April 4th, 2006


Interview: Sarah Dessen

For years, I have read, relished, and recommended Sarah Dessen's novels to teenagers and adults alike. From the sweet and light (That Summer, Keeping the Moon) to the heavy-hitting and tragic (Dreamland, Someone Like You) to my personal favorites (This Lullaby, The Truth About Forever), I have enjoyed them all. On Tuesday, April 4th, 2006, Sarah's novel Just Listen hit the shelves. You can just imagine how pleased I was to have the opportunity to interview Sarah. Without any further ado, here's a quick Q&A with the bestselling author.

You've said that Just Listen was inspired by a photograph of three sisters in a private school yearbook. Can you tell us more about that?

I was waiting to do a speaking engagement, flipping through a yearbook, when I saw a picture of these three beautiful girls, obviously sisters, and my first thought was how their lives must be so perfect. My next was how ridiculous it was to assume something like that, because nobody's life is perfect. But it just goes to show how easily we draw conclusions, and that got me thinking about what goes on beneath the surface, and how all families have secrets. The story kind of took off from there.

How was your own high school experience? Did you belong to any clubs, academic societies, or sports teams? Was there a quote under your yearbook photo?

I was not much of a joiner, to be honest. I had a tight group of girlfriends, who got me through everything, and while I was an average student, I did love English class, especially when we were allowed to write whatever we wanted. On the whole, I think I spent a lot of high school just trying to stay under the radar: I don't think I was all that memorable. As for my yearbook quote, it was Pink Floyd, and kind of sums up my experience: "The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say." As it turns out, I did.

That Summer, the first novel you sold, wasn't intended to be a YA book. Now, ten years later, you've sold seven full-length YA novels! Are there any other genres you'd like to try, or will you continue to write YA novels?

I love YA, and it's been a really good fit for me. But at some point, I would like to try something else: a collection of short stories, or writing about something other than high school. A lot has happened to me since I was eighteen. As long as I keep having fresh ideas that interest me, though---and that I hope will interest readers---I think I'll always keep writing for teens, even if I do other stuff as well.

What are your favorite books of all time? Favorite authors?

Oh, this is such a hard question! If I had to pick, I'd say my favorite book is A Prayer For Owen Meany, by John Irving. Owen is such an incredible character, and it's a novel that's just stuck with me, that I find myself thinking about often. (Owen Armstrong, in my new book Just Listen, was named after Irving's Owen, as well as Lance Armstrong, another man I adore.) I also love Lee Smith's Fair and Tender Ladies, and Anne Tyler's The Accidental Tourist. Anything by Anne Tyler, for that matter. She's just incredible. I also really love Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon, which I just read recently and jumped right to the top of my list. I could go on and on, as I have a lot of favorites. I really just love to read, period, whether it be books or magazines or the back of the cereal box. It's the one thing I can always count on to calm me down, take me away and inspire me, all at once. You can't say that about much else.


Thanks to Sarah Dessen, Courtney Wood, Penguin Putnam, and Flamingnet for making this interview happen.

My post entitled Author Spotlight: Sarah Dessen contains my reviews of all of Sarah's novels. Additional posts related to Sarah Dessen's works include:

Interview: Sarah Dessen
Roundtable: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Roundtable: Sarah Dessen Novels
Playlist: This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
They Tried to Ban This Book Today, or, There's a Sticker on the Cover of This Book: Reacting to the Challenge of Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell, knowing

OutCast by Christopher Golden and Thomas E. Sniegoski

The first book has been out for over a year and a half, and it still jumps off of the shelf regularly. I am finally setting aside some time this afternoon to write my own reviews for these fantastic books. Who is going to cast the thousandth vote?

In the world of OUTCAST, everyone and everything is magic. Everyone, that is, except for Timothy. For his own safety, his kind father kept him hidden away for years, providing him with a safe haven and a chance at a decent - albeit magic-free - childhood.

When his father passes away, Timothy is flung back into the world. Now everyone knows he exists. Who can he trust? Where can he go? He must decide who his allies are - and quickly, because assassins are coming for him.

The books are packed with action, fantasy, and drama. Timothy is surrounded by intriguing, strong characters: a warrior who can blend in with his surroundings; a robot buddy of his own creation; firebreathing, war-torn dragons; a talking raven named Edgar; and Cassandra, a girl who may or may not be on the same side as her power-hungry grandfather.

THE UN-MAGICIAN is a magical beginning to the OUTCAST quartet. Grammar school kids can read the series with very little trouble. The books are also great to read out loud. I recommend OUTCAST: THE UN-MAGICIAN to any family that enjoys fantasy series. There's something here for everyone, whether you like the otherworldly creatures in The Spiderwick Chronicles or the battles and tribunals featured in Star Wars.

Below the cuts are the official book jacket summaries.

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Learn more at the official websites for Christopher Golden and Thomas E. Sniegoski.

Boys That Bite by Mari Mancusi

Meet Sunshine and Rayne McDonald, twin sisters who have identical features but totally different personalities. Sunny likes the spotlight; Rayne prefers the nightlife. While perky Sunny wears trendy clothes and wants to star in the school musical, sarcastic Rayne dresses in black and wants to become a vampire.

There's just one small problem. Magnus, the vampire with the killer British accent who was supposed to sire Rayne, accidentally bit Sunny instead. Now Sunny has seven days to find a way to reverse things and get her life back - literally - or she'll be a vampire for all time.

This book has the silliness of the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer while often commenting on its television counterpart. In this story, though, the vampire slayer is not all that attractive or healthy, that the vampire leader is too adorable and childlike to seem vicious, and the Holy Grail is key to the reversal of vampirism. The story will make you chuckle more than scream, and the amount of pop culture references far outweighs the number of bites. Boys That Bite by Mari Mancusi is a quick, light read that will appeal to teens and adults who like supernatural comedies.

Click here, scroll down, and give this review a yes vote!

Read my review of the second book, Stake That!

Read my review with the author, Mari Mancusi.

See my other recent reviews.
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Interview: Mari Mancusi

Mari Mancusi, author of the fang-filled comedies Boys That Bite, Stake That!, and Girls That Growl, sank her teeth into the following questions.

What inspired Boys That Bite?

I was coming back from a huge national writer's conference and I was pretty discouraged. I'd had my first book, "A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur's Court" rejected by every editor except one. (She bought it a month later, but of course, at this point, I had run out of faith.) There had been so many very accomplished authors at the conference, so many success stories, and instead of being inspired, I was discouraged. I thought I'd never become a published author.

But I didn't want to give up. When I met with my agent at the conference, she suggested that I write a teen book, since a lot of my rejections stemmed from the fact that the book was too "young" sounding. I'd never read a teen book and didn't know where to begin.

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Visit Mari's official website.
Read my review of Boys That Bite.
Read my review of Stake That!
Join the Summer Bites Street Team.