The ALL FOUR STARS blog tour – stop 3

all four stars tour buttonToday is the third stop on the official All Four Stars blog tour! Over at For What It’s Worth, Karen is featuring an excerpt from an early chapter of All Four Stars. Many thanks, Karen, for your enthusiasm for the book! 🙂

Also, over at Pop! Goes the Reader, Jen (who wrote this wonderfully in-depth review of AFS last week) has created a desktop wallpaper inspired by the book. It features macarons, and it is adorable. 

Finally, the radio interview I recorded last weekend at KRFC in Fort Collins is now available online for listening! Eleven-year-old junior broadcaster Lacy Miller asked me such fantastic questions; her mentor Vincent Burkardt is really doing something special with this program. Here are some pics from recording day, including a couple of the three of us. (Yes, I am the shortest.)

Outside the studio

Outside the studio

Pre-interview chat

Pre-interview chat

In the hotseat!

In the hot seat!

Vincent, Lacy, and me

Vincent, Lacy, and me

Gettin' silly

Gettin’ silly

Finally, today is the last day to enter to win The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher by Jessica Lawson by commenting here!

The ALL FOUR STARS blog tour – stop 2

all four stars tour buttonToday, for the second stop on the official All Four Stars blog tour, I’m being interviewed at The Reading Date! Lucy has asked me some terrific foodie and literary questions, and my list of restaurant recommendations in NYC expands. 🙂

I am also at Literary Rambles today! My guest post, “The time it takes to get it right,” is about  my looong journey to publication, and there is also a giveaway going for commenters.

Finally, All Four Stars got a lovely review yesterday from Katie at Spirit of Children’s Literature (which will also be featuring a recipe and an interview with me in the next week). Katie’s reviews have a unique focus on spirituality that I find fascinating, and I love what she illuminates about the book.

(And don’t forget that I’ve got my own giveaway going on–win The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher by Jessica Lawson by commenting here!)

A few more reviews

Project MayhemMy fellow Baker’s Dozen Success Story Michael Gettel-Gilmartin has reviewed All Four Stars over at Project Mayhem today, calling it “classic middle grade, full of heart and humor.” Thank you, Michael! The post also features an interview with me, so if you’re dying to find out what middle-grade books influenced me as a kid or what my favorite breakfast is, check it out

Over at GoodReads, top reviewer Karen has also left All Four Stars a very nice review, which also features an adorable picture of a baby turtle. 🙂

And finally, the trade journal Booklist has chimed in with a terrific review of the book. The full text will be published soon, but here’s an excerpt:

Gladys is a lovable character with plenty of spunk and desire, and readers will happily cheer her on, while the fresh plot adds a delicious dimension to the host of stories set in sixth grade.

It’s definitely exciting to see readers starting to connect with the book I worked on for so many years. Can’t wait for publication day!

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 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 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 Aiken Avery, author of The Disaster Tourist

Ahoy there, blog readers! (Yes, that nautical greeting was deliberate–you’ll understand why in a moment.)

The Disaster Tourist by Aiken AveryIf you follow me on Goodreads, you may recently have seen my ecstatic review for a book called The Disaster Tourist, which takes place on a round-the-world cruise and is one of my tippy-top favorite reads of 2013. But I wasn’t content merely with reviewing it and gushing about it to friends. I just had to hunt down the author, Aiken Avery, and lure him over for an interview at this here blog.

Luckily, hunting him down wasn’t too difficult, since Mr. Avery and I were college classmates (where we both studied creative writing with Ernie Hebert). And even more luckily, he agreed to share his insight and wisdom about travel, writing, travel writing, and today’s publishing options for literary novels. Hooray!

Here’s a blurb about the book itself, and my interview with the author follows. (Also, since this is a blog usually devoted to children’s literature, I should probably insert a disclaimer here that this is most definitely an adult novel, complete with strong language, queer content, and all that good stuff.)

About The Disaster Tourist:
When foul-mouthed RG boards the S. S. U. Sea for its fall semester voyage, she does so with her usual intentions: knock people down a few pegs and hopefully score some hot chicks along the way. But intentions and itineraries don’t always sync. Part international romp, part descent into madness, The Disaster Tourist follows a crew of sometimes thought-provoking, often ridiculous characters as they circumnavigate the globe on a cruise ship turned floating college. RG’s plans to corrupt her lovely, wholesome Midwestern classmate Dottie fail when she turns out not to be the simple beauty she seems. The two forge an unlikely partnership—straight with gay, principled with radical—as the climate on-board, and in the various ports of call, grows from silly to paranoid to downright dangerous. In the end, The Disaster Tourist strives to capture what it means to be an American abroad in the 21st century.

Tara Dairman: Welcome, Aiken Avery!

Your debut novel, The Disaster Tourist, takes place in so many different locations—Japan, Vietnam, China, and India, just to name a few—and you write about them so evocatively! Here are a couple of my favorite descriptions:

India was like an ice cream cone with every topping imaginable—not just ice cream ones but pizza toppings, too, salad toppings, cereal toppings, and then handfuls of dirt and sh*t thrown on for good measure.

The poor—which, from what they could tell, was everybody—subverted physics in order to balance great loads of merchandise on tiny carts and rickshaws and bicycles, Pisas of metal tins, breaching whales of straw baskets, to name only ten degrees of the surrounding three-sixty.

I was wondering how you carried out your research on these locations for the book. I believe that you’ve been to most or all of these places yourself—did you go back to journals or photographs? Rely on memory? Or did you need to look to books and the Internet to bring yourself up to date on these destinations?

Straight from the old photo album: Genbaku Dome, Hiroshima, Japan

Straight from the old photo album: Genbaku Dome, Hiroshima, Japan

Aiken Avery: I definitely appealed to my old photo albums for detail. I come away from a trip with a general sense of the place, but detail gets lost just because of the overwhelming abundance of it—especially in crowded places like China and India. In years past, writers might have needed to shell out for plane tickets to these places or bury themselves in books at university libraries (which I’ve done plenty of myself). Now, without the benefit of photographic memory, we have the Internet to help flesh out descriptions.

I’ll admit, it felt a bit like cheating, but I definitely made use of Google Earth! I could zoom in on a locale like Ho Chi Minh City and click on the icons for other people’s photos, a great feature of theirs. What does the Rex Hotel look like these days? What would a typical street scene bustling with locals look like? Now we have a wealth of evocative imagery and information right in front of us on our laptops. So yes, I’ve been to all of the countries in the book—authentic experience is still top dog—but technology helps to fill in the gaps.

TD: Follow-up question: Did you have any trouble separating your own, real-life experiences in and opinions of these places from those of your characters in the book?

AA: Like most people (I assume…), I leave a place with all sorts of conflicting feelings about what I’ve just experienced. Is India dirty and stinky and wretched in a lot of ways? Absolutely. Is it also a beautiful, diverse, fascinating place? Of course. I would go back and travel around it for a year if I was able (still barely scratching the surface). So I actually found that it wasn’t all that difficult to voice these varieties of opinions through characters; they already cohabitate, bickering in my head.

A scene on the Ganges river in Varanasi, India

A scene on the Ganges river in Varanasi, India

The really interesting question is whether or not I had trouble separating my real-life experiences from those of my characters. Fictionalizing real events, adding new people, contexts, twists—which I did often when writing this book, having gone on a study abroad program similar to The Disaster Tourist‘s “University of the Sea”—can change your memories of those events, or even replace them with the new ones to an extent. I don’t mean to say that I’m incapable of separating fiction from reality! I just mean that taking actual events and attaching meaning to them—in the way that the very deliberate process of writing always does for bare reality—can often place the fictional event even above the real one in importance. I now value my experiences much more because of what I was able to cultivate from them, if that makes any sense.

TD: Here’s another quote from the book that I loved, describing the main character, RG.

She could feel the claws of her personality climbing up the walls of her skull to predetermined places—a large, articulated crab getting into position—and then it was only through its eyes, the lenses of this refracted self, that she was able to see and act.

On paper, RG, might turn some readers off; she’s snarky and manipulative (not to mention doggedly, unapologetically anorexic). But I was completely charmed by her—just like many other girls on the ship are, and I’m sure many readers are, too. How did you come up with this complicated character—and did she take any turns over the course of the book that surprised you?

AA: RG is an amalgam of a few different people I’ve encountered: a solitary and obsessive exerciser from my college days (never knew her, but found her compelling); the beleaguered adopted daughter of relentlessly well-meaning Brahmin parents in Cambridge, MA (where I did a lot of private tutoring); and my own “Negative Nancy” inner voice. RG is a minority and a Devil’s advocate in every possible way, and as such, I risk alienating people who start reading and can’t handle her! Trust me, I worry about that.

But the intention was always for her to change, to soften and wise up over the course of the story. Really—without giving too much away, I hope—she was always meant to become more and more like her “silver linings” friend in the story, Dottie, while Dottie grows more and more (to RG’s horror) like the old, bitter RG. To say “the characters took on a life of their own” would be cliché, but yes, they changed in surprising ways—unpredictable even to me—as I slowly discovered what their motivations should be. I guess my long-term writing strategy is “plan, but in pencil.”

TD: You write such beautiful (and often twistedly funny) descriptions and observations. Here are a few of my favorites:

Her jokes were like puppies head-butting the gate to get out and play.

He’d been crying like an old man—which was to say that his eyes were completely dry over a low, trembling voice.

To go abroad, even to sail to the other side of the world, is to be taken for a walk on a leash—and then, inevitably, brought back home again.

This makes me curious about your writing process. Do the words just tend to just come out this way for you in the moment, or do you do a first draft more focused on plot and focus on the language later?

AA: I can’t say I’ve never written a passage and then thought of an improvement—either to the plot or to the language—later on. An advantage to undertaking big, novel-length projects is that you have as much as a year or two for all of the best “improvements” to occur to you, sometimes well after the first draft. But for the most part, I focus on the language and the tone as I’m writing for the first time, not later. I’m glad you liked the head-butting puppies comparison—I came very close to ditching that one!

TD: You self-published The Disaster Tourist as an e-book rather than pursuing traditional publishing. Can you share what led you to choose this path, and how it’s working for you so far?

AA: At the time I was writing my first novel (a yet-unpublished Civil War story), self-publishing was basically taboo. In most cases, doing so meant that you had tried traditional routes and no agent or publisher would touch you, so you must have written a dud. The only recourse for duds was self-publishing. I used to go so far as to say that I would rather not publish at all than self-publish.

However, as I was writing my second book, the Kindle was introduced, and e-books really took off. Opinions both in the industry and among laypeople have shifted pretty dramatically on the subject of self-publishing, so a writer no longer has to pray for a big publishing house to discover his needle status in the haystack of the “slush pile.” He can be much more proactive about getting himself noticed: by taking the book to market himself and by proving, sometimes in a big way, that customers are indeed lining up with dollars in hand. I’m still learning the ropes, but I hope my marketing campaign will do just that.

Well, Aiken, I’m with you in hoping that many, many readers discover this incredible book!

To that end, here are a few links where you can purchase The Disaster Tourist:

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * Google Play

You can also find the book via the iBooks app on iTunes–and other digital formats (including optimized for laptop, if you don’t have an e-reader) are linked on its Facebook Page.

Thank you so much for this interview, Aiken Avery! And readers, if you end up reading The Disaster Tourist, please let me know–I’m dying to find some more folks to discuss it with. 🙂

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? 🙂