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!)

Meanwhile, on my other blogs…

It’s raining blog entries!

EMUsBadgeToday I have a pretty personal story up at Emu’s Debuts about a recent phone call I had with my mom, whose been having health issues over the last year. But it’s ultimately a happy tale! It’s called “A Different Kind of Call.”

OneFour Kidlit badge

Also, over at OneFour Kidlit, we middle-grade authors are kicking the year off with the opening lines from our books. There are so many terrific ones–I want to read all of these books right now!


Colorado is for writersTomorrow, I’ll have a new Colorado is for Writers interview up here with Stephanie Blake, author of the Colorado Book Award finalist The Marble Queen.


And many thanks to those who checked out yesterday’s post on my favorite funny reads of 2013. I’m always looking for more laugh-out-loud books, so if you have any recommendations, please don’t hesitate to share!

Interview with Colorado author Claudia Mills!

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 chapter book and middle-grade author Claudia Mills to the blog!

Claudia Mills, Philosophyclaudia.mills@colorado.eduphoto by: Larry HarwoodClaudia is the author of a very long list of children’s books (seriously, check it out–it is impressive), and Kirkus reviews recently called her “a master of the school story” (also very impressive!) Welcome, Claudia!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

I’m a transplant, directly from Maryland, originally from New Jersey. I came to Colorado for my day job (professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado in Boulder) and for my husband’s dream (he was raised in Golden, and once we had our boys, he had his heart set on raising them in the West).

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

My two most recent books are Kelsey Green, Reading Queen and Zero Tolerance, both published this past June by Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Macmillan.

Kelsey coverKelsey Green is a third-grade-level chapter book, first in a series called Franklin School Friends. Kelsey, a passionate reader, is determined to read the most books for her grade in a school-wide reading contest, but there’s only one problem: Simon Ellis is reading even more books than she is. Or at least, Simon Ellis says he is reading more books than she is. She and her two best friends, Annika Riz (who is a math whiz) and Izzy Barr (who is a running star), decide to make a top-secret cheater-catcher plan to see if Simon has earned his status as Kelsey’s chief rival, or not. This book is my valentine to readers and book lovers everywhere.

Zero-Tolerance-CoverIn Zero Tolerance, Sierra Shepard is a seventh-grade honor student and “perfect” girl who has never been in trouble in her life – until the day she brings her mother’s lunch to school by mistake. In the lunch is a knife to cut her mother’s apple. Sierra, good girl that she is, turns the knife in immediately, and finds she is now facing mandatory expulsion under her middle school’s “zero tolerance” policies for drugs and weapons. Of all my books, this is the only one I’ve written where I myself didn’t know how it would all turn out until the very end. I kept on writing to see: would Sierra get expelled or not? And if she did, by that point, would she even care?

photo couchWhat’s the view like from your favorite writing space?

I write curled up on a little couch with a blanket, clipboard, pad of paper, pen – and mug of hot chocolate. So no view. But very cozy!

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

For me, the best thing is being part of my terrific writing group. I’ve been a member of this group for twenty years, and together we have published over a hundred books during that time, everything from children’s books to adult mysteries, science fiction, literary fiction, and nonfiction about Colorado history. The best Colorado thing about my writing group is that we have a retreat every summer up at Lake Dillon. We spend a whole weekend writing, reading, talking about writing, talking about reading, walking by the lake, and sitting in a hot tub under the Colorado stars. That’s when I most think what a sweet thing it is to be a writer in Colorado.

Thank you, Claudia–and may I just say that both of your new books sound completely fabulous? (As does that retreat at the lake!) 

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? 🙂

 

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