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Author Interview with Dan Gemeinhart!!

Dan Gemeinhart lives in a small town smack dab in the middle of Washington state with his wife and three young daughters. He’s lucky and grateful to be a teacher-librarian in an elementary school, where he gets to share awesome books with awesome kids. He loves camping, cooking and traveling. He also plays guitar (badly) and reads (constantly). His house is always a mess. He is really pretty darn happy.








In all the ways that matter, Mark is a normal kid. He's got a dog named Beau and a best friend, Jessie. He likes to take photos and write haiku poems in his notebook. He dreams of climbing a mountain one day.

But in one important way, Mark is not like other kids at all. Mark is sick. The kind of sick that means hospitals. And treatments. The kind of sick some people never get better from.

So Mark runs away. He leaves home with his camera, his notebook, his dog, and a plan to reach the top of Mount Rainier--even if it's the last thing he ever does.

The Honest Truth is a rare and extraordinary novel about big questions, small moments, and the incredible journey of the human spirit.





1. What was your inspiration for The Honest Truth?
I wrote The Honest Truth in memory of a friend of mine who died of cancer. He was also named Mark, and he was my sister's fiancee. He was a wonderful guy - the kind of guy that would drop whatever he was doing to help someone else. He loved books (he worked at an indie bookstore) and mountain climbing; he climbed peaks all over the world, including Mt. Rainier (which figures prominently in the book). I wrote this book in his honor, but I really tried to make it a triumphant adventure story, not a morose tragedy. I didn't want it to be a "cancer book," because cancer isn't what I think about when I think about Mark. I think about his spirit, about loyalty and friendship and living - and that's what I wanted the book to really be about.

2. Is Mark at all influenced by how you were as a kid?
Not really - Mark is a pretty angry kid (for lots of good reasons), and he's bold and brave and pretty darn tough. I was very much a shy, quiet, introverted kid. If I'd ever turned up missing like Mark it is infinitely more likely my parents would have found me curled up in a quiet place somewhere reading - not climbing a mountain in a blizzard. I had to imagine how a kid in Mark's shoes would have felt, what traits he would have to have in order to pull this adventure off, and then I tried to construct a character that was inspiring but believable and "real."

3. Mark’s dog is incredibly loyal to Mark throughout their entire journey. Did you have any pets like his when you were a kid?
I'm a total animal lover, and I kind of define the different eras of my childhood by what pets we had at the time. But, boy...Beau is pretty darn special. He's definitely not based on any one dog that I've had, but in some ways I think that almost every dog has that kind of greatness inside them. If you treat them right and give them your love and loyalty, they give it right back tenfold. It's pretty amazing. So although Beau is not cut whole-cloth from a dog I've known, you could definitely say he's kind of a stand-in for the greatness of all the dogs I've known. 

4. A portion of your book is written from Jessie’s point of view, what made you decide to include her story as well?
I really struggled with how to write this story. I started (from scratch) three different times, trying different voices and perspectives, and I just couldn't figure out how to tell Mark's story in an immediate, emotional way but still tell the story of his friend and family back home. I thought that home piece was really important to the heart of the story, and to its themes.  Without the perspective of Mark's parents and Jessie, the story just didn't sing; it was too dark and constant, and it felt unbalanced. Mark is angry, but we need to see why he's angry, and we need to see him through the eyes of the people that love him so we can better understand him. Finally I hit on this split chapter idea: the main chapters from Mark's perspective, with shorter "half chapters" between them (in 3rd person) showing what was happening at home. As soon as I tried it, I knew I'd finally found the way to tell this story.

5. Have you ever climbed Mt. Rainier yourself?
I have not! I do a lot of camping and backpacking and I've visited Mt. Rainier several times, but I've never actually summited her. I have climbed Mt. St. Helens, but that's really just a long, steep hike in bad weather. 

6. If you weren’t an author, what would be your dream job?
I'm lucky in that I already have both my dream jobs: I'm a writer and an elementary school teacher-librarian. I get to work with books and kids and kids' books all day  (and all night, sometimes), so I'm pretty darn happy. My third dream job, though, would be to work at a great bookstore. So, either way: I'm with books. 

7. If The Honest Truth were turned into a movie, who would you cast?
Hmmm...fun question. For the two main parts (Mark and Jessie), I'm not sure...I don't know too many child actors. Let's just say definitely not Justin Beiber. Although, if we had a time machine at our disposal, wouldn't a 12 year old Leonardo DiCaprio be amazing? And for Jessie (also with a time machine), Shelbie Bruce (the girl from Spanglish) would be perfect. And for Wesley, a small but important minor character, I always pictured him looking exactly like Sam Elliott.

8. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I'm an unhappy mix. I'm a half-pantser who wishes he plotted more, and/or a lazy plotter who wishes he would just relax and let the story flow. I usually make a pretty rough outline with lots of holes (like, the entire middle third) and then it starts to fall more rigidly into place as I write. I'd say that at the time I sit down to start writing a book, I know about 50% of what's going to happen - then it's just a matter of finding the flow and connecting the dots of the parts you know. It's a weird process, for sure.

9. What’s your ideal writing ambiance?
Night time. Dark. Everyone else in bed. Sometimes some mood-appropriate (fast, or pensive, or sad, depending on the scene I'm writing) instrumental music playing - never any music with words, and a lot of times just silence. I sit on my couch with my feet up, my computer on my lap, and maybe one lamp on for some dim lighting. I love it.

10. Who was your literary crush growing up?
Oooooh...literary crush, huh? I went through some serious binge phases: Hardy Boys, Louis L'Amour, Narnia, Stephen King, Narnia, John Steinbeck, Hemingway. My hands-down favorite poet is e.e. cummings (he owns a fair amount of real estate in my soul). I became enraptured with A River Runs Through It in high school - a vastly under-appreciated book - and read it seven times. Since college, my favorite "grown up" author has been Jose Saramago. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Basically, when it comes to literary crushes, I'm a really promiscuous serial monogamist. 

And head over to Books Inc. Palo Alto on Sunday, February 22nd at 6pm for a special evening of truths with Dan!

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Author Interview with Arwen Elys Dayton!!

Arwen Elys Dayton spends months doing research for her stories. Her explorations have taken her around the world to places like the Great Pyramid (which she explored by a single fading flashlight when researching Resurrection), Hong Kong and its many islands, and lots of ruined castles in Scotland. She enjoys creating complete worlds inhabited by characters who charm, frustrate or inspire.

Arwen lives with her husband and their three children on the West Coast of the United States







The night Quin Kincaid takes her Oath, she will become what she has trained to be her entire life. She will become a Seeker. This is her legacy, and it is an honor.
As a Seeker, Quin will fight beside her two closest companions, Shinobu and John, to protect the weak and the wronged. Together they will stand for light in a shadowy world.
And she'll be with the boy she loves--who's also her best friend.
But the night Quin takes her Oath, everything changes.
Being a Seeker is not what she thought. Her family is not what she thought. Even the boy she loves is not who she thought.
And now it's too late to walk away.





1) What was your inspiration for writing Seeker?
The main character in Seeker, Quin Kincaid, showed up in my mind one day and simply wouldn't leave. Quin brought with her a complicated family situation and bunch of unpleasant emotions. I saw immediately that she lived in Scotland. I realized early on that she was a talented and optimistic girl, but I had the sinking feeling that her life wasn't going to go at all the way she wanted it to.

Around the same time, I was reading The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene, which is a wonderful book on physics, written to give anyone a basic grasp of the subject, and I became fascinated with string theory. If string theory is true, and there are many “extra” dimensions curled up at every point in the universe, how might one access those dimensions? That line of thought was the first step in creating the special knowledge and skills of Seekers as a group.

2) I’ve heard you spend a lot of time doing research while writing; what kind of research did you do for Seeker and how much time did you spend on it?
I go down many different research paths when a story is taking shape in my head. I like to follow any thread that interests me, even if it doesn't end up being directly relevant to the story I tell. While I began to see glimpses of Seeker, I researched all sorts of things, like the history of London Bridge, the early days of Hong Kong, how swords are made, and stranger topics like royal murders throughout history (which was basically a study of family members plotting against and then killing each other(!)).

The best part of researching Seeker was traveling to Scotland and Hong Kong. They are fascinating places on their own, each with a strong and undeniable identity, but there's something about the difference between them that particularly inspires me. In many ways the city of Hong Kong and the Scottish countryside are opposites of each other. Visiting them and imagining both places in the same story created a friction in my mind that gave Seeker a lot of its energy—ancient and timeless (Scotland) meets modern and ever-changing (Hong Kong). I love the contrast.

From the first moment I began to imagine this book, I saw Quin in Scotland. It was her natural place. And from the first moment I set foot in Hong Kong, I began to see a large part of Seeker unfolding there in its crowded, dynamic, futuristic streets.

3) Seeker is definitely a fantasy novel. Would you consider writing something set in a contemporary world?
Yes, absolutely. Unfortunately, my mind seems to twist even our contemporary world into something a little strange. I have an autobiographical idea based on growing up at a boarding school (which I did), but already it's growing into something a bit fantastical, even while remaining heavily based in things that actually happened. I suppose I get bored with the "real" world too easily. (The fact that I put quotes around real, as though the real world isn't actually real at all, is probably not a good sign.)

4) Are any of your characters based off of people you know?
Well...yes and no. In some ways this book—with four teenagers as the main characters—allowed me to take the worst moments from my own teen years and make them much, much worse than they were, and then force my characters to live through them.

In Seeker, Quin and John and Shinobu have all the problems of teenagers, but their lives have much higher stakes and more serious consequences. The hardest moments in the book are sort of a distillation of those teenage moments that made me cringe or cry or want to hide—but they've been expanded into events that are huge, dangerous, life-threatening.

Aspects of Quin are probably based on my own teen years—although she's much more interesting and cool than I ever was. And there are elements in John and Quin's father that have some basis in a couple of people who were in my life at one point. Once I began writing the book, however, all of these characters stopped being anyone but themselves!

5) If your book is made into a film, who would you like to see cast?
I would love to let my imagination run wild, but I also want to be considerate of the actors who are ultimately cast in the parts—I don't want them to feel that they weren't my choice! So it's probably better if I stay mum on this one.

6) Are there any authors or novels that have inspired your writing?
As a young reader and writer, I was first inspired by C.S. Lewis. Reading the Narnia series over and over as a kid sent my imagination into overdrive. It was an entire world—actually many worlds—created in the author's mind, and yet it was almost as real to me as my own life.

Now I read and love so many genres, particularly historical fiction, contemporary fiction, science fiction and fantasy. Some books I've really enjoyed this past year are We Were Liars, Outlander, Legend, The Name of the Wind, and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

7) If you weren’t an author, what would be your ideal career?
Could I still do some other sort of writing? If so, I'd want to be a travel writer, though it's hard to imagine doing that without it leading to ideas for novels...

If I have to forgo writing altogether, I would be a teacher. I love working with kids.

8) Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I can work either way, but for Seeker, I spent a lot of time plotting before I wrote. (That sounds rather nefarious, doesn't it?) Because a lot happens in this book, and it happens in several different points of view, I wanted to be as efficient with chapters as I could. That's a lot easier if you plot things out ahead of time.

I have an idea for a very different sort of series after this one, and I think I may be able to be more of a pantser for that one. We'll see!

9) Coffee or tea?
Coffee coffee coffee coffee coffee. Wait...no. The truth is that coffee and I care about each other very deeply and we will always be good friends and have lovely memories of each other, but we've mutually decided that we should live apart for a while. I am crazy when I drink coffee. With fully leaded coffee, I will start randomly calling up everyone in my address book because, "It's been so long and we really should chat! ... Yes, I realize another dentist is providing my dental care now, but that doesn't mean you and I can't be friends, Dr. Agami..." So, most of the time, it's no on the coffee. (I can have decaf now and then if I'm very well behaved.)

Luckily I also like tea. My favorite tea for writing is a combination of licorice tea and Rooibos, with a little sweetener (I like stevia, but honey is also great). I can drink pots of this without turning into a lunatic.

10) Favorite movie? TV show? Band?
These are hard questions to answer! I love so many movies and listen to so much music...but here goes:
Music: lately I have been listening to a lot of Phantogram, Ed Sheeran, Manchester Orchestra and Hozier.
Movies: I tried to come up with a recent favorite but realized that would be impossible without spending days making lists. So instead, here are a bunch of movies I enjoyed this year: Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar, The Theory of Everything, Big Hero 6, Mockingjay, The Maze Runner, Divergent, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Book of Life, Wild, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Fault in our Stars, Birdman, Begin Again... I could go on, but that's a lot!
TV: Game of Thrones and Fargo!

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Books Inc. Kids Review - The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John, Illustrated by Kevin Cornell
Publication Date: January 13th, 2015
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: Humor/Realistic Fiction
Ages: 8-12

Miles Murphy is not happy to be moving to Yawnee Valley, a sleepy town that's famous for one thing and one thing only: cows. In his old school, everyone knew him as the town's best prankster, but Miles quickly discovers that Yawnee Valley already has a prankster, and a great one. If Miles is going to take the title from this mystery kid, he is going to have to raise his game.
It's prankster against prankster in an epic war of trickery, until the two finally decide to join forces and pull off the biggest prank ever seen: a prank so huge that it would make the members of the International Order of Disorder proud.
In The Terrible Two, bestselling authors and friends Mac Barnett and Jory John have created a series that has its roots in classic middle-grade literature yet feels fresh and new at the same time.

As a prankster meself, I was eager to see where Mac and Jory would take this theme, and they take it over the top of course! And then a coo moos. Because the school is full of them! Don’t worry, your kid won’t get too many ideas, but you might get a few. Thoroughly enjoyable, and it is a new school story. And there are cows.
Reviewed by Cheenie at Books Inc. Burlingame

New kid Miles arrives at Yawnee Valley with the express intent of being the school's greatest prankster.  But when he finds the slot already filled by the nefarious Niles, the two go head-to-head in a battle of mischief and deceit. It's fun and cute, good for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid crowd.
Reviewed by Marie at Books Inc. Chestnut

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Review - Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Publication Date: February 10th, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: High fantasy

Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard's sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king's palace. Will her power save her or condemn her?

Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood--those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard--a growing Red rebellion--even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.

Mare Barrow, a poor adventurous thief gets the chance of a lifetime, to save herself and her loved ones, or to ruin them all. I was pulled into the interesting world created by Aveyard - historical, steampunk, even political. In fact, the political climate seemed to mirror our own very closely, making some quietly obvious points. Happily, there’s plenty of room for the sequel. Filled with entertaining costuming, gadgetry, and completely engrossing atmosphere, Red Queen is a dark mystery that keeps you guessing right up to the final two lines.
Reviewed by Cheenie at Books Inc. Burlingame

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