the fantasy plot, there I was shelved in the romance aisles and digital tags, with a very fantasy-genre cover. Thankfully the cross-genre move of fantasy cover on romance shelf didn’t hurt me, my debut did very well. What happened next; my publisher folding and all my work going out of print when I’d just begun is another difficult story for another day. You’ll hear about it on my Strangely Beautiful re-issue tour in April, when that beloved, currently out-of-print series is resurrected by Tor Books.  
Freaking out about what to do next and what direction to take, I was taken in by a former editor of said belly-up house who was acquiring YA. Strangely Beautiful was a YA crossover, and I was interested in writing it, so I made sure my next manuscript was YA. The Magic Most Foul saga, beginning with Darker Still, had all the hallmarks of my work; Gothic, Victorian, Mystery, Suspense, Horror, Romance, Paranormal, etc. But the audience, the POV (first person) per genre expectations and marketing all differed. There’s a wide crossover between romance and YA readers but I was still trying to find my way in the niche. It remained hard to market what I do. We all moved on, and I had to again figure out what to do next. I was out of contract, 3 of my 5 published books out of print and at a loss as to which genre might welcome me. All I knew was my life made no sense without writing. I needed my next book. 


By a twist of fate and being very visible in the field as a presenter, (no matter what happens, keep networking) I met my current editor (Melissa Singer) while teaching at a convention. Because I’d always hoped to work with Tor, and because she was aware of my Strangely Beautiful saga, an awesome partnership began to develop. After massive mutual hard work on a new proposal, Melissa secured my new front-list series, The Eterna Files trilogy, as well as my backlist Strangely Beautiful books. Tor understands Historical Fantasy better than anyone, and is known to be a Sci-Fi/Fantasy house. The Eterna Files is shelved in adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy but keeps the PG-13 “rating” of all my books. My third series had a third different shelf to find me on and not as many crossover readers/followers. Still holding down niche genre in the Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy fort. I love my house and my editor and I’m just hoping for the best as the Eterna Files sequel comes out this August and the Strangely Beautiful saga gets a long-awaited, overdue resurrection in new editions and an old wound can be healed with this phoenix story. All I can do is put out a Gothic, Gaslamp bat-signal and hope more amazing readers will come my way, adding to those I already treasure. Gothic is a specific, sometimes acquired taste. It isn’t for everyone but it can cover a whole lot of ground within its wild expanse. Three shelves worth.
 
This is my specific story. It’s important to hear a variety of authors talk about the winding roads that get them into writing and the thorny briars while you remain in the business, because no one story is anyone else’s. There are a million ways to get in and to get out of writing. Saying merely that I’ve bounced around shelves isn’t the takeaway, the takeaway is need, perseverance, being flexible, open to opportunity, and hungry.
In traditional publishing, where the book is shelved is out of your control. I advise any writer to be mindful of genre expectations in terms of POV, intensity of content/language/situations, focus and age of the story and length/pacing. All you can do is write the book as the characters, plot and your desired genre parameters demand and expect that the shelf will follow. I can’t tell you what the effect of being on all these shelves has been. I’m not sure I’ll know for some time yet, if ever. I’m just as cross-genre as when I started. My circumstances in regards to twists and turns in publishing houses has meant I’ve had to keep making my Gothic voice relevant somehow. My books cause consternation in some readers and reviewers, baffle some and delight others, and this often polarized reaction can make me feel less than mainstream. I’ve been writing very similar series all along, in fact each one exists within the same overarching “Hieberverse” with parallel worlds and crossover characters examining their own perilous lines between mortal and spirit worlds. To me, the shelf is immaterial, I simply pray audiences will continue to find my work. Those who fully understand that first and foremost I’m a Gothic novelist- if I must distill to one word- they are never baffled nor misled, as the Gothic is by nature cross-genre. 
But don’t write to fit on a shelf. Write the books you need to write. Not “want” to write. Want factors in, of course, but it isn’t the animus. It won’t get it done. “Want” won’t freak you out when you’re on deadline like need will. Sometimes I don’t ‘want’ to write, it’s hard and miserable sometimes and I’m still utterly terrified I won’t know how to write the next book, let alone the book I’m working on now. But I need to.
The house, the editor, the shelf, that will all come if the book has promise, vision and voice. (And that will likely all come with twists, turns, heartbreak and disillusionment but all the sweeter and more hard-won, every ongoing battle). Be true to that place you want to be in the book, not on the shelf. Tell the story only you can tell. (And then, sure, let’s all have a drink and a big ol’ bitch-fest about how to market it.) “Book of your heart” isn’t a hackneyed phase, it’s the crucible. The rest of the trial will come. And you’ll weather it. Like I have, and countless genre foremothers and fathers before me. Write what you need, when you need. But need it.
  
Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright, artist and the award-winning, bestselling author of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels for adults and teens. The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, hit Barnes & Noble and Borders Bestseller lists and garnered numerous regional genre awards. The series reissues in revised editions with new content as Strangely Beautiful from Tor in 4/16. Leanna's Magic Most Foul saga began with Darker Still, an American Bookseller's Association "Indie Next List" pick, a Scholastic Book Club "Highly Recommended" title and a Daphne du Maurier award finalist. The Eterna Files, is now available from Tor with the sequel, Eterna and Omega releasing 8/16. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies, she is a 4 time Prism Award winner for excellence in Fantasy Romance and her books have been translated into many languages. A proud member of performer unions Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA, she is an unabashed Goth, a lecturer and advocate for Gothic literature and lives in New York City, where she works as a ghost tour guide and has been featured in film and television on shows like Boardwalk Empire. She is active on Twitter @LeannaRenee on FB at http://facebook.com/lrhieber and more about her and her many artistic endeavors at Http://leannareneehieber.com
And you can enter to win one of Leanna's titles - DARKER STILL or THE ETERNA FILES - below!
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!
--Julie 

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