Interview with KayLynn Flanders, Debut YA Author of SHIELDED
Jul 23rd, 2020 by Liza Wiemer

Buying Links

About Shielded from Goodreads:

For fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Furyborn comes a thrilling new fantasy about a kingdom ravaged by war, and the princess who might be the key to saving not only those closest to her, but the kingdom itself, if she reveals the very secret that could destroy her.

The kingdom of Hálendi is in trouble. It’s losing the war at its borders, and rumors of a new, deadlier threat on the horizon have surfaced. Princess Jennesara knows her skills on the battlefield would make her an asset and wants to help, but her father has other plans.

As the second-born heir to the throne, Jenna lacks the firstborn’s–her brother’s–magical abilities, so the king promises her hand in marriage to the prince of neighboring Turia in exchange for resources Hálendi needs. Jenna must leave behind everything she has ever known if she is to give her people a chance at peace.

Only, on the journey to reach her betrothed and new home, the royal caravan is ambushed, and Jenna realizes the rumors were wrong–the new threat is worse than anyone imagined. Now Jenna must decide if revealing a dangerous secret is worth the cost before it’s too late–for her and for her entire kingdom.


Share with readers a novel secret—something that readers will never know just from picking up the book.

Awesome question! Okay, here are some fun behind-the-scene details for Shielded:

  • I chose Turia’s kingdom colors to be brown and gold because those are the school colors of my husband’s high school. 
  • Jenna’s eye color is based off my daughter’s.
  • Cavolo, a curse used in Turia, means cabbage in Italian.

What drew you to writing a fantasy novel?

I’ve always loved fantasy novels. They were the books that sucked me in when I was a teenager. And while fantasy novels are pretty complicated with worldbuilding and magic systems, etc., it was a lot of fun to put Jenna in some fantastical situations and see what happened next.

What have you enjoyed the most about the publishing process?

The people! My agent is extraordinary, my editor is a complete champion of my book and me, authors and bloggers have reached out and given guidance and support, and it’s all been amazing. Book people are the best.

Bonus round: (Feel free to explain if you would like)

Dancing, walking, sailing, running, ice-skating, snowboarding?

Ice skating! I took lessons when I was little, and can still skate backwards and do a *very* little jump.

Soups: chicken noodle, egg drop, French onion, lentil, split pea, tortilla, other?

Tortilla! I love Latin food (even if it’s not authentic). I used to speak Spanish fluently, but it’s been a lot of years since I spoke the language daily. 

Concert, movie, musical, play?

I’ve been social distancing since Feburary—can I choose all of the above? 

Music: Classical, hard rock, soft rock, hip hop, jazz, country, other?

I listen to a wide variety of music, but my favorites are usually alternative or soft rock—my favorite band is Keane. Since becoming a parent, I mostly listen to Disney soundtracks with my kids. 

About KayLynn Flanders

KayLynn Flanders has a degree in English Language and editing, and has been a freelance editor and book designer for over twelve years. Her debut novel, a YA fantasy, will be published by Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House) July 21, 2020. KayLynn and her family live in Utah between some mountains and a lake, and she is directionally challenged without them. She loves reading, writing, traveling, and volleyball, and thinks there’s
nothing better than a spur-of-the-moment road trip.

Connect with KayLynn on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

Interview With Claire Swinarski, Debut Middle Grade Author of WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Jul 17th, 2020 by Liza Wiemer

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About WHAT HAPPENS NEXT from Goodreads:

In this heartfelt and accessible middle grade novel perfect for fans of The Thing About Jellyfish, a young girl throws herself into solving a local mystery to keep from missing her older sister, who has been sent to an eating disorder treatment facility.

Astronomy-obsessed Abby McCourt should be thrilled about the solar eclipse her small town of Moose Junction is about to witness, but she’s not. After her older sister Blair was sent away for an eating disorder, Abby has been in a funk.

Desperate to dull the pain her sister’s absence has left, she teams up with a visiting astronomer to help track down his long-lost telescope. Though this is supposed to take Abby’s mind off the distance between her and Blair, what she finds may bring her closer to her sister than she ever thought possible.

Q &A:

1. Was there anything that surprised you while writing this novel? If so, what? 

Something that surprised me was how easily the characters voices were able to come to me. I’ve written plenty of stories, but these characters felt so real to me that this was the easiest writing project I’ve ever done! 

2. Any novel secrets? Something that readers wouldn’t know just from reading your book like special inspirations, places or people you interwove into the text?  

The town of Moose Junction is based heavily off of Boulder Junction, a northwoods resort town that my family has a home in. Many of the small places mentioned, like the Cranberry Patch Gift Shop and the Ice Shanty, are real! Sadly, I’ve never actually been to the library–ha!

3. What do you love about your cover and how does it connect to your story? 

Pascal Campion is the illustrator who made the cover, and I’m absolutely obsessed with it. He drew the main character, Abby, looking at the stars, which makes sense–she’s a total astronomy nerd and there’s a solar eclipse happening during the story. Abby can frequently be found with her telescope, so I love that the cover captures her in her natural habitat, and the feel of a summer night just buzzes through the illustration! I can almost smell the s’mores just looking at it. 

Bonus round: What do you prefer?

Coffee, Tea, or Hot Chocolate?

Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall

Fries or onion rings? Neither–cheese curds! I’m a Wisconsin gal through and through! 🙂 

Movie at a theater or watch a movie at home?

Ice cream: Chocolate, Strawberry or Vanilla?

About Claire Swinarski:

The short version: Claire Swinarski is the author of multiple books, including What Happens Next (coming in 2020 from HarperCollins) and Girl, Arise: A Catholic Feminist’s Invitation to Live Boldly, Love Your Faith, and Change the World. She’s also the founder of the Catholic Feminist Podcast, a top-ranked spirituality podcast with half a million downloads that discusses the intersection between faith and women’s issues. She has degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Seventeen, Milwaukee Magazine, and many other publications. She lives just outside of Milwaukee, WI with her husband and two kids.

Find Claire: Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Interview with Ellen Birkett Morris Author of LOST GIRLS: Short Stories
Jul 9th, 2020 by Liza Wiemer

Buying Links:

B & N | Carmichael’s Bookstore |Amazon

About Lost Girls: Short Stories, From Goodreads:

“A dazzling collection of stories that showcases Morris’ impressive ability to hide devastating truths within seemingly small moments.” —Jenny Offill

Lost Girls explores the experiences of women and girls as they grieve, find love, face uncertainty, take a stand, find their future, and say goodbye to the past. A young woman creates a ritual to celebrate the life of a kidnapped girl, an unmarried woman wanders into a breast feeder’s support group and stays, a grieving mother finds solace in an unlikely place, a young girl discovers more than she bargained for when she spies on her neighbors. Though they may seem lost, each finds their center as they confront the challenges and expectations of womanhood.


“The stories in Ellen Birkett Morris’s collection, Lost Girls, are memorable for the way they see the lasting truths that reside within the familiar. These stories are full of imaginative leaps that capture the wildness that lies beneath our seemingly ordinary lives. Morris is a writer of extraordinary talent. With elegance and precision, she can turn a story into something luminous and unforgettable.” —Lee Martin, author of Pulitzer Prize Finalist The Bright Forever

“Ellen Birkett Morris is a skillful literary pointillist. In Lost Girls, her debut collection, each spare sentence is as considered as a poem; step back a little way, and you behold a world.” —David Payne, author of Barefoot to Avalon

“This collection of stunning and original stories kept me turning the pages, eager to meet the daughter who eats the sins of others, the 30-year-old virgin who rents a breast pump, the bereft mother drumming away her grief. Ellen Birkett Morris’s Lost Girls draws us so close that before long, we are inhaling the same air, making the same unexpected discoveries, and deeply longing for each of these girls and women to find their private rainbows.” —Masha Hamilton, author of 31 Hours and The Camel Bookmobile


1. Explain why you wanted to write this collection. 

I was working on another collection about a male photographer traveling through the south that was getting interest from publishers, but no bites. I started wondering why I kept writing about this guy. 

I realized then that I had written and published a lot of stories about women. Quirky stories about women finding their way in the world and trying to be seen. The voices of those women wouldn’t leave me alone. The young woman creates a ritual to celebrate the life of a kidnapped girl, an unmarried woman wanders into a breast feeder’s support group and stays, a grieving mother finds solace in an unlikely place, and a young girl discovers more than she bargained for when she spies on her neighbors. 

These women were flawed and wonderful, just like the women in my life. I couldn’t wait to put the stories together and see if they worked as a collection. The stories dealt with struggles but also finding your way, surviving, thriving. Lost Girls was born. 

2. Share a story secret, something readers wouldn’t know about this book just from picking it up. It could be a name you gave to a character, research you did, setting.

There are so many story secrets. The title story “Lost Girls” was inspired by a kidnapping in my community and a desire to honor the memories of girls who have gone missing. 

Inheritance was sparked by my frustration with the politics of the day and the way people without resources are exploited. 

As far as character names go, I often use the names of friends and family for my characters, and it doesn’t mean there is any real connection between them and the way that character behaves. 

Bonus round: What do you prefer?

Brisket, matzoh ball soup, potato kugel, gefilte fish, blintzes, bagels (with or without lox, cream cheese), or other?  Nothing like lox and bagels with cream cheese and tomatoes to get my day started just right. 

Desert, rainforest, beach, marsh, urban park, forest, other?  The forest because it is lush, quiet and full of secrets.

Movies, musical, play, ballet? Movies. I love sitting in the dark watching something moving on the screen. I love the collective nature of it. How alone/together we are. 

Laundry, dishes, dusting, vacuuming? I love to cook, so I’ve grown used to dishes. I think back to when I was a kid and pretended it’s fun to play in the water. 

About Ellen Birkett Morris:

A native of Louisville, Ellen Birkett Morris is the author of LOST GIRLS (June 26, 2020), a short story collection, and SURRENDER, a poetry chapbook. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from Queens University – Charlotte. Her short stories have appeared in Antioch ReviewShenandoahSouth Carolina Review, Upstreet, and elsewhere.  

Connect with Ellen:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | LinkedIn | Goodreads

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