Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Interview: Tracey Martin

Author: Tracey Martin
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Sci-fi
Books: Another Little Piece of My Heart, Miss Misery Series, and RedZone Series

Yesterday I blogged about the release of Revive, the first book in a new sci-fi YA series (you can read my review here). The author Tracey Martin let me read her book early and pick her brain a little! It's very hard to discuss the specifics of this story without revealing major spoilers, but we managed to find some things to talk about.

Not only do you write young adult fiction, you also throw in science fiction and fantasy. What steered you toward these specific genres when you started to write?

I’ve always loved fantasy and science fiction. Epic/secondary world fantasy is my favorite, and so it was the first genre I tried writing. But after a couple attempts, I realized I found it much easier to immerse myself in someone else’s made up world than in my own. I moved on to writing stories set more in the real world and discovered on the way that my writing voice skews young, so setting out to write YA just made sense. My non-YA books actually started out as YA, but I knew the YA ages weren’t working for the stories I wanted to tell so I had to make the characters older. I think all my main characters end up having a lot of YA in them. Figuring out who you are seems to be my go-to theme.

In Revive, Sophia has amnesia right from the start. Where did the idea for that come from?

The entire idea for Revive actually came to me while watching a science fiction movie. I can’t remember the title, but I was getting very bored with it. Halfway through I just had the thought that I could have made better use of the premise. Of course, Revive ended up being nothing like the movie except for the idea of alternating timelines. The amnesia itself was just a convenient way to pull that aspect of the story together. I was on a big spy/thriller kick at the time, and so many spy stories make use of amnesia as a premise.

Was it more difficult to write the story with the amnesia factor thrown in there? Did you have to approach the writing process any differently than usual, as far as having to outline or plan ahead?

Ugh, yes! I always outline because if I didn’t, my stories would never go anywhere. But for this, I needed to basically outline two stories that built on each other until they came together in a way that made sense and sprinkle in clues, red herrings, and twists—and gah. It was so painful. Then I showed a version of it to my agent at one point, and she told me it was too confusing and suggested I pull it all apart and reassemble it, which I did. After that, I vowed I’d never write a story like that again. And I didn’t—until I wrote the sequel. But now I mean it, never again!

I love hearing about an author’s process – do you have a specific writing spot you prefer?

Other than my house, no. I’m so easily distracted that I can’t write in public places, or with the TV on or music. I can edit, but I can’t write. I wish I had a nice, dedicated spot in the house for it too, but I don’t.

Who was your favorite Revive character to write?

I’m going to refrain from saying the name, but definitely my villain. Villains are almost always my favorites. Most of us are taught our whole lives what’s right and what’s wrong, and we want to do good things. What makes a person do something evil then, how they break free of that teaching, and how (if) they justify their actions—that fascinates me. Although, in this case, getting inside Sophia’s head also gave me an interesting way to tackle the idea.

 Which character do you feel you relate to the best?

When you have a story packed with badasses, it’s hard to relate. I’m going to have to with Audrey, Sophia’s best friend at college. Audrey always has her nose in a book and an abhorrence of doing scary things—that sounds an awful lot like me. We’ll both take our thrills vicariously, thank you.

Are any of the names of your characters important?  For example, is anyone named for someone or inspired by someone?

Kyle and his mother, Sarah, were both names shamelessly stolen from the Terminator movies. I was Netflixing the Sarah Connor Chronicles around the time I wrote Revive, and I know it influenced me. Using those names was a way to acknowledge it.

Revive takes place mostly in Boston – what made you choose the setting?

I love Boston. I was born in Philadelphia, but Boston is my favorite city. All the Boston locations in the story are places where I’ve spent way too much time, so choosing them was partly for convenience. It also just fit the story well. There are so many colleges in the Boston area, and I knew how easy it would be get my characters to the locations I needed.

And now for random questions that have nothing to do with writing!

Crayons, markers, or colored pencils?

Favorite alcoholic beverage?
Red wine

Vanilla or chocolate?
Chocolate all the way, the darker the better.

Do you enjoy breakfast or dinner more?
Breakfast, in fact, I could eat breakfast for every meal.

If you had to choose only one book that you’re allowed to read for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
Can I pick a series? Harry Potter.

Favorite Harry Potter character?
Ack, favorite is hard, but I think I'll go with Neville. I have a thing for underdogs, and he's kind of the ultimate underdog. He's the almost-was hero of the story, a misfit who gets bullied, and on the surface not very talented. But when he's pushed, he shows incredible inner strength. He not only becomes a leader, he becomes a total badass who takes out the most dangerous horcrux. No one could have seen that coming. Neville is the quiet one who kicks ass.

Are you a morning or a night person?
I’m a morning person who wishes she was a night person.

Are you binge watching anything on Netflix or Hulu right now? What is it?
I tend to only watch TV with my husband, and he’s anti-binge watching. But if I could, it would probably be Orphan Black or Game of Thrones.

Buy her brand new book, Revive, here: AmazonBarnes and Noble

Tracey Martin grew up outside of Philadelphia, the lucky recipient of a drama-free childhood, which is why she spent so much time reading about other people's lives. It was while she was working on her doctorate in psychologry that she had an epiphany - imaginary people are way more fun than real ones. And so she began writing.

She likes her coffee simple, her music epic, and her movies to contain explosions. A city girl at heart, she doesn't understand how she and her husband ended up living in New Hampshire, but writing keeps her off the mean, small town streets.

Although she considers herself a hermit, she's a friendly one. You can find her online here:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Review: Revive

Title: Revive
Author: Tracey Martin
Series: Redzone
Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Genre: YA
275 pages
Release Date: May 19, 2015

Alone in a train station bathroom, Sophia Hernandez has no memory of who she is or how she got there. All she’s certain of are three things: her college ID is a lie, bad people are coming for her, and no one can be trusted. The only clue to her past is the fellow student who finds her. Although Sophia’s gut tells her Kyle is lying when he claims he can’t help her, his touch makes her heart race. Is it because of a red-hot natural attraction, or a missing memory of something far more dangerous?

As two mysterious, menacing men chase them from the station, Sophia’s memories return in frustrating fragments. So do deadly skills she didn’t know she had. In the next forty-eight hours, a loved one’s life will be on the line as she sifts through a mounting tangle of secrets and lies. Including the most heart-wrenching secret of all. Not only isn’t she a normal college student, she isn’t even a normal human.
-taken from Goodreads

Happy release day to Revive!

I love it when a book throws you right into the middle of an exciting story with no explanations. Who is this girl? Where is she? What time period is this? In this case, the protagonist doesn't even know the answers to these questions so I certainly don't either. Little by little, small bits of information slip out...ok, she's some sort of spy? Wait, possibly since she was 5? Hold on, did they just talk about the 20th century as though it's in the past?

Revive took me completely by surprise. It turned out to be a major page turner - I finished it in one day! Martin does a great job of completely immersing the reader into a world we know very little about. Not only that, but I didn't care that I didn't know everything about that world! I was just happy to be in it.

Sophia made a great character. She was smart and quick on her feet. She never once came across as weak or indecisive, even when she had no clue who she was or what was going on. I really liked and admired her.

This book also falls into a category of YA fiction that I like best: plots that revolve mostly around the choices the protagonist makes as opposed to plots that revolve around random stuff happening to the protagonist and how they respond. I am not a fan of "reactive plots"* and find them extremely frustrating and boring. However, "proactive plots" are fun and interesting and can even be inspiring!

When the whole story finally came out - who/what Sophia is, who/what Kyle is, etc. - it wasn't anything I'd suspected. The idea felt so original, which is rare in this age of young adult book overload. I highly recommend this book and am off to go check out Tracey Martin's Miss Misery series.

*I just came up with those terms.

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Buy it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Review: The Grisha series
Title: Shadow and Bone/Siege and Storm/Ruin and Rising
Series: The Grisha
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: 2012, 2013, 2014

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
-taken from Goodreads

I really enjoyed this series. It was nice to read a YA novel that didn't fall into the ranks of the countless dystopian YA novels that have flooded the market the past few years.* Although the protagonist was young, a teenager, it was easy to forget because she actually acted so much older. She never fell into that trap of portraying a whiney, overly-emotional, dramatic teen. She reacted to stressful situations the way a mature teenager might react. It was very refreshing.

If you enjoy magic and fantasy, you'll enjoy this story. The magic part of it had a simplicity to it that I can appreciate. It was easy to understand - black = shadows and evil, gold = sunshine and good. The idea that Grisha control certain elements by drawing on the particles that make them was very basic, which made it easy to understand and follow. It also made it more believable, as though you could imagine how even people in our world would be able to control the elements.

The plot kept me going throughout the entire series. There were lots of twists and turns, even with the romance of the story. I'm not going to hint at anything there, but I will say that I was kind of emotionally torn at first, just like Alina! At one point I just sat there thinking, "No no no no no no." I thought it was a great choice to make Alina really struggle with her growing power and worry about becoming evil. Her struggle felt so genuine and completely relatable - don't we all worry about that little devil voice we sometimes hear? I loved the entire emotional roller coaster that lasts through all 3 books.

I could not figure out how things would end! I love to try and figure out how things could possible work out, especially when things seem so hopeless, but I could not do it this time. Then even once certain huge moments started resolving the questions, they would just create more questions! "Well now that that's happened, how could this other thing possibly work out??" So frustrating, and yet SO GOOD.

My only complaint is that the middle book fell into that middle-of-the-trilogy trap where it just feels like a bridge between the 2 other really great books. It was a little slow with very little exciting moments, just a lot of waiting around. However, the first and third books are good enough that it's worth sludging through.

*Don't get me wrong...I love dystopian novels.

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