Where I’ve Been/ Announcement!

Hi everyone!

Long time, no blog post — but I’ve got a good reason!

I’ve been hard at work planning the Teen HQ at the Louisiana Book Festival, and boy do we have an amazing lineup of authors & panelists this year. On the MG & YA front, we have:

  • Lauren Allbright, author of Exit Strategy
  • Alys Arden, author of The Romeo Catchers
  • Alton Carter, author of Aging Out
  • Judy Christie, author of Wreath, in College
  • Neil Connelly, author of Into the Hurricane
  • Heather Demetrios, author of Bad Romance
  • Laurie Devore, author of How to Break a Boy
  • Michael Fry, author of How to be a Supervillain
  • Frye Gaillard, author of Go South to Freedom
  • Claudia Gray, author of Defy the Stars
  • Jesse Haynes, author of Special
  • S.F. Henson, author of Devils Within
  • Linda Williams Jackson, author of Midnight without a Moon
  • Brendan Kiely, author of The Last True Love Story
  • Laurent Linn, author of Draw the Line
  • Joanne O’Sullivan, author of Between Two Skies
  • Richard Peck, author of The Best Man
  • Caleb Roehrig, author of Last Seen Leaving
  • Michelle Schusterman, author of Olive and the Backstage Ghost
  • Corabel Shofner, author of Almost Paradise
  • Ronald L. Smith, author of The Mesmerist
  • Sarah Tolcser, author of Song of the Current
  • Jasmine Warga, author of Here We Are Now
  • Jeff Zentner, author of Goodbye Days

We’ll also have a podcasting panel featuring Kassiah Faul of the Swoony Boys Podcast, Jesse Haynes of the Mazie Meadows Morning Show, and Nicole Jorge of the Alexandria Archives, moderated by Katherine Downey of the Swoony Boys Podcast. Finally, we’ll have an #OwnVoices  panel featuring Laurent Linn, Caleb Roehrig, and Jasmine Warga, moderated by Brendan Kiely.

LBF Books

Just a few of the amazing books we’re featuring this year.

Join us on October 28th in downtown Baton Rouge! For more information and to check out the full schedule, go to http://www.louisianabookfestival.org.

LBF Wall

The “Wall of Awesome”. See how many MG & YA titles you can spot!

In other news, I’m very excited and pleased to announce that I’m starting a podcast on youth services in libraries with the amazingly awesome Nicole Jorge! We’ll be discussing programs and services for kids and teens, featuring tips and tricks on how to score various goodies such as ARCs and even author visits, as well as featuring the occasional author interview! The show won’t premiere until mid or late November, but we’ve already hard at work and will be announcing the title soon. If children & teen librarianship floats your boat, keep an eye on this blog for more information and also follow Nicole over at That Girl Jorge!

 

Till next time!

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Interview – Jesse Haynes

Hello readers!

Today we’ll be bringing you an interview with Jesse Haynes, YA novelist and podcaster extraordinare.

The Spork Review: You got your creative start as a young adult author – how did you get into podcasting?

Jesse Haynes: Hmm… great question. A lots of little parts working together, I suppose. I’ve been listening to podcasts for a good while. Since 2011, I believe. That being said, I never actually considered creating one until my high school principal started one and I saw the potential that iTunes and free content offered.

TSR: You’re also a full-time college student – how do you find the time for everything? Your schedule must be very busy!

JH: It really is quite a busy schedule, but I try to pick classes that help me with my writing and podcasting, so occasionally I can kill two birds with one stone. For example, I actually made an “independent study” class with one of my professors last semester, and that is how we created The Others. It was actually worth 3 hours credit! Whoo!

TSR: Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

JH: Definitely. I’m a very methodical writer. Too much so, I will be the first to admit. My mother and I were talking last week about how she doesn’t think I’m “flexible” enough. Whether I am writing books or podcasts, I like to create a very detailed outline with all the major plot elements before I ever write a word of the actually work. Many argue that isn’t creative, but I’ve never been one to just sit in front of a blank screen and begin typing out super creative stuff while aimlessly pecking away at a keyboard, y’know?

TSR: Where is your favorite place to write?

JH: I try to find silence. I used to write in a chair in the corner of my living room by choice, but I have gravitated to a quieter chair in a back room of my house now. That said, I have also typed in a high school basketball stadium before a game, on long car/bus rides, or even during a slow lecture. (Shhh, don’t tell.)

TSR: Your newest book, Special, releases in August. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

JH: Special is a book that I never thought I would write but I’m very glad I did. It’s a story about an unlikely friendship between a cheerleader and boy with Downs Syndrome, and it teaches about bullying and why we should respect others who are different from us. It’s a story that needed to be told, and I’m happy to be the one to tell it.

TSR: Who has been your favorite character to write so far?

JH: Oh goodness. I have two. For novels, my favorite character is Shafer McCartney. He’s a little bit of all of us—the good and the bad. The sassiness, the bravery, the love—everything that makes us human has gone into Shafer. His story is a long one that I recently finished telling (at least the first part), but the world has not met him yet though, so that’s all I will say for now.

For podcasting, my favorite character is Uncle Rick. He’s the stereotype of “that crazy guy who is nobody’s biological uncle, yet claimed by all.” Is that even a stereotype? Uncle Rick was the product of actually my friend Mitchell’s imagination at about 1:30 AM, and a 3 page short story has blossomed into a full-fledged character that slowly is building a fandom. (I’ve had a 12-year-old write a letter to Rick.) Mitchell says some of the wildest things, and many of Rick’s lines are actually things that have come out of Mitchell’s mouth, so there are a decent amount of inside jokes with that character, but everybody can laugh with and at him.

TSR: I hear that The Others has been a huge success – congratulations! What can we expect from season 2?

JH: The Others was 100 percent intended to be a standalone series of one season, but I had a company approach me about buying a second season. That being said, if a second season does turn up it will probably be in late 2018 or early ’19 and will explore the backstory of the island a little more thoroughly while offering an escape.

TSR: Which other podcasts would you recommend to listeners who are all caught up on Cryptid Creatures, The Others, and Mazie Meadows?

JH: Oh goodness. These are hard questions, ha! My personal favorite is the Thrilling Adventure Hour, which is no longer being produced. But there are about 250 episodes that follow four or five common storylines (my personal favorites are “Sparks Nevada” and “Beyond Belief”), and they are brilliantly written and performed. I started podcast listening with WTNV for a while but can only handle so much absurdity, and I have followed a few other shows for a while but eventually lost interest in most of them as well. I tend to favor the cleaner shows, and that’s hard to find—so I’m making them myself.

I like radio drama like the Alexandria Archives and King Falls, but I’m not even caught up on the latter because I eventually just got tired of the storyline. I will occasionally listen every now and then though, for sure. The production is great. I’m not sure how TAH has kept my attention for so many episodes.

TSR: What’s up next for you?

JH: I’m going to study carpentry.

Joking, of course. I have a new series of books I am writing—YA Action and Adventure—and I foresee a good amount of Mazie Meadows in the future. When I first created a podcast, a show like MMMS was my goal, but I didn’t think I could get there with my first attempt at podcasting. I knew nothing about it, so I took the unconventional route of both a historical series studying myths followed by a short audio-drama series to learn enough to pull off a fictional radio show.

TSR: What piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?

JH: “Never stop chasing your dreams.” Then I would wince because I am super cliché. Maybe I would actually say something like “Don’t feel like you have to stick to the industry standards.” That just doesn’t sound as good when you’re talking to an eight-year-old.

Here’s the deal: none of my books have been traditionally published, but they are doing well enough to create a little word of mouth buzz, at least in this general geographical reason, and I’m very blessed for that. But I’ve learned that maybe the ideal way to make a living writing is to sign a million dollar contract and turn your work over to a publisher, but that is not the only way.

And this is sad, but I foresee a near future when fiction books are nearly obsolete. There just aren’t as many people willing to put down a tablet or phone and read, and most of the people that are willing to do so are older than me. That being said, no way do I feel bound to print and binding fiction now. I’m a story-teller more than a novelist, and through ads and downloads I think I might be able to support myself just as well with (free) podcasts than by selling books. Crazy how the digital world works.

But at the end of the day, if I’m telling stories and people have eyes (or ears) on them, then I’m happy. That’s what it’s all about—enjoying what you do. I’d tell the aspiring writer all of that and hope he/she is not in a big hurry.

Lightning round:

TSR: Do you have any hidden talents?

JH: I actually am not the super stereotypical sci-fi novelist, or at least I hope not. I was an all-state basketball player in HS along with winning several visual art awards (a Scholastic Gold Key, if that means anything to anybody). Oh, I also can eat a lot in one sitting. Like a lot.

TSR: What is something no one else knows about you?

JH: I have a mixed relationship with golf. I love it but it frustrates me to no end. Also, I have five cats and wear a size seventeen shoe. Only a few people know that.

TSR: What is one thing you never leave home without?

JH: Clothes.

But also my computer. I typically have my laptop on me, or at least in my car, at most times.

TSR: Favorite thing to do to relax?

JH: I loooooooooooooove hot tubs. Just don’t have one. Yet. That’s a future goal. I also really enjoy typing to relax—surprise!—and occasionally I will watch TV.

TSR: If you were stranded on an island with The Others, what 3 things would you like to have with you?

JH: Duct tape, sunscreen, and LeBron James.

You can do anything with the duct tape, I’m snow white and would die of sunburn in 3 minutes and 12 seconds without sunscreen, and it would be really great to meet LeBron. Plus, he could probably fight off the Others if need be. 

Thank you Jesse for that sporkeriffic interview! I must say that I’m thoroughly enjoying the MMMS. Looking forward to the new broadcast!

Author Interview – Jeff Zentner

In celebration of Jeff Zentner’s upcoming book Goodbye Days getting its first major review (and a starred one at that – as if there was any doubt!) we have a special treat – Jeff has agreed to answer a few questions for us!

Continue reading “Author Interview – Jeff Zentner”

The Serpent King & Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner – Book Reviews

For our first official review, I’m reviewing some of my favorite books of all time (seriously, EVERYONE needs to read these books).

As one of the (many) perks of my job, I get to read a lot of really great books, which leads me to get to meet some amazing authors – one of whom is Jeff Zentner, author of The Serpent King (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2016) and the upcoming Goodbye Days (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017).

I first ran across The Serpent King at the beginning of 2016 while researching YA authors to invite to my state’s yearly book festival. Intrigued by the cover (’cause aren’t those covers GORGEOUS?) I checked out the reviews and upon making a decision to invite the author to be featured at the Festival, I also decided to purchase myself a copy to read.

Am I ever glad I did.

From the first page I was sucked into the world of three small-town Tennessee teens – Dill, the son of a disgraced snake-handling preacher (his father’s in prison on some very creepy charges), Lydia, the upper-middle class fashion blogger, and Travis, the fantasy series-reading, dragon necklace-wearing gentle giant. All very different teenagers but best friends yet the same, they are just trying to survive their senior year of high school.

I picked up The Serpent King knowing zero about the author. After finishing, though, I read his author bio and was not surprised to find out that he is also a musician. Jeff’s writing is so lyrical that it is almost serpentine in and of itself with the way it ebbs and flows. Not only do I care so deeply about the characters (I seriously just want to adopt Dill and protect him from all the awfulness he has to endure) but the writing is also so fantastic that it has spanned generations. Everyone I have recommended it to from teenagers to the ages of 90+ has loved this book.

(Which reminds me – if you ever get the chance to listen to the audiobook (narrated by 3 seriously talented folks – Michael Crouch (Dill), Ariadne Meyers (Lydia), and Ethan Sawyer (Travis), do so. You won’t regret it.)

Jeff is one of those rare talents that only come along once every so often, and Dill, Lydia, and Travis will always have a special place in my heart as some of my favorite YA characters ever created –

– so imagine my delight when I found out that Jeff had another book coming out.

Goodbye Days, releasing March 7, 2017, is the story of Carver Briggs, a Nashville teen who has lost his 3 best friends in a car accident – one that was caused while the friend who was driving was replying to a text that Carver had just sent.

Where are you guys? Text me back.

In order to process through his grief over the course of the year, Carver embarks on a series of “Goodbye Days” with the families of his deceased friends. There’s also some other stuff that happens, but… spoilers. 🙂

I’ve been one of the lucky ones who has gotten a chance to read Goodbye Days early, and it is truly a masterful follow-up to The Serpent King. While not a sequel, one of the characters from The Serpent King makes an appearance in Goodbye Days – so read TSK first or else you’ll hit a pretty major spoiler.

Fair warning as well when reading both The Serpent KingGoodbye Days – have tissues handy. LOTS AND LOTS of tissues.  In fact, Jeff, you might want to buy stock in Kleenex since your readers will be using so many.

Final rating: 5 shiny new sporks each.

Even though we had been Tweeting and emailing back & forth during the months leading up to the Festival, I was fortunate enough to have gotten to actually meet Jeff in person at the Festival and hang out with him and get to know him a little afterwards as well.  Jeff is a super genuine guy who truly cares about his readers, so stay tuned for an interview with him!