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Author: Kris Hickey

An Interview With 2017 Morris Award Finalist, Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock


Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock is a finalist for the 2017 William C. Morris award. Her book, The Smell Of Other People’s Houses, is told in four points of view of teens living in Alaska in the 1970s. Their individual stories weave together in a satisfying ending that will give readers a sense of another time and culture.

Your background is writing news for radio.  How is your writing process different than when you wrote for news? The biggest difference is not having a daily deadline. Working on something for years rather than days is a totally different thing and I think it takes practice transitioning from one to the other. I still write though, as if each chapter is its own story and use a lot of the skills I used when writing a four minute radio piece. I miss interviewing people and using their own voices, which now feels like cheating after having to create characters out of thin air. (Although I did mine some of my past interviewees for personality traits for my characters.)

It feels like the four point of view characters each represent a different feel or culture of Alaska.  What do you want the reader to learn from this? Yes, I think you’re right about that. Alaska is a huge place and each region has its own feel, including differences in climate and culture, so it’s difficult for any one book about Alaska to portray the entire state. I chose to focus on the places that I lived throughout my life and depict those places through the kinds of people I knew and had close experiences with. I’ve heard so many different takeaways from readers about what they got (or didn’t get) from this way of telling the story. I just wanted to show how hard it is to generalize the Alaska way of life. Alaska is many things to many people and all of it is true.

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2016 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview With Leah Thomas

Have you had a chance to take our readers’ survey? We’d love your feedback! 

Leah Thomas is a finalist for the 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut AwardBecause You’ll Never Meet Me is the story of two boys. One is allergic to electricity,  while the other has a pacemaker. Because of the pacemaker, it would be dangerous for the two to meet.  They become pen pals.  It is a fantastic story of friendship, dealing with bullies, doing the right thing and discovering the biggest mystery of why they are who they are.Because You'll Never Meet Me

The storyline is unique.  What was the inspiration for the two main characters, Ollie and Moritz?

It would be easy to say that Ollie and Moritz are opposites, but it’s not strictly true. I sometimes describe Ollie as the extrovert trapped in the woods and Moritz as the introvert stuck in the city, but they’ve got so many things in common: unique science fictional ailments, estranged/unknown family members, a tendency towards social ineptitude, an offbeat sense of humor, a deep sense of isolation and loneliness. To me, what made their story worth writing was the thought that these two characters, were they ever to meet in person, might have suffered for it: even without Ollie’s whimsical allergy to electricity and Moritz’s pacemaker, they’re so different in personality that it seems they would only clash. They might have loathed each other.

But we live in an age where friendship can be formed on a thousand different bases. I wrote most of BYNMM while teaching abroad in Taipei, and that taught me how little proximity matters to friendship. Friends can be people you’ve never met, friends you otherwise might not want to meet, friends you never see. Sometimes this truth feels like the most science fictional aspect of the story, but it’s our reality! Amazing.

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2015 Morris Award: An Interview with Finalist Jessie Ann Foley

Each year, YALSA’s Morris Award honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature. The award winner will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media (YMA) Awards on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. Join us for a live webcast of the YMA Awards press conference or follow I Love Libraries on Twitter or Facebook to be among the first to know the 2015 winners. The official hashtag for the 2015 Youth Media Awards is  #ALAyma.

Jessie Ann Foley is a finalist for the 2015 Morris Award. Her book, The Carnival At Bray, is the story of Maggie. Her mother’s latest marriage takes moves her and her sister to Ireland. It is a beautiful story about love, music and struggling with the hard choices. 

What kind of research did you do on being a teen in Ireland?

As a high school teacher, my whole life feels like teen research! But the Ireland aspect was a bit trickier. The Carnival at Bray was originally a short story that I wrote after visiting a carnival fairground in County Wicklow in 2010. I’m Irish-American, but as Maggie learns in the first chapter, that identity can have very little to do with what it means to be actually Irish, and if I had known then that I was setting myself up for the task of expanding it into an entire novel set in Ireland, I might have made things easier for myself and kept Maggie in Chicago. But then, I guess she would never have met Eoin.

My husband, who is from County Kerry, was a huge help to me in writing the novel. I pestered him with constant, nitpicky questions relating to word choice, slang, and authentic details. And if there was a passage that contained lots of dialogue—Eoin’s long monologue about his mother comes to mind—my husband would read it aloud and help me figure out what needed tweaking. I was so nervous for him to read the first draft of the book, because I knew I was going to make ridiculous mistakes. But he was polite enough not to make fun of me.

How did music inspire Maggie’s story? Did you have a playlist you listened to while writing this book?

One of my favorite parts about writing is how the story can surprise you: you think it’s going to be about one thing, but then you start to discover it’s about something else. I didn’t know that my novel was going to be about music when I started writing it. But as Uncle Kevin developed into an important character, the musical angle grew with him. I had so much fun going back and listening to all my 90’s music–some of those albums I hadn’t listened to for years. I listened to a lot of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville, the Lemonheads, Smashing Pumpkins, and of course, Nirvana. I listened many times to the live album of the Rome concert that is portrayed in the book. It all definitely brought me back–the music of your youth seems to have that power. I barely remember my first kiss. But I’ll never forget the first time I heard Pearl Jam.

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An Interview With Alex Award Winning Author Lisa O’Donnell

The Death of Bees
Lisa O’Donnell is a 2014 recipient of YALSA’s Alex Award.  The Alex Award goes to authors who write books for adults that have a teen appeal.  I just read her book and loved it!  The story is told in three points of view, two of them are sisters who are in the process of burying their good for nothing parents in their backyard.  The third voice is the sexual predator neighbor who looks out for them.  O’Donnell agreed to be interviewed about her recent honor.

How did you choose the title, The Death of Bees?

In the first chapters when the girls are burying the bodies of their parents they go to a garden centre to buy lavender to disguise the graves and hide the smell. At the garden centre they meet a woman who scares Nelly about the possible extinction of honeybees. When the girls get home Nelly, who has Autism, obsesses over what the woman has said about the Bees. This makes Marnie angry because the truth is Nelly isn’t afraid of the Bees at all, she is afraid because they’re burying their parents in the backyard, the bees are simply where she projects her fear. Marnie knows this, but won’t acknowledge it either and also hides behind the subject of bees.

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M.T. Anderson Reflects on Where We Are, Years After His Iconic Book, Feed


I was lucky enough to meet M.T. Anderson, 2009 recipient of YALSA’s Best Books For Young Adults, this week at the library where I work.  He was gracious enough to grant an interview for The Hub.   With dystopian as the hot thing right now, I wanted to know where he thinks we are going, as readers, and how technology is changing us.

Science fiction often says more about the time period it was written than the imagined future society. What parallels do you see between our current social experience and your imagined world?

I wrote the book back in 2001, and, in my mind, it was actually already about the world I saw back then: a world where I didn’t even have to have a chip installed in my skull — I already heard the voice of advertising all the time, speaking in my thoughts and dreams.

Do you feel current technology is catching up with Feed?  For example, the way advertising is sent directly to us on our Facebook pages?                                                             

Technological experimentation is making “feeds” more possible every day, at a speed that I find somewhat surprising and disconcerting. For several years now, neuro-electrical scans have mapped what a buying frenzy looks like in the brain. And as of this year, we have managed to transfer movement impulses between humans over a cyberlink. We can force rats to “remember” impulses that they’ve never encountered before by digitally, and then neurologically, encoding those impulses. Intel says they want chips in consumers’ heads by 2020.  These products could soon be a reality.

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Teens’ Top Ten: Five Questions for Erin Jade Lange

Photo Jul 03, 8 11 39 PMOver 32,000 teen readers cast their vote for the 2013 Teens’ Top Ten, and The Hub is celebrating their choices! Today we feature Erin Jade Lange, whose book Butter is #10 on this year’s Teen’s Top Ten list.


Butter is the story of an obese teen who in a moment of despair decides to kill himself– live on the Internet, with food.  The popular crowd at his high school becomes a morbid chorus of cheerleaders, taking bets and urging him on.  At the same time they pull Butter into their circle and he feels like he has friends for the first time.
You nailed the cruelty of high school experience. How did you research this type of behavior for the book, Butter?
To be honest, I didn’t have to research so much as just try to write reality – the reality I remember from my own experience in school and the reality I still see around me today. I don’t think cruelty begins and ends with high school. Some bullies start young, and some never grow out of it. But I do think the hormonal roller coaster of our teenage years amplifies both the cruelty and the emotional response to it.
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Julianna Baggott, Author Of Pure Trilogy, Shares Her Inspiration For Pressia’s Baby Doll Hand

One of YALSA’s Alex Award winners, Julianna Baggott, is hard at work on her third installment of the Pure trilogy, Burn. She will be answering questions in a panel of Alex Award recipients on June 30th at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. She agreed to answer some questions for the Hub about her thrilling series. If you’ve read an adult book that you think would appeal to teens, be sure to suggest it to the Alex Award committee!

pure julianna baggott coverScience fiction often says more about the time period it was written than the imagined future society. What parallels do you see between our current social experience and your imagined world?

I think that the rise of post-apocalyptic fiction in mainstream literature does reflect current global instability and fear — for adults. However, I think there’s a deeper, more lasting psychological resonance with the apocalypse for teens. And, maybe I’m revealing too much personally, but I think that childhood can represent a kind of pre-apocalypse, a cocooned and protected time that is then ruptured by adolescence. In other words, the teen years are post-apocalyptic and science fiction with this lens is, surely, not realism, but I think a case can be made for psychological realism.

What trends did you extrapolate on that led you to envision the culture in Pure?

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If You Love Warm Bodies, Get Ready for a Dose of Zombie Romance

The idea of zombie romance is not new, but the odd little genre is growing in popularity even more since the release of the film Warm Bodies. Here are some titles that will delight and repulse you in equal measure.

i kissed a zombie and i liked it adam selzer coverIn I Kissed A Zombie and I Liked It by Adam Selzer, Ally meets Doug, a guy she thinks is just really goth, but it turns out he is a zombie. He is pale, never changes his suit, and speaks very softly. The local Megamart raised zombies from the dead to work in the stockroom. When the other supernatural creatures found out, they came out of the shadows and demanded equal rights. This is such a hilarious spoof on supernatural romance. Doug has an amazing personality, but he smells of embalming fluid and lives in a grave. This is a fun, quick read with a strong and funny female character and a love story based on character rather than just physical attraction.

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Great New 2012 Teen Reads For International Day of Persons With Disabilities

Today, December 3rd, is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. A big trend in both teen and juvenile fiction is to include characters with special needs. The new teen book that is getting plenty of buzz right now is Colin Fischer, written by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz.

Stentz is not only on the Autism Spectrum himself, he has two children who are as well. Fourteen-year-old Colin Fischer’s ability to pay close attention to detail gives him Sherlock Holmes level powers of deduction. This makes him the perfect person to solve a crime involving a gun at his school. Colin keeps his notebook with him at all times and records his observations while he tries to survive the “typical” world. He deals with bullies. In in the first chapter we witness him getting a swirly. This is a great first person account of what it is like to be on the Autism Spectrum.

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