the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

Amy Rose Capetta Talks ENTANGLED & Universe Building

Posted by Adi Rule on Sat, Nov 08, 2014 @ 07:11 AM


We are over the moon about the paperback release of Entangled by Amy Rose Capetta (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). If you're just joining us, here are the details:

Entangled is the story of seventeen-year-old Cade, a fierce survivor who lives solo in the universe with her cherry-red guitar until she finds out she was created in a lab in the year 3112, then entangled at a subatomic level with a boy named Xan. Cade’s quest to locate Xan joins her with an array of outlaws on a galaxy-spanning adventure. And once Cade discovers the wild joy of real connection, there’s no turning back.

The rest of Cade’s story is coming in Unmade, which hits shelves January 13!

We're delighted to have Amy Rose with us today for a guest post. Read on for some awesome craft advice, an exclusive Entangled video, and a giveaway! :)

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Today I’d like to talk about universe building. 

And I’m going to tell my dirty, terrible secret. The one that I’m afraid I might blurt out every time someone asks me, “How did you come up with all of those crazy places in Entangled?

Well. Here’s the thing. Usually, when I write science fiction and fantasy, I do a huge amount of thinking and planning. There are notebooks devoted to it. There are character backstories and world backstories and elaborate setting descriptions and, yes, the mother of all worldbuilding delights—maps. 

With Entangled? I…um…didn’t do any of that. I made it up as I went along. 

To be fair to my earnest little self who sat down and started writing a few years ago, I thought I would get to the point where I would do all of that work. I figured I would hit a block (for me it usually happens between page twenty and forty) when I would have to stop and learn more about my story before I could tell it. But that didn’t happen. It just kept spilling out—which meant I had to keep up. I had to keep inventing, keep describing, keep churning out new cities and planets and creatures to live on them and histories to fit into my ever-expanding universe—and what’s more, I had to keep track of all of it. 

ARCAuthorPhotoI like to think of this a little bit like road trip style. I’ve always been the kind of person who wakes up, decides they want to go somewhere, and starts packing. No excess planning, no itineraries. Just adventure and maybe some snacks. (Okay, definitely snacks. Smartfood, probably.) So maybe it makes sense that this worked for me when I wrote Entangled. The only problem, where this metaphor can sort of break down when you try to apply it to writing, is the fact that you’re not just driving through the map. You’re also responsible for making it up. 

So there are really a few different ways to do this:

Make up the map AND plan the trip beforehand. This is the very adult, responsible way to approach novel writing and interstate travel. It’s entirely possible it results in fewer rounds of revision—or frantic calls to AAA.

You can try to plan the trip WITHOUT making up the map beforehand. This sounds utterly irresponsible. This is probably the best way to end up with a world that doesn’t work at all, or a car that has been driven off a cliff. (So of course, it’s how I’m writing my current WIP.)

And then there’s making up the map along the way, and deciding what the trip is as you go. This is how I wrote Entangled, and although it was kind of strange and wild and might not be repeatable (for me,) it was incredible fun. 

Of course, there are some restrictions. The world has to be consistent. It has to obey its own rules. It has to throw plenty of obstacles in the way of your main character. And here’s the big one: It has to keep from feeling episodic. That was the main problem with my rough draft of Entangled, and I had to do some digging in revision to find the driving force that would turn it from a series of linked adventures into, well, a book with a plot in it. 

If you’re interested in approaching a story this way, I do have a few craft tips.

#1) Know the big picture. 

You can fit ANYTHING in later if you have a really good handle on the big picture. In my case, this meant knowing that the universe was hostile to humans—that they were treated like space trash by every other species, and forced to the margins of civilization. I came up with many variations on this pattern, but knowing the pattern first was key.

#2) Don’t stop writing. 

If you lose your momentum, you will probably decide that it’s not working—even if it is. Making it up as you go along works with fast drafting, because your brain has to reach for solutions before you start to censor yourself. Again—it’s like setting out on that crazy road trip! If you didn’t plan, don’t give yourself time to second guess, because then you’ll never leave the house. Just grab the keys (and the snacks) and GO. You’ll make mistakes, but revisions are going to happen either way. And you might come up with some great surprises, like the unexpected stops and turns on a great road trip that you never could have planned.

#3) Know something about the ending. 

You don’t have to have the entire thing. Just the name of the place, the feeling you want, where you think the character should be at the end. But keeping the middle from getting mushy can have everything to do with knowing where you want to be—and being excited to get there. This reminds me of the time when I lived in sunny Northern California and I took a road trip to see the snow. This was the only goal: I wasn’t going to stop until I reached the fluffy white stuff and the wonder and awe that come along with it. It’s still one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. 


To get a taste of the universe building in Entangled, watch the EXCLUSIVE clip!


Be sure to enter this

*   *   *   Rafflecopter giveaway   *   *   *

for your chance to win one of five signed paperbacks of Entangled

(with a secret note about the sequel!).

Topics: young adult, HMH Books For Young Readers, guest post, Amy Rose Capetta

A New SPARKLE SPA Book AND Do-It-Yourself Polka Dot Pedi!

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

Happy, glittery launch day to True Colors, the latest book in Jill Santopolo's Sparkle Spa series

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Jill was kind enough to stop by with a special treat -- our own Launchpad Do-It-Yourself Polka Dot Pedicure! So get your polish out (may we suggest VCFA Green?). Here's Jill:

One of the best things about writing a book series set in a sparkly nail salon is that I’ve gotten to practice giving myself manicures and pedicures. And I’ve learned a lot of tips along the way. The pedicures are much easier, because my non-dominant hand—my left—doesn’t have a lot to do, but I’ve been practicing manicures enough that lefty is getting better at polishing. And since it has, I’ve gotten a little more adventurous with my nail designs.  

In fact, when the Mod Cloth website contacted me a few months back asking me to participate in their nail art promotion, I said yes and came up with this polka-dotted manicure that I was able to do all by myself. Though I now think it might be more fun as a pedicure…

In the back each Sparkle Spa book, there are tips from the characters—Aly and Brooke—about how to do give yourself different kinds of pedicures. So this is my version of that, based on my experiences with polish while working on this series, written from my own perspective instead of theirs.

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How to Give Yourself A Polka-Dot Pedicure

By Jill


What you need:

Paper towels

Polish remover

Clear polish

One color polish for the base (I suggest something dark)

A nail art pen (I suggest white)

Cotton balls (optional)


What you do:

First, put some paper towels down on the floor. (I’m serious about this, because nail polish stains. Or if the polish itself doesn’t stain, the remover you use to try to get it off whatever it dripped on will take the color out of your rug or couch or the shellac on your wood floor….)

Second, use a cotton ball or a wad of paper towels dipped in polish remover to get off any polish or dirt currently on your toenails.

Third, rip off two pieces of paper towel. Twist them into a tube-shape and weave them back and forth between your toes to separate them. (This is so the polish you’ve done on one toe doesn’t rub off onto the next one.)

Fourth, do a coat of clear on each nail, then fan them for a little bit (maybe 30 seconds) so the polish isn’t too liquidy.

Fifth, do a coat of your base coat on each nail and fan again.

Sixth, repeat step five.

Seventh, wait a while for the polish to dry a bit—maybe five or so minutes.

Eighth, now open the nail art pen and make sure the color comes out when you push it down on a piece of paper towel. Once you’re sure, make dots by pushing the nail art pen down in different places on you nail. (The longer you push, the bigger the dot.) 

Ninth, fan your toes for about a minute, and then apply a top coat of clear. 

Now your toes have to dry completely. I’d give them at least 15 minutes—and that quick dry spray isn’t a bad idea either. (I’ve heard sticking your nails in the freezer helps them dry faster, but can’t say I actually tried this out.)

And then enjoy your pedicure! 

(Oh, two final tips: Make sure you don’t polish your nails too close to bedtime, because even if they seem dry, you might wake up with pillow creases in your polish. Also, make sure you wait a few hours before you take clothing out of the dryer (otherwise—disaster).)

So there you go—things I learned while writing the Sparkle Spa.  And if you’d like to see some of the pedicure tips Aly and Brooke have, you can click over here:


Happy polishing—

Jill Santopolo


Thanks, Jill! Our feet look awesome!

Jill chatted with us about her Sparkle Spa books earlier this year -- click here to check it out!

You can also learn more about this fun series over at Simon & Schuster, and visit Jill at her website,

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Topics: 2014 release, middle grade, guest post, chapter book, Jill Santopolo, Simon & Schuster

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