Sunday, March 31, 2013

Butter, anyone?

Erin Jade Lange, answers a few questions for us today about her amazing book,
Butter. But before we get to that, I do have a couple of links to share...
For teachers and book discussion leaders, here's my Michigan Reading Association handout, with links to book discussion guides for nineteen 2012 YA titles. And with this video,Young Adult Books Central is hoping to get a YABC bookmobile to bring YA swag to book events throughout the country! Also to YA Fusion's own Katie McGarry, congrats on her RITA finals in the YA Romance and Best First Book categories!!!!

About Butter, from Erin's website:

A boy everyone calls “Butter” is about to make Scottsdale High history. He’s going to eat himself to death live on the Internet – and everyone will watch.
He announces his deadly plan to an army of peers and expects pity, insults or even indifference. Instead, he finds morbid encouragement.
When that encouragement tips the scales into popularity, Butter has a reason to live. But if he doesn’t go through with his plan, he’ll lose everything.

And now, the interview you've been waiting for!

What inspired you to write Butter?
Butter was inspired by my work as a TV news producer. We are constantly covering stories of childhood obesity, Internet bullying and teen suicide. Those stories collected in the back of my mind until they formed this character, and once he popped into my head, I couldn't get him down on paper fast enough!

Besides your main character, who is your favorite character in Butter and why?
This may surprise people who have read the book, because he is one of the "bad guys," but my favorite character is Parker. He is more than a bystander, but I don't think he realizes he is a bully. He's just a guy having a good time who doesn't grasp the full scope of what's happening or how he is making it worse. Parker is one of the characters I imagine would grow up, look back on the events in the story, and feel terrible about them. We all make mistakes. It doesn't make us bad people for life.
Do you have a favorite scene in Butter?
Yes, but it's a spoiler scene, so I can't mention it! I'll just say it's the scene with Anna on page 236. ;)
Did you always know how Butter would end, or did it change as you wrote it?
The very first ending I wrote was more epilogue than ending. I always knew whether Butter was going to go through with his plan to eat himself to death live on the Internet, but in early drafts, I didn't deal with the fallout from that decision.
Is there anything you can tell us about how your cover was designed?
One thing people may not realize at first glance is that the image on the cover is more than a butter dish. It's an x-ray of a butter dish. It's a visual metaphor for how the character of Butter exposes himself (and makes himself vulnerable to criticism/bullying) by announcing his deadly plan online for everyone to see.
What’s next for you?
My second book, DEAD ENDS, comes out in September. It's about a bully and a boy with Down syndrome... and how an atlas full of riddles and a search for a missing father leads them to form an unlikely alliance.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

a YA debut, revision help, and GIVEAWAYS!

I have a lot to share today: a wonderful new book, revision advice, and giveaways!

I’ll start with the wonderful book. The ARC of Emily Murdoch’s debut YA/Crossover novel, If You Find Me, sat in my reading pile for too many months. I wish I had read it earlier to join the chorus of admirers, but I’m squeaking in just in time – the novel releases this week. (With starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal!)  
At the end of this post, you’ll have a chance to comment to win my ARC. You’ll also find a link to read an interview with Emily and the blog tour stops for more chances to win her novel.  Trust me, she is such a warm and lovely person, you will immediately want to read her book. 

From the back cover:

There are some things you can’t leave behind…
A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

My thoughts:
Lyrical, evocative, heart-wrenching. I was immediately swept up in the emotion and the mystery, and I feared the unfolding that came at the end. Because I am a writer and a social worker, I thought about the worst that could have happened, and truly hoped author-Emily wouldn't go there. I didn't want her to go there. But I know she had to. That might sound bleak, but ultimately this is a story of love, hope, and resilience.

This is also a great story to analyze from a writing perspective, especially the use of flashbacks.  Writers are taught to avoid the dreaded info-dump, to reveal in bits and pieces – never enough to slow the story down. 

I’ve struggled with this in my own writing, and I recently received some guidance from author Tim Wynne-Jones who is my mentor/instructor in an online writing class. Tim commented that I was holding back too much information from the reader.  I was attempting to build suspense, but instead it came across as coy.  I had briefly described a certain past incident, but Tim’s advice was to make that a longer, fully developed scene – even its own chapter.  Here’s one way to think of it: use small flashbacks that reveal character through action and dialogue, but use larger flashback scenes when important truths need to be revealed.

The best way to learn is to read books that do this well. If You Find Me is a great example, as well as Tim’s YA thriller, Blink and Caution.

* On Tuesday, I’ll be at Literary Rambles for Tip Tuesday sharing more of what I’ve learned from Tim Wynne-Jones. In the meantime, here are the programs where he teaches: 

Visit the unofficial blog by faculty members of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults

**And finally, the GIVEAWAYS!

1. To win my ARC of If You Find Me, simply leave a comment below by Friday, April 5th.  U.S. and Canadian addresses only, and please include your email if it’s not listed on your Blogger profile.

2. To find the launch of the If You Find Me blog tour with more chances to win the book, go here:

3. It’s revision week at Deborah Halverson’s DearEditor blog. Stop by for a week’s worth of revision tips and opportunities to win a partial or full edit of your manuscript.

Good luck!
Kristin Lenz

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Halfway through THE DROWNED CITIES and loving it

Before I get to the excellent book I’m currently reading, here’s some news on books I will be reading:

My friend Cole Gibsen just released SENSHI, the sequel to her debut novel, KATANA.  I haven’t had a chance to read SENSHI yet, but KATNA was a fun read—very much like a novelized samurai comic.  You can find more about Cole and her books at:

YA Fusion’s own Katie McGarry is on the verge of releasing CROSSING THE LINE, an e-book story about Lila from PUSHING THE LIMITS.  I haven’t read a word of this story, so it’ll be a treat to see what Katie cooked up in the midst of her other writing.  You can see more at:

And now to my current fascination, Paolo Bacigalupi’s THE DROWNED CITIES.  The publisher, LB Teen, describes the story as:

This thrilling companion to Paolo Bacigalupi's Michael L. Printz Award winner Ship Breaker is a haunting and powerful story of loyalty, survival, and heart-pounding adventure.

In a dark future America where violence, terror, and grief touch everyone, young refugees Mahlia and Mouse have managed to leave behind the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities by escaping into the jungle outskirts. But when they discover a wounded half-man--a bioengineered war beast named Tool--who is being hunted by a vengeful band of soldiers, their fragile existence quickly collapses. One is taken prisoner by merciless soldier boys, and the other is faced with an impossible decision: Risk everything to save a friend, or flee to a place where freedom might finally be possible.

To that description, I would add that THE DROWNED CITIES is a well plotted, character driven story that’s rich in detail and rides on a strong moral undertone.

Mr. Bacigalupi’s first YA, SHIP BREAKER, is a Printz Award winner, so you don’t need me to tell you it’s good.  But if SHIP BREAKER is good, THE DROWNED CITIES is great.  It’s as if SHIP BREAKER got a whole new dimension.  The characters are deeper, the plotting is more involved, the writing is richer with texture and detail.  The story is relentless, too, piling war horror on top of war horror—not to sensationalize violence, but to drive the story forward and the reader deeper.

For comparison, the writing feels very William Gibson cyberpunk (maybe COUNT ZERO INTERRUPT because of its teen protagonist), while the story brings to mind Neal Stephenson’s THE DIAMOND AGE: OR, A YOUNG LADY’S ILLUSTRATED PRIMER because of its tribal warring and female heroine.  I’m also reminded of the grittiest of Terry Pratchett’s work, such as the grim reality underlying NATION or his Tiffany Aching stories.  I do not say this to suggest copying, but to underline the quality of the read.

If you’ve noted that I just listed a mix of adult and YA books, that’s no accident.  THE DROWNED CITIES is definitely a mature read.  I’m not saying kids can’t handle it, I’m saying it’s as grizzly as a story of child soldiers and war must be.  At the same time, it has a strong moral undertone that forces the reader to question the costs of the choices we make as individuals and as a country.

Wish me well with the second half, and if you have suggestions for a similar read, I’d love to hear them,

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Welcome Karen Ann Hopkins

Today I am excited to welcome Karen Ann Hopkins to YA Fusion. In a few weeks, she'll join our rotation of Young Adult authors! Karen is the author of the Young Adult novels, Temptation and Belonging!

I asked Karen a few questions to help us get to know her and her books!

What was your favorite part of writing Temptation?

My favorite part of writing Temptation was researching the Amish culture. I completely immersed myself in all aspects of the goings-on in the the neighborhood. It was quite a learning experience.

What was your favorite part of writing Belonging?

In Belonging, Rose discovers that the Amish world isn't always what she thought it would be. There is a darker side to the secretive society that threatens to tear the young lovers apart. 

The end of Temptation left us wondering what will happen between Noah and Rose. Will we find out the fate of our young couple in Belonging? 

  The ending of the second book in the series will tie up plot lines, but also shock readers.

What was your favorite book as a teenager?

There are many books that affected me strongly as a teenager, but I'd have to say that Black Beauty, the Outsiders and the Lord of the Rings trilogy are at the top of the list.

Thanks for joining us, Karen! We look forward to your first post!

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Congratulations to our very own Kristen Simmons on her new release, Breaking Point, the second novel in her Article 5 series!

After faking their deaths to escape from prison, Ember Miller and Chase Jennings have only one goal: to lay low until the Federal Bureau of Reformation forgets they ever existed.

Near-celebrities now for the increasingly sensationalized tales of their struggles with the government, Ember and Chase are recognized and taken in by the Resistance—an underground organization working to systematically take down the government. At headquarters, all eyes are on the sniper, an anonymous assassin taking out FBR soldiers one by one. Rumors are flying about the sniper’s true identity, and Ember and Chase welcome the diversion….

Until the government posts its most-wanted list, and their number one suspect is Ember herself.

Orders are shoot to kill, and soldiers are cleared to fire on suspicion alone. Suddenly Ember can’t even step onto the street without fear of being recognized, and “laying low” is a joke. Even members of the Resistance are starting to look at her sideways.

With Chase urging her to run, Ember must decide: Go into hiding…or fight back?

It's been one year since your debut, Article 5 came out. Looking back, do you have any advice for those finding their way through that first year?

Enjoy the ride. It's so easy to get caught up in deadlines and painful reviews, and how scary this kind of exposure can be. The truth is, it's a heck of a rush to see your dreams come to life.

What's your favorite scene?

I like any scene where there's kissing. :)

Do you have a favorite line?

Here's my favorite section from Breaking Point. It's when Ember is recalling how she met Chase when they were children:

I’d never been brave enough to go into that old house
alone, but when Chase had shown up, intent to see beyond
the splintering white columns and broken shutters, I couldn’t
say no. I hadn’t known that the sour smell was asbestos and
the raised veins in the wallpaper were termite highways. You
didn’t think of those things at six. You only thought about
how fear could be split down the middle like an orange, so
both of you could eat half.

Can you tell us when the third and final book in the Article Five series is expected and if it has a name yet? Anything you want to tell us about it?

I can tell you it comes out next year in Winter 2014...and the title has yet to be finalized (though it's chosen, it's just a matter of how it will be written...). I can also tell you that things are going to get both more dangerous, and a little steamier for our heroes.

What's next?
It will be hard for me to say goodbye to Chase and Ember, but their story is wrapping up. After that I have three more books coming out with Tor Teen (stand alone titles). The first is called Glass Arrow, and is about a girl who is sold for breeding rights in a world where women are endangered. The second, Metaltown, follows young sweat shop workers as they form a union, and the third...well, that's my little secret!

Can you name a couple of your favorite YA books of all time? What's your recent favorite?

I LOVE the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness. Oh my gosh, it's so good. And I have become a recent fan of Laini Taylor - I'm currently reading Days of Blood and Starlight, and it's absolutely beautiful. But I have to say my recent fave is Dare You To by Katie McGarry! I have been dying to hear Beth's story, and it was so worth the wait!

Thanks for the interview, Colette!