Q&A with Heather Lang

Swimming with Sharks by Heather Lang and illustrated by Jordi Solano explores the true story of Eugenie Clark, a groundbreaking female scientist from the 1940s who studied sharks and changed how we viewed the creatures.swimming-with-sharks_cvr

We were luck enough to sit down with Heather and discuss Swimming with Sharks, the importance of biographies about strong women, and her own experience with sharks.


Q: Why did you decide to write books about strong women?

A: My first picture book biography, Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion, came from a search for personal inspiration. I’d received tons of rejections for my fiction and was on the verge of giving up on becoming a children’s book author. Researching and writing about Alice Coachman, a woman who overcame poverty and segregation and discrimination, inspired me to hang in there and follow my own dream.

The women I write about motivate me every day to step outside of my comfort zone, be brave, and persevere. My hope is that my books will inspire boys and girls to do the same.

 Q. How do you do research for your books?

A. Every book is a different research adventure! I always search for historic newspaper articles, photos, videos, and oral histories. And I try to do experiential research. For this book, I learned to scuba and went diving and snorkeling. Sure there are tons of underwater videos online, but there’s nothing like experiencing it first hand!

Experts in the field can also be so incredibly helpful. In the case of Swimming with Sharks, I had the luxury of meeting and emailing with Eugenie Clark—an honor I will never forget.


Q: What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A: The easiest part for me is diving into the research. The hardest part is directing my research. It’s amazing how short a thirty-two or forty page picture book becomes when you are looking at a person’s life. The challenge is determining how to focus the book.

For example, while researching Swimming with Sharks, I discovered so many amazing stories from Genie’s childhood that shaped who she became, and those alone could have been a book. I also considered focusing on the obstacles and the discrimination she experienced early in her life as a woman and as a Japanese-American. But when I met with Genie, it all became clear. She didn’t like to dwell on the discrimination. She wanted to talk about her work as a scientist and her love for and fascination with fish. I knew I needed to focus on her curiosity and her daring discoveries—specifically her work with sharks. That was the legacy she hoped to leave. Luckily there is room for some of the other information in the back matter, and I rely heavily on my website to share the rest.



Q: Were you ever afraid of sharks?

A: YES! I grew up with the movie Jaws, and my fear of sharks was intense. If I couldn’t see the bottom of the ocean, I didn’t like to put my foot down. And forget about swimming out into deeper waters. My own fear is what attracted me to Eugenie Clark. She was never afraid of sharks and spent her life trying to replace fear with facts. It was challenging and rewarding to research and write about a personal fear—a fear I discovered was completely unfounded.

Q: What did you learn about sharks while doing research for Swimming with Sharks?

A: I learned so many cool and interesting facts about sharks. But most importantly I learned from Genie that sharks are “magnificent and misunderstood.” Sharks are an essential part of our ecosystem, yet approximately 100 million sharks are killed every year. Yes, 100 MILLION! That’s an astonishing number to me.

Many are killed just for their fins, because in some countries people believe they have special healing powers. People also kill them out of fear. As Genie said, “Very few people are ever attacked by sharks. It’s safer to dive with sharks than to drive in a car . . . Sharks should be more afraid of us than we are of them.”



Q: What do you hope young readers will take away from Swimming with Sharks?

A: In addition to learning the truth about sharks, I hope kids will follow Genie’s example. She didn’t judge sharks based on what others said about them or the way they looked. She had no factual evidence to believe that sharks were vicious, unpredictable eating machines. She set an invaluable example to us all not to judge others based on rumors or appearance.

Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: Always! My next book with Albert Whitman comes out in the spring—Anybody’s Game: The True Story of the First Girl to Play Little League Baseball. I’m busy creating and adding content to my website for kids and teachers to learn more about Genie and sharks. I’m also working on a new picture book biography as well as a lyrical narrative nonfiction picture book about an animal. And I’m channeling the women I write about by challenging myself and writing some humorous fiction!



Thanks so much, Heather! Dive into Swimming with Sharks on our website, where you can also find a downloadable teacher’s guide. Plus, discover more about the beautiful illustrations created by Jordi Solano by returning to the blog on December 12 for insight into his creative process.



Q&A with Heather Lang

Q&A With Jessica Steinberg

In Not This Turkey! a family of recent Jewish immigrants to New York City get a taste of the American holiday, Thanksgiving—but when Papa is given a live turkey at work and Mel can’t bear the idea of eating the bird, holiday chaos ensues.


We were lucky enough to sit down with author Jessica Steinberg to chat about Not This Turkey!, finding inspiration, and holiday traditions.

Q: What was your inspiration for your title?

A: Turkeys are such a central part of Thanksgiving, but in these times, not everyone actually eats them. So I wanted potential readers – that is, parents – to know that while this is a Thanksgiving tale, the turkey is saved in the end.

Q: What was the process of working with your editor like?

 A: She was wonderful, knowing intuitively where and how to tighten the prose. When you only have about 500 to 600 words in a kid’s book, every word counts, and [Editorial Manager] Wendy [McClure] spent plenty of time cutting and honing Not This Turkey! with me.


Q: What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A: The easiest part is editing; the hardest part is coming up with the right twists and turns that make the story work.

Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book? 

A: I’m a journalist in real life and this is my first children’s book, which was about a decade in gestation. When I am actually writing, I spend a lot of time staring into space, or out the window, and then writing furiously during those wonderful spurts of energy.

Q: Why write children’s books?

A: This particular story presented itself to me, as it’s based on an incident that took place in my friend’s family. When I first heard it, I could just see it as a picture book, even though my own children weren’t born yet and I hadn’t spent so much time reading children’s books. Now that I have my own kids and have spent hundreds of hours reading out loud, I know what I like in children’s books and want to keep on writing them.


Q: Are you working on any other projects?

 A: I’m working on two other children’s books at the moment, loosely based on my own twin sons’ experiences.

Q: What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?

A: As a young kid, I loved Blueberries for Sal, Corduroy, and Harold and the Purple Crayon, and I moved on to series such as All of a Kind Family and Little House on the Prairie when I was a little older. Now I’m a big fan of memoir, contemporary and historical fiction, and the occasional biography.

Q: How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?

A: With my friends and family, and my family usually hosts. I live outside the US, so Thanksgiving is a bit more of a challenge in terms of sourcing cranberries and a turkey, but we make sure to celebrate it each year.

Q: What is your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?

A: I love the process of preparing the turkey, which becomes something of an all-day affair with my particular recipe. But I take my time, and try not to rush, and there’s no better feeling than sitting down with everyone to those traditional Thanksgiving dishes, each one prepared with love and care.


Thanks, Jessica! Find out more about life in New York, celebrating holidays in a new place, and that wild turkey on our website.

Q&A With Jessica Steinberg

Q&A with Jodi McKay

In Where Are the Words by Jodi McKay and illustrated by Denise Holmes a cast of punctuation must come together to create a story.


We were lucky enough to sit down with Jodi to chat about Where Are the Words? , quirky routines, and favorite books.

 Q: What was your inspiration for your title?

A: The title is usually not the first thing that comes to mind when I am writing, however, in the case of Where Are the Words? it was the only phrase running through my head as I sat staring at the computer with a bad case of writer’s block. After a while of repeating that question, it hit me that I should write a story about trying to find words for a story. The rest came together fairly quickly.

Q: What makes your book stand out?

A: There are not many books with punctuation marks as the main characters and none that have a period trying to write a story so I think that qualifies as pretty different from what’s out there. I also like that these characters talk as their punctuation roles dictate. It’s a fun twist that creates a great learning opportunity for kids that is hopefully exciting.



Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A: Ideas hit me at the weirdest times, so I make sure I have a way to write them down before they are replaced with something even more odd. When it comes time to sit and write, my process has actually changed. I used to be a pantser, but now I find myself writing out on paper what I want the story to look like. I will start with the character and write down his or her personality traits so I can get to know him/her a little better. Then I write out what the character wants how that directs the plot. I try to keep a theme in mind as the plot unfolds so that the end is satisfying. After I write all of that, I get to work on the computer, finding the right words to create the full story. Unfortunately, part of my routine is editing along the way. I know, bad habit.

Q: What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A: The easiest part for me so far has been finding ideas for new books. I read a lot, watch a ton of cartoons, and listen to my son who is known to say some funny stuff. When I get that spark for a story, the main character is not far behind so I’ve been lucky to have that come easily as well.

What I find to be hard when creating a book is making sure that all of the intricacies of a picture book work together. By that I mean, the voice of the narrator and character, the plot structure, language, the theme, and so on. If there is too much of one or not enough of another, it can throw the whole book off. This takes time, patience, and a good critique group. It’s hard, but when you get it right it feels great!

Q: Do you have any writing quirks?

A: To answer this, I will offer a glimpse into my “writing ready” mind by showing you how I set up my workspace.


I think this is fairly typical. A desk with a notebook for writing out ideas, coffee, a picture of my son’s smiling face, a pleasant scent, and a toy replica of Godzilla complete with classic scream. Oh, sorry, you asked for quirky. Nope, no quirks here.

Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: Absolutely! I have a few that are in the revision rotation and a dozen more that are waiting to hop on that wheel. There are a couple in particular that I am quite fond of so fingers crossed that they become more than a file on my computer.


Q: What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?

A: When I was really young, I remember reading The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny over and over again. I loved that Peter was a little on the naughty side and I hate to admit it, but I found his disobedience relatable. Then I moved on to books like Where The Red Fern Grows, Island of The Blue Dolphins, and Skeleton Crew by Stephen King. I was a precocious child.

Now, I’ll read just about anything. I currently love The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard, and Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory. Of course picture books are right up there as well and I find time to read them every day whether it’s with my son or as a form of research. I’m open to recommendations!


Thanks so much, Jodi! To find out how Period, Exclamation Point, Question Mark, and the rest of the gang put together a story check out Where Are the Words on our website.



Q&A with Jodi McKay

Q&A With Sue Fliess

In From Here to There by Sue Fliess and illustrated by Christiane Engel, Here and There are so similar they’re practically twins. But they can never play together because Here is always here and There is always there, so they become pen pals and write to each other all the time. One day, There gets an idea that could change the distance between them forever.


We were lucky enough to sit down with Sue to chat about From Here to There, the editorial process, and finding that creative spark.

Q: What was your inspiration for your title?

A: As with so many parts of my children’s book career, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), as well as the influence of other authors and illustrators, played a big part in this book. I was at the SCBWI NY conference in 2015, watching Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s presentation on all of her amazing books. As she was showing us her books, I thought to myself, I wish I could write something as clever! Her books are so surprising and clever! At one point she was using a pointer to explain a piece of art from one of her books and said, “You’ll notice what I did from here…to there” as she moved the pointer. And just like that, I started typing a draft of the story on my phone. I don’t know how much more of Laura’s talk I heard (sorry, Laura!), but I thank her for the initial spark! People ask me all the time where I get my ideas from, and it’s so hard to answer. I always tell people that I am always listening, always open to what could be the next story. And in this case, that holds true.

Q: What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A: If there is an ‘easiest’ part, will someone please tell me what that is? I would say there are really hard parts and not-as-painful parts. The hardest part for me is trusting that I won’t run out of ideas—that the next idea will present itself. Another hard part is having what you think is an amazing idea, then not being able to execute that idea with the right words. Or knowing there is a story in there somewhere, finally sifting through it all and finding it, only to be unable to write a satisfying ending. It takes a lot of hard work to make it look easy. But I absolutely love every part of the process and wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.


Q: What makes your book stand out?

A: To tell you the truth, when I wrote it, even though I absolutely loved the idea and thought it was maybe the most clever thing I’d written, I was skeptical it would find a home. (My initial thought was that it would make a great Pixar animated short kind of like ‘Day and Night’). Among my own portfolio of books, it’s like nothing I’ve ever written. It’s a multi-layered concept book. First, it’s illustrating actual words as characters. And then those characters represent physical—yet abstract—locations. And on top of that, there is wordplay. It was kind of a head-trip to write. I knew it would take just the right editor to want to make it a book, and just the right illustrator (Christiane Engel) to pull off these illustrations. She did such a great job with a difficult task. I’m so glad it found the right home!

Q: What are your hopes for this book?

A: I have many hopes for this book. On a tactical level, I hope it helps teachers and educators explain to their students about the spelling of the words here and there, and the concept of here and there as locations. In addition, I hope it brings back letter writing as a form of communication. Maybe bringing back the idea of having a pen pal. So much is done on email and text these days. I got a good ‘old-fashioned’ letter the other day and I squealed inside. It shows the recipient that the person took undistracted time out of their busy day to think about me, write a letter, put it in an envelope, and mail it. It’s heartwarming to know someone has made an effort on your behalf. I hope kids get the wordplay and enjoy finding those instances in the text. Finally, on a story level, I hope it helps bridge the distance between people and families that cannot always be together—whether they are separated by military assignments, divorce, travel, schooling, financial reasons, or something else. Maybe in some small way it can help them know that even when they are physically apart, they are together in their hearts.


Q: What was the process of working with your editor like?

A: This book was cathartic for me. The original story ended much like the story that is printed. But that’s not the ending I submitted. My critique group thought my first ending may be too sad, so I changed it to have a happier ending. But after working on it with my editor, we simplified the text even more, which streamlined the whole story and gave it more focus on letter writing. Then she suggested an ending similar to how I’d originally ended it, to give it more appeal to people who can’t be together all the time. I was so happy to go back to my original ending! It was in the process of going back and revisiting that other ending, that I was able to revise and come up with that sweet last line of the book—which, in my humble opinion, really brings the story home. If it weren’t for my editor asking me questions and pushing me, the story would not have had the same impact.

Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: I’m always working on multiple projects. Some get stalled to promote new releases or revise manuscripts under contract, but I would say that typically I have at least two ideas I’m noodling on at a time. It’s helpful to me to work this way because if I’m not feeling the love for one story one day, I’ll work on the other. Currently I have three picture books I’m working on and a middle grade novel.


Thanks, Sue. Ready to get reading and writing? To find out more about From Here to There, plus download a free postcard template, check out our website.



Q&A With Sue Fliess

Q&A with Cindy Rankin

In Under the Ashes, Elizabeth “Littlebeth” Morgan’s family wants her to become a proper lady, so they send her to stay with her Aunt Sally in San Francisco. But before Littlebeth can adjust to cultured city life, the earthquake hits. Will Littlebeth be able to survive the disaster and be reunited with her family?


We were lucky enough to sit down with author Cindy Rankin to talk about Under the Ashes, finding inspiration close to home, and her nineteenth-century idols.

Q: Your novel is centered around a historic earthquake. Why did you choose to write about that?

A: This began as a short story about a spunky girl. When I decided to build a novel around Littlebeth’s character, I needed a big challenge for her to face. I knew the deadliest earthquake in U.S. history happened in San Francisco in 1906. In researching what was called the Great Quake, I became fascinated by the era, and wondered how Littlebeth would manage in an unfamiliar city that collapsed around her.

In 2003, my hometown had a destructive temblor. I learned first-hand how frightening an earthquake can be. It left a lasting impression. Under the Ashes is a historic novel, but young people still deal with the same kinds of  issues as Littlebeth—living up to parental expectations, finding one’s own place in the world—and unfortunately, there will always be disasters that result in loss and refugees. I hope readers experience what it was like to live in another time, yet understand how Littlebeth feels when her parents send her away, and imagine how they might react if they were caught in an epic calamity.

Q: Did you base the character of Littlebeth on anyone?

A: As a child, my daughter’s confidence amazed me, yet it was also irksome. She posted her “rules of life” on her bedroom door: “Everyone has to stay ten feet away from me!” That didn’t work. Our house was too small and I’m a hugger. Smart, strong-willed kids are a challenge to raise, but usually grow into fine adults. I dedicated this book to her.

Q: What inspired the title of your book?

A: It had to reflect the story. After the Great Quake, a huge fire broke out and burned for three days. Ash rained down and covered everyone alike from the elite to the poor as they all tried to survive the catastrophe. Littlebeth came to understand the similarity and difference between people isn’t status, religion, skin color, or nationality. It’s inside the heart that matters most. She discovered even under the ashes hope exists for a new beginning.

Q: If you lived in 1906, would you have been wild like Littlebeth or the proper young lady her parents wanted her to be?

A: Well, you’d never catch me chasing skunks or a rattlesnake! But I wouldn’t be a proper young lady either, because my imagination is too big to stay quiet or still for long. Today girls have the freedom to play sports, excel in school, and be who they want to be. It wasn’t always like that. In the past, standing out like Littlebeth wouldn’t be acceptable.

Q: Littlebeth gets to meet famous opera singer Enrico Caruso in San Francisco. If you lived in the early 1900s, who would you like to meet?

A: Like Littlebeth’s papa, I’m a fan of our 26th president,Teddy Roosevelt. Also, I admire Andrew Carnegie. He was born poor in Scotland, came to the U.S. and made a fortune, then donated great sums to enrich communities. I’d like to thank him for all the libraries he built. My hometown has a Carnegie Library that opened in 1909. My children and I spent a lot of time there. Now it’s the home of our Historical Society.

Q: What books did you like to read when you were young?

A: The Boxcar Children. Kids making it on their own struck my fancy. Also Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew series—solving mysteries and driving a roadster—nothing better! But my all-time favorites (I reread them every few years) are: Anne Of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Q: Are you working on other projects?

A: I’m writing a contemporary middle grade novel about a boy whose father is missing in war, and the unusual way he copes with his dad’s absence. I come from a military family. This story is in my bones.


Thanks, Cindy. Check out Under the Ashes on our website, where you’ll also find links for purchasing the title.

Q&A with Cindy Rankin

Q&A with Linda Joy Singleton

In The Secret of the Shadow Bandit, the fourth title in the Curious Cat Spy Club by Linda Joy Singleton, Kelsey and her friends discover a new mystery at a local castle.


We were lucky to sit down with author Linda Joy Singleton to chat about The Secret of the Shadow Bandit, her writing routine, and cute animals.

Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?  

 A: I get up each morning and write on my laptop until it’s time to exercise.  But I have to confess I am easily distracted…by email, games, Facebook, Twitter, and my family. So some days I don’t get much written. But when I need to write faster, I work morning and night. It usually takes about 6 months to write a book.

Q: Do you have any writing quirks? 

 A: I write in the mornings on my laptop in my bed. Here’s one secret for anyone who enjoys vintage series books like Nancy Drew: I sneak in series books references in all of my CCSC books. I did it in my previous series, The Seer, too. If you spot any series references, message me on Facebook and I’ll tell you if you’re right.  Hint: the name of the middle-school is based on Nancy Drew’s first best friend (all super series fans know that Bess and George weren’t in the early books). And sometimes I base a character on a real person.

Q: Why do you write for kids?

 A: Kid books are hopeful, exciting, and fun. When I was a kid, I had lots of fun with my best friend and enjoy writing adventures for my characters. Kelsey, Leo, and Becca have much more exciting mysteries to solve than I did, although there really were three abandoned kittens that ended up at my best friend’s house. We loved animals and mysteries so much we created a club we called the CCSC.

Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: YES!  I’m writing the 5th CCSC mystery which is all about dogs. There’s a tiny pug puppy, a search and rescue German Shepard, and even a super dog with her own comic book. The main mystery, though, involves a missing person—someone very close to Kelsey. The title will probably be Dog-Gone Danger, and it should be out Spring 2017. (But first I have to finish writing it and I have about 50 pages to go.)

Q: Do you have a favorite Curious Cat Spy Club adventure?

 A: Secret of The Shadow Bandit—and not just because it’s my newest. This book is my tribute to the mystery series I read as a kid (and still collect!). My favorites were about sleuths names Nancy, Judy, and Trixie. The mysteries had fun plots with hidden jewels, missing heirs, and mysterious castles with eerie dark dungeons. So I put all these plots tropes and more in the 4th CCSC mystery.




Q: What was your inspiration for your title, The Secret of the Shadow Bandit?

A: There’s a mysterious animal in CCSC#4 which lurks in shadowy places and steals things like a bandit. Can readers guess what it is?

Q:  What is your favorite animal?

A: Cats, with dogs as a close second fav. I have three cats and a cute little poo-pom named Lucy Goosey.

Q: What books did you like to read as a kid? 

A: Mysteries! My parents would take me to secondhand store for older series like Judy Bolton, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and many more. When I was in 4th grade my teacher had a chart on the wall with how many books everyone read for that month—and I was tied for first place, reading a book a day. My favorite authors for current kids’ books are: Neal Shusterman, Ingrid Law, Eva Ibbotson, J.K. Rowling, April Henry, Alex Flinn, Scott Westerfeld, Suzanne Collins, and many more (check my Goodreads for books I’ve reviewed). I also read adult mysteries; my favorites are by Kate Morton, Marcia Muller, and Sue Grafton.


Thanks, Linda! Explore the latest Curious Cat Spy Club mystery, The Secret of the Shadow Bandit on our website.

Q&A with Linda Joy Singleton

Q&A with Lisa A. Koosis and Kara Bietz

AW Teen, Albert Whitman’s young adult imprint, has two great teen novels publishing this fall.


In Resurrecting Sunshine  by Lisa A. Koosis, Adam is given the opportunity to bring his girlfriend and bandmate, Sunshine, back from the dead using cloning and memory implantation techniques.


In Until I Break by Kara Bietz, star athlete Sam is the victim of bullying. When gunshots echo through the halls of Broadmeadow High School, whose finger is on the trigger?


Lisa and Kara had a chance to sit down with one another to talk about being debut authors.


Kara Bietz: Hello, Lisa! It’s so nice to meet you. Congratulations on your upcoming release!

Lisa A. Koosis: Hi Kara! Congratulations to you, too. Your book has been on my radar for a while now, so it’s great meeting you. I’m looking forward to chatting.

Kara Bietz: Why children’s books? Was it a conscious decision or something that just kind of happened?

Lisa A. Koosis: I actually started out writing short stories and then, after that, books for adults. I’d never considered writing for children or teens. Then I won the grand prize in Family Circle’s annual short story contest. Part of the prize package was a certificate for an online writing course. I wanted to take a course taught by an editor and the one I chose was YA Novel Writing, taught by Kendra Levin of Viking. Very quickly, I fell in love with writing for teens. I think it’s an age group I strongly identify with. How about you? Have you always written for children?

Kara Bietz: What a great story! I love that it happened that way and you ultimately fell in love with it. I’ve been writing stories for a REALLY. LONG. TIME. And they’ve always been about teens or tweens. When I began writing seriously, writing with an eye toward publication, my stories tended to have main characters around sixteen or seventeen years old.

Lisa A. Koosis: It’s interesting how you’ve always gravitated toward a pretty specific age range.

Kara Bietz: I guess it’s always been in me to write for teens, though I never really consciously made that decision, if that makes sense.

The premise for Resurrecting Sunshine is so unique; how did you come up with the idea?

Lisa A. Koosis: Thank you! Resurrecting Sunshine actually started out its life as a short story. I wanted to write something where the main character, the person that everyone else revolved around, never appeared “onscreen.” But the short story never really worked, no matter how many ways I tried, so I filed it away. A few years later, I was looking for an idea for a book, and that “off-screen” character popped back into my head and I ended up writing the book.

Kara Bietz: Was Sunshine your off-screen character?

Lisa A. Koosis: Yes! I had a picture in my mind of a girl in a yellow dress standing barefoot on a stage. That girl became Sunshine.

So school violence (and bullying) are such timely and important topics these days, of course, but was there something specific that inspired Until I Break?

Kara Bietz: The idea grew from one of those “what if” games with my husband that kind of got out of control! In all honesty, it grew from a very small incidence of bullying that involved my own son, who was only eleven or twelve at the time. I let the idea of a bully story tumble around in my head for a long time before I started writing. At first, I was thinking I may even write the story from the bully’s point of view, but that didn’t quite work out the way I thought it would. Best laid plans, right? It turned into a mystery/suspenseful kind of story as I continued to revise and reimagine my original idea.

Lisa A. Koosis: I’m always amazed at how ideas can take on a life of their own and how far a story can stray from that original spark of an idea. Did the changes that happened to your story ever surprise you?

Kara Bietz: They did, actually! I had a lot of trouble writing some of the scenes because they felt very raw. After they were written and I was rereading, I was thinking: “holy cow what did I do to these poor characters!” Sometimes it’s very obvious that the characters are in charge and we, as writers, are just along for the ride.

What was the hardest part of writing Resurrecting Sunshine?

Lisa A. Koosis: Oh that’s a tough one! I wrote Sunshine in sort of a blur. Only days before I set pen to paper, I’d separated from my husband of fifteen years. My life was in complete turmoil, but I was determined to participate in my favorite annual event, National Novel Writing Month. And I think as hard as it was, writing this particular story during that time was somehow right because I understood Adam a little better, and I understood the choices he made after experiencing such a life-changing loss.

Kara Bietz: I’m a big believer that every story you’re called to create serves some kind of purpose in your own life, too. While we are largely writing for readers, writing can be pretty therapeutic, too.

Lisa A. Koosis: I agree. I think some of our most authentic writing comes from how we connect with our own work.

I know you mentioned that you’ve been writing stories for a long time (me too!) so is this your first book-length work?

Kara Bietz: No. I wish I were that lucky! I have several “shelf” novels that will never see the light of day—at least not without some major revision! This is the fourth book-length novel I have finished, but the first to be published. I think my critique partners way back when helped me realize when I had something that might be ready for publication. Do you connect with other authors in any way?

Lisa A. Koosis: I’m lucky in that where I live, we have a vibrant writing community. Most of my closest local friends are writers, and we have a local chapter of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) that meets regularly. But I do connect pretty extensively with other writers online. My critique partners live in Canada, New Jersey, and Tennessee. I love that the internet has given us the ability to connect so easily as writers. I don’t know where I’d be without that community. Some days my critique partners are my lifeline.

Have you connected with many other writers in person or online? Is it something you’ve done for a while, or only recently, as a debut author?

Kara Bietz: I still keep in touch with my writing “family” in Atlanta, even though I now live in Houston. We try to get together at least once a year or so. My agent has a private Facebook group for her clients, and we all connect daily. They’ve been a great, supportive community to be a part of. I also attend monthly SCBWI meetings here in Houston, too. So not all of my interactions with other humans are online!

What kinds of things did you like to read as a child or a teen? If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Lisa A. Koosis:
 As a child, my weakness was stories about animals (dogs mostly, but also cats and horses). But when I reached my teen years, I fell in love with science fiction and horror. I devoured all of the Writers of the Future anthologies and promised myself that one day I would have a story published in them (which never actually happened, though not for lack of trying). If I could only read one book for the rest of my life it would probably be either Stephen King’s Pet Sematary (ironic considering my love of animals) or Piers Anthony’s Rings of Ice, which is a great little apocalyptic tale. And this is such a great question. I’d love to hear your choices, too.

Kara Bietz:
 Pet Sematary! Aaaaaah!!!! I loved this book as a teen—it was probably my favorite. Misery was a close second. I remember reading it through one eye because it freaked me out so much! As a teen I read lots of horror. Almost all Stephen King, though I’d throw in a John Saul novel here and there for variety. As a child, I loved Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary, and any kind of series I could get my hands on. My very favorite book as a child was Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume and I’m happy to say that it still stands up today😉. If I could only read one book for the rest of my life, I think I’d choose Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

Lisa A. Koosis:
 John Saul was another of my favorites as a teenager! And Speak— now there’s a book that every teenager should read.

So now, as an adult, what books do you like to read?

Kara Bietz:
 I find myself reading a lot of contemporary YA. It’s what I’m drawn to in the library and in the bookstore. I’m still a big mystery/thriller fan, but I tend to lean toward YA mystery these days. How about you?

Lisa A. Koosis:
 I find myself reading all over the map lately: from adult horror to YA contemporary. I think some of that has to do with my days as a bookseller when a customer was equally as likely to sell me a book as I was to sell them a book, and I read things I never would have picked out on my own. But it’s funny because as a teen I read primarily adult books, and now I find myself reading more and more YA. I think some of it speaks to the amazing range of YA that’s out there today.

Kara Bietz:
 Isn’t it awesome? You could almost get lost in the YA shelves if you tried really hard.

Are you working on any other writing projects right now?

Lisa A. Koosis:
 Yes, I have been working on several writing projects, trying to find just the right one. Sometimes, for me, it’s a matter of playing with a few ideas before I settle on the right one. How about you, Kara?

Kara Bietz:
 I am the same way! I have a few different projects in different stages of “done-ness.” I have one that’s basically a finished draft, another that I’m working through the first draft now, one that I’m plotting, and one that is just an idea I like to take out and look at every so often! Being this close to publication, it’s been hard to concentrate on much of anything for an extended amount of time!

What has been the most exciting part of this journey to publication for you?

Lisa A. Koosis: I know exactly what you mean. [At the date of this conversation] I’m just about two weeks away from my launch and it’s become impossible to focus. The whole journey to publication has been amazing, and it’s hard to pick the most exciting part. But several months ago I had the opportunity to participate in a local teen book festival. I only had a single ARC at the time that I’d brought to read from. At one point, one of the teens I’d been talking with picked up my ARC and started reading…and reading…and reading. I sat there talking to her sister while she read the first few chapters of my book, and I could see from her face that she was completely lost in it. It was easily one of the best moments so far.

Have any moments stood out for you? What’s been the scariest thing for you about the journey to publication?

Kara Bietz:
 I think the first time I saw the cover was the biggest “OMG this is real” moment I’ve had so far. Every step in the process has been exciting and something to be celebrated for sure, but seeing the cover was like the moment that it became very, very real. Getting my ARCs in the mail, holding that book in my hands with my name on the cover—that was another moment I won’t soon forget. I think the entire journey has been scary! At every step, I find myself thinking “well this is new” and taking a deep breath! Thankfully it’s been more exciting/scary than horrifying/scary. More like a roller coaster than a haunted house!

Lisa A. Koosis:
 A roller coaster for sure—and now we’re both counting down to our official launch.

Kara Bietz:Are you doing a launch event of some sort?

Lisa A. Koosis: I’ll be doing an event at my local Barnes & Noble (which I worked at many years ago). It’s thrilling and absolutely terrifying all at the same time. I know your launch is a little further out, but do you have anything special planned?

Kara Bietz:
 I have a launch party scheduled for early November at a little indie bookstore I love here in Houston, Blue Willow Books. I’m really excited about it.

It was so lovely meeting you and getting to chat! Congratulations on your release; I can’t wait to get my hands on Resurrecting Sunshine!

Lisa A. Koosis: Thank you! I had a great time chatting and getting to know you, and I’m so excited for Until I Break! Congratulations to you, too!



Thanks, Kara and Lisa! To find out more about their books, Until I Break and Resurrecting Sunshine, check out AW Teen.



Q&A with Lisa A. Koosis and Kara Bietz