Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Officially Official Book Cover for UNDERWATER

Hello, hello! So UNDERWATER is starting to feel officially official because it now has a cover. You guys, when my editor, Joy Peskin, sent me this design, I gasped in awe. To say I love it would be an understatement. The cover is designed by the super talented Andrew Arnold who also designed the stunning cover for Ava Dellaira's LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD. 

Behold the pretty!


UNDERWATER will be published on January 12, 2016 by
FSG/Macmillan and Macmillan Children's UK.

About the Book:
In the aftermath of a deadly high school shooting, 17-year-old Morgan is an agoraphobic trapped in the apartment she shares with her mother and brother; when surfer boy Evan moves in next door, she has to face the life she's been missing. 


Sunday, March 1, 2015

An Interview with Kathryn Holmes, Author of THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND

I was lucky enough to get an ARC (advanced readers copy) of THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND (HarperTeen, February 17 2015) by Kathryn Holmes. I adored her lovely YA contemporary debut and I highly recommend grabbing a copy. This is an extended version of the interview I did with her for The Sweet Sixteens.

About the Author:

Kathryn Holmes grew up in Maryville, Tennessee, where she was an avid reader and an aspiring writer from an early age. She now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and piles upon piles of books. A graduate of The New School’s MFA in Creative Writing program, Kathryn works as a freelance dance journalist, among other writing gigs. The Distance Between Lost and Found is her debut novel.

Find Kathryn on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads

About THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND: 

Sophomore Hallelujah Calhoun has just endured the most excruciating six months of her life. Once the rumors about her and the preacher’s son, Luke, made their way around school, her friends abandoned her, and Hallie has completely withdrawn. Now, on a hike in the Smoky Mountains with the same people who have relentlessly taunted her, Hallie is pushed to her limit. Then Hallie, outgoing newcomer Rachel, and Jonah—Hallie’s former friend—get separated from the rest of the group. As days go by without rescue, their struggle for survival turns deadly. Stranded in the wilderness, the three have no choice but to trust one another in order to stay alive . . . and for Hallie, that means opening up about what really happened that night with Luke.

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND is available for purchase at Amazon, Powell's, Books a Million, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.



Marisa: Can you tell us a bit about your road to publication? Finding your agent, your editor, etc.?

Kathryn: Sure! I started writing THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND at a point when I was feeling a little discouraged about the publication process. I’d been revising and querying and revising and querying a previous book for several years, getting so close but with no offers of representation. I was trying to come to terms with the idea that maybe that book—which I’d once been so confident about—just wasn’t meant to be. DISTANCE gave me the chance to work on something completely different for a while. I thought it might give me some perspective. And then I fell in love with the manuscript.

I drafted and did three revisions in about 10 months, and then entered my query into WriteOnCon’s “Luck o’ the Irish Pitchfest” (a St. Patrick’s Day–themed affair) in 2013. I’d planned on using the pitchfest as a testing ground for my query, since the book was still so new, but instead, the most amazing thing happened. Alyssa Eisner Henkin of Trident Media Group selected my query as her winner, and the prize was a full manuscript read. A week later, I got the e-mail I’d been dreaming of: she loved the book and wanted to discuss representation. After we talked on the phone, I didn’t have a shred of doubt about signing with her, despite the fact that no other agents had read the manuscript. Alyssa just got it.

About two months later, DISTANCE went out on submission. The first editor to read it was Alexandra Cooper at HarperTeen. As other editors kept passing for various reasons, Alex continued to push my book up the ladder at Harper. When she and I talked on the phone, it was just like it had been with Alyssa. I loved Alex’s enthusiasm for the book and her ideas for taking it to the next level. And so, when Harper made a formal offer, saying yes was pretty much a no-brainer.

Marisa: What was the "ah-ha" moment for the idea for THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND? The moment of inspiration, so to speak. Did you hit the ground running once you thought of it or let it marinate? Did you have a feeling this book was "The One?"

Kathryn: The whole book came from the name “Hallelujah Calhoun”! Some good friends of mine gave their daughter “Hallelujah” as an unofficial middle name, and when I heard it, I knew I was going to write a book about a 16-year-old girl with that name. I knew the book would be set in East Tennessee, where I grew up. I also knew the story would have a crisis of faith as one element—how could it not, with a main character named Hallelujah?—and that I wanted it to take place over seven days, like the creation account in Genesis. I knew Hallelujah would become someone different, someone new, over those seven days. But…I had no actual plot. I let the idea marinate for a few months, tossing around different scenarios. At one point, the characters were going to go on an overnight hike in the Smoky Mountains—and then it hit me. What if they got lost? What if that ordeal was what helped Hallelujah recreate herself? It snowballed from there.

And yes—I knew from the first draft that this was “the one.” I wrote in a frenzy. I knew there were plot holes, and I knew the characters were only sketches of who they’d eventually become, but I also knew, in my gut, that I had found the story I needed to tell.

Marisa: Your book was both harrowing and hopeful and you did such a fantastic job of throwing obstacles at your characters. What kind of research did you do to in order to nail the setting, survival, and possible missteps that Hallie, Rachel, and Jonah face while lost in the wilderness? 

I did enough day hikes in the Smokies growing up that I was able to write the first draft without getting too bogged down in research. I simply thought of the worst possible thing I could do to my characters at any given point in the story, trying to keep the stakes escalating. (Hm. Time for someone else to get injured. How can I make that happen?)

In revision, I did more research on the details. What plants are in bloom in April in the Smokies? What’s the temperature first thing in the morning on a mountaintop? What exact trail did my characters start on, and where exactly do they end up? I looked online, and I ran details by my dad, who’s an avid recreational hiker. I also emailed back and forth with the Chief Ranger of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, who was kind enough to read a short plot synopsis and to answer my questions about the Park’s search-and-rescue procedures. I wanted the mountain setting to be almost a character in its own right, and so I knew I had to make it as accurate and vivid as possible.
 Marisa: If you could describe your dream reader, who would it be?

Kathryn: It may be cliché to say that my dream reader is me in high school, but…that just might be it. I wanted to write a book that I would have devoured as a teen, but that would have also made me think and ask questions about why I believed what I believed. I wanted teen Kathryn to see a bit of herself on the page.

Aside from that, my dream is to see someone reading my book in the NYC subway. That would blow my mind.

Marisa: What is your next project?

Kathryn: My next YA Contemporary is due out from HarperTeen in Summer 2016! It’s about a teen ballet dancer with body image issues who is sent to an anxiety camp for elite artists and athletes, where she gets into a complicated relationship with one of her counselors.

Lightning Round Questions:

Pen and paper, computer or typewriter? 

Computer. I have to get the words down at the speed of thought!

Planner or pantser?  

Pantsing plotter? Plotting pantser? Basically, I need a loose skeleton to guide me, so the story can unfold on its own.

Sing in the choir or sing in the shower?  

Sing in the shower—and I do. Often. The acoustics are killer.

Song that makes you think of your book?

There are so many! I made a playlist to go along with the book, filled with music I listened to while writing it, artists Hallie loves, and songs that remind me of certain scenes. But as for single songs, The Avett Brothers’ “The Weight of Lies” sums the book up pretty well. 

Oddest job you've ever had?

Writing marketing copy for small business websites. On any given day, I might have to wax poetic about tax resolution, plumbing problems, basement waterproofing, junk removal, appliance repair…

Favorite writing snack?

Honestly, I try not to snack while I’m writing, because I’ll have no idea how much I’ve eaten until the package is gone! My one absolute must-have is coffee.

Captain Kirk or Captain von Trapp?

This question actually made me LOL! I have to go with James Tiberius Kirk.

What were you reading when you were sixteen?

A solid mix of classics (for school and for pleasure) and fast-paced murder mysteries. I used to devour series like Sue Grafton’s Alphabet books (“A” IS FOR ALIBI, etc.) and Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta mysteries. I’d finish every book in one series and move straight on to the next.

Which actors play Hallie, Rachel, and Jonah in the movie version?

I think Hailee Steinfeld from “True Grit” and “Ender’s Game” would make a terrific Hallie—and not just because of her name. Kiernan Shipka (Sally Draper on “Mad Men”) could bring good depth to Rachel. Jonah’s the hardest, because I have the clearest picture of him in my head! That said, I was really impressed by Liam James in the movie “The Way, Way Back.” He’s shorter than Jonah is supposed to be, but I think he could capture Jonah’s inner conflict and quiet strength.

Three things you'd want with you if you got lost in the wilderness?
This is a loaded question, given all the research I’ve done on this topic! Luckily, since I plan to stay in one place until the rescuers find me, I may not need a full backpack of supplies. I’ll say a water bottle, a flint or lighter to start a campfire, and, obviously, a good book. 

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND is available for purchase at Amazon, Powell's, Books a Million, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

So Long, 2014

It’s been quite a year, you guys.

At this time last year, I had sent out one measly query letter. I was waiting until after the holidays to start my real push into the slush pile. I blew out my birthday candles in December and made a wish that 2014 would be the year I’d sign with an agent. I felt good about the book I’d written. It was borne from the need to write about a high school girl with debilitating anxiety and after I had that part down, I had to figure out just exactly what happened to get her there.

So I spent ten months in 2013 putting it together. And in October, I had a first draft of SHUT-IN (now UNDERWATER). I had a really strong feeling this book could be THE ONE while I accepted the fact that my other two full manuscripts would only sit safely on a thumb drive, never to be heard from again.

But if you had told me last December that 2014 would turn out to be as fabulous as it has been, I don’t know that I would’ve believed you. I’d have wanted to believe you. But I wouldn’t have.

Because I am a realist cloaked in a cape of pessimism.

But the truth is, 2014 has rocked my socks off. It’s been the dream-come-true kind of stuff.

Nevertheless, some of my nearest and dearest pals have had a super shitty 2014. For this, I feel almost guilty. How is it fair that I am on such a high when they are on such a low? And will the teeter-totter of life eventually reverse so that I’m back
           
                                    down
                                                           
                                                                                    here?


Maybe.

But for now, I will hang on to the last hours of 2014. I will revel in them. I will celebrate them.

And then I’ll take on 2015.