Authors & Inspirations: Hester Fox

This week’s Authors & Inspirations interview is with historical fiction author Hester Fox! Hester’s debut novel, The Witch of Willow Hall, came out on October 2nd of last year – the same day as The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel. I loved Hester’s moody, gothic, witchy book (it makes a perfect fall AND winter read, when you’re cozy inside under some blankets) and it’s been fun that our books were release day sisters! Welcome, Hester!

 

What artist (of any medium) has had the biggest influence on you as a writer?

Can’t think of one in particular…I think it would have to be a combination of influences that came at the right time for me in my writing journey.

Do you listen to music while you write? Why or why not?

Oh yes. I love creating playlists for different projects, sometimes down to the scene level. I find listening to the same music throughout a manuscript helps me stay in the same mood/headspace and achieve a level of cohesion throughout the months-long writing process.

If you do listen to music while writing, share a few songs on your current writing playlist:

My current work in progress is set in the 1850s, so it’s loaded up with Chopin, Beethoven, Schubert, as well as some period movie soundtracks.

Are there any musicians who have had a big impact on your work?

I love the Decemberists because they are master story-tellers. Each song has such a strong sense of place and mood.

What was the last live concert you attended?

I think it was Arcade Fire last year.

What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled for a concert?

I saw the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra perform Mozart and Dvorak in Amsterdam, though I was there to visit family- the concert was just a bonus!

Share some of your favorite song lyrics:

Too many to choose from!

Your favorite band is going to write a song based on one of your books. What band is it, and what should the song be about?

It would have to be The Decemberists. I think they would be the perfect choice to write a song about a clairvoyant orphan that lives in a cemetery in 1850’s Boston 😊

What band is on your bucket list to see live?

I’m a huge Lana del Rey fan and I would love to see her perform live one day.

You are magically going to be granted the ability to be a virtuoso on one instrument. Which do you pick?

I played violin for most of my life but never even got close to virtuoso level. I always wanted to play piano, though.

What are your all-time favorite TV shows?

Downton Abbey, The Office, Parks and Rec, Drunk History, Bob’s Burgers

What TV shows are you loving lately?

I can’t get enough of The Good Place, and I’m really looking forward to Season 3 of Harlots

Is there a TV show that’s had an impact on you as a writer?

Not one in particular that comes to mind, but often I will watch a period drama to help me get in the right head space for writing, and to mimic character idiosyncrasies.

If you got the opportunity to write an episode for one show (past or present) what would it be?

Downton Abbey. Two words: Zombie Sybil.

If Netflix were to option one of your books for a TV series, which book would you choose, and who would play your main characters?

Hm, I think Book 2 which I’m just finishing up now. It’s set in 1840’s rural Maine during the height of Edgar Allan Poe-mania. There’s a big cast of characters and lots of mystery. I’m rubbish when it comes to casting though!

What are your all-time favorite movies?

I don’t watch a ton of movies, but the ones I do watch over and over are usually adaptations of 19th century books and period dramas. I love Pride & Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Bleak House, and Quills. The Others is probably my all-time favorite.

Who are your favorite actors/actresses?

I’m really bad at names and faces, but I will watch anything with Matthew McFayden, Tom Hardy, Kate Winslet, or Holiday Grainger.

Is there a movie that’s had a big impact on you as a writer?

Nothing immediately springs to mind.

Which of your books do you think would make a great movie? Is there a book of yours you WOULDN’T want to see as a movie, and why?

I think The Witch of Willow Hall would make a better movie than tv series. I definitely wouldn’t turn down either, though!

Are you a theatregoer? If so, what was the last play/musical you saw?

Not usually, but I was lucky enough to see Hamilton in Boston last month.

What are your top five favorite musicals (if applicable)?

Sorry, I don’t think I could name even five!

Are there any visual artists you’re a big fan of?

Kelly Louise Judd. Her art hits that sweet spot of folksy, dark, nostalgic, and melancholy.

http://kellylouisejudd.com/

Do you ever draw on visual art in your work?

I will keep tabs open on my laptop with different art from the period in which I’m writing so I can reference them as I write. I’ve also found museum catalogs and websites to be helpful, especially when it comes to describing furniture or interior design.

Has a place you’ve traveled ever inspired you in your writing?

Traveling in general always gets the story juices flowing, but I don’t usually get story ideas about the specific locations where I travel. I started Willow Hall on a plane to Iceland, for example.

You can go on a two-week, all-expenses paid writing retreat to the location of your choice. Where would you go, and why?

Somewhere in the UK, probably either Yorkshire or Scotland as those are my favorite places. Maybe the Hebrides?

Are you a podcast listener? If so, what are some of your favorite podcasts?

Yes! My Favorite Murder, Lore, Someone Knows Something (and pretty much anything the CBC puts out) are some of my favorites.

What authors have most inspired you in your own work?

I am a big fan of Susanna Kearsely’s work. I love the ease with which she crosses and combines genres, and the beautiful romances in her stories. I grew up on authors like Hardy, Dickens, Trollope, Gaskell, and Austen, so I feel like I have a lot of 19th century literary devices and tropes imprinted onto my subconscious.

What was the last book you read?

I’m usually reading multiple books at once so I’m not sure which was technically the last! I recently read Midnight Blue by Simone van der Vlugt which I enjoyed a lot.

What’s your favorite book you’ve read recently?

I also just finished the last book in Sandra Gulland’s Josephine B. series and have a serious book hangover.

What’s a book you’ve loved that you feel more people should be talking about?

One of my favorite books of all time is Sherri Holman’s The Dress Lodger. I didn’t read it until years after it came out, so I might have missed some of the hype.

What are your very favorite kinds of scenes to write?

Any kind of scene where a character lays it all on the line and bares their soul to someone else. Sometimes this is a fight scene, other times a declaration of love.

When you need to recharge your batteries/refill the well as a writer, what forms of media do you most often turn to?

I like to put on an audiobook and take a walk.

What artistic/creative talents do you have outside of writing?

I like drawing and water coloring small scale illustrations, learning new languages, and photography. I also bake with mixed success.

What artistic/creative talent do you wish you had?

I’ve tried sewing many times throughout my life and never been able to get the hang of patterns.

If you could have a drink/cup of coffee/beverage of choice with any three people alive in the world right now, who would you pick?

I’m so introverted I’m not even sure I could come up with three people!

Let us know what’s coming up next for you: new books, new projects; what are you working on?

I’m finishing up revisions for my second book, The Widow of Pale Harbor which will be out fall 2019. I’m also working my third book The Orphan of Cemetery Hill.

 

​When not writing and painting, Hester Fox works in the museum field as a collections maintenance technician. This job has taken her from historic houses to fine art museums, where she has the privilege of cleaning and caring for collections that range from paintings by old masters, to ancient artifacts, to early American furniture. She has a master’s degree in historical archaeology, as well as a background in Medieval studies and art history.

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Authors & Inspirations: Chanel Cleeton

Welcome to my first Authors & Inspirations post of 2019! To kick off the new year, I’m thrilled to have historical fiction author Chanel Cleeton. Chanel’s most recent novel, the USA Today bestselling Next Year in Havana, was Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club pick for July 2018. I was honored to have given a blurb to this stunning and powerful dual timeline novel, which follows the story of a Cuban woman whose wealthy family is forced to flee during the revolution, and her granddaughter who returns to Havana years later. Cleeton’s upcoming novel, When We Left Cuba (which I also loved!), continues the story of the Perez family in the aftermath of the revolution, and will be out on April 9, 2019. Welcome to the blog, Chanel!

 

Do you listen to music while you write? Why or why not?

Yes, music is a huge part of my writing process. I usually create playlists that fit the mood/tone of the book I’m working on and I tend to listen to those on repeat. I usually share my playlists on Spotify leading up to a book’s release. For example, when I was writing Next Year in Havana I listened to a lot of Buena Vista Social Club.

If you do listen to music while writing, share a few songs on your current writing playlist:

I just turned in a book to my editor and while I was working on it, I listened to Lord Huron’s The Night We Met, Falling Water by Peter Oren, If We Were Vampires by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, River by Leon Bridges, and Back to Autumn by Tall Heights.

What was the last live concert you attended?

I was just in Miami a few weeks ago and I saw Marc Anthony in concert. My father had never seen him perform live and he really wanted to go so I tagged along.

What are your all-time favorite TV shows?

That’s a tough one! Gossip Girl, Corazón Salvaje (the original version), Seinfeld, Veronica Mars, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Stranger Things, Jane the Virgin, Sex and the City, One Day at a Time, The Nanny, Frasier, Sons of Anarchy, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart are some of my favorites.

What TV shows are you loving lately?

I’ve really enjoyed Glow, Jane the Virgin, One Day at a Time, Stranger Things, Peaky Blinders, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Making a Murderer, and Younger. I also really loved the sadly now cancelled Good Girls Revolt which was amazing! I also watch all of the Real Housewives franchises.

Do you ever draw on visual art in your work?

Photography is really helpful to me and I spend a lot of time looking at photos of the places and from the time periods I’m writing about.

Has a place you’ve traveled ever inspired you in your writing?

Definitely! I draw a lot from my real-life experiences. For example, I have a series set in London at an international university that was inspired by my own time at university.

You can go on a two-week, all-expenses paid writing retreat to the location of your choice. Where would you go, and why?

I’d probably go to Koh Samui, Thailand. I spent a week there a few years ago and it was one of the most beautiful and relaxing places I’ve ever been.

What authors have most inspired you in your own work?

There are so many. Some of my favorites include Carlos Eire, Beatriz Williams, Tana French, Rhys Bowen, Judith McNaught, Nora Roberts, Ahdaf Soueif, Elizabeth Kostova, Anita Shreve, Sophie Kinsella, and Jane Austen.

What was the last book you read?

I just finished China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan and dove immediately into the last book in the trilogy, Rich People Problems. They’re the ultimate binge books and my favorite series I’ve read this year.

What are your very favorite kinds of scenes to write?

I enjoy writing scenes that are high-emotion where I really learn what my characters are made of. They’re often a bit draining to work on, but I find that when I pull back the layers on my characters I connect to them the most.

When you need to recharge your batteries/refill the well as a writer, what forms of media do you most often turn to?

I watch a fair amount of television, and looking at storytelling from a slightly different perspective both refills the well and often inspires me. I also read nightly and it recharges me and gets me in the mood to write.

What artistic/creative talents do you have outside of writing?

I’m not sure how talented I am, but I really enjoy interior decorating which has been sort of a surprising development in the past few years. I’ve also always been drawn to fashion. Handbags are my weakness 🙂

Let us know what’s coming up next for you: new books, new projects; what are you working on?

My next release is When We Left Cuba, which will release on April 9, 2019. It’s set in Palm Beach in the 1960s and highlights the tumultuous Cuban-American relations of the time period including events like the Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy assassination, and the many assassination attempts on Fidel Castro’s life.

I just finished drafting my 2020 release, tentatively titled Our Side of Paradise, which is set in the Florida Keys in the 1930s and is centered on the lives of three heroines (one of the heroines is related to the Perez family from Next Year in Havana and When We Left Cuba) whose paths cross on one fateful weekend in September.

I’m currently researching a book that I will begin drafting soon which will release in 2021. The working title is The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba and it’s set during the Gilded Age and the New York newspaper wars between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, and features a real-life Cuban heroine who was an infamous revolutionary in her time.

 

Chanel Cleeton is the USA Today bestselling author of Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick Next Year in Havana. Originally from Florida, Chanel grew up on stories of her family’s exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master’s degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

Authors & Inspirations: Melissa Erin Jackson

For this week’s Authors & Inspirations interview, I’m thrilled to have Melissa Erin Jackson on the blog! Melissa’s debut novel, The Forgotten Child, was one of my favorite reads of 2018. It’s a paranormal mystery that’s got a little something for everyone: ghosts, serial killers, fantastic female friendship, humor, justice being served, and a great romance. I couldn’t put it down, and also creeped myself out at one point by reading it late at night. Welcome, Melissa!

What artist (of any medium) has had the biggest influence on you as a writer?

I’m often inspired by other writers who are extremely prolific…Stephen King, Rachel Caine, Neil Gaiman, Jay Kristoff, Victoria Schwab. I would love to write books in several genres and seeing the success of others gives me hope it’s possible.

Do you listen to music while you write? Why or why not?

Yes, but it has to be instrumental. Music with lyrics is too distracting for me. I listen to a whole lot of smooth jazz. Starting to add in some Irish fiddle, too.

What are your all-time favorite TV shows?

Community, Parks and Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Stranger Things, Mindhunter

What TV shows are you loving lately?

The Goldbergs, The Magicians, Superstore, Santa Clarita Diet, and I just started Killing Eve but I’m very intrigued so far!

Is there a TV show that’s had an impact on you as a writer?

I really love shows with casts of kooky characters, especially ones with complicated and long-lasting relationships. The final scene in New Girl for example had so much wrapped up in it—from the trajectory of the characters’ relationships, to inside jokes—that I was in tears. I hope to create characters who have bonds that strong with each other.

If you got the opportunity to write an episode for one show (past or present) what would it be?

Superstore or Community! Both of those shows are totally bonkers and I think it it would be great fun to work on a comedy.

If Netflix were to option one of your books for a TV series, which book would you choose, and who would play your main characters?

I’d love to see Rosario Dawson or Logan Browning play Riley from THE FORGOTTEN CHILD. I picture Michael like Justice Joslin. Oh, you haven’t heard of him? Google his pretty face right now. I’ll wait 😊

What are your all-time favorite movies?

Shawshank Redemption, Se7en, and A Quiet Place. And because I’m still a kid at heart—Bolt, Up, Fox & the Hound, Wall-E, and How to Train Your Dragon.

Which of your books do you think would make a great movie? Is there a book of yours you WOULDN’T want to see as a movie, and why?

My WIP sci-fi would possibly make a fun movie. It’s an alien invasion novel, but quieter. Think Arrival rather than Independence Day. I have a clear visual in my head of what the alien race looks like and it would be really cool to see them on screen!

Has a place you’ve traveled ever inspired you in your writing?

While I was writing my sci-fi project for NaNoWriMo in 2017, I went on a weekend-long writer’s retreat to Fort Bragg here in California. It’s a small town on the coast, and the house we were staying in was a ten-minute walk to the beach. That town heavily influenced the town my MC, Lyra, travels to at the start of the book. I saw a lot of ravens on my walks and ravens became a big part of my book, too!

You can go on a two-week, all-expenses paid writing retreat to the location of your choice. Where would you go, and why?

As much as I’d like to say somewhere like Paris or Rome, I find that I write best when it’s quiet and I’m a bit isolated. I prefer writing retreats that are somewhere in the heart of nature—near a beach, in the mountains, walking distance from a lake. For a two-week retreat (Isn’t that the dream?!), I would probably want to hole up in a national park. Maybe Yellowstone. Somewhere where I can hike when I need to refill the well, but somewhere remote enough that I won’t get distracted.

Are you a podcast listener? If so, what are some of your favorite podcasts?

My Favorite Murder is my number one go-to for podcasts. It’s the perfect blend of humor and horrible stories of murder. It shouldn’t work as a combination, but it does!

What authors have most inspired you in your own work?

I love Sarah J Maas’s worldbuilding, Jay Kristoff’s ability to write stuff that’s as weird as it is compelling, Josh Malerman’s creepy, creepy atmosphere, and Deanna Raybourn’s ability to add humor in the most unlikely of places.

What was the last book you read?

I’m currently re-reading Cassandra Clare’s The Dark Artifices trilogy, in preparation for the third one that just came out. I just finished Lady Midnight and immediately started Lord of Shadows.

What’s your favorite book you’ve read recently?

Though I read it a year ago, Bird Box by Josh Malerman is still at the top of my recent favorite’s list. I’m so excited for the movie!

What’s a book you’ve loved that you feel more people should be talking about?

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn. It’s a somehow incredibly funny historical fiction series, plus it has a slow-burn romance that’ll turn even the most black-hearted into a puddle of goo.

What are your very favorite kinds of scenes to write?

On one end of the spectrum, I really love scenes with lots of banter. Either friendly banter between best pals, or banter between romantic interests. On the other end, I really love writing darker scenes, whether it’s from the POV of a serial killer, or a scene with a malevolent ghost.

When you need to recharge your batteries/refill the well as a writer, what forms of media do you most often turn to?

Because I’m in the car a lot for work, I listen to a lot of audiobooks (usually at least 50 a year). When I’m tapped out on writing my own stuff, audiobooks are one of my main outlets. For some reason lately, though, I get a lot out of watching my boyfriend play Fortnite. I don’t know why this works for me!

What artistic/creative talent do you wish you had?

I really wish I could draw. My mom is very talented at both drawing and painting. It was not a skill I inherited, unfortunately.

If you could have a drink/cup of coffee/beverage of choice with any three people alive in the world right now, who would you pick?

Barack Obama (he seems like the coolest dude), Maggie Stiefvater because I love her books and I have a feeling she’s got good ghost stories, and Stephen Colbert.

Let us know what’s coming up next for you: new books, new projects; what are you working on?

In addition to the Riley Thomas mystery series, I’m also working on a paranormal cozy series starring a witch. The first book is titled PAWSITIVELY POISONOUS. I hope to release the first of that series around summer of 2019.

 

Melissa has had a love of stories for as long as she can remember, but only started penning her own during her freshman year of college. She majored in Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology at UCDavis. Yet, while she was neck-deep in organic chemistry and physics, she kept finding herself writing stories in the back of the classroom about fairies and trolls and magic. She finished her degree, but it never captured her heart the way writing did.

Now she owns her own dog walking business (that’s sort of wildlife related, right?) by day…and afternoon and night…and writes whenever she gets a spare moment. The Microsoft Word app is a gift from the gods!

She alternates mostly between fantasy and mystery (often with a paranormal twist). All her books have some element of “other” to them…witches, ghosts, UFOs. There’s no better way to escape the real world than getting lost in a fictional one.

She lives in Northern California with her very patient boyfriend and way too many pets.

The Forgotten Child is her debut, the first in a paranormal mystery series.

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This will be the last Authors & Inspirations post for 2018. I’ll be taking a break for the holidays, and will be back with new interviews in 2019! Happy Holidays, everyone!

Authors & Inspirations: Meghan Masterson

Today I have historical fiction author Meghan Masterson on the blog for an Authors & Inspirations interview! Meghan and I met at the Historical Novel Society conference last summer in Portland, and have kept in touch since. Her debut novel, The Wardrobe Mistress, is a fascinating, insightful, and well-researched look at the French Revolution through the eyes of one of Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe ladies. I personally couldn’t put it down! Welcome to the blog, Meghan!

 

Do you listen to music while you write? Why or why not?

I do! I often listen to albums, so it always feels very opportune when one of my favourite artists comes out with a new one while I’m working on a new book. I do make playlists sometimes, and once I listened to the same song on repeat (I don’t even want to think how many times) because it fit the mood of the scene I was writing perfectly. In the interest of full disclosure, it was ‘Navigate’ by Band of Skulls and I was writing a tragic execution scene.

If you do listen to music while writing, share a few songs on your current writing playlist:

Hysteria, Supermassive Black Hole, Citizen Erased by Muse (I’ll stop there but I often put a lot of Muse on a playlist for writing)

New Ways, Flaws, and Witches all by Daughter

Madman Across the Water by Elton John

Fast Fuse by Kasabian (actually most of that album usually ends up on the playlist)

On a Slow Night by Metric

The whole Art of Doubt album by Metric also

Lies and Hell of a Season by The Black Keys

Three Wishes by The Pierces

You Belong to Me by Cat Pierce

Wanna Wanna by Dear Rouge

Dark Side of Night by Foxboro Hottubs

9 Crimes by Damien Rice (the demo version)

Smoke and Mirrors by Imagine Dragons (I initially listed the song, but I like the whole album too)

Glory and Gore by Lorde

What was the last live concert you attended?

The Black Keys. It was a few years ago. For some reason I don’t go to a lot of concerts even though I always enjoy them when I do! I need to plan better.

Your favorite band is going to write a song based on one of your books. What band is it, and what should the song be about?

I’m twisting this question around a bit, but I actually have a new book idea (very new, fragile still) that sparked from ‘Seven Rules’ by Metric. So, that.

You are magically going to be granted the ability to be a virtuoso on one instrument. Which do you pick?

Guitar. My dad is a luthier, and he gave me a guitar when I was about nine. I often regret that I didn’t play consistently (I tended to get into it for a few months, and then drop it for a year, then repeat) because if I had stuck with it, I’d probably be decent by now.

What TV shows are you loving lately?

I am eagerly awaiting season two of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and also Disenchantment.

Is there a TV show that’s had an impact on you as a writer?

I think Justified inspired me a little on my last book, which I just finished writing. Completely different settings and time periods, but I really wanted to explore complex characters with intricate relationships and weird obligations to each other. I wanted my characters to be sympathetic and understandable, but still sometimes do bad things.

If Netflix were to option one of your books for a TV series, which book would you choose, and who would play your main characters?

I feel like I’m supposed to say The Wardrobe Mistress since it’s my only published book at the moment, but I think the one I just finished writing would be amazing as a mini-series. It’s a dual narrative that takes place in the present as well as 1856-7, partly set in America, partly in Paris and Turin. It’s a tale of secrets, poison, and Nazi art-looting and I’d love to see all the costumes, settings, poisonous plants, and art on the screen. However, the costumes and sets would also be amazing for The Wardrobe Mistress, and I once shared some casting thoughts over on my agent’s blog, which is kind of funny now because I’m not sure I agree with these choices anymore. Good thing I’m not a casting person.

Do you ever draw on visual art in your work?

La Castiglione, an Italian countess and mistress to Emperor Napoleon III, is a central character in the book I just finished writing, and she was obsessed with photography. I pored over photographs of her, musing about her decisions for different poses and costumes – sometimes she dressed up as historical or literary figures – while I was writing. Obviously photography is a more advanced and accessible now, but there’s something magical about those old photographs from the 1850s – they’re a snap of a moment in time, but also took so much effort to get! So different from now when we can all take impromptu photos on our phones.

You can go on a two-week, all-expenses paid writing retreat to the location of your choice. Where would you go, and why?

Honestly, I should probably stay home and get someone to take care of all the cooking and cleaning for two weeks because I thoroughly explore every place I visit and I would spend those two weeks rambling around and not writing! Or else the writing retreat would have to be somewhere remote, where there’s not too much for me to see. Actually, now I want to say a writing retreat on the moors of Cornwall or something would be ideal, where I can walk all morning and then nap a bit in the afternoon and write into the night. Didn’t Agatha Christie do that once? I want to copy her now.

What authors have most inspired you in your own work?

Mary Stewart has been a huge influence, both her Merlin trilogy (I used to write more fantasy type stuff, then shifted to historical, and now I can feel a longing for some magic coming back around) and her romantic suspense novels. I’ve learned a lot about action in fiction from Bernard Cornwell’s books – those battle scenes! I dream of someday mastering an endless build of tension like Daphne du Maurier, or creating a perfectly immersive historical world like Sharon Kay Penman. A lot of historical authors have been profound influences because I read that genre so avidly, and I feel really lucky that I’ve been able to meet a few of them at conferences, like Kate Quinn, Kate Forsyth, Stephanie Dray, and of course you, Alyssa!

What’s your favorite book you’ve read recently?

A Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzie Lee. I actually listened to the audiobook (still counts as reading, right?) on a road trip and it was the first time I didn’t want to get out of the car by the end, because I was enjoying it so much.

What’s a book you’ve loved that you feel more people should be talking about?

The Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas is a beautiful, sensitive historical mystery and I want everyone to read it.

What are your very favorite kinds of scenes to write?

Scenes where a secret is revealed, particularly if it occurs during a confrontation or otherwise intense meeting between two characters. Morbid as it sounds, I also quite enjoy writing death scenes…but on the other hand, I swoon over writing a sweet first kiss, too.

When you need to recharge your batteries/refill the well as a writer, what forms of media do you most often turn to?

The usuals of music and TV shows, but I also kind of love playing games and letting my mind just wander. I like board games and I’m usually down for Mario Kart. Non-media, but I also find painting quite soothing and I will often spend quite a few hours painting when I’m between books. Going back to that question about being a virtuoso on an instrument, I think I’d almost rather somehow become an amazing painter instead… Lastly, and also not media, yoga and hiking are ways I like to recharge, too.

What artistic/creative talents do you have outside of writing?

I mentioned painting – I’m not that good, though. It’s just fun. I like playing with colours. I don’t know if it’s artistic, but I enjoy cooking and baking, and I’ll lump that into creativity because I’m sort of notorious for going rogue with the recipes.

What artistic/creative talent do you wish you had?

Sometimes I wish I could sing. I’m too shy to sing in front of most people, thank goodness, because I’m always off key.

Let us know what’s coming up next for you: new books, new projects; what are you working on?

I mentioned that I just finished writing a dual timeline novel that takes place in the present as well as the 1800s – it’s tentatively called A Bitter Remedy. Now I’m getting started on a new WIP that I’m not ready to talk about too much yet (I’m always scared I’ll fall out of love with a new idea if I talk about it too much too soon) but I’m really excited about it because it’s a shift into some more fantastical elements. There are witches. I really like my main character’s voice – she’s quite cooperative and chatty so far. Okay, that’s all I will say for now.

 

Meghan Masterson graduated from the University of Calgary with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Communications Studies, and has worked several unrelated jobs while writing on the side. Her debut novel, The Wardrobe Mistress, about one of Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe women who spies on the queen during the revolution, was an RT Book Reviews Top Pick and a 2017 RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Book Nominee. When she’s not writing, Meghan can be found reading at all hours (even at breakfast), cooking, and going for walks with her dog.

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Authors & Inspirations: Caitie McKay

My second Authors & Inspirations interview is with young adult author Caitie McKay. Caitie and I go waaaaayy back – we first met in college, in our first creative writing class (which was taught by the awesome young adult author Janet McNally). We liked each other’s work immediately as we read it for workshop, and quickly became friends. We’ve stayed friends and have continued beta reading each other’s work since!

Caitie’s debut novel, a young adult novel in verse entitled Every Little Bad Idea, came out this summer. It’s a beautiful, gorgeously written story about the pains of growing up, falling in love, and deciding what you want your life to be. I’m thrilled to have Caitie on the blog today. Welcome!

 

Do you listen to music while you write? Why or why not?

Not usually! I can’t concentrate on anything if a song has lyrics. Sometimes I listen to something instrumental, though.

Are there any musicians who have had a big impact on your work?

Take all the angst and real-ness of early 2000s Avril Lavigne and make it into a book…that’s all I aspire to do. One of my books was based around the AMERICAN IDIOT album from Green Day and another was heavily influenced by the Beatles.

What was the last live concert you attended?

Judah and the Lion!

What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled for a concert?

I drove to Pittsburgh to see the Mountain Goats. WORTH IT.

Share some of your favorite song lyrics:

And oh my God, what a world you have made here

What a terrible world, what a beautiful world

What a world you have made here

– “12/17/12” by The Decemberists

Your favorite band is going to write a song based on one of your books. What band is it, and what should the song be about?

I have so many favorite bands, but I’d want the Alabama Shakes to write a song about my book EVERY LITTLE BAD IDEA. The song would be about leaving behind the people who put you down, and finding your inner badass.

What band is on your bucket list to see live?

Oh man, don’t judge me…the Spice Girls.

You are magically going to be granted the ability to be a virtuoso on one instrument. Which do you pick?

Piano! I love watching people own the piano. I took lessons, but that left hand never truly learned to keep up…

What are your all-time favorite TV shows?

Gilmore Girls, Parks and Recreation, The Office, Call the Midwife

What TV shows are you loving lately?

I’m obsessed with the Masterpiece Theater show Poldark. I also just watched all of Great News. I think that show was written about my mother and me.

Is there a TV show that’s had an impact on you as a writer?

I aspire to write the wit, quirk, and heart of Gilmore Girls.

If you got the opportunity to write an episode for one show (past or present) what would it be?

Anything Tina Fey has been involved in—30 Rock, Great News, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt—because the scripts are just perfectly hilarious and ridiculous.

If Netflix were to option one of your books for a TV series, which book would you choose, and who would play your main characters?

Well, I only have one book out, so I’d have to go with…EVERY LITTLE BAD IDEA! I’d want the main character, Skyler, to be played by teenage Gina Rodriguez (love her) and Cole to be played by a young Jonathan Rhys Myers.

What are your all-time favorite movies?

I watch the movie ABOUT TIME multiple times a year. Same with AWAY WE GO. And I’m a sucker for anything Nora Ephron.

Who are your favorite actors/actresses?

Meryl Streep forever. I also LOVE Kate McKinnon in everything she does.

Is there a movie that’s had a big impact on you as a writer?

ABOUT TIME has had a huge impact on me as a person. It’s taught me to live each day mindfully and find the extraordinary in the ordinary. WHEN HARRY MET SALLY has impacted me as a writer because I’m just in awe of the script, and will try my whole life to create something so wonderfully complex and terribly relatable.

Are you a theatregoer? If so, what was the last play/musical you saw?

I love live theater but haven’t been in a very long time. However…I’m going to HAMILTON in December!!!

What are your top five favorite musicals?

Hamilton

Fiddler on the Roof

Sound of Music

Cabaret

Sweeney Todd

What authors have most inspired you in your own work?

I’d have to say Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Ellen Hopkins. Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti write such beautiful, honest books about what it is to fall in love for the first time. And Ellen Hopkins puts the teenage experience to sharp, edgy verse poetry.

Are there any visual artists you’re a big fan of?

I love Banksy. I love the idea of art making a statement. I love the idea of art being anonymous. I love the idea of art existing not only in a museum, but on the street.

Do you ever draw on visual art in your work?

In one of my books (which was sadly never published), the main character is a street chalk artist. For that book, I went to a chalk art festival and was completely blown away by the skill of the artists. And the idea that you can make something beautiful, and let go of it when the rain comes.

Has a place you’ve traveled ever inspired you in your writing?

I always set my books in a city like Buffalo (where I live). But many places have inspired parts of my books—Chicago, Northern California, Ireland—if not in setting, then in energy or anecdotes of adventures I had there.

You can go on a two-week, all-expenses paid writing retreat to the location of your choice. Where would you go, and why?

Always Ireland. I’ve been there three times and I never get tired of it. The ground itself just holds so much creative energy—you can’t help but feel inspired.

Are you a podcast listener? If so, what are some of your favorite podcasts?

I’m more of an audio book person! However, I do love GETTING CURIOUS WITH JONATHAN VAN NESS. He can narrate my life, thanks.

What was the last book you read?

The last book I read was ZEN AND GONE by Emily France. The last book I listened to was ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE. Woah, that book just blew me away.

What’s your favorite book you’ve read recently?

I loved the book EBB AND FLOW by Heather Smith and MISSING MIKE by Shari Green. They are both gorgeous middle grade novels in verse, and so perfectly written.

What’s a book you’ve loved that you feel more people should be talking about?

There are just so many good verse novels out there that need attention. LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds, THE POET X by Elizabeth Acevedo, THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander.

What are your very favorite kinds of scenes to write?

I love scenes where characters first meet. There’s so much to talk about—first impressions, awkward dialogue, body language. There’s so much possibility there.

When you need to recharge your batteries/refill the well as a writer, what forms of media do you most often turn to?

I watch a lot of Masterpiece Theater! Nothing like a British period drama to take me out of my world for a little while.

What artistic/creative talents do you have outside of writing?

I have very limited painting talent, but I still love to do it. I also play guitar and sing (but just for fun!).

What artistic/creative talent do you wish you had?

When I was in high school and college, I wrote a ton of songs. I wish I’d kept writing songs, and gotten better at them. I’ve just never gotten over my stage fright!

If you could have a drink with any three people alive in the world right now, who would you pick?

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tina Fey, and Sarah Dessen.

Let us know what’s coming up next for you: new books, new projects; what are you working on?

Right now, I’m actually working on multiple projects—a young adult verse novel, a young adult prose novel, and a middle grade verse novel. I’m really feeling middle grade lately!

 

Find out more about Caitie and her work at her website!

Authors & Inspirations: Dee Romito

I’m very excited to announce my new interview series, Authors & Inspirations! In it, I’ll be posting interviews with authors from all different genres in which I ask about the art and media that they enjoy and that inspires them in their work. As an author, I love talking about my favorite art and artists, and love hearing other creators talk about their inspirations as well, so I thought this would be a fun series – hopefully for both readers and for the authors I interview. Enjoy!

My first interview is with middle grade and picture book author, Dee Romito. Dee and I became friends a few years ago, and I just adore her books – they’re so fun to read but always have an inspiring message at their heart, whether you’re a kid or an adult! Her most recent release, the non-fiction picture book Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montogomery Bus Boycott, tells the story of an unsung hero of the Civil Rights movement, and appropriately enough released on Election Day this month. Welcome, Dee!

Do you listen to music while you write? Why or why not?

Not usually. My preference is a quiet writing space, and when I’m out somewhere writing I can usually block out the noises around me. If it’s really loud, I might listen to classical or Top 40 type songs.

What was the last live concert you attended?

My kids earned tickets for our local “Kiss the Summer Hello” concert with various artists, including Alessia Cara. Before that, I think it was Garth Brooks. His concerts are the BEST.

You are magically going to be granted the ability to be a virtuoso on one instrument. Which do you pick?

Piano. I love watching people play piano, and those fast, hitting-lots-of-keys songs are incredible!

What are your all-time favorite TV shows?

Friends, Seinfeld, 24, White Collar.

What TV shows are you loving lately?

This is Us! And the last season of The Big Bang Theory. I love sitcoms.

Is there a TV show that’s had an impact on you as a writer?

Not necessarily a specific show, but TV shows in general have for sure. I find that as a writer I often don’t just watch shows, I study them. Even my husband will say, “Ooh, they wouldn’t have shown that if it’s not going to be important later!”

I once binge watched the series Hart of Dixie and when I finished the four seasons, I started it all over again. I knew I loved it, but I wanted to figure out why I loved it so much. (It was the quirky characters and their friendships!)

If you got the opportunity to write an episode for one show (past or present) what would it be?

Ooh, this is a tough one. I’d pick Friends or Seinfeld except I don’t think I could do them justice. Maybe Parenthood or Party of Five. I really loved those shows because of the complicated relationships between the characters.

If Netflix were to option one of your books for a TV series, which book would you choose, and who would play your main characters?

The BFF Bucket List would probably best lend itself to a TV series. But if I get to cast the main characters, let’s go with No Place Like Home so I can have George Clooney or Josh Duhamel play the dad. 😉

What are your all-time favorite movies?

The answer to this has always been Grease and Field of Dreams, but I have now officially added The Greatest Showman to that list. LOVE it.

Who are your favorite actors/actresses?

Anyone who follows me online knows I have a massive crush on Hugh Jackman. So much so that a friend recently sent me a cardboard cutout of him. (Okay, I might also have been sent a cutout of Josh Duhamel.

Is there a movie that’s had a big impact on you as a writer?

I got the idea for No Place Like Home while watching the movie Up in the Air. It’s about a guy who travels all the time for work and I wondered, “Could you do that if you had kids?” From that, the seed for a middle grade book idea was born.

Has a place you’ve traveled ever inspired you in your writing?

Definitely. I have always loved to travel. Several of my books have travel themes and take place in cities I’ve been to. I have one manuscript I got the idea for while sitting in Trafalgar Square in London (Someday I’ll get back to working on that one!). Of course, sometimes places I haven’t been to inspire me too. My most recent book, Postcards from Venice, takes place in Venice, Italy where I have yet to venture to.

You can go on a two-week, all-expenses paid writing retreat to the location of your choice. Where would you go, and why?

Santorini, Greece. I have always wanted to go there and OH MY GOODNESS it’s beautiful.

Are you a podcast listener? If so, what are some of your favorite podcasts?

I wasn’t until this past year, but now I really enjoy them. My favorite kidlit podcast is Literaticast and my favorite just for fun is Dax Shepard’s Arm Chair Expert. Although don’t listen to it with kids in the car!

What’s your favorite book you’ve read recently?

I read a lot of picture books, especially nonfiction and biography. I love learning about people in history. One of my recent favorites is A Lady Has the Floor by Kate Hannigan about Belva Lockwood–an amazing woman I didn’t know about!

What are your very favorite kinds of scenes to write?

I like writing fun scenes that make me laugh, but I also like the ones that tug at the heart strings and make you feel the character’s emotions. Those are usually the hardest to write, but they’re so important to a story.

When you need to recharge your batteries/refill the well as a writer, what forms of media do you most often turn to?

I’m supposed to say books or music to sound official as a writer, I know, but my real answer is TV. I’m very visual, so TV shows and movies are my ultimate comfort spot when I need to recharge.

What artistic/creative talent do you wish you had?

Oh how I’d love to be an illustrator! But there are so many talented illustrators out there, it’s actually more fun to see what they do with the books.

If you could have a drink with any three people alive in the world right now, who would you pick?

Well first of all, I’m allergic to alcohol, so I’d just be ordering a water with lemon. Hugh Jackman, Ellen DeGeneres, and Michelle Obama.

Let us know what’s coming up next for you: new books, new projects; what are you working on?

I have a chapter book series coming out with Aladdin/Simon & Schuster in 2020 called Fort Builders. It’s about a group of kids who start a fort building company to earn money. Inspired by my own box fort builders at home. (Yes, there is currently a box fort in our play room.)

 

Dee Romito lives in her hometown of Buffalo, New York. You’re likely to find her on adventures with her husband and two energetic kids, at the local ice cream shop, or curled up in a comfy chair with her cats. She loves to write, travel, and giggle like a teenager with her friends.

Her middle grade books include The BFF Bucket ListNo Place Like Home, co-authored Best.Night.Ever, and Postcards from Venice (Aladdin/S&S). Her debut picture book, Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Little Bee Books) is now available. You can visit her website at DeeRomito.com.

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