Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Interview with Don Zolidis for War and Speech

War and Speech

by Don Zolidis
Publisher: Little Brown
Release Date: May 5th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction
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Not everyone can be a winner...

Sydney Williams knows this better than anyone. After her white-collar- criminal dad is sent to prison, Sydney fails almost all of her classes and moves into a dingy apartment with her mom, who can barely support them with her minimum-wage job at the mall. 

A new school promises a fresh start. Except Eaganville isn’t exactly like other high schools. It's ruled with an iron fist by a speech team that embodies the most extreme winner-takes-all philosophy.

Sydney is befriended by a group of fellow misfits, each of whom has been personally victimized by the speech team. It turns out Sydney is the perfect plant to take down the speech team from within. 

With the help of her co-conspirators, Sydney throws herself into making Nationals in speech, where she will be poised to topple the corrupt regime. But what happens when Sydney realizes she actually has a shot at . . . winning? Sydney lost everything because of her dad’s obsession with being on top. Winning at speech might just be her ticket out of a life of loserdom. Can she really walk away from that?

Can you briefly describe WAR AND SPEECH and its characters?

WAR AND SPEECH is the story of Sydney, who decides to join the top-rated Speech and Debate team in the country in order to destroy it from the inside out. 

Sydney is funny, brutally honest, and has a mouth that gets her in a lot of trouble. She has a strong bullshit detector and a keen sense of fairness. Her father is in prison for tax evasion, and her life has cratered big time – she now lives in a tiny apartment with her mom and her new boyfriend, and just about everything she counted on has disappeared. She can be a bit bitter. 

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

Lakshmi is probably my favorite character in the book. She’s a basketball star, and in any other school would be popular. Unfortunately, she attends a school for the arts where no one cares about sports, and her teammates recite spoken word poetry during the games. 

Lakshmi is fierce and strong and values her time. She doesn’t have time for nonsense and moves through the world like she owns the place. Sydney says she wants to be Lakshmi when she grows up. Me too. 

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

I wanted to write a book about Speech and Debate, since it’s a really fun activity that hasn’t been seen a lot in YA books. I also wanted to do a plucky underdog story where the underdog’s goal is destruction, rather than winning. 

I actually took a lot of inspiration from the Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, and Eight movies. It’s a motley group of conspirators trying to do the impossible and managing to pull it off. 

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

This question is so hard! When I’m writing, I usually try to only listen to music that seems like it’s in my character’s voice. And then I listen to that artist continuously for the writing process. For this book, I listened to Sharon Van Etten and Courtney Barnett. I think Courtney really gets at Sydney’s irascible, raw voice. Her song “Help Your Self” is a great encapsulation of Sydney’s personal philosophy. 

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

Is it cliché to say Beanie Feldstein? I think Beanie Feldstein would make a brilliant Sydney. She’s smart, she’s funny, and she’s ready to do something outrageous. I might also cast Tom Holland (although he’s maybe a little too good-looking) as Elijah, who becomes Sydney’s love interest. 

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

Um… this is a YA book, so I probably can’t say a shot of whiskey or something. I mean I could, but I might be sending the wrong signal to my readers. 

I think, ultimately, this is a really fun caper-style book. So it would go really well with some carefully plotted crimes and/or shenanigans. I’m gonna go with a smoothie and light crime. 

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

My first novel, THE SEVEN TORMENTS OF AMY AND CRAIG (A LOVE STORY) is a bit more of a rom-com than a caper, but it’s also hilarious and heart-wrenching. Another kindred writing soul would be Katie Henry, who writes viciously funny and thoughtful books. Check out LET’S CALL IT A DOOMSDAY and HERETICS ANONYMOUS

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

Coming up with the spine of the story is always the most challenging part for me. I’m naturally a playwright, so writing dialogue is always breezy and fun. But finding and honing the right skeleton to hang the story on is a struggle. 

Also, what people are wearing. I have no idea what people wear. Ever. 

What’s next for you?

I just finished a new novel, I HEARD YOU WERE DEAD, which is about a boy who’s recovered from leukemia. He returns to his old high school and manages to fall in love with a girl and her brother.

Don Zolidis grew up in Wisconsin, went to college in Minnesota, and is mostly known for being a really funny playwright. For the past five years, he’s been the most-produced playwright in American schools. His more than one hundred published plays have been performed tens of thousands of times, and have appeared in sixty-four different countries. He currently splits his time between New York and Texas, and has two adorable boys who will someday read this book and have a lot of questions. He aspires to owning a dog. His first novel was The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig.

Interview with Demetra Brodsky for Last Girls

Last Girls

Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: May 5th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
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No one knows how the world will end.

On a secret compound in the Washington wilderness, Honey Juniper and her sisters are training to hunt, homestead, and protect their own.

Prepare for every situation.

But when danger strikes from within, putting her sisters at risk, training becomes real life, and only one thing is certain:

Nowhere is safe.

Can you briefly describe LAST GIRLS and its characters? 

Last Girls is a twisting, YA Thriller about sisterhood, survival, and family secrets. Three sisters being raised as doomsday preppers in the Pacific Northwest face a different kind of threat when one sister’s actions draw the unwanted attention to the secret compound where they live. As the group leader’s erratic behaviour and actions increase, they have to decide if it’s better to run or take their chances against the very people sworn to protect them. 

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

That’s such a tough call. Honey is the oldest of the three Juniper sisters, and the POV character for all three sisters, but Birdie and Blue come with their own strengths and worthiness. If I have to pick just one, I’d say Birdie (the middle sister) is my favorite. I don’t think she’d be the choice of most readers. Maybe that’s why I love her. She is, in my own opinion, the most misunderstood. Headstrong, independent, and impulsive, Birdie rarely shows her more sensitive site. But when she does, it’s visceral. Throughout the story Birdie is the one that suffers the most, and I felt so her emotions viscerally while writing her into the scenes she shares with her sisters. 

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

I’d love to say I had this unforgettable ah-ha moment. The truth is, I was curious about the lives of doomsday preppers. Not the variety that are sensationalized on television, but the ones who homestead and try to live mostly off the grid. It was a combination of that and an episode of Criminal Minds titled Amplification that dealt with a jilted scientist creating a pathogen to use as a biological weapon. My research spread into military history until I had the makings of my own thriller. Being the youngest of parents’ three daughters, I’ve always wanted to write a book about three sisters. I love a good power trio. 

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

My favorite question. Mother, by Pink Floyd. The book opens with a quote from this song. You can find my public, author-curated LAST GIRLS playlist on Spotify.

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

I love dreaming about who would play my characters. This is always so much fun. 

Honey: Diana Silvers

Birdie: Emily Rudd

Blue: India Eisley

Toby: Cole Sprouse

You can visit the Last Girls Pinterest board to see more.

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

Tazo makes a heavenly Juniper Mint Honey tea. Sipping that in front of campfire would be amazing while reading Last Girls. 

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

There are some great books with similar themes that I love. 

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

The hardest part for me is creating a viable villain or villains. The main characters usually come to me easily and I just have to massage them into existence. Once I have an idea of who the story is about, I jump into creating the villain because their motivation is what will drive the character’s actions and reactions. I have to know why they feel compelled to do the things they’re going to do, what their lives were like, who or what happened that made them the way they are. That advice was given to by Lois Duncan (I Know What You Did Last Summer) when she read an early copy of Dive Smack, my debut. She told me she always starts with the villain and to have more information on them than I needed, stuff that will never even make it into the book as long I knew them as well as I knew my protagonist. She then proceeded to email me a bunch of questions to help me flesh out the villain (Dr. Maddox) in my debut. 

What’s next for you?

I’m currently outlining an adult Greek Mythology story, which is a revision and reimagining of the first YA book I ever wrote. It also contains a power trio, and you won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve spent a long time developing the villain. As a first-generation Greek-American, this story is very near and dear to my heart and I can’t wait until the day I can share it with readers.

The Juniper sisters in LAST GIRLS don't go anywhere without a backpack (what they call an EDC: Every Day Carry) and they take great pride in their artwork. Honey paints, Birdie draws comics, and Blue uses embroidery to fancy up her clothes (when she's not spending time with her beloved falcon, Achilles). To honor the sisters' talents, I'll be sending one lucky winner some artistic inspiration by offering up a fabulous pre-order Grand Prize. But don't worry, everyone who orders will receive a gift with purchase. And, as a bonus, I'm including a 2nd prize that holds a special place in my author heart.

ALL PREORDERS WILL RECEIVE: Last Girls 5x7 Glossy Art Print & Signed Bookplate (see above)


GRAND PRIZE WINNER: (chosen at random on or before 5/19) will receive a BUILT NY grey & blue camouflage backpack with thermal lunch compartment. Inside you'll find a mini acrylic painting kit (From Honey), a sketchbook & pen (From Birdie), an adorable 10" peregrine falcon plushie and mini sewing kit (from Blue), a flashlight (with batteries), a rosy tinted lip balm, camouflage band-aids, a 3-pack of portable tissues printed with positive messages, and a dehydrated camping meal like the one the sisters eat in the book.

FIRST PRIZE: (chosen at random on or before 5/19) A signed hardcover copy of my debut novel, DIVE SMACK, to round out your collection (Surprise! There's a big Dive Smack Easter Egg hidden in the pages of Last Girls).

TO ENTER: email proof of purchase to before May 5th. You'll get one entry for each copy of the book you purchase.

Available wherever books are sold.
Whenever possible, please support Indie Bookstores by buying through
Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego will have signed copies (not bookplates) and offers Free shipping for media mail rate within the U.S. on orders over $35.

VISIT: to learn more!

*Open to U.S.A. Residents Only
*Sweepstakes run and fulfilled by the author
*Share with your friends

DEMETRA BRODSKY writes twisty thrillers about dark family secrets. She is an award-winning graphic designer & art director turned full-time. A native of Massachusetts with a B.F.A from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Demetra now lives in Southern California where she's always exploring and researching, looking for clues to things that might feed into her next book. She is a first generation Greek-American and a member of International Thriller Writers. Dive Smack, her debut YA Thriller, is a 2018 Junior Library Guild Selection, an (ALAN) Pick (The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE), and a Publishers Marketplace Buzz Book for Young Adults for Spring/Summer 2018.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Interview with Lian Dolan for The Sweeney Sisters

The Sweeney Sisters

Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: April 28th 2020
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
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An accomplished storyteller returns with her biggest, boldest, most entertaining novel yet—a hilarious, heartfelt story about books, love, sisterhood, and the surprises we discover in our DNA that combines the wit of Jonathan Tropper with the heart of Susan Wiggs.

Maggie, Eliza, and Tricia Sweeney grew up as a happy threesome in the idyllic seaside town of Southport, Connecticut. But their mother’s death from cancer fifteen years ago tarnished their golden-hued memories, and the sisters drifted apart. Their one touchstone is their father, Bill Sweeney, an internationally famous literary lion and college professor universally adored by critics, publishers, and book lovers. When Bill dies unexpectedly one cool June night, his shell-shocked daughters return to their childhood home. They aren’t quite sure what the future holds without their larger-than-life father, but they do know how to throw an Irish wake to honor a man of his stature.

But as guests pay their respects and reminisce, one stranger, emboldened by whiskey, has crashed the party. It turns out that she too is a Sweeney sister.

When Washington, DC based journalist Serena Tucker had her DNA tested on a whim a few weeks earlier, she learned she had a 50% genetic match with a childhood neighbor—Maggie Sweeney of Southport, Connecticut. It seems Serena’s chilly WASP mother, Birdie, had a history with Bill Sweeney—one that has remained totally secret until now.

Once the shock wears off, questions abound. What does this mean for William’s literary legacy? Where is the unfinished memoir he’s stashed away, and what will it reveal? And how will a fourth Sweeney sister—a blond among redheads—fit into their story?

By turns revealing, insightful, and uproarious, The Sweeney Sisters is equal parts cautionary tale and celebration—a festive and heartfelt look at what truly makes a family.

Can you briefly describe THE SWEENEY SISTERS and its characters?

The Sweeney Sisters is the story of three sisters—Liza, Maggie and Tricia—who are have the same parents but very different lives. They grew up in the small town of Southport, Connecticut with a poet mother and a father who was a very famous novelist, a literary lion. When their father dies unexpectantly, they discover the existence of a fourth Sweeney sister, Serena. Together, they figure out what sisterhood really means and if and how they’ll move forward together. But it’s not all seriousness! There is summer and romance and some dogs. 

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

I’m the youngest of eight siblings and the youngest of five sisters, so my natural bias is towards youngest siblings. Tricia is the youngest Sweeney sister and though she is a super-disciplined and competitive runner and lawyer (Nothing like me), she is always comfortable taking the leads with her older siblings (Me all day). So, while I love all the characters in this book, I feel the most protective of Tricia. 

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

I wanted to write a book about sisterhood and then saw a post on Facebook about siblings who’d recently discovered each other, thanks to an over the counter DNA test. There were lot of positive comments and thumbs ups and it made me think, “Would it be thumbs up if some secret sibling just showed up mid-way through your life?” I thought the idea of a ‘new’ sibling showing up and trying to break into a group of sisters would create a contemporary and layered look at what it really means to be someone’s sister. 

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

I love this question because I listened to a lot of music while writing the book, trying to get into the head of the characters and the mood of different eras from the Seventies to today. There are also musical artists referenced in the book from Jay-Z to The Spice Girls to Ani DeFranco to The Goo Goo Dolls. And to capture all of that, I created a playlist at Spotify called Music Inspired by The Sweeney Sisters. But one song really sticks with me and that’s Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic. It’s a critical part of a critical scene and really captures the swagger of the Sweeneys. Plus, it’s an unbelievably great song. 

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

I am truly terrible at the casting game. For my previous books, this was the question that always stumped me on tour. My writing brain doesn’t work that way—except with this book. The three Sweeneys are all redheads and the secret sister is a blond. Nothing would make me happier than to have real life sisters Rooney and Kate Mara step into the roles of Serena, the outsider and the blond, and Tricia, the youngest. I think Bryce Dallas Howard would be a great Maggie. And Emma Stone would be a perfectly perfect Liza. How about Jessica Chastain as the mother, Maeve? And there are some great smaller roles for older actresses. With the male characters, let’s find some super cute unknown for Tim and I like Himash Patel from Yesterday as Raj. And in the critical role of Bill Sweeney, literary rock star with issues, please, oh, please let it be Brad Pitt. 

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

The book is set in the real town of Southport, Connecticut, a charming, preppy, seaside town. So, the perfect Sweeney Sisters book date would include a spot near the water and a gin & tonic. 

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

For more sisters, The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine or Jane Green’s The Sunshine Sisters, both stories set in Fairfield County, Connecticut. And both classics of the genre. For a satisfying multi-generational tale, Well-behaved Indian Women by Saumaya Dave comes out this summer. I read an advanced copy and I loved it. 

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

Sitting in a chair for a year. Truly. It takes a long time to craft a 90,000-word novel. That can be demoralizing when you are starting a new book, that it’s going to take many hours in a chair to get the words on the page, even if you see the story clearly in your head from Day One. I think new writers underestimate the time and the discipline it requires to finish a manuscript. 

What’s next for you?

Playing around with a few ideas. Including a mystery set in Rome or the multi-character story of a middle-aged dance troupe set in Southern California.

Lian Dolan is a writer and talker. She’s the author of two Los Angeles Times best-selling novels, Helen of Pasadena and Elizabeth the First Wife published by Prospect Park Books. Her next novel, The Sweeney Sisters, will be published in 2020 by William Morrow. She’s a regular humor columnist for Pasadena Magazine and has previously written monthly columns for O, The Oprah Magazine and Working Mother Magazine. She’s also written for TV, radio and websites.

Lian is the producer and host of Satellite Sisters, the award-winning talk show she created with her four real sisters. On Satellite Sisters, she’s interviewed everyone from Nora Ephron to Madeleine Albright to Big Bird. Satellite Sisters began life as a syndicated radio show and is now a top-rated podcast for women. The recent book by the Satellite Sisters, You’re the Best: A Celebration of Friendship, is popular with book clubs.

A popular speaker who combines humor and heart, Lian has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Sunday Morning and The Today Show and many local TV stations. She’s been a featured speaker at the LA Times Festival of Books, the Santa Barbara Celebrity Authors Lunch, the Literary Guild of Orange County Festival of Women Authors and dozens of other events at libraries, book stores, schools and women’s organizations across the country. In 2020, she’ll be on the faculty of the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.

Lian graduated from Pomona College with a degree in Classics. She lives in Pasadena, California with her husband, two sons and a big German shepherd.