Interview: Aditi Khorana

The Library of Fates was released yesterday and sounds amazing. The author, Aditi Khorana, answered a few questions for us and I’m excited to get my hands on a copy of this lovely piece of lit soon.

Summary: A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and the Dawn 

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The palace is soon under siege, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on one another. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?

Your first published novel, Mirror in the Sky, was science fiction. Was there a big difference between writing that type of story and writing fantasy for The Library of Fates?

Yes and no! When I’m writing a book, I’m mostly focused on themes and characters and the transformation of a character. Mirror in the Sky is a book about belonging, finding one’s place in the world, what it means to be a part of a family or community, to be a citizen of the world, and also about how the choices we make, big and small, collectively have a huge impact on the people around us. With The Library of Fates, I wanted to explore the journey of a character who has always belonged, always been beloved by those around her, and what happens when she loses everything. Essentially, how does one start over when everything is lost? Beyond this, I was investigating this question of what are the things worth sacrificing for and where do we draw the line and refuse to give in? What does it mean to be a feminist? A good friend?

I did a lot more outlining for The Library of Fates, and in many ways, it’s much more intricate in terms of plot, but the fundamental process was similar.

Amrita is facing the unknown. What does she draw on to forge ahead in spite of having no idea of what she will come up against?

The Unknown is basically navigating your own psyche, your worst demons, your greatest fears. And Amrita is a character who has essentially no life skills and is forced to navigate a world she has always been sheltered from. It’s a terrifying idea. But the unknown – as scary as it is – doesn’t exist to cruelly taunt and terrify us. It forces us to shut out all the voices that come from outside of ourselves that are urging us to find safety or comply or compromise ourselves or our vision. The unknown exists to help us find out who we truly are and what we’re truly capable of. It gives us a breadcrumb trail of clues that we can follow, and that trail comes from within ourselves. To trust the unknown inevitably means to trust yourself and I wanted to show a character who does this, despite all her fears, her loneliness and her doubts.

Your TedTalk, “Harnessing the Power of the Unknown” seems to be related to The Library of Fates in a few ways. Can you explain the relationship?

I think being a writer or working in any sort of creative profession, you’re facing the unknown every day. You are creating something out of nothing. And that’s exactly what Amrita is doing once her life is turned upside down. But I think this is what real life is about. Those kernels of inspiration, insight, the exploration of your true self, facing your greatest demons: that’s what the unknown forces us to do and hold and contend with, and try as they might, nobody escapes this.

What do you enjoy about being a writer? What is the most difficult thing about being a writer?

Without sounding too pretentious, I love thinking about ideas. I like being my own boss, and devoting my mental energies to what I want to think about rather than what someone else wants me to think about. I love exploring new themes, and I feel like I learn so much with each book that I write. It’s the closest thing I have to some sort of devotional practice. I work through everything with the simple act of writing. It’s made me a more empathetic, creative and disciplined person.

The most difficult part is probably the long arc of publishing. It’s often a year between the time that you finish a manuscript and it’s out in the world, sometimes longer.

What are some of your favorite books? Have any of them inspired or influenced your writing?

My favorite book of all time is The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. It’s the book that made me want to become a writer.

What’s up next for you as a writer?

I’m working on experimental feminist fiction for smart women and teens. It’s contemporary, it’s dark and it challenges the conventions of the novel as well as the conventions that women are often forced to abide by. It’s really fun to write.

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Kwame Alexander and Solo

Though the title is Solo, this book was not created in isolation. Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess worked together to craft the poetry. In addition, Randy Preston added his musical talent in the creation of the songs that are included in the text. The songs may also be heard on the audio version of the book.

Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess during the Q & A session.

Last month, Alexander, Hess, and Preston shared about their creative journey and also read and sang portions of the book at a launch party in Chicago. When asked about how they worked on the poetry together, Alexander described a somewhat messy process. At times they alternated scenes, but not always. If Alexander was having trouble with a metaphor, Hess might help. Of course, Alexander added, “All the good poems in the book, I wrote.” Hess nodded and responded, “True.” One truth is there is no easy way to tease out who provided which words. When reading the poems, the authors voices are indistinguishable. The text appears seamless.

Randy Preston laughs as Kwame Alexander shares both the poetry in Solo and some of his own humorous family stories.

Music is a huge part of this book. Hess and Alexander they knew they wanted to include a lot of songs that defined their generation. Hess is a Guns N’ Roses and Metallica fan while Alexander’s taste runs more towards 80’s classic soft rock. They were able to weave music references throughout the book, but they wanted original music too. Preston played a part in creating that music. One evening in Milwaukee, Preston and Alexander were together and started brainstorming music. That night they worked on music to accompany some of Alexander’s previous books and over time they moved on to pieces for Solo.

When talking to Randy after the presentation, we discussed the power of having music tied to literature. Some readers may be drawn into books by the music even when they aren’t typically thrilled about reading. Randy noted that, “music is an equalizer.” He’s excited about the opportunities to go beyond traditional pages of books. With the audiobook, Solo goes well beyond the written word. The audiobook is narrated by Alexander and is accompanied by the original music. I’ve read and enjoyed the ARC, but after hearing an excerpt of the audiobook, I believe the audio will be an experience not to be missed.

Music is a key part of Solo. I asked Kwame how music has shaped his life. “It’s been a soundtrack through every stage of life. Music can make people feel better about themselves. I want people to feel better – that’s why I write.”

In addition to music, Solo is a book that explores what it means to be a family. Alexander shared that family is the most important thing in life.”It’s what we rely on and they encourage us. Family is something to be treasured, honored, and respected.”

Solo will be available on July 25th. My full review of the book may be found here.

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Author Spotlight: Jacqueline Woodson

img_1540Last week, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) hosted the Charlotte Zolotow Lecture delivered by Jacqueline Woodson. What an amazing evening. Woodson talked about some of her recent writing, but also read from some of her earlier works too. She’s written many fantastic books over the years and her words continue to speak to many hearts and minds.

Here are some of the books highlighted during the evening:

Her most recent publication and a National Book Award Finalist, Another Brooklyn, isn’t marketed as YA, but older teens will likely be reading this one. August is an adult, but she’s looking back at her coming-of-age in Brooklyn, so the majority of the book is seen through young eyes. There’s a lot of heartache here, but also a great deal of strength and beauty.

another Summary: Running into a long-ago friend sets memories from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.

But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.


ypl_woodson_Brown_Girl_DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming is generally listed as a middle grade title, but this lovely novel-in-verse defies age limits and has been enjoyed by elementary age students through adults. Crystal’s Review

Summary: Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.


melaninGloria Ladson-Billings introduced Woodson and read the beginning of From The Notebooks of Melanin Sun.

Summary: Jacqueline Woodson’s remarkable, award-winning story of a boy coming to grips a sudden change in his family.

Melanin Sun’s mother has some big news: she’s in love with a woman. Now he has many decisions to make: Should he stand by his mother even though it could mean losing his friends? Should he abandon the only family he’s ever known? Either way, Melanin Sun is about to learn the true meaning of sacrifice, prejudice, and love.


softlyIf You Come Softly

Summary: Both Elisha (Ellie) and Jeremiah (Miah) attend Percy Academy, a private school where neither quite fits in. Ellie is wrestling with family demons, and Miah is one of the few African American students. The two of them find each other, and fall in love — but they are hesitant to share their newfound happiness with their friends and families, who will not understand. At the end, life makes the brutal choice for them: Jeremiah is shot and killed, and Ellie now has to cope with the consequences.

behindAnd the sequel Behind You

Summary: This beautiful sequel to If You Come Softly explores the experiences of those left behind after tragedy. It is a novel in which through hope, understanding and love, healing begins.

 

 

 


tellI Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This

Summary: Marie, the only black girl in the eighth grade willing to befriend her white classmate Lena, discovers that Lena’s father is doing horrible things to her in private.

 

 

 


methBeneath a Meth Moon

Summary: Laurel Daneau has moved on to a new life, in a new town, but inside she’s still reeling from the loss of her beloved mother and grandmother after Hurricane Katrina washed away their home. Laurel’s new life is going well, with a new best friend, a place on the cheerleading squad and T-Boom, co-captain of the basketball team, for a boyfriend. Yet Laurel is haunted by voices and memories from her past.

When T-Boom introduces Laurel to meth, she immediately falls under its spell, loving the way it erases, even if only briefly, her past. But as she becomes alienated from her friends and family, she becomes a shell of her former self, and longs to be whole again. With help from an artist named Moses and her friend Kaylee, she’s able to begin to rewrite her story and start to move on from her addiction.

Incorporating Laurel’s bittersweet memories of life before and during the hurricane, this is a stunning novel by one of our finest writers. Jacqueline Woodson’s haunting—but ultimately hopeful—story is beautifully told and one readers will not
want to miss.


These are definitely books to add to your reading lists.

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Interview with Phillippe Diederich and Giveaway

fireToday we welcome Phillippe Diederich as he shares his newest book Playing for the Devil’s Fire which we reviewed here.

 

Thirteen-year-old Boli and his friends are deep in the middle of a game of marbles. An older boy named Mosca has won the prized Devil’s Fire marble. His pals are jealous and want to win it away from him. This is Izayoc, the place of tears, a small pueblo in a tiny valley west of Mexico City where nothing much happens. It’s a typical hot Sunday morning except that on the way to church someone discovers the severed head of Enrique Quintanilla propped on the ledge of one of the cement planters in the plaza and everything changes. Not apocalyptic changes, like phalanxes of men riding on horses with stingers for tails, but subtle ones: poor neighbors turning up with brand-new SUVs, pimpled teens with fancy girls hanging off them. Boli’s parents leave for Toluca and don’t arrive at their destination. No one will talk about it. A washed out masked wrestler turns up one day, a man only interested in finding his next meal. Boli hopes to inspire the luchador to set out with him to find his parents.


What would you like us to know about Playing for the Devil’s Fire?

I was attempting to write an entertaining story that also showed the problems rural Mexican’s are experiencing with the violence of the narcos and the corruption of officials. The one thing I didn’t want to do was preach to anyone. My hope is that the book is an engrossing read for young and old alike.

Your first novel Sofrito was for adults. What led you to writing for a younger audience? Were there major differences in your writing experience with a younger main character?

Sofrito was my first novel. The first draft was completed many years ago. That story was born of a nostalgia for Cuba where I have been spending a lot of time back inn the 1990s. Playing for the Devil’s Fire was born out of a similar nostalgia, but this time it was for Mexico, where I grew up. I was not really approaching the book as a young adult book. I was just writing a coming of age story in this violent and difficult scenario. One of the issues with a young main character, especially one that is the ‘voice’ of the novel, is that you have to temper your literary impulses. By this I mean that a 12 or 13 year old boy is not going to speak like a 40 something writer. You have to be absolutely faithful to your character and let him narrate the way he would narrate. In other words. I didn’t  write the book Boli, the main character of my story, did. I prepared for this by writing a number of coming of age stories before attempting the novel.

Your main character, Boli, is a reminder that children are resilient. I appreciated his ability to maintain hope in spite of the many horrors happening in his community and family. How did this character come about for you?

Like I said, I had written a number of short stories where I had sensitive and resilient characters in a world that does not appreciate that personality type. I also drew heavily on my own experiences, growing up in the outskirts of Mexico City with a band of boys running wild and without supervision. We were between ages 8 and 15. There are a lot of dynamics in a group like that. But Boli is his own self. As I developed the story he came alive and led the way. I always try and listen to my characters. Boli told me what to do.

Are there reflections of your own childhood hidden within the pages of the book?

As I mentioned above, some of the main character and the dynamics of the young people in the novel are rooted in part in my experiences growing up in Mexico. Just like the scene in the ravine and they find the wreck of an old car, I experienced that with my friends while exploring the ravines around our neighborhood. The fair, the poor neighborhoods, the dynamics of the Devil’s Fire marble, it all comes from something I experienced in my youth.

Are you still a lucha libre fan? Do you have an all-time favorite wrestler?

I am not longer a huge fan. But I like lucha. I don’t follow it. I like the small affairs in Mexico or even here in the states, when the luchadores are not big names and the ring is set up in a street fair or a small auditorium. It’s more intimate. I grew up with the lucha movies. And the scene where Lucio tells Boli that he met Mil Mascaras happened to me when I was on a tour of Churubusco studios with my father. It was pretty cool.

Did your life as a photographer help to prepare you as a writer?

I think it did. First of all I am told I write visually. And no doubt that comes from my experience as a photographer. Also, being a photojournalist allowed me to travel extensively and to meet people I would have otherwise not met. I was a very shy kid and even as a young photographer, I was petrified of approaching people I didn’t know, but I also believed in facing my fears. My work as a photojournalist allowed me to break that. It gave me license to walk up to people on a street corner and start talking to them, ask questions, learn what their situation was.

Which writers have inspired you?

I think John Steinbeck is my biggest inspiration. I find his work very humanistic. His empathy toward his characters is amazing. I think he inspires my stories and my characters. I also admire the work of Earnest Hemingway because of his style and he was probably the writer whose work brought me into reading a lot. I think that without For Whom The Bell Tolls, I would not be a writer because that book started me back on reading obsessively. There are a lot of other writers like Cormac McCarthy and Junot Diaz. I am very eclectic. I like good stories and writing that allows me to forget that I am reading a book.

Have you read any young adult books lately that you would recommend?

I read Gabi: A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quinetro at the recommendation of my editor at Cinco Puntos Press. I think it’s a great book. Drown by Junot Diaz is not a young adult book, but it has a young protagonist in most of the stories and I think it is the kind of book young Latinos would enjoy. Anything by Sherman Alexie and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I read those with my son and we were both very entertained.

 


phillippe
Phillippe Diederich was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Mexico City and Miami. His parents were forced out of Haiti by the dictatorship of Papa Doc Duvalier in 1963. As a photojournalist, Diederich has traveled extensively through Mexico and witnessed the terrible tragedies of the Drug Wars.

To learn more, visit other stops on the blog tour:

Sept 1: The Pirate Tree review & interview

Sept 4: Guest Post for Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

Sept 5: Review, The Brain Lair

Sept 6: Rich in Color author interview (http://richincolor.com)

September 7: Edi Campbell CrazyquiltEdi review (https://campbele.wordpress.com)

September 8: Anastasia Suen, #KidLitBookoftheday (asuen.com)

September 9: Reading Through Life author highlight plus links to blog tour  (http://readingtl.blogspot.com)

Sept 9: Guest Post, The Brain Lair (http://www.thebrainlair.com)

Sept. 12: Linda Washington (https://lmarie7b.wordpress.com/)

Sept. 13: Excerpt, review and guest post at Mom Read It (https://momreadit.wordpress.com/)


If you are interested in reading the book, you have an opportunity to win a copy. Only those with a U.S. mailing address are eligible for this drawing.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Works by Gene Luen Yang

At the start of January, author and graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang was named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature! Here’s a look at some of his works:

118944American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

All Jin Wang wants is to fit in. When his family moves to a new neighborhood, he suddenly finds that he’s the only Chinese American student at his school. Jocks and bullies pick on him constantly, and he has hardly any friends. Then, to make matters worse, he falls in love with an all-American girl…

Born to rule over all the monkeys in the world, the story of the Monkey King is one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables. Adored by his subjects, master of the arts of kung-fu, he is the most powerful monkey on earth. But the Monkey King doesn’t want to be a monkey. He wants to be hailed as a god…

Chin-Kee is the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, and he’s ruining his cousin Danny’s life. Danny’s a popular kid at school, but every year Chin-Kee comes to visit, and every year Danny has to transfer to a new school to escape the shame. This year, though, things quickly go from bad to worse… [Image and summary via Goodreads]

16277248Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search, Part 1 by Gene Luen Yang, Bryan Konietzko, Michael Dante DiMartino, Dave Marshall, Gurihiru

For years, fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra have burned with one question—what happened to Fire Lord Zuko’s mother? Finding a clue at last, Zuko enlists the aid of Team Avatar—and the most unlikely ally of all—to help uncover the biggest secret of his life. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

 

 

17210470Boxers (Boxers & Saints #1) by Gene Luen Yang

China, 1898. Bands of foreign missionaries and soldiers roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants.

Little Bao has had enough. Harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers–commoners trained in kung fu–who fight to free China from “foreign devils.” Against all odds, this grass-roots rebellion is violently successful. But nothing is simple. Little Bao is fighting for the glory of China, but at what cost? [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

9630403Level Up by Gene Luen Yang, Thien Pham

Dennis Ouyang has always struggled in the shadow of his parents’ expectations. His path is laid out for him: stay focused in high school, become a gastroenterologist. It may be hard work, but it isn’t complicated … until suddenly it is. Between his father’s death, his academic burnout, and his deep (and distracting) love of video games, Dennis is nowhere near where his family wanted him to be. In fact, he’s just been kicked out of college.

And that’s when things get … weird. Four adorable—and bossy–angels, straight out of a sappy greeting card, appear and take charge of Dennis’s life. And so Dennis finds himself herded back onto the straight and narrow: the path to gastroenterology. But nothing is ever what it seems when life, magic and video games collide. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

18465601The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, Sonny Liew, Chu Hing

The Shadow Hero is based on golden-age comic series The Green Turtle, whose hero solved crimes and fought injustice just like any other comics hero. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity…The Green Turtle was the first Asian American superhero. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

 

 

Which of these have you read? And what did you think?

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Author Interview: Julie Chibarro

Into the Dangerous World
Today we welcome author Julie Chibarro to talk about her most recent book, Into the Dangerous World [reviewed on Rich in Color here].

Please tell us a little bit about Into the Dangerous World and what you learned while writing it.

There are so many ways to explain this story! Basically, it’s about 17-year-old Ror, an artist who grows up on a commune in the 1970s and 80s. Her father, also an artist, is the leader and her teacher. When he burns down the commune with himself inside, Ror’s life changes drastically. She, her mother, and her sister move into Manhattan. There, she meets Trey, the sexy and very talented leader of a graffiti crew called Noise Ink. She falls in love, gets into a heap of trouble, and starts to understand what it really means to be an artist.

I had very little idea of graffiti when I started writing this book. Friends from high school did it, but there wasn’t a whole lot I loved about it back then. I think my biggest lesson was getting into the artists’ heads and understanding why people paint on the street. Understanding that it’s a way to get work out there, a way to get your name known, especially for people who have no access to more traditional methods of art making or selling. It’s an act of rebellion, for many.

What led you to writing about Ror and her journey as an artist?

Ror sprung out of knowing many artists and having a whole lot of questions about visual art, like, why do you people do that thing in the first place? What’s the point, really, of art? As I wrote about all the avenues Ror tries out, I started to understand that she really doesn’t express herself well in words. She needs to draw to know what she feels.

What kind of research did you do and what kinds of experiences did you have as you dug into the world of graffiti?

I interviewed a lot of graffiti and street artists. Depending on their age, they had quite varying stories. The artists of the 1980s are different from those of the 1990s, for example. Street artists today often are asked or paid to do murals, which wasn’t a common experience in Ror’s time.

I found the illustrations added a lot of depth to my reading experience. They made me stop and think. I would drift away into the pictures. Was it easy to get the text and the illustrations to flow? What was the process like as you all worked together
?

I’m tremendously relieved you had that experience because, in fact, getting the drawings and text to meld was the hardest and most terrifying part for me. I worked closely with the artist JM Superville Sovak (who happens to be my husband), discussing every single one of the 130 drawings in the book. We had Excel spreadsheets and documents full of research and references – commercials and music videos and movies and art from 1984, things Ror would have been looking at so we could filter the world through her eyes and her time period. I’m so glad she came through for you!

The couple in the book come from different cultural and racial backgrounds. We’ve had a lot of discussion about diversity in children’s and young adult literature in the past few years. Were you attempting to be inclusive on purpose or was it less deliberate than that?

JM and I are a mixed race couple, so naturally, I was excited to write about a mixed race couple. When you’re in love with someone from another race, you get a closer look at what they go through – for me, I suddenly understood what it felt like to be suspiciously followed by store employees, or attacked by skinheads. I have always found racism shocking and superficial. For Ror and Trey, their love is based on their shared talent and circumstance, not their skin color. I felt it was important to explore that. I am relieved that there is a movement toward making young people’s literature more diverse. It’s sorely needed.

What advice would you give other writers about writing beyond their own culture?

Talk to people. Ask them lots of questions, allow yourself to be nosy, buy people drinks and chocolate. Find friendly people who warmly accept what you’re doing (this allowed me to infiltrate pretty far into these secret crews). Support them and their communities however you can. Writers work hard to get inside people’s heads – though there’s an atmosphere of political correctness, I would hope it wouldn’t deter writers from trying to enter other experiences or cultures from their own. We desperately need to see our world better reflected!

Thank you for the interview Julie!


Here’s the book trailer for Into the Dangerous World:

To learn more about Julie Chibarro and the illustrator, JM Superville Sovak, watch this Kidlit TV interview:

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