Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ellie James Interview + Giveaway-5/23/12

1. Tell me about the Midnight Dragonfly series. How did you come up with that story angle or idea?


The Midnight Dragonfly books are a series of romantic YA thrillers following the visions of a teenage psychic in New Orleans. A Louisiana native, I’ve always adored New Orleans’s French Quarter and Garden District, in particular the beautifully haunting architecture. Many buildings there date back 200 years!

As it so happens, back during the sleep deprived days after my little boy was born, I woke up one night from one of the most incredibly detailed, vivid dreams I’d ever had. I’d more than just seen a group of teen sneak into an old abandoned mansion--I’d been with them.  I’d gazed into the darkness, and smelled the decay. I’d felt the fear, and the crazy blast of excitement at the prospects of a game of truth or dare.  My heart was still racing when I woke up. The images lingered. I kept thinking about what I’d seen, and from the questions came: What happened next? What if one of the teens was a psychic? What if she saw something…something bad? What if she had a premonition? What if what she saw actually happened?  What if no one believed her, or at least, no one but the last guy she should let herself begin to fall for?

As I answered those questions, the Midnight Dragonfly books were born!

2. How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (YA-lit)?

It wasn’t a conscious decision. I didn’t sit down one day and decide, I’m going to write YA.  The story came to me, and it was 100% Young Adult. I’d been writing Romantic Suspense for years, but I knew this story--Trinity’s story--was more than just a romantic thriller. It was a journey of self discovery, of Trinity finding her place in the world and becoming who she’s meant to become. That journey wouldn’t work if I forced her into any other genre.

3. What kind of research did you do for this series?

Tons!  There was research on my characters, for which my nieces (to whom the first book is dedicated) helped me out enormously. I laugh when I think about the random texts they received at all times of day and night, and graciously responded to, all the way from “what would you say/do if XX happened, to kind of graffiti is on the bathroom walls at the clubs you go to, to what do you find most romantic in the whole world?

I also did a good bit of research into psychic phenomenon and New Orleans, post Katrina. It was incredibly important to me to paint a portrait of how badly Katrina hurt New Orleans, but also the resilient spirit of the city and the people, and how rebirth and rebuilding is everywhere. As it turned out, resiliency, rebirth, and rebuilding became powerful themes throughout the series.

4. What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

I love writing. I love creating. I love exploring story-worlds. My mind is always spinning, whether I’m at the computer or not. Typically I’m at my desk 4-5 hours per day, 5 days per week, with “mind work” happening the rest of the time. I’m constantly grabbing my phone and recording voice messages or jotting random notes. I’m not sure why, but my absolute best thoughts come to me at times when it’s hardest to jot them down: in the shower, while driving, and while running.

As for goals, I stick with weekly goals, rather than hard-core daily goals. I know how much I need to get done every week to meet my deadlines, and while I do divvy this up by day, having a weekly goal allows me some wiggle room if something comes up, such as a sick kid--again, I’m not sure why, but there is some bizarre corollary between imminent deadlines and sick children!

5. What is the hardest/easiest part of writing for you?

That’s an awesome question--I’ve never been asked that before. The easiest part is the characters. Once they form, they become so vivid to me, it’s like they’re part of me and I’m part of them. I feel what they feel, want what they want. Hurt when they hurt. Sometimes that’s emotionally tough, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.

As for the hardest part…I think it’s letting go. I could fiddle with my stories forever, letting my characters turn left instead of right and exploring what happens next. There are so many possibilities, it’s tough to choose one and run with it. With every book I’ve written, there’s something I’d love to change, all the way from adjusting an existing scene to scrapping it altogether and replacing it with something completely different.

6. What’s the best thing about being an author?

The chance to explore. There’s nothing static about writing. Every story brings new challenges and possibilities, new characters to get to know, worlds to create, mysteries to solve, love to feel, decisions to make…crimes to commit. Over the years I’ve found myself delving deeply into human behavior and psychology, to the point where I’m the go to person for family and friends wanting to know why someone is doing something.  It’s an awesome experience to bring diverse characters together, and see what happens.

7. What are you working on now?

On my desk next to me are Line Edits for the third book in the Midnight Dragonfly series, FRAGILE DARKNESS.  In addition to those, I’m exploring possibilities for where Trinity goes next, as well as fleshing out several new series ideas. I’m not sure what’s going to bubble up first, but I can promise you lots of action, adventure, mystery, and romance!

8. What advice would you give aspiring writers?

To believe in yourself and never give up. Each of us has stories to tell, and only you can tell them. The writing life can be incredibly hard. You spend tons of time alone, creating, and then you toss your creation out to the rest of the world, to see what they think. Some will love it, some won’t. That can take a toll of your confidence and your dream. But I have a plaque across from my desk that reads, “You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” and I essentially live by those words. You have to believe in yourself and follow your dreams. It’s the only way they can come true.

9. Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?

Far too many to list them all, but as a sampling:

The Stand by Stephen King

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

10. What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in the name of book research?

Jumped into a swimming pool with my hands tied together (to see if I could stay afloat)--and broken into a place long abandoned (can’t say where--yet!) to see what it would feel like, and what kind of trouble I could get Trinity into on the other side!

11. If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?

LOL! The first thing that popped into my head was LOST IN SPACE J  Then: ONE DAY AT A TIME. But seriously, after thinking on this for more than a few days, I’d have to say DREAMING IN COLOR.

Flash Questions:

1)If you could trade places with a person for a single day, who would it be and why?

Two people: 1) my husband. I’d LOVE to know how his mind works and 2) JJ Abrams. I’d love to know how his mind works, too (see below)!

2)What was the last movie you saw?

Steven Soderbergh’s HAYWIRE

3)What is your biggest TV addiction?

LOST!!!!!!  OMG, I miss that show. Before LOST, it was ALIAS. Post Lost, FRINGE is filling in nicely.  I guess you could say I’m a JJ Abrams fangirl J

4)Guilty pleasure?

Ultra dark chocolate and red wine!

5)Fruits or veggies?


6)Favorite childhood toy?

Any book I could get my hands on.

7)What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Key lime flavored Greek yogurt.

Me: Thank you for taking the time to answer these interview questions for me.

Ellie: Thank YOU, Casey!  Your questions were terrific and thought-provoking! 

 Please let your readers know that if they zip over to my Facebook page ( and let me know they read your interview, they’ll be entered into a drawing for a signed copy of Broken Illusions!

About the Midnight Dragonfly Series

Glimpses. That’s all they are. Shadowy premonitions flickering through sixteen year old psychic Trinity Monsour’s dreams. Some terrify: a girl screaming, a knife lifting, a body in the grass. But others--the dark, tortured eyes and the shattering kiss, the promise of forever--whisper to her soul.

They come without warning. They come without detail.

But they always mean the same thing: The clock is ticking, and only Trinity can stop it.

Find out how in Broken Illusions (St. Martin’s Press), available May 8, 2012.

About Ellie James

Most people who know Ellie think she’s your nice, ordinary average wife and mom of two little kids. They see someone who does all that normal stuff, like grocery shopping, walking the dogs, going to baseball games, and somehow always forgetting to get the house cleaned and laundry done.

 What they don't know is that more often than, this LSU J-School alum is somewhere far, far away, in an extraordinary world, deeply embroiled in solving a riddle or puzzle or crime, testing the limits of possibility, exploring the unexplained, and holding her breath while two people fall in love.

Regardless of which world Ellie’s in, she loves rain and wind and thunder and lightning; the first warm kiss of spring and the first cool whisper of fall; family, friends, and animals; dreams and happy endings; Lost and Fringe; Arcade Fire and Dave Matthews, and last but not least…warm gooey chocolate chip cookies.

Her next book, BROKEN ILLUSIONS, will be available from Griffin Teen May 8, 2012. 

Giveaway: Comment below with your name and e-mail address to be entered to win a signed copy of Shattered Dreams (Midnight Dragonfly, #1) and enter the contest above hosted by Ellie in order to be entered into a drawing for a signed copy of Broken Illusions (Midnight Dragonfly, #2).  Ends 5/30.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Dark Divine (Dark Divine, #1) by Bree Despain, Book Review

Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared--the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in his own blood--but she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night held.

The memories her family has tried to bury resurface when Daniel returns, three years later, and enrolls in Grace and Jude's high school. Despite promising Jude she'll stay away, Grace cannot deny her attraction to Daniel's shocking artistic abilities, his way of getting her to look at the world from new angles, and the strange, hungry glint in his eyes.

The closer Grace gets to Daniel, the more she jeopardizes her life, as her actions stir resentment in Jude and drive him to embrace the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind the boy's dark secret...and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it--her soul.

Title: The Dark Divine
Author: Bree Despain
Publisher: Egmont USA
Pages: 372
Release Date: December 22, 2009
Source: Bought
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4/5

The Dark Divine sat on my shelves for over a year before I finally picked it up and decided to read it.  The cover is gorgeous, mysterious, and alluring, and the synopsis sounds really interesting, but after trying to get into the book time and time again, I could barely get past the first page.  Something about the voice of the narrator annoyed me, and I just couldn't stand it, but I knew it was time to push myself through and just get through the book.  After starting out slow and draggy, The Dark Divine really picked up towards the end--the very end.  I wished that some of the action and adventure had been distributed throughout the entire novel.

I really hated the characters in this book.  I constantly found myself wanting to slap the narrator, Grace, because she was so frustrating and annoying.  Jude, Grace's brother, was mopey and depressed the entire novel.  Grace's supposed "best friend" April was a total flake--April only spoke to Grace in the first chapter and at the very end because she was all wrapped up into her boyfriend, and I thought that was kind of screw-y for someone to just ditch their "best friend" when a cute boy comes along.  The only character that I actually liked was Daniel because he was so sweet, kind, romantic, and caring towards Grace even when she didn't deserve it because she was off with the guy with a 'hundred watt smile' right after telling Daniel how much she loved him.  Ugh!

The beginning was slow and draggy, and the characters were extremely annoying, but because of the climatic, action-packed, romantic ending, I give The Dark Divine a 4/5 (if the ending wasn't as exciting as it was, I would've given it a 3/5.)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spell Bound (Hex Hall, #3) by Rachel Hawkins, Book Review

Hailed as “impossible to put down,” the Hex Hall series has both critics and teens cheering. With a winning combination of romance, action, magic and humor, this third volume will leave readers enchanted.

Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.

Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?

Title: Spell Bound
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Publisher: Hyperion Children's Books
Pages: 327
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5

It's finally here--the conclusion of the Hex Hall trilogy!  At first, I was really depressed that this wonderful world that Rachel Hawkins had created was all coming to an end, but after finishing the book, I felt that the ending was justified and brought closure to the reader, but left enough room open so that the very fabric of the Hex Hall world didn't feel like it was really ending.

I loved Spell Bound, and it was one of the best concluding books that I've ever read.  I laughed (a lot) and cried (a lot), but I knew the end was near, and it was time to let the Hex Hall world go.  I really enjoyed the characters--actually, the characters are what initially bonded Hex Hall and myself together--Sophie, Jenna, Archer, and Cal are so funny and they have such different personalities that sometimes they clash but that's just what makes them such a great team.

I loved seeing Sophie grow and mature over the course of three novels, and her hard work and dedication to choosing good over evil and fighting the dark forces of magick really paid off in this book, which made me really happy.

If you haven't read Hex Hall yet, then you definitely should, because I can honestly say that I've never experienced a world quite like it.  To put it simply, it's like a big mesh of Harry Potter and House of Night, with a bunch of unique elements on its own.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Leigh Fallon Interview-5/6/12

1. Tell me about Carrier of the Mark. How did you come up with that story angle or idea?

Answer: Carrier of the Mark is a paranormal romance set in a small seaside town in the south of Ireland.  Megan moves with her father from the US after he is mysteriously offered an amazing job. Megan is an easygoing girl, devoted to her lonely father, and adaptable as she's moved around most of her life. But this time it's different. Strange things start to happen, she meets the DeRises, Adam, Rían & Áine, and soon discovers there's much more to them than meets the eye.  Megan’s life is about to change forever as she discovers that she is linked to the DeRises and destiny that is plotted out for them, a destiny full of magic, lore, and dangers.

The idea for the story was a culmination of years of reading Irish folklore, an overactive imagination, and school visits to various historical locations around Ireland.

2. How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (YA-lit)?

Answer: I always loved YA stuff whether it be TV or books, I devoured anything YA. When I started writing Carrier of the Mark it was a YA voice that popped into my head. I guess it was just meant to be.

3. What kind of research did you do for this series?

Answer: I looked into Celtic mythology and how it intertwined with certain landmarks in Ireland. I tried to weave my idea of the elements with stories that were already deep rooted in Ireland’s heritage. I also researched critical events that happened around the world and linked certain happenings from my story with actual historical events

4. What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

Answer: I don’t use writing goals; it’s just not how my brain works. I try to write most days while the kids are at school, but I never force myself to write, if I’m not feeling it I focus my efforts on other things. Like indulging in my guilty pleasure (see question on guilty pleasure).

5. What is the hardest/easiest part of writing for you?

Answer: The hardest thing is getting going and getting stuck into a new story. The easiest part is keeping going once you are immersed in a new idea, when that happens there aren’t enough hours in the day.

6. What’s the best thing about being an author?

Answer: Writing. Doing what I love and of course seeing my book on the store shelf. That is such an awesome feeling.

7. What are you working on now?

Answer: I’m working on edits for the second book in the Carrier Series, Shadow of the Mark. I’m also writing the first draft of the third book.

8. What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Answer: Read everything you can get your hands on. You can’t write unless your read…lots.         

Don’t bend to market trends.  Trends come and go, but good writing will always be in style. 

Take it slowly.  Enjoy the writing process. Write because you love it, not because you want to be published.

Hone your editing skills and find yourself good and trustworthy critique partners. They are worth their weight in gold.

9. Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?

Answer: My favorite books and authors are an eclectic mix of what I grew up on. I loved the humor of Judy Blume in Blubber, Fudge, Super Fudge, and Are you there god it’s me Margaret. Then I adore the wicked scandalous humor of Jilly Cooper in Riders, Rivals, and Polo. I had a brief love affair with the dark gothic works of Virginia Andrews Flowers in the Attic, Petals on the Wind, and If there be thorns. I love Jane Austen. My favorites are Pride and Prejudice and Emma. And since I’ve discovered YA, I’ve loved anything by Lauren Oliver, Cassie Clare, Sophie Jordan, Stephanie Meyer, Jennifer L Armentrout, Rachelle Mead, Julie Kagawa, and… oh I could just go on and on. There’s so much to love.

10. What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

Answer: Honestly, I think I’ve been asked pretty much everything that can be asked and some I wished I hadn’t been. LOL!

11. If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?

Answer: How to fail at feeling comfortable in you own skin.

12. Is Carrier of the Mark being made into a movie/television series? If you got the opportunity to cast the characters, whom would you choose and why?

Answer: There has been quite a bit of interest in Carrier from some production companies, but as yet there’s nothing definite. As for a dream cast, what do you think of these?

Áine – I’m thinking Elizabeth Gillies.  She has a striking face, and such beautiful strong eyes.  I think she’d make a great Áine.

Adam – How about Landon Liboiron?  He is absolutely gorgeous, but there is a certain depth and soul to him.  And I think he’d make a great a believable twin for Elizabeth Gillies.

Rían – I was looking for dark broodiness in an actor to take on Rían’s role, and I think Shiloh Fernandez has that whole broody bad boy vibe when he gazes into the camera.  I think he could definitely pull of Rían.

Caitlin – Saoirse Ronan.  She sprung to mind immediately.  She’s naturally beautiful and oozes a genuine warmth and infectious friendliness, just like Caitlin in Carrier.  And bonus, she’s Irish!

Killian – He’s all warm and fun loving, sort of puppy dog like.  I think Jason Dolley would work fantastic in this role.

Darren – Mitchel Musso.  He has that playful, boy next door thing going on. Good looking, but only young guys savvy, if you know what I mean. I think he’d be perfect.

Megan – I think of all of the roles to fill, hers might be the most difficult.  I have this very clear image in my mind of who she should be, and I’ve been finding it difficult to see her in other actresses.  I think Emma Roberts might come close, so if I had to pick someone now, I’d go for her. 

Flash Questions:

1) If you could trade places with a person for a single day, who would it be and why?

Answer: Does it have to be a person? Can I pick my cat, curl up in a ball and sleep for the whole day, only taking breaks from sleeping to eat and get attention? Because that sounds kind of perfect right now.

2) What was the last movie you saw?

Answer: Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol.

3) What is your biggest TV addiction?

Answer: At the moment, Once Upon A Time.

4) Guilty pleasure?

Answer: Watching romcom’s in the afternoon when I should be working. LOL!

5) Fruits or veggies?

Answer: Fruits.

6) Favorite childhood toy?

Answer: My Fisher Price Little People tree house with working wind up elevator and pop up roof tree canopy. It was AWESOME.

7) What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Answer: Black coffee and toast with butter (Irish of course).

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Book Review

There were no surprises in Gatlin County.
We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.
At least, that's what I thought.
Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.
There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

Title: Beautiful Creatures
Author: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 563
Release Date: December 1, 2009
Source: Gift
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5

I cannot believe I waited so long to read this book!  At first, I was hesitant due to the book being through the perspective of a male character, and I haven't read many books through the perspective of male characters, but I'm so glad I read this book, gifted to me by a fellow book lover (Ellen Trieu from I tore through Beautiful Creatures so quickly because it was amazing!  I loved the characters, the plot, the originality, the pace, everything!  And I really enjoyed reading about a small, Southern town...even though I happen to live in one myself.  I visited the town where the authors based Gatlin off of when I was thirteen and they absolutely nailed the creepy/spooky depictions of the haunted antebellum mansions, cobblestone-lined streets, monster-sized trees dripping with Spanish moss, and crumbling graveyards.

To put it simply, Beautiful Creatures was an amazing read, and I highly suggest that all of you read it before the film adaptation releases in 2013.