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Feature Friday - An Interview With SF Said

3 Jul 2015
Feature Friday is a feature on Bookish Treasures that spotlights an author through either a guest post or interview so that they can share something special about their books or their path to publication.

Today's Feature Friday is very special to me due to the author involved. I have always said that here on Bookish Treasures we will feature books that are YA and up with exceptions made for particularly fantastic MG titles. Now this is one of those special exceptions. Back when I was about 10 years old (12 years ago now wow!) I read a fantastic book that quickly became a firm favourite of mine and to this day I still have it on my bookshelves as it is one of the only childhood books I cannot bear to part with (alongside Harry Potter and The Chronicles Of Narnia, with Watership Down being in my house somewhere). I am very happy today to welcome SF Said to Bookish Treasures to talk about this amazing book, Varjak Paw, and his newest release Phoenix.

Phoenix by SF Said



Synopsis

A BOY WITH THE POWER OF A STAR . . .

Lucky thinks he's an ordinary Human boy. But one night, he dreams that the stars are singing to him, and wakes to find an uncontrollable power rising inside him.

Now he's on the run, racing through space, searching for answers. In a galaxy at war, where Humans and Aliens are deadly enemies, the only people who can help him are an Alien starship crew – and an Alien warrior girl, with neon needles in her hair . . .

Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK

Check out Phoenix's book trailer!

Interview with SF Said


Why did you decide to become an author?
 
Stories have always been my favourite things, as long as I can remember.  The books I read when I was young shaped the way I saw the world, and they've stayed with me through my life. 
I always knew I wanted to be some kind of writer, and make stories of my own.  But I never found literary fiction very satisfying.  Then, when I was at university, I read and re-read lots of books for young readers, like Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea novels, and the amazing mythic stories written by Alan Garner and Susan Cooper.  
 
These were exactly the kinds of books I wanted to write: hugely powerful and page-turning stories with brilliant characters, richly-imagined worlds, and above all, big ideas about life and how it should be lived.  Books with a lot of depth and levels, that could be read at different ages in different ways.  So that was what I set out to do.
 
 
What made you decide to write for children?
 
I honestly believe that children's and YA fiction is where the richest, deepest and most imaginative writing happens.  It's where I find the books I most want to read.  And I think the best writing advice is to write the books you want to read yourself. 
 
Varjak Paw is a story about a cat who dreams of being a great warrior, and learns a secret martial art known only to cats.  That kind of thing just wouldn't be allowed in adult literature!  But in a children's book, it's fine.  And I wanted to read that story, so I had to write it myself.
 
Phoenix is an epic myth about a human boy who has the power of a star inside him, and an alien girl who's the greatest warrior in the galaxy.  Again, it's hard to imagine something like that on a Booker Prize list.  But I think children's literature can accommodate infinite possibilities; its imaginative space is just bigger.
 
I also love the idea that children's literature can be read by anyone of any age at any time in their lives.  So I think of myself of writing books for everyone.   It's always great to hear from adults who've read my work; and the nicest thing of all is when an adult tells me they enjoyed my books as a child, kept them, and still enjoy them now.  So thank you for saying that about Varjak Paw – you have no idea how much it means!
 
 
What are your favourite books?
 
Watership Down is probably my all-time favourite.  The Earthsea books still have a special place in my heart, as do all of Le Guin's books.   For classic children's literature, my list includes Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Books, E Nesbit's The Story Of The Treasure Seekers and Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry's The Little Prince.  Of more recent books for young readers, I think Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials sets the bar in terms of what imaginative fiction can do. 
 
As far as adult literary fiction goes, I'm a huge fan of Virginia Woolf, and the way she puts words and sentences together.  Mrs Dalloway and To The Lighthouse are incredible novels.  But for me, there aren't that many writers working at that level.  Whereas the history of children's literature is just full of incredible authors, and there are more coming through all the time.
 
 
Your books are very unique in terms of both the worlds and storylines, where do you get the ideas for them?
 
Thank you!  Phoenix started with me looking up at the stars.  Stars are amazing, and the more we learn about them, the more amazing they seem.  Everything that exists, including every single atom in our bodies, originated in the heart of a dying star.  I think that's incredible.  Stars are part of an endless cycle of life, death and rebirth, and that's one reason why I called the book Phoenix.  But the book also connects space science with ancient mythology.  It goes back to all the mythic pantheons – Greek gods, Roman, Norse, Egyptian and so on – and tries to see if they have a shared common origin, and what that might be.
 
By contrast, Varjak Paw started with something very small: me watching my own kitten as he climbed the garden wall and went out into the world on his own for the first time.  I found his adventures fascinating, as he met gangs of street cats, and of course dogs.  I think the lives of cats in cities are full of drama, and even though the scale is small, the drama is huge.
 
 
What is next from the brilliant mind of SF Said?
 
I've been working for the last two and half years on a new book called TYGER.  I can't say too much about it, as my books always change a lot as I work on them, and no-one else has yet seen a word of it…  but let's just say there's a tyger in it – as in William Blake's brilliant poem The Tyger, which is a huge inspiration to me.
 
  
What would you say makes your books unique and worth reading?
 
I put everything I know and everything I love into my books.  I don't think of them in terms of age or genre.  While they may be shelved in MG or YA, and while they may have sci-fi or fantasy or animal story elements, I just think of them as my books.  They're places where I can put anything I find interesting or meaningful or magical.  I know that no writer can please every reader – but I hope that whoever you are, however old you are, and whatever kind of story you think you like, you'll at least find something of interest in there.
 
Who is your favourite character from either Varjak Paw or Phoenix?
 
That's really hard for me to say.  In each book, I put a lot of thought into trying to create a diverse range of characters of different genders, ages, backgrounds and so on.  I hope this means that everyone can find someone to identify with, so I love the fact that readers always give me such different answers to this question. 
With the Varjak Paw books, people don't just say their favourite character is Varjak.  Lots of people say it's Holly or Tam, or Cludge, or Razor, or even Sally Bones…  And the same seems to be happening with Phoenix.  Lots of people say they like Lucky, the human boy; but just as many say they like Bixa Quicksilver, the alien warrior girl.  That makes me feel I must be doing something right.
 
 
What is your favourite thing about being an author?
 
I have to be honest, I don't enjoy everything about it.  In fact, it's much harder work than I ever dreamed it would be.  Varjak Paw took 17 drafts.  Those 17 drafts took five years of my life.  Phoenix took even longer: seven years!  As you can imagine, there've been many times when writing has felt very hard, and I've wanted to give up more than once.  But I'm glad I persevered, because when I look at those books now, I don't see anything I want to change.  They're as good as I could possibly make them.  And all that hard work feels worthwhile when I hear from people who've read them and enjoyed them. 
 
So that's my favourite thing about being an author!  It means so much to hear that something you wrote meant something to someone else, too.
 
 
How do you balance writing with other things in your life?
 
I think every writer works differently, so the best advice I can give anyone interested in writing is to find what works for you, and do that.  It may be different to what works for anyone else.  You can only find it by writing yourself.
Having said that: the thing that works best for me is having a daily routine.  I like to go to my local library first thing in the morning, and write till lunchtime.  I usually get a good amount of work done that way.  Then in the afternoon, I either do another session if I'm free, or I do all the other work-related things I do that are not writing: visiting schools and meeting readers, updating my blog and twitter, doing interviews, and so on.  I try to keep evenings free for relaxing, though my idea of relaxing often involves reading a book, and that always feeds back into the writing!
 
If you could meet any one author (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
 
Ursula Le Guin, because I'd like to thank her for her incredible books, and her inspirational example. I think she's a model of how to be a writer.  Even now in her 80s, she's still producing work of the highest quality.  Every single one of her books is worth reading: full of amazing ideas and characters and worlds. 
 
 
What is your favourite food?
 
Chocolate.  So I was delighted when Varjak Paw won the Smarties Prize for Children's Literature.  I thought a free lifetime supply would surely follow.  I still can't get over the fact that it didn't!
 
 
You can find out more about SF Said and his writing over on his website.

Looking Forwards To YALC 2015

29 Jun 2015
Hello Lovelies! Last year was the UK's first ever Young Adult Literature Convention at the London Film and Comic Con and it was so successful that it is going ahead again this year. I am planning on going to YALC this year as the last one was such a fantastic experience.

Last year had a few issues, mainly how crowded the space was, but many changes are being implemented to improve on everything that wasn't perfect. I have seen the venue and it is much larger which should massively reduce the crowding that I know gave a few people anxiety issues. We are also apparently having our own separate area in the venue just for YALC which I think will be a fantastic venue.

The full author list has now been announced and I'm sure you will agree that it is a fantastic line up! I think this is an even better line up than last year. There are several authors I am looking forwards to meeting that I have been fans of for several years such as Malorie Blackman, Moira Young, Judy Blume, LA Weatherly and Teri Terry. I also cant wait to meet relatively new-to-me authors such as Alexia Casale, Samantha Shannon and many more.

The programme is amazing and has a wide range of events from talks about hot trends and important topics in YA, to workshops on how to write, agents giving advice and much more. I currently plan on being at the following (though this may change and is also dependent on what time I am able to arrive on Friday) -

Apocalypse now: new directions in dystopia - I will probably miss this event due to only landing in back in England from 2 days in Barcelona at 2pm but if I can find a functioning time turner I WILL be at this event. Alternatively, I will just sniff out where these authors are located when I arrive as I really want to talk to them all.

Harry Potter party - Because OF COURSE!

YA: the next generation - These young authors are all the future of publishing so I am excited to hear them talk. It is also impossible to keep me away from anything about where YA as a category is heading.

Being a girl: feminism and YA today - Now not only does this topic sound amazing but several of my favourite authors are on this panel so I will be there with bells on.

Carrie Hope Fletcher's YALC book club - So Carrie Hope Fletcher is someone I only discovered existed recently (I must have been hiding under a rock) so I want to see what I have been missing :P

Judy Blume & Patrick Ness in conversation - Judy Blume was by far one of my favourite authors growing up, to the extent where for a drama exam my "free work" was reciting several pages from ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT'S ME MARGARET, so I am not missing the chance to see her talk.

Hunger Games quiz - Because why not?

Mental health in YA - This is a topic that is a huge talking point right now in YA and I believe is very important as many teenagers find solace and answers to their questions in fiction so an accurate portrayal of metal health issues is necessary.

Bringing sexy back - Last years "I'm Too Sexy For This Book" panel was my favourite moment of the weekend so I am definitely going to this follow up.

Between fantasy & reality - I love SF&F and this is the only panel specifically on that genre, I am also looking forwards to hearing more about these authors books as many are on my radar but I haven't read yet.

Troubled teens: dark subjects - Dark topics and their inclusion in YA always makes for an interesting discussion. I am personally all for dark issues that teens may face in their lives being included in fiction but where is the line of it being too adult?

Taking your blog to the next level - This clashes with the troubled teens panel so I don't yet know which I will attend, but this workshop on blogging sounds like a great opportunity to meet new bloggers, socialise with people I already know, and pick up some great new tips as a blog overhaul is certainly in the cards for Bookish Treasures.

LGBT in YA - Diversity in books as been a hot topic for well over a year now and I haven't yet had the chance to attend a talk specifically on LGBT diversity so I think this will be really interesting and hopefully put new books on my radar.

Sir Terry & me: being inspired by Terry Pratchett - I LOVED Terry Pratchett's books and I think this panel will be a lovely tribute to his great writing.

Booktubing for beginners - I have been toying with the idea of branching into booktubing for a while so people can have the option of either reading or watching my reviews based on their preferences. If I am going to do that then I want to do it properly so I think this workshop will be a great way to get some more information.

Ok so I know I am not going to be able to go to all of the Sunday talks because I wouldn't have time to eat, get books signed by authors, or even breathe, but I will see what I feel like doing on the day. Tickets are going quickly (Saturday only tickets have already sold out! Though full weekend tickets are already available) so don't miss out on what will surely be a fantastic event. YALC specific tickets have priority but LFCC regular tickets will get you access to the book area also.

I know a few people are planning on getting into the comic con spirit by cosplaying but I wouldn't have the first idea on where to start so you will probably just see me around in regular clothes. If you are coming then please let me know and we can arrange to say hello at some point :D

If you are going to YALC, what events are you most looking forwards to?

Feature Friday - From A Contest To A Publishing Contract

26 Jun 2015

Synopsis

There’s a drawer I never open. It holds a picture I never look at. It reminds me of a day I hate to remember, but I’ll never forget.

I’d give anything to be like the other girls on campus. Going to parties, flirting with boys, planning for a future. But that’s not me. And hasn’t been since the day my parents died. The only thing that got me through was Griffin. Even though I didn’t have my family, I always had him. Only, now I’m not so sure I do.
It’s not just the eleven hundred miles separating us now that I’m at college. And it’s more than his band finally taking off, and all the gigs and girls suddenly demanding his time. It’s like everything is different—the way we talk, the way we text . . . the way he looks at me and the way his looks make me feel.


Griffin has been the only good thing in my life since that horrific day. I can feel our friendship slipping away—and I’m terrified of what will be left in its place…

Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK

From a Contest to a Publishing Contract: Marie Meyer’s Publication Journey

Hello, Everyone! I’m honored to share my publication journey with the Bookish Treasures readers! Thank you for the invitation, Laura! I’m Marie Meyer. I write new adult romances. My debut NA contemporary romance, ACROSS THE DISTANCE, came out on May 5, 2015! It’s been fantastic getting to know so many awesome readers, bloggers, and reviewers. A huge thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed AtD. I’m humbled by everyone’s love and support! And if you just couldn’t get enough of Griffin in AtD, August 4th is your lucky day! Griffin gets to tell his side of the story in CAN’T GO BACK! I’m so excited to share Griffin with everyone! I love him dearly and I hope you do too!
So, I’m sure you’re all wondering how an elementary school teacher (that’s right, I’m a teacher by day) got her foot through the publication door. Well, let me tell you…
My publishing journey began back in the fall of 2008, when I co-authored my first novel, a YA paranormal romance. After sending out at least 100 query letters to agents over the course of three years, my co-author and I kept getting the same responses: there were too many paranormal romances on agents lists at the time. With the saturation of PNR, we cut our losses and shoved the YA into a drawer.
But, I wasn’t ready to give up on writing just yet. After reading Tamara Weber’s Easy, I was hooked on new adult! This was the genre I wanted to write! I loved the age (18-25), the decisions and situations characters were faced with, all of it!
In January of 2013, I sat down and began my first draft of what would become ACROSS THE DISTANCE. Four months later, I finished AtD and started polishing and revising.
And polishing and revising. And polishing and revising.
And polishing and revising…
You see a pattern, I’m sure! ;)
When I looked up from the computer screen, it was November. ACROSS THE DISTANCE was as shiny as I could make it (but not nearly as shiny as it would become). That’s when I came across a tweet from Brenda Drake, announcing her upcoming Pitch Wars contest. I went back and forth, weighing the pros and cons of entering and not entering. Was it AtD ready? Was I ready? Could I handle more rejection?
The answer to every one of those questions was, YES! If I was serious about becoming an author, then I needed to be brave and put myself out there. The only way AtD was ever going to catch the interest of an agent was either by diving into the query trenches or toss it into a contest. Throwing caution to the wind, I entered AtD into Pitch Wars, not expecting much.
But, come early December, when Pitch Wars mentors announced their teams, to my astonishment, Lady Lioness (mentor extraordinaire) had chosen my entry!
Over the course of the next two months, under Lioness’s kick-butt editorial guidance, I ripped my manuscript to shreds (literally cutting out a major character and piecing my manuscript back together). I hoped and prayed my hard work would result in some agent love during the Pitch Wars agent round.
During the agent round, the agents who participate in Pitch Wars, hop from blog to blog reading the pitches and opening paragraphs of the Pitch Wars contestants’ manuscripts. If an agent likes what he or she reads, they comment on the blog post with instructions to send the manuscript along with a query letter.
At the end of the agent round, I had two agents comment on my entry! Not only was I still blown away that ACROSS THE DISTANCE had been selected by a mentor, but now it was getting some attention from agents! I couldn’t believe it!
I sent both agents the completed AtD manuscript and a query letter, as they’d asked for (always follow an agent’s submission guidelines!!!).
In the subsequent weeks, as I waited to hear back from the Pitch Wars agents, I sent out eleven more queries to other agents. Then, a month later, on Valentine’s Day, I received an email from Louise Fury, at the Bent Agency, wanting to set up a time to speak on the phone! I was ecstatic!! A few days later, I had the pleasure of speaking to Ms. Fury on the phone, which then lead to an offer of representation!
Once I signed with Louise, she championed AtD, sending it out on submission to publishing houses. Eventually AtD found a home with Grand Central Publishing! Not only did Grand Central love AtD, they also wanted its companion novel, CAN’T GO BACK (August 2015), and THE TURNING POINT, the contemporary new adult romance I’m currently working on (releasing in November). At the end of 2015, I will have published three novels! Unreal!
Writing takes patience. I’m just beginning my publishing journey with the recent release of ACROSS THE DISTANCE. But, I’ve been working toward this goal for six years. Every rejection letter, every rewrite, every revision spurs me on, and makes me want to do better. Writing takes hard work and dedication and in order to get better, a writer must write.
If you have ever dreamed of writing a story you want to share with others, don’t give up! One day, your story will be in the hands of readers! Oh, and participate in contests! If I hadn’t done Pitch Wars, I don’t know where I would be today.
Pitch Wars 2015 is right around the corner! If you would like to know more about Pitch Wars 2015, the link with the contest schedule is below. If you have a finished, polished manuscript, the submission day for Pitch Wars 2015 is August 17th. Give it a try! What do you have to lose? J
Again, thank you, Laura, for giving me the opportunity to share my story with your readers!
Keep writing and enter contests!
<3 Marie

About Marie


Marie Meyer was a language arts teacher for fourteen years. She spends her days in the classroom and her nights writing heartfelt new adult romances that will leave readers clamoring for more. She is a member of RWA and the St. Louis Writers Guild. Marie's short fiction won honorable mentions from the St. Louis Writers Guild in 2010 and 2011. She is a proud mommy and enjoys helping her oldest daughter train for the Special Olympics, making up silly stories with her youngest daughter, and binging on weeks of DVR'd television shows with her husband.

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Review of Material Girls

16 Jun 2015

Synopsis

In Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde’s world, teens are the gatekeepers of culture. A top fashion label employs sixteen-year-old Marla to dictate hot new clothing trends, while Ivy, a teen pop star, popularizes the garments that Marla approves. Both girls are pawns in a calculated but seductive system of corporate control, and both begin to question their world’s aggressive levels of consumption. Will their new “eco-chic” trend subversively resist and overturn the industry that controls every part of their lives?

Smart, provocative, and entertaining, this thrilling page-turner for teens questions the cult like mentality of fame and fashion.

Are you in or are you out?

Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK

Review

When I first read the synopsis of Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos I was really excited as the concept sounded amazing and brought to mind So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld which I loved. Unfortunately, though the idea behind this book truly is excellent, the execution fell flat.

This book seemed like the author was trying too hard to make a social commentary about consumerism, trends, and fame. Whilst it certainly is thought provoking to an extent, it all just seems too forced and the storyline doesn't flow naturally. Much of the storyline doesn't make sense and is unbelievable (this coming from a huge fan of dystopian, paranormal, and fantasy novels) and this takes what could have been an amazing concept and makes it a little bit silly.

What I did like about this book - the idea and the writing. That is about it really. The characters did have a few great moments but overall I didn't feel much of a connection with them. Like many YA novels nowadays, Material Girls has an element of romance and this was probably my least favourite part of the entire book. It simply didn't fit in properly with the story and seemed to have been added in at the last minute as an after thought.

Also, the ending fell flat and made much of what happens in the book completely pointless. Whilst it was refreshingly different to the typical YA dystopia ending, it was not satisfying and made the story feel incomplete even though this is apparently NOT the first in a series.

To top this all off this book is very highly priced - nearly £10 in the UK for a kindle edition which is I think the highest price I have ever seen for a standard length YA novel! Overall I wouldn't recommend this one but if it really sounds like your cup of tea then maybe get a copy from the library.

Try it for yourself! Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK
Laura

Feature Friday - Understanding is Contagious: the Importance of Diversity and Starting a Conversation

12 Jun 2015

Synopsis

Nithya, a vivacious, intelligent and driven college senior has always known what she has wanted: a successful career in medicine and the love of her family. She's even come to terms with the idea of an arranged marriage, a tradition her conservative Indian family has held up for thousands of years.

When a night of partying puts her on a collision course with danger, Nithya's entire life changes.

Enter James St. Clair, the smart, challenging and heartbreakingly handsome American.

As Nithya and James fall in love, she questions the future she and her parents have always planned. Now, Nithya has a choice to make: become a doctor and a good Indian bride, or step away from her family and centuries of culture to forge her own path.

The decision she comes to takes her on a journey that transforms how she sees her future, her relationships with loved ones, and how she learns to put herself back together when even her best-laid plans fall apart.


Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK

Understanding is Contagious: the Importance of Diversity and Starting a Conversation


A writer friend and I had a really honest, enlightening conversation the other day about diversity. She is white. I am Indian-American. I was telling her how one of my biggest fears was that I would get my first book “wrong”…even though the character is just like me. Like I’ve posted about before, putting my positive and negative experiences with my Indianness on paper is like pulling the skin off a burn. Sometimes it forces you to face things about yourself that you didn’t want to admit. Other times, it gives you glimpses of beauty you never appreciated.

Before I wax poetic, let me backtrack. My first novel, The Rearranged Life, released on May 15th. Woohoo! It’s a story that I have lived, both directly and peripherally. An Indian-American college student named Nithya falls for an American and challenges everything her traditional family hopes for: medical school and a semi-arranged marriage. I wrote what I knew—about an identity crisis that many first-generation children of immigrants face when deciding where they are coming from and where they are going. My character treads the line between American and Indian cultures, often setting foot in one or the other as needed. It’s been an incredible experience debuting—all of my insecurities that made it onto the page were quelled by the immense positivity of those who read the story and commented that Nithya was, even in her Indianness, similar to them. Like I said before, being Indian has, on the rare but poignant occasion, been cause for attention, like that time I got called a sand ni--er or the time I was well-meaningly told that I must be smart because I’m Asian (for the record, please don’t ever put my math grades in a public domain).

And while my experience has been refreshing and party-worthy, judging by the reading I’ve been doing lately on Twitter and otherwise, we still have a long way to go with diversity in the book world. I follow a number of authors who are heavily involved in social justice and I am learning new things every single day. It’s very easy to ask myself, “What voice do I have? If I’m still learning, I’m bound to make rookie mistakes, right?” My friend told me she was afraid to start because since she was white, she felt she would offend everyone and her deepest fear was to hurt the very people she wanted to represent accurately. Clearly, despite being a person of colour, my fears and the fears of people who want to support me are the same.

Let me digress for a second. My main character, Nithya, comes from a state called Andhra Pradesh. Being from different states comes with some big differences in Indian culture. Each state speaks a different language. Each region has a different dialect. Last names can tell you where a person is from geographically, what language they speak, what caste they’re from (which can lead to social cues, occupations, and tradition differences) and sometimes the kind of life they live. I had to think about some of these nuances when figuring out my characters.

I know these things about Nithya because I’ve lived a similar life. But how would anyone else, say, who isn’t Indian, know that?

Simply by asking questions.

I’m going to illustrate the point here. I grew up in central Pennsylvania. I’ve discussed in other blog posts that the ratio of farm animals to humans is about ten to one. I also grew up in a college town. That meant there were two populations: one, a highly educated and diverse population and the other, not so diverse but with curiosity and kindness to boot. A friend who had never travelled more than 100 miles away from home once asked me, “Annika, is it true Indians drink cow’s blood?” For the record, I’m a vegetarian. Even most of the non-vegetarian Indians I know avoid beef. But I can unequivocally say I’ve never seen an Indian Bella Swan a cup of cow’s blood at a meal. Rather than bug out, I ended up laughing. I answered her innocent question with the offer to clear up any more that she may have, accompanied by the promise that I wouldn’t be offended. Holy cow (I’m beginning to understand that phrase more and more…), did she ever take me up on it! Question after question, all with the intention to learn, came in the days following. It was amazing. We got to unite over our differences because she took the time to ask about places she’d never been to and customs she had never seen. We found similarities as I broke down certain misconceptions for her. We grew even closer, considering our backgrounds were polar opposites.

What’s that quote Hermione Granger says in Harry Potter? “Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.” I think the same concept can be applied here. Fear of diversity or getting it wrong only increases the fear further. The only way to combat it is to ask questions. Whether that’s through Twitter followers or utilizing Google, it’s important to get the details right. It will take more time. But it builds a cleaner representation of your character if you don’t treat them all with the same detergent. We are not all the same. You know how I mentioned Nithya comes from Andhra and speaks Telugu? There are 29 states in India and over 150 languages spoken. And that’s just one country on earth. One set of cultures to break down. Imagine how different the rest of the world looks…and that’s just considering ethnicity!

At the end of the day, to foster the discussions necessary to paint the world as it really looks, there are two things required: the people who want to represent diversity must ask every question imaginable, and the people who want to be represented must be willing to answer them. It could prevent another ally from feeling as though they’ll get it wrong and in turn, turning them into a bystander. It could prevent another person with a diverse background from feeling as though no one understands. There are so many grey areas to work with—neurodiversity, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion, and more—that it’s important to get the whole picture: that we are all the same and very, very different. Recognizing both sides is vital to appreciating and conveying our differences accurately. It’s important that the people asking the questions remain non-judgmental and truly listen—you are getting the answers from people who have likely been pinpointed as “wrong” for their entire lives. For those receiving the questions, assume the best in the asker and answer honestly. People do want to know and be better.

The Rearranged Life was a cathartic way to represent my life…but there will come a time in the near future where I will write another diverse character, one whose life my own doesn’t mirror. And when the time comes, I hope I have the courage to ask questions of people willing to answer. I’ve already seen the difference it makes in a story, let alone in a life.

And if we ask and answer these questions together, we can finally tell all the stories the world needs to hear.

March & April Monthly Wrap Up

3 May 2015

On The Blog


Posts were very sporadic over the past two months (as you probably noticed!) down to my University MA course in Publishing which is nearing its conclusion! More about that later :)

Most Viewed Posts From March & April

Interview With Katherine Locke - I interviewed Katherine to celebrate the release of her debut novel and she really knows how to answer questions well!
Guest Post: How To Conquer Your Inner Voice Of Doom - Siobhan Curham talked on my blog about how she overcame her inner demons to become a writer and how you to can do so in everyday life
Review of Hero - I reviewed Hero by Samantha Young!

Reviews Posted

Hero by Samantha Young - 4 stars
Chosen Thief by Scarlett Dawn - 4.5 stars
Here Be Sexist Vampires by Suzanne Wright - 5 stars
Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder - 4.5 stars
The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Personal Things


This week were my final MA Publishing lectures. All I have now is a few assignments due in the next week then my Major Project hand in at the end of summer and then I am finished! The first of the girls on my course had a job interview this week (for a design position at Bloomsbury) which is nerve-wracking and exciting for all of us as it is a reminder that over the next few months hopefully we will all be getting various interviews and Publishing jobs.

I am really sad that my MA is now pretty much over as it has been the most amazing 7 months. Learning more about the publishing industry has been fun every step of the way and I can now say that I have designed book covers, put together interactive ebooks, created marketing plans, conceptualised books and even commissioned writers and illustrators for my Major Project book.


April saw the British Cheerleading Association University Nationals which I have been working towards all year with the UCLan Tigers. Every single one of our teams that entered had their best placing ever and the two I was in did fantastic. Pom placed 5th out of a massive category and coed cheer came 2nd. It was a great way to end my last University cheerleading season :)

 

May is going to be incredibly exciting as on the 12th I am off to Zambia for 3 weeks with University to create an information booklet for a charity called Sport In Action. I am really looking forwards to experiencing a brand new culture and doing some important work whilst I am out there.

Books Read


I haven't read as much as I wanted to recently! Partially because I have been very busy but also because I decided to reread a chunky fantasy trilogy which took up a lot of my time. March started off great for books but now I am struggling to find something fantastic.



May TBR


Thanks to my incredibly busy month I am not sure if I will be able to read at all! Hopefully I will be able to read a couple of books for review in June though.

Review of The Hogfather - Terry Pratchett blog tour

2 May 2015

Synopsis

It's the night before Hogswatch. And its too quiet.

Where is the big jolly fat man? Why is Death creeping down chimneys and trying to say Ho Ho Ho? The darkest night of the year is getting a lot darker...

Susan the gothic governess has got to sort it out by morning, otherwise there won't be a morning. Ever again...The 20th Discworld novel is a festive feast of darkness and Death (but with jolly robins and tinsel too).

As they say: 'You'd better watch out...'


Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK

Review

I am huge fan of the late Terry Pratchett's fantastically funny Discworld novels, and my favourites are the stories with Death as one of the main characters. So it seemed fitting that as part of the blog tour to celebrate the life and books of Terry Pratchett I should read the one Death novel that I have not yet read, The Hogfather.

Like any book by Terry, The Hogfather is full of his trademark wit and humour throughout and this story focuses on turning Christmas and other magical tales told to children on their heads. Terry's books often manage to make you think and this one has some really interesting things to say about belief.

The main new character we get introduced to in this book is Teatime, an Assassin so strange and creepy that even the other Assassins don't like him much. However, his odd way of thinking makes him the perfect choice to kill someone who isn't supposed to exist.

Discworld novels love periodically bringing various characters from other books back and the central characters to the story are Death who is sombre to the point of humour, loves cats, and ALWAYS SPEAKS LIKE THIS, and Susan, Deaths granddaughter whose sensible, logical nature most certainly does not want to believe in The Hogfather.

Overall this is an utterly fantastic novel, possibly one of the best Discworld novels and I highly recommend that everyone reads it.

Try it for yourself! Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK

Laura

Waiting On Wednesday - An Ember In The Ashes

29 Apr 2015
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it allows readers to share the books that they are most looking forwards to reading.

This week the book I have chosen to feature is An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.


Title: An Ember In The Ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Series: Standalone (I think)

Publisher: Razorbill (US), Harper Voyager (UK)

Publication Date: April 28th (US), June 4th (UK)

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK

Synopsis

For years Laia has lived in fear. Fear of the Empire, fear of the Martials, fear of truly living at all. Born as a Scholar, she’s never had much of a choice. But when Laia’s brother is taken she must force herself to help the Resistance, the only people who have a chance of saving him. She must spy on the Commandant, ruthless and deadly overseer of Blackcliff Academy.

Elias is the Academy’s finest soldier – and secretly it’s most unwilling. He has seen too much at on his path to becoming a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite warriors and is desperate to escape the Academy. If he succeeds, he will be named deserter. If found, the punishment will be death.

With the Masks’ help the Empire has conquered a continent and enslaved thousands, all in the name of power. Now they must find a new Emperor to rule over them. And before Elias can escape he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to the death that will decide the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

In the ashes of a broken world one person can make a difference. One voice in the dark can be heard. The price of freedom is always high. Sometimes it’s life itself.

My Thoughts

I have been looking forwards to this book since I first heard about it last year and that excitement has only grown as the release date draws closer, reviews have started to go up, and the gorgeous UK cover has been revealed. Though this has just released in the US I have to wait a little longer to get my hands on it This sounds like an amazing YA Fantasy novel that I simply cannot wait to read.

Guest Post: How To Conquer Your Inner Voice Of Doom

16 Apr 2015

Synopsis

We are living in the age of the image - the perfect image. From the constant bombardment of air-brushed photos, to the dubious lifestyle choices promoted by celebrities and the obsession with social media, young women are under pressure as never before to project a persona of perfection. And this is having a catastrophic effect, with girls as young as seven developing eating disorders and female self-loathing reaching epidemic proportions.

True Face shows you how to resist the pressure from the 'perfection police' and take off the masks you wear to proudly reveal your true self to the world. In chapters dealing with body image, bullying, social media, love, sex and more, Siobhan Curham encourages young women and girls to be honest, dream big, and create lives that are happy and fulfilling. Keep Calm and Carry On is replaced by a new mantra: Forget the Fake and Keep it Real. This book is a breath of fresh air. Perfect for ages 13+ - and for the Girls fan in her 20s/30s too!


Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK
 

How to Conquer Your Inner Voice of Doom by Siobhan Curham

 
‘You’ll never become a writer.’
‘You’re not good enough.’
‘You’re not from the right background.’
‘People from council estates don’t become writers.’
‘You shouldn’t even be at uni. You should be working in a shop.’

When I was a teenager I became plagued by statements like the ones above. So much so that I ended up dropping out of uni and giving up on my writing dream to go and work in a shop. But it wasn’t someone else doing the taunting, it was my own inner voice – or my Inner Voice of Doom as I like to call it.

All of us have an Inner Voice of Doom; that voice inside your head that tells you that you’re just not good enough, clever enough, attractive enough, enough enough.

And if we’re not careful, we can let this voice control our decisions, like I did, and end up in situations, jobs, relationships and lives that leave us unhappy and craving more.

I hated the jobs I did after dropping out of uni. And thankfully, after a few years, I was able to drown out my voice of doom with a much more positive inner voice. One that said things like:
'You have just as much chance of becoming a writer as anyone else.’
‘You are good enough – or at least you might be.’
‘People from council estates can become writers.’
‘Coming from that background gives you a wealth of material to draw upon.’
And in the end, this spurred me on to write my first novel and finally get my first book deal.

The fact is, our Inner Voice of Doom is only trying to protect us.

When I told myself I didn’t have what it takes to become a writer it was because I was so scared of being rejected and told that my work wasn’t good enough.

But not taking the risk left me just as unhappy if not more, than if I had tried and not succeeded.

My book, True Face contains various exercises to help you overcome your Inner Voice of Doom.

Here’s a simple one to get you started…

Jot down some of the favourite things your Inner Voice of Doom likes to say.

Then go through each one, asking: can I absolutely know this to be true?

For example, if you sometimes tell yourself that you’re not attractive enough to get a date, is this absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt true?

And when you realise that no, of course it’s not, come up with a positive alternative such as: I am attractive enough to get a date.

Write it down and really let the words sink in.

Start gathering evidence to back up this statement. When I was starting to believe in myself as a writer I found examples of successful writers, such as Jimmy McGovern, who had come from similar backgrounds to mine. I used their careers as proof that it was possible for me to make it too and this helped me massively.

And when I did finally achieve writing success I vowed to myself that I’d never let my Inner Voice of Doom run the show again.

I still have an Inner Voice of Doom and I’m pretty sure I always will, but thankfully I’ve now discovered the mute button.

True Face is all about dreaming boldly and living fearlessly and authentically.

You can find out more over on the website: www.TrueFaceRevolution.com
 


Feature Friday - Interview with Katherine Locke

10 Apr 2015
Feature Friday is a feature on Bookish Treasures that spotlights an author and their latest release. Every Friday I will be featuring an author through either an interview or a guest post. If you are interested in taking part please send me an email.

This week I am featuring Katherine Locke whose debut unique NA novel releases April 13th.

Second Position by Katherine Locke



Synopsis

Four years ago, a car accident ended Zedekiah Harrow’s ballet career and sent Philadelphia Ballet principal dancer Alyona Miller spinning toward the breakdown that suspended her own. What they lost on the side of the road that day can never be replaced, and grief is always harshest under a spotlight...

Now twenty-three, Zed teaches music and theatre at a private school in Washington, D.C. and regularly attends AA meetings to keep the pain at bay. Aly has returned to D.C. to live with her mother while trying to recover from the mental and physical breakdown that forced her to take a leave of absence from the ballet world, and her adoring fans.

When Zed and Aly run into each other in a coffee shop, it’s as if no time has passed at all. But without the buffer and escape of dance—and with so much lust, anger and heartbreak hanging between them—their renewed connection will either allow them to build the together they never had... or destroy the fragile recoveries they've only started to make.


Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK

Interview with Katherine Locke


Why did you decide to become an author?

I’ve always been a writer. I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. But I decided to become an author—that is, a published professional writer—in 2007. That’s when I first realized the impact stories had made on my life and how important they had been to me surviving high school, learning to navigate friendships, imagining, dreaming, learning about different places. I wanted to be a part of that process, to be the creator of something that made life a little easier for someone else. And because I like sharing. I think it’s a fun part of the process of creating art!
How do you balance writing with other things in your life?

I don’t have too many other things to balance right now! I’m lucky that I’m in a time in my life that I can let writing take over a large portion of my free time and still have a social life, still work, still keep my life going. 
What is your favourite thing about being an author?

The broader writing and reading community. My writer friends are some of the best people I know.
What are your favourite books?

Oh, my answer to this changes day by day, I think. But there are a couple of books that always make the list. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Feed by Mira Grant, Sula by Toni Morrison, Among Others by Jo Walton, Harry Potter (whole series) by J.K. Rowling, everything Tamora Pierce ever wrote, and Fire by Kristin Cashore.
Are there any books/authors that inspired you to write?

Madeleine L’Engle was hugely influential on me as a writer. I don’t know if her influence comes across so much in my New Adult books, but in my Young Adult books (yet unpublished!), definitely. Mira Grant in her willingness to play with structure. I think she’s a really bold writer and I admire that a lot. 
You have spoken before online about your struggles with anxiety and depression. How does this affect what you write?

This is a great question and I’m so glad someone asked this! I am pretty open with my struggles because I think they’re not uncommon amongst artists, but also not uncommon amongst people across the board. And I wish that I had known more successful adults who talked about anxiety and depression when I was a teenager struggling with it. I think that would have helped enormously.
I have a tendency to let some of my struggles with mental illness bleed onto the page. In Second Position, Aly suffers from anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and is recovering from an eating disorder (different than my own). It was important to me to represent these struggles on the page for the reader who might not read my blog, but needs to know that Aly—like them—struggles some days more than others, but ultimately is fighting for balance and is as worthy of love and stability and happiness as they are.

Describe your book in one sentence.
A former ballet dancer and a ballet dancer on leave struggle against psychological and physical barriers to reclaim their romance and their ballet careers four years after a car accident tore them apart.

Where did you get the idea for Second Position, did anything inspire you to write it?
I worked on this idea for awhile, first as a Young Adult novel that just wasn’t working and I couldn’t figure out why. Then when New Adult became a thing, I realized that it gave me that opportunity to age them up, without losing their immaturity and struggles to deal with the real world.

I rarely talk about this part, but there was a second factor. I started the original story, the YA version in 2009, and put it down for years. I didn’t think about the book and pick it up again until 2013 after a breakup. I wanted to believe in Happily Ever Afters and the possibility of them and so I wrote myself a story. I think that was the best thing I did for myself that year.
What made you decide to write a novel set in the world of Ballet?

I was always interested in writing a book about an elite sport, like ballet, where the athletes train from a very young age and essentially surrender their adolescence to their profession. I wanted to know what happened when I took that away from two characters.
What would you say makes your book unique and worth reading?

Physically disabled hero! Zed is a left leg above the knee amputee. (This isn’t a spoiler. It’s on the first page, I promise!). He’s not an alphahole as the genre has started to call those characters. He’s not always good at being there for Aly, and he doesn’t always know what he’s doing, but he tries. He’s always trying.
Psychologically disabled heroine! Aly struggles with anxiety and recovering from an eating disorder. And authentically. She’s in therapy throughout the book and she has a competent therapist, something you don’t see in fiction too often. He’s my favourite secondary character!

And banter! There’s lots of banter. Tweet me when you get to the “Keep your tutu on” scene.
And because I think that my book is different than other New Adult books out there, in a good way, and adds something to the genre. I love New Adult. I love the promise of it. But I’d also love to see more lyrical, thoughtful, messy loves depicted on the page.

Is there any specific message you wanted to convey in the book?
I hope that readers take away two things:

1.       It’s important to forgive yourself. For the little things, for the big things, for messing up in past relationships, for messing up in this one. I think we’re very good at blaming ourselves for things, and very good for blaming others too. Forgiveness is something you have to teach yourself. It isn’t easy, but I promise it’s worth it.

2.       There are very few destinations in this world. There’s no endgoal or endpoint to love or recovery. You work at both of those every day. And when you need help, there’s help out there. It’s okay to ask. Asking for help is an act of forgiveness.
What are your plans for future books?

The sequel to Second Position is called FINDING CENTER and it’s about Aly and Zed (Second Position does NOT end on a cliffhanger, I promise! Just more Zaly coming your way) too. It comes out in August! Beyond that, I can’t say yet!
Do you have any hobbies and Interests unrelated to books?

Yes! I foster cats and kittens for Philadelphia animal rescues. I’m a lifelong horseback rider (eventing and dressage). I love skiing, hiking, and kayaking. Also if there were Nap Olympics, I would medal.
Would you ever consider putting these (answer to above) into any of your books?

I mighhhttttt be working on a book about horseback riders right now but I can’t guarantee anything comes of it! It’s in the early stages of drafting. And there’s a cat in the YA I’m drafting right now!

FUN STUFF
If you could meet any one author (dead or alive) who would it be and why?

Madeleine L’Engle. She changed my life.
Tell us one interesting fact about yourself.

My left arm is one inch shorter than my right arm. Exactly. (I broke a growth plate in a horseback riding fall when I was 10.)
What is your favourite food?

Mexican food. Specifically, enchiladas. But really, anything Mexican. Oh and fish tacos. I was raised in a town with a huge Mexican migrant population and was utterly spoiled. Nothing tastes as good as food from home.
What is the most adventurous thing you have ever done?

Oh gosh. Um. Most people would say my travels to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia might count. I got lost on a competitive trail ride one time and rode my poor pony for like six extra miles. Oops.
If you could be any supernatural creature which would you choose?

Does the Loch Ness monster count? If so, I pick Nessie.