Shootin’ The Breeze With Jessica Spotswood


Hello Readers!

Just because it’s Thanksgiving (weekend) doesn’t mean that I don’t have some fun stuff planned! As you already know I read and LOVED! Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood. So much so, that immediately after finishing the book – which I gobbled up in a mere few sittings – I e-mailed her to see if she’d be willing to answer a few questions for the blog.

And she said yes!

Before jumping into the interview, in case you didn’t already know this, Jessica Spotswood  is the author of the Cahill Witch Chronicles (which include: Born Wicked, Star Cursed, and Sisters’ Fate),  A Tyranny of Petticoats, and of course her latest Wild Swans.   If you want to know more about Jessica, and all of her fabulous books, make sure to check her out online!

So, sit back and relax while getting to know this awesome author a little better!

BookBandit Blog (BB): Can you tell a little about yourself, and about your path as a writer?

Jessica Spotswood (JS): I live in Washington, DC with my playwright husband and a very old cat named Monkey. In addition to writing and editing YA books, I also work part-time for the DC Public Library as a children’s library associate. I’ve been writing since I was in fourth grade; I started off writing stories about horses at the stables where I took riding lessons. In high school, I wrote three historical fiction novels that were all sort of terrible Gone with the Wind knockoffs about headstrong girls who rode horses and kissed boys and fought with their sisters during the Civil War.  (I also rode horses and fought with my sisters and wanted to kiss boys? And I read a lot about the Civil War because I grew up near Gettysburg.) I focused on theatre in college and then grad school, but after grad school, when I got to read for fun again, I started reading YA. I fell in love with it and started writing again. I spent three years writing and rewriting and rewriting my first YA book, which was about an artist who finds a portal to another world where artists are considered dangerous enemies of the state. I got an agent with that book, but it ultimately didn’t sell. Over the nine months it was on submission though, I wrote Born Wicked which sold to Penguin as a trilogy and came out in 2012.

BB: What was the inspiration behind your latest book, Wild Swans?

JS: In 2014 I read April Tucholke’s creepy-gorgeous novel Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, in which the setting – a crumbling old family mansion called the Citizen Kane- functions almost as another character. I wanted to challenge myself to write a contemporary book where the setting played a really important role, and I wanted to write something set on Chesapeake Bay, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where I went to college. Originally, the book was going to be sort of Southern Gothic with a ghost; I ended up cutting the ghost. But when I thought about what kind of girl would live in a big old (first literally, then metaphorically) haunted farmhouse that had been in her family for generations, a girl who’d been raised by her strict professor granddad, I came up with bookish heroine, Ivy.

BB: If you had to describe Wild Swans only using three words, what three words would you use to describe it?

JS: This one is way harder than The Cahill Witch Chronicles, which was always witches + sisters + kissing. A Tyranny of Pettycoats is easy, too: badass historical girls! It’s right in the subtitle!

Um …. I’m going to go with: family + expectations + legacy.

BB: How did writing Wild Swans differ from writing your other books?

JS: The biggest difference is that it’s contemporary, not historical, and there’s no magic! I’ve always felt very like a very character-driven writer, but I really had to dive deep into my characters and the relationships in the book – Ivy and her troubled, selfish mom; Ivy and her two half-sisters she’s never met before; Ivy and her granddad, who has very high expectations for her; Ivy and her fierce best friends, Claire and Abby; Ivy and her forever best friend, Alex, who is in love with her; Ivy and her granddad’s hot tattooed poetry student, Connor. The stakes were about Ivy’s fears of being like her mom and disappointing the people she loves, not about being hanged for witchery in a society where magic is outlawed 🙂

BB: Poetry is a big part of Wild Swans. Who is your favorite poet, what is your favorite poem, and why?

JS: I love Mary Oliver’s poem “When Death Comes,” especially the lines When it’s over, I want to say all my life/I was a bride married to amazement. The whole poem is really lovely, but I think those lines in particular remind me to never lose my sense of wonder. I have anxiety and depression, and it’s easy for my brain to focus on the zillion things I could worry about instead of all of the tiny beautiful moments.

BB: If you could offer any advice to aspiring writers, what advice would you offer?

JS: Read lots. Write lots. Find someone you trust to give you feedback on your work. Ask them what they like and what they want to see more of as well as what didn’t work for them and what confused them. It’s important to learn to take constructive criticism and figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are.


Great interview, right! A big THANK YOU to author Jessica Spotswood for taking time out of her very busy schedule to answer a few of our burning questions! If you haven’t read Wild Swans or any of Jessica’s other books, what are you waiting for?!

For more information, check Jessica’s website out for more information about her and her books!

Shootin’ the Breeze With Sarah Jude


Hello Readers!

Let me tell you a little story. A few months ago, while walking the floor of ALA’s Mindwinter meeting, I spotted a book. I didn’t know much about what this book was about and at that point I hadn’t heard of the author. But judging from the (beautiful) cover I knew I needed to read this book! I have no explanation why, but I just knew I needed to read this book. That book was The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude.

I was lucky enough to be given an advanced copy of this book from the publisher (thanks Houghton Mifflin Harcourt!). A few short weeks later I read the book, my mind reeling and spinning in every direction. I loved it! But you knew that based on my review already.

Anyway,  after reading I knew I had to chat with author Sarah Jude. And fortunately for me, and for you dear readers, she so graciously agreed to do an author interview!

Want to know what we talked about? Well, wait no more!

BookBandit (BB): Can you tell a little about yourself, and your path as a writer?

Sarah Jude (SJ): I think my Twitter profile sums me up best: Episcopalian, Mama, Authoress. My husband and I have been together since we were teens, and we have three children. If I’m not writing, I’m probably in the garden, curled up with my dogs, or at a stable getting in some horse time.

I’m open about having anxiety, panic attacks, and OCD. Writing is therapeutic. I knew very young that I wanted to be an author. Life derailed that dream when I lost my mom and had my daughter in short order, but after a few years, I tried again and signed with my agent, Miriam Kriss. In 2012, I began writing MQM. She pushed me to finish as she knew it would be the one.

BB:  What was the inspiration behind your upcoming novel, The May Queen Murders?

SJ:  MQM came from a few different places. I live near woods and water, and it’s a short ride before I find myself in the Ozarks foothills. The superstitions paved the way for the story to come about. It was the first time I’d ever written about female friendships and explored the ugly side of being close to someone.

BB: What kind of research went into writing this book?

SJ: I spent time talking to people who lived deep in the Ozarks. It’s a different way of life from the suburbs or cities. The appreciation for family stories and history is palpable. I also looked into off-the-grid communes where the people have solar power and hydroelectricity but lag in modern technology, along with some of the challenges they face when trying to be part of a bigger community.

BB: One of the first things I noticed, almost immediately,  while reading, is the color red. What significance does this color hold in regards to The May Queen Murders?

SJ: Red is a lot of different things. It’s eye-catching. It’s blood. It’s life. It’s pain or anger. It’s fire and passion. We use red in our warning signs, and Ivy’s certainly looking for signs.

BB: Besides the color read, I also picked up on your character names – why did you choose to name your characters after various plant life?

SJ: The characters who live in Rowan’s Glen have a naming tradition, and it goes back to the generation that founded the commune. In trying to get away from their modern society at the time, they chose names from nature as a way to be close to the land.

BB: If you had to describe The May Queen Murders in three words, what three words would you choose to describe it?

SJ: Mystery, community, secrets.

BB: A big part of the May Queen Murders is the environment in which the characters were raised – an environment filled with superstition and aged traditions. Is there one superstition and/or tradition that you held on to that helped inspire the ways of your characters?

SJ: The Ozarks traditions obviously influenced me. The old-timers have interesting beliefs about everything from predicting the weather to bringing a murderer to justice. This one man, a retired horticulturist, took me out on a boat and spoke of how they’d watch the trees and the river to know what was coming, both weather-wise and event-wise.

BB: What was the most challenging aspect of writing the May Queen Murders? What was the easiest part?

SJ: MQM picked at my old scars. A friend of mine was murdered when we were young adults, the cousin of my oldest friend. We all grew up together and were like family, and then she was gone. Female friendships are complex, and one of the things Ivy has to do is take a step back and look at her relationship with Heather as a whole rather than one argument or one day of laughter. It’s a hard thing to do.

The easiest aspect was Ivy’s relationship with the land and enjoyment of a simple life. I try to get away from all the busyness of day-to-day life and find those quiet moments.

BB: Can you tell of any upcoming projects you are working on?

SJ: I have a few projects in my pocket, though I’m not ready to discuss them. I will always write darker stories of mystery and murder and people with secrets, stories that explore sexuality, psychology, and faith.

BB: What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

SJ: One of the best things you can do is friend a critique partner or critique group who understand your writing and your story. Learn which people will give you feedback that resonates with you. Not everyone who reads your work is the right critic, but when you find someone who is, hang on tight. My main critique group has been together for over seven years. While our careers are busier and we don’t critique as much, we brainstorm, listen, and support one another. They are some of my dearest friends.

Well there you have it, dear readers! I don’t know about you, but after chatting with Sarah Jude, and learning more about the May Queen Murders, I want to read it all over again! And I hope it makes you want to run out and read this book!

Before signing off I just want to say THANK YOU to author Sarah Jude for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions! Please be sure to check out, not only her book the May Queen Murders, but also check her out online!

Shootin’ the Breeze With Charlotte Huange


Hello Readers!

And happy Sunday! Today is a special post. Today I’m chatting with Charlotte Huang, author of For the Record. As you know, I loved it.  I loved that it focused, not just what happens on stage, but also what happens off the stage. I loved it so much I needed the scoop on it. So I reached out to author Charlotte Huang, and asked if she’d be willing to answer a few questions. And graciously, she did! Lucky for us!

And this is what we chatted about …

BookBandit (BB): Can you tell a little about yourself and about your path as a writer?

Charlotte Huang (CH): I grew up in the Boston area and wanted to be a writer since I was maybe in second grade. I always loved to read and make up stories but it was a very long time before I approached writing in an organized way. After college I worked in a bank, went to graduate school for business, and then worked in advertising in New York for several years. But when my husband and I moved to Los Angeles we didn’t know anyone here so I decided it was the perfect time to take writing classes. I consider that to be the point that I started to pursue writing seriously.

BB: What was the inspiration behind your debut, For the Record?

CH: A piece of writing advice we hear a lot is, “Write what you know.” Because my husband and many of our friends work in the music industry, I’ve been to hundreds of shows and listened in on many conversations about the business side of being in a band. And I thought about how being a rock star is such a popular dream and yet there’s so much that goes into being successful in a band that not many people know about. I wanted to explore and bring that to light more.

BB: In terms of For the Record, what was the best part of writing it, and what was the hardest part?

CH: The best part of writing it was being able to use all the little bits of information and anecdotes that have been taking up space in my brain for years. The hardest part was probably deciding what to exclude. I still have so many stories—I could probably write another book.

BB: If you had to describe your debut using only three words, what three words would you use to describe it?

CH: Fun, authentic, adventure-filled.

BB: What kind of research did you do in preparation of writing For the Record.

CH: I didn’t have to do a lot but when I didn’t know something, I had a lot of experts to call upon. I consulted with a friend who is in a band, a tour manager friend, my husband, and a girl friend who does live on a tour bus from time to time.

BB: For the Record is filled with a lot of great characters. Which one of your character would you say you see yourself most in?

CH: Hmmm, honestly, I’m a little bit like all of them. I’m probably most like Beckett though. I think of him as being creative but practical at the same time. He also gives people a chance but expects a lot from those around him.

BB: If have to ask this — who is your favorite musician and/or band?

CH: I don’t have a favorite! It truly varies with the situation and my mood. In terms of live shows, I love going to see the Foo Fighters, My Morning Jacket, and The Pixies, but I rarely sit around my house listening to their albums.

BB: If you were to create a playlist to describe For the Record, what bands and songs would be on it?

CH: I always say I really hope people will picture a band that they personally love when they’re reading about Melbourne. That said, here are a few songs that I think feel right:
“Bros,” by Wolf Alice
“The Mother We Share,” by CHVRCHES
“Our Own House,” by MisterWives
“How to Be a Heartbreaker,” by Marina and the Diamonds
“Punching in a Dream,” by The Naked and Famous
“If I Could Change Your Mind,” by HAIM

BB: Can you tell anything of any upcoming projects you are working on? With that, will us readers see Chelsea in any upcoming books?

CH: I’m just in the final editorial stages of my second YA novel from Delacorte, which is called, GOING GEEK. It’s due out in September and it’s another standalone contemporary! Unfortunately, Chelsea doesn’t have a role in this one but you never know–maybe she’ll make another appearance one day!

BB: What advice would you offer to aspiring writers?

CH: When I was starting out, I asked a screenwriter friend to read something I wrote. She wasn’t particularly impressed but she said, “I think you’ll be successful one day because you actually finished something. Do you know how many people say they want to be writers but never actually finish a project?” Now when someone tells me that they’re interested in getting published, that’s one of the first questions I ask. So my best piece of advice is, you have to finish something. I firmly believe that there’s something psychologically important that happens when you finish and also that you have to get to the end of at least a draft before you really know what you have.


So there you have it readers, isn’t Charlotte great!? I want to say THANK YOU to Charlotte for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me/the blog.  Readers, she’s awesome, and you shoud all run out and pick up a copy of For the Record. In the meantime, check her outline for more information about her, her writing, and obviously her books!


Shootin’ The Breeze With Emma Yarlett


Hello Readers!

Today is an exciting day here on the blog. Why? Well, today is the day that I am chatting with the very talented Emma Yarlett!

She  is a picture book author and illustrator who I recently discovered and adored since the moment I cracked open her latest book Orion and The Dark. But you all knew that already since you read my review, right?!?

Anyway, Emma is here chatting a bit about hereself and of course her books!

BookBandit (BB):  Can you tell a little about yourself and about your path as a writer/illustrator?

Emma Yarlett (EY): My name is Emma Yarlett, and I am a 25-year-old illustrator and author living in Falmouth in Cornwall. Falmouth is a really beautiful little quirky town on the coast of England and a truly wonderful place to live. When I moved to Falmouth in 2008 to study illustration at university my journey as an illustrator/writer really began. I’ve always had a deep interest in children picture books, and when I began studying it became apparent very quickly that this was the route for me.

I centered majority of my studies upon storytelling, particularly for children. Eventually this led me to book a plane ticket for Bologna in Italy for the Bologna Book Fair- an international books rights fair with a big focus on children’s books. Here I wandered around approaching publishers and showing my portfolio and ideas for books… this led to my first picture book deal with the wonderful Amanda Wood at Templar (the book was called Sidney and his Shadow– more on that in a moment!) and as they say… the rest is history!

BB: What was the inspiration for your newest picture book, Orion and the Dark?

EY: The first little droplet idea for Orion and the Dark happened way back in 2011. Fresh from graduation, I had a university spawned book called Sidney and his Shadow firmly gripped in one hand, with my portfolio gripped in the other. I soon found my way into the publishing world and quickly realised that this one little book held two ideas which when divided could form the start of two whole separate picture books. Sidney, Stella and the Moon was born quickly followed by Orion and the Dark.

A year or two later (after Sidney, Stella and the Moon was firmly on the book shop shelves), Templar and I officially began work on picture book number two; Orion and the Dark.

Having had Orion and his dear pal the Dark wandering around in my brain for so long, the process of oozing their story from thoughts onto paper came rather quickly. I started with a set of thumbnails, and these early ideas for layout really formed the skeleton of the finished published book of today. There was a bit of toing and froing with die cuts and novelty elements, and a few additions here and there to really get to grips with what Orion was scared of, but all in all these first thumbnails remained core to the printed books winging their way to a book store near you.

My dad and his massive nerdyness about space, the stars and NASA really was a massive inspiration. As a child I spent many an evening looking through telescopes at star formations, the surface of the moon and everything far and inbetween. These magical childhood memories really stuck with me and were massively drawn upon in the creation of my first and second book.

BB: Orion and the Dark isn’t your first picture book, Sidney, Stella, and the Moon is. What was the biggest difference between writing these two books?

EY: I think an author/illustrator’s first book is always a really experimental time. It can be quite uncomfortable as you are trying to achieve so much having never been through the process of being published before. I found I was putting all of my hopes and dreams into the creation of Sidney, Stella and the Moon, which meant I felt a huge amount of (self-inflicted) pressure. Orion and the Dark  was a much more organic process. My confidence had grown, I knew what the process was like and I knew what I wanted to achieve. Writing and illustrating Orion and the Dark was a hugely enjoyable experience.

BB: A big part of who Orion is as a character is fear – he’s afraid of everything. I feel like a lot of readers will see themselves within him (I know I saw myself in him). What aspects of Orion do you see yourself in, if any?

EY: Great question! I definitely feel there are similarities between myself and Orion, I think the main one being that nervousness he has to encounter and experience something new and spontaneous! I have a big fear of heights, and so when illustrating the book I tried to encapsulate that feeling of being fully encapsulated and engrossed in that fear.

BB: What comes first the words or pictures? With that what is your writing process like?

EY: The process of creating my picture books is a bit of a complex one. It might look to an onlooker that it’s the words that come first, as I spend days scribbling down words… but in fact the words and the pictures come together. I have a really vivid imagination and so will be drawing in my head whilst quickly trying to get the words down on paper. I have lots of ideas and don’t want to forget them, and I find writing down words quicker!

BB: If you had to describe your book in three words, what three words would you use to describe Orion and the Dark?

EY: Orion and the Dark: Conquering, Adventure, Friendship… and I can’t help myself so here’s a fourth word… MAGIC!

BB: What do you hope readers – young and old – take away from your books?

EY: Ooo I’m not quite sure. I really hope that they enjoy my books firstly! But I suppose secondly that they take away a feeling of magic, that anything and everything is possible, and that every person (however small and insignificant) is truly wonderful and unique, and has the ability inside them to do wonderful things

BB: Can you tell of any upcoming projects/books that you can talk about?

EY: My third picture book Poppy Pickle has just been published in the UK! Hopefully it will be making the jumps across the Atlantic in the next 12 months or so. It’s about a little girl with a big imagination who one day experiences something out of this world. Chaos and hilarity ensues as her imagination really quite literally begins to run wild.

BB: What advice can you offer to aspiring authors/illustrators?

EY: Work hard, Relax hard, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and let your work flow!


You guys! Isn’t Emma awesome!? She is, and I know you’re dying to run our and read her books. But before you do, make sure you check her out online, on her Tumblr, and even on Twitter!

A big THANK YOU to Emma for taking the time out of her very busy schedule to answer a few questions for the BookBandit Blog. It is greatly appreciated!

Synchronized Reading: Chelsey Philpot Interview


Hello Readers!

One of the most fun parts about this synchronized feature that Miss Print and I feature every so often on both of our blogs is getting to, not only talk about about a book we both loved, but getting to talk about and to the author of said book. In this case, author Chelsey Philpot.

Today, Chelsey is here to talk all about her debut novel, Even in Paradise.

Book Bandit (BB): A lot of Charlotte’s character is informed by the fact that she is an artist. How did you decide what kind of artist Charlotte would be? Did you always know that her artwork would play a large role in the story–particularly at the end?
Chelsey Philpot (CP): I am a total art geek. My idea of a perfect Saturday is one that begins at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and ends with a dance performance at the Institute of Contemporary Art. As of late, I’ve been particularly fascinated by found-art sculptures (the kind of works Charlotte creates). There’s just something so lovely about the idea that discarded and scarred objects can be transformed into art.
I knew one of Charlie’s works would play a role in the final chapter, because the sculpture, in a way, represents how she’s taken her memories (the good and the bad) and used them to make a beautiful life.
BB: While this story is very much focused on Charlotte’s friendship with Julia, there is also a bit of a mystery involved. As a writer, how did you go about pacing this aspect of the story and deciding what to reveal when?
CP: Oh boy, I am very much a need-to-write-multiple-drafts-before-I-get-to-where-I-need-to-be writer. Thus, my not very exciting answer is that I honed the pacing of the mystery over the course of many, many drafts.
It was really important to me that the mystery had layers, meaning that if readers figured out what happened before the end, they would keep reading to uncover why it happened.
BB: In Even in Paradise Charlotte begins to collect bottle caps with fun facts on them reminiscent of Snapple bottle cap facts. Do you have a favorite fact from a cap of your own?
CP: “Nantucket is not a part of Kentucky.” Found on a Nantucket Nectars bottle cap.
BB: Can you tell us anything about your next project?
CP: Yes! Book two is currently in my editor’s hands. I’m not ready to say too much about it other than that this is the novel I very much had to write after Even in Paradise.
BB: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?
CP: Really think about why you write. If it’s because you’ve already picked out a pen for the thousands of signings you’ll one day travel to or because you’ve finalize what stars are in the cast for the blockbuster film version of your first novel, these reasons won’t sustain you.
If you let it, writing can be a soul-crushing, heart-wrenching business. Successes are fleeting; criticisms are inevitable; and hard work is mandatory. Really, it’s the quieter joys (finding the perfect word, revisiting memories, getting a message from a fan) that make the hours of solitude and early mornings worth it.
Having a book published will not change your life—but writing, living bravely so you have experiences to write about, will.
A big THANK YOU to Chelsey Philpot for taking the time our of her schedule to answer a few questions for us! If you want to know more about Chelsey and her books, make sure to check her out online!
And while you’re checking things out online, head over to Miss Print’s blog to see her part of the interview!

Shootin’ the Breeze With Terra Elan McVoy


Hello Readers!

Today is a special day here on the blog. Today I’m featuring author Terra Elan McVoy here on The BookBandit Blog! As you know I recently read Drive Me Crazy, Terra’s debut middle grade novel. And as you also know I really loved this book.

So much so, that after reading I e-mailed Terra almost immediately. I knew I needed to feature, not only Drive Me Crazy, but also her on my blog! And I so very happy and grateful that she took the time to answer a few of my burning questions.

Sonya Sones Portrait  BookBandit (BB): Can you tell a little about yourself, and about your path as a writer?

Terra Elan McVoy (TEM): I started composing stories when I was about four years old—I would dictate them to my mom who typed them up on our old typewriter. From then on, writing was my favorite thing. I had a diary, I wrote long letters to my cousin, pen pal, aunt, and grandmother, and loved any writing activity at school. I got serious about it when I was in middle school (when I wrote my first novel and discovered ee cummings), and I continued on to study creative writing in both college and then grad school. I never aspired to make a living as a writer, however, because it’s so hard to make it; I thought I would write for pleasure (maybe an occasional story printed here or there), and earn my living another way. That’s how I’ve been doing things until about two and a half years ago, though I do still currently work part-time at an independent bookstore here in Atlanta. My first novel, Pure, began as something I was playing with for entertainment. With the help of my best friend Anica (who became my editor for six out of my seven books, including Drive Me Crazy), it got published, and things have continued on from there. I’m very blessed that my main job now is a thing that I love so much, and that I get to keep learning and growing in my favorite thing every day!

BB: What is the inspiration behind you debut middle grade, Drive Me Crazy?

TEM: There was a lot that inspired Drive Me Crazy, but three relationships in particular get the most credit. Very first is the connection I have with my editor, best friend, and writing collaborator, Anica Rissi. Every novel I’ve done, including this one, stems from some conversation (probably multiple conversations) we’ve had, often during a walk or while sharing some kind of fantastic dessert. Drive Me Crazy in particular emerged from a talk about middle grade books and what my writing one might look like. She had told me a horribly embarrassing story from her own history about a girl who’s diary had been found, and then read aloud on the bus, and that seemed too good a tale not to be used somehow. Luckily she was sweet and generous enough to let me run with something that came from her actual life!

There were other relationships we thought I could work with too: first is my connection with my cousin, Meg. To me, there’s something very unique about a strong cousin relationship: you’re not sisters, but you’re still family (so therefore attend the big family gatherings together). You have an opportunity to become a special kind of friend/relative with each other, and I wanted to write about that. Second, the idea of two girls who are seemingly opposite finding a point of connection was also inspiring to me. My oldest and dearest friend and I met when we were in second grade, but in middle school we went our separate ways for awhile (quite awhile—until our senior year, really), because she wanted to be a certain way and I wanted to be another. This tension between girls going through changes at that age was interesting to me, but I also knew from experience that it can be worked out. Also, I wanted to try my hand at doing something fun with grandparents, and Tess and Howie were certainly the answer!

BB: What is the biggest difference, you’ve found, writing young adult and writing middle grade fiction?

TEM: For me the biggest difference is there’s definitely far less self-analysis in middle grade. Sometimes that’s hard for me to remember when I’m writing, actually! When Lana is scared, she’s just sacred—she doesn’t have a big monologue with herself about why. If Cassie’s angry, she’s angry, and she doesn’t try to rationalize or justify it. Also, there’s far less romantic turmoil, and that was somewhat refreshing, I have to admit.

BB: If you were going on your own road trip, where would you go? And what would your music playlist look like?

TEM: When I was young, if my family went anywhere we drove instead of flying, so I love road trips. I think if I were to go on one now, I would like to drive from here (Atlanta) up to Idaho–an area of the country I’ve really never seen (there or much of anywhere between here and there). My playlist would be a mix of all kinds of things: broody crooners (I love the National, and Phox), upbeat, boppy dance hits (vintage Madonna, Gorillaz), and probably some good classic sing-alongs. I’d make sure and bring a whole range of things (definitely there’d need to be some Dave Matthews Band and John Mayer in there too), since your mood can shift so much depending on the landscape and how tired you are!

BB: Would you say you’re more like Lana, or Cassie?

TEM: It’s funny—throughout the writing of Drive Me Crazy I would go back and forth between whom I related to most. When I was in middle school myself, I think I was a Lana who desperately wished she could be a Cassie. So I was struggling with both of those identities at the same time, and in some ways still am!

BB: What challenges did you face creating two main characters who are so vastly different? With that, each girl faces some tough issues, what was the challenge in creating these issues?

TEM: Creating friends out of two seemingly clashing personalities was a big motivator for writing this book. Oil and vinegar make the best salad dressing, after all, though it does take a lot of shaking to make them mix, and one never fully gets incorporated into the other. I tried to remember, while I was writing, that each girl possessed a quality that the other one could benefit and learn from; the arc of the story followed a path that would get both Cassie and Lana to places where they could realize that. The biggest challenge there was making sure I stayed on track!

Both girls do also have their own different personal difficulties in Drive Me Crazy, and the challenge there was maintaining my own empathy for how serious each one was for them. Keeping their responses appropriate for their ages and development, instead of inserting my own grownup perspective, was sometimes hard to do.

BB: A big moment that takes place in Drive Me Crazy is when Lana hopes to capture a little magic, why was that moment so important to you, and to the story?

TEM: One of my favorite genres is magical realism, but for me the magic has to feel very, very grounded in our actual world in order for me to get sucked in. (Books like The Night Circus and Winter’s Tale are good examples of what I mean.) Cassie and Lana are right at that age when we often start questioning whether story magic is real or not, and are also learning to see what is magical in the ordinary life around us. Whether a reader is clinging to their belief in magic, or letting go of it—I wanted to create a scene that would work for whichever side they’re on.

BB: Can you tell of any upcoming projects you are working on? With that will readers get to see more of Lana and Cassie in the future?

TEM: Yes I’m very excited to be working as we speak on the companion book to Drive Me Crazy, called This is All Your Fault, Cassie Parker. (Which will come out in summer 2016.) It’s the tale of Fiona Coppleton, Cassie’s former best friend with whom Cassie has had a very nasty break at the beginning of Drive Me Crazy. Though we hear a lot about Fiona from Cassie’s perspective, This is All Your Fault, Cassie Parker gives us a chance to see what all of that looked like from Fiona’s side. You will just have to see whether Lana makes an appearance or not!

BB: What advice would you offer to aspiring writers?

TEM: My advice to aspiring writers involves two main things: first, read. Read everything you can, as much as you can. Read what you love of course, but make sure you read things outside of your comfort zone. Read essays and articles. Read memoirs and historical fiction. Stick with a book you really dislike, and try to figure out what the author is doing that you can’t jive with. The more you read, the more you will absorb about good storytelling, compelling characters, and lush description. (And also what you don’t want to do!)

The second thing to do is practice. A lot, without thinking about publication or fame or what people will think, or any of that stuff. That can come later. For now, write letters, poems, and stories, book reviews, interviews with people you know, novels or just ideas for novels. The more you write—even if you abandon something mid-way—the stronger your writing muscles will get.

And actually there’s a third thing: Be willing to fail spectacularly. If you are worried about making everything perfect, each time, or afraid of putting down anything that feels silly or weird, then you will have a tough time being a writer. The braver you are about what you put on the page, the better. Even if it ultimately stinks, you will learn from it.


Seriously readers, check out Drive Me Crazy. Run to the library, the book store, or wherever it is you get your books from and read it! You will not be disappointed! And please make sure to visit Terra’s website to learn more about her and all of her awesome books!

THANK YOU Terra, for not only being awesome, but for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions for me and for the BookBandit Blog. It sincerely means so much to me!


Synchronized Reading Interview With Sarah Beth Durst


Hello Readers!

Today is a very special day here on the blog. Not only are both Miss Print and I both posting Chasing Power content as part of our week-long Synchronized Reading posts, but today I’m featuring an interview with the lady of the week – author Sarah Beth Durst!

I’ve hosted Sarah Beth Durst on the blog previously, but today she’s here to discuss her latest and greatest book, Chasing Power.  Not only does she offer insight, but she also answers some of my burning questions.

Don’t forget to stop by Miss Print’s blog to read her part of the interview that was posted yesterday. It won’t disappoint you, I promise!

DURST_AuthorPhoto_HighRes-2BookBandit Blog (BB): What was the inspiration behind Chasing Power?

Sarah Beth Durst (SBD): Telekinesis.

This is probably the first book I’ve written that has a single word inspiration.  (And now I kind of want to write another book based on a single word, just to say I did.  Like rutabaga.  Or narwhals.)  Anyway, I’ve always been fascinated by telekinesis.  I remember watching “Escape to Witch Mountain ” over and over as a kid and wishing that I could move things with my mind.

The key bit of inspiration for CHASING POWER — the thing that transformed it from a vague idea to an actual story — was the decision that Kayla’s power would be very, very limited.  She can only move very light things.  So she has to be clever.  Especially when things get dangerous…

BB: What was the most difficult part of writing Chasing Power?

SBD: In CHASING POWER, Kayla meets a boy who can teleport and who needs her help to save his kidnapped mother.  One of the most difficult parts was choosing which places to go to.  I wanted to go all the places and do all the things!!!  But I had to narrow it down to my favorites.

Sometimes choosing what not to put in a story can be just as difficult as choosing what to put in.  You start with an idea, and everything and anything is possible, but very quickly, you have to begin making decisions.  And for everything you decide to do, there are thousands of things you have just decided not to do.  Not unlike life, actually.

BB: If you could teleport to any place, where would you teleport to and why?

SBD: I’d use it to visit friends and family.  Everyone is so sprawled out.  It would be so wonderful to bop around and just have lunch with an old friend here and dinner with another there.

I would also like to visit Antarctica and see one of those massive groups of emperor penguins (which a very quick Google search says is called a “waddle”).  And I want to visit New Zealand.  It looks so gorgeous.  And go on a safari in Africa.  And see the top of Mount Everest without having to climb it.

BB: Of all the things Kayla could de being telekinetic, why have her be a master thief?

SBD: I’d love to tell you some deep, psychological reason, but honestly it was the most fun to write.  Figuring out how to rob a jewelry store when your only ability is to scoot a ball of tinfoil across the street…  Very fun.

BB: Can fans expect to see Kayla and Daniel in any upcoming projects?

SBD: CHASING POWER was written as a standalone (though I do admit that I miss Kayla and especially Selena!).  My next book is THE GIRL WHO COULD NOT DREAM, a middle-grade novel coming from HMH/Clarion Books in fall 2015.  It’s about a girl whose family owns a secret store where they buy, bottle, and sell dreams, but who can’t have any of her own, and the adventure that she and her pet monster go on when someone starts kidnapping dreamers.  I’m really, really excited about it!

* * *

A very big THANK YOU to Sarah Beth Durst for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions and for being a part of the Synchronized Reading Miss Print and I are doing.

For more information about Sarah Beth Durst and all of her books, check out her website! And to follow all the synchronized reading fun, head over to Miss Print’s blog!

Shootin’ The Breeze With Sarah Beth Durst


Hello Readers!

A few years ago I read a book called Drink, Slay, Love.  I loved it. Since then author Sarah Beth Durst has become a favorite of mine. She writes great books, and she’s probably the nicest person I’ve ever met. So it’s really not surprising that when I read her latest book, The Lost, her first book for adult, that I loved that one too. The Lost was unlike any other book I’ve read.  Readers, seriously – read The Lost! You’ll love it, I promise!

In the meantime, sit back and check out this awesome interview I did with author Sarah Beth Durst!


BookBandit (BB): Can you tell me a little about yourself, and your path as an author?                                                                                                                                           

Sarah Beth Durst (SBD): I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, and it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to be (except for Wonder Woman, but that career path really didn’t work out for me, since I lack an invisible jet, magic lasso, or any kind of physical prowess whatsoever).

I started writing stories when I was ten years old, and I never stopped.  I actually think that’s the key to being a writer: don’t stop.  Really, the most valuable trait a writer can have is sheer pig-headed stubbornness.  It can take a long time to write a novel and a long time to get published, and it’s very easy to doubt yourself and your story.  You have to write through all the doubts and seize the joy.

BB: What was the inspiration behind your first adult book, The Lost?

SBD: THE LOST is about a woman whose life feels empty.  She gets into her car one day to go to her dead-end job and instead of turning left at the light, she drives straight… and drives and drives until she ends up trapped in a town called Lost that’s full of only lost things and lost people.

It was inspired by my fear of loss.  I hate losing things.  I don’t mean socks or umbrellas or pens…  I hate the thought of losing moments, of losing memories, of losing the people I love.

BB: How was writing The Lost different from writing your previous books?

SBD: THE LOST is magical realism, and I chose to write it in very, very close first person, present tense.  So that automatically made the writing process feel very intense.  It was a much more organic writing process than many of my other novels — I did have an outline, but I mostly let Lauren wander where she wanted to wander, and I followed her through the town.

BB: What are some items that you lost in your life that you would hope to find in Lost? With that, if you were to find yourself living there, much like your main character Lauren, what is one item you would hope to find (for survival purposes) and why?

SBD: I’m pretty sure there’s a blue butterfly earring somewhere in Lost that used to be mine…  But for survival purposes, it would probably be more practical to find a knife.One of my favorite characters in Lost is a six-year-old girl named Claire who carries only a teddy bear and a very sharp knife.

BB: If the fictional town of Lost could be compared to a town in the U.S.A., which town would you compare it to and why?

SBD: Lost is sort of, kind of in the Arizona desert.  I picture it as one of those nearly-abandoned towns that you see signs for on the highway and then pass in a blink of an eye.

BB: If you had to describe The Lost only using three words, what words would you use to describe it?

SBD: Forgotten.  Wild.  Beautiful.

BB: All of your characters – like the town of Lost – are so vivid, and feel so real – are they based upon people in your life?

SBD: Thanks so much!  Really, they aren’t.  I am certain that bits of myself and the people I know seep into my characters, but I don’t do it deliberately.

BB: Can you tell about any upcoming projects?

SBD: My next YA novel is coming in October.  It’s called CHASING POWER, and it’s about a girl with telekinesis.  THE MISSING, the sequel to THE LOST, will be out in late November, followed by THE FOUND in late March.  And I am working on a middle-grade novel called THE GIRL WHO COULD NOT DREAM, which should be out in fall 2015.  Very excited about all of them!

BB: What advice can you offer to aspiring writers?

SBD: Don’t listen to advice, unless it works for you.  Seriously, every writer has a different process, and what works for one writer might not work for another.  So don’t beat yourself up if you’re not writing as many words a day as so-and-so, or if outlining does/doesn’t work for you.  Learn what does work for you.  Once you do that, it will get easier.  Never easy, but easier, because you won’t be fighting yourself.

A very big THANK YOU to author Sarah Beth Durst for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me and the blog! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

For more information about The Lost and Sarah, definitely check out her website! And make you stay tuned for all the great books that Sarah has coming out.

Shootin’ The Breeze: Alyssa B. Sheinmel


Hello Readers!

Alyssa B. Sheinmel’s upcoming novel, Second Star, took me by surprise. I picked it up out of curiosity, not really knowing what it was truly about. But as I read I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into the story. I immersed myself in the mystery – what really happened to John and Michael Darling? I immersed myself in the blossoming romance – I really hope Wendy ends up with … well, I can’t say who as it will give some key story elements away.

It’s obvious that I enjoyed Second Star. So much so that I reached out to author Alyssa B. Sheinmel to see if she would be willing to answer a few questions for us. And guess what!? She was!

Author Photo 2

BookBandit Blog (BB): Second Star is based upon the classic Peter Pan – of all the classic stories, why did you choose to retell this one?

Alyssa B. Sheinmel (ABS): The world and characters of Peter Pan have just always been fascinating to me. I actually wrote one of my college admissions essays about Neverland; I’d been the kind of kid who’d worn a watch from the day she learned how to tell time and I wondered what kind of effect Neverland would have on me.

BB: With that, if you could retell any other classic story, which would you want to retell and why?

ABS: Oh my goodness, that is an impossible question! I love modern-day retellings of existing stories, whether fairy tales, mythology, classic novels…I honestly can’t pick just one. I hope there will be a few in my writing future!

BB: Why surfing/surfers? (p.s. I don’t surf, never have, probably never will – but I have to say I absolutely adore the surfing aspect of Second Star)

ABS: I’ve never surfed a day in my life either, and I doubt that I will ever try – but I became absolutely obsessed with all things surfing as I researched and wrote this novel. It started with a book called The Wave by Susan Casey, about not just big wave surfing but also about the ocean and waves themselves. After that, the floodgates opened. I watched every surfing video I could find, read every book I could about big wave surfing – and the more I read, the bigger a part I knew surfing would play in Second Star. (And I’m so thrilled to hear that you adored the surfing part of the story – I loved, loved writing it.)

BB: f you had to describe Second Star to a reader who hasn’t a clue as to what it’s about, but you could only use three words, what three words would you choose to describe your book?

ABS: Sand, Waves, Longing

BB: What next for you? Can you tell of any upcoming projects?

ABS: My next book is called Faceless. It’s the story of a girl named Maisie who’s in a terrible accident. Her injuries are so severe that she undergoes a partial face transplant. It’s been an intense book to research and write – I always fall for my characters a little bit, and it’s never easy to write the more difficult parts of their stories. But I’ve also really loved writing it, and I’m excited for people to read it when it publishes next year.

BB: What advice can you offer to aspiring writers?

ABS: My number one piece of advice is never stop reading. I’m a firm believer that you can learn something from everything you read, whether it’s a novel you love, (or even a one you dislike), an article in a fashion magazine, a blog post, an op-ed column, even a textbook. I really do think that everything I read has something to teach me about writing.

A big THANK YOU to Alyssa for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me/the blog. If you want more information about Second Star or about Alyssa B. Sheinmel be sure to check her out!

Synchronized Reading: Roomies: Bonus Content (Part 1)

Food For Thought, Interviews, Random

Hello Readers!

As you know Miss Print and I are wrapping up our synchronized reading – which is a semi-regular feature on both of our blogs – of Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr’s co-authored novel Roomies.

Today is an exciting day on the blog. Why? Because I get to reveal part one of the bonus content I mentioned a few days ago.

Since I knew I would love Roomies, I thought it would be fun to feature (once again) Tara Altebrando here on The BookBandit Blog! And fortunately for us, Tara was so kind and so awesome to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions.

As if that wasn’t enough, Tara also gave me the opportunity share some exclusive Roomies content with all of my readers.

So without further adieu ….

BookBandit Blog (BB): What was the inspiration behind Roomies?

Tara Altebrando (TA): Sara and I were already friends and fans of each others’ work when a few YA collaborations were announced in the trades. We thought it sounded like fun and talked about a few vague ideas. Then one day Sara said, “Just send me something.” So I sat down and thought about ideas that would work well for two voices and shot off an email to Sara. The content of that email was my character Elizabeth’s first email to a girl named Lauren, who was going to be her freshman year roommate at college. Sara wrote back with a scene about Lauren that ended with an email back to Elizabeth, and we were off and running.  I’m not sure if I’d been in touch with one of my college roommates right around then—we’re all still friends—but I’d been thinking that the summer before college was interesting territory to explore.

BB: You wrote Roomies by e-mailing chapters back and forth. What was it like writing without really knowing how half of the story would turn out? How did writing in collaboration compare to your usual writing process? With that, how did co-writing change your writing process?

TA: It was really fun to get Sara’s chapters and be surprised by what she was doing with the Lauren character’s arc. Because we were basically writing independent, parallel stories, we didn’t have to talk much (or at all) about where we were taking our stories, so it was a really fun, relaxed process. I am definitely less relaxed about my solo books! Writing with Sara was just way more fun than writing alone. I am not sure it has changed my typical process, but I genuinely loved collaborating. Being a novelist can be lonely!

BB: Did any real locations in New Jersey or San Francisco inspire the places you mentioned in your part of the story?

TA: My character lives in Point Pleasant, which is a real town on the Jersey Shore. But as is often the case, I found that it was easier to fictionalize specific places on the shore instead of trying to document the specific town. I wanted to capture the flavor of the area, not get bogged down in details.

BB: What was your favorite scene in Roomies to write? What scene of Sara’s did you enjoy reading most?

TA: I especially loved writing the scene where Elizabeth and Mark go to the boardwalk amusement park, right before she leaves for college. Anyone who has read my novels The Pursuit of Happiness or Dreamland Social Club knows that I’m a sucker for boardwalk amusement parks. I also enjoyed writing the scene where Elizabeth does a Zumba class with her mom, because it felt like a big turning point for them both. As for Sara’s scenes, I loved the scene where Lauren and her mother talk about what life might have been like if Lauren had been their only child, if they hadn’t gone on to have such a big family. It’s a tough, lovely conversation.

BB: Where do you see Lauren and Elizabeth at the end of freshman year together?

TA: Good question! We’re THINKING about writing another book that would answer that question. Not sure yet, though. So stay tuned!

BB: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects? Are there any other collaborations in your future?

TA: I’m really excited about my middle-grade debut, The Battle of Darcy Lane, which comes out in Mary. It’s about toxic tween friendships. I’m also really excited about a new YA I’m working on, which is sort of a memory thriller.

BB: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

TA: Write write write. Read read read. And learn the craft so that your stories are never bogged down by amateurishness.

THANK YOU! To Tara Altebrando – not only for such an awesome read – but for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for The BookBandit Blog and for being a part of mine and Miss Print’s synchronized reading!

For more information about Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr, check out their websites here and here!