It's now time to share with you my hero, Kelley Armstrong, who is by far my favorite author. And since this is her first YA novel, there was no question that this would be my contest for July. Armstrong is no stranger to writing teens, we have seen some of our favorite characters grow up on the pages. And she is able to chronicle their struggle to deal with the awesome power in them and the trials of growing up. Armstrong can create these extraordinarily broken characters and give them so much life, making them scared, full of rage, and insecure. And also letting them show their vulnerability and their loving, fallible nature in juxtaposition to the power they posses. They become better people, growing from often times self inflicted adversity. These characters are never static, they grow and change and learn, just like the rest of us. And it is a thrill reading that ever changing journey to become what we all wish heroes would be. Never perfect, but always trying to be better.
I'm excited to meet Chloe Saunders, a necromancer who see's dead people. Armstrong has always written in her books that while werewolves, vampires, sorcerers, and witches are powerful beings, necromancers wield the darkest power. So here we start on a fantastic journey with The Summoning, The Darkest Powers Book 1.
My name is Chloe Saunders and my life will never be the same again.
All I wanted was to make friends, meet boys, and keep on being ordinary. I don't even know what that means anymore. It all started on the day I saw my first ghost- and the ghost saw me.
Now there are ghosts everywhere and they won't leave me alone. To top it all off, I somehow got myself locked up in Lyle House, a "special home" for troubled teens. Yet the home isn't what it seems. Don't tell anyone, but I think there might be more to my housemates than meets the eye. The question is, which side are they on? It's up to me to figure out the dangerous secrets behind Lyle House... before it's skeletons come back to haunt me.
Click here and you'll open up a PDF file containing an excerpt from the book. I'm off to read the book, it just got dropped off on my front doorstep by the UPS angel. Contest ends July 31 so comment on this post to win the signed copy!! Below are my 10 Questions Interview with the author herself, Kelley Armstrong. Don't forget, if you live in San Diego like I do, you can meet Kelley at Comic Con!
IBT: How did you survive being a teen?
KA: My teen years were okay, but not "best years of my life" stuff. The biggest struggle I faced was that conflict between wanting to fit in, yet wanting to be different. I survived by just moving forward and doing what was expected of me (yeah, I was a pretty boring kid), then venting frustrations through my writing. As a teen, I wrote mainly poetry and horror, and between the two, I could work out any angst and anger!
IBT: If you could choose one fictional character to bring into real life, who would you choose?
KA: On a personal scale--i.e. which character would I like to have next door--there are plenty. But I'll take this question on a more global scale--which character would I like to see in the world? And the answer would have to be "a superhero." As for which one, that would make a long answer and reveal my inner geek. In general, though, a real-life crime-fighter with superpowers would just be, well, cool. It would bring some magic to the world. Everyone needs heroes and magic.
IBT: Have you ever written something that you feel uncomfortable writing, knowing that your family and friends will probably end up reading it?
KA: Er, well...I also write an adult series of paranormal suspense that is very...adult. When I wrote the first book, I didn't worry about the sex scenes because I presumed it would never get published and even if it did,was anyone in my family going to want to read a book about werewolves? No.Then it got published...and my dad had to read it...and my grandmother... I warned them and they were fine with it, but it did make writing sex scenes in the next few books a little less comfortable, knowing they might read them.
IBT: What do you think are the biggest issues that teens need to be thinking about today? Do you think teens today are looking for quality in the books they read, or just to live vicariously through superficial characters?
KA: I think the biggest issues that teens need to be thinking about are the issues that interest or concern them. If a teen is interested in the environment or human rights, that's fantastic. But I would never say that every teen should be seriously thinking about those issues, because for some the day-to-day problems of life can be enough to worry about. The issues that I think are most important for teens are the mundane ones--growing up,finding their place in the world, and being healthy and happy. Anything else is icing on the cake. Quality versus escapism? I think it depends on the teen and it's a continuum, not "one or the other." Most want entertainment yet also want to read a good, well-written story that has some lasting impact. My adult series get some older teen readers. I get emails from kids who say that my characters inspired them or made them think. And I get emails from kids who say "my parents were going through a crappy divorce and your books let me getaway from that for a while." I think either is an equally worthy goal for a novel.
IBT: How have the books you've read inspired the books you've written,if at all?
KA: Every book I read inspires my writing. The good ones show me how it's done and make me strive to improve. And the bad ones give me a chance to analyze what I don't like and how I would have changed it.
IBT: What is the strangest thing you have ever gotten inspiration from?
KA: Oh, there are lots. I'll take a very recent one. I was planning to add a zombie rat scene to a novel (yes, zombie rats--did I mention my stuff is a little weird?) But I've done rats before...not undead ones, but rats nonetheless. I was trying to think of an alternative, given the scene setting, when a bird flew into the window, making me jump, and I thought "That's it! Zombie bats!"
IBT: Many writers say parting with a character is hard. Do you ever look back on a character and wish you had changed something about him or her?
KA: I avoid this by never "finishing" with a character! So far, unless a character has died, I've always left the door open for a future appearance. And considering I write about a world that includes ghosts, even dead characters aren't necessary out of the picture. As for wishing I'd changed something? Only minor stuff with minor characters--for example, saying that a character only has a brother in one book, then in another, having a character that would make a great sister to the previous character, but it's too late to rewrite his back story.
IBT: What is the one thing such as, sky diving or any other daring thing, that you would love to do but you are too afraid?
KA: Mountain climbing. I love adventure and I love the outdoors. I think scaling a mountain would be amazing. But I'm afraid of heights. Worse, I get vertigo, meaning when I look down, I feel dizzy and really could lose my balance. So it's not a good idea for me!
IBT: What was the biggest obstacle you faced in becoming an author and how did you overcome it?
KA: Well, getting published is the biggest obstacle! But that's a long story, so I'll use another one. The first time I wrote a novel (a "practice" one, never published), I had a professional critique it. The main feedback I got was that my characters were two-dimensional. While part of me wanted to hide my weakness by strengthening other aspects of my writing, I decided to buckle down and learn how to make better characters. I read everything I could on character work and tried many methods until I found the one that worked for me. Today the aspect of my writing that gets the most kudos is characterization. I'm very proud of that--taking my biggest weakness and turning it into my greatest strength.
IBT: "What do you do when you are faced with writer's block? What helps you get over it?"
KA: Honestly, I don't know if I get writer's block. What I do get is "blocked" because either I've got too much else on my mind or I don't know what happens next in my story. My solutions? If I'm preoccupied and can't seem to turn on my writing brain, I sit down and force myself to write something--maybe just filling in a description (BICHOK--butt in chair, hands on keyboard)This forces me to switch gears and make the transition into writing mode,then I launch into the real writing. I've solved the "not knowing what comes next" problem by outlining. If my outline for the next bit is vague, I take one of the dogs for a walk and work through the next scene.
IBT: Thanks Kelley, I can't wait to meet you at Comic Con and shake your hand sister!