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Blog Tour: THE DOOR BY THE STAIRCASE by Kathrine Marsh — Novel Secrets & #Giveaway
Mar 7th, 2016 by Liza Wiemer

Door Tour Banner

THE DOOR BY THE STAIRCASE

by Katherine Marsh

with illustrations by Kelly Murphy

Published January 5, 2016

by Disney-Hyperion

LINKS:

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | The Book Depository

ABOUT THE DOOR BY THE STAIRCASE:

A Junior Library Guild Selection

“Well-drawn characters, an original setting, and a satisfying resolution are the ingredients that make this carefully crafted middle-grade adventure a highly rewarding read.”
   —Kirkus, Starred Review

“A sparkling tale full of adventure, magic, and folklore…Imagine Little Orphan Annie crossed with Russian folklore, plunked down in the spiritualist community of Lily Dale, NY, with a dash of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away on top.”
   —School Library Journal, Starred Review

“This book is a splendid mix of traditional Russian folkloric details, magical adventure, and hints of historical fiction.”
   —The Bulletin of the Center of Children’s Books, Starred Review

“An engaging, almost cinematic story.”
   —The Wall Street Journal, “Children’s Books: Inspiring Awe”

Door Staircase

Twelve-year-old Mary Hayes can’t stand her orphanage for another night. But when an attempted escape through the stove pipe doesn’t go quite as well as she’d hoped, Mary fears she’ll be stuck in the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies forever.

The very next day, a mysterious woman named Madame Z appears at the orphanage requesting to adopt Mary, and the matron’s all too happy to get the girl off her hands. Soon, Mary is fed a hearty meal, dressed in a clean, new nightgown and shown to a soft bed with blankets piled high. She can hardly believe she isn’t dreaming!

But when Mary begins to explore the strange nearby town with the help of her new friend, Jacob, she learns a terrifying secret about Madame Z’s true identity. If Mary’s not careful, her new home might just turn into a nightmare.

KM Author

Katherine Marsh

KATHERINE MARSH LINKS:

Website | Twitter | Facebook

 


I‘m Katherine Marsh. I write books about kids. Some are alive. Some are dead. Some lived hundreds of years ago. All of them find themselves in unusual situations and places. Some of them are unusual themselves.

If you’ve ever wondered about witches, ghosts, the lives of court dwarfs, the power of magic, the invincibility of death, and how (and how not) to care for a fire-breathing horse, then you’ll probably enjoy my books. Warning: They may make you laugh. They will almost certainly make you cry.

My debut novel, The Night Tourist, won the Edgar® Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. It was published in translation in ten countries and there’s even a sequel, The Twilight Prisoner.

My third book, Jepp, Who Defied the Stars was a New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Books of 2012 and a Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of 2012, among other accolades.

The Door by the Staircase is available now from Disney Hyperion. It’s a fairy tale adventure story for middle grade readers inspired by Russian folklore. Other influences include my love of cooking and magic acts, my cat Egg, and my family’s onetime ownership of a small flock of chickens.

NOVEL SECRETS:

One of my favorite childhood photographs is this one: Me, aged 4, sitting behind a big bowl of my grandmother’s homemade borscht.IMG_5033

My grandmother was born in Russia. She came to this country in 1928, opened a bar and restaurant, and still loved to cook when my parents and I moved in with her in the late 1970s. The comfort food in my house growing up was her food. And although she could win any American bake-off with her apple or lemon meringue pies, the food I remember most was her Russian cooking—pierogi and blini, stuffed cabbage, and of course, borscht, the chicken soup of the Slavic soul.

There was something magical about her cooking—the old recipes that she knew by heart and would never write down; the hours of invisible prep-work—that became even more magical to me as an adult. As hard as I tried, I could never recreate her dishes. I didn’t have any recipes but even if I did, I felt she’d always added something more than I could give: time, patience, love.

The magic of cooking is something I worked into THE DOOR BY THE STAIRCASE. The book, after all, is about eating—initially in the worst possible way. Twelve-year old orphan Mary Hayes is finally adopted only to discover that her new guardian is the child-eating Russian witch Baba Yaga. But Mary confounds the witch by daring to stick around and demanding she teach her magic. Will Baba Yaga eat Mary or love her? What follows is a tale that is really about the ingredients of family, particularly mothers and daughters. But it also a secret catalogue of those special dishes my grandmother cooked for me.

Tour Schedule:

Week 1:

3/7: Who R U Blog – Novel Secrets

3/8: Books for Thought – Excerpt

3/9: Quite the Novel Idea – Guest Post

3/10: Mundie Kids – Excerpt

3/11: The Cover Contessa – Q&A

Week 2:

3/14: Once Upon A Twilight – Excerpt

3/15: The Story Sanctuary – Top 10

3/16: I Turn the Pages – Q&A

3/17: I Am Shelfless – Excerpt

3/18: Books Are Love – Playlist

GIVEAWAY: 3 Finished Copies of THE DOOR BY THE STAIRCASE (US Only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Tour: THE SERPENT KING by Jeff Zentner – Crazy awesome behind-the-scenes novel secrets!
Mar 3rd, 2016 by Liza Wiemer

The Serpent King Blog Tour Banner

THE SERPENT KING

Jeff Zentner, photo credit: J Hernandez

Jeff Zentner, photo credit: J Hernandez

by singer-songwriter Jeff Zentner

(On sale March 8, 2016 / $17.99 / Ages 14 & up)

Buying guide: IndieBound | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

 

About the book:

In this emotional story, the son of a Pentecostal preacher faces his personal demons as he and his two outcast friends try to make it through their senior year of high school in rural Forrestville, Tennessee, without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Drawing from his own roots growing up in the south, Zentner’s debut is haunting, heartbreaking, and hopeful, and is  in the vein of beloved novels The Perks of Being a WallflowerLooking for Alaska, and Eleanor & Park.

I loved this book. Buy it! Buy it! Buy it! Buy it!

Here’s my review:

The Serpent KingThe Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fascinating, painful family dynamics. The power of friendship and love. Self-discovery, courage, and daring to bet on oneself.

Damn. Damn. Damn. Wow! WOW! WOW! Sob. Sob. Sob. Someone give me a hug! Sigh. YES! Swoon! Ahhhh! I love this book!

Okay, so I never imagined that one of my new favorite books would be about Gill, an eighteen-year-old boy whose father had been a snake-handling preacher and Lydia, a quirky girl who had a popular fashion blog and their best friend Travis, who’s obsessed with a fantasy series. But these characters were so unique, so interesting, so revealing and real that I couldn’t help but be swept into their story and fall in love with each of them. They found strength and courage from one another. They found ways to break out of their small town life and family history.

I love this quote: “I’m tired of many things,” Mr. Burson said, fighting for composure… “I’m tired of watching children perish. I’m tired of watching the world grind up gentle people. I’m tired of outliving those I shouldn’t be outliving. I’ve made books my life because they let me escape this world of cruelty and savagery. I needed to say that out loud to somebody other than my cats. Please take care of yourselves, my young friends.”

Things I loved:

1. Travis and how comfortable he is in his own skin.
2. Lydia and her kick-ass attitude, her relationship with her parents, and how to pushes Dill and Travis to be more, yet also loves them for who they are.
3. Dill and how he has such a HUGE HEART!
4. Lydia’s parents, especially her dad.
5. Lydia’s fashion sense.
6. Walmart reference.
7. Music references.
8. I’m terrified of snakes but this didn’t freak me out.
9. Dill’s struggles and the strength he finds to follow his own path.
10. The romance.
11. The hopeful ending!

Bravo and congrats, Jeff! THE SERPENT KING is definitely on my 2016 favorites list.

One of Paste Magazine’s “10 Most Anticipated YA Books of 2016”

 “Zentner’s prose wraps you up like a warm, Southern hug and packs the punches of a sweaty country brawl…The Serpent King is a debut you won’t be able to resist or forget. The Southern Boy in me savored every syllable and the reader in me fell in love with every page.”

—John Corey Whaley, author of Where Things Come Back, winner of the Michael L. Printz Award and William C. Morris Award

The Serpent King gripped me in its coils and kept me turning pages late into the night. A triumph of love and dignity.”

—Stephanie Perkins, New York Times bestselling author

“[T]his sepia-toned portrait of small-town life serves as a moving testament to love, loyalty, faith, and reaching through the darkness to find light and hope. Zentner explores difficult themes head on—including the desire to escape the sins of the father and the fragility of happiness—while tempering them with the saving grace of enduring friendship.”— Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Thorough characterization and artful prose allow readers to intimately experience the highs and lows of these three friends . . . Recommended for fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.”— School Library Journal

“Characters, incidents, dialogue, the poverty of the rural South, enduring friendship, a desperate clinging to strange faiths, fear of the unknown, and an awareness of the courage it takes to survive, let alone thrive, are among this fine novel’s strengths. Zentner writes with understanding and grace—a new voice to savor.”— Kirkus ReviewsStarred Review

 “A musician himself, Zentner transitions to prose easily in his debut, pulling in complex issues that range from struggles with faith to abuse to grief. Refreshingly, this novel isn’t driven by romance—though it rears its head—but by the importance of pursuing individual passions and forging one’s own path. A promising new voice in YA.”— Booklist

 “A moving debut novel of friendship and forgiveness that will stick with you long after you’ve finished it, I’m calling it now… The Serpent King is already one of my favorite books of 2016.”— Eric Smith for BookRiot

“Characters, incidents, dialogue, the poverty of the rural South, enduring friendship, a desperate clinging to strange faiths, fear of the unknown, and an awareness of the courage it takes to survive, let alone thrive, are among this fine novel’s strengths. Zentner writes with understanding and grace—a new voice to savor.”— Kirkus ReviewsStarred Review

NOVEL SECRETS:

I asked Jeff to share some behind-the-scenes details about his novel. Information you wouldn’t know just from reading the novel! His answers add some great insight into the workings of this book. Enjoy!!!!

Sock Sunday! Jeff knows how to wear 'em!

Sock Sunday! Jeff knows how to wear ’em!

Here are some random facts about me. I collect vintage cast-iron skillets. I have one from 1917 that I still use. As I was thinking about where to go creatively after music, there was actually a period where I was thinking about getting hard core into cooking. I’m pretty decent at it. I was thinking of taking classes and everything. But ultimately, I love to create art for a mass audience and it’s hard to do that as a cook unless you open a restaurant, which, nope.

I speak Portuguese fluently from living in the Amazon region of Brazil, where I owned a pet sloth for several months before I released him back into the wild. I’ve eaten piranha, crocodile, and boa constrictor. I’ve lain on the roof of a boat going up the Amazon at night and let me tell you, you can see some stars. I spent two years there with no TV, no radio, no movies, no music, and only sporadic electricity and running water. I came back to the U.S. and knew almost nothing about what had gone on (impeachment of Bill Clinton, Columbine, war in Bosnia). To this day, mid-1997 to mid-1999 are lost years for me. I know a lot about what went on in the jungle. That’s it.

Oh, and the country star Vince Gill used to own my house before he was famous.

And now some random facts about how The Serpent King came to be. In the mid-2000s, I played with a band called Creech Holler. We played electrified versions of old Appalachian songs and murder ballads. Our bass player was from a part of Eastern Tennessee where snakehandlers were active. He said that we sounded like the music from the snakehandling churches. So we began to use snakehandler imagery in our songs and band’s persona. Our first album was called “With Signs Following,” referring to Mark 16:18, where it says that signs will follow the faithful, including that they’ll be able to pick up snakes and drink deadly things without being harmed. I started really studying these snakehandling sects. One of my main sources was a book called Salvation on Sand Mountain. I highly recommend this book to anyone, by the way.

When I went to write The Serpent King, I wrote it as I write all of my novels, which is to take everything I was interested in and cram it into one novel. I was interested in faith, so I created a character who struggled with faith. I was interested in writing about rural Tennessee, so I gave that character a faith unique to rural Tennessee and not written about much in YA. To further make sure I got the details of snakehandling right for the book, I talked with my buddy Jarrod (his wife Stephanie Perkins wrote Anna and the French Kiss) who had attended services at a snakehandling church. He helped me get little details right, like the sort of boxes they keep the snakes in.

At the time I was getting ready to write The Serpent King, I was also interested in teens who use the Internet to be part of the national conversation. That was the inspiration for Lydia and her fashion blog. I started reading a bunch of fashion blogs (primarily Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie). And I started following a bunch of teen fashion bloggers on Twitter so that I could be a fly on the wall to their conversations. That’s how I developed Lydia’s voice.

To research Forrestville, I made several visits to Sparta, Tennessee, the model for Forrestville. Why invent a town instead of just using Sparta? Because Sparta is in the perfect location—an hour and a half from every major city—but it’s a really nice little town. I wanted my setting to suck more. But just like in Sparta, there’s a little bookstore in Forrestville called Riverbank Books. The last time I was in the real Riverbank Books, a kid came in and started talking about the Game of Thrones books with the store owner, just like Travis talks about the Bloodfall books with the owner of the fictional Riverbank Books. I was freaking out.

Before I ever started writing The Serpent King, Dill, Travis, and Lydia took up residence in my brain and started having conversations. Only a fraction of their interactions ended up in the book. There was going to be a fourth member of their crew, but he would never tell me his name or anything about himself, so he never made the book. Maybe he ended up in my second book?  By the time I finally started writing, they’d been talking to me for months. Because of this, the first draft of The Serpent King took about twenty-five days. That’s how all of my books go. Months of thinking followed by a furious one or two months of drafting.

While I was writing The Serpent King, during the times when I wasn’t writing on the bus, I’d keep several books at my

Jeff writing on a bus.

Jeff writing on a bus.

elbow, which I’d dip into for inspiration. These are books I could open to any page and find something I loved. They included: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, and Just Kids by Patti Smith.

One final random fact about The Serpent King. There are passing mentions to one of Lydia’s friends named Heidi. That’s Heidi Heilig, author of The Girl from Everywhere. My editor emailed me one night and gave me about a half hour to write Lydia some other past friendships, since she was concerned that there were no allusions to her having had any friends other than Dill and Travis. I tweeted that the first woman who liked my tweet would get her name in my book. Heidi won.

 

About Jeff:

Jeff Zentner lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He came to writing through music, starting his creative life as a guitarist and eventually becoming a songwriter. He’s released five albums and appeared on recordings with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Thurston Moore, Debbie Harry, Mark Lanegan, and Lydia Lunch, among others.

Now he writes novels for young adults. He became interested in writing for young adults after volunteering at the Tennessee Teen Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp. As a kid, his parents would take him to the library and drop him off, where he would read until closing time. He worked at various bookstores through high school and college.

He speaks fluent Portuguese, having lived in the Amazon region of Brazil for two years.

Links for Jeff Zentner: Goodreads | Twitter | Website

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