Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Author Spotlight: an interview with Elizabeth Scott

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Teen authors are some of the most generous people I've ever met. Elizabeth Scott is no exception. I started reading her blog around the same time as her first novel Bloom came out and was the lucky winner of one of her fabulous contests. A few months ago, we corresponded again and she offered to let me interview her. Her new book, Perfect You, is in stores next week and make sure to add Stealing Heaven, her third book, to your May wishlist.

Em: I really enjoyed your first novel, Bloom. How was it different writing Perfect You? Easier? Harder?

Elizabeth: First, thank you so much! I'm really glad you liked Bloom.
Perfect You was a hard book for me to write—it ended up taking me almost a year, and it's strange because I've written books that are more intense, but yet something about this one really got to me. I think a lot of it was Kate and Anna—writing about the loss of a friendship was difficult for me because I've had friendships end, and thinking about those losses made writing about Kate's situation painful at times.
Em: Recently you posted the cover for your upcoming book, Living Dead Girl and I see that Stealing Heaven will be released soon as well. Can you tell us anything about these books?

Elizabeth: Stealing Heaven will be out at the end of May, and here's a five word summary—with thanks to popgurls for getting me to do this in the first place—

thief meets cop: love? disaster?

A longer version:
Stealing Heaven is about Dani, a girl who has spent her whole life on the move—and as a thief. When Dani and her mother settle on the coastal town of Heaven for their next job, Dani finds herself feeling at home for the first time in her life. She meets people she likes, including a guy, but when things get tough—her new friend lives in the house they've targeted and the guy turns out to be a cop—Dani must question where her loyalties lie: with the life she's always known...or the one she's always wanted.

Living Dead Girl will be out in September, and I can't say much about it yet other than it's about a girl whose entire life—including her name—is a lie.
Em: Perfect You is the title of your new book as well as the name brand of the vitamins that Kate’s dad sells. Which came first - the title or the brand name?

Elizabeth: The title. I almost always get titles first, and as soon as I thought of this one, I knew it worked not only for the book, but would be the name of the vitamins that Kate's dad sells.
Em: We have something in common in that we both had a parent as a teacher (my mom was my art teacher for a few years). You went to a small high school and ended up having both of your parents as teachers. How did that influence your high school years? Any latent desires to teach?

Elizabeth: I wish I had some great trauma-filled stories about having my parents as teachers, but I don't. In an area as rural as the one I grew up in, I knew, from a very early age, that when I got to high school, I was going to have my parents as teachers. So it wasn't like it was a surprise to me or anyone else—I guess when you've known something was going to happen since you were five, it really negates the shock value! However, regarding influence on me and wanting to teach—well, that's a totally different story! After seeing how hard my parents worked, I never EVER wanted to be a teacher. Yes, you get summers off, but before that, let me tell you—you work your butt off! (The average high school teacher teaches at least three different sections of a particular class—for example, history, AP history, and remedial history—which all require different class preparations, and then also has things like lunch/detention/bus duty, plus is in charge of one or more school-sponsored clubs and/or events. And as for the summers off, there's always summer school, taking classes you need to in order to keep your certification, and, of course, more school-related activities—if you're coaching a sports team, for example, you can pretty much kiss your summer good-bye)
Em: Bloom was one of my favorite covers for 2007 and Perfect You is one of my favorites for 2008 so far. In fact, I just updated my profile with a picture of my shoes!

Elizabeth: Lisa Fyfe designed both the Bloom and Perfect You covers, and she is AMAZING! I've been really fortunate in my covers and every time I've see them, I've feel like they really capture what the story is about. (The shoes on the Perfect You cover, for example--as soon as I saw them, I immediately thought of the scene between Will and Kate at the party and thought, "YES!")
(btw, love your updated profile pic!!)
Em: What’s the coolest thing about being a published author?

Elizabeth: Hearing from readers. Hands down, that is the best thing ever. EVER.
Em: What are some of your favorite young adult books? Which ones influenced you while growing up?

Elizabeth: Right now, I've been reading a lot of young adult novels from the United Kingdom, and I have to say, I think they have some amazing writers. Kate Cann, Sarra Manning, Judy Waite, and Julie Hearn—all of these authors are automatic must-buys for me, even if I have to order all their latest books from! When I was growing up, there wasn't nearly as rich a range of YA as there is now—I remember a lot of books about two certain identical twins—but I adored Judy Blume. I still read Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself about once a year.
Em: Why did you decide to write young adult novels? (And trust me, we’re all thankful that you did!)

Elizabeth: It actually all started when I was on the phone with a friend. We were talking about young adult novels, which I've loved since they started getting totally fabtastic in the late 1990s, and I mentioned how I'd love to see one about a girl who had the "happily ever after"—the perfect boyfriend and etc. —and who wasn't happy with it because yeah, the guy was perfect...but she wasn't. And my friend said, "So write it!"And I did.
Em: I’ve heard all sorts of crazy stories about strange writing habits, such as wearing only one sock while writing or only using a lucky pen or, and this is the grossest, not showering during the last few weeks of writing a novel. Do you have any quirky writing habits that you’d be willing to share with us?

Elizabeth: I can't talk about what I'm working on while I write it.Well, okay, I could. But I don't. And it's so ingrained in me now that until I get that first draft done, I won't say anything about what's going on or what will happen—not even to the person who reads my first drafts! (Luckily, she's very understanding. Very!)
Em: And last but not least, if you had just one piece of advice for young writers, what would it be?

Elizabeth: Read. Read as much as you can, in as many genres as you can—not only to learn about what you like and don't, but because reading opens the door to so many amazing worlds. And who would want to pass that up?

Thanks for letting me interview you, Elizabeth! This was tons of fun and I can't wait to read Stealing Heaven. I hope everyone else enjoys the interview too!

Other Resources:
Elizabeth's website

Elizabeth's blog
The first two chapters of Perfect You
More info on Elizabeth's books

Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott Book Review

Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott
(Simon Pulse, Paperback)

Kate’s life used to be pretty good. She had a great best friend and her dad had a normal job. In just six months, everything has changed. Anna, Kate’s best friend, isn’t talking to her anymore and Kate’s dad has quit his job to sell Perfect You vitamins at a free-standing booth in the mall. Kate has to quit choir so she can help her dad out. (The vitamin business isn’t doing so well and he can’t pay his employees so Kate and her brother Todd are roped in to help.) If this all wasn’t bad enough, Kate has started hooking up with Will in the mall alley. Will is cute and popular but Kate is worried that she’s just a diversion until his next hookup.

Kate is a completely believable character—her story pulled me in and I was cheering for her the whole time. It’s tough being a teenager and it’s even tougher when you don’t have the support of your family and friends. Kate’s mom and brother are dealing with their own problems and you can’t help but wish they would pay attention to Kate for just a little bit. Will is the one bright spot in Kate’s life. Again though, Kate has been trampled on by most everyone so she’s not quite ready to trust Will. Scott makes it easy to see it from Kate’s point of view, too. Does Will really like Kate or is she just one of the many girls that he flirts with? The dialogue between Will and Kate is really fun to read and I think the cover image sums up their relationship perfectly. I can just imagine Kate holding herself back, a little unsure, while Will is confidently leaning in towards their conversation.

I recommend snatching up a copy of Perfect You when it comes out next week. And if you just can’t wait until then, check out Elizabeth Scott’s first novel Bloom, which I reviewed here or read my interview with Elizabeth.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Six Random Things meme

Melissa Walker, author of Violet on the Runway and Violet by Design, tagged me for the Six Random Things meme. I haven’t been tagged for many memes and, as I was debating whether to do this one or not, I realized that meme is Em spelled backwards and multiplied by 2. So cosmic association predetermined that I must play along…
  1. I like my feet. I’ve had an issue with every part of my body at least once in my life but never my feet. Nothing special about them. I just like them.
  2. Rain makes my day.
  3. My secret desire is to write the script for music videos. Every time I hear a song, I automatically translate it into a mini book. So often I see a music video and think, really, that was the best you could do?
  4. Speaking of music, I really like country music. That probably makes me six kinds of uncool. But just watch this video and tell me you wouldn't want that guy to sing to you.
  5. My cat talks to birds. Honest to goodness. She sits there and chirps at them.
  6. Cupcake frosting tickles the roof of my mouth.
So here are the rules for this meme in case you want to play:
1/ you link back to the person who tagged you.
2/ post these rules on your blog.
3/ share six unimportant things about yourself.
4/ tag six random people at the end of your entry.
5/ let the tagged people know by leaving a comment on their blogs.

I tag BookBopper, Liv, Miss Erin, Teen Troves, Ink Mage, & BookMuncher. No pressure though. back to reading Violet by Design which I finally bought this weekend. Just what has Violet gotten herself into now?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Curse Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce Book Review

A Curse Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
(Arthur A. Levine, Hardcover)


Charlotte Miller and her sister Rosie are orphaned and suddenly in charge of running their family’s mill. Desperate to save the mill from being turned over to the bank or from being bought out by the competition, Charlotte and Rosie enlist the help of the mysterious Jack Spinner. The first time Jack visits them, he spins gold from straw in exchange of a pearl ring – a ring that is the only link between Charlotte and her mother. The gold thread allows Charlotte to pay off some of the debt owed to the bank. But the mill is still in debt, so Jack Spinner visits twice more. The last time, he asks for Charlotte’s newborn son as payment. Charlotte must find a way to lift the curse on her mill and banish Jack Spinner for good before he can take her son.

I’d heard so many good things about this novel so I think I was expecting too much. It started off extremely slow as we learned over and over again just how much Charlotte was in debt and just how cursed the mill was. I kept reading because I was sure that it would get better. It did get better and I started to enjoy it more about halfway through. However, I never really felt close to Charlotte. She was desperate to save the mill but it seemed as if she didn’t appreciate her sister or her husband very much. The setting was described very vividly and I could easily picture the mill. In comparison, the characters seemed less developed. Charlotte has an uncle who proves to be evil. This is hinted at throughout but I never did feel like the uncle really added much to the story. It seemed as if his character could easily have been left out, thus allowing other characters to get more face time. If you like fairy tale retellings, this is worth the read. I would classify it as a somewhat feminist take on Rumpelstiltskin – interesting if, like me, you enjoy strong female main characters.

The Year Nick McGowan Came to Stay by Rebecca Sparrow Book Review

The Year Nick McGowan Came to Stay by Rebecca Sparrow
(Knopf, Hardcover)


Life is going smoothly for Rachel. She’s in her senior year of high school and her only worries are her maintaining her grades and winning the Best Party Hostess award at her job. Then Nick McGowan comes to stay with her family. Nick is a senior at her school. He used to be the top student in her grade but then something happened over summer break. Now he’s pulling fire alarms and getting kicked out of school housing. Rachel and Nick don’t get along, until Rachel realizes that rumors aren’t always true and people can surprise you.

The Year Nick McGowan Came To Stay has an interesting plot. Bad guy comes to live with goody-two-shoes girl and spices up her life. It follows that both guy and girl should learn something from each other, but I wasn’t totally convinced of that. Rachel didn’t suddenly realize that grades and awards aren’t everything. And Nick didn’t change his ways and suddenly start getting good grades again. The book did show that rumors are hardly ever true and that it’s best to just ask people questions rather than guessing at the truth. However, another main detractor for today’s audience is the timeline of the book. It’s set in the 90s and has a ton of 80s references. Not that this is bad but it does have the feeling of a novel that sat in a box for ten years before getting published.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

How Not to Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler Book Review

How Not to Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler
(Hardcover, Delacorte)

Sugar Magnolia "Maggie" Dempsey has been moving all her life. She never minded her hippie parents nomadic lifestyle until this last move. The move that took her away from a best friend and a boyfriend. Now Maggie and her parents are in Austin, TX and Maggie is determined not to fit in at school. Why risk all the heartache when her parents will just up and move in a couple of months? So Maggie tries to be as weird as she can. She wears overalls and galoshes. She carries a tin lunch box. She invites her parents to eat lunch in the cafeteria. But it doesn't seem to be working...Maggie starts to make friends and she notices that other people start wearing overalls and carrying tin lunch boxes. What is it with these kids in Austin?

I've noticed a lot of people reviewing this lately and I had to add my review to the mix because this book was such fun to read! Most people try to be popular and some people just act like themselves, but who has ever heard of someone trying not to be popular? Maggie's outfits were hilarious. And it was funny seeing how her best efforts were actually making her popular. There were some cliches in this book, such as the popular kids being the mean ones and the "uncool" kids being the ones that befriended Maggie. Still, all in all, Maggie's adventures were fun to read about. The ending has some nice twists to it that I enjoyed. A little dash of sadness, a little sprinkle of humility, a few cups of happy endings, and a lot of humor make this a book that you should definitely pick up. And isn't this just an awesome cover?