Interview with Heidi Lang & Kati Bartkowski, authors of A Dash of Dragon

I loved A Dash of Dragon, not only for the mighty girl sensibility but also for the FUN. And fun should absolutely be an ingredient in summer reading. Reading this interview, I can just imagine what a good time these author sisters had working on this book. I anxiously await their next collaboration!  Enjoy a few minutes in their company….

 

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from? Do you remember the first moment you knew you wanted to write a book?

KATI: My parents tried getting me to read for a long time, but it wasn’t until sometime in 4th grade when it stuck. I hate to admit it, but Heidi was the one who got me to love reading. So I guess I got my love of storytelling from her.

HEIDI: This is possibly my proudest achievement. 😉 I was like, ‘no sister of mine is going to be a non-reader!’ so I found a book that I knew Kati would like – it had thieves and magic and a kick-butt girl protagonist. Plus it was short, perfect for a reluctant reader. After that she was hooked, and I knew it was just a matter of time before she’d grow up to be an awesome writing partner. Clearly I was already planning ahead.

KATI: So nefarious. ;D As fas as writing goes, I started writing stories in high school for fun, and then a few years later I did Nanowrimo and realized I wanted to write more seriously. Then Heidi and I began our first draft of A DASH OF DRAGON.

You wrote A Dash of Dragon together. What was the best part about writing a novel with your sister?

KATI: The fact that Heidi got to be rejected instead of me.

HEIDI: This was my least favorite part…

KATI: I know! ;*D

HEIDI: When we started querying, we decided it would be best to just use one email address and do everything through that one. Not sure how I ended up with that job…Kati is sneakier than she looks. And I’d say the best part for me has been the chance to just have fun with it. When we were kids, Kati and I played pretend a lot, so writing a book has been sort of like continuing those games together.

Dash has a delightful mix of human and magical characters. Which are more fun to write?

KATI: I feel like our magical creatures are human in a way, so they’re kind of the same to me. But Hannah, Lailu’s best friend, was my favorite character to write, and she’s human.

HEIDI: Similar answer; I had a lot of fun making up some of the creatures Lailu hunts, like the batyrdactyls – those were mine. Kati made the basilisk fish. 😉 But my favorite character to write was Vahn, Lailu’s first crush. He’s seriously the worst…and I loved writing him so much!

Writing for middle grade readers can be a challenge. What about this age range/genre appeals to you?

KATI: I think I enjoy writing stories for kids that age because that’s the age I was when I started to like reading.

HEIDI: Same. I mean, I read before then, too, but I really fell in love with books when I was about 9. I still love books now, of course, but nothing quite as intensely as I did when I was in middle school. When I write middle grade now, I feel like I’m almost writing for my younger self, creating the kinds of books I would have fallen in love with back then.

Who are your favorite authors?

KATI: So many to choose from. Tamara Pierce, JK Rowling, and Madeleine L’Engle to name a few.

HEIDI: Kati and I have a lot of overlapping taste in books. Probably the reason we’re able to write together. 😉 I’d also add Terry Pratchett to that list.

What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

KATI: Sleep.

HEIDI: Someone answered this question after a long day of running after a hyper toddler, eh?

KATI: My 3-year-old decided napping is for the weak. 🙁

HEIDI: Haha. I am definitely weak because I love a good nap. But when I’m not writing or reading, probably my favorite thing is to go hiking or running with my dogs.

KATI: Aside from catching up on sleep and playing with my daughter, I’d say my favorite thing to do besides writing or reading is drawing.

 What are you working on right now?

KATI: Getting my daughter to eat yogurt.

HEIDI: I think she means in a more literary sense.

KATI: Right. Yes. Distracted. I’m working on a YA steampunk.

HEIDI: I’m working on a contemporary middle grade. And then Kati and I are currently brainstorming our next joint venture – we have a lot of stories to tell.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

KATI: Find us on twitter or reach out through our website, www.HeidiandKatiwrite.com

HEIDI: You can find Kati on twitter @ktbartkowski, and I’m on twitter @hidlang. I’m also on Instagram – same handle. I’m a dog walker so I mostly post cute dog pics, but occasionally a book or two will sneak in. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Really Summertime!

Back when I first learned of the Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls release date, I thought to myself by the time this book comes out it will be summertime, like, for real.

And here we are! Happy Independence Day to my American friends!

To celebrate the release of Mrs. Smith’s, I’m skiing Squaw Valley because this native New Yorker really wants a t-shirt that says ‘I skied July 4th!’. Then I’m dragging the family down to Lake Tahoe and making them jump in the water with me. However, I will not make anyone buy a t-shirt that says ‘I went swimming on July 4th’ because that is less interesting.

I’m thrilled that this book is out in the world. Abby is fun and brave and willing to sacrifice everything to save her friends…and, of course, the world, because that’s how these things work. So maybe take her to the beach with you or on a road trip or out on a sailboat (in a plastic bag?!) or wherever your long lazy days might lead you. Abby goes well with all the flavors of summer.

And as always, happy reading to all!

Buy: AmazonB&N,  IndieBound or visit your local bookstore for a copy.

Reviews: Kirkus, Publishers Weekly

 

 

 

Summer releases to fill those long, hot days…

#SummerReading

 

ON THE SHELVES NOW!

Holly Farb and the Princess of the Galaxy by Gareth Wronski

Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls by Beth McMullen

One Shadow on the Wall by Leah Henderson

Rules for Thieves by Alexandra Ott

 

COMING SOON!

A Dash of Dragon  by Heidi Lang Kati Bartkowski, July 11th

Almost Paradise  by Corabel Shofner, July 25th

 

COMING IN AUGUST!

Zinnia and the Bees By Danielle Davis, August 1st

Countdown Conspiracy  by Katie Slivensky, August 1st

Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, by Jonathan Rosen, August 1st

Zinnia and the Bees By Danielle Davis, August 1st

Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge, August 15th

 

 

 

The Gravediggers Son by Patrick Moody, August 15th

Kat Greene Comes Clean by Melissa Roske, August 22nd

 

 

Gareth Wronski talks about his middle grade debut, Holly Farb and the Princess of the Galaxy

 

“Funny or die.”  I say this to my kids all the time. Their response is usually “whatever – Mom is weird.” But humor is something I feel strongly about. It’s important and when it’s done well, nothing is better. Toss in a little adventure and I’m happy as a clam.

Humor and adventure define Holly Farb and the Princess of the Galaxy,  Gareth Wronski’s recently released middle grade novel, and he handles both so well.   Holly will go perfectly with your trips to the beach or the pool or the lake or the river. Add it to your summer reading list right away. But first take a minute to read an interview with the author….

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

 I was pretty sad and lonely in school, and I think to some extent writing (or just imagining things, really) became a way to escape that negativity. There’s always that one kid who would rather stare out the window than at the blackboard, and then there’s always that other kid who’s a way better daydreamer and knows you can’t tip anyone off to your daydreaming or someone will stop you, so you have to ignore the window altogether and figure out how to make the blackboard interesting.

 What was the hardest part of writing Holly Farb and The Princess of the Galaxy?

 Finding the right balance of tone was always tricky. I wanted the book to be funny, but I also wanted it to be an adventure story with real stakes, and sometimes those two things go well together but sometimes they can undermine each other. It’s hard to create strong stakes if you have too many jokes, and it’s hard to make it funny if characters are always on the verge of getting axe murdered. So you need to thread that needle carefully.

 Your novel is described as Guardians of the Galaxy meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is about the best comparison I can imagine! Did you have either in mind when you were writing your book?

 Nope! So many people have compared it to Hitchhiker’s Guide, but when I was writing it that never really occurred to me. I thought it was similar to The Wizard of Oz, to the point where I viewed it as basically The Wizard of Oz in space, but whenever I told people that they just stared blankly at me. So maybe it’s not like Wizard of Oz much at all.

People seem to like the Hitchhiker/Guardian comparison, though, so I’ll take it! Hopefully it’s not just because they all have “Galaxy” in the title.

 Do you enjoy writing good guys or bad guys more?

 Bad guys are usually more fun to write in the short-term because you don’t need the audience to get too invested in them, but I try to remind myself that long-term you need to enjoy writing your good guys since they’re more important. As the book went on, I definitely liked writing Holly more and more, and hopefully that comes across.

 Writing for middle grade readers is a challenge. What about this age range/genre appeals to you?

I love writing adventure stories and middle grade seems like the category where adventure is king. I don’t think something like Holly Farb would really work in any other age group.

 Who are your favorite authors?

 J.K. Rowling and David Foster Wallace.

 What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

 I like to do outdoor photography, watch movies, and sometimes I try to make video games, although I’m taking a break from that right now to focus on writing, and also because making video games is super frustrating and annoying.

What are you working on right now?

 I’m working on two fantasy books and a bunch of screenplays.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

 You can email me through the contact form on my website (www.garethwronski.com), or say hello on Twitter (@garethwronski). I try to respond to both as quickly as possible!

 

 

 

 

Reluctant Reader Resources

#Summerreading is upon us. If you have a reluctant reader under your roof, this can be challenging for everyone involved. Here are a few resources to help out.

 

  1. I made a guide with tips I’ve used with my kids and also things I’ve heard along the way that might work. Find it here.
  2. This is a great article on middle grade reluctant readers.
  3. Book Riot’s Karina Glaser has an excellent KidLit newsletter with tips and recommendations. Sign up here for The Kids Are All Right.
  4. Make it fun with #summerreading Bingo! 

Giveaway #1!!

One month until Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls is out! To celebrate, I’m giving away one of these very cool phone cases. I’ve been getting compliments. For real. So subscribe to my newsletter and be entered to win. Drawing on Sunday, June 11th.

That’s it! No too hard, right? After all, it’s Monday. Let’s not get too crazy…

(limited to iPhone and Galaxy models)

(if you’re already a subscriber, just share this on social media – be sure to tag me! – and be entered to win!)

 

Mighty Girls

When I was a kid we had Dorothy, a girl unafraid, resilient, adventurous, smart, loyal, curious, capable and determined. Sure, she had those fancy ruby slippers but her strength came from inside.

(Never mind the flying monkeys, I’d have been out of there the minute this happened: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IErqIMLwtQ)

Today Dorothy has a wealth of fictional sisters. Sophie. Honorine. Freya. Annabeth. Gracie. Sadie. Alanna. Valor. Miri. Lady Ada and Mary Godwin. Hilary Westfield. Coraline. Liza and so many more.

How lucky for girls growing up today. How remarkable to have all these examples of girls being girls being incredible. Action and adventure, chills and thrills are no longer just for boy characters. Girls are no longer relegated to the position of sidekick. Whether readers take this out on the soccer field or into math class, the mirrors and windows these stories provide is critical.

On July 4th, my latest novel, Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls, releases. Abby Hunter is one of these girls, absolutely sure she can get the job done, even if it doesn’t always go her way the first time. Or the second. Or maybe even the third. Like Dorothy, she’s not afraid to try. She won’t back down or away. I hope you enjoy her as much as I have.

To recognize these smart and intrepid fictional girls, I want to spend the weeks running up to the release of Mrs. Smith’s highlighting some of my favorites.

There will be book talk, author interviews, giveaways and more. Stay tuned!

But before you go, I have a mission for you (if you hear the Mission Impossible music in your head, that doesn’t mean you’re crazy): get one of these books into the hands of the #fiercegirl or #mightygirl in your life!  

(for full book list, click here)

Or share one of your favorites with me.

Alanna
Coraline
Gracie
Sophie
Annabeth
Honorine
Miri
Liza

 

Valor
Lady Ada & Mary Godwin
Freya

 

An interview with Ruth Lauren, author of The Prisoner of Ice and Snow

School Library Journal handed down this verdict for The Prisoner of Ice and Snow: Anyone who likes adventure, survival stories, folktales, or novels with strong female protagonists will not be able to put this down.

And this is exactly why I love this book. The fast pace, the vivid female characters, both good and bad, and the fight against the odds. I expect all kids will find this fantasy thrilling, especially girls, who are sometimes relegated to the role of side kick in middle grade action/adventure. Add this to your shelves! But before you do, see what author Ruth Lauren has to say about writing this book. If you are working on middle grade fantasy yourself, read closely Ruth’s process for world building – fascinating!

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading a book. It was something I innately loved. I lived most of my young childhood with my nose in a book, but it never occurred to me to write, not until I was in my thirties. But after I wrote my first book (70,000 words of very terrible YA paranormal) there hasn’t been a time when I haven’t been working on a manuscript.

What was the hardest part of writing The Prisoner of Ice and Snow? 

I’d actually been on submission to publishers with three other books before Prisoner. None had sold and I was pretty much in despair. All those books were contemporary, so when I wrote Prisoner it was because I wanted to have fun and write a fantasy adventure all about girls, which was very different to what I’d been writing before. Something clicked and I really did have a lot of fun writing it. It sold at auction almost immediately. So all the hard parts about writing for me actually came before I wrote Prisoner! (And after, of course. Book 2 wasn’t quite as easy!)

The world building is so fabulous in this book. Did it come to you all at once or did you build it up as you went along?

Thank you! The general idea came to me first. I was watching Prison Break with my son and I wondered what that sort of story would be like if it was about two young sisters instead. After that I thought about where I could place the sisters to make their escape from prison even more challenging. I wanted an unforgiving climate and terrain in a cold, snowy, frozen world where the elements themselves could cause problems for the characters and bleed through into every part of the planning Valor has to do to try to break her sister out of prison. Some of it stemmed from looking at images on Pinterest. I make a board for every idea that I have and I find it really helps me to visualize the world and individual scenes if I can link it to a picture. I drew on elements of the Russian landscape and traditional clothing but I also wanted to create a matriarchal world where only women can rule and where they often have positions of power.

Prisoner is populated by strong female characters – both good and evil. Which were more fun to write?

The evil ones of course! I did have a lot of fun with Valor because she’s headstrong and flawed and impulsive, but it was very satisfying to write all these female characters in ruling positions and places of power—and then have them sometimes abuse that power!

I wanted the sisters to inhabit a world where it would never occur to them that positions of power weren’t open or available to them. They don’t have to struggle or overcome to gain those positions and they see women in every role I put in the book—from ruler to doctor to prison guard to hunter. It’s something every child should see reflected in books and in the real world.

Who are your favorite authors?

So many! Although I have to acknowledge that some of them have problematic aspects that I didn’t understand when I was a child. I loved and still love Watership Down, The Secret Garden and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

More recently I’ve loved books by Gillian Flynn, Patrick Ness, Ryan Graudin, Kristin Cashore, Laini Taylor, Maggie Steifvater, Rainbow Rowell and Katherine Rundell.

My absolute favourite as an adult is The Night Circus.

What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

Boring and obvious answer: reading. I do love going to the cinema and eating out though. And I’m a big fan of taking a walk in the woods. I have a lot of kids and cats too—they’re my favourites.

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently drafting an exciting middle grade sci-fi standalone set on another planet, which I hope you’ll get to read one day.

There’s also a sequel to PRISONER OF ICE AND SNOW. It’s called SEEKER OF THE CROWN, coming from Bloomsbury in April 2018. No spoilers, but I can’t wait to go back to Demidova with Valor and Sasha for more adventures.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

You can find me on twitter: @Ruth__Lauren

Instagram: @Ruth_Lauren

Or on my website: www.ruthlauren.com