Visiting Author Series: Stacey Lee

We’re delighted to welcome Stacey Lee to Sixteen to Read’s Visiting Author Series. Stacey published her debut novel, the critically acclaimed Under a Painted Sky, with Putnam in 2015. In May 2016, she followed it up with Outrun the Moon, which Kirkus has called “powerful, evocative, and thought-provoking.” Stacey’s third novel, The Secret of a Heart Note, is due out from Katherine Tegen Books on December 27.

Sixteen to Read’s Sonya Mukherjee recently chatted with Stacey about writing, publishing, and what she’s learned so far.

Stacey, thanks so much for taking the time to drop by. To begin, we’d love to hear about the earliest stages of your career. What was the querying process like for you with your first book, Under a Painted Sky?

I began querying when I was fifteen, and that was a very long time ago, before there were computers. All told, I queried about seven different projects at various stages of my life, from picture books to YA. Each project received more nibbles than the prior one, and so I knew I was moving in the right direction at least. Plus, with the advent of the Internet, it became easier to figure out what I was doing right or wrong through sites like Query Shark.

For more detailed information about perfecting a query letter, my agent Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency and I chatted about my original query for UAPS at Literary Rambles.

What aspect of the publishing experience was most surprising for you that first time around? And what was the most fun?

I was surprised by how many people it takes to make a book. There are so many people involved with getting a book on the shelf, marketing people, salespeople, publicists—I’m still not sure I met everyone who worked on UAPS! The most fun was meeting some great author friends along the way. I couldn’t have done it without their support!

Your first two novels were both historical, while The Secret of a Heart Note, which comes out next, is contemporary. What drew you to writing historical characters and settings? And after starting with historical, what appealed to you about contemporary?

As a fourth generation Californian, I always wondered about those Chinese ancestors of mine who first touched down on American soil. So that’s what led me to write UAPS, as well as my second historical, Outrun the Moon. But I also love writing in other genres, like contemporary with a little magic, which is how I describe The Secret of a Heart Note. That one arose from my odd synesthetic ability to ‘hear’ different scents and my interest in natural perfumery. It’s different animal than my historicals, but everyone who has read it says they can tell it’s me who wrote it.

What’s your writing process like? Has it changed over time?

I brainstorm on paper. I take lots of walks to develop those ideas, then plot out some emotional beats I’d like to hit. Then I start writing soon after I get a general outline going. It’s definitely an organic process for me, and often what and who I intend to write about changes along the way.

You’ve been quite prolific. Your first book just came out last year, and you have two out in 2016. How do you balance your writing time with all the other tasks related to publishing and promoting your work? Do you have set schedules or plans that help you divide your time?

I don’t watch TV! I just have to clip bits of time here and there and hope and pray it all gets done! With two kids, it’s definitely a challenge because I don’t start writing until around 9 or 10 pm. I stop around 1 or 2 am.

Can you share anything about what you’re working on next?

Another historical that might or might not involve stagecoaches. J

Lightning round:

Favorite writing beverage: iced coffee with almond milk

Favorite place to write: in my home office

Music to write by: I need quiet. I get too distracted by song lyrics.

Last book you read: I’m reading The Reader by Traci Chee.

Author from the past you’d most want to meet: LA Meyer, author of the Bloody Jack series, who passed away in 2015.

First thing you’d do if you could time travel to one of your novels’ settings: What a great question. I’d learn how to ride a horse.

Best thing about living in the 21st century when not time traveling: Anesthesia.

stacey-lee-profile-picture-1024x683

Visiting Author Series: Karole Cozzo

We’re thrilled to welcome Karole Cozzo to Sixteen to Read’s Visiting Author Series. Karole’s debut novel, How to Say I Love You Out Loud, was recently named a Carolyn W. Field Honor Book by the PA Library Association. Her sophomore novel, How to Keep Rolling After a Fall, will be released next month. And, to top it off, her publisher, Macmillan’s Swoon Reads, just announced her third novel, The Truth About Happily Ever After, slated for a 2017 release.

Recently, Karole took some time away from her busy writing and editing schedule to chat with Jennifer DiGiovanni.

Jennifer: Congratulations on all your success, Karole! And thank you for stopping by to share your thoughts about the debut author experience with us. First of all, we’d love to know how you came up with the idea for your first novel.

Karole: At the time I was working in an Approved Private School for students with disabilities. The family members were so resilient and amazing, and a lot of times, siblings had to put up with a LOT in the name of meeting the needs of a brother or sister. I started thinking how difficult this must be at times, often having your needs put second, especially during adolescence, and I thought it would be interesting to write a story from the sibling’s perspective, which seemed like something new and different to me. And I will always want to include some element of romance in my stories, so I looked for a way to work in a little bit of love, too!

Jennifer: Your stories are always swoony and romantic! Thinking back to the debut of your first novel, what surprised you the most about the publishing process?

Karole: Two primary experiences come to mind – first, the way the editing process actually worked was a bit of a surprise. I went in thinking editors would mostly focus on rewording this or that exchange or maybe just cutting large chunks. I didn’t realize it was such a collaborative process that involved strengthening the book as a whole from its very core and how much rewriting/reworking is involved at times. At first, it was scary as anything – I didn’t know if I would rise to the occasion or end up destroying the original story. But over time, I’ve actually come to truly love the editing process and the product I end up with afterward.

Second, it took me some time to accept that realization that publication of a debut novel does not grant you direct access to some of the experiences we hope to have as published authors. As many of us know, the road to publication is so long and arduous, that when we reach the coveted holy grail, we want to feel like we’ve ‘made it.’ The truth is, there’s still a tall ladder to climb in terms of increasing readership and sales, developing a following, being asked to participate in larger book conferences, etc, etc. You definitely don’t become World Famous Author overnight. There’s a lot of ongoing development as an author, but after getting a grasp on this, I feel motivated and excited to keep trying to rise to new challenges.

Jennifer: Your publishing journey included crowd sourcing, which is an alternative many writers may not necessarily consider. Can you tell us why it worked for you?

Karole: At the time How to Say I Love You Out Loud was selected for publication, I was a full-time working mom of two children under four. I barely had time to write, let alone take on the daunting and overwhelming query process. The fact that the Swoon Reads community gave me direct access to editors at a large publishing house was so appealing to me! And in the meantime, it was a great opportunity to get to know other YA authors and receive feedback on my stories. It really felt like win-win to me.

Jennifer: I also love the fact that you’re a school psychologist. How have your work experiences shaped your novels and characters?

Karole: As far as How to Say I Love You Out Loud and How To Keep Rolling After a Fall were concerned, I was inspired to write these books because of ‘hot topics’ that were the focus of a lot of discussion and/or trainings (e.g., autism awareness/advocacy, cyberbullying, mean girls, etc.). I wanted to reach teens and provoke thought, reflection, and discussion in a manner that wouldn’t seem preachy or prescriptive. The idea of approaching these topics through fiction, especially with flawed/imperfect characters at the helm, was appealing to me and I hope appealing to readers as well. And just by nature, the part of me that was drawn to the field of psychology… I love thinking about motivation and development and personality. I always feel like the emotional aspects of my stories are stronger than my plots.

Jennifer: What’s your writing routine like? I know you’re a huge planner / outliner.

Karole: Yes, I am. I like to create tables that have a column for plot and a column for character development for each chapter. I also *try* to make myself write stories in sequential order. Sometimes there’s a chapter I’m just itching to write, but I try to think of it as a reward to getting that far! On the rare occasion, I cheat.

Jennifer: I’ve also been known to cheat, especially in the first draft! Are you working on anything else right now that you can talk about?

Karole: Right now my third Swoon Reads novel, The Truth About Happily Ever After, is in editing. This story’s really fun to work on, because it’s less of an “issues” book than my other two. I hope it pans out as a great summer read – it’s set in a theme park during the summer, and the main character, Alyssa, plays Cinderella at the park. I’m not quite sure what I’m working on after edits are done, but I have a few ideas churning around.

Jennifer: I can’t wait to see what you come up with next! We here at Sixteen to Read love our lightning round questions! I know you’re a coffee drinker, so we’ll start with …

Favorite Starbucks beverage?

Grande vanilla latte with a sprinkle of cinnamon
Favorite writing snack?
Haribo red licorice wheels
Favorite movie based on a book?
In Her Shoes, because this was the ONE instance I thought the movie was better than the book.
Last book you read?
I just finished No Love Allowed by fellow Swoon author, Kate Evangelista – fun summer read!
Favorite time / place to write?
Mornings during the summer, in my sunroom
Jennifer: Thank you so much for visiting with us, Karole. We can’t wait to read ALL of your books!
If you’d like to connect with Karole, she’s on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook! You can also visit her Goodreads page for more information.
Karole Cozzo

Happy Release Day! INTO THE DIM

Today is the release day for Janet B. Taylor’s time-travel YA, INTO THE DIM. We hope you’ve already pre-ordered your copy of this fantastic fantasy!!

INTO THE DIM

Some lovely things people have said about Janet B. Taylor’s debut:

“Debut author Taylor adeptly blends the fantastical and the historical as she sends her reluctant heroine back to the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine in order to save her mother. Taylor’s writing is bright with detail and her plot dense with action as Hope learns to be brave and resourceful when circumstances turn dire.”
Publishers Weekly

“Instantly engaging, constantly suspenseful, ultimately poignant and satisfying. Loved it!”–Diana Gabaldon, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Outlander series

“Janet B. Taylor’s absorbing novel keeps the action moving with well-timed revelations, deftly drawn historical events and personages, and a sparks-flying romance.”–School Library Journal

Into the Dim is a time-travel adventure that will leave readers breathless. Janet Taylor has woven a story that will capture action seekers and romance lovers and pull them along for the ride.”—Joelle CharbonneauNew York Times bestselling author of THE TESTING trilogy

“Janet B. Taylor’s Into the Dim shines bright.  This debut time travel novel captures the imagination and takes the reader on a fascinating journey to 12th century England, deftly weaving historical characters like Eleanor of Aquitaine and Thomas Becket into the drama.  Rich with period detail, and an intriguing lead character, this is YA science fiction at its best.” —Rysa Walker, author of The Chronos Files Series

“Janet B. Taylor’s Into the Dim is one truly enjoyable read. A fast-paced, time-travel adventure with rogue Tesla science and Middle Ages history, it will make you want to jump back into the English court, after a proper round of smallpox and typhoid vaccines, of course.” —Kendare Blake, author of Anna Dressed in Blood

“The perfect blend of mystery, sci-fi, action, cute guys, romance, history and gorgeous Scotland!” Justine magazine

!Giveaway! CROSSING THE LINE

CROSSING THE LINEIn the spy world, advanced intel is crucial.

This is your chance to score big and swipe an early copy of CROSSING THE LINE! The book doesn’t release until April 12th, but one lucky reader will get to scoop up an ARC and uncover the world of the Raven Files before everyone else!
Here’s a bit more about CROSSING THE LINE…
When Jocelyn Steely was kidnapped by a North Korean spy agency, she was only a little girl. Young. Scared. Powerless. And completely moldable.

Now, ten years later, she’s a ruthless assassin. Yet her target isn’t who you might think. Jocelyn is determined to escape her kidnappers and take down North Korea and their spy agency forever.

But when she makes it to U.S. soil, she finds that not everyone believes her story. Will she be able to get the Americans to trust her? Or will the North Koreans discover her deception before she has a chance?

In this life-or-death action-packed spy thriller, Meghan Rogers creates a teen girl character whose toughness, intelligence and determination rival Jason Bourne, Sydney Bristow and James Bond.

The first novel in the Raven Files series will leave you breathless.
From the author: “CROSSING THE LINE centers around a badass hero who is fighting her way out of a life she didn’t choose, and who is determined to do whatever it takes put a stop to her former captors–even if it means working with the enemy. The stakes have never been higher for Jocelyn, and this is just the beginning of her story.” – Meghan Rogers

You can read more about the inspiration behind CROSSING THE LINE CROSSING THE LINE inspiration.
How do you enter to get your hands on this amazing debut?
1. Follow this blog
2. Follow @sixteentoread on twitter
3. Tweet about the contest (be sure to tag @sixteentoread)
4. Email sixteentoreadgiveaways@gmail.com with your name, and the title of this giveaway: ARC of CROSSING THE LINE. Please put in subject line “16toRead Challenge”.
Each option earns one entry for our giveaway. We will choose a winner on February 29th and announce on Twitter. Contest closes at midnight (EST) on February 28th.

Supersize Me! Your Biggest You! by Darcy Woods

Happy Monday, All! Since Mondays do tend to come in on the dreary side, we thought we’d lift your spirits with a little gem from the blog archives of Darcy Woods. This is like a #tbt, but on a Monday–when we need it most! Happy Mondaying all!

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Going out on submission. Page 1 of a new story. Losing the Marauder’s Map to your muse.

Any of those things inspire fear in your writerly soul or trigger the insta-welt of hives? They do for me. And it’s funny, because the more scary something is—in life, writing, or otherwise—the smaller I want to become. Seriously. I want to collapse all my atomic space and compress to the size of a dime. Then someone can just stick me under the couch cushion where I’ll be safe and snuggly beside a forgotten Cheez-It. (And bonus—there are snacks here!)

But guess what? You can’t shrink yourself. I know because I’ve tried. So now I’m going to suggest something even more soul quaking…

The times you want to be your smallest are ALWAYS the times you need to be your biggest.

Yeah. The universe does this on purpose. I call it a Moxie Check. There are times I’ve failed and times I’ve succeeded. And in the spirit of this, I’d like to share an anecdotal success that led to a failure. Sorta. How’s that for ambiguous?

 Darcy is the smiley soldier, third row up and second from right

Darcy is the smiley soldier, third row up and second from right

In 1995, I had just been nominated “Soldier of the Brigade” at the US Army Aviation post where I was stationed in Germany. If I recall, (though, I confess my mind can be a tad Swiss cheesy) the qualifiers had to do with your physical training scores, weaponry skills, and occupational performance. Meaning I was a stellar helicopter refueler. Some girls wore perfume, I wore Fleur de Jet Fuel #8.

Anyway, there were a total of four nominees who would be pitted against each other before a panel of high brass commanders. (Think Hunger Games but with mental carnage.) The commanders would ask rapid-fire questions testing your knowledge of all things military: What is M.O.P. level-3? How do you perform a tourniquet? Plus you’d be asked to execute basic drill movements—About face! Forward march! Then they wouldn’t shout, Halt! Until you ran into a wall.

Needless to say, when the day of competition arrived, I was terrified. Especially when I saw the three male soldiers—massive, focused, and unflinching—I was competing against. And to make matters worse…I was the last to be called into the room. Heh. No pressure.

So there I stood, sweating outside the door and having a shrink-me-to-a-dime-shove-me-under-the-couch-cushion moment. Total Moxie Check. I remember staring at the ugly linoleum and thinking it looked like Rocky Road ice cream. Then trying not to projectile vomit because I was so terrified AND hate Rocky Road ice cream. But I knew, I knew I had to make a huge entrance. That’s when I got the command to knock and wait for permission to enter. *cue hyperventilation* But you know what I did? Even though I felt tiny and scared and insignificant? I dug deep down inside and…

I kicked the door. Three sonic boot booms. Bam. Bam. Bam.

I wish you could’ve seen the looks on their faces when I marched in. Eyebrows buoyed. Mouths gaped. And words were…mumbled. Yet somehow, despite feeling as wiggly as Jell-O during an elephant stampede, I managed to show them my biggest me.

If you’re wondering whether I won the title of Soldier of the Brigade, I didn’t. I lost. But I won a lot of respect that day—from no person higher ranking than myself. Because that was the day I learned bravery has nothing to do with the absence of fear. It’s the grit and determination to surge ahead…in spite of it.

The times you want to be your smallest are ALWAYS the times you need to be your biggest.

I know. That’s a tall order. Which is why you’ll need your biggest you. Now go kick some ass. The world is waiting.

And if you have a Moxie Check moment to share, I am all ears!

INTO THE DIM ARCs ARE HERE!

The glorious ARCs for Janet B. Taylor’s YA time-travel debut INTO THE DIM have arrived and they are splendorously spectacular! Not to mention, how adorable is Sixteen to Read author Janet B. Taylor? The Most Adorable, that’s how adorable!

INTO THE DIM ARCsINTO THE DIM ARCs IIINTO THE DIM ARCs III

“Seventy-two hours, then we have to be back at the clearing. Sunrise on the third day.”

Being “the homeschooled girl,” in a small town, Hope Walton’s crippling phobias and photographic memory don’t help her fit in with her adoptive dad’s perfectly blonde Southern family. But when her mother is killed in a natural disaster thousands of miles from home, Hope’s secluded world crumbles. After an aunt she’s never met invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic. She’s a member of a secret society of time travelers, and is actually trapped in the twelfth century in the age of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Now Hope must conquer her numerous fears and travel back in time to help rescue her mother before she’s lost for good. Along the way, she’ll discover more family secrets, and a mysterious boy who could be vital to setting her mother free… or the key to Hope’s undoing.

Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.

INTO THE DIM releases March 1, 2016 and is available for pre-order now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sneak Peeks at Shelfies

Libraries are our friends, and home libraries are our besties. Here are some Sixteen To Read author shelfies.

Jennie K. Brown, author of POPPY MAYBERRY, THE MONDAY

Jennie K. Brown, author of POPPY MAYBERRY, THE MONDAY

from Meghan Rogers, author of the 2016 YA Thriller CROSSING THE LINE

Meghan Rogers, author of CROSSING THE LINE

from Jennifer DiGiovanni, author of the YA Contemporary MY SENIOR YEAR OF AWESOME

Jennifer DiGiovanni, author of MY SENIOR YEAR OF AWESOME

FIRSTS (Thomas Dunne Books/St Martin's Press, 1.5.2016)  Editor: Kat Brzozowski  Agent: Kathleen Rushall  @laurellizabeth  www.laurieelizabethflynn.com

Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, author of FIRSTS

YA Contemporary: UNDERWATER  Macmillan/FSG, 1/12/16  Editor: Joy Peskin  Agent: Kate Testerman, KT Literary  www.youngadultish.com

Marisa Reichardt, author of UNDERWATER

Jennifer Bardsley, author of BLANK SLATE

Jennifer Bardsley, author of BLANK SLATE