Monday, December 22, 2008
Which is the perfect setup for the book I want to talk about (and give away!) today. Need is a brand-new young adult contemporary fantasy from Carrie Jones, and it's guaranteed to make you shiver. Not just because it's set in Maine, but because its bogeymen are not vampires or werewolves (though there are a few of the latter), but pixies.
That's right, pixies. And unlike Tinkerbell, who was evil but in an annoying way, you can't stomp on on these pixies. They're tall, fast, and like most fey creatures, have magically irresistible auras. And they're spooky. Trust me, you'll never look at gold glitter the same way again.
However, the pixies aren't the best part of this book. That honor goes to the heroine Zara, who feels as real as your best friend (assuming your best friend isn't imaginary--not that there's anything wrong with that). She's smart and funny and charmingly neurotic. I could totally have coffee with her.
Anyway, when the book opens, Zara is in a deep state of mourning over her recently departed stepfather, who is the only father she's ever known. To snap her out of her paralyzing grief, her mom sends her from their home in Charleston, SC (which has "warm air and flowers and ROADS WITH NO ICE ON THEM"), to live with her grandmother in East Nowhere, Maine.
I know! Instead of stabbing herself with an icicle like most of us would do, Zara handles this disastrous change with humor and a begrudging acceptance borne partly from her inner strength and partly from her general lack of giving-a-rat's-ass.
She meets a cast of characters at school who are beguiling without being obnoxiously quirky. Again, real. Two boys compete for Zara's attention, and at first we don't know which to trust. Once Zara makes her choice, the romance is sweet and unpredictable. She's smitten without giving up one iota of herself, which is nice to see. This is a definite winner for readers of all ages who like books such as Twilight and Wicked Lovely (especially the latter, because of the fey aspect and the not-being-completely-consumed-by-supernatural-dude thing).
Also, Jones manages to make her characters sound like real teenagers without using profanity, a talent I've yet to master (or even attempt, to be honest). So this would definitely be suitable for readers as young as 11 or 12, if they're not easily spooked.
So if you're looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for the young woman in your life, or a great read for yourself over the holiday vacation, check out Need.
Here's Carrie to tell us more, then check out the end of the post to find out how you can win a signed copy of Need, plus a special surprise goody!
Q. Your first novel (TIPS ON HAVING A GAY (EX) BOYFRIEND) was released last year (checks calendar--yep, it's still 2008 now). What was the most surprising/thrilling thing about being a debut author?
Carrie: Because I have absolutely no self confidence at all (Seriously, Tim Wynne-Jones mocks me for saying ‘sorry’ all the time) the most surprising things was getting published at all. I kept expecting Andrew Karre, my editor, to call up and say, “Carrie. We’ve totally been punking you.”
The most thrilling part? Getting letters and emails from people (men and women) who said that my book helped them. It’s about love and acceptance and identity and some kind of tough issues. I never imagined it would actually help anyone. Now I can die all happy.
Note to Fate: That does not mean I should die right now.
In NEED, the heroine Zara is obsessed with naming phobias. Fear obviously shadows and colors much of her existence. Do you see fear as something always to be conquered, or can it play a useful role in our lives?
I think fear works both ways. You know how at slumber parties everyone would freak themselves out because they heard noises in the kitchen or outside? I was always the kid who grabbed a weapon, made the other kids form a line behind me and investigated. “You have to face your fears” was my mantra. Honestly, I even said it out loud TO MY FRIENDS. I have no idea how they didn’t stake me.
More seriously, I’ve seen so many people crippled by their fear. One brilliant woman I know wants more than anything to be a writer but refuses to try because she’s so afraid of failing. My mom goes weak-kneed if she sees a pigeon. She won’t go in a house or a museum if there’s a bird cage. That kind of fear holds you back.
At the same time fear can push you to your limits, help you expand who you are, and sometimes make you do better at tests and with speaking. I am a MUCH better test taker and public speaker if I’m terrified.
Sherman Alexie wrote, “The dream he needed most was the dream that frightened him more.” If you think about that quote it seems that fear is terribly vital.
Why pick pixies over other paranormal peeps?
Because I was so sick of Tinker Belle being the ultimate of pixies. Pixies weren’t always Disneyfied. I wanted to get them a little closer to their roots.
Both Zara in NEED and Belle in your first two books (TIPS and its sequel LOVE (AND OTHER USES FOR DUCT TAPE), are passionately involved with Amnesty International. Is this one of your favorite causes as well? What can we do to help, and how can we find out more about
their most urgent Calls to Action?
I am passionate about Amnesty. There are links to Amnesty on my website, but you can also sign up at its web page and receive Urgent Action Appeals. Then you write letters to officials urging them to release political prisoners or asking them to uphold the tenets of basic human dignity and rights.
Will we see more of Nick and Zara in future books, or is NEED a stand-alone novel?
I just found out yesterday (officially) that NEED is not a stand-alone novel. Eek. This means I need to start writing.
If you could inhabit the life of any of your characters, enter their world and deal with it as that person, which one would you choose?
I’d like to be Zara’s grandmother who is about 75 and an EMT and used to be an insurance exec. She is one tough lady. She retired, got a black belt, ran a marathon and then decided she wanted to do something good for the community. So, she became a paramedic. That just rocks. Plus, she has nice eyes.
Conversely, which of your characters would you most like to bringto life in our world (as a friend or a little bit more ;-) ?
Oh, that’s such a hard one….. I fall in love with ALL my leading men. I am horrible really. So, it’s a bit of a toss up between Tom (from TIPS) and Nick (from NEED) and Paolo (from GIRL, HERO).
They are all good kissers.
To hang out with? I would love to hang out with Issie, Zara’s friend from NEED. She is just so huggable.
Same two questions, but use examples from another author's work (including television/movies/theatre)?
I would like to be…… Um………. Urck…… Puff the Magic Dragon, because, you know, he lived by the sea and he frolicked in the autumn mist. A lot.
I would like to bring Dumbledore into the world, because seriously… how cool would that be?
Which author, living or dead, would you most love to collaborate with?
Steve Wedel. He writes adult horror werewolf novels. I know he’d be nice to me if we wrote something together. Plus, he is from Oklahoma.
What's your earliest memory?
When I was born the doctors thought I was blind and I had some severe vision issues. So most of my memories are of smells and texture. When I was one I had eye surgery and I can remember the stickiness of the patches on my face and the texture of the couch against my hand. It was bumpy and kind-of-tweed textured (totally unlike the smooth surfaces of the hospital) and it was home.
Do you have any phobias?
I am afraid of skiing.
I tried to take a lesson with this guy at Sunday River Resort and he looked just like Luke Wilson, which I told him. We spent the hour laughing hysterically. He spent it laughing hysterically at me. I ended up skiing maybe four feet total.
At the end he said, “You are the weirdest person I have ever taught. I mean that in a good way.”
And I said, “I don’t have much of a future in skiing, do I?”
And he said, “God, no, but I’ll teach you again for free.”
And I said, “You need laughs that bad?”
He just nodded.
He was so cute. I think the point of that story is that even though he was super cute and I had the best time standing on skis on the bottom of that mountain I still didn’t go back for a free lesson because I WAS SO TERRIFIED!!!!!!!
My husband hates when people use the word 'barometer' to mean 'measure.' Which word usage faux pas drives you berserkest?
I am pretty darn mellow, but I guess when people say “vanilla folder” when they mean “manila folder” is what upsets me the most. Although, honestly, it basically just makes me snort tea out of my nose.
Let's say there's a TV show, movie, or recording artist that has a cult of you. Which is it? (i.e., what do you like that no one else you know likes)?
I like Postum, which is a wheat-based cereal beverage (served warm) made by Kraft. They stopped making it last year because only 98-year-olds and I were drinking it.
But that’s not a pop culture type thing… What do I like that nobody else likes? Hm…..
There’s this weather man in Bangor, Maine and he looks like Beaker from the Muppet Show and every time the weather is on he says, “Tonight’s weather is sponsored by Merrill’s Furniture in Ellsworth, Maine. Good furniture. Family feeling.” Yep. He’s so pathetic hawking his meteorological services that he’s hawt.
If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?
Fantasize about the weather man.
If you could ask your favorite author one question and they had to answer honestly, what would it be?
I don’t have a favorite author.
I would, however, like to ask Danielle Steele about her sex life.
Or I’d ask Charles Bukowski if he really thinks that “Sexual intercourse is kicking death in the ass while singing."
If you could write in a totally different genre than your current one, which would you choose?
It’s a hard choice.
What are you working on now, and what new releases can we expect to see from you down the road?
I’m currently working on a super secret project and I’m also working on a sequel to NEED (which will be the next book to come out), a couple young adult novels that aren’t fantasy, and some nonfiction picture books.
If you could tell a stranger just one thing about NEED (other than what it's about--no cheating by quoting synopses or back cover blurbs), what would it be?
NEED is a book. It is not about me. All my books are not about me. (Dad! Are you listening? Not me!) Does that count as three things?
Give Carrie a question or a comment, or share your secret or not-so-secret phobia, down in the comments, and be automatically entered to win a signed hardcover copy of Need, as well as a supah-secret bonus surprise goody! (I am curious about the latter, too.)
And as a special not-so-secret bonus, if we get at least 25 unique commenters (not counting Carrie), I'll throw in a $15 Amazon gift card for the winner, so you can buy another copy of Need for a friend.
So come on, people, prove that someone out there is still reading blogs this holiday week! Contest closes next Sunday night at 11:59 eastern. Have a great week!