Thrilled to be kicking-off this blog tour for House of Secrets! With the powerhouse team of Ned Vizzini and Chris Columbus behind this fantasy novel and being blurbed by the inimitable J.K. Rowling, I knew I had to read it. So many thanks to the wonderful girls at Angel Publicity on behalf of HarperCollins Children’s Books for letting me be part of this tour. Hope you enjoy reading my little interview with Ned on what it’s like to collaborate on a project like this, then download an exclusive excerpt from the book!
About House of Secrets
Release: 25 April 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
When Brendan, Cordelia and Nell move to Kristoff House they have no idea that they are about to unleash the dark magic locked within.
Now the Walker kids must battle against deadly pirates, bloodthirsty warriors and a bone-crunching giant. If they fail they will never see their parents again and a crazed witch will take over the world.
No pressure then…
House of Secrets is the first book in a major new series. It’s going to be epic.
Download an EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from House of Secrets!
Q&A with Ned Vizzini
Thank you so much for agreeing to answer my questions! Who came up with the idea for the series and how did you decide to collaborate?
I actually received a phone call in early 2011 from my agent. He told me that Chris Columbus, the filmmaker, was interested in meeting with me, possibly to pursue a book project, and that there wasn’t any way this could be a bad thing. I was nervous at first but my wife told me not to be worried about meeting Chris: “You’re a family man; he’s a family man; just be cool.” When we met Chris handed me the first 90 pages of “Stones Of Time”, a script he had started writing ten years ago and never finished. He said, “Read this and let me know if you think there’s a book in here.” I loved the story so I composed a draft of the first chapter, sent it over and it all kicked off from there.
How was the work on the book split between you two?
The phone is still where the important stuff gets hashed out. When work on House of Secrets was going well, Chris and I simply email each other, sending chapters back and forth and editing them until they’re good to go. But when we get to a place where something doesn’t feel right, we get on the phone, and we use the word “bump.” “Bump” is a terrific bit of Hollywood parlance. To “bump” is to “not understand” something; for example, an executive giving notes on a script might say, “I’m bumping on why he’s saying this here.” It’s a perfect idiom because it places the perfection of the work above everything else, implying that there is a version of the script, or book, that is perfectly smooth, but right now there’s a little bump in it. Can we smooth that? For the most part, Chris’ and my collaboration takes place entirely on email. The precision and instantaneousness of it makes collaboration on a major writing project easier today than it used to be.
What is the best part about collaborating on a book with someone? The hardest part?
The best part is that when you finish a chunk of work, you send it off to your partner and you’re done for now! That’s such a relief compared to writing by yourself when you could conceivably keep going until the end (and why aren’t you? Huh? Huh?).
The hardest part is that emails about promotions and packaging and marketing have to go to two authors, not one, and there are a lot more emails flying around.
Thank you to Ned for answering my silly questions! So, who here is really looking forward this book coming out next week?
About NED VIZZINI:
Ned Vizzini is the bestselling author of the acclaimed young-adult books The Other Normals, It’s Kind of a Funny Story (also a major motion picture), Be More Chill, and Teen Angst? Naaah…. In television, he has written for ABC’s Last Resort and MTV’s Teen Wolf. His essays and criticism have appeared in the New York Times, the Daily Beast,and Salon.
He is the co-author, with Chris Columbus, of the fantasy-adventure series House of Secrets. His work has been translated into ten languages. He lives in Los Angeles.
Welcome to the start of the blog tour for the incredible sounding novel Deadlands by Lily Herne. When I was asked by the fab publishers Constable & Robinson, how could I resist? It had zombies, selection lottery, renegades and a unique setting, everything I could want in a dystopia. The book is out today so read on for more details about it and what Cape Town is really like from the authors themselves.
Release: 18 April 2013
Publisher: Much-in-Little, Constable & Robinson
A zombie apocalypse has hit South Africa, and it’s up to the Guardians to keep them at bay… for a price. A dazzlingly cool debut from mother-and-daughter duo Lily Herne, that leaves you hungry for more.
It is ten years since Cape Town was destroyed in the War with the Living Dead. Zombies roam free in the city’s suburbs, known as the Deadlands, and the remaining living are fenced in by heavily walled enclaves in urban shantytowns. Watched over by the sinister, shrouded Guardians, the living are protected from danger. But at what cost?
Once a year, the Guardians stage a lottery, selecting five teenagers for a secret purpose. No one knows why they prize teenagers bodies so highly, but seventeen-year-old Lele de la Fontein isn’t going to hang around to find out. Seeking escape and fleeing into the Deadlands, she finds safety with a group of teenage renegades known as the Mall Rats. Social misfits, they hold an amazing unexplained power: zombies are not interested in them.
But who are the Mall Rats? Are they the answer to Lele’s prayers, or is she about to find herself in more trouble than she can imagine? As questions emerge, Lele embarks on a high-octane adventure, discovering how people are not often what they seem, and how sometimes we have a destiny we could not even have dreamed about. Gripping and thought-provoking, Deadlands is a piercing and intelligent debut.
Guest Post from Lily Herne
Mention Cape Town to most non-South Africans, and it’s likely that an image of Table Mountain will pop into their heads, along with the ear-melting shriek of vuvuzelas (courtesy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup).
Dubbed a city of contradictions, it’s impossible to visit Cape Town without being aware of the poverty that underlies the city’s surface charms; it’s evident from the second tourists exit the revamped airport and catch sight of the staggering expanse of Khayelitsha – Cape Town’s most populous township. That said, few tourists will truly experience the reality not shown in the glossy brochures – most will visit bohemian Kalk Bay, ramble up Table Mountain, wander around the Kirstenbosch botanical gardens, shop at the Waterfront, eat and party on Long Street and Sea Point. The city is a top tourist destination for a reason – it has natural beauty, fabulous restaurants, and distractions in spades. But there’s nowhere else in South Africa that the staggering rich-poor divide is more evident. The very rich live in gated communities and mansions in the suburbs of Bishopscourt, Constantia, Llandudno and Camps Bay, but the majority of the population live a very different existence in the sprawling townships of Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Langa and Masiphumele. Hout Bay’s wealthier citizens live cheek by jowl with the residents of Imizamo Yethu, an informal settlement that has grown over the years. Then there are the so-called ganglands of the Cape Flats – an area of the city where many of the coloured population were forced to relocate during the dark days of apartheid.
When we decided to use Cape Town as the backdrop to Deadlands, we chose to subvert the city’s demographic divide. After a cataclysmic event, in which the majority of the city’s population is reduced to a mass of zombiesque mutants, we needed to figure out where our survivors would hole up. We chose to create a walled enclave situated in the heart of Khayelitsha, leaving the once-extravagant suburbs to the living dead (much as it is now).
After razing the city’s landmarks to the ground, we decided to up the horror quotient by leaving only one building standing: Cape Town’s largest shopping mall, Canal Walk. We’re not a fan of shopping malls, the sameiness of the chain stores, the too-bright lighting and the dead-eyed mannequins, so to be deliberately perverse, we left this as a reminder of the old world. The mall aside, there was something cathartic about destroying the city’s infrastructure and allowing our survivors to start again from scratch. However, people being people, the society they create is sadly, in some ways, just as fraught with tension and inequality as it is today. We came to the conclusion that the real horror in the novel isn’t from the shambling mutated suburbanites after all, but stems from the choices made by the living.
About LILY HERNE:
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Lily Herne is the name for mother-daughter writing duo Sarah and Savannah Lotz. With Sarah being one half of horror writer S.L. Grey, together the pair have best-selling writing experience coupled with sharp-edged teen insight. Sarah lives in Cape Town, South Africa, and Savannah lives in Norwich, UK.
I’m thrilled to be participating in the blog tour for Zenn Scarlett, one of Strange Chemistry’s new speculative fiction releases.
About Zenn Scarlett
Release: 7 May 2013
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
When you’re studying to be exoveterinarian specializing in exotic, alien life forms, school… is a different kind of animal.
Zenn Scarlett is a resourceful, determined 17-year-old girl working hard to make it through her novice year of exovet training. That means she’s learning to care for alien creatures that are mostly large, generally dangerous and profoundly fascinating. Zenn’s all-important end-of-term tests at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars are coming up, and, she’s feeling confident of acing the exams. But when a series of inexplicable animal escapes and other disturbing events hit the school, Zenn finds herself being blamed for the problems. As if this isn’t enough to deal with, her absent father has abruptly stopped communicating with her; Liam Tucker, a local towner boy, is acting unusually, annoyingly friendly; and, strangest of all: Zenn is worried she’s started sharing the thoughts of the creatures around her. Which is impossible, of course. Nonetheless, she can’t deny what she’s feeling.
Now, with the help of Liam and Hamish, an eight-foot sentient insectoid also training at the clinic, Zenn must learn what’s happened to her father, solve the mystery of who, if anyone, is sabotaging the cloister, and determine if she’s actually sensing the consciousness of her alien patients… or just losing her mind. All without failing her novice year….
Guest Post from Christian Schoon
Zenn Scarlett tells the story of a young exoveterinarian student working her way through the toughest interval of schooling she’ll ever face: an exovet’s novice year. So, we’re talking daily hands-on encounters involving the diagnosis and treatment of gigantic, often dangerous alien animals, brain-taxing course work and testing in everything from exotic biology and pathology to exo-planet ecology and alien cultures, plus a daily roster of chores around the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic where she lives and trains. And, in Zenn’s case, you can add a few additional issues like the loss of her exovet mother during a risky procedure on a colossal animal known as an indra, an absent, grief-stricken father who seems to have suddenly dropped off the map, a local towner boy who’s showing a new and distracting interest in her and, strangest of all, the disturbing feeling that lately she’s been… sharing thoughts with some of her alien patients.
OK then, we have a few stress-bringers going on here. So, what kind of character is Zenn and how does she cope with all of the above, and a few more issues I haven’t had the heart to mention? First off, she knew that most of this work load was coming. Any exovet in their novice year can expect to be overworked, underappreciated and generally pushed to the limits of their endurance. This is entirely deliberate. It tends to quickly eliminate from the program the candidates who enrolled because “Gee, wouldn’t it be fun to be a vet who gets to hang out with crazy-interesting off-world creatures all day and have people think you’re cool?” Yes. These people generally run for the cloister’s main gate sometime in the first week.
Zenn knew what she was getting into because she was born and raised at the Ciscan Cloister, in the deep end of the Valles Marinaris on Mars. Her mother Mai was an exovet, and Zenn never admired anyone as much as her mother. So, pretty much since she was old enough to walk, she’s tagged along with her Uncle Otha, the clinic’s director-abbot, as he made his daily rounds taking care of the cloister’s menagerie of patients. And this has given her an advantage, of course. Even though she’s only in her first year, Zenn feels quite sure she knows as much as a third-year student. This sort of confidence, however, can occasionally trip a girl up.
But even when Zenn does trip, or maybe especially when she fails, she responds in the way she’s been brought up to respond: logically, examining the situation from all sides, weighing the evidence, formulating a course of action and following through. She was raised in a house of science, and Reason, with a capital R, has shown itself to be her friend, time and again. Which is a good thing. Because actual friends are scarce on the ground in Zenn’s life. Since the Earth cut off all contact with Mars, as well as the dozen other planets of the Local Systems Accord, the enrollment at the cloister has dwindled until now, Zenn is the sole remaining student. And the towners in nearby Arsia City are much too suspicious and xenophobic to allow their children to associate with someone like Zenn, someone who interacts with “unclean, disease-carrying” alien animals.
That is, all towners except Liam Tucker. His sudden “friendliness” with Zenn has her unsettled and annoyed. She can’t afford to be distracted. Not with her critical end of term tests coming up. So, she approaches the Liam Question in her usual fashion: assembles the pros and cons of allowing him into her life, analyzing the data, and deciding: no, too risky, too distracting. Unfortunately, as she quickly discovers, some problems simply don’t submit to the rigors of logic. Liam is a problem like that.
And the above, in a nutshell, describes Zenn’s conflicts as a character. She’s trained to believe the universe is amenable to reasonable interpretation. But as we all know – if we’re human beings – the most reasonable response to certain life events… is, must be, to act in an unreasonable way. For someone like Zenn, this may be the most confounding lesson she’ll confront during her novice year at the fabled Ciscan Exovet Clinic.
About CHRISTIAN SCHOON:
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Christian Schoon grew up in Minnesota, and worked his way through college in a succession of rock bands before earning his degree from the U of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Journalism.
Following a stint as an in-house copywriter/scriptwriter at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, he supplied freelance copy for the entertainment industry and scriptwriting for live-action and animated TV.
Currently, he writes from his 150-year-old farmstead in Iowa which he shares with a fluctuating number of horses (generally less than a dozen, but not always), 30 or so cats, a dog, three ferrets and a surprisingly tolerant wife.
The Zenn Scarlett books are his first novels, however he admits to being an unrepentant fan of science fiction and fantasy ever since discovering the tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs in the fifth grade.
I was so honoured to be asked to be part of the blog tour Dark Triumph, the second book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy. I had nothing but love for the first book Grave Mercy, and couldn’t wait to get back to historic Brittany and the girls of St. Mortain. Keep reading for your chance to win a paperback of both books in the series, courtesy of Andersen Press!
About DARK TRIUMPH
Series: His Fair Assassin, Book 2
Publisher: Andersen Press
When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convent were only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.
But her assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for . . .
Action, courtly intrigue, supernatural and a beautifully written romance, just as Grave Mercy, this has all the elements to bewitch fans of Lauren Kate and Philippa Gregory alike.
Robin’s Guest Post: The Mythology of the Nine
While the Nine Old Gods of Brittany are my own invention, they were built on a number of historical, geographical, and ancient theological precedents, so I thought I’d share some of those here for those of you who are curious to know what my inspirations for world of His Fair Assassin were.
As the Catholic Church struggled to gain acceptance among people who were reluctant to let go of their own pagan beliefs, it made a conscious decision to actively subsume those beliefs into Christianity, white washing and Christianizing them along the way. They felt it would make it easier for people to accept the new religion if they could recognize parts of their old beliefs in it.
Brittany was also home to the last remaining group of druidesses, called the Gallinezae, who were said to possess mysterious power. Additionally, Brittany had nine bishoprics, or districts, that were based on the nine earlier Celtic tribes who inhabited the land.
Since Brittany was originally inhabited by the Celtic tribes, I built the mythology of His Fair Assassin on a Celtic foundation. It’s also important to note that I drew from Continental Celtic roots for my mythology rather than the Irish Celts.
Trying to accurately recreate any Celtic beliefs is tricky however, because the Celts themselves did not create any written record of their beliefs or practices; it was all passed along through the oral tradition. In fact, druids in training were required to study for twenty years in order to learn all their lore and history by committing it to memory.
Consequently, nothing of the Celtic religion or spiritual beliefs and practices was written down until they were invaded by Rome. In addition to viewing the Celts practices with scorn, the Romans often interpreted other pantheons according to their own, thus a mother goddess must be equated with Zeus’s wife Hera, or a god of the Underworld with Hades, etc. This Interpretatio romana colored everything we knew about Celtic practices up until fairly recently when improved archaeological techniques and methods began revealing a more complete and accurate picture. The funny thing is though, by the middle ages the myth and folklore of these earlier Celts would have been very much written over and ‘tainted’ by the Romanization of those myths, so that those living in the 15th century would have been more familiar with this Romanized version. Since I set the story in that timeframe, I wanted to be true to that worldview rather than our own, more knowledgeable one.
Here is a list of the Nine Old Gods of Brittany along with their Roman or Celtic influences/inspiration:
Saint Mortain – god of death. The Celtic equivalent to Dis Pater, the Romanized Celtic god of death, with some similarities to the Welsh Arawn. Greek and Roman counterparts would be Pluto and Hades, but the Celtic Dis Pater had other aspects to him that tied him to older beliefs that enveloped not only the underworld, but the entire cycle of life and death. Also inspired by the Breton figure of personified death, the Ankou.
Dea Matrona – Gaulish mother goddess, responsible for the earth’s bounty. Similar to the Celtic Anu or Ana.
Saint Amourna – daughter of Dea Matrona and one of the twin goddesses of love. Amourna is the gentle aspect of love. The Celtic pantheon had no goddess of love per se, so she definitely has aspects of Aphrodite or Venus. However, the idea of twin sister goddesses representing the dual aspects of love was my own invention.
Saint Arduinna – daughter of Dea Matrona and goddess of love’s sharp bite, protector of virgins. There was a Celtic goddess Arduinna who was a goddess of the forest. Boars, highly revered by the Celts, were sacred to her. Similarto the Gallo-Roman Diana.
Saint Mer – goddess of the sea. While there is no known Celtic god of the sea, there were many deities of springs and lakes, most of whom were goddesses so I decided to make the deity of the sea in my world in keeping with the feminine representations the Celts seemed to favor.
Saint Camulos – god of battle and warriors. Wears a corona of oak leaves and ram’s horns. The Romans equated him with Mars, but I also drew slightly on the cult of Mithros.
Saint Brigantia – goddess of wisdom; brought medicine and healing knowledge to mankind. Based on the Celtic goddess Bridget, who is one of the most widely known pagan goddesses to have become a saint. Her Greek and Roman counterparts would be Athena and Minerva.
Saint Cissonius – god of crossroads and travelers. I took the Celtic Cissonius, god of trade, and expanded on it a bit.
Saint Salonius – god of mistakes and patron saint of bastards. Ah, this is my most historically tenuous god. I have always been a fan of the trickster god who appears in so many pantheons, and I saw a fleeting entry on the Wikipedia Celtic Gods and Goddesses page that referenced Salonius, god of mistakes. Alas, when I later went to reference it, the entry was gone and I couldn’t even find it in the Google cache search. Although it seems fitting that my god of mistakes might have been born of one of my own.
Wow, I love mythology and it’s fascinating to be able to learn about this. Thank you so much for the guest post Robin!
For all those reading, which of the Old Gods do you find the most interesting?
About ROBIN LAFEVERS:
Find Robin on:
Robin LaFevers was raised on a steady diet of fairy tales, Bulfinch’s mythology, and 19th century poetry. It is not surprising she grew up to be a hopeless romantic.
Though she has never trained as an assassin or joined a convent, she did attend Catholic school for three years, which instilled in her a deep fascination with sacred rituals and the concept of the Divine. She has been on a search for answers to life’s mysteries ever since.
While many of those answers still elude her, she was lucky enough to find her one true love, and is living happily ever after with him in the foothills of southern California.
In addition to writing about teen assassin nuns in medieval Brittany, she writes books for middle grade readers, including the Theodosia books and the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series.
Andersen Press have kindly offered up a paperback copy of Grave Mercy, the first book in the His Fair Assassin series to ONE lucky UK winner! To enter, just use the Rafflecopter below. Also, watch out for another contest for a paperback of Dark Triumph closer to its print publication in June. Good luck!
About DEAR CASSIE
Publisher: Entangled Teen
What if the last place you should fall in love is the first place that you do?
You’d think getting sent to Turning Pines Wilderness Camp for a month-long rehabilitation “retreat” and being forced to re-live it in this journal would be the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.
You’d be wrong.
There’s the reason I was sent to Turning Pines in the first place: I got arrested. On prom night. With my two best friends, who I haven’t talked to since and probably never will again. And then there’s the real reason I was sent here. The thing I can’t talk about with the guy I can’t even think about.
What if the moment you’ve closed yourself off is the moment you start to break open?
But there’s this guy here. Ben. And the more I swear he won’t—he can’t—the deeper under my skin he’s getting. After the thing that happened, I promised I’d never fall for another boy’s lies.
About LISA BURSTEIN:
Find LISA on:
Lisa Burstein is a tea seller by day and a writer by night. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers at Eastern Washington University and is glad to finally have it be worth more than the paper it was printed on. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her very patient husband, a neurotic dog and two cats.
She wrote her first story when she was in second grade. It was a Thanksgiving tale from the point of view of the turkey from freezer to oven to plate. It was scandalous.