Author Interview: Renee Harrell

I need to begin by saying that I really enjoyed this mystery/romance book. I can't say too much without giving the book away, but you can check out my review here. If you love a good mystery/ghost story, you'll enjoy this novel! Plus, there is an element of 60s rock that makes this story... well, ROCK.

The technical stuff:

1. How did you come up with the idea for Something Wicked?

Harrell: Renée and I were talking about our lives as teenagers. Our families didn’t have any extra money, we couldn’t afford our own cars, we each had some minor body issues, and we had a small circle of close friends. In other words, we were pretty normal. So we decided, from the onset, to have a fairly balanced, pretty ordinary, heroine, living a similar teenage life to the one we knew.

Renée: One of my interests as a teenager was music and bands and dancing so those became some of our main character’s interests, too. She needed a place to enjoy those things so we introduced a new teen nightclub to the town. But, then, we thought: What if this nightclub wasn’t exactly what it appeared to be? What if things were just slightly skewed there? What if the hot, new band on its stage wasn’t quite right, either? And the ideas flowed.

2. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Renée: I struggle with dialogue and some of the odd bits of business that make a novel interesting. I’m not as interested in characterization as I am in moving the storyline from point A to point B.

Harrell: But I live for that stuff. I’m never happier than when I surprise my writing partner with something she didn’t expect. On the other hand, I’m a weak plotter, I don’t enjoy adding description, and I hate writing song lyrics (like those in Something Wicked), poems or riddles (which will appear in our September s-f novel, Aly’s Luck). I gladly give those challenges to Renée.

I think it’s great that the two of you compliment each other so well. I’m sure that really makes the writing process A LOT easier for you both.

3. What advice would you give to someone that wanted to write their own book?

Harrell: Sit down and get to it. We’ve met dozens of people and they’re all planning to write a novel but they never get past the first few chapters. That’s depressing! Although it’s challenging, it’s not hard to write a book and there’s never enough good ones.

Renée: Some of the print publishers are struggling but there’s a universe of electronic publishers out there and many of them are actively seeking new material. Self-publishing is an option, too (absolutely!) and some writers, like Joe Konrath, consider it their first choice. Whenever we start a new project, we create a general outline, then proceed chapter-by-chapter and improvise as needed. With a co-writer like Harrell, improvisation is a huge tool and plotting changes are required.

Book related questions:

4. After finishing the book, I was reminded of my favorite Ray Bradbury book: Something Wicked This Way Comes. Even the title, Something Wicked, seems to speak of Bradbury’s book. Was this intentional or just a coincidence?

Harrell: When I was 16, my friend and I met and interviewed Ray Bradbury. He was wonderful to us and I told him, then, how much I loved Something Wicked This Way Comes. Even though I haven’t read it for years, it is definitely my favorite Bradbury novel.

Renée: It’s my favorite Ray Bradbury book, too, but our choice of title was pretty much just a coincidence. From the onset, we’d planned to write at least three novels in the Ann Lippens series: Whispers, Rumors and Lies were the original titles but, as publication neared, we decided to go with Something Wicked, Something Evil and Something Dead.

Okay, first I think it is incredibly awesome that you actually MET Ray Bradbury. I don’t think I would know what to say/do in that situation. I bet he was very interesting. (Something Wicked This Way Comes is my favorite Bradbury book also. The movie version is pretty good too… I use it to teach symbolism and suspense to the kiddos.) Second, I’m glad to hear that there will be three books in this series. I’m anxious to see what happens in the second book. Now that you told me the third book is going to be titled Something Dead, I can’t help but me curious. The wheels in my head are already turning. (That can be dangerous!)

5. When you created the character of Bobby Winters/ Cody Rhodes, did you have a particular rock and roll icon in mind?

Harrell: Renée didn’t but I was thinking of Jim Morrison with a Paul McCartney accent. My wife has a thing for cute English rockers but I suspect those guys are secretly evil.

Hahahaha… I’m depicting a bit of jealousy. Jim Morrison? That gives Bobby a whole new image in my mind. I can see that visual… I’m glad you picked Paul’s accent of Elton’s. I don’t think it would work the same.

6. I’m happy to see that the ending of the book leaves the door wide open for a sequel. Are you currently working on the second book? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

Renée: We hate series novels that aren’t complete in and of themselves and we think Wicked tells its own tale. But, yes, we’ve completed a general outline for Something Evil – the paranormal story aspects ramp up, the romance ramps us, and we’re hoping the scares will ramp up while remaining appropriate for our readers. Ann finally gets her own car, Cody Rhodes seems to have disappeared, but all is not well at the nightclub....

7. This one is for me… I couldn’t help but notice a similarity between Eric and Billy. Was that the intended connection, or is my brain in symbolism overdrive?

Harrell: One of Renée’s favorite cousins is married to a wonderful man who used to be a drummer so, for us, drummers are good guys. That’s the biggest connection between Eric and Billy: We needed some good guys to step up and help Ann battle the monsters.

Fair enough… I told you it’s dangerous when my wheels start turning. I drove my English teachers crazy in school.

8. Which of the characters from Something Wicked is your favorite? Why?

Harrell: I love Cutter, our scariest villain. As evil as he is, he is sadly desperate where Cody Rhodes is concerned.

Renée: I have two favorites, both minor characters in the first book. There’s Liz Stride, the nightclub’s boss, and her employee, Jack the bartender. All Ripperologists know that Liz Stride was a Jack the Ripper victim – and our Liz and our Jack definitely share a supernatural connection. Favors are asked and given in Wicked, very small favors, but Liz has met Ann and remembers her when she needs help. In the sequel, she literally knocks on her door.

Awesome! When you mentioned the nightclub playing a roll in the second book, I instantly thought of Liz. Glad to hear that she will be back. I remember her “talk” with Ann and it did seem important. I knew there was more to it! I thought Cutter was scary (sorry). I would hate to meet him in a dark alley. However, I can see what you mean by “desperate.” He seemed to be constantly seeking Cody’s approval and acceptance.

BTW, Liz…Jack…Jack the Ripper. I did NOT see that one at all. Very interesting. Knowing that was intentional, I can’t help but wonder what roll they will play in the second book.

Random stuff:

9. If you could be any character from a book you’ve read, who would it be? Why?

Renée: I’d like to be Laura, from the Little House on the Prairie series of books. She had such an interesting life growing up and I’ve always loved those stories.

Harrell: Frank Hardy from the Hardy Boys mysteries. When I was eleven and twelve, I loved those novels and wished I could have such a fun, exciting daily life (with Chet as my best friend!) Or I might be Lew Brady, from Donald Westlake’s Kahawa: He’s a man’s man, battling Idi Amin and winning the girl. Then again, maybe I’d be Farm Boy from Goldman’s The Princess Bride. He has fantastic adventures and risks everything for love. I’m a sucker for love.

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I have never actually read the Little House books. Or Gone With the Wind for that matter. It’s terrible, I know! I’m ashamed to admit it. I have, however, read The Princess Bride. I occasionally make my children watch the movie with me. The boys hate it.

10. Do you have any favorite authors and/or favorite books? I absolutely love Lord of the Flies. It’s such a well-known fact in my family that everyone tells me when they hear a reference to it—including my dad who called me late at night to tell me that there was a reference to the pig in an episode of LOST. I had to remind my dad that LOST has been off the air for some time and that I really didn’t need to know that at 11 o’clock at night.

Harrell: In younger days, I loved P.G. Wodehouse, sent him a fan letter, and he actually wrote me back. I’ve read everything Wodehousian. I’m also a huge admirer of Donald E. Westlake, I’ve read everything of his I can find, and I deeply regret that I’ll never again find a new Dortmunder novel.

Renée: I mentioned the Little House stories, right? As a teen, I also loved Conan the Barbarian and I knew all of the Agatha Christie/Hercule Poirot mysteries by heart. To this day, I still deeply enjoy the works of H.P. Lovecraft; someday, somehow, I’m going to talk my writing partner into doing a novella set in the Cthulhu mythos.

11. If you had to pick a favorite song from Bobby’s era, what would it be?

Renée: ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ by the Beatles.

Harrell: English rockers. Pur evil.

12. What’s your favorite book to movie adaptation? I personally am not a fan of books being made into movies. It seems that Hollywood does not do the books justice. If you feel the same way, it’s ok.

Harrell: The worst, did you say? Kubrick’s The Shining – I was so disappointed. Where were the frightening hedge creatures? On the other hand, I like Jurassic Park, the movie, more than Jurassic Park, the novel. I thought the kids were more interesting and better-rounded in the film.

Renée: I was never able to get into the Lord of the Rings novels, much to the dismay of some of our friends. But I enjoyed the movies so, I guess, that’s my choice.

I liked the movies for Lord of the Rings more than the books too. I think it was the Hobbit feet that held my attention. It’s been so long since I’ve read Jurassic Park. I think that was required reading for me in 8th grade.

13. If you found out tomorrow that you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would buy/do with your winnings? This is an easy one for me! I would buy shoes and books!

Renée: You mean, after the boring but wonderful things like paying the bills and helping family and friends? This is an easy one for me. We have a British friend, Paul Abbott, who’s a wonderful artist. If we had lottery-type money, I’d finally be able to afford one of his paintings.

Harrell: I’d hire someone to help me fake an English accent. Seriously. Hey, I know what pleases my wife. If you can’t beat ‘em....

Oh, Renee, you’re too practical! You ruined a good dream… (not really) Those pesky realities do take some fun away from a fantasy. But we can always wish on the Powerball, right?

A huge thank you goes out to Renee and Harrell. They have been great to work with, even when they're sick. If we haven't sold you on reading Something Wicked, I guess I'll be forced to sing my many reasons to the tune of "The Song That Never Ends."

Blog Hop and Follow Friday (13)

Book Blogger Hop

The Blog Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Crazy for Books. This week's question is: "Summer is coming quickly - what 2011 summer release are you are most looking forward to?"

I would say that the book I am most looking forward to this summer is Lost Voices by Sarah Porter. If you haven't read this book yet, check out my review here. I thought this story was phenomenal, and I am so glad to hear that it will be a series. I'm also pretty excited about the next book in Jillian Larkin's The Flappers series. (The review for that book is here.) It comes out later this summer as well. Who wouldn't love a book about Flappers set during the 1920s?

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and features a new book blogger each week. This week's question is: Keeping with the dystopian and apocalypse theme that seems to be running rampant on, I have one very hard question for you: If you were stocking your bomb shelter, what books would you HAVE to include if you only had space for ten?

This is such a great question. How on earth can I narrow down my reading to just 10 books? Hmm... I guess my list would look like this:

1. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
2. Animal Farm by George Orwell
3. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
4-7. The Entire Alanna series by Tamora Pierce
8. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
9. Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
10. The Bible (I know this should really be ranked as #1)

It was really hard to think of a list with only 10 books. I had to think about books that have a special place in my heart, as well as re-readability. Some books I just can't read more than once, even if they were enjoyable. BUT some books have this awesome ability to be brand new every single time you read them. You just can't help but to get something fresh and profound from them. Of course, numbers 4-7 and number 9 are just fun to read.

Fairytale Acrostics + giveaway

If you haven't been following the Fairytale Fortnight event at Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing and The Book Rat then you really have been missing out on some GREAT stuff. All fans of fairytales and fairytale retellings should be checking these two ladies out. I have read interviews with some of my favorite authors, as well guest posts by fellow bloggers. There are a lot of talented people out there! Plus, there are TONS of giveaways. So really, shame on you for not checking it out. But, alas, don't fret. You can follow the links up there and redeem yourselves.

In celebration of the event I guest posted two acrostics that my class worked on. But wait... there is more. Go check out both blogs to see the awesome (I can't help but brag) giveaways I'm hosting for the event. There is a YA pack and a children's pack.

Here is the first poem:

Forgotten by her stepmother
And evil stepsisters
Impossible, never ending chores
Resigned to be a slave, but
Yearning to be free

Today brings change with
A magical wand
Love at first sight while
Enchanted dancers
Swirl in to the night

Can you see Cinderella in this?? I love the subtlety.
Ok, one more....
From a window in the tallest tower

Awaiting her long, lost prince--
In a kingdom far away--
Restricted by an evil witch, a
Young princess waits for

True love’s first kiss.
Adventure looming at every corner,
Leading the dashing hero to
Everlasting love and
Stories of happily ever afters.

Ok, I admit that this is probably my favorite. I can't help it. I love Rapunzel almost as much as I adore The Little Mermaid.

Sorry if you already read these on the other blogs. I had all intentions of posting some new ones, but when I sat down to work I discovered that something erased my entire hard drive. =( I don't even have my pictures anymore!

OMG! An Author Wrote to ME

Just a bit of randomness that I had to share. I checked my e-mail tonight and saw an e-mail from Ryan G. VanCleave, author of the book Unlocked. An e-mail to me, from a real author. So cool. What was in the e-mail you ask? Well, it was pretty short and sweet, but uber cool all the same. He simply thanked me for the review of mine that I posted on LibraryThing and suggested two books that his students enjoyed. (Ironically, I just bought one of the books last week. Good call on my part.) The coolest thing, however, was that he offered to do a classroom/school visit at MY SCHOOL. How awesome is that?

Ok, I thought I would share that because that was one of the coolest things that has happened to me in a looooong while. Now I can't wait to go back to work to tell the librarian!

Author Interview: Sara Lauritzen

In celebration of National Poetry Month, I think it is only fitting to have an interview with a poet! Sara Lauritzen is the author of Iconic Poetry, a collection of poems about some of our society’s most famous icons.

Note: Anything in blue from this point forward is my personal commentary.

Here is the interview:

Random Stuff:

1. If you could invite anyone from history (living or dead) to dinner at your house, who would you invite? Why?

I would invite Susan B. Anthony and show her our world today and the efforts that have been made since her day. I like her character and courage, she was a true leader.

Fantastic choice! I would have FDR at my dinner table. Wouldn’t the two of them make for a night of enlightening conversation?

2. In the introduction of your book you mentioned that you lived in Dubai. I’m curious about what led you to such an interesting and unusual place. What did you enjoy most about living in another country?

My husband was asked to set up an office in Dubai, so naturally we jumped at the chance to experience life in this part of the world. I particularly enjoyed the level of creativity. It was like being in a real life game of “Sim City”, the city-building simulation game. It seemed there were no limits to the fascinating designs buildings were shaped into - even the highway overpasses were decorative and interesting to look at.

3. If you were to write an “iconic” poem about a celebrity, who would you choose? Could you share a stanza or two of your poem?

All wispy at the ends, hair brown, neat and shinny
Your eyes are shaped and lashed like a Deer
A smile full of caring, you’re gentle and dreamy
This is only the start of your career
Your voice, smooth and lulling can be heard all over
The world, you’re a star in every way
Thousands of fans follow you
Watch, learn and are hopeful of meeting
The Bieber, one day!

Oh my teenage students will love this! They are obsessed with Justin Bieber.

Technical Stuff:

1. I loved that your poetry collection had poems about Starbucks and iPods. If you were to write another edition of Iconic Poetry, what “icons” would you write about this time?

You Tube, Blogging, and the Statue of Liberty for starters.

Oh, I love the idea of adding a poem about Lady Liberty. It will be fun to pair that with the classic “The New Colossus.” I can only imagine what will come in a poem about YouTube. If it’s anything like the Ebay poem, it will be humorous and true to life.

2. What advice would you give young writers?

Write from the part of yourself that is truly you and do not judge your work by comparing it to what others have done. A friend once said to me “we think we should be more of what everyone else has done out there when instead we should be more of what we are.”

Wow. Your friend really nails it. In an age of copycats, being original does mean something.

3. What did you find to be the hardest part of the writing process?

It took time to get the rhyming part of the poetry to stay true to each icon. It was important to me, not to use any fluffy fillers. If I couldn’t find a rhyming word that matched the authenticity of the icon, I changed the poem altogether.

I wondered how the rhyming worked for you. When I was teaching poetry to my students they had a really hard time with the rhymes. It was easy to rhyme a few lines, but they found that multiple stanzas are an entirely different animal!

A special thank you to Sara Lauritzen for participating in this interview. If you would like to learn more about her (she's very interesting) or her poetry book Iconic Poetry, check out her website here.

Review: Something Wicked

Something Wicked
Renee Harrell

Paperback: 240 pages

Kim and Ann have been best friends since grade school. But when Ann and Kim meet performer Cody Rhodes at the hot new club, whis*pers, something strange happens. Having just ended her relationship with her boyfriend, Ann is not interested in Cody’s advances; however, Kim is more than eager to strike up a relationship with the brooding singer. Within a few days Ann notices that Kim is acting strange. Her gorgeous long, blonde hair is suddenly fiery red and short. Plus, she’s wearing the most atrocious outfits straight from the hippie era. Ann has no idea what is going on with her normally level-headed friend, but she assumes it’s because of Cody’s influence.

At first, Ann is happy for Kim’s new relationship, but then Kim starts acting even stranger. It’s no longer just her appearance that is changing—now she doesn’t act the same either. Kim has started lying to her parents and staying out all night with Cody. With her friend’s strange behavior, Ann decides to do a little research on Cody’s striking resemblance to dead rock star Bobby Winters. What she finds, however, is chilling. Cody looks exactly like Bobby. Even more frightening is the horrific history behind Bobby Winters and the Reapers (his band). Now, Kim is in danger and time is running out.

Let me begin by saying that I have a bad habit of starting new books when I should be getting ready to go to bed. Renee Harrell’s book Something Wicked was no different. I started reading it shortly before my “bed time” but I realized I couldn’t put it down. I was sucked into the story by the second chapter. I shirked my Easter bunny duties to read this book in one sitting! The plot was pretty interesting. The idea of a long dead rock star coming back from the grave to find his long lost love is riveting. It certainly kept me interested. As far as pacing goes, the plot is fast paced. There aren’t too many loops in the story, but it moves consistently and thoroughly. I loved how the ending leaves Ann anticipating another encounter with Cody. It’s pretty obvious there will be a sequel to this book, which is a good thing. I want to see what happens next.

The characters in the book invoke a variety of emotions. I liked Ann, even though she seemed a little OCD at times. Her father was hard working and caring, which reminded me of my dad. I loved that he was firm but fair when it came time to administer punishments. He seemed like a true over-worked single father trying to take care of his teenage daughter. I also like Eric, although I felt like there wasn’t enough of him in the story. He came across as Ann’s knight and shining armor, but I didn’t always see why he was so drawn to her. I hope in the next book that their story continues to develop and goes a little deeper. Now, as far as despicable characters go… oh boy! There are plenty to choose from. The ones that stand out the most to me are Scott and Cutter. Scott is you typical meat-headed teenage boy with “one thing” on his mind. I was completely revolted by him in the first chapter. The things I could say!! You can imagine what he was like. Every girl has met that boy. Cutter, however, was interesting. If an animal could be in human form, he would be the most dangerous of predators. I would hate to ever encounter someone like him! He seemed full of nervous energy that he was too willing to convert into physical violence. In fact, hurting people made him happy. If I had to liken him to a real-life person, I would imagine he would be the equivalent to Al Capone’s henchman. Very disturbing.

I managed to read the book in one sitting. Partly because it was an easy, quick read, but mainly because I wanted to know what happened. I didn’t want to wait until the next day to finish the book. I really enjoyed the story. As I said, I think that the second book has a lot of potential because it will continue to further develop the plot and the characters. With that being said, I would give this book a solid 3 to 3 ½ stars. I anticipate the next book getting even higher marks.

If you like ghost stories tinted with murder and romance, then this is certainly a book you would enjoy.

Publisher: Hunting Monsters Press (April 16, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0982922108
Source: I received this book by the author for a review

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