2015 Morris Award: An Interview with Finalist Leslye Walton

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 morris_seal_finwinner 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.

Tava lavenderoday’s interview is with finalist Leslye Walton, author of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. I was so excited to ask Leslye some questions about magic realism…and baked goods, thanks to one of my students!

If you haven’t read the book already, here is the publisher blurb:

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.

In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.

That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.

Congratulations on your Morris nomination! I absolutely loved your book. It was just beautiful! I (and my colleagues and students) were struck by the multigenerational story and how adult the voice seemed. It felt more mature and reflective than your average YA protagonist narrating from a more immediate and younger perspective. Did you always think you were writing YA? Or did you just write and see which publishers were interested?

Originally, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender wasn’t intended for the YA market. I felt the writing was too lyrical, too chalked full of metaphors for the typical teenaged reader. But after a long, tough road of going-nowhere, my agent, the luminous Bernadette Baker-Baughman, reminded me of all the beautiful, highly literary YA novels out there. After I stopped resisting, I think we sold the novel in a week. Ava Lavender certainly covers some dark and tragic themes—as do so many other great YA novels out there—but it’s also very much a young adult book, and looking back, I wish I had recognized that a bit earlier than I had. Continue reading 2015 Morris Award: An Interview with Finalist Leslye Walton

2015 Morris Award: An Interview with Finalist E. K. Johnston

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 morris_seal_finwinner 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.

the story of owenE. K. Johnston is a 2015 Morris Award finalist for: The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim.

Owen is training to be a dragon slayer, a crucial job in a world where dragons bring death and destruction. With help from their friends and family, Owen and his bard Siobhan seek the source of a growing dragon threat.

Congratulations on being a finalist for the 2015 Morris Award! The idea behind the book – that species of dragons exist in our world because they are carbon eaters – is a different and unique take on the dragon trope in fantasy fiction. Yet it makes so much sense given our over-reliance on fossil fuels. What do you personally believe about the use and overuse of fossil fuels, and what practices do you follow, if any, in your own daily life to address this issue?

One common criticism of The Story of Owen is that human beings never developed alternative fuel sources despite the threat of dragon fire as a consequence for carbon emissions. I feel that we are dealing with something similar in the real world, though, without the dragons of course, in that we have been slow to develop the technology to efficiently use wind and solar power. Hopefully it won’t take something catastrophic to give us that final push. For my own part, I try to keep my carbon footprint as manageable as I can.

Are you a fan of alternate history books? If so, what other books would you recommend for teens?

I am a huge fan of alternate history! I couldn’t read any while I was writing my own, and that was terrible, because I missed them. I love Tessa Gratton’s UNITED STATES OF ASGARD and Holly Black’s CURSEWORKER trilogy. I am really like Maggie Stiefvater’s THE SCORPIO RACES, which shows that an alternate history can be quite small, and still super readable and relatable.

I know you’re a forensic archeologist but what is that exactly? Does your profession come into play in your writing?

Forensic [insert profession here] just means that you do your job, but with the idea of serving the law. So you can have forensic accountants and forensic dentists…and forensic archaeologists. I learned how to take archaeological principles and apply them to crime scenes (for evidence recovery and the like). It shows up in my books in strange places, but I was trained to research and account for detail, and I think that’s very helpful for writing.

Continue reading 2015 Morris Award: An Interview with Finalist E. K. Johnston

2015 Morris Award: An Interview with Finalist Isabel Quintero

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.

Isabel Quintero is a 2015 Morris Award finalist for Gabi, A Girl in Pieces:Gabi 2

Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: college applications, Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out, the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity. 

I am so happy you and your book are one of the Morris finalists! Gabi, a Girl in Pieces is one of the most realistic books I’ve read. It reflects what I saw as a teen and of teens I know, now. Was it your goal to give voice to Mexican-American teens?

I think it was my goal to present a different narrative of what it can mean to be Mexican-American. Living on the hyphen is a complex cultural existence at times, and we’re often pulled in many directions where allegiance is always demanded. It is a fractured state of being, though I don’t think it’s necessarily bad; at least the having multiple ways of looking at life-the Mexican and American/the male and female. Where that goes awry is when we want to make one way of approaching life, The One Way. That’s where things begin to disintegrate, loyalties are questioned, and patriarchies are born. Back to the narrative though, so many times in media and pop culture we get one narrative of what it means to be Latino/a, specifically in my case, Mexican or Mexican-American. And of course we need the subcategory, the hyphen; we can’t possibly be “real” Americans, and thus we need a story to go along with what makes us part of this country, but at the same time what makes us outsiders. The story of belonging, and not-belonging, that we’ve gotten is that we are housekeepers, landscapers, and migrant fieldworkers-all very necessary jobs to keep society moving, but yet always subservient roles in which we have very little opportunity for autonomy. That’s the story we’ve been given. We see this on big screens, small screens, and in books. And it’s romanticized too. Sure being a landowner, inheriting a farm that your great grandfather owned, has a bit of romance. But being a worker on that land from sun up to sun down, exposed to injury, violence, and rape-not so much. So with Gabi, I wanted to present a different story; one that is just as real, and just as American as that of a migrant farmworker. Because really, I believe those narratives and Gabi are stories of America, unhyphenated; and I wanted to give voice to those characters. Continue reading 2015 Morris Award: An Interview with Finalist Isabel Quintero

Morris Award Finalist: Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian

Carrie Mesrobian is a finalist for the 2014 William C. Morris Award for her debut novel, Sex & Violence.  The award Photo Dec 03, 4 17 40 PMhonors previously unpublished authors with the year’s best books for young adults.

Evan Carter has moved around from one town to another his entire teenaged life. His father, a Ph.D in math and computer science, is hired by clients all over the country and he drags Evan along. Not since Evan’s mom died when Evan was 11 has his dad really been present in Evan’s life in any sense. Evan, nearly 18, is used to his dad’s distance because he’s got other preoccupations – girls. Even though he might be the new guy at all his schools, he’s never had any trouble meeting and hooking up with them. He even has a strategy and can profile a girl as “The Girl Who Would Say Yes.” That’s worked well for him until he hooks up with the wrong girl named Collette at his Charlotte, NC school and finds himself nearly killed after her ex-boyfriend and another guy savagely assault him in the school’s communal showers. Afterward, Evan and his father move to the family lake in rural Pearl Lake, Minnesota so Evan can recover from a multitude of injuries, including a broken nose & ribs, hearing loss in his left ear and the removal of his ruptured spleen.

During the spring and summer at the lake he has the chance to hang out with other local teens his age. They are celebrating their last summer before college doing “last things” they haven’t done before. Evan tries to fit in with them and pretend everything’s okay but he’s quiet and withdrawn and is suffering from PTSD. Therapy helps but he’s still unable to shower inside so the lake becomes his nightly bathtub. He’s also obsessed with having short hair since when he was beaten up it was long and easy for his attackers to grab. Continue reading Morris Award Finalist: Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian