Tweens Read August Day 10: Monica Tesler & Bounders

Tweens Read August is a 14 day event taking place for the first two weeks of August. I’ll be hosting authors, regardless of debut year, whose books I’m the most excited for. Each day, I’ll announce who the next author is at the end of the post. There’s also a giveaway going on, so be sure to check that out!

It’s the tenth day of Tweens Read August, and today I’m interviewing Monica Tesler about her space adventure series Bounders!

Here’s a little bit about it:


Series: Bounders #1

Release Date: January 5th, 2016

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In the tradition of Michael Vey and The Unwanteds, twelve-year-old Jasper and his friends are forced to go up against an alien society in this first book in a brand-new adventure series!

Thirteen years ago, Earth Force—a space-military agency—discovered a connection between brain structure and space travel. Now they’ve brought together the first team of cadets, called Bounders, to be trained as high-level astronauts.

Twelve-year-old Jasper is part of this team being sent out into space. After being bullied back on Earth, Jasper is thrilled to have something new and different to do with other kids who are more like him. While learning all about the new technologies and taking classes in mobility—otherwise known as flying with jetpacks—Jasper befriends the four other students in his pod and finally feels like he has found his place in the world.

But then Jasper and his new friends learn that they haven’t been told everything about Earth Force. They weren’t brought to space for astronaut training, but to learn a new, highly classified brain-sync technology that allows them to manipulate matter and quantum bound, or teleport. And it isn’t long before they find out this new technology was actually stolen from an alien society.

When Jasper and his friends discover the truth about why Earth Force needs them, they are faced with a choice: rebel against the academy that brought them together, or fulfill their duty and protect the planet at all costs.

Description taken from Goodreads.

Interview with Monica Tesler, Author of the Bounders Series

Tell us a little bit about BOUNDERS! How does it stand out in MG science fiction?

BOUNDERS is the story of the first class of cadets at EarthBound Academy for quantum space travel. When the cadets arrive at the space station for training, they soon realize that Earth Force’s plans for them are far different from what they’ve been told. These kids have always felt different, but they never suspected they held the key to saving Earth from an alien threat.

One of the unique things about BOUNDERS, is it fits in many different storytelling boxes. It’s a science fiction adventure story, but it’s also a story about school and friendship. The core of the story is a mystery, as the kids search for answers about a huge secret they discover when they arrive at the space station and what that means for them as Bounders.

What’s your favorite thing about BOUNDERS?

My favorite part of BOUNDERS is the unlikely friendship that develops between the five main characters—Jasper, Cole, Lucy, Marco, and Mira. As the story progresses, the kids learn to work together through their own unique strengths and challenges. Their bond is what ultimately saves the day.

What can we look forward to in the second book of the series, THE TUNDRA TRIALS?

Excitement, danger, and adventure await the cadets in THE TUNDRA TRIALS which is scheduled to release on December 13, 2016. Most of the book takes place on Gulaga, the Tunneler planet. There are more aliens, more Earth Force secrets, and a space elevator!

What kind of research did you have to do to write this series?

I love to read about current developments in science and technology. The space travel used in the series—bounding—is loosely based on quantum entanglement principles. I read several articles on quantum entanglement so that I had a basic understanding of the science.

I once read a post about a theoretical space elevator that could transport goods and even people from the surface of a planet or celestial body to outside the atmosphere. That’s how I got the idea for the space elevator in THE TUNDRA TRIALS. Of course, in real life, space elevators are just in the concept/design stage, but maybe one day scientists will build one!

What advice would you give to aspiring science fiction authors?

The best advice I can give aspiring authors is to write something they enjoy and let go of outcomes. It’s important to learn how to finish projects, set them aside, and start something new. Get connected with other writers and gain an understanding of the business of publishing while writing, but don’t let that become too much of a time drain. Twitter will take your day away if you let it.

Reading is a necessity for all writers. For aspiring science fiction writers, I recommend reading widely within the genre and also keeping informed about current developments in science and technology. There is a long history of science inspiring science fiction and vice versa.

And most importantly—have fun!


Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Eli! I hope you and your readers enjoy BOUNDERS! Watch my website,, for information about a preorder giveaway for THE TUNDRA TRIALS as we get closer to the December 13 release date! You can also find me on twitter and instagram as @MonicaTesler.


About the Author

monica tesler

Monica Tesler lives south of Boston with her family. She can often be found hiking or biking with her boys, writing on the commuter boat, or trying to catch a quiet moment for meditation. The first book in her debut middle grade science fiction series, BOUNDERS, released in early 2016 from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin. The second title, THE TUNDRA TRIALS, will release December 13, 2016.


Thanks to Monica for taking part in Tweens Read August! This book sounds great, and I’m interested to see the different aspects to it. If you’re looking forward to reading it as much as I am, add Bounders to Goodreads! The cover for The Tundra Trials, the second book in the series, is coming out soon too, so be sure to follow Monica on Twitter for all the latest news about that. The author being featured tomorrow is M.G. Leonard.

Tweens Read August Day 8: Brooks Benjamin & My Seventh Grade Life in Tights

Tweens Read August is a 14 day event taking place for the first two weeks of August. I’ll be hosting authors, regardless of debut year, whose books I’m the most excited for. Each day, I’ll announce who the next author is at the end of the post. There’s also a giveaway going on, so be sure to check that out!

It’s the start of the second week of Tweens Read August, and today I’m interviewing Brooks Benjamin about his debut novel, the fabulous My Seventh Grade Life in Tights.

Here’s a little bit about it:

my seventh grade life in tights

Release Date: April 12th, 2016

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All Dillon wants is to be a real dancer. And if he wins a summer scholarship at Dance-Splosion, he’s on his way. The problem? His dad wants him to play football. And Dillon’s freestyle crew, the Dizzee Freekz, says that dance studios are for sellouts. His friends want Dillon to kill it at the audition—so he can turn around and tell the studio just how wrong their rules and creativity-strangling ways are.


At first, Dillon’s willing to go along with his crew’s plan, even convincing one of the snobbiest girls at school to work with him on his technique. But as Dillon’s dancing improves, he wonders: what if studios aren’t the enemy? And what if he actually has a shot at winning the scholarship?


Dillon’s life is about to get crazy . . . on and off the dance floor.

Description taken from Goodreads.

Interview with Brooks Benjamin, Author of My Seventh Grade Life in Tights

Is there anything you want readers to know before reading My Seventh Grade Life in Tights

I’d love for them to know that this book was written out of a deep love of dance. And it was written for those people who have a passion for something that others might laugh at. And just like dance, it’s an all-inclusive book that not only embraces friendships and commonalities, but all the wonderful differences that make us unique and wonderful.

What do you love most about Dillon? 

I love his honesty. He has a chance to hide some things from his friends, but he chooses not to.

Is Dillon’s story based on your own experiences? 

In part. I started my own dance crew back in middle school and I desperately wanted to learn how to dance. I was…not a good dancer back then. Like, at all.

You have a conversation with your favorite book character. Ever. How does it go? 

I’ve talked with them all! As a group and individually. And I get a lot of funny looks when I do because sometimes I’m out in public when it happens.

Is there any possibility of a sequel to My Seventh Grade Life in Tights

There is a possibility! I have an outline for it, ready to go. So keep those fingers crossed that Dillon and the Dizzee Freekz will be back, dancing their way onto the shelves again one day!

What’s your writing fuel?

Black coffee in my Ug Chug mug. And pizza. Lots and lots of pizza.

Who’s your favorite supporting character in My Seventh Grade Life in Tights?

Oh, that’d definitely be Carson. He’s so fun and full of life. He’d be the one I would’ve loved to hang out with in middle school because he’d always have something entertaining for us to do. And we’d probably get into trouble because of it. But we wouldn’t care. :)
What’s your favorite book that released/releases this year? 
GAH! That question is so hard to answer! There are so many amazing books this year. I could literally put every title into a hat and draw one and be okay with what I picked. But I won’t do that. That’s cheating. So I’ll pick…Swing Sideways by Nanci Turner Steveson. That book has all the heart of Bridge to Terabithia and just as many moments that made me laugh, smile, and cry.

About the Author

brooks benjamin

In sixth grade, Brooks Benjamin formed a New Kids on the Block tribute dance crew called the New Kidz. He wasn’t that good at dancing back then. But now he’s got a new crew—his wife and their dog. They live in Tennessee, where he teaches reading and writing and occasionally busts out a few dance moves. He’s still not that good at it. MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS (Delacorte/Random House) is his first novel.


Thanks to Brooks for taking part in Tweens Read August! I love dance too, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s portrayed in a middle-grade novel. If you think so too, add My Seventh Grade Life in Tights to Goodreads! The author being featured tomorrow is M.G. Leonard.

Tweens Read August Day 4: Claire Fayers & The Voyage to Magical North

Tweens Read August is a 14 day event taking place for the first two weeks of August. I’ll be hosting authors, regardless of debut year, whose books I’m the most excited for. Each day, I’ll announce who the next author is at the end of the post. There’s also a giveaway going on, so be sure to check that out!

It’s the fourth day of Tweens Read August, and for today, I interviewed Claire Fayers on what sounds like the most epic fantasy read of the year: The Voyage to Magical North.

Here’s a little bit about it:

the voyage to magical north by claire fayers

Release Date: July 5th, 2016

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Twelve-year-old Brine Seaborne is a girl with a past–if only she could remember what it is. Found alone in a rowboat as a child, clutching a shard of the rare starshell needed for spell-casting, she’s spent the past years keeping house for an irritable magician and his obnoxious apprentice, Peter.

When Brine and Peter get themselves into a load of trouble and flee, they blunder into the path of the legendary pirate ship theOnion. Before you can say “pieces of eight,” they’re up to their necks in the pirates’ quest to find Magical North, a place so shrouded in secrets and myth that most people don’t even think it exists. If Brine is lucky, she may find out who her parents are. And if she’s unlucky, everyone on the ship will be eaten by sea monsters. It could really go either way.

Description taken from Goodreads.



What’s so great about Magical North?

According to the great scientist Aldebran Boswell, who know about these things, magic flows in a northerly direction and there are three north poles – geographical north, magnetic north and magical north. Magical north represents the greatest concentration of magic ever and because magic has flowed in from all over the world, anyone who stands at magical north can see the whole world.

The whole area is also supposed to be covered in treasure, though this has never been confirmed.

How do you get inspired for your story ideas?

I generally come up with some vague concept first, and then add in characters. In the case of Voyage to Magical North, I wanted to write something fun with sea monsters and magic. Brine and her quest to find out who she is came last, and it seems so obvious now I can’t believe I didn’t think of it straight away.

If I get stuck for ideas, I’ll go away and do something else for a while. My family can always tell when I’ve been working on ideas because the house is full of freshly-baked cake.

What was the hardest part of debut year?

Starting work on the second book! Switching between a very polished first book and a completely new draft made me horribly aware of how bad my writing is at the outset. But then the story started to come together and it didn’t seem so bad after all.

But really, I’ve loved every minute of the past year. I’ve given up work and I’m writing full time, something I’ve always dreamed of, and the children’s book world is such a wonderful, friendly place. I wouldn’t swap it for anything.

What kind of research did you do for Voyage to Magical North?
Not that much, to be honest. I went around a couple of old ships, and I did a ‘walk with the fish’ experience at SeaLife. Apart from that ‘research’ was working out how the various details of the fantasy world fit together. How magic worked, for example, and how long the Onion would take to sail between islands.
What do you love most about your main characters?
I love the way they reverse expectations – my own expectations as well. It’s a bit of a cliché that authors are surprised by their characters, but I was. Brine’s the one who really drives the story. Peter spends the first part of the book following her around complaining that she’s going to get them into trouble. And then he tries to carve out a place for himself on board the pirate ship, and it doesn’t entirely go well.
Did you find any aspect of creating the world of Voyage to the Magical North difficult?
Spellcasting was a challenge. I didn’t really think about how magic worked until my editor asked for details and I came up with spellshapes. And the geography takes a bit of work to keep straight. There are eight oceans, only one ocean is really a pair of seas, and then I have to remember where all the islands are and how long it takes to get from one to another. I’ve drawn myself a map, but I still keep forgetting where things are.
Is there anything you want readers to know before reading Voyage to Magical North?

We all have stories to tell. Some are quieter than others, but they’re no less important. And, when we start listening to one another’s stories, that’s when friendships begin.

Also, I know penguins don’t live at the north pole in the real world, but I love penguins so I put them in anyway.

What’s one item on your bookish bucket list?
I’d love to go for a trip on a real sailing ship before book 2 comes out. It’d have to be a short trip though as I have a tendency to get seasick. While I’m sitting on deck enjoying the sun, I will catch up on my reading of all the great debut books out this year.
Do you have any advice for authors trying to write middle-grade fiction?
Think back to what you were like at that age and capture that voice. Then be very clear about what your main characters want and what is stopping them from getting it. That’s the main conflict of your book. Finally, write what excites you – find the story that you alone can tell.
What’s one of the best middle-grade novels you’ve read this year?
Only one? I’ve read so many terrific books this year. But, if you liked Voyage to Magical North, you will love SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB by Patrick Samphire. It’s like a combination of Jules Verne and Jane Austen and it’s set on Mars, with dinosaurs.

About the Author

claire fayers

Claire Fayers lives in South Wales with her husband and as many cats as she can get away with.  She used to work in a science library, but now writes full-time, which is the best job ever.  She likes skiing, kite-flying, playing the cello and dinosaurs.


Thanks to Claire for taking part in Tweens Read August! I loved her responses, and I’ll definitely have to check out Secrets of the Dragon Tomb. You can add it to Goodreads here, and while you’re there, be sure to add The Voyage to Magical North as well. The author being featured tomorrow is Lee Gjertson Malone!

Tweens Read August Day 2: Victoria J. Coe & Fenway and Hattie

Tweens Read August is a 14 day event taking place for the first two weeks of August. I’ll be hosting authors, regardless of debut year, whose books I’m the most excited for. Each day, I’ll announce who the next author is at the end of the post. There’s also a giveaway going on, so be sure to check that out!

It’s the second day of Tweens Read August, and today I’m hosting Victoria J. Coe! Victoria is the author of some amazing novels about an adorable little dog named Fenway and his human best friend, Hattie.

Here’s a little bit about the first book in the series, Fenway & Hattie:

fenway & hattie

“This perky, pet-centered tale takes readers inside the head of Fenway, an energetic and perpetually hopeful Jack Russell terrier with a deep love for food, intense hatred of squirrels, and undying adoration of his “small human,” Hattie. . . A fun, fresh frolic that animal-loving kids are sure to enjoy.” — Publishers Weekly

Release Date: February 9th, 2016

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Fenway is an excitable and endlessly energetic Jack Russell terrier. He lives in the city with Food Lady, Fetch Man, and—of course—his beloved short human and best-friend-in-the-world, Hattie.

But when his family moves to the suburbs, Fenway faces a world of changes. He’s pretty pleased with the huge Dog Park behind his new home, but he’s not so happy about the Evil Squirrels that taunt him from the trees, the super-slippery Wicked Floor in the Eating Room, and the changes that have come over Hattie lately. Rather than playing with Fenway, she seems more interested in her new short human friend, Angel, and learning to play baseball. His friends in the Dog Park next door say Hattie is outgrowing him, but that can’t be right.

And he’s going to prove it!

Get a dog’s-eye view of the world in this heartwarming, enthusiastic “tail” about two best friends.

Interview with Victoria Coe, Author of the Fenway and Hattie Series

What’s your favorite thing about Fenway and Hattie?

First off, thanks for hosting me on the blog, Eli! I’m very excited to be here!

My favorite thing about Fenway and Hattie is that it’s told strictly from Fenway’s point of view. And since he’s a dog, you only get his take on things. It’s up to the reader to figure out what’s really going on!

Why did you choose for Fenway to be a Jack Russell Terrier? 

I first imagined him as a dog whose family was moving and he was afraid of being left behind. Then I began to wonder what kind of dog he was, his personality, what was his family like, etc. And right as I started doing that—poof! He was a Jack Russell.

I didn’t question it at the time, but as I wrote the story and I poured a lot of my own personality into Fenway it seemed to click. I guess I’m a lot like a Jack Russell myself!

Do you think you’ll ever write about other animals? 

It’s funny. I always admired authors who wrote animal books and I thought to myself, “I could never pull that off.” And here I am!

Now I’m excited to continue writing more Fenway and Hattie stories – from Fenway’s point of view, of course. Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang will be out on January 24, 2017.

As far as books featuring other animals, who knows?

I love the cover of Fenway and Hattie! Do you know the terrier on the cover? 

Thanks! I love it, too. And I actually get asked that question a lot.

My publisher worked with Dave Kreutz, an amazing animal photographer. They held a casting call for Jack Russells and narrowed it down to the adorable dog you see on the book jacket. He was a magnificent choice for Fenway!

What’s been the hardest part of debut year? 

Without a doubt, the hardest part is WAITING. It was two full years between “the offer” and the date Fenway and Hattiehit bookstore shelves. Waiting 24 months would be hard for anyone. But for someone as impatient as Fenway—I mean, me!—that’s even harder!

Of course now that I see the book everywhere and I hear reactions from readers, it was totally worth the wait!

About the Author

victoria j. coe

Victoria J. Coe is a voracious reader, writing teacher, and Jack Russell terrier impersonator. She lives with her family on the outskirts of Boston, where she and her dog are always ready to track down evil.

Find Victoria: Website Ξ Instagram Ξ Twitter



Thanks to Victoria for taking part in Tweens Read August! Check out the synopsis and cover of the second Fenway and Hattie book (to be released January 24th, 2017) and the announcement of the third book in the series (to be released Winter 2018) down below. Be sure to add Fenway & Hattie to Goodreads as well. The author being featured tomorrow is Mike Grosso, whose debut I read and loved!

evil bunny gang cover

When evil bunnies invade the Dog Park, Fenway’s hot on their trail. Hattie seems understandably alarmed, though she clearly doesn’t appreciate his efforts. She shoos him out of the garden and fills in holes as fast as he can dig them!

Fenway wonders if his beloved Hattie could be working against him, until she brings home a cage with a bunny inside. He can hardly control his excitement – she captured one of the intruders! But when Fenway realizes Hattie actually likes the bunny, he’s crushed. Is his heart big enough to accept that Hattie can love another pet, too?

In this sequel to Fenway and Hattie, these two best buddies learn that making the right choice can be tough, but being a real friend is the greatest choice of all.

Tweens Read August Day 1: Jennifer A. Nielsen & The Scourge

Tweens Read August is a 14 day event taking place for the first two weeks of August. I’ll be hosting authors, regardless of debut year, whose books I’m the most excited for. Each day, I’ll announce who the next author is at the end of the post. There’s also a giveaway going on, so be sure to check that out!

It’s the first day of Tweens Read August, and I’m honored to announce that Jennifer A. Nielsen will be kicking us off! Jennifer is the author of some of the greatest MG fantasies I’ve ever read, and I can’t wait to introduce you to her latest novel.

Here’s a little bit about Jennifer’s upcoming book, The Scourge, which will release at the end of August:

the scourge by jennifer a. nielsen

Release Date: August 30th, 2016

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As a lethal plague sweeps through the land, Ani Mells is shocked when she is unexpectedly captured by the governor’s wardens and forced to submit to a test for the deadly Scourge. She is even more surprised when the test results come back positive, and she is sent to Attic Island, a former prison turned refuge — and quarantine colony — for the ill. The Scourge’s victims, Ani now among them, can only expect to live out short, painful lives there. However, Ani quickly discovers that she doesn’t know the whole truth about the Scourge or the Colony. She’s been caught in a devious plot, and, with the help of her best friend, Weevil, Ani means to uncover just what is actually going on.

But will she and Weevil survive long enough to do so?

Description taken from Goodreads.


Interview with Jennifer Nielsen, Author of The Scourge

What would you say is the biggest difference between The Scourge, the Mark of the Thief trilogy, and The Ascendance Trilogy? 

To me, each of these books all stand on their own as completely unique stories. Although each takes place in the past, Mark of the Thief is Ancient Roman, the Ascendance Trilogy is early medieval, and The Scourge would probably be an early 1800’s story, though it’s in a fantasy time period. And each story’s challenges and heroes are very different. One hero has to hold his kingdom together, another must collect the artifacts of the gods, and in The Scourge, the battle is for two friends to uncover a secret that could either bring down or save their country.

Why will readers root for Ani and Weevil? 

I love the friendship between Ani and Weevil! In one of the earlier chapters of the book, there is a contest between them to see who is the worst friend, with the “winner” being the one to take the punishment for the other. It starts out as a light scene with a little humor but becomes more serious as the reader realizes how much each of these friends is willing to sacrifice for the other. And once we understand that, we know that these two must find a way for them both to survive.

What do you love most about The Scourge?

It was a fun experience to pour so much of my favorite story elements into a single book: humor, mischievous characters, danger, conspiracy, friendship, and unexpected moments. But one of my favorite scenes is between Ani and Weevil when he gets sort of hung up on the fact that Ani has broken something very small and relatively unimportant of his. He keeps asking her about it and finally she tells him she had to do it to escape her life-threatening situation. And he sort of shrugs, as if saving her life was probably a good reason to have broken his item, but he still wishes she could have saved her life and not broken anything. I love it because it’s a great insight into the kind of person Weevil is.

Is there anything you want readers to know before reading The Scourge?

I think for me, one theme that emerged from this book was how important it is for us to come together as a people. I look at the diversity of people in my own life and how wonderful that is, and yet I think there are a lot of groups invested in dividing us, emphasizing our differences. Maybe they do it for political or economical advantage, or whatever power they think that brings them. But I also think it’s highly destructive. I think that idea must have been on my mind a lot as I wrote this book, because readers will definitely see my idea that we are stronger as a people when we focus on how we are alike, and how important it is not to separate ourselves or look down on others just because of any differences we have.

What’s the hardest part of the writing and publishing process?

Every author’s experience is different, and for me, every book is different. Right now, my biggest challenge is time – that I am limited by the clock. This means there are stories I am desperate to write that have to be delayed several years, or may never be written. It’s hard to have characters knocking at my imagination on a near constant basis and have to put them off. In a perfect world, I would be writing at least six different stories right now.

Out of the books you’ve written, which was your favorite to write and why?

Just as the publishing process is different for each author, each book I’ve written has become a favorite of mine, only for entirely different reasons. Each book represents a different part of who I am, and went on a journey with me from concept to publication. So rather than to say that I have any favorite book, it’s more accurate to say that each book is just a different part of me.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors trying to write fantasy?

For aspiring fantasy authors, I would suggest studying up on world building. This is such an important facet of creating great fantasy, and because anything is possible in a fantasy world, an author is only ever limited by their imagination. A lot of world building comes from understanding how any culture is built. So study history, and how climate affects a population, and how maps come to have their boundary lines, and what resources are needed for a country to thrive, and how that country handles things if they lack a needed resource. Study the culture of war, the limits of magic, and the mythology of fantasy creatures. Every bit of knowledge you acquire in world building will fuel even greater stories from the fantasy writer.

About the Author

jennifer a. nielsen author photo

New York Times Bestselling author, Jennifer Nielsen, was born and raised in northern Utah, where she still lives today with her husband, three children, and a dog that won’t play fetch. She is the author of The Ascendance trilogy, beginning with THE FALSE PRINCE; the MARK OF THE THIEF series; A NIGHT DIVIDED; and the forthcoming THE SCOURGE. She loves chocolate, old books, and lazy days in the mountains.


Thanks to Jennifer for doing this great interview and for being a part of Tweens Read August! Be sure to add The Scourge to Goodreads and pick it up when it hits shelves on August 30th, 2016. The author being featured tomorrow is the amazing Victoria J. Coe!

Interview with Rebecca Behrens, Author of When Audrey Met Alice

first daughters

First daughter Audrey Rhodes can’t wait for the party she has planned for Friday night. The decorations are all set and the pizza is on its way. But the Secret Service must be out to ruin her life, because they cancel at the last minute-citing security breach and squashing Audrey’s chances for making any new friends. What good is being “safe and secure” if you can’t have any fun?

Audrey is ready to give up and become a White House hermit, until she discovers Alice Roosevelt’s hidden diary. The former first daughter gives Audrey a ton of ideas for having fun…and more problems than she can handle. (description taken from Goodreads).

When I first heard about WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE, it immediately became one of my most anticipated middle-grade picks of 2014 and eventually ended up as my third Waiting on Wednesday. Today, I’ve got Rebecca Behrens here to talk about her writing and WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE with me!

What kind of research did you have to do for WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE? 
I did tons of research for WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE: on past and present life in the White House and the experiences of modern-day First Kids, and on Alice Roosevelt’s real life. I did much of my research the old-fashioned way: reading library books and online resources. But I also went on a White House tour, which was both extremely helpful and extremely fun.
How did you shape the voices of Audrey and Alice? What was the hardest part about writing both of them?
I wanted Audrey to be a character that middle-grade readers could really connect with, so I tried to make her voice realistic and engaging. Her voice came very naturally to me, although I did write the first draft of the book in third person–so I guess it came easily to me on the second try.
I had plenty of quotes from the real Alice Roosevelt to help me get an idea of what her voice might have been life. But the Alice in my book is definitely a fictional creation. It was a delicate balance to make her diary entries plausible for her time period and still accessible and fun for young readers today.
Did your plot or character surprise you in any way? 
Alice Roosevelt was full of surprises–both the real person, and my character. She was a very complicated, and fascinating, person. I kind of expected her to be an extremely confident person, given her antics and her upbringing. But the more research I did, the more I found that her experience of being a teenager was the same as everyone else’s: full of insecurity, angst, heartbreak, and humor. It was challenging, but also really fun, to try to take the details of her real life and turn them into a character.
What was your favorite scene to write? 
I loved writing the scene when Audrey takes the golf cart for an ill-fated spin. It was fun to write the action in it–and I think it’s interesting to compare how Alice, who was a First Daughter in a much more restrictive time period, had so much more ease with her driving shenanigans.
Will we see Audrey again in future books? 
At this point, I think Audrey’s story is at a nice stopping point. I do have an idea for a companion novel about both characters, but so far no plans to write it. Never say never, though!
Has any of your past books/jobs/experiences helped you to write WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE or other works-in-progress?
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE involved a lot of writing what I didn’t know, at least firsthand. I do have another work-in-progress that draws on a lot of the metalwork art and jewelry-making I did as a teenager, though.
Are you a planner or a pantster?
I’m more of a planner. I have to know where a story is going before I can start it, and I like writing with a fairly detailed outline–it gives me courage to face the blank page! But my plans always change while I’m writing, and I think it’s important to stay open to the new ideas. In my opinion, outlines work best when they are revised along the way.
What’s your least favorite part of the writing/publishing process? 
The waiting! At every stage of the writing process, you have to be really patient: from drafting to revising to submission and especially during the book production phase. My next book will be coming out in Spring 2016, which feels so far away!
Do you have any advice to aspiring authors? 
Read widely! We all have our favorite categories and genres, which is great, but it can be really helpful to read outside of one’s comfort zone. Every now and then, I’ll pick up nonfiction on a random topic, or an adult horror novel or a cozy mystery because those books are new to me, and I can learn a lot from reading something unfamiliar. Also, it’s a good way to find even more books to love.
Thanks so much to Rebecca for doing this interview! It was a lot of fun to interview her. I loved WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE, so be sure to look for it in your local bookstores or on the websites below! Also connect with Rebecca and tell her what you think of the book.


Ξ Barnes & Noble Ξ Books-A-Million Ξ Indiebound Ξ Amazon Ξ

Connect with Rebecca: 

Ξ Facebook Ξ Twitter Ξ Goodreads Ξ Website Ξ Blog Ξ

Interview and Giveaway with Dianne Salerni, Author of The Eighth Day

A little while ago, I got the chance to interview Dianne Salerni, author of THE EIGHTH DAY. You may know her from her previous novels, WE HEAR THE DEAD and THE CAGED GRAVES–but right now, we’re gearing up to get ready for her next awesome release, which is coming out tomorrow! I’m really looking forward to THE EIGHTH DAY, it’s one of my most anticipated MG picks of 2014–so I was super excited to interview her. Dianne is also hosting a giveaway for a hardback copy of THE EIGHTH DAY! Enter to win at the bottom…

Eighth Day HC

In this riveting fantasy adventure, thirteen-year-old Jax Aubrey discovers a secret eighth day with roots tracing back to Arthurian legend. Fans of Percy Jackson will devour this first book in a new series that combines exciting magic and pulse-pounding suspense.
When Jax wakes up to a world without any people in it, he assumes it’s the zombie apocalypse. But when he runs into his eighteen-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare, he learns that he’s really in the eighth day—an extra day sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday. Some people—like Jax and Riley—are Transitioners, able to live in all eight days, while others, including Evangeline, the elusive teenage girl who’s been hiding in the house next door, exist only on this special day.
And there’s a reason Evangeline’s hiding. She is a descendant of the powerful wizard Merlin, and there is a group of people who wish to use her in order to destroy the normal seven-day world and all who live in it. Torn between protecting his new friend and saving the entire human race from complete destruction, Jax is faced with an impossible choice. Even with an eighth day, time is running out. (description taken from Goodreads)

Connect with Dianne: 

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1) If you had to describe your book as a mash of two or three other books, what would it be? 
Eli, first of all, thanks for having me here at your blog to talk about my book!

Readers familiar with the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander might recognize some of the same names from Celtic mythology in The Eighth Day, although I’ve put my own spin on the characters and the myths. But the story takes place in the modern U.S., just like the Percy Jackson series. And since the eighth day – the secret day – is only experienced by a few people, the emptiness of the world will probably remind readers of apocalyptic books, except the people are all back on the next day!

2) What’s your favorite part about writing middle-grade fiction? 

I think it’s the voice. Even though I write from a third person POV, the voice of my main character, Jax, came to me very strongly. I never felt as if I had to work for it, even when writing the first draft. Jax just spoke up for himself. He has a seventh grade way of looking at things and a snappy comeback for everyone. He’s honest in a way that YA characters often aren’t. I think YA characters are always worried about their image, but Jax has no problem admitting when he screws up. That’s the fun of middle-grade fiction. They characters are too young to be vain and driven by angst.

3) What inspired THE EIGHTH DAY?

It started as a family joke. Whenever my daughters bugged my husband about “when” we were going to do something, he would reply, “Grunsday. We’ll do it on Grunsday.” One day, I said to the family, “What if there really is a Grunsday in the middle of the week, but only a few people know about it?”

Now Grunsday is an institution in our house. We’re convinced there really is a secret day and somebody (like Evangeline in my book) living in our house during that day. How else can you explain the pantry closet door always being left open, the missing food in the refrigerator, and the mysterious pair of sneakers we found in the laundry room that nobody will claim?

4) I think THE EIGHTH DAY could be my favorite middle grade cover of 2014 that I’ve seen so far. What did you think when you first saw it? 

I absolutely loved it – and so did my fifth grade class. I had already read an early draft of the book to my class when HarperCollins shared the cover with me, so I immediately shared it with my students. They literally jumped up and down.

HarperCollins asked for my input before designing it, and I gave a couple different suggestions. The author doesn’t really get a final say – the publisher makes the call. But out of all the things I mentioned, this was my favorite: Jax and his bike and the empty town. The big letter I he’s running into – well, that’s not the way it happens in the story, but it does convey a fantasy element, so you don’t mistake the premise as apocalyptic.

5) Were there any new experiences that you went through while writing this book? 

Writing a fantasy was a new experience in itself. It required a lot of world-building that had to be carefully planned. Any “rules” I lay down in the first book will have to be followed in all the others. It took several drafts to get it right.

The other new experience is – I climbed a pyramid! The climax of the book takes place in Mexico, atop the Pyramid of the Sun. (Obviously the best place in North America to conduct an evil ritual to end the world, right?) In order to get the scene right, my husband and I traveled to Teotihuacan, Mexico to visit the ruins and climb the pyramid. It’s a place we always wanted to visit, and my book research provided us with a reason to go.

Arrow on Pyramid

6) Were there any lessons or morals you were trying to convey through THE EIGHTH DAY? 

I didn’t have any lessons or morals in mind when I started the book, and – as is usual for me – I didn’t discover the themes of the story until I finished writing it. I think Jax learns a lot about loyalty and commitment. He starts out restless, unhappy — the kind of kid who never finishes anything he starts. He makes mistakes and lies to cover them, which ends up putting his friends and even the world in danger. That’s when he finally takes action to fix what he’s done. He commits himself to a cause for the first time and puts his life on the line.

He also starts to develop a brotherly relationship with someone he thought he hated in the beginning of the book. This is a relationship that continues to grow in the second book, when Jax’s loyalty is tested and he has to decide what “family” really means to him.

7) If you could have Jax or any of your other characters meet any character or person from any time or place, who would it be? 

Oh, definitely King Arthur! The connection will be obvious once people read the story. To say more than that would be giving away spoilers!

8) Is there any advice you have for aspiring middle-grade authors out there? 

A lot of emphasis is placed on action and pacing in middle grade novels, but I think authors need to pay attention to characters, too. The characters are the reason readers become invested in the story, not the action. My advice is to write characters who lift off the page and become your friends (and possibly your enemies). Not just the main characters, either. Even the minor characters should be vivid and well-rounded. And nothing is better than a character who surprises you.

Enter to win a hardback copy of THE EIGHTH DAY!

DIANNE K. SALERNI is a fifth grade teacher by day and a writer by night. She's the author of YA historical novels, We Hear the Dead (Sourcebooks) and The Caged Graves (Clarion/HMH), and a forthcoming MG fantasy series, The Eighth Day (HarperCollins 2014).  The Caged Graves is a Junior Library Guild Selection, and We Hear the Dead was the inspiration for a 10 minute short film, The Spirit Game, which premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. In her spare time, Dianne is prone to hanging around creepy cemeteries and climbing 2000 year-old pyramids in the name of book research.

DIANNE K. SALERNI is a fifth grade teacher by day and a writer by night. She’s the author of YA historical novels, We Hear the Dead (Sourcebooks) and The Caged Graves (Clarion/HMH), and a forthcoming MG fantasy series, The Eighth Day (HarperCollins 2014).
The Caged Graves is a Junior Library Guild Selection, and We Hear the Dead was the inspiration for a 10 minute short film, The Spirit Game, which premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
In her spare time, Dianne is prone to hanging around creepy cemeteries and climbing 2000 year-old pyramids in the name of book research.

Interview and Giveaway with Michele Weber Hurwitz, Author of The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days

I’m thrilled to be hosting Michele Weber Hurwitz here on TRT with her second novel THE SUMMER I SAVED THE WORLD IN 65 DAYS. I can’t wait to start both of her novels, and the covers are beautiful! Check out my interview with her, the trailer for 65 DAYS and enter to win a signed copy of THE SUMMER I SAVED THE WORLD IN 65 DAYS below!

It's summertime, and thirteen-year-old Nina Ross is feeling kind of lost. Her beloved grandma died last year; her parents work all the time; her brother's busy; and her best friend is into clothes, makeup, and boys. While Nina doesn't know what "her thing" is yet, it's definitely not shopping and makeup. And it's not boys, either. Though . . . has Eli, the boy next door, always been so cute?    This summer, Nina decides to change things. She hatches a plan. There are sixty-five days of summer. Every day, she'll anonymously do one small but remarkable good thing for someone in her neighborhood, and find out: does doing good actually make a difference? Along the way, she discovers that her neighborhood, and her family, are full of surprises and secrets.    In this bighearted, sweetly romantic novel, things may not turn out exactly as Nina expects. They might be better.

It’s summertime, and thirteen-year-old Nina Ross is feeling kind of lost. Her beloved grandma died last year; her parents work all the time; her brother’s busy; and her best friend is into clothes, makeup, and boys. While Nina doesn’t know what “her thing” is yet, it’s definitely not shopping and makeup. And it’s not boys, either. Though . . . has Eli, the boy next door, always been so cute?
This summer, Nina decides to change things. She hatches a plan. There are sixty-five days of summer. Every day, she’ll anonymously do one small but remarkable good thing for someone in her neighborhood, and find out: does doing good actually make a difference? Along the way, she discovers that her neighborhood, and her family, are full of surprises and secrets.
In this bighearted, sweetly romantic novel, things may not turn out exactly as Nina expects. They might be better. (description taken from Goodreads)

1) Your story, The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days, is about a girl named Nina who is

trying to find “her thing” after some time of feeling lost without her beloved grandmother and

her family spending less and less time together. What inspired this story?

I had several thoughts that inspired the story. First, we hear so much about paying it forward and random acts of kindness, but sometimes the amount of problems in our world overwhelms me, and I wondered — does doing good really do any good? Is it making a difference? Second, I read a humorous little item in my local paper’s police blotter about a woman who called the police when a girl she didn’t recognize was delivering homemade cookies around the neighborhood. There could have been something else besides chocolate chips in those cookies, I guess! Anyway, I thought, wow, people may not always perceive random acts of goodness as others intend them. Third, I worried about how technology was altering family life and neighborhoods, and how we live in this era of a sort of “disconnected connection.” Lastly, I read about a class at the University of Iowa where the professor had students write down each day three positive events or experiences — no matter how big or small — and how this changed their perspectives. I started doing that too. We tend to focus on the negative, or what goes wrong, instead of recognizing small, good things that go right every day.

2) Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

I actually think there are little bits of myself in many of the characters in The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days, but I guess I would say that Nina, the main character, is sort of my fictional kindred spirit. She’s quiet, perceptive, observant. Many of the same qualities I possess. She notices details about people and knows that small gestures speak volumes. I love that she’s unsure of herself and trying to figure things out as she heads to high school. I was definitely like that as a teen. Not in the cool crowd, for sure :) .

3) Who are the authors that you look up to the most?

There are many talented authors whose books I love, including John Green (of course, who doesn’t?), Rainbow Rowell, Sarah Weeks, Linda Urban, Rebecca Stead, Jennifer Holm, Sara Zarr, and Gabrielle Zevin. I read mostly contemporary, realistic fiction because that’s what I write. I admit I’m not a big fantasy/dystopian fiction reader so that whole trend just sort of passed me by.

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins and I must have read it a dozen times. I loved the story, but I also fantasized about the idea of escaping my suburban house and living on my own island, away from my two annoying younger brothers.

4) I love the covers for both of your books. :) Very appealing to middle grade girl audiences. What did you think when you first saw them?

I loved them both. The first cover for Calli Be Gold was actually a drawing, not a photo, and I was happy when the publisher changed it. When I visit schools, a lot of kids think the girl on the Calli Be Gold cover is my daughter (she’s not). I love Nina’s expression on the cover of TSISTW. She looks hopeful but like she has a wonderful secret, just like I’d expect Nina to look.

5) Did you always want to be a writer?

Pretty much. As a child, I was way more comfortable communicating my thoughts in the written word rather than speaking. When I babysat for my two younger brothers, I would write my parents long notes describing their bad behavior, and in a sense, I consider these my first stories. In fifth grade, I wrote my first “book.” It won a school contest. The prize was reading it to the kindergarten classes and that was the best reward — seeing their expressions as I read the story. The author in me was born at that moment!

6) Who did you enjoy writing most in The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days?

Mrs. Millman, the suspicious neighbor who is convinced that the mysterious good deeds are anything but good, was so fun to write. She was very real to me, because on the block where I grew up, there was an uptight woman that every kid was scared of. You never forget those experiences! I also adored writing Thomas, the five-year old boy who runs around the cul-de-sac in a cape and sometimes, his underwear. He has this combination of irresistible little boy innocence and toughness that makes me laugh and tear up at the same time.

7) Would you ever consider going into the YA or NA genres?

I’m working on another middle grade, narrated in two or possibly three boys’ voices, which has been a fun change of pace for me after Calli’s and Nina’s stories. And yes, I’m also exploring an idea for a younger YA novel, narrated by two 14-year old girls whose chance meeting during one winter break changes both of their lives.

8) Any hints for what’s next for Calli and Nina? Do you plan to bring them back in any of your future stories?

I’d love to write more about Calli and/or Nina in the future. We’ll see!

Enter to win a signed copy of THE SUMMER I SAVED THE WORLD IN 65 DAYS! — US only.

Connect with Michelle: 

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Michele is the author of “The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days” (ages 10 and up), coming April 8, 2014 from Wendy Lamb Books/Random House. Her first middle grade novel, “Calli Be Gold,” (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House 2011) is nominated for a 2014 Bluestem Award and was named a Best Book by the Bank Street College of Education (starred for outstanding merit). She lives near Chicago with her husband and three children. Besides writing, her favorite things in the world are walking and eating chocolate (not at the same time). Visit her at

Interview with Tara Dairman, Author of All Four Stars

Two days ago, I reviewed Tara Dairman’s beautifully written, fun, quick debut All Four Stars. If you haven’t added this book to your TBR list yet, get it on there! Trust me, this book is definitely worth reading. So, what inspired this foodish (this that a word? Foodish? It should be.) novel? Find out below!


Gladys Gatsby has dreamed of becoming a restaurant critic for New York’s biggest newspaper–she just didn’t expect to be assigned her first review at age 11. Now, if she wants to meet her deadline and hang on to her dream job, she’ll have to defy her fast-food-loving parents, cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy, and battle Manhattan’s meanest maitre d’. Descriptions taken from Goodreads.

Connect with Tara: 

Ξ Website Ξ Blog Ξ Twitter Ξ Goodreads Ξ Facebook Ξ

1) What inspired you to write ALL FOUR STARS? Can you describe it in four words?

Four words: Funny, foodie, fast-paced, and adventurous!

As for inspiration, I used to work as a magazine editor in New York,
and had several freelance writers report to me. I never met most of
them in person, or even spoke to them on the phone–all of our
interactions were via e-mail. So I started to think that, if a kid had
really great writing skills, she might be able to hoodwink me into
hiring her. And if I could be fooled, then why not the biggest
newspaper in New York City? That’s how the premise of ALL FOUR STARS
was born.

2) The growth of Gladys in this story as she makes new friends and
goes through new experiences felt very natural and real. Was it hard
to write any of the characters? Who was the easiest?

Thank you–I’m so glad that you felt that way! I would say that Gladys
and her friends were the easiest to write; I felt like I could throw
Gladys, Parm, Sandy, or Charissa into almost any situation and just
let their personalities guide their actions.

Gladys’s parents were the toughest for me; it took me several drafts
to get them right. I joke now that I know why so many middle-grade
protagonists are orphans or only have one parent, because writing two
believable adult guardians–who take good care of their kid but also
allow her enough freedom to have her own adventures–is almost
impossible. :)

3) Do you share Gladys’s love of good food?

I do! My tastes are a little less highbrow than Gladys’s are, but I
love to cook and try new restaurants and cuisines. Also, my husband
and I backpacked around the world for two years, which gave us a
chance to eat a lot of delicious foreign street food. Some of the
dishes we loved–like apam balik (Malaysian peanut pancake) and gajar
ka halwa (Indian carrot pudding)–ultimately found their way into ALL

4) What was your favorite part of writing ALL FOUR STARS?

I don’t want to give too much away, but my favorite sequence to write
was probably the one that takes place during a Broadway show. I wrote
plays for years, so it was a lot of fun for me describe (and poke a
little fun at) that world.

5) If you could switch places with any author in the world, who would
it be and why?

Wow–that’s a tough question. Assuming that I’m limited to living
writers…well, I greatly admire J.K. Rowling, not only for her
writing, but for how she has tried to use her fame and fortune to do
good in this world.

6) Is there any special goal you hope to accomplish as a writer?

I’ve already achieved so many of my goals in the past few years. I
finished writing a novel, I signed with an agent, and my book is being
published. I’m still flying high about all of these things!

7) Any new projects you’re working on that you could tell us a little bit about?
I recently wrapped up a sequel to ALL FOUR STARS, which should come out in summer 2015! I don’t want to say too much, but I can tell you that Gladys’s new adventures will include a summer camp, a new nemesis, and a seemingly-impossible reviewing assignment.

Thanks so much for having me, Eli!

So looking forward to the sequel to ALL FOUR STARS! Thanks so much to Tara Dairman for doing this interview!


Tara Dairman is the author of the middle-grade novel ALL FOUR STARS, which will be published by Putnam/Penguin in 2014. She is also a playwright and a recovering round-the-world honeymooner (2 years, 74 countries!).
Tara holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.