Guest Post: Tracy Marchini Author of Hot Ticket

Today for Tween Tuesday I have a fantastic guest posts from Tracy Marchini, the author of Hot Ticket – a super fun tween book that I’ll be reviewing later today.

Here’s the book summary, so you know what it’s all about:

“Hot tickets could be awarded for doing something cool, saying something funny, or sometimes even just wearing something the ticket dispenser liked. All authentic hot tickets were two inch by six inch rectangles made from this orange cardboard material, with “HOT TICKET” written in big bold letters at the top. Hot tickets first started becoming popular about a month after school started. Then there was this rash of copycat tickets on regular paper, but people just tossed those in the trash. Everybody could figure out it was one of their friends that made it anyway. But an authentic ticket – that was something you kept. Some people had their lockers decorated in hot and shame tickets. Some people kept their hot tickets at home to prevent theft. If I got a hot ticket, I would definitely keep it taped on the inside door of my locker. Right now my locker only had a locker mirror, a picture of Lucy and I from my birthday party at Six Flags and these annoying cat stickers from the person who had my locker before me. Fifth grade did not prepare me for this at all.” Juliet Robinson is the only sixth grader in John Jay Jr. High who hasn’t received a “hot ticket” from the mysterious ticket dispenser. When one of the dorkiest kids in school – Crammit Gibson – receives a ticket before she does, Juliet decides that the ticketing system has to stop. With the help of her best friend Lucy, a Daria-esque Madeline and her almost-crush Crammit, Juliet is determined to climb a few rungs on the middle school social ladder and catch the ticket dispenser once and for all!

One of the things my students always wonder about is what were authors like when they were in middle school.  They can relate to that!  Tracy fantastically gave us a look at her 6th grade self!  Oh can I see 6th graders doing this!
Welcome Tracy to The O.W.L.!
When I was in sixth grade…

My character, Juliet, is very concerned about changing her sixth grade reputation.  And if I was somebody who was known for ruining school dances, vomiting during assemblies and being incapable of completing the school cheer, I’d be concerned about changing my middle school reputation, too!
My sixth grade experience was completely different from Juliet’s, though.  I based John Jay Jr. High (aka Triple J) on the public junior high that my little sister went to.  She had a pretty large sixth grade class, who mostly followed her up through eighth grade and into the high school.  I went to a parochial school, and we stayed with our homeroom teacher for most of the day.  Like Juliet, I wasn’t the most popular girl in sixth grade, but unlike Juliet, my class had only twelve people in it.  So if Hot Tickets were introduced in my class, it’d probably take less than a recess period to figure out who was handing them out!  
To be honest, my little class of twelve caused a lot of trouble.  I was pretty quiet in sixth grade, but if the whole class was throwing their spelling books on top of the closet or declaring an impromptu ‘health class,’ then I joined in, too.  I didn’t get sent to the principal’s office nearly as much as Juliet does, but we had many classroom… incidents.  Here’s one of my tamer stories from sixth grade:

Our school had a lab for the science classes, which was also at one point the art room.  (When it was the art room, and our former art teacher had a headache, we were told to draw our shoe.  I happen to be an excellent drawer of Sketchers brown oxfords.  We then got a new art teacher, who did all sorts of great things – none of which involved our feet.)  
Anyway, one day there was a cage with a live rabbit in the science lab.  The girl’s room was right next to the lab, and I happened to take a peek into it on the way to the bathroom.
The rabbit was not in the cage.
I put my nose up to the door’s window.  The rabbit was loose, and there were droppings everywhere.  On the long wooden tables, on the floor, on the wet sink — it looked like someone took a ten pound bag of brown M&Ms and shot them out of a cannon in the middle of the room.
I ran back to the classroom, threw open the door and announced, “There’s a rabbit loose in the lab!”  Immediately, eleven hysterical sixth graders went rushing out of the classroom.
Our teacher was shouting, “Sit down!  Just leave it alone!”
“But it’s pooping everywhere!” I replied.
“It’s going to get hurt!” one of my classmates said, as they left the classroom.
We gathered around the lab door, and after the class had spent a sufficient period of time gawking at the rabbit, the janitor was called to catch it.  We eventually shuffled back to the classroom, though nobody ever explained why there was a rabbit in the lab to begin with.
Over the course of our junior high career, our janitor would also be called to clean up a dead bird (not our doing), wipe the baking soda from the lab-room-floor-turned-slip-n-slide (that was us) and figure out what, exactly, was causing that disgusting smell in the coat closet.  (It turned out to be a whole carton of eggs, which had clearly gone bad months before.  I think there may have also been a bad grapefruit.)  
In a major clean-up, we also discovered a ten-year-old jar of chicken fat, which was dumped down the girl’s bathroom sink.  (A word to the wise – should you discover a jar of old chicken fat and decide to dump it down the sink, there will be a smell so foul, so raunchy, so indescribably stomach-turning, that you still will not be able to think about it without going a little green fifteen or so years later.  Also, that room will become uninhabitable for the next three days.)

I would tell you more about my sixth grade experience, but I’m trying to protect the innocent… and not-so-innocent.  Besides, who knows what part I’ll use of it in the next book!

OMGosh that is super funny, and its those kind of memories that I could tell Tracy brought into the feel of Hot Ticket making it so fun and real!

Hot Ticket is available at Amazon US (UK or DE), Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  More information about Tracy can be found at or on Twitter as @TracyMarchini.

Tween Tuesday was started by GreenBeanTeenQueen.

Guest Post: Jonathan Auxier Author of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes +GIVEAWAY!!

I have been seeing reviews on Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, so imagine my suprise and excitment when I was approached to have the author, Jonathan Auxier, guest post on my blog! But wait there’s more AND to host a giveaway for the book!  I love blogging 🙂
Ok, ok, enough of that – time to welcome 
Jonathan to The O.W.L.

Hey there readers — I’m pretty excited to be here at The O.W.L.!  My name is Jonathan Auxier, and I just wrote a brand-spanking-new book called Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes!  It’s the story of a ten year-old blind orphan who also happens to be the greatest thief who ever lived. Today, I thought I’d talk to you a little bit about where I got the idea for my story.

Most every writer out there gets asked where their ideas come from. Whenever I’m asked this question, I tell people that I get ideas the same way Peter Nimble gets treasure:  I steal them!

Now before you call the cops, let me explain.  Pretty much every good idea is really a combination of older ideas.  I mean, whatare “ideas” other than observations about the sights, smells, sounds, and stories all around us?  My job as a writer is to keep my eyes and ears open, absorbing as many of these details as possible — jokes I’ve read in magazines, funny signs in shop windows, a new word I’ve never heard before.  Eventually these bits will connect with one another to form a story!

And how do I store all this wonderful material?  I keep it in one of these!

Every writer and artist I know uses a journal of some kind to put down the things they see.  Sometimes I have more words than pictures:

Sometimes I have more pictures than words:

 And every once in a while, I have an idea for a new character whomay just end up having his very own book!

It’s never too early to start journaling!  All you need is a pen, a notebook, and open eyes!  Here are some journaling tips I’ve learned along the way:

1) Find the right tools for you.  Every journaler I know has aspecific notebook and pen that they like to use.  Some people prefer a small notepad that fits in their pocket, others like a larger book with plenty of room to draw.  Let yourself experiment to find the perfect book/pen combo that is both convenient to carry around and easy to use.

2)  Stay away from “I”.  An artist journal is different from a diary.  In a diary, you write about yourself; in a journal, you write about everything but yourself!  Just take notes about the different things you encounter — eventually all those entries will become a sort of personal reference library for when you want to tell a story.

3)  Your Journal is NOT a work of art!  Don’t worry about making it pretty — no one’s looking over your shoulder. A journal should get beat up.  Words should be scribbled out. Rip pages out when you need scrap paper. Use it as a seat when you’re on wet grass. When you break your pen, use spit and a jelly bean to draw a picture (I have done this)!

4)  Never leave the house without it.  I promise that the one time you leave your journal at home will be the one time you’ll wish you had it!

5)  Write at least one thing down every day.  It doesn’t have to be a lot — just put something down.  Doing this will keep you in the habit of paying attention to the world around you. Also, all of those short entries will eventually add up to something pretty impressive …

That’s it for me!  If you want, come visit my website,, where I have information about Peter Nimble as well as a collection of pictures from my journals — and feel free to tell me about your own artist journal.  Happy scribbling!

Wow!!! Thanks Jonathan.  That was super cool to hear about and gave me lots of ideas for my own writing!
Now for the giveaway.
If you’d like to win a copy of
Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes:
Must be a US resident.
Must be at least 13
Must fill out form.
+1 for leaving a response for Jonathan 🙂
Ends Aug 11th

Author Interview: Peggy Tibbetts – Letters to Juniper

Today for Tween Tuesday I’m very excited to welcome Peggy Tibbetts author of Letters to Juniper.  I just finished reading the book, and I’ll be reviewing it later today.  Peggy was kind enough to answer some questions about the book and her writing.

Before we get to that, here’s a bit about the book:

Twelve-year old Sarah Smith remembers when she was six years old her mother died and she moved to northern Idaho with her brother and father. Their lives changed drastically. The only vivid memory she has of her early childhood is her best friend Juniper Holland. In her letters to Juniper, Sarah reveals her innermost thoughts and feelings about her reclusive life with three younger brothers under the rigid oppression of her father and stepmother who call themselves Separatists. Their lives are turned upside down by an FBI investigation into her father’s association with members of the Aryan Nation. As the tension and violence escalate, Sarah faces life and death decisions in order to survive.

Welcome Peggy to The O.W.L.!

For your Letters to Juniper – what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
The unexpected ending of “Letters to Juniper” has been described by reviewers as “shocking”, “mind-numbing”, “brilliant”, and “similar to the surprise kick in the movie ‘Sixth Sense’”. I can appreciate the readers’ astonishment. It surprised me, too.

Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write Letters from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision if you can!
I wrote “Letters to Juniper” in less time than it took me to write my other novels. It took about six months to write it. Usually I spend a couple months researching and outlining my books. But in this case, the story came to me so quickly I had to do the research as I wrote it. Then I spent another two months editing and revising. Revision is my favorite part of the process because I have a story to work with instead of a blank page.

During the revision process I use this list of questions to improve my story:
 1) Can you summarize the story in a sentence or two?
 2) Have you checked spelling, grammar and formatting?
 3) Does your main character have flaws? Is she/he someone readers will be interested in?
 4) Does the beginning draw the reader in?
 5) Did your main character change throughout the story?
 6) Have you chosen the best point of view?
 7) Does your dialogue move the story forward, as in no idle conversations? Does everyone sound alike? Or can readers tell who’s talking without dialogue tags?
 8) Is there tension in this story?
 9) Is there unanswered conflict until the end?
10) Is every character necessary to this story?
11) Does each chapter offer information that moves the story forward?
12) Does every scene?
13) Does the story end where it’s supposed to?
14) Do you like this story?

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?
“Letters to Juniper” isn’t based on anything or anyone in my own life. However during the 90s, I was as horrified as everyone else at news stories about the Montana Freemen, Ruby Ridge, and the Waco Siege. In all three cases, children were living inside the compounds during the standoff. I asked the question: “What would it be like to be a child, yet old enough to be aware of what was happening?” The skeleton for the story is based on the events at Ruby Ridge in 1992, which involved a standoff between federal agents and the Randy Weaver family at their home in northern Idaho.

How much say did you have in the cover of this book?  What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)
I trust the cover design to my publisher, although I do have final approval and I’m allowed to make changes. Big publishers with big budgets use artists and cover designers and original design and artwork. I work with a very small publisher who uses stock photos and Photoshop to create eye-catching covers that pop. By “pop” I mean in today’s digital world the cover needs to stand out not only in full color paperback but even when it shows up as a tiny thumbnail image in black-&-white on an ereader screen.

Now something not related to your book or writing!  What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?
When I was in first grade, every morning our teacher, Miss Knight helped the class compose a “Today” story, which she wrote on the blackboard. Then we had to copy it on blue-lined manuscript paper. Through that daily exercise I grew to love writing and learned how to tell a story. I still write my first drafts in long hand, only now I use yellow legal pads. In school I enjoyed English and History equally and I was definitely a good student. Actually I was kind of a nerd with glasses and my nose always stuck in a book. But it was a good background for a writer because I spend a lot of time reading and a lot of time doing research.

And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?
L’Engle. She was a great writer and a great teacher. She taught me how to write fiction in two weeks. I have been practicing ever since.

As a child my favorite authors were Madeleine L’Engle, Beverly Cleary, Albert Payson Terhune, Jack London, and Phyllis Whitney.  As an adult, and probably because I am also a writer, my favorites have changed over the years. These days in young adult authors I also admire the works of M.T. Anderson, Cynthia Voight, Louis Sachar, S.E. Hinton, Philip Pullman, and Gary Paulsen, to name a few. For me favorite authors tend to be about what I’m into at the time. So currently I like Natalie Collins for her edgy mysteries that give readers a glimpse behind the veil of Mormon life – and for her friendship. I like Bruce Cameron and Sara Gruen’s amazing animal stories. And because I am currently writing a dogoir – a memoir about a dog – I have been reading lots of nonfiction dog stories. My favorite so far is Jon Katz because he really delves into understanding animal behavior.

 Thank you Peggy! And please stay tuned because later today my review for Letters to Juniper will be posted! 
And if you want to learn more about Peggy check out her website 
and follow her on Twitter.

Tween Tuesday was started by GreenBeanTeenQueen!

Interview with Taylor Morris and GIVEAWAY

Yesterday I was able to review the tween book BFF Break up by Taylor Morris.  A good book about that dreaded fear of losing your BFF.  Today I get the pleasure of sharing her answers to some questions I was able to ask.  Make sure to look below the interview for a two SIGNED book giveaway!

Welcome Taylor Morris to The O.W.L.!!

For BFF Breakup – what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
In BFF BREAKUP, I’m proud of how I handled the actual fight that led to Brooke and Madeline’s breakup. I wanted to write something that the reader could empathize with from both sides. I didn’t want there to be a hero and a villain. Or even so, perhaps one reader was on Brooke’s side and another was on Madeline’s. I just didn’t want it to be obvious which character was at fault because in the end they both were, in their own ways.

Tell about your writing process. How long did it take you to write BFF Breakup from idea to finish? Please tell about revision is you can!
I started thinking about BFF BREAKUP months before I began writing, which is usually the case. I start with an initial idea—like, How about a story about best friends who get in a huge fight and break up?—and then start thinking about who the characters are, who their friends and family are, what lead them to the fight, what exactly the fight was about, what happens afterward, etc. All that plotting and planning will hopefully make for a better book and an easier write. I thought about BFF BREAKUP for about nine months before I started writing it, and then it took about three months to write. That’s a pretty short writing time but I was on a steep deadline with a series I was about to begin.

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?
Sadly, yes. My best friend and I had into a huge, ginormous, awful fight that had us not speaking for three years. I assumed we would never talk again. In the meantime, an acquaintance friend of mine got angry at me for something I did and sort of wrote me off and I started to think, What is it about me and girlfriends? Am I a bad friend? Or do I choose bad friends? I looked back on all my friendships and really started to think about it. Then, my best friend and I started talking again—very slowly and tentatively—and I thought that the story of best friends was so simple and yet complex, not to mention relatable that it would be a good story to tell. BFF BREAKUP is not the story of me and my friend, although I can certainly understand the emotions my characters, Brooke and Madeline, experience.

I really think this is something most girls and women can relate to!

Why MG instead of any other grade level?
I have sharp memories from that time in my life so I started from there. When I wrote my first novel, CLASS FAVORITE, I had the main character as 16 but my agent felt like she acted a bit young and asked if I’d consider changing her to 13. And like that, I became a middle grade writer and have had five novels published with more on the way. I’ve written two other books for young adults—one that will never see the light of day, and another that I will edit and resubmit to agents. I’d like to have a hardcover YA book but beyond that, I love writing for and about teenagers and have no plans to stop writing middle grade books. I have no desire to write for adults. 

Ok once the story was done – How much say did you have in the cover of this book? What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)

Absolutely zero say whatsoever. They did email me and ask me what I thought about it but I’m pretty sure it was just a courtesy. For my series, Hello, Gorgeous!, I didn’t even see the cover until it was finalized. Generally speaking, unless you’re some big-selling, fancy author you usually don’t have much say in your book cover. Sometimes the editor will ask if you have an idea for a concept before they begin designing and they might take that into consideration. But the ultimate decision is with the publisher’s art and marketing departments. That’s their job and their strength. Leave the writing to me. (For more on covers, got to Melissa Walker’s blog for Cover Stories where she has authors talk about their experiences with this.)

Now for a nonwriting question that my students are always curious about- What kind of student were you? Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?
I was a completely average student! Truly, there was nothing special or outstanding about me. I made average grades, had an average amount of friends, was of average popularity. I did some writing when I was in elementary school (including a 12 page handwritten novel called Love At First Sight, starring two of my classmates) but after that I didn’t do much writing until college. English was definitely my favorite subject—I always liked stories but also I always got As so of course I liked it!

And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?
I read shockingly little growing up. Some Judy Blume in elementary school. In junior high I read the Flowers in the Attic series and for some reason, Drew Barrymore’s autobiography Little Girl Lost. By high school I was reading Gone With the Wind. Other than that, it’s strange to say I wasn’t much of a reader. I loved reading, but I never knew what books to buy or get at the library.

As for authors from today who I admire, I love Maureen Johnson’s wit and Meg Cabot’s humor. Barbara Dee’s middle grade books are adorable and full of heart. The Harry Potter series will always be in my top five—what an incredible writer and storyteller J.K. Rowling is!

Thanks for hanging out with us today!

Now for the giveaway.  
Taylor Morris has provide the first two books in the Hello Gorgeous series: Blowout and Foiled
Now that she’s had her thirteenth birthday, Mickey’s finally old enough to work at her mother’s super glam hair salon-Hello, Gorgeous! And true to the old cliche about people confiding in their hair stylists, Mickey starts getting an earful right off the bat. Customers love talking to her because she’s so empathetic, but what happens when she starts getting overly involved in their dramas?

To Enter
Must be US resident
+1 for commenting on REVIEW
+1 for commenting on INTERVIEW
Ends Aug 3rd

Author Interview: Helen Stringer The Midnight Gate Plus a GIVEAWAY

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Helen Stringer to The O.W.L.  She has a fantastic new book out The Midnight Gate sequel to Spellbinder (you can read my review of Spellbinder HERE).  Watch later today for my review of The Midnight Gate.
Welcome to The O.W.L. I’m very excited to have you here today talking about The Midnight Gate as well as writing in general. Let’s get started.

In The Midnight Gate – what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
I really enjoyed writing the Queen of the Abyss. She was originally going to appear in Spellbinder, but I had to put her off until book two. I love characters that are not quite what they seem.  It’s so common to make snap judgments about people based on their appearance and that’s something you can really have fun with in the fantasy genre.  The opportunity to find out more about Steve was great, too.  Too often people assume that kids who don’t do well in school are stupid, when their curiosity might just show itself in other ways. Steve is having to deal with the disappearance of his mother as well as his new-found skills, but when push-comes-to-shove (that’s an English expression, do you use it here?) he usually makes the right decision.
Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision is you can!

Boy, can I tell you about revision — Spellbinder was originally around 650 pages long!  I had been looking for an agent for a while when one of the people who read it said that it was too long and that it should be half as many pages.  I did what I always do – went off in a huff.  Lots of mutterings along the lines of, “She doesn’t get it! Lots of books are longer than that! I can’t cut anything! It’s all absolutely crucial!”  Eventually, I just looked at the stack of paper, split it in the middle and had a look where that was.  I then wrote a completely new ending and wound up with a much better book. And my critic became my agent!  I had hoped that the half that I cut would be book two, but the changes that I made to Spellbinder meant that very little survived – except, of course, the Queen of the Abyss.

In general, though, I start writing when I have the germ of an idea, without any plan or outline. I need to explore the characters a little, see who they are and how they speak. After I’ve written a couple of chapters I read them aloud to friends and family. It’s a really good way to tell if something is working – their responses (and silences!) really let you know whether something is working or not. I may prepare an outline once I’m about four or five chapters in, but it’s always fairly fluid. I’ll get other ideas while walking around, watching TV, or having a shower and the whole story will have to change. Sometimes I’ll go back and adjust the stuff I’ve already written, but more often I’ll make a note along the lines of “Don’t forget about the lighter!” and carry on, only going back to make the changes when I have a complete draft.  Once the draft is complete, I send it to my agent who will respond with pages of notes (more grumbling), then I’ll revise and send it back. This might happen several times.  Then it goes to the publisher who will send yet more pages of notes (even more grumbling). Eventually it ends up in the hands of a copy editor who sends notes about grammar and punctuation, most of which I will agree with (after the requisite grumbling, of course!).

I think one of the things to remember about revision is that everyone’s goal is to make it a better book.  I also suspect that working in the film and television industries really helped me to appreciate that.  A movie is very collaborative – nothing gets made without everyone working together.  A screenplay is only a blueprint which the producers, director, actors, cinematographer, designers, composer, gaffers and grips (to name but a few!) bring to the screen. Everyone is working towards the same goal – making a good movie.  It might not be as obvious when you are writing a book, but all of those notes and comments, from the first glimpse that you give your family to the last suggestion that perhaps a comma would be good just there, help to make your story the best it can be.

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?

Some parts of the story were based on real life.  Some of the things that happen in school, for example.  Quite a lot of the places were based on real ones, though. The school is based on the school I attended back in Liverpool – it really was made up of three Victorian houses joined together. It’s still there, of course, but they have added a lot of newer buildings now. Arkbath Hall is based on Speke Hall just outside Liverpool, the House of Mists on Croxteth Hall where I worked for a while, and the ruined Fenchurch Abbey on the spectacular Furness Abbey just outside Barrow in Cumbria. Not all the places are based on ones in England, though – Evans’s Electronics was inspired by something I saw on a tour of the old theater district in downtown Los Angeles. It was a tiny electronics shop, all blaring TVs and flashing lights, but once you go through a small door in the back of the store you find yourself in a beautiful old vaudeville theatre, built in 1912 and still complete with velvet curtains and gold-painted angels!

As to characters…Belladonna is largely based on my sister, Becky. She was always very clever, but terribly shy. Miss Parker was definitely inspired by the headmistress at my school – a very daunting lady who swept along the corridors wearing her black academic robe, which billowed behind her like the wings of a giant bat.

How much say did you have in the cover of this book?  What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)

I didn’t have much say at all.  The publisher designs the cover and sends me a draft.  If there’s something I strongly object to they would probably change it, but they usually design the cover to appeal to particular readers. Publishing companies do tons of research on things like that, so I think it’s wise to defer to their expertise.

What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?

I was the kind of student who gets remarks along the lines of, “Helen has a great deal of potential but must work harder.”  My sister always got great grades but I could generally find reasons not to do my homework and was miserable at anything science related – which is odd because I’m really fascinated by it now.  Basically, I did well at the things I was interested in: English, history, art.  I was also always planning things: plays, films (once I got my first camera at 13), and really, really complicated games that went on for days.  I was constantly making up stories.  Having a younger sister helps in this.  Becky is only 15 months younger than me and we shared a room, so every night I would tell stories until she fell asleep.  This was my first experience of rewriting, too – if she didn’t like the way a particular story was developing she’d tell me and then I’d have to start a new one! 

History was (and still is) one of my favorite subjects. The stories always gripped me and sent my imagination flying.  I would picture myself living in past times or speaking to the people we were reading about, and I would wonder whether I’d have done anything differently if I’d been there. I reference quite a lot of English history in my books, as well as the myths and legends of various countries, and I make a real effort to get the facts right just in case someone is interested enough to want to find out the whole story about (say) Charles I or the Viking invasions.

And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?

I think the two writers I admire most are Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.  Austen because she chooses her words so carefully – she always says exactly what she means. I can remember when I hated her stuff.  At 13 I thought her books were glorified romance novels and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.  But the very fact that she is still being read today when most of her contemporaries are long forgotten shows that her way of looking at people was so accurate and true that even though it is nearly 200 years since she last set pen to paper, which still recognize her characters in those around us.  As to Dickens…well, it’s easy to forget if you haven’t cracked open one of his books in a while, but he wrote cracking good stories. If people have never read him, I usually recommend Nicholas Nickleby to start – mysterious, adventurous, funny and touching.

When I was growing up my favorite author was Alan Garner. He isn’t very well known here, but it’s definitely worth hunting down books like The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, Elidor and The Owl Service.  He was the first fantasy author I read whose work was grounded in a world I recognized.  One of my favorite American authors is Raymond Chandler – he has real fun playing with language, which I think is so important.

I have to ask the last question about Spellbinder.  Where did the idea for the giant cockroach like creatures on the ceiling come from??? I still shudder at them!

I have no idea! Though there’s nothing worse than noticing a spider on the ceiling above your bed just as you turn out the light. Insects on ceilings – ugh!

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed on The O.W.L.  I particularly loved your view on why we revise – with the goal to make it better!

It’s a pleasure! 
Now for the giveaway!
Spellbinder series giveaway! Three lucky winners will receive one copy each of THE MIDNIGHT GATE and SPELLBINDER along with some bookmarks! To enter, send an e-mail to In the body of the e-mail, include your name, mailing address, and e-mail address (if you’re under 13, submit a parent’s name and e-mail address). One entry per person and prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on 6/17/11. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on 6/18/11 and notified via email.

For excerpts, games, links, and more, visit Helen’s website at:
Read Helen’s blog:

Review and Author Interview: Halloween Kentucky Style

Today The O.W.L. is excited to welcome Charles Suddeth author of the very fun tween book
Halloween Kentucky Style.

First let me tell you a bit about the book and what I thought of it.

From Goodreads
For Halloween 1959, Mike and Timmy try to trick their cousins, Alice and Rose. The trick is on them when a homeless man and their nine-year-old neighbor team up to give them a Halloween scare that they will never forget.

My Review
I remember growing up heading out on Halloween planning on scaring some people.  I lived in a very (VERY) small town, so we’d run around all evening scaring people, hiding from others and just genuinely having fun.  This book reminded me of that time so much!

What I really liked were the voices of the main characters.  Sometimes I read a tween book, and the way the young character talk is so completely off.  I didn’t find that at all here.  Although set in 1959 is still has the true ring of young boys and girls.  I could just see these kids carrying out their plans and reacting to what ended up happening. My favorite line that showed how perfectly drawn these kids were was, “Mike was excited.  This was going to be so much fun, if nothing went wrong.  And what could go wrong?” (pg 30).  That just sets up the characters and the events that unfold.  Love it!

Final thought: Very cute book about something we all love – pulling a prank on others.
Best stick with you image:  Can’t say – too much of a spoiler
Best for readers who: Love Halloween.
Best for ages: 8-11

I was lucky enough to have Charles Suddeth answer a few questions about his writing and life.

Welcome to The O.W.L.

1. For your most current book – what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
        When you write a story and it clicks it is a really wonderful feeling. I liked the story and my friends liked it, but we were all prejudiced. However, an editor at Random House wanted it. The acquisition committee turned it down because it was seasonal, but they would have just sold it for one Halloween. A second publisher offered me a contract, but they weren’t going to promote it right, so I didn’t sign it. Diversion Press offered me a contract. I took it because I found out that they would have it in print for several Halloweens.

2. Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision is you can!       I’m old fashioned, so I wrote the rough draft on paper. I can be more creative with pen and paper. It took about two years for the book, mostly for editing and the many revisions. I can understand why you’re interested in revision. I think most writers either hate it or they’re afraid of it—or both. Once you get to know revision, it can be a lot of fun. First, you have to be just as creative with it as you are the rough draft. Don’t be afraid to throw out paragraphs or even chapters or at least rewrite them. Always print out your manuscript and edit on paper. It will let you see your mistakes and/or weak sentences. And read it aloud, even if you’re alone, especially dialogue. Again, you can often hear problems that you couldn’t read. Find someone who can give you good advice and let them read it.

3. Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?
      Some of the events are loosely based on things that happened to me or people I knew. Determining where the characters came from is more difficult. Although I didn’t specifically base them on anyone, I’m sure that subconsciously I must have.

4. How much say did you have in the cover of this book?  What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)
     I was asked for my opinion about the cover, but I have a small publisher. I told the editor what I wanted and she accommodated me. Large publishers don’t often involve the writer in the cover at all. They even change the title to meet their marketing needs. This is the computer age, so I was told that my cover was photo shopped. Even the printers get digital files, so I have copy that was sent to the printer. It has both covers and the dimensions in fractions of an inch along the margins for the printer.

5. What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?
      I was usually a good student, but honestly, not always if I didn’t like my teacher. I didn’t have favorite subjects when I was in school, except I didn’t care much for social studies. My sixth-grade teacher had me write a short story, and I have never stopped writing since. An English teacher in high school helped me appreciate and write poetry. I still write poetry, but just for fun.

6. And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?
     There are so many wonderful writers that it’s hard to narrow down. Mark Twain quickly comes to mind. He not only used his imagination and came up with fantastic stories, but he was conscious of his writing craft. So his work has survived the test of time. When I was in school I liked to read James Fennimore Cooper and Edgar Rice Burroughs, because their stories were great too. Unfortunately they didn’t pay attention to their writing, so their books have gone out of style and they sound clunky. Some of my favorite authors today: JK Rowling because her stories are believable fantasies and she has made readers out of countless kids. Charlaine Harris writes a series of books about Sookie, a young woman fighting vampires. Although they’re too extreme for those under eighteen, Sookie has a tongue-in-cheek attitude that reminds me of young adult books. Another writer I like is Mo Willems. He writes a picture book series about a pigeon, but he drags the reader/listener into the story. When I was younger I liked John Steinbeck, because he was such a marvelous storyteller. Another one I liked was A. A. Milne and his Winnie the Pooh, because of his absolute whimsy. And of course, Tolkien who created a magical world like no other. Instead of super heroes, Tolkien’s tales involved little people doing super things.

Thank you to Charles Suddeth for stopping by!

Author Interviews: Broomsticks by Sean McHugh and Katie McHugh Parker

Today The O.W.L. is excited to welcome Sean McHugh and Katie McHugh Parker authors of the cute tween book Broomsticks.

A bit about the book

Pocky McGuire has no idea why she is different. No one else in her family can levitate books or freeze and angry dog in his tracks. She felt alone in the world until one day she met a strange boy with a goatee. Unlike Pocky, Stamp had no doubt who he was. He was raised by witches and he was a witch. Upon meeting Stamp, Pocky hoped to befriend her magical counterpart and learn a few tricks of the trade. Stamp, however, wanted no part of anything or anyone mortal, including Pocky. Will it take magic to bring these two kindred spirits together?

Welcome! Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.

1.  For your most current book – what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
Katie’s Answer: I’m really happy that I could help develop Sean’s characters – Stamp, Pocky, and Blevins.  These were characters that he created on his own, years before I ever got involved in the project.  They were originally the main characters in a comic strip he had developed.  I am just as excited about the sidekicks, though.  I feel like I had a lot more input in their development since they came along later.  All of them are so neat and unique.  I’d love to hang out with them!  The one I am most proud of, though, is Mrs. Wheeler.  Mrs. Wheeler is one of the main adult influences who will appear in all of the Broomsticks books.  Her character is based on and named after a local lady who was a librarian in town when Sean and I were younger.  I don’t remember her as much as Sean does, but what really tugs at my heart is that we have had a few of the “real” Mrs. Wheeler’s family members come up to us at book signings and introduce themselves.  They have responded so warmly, even bringing us pictures of Mrs. Wheeler.  We can just tell how genuinely honored they are to have had her represented in our books.  I feel we have done her justice.  That makes me happy.  

Sean’s Answer: I’m just excited that the characters that have been such a major part of my life for the past 10 years are out there for the world to see.  I’m a proud papa!

2.  Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision is you can!
Katie’s Answer:  The writing process….well, it was so long ago and once we started, it was kind of like a whirlwind so it’s kind of hard for me to remember.  I remember the day Sean asked me to collaborate with him.  I was in my apartment, on the phone with him when he asked me if I wanted to help turn it into a children’s book.  I probably didn’t even let him finish the question before I gave him a gigantic yes!  I had seen some of his Broomsticks comic strips and loved them.  With those characters and a basic idea of the adventures they would have….I was ready to go!  We worked on it through email, phone, and snail mail.  Sean’s writing style was more dialogue-focused.  He has so many great ideas running through his head about what the characters would say in certain situations.  So, then I would kind of take that dialogue and work the narrative around it.  He would send me handwritten scripts, basically.  I would rework it with narrative and add some of my own dialogue or change some things around (with permission of course) and then retype it.  We didn’t really do a whole lot of revision.  Sometimes, I’d sit at the computer and type while we discussed it on the phone.  We never had a set method on how to write it as a duo.  We’d switch it up all the time.  Still do.  Like with the 2nd book in the series, we’d even alternate chapters.  In the third book, my main assignment is the sub-plot.  So, it’s different all the time.  But, it works.  

Sean’s Answer:  It really didn’t take too long at all.  Stamp & Pocky were already established in the comic strip.  So, once we decided on a plot & storyline, we finished the first draft in about 2-3 months.  The revising mostly consisted of the dialogue.  “Would a nine-year-old say that?” 

3.  Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?
Katie’s Answer: Yes, the characters’ personalities are great combinations of friends and family.  They are named after them too.  It’s kind of funny, because in our second book, we introduce a new character, a little girl who was originally named Katie, after me.  But, the first draft was written before I had any children and I have since been blessed with a daughter named Sophia.  Sophia had not yet appeared in any of the storylines, so we decided to change Katie to Sophia.

Sean’s Answer:  Oh, yes! Most of the characters are named after friends or family members. Pocky is my sister’s nickname.  Stamp’s attitude and personality is directly taken from my friend, Keith Blevins and we named Stamp’s familiar Blevins. By the way, Blevins often appears as an OWL!!!  Whoooooo!!!  

4.  How much say did you have in the cover of this book?  What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)
Katie’s Answer:  Sean had originally designed the artwork that would be used for the cover.  We did not have control over the logo/lettering.  Diversion Press made a great cover!

Sean’s Answer:  I had control over the artwork, but we had no control over anything else like the logo/typestyle or look of the cover. But we are very happy with it.  Diversion Press did a great job.  We especially like how they arranged the type on the back cover in the shape of a witch’s hat!

5.  What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?
Katie’s Answer:  Oh my goodness, yes! Yes! Yes! I was a good student and I have always loved English.  I have been writing since I learned how!  I can relate to our character Pocky in that way!  Even if I am writing a note to someone, or writing in a diary, I get a little wordy!  I used to write stories all the time, when I was younger.  I have even had a poem published.  I was the co-editor of my high-school newspaper.  I was so proud of my term paper comparing/contrasting L. Frank Baum to Lewis Carroll, that I kept it!  Now I enjoy teaching English!  I guess my students think it’s pretty cool to have a published author as their English teacher!  LOL!

Sean’s Answer:  I was a pretty good student except for math.  I HATED math and still do!  I loved English and I loved writing when I was young.  I was usually making up superheroes and coming up with their origins, etc.  The first children’s story I wrote was “Katie & The Jack O’ Lantern” when I was 12 years old.  I wrote it for Katie because she wanted to hear a Halloween story that wasn’t scary.  Little did we know where it would lead us.

6. And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?
Katie’s Answer:   I do love children’s books still.  I love reading to my 6 year-old daughter every night.  I enjoy reading to my students.  For years, I have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to them.  It never gets old.  I do enjoy C.S. Lewis.  I have always loved L. Frank Baum, a man who really knew how to use his imagination and create a great fantasy.  He did not forget what it was like to be a child and that is very important, whether you are a writer, a teacher, or a parent.  When I was in grade school, I enjoyed Judy Blume books.  These days, I probably still read more children’s books than anything else!  Regarding the grown-up books, I would have to say my favorites are Nora Roberts, Dan Brown, and Gregory McGuire.

Sean’s Answer:  Most of the books I read now are “How to” and ” Promoting Children’s Books for Dummies”  type books.  I still love the books I loved as a child.  I love the Mary Poppins books by P.L. Travers and the original Raggedy Ann & Andy books by Johnny Gruelle.  I was so excited to learn just a few years ago that Gruelle was originally a cartoonist who turned his comic strip idea into a children’s book series.  I loved The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew books,and Encyclopedia Brown.  As I got older I also loved Chris Van Allsburg, Marcia Jones, Debbie Dadey, and I love Henry Winkler’s Hank Zipzer books.  And, of course, I love l. Frank Baum, the man who made “good witch” a household phrase!

Thank you Katie and Sean for visiting!  I’ll be posting my review later today, but I’ll give you a hint: C.U.T.E!

Author Interview: G.S. Wolff The Girlz of Galstanberry

Today I welcome G.S. Wolff author of a great looking new series for girls – the Girlz of Galstanberry.  You’ve got to check this series out because it looks fun, postive and perfect for the tween set.

Below the enterview be sure to check out the book trailer and link to the website. 
Welcome to The O.W.L. G.S. Wolff!

1.  Tell how you came up with the idea for The Galstanberry Girlz series.
Great question! I began writing, The Girlz of Galstanberry when I was a research fellow at the National Institute of Health in Washington D.C. It was an opportunity to just unwind after days of laboratory experiments with mice. Ewww!! I thought it would be fun to write about a prestigious boarding school similar to mine. However, I wanted Galstanberry to be completely different from the popular genre of “preppie” books on shelves and adapted into movies. My years at Wellesley College, an all women’s institution, inspired me to give Galstanberry depth-history, purpose, sophistication. But, the uniqueness does NOT stop there! I wanted the characters to be realistic and relatable. Soooo, the five main girls-Lillian, Brandi, Fei, Tabitha, and Nisha-are modeled after close friends from middle school and Wellesley. Infact, three of the girls, Fei, Lillian, and Nisha, are named after close friends. My cousin Janet and her friends, who are as diverse as the characters, were my test group. They read the 5 diary entries of each character and fell-in-L-O-V-E!!! Janet’s fave character is Fei because she’s funky and independent. The rest, as they say, is history!

2.How long did it take you to write the first book – from start to finish including revisions?
It to took a total of 5 months to write and revise, The Girlz of Galstanberry, the first book in the Galstanberry series. My editor revised, I amended it, and then revised it about 1000th more times!! The whole process seemed like a stressful, but interesting literary eternity 🙂

3. I love that you’ve included girls from all different backgrounds.  Why did you decide to do that?
The world is diverse! Tall, short, blonde, braids, outspoken and timid-every girl is unique in her own way.  I wanted to create a series that celebrates the unique and diverse voices of girls. However, diversity is not only ethnically, but also socio-economically and geographically. Each of these factors help to shape a girl’s personality, her friends, and opinions on life. Therefore, The Girlz of Galstanberry is a celebration of girls’ unique voices.

4. According to your bio you attended a private school.  How much of the series is based on your experience there?
The series is heavily based on my life, Kindergarten-12th grade, at Detroit Country Day, a prestigious private day and boarding school in Beverly Hills, Michigan. It was, and still is, replete with students from Fortune 500 companies and political families. For example, the Galstanberry blazer and tie is mirrored after my middle school uniform. The traditions I followed at Wellesley College, such as High Tea and HouseMothers, are also incorporated into Galstanberry, but with a twist!

5. (This one my students always want to know) When you were in school, were you a good student especially in English since now you are a writer?
In school, I was a great student. However, English wasn’t my favorite or best subject. If I was permitted to write stories without being graded for proper grammatical structure (ugh!), then ALL was well with the world. But, when my precious stories were returned COVERED in red pen, my heart just sank into the abyss of disappointment. Now, I can combine a really great plot with good gramatical structure. All it takes is patience, and well, a good editor 🙂 So, the moral of the story is: Don’t let red marks scare you! Because under them is a FAN-TASTIC piece of literary work! 

6.And because this is The O.W.L. WHOOOOOOOO are the authors you enjoy reading now and/or WHOOOOO has influenced you as a writer?
Hmm. My two favorite authors are: 1) Edith Wharton, particularly her book, The House of Mirth, and; 2) Isabelle Allende’s famous book, The House of Spirits. I LOOOOVE these authors! Through reading their books at least once a year (seriously!), I have learned how to write vividly and passionately. These two authors can totally paint a picture with words.

7. Tell us about the Website!!Every time girls, teachers, parents, and librarians visit the site, they fall-in-love! The bright colors and super cool music (can you name the artist?) reflect the spirit of Galstanberry-fun, sophisticated, and unique! Girls can take the personality quiz to see which Galstanberry they are most like, or vote on the character that should be featured on the collectible bookmark that will accompany Book #2 (fall 2011 release). Additionally, people can watch the cute trailer or video excerpts from the special Galstanberry author event sponsored by the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan. The website also contains links for the e-book, which can be downloaded from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The paperback, which can be autographed and gift wrapped for no extra charge, is only available for purchased on the website. So, what are you waiting for? Check it out,!

Here’s the trailer.

Interview: Kate Messner Author of Sugar and Ice

I’ve very thrilled to have Kate Messner join us today on The O.W.L.  Kate is a fantastic author for the middle grades.  Today we are celebrating the release of her new book Sugar and Ice

Before we get to the interview, here is a bit about the book:

Junior Library Guild Selection 
Winter 2010-2011 Kids IndieNext List   
An Best Book for December

For Claire Boucher, life is all about skating on the frozen cow pond and in the annual Maple Show right before the big pancake breakfast on her family’s farm. But all that changes when Russian skating coach Andrei Grosheva offers Claire a scholarship to train with the elite in Lake Placid. Tossed into a world of mean girls on ice, where competition is everything, Claire realizes that her sweet dream come true has sharper edges than she could have imagined. Can she find the strength to stand up to the people who want to see her fail and the courage to decide which dream she wants to follow?

I was able to ask Kate some questions the my students always have for authors.  And to be honest, as the teacher, I have these same questions!

The O.W.L. is excited to welcome Kate Messner!

1.  How much time a day do you spend writing?  How do you fit it into your busy schedule?
On a regular day, I spend about two hours writing, and that generally happens from 9-11pm after my teaching and mom responsibilities are done for the day.  I also write during what I call “stolen times,” like in the bleachers at my daughter’s skating practice.
2.  How much do you revise?  From start to finish how long did your latest book take you?
I revise a lot. When I visit schools, I always confess to kids that I’m not a great writer…I’m just really good at revising, because that’s where the good stuff really happens.  Usually, my books go through anywhere from 10-20 drafts before they’re on a bookstore or library shelf, ready to read.  SUGAR AND ICE took about 18 months from start to finish, including many rounds of revision.
3.  What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject and did you always write?
I was a strong student, though I sometimes questioned my teachers more than they would have liked. English was indeed my favorite subject, and I’ve loved writing since second grade.  There was a period of time when I was writing only for school and then for my journalism job, though, and it wasn’t until I started writing stories again that I realized how much I’d missed it.
4.  How much say do you have in the cover of your books (my students are always curious about this one!).
Umm…not much.  That’s pretty typical of authors and publishers, too. Once the book is sold to the publisher, a whole team of people takes over, and that’s actually a good thing because they know more about marketing the book to readers than I do.  My editors do generally share the proposed cover once it’s designed, though, to see what my thoughts are, and I appreciate that. 
On the cover of SUGAR AND ICE, which I love, there were a couple changes from first to final version.  I’d sent a note asking for that steam coming out of the sugar house in the background, so my North Country readers would recognize that telltale sign of sugaring time. Joe Cepeda, the artist who did the painting for the cover, added that little detail for the final cover, and it made me so happy!
5.  And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing?  WHOOOO do you look up to so to speak?
I have so many writerly role models, it’s tough to name just a few.  Growing up, Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume were my favorite authors, and their work is still an inspiration.  I’m also inspired by many of the great kids’ writers I’ve had a chance to meet, including Cynthia Lord, Linda Urban, Wendy Mass, Lisa Yee, Danette Haworth, Deborah Wiles, Sharon Draper, Rebecca Stead, and many more.  If you want to write for kids, there are so many great examples out there to learn from, and I love learning from other writers. In fact, I wrote a teacher-resource book about teaching kids how to revise their writing that will be out with Stenhouse this spring. It’s called REAL REVISION: AUTHORS’ STRATEGIES TO SHARE WITH STUDENT WRITERS, and it features interviews with more than forty kids’ authors about their revision processes as well as a lot of behind-the-scenes revision stories from SUGAR AND ICE. 
Thank you so much for joining us today on the blog.  Now if you want a SIGNED copy of SUGAR AND ICE check out the info below!

Want a personalized, signed copy of SUGAR AND ICE?
The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid is hosting a SUGAR AND ICE launch party from 3-5 pm on Saturday, 

December 11th, so please consider this your invitation if you live in the area! If you can’t make it but would still like a signed, personalized copy, just give the bookstore a call at (518) 523-2950 by December 10th. They’ll take your order, have Kate sign your book after the event, and ship it out to you in plenty of time for the holidays.  

Guest Post: Tom Llewellyn Author of The Tilting House + Giveaway!

I long while back I use to do a monthly featured titled: Whoooooo’s That Author.  Today marks the return of that feature! Once a month I will feature a great middle grade author and give away his/her book.

Today I have the honor of welcoming Tom Llewellyn author of The Titling House.  I featured his book a bit back on a post about books I’d love to read.  It looks just fantastic.  And if Tom’s self questioning interview is any indication of the quality of the book, it will be fantastic.  For Tom’s guest post he is basically interviewing himself! I laughed when I read it, I hope you will too!

Tom Llewellyn interviews Tom Llewellyn
Before we get to the interesting questions, I suppose you want to shill your novel, The Tilting House.
I’m not above a little shilling. So let’s get a quick summary out of the way. Brothers Josh and Aaron Peshik are about to discover that their new home with the tilting floors hides many mysteries. When the boys and their neighbor Lola discover the hidden diary of F.T. Tilton, the brilliant but deranged inventor who built the house, they learn a dark secret that may mean disaster for the Peshik family. Can the kids solve the riddles of the tilting house before time runs out?

That sounds exactly like what’s written on the flap of the dust jacket.

It is. And if you liked that, here’s some more plagiarism from Random House’s marketing department: Mad science, mischief, and mishaps combine in the suspenseful and imaginative tale.

Can’t you take a moment to describe the book in your own words?

No. I’m too busy editing my next novel, Letter Off Dead. It comes out next September from Tricycle Press, the same children’s and young adult imprint of Random House that published The Tilting House.

You really do like to shill, don’t you?

Yes, I’m shameless.

Let’s get to the more interesting questions: You could have written a romance, a biography or a book about kitties. Why did you choose to write a mystery/adventure?

When I was a kid, I always longed for a book with plenty of adventure, plenty of surprises and a mystery meaty enough to sink my teeth into. So that’s what I tried to write. I think I succeeded.
My hope is that there are plenty of readers out there who are longing for the same kind of book. And so far, so good. The first printing has sold out already. I’m not talking numbers like The Hunger Game, but it’s doing pretty well.

Any changes for the second printing?

A few tiny typos magically disappeared. And some nice reviews appear on the back cover now.

I suppose you want to share one. But only one, OK?

OK. Publisher’s Weekly said, “Llewellyn’s debut is inventive, gripping, and shot through with macabre details.” I like that one. And I like the word “macabre.” It means creepy. I wanted at least parts of the book to come across as creepy.

You’ve got a fair amount of laughs in the book. Do you think of it as a humor novel?

I don’t. I tried to always treat both the characters and the plot with a lot of respect. I mean that I always wanted the characters to act true to themselves in the situations I put them in. Josh and Aaron are both natural smart alecks. Mr. Daga is smelly and burps a lot (he’s a rat, so it’s OK) and the dad is naturally grumpy (like me, I suppose). When you place those characters in a house where the walls disappear every now and then, some funny moments are sure to arise.

I liked the setting of the book. What was the inspiration?

I live in the inspiration. The setting is based on my own home, which was built in Tacoma, Washington in 1898. In The Tilting House, the floors of the home tilt precisely three degrees (which means that one end of an average couch would be about six inches lower than the other end). In my house, the floors tilt, too, although not nearly that much. But marbles and pencils do tend to gather in downhill corners. Of course, in my house, walls don’t disappear, pocketknives don’t grow to the size of machetes, and rats don’t talk. At least I hope they don’t. I’m pretty sure we don’t have any rats.

The main character is Josh, who seems about 12 or 13 years old. But their grandpa also plays a key part. Do you think young readers will be interested in such an old character?

I think they will if he’s interesting. In too many books, the adults are portrayed as nitwits. Grandpa is definitely not a nitwit. He’s a bit nutty. And he has a wooden leg, so that makes him automatically interesting, don’t you think? There’s even a chapter where he tells the story of losing his leg. What kid doesn’t like a good amputation story?

When you’re not shamelessly promoting The Tilting House, what are you doing?

Did I mention Letter Off Dead?

Yes, but you can mention it again if you have to.

I have to. The book doesn’t come out until next September, but I need to turn in a final draft on October 11. Yikes!
I’m really excited about the book, though. It’s about a boy named Trevor who is just starting junior high school. His dad died years earlier, but Trevor decides to start writing letters to his dead father, as a kind of diary. But two weeks later, his dead father starts writing back.

That’s weird.
Yes. It is. Weird is good.

Learn more about The Tilting House and Tom Llewellyn at
Now for the giveaway! To enter to win a copy of The Tilting House FILL OUT THE FORM!
+1 if you tell me IN THE COMMENTS of a house you know that had an odd quirk!
End Friday Oct 15th
US Only