Friday, December 28, 2007

What's Fresh with Wendy Toliver's The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren

Geeky to gorgeous in sixty seconds... Roxy's about to turn sixteen, but life isn't so sweet. As a band geek, Roxy can barely get the cute guys to notice her, much less go out with her. Then, on her birthday, Roxy is transformed into a siren: seductively beautiful with the power to control all men. She thought sirens were an ancient myth, but suddenly Roxy can get any guy she wants with just a few notes on her flute. There are only two rules: don't tell anyone about being a siren, and don't fall in love. When she starts dating Zach, the guy everybody's crushing on, Roxy realizes she could get used to this siren thing...but how can she keep herself from falling in love?

Hello Wendy, great to have here! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Wendy: I have a liberal arts education but only dabbled in creative writing. It was several years after I graduated that I got the wild idea to write a book. I started writing chick lit and some people who read it suggested I try my hand at YA. My first YA manuscript, THE SECRET LIFE OF A TEENAGE SIREN, caught the attention of my agent, who sold it to Simon & Schuster (Simon Pulse). It's been a whilwind, to say the least!

I bet! Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.

Wendy: With three young sons and other commitments, it's difficult to carve out writing time. Luckily, I am a speedy writer, and I do a lot of my "writing" in my head so when I do get the opportunity to sit down at my computer (like when the baby's napping), I'm ready to go. I used to write in the wee hours of the night, but in a recent development, I've hired a Mommy's Helper who comes in twice a week for a couple of hours. It's my designated writing time, and I don't even answer the phone when she's here. Unless it's my husband, of course! :)

Please tell us about your novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF A TEENAGE SIREN, and what we can expect from your characters.

Wendy: My debut novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF A TEENAGE SIREN (Simon Pulse), comes out December 26, 2007. So by the time you read this, it might already be on bookshelves! (YAY!)

I've had people tell me they love Roxy Zimmerman, the main character. That she's funny and lively and someone they can totally relate to. I hope my characters, from the spunky Grandma Perkins to the huggable Alex McCoy, make people laugh, cry, and think. I had a blast creating each and every one of them for THE SECRET LIFE OF A TEENAGE SIREN, and it really means a lot when readers say they want a sequel so they don't have to say goodbye to the characters.

Looking forward to reading it, Wendy! What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Wendy: My next novel, which is also a Simon Pulse Romantic Comedy, is called MISS MATCH. It is scheduled to come out Spring 2009. It's the story of a teenage matchmaker who is hired by a new guy to fix him up with her sister, only to discover that she is crushing on him herself. It is full of conflict, surprises, and laughs, and I'm looking forward to seeing it in bookstores!

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Wendy! I wish you the best with your debut. Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Wendy: Jot ideas down throughout the day. On a napkin, a notepad, in your cell phone. I've been known to call my voicemail and leave messages for myself when inspiration strikes. I also recommend having a pen and paper beside your bed in case you have a great idea when you're supposed to be sleeping.

Wendy Toliver earned a BA in Speech Communication/Broadcast from Colorado State University. Now she lives in the Utah mountains with her husband, three little boys, and other wildlife. You can visit her online at or catch her blogging on Teen Fiction Cafe and Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


So we know that Tina's next YA novel, HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE, will be hitting shelves January 8th, right?!? (I'm so excited for Tina!!)

Well, guess what else?

Tina is holding a First Sighting contest on her myspace! Here are the deets...

I am announcing a new contest: the first person to send me a picture of HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE on a store bookshelf (due out January 8) will win a free signed copy. You don't have to buy it, just photograph it. (Thank goodness for cell phone cameras, huh?)

So if you see it, snap it, and either post the picture here or send it to me at

Good luck!

So the next time you're at the book store, snap a pic of HOTTIE (yes, the book! hehe!), we can't wait to see them. :) :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Gift from Santa Random House...

Last week, nestled among the holiday packages that arrived at my house, was a box from the Random House warehouse: my author copies of How to Hook a Hottie.

Yay! What a feeling to hold my book in print!

Some of you might remember that last March, I posted a picture of my cat, Rascal (named after one of the characters in Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress) sitting in the author copy box. There’s no new pets or namesakes from Hottie, so this time I simply present a wee bit of my couch and some of the books.

Look how bright the spine is and how clear the writing. I’m thinking it's going to jump out at readers, that I won't have to obsess so much about the book being turned out.

In any case, 13 more days ‘til its release. But who’s counting?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Kelly and I would like to wish all of you a safe and warm holiday season, and to thank you for your camraderie and your time spent with us this year at YA FRESH. We have plenty of exciting things planned for 2008, and hope you keep dropping by to be part of the discussions and fun!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's Fresh with Jennifer Banash's The Elite

It’s the most exclusive luxury apartment building on New York’s Upper East Side. If you don’t live there—you don’t know how to live…

When Casey McCloy steps into The Bramford, she’s overwhelmed by the sophistication and elegance of it all. Fresh from the Midwest, she’s moved to NYC to live with her grandmother and attend the prestigious Meadowlark Academy. Here all that matters is who you know. The designer to know is Zac Posen. The girl to know is Madison Macallister: popular, pretty, platinum-blond. She’s not just Casey’s new classmate and neighbor; she’s an icon. So Casey aims to get in with Madison and her gorgeous gal-pals from the start. As the reigning queen of coolness, Madison is capable of destroying reputations with one well-timed whisper. Better to be on her good side.

But after a city-haute makeover from her new frenemy Madison, Casey is wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, and meeting the right people—including Drew, the boy-about-town who Madison thinks belongs to her and her alone…

Hi Jennifer, thanks for agreeing to visit us at YA Fresh! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Jennifer: I started out as a poet about a million years ago, and then began to write adult literary fiction in the mid-nineties—my first novel HOLLYWOODLAND: AN AMERICAN FAIRY TALE was published last year by Impetus Press—where I am co-publisher. We’re a small literary press located in Iowa City, Iowa, and we’ve made it our personal crusade to publish serious works of literary fiction with a pop or urban sensibility. I got into writing YA kind of by accident—I needed to make a few bucks and I was offered a job ghostwriting a bestselling YA series for Alloy Entertainment (no, I can’t tell you which one!). It turned out to be a happy accident, as I totally bonded with the characters—even though they weren’t my own—and had a great time doing it. When that job was finished I thought, why not write my OWN series instead of working behind the scenes for someone else (never my strong suit—I’ve been fired from menial jobs more times than I can count for refusing to be a “team player”—whatever that means). So, I pitched my idea for THE ELITE to Kate Seaver over at Penguin, Berkley and she bought the series based on the thirty pages or so of spec material I’d written, so I guess its safe to say that she really fell in love with it! She’s continued to be my biggest cheerleader, and for that I feel really lucky. Only after I’d negotiated my own deal with Penguin and signed on the dotted line did I retain Jennifer Jackson of the Donald Maass Literary Agency as my agent. So, basically I did everything backwards, which is unfortunately pretty typical for me. Sigh.

Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.

Jennifer: Wake up cranky with sunlight sticking in my eyes like tacks. Read D-Listed online and spit soy milk out through my nose as I laugh uncontrollably. Email my best friend in NY funny pictures of monkeys or lemurs I pull off the net (don’t ask). Read about Britney’s latest disaster and thank god I’m nobody’s mother yet. Eat cereal while staring at my manuscript on the glowing screen of my iBook. When I finally do start writing—usually around 10 AM—its pretty common for me to continue right through the day—stopping usually around five if I’m actively entrenched in a book. I tend to work very hard and very fast at breakneck speed, get the whole story out on the page, and THEN go back and edit once I’ve got a complete manuscript. Of course there are plenty of breaks in between to make coffee, dance around my kitchen to sixties soul music, or order a chocolate chip muffin if I happen to be working at my neighborhood coffee shop (Damn you, chocolate chip muffins!). My jeans do not thank me for such behavior.

haha! Yeah, muffins are addicting! Please tell us about your novel, THE ELITE, and what we can expect from your characters.

Jennifer: My series, THE ELITE, drops June 2008 from Penguin, Berkley. THE ELITE revolves around sixteen-year-old Casey McCloy—who has just moved from Normal, Illinois to The Bramford, a luxury apartment building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to live with her grandmother. The series is all about Casey’s attempts to fit in with the most popular girls in her building—the Bram Clan, led by the indomitable, popular, pretty, platinum blond Madison Macallister—who is capable of ruining lives and destroying reputations with one well-timed whisper. She’s not just Casey’s new classmate and neighbor; she’s an icon. Better to be on her good side. But after a city-haute makeover from her new frenemy Madison, Casey is wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, and meeting the right people—including Drew, the boy-about-town who Madison thinks belongs to her and her alone…

I'm intrigued already!  What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Jennifer: I’m working on a couple of different ideas—of course what I’d REALLY love is for THE ELITE to take off and become so popular that it becomes a ten-book series instead of three, but I’ve also got two other books in the works. One is entitled BITTEN and is about two identical twins form Manhattan, Lucy and Mina Vanderbilt, whose parents buy Dracula’s castle in Romania in the midst of a mid-life crisis, forcing the family to move to Eastern Europe and live in a dilapidated, musty, stone castle. But before both girls begin attendance at a posh boarding school in Geneva, Switzerland, they’ll spend the summer at their new home sweet home—a castle situated in the heart of Romania, just off of Highway 73—better known as the intersection of creepy and get-me-the-hell-out-of-here—worlds away from their sophisticated Manhattan lifestyle. Upon their arrival, Mina quickly falls in with Jonathan Marlowe—the town’s resident hottie, who’s left London to visit his grandfather for the summer and spends his days attempting to pen the next great British novel at the local café. But after Mina suffers a “bite” from a mysterious apparition one evening while trolling the grounds of the castle, her love life will never be the same again. Expressions like “can I have a bite of that?” take on a WHOLE new meaning, and suddenly, the most notorious, identical, and inseparable twins in all of Manhattan have never been quite so different . . .

The other series I’m working on is about a seventeen-year-old girl named Belle who moves with her diplomat father to the Plaza Athanee hotel in Paris and begins to have a series of French fried adventures when she’s let loose on the city of lights. It’s kind of inspired by the Eloise books—which I adored as a kid (OK, who am I kidding? I love then NOW), except with lots of champagne and dating!

All sound like my kind of reads! Thanks again for chatting, Jennifer.  I wish you the best with all your projects.  Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Jennifer: Just keep writing—even if you think what you’re putting down on the page is crap. Writing is mostly about having the discipline to get up and do it every day—whether you feel like it or not. And all the frustration is definitely worth it in that moment when a book, character, or story really begins to come alive—it’s my favorite part of the writing process, and what makes me get up every day and want to sit down and write—the feeling of being utterly lost in a world I’ve created.

Jennifer Banash grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and is the author of HOLLYWOODLAND: AN AMERICAN FAIRY TALE. Her Young Adult series THE ELITE drops June 2008 from Penguin Berkley. She divides her time between Paris and the Midwest—where she lives with her vast designer shoe collection and her beagle puppy, Sigmund.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fresh from the oven...

When I lived on the east coast, December was not only holiday season, it was baking season. Entire families got together to make wide assortments of holiday cookies, to be presented in gift platters and tins to friends and family, served at parties and following meals--and left for Santa.

My family never much went in for this, however, and I admit, as an adult, I’ve let holiday baking slide almost completely from my life. But I have great admiration for those who collect and swap recipes, who shop for the best ingredients, and spend hours creating the perfect cookies. And I’m thrilled when I’m a platter recipient.

Tell us, do you come from a family that considers baking an important part of the holiday season? And if so, do you have a favorite cookie?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What's Fresh with Laurie Faria Stolarz's Project 17

Hello Laurie, great to have you back on YA Fresh! Please share with us the blurb of your latest novel, PROJECT 17 (Hyperion Books, December 2007).

Laurie: Breaking in was easy. Getting out will be harder.

High atop Hathorne Hill, near Boston, sits Danvers State Hospital. Built in 1878 and closed in 1992, this abandoned mental institution is rumored to be the birthplace of the lobotomy. Locals have long believed the place to be haunted. They tell stories about the unmarked graves on the premises, of the cold spots felt throughout the underground tunnels, and of the treasures found inside: patients' personal items like journals, hair combs, and bars of soap, or even their old medical records, left behind by the state for trespassers to view.

On the eve of the hospital's demolition, six teens break in to spend the night and film a movie about their adventures. For Derik, it's an opportunity to win a filmmaking contest and save himself from a future of flipping burgers at his parents' diner. For the others, it's a chance to be on TV, or a night with no parents. But what starts as a playful dare quickly escalates into a frenzy of nightmarish action. Behind the crumbling walls, down every dark passageway, and in each deserted room, they will unravel the mysteries of those who once lived there and the spirits who still might.
Could you share a bit about the main character of your book and what makes him unique?

Laurie: Derik LaPointe is just about to graduate high school and go straight to work at his parents’ diner. He hates the idea. All he really wants to do is make his own films. So, when he hears about a reality TV contest where he has the opportunity to have his indie film shown on national television, he gets to work, hoping it’ll save him from flipping burgers for the rest of his life. Derik, commonly known by characters in the novel as Derik “LaPlaya” LaPointe because of his seedy reputation, seems to be lacking in ambition and depth, but what he learns from his experience at Danvers State, is that he’s so small in the grand scheme of things. His goals start to shift when he realizes it’s no longer just about the contest.

How did the idea for this novel come about?

Laurie: I wanted to do a companion book to Bleed, using one of my Bleed characters. Around the time I was thinking up ideas for a new project, the newspapers in my area were flooded with stories surrounding the controversial teardown of Danvers State Hospital, an abandoned mental hospital 30 minutes north of Boston. Many people were against tearing it down because it is considered an historical landmark, built in 1878. But, still, developers wanted to use the land to build luxury apartments and condos. In the end, the developers won, and two-thirds of the hospital was torn down. People are now living in the new developments.

Growing up, the hospital, which was finally shut down in 1992 due to budget cuts and overcrowding, was rumored to be haunted and became a notorious hot spot for break-ins and dares. Coincidentally, in Bleed, one of my characters, Derik LaPointe, breaks in to the hospital to go exploring. This is how the initial idea for Project 17 sparked. I thought, why not have Derik break in with a group of teens, on the eve of the demolition to spend the night and film a movie? There are six teens who break in in total, all with their own motivations and agendas, but what they end up finding is far beyond anything they could ever imagine.

Wow, sounds intense! What do you hope readers will gain from reading this novel?

Laurie: A thrill ride. It’d also be nice if they saw that even though we’re all so different on surface, we’re connected in so many other ways. We all want the same basic things.

Thanks for sharing, Laurie. Best of luck with PROJECT 17. Would you like to close with a novel you highly recommend and why?

Laurie: I highly recommend Breaking Up by Aimee Friedman. It’s so fun!

Laurie Faria Stolarz grew up in Salem, MA, attended Merrimack College, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston. She is currently working on Deadly Little Secret, the first book in the Touch series, also for young adults. To learn more about Laurie, please visit her website:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Gotta Share!

Publishers Weekly ran an article last week called “’Twas the Day After Christmas,” talking about how post-December 25 book sales are steadily rising as a result of holiday gift cards.

Quoted in this article is Random House’s Director of Sales for Children’s books, Joan de Mayo, saying the week after Christmas is now considered “a prime time to release big books.” And among the books listed in this article that Random House is releasing after Christmas?

Magic Tree House #36 by Mary Pope Osborne
The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Runemarks by Joanne Harris
Small Steps by Louis Sachar

And...(wait for it, wait for it)...

How to Hook a Hottie by Tina Ferraro

Wow, huh? I absolutely can’t believe my book appears on this prestigious list, and so you’ll forgive this blatant self-promotion as I shout it from the rooftops, huh?

And may I say I hope all of you get bookstore gift cards this year! =)

Anyone else get any early holiday "gifts"?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Happy Holidays...and I Really Mean it!

Okay, truth time: I had trouble getting into the holiday spirit last year. For the most part I “phoned it in,” basically going through the motions of shopping and greetings, while idly wondering if it was over yet.

Because I had bigger fish to try. My first book was due out, my second was in the editing process, and I was racking my brain trying to come up with a decent proposal for a third one. A dream come true, and all-encompassing!

In fact, standing in the cold and watching our local Christmas parade, I was suddenly struck with a title (which is often how my book ideas present themselves). I remember saying to my husband, “How about The ABC’s of...of...well, Kissing Boys?” My husband nodded and told me I was probably finally on to something. He was right: that book comes out in Spring of 2009.

Well, we just watched that very same parade last weekend. And again, I am awaiting the release of a book, doing edits on another one, and brainstorming a new one.

But this time, I paid attention to the floats and marching bands and troops of Brownies. I made a point of stopping and speaking to people, of wishing them Happy Holidays. For I realized I really don’t remember much of last December. And I refuse to let this year’s season go by without me, too. I’m taking time to smell the pine scented candles, to try to enjoy shopping and finding “the right gifts” for friends and family, to be thankful for my blessings, and try to figure out how I can make the holidays of others just a little bit better, too.

In other words, I plan to be the main character of my own holiday season. Then, come January, it’ll be a full court press on promo for the new book. And just in case you're wondering when it comes out...

Monday, December 03, 2007

December is here!

And besides the decorations, the shopping, and the fun gift-giving, do you want to know what else I enjoy about this month?

The Holiday movies are back! Here are a few of my favorites that I love watching year after year…

Rudolph, The Red-nosed Reindeer

A Christmas Story

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

So tell me, which are your favorite Holiday shows that you love to see return each year?