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TAMBA Author Interview – B. R. Myers

TAMBA Author Interview – B. R. Myers

Rogue Princess

Recently, my friend, Isabella, and I were given the opportunity to interview B. R. Myers, author of Runaway Princess! It’s a beautiful sci-fi novel: a gender-swapped retelling of Cinderella! We loved the story, and it was so awesome to have the chance to speak with Ms. Myers and learn a bit about the behind-the-scenes of her book! 

Without further ado, here are some highlights from the interview:

Rosie: So how did you come up with the idea for Rogue Princess? I know it builds on that classic fairytale of Cinderella — but how did you initially think of doing a spin-off story?

B. R. Myers: In the beginning, I think I just wanted to do something different from the few contemporary novels I had already worked on. And coincidentally on Twitter, Pitmad was going on, which is when authors get to pitch their ideas for novels in a very limited number of characters. I noticed that there were a lot of retellings amongst the pitches, and I found that really cool! Cinderella is also my favourite fairytale, so that was the first thing that popped into my head when I first thought about possibly doing a twisted fairytale. So I started to think about how I could make it more unique, and gender swap came to mind. Then I joked about “oh, how about I set it in space!” and what do you know? 

Isabella: That’s so funny that it started as a joke! Yes, I’ve read many Cinderella retellings, but I’ve never encountered a gender-swap version, so I thought that was awesome! My next question is: what do you like best about being an author? What don’t you like?

B. R. Myers: What I love the most about being an author is meeting my readers, like you two! Connecting with other authors, other readers, is definitely my favourite part. As for what I don’t enjoy as much, I would have to say the “waiting” portion. When you’re trying to get published, there are so many external factors that take a long, long time to work out! For example, after I wrote Rogue Princess, I was super excited and I wanted to share it with the world, right away! But I had to wait for almost a year before the actual publishing because so much work goes into it, so that was definitely a test for my patience.

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TAMBA Author Interview – Jennifer Honeybourn

My friend, Rosie, and I were recently given the opportunity to interview the author of numerous YA and middle school novels, Jennifer Honeybourn! Some of her works include: When Life Gives You Demons, Wesley James Ruined My Life, Just My Luck, and many more!

We asked her a few questions about her writing process and her journey as an author! Here are some of her insights:

It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to be an author! But it took me a while to get there and for me to realize that I had a YA voice. 

Ideas are everywhere. There are really no original ideas (there were wizards long before there was Harry Potter!), it’s just about taking something and putting your own spin on it! Ideas usually come to me as a mashup, getting inspiration from different things and then writing it in my own way. Find a new way to tell a story!

As a writer, you want to focus on the story engine, the thing that will drive the character. What goal will pull the character through the story and how will it change them? 

What comes out as your first draft is not what is printed – as an author, you have to go back and address all the issues with the book, making many revisions. You really have to develop a thick skin and be able to take criticism and navigate rejection! 

For me, it’s very hard to know when you’re finished. When you have a contract and you have to write to a deadline, you get to that end and that’s it you can’t keep working on it. At some point you have to say it’s done and let it go.

It takes a while to develop and discover your voice – writing is like anything else that you do, you need to practice and practice and practice. It’s probably not going to be great in the beginning but you just have to keep going!

Another thing for aspiring writers: read across all genres – smart reading. Go through the story and figure out how the author did this or that so well or how they made their character so interesting, etc.!

If you keep going, and put your heart into it and you just keep trying, it could take a while, but you will get there. I think it’s really about perseverance and having a thick skin. 

Share your writing! Find beta readers, form a critique group, because feedback is a huge part of being a writer.

– Jennifer Honeybourn

We want to thank Ms. Honeybourn for her time and for answering all our questions! We really appreciate it and we learned a lot!

Check out One Story Three Ways on Jennifer Honeybourn’s website. Keep an eye out for her upcoming releases!

Teen Author Interview: Joel Sutherland

Image of book page. Click to open preview.

Nicola and I had the pleasure to interview author Joel Sutherland a few weeks back. Mr. Sutherland has written many of the Haunted Canada books, and other horror stories such as Summer’s End. He also told us in his interview about being on Wipeout Canada!

Here are some highlights about his writing process:

What do you think makes a good story? (Follow up: are there some genres you find easier to write than others?)

The most important thing for me is, although I write about monsters, the important thing is to ground the story in reality. I give my characters real-world problems to deal with, in addition to ghosts and monsters. I put a lot of issues in Summer’s End that I also dealt with in high school, for example. I thought back a lot to when I was that age, going through stuff like moving to a new place and wanting to make friends. Essentially, I added storylines to make the story more realistic and believable. I think it’s really important, no matter what genre, to do your world-building but still, ground it in reality. 

Your books fit pretty well into the horror genre, and we were wondering, what authors or books do you draw inspiration from, horror authors or otherwise? 

Stephen King is kind of a given. Also, I’m a big fan of any Canadian horror author, but there aren’t a lot of us, really. We’re all very nice friendly people… Marina Cohen, for example, who’s written The Doll’s Eye. And Adrienne Kress who writes in all kinds of genres… fantasy, contemporary but most recently is writing bendy books for Scholastic that are super creepy. Marty Chan as well, I’m a big fan of. He’s from Calgary, I believe. He just wrote a really creepy book, I believe it’s called Haunted Hospital. He’s a really good writer. Like I said, there aren’t too many of us, some others as well… We’re a small but creepy bunch. 

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TAMBA Author Interview – Arthur Slade

Hunted - Slade, Arthur

Recently, Isabella and I got the opportunity to interview Arthur Slade, the author of numerous best-selling YA and Middle-Grade novels, including Dragon Assassin, Dust, The Hunchback Assignments, and many more! We talked to him about his journey as an author, his story building, writing techniques, and many other topics of interest.

Here are some highlights of our conversation!

Rosie: To start off with a general question, what really got you into writing? And when did you start taking more of an interest in it?

Arthur: Well, I was always kind of a creative kid, and I liked writing film scripts. I saw Star Wars, and I remember wanting to be a director, and writing film scripts, in Grade 6-7ish. And I started writing fiction then as well, off and on, I tried a whole bunch of things! And by the time I was in Grade 11 — well I blame it all on a teacher. They had given us an assignment to write a short story, and mine was called Under Heaven, Over Hell. But when I got the story back, I got a hundred percent! That was kind of the moment it crystallized for me — it was kind of a reward for writing! That’s sort of how I got started, in Grade 11, I just thought: Well, if I can write a short story and get a hundred percent, I can write a novel too. And… I ended up writing my first novel in Grade 11-12! It…was not a good novel, but it was my first one.

Isabella: How do you usually come up with your stories? Especially since most of your books are fantasy, we were wondering what your process is in creating a whole new world?

Arthur: I tend to write what I’m interested in reading. I grew up reading mostly fantasy and I’ve always loved going into another place, even if it was a scary place, or fantasy world – that was interesting to me. When I get an idea, it’s different every time, but sometimes they’ll just come out of the blue! I have a book called Dust, a book set in the 1980s, I just got an image of a boy walking along in a prairie – I don’t know why it was there in my head – and of this truck coming towards him and just this feeling of doom…something really bad was going to happen. And that’s what I do, I write down that idea just so I can kind of get the mood of it.

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Winner’s of RPL’s Annual Teen Poetry Contest 2021!

Thank you to everyone who submitted their poems this year!! The judges had a hard time choosing the winners this year, as there were so many beautiful submissions this year. But after some discussion, the following winners were chosen:

Group 1
1st Place: I Am A Woman by Nida A.
2nd Place: The Beauty Of My Skin by Amna S.

Group 2:
1st Place: The Ravings of Plight by Angela Y.
2nd Place: To My Inner Child by Astra Y.

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Annual Teen Poetry Contest 2021! Read all their poems here!

Teen Book Review-Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

Hunting Prince Dracula

*Minor spoilers for Stalking Jack the Ripper (Book #1) present in this review*

10/10. It has been a LONG while since I enjoyed a book so much, and it has nothing to do with the mystery and everything to do with Thomas Cresswell. Okay, and the mystery was good too.

Now before you think I’ve gone crazy, I’ll list some things Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco could have done better. (See? Critique-y Inshal still exists) For example, it was hard to keep track of the many Romanian folktales told throughout the book, especially since Audrey Rose already had background knowledge that I didn’t about Vlad the Impaler. Also, it was annoying how much Audrey Rose got bullied for being a woman…even by the headmaster who literally accepted her application? I understand the historical point the author was trying to achieve, and I am completely behind Audrey Rose’s determination to study medicine despite the bigotry of her classmates BUT almost every other scene was about the same thing, so it got annoying. The last criticism I found in this book is somewhat related to the first… the details of the mystery were too difficult to understand because of info-dumping. I just stopped trying to unravel what was going on.

Okay! So, why did I give it a 10/10? Well, there are many reasons. 1. Audrey Rose’s trauma. There are TOO MANY books where characters go through a life-changing event and live happily ever after when it’s over. But the Ripper case (from book #1) still haunts Audrey Rose, and she is still grieving heavily because of it. We see her try to overcome those emotions that come from working with cadavers again, the same emotions that make her want to push people away. It’s not easy! She gets flashbacks, triggers…Basically, we see her growth from book 1 to book 2 and I was overall very pleased with how that was portrayed.

2. Thomas Cresswell. I know I was very unimpressed with him in my first review, but he has ALSO gone through a lot of character development. And he is so FUNNY, oh my God, but it’s not only him as a character that makes this book so great. His relationship with Audrey Rose (if you can call it that…) also develops a lot in this book. We see how their personalities clash, and how their past traumas/insecurities cause problems for their budding romance. Even better than all of that, we see Thomas and Audrey Rose talk to about what they need from each other(communication, people!), we see them fight, apologize, and try to work things out. Basically, their relationships is one of the best (and healthiest) ones I have ever read.

3. Girl Friendships! I feel like this review is becoming all about characters, but seriously, the characters in this book are A+. This time, we get further insight into Audrey Rose through her friendships with other female characters and it is amazing!!

4. Details of the setting. Now, I know this isn’t plot, or mystery, which are very important elements in this sort of book, but I’ve already talked about that in my critique paragraph. The last thing I feel this book delivered flawlessly was the setting. The way the characters talk, the description of their surroundings, and even the things they eat… I was literally transported to an ancient castle in Romania.

Okay, I’ve gone on long enough. Basically, yes, go read this book!!

Teen Book Review- Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Stalking Jack the Ripper - Maniscalco, Kerri

Dark historical fiction and mystery books are definitely my favourite genre to read, and I was so excited when I found Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco series. Don’t let the horrendous covers fool you! (I was wary at first, too.) But now that I’m two books in—with two more books to go—I’m completely in love with this series! By the way, I won’t be doing a synopsis thing, but you can look for that in the link above.

Now, onto what this book has to offer: When the first scene of a book is that of a Victorian lady cutting up a body in her Uncle’s lab, you know it’s bound to be interesting. I will say, however, that the gruesome details (such as how a liver feels like in one’s hand) can get unappealing… I actually enjoyed them, but included a disclaimer because this kind of thing depends on the reader. The scientific gore (for lack of a better term) isn’t overdone though, and the fact that the main character, Audrey Rose, can do things like autopsies and talk about them reveals stuff about her personality we might not have gotten otherwise. Basically, yes there is blood-related stuff in this book but not too much (for me, at least).

To expand more on my former point, Audrey Rose is a wonderfully written main character. She has her flaws, but is still very lovable and easy to relate to. I adore how scientific minded she is—most books that boast about an intelligent female character don’t actually show that. Another testament to how rounded of a character Audrey Rose is: she is allowed to have emotions. I find too much of the “strong and smart female mc” trope means the character isn’t allowed to feel much and… like what is up with that? A character should be able to feel heavy emotions and sympathy without that detracting from their ability to be professional.

The book was off to a great start…and then we meet Thomas Cresswell. His job as a love interest in the plot is too obvious from the start, and of course he acts mysterious and arrogant, too. I did warm up to him, however, by the end of the book. His dialogue is too funny and witty! (I cannot anymore with charming book characters.)

If it’s not obvious already, I loved this book a lot. I don’t usually do series because they tend to drag on and get complicated, but STJTR immediately made me want to pick up the next book. Spoiler: It was just as, if not more, amazing. (Review on that coming up next!)

There are some minor setbacks, of course, but I wouldn’t discount the whole book based on them. The writing, for example, gets a bit tiresome at points. Audrey Rose describes every step it takes for her to get from one place to another, which is especially annoying when it’s an action-packed scene and I want to get to the next important bit. Also, there were some scenes that repeated incessantly throughout the book, which dragged the plot. For example, if I have to listen to Nathaniel tell Audrey Rose not to worry their father one more time…

Still, the overall setting and plot of this book was great. The mystery aspect was good (although I guessed a little too early for me to be completely impressed). Plus, I fell in love with the characters and how they were written. A solid 9/10 from me.

Teen Book Review- Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea - Sepetys, Ruta

Ruta Sepetys is a tried and true author for me whenever I’m in the mood for some historical fiction, so I was really excited to pick up Salt to the Sea. The story follows four characters: Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred as they race to freedom on the doomed (but they don’t know it) Wilhelm Gustloff. Joana is a nurse with a past that haunts her. Florian is a spy with too many secrets. Emilia is a young girl hollowed by the brutality of war, and Alfred is a cowardly German soldier. Will they survive?

It isn’t much of a secret that the Wilhelm Gustloff is going to sink, so when I first started the book, I expected it to be rather fast-paced. It was not. The characters don’t board the ship until well past the halfway point, which was more frustrating than suspenseful. The other fundamental thing this book didn’t quite accomplish were the characters. I wasn’t expecting this from Sepetys either, because her characters are usually very well-developed (see: Fountains of Silence). But in this one, the four main characters were almost stock character material. For example, we have the dark and handsome brooding spy, the innocent ‘child’ with dreams, and the misguided immoral soldier. The worst character in my opinion, was Joana because she had NO flaws. (And no, being too kind is not a flaw!) I know it seems like I’m contradicting myself, but I did like the characters. They just weren’t well-written and had almost no complexity, but they were very lovable in general. Which sort of redeems them.

Moving on to the pros: Something that the book did irrefutably well was story-telling. The emotions Salt to the Sea brought me were intense, which is exactly as they should be in a good historical fiction. Some scenes are so disturbing I had to put the book down–don’t let the middle grade styling put you off, this book is definitely up there in age suitability.

On a brighter note, though, I appreciated how this book executed the multiple POV style writing. The romantic side plot was also well done (I guess I just like slow-burns). But maybe that is because romance comes easily enough when the characters themselves aren’t complicated. The plot of the book was adequate, but I found the backstories of some (no spoilers but I’m not talking about Emilia, hint hint) characters very shallow and disappointing. The ending absolutely ruined me, but in a good way. I would recommend Salt to the Sea to anyone searching for a simple but emotionally difficult historical fiction with a handsome side of romance. 9/10

P.S. Can I just say I hated all of Alfred’s chapters? Because yeah, I did.

Teen Book Review- The Cousins by Karen McManus

I’ve read every single one of Karen McManus‘s books, starting with One of Us Is Lying, so when I saw her newest–The Cousins, I knew I had to read it too. (It’s already been established from my other reviews that I like mysteries. 😀 )

Milly, Jonah, and Aubrey are the Story cousins, whose parents, along with uncle Archer, were disinherited by their grandmother, Mildred Story, twenty-four years ago (via a cryptic letter). Milly, Jonah, and Aubrey barely know each other, and have never even met their grandmother but that all changes when a letter from her arrives, requesting their presence back at the family island. Thinking this may be their chance to re-enter the Story will, Milly, Jonah, and Aubrey’s parents all force their children to accept.

But things are not what they seem at the island, and as clues start popping up around them, the cousins try to unbury their family’s dark history.

I had seriously high hopes for this book and I blame it on Agatha Christies’ And Then They Were None and on We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. I expected the ‘creepy island where everyone gets murdered one by one’ trope, but McManus played it differently–the island is a tourist spot, crowded with other people. There also isn’t any thriller aspect to the story, which, I admit, disappointed me.

If examined as a mystery, however, it passes the bar. I did not see the end coming, like at all (in a good way), but once they had solved it, I found it a bit…lukewarm. It’s not bad or average, but it won’t knock your socks off, either is what I’m saying.

Something I do always appreciate with all her books, though (and it shone particularly well in this one) is the characters. Even with the multiple perspectives, we are given so much depth that I couldn’t help but falling a little in love with each of them! The side characters, too! Like no spoilers, but there is one side character in particular that was super well-written. In regards to the writing, I found the plot to advance at a very good pace, with a perfect proportion of description and dialogue.

All in all, if you enjoyed any of her other books, you will love this one too. 9/10.

P.S. See? I CAN write a normal sized review. 😀

Teen Book Review- Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen

Dangerous Alliance

TL;DR: 8.5/10. Romance and other relationships lacking, and some irritating tropes. Overall, fantastic historical detail, and good approach to abuse in the Regency period. Recommended for Jane Austen lovers!

Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen is a historical fiction with a dash of mystery which, if you know my favourite genres, is right up my aisle! Of course, the book is a romance too, which is less my thing… but! Jane Austen fans–this one is for you.

Lady Victoria Aston is living the idyllic English country life she always wanted. With her sister married in town, her parents give her mostly free reign of the estate. Best of all, here in the country, she doesn’t need to fit in with society’s rules of how a lady should behave. But one very eventful day later, Vicky’s life has completely changed. Aside from the fact that there might be someone out to harm her, Vicky finds out that sister was living in an abusive relationship. Long story short, Vicky has to marry soon… or she might lose her beloved Oakridge estate to that cad of a brother-in-law. Vicky knows her duty is to enter London’s society season and procure herself a husband, but her heart aches for a romance like found in her beloved Jane Austen stories. Will she find it, and with who? Also, who is behind all the strange incidents popping up around her?

Moving on to my thoughts! The plot is very Austen-like, which I can appreciate is no easy thing to do. The mystery and adventure aspects were my favourite, as well as the historical details. It is SUPER refreshing to see authors get historical things accurate! *swoon* The characters were wonderfully complex, and the different POVs–I’m a sucker for different POVs.

There were a few less wonderful parts, unfortunately. The romance, for one, but that might be my personal bias. I felt the couple well-written on their own, as characters. Together, though, I could barely see the chemistry. The love triangle was irritating, too, and although I rooted for who the author clearly wanted me to root for, I had no particular investment in it. In fact, all the relationships in this book were lacking. The ones I was most disappointed with (aside from the romances) were the sibling relationships. Vicky and Althea did have conversations, but they all lacked substance in my opinion. I also didn’t find the conclusions to either sibling conflicts very satisfying or sufficiently detailed.

The last thing I’m going to criticize is very nit-picky, but if it bothered me this much, it might bother someone else too. This book played the “strong female MC” trope well, but also felt quite sexist in some other aspects. (Bear with me.) Vicky compares herself to other girls, and says that–unlike them–she doesn’t like idle chatter about fashion or whatever. She mentions that many women would be eager to marry a (unnamed for spoiler reasons) man, in a critical way… almost as if she were better than those women because she wouldn’t. In the scenes where we are in Tom’s POV, he mentions SEVERAL times that debutantes are waving their fans and giggling at him, which I found extremely arrogant. We don’t get a broad diversity of main female characters, either. Susie is a ‘Mary Sue’ (stock character with no flaws), and Althea is uncomfortably demure.

Now that I’ve wasted two whole paragraphs on criticisms, let me give you the rating: 8.5/10.

That high, you ask? Well, I have a soft spot for well-written character arcs. The backstories were good, too, and original (for once). The rich historical details, as I mentioned before, gave me life, as did the old English dialogue. Something that I haven’t mentioned, but that I especially loved: how this book touched on marital violence, and abuse. It highlighted the fact that the Regency period wasn’t all balls and gowns, and demonstrated that certain characters’ views and personality were the way they were because of the trauma they faced. I liked how Althea, for example, wasn’t all healed after escaping her abusive household. The fact that she still fears for her safety on the daily, hesitates to talk about it, and fears the divorce won’t go through is realistic.

I recommend Dangerous Alliance for anyone who wants some 19th century drama!