Posts Tagged ‘Young Adult’

Enter a world of luxury, rumors, envy and splendor with author Anna Godbersen and her best-selling series “The Luxe”. Anna talks about gossip, writing and tells us more about her upcoming books…

Hi Anna, welcome to the new & improved “Veronika Asks”! Would you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello! I am the author of THE LUXE, a series about young people living in gilded age Manhattan.

Then, how would you describe your books with three words?
Arch, ardent, absurd.

You’re Aries, aren’t you? They (usually) are famous for being adventurous and quick-witted but also impulsive and impatient. Do you consider yourself a typical Ram or isn’t this about you?
I don’t know if I am typical—I am happiest at home—but I certainly am a red-blooded, passionate and curious person, and I think in some ways I do fit the Aries profile.

Can you tell us more about “The Luxe” series?
It follows five teens embroiled in a very complicated love triangle (or whatever shape applies when there are more than three players involved), all of whom meanwhile have to present a very virtuous, well-behaved face to the world.
Some words about “The Luxe”…
In which we discover that the good girl is not who she seems at all, the bad girl is capable of true evil, and that little sisters have the most fun.
Then comes “Rumors”…
Of cross-country train travel, sugar daddies, rushed weddings and the selling of secrets.
The third novel is called “Envy”…
… so naturally everyone wants what someone else has. Because this is 1900, that includes bejeweled gowns, caddish boys, exquisite Palm Beach hotel rooms, and big fat inheritances.

“Splendor” was out in October ’09. Can you share a few secrets about the final installment of the Luxe series?
All the characters have to reckon with the various lies and betrayals they’ve committed, and most importantly, with their true selves. In the end, I believe every one of these characters gets both what they deserve and what they need.

Why set your story in Manhattan’s Upper-Class society in 1899?
Because I was fascinated by this glittering, ostentatious display of wealth that defined that era, and also because the very strict rules of behavior mean that these young people really have to struggle against something mighty to find out who they are.

Did “Gossip Girl” influence you in writing “The Luxe”? Some readers compare your series to the smash hit and state that “The Luxe” is the 19th century “Gossip Girl”…
I have read a few of the books, and I really enjoyed them—I think it’s a fair way to describe THE LUXE, though I wouldn’t say that GOSSIP GIRL influenced my writing.

Would you like to see “The Luxe” being turned into a TV show? Who would you cast as Elizabeth, Diana, Penelope, Henry, Will, Lina, Claire?
I would love to see my stories acted out by flesh and blood people! But I can’t picture anyone famous playing these characters I’ve pictured in my head so long. For me, they would have to be played by beautiful unknowns.

Are you a Diana or an Elizabeth? A Penelope, maybe? 🙂 If you had a magic wand, would you trade your life for this of the Holland sisters?
There are parts of me in all my characters, though I would say I am most like Diana. I would never want to live in their world, though. For one thing, it was a period when women’s roles were tragically narrow, and then of course there are all the discomforts of the pre-twentieth century world.

How do you work? What about the most-feared “writer’s block”? Do you have an advice for young authors?
I have really intense deadlines, so I can’t lose days to writer’s block. I just sit down with a good outline and stick to it till I get some sentences. As for young writers—life is long, take your time, and try to be an ambitious reader first.

What about the researches (for the series to be as accurate as possible)?
I do a lot of research—many history books on this era have been published, and those are really fun to read, and I also read old Vogue magazines and etiquette books and newspapers to get a feel for the language and concerns of the time.

How did you get published? Tell us more about your “getting published” quest…
I was a ghostwriter before I began writing my own series, so when I had an idea I already knew the people who ended up being my publishers. Sometimes life works that way.

Imagine you wake up tomorrow not an author anymore. Which job would you pick?
I would like to be a scholar specializing in Henry James. Then I could spend all my days reading Henry James and talking about it with young people.

Is there a book you wish you’d written?
Something with vampires! Just kidding. I have years and years to write the books I wish I’d written, so yes, but I think it will be a long process of figuring out what they are about.

What about the after-Luxe? Can you tell us more about your projects?
Yes, I am writing a new series called BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS. It is set in Gatsby era New York, and it is going to be full of a slightly darker glamour (than the LUXE books).

Finally, the infamous “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve just found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
I would go to the Russian and Turkish Baths on East 10th Street in Manhattan, take a long sauna and relax, and then I would walk down the street to my favorite sushi restaurant, and have a decadent meal.

Would you like to add something, Anna?
Thanks so much for having me!


Author & Book: Evelyn Waugh, VILE BODIES
Movie & TV show: Annie Hall, Deadwood
Food: Fried pork dumplings
City: Los Angeles
Music: Etta James
Hobby: Reading
Place to write in: My bed
Quote or Motto: No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky. –E.B. White

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Coffee
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Home with a book.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach!
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Can’t I have a little of both?
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Comedy
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Travel
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? I’m more of a yoga girl
Leader or Follower? I spend most of my days alone, so I can’t really say I’m either.
Shy or Easy-going? I am both. In a man, I prefer the latter.
Serious or Funny? Again, I am both, intensely and equally. Also applies to what I enjoy in others.

Thank you, Anna!
You can learn more about Anna Godbersen and her books at


Young author (and YABooks Central YA Goddess) Kimberly Pauley answers my questions about vampires, getting published, young adult books and tells us more about her upcoming projects…

Howdy Kim, welcome to the new & improved “Veronika Asks”! Ready for some vampire and YA chit chat? First, how would you describe yourself in three words?
Um…short weirdo.

A little bit of Astrology now: you’re Aquarius, aren’t you? They’re known for being honest, friendly and optimistic, but also unpredictable and contrary. Do you match your sign description?
Yep, I am. And I’d say those things fit me pretty well, all in all. I used to have this book called Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs and it always amazed me how well the description pegged me (except for the part about being blond and blue-eyed).

Your first YA novel “Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (maybe)” was released in paperback on August 11th 2009. Tell us more about Mina Hamilton! And first question (can’t help it): who picked the title? 🙂
My editor came up with the title. The original title that I wrote it under was “This Bites” but then a bunch of vampire books came out with “bites” in the title so we went back to the drawing board.  It’s a story about a girl who’s parents are vampires and she’s being made to choose whether or not she wants to be one too – in a month’s time. And she’s got to go to “vampire classes” when she’d really just rather be a normal teenager.

I’ve heard there will be a sequel named “Still Sucks to Be Me”, out in September 2010…
Yep! Though the date was recently moved up to May 11th, 2010, which I am super happy about.

Why vampires? Do you think they are now a part of Pop Culture?
Vampires have always been a part of pop culture. Vampire myths have been around essentially as long as humans have been – and they exist in some form in pretty much every culture. They come and go in popularity, but they are always around.
I never thought I’d write a book about them, but goes to show that you never know what will happen!

You’re a big “Twilight” fan (you even mention Stephenie Meyer in the first chapter of your novel). Some people say authors try to surf on the vampire wave created by Stephenie to attract “vampire lover” readers. What would you answer to this?
I’m sure that some authors have done that. However, people don’t realize how s-l-o-w the publishing business is. Anything you see on a shelf today was written ages ago (usually). I wrote my book before Twilight came out, in fact (though it didn’t appear on shelves until 2008), and a lot of other vampire books hit the shelves around the same time as Twilight, which means they were written probably between 2001 and 2004.
The original reference in my book was actually to Anne Rice (since I hadn’t even heard of Stephenie Meyer when I wrote the book), but my editor and I decided to change it Meyer since she had become such a pop culture phenomenon and we weren’t sure as many teens would know who Anne Rice was today (she no longer writes vampire novels, in fact).

If, like Mina, you had to choose whether to stay human or become a vampire, what would you do?
If I were in the exact same position as Mina, I would probably choose to become one. But it’s hard to say unless you are actually faced with the decision.

How did your passion for reading and writing start? Is “Sucks to Be Me” your first completed novel (or do you hide some more unpublished gems in your desk)?
I’ve always been a reader and a writer. I do have some other unfinished manuscripts, but Sucks to Be Me was my first completed novel. Now that the second book is wrapped up, I’m working on a new book. It’s also a fantasy, but it doesn’t have any vampires in it. J

How did you get “Sucks to Be Me” published? Tell us more about your journey in the publishing world! What was the coolest thing? And the most difficult (and unexpected)? Do you have some tips for an aspiring author willing to be published?
Well, I’d been sending it out to agents and they all pretty much said the same thing: we like your “voice” but we don’t think vampires are a good sell these days (remember, this was back before Twilight hit big). I was about to try and re-write it without vampires of just work on something else when a friend of mine mentioned that her editor was looking for paranormal YA. She introduced me and they ultimately bought it (though it took them almost a year to decide).
Strangely enough, I got the news that I was getting published the exact same week that I found out I was pregnant.
As for some writing tips, I’ve got some on my website: and I also host an online Writing Camp.

You’re the owner (and YA Goddess) of the popular “YABooks Central” website, revolving around YA books, YA authors, YA reviews…well, everything YA. How did it start? What can your readers expect from “YABooks Central” in the future?
It started back in 1998. Originally, I was a “guide” with the Mining Company, which then became which then ditched most of their teen sites. So I started up YA Books Central because I had all these great author interviews and reviews. I’ve expanded it over the years and now have a staff of volunteer reviewers. We’ll continue to do giveaways every month and post reviews and interviews and more. I expect to hit 20,000 reviews this coming year.

On your website, you’ve reviewed hundreds of YA books and interviewed dozens of YA authors. Do you have a few favourite books/authors to remember?
I loved interviewing Clive Barker. He was just cooler than cool and I got to chat with him on the phone for an hour. And I adore Neil Gaiman (who doesn’t?). Honestly, I’ve pretty much yet to meet a YA (or other) author I didn’t like.

Is there a book you wish you’d written?
Hmmmmm. Maybe Coraline?

Do you plan on writing something unrelated to vampires and Mina Hamilton? Tell us a little bit more about your projects…
Yes, definitely. I’m working on something now about a teen girl with an unwanted (kinda useless) “super” power who stumbles into a celebrity kidnapping/murder mystery. And the next one I plan on picking up after that is probably an idea I have about the adopted son of Death. And there’s a joint project I’m working on with a friend.

The infamous “Nothing-in-common-with-books-question”: you’ve just found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
Hm. I really don’t know. I’d say The Sims 3, but I never have time to play anymore!


Author & Book: An impossible question
Movie & TV show: The Princess Bride and, um, well, Eureka or Glee.
Food: I’d say chocolate, but right now I’m craving potatoes. Love ‘em. Any kind.
City: Oh, that’s tough. I just like cities to wander around in!
Music: That’s harder than picking a book! Anything but country.
Hobby: Too many: painting, knitting, making soap, baking…basically, just making stuff.
Place to write in: my office at night, when the rest of the house is quiet
Quote or Motto: “Being intelligent is not a felony.  But most societies evaluate it as at least a misdemeanor.” —Lazarus Long (Robert. A. Heinlein)

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Coffee.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Home, Books & DVDs!
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Hm. Before, when we lived in Florida, I’d definitely say Mountains. Now? Kind of a toss-up.Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? To visit? Crazy Megapolis.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Comedy, definitely.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Like to Travel
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato, sadly
Leader or Follower? Observer
Shy or Easy-going? Mostly Easy-going, but with snark on the side.
Serious or Funny? Funny

Thank you, Kim!
You can learn more about Kimberly Pauley and her books at
And don’t forget to discover for YA books, news and reviews!

Laurie Faria StolarzAcclaimed author (“Blue is for Nightmares” and “Deadly Little Lies” series) Laurie Faria Stolarz answers my questions about Wicca, Salem and writing and tells us more about her upcoming books & scary urban legends…

Hi Laurie, welcome to “Veronika Asks” for the October special! Would you please say a few words about yourself? Could you describe yourself (then your books) with three words?
I’m laid back, motivated, and perceptive.  For my books: suspenseful, humorous, romantic.

“Deadly Little Lies” will be out in November 2009. Can you reveal a few spoilers about those little lies (tell the truth!)?
There are so many lies in DEADLY LITTLE LIES.  Just when you think you know who’s telling the truth, you find out that person might be lying.  I’m really excited about the release.  I think fans of DEADLY LITTLE SECRET will be pleased with this latest installment of the TOUCH SERIES.  There are tons of twists and turns and a romantic triangle develops.

You wrote the bestselling series “Blue is for Nightmares”. Can you pitch it in a few lines, to spark the interest of those who haven’t read it yet?
The BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES SERIES centers around Stacey Brown, a 16-year-old hereditary Witch who experiences premonitions about the fate of herself and her friends.  She uses folk magic as a way to bring those premonitions to fruition, so she can stop the impending danger before it’s too late.

The graphic novel “Black is for Beginnings” is in bookstores since September 2009. What can we except from Stacey and her friends in this new addition to the series? Will there be another book?
When my editor approached me with the idea of writing a graphic novel, I was very intrigued because it gave me the opportunity to not only try something new, but to really picture the book as a movie.  I have a background in screenwriting and wrote BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS in screenplay format, adding in ideas for illustrations and sidebars.  It was an absolute thrill to write, and to have the opportunity to work with an illustrator for these characters and situations I’d created.  BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS does not take the place of a regular prose novel in the series.  It is a companion piece, complimenting the entire series as a whole.  It picks up where RED IS FOR REMEMBRANCE left off, and also shows some fan-favorite scenes from the entire series.  As for another book in the series, I’m not sure yet.  I’m open to the idea, so we’ll see.  A spin-off or companion series could also be fun.

You were born in Salem (who doesn’t know about the Salem Witch Trials?). Is there a connection between your hometown and your writing?
Yes and no.  I first started BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES in an adolescent fiction writing workshop in graduate school.  I knew I wanted to write a mystery/thriller. I loved suspense novels as a young adult and I really wanted to write something that would have appealed to me at that age, adding in elements of humor, romance, and drama. When I started the novel, I had no idea I would delve into the world of magic and witchcraft – that is until I did a free-writing exercise in my workshop class.  I wrote a scene in which Stacey, my main character, was meditating in front of a blue candle. Students in my class suggested that since Stacey had a candle, and since I’m originally from Salem, I make her a practicing Wiccan.

A very predictable question for an author writing about magic: do you believe in magic, witches and supernatural powers?
Having been raised in Salem, MA, and having done a lot of research on Witchcraft, I do have a lot of respect for the Wiccan religion.  Growing up, it was really no big deal to have practicing Wiccans in class with you in school.  They’re normal people, with normal jobs, who go about their normal lives.  It’s a major religion in Salem, and people take it very seriously.  I think Salem’s biggest influence on me is that I’m open to that.  But, no, I am not a Witch and do not practice magic, though I do love home remedies and lighting an occasional soy candle.

When did you start writing? Was the road to the publishing house quick and easy or long and tiring?
I tried selling my first novel BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES for over two years before I finally found an editor who was willing to work with me.  That editor, Megan Atwood, though no longer at Llewellyn Publications, was really excited about the project and so I knew I was in good hands.

Finding a suitable agent or editor is a full-time pursuit and luckily I didn’t give up – even 50 rejection letters later.  When I was trying to sell, I kept a log detailing to whom I had sent my work, what exactly I had sent (i.e. a query letter, sample pages, the full manuscript), how long he or she had kept it, and what the outcome was.

My favorite rejection letter came from an editor who said: “While this is an interesting project, I do not feel it is strong enough to compete in today’s competitive young adult market.” That same young adult novel (Blue is for Nightmares) has sold over 150,000 copies, was named a Reluctant Reader Quick Pick through the American Library Association, a Popular Paperback, was nominated for YALSA’s Top Ten Teen pick list, and has been translated into a dozen different languages.  When I speak to young people and aspiring writers, I always tell them this story, that if I had stopped persevering, I may never have been able to enjoy the success of my work.

How do you work? Do you have some rituals or habits? What about the writer’s block?
I don’t have any rituals or habits, except that when I’m on deadline, I write at least 10 pages per week.

As for writer’s block, I don’t allow myself to get it.  Whenever I get stuck in my writing, I grab a notebook and pen, and get away from the computer.  I start taking notes on my work in progress – where I am in my story, what I know for sure, and where I need to be.  I remind myself of my main character’s motivations and obstacles, and try to think of new and interesting ways to throw my reader off track.

Catastrophe scenario: imagine you wake up tomorrow and find out you’re not an author anymore. What will you do?
I love health and nutrition.  I think I might go back to school to become out a holistic nutritionist.  I’d also take a trip to Maui.

If you had a faerie in a bottle granting you three wishes, what would you ask for?
To end suffering, poverty, and intolerance.

Do you know a scary urban legend you’d like to share?
Yes, when I was writing PROJECT 17, I did a ton of research on the former Danvers State Hospital, the abandoned mental institution on which the novel is based.  When I was in high school, the hospital would get broken into on a regular basis.  Kids would go up there at night, searching for adventure.  The hospital, now mostly condos, is rumored to have been haunted as a result of all the suffering that went on there.  The hospital was also built on the land where Judge Hathorne’s, (the judge for the Salem Witch Trials), house had been.  I spoke with a psychic claiming to have gone to Danvers to do a séance shortly after it’d been closed down.  According to her, when she climbed the main steps of the Kirkbride Building, she got violently ill, completely disturbed by what she’d sensed.

If you could trade places with anybody for one day, who would that be?
Seriously?  My cat.  She sleeps for most of the day, stops for a little playtime, eats really well, and gets lots of attention.

Do you celebrate Halloween? If you do, how? Can you remember your best/worst Halloween memory? Who would go as this year?
Yes, I celebrate by taking my kids trick-o’-treating.  We hit the retirement home first, and then make our way around the neighborhood.  We decorate the house with faux-cobwebs, spiders, a black cauldron that gives off fog, and jack-o’-lanterns.  We also play scary music that blares out the windows, so passersby can hear.  My worst Halloween story?  I spent the evening in Salem – it’s like Mardi Gras in Salem on Halloween.  Some guy wearing a Michael Myers hockey mask (from the movie Halloween) followed me all over the city.  He never said a word and I couldn’t get away from him.

Could you advise some good Halloween-themed reads for those who want to feel All Hallow’s Eve magic during whole October?
Anything by Stephen King.

What are you working on next? Do you wish to add something, Laurie?
I’m currently working on DEADLY LITTLE GAME, the third book in the TOUCH SERIES.  I’m also working on DO YOU SEE, the third book in the Amanda Project.

I’d like to also inform readers about the contest I’m currently running, the winner of which could have their creative writing critiqued by my editor.


1.  Go get yourself a copy of BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS.
2.  Read it.
3.  Come up with a playlist of at least 10 songs based on BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS. The songs can be of any music genre and of any time period you feel is most suitable (feel free to mix things up).  Send the list, along with a brief explanation for each song, as to why you think it’s a good fit for the book, to:  Winning entries will reflect an understanding of the book’s themes, characters, issues, scenes, and overall story.  The winning playlist will appear on my site, along with your first name.

FORMAT: Your entries should appear like this:  “Name of Song” by “Artist.”  I chose this song because it reminds me of the scene where Stacey blah, blah, blah…
DEADLINE: Midnight, EST, October 15, 2009.
NOTIFICATION: Winners will be notified no later than November 1st, 2009.
PRIZE: The winner of the contest will get to have up to ten pages of his or her creative writing, (12-point font, double-spaced, standard margins), critiqued by Brian Farrey, my amazing and talented acquisitions editor at Llewellyn/Flux Publications (the publisher of my BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES series).
ALTERNATE PRIZE: If you are not a creative writer and would prefer an alternate prize, my publisher is having some BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS apparel made up (we’re thinking it might be a T-shirt or sweatshirt – details coming soon).  It’ll have a graphic from “BLACK” on there, and if you’d like I can autograph it for you.


Also, I will be announcing a TOUCH SERIES contest very soon, the winner of which will get a minor character in DEADLY LITTLE GAME, the third book in the TOUCH SERIES named after him or her.  Details coming soon, so please keep checking my website:

And here comes the “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question” I’ve been asking for three years: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
I’d use it toward a day at the spa. It’s been way too long since I’ve treated myself to a seaweed wrap and massage.


Author & Book: Can’t pick just one, but one of my favorite books of all time is The Awakening by Kate Chopin.  As for what I’m reading at the moment, I’m currently on an Ellen Hopkins spree.
Movies: Never Been Kissed, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Juno, Green Card, Once, The Devil Wears Prada, Bridget Jones Diary, Thelma & Louise, Mean Girls, Moonstruck, Clueless, Under the Tuscan Sun, and anything with John Cusack.
TV shows: The Hills, The City, Real Housewives of (wherever), The Real World, America’s Next Top Model, and Supernatural.
Food: Indian food – onion chutney, curried vegetables, and kashmir bread. I also love cheeseless pizza from Bertucci’s.
City: Paris.
Music: Fergie, James Blunt, Tori Amos, Sting, Sarah MacLachlin, Gwen Stefani, Black-eyed Peas, Gavin Rossdale
Hobbies: Walking, napping, cooking, shopping, interior decorating.
Place to write in:  My office.
Quote or Motto: Perseverance is key.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Coffee.  Bold and black.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Restaurant with friends.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Crazy Megapolis.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Depends on my mood.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Like to travel.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Wannabe couch potato who does dance-aerobics, yoga, Pilates, and plays tennis.  I do love my potato time, though.
Leader or Follower? Leader.
Shy or Easy-going? Easy-going.
Serious or Funny? Both.

Thank you, Laurie!
You can learn more about Laurie Faria Stolarz and her books at

Laurie’s Reading List for Halloween
Anything by Stephen King.

Jen CalonitaJen Calonita chats with me again and tells us more about her latest book and #2 Secrets novel, “Secret of my Hollywood Life: On Location”

Hey Jen and welcome back on Veronika Asks. So, the second book in the “Secrets of my Hollywood Life” series, On Location, has been released. Tell us more about it (juicy spoilers, juicy spoilers!) !

Will there be a Secrets 3? If there will, what will Kaitlin have to deal with?

How many Secrets do you think there will be?

What about “Sleepaway Girls”, the series you spoke about in our first interview?

Do you continue working for or with magazines or do you write full time now?

What are you currently reading? What would you advise our readers for perfect beach reads?

And what about perfect girly movies?

Girl talk now, which are the latest gossips that hooked you?

What do you think about eBooks? Would you consider writing one?

Reading question that has no connection with Secrets (the authors I interview are used to these “off-subject questions”) : dear Harry Potter fan, are you impatient to read the final book in the saga?

Would you like to say something special?

“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ? Going out.
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ? Pool. I’m a float on a raft and read a book in the pool kind of girl.
Country or City ? Somewhere in-between
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else)? Depends on my mood. I like both.
Shy or Easy-going ? Easy-going
Serious or Funny ? Funny
Traveler? Traveler
Sporty? Nah.
Leader or Follower? I’m part of the crowd, but will lead when needed.


TV show : All my favorites are being cancelled! 😦 I guess Gilmore Girls.
Movie : Pirates of the Caribbean (the original)
Book : Currently Frogs and French Kisses by Sarah Mlynowski
Music : A little John Mayer and Norah Jones never hurt anybody
City to visit : I adore Boston, where I went to college (Boston College)
Place to write: My home office
Motto: “Home is where your story begins.”

Thanks, Jen !

M. ApostolinaAlways funny and listening to Madonna, M. Apostolina is back and he tells everything ! The Truth about one of the most mysterious YA authors… and some hot news about his next books ! Ready?

Good morning, Veronika. Or is it evening where you are?
Hi, M.! Yes, evening already. So, ready to answer my questions?
Sure. I’ve never done an interview by IM before. This should be interesting!
Wow! An IM newbie! It won’t be long, we already talked a bit about you on the first interview, so now it will be very “Dark Cindy”!
Yes, that’s me. Cool.
So, now, be careful, I’m recording, everything you will say will be used against you
Uh. Ok, I stand warned! Thank God I’ve already had my espresso!
I was thinking about it and wondering if I should ask you about it or not
I can’t start my morning without it.
Talking about morning, could you tell us about your Type-Day? From the start…til the very end, to see how hard a writer works?
Sure. Usually I wake up by 7:30 on weekdays and generally go to an 8:30 yoga class Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then it’s back to the apartment to begin writing…I usually write until about 1 o’clock, and go out for lunch. Usually about two hours and with friends. Then it’s back to writing until around 6:30 or 7 pm, depending on how good it’s going. Nothing too exotic!
So, authors are little bees
I guess so. Little worker bees.
I remember a type-day by Michele Jaffe, it’s the same thing : busy little bees
It’s really just about focusing on the work at hand – whatever that might be
Soooo, here is “Dark Cindy”, not too sad to put an end the “Cindy vs Meri” Trilogy?
I was very sad to finish it. I’m very much in love with the characters, but…
The trilogy felt like a natural conclusion. I don’t want to be one of those authors who extend a series unnaturally. Sometimes I feel like YA authors go on and on with a series purely for money. And I get it – we all like money – but I want to be true to my audience and my characters.
Even if your publisher asks you to find something because the readers can’t get enough of Meri and Cindy?
I’m not saying that another Cindy v. Meri book is out of the question – I’d like to continue with them – but creatively I feel I need a break. And please, Meri can’t possibly be done torturing Cindy. And I do leave the door open at the end of “Dark Cindy”…In “Dark Cindy,” Cindy comes to realize that in order to fight an evil person in great shoes, you’ve got to act – and dress – the part!
A fashion transformation, then, sounds cool
So she transforms herself. No longer will she be the “good girl.” To fight a bee, she’s going to sting like a bee. Oh, yes, a huge fashion transformation. But more importantly, a transformation in her mind.
Ok. Talking about surprises and little scandals, there was a juicy one some time ago. Do you remember?
Ha! That was me.
Want the readers to know the real you or let them discover by themselves?
To be honest, I never thought it would be a scandal. Several readers had emailed me at MySpace asking me to put my picture up…I was resistant at first, since I don’t think I photograph well – even writers are vain! – but I eventually posted my picture. And then – whoa! – all hell broke loose. Readers were shocked to discover that I was a guy!
That’s true that a man writing about sorority girls is kind of strange. You ask yourself how you can find ideas and know girl’s psychology!
Is it? Men write about women frequently, and vice-versa. I mean, Flaubert was a man, and he wrote Madame Bovery, right?
Well, right, another male author took the same example
But I think what surprised people in my case is the fact that the Meri v. Cindy books are written in first-person from Cindy – as her diary. Maybe that “directness” led people to assume that a woman was writing the books. But I take it as a compliment that people thought the writer was a woman. It must mean I did something right.
There is a question I wanted to ask you since I read “Meri Strikes Back”. How old are the girls you’re writing for? Do you have an age limit? Because let’s be frank, some of the talkings and scenes are really trashy
That’s a difficult question. When I wrote the first “Hazing Meri Sugarman,” I assumed the audience would be adults, so I didnt hold back anything. And then…when the book was bought by the teen division of “Simon & Schuster,” I assumed I’d have to tone things down – like the language, the sex. But I didn’t have to! So obviously, I knew who my target audience was when I write the next two, but…I decided not to tone anything down. I don’t want to talk down to teen readers, or dillute anything. So I just wrote what I really wanted to write. Which meant that I didn’t hold back on the sex! LOL.
Is “Dark Cindy” as direct as Meri Strikes Back?
More so, I think, because Cindy is really dealing with issues that relate to being herself – in her mind, sexually – in all aspects of her life.
Readers, you’re warned
Ha! And of course, there’s also the fact that, this time, you get to read Meri’s diary entries, as well, and of course, being Meri, things get a little kinky!
Warned twice (M.Apostolina flashes a big smiley smile)
So, you’re having a break with Meri and Cindy, but are you writing something else? Or are you coming back to the big screen?
I loved writing Meri’s diary entries. That was the most fun of “Dark Cindy.” Yes, I am.M. I’m completing a new novel called “Shake it Down,” and working on a television program.
Is it a secret or can we have a scoop? (the scoop, the scoop!)
Well, I usually don’t like to talk about a book until it’s almost about to be published, but…since it’s you….”Shake it Down” is a story about the conflict that develops between two Mexican sisters living in Texas. The older sister, who’s beholden to her Mexican roots, is a dancer, while her sister – who rejects the old ways and changes her hair from brown to blonde and wears blue contact lenses – is determined to be a rock star.
Sounds shaky!
It is, very. Lots of action – and a huge surprise twist at the end!
And the television program? I know, I ask too much question, but that’s why I’m nicknamed Veronika asks.
This you may already know about. It’s called “Pussycat Hustle.” It’s a half-hour animated comedy about jewel thief lesbian cats!
Wow, I see you don’t seem to want to change your style
I like to try all different sorts of things, actually. “Shake it Down” is very different for me in a lt of ways. Very dramatic in part, suspenseful, and hopefully very realistic and surprising.
I heard a story about Walmart…
Oh yes. Ugh! I’m banned at Walmart! My Meri v. Cindy books are too racy for them! Which is kind of silly, I think. Even stranger, some book stores in the U.S. refuse to put me in the teen section, and instead put me in the adult section. But my readers find me!
Lol, you have so many fans…Over 8000 friends on MySpace…How do you do that?
If someone wants to be my friend, I always say yes, since they’ve usually gotten my site from the books. It’s fun to hear direct feedback from readers, which before MySpace, auhtors didn’t regularly get. As for the number of readers, that changes. It goes up, it goes down. It’s also fun to talk to people who want to be writers, which a lot of friends do, so I’m always there to offer advice.
Yep, I noticed you regularly post Writers for Young Writers blogs
Yes, and I’ve gotten terrific feedback from those. One reader said she learned more from my posts then she had in two years of creative writing classes, so that’s very nice. But I could NEVER teach! I would not have the patience!
There are so many groups for Romance and Teen writers…do you belong to one of them? Or do you have yours?
I’ve been invited to join many groups, though I don’t always have time to participate in them. Basically, I interact with readers directly on my MySpace page through comments, emails, andblogs. Whn I first joined MySpace, it was so overwhelming, it almost took time away from my writing! But “Meri” put a stop to that! Ha!
(Note for readers: M.Apostolina sends profile comments faster than anyone else)
It’s only polite.
And that ‘s cool
If someone takes the time to comment, I feel I should be kind enough to respond.
Well, now we talked about your news, your upcoming projects… do you have something you’d like to add?
Hmmm. I’m not sure, except that I love writing, and I’m looking forward to entertaining readers for MANY years to come. I can’t believe how much fun it is to do! Oh, by the way. Great, I’m sure the readers will love to spend time with your books for looong looong years
I may also be writing a middle-school series, so on that one I’ll have to tone down the sex and language. Ha!
Aw, aw, I remembered a question! Would you like to see Meri on screen?
I would, yes! That would be a lot of fun!
Have some suggestions for the cast?
It changes on a daily basis for me, but I’m open to any suggestions readers might have!!
Should do a contest like that
Who do you think would be a good Meri?
Hey, who is asking questions?
Well, let’s see… Rachel McAdams, why not
She’d be great, of course. She’s a very good actress.
To be frank, I’m more interested in discovering who’ll be Keith!
But I’m disappointed you’re not recommending a great French teen actress. Yes, perfect Keith. Ha!
A french teen actress? I didn’t really think about it
Sure, why not? I’m obsessed with Isabelle Huppert, by the way.
Ah, I knew it, so is Meri
She has to be the greatest living actress in all of cinema! Yes, Meri and I share that in common.
And gourmet food
Yes, yes! Hehe. I guess three’s more “Meri” in me than I’m willing to admit. Uh oh!
So, I think that I asked everything that might interest your readers, I’d better let you work, little Apostolina bee, to have a new great book by you on the shelves soon!
Thanks, Veronika. It was great talking to you. And so fun in this IM way!
That’s for sure. So, readers, run to the bookshop and pick “Dark Cindy”, it sounds really great!
Yeaaaa! But warning – read the first two in the series first. Otherwise you might get confused. Ok, time to make more espresso! Have a good night, Veronika.
Bye M., have a nice day and thanks for answering my questions
You’re welcome! Ciao!

You can visit M. Apostolina’s site

M. ApostolinaM. Apostolina tells us more about “Hazing Meri Sugarman”, “Meri Strikes Back” and “Dark Cindy” in a hilarous interview! Enjoy!

How would you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi everyone! Hope you’re all having a great day!

Pisces are known for being sensitive, intuitive and idealistic. Are you a typical Fish?
Yes, and no. I can be sensitive, intuitive and idealistic when I’m writing – especially when I get pulled into the lives of my characters – but in my “normal” day-to-day life, Im more cut-and-dry. In other words, typical Pisces people, as I understand it, might stand you up for a lunch date because they spaced out or something. I would never do that.

If you could describe yourself with three words…
Optimistic, empathetic, focused.

Now tell us more about “Hazing Meri Sugarman” and the sequel, “Meri Strikes Back”… and about “Dark Cindy”, too!
They’re dark comedies about Cindy Bixby, an innocent girl who joins a sorority and has no idea that the house president, the beautiful Meri Sugarman, is really a diabolical psychopath. Uh oh! They’re fun. The first in the series, “Hazing Meri Sugarman, introduces us to the struggle between good-girl Cindy and bad-girl Meri, while Meri Strikes Back and Dark Cindy chart Cindys increasingly difficult attempts to stay one step ahead of Meri, and more importantly, to find her own sense of self worth.

Why should we read your books? 🙂
They’re fun! (I hope), and suspenseful, too, since you never know what Meris going to pull.

Why sororities?
I wanted to do a coming-of-age story, and the best way to do that, in my mind, was to put the main character in a very tense, pressure-cooker situation and milieu, which would therefore bring the main characters issues to the surface faster. From that point, I began researching sororities, and it seemed a perfect match of content with theme for my purposes.

Younger, were you a Cindy or a Meri?
Ha! You think Im going to answer that one? 😉 Well, okay, Id have to say that I was more like Cindy, but then in a lot of ways, Im still like Cindy. Im still surprised when people behave in an openly nasty way. On the other hand, theres quite a bit of Meri in me, too. I share Meris love for Isabelle Huppert, for example, as well as her appreciation of gourmet food.

You’re also a screenwriter. Is it easier to write a book or a screenplay?
The differences are mainly technical. Ultimately, a good, solid story that grips an audience requires the same skills, whether its for TV, film or for a novel.

How did you get “Hazing Meri Sugarman” published?
It took quite a bit of time, but ultimately I was lucky. Most publishers were not interested in the novel at all; they found the satirical tone, over-the-top humor, and dark undertones troubling. But Simon & Schuster understood it, thank goodness. And the positive response from readers has been wonderful!

How do you work, in general? Where, when, how… 🙂
I work at home on my computer every weekday, and some Saturdays, from 9 am to 6 pm. I cant work at cafes like some writers do. Its just too distracting for me.

What about the “after-Meri”?
Yes, I do, though I dont generally like to talk about works-in-progress, mainly because they can change so radically as Im writing them.

I read on your MySpace profile that you were looking for the perfect expresso… what?
I love a good espresso, but as the years go on, it seems like cafes dont know how to make them properly anymore. Even in Paris, where I lived for three years, it was hard to get a really good espresso. Blame it on Starbucks, I guess!

And now, the nothing-to-do-with-books question : You’ve just found 100 $ in your pocket, how will you use that money?
Buy books and CDs!

“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ? Go out. I read so much during the week.
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ? The beach!
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ? Either one, if theyre good. I dont really care about genre. I just want to see a good movie.
Leader or Follower? Both. It depends on the circumstance.
Shy or Easy-going ? I can be shy and reserved when I first meet someone, but once I get to know you, Im pretty easygoing.
Country or City ? City. I like taking two steps outside and having the world at my feet.
Serious or Funny ? Both!
Traveler or not? I love to travel. I especially love to travel somewhere and live there for awhile and really get to know the people and the place. Im hoping to do that in Italy next. I just wish I were better at learning languages.
Sporty or Couch Potato? Yoga is about as sporty as I get lately, though I love to ski.


TV Show: currently, American Idol. Its very silly and relaxing.
Movie: too many to list, but I love the work of Brian DePalma, Michael Haneke, and David O. Russell.
Book: also way too many to list, but my current favorite is Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett.
City: New York City
Music: I love all kinds of music!
Place to write: in my apartment, wherever Im living at the time.
Motto: Just throw it up on the page and clean it up later.

Thank you, M.!
You can visit M. Apostolina’s site 

Niki BurnhamRoyally interviewed! Meet Niki Burnham, YA author (and baseball fan). She talks about her latest novel, “Do-Over”. Dynamic princesses and baseball fans, get ready!

Hi Niki! Nice to meet you there! Please introduce yourself to our readers…
Hi, Veronika! Thrilled to be here. I’m the author of five books for teenagers—so far. I’ve also written a short story called “Reality Check” that will be exclusively on Amazon in the very near future. I also have two books for teens scheduled for 2007 and am working on more.

You’re Gemini, aren’t you? They often are witty, lively but also a bit tense and inquisitive. Are you a typical Gemini?
Of course, anything said about Geminis that is complimentary fits me to a T and anything negative doesn’t. Okay…that’s not entirely true! It all fits. I’m a pretty typical Gemini. I love to travel, I love to write, and I love to people-watch. I admire anyone who likes to engage in witty banter or who’s intellectually curious. I like knowing what’s going on in the world. I do get stressed out sometimes, but I know that about myself so I try very hard to anticipate stressful situations and avoid them. I also have a tendency to trip on my own tongue and say things that are off-the-wall or embarrassing. I’ve gotten MUCH better about that as I’ve gotten older—thank goodness! As a teenager and even in college, I often spoke before I thought something through. I also get bored easily. I’m a dreamer (my brain never stops asking ‘what if’ questions) but despite that, I’m very much a pragmatist at my core.

If you could describe yourself with three words…
Practical. Curious. Resilient.

Now tell us everything about Do-Over (it will be released in September 2006)!
Thanks for asking! Do-Over is a comedy about the romance between Valerie Winslow—a fifteen year-old from Virginia who now lives in Europe—and her boyfriend, Georg. Georg is sixteen, gorgeous, and loves playing soccer, but he just happens to be the crown prince of a small country similar to Lichtenstein. His parents have a fabulous marriage, while Val’s parents are in the middle of a divorce, as Val’s mom has moved in with another woman. When Georg and Val go on a ski trip to Austria together (along with Val’s dad and a public relations person from the palace), all kinds of things go wrong. There’s even a subplot involving Val’s dad.I have an excerpt posted on my website for anyone who wants to get a feel for the book. Just go to

It’s the sequel to “Royally Jacked” and “Spin Control”. Please tell us more about these novels.
Royally Jacked opens with Valerie Winslow finding out that her parents are getting divorced. Her mom is moving in with another woman, and her father—who works for a very conservative President during election time—has to move away to take a new job. Valerie has to decide where to live. Though it sounds heavy, Valerie has a sense of humor about all of it and the book is a comedy—she decides to go with her dad and meets a guy who blows her doors off. In Spin Control, Valerie and her new boyfriend, Georg, are having difficulties, and decide to take a break. She gets the chance to go back home to Virginia for a while, and while she’s there, she gets asked out by a guy she’s had a crush on since kindergarten. How she handles it—at the same time she’s staying with her mom and mom’s new girlfriend—leads to a lot of laughs.

Will there be a sequel to “Do-Over”?
Yes! There’s a short story about Valerie’s friend Jules Jackson that’s exclusively on It’s called Reality Check, and will be available for download for forty-nine cents. I’ve had a ton of readers ask me for a story about Jules, so I thought this would be fun to do. As far as a full-length sequel, I haven’t decided yet. I don’t want to write a sequel to any of my books just for the sake of writing a sequel. I need to have a story idea that makes readers say, “That was even better than the previous books!”, that’s different from the book(s) that preceded it, and that stands on its own. Otherwise, it’s not worth writing. But it’s certainly a possibility. I love writing about Valerie. When I know for sure whether or not I’m doing a full-length sequel, I’ll post the info to my website bulletin board and will put it in my newsletter (there’s a signup form on my website if anyone wants to subscribe…and I do not share my list, so there’s no spam.)

Tell us, why should we read “Do-Over” ? 🙂
For fun, of course!

How did you start writing?
When I was in eighth grade, everyone at my junior high school was assigned to write an essay in honor of Law Day. Then they were all judged and the winner got a hundred dollar savings bond. I won. (And yes, I was totally shocked…no one would have picked me to win.) Unfortunately, rather than making me see that I might have some writing talent, it got me wondering if I should be a lawyer. Eventually, I did become a lawyer, but I was bored out of my mind. I started writing for magazines, and eventually quit practicing law. Soon, I sold my first novel.

How do you see your reader? You know, when you say to yourself: “there’s somebody reading my book right now”… who do you picture?
I try very hard not to picture anyone reading my books—at least not while I’m writing them. If I did that, I’d be second-guessing every sentence, thinking, “What would a twenty year old college student think about this?” or “How would a thirteen year-old girl reading this during study hall react?” or “What would the mother of a teenager think if she read this?” And that might affect how I write the story. So I just try to concentrate on the characters and what’s important to them. But, that being said, one of the very best parts of my job is getting e-mails from readers and chatting with them on my bulletin boards. I like getting to know them and learning what they find funny, what cool discoveries they’re making (books, music, movies, you name it) and what’s important to them.

Do you take your ideas from your own life? Or do you prefer to make your characters discover new things by themselves?
I do both, actually. I get ideas from everywhere—things that have happened to me or my friends, things I see in the newspaper, snippets of conversations I’ve overheard. Then I take that beginning, throw in some twists and turns, then let my characters go from there.

A question I always want to ask but always forget 😉 Do you know how many copies of your book are printed?
Not really. I have an idea when the book first comes out, but as copies sell out in bookstores, publishers go back to print and don’t always tell the author. So I don’t really know for certain.

The usual “writing question”, how do you work ? What about the writer’s block ?
I’m not sure I believe in writer’s block. There are times when writing is more challenging than others, of course. In those instances, I’ll take a break and go for a walk or do some other activity, but I get right back to the computer and work. Putting words on paper—even if they stink—is the only way to finish a book. And once you get going, the words will come more easily again.
So my answer, I suppose, is that I just write through it.

If you had to choose between being a professional baseball player or a writer, you would choose…(baseball fan here!)
Tough question!! They’re both dream jobs, aren’t they? But if I could truly play baseball well, I’d have to say professional baseball player. I absolutely love the game. Of course, the problem with being a professional athlete is that players get injured, and players eventually age out of the game. Writing is something I can do forever, so I consider myself very lucky to be a writer. Also, players are public figures in a way that writers aren’t. (Do you think you’d be able to identify your five author if you saw her in the airport? What about your fave professional athlete?) I don’t think I’d be comfortable with being that recognizable.

And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question: You’ve just found $100 in your pocket, how will you use that money?
I’d like to think that I’d buy myself a pair of jeans so fabulous they’d make me feel like a supermodel. In reality, I’d probably buy groceries. Practical stuff like apples, milk, and bread. I might treat myself to some take-out sushi if I really felt like splurging, though. In the end, I’m sure I would realize that no jeans on Earth can make me feel like a supermodel. And that’s fine.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ? Depends on my energy level. Probably book.
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ? Mountains (big time!!)
Country or City ? Both
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ? Comedy
Shy or Easy-going ? Easy-going
Serious or Funny ? Both. Often at the same time.
Love to Travel or Hate to Move? Definitely a traveler
Sporty or Couch Potato? Sporty
Are you a Leader? No. Unless everyone is doing that thing where they say, “Oh, I don’t care. What do YOU want to do?” I hate that, because it can go on forever, so I usually say, “Let’s do X.”

(Caveat here: my favorites change all the time. Remember, I’m a Gemini!)

TV show: Right now, it’s Star Trek Voyager (I’ve been watching the complete series lately on DVD while I exercise. It’s well-written and well-acted.)
Movie: The Shawshank Redemption
Book : Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
Music: Beck, Oscar Lopez, Shakira
Food: Sushi
City: Rome
Place to write: My one requirement is that no one talks to me or bothers me.
Motto: Do what you love.

Thank you, Niki!
You can visit Niki’s site

Bonnie DobkinBonnie Dobkin talks about “Dream Spinner” and takes us into a whole new magical world! Doors are closing, get ready!

Hi Bonnie! Welcome on “Veronika asks”! If you could describe yourself with three words…
Brain never stops. (I’m always thinking, worrying, planning, worrying, dreaming, worrying…)

Now let’s talk a bit about “Dream Spinner”…Such an amazing idea! How did it strike you?
For those who haven’t yet read the book, Dream Spinner tells the story of kids who become trapped in a tapestry woven from their dreams. And believe it or not, the idea actually DID come from a dream, one I had many years ago. In the dream, some friends and I met a strange man. He showed us several vials, each filled with a colored, glowing liquid that sparkled like melted jewels. He tried to persuade us to drink the liquids, but something about him was a little frightening. He seemed emotionless, like his soul was dead, and he never smiled. I kept thinking that something wasn’t quite right, and that it would be dangerous to do what he said. And then he got angry.That was it. The whole dream. But it never left me, and eventually it morphed into an old man and a living tapestry.

Is it your first novel? If it is, how did you make your way through the publishing world? (even if it’s not, tell us!)
Yes, it’s my first novel. And it has a long, tortured history. I actually started it before my oldest son was born—and he’s twenty-two! I wrote a story I thought was good, and sent it out a few times. I got mostly form rejections, but then Margaret K. McElderry, a legendary children’s book editor, send me a personal note and two single-spaced pages of advice, saying that the story had a lot of potential if I was willing to work on it. Well, then my son was born, followed by two more, and between raising them and holding down a full-time job, the manuscript stayed in a drawer for twenty years. But I never forgot Ms. McElderry’s encouraging words. So a few years ago, I dragged the pages out of the drawer, rewrote the book entirely—about twenty times, I think!– and tried to get myself an agent. This meant more submissions, more rejections, and one agent who didn’t quite work out. Finally, I found Erin Murphy, a fantastic agent, advisor, and friend. She took me on, gave me great advice on how to improve the book, and then went and sold the thing!

I heard you’re planning a sequel…so, what will happen? 🙂
I do have a sequel in mind, and it will involve other trips into the dream tapestry to rescue more lost souls. Right now, though, I’m working on other projects: a collection of twisted tales about a very strange girl, and another YA fantasy that takes place in a world where adults have disappeared.

How do you picture your reader? You know, when you say that “there is somebody reading my book right now…”
Although I like to imagine both sexes, and all ages, reading the book, I have to admit I picture my reader as a clone of me at 14—intelligent, a dreamer, and lost in books and fantasy worlds.

You were in “Mad Mad House”, a reality TV show, a few years ago. That’s amazing! Tell us more about it? Why did you apply? You had really, really special roommates. How did you spend all this time with such special people? All stories are welcome 🙂
Where do I begin? Mad Mad House was a reality show on the Sci-Fi channel in which ten “normals” lived in an Addams family-type mansion with five unusual “hosts”—a Wiccan, a vampire, a modern primitive (a man who was tattooed and pierced from head to toe, and who hung from hooks threaded through his back), an African priestess, and a naturist—that is, a nudist and raw food expert. The idea was to see who would be most open to the alternative lifestyles of our hosts.I got on the show totally by accident. I’d seen the audition notice in the Chicago Tribune, and called the phone number to sign up my oldest son. At 19, he was too young. So they suggested I come down instead. I laughed, because I was about to turn 50—not your typical reality show contestant. And then I figured, why not? I’d played it safe most of my life—why not do something totally out of character and really, really stupid?Well, I got cast. And it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. I’d always considered myself open minded, but now I know that I can share a spiritual sisterhood with an African priestess, enjoy the company of a vampire, and consider a tattooed, pierced individual one of the sweetest, dearest men on earth. I’m still quite close with them and several of my other housemates.No, I didn’t win. But I was eliminated because, in a weird way, I was TOO accepting of the alts. They told me that I’d grown all I needed to, and that it was time to see if my younger housemates could “fly” without me. Dang.(I did have a winning moment, though. The alts staged a bizarre competition where the normals were seated in deep pits, covered with mud, feathers, honey, animal organs, dead fish, and rotten vegetables, and told to find five “sacred objects” buried in the muck. I won that contest! And as I strode from the pit, I uttered a now famous “to Mad Mad House fans” cry: “I AM a goddess, dammit!”

How do you usually work (when, where…)?
Since I have a full-time job in educational publishing, and a family, I work late at night, usually curled up in a chair with my laptop. But I also work whenever I can find a free hour and a quiet place: on planes, on beaches, or in my back yard on a lounge chair.

What about the writer’s block?
I have it constantly. I get to a certain point in a story and the story just stops flowing. My agent advised me to just move on to something else, and something else again if I have to. So I have several chapters written for several books. But I finally had a breakthrough on one, and it’s going very well.

Do you have some piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Read a lot of the genre you’d like to write yourself, and then write as much as possible. Just as important–develop a thick skin and be willing to take and learn from criticism. The first drafts of Dream Spinner were full of terrible bits of writing, and I didn’t even know it. Luckily, others did and showed me the error of my ways.

And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question : You’ve just found $100 in your pocket, how will you use that money?
I’d squirrel it away until I saw something that I normally wouldn’t buy. Then I’d buy it.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ?Dinner and a movie. I love movies.
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ?BEACH!! Pounding surf, a strawberry daiquiri, and a book equal heaven, as far as I’m concerned!
Country or City ?I love the life force of a city. Though I’ve been to Italy and could definitely live Under the Tuscan Sun in a charming old house near a town full of quaint and eccentric people.
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ?Almost anything—comedy, drama, animation, sci-fi, horror. (One of the reasons my husband fell in love with me was because I was the only girlfriend in his group of friends who’d go to see Alien when it came out.)
Shy or Easy-going ?Shy and insecure. But few people know that because I’ve gotten good at pretending to be otherwise.
Serious or Funny ?Both, depending on the circumstance. But not hysterical-funny. More amusing-funny.
Traveler or not ?YES. I’ve been all around this country, and I’ve worked on a kibbutz in Israel, gone to England, Italy, Mexico, the Bahamas, and Hawaii, and I’m planning a trip to Greece. And I want to do more and more and more.
Sporty or not ?Your basic klutz. Though I just learned to scuba so I’m feeling quite proud of myself!
The leader in the group or not ?I manage 40 people at work. But in my personal life, I’d rather someone else took charge. Trouble is, if they don’t take charge well, I start opening my mouth…


TV show : LOST, Grey’s Anatomy
Movie : Feel-good movies, like American President or When Harry Met Sally
Book : My favorite one growing up was The Secret Garden, followed by Jane Eyre. Today, I have too many favorites to list.
Music : Broadway. In my next life, I’m going to be a musical theatre star.
Food : Chocolate anything
City : Chicago (my home town…)
Favorite place to write : the comfy chair in my living room
Quote or motto : stolen, I think, from Disney World—“If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Thank you, Bonnie!
You can visit Bonnie’s website

Simone ElkelesA funny interview with Simone Elkeles, whose first YA novel, “How to Ruin a Summer Vacation”, will be on the shelves in October 2007.

Hi Simone! Thanks for doing this interview! If you could describe yourself in three words…
Comedian Extrovert Animal Lover (three, Simone, I said three… 🙂

Tell us more about your first YA novel, “How to Ruin a Summer Vacation”.
(I’m stealing this off of the website because I think they did a great job summing up the book) Going to Israel with her estranged father is the last thing Amy wants to do this summer. A bratty American teenager with an attitude that matches her killer Jimmy Choo slides, she’s got a serious grudge against her dad, a.k.a “Sperm Donor,” for showing up so rarely in her life. Now he’s dragging her to a war zone to meet a family she’s never known, including her ill grandmother who’s the only source of comfort in this strange land. Sharing a room with her unfriendly cousin, igniting a brawl at the local disco, and having her Ferragamo sandal stolen by a mutt . . . one hilarious humiliation after another tests Amy’s fierce spirit. Finding her place in a foreign culture isn’t easy, but as Amy learns to shed her tough-girl persona, she discovers that making friends, falling in love, and connecting with her family and heritage isn’t impossible after all.

Most YA Books are about teen’s problems, in their city and school (clothes, friends, guys…). Why did you choose to tell another story?
I’m not really into “issue-ridden” or totally depressing “you’re going to die or your mom/best friend is going to die” books. Although I’m sure I’ll try one at some point, I wanted to write a funny, lighthearted book that teens can read just for entertainment and fun. The book, although set in Israel, is not a religious-oriented or political book, it’s just a fun read. Since I went to Israel many times as a teen (my dad was Israeli and I met my husband on a group trip to Israel when I was seventeen – we remet and married nine years later) and I had many funny experiences in Israel, I thought I’d write about “what I know”. Everywhere my heroine goes in Israel, I’ve been. I also like showing people a side of Israel they don’t show on television. The everyday life of everyday teens. It’s not autobiographical by any means, it’s pure fiction. But sometimes fiction does have a way of resembling reality, doesn’t it?

Are you a bit like Amy?
A bit? That’s an understatement. In so many ways I AM Amy. (Except I don’t have shorts with the words BITCH on the butt like Amy does and her family situation is the exact opposite of mine.)

There is a sequel to “How to Ruin a Summer Vacation”, titled “How to Ruin my Teenage Life”. Could you tell us more about it?
All I can tell you is that Amy, as usual, is going to get herself in a lot of sticky situations. She’s such a great character to write. I’m in the middle of writing it, so just be assured there’s going to be dogs (I have two myself and can’t NOT write about them), and it’s going to be funny.

And then comes Caleb Becker in Febrary 2007…
My publisher changed the name of my book, “Caleb Becker is Back”. It’s going to be released as Leaving Paradise (although I still refer to it as “Caleb”). I love this book, but it’s very different than How to Ruin a Summer Vacation. It’s more serious, it deals with a lot of emotions that Caleb and Maggie have to go through. This book is told in both Maggie’s point of view (the girl who was hit by the car) and also Caleb’s point of view (the boy who was convicted of hitting her while driving drunk) in alternating chapters. It’s more edgy than How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, but I hope my readers don’t mind. I can’t write only one type of book, I write all over the place. Some of my books are sweet, some are edgy.

Who are your favorite Chick Lit authors?
Meg Cabot, Michelle Cunnah, Diana Peterfreund, Wendelin Van Draanen, Marianne Mancusi

How do you work, in general?
At home when my kids are in school/camp

What do you do when comes the “writer’s block”?
It’s really difficult, at some times the words come pouring out I can’t type them fast enough and at other times it takes five minutes for one word to spurt out. I’ve learned it’s all about not stopping when the slow times creep up on me, I just write through it. I will even say out loud, “this is torture” but I write through it. It may take me an hour to write a quarter of a page, but I try not to let that discourage me.

It’s your first novel, right?
Yep! And I still feel like I’m one of the lucky ones. I think it’s harder to get published than struck by lightening sometimes.

How did you get it published?
I kept looking for an agent to represent my work, so I was on the agent hunt. I actually got rejected by my agent at first, but revised my book and asked if I could resend it. Believe me, I had piles of rejections. I also entered writing contests, and won the Chick Lit Stiletto contest. How to Ruin a Summer Vacation got rejected by some editors from publishing houses because they said Amy (my heroine) was too bratty and they wanted me to make her nicer. Thankfully Llewellyn (the publisher who finally bought How to Ruin..) loved Amy’s snarkiness and appreciated her character. I felt like “if I make her nice in the beginning, how is she going to change in the end?” My agent, Nadia Cornier from Firebrand Literary, told me not to change Amy. “We’ll find an editor who ‘get’s it’ and we’ll sell it.” I loved Nadia for believing in my book. And I love Llewellyn for buying it!

When you’re working with a publisher, do you always have to change things, add things etc.?
My editor, Andrew Karre, is very cool to work with. I LOVE romance novels, and when I’m not reading teen novels you can find me reading a romance. Andrew knows this. Andrew also knows I have a tendency to turn my novels into teen romances. So besides a few comments from him saying, “I don’t believe the character would do/say this”, I mostly get, “Nope! To romance-novel for me” comments. I guess I’m just a romantic person at heart. Is that such a bad thing?

Would you like to add something, Simone?
Veronika, I want to thank you for letting me do this interview. As a new author, it’s so nice when people help you “get your name out there”. People like you, who promote YA/teen books, are heroines in my eyes!
You’re welcome! 🙂

And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question : You’ve just found 100 $ in your pocket, how will you use that money?
Go out for sushi and donate the rest of it to our soldiers fighting for our freedom. I know that sounds cliché, but I’m always thinking about our soldiers.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ?Going out, then read a book
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ?Mountains
Country or City ?Country
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ? ROMANTIC comedy
Shy or Easy-going ?Totally easy-going
Serious or Funny ?Hilariously funny
Traveler or not ?Not, although I’d like to change that
Sporty or not ?Sporty! Tennis, football, hockey, baseball…you name it!
The leader in the group or not ?Totally the leader


TV show : (blushing) Real World/Road Rules challenge
Movie : Sixteen Candles or The Cutting Edge (Yes, I was a teen in the 80’s)
Book : adult book: Lady be Good by Susan Elizabeth Phillips teen book: Twilight (and by the way, what are you reading during your free time ?) Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Music : Pat McCurdy (local guy from Milwaukee-totally politically incorrect but hysterical)
Food : Sushi
City : Chicago
Place to write: Living Room
Quote or motto : I’ve been told I say “Okay, here’s the deal” before every sentence, but my motto is; “Everything’s a hassle”

Thank you, Simone!
Simone’s website

Terie GarrisonDragons and Seasons’ Magic talking with Terie Garrison. Discover a whole new world… and a very fun author!

Hi Terie! Welcome on “Veronika asks”. So, would you like to introduce yourself?
I’m Terie Garrison, and, to paraphrase the AA intro, I’m a writer. For some reason I can’t understand, people think the writing life is glamourous. Me, all I do is work, read, write, and look after my house, cats, and garden. But I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. It’s just not exactly exciting…except for inside my head where I get to watch the ‘movies’ of my stories play out as I write them.

If you could describe yourself with three words…
Weird, peculiar, strange. (That’s what people have been calling me all my life, so I might as well roll with the punches.)

Now let’s talk a bit about “AutumnQuest”… How did you get that idea?
In May 2002, I went to a children’s writers conference in Greece. There was an editor there who edits what you might call ‘literary fantasy’–not just sword and sorcery, but books focused on characters. I wanted very much to be published by this editor, but I didn’t have anything suitable for her at the time. A month or so later, I read a notice about another editor looking for series, particularly ones with dragons. Fantasy is my first love, although I’d long abandoned it, both reading and writing. But I’d started reading it again about a year before the Greece conference.Well, all of the above combined…one editor wanting character-driven fantasy, another wanting dragon-related fantasy, my newly reborn love of reading fine fantasy (I think I was on a Robin Hobb kick at the time). Then I bought some crystals at a mind-body-spirit convention (lapis lazuli and fluorite, for those who might be interested), and a few days later, the first line of the book popped into my head: ‘When my brother told me it was a dragon egg, of course I didn’t believe him.’ From there, it was a matter of writing Donavah’s story. And rewriting it and rewriting it and rewriting….And now AutumnQuest is a real live book!

Why do you write fantasy and not another genre?
I don’t work exclusively in the fantasy genre. I have ideas percolating in a variety of genres. I’ve written a sports novel, but it, like most first novels, is stashed away in the bottom drawer not likely to see the light of day again. I’m also working on a mainstream novel dealing with forced marriage. And I have a few more fantasy books in mind, too. And some adventure books. And, well, whatever the muse delivers. As a friend of mine says, ‘Don’t wee on the muse.’

Tell us a bit more about the sequel, “WinterMaejic”…
Like the season of Winter, it is dark and introspective. Donavah goes through some intense ‘learning experiences’, that is, she begins to learn about the power she was born with. I hate spoilers, so I don’t want to say too much more than that.

I suppose there will be four books in the serie. Am I right? 🙂
Yes, indeed you are! There are, of course, two further books, one for Spring and one for Summer. These don’t have formal titles yet, but the books carry on the story to its conclusion. All four books reflect the Earth’s life cycles, with the Spring one bursting with life and newness, and the Summer one sorting things out into their bright new patterns.

You said you wanted to write since you were 10. Why?
Other than reading, studying, and doing my homework, I wasn’t really any good at anything as a child, not anything that other kids recognized, anyway. Other kids were funny, or good at sports, or at playing games, or at singing or playing a musical instrument. I was good at reading…oh boy. When my fifth-grade teacher made a BIG deal about some limericks I wrote, it finally clicked: I was good at writing. Since I also loved reading, from that moment on, I knew that I wanted to write things that others could read and enjoy as much as I did the books I read.

You started another series, called “The Book Addicts Club”. What can you tell us about it?
Well, I have to start out by saying that I haven’t sold it yet. It’s for younger kids, say 8- to 11-year-olds, and is about a group of kids who like to read. In the first book, there’s a new kid at school, and the main characters, Marcie and Gina, stumble across his secret. Adventure ensues. There’s an element of fantasy, as each book has a ghost, but the stories are mainly adventure stories.

How do you picture your reader? You know, when you say that “there is somebody reading my book right now…”
I envision a young person who likes reading not only for the story, but also for the actual writing. Story is, of course, the most important thing, but I appreciate fine writing myself and strive for my own to reach toward that ideal. Of course, I picture this reader curled up with my book, engrossed to the exclusion of just about everything else. Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

How do you usually work (when, where…)? What about writer’s block?
For my job, I sit in front of a computer all day writing manuals for software. I can’t bear the thought of going home and spending more hours sitting in front of a computer writing. So I write my first drafts by hand. I bought a lovely fountain pen more than ten years ago, and all of my first drafts since then have been written with this pen. (It also turned me into a collector of modern Waterman pens, but that’s a different story.) Because I write with pen and paper, I can work anywhere: the sofa, the easy chair, in bed, out in the garden, at a park, in the town square. I’ve spent hours sitting at Stonehenge writing, and at lesser-known stone circles, you can actually sit there leaning against the stone while you write. Talk about inspiring!I’ve never had a problem with writer’s block, per se. My big problem is self-discipline–making myself sit down and write. On the other hand, I wonder if what others call ‘writer’s block’ is the same thing I call ‘lack of self-discipline’. I don’t think so, but I wonder sometimes.

What’s the most difficult when writing a novel?
For me, it’s often just making myself sit down and do it. As I said above, I don’t have as much self-discipline as I’d like. Also, because my day job is also writing, I spend a certain amount of my creativity there. Luckily, manuals are technical and so don’t often use up so much of my day’s allotment of creativity as to leave me dry when I get home.

Do you have some piece of advice for aspiring writers?
BIC: Butt In Chair. There’s a cliché that a lot of wannabe writers simply want ‘to have written’, but they don’t want to do the actual writing. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. To me, that’s what separates the wannabes from the real writers: whether they’re actually writing or not. And the only way to actually write is, well, to actually write–to put your rear end in the chair and do it.

Would you like to add something, Terie?
I guess what I’d most like to tell young people is to get comfortable inside your own skin. Be yourself and don’t worry about what others think. That’s hard when you’re a teenager, but I still think it’s a worthwhile goal to strive for.

And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question : You’ve just found 100 $ in your pocket, how will you use it?
Buy something to treat myself–probably more books and candles, and maybe some new bubble bath.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ?Read a book. Which pretty much IS what I do on Saturday nights!
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ?Definitely the mountains. I grew up in a beach city and beaches hold no charm for me. I love taking hikes in the trees, especially if I can sit somewhere and write for a bit.
Country or City ?Country. I grew up in the city. I don’t need the hustle and bustle of that; I prefer the slow quietness of the countryside.
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ?It depends on my mood. I do love period dramas. My favourite is the BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice.
Shy or Easy-going ?Mostly easy-going. Sometimes stressed and frazzled.
Serious or Funny ?I’d like to say funny, but I’m afraid I’m more serious than I’d care to admit. I used to be one of those very serious teenagers who took every little thing to heart. I’ve tried to lighten up at bit as I’ve gotten older.
Traveler or not ?I enjoy travel, but am naturally a home-body. I moved from Southern California to England in 2000, and I love to explore my adopted country. I usually take one or two week-long trips to a different part of the UK every year.
Sporty or not ?I used to be a long-distance cyclist, but I’ve not done much cycling lately. I do love going out for very long rides, but I’m not in shape for that anymore. And if it has a ball, Terie does NOT play.
The leader in the group or not ?Only reluctantly.


TV show: Star Trek: The Original Series and Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Movie : Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (I cry at the end every single time)
Book : Can’t say just one. Lord of the Rings, Jane Eyre, Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb–you better shut me up now before it gets out of hand
Music : David Bowie
Food : Spaghetti
City : Hard to say just one. I went to Berlin a few weeks ago for the first time and absolutely fell in love with it.
Favorite place to write : Outdoors in the English countryside, preferably in a place of historical significance, in the sunshine. Unfortunately, this opportunity doesn’t happen nearly as often as I’d like.
Quote or motto : ‘You must write for children in the way as you do for adults, only better.’ Maksim Gorky

Thank you, Terie!
Terie’s website