Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Silenced by James DeVita

The Silenced by James DeVita (Laura Geringer Books/HarperCollins, June 2007). Reading is outlawed. Writing is outlawed. Individual identity? Irrelevant. Diversity? Suspect, inferior. Defiance? Punished by death or worse. The Zero Tolerance Party is listening everywhere, and it's tough to know whom to trust. What happens when Marena forms her own resistance movement, the White Rose? Ages 12-up.

Inspired by the White Rose group that opposed the Nazi regime in Germany, DeVita's novel touches on issues still relevant today. Sure to lend itself to lively conversation. The novel brought to mind Margaret Peterson Haddix's Shadow Children series (beginning with Among the Hidden (Simon & Schuster, 1998)) and George Orwell's 1984. Excellent author's note.

Author Interview: Greg Fishbone on From the Desk of Septina Nash: The Penguins of Doom and the Class of 2k7

Greg Fishbone on Greg Fishbone: "My mother is a microbiologist and my father is an electronics engineer. I hope I've inherited some of their attention to detail even without having to peer through scopes at tiny organisms or circuits. I grew up admiring Dad's work ethic and Mom's storytelling skills, including her ability to describe her daily events in a perfect narrative arc. I have one sister, younger, so it was often up to me to keep her entertained. I developed my sense of humor, in part, from trying so hard to make her laugh.

"I was born in Boston and grew up in Massachusetts. Connecticut was the Deep South, Albany was the Wild West, and Maine was Way Up North. There was nothing to the east but the cold green ocean and cloud formations that we took to be Wales or Ireland. I have lived elsewhere, but I'm always drawn back to clambakes in the summer, foliage in the fall, snow in the winter, and baseball in the spring. My wife is from Philadelphia, but she becomes a rabid Bostonian during Red Sox games--I couldn't be more proud!"

What about the writing life first called to you?

Writing is just something I've always done. I think every child starts out as a writer, as well as an artist, a singer, an acrobat, and many other things. As we grow up, our creative passions tend escape, one by one, with finger-painting as probably the first to go. Most people can hold onto one or two creative outlets as weekend hobbies, but I've always admired those few who pour their hearts and souls into one art form or another and try to build it into a career. I've chosen writing because it lets me create and destroy entire worlds.

What made you decide to write for young readers?

I tried to write for people my own age when I was in my teens and twenties, but readers would tell me, "That's great! I bet my little nephew would love that story!" It annoyed the heck out of me at first, but then I gave in and discovered that middle grade speculative fiction is a hub of creativity and quality in the publishing industry. It's also a huge challenge to write, which is perfect for me because I enjoy a huge challenge--but not too huge. The main reason I don't write picture books is that they're even more challenging than midgrades, and I know my limits.

Could you tell us about your path to publication, any sprints or stumbles along the way?

For me, the path to publication was a quick walk up the front steps followed by a frustrating wait at the door. I'd hear activity on the other side, and sometimes a personal rejection letter would slip through the crack underneath, but the door itself remained closed, locked, barred, and sealed.

I used that time I spent on the doorstep to improve my craft, and today I'm actually grateful to all those editors who refused to put my early submissions into print. They weren't the best that I could do, so it's a relief that they only exist in manuscript form.

Your debut title is From the Desk of Septina Nash: The Penguins of Doom (Blooming Tree, 2007). Congratulations! What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

Back in the 1990s, I wrote a serialized superhero story for an online project called Superguy. It was a lot of fun and, amazingly enough, it had readers! After the series ended, somebody asked me what had become of the characters. I hadn't thought about it before then but instantly I knew that Sal and Viyayai would be married and would have seven children. The entire story came to me all at once, with the purple-haired seventh child, the missing triplet, the penguins, the mad scientist, and everything else.

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

I first wrote The Penguins of Doom as a comic book script but couldn't find anyone willing to draw or publish it. Meanwhile, I started adapting some of my other Superguy stories into novels. In 1998, my first novel submission to a publisher led to a series of requested revisions until my first rejection in 2001. After that came a series of rejections on a bunch of different books, including The Penguins of Doom. In 2004, I rewrote The Penguins of Doom in the form of letters from Septina's point of view, and the book sold in 2005.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

The biggest challenge I faced was finding a voice and writing style for this story, because I already had the characters and plot. A third-person omniscient "Rod Serling" type of narrator worked great for the comic book script but not for the novel. I tried again in Quinn's voice and--no offense to Quinn--it went nowhere. Septina's voice worked better, but it took a while for me to realize that she should be writing the book as a series of letters to the people in her life. I actually sprang awake at five in the morning and shouted, "Letters! She could be writing letters!"

It's the same story it's always been but now it works.

Your publisher, Blooming Tree, is based here in my home city of Austin, Texas. Could you describe your experience with the house? How would you describe it to another author?

Blooming Tree Press is an independent publisher that's small but growing fast. I originally had my heart set on a larger publisher but now I'd tell other authors to keep the smaller houses in mind. Everyone at BTP is so talented and professional, and the books get a lot of personal attention. The company is putting out more books each year, becoming better recognized, and launching a graphic novel imprint, so it's an exciting time to be working with them.

You're involved with the Class of 2k7 cooperative promotional effort. Could you give us some insight into the history of this campaign?

Sure. I had the idea to start a marketing collective in early 2006, when I was totally overwhelmed by all the marketing and promotional work that authors are expected to do these days. I figured that a group of authors working together would be able to accomplish things that no one of us would be able to do alone, and I was lucky enough to attract a group of awesomely talented classmates to join in.

The Class of 2k7 is a group of 39 children's and YA authors who have joined together to help promote each other's debut novels to booksellers, librarians, and teachers. We're all being published for the first time in 2007, so we're like a graduating class--hence the Class of 2k7.

How would you describe your role?

I've been elected class president, and that's been a great honor and a whole lot of work. We've delegated a lot of the tasks to organizing committees and regional coordinators, but I do most of the website coding and serve as a point of contact for inquiries that come in.

What have been the joys and challenges along the way?

We've been rolling out elements of the Class of 2k7 campaign one at a time--the website, a collective blog, a discussion forum, a chat room, a media folder, etc. Each item has been a challenge, but it's also given us new ways to make our group into a "one stop shop" for booksellers, librarians, and teachers looking for fresh new books from fresh new voices.

We've gotten a nice write-up in Publishers Weekly, a podcast, and mentions on a whole bunch of great blogs including yours. Every time someone's taken notice of the group, it's been a huge buzz of excitement for all of us.

What are the plans for the future?

We're about to distribute the first issue of our quarterly ezine and there will be events and tours throughout the year. Our biggest plans are to celebrate the release of our books, starting with Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (Little Brown, 2007)(author interview), which is out right now. Hopefully we can make enough noise for all of us to stand out among all the other choices out there.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

I feel like I'm too green at this to be giving advice to anyone else but here goes... Be professional. Be patient. Be humble. Learn something from every book you read, and never stop trying to improve your craft. Most important: Never give up!

What do you do when you're not writing?

I spend my days in a law office, staring at legal documents and wishing that I could be writing instead.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I'm continuing to develop a consistent style while branching out in new directions. My agent is shopping around a sports series of mine and is looking at a fantasy novel I just sent her, and my current work-in-process is a mystery featuring a pair of young detectives.

In the immediate future, I'm working on an audiobook/podcast companion to The Penguins of Doom which will be available for free download at ( It will be called The Love Song of Prescott T. Goode and will take place at the same time as the printed book and with the same set of characters. I'm really psyched that Blooming Tree Press is letting me try something with this that's never quite been done before.

Cynsational Notes

Publisher Interview: Miriam Hees on Blooming Tree Press from Cynsations.

Blogger Transition

Cynsations is caught in some kind of limbo between Blogger 1 and Blogger 2 (on the off-chance that someone can help, my dashboard is on 2, but, after a few days, the blogs themselves still haven't been moved over).

Following the troubleshooting directions has been hit or miss. I have managed to log in at least once daily, but I'm not sure that will continue to be the case. Apparently larger blogs are being moved over latter in the queue.

All of this is to say, if Cynsations goes quiet for a while, please don't think I'm abandoning the blog. I'm simply waiting for it to be sprung from purgatory by the Google gods. I'm hopeful that everything is resolved in a somewhat timely manner so I don't have to re-evaluate where I blog.

Cross fingers though that my luck holds, and I'll do my best to keep posting. My apologies for any delays to my interviewees.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bookseller Insights: Elizabeth Bluemle on Promotional Bookmarks and Postcards

by Elizabeth Bluemle

Many bookmarks and get overlooked, thrown away, or otherwise ignored. You don't want your hard-earned money to be wasted. Here are some tips:

(1) Make them as pretty/handsome as possible.

(2) A simple, striking image from the cover is always successful.

(3) Three book covers can work beautifully, especially if the text is on the back (as you all suggest), but quickly becomes too much if you're also trying to fit lots of text along with the covers.

(4) Most of the info should go on the back, or be so tastefully designed that it doesn't interfere with the artistic appeal of the bookmark.

(5) Try to resist the temptation to do much more than a one-line blurb or review on the front. We get zillions of publisher-created bookmarks that are so cluttered with information that the eye skitters right over them and moves on. No one reaches for them, child or adult.

(6) Information that reads as marketing promotion rather than an evocation and celebration of the books is also a turn-off.

Last year, I took a poll of fellow booksellers, and it was surprising how many didn't like or want bookmarks (or postcards). I think that's a result of some of the design flaws noted above, because booksellers and readers sure do love a colorful Maisy bookmark, or a YA bookmark with just the cover image on the front, and simple tasteful title, publisher, ISBN info (and maybe the best review quote or a teaser quote from the book) on the back.

Note: you are trying to reach schools and consumers in addition to booksellers, so you can weigh the above against what you are trying to accomplish with the bookmarks. But we see the info-overload glaze-over even in schools where you'd think teachers would love informative bookmarks. They mostly don't, unless the info is a list of Printz winners, etc.

Happy designing!

Cynsational Notes

Elizabeth Bluemle is the owner of The Flying Pig in Shelburne, Vermont. She also is the author of My Father The Dog, illustrated by Randy Cecil (Candlewick, 2006). Of late, Elizabeth informally offered her insights on this topic to an online writing discussion group, and she graciously agreed to allow me to share her comments.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Author-Illustrator Interview: Wallace Edwards on The EXtinct Files: My Science Project

Wallace Edwards on Wallace Edwards: "born in Ottawa, Ontario in 1957; graduated Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto, Ontario 1980; worked as freelance illustrator for magazines and books and a variety of clients for 25 years; work primarily in watercolour and pencil; paintings hang in private and public collections in Canada and abroad; love doing children's books." Note: scroll agency page for more information.

What made you decide to create books for young readers?

I have drawn all my life and loved books when I was little. I thought children would be an excellent audience for picture books because they look so carefully at things.

What training--formal or informal--did you elect? As a writer? As an illustrator?

Informal training--I love to draw and have done so since I was able to hold a pencil. Formal training--four years at Ontario College of Art and Design, graduated in 1980.

Could you tell us about your path to publication, any sprints or stumbles along the way?

My first book, Alphabeasts, published in 2002 by Kids Can Press, was an independent project done for personal entertainment in my spare time. An art director I knew recommended an agent, who was willing to promote the book and this is how it found a home at Kids Can.

Congratulations on the publication of The EXtinct Files: My Science Project (Kids Can, 2006)! What was your initial inspiration for this book?

Thank you for your kind congratulations. I had a collection of dinosaur paintings which inspired the story. In addition, I was fortunate to have a very good editor and designer at Kids Can, so we worked together well to shape the book.

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

The EXtinct Files took about a year from inception to publication. However, some of the paintings were done beforehand. There was a lot of 'back and forth' with the publisher refining the manuscript, and a lot of time spent sitting in a room at the old drawing board.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

The main challenge was in finding a story which fit the images and which could appeal to kids. Psychologically, when the creation of a book is in midstream, you are always walking around with a feeling that something needs to be done. It's sort of like you are in the middle of remembering the book, and yet you don't know what you have forgotten because you haven't remembered it yet!

What advice do you have for beginning writer-illustrators?

Never give up. Don't become discouraged. Just put things away and come back when you are refreshed. If one path fails, try another. Do the things you like to do. Find the subject matter which interests you the most, and then enjoy the sense of discovery in the creation.

How about those building a career?

There is no set map for building a career as we are all unique and the world changes fast. Just work hard and try to see the areas you would like to work in and approach them. Do the best you can do and always be honest.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I am presently working on a fifth book with Kids Can Press, which (without giving too much away) might involve a circus...

Cynsational Notes

Alphabeasts won the 2002 Governor General's Award for Children's Book Illustration.

Storming the Castle: Blacks in Children's Literature

The January 2007 issue of Children's Writer: Newsletter of Writing and Publishing Trends (Vol. 16. No. 6) offers a recommended article, "Storming the Castle: Blacks in Children's Literature" by Chris Eboch.

It briefly chronicles the history of African American children's literature and then highlights its state today. Sources include Don Tate, illustrator of Summer Sun Risin' by W. Nikola-Lisa (Lee & Low, 2002), author Allison Whittenberg, author/editor Andrea Pinkney, and author Coe Booth.

Arguably, no historically underrepresented group in youth literature has made as significant recent gains as the African-American community--sparkling with creative talent, led by inspiring champions. As we celebrate this success, we also can consider it as a role model for others and an indicator of where the hardest fought battles await. Yet, as is noted in the article, even this, our most successful group, still struggles against industry and societal challenges.

Black History Month in February offers many opportunities to learn more about voices and visions in African American children's and YA literature. That said, let's all commit to raising awareness of wonderful books in this area both next month and throughout the year.

Cynsational News & Links

Hot Off the Press: A Sneak Peek at Publishers' Newest and Hottest Titles from Children's Book Council. Highlights include: Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Scholastic, 2007)(illustrator interview); Holbrook: A Lizard's Tale by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Abby Carter (Clarion, 2007); and Sophie Hartley on Strike by Stephanie Greene (Clarion, 2007).

"'If I Can' Gets Native Youth Reading for Fun" by Julie Rave of the Missoulian. Learn more about If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything, a national reading club for Native American Children. Note: I'm honored that my tween novel, Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001) is highlighted among recommended books by Native authors.

"Super Cool Kid Non-fiction" with Kelly Milner Halls: a chat transcript from the Institute of Children's Literature. Read a Cynsations interview with Kelly.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Author Interview: Lauren Myracle on ttyl and ttfn

Lauren Myracle is the author of six novels for tweens and teens with many more in the works. Her breakout success came with the publication of ttyl (Abrams, 2004), the first-ever novel written entirely in instant messages. Both ttyl and its sequel, ttfn (Amulet, 2006), are New York Times Best-Sellers, and readers eagerly await the third instant messaging book, l8r, g8r, which is due out in March 07.

Lauren holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College, and her work has been described by teens as "awesome," "the best ever," and "sooo funny." She was perhaps most pleased, however, by the reader who said of her work, "I can’t believe it was written by a (cough, cough) grown-up."

What about the writing life first called to you? Were you quick to answer or did time pass by?

Oh, baby. I've loved books since the day I first learned to read, which for the record was October 15th of my first grade year. (Just kidding! It might have been October 16th. It was definitely when I was in the first grade, though.)

Anyway, I started writing my own stuff around that same time, and I have journals on top of journals of my stories and blatherings and lists of unachieved New Year's resolutions.

I started writing for real (and by "for real," I mean with the intent of actually reaching the end of a honest-to-God book) when I was twenty-three. +sighs and looks back nostalgically at young self+ Ah, what a long road it's been.

What made you decide to write for teens?

I didn't decide. I just did. I love teenagers; I love books for teenagers; I love my whole teenage psyche, which is quite alive and well, thanks very much. For me, this was one of those "it's just part of my constitution" things. And to that I say...yay!

What were you like as a teenager?

Er...awkward. Skinny. Bookish, but only when it came to stuff I picked out to read on my own. In terms of school, I was an underachiever, although I did enough to float by.

And finally, I have come to realize in my dotage that as a teenager, I was cuter than I realized at the time, which I say because if you're a teenager and by chance you're reading this, you are also cuter than you realize. And smarter and funnier and cooler all around. Give yourself some credit, girl! Or boy!

For those new to your work, could you briefly summarize your back list, highlighting as you see fit?

Okey-doke! +takes deep breath and recites in order+ Kissing Kate, Eleven, ttyl, Rhymes with Witches, The Fashion Disaster that Changed My Life, ttfn. There! Did it! And they're all lovely, and you should read them all. If you want dark and troubled, try Rhymes with Witches. If you want sweet and clean, try Eleven. If you're an IM freak (don't be ashamed!), read ttyl and ttfn. And then just go on and read Kissing Kate and Fashion Disaster for the heck of it.

Congratulations on the success of ttyl and ttfn! What was your initial inspiration for writing these books?

Merci, merci! You are a sweetie. The credit for inspiration all goes to my fabulous and adorable and brilliant-beyond-words editor, the great Susan Van Metre.

One day, she and I were having a talk about how different things are for girls now than when we were teenagers, and we circled around to the whole IM thing. You know, how when we were in school, we'd come home and phone our buds and go over the day (who wore what, who said what, etc.), but now, girls come home and IM their buds to do their post-op.

And Susan said, "Someone should write a book all told in IMs."

And, being no dummy, I said, "Okay!" And so I did.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing these stories to life?

Thank you for asking that, because I would just like to say here and now that they were frickin' hard to write!!!! No tools of conventional fiction--well, okay, few tools of conventional fiction--were at my disposal, and that made it tricky.

The research part wasn't hard; it was the logistics of telling a story without using blatant exposition or straightforward narrative or even just "moving the story along" techniques like, "And then, the next day, a big monster came down and swallowed the city whole."

It turned out to be rather like writing a play, I guess, but different even than that, because my characters weren't on the stage interacting together. They were all sitting at their computers, typing. And do you know how potentially boring that is?

I mean, okay, I should shut up now, but sometimes I feel like people (critics) pooh-pooh my books because they're written in (gasp!) IMs, and they look easy-peasy and quick. But to them I say: you try it, and then we'll talk! :)

Did you intend for there to be more than one of these novels? How did that evolve?

Well, I hoped there'd be more than one, but when I suggested to Susan that we do a sequel, she politely and sweetly said, "Sorry, Charlie." But nicer. And she used my actual name. And then when ttyl did well, she came back and said, "Erm, any chance you'd like to do a sequel?" And I beamed and got to work.

What advice do you have for beginning novelists?

Read, read, read and write, write, write.

How about those building a career?


What do you do when you're not writing?

I hang out with my three little kittens, who are really human children. I just call them "kittens." And I do laundry. And take food out of its packaging, plonk it on a plate, and pretend I cooked it. Basically, I do all the mundane activities of life, all the while fantasizing about a week long vacay where I can lie in the sun and just read!

What can your fans look forward to next?

More and more and more! Twelve comes out in March, as does l8r, g8r. And I'm having an absolute blast working on a novel called How to Be Bad with two fabulous authors, Sarah Mlynowski and E. Lockhart (author interview). Ooo boy, is that fun. And it looks like I'll be starting a middle grade IM-ish series called Love Ya Bunches which I'm tres excited about. I love my job! I love my job! I love my job!!!

Cynsational Links

In Their Own Words: Interviews with Children's and YA Authors and Illustrators from my web site. See also YA Literature Reading Links and Young Adult Books Bibliography.

Thank you, St. Francis School

Thank you to everyone at St. Francis School in Austin for a wonderful visit!

Keep reading! Keep writing! Keep those goldfish flying!

Cynsational Notes

After presenting information on my own writing life and published books, it was my great pleasure to work with the students on a writing exercise that was a spin-off of my character-building process for Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002). I was so impressed with their enthusiasm, creativity, and willingness to share their work.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

Look for Story of a Girl by debut YA novelist Sara Zarr (Little Brown, 2007). This is another fabulous book for which I had the honor of offering a blurb.

I also met Sara in person this past fall at NCTE/ALAN, and she's not only a talented author, but also the kind of newcomer we all really want to cheer--smart, sweet, funny, and a book person through and through.

Sara says: "As I got older, I never lost my love for YA, and every story that emerged from my own mind featured characters in that strange place that adolescence is. Someone (I can't remember who) has said that childhood is like living in occupied territory. Adolescence is when you start to grope and grasp for your own piece of land outside of that, and the issues of identity that surround that are just ripe for stories." Read a Cynsations interview with Sara.

Read also a more recent interview with Sara from Debbi Michiko Florence at One Writer's Journey.

More News & Links

Are you an author or illustrator published by a Children's Book Council member publisher? If so, you may request a link on the CBC website.

"Don't Get Slighted" by Jan Fields from the Institute of Children's Literature. "Learn how conflict and theme work together to help you avoid 'slight' writing."

Congratulations to Jennifer Lynn Barnes, author of Tattoo (Delacorte, 2007); Alma Fullerton, author of Walking on Glass (HarperCollins, 2007); Brent Hartinger, author of Split Screen: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Zombies/Bride of the Soul Sucking Zombies (HarperCollins, 2007) (author interview) on their January releases.

Beauty Shop For Rent by Laura Bowers

Of late, I had the honor of offering a blurb for Beauty Shop for Rent by debut author Laura Bowers (Harcourt, 2007)(excerpt). My take?

“Beauty Shop for Rent is a down-home, whole-heart story. It’s about a strong girl bolstered by love, shaking off lies, and finding the courage to take chances. It’s about the wrong dream, the right guy, righteous gossip, and the power of a good spa treatment. Funny, aching, and authentic, Laura Bowers’ debut is one of the finest, most entertaining I’ve ever read.”

Put mildly, I loved it, and so I surfed over to the author's website to learn more about her. I especially enjoyed A History of Hair Lessons Learned. Take a Beauty Shop for Rent Quiz. Visit Laura's LJ. Visit Laura's MySpace.

Nebraska-Based Series of Novel-Writing Retreats

Fremont, Neb.--Nebraska children's author N. L. Sharp is hosting a series of writing retreats entitled "Novel Secrets: A Novel Retreat in 3 Acts" at the St. Benedict Retreat Center in Schuyler, Nebraska.

Unique in the world of writing retreats, the intent of this series of three retreats it to help writers move from the first inklings of an idea toward a publishable novel in twelve intensive months.

Presenters for the series of retreats are published authors Elaine Marie Alphin and Darcy Pattison, Simon & Schuster editor Alexandra Penfold, and Writers House literary agent Rebecca Sherman. The retreats are designed for maximum participation and advance preparation for each retreat is required. Brief lectures are followed by time to work on individual projects, then reinforced by group discussions.

The first retreat, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 25 to Saturday, Oct. 27, 2007, will be led by Elaine Marie Alphin and will focus on brainstorming techniques to get the writer started with the plotting, character development, and pacing of the novel.

The second retreat, scheduled for Friday, April 4 to Sunday, April 6, 2008, will be led by Darcy Pattison. The goal of this retreat is that every writer leave with strategies and tools for revising and strengthening the novel.

The final retreat is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 24 to Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008, and will be led by Alexandra Penfold, an editor at Simon & Schuster, and Rebecca Sherman, a senior agent at Writers House Literary Agency.

The focus for this retreat will be marketing strategies and submission secrets, and each participant will have a one-on-one critique session with either the editor or the agent. Time will also be spent discussing the process of letting go of this novel and starting again with a new project.

Complete descriptions of all retreats can be found at, along with registration details. For additional information or questions, contact Nancy Sharp Wagner.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Cynsational News & Links

APL (Austin Public Library) Teens is sponsoring a giveaway of ARCs of my upcoming gothic fantasy novel, Tantalize (Candlewick, Feb. 13, 2007). The word is: "A few of us have read it and we can say with confidence that if vampire novels are your thing, THIS is one book you must read."

Thanks to Jo Whittemore for mentioning me among such distinguished company at "Authors Who Bring Good Luck." Here's crossing fingers for your agent submission. Read a Cynsations interview with Jo.

Thanks to Gail Gauthier at Original Content for recommending my recent interview with author David Levithan and to Patrica Altner at Patricia's Vampire Notes for recommending my interview with Deborah Wilson Overstreet, author of Not Your Mother's Vampire: Vampires in Young Adult Fiction (Scarecrow).

Spooky Sneak Peaks: preview of spring-summer 2007 from Spookycyn.

More News & Links

The 10th Carnival of Children's Literature at Big A little a.

In the Coop with Kevin O'Malley: a silly interview from Three Silly Chicks.

"Fable Becomes the Moral Center of Striped Pajamas:" an exclusive Authorlink interview with John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (David Fickling Books/Random House)(excerpt) by Ellen Birkett Morris.

The Longstockings' Flappie Award goes to... See for yourself!

"More Than Words:" Newbery Honor author Cynthia Lord's charming and eloquent post on a life-changing day. Her award book Rules (Scholastic, 2006) also was my pick for best middle grade novel. Read a Cynsations interview with Cynthia.

"Rising Star - Sean Qualls" by Deborah Stevenson, editor, from The Bulletin of the Center of Children's Books. Learn more about Sean Qualls. Note that he offers prints online for sale.

The San Gabriel Writers' League, a nonprofit organization in Georgetown, Texas, sponsors an annual writing contest. Categories include: Children's Long and Short; Novel; Poetry; Short Fiction; and Short Nonfiction. The deadline is Feb. 14. Entries will receive critiques from at least two judges. Entry fee is $15. Nominal prize money is offered. See rules and information.

Wordy Girls: Thoughts on writing for children - the good, the bad, and the utterly ridiculous: a new LJ from Bonny Becker, Susan Taylor Brown, Susan Heyboer O'Keefe, and Laura Purdie Salas. See also Laura's new website.

ALA Notable Children's Books

Highlights of the ALA Notable Children's Books include...

younger readers

Cork & Fuzz: Short and Tall by Dori Chaconas, illustrated by Lisa McCue (Viking)(author interview); Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by James E. Ransome (Random/Schwartz and Wade)(author interview); Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways by Laura McGee Kvasnosky (Candlewick, 2006)(author-illustrator interview); Los Gatos Black on Halloween by Marisa Montes, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Henry Holt)(author-illustrator interviews); Scaredy Squirrel by Mélanie Watt (Kids Can)(author-illustrator interview); Mammoths on the Move by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Harcourt)(author interview).

middle readers

Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown (Tricycle Press)(author interview); The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin (Little Brown)(author interview); Rules by Cynthia Lord (Scholastic)(author interview); The Cat with the Yellow Star: Coming of Age in Terezin by Susan Goldman Rubin with Ela Weissberger (Holiday House)(author interview); Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom by Tim Tingle, illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges (Cinco Puntos)(recommendation); Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Hyperion)(illustrator interview); Toys Go Out: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky (Random/Schwartz & Wade).

older readers

Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm (Random House)(recommendation); All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall (Little Brown)(author interview); Andy Warhol: Pop Art Painter by Susan Goldman Rubin (Abrams)(author interview); House of the Red Fish by Graham Salisbury (Random House/Wendy Lamb)(author interview).

Cynsational Notes

See the complete list.

Quick Picks for Reluctant YA Readers

Highlights of the Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers include: Tales of the Cryptids: Mysterious Creatures That May Or May Not Exist by Roxyanne Young (author interview on the title), Kelly Milner Halls (author interview on a previous title) and illustrator Rick Spears (Darby Creek); Tyrell by Coe Booth (Scholastic); Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (Knopf)(author interview); What Happened to Cass McBride? by Gail Giles (Little Brown)(author interview)(recommendation); New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (Little Brown)(author interview); Good Girls by Laura Ruby (HarperCollins)(author interview); A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone (Random House)(author interview); The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin (Dial)(author interview); The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld (Razorbill)(author interview); and Witch Ball by Linda Joy Singleton (Llewellyn). See the complete list.

Best Books for Young Adults

Highlights of the top ten BBYAs include: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick); The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (HarperCollins)(excerpt); and The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin (Dial). Read a recommendation of The King of Attolia and an interview with Nancy on The Rules of Survival.

Moving on to the rest of the list, highlights included: Tyrell by Coe Booth (Scholastic); Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos (Simon & Schuster)(author interview); Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (Knopf)(author interview); Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (Viking)(author interview); What Happened to Cass McBride? by Gail Giles (Little Brown)(author interview)(recommendation); St. Iggy by K.L. Going (Harcourt)(author interview); An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (Dutton)(author interview); Side Effects by Amy Goldman Koss (Deborah Brodie/Roaring Brook)(author interview); Wait for Me by An Na (Putnam)(author interview)(recommendation); Blind Faith by Ellen Wittlinger (Simon & Schuster)(author interview); Up Before Daybreak: Cotten and People in America by Deborah Hopkinson (Scholastic); and One Kingdom: Our Lives with Animals by Deborah Noyes (Houghton Mifflin)(author interview). See the complete list.

Cynsational Notes

Two authors were interviewed about previous titles--Deborah Hopkinson was interviewed about Fannie in the Kitchen (Atheneum, 2001) and M.T. Anderson was interviewed about Whales on Stilts (Harcourt, 2005).

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Author Feature: David Levithan

When he's not writing his own books, David Levithan is a Scholastic editor in New York City. He lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

How would you describe yourself as a teenager?

The kid who listened to Carly Simon and was about to discover the Smiths.

Could you tell us about your path to publication--any sprints or stumbles along the way?

No, I got lucky. I accidentally wrote my first novel.

I'd like to focus on your new releases, but first let's highlight your backlist. Your books include: Boy Meets Boy (Knopf, 2003); The Realm of Possibility (Knopf, 2004); Are We There Yet? (Knopf, 2005); and Marley's Ghost (Dial, 2005). Could you briefly tell us what each is about and what drew you to those stories?

Boy Meets Boy is a dippy happy gay romantic comedy, meant to counterbalance all the grim, sad, gloomy gay teen books of the past.

Realm of Possibility is the story of twenty kids who go to the same high school, and how their lives intersect.

Are We There Yet? is about two brothers who can't stand each other whose parents trick them into taking a trip to Italy together.

And Marly's Ghost is a remix of Dickens's A Christmas Carol.

One of your new titles, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (Knopf, 2006) is co-authored by Rachel Cohn. How did this working relationship evolve? What are the particular challenges and benefits to working with a co-author?

It was Rachel's idea to write a back-and-forth novel...and I'm glad she had it. We started with two names and a few facts, and then wrote the novel by exchanging chapters, without talking about it along the way.

We really wrote it for each other, and it's been really amazing that other people have liked it, too. If our storytelling hadn't clicked, the book would've never happened; so once it did, it was pretty smooth sailing.

Congratulations, too, on Wide Awake (Knopf, 2006)! What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

The election results of 2004 inspired me to write it--I wanted to write a novelist's version of a protest song. I wanted to talk about what's going on in America today, and how it could get better.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

It's very strange to set a novel in a place you've never visited, but luckily I had friends to tell me about Kansas. More importantly, I wanted to make sure that it was clear that "religious" is not synonymous with "conservative" or "anti-gay" or "anti-Jewish"--instead, most religious people believe in kindness and love and tolerance.

You've also edited a number of anthologies, most recently The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities, co-edited by Billy Merrell (Knopf, 2006). How did you find your authors? What questions did you weigh in balancing the collection?

We set up a website ( and spread the word via email and the Internet. We were amazed by the responses--we didn't have the room to include all the essays we liked. We wanted it to be as representative a collection as possible, and were happy that we got such a wide range of responses.

In particular, the number of transgender essays really impressed us, and I think they give the collection its heart, because it shows how our culture is still evolving in terms of gender and sexuality.

Other than your own, what would you say are the three must-read YA novels of the year and why?

It's hard to narrow it down! I'll just say that Markus Zusak's The Book Thief (Knopf, 2006) was the book that astonished and inspired me the most this year.

What do you love about your writing life and why?

I love seeing how the stories unfold. It's as simple as that.

What advice do you have for beginning YA novelists?

Write what you want to.

What can your fans look forward to next?

My next book with Rachel, Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List (Knopf), comes out in August. And I have two anthologies out this spring -- This is PUSH ( and 21 Proms, which I co-edited with Daniel Ehrenhaft. It's a whole lot of fun.

Cynsational Notes

Author Profile: David Levithan from

Spring-Summer Sneak Peeks

Highlights of...

the Henry Holt spring 2007 (April-August) catalog include: Hush, Little Puppy by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Susan Winter and Skinny Brown Dog by Kimberly Willis Holt, illustrated by Donald Saaf. Read interviews with April and Kimberly.

the HarperCollins summer 2007 catalog include: Birthday at the Panda Palace by Stephanie Calmenson, illustrated by Doug Cushman; Follow Me, Mittens by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung; The Chaos King by Laura Ruby; Bearwalker by Joseph Bruchac. Read interviews with Stephanie, Lola, Laura, and Joe.

the Candlewick spring 2007 catalog include: Beige by Cecil Castellucci and The Restless Dead, edited by Deborah Noyes. Read interviews with Cecil and Deborah.

the Random House spring 2007 catalog include: Babymouse: Heartbreaker by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Matthew Holm. Read an interview with Matthew.

Monday, January 22, 2007

ALA Awards

The American Library Association has named its 2007 award winners. See a complete list of the titles on the ALA site. I've highlighted titles and/or authors previously featured on this blog.

Newbery Honor Awards went to Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm (Random House)(recommendation) and Rules by Cynthia Lord (Scholastic, 2006). The John Newbery Medal recognizes "the most outstanding contribution to children's literature."

Rules also is the middle grade winner of the Scheider Family Book Award, honoring titles that "embody an artistic expression of the disability experience." Read an interview with Cynthia.

The Coretta Scott King Awards recognize "African American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults that demonstrate sensitivity to 'the true worth and value of all beings.'" Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper (Atheneum) was a CSK award winner. The CSK illustration award went to Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Hyperion). Read an interview with Kadir. This same title also was recognized with a Caldecott honor. The Randolph Caldecott Medal is "for the most distinguished American picture book for children."

The Printz Award "for excellence in literature written for young adults" honor books included An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (Dutton, 2006) and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick, 2006). Read interviews with John about Katherines and with Tobin about a previous title, Whales on Stilts (Harcourt, 2005).

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award "for the outstanding book for beginning readers" went to Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways by Laura McGee Kvasnosky (Candlewick, 2006). Read an interview with Laura.

Cynsational Notes

Winners and honorees also listed among my own favorite books of the year included: Penny from Heaven; Rules; Copper Sun; and Moses.

Fantasy Links Round-up

Notes from "Creating the Fantasy World" by Jo Whittemore. Jo's books are Escape from Arylon (Llewellyn, 2006) and Curse of Arastold (Llewellyn, 2006). Read a Cynsations interview with Jo.

"Moonshower's Heart Leads Her Back to Children's Books:" an exclusive Authorlink interview with Candie Moonshower, author of The Legend of Zoey (Delacorte)(excerpt) by Susan Van Hecke.

"What lies behind the magical doors of Crackpot Hall?" An interview with Ysabeau Wilce by Kelly Link from BookPage. Ysabeau Wilce is the author of Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog (Harcourt)(excerpt).

"The word on technology: A new column on online literature" by Katie Haegele from The Philadelphia Inquirer. Features L. Lee Lowe's online novel "Mortal Ghost," see

Sunday, January 21, 2007

2007 Edgar Nominees

The Mystery Writers of America has announced the 2007 Edgar Allan Poe Award nominees, "honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television and film published or produced in 2006." The Edgar Awards will be presented at a banquet on April 26 in New York City.

Nominees in the "best juvenile" category are: Gilda Joyce: The Ladies of the Lake by Jennifer Allison (Penguin-Sleuth/Dutton); The Stolen Sapphire: A Samantha Mystery by Sarah Masters Buckey (American Girl); Room One: A Mystery or Two by Andrew Clements (Simon & Schuster); The Bloodwater Mysteries: Snatched by Pete Hautman & Mary Logue (Penguin-Sleuth/Putnam); The Case of the Missing Marquess: An Enola Holmes Mystery by Nancy Springer (Penguin-Philomel/Sleuth).

Nominees in the "best young adult" category are: The Road of the Dead by Kevin Brooks (Scholastic-The Chicken House)(excerpt); The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson (Penguin YR-Sleuth/Viking); Crunch Time by Mariah Fredericks (Simon & Schuster-Richard Jackson Books/Atheneum)(excerpt); Buried by Robin Merrow MacCready (Penguin YR-Dutton Children's Books); The Night My Sister Went Missing by Carol Plum-Ucci (Harcourt).

Cynsational Notes

Don't miss Bringing Mysteries Alive for Children and Young Adults by Jeanette Larson (Linworth, 2004)(recommendation).

Friday, January 19, 2007

Freaks: Alive on the Inside by Annette Curtis Klause

Check out the new paperback cover art for Freaks: Alive on the Inside by Annette Curtis Klause (Simon & Schuster, 2006).

Annette says: "I have a large cast of unusual characters in this book , and while the people in my story are imaginary, their physical differences are often inspired by those of people who really lived, and many characters are composites of people I came across in photographs and accounts."

Read a Cynsations interview with Annette. See the "Blood and Chocolate" (inspired by a 1999 novel by Annette) movie trailer.

More News & Links

Speaking of gothic fantasy, I'm enormously flattered (and rather stunned) by Liz Gallagher's take on my upcoming Tantalize (Candlewick, Feb. 13, 2007): "Totally Buffy-esque. Of course I thoroughly enjoyed it. Actually, I enjoyed it more than I ever enjoyed 'Buffy.' Favorite line: 'You ate the police?'" Thanks, Liz! Look for Tantalize on pages 26-27 of the Candlewick Spring-Summer 2007 catalog!

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #1: Liz from A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy. Wonderful interview, and wowza! I'm blushing neon at the lovely mention of my blogs. Thanks so much! Jeepers, what an honor!

Charlotte Zolotow Awards Announced

The Charlotte Zolotow Book Awards have been announced. The award "is given annually for outstanding writing in a picture book published in the United States in the preceding year."

Honor books include Mrs. Crump's Cat by Linda Smith, illustrated by David Roberts (HarperCollins, 2006)(recommendation), which was named to my list of Cynsational Books of 2006.

Highly commended titles include An Island Grows by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Cathie Felstead (Greenwillow, 2006). Read an August 2006 Cynsations interview with Lola. Listen to a radio interview with Lola from Southern Adventist University.

I'm heartened that the Zolotow award recognizes picture-book writing. This field tends to be underestimated and underappreciated. Brevity can be deceiving, suggest that the task is easier, quicker. Yet I know from my own efforts that some eighty or more drafts are often necessary. There is no time for false notes. Every word must sing.

Congratulations to the honorees! Scroll for the complete list.

Cynsational Notes

See a June 2000 interview with Ginny Moore Kruse on the Charlotte Zolotow Awards. My apologies for the broken links on this page. CCBC has reorganized its site since they were posted; updates to my main site are ongoing.

How To Write A Children's Book by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock (E&E, 2004). Analyzing more than twenty-five classics such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig, this academic look at picture book and picture storybook structure can offer writers insights into their own work at many stages. Have an idea for a story but not sure how to begin? Read this book. Stuck in the middle and don't know what to do next? Take a look at this book. Uncertain about the overall plot? Bine-Stock dissects the parts of each example to reveal how its author created the whole. This clinical approach to plotting shows how the masters of the craft have succeeded. Recommendation by Anne Bustard, author of Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly (Simon & Schuster, 2005)(author interview). Visit Anneographies: Picture Book Biographies.

Picture Writing by Anastasia Suen (Writers Digest, 2003). Both wide and deep, this is a helpful overview and get-you-thinking look at various types of children's books. Especially recommended to picture book writers and children's poets. Check out Anastasia's blog, Create/Relate: News from the Children's Book Biz.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ode to a Departing Manuscript

"Ode to a Departing Manuscript" a new song by author Kim Norman from her web site. Look for Jack of All Tails by Kim Norman, illustrated by David Clark (Dutton, 2007).

Congratulations to the winter 2007 graduates of the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults! Y'all are in my thoughts today. Wahoo!

Highlights of the January 2007 issue of The Edge of the Forest: a children's literature monthly include: Judging the Cover by Allie of Bildungsroman/Slayground; Twentieth Century YA Style by Pamela Coughlan of MotherReader; Helping Children Choose Books Beyond Level by Franki Sibberson of A Year of Reading; and an interview with Alan Gratz by Eisha Prather and Julie Danielson of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. This month's featured blogging writer is Lisa Yee. Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

In summer 2007, An Na and Jacqueline Woodson be teaching at Pine Manor College in its low residency MFA in Creative Writing program. Both are highly recommended. Read an interview with An Na.

Calling librarian bloggers from my home states of Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Michigan, Illinois, and Texas! Please drop me a note with your location and URL. Thanks!

Surfed by Spookycyn, lately? I'm taking more introspective, quirkier approach this year, often using books as a spinoff. Recent posts have touched on: Tantalize in book form; personal memories of Gerald Ford; Elvis' birthday, the Congress Avenue bird die-off ("Mulder, something killed those birds!"), Leslie dress-up magnets; "Blood and Chocolate" movie trailer; sale of Castle Bran in Transylvania; and So Few of Me, the quest for balance in the writing life.

Thanks to Chicken Spaghetti for recommending my review of Sydney Taylor Award winner Julia's Kitchen by Brenda A. Feber (FSG, 2006). Thanks also for the link from Six writers. One Story to the agent-related resources on my website.

Oklahoma Centennial Book Club

Oklahoma Centennial Book Club: coordinated by author Molly Griffis in celebration of the state centennial. Molly's goal is for every Oklahoma library to have as complete a collection of children's and young adult books by Okie authors as it can afford. Authors may write to Molly to request that their books are included; please note that if you lived in Oklahoma long enough to still call yourself an Oklahoman, your books are eligible. Molly is the author of numerous books for young readers, including Paradise on the Prairie (Eakin Press).

More News & Links

Highlights of the January Book of Life podcast include coverage of the Sydney Taylor Awards.

Michele is hosting a monthly book discussion at Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone. The first book will be King of Shadows by Susan Cooper, and its discussion will begin Feb. 6. See the complete list. Source: Create/Relate.

Middle School Lit: discussion group to focus on middle school authors and share recommendations. Also will read and discuss selected books. Source: Create/Relate.

"Sirens of the Sea:" a recommendation of Blackbeard The Pirate King by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by vintage art (National Geographic, 2006) from Wordswimmer. Read a Cynsations interview with J. Patrick Lewis.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Author Interview: Deborah Wilson Overstreet on Not Your Mother's Vampire: Vampires in Young Adult Fiction

Deborah Wilson Overstreet on Deborah Wilson Overstreet: "My father was in the Navy, so I didn't grow up in one spot, although we did stick to the east coast (everywhere from Newfoundland, Canada to Orlando). I always thought that I wanted to be a college professor and write books, although I had no idea what kind of professor or what kind of books! I changed my major six times as an undergrad at the University of Central Florida, but finally settled on education.

"Eventually I got a Master's degree from the University of Georgia, briefly joined the Peace Corps (serving in Liberia), and finally taught seventh grade English in a small town in Georgia. My doctorate is in English education, and so I teach pre-service teachers about children's and young adult literature and how to teach English (University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, University of Louisiana, and now University of Maine at Farmington).

"Now I live in a tiny town in Maine (less than 100 miles from Stephen King!). I have a huge English mastiff named Truly and two cats, Jude and Lilah (I had to get a Buffyverse name in there somewhere)."

It appears that you are likewise in the thrall of the fanged ones. Could you tell us about your fascination with the undead?

This is always an interesting question, and yet I never know exactly how to answer it. I didn't grow up as a vampire fan. I never really chose to watch horror movies (although on occasion some cousins and I would watch old black-and-white horror movies on television), and I don't enjoy being afraid. Vampires, however, seemed different. They were intriguing and maybe evil, but not scary.

Perhaps the fascination is that vampires, as we know them, are a literary creation (of course, there were folkloric vampires centuries before this, but they were very different). While vampires have always been interesting figures, vampires now are more fascinating than ever. I believe that this is because of their infinite variety. Even from their beginning in the early 19th century, literary vampires resisted homogeneity. Lord Ruthven (the first literary vampire from John Polidori's 1819 novella, The Vampire) was a rake and a womanizer. Carmilla (from Sheridan LeFanu's 1872 novella, Carmilla) was a lesbian. Dracula (from Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, Dracula) was legitimately evil.

Since then in books, movies, and television, vampires have become even more diverse. Some are erotic; some reluctant; some good; some conflicted; some predatory; some are even villainous, but rarely are they evil. This post-modern construction of morality where a monster isn't necessarily bad is enthralling.

Congratulations on the publication of Not Your Mother's Vampire: Vampires in Young Adult Fiction (Scarecrow Press, 2006)! For those who've yet to sink their teeth in, could you offer an overview of the book?

Chapter One (Vampires 101) is an examination of the evolution of vampires. I looked at changes in vampires, changes in types of vampire narratives, and changes in vampire metaphors.

In one of the bigger sections of this chapter, I isolated ten classic vampire narratives (five books, five movies) to examine how today's young adult vampires fit within the tradition. Finally, I took the twenty novels in the study and divided them into three categories based on their narrative structures: "Becoming a Vampire" novels (which usually have as a main plot the possibility that a character is becoming a vampire, often against their wills), "Power Negotiation" novels (which usually focus on humans and vampires trying to find their way in life, often specifically in relation to their larger communities), and finally "Romance" novels (which focus on romantic relationships with vampire partners).

Chapter Two (Undead and Unmasked: The Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth, about Vampires) contemplates vampires in all their glory. Vampires from all three categories of books, "Becoming a Vampire," "Power Negotiations," and "Romances" will be explored. Specifically, I focused on how the vampires themselves are represented, the conventions that bind today's vampires, the inherent sexuality of vampires, and the interestingly post-modern figure of the good or reluctant vampire.

Chapter Three (Meet, Fight, or Possibly Even Love a Vampire: The Human-Vampire Connection) focused on the humans in vampire narratives. I was particularly intrigued by what humans who are involved with vampires were like. Humans who fight vampires as a calling or vocation or even in a vigilante situation were explored. The circumstances under which humans enter into romantic relationships with vampires were of distinct interest. I also examined how gender issues played out between humans and vampires.

Chapter Four (Welcome to the Buffyverse: Vampires, High School, and the Hellmouth) addressed the cultural phenomenon created by the television shows "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1997-2003) and its parallel series, "Angel" (1999-2004). While "Buffy" and "Angel" don't exclusively concern themselves with vampires, these television shows have made a huge impact on a wide-ranging audience and have brought vampires to a very mainstream audience.

Chapter Five (All the Titles that Bite: Vampire Novels and Scholarship) is a detailed annotated bibliography. Contained here are the detailed summaries of all twenty novels used in the study. Brief summaries of other young adult and children's vampire novels, as well as summaries of vampire scholarship, and other resources are included.

What was your initial inspiration for writing the book?

Initially, I had thought to just write an article. It was the summer of 1999, and I had just reread The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause (Delacorte, 1990)(author interview). I was again struck by how much I loved the book.

Vampire narratives often have a romantic element, but the idea of an actual, blatant romance with a vampire was a new one to me. I found the idea intriguing and started to seek out other books like this. I came across Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde (Harcourt, 1995)(author interview), loved it too, and began to wonder if there were enough romance-with-a-vampire books out there to write something about.

I also toyed with the idea of just writing an article analyzing romance-with-a-supernatural-character books. This way, I could include Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (Delacorte, 1997), which is, without question, the most erotic and romantic young adult werewolf book ever written. Ghost stories could also be included, like The House Next Door by Richie Tankersley Cusick (Simon Pulse, 2002). Lisa Jane Smith's Nightworld series, which exclusively features human/supernatural romances, would have also fit. Alas, despite Blood and Chocolate, vampires drew me back. I finally read my first adult vampire books, the Anita Hamilton series by Laurell K. Hamilton. Eventually, I succumbed to the inevitable lure of vampires and realized that not only was I entranced enough but that there was enough material for a whole book.

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

I began thinking about writing something analyzing vampires in the summer of 1999 while I was a professor at the University of Louisiana. I got too busy at work and eventually wrote an analysis of labor history in young adult novels instead ("Organize! A Look at Labor History in Young Adult Novels," The ALAN Review, Fall 2001). Even though I was still interested in vampires, they got pushed aside. In 2001, I became a professor at the University of Maine at Farmington. I always used vampire books in my children's and young adult literature classes (often In the Forests of the Night (Delacorte, 1999) and Demon in My View (Delacorte, 2000) both by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes and The Silver Kiss, of course). So even though vampires weren't in my writing, they were still on my mind.

When I moved to Maine in the summer of 2001, I started watching "Buffy" and "Angel" (my cable in Louisiana didn't carry the WB) and immediately became obsessed. This kicked my vampire interest back into high gear. Finally in the Fall of 2002, I proposed a book analyzing young adult vampire fiction to Scarecrow Press, and they accepted. Because of our very heavy teaching load at UMF, I was really only able to research and write during the summer and Christmas breaks.

In the spring of 2004, I proposed my Buffy studies class to my university, and it was also accepted. The intense preparation for the Buffy class also helped me write Chapter 4 (Welcome to the Buffyverse: Vampires, High School, and the Hellmouth). I submitted the manuscript to Scarecrow Press in November of 2004, and the book was released in August 2006.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

Honestly, this was an incredibly difficult book to write. I loved reading the young adult vampire novels. I especially enjoyed reading vampire scholarship since this was the intersection of several things I love--literary and cinematic analysis and criticism and vampires!

My first major challenge was trying to decide which books to use. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of titles. I had originally isolated 60 fairly current young adult vampire books to use. But since I needed to have a more manageable number, I pared that down to 20. There was no particular formula that I used to choose one book over another; these were just books that seemed to represent the best and most interesting writing and the widest range of characters, narrative structures, and plot lines.

One I decided on the books, trying to decide how to organize the analysis proved to be the most difficult task. Most of my writing involves the analysis of representations of history in literature, and this type of work always seems very straightforward. How to analyze vampires, on the other hand, just didn't come to me quickly. Honestly, there were several times along the way that I almost quit. I sat at my computer for sometimes 10 hours a day and was producing very little. Eventually though, I came upon a structure that seemed to make sense, and things got a little easier (but not that much easier because I really hate to write!).

The Buffy chapter was also especially difficult to write. I'm an associate editor for Slayage, an online, juried, journal of Buffy Studies at, so I'm used to Buffy scholarship being written for Buffy scholars, an audience already completely familiar with the entire Buffyverse. I really felt that this chapter needed to be written for people who may never even have heard of Buffy (are there people who have never even heard of Buffy?).

You teach a class in Buffy studies! (I want to take that class!). What was it about Buffyverse that elevated it to not only a pop culture but also a scholarly iconic series?

What makes Buffy so great? That's easy, the writing. I firmly believe that Joss Whedon (the creator, and occasional writer and director of "Buffy," "Angel," and "Firefly") is a modern-day Shakespeare. His writing is effulgent (to quote Spike) and is nearly matched in quality by the rest of the Mutant Enemy writers. "Buffy" and the parallel series, "Angel," read like a 254-chapter novel. Not only do the story lines manage to be dramatic, comic, romantic, heart-breaking, erotic, suspenseful, and occasionally horrifying, the dialogue is by turn hilarious, gut-wrenching, ironic, and literary--and sometimes all the same scene! The actors, and there's very little attention given to them in the field of Buffy Studies, also contribute a great deal. Without their skills, all the distinguished writing in the world wouldn't have made the series work.

What is the timeless appeal of vampires, especially to teens?

I can point to two studies that really seem to answer that question for me. The first is a wildly fascinating book, Our Vampires, Ourselves by Nina Auerbach (University of Chicago Press, 1995). She chronicles American (and her own) culture and history and how vampires have been portrayed at different times. She hypothesizes that each representation of a vampire is influenced by the prevailing social and sexual mores of the time in which it was created. Therefore, each generation has the vampires that it needs.

In his 1997 article, "Vampire Literature: Something Young Adults Can Really Sink Their Teeth Into," Joseph DeMarco explored the natural connection between vampires and teen readers, believing that vampires represent many of the problems that young adults find themselves working through. Vampires can also appear to be an idealized version of what young adults might admire. DeMarco speculates that vampires represent things that most teenagers are not, but might like to be--fearless, attractive, powerful, cool, independent, unsupervised, and intelligent.

Teenagers sometimes find the path to adulthood rocky and intimidating. Empathizing and identifying with a powerful creature or with the humans who associate with these powerful creatures can be a means of both escape and growth. Literature in general, and horror literature in particular, is a place for young adult readers, who are frequently in the midst of trying to establish their own identities, to try on roles that generally wouldn't be acceptable in real life.

And, of course, vampires are cool!

Cynsational Links

Author Update: Annette Curtis Klause from Cynsations, January 2006.

Gothic Fantasy, Horror, and Suspense for Teens and Tweens from my web site. Annotated bibliography with links to author interviews and much more.