Interview with Colorado author Melanie Crowder!

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 debut middle-grade author Melanie Crowder to the blog!

Melanie is the author of Parched, a brutal and beautiful survival story published earlier in 2013 by Harcourt Children’s books. Parched is a Junior Library Guild selection and the recent recipient of a starred review from the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

Melanie Crowder authorFirst things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Transplant.

I’m a west coast girl—still not sure how I ended up landlocked and living in the high desert. But I’ve fallen in love with the blue sky and the wide open spaces and those big grey mountains.

PARCHED by Melanie Crowder

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

My first book for young readers is a survival story called Parched. It released in June, and it has been so fun to see the reaction of kids and teachers and librarians and even adult readers as they discover Musa and Sarel and Nandi. No matter how long and varied your career, you only get one chance at your debut, and I’m really proud of mine.

With writers though, it’s always on to the next project, and for the past six months I’ve been completely immersed in my next book. This time, it’s a poetic historical novel for teenagers—a huge challenge, and a lot of fun!

my [snowy] writing cave

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

It depends on the season. In the summer, I write outside any chance I get. In the winter, I hunker down in my office with a whole pot of tea and a fuzzy blanket. In the in between times, I like to work on the couch, with the morning light coming in through the bay window, classical music on the TV and my dog curled up on the chair opposite me.

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

We have a real work hard, play hard mentality here. I really do work really hard, so I love that there are so many ways to get out and play in this state. I love that a mountain writing retreat is just a short drive west. And I love that if you go just another hour off the beaten path, you can unplug completely. 

Thank you so much, Melanie, and I can’t wait to read your upcoming verse novel! (Well, read it again–I got a sneak peak at an early draft, and it was amazing. Get ready, world!)

Interview with Colorado Author Suzanne Nieman Brown!

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 debut picture-book author Suzanne Nieman Brown to the blog!

Suzanne Nieman BrownFirst things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Transplant. My boyfriend and I road tripped up here to ski and snowboard with friends way back in the early 90’s. (Wasn’t that just a few years ago…?!) That boy and I married, realized our hearts belonged to the mountains, and moved here as fast as our careers would allow. We left once for grad school but returned a few years later. That was 14 years ago! Since then, we welcomed our daughter and son, adopted many animals to join our family, and turned native. *WINK* Even though I’ve lived in six states and explored 17 countries, Colorado is my home. My treasure always waiting for my return.

The Night Before Christmas in Ski Country by Suzanne Nieman BrownTell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress!

My first book, THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS IN SKI COUNTRY, was just released! *YAY!* I wrote a version of this story when our daughter was born. I wanted her to have a Christmas book that reflected where we lived. With snow and elk and a Santa that loves to ride! Every Christmas our family read it. Every Christmas my son asked when I was getting it published. And every Christmas I tweaked it just a little bit more.

spreads-lowres7Last summer, I was talking to a publisher about another project when she mentioned they were looking for a Christmas book. I sent mine to her. She loved it and wanted it! And then I had a wonderful opportunity. My publisher asked me to find my own illustrator! I found Dana Schlingman through SCBWI. She and I worked closely together on every page to make my words and her watercolor pictures (by HAND, not digital!) blend seamlessly into a beautifully illustrated storybook.

Here’s the press release description:

spreads2There’s a new Santa in Ski Country and he has magic up his…well, ski vest! Santa rides a snowboard, crashes his resort-named elk into a hot tub, and wants to bring fresh powder for Christmas Day. But oh, no! Santa’s magical Icicle Star is melted! So Little Andy and Santa’s dog, Cocoa, bravely trek past frozen waterfalls, mountain animals, and sleeping aspens on a beautifully illustrated adventure to find a new Icicle Star. Will they find it in time to give Ski Country a white Christmas? Check out a sneak peek at sbrownbooks.com

I am also working on a middle grade novel that ties in with my other job as a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist. More to come soon!

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

IMG_5470In two words? Nature. Animals.

In many words? Fluffy horses snoozing in the warm sun. Ribbons of mountains: dark green in the summer, speckled gold in the fall, and icy white in the winter. Our sweet dog, Lulu, upside down and fast asleep under my feet or zealously barking at the wild elk, turkeys, coyotes, deer, and bears that wander through our property. Smiling photos of my hubbie and kids on our many adventures. And my cold mug of minty green tea.

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

IMG_9440The views! The seasons! The animals! I can’t pick just one thing. *SMILE* If I’m stuck in my writing, I take Lulu for a hike. In the quiet forest or stark mountaintops, my mind opens wide and the ideas flow.

Suzanne, congratulations on your debut, and thank you so much for sharing a peak inside the book and a peak at your views (which, I must say are spectacular)! Good luck with your middle grade project!

Readers: Keep an eye out for THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS IN SKI COUNTRY in bookstores all over ski country…and in the meantime, why not follow Suzanne on Twitter? 🙂

 

Foodie Kidlit Friday: Interview with Taste Test author Kelly Fiore (and giveaway!)

Foodie Kidlit Friday icon

Welcome to the first post in my brand new new blog series, Foodie Kidlit Friday! Every other Friday, I’ll be talking to authors of great food- and cooking-themed books for kids and teens, giving books away, and sharing recipes from my own forthcoming foodie middle-grade novel, All Four Stars.

To kick the series off, I am so lucky to welcome the talented Kelly Fiore to the blog! Kelly’s debut young adult novel Taste Test was published on August 27 by Bloomsbury USA–it’s received excellent reviews, and this particular reader just couldn’t put it down. 🙂

Kelly not only agreed to answer my questions, but is also giving away a signed book and swag to one lucky commenter (details at the bottom of the post), so be sure to leave a note and enter!

Here’s a little more info about Taste Test:

Taste Test by Kelly FioreIf you can grill it, smoke it, or fry it, Nora Henderson knows all about it. She’s been basting baby back ribs and pulling pork at her father’s barbeque joint since she was tall enough to reach the counter. When she’s accepted to Taste Test, a reality-television teen cooking competition, Nora can’t wait to leave her humble hometown behind, even if it means saying good-bye to her dad and her best friend, Billy. Once she’s on set, run-ins with her high-society roommate and the maddeningly handsome—not to mention talented—son of a famous chef, Christian Van Lorten, mean Nora must work even harder to prove herself. But as mysterious accidents plague the kitchen arena, protecting her heart from one annoyingly charming fellow contestant in particular becomes the least of her concerns. Someone is conducting real-life eliminations, and if Nora doesn’t figure out who, she could be next to get chopped for good. 

Tara Dairman: Welcome to Foodie Kidlit Friday, Kelly!

Kelly Fiore: Hi Tara – it’s so great to be here! Thanks so much for the opportunity to chat with your readers! 🙂

TD: Let’s jump in with some food talk right away. Your main character in Taste Test, Nora, is a serious cook—though her taste is more down-home barbecue than haute cuisine. Does that reflect your own culinary background, or was it more of a conscious choice you made specific to Nora’s character?

KF: It’s a little bit of both, I think. I’m from Maryland, where we’re know more for our blue crab feasts than barbecue, but I grew up next to the grill while my dad cooked his famous pork ribs. Like Nora says in the book, barbecue has its own language and I feel closest to the North Carolina style, with an emphasis on pork.

When I wrote Nora, I wanted to write her as a spunky, present-day Joey Potter (from Dawson’s Creek): a not-so-rich, not-so-uppity smartass who could hold her own next to tough competitors. I wanted her to be an expert in something that wasn’t considered “fancy” so that she could prove that the art of cooking isn’t just about ingredients – it’s about technique and flavor, too.

TD: One of the (many, many) things I loved about Taste Test was how each dish cooked by a teen contestant on the show reflected his or her personality. What was your method for coming up with the right choice for each character? Did you have to make lists and charts, or were you able to come up with the right food-fits on the fly?

KF: I think the food writing was, by far, the most difficult part – I worried a lot about things feeling authentic. It’s surprisingly (or not surprisingly?) hard to write that momentum of a food competition – the vigor and energy, along with the cooking itself. I’m glad you feel like the food reflects the contestants because I tried to make sure each contestant, especially Nora and Christian, was cooking food that they had experience with in their “everyday” life. I actually have a back log of recipes I didn’t use for the book because they really didn’t have a place in the final manuscript.

In terms of method, this is where I checked out the cooking competition Top Chef for ideas on themes and ingredients chefs gravitated toward. But, because this is a book for teens and I wanted teens to actually cook the recipes at the end of the book, I tried to pick things that would cater to their tastes as well.

Courtesy of YA Books Central, where you can enter another giveaway for Kelly's books! http://www.yabookscentral.com/blog/cover-reveal-just-like-the-movies-by-kelly-fiore-giveaway-us-only

Courtesy of YA Books Central, where you can enter another giveaway for Kelly’s books! (Click image to go to that post.)

TD: Taste Test is your debut novel, but you have more books on the way. Will they feature foodie themes, too, or go off in a different direction?

Unfortunately, no food 🙁 But I have two books coming out over the next year and a half or so. Just Like the Movies is my sophomore novel, again from Bloomsbury USA. It’s about two girls – a bubbly-but-insecure track star and a quiet-but-sarcastic wallflower – who have nothing in common except an appreciation for great movies and the desire to have a perfect, Hollywood love story. When they meet by chance at a screening of Titanic, they formulate a plan to help spring their love lives into action – by using movie strategies made famous on screen. This book has everything – flash mobs, makeovers, meet-cutes, and, of course, the infamous John Cusack/Boombox scene – but this time, it’s using an iPod and speakers. 🙂 Just Like the Movies comes out in July of next year.

In contrast, my first novel with HarperTeen, The People Vs. Cecelia Price, is a far darker, more gritty subject. It’s still YA, but it focuses on the inner workings of a family that is struggling with addiction, and the aftermath of an unexpected death. The main character, Cecelia, is in custody for the murder of her brother, Cyrus. As we get to know CeCe, we find out how incredibly damaged and volatile her life had become – and how she had to shift from part time student to part time drug dealer in the blink of an eye. The People vs. Cecelia Price is scheduled to release in Winter 2015.

TD: These sound so different and intriguing, Kelly–congratulations on your success in writing and selling such a variety of books!

Last question: It’s Friday night. Are you at home trying a new recipe, or out on the town, trying an exciting new restaurant?

Since Book Club was last night and I had a delicious night out with some girlfriends, tonight I’m staying in. I think I’m going to make a spicy marinara with pasta for dinner tonight. I canned a heap of tomatoes over the summer, but I have a feeling they won’t last through to next year. Being married into an Italian family means Sunday Sauce (or Sunday Gravy, as some Italians call it) almost every weekend.

Thank you so much, Kelly! Happy writing (and eating)!

KFPhote3Kelly Fiore has a BA in English from Salisbury University and an MFA in Poetry from West Virginia University. She received an Individual Artist Award from the Mid Atlantic Arts Council in both 2005 and 2009. Her debut young adult novel, Taste Test, is available now from Bloomsbury USA. Her forthcoming titles include Just Like the Movies (July 2014, Bloomsbury USA) and The People Vs. Cecelia Price (Winter 2015, HarperTeen). She lives in Maryland with her husband, son, and two very feisty cats.

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Giveaway details: Kelly has been kind enough to offer the following prizes for one lucky commenter! (This is a US-only giveaway.)

-a signed hard copy of Taste Test
-a “foodie” charm bracelet with kitchen-themed charms

You can earn one entry by leaving a comment here, and up to two extra entries by posting about this interview on Twitter and/or Facebook! Please include a link to your tweet or FB status in your comment to qualify for the extra entries.

Sample tweet:
Win a signed copy of @kellyannfiore‘s TASTE TEST at @TaraDairman inaugural #FoodieKidlitFriday interview! http://bit.ly/1apItGj

Sample Facebook status:
Meet YA author Kelly Fiore and enter to win a signed copy of her foodie novel TASTE TEST! http://bit.ly/1apItGj

Thanks again for reading and entering! Good luck!

Links, a giveaway, preorders, ARCs, and a new interview series!

Whew! I guess the title says it all. Dear blog readers, it seems that I have quite a few things to catch you up on! Let’s jump right in.

Fair Coin by E.C. Myers1) I have a new post up at Emu’s Debuts called “How Being a Debut Author Turned Me Into a Book-Buyer” (which is also rather self-explanatory as blog post titles go). In the comments section, I ask people to share their own book-buying habits and advice on how to choose which books to buy and which ones to borrow. And all commenters are entered into…

2) A giveaway of Fair Coin by E.C. Myers! The winner will be announced next Monday, November 18, so please leave your comment this week if you’d like to enter. You will have your choice of a hardcover, e-book, or the brand-spanking-new audiobook of this fabulous, Andre Norton Award-winning novel if you win!

3) If you clicked on that Fair Coin link above, you found yourself at IndieBound.org, a great site that helps you find books you want for sale at your local independent bookstore. And guess what other book you can now find on that site, and from several other booksellers? (Hint: I wrote it.)

That’s right–All Four Stars is now available for preorder! The sites where you can order it are all linked on this website’s Books page. I’ll make additional links active as it becomes available from more booksellers. The book releases officially on July 10, 2014. Exciting!

ARCs of ALL FOUR STARS!4) Even more exciting than seeing my book for sale online has been holding the advance reading copies (also known as ARCs, or bound galleys) in my hands! They arrived on my doorstep in October, and they are gorgeous. All but one are already out there circulating among early readers, but I hope to get a few back and be able to do a giveaway or two at some point. Stay tuned!

Taste Test by Kelly Fiore 5) And last, but not least, I will be kicking off a brand-new blog series right here two days! It’s called “Foodie Kidlit Friday,” and will focus on awesome books for kids and young adults (and, let’s face it, us adults who love kidlit!) that feature food and cooking themes. I’ll be getting things started with an interview of Kelly Fiore, whose debut YA novel Taste Test (set at a reality cooking show for teens) released recently and knocked my socks off. And one lucky commenter will win a signed copy from Kelly!

I’ll be aiming to do this series every other Friday (on weeks alternating with the Colorado is for Writers series, which posts every other Tuesday). And in addition to interviews, I’m also planning to start sharing recipes for dishes featured in All Four Stars! So, this should be a very fun series indeed.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but pop back by on Friday for the Taste Test extravaganza. Thanks!

Interview with Colorado Author Maryanne Fantalis!

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 am thrilled to welcome my friend, writing-date buddy, and fellow ex-East-Coaster Maryanne Fantalis!

Maryanne-1First things first: Colorado native or transplant? Transplant. Once we had children, my husband and I really wanted a change of lifestyle from the east coast. The minute we got off the plane and saw mountains from the airport, I knew this was the right place for us. Unfortunately, FedEx won’t ship kids, so we did have to go back and sell the house and move our stuff. We’ve never looked back (although we do miss the bagels and the pizza…)

Tell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress! Right now, I’m querying a book called Finding Kate, which is a historical fiction based on William Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew. I also write young adult fiction. To support this habit, I do freelance writing and teach creative writing to middle school and high school students.

Maryanne's viewWhat’s the view like from your favorite writing space? Although I have a room in our walk-out basement that’s supposed to be my office, it’s also the work-out room, a part-time guest room, and the general dumping space for stuff no one knows where else to put. I love the color of the room, and the stuff on the walls and the desk all have meaning to me, but I can’t work in a messy, multi-purpose space like that, so I do most of my work in the dining room upstairs. It doesn’t have my personal stuff, but it does have a great view from the windows. This is a recent sunset, with the foothills of the Rocky Mountains off the west (right) and Pike’s Peak a solitary lump in the center of the photo (100 miles away).

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado? The other writers! I have met such great writers since moving here, people with great talent, skill and drive. Most of them have recently become published which gives me hope. I am humbled and honored to be included in their supportive, lively community.

Thank you so much, Maryanne–I’m honored to be part of this writing community, too. And I also miss the bagels and pizza from the east coast (though Moe’s out here isn’t too bad!). Good luck querying Finding Kate!

Fellow transplants (to Colorado, or elsewhere): What do you miss most about your hometown? Feel free to share in the comments!

Interview with Colorado Author Lindsay Eland!

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 am thrilled to welcome middle-grade author–and the Assistant Regional Advisor for the Rocky Mountain chapter of SCBWILindsay Eland!

Lindsay Eland First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

I am a Colorado transplant. I grew up in Pennsylvania–Pittsburgh, Punxsutawney (yep, with good old Punxsutawney Phil), and State College—then moved out to tornado country for college…cue music for Oklahoma! That’s where I met my husband. We got hitched and had two of our four kiddos there as well. But we knew we weren’t “home” yet because the words “small town” and “mountains” were always written on both of our hearts. So just one month after our second was born, we moved up to Breckenridge, Colorado where we found home sweet home and had our other two kids. We’ve been here for the past eleven years and have no desire to go anywhere else.

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

I write heartwarming, humorous middle grade novels for readers ages 9 to 99. My first book, Scones and Sensibility, was released by Egmont USA in 2009 and is about an overly romantic and overly dramatic girl who sets to matchmaking in her small beach town with disastrous and hilarious results. My second book, A Summer of Sundays, which released this past July, is about an 11-year-old girl named Sunday Fowler who feels left out and forgotten in her large family and so spends her summer trying to make her mark. It’s a story that celebrates family, books, friendship, honesty, and finding your place in a crowded world—something that we all long for. As to something new, I always have a work-in-progress in my back pocket…so stay tuned!

Photo on 2012-10-01 at 10.42What’s the view like from your favorite writing space?

Gorgeous! We live at the base of Baldy Mountain, so my view is snow-capped mountains in the winter, electric-yellow aspen trees in the fall, messy mud in the spring, and wild flowers in the summer. It’s paradise.

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

Colorado is a playground for the senses with inspiration staring at you everywhere you turn. There is also an amazing group of supportive writers and it is a place where people appreciate and celebrate creativity, beauty, words, and art. Can’t get any better than that!

Thank you so much, Lindsay! I’m a huge fan of both Jane Austen and scones, so hearing the title of your first book always makes my mouth water. 🙂

Fellow writers: Does the view from your favorite writing spot change with the seasons like Lindsay’s does? If so, which seasonal view is your favorite? Share in the comments!

 

And the winner of GRAVE IMAGES is…

Greg Pattridge! Congratulations!

Grave Images by Jenny Goebel

 

Thank you to everyone who commented last week and helped spread the word about Jenny Goebel‘s fabulous debut novel, GRAVE IMAGES. It will hit the shelves in a couple of short weeks!

For those who didn’t win, you might want to add it to to your to-read listpreorder it, or, best yet, hit Jenny’s launch party at the Tattered Cover in Denver!

 

 

Colorado is for Writers will be back next Tuesday with an interview of Lindsay Eland–stay tuned!

Colorado is for writers

Interview with Colorado author Jenny Goebel (and giveaway)!

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 am thrilled to welcome my friend and critique partner Jenny Goebel!

Jenny’s debut middle-grade novel, GRAVE IMAGESwill be published this month, and it’s a moving, somewhat creepy, and overall fantastically-written book. You can read an excerpt on Jenny’s website here. And if you are in the Denver area, you can hit the GRAVE IMAGES launch party at the Tattered Cover on Colfax on October 26!

Giveaway alert: Jenny has kindly offered to give a signed ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of GRAVE IMAGES to one lucky reader of this blog! See the end of the post for details.

Let’s get to know Jenny!

Jenny Goebel

 

First things first: Colorado native or transplant? Native. And I have some of the deepest roots you could ever hope to find. My great, great grandparents settled here back before Colorado was even a state, and every generation since has wisely decided to stick around. What can say, Colorado is an awesome place to live!

 

 

Grave Images by Jenny Goebel

 

Tell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress! Scholastic is publishing my middle grade debut, GRAVE IMAGES, this November. It’s creepy, it’s soulful, and hopefully, all in all, horrific fun. The story is about a monument maker’s daughter whose family hires a drifter to etch headstone portraits. When she discovers that the drifter is etching portraits of people before they pass away, she has to decipher whether he’s merely predicting the deaths or, worse, actually causing them.  I have worked as a monument engraver myself, but, rest assured, this book is in no way autobiographical.

Foreman Farley Has a BackhoeMy first picture book, Foreman Farley has a Backhoe, is being published by Grosset & Dunlap next summer (2014). Farley is a construction foreman who builds a schoolhouse using an assortment of heavy machinery. The text is written to the tune of Old MacDonald has a Farm, and Grosset & Dunlap has also contracted me to write two more picture books with release dates to be announced.

 

What’s the view like from your favorite writing space? Well, the view from my usual writing space is a long way from spectacular. I share a home office with my husband, and it faces the neighbor’s house—so, yeah, nothing but drab, gray siding.

View from the CabinHowever, I am very fortunate to be able to sneak away to write at my parents’ cabin in Grand County every now and then. That view is something else entirely! Aspen and pine trees, and wildflowers in the summer, and if I’m very lucky, an occasional deer passing by. When I don’t get lost staring out the window at the breathtaking scenery, I’m far more productive than I am at home—thanks in large part to one minute detail: no Internet connection.

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado? Oh, it’s far too difficult to narrow it down to just one thing. The people, the history, the wildlife, the nature, the art and culture— there is no shortage of things that give life to creativity here. I’d say that Colorado is the opposite of suffocating for a writer. And one of the most nourishing facets has to be the writing community. So many great, supportive writers here in Colorado, and you, Tara, are one of the finest! (Interviewer’s note: Awww. Right back at ya, Jenny!) Thanks so much for asking me to do this interview, and thereby giving me the opportunity to brag about our wonderful state.

Thank you so much, Jenny! And congratulations on your debut!!

Giveaway: Would you like to win a signed ARC of GRAVE IMAGES? Just leave a comment that answers this question: What’s your favorite creepy book? The winner will be announced next Tuesday, October 15.

GRAVE IMAGES is available for preorder! Find it at
Indiebound B&N * Amazon * BAM * Powell’s * Indigo

ALL FOUR STARS has a cover!

Gladys is hereIn case you haven’t already seen on Facebook and Twitter, today is the day that the cover for my debut middle-grade novel, All Four Stars, gets revealed to the public!

The party’s happening over at Emu’s Debuts, where you can see the actual cover, and at Mother.Write.Repeat., where my lovely fellow Putnam author Krista Van Dolzer is interviewing me about the book itself.

So feel free to pop on over and welcome Ms. Gladys Gatsby–as envisioned by brilliant cover artist Kelly Murphy–into the world!