Interview with Kit Grindstaff, Author of The Flame in the Mist

Please give a warm welcome to Kit Grindstaff! She’s visiting the virtual offices to discuss her book The Flame in the Mist.

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

[Kit] I’m an English, female, musician/songwriter-turned-author, sun-and-chocolate-loving sushi-maniacal Francophile, and happy to be alive Smile

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Flame in the Mist?

[Kit] Sure! It’s a dark middle grade fantasy about 13-year-old Jemma, who’s prophesied to save her country—a medieval-flavored parallel England—from its evil rulers and the sinister Mist they create. At the outset, Jemma has no clue about this (of course), nor about the magical powers she possesses. But soon, some very Disturbing Events propel her onto her journey. There’s plenty of action, mystery, ghosts, and sorcery—and rodents. Jemma has two telepathic golden rat friends who go everywhere with her. And not forgetting her friend Digby, who she just might have a crush on…

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

[Kit] The concept came to me years ago at a workshop where participants were asked to imagine their life as a fairy tale. No, I didn’t live in a castle miles from anywhere, but there was a certain amount of isolation in my childhood, which the castle represented. When I took up writing children’s fiction in earnest, the girl trapped in that castle—who morphed into Jemma—was still itching for me to tell her story.

And of course Jemma needed a support cast. A family (which may not be quite as it seems), allies, enemies. The characters at Agromond Castle were inspired in part from an English book by Mervyn Peake that I loved as a teen, called Gormenghast. Gormenghast is a gothic castle full of deliciously weird people who definitely influenced the (more evil) Agromonds. But Jemma also needed some respite from all the evil creepiness, and finds it in her old nurse, Marsh, her two rat friends, Noodle and Pie, and Digby, the boy who delivers groceries to the castle with his father. Beyond the castle walls, I kept creating characters to play out whatever part of the plot was needed to tell Jemma’s story.

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

[Kit] Feisty, stubborn, courageous.

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

[Kit] Well, it really has to be two: her magical rats, Noodle and Pie. But if it has to be just one thing…Well, after a certain point in the book (which happens fairly early on, so it’s not spoilerish to say), that would be her Stone, a magical amulet that channels her Powers.

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

[Kit] A cat (since the rats are often there). A cell phone (they’re not invented yet). Anything belonging to Shade Agromond.

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

[Kit] Ah….telling you that would give away the book’s biggest secret! Second on her regret list would be…something that would also be a spoiler. So of the things I can tell you, I’d say, being impulsive. It often gets her into hot water. Or worse.

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

[Kit] In no particular order: Vast open spaces – mountains, ocean, forests. Music. And reading, reading, reading!

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

[Kit] Laptop, quiet, focus. (Preferably with internet off.)

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

[Kit] Completely, utterly, socks-offness? Oooh. There are so many I loved last year, it’s hard to choose. So I’m going to hedge my bets and mention one MG and one YA, both fantasies (though I love contemporary fiction too). Middle grade:The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann; YA: Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. Both sequels are high on my list of Can’t-Wait-Fors later in 2013.

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

[Kit] Noddy in Toyland, by Enid Blyton. I fell in love when I was three.

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

[Kit] In no particular order: Walk. Read. Hang out with my husband and/or friends. Watch TV. Go to France. Do yoga. Eat.

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

[Kit] They can contact me via my website (, where there’s a Connect page), on Facebook ( or they can find me on Twitter @kitgrindstaff.

Thanks so much for the interview! This was fun.

[Manga Maniac Café] My pleasure!

You can order The Flame in the Mist from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below:


About the book:

Set in an imagined past, this dark fantasy-adventure is for fans of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass. Features  Jemma, a fiery-headed heroine held captive in Agromond Castle, yet destined to save mist-shrouded Anglavia.

Fiery-headed Jemma Agromond is not who she thinks she is, and when the secrets and lies behind her life at mist-shrouded Agromond Castle begin to unravel, she finds herself in a chilling race for her life. Ghosts and misfits, a stone and crystals, a mysterious book, an ancient prophecy—all these reveal the truth about Jemma’s past and a destiny far greater and more dangerous than she could have imagined in her wildest fantasies. With her telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, and her trusted friend, Digby, Jemma navigates increasingly dark forces, as helpers both seen and unseen, gather. But in the end, it is her own powers that she must bring to light, for only she has the key to defeating the evil ones and fulfilling the prophecy that will bring back the sun and restore peace in Anglavia

Interview with Helen Sedwick, Author of Coyote Winds and Giveaway!

Please welcome Helen Sedwick to the virtual offices today.  Helen’s novel, Coyote Winds, is set during one of the most devastating environmental calamities to befall the Midwest.  I find the Dust Bowl, and all of the heartbreaking challenges it presented, fascinating, so I am thrilled to have Helen here for a chat.  After the interview, please enter for a chance to win a copy of Coyote Winds!

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

[Helen Sedwick] An intense redhead who’s spent her life balancing restlessness and responsibility.

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

[Helen Sedwick] COYOTE WINDS follows the adventures of a boy and his coyote living on the prairie in the years leading up to the Dust Bowl. It explores the American spirit that drew families to the wind-swept frontier and the consequences of that spirit, both good and bad. And it asks whether that spirit can survive the over-supervised life of a modern boy.

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

[Helen Sedwick] I was inspired to write COYOTE WINDS by my father’s stories of growing up during the Dust Bowl. While there was plenty of blowing dust in his stories, he also talked about freedom and adventure. With the schools closed, he spent his days hunting rattlesnakes and rabbits. And driving at the age of 9. I wanted to contrast my father’s unfenced boyhood with the over-supervised life of a modern, suburban boy who “couldn’t ride a bike without a helmet, play soccer without pads, or ride in a car with a driver under thirty.”

As I researched the Dust Bowl, I discovered that it is a classic story about American optimism. Our can-do attitude drew families to the prairie with dreams of owning their own land. They plowed up millions of acres of native grassland. Then the wind did what it always did–blow. What followed was one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in history, the Dust Bowl. COYOTE WINDS is about good families doing what they believed to be the right thing, only to have the results turn out so terribly wrong. I wanted to tell that story.

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

[Helen Sedwick] Fun-loving, school-skipping punster.

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

[Helen Sedwick] NO SUCH THING by John Mayer

“They love to tell you
Stay inside the lines
But something’s better
On the other side.”

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

[Helen Sedwick] His Remington .22 rifle.

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

[Helen Sedwick] Andy is a 21st century suburban boy trapped in a life of rules.

At the beginning of the novel, he wouldn’t have a pen knife (too dangerous), an arrowhead (politically incorrect), or car keys (not until he has a B average, which means no time soon).

By the end of the novel, he has all three in his pockets.

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

[Helen Sedwick] Trying to chop off the head of a live rattlesnake.

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

[Helen Sedwick] I love the power of a story to make us laugh, cry, learn, believe, and connect with others over distance and time. Whenever I experience a new story, whether it be in a book, a film, or a play, I am inspired to write more.

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

[Helen Sedwick] Characters I love.

A vague yearning to express.

Time alone.

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

[Helen Sedwick] Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

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

[Helen Sedwick] Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. If this 19th Century novel could move a 20th Century Manhattan girl, that says something.

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

[Helen Sedwick] Hike the granite outcroppings of the Sierras.

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

[Helen Sedwick] My website:


I also welcome emails at

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

Here’s the trailer for the book:


Ready for your chance to win a copy of Coyote Winds? Just will out the widget below. Earn extra entries for following. US addresses only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the book:

When thirteen-year old Myles brings home a coyote pup half-blinded by a dust storm, his father warns him a coyote can’t be trusted. His neighbor loads his rifle and takes aim. Yet Myles is determined to tame the pup just as his father is taming the land. The time is 1930. Tractors and fertilizers are transforming the prairie into the world’s breadbasket. The American dream is within every man’s reach. But when drought turns these dreams into paint-stripping, crop-killing dust, Myles wonders if they have made a mistake trying to tame the untamable. Seventy years later, when Andy remembers his Grandpa Myles’s tales about growing up on the prairie, he wonders what stories he will tell when he has grandchildren. Algebra, soccer practice, computer games, the mall? Determined to keep his grandfather’s memories alive and have some adventures of his own, Andy heads out to discover what’s left of the wild prairie. Inspired by her father’s tales of growing up during the Dust Bowl, Sedwick weaves insight, humor, historical details and unforgettable characters into a coming-of-age story that reminds us that chasing a dream, even if it brings heartache, is far better than not dreaming at all.


About the Author:

Helen Sedwick is the author of COYOTE WINDS. A finalist in the 2011 Mainstream Fiction Writer’s Digest Competition and the Lorian Hemmingway Short Story Contest, Helen Sedwick recently won second place in the Redwood Writers Flash Fiction Contest for a piece adapted from COYOTE WINDS. She is a lawyer and lives in the Sonoma wine country with Howard Klepper, a builder of handcrafted guitars, and an exuberant hound dog named Farlow. For more info,

Interview with Marissa Burt, Author of Story’s End

Marissa Burt is making another visit to the virtual offices, this time to discuss Story’s End, which hits store shelves next week.  I loved Storybound, and have been waiting impatiently for Story’s End.  I thought it would be fun to ask Marissa a few more questions while I wait for Story’s End’s release, and she gracefully agreed. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Story’s End?

[Marissa Burt] Story’s End picks up at Storybound’s cliffhanger ending, where Una and her friends now know the truth of Story’s backstory and must determine what they will do in light of that knowledge.  Story’s End is a bit darker, because everything is cast in the light of the Tale Master’s lies.  We don’t spend any time in Perrault classes.  Instead, each character must do their part to save story from the threat of enemies.  I’m so eager for readers to meet a few new characters, journey to different districts, and discover more about Una, Snow, Peter, Sam, and Indy!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Was this a more difficult book to write than Storybound?

[Marissa Burt] This is a great question.  Creatively, it was a more straight-forward book to write, since I had a stronger grasp of the direction of the story.  Storybound was very much a patchwork affair, where I wrote different scenes as they came to me, and then I pieced them all together like a puzzle.  In that sense, Story’s End had much more of an outline ad internal structure, which was easier than Storybound.  But there were also more internal rules. I had to make sure new plot points, settings, and characters fit in with the already established rules of the world.  Writing-wise, it’s probably a tie: both books had their specific challenges and joys.  The real tie-breaker is the fact that when I wrote Storybound, I had one child.  By the time I was drafting Story’s End, I had two more babies.  I can now say with some authority that writing a novel while tending three children under the age of four is not advisable – haha!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you feel when you submitted your final revisions for Story’s End?

[Marissa Burt] It was a delightful feeling!  Not only was I so pleased with the end result, but finishing a second book shored up some of those insecurities that plague writers and ask: Can you really do it again?  I was also a bit sad to say goodbye to my friends in Story.  We’ve spent many hours together, and it’s hard to imagine their tale coming to an end.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What has been the biggest change in your life now that you are a published author?

[Marissa Burt] I suppose the biggest change is that I am more diligent to make space for writing.  Before, I approached it more like a hobby and wrote "when I felt like it."  Now, I’m learning to grow the discipline of writing regularly.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did Una change from when we first met her in Storybound?

[Marissa Burt] I love this question!  I have such a soft-spot for Una.  She doesn’t even know how courageous she is. The opening line of Storybound is: Una often imagined she was invisible.  She is unseen, unnoticed, adrift, and lonely.  Her adventures in Story give her a rootedness in her own identity, so that by the end of the Tale, we see she has a sense of belonging.

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

[Marissa Burt] Haha!  I think Peter would be heavily influenced by Sam, who would no doubt suggest, "The Eye of the Tiger."  I get the impression Peter would never ‘fess up to having a theme song.  I have a feeling he’d secretly listen to country music – or maybe Taylor Swift? – and then fervently deny it.

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

[Marissa Burt] Hmmm… Una journeys quite a bit in Book 2, and she travels light, so I’m not sure there’s any article she’s never without.  I suppose she is never without a sense of confidence.  I love that when she decides to do something, even if she thinks it might be dangerous, she just goes for it!

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

[Marissa Burt] I’ll have to dance around this one a bit, because it’s spoilerish, but her biggest regret has to do with her choices that expose to Story to threats from an enemy.  This happens some in Storybound but also in Story’s End.  

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

[Marissa Burt] Just yesterday I finished re-reading C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra.  It’s always been my least favorite in his space trilogy, but, for some reason, this time through I fell in love with it.  

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us about your next project?

[Marissa Burt] I’m just beginning a new fantasy tentatively titled THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN.  It follows a girl named Wren whose interest in Astronomy leads her to discover that she can wield the magic of stardust. On her adventure, she and her friend Simon, discover that the fate of the world rests on their ability to unravel the secrets hidden in Mother Goose Rhymes.  I’m having fun building a new fantasy-world that has a tinge of scifi to it.  As of now, the plan is for There Was a Crooked Man to be out from HarperChildren’s in 2014, with a sequel to follow in 2015.

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

[Marissa Burt] I love to hear from readers!  They may find me on twitter, facebook, goodreads, or through my website

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

You can order Story’s End from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below.

About the book:

Inkheart meets The Neverending Story in the sweeping sequel to Storybound. A deadly Enemy has returned to the magical land of Story—and twelve-year-old Una Fairchild may hold the key to defeating him.

Long ago, a King ruled the land of Story….During his reign, Heroes, Villains, and characters of all kinds lived out Tales filled with daring quests and epic struggles. Then the King disappeared, and over the years nearly everyone forgot that he had ever existed.

Now an evil Enemy has emerged, determined to write a new future for Story. And an ordinary girl from our world named Una Fairchild must find a way to defeat him.

Una and her friends Indy and Peter set off on a quest for answers, facing warlocks, beasts, and enchantments at every turn. But Una soon discovers that the real key lies in her own mysterious ties to Story’s past—and to the long-forgotten King who may be their only hope for survival.

Storybound has been praised by Kirkus Reviews for its “richly imagined world” and by Publishers Weekly as “an appealing fantasy with strong writing and interesting characters.” Story’s End is filled with the same breathtaking action, heartwarming friendship, and timeless appeal. Readers will leap at the chance to return to this captivating fairy-tale world, which is perfect for fans of Inkheart, Gail Carson Levine, and classics like A Wrinkle in Time.

About the Author:

About the author: Marissa Burt was forever getting notes sent home from teachers about reading novels during class. She grew up in Oregon, and drifted eastward through Colorado, Illinois, Tennessee, and South Carolina before coming back to the Pacific Northwest. She now lives in the Seattle area with her husband and three sons. You can visit Marissa online at

Interview with Claire M Caterer, Author of The Key and the Flame

Claire M Caterer is our special guest today.  Please welcome her to the virtual offices!  Claire is here to chat about her MG release, The Key and The Flame, which hits shelves in April.

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

[Claire M Caterer] I love great stories in all forms; music I can sing to; animals of all sizes; travel & nature. Mostly introverted, sometimes a showoff.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Key and the Flame?

[Claire M Caterer] Eleven-year-old Holly Shepard, who leads a very ho-hum kind of life, receives a strange gift from an elderly British caretaker. The gift is just an old iron key, but when Holly discovers an ancient tree that contains a keyhole, she finds that her key unlocks the portal to a medieval world of danger and magic. Along with her brother Ben and their new friend Everett, Holly travels there, and the kids find themselves locked in a battle for their lives as a ruthless king attempts to wipe out all the magic in the land. It’s the first in a five-part series, the second book of which will come out in summer 2014.

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

[Claire M Caterer] The forest is a magical place to me—huddled in its own ecosystem, cut off from the world, quiet and green. One day on one of my favorite walks, I came upon an incredible tree and thought, “I wouldn’t be surprised if this were a portal to somewhere fantastic and magical.” Holly as a character grew naturally out of the plot, because she is a person who can be very quiet in the natural world and listen for the things that other people miss. She shares some qualities with me, including her eyeglass prescription. I identify with Ben in other ways, particularly his allergy to horses.

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

[Claire M Caterer] outsider, adventurous, honorable

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

[Claire M Caterer] The best I can come up with is an old Cole Porter song—“Don’t Fence Me In.” Holly’s not a cowboy, but that is her ethic. She just wants to be free to be herself, not to be hobbled or tied down to convention.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Holly won’t leave home without.

[Claire M Caterer] Her compass. Holly needs to know where she’s going, and she trusts science and nature to get her there. It takes her quite awhile to trust her magic in the same way.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Holly’s most prized possession?

[Claire M Caterer] Her magic key. What this key opens, and what the key becomes, makes it her most prized possession. It is her power.

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

[Claire M Caterer] As a kid I read and reread The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I also loved Roald Dahl, J.R.R. Tolkien, E. B. White, and Madeleine L’Engle. And there are so many others!

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

[Claire M Caterer] Ideally I need quiet, my cup of coffee, and my computer. While I can write longhand, I love the convenience of having the delete key! The coffee is more of a crutch than a tool. I like to have the cup next to me, but if I really get going it just sits there and gets cold. As for quiet, some noise is all right, but I absolutely cannot write if there’s music playing. I get caught up in the music and can’t get immersed in my imaginary world.

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

[Claire M Caterer] A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness—I read it last summer. I was able to crawl right inside that character and feel what he was feeling. The pencil drawings are exquisite—so evocative. I loved that marriage of illustration and text. The writing is sharp, beautiful, horrifying. And it made me cry, which most books don’t.

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

[Claire M Caterer] That’s tough, because I’ve been a reader as long as I can remember. But there was a marvelous book that’s out of print now called The Hidden Cave by Ruth Chew, about some kids who found a cave in an old sewer pipe in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. In the cave they found Merlin the magician, who led them on some interesting magical adventures. Ruth Chew was a wonderful writer of short middle-grade fantastic fiction, and she drew her own illustrations, which I liked. I probably started reading her books in second grade and couldn’t get enough of them.

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

[Claire M Caterer] I read as much as I can. I don’t watch a lot of television but am very devoted to the shows I do watch, especially British comedy and drama. I also love going on outings with my daughter. We go to parks and nature trails and the arboretum and botanical gardens whenever we can. I like to wander.

I love to travel, but don’t do as much as I’d like. Otherwise, I’m home with my dogs. I crank up something like the soundtrack to Mamma Mia! and dance around the house.

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

[Claire M Caterer] I love talking with readers, and they can find me at my new-fangled website and blog, my Facebook and Twitter pages, and on Goodreads. They can also email me to ask questions or just to chat at readerchat [at]

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can pre-order The Key and the Flame from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the links below:


About the book:

Eleven-year-old Holly Shepard wants nothing more than to seek adventure outside of her humdrum American life. She gets her chance at last when her family travels to England and Holly receives an unusual gift: an iron key that unlocks a passage to the dangerous kingdom of Anglielle, where magic is outlawed and those who practice magic are hunted. When her friend Everett and brother Ben are captured by Anglielle’s ruthless king, Holly must rescue them. But that means finding—and using—the magic within herself and learning which magical allies she can trust.

The Key & the Flame is the first in a brand-new fantasy adventure series for ages 8 and up.

Waiting on Wednesday–Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

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

I’m kind of scared to read Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson because I will be worried that something bad happens to the dogs, but I am fascinated by the premise.  Long wait on this one!

Hits stores February 2014

Victoria Secord, a 14-year-old Alaskan dogsled racer loses her way on a routine outing with her dogs. With food gone and temperatures dropping, her survival and that of her dogs and the mysterious boy she meets in the woods, is entirely up to her. Author Terry Lynn Johnson is a musher herself and her crackling writing puts readers at the reins as Victoria and Chris experience setbacks, mistakes, and small triumphs in their wilderness adventure.

What are you waiting on?

Interview with Kathryn Fitzmaurice, Author of Destiny, Rewritten

Kathryn Fitzmaurice is our special guest today.  She’s here to fill us in about her newest release, Destiny, Rewritten.  Please give her a warm welcome!

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

[Kathryn Fitzmaurice] extremely neat, mostly organized, mother of two boys, dog lover.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Destiny, Rewritten?

[Kathryn Fitzmaurice] Here is a review from Shelf Awareness, written by Jennifer Brown. I think it does a terrific job of summarizing the story!

From Shelf Awareness, (Jan 2013)

Children’s Review: Destiny, Rewritten

Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins, $16.99 hardcover, 352p., ages 9-12, 9780061625015, February 19, 2013)

Kathryn Fitzmaurice (The Year the Swallows Came Early) creates another memorable 11-year-old grappling with her identity and her passions.

Emily Elizabeth Davis lives with her mother, aunt and cousin in the heart of Berkeley, Calif., where everybody knows everybody. Her mother named her for Emily Dickinson, but Emily prefers romance novels to poetry. She’s read almost half of Danielle Steel’s books, and copies down the happy endings of each of them.

Fitzmaurice portrays a strong bond between mother and daughter, and chronicles the tension that develops between them over her mother’s aspirations for Emily versus Emily’s own interests, and Emily’s growing resentment of her mother’s caginess about the identity of Emily’s father. The woman inscribes a first edition of The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson to Emily: "Emily Dickinson is one of the great poets. The same will be said of you one day." Rather than keeping a photo album for Emily, she records each milestone of Emily’s life next to a poem that ties in; "the road map of your life," she calls it. She wrote Emily’s birth weight and height in the margins of "Angels, in the early morning," and recorded the date of her first steps next to "I’ll tell you how the Sun rose." Just after Emily learns that her mother wrote her father’s name in the margins of the Dickinson poetry book, the heroine inadvertently places it on top of some donation boxes. Suddenly the road map to Emily’s life is gone. For the balance of the novel, she searches the town to find the volume.

Besides confiding in Danielle Steel through letters, Emily also has a best friend, Wavey St. Clair. Wavey is so loyal, she compromises her perfect attendance record to help Emily search for her book. Fitzmaurice possesses a perfect ear for dialogue when it comes to conversations between the sixth graders.

Emily grapples with whether destiny truly does rule her life, or whether, "if you do something every once in a while that’s unexpected,… it might change the way you are." Emily’s search for her book, her internal debate about destiny and the ways in which the heroine makes small changes in her life all come together into a moving climax. Emily comes to realize that sometimes the answer you needed was right there all the time. —Jennifer M. Brown

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

[Kathryn Fitzmaurice] My grandmother gave me a volume of Emily Dickinson poetry for my twentieth birthday. Inside she wrote, “E.D. is a revered poet. Perhaps one day the same will be said of K.H. Happy Birthday, Love, Gramma Eleanor.” This was the starting point for DESTINY, REWRITTEN. I thought she had predicted my future and then I decided to make this into a story.

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

[Kathryn Fitzmaurice] friend, romance writer

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

[Kathryn Fitzmaurice] Her notebook filled with happy endings.

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

[Kathryn Fitzmaurice] Well, because Emily tries to change her destiny, she suddenly finds herself inside a messy room, but it really bothers her and she does her best to live with it. But before she became messy, you would have never found a pair of socks thrown on her floor, or things out of order. Everything in her closet was completely organized, even her tennis shoes were in order from lightest to darkest.

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

[Kathryn Fitzmaurice] This is a very good question. Maybe it would be the song on the book trailer, which is on my website.

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

[Kathryn Fitzmaurice] My grandmother, Eleanor Robinson, who wrote science fiction novels, and any novel written by Gary D. Schmidt and Kate DiCamillo, who are both brilliant authors.

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

[Kathryn Fitzmaurice] My computer, my desk, and a cup of green tea.

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

[Kathryn Fitzmaurice] THE DOG STARS, by Peter Heller. This was an amazing, very well written book that I could not put down.

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

[Kathryn Fitzmaurice] The Little House Books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I still have my first edition set.

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

[Kathryn Fitzmaurice] Walk my dog, Holly, to the beach and back. But since dogs are not allowed on the sand, I like to walk on the beach with my friends, barefoot, through the waves.

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

[Kathryn Fitzmaurice] Through my website, there are many ways to connect with me. You may send me an email, or follow me on twitter, or friend me on Facebook.

Thank you very much for interviewing me!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase Destiny, Rewritten from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below.  Available in print and digital.


About the book:

Des·tin·y: |destin?/
(noun) The hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future; fate.

Eleven-year-old Emily Elizabeth Davis has been told for her entire life that her destiny is to become a poet, just like her famous namesake, Emily Dickinson. But Emily doesn’t even really like poetry, and she has a secret career ambition that she suspects her English-professor mother will frown on. Then a seeming tragedy strikes: just after discovering that it contains an important family secret, she accidentally loses the special copy of Emily Dickinson’s poetry that was given to her at birth. As Emily and her friends search for the lost book in used bookstores and thrift shops all across town, Emily’s understanding of destiny begins to unravel and then rewrite itself in a marvelous new way.

In her third novel, Kathryn Fitzmaurice again weaves a richly textured and delightful story about unexpected connections, about the ways that friends can help us see ourselves for who we truly are, and about the most perfect kinds of happy endings: those that happen just on time.

Review: Peanut by Ayun Halliday & Paul Hoppe



Title: Peanut

Author: Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

"Before you write me off as a delusional psycho, think about what it’s like to be thrown into a situation where everyone knows everyone . . . and no one knows you." Sadie has the perfect plan to snag some friends when she transfers to Plainfield High—pretend to have a peanut allergy. But what happens when you have to hand in that student health form your unsuspecting mom was supposed to fill out? And what if your new friends want to come over and your mom serves them snacks? (Peanut butter sandwich, anyone?) And then there’s the bake sale, when your teacher thinks you ate a brownie with peanuts. Graphic coming-of-age novels have huge cross-over potential, and Peanut is sure to appeal to adults and teens alike.


When I received this book, I was a bit mystified.  Why, oh why would anyone pretend to have a fatal peanut allergy?  Baffled, I dug right into this graphic novel, intrigued to see if there was a compelling reason for Sadie to fabricate such a serious health issue.  After finishing the book, I have to say that I didn’t find it.  While the characters are likable, the rationale behind Sadie’s pretend illness just didn’t cut it for me.  Sadie’s little white lie, which quickly spirals out of control, is spun in an effort to be more popular at her new school. 

After talking to a girl about her medical alert bracelet, Sadie is so fascinated by the thought of having a severe peanut allergy that she orders a bracelet of her own.  I wanted to question how she was able to accomplish this, online, without a credit card or her mother’s knowledge, but I didn’t.  I just followed along with Sadie as she experiences the unintended consequences of her little lie.  A concerned teacher has her freaked out because she hasn’t turned in a health form, signed by her mother,  to the school nurse, and that EpiPen that she’s supposed to carry with her at all times?  Yeah, she needs a prescription to have access to that prop.  When a new friend asks to see it, she flips out on him.  When her new boyfriend thinks that she’s eaten a chip cooked in peanut oil, she realizes that living with this lie isn’t going to be easy.

The thing that kept me engaged in the story was Sadie’s fear of discovery.  Afraid to fess up to her new friends, she just keeps digging herself into a deeper and deeper hole.  She is terrified that the truth will come out, and when it does, that she will lose all of the friends that she’s made.  When reality does come crashing down around her, it is every bit as awful as she feared.  I think that the fallout was shortchanged, and that mending her bridges went too easy for her.  From her first day of school, the image of herself that she projected was all based on fallacy, and the small amount of page time given for her repentance was disappointing.

The art is quirky and it works well with the tone of the story.  I loved the splash of color from Sadie’s clothes. 

Grade:  C+

Review copy provided by publisher

Pandora the Curious (Goddess Girls #9) Book Blast Giveaway!

I have read and enjoyed a few of the Goddess Girls books, so I’m happy to participate in this book blast for the latest, Pandora the Curious.  This is the 9th book in the series. Enter below for a chance to win a $100 Amazon or Paypal Gift card!

Goddess Girls #9 – Pandora the Curious

Is Pandora about to open up a box of trouble?

One of the few mortals at Mount Olympus Academy, Pandora is famous for her mega quizzical nature—not that she thinks there’s anything wrong with being curious, of course!

Her curiosity kicks into high gear when a godboy named Epimetheus brings a mysterious box to school. Epimetheus is the nephew of an MOA teacher in whose class Pandora once opened another box that sent a few weather disasters to earth. Still, Pandora can’t help but take a peek inside this new box when it unexpectedly lands in her lap. What could be the harm in that, right? Little does she know that opening the box will open up far more trouble than she ever expected!

Authors Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams put a modern spin on classic myths with the Goddess Girls series. Follow the ins and outs of divine social life at Mount Olympus Academy, where the most privileged godboys and goddessgirls in the Greek pantheon hone their mythical skills.


Praise for The Goddess Girls
“…a clever take on Greek deities…”
~ Booklist

"Readers familiar with Greek myths should get a kick out of this plucky restaging."
~Publisher’s Weekly

“…an enchanting mythological world with middle-school woes compounded by life as a deity…”
~ School Library Journal

The Goddess Girls Series

The Goddess Girls series, by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams puts a modern spin on classic Greek myths. Follow the ins and outs of divine social life where the most privileged godboys and goddessgirls in the Greek pantheon hone their mythical skills.
  • Athena the Brain Finding out she’s a goddess and being sent to Mount Olympus brings Athena new friends, a weird dad, and the meanest girl in mythology—Medusa! 
  • Persephone the Phony Hiding her feelings works fine for Persephone until she meets a guy she can be herself with—Hades, the bad-boy of the Underworld. 
  • Aphrodite the Beauty Sure Aphrodite is beautiful, but it’s not always easy being the goddessgirl of love. 
  • Artemis the Brave She may be the goddess of the hunt, but that doesn’t mean Artemis always feels brave. 
  • Athena the Wise Zeus says Heracles has to do twelve tasks or he’ll get kicked out of MOA! Although she’s not sure it’s wise, Athena agrees to help out. 
  • Aphrodite the Diva Isis claims she’s the goddess of love? Ha! But to keep the title all to herself, Aphrodite has to find the perfect match for Pygmalion, the most annoying boy ever. 
  • Artemis the Loyal It’s time for the annual Olympic Games, and Artemis and her friends are not happy. It’s boys only. Not fair! 
  • Medusa the Mean Medusa wants to be more like her two sisters and the other kids at Mount Olympus Academy — immortal. Is that too much to ask? 
  • The Girl Games (Goddess Girls Super Special) Listen in on what all four goddess girls are thinking as Mount Olympus Academy hosts visitors from many lands–including an adorable kitten!The first-ever standalone superspecial in the Goddess Girls series! 
  • Pandora the Curious
  • Pheme the Gossip (Apr. 3, 2013) 
  • Persephone the Daring (Aug. 7, 2013) 
The Goddess Girls

Author Suzanne Williams

Suzanne Williams is the award-winning author of nearly 40 books for children, from picture books and easy readers to chapter books and middle grade fiction series. A former elementary school librarian, she lives near Seattle. Her picture book Library Lil (illustrated by Steven Kellogg) won the New Mexico children’s choice award in 2000 and was on several other state award lists. She is co-author (with Joan Holub) of the popular Goddess Girls series(for ages 8 – 12) and Heroes in Training (ages 6 – 11). Other series include Fairy Blossoms and Princess Power.

Author Joan Holub

I graduated from college in Texas with a fine arts degree, and then freelanced as an art director at a graphic design firm for eight years. I dreamed of working in children’s books, so I moved to New York City and became associate art director in Scholastic trade books, where I designed books for children and worked with editors and illustrators. It was a great job.

I illustrated my first published children’s book in 1992 and soon began illustrating full time. I began completing manuscripts and mailing them out to publishers in the early 1990s. In 1996, I sold my first two manuscripts — Boo Who? A Spooky Lift-the-Flap Book (Scholastic) and Pen Pals (Grosset & Dunlap). Yippee!

Now I write full time and have written and/or illustrated over 130 children’s books. Creating books that entertain, inform, and interest children (and me) is a fabulous job that I truly love.

Book Blast Giveaway
$100 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 12/16/12
*You need not enter your twitter name for each entry. Simply enter it when you follow Joan and leave the others blank.

Open to anyone who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent’s permission. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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