Author Interview With Tom Ryan

In continuing my interview series, I have the great pleasure today of doing an interview with Tom Ryan whose most recent book is Keep This To Yourself. You can read my review of that book here.

A little bit about Tom Ryan from his website:

Tom Ryan is the author of several books for young readers. He has been nominated for the White Pine Award, the Stellar Award and the Hackmatack Award, and two of his books were Junior Library Guild selections. Two of his young adult novels, Way to Go and Tag Along, were chosen for the ALA Rainbow List, in 2013 and 2014. He was a 2017 Lambda Literary Fellow in Young Adult Fiction.

Tom, his husband and their dog currently divide their time between Toronto and Nova Scotia.

And a bit about Tom Ryan’s most recent book (also from his website):

A town ripped apart.

A message from beyond the grave.

And a chance for justice.

Last summer, a serial killer terrorized the sleepy seaside village of Camera Cove, killing four people before disappearing without a trace. Like everyone else in town, eighteen-year-old Mac Bell has been trying to move on from the tragedy—easier said than done when Mac’s best friend, golden boy Connor Williams, was the final victim. But Mac is starting to accept that he might never find closure…

Until he discovers a note that Connor left him the night he died—a note hinting he’d found out the killer’s identity and needed Mac’s help. Now, Mac’s on a mission to solve Connor’s murder once and for all. And nobody—friends, neighbors, or even the cute stranger with his own connection to the case—is beyond suspicion.

Can Mac untangle the truth before the killer strikes again?

And now on to the interview!

Keep This to Yourself is the first book that you’ve had published with literary agent representation. How has this process been different for you?

I’ve been publishing in Canada for almost a decade, and it’s not entirely necessary to work with an agent here, so for many years I didn’t. At a certain point I decided that I wanted to expand my horizons a bit, so after writing a first draft of KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF I began querying, and signed with Eric Smith relatively quickly. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about working with an agent is that I don’t have to spend valuable time figuring out contracts! I really don’t enjoy the ‘business’ side of publishing, so I’m happy to have someone on my side who can handle that end of things. It’s also great to have someone to bounce ideas around with, and come up with a strategy when it’s time to submit a new project.

Keep This to Yourself features the Catalog Killer, a creepy serial killer. Did you do any research into serial killers for this book/if so what did that process look like?

I didn’t do a lot of specific research into serial killers, but I do listen to a lot of true crime podcasts, and have read a lot of crime fiction over the years, so I’d absorbed some details about how serial killers tend to operate (many leave a signature, etc…) that I was able to include as I created the Catalog Killer and developed their M.O.

Keep This to Yourself’s protagonist Mac is gay. At this point in time, I’ve probably only read a dozen of thrillers that have queer protagonists. Why was it important to you to specifically write a thriller with a gay protagonist?

I’m gay myself, and I have committed myself to writing queer characters into all of my young adult novels. My previous YA titles were straightforward contemporary, but with KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF I really wanted to write a mystery/thriller with a main character who I would have had an easier time relating to if I’d picked this book up at fifteen. I read a lot of mysteries during high school (Christopher Pike, Lois Duncan, lots of classics like Agatha Christie) but they never featured an insecure gay teen detective, so I decided to write one!

One of your upcoming books is a co-write with author Robin Stevenson. If you had an opportunity to co-write with any other author (living or dead), who else would you want to co-write with and why?

Great question! I had a blast writing with Robin, who is one of the loveliest people alive, so I’m tempted to say I’d do it again with her, but instead I’m going to be a bit more creative and say that I’d absolutely love to co-write a mystery with Maureen Johnson. It’s clear from interviews she’s given that she’s a devoted fans of mysteries, and I’m obsessed with her TRULY DEVIOUS series. The main character in the TRULY DEVIOUS books is named Stevie Bell, and my main character in KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF is Mac Bell; someone speculated on twitter recently that maybe their cousins and could join forces to solve a mystery, and to be completely frank that would be a dream project!

What does your typical writing day look like?

I am a very methodical writer, and when I’m working on a book, I follow a very specific routine. I get up early, usually between 530 and 6, take my dog for a long walk during which I listen to my project playlist to get in the mood and work through problems and ideas, then I get home, shower and have a quick breakfast, and bring coffee into my office around 8. I try to get 2000 words a day, which can take me anywhere from two or three hours on a good day, to the late afternoon on a slower day. I work best when I’ve been following this routine regularly for days or weeks, and have had an opportunity to really sink into the story.

A hypothetical: Congratulations! You’ve been asked to write an IP work for one of your favorite things. What would you write IP for/would you accept that offer? Explain. 

Another cool question! There are a bunch of IP projects I’d love to tackle, but one in particular is Nancy Drew. As a child I spent some time in the children’s wing of my local hospital, and someone had donated a complete set of the Nancy Drew detective novels, which I totally inhaled. Those books really spearheaded my love of mysteries, and I think the characters and atmosphere are ripe for different perspectives. I also know that a Nancy Drew tv series is in the works, so who knows? Maybe there will be some tie-in novels.


Thank you again to Tom Ryan for his time and thoughtful answers!

I’ve dropped some links below to further check out Tom’s work.

Add Keep This To Yourself to Goodreads

Add When You Get the Chance (co-written with Robin Stevenson) to Goodreads

Buy Keep This To Yourself

Follow Tom Ryan on Twitter

Why you should read the Skybound Saga series by Alex London

Last year, Caleb Roehrig and Adam Silvera kept hyping up Black Wings Beating by Alex London.

Full disclosure: I am pretty sure that my brain cannot process most fantasies. I’ve seen lots of tweets that say, “Oh but you’re supposed to be confused at first! You’re being put into a new world!” But that confusion usually NEVER resolves for me.

But considering that Caleb Roehrig doesn’t read much fantasy, I asked him if he thought my mind could handle it. He said yes, and I found a way to buy the book despite the money situation at the moment.

Black Wings Beating is a fantasy based in Uztar where birds are incredibly revered. Falcons are trained while their “owners” realize that they cannot own a wild animal. Brysen wants to be a great falconer while his twin sister Kylee wants nothing to do with it.

But a situation is brewing, and unless Brysen can do something about it, no one and no bird is safe. He goes on a quest to find the Ghost Eagle, the same bird that killed his father. But Kylee follows after him, drawn to protect her brother after Brysen’s very rocky past.

Black Wings Beating has been compared to Lord of the Rings except with queer teenagers instead of hobbits and the ghost eagle instead of the Ring. It’s an absolutely fair comparison, and I found myself drawn into this journey. Yes, Anna who can never understand fantasy was completely drawn into this book. I was heavily invested in the entire story, and it’s an incredible one.

Red Skies Falling releases September 3, and I got to read an ARC thanks to the generosity of the author. There’s always this pressure when that happens, like “what if I secretly hate it?” 

But no worries here! Red Skies Falling is a breath-taking second novel in the series. After the events in the first novel, Kylee and Brysen find themselves in a unique situation, and that unique situation quickly turns perilous. They must figure out what they really stand for before everything falls apart.

This incredible series has remarkable world-building. While I won’t pretend like my mind completely understood everything, London is able to craft a world that comes to life on the page. I have read all of his other books (yes, all), and his ability to world-build is absolutely incredible. The settings become as much of the story as the plot, and even for people who struggle with fantasy (like me) will be able to quickly fall in love with the story.

This is a series that deserves mad love, and it’s one that you should most definitely check out.

Add Black Wings Beating to Goodreads

Add Red Skies Falling to Goodreads

Get caught up on Black Wings Beating (out in paperback September 3)

Pre-order Red Skies Falling (out on September 3)

 

Author Interview with Laura Silverman

Next up in the author interview series is an interview with Laura Silverman! I have read both of Laura Silverman’s books as well as an ARC of the forthcoming anthology that she co-edited entitled It’s a Whole Spiel which releases September 17.

Here’s a bit about Laura Silverman from her website:

Laura Silverman is an author and editor and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. She earned her MFA in Writing for Children at the New School. Her books include Girl Out of Water, You Asked for Perfect, and It’s a Whole Spiel. Girl Out of Water was a Junior Library Guild Selection. You can contact Laura on Twitter @LJSilverman1 or through her website LauraSilvermanWrites.com.

and here’s a little bit about her two full length novels and a forthcoming anthology that she co-edited with Katherine Locke.

Girl Out of Water: Fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen will fall in love this contemporary debut about finding yourself-and finding love-in unexpected places.

You Asked for Perfect : For fans of Adam Silvera and Nina LaCour comes a timely novel about a teen’s struggle when academic success and happiness pull him in opposite directions.

It’s A Whole Spiel: Get ready to fall in love, experience heartbreak, and discover the true meaning of identity in this poignant collection of short stories about Jewish teens.

And now for the interview!!

Girl Out of Water‘s main character surfs and learns to skateboard. Why did you pick those sports specifically?

Girl Out of Water started with just a title. The word “landlocked” popped into my head one night, and I thought it would make a cool book title (of course it was later changed but I love the new title more). So I tried to imagine what would make a character feel landlocked. The answer came to me almost right away – a surfer girl who spends all of her time in and by the ocean and then has to move to a landlocked part of the country. Once she got to Nebraska, it felt natural that another sport, though unfamiliar, might make her feel a little more at home, so skateboarding was the perfect fit! 

You’ve been an editor of two anthologies, one releasing in September 2019 and the other forthcoming in spring 2021. What are some of the most rewarding aspects of being an editor to anthology?

I love editing anthologies so much – possibly even more than writing books! It’s incredibly rewarding to work with talented writers I admire. It’s literally my job to read a bunch of incredible stories. I love seeing what all of the different writers do with the common theme. I love it, and I already have a couple more anthology ideas in mind that hopefully I’ll be able to pull together. 

What does your typical writing day look like?

I try to work a somewhat typical Monday-Friday schedule, though I don’t always stick to it. On days I’m working, I get up, shower, eat, breakfast, etc., and then I write first thing for somewhere between 1-3 hours. I find if I don’t write right away, then it’s probably not going to happen at all that day. After writing, I get into my freelance editing and administrative tasks. 

You Asked For Perfect perfectly nails academic anxiety. I write, and sometimes, my main character’s anxiety in scenes quickly becomes my own. How did you avoid getting sucked too deep into the depictions of anxiety in writing it?

Well, I didn’t avoid it haha! It was incredibly stressful writing You Asked for Perfect. Thankfully though Ariel and I would both get an emotional breather during the adorable scenes with Amir.


Thank you so much to Laura Silverman for her time and for her thoughtful answers!!

I’ve linked to the three previously mentioned books below as well as her 2021 anthology below:

Links to Buy Laura Silverman’s books

Follow Laura Silverman on Twitter

Author Interview with Zack Smedley

I have the great honor today of featuring an interview I did with Zack Smedley, author of Deposing Nathan. I had the opportunity to read it as an ARC (see my review here), and I absolutely loved it.

Book Description from Zack Smedley’s website:

For sixteen years, Nate was the perfect son—the product of a no-nonsense upbringing and deep spiritual faith. Then he met Cam, who pushed him to break rules, dream, and accept himself. Conflicted, Nate began to push back. With each push, the boys became more entangled in each others’ worlds…but they also spiraled closer to their breaking points. And now all of it has fallen apart after a fistfight-turned-near-fatal incident—one that’s left Nate with a stab wound and Cam in jail.

Now Nate is being ordered to give a statement, under oath, that will send his best friend to prison. The problem is, the real story of what happened between them isn’t as simple as anyone thinks. With all eyes on him, Nate must make his confessions about what led up to that night with Cam…and in doing so, risk tearing both of their lives apart.

And a little bit about Zack (again, from his author website):

Zack Smedley was born and raised in southern Maryland, in an endearing county almost no one has heard of. He has a degree in Chemical Engineering from UMBC and currently works within the field. As a member of the LGBT community, his goal is to give a voice to marginalized young adults through gritty, morally complex narratives. He spends his free time building furniture, baking, tinkering with electronics, and managing his obsession with the works of Aaron Sorkin. Deposing Nathan is his first novel. You can find him online at http://www.zacksmedleyauthor.com.

And now, with out further ado, the interview:

A huge part of Deposing Nathan revolves around Nate wrestling the idea of his sexuality and the teachings of the Church. Why was this so important for you to include a YA novel?

It was important for me to dissect the religion vs. Christianity discussion because I’d never seen this done properly in a YA novel before. Very few YA LGBTQ books even discuss religion, and those that do always tend to treat it as an obstacle to escape from. Which, to be clear, I totally understand that. But the result is that you have a lot of LGBT (or questioning) teens who were raised to be religious, and suddenly they feel they have to choose between these two worlds. I wanted to write a book that pretty fiercely presents the stance of, “hey, these two things can coexist together, and there’s nothing wrong with you for being both.”

Deposing Nathan can be a rather intense read at times. From my own experiences with writing, I know that can lead to some intense emotions in the writer. How did you care for yourself when writing more intense scenes?

Interestingly, the intense scenes didn’t take that much out of me emotionally. I think that’s because, while writing, I tend to be laser-focused on the task at hand. “Okay, what happens after this paragraph? What things do the characters need to say or do next?” If anything, the emotional part for me was the many hours of research I did (watching documentaries, reading memoirs, combing through forums, etc.) about what it’s like to deal with internalized homophobia and abusive family members, since I have pretty much zero experience with either.

What are your favorite types of scenes to write?

Oh man…this’ll be obvious to anyone who’s read DEPOSING NATHAN, but I LOVE argument scenes. A lot of my writing style is inspired by Aaron Sorkin (he wrote Social Network, Molly’s Game and The Newsroom) so I love rapid-fire back and forth dialogue loaded with argumentative points. It’s a fun way for me to create an electric scene loaded with tension while also injecting points into a debate.

What’s been your favorite part of your debut year so far?

My favorite, hands down, has been the people I’ve met. Every time I do an author event, I meet the most interesting folks, and in a few cases we’ve even stayed in touch and become friends since then (it helps that a lot of my readers are around my age, i.e. college students). The online community has also been amazing, and even on my worst day, those folks are unfailingly supportive. No matter what happens to my author career in the future–whether it takes off or totally flops–all this was worth it just to connect with the wonderful folks I’ve met this past year. I’d be nowhere without them.

You have a non-writing day job. How do you balance your day job and your writing?

I work as a chemical engineer for my day job, so that taxes a very different side of my brain than writing. That said, to answer your question: frankly, the balance is almost impossible to achieve. Writing has become a full-time job of its own, and the 5 hours per night I spend on it (after my 9 hour day job) isn’t nearly enough. So, if my next book takes an unusually long time to come out, that will definitely be the reason why 🙂

What books (any genre) do you recommend as “absolute must reads”?

I give pretty much the same answer to this question every time, but my top two favorite reads (at this point) are FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON and MORE HAPPY THAN NOT. Both deal with a lot of themes–most notably how identity and the concept of self ties to memory and intelligence–and are, in my opinion, brilliantly written. That said, I would also encourage people to sit down and just look through some of the smaller, newer releases in their favorite genre. Seriously. Great books don’t become famous overnight, and I can almost guarantee you’ll find some hidden gems there.


Thank you so much to Zack Smedley for his time and thoughtful answers!
If you’re interested in reading his EXCELLENT book, here’s some links to check out. I’ve also linked to his two recommendations below:

ARC Review of Only Mostly Devastated by Sophia Gonzales

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ollie was in North Carolina, just for the summer, spending time with his aunt who has cancer and helping to watch his cousins. This was the perfect time to start a summer fling with a boy named Will. What Ollie didn’t plan on was his parents springing the news on him that they were staying in North Carolina for now because his aunt’s cancer is progressing.

And what Ollie definitely didn’t expect was for Will to be attending his new high school.

However, school year Will is quite different. He ignores Ollie, and Ollie is left to try to forge his own path while trying to figure out what happened with this summer romance.

Despite being labeled as a rom-com in the author’s bio, this is NOT a rom-com. I found this to be an immensely heavy book, dealing with homophobia, the fear of coming out, the fear of leaving friends behind/calling them out if they are homophobic, and dealing the impending loss of a family member. And while there are some lighter moments within this book, the majority of it really does deal with all of that.

Overall, I felt a bit let down because I went expecting one thing and got something quite different.

ARC Review of The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Perfect for fans of middle grade graphic novels, The Okay Witch is a delight, appropriately scheduled for a September 3 release.

Moth lives in Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, a quiet historic town with a past history of witches and witch persecution. Moth has never quite fit in to the town, and she has never really had a friend until she meets Charlie who is new to town.

But on the day that she tries to stand up for Charlie, she discovers a little secret: she’s a witch.

With the town’s history of prosecution of witches, this doesn’t bode well for her, and even more complicated, her mom’s a witch too. And may just be over 300 years old.

The Okay Witch has wonderful illustrations, and although the eARC was not in full color, the drawings were still completely gorgeous, and the final product will be even better.

If you’re looking for another middle grade graphic novel to recommend or read, this is it.

The Okay Witch releases September 3.

DRC Review of The Map From Here to There by Emery Lord

Disclaimer: I received an DRC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

The Map From Here to There serves as a sequel to Emery Lord’s The Start of Me and You. While it would be better to have read the first book first, it’s not actually a complete requirement to enjoy this one.

Weeks before the start of her senior year, Paige’s relationship with Max is just beginning. But at the same time, her world that she’s made in Indiana may be coming to an end. Faced with questions about where to go to college, what she wants to major in, changing interests, Paige’s relationship with Max becomes a lot more complicated.

Add into that, Paige’s anxiety, a constant undercurrent to her life, becomes worse after a car accident. Suddenly all the decisions that she’s facing become a lot more complicated. The anxiety representation is completely realistic for me. While Paige had made a lot of progress in the first novel, mental illness doesn’t always have a linear trajection. Sometimes, events happen that cause a worsening mental illness. Sometimes, it just happens. I appreciate the honest look at how just because you get better for a while doesn’t mean you stay better and that it’s okay to get help again.

The Map From Here to There is a very heavily character driven novel where the characters drive the plot instead of the plot driving the characters. Emery Lord pulls this off very well.

The Map From Here to There  releases January 7, 2020.

 

DRC Review of The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

NASA is preparing to go to Mars. They’ve had a nationwide search for astronauts to prepare for this mission, and they are about to announce the final one. Meanwhile, Cal is Brooklyn, trying his best to get through his senior year so he can become a journalist. He has a FlashFame account with hundreds of thousands followers, and he has a Buzzfeed internship lined up.

All of his plans are quickly derailed when his father is announced as the final astronaut for this mission. Quickly, his family has to leave Brooklyn and head to Clear Lake, Texas to prepare.

Cal quickly finds himself at odds with the reality tv show that’s covering the astronauts and their families, but he also quickly finds himself taken in by Leon, a fellow Astrokid.

The Gravity of Us is quite simply amazing. Stamper takes the world that was built in the 1960s for the first era of human space flight, and he modernizes it. It feels so real throughout the entire thing, as if I should be preparing to watch a launch for humans to go to Mars next year.

Additionally, there’s a different type of mental health rep in this book, where the main character doesn’t necessarily struggle with mental health issues but his mom and his love interest do. Both are done with such delicate care which is so appreciated from someone who struggles with mental health issues.

Throughout the entire book, I was heavily invested, and I didn’t want it to end. Selfishly, I hope it does well enough to demand a sequel.

The Gravity of Us doesn’t release until February 4, 2020, but you can pre-order this amazing book now. (P.S. Phil Stamper has an amazing pre-order campaign going where he’s sending bookplates into space. I’ve linked that info below the pre-order links)

Pre-order Links

IndieBound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Phil Stamper’s Pre-order Campaign

 

 

DRC Review of Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson

Disclaimer: I received a DRC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Amara wants to go to Harlem. Her aunt, her cousins, and her grandpa all live there, but she’s all the way in Beaverton, Oregon, and she’s never even met them.

But her parents don’t think she belongs in New York. Amara, however, is relentless, and when her teacher introduces a “suitcase project” to learn more about who she is an individual by learning family stories, she begins to wear down her parents who agree to let her go with her dad to Harlem for her birthday.

Amara quickly discovers that her grandmother died the same day that Amara was born, and Amara’s father hasn’t talked with her grandpa since. She wants to unravel why this happened especially as her mom asks her to try to get them to make up.

Some Places More Than Others is another wonderful middle-grade novel from Renee Watson. The book takes a look at some of the Black history of Harlem and what it means to truly belong in a family where a person defies the expectations that others put on them. Middle grade readers will eat this up.

 

DRC Review of Lucky Caller by Emma Mills

Disclaimer: I received a DRC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Nina has just one semester left of high school. She’s enrolled in a radio broadcasting class, but much to her annoyance, she doesn’t have friends in this class. As she watches everyone else pair off into teams of four, she quickly pairs up with someone she remembers from an old class, and they join up with another pair. Unfortunately for her, this means that she’ll be working with Jamie who used to be a friend before she ruined everything.

As the group of four begin planning their broadcast and begin their show, they must learn how to deal with each other’s quirks, and Nina has to figure out how to face her past with Jamie.

When the show finds an accidental cult following of an old grunge band coupled with the team’s plan for a mysterious guest who is most definitely not one of the band members, chaos ensues.

Emma Mills’ books are always an utter delight to read, and this is no exception. With short, punchy chapters, this is a fast read, and it’s highly, highly enjoyable. And for readers who have read all of Emma Mills’ books, you will find some delightful Easter eggs in this!

While Lucky Caller doesn’t release until January, I highly, highly encourage you to pre-order now!!

Pre-Order Links

IndieBound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon