Monday, April 29, 2019

Interview with Jacqueline West for Last Things

Last Things

by Jacqueline West
Publisher: Greenwillow
Release Date: May 7th 2019
Genre: Young adult, Fantasy
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When strange things start happening to local music idol Anders Thorson, everyone blames his number-one-fan, Thea. But is she out to hurt him? Or protect him?

High school senior Anders Thorson is unusually gifted. His band, Last Things, is legendary in their northern Minnesota hometown. With guitar skills that would amaze even if he weren’t only eighteen, Anders is the focus of head-turning admiration. And Thea Malcom, a newcomer to the insular town, is one of his admirers. Thea seems to turn up everywhere Anders goes: gigs at the local coffeehouse, guitar lessons, even in the woods near Anders’s home. When strange things start happening to Anders—including the disappearance of his beloved cat, then his sort-of girlfriend, and, somehow, his musical talent—blame immediately falls on Thea. But is she trying to hurt him? Or save him? Can he trust a girl who doesn’t seem to know the difference between dreams and reality? And how much are they both willing to compromise to get what they want?

Can you briefly describe Last Things and their main characters?

In a teeny tiny nutshell, Last Things is my modern-day, Minnesotan, metal reimagining of the legend of the guitarist who might have sold his soul to the devil. 

The main characters are Anders Thorson—high school senior, guitar prodigy, and self-deprecating, sensitive, secret-haunted kid—and Thea Malcolm. Thea is a new to Anders’s small northern Minnesota town, and like everyone else in the area, she’s a fan of Anders’s band, Last Things. In fact, she might be more of a stalker than a fan. She appears everywhere Anders goes: band practice, guitar lessons, the woods outside his bedroom window. 

Like Anders, Thea is keeping secrets. And hers might be even more dangerous. 

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

Gah, I have to pick just one?! 

Honestly, I adore them all. I wish I could hang out in Patrick’s garage and listen to Anders and Jezz and Patrick rehearse for the next Last Things show. I wish I could get a cappuccino at the Crow’s Nest and eavesdrop on Ike and Janos and Thea.

Getting to step inside of both Anders and Thea, to get to know them deeply and to use their voices, was one of my favorite things about writing this book. It was so freeing and so much fun. If other people love them half as much as I do, I’ll be happy. 

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

Elements of this book seemed to come to me in big chunks—often while I was driving. I heard Thea’s voice for the first time, and I realized exactly how the book was going to begin, while zooming down a rural road in western Wisconsin. Sometimes entire songs would strike me that way; the chorus and verses to “Superhero”—one of Last Things’ big hits—came to me all at once, while I was on my way to a long-distance school visit. It was exciting and weird and more than a little distracting. (Sorry, fellow drivers.) 

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

I suppose it would have to be one of the many songs in the book! “Devil’s Due” and “Falling Star” are both very tied to the plot and themes. 

If I were picking a song from outside the book, I’d probably go with “Right Where It Belongs” by Nine Inch Nails. 

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

This is SUCH a coffee book. It would have to be a cappuccino—ideally made by Janos at the Crow’s Nest, with rich espresso and a little leaf drawn in the foam on top. 

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

Maggie Stiefvater! I love The Scorpio Races most of all, but Shiver even has that Minnesota/music connection. April Genevieve Tucholke also writes great, eerie, twisty novels where you’re not sure who you can believe, like Wink Poppy Midnight and The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

What’s next for you?

A Storm of Wishes, the sequel to my 2018 middle-grade fantasy The Collectors, will be released in October 2019. And then I get to work on some new projects! I’m currently making my way through another creepy YA (tentatively titled Black Point) and embarking on another middle-grade mystery/dark fantasy set mostly in an odd library.

Jacqueline West is the author of the NYT-bestselling middle grade series The Books of Elsewhere, the YA novel Dreamers Often Lie, and the new middle grade fantasy The Collectors.

She is also the author of two poetry collections, Cherma and Candle and Pins: Poems on Superstitions, and her poetry and short fiction appear in a variety of publications.

She lives in Red Wing, Minnesota, with her family.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Interview with Amanda Foody for The Shadow Game

King of Fools (The Shadow Game #2)

by Amanda Foody
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release Date: April 30th 2019
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
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Indulge your vices in the City of Sin, where a sinister street war is brewing and fame is the deadliest killer of them all...

On the quest to find her missing mother, prim and proper Enne Salta became reluctant allies with Levi Glaisyer, the city’s most famous con man. Saving his life in the Shadow Game forced Enne to assume the identity of Seance, a mysterious underworld figure. Now, with the Chancellor of the Republic dead and bounties on both their heads, she and Levi must play a dangerous game of crime and politics…with the very fate of New Reynes at stake.

Thirsting for his freedom and the chance to build an empire, Levi enters an unlikely partnership with Vianca Augustine’s estranged son. Meanwhile, Enne remains trapped by the mafia donna’s binding oath, playing the roles of both darling lady and cunning street lord, unsure which side of herself reflects the truth.

As Enne and Levi walk a path of unimaginable wealth and opportunity, new relationships and deadly secrets could quickly lead them into ruin. And when unforeseen players enter the game, they must each make an impossible choice: To sacrifice everything they’ve earned in order to survive...

Or die as legends.

Can you briefly describe what’s happening in King of Fools and their main characters and how different it is from the first book? 

Ace of Shades, despite its detailed setting and large cast of characters, has always struck me as a rather intimate story. It’s told through two points of view, Enne—an uppity finishing schoolgirl—and Levi—a card dealer and wannabe street lord—as they go searching for Enne’s missing mother in the City of Sin. 

There’s a motif in the series that “the city is a game,” and in a lot of ways, King of Fools is a reaction to the culminating events of Ace of Shades. It’s how these two characters did this big, unthinkable thing, and now all the “players” are coming out of the shadows, and a far more dangerous game is unfolding. King of Fools takes this world and cast and broadens them. We get a new point of view—Jac Mardlin, Levi’s best friend, who has always felt on the periphery of Levi’s story. We get new villains. New faces. Oh, and a girl gang! 

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

Oh, there are so many! It’s hard to choose. I loved writing Vianca Augustine’s arc—she’s such a fascinating female villain. I love Grace Watson, a new character. My surprise love was Jonas, aka “Scavenger,” a street lord who makes a bigger appearance in this book than he did in Book One. But I love them all for the same reason—they’re really fun to write! Vianca for being evil, Grace for being (reluctantly) good, and Jonas for falling in the middle.

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

Well, as the second book of a series, a lot just felt like the natural progression from Ace of Shades. I got the idea for Ace by the concept of magic as currency, and from there, I decided to center the entire world on greed. Hence the organized crime, the casinos, the glamour. I also determined that every book in the trilogy would have its own financial operation. Book One had the Ponzi Scheme, and Book Two has something new!

I also consider this book very much the “crime” book. The idea of “street legends” and the famous street lords of old permeates the story, and so I had to come up with all those legends and that history for this world. A lot of it is loosely based on real organized crime history, especially from the American 1920s. For instance, the leaders of the five “gangs” in New Reynes frequently come together in this book to meet, which is a nod to the Five Families of New York, who used to do the same. “Eight Fingers,” a street lord and an important mentor character to Levi, is named after “Three Fingers,” aka Tommy Lucchese. These details are probably lost on most, but they’re fun to me!

Was it difficult to write the sequel of The Shadow Game and why/why not?

It definitely was. A big reason was its length—it has so many moving parts, and there really was no good way to make this a short book. So I felt like every editing process just took forever. I was so burned out. 

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

Hm… just one??? I have such a huge playlist. Maybe “Worth it” by Kodaline. That captures the emotional anguish, which I’m obviously all about. 

Between Ace of Shades and King of Fools:

Which story was more fun to write about? Ah, that’s so hard! I suppose King—there are so many new characters whom I adore.

Which cover do you like the most? Also difficult. I’m more drawn to red than blue, but I just can’t help but feel like the cover of King of Fools suits the book so well. I actually asked my graphic designer to do pinstripes “like a gaudy mafioso suit.” And they did! 

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

It’s the City of Sin, so definitely something alcoholic. You could always spike your tea with vermouth, Vianca Augustine style. 

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

If you like The Shadow Game series, I definitely recommend The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima. Han Allister high key inspired Levi. 

What’s next for you?

Book Three! The final book in the series. I’m also working on a lot of new projects, as well. Nothing official yet, though.

Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and charactyouters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she lives in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.

Her books include DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY and ACE OF SHADES. The next installment of THE SHADOW GAME TRILOGY, KING OF FOOLS, releases on April 30, 2019.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Book Playlist for Smoke and Key by Kelsey Sutton

Smoke and Key

by Kelsey Sutton
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: April 2nd 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, Historical, Fiction, Paranormal, Magic, Horror
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A sound awakens her. There's darkness all around. And then she's falling...

She has no idea who or where she is. Or why she's dead. The only clue to her identity hangs around her neck: a single rusted key. This is how she and the others receive their names—from whatever belongings they had when they fell out of their graves. Under is a place of dirt and secrets, and Key is determined to discover the truth of her past in order to escape it.

She needs help, but who can she trust? Ribbon seems content in Under, uninterested in finding answers. Doll’s silence hints at deep sorrow, which could be why she doesn't utter a word. There's Smoke, the boy with a fierceness that rivals even the living. And Journal, who stays apart from everyone else. Key's instincts tell her there is something remarkable about each of them, even if she can't remember why.

Then the murders start; bodies that are burnt to a crisp. After being burned, the dead stay dead. Key is running out of time to discover who she was—and what secret someone is willing to kill to keep hidden—before she becomes the next victim…

Kelsey Sutton is a young adult and middle grade author. She lives in Minnesota, where she received a dual bachelor's degree in English and Creative Writing from Bemidji State University. She will soon have a master's degree from Hamline University. Her work has received an Independent Publisher Book Award, an IndieFab Award, and was selected as a Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book of 2013. When not writing, Kelsey can be found watching too much Netflix, ordering a mocha at the nearest coffee shop, napping with her rescue dogs, or browsing a bookstore. You can visit her online at, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter or Instagram.