Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blog Event: Tahlia Newland and "You Can't Shatter Me"

Today I'm thrilled to host author Tahlia Newland on the blog to promote the release of her new magical realism novella, You Can't Shatter Me. So, check out all the details on Tahlia, my interview with her, and her fabulous novella!

Tahlia Newland

Author bio & links:

Tahlia is an avid reader, an extremely casual high school teacher, an occasional mask-maker and has studied philosophy & meditation for many years. After scripting and performing in Visual Theatre shows for 20 years, she is now a bone-fide expatriate of the performing arts. She lives in an Australian rainforest, is married with a teenage daughter and loves cats, but she doesn’t have one because they eat native birds.

The Interview:

1. What inspired you to address the topic of bullying in You Can’t Shatter Me?

I didn’t actually set out to write about bullying. Initially, I planned to write a series of short stories about the same people, but as soon as I took my main character into a school setting, a bully appeared and shoved a fat boy against the wall. Carly, the female lead, decided she had to do something to stop it, but when she stepped in, the bully turned on her. He kept coming back in the following stories and so bullying became the thread that eventually turned the stories into a novella.

I guess the theme came out because I’m very aware that it’s one of the main issues that face kids today. It affects everyone, either as the one doing the bullying, the one being bullied or as a bystander. I can’t stand seeing people being cruel to others, so if there is anything I can do to stop it, I will. I hope this book will encourage bystanders to do their best to stop bullying whenever they see it and also to give both victims and bullies a way to handle the situation in a positive way.

2. Tell us about the most difficult moment in the book? The most empowering?

The most difficult part of the book for Carly is when Justin, the bully, locks her in the art storeroom and turns off the light. It’s really just a closet, so she gets very claustrophobic and she thinks she might die. The male lead, Dylan, struggles with his desire to protect Carly by punching the bully, something that will ruin his spotless school record, disappoint his mother, make his father really angry and probably make Carly mad at him too.

The most empowering moment is when Carly finally manages to use the light of loving kindness to protect herself from the bully—it manifests as chocolate cake—and the most inspiring moment is when she flys at the end.  

3.  How is You Can’t Shatter Me a revolutionary novella?

It’s the ideas behind it. There’s so many dark books out there for young adults, but this one, as well as having a really gritty story, shows someone dealing with a difficult situation in a way that makes them strong inside. Carly uses love and compassion as both a protection and a weapon against bullying. I think that’s pretty revolutionary in today’s climate.

4. What strategies to cope with bullying do the characters use in the story? Which ones are the most effective against bullying, and what ways of coping don’t work so well?
There are specific analogies for ways to deal with the kind of verbal abuse kids get. One is treating insults as bait on a hook and telling yourself you’re not going to bite. There’s a post about it here. Another is treating your anger like a cowpat and not stirring it up, because that makes it stink. There’s a post explaining the details here. I taught both these methods to kids at school with great success. 

The main one is based on the idea that you can’t do much to stop the bully bullying you, but you can learn not to let it bug you. Instead of seeing the bully as someone to fear and hate, you can see them as someone who is suffering and let that arouse your compassion. If the bully was really happy, they wouldn’t feel the need to abuse others. So you send happiness to them in the form of light from your heart, it makes you feel calm and strong and changes the way you behave towards them. In turn that affects the way they relate to you.

I use this in my own life and so does the rest of my family, and it does work. The kindness tends to disarm the bully. I haven’t had the opportunity to use it with kids at school because it takes time to understand the ideas, but many Tibetan Monks used it to not only survive imprisonment at the hands of the Chinese Government, but to come out a stronger and more compassionate person..

5. Would you like to share any enticing tidbits about upcoming projects?
After this, I have to decide whether I’m going to leave my young adult fantasy series with my agent—she’s been looking for a publisher for 2 years—or let Catapult Press publish it. Catapult Press is very small, just staring out, and I’d still like to get a big publisher for it, but I am getting sick of waiting, so I’ll see how this one sells and then make a decision. Either way, I’ll be turning my attention back to it again. The first in the series is called Lethal Inheritance and it’s about a girl whose mother is kidnapped by demons who feed on fear. She has to go into a hidden realm to rescue her mother and learn to fight without fear. Along the way she falls in love with a gorgeous guy. 

6. Anything else I haven’t yet asked that you’d like to share?

Just that there’s a really sweet romance in the book to offset the bullying stuff, and although it’s a young adult book, adults will enjoy it too.

Thank you for the wonderful interview, Tahlia, and I can't wait to read your novella! Best of luck with your decision about getting LETHAL INHERITANCE into print. I've been following that journey for awhile now, and the premise sounds so exciting! Hope we all get to read it soon.

Synopsis: You Can’t Shatter Me
Sixteen year old Carly wants to write her own life and cast herself as a superhero, but the story gets out of control when she stands up to a bully and he turns on her. His increasing harassment forces her to deal with flying hooks, giant thistles, deadly dragons and a suffocating closet. Dylan, a karate-trained nerd who supports her stand against the bully, turns out to be a secret admirer, and while he struggles to control his inner caveman, Carly searches for her own way to stop the bully.  An old hippie shows her an inner magic that’s supposed to make her invincible, but will Carly learn to use it before Dylan resorts to violence?
Book Links 
Purchase links
The paperback will be available via all major book retailers worldwide. If you would like to be notified when it’s released please fill in the form here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Announcements and Best June Read!

I'm thrilled to announce that I'll be hosting Tahlia Newland on July 1st as part of her Celebration of Indie Excellence tour promoting her new magical realism novella, You Can't Shatter Me. On her website, Tahlia describes the novella as about "a couple of ordinary teens who do extraordinary things to solve a bullying problem." Sounds fabulous, and I will be reading it ASAP!

I will also soon be hosting James Hutchings, with a short story, to promote his collection of dark fantasy short stories and poems, The New Death and Others.

Now, for my answer to this week's YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday. This week's prompt asks for your best June read.  Earlier in the month, I had the chance to go to an awesome book event at my local Barnes and Noble--the Dark Days of Summer tour. I purchased UNRAVELING by Elizabeth Norris, one of the three lovely authors on the panel. Following an awesome panel discussion, she signed my copy of her book. It's got an intelligent mystery that could spell the end of two universes, a beautifully written romance, and dimensional travel. I highly recommend it!

What was your favorite June read?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The 7X7 Link Award, RTW, and More!

A huge thanks to Michael Abayomi for this lovely award. I'm so excited to receive this, and to pass it along!  In order to do that, I first have to  list (and provide links) to my existing blog posts I feel fall into the following seven categories. So here it goes:

Most Beautiful Piece
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words....

Most Helpful Piece
Blog Tour: Interview with Mindy McGinnis

Most Popular Piece
Your Required Reading List

Most Controversial Piece
Words we Love, Words we Hate

Most Surprisingly Successful Piece
Your Writing Journey

Most Underrated Piece
YA Conversations: An End to Occlumency

Most Pride-Worthy Piece

And now, for the seven bloggers I award the 7 X 7 link award:

Katie at Writing With Cats
Samantha at Reading and Coffee
Karen Sandler
Ian Hiatt at Relics of Providence
Kate Scott
Stephanie Scott at A Girl and her Diary
Katharina Brendel at My Writing Journey

After a very long absence, I'm finally taking part in YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday again!

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic. We'd love for you to participate!

In preparation for our Bookmobile discussion of Kody Keplinger's A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHTMARE, This Week's Topic Is:

How did you spend/how will you spend the summer after graduation?

It's been great fun seeing everyone's answers to this question! My summer after graduating high school was a blast! My parents took me on a four-day cruise to the Bahamas--my first cruise ever--on the Carnival Fantasy. The ship was like I imagine Vegas to be, both in decor and in the style of the shows. I spent most of the summer working in the local video store, which had been my part-time job for about a year by that point. Oh, and I did go to summer church camp at the beach for the final time. Just reading about others' camp experiences brought it all back today, and I so miss hanging out at the beach with friends, meeting in reflection groups to consider different topics about God and His presence in our lives, and going to Vespers each night. Oh, and let's not forget the talent shows! So. Much. Fun.

What was your post-graduation summer like? What would you have liked to have done?

Oh, and I have an announcement to make of a new, upcoming blog event, but since this post is already getting long and my time very short, I will leave it at that for now and make the announcement in a new post very soon!