Friday, August 17, 2018

Why do you write books for young people? (With J.C. Cervantes!)

Hi all! Shannon here, saying goodbye to another week and another lovely author, J.C. Cervantes. You've been fabulous, friend. Thank you for joining us.

If you're on social media, please give her a visit and tell her how grateful we are that she stopped by the blog to share her stories and her wisdom. You can find Jen here:

We've talked about her upcoming release, The Storm Runner, but be sure to take a look at Jen's award-winning debut novel, Tortilla Sun. That cover makes me want to fly!

Today's panel question is:

Jen: Childhood is the time of imagination and mystery. Of dragons and monsters. Of first loves and magic spells. But truth be told, I didn’t “decide” per se. The universe tapped me on the shoulder and I answered. Once I wrote my first kids’ book, I knew something magical and rare had happened, something that would change me forever. Plus, I really love magic and monsters!

Steph: I don’t know, honestly. I’ve tried writing for adults a few times, and I really struggle with it. Even though I’m a legit adult and it doesn’t seem like it would be that hard. There’s just something about the untapped potential of the teenage years that draws me.

Jill: My husband and I were working in youth ministry at the time, so I was around a lot of teenagers. I have always gravitated toward the readers and shared books with them, so when I started writing, that was the only age that interests me. I have since written books for kids and some for adults, but I am still partial to the teen years. There is something about discovering life and adventure for the first time that makes a story more interesting to me.

Shan: I get asked this question a lot. And so sometimes I feel like a broken record when I answer it, but the truth is just as powerful and just as true as when I first started writing for teens. 

One of the most inspiring things to watch is when a person, any person, rises up to face their fears and instead of being swallowed by them like they have a zillion times before, they ball up their fist and punch fear square in the face. Fear may steal things from us from time to time, but I don't believe we have to let it win. Those teenage years are so full of angst and growth and trials and grappling and coming into your own. It's the ideal place to examine the fight and the superiority of a soul that says, "I'm afraid, but I'm doing it anyway." Stories that capture the genuine spirit of this set me weeping and cheering. I want to write those stories.

Now it's your turn.

Tell us, how did you decide on your audience?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

How often do you read other people's books? Which genres do you read? (With J.C. Cervantes!)

Hello friends! Shannon here.

We are lucky enough to have J.C. Cervantes with us once again, and today, I get to tell you all about her upcoming middle grade novel, The Storm Runner. Brace yourself for all the amazing:

A contemporary adventure based on Maya mythology from Rick Riordan Presents! 

Zane Obispo spends every day exploring the sleeping volcano in his backyard. "The Beast," as he calls it, is the one place where he can escape other kids, who make fun of him because he has a limp and walks with a cane.

After a twin-engine plane crashes into The Beast, a mysterious girl named Brooks shows up at Zane's doorstep, insisting that they meet at the volcano, where she will reveal a terrible secret. Zane agrees, mostly because beautiful girls like her don't usually talk to him. Brooks tells him that the volcano is actually a centuries-old prison for the Maya god of death, whose destiny is directly tied to Zane's. No way, Zane thinks. He's just a thirteen-year old nobody, and destiny or no destiny, he wants nothing to do with any of it, especially some god of death.

But Brooks opens his eyes to the truth: magic, monsters, and gods are real, and Zane is at the center of an ancient prophecy that could mean the destruction of the world. 

Suddenly finding himself entangled in a web of dangerous secrets, Zane embarks on a quest that will take him far from home and test him to the very core.

Feisty heroes, tricky gods, murderous demons, and spirited giants are just some of the pleasures that await in this fresh and funny take on Maya mythology, as rich and delicious as a mug of authentic hot chocolate.

Doesn't that sound fantastic? I'm so here for this! But while we wait for this baby to hit shelves (9/18/18), let's tackle today's panel question, shall we?

Jen: ALL the time! I read all genres from contemporary to fantasy across all age ranges. Although, I try to avoid reading middle grade for example, if I’m working on an MG book which has been the last year and a half! So, I actively look for pockets of non-writing time to read whatever I want.

Steph: I almost always have a book I’m reading, and usually I have a novel and a nonfiction book going. Sometimes I have an audiobook going too. Young adult is always my go-to, but I love historical fiction and mysteries too. 

Jill: I read all the time, and I will read most anything for entertainment purposes. When I’m working on a first draft of a new story, I try to read books that are in that genre or are a research topic--books that will inspire me or at least, keep my author voice in the right cadence. For example, right now I’m writing a Regency-esque fantasy novel, so I’m reading lots of Regency novels to keep the formal dialogue, types of dress and architecture, and manners of the era in mind. 

Shan: I'm a lot like Jen. I read all the time, but I do avoid books too similar to my current work in progress while I'm actually writing. That means I go through seasons where I have to set aside YA fantasy. During those times, I read a ton of detective stories and historicals. Those are my two guilty pleasures these days. I'm a huge WWII-era reader and I'll devour anything that has me seeking to solve a mystery. I'm also a fan of rereading. I reread more books in a year than new books, I bet.

And what about you, writer friends? How often do you read other people's books? Which genres are your favorites? 


Monday, August 13, 2018

When your creative well is empty, how do you recharge? (With J.C. Cervantes!)

It's a new week, my friends, which means I get to introduce you to a new author. 

Please welcome J.C. Cervantes to the blog! Out in cyberspace, you can find her as Jennifer or Jen, but on the cover of her upcoming novel with Rick Riordan presents (gasp!), it says J.C. Cervantes, and I so want you to find that novel.

I've only ever met Jen online, but we share an agent and I adore her online presence and her heart for people. I can't wait to read her upcoming novel, The Storm Runner. But more about that Wednesday. 

Today, let's learn a little about the author herself:

Jen (J.C) is an award-winning children’s author; her most recent book, THE STORM RUNNER  is scheduled for release in September 2018 with its sequel THE FIRE KEEPER, coming in 2019. As an author, she has earned multiple awards and recognitions, including the New Mexico Book Award, Zia Book Award, and was named a New Voices Pick by the American Booksellers Association for her first book Tortilla Sun.

Jen's a champion of the underdog, an advocate for more POC in children's fiction, and a believer in magic. But only if you’re willing to listen to the whispers of the universe.

Isn't she fantastic? So, let's get to it! Today's panel question is:

Jen: Oh boy, so many ways. Sometimes, I binge watch some of my favorite TV shows (like Game of Thrones or the Originals, or my new fave, The Goblin). I also focus on my health when I can by doing Pilates, hanging with family or just taking a walk in nature. And if I have time, I love a good facial! For me, recharging is remembering peace and finding a world (even if temporary) with no worry. Not an easy place to get to, but it’s totally possible.

Steph: That happened to me after I finished writing Within These Lines. It was such a heavy book with intense research requirements, plus we were dealing with hard family stuff. By the time I turned it in, I was exhausted. For me, it’s giving myself permission to not write. I might still choose to write if it sounds fun, but I’ll typically turn my focus to taking online classes or catching up on podcasts or reading something I haven’t had time for. Making space for intentional learning really recharges me.

Jill: I read. I brainstorm new ideas, but don’t really write anything much. I do creative things, like paint a map or make my own Jill Pop. I record an audiobook or a YouTube video. Take bookish pictures for Instagram. I might work on a nonfiction project. Go on walks or long drives. Play my guitar. I need to keep busy and let my brain work, but it needs to work on different things. 

Shan: I like to be outdoors. It feels less like work than anything else I do. So, I roadtrip or I hike or I sit in my hammock. I binge TV shows like Jen, and I snap bookish pics for Instagram like Jill. I catch up on sports news--football is my favorite but California has so many fantastic sports teams it's easy to lose myself reading up. If I can, I hit the theater. There's nothing like a live show to remind me why I love storytelling. Every time I go, I leave inspired and ready to write again.

How about you guys? How do you recharge your tired soul?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Have you always wanted to write books? (With Adrienne Young!)

Alas! We've reached Friday and our final panel question with the lovely and talented Adrienne Young. If you're on social media, be sure to give her a follow and a THANK YOU for sharing her wisdom and book love with us all. Here's where you can find her:

And here's the beautiful book trailer for Adrienne's debut novel, Sky in the Deep.

And now! Before you're run away with all the Viking drama, let's finish this week off right with one last question for Adrienne and crew:

Adrienne: I realized I loved to write in elementary school after a teacher told me repeatedly that I was good at it. The first time I ever dreamed of writing a book was in fourth grade. I was looking at a book in the library and imagined my name on the front. But I don't think I ever truly believed it would happen and I never really told anyone about that dream. It wasn't until I was around 25 years old that I decided to try to actually write a full-length novel and once I did, I was completely hooked. I knew I wanted to make a career out of it but I had a lot to learn. It took about seven years, four books, and many many rejections before I got published.

Steph: Ever since first grade when we had free writing time in class. I loved everything about it and started saying then that I wanted to write stories when I grew up. And it was always novels that I wanted to write, even though I wasn’t reading them yet. Even though I sometimes went through phases where I wanted to be a writer and a teacher or a writer and a lawyer, writing always stuck.
Jill: When I was in high school, I wanted to be a fashion designer. That’s what I went to college for, and I got jobs in the fashion industry right out of college. I ended up not liking it at all. It was far too competitive and cutthroat for me, so when I was home with my first child (around age 26), I started writing books. It was so fun for me, I never looked back. 

Shan: I’ve ALWAYS loved storytelling but it wasn’t always my career of choice. When I was younger I had flashier aspirations. Astronaut or actor. And then in college, I assumed I’d go into missionary work. After my daughter was born, I found myself missing theater and the stage so badly it made me sick. When I realized I could tell stories from home, it transformed the way I viewed the role of author and I started brainstorming my first novel that night. My daughter will turn ten this summer, so I’ve been at this thing for almost a decade. 

Now you guys tell us. Have YOU always wanted to write books? Do you plan to make it your career?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Do you have a favorite fandom? (With Adrienne Young!)

Good morning, friends! Shannon here. 

YA author, Adrienne Young, is back with us today and we're so grateful she's taken the time to hang out with us and give us a peek into her reading and writing life.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to introduce you to the author. Now let me share a little bit about her debut novel, Sky in the Deep.

Seventeen-year-old Eelyn’s world is war. Raised to fight alongside her Aska clansmen in a generations-old blood feud against the Riki, her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki if she wants to make it back to the fjord after the thaw. But when she begins to see herself in the people she’s been taught to hate, the world Eelyn once knew begins to crumble. And after the village is raided by a ruthless clan many believe to be a myth, Eelyn is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend who has tried more than once to kill her. Together, they must end the blood feud between their clans or watch their people be slaughtered.

A lush, Viking-age inspired fantasy about loyalty, forgiveness, and the definition of family.

Readers of fantasy and fans of Viking lore will enjoy this read. You can find out more about the story and the inspiration behind it over on Adrienne's website.

And now! Today's panel question:

Adrienne: Harry Potter! I know that's the cliche answer but I just love it so much - how it transcends age groups and people groups and everyone just belongs. I haven't really tried to create anything, but with Sky in the Deep, I have been really surprised how many people are into the world already. I love seeing people cosplay Eelyn and getting their Viking on.

Note from Shan: Definitely check out Adrienne's IG. She often shares Eelyn cosplay and the Viking costumes readers come up with are glorious. 

Steph: Well, I’ll be cliche too and say Harry Potter for the same reasons that Adrienne said. I love that I can enjoy the early books with my first grader, and the later books with my ten-year-old.

I’ve had some girls show up dressed in roaring 20s garb for book signings, and that was super fun!
Jill: I love Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Captain America, and Wonder Woman. A far as swag goes, I made two sets of velvet flags to match six cities in my Blood of Kings storyworld. I kept one set and divided the others among the readers who created and acted in the two book trailers for To Darkness Fled. I was just so impressed with how much hard work they did, I needed to do something special to thank them. The flags were so time-consuming to make, however, I never did make any more.

Shan: Yeah. It’s hard to beat the Harry Potter fandom. I’m sort of surrounded by it these days. My nine year old and I are reading the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone together right now and my thirteen year old is halfway through a reread of the entire series. But like Adrienne said, I’ve been really impressed with the readers who’ve shown up for Eelyn. So much cosplay for such a new book. I think everyone wants to be a Viking, honestly, and Adrienne just gave us all a great excuse. And also, Wonder Woman. I just . . . ahhhh. I love all the Wonder Woman out there right now. Makes my heart happy.

I haven’t done a whole lot of swag stuff, but I’m always so grateful when readers send me fan art. I really appreciate the opportunity to see what others envision when they read my stories. It’s a compliment that someone would invest their time and skill in a character created by someone else. 

Now, you tell us. Do YOU have a favorite fandom? What about plans for swag or reader experiences in regards to your stories?