YA Author Rendezvous

Creativity Unleashed: Books for the young and the young at heart


May 2016

Author Spotlight: Hayley Barrett

hayley barrett - young adult authorAn Interview with Hayley Barrett

By: Michelle Lynn

Hi Hayley, welcome to YAAR. First things first, can you tell me about your books.

My first novel is called Into Darkness and it’s a dystopia set in New Zealand about a privileged girl who is convicted of a crime she didn’t commit by her father. I’ve also written a novella which includes some of the same characters but happens before Into Darkness, and that book is called In the Cool Light of Dawn. In September, the sequel will be released and it’s called A Silhouette in the Night.

So, at first glance your book seems to be just a dystopian, but there’s a bit of the paranormal thrown in. Can you tells us about that?

It is primarily dystopian, but there are also a race of people whose ancestors were experimented on many years ago and genetically modified. The result is that these people, Drifters, are faster and stronger than humans and they require human blood to survive. However, a few drops of Drifter blood can fix any human illness or disease meaning that humans and Drifters are constantly at war with each other.

How did you come up with the world you’ve created?

I’m not really sure. I had a basic idea of the story I wanted to write and the world just sort of formed around the story.

You’ve created so many great characters that move the story forward. Who’s your favorite?

Emily Jane. She doesn’t appear much in Into Darkness, but she is the main character in Cool Light and is a supporting character in Silhouette. Her back story keeps revealing itself each time I write about her, and I really enjoy finding out what she’s gone through in the past.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

There is a part near the end of Into Darkness where readers often tell me they hate me (I can’t say more without giving the plot away). I loved writing that because it upset me to write it. It comes unexpectedly and with any luck, it makes readers feel something that they weren’t expecting to feel.

Were there alternate endings that you considered?

Nope, not for Into Darkness. Cool Light originally finished where Emily Jane first meets Alex and Will in Into Darkness but I’d glossed over what are now the last chapters of the novella. A beta reader suggested I try a different ending and I like it so much better than what I’d originally written.

Are there any other authors that have inspired you to write?

When I read Sara Donati’s Into the Wilderness, I’d never read a book that I was so invested in and I decided that I wanted to write a book like that. It took about twelve more years before I actually sat down and started to write, but it really was that book that did it.

What age were you when you started writing?

My school reports right back to when I was about eight years old all say I had a flair for writing. In high school, I won the school writing competition twice without (I hate to say it) really trying. But once I left high school, I didn’t write anything for about eighteen years.

Writer’s block – an author’s worst nightmare. Ever experience it?

Yes, although I don’t often find I can’t write anything. For me, it’s more that I find myself writing the wrong thing. When that happens, my writing doesn’t flow and I need to scrap it and start again. Usually it means I have to do something entirely different with the scene to make it work.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I’m not an outliner. I often wish I was, but plot twists often come to me as I’m writing and if I’d written an outline, it would have to go out the window at that point.

Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?

Hehe. Not so far!

Here’s a couple just for fun – If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?

I don’t know! Maybe Super Mom. I’m not sure what my costume would be, but I’d definitely need a decent vehicle so I could run my kids to all their afterschool activities (hmmmm, that sounds suspiciously like real life!)

 If you could have any accent from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?

I was going to say Irish because I just love the way it sounds. But I also have a thing for Diana Gabaldon’s character Jamie Fraser, so I’m going to go with Scottish!

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

I actually didn’t have too many challenges. Double Dragon Publishing was recommended to me by another author and they were one of the first publishers I submitted to.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

I don’t think I’d change anything!

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

I’m currently working on something completely different.  It is another young adult novel but this one is historical with a hint of paranormal.  It’s been a lot more challenging to write, but I’m pretty happy with how it’s turning out.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

I find it really hard to read critical reviews where some of the things the reviewer has a problem with are actually answered in the novel – if only they’d bothered to read it properly!  The best compliment was hearing about an eleven-year-old who likes my books who had a “To Do” list beside her bed. One of the points on her list was “read more of Hayley Barrett’s books.”

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Keep writing. Everyone says it, but it’s true. It’s easy to come up with a reason to stop writing such as, “I can’t work out why this character does this and I can’t go on until I figure it out.” Something like that is just an excuse. Even if you can’t make it work, move on. Write the book. Then go back and fix the difficult part in editing. Oh, and that’s another thing for aspiring authors. Make sure you edit your work!

Do you have any strange writing habits?

Not really. I can’t write on an empty stomach though, so I’m least productive right before a meal.

Thanks for joining us Hayley and to all of YAAR’s readers out there – I hope you’ve found another fantastic Young Adult author to follow!

Praise for Hayley Barrett:

“I was hooked at the beginning. I thought it was such an original and unique way to introduce us to the characters, which have amazing personalities, portraying the real complex of human nature.”

“The story is fast paced, there is lots of action, intrigue, romance and adventure, and I was constantly surprised by all the plot twists, especially the shocking turn of events near the end of the book.”

The Great Bobbert

The Great Bobbert by Debbie Manber Kupfer - Flash FictionBy Debbie Manber Kupfer

(A Flash fiction from the world of P.A.W.S.)

“Popgoes! Hey, Popgoes! Come back here! Where is that weasel?”

The Great Bobbert scratched his head unleashing a cascade of bluish purple powder from his long straggly orange hair. His many pockets bulged with a multitude of objects: cards, rings, whistles, coins, scarves, and balloons – all the tricks of the trade for a working clown.

He rushed through the park, puffing and panting, accidentally kicking a squirrel in his path that chattered angrily at him.

“No need for that kind of language,” muttered the clown.

“Now, where is that pesky weasel? Ah, there he is. What the . . . ? Is that a kangaroo? Where did it come from? They’re certainly not indigenous to Missouri, or at least I don’t think they are. Did it escape from the zoo? I wonder if there’s a reward?”

Clowning no longer was as lucrative as it used to be, especially as weasel food had become so expensive of late, so Bobbert was always looking for a way to supplement his income.

“Maybe if it’s not from the zoo, we can use it in the act? Maybe Popgoes is arranging a contract. Good weasel – they’ll be extra Purina Weasel Treats for you tonight.”

Cautiously the clown moved forward. “I wonder if it’s fierce. It doesn’t look fierce, but you never know. Appearances can be deceptive. Look at Popgoes. Everyone thinks he’s so cute, but he’s a devious little bugger with a nasty bite!”

“Popgoes, come here!”  The weasel looked up at the clown and then leaned towards the kangaroo as if sharing a joke or a secret.

Without warning, the kangaroo bolted out of the path. Bobbert pounced and grabbed his weasel before it followed. “No, you don’t,” he said, and returned the struggling Popgoes to the felt hat on the top of his orange thatch. Resigned the weasel sat there surveying the world around him.

“Now, let’s go see what happened to that kangaroo.” He scoured the park looking for the wayward critter. He saw squirrels and rabbits galore, and plenty of locals walking their dogs. He asked a couple if they’d seen a kangaroo, but they looked at him as if he was crazy.

Finally, winded and dejected, he sat down on a bench next to a boy with dark messy hair. He looked vaguely familiar.

“Hey Kid, have you seen a kangaroo, around here?”

“No mate!” the boy said smiling. “Now, why would there be a kangaroo in the park?”

“Joey!” a voice called from the other side of the path.

“Gotta go!” said the boy, and bounded off, but for just a second it looked to Bobbert that he morphed into a small brown kangaroo.

“I must have drunk too much schnapps,” said Bobbert, shaking his head. “Come on Popgoes, let’s go home.”

You can read more flash fiction, poetry, and general silliness in Tea & Dark Chocolate by Debbie Manber Kupfer.


Author Spotlight: Cynthia Port

Author Cynthia PortInterview by T.D. Shields

An Interview with Cynthia Port.

Tell us about you! Where are you from? What’s your family like? We want to know it all!

Who me? I’m a corn-fed, southern Indiana gal. One summer my mother and I challenged each other to eat corn on the cob every day, and it was no challenge at all. After living hither and thither for college, grad school and postdoctoral work, I ended up back in my hometown, which is a delight. My husband and I have two children, ages 15 and 10, and an advanced model cat (she’s a calico). When I am not writing fiction, I write and edit scientific grants and manuscripts for medical researchers at universities across the country.

When and why did you begin writing?

Author Cynthia Port - Writing Career
The cast that launched a writing career!

They say make lemonade when you’re handed lemons, right? I feel like I made lemonade from vinegar. A few years back I ruptured my Achilles tendon while taking a self-defense class (you know, to keep myself SAFE ha ha). As it was healing, I managed to re-rupture it, requiring major reconstructive surgery and a 6-month recuperation. I needed a 100% sit down hobby to keep me sane, and I had this story I’d been thinking about writing. Those six months evaporated, and I fell in love with writing novels.

What books do you have published and where can we buy them?

I have two books published in my humorous fiction Kibble Talk series, with number three on the way. I also have a short story about cats in space that was originally written for a sci-fi anthology. All my books and stories are available on Amazon.

What project are you working on now?

In addition to number three of the Kibble Talk series, I’m doing final edits on an historical fiction novel set in the Australian Outback. There’s some humor in it, but also more serious themes, including the rabbit plague, the Stolen Generation, and the repatriation of remains. I’ve been working on this book for four years, and it’s got my heart in it.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Finding the time to write, and by that I mean several hours a day. I can’t “dabble” at writing; I need to be immersed in it for the characters to speak to me and the words to flow.

What is the best thing about writing?

Ah, so many things. The creative process itself is energizing for me, as is getting to share my books with others. An unexpected pleasure is that moment when you are reading what you’ve written and it feels like someone else, someone who’s a better writer than you, must have written it.

Just for fun… What toppings do you like on your pizza?

I’m a gluten free vegan (one of THOSE people), so let’s start with the GF crust, then put on some vegan pesto sauce and every vegetable you can pile and shoehorn onto its surface! Okay, but especially olives. I can’t get enough olives.

What book are you reading now?

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani. Mesmerizingly beautiful. Also finishing a beta read for a friend, which happens to be an historical fiction/romance set in the civil war.

Who are your favorite authors?

I re-read Richard Adam’s Watership Down every 4 or 5 years. To me, it is perfection. Favorite writers generally are John Steinbeck and Harper Lee. For middle grade books my favorites are Holes by Louis Sachar, Rules by Cynthia Lord, and the Harry Potter series. In general, I like dense, descriptive writing, though that’s not at all what my books are like. I don’t think I could write it sufficiently well to please myself—maybe someday, but not yet.

Where can readers find you to say hello and keep up with your latest news and new releases?

My Facebook author page is a great place to find me (CynthiaPortBooks) or my website by the same name. I always enjoy hearing from readers or potential readers or people who want to know where to send me a gluten free vegan pizza.

And finally, anything specific that you would like to say to our readers?

Do you know a hardworking teacher of second to 6th graders? Please have them get in touch with me via FB or my website about my Free Books to Teachers Program. I will send them a free, signed, print copy of Kibble Talk, along with fun classroom materials and free bookmarks for their students, and will even do a FREE author visit to their classroom via Skype. Summer is a great time for teachers to preview fun new classroom read-alouds.

You can find information about Cynthia’s books here!

Author Spotlight: Beth Rodgers

Beth Rodgers - AuthorInterview by Michelle Lynn

An Interview with Beth Rodgers

Thanks for talking with us, Beth. We’re glad to have you on the blog. Tell us about your book.

 My debut novel is titled ‘Freshman Fourteen.’  The main character is Margot, a high school freshman girl, and she is trying to win the heart of her first true crush, Peter, while at the same time fending off advances from a dorky boy who likes her and trying to escape the torment of the school bully.

I’ve read Freshman Fourteen and you have a lot of great characters. Who’s your favorite?

I enjoy all of my characters, but my favorite one to write was Walter’s mom, Mrs. Gribble.  She’s just so over-the-top annoying, but she doesn’t realize it, and everything she does makes me laugh even though it would be agonizingly aggravating if I was the recipient of anything she does to Margot or the other characters in the novel.  Even though she means well, it comes across as overbearing, but in a funny way!

In your series, Margot is a young girl who’s just trying to fit in as she’s bullied by some of the more popular kids. What made you decide to tackle a massive subject like bullying?

I didn’t really think about it too much, to be honest.  I think that everyone, at some point or another, is bullied in some way.  Even if it’s just a little crack based on how short or tall someone is, what kinds of clothes they are wearing (or aren’t wearing), who they like, etc., bullying is prevalent in society, and definitely in schools.  We’re prone to see bullying as larger-scale issues, like when it gets physical or someone is taunting someone mercilessly and preying on their emotions.  We take for granted those little, minor episodes that don’t seem like bullying, but really are, and Margot has her fair share of issues that some of the mean kids like to call her out on.  It’s hard for her to deal with, as I’m sure kids in school find it hard to deal with in reality, so focusing on what might not seem the worst kind of bullying in the world might actually shed some light on how bullying is so pervasive that sometimes it’s not even necessarily noticed to the extent that it should be.

Your book is on the younger end of YA fiction, but above middle grade, reaching kids at a critical time in their lives. How did you choose this age group when they are arguably the hardest group to obtain and keep their attention?

I wanted to write a “clean” novel, as best I could.  There isn’t any sex, drugs, or violence in the novel, save for a punch or two that get thrown.  I read young adult novels like they’re going out of style, and for every one I read with those few aspects, I read some without them as well.  I think it’s important to remember that kids can just be kids, much like I was, without all the issues that can plague them.  Not everyone gets sucked into the world of sex, drugs, and violence, and even those who are near it may not have to deal with it beyond hearing about it.  That’s how I was, and I think it’s important to show that these issues do not have to be front and center to gain attention.

Did you ever have the chance to be in a play like the talented little Margot you’ve created?

Yes.  That was part of the semi-autobiographical nature of the book.  Even though everything that happened to Margot after the first couple of chapters in the novel did not actually happen to me, I definitely was in two plays, and much like Margot, I was typecast as a child.  I was in ‘The Miracle Worker’ about Helen Keller as ‘the smallest child’ (and yes, that really was the name of the role I was cast in), and I was also in ‘David and Lisa’ as a young girl.

Were there alternate endings that you considered?

I thought about all the ways the end could have played out, based on how Margot could have chosen to move forward with her life as the fall play came to an end.  I am happy with the ending I chose.  I think it wasn’t necessarily expected, but that may not be true for all readers.  I’m sure some may have seen it coming, but it was definitely not totally predictable, and that’s what I was aiming for.  You can’t please everyone all the time, and no matter what ending I would have chosen, some reader out there surely would have thought it could have been different.  So I stand by my choice, and I urge others who are considering alternate endings in their writing to do the same.  Just because a story doesn’t end up the way someone wants it to does not make your ending wrong.

What authors have inspired you to write?

Sonya Sones, a fantastic author who writes novels-in-verse is one of my biggest inspirations.  Of course J.K. Rowling with the ‘Harry Potter’ series, because how could I not mention someone who has captivated millions of people and showed me how to weave words so effortlessly.  Also, I cannot fail to mention my aunt, who writes wonderful historical and contemporary romances and thrillers.  She writes under the name Jill Gregory.  Even though her books are far from YA, they are awesome and I love reading them.  Her writing style is one that I truly enjoy!  Even though there are many, many others, one more I want to be sure to add is Sylvester Stallone.  I thanked him in the acknowledgments of my book, but I’ll thank him here too.  If you don’t already know, he wrote all the original ‘Rocky’ movie scripts.  I love those movies, and it really is a testament to how talented and creative he is to think about how wonderful those scripts are and how thoroughly well-written they were to elicit such fabulous performances out of the actors who played the roles.  I dont’t know him personally, but I wish I did!

What age were you when you started writing?

I was very young.  I have journal entries from when I was in the first grade that say I want to be a teacher and an author when I grow up.  I have achieved both of those goals now!  I have stories about dragons, frogs, and other types of animals from when I was really young, and, starting in upper elementary and middle school, stories about young kids and eventually teenagers.  I have not tried writing about adults too much, as I find that I feel more “at home” with the young adult genre.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Definitely.  Who doesn’t?  I used to have a website all about how to defeat writer’s block, and I use the techniques to this day.  At one point, I had over 180 pages of unique content on the site that I would come up with as I used the different techniques myself.  From journal writing to making lists to reading books in the young adult genre, I have a whole host of methods I rely on regularly to help me break my writer’s block more efficiently.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I tend to just write.  Sometimes I make a few notes, but overall, I come up with an idea and I just go with it as long as I can write about it without having to think too hard.  When I find myself thinking too hard about it, I sometimes stop for a while and wait till more inspiration hits, or make a list of what could occur next and then pick and choose from it until I have my idea worked out as best I can for the moment.

Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?

A little.  I’m someone who loves TV and movies, and I have a hard enough time realizing that those characters aren’t real.  Part of why I write about high schoolers is because I really enjoyed high school, and sometimes I wish that the characters I’m writing are real so that I can go back and be with them and witness high school from a different perspective that I may like just as much, even though it may have played out differently when I was in high school.

Now, for some fun ones – if you were a super hero, what would your super power be?

I’ve seen a lot of people say this, but I don’t care.  I would want to fly.  I have always wanted to fly.  I used to dream I was Peter Pan and would fly around my house.  So, without a doubt, my superpower would be the ability to fly.  However I could use that to help others, I would, but flying is the most important part of the equation!

If you could have any accent from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?

Irish – or maybe Scottish.  I like them both, among a variety of others.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

It took me 9 years to write my book and finally get it published.  It was a lengthy process, but totally worth it in the end.  I love being able to hold my book in my hands and know that it was my effort and dedication that made it possible.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

I would have worked on getting it completed more quickly.  I would have days or weeks where it would just be flowing out of me, but then I would have more days or weeks than that where writer’s block would just take over, or life would get in the way.  I would have pushed through it more, much like I’m doing with the sequel, so that it would have taken much less time than 9 years.  However, now that it’s completed, it doesn’t really matter to me how long it took.  Just the fact that it’s done and out there in the world means so much to me!

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

I am working on the sequel to ‘Freshman Fourteen’ right now.  Since the first one follows Margot and her friends through the beginning of freshman year of high school, the second one will follow the same characters (plus some new additions) through sophomore year.  I’m hoping to keep track of them through all four years of high school when all is said and done.

How do you deal with criticism of your work?

It’s hard.  Criticism is never easy to take.  Granted, sometimes a critique can be positive.  The word criticism just sounds so negative that we liken it to that automatically.  But even though it’s hard to take, it sometimes helps me think of ideas for how I might want to change or adapt my writing.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Never give up on your dreams.  I worked hard and continued striving for what I wanted, and eventually I achieved it.  I published my book.  No matter what anyone says, keep doing what you love, because if you love it, no matter whether you sell one copy or a million copies, you will be making yourself happy.  And that’s what truly counts.

Thanks again Beth. Now, everyone – go check out Freshman Fourteen. You won’t regret it!

Praise for Freshman Fourteen:

“The characters were well-written and engaging, and getting into the mind of the neurotic Margot made me feel like I was fourteen again. A great read for anyone of that age.”

“Rodgers manages to create a realistic world that focuses on the most important things many teens care about….peer issues and the opposite sex.”

“The characters are well developed and easy to relate to – in fact, most of the time I felt like the main character could have been me at that age.”

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