Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Book Review & Interview W/ Author Jennifer Sommersby
Author: Jennifer Sommersby
Released: 23rd March 2011
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Fantasy
Blurb: Her mom is dead.
Ghosts follow her around.
Her best friend is an elephant.
And she’s about to meet the biggest game changer of all: a boy. With a secret.
When circus-dwelling Gemma Flannery learns she will be attending public school for the first time in her seventeen years, little does she know that fitting in with her 12th-grade classmates will be the least of her concerns. A pro at hiding her knack for seeing the dead (“shades”), Gemma is grieving the recent suicide of her mentally ill mother, a process eased by the introduction of her first real love interest, the charming and painfully handsome Henry Dmitri, who is harboring his own collection of dangerous secrets. Together, they will be presented with a frightening challenge: to assume their roles as heirs to a 3000-year-old magical text, the AVRAKEDAVRA, a book the über-rich, sleight-of-being master Lucian Dmitri would do anything to get his hands on. As each terrifying layer in her new reality melts away, Gemma unearths truths that her quiet, nomadic life with the Cinzio Traveling Players is not at all what she’d always cherished. Gemma and Henry must rely on each other to stop Lucian’s diabolical plotting that will bring the world to its tired, scab-riddled knees, and are sent on the flight of their young lives, to save themselves, their families, and the world from the darkest kind of destruction.
Let the chase begin.
My Rating: A KEEPER!
My Review: Wow, I LOVED this book! I was completely hooked from the very first page. Jennifer's storyline was so well written it grabs you and takes you on such an amazing adventure full of action, danger, pure evil and love *sigh* it won't let you go till the very end and even then your left hanging for more.
It was such a refreshing change from all other paranormal reads (don't get me wrong a really love paranormal) this is about magic and not just any magic, old magic.
Gemma is such a strong female character with such sarcasm. Henry is the spunky hero with so much devotion and strength.(he's in my book boy crush list *winks*) Also Junie, Ash, Ted, Marlene and Irwin all just amazing characters that bring so much life to this story. Oh, we can't forget Lucian pure evil at it's best.
I recommend all Paranaormal and Fantasy lovers give this book a go, you'll be blown away.
So, come join the circus! *winks*
Now here's my interview with the gorgeous Jennifer Sommersby....Enjoy!!
What or who inspired you to become a writer?
I don’t think it was any one particular person or thing; I’ve just always liked books. I was an early reader—books were always a priority in our house as my mom loved to read. It was a thing we would do on quiet, rainy afternoons, of which there were many as we lived in Portland, Oregon, when Mom would call for “quiet time.” I would grab a stack of books and sit on my bed and read to myself. Now that I’m a grown-up with kids of my own, I realize it was a ploy for my mom to squeeze in some pages in whatever book she was reading at the time. But I loved those days. Nothing like rain on the window, my blankie, and a stack of books. I was also really fortunate to attend a great elementary school where literacy promotion was a big part of curriculum. We had visits from Beverly Cleary and Ezra Jack Keats, and we’d do these parades where we’d dress up like our favorite book characters and march around the neighborhood. It was awesome. Books and words have always just been a really significant part of my life.
How did you come up with the title?
The word sleight means “the use of dexterity or cunning, especially so as to deceive.” The story is about 17-year-old Gemma, who lives in this circus environment where the performers intentionally employ some level of sleight in order to deliver their acts to the audience. Her “uncle,” Ted Cinzio, is a magician who was trained by sleight-of-hand master magician Lucian Dmitri, who also takes over financial control of the Cinzio Traveling Players—this is not an act of business but rather an act of control. Lucian wants something, and he usually gets what he wants. The word sleight was the perfect metaphor for everything that happens in the story—Gemma is confronted with people who aren’t who they seem, there is a great deal of deception and cunning going on, and certain players are very skilled with becoming completely different entities entirely (no, they’re not shapeshifters).
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
This changes quite a bit, depending on whom I’ve read most recently and fallen in love with, but my constant favorites are Shakespeare, Chuck Palahniuk, and Flannery O’Connor. Another more recent favorite is Hannah Moskowitz. What all of these writers have in common is their lack of concern for what might be perceived as indecent or shocking. They have written exquisite pieces with often uncomfortable themes. When people think of Shakespeare, they think of Romeo and Juliet, but my favorite of his work is the sixth one he wrote, Titus Andronicus, a play so violent it was largely ignored for nearly 300 years. But it explores some very important aspects of human nature—trust, betrayal, greed, manipulation, revenge, and redemption. It’s brilliant in its many warped layers.
Chuck Palahniuk is an incredible writer. That doesn’t mean I love all of his work, but the guy is twisted in such fantastic ways.
Flannery O’Connor—what a paradox—she was this seemingly sweet, devout Catholic girl from Savannah, Georgia, who wrote short stories that were so in opposition to what one would expect. She was remarkably brave and talented and wasn’t afraid to write her own stories. No romantic heroes or damsels in distress (and if they were in distress, O’Connor put them there.) She died way too young, at 39, from lupus. A real loss to the literary world.
And Miss Hannah Moskowitz—I interviewed her a few months ago and promised I wouldn’t bring up her age again, but this girl has some crazy writing chops. Her first book Break, about a kid who’s on a mission to break every bone in his body, was picked up before she finished high school. She has another whack of titles making their way into the bookstream, including the recent Invincible Summer, Gone Gone Gone (coming soon), and Zombie Tag. She writes young adult stuff that is SO different than what is out there. Again, I admire her bravery and the depth she pours into all of her characters.
What were the most surprising things you learned in writing your book?
Good question! From a research standpoint, I learned some incredible stuff about the history of magic, dating back to pagan and pre-biblical times, about life in Mesopotamia, about the early practice of writing using cuneiform, when the first “book” was made and the physical properties of what was considered a book (paper dates back to China over 5000 years ago, but later books were comprised of papyrus pages and often animal-hide covers). I did a fair amount of research on Egypt as I was originally planning on including a stop in Cairo and Giza in Book 2 (that isn’t happening now), and I think the funniest realization I had was how historically accurate a lot of Hollywood movies are, including The Mummy and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I love doing research. I learn some of the craziest things. It makes my brain happy.
From a more personal perspective, I learned that I can always do better, that I will always be growing as a writer, and that what I’m writing today is better than what I wrote a year ago, and what I wrote a year ago was miles better than what I’d written in 2009, and so on. It’s all a process, and I’ve learned to be more open to improving. Writing is an artform. People don’t get that—they think that it’s just super easy to sit down and write some fairy story that everyone will be fighting over each other to buy. And while that may be true for some, there is much to be said for pulling everything you’ve got out of yourself, to the point of madness and physical exhaustion, to create the best possible product you can for that day. I’m totally stoked to see what I will be creating five years from now.
What was the hardest part about writing your book?
Figuring out where to end it! I’ve had a lot of folks comment, either on Facebook or in reviews, about how they hated the ending. I didn’t want to end it the way I did—I hate cliffhangers, too!—but you have to remember that I shopped this book around to agents for almost a year before I published it, and all the agents complained that at over 100,000 words, it was too long for the market. Ridiculous. And the original first draft of Sleight was nearly 140,000 words! I had to make a cut somewhere. That was a really, really hard decision for me as I felt it compromised the integrity of the story, and I know how mad I get when I come to the end of a book or movie and there are all these unanswered questions. Drives me mental. The nice thing is, folks don’t have to wait another year or two to see what happens. The next book is due out this fall, likely October or November.
Who designed the cover?
I designed it, with the help of Daniela from Bewitched Bookworms; she’s studying to get her PhD in biology but has totally missed her calling as a graphic designer. I had a different cover originally (the smoke configuration), but Danny showed me the err of my ways by giving me some options about what it could look like. She sent me a few mock-ups that she had done, and I knew immediately that we had to change it. One of my writing and critique partner friends, Angeline Kace, found the image of the red-haired girl and sent it to me, and I fell in love. I fussed with it for a few days and sent it back and forth with Danny for her expert assistance, and voila! An awesome cover was born! (The pressure’s on for Book 2, I can tell ya…)
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
For years, I wanted to be a marine biologist. I love whales and dolphins, and we used to spend time at the Oregon Coast, standing at vista points, trying with binoculars to catch blowhole sprays in the distance from passing migratory California gray whales. But I’m afraid of deep water and I get stupid seasick. So, yeah…so much for that. As I discovered that maybe I had a knack for words and stories, I fell in love with the idea of pushing words around for a living. So I decided I wanted to be a journalist because, somehow, I knew that writers of books were often poor. And I’m nosy. I liked the idea of prying into people’s lives and being first on the scene of some disaster. It’s all about feeding the ego, which I realized as I got older.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Same things I tell my kids: Be open to the possibilities. There will always be someone better than you. Keep your ears open and listen when someone is trying to help you be better, but trust your instincts. You don’t have to take everyone’s advice. And omigod, back up everything you write!
Do you have anything specific you'd like to say to your readers?
THANK YOU very much for reading my work and for loving it like you have. If I could hug or high-five every single one of you, I totally would. And then we would go raid the market of its supply of Oreos and sit poolside, our legs dipped in the tepid water, and eat until we were all sugared out. Then we would go to the bookstore and buy ourselves a treat. And then to Starbucks—grande nonfat hazelnut latte for me, but you order first. And then to the movies where we would stand in front and swoon over the posters of all the hot Hollywood hunks, until it was time to go in for our show, and then I’d treat everyone to the gigantic popcorn/candy combo. And we’d take over the theatre and throw Gobstoppers at the heads of all the stupid people who insisted on whispering and texting through the movie. Who’s in???
Can you tell us a little about what you’re working on now?
I am working on Stratagem: Book 2. It’s the second book in the AVRA-K series. The first draft is coming along, nearing completion, and should be ready for beta readers and the editor here pretty quick. Plus, I’m excited to say that as of a few weeks ago, I actually know how this one ends. That’s a big deal for me. I tend to write without the headlights on.
Thank you Jennifer!
Here's where you can get you copy of Sleight.. Amazon OR Smashwords
Also check out Jennifer's Facebook page