Interview with Colorado author Emily Hainsworth!

Colorado is for writersWelcome back to the Colorado is for Writers interview series! Every other Tuesday, I talk to different Colorado-based authors about their work and their connections to this beautiful state. Today, I’m happy to welcome young adult author Emily Hainsworth to the blog!

Emily’s debut YA novel, Through to You, was published in 2012 by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins and is a totally compulsive read. Let’s get to know Emily!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Emily Hainsworth Transplant! But I’ve lived here longer than where I grew up (Central NY)–does that win me points?

I was drawn to Colorado by a boy. It was the mid-90s, it was an online relationship, I was a teenager and (at the time) it was scandalous. 😉 I had secretly always wanted to live in Colorado, so I took off with the first guy I met from this glorious state (I suppose the happily ever after is that he’s still stuck with me–I mean we’re happily married–more than a decade later).

Tell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress!

Through to You by Emily HainsworthTHROUGH TO YOU is the story of 17-year-old Camden Pike, who has been grief-stricken since his girlfriend, Viv, died. He’d give anything to have just one more glimpse of her. But when Cam visits the site of Viv’s deadly car accident, he sees an apparition. Her name is Nina, and she’s a girl from a parallel world. When Cam follows her there and makes an unbelievable discovery, it’s as if all his wildest dreams have come true. But things are very different in this other world. Nina is hiding a secret, and the window between the worlds is shrinking every day. As Cam comes to terms with the truth, he’s forced to make a choice that will change his life forever.

I’m currently working on a second YA novel, TAKE THE FALL, which is a contemporary murder mystery. While there’s no sci-fi element this time, the story is similarly dark and emotional and should appeal to readers who enjoyed my first book. The title could still change, but the book should be available in 2015!

What’s the view like from your favorite writing space?

View From Emily's writing spaceEvery one of my books has been written (at least in part) on an old black couch in my living room. It’s one of the first pieces of furniture my husband and I ever bought, and while it isn’t terribly attractive, it’s the most comfortable place I have found to write. Of course, a couple other members of my household think it’s pretty great too (if you can’t tell from the picture, that’s our cat, Dagny, squeezed in on top of our standard poodle, Basil), so we might end up needing a bigger couch because right now it’s a little cramped for leg room.

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado?

The best thing about being a writer in Colorado is being able to get outside throughout the year. I know that doesn’t sound very conducive to writing, but I’m someone who needs to get out and think before putting words on a page. I’m not a big fan of freezing my butt off on the ski slopes, but I LOVE the 50-degree winter days in Denver. Those temperatures were unfathomable when I was growing up in Central New York, and they’re perfect for replenishing the writing well. If I’m stuck on a particular scene or character, I get outside where I can think better. It’s not something you can do every day throughout the winter, but the sunshine and mild temperatures are something I try never to take for granted. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

I adore those 50-degree days, too! Thanks so much, Emily, and good luck with TAKE THE FALL–I’m looking forward to it!


Butterbeer! Pumpkin Juice! Puking Pastilles! (What I ate at Harry Potter World)

Foodie Kidlit Friday icon“I’m going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with my cousin this month!” I spent most of January telling anyone who would listen.

“Oh, that’s so nice of you,” a lot of them replied. This response baffled me at first, until I realized that they thought that my cousin was a small child whom I had volunteered to chaperone around Universal Studios. Then came the awkward moment when I had to explain that no, my cousin was my age, and that we were going to Harry Potter World… well, just because we wanted to.


Whatever. Harry Potter is awesome, and Merrie and I have been wanting to check out the Universal versions of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts for years. (And as a kidlit author myself with a particular penchant for writing about food, I was especially excited to do some taste-testing of Potter-inspired foods at The Three Broomsticks and Honeydukes!) So in the last week of January, off we went to Orlando.

I would like to say that we arrived via Hogwarts Express, but apparently the track-elves are still working on the Denver-Hogsmeade line. Still, we were welcomed at Hogsmede station by a conductor, who seemed to be legitimately blown away by Merrie’s impervious (i.e. rubberized) rain pants. (The weather was shockingly British for our Orlando visit–high 30s and rainy most of the week!)

Hogwarts Express

Hogwarts castle was truly impressive from the outside.Hogwarts castleBut inside it was even better! There’s so much to see as you wait in line for the Forbidden Journey ride–such as the house points hourglasses filled with emeralds for Slytherin, sapphires for Ravenclaw, rubies for Gryffindor, and…what the heck is Hufflepuff’s stone, anyway?House points

You could stop off for a quick look in the pensieve in Dumbledore’s office.PensieveMerrie and I particularly enjoyed that the ride warning signs were provided by The Department of Magical Transportation. 🙂 Warning signCloser to the ride entrance are walls of talking portraits…Portraits…and right before you enter, the sorting hat recites a rhyme about how pregnant ladies and people with heart conditions shouldn’t get on the ride. It was brilliant.
Sorting HatIn retrospect, perhaps I should have paid more attention to the sorting hat’s warnings about dizziness. The Forbidden Journey is a thrilling, but also kind of sickening ride. Once was enough for me and Merrie.

On to Hogsmeade! The rooftop snow is fake, but it could have been real that day–that’s how cold it was.Hogsmeade

Into The Three Broomsticks to warm up. I was really hoping for a hot tankard of butterbeer, but alas, the only options were cold or frozen. I went with cold (drink on the right), and Merrie ordered a pumpkin juice and a strawberry-peanut-butter ice cream (which I believe is the flavor Harry eats at Florian Fortescue’s parlor in book 1). Butterbeer et alCheers!Tara with Butterbeer

Okay, honesty time–we were actually pretty disappointed with everything in this first order. The pumpkin juice was refreshing at first sip, but tasted more and more fake the more we drank of it, like artificial pumpkin-pie-flavored Kool-Aid. The butterbeer tasted kind of like cream soda with a thin butterscotch-flavored foam on top, and for me, once the foam was gone, so was the novelty. And the ice cream tasted mostly like peanut butter, which isn’t a bad thing, though it was frozen so solid that we really had to dig at it with our spoons.

We finished the ice cream because…well, it’s ice cream, but couldn’t make it to the bottom of either of our drinks. Alas.

But the pub atmosphere was great, and it sure is fun to eat in a place where Butterbeer is on tap!Butterbeer on tapThere was also a giant Butterbeer truck in the street. I bet that it’s really popular on non-freezing days.Butterbeer truckOn to Honeydukes!Honeyduke'sPossibly my favorite window dressing in all of Hogsmeade: an animatronic doll continuously puking a sheet of puking pastilles into a bucket. 🙂Puking pastillesWhile I thought that the prices at The Three Broomsticks were pretty reasonable for a theme park (specialty drinks around $3 and change, full meals $8-$15), the shops are definitely where they aim to get your galleons. Almost every candy package at Honeydukes cost at least $10. Still, it was fun to see so many items from the books–like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.
Bertie Bott's Every Flavor BeansThere were huge chocolate cauldrons filled with marshmallow…Chocolate cauldrons…and, in the bakery section, cauldron cakes, which apparently have about five different types of chocolate in them.Cauldron cakeMerrie bought a chocolate frog, which comes with a cool pentagon-shaped wizard card inside. The frog is just a massive, solid block of milk chocolate, though, and it’s pretty hard to crack apart and share. (However, packages of much smaller peppermint toads were available, and Merrie hacked the system by refilling her chocolate frog box with toads so that her kids could open it up and enjoy them without getting frustrated by the giant frog. That’s an engineering mind at work right there!) Chocolate frogMy haul from Honeydukes: Bertie Bott’s Beans and a chocolate cauldron for my students, and ton-tongue toffee for my husband. (Sadly, it did not turn his tongue into a three-yard-long purple snake–but it was sort of shaped like a giant tongue and did have a ton of calories!)Candy haulHere’s Merrie in front of Hagrid’s hut. Which, honestly, was a little nicer than I’d pictured it! Note the giant pumpkin in the yard.
Hagrid's hutHey, it’s lunchtime–back to The Three Broomsticks! I opted for the Cornish Pastie lunch, which included three hot little meat pies and an enormous iceberg lettuce salad. Lunch at the Three BroomsticksThe pies were good (mostly because they were hot). The salad was a salad. Merrie and I lamented that your meal does not magically float up through the table like it does at the Great Hall feasts in the books. That would be some good technology–er, I mean, magic.

At Harry Potter World, The Hog’s Head is actually just an extension of The Three Broomsticks, but I did appreciate the enormous head behind the bar!Hog's HeadAnd the head on the tap. I’m not sure what actually comes out of this tap, though. Anyone know?Hog's Head TapOh, look–it’s students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons! Apparently they sometimes do an acrobatic show, but the stage was too wet for them to perform. 😦TriwizardWhile there were plenty of school scarves and hats and other expected apparel you could buy, what surprised me most was that you could also get Hogwarts cheerleading uniforms. Funny, I don’t remember cheerleaders in the books (though I can only imagine the height they could get on those basket tosses with the aid of a wingardium leviosa charm!).Hogwarts cheerleaderMerrie insisted that, as a writer, I take a picture in front of the quill shop. Thanks, cuz. 🙂Scrivenshaft'sIt was still freezing that afternoon, and we were hungry again, so we decided to give The Three Broomsticks one last try. We ordered two potato side dishes: the seasoned fries and the garlicky potato wedges. Both were really tasty, and this visit got our biggest thumbs up of the day. Potatoes at The Three BroomsticksI’ll wrap things up now in a different section of Universal, outside the Dr. Seuss bookstore. A perfect place to take a picture with your cousin: note the quote!CousinsDespite the weather, and the nauseating ride, and the “meh” drinks, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter didn’t disappoint us. The level of detail put into the buildings and atmosphere was really impressive, and I’m sure that once the new section opens up this summer, it’s going to be even better. I’ll probably skip the pumpkin juice and Butterbeer next time, but I wouldn’t mind having some of those hot potato snacks right about now. Hooray for Harry Potter!

**UPDATE: I returned to Harry Potter World in 2017 to try frozen butterbeer and eat my way through Diagon Alley. Read my updates here!**

Like this post? Then you’d probably love my middle-grade novels about tween restaurant critic Gladys Gatsby!


Interview with Colorado author Jennifer Duddy Gill!

Colorado is for writersWelcome back to the Colorado is for Writers interview series! Every other Tuesday, I talk to different Colorado-based authors about their work and their connections to this beautiful state. Today, I’m happy to welcome Jennifer Duddy Gill to the blog!

Jennifer’s debut middle-grade novel, The Secret of Ferrell Savage, is being published TODAY by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster! (Hoorah! Confetti!!) It sounds adorable and hilarious–read on to get to know Jennifer and find out more about her book!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Jennifer Duddy GillI’m a two-time transplant. Like you, Tara, I’ve traveled and lived all over the world. When I got married we settled down in Virginia. But that didn’t last long. My husband got a job here in Denver so we moved and fell in love with Colorado. Five years later, we both got the itch to live overseas with our two daughters, so we sold everything we owned and bought a little piece of jungle in Costa Rica. Two years later, when we decided to return to the U.S., we knew we wanted to come back to Denver. We’re likely to live overseas again, but we’ll always keep a taproot here.

Tell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress!

The Secret of Ferrell Savage by Jennifer Duddy GillMy debut novel is called The Secret of Ferrell Savage. It begins with Ferrell entering a sled race to impress a girl he likes and, for reasons that go beyond his control, he gets her attention and becomes a celebrity in his town. A jealous racing competitor threatens to reveal a secret about Ferrell that even he, Ferrell, didn’t know: he’s a descendant of the infamous Colorado cannibal, Alferd Packer. But it’s actually not a gruesome story at all. The main thing that Ferrell has in common with his great, great, great uncle is that they both became unexpected legends.

What’s the view like from your favorite writing space?

The window by my writing desk looks out onto our balcony which calls to me on warm days, but is lonely and often snowy during the winter months. Beyond the rooftops I can see the tip of the Denver skyline, including the “cash register” building.

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado?

Diversity. I love living in a big city filled with people from all over the world; plus, we have great museums, a wonderful zoo, and big city parks. In about an hour we can be in the mountains hiking or skiing. Oh, another best thing is our libraries. When we were in Costa Rica my children and I actually sent letters to our old library telling them how much we missed them.

Agreed, Jennifer–the libraries here are incredible! Thank you for the interview, and congratulations on the publication of The Secret of Ferrell Savage! I can’t wait to pick up my copy.