Monday, December 31, 2012

For 2013!

Happy almost new year my dears!

For the past 8 years, I have visualized my goals in a letter that I write to myself each New Year's Day. I recap the year and then set very specific goals - not resolutions - but actual goals I hope to achieve for the coming year. This is how I adopted Lyla the 50 pound log of doom. I had written "Find a dog, not too big, that works with our family." Somehow this translated to dog who stretches so long that the front part of her can be on the floor and walking while her ass and back legs are still reclining on the couch. Sometimes things turn out differently than I'd planned.

But I've been doing this faithfully and tucking the paper away and actually checking it every couple of  months to see how I'm doing. Occasionally, I read it with surprise: Oh shit, I will say to myself -- totally forgot about that 'less caffeine' thing. Mostly it keeps me focused. Makes me understand that while some parts of success are luck and timing a great deal is from dogged persistence and tenacity and being fully present in the moment. Okay -- also listening to your agent and revising twenty times and then twenty more.

Mostly it means I keep myself accountable. It is my life and my career and I am fully aware that the cosmic anvil can fall on my head at any  moment. The goal list is not a set of manacles -- it is what I strive for and dream of -- it makes me stretch and grow and attempt the things I am afraid of.  I am aware of how many times I hear people say, "I can't now. My time is not my own. Maybe after... or Maybe when..." Do you hear this a lot too? Now I think -- Yes you can. You're just choosing not to.

I choose to try. I will fall. I will fail. I will succeed. I will watch too many Housewives episodes and worry about Bethenny and Jason's divorce and what Chantel from Gallery Girls is doing now. I will  let the Roecker sisters convince me that I have time to watch Season 1 of Girls and find myself addicted. I will waste two hours watching a horrible version of Anna Karenina. I will drink too much coffee and too many glasses of wine. I will lose my way and be scared. (not from the coffee and wine).  I will find my way and push onward and hope my internal compass isn't too cracked.

In 2013 I will have a new book on the shelf (THE SWEET DEAD LIFE) and a story in a new anthology (WHO DONE IT). But those things are already coming. Who knows what my new set of goals will bring?

I'll let you know.

What are YOUR goals for 2013?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Five: Gluten, New Adult, Homeland, The Sweet Dead Life, and Other Stuff

Drinking green tea and eating a left over gluten free corn muffin, in case you were wondering. The corn muffins are a store brand (HEB, here in Texas). They are not bad, but it seems that in taking out the wheat flour that is shockingly the main ingredient in most other corn muffin mixes, they have added more sugar. Which seems more evident when it's cold than it did when they were warm. Anyone have thoughts about the whole gluten free movement/products?

To the five!

1. Almost done with act 1 of THE SWEET DEAD LIFE 2 (title to come soon). Which makes me even more EXCITED about THE SWEET DEAD LIFE 1, coming on May 14, 2013 from Soho Press! You guys are going to love Jenna and Casey! And I promise a Texas twist on the angel genre. Editor Dan and I love the world of TSDL -- it's funny and bittersweet and all about family and love -- plus a mystery to solve and the least likely suspect ever to become a guardian angel. Plus breakfast tacos and kolaches. And cowgirl boots.

2. Pondering the New Adult genre talk. Been reading some, too -- Just for Now by Abbi Glines and a sample of Easy by Tammara Webber, two titles that have gotten a lot of chatter on the old interwebs these days. So how much sexy time is too much sexy time in YA? This is the thought that keeps swirling my brain. Is there a point where - guilty pleasure or not -- we drift into soft porn, even if there's a story line underneath? How detailed and specific should sex scenes be and still be categorized as YA?   Does the novel then become first about the sexy times and second about the plot? And mind you, I love bad boy taming stories as much if not more than the next girl.  Would love to hear your thoughts. (Wow -- you get to comment on both gluten free products AND graphic sex scenes in YA this morning. Crazy times!)

3. Just finished Season 1 of Homeland. Oh how I love that show! Carrie and Brody and Sol and enough twists and turns to keep me glued. Some of the best writing on television. LOVE. Waiting for Season 2 to be available. So what else should I watch next? (ooh! sexy times, gluten AND TV questions!)

4. It snowed in Dallas on Christmas day while we were visiting prodigal son and prodigal son's wife. About 4 hours of sleet turned snow that stuck flurries. If you live in a place where it snows (like I used to when I grew up in Chicago), you are laughing at my tiny snowflake thrill. But we were dancing outside like maniacs. I put on my hat! And my Uggs! I pretended that this would turn into actual WINTER. And then I drove home to Houston where in any given week we rollercoaster from 35 - 80 over and over. Editor Dan in NYC says this is proof of global warming. I tell him we are a red state and are required not to believe in such things. In any case, it snowed. I was there.

5. Have not yet seen Le Miserables but hope to rectify that this weekend. Have seen: Guilt Trip, Silver Linings Play Book and Anna Karenina. In that order: Funny but not great; excellent performances that are better than the movie as a whole; too weird for words and author/photographer/all around cool girl Kristin Rae and I were fixated on the 70's porn star mustache of the actor playing Vronsky. It was icky. We got the giggles -- and this is probably not the effect the filmmaker wanted in a story that was going to end with Kiera Knightley biting it under the wheels of a locomotive. Your thoughts? (Yup - comment on gluten, sexy times, Homeland, snow, AND Anna Karenina!)

Till next week and my New Year's Eve post!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Good Things

It is, of course, impossible to get our heads around the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We can try. We will fail. We should fail. We should, as rational human beings, be unable to understand how another human being can become so lost as to kill innocents.

But we humans do that a lot don't we? I try and try to pretend we don't. But history tells me I'm wrong. We do the same damn thing over and over and then we are horrified. My editor and I were talking the other day -- before last Friday's horrific events. We were establishing the angel world some more as I work to write the sequel to THE SWEET DEAD LIFE. And together we decided that in the world I was creating -- a world in which a 14 year old girl's brother returns as her guardian angel, returns in fact, as quickly as he can because although he is deeply flawed he loves her and won't leave her alone-- in that world, there is no supernatural evil equivalent. Only the evil that humans do to one another.

Which is more than enough.

And then it was last Friday. A week ago now. I was packing us up to drive to Dallas to spend weekend with son and daughter in law. We listened to the news the entire way there.  With each mile we were more devastated. Occasionally we tried to make sense of it-- to analyze why. You know-- we're probably right in the conclusions we came to. But it only makes me feel empty.

Now the governor of Texas where I live wants to arm teachers with weapons. This is the solution he has come to. I want to weep. The dark humor side of me (and if you've been teacher in the public school system for any length of time you become an expert at dark humor even as you love the kids you teach) does actually laugh. Until I quit last year to write full time, I had taught in the same high school for over 20 years. Over the years, I had colleagues who were sometimes mildly unhinged. Sometimes more than mildly. I had students who were on the brink of despair for many good reasons and sometimes for none. More than one former student tragically took his or her own life. One teacher went wacky and let the kids smack up the room, bubble in their own grades, and then trashed the ladies restroom. Another dumped a bucket of water on a kid's head. One came to school in spandex and barely anything else after having knifed her husband. Another turned off the lights one day, locked the door, and lay on the floor eating Reese's. And on like that. More than one Texas legislator is on the record saying we should put M-4's in every classroom. Really? Really?

I try to make sense of it. Is it the media? Is it our insistence that we have it our way all the time? I was doing a gift wrap fundraiser two days ago at the mall. One woman got close to irate that it would be 10 minutes (10!) until her package was wrapped. Is it our failure to teach our children resilience? Maybe. For a few years, my school's policy was that no one could fail with less than a 50. I had a student who stopped coming to school. He did NO WORK. The policy required me to give him a 50. I refused. I had to argue it out with the principal. "But then he can't pass," I was told. "Remember he's a senior." Is it the failure to parent? Sometimes. If you're a teacher you see a lot of that. It is easier to put off the responsibility. To blame the economy or whatever. But it's not just that. People get sick.  People get crazy. They always have. I tell myself that the 24 hour news cycle makes it seem worse than it is. I want to believe I'm right.

But 20 children are dead. So are 6 adults.
And you know what else? I cringe at all the talk of teachers as heroes. As 'making the ultimate sacrifice.' Because if I'm in a classroom, I want to help. To teach. To talk. To listen. I do not want to take a bullet. Nor should I.

And still. There is a huge amount of good in this world. Which is what today's post is really about.

Let me tell you about the good stuff. And you know what's amazing? There is so much good stuff that I can't fit it in one post.
  • Most people I encounter are essentially nice. Sometimes amazingly so. I try to keep track of even the littlest thing -- like the lawn company truck and trailer that backed up out of the Starbucks drive through line so I could back out of my parking space. He didn't have to. But he did.
  • The authors and editors I work with who are brilliant and articulate and generous of spirit. I am always aware that I am a 'later in life' career changer, dancing as fast as I can. So I am endlessly grateful to those who mentor me. To the enormous crew of new colleagues and friends that have entered my life. Again -- they don't have to help. But they do.
  • The indie booksellers in our community who give Houston a lovely and cozy place to congregate, read, think, talk. They build an oasis of calm civility that is sorely needed.
  • Every day I am humbled by people who work time into their lives to minister to the sick, donate to charities, volunteer, contribute, give, use their skills to create, to heal, to teach, to inspire. They do this as a matter of fact in their lives, not just in times of dire catastrophe.
And on like that.  I hope that I put some good out there as well. I know I try to.
So -- I am sad this week but I am hopeful. I want to believe that the dialogue that's begun will actually continue. That we won't drift off to watch the Kardashians in the new year and forget until the next time.

 I hope there won't be a next time. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What's Up Wednesday

So here's how this goes: I will tell you what's up with me this muggy Houston Wednesday morning. Then you comment and tell me something that's up with you.
Got it? Good.

  • I am writing up a storm on THE SWEET DEAD LIFE 2, because Editor Dan wants to see act 1 by the first week in January. Which is very soon. 
  • Did a gift wrapping fund raiser at a local mall yesterday from 1-6, which is a long stint of wrapping other people's gifts in a way that makes them feel that paying money for this service was worth it. Full disclosure: I am a mediocre wrapper who normally relies on the wonderful invention called gift bags. So I had to UP MY GAME. But I love doing this because PEOPLE TELL ME WEIRD STUFF. Like this exchange:
Me: It will be done in about 10-15 minutes. We're backed up right now.
Middle Aged Man Who Does Not Know that I am a MIDLIST AUTHOR WHO BLOGS: Do you know the movie A Christmas Story?
Me: Yeah!
Man: You know the leg lamp?
Me: Yeah! Love the leg lamp.
Man: Do you think the mall has one? My adult son would love it.
Me: No, but you could get it on line.
Man: Do you know how good I am on line?
Me: Um... no.
Man: I'm terrible. Don't you think the mall has one?
Me: No. You could Google it though.

And on like that. I LOVE moments like this. 
  • Finishing up HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by the amazing Natalie Staniford. It is brilliant and moving and I adore it.
  • Also, I am getting ready to go to Portland, OR  on January 11th, where I will be the guest author for Book Fan Friday at Powell's and then on Saturday, January 12th, authors Emily Whitman and Ruth Feldman and I will discuss time travel in our recent novels at Annie Blooms Bookstore.  ANASTASIA FOREVER does have a distinct time travel component where Anne and Ethan end up in Ethan's past, among other things. And so our Time Travel Troika will be discussing and reading and doing q/a and giving out prizes. If you live in or near Portland, OR, I'd love to see you!!
So what's up with you? Let me know!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


The next big thing! This wonderful meme is allowing authors to write about their latest project in this fabulous blog hop. I’ve been tagged by two author friends: long time pal, Janet Fox, author of three amazingly fabulous historical fiction YA novels: FAITHFUL (Speak, 2010); FORGIVEN (Speak, 2011); and the just released SIRENS (Speak, 2012), a noir mystery set in the 1920’s – with gangsters and gun molls and two kick butt female narrators. You can read about Janet and her books here. Also fellow Sourcebooks Fire author Patty Blount, whose powerful debut YA is SEND, about a boy who is trying to pull his life together after a bullying incident that went terribly wrong. You can find out more about Patty here.
Rules for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop if you’re tagged: 
1. Use this format for your post 
2. Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress) 
3. Tag some other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.
It’s the holidays, so I have tagged one. Yes, one. But it’s a good one!
What is your working title of your book?
THE SWEET DEAD LIFE (Soho Press, May 14, 2013)
Where did the idea come from for your book? 
I had worked with my Soho Press editor, Dan Ehrenhaft at Sourcebooks, and we both knew that someday we wanted to take a book from start to finish together. And one day in spring of 2011, we talked about some potential ideas that he thought would be a good fit for me. After that, I wrote about 20 pages as a sample. He loved them. So did I.
What genre does your book fall under? 
YA paranormal mystery
Which actors would you choose to portray your characters in the movie version of your book? 
If that actually came to be – and wouldn’t that be awesome!—I would prefer unknowns to play my characters. My dream is for previously unknown actors to become hugely famous playing characters I created!
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
After a fatal car accident rushing her to the hospital because she’s been poisoned, 14 year old Jenna Samuels’ stoner brother Casey returns as her guardian angel and together they solve a vast family mystery.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 
THE SWEET DEAD LIFE is being published by Soho Press, in the inaugural season of their new Soho Teen imprint. You can read watch the Soho Teen trailer and read samples of the spring season here. I am represented by Jennifer Rofe of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 
This book wrote quickly – about 3 ½ months for a first draft. That’s honestly the fastest I’ve ever written a complete novel. But it’s a funny book, and bittersweet, and I just loved writing it. Same with the sequel that I’m working on now (due out in 2014). I anticipate a full draft in about 4 months now that my editor has approved the outline.
What other books would you compare this story to in your genre? 
I would say two good comp titles are DEVINE INTERVENTION by Martha Brockenbrough and THE CATASTROPHIC HISTORY OF YOU AND ME by Jess Rothenberg. Which if you know either of those books means that THE SWEET DEAD LIFE has a more humorous and quirky take on the angel genre. Which I loved writing.
Who or what inspired you to write this book? 
As I mentioned above, the idea for THE SWEET DEAD LIFE came from a collaborative discussion between my editor and me. And then I went back to him and said, hey: if I’m going to do a quirkier take on guardian angels, can I set it in suburban Texas, with characters who live on the ‘wrong side of the freeway’? I figured he would say no. But instead, he said absolutely.
What else about your book might pique reader’s interest. 
We initially saw this book as FALLEN meets VERONICA MARS, with a healthy dose of Judd Apatow movies like Pineapple Express. Yeah – you can see why it was so much fun to write. When Jenna's 16 year old brother Casey comes back as her guardian angel, he does so with all his bad habits still firmly intact.
Tag, you’re it:
Now it’s her turn!
And feel free to comment on this blog on authors whose work you love and who you think we should all read!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What are You Reading?

Like lots of you, I'm always reading more than one book at once -- some in hard copy or paperback (lately these are ones from book signings and events) and some on the Kindle, which will probably be replaced soon with a tablet or at least a new version that's backlit... but that's another story.

But in case you were wondering, here's what I'm currently reading:

On my nightstand: 
  • Maggie Stiefvater's SCORPIO RACES. I adore Maggie's writing. She is a brilliant wordsmith and her artist's eye makes her writing a sensory delight. SCORPIO RACES is not as fast a read as RAVEN BOYS for me. But I am loving it just as much.
  • Raymond Chandler's THE LONG GOODBYE. I needed to read a classic LA noir. This is it. The language. The sentences. Again -- brilliant. brilliant. brilliant.
On my Kindle:
  • Natalie Staniford's HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT. Just started this. I am in huge love with this book and with Staniford's writing. Full disclosure, Natalie plays bass in Tiger Beat with my adorable Soho Press editor Dan Ehrenhaft (and my other literary crush, Libba Bray). This alone would be reason to read  her work. But it is stunningly wonderful.
  • Stasia Ward Keho's AUDITION. Finished this the other day, but I'm skimming it over studying the style. Novel in verse. About a girl who leaves her small town home in Vermont to study at the Jersey Ballet and go to private school. She is lonely. She is not immediately a prima ballerina. She falls into the bed of the 22 year old choreographer. Much angst ensues. This one grew on me. My first thoughts were that it was too angsty. But then I came to see it as a very painfully honest story of a girl who is lost and insecure and who clings to a destructive relationship because it is seductively easier than facing the fact that she may have to change her dreams.
  • Jami Attenberg's THE MIDDLESTEINS: A NOVEL. Started. Stopped. Started. Makes me depressed. I will get back to it. 
  • Miranda Kenneally's STEALING PARKER. A good, quick read. Like AUDITION, I'm finished but re-reading sections and mulling. Parker lives in a small Tennessee town. Her parents divorced when her mother came out as a lesbian and left the dad for another woman. Her dad is sad and clueless. Her brother is hiding his pain in drugs. And Parker is hiding her pain by losing 20 pounds, skirting the edges of an eating disorder (not that this is mentioned, but that's how it reads to me), quitting the softball team, and making out with every boy in reach to prove to her judgmental small town classmates that she is not her mother. And then she is convinced by gay best friend Drew to become the manager of the baseball team. Where she falls hard for the 22 year old (two books in a row with 22 year old skeeze balls who seduce younger girls! Is this a trend?) new baseball coach, who is his own shades of confused and happily starts hooking up with her in his truck. But of course there's also Will (aka Corndog) who is who Parker should really be with, if only she will wake up and figure it out before it's too late.  I do not know if I feel 100% hopeful for Parker at the end. I think she is still quite naive about life and religion and how insulated she is in this small town. And interestingly -- perhaps this is the former classroom teacher in me -- it's the adults who most disappoint me in this story. Neither of Parker's parents seem to find Brian, the coach, despicable.  Parker's mom is too busy telling her to follow her heart. Parker's dad is too busy denying. "My daughter is a good Christian girl."As though saying that is all it takes to keep his daughter safe. Honestly, I wanted to shake the man. I was glad to see Parker find her way again, more or less, at the end!
What are you reading? Comment and let me know!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Shiny Shiny Shiny!

The blog title accurately reflects my head at this time of year. You, too, I bet. I sit down to write and suddenly I'm watching various YouTube renditions of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah song (for the record, KD Lang's is magnificent) and realizing that I had no idea that I had this song MEMORIZED. How did that happen? When did my monkey brain do this for me?

So this morning I have written some and wrapped some gifts and made a note of THINGS THAT STILL NEED TO BE PURCHASED/BAKED/PLANNED and let the dog out again so she could do her dog thing and now I need to achieve the word count of the day.

And I'm a feeling a tad sluggish because people keep feeding me candy and cookies and I made these amazing things where you put a Hershey kiss on top of a square pretzel and melt the kiss just a little and then smoosh it down with an M &M and it is a bite of yum. It looks like this (although I used multi-colored dark chocolate M&M's):

Plus last weekend, we went to a wedding where during the cocktail hour there was a MACARONI AND CHEESE BAR (yes. such things exist). A waiter puts mac and cheese in a martini glass, hands it to you and lets you add diet toppings like bacon bits.

So I am now drinking green tea and telling myself that this shall suffice for like what? A week? And contemplating that diet that Anne Hathaway went on for Le Miz -- the one where she ate a square of oatmeal a day?

But no matter. I am writing the sequel to THE SWEET DEAD LIFE. And soon I will start filling your heads, dear readers, with talk of the angel world in this new series. And I am hoping that you will love my narrator Jenna as much as I do. And her brother Casey, who doesn't quite give up his marijuana habit when he becomes her guardian angel. And I am hopping with excitement about the new SOHO TEEN imprint that will launch in January and lead up that book in May.

And before I forget: Thanks to the fabulous folks, including publicity guru John, at Murder By The Book in Houston, where I sat for a lovely hour this past Saturday, signing with the equally lovely Sophie Jordan, who always makes me laugh and always has the best and most interesting recommendations for romance novels to put on my Kindle. But I'll save that for another day. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Welcome Janet Fox, author of SIRENS & a GIVEAWAY!

Today, it is my pleasure to host amazing author and friend, Janet Fox. I’ve known Janet since my Class of 2k9 days, even though her first novel, FAITHFUL, ended up releasing in 2010. We’ve presented workshops together all over the country, hung out together—including in her new hometown of Bozeman, MT, which I visited because after I read FAITHFUL, I simply had to go to Yellowstone!—and I’m a HUGE of her writing. FAITHFUL (Speak, 2010) was followed by its companion novel, FORGIVEN and now Janet has published a third historical fiction YA, SIRENS, which grabs readers with its two narrative voices and holds them, breathless, until the end.

Plus Janet is doing a giveaway, so make sure to read to the end of the post!

Here’s what Amazon has to say about SIRENS:

Two girls. One gangster. A deadly secret.
When Josephine's father ships her off to live with her rich cousins on the glittering island of Manhattan, he says it's to find a husband. But Jo knows better--there's trouble brewing, and in 1925, all that glitters is not gold. Caught up in a swirl of her cousin's bobbed-hair set--and the men that court them--Jo soon realizes that this world of jazz and gangsters and their molls hides a nest of lies. But when she befriends the girlfriend of one of the most powerful and dangerous gangsters in town, Jo begins to uncover secrets--secrets that threaten an empire and could destroy everyone she loves. Jo is faced with a choice: hang on to her soul, or lose herself in the decade of decadence.

Fans of The Great Gatsby, Libba Bray's The Diviners, and Bright Young Things will be captivated by Janet Fox's Roaring Twenties tale.

I had some questions of my own about SIRENS, and here’s what Janet had to say:

Joy:  Personally, I find the Jazz Age continually contemporary. What drew you to the 1920's/Jazz Age for this project?

Janet: You are so right about the Jazz Age being contemporary! That was the first thing I noticed while researching: the parallels between the Roaring Twenties and the high-rolling 1990s. They even share the scarier aspects – acts of terror and fear of/discrimination against immigrants. And they share the more bizarre aspects, too – a return to spiritualism and the quest for “self”.

Now, to be fair, this project originated with my publisher, who asked me to write another book and set it in the 1920s. But the minute she proposed it, I said yes. I don’t always say yes. But this idea appealed to me – it’s an era I wanted to know more about, one that was rich with cultural overtones.

Joy: Why 1925 in particular?

Janet: I searched for a year that had some resonance in music, culture, and current events. I wanted it to be far enough away from the Great War, Prohibition, and Women’s Suffrage that those things were not immediate but “felt” throughout society. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that The Great Gatsby (one of the inspirations for this novel) came out in 1925.

Joy: Why did you decide to set the story in Manhattan? What kind of research did you have to do?

Janet: You know, that was the easy part. I did toy with placing the story in Chicago and even Butte, Montana, but settled on Manhattan because I was born there, and lived there, and I really, really love New York. I’ve been back often. Plus, New York was happening in the twenties, just as it is today. I know it well, feel at home there, have family and friends there, would probably live there if I didn’t live in Montana.

But then, if I lived there, I would miss my big skies...

Joy: Anything you discovered in your research that was new or particularly fascinating to you? Anything that you didn't include?

Janet: Two things were really fascinating and new to me. The first was the Wall Street bombing of September 1920. Yes, that’s right – a total parallel to 9/11, except that the loss of life was lower and they never caught the culprits, even though they offered an enormous reward. The bomb, thought to be an act of terror around the treatment of immigrants and labor issues, targeted JP Morgan, but he was in Europe, so only the common folk – secretaries, runners – died. And the horse pulling the loaded wagon.

The second new piece of information that intrigued me was this aspect of spiritualism that pervaded the culture. Seances were big. Houdini was huge. He and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (good friends, by the way, which I hadn’t known) had arguments about whether there was life after death, or not. I play with that theme, the idea of some sort of abiding spirit, as an undercurrent in the novel.

I didn’t include much about the new role of advertising in the twenties, which is fascinating but I didn’t think needed to be in the story. Nor did I include the Ku Klux Klan, or the inner workings of speakeasies, also fascinating but not relevant.

Joy: Gangsters/Mobsters play a role in Sirens. What drew you to this type of story?

Janet: Well, of course, Al Capone was a starter. He’d left New York for Chicago by then, so I didn’t need to deal with him directly; I could only imagine the guys who’d want to fill his shoes. There’s something about the guy who is really only trying to make his way up in the world, but finds that it’s easiest to do so by behaving badly. I think that’s why viewers love programs like Boardwalk Empire – these “self-made” men who made themselves by making themselves bad.

And I admit that Gatsby was an inspiration in that regard. He is a nuanced and layered character, and that’s what I wanted to portray in my made-up gangster Danny Connor.

Joy: Author Libba Bray has said that when writing her new series THE DIVINERS, she developed an entire 1920's play list. Did you listen to 20's music? Any thoughts/favorites?

Janet: You know, I can’t listen to anything – and I mean anything – while I write. I find sound thoroughly distracting. I’ve never made a playlist to listen to while working, though I’ve made plenty for when the novel is done.

I have two teasers and a trailer that feature great 20s music, a little out of the mainstream music, which I love.

Joy:  Like your other two novels. Faithful and Forgiven, Sirens falls in the genre of historical fiction. What about the genre continues to appeal to you?

Janet: I love being able to access a world that is already defined by some parameters. (That said...see my answer to #9). I’ve always loved history, and think that we really are condemned to repeat it until we “get” it. Women in particular – I’m fascinated by the role of women through history. I’m hoping we’re just coming into our own. I’m hoping that I’ll be alive to witness the age of true women’s liberation.

And there is something fun about describing the clothes, I’ll admit.

Joy: Tell us about your main character, Jo. Does she share any similarities to Maggie (Faithful) and Kula (Forgiven)?

Janet: Not really. Maggie is kind of selfish and dependent until she finds herself needing to stand on her own two feet. Kula is frightened and feels cornered until she realizes that she can control her future by letting go of her past.

Jo is independent right from the start, but she doesn’t know how to get what she wants. She thinks that being a flapper means being silly but comes to understand the real meaning of women’s independence – and that’s when she begins to define her path.

I’m big on empowerment for my characters, especially my girls.

Joy: What's next for Janet Fox?

Janet: Well...I’m trying my hand at a genre I’ve loved since childhood. Kind of a science fiction/magical realism mix, set in part on the moon, in part underground on Earth, in the far distant future. It’s a stretch, and I’m in the self-doubt stage, but I plan to see it through, even if it doesn’t sell. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try.

Joy: And now the lightning round:
· Twizzlers or M and Ms? M&Ms
· Zombies or unicorns? Unicorns. (I don’t eat red meat. Yuck.)
· Book you wish you'd written? Right now – The Scorpio Races.
· Guilty pleasure TV? We don’t have TV! But I’ve discovered Downton Abbey on Netflix. Oh, yeah.

Joy: Excellent answers! I have always been a huge fan of anything 1920’s and so I was particularly thrilled that Janet had taken my favorite historical period and used it as her backdrop.

And now the contest!
Comment on this blog post and let Janet know what your favorite historical period is and why. I’ll put you in the contest hat. Extra bonus points for following Janet and me on Twitter. She is @janetsfox  and I am @joypreble
Contest will be open through Thursday 12/6 and I will announce the winner on Friday.

Monday, December 3, 2012

And the Winner of my bonus #YASH giveaway is....

Thank you all for participating in the December 2012 YA SCAVENGER HUNT!! I love these hunts because we ALL get the latest exclusive tidbits about 50 or more amazing books by amazing authors. My TBR list has grown immensely and I know yours has, too!

In addition to the book I've donated for the #YASH prize, I did my own giveaway for a full signed set of the DREAMING ANASTASIA series.

Although I would love to give all of you (close to 200!) the prize, the contest hat has chosen one lucky winner. And that winner is ELLA! I will email Ella and let her know. Feel free to tell her congrats!

I'm feeling very sentimental about the DREAMING series right now because not only is it complete, but I know that when the year turns, I'll have to turn my attentions to THE SWEET DEAD LIFE, which is my new series coming out in May from Soho Press. But until then it's fun to linger with Anne and Ethan and Baba Yaga and of course, Anastasia herself. Just found this review today, from a reader new to the series. And I love that she enjoyed how Anne reacts when she first meets Ethan. Because she's right - it's a departure for the paranormal 'girl meets guy who is older than he looks' genre. Anne does not immediately go all swoony. In fact she does the opposite. It's always nice when someone notices something like that. Here's the review I'm talking about: 

Up tomorrow: My interview with author Janet Fox about her new YA -- SIRENS.
You won't want to miss it.

Coming soon: More about THE SWEET DEAD LIFE and the new SOHO TEEN imprint.