Tag Archives: blog tours

Meg Cabot’s Royal Wedding

royalwedding_thumb.jpg

For Princess Mia, the past five years since college graduation have been a whirlwind of activity, what with living in New York City, running her new teen community center, being madly in love, and attending royal engagements. And speaking of engagements. Mia’s gorgeous longtime boyfriend Michael managed to clear both their schedules just long enough for an exotic (and very private) Caribbean island interlude where he popped the question! Of course Mia didn’t need to consult her diary to know that her answer was a royal oui.

But now Mia has a scandal of majestic proportions to contend with: Her grandmother’s leaked “fake” wedding plans to the press that could cause even normally calm Michael to become a runaway groom. Worse, a scheming politico is trying to force Mia’s father from the throne, all because of a royal secret that could leave Genovia without a monarch.  Can Mia prove to everyone—especially herself—that she’s not only ready to wed, but ready to rule as well?

Writing this post feels a little like writing about “some funny things happened on my way to the (book)store”. I’ve always enjoyed Meg Cabot’s books, so when TLC Book Tours asked if I’d like to be a part of the Royal Wedding blog tour, I jumped at the chance. I mean we’re talking Meg Cabot, we’re talking Mia all grown up, we’re talking about the transition of a much-loved YA character into the bright shining world of the New Adult.

How could I  say no?

You know how sometimes you’ve decided to do something, but challenges keep popping up, obstacles that turn what is normally an easy, well-known road—get a book, read it, write about it—into a path fraught with obstacles? That about covers my book encounter with Royal Wedding.

First, I had problems with the courier company getting the book to me. I swear, I think Trish from TLC Book Tours sent Royal Wedding to me at least three, maybe four times. In the end she bought me a copy of the ebook—and then, the next day, the last book she sent actually arrived.

July’s been a busy month for me, but I really wanted to do this blog tour, so when she said she still had some dates available (since my original date had long slipped past), I picked the very last date she had, figuring that would give me time to read the book.

Which, unfortunately, I failed to do. Things just got too busy, with my writing course with Kelley Armstrong, and then with the aftermath, which has added a chunk of fiction writing time to my daily routine. So yes, I am writing this blog post having read only the first few chapters of Royal Wedding.

And last of all (because, of course, these things generally come in threes): My blog tour date was yesterday. I had added the date to Google Calendar—but for some reason, I didn’t get any reminders, which probably means I forgot to set the reminders. But still, at the beginning of this past week, I knew I would be writing this blog post. For Friday, July 31.

Then Thursday (and then Friday) rolled around and I forgot. So yes, I am a day late with this post.

See what I mean?

But I am here now, and ready to tell you more about Royal Wedding. And yes, I’ve only read a few chapters, so you’re probably wondering, what on earth can Belle tell us when she’s only read the first couple of chapters? But if you’re a Princess Diaries fan, I can tell you this: it’s Mia! She’s back! She’s grown up, but at her core, she’s still the same Mia we know and love. Just a little older, with more adult things on her mind.

It’s something each of us can relate to, I think.

I can already see the conflicts that are building up for her, and I’m eager to head deeper into her story—just need to find some time to grab so I can plunge in.

So, obviously this isn’t a review, since one can hardly review a book on the strength of a few chapters read. But if you’ve read and loved the Princess Diaries series, what I can say is this: Royal Wedding gives you the chance to enter Mia’s world again, and while she’s not a young adult anymore, her voice is just as endearing and engaging as always.

Why ‘Disclaimer’ Didn’t Resonate With Me

disclaimer

When a mysterious novel appears at Catherine Ravenscroft’s bedside, she is curious. She has no idea who might have sent her The Perfect Stranger—or how it ended up on her nightstand. At first, she is intrigued by the suspenseful story that unfolds.

And then she realizes.

This isn’t fiction.

The Perfect Stranger re-creates in vivid, unmistakable detail the day Catherine became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew—and that person is dead.

Now that the past Catherine so desperately wants to forget is catching up with her, her world is falling apart. Plunged into a living nightmare, she knows that her only hope is to confront what really happened on that terrible day … even if the shocking truth may destroy her.

So I had a little dilemma on my hands when it came to this book. You see, by the time I got to page 50 of Renée Knight’s Disclaimer, I knew it was a book that, under normal circumstances, I’d put down and not finish.

By page 100, I was more than sure of it.

My dilemma? I was reading Disclaimer for a TLC Book Tour. If I DNF’d it, I wouldn’t be able to review it.

So I thought about it, and decided I’d speed-skim through the rest of the pages. I figured, that would be like finishing the book, and then maybe I could review it. But after I did that, I realized that speed-skimming through it wasn’t the same as properly reading it to the end. I couldn’t write a review based on reading the first 100 pages and then skimming my way through the rest of the book.

And I still had to write a post about it.

So I’ve decided to write about why those first 100 pages just didn’t resonate with me.

I’m in the minority in my feelings about this book, by the way. Most of the reviews on Goodreads are rave ones. I know this, because I went and read several of them, to try and see what I was missing, what others were getting that I just couldn’t see.

But even after reading the reviews, I knew there were a few things I just couldn’t get past. The following are my own personal foibles as a reader—given the number of outstanding reviews for Disclaimer, it’s obvious they’re very personal to me, and will likely not affect how other readers will feel about the book.

Being kept in the dark for so long. Normally I don’t mind being kept in the dark as a reader. I mean, without that, there wouldn’t be any suspense, right? And generally the main characters (well, other than the villains) usually don’t know what’s going on either. We’re reading the story from their perspective; what they don’t know, we don’t know.

I’m good with that.

But the thing is, in Disclaimer we get to be intimate with Catherine’s feelings. We know she’s in turmoil, we know she’s in pain, we know she’s scared. We know how she felt reading the book, how she felt when she first realized it was a book about her. We’re in the bathroom with her as she sits on the toilet crying. We’re in bed with her as the anxiety and dread and fear eat away at her.

Through the first hundred pages or so, we are privy to all her feelings about this monstrous thing that’s brutally ripping her life apart , but despite knowing all this, we aren’t privy at all to what this thing is. Even though Catherine herself knows. Catherine, whose point of view we have been reading in every other chapter.

And I’m afraid for me, being kept in the dark in this kind of way didn’t build up the suspense. It actually kept me out of the story. It was like an authorial intrusion; I kept seeing the author’s hand at play. And it went on for too long, for no good reason other than it was a way to build up the suspense.

Unlikable characters. I didn’t find any of the characters in this book particularly likable, although in the end one might feel more sympathy for one of the characters. I don’t particularly like reading novels with unlikable characters, but if the story is good I will keep on reading. Disclaimer has a great story—I mean, can you imagine reading a book and finding yourself as one of the main characters?—but in the end (or rather, after 100 pages) the unlikable characters coupled with being kept in the dark for so long just didn’t work for me.

The writing style. I didn’t like the writing style employed in Catherine’s chapters. It was too choppy, too disjointed. I wanted more transitions in time and space than were offered.

Since I did skim read to the end, I know how the plot ends, so I’ll end with my thoughts on the plot. I don’t think the actual event as depicted in The Perfect Stranger was worth all the build-up. There is a twist at the end, though. The effects of the revealing of this twist seemed to me (in my speed skimming, that is) to happen too quickly, to produce too fast of a turnaround in one character in particular. No spoilers, but if you’ve read the book you’ll know who I mean.

So there you have it. These are the reasons why Disclaimer didn’t resonate with me. Personally, I think if you like the synopsis and don’t share any of the reading dislikes I’ve listed, you’ll probably enjoy Disclaimer. After all, lots of people—most people—who have read it have loved it.

Reading: The Camelot Kids by Ben Zackheim

I don’t do very many blog tours – one a year, at the most. Because the lovely ladies at TLC Blog Tours always seem to send me an email in the beginning of every year with a title that catches my eye.

This time around, the title that caught my eye was The Camelot Kids by Ben Zackheim.

Camelot kids

I love the Arthurian legends, and anytime I come across a book about King Arthur and his knights, it goes straight to my TBR list. There are several Arthurian-based fantasies out there, and the ones I love best are those that are set in today’s world. So I simply couldn’t resist the The Camelot Kids.

Here’s the synopsis:

What would you do if an odd girl in a cloak told you, “You know you’re a descendant of King Arthur’s knight, Lancelot, right?” You’d probably do the same thing 14-year-old New Yorker Simon Sharp does. Back away nice and slow.

But Simon learns the truth when he’s kidnapped by a drunk troll, rescued by a 7-foot man named Merlin, and thrown into training with 149 other heirs of the Knights of the Round Table.

Can Simon survive a prophecy that predicts the world will be saved through its destruction? The Camelot Kids is about one boy’s struggle to make it to tomorrow in a world both real and fantastic.

My thoughts on Camelot Kids:

  • For a middle grade novel, this is a big book, weighing in at 506 pages. It’s a length that might put off some younger readers who aren’t used to longer books. It’s also quite a heavy book, too, physically.
  • The illustrations by Ian Greenlee are really really lovely. They both reflected and added to the images I had in my mind from reading Zackheim’s descriptions, which I feel is something all good children’s book illustrations should do.
  • I felt the book could have used more editing, especially in the first third. Not so much the copyediting, but rather the broader, overall editing, to tighten up scenes, make characters more consistent with their personalities, and clean up some other, general inconsistencies. For example, I found the scene between Digby and Simon in the nurse’s office didn’t match Digby’s character from earlier in the book; he didn’t seem the kind of man to say “if you touch my boy again, I’ll kill you myself.” And as an example of a general inconsistency, on page 170 of my copy, there’s a line that reads “He [Merlin] also does pro bono work, of course, because he’s a sucker for gold.” This type of inconsistency should have been caught by the editor, as the author obviously meant paying work, not pro bono work. And also, gold is prohibited in New Camelot, which is something that becomes an important plot point later in the novel, so where did Merlin stash this gold?
  • There was also too much smiling, winking and smirking. Again, something that should have been caught during the editing phase.
  • Despite the lapses in editing, there’s a great deal of story going on here that younger readers will likely enjoy. It’s a very interesting and original retelling of the Arthurian legends. And at the midpoint of the book (the end of chapter 23), I was really taken by surprise! I definitely didn’t see that one coming.
  • It was also at this point that I felt the story really found its legs and took off.
  • There’s much to like about the author’s worldbuilding when it comes to the town of New Camelot. I especially enjoyed the marketplace known as The Spell. And there are lots of delightful little instances of magic that are pure fun. Very inventive!
  • There’s also bits of humour injected into the prose here and there which made me smile.

And now for some thoughts which will have to be on the vague side because I don’t want to give away spoilers:

  • I loved what happens with Excalibur! But the story fails to expand on that, which was a great pity. I would have liked to have seen more made of the whole Excalibur thing.
  • I didn’t really feel the main villain of the piece (well, there were several villains, but I need to be ambiguous about this as it’s a huge spoiler) was credible in that role. I would have liked to have his character built up a bit more in previous scenes, so when we see him doing what he does, we think to ourselves, yes, I see it now. Too much of his motivation was given to us through telling rather than showing in a later chapter, which I thought detracted from the story.

The first half does lag – we get a lot of information during the first half, none of it in infodump format, thankfully, but while it is interesting, it isn’t of the page-turning, what happens next variety. The second half manages to do both (trust me, a lot goes on in the second half). I would have also liked the main villain to have been more credible in his/her/its role (keeping you in suspense here!). And more made of what finally happens with Excalibur. Overall, this is an original middle grade read that kids who like fantasy, especially of the Arthurian legend variety, will likely enjoy.

I’m Working On … (A Creative Blog Tour)

on my table rounded

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Adriane Giberson invited me to participate in a blog tour of creators (writers, artists and poets). I was a little hesitant at first. I’ve been busy with work and all the other must-do’s of life, and my creativity has really taken a backseat lately. But I’ve just finished a couple of big deadlines (like indexing an 1100 page AND a 1500 page book back to back – ouch!) and what better way to help myself dive back into more creative work than blogging about it, right?

What am I working on?

The big project on my desk right now is an urban fantasy with the working title “Sweetness and Dank” (the names of two of my main characters – very creative of me, I know). I’ve already written a chunk of this novel by hand in a Moleskine, and started transcribing it (and rewriting as I went) into Scrivener last week.

I’d started a writing challenge recently – 15 minutes of writing a day, which you’d think would be immensely do-able – so this seemed like the perfect thing for me to tackle. Unfortunately, the deadlines got to me, so my plan is to start anew on my writing challenge today. I have high hopes. We shall see.

I also want to start the edits on “Waverley”, which I’d completed for Nanowrimo a couple of years ago. There are massive changes that need to be made, because I kind of wrote two books in one, and need to separate out the story that I’m really trying to tell from the story that belongs in a book of its own. But look what I recently picked up from the library!

Blueprint Your Bestseller

That’s right: Blueprint Your Bestseller, by Stuart Horwitz, which promises to help me “organize and revise any manuscript with the book architecture method”. I don’t know if it will help, but I do have a completed, in-need-of-revision children’s fantasy in “Waverley” and I’ve got really high hopes for this book architecture method, whatever it might turn out to be.

creative lettering

In the artsy department, after working this past year on several doodle quotes, I’ve been really wanting to practice my lettering. I recently had a look at Creative Lettering, by Jenny Doh, and was just so inspired! I’m not going for a calligraphic look – what I want is to develop a whimsical, slightly quirky, not-quite straight lettering style (I’ve already got the not-quite-straight angle covered, by the way) that will work well with my doodle quotes. The artists featured in Creative Lettering (who all, thankfully, seem to have blogs) are incredibly motivational. So motivational, I decided to pick up some unlined Moleskines the other day when I was at the book store getting a Father’s Day cookbook for my husband. My plan is to start practicing my lettering on a daily basis. Another one of those “we shall see” things.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

That’s a tough one to answer. For one thing, when it comes to writing, I tend to write what I like to read, and I’m an eclectic reader, so I’m kind of all over the map when it comes to my writing. But I find that magic does show up in a lot of my writing, even when I’m not writing fantasy. In the past, I’ve clamped down on that (there’s not much place for magic in a murder mystery, right?) but lately I’ve been thinking maybe I should just let the magic show up wherever it wants to.

Why do I write/create what I do?

Ah, an easy question! Because of the ideas I get! I’m not very disciplined about my writing (YET– I’m hoping to change that) but I get ideas all the time and most of them are the germs of stories. I like finding out where each one leads me, although I’m learning that it’s good to let the end point of each one come to me before I sit down to write. I seem to be very good at the whole “two stories in one” thing, and what I need to do is write down one story at a time – mainly, the story that wants to be told in that particular work.

As for the artsy stuff, I’m not very good at it, but it’s very good for my soul, and that’s a good enough reason for me.

How does your writing/creating process work?

I’m just starting to figure this out. Earlier this year, I tried to outline with index cards, and I did get an entire murder mystery down on the cards, but when I sat down to write, I was … bored! So for me, the best way to write is the way E.L. Doctorow described it:

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Except that I need to know where I’m headed, as Neil Gaiman recently said:

“Mostly, the creative process is really, really fast. And when it happens, I have a pretty good idea of what something is. I am much more like somebody driving in the dark. My headlights will illuminate a little bit ahead of me, and I know where I’m going. I’m not just driving randomly. I know if I keep down this road, I will get to New York. But what happens on the way, I will find out.”

You see, when I don’t have a clear idea of how things end, I tend to write two or three stories in one. And then it’s a real mess to pull the real story out, and stash all the bits of the other stories away, for when it’s their turn to be told.

And now, please meet …

I’ve asked two fellow writers to play with me on this blog tour. They’ll both be posting their answers to these very same questions a week from today, on June 23:

Suey J of It’s All About Books. Most of you know Suey – she’s incredibly active in the book blogging community (she cohosts Bloggiesta). She’s also a writer, and the leader of a small, extremely motivating writing group that I’m very proud to be a member of. I’ve had the privilege of reading the YA novel she’s working on right now, and it is so good!

Janel Gradowski. Janel is a writer and an artist, and one of my best writer friends. Janel specializes in foodie fiction, and she’s motivated and inspired me over the past several years with her dedication and commitment to the writing craft, Next month sees the release of her culinary mystery, Pies & Peril.

Reading: Electric Barracuda, by Tim Dorsey

electric barracudaWhat it’s about:

Serge Storms, that lovable one-man thermonuclear vigilante and one-stop all-things-Florida trivia shop, has been leaving corpses strewn across the Sunshine State for more than a decade. The authorities – especially one tenacious FBI agent – have begun to take notice of the mounting body count, and a police task force is being organized. Could Serge’s luck have finally run out?

Not when he has brains, vision, a sidekick like Coleman (okay, maybe not Coleman), a penchant for ingenious violence, and an Internet travel-advice site conveniently directing disciples on the best way to explore the Sunshine State – as a fugitive, of course! What could be any better than a getaway tour through Serge’s favorite Florida bayous, back roads and beyond?

While the cops chase Storms’ troopers through his favorite locales in a manic gumball rally in the “tradition of the best American chase movie,” the man himself must attend to a pressing personal matter. His grandfather’s old Miami Beach gang is suddenly broke, their life savings vaporized. Though they have a good idea who’s behind it, they can’t do anything about it. But a certain man with a Secret Master Plan can. Especially when it involves a favorite Serge obsession: Al Capone’s little-known escapades in the Everglades!

Electric Barracuda is the 13th book in the Serge Storms series; it’s my first read of the series itself, and while I’ve not finished the book yet so can’t give it a full-blown review, it definitely gets off to a rollicking start.

Serge Storm is a very different kind of anti-hero: he’s got very funny dialogue, is keen on rather creative acts of vigilante justice, and happens to be a serial killer to boot.

The novel itself has a great slapstick feel to it, with parts that will make you laugh out loud. Then again, there are some gruesome parts, too – Serge, after all, a serial killer, and his trademark is coming up with extremely ingenious killing methods.

Part of the plot involves a travel website Serge is running, one that specializes in theme vacations; the first such vacation? The “tourist fugitive” – sign up to tour Florida as if you’re a fugitive on the lam. Why Florida?

“Florida’s the perfect camouflage,” said Serge. “Up in Middle America, even one of our low-profile whack jobs would stick out like Pamela Anderson bronco-riding a UFO. A minimum of fifty calls to the cops. But down here we’re so over-saturated with hard-core street freaks that everyone energetically ignores them. We don’t want to notice and report each strangeness flare-up, or we’d totally cease to be able to run errands.”

The characters populating Electric Barracuda are fascinating, and their interactions with each other create some very humorous moments. And the dialogue! At times, it feels like I’m reading a screenplay, one filled with a lot of funny lines. This is an early scene between Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents White and Lowe:

“Lowe, what on earth are you doing?

Lowe looked up from his desk. “Shaving my arms to decrease drag in case Serge tries to make a water escape.”

My verdict so far? If you enjoy a book with funny anti-heroes, zany acts of vigilante justice, and lots of madcap humor and equally madcap action, Electric Barracuda is definitely a book to check out (actually, I’ve never come across a book before that combines these three things!). On the other hand, if you’re in the mood for a crime thriller or a mystery, this probably isn’t the right book to suit your mood.

Update: Kathy brings up a good point, about coming into this series (as a reader) at this book, the 13th one, rather than an earlier one. I’m not sure if I’m really the ideal person to say how the book reads if you’re new to the series. Because this post was originally supposed to be an author interview post, I did a lot of research into both the author and the series before I started reading the book itself (I find this helps me craft much better interview questions), so I already knew a fair bit about the series characters even though I was new to the series.

A final note: on Tim Dorsey’s site, he recommends that you read the series in chronological order: “(Or, why dead people show up in later books.) Although the timeline of the books is non-chronological, they are meant to be read that way (in publication order).”

Note: This post was originally supposed to be part of my semi-regular “Writers on Their Writing Process” interview series, but due to some unfortunate timing issues, this wasn’t possible – my apologies. This post is part of the TLC blog tour for Electric Barracuda. I’m reading an ARC of the book, but all quotes from the book have been checked for consistency with the “Look Inside!” version from Amazon.com. Click here for more of the blog tour information, and to read what other bloggers are saying about Electric Barracuda.

Interview: Erick Setiawan Talks About His Writing Process

Of Bees and MistErick Setiawan’s Of Bees and Mist is a richly woven, lyrical novel; it creates a magical, mystical world in which you can so easily immerse yourself. From the back cover:

Of Bees and Mist is an engrossing fable that chronicles three generations of women under one family tree and places them in a mythical town where spirits and spells, witchcraft and demons, and prophets and clairvoyance are an everyday reality.

And here’s the first paragraph:

Few in town agreed on when the battle began. The matchmaker believed it started the morning after the wedding, when Eva took all of Meridia’s gold and left her with thirteen meters of silk. The fortune-teller, backed by his crystal globe, swore that Eva’s eyes did not turn pitiless until Meridia drenched them in goose blood three months later. The midwife championed another theory: The feud started the day Meridia held her newborn son with such pride that Eva felt the need to humble her. But no matter how loudly the townspeople debated, the answer remained a mystery — and the two women themselves were to blame. Meridia said little, and Eva offered conflicting explanations, which confirmed the town’s suspicion that neither one of them could actually remember.

Lovely! Want more? You can read the first chapter here (but wait! Read this interview first – it’s really good!).

MsBookish.com interviews Erick Setiawan on his writing process:

MB: You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that OF BEES AND MIST grew out of your childhood recollections of family stories and cultural fables. What was the spark that made you realize these various memories were a novel in the making? Was there a defining moment when you thought to yourself, “Wow, I’ve got something here”? Or was it a more gradual process?

ES: Growing up in Indonesia, I always thought my family had enough drama to fill up several books (and that’s just my dad’s side of the family), so I knew I had the story. But whether or not I thought I could turn it into sentences and paragraphs, let alone a book, was a different matter. I wasn’t a born writer. When I was five, I wanted to be an invincible swordsman, not a writer. When I was twenty-five, I still wanted to be an unbeatable swordsman, not a writer. So I had this story to tell, but more often than not, I didn’t have the words to commit it to paper. A lot of the writing process for OF BEES AND MIST was just that—searching and begging the universe for the right words and convincing myself from day to day that I could do it. That was the part that was gradual, painstaking even. The good thing about it is while I agonized over how best to tell the story, the story itself grew and took on a life of its own, sprouting up channels and avenues that weren’t there before. I suppose there’s something to be said for allowing something to develop in its own time, instead of rushing it to the finish.

MB: The novel is set in a mythical town richly infused with a sense of the magical. Was any research involved in creating this setting? Did you create maps, boundaries or sketches?

ES: I did draw a rough map for the various locations in the book, just to remind myself where the characters lived and how their geographic location related to their social status. I started with a map of San Francisco, the city I love and where I currently live, and I remember putting Monarch Street in an affluent part of the city, and Orchard Road, just as the name implies, in a humbler neighborhood. As Daniel and Meridia improve their lot in the book, I move them closer and closer to the good part of town, so to speak. I found this method incredibly helpful in keeping things sorted out, at least in my own head.

I read everything I could get my hands on when I was writing the book, from literary fiction to mystery and fantasy and also folk stories and fairy tales. I also used a lot of things I encountered during my childhood in Indonesia to create the magical elements in the book—the superstitions, the belief systems, the supernatural phenomena. This is not to say that I didn’t make a lot of stuff up, and it was an absolute delight to mix the real with the imagined.

MB: You majored in psychology and computer science. Did you find yourself drawing on your experiences and education in either field as you wrote OF BEES AND MIST?

ES: The two fields of study contributed to the writing in different ways. Psychology helped me understand the characters better. Eva, for example, is a textbook psychological case study: she’s borderline, paranoid, self-deluded, and very destructive, and I don’t think I would have understood her as much if I hadn’t studied her type of disorder in school. Computer science, on the other hand, while fairly useless when it came to writing the book, gave me the discipline to keep going. In software development, until you iron out every last bug in the program, there will always be problems, and I think with a book it’s a similar process. You may leave room for ambiguity, but until you fix every loophole and every gap in the story, it is not yet a full-fledged work. At least not to me.

MB: And now for one of my favorite questions: outline? no outline? a little bit of both? Tell us about your planning and preparation process, what you do (if anything!) before you actually sit down and start to write.

ES: I prefer manic, random scribbling on napkins and bits of paper to rigorous outlining. I always start with a rough outline in my head—I know approximately what’s going to happen and how I’m going to get there—but I never spell this out on paper. I think if you do that too much it can kill something valuable in the process, and you’ll lose that spontaneity. So I like to just let it flow, see where it goes. I know I will take a wrong turn many, many times, but I might discover something wonderful while making that mistake.

MB: I think one of the most delicious things about writing is that, whether one outlines thoroughly or just writes by the seat of the pants, there seem to always be surprises along the way, whether it’s a subplot that suddenly shows up, or a character who comes to life in a way you never expected or a symbol that takes on a much deeper meaning. What were some of the surprises along the way for you in the writing of OF BEES AND MIST.

ES: Malin is one character that most surprised me in the book. Her arc, when I planned it in the beginning, was rather modest. But she surprised me by being a much stronger and more complex character. She showed me that she was a lot more than the thin sketch I had for her, and she made me see that as a writer, I was far from being God or a dictator to my characters. If you listen to them, they will tell you what you are doing wrong. I love her journey from a spoiled little girl to the woman she becomes at the end of the book.

The other element that took me by surprise was the magic in the book. I didn’t plan it that way—the first fifty or so pages of the first draft of the book had none of the magic—but it kept rearing its head onto the pages. At one point, it became undeniably obvious to me that the magic was inseparable from the book, and I couldn’t place these characters in any other setting. Without the magic, the book would not have been complete.

MB: How long did it take you to finish writing OF BEES AND MIST? How many rewrites? Are you an edit-as-you-go writer, or a get-it-all-down-first writer? Or somewhere in between?

It took me five years to write OF BEES AND MIST, five or six rewrites. As to what kind of writer, I’m somewhere in between. I’m a perfectionist in a sense that I can’t go to bed until I get that one sentence perfect, but I also know that until I get to the end, the manuscript will be littered with mistakes and plot holes and impossible character developments, so I’ve learned to let them be until the next rewrite. I think it’s a good thing. Otherwise, I’m going to keep rewriting and never getting to the end.

MB: What’s a typical writing day like for you?

I try to write a page a day, which doesn’t seem much, but it’s a lot for me. I’m that slow. On a good day, it’s only afternoon and I already have that page written—I’m done. On a bad day, it’s midnight and I still haven’t finished that page. As you can imagine, writing is both a joy and a pain for me.

MB: Writing rituals and superstitions: most writers have them. Could you tell us something about yours?

ES: Thankfully, I don’t have any rituals or superstitions. I can write anytime, anywhere, without having to chant or pray or burn incense first. I like writing in coffee shops and restaurants, but not when they’re playing loud music or someone is looking over my shoulder. One thing that I absolutely cannot do is write when I’m angry. I find anger a fairly useless emotion when it comes to writing. Even when a scene that I’m writing demands righteous indignation, I can’t be angry when I write it. And unlike some writers, I can’t write when I’m drunk either. I imagine it would be a lot more fun if I could write when I’m both drunk and angry.

MB: Do you have a writing schedule or goals in terms of words written or time spent writing?

A page a day, however many hours that takes. But if it doesn’t happen, I don’t force it. One thing I’ve learned about writing is that it is a long, arduous process, and you need to forgive yourself a lot if things don’t go your way. You can’t always keep the momentum going, and there are days when your writing just, well, stinks.

MB: I read in another interview you did that the first novel you wrote received a particularly blunt (and rather nasty, I thought) rejection from an agent. Luckily for readers, you persevered and kept writing. Do you have any words of wisdom for those of us still on the road to publication?

Ah, you must be talking about that one agent who said that my characters were “silly, shallow, and superficial” and that she couldn’t imagine anybody on earth wanting to read my book. Harsh words, indeed, but I took whatever lesson I could from it. It was devastating at the time, because I was young, and it was the first novel I’d ever written and sent out to agents, but she meant well (I think), and I thanked her for taking the time to reply. Did I query her for my next book? Absolutely not. But did she make me a better writer in some way? I think so.

One thing I do believe in is that in order to write and finish a book, a certain delusion or chutzpah or whatever you want to call it, is necessary. In order to keep going, I think it’s vital to tell yourself from time to time that out of the billions of people in this world, only you and you alone can tell this story. Because if there’s another person out there who can write it, then why bother? Let them do it. For better or worse, I think every writer needs to get to that place where they can shut out the world and create stories on their own terms.

MB: Anything additional you might want to add (what you’re working on, when the next book is coming out, etc)?

I’m working on the next book, which, as you can probably guess, is going at an excruciating pace. All I want to say about it now is that just like OF BEES AND MIST, it will also take readers to a place they have never encountered before, and introduce them to characters that are, hopefully, unforgettable.

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A huge thanks to Erick for taking the time to answer my interview questions! This interview is a part of a TLC blog tour for OF BEES AND MIST – click through to read the rest of the links in the tour!

Erick has a lovely website too; and if you’re on Facebook, he’s also got a Facebook page (I’m a fan!).