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!


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.


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.


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?


IMG_6573.jpgSpartacus: NO! YOU DIDN’T!

Carrie: Yep.

Spartacus: Human! Nobody is supposed to know.



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 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.


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

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

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