author

January Gill O’Neil, The Power of Poetry

Poet January Gill O’Neil, author of the fall 2018 release Rewilding, might not believe that poetry is ever necessarily on the side of power— but she does equate the two.

“Poetry is power,” O’Neil insists. “Making the choice to sit down and write or read a poem is power. It’s a choice. It’s self-care. It’s the start of a revolution. It’s change. Like a photo, a poem captures a moment. And that is powerful.” 

The Cave Canem fellow has been published widely to much critical acclaim, including in The New York Times Magazine, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Ploughshares and Ecotone, among others. In 2018, she was awarded a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant, and from 2012-2018, she served as executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival.

January Gill O’Neil, The Power of Poetry

Lara Elena Donnelly on Writing the Amberlough Dossier Series

Set nearly a decade after Amberlough, after Cyril DePaul tipped over the first domino that led to the rise of a brutal fascist government—and five years since Armistice, since violent resistance to that government began in earnest—Amnesty, the conclusion to Lara Elena Donnelly’s Amberlough Dossier, answers an often-ignored question: What happens once the revolution is over?

Lara Elena Donnelly on Writing the Amberlough Dossier Series

Devi Laskar on Creating Her Debut Novel, The Atlas of Reds and Blues

When she was accepted to a California writers' workshop in 2004, author Devi Laskar wanted to dust off an old short story she had written about arranged marriage. However, a good friend from graduate school, who was also attending, insisted she write something new. 

“So I wrote a family story about a woman and her kids and her dog,” Laskar explained. “I was torn between my love for The House on Mango Street — and my desire to emulate it — and my years of training as a reporter.” 

Devi Laskar on Creating Her Debut Novel, The Atlas of Reds and Blues

Lisa Grunwald Discusses Writing Time After Time

On a 1937 December morning, as sunrise light streams through the high, arched windows of Grand Central Terminal, Joe Reynolds spots an out-of-place young woman near the station’s famous gold clock. After coming to the woman’s aid, Joe learns three things: Her name is Nora Lansing, she’s a wealthy Manhattan socialite, and she absolutely captivates him.

This serendipitous meeting begins an unlikely love affair that defies both time and tragedy. As Joe and Nora find each other again and again, they slowly unravel the mystery surrounding Nora’s strange circumstances even as the threads of their lives wind tighter together.

Lisa Grunwald Discusses Writing Time After Time

Scott Carney on Writing What Doesn’t Kill Us

Wim Hof, “the Iceman,” practices cold exposure in order to accomplish incredible feats: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, for example. He also holds the world record for a barefoot half marathon above the Arctic Circle, and standing in an ice cube-covered container for more than 112 minutes. 

Reporter Scott Carney’s investigative and participatory journalism book, What Doesn’t Kill Us, delves into Hof's methods, and explores how far humans have strayed from our evolutionary roots and the implications that has on our health. "The developed world—and, for that matter, much of the developing world—no longer suffers from diseases of deficiency," he told Spine. "Instead we get the diseases of excess.” 

Scott Carney on Writing What Doesn’t Kill Us

Spencer Hyde, Drawing on Personal Influences for Waiting for Fitz

From wedding ceremonies to hand washing, if society understands the reasons behind an action, it is considered "normal." In his new book, Waiting for Fitz, Spencer Hyde tells the story of Addie, a teenage girl struggling with OCD. She is admitted to a psychiatric ward where she finds friendship with a schizophrenic boy named Fitz. Together the two learn about love, forgiveness, courage and who they are in the space between "normal" and their own atypical reasoning.

Spencer Hyde, Drawing on Personal Influences for Waiting for Fitz

Nafiza Azad Discusses Writing The Candle and the Flame

Nafiza Azad has always been annoyed by Shakespeare’s “What’s in a name?” question. 

“It centers the Western perspective as the only one that matters,” the YA author explained. “[But] a name has all sorts of meanings and functions in different cultures around the world.” 

This fact is reflected in the city of Noor, the setting of Azad’s diverse debut novel The Candle and the Flame. Names play a prominent role in the novel, as the main character Fatima, one of the few people left in Noor after a tribe of djinns slaughters the human residents, acquires the power to divine the true names of djinn. “Names for the djinn are very important,” Azad said. 

Nafiza Azad Discusses Writing The Candle and the Flame

Casey McQuiston on Writing Red, White & Royal Blue

An idea hit writer Casey McQuiston while driving on the I-10 off-ramp, and she couldn’t ignore it. That idea was the seed of Red, White & Royal Blue, out now from St. Martin’s Griffin. She did what any good millennial writer with a day job could be expected to do. “I got to work, sat down at my work computer, and G-chatted my best friend. I said, ‘I need you to sit down and listen to this for a second.’” Characters and names tumbled rapidly to the top of McQuiston’s mind, and it flowed so naturally. “This is the one,” she thought. After considering starting so many books and waiting for an idea to grab her, she knew she had found the concept and cast of characters for her first novel.

Casey McQuiston on Writing Red, White & Royal Blue

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