Friday, November 03, 2017

Cynsations News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith,
Gayleen Rabakukk & Robin Galbraith
for Cynsations

Author/ Illustrator Interviews

Meet National Book Award Finalist Rita Williams-Garcia by Emily Temple from Lit Hub. Peek:
“How do you tackle writer’s block? I box, knit, write, and read. Physicality helps to jar me out of my mental state. It shakes things free.”

An Interview with Alan Gratz, Author of Ban This Book by Dorian Cirrone from From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek:
“...the ALA thinks that 85-95 percent of books challenged or banned each year go unreported. 85-95 percent!... That means that thousands more books just disappear from shelves every year, and no one hears about them because no one makes a stink about them.”

Pretty Peacock! Big Book! by Bethany Hegedus from Brave Tutu. Peek:
“...why small moments matter: simple ah-ha's, breaths in, breaths released, moments spent engaged deeply in our work and with our loved ones. A life well lived is is spent moment to moment. It's the moment that matters.”

April Pulley Sayre and Full of Fall by Adi Rule from WCYA The Launch Pad From Vermont College of Fine Arts. Peek:
“I’m unusually good at coming up with titles and poetic and alliterative language. I think it’s like a muscle, though, and improves with use. Despite my early signs of talent in this area, it also helps that I just goof around and have done this work for over twenty years.”

Meet National Book Award Finalist Erika L. Sánchez by Emily Temple from Lit Hub. Peek:
"I think poets often make strong prose writers because we pay obsessive attention to image, rhythm, and sentence structure. I write prose very slowly because of this. In fact, I printed out the first draft of the novel and rewrote it entirely."

Interview: Dianne White on Teaching, Learning & Books from The Booking Biz. Peek:
“I definitely didn’t imagine a career as a children’s book author. It was really my experience as a classroom teacher that introduced me to a world of children’s books I hadn’t realized existed.”

Writing About Addiction for Kids by Kate Messner from School Library Journal. Peek:
"Heroin addiction wasn’t something that happened in my upper middle-class neighborhood...Looking back, I’m ashamed of that reaction. It embodies nearly every stereotype about who’s affected by the opioid epidemic, when in reality, the crisis is affecting all kinds of families, including the one next door."


10 Ways to Be An Anti-Racist Reader by Laura Sackton from BookRiot. Peek: “...but there are lots of other ways you can weave racial justice into your reading life. From using books to help you navigate hard conversations about race to providing the kids in your life with diverse books, here are ten suggestions on how to be an anti-racist reader.”

The Importance of “Mirror Books” in the Classroom by Anna Nardelli from Lee & Low Blog. Peek: “Mirror books give children the chance to see a representation of themselves in a book. For some children, this is not a common occurrence, but when it happens it lets them know that this world is full of people who are just like them. Window books give children another outlook on the world.”

Writing Cross-Culturally Workshop March 15-19, 2018 from Madcap Retreats & We Need Diverse Books. Faculty includes Laurie Halse Anderson, Marie Lu and other authors. Scholarships are available for writers from "marginalized" communities. Application deadline is Nov. 15.

#IndigenousReads by Indigenous Writers: A Children’s Reading List from Medium. Peek: "Indigenous people are very much a part of today’s society. With their stories, Indigenous writers share the range of their lives, past and present....curated by The Conscious Kid Library and American Indians in Children’s Literature, in partnership with Brooklyn Children’s Museum." Note: Includes Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (HarperCollins, 2000).

Writing Craft

Transforming a Short Story Into a Novel by Mary Lynn Bracht from Writer’s Digest. Peek: “I was limited in the number of events I could include in the short story, so it was an easy task to list all of the scenes I wished I could have written.”

5 Tips on Writing a Cliffhanger by Heather Kaczynski from Janice Hardy’s Fiction University. Peek: “Cliffhangers are a bit of a double-edged sword – you do it right, you get your readers chomping at the bit for the next book in the series. Do it wrong, and you alienate and confuse them.”

Bringing Dead Characters to Life by Mary Kole from KidLit. Peek: “Character relationships are crucial. But there’s a fly in the ointment if your character is no longer around, dead, missing.... How do you create a rich and compelling relationship with someone who isn’t there? The most important first step is to think about this point instead of glossing over it.”

Describing Your Character: How To Make Each Detail Count by Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: “Description should be deliberate, with each detail pushing the story forward rather than holding it back via a bloated word count. This means making careful selections, and only describing things that are meaningful.”


Publishing Uncovered: The World of a Literary Scout–and International Rights by Parul Macdonald from Writer unBoxed. Peek: “At any one time, a good Scout can tell you the top 10 books editors or agents are reading ; their job is to know. But they are human and, as in the case of J.K Rowling’s secret, there are things that simply can’t be known.”

Inclusive Children's Publisher 'Knights Of' Launches by Caroline Carpenter from The Bookseller. Peek: “Former Scholastic employees Aimée Felone and David Stevens are launching a new children’s publisher that will focus on commissioning writers and illustrators from a diverse range of backgrounds. The London-based venture...will publish commercial fiction for five to 15-year-olds that will be distributed through the U.K., Ireland and Europe.”

How to Write a Synopsis for a Novel by Nathan Bransford from his blog. Peek: “A synopsis is slightly different from a query letter, which includes biographical information, and it’s also different than jacket copy, which is more oriented to selling a book and avoids spoilers.”

Q&A: Jill Corcoran of the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency from Kirkus Reviews. Peek: "I think there is a greater emphasis on unique and authentic concepts and voices than ever. Today, the trends are fresh ideas, characters, and plotting. Discoverability is a huge obstacle, so the more marketing hooks publishers can use to help readers find your book, the better."

This Week at Cynsations


Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Awards! Particularly, Cherie Dimaline for The Marrow Thieves (Cormorant Books, 2017) and David A. Robertson and Julie Flett for When We Were Alone (Portage & Main Press, 2017). See Cynsations interview with David A. Robertson.

More Personally - Cynthia

Wow! What a wonderful time I had last week at For The Love of Reading at Zermatt Resort in Midway, Utah via Utah Valley University's Forum on Engaged Reading.

Kelly, April & Denise on the conference stage.
I had the honor of sharing a keynote address and a breakout talk, as did my fellow keynoters author-illustrator Denise Fleming, author-poet-photographer April Pulley Sayre, and Newbery author Kelly Barnhill. Thanks to the planning committee, especially Nancy Peterson (UVU elementary education).

What I loved most about the conference was its emphasis on the joy and positive power of reading. It was such a delight to visit informally and in-depth with teachers, librarians, fellow children's book creators and other book lovers. This was definitely one of my all-time favorite book events.

In other news, I'm delighted to welcome Melanie J. Fishbane to Cynsations as our reporter covering children's-YA book creator, writing community and publishing news in Canada.

Check out WriteOnCon: a children's literature conference for writers and illustrators Feb. 9 to Feb. 11, 2018. Note: I'm offering first-10 pages critiques.

Congrats to Native writer Charlene Willing McManis on her debut sale of her historical middle grade novel Indian No More to Stacy Whitman at Tu Books!

Links of the Week

Eliana de Las Casas And Her Mama’s Bayou from Picture Book Month. Peek: "My mom, Dianne de Las Casas, had a big heart and big dreams. Ever since she was a little girl, she wanted to write books. She was fascinated by picture books and how they could change children’s lives."

Defining Success: Authors Weigh In by Caroline Starr Rose from Project Mayhem. Peek: “I asked some friends, from the newly to the broadly published, how they defined success (anonymously, so they could be candid). There is so much wisdom here.”

More Personally - Gayleen

I was thrilled to join Austin Authors Lindsey Lane, Meredith Davis, Anne Bustard, Greg Leitich Smith, Gene Brenek, Liz Garton Scanlon, Sean Petrie, Donna Jannell Bowman and Rebekah Manley (not pictured) for a tour of the new Austin Public Library.

It's a fantastic center for literature and community and seeing it for the first time with fellow writers made it even more amazing!

More Personally- Robin 

For my 2017 Halloween Book Witch Project, I collected all the books I’d bought over the year at book signings and to support author friends and gave them out for Halloween, instead of candy.

Several kids told me this was “the best thing to happen on Halloween ever!”

I’m already planning next year’s Book Witch project.

Personal Links - Cynthia

Personal Links - Robin

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Survivors: Uma Krishnaswami on Thriving as a Long-Time, Actively Publishing Children's Author

Learn more about Uma Krishnaswami.
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

In children's-YA writing, maintaining an active publishing career is arguably an even bigger challenge than breaking into the field.

Reflecting on your personal journey, what bumps did you encounter and how have you managed to defy the odds to achieve continued success? 

I was a writer before I knew it.

When I was a child growing up in India, I read just about all the time and in between books, I'd dash off stories and poems and little fragments of stuff that came right out of my solemn little heart.

Fast-forward twenty years from those early masterpieces to a graduate degree, a husband, a home in suburban Washington D.C., a new baby, and a renewed yearning to write.

My first effort at a children's book was swiftly accepted, and then quickly orphaned when the acquiring editor left the publishing house. So that was a bump right away.

Then the publication of that first book was followed by a year or so of rejections, which felt bumpy but, in retrospect, constituted a kind of schooling. I started getting better and better at reading those letters, at decoding what they seemed to be saying to me. I learned to be grateful for the personal rejections in my burgeoning collection.

In fact, I became something of a curatorial expert at rejection letters. I even wrote one of my own. (See For Writers and scroll to the bottom of the page.)

And I kept on writing. I took a class here and there.

I wrote magazine stories and pretty soon some of them began to get published.

Then the wonderful Diantha Thorpe at Linnet Books/The Shoe String Press in Connecticut accepted my traditional story collection, The Broken Tusk: Stories of the Hindu God Ganesha (1996, re-released by August House, 2006).

Diantha was a woman of tact and skill and an amazing editor. She was wise and knowledgeable and so very kind. I learned so much from her!

At the same time, I came to treat the traditional retold tale as an apprenticeship in plot. And most of all, I kept on writing.

If you had it to do all over again, what—if anything—would you do differently and why?

One thing for sure. I'd let go my precious intentions for my work faster than I did.

I'd be bolder. I'd speak up more.

I used to attend children's book events and feel quite intimidated by the giants in the field, I think especially because, for many years, I wasn't seeing any writers of color among them.

In all, I'd probably do more or less what I did, but I'd be more courageous about it. I'd trust my own instincts more than I did. I had to learn to do that, and sometimes it was a steep learning curve.

For one thing, everyone kept telling me about the so-called "universal story," the structure that our brains are supposedly wired to recognize. Study the Joseph Campbell model, they said.

I did, quite earnestly, but something always felt wrong to me. I didn't have the vocabulary at the time to express that discomfort in a way that anyone else might have understood.

Only later, when I read folklorists' critiques of Campbell, did I understand my own gut reactions. If I could do it over, I'd want to speed up the understanding and deepen the confidence.

The field and body of literature are always evolving. For you, what have been the stand-out changes in the world children's-YA writing, literature and publishing? What do you think of them and why?

One huge change that I see is a long process that has culminated in the present furious public conversation about diversity, especially in YA. It's fierce and impassioned and, like so much else in the online world, it can wear you down.

Sometimes I get impatient with it, but in all I think it's good, because it has forced publishers and reviewers to take notice.

It's a groundswell movement (take We Need Diverse Books as an example), and it's made the corporate world pay attention. How often does that happen?

At another level, it's been amazing to see the growth and tenacity of independent publishers like Lee & Low Books, Cinco Puntos Press, Enchanted Lion, and others who have pushed the conversation in terms of diverse books as well as international and translated books.

It's a challenging time to be a writer, but it's also an exciting time.

What advice would you give to your beginner self, if that version of you was a debut author this year? 

I would tell myself to steel my nerve. I'd tell myself to keep the faith, let each book go into the world free from my anxiety about its worth.

I'd want my beginner self to know that I have many stories in me, that the well is not going to run dry.

"You will reinvent yourself many times over as a writer," I'd tell myself.  
"You will write in many forms; you will push yourself to try new ways of seeing and feeling. Some will fit you and others won't, but you will become capable of transforming your work again and again into something new. 
"Each time you shift what you write, you will become a better writer."

Oh, and I might say what I tell students. That publication is good. It is the point of it all, but it is not the source of joy. That comes from the work itself.

What do you wish for children's-YA writers (and readers), looking to the future? 

I wish for books of all kinds for all kinds of readers.

I wish for books that make young people think, see the truth, and reach for their own better selves. And laughter. I wish us laughter.

I wish us all, and our readers, a world that is capable of getting beyond the fractiousness and hatreds of today.

I wish for a healed planet, because I think that in the end we're not just saving ourselves with story, or our readers.

I wish us all the ability to save the world with story.

It may be the only weapon we have left, but I trust in its power with all my heart.

As a writer, what do you wish for yourself in the future?

I wish for clarity of vision.

I wish to keep doing what I do and keep finding joy in it.

Cynsational Notes

The Survivors Interview Series offers in-depth reflections and earned wisdom from children's-YA book authors who have successfully built long-term, actively-publishing careers.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

New Cynsations Reporter: Melanie J. Fishbane

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Melanie J. Fishbane joins the Cynsations team as a reporter covering children's-YA writing, illustration, publishing and other book news originating in Canada.

Melanie J. Fishbane holds an M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and an M.A. in History from Concordia University.

With over seventeen years' experience in children's publishing, she lectures internationally on children's literature. A freelance writer and social media consultant, her work can be found in magazines, such as The Quill & Quire.

Melanie also loves writing essays and her first one, "My Pen Shall Heal, Not Hurt": Writing as Therapy in L.M. Montgomery's Rilla of Ingleside and The Blythes Are Quoted," is included in L.M. Montgomery's Rainbow Valleys: The Ontario Years 1911-1942 (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2015). And, her short story, "The New Girl," was published in the Zoetic NonBinary Review.

Her first YA novel, Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery, was published by Penguin Teen in 2017.

The novel was featured on the Huffington Post's Summer Reading List, a top pick for the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Kids Summer Reading pick and winner of Hamilton Public Library's Next Top Novel.

Melanie lives in Toronto with her partner and their very entertaining cat, Merlin.

Read an article by Melanie about Earning & Celebrating Success. Peek:
"What had Lynne seen in my writing that made her think I could do this? Sure, I had been lecturing on L.M. Montgomery at conferences, and had wanted to write historical fiction for kids ever since I learned it was a thing you could do…but there had to be other, way more established authors, who could do this better than I.

"Lynne asked me to put together a proposal with an outline and a few sample chapters that would demonstrate my vision for the novel. Three months later, I sent a ten-page proposal and the first forty pages and waited. And waited."

Follow Melanie on Twitter @MelanieFishbane and like her on Facebook. Photo by Ayelet Tsabari.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Guest Post: Helena Echlin on How to Write (& Rewrite) a Tale of Suspense

By Helena Echlin
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Cynsations Note: 

Happy Halloween! 

Yesterday we heard from Gillian French about techniques for building suspense. 

Today Helena Echlin shares her take on giving your readers goosebumps. 

And if you looking for even more ways to scare your readers, check out this post from April Henry, one of the post popular Cynsations posts ever.

And now, Helena.

One rainy Friday the 13th a few years ago, I met up for a drink with fellow novelist Malena Watrous, and complained about how hard it was to get any writing done, since we both had jobs and young children.

We recalled how we’d devoured books as kids and teens, and we wanted to write as a suspenseful story that would captivate readers in the same way. If I worked on a story like that, I was sure I’d find the time and energy to write it, whatever it took.

Malena confided her idea: a girl wakes up and finds her older sister missing from their shared bedroom. The only people who can help the girl save her sister are the mean girls at school. I was hooked. Fueled by more cocktails, we plotted out the entire story that night.

We’d both published novels already and we both taught fiction-writing.

So, we naively figured, how hard could it be to dash off a suspenseful YA thriller in a few months?

After the angst-filled life of the solo writer, it was enormously fun to get together in a café every week and rough out the next few scenes. We’d each draft a scene on our own, squeezing in a writing session while watching the kids in swim class or at the end of a long day, and then we’d bat the scenes back and forth until we were happy.

We dashed off that first draft in a mere five months, convinced we had a bestseller on our hands. Then trusted readers looked over that draft and told us that our careers writing sensitive, nuanced, literary novels hadn’t prepared us to be thriller writers well as we thought.

Yes, the novel was gripping in places, but in parts it fell flat.

So we hunkered down and rewrote our book more times than I will ever admit.

When it comes to writing a thriller, it’s essential to start with a gripping concept, but you can do much to amp up the suspense in successive drafts.

Here’s what we learned about how to captivate your reader:

Keep raising the stakes. The protagonist’s desire is what drives the plot in any novel, but in a suspense novel, it’s not enough if all the protagonist wants is to renovate his house in Nova Scotia or breathe new life into a middle-aged marriage.

If you are writing a thriller, raise the stakes higher, and keep raising them. At first, our heroine Laurel wants to find her sister Ivy. Then she realizes she has to rescue Ivy from a kidnapper and she only has a week to do so.

Then she realizes that Ivy’s kidnapper is an ancient demon. Side benefit: if you’re a busy mom who worries about things like what will your kids take for lunch other than cream cheese sandwiches, it is incredibly relaxing to write about a girl who has much bigger problems.

Hide the truth in plain sight. Readers don’t like guessing the truth too soon. They want you to mislead them along with the protagonist. But they also like to feel that in retrospect there was a trail of clues.

Your job is to plant these clues without drawing attention to them. In one of our early drafts, our villain kept offering the girls fleur-de-sel-topped caramels. Their taste was “a dreamy combination of butterscotch pudding and salted popcorn and as soon as you had finished one, you wanted just one more.”

In successive drafts, it became clear that these caramels just screamed “demonic magic,” so we had to kill that darling.

Avoid “zombie character syndrome.”
My writing students are often so focused on what happens in a story that they forget to have their characters react to it. I call this “zombie character syndrome.”

In fact, interiority—what a character is thinking and feeling—is an important way to increase suspense. It draws the reader’s attention to an approaching threat and makes it sharp and specific.

If your character isn’t scared, then your reader won’t be either. In our first draft, Laurel always “gulped” or “swallowed” when she was terrified (or sometimes had a “lump” in her chest or throat).
What a cliché. In successive drafts, we found more complex and vivid ways to show her reactions.

Book trailer for Sparked (Geek & Sundry, October 2017)

Slow down when it matters. It may seem that writing a fast-paced story means that things have to happen in quick succession, but don’t rush through climactic moments.

The reader is desperate to know what happens next and at the same time, their pleasure lies in the anticipation rather than in finding out. So slow way down.

It’s more psychologically realistic too: if a character’s adrenaline is peaking, their attention is hyper-focused and he or she will notice every detail.

At one point, a psychopath with a hunting rifle threatens Laurel and her friends while she cowers behind a log. In revision, we added in the song of a particular bird, “like the snip of scissor blades,” and have her numbly notice a pill bug on a blade of grass.

Surprise yourself. If you’re writing a tightly constructed novel with lots of twists and turns, you’re probably going to need an outline, unless you’re Stephen King. But don’t stick to it.

Often, the best ideas come from your subconscious, when you are least expecting it. Be open to those ideas and be prepared to change your story or rewrite it entirely if necessary. Remember: if you know what’s going to happen when you are writing it, so will the reader.

When we thought we were finally done, Malena had a plot epiphany at the DMV that meant we had to embark on yet one more draft. But now, when readers say they had “no idea what was coming next” or comment on the “hairpin twists and turns,” it was totally worth it.

Cynsations Notes

Malena and Helena
Helena Echlin, a native of the U.K., is the author of the novel Gone (Random House UK, 2002) and for five years wrote "Table Manners," an etiquette advice column for Chow, the online food and drink magazine.

She has also written for the Guardian, The Times, and The Sunday Telegraph in the U.K., and Yoga Journal and The San Francisco Chronicle in the U.S.. She lives in Berkeley and teaches fiction-writing online for Stanford.

Malena Watrous co-authored Sparked. Malena also wrote the novel If You Follow Me (Harper Perennial, 2010).

She was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford and helped to found the Online Writers’ Certificate, Stanford’s two-year online novel-writing program.

She teaches fiction-writing for Stanford as well as working on her own fiction, and has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times. She lives in San Francisco.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Guest Post: Gillian French on Hooking Readers: How to Build Suspense

By Gillian French
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Cynsations Note: 

What scares you? Snakes? Spiders? Bigfoot? It's different for everyone. Likewise, authors use different approaches for building suspense. 

Our Halloween treat for you is a glimpse at techniques from two YA authors for upping the stakes. 

We suspect this is a topic you want to know more about, because the most popular Cynsations posts of all time is April Henry's guest post on adding tension.

So,without further ado, Gillian French offers a plan to give your readers chills.

And tomorrow Helena Eichlin will present a different route.

Readers want to be hooked.

We’re addicted to the rush of finding a story we want to live in, characters we want to bring along everywhere—the laundromat, the commute, lunchbreaks. Broken down to its basic components, any un-put-downable story has suspense at its core. Not just footsteps-coming-up-the-stairs goosebumps, but a genuine investment in how things are going to turn out for our protagonist, and, ideally, the more peripheral characters in the book as well.

You recognize compelling suspense when you read it—but as a writer, how do you craft this vital element and keep your audience turning pages until the wee hours?

Read on for three methods I swear by:

Strong Character Motivation: This is your most important job as a storyteller: making readers care about your characters. The swiftest way to do that is to figure out what each character wants, an easily relatable standpoint. We all have something we’re working toward, something that matters to us, whether it’s being a loving mom or a world-class bungee jumper.

See also April Henry on Just Add Tension.
In my YA paranormal thriller, The Door to January (Islandport Press, 2017), protagonist Natalie wants to find out why she’s experiencing a reoccurring nightmare about an abandoned farmhouse in her former hometown. The stakes are high right out of the gate—her peace of mind and sanity are in jeopardy—making it easy for readers to invest in her pursuit of the truth. As the action unfolds and more danger is revealed, Natalie’s journey grows more perilous, and, with some luck, a page-turner is born.

Even antagonistic characters need motivation. No matter how loathsome you want readers to find your villain, he or she needs to exist in your book as more than an awfulness-producing machine.

As uncomfortable as it may be, cast yourself in that role; we’ve all had our unlovely moments, times when we’ve done things we regret. The difference is, when this character does something awful, they rarely regret it. You may be surprised by how freeing that is, and how much fun you can have playing devil’s advocate.

Timing Is Everything: Knowing when to ratchet up the suspense in your book can be tricky. Randomly dropping in action-packed or frightening scenes just because you’re worried that you’ll lose your reader can be indicative of larger structural problems or issues with character development, and probably won’t be effective.

Have faith that your audience will hang in there during the quieter sections of the book; that said, every scene must have a purpose, even if it’s a conversation between two characters over coffee. A plot needs to work as a machine with multiple moving parts, churning towards one conclusion. Easy to say, not so easy to do.

Simply put, the “big” scenes should feel natural because the pages that came before built the foundation to support them.
  • If you find that your plot sags in places, try charting out a simple chapter outline, highlighting gripping, standout scenes. If you see uneven gaps between them, you may want to consider restructuring to make the action feel more measured.
Franklin Treat House, a reportedly haunted mansion in Frankfort, Maine
near Gillian's hometown. "I've heard stories about it since I was a kid."
Tap into Your Senses: We’ve all felt anticipation and fear; the key is, remembering the finer details of those experiences and breaking it down on the page to get the strongest reaction from your reader.

  • Think of a time when you were genuinely afraid—what effect did it have on your body, how you perceived your surroundings? Was any one sense heightened, a normally mundane smell like stale coffee, or a background noise like passing traffic or a ticking clock? 
  • If it was a person you were afraid of, what was it about their body language or attitude that lingers in your memory? This is your chance to dig into an uncomfortable memory and make it work for you. Brainstorm everything about that moment, then see which details really stand out.
Also, contrasts in sensory perception can go a long way toward disquieting your readers. In The Door to January, during the first confrontation between Natalie and Jason, a boy who bullied and terrorized her when they were younger, I drew the focus in tight, contrasting the brightness of Jason’s words—“Hey, there, sunshine”—with the flat, cold expression in his eyes, trying to put both Natalie and the reader off-balance, not sure what he might do next.

We’re all engineered to seek level ground, to find certainty, and readers will fly through pages to find out when or if the characters achieve that.

Reading and writing suspense are the perfect way to experience nail-biting moments from the safety of your favorite chair. The more you finetune your craft, the stronger your grip on your audience will be—and you may be surprised when they thank you for the ride of their life.

Cynsational Notes

Kirkus Reviews called The Door to January (Islandport Press, 2017), "Chilling and suspenseful, this paranormal thriller with a touch of romance will keep readers on the edges of their seats."

Growing up in rural Maine led Gillian French to believe that the mystery of the past is all around. She uses her surroundings as a setting for the dark stories that often have a creepy twist.

While she’s never seen a ghost, she’s pretty sure she’s heard ghostly footsteps in the night.

Gillian’s short fiction has appeared in various publications and anthologies. Her first YA novel, Grit (HarperCollins, 2017) received starred reviews from both Kirkus Reviews and Booklist.

Her next novel,  The Lies They Tell (HarperCollins) is scheduled for publication in May 2018.

She holds a degree in English from the University of Maine and is perpetually at work on her next novel.
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