Thursday, 30 June 2011

Top 10 Fiction Books of the 2nd Quarter 2011

Top 10 Fiction Books of the 2nd Quarter 2011

1. First Day On Earth - Cecil Castellucci
2. The Underland Chronicles - Suzanne Collins
Gregor the Overlander, The Prophecy of Bane
3. Wolves of the Beyond - Kathryn Lasky
Lone Wolf, Shadow Wolf
3. Gardians of Ga'Hoole - Kathryn Lasky
The Capture, The Journey, The Rescue
4. Children - Maggie Clark
5. Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale - Holly Black
6. Red Glove - The Curse Workers Book 2 - Holly Black
7. Conspiracy 365 - Gabrielle Lord
January, February
8. Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles - Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
The Nixie's Song, A Giant Problem, The Wyrm King
9. Skipping Stones At The Center Of The Earth - Andy Hueller
10. Fugitives - Escape from Furnace 4 - Alexander Gordon Smith
(Note: Some of these were digital ARC's from NetGalley and reviews will be posted closer to the publication date. Some of the reviews are scheduled over the next few weeks. I will link to the reviews once they post.)

Relates Posts:
Top 10 Fiction Books 1st Quarter 2010
Top 10 Fiction Books 2nd Quarter 2010
Top 10 Reading Goals for 2010
Top 10 Fiction Books 3rd Quarter 2010

Top 10 Fiction Books 4th Quarter 2010
Top Ten Reading Goals For 2010 - Recap

Top 10 Fiction Books 2010
Top 10 Picture Books of 2010
Top 10 Non-Fiction Books of 2010

Top 10 Graphic Novels for 2010
Top Ten Reading Goals For 2011

Top Ten Fiction Books 1st Quarter 2011
Top Ten Fiction Books 2nd Quarter 2011
Top Ten Reading Goals for 2011 Update

Top Ten Fiction Books 3rd Quarter 2011
Top Ten Fictions Books 4th Quarter 2011
Top Ten Fiction Books 2011
Top Ten Reading Goals 2011 - Recap
Top Ten Reading Goals 2012
 
Top Ten Fiction Books 1st Quarter 2012
Top Ten Fiction Books 2nd Quarter 2012
Top Ten Fiction Books 3rd Quarter 2012
Top Ten Fiction Books  4th Quarter 2012
Top Ten Fiction Books 2012
Top Ten Non-Fiction Books 2012
Top Ten Reading Goals 2012 - Recap
Top Ten Reading Goals 2013
Top 10 Fiction Books 1st Quarter 2013
 
Statistics Books Read By Year:
72 - January-June 2011
302 - 2010
142 - 2009
98 - 2008
83 - 2007
191 - 2006
151 - 2005
60 - 2004
52 - 2003
97 - 2002
50 - 2001
41 - 2000
71 - 1999
73 - 1998
131 - 1997
101 - 1996

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Margaret Clark - Author Profile

I have the pleasure of knowing Maggie (M.L.) Clark for a number of years know. She has been a section editor and editor in chief that I reported to at Imprint. She is a dedicated lifelong learner. Her published short story, Saying the Names; and novella, Children, both amazed me buy the skill and talent shown and the maturity of her voice as an author.

1. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

I'm still on the path to a career in academia; I don't see writing as an either/or game. My passion to teach cannot be fulfilled by the printed word alone, and a desire for life-long learning goes hand-in-hand with university communities. It also bears noting that my generation is one of routinely free creative enterprise-the sharing of extraordinary skill and time through craft exchanges, pay-what-you-like downloading, and all manner of for-love-of-the-art gifting to larger audiences (i.e. through publicly available videogame mods, fan-fiction, short films, and web-comics). In such a rapidly shifting artistic landscape, it would be very nice, in the long-term, to be able to offer my writing for free, while paying the bills through a related community that supports my artistic enterprise. I recognize that in the marketplace of ideas some people will still value that which has a price tag over that which does not, but gaining a reader's interest means more to me than their cash.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer and how did you nourish that dream?

Writing has always been a part of my life, but I was quite leery of adopting the title "writer" too quickly. In part, this is because I understood early on that writing was by no means a lucrative profession, and great writing an unrealistic one: as such, though I wrote and read tirelessly, I suspected I would be deemed frivolous and arrogant for setting this difficult label pre-emptively upon myself. It also didn't help that I encountered many who use the term solely for its romanticism, and without matching high ambition with day-to-day discipline. These persons routinely remind me that how one self-identifies does not necessarily correlate with who they are or what they do. As for myself, I kept my nose to the ground, wrote extensively, made friends the world over who were equally interested in honing their art, submitted work without balking at the prospect of rejection, and over time have allowed my results, such as they are to date, to speak for themselves. Some days I do feel like a writer; on others, I'm not so sure-but on these latter days, when the need to prove to myself that I have earned this title is greatest, I tend to find the work improves.

3. How did you determine to make the switch from journalism to fiction?

I love the ethos of journalism, its rigours and need for human mindfulness, but the brevity of news cycles always seemed an impediment to certain kinds of discourse about the human condition. In particular, I remember a period in which stories about women kidnapped for years, then suddenly returned to their families, flooded the airways: it struck me then that these were stories that necessarily couldn't be covered properly if they were to be covered ethically (e.g. the victims did not owe anyone else a single moment of their precious new freedom; yet their very existence as survivors of long-term trauma posed difficult questions news anchors could not adequately resolve on their own). I therefore turned to other forms of writing (some new to me, like playwriting; some old, like short fiction and poetry) to fill in the gaps in contemporary themes like these. Put another way, for me form necessarily follows function, and as my "function" by and large has been to create work with an interest in lost narratives, I will always move to whatever form best serves that need at any given time.

4. What advice would you give to teens today, to other readers, what gems of knowledge have you gleaned in life that you would pass on?

I grappled for many years with severe depression, anxiety, and an exceedingly low sense of self-worth. In the course of those experiences, I found that the most terrible part of any low period is the fear that the pain you're feeling then will never end-for that fear can lead you to do even greater and more lasting harm to yourself than your low mood ever could unto itself. Recently, an "It Gets Better" campaign emerged in response to the devastating rate of queer teen suicides across North America, but those three words should really hold sway over all youth suffering: It gets better. It gets better. It gets better. And if you have trouble believing that, please, give yourself the gift of professional and community allies in the struggle for your one and precious life: seek help.

5. You have a great passion for books and literature in general. To what do you attribute this?

My father gave me an incredibly early boost in my education, meaning that I learned to delight in the notion of learning long before TV programs and peer groups were able to perpetuate the stereotype that all children hate homework and school unless they're "teacher's pets." I also learned from my father never to limit myself to one discipline, but rather to follow all points of curiosity as far as they would take me. This almost necessarily meant that I became a voracious reader-though I do wonder if the same will be true for future generations of polymaths, with Wikipedia and Google always so close at hand. The clincher for me, though, was probably the only required reading I was given by my father as a child: At the age of eight I started reading On the Origin of Species at the glacial pace of three or four pages a day, with daily reports made to my father on my thoughts about the content therein. In consequence of this assignment, I've never taken kindly to the notion that children should be made to adhere to "reading levels," for the express reason that exposure to more complex sentence structures and new words from a young age on does wonders for vocabulary-building, and certainly the quality of one's own writing over time. If anyone here hasn't read On the Origin of Species, let me summarize what it looks like to a child: sentences as long as paragraphs; paragraphs that go on for pages. But when I finished that work, at nine years old, my father told me, "Congratulations! Now you'll never fear another book; next to this one, nothing else will ever seem impossible again." To this day, it's proven true; and on the off chance I do pick up a book that looks dauntingly dry, those words invariably come back to me, challenging me to be as diligent and open-minded as I was at eight years old. It is my strongly held opinion that children are fearless creatures of great, raw intellect, and deserve to be challenged as such.

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

Honestly, the process is different for each work. When I wrote a longer piece a couple years back, it started as a short story, but I quickly became dissatisfied with the expositional style and started over. The moment I did, I realized the work needed to be much longer to do justice to the premise, and the characters. Sixteen days later, I had a manuscript of 80,000 words. That said, I'm not usually fortunate enough to have that much time to write, so my typical approach is more adaptive to constraining circumstances. I get my ideas from all over-non-fiction interests, general conversation, the news-but I intentionally let them stew first. I don't just want idle words spilling out: I want the ideas inside to be backed by such an intense build-up of pressure that they can't help but spill out. In consequence, I tend to write in short, controlled bursts-though never ever fewer than a thousand words a day. My editing process is fairly rigorous and meticulous, as might be expected of someone with a history in professional editing (though I can't wait to get a new printer so I can catch further errors the old fashioned way as well). A story is likely reread no fewer than ten times (and most often, closer to twenty) before I submit it; with longer works, I read the chapter preceding the one I'm currently working on ad nauseum, so I also get plenty of editing done while I go. I imagine I must drive a few fiction and poetry editors crazy-not because I believe my work is perfect when it arrives in their hands, but because I have a genuine thirst for meta-conversations about grammatical idiolects, and the editors I work with sometimes just want to get the job done. (Shocking, I know!) Currently, I'm working on a longer piece for which I wrote a full book synopsis first. I've been known to complete synopses first when I feel, at the time of inspiration, that I can't tackle the project properly just yet. However, those synopses are never set in stone, and I still find that my characters and plot take on a life of their own in the writing itself. This is quite relieving, because it means the writing process is always a bit of an adventure (read: mess!), no matter how detailed my initial plans.

7. If you could live in any alternate world from a book, which one would you live in why?

Neal Stephenson's Anathem depicts an ascetic order of secular scholars that has one tremendous benefit over religious depictions of the same (for instance, as seen in works like Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose): women are equally permitted to partake in lifelong quests of the mind. That's quite a difference from this world, where the lone wolf archetype is still one of romantic weight for male writers, yet female writers who seek that same measure of isolation for their work and minimalism in their lives by and large earn themselves more negative valuations. On a personal level, I still feel immense and explicit pressures to validate myself as a woman first and foremost-say, by entering into a formalized partnership and producing children of my own-while the mere fact of my gender has also exposed me to instances of sexual harassment in the pursuit of my writing goals. It would therefore be a thing of surpassing joy to be given leave to study and write in the structured peace of Anathem's distinctly cloistered world, where men and women are considered equal participants in the pursuit of greater collective knowledge.

8. If you had to pick 10 books to recommend to someone who is not a big reader, what books would you pick?

I find the best gateway for any non-reader is through their personal interests, so a blanket list is rather tricky. Here are some that have worked for me with others in the past: Dispatches - Michael Herr (For anyone who thinks Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is boring.) The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle - Avi (Young girl.) Call of the Wild - Jack London (Young animal lovers / outdoorsy types.) Watchmen - Alan Moore (Jaded/disaffected youth.) Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov (For anyone who thinks writing can't be beautiful and hideous all at once.) Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie / Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe (For anyone who thinks novels have no relevance to our understanding of history.) The Night in Question - Tobias Wolff / For the Relief of Unbearable Urges - Nathan Englander (For anyone who thinks the short story is a dead form.) Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut (For anyone who doesn't understand the purpose of science fiction in the face of terrible, incomprehensible realities.)

9. What were some of your favourite books and authors as a child?

I adored the classics as a child: The Complete Works of the Brothers Grimm, The Adventures of Pinocchio, Peter Pan, The Chronicles of Narnia, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels, The Water Babies, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and anything depicting Greek or Nordic mythology. Contemporary works included Lois Lowry's The Giver, Gary Paulsen's Hatchet, Avi's The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Benjamin Hoff's The Tao of Pooh, Agatha Christie mysteries, William J. Bennett's The Book of Virtues, Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydian. T. H. White's The Once and Future King, Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends, and science fiction by Madeleine L'Engle, Monica Hughes, and Diana Wynne Jones.

10. What were some of your favourite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

The beginning of my adolescence was marked by some rather fearless forays into non-fiction, whereupon I became a great fan of Richard Feynman and Stephen Hawking. (Give a child a book like QED, and with more certainty than any adult they'll tell you they understand at least half of it.) Science fiction and fantasy also had their place in my heart-anything I could find by Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, Arthur C. Clarke, William Gibson, and David Eddings, I read-but I still keeled hard towards literary fiction, too. To that end, for a while Ernest Hemingway and Anton Chekhov were just about tops for me (though George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Iris Murdoch, and Leo Tolstoy made for valiant competition). But when I read The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, no other work could even hope to compare. Russian literature has reigned in my personal library ever since.

11. Who are some of your favourite authors or books now?

Certainly, to my mind no single text has yet bested The Brothers Karamazov in depth and breadth of human experience, but Dostoevsky is by no means the lone authorial love of my adult life. I also greatly appreciate the works of Cormac McCarthy, Tobias Wolff, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Platonov, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, Vladimir Nabokov, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Yukio Mishima, Nathan Englander, Bill Gaston, Flannery O'Connor, and Ursula K. LeGuin. Graphic novels like A Contract with God, Watchmen, 100%, and Y: The Last Man, as well as poetry collections by Wislawa Szymborska, Richard Siken, Dorianne Laux, and Jack Gilbert, also occupy a vital place in my literary life. Very recently, I was also deeply humbled by Best European Fiction 2010, a collection of short fiction and novel excerpts that serve as emphatic reminder that there are other, profoundly different ways to write than the ones we hold supreme on this continent.

12. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." One of the great strengths in both your novella Children and your short story Saying the Names are your characters. Are your characters real to you in the way L'Engle's were?

I found this question the most difficult to answer, as the accepted writer's mythology underpinning such a topic seems to allow for only two modalities of author/character interaction: either characters are distinct beings, or else they're fragments of the author's own character, and that of other people the author already knows in real life. Yet I can't help but struggle for a third way of looking at this relationship: At the outset of any story I'm working on, I always hold to the desire to create distinct beings in my characters, but by the end of each work-if it's a good work, at least; a work I'm proud to call my own-they grow so kindred that the lines start to blur, even if our ethics and circumstances and desires and weaknesses are completely different. Put another way, I know a work is finished when I've reached a humanistic understanding of all its characters; at that point, though they may well be distinct entities, I feel immersed in them, and they in me. (Alternately, I know a work is not ready and/or inferior if this moment of compassion does not arise.)

13. In many ways you are a modern renaissance woman, philosopher, educator, researcher, student, author and more. Very few people today are as well rounded as you are. To what do you attribute this?

Truly, my early education (care of my father) in the joy of learning takes full credit. During my youth, no subject was pitted against any other in terms of relative value: what mattered first and foremost was rather that I follow any point of curiosity to its fullest. In this way, I came very quickly to understand the interrelatedness of many disciplines, and grew as much with the maths and sciences as I did with English, history, and philosophy. Being in the gifted program, I learned to rank lateral thinking skills above and beyond the needs of any one discipline, so it was really no surprise I then moved on to an International Baccalaureate (IB) program in high school: that program's emphatic focus on well-rounded learning across six core subjects only enhanced certain educational values I already held, and continue to hold today.

14. One of my goals in life is to find balance between body, mind and spirit. And even though our primary philosophies and worldviews are different. You seem to have achieved that balance in both your work and your life. What do you do to maintain your balance?

Scientific consensus currently puts the age of the universe at 13.75 billion years, and its diameter at 28 billion parsecs. Within that vast expanse, we orbit one of three hundred sextillion stars on a planet 4.5 billion years old, against which the age of our species-around 200,000 years anatomically, 50,000 years behaviourally-is a drop in the bucket. Yet against even that one, piddling drop, our individual lives are even more minute-the merest fraction of an eye-blink apiece in the great, ongoing march of the universe, which will continue to exist for billions of years more after each of us has died and returned to dust. Against such staggering facts, I understand why we, as a species, are used to shrinking our sense of the universe into something much smaller, more fanciful, and eminently more personable-not just because of how long it took us even to become aware of the universe's size and age, but also because day-to-day life on this planet, with all its nuances and pitfalls, is often hard enough to comprehend without also keeping in mind the tempestuous goings-on beyond our upper atmosphere. But when all that shrinking of the universe clouds our sense of how rare and how precious our one and only life truly is, my adult recourse has necessarily been to step outside of it all-to remember the size and the age of the cosmos, and just how incomprehensibly much had to occur from the very beginning of time just to arrive at me, and my scant few years on this planet. Put in this light, how could one dare to waste even an hour pursuing a line of thought or action harmful to oneself or others? How could one think to pursue anything in our mere decades on this planet but the most heightened state of self-awareness, communal enlightenment, and readiness to explore?

15. Completely off topic but what TV shows or movies do you enjoy?

My all-time favourite TV series is Babylon 5, for its tight, complete narrative of increasing and pointed complexity. I also have a sentimental attachment to ST:TNG, The Shield, and Summer Heights High (three more wildly disparate programs, you will not find). For casual enjoyment I cycle through well-wrought fluff like Community, Bob's Burgers, and Dexter, and no one can wrest me from my love of cooking shows-but these last are guilty pleasures, all. By and large, film is the more serious medium for me. My favourite film is Ikiru, an exquisite and lesser known work by Kurosawa set in post-war Japan, and which follows a middling bureaucrat given a six month death sentence from stomach cancer. After spending his whole life as a glorified paper-pusher, he's now desperate to make some kind of a positive impact before it's too late, but many avenues are already closed to him forever. A close second is The White Diamond, a documentary by Werner Herzog that depicts-in his very distinct and gentle way-the dual capacity for human beings to be mesmerized by dreams and curiosity, and weighed down by grief and the past. The Story of the Weeping Camel, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and, yes, Alien round out my top five. (I already feel guilty for all the other films I love but haven't mentioned here.)

16. Do you read eBooks? If so do you use a specific reader? What percentage of books that you read are in electronic format?

I do not own an e-reader, so the eBooks I read are in PDFs on my laptop. I'd say about five percent of the books I read annually are e-books, but that's in large part because I like to use reading as an escape from the online world-so having to read a book on a device that is always a right-click away from an internet window is extremely dangerous business.

17. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

I agree with your past professor's statement, but must also pose a caveat, for learning how to think only provides one with a reactive toolset. I think there must necessarily be a proactive component to post-secondary education as well, and it should take the form of student recognition, at the culmination of his or her degree, not just of what he or she has learned to date, but also of just how much remains to be explored. (Put another way, a student cannot hope to know the full shape of his education upon entry into a proper post-secondary program; but with a little luck and a great deal of personal motivation, the successful post-secondary student will surely leave with his curiosity further piqued, not whetted, by the experience.)

18. If you could pick any one book to be made into a movie what would it be? Who would you like to see star in it?

Boy, that's a tough question. I think books and films are markedly different media, and what works well in one often does not work well in the other. I will say, though, that I'm surprised William Gibson's Pattern Recognition hasn't become a box office sensation yet. As possibly the first quality science fiction novel set in the present (by which I mean the book uses current technology in ways we hadn't yet explored when it was first released), its commentary on branding and identity formation could be of exceptional use in renewing social discourse around our generation's current commercial impulses. I'm not big on actors' names, but protagonist Cayce Pollard would require a serious, brooding portrayal (with a touch of ass-kicking incarnate) so I'd propose Helena Bonham Carter for the part.

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

First and foremost, David Quammen's Song of the Dodo-if I'm trapped on a desert island, what better work than one that plots a history of evolutionary biology against extreme cases of island speciation, to better aid me in cataloguing my new environment?
But in time, of course, I'll long for some reminder of human happenstance, so Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov will stand me in good stead next. Upon completion, though, the book will likely make me long all the more for the world I've lost. After much bitter gnashing of teeth I'll thus remember Herman Melville's Moby Dick, and find some solace in the shared futility of my grief and the protagonist's inner plight. After that, I'll require light-hearted reprieve, and consequently turn to The Collected Poems of Wislawa Szymborska, for all their slyness and their wit. After this, though, I'll want to devour a more substantial poetic screed, so The Iliad (as translated by Robert Fagles!) should be close at hand. From there I'll want a more personal, contemporary epic, so Iris Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea, about a man struggling to find the next big adventure in his retired life in a remote coastal town, would be the next book out of my satchel. By then, bored and starved for conversation, why not give myself over to Finnegans Wake? (How terrified any potential rescuer would be, if I were found while babbling that bit of Joyce aloud!) So fortified against communal life by Joyce's particular flavour of linguistic madness, I'll probably next go through a hardened period in which Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago would allow me to believe myself better off without civilization. But eventually that attitude will break, at which point I'll pull out Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and follow that mythical city from creation to destruction, wedding my remembrance of human suffering with memories, too, of its fleeting triumphs. Finally, though, it will occur to me that no cycle of trial and tribulation in any book will ever change my fundamental circumstances. On a voyage all my own, I will reach then for Frederik Pohl's Gateway, and imagine myself as one of the daring, lonely space explorers who take to one-person space shuttles on an alien space station, and let unknown, predetermined courses carry them to riches or oblivion. What better way to go, than in the throes of ceaseless exploration?

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

Never compromise on the things that matter most. You will be told you have to. You will be told this is how the game is played. And indeed, it will seem like you're losing shot after shot if you try to go your own way-but there will be other chances, other avenues; and when they arise, if you've held your own to get there, you'll be able to take them with full confidence in the value of your integrity. This world is rife with people who participate in the arts for the acclaim, the social positioning, the networking and the glam. I don't begrudge them, either-not unto themselves, at least; not when a tremendous amount of work is still required to maintain their lot in the system-but inasmuch as they impede the process of those who care primarily about their work, and not their own status in any one community, I encourage you to part ways as soon as possible. You will only do harm to one another if you don't. That said, learn what matters most. If constructive criticism upsets you, your priorities are wrong. If fear of rejection limits you, your priorities are wrong. If the possibility of failure is keeping you from even trying, your priorities are wrong, wrong, wrong. So by all means, when dealing with people trying to decide your future for you, pick a hill to die on, but pick the right hill. As an artist, you are your own boss first and foremost: be a good boss to yourself, and the rest will follow.

Thanks you Maggie for taking the time to answer some questions for the readers at Book Reviews And More.

Books by M.L. Clark:
Children
The Bitter Sweet Here and After - Short Story

K-City Kink Sisters:
Lacing Up To Reality - Short Story
One For The Team - Short Story

Author Profile Interview with M.L. Clark


Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Capture - Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 1 - Kathryn Lasky

The Capture
Guardians of Ga'Hoole
Book 1

Kathryn Lasky
Scholastic
ISBN 9780545253062
ISBN 9780756915827

I loved the movie when I saw it, but the books had been on my to-be-read list for a long time. Now that I have read the first one, I know I will need to read them all in short order, as these books are so much better than the movie. The depth of character and the progress in the book is amazing. There is so much detail and specifics that it was
wonderful to read. I am usually leery of reading books about films I liked, in part because the books are often different and you get comfortable with what you first experience. In this case it was a great surprise how wonderful the books were and they are so different from the movie that they are almost separate entities.

This is the story of the Owl kingdoms, and of the classic battle between good and evil. We begin the story with a family of Owls in the nest and soon one is stolen away to a terrible place full of dark secrets. Together with a small friend, Soren escapes and soon they find themselves in a band of owls seeking out the legendary Guardians of Ga'Hoole. We watch Soren and Gylfie endure the life at St. Aggies and escape with the help of an older owl. They meet up with Twilight and Digger, two owls that could not be more different and yet they form a band and journey towards Ga'Hoole together to warn them of the evil growing at St. Aggies.

The story was stunning, the characters amazing. You fall in love with this band of owls and cannot help but find yourself cheering them on. After you read this first one you will want the rest; it happened to me, and to the person who read book 1 after me. Looks like this book is the beginning of an exceptional series.



Books by Kathryn Lasky:
Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book:

1: The Capture
2: The Journey
3: The Rescue
4: The Siege
5: The Shattering
6: The Burning
7: The Hatchling
8: The Outcast
9: The First Collier
10: The Coming of Hoole
11: To Be a King
12: The Golden Tree
13: The River of Wind
14: Exile
15: The War of the Ember
A Guide Book to the Great Tree
Lost Tales of Ga'Hoole

Wolves of the Beyond:
1: Lone Wolf
2: Shadow Wolf
3: Watch Wolf
4: Frost Wolf
The Wolves From The Beyond Field Guide

Daughters of the Sea:
Hannah
May

Starbuck Family Adventures:
Double Trouble Squared
Shadows in the Water
A Voice in the Wind

Born to Rule
Unicorns? Get Real!

The Royal Diaries:
Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor, England 1544
Mary, Queen of Scots: Queen Without a Country, France 1553
Marie Antoinette: Princess of Versailles, Austria-France 1769
Jahanara: Princess of Princesses, India 1627
Kazunomiya: Prisoner of Heaven, Japan 1858

Dear America:
Journey to the New World: The Diary Of Remember Patience Whipple, Mayflower, 1620
Dreams in the Golden Country: The Diary of Zipporah Feldman a Jewish Immigrant Girl, New York City, 1903
Christmas After All: The Great Depression Diary of Minnie Swift, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1932
A Time for Courage:The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen, Washington, D.C., 1917

My Name Is America:
The Journal of Augustus Pelletier: Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804

My America:
Hope In My Heart, Sofia's Ellis Island Diary
Home at Last: Sofia's Immigrant Diary
An American Spring: Sofia's Immigrant Diary

Standalone Titles:
The Last Girls of Pompeii
Blood Secret
Broken Song
Star Split
Alice Rose and Sam
True North
Beyond the Burning Time
Memoirs of a Bookbat'
The Bone Wars
Pageant
Beyond the Divide
The Night Journey
Prank
Hawksmaid
Ashes
Chasing Orion
Dancing Through Fire

Children young adults non-fiction:
3038 Staat der Klone
John Muir: America's First Environmentalist
Interrupted Journey: Saving Endangered Sea Turtles
Shadows in the Dawn: The Lemurs of Madagascar
The Most Beautiful Roof in the World
Sugaring Time
Days of the Dead
Searching for Laura Ingalls
Monarchs
Surtsey: The Newest Place on Earth
Dinosaur Dig
Traces of Life
A Baby for Max

Picture Books:
Lunch Bunnies
Show and Tell Bunnies
Science Fair Bunnies
Tumble Bunnies
Lucille's Snowsuit
Lucille Camps In
Starring Lucille
Pirate Bob
Humphrey, Albert, and the Flying Machine
Before I was Your Mother
The Man Who Made Time Travel
A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet
Love That Baby
Mommy's Hands
Porkenstein
Born in the Breezes: The Voyages Of Joshua Slocum
Vision of Beauty
First Painter
The Emperor's Old Clothes
Sophie and Rose
Marven of the Great North Woods
A Brilliant Streak
Hercules: The Man, The Myth, The Hero
The Librarian Who Measured the Earth
She's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head!
The Gates of the Wind
Pond Year
Cloud Eyes
I Have an Aunt on Marlborough Street
Sea Swan
My Island Grandma

Adult:
Night Gardening (pseudonym of E.L. Swann)
Dark Swan
Mumbo Jumbo
Mortal Words
Trace Elements
The Widow of Oz
Atlantic Circle

Author Profile Interview with Kathryn Lasky


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Raquel Matos - Publishing Profile

Raquel Matos can be found online at Quelle Books Daily and on twitter. She is involved in the publishing industry starting as a bookseller in 1998 and has been with Candlewick Press in various roles since 2004. She holds both a BA and a MA. She has a great love an passion for books, especially promoting exceptional YA books.

1. If you were not working in publishing what do you think you would be doing?

I would be a film historian or a nutritionist. I have a passion for classic films and a passion for cooking and eating healthy. I would be happy doing either job.

2. How did you go about pursuing a career in the publishing industry?

I worked at a Barnes & Noble for 3 years and loved it. It was a great excuse to be around books and people who loved them. I switched majors in college from Biology to English and at Northeastern University I took a class in publishing and interned at Northeastern University Press. At that point I knew that book publishing was for me. As soon as I finished college, I applied to my first choice publisher Candlewick Press and got hired a couple weeks later. I was very very lucky!

3. What is your favorite part about working in publishing?

Getting people excited about books. That's really the best part. It's wonderful to be a champion for books and to talk shop with other folks. I love sharing my enthusiasm with other people!

4. You achieved a MA in Writing, Literature and Publishing, do you have aspirations of publishing a book of your own? If yes is there one or more in the works?

I would love to write a non-fiction book some day but I don't have any aspirations for being a published novelist or something like that. I don't have any books in the works but I do write regularly. I write 3 blogs, a food column and a restaurant review column for an online newspaper.

5. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are any of the characters you read real to you in that way?

Some characters from classic literature have stuck with me over the years. Judy Fawley from Jude the Obscure reminds me to pursue my dreams no matter what the cost. Elizabeth Bennett from Pride & Prejudice reminds me to stick up for myself and to not be afraid to tell people what I really think. Isabel Archer of Portrait of a Lady reminds me not to let others manipulate me and that I'm the only artist that gets to paint the canvass of my life. And so on and so forth.

6. You have a great passion for books and literature in general. To what do you attribute this?

I guess it's my unsatiable curiousity. Something I get from my Dad. I have to know everything and I have to understand everything. And the best way to learn about the world and understand it is through reading books.

7. Were you an avid reader in your youth? Who or what spurred your love of reading?

My situation shouldn't warrant a love for reading English. I didn't speak English fluently until I was 5 years old. But my mom taught me to read in Spanish & Portuguese at a very young age and she always encouraged anything I had an interest in. I loved animals so I read as many books about them as I could. In High School, books like Johnny Got His Gun and Jude the Obscure transformed my love of reading fiction. I'm first generation American, trilingual, from a lower-middle class immigrant family, a minority and I'm a slow reader. All the stereotypes say I shouldn't love to read. But alas I do!

8. What advice would you give to teens today, to other readers, what gems of knowledge have you gleaned in life that you would pass on?

I would tell teens to read what they want on their own. I know a lot of teens dislike reading because they are forced to read certain books in school. I remember as a Junior in High School, I was allowed to chose 3 books of my liking to read for an English class. It was wonderful to be able to read what I wanted and it developed a hunger for more books. Read about whatever interests you and not what others think you should read.

9. If you could pick any one book to be made into a movie what would it be? Who would you like to see star in it?

A lot of my favorite books have already been adapted to screen. There is one book I read for work recently which I think would be wonderful on screen. One is The Blackhope Enigma by Teresa Flavin. I think it would work really well as a movie because of all the magical elements in the story. Not sure who I would want to star in it though!

10. If you could live in any alternate world from a book, which one would you live in and why?

Perhaps Regency England in the style of Jane Austen books like Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion.

11. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

To pursue your dreams and to be happy. I think that knowledge gives us the power to shape our lives into what we want. The more knowledge and experience you acquire the more doors open to you in life.

12. Do you read eBooks? If so do you use a specific reader? What percentage of books that you read are in electronic format?

Yes! To conserve paper, we read all our manuscripts on company Kindles. I don't have my own Kindle but I would love to get one. I love the look of the eInk and the ePaper. Plus it's so satisfying to press the "Next Page" button and to see the percentage read at the bottom of the screen. I often read the work Kindle on the elliptical trainer at the gym. I can usually read from 100-150 pages with one trip to the gym which makes for great multitasking. Right now I only read manuscripts on there. I listen to other books on audio and I read books for pleasure in the traditional formats.

13. If you had to pick 10 books to recommend to someone who is not a big reader, what books would you pick?

1. Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo 2. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austin 3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery 4. Watership Down by Richard Adams 5. Any classics in graphic novel form like The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds 6. Swim the Fly and Beat the Band by Don Calame (great for boys who are reluctant readers) 7. Give the Drummer Some by Mark Zero 8. Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly 9. Washington Square by Henry James 10. Any biography or non-fiction book on a person or topic that people like!

14. What were some of your favorite books and authors as a child?

I really loved anything about animals. So I was a big Jack London fan as a kid.

15. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

I didn't read the way most teens read back then or even now. I gravitated towards books about isolation. I read a lot of Louisa May Alcott, Thomas Hardy and Henry James. Notable titles included The Dubliners by James Joyce, Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo, Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy.

16. Who are some of your favorite authors or books now?

I enjoy reading books by many authors. A couple notables include Mark Zero, Jack Hayes, Elizabeth Strout, Gigi Amateau, Jo Knowles and Abby McDonald. I also love Dominican writers like Julia Alvarez and Junot Diaz and reading Portuguese writers like Jose Saramago.

17. Completely off topic but what TV shows or movies do you enjoy?

I don't watch much TV but I do appreciate reality shows that help people such as Heavy on A&E or ones that show us a different type of life like 19 Kids and Counting or Sister Wives. I watch a lot of classic films. Anything from the 1920s to the 1960s. My favorite actors are Robert Mitchum and Norma Shearer and I love directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger and Elia Kazan.

18. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

1. Some sort of survival guide. 2. Reference book 3. King James version of the Bible 4. A Medical Guide 5. The complete works of Jane Austen 6. A Nutrition Guide 7. A coffee table book with pictures of Boston to remind me of home. 8. A copy of In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez 9. Baby I Don't Care, a very entertaining biography about Robert Mitchum 10. Beat the Band by Don Calame, for a good laugh!

19. What advice would you give to someone who aspires to work in the publishing industry?

Get lots of experience. Work at a bookstore. Intern for a publishing house. Work as an aide to an author. And go to school. Get your Bachelor's degree. If you can, get a Master's degree too! With education and experience you can get very far.

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

Get an agent!

Raquel thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. It has been a pleasure interacting with you for over a year now, an I always look forward to your recommendations.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Midnight Howl - Clare Hutton

Midnight Howl
Clare Hutton

Poison Apple Book 5

An Imprint of

Scholastic
ISBN 9780545231015


This is a fantastic series of books, geared for young women but with such great stories that any young reader would enjoy them. This is the fifth installment in the new series, Poison Apple Books from Scholastic, and it is not as dark as the previous books. It was a great read.

Clare Hutton has tackled the world of Shifters -- Werewolves, to be specific. Marisol and her mother are moving from Texas to Montana for most of her Grade 7 year. Once she arrives in this rural town she starts to experience strange events. Rumors about Werewolves and the town's history are woven into the fabric of the town and the family she and her mother are staying with. Marisol and her mother are staying with her mother's college roommate and best friend's family at their bed and breakfast. They have twins the same age as Marisol, Jack and Hailey. Soon though, Marisol is experiencing weird things, and she soon becomes suspicious that Hailey might be a Werewolf. But often we let our imaginations run away with us, especially if we are in a town with legends and history. The truth might be even more surprising than her wonderings.

This is another great book in a great series.


Poison Apple Books:
The Dead End - Mimi McCoy
This Totally Bites! - Ruth Ames
Miss Fortune - Brandi Dougherty
Now You See Me
- Jane B. Mason & Sarah Hines Stephens
Midnight Howl - Clare Hutton
Her Evil Twin - Mimi McCoy
Curiosity Killed the Cat - Sierra Harimann
At First Bite - Ruth Ames

Rotten Apple Books:
Mean Ghouls - Staci Deutsch
Zombie Dog - Clare Hutton

Monday, 20 June 2011

The Tablet Wars


Many people believe that the iPhone is winning the Smart phone race, and that Android devices are fast gaining second. But as yet, neither is very suited to the corporate market; they are both hard to secure and manage en masse. Now the tablet wars are heating up. The iPad2 has been on the market for a few months, the BlackBerry Playbook and Motorola Xoom device have both just hit the market, and there is a variety of Android-based devices to choose from. In this week's Tech Talk we will do a head-to-head comparison between 4 tablet devices. So let's put the VPad, Playbook, iPad2 and Xoom through the paces and see what comes up on top.

As can be seen from the chart, there are a number of differences between the 4 devices, from OS, to Screen size, resolution, inputs and outputs. In fact the only the only things these four devices have in common is that they were each 32GB size, each supports Wi-Fi connectivity and each is a tablet device. So I will give a brief overview of each device - its pros and cons.

Viewsonic - View Pad 10
To be honest, this was the least favourite of the four devices tested. It is very heavy. Both operating systems seem clunky on the device. The battery life was less than projected even with minimal applications running. The only real saving grace for this device is the dual boot so that you can have Windows 7 professional on the device and secure it in a corporate environment. The touch keyboard on the Win7 side was very unruly, and not much better on the Android side. It has the lowest resolution camera and no video recording capability. All in all, not a bad paper weight but not worth much else.

Motorola - Xoom
This device is in the middle of the pack, it is fairly new to the market and with some OS updates it might move up. There seems to be no shortage of these devices, unlike iPad2 which are hard to lay your hands on, or the Playbook which is selling really well. Not a bad device to work on. It only has one rear facing camera, and can output to 720p display. Decent functionality - it is just up against good competition.

Apple - iPad2
The second generation device from Apple has a lot going for it. A huge app store, great popularity and by far the largest market share. But there are some drawbacks. First, it is very heavy compared to the Xoom and Playbook. Second, it is hard to secure and manage, especially in a corporate environment. This device has two cameras both front and back facing, and can record video at 720p. For the most part, it is a device to play on. It is great for that but based on the price point not ideal, especially for work.

RIM - Playbook
The drawback of this device currently is that it has a much smaller selection of apps in app world than the iPad2. The big plusses - it is much faster, than any of the competition, it is more responsive. It can output natively to 1080p and can also do 3D content output. It also can record 1080P video, the only one with this specification in the group. Once the application market heats up, it will be hard to beat. This device has both front and rear facing cameras. Both are pretty decent. Most of the marketing around the playbook has been to the end user, the consumer, not corporate market. It can be secured but still has a long way to go. It currently cannot be managed and administered through a BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) but rumours indicate that is not far away.

I am fortunate in working full time in IT in a technology company. Because of that I get to play with a lot of different devices and models of laptops and desktops. Having had the chance to configure and play on each of the four devices above, I have come to the conclusion that if I had but one for personal use I would go with the Playbook; if I were to have a second one in the house I would go with an iPad2. Yet in the end, most of it comes down to personal preference. I encourage you to try different devices either in store or from someone you know who has one. Don't just follow the media hype. Find the device that will do what you want to do best, and go with that. Those are my opinions and advice coming to you from the server room!

(First published in Imprint as 'Tech Talk: Choosing your weapon in the tablet wars' 2011-06-17.)

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Wyrm King - Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi - Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles Book 3

The Wyrm King
Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles
Book 3

Holly Black and

Tony DiTerlizzi
Simon and Schuster
ISBN 9780689871337


I finished this book with a sense of the bitter sweet. Sweet because it was the conclusion to a great trilogy. But bitter because it hints that there will be no more books in the Spiderwick world. It is the last book in the Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles trilogy, and the last of 11 books set in the Spiderwick world. What I loved about the afterward by Black and DiTerlizzi was that they encourage others to tell more tales of the fantastical, and we should start seeing books written in homage to these books, exploring and expanding upon the magical, mythological and adventuresome nature of these books.


At the end of the last book there was a forewarning that the Giants had a purpose. Now, it seems very obvious what that purpose was. Huge sink holes are spreading all over the Florida coastline, and most people are assuming it is a new natural disaster. But both the Vargas and Grace children are racing time to try to save Florida and possibly all of North America from a new threat from the fairy world. This story has great adventure, some mishaps and a few surprising twists. It is a great conclusion to an amazing series of books.

Books by Black and DiTerlizzi: The Spiderwick Chronicles
The Field Guide
The Seeing Stone
Lucinda's Secret
The Ironwood Tree
The Wrath of Mulgarath

Arthur Spiderwick's Notebook of Fantastical Observations
Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You
Care and Feeding of Sprites

Beyond Spiderwick
The Nixie's Song
A Giant Problem
The Wyrm King

Other Books by Holly Black:
The Poison Eaters and Other Stories


The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (2013)
Doll Bones (2013)
The Modern Faerie Tales
Tithe
Valiant
Ironside

The Good Neighbors
Kin
Kith
Kind

The Curse Workers
White Cat
Red Glove
Black Heart

Anthologies
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd
Zombies vs. Unicorns
Welcome to Bordertown

Other Books by Tony Diterlizzi:

Jimmy Zangwow's Out-of-This-World Moon-Pie Adventure
Ted
G is for One Gzonk
Kenny & the Dragon
The Search for WondLa

Books Illustrated by Tony Diterlizzi:
Dinosaur Summer
Ribbiting Tales
Alien & Possum: Friends No Matter What
Alien & Possum: Hanging Around
The Spider & The Fly
Dragonflight
Peter Pan in Scarlet

Books by Tony & Angela DiTerlizzi:
Adventures of Meno:
Wet Fun!
Big Friend!
Yummy Trip!
Uh-Oh Sick!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Lone Wolf - Kathryn Lasky - Wolves of the Beyond 1

Lone Wolf
Wolves of the Beyond
Book 1

Kathryn Lasky

Scholastic

ISBN 9780545093101


This story was amazing! It reads like a cross between The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling and A Wolf Story by James Byron Huggins, both of which I love and have reread many times. The story is powerful and compelling. It is the first book set in the world of Ga'Hoole that does not focus primarily on the Owl kingdoms. It was wonderful to read, and I immediately started book two after finishing book one. I could not wait until I had even written my review. I had to know what happened next.

It is the story of Faolan, a young wolf who is left to die because of a birth defect. He ends up on an ice floe in a river during the spring thaw. He is plucked from the river by a she-bear, who has just lost her cub to a cougar. The bear decides to raise him. Over time he comes to realize he is different. He grows and learns from his second milk-mother Thunderheart. She realizes she will go to the long sleep and tries to prepare Faolan. But life is not always fair and much befalls Faolan during the winter. Soon he is in search of the Wolves of the Beyond.

You cannot help but fall in love with the characters in the book. My only complaint is the covers are a little too 'Disney' for the actual content of the books. It looks like it will be the beginning of an amazing trilogy. I highly recommend them!


Books by Kathryn Lasky:
Wolves of the Beyond:
1: Lone Wolf
2: Shadow Wolf
3: Watch Wolf
4: Frost Wolf
The Wolves From The Beyond Field Guide














Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book:

1: The Capture
2: The Journey
3: The Rescue
4: The Siege
5: The Shattering
6: The Burning
7: The Hatchling
8: The Outcast
9: The First Collier
10: The Coming of Hoole
11: To Be a King
12: The Golden Tree
13: The River of Wind
14: Exile
15: The War of the Ember
A Guide Book to the Great Tree
Lost Tales of Ga'Hoole

Daughters of the Sea:
Hannah
May

Starbuck Family Adventures:
Double Trouble Squared
Shadows in the Water
A Voice in the Wind

Born to Rule
Unicorns? Get Real!

The Royal Diaries:
Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor, England 1544
Mary, Queen of Scots: Queen Without a Country, France 1553
Marie Antoinette: Princess of Versailles, Austria-France 1769
Jahanara: Princess of Princesses, India 1627
Kazunomiya: Prisoner of Heaven, Japan 1858

Dear America:
Journey to the New World: The Diary Of Remember Patience Whipple, Mayflower, 1620
Dreams in the Golden Country: The Diary of Zipporah Feldman a Jewish Immigrant Girl, New York City, 1903
Christmas After All: The Great Depression Diary of Minnie Swift, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1932
A Time for Courage:The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen, Washington, D.C., 1917

My Name Is America:
The Journal of Augustus Pelletier: Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804

My America:
Hope In My Heart, Sofia's Ellis Island Diary
Home at Last: Sofia's Immigrant Diary
An American Spring: Sofia's Immigrant Diary

Standalone Titles:
The Last Girls of Pompeii
Blood Secret
Broken Song
Star Split
Alice Rose and Sam
True North
Beyond the Burning Time
Memoirs of a Bookbat'
The Bone Wars
Pageant
Beyond the Divide
The Night Journey
Prank
Hawksmaid
Ashes
Chasing Orion
Dancing Through Fire

Children young adults non-fiction:
3038 Staat der Klone
John Muir: America's First Environmentalist
Interrupted Journey: Saving Endangered Sea Turtles
Shadows in the Dawn: The Lemurs of Madagascar
The Most Beautiful Roof in the World
Sugaring Time
Days of the Dead
Searching for Laura Ingalls
Monarchs
Surtsey: The Newest Place on Earth
Dinosaur Dig
Traces of Life
A Baby for Max

Picture Books:
Lunch Bunnies
Show and Tell Bunnies
Science Fair Bunnies
Tumble Bunnies
Lucille's Snowsuit
Lucille Camps In
Starring Lucille
Pirate Bob
Humphrey, Albert, and the Flying Machine
Before I was Your Mother
The Man Who Made Time Travel
A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet
Love That Baby
Mommy's Hands
Porkenstein
Born in the Breezes: The Voyages Of Joshua Slocum
Vision of Beauty
First Painter
The Emperor's Old Clothes
Sophie and Rose
Marven of the Great North Woods
A Brilliant Streak
Hercules: The Man, The Myth, The Hero
The Librarian Who Measured the Earth
She's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head!
The Gates of the Wind
Pond Year
Cloud Eyes
I Have an Aunt on Marlborough Street
Sea Swan
My Island Grandma

Adult:
Night Gardening (pseudonym of E.L. Swann)
Dark Swan
Mumbo Jumbo
Mortal Words
Trace Elements
The Widow of Oz
Atlantic Circle

Author Profile Interview with Kathryn Lasky


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Clete Barrett Smith - Author Profile

Clete Barrett Smith is a new author on the YA and Children's market. I recently read an arc of his second book, his first novel Aliens on Vacation The Intergalactic Bed And Breakfast Book 1, and loved it. I had to find out more about the man behind the book, so here is 20 questions with Clete.

1. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

I taught high school English and Speech for a dozen years and loved it. So I'd probably still be doing that.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you nurture that dream?

When I was in second grade a family friend gave me a box set of The Chronicles of Narnia. I started the first one on Sunday evening, and the next day I faked a major illness so that I could stay home from school and read all week. I finished the series by the next weekend, and I knew that I wanted to try to make someone else feel the same way by writing a book of my own. I nurtured that dream by reading everything I could get my hands on and playing lots of imagination games. Whenever I was finished with a good book I would go hiking in the forest and dream up the continued adventures of my favorite characters. I rarely wrote any of those stories down, but I still think it was good training to become a storyteller.

3. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?

My parents read me thousands of picture books and I think my love of stories started there. We didn't have very much money, but they always let me buy at least two books when the Scholastic book order forms were passed out at school. I also had a lot of great teachers. My friend and I reviewed cheesy horror/slasher movies for the high school newspaper, and instead of using a "star" based rating system, we used "bloody chainsaw" icons. Not every journalism teacher would have allowed that (thanks, Mr. Clark!). I loved seeing my writing become public, and having my friends laugh at what we had written. As an adult, my wife has never stopped believing in my dream to become a published author and has made many sacrifices to allow me to keep at it. Also, my first true writing mentor-the amazing author Rita Williams-Garcia-absolutely transformed my approach to my first book, Aliens on Vacation, during the first semester in my MFA in writing for kids program.

4. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?

Don't be afraid to use the Delete button.

5. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

When I was a kid I loved the subversive feeling of reading a Roald Dahl book. Most of the adult characters were so horrible, and some of the humor so outrageous, that it felt like maybe your parents wouldn't exactly approve if they knew everything that was in the book. I would like to emulate the way that Dahl never, ever "talked down" to his young readers.

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

My ideas usually start as "What if . . . ?" scenarios. For Aliens on Vacation, it was, "What if aliens were secretly visiting Earth? Not to take over or steal our resources or invade our bodies, but just . . . to hang out?" Before I write I usually go on long walks and play with the premise in my mind. What might happen? What would be some funny or interesting situations? What might the characters be like? I start with a rough outline for the first half of the book and then start writing. I usually try many potential opening chapters, playing with the premise and getting to know the characters. When I have a solid foundation, then I try to figure out how the book might end. Then, instead of the book spiraling out of control during the "muddled middle," the actions start funneling toward a logical, and hopefully satisfying, conclusion.

7. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?

I've tried, but I just can't listen to music at all while I work.

8. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it? I know you only have one book about to be published but just wondering.

When I'm writing a story, I try to do things the characters might do, or see certain situations through their eyes, in an effort to get closer to them. In Aliens on Vacation, there is a young girl who is really into astronomy. So I read several Carl Sagan books while I was writing, and I would try to take notes as that character, to get in touch with the excitement she would feel at learning all of these incredible facts about the universe. So when I read good non-fiction science books, I still think of her.

9. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?

No reply

10. Do you have a play for how many books will be in the Intergalactic Bed And Breakfast series?

I signed a two-book deal and I have finished writing the sequel (Alien on a Rampage will be released in the summer of 2012). Beyond that, I have outlined rough plots and character ideas for three more books. But, of course, a lot of that will depend on how well the first couple of books are received.

11. What books are currently in progress for you? Writing, researching, planning or even just ideas that you would like to work on? Any in process outside of the IBB series?

I am working on a new middle grade adventure also set primarily in the Pacific Northwest, where I live. I wrote a couple of novels in grad school that I really like and I will likely take a stab at rewriting sometime soon. One is a realistic YA novel which would be very different from the Intergalactic B&B series.

12. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

I loved Stephen King in high school and read everything he had ever written. For humorous genre fiction, I loved Douglas Adams' Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy books and Robert Asprin's Mythadventure series. Those books taught me that sci-fi / fantasy stories could be funny, and that writers could play around with the conventions while still being true to the genre.

13. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?

For books for young readers I really enjoy Nancy Farmer, Pete Hautman, M.T. Anderson, Rick Riordan, John Flanagan, John Green . . . there's just so much good stuff out there right now. For adult books I like David James Duncan, Pat Conroy, Elmore Leonard, George R.R. Martin and Mary Roach, to name just a few.

14. What 10 books do you think should be essential reading for all people who aspire to write children's fiction?

No reply.

15. One of your books is available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?

I have no problem with ebooks if they bring more people to reading. However, I'm a little nervous about the prospect of piracy on a large scale.

16. Some authors monitor torrent sites and have their publishers contact them to remove their content. Do you do so are have someone do so for you?

That hasn't really come up yet. However, I belong to an online group of writers called The Elevensies made up of writers who have debuts middle grade or young adult books coming out in 2011. If one member finds another Elevensie book for sale illegally, then they will post the offending website so authors can get in touch with publishers.

17. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

No reply.

18. Completely off topic but what TV shows or movies do you enjoy?

I like a lot of the HBO series, like The Wire, Deadwood, Sopranos, etc. I'm kind of a comedy nerd, so I subscribe to a bunch of comedy-themed podcasts such as Comedy Death-Ray or Sklarbro Country.

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

No reply.

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

Do it primarily because you enjoy the creative process and not because you are chasing some preconceived notion of success.

Thanks Clete for taking the time to answer some questions, And I look forward to the next book in The Intergalactic Bed And Breakfast series and hopefully many many more good reads down the road.

Book by Clete Barrett Smith:
Intergalactic Bed and Breakfast:
Aliens on Vacation
Alien on a Rampage

Author Profile and Interview with Clete Barrett Smith
.