After nearly four years on Livejournal, the Inkpot is moving to blogger! Our new address on the web is

And to help celebrate our move, we are throwing our annual Inkies Extravaganza Book Giveaway for 2012! Take a look at the three piles of books you can win! And all you have to do to win one of these fabulous prizes is to change your Inkpot destination from this page to here. So join us at our new location!

Fully Fledged Shamelessness

Sorry we weren't around last week.  Apparently, some of our shamelessnesses weren't quite ripe yet.  They needed another week on the vine before I could pluck them.

But now, fully matured, here's our Shameless Saturday post!

Starting off with news of a new sale!!!  Always a great opener, don't you think?  Anna Staniszewski's follow ups to MY VERY UNFAIRLY TALE LIFE have sold! Here's the official announcement:

Author of MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE, Anna Staniszewski’s next two in the series, MY WAY TOO FAIRY TALE LIFE and HAPPILY FAIRY AFTER, to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

I can't wait!

Next up, R.L. LaFevers's brand new young adult novel is turning heads.  GRAVE MERCY got two starred reviews this week! From Booklist:

Grave Mercy [Starred Review]
LaFevers, Robin (Author)
Apr 2012. 528 p. Houghton, hardcover, $16.99. (9780547628349).
In the late fifteenth century, Mortain, the god of death, has sired Ismae to be his handmaiden. She will carry out his wishes by working through the Convent, where she has found refuge from a brutal father and husband. After learning the Convent’s wily warfare and womanly arts, and being apprenticed to Sister Serafina (poisons mistress and Convent healer), 17-year-old Ismae is sent to the high court of Brittany ostensibly as the cousin (aka mistress) of the Breton noble Duval—but, in truth, she’s there as a spy.

Her tacit assignment is to protect the young duchess by assassinating Duval if he proves to be a traitor, an assignment made more difficult because of the couple’s attraction to each other. LaFevers has written a dark, sophisticated novel true to the fairy tale conventions of castles, high courts, and good vs. evil, yet it’s spiced with poison potions, violent (and sometimes merciful) assassinations, subtle seductions, and gentle, perfect love. With characters that will inspire the imagination, a plot that nods to history while defying accuracy, and a love story that promises more in the second book, this is sure to attract feminist readers and romantics alike.

And from Kirkus:

Author: LaFevers, Robin

Fiction and history coalesce in a rich, ripping tale of assassinations, political intrigue and religion in 15th-century Brittany.

When the pig farmer who paid three coins to wed Ismae sees the red scar across her back, he cracks her in the skull and hurls her into the root cellar until a priest can come “to burn you or drown you.” The scar shows that Ismae’s mother poisoned her in utero; Ismae’s survival of that poisoning proves her sire is Mortain, god of death. A hedge priest and herbwitch spirit Ismae to the convent of St. Mortain, where nuns teach her hundreds of ways to kill a man. “We are mere instruments of Mortain…. His handmaidens, if you will. We do not decide who to kill or why or when. It is all determined by the god.” After Ismae’s first two assassinations, the abbess sends her to Brittany’s high court to ferret out treason against the duchess and to kill anyone Mortain marks, even if it’s someone Ismae trusts—or loves. Brittany fights to remain independent from France, war looms and suitors vie nefariously for the duchess’ hand. Ismae’s narrative voice is fluid and solid, her spying and killing skills impeccable. LaFevers’ ambitious tapestry includes poison and treason and murder, valor and honor and slow love, suspense and sexuality and mercy.

A page-turner—with grace. (map, list of characters) (Historical thriller. 14 & up)

In celebration, hee, Robin has just launched a new website, where you can learn more about the books and read the first chapter!!!

Speaking of amazing reviews, Kate Coombs's picture book HANS MY HEDGEHOG has racked up some accolades, including the New York Times which said:

Kudos to Kate Coombs (“The Secret-Keeper”) and John Nickle (“Never Take a Shark to the Dentist”) for dusting off the story of a lonely swine-boy with a musical sensibility, his rooster steed and a forest full of dancing pig friends. In this very liberal retelling, Hans’s parents are accepting rather than cruel, and Hans himself is a more admirable if less nuanced creature (the Brothers Grimm would have him slaughtering pigs and mistreating a princess).

The changes are mostly welcome, even if Hans’s fiddle, instead of bagpipes, seems a bit pedestrian. Still, this twisty mash-up of “The Princess and the Frog” and “Beauty and the Beast” introduces a spirited hero who handles his misfit status well, even if he does resort to a smattering of revenge. Creatures with quills, no matter how sweetly illustrated, are bound to be a bit testy.

Booklist, School Library Journal, Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly agree, with the latter's starred review declaring:

"In a feat that may astound fairy tale cognoscenti, Coombs (The Runaway Dragon) and Nickle (Never Take a Shark to the Dentist) transform a once-prickly story into something witty and warm."

Damn, our Inkies are awesome.

Following that statement, Jennifer Nielsen rounds out our news this week with literally a barrage of awesome.  First, we have the cover for the final book in the ELLIOT trilogy: ELLIOT AND THE LAST UNDERWORLD WAR (Sourcebooks, Apr `12). In this final confrontation between Elliot and the evil demon Kovol, Elliot will need the help of his friends, family, and possibly even his arch-nemesis, Cami!

But THE FALSE PRINCE won't be outshone. Foreign rights for Jennifer's ASCENDANCE trilogy, beginning with THE FALSE PRINCE (Scholastic, Apr `12) have been sold at auction to Bayard in France, and also to Santillana for Spanish translation rights, and Astrel for Russian translation. And to top it all off, Jennifer has a brand new trailer for THE FALSE PRINCE!

PHEW! What a ride. That's all for this week. See you in February!
  • hooton


I am delighted to welcome to the Inkpot Tim Collins, who has written the award winning humorous YA fantasy series DIARY OF A WIMPY VAMPIRE, DIARY OF A WIMPY VAMPIRE 2: PRINCE OF DORKNESS and ADVENTURES OF A WIMPY WEREWOLF, which are best described as TWILIGHT meets THE SECRET DIARY OF ADRIAN MOLE.

Hi, Tim, and welcome to the Inkpot. Where did the idea for DIARY OF A WIMPY VAMPIRE come from and were you consciously influenced by TWILIGHT?

It was originally going to be a direct parody of Twilight, but my publisher already had one of those, so I decided to make it a more general vampire comedy. I’m glad I did because, much as I love Twilight, it’s not a million miles away from parody in the first place.

One of the things that I like about DIARY OF A WIMPY VAMPIRE and ADVENTURES OF A WIMPY WEREWOLF is that it mixes character comedy with some excruciatingly funny situations and then throws in snappy lines. How do you go about pulling that together – do you plan it from the start, let it grow organically or is it a mix of the two?

I’ve always thought that if you come up with a character based on a contradiction then the gags will write themselves. This would certainly explain the current fad for mash-ups. Most of them are based on very simple comic juxtapositions, like Monty Python sketches.

Prior to writing WIMPY VAMPIRE and WIMPY WEREWOLF you’d written a number of comedy books for grown-ups. Is there a difference in how you approach comedy for teens and comedy for grown-ups and are there any hints and tips that you’d be willing to share?

Unfortunately, writing for children meant that I couldn’t rely on the usual swearing and eighties pop culture references to get easy laughs. Younger children seem to like broad, slapstick stuff, whereas teens enjoy seeing characters suffering shame and embarrassment. You only need to watch The Inbetweeners for proof of that.

Are you Team Vampire or Team Werewolf?

I’m hedging my bets in case either group takes over the world and enslaves the human race. Let’s just say that whoever our new supernatural overlords turn out to be, I’ll be happy to serve them.

Let’s talk about Nigel’s poetry. Nigel expresses his feelings through the medium of poetry, which he seems to think are individual works of genius, but which the reader may have different opinions about. How difficult was it to write and how did you set about doing it?

It wasn’t so hard to come up with an approximation of bad poetry, but I think that to create truly terrible poetry you either need to be fourteen or a brilliant poet doing everything wrong on purpose. I love Wendy Cope’s Jason Strugnell character, for instance.

I thought it was interesting that having set up Nigel Mullet in the first two WIMPY VAMPIRE books, you switch to a new character, Luke Thorpe, in WIMPY WEREWOLF, but you bring in characters from the previous two books. Why did you make the switch and were there any challenges in bringing new characters into the world and story arc that you’d created?

It was either a bold attempt to create an intertextual universe or something the publishers requested because they thought werewolves were popular, I forget which. But it was a lot of fun to bring all the characters together at the end of the werewolf book.

The WIMPY VAMPIRE books have been translated into Portuguese and German – did that pose any difficulties in terms of getting the humour across?

As far as I can tell, the results have been mixed. Nigel the Vampire seems to be very popular in Portugal, where he has 15,000 Facebook fans, but not in Germany, where he has just 23 fans. It doesn’t look like he’ll be replacing Herr Bean in the affections of the German people anytime soon.

Thank you for taking the time to pop by the Inkpot, Tim.

DIARY OF A WIMPY VAMPIRE, DIARY OF A WIMPY VAMPIRE 2: PRINCE OF DORKNESS and ADVENTURES OF A WIMPY WEREWOLF are available to order in paperback and on Kindle from Amazon UK.

You can find out more about Tim Collins and his other books on his website here.

Interview with Kate Coombs author of HANS MY HEDGEHOG

Today we have a special treat. An Inkie gets to interview one of our own! Kate Coombs is releasing an adorable retelling of Hans My Hedgehog, a classic Grimm’s Brothers Fairytale. This children’s tale is illustrated by John Nickle and is being released by Atheneum.

A classic tale of love and acceptance from the Brothers Grimm is beautifully rendered in this magical retelling. Hans is an unusual boy. Born a hedgehog from the waist up, he knows what it’s like to truly be an outcast. Even his amazing fiddle playing can’t help him fit in. So Hans flees to the forest with his herd of loyal pigs and only his music to keep him company. But then a most unusual thing happens: When Hans crosses paths with two kings with two lovely daughters, his luck starts to change. Will this lonely soul find true love after all?

This lively and lyrical retelling of the classic Grimm’s tale, paired with lush, detailed illustrations, reminds us of the power of music, the importance of belonging, and the transformative effect of love.

 So let’s see what Kate can tell us about it!

Why did you decide to retell "Hans My Hedgehog"?

Funny story, actually—it was the illustrator's idea. John Nickle told his editor at Atheneum that he wanted to do a picture book version of "Hans My Hedgehog." The editor read the Grimms' version and decided that it would not do. My editor at Atheneum mentioned to John's editor that I was good with folktales, so I got a call. Susan told me that the original was "violent and meandering" and asked me to write a retelling. So that's how the project started.

Your story reminded me of the story of Jepthah's daughter in the Bible. I wonder if that is where the Grimm brothers got it from.

This would be about each of the kings promising to give Hans the first thing they saw when they got home. In the Bible, that kind of promise turns out really badly! Since "Hans My Hedgehog" is from the oral tradition, it has certainly crossed my mind that some long-ago storyteller who knew his or her Old Testament used that piece of the Jepthah story to construct part of the plot for "Hans."

Is this your first book?

No, it's my fourth. I have written a picture book that's an original folktale, The Secret-Keeper, and two middle grade comic fantasy novels, The Runaway Princess and The Runaway Dragon. In late March I have a book of ocean poems coming out, Water Sings Blue.

How long does it take you to write a children's book?

A middle grade novel takes me about a year. A picture book often comes quickly, in a week or less, but then I revise for months, coming back to it over and over. That's not including the revising and editing work that takes place with the publisher, which can be extensive. In fact, Hans was a project that went on kind of long—I worked on it with four different editors before it finally got past the point of no return!

Do you have children of your own that inspire you?

No. But I've taught every grade from kindergarten to college, so I've worked with a lot kids. More important, I would say I've brought my child-like sense of delight with me across the years. I never lost it.

How did you go about choosing an illustrator?

In almost all cases, an author has little or no say in choosing an illustrator. It is perhaps the editor's greatest creative act to select an illustrator for a picture book or for the cover of a middle grade or young adult novel. The editor works with the design department and even the marketing department to make that decision. And I have found myself waiting 2-3 years for an illustrator to sign on to a picture book project. So far, the wait has paid off!

Do you have any other books you are working on?

I have a middle grade fantasy novel called Lemonade Wings making the rounds of agents and editors, so that's my most recent manuscript. Now I'm reworking a middle grade fantasy set in Los Angeles, and I've started a new poetry collection. I'm tinkering with a couple of fairy tale retellings for middle grade, as well.

What is your writing process?

After years of being a teacher, I now work as an education editor. So I have to squeeze the writing in around the edges. Another ongoing project is my children's book review blog, Book Aunt, which takes time. I've found that early mornings work for me, especially on Saturdays. If you write for even an hour or two a week, eventually you'll have a book.

What were your favorite books as a child?

I was an absolute bookworm as a child, so the books I loved (and love) are myriad! I remember going through a Nancy Drew phase and, not surprisingly, I read a lot of fairy tales from many lands. My grandma gave me a collection of tales from the Arabian Nights, for example. I remember a picture book called The Sugar Mouse Cake that I liked a lot, along with Many Moons by James Thurber. One of my favorite middle grade fantasies, besides obvious things like the Narnia books, was Taash and the Jesters by Ellen Kindt McKenzie. I also loved The Princess and the Goblins by George MacDonald. And Harriet the Spy, and The Westing Game. Among so many others!

What kinds of books do you like to read now?

I'm still reading children's books, plus a smattering of books by authors who write for adults. My favorite children's authors for middle grade are Diana Wynne Jones, Megan Whalen Turner, and Terry Pratchett. I've read everything Pratchett has ever written, laughing the whole time. I'm very fond of the Casson family books by Hilary McKay. I was thrilled to get my hands on Tamora Pierce's new book, Mastiff, a few months back. In adult fare, I like Alan Bradley's Flavia mysteries, Dorothy Sayers, and space opera by authors such as Elizabeth Moon. Oh, and Lisa Lutz's Spellman books. Those are just a few examples.

I don't see as many picture book fairy tales these days. Why is that?

Hans My Hedgehog is kind of an anomaly because very few picture book retellings of fairy tales are being published right now, after a heyday that took place 20 or so years ago. Many parents want their children to jump into reading chapter books right out of kindergarten. They seem to think that picture books are babyish. This is unfortunate because picture books for children in grades 1-3 can make a wonderful bridge and hook kids into wanting to read more.

Could you talk a little about fairy tale retellings for middle grade and young adult readers?

Even as the picture book fairy tale is showing signs of becoming extinct, novelizations for MG/YA are really taking off. So at least we aren't losing the stories altogether! I would even say that the 1990s and this new century have brought a golden age of fairy tale retellings for older children. For example, consider the incredible variety of Cinderella retellings: you get Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, which famously imagines an explanation for Cinderella's passiveness; you get a lesbian Cinderella tale in Malinda Lo's Ash; and you get a cyborg Cinderella in Marissa Meyer's new book, Cinder. I love seeing what different authors do with the same story bones. The retelling movement is starting to reach beyond European tales more frequently, I am happy to say. Grace Lin's book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, draws on Chinese folklore, and Jasmine Richard's The Book of Wonders uses Scheherazade and Sinbad to create something new. I can't wait to see what happens next.

What advice do you have for someone planning on doing an MG/YA retelling?

The retellings are coming fast and furiously, so as an author, you have to be careful what you choose to retell. A few years ago, I had just about finished a novelization of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," a story I chose because no one had done much with it, when someone else beat me to the punch. Since then, another half dozen versions have come out! I won't even tell you the story I'm tinkering with now. Suffice it to say, it's a lesser known fairy tale.

Whatever you decide to retell, you should work on giving your version a unique spin, the way Meyer did with Cinder, the way Jane Yolen did recently in her Appalachian Snow White retelling, Snow in Summer. It isn't enough to retell a story: you have to make it your own. That's really what Gail Carson Levine did with the Cinderella story. That and her fine characterization are what keep Ella Enchanted in print.

  • anesbet

Interview with Sarah Prineas about WINTERLING!

Sarah, thank you so much for visiting The Enchanted Inkpot, where I think you'll find many long-time MAGIC THIEF fans happy to greet you (see those waving white handkerchiefs over there? and the trays of freshly-baked biscuits there on the other side? and the home made dragon posters every which where?). I have been looking forward to WINTERLING for a long time, and, sure enough, it was a true pleasure to read. Deeply grounded in the natural world, WINTERLING is also an unabashedly magical story, the kind of tale an adventurous kid can sink into happily. What's more, it may be the only unabashedly magical story ever to have kind things to say about tofu casserole!

Here's the official Goodreads description of WINTERLING: "With her boundless curiosity and wild spirit, Fer has always felt that she doesn’t belong. Not when the forest is calling to her, when the rush of wind through branches feels more real than school or the quiet farms near her house. Then she saves an injured creature—he looks like a boy, but he’s really something else. He knows who Fer truly is, and invites her through the Way, a passage to a strange, dangerous land.

Fer feels an instant attachment to this realm, where magic is real and oaths forge bonds stronger than iron. But a powerful huntress named the Mor rules here, and Fer can sense that the land is perilously out of balance. Fer must unlock the secrets about the parents she never knew and claim her true place before the worlds on both sides of the Way descend into endless winter."

And now some questions for you, Sarah . . . .

INKPOT: The lyrical voice of WINTERLING is (of course) very different from that of the sassy, first-person MAGIC THIEF. Was it hard for you to change gears? Did you ever find yourself writing a MAGIC-THIEF-ish paragraph and then having to retune it?

Sarah Prineas: They are two very different voices, but that part of changing gears wasn't hard at all. Conn is Conn, and he never showed up when I was working on WINTERLING. The hard part was switching points of view. When writing first-person Conn, I could slip right into his voice, see and describe his world as he does; I felt very close to the character. Changing to the third person opened up some nice stylistic possibilities, but I felt a lot further away from my protagonist, Fer. Because the third person POV felt more distant, I had a much harder time getting into her head, figuring out what motivated her.

INKPOT: The landscape Fer (Jennifer) has grown up in and knows very well mixes tamed, agricultural spaces and sudden ravines deep enough and wild enough to conceal not just streams and pools, but magical passageways. Are there particular landscapes you had in mind when you were describing Fer's home? Do you think there may be many places left, even in built-up places like the United States, where magical pieces of nature can be found hiding where we may least suspect them? Have you found such places yourself?

Sarah Prineas: At first, when looking at the landscape of Iowa, it's easy to see how beautiful it is--rolling hills, the tawny colors of winter, the deep-blue skies.

Now that I know more about it, I see that Iowa farms are engaged in agriculture on a massive scale--despite its beauty, it's a truly industrial landscape. But even though Iowa's natural spaces have been transformed by human needs, places of wildness remain. Yes, there are the ravines and gaps between corn and soybean fields. But Iowans are also invested in preserving the natural character of the land--the woodlands and the prairies--or returning tapped-out farmland to its more natural state. I spend a lot of time (with my wild-animal children) wandering around in those places. Just this week, on one of these unnaturally warm days we've been having, we discovered a piney woods full of silence and old spiderwebs, which will make a fine setting for a scene in this book I'm working on.

INKPOT: Much of the magic in WINTERLING is based on herbs--and what lovely names those herbs have: "Loosestrife and lavender, mugwort and harewort... " That line wants to be a folksong! Were you a botanical sort of person before writing WINTERLING, or have you had to give yourself an herbal education while writing this story?

Sarah Prineas: Haha. Um. Thank you, Wikipedia? I did enough research to be sure readers wouldn't poison themselves with the herbs, and to be sure the herbs actually do what they're supposed to, but that's about it. After the book was done, my homeschooled son and I did a "unit" on herbology and we made some lavender oil, lemon-balm tea, and walnut-juice ink, and some other stuff. But we're no experts.

INKPOT: The theme of the wildlings--people growing into their animal alter-egos, until in the end their very human-ness is threatened--reminded me some of George MacDonald's goblins, with their sometimes human, sometimes animal, hands/paws. In your more wildling moments, what animal is it that you find yourself sinking into (if you do)?

Sarah Prineas: My children and husband would agree that in my worst (best?) moments, I am a dragon. And I have the tattoo to prove it.

INKPOT: I know spring's pretty nice and all, but surely magic runs very deep in stories about winter. What are some of your favorite books about winter?

Sarah Prineas: My (awesome) editor at HarperCollins wrangles the C.S. Lewis estate, so I should say Narnia, but I was never really much of a fan. Homeschool boy and I did a weather "unit" last year and reread Laura Ingalls Wilder's THE LONG WINTER, which we loved. My all-time favorite winter book is A WINTER'S TALE by Mark Helprin. His politics are icky, but the first part of that book is a gorgeous homage to winter and New York City.

INKPOT: I love Fer's patchwork jacket and her rambunctious hair (she's called "Jenny Fur-head" by the meaner kids at school)! What gave you the idea for the patchwork jacket? Did you have a real-life prototype in mind?

Sarah Prineas: Some touchstones for me as a writer are names, food, and clothes. In THE MAGIC THIEF, Conn has some big moments with the student robe he gets from Nevery, and with the sweater Benet knits for him. I'm trying, and failing, to remember where the WINTERLING patchwork jacket idea came from. I do remember that one of the book's first readers, Rae Carson [], suggested the "quilt with sleeves" line, and pushed me to make the jacket more important.

INKPOT: Fer is a vegetarian. That is not very common in fantasy, is it? I think back on all the Narnian feasts and so forth, and I'm pretty roast beasts of one kind or another are usually involved (even in Oz children gnaw on drumsticks). What inspired Fer's vegetarianism, and how do you think it relates to the deeper themes of the book?

Sarah Prineas: One of Fer's defining character traits is that she cares deeply about the land and its creatures, so it makes sense that she won't eat meat. I'm a wavering carnivore (totally bacon's fault), but both of my children have been vegetarians since they were around seven years old, and their commitment has been a further inspiration for Fer's beliefs. When you think about ecology and sustainability, meat becomes a really problematic source of protein. That does tie back into some of the nature themes of WINTERLING, and even more to its sequel, THE SUMMERKIN, which I am working on/obsessing about now.

Incidentally, the animal characters in Brian Jacques' REDWALL books are vegetarians. He even did a vegetarian REDWALL cookbook.

INKPOT: Tell us more about that sequel to WINTERLING you're working on & obsessing about! Could you give us some hints about SUMMERKIN? Will we be going on adventures again with Fer and Rook?

Sarah Prineas: SUMMERKIN has been hugely fun to write--I'm working on revisions now, and as you know from following my Facebook account, it's involved a lot of cackling. There are two big plot/character arcs in SUMMERKIN. One is that Fer has to prove herself as the true Lady of her land, which involves some rigorous testing and some revolutionary moves on her part. The other big arc is that of Fer and Rook's friendship. Rook is a much bigger character in this book--more of a co-protagonist--and he's pulled one way by his loyalty to his brother-pucks, and the other by his ties to Fer. His capacity for true friendship is really tested. Fer also makes some new friends. One of them is named Gnar and is a fire-girl who rides a dragon and is ridiculously fun to write.

INKPOT: I think we can safely predict that a fire-girl who has been ridiculously fun to write is going to be ridiculously fun to read! Thank you so much, Sarah, for writing this lovely book and for chatting with us at the Inkpot!
Two Moon Princess

Prologue / Teaser in Fantasy, Help or Nuisance?

  By Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

“A prologue (Greek πρόλογος prologos, from the word pro (before) and lógos, word),” Wikipedia tells us, “is an opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives background details, often some earlier story that ties into the main one, and other miscellaneous information.”

In fantasy the prologue usually describes the circumstances that brought the world to its present state of disarray (i.e. the rise of the great evil our hero/heroine will have to overcome) and/or offers a prophecy about the One who will set things right. So we readers know when we meet the protagonist, he/she is the One the prophecy foretold.

A teaser, as per my definition, is a scene at the beginning of a book that ends with the protagonist’s life/quest in jeopardy. A scene we will not reach until later chapters because, after the teaser, the book goes back to an earlier time in the story.

The purpose of both, teaser and prologue, is to engage the reader in the story so that he/she will keep reading during the slower scenes the author needs to establish the world and the characters.

Although I understand the need for these two devices, as a reader I always found both prologue and teaser annoying. They were, it seemed to me, the authors’ acceptance that their first chapters were boring.

Yet, I must confess I have given in to the temptation and written a teaser for my sequel of Two Moon Princess ( Whether it will stay or not in the final version, I haven’t decided yet.

What about you?

Do you like teaser/prologues in your stories, as a writer and/or as a reader?

Interview with Anne Nesbet

It’s always exciting when the Inkies get to interview one of our own for a new book. But when it’s also an author’s debut book and happens to be a darn good read, that’s even better!

Anne Nesbet has just released A CABINET OF EARTHS with Harper Collins. The Goodreads summary is here:

All Maya really wants is for her mother to be well again. But when her baby brother James goes missing, 12-year-old Maya has to take on the magical underworld of Paris, in which houses have bronze salamanders for door handles, the most beautiful people are all hooked on the sweet-smelling “anbar,” and a shimmering glass Cabinet of Earths has chosen Maya to be its next keeper. With the Cabinet’s help, Maya may be able to do for her mother what doctors cannot: save her from death, once and for all. But now that the clock is ticking for James, the price the Cabinet demands may be too high.

So let’s get to it.

Maya is a wonderful heroine in this story. I personally love the analogy of her to the salamander. What do you think readers will most like about her?

Perhaps some readers may recognize a bit of themselves in Maya, who has to be quite brave and resourceful in a very new and unfamiliar place.  I do think most people, perhaps especially younger people, are keenly aware of what it feels like to be out of place, to have to walk into a room where you don't know anybody yet and find a place to sit and maybe even people to talk to.  Maya is thrown into a new world when her parents drag her off to Paris, but if you ask me, that's not entirely unlike being sent off to Middle School or Junior High.  Although in Paris, the croissants are better!

Without giving away any details, there’s a sinister sort of mystery that unfolds in the story and intertwines with some actual historical facts. Where did the idea for CABINET OF EARTHS come from?

Like most ideas, the ones that got tangled up into this particular story came from a number of different places originally.  The first thread was, believe it or not, the almost invisible Cousin Louise; I knew something perfectly awful must have happened to her long ago, and I really wanted her to be able to rise up and demand some justice for herself.  But an opaque & forgettable person doesn't work so well as a main character!  So Maya and her family appeared on the scene, and with them (since I was living in Paris at the time, and in an apartment with a glass cabinet full of mysterious bottles, to boot!) a setting, a door with a bronze salamander for a door-handle, all the various Fourcroys . . . .  Oh, and I found an old book about 18th-century chemistry in France that I could not put down!  Poor Lavoisier, who despite formulating the conservation of matter for modern science, still lost his head to the guillotine--I just knew he was mixed into the backstory somehow.

I confess, my favorite character just might be the unusually forgettable Cousin Louise, and every time you describe her I just smile (a human-sized shadow in a chair). Do you have a favorite character?

As you can see from the above, Cousin Louise has always been a favorite of mine, too, but I also love Maya, for being able to rise--bravely--above her many worries, and Maya's mother reminds me (by sheer coincidence, I'm sure) of my own mother, who loved to look very closely at pictures in museums.

You write as someone very familiar with Paris, where Maya’s family has recently come to live. Have you lived or traveled there?

When I was a child my father sometimes had long stints of work at a physics laboratory near Paris, and so my sisters and I would be dropped into the nearest French public school for months at a time.  That was a challenge, of course--the schools were tough!--but I also came to love the city very much and to feel at home there.  As an adult I've been lucky enough to keep returning to France with my family, and the rough draft of THE CABINET OF EARTHS was, in fact, written during a year when we were living in Paris.    

There’s a timeless feel to your book, as if it’s a treasure that’s always been on our bookshelves and always will be. I wonder what childhood books inspired you most in the development of your voice?

That's so kind of you to say!  I am not sure where "voices" come from, but I was always finding myself writing sad stories that despite my best efforts were also a bit funny--and funny stories that despite my best efforts were also a bit sad--so I suspect some complex combination of E. Nesbit, to whom I'm not, alas, the least bit related, and Tove Jansson and Edward Eager and Jane Langton and Mary Norton (THE BORROWERS is one of the saddest funny books I know), among others, may have had something to do with the way I tell stories now.

And finally, where can readers learn more about you and future news?

My website can be found at  One bit of future news that is already official is that there will be another book about Maya and Valko in about a year.  It's called A BOX OF GARGOYLES, and I am revising it right now.

Thank you so much for these thoughtful questions, Jen!  It is really an honor--and a long-held dream of mine--to be an official Inkpot Interviewee!

The Flying Snowman (or, When Disbelief Unsuspends)

A while ago, John Scalzi had a post on his blog about what he terms “the flying snowman.” The post and comments there are worth reading, but basically, it’s the question of when an element in a work of speculative fiction suddenly makes the reader snap out of it and say, “That’s ridiculous! That couldn’t happen!” In other words, where the suspension of disbelief stops working.

This got me thinking about whether the “flying snowman” is different when writing for children or teens than for adults. (Putting aside for a moment the fact that plenty of adults read YA and MG fantasy.) Can you get away with more? Less? With suspension of disbelief in different areas? Or is it really all the same?

I think that when it comes to facts, you can probably stretch them farther in YA/MG than in adult fantasy. I would guess that there are not as many teens as adults who are familiar with, say, the exact composition of lava and how someone might or might not sink into it, or what type of technology existed during a specific historical era. Most of us would like to be rigorous about such things for our own sakes, but if you decide to depart from rigor for the sake of the story and engage in some handwavium, you perhaps have more leeway than you would in an adult work.

When it comes to characters, on the other hand - in particular, young characters - I think YA and MG readers are going to be more rigorous. I believe that as a general rule, your characters’ actions and motivations have to be realistic no matter what type of world you’ve placed them in. And especially when writing for younger readers, your child/teen characters have to act like children and/or teens, not like shorter adults with a more limited vocabulary.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? And do you think there are other areas where suspension of disbelief work differently for younger readers than for older ones?

Apocalypse of Shamelessness

2012 may be the year the world ends, but we've still got eleven months of shameless news, and we're starting off the year with a bang!

Anne Nesbet's THE CABINET OF EARTHS hit shelves this week, to some massive fanfare among critics:

“a-shimmer with magic” (Horn Book)

“charmingly creepy” (Kirkus)

“evocative prose and a confident narrative voice” (Publishers Weekly)

“readers will be swept along by the novel’s swift pace” (Shelf Awareness)

“a unique, interesting fantasy with just enough suspense to keep readers turning the pages into the night” (VOYA)

For those of you in the Bay Area or New York, Anne's having two launch parties. The first is in Berkeley, California, at Books Inc. on 4th Street, on Wednesday, January 11, at 7 p.m. The second is in New York City, at The Corner Bookstore, 1313 Madison Avenue (at 93rd), on Thursday, January 19, at 6 p.m. Come out and say, "Hi!"

Speaking of books that just came out, Leah Cypess has a new collection of short stories out in ebook format.

CHANGLINGS is now available free at B&N and for $0.99 on Amazon, and all proceeds go to support Reading is Fundamental.  YAY!

Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban's TWO MOON PRINCESS is also out in ebook format, and she should have a cover reveal for it's sequel THE KING IN THE STONE very, very soon!

In other 2012-related news, we have a couple of upcoming Inkie releases to discuss.  William Alexander's debut GOBLIN SECRETS from Margaret K. McElderry Books hits shelves March 6th, and William has just launched a shiny new website for the novel here.  Meanwhile, my second novel has a release date!  It's not fantasy-related (oops) but my contemporary horror novel TEN will be on shelves September 18th!  Cover reveal coming at the end of February...

Even further down the line, Scholastic Publishing recently announced a new multi-platform series called THE FALSE PRINCE, which will replace the popular 39 CLUES books, and one of the authors is an Inkie! Jennifer Nielsen, author of the forthcoming THE FALSE PRINCE, will be writing Book 6 of the series, which will be released in September 2013.  Yet another reason to hope the Mayans were wrong!

CINDER!! Interview with Marissa Meyer

One of the greatest perks about being an Inkie is that I have been incredibly fortunate enough to read advanced copies of amazing books and interview the genius authors behind them. So I pretty much was beside myself when Marissa Meyer agreed to let me interview her and I received my copy of Cinder. I literally devoured, inhaled, consumed that book like a starving person at a sumptuous feast. Yes, I absolutely, insanely, loved this book. It’s a sci fi retelling of Cinderella, mixed with some Terminator and Blade  Runner. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.


Just look at these amazing covers!  The one on the left is the US cover and the one on the right is the Spain cover - both are incredible! I would gladly give my left foot for the ability to read the next books right now. Unfortunately, since that can’t happen, I’ll have to settle for grilling, I mean interviewing Marissa.


Ello – Marissa, usually I start interviews by saying thanks so much for being here, but today I want to start by saying thank you for writing this book which I absolutely adored. But the ironic thing is that Cinderella was never my favorite fairytale. It always bugged me that she was such a doormat and had to be “rescued.” I love your take on this classic fairytale. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea?

MM – Thank you, Ello! I had so much fun writing Cinder, and am having equally as much fun working on the rest of the series, so it’s wonderful to know that readers are enjoying it! I got the idea when I entered a short story contest a few years ago with a futuristic take on “Puss in Boots.” It was my first experience writing sci-fi and it was so much fun that I thought it would be great to write a whole series of futuristic fairy tale retellings. Though my initial plan had been to keep each story as a stand-alone with only minor overlap, as my ideas developed and grew, the storylines began to combine into one epic, continuing series, all revolving around one awesome heroine: a cyborg Cinderella.

Ello – OK, So what in the world were you thinking when you made Cinderella a cyborg?

MM – Ahahaha, that cyborgs are awesome? The idea came to me when I was half-asleep. I’d been brainstorming ways to futurize fairy tales for a few months, and then one night just as I was drifting off I saw her—robotic foot and hand, oppressed and despised (just like Cinderella), but slaving away over malfunctioning androids instead of mopping floors and doing the mending. It all started to click into place

Ello – That is so totally cool! I love that you made Cinder a mechanic and you had the Prince coming to her to help fix his android. It made for such a refreshing read. There’s so much high technology that you have in your world. Are you a techie yourself? What kind of research did you have to do make this all believable?

MM – Wow, being asked if I’m a techie is such a huge compliment, and the answer is a resounding No. Although I can find my way around basic computer stuff, I’m a slow adapter when it comes to all the newest gadgets and I’m pretty useless when it comes to fixing things. I had to do a lot of research on cyborgs, prosthetics, robots, artificial intelligence, magnetic levitation, and on and on. Thankfully, there are a lot of scientists out there who are much smarter than me and tons of information for a lost writer. I can honestly say that there isn’t a single element of technology in the book that isn’t already possible or being worked on by scientists at this very moment. Yes, even hover cars.

Ello – And then you put it all into New Beijing. What made you choose that setting?

MM  - Having the book set in futuristic China was one of the first decisions I made, and one of the few things that didn’t change during revisions. The intellectual reason for it is that many scholars believe the earliest recorded versions of our “Cinderella” tale come from 9th-century China, so setting it there had this great cyclical quality to it. The less intellectual reason is that my original inspiration for Cinder’s character was the Japanese actress who played Sailor Jupiter in the live-action Sailor Moon show, so it just seemed natural to place the story in an Asian setting.

Ello – I loved that! For me, the changes that you made to the basic storyline, the relationship between Cinder and her 2 stepsisters and her stepmother, humanized the story. They were not completely unsympathetic, and I loved that.  And I loved that the stepmother is not the central villain. What was your thinking behind such a radical change?

MM – Although I love fairy tales, I don’t think novels can get away with the same stereotyping and oversimplification that the original tales have. In “Cinderella,” it’s enough for the stepmother to be given the role of “wicked,” and we all take it at face value, but it’s not so easy in a book. How is she wicked? What made her that way? Although creating villains that are believable in their cruelty is one of my biggest challenges as a writer, I think it’s also one that can pay off. The same goes for my Evil Queen character, who like you say is the more central villain throughout the series. Although you don’t see much beyond her evilness in Book One, I hope to be able to expand on her character in later books so that readers will come to somewhat understand her, even if they still despise her.

Ello – I actually couldn’t despise her because I found her so fascinating! But my favorite part of the whole story is the end. Since I can’t give it away, all I want to say is Bravo for writing such a strong female empowerment story! In many ways, it is the antithesis of the original fairytale. Was that your intent?

MM – Thank you! Writing a female empowerment story wasn’t my intent, but I think it’s a natural side-effect of being a long-time fan of strong heroines who make their own destinies. My biggest goal as a writer is to entertain, but I’m delighted to think my stories could empower at the same time.

Ello – I am so excited to hear that there are three more books in the series – although I’m gonna go crazy waiting for them! I understand that they all will take a futuristic sci-fi twist on other fairy tales. Can you tell us about them?

MM – Yes, the next books in the series are Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood), Cress (Rapunzel), and Winter (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves). Cinder will continue to be a main character as she learns more about her past and continues to defy the evil queen. Meanwhile, we’ll meet three new heroines (and more swoon-worthy guys, of course) who have their own problems to deal with. Throughout the series, their paths will intertwine as they join forces against their common enemy and attempt to save the world.

Ello – What was the reasoning behind choosing each of these iconic fairy tales?

MM – I considered lots of different tales for inclusion in the series, and spent a lot of time brainstorming different ways I could put them down in a futuristic setting. As I plotted and outlined, these four tales just started fitting together like puzzle pieces, with lots of great overlap between them. I hope that by the time the series is finished, combining these four tales will seem as entirely natural to readers as they now seem to me.

Ello – I also want to direct readers to the prequel to Cinder that is online, which is also awesome. I have to say that I would love to read more about the history of the Lunar royalty and how Queen Levana actually got into power. Is that something you might incorporate into the next books? If not, maybe a short story or another prequel? Pretty please?

MM – You are reading my mind! Although hints of Levana’s past will be scattered throughout the later books, I would absolutely love to give her a story of her own, and have actually mentioned the idea to my editor who seemed to like the idea. Although it’ll be awhile before I’m free to focus on anything other than the Lunar Chronicles, I do hope to expand into some of that back story in the future.

(Oh, and thank you for mentioning the prequel, “Glitches,” which can be read at

Ello – Thank you so much, Marissa, for being here with us today. I know Cinder is going to be an incredible success and I want to congratulate you for your amazing achievement with this fabulous book! PS – please write quickly! I’m dying to read the next books!!!

 MM – Thank you so much, and everyone at the Inkpot, for having me. This was great fun, and I hope you’ll enjoy the rest of the series just as much!