Dystopian Rites of Passage (Part 2)

Last week I talked about rites of passage in dystopian lit but couldn't fit everything in one post. This week I'm pondering what makes the difference between a YA and MG rite of passage.

Let's take an example of each.  In Jeanne DuPrau's City of Ember (MG), 12-year-olds face a wonderfully daft  rite of passage called Assignment Day. It marks the end of their schooling and the beginning of their working (adult) life. The kids literally draw a job out of a hat. The protagonists, Lina and Doon, eventually get the jobs they've been wanting (after a little trading) and joyfully embark on the next phase of their lives as contributing members of their society. There is a little training period but it amounts to learning the trade.

In Veronica Roth's Divergent (YA), all 16-year-olds must choose which faction they want to live and work with for the rest of their lives. After the selection ceremony, though, the real rite of passage begins--the faction initiation and basic training.  Those that don't pass end up homeless (or dead).  During the training / testing, the protagonist, Tris, questions whether she's made the right choice. Is she one faction or another, or is she something else altogether?

To me, it seems like in YA, the protagonist questions, avoids, and/or transcends the rite itself.  The teen years are about exploring your identity—and cultural expectations for it. If you’re choosing a faction to be with, for instance, you have to think about whether this is where you belong—and more importantly is that all that makes you you. In other words, the story is really about defining yourself despite cultural expectations as well as the ability to think beyond your programming.  (Tally in the Uglies series is another good example.)

In MG, though, the protagonists seem to embrace the next stage of growing up.  For instance, Lina and Doon don't question their new roles in the society of Ember (well, until they realize it’s doomed, of course.) Ditto with Jonas in the Giver. He too plunges into (though a tad reluctantly) the role of Giver (in training) until he learns how flawed his Utopian society is.

So maybe that's the key difference. Both YA and MG protagonists ultimately question their dystopian societies. However, YA rites of passage are more identity-driven whereas MG ones are more about belonging. 

What do you guys think?

The Big Winners

I'm just back from an excellent and exhausting first ALA experience. The big news of course are all the Printz, Newbery and Caldecott winners and honorees. I was lucky enough to attend the Newbery and Caldecott banquet and it was quite an event. Hundreds upon hundreds of librarians and industry folk in a cavernous hall spending 3 1/2 hours eating dispiriting banquet food while listening to a slate of incredibly inspiring and moving speeches.

Printz winners and honorees can be found here , Newberry winners here  and Caldecott winners here.

Of these, I'm embarrassed to admit I've only read a couple of the Printz winnders, Shipbeaker and Stolen, both of which were really fantastic. I'll definitely be shooting to finish up all the Printz honorees

How about you all? Any personal favorites among the lists you can recommend? Anything you think should have been on there and wasn't?

Picky, Picky, Picky...

Beth's post yesterday got me to thinking about another part of that Slate article she referenced - the part that said... " But right now Y.A. is hot hot hot, and it's like the older you are, the cooler it is to watch teen movies and read Y.A. books."

Uh... if I were the taking-offense kind of person (which thankfully I'm not!) I could take offense at that. (Cause some people might consider me, you know... OLD!) But, I've been reading YA (no periods, please!) and watching teen movies since... well, since I was a teenager. (Think Nancy Drew, Beach Blanket Bingo, A Hard Day's Night, etc.) Guess what? I still do read YA novels and watch teen movies - but, not because they're hot properties. Nor do I write YA books because it's the 'hot' area of publishing right now. 

Nope - I've been enjoying these books & movies for decades - because I LIKE THEM! There is something about the teen years that I love. I love the personal dramas, the fast friendships, the dreams of one's future, the sweetness of first love, the feeling that you'll live forever... I love that YA authors write stories that have plots... that are unaffected (because teens won't fool with affectedness)... that can be brutally honest, but that are real. The sixteen year old inside of me is not about to give up her YA because it's hot - or not - as long as it's good. (I mean... what is not to love about Clueless? Or Harry Potter? Or Shiver? Or Suite Scarlett? Or... any of the Leagues' books? The list goes on and on...)

What is it about YA movies & books that you love? 

Beautiful Writing for the End of the World

So, recently Slate published an article about YA literature. I suspect it was supposed to be funny, but either my funny bone is broken or the sarcasm sinew is pulled. One bit that really stood out to me was this:
But readers in Y.A. don't care about rumination. They don't want you to pore over your sentences trying to find the perfect turn of phrase...
Because, well...the thing is, I do pore over sentences. I do ruminate--and I'd like it if my works make other readers--YA or not--ruminate.

And I suspect many--I hope most--YA authors feel the same way. So, in honor of that, here's my list of YA books that are, quite simply, beautifully written. Since this is for the League, I'm sticking with SFF, but if you've got any other ideas of beautifully written YA (very different, please note, from beautiful YA), please leave your thoughts in the comments!

First up: THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan. This was the first book where I realized that YA literature was beautiful. I suppose this means I should forgive the authors of the Slate article--after all, maybe they've just not read this book yet.

Because here's the thing: THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH is about zombies and death and unrequited (?) love and it's terribly terribly dirty, but--it's beautiful. Stunningly beautifully written.

Speaking of dirty...welcome to the slag heap. THE REPLACEMENT by Brenna Yovanoff is, well...disgusting. There's blood. And that's the least disgusting bit. Brenna describes the settings in such creepy detail that that alone would keep me up at night--but it's the characters who are truly twisted--inside and out.

But here's the thing--with the exception of a handful of characters and scenes, everything in this book is creeptastically horrifying--and absolutely gorgeously written.

MISTWOOD by Leah Cypess was a recent read for me, although it's been out a year. This is a fantasy, but don't be deceived by the pretty cover--it's a very deep novel that makes you question things like right and wrong, love and being worthy of love, loyalty, and nature.

And it's just beautiful. Not just with the main character's inherent beauty, but beautiful on a word level. The turns of phrases are shockingly brilliant.

So, what about you: what are some truly beautifully written YA books that you can recommend for us?

Do You Have to Know Why?

Okay, so I may be the last person on the planet watching FIREFLY (thank you, Netflix!), and while I'm really enjoying it, sometimes I find myself wondering, Why?

Why do they wear clothes that look like they came from the Old West?

Why do they speak Chinese?

Why did the space ship slow down in space in that episode when that part went out? I mean, there's no friction or anything. Space is a vacuum, right?

Why, why, why?

Why? is the universal question that children speak from a very early age. As humans, we have an obsession with why. Who hasn't questioned why a store has a certain policy? Or why their boss wants them to now fill out three forms instead of the one that seems to be working just fine? Or why can you only drive 75 in Montana? I mean, seriously.

We all ask why, over any number of things.

In science fiction, I'm wondering how important it is to know why. Does it really matter? Do I have to understand the fashion industry in FIREFLY to enjoy the show? No. Do I need the whole history of language and how it evolved in their world to get what's going on? Not really.

So, for me, I think of science fiction as a genre where I don't have to know everything. There are some things readers DO need to know about the world in order to suspend the rest of their disbelief. The fine line is finding that as an author.

Another fine line comes as a reader. When I find myself leaning toward the "Why?" side, I ask myself instead, "Do I have to know why in order to enjoy this?"

If the answer is no, I keep reading--and just enjoy it.

How about you? Are you obsessed with why?

Dystopian Rites of Passage (Part 1)

Reading Divergent by fellow Elevensie Veronica Roth got me thinking about rites of passage in both young adult and middle grade dystopias.  A rite of passage, btw, is a ritual or ceremony that marks a transition in a person's life from one stage to another, such as from adolescence to adulthood. From an anthropological standpoint, rites of passage usually have three stages: 
  • Separation - participant is taken away from old life or phase.
  • Transition - he/she trains for new role.
  • Reincorporation - he/she is presented back to society as a full-fledged member.
In Divergent—which I loved—all the 16-year-olds must choose (after aptitude testing) the faction they want to join. After a ceremony, they're separated from their families and sent off to faction bootcamp. Each faction has its own training / initiation rites—which upon completion the candidate is considered a full member of the faction and society in general.  (I’m keeping it generic here so as not to spoil the book for you.)

Rites of passage are quite popular in dystopian literature (as well as other science fiction and fantasy). For instance, in both Delirium by Lauren Oliver and the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, an operation marks the passage from childhood to adult. The Maze Runner series is probably all rite of passage. Even middle grade likes a good ceremony or rite to mark the end of one phase and the beginning of the next. The Sorting Hat in Harry Potter. The job ceremonies in the Giver and the City of Ember.

So why do we find the rite of passage thing so satisfying (or at least intriguing)?

Maybe the Sociology 101 answer is that we don’t have true, hard-and-fast rites of passage in modern society anymore.  We have Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, confirmations, QuinceaƱeras, Sweet 16’s, debutante balls, graduations, etc. But our society doesn’t necessarily consider the teen an actual adult (just a young one) after these rites.  Graduation--or high school itself--is probably the closest thing we have to a rite of passage. However, whether we graduated, we're considered legal adults at 18. Yet, we still can't drink and probably live with our parents. In fiction maybe there's closure and recognition, huh?

Or maybe it's the other way around. Teen readers like these fictional rites because they (and we) equate them with high school itself. Or both.

What do you guys think? What are some of your favorite rites of passage from dystopian (or other science fiction / fantasy) stories? Or from real life?

(Next week YA vs. MG rites of passage.)

Best and Worst Writing Moments

Was just part of a great panel over on Eve's Fan Garden where we were talking about our favorite and least favorite parts of writing. It was a fun talk and I thought I should bring it on over here.

For me, the best part of writing is when something completely unexpected happens. Those times when you're writing away and suddenly a character says or does something you didn't plan or a new character pops up out of nowhere and takes the story in a completely new direction. Moments like that are what we're really all looking for, right? Those moments of inspiration so mysterious that even we don't know here they come from. It's easy to see why people used to believe those ideas literally came from somewhere else, gods, sprits, whatnot. It really feels like the idea is coming from somewhere else.

I guess what's so satisfying about the inspired moments is that when you're in one you feel disconnected from your self, from your daily worries and the carping voice of your internal censor and book critic. Your mind is clear and simple and filled with just one thing, an idea, and the world is nothing but your fingers on the keys and the words appearing on the screen as if by magic. You're existing in that single moment alone. How rare is that? And how great?

The opposite of this is those moments for me is when I'm grinding away at an idea, trying to force pieces together. Trying to make things happen, instead of letting them happen. In those moments the characters just sit there waiting, staring up at you as if to say "ok smart guy, get us to point B now and make it interesting!"  This is when I start to force things or try and be clever (boy that never works) which leads to overdoing it, and worry and stress and self doubt. That internal critic starts to howl.

It's interesting to me that when artists talk about art, or athletes talk about sports, how common it is for them all to talk about striving for those rare selfless moments. Athlete's say they're in the zone. Actors say they're in the moment. Writer's talk about the moments when the characters take over. In all cases we're talking about the idea of losing your self to the game or the scene or the chapter.

There are alot of reasons that we do what we do-to tell a story, to communicate an idea, to connect with a reader-but I wonder how much if it is also about chasing that feeling.

How about you all? What are the best and worst parts of writing for you?

Making minor characters shine!

Yesterday, Beth talked about the small details that end up making a fictional - particularly science fiction - setting real. I heartily concur with her assessment. Small details make it easier to suspend disbelief.

In that vein - minor characters who are fully fleshed out serve to make your story richer, to enhance your main character's interactions, and give a feel of reality to your writing. I'm not talking secondary characters, or side-kicks - but those characters who make brief, yet memorable, appearances.

If you can embue your minor characters with backstory, reasons for action (or non-action), and interesting quirks - it's like filling your book's canvas with a veritable rainbow of color.

A few examples of minor characters from a variety of novels, movies & TV:

C3PO from Star Wars - he's prissy & fussy & incredibly loyal (okay - he's more than minor, but he's great!)
Scotty from Star Trek - he's no-nonsense, a bit stubborn, & an excellent engineer
Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter - can I just say how much I love Luna? She's a fabulous, quirky, & endearing girl
Mary Crawford from Mansfield Park - a woman far more interesting than even the novel's heroine.

Lots of fan fiction is written putting minor characters into starring roles.

What minor characters do you find well-written and would you like to know more about?

Got Blue Milk?

It's one of the smallest details in the vast, epic world of STAR WARS: blue milk. It only exists for a few brief shots in the first movie--near the beginning, before Luke goes on his quest, he drinks a nice cold refreshing glass of milk. That's blue.

In recent years, the blue milk has achieved some fame--in part because a fan film parodied it and subsequently won the 2006 Star Wars Fan Film Award.

But I wanted to mention it today for another reason--because while this is a tiny detail, one many would call a throw-away detail--it is the tiny details like this that truly make a world come alive.

I don't care if you tell me all about the science behind the engine on your space ship. I don't need to know the exact method in which the plague overtook the population. It's not necessary for me to learn the genetic structure of the mutants or the precise method that makes the time travel science work.

I want blue milk.

For me, it's the little details, the almost over-looked background that makes the world real. In the end, I only really have one question:

Dystopian Vs. Science Fiction

Okay, so I apologize if we've discussed this before, but it's something I've been thinking a lot about. A few months ago, I attended a class on dystopian literature, and realized there are different kinds. I had no idea! So I've been thinking about this since then. And then, POSSESSION came out last week, and some people are saying it's sci fi, and some are saying it's dystopian.

So I started thinking some more.

So here's some dystopian definitions:
dystopia - An imaginary place in a work of fiction where the characters lead dehumanized, fearful lives. Jack London's The Iron Heel, Yevgeny Zamyatin's My, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four, and Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale portray versions of dystopia. ...

dystopia - Polar opposite of utopia. A society in which social and/or technological trends have contributed to a corrupted or degraded state.

dystopia - an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives; an imaginary place or state where everything is as bad as it possibly can be: or a description of such a place.

I read those, and I see "bad" "fear" "corrupt" and "dehumanized."

And that, to me, does not sound like science fiction. At all. To me, science fiction is gadgets and space ships. In fact, I don't think something is science fiction unless there is a space ship.

Let's look at some definitions for science fiction:
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with the impact of imagined innovations in science or technology, often in a futuristic setting.

Kingsley Amis says "Science Fiction is that class of prose narrative treating of a situation that could not arise in the world we know, but which is hypothesized on the basis of some innovation in science or technology, or pseudo-technology, whether human or extra-terresial in origin."

Isaac Asimov says "Modern science fiction is the only form of literature that consistently considers the nature of the changes that face us, the possible consequences, and the possible solutions.

That branch of literature which is concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human beings."

And for those of us not as deep as Asimov, Benjamin Appel says, "Science fiction reflects scientific thought; a fiction of things-to-come based on things-on-hand."

Okay, I don't see "space ship" in any of those. Ha! What I do see is "science" "futuristic" and "impact."

It's the last word that fascinates me. The impact of futuristic scientific achievements. I like that almost as much as space ships.

So, what do you think? Do you agree with these definitions? How would you define dystopian? Science fiction?

One thing is clear: dystopian and science fiction are NOT the same, but I can see how they can exist in the same book, space ships or not. Can you see that relation?

Summer Reading

Ah, Summer. Time for beach—or at least hammock in the backyard—reading. And  since I’ve turned in my first complete draft of the Forgetting Curve, so I might just have a little time to catch up on some other folks’ books.  Here’s what’s on my to-read list (in no real order): 

  • Divergent by Veronica Roth (Just finished it, and it's excellent!)
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
  • Graveminder by Melissa Marr
  • Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • Dead Rules by Randy Russell (comes out late June)
  • Forever  by Maggie Stiefvater (July)
  • Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris (July)
  • Spell Bound by Kelley Armstrong (July)
  • Fox Inheritance by Mary Pearson (August)
  • The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch (September)
  • Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton (September)
  • Mephisto Covenant by Trinity Faegen (September)
  • Goliath by Scott Westerfeld (September)

This was just my sf/fantasy list.  I’m also planning to read Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach (which I’m actually about half-way through) and The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner.

What’s on your summer reading list?

The Passover Question

I was thinking recently about writing advice I've ever received and I realised how much one particular one piece given to me by a good friend I went to school with, stuck with me.

We were talking about a play I had written in class one day, in particular an initial scene that simply wasn't working. It had no sense of tension, no urgency It just sat there. Blah.

My friend said, "When that happens to me I always ask the passover question."

Now, I was brought up Catholic in the suburbs south of Richmond, Virginia which, I'm sure you can imagine, is not exactly a hotbed of Judaism. Long story short, I didn't know what he was talking about.

He explained that at a Passover Seder the youngest person present asks a number of questions to the assembled group as a way of remembering the history and significance of the holiday.

The first Passover question is "How is this night different from all other nights?"

My friend said he asked himself this question about any scene he was working on. How is this moment different than any moment the characters have ever experienced? Maybe you're writing about a pair of old friends enjoying a dinner date they have kept every Sunday for the last 25 years. Ask yourself why this dinner, of all the dinners they've ever had over 25 years, is the one to write about. How is it different? How are they different? How is the world different?

This was his way of ensuring that he was always writing about the most important moments in characters' lives, lynchpin moments when everything just changed, is changing, or is about to change. The moments when everything is on the line.

What about you all? What are some of the best pieces of writing wisdom you've ever gotten?

Accidentally predicting the future...

I like my dystopia with a dollop of reality and, as such, try to take what's going on now & advance it several hundred years to what it could become. I would never, however, want some of the things I write to come to pass - especially not right now! 

In Truth, the sequel to XVI, the media/government sends out what they consider to be "breaking news" to everyone's PAVs (Personal Audio Video devices.) Imagine my surprise when I came across this news story the other day!

As good as this seems, and even with this disclaimer, "Consumers would be able to opt out of all but those presidential messages.something inside my brain is whispering, "invasion of privacy... too much control... "

What do you think?

Don't Forget the Dirt

So yesterday I was rewatching THE FIFTH ELEMENT. Brilliant movie. And while I was watching, there was one thing that stood out to me.

The dirt.

There's a lot of dirt in that movie. On the people, in the setting, everywhere. Take a look here, as Leeloo presents her multipass:

See that? A giant pile of garbage behind her.

The thing that makes this movie so amazing is the dirtiness of it. It doesn't make a show of the dirt--but the dirt is very much present throughout the whole movie. It makes everything more realistic.

We all here at the League read and write books about the future, and if there's one thing I think is missing in many of these works, it's simply this: dirt.

I know I'm guilty of it. I'm working on the sequel for ACROSS THE UNIVERSE right now--it's called A MILLION SUNS--and there's a lot that's going wrong for Elder and Amy. As I edit the manuscript, the number one thing I'm cutting (thanks to the brilliant guidance of my editor!) a lot of the "pretty" scenes. And adding more dirt.

Prize Package Winners

Okay, so there are two prize packages to be won today.

Up first, the guys.


Next, the girls.

The winner: EMBERLIN

Email me at elanajohnson (at) gmail.com with your mailing address and I'll get these books on their way!

Final Thoughts on POSSESSION Launch Week

Holy mother of parties. Launching a book is akin to building an arc and setting sail around the world. For the official record and all that.

And what a week it's been! I'll give you a quick run-down.

Monday: the calm before the storm. Monday is cleaning day at my house, so I cleaned. Exciting, no? Uh...no.

Tuesday: Launch day! I detailed it fully in pictures on my blog, but this day was more amazing than words can express. So many tweets. So many facebook messages. So many emails. So much excitement.

Wednesday: Launch party! I haven't posted these pictures on my blog, but they are on Facebook. You can see most of them on the fanpage. My favorites:

A group of devoted POSSESSION fans. <3

About half the crowd, packed into the art gallery next to The King's English bookstore. 

Me, third one from left at the top, with a flock of writing pals.

Thursday: The Day After. You know this day. Sort of the let-down day. I went to the movies with my kids, and lunch with writing friends.

Friday: That's today, and I have only one item on the agenda: Sleep.

Saturday: Tomorrow! I'll be doing another signing at my local Barnes & Noble. Guess I better go write my speech so I don't sound like I'm winging it.

I also wrote a thank you post on my blog on Tuesday, and I'm going to pull a bit of that to end with today.

I want to say thank you.

The words feel inadequate, weak, unable to hold how much I really appreciate the friendships and emails and camaraderie I've felt from you, my lovely blog readers.

But they'll have to do.

Thank you.

Day 4 Prize Pack Winner

Drumroll please. The winner of Behemoth, Carbon Diaries 2017, and Mockingjay is:

Susan Kaye Quinn

Congrats! I'll email you for your mailing address shortly.

Teleport Me

In Possession, technology plays a huge supporting role, both in the Goodgrounds and the Badlands.  Vi’s father invented a lot of it, mostly having to do with security and mind control. However, the one technology that’s always fascinated me (and would be the most handy to have) is the teleporter.Violet says she was lucky to grow up with one in her home. (Imagine that?)

What is teleportation? Well, the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (yes, there is such a thing, and yes, I own one) defines teleportation as:

…as the ability to move people or objects from one place to another by MATTER TRANSMISSION; ie, using scientific equipment to transmit items in the form of information-carrying waves, which at the destination are reconstituted into matter.

(There’s also a definition for moving yourself around by the power of mind alone, but we’ll stick with the tech approach today.)

The Encyclopedia cites the transporter on Star Trek as a “particularly implausible version” of teleportation because there’s no transmitting equipment at the destination end.  That is, there’s nothing to rescramble the information into solid objects.  However, science doesn't always dictate storytelling (especially on TV). Gene Roddenberry (the creator of Star Trek) had the character used transporters to get around because he didn’t have the budget for Enterprise to land on every planet.

So, like faster-than-light starships and time machines, teleportation often serves as a narrative short cut to overcome the real limitations of time and space so you can tell a story. 

In actuality, human teleportation may be implausible because (a) traveling at the speed of light (which this would require) breaks the laws of physics as we know them, (b) copying a living body might be extremely tricky (a few molecules out of place and you're a turnip, brain-wise), and (c) transmitting your mind / soul is a whole 'nuther metaphysical can of worms.  These problems make good stories, though. (Maybe I'll do another blog post on all the ways science fiction writers have worked with / around these issues.)

But, is teleportation itself truly implausible?  Could we jump objects from point A to B? (Ok, there's still that speed of light thing.) In the past twenty years or so, scientists have working on quantum teleportation. It's not really the same thing (by a long shot), though. This type of teleportation only moves information--sometimes over several miles.  Here’s a better explanation, courtesy of the movie, Jumper:

Long story short: no human or object teleportation--for now. (However, it might mean big things for computing in the near future.) 

Still, I want one. A teleporter, that is.  What future technology (improbable or not) do you covet?

Day 3 Prize Pack Winner!

And the magic random number generator has chosen.....

Ken Lindsey!

Congratulations, Ken! I'll email you shortly to get your address.

Remember everybody- you can still enter the Thurs - Fri giveaways! Thanks everyone for entering!

Interview with Elana!

Hi Everyone! It was a great pleasure to interview Elana. She's just as exciting a talker as she is a writer! Without further ado, here's me and Elana!

So I, like everyone else, am blown away by the fact that you wrote the 1st draft on Possession in 17 days.  How different is the Possession we're all reading from that draft? 

Ah, yes. Revision = my best friend. Sort of. The overall vision and storyline of Possession didn’t change. Just the words that get the reader from A to B did. A lot of the words. I eliminated 3 characters. Rewrote about 60 pages near the end. Cut over 15,000 words. Added in 3000 more. That kind of thing. 

But the beginning, the main character, the theme, and the ending have all remained cornerstones. 

What was the book that was most influential on you as a writer and why? 

There were two books that I read that got me started as an author. TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer. When I read that series, I thought I might try to write a book. And UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld. After I read that book, I researched what dystopia was and thought, “I want to write in that genre.” 

What would you like to see more of in YA fiction? What could you do with less of?

Time travel! I asked the clerk at Books of Wonder in New York City if there was any YA time travel, and she couldn’t come up with anything. Finally, after she’d gone back to her job, she came over and had written down RUBY RED for me. It wasn’t out at the time, but I think there could be some more time travel in the YA field.

This may be terrible, because I have one of these in my own book, but I’m getting a little tired of the hot bad boy. No, really. Ha!

What draws you to speculative fiction? Do you ever see yourself writing a realistic contemporary novel?

Speculative fiction is a love of mine. I love that the author can write from their imagination, and that things can be however I want them to be. The possibilities are endless! 

I can see myself writing in a contemporary setting. There’s something wonderful about real life too, and it’s sorrows and joys. 

What's your biggest challenge as a writer?

Overcoming self-doubt. There’s always that little voice in the back of my head, whispering that I’m not good enough, or that my book is terrible. You know?

How would you describe your teen self? Do you see that teen in your writing today?

Oh, I was the studious, academic, band vice-president type. I took 5 AP classes and actually was the marching band vice president! The worst thing I did was drive too fast. I even made it home by curfew every weekend. 

And I definitely don’t see that teen in my writing. Why? She’s sort of boring. And as an author, I want to live vicariously through someone who dares to skip class and kiss boys under the bleachers. 

There's alot of talk about good and bad in your book. What's your personal definition of good and evil?

Oooh, going deep. I like that. I’m a very religious person, so I tend to base what I call “good” and what I call “evil” based on that belief system. I believe in doing and saying things that will help and lift and inspire another. Here’s a quote: “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” (Articles of Faith 1:13)

So I try to judge against that. If an activity is the opposite of virtuous or lovely or praiseworthy, I tend not to bring it into my life. I don’t necessarily think it’s evil, I just choose not to let it into my life.


Thanks Elana!

Ok, let's not beat around the bush people. You want this book. You need this book. Go here and get this book. If you want to experience a little more of the delightful Ms. Johnson, you can go here.

But seriously, go here.

Mini-Review of POSSESSION

Where to begin?  Well... I rarely review books. Mostly because I won't review a book I don't love. Suffice it to say - I LOVED POSSESSION!!!

When I started the book, I wasn't sure exactly what to expect. It drew me in right from the get-go! And, once there, this was a couldn't-put-it-down-if-I-had-to read!

Those kinds of books are the ones I go back and reread - many times - just to be sure I didn't miss anything. Or... to pick up those subtleties I missed on the race-to-the-end read.

Elana has written characters who are so believable - their emotions are so complex and compelling - and Oh. My. God. The ending! Yep... just you wait!

Actually... don't wait at all! Get yourself to a bookstore and get a copy! Just be sure to block out enough time to read it from cover to cover - cause you won't be able to put it down!

Congratulations, Elana on your book launch! YAYAYAYAY!!!

Day 2 Prize Pack Winner!

And the winner is:

April Chaug

Congratulations, April!

Remember - you can still enter the Weds - Fri giveaways! & Thanks everyone for entering!

Winner of the First Prize Pack!

In my excitement for Elana's launch, I forgot to announce the winner of the prize pack! The winner of my set of books is...

Kristina Shields!

Congrats, Kristina! And everyone else, don't forget--all the other contests are still open, so it's not too late to enter!


Today we get to celebrate the launch of one of our own: Elana Johnson and POSSESSION! All this week we're going to be posting about POSSESSION, wrapping up with Elana herself!

SUMMARY OF POSSESSION: Vi knows the Rule: Girls don't walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn...and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi's future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they're set on convincing Vi to become one of them...starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can't leave Zenn in the Thinkers' hands, but she's wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous--everything Zenn's not. Vi can't quite trust Jag and can't quite resist him, but she also can't give up on Zenn.

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

You know you want to read on and find out what happens next, right? Well, fortunately for you, you can read the first chapter (along with some other awesome Simon & Schuster titles) here!

And you're going to be seeing a lot of POSSESSION all over the internet this week. Check it out here:

Also--and this is (hopefully!) a surprise for Elana--some of her friends have gotten together to help celebrate the launch. You can go here to find more information on how you can win one of fifteen signed copies of POSSESSION! And if you'd like to see what I thought of POSSESSION, here's the vlog I did...

And if you don't trust my word for it, how about trusting James Dashner's? Here's what he said about POSSESSION:
"Possession held me completely captivated from beginning to end. And what an end! I fell in love with the characters and had countless moments of 'Wow.'"
--James Dashner, bestselling author of The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials

More Free Books, Soothe Your BEA Jealousy Here!

Okay, so I'm rounding out our week of BEA consolation prizes! That's right. More. Free. Books.

Today, I'm offering up two prize packages. Most of these books have been lovingly read once--by me, in my smoke-free, pet-free home. *grins* And I loved them all--you will too!

Guys Rule:
WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON (hardcover) by John Green and David Levithan
THE CARDTURNER (hardcover) by Louis Sachar
LOOKING FOR ALASKA (paperback) by John Green
THE DEATHDAY LETTER (paperback) by Shaun Hutchinson
CRASH INTO ME (hardcover) by Albert Borris
THIRTEEN REASONS WHY (hardcover) by Jay Asher

Girls...Do Too:
THE CHRONICLES OF VLADIMIR TOD: Eighth Grade Bites (paperback) by Heather Brewer
ORIGINAL SIN (ARC) by Lisa Desrochers
NOTHING LIKE YOU (paperback) by Lauren Strasnik
TWENTY BOY SUMMER (paperback) by Sarah Ockler
GIRL, STOLEN (hardcover) by April Henry
HALO (hardcover) by Alexandra Adornetto

That's twelve (12!) books, people! Two winners, one for each prize package. All you have to do is follow our blog here, and leave a comment on this post. You have one week, and I'll announce the winner next Friday!

ETA: This is US only. And prize packages will be chosen randomly, but you can mention which you'd like more. I can't guarantee you'll get that one, though.


Post BEA Giveaway (Free Books)

Although I did go to BEA for one day, the few freebies I made it home with got snatched up.  So I'm offering up a few gently used dystopian (and one steampunk) hardbacks for this giveaway.

This is me being too lazy to charge my real camera.

by Suzanne Collins

The Carbon Diaries 2017 
by Saci Lloyd

by Scott Westerfeld

To enter, just leave a comment (with your email address). We'll announce winners in exactly one week, so make sure you comment before then! 

This contest is open to the US only. Sorry, these books are kinda hefty!

Post BEA Giveaway (Graphic Novel Edition)

Initially I was set on coming up with the most random pile of books imaginable, Remembrance of Things Past, A collection of surrealist plays, a Spanish/English Dictionary...

Then I realized that a) no one wants that stuff and B) what I really needed to get rid of was graphic novels. I don't know what it is, the darn things seem to breed on our shelves, but now it's time for some to go!

So comment on this post for a chance to win:

V for Vendetta: Alan Moore's tale of a dystopian Britain and V, the freedom fighter/lunatic bent on overthrowing the government.
Batman: The Long Halloween: This story jumps back to early in Batman's career as he faces off against his greatest enemies and a new enigmatic killer.
The Walking Dead Volume 1: The kick off to an epic story set post zombie apocalypse. The source material for the new hit show on AMC.

DMZ Volume 1: Follows Matty Roth, an intern turned photo journalist as he navigates the ruins of New York City and the complexities of the second American Civil War.
Wolverine: Old Man Logan: A Wolverine story set far in the future after the super villains have finally conquered the world, all the other super heroes are dead and Wolverine has gone pacifist, well, for awhile at least. Bloody good fun.
We3: A simple story about a rabbit, a cat and a dog's struggle for freedom after being made into nearly unstoppable killing machines by the government. Now, my guess is that sentence was just as ridiculous to read as it was to write, but trust me, this is a great story and one that is absolutely guaranteed to make you cry.

And, what the hell,  just to sweeten the deal a bit I'm throwing in two awesome and hilarious novels:

M.T. Anderson's Whales on Stilts  and Christopher Moore's Bloodsucking Fiends.