Monday, February 25, 2019

Interview with Mary Weber

To Best the Boys

by Mary Weber
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: March 5th 2019
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
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Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.

Can you briefly describe the world in TO BEST THE BOYS and their main characters?

Of course! To Best The Boys is set in a Victorian-esque world, where ghouls and sirens are real, and things like women achieving higher education and financial independence are not (at least not yet ;)). The main character, Rhen, desperately wants to be a scientist, while her cousin, Seleni, wants a life of marriage and babies. When the two decide Rhen’s only chance for earning the future she wants is to enter a mysterious scholarship competition to an all-male university, they find themselves in a labyrinth that may or may not be as dangerous as some of their competitors. 

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

I have two - Rhen and Seleni. They’re humorous, strong, and different sides of the same coin. While each is worlds apart in their goals, interests, and views on love, they’re both passionate about a person’s right to choose their own path. That, for me, is very much what the story is about. Everyone’s right to belong to themselves and a future of their own making.

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

I wrote To Best The Boys last year when my sister was pursuing a degree (in the very male dominated STEM field) and one of my daughters was in her first year of college. The story reflects aspects of their experiences as well as my own and many others. My inspiration was the incredible strength I see in women (now and historically) pursuing their dreams – but also my frustration with the level of sexism that (unbelievably) still exists. I think the book is my way of saying to my daughters – and really to every teen – “You are worth breaking expectations for. So do it. We’ll be there for you.”

What’s your favourite quote from the book?

"You take this world and make it what it should be. And don't let the beliefs of a backward system define you. You are the one who has to live with the future. So you live it."

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

Paper Doll by Bea Miller. I wrote much of To Best The Boys with her songs in the background.

If the book was a movie/TV show, who would you imagine representing your characters? 

Oh funny - I don’t think I’ve considered this question until this moment! Honestly, I think my ideal would simply be actors who value honoring others in their real lives. That level of authenticity bleeds through a performance like nothing else.

Since it is still cold outside, what hot drink do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date?

Hot tea with a side of Labyrinth Cakes!

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish TO BEST THE BOYS?

Absolutely. I recently loved Emiko Jean’s Empress of All Seasons! I also think readers would enjoy fantasies by Sabaa Tahir, Danielle Paige, Marie Lu, Mary Pearson, and Kristen Ciccarelli.

What’s next for you?

Sleep! ;) And then...maybe some magic. And murder. With a dash of mayhem. ;)

Interview with Mary Weber, Spider Squealer. Mermaid Believer. HarperCollins Author. Lover of old souls. 
Sign up for writing tips, book news, & giveaways -

Hi. I write books. I eat things. I kiss things. I believe in mermaids.

I'm also the author of the Storm Siren Trilogy, The Evaporation of Sofi Snow series, and the March 2019 release, To Best the Boys. When not working, I sing 80’s hairband songs to my three muggle children, and ogle my husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. We live in California, which is perfect for stalking aging movie stars while wearing fanny packs and sweatpants.

For those who like to know such things (mainly my mom), Storm Siren was featured in the Scholastic Book Fair and my novels have been endorsed by such nice humans as Marissa Meyer, CJ Redwine, Shannon Messenger, and Jonathan Maberry (in fact, Marissa Meyer and I have a fun interview in the paperback of her book, CRESS). Also, Boba tea & sweatpants are life. {We can chat about life (in sweatpants over tea, obviously) in my Newsletter.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Interview with Tanaz Bhathena

The Beauty of the Moment

by Tanaz Bhathena
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: February 26th 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
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Susan is the new girl—she’s sharp and driven, and strives to meet her parents’ expectations of excellence. Malcolm is the bad boy—he started raising hell at age fifteen, after his mom died of cancer, and has had a reputation ever since.

Susan’s parents are on the verge of divorce. Malcolm’s dad is a known adulterer.

Susan hasn’t told anyone, but she wants to be an artist. Malcolm doesn’t know what he wants—until he meets her.

Love is messy and families are messier, but in spite of their burdens, Susan and Malcolm fall for each other. The ways they drift apart and come back together are testaments to family, culture, and being true to who you are.

Can you briefly describe The Beauty of the moment and their main characters?

The Beauty of the Moment is about an Indian girl named Susan Thomas, who moves from Saudi Arabia to Canada, where she faces all sorts of challenges trying to fit into a new school and to adapt to a new culture. A perfectionist by nature, Susan is struggling to meet with her parents’ expectations—they want her to be a doctor or engineer, while she wants to be an artist. 

In Canada, she meets a Parsi boy named Malcolm Vakil, who is going through his own problems. He’s dealing with his reputation which has been pretty bad—he got into trouble with drugs and alcohol after his mom died. He’s also dealing with his father who has been abusive to him in the past. Now, in his final year at high school, Malcolm is trying to clean up his act. 

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

Malcolm’s uncle, Mancher, because he gives some amazing advice about love and life. 

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

Like Susan, I was born in India and grew up in Saudi Arabia. I moved to Canada as a teenager and the book is partly inspired by my own experiences.

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

I’m going to cheat and choose two:

Susan’s theme song: Here by Alessia Cara

Malcolm’s theme song: Something Just Like This by Coldplay and the Chainsmokers

Since it is still cold outside, what hot drink do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date?

Hot chocolate, for sure!

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish The Beauty of the moment?

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a YA fantasy duology set in a world inspired by medieval India. The first book, HUNTED BY THE SKY, will release in 2020.

Tanaz Bhathena was born in India and raised in Saudi Arabia and Canada. Her critically acclaimed novel A Girl Like That was nominated for the 2019 OLA White Pine Award and named a Best Book of 2018 by The Globe and Mail, CBC, Quill & Quire, Seventeen, PopSugar, and The Times of India among others. Her second novel The Beauty of the Moment releases on Feb 26 2019. Her short stories have appeared in various journals including Blackbird, Witness and Room.

A wanderer at heart, Tanaz can often be found travelling to different countries, learning bits and pieces of a foreign language, and taking way too many photographs. She loves slapstick comedies and any kind of music that makes her dance. She lives in the Toronto area with her family.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Interview with Charlie N. Holmberg

Smoke and Summons (Numina Trilogy #1)

by Charlie N. Holmberg
Publisher: 47North
Release Date: February 1st 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy
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A captivating world of monsters and magic from the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician Series.

As a human vessel for an ancient spirit, Sandis lives no ordinary life. At the command of her master, she can be transformed against her will into his weapon—a raging monster summoned to do his bidding. Unlike other vessels, Sandis can host extremely powerful spirits, but hosting such creatures can be fatal. To stay alive, she must run. And in a city fueled by smoke and corruption, she finds a surprising ally.

A cunning thief for hire, Rone owns a rare device that grants him immortality for one minute every day—a unique advantage that will come in handy in Sandis’s fight for freedom. But Sandis’s master knows how powerful she is. He’s determined to get her back, and he has the manpower to find her, wherever she runs.

Now, to outwit her pursuers, Sandis must put all her trust in Rone and his immortal device. For her master has summoned more than mere men to hunt her down…

Can you briefly describe the world in Smoke & Summons and their main characters?

Smoke and Summons takes place in a northern, somewhat totalitarian country in the throes of industrialism. Its capitol is Dresberg, which is where 99.9% of the story takes place. Dresberg is crowded with both buildings and people, and the pollution from factories is so thick that when it rains, sludge falls from the sky. Everything centers around factories and production. It was built on top of ancient ruins of another people long disappeared, and mobs and gangs fill its nooks and crannies.

Sandis is an eighteen-year-old woman who’s been a slave the last four years of her life. But not just any slave. A vessel. A human host for bizarre spirits that exist on the ethereal plane. Her master uses her as a weapon as he sees fit, but doesn’t know she’s made a unique and strange bond with the otherworld creature she’s bound to. Her one desire is to have family again.

Rone considers himself a freelancer. Someone has dirty work they need done? They can hire him to do it, as long as it doesn’t directly involve murder. He has a handy little device that lets him be immortal for one minute per day, and it’s saved his butt more times than he can count. He hates Dresberg for many reasons, and wants nothing more than to leave it behind.

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

That’s really tricky. I love both of my main characters. Rone is fun to write—he’s full of personality—but Sandis is relatable and, despite everything that’s terrible in her life, is full of hope for the future. I really loved writing both of them, and their dynamic together.

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

Well first, my agent and editor both bullied me to write another series, so I had to come up with a BIG idea to cover three books. I actually harvested a lot of the ideas from past novels and other ideas. I had the idea for a summoning magic (inspired by Final Fantasy) for another book, so I stole that. The idea of an immortality switch was in my brainstorming folder. I took the physical appearances of the numina from the third book I ever finished (which is now in a dumpster fire where it belongs). My daughter was really into Tangled at the time, so there might be a little Flynn Rider in there as well.

What’s your favourite quote from the book?

That’s another tricky one. I could definitely point out favorite scenes, but favorite lines . . . hard to say, especially out of context. One I like is near the end: “Sandis couldn’t help but think she was worth more than paper.” I think it says a lot about her character. She’s the lowest of the low, she’s had so much taken from her, and yet she still knows she has worth. She still harbors hope.

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

Now this is an easy one! “Believer” by Imagine Dragons. Just about every song they write could be on the soundtrack for this series.

If the book was a movie/TV show, who would you imagine representing your characters?

So when I wrote this book, I did so intentionally keeping race ambiguous. You know the characters are Kolin, but you don’t know if Kolin is white, brown, black, or purple. Because of that, I think there is a large swathe of actors and actresses who could play these characters. But pulling up my Pinterest board . . . if we could go back in time to a younger Mark Ruffalo, I think he’d make a good Rone. And when I was trying to piece together what Sandis looked like, I leaned on Spanish model Alba Galocha.


Since it is still cold outside, what hot drink do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date?

Well, they drink cider in chapter five, so maybe that? But I’m also a believer than hot chocolate is the best of all the hot drinks!

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

Fortunately, the entire series is being released in 2019, so there’s not much of a wait! But if they like Smoke & Summons, I would recommend A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Scwab and Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.

What’s next for you?

Myths & Mortals, book two, releases April 16th, and Siege & Sacrifice, book three, releases September 17th. After that I have a romantic fantasy standalone called The Will and the Wilds. Hoping to sell a historical fantasy duology soon (most comparable to The Paper Magician), and there might be a co-written series coming up . . . only time will tell.

Born in Salt Lake City, Charlie N. Holmberg was raised a Trekkie alongside three sisters who also have boy names. She is a proud BYU alumna, plays the ukulele, owns too many pairs of glasses, and finally adopted a dog. Her fantasy Paper Magician series, which includes The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician, and The Master Magician, has been optioned by the Walt Disney Company. Her stand-alone novel, Followed by Frost, was nominated for a 2016 RITA Award for Best Young Adult Romance, and her novel The Fifth Doll won the 2018 Whitney for Speculative Fiction. She is a board member for Deep Magic Ezine and currently lives with her family in Utah. Visit her at

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Interview with Joanna Hathaway

Dark of the West (Glass Alliance #1)

by Joanna Hathaway
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: February 5th 2019
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
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He was raised in revolution. She was raised in a palace. Can their love stop a war? Code Name Verity meets The Winner's Cursein Joanna Hathaway's Dark of the West, a breathtaking YA fantasy debut.

Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.

Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.

Can you briefly describe the world in Dark of the West and their main characters?

Sure! Dark of the West takes place in a fantasy world that feels a lot like ours, specifically during the time of the world wars. The geopolitics parallel the build-up of the First World War, while the technology and battle campaigns are inspired by the Second World War. In the midst of these shifting politics and rising tensions, we have two young people — Athan, a fighter pilot, and Aurelia, a princess— from families on opposite sides of the brewing conflict, and their meeting sparks newfound love along with a lot of tough questions about loyalty to family, nation, and self.

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

Oh, that’s a tough one! I suppose I’d say a certain best friend with a heart of gold. If you read the book, you’ll know who I’m talking about. He tends to win a lot of fans, and many readers beg me to confirm if he gets a good fate at the end of the series. I adore him, too! But I can’t make promises about any of the characters in this book… War plays no favourites.

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

Most of this story was inspired by a youth spent devouring history books. That’s all I read—the stories of real people from around the world, confronting and enduring incredible events, their bravery making them my personal heroes. I was fascinated by both the will to survive and also the flame of hope that kept burning even in the most horrific circumstances. Thus, when I sat down to write the story that would become Dark of the West, it was important to me that this book contained a diverse and complicated world that reflected our own (while never being an exact mirror), as seen through the eyes of two idealistic young narrators who are fighting for good even when the odds are against them.

What’s your favourite quote from the book?

There’s an expression that comes up a few times — “Eyes on the horizon”—and I love the many layers to it. In some ways, it can be seen as a bit escapist, since if you’re only looking ahead, you’re not focused on what’s right in front of you. And we need to be present and passionate in our lives, working through the tough stuff. That’s a lesson Athan has to learn (as I have). But, it’s also a good reminder that when things seem overwhelming and too big, you can’t allow yourself to get completely mired in the moment. There is something worth working towards, worth fighting for, and we’ll get there. Don’t lose sight of the good.

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

Hmm! I usually have playlists for various sections while I’m drafting, which is often more about the tone of the song than the actual words. They get me into the “feel” of the scene. But recently I discovered Here with Me by Susie Suh and wow, I think it’s utterly perfect for the Glass Alliance series. Such a beautiful song!

If the book was a movie/TV show, who would you imagine representing your characters?

I have to be honest — I still don’t have an answer for this popular question. But I did watch the Free Rein Christmas special over the holidays (I needed something fun and happy to curl up with!) and Manpreet Bambra reminded me of Aurelia, especially since she was riding horses. 

Since it is still cold outside, what hot drink do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date?

Oh, I think you should pick whatever suits your tastes! I’m a big tea drinker and so is Aurelia. But Athan would definitely go for a strong coffee.

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish Dark of the West?

Definitely! If you haven’t read The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, you’ll want to try that. I actually hadn’t read it until after I finished Dark of the West, and early readers were saying “Have you read this series? Because you need to!” — and they were right. It’s a great low fantasy filled with politics and romance. For historical YA, I recommend Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Branching out to general historical fiction, I love Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa and Girl at War by Sara Novic. I think stories are such a great way to learn more about the world around us (especially ones written by women). 

What’s next for you?

Currently, I’m hard at work polishing off the sequel. I’m very excited for readers who enjoyed Dark of the West to pick it up next year! Things get ever more complicated and romantic. I’ve found it a super compelling process, expanding the personal journeys for both Athan and Aurelia, getting them closer to who they are in the prologue, and I hope everyone else will feel the same.

Joanna was born in Montréal and is an avid storyteller who was inspired to write after reading her great-grandfather’s memoirs of the First World War. A lifelong history buff, she now has shelves filled with biographies and historical accounts, and perhaps one too many books about pilots. She can often be found reading, traveling, or riding horses.

Her debut novel, DARK OF THE WEST (Tor Teen, February 5th, 2019), is the first in a WWII-infused fantasy series of forbidden love and deadly revenge.