Continue below to read my review of the book and interview with Aiden, then be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'LOST IN THE NEVER WOODS' blog tour brought to you by SWOON READS, AIDEN THOMAS, and XPRESSO BOOK TOURS!
'Lost in the Never Woods' is the newest YA Fantasy release by Aiden Thomas, author of 'Cemetery Boys.' Though it was written first and was meant to be their debut novel, 'Cemetery Boys' sort of took on a life of its own as their option title and it was bumped ahead.
A beautiful, somber retelling of Peter Pan, 'Lost in the Never Woods' follows a teenage Wendy Darling.. five years after she and her two brothers went missing in the woods. Unable to recall the time she was lost and still blaming herself for being unable to keep her brothers safe, when children start to go missing again in the local woods, she's thrust back into the middle of tragedy.
When Peter shows up unexpectedly, a boy she believed to be just a childhood story told to her by her mother, he asks for her help to rescue the missing children. But something ominous waits for her in the woods and she must overcome her fear to face it.
I'll be honest. I've always loved the Peter Pan story. I'm not sure I've ever read or watched an incarnation of it that I've disliked. There's something fascinating about a story that takes place in the infinite youth presented, that while I'd never want to experience it.. I'm so intrigued with what the characters might do or feel because of it.
In that way, this story is no different. What makes it stand out is the approach to the subject matter. These characters have suffered, they're not inherently wicked as in some retellings, but rather beset upon by something beyond their ability to control. They're damaged in their own ways, struggling to overcome their situations, but there's still a beauty to them.
Atmospherically, while there are moments of joy and playfulness, the mood is heavy. Wendy endures survivor's guild and her family has never been the same since the disappearances. They interact with each other through this dance of grief, the love is still there.. but at times it's so buried under each person's own self-blame, it can be harder to see. Individually, they're all trying to cope in their own ways and it takes so little to shake those fragile foundations.
Peter too is a much sadder boy than the one we typically see. His bright eyes and almost eager sense of humor seem much more the armor he steels himself with, than the easy carefree existence we've known. To me, he feels incredibly lonely and my heart breaks for him as much as it does poor Wendy.
All in all, it's a wonderful read full of emotional layers and adventures you're never too old to experience. If you like Peter Pan or fairy tale retellings in general, I highly recommend giving this book a read. You'll be glad you did.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aiden Thomas is a New York Times Bestselling author with an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College.
Originally from Oakland, California, they now make their home in Portland, Oregon.
As a queer, trans Latinx, Aiden advocates strongly for diverse representation in all media. Aiden’s special talents include: quoting The Office, winning Jenga, finishing sentences with “is my FAVORITE”, and killing spiders. Aiden is notorious for not being able to guess the endings of books and movies, and organizes their bookshelves by color.
☆★☆ Interview with Aiden Thomas ☆★☆
Several times, you've said that while you decided to debut with Cemetery Boys, the novel you'd originally planned first.. Lost in the Never Woods.. is an incredibly personal story for you too, would you tell us a bit about that connection?
“Cemetery Boys” is so important to me because it’s so much about my identity, but “Lost in the Never Woods” is super personal because, at its core, it’s a story about trauma. I started writing LITNW when I was first diagnosed with C-PTSD, and it was a really cathartic way of me processing my own experiences with mental health, trauma and grief. I wanted to write a book about those experiences and for others who have gone through similar experiences, especially for teens and young adults who were forced to grow up too fast and had adulthood thrust upon them.
I understand while you were an undergrad you wrote about the psychological trauma of Peter Pan and how that affected who he was. Would you mind sharing those thoughts with us?
Oh my gosh, yes! That’s where my obsession with Peter Pan started! When I first watched the 2003 Peter Pan film adaptation, at one point Peter Pan says, “I want always to be a boy, and have fun” and Wendy replies, “You say so, but I think it is your biggest pretend.” That line just STUCK with me, I rewatched the movie and then read the original book by JM Barrie. At this point I already know I wanted to double major in psychology and English so I did this deep dive and tried to figure out Peter as a character.
One of the first things I realized was that he has dissociative amnesia from a line where he states that he forgets people after he kills them. There’s really so many examples of Peter dealing with trauma, which spiraled out into me wondering what would happen to Wendy after her experiences in Neverland, and that’s how the original idea for “Lost in the Never Woods” was sparked!
I know you did a good bit of research on Mesoamerican culture for Cemetery Boys, was there any research involved for Lost in the Never Woods or is it a story purely from the heart?
I think it’s definitely both. I did a lot of literary theory research of the original Peter Pan story, and then I also brought in my personal experiences and academic research about mental health and specifically trauma. I always thought Wendy never got the story she deserved! She’s such a unique and complex character who is often overlooked by Peter’s much more dominating presence, so I wanted to give her her very own story and focus. Peter is cool, but Wendy has a really special place in my heart.
This is probably like asking you to choose between your plant children.. but who's your favorite character to write in Lost in the Never Woods.. and why?
Peter was fun to write because he’s flighty and scatter-brained, but I really enjoy the challenge of writing Wendy! It was definitely like a case study in writing about what fear and anxiety feels and affects us. She’s really complicated and going through a lot, so she’s probably the hardest character I’ve ever written, but I think I did a good job and I hope readers can connect and kind kinship with her.
Since you enjoyed Hill House (created by Mike Flanagan) and Hannibal (created by Bryan Fuller), have you checked out any creepy new shows like Flanagan's The Haunting of Bly Manor?
YES! I thought Bly Manor was absolutely brilliant! I think I’m an outlier when I say that scary TV shows and movies are my comfort media? I’ll put on Hill House to fall asleep to all the time. Talk about a story that really explores trauma and complex characters!
What are three songs on your playlist for Lost in the Never Woods?
Oh my gosh this is always one of my favorite questions! I have a whole dedicated playlist for “Lost in the Never Woods” which you can find (below):
But the top three songs I associate with LITNW are:
“Crime” by Grey with Skott
“Out of the Woods” by Taylor Swift
“Cardigan” by Taylor Swift
“Here, I’ll show you how to use it. Let me see your foot.” “That’s a pretty intimate demand in the angel world. It usually takes dinner, some wine, and sparkling conversation for me to give up my feet.”
'Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days Book 1)' by Susan Ee, is a post-apocalyptic dystopian fantasy that follows a 17-year-old girl as she makes her way through the destruction in the Bay area of California.
As the story opens, young Penryn is struggling by with her mentally ill mother and wheelchair-bound sister. The angels, having appeared seemingly from nowhere.. have rained chaos and death down on humans, leaving everyone living hand-to-mouth. Barely surviving by moving constantly to uninhabited buildings and trying to scavenge anything edible left behind, Penryn is responsible for care of her family and has no one else to turn to for help.
Hiding, not just from the angels.. but also from street gangs that move together through the new world taking whatever they want and tormenting those around them, Penryn mostly avoids others. But when she witnesses an attack she can't ignore, she goes to help and in the process.. an enemy flies away with her sister.
"Even in your Bible, we’re harbingers of doom, willing and able to destroy entire cities. Just because we sometimes warned one or two of you beforehand doesn’t make us altruistic.”
Sinking further into her mental illness with her medication no longer available to her and one of her daughters lost, her mother becomes more unstable.. going off on her own, while Penryn ends up making a deal with Raffe.. an injured enemy angel. Bound together by a common destination, if not common goals.. the pair set off for a place the others congregate. The girl trying to make her family whole again.. and the angel trying to do the same for himself.
I desperately dug into this book because a couple of my close friends love the series.. and with the new special editions on the way from Fairyloot, I thought it'd be wise to know if I liked them before kneejerk buying them. To be honest, I was hoping to dislike them and save the money.. but that's just not how it was meant to go.
Granted, this first book of the series was published almost 10 years ago. So, the approach to mental illness and physical disabilities would probably not do well in today's more hyperaware social approach to diversity. Both are often framed pretty negatively and that's something to consider before reading. If you're uncomfortable with less sensitive comments regarding either or both, this book may not be for you.
As fantasies go, there are moments of creativity.. some with more of a sci-fi bent to them. Be prepared for unusual world-building that exists somewhere between The Walking Dead, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and some seriously old world biblical mythology. Despite the fact that some of it felt a little absurd to me, I do realize in fantasy it's actually all absurd and I'm fine with that. The textures and concepts were just a bit different and I wasn't used to them at first, but they were vividly described and used innovatively to make this fantasy just a little bit horrifying.
Though the way Penryn's thought process is written seems extremely immature for my liking, I believe it's intentional on the part of the author and is more indicative of the character than the author's skill. While I never went through a phase where my brain worked like hers, I did know a lot of teens who could relate better. Did it annoy me? At times. But I got it and it makes sense for the book.
“Oh. My. God.” I lower my voice, having forgotten to whisper. “You are nothing but a bird with an attitude. Okay, so you have a few muscles, I’ll grant you that. But you know, a bird is nothing but a barely evolved lizard. That’s what you are.” He chuckles. “Evolution.” He leans over as if telling me a secret. “I’ll have you know that I’ve been this perfect since the beginning of time.”
Raffe is an intriguing character and the dynamic between he and Penryn is amusing. I enjoyed reading their banter, I just would have liked Ee to lean into that a bit more. Of course, I was dreadfully displeased with the turn of events toward the end of the book, but I'm hopeful at some point over the next two.. there will be some retribution and healing.
Back to my plan to dislike the books for a moment, I've already gone ahead and purchased the rest of the series and I've added that sale date to my calendar. You win some, you lose some.
If you like a good underdog story with some good battle scenes, a hint of romantic tension, and a lot of risk, you may enjoy this too.
'Namesake,' book two of the Fable duology from Adrienne Young, picks up with Fable in Zola's hands.. headed for the dire straits of the Unnamed Sea.
Having successfully freed the Marigold from Saint, Fable and its crew had big plans for their autonomy. Unfortunately, others have different ideas of their own for her. Though there's a familiar face aboard Zola's ship, it seems clear she's been betrayed.
Caught in the middle of multiple schemes, she's the common denominator in all of them. In order to get home and save those who mean the most to her, Fable must agree to work with Holland.. a vicious woman who runs the Unnamed Sea's gem trade.
If you loved the first book, the second is even better. The story hits the ground running, as things are already out of hand and Fable isn't sure what her future holds. She's surrounded by people she doesn't trust, many of whom look at her like they'd rather kill her than co-exist beside her.
I liked that as the story opened, as a reader.. I felt off-balance myself. There's an adjustment period that we get to experience along with Fable as she's trying to get her bearings and read her situation. She knows she's in trouble, what remains to be seen is how much.. and what the results of that are going to be.
She's still a fighter though and she doesn't whine or complain about what's happening. Rather, she spends her time trying to observe as much as possible and plot a way out.. be that through escape or leverage. Honestly, she's exactly the kind of female protagonist that I don't think we get enough of.
Sure, she makes mistakes and gets herself in deeper sometimes, but she never stops trying. Every time life throws her a complication, she grits her teeth and gets to problem solving. There's no assumption that she's defeated, no polite resignation. She strategizes and tries again.
The story builds continuously throughout, as the circumstances spin further and further out of control. Eventually, there's so much potential for things to go wrong, that you just know something is going to and you find yourself trying to decide what you could let go of if given the choice, while hoping to keep it all.
As for the cast of characters, we do get to see more of her father. He's so closed up in the first book that I was really curious about him. West is still amazing, as is Auster.. and though I still feel like all of these characters could benefit from a lot more detail, it was wonderful to finally get the Auster/Paj origin story.
Now I'm just sad that it was only a duology.. because I desperately want a book three or a bunch of side novels for the supporting cast. Something, anything! I just need more!
Anyway, plenty of action and drama.. lots of familial intrigue.. and some suspense. 'Namesake' is a choppy ride on an angry sea and I loved every minute of it.
'Trial of Sorcerers' by Elise Kova follows the story of Eira Landan, an elemental sorcerer called a Waterrunner, who grows up feeling like her older brother outshines her at every turn. Having accidentally killed a peer, her past plagues her constantly and her claims of magical whispers add to the belief that she's just crazy or flawed.
Unpopular with the other inhabitants of the Tower, when the opportunity to compete for a much coveted spot in the Tournament of Five Kingdoms emerges, she takes it.
Facing off against the best of her fellow sorcerers, Eira discovers that performing well in the trials has benefits of its own. Caught in a whirlwind of sudden attentions, she finds herself on the arm of the 'Prince of the Tower' in the Imperial Court, discovers a knack for secret.. forbidden magic, exploring mysterious tomes hidden away in unknown rooms, and rendezvousing discreetly with a charming elfin ambassador.
The book is beautiful and I found the synopsis intriguing, so of course.. I couldn't wait to read it.
Suggested by some to be a good read for fans of The Legend of Korra series, I surmise this is mostly due to the particular style of elemental magic structure.. which is akin to the elemental benders for water, earth, fire, and air. Other than that, I'm not really sure there's a huge correlation, but I've only sparingly seen episodes of Korra and Avatar.
While I'm not normally bothered with books that start out slowly, it's because what others deem slow is often just character or story development. I'm patient as long as the content is well put together and I don't need the writer to rush into action or drama for the sake of keeping my attention.
However, the first third of more of this book is not only slow, it's rather dull. The development is scattered and none of the characters give the reader (at least not me) enough to connect with. They lack any sense of charisma and are either whiny, rude, or so bland they're barely noticeable.
Now, where a writer with robust language skills can power through something like that, Kova either doesn't have them or willfully chose not to utilize them. I'm not sure which it is, as I find periodically I run across an author who seems to think that writing YA means they can't use big words or complex sentences and this is definitely a book that gives that impression. While the overall book structure is solid, the use of language reads like a writer who might be quite young. Obviously, none of that is true.. which begs the question.. is it intentional or not?
I know it might sound like I'm panning the book, but I'm not. As I said, there's nothing inherently wrong with the writing other than the fact that for me, the beginning was uninteresting. I continually put it down and had to make myself return to it.. up to around the midpoint of the story.
Once Kova reached the bulk of the plot, everything else started firing at once too. There was action and drama, yes.. but also, we finally started getting to really know some of the peripheral characters. That is to say.. those with the most depth.
When they started opening up and interacting more with the MC, they filled in a lot of the gaps that had left the story feeling empty. Honestly, from here to the end.. it just continued to build steadily. Sure, Eira was still whiny.. all the time.. but there were plenty of others to offset the lead with layers of their own.
By the end, I was thoroughly invested, emotionally wrecked, and ready for more. And ultimately, I think that's all I really want from a book.. so I'm eager for the sequel which isn't due out for a year.
If you are the kind of person who can grit your teeth through the beginning and hold out knowing there's interesting story ahead of you, give this one a shot. The reward was worth the wait. But if you have to be hooked quickly, you might want to skip this instead.
City of Spells
Karam stepped forward, her skillfully embroidered clothes cascading down to her ankles in a way that was almost delicate, and so very much the opposite of Karam. Even from where Tavia stood, she could smell the peppermint salve on her friend’s sliced knuckles, something the fighters in Creije loved to use to soothe their injuries and that Karam wore every day, just in case.
“I thought we agreed that you were going to stop being stupid,” Karam said, Wrenyi accent thick on her tongue.
“I didn’t agree to anything,” Tavia said. “Did you follow me here?”
Karam crossed her arms over her chest. “Are you complaining about me saving you?”
“I don’t need saving.” Tavia leaned back in the booth. “I’m a busker, not a damsel.”
Nolan looked between them with a disbelieving scoff. “Are you two finished?” he asked. “Because we were about to kill her.”
For the first time, Karam looked at him, as if she had only just realized— or cared—that he was there.
“We have not been introduced,” she said.
“No,” Nolan said. “We haven’t.”
Karam held out a hand. “Hello,” she said.
And then she used that hand to grab ahold of Nolan’s shoulder and pull him toward her.
Without warning, Karam cracked her head against his.
The buskers broke into a frenzy as Nolan stumbled back, clutching his bloody nose. Quickly, Karam landed a kick to one of the others.
Tavia jumped up from the booth just as Nolan regained his footing, smashing a glass from a nearby table over his head. She shifted the backpack on her shoulder and landed a kick to another busker’s knee.
He went down with a yelp.
“This is why I had to follow you,” Karam said.
She kicked a busker in the chest and as he bent over to catch his breath, she rolled across his back and punched another clean in the face.
“You are so reckless.”
Tavia sighed at the lecture, which was becoming Karam’s specialty these days.
“If you were so worried about my safety, then you could have helped me take Nolan down back in the streets before his buddies showed up,” Tavia said. She swung her fist into the air, catching the cheek of a nearby busker, just the way Karam had taught her.
Karam took out her knife and threw it into the shoulder of another. “I thought you did not need saving,” she said.
Tavia rolled her eyes and kneed one of Nolan’s friends in the groin. “Forget making it slow!” Nolan yelled, pulling out a knife. “I’m going to gut you where you stand.”
Tavia shook her head. “He really does like being graphic,” she said to Karam.
She reached into her pocket for a pair of mirrored glasses and slipped them onto her nose, like she had seen Wesley do a dozen times.
“Here,” she said to Karam. “Put these on.”
Karam wrinkled her face and looked at Tavia like she was starting to lose her mind, but when she saw Tavia’s hands go to her pocket for a second time, it seemed Karam knew better than to argue.
Tavia clutched the charm in her hand, its jagged edge spiking into her palm like tiny needles. “A way to show that if there’s one thing I have,” she said, “it’s style.”
She threw the charm down onto the floor and it exploded into a blinding light. Nolan and the others clutched at their eyes, screaming loud enough to drown out the bar’s music altogether.
She pulled Karam toward the door, where the customers were now blindly running and screaming as their vision temporarily disappeared.
They spilled back out onto the streets of Rishiya and Karam ripped the glasses from her face.
“Not really,” Tavia said, struggling to keep up with her pace. “I think I’d find it boring.”
She didn’t need to look at Karam to know that she was rolling her eyes, but Tavia felt invigorated. She had the magic she ’d come for, so all in all the trip to the city had been a roaring success. And with the warm breeze on her neck and fire of victory in her belly, Tavia felt like maybe all hope wasn’t quite lost.
Karam could call her reckless and the Crafters in the camp could call her a danger, but Tavia had a job to do. She had buskers to lead, and she was going to win this war and save Wesley, whether people approved of her methods or not.
Continue below to read my review of the book, my interview with the author, and be sure to check out the rest of the stops on the 'DRAGONFLY GIRL' blog tour brought to you by RANDOM THINGS TOURS, KATHERINE TEGEN BOOKS, and MARTI LEIMBACH!
'Dragonfly Girl' is the YA debut from Marti Leimbach, the bestselling author of titles such as 'The Man from Saigon,' 'Daniel Isn't Talking,' and 'Dying Young,' the latter of which was her first book.. made into a film starring Julia Roberts. What a way to start a career in writing!
While 'Dragonfly Girl' is her first YA novel, due to her experienced hand in the industry, it's absolutely fluid. A science-based thriller, the story focuses on a brilliant teen named Kira Adams. Though she struggles with some school subjects, her mind works like a well-oiled machine when she has equations in front of her.
At home, her widowed mom is very ill.. and that leaves Kira trying to manage the household and their ever-crushing debts. At school, she's awkward and shy, bullied by other students, and just trying to keep her head down as much as possible.
When she wins an international science award, she draws the attention of a number of powerful people both in and out of the science community. But some of those people are incredibly dangerous and caught up in the spotlight of acclaim, Kira may discover too slowly which she can trust.
Admittedly, in the first two-thirds of the novel, I have never been so engaged in a story. This was a girl I could relate to in a unique way. She's able to rise through the ranks of her chosen profession with ease, despite lacking certain things that are expected. Those around her are baffled, even jealous.. at how easily she succeeds without the experience they have worked for years to gain.
Actually, that's my favorite part of this story. Leimbach somehow manages to capture and convey a meteoric rise that society says shouldn't be possible. Kira thinks little of what she lacks at first, she just gives it a try. Only after winning the contest, does that doubt begin to creep in.. and even then, it's not about her abilities.. it's about the reactions those around her may have upon realizing.
In truth, I wish the story had continued along this trajectory for my personal taste, but I recognize that such a move would have limited the scope far too much. While I felt like the turns taken were unnecessary and even a bit over the top for me, not because they're unreasonable possibilities.. but rather because everything combined together felt extremely unlikely, the plot twists did take it to new dimensions.
As for the characters, Kira is kind of adorable and Lauren is a really good, loyal friend. Again, tying together everything about Lauren makes her seem a bit out of this world, but suspension of disbelief engaged.. she's amazing. Dmitry was probably my favorite. Quite quickly his voice and his mannerisms developed in my mind as I read him. He was the most visceral for me and as such, I couldn't get enough of his appearances.. disheveled as they may be.
Plenty of intrigue and surprises make the book a page-turner. Overall, though Kira swings through a somewhat unlikely social learning curve very quickly toward the end, I still deeply enjoyed the journey and couldn't recommend the book highly enough.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marti Leimbach's latest novel is DRAGONFLY GIRL, a YA action/thriller about a high school girl with a gift for science who discovers a "cure" for death and ends up embroiled in an international rivalry. It is published by Harper Collins in February 2021.
Marti Leimbach is known for her bestsellers, Dying Young, made into a film starring Julia Roberts, and Daniel Isn't Talking. She is interested in neurodiversity and has shared the stage with young inventors at the Human Genome Project (Toronto), the National Autistic Society, and the University of Oxford.
She teaches on the Masters Programme in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford. Dragonfly Girl is her eighth novel, but her first for young adults.
☆★☆ Interview with Marti Leimbach ☆★☆
I read that you participate in the Masters Programme in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford. What motivates you to teach?
I absolutely love the students! These are often young writers at the start of their literary lives and they’ve got such enthusiasm. We teach in “residencies” throughout the academic year and I always come away from a residency fired up and freshly motivated to write, myself!
I understand your interest in neurodiversity was inspired by your experience as a mother. What do you feel is the greatest misconception or misrepresentation about neurodiversity?
People with autism or attention deficit disorder or tourettes, for example, are not massive anomalies but are part of the world, and my family is just another example of this truth. Both the family I was born into as well as my family now make up a very neurodiverse bunch. My son has taught me the most, however, because he can’t easily pass as neurotypical. Also, while he’s terrifically smart and gifted in some ways, he’s very vulnerable both socially and economically due to his autism.
I believe in the necessity of embracing neurodiversity, of pushing for working conditions that make it possible for a much larger range of people, especially those on the autistic spectrum. One misconception is that people with ASD aren’t able to contribute as much as a neurotypical person. That is just not the case for a number of reasons. For example, a diversity of viewpoints from differently-abled people enhance decision making at a corporate level.
What's the most interesting thing you've learned as you've developed your interest in science?
The sheer rate of change is breathtaking. If I think about the speed with which vaccinations for Covid19 were developed, for example, I get a bit teary-eyed knowing I’m witnessing a true medical miracle that will save tens of thousands of people.
On your site, I noticed you broached the subject regarding the demographic gaps between students who enter STEM fields.. the correlations between gender, class, race and ethnicity.. and the theories about how the subconscious mechanism may trigger some students to enter other fields instead due to the persistent masculine imagery we see with science and mathematics. Did this directly influence your work on Dragonfly Girl? And were you hoping to help affect a change through your story or is that just a happy bonus to the story you wanted to tell?
I didn’t set out purposely to challenge the perception that scientific settings are the domain of white men. It was only once Kira was working after school in a laboratory that the question of demographics came up naturally. It’s as though I discovered the incredible bias inside science communities through my character. Having done that, however, I could see the value of a girl like Kira, her friend Lauren, and the women scientists in the novel in providing fictional role models for girls who may wish to study or pursue careers in STEM. Kira, herself, has role models of real life women scientists, her declared favourite being Barbara McClintock, an American scientist and cytogeneticist who was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
There's a recurring theme across a few of your books that centers in and around a caretaker perspective. Does that come from a personal place, like your relationship with your son or is it just a story you find yourself drawn to?
I will concede to a mild preoccupation with the role of caretakers, whether that be in a traditional manner in which we imagine caretakers, or in the way we care about each other generally. For example, in Dying Young, Hilary is in love with a young man who is foregoing treatment for a terminal condition and for whom she is sole caretaker. In Daniel Isn’t Talking, a young mother is doing her best to serve the needs of her family, especially her young son with autism, to the extent that she often neglects her own self-care. In Dragonfly Girl, Kira’s actions are highly motivated by her physical and financial responsibility to her mother, who is ill. I’ve been in two of these scenarios in my real life, so I suppose it just sticks with me.
Though Dragonfly Girl does seem to have a similar theme to your other work, I see that it's your first foray into YA. Was this your intent or did you happen to find yourself there when the story was done?
I read YA because I like it but I hadn’t imagined writing YA until I happened upon Kira’s story in Dragonfly Girl. It just came to me one day like a fully formed idea implanted in my brain. I am very excited about working in the young adult space!
What's the most important thing you'd hope readers will take with them after finishing Dragonfly Girl?
I want young people to know that they don’t have to be good at everything. You can be good at one thing and make it your life’s work. And you don’t need a million friends to be happy, either. One or two close friends is enough. If you stay true to yourself, you’ll find your tribe. Oh, and it’s from this place that true romantic love might take hold, too!
With Dragonfly Girl releasing February 23rd and the manuscript already finished for the sequel, Academy One.. what's next for you?
While it’s true that Academy One is in a completed form, I always sit on a book for a little while to make sure it’s what I want. I’ve already decided to make two big changes in Academy One, both of which involve the love interest.
Your career is so robust after several books and over 30 years in the publishing industry. What would you tell yourself.. if you could go back to the period prior to your first novel and offer advice?
I would tell myself to do the best with that which is under my control – writing well and consistently. I would celebrate small wins and let go of all losses. I’d insist that I took the time to make more friends with other writers, not just my students but my colleagues out there, somewhere, proofreading their galleys and trying to get noticed in such a crowded marketplace.
The best feeling in the world is when you help another person achieve their dream of publication, or even bestseller status. I would do more of that. I would tell myself not to worry and that your readers will always find you. And some of these readers will give you some seriously excellent advice that may help you as much or more than you can imagine. There is always another book inside you. There is always another day.