Herbie Brennan Gives Us Dish

Herbie Brennan has written over a hundred books in science fiction, young adult fiction, children, and nonfiction genres, all of which speak of his interests and his mind. His YA titles are Faerie Wars, The Purple Emperor, Ruler of the Realm, and Faerie Lord; all in the Faerie Wars series. He has also released a mystical James Bond novel for teens called The Shadow Project.

Faerie Wars is about a boy named Henry who is suffering from some family problems– his home is breaking, his father is leaving, and his family doesn’t understand him. The only person who even kind of gets him is good old Mr. Fogarty, the odd old man Henry helps around the house. Alternately, in a parallel but not quite world, there is Pyrgus. He is a bleeding heart prince that can’t stand the sight of anything being intentionally injured. Prince Pyrgus gets off on the wrong foot with an influential member of the Faeries of the Night, forcing his father to send the boy away somewhere safe. Something goes wrong and though Pyrgus was supposed to end up on a secluded island where he can relax in the sun, he winds up in Fogarty’s backyard as a tiny faerie with wings. Henry and Mr. Fogarty get wrapped up in Pyrgus’s world and try to help him get back to where he belongs. Together they must figure out the ulterior motives behind sending Pyrgus off track.

This has been one of my favorite books for years. It was one of the first to get me into fantasy for young adults. Of course, I had been reading Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl. Faerie Wars is what really started it, though. Brennan wasn’t afraid of touching upon themes and ideas that young adults weren’t used to at the time. I almost dropped the book when I found out in the first few chapters that the main character’s mother was having an affair with a woman. I was 14 at the time. Brennan masterfully blended scientific research with fantasy, keeping everything in a realistic light. One thing you’ll notice that I love about Young Adult is when there is honesty in the writing, and that’s what Brennan had. His characters were true to themselves and their hearts, even the villains. I can’t help but to smile when I hold this book in my hands because I know that between the covers there’s a wonderful story waiting to carry me through alternate universes and on a perilous journey. If you like Harry Potter, love Artemis Fowl, then read this series. It will blow you away.

Mr. Brennan gladly took the time to talk to me and give me insight on his experiences as a writer. Luckily, we were able to Skype chat between his sunny Ireland and my cloudy New York.

Kiss My Lit: Where did you get the idea for Pyrgus and his world?

Herbie Brennan: I had no interest whatsoever in Faeries or Faerie mythology. What happened in a nutshell was that a friend of mine that was in the toy business at the time rang me up several years ago and said they were doing some market research, and as far as they could see the coming thing in toys was going to be Faeries. They wanted to do a range of Faerie figures—getting the actual figurines made in America. The big gimmick was that they would have silk wings, butterfly wings. He wanted me to write some booklets to go with the individual figures. I said sure but nothing came out of it. A couple of years later he was over visiting me and I asked him about this old Faerie project. He said “It’s gone onto the back-burner and we’ve gone onto other things. The point of fact is that research we did was rock solid. I’m absolutely convinced that Faeries are going to be the coming thing and you should be writing about Faeries.” And I said “Look, Steve, I have no interest in Faeries in the wide world.” And he said something odd, Mary. He said “What do you know about butterfly names.” I told him that I knew nothing about butterfly names. He said “Humor me. Get yourself a book on butterfly names, and tell me if you don’t think it would make fantastic fantasy characters.” I went out the following day and I bought this guide to butterflies and moths and I leafed through it. He was so right. You’ve got characters like the Purple Emperor and Holly Blue, and even the Latin names were absolutely fantastic. There’s the Pyrgus Melvae, which is the Grisly Skipper. The names started to work in my head. An environment came up around them and the characters came up. I couldn’t let them go. Eventually, I wrote a couple of chapters (I didn’t have a publisher). After 3 or 4 chapters I thought I was wasting too much time on this, I have other projects on hand. I sent it to my agent, and I said “Look, do you think this is worth following through?” She said to me “No, I don’t like this. It’s too separate strands of a story. You’ve got a boy in the human world and he’s got his own particular kitchen sink problems and you’ve got these fantasy characters living in another world. They don’t come together.” So I said “I’ll see if I can bring them together.” And I wrote another 4 chapters, that was 7 chapters in all. I sent them off and didn’t hear from her for months. Suddenly she optioned it. It was on the day of 9/11 and one of the editors was actually stuck in New York and couldn’t get out. He did a deal and I finished the book.

Kiss My Lit:Was Faerie Wars always going to be a series?

Herbie Brennan: When I started it I had no idea it was going to be a series. By the time I finished it, I knew the story wasn’t finished. I wanted to do at least a second book. When I finished Purple Emperor, I knew the story still wasn’t finished. I realized I was into one of these things that go on. I wanted to see what would happen to Henry and Holly. To me the whole series was Henry’s story. I love happy endings and romantic endings. I wanted them to get married and they did eventually.

Kiss My Lit: Do you think you might revisit those characters as adults?

Herbie Brennan: I didn’t when finished fourth book. I thought that’s it, I had enough of Faeries, I’m going on to do something else. I did, in fact, start another series. Then I started getting e-mails from fans saying wait a minute, what happened to Henry and Holly after they got married, and you didn’t tell us what happened to Fogarty, and you didn’t tell us what happened to Pyrgus, and what’s going on about this and what’s going on about that. Eventually I just caved under the pressure. I wrote one more; it’s a thing called Faeman Quest. Faeman being an amalgamation of Faerie and human. That’s coming out next January. Having got that one out of my system, I told the publishers this is definitely a stand-alone thing just to tidy up loose ends. I got an idea for another one about Faeries. This will go on forever.

Kiss My Lit: Will there be The Shadow Project?

Herbie Brennan: There’s one more also coming out in January of next year. There is a second Shadow Project called The Dooms Day Box with the same set up, same characters, with one new major character added. The theme of that one is time travel. I don’t know whether that will go beyond the two books. I was contracted originally for two books in that series. I would imagine that an awful lot of that will depend upon sales if the publisher will come back to me for more.

Kiss My Lit: Why did you blend science fiction and fantasy?

Herbie Brennan: I was brought up on sci-fi, I had never much of a fantasy reader. I absolutely adored science fiction. Occasionally I would come across something that’s a blend of science and fantasy. One that impressed most was The Birthgrave by Tanith Lee. That took you through the whole book thinking you were reading a sort of Sword and sorcery type fantasy, but right at the end twisted the thing and you’ve been reading science fiction. The characters, when they came for Faerie wars, were very much fantasy characters, but my leaning has always been science fiction. I don’t plot my books. I do a synopsis for publishers, and then throw it away. The characters go their own way. End up with books totally different from what I set out to write. They are usually as surprising to me as they are to anyone else.

Kiss My Lit: You’ve written many nonfiction accounts of elements and ideas that many people consider to be science fiction. How is it different exploring those themes as an academic rather than as a fiction writer?

Herbie Brennan: I didn’t start out as a fiction writer, I started out as a factual writer. My very first book was a consequence of a peculiar out-of-body experience I had when I was in my twenties. I was intrigued by that and researched it to discover other people had similar experiences. I produced a book on the subject called Astral Doorways. That was a reflection of what an interest I had. To be honest with you, I tended to write like that for a very long time. I become interested in something, research it, and simply write it. After about three or four published books, my agent got me a commission to write a historical novel. I wrote three historical novels at that time. They didn’t sell particularly well. One of them was quite a good novel, the other two not so good. I went back to nonfiction. I was at that for years and years, and oddly enough the same man who gave me the idea for Faerie Wars years before rang me up one day and said “Have you ever heard of Game books?” and I said no. He went on to say “You should have a look at this, there’s a couple of writers that put together something called Warlock of Firetop Mountain and it’s a game book based on a sort of dungeons and dragons type of approach. It’s a very good idea, but it’s not particularly well written. You could do better.” And I went out and got a copy. I thought great idea, I think I could probably write it a little bit better. I sat down and I started writing GrailQuest. That’s been my biggest seller ever. It ran into millions internationally. What this comes down to is these things grow on me organically rather in any planned way. Developing things factually, to me, is exploring ideas. Developing the same things fictionally is just another way of exploring ideas. I have noticed, and I was fascinated by, people pay far more attention to an idea you put forward as fiction than an idea you put forward as fact with scientific research.

Kiss My Lit: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Herbie Brennan: There’s nothing literally in the pipeline. I’ve got three proposals going out. Literally any day now my agent is en route to New York, you might bump into her on the street. Hopefully might strum up a bit of business there. At the moment I’m sitting in the sunshine in Ireland without a cloud in the sky, doing absolutely nothing.

Kiss My Lit: Who was your favorite character to write?

Herbie Brennan: Henry. Very closely followed by Mr. Fogarty. I love Fogarty, I thought he was absolutely gorgeous. I wish they’d make a movie because I’d love to see him on-screen.

Kiss My Lit: So what are you reading now?

Herbie Brennan: I’m reading Scarlett Thomas’s Our Tragic Universe. I read her first novel called The End of Mr. Y, I thought it was absolutely fascinating. When this one came out I grabbed it and I’m enjoying it hugely.

Kiss My Lit: You’ve written endless numbers of titles for nonfiction, adult fiction, and young adult. Which is your favorite genre?

Herbie Brennan: I think Young Adult. I can relax into it more. I endlessly fight with publishers about content of YA books. Publishers have this feeling that young adults should be treated as children and I feel they should be treated as adults. If I’m absolutely honest, I don’t think I’ve ever grown up properly. My mind runs along the same lines as it did when I was eighteen which is a very long time ago now, but it hasn’t changed a great deal. I like writing for youngsters, but only up to a point. It’s like eating chocolate, if you eat too much it sort of palls on you eventually. But up to that point I do enjoy writing for kids because you can be silly. With young adults you can explore ideas that an older generation of readers just isn’t interested in. I find that intriguing. Even though I happen to be reading Scarlett Thomas at the moment (and she’s an ideas writer), I find that when I want to find really stimulating ideas, I go to young adult authors. I just think that there are much more interesting ideas coming up in young adult literature now than in more serious adult literature.

Kiss My Lit: Can you tell me a little bit about the Servants of Light and how your affiliation influenced your writing?

Herbie Brennan: I’m not a member of the Servants of the Light. I’m terribly friendly with the woman who runs the organization. When I was in my mid teens and early twenties, I underwent magical training for about nine years. The first four years was with a very sober organization called the Society of the Inner Light, which is part of the Dawn Tradition. I joined the Society, but left soon afterward because I felt it was turning into a sort of religious group, which I have no hassle with. I just wasn’t interested in joining a religion. I was far more interested in magical practice. I discovered then a program called Helios which was written and run by some former members of the Society of the Inner light. Helios just concentrated on magical training, so I trained in that for five years. I left the training aspect. Helios then turned itself into the Servants of the Light. The original founder of Helios, Ernest Butler, God love him, died. He was diabetic and lost both his legs before he died. Absolutely tragic end. When he died, the organization was taken over by a woman named Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki. Dolores wrote to me a few years afterward because she read a few of my esoteric books. We became friendly and remained close friends ever since. I give talks to them occasionally; a lot of them think I’m a member. The influence… I don’t know. There obviously must be an influence. The training I had was cabalistic. That certainly sends your mind in particular directions. It wasn’t a question of becoming interested in the subject because I was involved with these organizations. It was a question of becoming involved with these organizations because of my interest in the subject. I’ve been interested in magic since I was a child. I’ve been interested in hypnosis, I hypnotized my first subject when I was nine years old. I have been interested in spirituality, yoga, Indian, Oriental mysticism from my early teens. When you have these interests, you tend to follow them through which is what I did. I think the interests are certainly present in my books. All you have to do is look at the list of titles and you see it’s spread all over. All you have to do is pick up Faerie Wars and you see it all over the text. I am interested in magic, I’m interested in mysticism, and I’m interested in science. That comes through as well.

Kiss My Lit: I read that there was some movie interest in Faerie Wars, did that pan out?

Herbie Brennan: It did and it didn’t. I don’t know if you know anything about the movie business, andI certainly didn’t until Faerie Wars. What they do is if they’re interested in your book, they take out an option. That means they pay you money and you aren’t allowed to sell it to any other studio or movie maker until the option runs out. They are on their second option at the moment, each option running for three years, I think. Or 18 months, I can’t remember. At the moment there is no actual sign of them making the movie. It looked very hopeful a year ago. When the recession hit, I think they were trenching. Movies take such astonishing amounts of money. You can see that you have to be extraordinarily careful if you’re going to make one. If you write a book that doesn’t succeed, you just lost a bit of time. If you make a movie that doesn’t succeed, you lose millions and your career comes to a screeching halt. I can’t say I blame them. There’s also been a bit of movie interest in The Shadow Project. They’ve got a Hollywood producer who is at the moment talking to studios about the possibility of funding. But it hasn’t gotten as far as the option stage yet.

Kiss My Lit: Is there anything you’d like your readers to know?

Herbie Brennan: I’d like them to know I love them.

I’d like to thank Mr. Brennan again for giving me his time and talking to me about his career and upcoming projects. Show him some love at his website, check out Herbie Brennan’s Bookshelf to learn more about him and his work. Don’t forget to check out his books for sale here.

Were Raising

Raised by Wolves is a novel by Jennifer Lynn Barnes set to drop in June of 2010. This is not her first novel, she has written Golden, Platinum, Tattoo, Fate and The Squad series. This new novel is about a girl named Bronwyn, or more affectionately, Bryn. At four years old, her family was brutally murdered by a rogue werewolf driven by blood lust and a desire to kill. Bryn hid from him as long as she could, relying on a survival instinct. Her life is intercepted by Callum, Alpha of the Stone River pack of werewolves. He takes Bryn under his wing and she becomes a human in a pack of werewolves, claimed by the Alpha as something special.

We meet Bryn when she’s fifteen years old, already accustomed to pack life as a human and cherished by the Alpha as precious and fragile. There is something wrong in the air and even Bryn’s weakened human senses pick up on it. The wolves are antsy and they don’t want their human charge to be roaming the woods at night. Bryn latches on to this, never one to be put down by dominance games. She is her own woman and she aims to stay that way. Her stubbornness and need for independence leads her to a boy named Chase. He was mauled by a werewolf and left for dead. Callum found him and brought him into the fold, giving Bryn an opportunity to meet the boy and stumble upon the secrets of the pack. Together they must decide where their loyalty truly resides, with the pack or with each other.

The beginning of the novel is very hard to get through, Barnes consistently uses clichés and already established phrases. Instead of saying “to a T” several times in a chapter, I felt that she could have found more creative ways to depict how perfect and absolute the situation was. Some of the dialogue felt forced as well as the portrayal of some characters, for example Devon. It is understandable that he is a metrosexual, but the obsession with movie musicals and high fashion tends to depict him as a stereotypical homosexual. It’s not enough that Dev is more interested in how he looks than in how strong he is; the stakes for him need to be higher in order to claim him as different from the pack.

I almost gave up. Almost. Then, it seemed as if everything Barnes was holding leading up was unleashed in a tidal wave of emotion and strength. When the focus of the story became the emotions of the characters and what it meant to be a pack, I was sucked in. There was so much in her description of what the pack felt and how they all affected each other and protected each other that it latched onto my heart. My doubts vanished and I was happy that I spent time with these characters.

Barnes explores very important themes for teenage girls. Bryn wouldn’t succumb to the dominance of the pack. She held onto her independence for as long as she could. There are too many girls out there today that think it’s okay to let someone else take their independence. Bryn would teach them that it’s not. Everything that’s in your heart belongs to you and only you. Another theme is family, which in a way weaves through the theme of Bryn’s fight against dominance. There is a difference between letting your family in and being protective and letting them control you and hurt you because you did something wrong. Just because they have ties to you as a family does not mean they have a right to destroy you from the inside. Family is something different, and that is what Bryn discovers with the help of her friends.

The novel ended on a question mark. There seems to be the possibility that Bryn’s story could continue, and I certainly hope it does. Definitely a good read for the summer, be sure to pick it up when it hits stores on June 8th. She has her own Live Journal, so go show her some love. Raised by Wolves is available for pre-order.

Happy reading!

P.S– I know I haven’t been keeping up as much as I should, and I suck for that. I’m in the final stretch of my semester and everything is rising up into a crescendo of chaos and disorder. Summer approaches filled with promises of lazy afternoons and wonderful books to read. Thank you for all of your support and interest. Hold on with me during the next couple of weeks. I need you guys.

What a Coincidence; Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a stunning portrayal of teen angst, not for the sake of angst. Rich characters that are beginning in completely different places meet and come away changed. The style of writing is nonconformist, losing punctuation and capitalization in even-numbered chapters as well as squishing together dialogue in the odd numbers. It explored themes and struggles that many authors touch on, but never fully embrace. The depression struggle, the hope and prayer that someone out there can love you or appreciate you, straight/gay friendships that don’t fall into the straight-chick-gay-guy combo. I fell in love with this book from chapter 1. John Green as a start was a brilliant choice; had they began with David Levithan’s much darker Grayson, it would have set a different tone for the rest of the novel. I definitely think this novel is a must-read for teens. Beautifully dark, sometimes sweet and always honest, the Will Graysons reminded me of when I was a teen (all those years ago), when it was so hard to connect with others and let them connect with me. I came away from this novel not with tears, but with a smile.

Peter Norton Symphony Space let in a flow of librarians, young readers, and inquisitive minds such as my own and my sidekick also known as my boyfriend. Peppy girls with ironic t-shirts and choppy haircuts clutched books written by the authors they waited so anxiously to see.

In line, I met a youth holding onto a tattered but obviously loved copy of Looking for Alaska. I asked if I could see it and he happily let me. He was hyper skinny with glasses, I felt that if he played an instrument it would be something underrated, like the oboe. His friend came up from the front of the line, claiming tickets from the will-call. Not so skinny, but definitely just as devoted to John Green. Skinny-with-glasses gave me his blog, which I planned to link, but there was a typo in what he wrote. So if he comments and gives me the correct link, I will happily share.

The entrance contained a table with books to buy. I could have repurchased Naomi & Eli’s No Kiss List, a book I lost to a close friend. I chose to hope for its return instead. I also regretted not bringing along my copy of Boy Meets Boy, which always fills me with hope when I read it.

The crowd is composed of more female readers, but I was really glad to see some teen boys around because they really like the authors, rather than being forced to attend by a girlfriend. The couple beside me were exactly like that. She sat with manicured and spastic hands and an iPhone with an app for being hip. Her boyfriend wore a trendy blazer and glasses he probably didn’t need hooked on his shirt front. He waved around an iPhone, too.

Two chairs adorn the stage, a table between with clear plastic cups serving as centerpieces. A bottle of water sits beneath the table, waiting to be emptied. The longer we sit, the more the talking cascades into a crescendo and repeats. The excitement is a low buzz that charges the air we breathe.

Lights dim, an excited hush. An explosion of whoops and applause as three figures stride out onto stage. A small woman introduced herself as Kathy Minton, the director of Symphony Space. She begged that we don’t take flash photography so Green and Levithan stood for one big photo opportunity.

Green began by reading an excerpt from chapter 15, in which his Will Grayson goes to Jane’s house to ask her a question about Schroedinger’s cat. Levithan picked up with an excerpt from chapter 2, in which his Will Grayson expresses his anger towards the idiocies of the internet. They remind me of their Will Graysons, so vastly different but bound together by something wonderful. Green fidgets like a nervous habit, rubbing his curly hair and looking down at his shoes. Levithan remains cool and relaxed. It comforts me as a public speaker that they stumble over their own words at least once. Their readings are filled with what makes the Will Grayson characters unique; sarcasm, fear, anger, and hesitant love. Their work is filled with humor and the crowd loves every second of it. I am enraptured as they bring to life these wonderful Graysons and their hearts.Their conversation began with lighthearted laughter and joking around.

John Green initiated questioning, asking David Levithan to take the lead in explaining where Will Grayson, Will Grayson came from. From there we heard quirky stories about true mishaps (from confusing self proclaimed oafish Levithan for graceful dancer Levinthal, to every 1 out of 8 people being named John Green, and the argument over whether trolls are really people. I think they are, too Mr. Green). Green and Levithan explained the X shaped narrative. “The characters would start in very different places, […] they meet in the very middle of the novel and they sort of go their separate ways but having sort of switched some things in their lives as a result of that meeting.”

Levithan was also prompted to talk about coincidence, having explored the idea in his previous novels and doing so to a very heavy extent in this particular one. When asked if the universe connected people or if people did the connecting on their own, Levithan confirmed his faith in the latter.  “I don’t feel that all of this has been choreographed.” I feel his attitude showed heavily in the novel. The characters were not created to become part of each other. They were created to be themselves and just so happened to move through each other’s lives and left behind an effect.David Levithan and John Green

Another topic they discussed was having a kinship with those that share your name. Are you bound to uphold the personal sacred beliefs of everyone in the world that claims your same name? Does that really create something special between you? In a way it does. There’s something oddly exciting about meeting someone and being able to say “Hey, I answer to that, too.” How often do we meet people that share our name? Sure we google ourselves and see thousands of entries (as John Green complained about, but he said it became easier within the past couple of years), but how often do we come face to face with someone so unlike ourselves yet similar enough to share our name? It’s that slight chance, that off beat coincidence that turns us on our head. In the end, it comes back to Shakespeare. What is really in a name?

As part of the event, Green and Levithan decided to hold a writing experiment. We were given the following prompt: Write a scene where two characters with the same name meet. You are to pick their name, the day they will meet and the place. Oh, and we got five minutes. There were a lot of references to Starbucks coffee chains and a lot of contrasting ideas. Some great writing sprang from the five minutes. I heard about a trekkie and a very non-trekkie sharing a name and being at the same convention, a coffee buyer and coffee maker on opposite ends of the mood spectrum, Juilia and Guilia, as well as something about whales. Here’s what I cranked out:

Luna White stood outside Alabaster Books thinking about whether or not she should go in. The glass door opened and a breeze of cool air carried the dusty book smell out to her. She caught sight of herself in the window. Fingerprints smudged where her eyes should be. She took a breath and went in against her better judgment.

I really shouldn’t buy another–T.H WHITE! She stopped her thought as she studied the hold hardback.

Book of Merlyn, first printing. Found it hiding between a set of glassware up in New Paltz.” Luna turned to see a girl standing behind her wearing a nametag upside down. Her hair was asymmetrical and so were her clothes.

“What’s your name?” Luna asked, squinting to read the upside down letters.

“Oh,” the girl looked down and adjusted her nametag so the upright letters read Luna.

I had only five minutes and half an idea what to do, give me a break. Some of the writers read aloud, getting feedback from Green and Levithan (both apparently love the Starbucks references). There was a broad range of writers, from younger teens to older ones, from boys to girls. From talented writers to, well, not so much. It was still a great chance to see how different our five minute scenes came out. We all had a different way to see the scene and different ways for characters to react.

After the project concluded, the Q&A with the audience began. Green and Levithan revealed that some characters weren’t exactly based on actual people but actual friendships. The punctuation of the novel was a very big thing for me to find out about. It was so peculiar to me that there would be no capitalization at all, nor would there be conventional dialogue punctuation. Levithan explained it as a way to delineate the character from reality. His life was an internet chat, he wished so much that real life conversations would take on the same sense of IMs, blurring the lines of conversation. It showed innovation to think of punctuation in that way. As writers and as students we are trained to use punctuation very strictly, to see it all fall away in a novel does very interesting things with the way the reader views not only the events, but the narrator relaying these events.

As always, someone asks for advice on behalf of young writers everywhere. “Give yourself permission to [mess] up.” Levithan (kind of) said. He and Green continued to tell the audience that it was about writing for the sake of writing, not for the sake of being published. It wasn’t about having a product that people can buy off the shelf, but having a product for yourself to call completed and be proud of.

Questioning hit the usual bases; what books inspired you to write? (Catcher in the Rye for Green, because the vividness of pain was more real than anyone he actually knew, and Dinner at Homesick Restaurant for Levithan, because it helped him to see the use of magical realism and the meaning in everyday life). How did you handle writing each other’s characters? (quite simply, they trusted each other).

Levithan & GreenAfter the questioning ended, it was time to let the magic of the intimate Symphony Space end. We came togther to see into the minds of men that opened their hearts to us through their novel. When the lights came up, they left the stage with our applause ushering them out. We were escorted out into the broad sunshine. A new line formed so that we could wait ever so patiently to have our sacred tomes signed by our heroes. My handsome sidekick was so impressed with John Green in all his geeky glory, he immediately purchased Paper Towns so he could better experience what Green is all about. I was just as excited because now I can just borrow it from him. Waiting in line, we were harassed with post-it notes with our names scrawled on them, where to put them, how to fold in the flaps of our book jackets, and so on. It was all worth it for finally getting up to that table and being able to tell these amazing guys how much of an influence they are.

Find out more about John Green’s vlog by clicking here. As for David Levithan, click here for his web site. Their books are available at all major booksellers (Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon).

Happy Reading!

EDIT: Skinny-With-Glasses exists! His name is Martin and his blog is here. He’s rather witty and nerdy all at once. His movie reviews are pretty enticing.

Zinc May Not be Magnetic, but Zink is!

Today I had the privilege to have a chat with the author of Prophecy of the Sisters, Michelle Zink. She’s a New York mom with a lot of spunk and energy.

Prophecy of the SistersThis novel begins with a rainy day and a funeral, setting the mood for the rest of the novel. Sadness is there, even when there is love and passion. Siblings Lia and Alice stand on opposite sides of a prophecy, of a war that stretches back through their ancestry. But are the roles they were built for the roles they intend to play? The eerie language held me captivated throughout the entire novel. The magic within the novel was not overdone, it was subtle and felt new. Zink has an understanding of myths and it shows throughout her writing. Wives tales that we have grown up with are there in the underbelly of her haunting series. Next to be released is Guardian of the Gate.

Kiss My Lit says: Hello Mrs. Zink, how are you today?

Michelle Zink says: Hi, Mary!

Michelle Zink says: I’m good! How are you? And you can call me Michelle or MZ if you want! ❤

Kiss My Lit says: Heh, thanks. I’m pretty good, glad that I was able to steal my parents’ internet.

Michelle Zink says: Me, too! I’m glad I was able to get my grocery shopping done on time! 😀

Kiss My Lit says: Hooray!

Michelle Zink says: So you can just feel free to ask away!

Kiss My Lit says: Well, what attracted you to the Young Adult genre?

Michelle Zink says: I always feel like it picked me! I think everyone has an age that they are perpetually stuck at (at least in their own mind). For me, it’s about nineteen. It’s such a magical, terrifying, exhilarating time of life!  I remember being a teenager so vividly, and I still love reading about that time of life. The fact that I have tremendous admiration for teens – for their enthusiasm and passion and open-mindedness – just makes the chance to connect with them an added bonus!

Kiss My Lit says: It’s great you feel that way, what do you think about adult fiction writers that are jumping on the Young Adult bandwagon?

Michelle Zink says: I think anything that contributes to the collective repository of reading material – especially for teens – is a good thing! I also think having writers come to YA from other genres increases our likelihood of seeing fresh story lines. Sometimes YA can start to feel derivative. Like everyone’s basically writing the same thing with different names and places. It’s very possible adult fiction writers can bring something new to the table. In fact, I’ve read less YA since I’ve been writing, because that I worry about someone else’s story or voice creeping into my own work. Also, I’m oddly inspired to create fresh YA stories after reading adult ones!

Kiss My Lit says: So you have three kids, how do you feel about what they’re reading in school? Is there anything you’d suggest?

Michelle Zink says: Actually, I have four! Honestly, they don’t read much in school that is inspiring. Especially at the high school level, I wish they’d rethink some of the work they assign. I don’t think it speaks to the modern teenager, and while I see the merit in introducing young readers to the classics, I sometimes think it comes at the cost of turning off far more teens to reading in general. As for recommended reading, my youngest daughter (10) is totally infatuated with the MG series, Warriors. My 13 YO son really enjoy Star Wars fan fiction and the Rangers Apprentice series. My oldest daughter (15) is a girl after my own heart. She loves Graceling, White Oleander (a MUST read for college students it if you haven’t read it – the movie doesn’t count!) and anything by Tamora Pierce or Ellen Hopkins. Unfortunately, my musician son, who is almost 18, doesn’t read as much as he used to. That said, his very favorite is Catcher in the Rye, and he does read Star Wars fan fiction a lot. He’s more of a movie buff, though!

Kiss My Lit says: Graceling was awesome. Has she read Fire yet? Cashore made me cry.

Michelle Zink says: She did! And she loved it every bit as much! Believe it or not, I’m JUST finishing Graceling now. I’ve owned it for so long, but it took me this long to get to it!

Kiss My Lit says: I recommend it a lot, Katsa is way too strong a character to not introduce to young girls. What other books have you read recently?

Michelle Zink says: I adored Incarceron by Catherine Fisher and Finnikin of the Rock by Mellina Marchetta. ADORED! Both flawless novels, in my opinion. I do have a fondness for adult literature, though, and I highly recommend Shadow of the Wind and The Angels Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (very dark and Gothic) and anything by Sarah Waters (especially Fingersmith and The Little Stranger). Both authors are beyond brilliant.

Kiss My Lit says: I understand writing wasn’t always your career choice, what was your first career?

Michelle Zink says: My first career was in sales and marketing. I got into it as a way to face my fear, because I’m terribly anxious and shy and self-conscious in front of people. You know how people say “everything happens for a reason”? Well, they’re right! All those years in sales and marketing, going to trade shows, giving presentations, leading client meetings, etc., forced me to learn how to fake confidence. It comes in handy on tour, believe me!

Kiss My Lit says: I do believe you. I started reciting poetry competitively just so I can tolerate having the attention of more than ten people at a time. How did your family feel about your switch in career?

Michelle Zink says: They were very supportive. My kids, especially, always believed in me. When I would feel financially desperate and say, “I should probably just go back to work,” they’d say, “No. You should keep writing.” I don’t think my then-husband was happy to lose my income. But that would be one of the many reasons he’s my then-husband. 😉

Kiss My Lit says: Nonfiction. I personally think you made a good choice.

Kiss My Lit says: What myths inspired you when working on Prophecy of the Sisters?

Michelle Zink says: The biggest is the biblical legend of the Watchers. They were angels sent to watch over mankind, but they fell in love with mortal women and were banished from heaven. After that, they were known as the Lost Souls. The entire Prophecy mythos is based on that legend, and almost all of my books are based on real legends and myths.

Kiss My Lit says: And do you think your series is going in the right direction?

Michelle Zink says: Well, it’s completely finished now as I just last week turned in my final edits to book three. I always feel like the story already exists somewhere, and it’s really just my job to channel it correctly. When I try to impose my own will on the story, it feels wrong, off, to me. Which is why I don’t do it! LOL! Because of this, Prophecy feel like it came full circle for me. I hope it feels that way for readers, too.

Kiss My Lit says: What experiences have you gained since the publication of Prophecy?

Michelle Zink says: Oh, man! That’s a loaded question! So much! Just the experience of seeing a piece of my creative soul go out into the world has been fraught with wonder and joy and fear. I’ve become a much better writer through the opportunity to work closely with my editor on three books. This is an added bonus to publication that no one talks about but that is not to be underestimated. Most importantly, I’ve connected with so many amazing readers and writers from all over the world (the Prophecy series is published in over 25 countries).

Kiss My Lit says: Wow, that’s incredible. I think it’s great that you feel so open with your fans, too. Do you think that having that openness helps you with your writing?

Michelle Zink says: Actually, it can HURT the writing. That’s because it’s hard to tune out all the amazing readers who love Prophecy and have their own ideas about how things should go. When I was writing books two and three, I’d hear their voices in my head. “Will Sonia get a boyfriend? I really want Sonia to have a boyfriend!” Will Alice stay evil?” “What about James? I want to see more of James!” Lol! I have to make a concerted effort to listen to the story, because it’s not going to be as fulfilling for the reader if I don’t do that. But having a direct relationship with my readers HAS had a positive impact on my life in so many ways. It’s wonderful to connect with such passionate readers and it’s an honor to know that they feel that way about my work.

Kiss My Lit says: Speaking of readers, I have two blog followers who asked me to pass along a couple of questions. Matt would like to know: What is your most memorable piece of writing from when you were in school?

Michelle Zink says: Aw, you asked your blog readers for question?! How did I miss that in my Google Alert? That’s a great idea! I don’t really have one piece of writing that stood out for me. I was always tinkering. Playing with short stories and angsty poetry! I think tinkering is underrated as an improvement device for writers!

Kiss My Lit says: Ha ha, true. I actually posted on my fan page, and then my phone auto-corrected your name to Sink. It made me sad.

Kiss My Lit says: Andrew asks: When drawing inspiration from real people, how much of a character comes from that person rather than from her imagination?

Michelle Zink says: I’m sorry I didn’t see that! I try to comment when bloggers post about me or my work. 😦 But I understand, because my phone still auto-corrects “MZ” to “MS”. Lol! As for Andrew’s question, very few of my characters are inspired by real people. They come to life almost fully formed for me, and I fill in the details based on what will serve the story.

Kiss My Lit says: Another one popped up, Liz would like to know if it is more satisfying to hand write the story or would you rather type it?

Michelle Zink says: I always type because I can move faster that way and I’m very strict about the amount of work I expect from myself. When I’m drafting a new book, I usually write it in under three months. That would be tough to do if I had to handwrite and then type it up. Plus, typing is now second nature to me, and my thoughts come much more smoothly at the keyboard than they do at the page!

Kiss My Lit says: What’s your best advice for writers just starting out?

Michelle Zink says: Finish something. I know it sounds simple, but we writers are famous for our infatuation with shiny new ideas. We tend to work on something for a while until it gets tough or boring. Then we abandon ship and start something new. But you will never be a published writer if you don’t finish something, and you will never learn as much from any conference, mentor, class, or how-to book as you will through the process of starting and completing an entire book.

Kiss My Lit says: Simple, yet effective. Thank you so much for all your time. I have two last questions, though. What is the exact release date of Guardian of the Gate and is there anything you’d like to share with readers?

Michelle Zink says: It’s totally been my pleasure, Mary! Thank YOU for taking the time to speak with ME! Guardian of the Gate releases August 1st, and I hope to announce a new series sometime this year. Stay tuned…

Michelle Zink has her very own blog! You should check it out and leave her comments. Her newest book (Guardian of the Gate)  is already available for preorder at book sellers such as Borders and Amazon.

Happy reading!