A Huge Congrats to Jeff Hirsch

So I was going to write a real and very serious post about something helpful today, but then this happened and well, it's just too awesome to not get top billing!

Wait, what's that?  How about a better picture?

Our own Jeff Hirsch is a USA Today Bestselling Author!  Congrats Jeff!

Before the Hunger Games Movie - Book Trailers!

So I am in New York right now, the last day of my first National book tour. I will show you a couple of photos taken in the theater of the STARTERS book trailer playing during the film trailers before the Hunger Games film. Ally Carter's book trailer played right after mine, which was fun. Then it went onto movie trailers.

I liked the Hunger Games film very much. There was one thing that I really missed from the book, but I won't mention it here as it's only been out less than a week. And you can probably guess what it was.

To celebrate the end of my tour (and I will move onto more general topics now, I promise), I'm giving away one AUDIOBOOK of Starters. These are several CDs, unabridged. You can listen while driving, or riding the train. It was recorded by the same company that did some of the Twilight recordings as well as Eragon, Potter, etc.

Just comment why you want to win it and give me a week to pick one.

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Dystopian movies

This Friday I’ll finally watch The Hunger Games. I know I’m a bit late but I was and am still sick, and, to make matters worse, on deadline.

In preparation for The Hunger Games I’ve been thinking about my favorite dystopian/post-apocalyptic movies and I want to present them to you:

1. Demolition Man

2. Planet of the Apes

3. Waterworld

4. I am Legend

5. The Matrix

6. Alien

7. Minority Report

8. I, Robot

9. The Postman

10. The Terminator

I hope The Hunger Games will join their ranks!

 What are your favorite dystopian/post-apoc movies?
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Going back to the Hunger Games + Favorite Re-Reads

Did you go to see the Hunger Games movie last weekend? I saw it Thursday night (my reactions here), and once I got home, I had to flip through my copy of the book to see what liberties the filmmakers had made with dialogue and plot.  As it turned out, this was a rather bad idea because I got sucked back in and ended up spending the entirety of my weekend rereading the entire trilogy (yes, even Mockingjay).

This may not seem that strange to many of you, but for me, it was an exception.  Since I started book blogging in 2008, I have only reread one other book (A Wrinkle in Time).  I just have too many other commitments to justify reading a book I've already read. But I simply could not stop myself.

And now, I have to admit, I understand the value of a reread.  While rereading The Hunger Games, I caught a lot of little things that I couldn't have the first time around.  For example, was it by design that the first time Rue approaches Katniss at training, Katniss is holding a spear? As someone who has written and revised a novel now, I think it must be. It's kind of a brutal poetic symmetry that Rue dies in front of Katniss, pierced by a spear.

In general, the reread gave me a greater appreciation for Collins' craft - the genius way she put parts together. A first read may be more thrilling, but a careful second read allows words and ideas to resonate more fully. Case in point: I am currently caught up in the idea of Peeta as Katniss' dandelion, and all that symbolizes, in a way I wasn't before.

Will you reread The Hunger Games? Have you? What other books do you count among your favorite rereads?

One of my favorites, before my book blogging days, was Connie Willis' The Doomsday Book.  I have read my mass-market paperback so many times, it's practically falling apart.  I love the blend of time travel with historical fiction (the plague!).  The plot is clever and well-executed and the characters burrow so deep into my heart, I cry each and every time I read it.  I may well find myself rereading it again soon ...

East Coast Tour for ASHFALL

I'm starting the third week of an east coast tour for my debut novel, ASHFALL. I visit high schools, junior highs, libraries, and booksellers and give a talk that's part taekwondo demonstration, part reading/writing revival meeting, and part geology horror show. Here are a few pics from my talk last week at St. Francis Prep in Queens:

From watching my talks, you'd probably conclude that I'm the biggest extrovert in the world, but in fact the opposite is true. I much prefer home, solitude, and my small circle of friends to meeting new people every day and psyching myself up to give great presentations. So yesterday I was feeling pretty exhausted and depressed. Asking myself fruitless questions like, "Why do I bother?"

The response to my question came via Facebook. Here it is, although I've stripped the names out to protect this student's privacy:
"Hi Mr. Mullin, recently you went to Port Richmond High School in Staten Islamd, NY and met a young Lady named [daughter's name]. You made a great impression on her and thanks to your book Ashfall she is reading again. I.always encouraged her to read since she was little and she did until her grades started going down and she became difficult, she became a teen. [Daughter] is 14 now and I am so happy to see her reading and seeing her so into your book fills my heart, Thank you. I now have hope that she will turn her grades around. Thank you for listening to her and giving her your card she will be emailing you once.she's done reading your book and she wanted me to say hi and.that she can't wait for your next book to come out.... Truthfully neither can I. Good luck."
Now I'm ready to psych myself up for another week of great presentations. I still look forward to finally returning home and spending more time with my wife, and even her cats, but knowing I made some kind of difference to at least one student and her mother makes the three weeks away worthwhile.
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A Very Hunger Games Tribute

It's here at last. The Hunger Games hit theatres all over last night. I'll be heading out to watch it at the swanky theatre downtown with my husband tonight. When are you going?

 Do you know what my favorite thing about book to move adaptations are? You don't have to worry about spoilers, but also you're already familiar with the world, so you can plan awesome parties around the premier. Here are some of my favorite Hunger Games themed ideas from around the web. Stamped

Sugar Cookies from FictionalFood.net

What says Hunger Games (or Team Peeta) better than some themed sugar cookies?

Want to host an impromptu pre-viewing party?  Check out this free downloadable invite:

Make sure you have book appropriate food and drink like Confessions of a Cookbook Queen (hint: she's using those printables!):

She has totally delicious looking recipes for this and several other desserts from the book.  Yum!  

My favorite quick Hunger Games treat is a cup of cocoa and warm, crusty bread.  Good thing my husband is a baker (and blonde and sensitive...hmm, wonder what team I am?)

So doing anything special to celebrate the games?  Share with us below.

First Tour of Duty

Random House sent me on the most amazing tour, including fabulous restaurants for publishers dinners, top hotels, school visits, book signings. I just got back an hour ago. Here are pictures of Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, a suburb of Chicago. This is a dream bookstore, with smart staff and a wonderful selection of books.

And this is my last hotel - great room service.

I will have big movie news later. We are releasing the rights on Monday and we have a lot of top producers. Someone special is interested, just got the email as I landed. Can't talk about it yet, but I am so excited about this.

Will be seeing Hunger Games tomorrow and my trailer before the movie! I cannot believe it.

I will give away one new hardback book of STARTERS here. Put your best argument why you should win in the comments and I'll pick one winner - international okay.

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Book-to-Movie adaptions

Whenever I hear that a book I loved was optioned for film I get incredibly excited but soon after dread sets in because what happens if the movie doesn’t do the book justice or worse ruins it completely?
You might wonder how a movie can ruin a book but it’s happened for me before. I was reading a certain middle grade series (not Harry Potter, btw) and had read the first three books before I watched the movie which I didn’t like at all, especially the actors and suddenly when I tried to read book 4 I had those actors in my head instead of the version of the characters I’d imagined before. It took me almost half of the fourth book to get past that and it frustrated me because I LOVED the books.

So when I heard that The Hunger Games would be a movie I was equal parts excited and worried but after having seen teasers of the movie I’m hopeful that it’ll belong to the good book-to-movie adaptions.

Before I wrote this post I’ve been thinking about movies based on books that I liked and my list is short, mainly because there aren’t many movies I’ve seen that were based on books that I’ve read. But there are three movies that come immediately to my mind when I think about fantastic adaptions.

Harry Potter

I loved the books and the movies. I’ve read and seen both more times than I can count. Of course the movies didn’t reach the brilliance of the books but that’s to be expected.

Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

I’ve read all three books and watched all three movies. I’m talking about the original Swedish version and it was fabulous. Lisbeth Salander almost looked exactly how I’d imagined her. I’m planning to watch the US version of the movie at some point, though I’m worried that I’ll always compare it to the fabulous Swedish version.

The Lord of the Rings

Here I’m cheating a bit because I haven’t read the books (gasp!) but my husband has and he told me that the movies do the books justice. And I absolutely love the Lord of the Rings movies and can’t wait for The Hobbit movie!

What are your favorite book-to-movie adaptions? Are there movies that ruined a book for you?

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The Hunger Games owes its success to me

I recently read this fascinating article over at Salon.com entitled The Making of a Blockbuster detailing crucial early publisher and bookseller efforts to push THE HUNGER GAMES.

Since the movie comes out this Thursday (here in Germany at least), and I have my pre-ordered tickets in hand, I thought I'd take a trip down memory lane and tell you all about my experience fangirling and evangelizing THE HUNGER GAMES.

I first heard about the book the first day of August 2008.  Back in those early days of my book blogging (I started reviewing books on Presenting Lenore in April 2008), I used to frequent contest boards, hoping to score advance reader copies (ARCs), which were much less plentiful to book bloggers then.  I happened upon a contest from Scholastic giving away 100 copies of THE HUNGER GAMES - and my immediate thought was: "This is going to be HUGE".  I had to have this book.  Unfortunately, the contest had already closed, so being the cheeky newbie blogger I was, I e-mailed a Scholastic rep begging for a copy on August 3, 2008.

Fortunately, the Scholastic rep met my groveling with enthusiasm and sent out a copy to my US address.  I pestered my dad about it every day until it arrived and made him send it to me to Germany immediately.  It finally arrived on August 22, 2008 and I tore through it in one day.  I reviewed it on my blog on September 5, 2008.

And then I told everyone about it.  I made my husband read it, who in turn made sure all four of his brothers read it once the German translation came out.  We bought many copies as birthday and Christmas gifts. I even chose it for my book club even though up until then we'd only read adult titles.  (By now, nearly everyone I know has read it, including my father who had never read YA before and my reluctant reader step-sister)

When I heard Suzanne Collins was going to be signing CATCHING FIRE at Book Expo America 2009, I knew I had to get to NYC that May.  My Friend Amy and Booking Mama will recall hightailing it to the Javits at 5 am in the rain with me to stand in the ticket line for CATCHING FIRE.  We were that obsessed.

I read CATCHING FIRE on the rooftop of a Barcelona hotel sipping cocktails. My heart was pounding the entire time: would it live up to the hype I had created in my head for it?  Though I didn't love it as much as the first book, it was still one of my favorite books of 2009, (My CATCHING FIRE review) and it left me dying for MOCKINGJAY.

Largely due to my rabid fandom, I was chosen to be a part of the official 13 District Blog Tour in August 2010 for the launch of MOCKINGJAY.  As the rep from District 10, I offered a HUNGER GAMES playlist and a very special iPod Touch.  It probably comes to no surprise to you that this post is my all-time most visited with over 10,000 page views to date. I wasn't the first to review MOCKINGJAY (darn German mail system), but at the time, I gave it 4/5 Zombie Chickens. (I'd be more likely to give it less chickens these days - it's by far my least favorite of the books).

And now we come to the movie, the soundtrack (my favorite song so far is Abraham's Daughter by Arcade Fire), and the endless merch (um... who needs a Peeta pillowcase?!)  I'm preparing for the movie by reading this HUNGER GAMES make-up tutorial by Forever Young Adult.  How about you?

What was your HUNGER GAMES journey?  I'd love to hear all about it!

The Politics of Starter (And Contest Winners!)

While I was in high school and college, I wrote occasional letters to the editor of my hometown newspaper, The Indianapolis Star. The practice seems quaint now--The Star has been downsized into irrelevancy--they appear to have only two decent reporters and an AP feed left. I'm pretty sure more people read my Twitter feed than read The Star. I've forgotten the topics of most of those letters, but one that's stuck with me was a complaint about increasing FICA tax rates. (Yes, I was incurably nerdy, even then.)

At the time, I was working full-time and going to school full-time, and it seemed unfair that a bigger bite would be taken out of my tiny paychecks to stabilize Social Security. Now that I'm older, I'm not as convinced that stabilizing Social Security was such a bad idea. Funny how that works, isn't it?

And this brings me around to Lissa Price's excellent debut, Starters. What happens as lifespans continue to lengthen? Medical science is adding something on the order of a third of a year every year to our life expectancy. Political power inevitably pools among the elderly--they have experience, connections, and wealth acquired over a lifetime. How might that power be put to use in the future?

Starters imagines a world in which the elderly--Enders--can rent the bodies of youth--Starters. As I've argued here before, the subject of all dystopian fiction is some element of present day society, and Starters is no exception. Today, it seems that every entitlement except Social Security is under attack. Is it really so far-fetched to imagine that when it becomes technologically feasible, political power might be exerted to transfer not only money from the young to the elderly, but an infinitely more valuable commodity--time?

Of course, there's more to Starters than its politics. Callie is a fascinating character, and Lissa's plot is twisty enough to set your head spinning. Best of all, the world feels plausible and fresh--different from anything I've read before, and therefore interesting. Pick up your copy of Starters here.

And now to the important stuff--contest winners!

Monday, Swag Package: Congrats to Sylvia!
Tuesday, Starter Necklace: Congrats to Jessirae!
Wednesday, Signed Chapter Sample: Congrats to Susan Light!
Thursday, Personalized ARC and wristband: Congrats to Jamie Dorst!
Friday, Signed Hardback: Vivien (deadtossedwaves)

If you've won please email your shipping info to lissapriceauthor at gmail dot com. Thanks!

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Giveaway: Signed STARTERS pack and 5 Places You Shouldn't Read It

Think we were done with all the STARTERS awesomeness?  No way.  I'm very pleased to offer the grand prize: a brand new, personalized, hardcopy cover of the novel along with a Starters wristband.

Now I've had the pleasure of reading Starters, but I made a crucial mistake.  I read it at the gym where there is a large population of very lovely (I'm sure) Enders.  Lissa's book had me casting suspicious glances over my shoulder, which is dangerous when you're on an elliptical.  So in an effort to keep you from making my mistake, here are 5 places you might not want to read this chilling, thrilling novel!

5.  The mall before or after closing
4.  The warm water pool at your gym
3.  Estate Sales
2.  Miami
1.  Denny's

Here's what people are saying about STARTERS:

“…twists along with multiple-identity switcheroos and chase scenes
worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster… the inevitable sequel can’t appear
soon enough.” Booklist

“Fans of The Hunger Games will love it.” - Kami Garcia, coauthor of
the bestselling BEAUTIFUL CREATURES trilogy (being made into a film
by Richard LaGravenese).

“Adrenaline-spiked action and cyber-punk intrigue combine in this sci-fi
thriller.” -- Barnes & Noble March Pick of the Month for Teens.

To win the prize mentioned above, leave a comment below.  A winner will be chosen at random (US only!).

Starters has BIG! TWISTS!

I featured STARTERS by Lissa Price on my blog for Dystopian February and awarded it the coveted Zombie Chicken Merit Badge for Big Twists.

In my review I said: 'STARTERS is one of the most purely entertaining novels I’ve read in a long while. It clips along at a brisk pace, with satisfying reveals and twists throughout." (read the rest of my review & find out what Lissa loves about her own debut)

But don't just take my word for it - check out all this praise from major review publications:

The only thing better than a terrific concept is one that is as well executed as "Starters." Readers who have been waiting for a worthy successor to Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games" will find it here. Dystopian sci-fi at its best, "Starters" is a terrific series kickoff with a didn't-see-that-coming conclusion that will leave readers on the edges of their seats, waiting for the second and final book, "Enders," which will be out this year.” – Los Angeles Times, Sunday Book Review

…twists and turns come so fast that readers will stay hooked. Constantly rising stakes keep this debut intense.” Kirkus Reviews.

For the next, best entry into the crowded future-dystopia teen novel genre, look for Starters by Lissa Price.” Los Angeles Times Spring Preview: Books

Today's giveaway is a personalized ARC of STARTERS and a wristband.  Enter via this form for your chance to win! 

STARTERS - body renting

This week we’re celebrating Lissa Price’s debut STARTERS! It hit shelves yesterday!

STARTERS is set in a world in which teens rent their bodies to elders who want to be young again. What a fascinating concept!

I guess everyone has wondered how it would be to be someone else for a day. Not necessarily a young person but someone else. I, for example, would be interested in being a man for a day just to figure out how their minds work, among other things…Maybe you would like to be in the body of a rock star for a day? To stand on stage in their stead? Or maybe be in the body of a famous model to see how it is to be stared at?

Wouldn’t that be fascinating?

But is it really just a fun experience? After all, STARTERS is a dystopian, so there have to be disadvantages. Many of them.

I wouldn’t want to rent my body to someone else. I’d be worried about what they’d do with it. And my body is mine. I’d hate to give up control over it. But that’s exactly what Callie does in STARTERS. Scary!

And what if I got stuck in the foreign body that I’d rented? Would I really want to live in that body until I die? I don’t think so.

I’m sure there’s much more to the body renting topic than what I just said, so if you want to find out how it is to rent your body to someone else, you’ll have to read STARTERS!

And a special scoop! Lissa held onto her film rights until publication. Her film agent is going to sell them this month, possibly around the time of launch of The Hunger Games movie, as her book trailer will play the opening weekend in selected venues in 10 cities. See her contacts page at www.LissaPrice.com for her agent's info.

And like the days before we’re having a giveaway for you! You can win a signed chapter sampler with Q and A, a teacher's guide and a wristband. It’s US only.

You just have to leave a comment on this post for a chance to win this package. Winners will be announced this weekend!

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Author Interview with debut author Lissa Price!

All this week we're celebrating Lissa Price and her debut, STARTERS available NOW from Random House! And if you haven't checked out the LA Times glowing review of the book, check it out here!

I was lucky to snag Lissa before her interview, and here's what she had to say about herself, her writing, and her latest title.

We can read all about your life from your bio in the jacket flap of your book. And let me tell our readers--you have led quite an interesting life! You have walked with elephants in Botswana, swum with penguins in the Galapagos, danced in India, and had tea in Kyoto. Wow!

So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?

Maybe this one – I collect charm bracelets, especially ones with three-dimensional moving parts. The English ones are my favorites, but I have some from a few different countries and different decades. Guess that’s why Callie gets a charm bracelet in the book…

As a kid, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?

The Hobbit. I tend to prefer less full fantasy now, where there’s not a long list of strange names to learn. I love all the YA dystopian novels. The writing there is so exciting and it’s great that science fiction has found a home in the YA section of the bookstore.

In your book, STARTERS, the old can temporarily take the place of the young. It’s dangerous for the young, and I can definitely see why Callie wouldn’t want to do it. But if you were old, would you consider signing up to take a young person’s body temporarily?

Gosh, no! I joke about being in Shaun White’s body but seriously, I try to show how wrong it is. One of the nice Enders who thought it was okay turns around by the end.

It's the inevitable question: what inspired STARTERS? 

I was trying to get a flu shot a few years ago and they didn’t make enough vaccine. I think one of the batches turned out spoiled. Anyway, the government set up a triage system where it was only for the very young and the elderly (and the infirm). I thought what if this was a killer disease? The only ones left would be the most fragile members of society.

One of the great things about STARTERS is how you present moral issues—questions of what is right and what is wrong—without being preachy. How did you find the balance of showing morality without being didactic?

Thanks. I get into the characters pretty deeply, so Callie tells me what she thinks and believes and I try not to shut her out. I think when it’s coming from a character, it helps.

Can you tell us a little bit about the process--particularly the timeline--of writing & publishing STARTERS?

I wrote Starters in about nine months, with a couple more months of polishing. I got my agent in 24 hours, via an email query. I had met her in New York in a casual setting a couple of years before that. She got the full manuscript by 11 east coast time and emailed me at 6 her time saying she was canceling her dinner appointment to finish my manuscript. She called the next day and offered representation. I thought about it overnight (I had other offers).

She wanted to go out with it immediately but I wanted to tweak it so I did a polish over the next two weeks. Then she took it out and sold it in 6 days over a holiday weekend, when my publishers were not in their offices. They had moved floors at the time and didn’t expect to do any business over the holiday. An auction was set up between a group of publishers but Random House pre-empted.

So ten months later, today, it is being published. Book 2, the end to the series, Enders, will come out approximately 8 months after today (Dec 4 2012). This is very fast in publishing terms and I think I’m a little dizzy from it all – but in a good way!

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from STARTERS, what would you want it to be?

That you’re so much more than what you appear to be on the outside.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?

How much time would be devoted to the business of writing – publicity, social networking, which I like doing – and how much overlap there would be. You’re writing something new while you’re doing edits on the first book and then also writing a short story. Sometimes, especially with tight deadlines, it can feel like this is all you do.

But the biggest thrill is when a reader tweets late at night that they stayed up to finish your book, and it brings back the joy in writing.

What do you think are your strongest and weakest points in writing?

I’m too new to know my weakest points but I’m sure I’ll discover them. Beta readers have told me they love the twists and turns in the story that they never saw coming. And that they felt they were experiencing a fresh world.

Beyond the typical--never give up, believe in yourself--what would be the single best advice you'd like to give another writer?

Be smart but write from the heart.

Thanks so much, Lissa! 

And because Lissa is awesome, she's donated a super-cool prize for one commenter on today's post. Leave any comment below to be entered to win a very neat Starters Light-Up necklace! 

Here it is all lit up!

So--get to it! Leave a comment here to be entered!!
Details: US addresses only, winners announced this weekend.

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