The Pros and Cons of Self-Checkout

Yes, today is a book giveaway. But first . . .

Have you noticed more and more self-checkout lanes recently? I have. I used to think self-checkout lanes were the next best thing since the invention of Reese’s peanut butter cups. After all, I could check my groceries quickly and go home to eat my Reese’s peanut butter cups. (Who am I kidding? I usually start on those as soon as I reach the car.)

walmart-self-checkout Reeses

But Self-checkout Lanes, I’m no longer feeling you, know what I mean? Because now I wonder if your population has increased to allow a company to get away with hiring fewer employees or laying off some. :-(

I recently walked into the branch of my bank and saw three employees. This branch had five times that amount a couple of years ago. Of the three, one quickly steered me toward using the ATM to make a deposit, instead of expecting him to do it. I’m not sure what else he planned to do, since I was the only customer in the bank. Perhaps give his full attention to the businesses making deposits in the drive-thru? Only people with business accounts are allowed to use the drive-thru. Makes me feel like a valued customer.

ATM Machine

Afterward, I shopped at a store with a ton of self-checkout lanes. The express lanes were closed to push people toward the self-checkout lanes. Meanwhile, a dozen employees raced about. Some stocked shelves. Some simply stood there, speaking into walkie-talkies. But none asked me if I needed help. So if the self-checkout lanes were set up to allow employees more time to help shoppers looking for items in the store, well, let’s just say I found Siri to be more helpful. I’ve had retail jobs. I know how difficult working with the public can be. But when a store seems to go out of its way to avoid dealing with me, I’m tempted to shop elsewhere.

The library installed more self-checkout machines. A librarian quickly pointed one out when I approached the circulation desk. I wanted to ask her, “Are you trying to point your way out of a job?” But I decided not to. I’m fairly certain I would be told how much more important other tasks are than checking out books. But if checking books out for a patron means one more librarian keeps his or her job, I would be all for that.

(By the way, I am aware of how hard librarians work. I have friends who are librarians. Believe it or not, I have applied for jobs at libraries and would have been more than happy to be the book checker.)

I’m reminded of a scene in the 2005 movie adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In that scene, Mr. Bucket lost his job to a machine at the toothpaste factory.


If you’re thinking, Don’t guilt trip me. I love using self-checkout lanes, rest assured that no one is interfering with your right to use those lanes. Labor-saving devices may save time and money. But I have to wonder if in the long run they’ll cost us more than we save.

Now let’s move on to the winner of Kate Sparkes’s fantasy novel, Torn. Click here for the interview with Kate.

torn_full  Kate author photo 4

That winner is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Charles Yallowitz!

Congrats, Charles! Please comment below to let me know if you’d like a print copy or an ebook!

Thank you to all who commented.

Peanut butter cups image from Wal-Mart self-checkout lanes from Noah Taylor as Mr. Bucket from Rotten ATM machine from classroom

Check This Out: Torn

If you follow Disregard the Prologue, then you’re already aware of the clever and cool Kate Sparkes and her fantasy trilogy named after the first book, Bound. She’s here today to talk about Torn, book 2 of the series. Ready? Let’s rock and roll!

Kate author photo 4  torn_full

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Kate: Hmm. . . . Okay. One: We bought our first house this summer, and I finally have my own office space. It’s just as amazing as I imagined it would be, but I will be forever grateful for the fact that I had to write my first books in a stinky basement.
Two: I’m not a dog person, and I’m really not a small dog person, but I have a chihuahua snuggled on my lap right now, and it is most excellent.

Kate Dog

Bruno, Kate’s dog

Three: I just took up running, and can’t believe how much I’m enjoying it. It’s amazing what not being able to do something for years will do for your motivation.
Four: I’m a little obsessed with paper products, specifically planners. I use one for home and one for work, plus a lined journal for tracking productivity.

El Space: So, Torn is out in the world, along with his sister, Bound. And your editor has Sworn, book three. Now that your trilogy is coming to an end, how are you feeling? Sad? Elated?
Kate: Nervouscited? Bitterswelated? I’m not sure any real word captures how I feel. I think Sworn is the best and strongest book of the series, and I’m excited to finish writing a story that I still adore almost five years after I started it. At the same time, I’m sad to be finishing it. And happy to be able to move on to new things. And terrified, as I always am before I release anything. And tearing my hair out over deadlines. And . . . you get the idea.


El Space: I do! Without giving a spoiler, was there a character whose development surprised you the most as you wrote this series? Perhaps you started off thinking, I’ll only include this person in a scene, but the character wound up getting more book time.
Kate: I guess Nox would be the obvious answer. I didn’t know she existed until well after I’d finished the first draft of Bound, and she ended up being a major character in books two and three. Her development and involvement in the story has really surprised me, too, ending up fairly far off from what I’d anticipated.


There are others, too. There were a few characters in Bound I never expected to see again, but who have come back to play a larger part in the story. One of them really shocked me, and another made me squeak with excitement when her wee face popped up again. Wow. This is really hard to do without spoilers!

El Space: How long did it take you to write each book? How much research did you do as you created the world?
Kate: Bound took me 3.5 years from first draft to publication. Torn was a little less than 2.5 years, and when Sworn comes out it should be about sixteen months. I’m a fairly quick first drafter, but I take my time over revisions.

I don’t do a lot of research for my world building. Most of the research I do is on things like, “If someone got stabbed in X, how long would she live?” or “Oops—how far away did I say Y was from Z?” My internal record-keeping systems could use a good overhauling.

El Space: Are you a plotter or a pantser? When you started writing Bound, how much of the end of the trilogy did you know? If you already knew the ending, did you find the outcome different or relatively the same as you envisioned?
Kate: I’m very much a plotter at this point. I’ve tried diving into a story with nothing more than an amazing character and a cool concept, and ended up writing myself straight into a brick wall. I do leave plenty of room for wonderful surprises along the way, but I like to have most of the major twists and turns—and the ending—planned out before I start. I think plotting and pantsing are quite similar, actually. It’s just that I do my exploring and experimenting in my head and in quick notes, whereas a pantser works it out in the first draft.


I didn’t have this whole trilogy plotted out before I started, though. I had a vague idea of the ending, but when I started Bound, it didn’t seem like I’d actually finish one book, never mind three of them.

Most of Sworn was a mass of fog and vague ideas until after I’d finished the first draft of Torn. I had the ending quite solidly in mind, but the road that led there was quite an interesting experience as I explored it while outlining and drafting.

El Space: Were you always thinking you’d write a trilogy set in this world and maybe some shorter pieces? How did you decide whose stories should be told through a sequel, a prequel, a short story, or a novella?
Kate: I didn’t initially plan to write more than the main novels, but I think I always knew I wouldn’t want to limit what I could do in this world. I have a set of characters I adore who constantly surprise me, a deep and rich world that still has so much to explore, and a story with a long history and more events that could play out in the future. I do have other worlds and stories to work on, but I don’t think this well will ever run dry.

Deciding which stories to tell is quite easy. Though I do listen to reader suggestions, the deciding factor is always whether there’s a full story there—a solid plot rather than just a series of events that a few people might find interesting—and whether the idea lights a fire in my imagination. Out of ten ideas, one might really make me want to sit down and start writing. Some stories just beg to be told.


J.K.-RowlingEl Space: Many readers wanted J. K. Rowling to continue writing books set in the world of Harry Potter. But she wanted to tackle other genres. What would you say to readers who want you to continue writing this series to the exclusion of all others?
Kate: I’d say I completely understand. There’s a part of me that’s scared to leave behind what works and what readers already love, but I can’t let myself get burned out on one story or one genre. I want to keep my love of this world alive, and that means that sometimes I need to work on something else. I drafted an urban fantasy novella after Bound, and it refreshed me for Torn. I played with a different, more steampunk-esque version of fantasy between Torn and Sworn, and it helped me get the distance I needed to fall in love with my world and characters again.

I will work in other genres. I will write for other age groups, with more adult content or maybe even something for younger folk some day. And I’ll be a better writer for it when I come back to this world and these characters.


El Space: What are you working on now?
Kate: Right now, I’m at an awkward stage. Sworn is with my editor. I’ve drafted and revised a prequel novella over the past few months that I’m excessively excited about, and that’s gone to a new editor. Now I have a week to wait before Sworn comes back, which means I have time for business. . . . But really, I know I won’t be able to help picking at my next project. It’s an idea that came to me during a night of insomnia—totally worth it—a semi-dystopian YA fantasy involving vengeful gods, human sacrifice, rebirth, and some characters I can’t wait to explore.

Sounds exciting! Thanks, Kate, for being my guest.

You can find Kate at her blog, website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Torn is available here:

Barnes and Noble

And one commenter will get a free copy of Torn. Remember, this is book 2. You should read Bound first! Winner to be announced on October 6.

Author photo and covers courtesy of the author. Character sign from Pants/plots image from Fantasy world image from Stories sign from J. K. Rowling from

Revealing the Darkness or Reveling in It?

The other day, a friend and I talked about how increasingly dark many stories seem to be across the board. By the bleak end of some of them, the chill of hopelessness had seeped into our veins and colored our outlook a dull winter gray.


I don’t need to read a book to learn that life is hard. My mother endured cancer twice. My dad had cancer. My sister-in-law had cancer the same year her father died. I can’t have children and have been unemployed a number of times. I’ve endured bouts of depression and I’ve been rejected more times than I can count. Are you getting the picture that I know how difficult life can be?

So when life is hard, I turn to stories that remind me hope exists. They don’t sugarcoat the bad things that happen to people (like concentration camps; bullying by sadistic kids at school). But the resilience of the characters and their determination to rise above the bleakness of their times spur me to do the same.

kung_fu_panda_2_2011-wideRecently, I watched Kung Fu Panda 2, a 2011 animated film by DreamWorks. In it we learn how Po, a panda, came to live with Mr. Ping, a goose. Though I’ve seen this movie many times and tell myself, I will not cry this time, I lie to myself every time. I won’t give you a play-by-play of Po’s early life. You can watch the movie to discover what happened. But here’s what a soothsayer (voiced by Michelle Yeoh) said about Po’s beginning:

Your story may not have such a happy beginning, but that doesn’t make you who you are. It is the rest of your story, who you *choose* to be.

This statement seemed hopeful to me. It acknowledged the sorrow of his past without negating the possibility of change in the future. It spurred Po to be the hero he was meant to be.

I found the following video by the Grace Foundation at Nancy Hatch’s blog in her post, “Sustainable Eating.” While Nancy had a different take on making the world better, the video was another reminder to me of the power of stories. This cow had a sad beginning too. But the video showed more than just a bleak situation. Just watch and see. It’s only a minute and a half.

Yes, we can write stories that reveal challenging times. But if that’s all we do—hold up a mirror to the corruption, the ugliness, the violence, the lack of hope—without once providing any kind of alternative thinking, where’s the power in that? Are we revealing the darkness or reveling in it?

Go ahead. Call me Pollyanna, Ostrich—whatever makes you feel better if hopelessness is your mantra and you want to spread that gospel. But I refuse to join your crusade. When it’s dark, I usually do what I need to do: I turn to the light.


Hopeless image from Oil lamp from Kung Fu Panda 2 from hdwallpapers.

Stay Tuned

When I was a kid, I spent hours in front of the TV. There were certain days I especially loved for various blocks of shows (like Thursday, Friday, or Saturday). I knew every popular show and avidly quoted from them. So when I broke a rule, a method my parents used to nudge me back toward obedience was to ground me from watching TV. Two weeks—no TV. I was practically climbing the walls at the end of those two weeks, determined never to disobey again. Ha ha. You know I eventually failed that vow.


In my undergraduate years, I met people who grew up without a voracious TV habit. I thought they were from Mars! How could you not watch TV???

Flash forward 150 years. I have a TV. But I turn it on maybe a couple of times a week—if that much. Scandal? Haven’t seen a minute of it. Game of Thrones? Nope. My increasingly limited viewing time goes to (drumroll please)


YouTube, Netflix, and other online sites.

youtube-logo netflix_web_logo

Thanks to the internet, I see shows that either are being tested on the audience—like the Vixen animated series at CW Seed (love it)—or programs like the ones produced by Pemberley Digital, Epic Robot TV, and others. Shows I can watch whenever I get ready. I’m particularly partial to modern adaptations of classic books. Like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Project Dashwood, The New Adventures of Peter + Wendy, Frankenstein, MD, and Emma Approved. Episodes range from three to seven minutes in length—great for days when I’m pressed for time, but still need a quick break now and then.


Vixen at CW Seed


The Lizzie Bennet Diaries


Project Dashwood


Emma Approved


The New Adventures of Peter + Wendy


Frankenstein, MD

This is not an attempt at proselytizing. These quirky shows might not be your cup of tea. And believe it or not I have nothing against the shows I mentioned in the first paragraph. But my commitments away from home usually mean that I miss regularly broadcast shows and either have to catch up online or binge through Netflix. I could DVR, sure. Or I could keeping doing what I’ve done in the past: forget to DVR. You see now why I usually skip the show altogether and instead go off to meet a friend at a nearby tea shop. Another alternate activity, one I choose more often, is reading a book. I love fertilizing my imagination through the written word.

That reminds me, Fauquetmichel, you just won yourself a copy of The Merchant of Nevra Coil by Charles Yallowitz. (Click here for last week’s book release announcement if you need more context.) Please comment below to confirm. Thanks for commenting!

  New Charles Author Photo 26246035

What about you? How have your entertainment choices changed over the years?

In case you’re wondering, a couple of shows tempt me toward TV this fall: Agents of Shield (one of two shows I watched last season) and Heroes Reborn. I also am very tempted to binge on The Flash through Netflix. We’ll see if I wind up doing that.

Vixen image from Pemberley Digital image, The New Adventures of Peter + Wendy, and cast of Emma Approved from pinterest. YouTube logo from Netflix logo from Daniel Vincent Gordh as Darcy and Ashley Clements as Lizzie of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries from Anna Lore of Frankenstein, MD from Television from

Check This Out: The Merchant of Nevra Coil

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

When the mischievous and random Goddess of Chaos gets angry, all of Windemere becomes her plaything.

It all starts with a collection of toys that have taken the populace by storm. People of all races flood the marketplaces to gather figurines of the champions whose adventures are starting to spread across the land. Stemming from the flying city of Nevra Coil, these toys bring with them a terrible curse: Fame. Every town becomes a mob of fans that hound their new idols and the delay is bringing the world closer to the hands of Baron Kernaghan. Perhaps worst of all, the creator of these toys forgot to include a certain exiled deity who is now out to earn herself a figurine.

Who would have thought a bunch of toys could cause so much trouble and lead to the breaking of a champion’s confidence?

Sound exciting?
There’s more!

Welcome to Nevra Coil Excerpt

A screeching alarm goes off inside the vessel, signaling for everyone to pay attention to the pilot. Jo flicks a few switches above her head, amplifying her voice so everyone can clearly hear her. “We’re coming to Nevra Coil. Get ready for docking at Inspiration Tower instead of one of the Ring Houses. If you want to see the city then come to the front, but you better not complain while I’m giving the tour. I’ll be going too fast to repeat myself. We’re starting with the bottom, so don’t be scared. There hasn’t been a crash in a month. Two months since a fatality.”

The champions gather around Jo’s chair and watch as the clouds part to reveal the underside of the flying city. The steel gray earth has several narrow tubes of yellow crystal spread along its gleaming surface, the enchanted objects creating a spiral that leads to a red, metal rod. An occasional spark falls from the central pole and dissipates into the clouds, giving the illusion of lightning. Jo has the vessel steadily rise to give everyone a clear view and she taps her ear to silently get her passengers to listen. Beneath the sounds of the ship’s rotors, the champions hear a dull hum whenever they pass close to a crystal. Those with keen eyes can see a sapphire orb that flickers like a flame inside the yellow tube’s core, but the strange object is definitely solid like a rock.

“The flight crystals are designed to push off and ride the waves of the ocean. The outer tube is the reflector and the ice gem is the controller,” Jo explains as they flip around the far side of Nevra Coil. She scowls at the whimpering gypsy and begrudgingly slows the vessel down. “The central rod is what keeps us in a small area as we spin like a very slow top. Without that, we’d be floating all over Windemere’s oceans. You’ll feel the rotation at first, but the awkwardness will pass within a few hours. Before you ask, the system does nothing to the ocean below. We keep ourselves at a great height to prevent that and we turn off the crystals if we have to drop. That’s only in case of severe damage, so they would probably be malfunctioning in such an event anyway. Our backup system is a small army of pedaling stone golems that we activate in the core of Nevra Coil. Let’s get to the real event. Hey! Watch where you’re going, you son of an oil slick!”

The vessel swerves out of the way of a small, windowless craft that is powered by a pedaling gnome. Once their heads stop spinning, the champions get their first look at the city of Nevra Coil. Glistening towers are everywhere with a vast collection of flying devices and beasts moving among them. Several structures are missing pieces, revealing metal beams and hardworking gnomes who are trying to finish the construction. The city is a beautiful creation of metal, stone, and glass with nothing on the earthy ground besides several colonies of orange slimes. The burbling creatures feast on the garbage that falls out of hatches, which are built into the lower floors of every tower. Compared to the enormous buildings, Jo’s vessel feels like a rowboat as it weaves among the chaos. Several times they come close to hitting another ship, their skilled pilot meeting each encounter with a slew of insults and curses. They hover when a claxon goes off and the circular tower ahead opens one of its floors to reveal another ring-shaped ship.

“This is where we would normally dock, but you’re wanted on the one-hundred and eighty-sixth and a half floor of Inspiration Tower,” Jo says while waving to the other ship. She waits for them to leave before rising to the higher sky lanes where there is more space. “If you look to the right, you’ll see the Lizard. It’s used by those of us who don’t have a flying device due to no interest, accidents, revoked license, or whatever else can go wrong. I’ll swing by to give you a better look, but don’t stare directly into the golem’s eye. You never know if it’s going to be friendly or . . . churlish.”

Dipping toward a metallic rail, the ship comes alongside a green-scaled reptile with seats grown into its wide back. A throbbing bubble covers the sitting area, the oily membrane protecting riders from the elements until the transport comes to a stop. Gnomes are comfortably sitting in the chairs, most of them reading notes or sleeping. The creature’s tail is merged with the track to prevent it from falling off while it pulls itself along using powerful front legs. A driver on its head opens a hatch in the top of its long nose to drop in a shovelful of screeching beetles. The Lizard slows down while everyone hears the insects getting crunched in the construct’s mouth. When the strange transport hisses at the ship, Jo pulls away and heads for where a trio of metallic birds are sitting on a windowless tower.

I’m giving away a copy of this book to a commenter! Winner to be announced on September 15.


Cover Art by Jason Pedersen 3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen
3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Click here for the $4.99 Bundle to start your journey into Windemere!

Charles E YallowitzAbout the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: Legends of Windemere
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz

What Do You Take Seriously?

I’ll bet I know what you want—to know who won Meg Wiviott’s novel, Paper Hearts. If that statement totally confused you, click here to read the interview with Meg Wiviott and get caught up. All set? Can you wait a few minutes while I blather on a bit? Thanks.

Ant-Man-Movie-PosterA friend and I headed to the cheap theater to see Ant-Man recently, having had little time to see it in the previous month. I won’t spoil the movie for you, so don’t worry. Actually, this post isn’t so much about the movie as it is about a quote from Entertainment Weekly’s review of it. And yes, I will not spoil that either. The review, written by Chris Nashawaty, included this line:

Like Chris Pratt, he’s [actor Paul Rudd] smart enough not to take these films too seriously or fall prey to Marvel’s tendency to be morose and heavy.

Smart enough not to take these films too seriously. I could read all sorts of things into that statement. But I won’t. Instead, I’m reminded of a page from my own life—the second semester of my grad program, when I thought I was “smart enough” not to take something seriously. I handed my advisor a 126,000-word fairy tale I’d written before entering the program, feeling a bit proud of myself. She read it and gave it back. I’ll never forget what she said. “I liked some of it. But you need to take writing more seriously.”

I was all, “What you talkin’ ’bout, woman?” like Gary Coleman in the old TV show, Diff’rent Strokes. But after fuming, I realized she was right. I had written a parody of a fairy tale, rather than a fairy tale. With every silly scenario, I showed not what I loved about the genre, but rather contempt instead. I acted as if I was so far above it all.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is NOT a slam against parodies. I grew up reading Mad magazine and watching Saturday Night Live. But what my advisor explained was that I needed to learn the hard work of writing a compelling story instead of merely poking fun at stories written by others—a fact evinced by my so-called fairy tale. (More like fairy stale.)

When author/illustrator Grace Lin visited my campus one semester, she showed some of her illustrations. If you’ve seen her books, you’re familiar with her cartoony style. But these illustrations were gorgeously complex like the border of the book cover below. As she explained, she had to learn the hard work of composition, design, and color in order to develop her own style. In other words, she had to take art seriously.


Charles Yallowitz also comes to mind as I think of someone who takes writing seriously with his Legends of Windemere books. Yes, they have a lot of humor. If you follow his blog at all, however, you know he’s studied the fantasy genre for many years and regularly posts about the craft of writing fantasy novels.


I took my advisor’s advice. Want to know something ironic? The middle grade book I’m finishing probably has more humor in it than that parody I wrote—the result of taking writing seriously. *shrugs*

What have you discovered recently that you need to take seriously? While you ponder that, I’ll move onto the winner of Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott.

Paper Hearts  MegBarn1

That person is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Geralyn of Where My Feet Are

Congratulations, Geralyn! Please comment below to confirm and email me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com to provide your snail mail information and phone number for book delivery.

Nashawaty, Chris. “Ant-Man.” Entertainment Weekly 24 July 2015: 43. Print.

Ant-Man poster from Meg Wiviott author photo and cover courtesy of the author. Grace Lin book cover from Goodreads.

Check This Out: Paper Hearts

Hello! With me on the blog today is the awesome Meg Wiviott, a friend from VCFA here to talk about her young adult historical verse novel, Paper Hearts, which debuts today! Woot!


book birthday

Meg is represented by Janine Le at Sheldon Fogelman. Paper Hearts was published by Simon & Schuster. Here is the synopsis.

Paper Hearts

Amid the brutality of Auschwitz during the Holocaust, a forbidden gift helps two teenage girls find hope, friendship, and the will to live in this novel in verse that’s based on a true story.

An act of defiance.
A statement of hope.
A crime punishable by death.

Making a birthday card in Auschwitz was all of those things. But that is what Zlatka did, in 1944, for her best friend, Fania. She stole and bartered for paper and scissors, secretly creating an origami heart. Then she passed it to every girl at the work tables to sign with their hopes and wishes for happiness, for love, and most of all—for freedom.

Fania knew what that heart meant, for herself and all the other girls. And she kept it hidden, through the bitter days in the camp and through the death marches. She kept it always.

This novel is based on the true story of Fania and Zlatka, the story of the bond that helped them both to hope for the best in the face of the worst. Their heart is one of the few objects created in Auschwitz, and can be seen today in the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre.

Now, let’s talk with Meg!

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Meg: (1) I was born in New York City. (2) I love cats. (3) When not writing or reading I spend my time knitting, weaving, or doing needlepoint. (4) I would like to be able to teleport, because I hate flying.

El Space: I’d love to teleport as well. Please tell us how you came to turn the true story of Fania and Zlatka into the novel Paper Hearts.
Meg: I first heard about the heart when I read online about a documentary, The Heart of Auschwitz (Ad Hoc Films 2010), in which the filmmakers try to find the women who signed it. I then visited the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, where the heart is on permanent display, and met with one of the filmmakers. Then I knew this story needed to be told.

50c792757e29f 00LM1005089_1

I first wrote it as a non-fiction middle grade, but knew the story needed to be for older readers. I shoved the story in a drawer for a year and worked on other projects, but continued to keep the story in the back of my mind. When I returned to it, I decided to tell it in verse, which gave me the emotional distance I needed as a writer—Auschwitz is a horrid place to go to every day. I resisted turning it into fiction, but had to in order to make it a complete and full story. So, while everything that happens in the book did not necessarily happen to the girls, all of it still happened. All of it is real.

El Space: How much research did you do?
Meg: Tons! The heart—pun intended—of the story came from Fania and Zlatka’s Shoah Testimonies. I also relied on the film. To learn about the world in which the story took place, I read extensively about Auschwitz in general and the industries who contracted with the Third Reich to use the prisoners as slave laborers. I then began to narrow my interests to survivor stories from Auschwitz, the orchestra, the Sonderkommando, and the Union Kommando. There is an extensive bibliography in the book, but I don’t think even that lists all the books I read.

El Space: You’ve written a picture book, Benno and the Night of Broken Glass, which also has a tie to the Holocaust. What do you hope children, and now teens who read the story of Fania and Zlatka, will take away from your stories about this important, but devastating historical event?
Meg: Benno and the Night of Broken Glass tells the story of Kristallnacht, which marks the beginning of the Holocaust, through the eyes of a cat.


My goal as a writer is to tell a story as historically accurate as possible. But I want to be as gentle as I am honest. I can only hope that a reader will take something from the story so that someday, when she encounters injustice/discrimination/hatred, she will stand up and say, “This is not right.”

El Space: How did you make the choice to write for children and young adults?
Meg: I’ve always written. I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision to write for children and young adults, it just seems to be what comes out of me. Someone wiser and pithier than I said that we write at the age of our inner selves. Obviously, my inner self is not an adult.

El Space: What advice do you have for budding historical fiction authors?
Meg: Be honest to the history and to your characters. Do not impose your twenty-first century ideas on someone who lived in a different time and place.

El Space: What books or authors inspire you?
Meg: Any well written book is inspiring. When I was a kid, my favorite books were Where the Red Ferns Grow [Wilson Rawls] and My Side of the Mountain [Jean Craighead George].


The books I’ve read recently that particularly inspire me are coincidentally all written by VCFA grads: Melanie Crowder’s Audacity, Heather Demetrios’s I’ll Meet You There, Catherine Linka’s A Girl Called Fearless, and Dana Walrath’s Like Water on Stone. These books are all beautifully written and tell important stories—the kind of stories I wanted to read as a child, the kind of stories I aspire to write now.



El Space: What are you working on next?
Meg: My current WIP is another YA historical novel set in 1944 in Los Alamos, tentatively titled Hiking with Oppenheimer.

Thanks, Meg, for being my guest!

If you want to learn more about Meg, check out her website and Facebook.

You can find Paper Hearts at
Barnes & Noble

I’m giving away a copy of Paper Hearts. Comment below to be entered in the drawing. When you comment, you might share something a friend did to cheer you up. Winner to be announced on September 8.

Author photo and Paper Hearts cover courtesy of Meg Wiviott. Other book covers from Goodreads and The heart from and