Interview & Giveaway: Nicole Maggi Gives us 3 Tips for New Writers

Nicole Maggi Author PhotoAbout Nicole Maggi

Nicole was born in the suburban farm country of upstate New York, and began writing at a very early age. Of course, her early works consisted mainly of poems about rainbows and unicorns, although one of them was good enough to win honorable mention in a national poetry contest! (Perhaps one of the judges was a ten-year-old girl.) Throughout high school, her creative writing was always nurtured and encourage

Nicole attended Emerson College as an acting major, and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Post-college, she worked as an actress in New York City for over a decade, focusing mainly on Shakespeare and the classics.

Now living in Los Angeles, Nicole balances writing full-time with motherhood. WINTER FALLS, the first in her TWIN WILLOWS TRILOGY (Medallion Press, 2014) is her debut novel. She has a stand-alone novel, HEARTLINES, coming out in February 2015 with SourceBooks Fire, as well as the second and third novels in the TWIN WILLOWS TRILOGY in 2015 and 2016.

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WTDK CoverAbout What They Don’t Know

Mellie has always been the reliable friend, the good student, the doting daughter. But when an unspeakable act leads her to withdraw from everyone she loves, she is faced with a life-altering choice―a choice she must face alone.

Lise stands up―and speaks out―for what she believes in. And when she notices Mellie acting strangely, she gets caught up in trying to save her…all while trying to protect her own secret. One that might be the key to helping Mellie.

Told through Mellie and Lise’s journal entries, this powerful, emotional novel chronicles Mellie’s struggle to decide what is right for her and the unbreakable bond formed by the two girls on their journey.

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The Interview

  1. How many unpublished or half-written works/books do you have lying around?

    I have one complete unpublished manuscript and one half-written book. This does not include the truly dreadful fantasy romance novel that I wrote in high school because I was bored in my German class (why oh why did I take German?) and is contained in 3 spiral notebooks. I actually can’t find those notebooks; I’ve lost track of them in one of my moves over the years. So if you happen to come across them, you could have some serious blackmail material there. The unpublished manuscript was the first real book I wrote, and it was good enough to get me my agent, but it didn’t sell. It was historical fiction, a sort of female Huck Finn set on the Lewis & Clark expedition. I have a real soft spot in my heart for that book and maybe someday I’ll return to it.

  2. Would you say that other authors help you become a better writer? If so, how/who has helped you the most?

    Back in 2009, I answered a Craig’s List ad for someone who wanted to start a critique group. That someone turned out to be my best friend and fellow YA author, Romina Garber (author of the Zodiac series under the name Romina Russell). That ad really was a stroke of fortune, because Romina and I just hit it off; we often joke that we are twin brains because we think so much alike. For a while we had a full-fledged critique group, but it’s since disbanded because people moved away or got too busy. Romina and I still meet up regularly though, and of course we’re bouncing ideas off each other all the time. Other writers that have been so helpful to me are Jen Klein (author of Shuffle, Repeat and Summer Unscripted), who was once a member of the critique group, and Gretchen McNeil (author of Ten and #MurderTrending) who has just been a wonderful guiding light in my career.

  3. What motivates you to keep going? And how do you deal with discouraging thoughts or fears during the writing process?

    Those discouraging thoughts are so common among writers; we call it “imposter syndrome.” I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that I don’t have doubts about my writing. The trick is to write above them. It’s like that Emily Dickinson quote: “If your Nerve, deny you, go above your Nerve.” You have to write above your fear. After a while, the act of writing will drown out the fears. The fears are just the little peons clamoring for attention. You’re the boss, and you’re fearless.

  4. How did you get the idea to write What They Don’t Know in the form of journal entries?

    When I first started writing What They Don’t Know, I wrote it in narrative format, and it just felt SO WRONG. I tried to force it into that format for six months. Finally, I was complaining about it to my husband (who is a great springboard for my ideas) and he suggested I try writing it like a journal.
    The idea sparked a memory in me. When I was in college, I had to keep a journal for one of my acting classes and turn it into my professor at the end of the semester. A few years ago when we were cleaning out some boxes in our shed I found the journal. I was shocked the kind of intimate and deeply personal things I wrote in there for my teacher to read! So I decided to not only have Mellie & Lise keep a journal, but that they are writing the journal TO someone. I scrapped 35,000 words and started over, this time writing in the journal format. It immediately felt right. I was able to access Mellie & Lise’s voices so much easier.

  5. How do you get your inspiration? What was the inspiration behind this book?

    I like to say inspiration comes from everywhere. It can come from news article, a billboard (that’s how the entire sex-trafficking subplot was born in my previous novel, The Forgetting), just anything in the world around us. For this book, I wanted to write about a female friendship and how powerful they can be, especially when girls choose to lift each other up instead of tear each other down. Then a passing comment from my agent about abortion sparked the “What If” question that most books start with.

    What if two girls on the opposite side of the abortion debate are thrown together because the anti-choice girl needs an abortion, and the pro-choice girl is in a particular position to help her? I wrote from there.

  6. And of course, what would an author interview be without any tips for someone trying to become a full-time journalist/writer/author?

    I have 3 pieces of advice:

  • Read. Read A LOT. And read outside of the genre you are writing.
  • Don’t be so quick to show your work to anyone. I like to think of my writing as a glass ball. When I first get it down on paper, it’s very fragile and the tiniest critique–even one that’s highly constructive–could break the ball if I’m not ready to hear it. So I wait until I know that glass is unbreakable and I’m ready to get feedback on it before I show it to anyone.
  • Some people say “write every day” but I find that advice kind of abusive. I mean, there are just some days where you can’t write! So what I like to say instead is do something creative every day. That can be as small as cooking something, taking a walk and noticing how many shades of green you see along the way, or doodling on your notepad.

Thanks for taking the time to speak to us today Nicole!

The Giveaway

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The Con Artist – Book Review

the-con-artist-600x900Title: The Con Artist
Author(s): Fred Van Lente
Illustrator: Tom Fowler
Original Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Publisher: Quirk Books
Number of Pages: 288

Quick Synopsis: A whodunit following a murder in the most popular comic convention in the world, San Diego Comic Con.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

I heard about this book’s release at the beginning of the year and was instantly drawn in by first, the cover art because omg so cute but second, the premise. The story was just so different from what I’ve read before. Not in the sense that I’ve never heard of a mystery involving murder (because that’s definitely been done) but in the sense that, I’VE NEVER READ A BOOK THAT TAKES PLACE AT COMIC CON. It’s like every comic book/suspense/mystery lover’s wet dream.

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Author Life with Kim Turrisi – An Interview

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Information

Home to many seasoned and new authors, the Ontario Teen Book Festival brings together fans of young adult literature from across the state and their favorite novelists for a spectacular completely free event. Fans of all ages are invited to attend a special event full of meet and greets, panels and more! Each author’s books will be available for purchase thanks to returning sponsor, Once Upon a Time bookstore of Montrose.

Join us on Saturday, March 3rd from 9AM-5PM at Colony High School located at:
3850 E. Riverside Drive, Ontario, CA 91761

About Kim Turrisi

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A graduate of Florida State University, Kim Turrisi began her career in film and television. After a year of on-set production (getting coffee, wrangling actors and taking lunch orders) Kim segued to the development side of the business. First working as a development executive at Columbia-Tri-Star and eventually shepherding many projects in family entertainment for Disney, Viacom and Hallmark.

Her debut Young Adult novel JUST A NORMAL TUESDAY is loosely based on the author’s own experience, the debut YA novel follows 16-year-old Kai as she struggles through the emotional aftermath of her sister’s suicide. Kai spends a month at grief camp, discovering a roadmap to piecing her broken heart back together.

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About Just a Normal Tuesday

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It’s just a normal Tuesday…until sixteen-year-old Kai finds a s

uicide note from her beloved older sister, Jen. Now Kai is the only child in a family reeling with grief. Unable to make sense of her sister’s choice, Kai begins to lose control. She cuts class. Lashes out at the people closest to her. Pops the same pills that killed her sister.

As she spirals toward rock bottom, her parents offer her a lifeline: a summer away at camp. Grief camp…for teens. Kai reluctantly agrees to attend, even though she’s not exactly in the mood for s’mores. But she finds solace in meeting kids like her, and slowly she begins to come back to life—and even love—at The Treehouse.

Interview

Tell us a bit about Just a Normal Tuesday.

Just A Normal Tuesday offers a road-map for anyone who has been touched by loss and anyone who is looking for hope in a broken world. Sixteen year old, Kai Sheehan’s, world is turned upside down when she comes home on a seemingly normal day to find a suicide letter from her older sister who she adores. Her world crumbles and she spirals out of control. At the end of their ropes, her parents send her to a grief camp where she finds hope with the help of teens who have suffered unimaginable losses.

What was the hardest scene to write?

The one where she reads the suicide letter. Since it’s based loosely on my teen years, it brought up a lot of feelings that were extremely difficult to relive over and over as I wrote then revised.

 

What are common misconceptions about author life?

That we make a lot of money!  Or that we sit down to write and the words just flow. When that does happen, it’s wonderful but the truth is that sometimes, they don’t or the ones that do are terrible.

Any new projects in the works?

Yes, first up is a young adult adaptation of a wildly popular web series called CARMILLA. It’s much lighter than TUESDAY so it’s been a welcome relief.

I have a few other things in the works but I can’t talk about them yet.

Do other authors help you become a better author? If so, how/who has helped you the most?

For sure. I have a terrific circle of writer friends who keep me sane and on track whenever I’m about to derail. Marlene King, Veronica Rossi, Martha Brockenbrough, Anna Shinoda and Aaron Hartzler. In fact, there would be no book with Aaron. His encouragement when I was afraid to write this really made all the difference in the world.

How did you realize you wanted to become a writer?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I loved reading. I was probably the only person in any of my classes who loved essay questions. Words are really powerful and I love that.

How many unpublished or half-written works/books do you have?

Let’s just say that I have a lot of half thought out ideas and a few finished books that need a lot of work.  I do have two that I’m really excited about revising. The others…not so much.

What did it feel like holding a copy of Just a Normal Tuesday for the first time?

Like I imagine winning a Gold Medal in the Olympics feels. I cried like every other debut author I know. It was a victory for me personally.

Do you write with music? If so, what type?

Always. I create playlists for my characters then an overall one for the book itself. So it depends. For Just a Normal Tuesday, there was a lot of angst ridden music. Mostly, alternative music.

Any tips for someone trying to become a full-time writer/author?

Journal all the big moments in your life whether they are fun like a first kiss or hard. The first time someone hurt your feelings. First break up. First loss. Scribble all of the adjectives you can to describe how you were feeling. That way they’ll be fresh when you look back on them years later when you’re writing your first book.

Vomit it all in your first draft. You can and will revise later. You’ll lose chapters, characters, pages of dialogue. It’s always better to have more.

Write what you know. Don’t be afraid. Be fearless.

When you are revising, I have one tip that Marlene King gave me early in my career. Pretend each word you use costs you a dollar.

Thank you so much, Kim!

Writing Tips and Inspiration from Anthony Breznican – An Interview

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Information

Home to many seasoned and new authors, the Ontario Teen Book Festival brings together fans of young adult literature from across the state and their favorite novelists for a spectacular completely free event. Fans of all ages are invited to attend a special event full of meet and greets, panels and more! Each author’s books will be available for purchase thanks to returning sponsor, Once Upon a Time bookstore of Montrose.

Join us on Saturday, March 3rd from 9AM-5PM at Colony High School located at:
3850 E. Riverside Drive, Ontario, CA 91761

Spotlight on Anthony Breznican

33918882About Behind the Song

Anthony Breznican will be on th panel for his latest work in the YA anthology, Behind The Song edited by K.M. Walton.

Behind The Song collects the short stories and personal essays inspired by the music that touched fourteen young adult authors and musicians.

 

About Anthon3845d2_87a58e49de4d424583f2a0dcf37594fey Breznican

Anthony Breznican was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsurgh. He has worked as a reporter for The Arizona Republic, Associated Press, and USA Today. He is currently a senior staff writer for Entertainment Weekly.

Brutal Youth is his debut novel.

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Interview

Tell us a bit about “Miss Atomic Bomb” in Behind the Song.

The book is a collection of short stories inspired in one way or another by music, and “Miss Atomic Bomb” tells the story of a teenage girl named Cassie who has been keeping a very serious secret. A boy in her class has figured it out and is trying to blackmail her, but as the tale unfolds we realize the world they’re living in is very different from our own. There are many who, rightly or wrongly, might believe Cassie is to blame for that — if they knew the truth about her.

It’s quite an interesting story! What actually inspired “Miss Atomic Bomb”?

My inspiration was a 2012 song by the Killers, which is a beautiful anthem about memory, and love, and the profound impact one person can have on another. But it’s also enigmatic. I tried to ask: Could these lyrics have a different, darker meaning? And I created a little Twilight Zone-style story out of that.

If “Miss Atomic Bomb” was made into a film, who would you want to play Cassie and Michael, the two main characters?

I would love to see it adapted for a TV show, sort of a Black Mirror or Tales from the Dark Side type of series. Cassie is very strong, but she has to appear vulnerable. And Michael has to be somewhat pathetic, but also menacing. I would prefer to see two unknown actors, rather than existing stars.

You also wrote the novel Brutal Youth. I know which was the hardest to read for me but what was the hardest scene to write?

That’s a book about kids who are trying their best to survive bad situations without becoming as cruel as the people who threaten them. There’s a scene between one character, Lorelei Pascal, and her mother that haunts me. The mother is violently angry, and life with her is like living in a house full of landmines. Halfway through, there is a scene set at dinner in which the mother explodes. That was painful to write because it was difficult to relive. My father was frequently volatile and abusive, and that scene is based on some of my own memories of growing up.

What did you edit out of Brutal Youth?

I wanted that novel to be about the whole community, not just one kid’s story. I was interested in exploring authoritarianism. Sometimes a whole country can become unhinged, and this was a look at one small community — a troubled high school — where fear and anger led to more of the same. So I wanted to dive into the histories of some of the older characters to create some empathy for them. They are cautionary tales. What made them this way? I didn’t want them just to be monsters. But sometimes I had to cut back on that in order to keep the story moving. So there is a lot more history to each of them than you will find in the book.

Do other authors help you become a better author? If so, who has helped you the most and how?

They have mainly helped just by being inspirations. I admire the work ethic of Andrew Smith, for instance, who wakes up at 5 in the morning each day and writes for several hours before his teaching job. Gillian Flynn showed me that a person can work in my profession, writing entertainment news, and still tell your own story. And Stephen King, whose work first inspired me to pen my own scary stories as a kid, continues to be the Michael Jordan who makes me want to go out and play my heart out.

How do you deal with discouraging thoughts or fears during the writing process?

You just have to crawl out from under those and realize that, yes, your book is terrible. But once it is finished, you can get to work rewriting it and make it better. You have to be like Wonder Woman in that No Man’s Land scene. Just put your shield up and push forward against the barrage.

How many unpublished or half-written works/books do you have?

Just the one that I’m working on now. But I spent 18 years in journalism paying the dues that other fiction writers usually pay with unpublished novels.

What was it like going from Senior Writer at EW to published author?

It was a dream come true. I love my day job, telling the stories of the storytellers. But it is wonderful to tell a few of my own. I am especially grateful to hear from young readers, who feel like Brutal Youth captures some of the tragedy that they see, as well as the hope. It’s important to know that the world has both.

Do you write with music? If so, what type?

I often choose songs that put me in the vibe of a certain character, or scene. With Miss Atomic Bomb, the pace of that song was just as important as the lyrics I adapted for my own nefarious story. I loved the pulse of it, and the defiant strength blended with melancholy.

Any new works planned?

I have a haunted house story that is calling to me. Haunting me, I guess you’d say. It needs more attention from me.

And of course, what would an author interview be without any tips for someone trying to become a full-time journalist/writer/author?

You have to break into the business by getting bylines. But it’s not possible to start at the top. You’ll never get your first byline at a big newspaper or a national magazine. Find a smaller publication that needs people. (Don’t work for free, but don’t expect to get rich right away.) Get a few good clips, learn what you can, then move on to the next place. Take a low-level job at a big outlet the first chance you get, and work your way up. This all sounds easier said than done, but it is possible.  Too often people waste time trying to jump to the middle of the ladder rather than simply climbing up from the bottom.

Thank you so much, Anthony!

Here’s a mini-review I did of Anthony Breznican’s debut novel, Brutal Youth:

 

Murder on the Lake of Fire – Book review

lakeoffireTitle: Murder on the Lake of Fire (Mourning Dove Mysteries, #1)
Author: Mikel J. Wilson
Original Publication Date: December 1st 2017
Publisher: Acorn Publishing

Synopsis (provided by Acorn Publishing):
At twenty-three and with a notorious case under his belt, Emory Rome has already garnered fame as a talented special agent for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. His career is leapfrogging over his colleagues, but the jumping stops when he’s assigned a case he fought to avoid – to investigate an eerie murder in the Smoky Mountain hometown he had abandoned. This mysterious case of a dead teen ice-skater once destined for the pros is just the beginning. In a small town bursting with envious friends and foes, Rome’s own secrets lie just below the surface. The rush to find the murderer before he strikes again pits Rome against artful private investigator, Jeff Woodard. The PI is handsome and smart, seducing Rome and forcing him to confront childhood demons, but Woodard has secrets of his own. He might just be the killer Rome is seeking.

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Basic Witches – BOOK REVIEW

33589940Title: Basic Witches: How to Summon Success, Banish Drama, and Raise Hell with Your Coven
Author(s): Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman
Illustrator: Camille Chew
Original Publication Date: September 12th, 2017
Publisher: Quirk Books
Number of Pages: 208

Quick Synopsis: An empowering book of spells (and lifestyle tips) for the modern millennial looking to dabble in the rising trend of ~witchcraft.

I immediately fell in love with the cover art by Camille Chew. The mix of colors and realistic yet cartoony interpretations of the modern woman just appealed to me instantly. I didn’t know what to expect from the book at all. I knew nothing about it when I first saw it except that I wanted to read it. I was contacted by someone at Quirk Books and was able to receive a review copy in exchange for my honest review. So here we go!

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Top 10 Books I’ve Read While Blogging

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke & The Bookish back in 2010. Every Tuesday there is a new Top 10 Topic and this week’s prompt is “Throwback Freebie” so I decided to do Top 10 Books I’ve Read While Blogging. The only criteria for me was that I had to have read the book between March 2014 until now. So let’s get to it.
top 10 books while blogging
  1. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
    This book hit me in every feel in my body. It’s relatable and deeply heartfelt.
  2. Schizo by Nic Sheff
    It may not be the best representation of mental illness, but it definitely took me on a thrill ride I thoroughly enjoyed.
  3. Yes Please by Amy Poehler  
    By the end of this book, I felt strong and empowered. I felt like I really could do it; I could achieve my goals. 
  4. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher 
    UGH. Haunting and beautiful. To this day, one of my absolute favorite books ever. And now that I’m a few years older, it still hits me.
  5. Landline by Rainbow Rowell 
    I read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and was not impressed. So many people loved it but I just wasn’t one of them. I don’t know why. I was ready to give up on Rowell but landed an ARC of Landline and omg, it was sweet, it was different, it is AMAZING.
  6. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink  
    I actually had to read this for school and watch the movie afterward. I was enthralled by every aspect of the story. I can definitely agree that this story is not for everyone. I honestly, can’t relate to these characters at all but I was hooked from the beginning. 
  7. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
    I fell in love with the cover while browsing the LA Times Festival of Books and saw that Leigh Bardugo herself was signing literally right next to me, so I bought it, got it signed, devoured it and fell so in love with the Grishaverse that I made it the first book for my book club that year.
  8. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
    I will (and probably already have) say this so many times, Jesse Andrews is by far one of the best (and most underrated) writers. Definitely the best YA contemporary that I’ve read. His characters are so raw and real, intelligent without sounding fake and made up. The way this book deals with Cancer is beautiful, heart wrenching and hilarious all at once. 
  9. Looking for Alaska by John Green
    I wish I could explain why I love this book so much but I don’t think I really can. This was the second Green book that I’ve read and at this point, I think I only need one more and it is still my favorite John Green book. 
  10. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
    I read this during my second bout with depression, arguably my worst, and this book spoke to me on multiple levels.