Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Blog Tour: Sparked (Interview & Review)

Fifteen-year-old Laurel Goodwin wakes up to find her older sister Ivy missing from their Airstream trailer in the Oregon redwoods. A recurring nightmare convinces her that Ivy was abducted, but no one takes her dream seriously, including her mom. Laurel, a loner, has to learn to ask for help, and Jasper Blake, a mysterious new kid who shares her love of old books, quickly becomes her ally. Together they find their quiet town holds a deep secret and is the epicenter of a dark prophecy.
Laurel soon learns that her worst enemies, mean girls Peyton Andersen and Mei Rosen, are developing powers that she needs to find and save Ivy. With time running out, Laurel realizes that power doesn’t always take the form that you expect. And once she learns to look beyond her snap judgments, she develops an unexpected gift of her own.

Sparked by Helena Echlin and Malena Watrous
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Geek & Sundry

Excerpt
When the novel opens, Laurel wakes up to find her sister Ivy missing from her bed. Their mom is sure that she must have stayed out all night to try to teach her a lesson—because of a fight they had the night before—and that Laurel will see her at school. When Ivy isn’t there, Laurel becomes increasingly convinced that something terrible must have happened to her. Not knowing what else to do, she goes to class. In first period, her English teacher returns a short story that she’d submitted the week before. Laurel has always considered herself a writer, and English has always been her best subject in school, so the following exchange comes as a blow on what’s already a horrible day…
“This was a clever idea,” Ms. Owen said, “but the characters never really came to life.” She dropped the story I’d submitted for a creative assignment on my desk. My words were covered in so much red ink, I could barely read them anymore.
“I mean who is this girl really?” she said. “What does she see in this boy, aside from the ‘sparkle of his ultraviolet eyes’?” She put those words in finger quotes. I shrugged, my face burning. “And what about him?” she pressed. “If everything he touches turns to stone, how does he eat?”
Ouch.
“I don’t know,” I mumbled. “It’s just, like, a fantasy story.”
“Well, I think you can do better,” she said sternly.
My eyes prickled with tears. I hoped she’d go away—but Ms. Owen was like a pit bull, jaws locked on its prey.
“If you’re serious about becoming a writer, I suggest you spend more time thinking about what makes people tick,” she said. “Use your real-life observations to create fictional characters with a pulse.”
My vision filmed over and I tried not to blink. Normally, I wouldn’t have broken down like this over a stupid story, but I didn’t know how much more I could take today.
Everyone was staring at me.
Except for Jasper.
He seemed to be gazing at some point at the front of the classroom, oddly focused, although there was nothing in particular to see there.
Then I smelled it: very faint at first, but unmistakable.
Burning.
Behind Ms. Owen, a curlicue of smoke rose from the garbage can. Something crackled quietly, like a twig snapping in the woods. Then a flame shot up over the rim. Half the class screamed, not so much in fear as in delight that something was happening for a change. As the flame whooshed up, Ms. Owen scuttled backward, as if hoping to use the students in the front row as a buffer between herself and the fire.
People leaped to their feet. Stu Sheers smashed the glass on the fire alarm, and the air filled with the pealing of the bell. Everyone rushed out the door, pushing and shoving. Ms. Owen yelled at us to hurry, and I grabbed my backpack. Only Jasper didn’t move. When I left the room, he was still pinned in his chair, staring at that blaze as if he didn’t want to get an inch closer to it.

About the Author
Hello! We are both novelists, but if you’ve ever tried to write anything, you know that writing can be a lonely, angst-filled business. So one night over a cocktail or two, we came up with a solution: write our next book together. Malena already had an idea: a girl’s sister is kidnapped and she has to rely on mean girls with superpowers to get her sister back. We couldn’t resist seeing where that story would take us – a wild ride that includes a loner girl who wants to be a writer and a gorgeous boy who can shoot fire from his eyes but also loves to talk about books. And an ancient Zoroastrian prophecy. And pie shakes. (OK, so maybe we got a little carried away.)
We’ve both published solo novels (check them out here and here) and had no idea how co-writing would work out, but we pounded out the first draft in a white-hot frenzy of inspiration we called “the Vortex.” One of us would write a scene and send it to the other with a note: “My apartment is a pigsty and I haven’t eaten all day. #inthevortex.” We wrote the book we wanted to read as teenagers: a supernatural thriller with healthy doses of horror and humor. Oh, and of course there’s romance. You have to wait a long time for the only kiss in the book, but isn’t that the case with all the best kisses in books?
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Interview:
Questions:

1. Civilization as we know it has ended, and we must survive off the land. What three characters do you want to be in your tribe?

Helena: We want Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games to help defend us from intruders and shoot wild game with her trusty bow and arrows. We also need Pa from Little House on the Prairie to build us a house and grow our food. There’s a character that really knows how to work—he builds a log cabin without any nails almost single-handedly! But since those two would probably be pretty monosyllabic company, we’d need someone upbeat and chatty to cheer us up: Anne of Green Gables.

2. What is your favorite thing to read about, and what book would you recommend for that reason?

Malena: Most of the books I have enjoyed the most contain a love story, and Jane Eyre is my favorite. I like how many obstacles stand in the way of Jane and Mr. Rochester, and how they each love each other in spite of (or maybe because of) their many flaws. That was probably the first love story that really grabbed me as a kid, and I still reread it.

Helena: I like spooky books, and above all a book where the main character goes to stay at a creepy old house and you can’t tell whether the weird things that start happening are real—or in the protagonist’s head. So I’m going to go with the classics too and pick The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.

3. You suddenly realize you aren't human, but are a preternatural being, what race(s) are you?

Helena: If we suddenly realized we were supernatural beings, we’d be “flares” – the name for people with special powers in our book. My superpower would be the manipulation of carbon, so I could safely reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and save the human race from eco-catastrophe. But in a more selfish mood, I would choose to have the power to snap my fingers and instantly complete all the annoying tasks that get in the way of my writing—the dishwasher would unload itself! Malena claims she would choose to write beautifully without any revisions (though I think she secretly enjoys them).

4. What is your favorite thing about writing? Least favorite?

Helena: My favorite thing is the Vortex—that’s the name Malena and I have given for that flow state where writing feels effortless and you forget what time it is or when you last ate. You’ve stepped over the threshold between this world and your imaginary world. When we were drafting Sparked, it was very easy to enter the Vortex. I’d have these magical days where I’d suddenly look up from my laptop and realize my place was a pigsty, I was still wearing my pajamas, and there was nothing in the house for dinner except stale tortillas with peanut butter. But I didn’t care—all that mattered was the Vortex.

Malena: My favorite thing is getting feedback from readers. We’ve been lucky to have many lovely responses, including one reader who said she couldn’t put the book down even while walking her dog, and a 13-year-old who gave us a handwritten list of questions he would like to see answered in the sequel—very good questions too. I also like it when mothers and daughters both read the book—I love the idea that our book (or any book) could be a way for people to connect.

Helena: Our least favorite thing—and this goes for both of us—is the nth draft. We like revision, because it’s fun to turn that messy, unpromising first draft into a well-crafted story with interesting, flawed characters. Well, revision isn’t always fun, but at it’s worst it’s a pleasurable kind of pain because you know you’re making the book better. But there’s definitely a moment in the rewriting process where you realize that the fix you thought would take two weeks is actually going to take six months and your heart sinks. Still, if we’re working with words and getting to tell a story, we feel pretty lucky.

5. If you could visit one fictional land/world where would it be and why?

Malena: Even though this isn't the most original answer, I have to say Hogwarts. I spent 4000 pages immersed in that world for a reason. I want to see Snape's potions lab, and the talking portraits, and watch owls swoop through the dining hall carrying mail, and the magical creatures in Hagrid's care.

Helena: I'd go to the world depicted in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, so I could have a daemon, a manifestation of my soul in animal form. The way they're depicted in the book, they are like a cross between a security blanket and a superhero’s side-kick. They love to snuggle, but they’re quick to get their claws out if anyone gets in your way.

Review: Wow, this book is amazing! I loved it so much! Seamlessly blending many genre from YA, to mythology, paranormal, suspense, romance, and more! I loved the characters in this one, the world-building was spot on, and the plot was complex and exciting! This book has so much going for it, my only complaint would be that I want more! I need more of this would, and am eagerly awaiting more from these authors!

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