Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Next Big Thing! Right here on my blog!

Looky here--a post in between book reviews! That crinkling sound--is that Hell freezing over? (Or I guess I should say "the Underworld.")

Anyway, Erin Dionne (author of the upcoming MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE-BREAKING) tagged me for The Next Big Thing, a blog tour that started in Australia and has been edging its way around the world one author at a time. I'm thrilled to take my turn answering questions about my new book. Read through to the end to find out where we go next!

What is the title of your next book?

TEXTING THE UNDERWORLD comes out August 15 and I’m already bouncing around like a ninny.

What it’s about: Perpetual scaredy-cat Conor O’Neill has the fright of his life when a banshee named Ashling shows up in his bedroom. Like all banshees, Ashling is a harbinger of death, and she’s sure someone in Conor’s family is about to require her services. But she’s new at this banshee business, and first she insists on going to middle school. Even as Conor desperately tries to hide her identity from his classmates and teachers, he realizes there’s no way to avoid paying a visit to the underworld if he wants to keep his family safe.

Fortunately, he has a cell phone, and his computer-geek friend, Javier, will be holding down the home front. Here’s my editor’s favorite exchange between Javier and Conor:

 “Got your cell?”
“Yeah . . . Don’t see what good it’ll do me.”
“I’ll text you if anything happens that you should know.”
“Text me? Javier, we’ll be in the afterlife.”
“You never know. Maybe they get a signal.”

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Banshee illustration
by Yvonne Gilbert,
Abbey Lubbers, Banshees & Boggarts

I was leafing through Abbey Lubbers, Banshees & Boggarts, an illustrated encyclopedia of folklore collected by the late Katharine Briggs. I came upon a full-page illustration of a banshee, and she wasn’t what I expected. (My banshee experience started and ended with "Darby O’Gill and the Little People," a Walt Disney film that scared the pants off me when I was a kid.) According to Briggs, banshees weren’t always evil old hags—sometimes they were the spirits of young girls who died too soon.  Ashling the banshee popped into my head right then and there, and I had the plot mapped out in three hours.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s middle-grade fantasy. Depending on who you talk to, “middle grade” ranges from age eight to age fourteen. You can decide for yourself whether banshees and a trip to the underworld constitute "fantasy."

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

CJ Adams (“The Odd Life of Timothy Green”) would be a great Conor, and Elle Fanning would be good as Ashling. (She’d have to dye her hair red.) The other major character is Grump, Conor’s grandfather, a banshee expert who’s kind of a loveable curmudgeon. Gotta be Clint Eastwood.

Who is publishing your book?

Dial Books for Young Readers, a Penguin imprint.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Let’s see. I started it in the summer of 2010, and got going on it seriously in the fall. I had a first draft to my editor in June 2011, and we finished revisions a little less than a year later.  There were a lot of empty months in there while my editor was considering my various proposals and I was working on other things.  

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

On the surface it was just the idea of a young banshee. But also various family members and friends had died over the previous decade, and I had some thoughts about death that made this book even more interesting to me.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

There’s a mysterious connection between Conor and Ashling that becomes clear only when they finally visit the afterlife.

While she’s visiting Conor, Ashling’s chief source of information about the world is an old Trivial Pursuit game.

It turns out the Underworld does get a cell phone signal. Also internet.  

And now (*drum roll*), I hereby tag Lisa Gail Green, author of the upcoming THE BINDING STONE. Take it away, Lisa!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March Book Review Club

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book review blogs
@Barrie Summy

Until this morning, it snowed steadily for about 36 hours with absolutely no accumulation to show for it. Yep, it's March. If you're not reading voraciously now, you are way, way too contented with life. 

Here's a little March escapism. And don't forget to click the icon for more reviews!

By Maurissa Guibord
Delacorte Press, 2013

Full disclosure: Maurissa Guibord is a friend, and her publisher sent me a galley so I could interview her for The Enchanted Inkpot.

Teen Me would have been thrilled. This is the kind of book she would have devoured and instantly re-read. Then it would have been rinse and repeat every few months until she could recite half of the text.

Here’s why: Characters and creatures out of Greek mythology, some enticing, others terrifying. A couple of love interests, both tormented, one supernatural. Humor. A mystery that starts on page one and just keeps getting juicier.

Who knew gills could be sexy? (I’ve got your interest now, right?)

The plot is unique, as far as I know.

Orphaned Delia makes her way from Kansas to the strange island where her mother grew up, hoping to connect with her grandmother and find out the truth behind her mother’s deathbed ramblings. (“Don’t let them take the baby” being one. Brrr.)

When she reaches Trespass Island, she finds she’s not welcome.  Then she finds she’s more welcome than she wants to be. She meets a young fisherman who seems to be attracted to her but keeps backing off in an odd, unhappy way. Everyone talks about the Revel, but no one will tell her what it is.

And then there’s the pale young man from the sea who seems to be obsessed with her.

There are mysteries everywhere: Why doesn't Trespass appear on any maps? How come its inhabitants seem to be trapped there, surrounded by what seem to be sea monsters? Why did Delia’s mother leave? She'd always said she was terrified of water, so why are there pictures of her happily paddling in the sea?

Sometimes Delia is standing on the shore one minute, and up to her knees in water the next--what's that all about?

Guibord unravels the puzzles slowly and seamlessly. The answers are deeply satisfying, although sometimes heartbreaking. By the time we get our answers, we’re thoroughly invested in all the characters, from Delia’s intrepid grandmother to the slightly ditzy teenagers dolling themselves up for Revel.

Delia’s fate is especially cool. And, Ms. Guibord, it just screams for a sequel.

Poor Teen Me. How she would have loved this book.