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Kids and Teen Blog

Category: Author Q & A

The Winner’s Crime: An Interview with Marie Rutkoski

by Melissa
Author Q & A + YA Fiction / March 03, 2015

Today’s the day! To celebrate the release of The Winner’s Crime—the second book in Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Trilogy—the fabulous Jenn from Lost in a Great Book has shared her interview with the lovely Marie Rutkoski. Read on for fun secrets behind The Winner’s Curse and The Winner’s Crime. (Caution! There are spoilers for The Winner's Curse, and possible vague spoilers for The Winner's Crime. You've been warned!)

In January I had the distinct pleasure of chatting via Skype with the ever-charming Marie Rutkoski, author of The Winner’s Curse and The Winner’s Crime books. After we had both settled in with our respective cups of tea (Marie’s was an intriguing blue tea from Mariage Frères that I have since attempted to order online), we focused our discussion on all things Kestrel and Arin. Be warned: there are definitely spoilers for book one in this discussion, although I’ve tried to edit out the spoilers for book two.

J: So, I’ve finished book two, and I just have to ask … Are you trying to kill us with this book? I’ll bet you wrote that last chapter with an evil laugh!

M: Ha! I mean… Okay, is this going to be public?

J: It will, but I will edit for book two spoilers, don’t you worry!

M: Oh good, that makes things easier. Well, after I wrote the first book, and I ended it the way that I did, which felt like a true ending to me, it felt like the characters were true to who they are and how I had made them into, and this is what would happen to them. After I wrote that, however, I wondered what might happen to them and how the story would continue. One of the things I felt pretty strongly about was that the tension between Kestrel and her father, for example, could break things eventually, just because they are both so similar, but their goals are so extremely different. I knew that they loved each other but …

J: They really don’t know how to love each other, really.

M: Yes, that’s it. It’s very true.

J: There are events in this book that broke my heart, especially between Kestrel and her father.

M: He would definitely see her actions as a personal betrayal. Part of the reason he has been at war for so long is because he felt that he was building this great world, this empire for her, and in his mind, he knew she was capable of making it all hers. In book one, she tells him that she doesn’t want his life, and all of her actions, even if she doesn’t mean them to be against him, he could take it that way.

J:  She is very much her father’s daughter in her analytical thought processes.

M:  She is, that’s true. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t set out to break reader’s hearts with the endings of the books, but rather that I see each book as an inevitable conclusion. I did think that it would be interesting to write a book where readers feel that the books is about a certain romantic relationship, but that they also realize that there are so many other relationships that happen that are just as crucial, and end up having as much, if not more, of an emotional impact.

J: Your characters are not one-dimensional; Kestrel is genuinely hurt and abandoned in this book because she has lost everyone close to her in book one. Jess, Ronan, her father … there is so much more to her than just her relationship with Arin, and I found she really came into her own in book two. Book one was so much about figuring out the world, and I found book two was very much a character book. There is still lots of action, but so much of what happens is internal.

I also found it interesting to see how Kestrel and Arin developed and have almost changed roles. In book one, Arin is the enigma as we don’t have much from his point of view because he is hiding his role in the rebellion, while Kestrel is the more open of the pair.

M: That’s a really interesting comment. I was definitely aware that Arin was not a very outgoing character; even in his point of view, we don’t get a lot from him in the first book and that’s very deliberate. I thought of him as a character that does not want to share, so anything he does share is done so grudgingly, but in the second book he does open up more. I hadn’t really thought about the fact that Kestrel would have to keep things much more close to her chest with everyone around her, but I guess she is much more secretive than she was before.

J: In book two, there are some interesting scenes involving a particular moth. Do those chameleon moths exist?

M: Oh, thanks! Well the book is technically fantasy, because of the different world, but I didn’t want it to be fantastical. I love fantasy, but for this book I really wanted to focus on the human – relationship, scenery, etc. I did want to lend little touches to remind the reader that this was not our world. The moths were convenient to me, for various reasons – plot-wise, events…

J: For ….. reasons that will become apparent after release!

M: Yes, exactly! So those, and the dragonflies that appear in the East … when I tend to try to remind the reader that this is a new and different world, it usually comes out in nature somehow. There may be something different, like green storms in the first book, and the crops in the second book.

J: Let’s talk a little about some of the non-story aspects of the book.The Winner’s Curse is so named because the economic theory of, essentially, paying more for something than it’s actually worth at auction. Is there a similar meaning for The Winner’s Crime?

M: The Winner’s Crime doesn’t have as serious a meaning; when you write a trilogy you want the names to go together and have some fluidity to them (example: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Dreams of Gods and Monsters). I wanted to have some kind of cohesion with the first book, and I knew what the second book would be about.

J: What are you hoping people will get from book two?

M: Well, I have had to make a lot of apologies to people on Twitter – “You broke my heart!” “I’m sorry!”

In book one, Kestrel seems kind of unassailable, she’s the girl with all the answers, so I’m hoping in book two you see her much more vulnerable than before. I also think, as a writer, it was really satisfying to write more from Arin’s point of view. That happens a lot in book three as well.

They both grow a lot in these books.

If you’re interested in reading the rest of Jenn’s interview with Marie (or if you want more information on torture and book 3) click here!

I want to extend a huge thank you to Jenn for sharing her interview with us, and to the wonderful Marie Rutkoski for an intriguing behind-the-scenes look into The Winner’s Crime. Be sure to purchase your copy of The Winner’s Crime, in stores today!

Janet Gurtler #16ThingsIThoughtWereTrue Interview

by Dan
Author Q & A + YA Fiction / March 07, 2014

Janet Gurtler

We're very excited about Janet Gurtler's new novel 16 Things I Thought Were True (if you don't believe me, take a look at our list of "Things We Thought Were True About Publishing!" inspired by the book on Facebook!) and to celebrate its release we thought we'd ask the Calgary-based author a few questions about the book and her writing process...  

Where do you write?

I can write almost anywhere if I have to, but I usually just sit on my couch with an ottoman under my feet, laptop in my lap. Sometimes I also write at Starbucks. Lastly, my son is a swimmer and I often write in the viewing area while he swims. He swims A LOT.

Tell us about your writing process.

I tend to be more of a seat of the pants writer, meaning that I don’t do heavy plotting. I usually come up with a character first and build around that character’s life. I try and make my characters and secondary characters well rounded and relatable and I use Donald Maass’s Breakout Workbook a lot when I’m writing.

Is there a teacher or librarian who has influenced your life?

I had a teacher in sixth grade who really encouraged my creative writing. He was a really great teacher, Mr. Dufferin, and he made me believe in myself as a writer. I think he made me a writer in my soul.

What is your favourite social media platform?

I am a Facebook fan. Because I’m old. But I do love Twitter as well.

Why did you choose to incorporate social media into this novel?

I actually wanted to use the paradox of a girl who has been overexposed online, and then finds herself hiding out online. I know so many people (myself included) who spend a lot of time alone and being online makes it somehow less lonely. As a writer I am pretty much alone most of the day, but I love being able to check in on social media sites. It makes me feel connected to others. I wanted to explore that connection, but also show how this girl needed to get a “real” life as well as an online one.

What have you learned over the past four novels? Has that influenced the way you wrote this fifth novel?

Wow. I’ve learned that I really can write a book! That may sound like I’m kidding but sometimes when I’m at the middle point of a first draft, it feels like it’s not possible to ever finish. But I know I can. I am big on giving myself daily word counts. It’s a great way to keep a book going.
I also learned how much I love the revision process. The type of writer I am, it works best for me to get the first draft down in a choppy, rather sloppy way, and then the real shape comes in the revision process.

Other than your own book, what’s your favourite book that you’ve read in the last year?

I’ve read some great books this year, Rainbow Rowell is amazing! But I think I was most taken with, It’s Kind Of A Funny Story, by Ned Vizzini. The voice is amazing and I really admired the book. I was so sorry to hear of his death. Such a talented but conflicted man. Mental illness sucks.

Have you ever been tempted to write genres other than contemporary YA?

I’ve been more than tempted! I’ve done it! I’ve actually written a couple of paranormal YA’s. Neither sold. But right now I’m writing an MG series for Capstone, called Mermaid Kingdom. It’s fun. Four small books. So different than my YA.

What is one of the things you thought were true as a teenager?

I thought that Rex Smith was the most beautiful man on the planet. I thought that this was the most beautiful and meaningful song ever written. And a great video. Ha ha. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read a lot. Write a lot. And try to find some writing friends who “get” what you’re trying to do. It’s not always easy but if you love it, you’ll keep at it.

Where do you get inspiration for your novels?

I get inspiration everywhere, and lots from real life. Most of my ideas start with characters. I’m kind of a “what if” writer. What if a girl’s embarrassing video accidentally went viral and she was hiding out on Twitter. What if a girl ate a peanut butter sandwich and then kissed a boy who had peanut allergies.

Why do you write novels for young adults?

I think that’s where my voice is most natural. I tried writing romance when I wrote my first book but when I started writing my first YA, I was like, YES, this is what I was meant to write. I think in my head I’m a sixteen year old girl, and it’s easy for me to write at that level. Scary. True.

How do you choose names for your characters?

Very randomly. I use social media to find names for most of my main characters. I have to make sure I’m giving my characters names that are popular today and not when I was a teenager. I’m not the kind of writer who gets really hung up on character’s names. In 16 Things, Adam was not Adam until my editor gave me revisions. His name was Riker and my editor really nicely asked if I would change it. It tends to happen more with my male characters. That they get changed, I mean.

What would be in your road trip survival kit?

First coffee. Then Diet coke. And Gum. Especially if I’m driving. I love to chew gum when I drive. And good speakers, if I’m driving. So I can play loud music. If I’m a passenger, I need a good book.

What has been your most memorable road trip?

I took A LOT of road trips as a kid. That was our go to summer holiday plan in my family with 4 kids. The one that stands out the most is when family friends drove all the way from the Edmonton joined us in Toronto (where we’d recently moved from Edmonton) and we drove all the way to the Maritimes. Two station wagons, 9 kids, 2 dogs, 4 adults. We camped along the way. I mostly remember the fireflies in on East Coast. They were so cool.

What kind of advice would you give kids who are suffering from cyber bullying? Do you think it’s something that will keep escalating?

As the mom of a teenager, I really hate the idea of cyber bullying, but of course it happens. I think parents need to play an active role if they can. By that I mean making sure they are aware of what kids are doing online and keeping communication lines open. So if bullying is happening with kids, they can feel comfortable about asking parents for help. Which is hard, I know, because being bullied feels so shameful (when it isn’t the fault of the victim at all) but it’s not always something kids want to talk about. My advice is to tell someone. Ask for help. No one should have to deal with bullying alone.

If you could go back in time and give your teenage self 5 pieces of advice, what would they be?

  1. Stop perming your hair.
  2. Drinking does not make people like you more. Quite the opposite. You’re okay without it. Shy isn’t a death sentence. Be yourself.
  3. You’re not so bad. Give yourself a break.
  4. A boy who says you need to lose weight is NOT a boy you want to be dating. Also. You are NOT fat.
  5. Don’t be so worried about what other people think.

Do you imagine that your characters go on to live happier, stronger lives having overcome the obstacles they face? Or, do you think they continue to be presented with struggles in their adult lives?

Great question ha ha! I always imagine my characters going on to have a happier life after the books is over, I really do! I don’t usually think of them all the way to adult lives, but I think past the time when the book ends and they’re off to college, or with the boy or whatever they need to do to get happy when the book is over. ☺

Who is your favourite character from your books, and why?

Hmm. This is hard. I always really love the characters I’m currently working on. And it’s harder than naming my favorite child, because I only have one so he always wins. Picture me currently in deep thought. Okay. I’m going to go with Sam from Who I Kissed. I felt very protective of her because she really did think she didn’t deserve to have any happiness in her life after the tragedy in the book took place. It was a hard book to write, very close to home, as my son has peanut allergies. I really felt emotionally connected to Sam.

Have you ever wanted to revisit any of your characters in a sequel?

I think at some point I’d like to write a short novella or something where all my characters meet up and there’s some resolution to where they ended up after their stories ended. I haven’t felt compelled to continue a characters story in a full book though.

Which character is the most like you?

Honestly I think little parts of me slip into most of the characters. Or they get to do or say thing I always wanted to.

This book is a departure from your previous cover treatments. What do you think of the new cover?

I really really really love it! (really really) I think it is a great representation of what the book is about. I love the Morgan they used on the cover and the feeling of being alone in all that white space!

Thanks Janet!

Q & A with Jessica Shirvington

by Dan
Author Q & A + YA Fiction / April 01, 2013

Jessica Shirvington

With Emblaze, the third book in the Embrace series, making it's North American debut, we thought it was high-time we caught up with author Jessica Shirvington:

Did you always want to be a writer?

No. In fact, it never really occurred to me. I finished school and went straight into the workforce. I worked hard and by the time I was 23 years old I owned a company in London and everything was going really well. Then, at 27, I had my first daughter and everything changed. My perspective on what was and wasn’t important, my ideals about where I wanted to live and who I wanted to be around – it all changed. So I set about selling my business and home and by the time we moved back to Sydney, I was pregnant with our second daughter. When she was born, for the first time since finishing school, I wasn’t working crazy hours and so I was reading a lot – like a crazy amount of books. I don’t know why, but one day I finished a book and instead of opening a new one, I opened my laptop and started to write EMBRACE. It hit the shelves exactly one year after that in Australia

What was your favourite book as a teenager?

I didn’t really have a lot of favourite books when I was a teenager. YA really wasn’t what it is now. As a teenager I actually read a lot of crime and thrillers. I loved Patricia Cornwell and the Kay Scarpetta Series.

Embrace by Jessica Shirvington

The series is set in a complex world, with multiple layers of existence happening at the same time. How do you keep the rules of this world straight when you’re writing?

By keeping lots of notebooks and timelines. You have to keep the rules very clear. If you break them, you will lose the confidence of your readers so I am fairly fanatical about these things.

It’s hard not to notice that Violet’s last name is Eden – is the relationship between Violet, Lincoln, and Phoenix a nod to the original trio from the Garden?

Yes, in some ways. The books are centered on the concepts of choice and consequence. What greater story of choice and consequence is there than the story of The Garden of Eden and the Tree of Knowledge?

Was it fun to do the research for the books?

Yes. I’m a research junkie, so I love digging around in mythology and biblical folklore looking for potential stories and myths that I might be able to twist into Violet’s world. I also love choosing things that aren’t necessarily the most obvious and seeing how I can work them in. Yeah, I’m a total nerd!

Entice by Jessica Shirvington

The series is headed to the CW Network! Did you ever think you’d get to see your characters come to life on TV? Are you involved with the script?

I suppose throughout the writing process I always saw the potential for a screen conversion but of course, you never expect it to actually happen. And to be honest, it still may not. The option has been picked up and they are developing the scripts for the pilot but whether or not it gets to the next stage is out of my hands. There are so many people involved in the decision making that I really have no idea what will happen, but I have my fingers crossed! As for my involvement – if it all goes ahead it will be as a consultant. I am not a scriptwriter and my passion is and will always remain with writing books!

We love the playlists you give for each book on your website! Do you have songs that you listen to for certain characters?

Sometimes. Mostly, I just love songs that seem to capture the tone of a particular scene. I do listen to a lot of Florence and the Machine though!! I also think Anya Marina’s song – All The Same To Me – is the perfect song for Phoenix.

Emblaze by Jessica Shirvington

When will Endless, the next book in the series, be available in the US and Canada?

ENDLESS will be out in October and then the final book in the series (title still to be finalized!) will follow shortly after.

Is the fifth book finished?

No! I’m working on it now. In fact, I fly out tomorrow to go on a research trip to a large section of the fifth book.

Violet is such a strong-willed, independent character. Will it be hard to leave her behind and start new projects?

Yes. It will. Very hard, I imagine. But I always promised that I would finish the series at the right point for her, not me. And this is it.

While we’re all eagerly waiting for the next two books, can you recommend another YA series to read? 

Anything by Melissa Marr. Maria V. Snyder or Neil Gaiman.

Thanks Jessica!