the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

Carrie Jones and ENHANCED!

Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, Oct 17, 2017 @ 10:10 AM

It's launch day for Carrie Jones's new young adult science fiction/fantasy novel, Enhanced (Tor Teen)! And we are howling with enhanced excitement because everybody's favorite canine journalist is back -- welcome, Carrie Jones and Spartacus!

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Seventeen-year-old Mana has found and rescued her mother, but her work isn't done yet. Her mother may be out of alien hands, but she's in a coma, unable to tell anyone what she knows.

Mana is ready to take action. The only problem? Nobody will let her. Lyle, her best friend and almost-boyfriend (for a minute there, anyway), seems to want nothing to do with hunting aliens, despite his love of Doctor Who. Bestie Seppie is so desperate to stay out of it, she's actually leaving town. And her mom's hot but arrogant alien-hunting partner, China, is ignoring Mana's texts, cutting her out of the mission entirely.

They all know the alien threat won't stay quiet for long. It's up to Mana to fight her way back in.

IMG_6571.jpgHello. This is Spartacus, Carrie’s dog of awesome bacon-loving happiness. In exchange for scratching the top of my tail, I have agreed to interview the human once again for the Launch Pad, which is basically the only place that would put up with this sort of dog-loving shenanigans.

Yes. I can still type. Don’t worry about that today. Let’s just say that some dogs are magic and I am one of those dogs.

Spartacus: Let’s start with the most important question. There is a dog in this book, am I right?

Carrie: Yes.

Spartacus: Good! This means you can continue to be my human.

Carrie: I know. You threatened me about not being your human if I didn’t give a dog a significant role in this book series. So I did.

Spartacus: I have trained you well.

Carrie:

Spartacus: That’s a compliment.

Carrie: It doesn’t feel like one, honestly.

13501976_10154349897204073_460166726311376845_n.jpgSpartacus: That is because you are a human and not a dog and have a different set of moral codes and ideals to aspire to. Believe me. It’s a compliment. So, back to the interview. Who was your favorite character to write and why?

Carrie: The dog.

Spartacus: You don’t have to say that.

Carrie: I kind of feel I do.

Spartacus: And why was the dog your favorite?

Carrie: Well, other than the fact that it is A DOG, it also made me nostalgic for fifth-grade Carrie who won multiple author of the month contests with a serialized story about a girl who joins the Army, finds an alien/dog named ABBA that she falls in love with and they save the world while singing a lot of 1980s songs.

Spartacus: You haven’t really evolved much since then, have you?

Carrie: As a writer or as a human? No. Probably not. I still like unicorns, too.

20476335_10155677301544073_4546833284556388133_n.jpgSpartacus: Hold on. I need some therapy. Bring me some bacon. . . . Thank you. So what was the spark that ignited this book?

Carrie: I was a volunteer firefighter and a restaurant burnt down in our small town.

Spartacus: The Portside Grill? I LOVED walking by that restaurant. They cooked a lot of meat. It smelled delicious.

Carrie: Yes! That one. So, um…. when I was looking at the flames, I thought I saw something hovering above the restaurant, something unidentified. It was really pretty hot and I was super dehydrated at the time so I was probably hallucinating. Maybe. Yeah. But if you read Enhanced, you’ll totally recognize this in one of the scenes.

Spartacus: HUMAN! I WORRY ABOUT YOU!

Carrie: I know… buddy. I know.

Spartacus: I’m going to forget that the way I forget who the postal worker is despite the fact that he comes to the house every day at the same exact time and is never an actual threat and move on to the next question. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled as research for your writing?

Carrie: ARE DOGS REALLY ALIENS?

IMG_6573.jpgSpartacus: NO! YOU DIDN’T!

Carrie: Yep.

Spartacus: Human! Nobody is supposed to know.

Carrie:

Spartacus:

Carrie: You’re teasing me, right?


Spartacus (Coughs): Of course. Here. I’m going to end this interview before you get into any more trouble. Who were your advisors at VCFA and what’s your favorite VCFA memory?

Carrie: I feel like I shouldn’t out my advisors like that, but they were Tim Wynne Jones, Kathi Appelt, Sharon Darrow and Rita Williams Garcia was stuck with me my final semester. And my favorite memory? That’s super hard. I think it was going to this Thai restaurant with all my classmates and watching them argue about how to split the bill. It was this awesome PHD-quality study about writer group dynamics and inability to do math.

Spartacus: Dogs don’t pay for food, you know. We beg for it.

Carrie: In this way, writers and dogs are a lot alike.

1978535_10152709544989073_9063394704384246924_o-1.jpgThanks for stopping by, Carrie Jones and Spartacus! We wish you tail wags and extra bacon as Enhanced blasts off into the galaxy!

Carrie Jones is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the Need series, Time Stoppers series for middle grade readers, Flying series, as well as After Obsession with Steven E. Wedel. She is also the co-editor of the teen anthology, Dear Bully. A distinguished alum of Vermont College's MFA Program, Carrie is a volunteer firefighter in Maine because … um… firefighting!  In her spare time, she likes to pet dogs, fight polio with Rotary International, and make children’s literacy festivals.

Visit her online at www.carriejonesbooks.com and follow her on Twitter @carriejonesbook, Facebook at carriejonesbooks, and Instagram @carriejonesbooks.

Topics: young adult, 2017 release, Carrie Jones, Tor, Tor Teen

Sheryl Scarborough and TO CATCH A KILLER!

Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, May 09, 2017 @ 07:05 AM

The evidence is piling up: we're thrilled about Sheryl Scarborough's new young adult novel, To Catch a Killer, out now from Tor Teen!

catchakiller.jpgErin Blake has one of those names—instantly recognizable; a name inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother. The case—which remains unsolved—fascinated a nation. Her father’s identity unknown, Erin was taken in and raised by her mother’s best friend.

Fourteen years later, Erin has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past…but then she discovers the body of her biology teacher and once again finds herself at the center of a brutal homicide investigation. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother’s killer has struck again, in order to protect the case work she’s secretly doing on her own.

Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation, looking into her mother’s death. This new murder makes her certain she’s close to the truth. But when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before the killer strikes again.

Welcome, Sheryl! We're on the edge of our seats!

Tell us about how you sold this book.

I have the best “sales” story! It was Friday, September 5, 2015. This is easy to remember because it was my birthday and I was on my way from Los Angeles to Omaha to speak at an SCBWI conference. I hired a car to take me to the airport because these guys are genies. They can get you there on time, no matter what. Except this guy…two and a half hours early to go 25.9 miles and he tells me I’m going to miss my plane when I get in the car. He wasn’t wrong. The missed plane caused me a five hour layover in Phoenix and I wouldn't arrive in Omaha until midnight. Worst birthday ever, right?

Except, as we land in Phoenix, I turn my phone on to find a message from my agent that just says “call me.” I hadn’t heard from her in months. She was calling to tell me an offer was coming in on Monday! I seriously could have flown the rest of the way to Omaha without a plane.

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

Because my forensic mysteries are based on true crime stories my Google search history is pretty terrifying. I have searched for how long will it take to die in a van filling with carbon monoxide…stab wounds and how fast they will be fatal…and lots of information on profiling and detecting liars.

Who was your favorite character to write and why?

My favorite characters to write are the three girls: Erin, Spam and Lysa. I love writing each of them because they are so different, I get to experiment and try on different personalities and that is so much fun. Some days I’m Erin and other days I’m Spam or Lysa.

This was a story you brought with you to VCFA. How was it shaped during your time there? Were you surprised by any turns it took?

So, I came to VCFA with this idea of teens using forensics to solve a murder. Coming from a background in TV, it had all the elements. It was high concept and I clearly had the chops to pull it off. But for some reason, it hadn’t sold. One of the first things my advisors (in this case I credit both Susan Fletcher and Rita Williams-Garcia) did was to insist that I find myself in this story. I was a little grumpy about that because I had this great idea and twenty years of writing experience, couldn’t I just execute on that? Well, anyone who has been through VCFA knows the answer to this. But here it is. My main character wants to know three things: who killed her mother, the identity of her father and that he was not the killer! She’s coming from a deep sense of abandonment, but has learned to cover that up and soldier on in her quest for the answers about her life.

Mid-way through grad school, what I realized is that I was that girl! I grew up without a father. It was just a fact about my life…which I covered up while I soldiered on. I didn’t realize how much that event had not only shaped me…but how it shaped everything significant that I had written over all these years—TV, comic books and my fiction. It made me understand that denial might be what gets us through the day. But no matter how deep down you push it, your truth is going to find its way out. Needless to say, this was exactly the depth my book was lacking and finding it made all the difference for me as a writer.

Wow.

Who were your advisors?

My advisors at VCFA: the incandescent Sharon Darrow…the insightful Susan Fletcher…the buoyant Tom Birdseye…and the one-and-only Rita Williams-Garcia.

What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

My advice to a prospective VCFA student would be don’t wait. If you’re thinking about it, DO IT! Do it right now. Today. Throw yourself into the deep end and trust the process. Don’t try to guide or direct your experience. Just immerse yourself and be ready to be transformed. You won’t regret it.

You heard it here, folks! Thank you so much for stopping by, Sheryl. Congratulations on the launch of To Catch a Killer!

headshot w typewriter.jpgSheryl Scarborough spent twenty years writing for children’s television and comic books, as well as restaurant and theater reviews (for great seats and free food!) before she finally came to her senses and began writing what she really loves, YA mysteries and thrillers. She lives and writes in Kalama, WA.

Sheryl graduated from VCFA Winter 2013 and she was a Dystropia. Visit her online at www.sherylscarborough.com.

Topics: young adult, 2017 release, Tor, Sheryl Scarborough, Tor Teen

Carrie Jones and FLYING!

Posted by Adi Rule on Mon, Sep 05, 2016 @ 11:09 AM
We're flying high with excitement about Carrie Jones's new young adult novel Flying, out now from Tor! And for an extra surprise, we have two special guests on the blog today -- Carrie and her interviewer, SPARTACUS! *wags tail*
 
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New York Times bestselling author Carrie Jones introduces sassy alien-hunting cheerleader Mana in Flying, the launch of a sparkling new YA Science Fiction series.
 
People have always treated seventeen-year-old Mana as someone in need of protection. She's used to being coddled, being an only child, but it's hard to imagine anything could ever happen in her small-town, normal life. As her mother's babying gets more stifling than ever, she's looking forward to cheering at the big game and getting out of the house for a while.
 
But that night, Mana's life goes haywire.
 
First, the hot guy she's been crushing on at school randomly flips out and starts spitting acid during the game. Then they get into a knockdown, drag-out fight in the locker room, during which Mana finds herself leaping around like a kangaroo on steroids. As a flyer on the cheerleading squad, she's always been a good jumper, but this is a bit much. By the time she gets home and finds her house trashed and an alien in the garage, Mana starts to wonder if her mother had her reasons for being overprotective.
 
It turns out, Mana's frumpy, timid mom is actually an alien hunter, and now she's missing--taking a piece of technology with her that everyone wants their hands on, both human and alien. Now her supposed partner, a guy that Mana has never met or heard of (and who seems way too young and way too arrogant to be hunting aliens), has shown up, ordering Mana to come with him. Now, on her own for the first time, Mana will have to find a way to save her mother--and maybe the world--and hope she's up to the challenge.

Because dogs are an integral part of her writing process, Carrie’s dog, Spartacus, has decided that he should be in charge of this interview. Since Carrie is super conflict averse, she agreed. She apologizes in advance for the quality of her answers. 

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Sparty the Dog: Dear Carrie, we in your canine family have noticed that you write about… Well, you write about weird things when you write for young adults.

Carrie the Human: I have no idea what you mean, Sparty.

Sparty the Dog: Let me flip through my notes. Yes. Here we go. Human-sized pixies, possession, alien hunting cheerleaders, another upcoming book about Big Foot  

Carrie the Human: That one isn’t actually about Big Foot… It’s something scarier.

Sparty:

Carrie:

Sparty: I worry that you are my human.

Carrie: I give you bacon though. 

Sparty: It’s the only reason I stay around. Anyway, I have questions for you, human! This is an interview. Are you ready?

Carrie: Yes.

Sparty: What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you?

Carrie: Don’t be afraid to be weird. 

Sparty:

Carrie:

Sparty: Really? That’s it?

Carrie: Everyone can be normal, or pretend to be. But when you embrace your weird? That’s when improvisation happens, that’s when creativity and production and craft meet to make something magical.

Sparty: Did Tim Wynne-Jones tell you that?

Carrie: Actually, I think it was Rita Williams-Garcia. 

Sparty: Well, at least I got the three-name thing down. Moving on… What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled as research for your writing?

Carrie: What to do when you’re being interviewed by a dog.

Sparty: Did it say, “Bribe him with bacon?”

Carrie: It did! How did you know that?

Sparty: I wrote that Buzzfeed article. So, tell us something special you keep on your desk as you work.

Carrie: Bacon. You know that. You’re always trying to knock it off the desk.

Sparty: No comment. What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student? Whew. That’s a giant word. Prospective. You VCFA people like those multisyllabic words, don’t you?

Carrie: You just said one.

Sparty: Said what?

Carrie: Multisyllabic.

Sparty:

Carrie: You’re a talking dog who writes blog posts and BuzzFeed articles. I know you’re smart, buddy. You can’t hide it.

Sparty: Just answer the question. So this can be done and I can go on a walk.

Carrie: I would tell them to be unafraid, to try everything you can try (genre, style, point of view), to write like the house was on fire and you have to get your chapter done because there may never be time to write again. 

Sparty: Violent.

Carrie: I shrug.

Sparty: You do shrug. A lot. You also sigh. They teach you not to do that all the time at Vermont, don’t they? And yet, you still do it…

Carrie: You know what they say about old dogs.

Sparty: That they are awesome?

Carrie: That too.

Sparty: Final question so we can take a walk! What do you wish you had known before stepping onto the VCFA campus?

Carrie: I wish I had known how important the cookies were to overall health and writing sustainability. Those cookies in the cafeteria are absolutely imbued with magical properties. You can practically see the Printz Award glitter and Caldecott bling flying off of them, giving all the students a bit more writing enchantment. I know! I know! It sounds totally unreal. IT IS REAL! THE MAGIC IS REAL! Go forth and eat cookies, prospective students. 

Sparty:

Carrie:

Sparty: So the cookies are like bacon?

CarriePretty much.

Carrie JonesCARRIE JONES is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the Need series, as well as After Obsession with Steven E. Wedel. She is a distinguished alum of Vermont College's MFA Program, and an on call firefighter in Maine because … um… firefighting!  In her spare time, she likes to pet dogs, fight polio, and make literacy festivals.

Visit Carrie online at www.carriejonesbooks.com, follow her on Twitter @carriejonesbook (http://twitter.com/carriejonesbook), on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/carriejonesbooks, and on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/carriejonesbooks.

Watch the Flying trailer here!

 

Listen to an excerpt from the audiobook here!

 

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Topics: young adult, 2016 release, Carrie Jones, Tor

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