Posts Tagged: HarperCollins

The Pageturn Interviews Paul Durham

Posted by | March 17, 2015 | No Comments

Today we’re lucky enough to interview Paul Durham, author of the middle grade tween fantasy adventure The Luck Uglies, which received TWO starred reviews. Booklist called it “by turns funny and heart-stopping . . . a bona fide page-turner,” and Kirkus said it was “sparkling. Layers, nuance, wit and a thumping good story make this a must-read.” The Luck Uglies was also a Booklist Top 10 First Novels for Youth in 2014 and on the NYPL 100 Best Titles for Reading and Sharing  List of 2014. What a debut!

This tween fantasy adventure trilogy has legends come to life, a charming wit, and a fantastic cast of characters—and is imbued throughout with the magic of storytelling. The Luck Uglies #2: The Fork-Tongue Charmer, goes on sale today, so read on for the full scoop on this truly delightful middle grade series!


The Pageturn: Where did the idea for The Luck Uglies begin? And how did you develop that idea?

Paul Durham: The Luck Uglies originated as a short story for my oldest daughter. For years I had tried unsuccessfully to publish my adult crime fiction, until eventually I quit writing altogether. One year, my then-six-year-old asked me if I could write her a story as Christmas gift. I had never written for children before, but was willing to give it a try. I didn’t intend to seek an agent for the work, nor to have it published. My goal was far more modest but even more important—simply to finish something for my daughter.

What started as a short story turned into so much more. I wanted to write a fantasy about good and evil and everything in between, but I also wanted it to be, at its core, a book about a very real family. Every week my own family would gather around the fireplace and I would read a new chapter out loud. I worked in our family pet, characters inspired by our friends and neighbors, and even dialogue spoken around our dinner table. When it was done, my little audience adored it, and the book would have been a success even if no one else ever read it. I’m very lucky that other readers have come to enjoy it as much as we do.

TP: Were you inspired by any specific region or folklore? For instance, it feels particularly appropriate that #2 publishes on St. Patrick’s Day!

PD: My goal was to write a book that felt timeless in setting, but that was set in a unique and entirely unexplored world. Toward that end, I researched Irish and Scottish myths, early colonial American culture, and secret societies throughout history. Then I threw them in a cauldron and stirred. Village Drowning and its denizens became a stew of faintly familiar ingredients blended in way that, I hope, readers haven’t quite tasted before. The Bog Noblins, for example, do not exist in any established folklore, but were inspired by the highly preserved, Bronze Age “bog bodies” pulled from peat bogs in Northern Europe and Ireland.

TP: Who is your favorite character in the book?

PD: I know many authors like to cop out on this question and profess love for all of their characters, but I’ll go out on a limb and share two. Rye is dear to me, of course. It was important to me to create a strong female protagonist and to infuse her with strengths and flaws that kept her human. That said, I think Rye’s strongest traits are gender-neutral, and I love that many male readers also identify her as their favorite character. My other favorite is Harmless. His relationship with Rye represents the heart of the story. Their dialogue as that relationship unfolds was even more fun to write than the all the swordplay and monsters. I adore Abby and Lottie too…oops, there I go.

TP: Can you suggest any books readers of The Luck Uglies might also like?

PD: For classic fantasy, I always recommend Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain series. It’s a personal favorite and I’ve even hidden several Easter eggs referencing that great work within The Luck Uglies series. Maybe I’ll have a contest to see how many of them my readers can find. I think they’d also enjoy Jonathan Auxier’s work—The Night Gardener or Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes.

TP: And if you could cast the movie, who would star?

PD: I would definitely need the guidance of a casting director to find a young unknown actress with the chops to play Rye. As for Harmless, I think he would be best played by one of those 40-something action heroes who has entered a different phase of his life and career. Maybe a father to young children who could appreciate the nuances in the character. Who would that be? I don’t know. Robert Downey Jr.? Johnny Depp? Ben Affleck when he’s done with Batman?

TP: What were your favorite books as a child? Favorite books now?

PD: As a child, Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain series was at the top of the list. I also remember being drawn to A House with a Clock in its Walls, by John Bellairs. These days, my favorite books still tend to fall into the category of middle grade fiction. I’m especially fond of those that can be haunting, smart, and humorous at the same time. The Graveyard Book and Coraline by Neil Gaiman are favorites, as is the The Bartimaeus Trilogy and the new Lockwood & Company books by Jonathan Stroud. I also found the The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate to be wonderful for very different reasons. Applegate proves that compelling children’s books need not always feature a child protagonist, and creates a wonderfully authentic, layered and believable voice for Ivan the silverback gorilla.

TP: Do you have any advice for aspiring kid writers?

PD: I’m fortunate to get to speak with a lot of kids during my school visits and workshops, and I always tell them four things.

1) Practice, as often as possible by writing creatively in your free time.

2) When you’re not writing, read. Good stuff, ideally, but you can learn what not-to-do from the poorly written stuff too.

3) Don’t be afraid to imitate your favorite writers’ styles, especially early on. As a kid, I originally learned how to write action sequences by mimicking the descriptions I found in popular movie novelizations (I can’t believe I just admitted that). The point is, your own voice and style will develop over time as you discover what works best for you.

4) You don’t need to start out by writing an entire book—that’s like running a marathon without ever going out for a jog first. Every novel starts with just one sentence. Try writing just a short paragraph of description, or a few lines of interesting dialogue, or a poem. That’s all practice that will pay off in the long run. See tip #1 above.

Thanks, Paul! The Luck Uglies #2: The Fork-Tongue Charmers, goes on sale today. If you’re new to Paul’s series, check out the first book, The Luck Uglies, here. And learn more about Paul, here!


Posted by | October 8, 2012 | 2 Comments

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Barbara Mariconda, author of the brand new, swashbuckling, spunky and spirited middle grade adventure story THE VOYAGE OF LUCY P. SIMMONS, as well as the co-founder of Empowering Writers, company that trains teachers how to help their students improve their writing skills. Today she’ll be giving you insight into both of her areas of expertise, writer and teacher, and she’s created a free downloadable sample lesson that you can use to teach LUCY (and later, any novel) in the classroom!

From Barbara:

“Lucy P. Simmons – described as an “intrepid heroine with a swashbuckling spirit and a sailor’s heart” and as “a feisty, unforgettable character” – this protagonist of my latest middle grade novel, The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons has been evolving along with me for over fifteen years. Set on the coast of Maine at the end of the Victorian era, it is the tale of beautiful, red-haired Lucy, how her life changes in an instant, propelling her on an adventure sparked with magic, hardship, courage, and love. It redefines family, celebrating the miracle of people whose lives cross in unexpected ways, weaving rich tapestries of friendship, loyalty, sacrifice, and the kinds of relationships that change lives.

Years of travel to coastal Maine provided the inspiration and sparked the imagination that brought The Voyage of L. P. Simmons to life.  Here, a shoreline mansion, not unlike the Simmons place.

In many ways, Lucy’s journey reflects mine – and surely, yours as well. True, my experiences have not been as colorful as Lucy’s – I didn’t survive the tragic sinking of a ship, or meet a mysterious siren on the beach, nor did I discover a magical flute or have my beloved home surrounded by glittering mist. But, in my own small way, in my own unique life, I’ve had some narrow escapes, met some mystical, mysterious people who’ve brought marvelous unexpected gifts, and thankfully, experienced a sense of mystery and magic in the stuff of everyday living. And that’s what I write – stories that reveal the edges and undercurrents of life that can be sensed and experienced, but never grasped.

As a teacher, I know children need to believe in magic – not so much the magic in the pages of a fantasy novel, but rather, in the miracles and possibilities often disguised in the ordinariness of life. And, a book can open that doorway metaphorically, can help hone the eyes of hope and wonder to see beyond the literal…toward “what if” and “why not.” Especially in this era of high stakes testing, where school can become wrought with stress and pressure, children need the escape that fantasy provides, and the opportunity for them to immerse themselves in the creative, imaginative worlds where the spirit can soar freely. But, given the demands of new national and state standards that increase the breadth and depth of what students must learn, is the luxury of losing oneself in a fantasy story a thing of the past? Is there time enough in the school day to indulge in a book like The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons?

To succeed as an author and as an educator, I’ve had to wear two hats and find ways to merge both worlds. When I’m not writing for kids, I’m writing for their teachers, through my company, “Empowering Writers” – our mission: to empower the next generation of authors in classrooms today. But, what I won’t ever do is compromise one goal for the other – in other words, I’m committed to find ways for teachers to nurture the imaginations and creativity in the souls of their students, while continuing to challenge them academically and prepare them to excel as the junior test-takers they have to be.

This is artwork that Barbara owns which has inspired her writing.  Can you see the any connections to Lucy’s story?

So, with both my writer and teacher hats squashed on my head, I went through my novel, The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons, looking for every opportunity within the text that can be used a jumping off point for teaching the Common Core State Standards in writing. You can click on the link below for an entire outline – and, not only that. The basic techniques I’ve applied to “Lucy” as the basis for instruction, can be adapted for all of your favorite pieces of high quality literature. But, of course, I’m hoping you’ll be applying them to mine!

And, lastly…while I’m talking about using literature to teach to the standards, I want to be clear. Reading a fabulous story that transports the reader into realms beyond the ordinary, beyond the classroom, beyond the challenges of life, is really enough! And, I think, if only there was a state standard that read: Standard L.11.1a: Students lose themselves in story, imagining worlds of possibility, embracing hope – Oh, what a world it would be!”

Thanks Barbara! THE VOYAGE OF LUCY P. SIMMONS is available in bookstores now. And don’t miss Barbara’s wonderful, FREE downloadable PDF lesson plan, available here!


Posted by | October 2, 2012 | No Comments

Lauren Oliver’s second book for middle grade readers, THE SPINDLERS, is for sale in bookstores all over the country today, and we’re going to just go ahead and brag that it has already received FOUR starred reviews!


Download our FREE Discussion Guide for THE SPINDLERS here!

If you love a sweeping, classic, spooky, funny, and plucky adventure (and who doesn’t?!), then this one is for you. Check out what the experts had to say:

“Oliver’s magical, mesmerizing quest affirms the saving power of story, friendship, and love.” -Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

“This imaginative fantasy emphasizes individual initiative and the power of hope and friendship. Below is a fully realized alternate world with echoes of both classic literature and mythology.” -School Library Journal, starred review

 “Richly detailed, at times poetic, ultimately moving; a book to be puzzled over, enjoyed and, ideally, read aloud.” -Kirkus, starred review

 “Oliver’s fluid, poetic prose elevates this tale above the genre, often imparting weight to the simplest sentences. Similar in its action and pacing to Collins’ Gregor the Overlander but with the emotional resonance of Ursu’s Breadcrumbs, this is sure to win over middle-grade readers.” -BCCB, starred review



Posted by | September 24, 2012 | No Comments

We have an absolutely HUGE treat for you today: words from Sir Terry Pratchett himself in advance of his newest book, DODGER, publishing tomorrow.

Sir Terry Pratchett on DODGER:

“Dodger was initially undertaken as a tribute to Henry Mayhew, who, in London, in the early years of the Victorian reign, catalogued meticulously the lives, jobs, foods, hygiene, sleeping arrangements, etc., of the poor of the city. He did this simply by walking the streets, getting into conversations with people, and then later recording them in his notebook.

He spoke to everybody, even down to the little flower girls who sold posies for a meagre living and slept in doorways and didn’t even know which country they were living in. His friend Charles Dickens is often said to have made the middle classes of London aware of the appalling circumstances of the under classes of the richest and most influential city at that time. But, in truth, while Dickens did sterling work, Mayhew—and the people he worked with—did it the hard way: by piling up the dreadful statistics until they could not be ignored. In so doing, they compiled a startling and wonderful body of knowledge about what was happening beyond the city lights.

This record is available as the book London Labour and the London Poor. And it is a heavyweight document, as Mr. Mayhew speaks of the sick, the neglected elderly, and, not least, the ladies of negotiable affection (a polite way of putting it—the phrasing, incidentally, originated in the United States).

I read London Labour and the London Poor in my teens shortly after reading The Lord of the Rings. And I thought that one day it might be great to do a real fantasy in the world of Mayhew, picking out a street urchin of the time, winding him up, and dropping him in the middle of a thunder storm to begin his own personal odyssey. He would meet Mayhew, Dickens, and number of other prominent Victorians, while at the same time telling it like it was in those days. That is how Dodger was born, and he did most of the work for me—coming alive on the page and quickly running off with the story itself.

Thank you for reading about him.”


And for more on DODGER, watch Terry speak to his “chums” here:






Posted by | September 19, 2012 | 1 Comment

Yesterday we brought you an inside scoop on UNRAVELING, and today we’re giving you some insight into the author herself, Elizabeth Norris.  Be warned: by the end of this, not only will you be dying to read the book, you’ll be sighing with envy at Elizabeth’s romance and craving banana pudding.

Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?

When I was first learning to read, my mom bought me a collection of picture books about characters from the Disney movies and I read them over and over again until I could practically recite them. Then in fourth grade I read A Bridge to Terabithia and it was the most incredible story. I begged my mom to buy me a copy since I had to give the school its copy back. Right now, I’ve just started reading Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta, and it’s wonderful.

What is your secret talent?

I’m not sure if it’s a talent, but I always manage to find myself in strange or awkward situations that make hilarious stories after the fact. My friends in college used to joke that I should put all my embarrassing stories together in some kind of memoir and title in Only in My Life.

Fill in the blank: _______ always makes me laugh.

My sister. Whenever we’re together it’s like the stars have aligned and everything is hilarious.

My current obsessions are…

I recently discovered the banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery and I swear I have dreams about it. I’m also super obsessed with Game of Thrones–the books and the television show. I feel like Westeros is a real place and I want to go visit it (but after the war ends).

Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?

There are a lot of highs and lows when you’re writing a book and even more when you’re trying to get published. You have to savor the highs and let them inspire you, and then let the lows roll of your back.

Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…

…feels something.

Tell us more about how UNRAVELING was born.

Like most of the crazy stories in my life, this once starts with “So I met this guy…”

Only, I didn’t actually “meet” the guy in a traditional sense—I became friends with him over the internet. He was a friend of a friend, funny, intelligent, charming. We traded meaningless comments or jokes with friends, but the more I got to know about him, the more it seemed we had in common. We liked the same movies and television shows, we both loved to read and to write, and we just seemed to be on the same intellectual wavelength. We recommended books to each other and we could talk about anything and everything.

And somewhere along the line, I realized he had become my best friend—and then we met, and it just felt like we belonged together (I’m a hopeless romantic, I know). Of course, he lived in another state and neither one of us had any ambitions to ever move so we started muddling through a long distance relationship, making up our own rules and trying to figure out what worked best for us.

Which got me thinking about long distance relationships. They’re hard—flawed and tragic. Most of them are doomed from the beginning. The emotional highs and lows in that type of relationship add an intense stress to even the most calm lives.

In June 2010 (during one of those emotional lows), I thought about how universally unfair it was, that I’d finally found this guy who was perfect for me, who really belonged with me, and yet he actually also belonged somewhere else. And that was the moment of inception of UNRAVELING. Because at its heart, it’s a star-crossed love story. Janelle and Ben are from different worlds, and in their darkest moments, they find each other.

I am also a huge science fiction and fantasy nerd, and I hate the perception that science fiction isn’t cool so I wanted UNRAVELING to be accessible to people who don’t know a lot about science or who don’t normally read science fiction. I love shows like Fringe and The X-Files and I wanted to do something with science fiction that was very grounded in reality. I spent about two months thinking about the plot and writing down character ideas in a notebook while riding the subway, and then I started writing pieces of dialogue and a few key scenes. And then before I knew it, the book was almost complete.


Thanks Elizabeth!  UNRAVELING is on sale now.  And you’ll be happy to know that this won’t be the last you’ll hear from Ben and Janelle. Check back next summer for more!


And that wraps up our Summer New Voices!  We’ll be back January to share our amazingly talented debut writers of the winter with you.  Until then…


Posted by | September 17, 2012 | 1 Comment

It’s just two days before the beginning of your junior year when you’re hit by a pickup truck. And killed. And brought back to life. And somehow, you know that it was the loner you’ve never spoken to before that did it. And then, as impossible as it seems, things get even weirder. Sucked in yet? We certainly were. Welcome to UNRAVELING, the debut thriller/sci-fi/romance by Elizabeth Norris.

Let’s hear from Elizabeth’s editor, Kristin Rens, about how she knew immediately that UNRAVELING was something really special:


“I knew I wanted to publish Unraveling before I even finished reading the first page.

From the moment I met Janelle, the main character, I was pulled in by her lively, no-nonsense voice and her take-no-prisoners style—she’s tough, and she’s strong, and she’s loyal to the folks she loves—and her voice is so vivid that I knew within minutes that this was a character I would follow to the ends of the earth. And the fact that she’s up against a clock-ticking countdown that just might lead to the end of life as she knows it? Well, that was the icing on the cake.

In the current wave of paranormal and dystopian YA, Unraveling feels refreshing and different—it’s a high-stakes thriller, a Veronica Mars-esque mystery…and it’s got a light sci-fi twist that would even appeal to readers who don’t necessarily consider themselves sci-fi fans (I know, because I’m one of them). And holy cow, does Liz Norris know how to write a love story—because at the heart of Unraveling is the sweeping romance between Janelle and Ben Michaels, who in many ways are the ultimate star-crossed lovers.

Liz was a high school teacher for a couple of years before she became an author—and it shows in her writing, and in her characters. Because more than anything else what makes Unraveling such a compelling read is that she’s a writer who knows teens—knows how they talk, how they act, what they want. And this comes through in every page of the book—in Janelle’s relationship with her brother Jared, which is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time; in her sarcastic yet fiercely supportive dynamic with her best friend Alex; in the romance between Janelle and Ben, which is sweet, and tender, and completely believable. And there’s a depth and complexity to the characters and to their story that makes Liz a very special writer indeed.

I like to call Unraveling the love child of I Am Number Four and the TV show Fringe. But it’s also very much its own story, one that keeps surprising you as you read. And the result is a breathtakingly romantic sci-fi thriller about one girl’s fight to save her family and her world.

I absolutely love it.”

Thanks Kristin! We also want to share a few of the great reviews that UNRAVELING has received:

“Leav[es] the reader wanting more and begging for a sequel to this multilayered debut.”
— Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)

“Readers will enjoy the nonstop action and romance.”
— School Library Journal

“A satisfying puzzle full of novel twists and provocative clues.”
— Publishers Weekly


Read a hearty excerpt of UNRAVELING here– the book is out in bookstores now. And come back tomorrow for an interview with Elizabeth herself!


Posted by | September 12, 2012 | No Comments

Yesterday we brought you a few words from the editor on the dystopian YA debut, THE SELECTION, and today we ask the author herself, Kiera Cass, the really tough questions…

Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?

My favorite book from childhood is probably The Giving Tree. I was BFFs with a tree for a week in the first grade because of that book. And I’m currently making my way through Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson.

What is your secret talent?

My secret talent? I can touch my tongue to my nose. It’s pretty magical.

Fill in the blank: _______ always makes me laugh.

This picture ALWAYS makes me laugh. I have a pinterest board of ridiculous things to look at when I get stressed, and it helps me every time!

My current obsessions are…

…cranberry apple juice, Rob Pattinson, cupcakes, and Dance Moms.

Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?

I always tell aspiring writers to learn everything they can now. There’s so much happening behind the scenes of making a book that it’s a bit dizzying sometimes. There are lots of great blogs out there, helpful authors on twitter, and informative books. I also make a series of Behind the Book videos on my YouTube channel to show others what it’s like to get your first editorial letter or deal with doubt or any of the other things that pop up along the journey.

Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…

… just has fun reading it. I write stories to entertain myself, and I hope that other people can just enjoy the ride with me.

Tell us more about how THE SELECTION was born.

The idea for THE SELECTION came from thinking about Esther and Cinderella. I always wondered it Esther maybe liked the boy next door before she was shipped off to compete to be queen. Even if she lost, she was never coming home. What was going on in her heart? And Cinderella never asked for a prince. She asked for a night off and a dress. Did getting a prince make her happy? Or was being a princess too much for her? Those two thoughts meshed in my head, and I knew I wanted to write a story about a girl from a humble background who would get the attention of a prince, but she would already be in love and not want him. And I knew she would go through something (which ended up being the Selection) that would show her more of the world than she was ever prepared to see.

I fell in love. Every time I get to sit down and work on The Selection, I get excited. I really hope that people stick with America, Aspen, and Maxon through all three books, because I think their journey is fantastic!


Thanks Kiera!  You’ll be happy to hear that THE SELECTION is available for purchase now.  And once you’ve read it, you’ll be equally happy to know that the next in the trilogy, THE ELITE, is due out in Summer 2013.


Posted by | September 11, 2012 | 1 Comment

The idea behind our next Summer New Voices pick is almost too good to be true– Cinderella meets The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor? But that’s what THE SELECTION by debut novelist Kiera Cass is, no exaggerations, we swear.  We fell for the main character, America Singer, as she’s torn not just between two boys, but between two possibilities for her future. After all, who among us wouldn’t feel at least a little bit tempted by a chance to be royalty?

Kiera’s editor, Erica Sussman, tells us why she fell for THE SELECTION:


“Move aside William and Kate! There’s a new royal romance to fawn over.

I am a total sucker for a happy ending, a sweet romance, and healthy helping of drama. So when The Selection was pitched to me as a lightly dystopian Cinderella meets The Bachelor, I knew it was right up my alley. What I didn’t realize was how head over heels in love I would fall for it. Even now, I can remember finishing the book and desperately wishing I had the next one right then and there; I needed to find out what was going to happen. Right from the start, I was swept up in America Singer’s world. The poverty she leaves behind for the glittering gowns of palace life. The competition with other girls for a prize she doesn’t even care about. Her all-encompassing love for Aspen. And her steadfast friendship with Prince Maxon, which blossoms into an unbelievably sweet courtship.

One of my most favorite things about The Selection is its author, Kiera Cass. From the moment I first corresponded with Kiera I couldn’t stop gushing about her enthusiasm, her kindness, her humor, and her intelligence, all of which bubble over in everything she says. And her videos? Well, her videos are a masterpiece in and of themselves. From the first one I ever watched – in which she celebrates her book deal with epic dancing, I was hooked. If you haven’t checked out her YouTube channel, please do. I promise, it’s impossible not to watch her videos without smiling:”


Thanks, Erica! And check out an excerpt of THE SELECTION here.  And stay tuned tomorrow for a few words from Kiera herself.



Posted by | July 17, 2012 | 2 Comments

Back in January, the lovely and talented Lili Wilkinson won a Stonewall Book Award Honor in the Children’s and Young Adult division for her young adult book (and U.S. debut) PINK, a lively and resonant look at a teen’s attempts to don a new personality and figure out who she really wants to be.  What a treat to be able to share her remarks here, read at the Stonewall’s ALA Annual celebration by Lili’s wonderful editor, Anne Hoppe.

Now, on to it!

“Good evening. My apologies for not being here – Australia is a very long way away.

I’d like to start by thanking the Australian publisher of Pink – Allen & Unwin, in particular my editors Jodie Webster and Hilary Reynolds.

And if it’s not too awkward for her to read this out loud, I must also thank the wonderful Anne Hoppe and everyone else at HarperCollins. Pink is the first of my books to reach American shores, and you have given it such a warm welcome and loving home. Thank you for the gorgeous cover. Thank you for putting it into the hands of teenage readers. Thanks especially for your help in translating the book into American while keeping its Australian setting and flavour.

And of course thanks to my fabulous agent Kate Schafer Testerman, for working so tirelessly to find my books homes in the US.

The book is dedicated to publisher and writer extraordinaire David Levithan, and I wanted to take a moment to explain why.

Many years ago David came to the Reading Matters conference in Melbourne, which I used to help organise. David made an impassioned speech about how teachers, publishers, parents, librarians and other “gatekeepers” have a responsibility to help young people kill the vampires.

… This was pre-Twilight, I should add.

David was referring to a song called Die Vampires Die from an off-Broadway musical called Title of Show. A vampire, in this case, is “any person, thought or feeling that stands between you and your creative self expression.” They creep around and whisper in your ears, saying things like “Your teeth need whitening. You went to state school? You sound weird. Shakespeare, Sondheim and Sedaris did it before you, and better than you.” They tell you you’re not good enough, and you can’t help believing them.

One of the ways we could help young people kill these vampires, suggested David, was by making sure that every teenager could see themselves reflected on the shelves of their libraries and bookshops. And, in his opinion, when it came to books about gay teenagers, we were failing to do that.

The speech received a standing ovation, and I’m proud to say that the Australian publishers, teachers and librarians in the room listened, and since then things have started to change.

But I got to thinking. I’d read books about gay teenagers. Not many, certainly. But I had read a few – David’s not least among them. But I couldn’t think of any books I’d read about the teenagers who aren’t sure. And really, who’s sure about anything when they’re sixteen? I wanted to write a book for those teenagers. I wanted to write a book that said – there are some things you never have to definitively decide on. You don’t ever have to put yourself in a closed-off, past-the-point-of-no-return box, and you really don’t have to do it when you’re sixteen. It’s okay if you’re not sure.

So I wrote Pink.

Books about girls often don’t win awards. We focus a lot of our attention on getting boys reading. I visited an all-girls secondary school recently where not one book was studied that featured a female protagonist. And funny books with pink covers are even less likely to catch the attention of academics and awards judges. When you get home, have a look at how much academic analysis there is of authors like Meg Cabot, Maureen Johnson, Cathy Cassidy or Louise Rennison. Is it because their books are shallow and insubstantial? Cabot’s The Princess Diaries is about a teenage environmentalist who brings democracy to a small European principality. Just because a book is funny and romantic, doesn’t mean it has nothing to say.

Someone asked me the other day why all of my books feature strong, female protagonists. Confused, I repeated what Joss Whedon had said when he was asked the same thing: “Because you’re still asking me that question.”

I love writing about strong, funny, flawed girls who are curious about the world. I love writing romance. I love writing books that make the reader think, that encourage them see the world in different ways.

Which brings me back to Pink, and to my thank yous. More than anything, I want to thank the judges that saw fit to recognise Pink. It means so much to me that a funny, romantic pink book from the other side of the world is to be given such a prestigious honour, to sit alongside amazing writers like Brian Farrey, Ilike Merey, Paul Yee and of course Bil Wright.

The importance of organisations like the American Library Association, and awards like the Stonewall, cannot be overestimated, and as an author I am immensely proud to have that sticker on my book. It’s also lovely that it matches the cover.

My final thank you is on behalf of the teenage readers who have written to me and come up to me at schools and festivals to tell me how Pink made a difference to them. It’s a thank you to the gatekeepers: the publishers, teachers, librarians and parents who make sure that all teenagers are reflected on bookshelves. Thank you for fighting the good fight. Thank you for helping to kill those vampires.”

Thank you, Lili! We’re honored to be your publisher, and inspired by your words.


Posted by | June 12, 2012 | No Comments

I’m not sure I know anyone as knowledgeable about children’s books as my colleague, National Accounts Manager Heather Doss.  She’s our human encyclopedia at meetings, a whiz in the booth at conferences, and an all-around terrific lady.  And today you are the lucky recipient of her genius!  Heather pulled together a round up of Classics, Redone:

“I’ll admit it: I’m a fan of the twisted classic genre. Whether it’s a retelling of a fairytale, myth or novel from the past, I love when authors take something you think you know and turn it on its head to give it a new perspective. While I think there will always be a place in curriculum for those classics we all read in high school and college, a remake can bring a fresh audience to them, and help to create a new fan base. Lucky for me, our Harper lists are chock full of titles that have a classic background:

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Bethany Griffin has reimagined Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic horror story “The Masque of the Red Death,” creating a breathtakingly real city that’s coming apart at the seams, a riveting romantic triangle, and a heroine faced with heartbreaking choices. Hauntingly dark & romantic at the same time!

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

TIGER LILY combines the rich mythology of Peter Pan and the lush setting of Neverland to create a truly unique teen romance; told from the point of view of Tinkerbell & focusing on the Indian Princess whose backstory is vague in the original story.

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS is a breathtaking romance about the choice between protecting your heart and opening yourself to the one person who could break it; inspired by Jane Austen’s PERSUASION.

Entwined by Heather Dixon

In this retelling of the classic tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” the eldest princess must fight to save her family—and her heart—from an ancient dark magic within the palace walls; a romantic fantasy with a darker edge.

Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman

Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld, finally gets a chance to set the story straight in RADIANT DARKNESS. She wasn’t taken to the underworld against her will—she fell in love with Hades, and chose to be his queen and leave her overbearing mother behind.


Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

Part dystopian, part sci-fi thriller, part romance, LOST GIRL is an electrifying YA debut about a clone fighting against the system that created her—and finding the courage to be true to her humanity; loosely inspired by FRANKENSTEIN.

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

In this horror novel loosely inspired by Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, ten teens head to a house party at a remote island mansion off the Washington coast…only for them to be picked off by a killer one by one.

The Turning by Francine Prose

A mind-bending and chilling retelling of THE TURN OF THE SCREW for modern teens, by nationally acclaimed, former President of PEN and award-winning author Francine Prose!”

Thanks, Heather! We love this trend (if you can even call it a trend!), since it’s so helpful when booktalking and recommending new favorites. Any other great classics-with-a-twist that we should read?

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