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The Writer's Practice: Lilliam Rivera, Dealing in Dreams

Sixteen-year-old Nalah, AKA Chief Rocka, leader of the all-girl Las Mal Criadas crew and the heart of Lilliam Rivera's new YA novel Dealing in Dreams, is blinded by her vision of life in Mega Towers. The Towers, three giant and luxurious concrete apartment blocks, loom over the residents of Mega City. All of Nalah's actions on the streets — running curfew patrols, punishing stragglers, fighting other crews in public showdowns — are aimed at earning the favor of Déesse, the city's beloved leader, and a home in the Towers for Las Mal Criadas.

The Writer's Practice: Lilliam Rivera, Dealing in Dreams

Rebecca McLaughlin on Writing Confronting Christianity

Before writing her debut book, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World's Largest Religion, Rebecca McLaughlin had written a variety of articles for online faith-focused platforms. With the book she wanted to address a broader audience, and to tackle her own faith head-on. In doing so, she took on not only a personal spiritual challenge, but a writing challenge as well. McLaughlin told Spine she set out to take a deep look at the arguments that could be significant barriers to belief, positioning her book as a litmus test of modern Christianity.

Rebecca McLaughlin on Writing Confronting Christianity

Mallory O’Meara on the Process of Writing The Lady From The Black Lagoon

Mallory O’Meara, author of The Lady from the Black Lagoon, was a 17-year-old self-proclaimed “horror geek” when she first saw the Creature From The Black Lagoon. She was captivated, and did what she typically did when something caught her curiosity: investigate everything she could about the movie, the director, the actors, how they filmed the underwater scenes, and of course, the Creature. In her research, she came across a single black-and-white photo of a glamorous woman with dark hair and captivating smile, painting the mask of the Creature. The photo caption identified Milicent Patrick, animator and creature designer. It was several years before O’Meara came to learn that in 1950s Hollywood, a woman monster designer was a very rare thing.

Mallory O’Meara on the Process of Writing The Lady From The Black Lagoon

Interview with Miles Harvey & Emily Olson-Torch On The Garcia Boy by Rafael Torch

DePaul University’s nonprofit Big Shoulders Books press disseminates, free of charge, quality works of writing by and about Chicagoans whose voices might not otherwise be shared. The press is primarily run by students in the university's MA in Writing and Publishing and undergraduate English programs. Their most recent release, The Garcia Boy, shares the story of the late award-winning essayist and educator Rafael Torch, son of an undocumented Mexican immigrant. 

Interview with Miles Harvey & Emily Olson-Torch On The Garcia Boy by Rafael Torch

Anne Ursu, on Writing The Lost Girl

A lightning bolt — that is how most of Anne Ursu’s previous books came to be; a jolt of inspiration and the pieces fell into place. Her latest middle-grade novel, The Lost Girl, however, was more sculpting than lightning. “I had to keep chipping away at it, shaping and reshaping until I found its form,” said Ursu.

In 2014, Ursu had the idea of writing a novel about watching someone you care about struggling at school. Identical twins seemed like the perfect way to tell that story and so characters Iris and Lark were born. Ursu added magic, fairy tales, summer camp, female identity, and a chalkboard sign that read “Alice, Where are you?” which she’d once passed in her car. Then she let the idea sit and waited for lightning to strike.  

Anne Ursu, on Writing The Lost Girl

A Conversation with Author Elizabeth McCracken on Writing Bowlaway

Elizabeth McCracken’s highly anticipated new novel Bowlaway is her first in 18 years. This is a character-driven piece which begins at the turn of the last century, and is focused on the fictional community of Salford, Massachusetts. Grand in scope, the novel covers generations — all affected, some tangentially, by the inexplicable appearance of Bertha Truitt’s unconscious body, along with a bag carrying a bowling candlepin, in a graveyard.

A Conversation with Author Elizabeth McCracken on Writing Bowlaway

Author/Designer Hafsah Faizal on Writing We Hunt the Flame

What if the Hunger Games were set in a fantasy world?

Contemplating that question during a discussion with her sisters sparked the idea behind YA author and popular designer Hafsah Faizal’s debut, We Hunt the Flame, a YA novel that took “four years and many iterations” to complete.

We Hunt the Flame features a huntress masquerading as a boy, as well as the prince sent to assassinate her. Evelyn Skye, New York Times bestselling author of The Crown’s Game series, called the ancient Arabia inspired fantasy “danger, magic, and hope all wrapped into one.”

Author/Designer Hafsah Faizal on Writing We Hunt the Flame

Beginning to End, The Making of Light from Other Stars, Part 2: Lea Beresford

Beginning to End follows a book from acquisition to bookshelf. For this "season," we're honing in on Light from Other Stars, about a young astronaut hopeful and an invention that alters time. The novel is author Erika Swyler's second, following her much-lauded 2015 debut, The Book of Speculation. In our first article, we spoke with Swyler's agent Michelle Brower. Next up: Lea Beresford, senior editor at Bloomsbury Publishing, working with Swyler to ready the book for publication next year.

Beginning to End, The Making of Light from Other Stars, Part 2: Lea Beresford

Sarah Smarsh on the Challenges of Writing Heartland

Each author struggles with her own worst stretch of creation. For some, fanning the spark of an idea into a fully formed concept stands out as most agonizing. Others get caught in the middle stages, struggling to find a way out of narrative tangles and research rabbit holes and multiple storylines. While each phase of her book Heartland had its challenges, writer Sarah Smarsh told Spine that the hardest might have been final edits—letting go of a book she’d worked on for some 16 years.

Sarah Smarsh on the Challenges of Writing Heartland

Christina Dalcher, on Developing her Debut Novel, Vox

With Vox, her debut novel, Christina Dalcher “wanted to create a story about a woman who studied language and yet didn’t speak up as the world changed around her and in the end lost her voice.” In the novel, women are limited to 100 words per day and the country must submit to a value system cruelly enforced by the government. The story of how such a world developed and how it is taken down is bold and riveting. The story of how the novel developed is no less intriguing.

Christina Dalcher, on Developing her Debut Novel, Vox

The Writer's Practice: Mary Kubica, When The Lights Go Out

Novelist Mary Kubica's fifth thriller, When The Lights Go Out, launches this week. The best-selling author told Spine that each of her books starts with the flicker of an idea, which she fans from several angles to see if anything alights. "A book often begins with a small, subconscious spark of inspiration that's then molded in a very conscious way to see if the spark has legs," she said. "For When The Lights Go Out, that first spark was the twist itself, which was exciting because it's never happened for me this way. Usually I have no idea how my books will end, but only a beginning!"

The Writer's Practice: Mary Kubica, When The Lights Go Out

The Writer's Practice: Mike Scardino, Bad Call

Half a century ago, Mike Scardino served as an ambulance attendant for St. John's Queens Hospital. In the late '60s, working an ambulance didn't require training beyond what the Red Cross (or in Scardino's case, the Boy Scouts) offered. The job paid better than anything else a young college student could earn on breaks, but it was brutal, physically and emotionally. 

The Writer's Practice: Mike Scardino, Bad Call

The Writer's Practice: Lara Elena Donnelly

Tropical Porachis, complex and intrigue-addled, is economically powered by a thriving film industry that at once dazzles and distracts from real-world political drama. The imagined country serves as stage for Lara Elena Donnelly's Armistice, the second book in her Amberlough Dossier series. On her publisher's website, she describes Porachis as "Golden Age of Hollywood-does-Bollywood, with a side order of In the Loop."

But how do you get to Porachis? Donnelly arrived via character.

The Writer's Practice: Lara Elena Donnelly

The Writer's Practice: Justina Ireland

Hey. How do you feel about zombies?

Two years back, writer Justina Ireland launched this question at Balzer + Bray Executive Editor Jordan Brown. Ireland wasn't a publishing novice — Simon & Schuster had released several of her young adult titles — but she was coming out of a self-imposed hiatus, and a recent split with her agent. "I went back to the well and said, 'What do I love about this process?' I took a moment." And then she wrote another book, a post-Civil War American young adult novel. With zombies. 

The Writer's Practice: Justina Ireland

Katharine & Elizabeth Corr on Finishing the The Witch’s Kiss Trilogy with The Witch’s Blood

In March, sisters Kate and Elizabeth Corr finished their popular The Witch’s Kiss trilogy with its final installment The Witch’s Blood and faced some conflicting feelings. 

“On one hand, we’re really proud of what we’ve written, and kind of amazed that we’ve had three books published in less than two years,” said Kate of the fast-paced and character-driven Sleeping Beauty retelling.

“On the other hand, we’ve spent so much time with Merry and Leo and the rest of our characters— so much time in their world— that saying goodbye to them was really sad,” said Liz. “It’s sad thinking that we’ll probably never write about them again.” 

Katharine & Elizabeth Corr on Finishing the The Witch’s Kiss Trilogy with The Witch’s Blood

The Writer's Practice: Steve Kistulentz, Panorama

Twenty-first century America visually consumes cataclysmic events. A shooting, a plane crash, a terrorist attack — these tragedies we process through videos captured by strangers' cameras, presented to us by newscasters or posted by unknown users online. Watching, we may feel pain or horror or shock, but also we experience a disconnect, pulling these moments into our minds via screens. 

The Writer's Practice: Steve Kistulentz, Panorama

The Writer's Practice: Nafkote Tamirat, The Parking Lot Attendant

An enigmatic, charismatic, possibly dangerous parking lot attendant rules an empire of Ethiopian parking lot workers, inextricably tangled up with the Ethiopian community of greater Boston as well as a mysterious, decaying utopian commune on a tropical island. The narrator, an intelligent and emotionally isolated young woman, pushes her singular self forward through each community, at once insider and outsider, welcomed and expelled.

The Writer's Practice: Nafkote Tamirat, The Parking Lot Attendant

Will Mackin, Collecting his Experience as a Soldier in Bring Out the Dog

"We were walking across the desert. It's like walking across the bottom of the ocean, rolling dunes of sand." Former Naval officer and writer Will Mackin, author of the new short story collection Bring Out the Dog, is telling Spine what it felt like, what it looked like to serve in Iraq. What it was like to serve in Iraq during that one minute, on that one day, that one moment that was so surreal, so ugly and so beautiful and so "fucking weird," he took out his grease pen and wrote notes across his arm. So he wouldn't forget. So he could carry the moment forward.

Will Mackin, Collecting his Experience as a Soldier in Bring Out the Dog

The Writer's Practice: Nadia Hashimi

Nadia Hashimi's middle-grade novel The Sky at Our Feet is full of memorable characters. As the reader progresses through the book, three rise to prominence. Intelligent, impulsive Max struggles to balance the medical requirements of her seizure disorder with her desire to be independent. Jason D, thoughtful and tenacious, races to find his aunt, hoping together they can save his Afghan mother from deportation. As Jason and Max scramble around New York, the city takes on a spirit of its own, becoming as integral to the narrative as the two children.

The Writer's Practice: Nadia Hashimi

The Writer's Practice: Jen Campbell

With words, Jen Campbell has constructed a life. For 10 years, the UK-based writer and vlogger worked as a bookseller. She creates original book-centric content for her YouTube channel and its nearly 40,000 subscribers. She teaches writing workshops and has published six books, including her first two works of fiction, out last fall. 

The Writer's Practice: Jen Campbell

The Poet's Practice: Dorothea Lasky

First, a thought. Or a dream, a happening, an itch, a longing, an aversion, a quickening, a word. Then a poem, and after more time and more poems, maybe one adheres to another, and that to another still, and eventually an idea of poems together. A book.

This is how it happens, a book of poetry. Can happen. Might.

The Poet's Practice: Dorothea Lasky

Emily Midorikawa & Emma Claire Sweeney on Writing A Secret Sisterhood

A Secret Sisterhood explores four literary friendships: between Jane Austen and her brother's playwriting employee Anne Sharp; between Charlotte Brontë and her strong-minded schoolmate, feminist writer Mary Taylor; between George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe, American author of Uncle Tom's Cabin; and between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield, whose complicated friendship other biographers have reduced to rivalry.

Emily Midorikawa & Emma Claire Sweeney on Writing A Secret Sisterhood

The Writer's Practice: Linda Sue Park

Raffa, the short-statured, brave-hearted hero of Linda Sue Park's Wing & Claw trilogy, possesses the encyclopedic knowledge of flora required of a young apothecary. He easily recalls each plant's physical and medicinal properties, and comprehends how best to combine and manipulate to achieve the desired affects in human subjects. But Raffa holds something more inside him than most "pothers." Witness: 

"[Raffa] pounded the stem and leaves of the scarlet vine to a pulp, then added some to the poultice. As he stirred, the paste began to take on a gentle vermilion glow, and in his mind he heard something that sounded like a faraway cowbell … ."

The Writer's Practice: Linda Sue Park

Rachel Khong on Writing Goodbye, Vitamin

Ruth Young arrived first. The 30-year-old sonographer showed up before her ex-boyfriend and before her younger brother. She even arrived before her parents: her mother, recently obsessed with vitamins; her recovering alcoholic, philandering, history professor father, battling Alzheimer's disease. All these characters play central roles in Rachel Khong's first novel, Goodbye Vitamin, but first, said Khong, came Ruth.

Rachel Khong on Writing Goodbye, Vitamin