Sequels Week--Go For the Companion

Okay, so there's been a lot of discussion this week about writing a sequel. I especially liked Angie's assurances that writing book 2 is hard. I appreciated Jeff's list of questions to ask to see if there's sequel potential to a story. Julia reminded us that we can't change horses mid-space ship. Or something like that. ;) And Beth gave some great advice in writing that pesky sequel as fast as possible.

I'm here to say: Go the companion route. It's so much easier. (Ha!)

But seriously, companion novels are almost new novels. You can explore the world you've already created (and it doesn't have to be a dystopian or fantasy world, could just be the way you've set up your high school or whatever) with new people! Shiny new people.

And those shiny new people can have a story of their own. I'm telling you, the companion novel is the way to go about writing your sophomore novel. Because if you think the sophomore slump only happens in college, think again.

I think companion novels that have sequential elements are the best of both worlds. Think THE DEAD-TOSSED WAVES as a companion to THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH. We get to see the MC from the first book in the second. The story is advanced a little bit more, amidst a new plot and new characters.

Things to think about:
1. Is there room in your world for growth? If so, you could so companion it up. I especially like going to different cities/places in the storyworld in a companion novel. Like, how cool would it be to read a book that takes place in The Capitol--the heart of the storyworld in THE HUNGER GAMES?

2. Can my MC realistically carry a second book? If no, then a companion is for you. You don't need that MC anymore. Sure, they can show up, even be a major player, but they don't have to be the shining star.

3. Have I told the whole story already? Angie sort of touched on this yesterday, but you have to really examine if you've told the whole story. If you have, then a companion novel could work for you.

So what do you think? Would you go the companion route? What are the advantages? The disadvantages?

Sequels Week: Lessons (so far) from Writing The Forgetting Curve

I didn’t start out writing Memento Nora as part of a series or trilogy. It wasn’t until well into the revision process did I even come up with the idea for the sequel.  And it’s all my editor’s fault.

She asked an innocent question about the ending. Would Nora believe her mother?  (Hopefully that's not too spoilerish.)

So I started The Forgetting Curve with that scene in mind.  And the first version was all about getting the characters back to the same point (and farther), just by a different route, as they’d gotten to in Memento Nora. In other words, could they become the same people—(spoiler alert) if they’d forgotten everything they learned the first time around? [<--highlight to see this bit.]

Thank goodness my editor wasn’t buying that idea. Literally.

That journey had been told, for better or worse, in Memento Nora, and the characters and story needed to move on to a new level in subsequent books.  (My words, not hers.)

So I revised (and am still revising). The overall plot (the outer story) hasn’t changed too drastically, but the way it’s being told has—and it’s good thing. I think.  New characters have come to the forefront to tell this piece of the story, which has meant a lot of work, but hopefully it’ll be worth it. The inner story isn’t a rehash.

Other important things I’ve learned (so far) in writing this sequel:

  • It’s much harder to write book 2.  Book 1 is the story your editor fell in love with enough to buy.  And now she (as well as everyone else who’s read the book) have their own expectations about what should happen in book 2. It’s not a bad thing to surprise people, but just be aware that others will have preconceptions about this book. Plus you’ll need to write and revise it much faster than you did book 1 in order to get book 2 out within a year. Hand holding time is over.

  • Don’t assume the reader has read or remembers book 1. You need to strike a balance between new story and back story (aka book 1). (But do not go overboard on the back story!) The reader needs to be pulled into the action of the new story while being brought up to speed (just enough) on the old one. 

  • You need to deepen the overall (outer story) stakes.  Besides revisiting characters and a world hopefully your readers like, your reader will expect more out this book. It needs advance the storyline in the grand scheme of things.
 I'm sure I'll be learning many more important lessons with this book. 

Anyone else have lessons learned to share? Or, as a reader, what do you like to see in a sequel?

How do you know if you should write a sequel?

So my experience is a little different from my fellow Leaguers sequel-wise, since The Eleventh Plague is a standalone. It was, however, sold as a part of a two book deal and now that I've finished the first draft of that second book, Magisterium, I'm thinking there very well could be a sequel to that one.

Contemplating this, the question I've been asking myself the most do I know? How do I know if my idea is sequel worthy?

Right now, books being a series almost seems like the default position. What isn't a series these days, right? But as a writer, choosing to write a sequel means another couple years, or more, of being totally immersed in a set of characters and their world. If you're going to do it you better be pretty darn sure it's the right thing to do.

Now, I'm still figuring this out. I don't have the answers, but here are some questions I've been asking myself as I contemplate heading to sequelville.
  • Do I have more story ideas? Simply put, can I think of new and compelling challenges for the characters? Even more simply put, can I think of neat stuff I want to see happen? In some ways plot points are, or should be, like a big toys. You should be excited about the idea of playing with a scene where character X finally meets character Y, or joins a revolution, or--as is possible in the case of my book-becomes a cyborg.
  • Does this world still interest me? Is the world of the book big enough and rich enough to stand up to further exploration? Did the world change in an interesting way at the end of book 1? Is it continuing to change? Do you still want to play in that world?
  • Are there new places to go with the characters and relationships?  To me, this is the key question. You can think of all the clever story ideas you want, but if they aren't anchored in a strong, and fresh, emotional journey for your characters then they don't matter.  Do your characters still have unresolved issues they need to work on, or did the end of book 1 throw them into such a different place in their life that there are entirely new internal and external conflicts to explore?
For me, the answer to all these questions needs to be a very emphatic yes. If not, then no matter what the market wants, a sequel or sequels probably isn't a great idea.

What do you guys think? What other things should a writer be asking themselves when contemplating writing a sequel or a series? How would you make the decision?

Writing a sequel? Should be a piece of cake, right?

I am in the midst of edits on the sequel to XVI – TRUTH. I have been, for the most part, writing on this book since my agent search began, way back in 2008.
It wasn’t until after I gained representation and XVI went out in the world looking for a home, that I realized I needed to STOP writing the sequel. Why? Because I had no idea what a potential editor might want. It would’ve been a shame to have written an entire book that I would need to scrap if my vision and the editor’s vision didn’t mesh.
Was that a good idea? Uh… yes.
After XVI (and the unwritten sequel) sold and the edits on XVI were done – I started writing in earnest. Well, as in earnest as I could, considering I was wrapped up in pre-publication promotional activities.
Did things change from my original XVI to the final product? Most definitely. Which made me uber-glad that I waited to finish the sequel. As it was – I pretty much threw out everything I’d written earlier and started fresh.
The challenges to sequel-writing (as I am learning) are many. Let me note a few:

1. You can’t change horses (or space-ships) in mid-stream. If you don’t have certain slang or technology in book 1, it had better not show up in book 2! Unless, of course, your characters are scientists and are inventing new technology (not so much new slang! Lol)
2. How much time needs to elapse between the end of book 1 and the start of book 2? This going to be dependent upon your editor’s vision (and, of course, yours!) – but, you have to be sure to allow enough time to pass for things to happen that can (and probably should) happen “off-camera.”
3. Then there is possibly the biggest challenge of all – not info-dumping on your readers! Many will, hopefully, have read your first book but they will need a bit of a refresher. But dousing them with a blow-by-blow of previous events is not the way to go. It is a very fine line to tread – including enough, but not too much.
Sequel-writing is definitely not for the faint of heart. You have to tell a new story – you can’t just rehash the same thing with a different villain or someone new to be saved. The story should be able to stand on its own – while inviting the reader to seek out other books from your same created world.
Enough said on this for now – since only my editor and my readers will be able to tell me if I’m successful in practicing what I preach. And… since I’m busy editing TRUTH, I’d best get back to it!
Oh – I did want to ask though… what do you feel are some really good multiple books? What sequels worked for you?

Spring Break!

We're taking a break from now until next week to catch up on writing. Me? I'm doing some spring cleaning on my manuscript (and ignoring the house). See y'all next week!

Writing Week: Sequels

The lateness of this post should attest to the dire-ness of writing sequels...

I'm in the midst of writing A MILLION SUNS right now--it's due on Friday actually. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but while I'm reaching for it, I thought I'd lay out here what I've learned so far:

  • Write it as quickly as possible
    • I'll admit: I took a bit of a summer break last year. Once I finished ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (edits and all) I was a bit burnt-out--I'd been teaching full-time as well as working on the book, and I thought I deserved a break. Looking back, I wish I'd taken a shorter one and spent more time getting ready for Book 2
  • Listen to critique buddies
    • When will I ever learn this one?! I guess I'll add: you might feel crunched for time (I certainly do) but when you're working on a sequel, keep in mind that it's better to do it right and take a little more time, than do it wrong and have to start over again.
  • Do as much non-book necessities as soon as you can
    • Did you know it was tax day today? I ain't gonna lie: taxes were another reason why this post was late! Boy, I wish I'd finished them off in February!
  • Don't be afraid to let the house go
    • I've not done dishes in...awhile. And the yard hasn't been mowed this year. I'm sure my neighbors think we're a bunch of lazy rednecks, but the grass can grow another week until I can finish this book!
  • The Crockpot and frozen dinners are your friend
    • But perhaps not the friend of my husband, who's getting sick of them.

As you can probably guess, I'm a bit frazzled with edits and everything else (namely: life) right now. Let me show you what's been going on lately:

  • Summer 2010: Begin rough draft of A MILLION SUNS, but (honestly) I'm taking it slower than usual
  • September 2010: Finish first draft of AMS and send it to critique buds with a desperate and hypocritical plea for a fast read so I can edit before it's due.
  • October 2010: Get crits back. Realize that the story is completely wrong.
  • November 2010: Write a completely new draft with a different mystery, different plot, different bad guy.
  • December 2010: After some feedback from a new set of readers, get the new draft to agent and editor
  • February 2011: Get feedback from editor. Realize the story is completely wrong (again). Scrap 90% of the draft and start over.
  • March 2011: Mail in new version of AMS to editor. Get more feedback realize that the story's not completely wrong, but that it still requires a lot of work to get it up to par.
  • April 2011: Rewrite (again). 
  • April 18, 2011: *dies*

OK, maybe I'm exaggerating. But for those of you in the wings keeping track, I'm on draft four of Book 2. The short answer: sequels are tough to write. It's not just about keeping readers up to date with what happened in Book 1 and leading into Book's about visualizing the book as both a story-arc of it's own, and also a part of a larger story arc of the whole series.

I'm sure the rest of the League is going to lay down some serious advice this week. As for me, all I can say is: if this doesn't kill me, I'll be actively seeking a time-turner, TARDIS, or flux capacitor for the next book!

Introducing SJ Kincaid!

The Twitter version: tell us about your book in 140 characters or less:
INSIGNIA is the story of a teenage video gamer who becomes a government weapon in a futuristic world at war. It’s coming out in the summer of 2012 (Katherine Tegen Books).

What else are you working on? Secrets? Inside scoops? Give us the juicy stuff!
Regrettably, nothing so juicy. Right now I’m revising INSIGNIA, and brainstorming for two and three—probably getting going on two sometime soon. I’m always writing other things, too, but never seriously. Usually the bulk of my energy goes into just one project at a time.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always loved writing, but I never seriously considered it as a primary career. I knew even as a teenager that the vast majority of writers can’t pay their bills just by writing alone—and that’s even after publication. I wrote INSIGNIA while I was in an intensive training program for another job. I probably should have been studying or doing homework, but instead I was writing. Thanks to my editor, Molly O’Neill, this became the first time in my life that procrastination actually paid off.

What made you decide to go that “extra step” and seek publication?
I always wrote stories as a kid. I wrote this long one in fourth grade, wrote a prequel to that in fifth grade, and then a prequel to that prequel in sixth grade. The sixth grade one was a pretty epic story, actually. It was about this Prince who goes hunting in the forest, and gets attacked by a bear. He slays it. He finds its bear cub, adopts it, and raises it. When the Prince gets older, his parents decide to kill him (I clearly had little understanding of primogeniture back then), but instead, they accidentally kill his pet grizzly bear. He beheads both of his parents to get revenge, and then stands up in the rising sun holding a head in each hand to announce, “NOW I AM KING!” And that was just chapter one.

My parents found it and read it, and I remember they kind of looked at each other dubiously… Those were great times. They’ve always encouraged me to write, though. I’ve been into writing ever since.

After college, I started writing a YA story on my own. I got about halfway through it, and then decided, “I should just be realistic. There’s no chance I’ll ever finish this.” I abandoned it after that. (It didn’t help that, yes, I was halfway through it… At 95k. I had no idea how long that was!)

A little while later, I was in a bookstore with a friend of mine, and I think we were looking over some YA books. She mentioned an idea for a story. We brainstormed, and figured it would be hilarious to write it as a love story between a really unpleasant, unlikeable girl with no redeeming qualities and an incredibly idealized, dreamy guy. We started writing it as a joke, and then we ended up getting into it, and eventually finishing it. That made me realize, "Hey, finishing a story is possible!" There was no going back after that.

I grabbed the first story with its monstrous 95k first half, cut that down to size, and then finished it, too. From there, writing essentially became my primary hobby while I moved to various places, held various jobs, and eventually returned to school. And then I got my fantastic agent, David Dunton, and the rest is history.

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know.
As soon as I finished INSIGNIA, I was pretty sure this was the best thing I’d ever written—maybe the best thing I could write. I was about to graduate and pursue a real-world career, so I figured that this was it. If this one couldn’t get published, nothing I wrote ever could. I was going to wait and see what happened with INSIGNIA, and then stick everything I’d written in the last four years online, and just be done with the publishing thing. This manuscript was make-or-break for me—glad it wasn’t "break"!

Best writing advice?
On writing itself: Read. I can’t imagine being a writer without also being a reader. I think it must engage the same parts of the brain or something, because reading binges and writing binges always go hand-in-hand for me. Those times when I don’t have the patience for a book (I know, blasphemy!) seem to be the same periods when I simply can’t put two words together.

As for publishing: Have a thick skin and a lot of patience. Query widely, because agent rejections don’t necessarily mean your story is terrible. My firm suspicion, after doing far too many of those agent searches, is that your premise either does, or does not, resonate with an agent—and if it doesn’t, there’s no compelling query letter in the world that will change his or her mind. Just IMHO.

What’s your schedule like? How do you manage the insanity of writing among your real life?
My writing schedule’s pretty erratic. I tried out the word count per day thing a few manuscripts ago, and I found that I could force myself to write when I needed to—but the stuff that came out just wasn’t as interesting or as inspired as the writing I produce when I’m really into a manuscript. Now my writing schedule consists of writing binges, sometimes a few days in a row, sometimes a bit more erratic, and only when I’m inspired. I’ve heard that inspiration doesn’t last forever in a writing career, so it’s not something you can count on in the long run. That may be true, but I figure I still have it now—so I take advantage of it and try only to write when I am eager to do it.

Ironically, by confining my writing only to periods when I’m inspired to write, I seem to have a much greater output than I ever did writing to a word count per day.


Wow, I can't wait for INSIGNIA to hit the shelves! You can learn more and/or stalk SJ on her blog or twitter.

Introducing Susanne Winnacker

You may have noticed we had a guest blogger a few weeks ago. That was Susanne Winnacker, the author of the upcoming YA dystopian debut called THE OTHER LIFE.  I'm excited to have her here on the League blog today because not only does her book sound amazing, but she's also a pub sister. Her book will be coming out from Marshall Cavendish in the US and Canada and from Usborne in the UK in Spring 2012.

A little about Susanne. She studied law and is reluctantly preparing for her second state exam. She lives with her husband, a dog and four bunnies in the Ruhrgebiet, Germany. She loves coffee (in every shape and form), traveling and animals.

A little about the book (from Goodreads): 

Sherry and her family have lived sealed in a bunker in the garden since things went wrong up above. Her grandfather has been in the freezer for the last three months, her parents are at each other’s throats and two minutes ago they ran out of food.

Sherry and her father leave the safety of the bunker and find a devastated and empty LA, smashed to pieces by bombs and haunted by ‘Weepers’ - rabid humans infected with a weaponized rabies virus.

While searching for food in a supermarket, Sherry’s father disappears and Sherry is saved by Joshua, a boy-hunter. He takes her to Safe-haven, a tumble-down vineyard in the hills outside LA, where a handful of other survivors are picking up the pieces of their ‘other lives’. As she falls in love for the first time, Sherry must save her father, stay alive and keep Joshua safe when his desire for vengeance threatens them all.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today! Would you tell us a little about your road to publication.

I started writing last year in January. The Other Life was my first novel and I finished the first draft in four weeks (crazy, I know). I revised and then started querying at the end of March. In July I heard from Julia Churchill of Greenhouse Literary Agency who was one of the first agents I'd queried. She'd read my full and asked me to work exclusively with her on revisions. I agreed and when I was done with revisions, she offered representation and I accepted. In September The Other Life went on submission in the UK and sold in October. In November it went on sub in the US and sold in December. It went all very fast. Sometimes I think my mind hasn't yet caught up with everything that happened.  

What inspired you to write the Other Life?

I've always loved watching post-apocalyptic and dystopian movies, so I knew I wanted to write a book with those themes. But when I started working on The Other Life I wasn't sure what it was at first. Numbers and counting play an important role in the book. The main character Sherry counts the days since she's done something - seen daylight or eaten an apple for example - because, after three years in a bunker, those are the things she misses the most about her other life, the time before the rabies. The counting and the oppressing atmosphere in the bunker came to me first, the rest of the story presented itself to me as I wrote.

English isn't your first language, right? Why did you decide to write in English rather than German? 

German is my first language. I learned English in school and over time developed a fierce love for it. I prefer reading books in the language they were written in and often that is English. The same goes for movies. When I started writing, I wasn't sure which language to use. The logical answer would have been German but I just didn't enjoy it. So I decided to give it a try and write in English and suddenly the words flowed and it felt right. After that I never tried to write in German again. It's funny how the brain works because when I think about my books and about new ideas, my thoughts are in English. Sometimes when I tell my husband about publishing he looks at me funny and then I realize it's because I'm using English words. I guess I'm a bit odd.

Who are some of your favorite writers and/or books? Is there one you wished you'd written?

I admire J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter books are so amazing that even my husband loves them. I adore the world she created. I think her books are one of the reasons why Children's publishing is doing so well. Suddenly it was okay to read children's books in public. I saw grown men read Harry Potter in the bus and nobody frowned upon it. Who doesn't wish they had written the Harry Potter books? Another writer I admire is Suzanne Collins. Her Hunger Games books kept me up late at night and made me love dystopian concepts even more.

Are you planning a sequel? What else are you working on?

I just completed the first draft of the sequel to The Other Life. I'll start revising it soon and then I'll send it to my lovely editor who'll hopefully love it.

I'm also working on a new project, a YA thriller, and I'm almost done with the first draft. I've been writing a lot recently and it feels wonderful after working on edits for The Other Life for so long.

Thanks again, Susanne!

If you want to learn more about Susanne and THE OTHER LIFE, you can connect with her on

The Post I was Supposed to do Last Week: Imaginary Girls

Oops! It's just become clear to me that I kinda messed up the order of this and last week's posts. As you can see this is the big week of interviews and since I did my interview with Andy Marino last week I'll highlight a book I'm really looking forward to this week (which is what I was meant to do last week)

Anyway! The book I'm most looking forward to these days is one I think alot of you may have already become familiar with, Nova Ren Suma's Imaginary Girls.

First off, kickass cover, the Goodreads summary only makes it sound better:

"Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.

But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.

With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about."

Sounds awesome, right? You should also check out her starred review in Publisher's Weekly which makes the eerie magic realist tone of the book even clearer. 

I know I can't wait! How about you guys? Got any other upcoming releases we should all be aware of?

Introducing Sara Grant!

It is my distinct pleasure to interview the amazing Sara Grant! Her novel, DARK PARTIES published by Little, Brown comes out in the US in August of this year. Woo Hoo!

Where did the idea for DARK PARTIES come from?
DARK PARTIES was the result of my move to the UK. Both the US and UK are struggling with immigration issues. I believe that diversity makes us stronger. So I said: what if we closed our borders to people and ideas? DARK PARTIES is my answer.

Is it a stand alone or part of a series?
I have ideas for a sequel and have planted a few seeds in DARK PARTIES for a follow up, but no plans yet for publication.

Was writing dystopia a conscious decision or did the story evolve into dystopian lit?
I didn’t set out to write a dystopian novel. I wanted to explore issues of identity – both personal and national. I built my world and developed my characters to enhance my ability to examine this theme. But in the writing, the world, characters and plot evolved and influenced each other in a way that, I hope, ties them inextricably together. 

I still find it amazing that I’m drawn to write dystopian novels. I’m the biggest optimist. I believe the best in people and have great hope for the future of the planet and humankind. 

What are some of the things you love about writing dystopian novels?
The best part of writing a dystopian novel is the freedom. Anything is possible in a world completely of your own making. With dystopian fiction, you can really shine a light on a particular aspect of society or human nature. You whittle away the parts of the real world that don’t serve your story.

Who are some of your favorite authors? (dystopian or not!)
I read To Kill A Mocking Bird for the first time last year and was absolutely blown away. I have read and re-read A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly. I think Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech is darn near perfect. I recently discovered Libba Bray and you can’t go wrong with a John Green novel. I could go on and on. 

Have you always been a writer?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve created stories since I was a little girl, imagining epic dramas for my Barbie dolls. I remember writing my first story when I was eight years old. It was hand-written in pencil and bound with three pieces of string. It was titled “A Dream I Wish Was True” and was a complete rip-off of a sketch on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. And I’ve been writing ever since. 
I earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and psychology. After graduation I worked in public relations for seventeen years. When I moved to London in 2003, I went back to school and earned my master’s in creative and life writing. I changed professions and now am a senior commissioning editor for Working Partners, a company that creates series fiction for children. 

What is your favorite genre to read? Write?
I LOVE to read. I am always reading at least one book. Sometimes I like to mix reading one fiction and one non-fiction book – usually research for the next book. I have a pile of about forty books that I have purchased and are waiting – begging – to be read. I read a lot of young adult novels from chick lit to dystopian fiction and everything in between. Not only do I want to research the genre and age group I write, but also there are some really amazing young adult books being published. I try to read 50 books a year. Earlier this year I read Nothing by Janne Teller. It was disturbing and powerful and I can’t stop thinking about it. I also recommend Going Bovine by Libba Bray. It was this manic, crazy-brilliant quest that I couldn’t put down. 
At Working Partners, I create fiction for children of all ages – from early chapter books to young adult. But when I write for myself, I focus exclusively on novels for young adults. At the moment, I’m focused on edgy futuristic fiction, but I’d love to write a funny contemporary novel at some point in the future. 

What other projects do you have in the works?
My second book will come out in the fall of 2012. It’s another dystopian novel. Its working title is Half Lives. It’s very much a work in progress, but here’s what I know so far:
Half Lives chronicles the journey of two unlikely heroes – Icie and Beckett. Both struggle to keep themselves alive and protect future generations from the terrible fate that awaits any who dare to climb the mountain. Even though they live hundreds of years apart, Icie and Beckett’s lives are mysteriously linked. 
Half Lives is a race against time and the battle to save future generations. It’s about the nature of faith and power of miscommunication – and above all the strength of the human spirit to adapt and survive.

Sara - thanks so much for visiting with us here at the League! Best of luck with DARK PARTIES and HALF LIVES! They both sound fascinating!

Introducing LEVEL TWO by Lenore Appelhans

Lenore Appelhans is one of my favorite book bloggers, and recently she made a HUGE announcement: she got a book deal! So, while the book won't be released for quite some time, I can't wait to get my grabby hands on it!

Meanwhile, Lenore graciously offered to answer a few questions for me about LEVEL TWO, coming from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, in a joint acquisition with CBS Films. (YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT.)

What can you tell us about LEVEL TWO?

I can tell you that it’s exactly the kind of novel that I love to read! But if you want a bit more than the GoodReads description, here you go:

Level Two is a speculative young adult novel about a place that exists after our world (Level One). Seventeen-year-old Felicia Ward spends her days in her pod reliving her favorite memories - until she gets broken out by Julian, a boy she knew when she was still alive. There’s about to be an uprising in Level Two, and Julian wants to recruit her to the cause. But unsure whether she can trust Julian, and still in love with her boyfriend Neil on Earth, she finds herself torn between two loves—and two worlds.

Where did you get the idea for LEVEL TWO?

This is going to sound bizarre, but the spark of the idea developed out of an argument I had with my grandmother about whether money was better spent on Precious Moments figurines (her point of view) or travel (mine). The story started as a way for me to justify my own choices and priorities in life. I thought about how to best implement it for years, until I had a breakthrough last May while walking around the ruins of Pompeii, Italy with my critique partner. Once I had that “a ha” moment, the rest just flowed out of me.

You started out as a book blogger; how did that help you in writing?

My Precious Moments-loving grandmother had my astrological chart done by a professional when I was 10 and he said that I was destined to be a writer (apparently I have a grand trine in air signs). I’ve always enjoyed writing – even term papers in college. So when I heard that book blogs existed, I knew I wanted to start one. It was about the same time that I fell in love with young adult fiction. The book blog and the book blogging community got me reading more widely and WAY more. I am a big believer in the old adage if you want to be a writer, you need to read. It worked for me!

Which novels have influenced you or your writing?

I think every book I’ve read has influenced me in some way, even if I’m not consciously aware of it. Through what I’ve read, I’ve learned about pacing, structure, character development and other craft issues. That said, I gravitate towards novels that are high-concept and innovative - but still literary - since those are the kinds of books that really excite me and that I want to write. Books like CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell, FEED by MT Anderson, BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver and DUST OF 100 DOGS by AS King, to name a few.

What book are YOU waiting on eagerly?

So many! I have a huge appetite for anything dystopian, so I am eagerly awaiting everything on this list  as well as the sequels to all the dystopian series I’ve already started (i.e. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, DELIRIUM, MATCHED, THE PASSAGE, WITHER, etc.). And though they aren’t dystopian, I would drop everything to read WHERE SHE WENT by Gayle Forman or a new novel by Jandy Nelson (THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE).

Thank you so much for telling us about LEVEL TWO, Lenore! And I know everyone else will be as eager as me to read it--why not go ahead and add it to your GoodReads?

Waiting On VARIANT by Robison Wells

About VARIANT: Benson Fisher thought a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.

He was wrong.

Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.

Where breaking the rules equals death.

But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape—his only real hope for survival—may be impossible.

Okay, I think most of you know how I feel about books with rules, and whether or not those rules should be broken. So VARIANT is right up my alley. And luckily, I don't have to wait super-long to read it (VARIANT comes out October 18 from HarperTeen), because I happen to know Rob--and he's fantastic. And he may or may not have lent me an ARC.

You can add VARIANT to your Goodreads list here.

And follow Rob on his blog or twitter or on his weekly podcast, The Appendix.

What book are you waiting on??

Waiting on Week:The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson

Okay. Okay. It took me a while to get around to reading The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson. Once I started it, though, I could've kicked myself for waiting so long. Loved it.

So, I'm not making the same mistake twice.  As soon as I heard there was a sequel, I clicked pre-order-add-to-cart.  The Fox Inheritance comes out August 30th.  Here's the Goodreads blurb (if you haven't read Adoration yet, cover your eyes. Spoilers!):

Once there were three. Three friends who loved each other—Jenna, Locke, and Kara. And after a terrible accident destroyed their bodies, their three minds were kept alive, spinning in a digital netherworld. Even in that disembodied nightmare, they were still together. At least at first. When Jenna disappeared, Locke and Kara had to go on without her. Decades passed, and then centuries.

Two-hundred-and-sixty years later, they have been released at last. Given new, perfect bodies, Locke and Kara awaken to a world they know nothing about, where everyone they once knew and loved is long dead.
 Everyone except Jenna Fox.
Doesn't that sound good? My only dilemma now is Kindle or Audible.

Any other Jenna Fox fans out there? What other books are you waiting for?

Waiting on Week: UNISON SPARK by Andy Marino

Got the pleasure of meeting Andy Marino in person just a few weeks ago and since then I've eagerly anticipated his debut novel, Unison Spark, due from Henry Holt this November. Thought maybe a little interview would be in order to get all of you as pumped as I am.

First off, tell us a little about Unison Spark.

AM: Unison Spark is a dystopian novel about a future where Facebook, Twitter, and the other dominant social networks of our time have evolved into Unison, an all-consuming, fully immersive experience that knows you better than you know yourself. Outside of Unison, people are crammed into Eastern Seaboard City, where an enormous ceiling separates wealthy topsiders from the poverty-stricken subcanopy zone. These worlds collide when Mistletoe, a subcanopy girl, meets Ambrose, the heir to the Unison empire. Together, they unravel a secret past that leads straight to the heart of a mysterious upgrade, Unison 3.0. Then it gets pretty wild.  

So you're dealing with alot of issues revolving around social networking. What's your feeling about social networking in general? How involved with it are you? What do you think are the benefits and pitfalls?

AM:For a long time I resisted joining Facebook for the same reason I’ve never owned a Nintendo Wii: being a productive fiction writer is all about limiting distractions. I know that for me, the problem isn’t hating the medium – whether it’s TV, video games, or social networking – the problem is loving it too much. I can’t get anything done without disabling my internet connection, because if I give in to the urge to check my email while I’m writing – just a quick look! – I’ll wake from three hours later with a drool-saturated keyboard and a dozen live Styx videos playing.

Now I’m involved across the board: Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, a personal blog.  Some days I agree with the rhetoric: hey, this really IS a great networking and publicity tool! Other days, it makes me feel like an even tinier cog in the machinery of human existence than is probably healthy. 

Anyway, I think all this complicated stuff that makes social networking so hard to respond to in any meaningful way also makes it the ideal backdrop for a sci-fi novel. It already feels oceanic and sinister.

So this is you first novel, what was your journey to publication like?

AM: It taught me important emotional lessons like how to tremble internally, so people couldn’t see how nervous and hopeful and scared I was feeling. On the business end of things, I’m fortunate to have come through without a single horror story. My agent believed in me from the beginning, and my editor probably understands what I’m trying to write about better than I do.

What one writer do you think we should all be reading? Why?

AM:Ever since I first read Game of Thrones I’ve been compulsively recommending George RR Martin; with all the recent exposure from the HBO series, that’s kind of like urging people to check out this really cool band called The Rolling Stones. But all hype aside, he’s an absolutely mind-blowing and inspirational writer. His genius for world-building – not just the fantastic elements, but the raw human conflict – is off the charts.

You've recently set out on your blog to cover every episode of Darkwing Duck. First off, that's awesome. Second, for the uninitiated, why should we love that duck as much as you do?

Besides the rogues' gallery of bizarre and funny villains, Darkwing Duck himself is a ridiculous combination of misplaced bravado, genuine tenderness, and actual crimefighting ability. He has a cool hat, and his catchphrases are mostly awesome. And the voice acting is top-notch. The very first episode features Tim Curry!

Interests outside writing? I seem to remember something about a heavy metal band...?

I play guitar in a band called SleepCrime. Our first album, Everything Secret Degenerates, is out now, and we’re working on the follow-up. We’ve got a new song about a China Mieville character.

So say hi to Andy everybody, ask him any questions you've got and be sure to follow his blog and check him out on Twitter

Now, as if you needed any more proof that Andy is an awesome dude you need to be paying attention to, here's a video of SleepCrime's The Christmas Truce.  

Waiting on Week: DARK PARTIES by Sara Grant

I just recently heard of DARK PARTIES by Sara Grant - and ever since then, I've been dying to get my hands on it! Isolated nation, lying government, supposedly no "outside world" left... yeah! Oh - and there's a love triangle and a beloved grandmother who goes missing... things I'm all about! :)

Here's the synopsis from Goodreads.

Sixteen-year-old Neva has been trapped since birth. She was born and raised under the Protectosphere, in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies, and xenophobia. A shield "protects" them from the outside world, but also locks the citizens inside. But there's nothing left on the outside, ever since the world collapsed from violent warfare. Or so the government says... 

Neva and her best friend Sanna believe the government is lying and stage a "dark party" to recruit members for their underground rebellion. But as Neva begins to uncover the truth, she realizes she must question everything she's ever known, including the people she loves the most.

So - what book are you waiting for?

Waiting on Week: BUMPED by Megan McCafferty

All this week we're featuring the books we can't wait to read!

As for me, I'm waiting on...

BUMPED really has me's the summary from GoodReads:

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents are forced to pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and had never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Until now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in religious Goodside, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to bring Melody back to Goodside and convince her that “pregging” for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.
For more information, check out Megan's website.

How about you? What book are you eagerly waiting for?

A Fortunate April Fool

When I heard my release date was April 1st, my first thought was: “Oh, no. This is some cruel April Fool’s joke!”  I’d wake up today, Bobby Ewing would step out of the shower, and it’ll have been just a dream.  A good one, but there’d be no book.

But April isn’t the cruelest month after all. (My apologies to TS Eliot.)


And I’m feeling incredibly fortunate.

…that I have supportive friends and family who’ve believed in me all along.

…that I attended that SCBWI conference and submitted Memento Nora to a fantastic editor at Marshall Cavendish who saw some glimmer of potential in the book.

…that I found an equally fantastic agent who fell in love with Nora, Micah, and Winter—and texted me from the bathroom of another author’s book launch to tell me so.

…that I stumbled upon a great outside-the-box publicist who saw ways to engage readers that I never imagined.

…that I’m surrounded by wonderful community of my fellow YA/MG debuts—from which came this opportunity to blog alongside four other great writers.

…for the love you guys (readers, writers, and bloggers alike) have shown so far for Memento Nora.

So long, and thanks for all the fish!

JUST JOKING!  I’ve always wanted to end a post that way. 

But really … Many, many thanks to everyone!

Oh, I almost forgot. The winner of the Memento Nora Challenge is:

Emily a.k.a WilowRaven

Congrats! I'll get that prize out to you as soon as I get your mailing address!