Interview with Natasha Deen, Author of True Grime

Joining us today is Natasha, author of the YA urban-fantasy, True Grime.

Welcome to The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection, Natasha. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

Things you should know about me:

  • When the writing isn’t going well, I make a pan of rice-krispie treats. Then I hide under the desk and eat the entire batch.
  • I like to sing broadway show tunes to my animals.
  • To stimulate creativity, I’ve been known to waltz with the cats/dogs.

In other words, it’s probably a very good thing that I’m a writer because I probably shouldn’t be let out in public.

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

One of the reasons I started writing was because I was fed up with what I call Dysfunction Masquerading As Conflict. It’s especially prevalent in romances: she’s supposed to be self-sufficient and stubborn, but just reads shrill. Or he’s “wounded” and that’s the reason he’s allowed to emotionally abuse her, and be a jackass because “it’s okay, ’cause—deep down—he loves her.”

One of my favorites is the external conflict that a five-year-old could solve. She needs the rind of an orange, and he needs the inside, but oh-uh!! There’s only ONE orange. What are they going to do? So the reader suffers through hundreds of pages of “come here” “go away” hot sex, more sex, oh, look, more sex and right when she hits the 100th orgasm, she realizes she really loves him, but boo hoo, there’s that problem of the orange. Then she either gets pregnant and runs away, or sees him having dinner with another woman and runs away, or realizes it’ll never work in this mad, one orange world, and runs away. Inevitably, she gets hits by a truck or car (no doubt, driven by the now, completely pissed off romance reader). Then, she wakes up in a hospital, sees him. He’s all “oh, I love you!” and she says, “It won’t work. There’s only one orange.” Then he solves it all by saying, “No, we can share the orange.”

Then there’s more sex…well, except for the reader whose too busy poking their eyes out or seeking professional help to even consider having sex.

I started writing because I wanted to “put my money where my mouth was” and get a view of the writing process from the other side of the desk.

Why did you decide to write stories for the YA market?

I’ve been in the school system for over ten years and there’s so much that kids are dealing with…I wanted to write a novel that would (1) be a fun escape and a great break from all the homework (2) deal with some of the issues that kids are dealing with now (bullying).

What is your favorite part of writing for this group? What is the greatest challenge?

Writing for YA/children means being on the ball. The stories need to be tight and entertaining, full of fun and excitement.  But I love writing for this audience because kids are wild—you can really go off the grid with story premises and have fun with lunatic plots/scenarios…in fact, one pre-teen reader said to me (after reading Grime): “I liked it but you should have had a sewer scene.”

“Sewer?”

“Yeah, something should happen in the sewer.”

Awesome. Never even thought of it, but I promised her (and her friend who came to back her up on the sewer idea) that I’d include it in the sequel.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

Grime cop and teen fairy Pepper Powder lives for one thing: protecting the human species from magical zealots who seek to eradicate them with Violent Illness of Unusual Resistance and Strength (humans call them “viruses,” but their mistake is understandable.  The very young often get their words wrong.).  When a terrorist leader releases a necrophage bomb, it not only decimates Grime headquarters, it turns Pepper into the magical world’s first fairy amputee—but she’s not going to let a little thing like a missing leg stop her.  To catch her criminal, and prevent him from unleashing a V.I.U.R.S in one of the human world’s biggest shopping centers, West Edmonton Mall, she goes undercover as a human.  But once Pepper’s theories of humanity collide with the reality of bullies, cliques, and environmental destruction, will she still believe humanity’s worth saving?

What inspired you to write it?

The BP oil spill prompted Grime. I was watching it (and feeling fatalistic). We were just screwing up. Destroying everything and there was the newscaster, every 15 minutes, coming back and saying, “Oil’s still spilling.” Well, duh.

After a few days, I realized I was seeing it wrong. This wasn’t about us screwing up and killing ourselves and the planet. This was about a company making a terrible mistake and the whole world (it seemed) had turned its eyes to them, and was staring, waiting for them to fix things. The newscaster wasn’t wasting my time and giving me disaster porn, he was the clock-watcher, coming in every so often to say, “Those bastards still haven’t done anything. I’m going to go back and monitor it. We’ll hold them accountable.”

And hold them accountable, not just to the immediate spill, but to the long term effects…and I started thinking about how different my life is compared to the life my grandmothers led (pulled out of school at 8, forced into arranged marriages)…and then I realized that life is getting better. We may be slow, but we’re growing and becoming a better species.

So, I just wanted to send that message and to do it within the context of some of the scarier things we deal with: bullying, terrorism, environment.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

It’s available on amazon.com, and in e-formats for Nook, Kindle, and epub (Sony, Kobo).

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

www.natsahdeen.com and http://natashadeen.blogspot.com/

What is up next for you?

The sequel to Grime!

Do you have anything else to add?

From now until December 5th, if you post a review for True Grime on amazon.com, your name is entered to win a Kindle (Generation Four).

Thank you for spending time with us today, Natasha. We wish you much success.

Thank you!

 

REVIEW & WIN!
Until December 5, 2011, if you post a review of True Grime on Amazon.com, your name will be entered to win a Kindle! It’s as simple as that! And if you post on Amazon.com and Goodreads, then your name is entered TWICE.
The details:
  1. Contest runs until December 5, 2011, inclusive. 
  2. Post a review of True Grime on www.amazon.com and email natasha @ natashadeen.com the link.
  3. Once the review is confirmed, your name will be entered into the draw. 
  4. Posting a review on Goodreads will get you a second entry, but your initial review must be onamazon.com (no other amazon site is eligible).
  5. The draw will be on December 7, 2011. 
The Not-So-Fine Print:
No purchase necessary. Entrants must be twelve or older, and one prize will be awarded, world-wide.  Winner must answer skill-testing question: (2 × 4) + (10 × 3) in order to claim their prize.  The winner will receive an Amazon e-gift card, valued at $79 USD, in order to purchase their Kindle. If the winner does not claim their prize within seven days, another winner will be chosen. Promotion ends December 5, 2011. Void where prohibited by law. 
 

My Letter to Mother Nature

I’m not sure when I lost my sense of humor over this year’s weather. Was it after the June 1st tornado that left us without power for 2 days right before we boarded a plane for Florida? Was it during the July 26th microburst that left us without power for another two days? By the time Satruday’s unusually early snowstorm hit Western Mass, I had my fill of extreme weather.
 
With 10 inches of snow, downed power lines and fallen trees, we’ve already been without electricity for over 36 hours, and National Grid is saying it will be 3 more days before electricity is restored. I’m sitting at my in-laws’ house in a neighboring community–which was also hard hit, and yet, has power. The front yard is littered with broken branches. A medium-size tree crashed through the roof of their shed. I feel like drafting a letter to Mother Nature:
 
Dear Mother Nature,
 
Thank you for your most recent gift of an early snowstorm. The lack of electricity and heat are greatly appreciated. The blessing of snow-covered tree limbs, some of which were hanging in the middle of my driveway and front yard this morning, looked so lovely as I struggled to shake the wet globs of white off them so I could make it into the garage. I especially enjoyed that branch that swiped my upper lip.
 
I’m sure you were merely thinking of how much I was bemoaning my lack of exercise lately. Using the hand saw and hauling five trees into the woods certainly gave me that much needed workout.
 
While Western Massachusetts has certainly appreciated your generosity this year, perhaps other parts of the country are feeling a bit lonely.  We don’t mind sharing your gifts.
 
Fondly,
 
Cheryl 

Interview with Joanne Lécuyer, Author of Kaptain Vamp

Joining us today is Joanne Lécuyer, author of Kaptain Vamp. This is a children’s book geared toward ages 7-10 and anyone that is young at heart.

Welcome to The Children’s and Teen’s Book Connection, Joanne. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

Well, while I really love writing books and giving story writing workshops for kids, I have a full time job in communications and change management with the Canadian federal government. The daytime job keeps me pretty busy.

In my spare time, I’m also a professional and personal coach and a Reiki Master. I have a very active mind and like to do many things. I consider myself as an eternal learner. I’m turning 50 next year, so I’m beginning to pay more attention to my body now. I need it to keep up with me and my many projects!

I live in a small rural community outside ofOttawa,Ontariowith my husband Rick, our dog Kato and two cats, Black Magic and Minx. For fun, I love to read, write, and watch movies (Rick and I love animated movies – especially the ones for kids). We also spend time with friends and family.

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

I’ve always been writing something or other. But I would say that finding my passion for writing kids books started in 2009, and just keeps on growing.

Why did you decide to write stories for children?

I’ve been writing stories for children for about 2 years now. But, it all started about 6-7 years ago.  After spending a weekend with my younger brother who’s extremely creative and a graphic artist, I got an idea for a story that I called Topsyturvia. On my way back home on the train, I jotted the story down on some scraps of paper. When I got home I just put the pages away.

In 2009, I remembered that I had written the story and transcribed into my computer and just kept adding to it. I got to about 6,000 words and read it to my husband who told me that he thought it was a very good story. So I gave a copy to a few colleagues with children and they liked it too. Everyone has been so supportive and encouraging. I decided to publish my first book The Witch, the Cat and the Egg last fall. Since then, I’ve had so many story ideas it’s been great. I look forward to having the time to write them all down.

Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

To me, it feels like it’s easier writing children’s fantasy books, since I can use my imagination and anything is possible. For the last few years, I’ve been writing things like speeches and correspondence. Writing for someone else is hard. It’s difficult to know exactly what they want to say.

What is your favorite part of writing for young people?

What I enjoy most about writing for young people is stirring their imagination. I’m always hoping that they will enjoy the story, as much as I love writing them, and that it will awaken the reader/writer/illustrator in them. It’s a challenge to hold kids’ attention these days, since we have to compete with video games, television, YouTube, Facebook, etc.

Over the summer, I gave 4 story writing workshops for kids, in a school and at a summer camp. In addition to sharing my writing process with them, it was exciting to help them use their own imagination in creating characters and story ideas. I totally enjoy writing for them and playing with them in the workshops.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

My latest book is Kaptain Vamp. It’s the story a young vampire named Allistaire, who is also part human. He wants to change the fact that humans are afraid and distrustful of vampires. His family has been living among humans for hundreds of years and they’ve always used their abilities for good. One day, while reading his favourite superhero comic, Allistaire decides that he’s going to do everything he can to help humans. In order to become a superhero, Allistaire will start by doing good deeds. His sidekick, his human friend Rich, offers to help him out.

What inspired you to write it?

Since vampires have been the rage for adults for the last few years, I thought it would be fun to write a story about them for kids. I liked the challenge of taking this theme and making it positive. I didn’t want to give the kids nightmares. Also, I thought a vampire-human superhero would make a good story.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

The eBook is available on my website at www.topsybooks.com.

The print version will be there in November – just in time for Christmas!

I’m working on getting it on to Amazon and Barnes and Noble soon.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

On topsybooks.com you can find out more about Kaptain Vamp and my other book The Witch, the Cat and the Egg. Kids can download images from the books to color and learn words from the books in 5 different languages. There is also a monthly draw for copies of books or t-shirts.

What is up next for you?

I have a few writing projects on the go. An artist friend is working on the images for my next book about a fairy. My brother is working on the images for my Topsyturvia series.

I’m also experimenting with other writing mediums. I’ll soon have one or two new comic strips that will be available only on the website. Readers will be able to vote for the one they prefer and I’ll either continue with as a comic or turn it into a future book.

I’m working on an adult short fiction story that I’m considering entering into a contest later this year.

Do you have anything else to add?

When I started writing stories for children, I decided that I would write the kinds of books that leave my readers feeling good and wanting more; that also leave them with a smile on their faces. The type of book that you can read to kids before they go to bed that will help them have good dreams! That’s what Topsy Books is all about. My personal motto is “Dare to imagine and believe in the magic of possibilities!” I hope that new readers will make Topsy Books part of their reading collection.

There will be sequels to The Witch, the Cat and the Egg and Kaptain Vamp next year. An eBook of the Witch book is available on the website. An audio and French version of the book will be coming soon.

Thanks for the interview and for reading Kaptain Vamp.

Thank you for spending time with us today, (Joanne Lécuyer). We wish you much success.

Kaptain Vamp web page:
http://topsybooks.com/ourbooks/our-books/kaptain-vamp/

Topsy Books website:
http://topsybooks.com/ourbooks/

Topsy Books Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Topsy-Books/179610058715988

Topsy Books Twitter: @JoTopsyBooks
http://twitter.com/#!/JoTopsyBooks

eBooks
Price: $6.99
ISBN:
– epub – 978-0-9869517-2-5
– mobi – 978-0-9869517-5-6
Pages: 68
Release: September 2011

Paperback
Price: $12.99
ISBN: 978-0-9869517-4-9
Pages: 68
Release: November 2011

eBook buy link: ($6.99) (epub, mobi, pdf)
to come

Paperback buy link: ($12.99)
to come

Every-Day Dress-Up by Selina Alko

Do you remember how much fun it was to play dress-up? This fabulous new book by author-illustrator Selina Alko captures that joy and adds in some history.

Every-Day Dress-Up opens with the young girl narrator telling her reader that she used to only play princess until her mommy told her stories of “real, great women.” Every day she gets to be a “daring new dame.” From Amelia Earhart to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, from Eleanor Roosevelt to Marie Curie, and from Julia Child to Alice Neel and more, this delightful playtime adventure story will inspire girls to reach for their dreams. With a blend of imagination and inspiration, Every-Day Dress-Up by Selina Alko will captivate your young reader.

Alko’s illustrations are charming. From the cardboard box airplane that the girl flies in when she is Earhart, to the colorful robe she dons when she becomes Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, the illustrations make this book come alive.  

Short biographies of the eleven historical figures featured are found in the back of the book, and there is a short list of “Books That Inspire.”

I highly recommend Every-Day Dress-Up by Selina Alko.

Rating:  :) :) :) :) :)

  • Publisher:Knopf Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10:0375860924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375860928
  • SRP:  $16.99

Freckleface Strawberry Best Friends Forever

Freckleface Strawberry is back with a new adventure in Freckleface Strawberry Best Friends Forever by Julianne Moore.

Freckleface Strawberry and Windy Pants Patrick are best friends. They are very much alike, which is why they are such great friends. Problem is, the kids at school convince them they are too different to be friends. And that’s when the trouble starts.

I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was to see this latest Freckleface Strawberry book appear on  my doorstep. I loved being introduced to her in the first book. I had a blast recalling how much I also despised dodgeball in Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully. This new book is just as charming and just as funny. In Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully, Freckleface Strawberry and Windy Pants Patrick had become friends. Now the reader gets to see this friendship put to the test, but it is done in such a delightful way that young readers will be laughing as much as they are cheering for Freckleface and Windy to stop listening to those kids who say they shouldn’t be friends. The humorous illustrations by LeUyen Pham are the perfect complement to this story.

The purchaser should be advised that Windy Pants Patrick tells Freckleface Strawberry that he has two moms. There are also illustrations of Windy’s family in the book. I point this out solely because this may influence a buyer’s decision.

Freckleface Strawberry Best Friends Forever is a great addition to your child’s library.

Rating:  :) :) :) :) :)

  • Publisher:Bloomsbury USA Childrens
  • ISBN-10:1599905515
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599905518
  • SRP:  $16.99

Breaking Fellini by M.E. Purfield

Joining us today is M.E. Purfield, author of the young adult novel Breaking Fellini.

Welcome,  M.E. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

I’m from Jersey City, NJ and I have been writing semi-professionally for over ten years. I am the author of the YA contemp novel jesus freakz + buddha punx and the YA dark fantasy munki moo moo.

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

When I was sixteen. I wrote a novella for a contest at school. I didn’t win. But I kept writing after that.

Why did you decide to write stories for the YA market?

It just came naturally. One day I stepped outside myself and looked at the books I wrote and noticed that most of them had a teenage protagonist. And since I naturally write shorter works, I thought it would be smart to work in the YA genre.

What is your favorite part of writing for this group? What is the greatest challenge?

The fact that teenagers are at a time in their lives where they’re learning and deciding what kind of adult they’re going to be. Dramatically, that works great in YA fiction. Realistically, adults don’t change much, hence why they complain all the time. At that point of their lives, it is not too late for humans to change.

The greatest challenge is keeping the work honest and not bending to what would be marketable. Even if it’s ugly, honesty in fiction is the best way to go.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

Breaking Fellini is a novel of No Wave and New York during 1977.

Sixteen-year-old Joni Corso loves to play rock guitar, but being in a local cover band just doesn’t excite her anymore. She wants to perform originals and join the scene in New York City were Blondi, Patti Smith, and The Ramones found fame.

Able to convince her mother to spend some time with her estranged father in Manhattan, Joni jumps at the opportunity to redefine herself and join a band. Amidst a whirlwind of classic rock, drugs, urban recession, and drag queens, Joni meets Phaedra a homeless girl with a mission to destroy rock idols and the mainstream. Joni joins her band No! and plays the kind of music she’s been craving. The kind of music that out punks Punk.

But Dad sees her as something else: a famous rock guitarist with a band on the Top 40 charts, something Joni doesn’t want to be anymore. Now she has to decide which musician she can live with being and for who or risk losing her new life and father she just found.

What inspired you to write it?

Two things. One, I had this story of the girl dealing with a father who is a club owner and a drug user. Two, I wanted to tell a story set in the No Wave scene.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

It can be purchased at Amazon, Smashwords, and soon at Barnes & Noble.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

My website is http://mepurfield.com and my blog is http://mepurfield.livejournal.com.

What is up next for you?

Prepping a YA suburban Noir called Party Girl Crashes the Rapture for winder of 2012 and muddling through a rough draft of a YA Dark Fantasy called Angel Spits.

Do you have anything else to add?

Just thanks for giving me this chance to present myself to your readers.

Thank you for spending time with us today. We wish you much success.

A Christmas Secret by Candace Hall

Jingle bells, Jingle bells,

Seasonal books are on the way!

Get your kids in the holiday spirit by sharing with them A Christmas Secret by Candace Hall.

Santa’s reindeer discover a lost black kitten named O’Malley while they are helping Santa deliver presents on Christmas Eve. Unable to find his home, they hide O’Malley on the sleigh and keep his presence a secret from Santa. Once they arrive back at the North Pole, many of the residents help take care of the tired, hungry little kitten. What would Santa say if he knew?

This is an unbelieveably adorable story. You have Santa’s reindeer acting like a kid hiding something he discovered on the way home from school. They know they’re not supposed to bring O’Malley home, but what are they going to do? It’s cold out. Besides, isn’t Christmas the season of peace, love, and joy? While I wish the interior illustrations were in color, they are still cute. The small size of the book makes it easy for little hands to hold too.

Your children will be enchanted by A Christmas Secret by Candace Hall.

Rating:  :) :) :) :) :)

  • Publisher:Tate Publishing
  • ISBN-10:1617773530
  • ISBN-13: 978-1617773532
  • SRP:  $7.99

I received a copy of this book from the author through Pump Up Your Book in exchange for my honest opinions. I received no monetary compensation of any kind to provide my review.