Sunday, June 30, 2013

My Conversation with YA Author Sydney Salter


Today I am honored to welcome my friend, Sydney Salter, author of YA novels, My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters and Swoon at Your Own Risk to talk about summer romances and reading, not necessarily in that order.

Debby: Both My Big Nose and Swoon take place during the summer—and both main characters have summer jobs that allow you to really work your comedic skills. Did you plot these books with summer settings from the beginning or did they evolve?

Sydney: Summer always meant freedom for me as a teen. No homework. More time with friends. Lounging in the sun with a trashy novel. And the possibility for romance… possibly inspired by those, um, novels.

I figure that hasn’t changed much over the years.

Debby: I think all of us love the idea of summer romances, real or imagined. Now, of course, I have to ask about summer romances. What do you think makes them ideal for YA novels?

Sydney: Because everyone wants one!

Debby: So true. Any favorite summer romance stories you want to share?

Sydney: I wish. The closest I ever came to a great summer romance were the couple of days I spent sweeping around my house imagining that I possessed Scarlett O’Hara’s charm while reading Gone With The Wind.

Not that I didn’t try for the real thing. I spent far more time than I should admit showing up, oh, at the end of summer football practice wearing a cute little outfit, driving through certain neighborhoods at the “right” time and shopping and eating where certain people worked.

Romance seems to be one of those areas in which trying hard doesn’t work, however.

Debby: I remember lots of days spent driving around certain neighborhoods with my best friend the summer between junior and senior year. I thought we were the only ones who did that!
I was wondering if you ever worked as a lifeguard when you were a teenager? What summer jobs did you have?

Sydney: I’ve never been a lifeguard, but it always seemed like the dream job to have as a teen—working on your tan with cute lifeguards AND getting paid.

I put my actual summer job into My Big Nose, maybe to reset my karma or something? All the things that go wrong for Jory went wrong for me. Except it only took me four days to wreak that kind of havoc on my employer! One of my favorite author moments was meeting my old boss again and handing her a copy of the book. We had a really good laugh about my status as worst employee ever. That’s one of the best things about writing. I can turn my worst, most embarrassing moments into something funny.

Debby: I’m sorry that was your embarrassing moment! But I have to say it did work really well in the book—I laughed so hard I cried. As we head into the first weeks of summer break, what is your favorite thing about summer?

Sydney: Warm weather! I also love the quiet mornings while my teenagers sleep late. I still feel like the summer is full of possibilities. Learning new things. Going new places. Slowing down. Hanging out with favorite people. Reading good books!

Oh, and I still like wearing cute outfits, but I no longer stalk boys. Everyone can be grateful for that!

Debby: Your books are perfect summer reading—so I am re-reading both on the beach. What are you reading now?

Sydney: Oh, I would love to read on the beach. Sigh. I’m reading The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima. It’s a classic Japanese novel, gorgeously written, but without a smidgen of romance. Seventeen-year-old me is shaking her head with disgust, I’m sure!

Debby: Sydney, I’ll send you a good romance to read when you are finished. Thanks so much for being here today! I hope you have a wonderful summer filled with lots of cute outfits and reading good books.

Sydney: You too. I’m still jealous that you get to read at the beach!

For more information about Sydney and to read her blog, visit

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Chatting with Joy Preble, YA Author

Today, I am thrilled to welcome my friend Joy Preble, a fellow alum from the Class of 2k9 and author of the DREAMING ANASTASIA Trilogy (Sourcebooks) and the brand new YA release THE SWEET DEAD LIFE (Soho Press).

Debby: Joy, many congrats on your new release, THE SWEET DEAD LIFE. Before we discuss anything else, I have to ask if you miss Anne and Ethan. It’s always really difficult for me to let go of my characters once a book is finished. I can imagine that would be even more difficult with a trilogy. You have been living with these characters for so long.

Joy: Thanks, Debby! I do miss Anne and Ethan… sometimes. Theirs was such a long and wonderfully twisty story—made longer by the fact that the DREAMING ANASTASIA trilogy sold one book at a time, so after each one there was this great unknown. Would I get to finish their story? Pull all the many pieces together for my readers? And what’s been fun is that the series continues to find new readers, especially now that I have a new book out, even if it’s a different series. So I guess Anne and Ethan aren’t quite gone!

Debby: I know you just finished your blog tour for TSDL and I wanted to talk a little bit about blog tours. Blog tours are so interesting to me because there is a system and a schedule to them, and I wondered if you can explain a little bit about how one works.

Joy: I read someone the other day talking about how blog tours are on the downswing, what with so many different types of social media for promotion. But I think they are still a good solid way to put a new project out on the interwebs for your fans and for new readers to discover. It’s still a good way to build buzz. Basically, you get different bloggers to sign on to post reviews or interviews or guest posts, etc. during a set period of time. Sometimes authors arranged this themselves. Sometimes the publishers arrange. Sometimes it’s a combination. Bloggers themselves sometimes arrange. The lovely Katie at Mundie Moms once did a post-HAUNTED/pre-ANASTASIA FOREVER blog tour for me. Usually they last about 2 weeks and often authors will give bloggers ‘exclusives’ – like book trailer releases or special deleted scenes or original short stories in the book’s world. The longest blog tour I ever did was with DREAMING ANASTASIA. I was the first YA book for my then publicist and he wanted to prove his mettle so he created a month long 80 stop blog tour! It was crazy. But I will say that EVERYONE knew about that book. And I think it’s part of why that small book from a then small publishing house is still regularly stocked on B&N shelves!

Debby: I also wanted to talk about book trailers. Your trailers are so compelling. They tell enough about the books to make someone want to read them, but you don’t give anything away. I know you have worked with the same company several times. Can you tell us a little bit about how you create the trailers? Do you come up with an outline?

Joy: I was ‘matched’ with Marianne Nowicki of NoWicki Production through one of our fellow Class of 2k9 mates, Jen Dutton. She and Mar are long time friends, and Mar was starting up a new business when DREAMING ANASTASIA first came out. She’d done a trailer for Jen’s FREAKED, and subsequently for her STRANDED and I really liked her work. With DA, Marianne read the full book first and we discussed concepts and she basically did the whole thing: script/images/music. Since then we’ve been more collaborative. For ANASTASIA FOREVER and for THE SWEET DEAD LIFE, I wrote the scripts – with some editing on Mar’s part. She came up with the images and music, which we then agreed upon, and then she did the ‘heavy lifting’ of putting it together. This last time, Soho Press, my publisher for THE SWEET DEAD LIFE series, also had some significant input because we were building my new brand for a new series as part of a new imprint and we really wanted everything to be coordinated. Together we decided to make the TSDL trailer very short. It is only 30 seconds, just long enough for the basic concept to come across. And Soho enjoyed Marianne’s work so much that they hired her to put together the hipster/tongue in cheek Soho Teen teaser.

Debby: Here are the links for both the videos mentioned above:

Debby: I also wanted to know about the images in the trailers. They look like they are part of your covers, but they aren’t always the same images. Are you provided additional photos by the publisher or did you come up with the images separately?

Joy: Some of the images used are from the publisher, but not many. The logos, obviously. And in the DA series, at least once we used the same Ethan from the cover. But otherwise it’s all stock photos.

Debby: It’s a different world for writers today from ten years ago. We have so many ways to reach readers through blogs and trailers and websites. But sometimes it can be overwhelming for a newly published author to navigate through all the options for promotion. Do you have any advice?

Joy: I say do what you enjoy doing. If you hate blogging, then don’t blog. If you love it, then blog away. If you like Twitter, then tweet. But find something. You MUST have an online presence. Especially in YA, your readers want to know where to find you. They expect you to be a part of the kidlit community. And honestly, you SHOULD be part of it. The YA community is a smaller world than you’d think. Be present and active in it however best suits you!

Debby: Joy, thank you so much for sharing your time and your wisdom today. I wish you much success with The Sweet Dead Life. And I am looking forward to reading your next book!

You can find out more about Joy by visiting her at


Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Reading List

My Fourth Grader and I are making our summer reading list. Here's what we have so far. If you have any good suggestions, let us know! D.L.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Horse Crazy

Continuing with my horse theme. Here's another photo taken by my daughter. The last photo was hers, too. And here's a link to something really special. Wild horses! My good friend, Suzanne Morgan Williams (author of the deeply moving and inspirational Bull Rider) has posted photos of these beautiful wild horses taken at her home. Check it out! D.L.