Interview with Sherri L Smith, Author of Orleans

Please welcome Sherri L Smith to the virtual offices today!  Sherri is the author of the recently released ORLEANS, as well as Flygirl.  She very graciously agreed to chat about her books and let us get to know her better.  Check out what she has to say!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Sherri L Smith] I am a writer who likes to eat chocolate chip cookies.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Orleans?

[Sherri L Smith] ORLEANS is set in a not-to-distant future in the former city of New Orleans.  After a series of man-made and natural disasters give rise to the deadly Delta Fever, the U.S. Government builds a quarantine wall from Florida to Texas and abandons the region to its fate.  In old New Orleans, now called Orleans, the survivors have gone tribal.  The story follows Fen, a sixteen-year-old girl in this world, as she tries to save the life of a new born baby.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Sherri L Smith ] My mom was a New Orleans native and Katrina survivor.  The initial idea for the story came from my experience in getting my mother out of New Orleans after the storm.  Fen popped into my head one day and just started talking.  I left myself a voicemail with her words, and went from there.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Fen?

[Sherri L Smith] Strong, loyal, fierce.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Daniel is never without.

[Sherri L Smith] His datalink, even when it can no longer help him.  How many of us carry around cell phones long after the batteries have died?  It’s like a security blanket.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Fen’s pockets?

[Sherri L Smith ]Paper money, lipstick, cell phone.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Fen’s greatest regret?

[Sherri L Smith] Not being able to save her tribal leader, Lydia.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Sherri L Smith] Other books, my dreams, people’s personal stories.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Sherri L Smith] A computer or notebook and pen, a cup of tea, a snack.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Sherri L Smith] Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made by Alan Eisenstock, Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos.  I went to film school with Eric, but it wasn’t until years later that I found out he and his best friend from childhood had spent a decade of their lives remaking “Raiders of the Lost Ark” shot for shot.  They started at the tender ages of 11 and 10.  This book tells the story of that adventure.  It’s incredible, honest, and very funny.  I’ve seen the movie—it will make you cheer.  So will the book.  The “how will they do that?!” factor is insane.  (how do 10-year-olds make a giant rolling boulder?)  What surprised me the most was the wraparound story.  Eric and Chris are from Ocean Spring, Mississippi.  The book starts in the aftermath of Katrina.  It really struck home for me, seeing the destruction and then traveling into their childhood to learn exactly what these ruined houses once were, and how they formed the foundations of their lives. That was an unexpected angle that brings such bittersweet depth to an otherwise raucous romp.  Well, there’s more heart strings being pulled than that.  Suffice it to say, it was wonderful.  Definitely check it out.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Sherri L Smith] Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White.  I read it over 100 times as a kid.  I know I read little books before that, but Wilbur and Charlotte are burned into my memory as true friends.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Sherri L Smith] When I’m not writing, I like to read.  A lot.  And I love to travel.  I like to cook.  I bake a lot of cookies.  Oh, and let’s not forget sleep.  I love that.  To sleep, perchance to dream! 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Sherri L Smith] You can find me through my website, www.sherrilsmith.com and my blog, The Middle Hundred (www.middlehundred.blogspot.com).  I’m also on Twitter, @sherri_l_smith, and there’s a Facebook page where updates are posted.  But don’t try to contact me through Facebook.  I’m generally too busy writing to check it.  I do respond to email if I can.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

[Sherri L Smith] Thank you, Julie!  It was fun.

You can purchase ORLEANS or any of Sherri’s other novels from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below:

About the book:

First came the storms.
Then came the Fever.
And the Wall.

After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct… but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.
Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. Fen meets Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States who has snuck into the Delta illegally. Brought together by chance, kept together by danger, Fen and Daniel navigate the wasteland of Orleans. In the end, they are each other’s last hope for survival.
Sherri L. Smith delivers an expertly crafted story about a fierce heroine whose powerful voice and firm determination will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page

Waiting on Wednesday–Cold Fury by T. M. Goeglein

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Cold Fury by T M Goeglein looks great!  Sara Jane has to save her kidnapped family all by herself! Good thing she has a .45 to help protect herself.  I hope this read is as gritty as the cover.

 

Jason Bourne meets The Sopranos in this breathtaking adventure

Sara Jane Rispoli is a normal sixteen-year-old coping with school and a budding romance–until her parents and brother are kidnapped and she discovers her family is deeply embedded in the Chicago Outfit (aka the mob).

Now on the run from a masked assassin, rogue cops and her turncoat uncle, Sara Jane is chased and attacked at every turn, fighting back with cold fury as she searches for her family. It’s a quest that takes her through concealed doors and forgotten speakeasies–a city hiding in plain sight. Though armed with a .45 and 96K in cash, an old tattered notebook might be her best defense–hidden in its pages the secret to "ultimate power." It’s why she’s being pursued, why her family was taken, and could be the key to saving all of their lives.

Action packed, with fresh, cinematic writing, Cold Fury is a riveting and imaginative adventure readers will devour

In stores July 2012

What are you waiting on?

Subscribe in a reader

Review: Above World by Jenn Reese

 

Title: Above World

Author: Jenn Reece

Publisher: Candlewick

ISBN: 978-0763654177

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Thirteen-year-old Aluna has lived her entire life under the ocean with the Coral Kampii in the City of Shifting Tides. But after centuries spent hidden from the Above World, her colony’s survival is in doubt. The Kampii’s breathing necklaces are failing, but the elders are unwilling to venture above water to seek answers. Only headstrong Aluna and her friend Hoku are stubborn and bold enough to face the terrors of land to search for way to save their people.

But can Aluna’s warrior spirit and Hoku’s tech-savvy keep them safe? Set in a world where overcrowding has led humans to adapt—growing tails to live under the ocean or wings to live on mountains—here is a ride through a future where greed and cruelty have gone unchecked, but the loyalty of friends remains true.

Review:

After reading Dark Life by Kat Falls, I became fascinated by the idea of living in the ocean.  When I saw Above World by Jenn Reese, I was chomping at the bit to read it.  In this Middle Grade adventure, Aluna, a girl who lives in the ocean, must venture Above World to discover why the technology that allows her people to breathe underwater is failing.  I loved the spunky Aluna, and I also thought that her best friend, Hoku, was a wonderful character, too.  Both of them have to deal with very frightening situations, and as they face down death time and again, the thought of saving their people gives them the courage to continue on their journey. 

When Aluna finds the body of one of her friends, she discovers that the elders are keeping a secret from the residents of her city – the breathing tech that allows the Kampii to live underwater is failing.  Each Kampii has a bio-tech breathing necklace that keeps them from drowning.  Several of the necklaces ceased functioning, and the elders, including Aluna’s father, have quickly covered up the resulting deaths, not wanting to start a panic.  Instead of trying to discover why the necklaces are starting to fail, the elders are firmly denying that there is a problem.  The Kampii in her city have kept themselves hidden from the Above World for generations, and they don’t want to have anything to do with the surface world.  Aluna runs away from home, determined to save her people.

I loved the world building in this post-apocalyptic adventure.  As the population swelled and the available land was consumed by growing numbers of people, new environments were exploited with the help of bio-technology.  The Kampii, who are like mermaids, were allowed to live under the water with their necklaces.  Centaurs were engineered to live in the desert, and Aviars were given wings so they could live on top of mountains.  Disease swept through the human population, and chaos followed.  Now the remaining life forms are at war, battling for control of the old technology.

Aluna is a strong, determined protagonist, and I liked her a lot.  She is impulsive and stubborn, and these flaws work to get her out of many dicey situations.  She isn’t able to give up, and and she can’t accept failure.  That’s just not an option for her.  The thought of quitting never occurs to her, even when she is standing up to very scary enemies that would have had me running, screaming, in the opposite direction.  She is also self-reliant, which almost gets her, as well as her friends, killed.

I also loved the pacing of this novel.  The reader is never given the opportunity to become bored.  Aluna and Hoku meet one challenge after another, in rapid succession.  They barely have a chance to catch their breath before they are thrown into danger again, which made it difficult to  put the book down.  Their race against time to save their people from drowning kept me on the edge of my seat.  Both Aluna and Hoku had some major sacrifices to make, and they never hesitated to do whatever was necessary to save the Kampii.  I completely bought that these two young kids could save their underwater city.  Aluna is fierce and Hoku is clever, and together they make one heck of a team.  I loved their interaction, and how they complimented each other.  Where one was weak, the other was strong.

I can hardly wait to read Aluna and Hoku’s next adventure.  Above World has a satisfying conclusion, and left me content with the thought that they had saved the world, for the time being, at least.  There isn’t a huge, disappointing cliffhanger, just the sense that there are more conflicts to resolve in the near future.  I hate cliffhanger endings, so this conclusion worked for me.  I wasn’t all twitchy at the thought of Aluna and Hoku, frozen in time, facing an early demise, until the release of the next book.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

 

 Subscribe in a reader

Follow My Blog!

Interview with Jenn Reese, Author of Above World

Jenn Reese is the author of Above World, a middle-grade adventure about a girl desperate to save her underwater home.  Jenn stopped by the virtual offices to discuss her debut book.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Jenn Reese] I’m a writer, martial artist, and geek. I’m an unapologetic lover of heroics and happy endings, and of being the biggest goofball I can be.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about your book, Above World?

[Jenn Reese] Above World is an adventure story set in the far future, after humans have bioengineered themselves into mythological creatures in order to live in harsh climates. Some live in the oceans and have mermaid tails, some live high in the mountains and have wings, and some live in the deserts and have the bodies of horses, like centaurs. The story follows a girl warrior, Aluna, and her tech-obsessed friend, Hoku, as they try to figure out why the technology that allows their people to breathe underwater is starting to fail. During their journey to "the Above World," Aluna and Hoku encounter other races and discover a growing danger that threatens everyone.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Jenn Reese] I was trying to come up with an idea for a short story, some sort of adventure in space. I asked myself what sort of person might make a good space captain, and the answer came to me right away: a mermaid! That’s how I got the idea of combining mythology with science fiction. I also knew I wanted a girl fighter as a main character. I love martial arts and one of my life goals is to inspire kids — girls especially — to fall in love with martial arts, too. Months of brainstorming and filling notebooks with ideas followed.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

[Jenn Reese] I found almost every aspect challenging! If I had to pick, though, I’d say solidifying the book’s tone. The first draft was all over the place, more of an exploration of ideas than a coherent whole. Then I got hooked on the animated TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender and a light bulb went off. The show had the perfect mix of adventure, humor, and drama — exactly the tone I wanted for my story. During subsequent drafts, I tried to keep Avatar in mind as a touchstone. It really helped me hone my vision and make the right decisions about the book.

[Manga Maniac Café] Name three things Aluna would miss most about her ocean home during her adventures above the water.

[Jenn Reese] 1. The freedom of being able to swim far and fast whenever she wanted.

2. Fighting lessons with her brother.

3. Her sister Daphine.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Jenn Reese] I’m inspired by so many things — art, music, movies and TV shows, other cultures, martial arts, and books, to name a few — but today I’ll single out Dungeons & Dragons. I taught myself to play when I was 12, and that game engendered a deep love of world-building, adventure, and sense of wonder. Before I decided to write stories and novels, I wrote stories about my characters, descriptions of new races, and histories of magical artifacts. I can’t even begin to describe the profound impact it had on me, and that it continues to have.

[Manga Maniac Café]  What three things do you need in order to write?

[Jenn Reese] I try to keep my writing needs minimal: either a Moleskine notebook and a good pen, or a computer and a power source. Earbuds or headphones for blocking out distractions. Coffee if it’s morning, water if it’s not.

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Jenn Reese] I actually became a reader because I couldn’t read well and was placed in a special program to help me catch up to my classmates. The program worked so well that I ended up returning to class as one of the strongest readers…and my life-long devouring of books began. I tore through Newbery books, mostly, and remember falling in love with Abel’s Island, The Cricket in Times Square, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and eventually The Westing Game. I think The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin is so brilliant that I re-read it every year.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Jenn Reese] When my schedule allows, I study martial arts. I started kenpo at the tender age of 31 and moved on to kung fu, tai chi, and traditional Chinese weapons. When I don’t have time for that, I watch too much TV, play videogames, and bug my cats.

Thanks so much for the great questions, Julie! I had a lot of fun answering them.

[Manga Maniac Café]  Thank you!


You can learn more about Jenn by visiting her website and by following her on Twitter.

You can order Above World from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below:

 

 Subscribe in a reader

Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

 

 

Title: Under the Never Sky

Author: Veronica Rossi

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 978-0062072030

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Since she’d been on the outside, she’d survived an Aether storm, she’d had a knife held to her throat, and she’d seen men murdered. This was worse.

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She’s been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

In her enthralling debut, Veronica Rossi sends readers on an unforgettable adventure set in a world brimming with harshness and beauty.

Review:

I don’t give out many A grades, but Under the Never Sky earned a great big one!  Once I picked this book up, I could not put it back down, and I read it in two sittings.  While I was sick, no less, and when I didn’t even really feel like reading.  That’s how good this post-apocalyptic/ dystopian novel is, and I think that it is strong enough to appeal to both teen and adult readers.  Diving into the story is like jumping into quicksand; sorry, but you aren’t going to be able to crawl back out until after you read the very last page.

I don’t think I can adequately express how much I loved this book, or why I found it so compelling, especially without getting spoilery, so I’ll touch on the aspects that made the biggest impression on me.  About two chapters in, I was engaged in the story, but I was still able to be distracted by the little things in life – like hunger and the need to use the restroom.  That went away about 100 pages in.  I was not moving, not for anything other than the walls collapsing around me.  Even then, the first thing I would grab after Buu is the book.  That baby wasn’t going to leave my sight!

When I first started the book, I did not like Aria.  She has been privileged and pampered her whole life; she has never wanted for anything.  Inside the dome, she has everything she could ever want.  With the impressive technology available to her, she can travel to virtual realms that seem real in every way; touch, taste, smell – there’s an almost infinite amount of virtual reality worlds where she can visit with just a thought, sending a sliver of herself somewhere else whenever the mood strikes her.  Unlike Perry, her reluctant rescuer in the Death Shop, Aria has never suffered from a lack of food or water, and she has never been in mortal danger, conditions that Perry has to live with every day.

Their first encounter outside of the dome is not pleasant.  Aria is not pleasant.  Aria has a smug, elitist attitude that made me want to smack her.  Perry saves her life a number of times, but can Aria even utter the words “thank you” to him?  Nope, instead she berates him and calls him a savage.  Sigh.  I was worried that Aria would grate on my nerves all the way through the book.

Then something wonderful happened, and it’s something that doesn’t happen very often. Halfway through the book, when I thought back on how far Perry and Aria had traveled, on how far I had traveled with them, I realized something – she had changed, and now she seemed like a really good friend.  Almost a BFF kind of friend.  I liked her!  I liked her spunk and her drive and her stubbornness.  She accepted her faults, and she weighed her behavior and her attitude towards the Outside, and she found that Perry wasn’t such a savage after all.  She found that he was noble and brave and that his word meant everything to him.  And to her, because Perry pledged to help her find her missing mother in exchange for her Smarteye.  What a wonderful moment for Aria, and what a wonderful moment for me.  This is why I read in the first place – to get caught up in the trials and the challenges of characters who have somehow come to life for me.  To get sucked so far into a plot that it consumes my every waking thought, and keeps me mulling over the storyline long after I have finished it.

As I approached the end, I felt something else; sadness and regret.  Perry and Aria seemed like a part of me, and I wasn’t ready to let them go.  Their feelings for each other had me convinced that they were meant for each other, despite their great differences.  Perry would be difficult for any woman to live with, because he can actually smell emotions.  He can smell happiness and joy, as well as sorrow and hurt.  He can smell the untruths that hide behind words.  What would that be like?  What would it be like to actually be able to smell what the people around you are feeling, to taste their emotions and instantly know the truth of their actions?  For the magical duration of Under the Never Sky, I could actually do that.

I was lucky enough to read the book back in October, before all of the reviews started bombarding the internet.  I had no preconceived idea of what the book was even about.   All I knew was that it was a post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel written by a debut author.  How wonderful it was for me to become acquainted with the characters and the setting with no expectations. I even kind of dared the book to entertain me.  It did.  In spades.  It also left me excited about reading again, in a way I haven’t felt in a long while.  Now the race is on!  What other gems will I discover as I search for the next almost flawless read?

Grade: A

Review copy provided by {Teen} Book Scene