Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Interview with M.K. England for Spellhacker


by M.K. England
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Release Date: January 21st 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
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From the author of The Disasters, this genre-bending YA fantasy heist story is perfect for fans of Marie Lu and Amie Kaufman.

In Kyrkarta, magic—known as maz—was once a freely available natural resource. Then an earthquake released a magical plague, killing thousands and opening the door for a greedy corporation to make maz a commodity that’s tightly controlled—and, of course, outrageously expensive.

Which is why Diz and her three best friends run a highly lucrative, highly illegal maz siphoning gig on the side. Their next job is supposed to be their last heist ever.

But when their plan turns up a powerful new strain of maz that (literally) blows up in their faces, they’re driven to unravel a conspiracy at the very center of the spellplague—and possibly save the world.

No pressure.

Can you briefly describe SPELLHACKER and its characters?

SPELLHACKER is the story of a heist gone wrong in a futuristic world with magic, starring a girl named Diz who is basically a cactus secretly filled with marshmallow. Diz is joined by her NB childhood friend Remi (who she is definitely not dating), her fierce bestie Ania, and her dad-friend Jaesin. I love the magic system, setting, and found family dynamics in this book, and I hope you do, too!

Who would you say is your favourite character from the story and why?

Oooh, so torn. Diz was a lot of fun to write because every human interaction is a landmine with her. She’s so repressed and hurt and angry all the time that the whole book was like slowly peeling away the layers of her pain so others could reach her. There’s so much of my young self in her. I also loved writing Remi for the total opposite reason—Remi is the self-assured enby royalty I aspire to be. They know exactly who they are and what they’re worth, and they refuse to accept any less. They’re also one of those people who unabashedly loves the things they love and embraces life with their whole heart! 

How did the story occur to you? Did you find inspiration anywhere?

The initial idea seed for this book came up during a tabletop roleplaying game session. I honestly can’t remember what system we were playing… Dungeons & Dragons? Star Wars? Pathfinder? But something in what we were playing made me think “magic hackers.” That’s all it was for the longest time. That tiny phrase sat in my google doc full of ideas until I was done revising The Disasters and needed something new to write. I poked and prodded at “magic hackers” until it became a fully-fleshed out book idea—Spellhacker! I found some great technology inspiration from the book Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku, and was generally inspired by my lifelong love of the Final Fantasy video game franchise, especially Final Fantasy VII. 

If you could choose one song to describe your book, which one would it be?

“Like O, Like H” by Tegan and Sara is Diz’s theme song for sure, but I think “Hell” (also Tegan and Sara) is a great choice for the book as a whole. Playlist coming soon!

What drink and place do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date?

Go pound an energy drink on an empty rooftop somewhere and look out over the lights of the city or the stars out in the country. Read the book by the glow of a phone or tablet screen. 

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish SPELLHACKER?

I think SPELLHACKER readers would love The Fever King by Victoria Lee. Now’s a perfect time to read it, because the sequel is out soon! I’d also recommend Warcross by Marie Lu, Want by Cindy Pon, and Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely as good comps. 

What would you say is the most difficult part of writing a book?

I’m the least observant person in the world, and for better or worse, I live very much inside my own head. So, I struggle with sensory detail. My early drafts are all action and dialogue, and I have to go back and do a really deliberate pass to add visual and other sensory details. 

What’s next for you?

I wish I knew! This was the final book of a 2-book deal for The Disasters, so I’m a bit adrift at the moment. I also have some major life/health things coming up soon, so I may take a bit of a break to focus on my day job and survival. I hope more of my stories will find homes, though! I wrote these books because they were what I wished existed on the shelves, and I hope I’ll get the chance to keep making shelves queerer and more full of sarcastic jokes in the future.

M.K. England is an author and librarian who grew up on the Space Coast of Florida and now calls rural Virginia home. When she’s not writing or librarianing, MK can be found drowning in fandom, rolling dice at the gaming table, digging in the garden, or feeding her video game addiction. She loves Star Wars with a desperate, heedless passion. It’s best if you never speak of Sherlock Holmes in her presence. You’ll regret it. 

THE DISASTERS is her debut novel. Follow her at

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Interview with Jessica Cunsolo for She's With Me

She's With Me (She's With Me #1)

by Ava Violet
Publisher: Wattpad Books
Release Date: January 7th, 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
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When Amelia Collins moves to a new town to escape her dark past, she just wants to keep her head down and finish her senior year.

Her plans change drastically when she runs- literally- into the school's hottest badass and number one person on the 'don't mess with' list, Aiden Parker.

Amelia needs to find a way to survive senior year while she tries not to fall for the annoyingly handsome Aiden, or his mischievous, cocky player of a best friend, Mason.

With new friends, fun pranks, bitchy queen bees, old rivalries, and a haunting past, Amelia's senior year is destined to be filled with some drama.

Can you briefly describe SHE’S WITH ME and its characters?

She’s With Me is a young adult novel full of romance, suspense, drama, and excitement. It follows Amelia, the fierce female lead, and her experience as the new girl in school. She just wants to keep a low profile, but that plan is ruined on the first day when she crashes into the school’s most notorious senior, Aiden Parker. She’s drawn into a new group of friends as well as all the drama that comes with being on Aiden’s radar, all the while trying to keep her secrets from being revealed, or risk losing it all.

Who would you say is your favourite character from the story and why?

I love all of my characters, even the villains, but I think my favourite character is Noah. He’s the goofy, lovable character who often serves as the comedic relief. Since there’s so many tense moments throughout the story, he plays such an important role. Plus he makes me laugh and is so fun to write!

How did the story occur to you? Did you find inspiration anywhere?

When I started writing I really didn’t have a clear direction. I only had a vague idea of what the major conflict would be and a general sense of how I wanted to portray my main character, Amelia. The only thing I knew for sure, was that I wanted to write a dynamic story that could pull readers out of their everyday lives into a wild and drama filled high school fantasy. As I wrote and my characters began to come to life and their personalities became more layered with dimension, I realized that I was writing a character who inspired me. I was creating Amelia to be more like the girl I wish I was in high school; a girl who was confident and strong and refuses to let people walk all over her, even when the stakes are extremely high. 

There are aspects of the She’s With Me plot that have been pulled from my personal life and the lives of my friends, but it’s definitely more elevated than the real life events. I really wanted to envision a crazy world where these dramatic events and scenarios existed through the eyes of someone as determined, confident and tenacious as Amelia. 

If you could choose one song to describe your book, which one would it be?

This is a hard question, but I think one of my all-time favourite songs can work to describe “She’s With Me”, which is “Sippin’ on Fire” by Florida Georgia Line. Obviously it doesn’t fit perfectly, but if you bend the meaning a bit I think it’s great.

“Why should we go round and round the truth, Like we been doin'? Every time we lie girl we're losing…” 

This describes how Amelia is trying to hide not only her own secrets from everyone, but she’s also trying to convince herself not to fall for Aiden because of those secrets, which ends up hurting her in the long run.

“You act like you don't know what you're missing, Every time you end up back with him, 'Cause it's safe, and you're scared. Of everything you're feeling when, we’re burning the midnight down again,” 

This line relates to how Amelia can sometimes deny how she feels and retreats to what she knows is safe, which is keeping to herself, but of course there’s always this push and pull because she can’t seem to stay away from Aiden. 

If your book was going to be made into a movie, who would play your characters?

It’s hard to pick an actor for Aiden, since I’ve always just pictured him as an imaginary being in my head. But when I started writing “She’s With Me”, I always imagined Holland Roden as Amelia, and more recently Maddison Brown, who I feel would play a great Amelia.

What drink and place do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date?

I think any cozy, quiet place where you can binge this book undisturbed is an ideal spot, maybe with either a warm tea or a light, yummy milkshake. 

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish SHE’S WITH ME?

One of my all-time favourite books is Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick. I think readers craving more She’s With Me would love this book since they both have high levels of romance, suspense, and excitement.

What would you say is the most difficult part of writing a book?

The hardest part of writing a book for me is just finishing it. I’m a terrible planner. I find the process of outlining and planning difficult because most of the time my ideas come to me in the moment and I don’t always have a clear idea of how it will all be wrapped up in the end. So for me, sitting down and figuring out where the characters and the plot will end up is the hardest part, but once I have that down and push past writers block, it all works out. 

What’s next for you?

I’m going to continue working on stories I love and creating memorable characters and storylines… and hopefully some exciting announcements in the new year!

Jessica is an indecisive university student from a small town near Toronto, Canada. She published her first young adult novel She’s With Me, on Wattpad under the name “AvaViolet” when she was 17 years old. In just over 2 years, her story has amassed over 61 million reads and has reached the number one spot in teen fiction more times than she can count. Her story She’s With Me won the 2016 Wattys “Talk of the Town” award, as well as The 2016 Fiction Awards “Best Teen Fiction.” She also won The 2016 Writer Awards for Novelist of the Year and Wattpad Writer of the Year.

Jessica enjoys hiking, the outdoors, and trying to sneak her way out of inevitable awkward situations. She can often be found daydreaming about scenarios which have a 5% chance of actually happening to her. But she doesn’t mind, since she can transform them into awesome stories which she can vicariously live through.

Interview with Sarah Henning for Throw Like A Girl

Throw Like a Girl

by Sarah Henning
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 7th 2020
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
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Friday Night Lights meets Morgan Matson's The Unexpected Everything in this contemporary debut where swoonworthy romance meets underdog sports story.

When softball star Liv Rodinsky throws one ill-advised punch during the most important game of the year, she loses her scholarship to her fancy private school, her boyfriend, and her teammates all in one fell swoop. With no other options, Liv is forced to transfer to the nearest public school, Northland, where she'll have to convince their coach she deserves a spot on the softball team, all while facing both her ex and the teammates of the girl she punched... Every. Single. Day.

Enter Grey, the injured star quarterback with amazing hair and a foolproof plan: if Liv joins the football team as his temporary replacement, he'll make sure she gets a spot on the softball team in the Spring. But it will take more than the perfect spiral for Liv to find acceptance in Northland's halls, and behind that charming smile, Grey may not be so perfect after all.

With well-drawn characters and a charming quarterback love interest who's got brains as well as brawn, Throw Like a Girl will have readers swooning from the very first page.

Can you briefly describe THROW LIKE A GIRL and its characters? 

Throw Like a Girl is about a down-spiraling softball player named Liv Rodinsky who is recruited by an injured quarterback, Grey Worthington, to be his not-so-back-up on the football team headlined by her ex-boyfriend, Jake Rogers. 

There’s some swoony romance, lies by omission, and a journey that tests all of Liv’s strengths—physical, emotional, and mental. Along the way she learns to make her own choices, trust her heart, and that standing up for herself doesn’t necessarily mean walking away. 

Who would you say is your favorite character from the story and why? 

Do I have to pick? ! I seriously do love them all. I love Liv’s determination and work ethic, Ryan and Danielle’s supportiveness, Addie’s confidence, Jake’s drive, and Grey’s, well, swoon-worthiness. Seriously, this entire cast is basically made up of people I would love to be around all the time. Well, except Stacey—she’s just a jerk. 

How did the story occur to you? Did you find inspiration anywhere? 

I have a background as a sports journalist, which meant many nights covering football, basketball, baseball, tennis, golf—you name it, I probably covered it as either a reporter or copy editor on the sports desk. I cut my teeth at papers in Northeastern Pennsylvania and South Florida, both places where high school and college football are king. For a good six or seven years of my life, fall Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, were made up of football of every stripe. 

I was years removed from that life when the idea for Throw Like a Girl came to me, while I was on a run, exhausted from staying up late, watching the Kansas City Royals play post-season baseball with a newborn on my lap. I’m not sure if it was the lack of sleep or the endorphins from my run or maybe a combination of both, but I suddenly decided it would be super fun to drop an elite softball player into the world of high school football. Toss in some questionable choices, on-the-field romance, far too many donut references, and Throw Like a Girl was born. 

If you could choose one song to describe your book, which one would it be? 

Can I mash-up Lizzo’s “Like a Girl” and Taylor Swift’s “I Think He Knows”? Those two together would make the perfect song for this book. 

If your book was going to be made into a movie, who would play your characters?

As I was writing it, the closest person I could find that looked like Liv in my head is Ana Ivanovic, who is a retired professional tennis player from Serbia. I know that’s out of left field, but considering my background in sports journalism, you’ll have to excuse me. As for Grey, the closest I’ve come is Noah Centineo, who is the exact reason there’s a Peter Kavinsky reference to Grey in the book. 

What drink and place do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date? 

It’s not exactly conducive to reading to have a date in a football stadium, so I’d recommend chilling on the deck in the sun the morning after the game with some donuts and hot chocolate. Donuts are very important in Throw Like a Girl, by the way, as are carbs in general. This is a book where the characters eat.

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish THROW LIKE A GIRL? 

Yes! If you want more sports action, I’d recommend Break the Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli, which comes out in February. It’s a book about a scandal in the US gymnastics community right before the Olympics. As a former competitive gymnast, I drank it up! And, if you want humor and high achieving high schooler hijinks, I’d recommend Amanda Sellet’s debut By The Book, which comes out in May. It’s about a bookworm who starts to give dating advice based on classic novels to hilariously awful results. 

What’s next for you? 

I actually have two books out in 2020, which is insane to me. After Throw Like a Girl, I have the start of a fantasy duology, called The Princess Will Save You, out July 7th. It’s basically a gender-swapped take on The Princess Bride. Instead of the commoner true love going to rescue a kidnapped princess, the princess goes after her true love, a stable boy, when he’s kidnapped by pirates as part of a plot to force her hand into marriage.

Sarah Henning is a recovering journalist who has worked for the Palm Beach Post, Kansas City Star and Associated Press, among others. While in South Florida, Sarah lived and worked through five hurricanes, which gave her an extreme respect for the ocean. When not writing, she runs ultramarathons, hits the playground with her two kids and hangs out with her husband Justin, who doubles as her long-suffering IT department. Sarah lives in Lawrence, Kansas, which, despite being extremely far from the beach, happens to be pretty cool.