Monday, September 24, 2018

Author Jonathan Rosen Discusses His New Book FROM SUNSET TILL SUNRISE!!

First, let me be clear: I am a HUGE fan of Jonathan Rosen's work!

If you haven't read his first book, NIGHT OF THE LIVING CUDDLE BUNNIES, go buy it right now and thank me later!

Now He's Back (You can't tell but I said that in a really creepy scary voice way) with a sequel: FROM SUNSET TILL SUNRISE!

The Description:

Devin Dexter and his cousin Tommy just saved the city of Gravesend from the menace of magical, malicious Cuddle Bunnies brought to life by the warlock, Herb. But there’s no rest for the wicked, as a new mysterious neighbor moves in across the street. At night. With a coffin. Tommy immediately jumps to conclusions as he thinks this can only mean one thing: Vampires.
Devin isn’t so quick to believe, as he is struck by the neighbor’s daughter, a girl his age. Even though Tommy points out that they have never seen her during the day. Yet when she invites him to a dance at her school—the Nosfer Academy of Talented Understudies—how can Devin say no? Tommy, though, realizes that this is an opportunity. After tackling a wizard last winter, surely they can protect Gravesend from some measly vampires, right?

The Interview with the author, the legend:

1.      Three words that describe FROM SUNSET TILL SUNRISE

Funny, Scary, Vampires . . . wait, did I mention funny? 

2.     The first paragraph of the book had me snorting out loud. What I need to know: Under what circumstances would vampires NOT be bad neighbours?

Hopefully, there were more laughs besides the first paragraph! 😊But, thank you!

I would say that maybe the Love at First Bite type of vampires might be fun to live near. Maybe Count Chocula, or the Count from Sesame Street, but they’d be the exception, not the rule. Still, overall there aren’t too many circumstances where vampires make decent neighbors. Herb was right, they definitely bring down property values.

3.     I was happy to see Herb back! Herb is the world’s biggest supplier of “Dad Jokes”! So my question is: Do your readers get those jokes, or are they more like Easter eggs for your adult readers, who find them hysterical? I snorted out loud when I read, “They’re like Martin and Lewis right around the breakup, not the reconciliation on the telethon.”!

Herb is my favorite character to write for! My kids love him. Herb does allow me to get things in for the adult readers. His pop culture references are decades out-of-date. There is a reason for it, but I’m saving that. I think his lines are funny for kids, but adults will get him on a different level. Also, I think it can’t hurt having kids go look up the cultural references that they’re not sure of. 

4.     One of my favourite lines in the book is the following: “A special on holy water? Why would anyone need so much holy water?” Clearly, only Tommy realizes that Gravesend is not like other places! Can you talk about the roles that Devin and Tommy play in your books?

I also love writing for Tommy! Devin is us. The reader. How we’d be reacting to these situations. Scared, curious, analyzing, and cautious. Reacting to the mayhem around him. Tommy is the one who serves as the other part of the reader. The part of us who says it’ll be all right. We can do this. He also serves as the reader’s thoughts. Giving a wink to the reader. Saying the things the reader is thinking about all the tropes in use. By this time, most readers are familiar with the tropes in horror. Inviting a vampire into the house. The ways to defeat a vampire. Tommy calls it out. He says what the reader is thinking. He’s letting the reader know, “We know that you know all these things, but here’s how we’re going to skew them.”

5.     How do you balance the funny and the scary? Because sometimes, this book can be a little scary?

I think when you write anything horror-related, you MUST have scary elements. It’s a disservice to the genre, otherwise. I’m a huge fan of the funny-horror genre, like Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, Gremlins, Fright Night, and even Nightmare on Elm Street. All those movies were funny, but they also had scary. The comedy is a release. When you think about some of the situations in horror, they’re absurd. Who runs upstairs when there’s a killer in the house? For the most part, horror protagonists lack common sense. So, I do like to call attention to that, but that doesn’t mean the situation itself isn’t still scary. The protagonists ARE facing terrible stakes. Death is possible. So, you have to have them dealing with the threat, while at the same time letting the audience know, we realize the hero did something they shouldn’t have, but now that they’re in this situation, let’s figure a way out and hope he’s learned his lesson. 

6.     Was it easier to write the sequel than the first book, or did you put extra pressure on yourself?

MUCH more difficult to write the sequel. First off, I had less time. Once Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies was getting close to pub date, we started discussing a sequel. They wanted something months later to prepare for the following year. So, I had literally half the time I did on the first book. 

Not to say that some things weren’t easier. We now have established characters, so it’s a little bit easier to introduce them into the story, since the reader already has some expectations of them from the first novel. But, as with any sequel, you can’t do what was already done. You have to raise the stakes. So, there was some pressure with all of that.

7.     There are lots of twists and turns in this story, and let’s face it: The grownups are a bit clueless. Do you always know exactly what’s going to happen before you write?

Kind of, but not always. I used to outline every single detail. And I know a lot of authors still advise that. But, now, I go in with a loose outline. I know the premise. I know basically how I want it to end, and the general direction of the story, but I give myself some leeway on how to get there. Sometimes, while I’m writing, something occurs to me that I hadn’t thought of beforehand, and now I’ve given myself the liberty to take the story in a new direction and explore it. Just as long as I still come back to my ending, or some form of it. 

8.     What are you working on now?

Well, my agent is shopping one now. A fun book, with magic and Jewish mythology, that means a lot to me. But, I’m also working on two different books at the same time. Both dealing with folklore and a little bit of Mexican mythology. In a humorous way, of course 😊

9.     These books beg to be a movie or a TV series! Any chance?

Thanks! I think so too! There’s always a chance, right? But, we had actually been approached for Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, but so far nothing. I hear that’s common, but would love to see it done. Especially, to see who they get for Herb. And besides, who doesn’t want to see marauding, murderous, stuffed bunnies hopping across the screen?

10.  This is your sophomore book. What surprised you the most about being a debut author versus a sophomore author?

The debut experience is a whirlwind. You have so much going on, that you don’t really get to stop and enjoy the moment. I mean, I definitely tried, but you’re worried about everything. You have no idea what you should be doing. Promoting yourself was also a constant worry. Is it too much? Too little?  There are so many things going on, which you’re not used to. 

Once it’s done, there’s almost a letdown. All that anticipation, and now it’s over. Still, there’s nothing like seeing your book in the stores and libraries. What surprised me with the second one, was the fact that I didn’t feel that much differently. I do feel validated that I’m now a published author, but many of the other worries are still there. I’m under the assumption that it’ll always be like that.

Thank you Jonathan and congrats on the new book!

And those of you who want a daily laugh, follow Jonathan on twitter. His handle is @HouseofRosen, because he's also a fashion designer in his spare time!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Stop on the Blog Tour for SPOOKED! by Gail Jarrow

Sometimes when we spend so much thought and energy focused on all things fiction in middle grade literature, it can be easy to overlook the importance of quality non-fiction. Speaking as a teacher of middle grade readers, I can promise you the interest in non-fiction is healthy and thriving -- especially in reluctant readers.

I recently had the opportunity to read SPOOKED!, a new piece of engaging non-fiction by Gail Jarrow. SPOOKED! tells a well-researched story of the infamous “War of the Worlds” 1938 radio broadcast. I first became aware of this event when I was a young middle grader myself, watching the TV movie “The Night that Panicked America.” I was fascinated by the misunderstanding of how the whole event snowballed out of control back then, and was eager to read more about it. 

SPOOKED! didn’t disappoint. It thoroughly recounts the event, starting with how the theatrical roots of Orson Wells led him to radio and the adaptation of using the H.G. Wells novel as a radio play, set in what was then the modern day United States. Instead of just writing the book as a Wells biography, Gail Jarrow tells the reader about the other people involved as well, from the other performers and writers all the way to the people who worked in special effects and people in the general public who were caught up in the panic. The numerous references to the story being told and the way so much of the population reacted to it will probably bring a lot of young readers to the original novel. 

SPOOKED! doesn’t stop with the resolution of the radio play itself, but continues on to chronicle the aftermath. It provides dozens of anecdotal moments giving examples of how individuals were affected by the broadcast, and how the widespread reactions went as far as letters to newspapers and possible government intervention. The book ultimately stands as a strong example of why it’s so important to pay close attention to the details of the media, and how so many people can be taken in by false statements when they let that attention slip.

Gail Jarrow is the author of many popular nonfiction books, including Red Madness, Fatal Fever, and Bubonic Panic. Her books have received numerous starred reviews, awards, and distinctions, including Best Book awards from the New York Public Library, School Library Journal, the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Kirkus Reviews, and the National Science Teachers Association.

Monday, September 17, 2018

When you’re thrown a curve ball…

… you learn to catch it. Sounds pretty simple right? This coming from the girl who’s been nailed in the leg with a line drive and ended up in the hospital. Don’t worry too much this was years ago and it was just a contusion (a big scary word for a large bruise). But my leg turned pretty shades of blue, purple, red, yellow, and green and swelled up to twice its normal size. And I limped around for a solid week because my muscle would painfully tighten every time I put weight on it. And we won’t about how hard it was to put pants on.

So what does all this whining and pain have to do with writing—aside from the fact that we writers would prefer not to put on pants? About two months ago, I got thrown the mother of all curve balls in my writing career.

Things were going great. I’d landed an amazing agent, we were on our second round of edits, my manuscript was looking better than ever, and my writing was being pushed beyond what I thought possible. My agent sent me some thoughts, they seemed pretty straight forward and at the end of the email mentioned addressing these few items then some line edits and then we could go on sub. That magical “S” word. I was there. This was going to happen.

And then a week later I opened an email from my agent and my world came crumbling down. She was writing to inform me she’d taken another job in publishing and unfortunately couldn’t take her clients with her. My heart sank. What did this mean? What would it do to my career? Of course I was happy for my agent or former agent, but I couldn’t help but think how this would affect me.

After 6 months of seeing my path forward and working with an amazing agent who pushed me in ways I never imagined, I was suddenly Alice in Wonderland—lost in the dark, scary woods with a path that had suddenly been erased out from underneath my feet.

I was nowhere.

I’m sure some of you reading this are saying now hold on a minute… But at the time I was such a blubbering mess of tears and confusion that I was blind to any possibilities.

So I ask again, what do you do when you’re thrown a MASSIVE curve ball in your writing career?

Step 1: Get the heck out of the way.
Seriously, if you’re not equip to catch the ball then get out of the way. Sit down, take some time and deal with your emotions. Be sad, be angry, feel sorry for yourself. Do whatever you need to do even if that means putting writing, editing, etc. on the back burner. Take care of number 1 first.
Step 2: Call in the coach, team, and cheerleaders.
You didn’t get to this point in your writing career without a support system, and you aren’t without one now. Use them. Lean on them. Vent to them. And let them lift you up and help you find your new path. There’s one there, you’re probably blind to it, but they will help you find it.

Step 3: Step up to the plate.
When you’re ready, get back in the game. Start editing, write something new, brainstorm a new idea, outline etc. Find something that feels right and jump in. Sure the water is cold, the wind is blowing, and you might still be limping around, but you have to get up off the couch and rejoin the game.

Step 4: Take a swing.
Once you’ve got your bearings back, take that next step. Dive back into the query trenches, submit your work for publishing, take the plunge. Keep trying and don’t stop. Find that project your passionate about, put it out in the world and see what happens. Swing the bat until it connects.

Step 5: Run the bases.
Keep pushing forward. You might not make it to home plate yet, but you can’t get there if you don’t get on base. Perseverance. It’s what’s gotten you to this point and it will continue to carry you forward.

Revisit all steps as needed.

So where does this leave me in all of this? I’m somewhere between steps 4 and 5. It took some time to see that I was actually in a fairly fortunate position. I have an almost sub ready manuscript that’s never been seen by editors. I’m ready to go. Once I took some time to come to terms with my situation, I started my edits. And I generated a list of agents. I found new agents that hadn’t yet seen my manuscript and agents that expressed interest in the past that might want to see a heavily revised version.

With my newly revised, sub ready manuscript, I dove head first into the query trenches. Was it scary… OMG yes! I sat there for 30 minutes staring at the email I’d drafted before I could even hit the send button. I think this was in part because while the bruises were no longer visible, I still very much felt them. But once I did get up the courage to send that first query, each one after that became a little easier.

And when the rejections started to roll in, my heart sank a little. My pride hurt. Maybe this was a fluke. Maybe there was only one agent who liked my work. Imposter syndrome is real folks! But then came a request and some interest. So maybe I just need some more time. It took a solid almost ten years of writing and querying off and on to find my first agent, a second wouldn’t just happen overnight. Until then I wait, I write, and I keep moving forward.

Oh and I bought a glove… so I can actually catch that curve ball ;)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Flames and Fears and a New Book: MISSING MIKE is out this week

This Friday marks the U.S. release of my middle-grade novel, Missing Mike. I’m super-excited about this, and I hope you will read it, and of course I hope you will love it! I’ve been fortunate to get lovely reviews so far, and I’m very grateful. So yeah—excited and grateful! 


In the weeks leading up to release day, I've also been feeling a fair degree of unease about promoting this book at this point in time. I wrote this story while my home province of B.C. was in the midst of its worst-ever wildfire season, and when I finished, I think I imagined people reading it after—after the rains had come, after the smoke had cleared, after the flames and fears had become memories. 

As it turns out, this year's wildfire season in B.C. has been even worse than last year (and I know it's dreadful in other places, too). My parents and extended family were evacuated, and we watched the fire updates constantly, desperately hoping we weren't going to lose the little cabin that's been at the heart of so many wonderful memories for multiple generations of our family. Thankfully, we're all safe, and so far our property has been spared. Others have not been so fortunate, and many are still living in the midst of a flames-and-fears nightmare. Again.

And here I am, with a children's book about wildfires and home and fear and loss. 


People have commented on how timely Missing Mike is, and all I can say is yes, it's heartbreakingly timely. I can only hope this book might help people far from the fires understand a little of what others are going through, and for those who are much too close for comfort…well, someday—after, perhaps—maybe Missing Mike will offer a way in to talking about things like loss and fear and finding hope in the midst of a terrible situation. Meanwhile, my heart is with you. May you stay safe. May all your loved ones stay safe.

✧  ✧  ✧  ✧  ✧

He’s a rescue, a mutt. Maybe there’s a little golden retriever in him, although he’s not exactly pretty. He’s had a run-in with coyotes and he’s missing an eye. But Mike is eleven-year-old Cara Donovan’s dog, and they love each other absolutely. Usually her pet follows Cara everywhere, but on the day the family first smells smoke in the air, Mike becomes anxious. Pine Grove is in the path of a wildfire, and the family is ordered to evacuate. In the ensuing chaos, Mike runs off. And then the unthinkable happens; there is no time to search for Mike. They are forced to leave him behind.

Shocked and devastated, Cara watches helplessly as the family drives through a nightmare, with burning debris falling from the sky and wild animals fleeing for their lives. Once in the city far from the burn zone, the Donovans are housed with a volunteer host family. Jewel, the hosts’ daughter, is nice, but Cara can only think about what she may have lost. What will happen if nothing is left? But as she reflects on what “home” means to her, Cara knows only one thing. She is not going to lose Mike. She will do what it takes to find him, even if it means going back to Pine Grove on her own.

"Tense, heartwarming, and masterful."Kirkus

MISSING MIKE, available September 14 (Pajama Press).

Indiebound      B&N     Amazon