Friday, June 29, 2007

What's Fresh with Gena Showalter's Red Handed

She's been chosen to fight the elusive enemy among us....

Wildly imaginative, action-packed, and thrilling, Red Handed launches Gena Showalter's stunning new alien huntress series.

Hi Gena, thanks for agreeing to chat! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Gena: I fell in love with fiction in the. . . fifth grade, I believe. Those Sweet Valley High books sucked me right in. A few years later, I graduated to Regency romances and I could not get enough. Through Jr. High and High School, I read constantly and dabbled with my own stories. In college, I could not decide on a major and dropped out three times. Finally I sat down and had a heart to heart with myself. What did I love? What could I see myself doing for the rest of my life? Always the answer was the same: writing. So I gave it a shot, wrote a book. It was B.A.D. But I tried again and again until I found my groove. I signed with an agent after completing six books and two years later we sold one – The Stone Prince -- to HQN. I haven’t looked back since!

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.

Gena: Seems like my routine changes from book to book. Right now I like to write a chapter a day, five days a week, no matter how long it takes me. One hour or twelve, I don’t leave the computer until it’s done.

Please tell us about your latest YA novel, Red Handed, and what we can expect from your characters.

Gena: My latest book is Red Handed (out now!) and the publisher is MTV Press. It’s a young adult alien huntress novel set in near future. Here’s a little about it:

Phoenix Germaine has been trying to earn back her mother's trust after going into rehab and kicking Onadyn -- the drug of choice for New Chicago teens. But when a party in the woods turns into an all-out battle with the most ferocious aliens Phoenix has ever seen, she's brought home in what appears to be an Onadyn-induced state. Hello, reform school.

Except, what her mother doesn't know is that Phoenix has just been recruited to join the elite Alien Investigation and Removal agency, where she'll learn to fight dirty, track hard, and destroy the enemy. Her professional training will be rigorous and dangerous, and the fact that one of her instructors is Ryan Stone -- the drop-dead gorgeous, nineteen-year-old agent she met in the woods that night -- doesn't make things any easier. Especially when dating him is totally against the rules....

I can't wait to read it! What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Gena: Up next is Blacklisted, the sequel to Red Handed. While Red Handed focuses on teaching young kids to hunt aliens, Blacklisted shows them actually doing the hunting. Here’s the blurb:

High school senior Camille Robins and her best friend are determined to snag the attention of their crushes before graduation next month. Armed with red-hot outfits and killer hair, they sneak into the hottest nightclub in town —which caters to the rich and famous, both human and alien. They end up following Erik (who is human) and Silver (who isn’t) through a guarded door and are soon separated and under attack. . . and not the good kind.

Bad boy Erik spares Camille’s life, but the two are soon being chased by gun-toting Alien Investigation and Removal agents. Camille’s more confused than ever because Erik’s finally showing real interest in her, but the agents are accusing him of dealing Onadyn—a drug that ruins human lives. Suddenly, with the heat of his kiss lingering on her lips, Camille has to decide whose side she’s on . . . and whether she’s willing to put her life on the line to save Erik’s.

Thank you again for sharing, Gena, and I wish you the best with this cool new huntress series. Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Gena: Read, read, read and keep writing. The more you write, the more you learn about the process.

Gena Showalter sold her first book at the age of 27 and now, four years later, is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thirteen books, with eleven more on the way in a thrilling blend of genres: breathtaking paranormal and contemporary romances, cutting edge young adult novels, and stunning urban fantasy. Her novels have appeared in Cosmopolitan Magazine, MTV, Seventeen Magazine, and have been translated in French, Italian and Korean. The critics have called her books "sizzling page-turners" and "utterly spellbinding stories", while Showalter herself has been called “a star on the rise”.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How do you like your YA novels?

I've been thinking what I like in a YA novel, and I guess it really isn't different from what I enjoy in other genres too.

When I started writing, it was all about the love of a good story. Characters to root for. A story to suck me in and pull me quickly along. To make me *feel*. And that's what I like in YA novels and how I try to write my own. :)

And since I feel like I've grown up soaking up movies instead of books--bad, Kelly!--I see my books unfold in my mind, scene by scene, rather than the words flowing from my fingers.

I try to write my scenes like a movie. For me, there is just something great about visualizing scenes as I read along with the character's journey.

So how do you like your YA novels? Heavy on characterization with a side of plot? Or something different? :) :)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Summer Desserts

I can feel the summer warmth begin in California and I've been having a few chats about summer...and desserts! Yes, yummy desserts I'll probably splurge on this summer...and you know, munch out on. haha!

Milk shakes are ALWAYS great. Banana splits are like heaven! There are those frozen bananas dipped in chocolate, have you ever tried one? And don't forget Jello with whipped cream, or snow cones with different flavors.

And let me tell you one of my all time faves. You'd think it would be something unique and outrageous...but it's not.

One of my fave summer desserts is a fudgesicle!

What are your fave summer desserts?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Rose by Any Other Name...

When I was a teenager, I think I named my future children on a weekly basis. It became a hobby, studying up on the meanings of names, the roots, the variants, the spellings. Of course, my future children’s last name was still a mystery, but I was going to be ready when the time came! (Except when the time did come, for some reason, my husband thought it a joint project, and I ended up back at the drawing board...)

I even learned the Two Rules for Creating the Perfect Name:

--count the number of syllables in your last name, and vary. For instance, if your last name is three syllables, go with one, two or four for the first name.

--analyze the sound blends and either completely diversity (e.g., Ferraro is heavy on the R’s and ends in O, so avoid those two) or find rhythmical ways to repeat sounds (like Callie McCarthy).

What the experts don’t take into account, of course, is personal preference and trends. To my way of thinking, these rules are just a guideline, to be twisted and broken at will.

When it comes to naming characters in my books, I very rarely search for the most beautiful name. I want one that sounds real. What I do is put myself in the head of the parents, figure out what they were like, where they were at that time in their lives, and often I check a popular baby name site to see where my choice falls:

Then I play and play until the name feels right. Sometimes I hit early. Sometimes the struggle continues quite a while. Like in HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE (Delacorte Press, January, 2008), I didn’t quit changing some secondary names until the final revisions!

So...are there any other name hobbyists out there? Anyone have an usual name or favorite name or a good story behind their own name? Please weigh in...and feed my need to talk names!

Monday, June 18, 2007

What's Fresh with Cynthia Leitich Smith's Tantalize

Are you predator or prey?
Quincie Morris has never felt more alone. Her parents are dead, and her hybrid-werewolf first love is threatening to embark on a rite of passage that will separate them forever. Then, as she and her uncle are about to unveil their hot vampire-themed restaurant, a brutal murder leaves them scrambling for a chef. Can Quincie transform their new hire into a culinary Dark Lord before opening night? Can he wow the crowd in his fake fangs, cheap cape, and red contact lenses - or is there more to this earnest face than meets the eye? As human and preternatural forces clash, a deadly love triangle forms, and the line between predator and prey begins to blur. Who's playing whom? And how long can Quincie play along before she loses everything? TANTALIZE marks Cynthia Leitich Smith's delicious debut as a preeminent author of dark fantasy.

Hello Cynthia, thanks so much for sharing with us at YA Fresh! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Cynthia: Reading led me to writing at a very young age. My mother took me every Saturday to our public library, and once I was older, the school library became a favorite destination as well. In elementary school, I was a poet. In junior high and high school I was the editor of my school newspaper.

I went onto major in journalism at the University of Kansas. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college, and it made sense to me to pursue a writing career with a paycheck. For electives, though, I took a couple of children’s literature and fiction writing classes as well as a memorable course on Children and Television from a couple that had been involved in Children’s Television Workshop, the people behind “Sesame Street.”

At the time, newspapers were closing and merging across the country, so I decided to continue my education at The University of Michigan Law School (where my best friends included YA romance author Niki Burnham) with the idea that I would later become a media law professor at a journalism school or cover the court system for a metropolitan daily newspaper.

Instead, after graduation, I took a job in the Office of the General Counsel at the Department of Health and Human Services in Chicago. My husband (and sometimes co-author) Greg Leitich Smith had already accepted a position at a patent firm there, but unfortunately, the Trib and Sun-Times were both in the midst of hiring freezes.

I had just begun stringing for the Trib when children’s and YA books started calling to me. I remember spotting Annette Curtis Klause’s Blood and Chocolate in an indie bookstore, passing it by, and then hiking back in a snowstorm because I just had to have it. (Imagine my delight that Annette, along with Libba Bray, offered a blurb for Tantalize).

I found myself deeply affected by the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. Much tribe and much of my family are in the area, and family members were among medical response and law enforcement on the scene. My great uncle was on his way to the building at the time of the explosion. It was a reminder that each day is precious. I wanted to offer more to the world. I quit my day job and began writing for kids. I joined SCBWI, attended conferences, read voraciously, and wrote with the determination of someone (a) living their dream (b) owing thousands in college debt.

My first sale, Jingle Dancer (Morrow, 2000), was a picture book to editor Rosemary Brosnan at Lodestar in 1998. Shortly afterward, the imprint was downsized as part of the Penguin-Putnam merger, my editor was fired, and my contract was canceled. Rosemary quickly landed at Morrow, and bought the book again. While the book was in production, HarperCollins bought Morrow and downsized the imprint. But they kept my editor and my manuscript and eventually published the book. Jingle Dancer is one of the few titles that was first bought by one major publisher, produced by a second, and released by a third. That was my rather nerve-wracking introduction to publishing.

Wow, Cynthia, what a story. And I understand about the hardships of publishing--thanks for sharing your experience! 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.

Cynthia: My routine has actually shifted in recent years. I used to only first draft between midnight and four a.m., but now I’m on a saner schedule. Assuming I’m not on the road or otherwise speaking, I get up at about 8 a.m. and spend an hour or so on online correspondence and posting to my blogs. Then I have breakfast (usually eggs with the previous night’s leftovers) and settle in on the daybed in my sunroom with my laptop, a glass of iced tea, and one-to-four cats. I write—with a break for lunch (soup or turkey hot dogs)—until about three, spend an hour walking to the soundtracks from “Teen Witch,” “Xanadu,” “Ally McBeal,” “Rocky II,” etc., and then wrap whatever’s come across my In box for the day. Greg is our cook, and dinner as a production runs from 5:30 to 7 p.m. or so. Then, because he’s a full-time writer with a day job, I write another couple of hours while he works on his manuscript until about 9 p.m.

Please tell us about your novel Tantalize and what we can expect from your characters.

Cynthia: Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) is an upper level young adult gothic fantasy. The novel is a genre bender, driven by a mystery-suspense plotline with strong romantic elements.

It’s the first-person story of Quincie P. Morris, who is trying to help save her family’s Italian restaurant by re-launching it with a vampire theme. Just as the reopening is on the horizon, though, the chef is brutally murdered. And suspicions begin to center on Quincie’s best friend and first love, who also just happens to be a werewolf-human hybrid.

Quincie is a smart, ambitious, narrator whose sense of humor may be her best defense. She’s not the most reliable of storytellers, though, and readers will see why as the book draws to a close.

Sounds really intriguing! What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Cynthia: I’m currently working like a fiend on revisions of another gothic fantasy YA to be set in the same universe as Tantalize. It features different characters, though careful readers may notice nods to the Tantalize, and my plan is to crossover the casts in a third book to come.

I also look forward to the release of a short story in Boy Meets Girl, Girl Meets Boy edited by Terry Davis and Kelly Milner Halls (Roaring Brook, 2008). It’s a companion to a story by author Joseph Bruchac.

Thank you again for sharing with us, Cynthia. I wish you the best with your writing career. Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Cynthia: Write at least one scene from the point of view of your antagonist.

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the award-winning author of JINGLE DANCER (Morrow, 2000), INDIAN SHOES (HarperCollins, 2001), and RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (HarperCollins, 2001)(Listening Library, 2001). She is a member of faculty at the Vermont College M.F.A. program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her website at was named one of the top 10 Writer Sites on the Internet by Writer's Digest and an ALA Great Website for Kids. Her Cynsations blog at was listed as among the top two read by the children's/YA publishing community in the SCBWI "To Market" column. Cynthia's more recent titles are a picture book, SANTA KNOWS (Dutton, 2006) and a young adult gothic fantasy novel, TANTALIZE (Candlewick, 2007). TANTALIZE is a Borders Original Voices nominee, a Tayshas nominee, and a BBYA nominee. She makes her home in Austin, Texas; with her husband, author Greg Leitich Smith. Visit her website,

Friday, June 15, 2007

Keeping Fresh

Being a young adult author, I make a point of listening to teenagers, college students and the media to make sure I don’t fall too behind the times. (I swear, my characters would never say “groovy” or “right on” unless they were caught in a time warp.)

But lately I’ve come upon some words and phrases that are new to me, and thought I’d share them in test form and see how all of you do!

1. TO CRO means:
a--to wake everyone up, crow like a rooster
b--to stick to someone excessively, like Velcro

2. INQUANT means:
a--someone who knows all the local gossip
b--a deliriously silly and laughing state, from lack of sleep

3. TO BE AMPED means:
a--to get excited
b--to pig out

4. TO BEAST OUT means:
a--to study to excess or be over-competitive in your school-work
b--to tell someone off

5. OVERSTAND means:
a--worn out from excessive exercise
b--to understand something completely

Check "comments" for the answers. Then tell us, how did you do?

And just as importantly, how did I do? Did anyone catch me using one of them wrong? Please--tell me now. It’s like Kelly and I always say we critique each other’s chapters: we’d rather hear it now (and get a chance to correct it) than from our editors!

Have a great Father's Day Weekend!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

We try to keep it fun here at YA Fresh!

We love to talk books, authors, and interesting topics, and keep visitors entertained.

Here is our latest fresh endeavor--the YA Fresh cyber ad! :) :)

The YA Fresh blog!

I am no means an expert but it was fun to experiment with.

Now this summer, I'm sure is going to busy for everyone. There are family activities, summer blockbuster movies to watch, vacations, hanging out--READING BOOKS! :)

I'm going to be doing all those listed above. Beside being an avid reader, I'm an avid movie watcher and I'm excited about the Fantastic 4: Rise of The Silver Surfer movie!

How about your summer plans? Doing anything you care to share or something you are really looking forward to?

Monday, June 11, 2007

High School Book Club

There is one thing in high school I didn't have that I think would have been an awesome experience...

A high school book club.

I never thought Graffiti Girl would be considered for one, but a teacher was kind enough to consider GG as a book for a group of girls she wanted to encourage to read.

When the teacher contacted me, I was floored, speechless, and this wonderful feeling bloomed in my chest. Especially when she said how many of them hadn't finished a book before and that she felt Graffiti Girl would be the perfect book for her girls.

When I wrote GG, I had a selfish outlook. I intended to write a book, I would like to enjoy to read. A fast-paced read with action and memorable characters. Sometimes when you worry about writing for others, you could become blocked or the words don't flow as easily. :) :)

So when this teacher contacted me, she provided me with a whole new perspective that young girls could look up to my stories and the characters I shared with them. And knowing this, I feel so honored to be someone's first book.

Since then, we've emailed letters and I've answered questions about myself and GG, and the girls have told me what they enjoyed about the book. And most of all I hope these girls will pick up another book this summer and discover more of the wonderful authors out there.

Here are a few pictures of the girls who said it was okay to share.

Book Club.01

Book Club.03

Book Club.02

It would be wonderful to encourage the high school book club at your local high schools, with your teachers, with your peers, and the adults to encourage them with your children. Books are a new experience for some teens just waiting to happen. :)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Great Summer Reads

Summer is almost here! No homework...lazy days around pools and on beaches...maybe open hours of vacation travel... So what comes to mind (well, at least MY mind)? Lotza reading!

I though it would be fun to get a YA FRESH Great Summer Reads list going! Please, jump in and recommend a YA-level book that you’ve really enjoyed. Either new or “old”, the only rule being that it would appeal to teens.

I’ll start:

A NORTHERN LIGHT (Harcourt, 2003) by Jennifer Donnelly is one of the best books I’ve ever read. From storyline to characterization to prose, it is beautiful and touching, and stays with you long after you’ve finished.

In a nutshell, it’s about a sixteen year-old girl who takes a job as a server girl at a fancy hotel in the Adirondacks in 1906. She is given a packet of letters by a woman who then disappears, and those letters help her to piece together what might have happened to the woman, as well as the tough career and personal decisions she’s facing.

You won’t regret reading this one!

Want to take a moment to recall one of your fave YA’s for us?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What's Fresh with Tricia Rayburn's The Melting of Maggie Bean

Maggie looked down and barely saw her toenails peeking out from the shadow of her stomach. She closed her eyes and slowly stepped onto the scale. Once she finally opened her eyes, Maggie almost fell off the scale.

Maggie Bean's having a tough year. Since her dad lost his job he spends more time watching TV than talking to his family, and her mom's totally stressed about money. So Maggie focuses on what she does best: keeping up her straight-A average and eating chocolate.

Lots and lots of chocolate.

But everything changes when Maggie gets a chance to try out for the synchronized swim team. Becoming a Water Wing has always been Maggie's dream -- who wouldn't want to have an instant circle of friends and wear that cute silver bathing suit? As a Water Wing, maybe she'll start believing she's more than just a socially awkward bookworm. Maybe people will see past the extra weight she's recently gained to the funny, cool girl hiding underneath. And maybe, just maybe, Peter Applewood will finally notice her.

It all depends on Maggie Bean, who thinks she knows who she is, but is about to find out for sure.

Hey Tricia, thanks for chatting with us at YA Fresh! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Tricia: I wrote my very first book--a thrilling page-turner featuring my best friend and the boy who "cherished her every step," Rob Lowe--in seventh grade. Like most things in seventh grade, the story was better left forgotten, and I didn't write another until college. Creative writing classes were so great I couldn't believe I actually received credit for them, and I remembered this after graduating and while trying to figure out my next Big Life Plan. After some serious confusion and a few cross-country moves, I started an MFA program. THE MELTING OF MAGGIE BEAN began as a writing assignment, turned into my MFA thesis, and was just published by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster as part of their new line for 'tweens--MIX.

How wonderful! 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.

Tricia: I'm still shooting for typical! The day job limits how much I get done during the week, but I try to squeeze in a few hours...and since my brain seems to function better just out of bed rather than preparing to get in it, I usually write for at least two hours every weekday morning. Most of my writing gets done on weekends, though, during highly caffeinated marathon sessions.

Please tell us about your novel THE MELTING OF MAGGIE BEAN and what we can expect from your characters.

Tricia: THE MELTING OF MAGGIE BEAN was just released last month by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster. Maggie Bean is a smart, funny 12-year-old who, after hiding in her room and eating lots and lots (and lots!) of chocolate every night to avoid her cranky dad and stressed-out mom, packs on some pounds and hardly recognizes herself. Her best friend convinces her to try out for the school's synchronized swim team, and never one to back away from a challenge, Maggie goes to extreme measures to try to exceed everyone's expectations--including her own.

Can't wait to check it out, Tricia. What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Tricia: I'm currently working on a Maggie Bean sequel, in which Maggie's more comfortable in her skin than perhaps ever before, and deals with the ups and downs (in life and on the scale!) of her first post-skirted-swimsuit summer. There will be old friends, new friends, the careful balancing of both...and, of course, a boy or two.

Thanks again for sharing, Tricia! I wish you the best with your writing career. Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Tricia: Write to write. Write because you when you sit down and immerse yourself in the world you've created, you think the hours that fly by are hours well-spent. Write because you love your characters--for their flaws as much as their positive attributes--and because you think someone else might, too. Write because everything makes more sense when you do, and because you don't know what you'd do if you didn't.

Then revise.

And THEN think about whether you want to pursue publication.

Tricia Rayburn's first novel, THE MELTING OF MAGGIE BEAN, was just released by Aladdin/Simon and Schuster as one of the launch titles for MIX, a new line for 'tweens. MAGGIE BEAN STAYS AFLOAT, a sequel, will follow in Spring 2008. Tricia holds a BA from Middlebury College and an MFA from Long Island University. A recovering chocoholic who enjoys the occasional relapse, Tricia lives near the beach at the end of Long Island.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Meme-Girls Fun!

"This Meme Girls Original Meme is for anyone who's ever daydreamed about meeting their favorite author. You can only use each author once, so choose your answers carefully!"

Okay, I've decided to do this straight YA style!

1. If you could meet any author in the world, who would you choose?

Oh this is tough. I'll go ahead ahead with one of my fave YA authors, Sarah Dessen!

2. You've won a Super Special contest, and as a result, you get to have five authors over for dinner. Who do you invite and why? For bonus points, describe the evening.

Okay, I can't use Sarah Dessen again! Of course, Tina Ferraro. Laurie Halse Anderson, and my YA pals Jenny O'Connell, Ally Carter, and let's add Cecil Castellucci because she seems like a really cool person to chat with! And I'd keep it pretty casual, with music, pizza and who could say no to cake??

3. A medium approaches you and says that you've been chosen to receive a visit from a dead writer of your choice... who do you ask the medium to channel and what would you ask them?

Totally V.C. Andrews, and I'd ask what was her back story behind writing Flowers in the Attic?

4. What author would you most like to read your writing?

Hmm, um, Steph Hale because she said she would. lol!

5. If you could pick one writer to write the story of your life, who would you choose?

Dominique Paul because she rocks writing about the eighties!

6. If you could co-write a book with any author, who would you most like to collaborate with?

Of course, if I could I'd choose Tina, bo-bina. ;) Definitely Allison van Diepen because she writes edgy and I love to edgy!

7. If you could give one series author input on the next book in their series, who would it be and what would you tell them?

I haven't read many YA series books. Any recommendations?

Pick a meme question and answer in the comments if you'd like to play!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Graduation Day

High schools in my area are having their commencement exercises, and I’ve been enjoying asking graduates--new and old alike--what was going through their minds at that time.

I have found a wide range of answers. Some people were glad to just have high school over. Some wanted it to go forever. Some were jazzed about their next steps. Some were undecided or scared.

For me, it was a combination of feelings. I knew I'd stay close to my friends, so I didn’t experience any loss there. And I was, quite frankly, sick and tired of the same four walls, of the rules and restrictions, and of certain teachers and classmates and their attitudes. I wanted very much to be free...

But freedom for me meant owning up to all my big talk about becoming a writer. While the desire burned in me, I feared I lacked the talent, the contacts, and the guts to make it happen. And eventually, I was going to need to earn a steady paycheck. But doing...what?

In other words, did graduation mean the end of my dreams?

(In case you’re wondering, I eventually found a good compromise. After college, I took a job typing scientific manuscripts at a university that offered great benefits--including 50% off tuition to their evening Writers' Program. The typing was dull, but my writing grew in leaps and bounds. Plus, one morning this handsome grad student named Ferraro came through my door...and three kids later, I sold my first book to Delacorte Press.)

How about you? If you’re a high school graduate, how did you feel on graduation day? And for those of you yet to graduate, any thoughts on how you expect to feel?