the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

Heather Demetrios and BLOOD PASSAGE!

Posted by Adi Rule on Sat, May 21, 2016 @ 11:05 AM

Today we're celebrating Blood Passage, the second book in Heather Demetrios' Dark Caravan Cycle (Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins)! Heather is a member of the Allies in Wonderland (Summer '14). 


A jinni who’s lost everything.

A master with nothing to lose.

A revolutionary with everything to gain.

When Nalia arrives in Morocco to fulfill Malek’s third and final wish she’s not expecting it to be easy. Especially because Malek isn’t the only one after Solomon’s sigil, an ancient magical ring that gives its wearer the power to control the entire jinn race. Nalia has also promised to take Raif, leader of the jinn revolution, to its remote location. Though Nalia is free of the bottle and shackles that once bound her to Malek as his slave, she’s in more danger than ever before and no closer to rescuing her imprisoned brother.

Meanwhile, Malek’s past returns with a vengeance and his well-manicured façade crumbles as he confronts the darkness within himself. And Raif must decide what’s more important: his love for Nalia, or his devotion to the cause of Arjinnan freedom.

Set upon by powerful forces that threaten to break her, Nalia encounters unexpected allies and discovers that her survival depends on the very things she thought made her weak. From the souks of Marrakech to the dunes of the Sahara, 1001 Arabian Nights comes to life in this harrowing second installment of the Dark Caravan Cycle.

Welcome, Heather! So, tell us . . .

Who was your favorite character to write and why?

My favorite character to write was Malek, one of the villains in the series. In this book, he’s a POV character and we learn so much about his motivations and how events in the past are affecting the present. I think the best villains are the ones that make you sympathize with them. I really wanted to show his humanity, his vulnerability. It’s been really interesting to see how many readers love Malek—they always make sure to say they “shouldn’t” like him because he’s a slave owner, but he’s charming, intelligent, and witty: very hard things for readers to ignore. I think it’s all about layers and it’s inherently interesting to see underneath a character’s armor.

It's exciting to come across a truly three-dimensional villain. Readers will love experiencing Malek's POV!

Do you write in silence? If not, what’s your soundtrack?

I used to need total silence, but when I started working on this series, I found myself listening to a lot of Anoushka and Ravi Shakar, as well as a beautiful recording I heard of the call to prayer. Oh, and music from Game of Thrones because it’s so epic. The instrumental parts of movie soundtracks can be really great because they’re so dramatic. The music helped bring Morocco alive for me (which is where the book is set—I traveled there to do research). It can be really great for world building.

Tell us about something special you keep on your desk/wall as you work.

I have a jar filled with sand from the Sahara desert that I collected when I was on my trip to Morocco to research for this book. It grounds me in the world of the story, but it was also the most amazing place I’ve been on Earth, so it inspires me to plan for the next trip! I have lots of little things like that on my desk and wall. Luckily, I have my own home office, so it’s pretty tricked out.


How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

It gave me a sense of authority – I didn’t feel like a beginner by the time I was through at VCFA. It also gave me my wonderful class, the Allies in Wonderland (Summer ’14) – we all are very close and encourage/inspire one another. I don’t know what I’d do without them. Writing is such a solitary act and having them makes it feel less lonely. Finally, my writing life is deeply grounded in craft and understanding the process, two major things you get at VCFA.

What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

Enjoy it as much as you can because it’s over before you know it! I would also suggest trying to get one book finished during your time there so that you have something you can go into the big wide world with. I already had publishing contracts when I started at VCFA, so I had to finish books, but my friends who were able to do that who hadn’t finished a book before were so proud of that accomplishment. There’s a definite melancholy that comes in the months after graduating and I think it’s a really good idea to set yourself up for the next steps. Your advisor can help with that, too. 

Great advice. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Demetrios_Author_Photo_2015.jpgHeather Demetrios's books include Something Real, I'll Meet You There, and Exquisite Captive, the first book in the Dark Caravan fantasy series. She is a recipient of the PEN New England Discovery Award for her debut novel, Something Real. Originally from Los Angeles, she now calls New York City home. Visit Heather online at




Topics: young adult, Heather Demetrios, Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins, 2016 release

Maggie Lehrman and THE COST OF ALL THINGS

Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, May 12, 2015 @ 09:05 AM

Today we welcome Maggie Lehrman's debut young adult novel, The Cost of All Things (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins). Maggie is one of VCFA's Keepers of the Dancing Stars, and we're delighted she could stop by for a chat!

CostofAllThings c resized 600

What would you pay to cure your heartbreak? Banish your sadness? Transform your looks?

The right spell can fix anything.

When Ari's boyfriend dies, she gets a spell to erase all memory of him. But spells come at a cost, and this one sets off a chain of events that reveal the hidden—and sometimes dangerous—connections between Ari, her friends, and Win, the boyfriend she can no longer remember.

Told from four different points of view, this original and affecting novel weaves past and present in a suspenseful narrative that unveils the truth behind a terrible tragedy. Part love story, part mystery, part high-stakes drama, The Cost of All Things is the debut of an extraordinary new talent.

Hi, Maggie! Wow, what a fresh, intriguing story. What was the spark that ignited this book?

The first glimpse I had of this book was a moment: two teenagers, in love, dancing. The next thing I knew about them was that the boy was dead and the girl had forgotten he ever existed. From there I had the great fun of figuring out what type of world would allow a girl to forget her dead boyfriend, why he was dead, and what the girl had to give up along with her memory. The world spun out from there. Who made the spells? Who else mourned the dead boy, and how did they feel about the girl forgetting him? What else could spells hide or change? 

notebooksWhat was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why?

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how the four POV characters' stories intersected, and when each character knew certain pieces of information and how they discovered those pieces. I wrote the entire first draft of the book by hand (see photo of the trusty notebooks) and so once it was in the computer there was still a ton of work to do crafting it into the shape of a book. It may not come as a surprise, considering I was dealing with four interrelated stories that all need to come to a head at the same time, but the ending was the hardest part to finesse. I must've re-written it dozens of times. But I'm pleased with how it came out. It needed those dozens of revisions!

What authors do you love for their sentences? How about plot? Character?

I love Jandy Nelson and Nova Ren Suma's sentences. I admire anyone who can craft a plot even a little bit, but some masters for me are Melina Marchetta, Ellen Raskin, Gabrielle Zevin, and E. Lockhart. Libba Bray is quick and brilliant with characters, as are Terry Pratchett and Jaclyn Moriarty.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled as research for your writing?

I wouldn't call it too weird, but I googled a ton of ballet things when writing The Cost of All Things, went to the ballet a bunch of times, and watched every ballet documentary I could get my hands on. I even took a class taught by New York City Ballet dancers. But even from your home there's so much online to get a sense of the behind-the-scenes life of professional dancers. My absolute favorite thing is watching videos of toe shoe preparation.

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

A.M. Jenkins, who kicked my butt and who's the person I imagine conversations with when I feel like I'm losing my way. Rita Williams-Garcia, whose enthusiasm and guidance made me excited about writing and finishing things. Franny Billingsley, with whom I started this book, and who made me really think about the costs of magic in my critical thesis. Tim Wynne-Jones, who convinced me to put this aside (he was right), and who encouraged me not to settle.

Maggie Lehrman HeadshotHow did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

In so many ways. I went to VCFA because I wanted to step up my skills and learn some solid craft, and I did, but the real surprise legacy for me has been the community. My class and the other students I've met there are an incredible support group, backbone, cheering squad, advice mavens, whatever you want to call it. The connections with the faculty are inspiring and priceless. I'm so, so grateful to have all of that.

Thanks for stopping by, Maggie. Huge congratulations on your stunning debut!

Visit Maggie online at her website,, on Twitter @maggielehrman, and on Tumblr.

Topics: young adult, 2015 release, Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins, Maggie Lehrman

Launch Day for Heather Demetrios and EXQUISITE CAPTIVE!

Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, Oct 07, 2014 @ 08:10 AM

Congratulations to Heather Demetrios, whose YA Exquisite Captive (Balzer + Bray) escapes into the world today!


Forced to obey her master.

Compelled to help her enemy.

Determined to free herself.

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.

Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?

Inspired by Arabian Nights, Exquisite Captive brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than the light.

Learn more at and at, and check out our interview with Heather about this year's Something Real.

Yay, Heather! Welcome, Exquisite Captive!

Topics: young adult, 2014 release, Heather Demetrios, Balzer + Bray

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