Please welcome Ellen Booraem to the virtual offices this morning. Ellen dropped by to chat about her latest release Texting the Underworld. She also brought along 2 copies of her new book for you to win!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
[Ellen Booraem] Lifelong daydreamer and late-bloomer, now living the dream.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Texting the Underworld?
[Ellen Booraem] It’s a hero’s tale, featuring a fearful South Boston 12-year-old named Conor O’Neill. One school night, a young banshee named Ashling turns up in his bedroom, telling him that someone in his family is about to die. (Banshees are ancestral spirits who wail before the death of a family member.) Convinced that the death will be his beloved grandfather, Conor comes to believe that he must prevent it. He ends up visiting the Underworld, hoping to strike a bargain with the Lady who runs things there.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Ellen Booraem] Reading Abbey Lubbers, Banshees & Boggarts by the late British folklorist Katharine Briggs, I discovered that banshees weren’t always the ghastly old crones I’d thought they were. (I grew up in Massachusetts in a partly Irish household and neighborhood.) Briggs said that in some traditions they were maidens who’d died too young.
I got thinking about such a maiden and how she’d feel about losing her life and spending eternity as a harbinger of death. Inside of an hour, I had Ashling the banshee, killed by cattle raiders in fifth-century Ulster and offered a bargain by the Lady: Serve just once as a banshee, and she gets a new life. (In the universe of this book, we’re all reincarnated.) Fearful Conor arrived in my head next, and two hours later this was his story, a kid who finds his courage trying to save his family.
At first, I figured the afterlife would be Celtic. But I soon realized that (obviously) the Irish aren’t the only ones with an afterlife. So the Underworld became multicultural and a bureaucracy, with all these death gods wearily registering the Dear Departed and shipping them back to the world for their new lives.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Conor?
[Ellen Booraem] Timid, smart, tortured.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Ashling had a theme song, what would it be?
“Songs from the Heart: Walking the Night/Give Me Your Hand” by Celtic Woman. (“And the song that we once knew/ Brings me back to you./Pipes play within me once more.”)
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Conor is never without.
[Ellen Booraem] His cellphone.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Conor’s pocket?
[Ellen Booraem] A fake spider, a hockey puck, a rock-climbing carabiner.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?
[Ellen Booraem] A shower, a nap, and a walk in the woods. (Since we’re talking in threes.)
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Ellen Booraem] A computer (totally addicted to the keyboard), a quiet room (no music, unfortunately), and a calm spirit.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was your biggest distraction while working on Texting the Underworld?
[Ellen Booraem] The internet. Sometimes I turn off the modem, figuring that the time it takes to turn it back on will give me a chance to get my discipline back.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?
[Ellen Booraem] The Water Castle, by Megan Fraser Blakemore. Is it fantasy? Is there a fountain of youth, or is it all fakery and coincidence? You’re never really sure, and that’s a lot of fun. Also, the characters are utterly real and round.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Ellen Booraem] I’ve been a reader since I first held a book in my hand. So I’d have to say Yertle the Turtle, by Dr. Seuss. Confirmed slightly later by Fair, Brown and Trembling (an Irish version of Cinderella).
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Ellen Booraem] Read! Also walk, garden, kayak in the summer, ski in the winter. Sit out and watch the trees move when it’s warm enough. If not, sit inside and watch the fire in the woodstove. I also like to travel, but I don’t do it as often as I’d like. The week has only seven days, unfortunately.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?
[Ellen Booraem] Through my website (ellenbooraem.com) , my facebook page (Ellen Booraem’s Books) or twitter (@EllenBooraem). I love hearing from readers!
These were very entertaining questions, Julie. Thanks for inviting me to Manga Maniac Café!
[Manga Maniac Café] Thank your for visiting today!
Ellen’s blog tour for Texting the Underworld ends tomorrow (August 22) at We Do Write. See you there!
US shipping addresses only, please!
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About the book:
Texting the Underworld
A fantasy for ages 10 and older
Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers
In stores August 2013
Conor O’Neill always thought spiders—and his little sister, Glennie—were the worst kind of monsters life had in store. That was before an inexperienced young banshee named Ashling showed up in his bedroom.
The arrival of a banshee, as Conor soon learns, means only one thing: Someone in his family is going to die. Not only will Ashling not tell him who it is, it turns out that she’s so fascinated by the world above that she insists on going to middle school with him.
The more Ashling gets involved in his life, the harder it becomes to keep her identity a secret from his friends and teachers—and the more Conor worries about his family. If he wants to keep them safe, he’s going to have to do the scariest thing he’s ever done: Pay a visit to the underworld.
If only there were an app for that.
About the author:
Ellen Booraem’s TEXTING THE UNDERWORLD, a middle-grade fantasy about a scaredy-cat South Boston boy and a determined young banshee, hits bookstores in August (Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers). Her earlier middle-grade fantasies are SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS (Penguin/DBYR, 2011) and THE UNNAMEABLES (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008). A former weekly newspaper editor and reporter, she lives in coastal Maine with an artist and a cat, one of whom is a practicing curmudgeon. She’s online at ellenbooraem.com, and also blogs at enchantedinkpot.com and scene13ers.wordpress.com.