Friday, February 27, 2015

Why I Write YA

Despite appearances (translation: I am old), it makes sense that I write young adult fiction.

Let me explain. For the past decade, I have been held prisoner in my home by two socially-addicted teenagers with the same last name as me. My captivity started one night when I foolishly tried to escape for a relaxing evening of adult conversation and company. Warning: Parents of Teenagers- Do not try this at home. 

I returned home early to find scattered liquor bottles and garbage strewn about my basement. My son either threw a rager or wanted to surprise me by remodeling my basement in the contemporary decorating style of Bourbon Street the day after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

Consequently, I started hanging around my house more and more unless I knew my sons were:
1. Out of town.
2. At an activity where their remote destination could be confirmed by multiple tracking devices.
3. In police custody.

Desperate for a night out, I once considered restraining them. Of course, this was a ridiculous idea. If DCFS found out and temporarily removed me from our home, my heartbroken sons would surely deal with the loss by converting our residence into a fraternity house.

Okay, so I'm exaggerating. But the point is, my kids were always ridiculously social and active. Imagine Tigger on adderall. Now toss in raging hormones, the life philosophy You have to be young and foolish to be old and wise, and 16,540 friends on Facebook.

You get the idea. I started hanging around more and keeping an eye out.

Come to find out, I like my kids. Who knew?  And despite my title of "Meanest Mom with the Stupidest Rules," my sons (and their friends) like me, too. I don’t have just two sons, I’ve had a hundred kids call me mom over the years. (Momma-Lo, actually. Don't ask...).

This is one reason I write young adult: it's what I know. Adolescence is the noise that fills my house: the voices around the fire pit, the music streaming from speakers, the laughter from girls trying to impress the bragging boys who are trying to impress them back.

It's amazing what stories they'll share with you around the island in your kitchen if you're willing to listen. Sometimes, they give me nightmares. Mostly, they crack me up. And always, they remind me how complicated (and simple), fun (and traumatic) life is when you're perched at its starting gate.

Lynn Lindquist (Chicago, IL) lives with two overly social sons who provide fodder for her young adult novels and growing anxiety disorder. Thankfully, her favorite things in life are her sons, words, and kids, so she wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Her contemporary thriller Secret of the Sevens is set for release on June 8, 2015 from Flux Publishing.  

To learn more, follow Lynn on or on Twitter at @LynnLindquist.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

I Can't Get No...Satisfaction (Natasha Sinel)

Dear Writers,

You know those promises you make to whichever higher power you believe in (or to yourself if you don’t believe)? You know what I mean. Promises like:

 I’d be satisfied if I could just get an agent.
I’d be satisfied if I could just get a book deal.
I’d be satisfied if I could just finish writing my next book before my first one releases.
I’d be satisfied if I could just be on one of those “best of” lists.
I’d be satisfied if I could just get a Printz Honor (let’s not be greedy here, we don’t need the Medal).

I am beyond happy that my debut YA novel is releasing this September. I am thrilled that I am working with an agent who I know is on my side, with an editor who thinks my book is important. I am thankful for the new author friends I’ve made during this crazy debut year, and for the support of all of my friends and family. And yes, it does change my life in so many amazingly positive ways. But satisfied? Can any writer truly be satisfied?

I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. There is no satisfaction for writers. Not really. Because, in my mind, satisfaction is synonymous with contentment. And if I’m content, then I’m not angsty enough, not feeling the torture of creativity that’s in me and needs to come out. If I could be satisfied, then I wouldn’t be able to dive into my characters quite so deeply to figure out why they do the crazy shit they do, what promises they make to their higher power: I’d be satisfied if I could just…

If we writers were satisfied, we might not be able to take the germ of an idea and let it grow and twist and turn and crash and burn and then grow again and flourish the way we do.

If we were satisfied, we wouldn’t feel the need to open our arms wide and throw our heads back and say, “Here we are, agents, editors, readers. Give us your best shot. Love us, hate us, knock us down. But we’re going to keep writing either way because we can’t not.”

If we were satisfied, we wouldn’t need to strive for more and more and more, reaching for that unexplainable something that we know must exist but we just can’t quite reach…yet. But if we did reach it, then what?

Then we probably wouldn’t be writers. Right?

With love,

Gratefully Unsatisfied

Natasha Sinel writes YA fiction from her home on a dirt road in Northern Westchester, NY. She drives her kids around all afternoon, but in her head, she's still in high school, and hopes that no one near her can read minds. Her debut YA novel THE FIX will be out from Sky Pony Press on September 1, 2015.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why I Love Books

If I say that I spend a lot of my time staring at squiggly shapes and trying to discern complex meaning from them, you might advise me to seek help from a mental health professional. If I say that I spend a lot of my time reading, you might think I sound kind of intellectual. See how much words matter?

I guess I'm a little biased toward books. As a writer, obviously I read. Or at least it should be obvious. I have actually heard more than one aspiring writer ask whether reading was really that necessary. The question makes no sense to me. Why would someone want to write but not want to read? Without readers, writers are just people making weird squiggly lines. And reading really is the best way—perhaps the only way—to learn to write well. Sure, lists of tips and rules can be helpful, but a writer needs to devour stories until their structures become internalized.

So I read because I write, but that's not the only reason. I enjoy reading. I also like movies, television, podcasts, and computer games, but they each offer something different. New forms of media should add to our options, not take away from them.

Reading is important, too, even when it is just a bunch of stuff someone made up. More than any other form of storytelling, books allow people to enter another person's mind. I'll only ever be me, but thanks to books, I can at least begin to understand what it might feel like to be from a different culture, to have been born in a different era, to face overwhelming obstacles, and to ride dragons.

©Trent Black

Laurel Gale lives in the desert with her husband and a band of furry monsters that might actually be ferrets. She enjoys reading novels, playing board games, and learning about everything from history to science to grammar. Her debut middle grade novel, Dead Boy, comes out September 29, 2015, from Random House/Crown Books for Young Readers. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Spooktacular YA...And A Giveaway!

Hey guys!

My name is Amy Lukavics, and I am so beyond honored to be a part of this group of truly kick-ass debut authors. My posts here will revolve around the genre of my heart, which is, wait for it...

*makes ghosty sounds*

HORROR! Heck yes. I love it so much, in fact, that I have blogged about it quite a few times over at YA Highway, as well as help run a scary writing prompt game with fellow Fall Fifteener and YA Highwayer Kaitlin Ward. The current version of the game involves participants tweeting or commenting their two-sentence horror stories inspired by the photo prompt of the month. This month's prompt has been posted, so if you're interested in entering yourself to win a prize, please feel free to participate via the site or by accessing the hashtag #ScaryYAH on Twitter or Tumblr!

Anyway, I feel as though things for YA horror have come such a long way in the past few years, with more and more deals being announced for creepy books every month. Since horror isn't a genre that is usually widely accepted/applauded in the "mainstream," seeing the rising activity around YA horror has been truly delightful.

To kick off my series of future posts regarding current must-reads in YA horror, I will be giving away a signed ARC (advanced reading copy) of my debut novel, Daughters Unto Devils!

Here is the summary for Daughters Unto Devils (cover to be revealed soon!) :

When sixteen-year-old Amanda Verner's family decides to move from their small mountain cabin to the vast prairie, she hopes it is her chance for a fresh start. She can leave behind the memory of the past winter; of her sickly Ma giving birth to a baby sister who cries endlessly; of the terrifying visions she saw as her sanity began to slip, the victim of cabin fever; and most of all, the memories of the boy she has been secretly meeting with as a distraction from her pain. The boy whose baby she now carries. 

 When the Verners arrive at their new home, a large cabin abandoned by its previous owners, they discover the inside covered in blood. And as the days pass, it is obvious to Amanda that something isn't right on the prairie. She's heard stories of lands being tainted by evil, of men losing their minds and killing their families, and there is something strange about the doctor and his son who live in the woods on the edge of the prairie. But with the guilt and shame of her sins weighing on her, Amanda can't be sure if the true evil lies in the land, or deep within her soul.

To win the signed ARC, all you have to do is either leave a comment below detailing your favorite horror novel or movie of all time, or tweet your answer with the hashtag #DaughtersUntoDevils. I will announce the winner and reach out to them on Friday, February 27th, around 3pm PST.

(For the record, my favorite horror novel of all time is Pet Sematary by Stephen King. Terror perfection, right there.)

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next month!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Unofficial Soundtrack for THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS

¡Encantada! I’m Anna-Marie McLemore, author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a YA magical realism novel coming September 15, 2015 from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. Here’s a little about the story:

The Palomas and the Corbeaus have long been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find. 

Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she's been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.

THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS is a story of the tension between two families, the meeting of two different cultures, and the draw between a boy and a girl who’ve been raised not to go near each other. 

For my first Fall Fifteeners post, I’m taking a cue from fellow Fall Fifteener Alexandra Sirowy and her post earlier this month about her favorite tracks for her debut THE CREEPING. In the spirit of unofficial book soundtracks, here are a few songs I kept coming back to while writing THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS:

“City of Refuge” – Abigail Washburn
Much in the way Lace Paloma’s view of where she comes from—and the mermaid show she’s longed for years to join—slowly breaks down, this song starts out as a portrait of a happy, polished family but gradually descends into something darker.

“O Valencia!” – The Decemberists
Fellow Fall Fifteener Mackenzi Lee suggested this one, and I can see why. Enemy families. Forbidden love. Brothers and sisters who might turn on you. And the whole thing potentially ending in bloodshed. 

“The Way It Will Be” – Gillian Welch
There’s so much wisdom, regret, and apprehension in this song. In my playlist for FEATHERS, it came to stand for the older Palomas and Corbeaus warning the younger ones about the danger the feud puts them all in, knowing they won’t be heard, but trying anyway.

“Boys in the Trees” – Carly Simon
If there’s a better song about the space between being a girl and becoming a woman, I don’t know it. While writing FEATHERS, it also helped me get into Lace’s feeling of being caught between the fears she learned as a child, and her fascination with Cluck and the lives of the Corbeau performers.

“Old Adam” – Hem
Underneath its peaceful sound, this song hints at the discord between fathers and sons; it perfectly encompasses the feeling of the intergenerational conflicts between the Corbeau men.

“Colors” – Amos Lee
Sad, but hopeful, this song is full of that sense of being in a low place, but having an idea of where to go next. A good kind of giving up, and the willingness to try again.

“Fall Apart Again” – Brandi Carlile
A song about being there for someone who doesn’t have anyone else rings true for Lace and Cluck, but it doesn’t stop with them. As brutal as the Palomas and the Corbeaus can be with both their enemies and their own, they also show each other compassion at unexpected moments.

“Reasons Why” and “Speak” – Nickel Creek
In a few minutes, this pair of songs always got me into that tentative place of Cluck and Lace almost but not-quite-yet falling for each other. She’s hiding a secret she feels deeply guilty about, and he’s hesitant about his feelings for her.

“Firefly” – Over the Rhine
This song has an edgy intensity that’s equal parts passionate and vindictive. It could just as easily be about falling in love as being out for blood. And it has that sense of the ethereal and the dangerous inherent in both families’ shows.

Any favorite songs for the writing process? I’d love to hear about them, and what they’re helping you work on. Come say hello.

Anna-Marie McLemore writes from her Mexican-American heritage, and her love both for cultures she grew up in and others she’s learned about along the way. Among her favorite things are fall leaves, Irish dancing, and lesser-known fairy tales. Her YA debut is THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a magical realism story of traveling shows, girls who can make anyone believe in mermaids, and tightrope-walkers who wear wings.

Friday, February 20, 2015

5 Myths About Selling Your Debut Novel

Myth: As soon as my novel sells, I will immediately be sent a contract and a giant check for my entire large advance. 

First of all, congrats on that large advance. Because in spite of how we all hear about debut novels and seven figure deals and movie rights selling at multi-studio auctions, they are definitely not the norm. And the truth is, you probably won’t see any piece of your advance for a while.

After you and your agent get the formal offer from the publishing house and accept it and the announcement goes up in PW and you have champagne and much partying, you will wait. And wait. And wait. And several months later, you or your agent will get a contract which you will go over and sign and have much partying again. And then you will wait again. And wait. And wait. And several months after that, you will get the first part of your advance. Yeah, not the whole thing. Depending on your contract, you’ll get part of your advance up front, and another part of it upon acceptance, which is when you actually finish your edits and your publishing house says they like them. So don’t quit your day job right away.

Which reminds me…

Myth: As soon as I sell my first novel, I can/should quit my day job.

Chances are, your advance will not be large enough to actually quit your day job and live comfortably. If you can, awesome! Go you! But you don’t need to.

I’m a writer with a day job. Actually with two day jobs. Actually with two day jobs and some freelance work. And for a while, I felt sort of ashamed of that fact. Like I couldn’t be serious about my writing unless I quit my day job and dedicated myself to this and only this. But I don’t really want to be a full-time writer right now. First of all, I really like my day jobs.

Second of all, my day jobs make me use my writing time more effectively, because there’s less of it. It feels precious, and it also stays fun, since it’s a thing I choose to do after work, not a thing I do for work. My day jobs also get me out of my own head. I’m afraid I’d go crazy if all I thought about all the time was my writing.

So don’t plan on being to quit your day job immediately after signing that first contract. Also don’t feel like you have to. You can have a day job. It’s okay.

Myth: Once I sell my first novel, I am in and will never face rejection again.

True story: the day after my novel sold, I got a rejection letter from an agent I had queried over a year ago. And weirdly, it still stung a little. Selling your first novel does not mean your second novel will be headhunted by publishers. It does not mean you will never have to query again. It doesn’t mean from now on, everyone will love everything you write and publishing thing #2 will be easy. The rejection never stops, and it never really stops sucking. Also I am a right ray of sunshine.

Myth: I will be so happy to have my novel being published that I won’t care other people have bigger marketing budgets/publicity campaigns/print runs/tours/etc.

Before I sold my novel, I always thought I would be so grateful to be getting published that I wouldn’t care about what was going on with anyone else in my same situation. But jealousy is a green eyed monster that tends to start skirting around as soon as the high from the PW announcement fades. Because other people will have bigger advances, and more marketing money, and they will get big full-page ads in review journals and written up on NPR and picked for every Top Ten Best Novels of All Time Ever list and you will not. And you will smile and pretend it’s totally fine but really you feel crummy about it and then you’ll feel crummy for feeling crummy because you have a freaking book deal and you should be grateful and it’s a horrible cycle of self-hate that usually ends in Netflix and binge eating. Jealousy is going to happen. You have to just accept that. The point is to not let it eat you up, or stop you from making your own novel great, or think it is a reflection of the quality of your writing, or keep you from enjoying the fact that your novel is being published.

Myth: Selling my novel will make me feel like I know what I’m doing.

Oh what a beautiful world that would be.

I told myself this lie a lot for a long time, except there was always a new qualifier. Once I get an MFA, I’ll feel like a real writer….once I sign with an agent, I’ll never be anxious again….once I get a book deal, I’ll never feel like a fraud again….

The truth, in my experience, is that it doesn’t matter how big your first advance is, or if you sign with a big five publisher, or if you are written up in the New York Times for your first novel. You don’t stop feeling like everyone around you knows exactly what they’re doing and are doing it brilliantly and you are Leonardo DiCaprio on the Titanic wearing the tuxedo he borrowed from Cathy Bates, snarfing inappropriately large bites of your dinner roll and being very clearly out of place.

But don’t worry—you still get to snog Kate Winslet, so the ending is happy. Well, not really because…never mind, spoilers.

Mackenzi Lee is reader, writer, bookseller, unapologetic fangirl, and fast talker. She holds an MFA from Simmons College in writing for children and young adults. Her young adult historical fantasy novel, THIS MONSTROUS THING will be published on September 22 by Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins. She loves Diet Coke, sweater weather, and Star Wars. On a perfect day, she can be found enjoying all three. She currently calls Boston home. Visit her online at her website, blog, or Twitter.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Gateway Books

You know what happens: the good girl goes off to grad school. She's living the straight and narrow, reading literary fiction and thumbing through The New Yorker. 

Then someone slips her Looking For Alaska.

From there, it's a free fall.


I met Flo in my second year of grad school. Flo's the sort of girl everyone wants to be friends with -- intelligent and hilarious with killer book recommendations. She told me she had an idea for a YA novel, and I felt a flicker in my memory. I'd loved Sarah Dessen's books as a teen. Madeleine L'Engle's Troubling A Star came with me to college.

But it'd been so long since I'd ventured into the teen section of a library or bookstore. My grad school reading time was spent on class assignments: the Important Modern Classics for Adults. And while I continue to enjoy a wide array of adult fiction, those particular books didn't leave a mark on me. I felt nothing.

Flo knew what was what. She loaded me up with Looking For Alaska and The Hunger Games trilogy, which I'd only heard of peripherally ("you'll need all of these," she'd said simply).

I finished Looking For Alaska and felt devastated. It was miles away from the indifference or "oh, that was a nice sentence" I'd felt in my reading assignments. I brought Mockingjay to work and glared at people when, God forbid, I actually had to work. Soon I was back in the teen section of the public library, checking out everything that Sarah Dessen had published since I'd last read her. Flo and I dusted off our old Sweet Valley High: Senior Year books and read out loud entertaining excerpts.

I haven't turned back.

What book(s) brought you to your genre/category? Let us know in the comments!


Diana Gallagher's contemporary YA novel, Lessons in Falling, is forthcoming from Spencer Hill Contemporary. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on Twitter!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What to Do When the Writing Life Has You Down

We writers by and large are a serious lot. We work long hours by ourselves with nothing but negative feedback and crushing rejections to show for it. And that's when we can come up with something to write. We have to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and go back into the fray, time after time, for years. For decades. We suffer family and friends who think we’re losers at best, insane at worst. “Still haven’t published a book, yet, huh?” 

Then even when we do publish a book, our pay is abysmal, we have to change the parts we love, releases get postponed indefinitely, reviewers pan them, people who haven't even read our books give us one star, and then the publisher goes out of business.

No wonder we’re not laughing.

But here's the thing. That’s the only way we'll stay sane, let alone produce more work. We have to laugh in the face of the pain and fear and darkness.

Resentment, envy, stalking, crying, martyrdom--these don’t work. On a long term basis, anyway.

Mark Twain, who was a writer after all, said, "The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter."

We've got to do it more.

But how?

I couldn't think of a darn thing. So I took a poll in my house, wherein live several jokers. Then surveyed a few funny friends. Here are some ideas to get you laughing, in no particular order:

1. Hang out with four year olds. They’re generally hilarious.

2. Get together with old friends and tell embarrassing and painful stories.

3. Put scrambled eggs in your flip-flops. That feels pretty funny.

4. Read Captain Underpants (if you're a seven year-old boy).

5. Go to a comedy club.

6. Watch America’s Funniest Home Videos.

6. YouTube clips

This list could use some augmentation. Got any ideas for how to laugh more? Don’t hold back. Our sanity may depend on it.

Ann Jacobus's YA thriller debut, Romancing the Dark in the City of Light will be out from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press on October 6. Find out more here, follow her @annjacobusSF, or on Facebook.

Monday, February 16, 2015

That Dream of a Book Deal Isn't As Unlikely As You Think

I have a theory that's been banging back and forth inside my head for many, many years. A post by Harold Underdown and another by Ryan Dalton on this very blog fed this theory further, to the point that I decided to dedicate today's post to specific things that make traditional publishing a little less hopeless.

Most writers, unfortunately, will fail to traditionally publish their book. The statistics don't lie, and I can't manipulate the numbers to say otherwise. I can, however, tell you there are often solid reasons why writers fail in this respect. It's not a conspiracy or a fate left exclusively to a dice roll. There are specific things that hold writers back, and your chances of success increase exponentially by making a few small decisions.

Here are a few:

1) Submit smarter

A lot of agents say the number one reason they reject queries is because they don't represent the type of book the author submitted. Other times it's abundantly clear the author didn't research the agency. There are hundreds of queries sent every day by aspiring authors who submit willy-nilly without bothering to check who they're submitting to.

If you simply do your research and submit to agents who are a good match for your book, you are putting yourself ahead of hundreds of other submissions. You have just lifted yourself above a ton of slush, and you barely even broke a sweat.

My advice? Before hitting send on a submission, ask yourself why the recipient is the right person for your story. If it takes longer than ten seconds to answer that question, submit somewhere else.

2) Listen, listen, and listen some more

If you get a rejection that says something more specific than "not right for us", do a backflip. If it says something horribly offensive and insulting about your work, do a backflip, howl at the moon, and then ask yourself if maybe, just maybe, this person who spends their whole day in front of words might have a point about your humongous plot hole or unlikeable one-dimensional narrator.

3) Look Ahead

No matter what happens, don't stop writing. I kept the rejection blues away by always having something new to submit before I gave up on a previous project. If you're always looking ahead, the constant barrage of "not right for us" is a lot less depression-inducing.

4) Don't Get Mad at Successful Writers

Seriously, this is a huge waste of your time, patience, and happiness. It doesn't matter that "pedestrian writers" are selling insane amounts of books and you can't figure out why.

They are not stealing your audience. They are not the reason you haven't sold your book. Nobody is looking for a 50 SHADES, TWILIGHT, or HARRY POTTER clone right now. The very idea makes most agents and editors sick, because they get that kind of stuff every day. They are looking for the next book they fall in love with, and it won't have anything to do with wizards engaging in BDSM with sparkling vampires.

So all that anger for bestselling authors festering inside you -- Let It Go. You have better things to do.

5) Most importantly, be honest when you write

Don't write what's cool. Don't write what you think will sell. It isn't, and it won't. Write like yourself. This job is hard enough without wearing a mask.

* * *

Mike Grosso is the author of I AM DRUMS, a debut contemporary middle grade for musicians of all ages. It is currently orphaned due to the closing of Egmont USA but is on its way to finding a new home. The Fall Fifteeners have been nice enough to let him hang out in the meantime.

You can visit Mike's website or follow him on Twitter.

Friday, February 13, 2015

THE CREEPING's Unofficial Soundtrack

Hi. I’m Alexandra and I write novels for teens. My debut is the YA thriller THE CREEPING (coming 8/18/15 from Simon & Schuster). I’m currently editing my second book and wanted to share an essential part of my writing process in this blog – my first ever for the Fall Fifteeners! But yikes, easier said than done. My process varies day to day. I write in different rooms; I sit in chairs; I recline on the floor; I light candles; I drink coffee; I quit it and drink tea; I binge on sour candy; I drink only green juice. You get the picture. And then it was clear. Music. Do I write without it? Rarely. As I’m working on a book I compile a playlist that I continue to revisit at every stage of the process.

THE CREEPING’s playlist has 46 songs on it. And because iTunes is awesome, I know how frequently I’ve played them all. Here are some of my favorites.

1.       I’m already cheating. This isn’t one song; it’s all of Lorde’s Pure Heroine album (32 plays from start to finish). This album is main character Stella Cambren’s theme music. These are her anthems.  In particular The Love Club and Team capture Stella’s attitude when she questions her devil-may-care best friend, Zoey. These songs are strong, deep, vulnerable, complex, and a little bit whimsical, just like Stella.

2.       Wishing Well by Wild Cub (64 plays). This was my go to song whenever Stella and Zoey were at their secret beach with their friends. It conjures up summer and cove days for me. All of Wild Club’s songs made it easy to imagine I was baking in the sun, strawberry seeds stuck in my teeth, hair wet, and skin smelling of coconut sunscreen.

3.       Fire Breather by Laurel. This song is sexy laced with darkness. Its three minutes play out like a seduction. No surprise it was on repeat 174 times. 

4.       All I Want by Kodaline. Guys, this is Sam’s song – SAM WORTH. You don’t know who that is yet, but you won’t be able to miss him.

5.       Cool Kids by Echosmith. This song’s 46 plays put me in the mood for writing a pivotal bonfire scene. It has a laidback feel, but its lyrics are meaningful and poignant, with a deeper subtext.

6.       I’m going to cheat again. These next three are what I think of as my instant dread failsafe: When the Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash, Kettering by The Antlers, and Oats in the Water by Ben Howard.  I love these songs. They’re dripping with imagery, but they also have an eerie tone that puts me on edge when I need it. They’re similar to THE CREEPING in that there’s an undercurrent of sinister that’s difficult to shake off.

And last but not least....

7.       Fangs (District 78 Remix) by Little Red Lung was listened to 286 times. Everything about this song put me in the mood to write THE CREEPING. The song is atmospheric; it’s off-putting but sexy. There are languid, gorgeous sections and then there are intense interludes that take you by surprise. There were nights I’d hear this song in my dreams. It’s hard to let go of and intoxicating.

What am I listening to now? London Grammar is keeping me going as I edit my second book. I’d love to hear what songs inspire you. Tweet them at me. 

Alexandra Sirowy PhotoAlexandra Sirowy is the author of THE CREEPING, a debut thriller for young adults coming August 18th, 2015 from Simon and Schuster’s Books for Young Readers. To learn more, visit or follow her on Twitter.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Behind-the-scenes look at the cover design for THE ONE THING

By Marci Lyn Curtis

Some of you might have noticed last week that I had a cover reveal for The One Thing. Probably because I was screaming it out of a blow horn all week long. In my defense, ever since the story sold to Disney-Hyperion, I’ve been wondering—all right, obsessing (potato, potahhto)—about what the cover would look like.

I have to say, when I got my first peek at the cover, I was absolutely astonished. After all, The One Thing is a twisty little story, a tough one to nail down in a single image. But somehow Whitney Manger, cover designer at Disney-Hyperion, managed to iron out the story into one beautifully simple illustration. Due to my penchant for nosing around, I caught up with my editor Laura Schreiber and asked her about the design process for The One Thing. Here’s what she had to say: 

"For a book I love as much as I love The One Thing, I was quite nervous about getting started on the design process. Of course I was working with the fabulously talented Whitney Manger, who has designed so many beautiful Hyperion covers, so I shouldn’t have been worried. But I admit I was, because you can’t say The One Thing is truly about any, er, one thing. It’s about everything: loss, love, forgiveness, music, death, soccer, video games, puzzles, cupcakes, unplanned pregnancies, Romanians, Doritos, swimming, encyclopedias…you name it. It’s utterly heartbreaking and yet milk-squirting-out-your-nose hilarious. How to covey all this with one graceful, simple, beautiful cover? Well, you’re looking at it."

"Obviously, Whitney and I had to whittle things down a bit. We considered photographic options that played with sunlight. We tried making the music the main focus. Ultimately, we decided that the graphic look was the best fit for the story. What started out as a sun became a subtle nod to sight, by changing the shape to an eye. Ultimately, this is a cover about bright lights in dark places and about perceiving things in a new way. And if I were to forced to put the book in a nutshell, that’s how I would describe it too."

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Marci Lyn Curtis grew up in Northern California, where she went to college and met an amazing guy in a military uniform. Two college-aged kids and one dachshund later, she lives in Maryland, where she laughs too loudly and eats peanut butter off spoons. Her YA contemporary debut, The One Thing, comes out September 8th, 2015 via Disney-Hyperion. 

Say hi to her on her website, Twitter, and Facebook.