blo Teens Read and Write: January 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011

Author Interview: Ty Roth - SO SHELLY

We're excited to have Ty Roth here today for an interview! His debut YA novel, SO SHELLY, is a contemporary take on historical figures and is available Feb. 8.  


Until now, high school junior, John Keats, has only tiptoed near the edges of the vortex that is schoolmate and literary prodigy, Gordon Byron. That is, until their mutual friend, Shelly, drowns in a sailing accident. After stealing Shelly's ashes from her wake at Trinity Catholic High School, the boys set a course for the small Lake Erie island where Shelly's body had washed ashore and to where she wished to be returned. It would be one last "so Shelly" romantic quest. At least that's what they think. As they navigate around the obstacles and resist temptations during their odyssey, Keats and Gordon glue together the shattered pieces of Shelly's and their own pasts while attempting to make sense of her tragic and premature end.

1. You say that your Catholic faith influences your writing, how did it influence the story of SO SHELLY
 Each of the major characters in the novel, as they did in their real lives, struggle against some monolithic institution or undefeatable force. Gordon Byron struggles against the morals of polite society. Shelly struggles with the Christian church, and Keats with death. These conflicts serve as major motivators for the actions, philosophies, and feelings of each of the trinity. In my life, the Catholic church has been that omnipresent and omnipotent force. 

2. Your characters are based on historical figures but are there any characters based on your real life students?  None of the characters’ personalities are based on contemporary, real life individuals, but when picturing them in my head and describing them, I often took a sort of Dr. Frankenstein approach. For example, in describing the Byron character, I took his eyes from one former student, his hair from another, and his physique from yet another. The closest I came to using a complete and real person is for the Greek revolutionary, Zoe. During the time when I was writing her scenes, I noticed a student who looked the way I imagined Zoe would. From that day on, unbeknownst to her, I had my model. 

3. Why did you decide to tackle a novel with such deep emotional issues? 
I’m not sure I ever consciously “decided” to do so. The nature of Romantic philosophy and the actual events of Byron’s, Shelley’s, and Keats’s lives, upon which much of the novel is based, lend themselves to emotionality. Besides, I don’t think I would be much interested in reading a novel that didn’t explore and expose “deep emotional issues,” and I’m positive that I’m not interested in writing one. Also, in young adulthood our emotions are especially acute; they drive our decision making more directly than they will in the sober years of adulthood. As the novel is primarily aimed at young adults, it only made sense to ratchet up the appeal to readers’ emotions. 

4. If you could go back in time and interview Keats, Shelley, and Byron, what would you ask them? 
Byron seemed to face a dilemma similar to that of Achilles: Live a glorious life but die young, or live a long but unremarkable life. Like Achilles he chose the former. Given the chance, I’d ask him if he regrets that decision. 

Keats was faced with a similar dilemma. With a premonition of early death, he chose to commit himself wholeheartedly to his poetry. I’d like to know, if given the opportunity to re-live his last years, would he do the same thing, or would he throw himself into the pursuit of more worldly pleasures. 

Shelley’s principled refusal to renounce his essay, “The Necessity of Atheism,” destroyed his relationship with his father and all but doomed him to a life of poverty and social rejection. I think I know his answer, but I’d like to ask Shelley if he ever regretted that decision. 

5. What do you think Keats, Byron, and Shelley would like most and like least about contemporary society? 
As for Shelley, I don’t think that he would like much at all. Many of the social ills he hoped to conquer through love and poetry remain unresolved, including poverty, institutionalized religion, and the general oppression of the common man. One change he might appreciate is a greater recognition of a father’s right of access to his children, which he was denied after his scandalous behavior lead to his first wife’s suicide.

As to Byron, the easy answer would be modernity’s greater sexual freedoms, at least as allowed in most of the West. But Byron was a man of the world, so even more, I think, he’d appreciate the ease and speed of travel we are afforded today. As for what he’d like least, I’d say the constant hounding by the press endured by today’s celebrities. Byron certainly took full advantage of his fame, but he would have found the invasiveness of paparazzi beyond the Pale.

Keats, I’d say, would greatly appreciate modern medicine’s ability to treat illnesses that often proved fatal in his day. Remember, he, his mother, and brother all died of tuberculosis, a disease which has been all but eradicated outside of the third world. One of the most troublesome realities of the modern world for Keats would be the near extinction of poetry in wide cultural circulation, which has doomed poets to near complete anonymity and irrelevance. 

6. You say you’re always “a teacher.” What do you hope readers take away from reading SO SHELLY
If pressed for a moral, I’d say SO SHELLY is a cautionary tale against the dangers of self-absorption, especially as realized in Gordon’s (Byron’s) sexual carelessness and in Keats’s self-pity and preoccupation with death. I’d like for older readers to see how self-absorption also causes each of the main characters’ parents to fail to properly monitor and guide their children’s choices and behaviors.

I’d also love it if readers caught some of the spirit of Romanticism as revealed in the values of the main characters, such as freedom, rebellion against tyranny of the body or mind as exercised by social institutions, individualism and nonconformity, passion for living spontaneously and in the immediate moment, concern for social justice, and an appreciation for the power of emotion.

SO SHELLY also explores themes related to such issues as racism, the class divide, sexuality, suicide/death, abuse/violence, and religious faith.

This is going to expose me as a geeky English major, but from a literary standpoint, I hope that more astute readers will appreciate the layers of symbolism, satire, irony, and meta-textual commentary, but it is not necessary to recognize any of this in order to enjoy the story – I hope.

7. As you’re teaching your class, Keats, Shelley, and Byron crash through the ceiling (and the space-time continuum) dressed like famous superheroes – which superhero is each one dressed up as and why? 
Byron appears as Batman, the Dark Knight. Like him, Byron was wealthy, aristocratic, intelligent, athletic, darkly handsome yet almost impossible to pin down. He was a complex figure who was simultaneously loved and loathed.

Shelley would wear the costume of Captain Planet. Although he could be shockingly callous towards loved ones, at heart, he was a shameless do-gooder. He sincerely wanted to change/save the world – literally through free love and poetry. I think that naive idealism is also present in Captain Planet. Also, in “Ode to the West Wind,” Shelley identified himself with the wind, an element of nature and instrument of change.

Keats, I see as a sort of Invisible Man, so I guess I wouldn’t “see” him at all. His goal as a poet was to – like Eminem – “lose himself” in the subjects of his poems. Keats felt that the poet’s goal was to be personally reductive to the point of nothingness so as to become part and parcel of the subject of which the poet writes rather than being a spectator outside of the subject merely reporting, therefore, the Invisible Man. I hope that makes sense.

Ty, thanks for stopping by and sharing such interesting, fun and in depth answers!

Friday, January 28, 2011


Am I going overboard with my Alex Pettyfer obsession? Who cares! And who wouldn't want more of such a gorgeous hunk! So here are more pics and some gossip that he and co-star (and GLEE cast member) Diana Agron are dating. SIGH... Check out the ET video for the sad news. 

I AM NUMBER FOUR (which was a fun book) hits theaters Feb. 18!
Website / Facebook 

Three are dead. He is Number Four. D.J. Caruso (“Eagle Eye,” “Disturbia”) helms a suspense-thriller about an extraordinary young man, John Smith (Alex Pettyfer), who is a fugitive on the run from ruthless enemies sent to destroy him. Changing his identity, moving from town to town with his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant), John is always the new kid with no ties to his past. In the small Ohio town he now calls home, John encounters unexpected, life-changing events—his first love (Dianna Agron), powerful new abilities and a connection to the others who share his incredible destiny.

Running in Hollywood Hills - Now I know where to look! Check out those abs!

Teresa Palmer - #6 - She Looks So Kick-butt!

Alex with Timothy Olyphant - another Kirk family favorite!

Alex and some guy... Oh, it's Callan McAuliffe

Okay, so they're kinda cute together

Hope you enjoyed the eye-candy and have a great weekend! 
And FYI, Alex is on the Ellen DeGeneres show today - check your local listings!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Author Interview: Alexandra Monir - TIMELESS

Today we have the lovely and talented Alexandra Monir here for an interview! Her debut young adult novel, TIMELESS, was released this month and it sounds fantastic!

When tragedy strikes Michele Windsor’s world, she is forced to uproot her life and move across the country to New York City, to live with the wealthy, aristocratic grandparents she’s never met. In their old Fifth Avenue mansion filled with a century’s worth of family secrets, Michele discovers a diary that hurtles her back in time to the year 1910. There, in the midst of the glamorous Gilded Age, Michele meets the young man with striking blue eyes who has haunted her dreams all her life – a man she always wished was real, but never imagined could actually exist. And she finds herself falling for him, into an otherworldly, time-crossed romance. Michele is soon leading a double life, struggling to balance her contemporary high school world with her escapes into the past. But when she stumbles upon a terrible discovery, she is propelled on a race through history to save the boy she loves – a quest that will determine the fate of both of their lives.
 Hi Readers:)
I just released my debut novel, TIMELESS, and I couldn't be more excited to share it with all of you. I also recorded two original songs that are featured in the story, which you can hear on my website or on iTunes. Books and music are my greatest passions, so combining the two has been such a thrill for me--I love being able to tell Michele's story through both the written word and the recorded song. I hope you enjoy!

1. Was there something musical that helped inspire the story of TIMELESS?
When I wrote the book proposal, I was listening to the Radiohead song "Sail To The Moon." That track is just so mystical and hypnotizing, it really transported me into this world that I was writing about.

2. Would you describe the songs you’ve written for TIMELESS and are there certain characters or scenes in the book that inspired them?
The songs are both integrated into the plot, and in the story the lyrics are written by the protagonist, Michele. The first song, "Bring The Colors Back," expresses how Michele feels when she's away from Philip--like the world has lost its light and vibrancy, and she needs the colors back in her life. "Chasing Time" is like the theme of Michele's journey, how she'd rather chase history to be with Philip than live in the normal world without him. Both songs incorporate musical sounds from the eras Michele visits when she goes back in time.

3. What Young Adult book would you like to see made into a musical and is there a part you’d like to play in it?
Fun question! I think A Great and Terrible Beauty would make a really cool musical, and if I can still pass as 16, I'd of course want to play Gemma! :) 

4. What are the similarities (if any) between writing music and writing fiction? Do you find one easier or more enjoyable than the other?
The main similarity is that whether you're writing a song or a book, you're telling a story, and you're taking people on a journey through that story. I'm in love with both mediums! Writing a song is a much quicker process than writing a book, so I suppose that makes it easier, though I get to enjoy writing a book for longer since I'm enmeshed in it for so long!

5. You started your musical and theater career at young age, what have been some of the most memorable things that have happened on your journey?
My former life as a teen-pop singer was definitely memorable! I was playing clubs on the Sunset Strip at age 16, but because I was too young to actually be in the clubs, I had to leave immediately after performing! Then the summers I was 17 and 18, I was the opening act for O-Town and Aaron Carter and we played some big venues. It was a fun time, but the teen-pop sound never really fit me, and once I hit age 20, I had fallen madly in love with old-school jazz. 

6. You split your time between New York and San Francisco, what do you like best and least about each city?
Actually I'm back and forth between New York and Los Angeles. :) There is so much I love about New York, but probably what I love most is all the culture and history you can experience in the city. The weather is my least favorite thing about NY. In LA, I love the beautiful SoCal sun! But I'm not a fan of the traffic, and how spread out everything is.

7. Your main character Michele travels to the early 1900’s, why that time period? If you could time travel, what era would you go to?
I just love the Gilded Age! Actually the character of Philip expresses it best in the book when he tells Michele about 1910 New York, "It's like living between the old and the new. The city has one foot in its Victorian past, and one foot in your future." I love that about the early 1900's, and so I'd love to visit that era myself.

8. You've been asked to write, “Zombie Apocalypse: The Musical.” Please give us the tagline and the titles of some of the songs.
Oh wow, that's a toughie! Well knowing me, I would probably find a way to make it romantic. :) So maybe the tagline is: What happens when a zombie falls in love with its prey?! An example song title could be "My Bloody Gutsy Heart." Hmm, something tells me this wouldn't be my finest work! 

9. Interior. Dark. The sounds of hundreds of thousands of people eagerly chanting “Alex! Alex!” You’re slowly being lifted via platform to the massive stage of the #1 Hit Reality Series “Sing-Off: Deathmatch Edition!” You’ve made it to the final round. Who are you facing, who is in your backup band, and what song are you going to sing in order to win and not get eaten by a hoard of ravenous zombies?
Thursdays @ 8/9 Central
Yikes! Let's see, I think Adele and Duffy are both super-talented singers so I'd be honored to face them--though that would be stiff competition! My backup band would have to include the musical genius Michael Bearden (who produced and played piano on the Timeless songs!). I would probably sing a dramatic ballad fitting of these life-or-death circumstances, like maybe "Don't Cry For Me Argentina."

10. Thanks for answering our (sometimes bizarre) questions. Is there anything else you’d like to share? 
Thanks for having me, it was fun!

Alexandra, thanks so much for visiting and providing such great answers. We can't wait to read TIMELESS and FYI - we listened to the songs - they're beautiful so check them out!

For more on Alexandra - 
Visit her WEBSITE
TIMELESS on Goodreads and Amazon

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday – 1/26/11

WoW is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine as a way to share the future releases we're pining for!

by Kendare Blake
pub: Sept 2011
Teen Fiction/Paranormal
Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story. . .  Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.  So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay. When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.  And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.
Another book from a debut author that sounds utterly fantastic - creepy, dangerous, thrilling! And why did we make the cover so big? 
Because we LOVE it!

What are you waiting for? 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

REVIEW: FALLEN ANGEL by Heather Terrell

by Heather Terrell
pub: Dec 2010
Teen Fiction / Paranormal
Heaven-sent? Ellie was never particularly good at talking to boys—or anyone other than her best friend and fellow outcast, Ruth. Then she met Michael. Handsome, charming, sweet. And totally into Ellie. It’s no wonder she is instantly drawn to him. But Michael has a secret. And he knows Ellie is hiding something, too. They’ve both discovered they have powers beyond their imagining. Powers that are otherworldly. Ellie and Michael are determined to uncover what they are, and how they got this way . . . together. But the truth has repercussions neither could have imagined. Soon they find themselves center stage in an ancient conflict that threatens to destroy everything they love. And it is no longer clear whether Ellie and Michael will choose the same side.
Ellie's trying to figure out the meaning of her strange visions and dreams - and awakening powers. She uncovers details about her ancestry which is interesting and unusual, but initially makes for less action and a slower pace. 

Ellie may be clueless about a lot of things but she's diligent in finding answers. I also liked the relationships with her parents and her BFF, Ruth - real and full of love. The romance with Michael happens fast and while there's a reason for the connection, the "instantness" (not sure if it's a word but work with me) loses the build up of sexual tension. 
I wasn't completely crazy about Michael because he makes such a bonehead move in the middle of the book - makes him seem weak -  but to his credit, he makes up for it in the end. 

Ellie is the stronger one (Go Girl Power!) and the focus of FALLEN ANGEL is her story of discovery which highlights her fortitude and courage. I liked that when Michael shows seriously poor, dangerous judgement, Ellie distances herself. With minimal whining, she fights her darker tendencies and heads out on her own traveling a quest to save herself and the ones she loves. 
Bad guys are good reading!

When the dastardly Ezekiel shows up, things head to the sinister side. Yay! The evil guys are always fun and, honestly, I would have liked more insight into his background and motives. 
(Should I worry about my own darker tendencies? Naw, they're just literary fantasy, right?...right?) Ellie works to keep from becoming his prey. Sure she makes mistakes, but I liked that she kept taking action!

The unique folklore is one of the best aspects of FALLEN ANGEL. The explaining slows the pacing but you get a fresh take on angel legend. Exciting drama builds in the final pages. You get some answers but not all and the action-filled finale punches with tension, intrigue and surprising twists. 

FALLEN ANGEL offers unique angel lore, a gutsy heroine, good family and friend, and a creepy villain. While the beginning slows due to explaining the fallen angel premise, the final pages ramp up the action and suspense!  

  • The sequel, ETERNITY, is out June 28. 
  • Heather reveals her real-life love story on her Guest Post
  • Learn more about Heather on her WEBSITE

Heather Terrell is a lawyer with more than ten years' experience as a litigator at two of the country's premier law firms and for Fortune 500 companies. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Boston College with a focus in History and Art History, and a cum laude graduate of the Boston University School of Law. She lives in Pittsburgh with her family.

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