Tag Archives: Behind-the-Scenes

Author Q&A with Bookerlunds Taya and Nathan Okerlund

Author Q&A with Bookerlunds, Never Lore Authors Taya and Nathan Okerlund

Author Q&A with Bookerlunds Taya and Nathan Okerlund

I knew from the moment that I first read about this book that I would request to review it. The book description and email from the author were so cleverly worded and in such a great voice! I couldn’t resist. So, I was even more thrilled when the authors offered to let me host them for a Q&A post.

If you haven’t checked out my review of NEVER LORE, please pop over there either before or after reading this post because if you like fantasy adventure middle grade books, you do NOT want to miss this one.

Let’s get to the Q&A with the Bookerlunds!

1. I find that a story was often inspired by a question. Was there a question that inspired you?

Never Lore is a spy story and spy stories are full of deceit. Early on in my career, after receiving my security clearance, I learned about people who could avoid detection in their lies by being strictly factual, without a hint of honesty. Honesty is a nuanced thing and the way adults typically model it for children, it can be kind of hard to crack. I raised a number of questions for kids to think about in this story. I hope I used enough restraint in not answering all of them for the reader. It’s a fact, I come down on the side of truth, but a story won’t really resonate when it lies to you. And I wouldn’t do that.

2. Who is your favorite character? Are there things about your favorite character which couldn’t be included in NEVER LORE?

Annabelle was partly inspired by my fearless niece. In fact, her name is Annabelle. She’s pretty grown up now, but wow was she a firecracker when she was nine! So many stories about that kid! So many broken bones! Is she up to eight or nine? I’m not sure I captured her with quite the same spirit, but I gave it a go!

3. What was the most difficult thing about writing NEVER LORE?

This book was at least six years in the making. While it is crucial to follow the rules of story craft and to accept feedback, an author can lose her way by caring too much about what someone else thinks of her book. This one took me time to find the all-important-element that no story expert can give a writer—Voice

4. Is there a scene or moment in your novel that really sticks with you? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

I still love the night hyena scene. My daughter was only four when I began writing Never. At the time, we watched quite a few nature documentaries together, and there was this episode where an injured mother hyena was turned out of her pack with her babies. The little exiles didn’t make it, and it gutted my little girl to see this, so she asked me to put hyenas in the story. I wrote up the scene, and thought it was pretty good, until my husband got hold of it and proceeded to set it on fire! It’s still my favorite scene, mostly because it’s the product of our whole family collaborating together.

5. What was the most challenging thing you had to overcome as a writing team in order to finish NEVER LORE?

I don’t like to talk about this, because it’s still tender to me, but I went through years of painful disability and a slow and painful healing process before I was able to both finish and see Never through to publication.

6. What do you most hope readers take away from your novel?

I hope readers have a great adventure! As a bonus, I hope they will sometimes think about hard questions like: what is a lie? What is the truth? And in either case—what happens next?

7. What is one question about your novel you are often asked by readers?

As I mentioned, Never was a bit of a family project, and so people might wonder what or who BOOKERLUNDS is. Our family name is Okerlund. So we added a couple of letters and thought we were being clever. In any case, we are definitely bookish people.

About Bookerlunds Taya and Nathan Okerlund

Facebook | Instagram | Website

The Bookerlunds are an author team composed of Taya and Nathan Okerlund and their daughter Mimi. (Mimi made meaningful contributions to this book by insisting that hyenas make it into the manuscript.) And we’re glad she did.

Nathan is a neuroscientist who works in a laboratory at the University of Utah, studying model organisms such as nematodes to try to unlock the mysteries of neuro degeneration, or declines in the functioning of the brain. He has published a lot of papers before in peer reviewed journals, but this is his first work of fiction.

Taya is a multi award-winning author of SHIN and other novels. NEVER LORE is her first middle-grade novel.

About Never Lore: Journey to Mt. Smolder

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | My Review

NOTICE: Explosive content contained within. (Rebel boys and indomitable girls have always been a combustible combination.)

All the signs of Fairy’s unraveling were there: a strict rationing of pixie dust; the disappearance of a magical species; a reckless reliance on spies plucked from human orphanages. Annabelle was no orphan. Her father was perhaps the most infamous man in Childerbridge-and she’d never live down the shame of it, though she’d also never accept that the charges against him were true-not most of the time. 

She’ll have to go to the end of Never to prove what is true…about Never itself, about her father, and her own work-worn self.

A Very Belated Winter Wrap-Up

A Very Belated Winter Wrap-Up

Spring has (maybe?) sprung, and here I am scraping together my winter wrap-up. It’s been a busy season! Read on to see the best books I read this season as well as my most popular posts. Finally, I’ll check in on the goals I set for the year and how I’m doing in meeting them.

Winter Wrap-Up Behind the Scenes News

Last year, I started working directly with several new publishers, which means easier access to more of the books I can’t wait to read. Which is good and bad? Because yeowza, my calendar has never been so packed.

I used to limit myself to three reviews per week, but last September, I increased that to four. In January, I increased to five reviews per week.

Honestly, this only works because I’ve been sitting on a backlog of about 40 reviews for backlist books I read sometime last year. Sometimes, though, I’ve needed to read four or five new books per week. I don’t think that’s a sustainable pace, so I’m trying to refine my process for deciding which books to review.

Changes in My What to Review Decision-Making Process

For a long time, I was really just reviewing whatever books looked interesting. I had few enough requests that this made sense and still left me wiggle room to add in backlist titles I couldn’t get review copies of or discovered after publication and wanted to read.

I’ve tried to have an eye toward reading diversely as I select which books to read, but there are definitely holes I would like to fill. For example, I don’t read very many books by Indigenous authors. Not on purpose. I just don’t often get asked to review them, and I haven’t been purposefully seeking them out. So I’m working on that this year.

Lately, though, that’s not the case, and I’m finding that I have to say no to books that look really great. The good news is that my blog viewership has grown enough (thanks to all of you!) that I have access to a larger selection of books. The bad news is that I can’t review them all!

One of the new things that I’m considering as I encounter books by authors I’ve read before is how those past reviews performed in terms of the number of views they received. This was super helpful last week when I was asked to review the sequel to SKANDAR AND THE UNICORN THIEF. When I checked the post performance for my review, I discovered it was one of my top ten best performing posts last year, and it’s in the top twenty for this year so far.

So I’d say the data indicates my readers would be interested in the sequel, so I eagerly accepted the book for review.

Winter Wrap-Up: Top Posts

Technically these are the top five best performing reviews for the first quarter of this year. What’s funny to me is that none of these were posted this quarter. I’m guessing people searched for reviews of RUIN AND RISING because of the release of the second season of the Shadow and Bone series on Netflix. The others have been high performing posts for a while, so I guess there aren’t really any big surprises here.

What’s interesting to me is that I’ve heard other bloggers talk about how their reviews don’t perform well over time in terms of clicks and views, but four out of my top five posts are reviews. (The other is this list of middle grade books I was eagerly anticipating coming out this past winter.)

One of the things that I do which probably helps my stats is to use a plugin that helps me strengthen my SEO for each post. (I use a free one called Yoast.)

Now that we’ve discussed what most of my viewers were reading this past quarter, let’s look at what I was reading!

Best Books I Read This Winter

Middle Grade Favorites

I read 26 middle grade books during the first quarter of this year, and there were some really great ones in that list. These four are my favorites. They’re the ones I still think about even weeks after I finished reading them. I loved the sense of community and celebration of amigurumi and boba tea in IT’S BOBA TIME FOR PEARL LI.

That Gillian McDunn’s latest book, WHEN SEA BECOMES SKY, moved me probably won’t surprise anyone who has followed this blog the last few years. I love her writing and the explorations of deep feelings she brings to the pages of her books.

MIRROR TO MIRROR surprised me with its beautiful celebration of sisterhood and individuality in its spare verse chapters. I loved getting the points of view of both of the twins and seeing the difference in how they viewed each other and themselves.

THE BOY WHO FOLLOWED HIS FATHER INTO AUSCHWITZ is a haunting, true story about a family fractured by World War II and the Holocaust. I couldn’t stop thinking about this book after I’d finished it. It’s definitely worth a read, and does a great job showing the destruction that happened to Jewish families both within and outside concentration camps during World War II.

Young Adult Favorites

I read 39 young adult books from January to March this year. Lots of them were really well done, so it was hard to narrow down to a handful of favorites.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect picking up MY DEAR HENRY, but wow, was it good. Kalynn Bayron really captured the vibe of the original story and delivered complex, tortured characters in Victorian England. It was so good. Definitely made me want to catch up on the books by this author that I’ve missed.

I WILL FIND YOU AGAIN was another wild card for me. The cover copy made me think a bit of WE WERE LIARS, which is one of my favorite books ever, so that was enough to get me to check it out. And let me tell you, I was NOT disappointed! I’ll definitely keep Sarah Lyu on my radar, because what a compelling, twisty story.

I’ve been a long-time Elizabeth Wein fan, so again, probably not a surprise to see STATELESS on my favorites list if you’ve been reading my reviews for a long time. I was really excited to see a book about a female pilot in the 1930s. Wein does an amazing job showing the tension between nations as Europe nears another World War.

Though it’s got kind of an understated cover, MISSING CLARISSA packed some serious punch. The pacing was perfect, and the characters were compelling enough to propel me through this one all the way to the final page. It’s a definite must-read for fans of ONE OF US IS LYING.

Goals Tracking

At the beginning of the year, I wrote this Top Ten Tuesday post outlining a long list of goals for this year. So how’s that going, you ask? Let’s take a super quick look…

Reading Goals

Goal: Read at least 150 books this year. Update: I’ve read 75 books so far this year, so I’d say I’ve made great progress on this one.

Goal: Say no when my calendar is full. Update: Hahahahahahaha! …. Yeah, this one is a work in progress.

Backlist Reading Goals

Goal: Read and review 3-5 timely classics, preferably by BIPOC. Update: I started both THE FIRE NEXT TIME by James Baldwin and THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET by Sandra Cisneros, so those I expect to finish this year for sure. I also finally read ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell, which only half-counts toward this goal, because it is definitely timely.

Goal: Read 3-5 backlist TBR nonfiction titles. Update: So far I’ve read one– ALL BOYS AREN’T BLUE by George M. Johnson, so that’s one.

Goal: Read 10-12 backlist TBR fiction titles. Update: I started CLAP WHEN YOU LAND, but haven’t finished it yet.

Bookish List Post Goals

Goal: Post 3-4 Top Ten Tuesday lists each quarter. Update: I posted six TTT lists this quarter. Win!

Goal: Post seasonal most-anticipated lists. Update: I’m on this. Just posted my lists for middle grade and young adult books coming this spring!

Goal: Post lists for monthly celebrations. Update: I did make a list for Holocaust Remembrance Day, but I totally missed both Women’s History month this month and Black History month in February. I’ve got an Earth Day post coming soon. Still a work in progress.

Writing Goals

I listed two writing goals in my original post (publishing another indie book for authors and finishing a novel of my own), and honestly, I haven’t really worked on either of these. Some family stuff has come up that’s made it necessary for me to table both those projects for now. I’m working on a short story currently, and would like to write some essays to sell as well. That seems more manageable right now.

What Would You Like to See More of?

Now that you know what I’m working on and what’s coming soon… what are the things you wish you could see more of on this site? Do you want more lists? More updates like this one? Are you interested in voting on what backlist books I read and review next? Leave a comment and let me know!

Blog Tour and Q&A with Lucia DiStefano

Once in a while a book comes along that really piques my curiosity, and BORROWED by Lucia DiStefano is definitely one of those! Today, I’ve got the pleasure of sharing an interview with the author where she answers some of my questions about her super intriguing book! First, though, let’s talk about the book.

by Lucia DiStefano
Elephant Rock Books
Published November 1, 2018
264 pages

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About Borrowed
Love, mystery, and danger collide in this new literary thriller with the dark heart of a Gillian Flynn novel and the lyrical prose of Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun.

A triumph of authenticity, grace, and nail-biting suspense, Lucia DiStefano’s ingenious debut is an unflinching, genre-bending page-turner.

As seventeen-year-old Linnea celebrates the first anniversary of her heart transplant, she can’t escape the feeling that the wires have been crossed. After a series of unsettling dreams, inked messages mysteriously appear on her body, and she starts to wonder if this new heart belongs to her at all.

In another Austin neighborhood, Maxine braces for a heartbreaking anniversary: her sister Harper’s death. Between raising her brothers and parenting her grief-stricken mother, Max is unable to ignore her guilty crush on Harper’s old flame or shake her lingering suspicion that her sister’s drowning wasn’t really an accident. With Harper as the sole connection, Linnea and Maxine are soon brought together in fantastic and terrifying ways as the shocking truth behind Harper’s death comes to light.

Q&A with Lucia DiStefano

I find that a story was often inspired by a question. Was there a question that inspired you to write BORROWED?

Absolutely! Many years ago, after standing in a post-office queue and watching a woman scribble a note on the palm of her hand, I asked myself, “What would it be like to find a message on your hand and have no memory of putting it there?”

Were there things about your favorite character which couldn’t be included in BORROWED?

I think my favorite character may be Leo, the wildly talented chef whose personal life is a hot mess (and that’s an understatement). I find him so brash and unpredictable and entertaining, and maybe he’s my favorite because he’s so unlike me in many ways. Regarding things about Leo that couldn’t be included: the full details of his many arrests, what his apartment looks like, who he hangs out with, and what he’s doing when he’s not in the restaurant kitchen. Some of those things may be hinted at in the book, but they couldn’t be included because Leo is a minor character, after all, and all that backstory wouldn’t serve the story at large. (But can you tell I think about them?)

Can you tell us a little bit about something you know about the story that the reader may not know? Kind of a behind-the-scenes look at a character’s backstory or something interesting about the setting that didn’t make it to the final version of BORROWED?

Linnea’s mother wanted a child but not a partner (she’d had several disastrous relationships in the past, including one with a man who hated kids), which is why she availed herself of IVF when she wanted to conceive. Although that fact of Linnea’s parentage is mentioned once in the final draft, I’d had much more about it in earlier drafts, including an unsuccessful attempt by Linnea to find the person who she believes passed on a faulty heart to her. Because those details felt interesting to me but did not move the story forward, I had to cut them.

Is there a scene or moment in BORROWED that really sticks with you? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

I’m thinking about the scene that I hadn’t wanted to write because I knew it would be so excruciating to write. In the draft I sent in to Elephant Rock Books’s Helen Sheehan YA Contest, I had only implied that this major event occurred; I hadn’t written any of it. But my brilliant, thoughtful editor Jotham Burrello asked me to consider writing it, and gave very compelling reasons for doing so. Once he laid out his logic, I knew the story would be stronger with that very difficult scene in there, and I knew I had to muster up my courage to write it. I was right: it was excruciating to write, but I am glad Jotham saw the need for it, and I am glad I worked myself up to writing it.

Where did your ideas for your antagonist come from?

Sometimes writing feels mysterious to me. Often I can track the origin of my ideas (as in the question that triggered one major idea behind the novel), but when it comes to the antagonist this time around, the line is blurry at best. I think the reason for this is that I wanted the girls to drive the story first and foremost, and so writing them felt like conscious work on my part. But what the antagonist said/did felt like “gifts” from the antagonist himself, clues and motivations he lobbed my way when I was trying to focus on the two main characters. I can’t describe the process where he’s involved more accurately than saying those ideas all came from him; I just accepted them gratefully.

What do you most hope that readers take away from BORROWED?

The thing I most hope readers take away from BORROWED is hope itself. Both of the protagonists have been through hell and back, and in each of those scenarios, many people might not get up again afterwards. And yet, both of these strong young women go on to engage with life, and to me, that’s the epitome of hope: accepting the reality of the darkest of situations, and yet believing the sun will shine again and therefore turning one’s face toward the sun.

What is one question about BORROWED you are often asked by readers?

Questions along the line of: “Are you a baker? The desserts you described sound delicious. Did you make them before you put them in the book?” And my answer: I’m an amateur baker at best (and I consistently fail at making my desserts pretty, so I doubt I’d make a good pastry chef). I may not have made everything Linnea makes in the novel, but I can (proudly) say that I’ve eaten it all. (Which is why I hear the treadmill calling…)

About Lucia DiStefano

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

A former high school English teacher, Lucia DiStefano currently works as an editor, ghostwriter, and writing coach. First-generation Sicilian-American and daughter of an olive farmer, she admits to having recurring pasta dreams. Hailing from central Connecticut, Lucia lives near Austin, Texas with her husband and an old bloodhound named Waffle.

Follow the Blog Tour for More

August 1: Cover reveal at YA Interrobang

September 4: Review at Alice Reeds

September 10: Author interview at Alice Reeds

September 24: Cover reveal at BubblersRead

October 8: Review at Liz Loves Books  

October 9-15: Giveaway at Miss Print

October 15: Review at BubblersRead

October 17: Guest post at Liz Loves Books

October 22: Excerpt at YA Interrobang

October 25: Author interview at YA Outside the Lines  

October 31: Author interview at Katya de Becerra: The Last Day of Normal

November 1: Giveaway and guest post at Carina’s Books

November 5: Author interview at BubblersRead

November 12: Author guest post at BubblersRead

November 14: Author interview at Cynsations

November 19: First impressions video with YouTuber BookRatMisty

November 20: First impressions on The Book Rat

November 20: Author interview at The Story Sanctuary – You are here!

December 5: Podcast Interview at The Writing Barn

Like Elephant Rock on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @ElephantRockBks for book and blog tour news and updates!

Top Ten Movies, Songs, and Stories that Inspired The Rift Uprising by Amy S. Foster

Author Amy S. Foster joins me today to talk about what inspired her to write The Rift Uprising, a new teen sci-fi that promises to keep readers on the edge of their seats. I know I’m anxious to read it! Also, be sure you stop by the bottom of this post to enter for a chance to win one of three giveaway copies of The Rift Uprising! There are also links to the other blogs on the tour to check out and some other information about the book. First I’ll let Amy share with us the top ten movies, songs, and stories that inspired her to create her novel. Here’s the list…

Top Ten Movies, Songs and Stories that Inspired The Rift Uprising

1. Red Dawn (Movie)

2. Sliding Doors (Movie)

3. “2-1” by Imogene Heap (Song)

4. Legend by Marie Lu

5. A Brief History Of Time by Stephen Hawking

6. Buffy The Vampire Slayer


7. “Cool Girl,” by Tove Lo (ok too recent to have inspired the book, but the song is a PERFECT fit!)

Note: You can find the video here. I didn’t post it because there’s some strong language and sensual imagery.

8. Gattaca

9. Stargate (the TV show, not so much the movie, but I hear they’re doing a reboot!)


10. God And The Multiverse by Victor J. Stenger

 About The Rift Uprising by Amy S. Foster

Available October 4, 2016

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Normal seventeen-year-old girls go to high school, binge watch TV shows all weekend, and flirt with everyone on the face of the Earth. But Ryn Whitaker is trying to save it.

Ryn is a Citadel. A soldier. A liar. Ryn and her fellow Citadels were specially chosen and trained to guard a Rift—one of fourteen unpredictable tears in the fabric of the universe that serve as doorways to alternate Earths. Unbeknownst to her family, Ryn leaves for school each day and then reports for duty as an elite, cybernetically-altered soldier who can run faster, jump farther, and fight better than a Navy SEAL—which comes in handy when she’s not sure if axe-wielding Vikings or any number of other terrified and often dangerous beings come through the Rift. A fine-tuned weapon, Ryn is a picture-perfect Citadel. But that’s all about to change.

When a young man named Ezra is pulled through the Rift, Ryn finds herself immediately drawn to him, despite her training. What starts as a physical attraction quickly grows deeper, and Ezra’s curiosity throws Ryn off balance when he starts questioning the Rifts, the mysterious organization that oversees them, and the Citadels themselves—questions that lead Ryn to wonder if the lies she’s been telling her family are just the surface of a much bigger lie told to her. As Ryn and Ezra desperately try to get to that truth, they discover that each revelation blurs the line between the villains and the heroes even more.

About Amy S. Foster

Web Site | Twitter | Facebook

Amy S. Foster is a celebrated songwriter, best known as Michael Bublé’s writing partner. You might recognize her work in his four hit singles, including “Home” and “Haven’t Met You Yet.” She has also collaborated with Destiny’s Child, Diana Krall, Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban and a host of other artists. She is also the author of the novel When Autumn Leaves. When she’s not in a studio in Nashville, Amy lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family. Amy is the daughter of singer B.J. Cook and the legendary music producer, David Foster. Fun fact about Amy: Her extended family tree includes Bella and Gigi Hadid, Sara and Erin Foster and Brody and Brandon Jenner, and Clay Aiken! The Rift Uprising, her YA debut, will be released on October 4, 2016.

Check out the other stops on the tour!

Stop by and see some of the other posts about The Rift Uprising. Also don’t forget to enter for your chance to win one of three giveaway copies of the book below!

10/17: The Book Swarm – Review

10/18: The Wandering Bark Books – Excerpt

10/19: Such A Novel Idea – Guest Post

10/20: A Leisure Moment – Review

10/21: I Heart Romance & YA – Top 10

10/22: Owl Always Be Reading – Review

10/23: Just Commonly – Review

10/24: The Story Sanctuary – Top 10 – you are here!

10/25: Vibin With Books – Review

10/26: Avid Reader – Review

10/27: The Litaku – Excerpt

10/28: Swoony Boys Podcast – Review

10/29: No BS Book Reviews – Q&A

10/30: Books Are Love – Excerpt

10/31: Stuck In Books – Q&A

11/1: Big Books and Grande Lattes – Review

11/2: Fiction Fare – Review

11/3: Here’s to Happy Endings – Review

11/4: The Novel Orange – Review

11/5: The Irish Banana Review – Q&A

Enter to Win A Copy of The Rift Uprising (US Only)

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