Check This Out: All We Left Behind

022Welcome back to Snow Country (how appropriate with the WordPress snow). Glad you’re here to join me in welcoming to the blog the fabulous Ingrid Sundberg. Her YA novel, All We Left Behind, debuted on December 1, thanks to the publisher—Simon Pulse.

ALLWELEFTBEHIND Ingrid Sundberg Author Photo

Ingrid’s agent is Melissa Sarver White at Folio. For a synopsis of All We Left Behind, click on the publisher above. Now let’s talk to Ingrid!

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Ingrid: 1. My natural hair color is light brown.
2. I wore fairy wings at my wedding.
3. I love mint chip ice cream.
4. I grew up in the land of snow and lobsters: Maine.

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El Space: What inspired you to write All We Left Behind? It’s very intense. I can’t help thinking about the quote by Akira Kurosawa on your blog: “To be an artist means never to avert one’s eyes.” Why is that important to you?
Ingrid: The Akira Kurosawa quote is one of my favorites, because I didn’t “crack the nut” of this book until I was willing to really look at the dark parts of this story. It finally broke open when I was willing to honestly see what Marion and Kurt needed and put my personal discomfort and authorial agenda aside. It’s so easy to pretty things up and not “go there.” But when we avert our eyes, we’re protecting ourselves, rather than looking at the truth.

All We Left Behind is the result of an abandoned screenplay, and an abandoned novel. I lifted the characters from those previous projects and started over. The common link that inspired all of them is Marion’s attempt to navigate her sexual awakening in a culture that views sex in such extremes. Be sexy, but don’t be a slut. Sex is taboo, but it’s also where girls are told to find their worth. Sex is the most intimate experience you can share with someone, but treat it like it’s completely worthless and casual. Those contrasts are fascinating, but they’re also real obstacles that girls have to face today.

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El Space: All of your characters are very memorable and vivid. How did you come to create your point of view characters—Kurt and Marion?
Ingrid: Kurt came about as an exercise at Vermont College. In an early draft of this book Kurt was a throw-away character that dumped Marion and then disappeared. As an exercise, my adviser had me write my scenes from the POV of the other characters—not my protagonist. This was really difficult. I realized Kurt was this paper-thin character I was using as a chess piece for my plot. Once I had to develop him into a real person, he came alive. He was so vivid and compelling that I couldn’t stop writing in his voice. He took the book in a whole new direction. A better direction! It was awesome.

Marion on the other hand has been with me for over 10 years. She was the center of a previous screenplay and novel. I’ve spent draft after draft, new direction after new direction, trying to figure out how to write her story and do it justice. She’s haunted me. I’m so happy I finally found the story she wanted me to tell.

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El Space: Music plays an important role in this story. What was on your playlist as you wrote this book?
Ingrid: This is going to come as a surprise, but I can’t listen to music when I write. I find it really distracting. Thus, there’s no playlist for this book. In fact, I had to poll my friends to come up with songs my characters would talk about in the book. I’m not a music person at all! I spent three days listening to all the songs my friends suggested on YouTube so I could figure out what Kurt and his mom would be into.

A couple of my favorites were (1) “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake—this is the type of song I see Kurt playing with his mom—(2) “Drifting” by Andy McKee. Watch this YouTube video and you’ll be mesmerized by the physical way Andy McKee plays the guitar. This is how I imagine Kurt’s mom playing her instrument. There’s a little bit of genius and escape in the way she plays.

El Space: You mentioned some characters from fairy tales in the story. How did these familiar stories influence your writing?
Ingrid: I feel like fairy tales create a “dream” for young people, and girls in particular. We’re told that we will one day meet our charming prince and magically live happily ever after. That story is reinforced over and over again in media. In a way, we start to feel entitled to that dream. And then we feel betrayed or like there’s something wrong with us if we don’t find our prince.

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This really shows the power of storytelling. How many of us believe that hard work will pay off in the end, or that love will conquer all? But is any of that really true? Or is it a story we’ve heard in books and television? I find I’m interested in the juxtaposition of fairytale themes against the harsh reality of the world we live in.

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El Space: A controversial Bustle article gave seven reasons for writing a YA novel. I won’t ask you for seven. But I’d like to know how you came to write for young adults.
Ingrid: I definitely didn’t write a novel I could buy the perfect shoe/dress combo for my book launch on Saturday, Dec 5th (as implied by reason #7 in that article). In fact . . . I have no idea what I will wear.

I actually started out writing dramatic screenplays when I was getting my MFA in screenwriting from Chapman University. One of my first screenplays was a college drama called Virgin, and that screenplay was the seed for All We Left Behind. The character of Marion was the star of that film. The path to YA came from learning that Marion’s story was extremely internal and thus hard to communicate visually as a film. We often complain that a movie isn’t as good as the book, but we forget that movies are a very specific form of storytelling that simply can’t communicate in the same way as a novel.

Once I discovered the story was too internal for a film, I switched to novel writing. Hence the second MFA in novel writing from Vermont College. Novels are a whole different beast than screenwriting! I also got a lot of feedback that the story’s themes would be better suited in high school than college. So, I made the leap to YA and I love it!

El Space: Which book authors or screenwriters inspire you?
Ingrid: I love that you asked about screenwriters as well as authors! My few of my favorite screenwriters are Sarah Polley (Away from Her; Take This Waltz), Alex Garland (Sunshine; Never Let Me Go), Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter), and Aaron Sorkin (West Wing; The Social Network). They all have such different voices, but you can really “feel” their voice in a film.

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Sarah Polley and Aaron Sorkin

I’m also really inspired by authors who take risks or are masters of language. The ones that jump to mind are Laurie Halse Anderson, Jeanette Winterson, and Beth Kephart. They all make me fall in love with words over and over again.

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El Space: What are you working on now?
Ingrid: I’m working on a few different projects, but none of them are fully formed enough to say exactly what they are. I’ve got a Peter Pan project, a fantasy concept about Greek Muses, and a summer romance with lots of kissing! I don’t really like defining my novels before I know what they are. I’d hate to tell my readers I’m working on XYZ, only to later tell them that project died in the beautiful flames of revision. 🙂

El Space: Thanks Ingrid for being my guest!

Ingrid: Thanks for having me on your blog! It’s been a blast!

Looking for Ingrid? Look here:
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram
Pinterest
Website

All We Left Behind is available here:
IndieBound
Amazon
B&N
Book Depository

But comment below to be entered into a drawing to win a free copy of All We Left Behind. Because I will feature another book giveaway this month, I will announce the winner of both books on December 14.

Book covers courtesy of Ingrid Sundberg and Goodreads. Prince from ebay.com. Maine map from ezilon.com. Sarah Polley from imdb.com. Aaron Sorkin from ibtimes.com.

Check This Out: Entangled

I love to connect people with great authors and books. So, I’m thrilled to death to have another great author, the amazing Amy Rose Capetta in the house.

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Amy Rose, who is represented by Sara Crowe, is here to talk about her upcoming young adult science fiction novel, Entangled, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It debuts October 1. Here’s a synopsis:

NEWCOVER-199x300Alone was the note Cade knew best. It was the root of all her chords.

Seventeen-year-old Cade is a fierce survivor, solo in the universe with her cherry-red guitar. Or so she thought. Her world shakes apart when a hologram named Mr. Niven tells her she was created in a lab in the year 3112, then entangled at a subatomic level with a boy named Xan.

Cade’s quest to locate Xan joins her with an array of outlaws—her first friends—on a galaxy-spanning adventure. And once Cade discovers the wild joy of real connection, there’s no turning back.

That sounds out of this world, right? Okay, I hear you groaning at that terrible pun, so let’s move on. I’ll tell you about today’s special givewaway later.

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Amy Rose: 1) Amy is my first name, Rose is my middle. I go by Amy Rose, due to liking the way it sounds and being born in a Time of Many Amys. I have to thank my mom and dad for the nice name whenever I get a chance! 2) I move a lot. At this exact second, I live in Michigan. 3) I went to VCFA. My heart lives in Montpelier. 4) I shaved my head when Entangled sold, as part of a celebration with my best friend and fellow YA sci-fi author Cori McCarthy.

El Space: If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll remember that Cori was here in May to talk about her awesome book, The Color of Rain. So, Amy Rose, how did you come to write Entangled?
Amy Rose: I had the main character and setting of Entangled in my head for at least two years before it collided with the premise and plot. My best friend Julia is a scientist, and for years I had been listening to the fascinating ideas she stumbled into every day and thinking “I need to write that,” and “that should be a novel!” But I think that impulse is a daily outing for a writer’s brain. It’s like taking a walk. When she told me about quantum entanglement, my synapses went into marathon mode.

El Space: What characteristics do you have in common with Cade? How are you different?
Amy Rose: I don’t know if I have as much in common with Cade now, but the sixteen-year-old version of me had the same sort of aggressive introversion. I had a hard time connecting with people—of course, I didn’t have a lifetime of isolation on a ruined planet to blame! I wanted to take that trait and blow it up, to explore the difficulties of human connection, both inherent and created.

One difference is that Cade takes her introversion to a bad-ass place, where I took mine more to a much more nerd-based one. She also has music as her main outlet, and reading and writing were mine.

14198426-e-guitar-semi-acoustics-cherry-redOne more thing: I’ve played music my whole life on a variety of instruments, for the most part badly. But I’m not the guitar player of the family. That’s my awesome little sister. She’s part of the inspiration for Cade, too!

El Space: Cool! If you could bioengineer someone, what qualities would be foremost? Why?
Amy Rose: I’m pretty sure that all science fiction warns us away from bioengineering people, but if we’re talking about desirable traits, I would love to find a noninvasive way to up the compassion factor, the empathy for other people. Of course, if we were all perfectly empathetic we might not need fiction, and fiction is beautiful in its imperfect, word-based, messy way of getting us inside other peoples’ experiences. So maybe I’d just give everyone decent eyesight, because I worry about what will happen if I get caught in a post-apocalyptic landscape with only a single pair of contacts. Sorry, optometrists of the world!

El Space: What did you find challenging/exhilarating about writing science fiction? How did your experience prepare you for the genre?
Amy Rose: I found that science fiction was more fun to write than I’d ever imagined. I had written two previous manuscripts with sci-fi elements, but this was my first trip off-planet, and I had way too much fun. I do think that being a big fan of the genre helped. It felt like my brain had gone swimming in SF and came back knowing how I wanted to describe water. It would have been a totally alien element if I hadn’t flailed around in it. Or maybe this is just the world’s most elaborate excuse for watching Battlestar Galactica and Firefly and TNG all the time.

El Space: Nothing wrong with that! What do you hope readers take away from Entangled?
Amy Rose: I hope readers find something to connect with. Whether it’s a character, a relationship, the music, anything. That spark of connection is what keeps me warm as a reader—and keeps me turning pages.

El Space: What authors inspire you?
169756Amy Rose: I am inspired by so many authors! Ray Bradbury and Madeleine L’Engle both put huge stamps on the way I think, read, and hope to write. Though their influences are less obvious: Italo Calvino and Jeanette Winterson. In YA, I think Libba Bray is brilliant in the most ambitious and genre-spanning way. Also, I spilled wine on her shoe once and she’s still nice to me. And when talking about YA sci-fi, I have to mention M.T. Anderson and Feed, which is the most incredible book.

El Space: What advice do you have for anyone who wishes to write science fiction for the young adult market?
Amy Rose: Aliens are hard. Don’t name more planets than you can remember. Make science magazines, science books, science blogs your stomping grounds. The universe is strange. Don’t be afraid to be strange along with it.

El Space: What are you working on now?
Amy Rose: Right now I’m finishing up revisions on the sequel to Entangled, which is called Unmade. The second book is also the end of the story, so soon I’ll be working on something new!

Give it up for Amy Rose, folks. Now put those hands to good use and comment, so you can be entered into a drawing for a $25 Amazon card. Why $25? So that you can purchase Amy Rose’s book AND Cori’s book. I didn’t get a chance to give away a copy of Cori’s book earlier. You must agree to get both. Winner to be announced on Friday.

For those of you who don’t win, you can still preorder Entangled at these fine establishments:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound

Look for Cori’s book at the same places. If you preorder Entangled from Great Lakes Book & Supply, you can get a signed copy and a button while supplies last. Check out Amy Rose’s website for details. Or go here. Look for Amy Rose at her website, Twitter, and Facebook. Also check out the Nerdbait Guide vlog developed by Amy Rose and Cori.

Author’s photo by Cori McCarthy. Entangled cover from Amy Rose’s website. Other covers from Goodreads.