NiFtY Author Heidi Ayarbe AND GIVEAWAY!

Heidi Ayarbe is the author of three young adult novels: Freeze Frame, Compromised, and Compulsion. I can say with authority that Compromised and Compulsion are both awesome, and Freeze Frame is on my To Read list. Compulsion just came out on Tuesday, and it’s freaking great, and at the end of this interview you can comment for a chance to win an advance reader’s copy of Compulsion.

BH: What’s your one-paragraph pitch for Compulsion?

HA: Compulsion happens over a period of five days in the life of Jake Martin. Jake’s the star of the soccer team, ready to lead his high school team to their third state championship in a row this Saturday. This Saturday means everything because this Saturday, if he plays perfect, he will be released him from the spiders – the numbers – and the other obsessions that rule his life. Saturday, the primes converge and Jake believes that if he does everything right, Saturday will be the day Jake gets to be normal. He’s tired of hiding, tired of living with OCD.

BH: What compelled you (haha) to write Compulsion?

HA: I had a few panic attacks a few years ago. I don’t know why – out of the blue – I became literally panicked over small spaces and being closed in. I figured out how to keep from panicking in elevators and on airplanes, buses and closed-in spaces – some tricks to keep me okay. Each attack lasted just a few minutes but felt like an eternity. I got to thinking about people who live with anxiety – the real deal – every day and how that feeling never goes away. I wanted to write that story because I’m aware that over 40 million people are diagnosed with some kind of anxiety disorder … But I can bet that so many of those 40 million feel pretty alone. I hope Compulsion, somehow, can reach out to those who suffer – give them a voice.

BH: I read Compromised, loved it, and reviewed it awhile back. (HA: Thank you!) How was your experience different when writing the two different books? How was it the same?

HA: Every book is so different. But, I think, there’s nothing as daunting and terrifying as a second novel. (Compromised was my second novel). Once I wrote Freeze Frame, my first novel, revised it, and gone through the grueling process from getting an agent through to copy edits, it felt so … done. And then I was given the chance to write a second novel, Compromised, and everything changed. There were expectations and deadlines – different ones – and reviews to compare to FF reviews. And THE DREADED FIRST DRAFT. I’d totally forgotten how abysmal my first drafts ARE (and continue to be). So seeing Compromised through the published-eye lens was ghastly! All I saw was drivel, having forgotten that I’d get a chance to make it work. I didn’t really enjoy the process as much because I was horrified. So Compulsion was pure joy. I knew I could do it. I made it through novel #2 (which I happen to love, but it was really tough) and Compulsion’s first draft, as expected, was a mess, but I got the structure down and a chance to make it into a novel I love. So, BIG difference in perspective. Same process.

BH: Is it hard to write from a male perspective? Do you have any tips for authors who wish to write from the perspective of the opposite sex?

HA: I think it’s the same tip for writing anything: OBSERVATION. Take the time to watch how people act in public, at restaurants. Watch out for clichés! Writing is about creating believable characters. So watch how males talk compared to females. Listen to them. Think of a male reacting to something and how would a female react to it (typically), then switch it up and give the male the “cliché” female reaction but make it a real guy thing. It’s mostly about creating wonderful, believable people and making them people we can relate to.

BH: What does your workspace look like?

HA: Cramped, overflowing with papers, books, receipts from milk I purchased years ago and other useless things … MESSY!

BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

HA: I LOVE Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. It makes me feel reassured that I’m not alone in my neurosis and insecurities and fear of failure and more. What I LOVE most is how she says, SPILL IT OUT ON THE PAGE, EVERY PAGE, EVERY NOVEL. I love that advice.  See below!

BH: What is the best writing advice anyone has given you?

HA: See above … though technically she didn’t give it to me personally. But GREAT advice.

BH: Thank you for the interview, Heidi, and thanks for the great reads!

And didn’t I say something about a contest? A big thank you to Heidi for making it possible. So, the rules are simple. The giveaway is limited to the continental United States (sorry, overseas people…unless you have an address here you’d like the book shipped to!). To enter, leave a comment at the end of this post. (Email address required to comment, but your email address isn’t published or shared with anyone, ever!)

If you tweet about the contest & share this link, you can get an extra entry (limit one extra). Just comment with the link to your tweet so I can verify that everything’s on the up & up.

The winner will be picked out of a hat at random. Well, his or her name will be picked out of a hat…not the winner in person, which would be too strange.

Deadline: Next Thursday, 5/12/2011, 11:59 p.m. PST. Winner announced sometime on Friday.

For more on Heidi and her books, check out the sites below:

Heidi’s Website:  www.heidiayarbe.com

HarperCollins Website: www.harperteen.com

Heidi’s blog: http://heidiayarbe.blogspot.com/

IndieBound Link to COMPULSION: http://www.indiebound.org/hybrid?filter0=compulsion+by+heidi+ayarbe&x=0&y=0

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Why, oh why did the Internet eat my book review?

I shall have to start again, but I warn you, I’m not quite as excited to do this a second time.

The set-up: Lennie’s used to following her older sister, Bailey, around. Bailey has all the experiences with boys and doesn’t seem afraid to live. Then Bailey dies, and Lennie doesn’t know where she fits in the world anymore.

Main character’s goal: The goal changes, but without giving too much away I can say that at one point Lennie’s goal is to ignore one boy – the boy who lets her feel her grief for her sister’s death without getting swallowed up by it, and pursue the second boy – the one who is all light and happiness and helps her feel that she’s moving on from Bailey’s death.

My reaction: I thought the love triangle was done exceptionally well, and the characters were incredible, larger-than-life people. Even Bailey, who died before the story begins, is full and flawed and fabulous. The writing itself was lyrical, and I wondered how much of it was the author trying to be artistic and how much was truly Lennie’s voice. However, that was my writerly self wondering, and my readerly self kept saying, “Shut up and just enjoy the prose, you know you like it.”

Of interest to writers: The poems throughout – poems Lennie scribbles on whatever available writing surface there is, and are described as found in various places, like under a rock, or in the margins of Wuthering Heights, well, I enjoyed them and all, but then when I got to the end and ***mild spoiler alert here*** they actually had a purpose in the story line (even if it was a small purpose), I was impressed.

Bottom line: Read it for the beauty of the language, or the deliciousness of Lennie’s conflict, or the roundness of the characters…but just read it.

Reminds me of: Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern.

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien

The set-up: Many years in the future, sixteen-year-old Gaia is a midwife to mothers in the sectors outside the Enclave, which is a city of privileged people. The first three babies delivered each month must be given to the Enclave, families of which adopt the babies.

Main character’s goals: Gaia’s parents are arrested by authorities in the Enclave. When they aren’t returned home, Gaia decides to rescue them.

My reaction: Do you really want to know? Probably not. This is a very personal reaction. Within the first few pages, I was quite upset. Sick feeling in my stomach, the whole works. Here’s what happened: O’Brien’s book begins with a birth. “Bummer,” I thought. “My manuscript begins with a birth. Not a big deal, though.” I kept reading. Then, the birth mother’s name is Agnes. “WTF?” I said. “My birth mother’s name is Agnes.” Seriously, what are the chances? And then, the baby gets taken away. SAME THING IN MY NEW MANUSCRIPT. Which is also a post-apocalyptic dystopian story. At this point I was beyond speech. The whole mood, along with those details, reminded me so strongly of my manuscript that I had to put the book down.

But only for an hour or so. Because the writing is excellent, and the story is too. On the bright side, the similarities between O’Brien’s and my stories end after the points I saw in the beginning, and hers is science fiction and mine’s fantasy. But for awhile there I was upset, and, I’ll admit it, pissed off. And I kinda needed to throw up.

Of interest to writers: Mood and tone! The beginning of this has so much mood you could siphon some off and distribute it to five other books, and it would still have this great mood. I mean, wow. If I hadn’t been so upset over my own issues with the beginning, I might have enjoyed it even more.

There’s a way-obvious sequel-begetting ending, BUT this is a complete novel. Writers everywhere, take note: you can end a book in a way that allows for sequels and keeps readers interested, without dangling your hero off a cliff.

Bottom Line: Fabulous book. You’ll enjoy it even more if you aren’t writing about a woman named Agnes giving birth and needing to say goodbye to her baby right away. (Or you could cut your prologue…which you should do anyway.) (Yes I’m talking to myself. I’ll stop now.)

If you want to find out more about Birthmarked, you can visit Caragh O’Brien’s page here.

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Happy New Year!

Okay, now on to book review business.

The set-up: This is less a sequel and more a companion novel to Ryan’s first book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth (which I reviewed here). The story takes place many years in the future (it is post-apocalyptic, after all) in a society haunted by Mudo, aka ZOMBIES. (Sorry, I was excited. All-caps necessary on that one.) This novel follows Gabrielle, the daughter of the main character from The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Main character’s goals: Gabrielle (Gabry) doesn’t have one goal throughout the story; her goal changes as story events give her different options. If I listed her main goals, I’d be giving away some major story points. So I won’t. But the annoying thing about this book was Gabry’s desire: she wanted everything to go back to how it was before she and her friends made this horrible mistake.

My reaction, and more on Gabry’s regret/desire: Now, I understand where Gabry’s coming from on this desire to go back in time and change things.  But she repeated some form of this desire many, many times throughout the story. Even at the end. Ugh. It does suit Gabry’s personality exactly, even though it got a little old.

Of interest to writers: I freakin’ LOVE Carrie Ryan’s style. It kept me going even when I was annoyed with Gabry. Kick-ass zombie fights and lyrical prose work really well together. But I already raved about Ryan’s writing style in my other review.

Other items of interest: how Gabry’s main goal adapts to story circumstances (I’ve never tried that before), and how some unfinished business from The Forest of Hands and Teeth is resolved. Ironically, some business from this story is left unfinished, paving the way for another book in the story.

Bottom Line: I won’t lie and say The Dead-Tossed Waves is as good as Ryan’s first. It’s not. But if you can get through Gabry’s occasional whining, it’s still a good story.

All You Get Is Me by Yvonne Prinz

Set-up: Aurora (“Roar”) lives on an organic farm in a small town with her father. She misses city life and misses her mother, but she finds solace in her photography, snapping photos and developing them in her own garden shed-turned darkroom.

Main character’s goal: Roar’s goal isn’t simple like “run away to find missing aunt” or “defeat the scariest wizard of all time and save the world.” This is more of a coming-of-age story. Roar just wants to take photographs and be happy, at first. Then she witnesses a car accident that sets off a chain of events threatening not only her way of life, but the entire practice of hiring immigrant farmworkers in California. Roar also meets a boy named Forest, and her goals start to change.

My reaction: Something has gotta be said for reading a summer-set romance in November. I may have thawed out a little. Get this: “The first apricot I pluck off the tree smells of roses and sits heavy in my hand” (p 34). Ahhh.

Also, I can’t help but be in awe of an author who moved from a record-obsessed girl in Berkeley, to an organic farmer’s daughter who is watching – and participating – in a setting that involves and revolves around contemporary immigration issues. Talk about high stakes, with the balance of farming practices, the justice system, and the scorching anger of some small-town, small-minded farmers (Note: small-town and small-minded are not always the same thing!).

Of interest to writers: (With very mild spoiler!) The romance angle was handled in a way that surprised me – namely, there wasn’t a lot of conflict. I kept waiting for a fight, or a shameful secret, or some kind of revelation that put everything into question, and…no. Yet there is still tension, even without that conflict. How is it done? I’ll leave that for you to discover, as I’m worried I gave away too much as it is.

As with The Vinyl Princess, this one has a rather lengthy resolution. I was not bothered in the slightest because it was such a pleasant world to be in! Sometimes we’re rushed through resolutions, when maybe we could slow down a little and enjoy them, like fine desserts.

Mmm. Dessert.

Back to the book review!

Bottom line: This book was a great place to hang out in, and Roar’s point of view was engaging. I feel like I made some friends in this book. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Note: the scheduled release is December 21st, so you’ve got something to look forward to – put it on your wish lists!

For Prinz’s site on All You Get Is Me, click here.

You can also visit Yvonne Prinz’s Vinyl Princess website by clicking here.