Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Interview with Lori Goldstein for Screen Queens

Screen Queens

by Lori Goldstein
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: June 11th 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
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The Bold Type meets The Social Network when three girls vying for prestigious summer internships through a startup incubator program uncover the truth about what it means to succeed in the male-dominated world of tech.

This summer Silicon Valley is a girls' club.

Three thousand applicants. An acceptance rate of two percent. A dream internship for the winning team. ValleyStart is the most prestigious high school tech incubator competition in the country. Lucy Katz, Maddie Li, and Delia Meyer have secured their spots. And they've come to win.

Meet the Screen Queens.

Lucy Katz was born and raised in Palo Alto, so tech, well, it runs in her blood. A social butterfly and CEO in-the-making, Lucy is ready to win and party.

East Coast designer, Maddie Li left her home and small business behind for a summer at ValleyStart. Maddie thinks she's only there to bolster her graphic design portfolio, not to make friends.

Delia Meyer taught herself how to code on a hand-me-down computer in her tiny Midwestern town. Now, it's time for the big leagues--ValleyStart--but super shy Delia isn't sure if she can hack it (pun intended).

When the competition kicks off, Lucy, Maddie, and Delia realize just how challenging the next five weeks will be. As if there wasn't enough pressure already, the girls learn that they would be the only all-female team to win ever. Add in one first love, a two-faced mentor, and an ex-boyfriend turned nemesis and things get...complicated.

Filled with humor, heart, and a whole lot of girl power, Screen Queens is perfect for fans of Morgan Matson, Jenny Han, and The Bold Type.

Can you briefly describe SCREEN QUEENS and their main characters? 

SCREEN QUEENS follows three high school graduates as they enter a technology competition in Silicon Valley in hopes of winning a prestigious internship at the hottest social media company in the world. But this being male-dominated Silicon Valley, they’re not just battling their fellow contenders but a culture of discrimination and harassment that forces them to bond together personally and professionally. Ambitious and driven Lucy grew up in Silicon Valley and lives in the shadow of her successful mom who has high expectations Lucy never seems able to meet. Sarcastic and aloof Maddie from Boston is a talented designer who enters the competition solely to boost her resume and has every intention of returning home to her little brother, the only person in her life she can open herself up to emotionally. Finally, shy and loyal Delia is a coding genius attending on a scholarship, desperate to have a future in the tech world, but whose lack of confidence makes her constantly compare herself to others and feel like she never measures up. 

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

There’s no way to claim a favorite! This was my first time writing multiple points of view and I loved the experience, partly because I was able to find something in each girl that intrigued me and I loved the storytelling experience of seeing this competition from three very different perspectives. I love how genuine Delia is and how she looks to find the best in everyone around her. I admire Lucy’s no-holds-barred drive and total confidence in herself. And Maddie’s history of not quite fitting in and being wary of trusting others is something I think we can all relate to. Together they complement one another and create a strong foundation for their friendship. 

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

I’m inspired by real life most of the time and that’s no different here. One of my favorite podcasts is called StartUp by Gimlet Media, which chronicles the issues faced by new businesses, especially tech-based ones. The second season centered on two women trying to grow their dating app. The struggles they encountered as female founders, things their male counterparts didn’t have to, affected me. Such as offers of funding from venture capitalists coming with the strings of dinner, drinks, or more attached. This led me to books like Brotopia by Emily Chang and articles in places like The Atlantic that offered deep insights into what it’s like to be a woman in the field of tech. The harassment and discrimination is a big part of the reason women leave the industry, which happened to a very good friend of mine who left her career as a coder. And it is also a barrier—among many barriers—for women entering the field. We all know that jobs in the future will be those related to tech, and we need to encourage more young women to consider this option from a young age, something I never did. 

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

I think it would have to be Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You” as much for the song as for the great video for it. A runner up has to be Beyonce’s “Run the World,” name-checked in the book. 

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

First it would be super fun to see SCREEN QUEENS as a movie, wouldn’t it? As a huge Game of Thrones fan, I think Maisie Williams would make a great Lucy. I could see Janel Parrish from To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and Pretty Little Liars as Maddie, and for Delia, Abigail Breslin (and not just because she was in the aptly named SCREAM Queens!). 

Summer is coming and we love to go out and enjoy the sun. What drink and place do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date? 

The girls head into San Francisco a couple of times, which is a city of hills. It makes for a tough workout, but you are constantly rewarded with amazing views. The perfect location is any spot that takes some climbing to lead you to a great vista, be it a city skyline, a water view, or mountaintop. The best drink would match the cover . . . maybe an ice-cold mango smoothie with a twist of lime! 

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

If you are looking for another great book set in the summer with a female lead struggling to determine her future (with a good dash of swoony romance), I can recommend the YA contemporary NIGHT MUSIC by Jenn Marie Thorne. If you are looking for some more female empowerment and #metoo, then the adult WHISPER NETWORK by Chandler Baker, out July 2 is for you. Kelly Loy Gilbert’s PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT is a beautiful book showcasing Gilbert’s impeccable writing, and for a great mystery, TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET by Karen McManus

What’s next for you? 

While I can’t give details, I am working on another YA novel with a timely spin on what’s going on in our country with respect to politics and the media.

Author of SCREEN QUEENS, coming from Razorbill, June 11, 2019, and available for preorder now (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound) about three teen girls who attend a startup incubator in Silicon Valley and learn what it means to compete in the male-dominated world of tech.

My Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy series Becoming Jinn and Circle of Jinn is a modern spin on the traditional tale of wish-granting genies (Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan).

Obsessed with books, beach, and Game of Thrones, Find me at @loriagoldstein and follow my blog and sign up for my newsletter at www.lorigoldsteinbooks.com, my Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/lorigoldstei... and my Tumblr at http://lorigoldsteinbooks.tumblr.com.

Like my author page on Facebook for fun book-related photos, tidbits, and happenings as well as news on upcoming releases.

Interview with Amber Smith for Something Like Gravity

Something Like Gravity

by Amber Smith
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: June 18th 2019
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, Young Adult, Romance
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For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor and Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway?

Can you briefly describe SOMETHING LIKE GRAVITY and their main characters?

Something Like Gravity is a story about falling in love for the first time and finding yourself in the process. It’s told across one summer, through the alternating points of view of Chris and Maia. Chris has recently come out as transgender and is grappling with his changing relationships with family and friends, while processing a trauma from his past. When Chris decides to leave home to visit an aunt for the summer, to get out from under the scrutiny of his parents, he meets Maia. Maia is still reeling from the recent death of her older sister and is trying to find her place in the world without her. Chris and Maia’s worlds look very different, but they are drawn to one another, as each are trying to figure out who they are going to become in the face of equally life-changing events. 

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

This is such a hard question – I don’t think I can choose a favorite between Chris and Maia! So instead of “favorite” I think I’ll say the character I most aspire to be more like is Chris. Don’t get me wrong, Chris definitely has flaws, like sometimes he has unrealistic expectations of other people, can be quick to judge, and tends to push himself too hard. But he has also been through some real tough sh*t, and no matter what happens he never loses himself or gives up hope. That is something that I relate to…in that I’m always striving to stay positive even when things are hard.

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

There were a lot of different pieces of inspiration behind Something Like Gravity. Writing is always very therapeutic for me, and I found over the course of the last several years I’ve increasingly needed a place to address and process the recent backlash against the LGBTQ community (in the wake of tremendous progress, with marriage equality in the U.S.) As a queer person myself, it’s been so heart-wrenching to see the transphobia ramping up over the last several years. I also wanted to continue exploring grief and trauma in ways that are different from my previous books. But the thing that inspired me to turn Something Like Gravity into a love story is that my soul really needed to write about something that was equally as powerful as all of the difficult, painful topics I feel drawn to write about, and in this case, that something became a story about falling in love and finding hope, against all odds.

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

Just one? Okay, the pressure is on… Here goes: “At the Stars” by Better Than Ezra

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

I have been pondering this question WAY too often for my own good over these past several months as Something Like Gravity has been becoming more of a reality every day, so I can say with total certainty that my ultimate dream team would be Elliot Fletcher as Chris and Katherine Langford as Maia.

Summer is here and we love to go out and enjoy the sun. What drink and place do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date? 

Strawberry milkshakes at an old-fashioned ice cream shop (I didn’t even have to pause to think about that answer!)

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

Absolutely! All of these books share some common threads with Something Like Gravity in one way or another, and are excellent reads:

What’s next for you?

I don’t think I’m allowed to reveal too much about what’s next, but I think it’s okay to say that I’m experimenting with some different formats like epistolary and verse. Challenging, but also really fun too!

Amber Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of the young adult novels The Way I Used to Be, The Last to Let Go, and Something Like Gravity. An advocate for increased awareness of gendered violence, as well as LGBTQ equality, she writes in the hope that her books can help to foster change and spark dialogue surrounding these issues. She grew up in Buffalo, New York, and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her partner and their ever-growing family of rescued dogs and cats. You can find her online at AmberSmithAuthor.com.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Interview with Mary Fan for Stronger Than A Bronze Dragon

Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon

Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release Date: June 11th 2019

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
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When a powerful viceroy arrives with a fleet of mechanical dragons and stops an attack on Anlei’s village, the villagers see him as a godsend. They agree to give him their sacred, enchanted River Pearl in exchange for permanent protection—if he’ll marry one of the village girls to solidify the alliance. Anlei is appalled when the viceroy selects her as a bride, but with the fate of her people at stake, she sees no choice but to consent. Anlei’s noble plans are sent into a tailspin, however, when a young thief steals the River Pearl for himself.

Knowing the viceroy won’t protect her village without the jewel, she takes matters into her own hands. But once she catches the thief, she discovers he needs the pearl just as much as she does. The two embark on an epic quest across the land and into the Courts of Hell, taking Anlei on a journey that reveals more is at stake than she could have ever imagined.

With incredibly vivid world building and fast-paced storytelling, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon is great for readers who are looking for something fresh in epic fantasy.

Can you briefly describe STRONGER THAN A BRONZE DRAGON and their main characters? 

STRONGER THAN A BRONZE DRAGON takes place in a steampunk fantasyland loosely inspired by Qing Dynasty China. The main character, Anlei, lives in a small, rural village so remote, it often feels like the rest of the Empire has forgotten about them. For several years, shadow demons have stalked the village at night – including one with a distinctive mark that killed her father when she was a young girl. Now 17, Anlei is a member of the village guard and yearns to avenge her father. But though she risks her life for the community night after night, she’s always been somewhat isolated—her behaviours and attitudes don’t fit in. For instance, she can become hyper-focused on a task she needs to complete and forget about the rest of the world, which leads to others thinking of her as selfish. She also isn’t afraid to let people know when she’s angry. 

When a powerful viceroy arrives in the village and agrees to offer protection exchange for the sacred River Pearl, the village headman insists that the viceroy take one of the village women as a bride, since a marriage alliance would hold the viceroy to his word. To Anlei’s dismay, the viceroy picks her—meaning she has to leave her life of sword-fighting for a quiet life in a royal palace that she’s ill-suited for. But on the eve of the wedding, a thief named Tai steals the River Pearl – he needs it for a quest of his own. 

Anlei agrees to team up with Tai to fulfil his mission, with the agreement that he’ll return the pearl when he’s finished. Though she tells herself this is a logical compromise, it’s not lost on her that this could be her last chance at adventure. Unlike Anlei, Tai refuses to take anything seriously if he can help it, and his devil-may-care attitude often clashes with her more solemn one. What’s more, he refuses to divulge much about his identity or his past, which she finds frustrating. 

The two travel across the land and into the depths of Hell itself in a journey that will change both their lives forever. 

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

Anlei’s my favourite, which is good since I had to spend a lot of time in her head! It’s because I wrote her completely unapologetically -- she’s got this blunt, unfiltered attitude, and she expresses her anger very directly. While writing her, I felt unrestrained – I wasn’t trying to make her fit in with some mould of “likable” determined by generations’ worth of patriarchal structures. And I didn’t care if that meant some people wouldn’t connect with her voice because they’re too accustomed to a certain level of niceness. At the same time, she’s more complex than she may seem on the surface. Part of her problem is that she’s not good at being vulnerable, and she’s not good at expressing herself outside of her anger. I had a lot of fun exploring these layers of her inner life while also getting to write the bold, unencumbered heroine I always wanted when I was a kid. 

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

The first idea for the story came from this idea for an unhappy Cinderella retelling I was toying with. You’ve got this working-class young woman who’s chosen by a powerful man to become royalty. But what if she never wanted to be a princess? What if she preferred her life the way it was, but had no choice in the matter? And what if Prince Charming was actually a controlling jerk who didn’t care about who she was – only what he wanted her to be? After all, he picked her solely based on looks. 

From there, it was a matter of figuring out why a powerful man would force a working-class girl to marry her – and why she’d agree to it if she was so opposed to the union. I also wanted to incorporate elements of a classic Hero’s Journey – the kind of fairy tale quest that’s usually about a white boy leaving home, becoming a knight of some kind, and discovering his destiny as a royal or aristocratic something-or-other. Except this time, it’s about an East Asian girl who’s already a knight in her own way, and the destiny she discovers isn’t what she thinks it will be. 

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

Hm… for some reason “Warriors” by Imagine Dragons comes to mind. 

Summer is here and we love to go out and enjoy the sun. What drink and place do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date? 

A grassy riverbank on a sunny day with a nice cold cup of taro-flavoured bubble tea 

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish STRONGER THAN A BRONZE DRAGON? 

If you’re looking for more steampunk/fantasy hybrid adventures, I highly recommend Karissa Laurel’s Stormbourne Chronicles (Heir of Thunder, Quest of Thunder, and Crown of Thunder—it’s a complete trilogy). A princess with latent powers goes on a continent-spanning journey to reclaim her throne from dark forces that threaten her kingdom… I’ve read the whole thing and it’s fantastic! 

What’s next for you? 

I’ve got a couple of works in progress going on right now, including the third and final instalment of my indie YA sci-fi series, Starswept, and the fourth volume of Brave New Girls (Brave New Girls: Adventures of Gals and Gizmos), an indie YA sci-fi anthology series I co-edit with Paige Daniels. I’m also in the middle of hammering out a draft for a YA sci-fi mystery about a teen engineering apprentice who revives a discarded humanlike AI… named Sherlock. So it’s a Sherlock Holmes retelling, but in space and with two teen girls (or rather, a teen girl and a synthetic life form who looks and acts alike a teen girl). So lots going on!

Mary Fan is a hopeless dreamer, whose mind insists on spinning tales of “what if.” As a music major in college, she told those stories through compositions. Now, she tells them through books—a habit she began as soon as she could pick up a pencil.

Mary lives in New Jersey and has a B.A. from Princeton University. When she’s not scheming to create new worlds, she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and blogging about everything having to do with books.