Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spooktacular Giveaway + Susan Dennard Interview!

Hey everyone! Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, so I'm really excited to be hosting a giveaway to celebrate my favorite spooky day! Since this is a Halloween giveaway, and I can't think of many creatures that are creepier than zombies, my giveaway is going to be the winner's choice of a book from Susan Dennard's Something Strange and Deadly trilogy and the e-novella, A Dawn Most Wicked. If the winner lives in the US/CAN, I'll also send you a signed bookplate to go in your book. Unfortunately I can't afford the postage to do that for my international friends.

Your Choice:

There's something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia. . . .

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about.

Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she's just read in the newspaper:

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor . . . from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she'll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

Perfect for fans of Libba Bray's The Diviners and Cassandra Clare's The Infernal Devices series, this spellbinding sequel to Something Strange and Deadly delivers a mix of supernatural forces and intense romance, set against the enchanting backdrop of nineteenth-century Paris.

With her brother dead and her mother insane, Eleanor Fitt is alone. Even the Spirit-Hunters—Joseph, Jie, and the handsome Daniel—have fled to Paris. So when Eleanor hears the vicious barking of hounds and sees haunting yellow eyes, she fears that the Dead, and the necromancer Marcus, are after her.

To escape, Eleanor boards a steamer bound for France. There she meets Oliver, a young man who claims to have known her brother. But Oliver harbors a dangerous secret involving necromancy and black magic that entices Eleanor beyond words. If she can resist him, she'll be fine. But when she arrives in Paris, she finds that the Dead have taken over, and there's a whole new evil lurking. And she is forced to make a deadly decision that will go against everything the Spirit-Hunters stand for.

In Paris, there's a price for this darkness strange and lovely, and it may have Eleanor paying with her life.

In the conclusion to the trilogy that Publishers Weekly called “a roaring—and addictive—gothic world,” Eleanor Fitt must control her growing power, face her feelings for Daniel, and confront the evil necromancer Marcus...all before it’s too late.

He took her brother, he took her mother, and now, Marcus has taken her good friend Jie. With more determination than ever to bring this sinister man to justice, Eleanor heads to the hot desert streets of nineteenth-century Egypt in hopes of ending this nightmare. But in addition to her increasingly tense relationships with Daniel, Joseph, and her demon, Oliver, Eleanor must also deal with her former friend, Allison, who has curiously entangled herself in Eleanor’s mission.

With the rising dead chomping at her every move and Jie’s life hanging in the balance, Eleanor is convinced that her black magic will see her through to the bitter end. But there will be a price. Though she and the Spirit Hunters have weathered every battle thus far, there will be consequences to suffer this time—the effects of which will be irreversible. And when it’s over, only some will be able to live a strange and ever after.

Susan Dennard will leave readers breathless and forever changed in the concluding pages of this riveting ride.


Daniel Sheridan is an engineer’s apprentice on a haunted Mississippi steamer known as the Sadie Queen. His best friend–the apprentice pilot, Cassidy Cochran–also happens to be the girl he’s pining for … and the captain’s daughter. But when it looks like the Sadie Queen might get taken off the river, Daniel and Cassidy have to do whatever they can to stop the ghosts that plague the ship.

Fortunately, there happens to be a Creole gentleman on board by the name of Joseph Boyer–and he just might be able to help them...

My Interview with Susan Dennard:
Amber: How did you come up with the idea to mix zombies with steampunk? That's kind of different.
Susan: Should I talk into the mic? I knew I wanted to do Steampunk because I thought it was really cool, like the visual aesthetics. It turns out that writing Steampunk is a lot harder than making it visually cool because in a book you have to explain why you have all the spinning gears and all the cool stuff. So I quickly realized that it was going to be more Steampunk-light. It was a matter of finding a good time period. Most people do Victorian England, I wanted to do something that was American, just because I like it. I ended up finding the Centennial Exhibition, so that's why I decided to go with 1876. Through the course of researching the Exhibition, I just had this idea of, like, first of all what scares me the most is zombies. They scare me more than any other paranormal creature. Then this image of zombies crawling through the Centennial Exhibition, because the Exhibition was the Disney World of 1876. They basically made a miniature town of cool things to see. I just thought how disturbing and terrifying would that be? I guess my brain is not normal, but how disturbing and scary would that be? I thought if I was scared, then I could make the readers scared, too. So a story was born!
Amber: Do you outline your stories or do you free-write?
Susan: I'm a little bit of both. I do something called headlights outlining, which is where I sort of know my ending, so I'm kind of aiming toward it, but I only know, as far as specifics go, as far as my headlights can see. I know the next scene or two pretty specifically, then I kind of look ahead a little bit more. I'm aiming for a certain location, but I might not get there. The ending might change. I kind of let the story guide me to where it wants to go, but I really, really also let the characters guide me where they want to go because I find that if I try to force a plot to the characters, then it feels forced.
Amber: What kind of research did you do for the Strange and Deadly trilogy? The characters go to a lot of different places... did you visit them all?
Susan: Philadelphia was surprisingly the hardest for me to get to because I was living in Germany. I actually didn't get to Philadelphia until I was almost done with the book, and that was mostly to verify that I all of my facts right. For book two, Paris, my husband is Parisian, so that works out. His parents actually now live near Marseilles, so that made it easy to visit there. I also got to visit Egypt, but I did not go to Cairo of the pyramids. I was going to have the Spirit Hunters go to Luxor, which is where I got to visit, but story-wise that didn't make any sense, so I got the feel of Egypt without actually going where they went. 
Amber: Did you read historical documents to get down how they talked?
Susan: Yeah, I read a lot of primary documents, like diaries or guide books written at the time. I also did a lot of reading of novels written at the time. Henry James had a lot of books published in and around 1876 and did a lot of traveling in France, so I read a lot of his books. Mark Twain, when I was doing A Dawn Most Wicked novella, which is set on the Mississippi River, I read a lot of Mark Twain because he was at work on the Mississippi on a steamer. I got a feel for that kind of stuff by reading novels and memoirs of the time.
Amber: What can you tell us about your new series? 
Susan: It's fantasy. They've been pitching it as Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Garth Nix's Abhorsen series, if you know those books. There's definitely magic. The first book, Truthwitch, follows a truth witch who can always tell truth from lie and her best friend, who is something called a thread witch, who can see the bonds that connect people. Unbeknownst to those girls, they are the chosen pair that is going to heal magic on their continent, but right now they're just trying to stay alive.
Amber: Yeah, that's important. With that one, is it going to be two points-of-view, between the two of them?
Susan: It's lots of points-of-view. There are four points-of-view in the first book. And there's also a sexy pirate! You have to have the sexy pirate's point-of-view, and the assassin monk I mentioned. You also need his point-of-view. So there are four points-of-view in the first book. I'm also doing some side novellas with other points-of-view with secondary, but important characters. It's a huge book.
Amber: Do you ever get stuck while writing, and if so, how do you get past the block?
Susan: I have a lot of links on that because this is something that I've spent a lot of time considering. I do get stuck a lot because I don't really outline and because I find that outlines don't work for me, I definitely get stuck. When I'm stuck, I tend to do two things. Either I write down a list of what I call my cookies, which are the things that I want to write in a scene because if I can figure out what makes me passionate about the story overall, I can figure out what would make me want to write the next scene. I know I got stuck in Truthwitch, and I didn't know what should come next. I needed to write a party scene, but I had no desire to write the party. Then I was like, "wait, if I put a sexy pirate in the party, then suddenly I do want to write this scene. Okay, that wasn't what I was thinking, but all right, let's figure this out." So, insert sexy pirate and the scene just fell out. Other times it's not that easy, it's a matter of not knowing that something was broken before. So what I'll do is go through and map out what I call my dominoes, which are sort of the emotional beats of each scene, leading up to the scene I'm in, and make sure that they're falling in a way that feels right. Is the character doing what the character really would do, or do I have her doing something wonky in a different scene. Often times that will lead me to the right spot. My last tip for when you're stuck is to figure out where all of your characters are and what they're doing. It's easy to get so focused on your point-of-view character that you lose track of what everyone else is doing at the same time. I'm really bad about that. So if you sit down, and you figure out where every single character is, fill in secondary characters' love interests, whatever, you might realize that whatever they're doing in the background will dictate what comes in your next scene, and that will help you unstick yourself. 
Amber: Do you consciously create strong female characters, or do you just write people who you would like?
Susan: There's always a different definition for a "strong" character, and Eleanor definitely comes into her strength. She's not a fighter or anything and she learns a lot from the people around her. The biggest thing she learns is to make her own choices. I don't know, I guess I always read books with strong female characters. That dictated what I wanted to read and wanted to write. I also read a lot of books where the women are just flat, or all of the characters are, and that is not what I want to write or want to read. I guess it just comes naturally. I don't want to read or write about flimsy people.

I'd just like to thank Susan again for taking the time to talk to me and answer my questions. 

The Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  1. I've been wanting to read this series for a long time! Steampunk and zombies seems like an interesting mix. Headlights outlining sounds interesting. I think it would be more fun to not know everything that is going to happen but having an end point is a good way to stay on track. I love strong female characters too and glad to see so much of them now.

  2. I haven't read this series but I have had it on my TBR for a while!! I haven't really read any books about zombies and it would be something different for me to read.

  3. I would love to read this series! The idea of it sounds just amazing Steampunk and Zombies? Best idea ever! Thanks so much for the giveaway! :)

  4. I've already read all of these, so I'm not going to enter this giveaway. But, I will say that whoever wins them is in for a treat! Loved these books :) Great prize!

  5. I've seen this floating around on booktube, and have been wanting to give it a go! Thanks for the opportunity!


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