Happy release day to THE ACTUAL & TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER (plus giveaway)!

I am so, so thrilled to celebrate the publication of an absolutely incredible middle-grade book, which just so happens to be written by my good friend and critique partner Jessica Lawson (I interviewed her for the Colorado is for Writers series here). The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher is her magnificent debut, and trust me when I say that you want this hilarious, heartwarming, clever, and creative book on your shelf this instant.

Becky Thatcher by Jessica LawsonHere’s the blurb about the book:

Becky Thatcher has her side of the story to tell—and it’s a whopper—in this creative spin on Mark Twain’s beloved The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, complete with illustrations.

Tom Sawyer’s and Huckleberry Finn’s adventures are legendary, but what about the story you haven’t heard? In 1860, eleven-year-old Becky Thatcher is the new girl in town, determined to have adventures like she promised her brother Jon before he died. With her Mama frozen in grief and her Daddy busy as town judge, Becky spends much of her time on her own, getting into mischief. Before long, she joins the boys at school in a bet to steal from the Widow Douglas, and Becky convinces her new best friend, Amy Lawrence, to join her.

But the theft doesn’t go as planned, and Widow Douglas ends up being unfairly accused of grave robbing as a result. So Becky concocts a plan to clear the Widow’s name. If she pulls it off, she might just get her Mama to notice her again, as well as fulfill her promise to Jon in a most unexpected way. That is, if that tattletale Tom Sawyer will quit following her around.

One of the (many, many) wonderful things about this book is that it works whether you are a fan of the original Tom Sawyer story or not. I’ve actually never read it (mea culpa!), but I adored Jessica’s interpretation just the same.

And you don’t just have to take my word for it that this book is fantastic–check out this starred review from Publishers Weekly!

So please join me in wishing Becky a happy book birthday, since the book is published today! It’s available on its own, or in this nifty boxed set that includes Twain’s original Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. 

Of course, I’d love for everyone to rush out right now and buy a copy to support Jessica’s debut. But I’m also going to give a copy away to one lucky commenter! Feel free to let us know what classic piece of literature you’d like to rewrite from another character’s perspective. And I’ll give you bonus entries if you Tweet or Facebook about this giveaway and paste the URL into your comment!

Sample Tweet: THE ACTUAL & TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER by  is out today! Win a copy at ‘s blog: 

Sample FB: Jessica Lawson’s fantastic Tom Sawyer retelling, THE ACTUAL & TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER, is published today! Win a copy here: 

Thanks, and good luck! I’ll select a winner this Friday, July 4.

Author panel tomorrow!

Colorado is for writersHello, folks! If you’re in Colorado and are free tomorrow night (4/12), I’ll be on a teen author panel at the Longmont Public Library at 7pm along with fellow fabulous local authors Jeannie Mobley, Melanie Crowder, Jenny Goebel, and Todd Mitchell. There will be pizza, too!

Hoping to meet lots of teens and tweens and talk about writing and books in my very first official event as an author. 🙂

Here’s the flyer–click for larger version. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Longmont Library flyer

Interview with Colorado author Renee Collins!

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 Renee Collins to the blog!

Renee’s debut YA novel, Relic, was published by Entangled Teen in 2013. Welcome, Renee!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Renee CollinsI’m a transplant. We moved here for my husband’s job four years ago and I think we’re here to stay.






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

Relic, by Renee CollinsMy debut novel, RELIC, came out this last August with Entangled Teen. It’s a YA fantasy set in Old West Colorado. The red rock cliff near my house actually helped inspire the setting in the book. It’s a world where miners don’t dig for gold, but instead the magical relics of ancient fantasy creatures like the dragon, mermaid, and unicorn. Maggie Davis loses her family in a terrible, magic-created fire, and she has to relocate to the tough town of Burning Mesa in the hopes of finding out who’s responsible.


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

I live in Western Colorado, less than 5 miles from the Colorado National Monument. I can see the red rock cliffs from my bedroom window! The view is truly beautiful, and part of the reason we picked this area to live.

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

I love doing outdoorsy things to get my creative juices flowing. Mountain biking and hiking always helps to clear my head and stir my imagination. And there’s no better place to hike or mountain bike than Colorado, in my opinion.

I’ve heard that about the mountain biking here (though I’m too chicken to try it myself). Thanks so much, Renee–Relic sounds amazing, and like the perfect Colorado-set read!

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!

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.

Interview with Colorado author Todd Mitchell!

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 Todd Mitchell to the blog!

Todd is the author of several extremely-cool-sounding novels for young adults, including one Colorado Book Award winner and another finalist. Welcome, Todd!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

ToddMitchellHeadShot1I’m a transplant (been here 15 years). I grew up in Illinois (someone has to get the short straw). I first came to Colorado when I was 10 and fell in love. An aunt and uncle of mine lived in Fort Collins, so I came back and visited them on my own as soon as I could. The first time was when I was seventeen, and drove out West with my closest friend. Then I drove out here again when I was in college in a car I bought for $400. Both times, I got in a car accident in Fort Collins, which I guess is fate’s way of telling me to stay here.

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

Backwards by Todd MitchellMost recent book: 

BACKWARDS (Candlewick Press, 2013, for ages 12 & up)

This is an odd book. It’s a bit of a mystery, a psychological thriller, and a romance told from the point of view of a character called the Rider who’s trapped in the body of a suicidal teen. Not only that, he’s stuck traveling backwards in time. So he needs to figure out what he’s doing there, and what his purpose his, and ultimately how to take over and make this life his own.

Other books:

THE SECRET TO LYING (Candlewick Press, 2010, for ages 14 & up, Winner of the Colorado Book Award)

The Secret to Lying by Todd MitchellThe story of James, a high school sophomore, who gets into a school where no one knows him and decides to reinvent himself as the person he always wished he could be. This book explores what happens when your life becomes a lie.

 

THE TRAITOR KING (Scholastic Press, 2007, for ages 8 & up, Finalist for the Colorado Book Award)

Part fantasy, part reality. While searching for their missing Uncle Will, Darren and Jackie discover a secret family history that pulls them into a fantastical Otherworld. (It’s kindof like The Lightning Thief, but with figures from Celtic mythology instead of Greek.)

 A Flight of AngelsA FLIGHT OF ANGELS (Vertigo, 2011, for ages 14 & up)

This is a graphic novel that I co-authored, working with four other writers (Holly Black, Bill Willingham, Alisa Kwitney, and Louise Hawes). Basically, a bunch of supernatural beings find a fallen angel in the woods and each tell stories to determine what they should do with it. Definitely for more mature audiences. The art, by Rebecca Guay, is incredible.

 

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

TMitchellIrelandHere’s a picture (it’s in Ireland). Hey, you asked for my favorite spot. In all seriousness, my best writing happens outdoors. By which I mean, I write every day in my basement (which has a decent view of a pond), but when I get stuck I go for a run, and my best lines, insights, and ideas usually come to me while I’m running. So I run daily. And I run everywhere.

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

See above. Having so many beautiful open spaces to run in. Also, the weather here is incredible. I love all four seasons (though fall is my favorite). But running in fresh snow and making tracks is pure bliss. In Colorado, there’s a culture of healthy living, which is essential for a writer (otherwise, I get lost in my own head). One other thing I love about being a writer in Colorado is that there’s a surprisingly vibrant and talented YA and Children’s Book community here. Within just a few blocks of my house, I know five other extremely well-published and best-selling YA and Children’s book authors. That’s pretty amazing.

Thank you, Todd, and congratulations on the publication of Backwards, which sounds amazing! (And fall is my favorite season, too–good call there. 🙂 )

Interview with Colorado author Stephanie Blake!

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 middle-grade and picture book author Stephanie Blake to the blog!

Stephanie is the author of the middle-grade historical novel The Marble Queenwhich was a finalist for the 2013 Colorado Book Award. Welcome, Stephanie!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Stephanie BlakeI was born in Hawarden, Iowa. My parents moved the family to Colorado when I was five. I’ve lived all over this beautiful state.









The Marble Queen by Stephanie BlakeTell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress!

My first middle grade novel came out from Two Lions in late December 2012. It’s called THE MARBLE QUEEN. I just sold a picture book to Albert Whitman called MY ROTTEN FRIEND. It will be out in March 2015 (tentatively). It’s about elementary school zombies. [<–Interviewer’s note: AWESOME.]




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

I live in gorgeous Castle Rock. I can see the rock from my backyard and my kids and husband like to hike it. I’m scared of heights, so I have never been up there.

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado?
I’m always inspired by the other Colorado writers I know. It’s fun to see everyone at the RMC-SCBWI Conference each year.

Thank you, Stephanie, and congratulations on the new picture book sale! (Also, I didn’t even know that you could climb Castle Rock–too cool!)