Saturday, 31 March 2012

Top 10 Fiction Books of the 1st Quarter 2012

Top 10 Fiction Books of the 1st Quarter 2012

1. I Hunt Killers - Barry Lyga
2. Firegirl - Tony Abbott
3. Brookdale High Books - Barry Lyga
Hero-Type - Boy Toy
4.
Gregor and the Marks of Secret - Underland Chronicles Book 4 - Suzanne Collins
5.
Judy Moody Books & Stink Moody Books - Megan McDonald & Peter H. Reynolds
6. Into the Gauntlet - 39 Clues Book 10 - Margaret Peterson Haddix
7. Alienation - CHAOS Book 2 - Jon S. Lewis
8. The Sisters Club - Megan McDonald
The Sisters Club - The Rule of Three - Cloudy With A Chance Of Boys
9. Zebrafish - Peter H. Reynolds, Sharon Emerson and Renee Kurilla
10. The Chronal Engine - Greg Leitich Smith

 
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: 
66 - 2012 January to March
163 - 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

Friday, 30 March 2012

Tim Collins - Author Profile

Tim Collins books have been translated into over 20 languages. He has written a number of non-fiction books and recently turned to fiction. His books are fresh, new and unique. He took time recently and answered some questions for the readers at Book Reviews and More.

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I was sent on Robert McKee's screenwriting course by the advertising agency I worked at, and that made me think about trying fiction.

2. How did you nurture that dream?

I was used to writing non-fiction, so I wrote a few synopses and sample chapters. But they weren't much use, because you need to finish the whole book if you're trying to get fiction published.

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

I worked as an advertising creative for thirteen years, so I'd still be doing that.

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

My wife Collette was my biggest supporter. And my publishers Michael O'Mara were always very helpful.

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

I wish I'd known a little more about story structure. When I was younger, I'd try and start novels with no research or planning and wonder why they stalled after the second chapter.

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

The editor I'm currently working with lets me go through a long list of ideas, and choses a couple for me to write up. Then I produce a step outline of the plot and a list of jokes I want to include, and get on with the first draft. You have to turn off your inner critic while you're working on the first draft, then switch it back on again for redrafting.

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

I'm a huge fan of progressive rock such as Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes, and the genre is perfect for writing to, as the songs are very long with lots of instrumental passages.

I don't make specific playlists for each book, though. I have a friend who does, as he believes he can condition himself to start writing when a certain piece of music starts. But what if it plays when you're out for the evening? You'd have to reach for your notebook and start scribbling away.

8. How did you make the decision to switch from adult non-fiction to writing teen and young adult fiction?

I'd always loved vampire fiction, so when they genre became popular again I thought I'd have a go. They say you shouldn't chase trends in publishing, but if you're writing comedy, I think it's allowed.

9. 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 make notes about each of my main characters, but I haven't started to believe any of them are real yet. Given that they're all fantastical characters such as vampires and werewolves, this is probably a good thing.

10. What is your favorite part about writing the Wimpy Vampire series? Do you have any more books planed in that series?

My favourite part of writing the series was inventing all the silly bits of vampire and werewolf mythology and history. I've currently reached the end of the story I planned, though I have an idea about how to continue it if anyone asks.

11. What current projects are you working on or are in the back burner in some stage of development?

I've written a series for younger children called Monstrous Maud and I'm now working on one for adults.

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

I loved Douglas Adams when I was a teenager, though I've never tried to write in that style, with a witty third person narrative voice. He did it so well there's no point in rehashing it.

I also obsessively followed everything Alan Moore did from Swamp Thing to Watchmen to The Killing Joke.

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

I read a lot of books for children and teens now. Some that have stood out for me recently are Crawlers by Sam Enthoven, 15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins and The Demon's Watch by Conrad Mason.

14. Some of your books are 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?

Most pirated ebooks still have conversion errors and you can't sync them across all your devices, so they're not really worth it for the small amount of money you save. But I'd like to hope they could introduce you to new readers who wouldn't have bought your book, but might buy your next one.

15. 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?

We're supposed to report them to the Society of Authors, but I haven't snitched on anyone yet.

16. Completely off topic but what movies do you enjoy?

I love horror movies, and I've watched classics like The Shining, The Exorcist and Suspiria so many times they've become familiar, comforting experiences. Which is confusing for anyone who might be watching them with me for the first time.

17. What about TV shows?

Doctor Who has been my favourite show since I was six. I loved Peter Davidson's Doctor then, and I love Matt Smith's Doctor now. I also love The Twilight Zone and The Prisoner, though the revivals of those shows were less successful.

18. 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?

The cost of higher education in the UK has more than doubled under the current coalition government, so there's a lot of pressure on students to take vocational courses rather than arts subjects. But learning for pleasure rather than to meet the imaginary demands of a job market is very valuable.

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?

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore
The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The Stand by Stephen King
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

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

Get in touch with others who are trying to do the same thing. In the case of children's writing and illustration, SCBWI is a great organization to join.

Tim thanks for taking some time to answer the questions. I look forward to reading more of your books.

Books by Tim Collins:
Fiction:
Diary of a Wimpy Vampire (UK Title)
Notes From a Totally Lame Vampire (US Title)
Prince of Dorkness
Adventures of a Wimpy Werewolf

Non-Fiction:
Mingin' or Blingin' (2005)
The Little Book of Internet Dating (2005)
The Ginger Survival Guide (2006)
Are you a Geek? (2005)
The Book Club Bible (contributor) (2007)
The Baldies' Survival Guide (2007)
The Little Book of Twitter (2009)
Behind the Lost Symbol (2009)
The Northern Monkey Survival Guide (2009)

Author Profile and Interview with Tim Collins

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Judy Moody MD The Doctor Is In - Megan McDonald and Peter H Reynolds - Book 5

Judy Moody, M.D. The Doctor Is In
Judy Moody Book 5
Megan McDonald (Author)

Peter H. Reynolds (Illustrator)

Candlewick

ISBN 9780763648619
eISBN 9780763652043


This is about the tenth book in either Judy Moody or Stink Moody series that I have read. And boy was it fun! I actually read this while home sick myself, and my wife and children were sick also. This book made some of the stuff we were going through easier to take. The book focuses around Judy and her continued desire to be a Doctor when she grows up. Her class has a trip to the Emergency room to visit the Hospital with the other third grade class. But soon after that trip, Stink ends up sick and gets to stay home from school. Judy wants to help doctor him back to health but ends up catching the mumps herself.

The chapters are:
M.D. = A Moody Day
M.D. = MeDullas and ManDibles
M.D. = Mystery Dectective
M.D. = A Million Dollars
M.D. = Mucus Dermis
M.D. = Mr. DryBones
M.D. = Majorly Delicious!
M.D. = Medical Doctor
M.D. = Medical Disaster
M.D. = Mumpty Dumpty
M.D. = Most Definitely

As we all know Judy can be moody at the best of times. Once she is sick, her mood becomes something even more, which for Judy is saying a lot. But through the help and support of her brother Stink, and her friends, things begin to turn around.

This was another great book. The collaboration between McDonald and Reynolds is amazing, as is the way the story is complimented by the drawings and illustrations. The flow of the story and the way you can pick up any of these books and read it either in order, or out of order, is great. These truly are amazing books that children of all ages will enjoy reading together and that is my M.D. My Determination!

Books by Megan McDonald and Peter H Reynolds:
Judy Moody books:
1. Judy Moody
2. Judy Moody Gets Famous!
3. Judy Moody Saves the World!
4. Judy Moody Predicts the Future
5. Judy Moody, M.D. The Doctor Is In
6. Judy Moody Declares Independence
7. Judy Moody Around the World in 8½ Days
8. Judy Moody Goes to College
9. Judy Moody: Girl Detective
10. Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer
10a. Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (Movie Tie-In Edition)
11. Judy Moody and the Bad Luck Charm

Judy Moody Activity Books:
Judy Moody's Double Rare Way Not Boring Book of Fun Stuff to Do
Judy Moody's Way Wacky Uber Awesome Book of MORE Fun Stuff to Do
Judy Moody's Mini-Mysteries and Other Sneaky Stuff for Super-Sleuths


Stink Moody Books:
1. Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid
2. Stink and the Incredible Super-Galactic Jawbreaker
3. Stink and the World's Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers
4. Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express
5. Stink: Solar System Superhero'
6. Stink and The Ultimate Thumb-Wrestling Smackdown
7. Stink and the Midnight Zombie Walk

Stink-O-Pedia Volume 1:
Super Stink-y Stuff from A to Z
Stink-O-Pedia Volume 2: More Stink-y Stuff from A to Z

Judy and Stink Books:
Judy Moody & Stink: The Holly Joliday
Judy Moody and Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt

Stink and Judy Moody a Visual Bibliography

Books by Megan McDonald:
Sisters Club:

Sisters Club 1
Sisters Club 2
Rule of Three
Sisters Club 3 Cloudy With a Chance of Boys

Books by Peter H Reynolds:
The North Star
ish
The Dot
Rose's Garden
I'm Here

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Mad Mask - Barry Lyga - Archvillain 2

The Mad Mask
Archvillain Book 2
Barry Lyga
Scholastic
ISBN 9780545196512

In the last month I have read five of Barry Lyga's novels. Each was a great read. But this is the first in a direct series. It was interesting watching the progress of Kyle's character from the first book and through to the end of this one. In this installment we find out that a third person was affected by the radiation from space that brought Mighty Mike to Earth and gave Kyle his invulnerability and his super intellect. But we also find out during the course of the story that 5 children in total went missing that night. We can only wonder if more of them will show up with powers as the series moves on. The Mad Mask tracks down Kyle and his villain name,
The Azure Avenger. He proposes creating a giant robot, Utilitron, to wipe beauty from the world. At first Kyle falls under the Mad Mask's spell but soon he realizes not all is as it appears.

This is a wonderful middle grade story that children will love and parents will enjoy reading with them. It has adventure, super heroes, villains, a giant robot and the unexpected. It was great fun to read and I look forward to book three.


Books by Barry Lyga:
I Hunt Killers:
I Hunt Killers (2012)
Game - I Hunt Killers #2 (2013)

??? - I Hunt Killers # 3 (2014)

Brookdale High:
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl (2006)
Boy Toy (2007)
Hero Type (2008)
Goth Girl Rising (2009)

Archvillian:
Archvillain #1 (2010)
The Mad Mask - Archvillian #2 (2011)
Yesterday Again - Archvillian #3 (2013)

Other Books By Barry Lyga:
Graphic Novels in Your Media Center: A definitive Guide (with Alison A.W. Lyga - 2004)
Wolverine: Worst Day Ever (2009)
MangaMan (with Colleen Dorren 2011)

Unsoul'd (2013)

Contributed to:
Geektastic (2009)

Author Profile and Interview with Barry Lyga

Author Profile and Interview with Randall Banner

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Stink-O-Pedia Volume 2 More Stinky Stuff From A to Z - Megan McDonald and Peter H Reynolds

Stink-O-Pedia Volume 2
More Stinky Stuff From A to Z
Stink Moody
Megan McDonald (Author)

Peter H Reynolds (Illustrator)

Candlewick

ISBN 9780763645588

This book was a lot of fun to read. It has a series of pages for each letter of the alphabet. Drawing from previous Stink and Judy Moody books, and with new material, this is a wonderful collection. The book is a collection of quotes, facts, quizzes and more. This is the 7th book by Megan and Peter in both the Stink or Judy Moody series and maybe the one that is the most fun.

Stink has a wonderful way of looking at the world, and in this book he shares his insight, curiosity and passion for life with us. Children will enjoy the humor in the book and the facts will be interesting enough that adults will keep reading it themselves. While reading the book I shared numerous facts with my wife, and even called my dad 400KM away to share a few with him. One of the other great things about this book, for parents and teachers alike, is the extensive list of resources, both books and website. This is an awesome book for the whole family!



Books by Megan McDonald and Peter H Reynolds:
Stink Moody Books:

1. Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid
2. Stink and the Incredible Super-Galactic Jawbreaker
3. Stink and the World's Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers
4. Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express
5. Stink: Solar System Superhero'
6. Stink and The Ultimate Thumb-Wrestling Smackdown
7. Stink and the Midnight Zombie Walk

Stink-O-Pedia Volume 1:
Super Stink-y Stuff from A to Z
Stink-O-Pedia Volume 2: More Stink-y Stuff from A to Z

Judy and Stink Books:
Judy Moody & Stink: The Holly Joliday
Judy Moody and Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt


Stink and Judy Moody a Visual Bibliography


Judy Moody books:
1. Judy Moody
2. Judy Moody Gets Famous!
3. Judy Moody Saves the World!
4. Judy Moody Predicts the Future
5. Judy Moody, M.D. The Doctor Is In
6. Judy Moody Declares Independence
7. Judy Moody Around the World in 8½ Days
8. Judy Moody Goes to College
9. Judy Moody: Girl Detective
10. Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer

10a. Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (Movie Tie-In Edition)
11. Judy Moody and the Bad Luck Charm

Judy Moody Activity Books:
Judy Moody's Double Rare Way Not Boring Book of Fun Stuff to Do
Judy Moody's Way Wacky Uber Awesome Book of MORE Fun Stuff to Do
Judy Moody's Mini-Mysteries and Other Sneaky Stuff for Super-Sleuths


Books by Megan McDonald:

Sisters Club:

Sisters Club 1
Sisters Club 2
Rule of Three
Sisters Club 3 Cloudy With a Chance of Boys

Books by Peter H Reynolds:
The North Star
ish
The Dot
Rose's Garden
I'm Here


Monday, 26 March 2012

Fire In The Forest! - Lego City - Samantha Brooke and Kenny Kiernan

Fire In The Forest!
Lego City
Level Reader 1

Samantha Brooke (Author)

Kenny Kiernan (Illustrator)

Scholastic

ISBN 9780545369923

This book follows Fireman through his a day on the job. Other than the vehicles and characters which are renderings of Lego, the rest is illustrations. With bright vibrant colors it will attract younger readers and keep their attention. The Lego City books are diverse and this new addition to the collection is a great little book.

The Leveled readers are great books for young children. They are designed to progress as a child's reading improves. There are hundreds of titles in these formats, even across different publishers. What makes this particular series, The Lego City Adventures, so good, is that little kids will be attracted to them because of the format and style. These books are bright, vibrant, and colorful stories with fun illustrations. As a Level 1 reader geared for Kindergarten to Grade 1, this book is intended to help with sight word recognition, and sounding out simple words and sentences.

Other Scholastic Books:

Lego City Adventure Books:
Fire Truck To The Rescue
Help Is On the Way!
Calling All Cars
All Aboard!
Ready For Take Off
Build This City
City Adventures Sticker Book

Work This Farm
Fight This Fire!
Lego City Heroes!
Trucks Around The City
Escape From Lego City
3, 2, 1 Liftoff
All Hands On Deck
Fire In The Forest!
Catch That Crook!


Lego Ninjago:
Collector's Sticker Book


Lego Star Wars Books:
Save The Galaxy!
Anakin: Space Pilot 3D
Darth Maul's Mission
The Padawan Menace



Sunday, 25 March 2012

Sarah Reinhard - Author Profile

I have been following Sarah Reinhard's writings almost since she started blogging and now she has a few books out and I asked her to do an author Profile and interview for the readers at Book Reviews and More and Catholic Dad's Online. I always looked forward to her contributions to the now defunct Catholic Carnival. So without further ado her is Sarah in her own words.

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I started bloggging in May, 2007, because I felt like I needed some kind of an interactive writing experience. I don't know that I would have said "I want to be a writer," but when I look back, that was the desire at the heart of it.

Recently, my mom mailed me an old notebook from my grade school days, in which I had written a story. I remember writing back then, too, and really, writing has been part of me for my entire life, though it has always served a purpose. In my childhood, I told stories. In high school, I wrote essays for college scholarships. In college and grad school, I wrote papers and papers and papers. In my professional life, I've done a variety of other kinds of writing. Now it also serves to help me think through my faith and share it with others.

2. How did you nurture that dream?

I prayed during Adoration one time, "God, I just feel like I'm supposed to be writing. What does that mean?" In my journal from that time, I can see where I asked, over and over, for God to use me as his instrument.

So I would say *I* didn't nurture it: God did. (And that sounds fruity, a bit, even to me. But it's how it happened.)

On the other hand, I've always been an avid reader. A professor in my first class in grad school said something that's stuck with me, "If you want to write, read." I remember wondering if I would someday write, as much as I loved to read. Who knew?

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

This question makes me smile, because I think of what I do as "playing." The money is always a surprise (though a welcome one).

My working from home and cutting back on hours professionally had to do with my discernment that I needed to be home with my kids and more time to pursue writing.

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

Take myself less seriously. (I'm sure someone did try to pass it along to me, but I refused to believe it until I learned it the hard way.)

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

First and foremost, my husband. A close second was my priest, spiritual director, close friend, and boss at my job at our parish. I've also been blessed by a number of devout Catholic writer friends who have supported and encouraged me along the way (and continue to do so).

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

My process varies by project. I try to always start with a prayer or an offering of some sort.

For columns, I usually sit down and crank out my word count in whatever time I have allotted to me.

For books, I often sit down and use various forms of spreadsheeting...with both my Advent and Lent books (Welcome Baby Jesus and Welcome Risen Jesus respectively), I had a table of each day of the season with columns for the scripture verse, the theme of the week, and the think, pray, and act sections.

I usually have the best success giving myself hard and fast goals, either by word count or by "get this many sections/chapters done."

Once the first draft is done, I have a trusted group of writer friends who critique and make suggestions. I go through it myself as well.

After I've gone through that editing, I send it to my publisher, and we begin the process with their editorial staff.

7. What does your typical day or week look like for our mind, body and spiritual development? Do you try and keep to a specific regime or schedule?

Routines are golden in my life, but as I have young kids, I've learned (and relearn every single week) that I have to allow a lot of flexibility.

I like to get up way earlier than the rest of the family and pray, do some spiritual reading, take my shower, drink a pot of coffee, and ease into the day.

Through the week, there's at least one kid to get ready for school and onto a bus or into a carpool. After we settle down from that, I'll sometimes get some work done before the toddler's first nap (unless he's having a day where he takes only one long nap--he's transitioning, oh joy). I usually try to run my errands before his nap, if I can, but it doesn't always work that way.

I try to do the bulk of my work--especially anything that requires concentration or distraction-free time--during his naptime (unless I can't, or unless there's something else going on). That might be writing or parish work (bulletin layout, ministry scheduling, website maintenance).

Insert lunchtime, the feeding of children and myself, various and sundry needs being met.

In the afternoons, I will sometimes catch up around the house or do other less intensive projects. (What's defined as "intensive" may vary by day.)

From the time my oldest gets off the bus until my kids go to bed, I'm hit-or-miss with being online. After dinner ideally, and after the kids are in bed for sure, I try to be offline so that I can read. This is my only guaranteed time for reading--two or three hours max.

I tuck in early--I'm an early bird, not a night owl, so if I'm up late it's the exception.

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

I have an Ave Maria playlist that is my fallback inspirational playlist. It's like praying as I write.

I also have a playlist of various favorite songs, or I'll sometimes turn on Pandora.

Sometimes, I just want silence (or I need to keep an ear out for the kids).

9. You contribute to a number of blogs as well as your own, how do you find the time to work on books outside of those commitments?

I guess I can't just reply, "I'm crazy," can I?

I think the perception that I do "a lot" stems from the load we each carry, which is different and highly personalized. I know women whose husbands travel or are gone for days or weeks or even months at a time. I don't know how THEY do it. I could give you a number of other examples: for every person who tells me they don't know how I find time, I can respond that I can't imagine THEIR life in some specific aspect.

I guess that's a long way of saying I don't know.

Blog posts are less intensive for me. I tend to think in 300-500 word chunks, so it's not as hard to contribute to those. Book projects are definitely more intense.

To find time, I usually have to make time. This has included, in the past, humbling myself and accepting help from others, reducing myself to using programs like "Write or Die" and tweeting my word counts, and holding myself accountable to a writing partner, my husband, and whoever else is unfortunate enough to be in my path.

10. Which books or authors had the greatest impact on your work?

St. Therese of Lisieux has had a tremendous impact on me, as has Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I didn't realize how much until someone wrote in a review of my Lent book (Welcome Risen Jesus) recently that it was very "Therese-like" in its writing and sacrifices.

John Paul II, and especially Theology of the Body, have also impacted me tremendously.

On a practical level, I've referenced, again and again, Stephen King's On Writing, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, and William Zinsser's On Writing, and all of them before I ever considered myself a writer.

I have also been inspired by the books and online writings of Danielle Bean, Elizabeth Foss, Jennifer Fulwiler, Lisa Hendey, and many others. It's been an honor to get to know these ladies and be impacted on a personal level, as well.

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

This quote from St. Francis de Sales sums it up for me: "Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew."
- St. Francis de Sales


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

I'm coming up blank, so I'm going to respectfully pass on this one.

Here's why:
a. Gotta know who it is.
b. Don't feel like I have read enough to be able to recommend wholeheartedly in this area.

Of course, I'd include the Catechism, Church documents, the Bible, and writings of the saints, writings of the current popes.

But I'd hate to leave out good, classic fiction and good, awesome current writing. That's where I feel like, though I can recommend books, I can't say "this is the list of ten you MUST READ."

13. 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?

Learning how to think critically is what I got out of my college education, both times I attended. I went to learn a trade, I think, but I've come to realize, in the ten years since I graduated from grad school, that I went for the wrong reason, even if I did pick up the "learning how to think" (sort of, anyway) skill a bit.

14. What are your favorite books to read with your children?

Angel in the Waters, by Regina Doman
Anything my seven-year-old (a jumping-in-the-water getting-really-good-at-it reader) will read to me.
Whatever they bring me, especially if it makes us curl up together on the couch and it's a good story.

Sorry if this isn't a good answer. I'm pulling a blank on being able to list specific books here. We are rolling over in picture books, and if I start to name one or two, I'll want to name them all and you will never get the answers.

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

Judy Blume
C.S. Lewis
J.R.R. Tolkien
Stephen King
Ayn Rand (discovered at the very end of my teen years, but she definitely shaped and influenced me)

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

Fiction authors:
Michael O'Brien
Regina Doman (though I realize she writes for a YA audience, I do so love her stuff!)
Michelle Buckman
Karina Fabian

Nonfiction authors:
Lisa Hendey
Danielle Bean
Elizabeth Foss
Pope Benedict XVI
G.K. Chesterton

My list of favorite books will take all day to compile. I'm terrible at this sort of thing...it's probably why I avoid those memes online too! :)

17. What are some of your favorite contemporary religious authors to read?

Pope Benedict XVI, definitely, though I'm a bit of a slacker when it comes to his work. I also love reading Mark Shea, Christopher West, and the folks who write at Patheos, CatholicMom.com, and in many Catholic blogs.

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?

The Bible
The Catechism
Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales
Complete works of Chesterton in one volume (hey! I'm dreaming here!)
The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis
The Lord of the Rings books, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Harry Potter series

(OK, that's more than ten books. I'll need a bookshelf on my island, please!)

19. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists particularly those looking to have their art reflect their faith?

Pray first. Discern. Get spiritual direction, especially if you feel called to use your talent/gift in a public way. Frequent the sacraments. And make your coffee strong and hot. :)

Thank you Sarah for taking time out of your busy writing schedule to answer some questions for our readers here at Book Reviews and More. Sarah can be found writing many places around the web, including her own blog The Snoring Scholar and also at:

CatholicMom.com
Catholic Writers Guild blog
Catholic Foodie - Mary in the Kitchen Column
Amazing Catechists
Integrated Catholic Life
New Evangelizers

So check out her writings online or on the web.

Books by Sarah Reinhard:
Catholic Family Fun: A Guide for the Adventurous, Overwhelmed, Creative, or Clueless
Welcome Risen Jesus: Lenten and Easter Reflections for Families
Do I Really Have to Give Something Up for Lent?
Welcome Baby Jesus: Advent and Christmas Reflections for Families

Friday, 23 March 2012

Greg Leitich Smith - Author Profile

Greg Leitich Smith is a lawyer by day and YA author by night. That makes for a busy life. Combine that with the fact that his wife Cynthia Leitich Smith also a wonderful and prolific writer and you have a very creative home. Greg was born and raised in Chicago but now calls Texas home. His latest book the Chronal Engine is set in Texas. He took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for the readers here at Book Reviews and More.

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

I would be a patent attorney, which is what I do now, at least during the day. It's a nice combination of logical thinking, writing, and learning about new technologies.

2. How do you balance your time between writing and practicing law?

It tends to go in cycles, but broadly speaking, if I have a project, I get up early and write a lot on weekends. Usually, I'll try to do at least an hour of writing in the morning and then go to work. After dinner, Cynthia will usually put in at least another hour - it helps to have another writer in the family, so we tend to be understanding with each other about writing deadlines and demands.

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

I was always a strong and avid reader and I remember thinking sometime in grade school that it would be neat to write novels for a living. I even started one or two, but I was a lousy typist and the idea of writing things out longhand was just a bit too much. (Ironically, though, I wrote a complete draft of CHRONAL ENGINE by hand, using four or five legal pads).

Eventually I followed my interest in math and the sciences, but also sort of vaguely held onto the idea of maybe writing a novel. Someday. So when Cynthia started writing, it all came together again and I started writing right about the time she sold her first book.

4. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

I don't know about style, but CHRONAL ENGINE was essentially originally conceived as Swiss Family Robinson but with dinosaurs and a bit of Jules Verne. Which means, if you want to go all the way back, Johann Wyss and Daniel Defoe and Edgar Rice Burroughs and Arthur Conan Doyle and, well, Jules Verne.

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

Hmm. I don't know that this is anything I didn't know at the beginning, but I think writing is a bit like engineering: no matter how much analysis you do (and however necessary that might be), ultimately it comes down to synthesis. If you want to be published, you have to finish projects. Regardless of other temptations, whether it's reading groups or workshopping or writer conferencing, ultimately you have to put the time in on the actual writing.

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

Every novel seems to be different, but I generally try to have a similar process. I get a lot of ideas, but very few seem to have enough there to become a full-fledged novel (Sometimes, I'll combine ideas…). Once the idea gels, I try to come up with a character who would be suitable. Along with the character, I try to get voice and the rudiments of a plot. With CHRONAL ENGINE, of course, the idea of going back to the time of the dinosaurs is great, but it's not a story. There has to be something and someone driving it.

Once I get those, I'll begin a preliminary draft. This usually is only about seventy-five pages long - it's just to get a feel for the character and where the story is going. I'll also make notes on what I need to research.

After that, I'll make a five-column table, assign one cell per chapter/scene, and write a brief description in each cell of what happens in the corresponding chapter/scene. If I put it down to 8 point type, I can see the entire novel on one page, which helps to see character arc, where things slow down, and if it makes any sense at all. It's kind of an outline in that I'll insert scenes as necessary but I don't necessarily stick to it on subsequent drafts. And then I'll get back to writing and will usually go through another five or six (at least) drafts before I send it to my agent.

It usually goes through at least one round of editorial, which can involve a major revision (not just "polishing").

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

I usually try to pick something period or thematically appropriate. With CHRONAL ENGINE, naturally enough, I listened to the soundtrack from "Jurassic Park." With TOFU AND T.REX, centered around a delicatessen in Chicago owned by a German-Polish family, I listened to a lot of polka music. With NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO, which involved a family named Brandenburg, I listened to a lot of Bach. I'm currently working on a novel set in the 1930s, so I'm listening to Cab Calloway, Cole Porter, and Benny Goodman, among others.

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?

They do feel real. I don't typically get glimpses of what they're up to now, but every once in a while wonder what they might be doing….

Actually, Hans-Peter, from TOFU AND T.REX, almost made a cameo in CHRONAL ENGINE. I figure since he was so into dinosaurs, he might be majoring in paleontology by now, perhaps as a grad student for Prof. Pierson-Takahashi…

9. One of the greatest strengths in your books are the characters, they are so solid and believable. The characters you create, are they reflections of people you know, composites of different people you know or entirely your creations?

Thank you. I like to think that the characters are entirely my own creation, although I'm not sure that that is quite true.

If there's one thing that ties them all together is that they are all extreme in at least one, and in many cases, more than one way. They also tend to be relatively smart.

I think most of my friends and the people I knew as I was growing up (and even today) fit into the same demographic. So I guess I would say that they're inspired by, but not based on, the people I hang out with. I'd also have to say, though, that there's probably a little of me in each of them, as well (including the rat-finks)…

10. What is your favorite character that you have created and why?

I tend to like all my protagonists as I'm working on them.

From a purely craft standpoint, though, I think my favorite would have to be Tim, from NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO simply because he - a minor character in a book with three protagonists - tied all three threads together. And it came as a surprise to me (and the reader, I think) when he did.

It was one of the things that made me realize that everything you put in a book has to have a reason and that the solution to a plot problem might be just sitting there in an early draft.

11. Some of your earlier books are currently out of print, have you thought of rereleasing them as ebooks?

I am discussing possibilities with my agent for re-releasing them both as ebooks and paper books.

12. What books are currently in progress for you? Writing, researching, planning or even just ideas that you would like to work on?

I have a new semi-comedic science fiction book for which we've agreed to terms, but we haven't received paperwork yet, so we're waiting to make the official announcement. I expect to receive editorial comments next month, with publication tentatively planned for Fall 2013.

I'm also getting ready to send another science fiction project to my agent to shop.

13. The way the Chronal Engine is written is could have numerous spin off books. How many more books do you have planned in the Chronal Engine series? Do you have a time line for the releases?

This is another thing my agent and I are discussing…

14. The Chronal Engine is written in part in homage to a long tradition of adventure books. If you were to pick three or four in that genre to recommend what books would you suggest?

If we're talking classics, then I would have to recommend starting with Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.

15. Do you think we will see any more books set at the Peshtigo School in Chicago?

Perhaps. I'd have to come up with a suitable story that also fit the tone of the place. I sort of have a rudimentary idea in mind but I'd like to reissue the first two books before I commit to anything.

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

I read a lot of science fiction and mysteries (as well as nonfiction) back then. Some of my favorite authors at the time were Guy Gavriel Kay, Anne Mcaffrey, Rex Stout, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Robert Heinlein. I also read most of Stephen R. Donaldson, Raymond Feist, Piers Anthony, Terry Brooks, Orson Scott Card, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dick Francis, Robert Parker, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Barbara Hambly, R.A. McAvoy, and Katherine Kurtz. I also read every Star Trek novel that was published in the 1980s and still think that Diane Duane's were the best (she's also the author of the Young Wizards series).

As to nonfiction, I didn't really have favorite authors, although I read most of William Manchester and David McCullough. I loved (and still love) history and biography and the stories behind inventions and things that we don't think about that often.

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

I have for too many favorite books and authors, a lot of which are discussed on my blog (http://greglsblog.blogspot.com). Authors whose next books I'm anxiously awaiting include Megan Whalen Turner, Kenneth Oppel, David Macinnis Gill, Brian Yansky, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Uma Krishnaswami.

18. 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?

Hmm. I sort of think that one should know how to think prior to getting to college. But college does open up opportunities to think about and experience things one might not already be familiar with.

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?

I suppose HOW TO SURVIVE ON AND ESCAPE FROM A DESERT ISLAND would be a little too on the nose :. Not including my wife's novels (and yes, I'm cheating a little, but let's assume we're talking omnibus editions where necessary):

King James Bible
Complete Works of Shakespeare
The Lord of the Rings
Fionavar Tapestry
Ender's Game
The Thief series
The Enormous Egg
The Tantalize series (Really. I've read all of them in manuscript but never the final novels. Don't tell my wife).
The Westing Game
Any Introductory and Advanced Calculus text (provided I also have a pencil and paper).

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

I would tell them to read and master the basics. You have to know the rules before you can break them.

Thanks Greg for taking some time to answer out questions and I look forward to many more books from you as time goes on.

Books by Greg Leitich Smith:
Ninja, Piranhas, and Galileo (2003)
Tofu and T. Rex (2005)
Chronal Engine (2012)

With Cynthia Leitich Smith:
Santa Knows (2006)

Author Profile and Interview with Greg Leitich Smith
Link