Author Spotlight: E. C. Meyers


If you’re a fan of Mr. Robot or just love anything tech related you’ll love E. C. Meyers’ YA novel, The Silence of Six, which goes on sale everywhere on December 6. I got the chance to chat with him about the book, his knowledge about hacking, and more! You can read the full interview below and make sure to grab a copy of The Silence of Six when it’s released.

If you had to summarize The Silence of the Six in three words how would you summarize it?

Hacktivists versus government.

The Silence of the Six deals a lot with hacking and computer programming. Did you have any background in computer programming before you wrote this novel?

Aside from a basic class in high school, I have no computer programming experience. I’m not even particularly adept at maintaining or modifying computers, but I’ve always been comfortable with looking up whatever information I need to accomplish something and unafraid to roll up my sleeves and try it for myself. I’m familiar with much of the technology in the book, but not even remotely an expert on any of it!

What made you first start writing?

I’ve been writing since I was very young. I love stories in every form, especially books, and I’ve always enjoyed creating stories of my own and sharing them with others.

What is your writing process like?

My process is always changing, and every project is different. I usually have at least a rough idea of where things are going and I just start typing. I write wherever and whenever I have to, as long as I have a keyboard.

Are you working on any other YA novels for the future?

I have a completed YA novel I would still like to publish, but right now I’m focusing on a few short stories I’ve promised to various YA anthologies. My next long-form project will actually be a middle grade fantasy.

Who are some of your favorite authors right now?

It’s hard not to gush about so many authors! I’m a big fan of Jaclyn Moriarty’s Colors of Madeleine trilogy, though I haven’t had a chance to read the last book yet. I’m always a fan of Philip Reeve, whose fabulous book Mortal Engines is being adapted into a film by Peter Jackson, so I hope more people will discover his work. I am loving Gwenda Bond’s YA Lois Lane series, and Kelly Barnhill’s middle grade novels are enchanting; her book The Girl Who Drank the Moon is also being adapted into an animated feature.

Besides writing, what other hobbies are you interested in?

Besides writing and parenting and work, I don’t have a lot of time for other things, but I enjoy photography and playing video games. I used to collect old 8-bit Nintendo games, and lately I’ve gotten back into retro gaming. I just started streaming live sessions of me playing [Nintendo Entertainment System] games when I can. I am also actively exploring podcasting.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Read a lot, and read everything! When you start writing, don’t get caught up in worrying about whether it’s any good until you finish a draft — you must finish it, and almost everything can be fixed in revision. Set manageable, realistic goals: “I will finish writing a novel in three months” instead of “I will get a publishing deal this year.” Try to have fun and don’t lose sight of why you’re writing in the first place.


Trish Cook

Author Spotlight: Trish Cook


I had the wonderful opportunity to interview YA author Trish Cook about her writing and her new novel, Outward Blonde, which will be released on Oct. 18, exclusively at Barnes and Noble. Check out the interview below and make sure to grab a copy of her new book.

What made you first start writing?

I’ve always loved reading and have a super-active imagination. Those two qualities seem to lend themselves really well to the writing life. In grade school, I was always writing short stories. In high school, angst poetry. In college, personal essays. From there, I really wanted to tackle a novel. It’s all a journey but long story short: I’ve always loved to write and have always done it for enjoyment.

What is your writing process like?

My process is that an idea captures my imagination, whether it’s a wild story I heard that happened to someone or something in the news or just a snippet that comes to me organically. I use whatever idea has sparked my interest as a jumping off point and the story starts to shape around that. Once I have a general idea of the plot—maybe I’ve let the idea run around my brain for a good week or so—I sit down at my computer in my neon green, hot pink, and orange office and start to write. I don’t outline or try to get too down and dirty with details in the beginning, because I like to see what turns the story takes naturally as it goes along. My characters often surprise me and I love it. That’s one of the most exciting and interesting parts about writing for me.

Your latest novel, Outward Blonde, is about a teen sent to a kind of rehab camp. How did you come up with that idea?

My publisher, Adaptive Studios, has a really unique way of approaching YA books: They take unmade film projects and ask YA writers to create novels based on them. Outward Blonde was originally a movie set to star Hilary Duff!  Adaptive came to me with what they call a “spark page”—just the most basic outline of what the story is: A spoiled, rich New York girl gets in trouble and gets sent to wilderness camp. I never read the script for the movie that was never made. I just developed the story based off the spark page and had so much fun doing it.

If you had to summarize Outward Blonde in three words how would you summarize it?

Funny, fierce, and deep.

You’re currently writing a memoir. How is writing that different than writing YA novels?

Writing a memoir is actually pretty similar to writing a YA novel. For both, you have to create a definitive story arc, complex characters, interesting dialogue. Where they differ, though, is that you have to try and recreate moments exactly as they happened in a memoir, as closely as you can—you are going for total truthfulness. In YA, you can let your imagination run wild and make up whatever you want to. But they are both fun in different ways!

You also co-wrote A Really Awesome Mess with Brendan Halpin. How was co-writing with someone different than just writing by yourself?

Writing with Brendan was awesome. He is married to my best friend from junior high school! We live in different cities, halfway across the country from each other, so we did it all over email. We wrote in alternating chapters, with him writing the guy’s part and me writing the girl’s part. It was like improv. I would hand him off a chapter and wait. I never knew what was going to happen next and it was always such a surprise because all sorts of things I never expected happened. I loved having to be flexible and just go with whatever he’d thrown out there, and vice versa.

I thought collaborating would be this easy and fun no matter who your writing partner is but as it turns out, no. I’ve tried co-writing with other people and it’s never matched the experience/vibe/flow I have with Brendan.

Are you working on any other YA novels right now?

I am! I have this big idea I’m just starting to put on paper that was sparked by a crazy news story. It’s still very much at the fledgling idea stage so we’ll see if it works out!

Who are some of your favorite authors right now?

In YA, favorites right now are Joelle Charbonneau, Christa Desir, and John Green. If we’re going old school, Judy Blume. My favorite book in high school was The Cheerleader by Ruth Doan MacDougall, which no one has ever heard of but it was thrilling to me, to think teens back in the 1950s were the same as teens when I was growing up, which are the same as teens now. The milestones you have to go through are universal, no matter what generation you grow up in. Also, the best book I’ve read lately, while not strictly YA, is a memoir called Look at You Now by Liz Pryor. It’s about a pregnant teen sent to a lock-up facility to have her baby, and it is beautifully written and so compelling.

Besides writing, what other hobbies are you interested in?

My biggest hobby outside of writing is that I row with a master’s crew. Right now, we’re training for the Head of the Charles regatta in Boston. I also love traveling, going to concerts, watching the Chicago Blackhawks and high school/college field hockey, [eating] sushi, and hanging with my family.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

OMG YES. Write. And keep on writing. And don’t let anyone make you stop. Share your writing with friends you trust, or find an online community. Writing is a lonely sport, but we do it to connect with others through words. So let someone see what you’re doing. You’ll get better because of it and find a sense of camaraderie too. Join clubs at school, like the newspaper or literary magazine, and share your talents with others. Be brave and submit your writing to contests. There are even summer programs and literary conferences that are like writing camps where you can go and bond with other creative people. Dream big. Why not? You never know what you can do unless you try. Trust that you know yourself well enough that you’re probably not going to grow out of whatever it is you dream of doing. If you’re scared—even more reason to give it a shot. That just means you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and that’s okay. Be brave. Start now.

Author Spotlight: Lauren Marsh

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Photo Credit: Kristin Gillis Photography

Lauren Marsh, also known as L. S. Kilroy, is the author of a new YA dystopian novel, The Vitruvian Heir, her debut novel.The story follows Lorelei “Lore” Fetherston, an aristocrat with a rebellious streak and a penchant for writing – something forbidden among her sex – as she tries to carve out her own destiny despite the oppressive regime. I got the chance to talk to Marsh about her writing and The Virtuvian Heir recently. Check out the interview below and make sure to check out her new novel.

Why did you start writing?

Growing up an asthmatic only child in a neighborhood of [elderly people], I made friends with books at a young age, both out of necessity and genuine enjoyment. Early exposure to the classics fueled my own writing. I began making up stories and would stay up until all hours feverishly writing summaries and illustrating book jackets for ideas as they came to me. These I kept in an old Snoopy and Woodstock suitcase under my bed. At age fifteen a man in a bookstore asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I replied, “Writer,” without hesitation. Being a writer is the one thing in my life I’ve never doubted.

Why did you choose to self-publish The Virtuvian Heir?

I [wanted] to attempt to be “traditionally published,” because I felt like and still feel that there’s a stigma around doing it yourself. However, I’m starting to change my thinking as more authors are publishing their own high quality works. When it came down to it, I wanted to get my story into the hands of readers before it became irrelevant and without waiting for an agent to decide my work is good enough for them to represent. I think it’s good enough and readers are mirroring that sentiment so that’s all that matters.

Is The Vitruvian Heir your first novel? 

It’s my first published novel, but it’s the third that I’ve completed.

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

When I was a sophomore in high school, my history teacher [told] us about the time when Catherine de’ Medici ruled the French court. She had a group of beautiful female spies called the Flying Squadron (L’escadron Volant), whom she recruited to seduce important men in court and then report back to her. My 15-year-old self took this fascinating lesson and formed an idea for a new story. What if a future version of the United States had somehow come under the control of an emperor who commanded that everything be returned to the Victorian and Edwardian periods – women were stripped of rights, had to wear corsets, were forced into arranged marriages, etc.?

And what if, there was a woman who was running this underground circle of female spies trained to extract information from powerful men? What if she was planning a coup? What if she sent her best girl in to charm the emperor himself? But then the girl falls in love with him…That was my teenage sensibility. That story was eventually discarded along with its bedfellows somewhere between high school and college. Then, a couple of years ago, when women’s rights issues were heavy in the media, the germ of this idea resurfaced and became The Vitruvian Heir.

How long did it take for you to write this novel and publish it?

I worked on it for about two years sporadically, but the most concentrated work – the bulk of the writing and the design, etc., spanned about six months.

How do you think your novel compares to the other dystopian novels out right now?

Someone recently said it’s like “Downton Abbey and The Hunger Games had a baby,” and I think that’s pretty accurate. It’s also been compared to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Orwell’s 1984, which are, of course, enormous compliments. When I was reminded of this idea again by the news surrounding contraception and our reproductive rights that was such a hot media topic back in 2011, I kept hearing women say “I fought this battle thirty years ago. I never thought I would be fighting it again,” and that stuck with me while I was writing. Because I think yes, any idea of a dystopian future with new and unimaginable challenges (like The Hunger Games) is quite jarring, [but] I think what’s more frightening is the idea that as a society, we continue to repeat our mistakes and the idea that such a regression is possible.

It’s happened to women in other countries already. So, I think my book – even though it’s set far in the future – is more about the danger of repeating the past, which is why I thought the Neo-Victorian, steampunk backdrop was the most appropriate for it to unfold over. As for readers, there’s something for everyone – there’s almost unstoppable action, romance, rebellion, and strong social commentary.

Will there be a sequel to this novel?

I have an idea for two other potential books in the series to make a trilogy, but I’m not committing to that just yet.

What authors have inspired you and/or your writing? 

I’m a huge throwback to the classics so anything Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Aldous Huxley, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, Edith Wharton, [Fyodor] Dostoevsky, [F. Scott] Fitzgerald, Harper Lee. But my favorite book of all time is Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. I re-read it this past summer and it’s just pure joy. I’m pretty sure the meaning of life is in that book.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

This advice may sound unconventional, but it’s worked for me. It’s true that practice makes perfect and you should try to get into a routine to hone your craft – take a class, workshop with fellow writers, and do the thing. Stephen King said “Writers write,” and that’s true. If you want to be good at something, you need to work at it. However, that isn’t always easy. Sometimes with schedules and what not, especially if you work full-time at a job that sucks away your energy, if you have a relationship that you need to devote time to, or a child, you can’t carve out a determined amount of time every day to write. I would go weeks without writing a word even when I was in the middle of working on a book. Sometimes it wasn’t even because of other factors in my life, it was just because I didn’t feel like it. If I’m not inspired and I’m not feeling it, I can’t write. And I think that’s okay. Because every time I’ve tried to force it, the product is crap.

So my advice is: Write, but only when you feel it. Even though I don’t write creatively every single day, I’ve still managed to produce three books and a slew of short stories in spite of being a high school teacher at one point and having a very stressful corporate job at another. When you feel it and when you’re enjoying it, pushing yourself to work when you go home at night isn’t as hard as you might think.

Are you working on any other projects right now?

Yes, I’m halfway through another novel called The Clothes That Make You. It’s the polar opposite of The Vitruvian Heir. Set in 1967 New England suburbia it follows Sally, a quiet misfit dealing with the fresh grief of losing her father and her unlikely friendship with the new girl at school – a feisty civil rights activist who identifies as a boy. I have a self-imposed goal of completing a draft by year end. We’ll see how that goes.

To find out more about Marsh, check out her website and purchase The Vitruvian Heir here.


Maria V. Snyder: From Meteorologist to Novelist


If you told Maria V. Snyder 20 years ago, that she would be a New York Times best-selling author, she probably wouldn’t have believed you. Snyder’s dream was never to become an author but instead to be a storm chaser. It wasn’t until she got her degree in meteorology and became an environmental meteorologist that she began writing. It was then that she realized she loved writing more than studying meteorology and went back to school to get her Masters of Arts degree in fiction writing from Seton Hill University, where she now teaches.

I recently had the opportunity to get to know Snyder, learning more about the start of her career, love for writing, hobbies, and what she’s got planned next.

Zakiya N. Jamal (ZJ): How did you first get interested in writing?

Maria V. Snyder (MS): Boredom! I was working as an environmental meteorologist for a consulting firm and I was either crazy busy or bored. During the slow times, I jotted down story ideas and possible plots.

ZJ: When did you write your first novel?

MS: I started my first novel in 1996. I wrote about a chapter a month and submitted the pages to my critique group for feedback then made revisions. It was a slow process, but I finished the novel in 2001.

ZJ: What was the transition from being a meteorologist to novelist like?

MS: It was a slow transition. When my son was born, I went from working full time to part time, then, when my daughter was born two years later, I quit working as a meteorologist. Writing at that time was more a hobby – something to do that was creative and fun. When I finished Poison Study [my first novel], I thought the book was pretty good so I submitted it to agents and publishers. After 57 rejections, I received an acceptance! [In total] the transition spanned eight years and instead of going back to work, I kept writing.

ZJ: Where do you get the concepts for your novels?

MS: Everywhere! I get story ideas from books, magazine articles, TV shows, movies, the theater, from something my kids say, from my travels, or from the people I meet. Life is [a] fodder for my stories.

ZJ: Almost all of your series are trilogies except the Outside In/Inside Out pair. Is there a reason why you write your series in the form of trilogies? Can readers expect a third Outside In novel?

MS: I don’t really consider my books trilogies. What happens is, after I write three books about the same characters, I’ve had enough. I want to move on to new characters and new worlds with a whole new set of problems. In my opinion, trilogies are just one huge story broken into three parts. As for another Insider book, there are no plans for a third book at this time.

ZJ: Are you working on any new projects currently?

MS: I’m working on a new set of Study books with Yelena and Valek. There has been enough time from the original three books for me to be excited about the characters again and I [came up with] a new idea. The first of them is tentatively scheduled for January 2015 release.

ZJ: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

MS: Lots! I have a number of writing advice articles on my website that they can read but my biggest piece of advice is always persistence! I’d been writing for 10 years and submitting for eight before I sold anything. [You should] learn the craft of writing as well as the business of writing and attend writer’s conferences and classes if you can; consider that time an apprenticeship. Get feedback on your stories from fellow writers before submitting. Joining a critique group is very helpful. I also find that if I let a story sit on my desk for a few weeks I can pick out all the problems, typos, and inconsistencies easier. I agree whole heartily with Stephen King’s advice: ‘If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.’ And don’t give up!

ZJ: The worlds of the Study and Glass series and the Healers series seem to be similar. Is there a connection between the two worlds at all or is that just a coincidence?

MS: There isn’t a connection; they are two separate worlds. However, I will admit there are many similarities between them. In both worlds there is magic and a lack of technology – no electricity or modern machines. I just think it’s more fun and challenging to have characters [that] ride horses, fight with swords, and don’t have instant communication. Many fantasies are set in medieval times, but with my worlds I didn’t want to be restricted to what words I could or couldn’t use and those times were not the best for women and my ladies are strong, smart, and independent.

ZJ: What is your writing process like? Do you start writing as soon as you come up with an idea or do you do a lot of research first?

MS: I don’t do that much research before writing. I’m a “seat-of-the-pants” writer; I discover the story’s events as I write so I never know what I’m going to need as far as research is concerned. As I’m writing, I’ll encounter things I need to research so I’ll make a list as I go and just put a comment in my story and move on. However, that doesn’t work for things that propel the story and are integral to the plot. For example, in my Glass books, the main character, Opal, is a glass artist and I needed to take a number of glass blowing classes while working on those stories.

ZJ: What do you do when you’re not writing?

MS: I enjoy playing volleyball and I love to ski. I also dabble with photography and make jewelry plus I read and love to travel.

ZJ: Who are some of your favorite authors?

MS: This is always a hard question to answer and I’m glad you [only] asked for ‘some’. Some are Rachel Caine, Illona Andrews, Mindy Klasky, Jeri Smith-Ready, Kate Elliott, Gail Carriger, Harlan Coben, Sebastian Junger, and Dick Francis.

ZJ: If you didn’t choose to be an author what do you think you would be doing?

MS: Before I started writing seriously, I always thought it would be fun to work in a bookstore or be a librarian. Now if I had to change careers, I would become a criminal psychologist – I find the criminal mind fascinating!

ZJ: What has been your greatest accomplishment/experience as an author?

MS: This one is easy to answer. A teen girl who was contemplating suicide was inspired by the actions and courage of Yelena (my protagonist from the Study books) that she decided to keep living. That is without a doubt my greatest accomplishment as a writer – better than any award or being on a bestseller list.

Snyder would like to thank her fans for their loyalty and support and for inspiring her to be a better writer. She hopes that you continue to support her as she continues with her writing. If you’re interesting in learning more about Snyder’s works you can read the first chapter of all her books on her website and read a few of her short stories there, as well.