Tag: epic reads

Interview with Anne Blankman, Author of Prisoner of Night and Fog + Giveaway (US Only)

Interview with Anne Blankman, Author of Prisoner of Night and Fog + Giveaway (US Only)

Welcome to the first official author interview here at BOOKISH ILLUMINATIONS. You all probably know that I ADORED Anne Blankman’s debut YA historical novel for 2014, PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG, published by Harper. The sequel, A CONSPIRACY OF BLOOD AND SMOKE is coming out in April, and I’m super excited about it.

I started to chat with Anne on Twitter awhile back, and decided it was time to host her on the blog. I thought it would be even more special to have her visit right when Spirit of Children’s Literature was moving over to Bookish Illuminations.

What a fantastic way to celebrate the move!

Fun, right? Grab your coffee or tea, and settle in for a fabulous interview with Anne!

BIO: Anne Blankman may have been meant to be a writer because her parents named her for Anne of Green Gables. She grew up in an old house with gables (gray, unfortunately) in upstate New York. When she wasn’t writing or reading, she was rowing on the crew team, taking ballet lessons, fencing and swimming. She graduated from Union College with degrees in English and history, which comes in handy when she writes historical fiction.

After earning a master’s degree in information science, Anne began working as a youth services librarian. Currently, she lives in southeastern Virginia with her family. When she’s not writing young adult fiction, she’s playing with her daughter, training for races with her husband, working at her amazing library branch, learning to knit (badly), and reading.

Anne Blankman is the author of PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG, the first in a three-book deal slated for publication on April 22, 2014 from Balzer + Bray | HarperCollins. The sequel, CONSPIRACY OF BLOOD AND SMOKE, comes out on April 21, 2015, and a standalone novel will be released in 2016. Anne is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary. 

Hi Katie! Thanks so much for having me today!

Anne, thank you so much for answering my questions. As you know, Prisoner of Night and Fog was one of my favorite historical novels for 2014, and I’m so excited about the sequel.

When you were researching for PONAF was there anything surprising you found?

Hitler was homeless when he was a very young man. Yes, really! Both of his parents had died, and he had signed over his portion of his orphan’s pension from the government to his little sister. As a high school dropout, his job prospects were limited to manual labor or menial employment, both of which he considered beneath him. With no source of income, he ended up living on the streets of Vienna. Eventually he moved into a dormitory for indigent men. He made a friend there, and together they began peddling Hitler’s painted postcards.

Incidentally, years later after Hitler became chancellor, this former friend sold stories about their time together to various magazines. This friend was summarily arrested and died under mysterious circumstances in jail.

That is surprising information–I had no idea Hitler was homeless in his younger years. I’m always amazed at what I learn from reading historical fiction; I suppose that’s one reason I enjoy it so much.

Is World War II one of your favorite historical periods to research? What gave you the seed of the idea for this book?

My favorite time period is whichever one I happen to be researching at the moment. I absolutely adore immersing myself in other eras and learning how people used to live and what they used to believe.

That said, I’ve been fascinated by World War Two ever since I read Anne Frank’s diary when I was twelve. I fell in love with Anne, the way you love when you’re twelve—deeply and intensely. For some reason, I had thought that she survived the war by remaining in hiding. When I got to the last page and found out what had happened to her, her death felt as real and immediate to me as if it had just happened to a dear friend. From then on, I began devouring books about WWII. I even wrote my college thesis on Hitler.

It wasn’t until a few years ago, however, that I read Ronald Hayman’s nonfiction book about Hitler and his half-niece Geli that the idea for PRISONER came to me. I couldn’t get Geli out of my head—I kept wondering what her life must have been like, growing up in the Nazi Party, sharing an apartment with her uncle while his political star was on the rise. I knew I had to write a story about a girl who’s been raised in Hitler’s inner circle but learns to think for herself.

It really is a brilliant premise, and I’m sure many other readers can say they are glad you followed through with putting your idea to paper! I’d love to hear more about your college thesis sometime. Are there other historical periods you would want to set a book in?

Too many to count! Right now I’m noodling an idea for a romantic thriller set during the late Renaissance. And I’d love to set something in the U.S., maybe during the burning of Washington, DC during the War of 1812.

These sound like grand ideas. What upcoming book projects are in your future?

The sequel to Prisoner of Night and Fog, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke, comes out on April 21, 2015! I’m so excited to share the conclusion of Gretchen and Daniel’s story with readers. This time they find themselves trapped in Berlin right after Hitler is appointed chancellor, and they get mixed up with the Ringvereine, Berlin’s organized criminal underworld.

The murder in Conspiracy was inspired by a real-life unsolved homicide that I stumbled across while researching Prisoner. I don’t want to give away too many details, though, since Conspiracy has lots of twists, so I’ll force myself to stop there. Sorry!

My third book comes out in April, 2016 from Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. I’m not supposed to say too much about it yet, but I can tell you that it’s a historical mystery set in a different time period with all new characters.

Thank you for sharing as much as you did–I’ll be counting the days until we hear more. How much time do you spend researching for a YA historical novel?

Hmm, it’s hard to quantify since I’m usually drafting one book while researching another, which makes time blur together. Probably about a year.

I know research can take a lot of time, so that seems pretty quick to me. What’s your favorite part of writing?

I love the initial rush of a new story idea. Everything feels fresh and full of possibilities.

And I adore interacting with readers. Really, there’s nothing better than knowing that your story touched someone else.

What’s a part you don’t like so much? 

Writing the first page. It’s hard—you want to be sure you’re starting the story at the right place, that you’re setting the right tone, and so forth. Sometimes I have to force myself to write the first chapter even though I know the entire time that every single word will be scrapped on the next draft.

I can remember from writing in graduate school that sometimes I just needed to start typing, and even if I ended up throwing out a lot of what I had written, I needed to just exercise my writing muscles and get the words out there. Thanks for sharing a little more about your process! Are you a tea or coffee person? What kind?

Tea! I’m a big fan of chamomile.

Can you share one or two books you read as a child that may have influenced you as a writer?

The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis were among my favorite books when I was a child. I love how you can read his books on different levels—as straightforward fantasy adventures or as religious allegories.

When I was in high school, I read a lot of Hardy, Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Austen. They were so talented at turning their characters into living, breathing, three-dimensional characters. “Anna” in Anna Karenina is probably my favorite fictional character, simply because she feels so real.

The Narnia Chronicles were favorites of mine as a young reader as well. I still love those books! I also remember falling in love with British & Russian writers in high school and college. There are so many moving and beautiful classic works of literature to read and discuss–thanks for bringing up some of these amazing writers.

What a wonderful Author Interview this was with Anne! I’m so honored to host her on Bookish Illuminations.

Have any questions for her? Feel free to respond below and share your thoughts.

Did you read Prisoner of Night and Fog? Are you excited about the sequel?

I hope you are, because one lucky winner in the giveaway (US Only) is going to receive a Preorder of CONSPIRACY OF BLOOD AND SMOKE, out April 21st, 2015, by Balzer and Bray and an autographed bookmark. A SECOND winner will receive a copy of PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG and an autographed bookmark, and THREE additional winners will each receive an autographed bookmark. These bookmarks are cool, so enter away!

Check out Anne’s website here.

You can purchase Prisoner of Night and Fog here.

You can preorder Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke here.

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What Katie Read

The Half Life of Molly Pierce (2014) by Katrina Leo

The Half Life of Molly Pierce (2014) by Katrina LeoThe Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno
Published by HarperCollins on July 8th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Emotions & Feelings, Family, Friendship, Siblings, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Goodreads
four-stars

Suggested age range: 15 and up

The Book: It’s mystery, it’s contemporary, it’s young adult. It’s The Half Life of Molly Pierce. Seventeen year-old Molly feels like she’s missing part of her life. There’s the boy who claims he knows her, but she doesn’t recognize him or know where (or when) she met him. Then there’s his brother who also knows her name, and with whom she senses a significant connection. Was (is?) there something between them? Love? Friendship? Slowly, memories start to come back, and Molly begins to put the pieces together. What is her secret life everyone else seems to know about but her? Will she ever have a whole life instead of just half of one?

Spirituality in The Half Life of Molly Pierce: So, you’ve probably heard me talk about the idea that the relationship to the self is one area of spirituality we can think about out of the four major connections (self, others, natural world, Divine [God]). Looking at this novel through a spiritual lens highlights that idea of our connectedness to the self, and it definitely made me think about how this idea of being “whole” is tied to our spirituality. Mental illness is something a lot of people deal with in today’s world, and it shouldn’t be ignored. The more we can understand it and support people who deal with it, the better. When we see brokenness, we want to fix it. I want to see un-whole people become whole, and Molly’s story reminded me of that even more.

Hope and expectation for the good to come were two other dimensions of the story that engaged my own spirituality.

I wasn’t expecting this because I honestly wasn’t sure what the book was going to be about! So I’m immensely glad I picked it up.

Who Should Read This Book: If you enjoy psychological reads that have a bit of mystery, like We Were Liars, you’ll probably enjoy this. Readers interested in issues surrounding mental illness, or writers interested in ways they can represent mental illness in a story would definitely find this book relevant. It will make you think, and is ideal for reading and discussing with others. I found myself telling my friends about it, even though they weren’t reading it at the time. Oh, and it’s pretty addictive. You might even drop friends off to shop and wait in the car so you can finish the book. (Note: There is some strong language and mature content in the book.)

The Final Word: I wasn’t sure what to think of Molly Pierce at first. I hadn’t read many of the reviews of the book before I plunged in, which I found out afterwards, was a good thing. There is a bit of a twist, and I’m certainly not going to give any hints what that twist entails, but readers who like puzzles and uncertainty—this might be a good choice for you.

I was wondering how Leo was going to wrap the story ends up and resolve the plot, and I was surprised at how satisfying the ending was to me.

The beginning of the book was very jarring (and I think it’s supposed to be) but its conclusion left you with a far different feeling.

Have you read The Half Life of Molly Pierce? What did you think? What other books did it remind you of?

four-stars
What Katie Read

Uncovering the Secrets of Jellicoe Road (2006, Melina Marchetta)

Uncovering the Secrets of Jellicoe Road (2006, Melina Marchetta)Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Published by Harper Collins on April 6th 2010
Genres: Adolescence, Contemporary, Family, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Orphans & Foster Homes, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 432
Goodreads

Suggested age range: 15 and up

“Whatever is now covered up will be uncovered and every secret will be made known.”

I finally read it!! During Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon!! And it was amazing!!

The Book: A tragedy took place on Jellicoe Road. Friendships were forged and flowers were planted. Eighteen years later, Taylor is trying to piece together what happened, and how it relates to her own story of being abandoned by her mother on that same road. When Hannah, who is like a second mother to Taylor, disappears, Taylor does everything she can to figure out where she is. A strange recurring dream of a boy in a tree continues to haunt Taylor, and she senses someone following her. And then there’s her friendship with Jonah Griggs, leader of the Cadets–the social group in constant battle with her own.

Spirituality in Jellicoe Road: We all want to belong within our families, and form valuable connections with our parents, and this is a challenge Taylor encounters in the story. In addition to dealing with the fact that her mother abandoned her on Jellicoe Road, Taylor is navigating the significance of her recurring dream with the boy in the tree, who seems to important. What does it mean for her life, whether it’s her past, present, or future? This aspect in the story got me thinking about the notion of dreams as spiritual. Are our dreams important and how we do figure out what they mean? If you know me at all, you know I find dreams fascinating, so of course I was highly intrigued by this part of the book.

Who Should Read This Book: Whether you are a fan of Marchetta’s high fantasy, such as Finnikin of the Rock or E. Lockhart’s contemporary YA, We Were Liars, I’m pretty sure you will enjoy Jellicoe Road. Marchetta’s beautiful prose reminded me of the gorgeous imagery from Finnikin, while the mystery of the plot and its companion narrative made me think about Lockhart’s text. At first I was pretty confused, trying to figure out the connections between the two different storylines, but it gets easier as you go along, so don’t let this deter you.

The Final Word: This book was published in 2006, and it’s taken me so long to read it! Its unforgettable plot and spiritual dimensions, however, drew me to review it on the blog. I believe it is not to be missed—you just have to be ok with crying. Ok, maybe crying a lot.

Get your box of tissues, and step onto Jellicoe Road as soon as you can.

Have you read Jellicoe Road? What did you think??

What Katie Read
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