Interview with Ellen Booraem, Author of Texting the Underworld and Giveaway!

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!

Giveaway!

US shipping addresses only, please!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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.

Interview with Merrie Haskell, Author of Handbook for Dragon Slayers

Merrie Haskell dropped by the virtual offices this morning to chat up her latest MG release Handbook for Dragon Slayers.  Check out what she has to say about it.

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

@merriehaskell: author, library paraprofessional; obsessed with herbs, blacksmithing, office supplies, alternate universes, anthropology

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Handbook for Dragon Slayers?

[Merrie Haskell] It’s a 12th century adventure story that takes place along the Rhine, in which a runaway princess with a clubfoot who joins forces with two dragon slayers-in-training; she runs into the Wild Hunt, an evil knight, and several dragons along the way.

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

[Merrie Haskell] The broadest part of the concept, a girl who writes a handbook for dragon slayers, actually came to me in drips and drabs over the years.  In college, for a history class, I had to read a wonderful book called A Handbook for William, which was a 9th century German woman’s advice for living at court for her son.  The concept of medieval handbooks actually became a bit of an obsession for me at that point.  How on earth do you make something like that exciting in a fiction book, though? Many years later, I ran across the concept of book curses–notices put at the beginning of books that promised dire consequences for book thieves (explored in an interesting book called Anathema: Medieval scribes and the history of book curses).  I’m not entirely sure when dragons wormed their way in there, other than dragons are so much fun.  When I learned Old English in college, the Anglo-Saxons were sort of obsessed with dragons–it was a big insult to call someone a dragon, because you were a hoarder of gold and treasure, the opposite of what a noble and valiant Anglo-Saxon should be.  Being a giver was important–a ring giver, a bread giver.  It’s so the opposite of how we look at dragons now.  So, these three concepts sort of came together, and I found myself scratching out a book curse:

Whosoever steals this book

shall burn in the

fiery conflagration of a DRAGON’S BREATH

and will ALSO LOSE THEIR NOSE

TO PUTREFACTION.

It is advised, therefore,

that you take your nose home intact,

and leave this handbook

for the study of proper DRAGON SLAYERS

It suddenly seemed very clear to me, that a handbook could be very interesting if it were for dragon slayers.

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

[Merrie Haskell] This is actually something I do while I write: have the main characters and their key character traits written on post-its along my monitor.  Tilda’s said: RESILIENT. 

I would also add either "Dutiful/Rebellious" — this is her main conflict in the book, as she is duty-driven but rebelling against that.

And finally–"Intelligent."

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Parz had a theme song, what would it be?

[Merrie Haskell] Great question!  I would say it’s probably "Good Life" by OneRepublic.  That song just reeks of Parz–a sort of easy happiness and optimism, combined with the joy of adventure and travel.

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

[Merrie Haskell] A personal knife to use for eating.  You always had to bring your own knife to dinner in the Middle Ages.

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

[Merrie Haskell] Well, since she lived in an era in which pockets didn’t exist, this list is sort of endless!  But she has a few pouches and purses and things like that, so I’ll say she’d never carry embroidery needles, thread, or any sort of thimble.

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

[Merrie Haskell] Judith loves animals, especially baby animals; she comes to regret being a dragon slayer pretty quickly when she realizes that baby dragons are affected!  Otherwise, though, she is not a girl who holds herself back except when prudence demands, so she doesn’t have too terribly many regrets.

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

[Merrie Haskell] I would say learning has the biggest influence on my creativity.  When I’m learning new things, I almost can’t stop the flow of story and character ideas–it just rains down.  The most perfect example of this was recently when I started to learn blacksmithing–knowing that I wanted to write about a blacksmith, of course.  I started seeing the world in the colors of heated metal. I would drive over bridges and think about the wealth of rebar embedded in the concrete beneath me.  I was on a long plane flight with a copy of The Art of Blacksmithing and started to read–in 30 seconds, I had a notebook open next to me as I scribbled scene idea after scene idea, just from reading about the details of the things I had learned in a more hands-on setting.  I think that’s my most perfect learning experience, doing followed up by theory. I am similarly stimulated when I travel or learn languages. I love going to a place and then reading about it in detail.  It feels backward–wouldn’t it be better to learn before you go somewhere?–but I think that gives me preconceptions that aren’t helpful for the stimulation of creativity.

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

[Merrie Haskell] A reasonable night of sleep behind me, a writing tool (pen & paper or computer), and ideally, a notebook or a stack of notecards so I can document the things I don’t want to include in the manuscript.  I have been a creature of ritual and habit from time to time, but so often these things get in my way.  Deadlines which are attached to money have a way of clearing a lot of mental fluff from your process, I’ve found.  I occasionally worry that my process is still too dependent on peripheries (really, a computer AND a notebook?), but whenever I forget the notebook, the process suffers, so I think I really do need it. Jotting notes to myself on the computer helps me very little; the notes just get lost in the shuffle. Having that other thing to look at on the desk beside me while my book is still up on the screen is great. And if I need the physical act of writing with a pen to get me out of my typing-mode brain, it’s right there.

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

[Merrie Haskell] I couldn’t put down WHEN WE WAKE by Karen Healey, which is about a girl that wakes up from a cryogenic sleep a hundred years after she died and has to deal with all the grief and loss of her old world.  I read most of it during my time on the elliptical trainer at the gym, and it’s incredibly awkward to be brought to tears on an elliptical machine. Other people tend to think you’re having an asthma attack or… who knows.  "Sorry, I’m just reading a very affecting book, go back to your treadmill!"

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

[Merrie Haskell] Without a question, it was Little House on the Prairie.  I was starting to read a lot already, but when I got that for Christmas in first grade, and it seemed like such a *large* and important book and then I read it all, all by myself, I not only realized how much I enjoyed reading, but I felt smart and capable (no one else was reading books that big in my first grade class).  The escape of reading and the increase to my self-worth? A combination impossible to escape.

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

[Merrie Haskell] I like to read, of course.  I was a huge YA reader when I was a young adult, and never stopped reading YA along the way. I like TV–my Tumblr is pretty much reblogged gif sets from sitcoms and Avatar: The Last Airbender, and not much else.  Oh, and Revenge.  I dabble in a variety of hobbies, like the aforementioned blacksmithing, gardening, calligraphy, drawing…  

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

[Merrie Haskell] I have a Facebook page, but most of the action is on Twitter (@merriehaskell) and my blog (blog.merriehaskell.com).  

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase Handbook for Dragon Slayers and The Princess Curse from your favorite bookseller or buy clicking the links below:

About the book:

When a runaway princess throws her lot in with a couple of would-be dragon slayers, before long she is facing down the Wild Hunt, befriending enchanted horses, battling fire-breathing dragons, and learning more about herself than she ever expected…

About the author

Merrie Haskell grew up half in North Carolina, half in Michigan. She wrote her first story at age seven, and she walked dogs after school to save for her first typewriter. She attended the University of Michigan, where she graduated from the Residential College with a degree in biological anthropology. She works in a library with over 7.5 million volumes.

Her first book, the Middle Grade historical fantasy The Princess Curse, was a Junior Library Guild selection. Her second book is Handbook for Dragon Slayers.  Her short fiction appears in Nature, Asimov’s, and various anthologies. Merrie lives in Saline, Michigan.

Waiting on Wednesday – Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters by Diane Zahler

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

I adore Diane Zahler’s fairytale retellings, so I had a major geek out when I saw the cover for her next release.  So pretty!  So magical!!  So I must read you now!!  Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters will be in stores August 2013 – I can’t wait!

 

 

Princesses Aurora and Luna have grown up in a cliff-top palace by the sea, where they are carefully protected by their parents, the king and queen. No one visits, the girls cannot stray beyond the castle walls, and, curiously, all sharp objects are forbidden from the castle.

But accidents will happen—particularly when an old curse still has power. Soon, in spite of all precautions, Aurora is struggling not to slip into an enchanted sleep.

Frantic, the princesses accept the help of a young fisherman named Symon and embark on a daring ocean voyage to find their aunt—a fairy who may be able to break the spell. From fearsome beasts to raging storms, many dangers befall them, yet they must not give up…for if Aurora sleeps, she will not wake for one hundred years.

 

What are you waiting on?

Waiting on Wednesday–Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell

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

 

When a runaway princess throws her lot in with a couple of would-be dragon slayers, before long she is facing down the Wild Hunt, befriending enchanted horses, battling fire-breathing dragons, and learning more about herself than she ever expected…

 

What are you waiting on?

Cover Shot! Summerkin by Sarah Prineas

 

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I loved Winterling by Sarah Prineas, and I am so looking forward to reading the follow up, Summerkin.  The cover just rocks!  In stores April 2013.

From now until 2/4/2013, you can purchase Winterling (digital) for $1.99 from most booksellers.  Buy it!  It was one of the best books that I read in 2012

 

Down through the Way she fell, feeling the wind and the pressing darkness, the dizzy thump when she landed on the bank. She was through. The air felt softer here, the shadows deeper—and the pull of her connection to the land settled into her bones.

In the Summerlands, time moves slowly, roots grow deeply, and change is not welcomed. But change is needed.

After defeating the wicked Mor and freeing her kin from deadly oaths made to this false ruler, Fer is now the rightful Lady of the land. Yet her people don’t know what to make of their new Lady’s strange ways, and neither do the High Ones, the rulers of the magical realm, for Fer is an outsider—half human.

To prove herself worthy of the Summerlands crown, Fer is summoned to compete in an epic contest where her strengths and skills will be tested and her loyalties challenged. Can she trust Rook, the puck she calls friend? Can she trust herself? If Fer fails, she will lose her land and the Way will be closed to her forever.

With stunning prose, Sarah Prineas weaves an enchanting adventure in which Fer must decide if she’s ready to rule and just how far she’ll go to protect her kin.

Happily Ever After Giveaway Hop-Win Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler

 

Welcome to my Happily Ever After giveaway,  hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Valerie from Murphy’s Library.  This hop runs from October 9 to October 14, and you can win lots of new reads.  Click here for a complete list of blogs participating in the hop.

I am giving away an ARC of Diane Zahler’s MG fantasy Princess of The Wild Swans.  I love Diane Zahler’s fairy tale retellings, and I think you will, too!

 

About the book:

Princess Meriel’s brothers have been cursed. A terrible enchantment–cast by their conniving new stepmother–has transformed the handsome princes into swans. They now swim forlornly on a beautiful heart-shaped lake that lies just beyond the castle walls.

Meriel will do whatever it takes to rescue her beloved brothers. But she must act quickly. If Heart Lake freezes, her brothers will be forced to fly south or perish.

With help from her newfound friends Riona and Liam–a pretty half-witch and her clever brother–Meriel vows to finish a seemingly impossible task. If she completes it, her brothers may be saved.

But if she fails . . . all will be lost.

Entering is easy! Just fill out the widget below. Earn extra entries for following! US addresses only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Waiting on Wednesday–White Fur Flying by Patricia MacLachlan

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

Words can not express how wonderful White Fur Flying by Patricia MacLachlan looks.  There is so much power in the love of a dog.  I have no doubt that with a little canine help, Zoe will be able to set Phillip back to rights.

In stores March 2013

  

A young boy tries to find his voice with the help of some four-legged friends in this novel from the Newbery-winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall.

Zoe’s family rescues dogs in need. There is always the sweet smell of dog and a warm body looking to cuddle or play. There is always a new dog to be saved and loved. Fur flies everywhere. It covers everything. Zoe’s house is never silent.

But the house across the street is always silent these days. A new family has moved in and Phillip, the boy, has stopped speaking. He doesn’t even want to try.

Zoe knows that saving dogs and saving boys are different jobs, but she learns that some parts are the same. Both take attention and care, understanding and time. And maybe just a bit of white fur flying.

From Newbery Medalist Patricia MacLachlan, White Fur Flying is an endearing tale of companionship and hope.

What are you waiting on?

This Week’s New and Notable YA and MG Releases – September 18

Here are some new and notable YA & MG releases for the week:

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

What’s Left of Me: The Hybrid Chronicles, Book One by Kat Zhang

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian

Butter by Erin Jade Lange

The Crown of Embers (Girl of Fire and Thorns) by  Rae Carson

Cursed by Jennifer Armentrout

The Dead Girls Detective Agency by Suzy Cox

Glass Heart by Amy Garvey

Homesick  by Kate Klise

Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Safekeeping by Karen Hesse

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

The Time-Traveling Fashionista at the Palace of Marie Antoinette by Bianca Turetsky

Are any of these on your wish list? Can you recommend any?