Archive | April, 2012


30 Apr
Hey everyone! This week I’m super-psyched to host James Mihaley, author of YOU CAN’T HAVE MY PLANET BUT TAKE MY BROTHER, PLEASE (that title–can’t even get over how much I love it!) Here’s a little more about his debut:

Thirteen-year-old Giles is the last person anyone would expect to save the planet. he’s not as charming as his little sister, and not as brainy as his goody-goody older brother. But when Giles witnesses an alien realtor showing Earth to possible new tenants, he knows he’d better do something. With the help of an alien “attorney” and the maddest scientist in middle-grade fiction, Giles just might save humans from eviction from Earth. Let’s hope so. The alternatives are…not so hospitable.

But wait, you say! The main character in that book isn’t a little girl – it’s a boy! Maybe, but YOU CAN’T HAVE MY PLANET BUT TAKE MY BROTHER, PLEASE contains some of the coolest female characters in fiction. Read on to learn more!

My four favorite female characters in literature all reside in my middle grade novel, ‘You Can’t Have My Planet But Take My Brother, Please’. What a coincidence that they’re all in one book! Although I have a male protagonist, and the whacky humor and sci-fi adventure appeal to boys, I was committed to creating female characters who were vibrant and unforgettable. Here they are:

1. Tula: She is a thirteen year old alien environmental lawyer. Tula is representing humanity against the forces who are trying to evict us from Earth because we’re such lousy tenants. She is brilliant, fearless and has major connections, like Dr. Melissa Sprinkles.

2. Dr. Melissa Sprinkles: She is an alien mad scientist. She invented an army of androids that can turn paper back into trees and will help restore Earth to its original splendor. Dr. Sprinkles has a moveable face. When you’re talking to her, it will dart all over her body, so you really need to stay focused.

3. Nikki: She is the six year old little sister of my main character, Giles. Nikki is a violin prodigy. In the book she plays the sheet music for the Music Of The Spheres. The real Music Of The Spheres, composed in Infinity. The hypnotic notes from Nikki’s violin create a sound frequency which helps trigger an environmental miracle on Earth.

4. Princess Petulance: On the dark side we have the Princess. She is hoping the humans will get evicted. Then she will take over Earth. She has a pirate tattoo on her arm. He is alive. He has a miniature cannon and likes to aim it at people. Watch out. There’s a pea-sized cannonball coming at you right now!


Rachel Grinti, Author of CLAWS, Talks Tamora Pierce

23 Apr

Hey there everyone! 

I took a little hiatus last week to rethink the blog schedule. In honor of MG Monday (a concept I love!) I’ve decided to switch my interviews and guest posts with great debut writers to Mondays instead of Tuesdays. Work for you? Great! 

This week I’m happy to host Rachel Grinti, author of CLAWS. Here’s a little more about her debut: 

Emma’s sister is missing. Her parents have spent all their savings on the search. And now the family has no choice but to live in a ramshackle trailer park on the edge of the forest, next door to down-and-out harpies, hags, and trolls. Emma wonders if she’ll ever see Helena, and if she’ll ever feel happy, again.

Then she makes a friend.

A smooth-talking, dirty-furred cat named Jack. He’s got a razor-sharp plan to rescue Emma’s sister. He just wants one small favor in return…

CLAWS comes out September 1st, 2012. Read on to hear about Rachel’s favorite female characters: 

I sat down to think about my favorite heroine in literature… and I got stuck. Too many awesome girls come to mind, and there’s no way I can choose just one! There are a few heroines who stand out because of the impact they had on me when I was younger. I loved reading about awesome, adventurous heroines. Characters who did things I couldn’t — and by that, I don’t just mean saving the world. I was a pretty shy kid, and I retreated into fantasy worlds I could imagine myself being part of.

There was Cimorene from the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle, Karana from Island of the Blue Dolphins, Julie from Julie of the Wolves.

And there was Alanna, the lady knight of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce. When I was twelve, I came across In the Hand of the Goddess at the local library. It was book 2 in a series I’d never read, and the cover was faded and dingy, but it came home with me anyway. I went back for the rest of the books, and I was hooked. Alanna was a character my own age with magic and knights and castles and awesome things like that. She was a girl who set goals and succeeded when the world told her she couldn’t. And she also dealt with getting her first period and stumbling through relationships. She was heroic, but she also felt real, so that made her awesome.

The first random gift I ever gave my husband when we started dating was a copy of Alanna: The First Adventure after I found out he’d never read it. I think the influence on our characters is something harder to define. We wanted to write strong girls that kids can relate to. They struggle with the same things, even when they live in completely different worlds.

When Mike and I wrote CLAWS, we knew it was going to be about a strong girl fighting to put her family back together again. When she realizes her parents can’t solve their problems, she takes it upon herself. She gets some pretty powerful magic powers, but magic alone can’t solve everything — and sometimes it can make things worse. Emma’s real strength is in her ability to stay true to herself, even when she’s faced with easier options.

…I also just realized both Emma and Alanna have talking cats.

Learn more about Rachel, and CLAWS, here. 

Girls (uhm, I mean, er, women) I Love: Ashley Judd

12 Apr

 Coolest thing to happen all week? When Ashley Judd completely pwned entertainment media with this insightful, intelligent essay she wrote about the sexist coverage of women in the media.

Basically, if you don’t spend all of your time reading articles that catalog every slight imperfection of women in the media, a bunch of entertainment websites had a heyday when Ashley Judd appeared in public looking every so slightly less than perfect. (THE NERVE!) Basically, her face was a little puffy and instead of oh, I don’t know–asking her why (not that it matters but if we’re going to play devil’s advocate here) they concocted a bunch of far fetched, strange rumors about plastic surgery and her, basically, losing her touch.

Ashley then became my ultimate hero by, as I mentioned above, writing the coolest thing ever.

Read the essay. Discuss. Add your thoughts in the comments.

Jenn Reese, Author of ABOVE WORLD, talks THE WESTING GAME

10 Apr

Today on the blog Jenn Reese, author of ABOVE WORLD, which which came out in February, stops by to write about THE WESTING GAME. Here’s a little more info about her amazing debut, ABOVE WORLD: 

Thirteen-year-old Aluna has lived her entire life under the ocean with the Coral Kampii in the City of Shifting Tides. But after centuries spent hidden from the Above World, her colony’s survival is in doubt. The Kampii’s breathing necklaces are failing, but the elders are unwilling to venture above water to seek answers. Only headstrong Aluna and her friend Hoku are stubborn and bold enough to face the terrors of land to search for way to save their people. 

But can Aluna’s warrior spirit and Hoku’s tech-savvy keep them safe? Set in a world where overcrowding has led humans to adapt—growing tails to live under the ocean or wings to live on mountains—here is a ride through a future where greed and cruelty have gone unchecked, but the loyalty of friends remains true.

Ohmigod it’s like warrior version of the Little Mermaid! Love it. And now, Jenn: 

This is Jenn's childhood copy of THE WESTING GAME. How cute is that?

Before I started reading adult fantasy and science fiction novels — a pastime that occupied most of my teen years — I was in a special Newbery program. Instead of attending class, I got to go to the library and read as many Newbery winners and honor books as I wanted. (Which, it turns out, was all of them.) I think Karana from Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins is an amazing heroine — caring, resilient, smart, and the ultimate survivor. She’d be an easy pick, and is definitely one of the toughest heroines I’ve ever enjoyed adventuring with. But there’s another girl who will always be my favorite inspiration: Turtle Wexler from Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game.

Turtle, an unrepentant tomboy, is the second daughter of Grace Windsor Wexler and a perpetual disappointment to her mother. Unlike Angela, Grace’s favorite daughter, Turtle is rude, unkempt, and almost repulsively independent. If someone pulls her pigtail, she kicks them in the shin. Turtle rides her bike everywhere, can go toe-to-toe in an argument with boys much older than herself, and is brave despite her insecurities and fears. When we first hear the tale of how two boys died and went insane after venturing into the haunted Westing house, Turtle is no sooner done shivering when she offers to go into the house herself… for the right price. She may not have to hunt for food or fight wild dogs like O’Dell’s Karana, but she has to survive a mother who clearly disdains her and a family in which she feels she has no place. And truly, that is no small task.

Much like Turtle, Aluna in my novel Above World feels lost and forgotten in her family. She’s the youngest of five, and her brothers and sister are all successful and wildly popular members of the underwater Kampii community. Even her father is a law-abiding Elder, respected and admired by everyone. Aluna is alone, struggling to stay true to herself in a world that seems to be pushing her to become something she’s not. Kampii women can’t be hunters — not when the community needs more babies — yet Aluna longs to wield a spear and hunt in the wide ocean. And just as Turtle volunteers to enter Westing’s haunted house by herself, Aluna goes where no one else in her community is brave enough to venture — out of the water to the Above World. She doesn’t do it on a dare, but to find some way to save her people.

Aluna and Turtle don’t look much alike — Aluna keeps her hair short so it doesn’t get in her way, whereas Turtle wields her infamous braid like a weapon. But the influence is there. They are both outsiders, the forgotten, the so-called disappointments, and they both far exceed other people’s expectations of them by staying true to themselves.

Learn more about Jenn and ABOVE WORLD here!

Kami Kinard and THE BOY PROJECT

4 Apr

Today on the blog Kami Kinard, author of THE BOY PROJECT, which which came out in January, stops by to write about female characters, Shannon Hale’s THE PRINCESS ACADEMY and why she hates using the word “favorite”. For a little more info about her amazing debut, THE BOY PROJECT, check out her trailer: 


And now, Kami:

Oh boy, I mean girl, I freak out a little when someone uses the words favorite and literature in the same sentence because I love love love reading and I could never name a favorite anything from all of the books I’ve read. BUT there are some female characters who I feel are unforgettable, and one of those is Miri from Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy. Tiny Miri is considered too small to work in the quarry like the rest of her community. Because she cannot rely on physical strength for fulfillment, she must employ other strengths: brainpower and determination. Armed with these, she is able to fight bandits. Armed with these, she is able to stand for what she believes in, instead of what is being pushed upon her by society. Brainpower and determination are two of my favorite traits in female characters.

I could not say that Miri exactly influenced my main character. When writing THE BOY PROJECT (NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS OF KARA MCALLISTER) I strove to create a strong female character, so I gave Kara McAllister the traits of real females who I admire. I think I was drawn to Miri because she shares those traits.

Like Miri, Kara is brainy. She is does a lot of thinking, creating charts and graphs, taking notes, and making lists. She is a keen observer of the world around her, just as Miri is. And like Miri, it is ultimately through these observations that she comes to understand what is most important to her life, and it isn’t what she originally thought it was at all.

Kara’s story is lighter and more humorous than Miri’s, but they share a sense of determination that comes from a feeling deep within. Both are comfortable with who they are. This makes it easier for them to face their fears, their problems, and the world. Strong female characters are awesome. I look forward to being introduced to many more through this blog!

Learn more about Kami (and Kara Mcallister) here.