Thursday, December 21, 2017

YA Guy... Visits Schools!

As YA Guy has said before, probably the coolest thing about writing for young people is that I get to visit schools (and libraries). And probably the coolest thing about those visits is answering questions from students, who always challenge me and give me a new perspective on my own writing.

Recently, I visited Shaler Area Middle School (close to the city of Pittsburgh) and talked about FREEFALL, science fiction, and social justice to a group of young readers who'd just finished a unit on segregation. Here are some of the great questions they asked me, with my reconstruction of how I answered them:

Charlotte: Do you believe the society represented in FREEFALL is likely to occur in the future?

YA Guy: Actually, I think it's happening right now. Not only nationally but internationally, we're a people divided by race and class, and in some respects those divisions have worsened despite legislation that was meant to shrink them. That's one of the things with science fiction: though it's typically set in the future, it comments on events that are happening right now, sometimes tweaking those events just the tiniest bit for the purposes of fiction.

Jamin: When you're writing a story, how do you know if your idea is good or not?

YAG: The short answer is that you don't. Or at least, if you mean "good" as in "lots of people will want to read it," it's hard to gauge that while you're writing. So my best advice to writers is to write what YOU think is good--the story that you want to tell (or that you'd want to read). You can't really control whether others will think it's good, so you probably shouldn't waste time worrying about that.

Taylor: Have you ever based a character off your own personality?

YAG: In the largest sense, every character I create is based (at least in part) off of me, because I'm the person whose thoughts and feelings I know best. But sometimes there's an even closer connection. For example, Cam Newell, my narrator in FREEFALL, is a guy from a relatively privileged upbringing whose viewpoint is changed when he comes into contact with people from very different backgrounds. His process of development is quite similar to what I experienced when I went to college, where for the first time my eyes were opened to people, perspectives, and issues that I'd never been exposed to before.

Tiffany: Where did the title FREEFALL come from?

YAG: Sometimes, I don't have a title for a book until I'm about halfway through, when I've finally figured out what the book is about. Other times, a word or phrase just pops into my head, and I decide it would make a good title--but then I have to figure out how it's relevant to the story I'm telling. That was the case with FREEFALL. I liked the word, partly because I knew I was writing an outer space adventure, and I was playing with the ideas of gravity and being grounded (or being thrown out of one's accustomed ground). But I also started to think about how being in love is kind of like being in freefall; it's scary and exhilarating and unpredictable all at once. So since the book has romance elements too, FREEFALL seemed like a good title. Eventually, to make it even more relevant to the story, I named one of the starships the Freefall.

Shahaan: Do you write books to inform or to entertain?

YAG: Many authors will say that the only purpose of writing is entertainment, and I do agree that entertainment is primary. But with a book, we're not talking about random light shows or clown acts, which might be purely entertaining; we're talking about language, which means that there's also going to be information conveyed from author to reader. I don't believe in hitting the reader over the head with a "message," but at the same time, I see nothing wrong with the author having information s/he wants to convey to the reader, so long as s/he leaves it up to the reader to receive and process that information.

Chris: When you use first-person point of view, what's the best way to describe your narrator?

YAG: Well, you probably want to avoid the overused device of having your narrator look in a mirror (or other reflective surface) and describe him/herself. You might ask whether you really need a physical description of the narrator, or you might drop little nuggets of physical description here and there. But if you want a single, sustained description, you should try to find an original way of doing it, such as I tried to do in FREEFALL, where Cam reads his own physical data on the screen of the life pod where he's been in suspended animation for 1000 years.

Logan: Where do you get the names for your characters?

YAG: Lots of places. I'll meet someone with a name I like, or I'll hear something on the news, or I'll create a name from scratch. In the manuscript I'm currently working on, everyone has names from Greek myths, so it was fun researching those names. For FREEFALL, I named the three male leads after my son's favorite NFL players.

Sammy: What was your inspiration for the Upperworld?

YAG: I honestly looked around at the real world and thought about wealth disparity, segregation, and oppression in the here and now, and then said to myself, "What if current trends get worse and worse in the next hundred years?" I'm no prophet, but there are very troubling signs that the world's wealth is becoming more and more concentrated in a smaller and smaller percentage of the global population, and if that keeps happening, we might literally have an Upperworld and a Lowerworld in the next century: an elite 1% with all the wealth and a remaining 99% with none.

Candace: How do you stretch a short story into a novel?

YAG: First, I'd point out that if you're writing short stories right now, there's no need to stretch them into anything other than what they are. Short stories are the perfect length for young writers: you can complete them in a week or a month, and thus feel a great sense of accomplishment, whereas for most teens (including myself forty years ago), tackling a novel is an exercise in frustration--it's just too much, and the likelihood that you won't finish it tends to produce feelings of failure. That being said, I've found that the key difference between a novel and a short story is that in a short story, the narrator or main character has ONE challenge s/he has to face and resolve, whereas in a novel, there will be multiple such challenges, each one yielding to a greater one. But I do want to repeat that for young writers, I think short stories are the best way to go: they give you a chance to hone your skills, and possibly even to gain some publishing credits.

Alexandra: Do you plan your novels out first, or figure things out as you go along?

YAG: I'm what people call a "pantser"--that is, I don't plan much, and so I kind of fly along by the seat of my pants. I'll have a basic idea for a novel--such as in FREEFALL, where the idea was to write an adventure/romance having to do with outer space colonization--but I'll let the rest unfold as I write. The reason I like to do it this way is that I feel as if I make my best discoveries as a writer "in the moment," where one idea will lead to another that I hadn't foreseen. But other writers like to plan out more than I do, and I think it's important for each writer to find the method that works best for her or him.

Maddox: How did the plot of FREEFALL develop?

YAG: This is a perfect example of the process I just described, where one idea leads to a wholly unexpected one. I'd created my main characters, Cam and Sofie, but I felt that something was missing--they were too similar to each other, and thus there wasn't enough tension and conflict in their relationship. But then the idea of Upperworld and Lowerworld popped into my head, which led me to the obvious conclusion that one of my teens would be an Upperworlder and the other a Lowerworlder. Once that idea was in place, the story took off: if they were from different parts of the planet, they'd have to meet somehow, and there would be some kind of conflict when they did, and each of them would have to learn from the other, and so on and so on. I didn't plan any of that when I started writing, but all of it unfolded in a series of discoveries during the writing process.

Emma: What's your favorite part of FREEFALL?

YAG: I think my favorite part is a scene where Cam and one of Sofie's Lowerworld friends are working together to rescue her from the book's villain, and they have a conversation where Cam realizes that, though they have the same objective, they have drastically different motivations. That was an important scene for the story, not only because it leads Cam to question his own motivations, but because it raises the question of whether it's possible to understand the life experience of someone whose circumstances are very different from one's own. I personally think it's possible to respect someone's position even if one doesn't fully understand it, and I hope that's what Cam learns too.

Dante: Have you had any hardships while writing?

YAG: Many. For example, with FREEFALL, my first draft was so horrible I almost gave up on it, but fortunately, I had the experience to know that if I set it aside for a while, I'd come back to it with fresh eyes and be able to make an objective assessment of its strengths and weaknesses. Writing is hard work--though nowhere near as hard as many of the jobs that people perform--and you have to be strongly motivated to persevere in it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

YA Guy Lists... His 2017 Top Ten!

YA Guy didn't read as many books as usual in 2017. In my defense, among the books I did read, several were whoppers, including The Hunchback of Notre Dame (500+ pages), The Sword of Shannara (700+ pages), Dune (900+ pages), and The Count of Monte Cristo (1200+ pages). So when compiling my yearly Top 10--which, true to my name, I try to confine to YA and MG--I didn't have quite as many books to choose from as I typically do.

But I still read some great stuff. Here are the best of the bunch, listed in no particular order. I focused this year's list exclusively on science fiction and fantasy, so some great realist fiction (for instance, Sabrina Fedel's debut LEAVING KENT STATE) didn't make the cut. Most of these are 2017 releases, though a few are from late 2016.

Fonda Lee, EXO. A refreshing take on the alien-invasion narrative, Lee's second novel is driven by ethical and emotional issues rather than by implausible victories over advanced civilizations (in the manner of the Independence Day movies). To give you an idea of how highly I value Lee's work, I nominated EXO for a Nebula Award, and I believe it deserves to win. Oh, and there's a sequel, CROSS FIRE, coming in 2018!

Philip Reeve, RAILHEAD. Miraculous world-building in a galaxy where light-speed trains (yes, trains) cruise from planet to planet and godlike intelligences rule the masses. The character development is a bit lacking, but the worlds (and the trains) are stunning. I haven't yet read the sequel, BLACK LIGHT EXPRESS, but I hope to get to it soon.

Lisa Maxwell, THE LAST MAGICIAN. This New York Times bestseller features time-traveling thieves, a gritty depiction of turn-of-the-century New York, and enough magical razzle-dazzle to keep the pages flipping. There's a sequel coming out (I believe) next year, so stay tuned!

Michael Northrop, POLARIS. The sole Middle Grade entry on this year's list, Northrop's novel is historical science fiction about a Darwinesque voyage to the Amazon that returns bearing a horrific passenger. Particularly notable for its realistic sailing details, which perfectly ground the flights of science fantasy.

Cindy Pon, WANT. This novel, which takes place in a future Taipei that's even more radically divided by wealth than in the present, has a wonderfully realized setting, appealing characters, and a thoughtful message for our own time. The book has made numerous Top 10 lists, and deservedly so.

Paolo Bacigalupi, TOOL OF WAR. The third and, I assume, final installment in the author's Ship Breaker series, this book isn't quite as strong as the first two. But Bacigalupi is a master at rendering the peoples and places of a climate-ravaged future Earth, and his semihuman protagonist, Tool, is one of the great science fiction inventions of all time.

Jennifer Brody, THE 13TH CONTINUUM. When Earth's surface is rendered uninhabitable for a thousand years, a handful of survivors escape into deep space and the deep ocean. Now they're returning--if, that is, the totalitarian societies that have developed during that millennium will allow them. A fast-moving and fascinating dystopian tale, first in a series.

Michael Miller and AdriAnne Strickland, SHADOW RUN. There were parts of this deep-space adventure--the parts set on-planet--that I found less than gripping. But the scenes in outer space, where a small vessel "fishes" for the volatile substance known as Shadow, were full-on awesome. If memory serves, a sequel is due for this one, too.

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, GEMINA. Book 2 of the wildly imaginative Illuminae Files trilogy, this tale couldn't quite match the intensity and physical creativity of the first book, but it came darn close. The final book in the trilogy, OBSIDIO, will be out in 2018.

Joshua David Bellin, FREEFALL. Oh, come on, I can put my own book on my list, can't I? But seriously, I'm a fan of this deep-space colonization novel that features a class-divided Earth, a revolutionary teen prophet from the global underclass, and frightening outer space monsters--both human and otherwise.







Happy reading, everyone! See you in 2018!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

YA Guy is... in the Spirit!

YA Guy loves the holiday season (or the Christmas season, if you prefer). Some of my best memories are of going to my aunt and uncle's house in Cleveland for Hanukkah, then continuing on to my grandparents' house in St. Joseph, Michigan for Christmas. In fact, I think my very favorite childhood memory is of lying in bed on Christmas Eve, listening to my grandparents' cuckoo clock chime the hours, knowing I wasn't allowed to get up until 6:00 (but getting so excited each time the chimes sounded I forgot to count). It's probably not my mom's favorite memory, since it meant I'd wake her every hour from about 1:00 on to ask if it was time, but my own kids paid me back when they were little, so we're all even.

Anyway, the point of this trip down memory lane is to let you know about some of the great things I'm doing this December to celebrate the holidays in a literary way. Here we go!

FIRST NIGHT PITTSBURGH



I've been invited to participate in a panel on "literary firsts" for First Night 2018, Pittsburgh's New Year's Eve celebration. Should be lots of fun, plus I have some goodies to give away (as, I'm sure, do my fellow panelists). If you're in or near Pittsburgh, you should check it out (the link to reserve seats is right here).

THE PASSING OF BOSS KRENKEL



Years ago, I had the crazy thought, "How did Santa get all that Elf labor?" As someone who's studied Native American history and religion, the answer was obvious: he colonized the indigenous people of the North Pole. That gave birth to my dystopian Christmas novel, THE PASSING OF BOSS KRENKEL, published under my sometime pen name of J. D. Belyi. Warning: the book's got some pretty horrific elements. But I personally think it's a really imaginative tale, one that spans centuries and cultures and mythologies, as well as one that features a unique narrator, the Aleph (Elf) lore-keeper who alone among his people knows the true history of the northland. If this sounds like your kind of thing, it's available for a mere $2.99 on Kindle.

THE YA GAL'S FACEBOOK CHRISTMAS PARTY



'Tis the season for parties, and my female counterpart, The YA Gal, has put together a Facebook Christmas party featuring a host of YA authors (with a special appearance by the Elf on the Shelf). It runs on December 17 and is open to all. So come join us for prizes, chats, and general merriment--all without having to leave your couch, clean the dishes, or pry your uncle away from the punch bowl.

Have a happy!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

YA Guy Rants about... Acknowledgments!

YA Guy's pretty old-fashioned. There are some things I think you should keep to yourself: sex, family secrets, religion. I just don't think these are anyone else's business.

But obviously, not everyone agrees. Popular memoirs are full of dirt about parental abuse. Daytime talk shows are all about who fathered which baby. Elected officials vie publicly for the title of Holier Than Thou.

As an author, there's one form of such public displays I find particularly off-putting.

I've noticed a trend in acknowledgments pages--especially YA acknowledgments pages, but maybe that's because I mostly read YA these days--toward thanking the Christian God first (and/or last) for various things, usually not only for the book but for the writer's existence. Here's a recent example:

"First and foremost, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for leading me through the darkest parts of the wood and bringing me out safely on the other side. You are my peace, my comfort, my strength. Apart from You, I can do nothing."

I've gotta tell you, this kind of stuff irks me. Leave aside my built-in distaste for airing one's religious beliefs to the world. There's a point at which such self-abasing humility starts to sound like boastfulness, as in, "I'm so special--God chose ME!" It rather reminds me of the folks who show up at my front door from time to time, shoving their literature in my face and benevolently telling me that they're here to spread the good word. I'm not polite to these people. I tell them to get the h*** off my porch.

Now, I know the two situations aren't really comparable. The door-to-door evangelists are trying to convert me. The authors of acknowledgments such as the above are (probably) doing no more than expressing their deeply felt convictions on the page, which is something authors do on every page. Still, I find it in poor taste.

If you don't, that's fine. As the headline says, I'm just ranting, not trying to change anyone's mind. Maybe, in so doing, I'm guilty of the same thing I'm objecting to: broadcasting my philosophical (if not religious) beliefs. That's certainly open to discussion.

But from now on, I think I'm going to read the acknowledgments first. A casual thanks to the author's deity probably won't turn me off. If I find a full-out confessional, testimonial, or ecstatic vision, though, I'll likely set the book aside for something more to my taste.

Hey, we all have our sacred cows.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

YA Guy Interviews... Lisa Maxwell, author of THE LAST MAGICIAN! (Plus a giveaway!)


YA Guy's had the good fortune to share a stage with several bestselling YA authors: James Dashner, Kristin Cashore, and others. (Well, okay, maybe I didn't quite share the stage with them; they were the headliners and I was just one of many fellow panelists.) But I've never had the chance to hang out with a bestseller who also happens to be a friend.

Until now, that is. Because the ultra-fabulous Lisa Maxwell, bestselling author of THE LAST MAGICIAN and other magical, marvelous YA tales, is my buddy from way back when we debuted in Fall 2014. And recently, I had a chance to chat with her about her book.

But why stop with a chat? I'm also raffling off a signed copy of THE LAST MAGICIAN, which is simply one of the best YA historical fantasies out there. Don't believe me? Here's my review.

So, let's hear from Lisa first, and then you can enter the giveaway via the Rafflecopter thingie below.


YA Guy: Hi, Lisa, and welcome to the blog!

THE LAST MAGICIAN is a bigger book than any of your previous books, not only in terms of sheer length but in the complexity of the plot, the multiple points of view, the historical background, and so on. Do you think this reflects your maturation as a writer? Or was this book something you'd been saving up all along?

Lisa Maxwell: I think it definitely reflects the experiences of writing my first three books. I have one book that’s shelved where I tried to do a multiple perspective, interwoven story, and I think that mistakes I made trying to write that one very much helped me figure out how to write this one. That being said, I didn’t originally start out to write this book as complexly as it turned out. At first, I thought I was just writing a dual POV with Harte and Esta, but the other characters and their stories and arcs were too complex and essential to the main story to leave out.

YAG: I love the historical richness of THE LAST MAGICIAN, and I know that some of the minor characters (e.g., J. P. Morgan) were actual historical figures. But what about the principal characters? Were any of them either real people or based on real people?

LM: Actually, kind of? I took some of my inspiration for Harte’s background from a book called A Pickpocket’s Tale. It was written by a guy named George Washington Appo, who was a pickpocket and common green games runner in the city, who was also literate enough to write his autobiography. Harte isn’t him, of course, but some of his background was an inspiration for Harte’s backstory. Dolph Saunders was a real guy, but I mostly just stole the name since I really loved the way it sounded. Dolph is a compilation of a couple different historical gang leaders. As for Esta and the rest—they’re all mine.

YAG: I also love time-travel narratives, but I know they can be tricky to write. Did you encounter any specific challenges or plot problems with this aspect of the novel? If so, how did you resolve them?

LM: Everything was a problem. Time travel is so much harder to write than I thought it was when I came up with the idea of making Esta a time traveler. Originally, I hadn’t planned on my thief to be a time traveler, but once I settled on the setting, I realized there was probably no way, historically speaking, that Esta could be the person I imagined with the sensibilities I wanted her to have if she were born and raised in the late 19th century. 

The biggest challenges, though, were rules I imposed on myself. I needed her to have limitations to how and when she could travel, or else she could just magically time travel back to the beginning of the Order and solve everything before it starts. But those limitations meant that I had to make sure there weren’t any inconsistencies in the rest of the book. Don’t even get me started on multiple timelines and time travel paradoxes. The whole thing makes my head hurt, and I’m nowhere close to done thinking about it yet.

Though, I will say that I have solved one paradox/multiple timeline issue AND managed to create a twist that I’m really, really happy about for the next book.

YAG: I can't wait to read it! Thanks again for visiting the blog!

LM: Thanks so much for having me!

Readers, if you want to find Lisa on the web, visit her at http://www.lisa-maxwell.com/. And for a chance to win a signed copy of THE LAST MAGICIAN, enter below. The contest is U.S. only, and it runs from now through Halloween (fitting for a book about magic)!




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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

YA Guy Participates in... the Fall 2017 YA Scavenger Hunt!


YA Guy's super excited to participate in this year's FALL YA SCAVENGER HUNT! Not only is Fall my favorite time of year, but I've got a brand-new book out, the YA science fiction adventure FREEFALL, which released September 26. So I'm totally ready for the Hunt, and I trust that you are too! (I mean, why else would you be here if you weren't?)

As you can probably tell by all the purple lettering in this post (not to mention the banner at the top), I'm on the PURPLE TEAM, along with the other awesome authors you see below:



The YA Scavenger Hunt is a bi-annual event first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! Add up the clues on each PURPLE TEAM page, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in our team! There are SEVEN contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! But don't delay: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will be online only until noon Pacific time on OCTOBER 8! (My personal giveaway, though, will run a little longer, until October 10.)

HOW IT WORKS

Directions: In the author biography below, you'll notice I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the purple team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!). 

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form to qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally. Anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by Sunday, October 8, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered. For more information, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

Personal Giveaway: In addition to the prizes named above, readers who enter my personal giveaway will have a chance to win a signed copy of my new novel FREEFALL! Like the Hunt itself, this personal giveaway is open internationally. Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter!

Okay, got all that? Then let's meet the author I'm hosting, BRENDA DRAKE!

New York Times bestselling author of the Library Jumpers series, the Fated series, and Thunderstruck, creator of #PitchWars, #PitchMadness, and #PitMad, fueled by 22 cups of coffee and Goldfish crackers (but not together), and represented by Peter Knapp with The Park Literary Group.

To find out more about Brenda, go to her website at brendadrake.com.


About GUARDIAN OF SECRETS: Being a Sentinel isn’t all fairy tales and secret gardens.

Sure, jumping through books into the world’s most beautiful libraries to protect humans from mystical creatures is awesome. No one knows that better than Gia Kearns, but she could do without the part where people are always trying to kill her. Oh, and the fact that Pop and her had to move away from her friends and life as she knew it.

And if that isn’t enough, her boyfriend, Arik, is acting strangely. Like, maybe she should be calling him “ex,” since he’s so into another girl. But she doesn’t have time to be mad or even jealous, because someone has to save the world from the upcoming apocalypse, and it looks like that’s going to be Gia.

Maybe. If she survives.

To buy the book, follow this link!

*********************************************************************************


The Hunt's over, but my personal giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of my new YA science fiction adventure FREEFALL runs until October 10!

About FREEFALL: When the 1% and the 99% clash, the fate of the human race hangs on the actions of two teens from very different backgrounds in this thrilling sci-fi adventure.

In the Upperworld, the privileged 1% are getting ready to abandon a devastated Earth. And Cam can’t wait to leave. After sleeping through a 1,000-year journey, he and his friends will have a pristine new planet to colonize. And no more worries about the Lowerworld and its 99% of rejects.

Then Cam sees a banned video of protesters in the Lowerworld who also want a chance at a new life. And he sees a girl with golden eyes who seems to be gazing straight through the feed at him. A girl he has to find. Sofie.

When Cam finds Sofie, she opens his eyes to the unfairness of what’s happening in their world, and Cam joins her cause for Lowerworld rights. He also falls hard for Sofie. But Sofie has her own battles to fight, and when it’s time to board the spaceships, Cam is alone.

Waking up 1,000 years in the future, Cam discovers that he and his shipmates are far off-course, trapped on an unknown and hostile planet. Who has sabotaged their ship? And does it have anything to do with Sofie, and the choices—and the enemies—he made in the past?

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

YA Guy Releases... FREEFALL!


That's right, folks: today is release day for YA Guy's deep-space adventure FREEFALL!


It seems like forever ago that I first conceived this book--and in fact, I originally drafted it back in 2013, the first time I participated in NaNoWriMo. Then there was the year I set it aside to work on other projects, then the year of revising, then the acceptance by my publisher in early 2016, then the interminable wait for the actual publication.... But it's here now, and I hope you'll agree it was worth the wait!

To celebrate the release of FREEFALL, here are some things you can do:

BUY THE BOOK



READ SOME REVIEWS



ENTER GIVEAWAYS



READ THE FIRST CHAPTER


WATCH THE TRAILER


You can also take a picture of the book and post it to social media, or help spread the word by tweeting, reblogging, chatting with friends, or whatever. If you post a picture of the book online and tag me to make sure I see it, I'll send you one of these cool prop-replica packs as a thank you!


I hope you enjoy FREEFALL, and thanks for helping me launch it to the stars!


Thursday, September 14, 2017

YA Guy Creates... A FREEFALL Glossary!


It's less than two weeks until the September 26 release of FREEFALL, and YA Guy's getting excited!

Since FREEFALL takes place in the twenty-second century, lots of things have changed in terms of politics, culture, technology, and media—and the language has adapted to reflect those changes. Here's an alphabetical list of some of the terms that have arisen in the world of Cam Newell and Sofie Patel. (Italicized words can be found in the list.)

Adjournalist: a paid propagandist who circulates falsified news accounts in the financial interest of one or more of Earth’s corponations.

CanAm: an Upperworld corponation, responsible for administering the former nations of North America.

Catastrologist: a combination of meteorologist and mystic who predicts future outcomes, typically of a catastrophic nature, at the behest of one or more of Earth’s corponations.

Centurion: a biomechanical soldier employed in outer space by JIPOC.

Chatshow: a talk show on the worldlink, offering viewer interactivity through selfone interface.

Classification: a corponational training program for all Upperworld children, taking the place of the banned public and private educational systems.

Close supervision: a euphemism for military attacks on Lowerworld sites believed to harbor dissidents.

ColPrep: an abbreviation for Colonization Preparation, the physical and mental training regimen required of Upperworld residents chosen to depart Earth on a mission to colonize outer space.

ConGlo: a Lowerworld corponation, responsible for administering the former nations of Central Africa.

Cons Piracy: a rogue group of computer hackers who attempt to leak top-secret data held by one or more of Earth’s corponations.

Corponation: a corporate entity that has taken over the functions of government (territorial management, population control, distribution of wealth, etc.) and that operates on a for-profit basis.

Data Recruitment Specialist: an Upperworld technician who performs the functions of a scientist, engaging in corponation-funded research to support profitable initiatives.

Deepsleep: a form of suspended animation, developed in part by Cam’s mother, that enables deep-space colonists to survive voyages much longer than the span of a human life.

ExCon: an Upperworld corponation, responsible for administering the former nations of western and northern Europe and Russia.

Frackia: a Lowerworld corponation, responsible for administering the former nations of southern Africa.

Funding Fathers: the revered ancestors who established the underlying principles and secured the original financial security of the Upperworld.

INTERCOLPA: the Intercorponational Colonization Protection Agency, responsible for overseeing security surrounding the deep-space colonization mission and for deporting or incarcerating perceived threats to the mission.

JIPOC: the Joint Intercorponational Panel on Otherworld Colonization, the Upperworld conglomerate that pursues and finances the mission to colonize space.

Lower-life: a derogatory term for a resident of the Lowerworld (plural Lower-lifes).

Lowerworld: the 99% of the world’s population that lacks access to wealth and basic resources, geographically separated from the Upperworld.

MediTerri: an Upperworld corponation, responsible for administering the former nations of southern and eastern Europe and North Africa.

Megazine: an entertainment site on the worldlink, offering paid access to media content, tabloid news, and consumer products.

MexSanto: a Lowerworld corponation, responsible for administering the former nations of South and Central America.

MicroNasia: a Lowerworld corponation, responsible for administering the former nations of the far East.

Nanoroids: injectable nanotechnologies that build muscle mass and bone density while enhancing endurance, balance, agility, and nerve conduction velocity.

Nanoserum: any of a number of nanotherapies delivered through injection.

New York CITI: New York Central Intercorponational Telecom Interface, the hub of the worldlink, located at the site of the former New York City.

Peace Corp.: a private paramilitary force employed by Earth’s corponations to suppress individual liberties and political activism in the Upperworld and Lowerworld.

Plutocrats and Publicans: two defunct political parties from the waning ages of the old world, when governments rather than corponations ruled the planet.

PMP: Primary Medical Personnel, an Upperworld technician who performs the functions of a physician (often aided by an AMP or Auxiliary Medical Personnel).

Privacar: a privately owned vehicle, extremely rare due to its financial and environmental impacts and thus the prerogative solely of the super-rich.

Selfone: an advanced version of a cell phone, providing instant access to the worldlink along with other functions.

SubCon: a Lowerworld corponation, responsible for administering the former nations of southern Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

Techgame: a video game played on the worldlink, with full immersive VR and interactivity among multiple players engaged with each other either synchronously or asynchronously.

Terrarist: an individual or member of a group who engages in violent political resistance, ostensibly in the interest of preserving the planet Earth (Terra).

Terra Tank: a slang term for Centurion.

TranSpeaker: a hovering device that enables speakers of different languages to communicate.

UniVers: an Upperworld corponation, responsible for administering the former Australia.

Upperworld: the 1% of the world’s population that has monopolized access to wealth and essential resources, and that plans to abandon Earth to colonize outer space.

Worldlink: the twenty-second century equivalent of the internet, providing entertainment and indoctrination on public channels, and strictly regulated to prevent unlicensed content from being viewed by the general population.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

YA Guy Says... ARGH!!! to ARCS

ARCs. Advance reader (or review) copies. You know 'em. You love 'em. You need 'em.

YA Guy hates 'em.

Well, let's clarify that. I don't have a problem with ARCs as such. In fact, it's kind of thrilling to see your book in physical form for the first time, even if it's a flimsy paperback and the text will probably undergo changes ranging from minor to ginormous before the actual book is published. I understand, too, why others like ARCs: a chance to read and review a book before it's on the shelves. Some people collect ARCs. And publishers keep churning them out in hopes of generating buzz and early reviews.

But I've got to tell you, my personal experience with ARCs has been an exercise in frustration.

With FREEFALL, I received about 20 ARCs (not to mention the digital ARCs on NetGalley). Being a good boy, I sent out emails to various reviewers in my genre, asking if they'd like a physical or digital ARC. Many reviewers responded enthusiastically, so I sent them the ARC of their choice. Then I sat back and waited for the reviews to roll in.

Which they didn't.

I got a few reviews, sure. Some were very positive, some weren't. That's life. The not-so-positive reviews aren't what I'm annoyed about.

It's the people who don't review the book at all. Ever.

I sent follow-up emails to those who'd requested an ARC. Several responded with firm or tentative review dates. Most, however--if they responded at all--told me that they were too busy to review, or something had come up, or they'd changed their minds. No review for you, kid. Sorry, better luck next time!

This bothers me. And not because it signifies that I'm not a big enough name to merit instant reviews. For all I know, this happens to everyone. But it shouldn't happen to anyone.

Look, I'm busy too. Things come up for me. And I have been known to change my mind from time to time.

But when someone asks me if I'll review their ARC and I agree to do so, I review the darn thing. I recognize that it costs the author (or somebody) money to mail me that ARC, and I also recognize that if I take it, someone else who might have reviewed it doesn't get it. If I'm honestly too busy or foresee that the book's not quite up my alley and I might change my mind about reviewing it, I tell the author or publisher not to send it to me.

We all know of the dishonest things that happen with ARCs. Some people request them only to sell them online. Others, even worse, digitize them and then give them away on free download sites. I can't do anything about those people, who are either outright crooks or just plain jerks.

But to the people who are less criminal than inconsiderate, I'd ask that you remember the investment the author makes in her or his writing, along with the expectation that's attached to the ARC she or he sent to you. It's not a formal contract, of course. You're not REQUIRED to read and review it. If the author was the one who made the initial overture, you might think you have no real obligation to review it. But wouldn't that be the right thing to do? The nice thing to do?

In any event, I think I've finally wised up. For my next book, I'll either survive without ARCs or go digital only. I really don't have the time or money to be shipping books to people who plan to use them only to prop up the furniture.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

YA Guy Launches... FREEFALL!


YA Guy's newest science fiction novel, FREEFALL, hits the shelves next month (September 26, to be exact), so I'm celebrating a few days early with a launch party on September 24. If you're in or near the Pittsburgh area, please stop by--there will be good conversation, signed books for sale, food and drink, and cool giveaways (I promise).

Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 21, 2017

YA Guy Reads... Really Long Books!

YA Guy recently finished reading Frank Herbert's DUNE--all 900 pages of it--and it made me think about other really long books I've read in the past. Since I'm gearing up to read two additional epics--THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME and DON QUIXOTE--I thought it would be fun to post mini-reviews of ten previous examples, listed in order from best to worst.

1. THE LORD OF THE RINGS. My favorite book, hands down. I've read it four times throughout my life--once when I was twelve, once during graduate school, once when I taught a Tolkien course to college students, and several years ago just for the heck of it--and I never tire of it. I confess, in my most recent reading, I found the elevated diction and inverted syntax ("Lo! Then did the Lord Aragorn come unto the Plains of Pelennor, and he was as one that was wroth!") a bit forced. But the story, the characters, and most of all the unparalleled world-building were as impressive to me as they were back when I was a kid.

2. DUNE. Another long book I loved as a teen and decided to re-read as an adult. I found it really slow-moving this time around; the first third is pretty much prelude to the uprising that kicks the story into gear. And hero Paul's unflappable, messianic self-confidence was a bit hard to take. But as with Tolkien, Herbert has to be credited for one of the greatest feats of world-building--or universe-building--of all time.

3. ULYSSES. I started Joyce's epic in 1990 and finished it in 2015. But no, it didn't take me 25 years to read it; I started it for a class in grad school, then stopped midway through once the semester ended and never picked it back up until 25 years later. Undeniably a great book, earthy and funny and sensual and smart, with enough daring, dazzling narrative choices to fill up a shelf-full of novels.

4. TOM JONES. This 1000-plus page picaresque is at once an early masterpiece of the novel form and a parody of the same; it pretty much defined postmodernism 200 years before that was a thing. I read it in grad school and don't remember many of the details, except for the fact that the hero kept getting into various affairs and peccadilloes and the author kept commenting on his own book. But I do remember that it kept me entertained for a solid month, and that's something.

5. GONE WITH THE WIND. Yes, it's racist as hell, and I would never excuse or rationalize that racism the way some people do ("oh, everyone was racist then, so it's not a big deal!"). I would say, however, that as a glimpse into the mind of the South, both antebellum and postbellum, it can't be beat. And Scarlett O'Hara remains one of the great fictional inventions of all time.

6. SHOGUN. I read this way back in high school, after I'd watched the miniseries. It's hard for me to recall from all those years back exactly what I thought about it; I don't think I understood it all that well, and I really had (and have) no idea if its representation of feudal Japan is at all accurate. But I remember that the story kept me engaged, and the characters, both Western and Japanese, struck me as simultaneously realistic and of epic proportions, which isn't an easy balance to strike.

7. PARADISE LOST. The only poem on this list, Milton's masterpiece was another book I was required to read in my Ph.D. program. It's not all that long in terms of page or word count, but the difficulty of the language and the complexity of the theological ruminations make it a book that feels much longer than it is. (That's not necessarily said in a negative way.) Of the central quartet of characters, Adam is a shallow pretty boy, God is a vengeful whiner, Eve is an interesting early example of a woman straining against the bonds of patriarchy, and Satan is a recognizably human and sympathetic villain.

8. CATCH-22. I received this book as a prize in college for an essay contest I won, but I didn't read it until a few years ago. I definitely get what Heller was up to, taking the "good war" and making it every bit as pointless, absurd, and depraved as every other war. But the darn thing is so chaotic and fractured, it took me forever to read. And I didn't feel that I connected with it until near the end, when we finally discover what Yossarian witnessed that drove him mad.

9. MIDDLEMARCH. Yet another massive novel that was required of me--or, in this case, inflicted on me--during grad school. I know many people love this book and its self-actualizing heroine, but I found it plodding, dull, and almost impossible to finish. It was ironic, I thought, that Eliot presented Casaubon's Key to All Mythologies as such a tedious, self-indulgent venture when, to me, her own novel felt very much the same.

10. GAME OF THRONES. Without a doubt, the worst long book I've ever read. I'd heard so many people raving about it, I felt I had to read it--but when I did, I discovered that it wasn't at all what I'd been led to believe. An epic fantasy? What's epic about it? And where's the fantasy? There's a wraith-like creature in the first few pages, and a baby dragon on the very last--and then, for the rest of the book, there's nothing but court intrigue and royals engaging in love affairs and other questionable behavior. Who cares about these people? And why did the author decide to kill the one character I had started to care about in the slightest--Ned Stark--in the most pointless, trivializing way possible? Add to that sexagenarian Martin's creepy fascination with nubile nymphet Daenerys Targaryen's genitalia and the various things that can be inserted therein, and this book was complete and total trash, basically soft-core porn masquerading as fantasy fiction.

So that wraps it up. Any suggestions for other really long books I should sink my teeth into? As I said, I've already got Hugo and Cervantes on tap, but I should be ready for something new by the middle of 2018 or so!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

YA Guy Discusses... Discussions!

As you've probably already figured out, YA Guy's kind of old-fashioned. (Which is another way of saying that YA Guy's kind of old.) I didn't encounter a computer until senior year in college. I don't own a cell phone. I'm on social media, sure, but I don't use it to flog, bully, and ridicule other people.

Which, it seems, is the purpose to which all too many put it.

I was thinking about this when I read a recent discussion of science fiction and fantasy literature on Goodreads. Ordinarily, I avoid such discussions, because I've learned that the comments tend to degenerate into tantrums, tirades, and taunts. But I thought, "what could go wrong with a discussion of science fiction and fantasy literature?" So I read.

Turns out lots of things can go wrong.

Right at the start, one participant denigrated dystopian literature--particularly YA dystopian--and those who read it. In no time, others jumped in either to defend the genre and its readers or to pile more ridicule upon their unsuspecting and inoffensive heads. Someone used the occasion to make a scurrilous remark about liberals (?), whereupon someone else berated that person for bringing politics into the forum. A couple of times, calmer heads tried to steer the discussion back on track or to suggest gently that different readers have a right to their own likes and dislikes, but to no avail. The troll train had left the station, and it wasn't about to be turned back.

I don't know why people like to attack other people online. I guess the relative anonymity (and hence safety) of computer-mediated discourse brings out the worst in some folks. Or maybe it's just a game for certain people (though why flinging profanities at perfect strangers should constitute some kind of game is beyond me). Whatever the case, in YA Guy's esteemed opinion, this kind of behavior is just plain cruel and pointless.

On Facebook--which, dinosaur that I am, is my favorite social media platform--I have a policy: I don't argue with other people's posts, and I don't permit argument with my own. On the rare occasion that someone violates this policy by calling me a pointy-headed liberal or whatever, I remove their comment and post a reminder that I don't abide such incivility in cyberspace, just as I don't abide it in face-to-face contacts. Life's too short, and damage too easily done by words as surely as fists, for me to engage in shouting contests on the computer screen.

So I'm here to make a plea for restraint in online discussions. Try to be nice to others. If you must disagree, do so respectfully. What purpose is served by adding to the sum total of vitriol in the world?

And if you find yourself posting a nasty response to this column, be assured that your words will be deleted by your friendly neighborhood dinosaur.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

YA Guy Gives Away... FREEFALL Swag!

YA Guy's got some very cool FREEFALL swag I'm just dying to give away to readers! This includes an item modeled on a scene in the book where the narrator, Cam, dons a backpack imprinted with the logo of JIPOC, the company that finances a deep-space colonization mission that goes horrendously wrong. Here's an image of the replica bag:



Pretty cool, huh?

From now until I run out, I'm giving away this bag, filled with other FREEFALL goodies, to anyone who tweets a picture of the book. Here's what you have to do to claim your swag:

--snap a picture of FREEFALL in a bookstore, a library, your own bookshelf, or wherever else you like

--tweet the picture, using the hashtag #Freefall and making sure to tag me so I see it @TheYAGuy

I'll DM you for your mailing address and mail your bag right out to you, so you'll be able to carry your copy of FREEFALL (and anything else you want to carry) wherever you go!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

YA Guy Reveals... The FREEFALL jacket!

YA Guy loves the cover to FREEFALL, my forthcoming YA science fiction adventure. I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen.

But then I saw the complete jacket.


Nice, huh?

There's a jacket reveal running on YA Interrobang for the next week, with a chance to win a signed copy of FREEFALL. Check it out!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

YA Guy Gives Away... FREEFALL ARCs!



Just a very brief post to let you know that YA Guy (i.e., me) is giving away three signed ARCs of my forthcoming YA science fiction novel FREEFALL! Head on over to Goodreads to enter. The giveaway runs from now until June 30, so don't miss it!

Wow, I think that's my first post ever where the picture is bigger than the text.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

YA Guy Answers Questions... from Students!

One of YA Guy's favorite things about writing for young people is that I get to visit schools. The energy and enthusiasm students show are truly amazing--and the questions they ask about my novels and the writing process are great. To give you a sample of what I mean, here are some questions that I received from eighth grade students at a recent school visit, along with my answers.

Michael: Did you ever test your writing on your own children?

Me: As a matter of fact, yes! My daughter was my first reader for SURVIVAL COLONY 9 when she was twelve years old (she's now eighteen and about to go to college). I'd written a single chapter and wanted to see if it was any good, so I asked her to look it over. Fortunately, she gave it the thumbs up!

Conner: What were some of the main changes you made in the draft of SURVIVAL COLONY 9?

Me: One of the biggest changes was that I removed a chapter that included a lot of backstory about the world, the wars, the coming of the Skaldi, and so on. It was too much information all at once, and it slowed down the story. So I took tiny parts of it and included them in the chapter where Querry and Korah talk by the pool, and I sprinkled some other parts throughout the sequel, SCAVENGER OF SOULS. If, as I'm currently planning, I publish a prequel, some of the information will find its way in there too!

Brittany: Were any of the characters inspired by real people?

Me: Most of them were, in one way or another. But in particular, I think the character of Laman was inspired by my own father, who's a great guy but (as is sometimes the case with fathers and sons) who sometimes rubs me the wrong way. The scene in which Querry and Laman play catch was definitely modeled on my own life--because the one thing my dad and I can always talk about without risking an argument is baseball.

Alex: Is writing your full-time job?

Me: I wish! Like many writers--maybe most writers--I have a full-time job that pays the bills, and then I write whenever I can. Balancing the two can be difficult, because writing takes so much time. But luckily, I'm a teacher, so I do get summers off!

Abbey: What's the favorite book that you've written?

Me: I'm tempted to say "all of them," but the reality is, one of the books I really, really love is also one that will probably never be published. It's a strange, quirky, satirical science fiction novel that is so personal, I can't see it finding a mass audience. It's what writers sometimes call "the book of my heart," the book I really wanted to write. But as a writer, one has to accept that a book like that won't always be published.

Gaven: Are you a fan of post-apocalyptic movies?

Me: How could you tell? Yes, I love the Terminator series, the X-Men movie Days of Future Past, and a number of other similar stories. Someone told me when SURVIVAL COLONY 9 came out that it was somewhat similar to The Walking Dead, so I watched the first episode of that series. But alas, I've never been a fan of zombie movies.

Austin: How did it feel to create a novel?

Me: This is a sort of dorky answer, but in all honesty, it felt similar to creating a child. I remember how it felt to hold my daughter for the first time, and it was similar to holding my own novel for the first time. (Holding my daughter was better, though. I have to say that or she'll kill me, but it's really true!)

Rocco: Did you ever try to publish any of your novels from the past?

Me: That's an interesting question. Like most writers, I've written more books than I've published, including a fantasy novel I wrote when I was sixteen. These days, with self-publishing, I could easily put those novels out there. But I feel as if that would be a mistake, because there's a reason most of them aren't published: they're not very good. They were the novels that helped me develop my skills to the point where I could write publishable novels, so it's probably better they remain in my closet or on my hard drive!

Lindsey: Is there a particular character you relate to?

Me: I definitely relate to my narrator, because he's the most me: a guy who tries to do the right thing but sometimes fails and sometimes doubts himself. But I also relate to Aleka, the character I'd most like to be. I find her really admirable, because she has a very strong sense of justice that I wish I could live up to in my own life.

Christian: How did you handle criticism from your editor?

Me: Another great question. Like all people, I feel bad when I get criticized, when someone doesn't like my book, when I get a negative review, and so on. But as a writer, you have to learn to deal with criticism--which doesn't mean ignoring it, but putting it to productive use. My editor always has critical comments to make about my manuscripts, and at first they sting a little. But then I take a step back, think about what she's saying, and do my best to learn from her criticism and make the manuscript as good as I can.

Hannah: With all the disappointments in a writer's life, what gives you the strength to go on?

Me: I think the answer to that is simply that I've wanted to be a writer almost as long as I can remember. If I'd given up, if I'd let disappointment stand in my way, I wouldn't have achieved my dream. So every time the going gets tough, I remind myself of why I'm doing this, and that helps me find my way.

Nadia: If you were living under the circumstances Querry lives under, what would you do?

Me: The reality is, I'd probably die. I'm not saying that facetiously; in order to make this book work, I had to take certain liberties with reality (such as the scarcity of water in Querry's world) that probably aren't actually survivable. But if it were possible to live under these conditions, I like to believe that, like Querry, I'd fight for the future, not only my own but that of others.

Jared: Did the ending of SURVIVAL COLONY 9 stay the same from draft to draft?

Me: Yes--but the middle changed a lot! That's usually how it is with me as a writer: I know where I want to go, but I don't know how I'm going to get there. I do a certain amount of planning, but for the most part, I enjoy being surprised by the twists and turns that occur during the act of writing.

Mike: Are there any of your characters that you dislike?

Me: I've definitely written unlikable characters, but that doesn't mean that I, the author, don't like them. Or maybe it would be better to say that I identify with them--I know what makes them tick, I get where they're coming from. I believe it's important for authors to know all their characters through and through, which often means recognizing qualities in them, even negative qualities, that are part of one's own make-up.

Madison: What's the most important struggle in SURVIVAL COLONY 9--the internal one or the external one?

Me: Wow, fascinating question. I tried to make Querry's internal struggle--to accept himself and grow into a confident leader--connect with his external struggle--to defeat the Skaldi. That's not to say he needed to defeat them to prove himself. It's to say he needed to learn to take risks, to get outside himself and act for the good of others, and to overcome his own insecurities and doubts. The Skaldi, as creatures that steal identity, became important antagonists in Querry's quest to discover who he is.

Santiago: Is there anything you'd tell your younger writing self?

Me: I'd tell him to calm down, to take his time, to not worry so much about the future. When I was a teenage writer, I was so desperate to be published I don't think I enjoyed the journey as much as I should have. I know it's relatively easy for me to give this advice now, since the journey did end in publication. But even if it hadn't, I would have wanted the younger me to be less hard on himself and to feel better about who he was, without worrying so much about who he wanted to be.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

YA Guy Interviews... Sabrina Fedel, author of LEAVING KENT STATE!

It's a little known fact that one of YA Guy's first novels was written when I was a college student back in the 80s. The tale of a college campus that's taken over by a revolutionary cabal, it was going nowhere until I decided to do some research into an actual college campus that was subjected to military rule. My research naturally led me to the shootings that took place on the Kent State University campus on May 4, 1970, forty-seven years ago today.

In my book, the historical research formed only the lightest thread in an otherwise boisterously absurd comic novel. But I've been fascinated by the history of Kent State ever since. And that's why I was so excited to discover Sabrina Fedel's debut LEAVING KENT STATE, a YA historical novel set in Kent, Ohio in the days before and during the on-campus massacre. I've reviewed this amazing novel here, and I was fortunate enough to have Sabrina visit the blog to talk about her book, her research, and her current works-in-progress.


YA Guy: Hi, Sabrina, and welcome to the blog! As someone who's intrigued by the history of the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement, I was wondering how you came up with the idea for LEAVING KENT STATE?

SF: The idea for LEAVING KENT STATE came to me while watching television (we can’t always be reading!) and ironing. There was a documentary-style program on about the shooting, and it struck me that it was really a story about young people clashing against their world order. I knew I wanted to write about it. I researched and found that there were almost no books that even mentioned the incident, and no YA stories. Because many YA editors don’t want to see a protagonist over 18, I made my protagonist a high school senior. It wasn’t difficult for me to imagine the rest of Rachel's story, as I was a girl who had to go to the university where my dad taught, even though I didn’t want to, just like her.

YAG: What was your research process for this novel? Did you uncover any unusual or out-of-the-way sources? What was the most interesting or surprising thing you discovered?

SF: To research this story, I started with non-fiction books about the shootings. When I felt like I had a beginning, I made trips to Kent. I studied maps and drove around looking for the neighborhood (and house!) that Rachel would have lived in. I saw where she went to school, where the Twin Lakes were, Main Street, and the campus of KSU. I dove into the archives there, reading the local paper for every day between October 1969, when my story starts, until the end of May, 1970. Every year on May 4th, KSU hosts a memorial commemoration, and I attended a number of those where I spoke to people who worked in the archives or who had been there that day. I went to the local historical society and talked with people there, as well.

One of the neatest things, to me, is that KSU has an online oral history project about that day. Anyone who wanted to come forward and describe what happened to them that day could participate. I found these stories really fascinating and got a lot of contextual information that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to experience. I also went online to research speeches by President Nixon, and I read autobiographies and nonfiction books about Vietnam. Finally, I interviewed a Vietnam veteran who very generously helped me understand what it was like for him during his service and then coming home.

The thing that surprised me the most was that many people felt that the students deserved what happened to them. The vitriol against the students, even sometimes by their own parents, was horrific. One woman told me that her father was among those who said that the Guard should have shot them all. When she pointed out that she would have been killed if they had, her father told her it was what she deserved. That was really shocking to me. Another thing that surprised me was that during law school, I had lived VERY near to the grave of shooting victim Allison Krause. I learned that from the Vietnam veteran whom I interviewed, who had been a history teacher and had studied the shootings. When he took me to her grave, I thought it was very ironic that I had lived practically across the street from her little Jewish cemetery for a year and never knew it was even there.

YAG: That's an impressive amount of research, and it really shows in your book. At the same time, one of the things I love about LEAVING KENT STATE is that you never let the historical detail overwhelm the story. How did you make sure that didn't happen?

SF: Thanks! I tried to make sure that every detail had a purpose to the story so that it would feel organic. There were things Rachel had to explain, and sometimes I relied on the fact that her family was a bunch of avid newspaper readers to make that happen, or other times I would have it happen in conversations. I tried to keep to a minimum the times that Rachel explained things to the reader. I also tried to pick details that were special to that era, that spoke of it. I did a LOT of research into guitar and car models, the Billboard top forty lists, and double-checked when things that I believed were iconic to the 1970s happened. Sometimes I was surprised to find that things I associated with the period were actually popular later (like the cartoon character Ziggy, who didn’t materialize until after my story ended).

YAG: You mentioned earlier that when you first formulated the idea for LEAVING KENT STATE, you had to develop a high school-age protagonist so it would fit into the YA genre. What do you like most about writing for young people?

SF: I love writing for young people because teens who are readers want to know about other people and cultures. They are eagerly looking to find out both what separates them from others and what is similar. They want to know what it would be like “if.” I’m always fascinated by the way people live and the choices they make, so I think in that way I am a perpetual teen. I want to know the "why" behind things, and so do teenagers.

YAG: Based on that description, I think YA Guy's a perpetual teen, too! So what's the next project you're working on?

SF: I recently completed a contemporary realism novel about a hockey playing girl who loses her mother and runs away to Venice. It’s all about grieving and the meaning of family. I am shopping that now while I work on my next project, which is also a contemporary realism novel that is kind of The Breakfast Club at a psychiatric hospital. This one is in verse, so we’ll see. I haven’t written in verse before. But so far, I am happy with it.

YAG: I can't wait to read those books when they come out. Thanks again for visiting, and best of luck with your new projects!

SF: Thanks so much for having me visit!

Readers, if you want to learn more about Sabrina and her books, here's where to go!

About the author: Sabrina Fedel’s novel, Leaving Kent State, released in 2016 from Harvard Square Editions. Her young adult short story, "Honor’s Justice," has been nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize, a 2016 storySouth Million Writers Award, and a Sundress Publications Best of the Net '16 award. Sabrina teaches English Literature at Robert Morris University as an adjunct faculty member, and is a 2014 graduate of Lesley University's MFA in Creative Writing program, with a concentration in Writing for Young People. Her poetry and essays have been published in various print and online journals. You can find out more about Sabrina at www.sabrinafedel.com, or follow her on twitter @writeawhile. She also can be found hanging out on Instagram, Facebook, and occasionally tumblr.

To buy LEAVING KENT STATE: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1941861245

Sabrina's Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15403413.Sabrina_Fedel