Walk the Plank with Laura Stoddard (Author Interview)

Cover Official

First Mate Keira: The Dreamosphere came from one of your tween journals. Do you remember what first gave you the inspiration for the story? Can you share a picture of the page?

Laura Stoddard: I am notorious for my dreams. They are beyond anything you could possibly imagine. Bizarre and ridiculous to the extreme. I wake up so many times going, “Where did that come from?” I’ve been sharing my dreams with people all my life, and finally enough of them said, “You’ve got to put these into a story” that I did!

Here are some pictures from a high school dream journal of mine:

my dream journal cover page

my dream journal open

my dream journal with porthos

First Mate Keira: Do you keep a dream journal like Gwen? Is that how you remember your dreams so well?

Laura: I’ve kept dream journals off and on throughout my life. I just recently found one from college, and laughed to tears as I read through some of the dreams. I find it interesting that every time I read back over a dream, I immediately remember and feel the exact emotions I felt in the dream. Whether it was 20 years ago or last week. My dreams are so visceral and real. I’m also blessed (or cursed), in that I remember all my dreams. They stay with me as vividly as what I did the day before.

First Mate Keira: I love the book cover for The Dreamosphere! I bet you are thrilled. Did you have any influence in the art?

Laura: I only had a little bit of input as far as the cover design was concerned. When it was first presented to me I was thrown for a loop, and not all together happy. I’d been envisioning something edgier and darker. Probably to compete with the covers of the plethora of dystopian YA novels out there. But then I realized that my book is targeted toward tweens, and if I was an 11-year-old girl, the cover would absolutely draw me in. This isn’t an end-of-the-world story. There’s danger and intrigue to be sure, but it’s also a story of redemption, friendship, and learning to love and forgive oneself. The things I had them change on the cover were: making the girl blonde instead of brunette, adding the journal by her arm, putting fireflies in (they play a special part in the story), and adding the ominous, discrete web in the background. I am now in love with this cover. It’s quite dreamy…. See what I did there? ;)

First Mate Keira: Now one of the things I like best about dreams, especially the strange ones, is that they disappear, but you’ve taken the reverse of that and turned it into a universe. What inspired that?

Laura: I think I was inspired to do that because, unlike the majority of people, I don’t forget my dreams. I mean, I remember all of them. Keeping them in dream journals helps. The idea of Gwen being able to go back and visit certain dreams developed because that’s something I’d love to do. I have dreamed some amazing, funny, exhilarating situations, that I wouldn’t mind experiencing again. However, you’re right. When it comes to the strange dreams, especially the frightening or dark ones, I would prefer to forget them. Just the other night I had a dream that a friend died, and in the dream I just sobbed and sobbed. I actually cried myself awake, and felt the heartbreak I felt in the dream for a couple days—even though he was actually fine. I’d experienced what it would be like if he passed. Those dreams I can do without.

First Mate Keira: How does one get to The Dreamosphere? Must one be asleep? Is it a mental journey or a physical one?

Laura: The premise in the story is that you need to “hover” to travel into the Dreamosphere. Everyone’s experienced that. The moment when you’ve just barely dozed off and aren’t quite sure if you’re awake or asleep; I call that hovering in the book. When you go into “hover mode”, a thought strand seeps down from the Dreamosphere (from your subconscious), but because you’re half awake, you can see it physically. You have to grab onto the thought strand, and it pulls you (or the subconscious you) up into the Dreamosphere. Gwen can only stay in the Dreamosphere as long as her waking body is sleeping. When she starts to wake up, she has to exit the Dreamosphere quickly (which is also done in a certain way). Confusing enough for you? J

First Mate Keira: Can you view the someone else’s dreams? Share a dream at the same time?

Laura: In the story, Gwen does visit other people’s Dream-webs, but only briefly. It is necessary for her to search the dreams of other people while she’s desperately looking for a specific person. Hmm…the idea of sharing a dream is intriguing. It doesn’t happen in this book, but maybe in the next…?

First Mate Keira: There’s also an interesting villain that likes to destroy her dreams… does this villain destroy just hers or other people’s dreams too? What makes Gwen’s dreams desirable to “hack”?

Laura: Ahh…that’d give away too much of the story. There is a reason that he targets Gwen, but she doesn’t figure that out till the end. I’m not giving it away!

First Mate Keira: Does Gwen have any special powers in The Dreamosphere?

Laura: Well, there are no rules in the Dreamosphere, as far as reality is concerned. She can fly, shapeshift, sit on clouds, slide down rainbows…anything she wants.

First Mate Keira: What is your favorite sequence in the story?

Laura: One of my favorites is a very pivotal scene that happens very early on in the book, when Gwen learns all about, and visits, the Dreamosphere for the first time. For this sequence, I was actually inspired by the movie The Matrix. I love how everything is black and white in that story, even though it’s confusing as heck. At the very beginning, the main character is sat down and told exactly what he’s been pulled into. His mission is made clear to him, with some added twists throughout of course, but I love how the conflict is explained, the mission assigned and the rest, just an adventure to put everything right. That’s how I laid out this story. I hate it when I’ve read 100 pages of a book and still don’t know what the plot is. I wanted to pull readers in right away.

First Mate Keira: What are you doing next?

Laura: I plan to focus on my book tour, mostly throughout Arizona, but to other states as well. Then I need to start thinking about the second book! Because there will be a second one…

Brief synopsis:

What if dreams don’t disappear when we wake up? Haunted by her younger sister’s death, and her unwitting role in the incident, 11-year-old Gwenevere Stoker takes solace in the Dreamosphere—a dimension where all dreams still exist. But when someone begins destroying her dreams, Gwen must find the culprit—or risk losing all her happiness forever. Bask in the mystery and imagination of dreams in this touching, funny, mind-bending children’s tale that encompasses themes of grief, friendship, family, healing, and grand adventure!

Buy: The Dreamosphere

EXCERPT

“What do you think happens to your dreams after you wake up?”

Gwen shrugged distractedly, too disoriented by her sudden arrival in the remarkable setting to focus. “I dunno. They disappear?”

The unblinking gray eyes of her young companion flashed as she leaned forward. “Incorrect. Every dream you’ve ever had still exists. All of them. They reside in a dimension called the Dreamosphere. It’s where we are right now, as a matter of fact. Each dream basically exists as its own world, or dream-orb. There are thousands and thousands of them, connected like drops of dew on a gigantic spider web. Every dream you’ve ever had, Gwen. They’re all up here. And you can visit them any time you want.”

Tabitha, the enigmatic child who shares this information, has some even more shocking news. Gwen’s dreamosphere is in danger. Someone has been hacking into it—destroying her dream orbs, erasing pieces of her past, and affecting Gwen in more ways than she realizes. Together, Gwen and Tabitha travel through the outlandish landscape of Gwen’s dream worlds to find the person responsible. What will happen to Gwen when all her dreams are gone? What critical clues lie within the pages of her dream journal? And what does Edgar Allan Poe have to do with it all?

Buy: The Dreamosphere

Buy: The Dreamosphere

laura pic b_wAuthor Bio: Laura Stoddard was born in Idaho and spent her formative years running amok in the great outdoors. She received her bachelors degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. After being rejected from the masters program for creative writing she decided that she didn’t need a masters degree to tell her she could write, so she started really dedicating her time to finishing the story she’d started months earlier, with the goal of writing a complete novel, and getting it published. The result is her debut novel, The Dreamosphere, for which her own vivid, bizarre, and incomprehensible dreams provided the inspiration.  Laura is an adrenaline junkie and will try anything once–or twice–or maybe three times. She can already check whitewater rafting, going down in a shark cage, and skydiving (three times) off of her list. Oh, and getting Lasik. It was five minutes of terror. She enjoys hiking, rowing, reading classic literature, embarking on new adventures and hobbies, volunteering regularly, and spending time with family. She currently resides in Phoenix, Ariz.

Website: www.laura-stoddard.com

Walk the Plank with Braden Bell (Author Interview)

Penumbras blog tour

Keira: Tell us about Penumbras.

Braden Bell: Penumbras is the second volume in The Middle School Magic series. The first installment, The Kindling came out last summer. I am currently working on the third volume, which will hopefully come out next summer.

Keira: “Penumbras” is a somewhat unusual title. Can you explain it?

Braden: A penumbra is a vague, shadowy, area, neither fully light nor dark. The Kindling, the first book in the series was about the sparking of new and exciting powers. This particular book follows the characters as they confront the complex consequences of those initial events and confront the shadowy places in their own hearts.

Keira: How did you get the idea for this series?

Braden: One night during a sky-splitting spring thunderstorm, my kids came home from a church activity and told me about a man they had seen driving home. He had a black cape and was walking across people’s yards in the storm. Wondering about who he was and what he was doing triggered the idea for the book.

Keira: What is your background?

Braden: I am a middle school choir and theatre director at a small private school. I’m the father of five children and the husband of one wonderful wife.

Keira: Speaking of that background, is it a coincidence that a middle school theatre and choir teacher has such a prominent part in the book? How about the students and other teachers in the book? Are they based on anyone specific?

Braden: Well, writers write what they know! Dr. Timberi is admittedly similar to me in some ways. However, that’s not because he’s modeled on me. Rather, it’s because he is someone I would like to be. As far as the other characters, in the very beginning, I did sort of model their voices on some specific people—but that changed within a few pages of the first draft and they quickly become their own unique characters.

Keira: Beyond the characters, are there any other events based on real life experiences?

Braden: There is a sad scene towards the end between Dr. Timberi and one of his students. While it is not an exact replication, being a theatre director means I have dealt with disappointed and/or angry students (and parents!) for many years. I tend to have a pretty thick skin. However, there are occasional times when this gets to me. This scene was actually inspired by a particularly difficult confrontation with a student of whom I was quite fond. I wrote the scene as a way of working through the incident—and ended up keeping it. The only other thing that might be based in reality is the degree to which teachers truly do care about their students. I don’t think the students often realize just how much teachers and other adult figures care about them and what they would do to protect and help them.

Keira: What is your favorite thing to do, besides reading or writing?

Braden: My wife and I love to watch old movies, or adaptations of literary classics. Nearly anything by the BBC! I also love working in my yard.

Penumbras 2x3BLURB:

Conner Dell didn’t meant to blow up the school bus.

Or the bathrooms.

In fact, he only wanted to go to sleep and possibly dream about Melanie Stephens.

But explosions had a funny way of happening when Conner and his friends were around.

***

Conner Dell wants to be good–he really does. But he is terrified that he might be turning into a Darkhand, especially when new powers start to surface. What’s worse, the Stalker is following Conner, but no one else seems to be able to see him. The Magi think he might be hallucinating, the guilt of what happened in the Shadowbox keeps weighing on him, and his relationship with Melanie Stephens is complicating things. Even for a Magi, Conner knows his life is anything but normal.

Braden headshot 2012Author Bio:

Braden Bell grew up in Farmington, Utah and graduated from Davis High School. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theatre from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in educational theatre from New York University. He and his wife, Meredith live  with their five children on a quiet, wooded lot outside of Nashville, Tennessee, where he teaches theatre and music at a private school. An experienced performer, Braden enjoys singing, acting, reading, gardening, and long walks with the dog.

Buy: Penumbras (Middle School Magic)

EXCERPT:

CHAPTER ONE

SHADOW PUPPETS

Conner Dell didn’t mean to blow up the school bus.

Or the bathrooms.

In fact, he only wanted to go to sleep and possibly dream about Melanie Stephens.

But explosions had a funny way of happening when Conner and his friends were around.

It all started on the annual seventh grade science trip to the Sea Lab at Dauphin Island, Alabama. Fifty-four thirteen-year-olds on a five-day field trip. What could go wrong?

Especially when three of them happened to be Magi.

#

For a fraction of a second, Conner thought he saw shadows slithering along the base of the cinderblock walls. Tensing, he blinked and looked again.

Nothing. He was alone in the darkness of his dorm room.

Well, except for his friend and fieldtrip roommate, Pilaf.

Across the room, Pilaf disturbed the darkness by turning his flashlight on and digging through a giant floral print suitcase. Fishing a book out, Pilaf hunched over, tucked the flashlight under his chin, and read.

“What are you reading?” Conner asked.

“Sorry. Did I wake you up?” Pilaf squeaked. “I couldn’t sleep. I guess I slept too much on the bus.”

“No worries.” Conner burrowed into his sleeping bag. He didn’t like messing with sheets on these trips. The springs of the ancient bed creaked beneath him. “I’m not sleepy either.” Lexa? Can you hear me? Conner reached out in his thoughts, wondering if his twin sister was awake in her room on the girls’s floor. Head-talking was a cool benefit of being one of the Magi—a secret group of warriors who used the power of Light to battle evil.

No answer from Lexa. Her allergy medicine must have knocked her out.

Melanie? He tried Lexa’s best friend, Melanie Stephens—also one of the Magi-in-training. Conner listened for her response, trying to ignore the backflip in his chest that came when he thought of her. No answer. Melanie had taken something for motion sickness on the bus. She must be knocked out too.

Conner jerked up as something skittered across the ceiling right above him. No doubt this time. He grabbed his own flashlight, raking the beam across the ceiling tiles as someone whispered his name.

Coooonnerrrrrr.

“What?” Conner pointed his flashlight at Pilaf, who looked up from his book, blinking behind his thick glasses. Pilaf’s blinks always reminded Conner of the way a light on a computer blinked when it processed data.

“What?” Pilaf squinted back at him.

“Why did you call me?” Conner asked.

“I didn’t.” Pilaf looked down at his book.

                On edge now, Conner lay back down, scanning the room for more shadowy movement, his fingers ready to snap his flashlight back on at any second.

Co-n-n-e-r-r-r-r-r-r D-e-l-l-l-l-l.

A whispered, hissing sort of growl sounded in his head as a flicker of movement caught his eye. He whipped his head around in time to see a shadowy tail vanish under Pilaf’s bed. Flipping his flashlight on, he investigated the space under the metal frame.

Nothing there.

“What are you doing, Conner?” Pilaf managed to blink and stare at the same time.

Trying to protect you from slithery shadow monsters that could slurp your soul like a slushie, Conner thought. How could he keep the flashlight on without alarming Pilaf? Out loud, he said, “Uh, it’s a game. Flashlight tag. You’re it.” He shined the flashlight at Pilaf.

“How do you play?”

“Well . . . one person’s it and he shines a flashlight all over the room.”

“That’s all?” Pilaf blinked until Conner wondered if he was broadcasting the telephone book in Morse code. “It seems kind of pointless.”

“Uh, yeah.” Conner said. “You’re right. Lame. How about shadow puppets?” He slipped his hand in front of the flashlight, wiggling his fingers until the shadow resembled a horse.

“Cool!” Pilaf shouted.

A knock at the door interrupted them and a tired-looking science teacher poked his head in, glaring beneath tousled red hair. “What’s going on in here?”

“Sorry, Mr. Keller,” Pilaf said. “We slept on the bus ride, so we’re not tired. Conner’s making shadows with his hands. Look, a horse!”

“Neeeiiiiggghhh.” Conner threw in sound effects as a special feature.

Apparently unimpressed with great art, Mr. Keller frowned. “Get some sleep. We have a full day tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir.” Conner swallowed his depression at the thought of a five-day science class. Five days of plankton, ocean salinity, salt marshes, and beach ecology. Five days of science, 24/7. At least they were close to the beach. That might be fun.

“Do another one,” Pilaf whispered as the sound of Mr. Keller’s footsteps retreated down the hall.

“Okay, but be quiet this time.” Conner opened his fingers, making a snake’s mouth, complete with a flickering tongue.

It seemed so real that Conner thought he heard a hiss. Unsettled, he dropped his hands, but the hissing noise continued, twisting into words.

Co-n-n-e-r-r-r-r-r-r D-e-l-l-l-l-l—

Trying to squash the sound, Conner raised his voice. “Here’s another one.” He cupped his hands on top of each other, stuck his thumb up, and opened his fingers slightly.

“Wow!” Pilaf yelled. “A wolf!” He giggled as Conner opened the mouth and growled. “Little pig, little pig let me come in.” Conner prayed that none of the other seventh-grade boys heard he’d been doing Three Little Pigs shadow plays. That would not be cool.

Co-n-n-e-r-r-r-r-r-r D-e-l-l-l-l-l—

The weird voice came louder. Conner dropped his hands away from the flashlight.

The wolf head stayed there.

Fighting panic, Conner switched the flashlight off, but the wolf head remained, darker than the darkest shadows on the wall.

It stretched and grew bigger, becoming life-sized within seconds. It turned and stared at Conner, a three-dimensional head sticking out of the wall like some kind of freaky hunting souvenir.

The wolf growled, then jumped off the wall, and sailed across the room toward Conner.

Buy: Penumbras

Walk the Plank with Catherine Lanigan (Author Interview)

Questions on Adventures of Lilli and Zane: The Golden Flute

First Mate Keira: Tell us about Lilli and Zane’s friendship.  Does it change or grow from where they start in “Adventures of Lilli and Zane: The Golden Flute“?

Catherine Lanigan: It most definitely grows and deepens into love by the time they are adults.

First Mate Keira: What advice do you have for teens about high school, popularity and peer pressure?

Catherine: Be yourself. Be an individual. Liking the current trends in fashion and fun is part of growing into the person you will become.  But never let others make hard decisions for you, especially when you know they are not good for you.

When I was in high school I was friends with all kinds of cliques and groups, but never really part of one group.  I liked diversity in my life and the people I met. When I did run into a group who demanded I dress like them and act like them, I walked away.  Sometimes it was very hard and lonely, but in the end I discovered what I really wanted and who I was.

I had some very hard choices back then and for most of my sophomore year, I was ostracized by a particular group of girls whom I thought were my friends, but I was very wrong. They bullied me and told terrible rumors about me, but I kept my head held high and went about my life.  In time, everyone in the school realized they were wrong and just being very mean and destructive.  Everyone saw that I was right.  As I matured, I realized that I hadn’t changed much from that girl I was at fifteen and sixteen.

First Mate Keira: Like Lilli and Zane, have you ever been on a treasure hunt?  What treasure did you find?

Catherine: I have never been on a treasure hunt or gone on an archeological dig. But I sure want to!

First Mate Keira: What’s one  of your favorite books from childhood and why?

Catherine: My first adult book that I read in middle school was “Kon-Tiki” by Thor Heyerdahl. It was a true adventure of an explorer and how he sailed on a raft across the Pacific Ocean to prove his theory of the origin of the original inhabitants of Easter Island. I soaked that book up like a sponge. I also read every single one of the Hardy Boys Mysteries.

Keira: How do you keep your characters straight and not mix up who is who and who knows what?

Catherine: My characters are real people to me. Lilli is very much like myself at that age and so her reactions and desires are nearly my own.  She just eats healthier than I do.  I very seldom mix up my people, they would get very angry with me if I did!

First Mate Keira: Who are your favorite characters from “Adventures of Lilli and Zane: The Golden Flute“?

Catherine: Teddy is my favorite. He is just so funny, outrageous, courageous and soft-hearted. But still, Lilli is myself as I have said and I adore Zane.  They are all on a fast track discovering their PSI powers and struggling with the fact that they ARE different from all the other kids at school.

First Mate Keira: What’s so special about the flute? Why does everyone want it?

Catherine: Lilli has discovered that the flute could be the ancient golden flute that the Greeks wrote about in their stories about the half goat – half man god, Pan. It could be the trumpet that Joshua blew that tore down the walls of Jericho. The flute emits a high frequency sound that is more powerful than merely breaking glass. It can not only tear down, but re-build.

First Mate Keira: What’s next for you, Lilli and Zane?

Catherine: Next up is “The Adventures of Lilli and Zane: The Hunt for the Olismocchi Treasure”.  In the next book we find modern-day pirates, Spanish doubloons and a magical Indian tribe in the mountains of California.

Buy: Adventures of Lilli and Zane: The Golden Flute

Walk the Plank with Ellen Spain (Author Interview)

First Mate Keira: What drew you to writing, and why did you pick the genre you write:

Ellen: I grew up in the pre-computer era. If you wanted factual information you found it in paper books and newspapers. The “Word” was powerful and depending on how you used the words, could influence peoples attitudes and behavior. I realized this before I was nine years old when I decided I wanted to pursue journalism.

By the time I was in the 8th grade, I published a weekly newsletter of local and upcoming events. Since we didn’t have copy machines, I mimeographed my newsletter. I had a readership of over a hundred subscribers paying a dime to me each week. Big bucks in that era. I continued to work pro-bono as an editor or journalist in high school, college, and in my professional organizations gaining experience in publishing.

During my federal career I was only writing non-fiction, but my desire was to become a mystery novelist by the time I retired. I enjoy reading and writing Mystery interfaced with romance. The YA-Crossover genre is very realistic and that is one reason I continue to write my “Secrets in the Fog” books.

First Mate Keira: Have ever taken a formal writing course and if so what would you tell someone looking to take one?

Ellen: Absolutely. I have taken many writing workshops offered by my professional writing organizations, but realized the correct way was to earn a Master’s degree in Writing. Once I completed the two and a half year program at Seton Hill University, my marketable thesis “Secrets in the Fog: The Invisibility Project” was under contract with a publisher within a few months. Studying writing in a structured environment forces you to think and behave like a professional writer. That opportunity also provides you with the interface to your published faculty as well as with editors the university invites to their writing programs. This summer I will begin a one-year script writing program. Every good novel needs a script to present to a Hollywood film agent.

First Mate Keira: How long do you take to write one of your books?

Ellen: Because I now work as an Acquisitions Editor and also have family responsibilities as well as handling those unexpected weekly crisis, I read about twenty hours a week and write twenty-five hours a week. I want to have a little knowledge about script writing before I start that Program so just added text-book reading into my twenty-plus reading hours.

For writing, I first outline my idea, storyline, actions, and setting before I start the research to insure the facts I plan for the novel are believable. It takes about six weeks for me to produce a readable first draft (definitely not a final manuscript) and an additional three months to be happy with all the critiques and line edits before I draft a final manuscript for submission to a publisher. However, “Danny’s First Love” took me only two months to complete and submit to my publisher.

First Mate Keira: Do you do a lot of research for your books or do you use your own experiences to help you write.

Ellen: I write about the things I have experienced. But since I include a science-based theme in every mystery, I conduct the research to be certain my facts are credible and thus, believable.

First Mate Keira: What would you tell a new author looking to break into the industry?

Ellen: Write what you know and with quality. Refer to the CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE to write quality. DO NOT Self-publish any of your books. If you are rejected by the big traditional publishers, submit your manuscript to any of the small established publishers and ePublishers AFTER you have read their submission guidelines. Submit your “FINAL” manuscript to a reliable and established publisher whose web site shows they can provide you opportunities to market your book if they contract with you.

If the publisher offers you a contract, make sure the fine print does not include losing all your rights to your characters and your lifetime electronic rights as some “traditional” publishers do to new authors. If the publisher rejects your manuscript, don’t take it personally. Just revise following the publisher’s suggestions.

Once your first book is under contract, immediately begin writing another novel. Usually the same publisher will consider your subsequent books. Also, publish with other publishers and write small articles for magazines to build up your publication list. Oh yes, the new author has a much faster chance of being contracted with an ePublisher rather than a “traditional” publisher who usually requires you to have a literary agent to get your foot into their door. After publishing your first twenty eBooks, take six months and write your best-seller novel.

First Mate Keira: Should you choose an ePublisher or a Traditional Print house and why?

Ellen: As mentioned above, the credible established ePublishers have less overhead and can publish books at a faster rate than the “traditional” publisher who has been cutting corners for the past few years due to the declining economy. You don’t need to go through the agonizing process of finding a Literary Agent when you submit to an ePublisher. Moreover, more readers are downloading eBooks because it is cheaper than buying a paperback from the non-existent book stores.

First Mate Keira: You background seems to help your writing quite a bit. Do you think its a vital part of it?

Ellen: Thank you for your question: Having the wonderful opportunity to live on Great Duck Island (Gull Island in the novels) plus all my government travel experiences has indeed helped me maintain my enthusiasm for writing mystery and YA. My background includes a lot of areas described in my bio at EllenSpain.com but you can also read about my work assignments so to speak “between the lines” when you view the photograph albums at my web site. The albums help give credibility to my writings. Additionally, I read and promote my writer friends on my web site. My small way of saying “Thank You” for being there. My husband is also a vital part of my life and without his encouragement, I probably would not have made writing my professional career these past few years.

Ellen Spain, Ph.D. is a retired Federal Investigator, educator, Secretary for the Electronic Industry Publishing Coalition (EPIC), Acquisitions Editor-eTp, researcher, published author and much more www.EllenSpain.com

Walk the Plank with Nancy DiFabbio (Author Interview)

First Mate Keira: What do you enjoy most about writing?

Nancy DiFabbio: I love the freedom to capture my thoughts whenever and wherever I am—as long as I have paper and pencil, laptop or voice recorder. It’s a blessing to be able to work from home. I can take care of my horses and family; I don’t need an expensive wardrobe; and I don’t have to commute.

First Mate Keira: When did you first become interested in horses?

Nancy: I remember my brother and I sitting astride floppy stuffed animals watching cowboys and Indians racing across our little black and white TV. Of course, to us, our mounts were oversized, under-stuffed fabric dogs, they were gleaming stallions. Neither of us gave up dreaming that one day our parents would move some horses into our backyard and I still treasure the innocence that prevented us from realizing the impossibility of that fantasy. A 50’x 50’ plot in our middle class neighborhood wasn’t exactly a horse-friendly environment.

First Mate Keira: In addition to your love of horses, you have spent over 30 years as a wedding dress couturier – do you find similarities between your two passions?

Nancy: Sewing and writing are both creative enterprises that allow me to entertain, inspire and gratify others. It was a pleasure working with the sumptuous fabrics, laces and trims used in bridalwear and an honor playing a such an important role in someone’s life.

As a writer, my work also impacts people’s lives, if only momentarily. Maybe my words have done nothing more than bring a quick smile to their lips or a flash of fear when they first encounter the spirit in the painting, but it’s an honor to do that as well. I’d love to think that perhaps something I’ve written has made someone think more deeply about their own life choices, fears or passions.

First Mate Keira: As a YA author, who do you envision as your intended/target audience?

Nancy: I’m gratified—but not surprised–to learn that Midnight Magic is finding an audience among adults as well as teens. Sometimes we all need to read something that frees our imagination and leaves us pleasantly satiated, like comfort food for the soul.

That being said, I think Midnight Magic will be among the favored books of 9-12 year old girls who haven’t (hopefully)yet reached the age when they are drawn to more mature topics, i.e. sex, drugs, drinking, etc.

First Mate Keira: Do you think YA authors today have a responsibility to create appropriate content for young readers?

Nancy: Authors of tween and teen novels should remember that that their words can have a lasting impact on an adolescent’s life choices. Glorifying an abusive, controlling “bad boy” sends the message that this behavior is appropriate and desirable.

Controversial topics should certainly be addressed in YA literature but I am strongly opposed to graphic descriptions of sex or violence. Good writing can evoke strong emotions and inspire thought without resorting to this lazy fix.

Buy: Midnight Magic

Walk the Plank with M.J. Putney (Author Interview)

This interview with M.J. Putney is cross posted at my romance book blog, Love Romance Passion.

First Mate Keira: How did you go from writing adult romances to YA romances? When did you know you wanted to write YA?

MJP: I had a story that would fit best in YA because it’s a blend of history, adventure, and magic. It isn’t first and foremost a romance. Since I’ve read YA for years, I knew that’s where Tory’s story belongs.

First Mate Keira: Dark Mirror sounds like the antithesis to Harry Potter. Magic isn’t revered, it’s despised. You don’t go to school to learn it and get better at using it, you go to a reform school to learn how not to use magic. How did the idea first come to you?

MJP: I’m not really sure, but I have a contrarian streak. I look at a usual structure and immediately want to turn it upside down. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what I did with the first romance I ever wrote.

First Mate Keira: What would you do if you could do magic? What would be the best/worst part of having such a gift?

MJP: Magic sounds like it would be a really cool gift, and indeed, it would be lovely to be able travel anywhere in a finger snap, or assure that the weather would be perfect for a party. But there would be a high moral cost, since I’m sure there would be a temptation to use it in selfish and possible destructive ways. And there would be a social cost, as well, since having magic would make one feel strange and horribly different, and perhaps even frightened of being revealed. And that fear of being different is probably at its height in the teen years, which may be why YA readers tend to identify with those who feel different.

First Mate Keira: Describe your first kiss. Did it live up to expectations?

MJP: LOL! Has any first kiss ever done so?

First Mate Keira: What’s next for the Dark Passage series?

MJP: The second book, Dark Passage, which will be out in September 2011, sends Tory and her friends to France. I’m not sure about the third book. I’m debating two quite different plot directions.

DARK MIRROR – MJ Putney

Lady Victoria Mansfield, youngest daughter of the earl and countess of Fairmount, is destined for a charmed life. Soon she will be presented during the London season, where she can choose a mate worthy of her status.

Yet Tory has a shameful secret—a secret so powerful that, if exposed, it could strip her of her position and disgrace her family forever. Tory’s blood is tainted . . . by magic.

When a shocking accident forces Tory to demonstrate her despised skill, the secret she’s fought so hard to hide is revealed for all to see. She is immediately exiled to Lackland Abbey, a reform school for young men and women in her position. There she will learn to suppress her deplorable talents and maybe, if she’s one of the lucky ones, be able to return to society.

But Tory’s life is about to change forever. All that she’s ever known or considered important will be challenged. What lies ahead is only the beginning of a strange and wonderful journey into a world where destiny and magic come together, where true love and friendship find her, and where courage and strength of character are the only things that determine a young girl’s worth.

Buy: Dark Mirror

GIVEAWAY: I have 3 copies of Dark Mirror to give away today at LYAF. Open to readers in the US & CANADA. Enter by leaving a comment below. 1 entry per relevant comment. Last day to enter: March 11, 2011. PS – LRP is running the same contest so double your chances by heading over there to leave a comment too.

Blog Tour for DARK MIRROR by MJ Putney

Tuesday 1-Mar Culture Mob
Wednesday 2-Mar Midnight Blooms
Thursday 3-Mar
Friday 4-Mar Eating YA Books
Saturday 5-Mar Green Bean Teen Queen
Sunday 6-Mar Love Romance Passion / Literature Young Adult Fiction
Monday 7-Mar Words for Teens
Tuesday 8-Mar Pure Imagination
Wednesday 9-Mar The Story Siren
Thursday 10-Mar My Pal Amy
Friday 11-Mar YA Bliss
Saturday 12-Mar The Book Smugglers
Sunday 13-Mar Wondrous Reads
Monday 14-Mar Novel Voice
Tuesday 15-Mar
Wednesday 16-Mar TeenReads.com