Subscribe in a reader
The audacious new novel about family and ambition from “one of the best living mystery writers” (Grantland) and bestselling, award-winning author of The Fever, Megan Abbott.
How far will you go to achieve a dream? That’s the question a celebrated coach poses to Katie and Eric Knox after he sees their daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful, compete. For the Knoxes there are no limits — until a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community and everything they have worked so hard for is suddenly at risk.
As rumors swirl among the other parents, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself irresistibly drawn to the crime itself. What she uncovers — about her daughter’s fears, her own marriage, and herself — forces Katie to consider whether there’s any price she isn’t willing to pay to achieve Devon’s dream.
From a writer with “exceptional gifts for making nerves jangle and skin crawl” (Janet Maslin), YOU WILL KNOW ME is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of parental sacrifice, furtive desire, and the staggering force of ambition.
“Almost unbearably tense, chilling and addictive, YOU WILL KNOW ME deftly transports the reader to the hyper-competitive arena of gymnastics where the dreams and aspirations of not just families but entire communities rest on the slender shoulders of one teenage girl. Exceptional.” — Paula Hawkins, author of the #1 bestseller The Girl on the Train
“Abbott has a knack for dissecting the dark, beating heart of the most all-American activity…It’s vivid, troubling, and powerful—and Abbott totally sticks the landing.” — Booklist, STARRED Review
“Abbott proves herself a master of fingernails-digging- into-your-palms suspense.” – Kirkus, STARRED Review
“In true Abbott style, nothing is predictable here; the plot consistently confounds expectations with its clever twists and turns. Admirers of Patricia Highsmith, Laura Lippman, and Kimberly Pauley are in for a treat.” — Library Journal, STARRED Review
“Thriller Award-winner Abbott (The Fever) takes a piercing look at what one family will sacrifice in the name of making their daughter a champion…Abbott keenly examines the pressures put on girls’ bodies and the fierce, often misguided love parents have for their children.” —Publishers Weekly, STARRED Boxed Review
“Abbott is working at the top of her craft, and YOU WILL KNOW ME is a crime novel where the crime is only a catalyst for an accomplished exploration of ordinary people’s unraveling when they become obsessed with the extraordinary among them.” — Shelf Awareness
“[Abbott] does killer teens better than anyone… Menace and more menace.” — New York Daily News
“[A] superb new book” — The Atlantic
“Present-day fiction’s most terrifying chronicler of the inner lives of teenage girls” — Chicago Reader
“Abbott’s ability to build suspense and feed on readers’ fear is nearly unparalleled… It’s both terrifying and gripping.” — Elle.com
“[Abbott] returns to the subject she always captures so intensely: the private desires of teenage girls.” — Entertainment Weekly
“Is there anything Megan Abbott can’t do? We will have to wait for the answer to that question because YOU WILL KNOW ME continues her formidable winning streak. This story of an ordinary family with an extraordinary child is gorgeously written, psychologically astute, a page-turner that forces you to slow down and savor every word… And, yes — please forgive me — she totally sticks the landing.” — Laura Lippman, New York Times bestselling author of Hush Hush
“Megan Abbott’s latest thriller plunges readers into the shockingly realistic life of young, female gymnasts whose severely regulated lives come with unthinkable consequences. Gritty, graphic, and yet beautiful and dreamlike in the way the story unfolds, YOU WILL KNOW ME comes barreling at you with all the power and urgency of a high-speed train, as Abbott asserts herself as one of the greatest crime writers of our time.” — Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl
“That rarefied sweet spot between unnerving psychological suspense and a family drama with heart, YOU WILL KNOW ME induces equal parts dread and unease, empathy and warmth. The pages couldn’t turn fast enough as I dug deeper into the peculiar and fascinating Knox-family world, trying to figure out who was lying, who was telling the truth, and who was dangerous. Luscious writing, a timely and unique premise, and an ending that will haunt you all summer long.” — Jessica Knoll, author of the New York Times bestseller Luckiest Girl Alive
“YOU WILL KNOW ME takes you into the dark heart of family, a journey that feels more menacing with every page. Abbott cranks the tension up in this disturbing tale of exactly what we are prepared to do for our children — I was reading compulsively into the night. A beautifully written, gripping read that feels unshakeably real.” — Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Hold on to the edge of your seat, because this is one heck of a ride. You Will Know Me is the kind of novel you won’t be able to put down. Each page will draw you in deeper and deeper until you’re entangled in the suspense, family drama and sacrifice, murder and mystery. Unforgettable and chilling, readers will never look at the quest for Olympic gymnastic’s gold without wondering if the price—spiritually, physically, emotionally—was too much to pay.
Though I don’t read suspenseful thrillers on a regular basis, Abbott has become an auto-read. She takes headline news and makes the stories her own. She creates compelling novels that will test boundaries and values, forcing you to think about personal lines and where to draw them.
This was my reaction:
Megan Abbott, once again, created a crossover novel—written for adults, but appropriate for YA—that’s filled with mystery, intrigue, and tension.
In YOU WILL KNOW ME, the obsession is gymnastics and what a family will or won’t do for their gifted daughter. What is the moral code? Responsibility of coaches, parents, athletes, and even neighbors and extended family?
Abbott will have readers needing to turn the pages. I often correctly guess who the guilty party is or I figure out the major plot twists in novels before they unfold on the page. But not this time, and I loved that!!! So if you’re even a bit intrigued by the premise of the novel and are high school age +, I highly recommend this book!
Thank you to Tandem Literary for sending me a review copy.
View all my reviews
Megan Abbott is the Edgar®-winning author of the novels Queenpin, The Song Is You, Die a Little, Bury Me Deep, The End of Everything, Dare Me, and The Fever, which was chosen as one of the Best Books of the Summer by the New York Times, People Magazine and Entertainment Weekly and one of the Best Books of the Year by Amazon, National Public Radio, the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times.
Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, the Guardian, Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Believer and the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Born in the Detroit area, she graduated from the University of Michigan and received her Ph.D. in English and American literature from New York University. She has taught at NYU, the State University of New York and the New School University. In 2013-14, she served as the John Grisham Writer in Residence at Ole Miss.
She is also the author of a nonfiction book, The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir, and the editor of A Hell of a Woman, an anthology of female crime fiction. She has been nominated for many awards, including three Edgar® Awards, Hammett Prize, the Shirley Jackson Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Folio Prize.
7/26: Book Court, Brooklyn, NY—7:00pm
7/27: St Louis County Library, St. Louis, MO—7:00pm
7/28: Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, NJ—7:00pm
7/29: Astoria Bookshop, Astoria, NY—7:00pm
8/1: Brookline Booksmith, Boston, MA—7:00pm
8/2: Book People, Austin, TX—7:00pm
8/3: Murder by the Book, Houston, TX –6:30pm
8/4: Square Books, Oxford, MS—5:00pm
8/9: Book Passage Corte, Madera, CA—1:00pm
8/9: Books Inc. Opera Plaza, San Francisco, CA – 7:00pm
8/10: Book Carnival, Orange, CA—7:30pm
8/11: Skylight Books, Los Angeles, CA—7:30pm
8/20: Mississippi Book Festival, Jackson, MS
9/15-9/18: Bouchercon 2016, New Orleans, LA
What was the inspiration for You Will Know Me?
I’ve always been interested in families of prodigies. How power operates in those families, how ambition does. Then, during the London Olympics four years ago, I saw this video of the parents of American gymnast Aly Raisman watching their daughter’s uneven bar routine and it kind of blew me away. They were so invested in it, so connected to her. They moved as she moved. They knew every beat of the performance. The footage went viral and the response to it was tricky. Some people found it funny, others found it problematic and there was some finger pointing. I think we all struggle with how invested parents should be in their children’s development, but with exceptionally talented children, all that is thrown into high relief.
I could just feel the book taking shape after that. How does that kind of intense focus on a child’s talent affect a marriage, for instance? What about siblings? And families in general fascinate me—the place of the greatest darkness and the greatest light.
You are known for writing shockingly accurate portrayals of teen angst and an uncanny ability to get inside the heads of teen girls. Why are you so drawn to this subject matter?
In some ways because teen girls are still so often dismissed or condescended to. But every woman I know is haunted in some ways by their teen years, by the choices they made then and the way they crafted their identity and developed their sense of self.
And, as a writer, it’s such rich terrain. Everything is in such high relief during those years. All the big emotions of life seem to storm through us every day. When I remember myself at that age, it was like my nerve endings were all exposed. It’s when you’re both at your most curious (and, potentially, risk-taking) and also at your most vulnerable—especially to disillusionment. And when you’re a mom, like the main character in You Will Know Me, you’re in some ways living through it all again through your daughter, which is incredibly complicated.
You Will Know Me is a bit of a departure in that it focuses more on the parents’ perspective. Why did you choose to shift gears in this way?
My last book, The Fever, had three viewpoints, one of whom was the father of two teens, and I really loved it. Exploring the gap between how parents view their teens and how teens view themselves, and vice versa. But it seemed thrillingly different in the case of You Will Know Me. Katie, the protagonist, is so close to her daughter, Devon, because of the way the family has circled itself around Devon’s extraordinary talent. And that closeness fascinates me.
At what point does your child become a stranger to you? Because all children need to break apart from you to become themselves, but is it slower to happen in the case of a prodigy? A case when the parent, like Katie, is so tied up in her daughter’s everyday life?
What research did you do into the world of uber-competitive youth gymnastics when writing You Will Know Me?
Gymnast memoirs were a huge help. I read almost every one I could get my hands on. Both the flag-waving sports ones and the tougher ones too, the exposés. The one that had the biggest impact for me was Nadia Comaneci’s Letters to a Young Gymnast, which is a brilliant book on many levels (foremost her strong voice), and is such a keen distillation of what seems a pure, fire-hardened ambition. I also talked to former gymnasts and had one of them read the manuscript.
And, I confess, watching a lot of YouTube, and diving into online chat rooms, especially those devoted to parents of gymnasts. But the book’s title comes from Nadia, who tells her reader, “I don’t know you, but you will know me.” What could be more enticing to a reader?
What did you learn about this world that surprised you?
Everything! I became very fixated on the mental control and struggles the gymnasts faced. How much it is a head game. And then the sport’s impact on girls’ developing bodies. It is not a universal experience, but for many girls it halts their adolescence in certain ways, or it threatens to, and this prospect fascinated me and worked its way into the novel. Your body is both your greatest gift and your worst enemy. Maybe we all feel that, in a way.
Have any gymnasts or parents of youth athletes read and responded to You Will Know Me yet?
I’ve had a few early gymnast readers who’ve been very supportive. In particular, they’ve responded to the parent-booster culture in the book, the way parents invest in a gym and insert themselves into gym politics. The hothouse environment that the parent viewing area can take on. Or, “gym drama,” as it’s called. Which seems to have all the hallmarks of a great reality TV show, or a Shakespearean play.
After being so close to this world while researching and writing You Will Know Me, will you view the Olympics in Rio this year through a different lens?
I love watching gymnastics and this book reflects a love of, and immense respect for, the sport and the art. But in the end, I think the book is more about family and parent love than gymnastics, so probably my eyes will be more on the families than in past years. More on what it takes for a family to help make an Olympic medalist.
You’re working on TV scripts for your novels Dare Me (for HBO) and The Fever (for TNT). What is it like to adapt your own work for the small screen?
As much as people like to say that TV is the new novel, the two are so very different. By the time you sell it, it’s changed so much from the book—the world has gotten so much larger, you’ve had to create ways to make the story possibilities expand indefinitely—you lose all vanity about your own book. Instead, it’s something entirely new. But the biggest difference is how collaborative it is. Writing a novel, until the last stretch, is utterly solitary. Writing for TV is a cacophony of voices. Sometimes noisy, but never, ever lonely!
You recently joined the writing staff of David Simon’s (“The Wire”) new HBO drama “The Deuce.” How does that work differ from writing a novel? How did your career in fiction inform your work in the writers’ room? When can we see “The Deuce?”
Different in every way. I’d say apples and oranges, but maybe it’s more like apples and a large, cunning mountain lion! As collaborative as developing your work for TV is, being on staff for a show in production is a thousand times more so. You’re there to help in every way you can to bring the showrunners’ ideas to life. I think there are so many crime novelists writing for TV now because we bring a certain facility with plotting, but in the end what’s most exciting in the writers’ room is how different everyone is, how differently we see the world, and yet how we all value the same things: character, story, meaning.
And “The Deuce,” which stars James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal, will be on HBO next year. I’ve seen the pilot, and it’s incredible.
Do you have time to work on another book with all of your TV project in the works? What’s next and when from Megan Abbott?
Somehow, I do! I have a new novel in the works called Give Me Your Hand, which will come out in 2018, I think. It’s about two ambitious female scientists who share a secret from their past. Very Hitchcock-inspired, this one.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
For those fortunate enough to be attending this wonderful event, I have no doubt, it’ll be one of the most memorable evenings of your life. For the rest of us, we’ll live vicariously through you! Please share your experience on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook! I want to see pictures.
To get into the spirit of RT, here’s a short, but awesome interview with Wendy Higgins!
I’ve written seven and three-quarters books. The book of my heart is my very first story, Sweet Evil.
Kaidan Rowe from the Sweet series–English drummer, son of the demon of Lust–yeah, he’ll always have the biggest place in my heart since he spent so much time in my head over a five year timespan.
I’m currently working on my first NA series. Book one, titled Unknown, is coming out this summer, August 2016. It’s an apocalyptic sci-fi romance and I’m loving it!!
This will be my first RT, though I’ve wanted to come for years! Being surrounded by other romance readers and writers means I’m going to be in my element. Book people have such positive, exciting energy. I cannot wait!
This is too hard! I’m currently reading an adult high fantasy romance called the Tairen Soul series by C.L. Wilson, and they have immediately jumped to my favorites shelf. So good!! On the YA side, I love the Poison Princess series by Kresley Cole, and the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout.
General Adult Fiction
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Mary Jo Putney
-aka Sydney Croft
Jennifer L. Armentrout
-aka J. Lynn
Rachel Van Dyken
The Crossing – Fourth novel in the DAUGHTERS OF THE SEA Series!
Three sisters bound by something more powerful than blood—a secret as deep as the ocean.Once a maid, Hannah is now engaged to a talented painter. But although both were born mer, Stannish has severed ties to the sea and insists that Hannah do the same. Torn between love and the Laws of Salt, Hannah must make a choice that can only lead to heartbreak. Lucy grew up longing to swim, but her mother believed that girls belonged in the drawing room, not the ocean, and took drastic measures to keep Lucy’s identity a secret. Now it’s up to Lucy’s sisters to save her, before she succumbs to landsickness . . . or the executioner’s noose. After a lonely childhood, May suddenly found everything she’d ever wanted. But now with Hannah pulling away and Lucy sentenced to die, May’s world is falling apart. Is she destined to lose her sisters all over again? This conclusion is as beautiful and dangerous as the sea itself. Fans of Downton Abbey will delight in the Edwardian splendor, and all readers will be swept away by a tide of magic and romance.
1) Why do you so prefer to write fantasy?
George Steiner a literary critic once said that, “To Read well is to take great risks, to make vulnerable our identity, our self possession”. This is a quote by George Steiner. He goes on to say that the task of the literary critic is to help us read as total human beings. I feel the same might hold true for writers. To write well often means to take great risks and make vulnerable our identities. Sometimes we must lose our self-possession in order to write as total human beings. We must in short slip out from the comfort of our own skin and inhabit others. It is somewhat ironic that in the past few years to write as a total human being I have had to slip out of my own human skin and into the feathers or pelts of animals for my fantasy series about owls The Guardians of Ga’Hoole and then The Wolves of The Beyond, and the Horses of The Dawn and now Daughters of the Sea, a series about three girls who are not quite human, but part Mer as in mermaid.
2) Is there any theme that is common to your fantasy books as well as your non-fantasy or historical fiction books?
Absolutely! But I only recently realized this theme in the concluding book of my Daughters of The Sea series, The Crossing and that theme is secret lives—yes, we all have them. Of course in the Daughters of the Sea the three main characters Hannah, May and Lucy are the bearers of the most dramatic and desperate secret of all—their mer-ness. On land they appear completely normal. But once in the sea their legs fuse and they become incredibly powerful. But the character who expresses this the best is Ettie Hawley, a girl who knows the secret of Hannah, May and Lucy. Ettie who is not mer, but a wealthy little girl just eleven years old, says at one point in the book to the three girls. “You have just one secret self. You have no idea how many I have.” When I wrote those two sentences it was a real ‘A-ha’ moment. So that is what I have been writing about all these years!
3) Why did you set the Daughters of the Sea in the late 19th century?”
I mentioned how powerful these girls became in the sea as opposed to when they were on land. That was part of the attraction—powerful females and the challenge of setting the series in the late 19th century. Women, girls had virtually no power then. It is hard for us in this day and age to imagine how stratified society was in the late 19th century. It wasn’t just an economic divide. There was a gender one as well. Education for women was frowned upon. One had to dress and act a certain way. The late 19th century, particularly in the upper classes, was a time of insufferable repression of women. But in my mind, the world beneath the sea was completely different. It was free, no rigid systems for conduct. It was a kind of utopia, especially when compared to the social dystopia of land.
4) What is the difference between fantasy literature and paranormal?
In my mind the paranormal is associated with supernatural occurrences in the real world—ghosts, levitating bodies, that kind of stuff. Fantasy is generally set in Other Worlds, ‘Elsewheres’ like Oz, Narnia and Wonderland where anything can happen because the laws of nature no longer apply. In my Daughters of the Sea series I feel as it is in a sense a hybrid. It is set very much in the real world of 19th century New England—Boston and Maine, and New York. But that real world comes up against the somewhat but not completely fantastical world of the sea. It is dystopia brushing up against utopia.
5) Do think it’s possible mermaids exist?
No. Not all all. If I did believe in them, I would not have been able to write this series. It wouldn’t have been fantasy. I would have been trying too hard to prove a point and not reveal a world that does not exist.
6) So how do you go about researching something that simply does not exist –like mermaids?
Well you begin by reading a lot about supposedly real mermaid sightings by –to be kind– total crackpots who have reported seeing mermaids. It seems that the aquatic creature that is frequently reported as being mistaken for a mermaid is a manatee—a kind of swimming hippo. Yes, quite chubby and not exactly like our popular notion of a mermaid. Pretty soon you realize that there is no such evidence in the scientific sense for the existence of mermaids. This leads to the next question why have mermaids persisted in our literature, in our folklore and mythology? So I began by reading all the literature I could to try and discover people’s fascination. What is it that people yearn for that makes them want to believe in mermaids? This might strike some as an odd route to take since mermaids are mythical but by studying myth we begin to understand a lot about human nature and human psychology. By trying to understand this I can begin to build my own fictional characters—their motivations, their longings, their fears.
I hope they come away knowing that illnesses do not define us. That setbacks, mistakes, scars, whatever we’ve done in the past—none of that defines who we are. That yes, you can fall to rock bottom, and you can still thrive after that fall. There’s laughter, and happiness, and hope, and love waiting for you—there’s so much love. And I hope they know that they’re worthy of that love.
It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to reach out. It’s okay to admit that you need help with this crazy life-thing. Because none of us have all the answers—we’re just doing the best we can. And we’re all in it together. J
Not really a scene itself, but one of the lines. In the original draft, Austin had an ex-girlfriend that was, in a word, vengeful. One night, Austin told her to leave, and she came back to slash his truck’s tires. After discovering what happened the next morning, his mom said, “Your breakup really brought out the redneck in that girl.” That line always made me giggle.
(There’s no ex-girlfriend in the final version, by the way. She got the cut in my first round of edits.)
My favorite scene in the entire book was added during edits! It takes place toward the end and involves stars, hand-holding, and Austin and Marisa talking about what’s to come, rather than the past. It’s a sweet moment that makes me grin like an idiot.
I have to have something on my feet, whether it’s socks or shoes. Like, I absolutely cannot write with cold feet.
I am! I can’t say too much at the moment, but I will say that we haven’t seen the last of Lewis Creek. 😉
Michelle Smith was born and raised in North Carolina, where she developed a healthy appreciation for college football, sweet tea, front porches, and a well-placed “y’all.” She’s a lover of all things happy, laughs way too much, and fully believes that a little bit of kindness goes a long way.
Michelle lives near the Carolina coast with her family.
Prize One: Finished copy of Play On
Prize Two: $10 Amazon/bookstore gift card
Prize Three: Bookmarks
Mariella Teagen hasn’t spoken a word in four years.
She pledged her voice to Orane, the man she loves—someone she only sees in her dreams. Each night, she escapes to Paradise, the world Orane created for her, and she sings for him. Mariella never believed she could stay in Paradise longer than a night, but two weeks before her eighteenth birthday, Orane hints that she may be able to stay forever.
Hudson Vincent made a pledge to never fight again.
Calease, the creature who created his dream world, swore that giving up violence would protect Hudson. But when his vow caused the death of his little brother, Hudson turned his grief on Calease and destroyed the dream world. The battle left him with new abilities and disturbing visions of a silent girl in grave danger—Mariella.
Now, Hudson is fighting to save Mariella’s life while she fights to give it away. And he must find a way to show her Orane’s true intentions before she is lost to Paradise forever.
After a lifelong obsession with books, Erica Cameron spent her college years getting credit for reading and learning how to make stories of her own. Erica graduated with a double major in psychology and creative writing from Florida State University and began pursuing a career as an author.
Erica is many things but most notably the following: writer, reader, editor, dance fan, choreographer, singer, lover of musical theater, movie obsessed, sucker for romance, ex-Florida resident, and quasi-recluse. She loves the beach but hates the heat, has equal passion for the art of Salvador Dali and Venetian Carnival masks, has a penchant for unique jewelry and sun/moon décor pieces, and a desire to travel the entire world on a cruise ship. Or a private yacht. You know, whatever works.
Her debut novel, Sing Sweet Nightingale, released March 2014 and it was the first volume of The Dream War Saga, a four-book young adult series.
It’s possible to find color in absolute blackness. The darkness becomes a canvas where the mind can paint whatever it wants, tricking the eyes into believing they see something that’s not there. Or maybe it really is there. How do you know when something in your head is real or if you’ve only imagined it?
I see lonely villages nestled at the base of a mountain and tiny apartments in tall buildings at the center of a large, dirty city. I hear wind filling the sails of a monstrous wooden ship and the call of brightly plumaged birds in a hot, dense forest. I smell spices that burn my nose and soft sweet scents that comfort me. I taste salt on a sea breeze and the bite of noxious, smoggy air. I feel sub-zero temperatures and the skin-stripping burn of a desert wind. I am everyone and no one, everywhere and nowhere.
I’m lost and there’s no light to guide me home.
It’s too much. I force my mind to empty and the darkness returns, comforting and simple but so barren. Even if I didn’t understand them, the images I saw reminded me of the world I used to occupy, a world I’ve somehow fallen out of. I need to get back there, instinct tells me. There’s something important I need to do. Something I left unfinished. But how do I escape from a prison with no walls?
Pain strikes out of nowhere. The world explodes with color. Voices are screaming unintelligible words. Energy shoots off my skin like lightning and swirls of blue and orange light twirl around me like a tornado. I’m laughing and crying as joy, grief, pain, love, loneliness, come and go, flashing by so quickly I lose track of what the words even mean.
A thousand images fight for my attention. Each time one grabs me, I become someone else.
I’m a young woman arranging my pincurls because my beau is going to propose tonight. I’m a vet just back from the war in Vietnam and struggling to learn how to walk on my new prostheses. I’m a little girl sitting on a chair, watching my feet swing below me and trying to pretend I don’t hear the man in the white coat whispering the word terminal to my father.
It goes on forever. A constant circle of lights, pain, noise, people. They all flash by so fast I can’t make sense of any of it.
Aching for the peace of the darkness, I beg for the pain to end. I plead for this to stop and let me go back to floating through the nothing.
The images and the emotions spin faster and faster until I’m caught in a whirlpool there seems to be no escaping.
Just before I lose my mind in the swirling chaos around me, I notice something new.
There’s a ball of light that seems to contain every color imaginable. The longer I stare, the more defined it becomes until it finally coalesces into a nightingale. A glass nightingale.
It calls to me, vibrating a tune I almost remember. I want to touch it. Need to touch it. Reaching, stretching, pushing past the burning lights and the senseless images, I finally reach the nightingale and close my fist around it.
The world still swirls around me, but it’s as though I’ve slipped into the eye of the storm. I am the calm center of a world in riot.
Staring at the nightingale in my palm, I try to figure it out. Where did it come from? If it can keep me free of the raging cyclone surrounding me, I’m never letting it go.
As I stare, an image forms inside the glass bird: a girl with insanely long blonde hair and wide honey-brown eyes and a smiling boy with eyes as black as an empty night sky who towers over her. My gaze locks on him and everything else disappears. I’d know him anywhere.
That’s Hudson. And I am the girl standing by his side.
In a flash of blue light, the cyclone vanishes and the rest of my life settles in around me. The childhood that was stolen from me. The years I spent twisted around Orane’s thumb. The whirlwind two weeks that Hudson has been in my life.
Hudson showed up like a knight in shining armor ready to battle a dragon and he found me instead. He found a fight he couldn’t win and helped me prepare for a war I didn’t know I was about to lose. Hudson did everything he could to save someone he’d never met because that’s who he is. It’s what he does. He’s incapable of letting something bad happen without trying to stop it.
He’s huge and looks terrifying, but he’s also strong and over-protective and persistent and wounded, still healing from the fights that left scars on his skin and the ones no one else can see—the ones inside that haven’t stopped bleeding yet. He’d do anything to help someone in need, but he’s not with me now.
I remember all the details of my last conscious moments. There was a battle and I won, but when we landed on my bedroom floor, the pieces I’d absorbed from Orane, the talents and the powers he’d stolen over the years, all tried to work at once. My brain couldn’t handle the overload of information. Still, none of that explains where I am.
Whatever happened, Hudson can’t help me here. Wherever “here” is.
What is this place? Where am I? More important, how the hell do I get out?
As soon as I ask, my vision blurs and fades.
I fall into darkness again.
Out of the blackness, a blue light appears. Other colors swiftly follow, building faster until I blink and find myself somewhere new.
Marble pillars stand so tall I can’t see the top. Attached to them are shelves of dark wood stretching off in either direction. The pillars and the wood look fine, but the information that should be sitting on them is in tatters. Scrolls and books are torn up and pages are strewn everywhere. Some of the books still smoke as though the fire burning away the pages just went out. It’s like I stepped into the library of Alexandria moments after its destruction.
I remember the glimpse I caught of Orane’s mind, the sense of vast space and depthless knowledge. How much of that ended up here and how do I even begin making sense of something like this let alone organize it into usable bits of information? There has to be somewhere to start.
I pick up a scrap of paper, but it’s written in a language I don’t know, one I don’t even recognize. I place it on an empty shelf and move on.
I keep walking, picking my way through the debris all over the floor. Pillars and rows pass and down each aisle I see the same destruction of the first.
Then, it’s as though I crossed a line the devastation couldn’t pass. The shelves to either side are full of books bound in bright colors. Intrigued, I pick up a blue book nearest the aisle.
I open the book and gasp. On the first page is a picture of Hudson that’s so real I reach out to him before I realize what I’m doing. Pulling my hand back, I flip through more of the pages. They’re all Hudson, snapshots of the hour before I faced Orane. The last page in the book is his face as I saw it before everything went black.
Running my finger over the image, I wonder what’s going on where he is. How much time has passed? He must be so worried. And my parents, too. Jesus. Haven’t I caused them enough stress yet?
Closing the book, I hug it tight and survey the organized shelves. This is my life. My own memories and knowledge. I remember all of it, can touch the spine of any of these books and call up its contents. Is this what the rest of this mess is supposed to look like?
Turning, I take in the aisles of chaos spread out before me and try not to collapse. The prospect of putting this disaster area into order seems as impossible as cataloging the contents of the internet without a search engine. Alone. By hand. But that’s essentially what I have to do. Piece together more information than my mind was ever supposed to hold and find some way to organize it into an accessible system.
Dammit. This is going to suck.
I pick up the book and groan.
“Russian? Really?” I’m talking to no one and I don’t even care. “What the hell am I supposed to do with information in Russian?”
Shaking the book, I drop it on an empty shelf and reach for a half-torn scroll, but something catches my eye.
The letters are still written in the Cyrillic alphabet, but the words aren’t as indecipherable as I thought. The longer I stare at the page, the better I understand what’s written there, like the page is being translated before my eyes. Except it isn’t. It’s still Cyrillic.
The page isn’t being translated; I’m learning Russian.
Aleksei, a young man with an affinity for fire. Ability to withstand much higher temperatures than normal. With the right push, could become a pyrokinetic ability.
It goes on and on like that. The entire first page reads like a doctor’s notes on a patient. In a way, they are.
Orane’s observations on a Russian boy named Aleksei—only fifteen when Orane found him—who’s life ended on his eighteenth birthday when he unknowingly relinquished control of half his mind and fell into a coma he never came out of. What chance did medicine in twelfth century Russia have of saving him? He died two weeks later.
I hear a scratch, like the striking of a match. My entire body is paralyzed an instant before immense heat rushes over me.
It doesn’t hurt. I scream anyway.
No! I haven’t gotten this far just to let myself burn.
Closing my eyes, I think of water, of ice, of blizzards and thunderstorms, of calm and cool and rain. Anything that puts out a fire. At first, the only thing I notice is that the temperature has stopped rising. After that, the change happens slowly. My body cools degree by degree, dropping until I’m no longer on the edge of combustion.
I take a breath and open my eyes. Still alive? I think so. I’m also still stuck.
Okay. Right. Now what?
My gaze lands on the book sitting alone on the otherwise empty shelf, the book containing a story about a Russian boy with an affinity for fire.
I learned Russian as I read the book. Could I have activated Aleksei’s pyrokinetic ability by reading about it too?
Thinking about the fire brings it back in bellows-like whoosh. The heat climbs higher and hotter, but at least this time I have some idea what’s going on.
I push it back, focusing it into the palm of my hand, forcing it into a single spot until the air just above my upturned palm ignites. I’m holding a tiny ball of fire.
Holy crap! I’m holding a tiny ball of fire!
Whatever had locked me in place releases me and I stumble forward, my fireball vanishing when I catch myself on the shelf in front of me.
Aleksei’s book is eye level, but it doesn’t look like the same book I first picked up. It’s once battered cover is fixed and the torn, smoking pages are whole. And not on fire. They’re also incomplete.
Shaking myself off, I flip through the book, learning more about Aleksei, whose short life ended centuries before mine began. Chunks of text are missing, though, cut off sometimes in the middle of a sentence. It’s like the information I pulled from Orane was incomplete.
I place it on the shelf and look down at the books and scrolls and pages still scattered on the floor.
How many more broken lives will I have to face?
I keep working, processing as much information as I can put together at a time. What I have here isn’t just information on the dreamworld or Orane’s life. There are the stories of the children he found, the hundreds he tricked into giving up their most precious talents and gifts. The ones he abandoned, taking what he wanted and disappearing.
Each one is different and yet the stories are still so similar.
This boy had a gift for music. That girl could paint a picture in such realistic detail viewers were sure it was a photograph. This one was an actor. These three could sense the energy that wasn’t quite of this world, and eight others would have been capable of prophecy if they’d had a chance to grow into their powers.
Empaths, artists, seers, mediators, athletes, illusionists. Some of the memories are Orane’s, but more often I find lingering pieces of his victims. How these memories survived—and some have lasted thousands of years—I don’t understand, but now these bits of his victims have carried over to me. Their stories are lost to everyone except me now.
I have become the repository of lost souls.
Just like I did with Russian, I eventually learn to read Mandarin, Sanskrit, Arabic, Portuguese, French, Urdu, German, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, and more.
The languages seem to filter into my consciousness automatically, but it’s not so easy with the dozens of abilities I’ve picked up.
Each time I find a new power, I have to understand it before I can move on. The activation of each power hits me like a stun gun and I can’t move until I’ve learned to think around it, to find a place for it in my head or shut it off completely and hide it away.
What’s weird is that the more of my battered library I catalog, the more awake, alert, myself I feel. Even though progress means I’m absorbing the memories of Orane’s victims. And Orane himself.
What I’ve learned about Orane isn’t exactly comforting. Most of the information centers on his search for the ultimate weapon. That specific, seemingly unattainable combination of talents that would make him invulnerable. Invincible. Immortal. All-powerful.
And now most of his work has ended up locked inside my head.
I am so screwed.
On the plus side, I’m multi-lingual.
The leather of this book’s cover is pitted and scratched, charred in places and torn in others. The pages are stuck together in places and it’s a struggle to even get the thing to open.
Gemma is an extremely perceptive girl, capable of reading the most minute facial expressions and determining their meaning. Also perceptive of emotional shifts. With training and evolution, possible telepath.
“Bryan said his boss would give him a bonus but—oh, crap! Did I leave the stove—”
“—pocket full of poesy! Ashes, ashes, we all fall—”
“Oh, shit that feels good! Would he want to try—”
“Blue… or green? Maybe the green is too dark. Blue. No, green. Or red?”
Dozens of voices are screaming inside my head, the disjointed thoughts of every person within a mile of my parents’ house demanding my full attention. I drop the book and slap my hands over my ears, squeezing my eyes shut tight, but it doesn’t help. At all.
Taking a deep, slow breath, I force myself to focus on one voice. I try and try, but the noise is overwhelming, a physical thing that’s slamming into my head like a volley of cannonballs. My legs tremble and I collapse to my knees.
Breathe, I tell myself. My own thoughts are barely audible in the chaos, but I can sense them even if I can’t hear them. Breathe. Focus. Calm down. Find a voice you know.
It takes me longer than I’d like to find a rhythm, to breathe in even cycles and concentrate through the pounding noise. The voices begin to shift, though, warping louder and softer as I press them back. Then, like a rubber band reaching the breaking point, the resistance disappears and the screams fade into soft, meaningless conversation.
All but one.
“Wake up, Mari. Wake up, wake up, wake up. Please, wake up.”
My breath catches.
That’s Hudson’s voice.
I look down at the blue book by my feet, the one I’ve carried with me this whole time, for some reason never able to put it back where it belongs. I concentrate on him and his voice gets louder, the others slowly falling away until they’re just a rush of white noise in the background.
Is that all I need to do? Concentrate on a single person?
Experimenting, I focus on my mom. Her voice instantly comes up, like I’ve tuned a radio to pick up the right frequency.
“She looks so pale,” I hear my mom think. “Was she this pale yesterday?”
I can still hear Hudson chanting his pleas, but Mom’s voice seems closer. Louder.
“I know he says she’ll wake up, but why hasn’t she yet?” Even in her thoughts, Mom’s voice is thick and heavy with tears. “Wake up, Mari. Come back to us, please.”
“I’m trying,” I whisper back to them. “I’m coming back. I promise. Just hold on.”
I move on, picking up another book and glancing at the first page.
“Oh, shit,” I mutter as the scrolls, books, and debris around me shift and tilt in my direction. “Telekinesis.”
Most of the abilities I shut off as soon as I master them—if I can—but some are amazingly useful.
Like healing. I have the power to heal people. Anyone. That power I leave on.
I can’t quite make myself lock the telekinetic abilities away either. It’s too much fun to watch the books fly into my hand instead of bending to pick up each one.
And telepathy? It doesn’t suck as much as I thought. Not once I got the hang of it.
“I wonder if Mari will remember me when she wakes up,” I heard KT think one afternoon as she sat on the edge of my bed. “Would Emily remember me? It’s been so long.”
Every time Dawn stops by, she leans over the bed and I can see myself through her eyes, like I’m looking into a very fuzzy mirror.
“Wow. She’s even more staticky than the last time.” Dawn holds her hand an inch away from my skin. She can sense the energy surrounding me, the way it’s growing and changing with each ability I trigger. “Goddess bless. What are you gonna be like when you wake up?”
I flinched when she thought that and even shut the telepathy off for a while. It’s a question I don’t know the answer to, one I’ve avoided thinking about in detail for a long time.
Even though I don’t always like what I hear, I can’t keep from switching the power back on. Usually sooner rather than later.
Listening to the thoughts of the people around me is the only way I know how much time has passed or what they’re doing while I’m lying in bed hooked to IV’s and monitors. It’s the only way I know that Lucas Carroll, the doctor KT called in hopes of helping Emily, is now helping my parents watch over me. It’s how I keep track of what’s happening to my friends and family and how I can agonize with them over Nadette and Julian’s sudden disappearances. It’s how I know that out of everyone who comes to visit—my parents, Doctor Carroll, KT, Dawn, and even Danny—none of them are as constant as Hudson.
In some moments, it feels wrong listening to him talk to himself inside his head—thoughts, ideas and confessions meant only for him—but then there are moments like this.
“C’mon, Mari. You’re stronger than this. You’ve gotta pull out of it. You’ve gotta come back to us. We need you; I need you.”
The faith and the hope and the love pouring out of him feels like stepping into a warm home on a freezing winter night, like sitting by the fire and having the person you love most wrap you in a blanket.
Hudson is the only one whose thoughts sound like conversation, like he’s whispering to me, knowing I can hear him. Or maybe only hoping I can.
Either way, the longer this lasts, the more Hudson’s whispers are what keeps pushing me forward. When I feel like a rag doll on the verge of falling apart at the seams, Hudson’s encouragement is what gives me the energy to try one more time, to patch up the holes and keep moving.
I just hope I find the end soon. Before I can’t patch myself up anymore.
I so wish I could have included all of this! It wasn’t cut because of the information contained within (all of which is still canon, as far as I’m concerned. This all happened and this is exactly what she learned and saw while she was in her coma). I lost this portion of the book to appease the pacing gods. Readers and editors commented on the fact that my end continued way too long past the main climax and that it took too long for everything to wrap up. It wasn’t until the final round of line edits that I finally gave up the fight to keep this section, but only after my editors promised me that I could share this segment online later.
The color references and threads were something that slowly worked its way into the book. It started with the simple blue/orange dichotomy to show the influence of the Balasura and Abivapna, but throughout the editing process color became a more and more important description. All of our senses are tied in part to the emotional centers of our brains and so I wanted to play with that. Especially in a case like Mariella and Hudson’s where specific colors are going to have very specific fear-based reactions, there was no way I could leave it out. Although it wasn’t a conscious decision in the early drafts to use color as heavily as I ended up doing, I knew after the first couple of drafts that it was going to be a key symbol within the series.
I didn’t! She still has all of the powers that are shown here, plus a lot more that I didn’t go into detail on here or in the end of SSN. When we see Mariella again, she shows off her new grasp on a lot of her abilities. So even though the description of Mariella learning how to control these new abilities is gone, the powers themselves remain.
A lot of the imagery within this section came from the concept of the method of loci, or (as anyone who watches Sherlock knows it) the Mind Palace theory. Mariella has just been bombarded by more information than any human being is designed to hold. She has to organize it all to give herself a chance of functioning. Everyone who does this would have a completely different way of picturing their mental space, but for Mariella the library full of books felt right. The mental book notion does come back within the series at least once. Possibly more than that. We shall see!
Also still there! There wasn’t really a need for her newfound skill with languages to be highlighted at the end of SSN, but it will definitely come back into the series here and there. Without this section of the story in place, this was a bit of information that got shoved to the background of the world and left there.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
November 3 – A Backwards Story
November 4 – Kissed by Ink
November 5 – Queekie Girl Reads
November 6 – Chasm of Books
November 7 – Bumbles and Fairy-Tales
November 10 – Books Complete Me
November 11 – KellyVision
November 12 – Falling For YA
November 13 – WhoRU Blog
November 14 – A Wonderland of Reading
From the author of LIE, a powerful new young adult novel about a fateful Long Island summer and the lives of three young people who will never be the same.Dreamy, poetic Claire, seventeen, has spent the last few months taking care of her six-year-old sister, Izzy, as their mother lies in a hospital bed recovering from a stroke. Claire believes she has everything under control until she meets “Brent” online. Brent appears to be a kindred spirit, and Claire is initially flattered by his attention. But when she meets Max, the awkward state senator’s son, her feelings become complicated.Max, also seventeen, has been working the worst summer job ever at the beachside Snack Shack. He’s also been popping painkillers. His parents—more involved in his father’s re-election than in their son’s life—fail to see what’s going on with him.Working alongside Max is Barkley, twenty-one. Lonely and obsessive, Barkley has been hearing a voice in his head. No one—not his parents, not his co-workers—realizes that Barkley is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Until the voice in his head orders him to take out his gun.Narrated in turns by Claire, Max, and Barkley, Before My Eyes captures a moment when possibilities should be opening up, but instead everything teeters on the brink of destruction.
Author Caroline Bock
I relate to Claire. How could I not?
Like Claire, my mother had a stroke (though my mother never returned home).
Like Claire, I took care of my siblings (though I had two younger brothers and a sister).
Like Claire, I had a father who found it hard to pull it all together after his wife’s stroke (Who could blame him? He had four children under five years old to take care of. He raised us single-handedly; he turned out to be an inspiring and loving Dad).
Like her, I wrote poetry (I was the editor of my New Rochelle High School literary magazine, Opus).
Like her, I was a dreamer (my father always said: if my head wasn’t screwed on, I’d lose that too, but some days I wanted to just lose myself in dreams, and I think he understood. He always encouraged my love of books and writing).
Like her, I was tall and curvy and extremely self aware of my body parts: my breasts, my lips. However, I never had to face someone with a gun. Yet, in my teens I faced some very big life and death issues, (my father went through a serious illness when I was a teenager), which said to me that even a dreamer, even a poet, even someone feeling the loss of their mother, could find the inner strength to face a life- challenging moment, and come out stronger.
Both of my parents suffered serious health issues in my young life (see above), so I had firsthand experience with taking on a lot of responsibility as a teen. I wish I could go back to my teenage self and reassure her that she didn’t have to be perfect. She didn’t have to worry about everything, about the laundry and making dinner and dirty dishes; that she wasn’t responsible for her mother or her father, that in the scheme of life what mattered is that she loved her parents and that they loved her even if they weren’t capable of telling her every day.
I’d tell that teenage self to be the one to say, “I love you,” to my siblings even if it’s late and you’re tired from all the responsibility. In BEFORE MY EYES, Claire does this. Claire tells her sister Izzy that she loves her, and I wish I said this more often to my younger siblings. What I know now is this: Those words— I love you—make us all less lonely and a little less afraid in this imperfect world.
The parents in BEFORE MY EYES see what they want to see about their kids. And what they want to see is that everything is okay. They are caught up in their own lives. As Barkley’s father repeatedly asserts to his son through his closed bedroom door, he’s an “awesome,” kid, and then, races out, not wanting to be late for work. A close reader will catch how many times the parents are talking at their kids—through closed doors, i.e. not seeing them —and not talking with them.
As a parent of a 14-year-old young man, the hardest thing is just talking with him and listening to him, just finding the right moment in time, the right space is my biggest challenge. He’s not a talkative kid. And I’m sure others have noticed that teens are not chatting on the phone these days but on the computer or their smart devices, texting away. Often in the car, alone, when we’re not in a rush to get anywhere, when we have our best conversations. I do my best to ask specific questions that cannot be answered by a Yup or a Nah, and then let him talk (and perhaps drive slower or take a longer route, depending on the conversation!).
Time, patience, listening—as a parent, I feel like I’m working at these every day.
I have to back up to answer this. I envisioned BEFORE MY EYES set in the last days of summer, the time when you are thinking and waiting for the next thing to start —for the heat to break – for school, for autumn. Once I set the time, I wanted a place for all the characters to converge. The beach. No, I didn’t want to write about idle well-to-do suburban teens hanging out waiting for something to happen. My characters would work at the beach at the kind of summer job that so many of us have as teenagers —and hate. The setting – end of the summer, five days over Labor Day weekend, the Atlantic beach, is absolutely key to making BEFORE MY EYES comes together for me as a writer.
But back to the Snack Shack! I learned a few key lessons at my most despised teen job—at a copy center located far from the beach—and realize that I’ve carried the lessons learned there through my working life:
–Show up on time. Ready to work.
–Customers are key, and customers are often difficult. Learn how to deal with difficult customers and your workday will go much more smoothly.
–Work well with others. Workplaces are more diverse than ever, and one often finds oneself working alongside people who are very different from your friends or family. One of the main characters in BEFORE MY EYES, is “forced’ to work a summer job by his father, who is running for re-election as a state senator and thinks it will look good if his son works. Max learns that people who stand by him – the overweight Trish and the developmentally challenged Peter – may be truer friends than many others.
Life is fragile. We all hurt. But with a little luck, and love— always love— we learn something about ourselves, we learn what matters, and we go on.
I hope— teens and adults— find something to take away from BEFORE MY EYES.
When thirteen-year-old Ethan Morus is forced to stay on his grandparent’s old farm, he expects to find weathered barns, rusty tools, and a creaky house in need of fresh paint. What he doesn’t expect is to hear a legend placing his family at the center of an ancient treasure hunt. Or find burial chambers protected by poltergeists, or a secret lair guarded by an ancient beast. And least of all, Ethan doesn’t suspect that powerful sorcerers are watching his every move.They’ve found Ethan and believe he is from a line of treasure hunters who possess a rare instinct to locate powerful artifacts. Whether he has the instinct or not, Ethan is faced with a choice—search the Morus property and find what they want or lose yet another family member.
The Hunter Awakens by J.R. Roper
Middle grade treasure hunters will love the mystery, magic, and adventure in THE HUNTER AWAKENS.
The author is a beloved middle grade teacher who knows what captures the attention of young readers. The brother/sister team of Ethan and Destri are forces against good versus evil, a theme I expect will carry through this series.
I love the grandpa. There is a lot of mystery behind the uncle—is he or is he not evil? Come hunt with these middle graders and discover magic and mayhem. It’s a fun, quick read, easy for strong readers as young as second grade to delve into this book.
I received an advanced copy of this novel for review.
View all my reviews
I love history and enjoy taking bits of what we think we know about the past and twisting them with alternate explanations. The mystery of Atlantis is explained in The Hunter Awakens and more will come in the rest of the series. I think that mystery keeps the reader turning pages late into the night and I plan to infuse it into all of my works. Magic is something I think most people want to be real. We want to find something powerful that will save our loved ones when they are sick. We want to learn a spell that will turn our fireplace into a portal. We want to wake up someday and discover that we have some latent power that can help us solve our problems. I absolutely love fantasy because it plays into my hopes and dreams and helps me escape the real world for a while. Magic is magical!
My grandpa’s name was Vernon, just like in the book. And the old family farm where The Hunter Awakens is set is quite similar to the house I grew up in that had been in the family since the 1850s. I lost my Grandpa Vern when I was twelve years old. He was a reader and loved history, much like myself and I’m sad we never had the opportunity to develop an adult relationship. I am convinced we would have been extremely close. With all of that in mind, I had to place Ethan’s grandpa in harm’s way. Will he make it out alive?
There is no doubt that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter turned me into a reader. When the last book came out in July of 2007 I was in Post-Potter-Depression. This was when my younger sister (whom I dedicated the book to) told me I should write. I have been addicted ever since.
Joseph Delaney’s Last Apprentice series has really influenced my desire to create constant suspense and create characters who keep you guessing about their allegiance and motivations. I love his work.
Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book gave me courage as a writer and if you have read the beginning, you understand why.
Anthony Horowitz is well known for Alex Rider but I found his book Raven’s Gate to be an incredible read with plot twists that pushed me to dig deeper.
In real life we are all capable of good and evil and I hope to have readers guessing throughout the series. The best of people can commit terrible atrocities and the worst of people can become heroic. In book two, The Hunter Falls, the world will continue to challenge the reader’s assumptions. Our perceptions seem like reality, but are they?
I confess, I love Hellish Mel. She is a thirteen year old who has been surrounded by the Dark for her entire life and she is ready to ascend from spy to assassin. Here is one of my favorite paragraphs (plus a line).
The last sliver of sunlight winked out, as if a shawl had been drawn over the sky. A fog chased up the hill like a tidal wave and clouded Mel’s view. The fog moved upward and the sky rippled with a surge of power. All heavenly lights darkened and Mel aimed a thrower in the direction of the sorcerer.
If he knew she was here and came looking for her, it’d be his last act on Earth. She feared no one. She was Hellish Mel.
An exceptional story that will leave antique lovers drooling, nature lovers longing for the outdoors, animal lovers running to make a donation to their local animal shelter or humane society, and hopeless romantics swooning. Continues . . . on Goodreads
Q: I love how Teddi leaves notes for her brother Josh in the bottles. It inspired hope for the readers that she’d connect with him again. If there was anyone to whom you could leave notes in a bottle with the hope that they’d find it, who would it be and what would you want that person to know?
A: When I was in my mid-20s I rented part of a big coach house from an older woman named Marge. Marge was funny, kind, and a fabulous storyteller. She’d often invite me into her kitchen and we’d talk while she cooked and I sat at a bistro table surrounded by a menagerie of animals and pots of overgrown plants. We shared the carriage house for two years.
Then Marge reunited with her former husband and I changed jobs and moved away. We kept in touch for a while, but as the years passed we lost track of each other. I don’t know if Marge is still alive, but if I could leave her a note in a jar, it would say this: “Thank you for loving me when I didn’t love myself, and for knowing when to wrap me in your arms and when to leave me be. Thank you for Friday night spaghetti dinners, laughing at the moon, and helping me find my way. I miss your stories so much, especially those that probably weren’t true. I will always love you.”
Q: Teddi thrives on giving new life to old things. Is this something that you personally do? Please give an example. Where did the inspiration for this come from?
A: It all started when my grandmother let me explore her attic: there was everything from canning jars filled with old buttons, to boxes of musty hats, to furniture. I’d open the drawers of dusty chests and imagine what they once held, I’d try on moth-eaten hats, and I’d sit on the floor and sift through fragile photographs. Then I’d go downstairs to find my grandmother and ask questions: who were the people in the photographs? Why were there so many jars of buttons? Who had owned the black hat with the giant plume? I was fascinated by the people and histories behind these objects, and I’ve had a soft spot for old things ever since.
Q: Teddi had many unresolved issues with her mother, yet she loved her deeply. What’s your best advice for someone who doesn’t see eye to eye with a person they love?
A: It’s often the people we struggle to understand who can teach us the most. I think it’s important to ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. The more we share, the easier it is to understand and accept our differences. Had Teddi’s mother opened up and talked about the struggles in her own life, her relationship with her daughter would have been so much better. And the flip side is also true, if Teddi had shown more interest and been curious about her mother’s past, the lines of communication would have opened.
Q: Josh decides to live in the wilderness. What kind of research did you do to write these scenes or did you base any of it on personal experience? If so, what was it?
A: The animal and wilderness scenes were the easiest to write because of how I was raised. I grew up on my grandparents’ farm and was taught to be kind to all creatures. The crop fields backed up to hundreds of acres of dense woodlands that I explored with endless curiosity. Fox, white-tailed deer, raccoons, rabbits, woodchucks and countless birds (from raptors to tiny chickadees) were frequent visitors to our farm. Spending time in the wilderness was a big part of my everyday life and I’ve loved and studied nature and animals ever since.
Q: What most surprised you while writing this novel?
A: Crafting LOOKING FOR ME was the most emotional and cathartic writing experience I’ve ever had. To create a story that encompassed my deepest passions often left me raw and depleted one moment, and then set me on fire the next. It’s impossible for me to describe how much I loved writing this book and how surprised I was by how it evolved.
New York Times bestselling author CJ Lyons makes her YA debut with a fast-paced thriller sure to keep readers guessing to the very last page
The only thing fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has ever wanted is a chance at a normal life. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, she has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye. So when her parents offer her three days to prove she can survive high school, Scarlet knows her time is now… or never. Scarlet can feel her heart beating out of control with every slammed locker and every sideways glance in the hallway. But this high school is far from normal. And finding out the truth might just kill Scarlet before her heart does.
I met CJ Lyons at the 2013 YA Author/Blogger Rooftop Party. A few lucky people received a copy of her debut YA novel BROKEN, thanks to her publisher, Sourcebooks Fire. (Thank you, Derry!!) CJ Lyon is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous adult medical mystery novels. She also has a plenty of experience in the medical field as a pediatric ER doctor.
Wow! BROKEN is so different from other YA novels that I think fans of YA will find it refreshing. It’s medical mystery brilliance, a thriller that will pull readers into the lives of Scarlet, a fifteen-year-old girl who is on the verge of death. Her goal is to spend one week in a regular high school experiencing a regular teenager’s life. There’s nothing “new” to the bullying you’ll read about – the kids that tease Scarlet for being different. That can be found in any school. But what is different is Scarlet’s remarkable story. It’s what makes headlines in the news. Scarlet’s life and death situation, her relationship with her family, and her relationship with the two young men who come into her life and help her to “see” things differently, make this medical thriller intriguing. Though there are plenty of descriptions of Scarlet’s problems, readers will not be overwhelmed or unable to comprehend what’s going on with her. As the story unfolds and you discover more and more about Scarlet’s issues, readers will want to keep turning the pages to learn more and more of her story. I highly recommend that you do NOT read anything at the back of the book until you finish the novel. There are too many hints in the Q & A that will give away plot points, so resist the urge to read them!
Definitely recommend this novel for those who want a break from dystopian and fantasy. Perfect for those who want a different twist to contemporary.
An interview with CJ Lyons and her niece Abby, who was the inspiration for the character in Broken. Abby actually has Long QT Syndrome, the same heart condition the main character suffers from. CJ diagnosed her 20 minutes after she was born.
Four NYTBS authors = an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime night!
(The fabulous Heidi from YA Bibliophile was unable to attend because of the passing of her grandma a few hours before this event. She was supposed to tweet live and post on her blog about the evening, so I filled in for her. Here’s her FANTASTIC review of UNBREAKABLE. )
My “this was so scary good!!!” review can be found on Goodreads.
In celebration of Kami Garcia’s new novel, UNBREAKABLE, the first book in The Legion Series (Little Brown), Kami traveled to nine different cities with some fantastic authors. Barnes and Noble in Brookfield, WI was one of the stops. THANKS TO: Katie at Mundie Moms for organizing the bloggers for each event!
Here are some of the highlights of the evening:
There was a lot of laughter when Kami Garcia gave Margaret Stohl a hard time for not giving her a copy of Margaret’s ARC, IDOLS. (One lucky winner won it at the end of the evening.)
Kami thanked her readers for buying UNBREAKABLE, which hit the NYTBS list this past week!
After talking about their books, Kami led all the authors on lightening rounds of questions including: French fries or potato chips – everyone said french fries. Favorite accessories varied from cellphone (Rachel), rings (Cinda). Classic books you didn’t like: Ethan Fromme (Kami), any James Joyce (Margaret), Hemingway (Rachel).
The authors talked about the writing process. Cinda said that all her books start out crappy, so give yourself permission to write something crappy. She quoted Nora Roberts: “I can fix anything but a blank page.” Kami and Margaret said that everyone has their own process for writing and you have to respect that and not judge that process. Margaret travels a lot and she will spend quite a bit of time observing and writing down detail after detail of something that catches her attention. Rachel said that at the end of the day, if you get the same feedback from several people, then don’t dismiss it. Don’t think that the advice is wrong or dumb. Listen to the feedback and take it seriously. Kami added that if everyone is saying that your ending doesn’t work, then pay attention and change it. They talked about writer’s block. For Kami, this happens when she’s really tired. It helps to get some rest or watch some TV. Rachel will change environments. Which reminds me, Margaret can pretty much write anywhere, including the jungle. 😀
Some of the crowd:
Sarah Weiss, Rachel Kinnard, Jaime Arkin, Erin Arkin
As Kami signed some of Barnes and Nobles’ stock of her books, I asked her a few questions:
1. There are some superstitions in UNBREAKABLE. Do you have any superstitions?
A: Lots! I have a charm necklace I have to wear when I travel. I won’t get on an airplane without it.I don’t like the number 13. If my hotel room has that number in it, I’ll switch rooms. I won’t walk on someone’s grave.
2. In UNBREAKABLE there is the Legion of Five. Does the number five have significance and will we see more of that number in your books?
A: Definitely, but you’ll have to read the series to find out. Also, the number three!
3. What TV shows/movie genres do you like?
A: I don’t watch sappy romances or sitcoms. Give me Ghosthunters, Supernatural, Vampire Diaries, or Buffy. I’ll watch action movies, disaster films, and fantasy, but I stay away from most horror films. Slasher movies don’t bother me, but anything that could be realistic like movies with possession, are a NO! Stephan King’s Carrie – the original is one of them most terrifying.
4. From your novel, UNBREAKABLE, who would you choose, Lukas or Jared?
A: My younger self would choose Jared. He’s a wounded soul with lots of secrets and I would have related more to that. Though I will say that Lukas also has his secrets, he’s just more extroverted.
Fun fact: Kami was a huge Tetris fan. Loved to play it. A lot.
Amazon Barnes and Noble Indiebound
Take a look at the UNBREAKABLE trailer: