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Top Ten Graphic Novels for Summer

Summertime is the time for all comic book characters to hit the silver screen so while you're on the beach this summer, why not take add one of these secret origins to your reading list? Our bookseller and graphic novel aficionado Harry lists his top ten graphic novels for Summer 2017.

Books for All Ages

1. Bone by Jeff Smith

Bone is truly one of the great fantasy epics of our times. We follow three creatures from a town called Bonville who have been exiled from their homes. They soon find themselves in a rich world filled with people and monsters like they've never seen before. Complete with dragons, necromancers, and a tough as nails grandma, it's fun all the way through.

2. The Adventures of TIntin by Herge

Tintin is one of those timeless comics that appeal to every kid. Tintin is a Belgian reporter who finds himself embroiled in adventure after adventure. Picture Indiana Jones meets the Hardy Boys. Tintin features a colorful cast of characters and hi jinks around the globe to the desert to the jungle to the bottom of the ocean and to the moon. 

3. Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi

Magic amulets, mysterious family members, robots, if you haven't read this series yet, you really should. Perfect for those who love books similar to Harry Potter and fun for all ages.

4. Hilda and the Troll by Luke Pearson

Hilda is another series that parents will enjoy as much as children. HIlda is a wonderful mixture of childhood curiosity and Northern folklore. The stories are engaging, sweet, and simple. The artwork is incredibly expressive and stylized and lends itself perfectly to Hilda's adventures. 

 

Books for Young Adults (and Adults Who Read Young Adult)

5. Teen Titans by Geoff Johns

It’s dark, it’s edgy, it’s teens with weird powers and adolescent problems. Teen Titans is great for DC fans who are looking for a cool, action packed YA graphic novel.

6. Snotgirl by Bryan Lee O'Malley 

A fashion blogger runs into #drama when she goes to a club and accidentally kills her new best friend. Things get even more complicated when her dead best friend keeps texting her from beyond the grave and shows up that the same party she's at. Ugh, life totally sucks sometimes. The artwork is superb in this absolute nail-biter of a mystery. 

7. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki

Fans of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies and new readers alike will love this manga. Everything from how Nausicaa grows as a person, to the incredible world building, to the breathtaking detail in the artwork makes it one of my absolute favorites to read again and again.

8. Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson

As our bookseller Jessica beautifully sums up: "It's girls! Doing things!" There aren't a ton of female-centric comics in the industry, but this is one of the best. A group of girls at a summer camp get into supernatural shenanigans and hilarity, female affirmation ensues. Funny series, great art, great read.

 

Books for Adults

9. Saga by Brian K. Vaughn

Saga is wonderful. It's visually beautiful, super creative, and entirely relatable. Anyone who has ever gone to incredible lengths for someone they love will know how the people in this book feel. Two alien planets, two forbidden lovers, one war that threatens to tear them apart and their newborn child. A sci-fi adventure with real heart. 

10. Descender by Jeff Lemire

Sort of like the movie AI but better and also it's a comic. A small robot boy wakes up after a decades-long sleep on a small mining outpost on a backwater planet. His family and every human there is dead. He soon learns that the entire galaxy has turned against robot-kind but he may also be the key to saving everyone. 

 

Books: 
Out from Boneville (BONE #1) Cover Image
$12.99
ISBN: 9780439706407
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: Graphix - February 1st, 2005

The Blue Lotus (The Adventures of Tintin: Young Readers Edition) Cover Image
By Hergé
Email or call for price & availability
ISBN: 9780316133821
Availability: Not Currently Available to Order
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - July 19th, 2011

The Stonekeeper's Curse (Amulet #2) Cover Image
$12.99
ISBN: 9780439846837
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: Graphix - September 1st, 2009

Hilda and the Troll: Book 1 (Hildafolk) Cover Image
Email or call for price & availability
ISBN: 9781909263789
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Flying Eye Books - December 1st, 2015

Teen Titans by Geoff Johns Book One Cover Image
$29.99
ISBN: 9781401265984
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: DC Comics - April 4th, 2017

Snotgirl Volume 1: Green Hair Don't Care Cover Image
$9.99
ISBN: 9781534300361
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: Image Comics - February 28th, 2017

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 1 Cover Image
$12.99
ISBN: 9781591164081
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: VIZ Media LLC - February 11th, 2004

Saga Volume 1 (Saga (Comic Series)) Cover Image
$9.99
ISBN: 9781607066019
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: Image Comics - October 23rd, 2012

Descender, Volume 1: Tin Stars (Descender Tp #1) Cover Image
By Jeff Lemire, Dustin Nguyen (Artist)
$9.99
ISBN: 9781632154262
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Image Comics - September 22nd, 2015

Meet an Author — Grady Hendrix

 

 

 

 

 

Grady Hendrix writes fiction, also called "lies," and he writes non-fiction, which people sometimes accidentally pay him for. He is the author of Horrorstör, the only novel about a haunted Scandinavian furniture store you'll ever need. It has been translated into 14 languages and is being turned into a television show. His most recent novel is called My Best Friend's Exorcism, about demonic possession, friendship, exorcism, and the Eighties.

Grady used to be a journalist, which means that he was completely irrelevant and could be killed and turned into food at any time. He is one of the founders of the New York Asian Film Festival, but he is not responsible for the bad parts of it. He is also not Asian. For years he was a regular film critic for the New York Sun but then it went out of business. He has written for Playboy Magazine, Slate, The Village Voice, the New York Post, Film Comment, and Variety.

The New Yorker once ran a short profile on him, and this means that when the time comes and they are lining people up for the Space Arks he will be guaranteed a seat ahead of you.

 

Both Horrorstör and My Best Friend's Exorcism are incredibly unique, riding a delicate line between full-fledged horror and more mainstream fiction. Where do you find inspiration for your stories?

With books I really like taking clichés and digging into them, taking them literally. I mean, Horrorstör is just a haunted house story, and My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a straight-up exorcism narrative. But those stories are only clichés if you don’t think about them too hard. Once you take them seriously, weird contradictions arise. I’ve always been freaked out by the end of The Exorcist when the MacNeils are saying goodbye to the priests. I mean, sure, Regan is no longer possessed, but what’s breakfast like the next morning after you kill a priest, rub your mom’s face into your bloody crotch, and spray bystanders with green vomit? 

Tell us a bit about what it was like to write from the perspective of teenage girls.

The most important thing that happened to me writing this book was when I gave my wife the first 50,000 words to read. I was super proud and thought she was going to be blown away and all “You’re the world’s greatest writer.” Instead she told me it was hot garbage. We pretty much almost got divorced over that conversation. But when I got over my wounded ego, I realized she was right. My head was so stuffed with pop culture depictions of the 80s and high school from movies and other books that I’d forgotten what the real thing was like, so I pulled out all my old letters and journals, all my wife’s old letters, all the yearbooks and photos we had, and I just dove into them for 3 weeks. At one point I started copying letters over to get into the mindset (I copied so many of them that my handwriting actually changed and I reverted to some weird ways to write “a” and “e” that I had in high school). It reminded me that high school in the 80s was so much stranger and so much scarier than I remembered. Writing from the POV of two girls wasn’t very difficult after I got that part down. I mean, we’re both people. 

A reviewer has called My Best Friend's Exorcism, "a great mixture of nostalgia and horror." How does that assessment strike you?

I’ll take any assessment anyone’s willing to give me! I write these books alone in a room then seal them up in bottles and throw them out into the world, so it’s nice to hear from someone who’s found one washed up on the beach. Even if they don’t like something I’ve written, I’m grateful they’re taking the time to engage.

If My Best Friend's Exorcism were to be made into a movie, who do you hope would play Abby and Gretchen?

Zendaya as Gretchen and Willow Smith as Abby.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism includes some really intense and suspenseful scenes, but there are added elements of humor and a lovely friendship between your main characters. Do you consider yourself a part of the horror genre? Or is there another label that you think better captures what you’ve created?

I just write books about the world I see around me. Afterwards, people tell me it’s horror. But I am aware that I’m writing in a horror tradition and I’m happy with that. Horror is the mulch down deep in the dark where all the other genres have their roots. It’s the most flexible genre that talks about the most important things: life, death, love, werewolves. 

Who are your top five favorite authors?

I’ll read anything by Elmore Leonard and any of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels. Once a year, or every other year, I re-read Charles Willeford’s Miami-set Hoke Mosely novels. I keep finding new things to love in Shirley Jackson. And I’ve been doing a massive re-read of Stephen King and it’s given me a new appreciation of what he’s done and is still doing.

Which books are in your to-be-read pile right now? 

Right now, I’m working on a book about books, so I’m reading a ton of horror paperbacks from the 70s and 80s. My to-be-read pile has about 100 books in it, and I’m reading 2-3 per day, which hurts my brain. But in terms of what I’ve read in the past five days, Satan’s Mistress, Satan’s Seductress, Satan’s Sleuth, Satan’s Pets, Satan’s Love Child, Satan Sublets, Satan’s Bride, and Satan’s Daughter. Basically, I’m reading about all of Satan’s relationships.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

It doesn’t exist until you put it down on paper. That’s the only way to do it. There are no shortcuts.

Can we look forward to another book from you in the future?

I’ve got a new book due in October, and then a new novel due in February. I can’t talk about them right now because I don’t want to make any promises until they’re finished, but there will be new books from me in 2017 and 2018 at the very least.

 

 

Books: 
Staff Pick Badge
My Best Friend's Exorcism: A Novel Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9781594748622
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Quirk Books - May 17th, 2016

Horrorstor: A Novel Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9781594745263
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Quirk Books - September 23rd, 2014

Meet a Bookseller — Wendy

 

What do you do at the bookstore?

My job is to socialize and talk about books. I also carry books around, alphabetize, and clean shelves. All books, all the time!  I need to be as knowledgeable as possible about many different genres of books, although my favorite sections are mystery, cooking, adventure/travel and nature.

What do you do outside of the bookstore?

I’m a wife, mother, and my family’s chief cook and organizer. I read a lot at home, and I’m a political junkie so I read quite a few newspapers and political blogs. I was on the editorial board of the Bozeman Daily Chronical for two and a half years, so I had to know a lot about local and state politics. I also like to hike, ski, fish, and river raft. I love cooking, especially Indian food.

What are a few of your favorite books?

Because I am a mystery reader, I end up reading a lot of series, so it’s harder to pick favorite books. I would say my favorite authors are C.J. Box, Craig Johnson, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Elly Griffiths, and Mo Hayder. As far as individual books go, Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner and Time and Again by Jack Finney are two of my favorites.

A book about your life would be called...

So Many Books, So Little Thyme. It would be entirely about reading and cooking. I cannot remember not knowing how to read. I got my first library card when I was three years old, and I have been a voracious reader ever since. On the other hand, I only learned how to cook when I started grad school, got my own apartment, and I had to feed myself. But I’ve made up for lost time!  

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Raising my two boys to be kind and honest young men.

What is a fun fact about yourself?

For my 40th birthday, I wanted to go to Hawaii. Instead, I found myself salmon fishing in Alaska. I had to tie all my flies myself!

 

Read Wendy's Staff Picks

Meet an Author — Kent Davis

Kent Davis is an actor, a game designer, and a teacher. He lives in Bozeman, Montana, with his wife and a wily dog ninja named Bobo. Kent Davis teaches in the Honors College at Montana State University, a fact by which he is constantly surprised.

How does writing a sequel compare to working on your first book? Do you have a plan laid out for the entire trilogy, or are you figuring it out as you go along?

It was thrilling! It's one thing to chart out a single story from beginning to end, but in Book 2 the characters sort of took off on their own. It was kind of like that sweet spot in a relationship, where you feel comfortable enough around each other to start revealing your true selves and how you eat ice cream in the middle of the night and hold fiercely to strange superstitions. Everyone does that, right? I had several epiphanies while writing The Changer's Key where a character would take off in a completely unexpected direction or reveal some mad, hidden depths that I never expected. It was a lot of "Oh, so that's who you are." Weird, but beautiful.

There has definitely been a plan laid out for where Book 3 will end up, but the path is winding and still subject to drastic and delightful change. Ruby and her crew have full veto power over what they'll try next: they independently come up with much more interesting solutions than I could ever plan out for them.

Do you have any writing rituals? What helps you get those creative juices flowing?

It's very challenging to write at home. I'm distractible to the nth degree. I do most of my work in an office space at the Emerson, and before that I kept many of Bozeman's coffee shops solvent through a truly massive Americano purchasing program.
 
As for the juices flowing, I do have a set of clear-out-the-cobwebs songs I use to get right for writing. I will not list any of them here, because they will embarrass me.
 

Do you have any advice for young writers?

Find the writers who you just can’t do without and study their stuff. Drill down to the page, the paragraph, the sentence, the word. When I first started writing I took pages from Ursula LeGuin, George Martin, and Terry Pratchett and I typed them out into blank documents and tried to figure out the why of their choices. You can discover out a lot about writing by channeling whoever you think is great. 
 
At the same time, trust yourself and don't be in too much of a hurry. I think one of the difficult myths of American culture is that brilliance just flows out of some people onto the page or the stage or the screen. I don’t know anyone who just rolls out of bed and channels something finished and astonishing. I don’t really think I’d want to, either, because that would make me jealous and full of self-hatred. For me, making something good usually starts with something bad. If you accept the bad as part of the process and keep making it a little bit better and then a little bit better and just do not stop you’ll eventually get to something that works. I’d like to think that could be comforting for anyone starting to make things, no matter what their age.  
 
Also, if anyone tells you there’s only one, best way to do it, run away screaming.
 

What is something you wish you’d known about publishing when you started this process? 

I’m just blown away by how hard people in the publishing industry work. Weekends, holidays, late nights. It’s possible that one of them who I will not name has discovered some sort of time-slowing pocket dimension. I suspect that I may just have gotten very lucky, but my agent, my editor and also pretty much everyone who works at my imprint are just ferocious, tireless, book-loving berserkers. I wish I’d known that, so I could have gotten deeper into the book business before I did.

Which books are on your to-be read pile right now? 

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, about a jillion things by China Mieville, Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson, a re-read of Stuart Gibbs’ Spy School books, and The Tiger by John Vaillant.
 

What is a book that you have pretended to read but haven’t really?

This is an awesome question! Stegner. I love the little I’ve read, but I’ve totally nodded and waggled my eyebrows significantly through numerous Wallace Stegner conversations….

If you had to recommend one book that everyone should read, what would you pick?

I’m not sure I’d call any book a universal match for all humans, but hoo doggie, I do love If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
 
 
 
 
Books: 
A Riddle in Ruby #2: The Changer's Key Cover Image
Email or call for price & availability
ISBN: 9780062368379
Availability: Not Currently Available to Order
Published: Greenwillow Books - September 27th, 2016

A Riddle in Ruby Cover Image
$7.99
ISBN: 9780062368355
Availability: On Our Shelves as of 9am Today
Published: Greenwillow Books - September 6th, 2016

Goodbye Summer, Hello Great Reading!

 

Love it or hate it, it’s hard to deny that summer is slowly but surely becoming autumn. In the bookstore, the changes are marked in a variety of ways. For one, our well-loved floors are littered with increasingly more debris from dead leaves. It won’t be long now until we have to shut the door to keep piles of fallen leaves and gusts of cold air from swirling in the door and around the card racks.

Then there are the students rushing in to buy their assigned summer reading books now that there is only a week left until school starts. The teachers and librarians are calling in orders for the upcoming year, and parents are requesting educational books to help prep their kids for school during the last days of summer vacation.

Despite some of the quintessential downers of the end of summer, fall is actually an exciting time in the book world. It is the season of big releases! Publishing tends to slow down in the summer, like most of us. There are moments of excitement here and there, but largely it’s a languid time. The best summer reads were released in the spring, when the heady works of winter contemplation get set aside for breezy reads. But now the gears are turning again and we are looking forward to some fantastic new releases.

Authors like Jonathan Safran Foer, Zadie Smith, Michael Chabon, and Ann Patchett have new fiction on the docket. Mystery fans can look forward to new thrills from Louise Penny, Harlan Coben, and Carl Hiaasen. Foodies will relish new cookbooks from heavy hitters like Anthony Bourdain, Alton Brown, Ina Garten, and Marcus Samuelsson. We have our eyes on memoirs and biographies covering Bruce Springsteen, Al Capone, and the family life of John and Rose Kennedy. Plus, writer-extraordinaire Ursula K. Le Guin has two notable works coming out, a volume of her collected novellas and a compilation of essays and talks on life and books. Business and economic releases will be heavy on technology and inequality, and history releases will cover a wide swath of issues that are still relevant today, like race and religion.

Whatever your preferred genre, you can bet there are some enticing titles coming out in the next few months. Though the sun may still be shining bright and hot, it’s time to start working on your reading lists for the cold months that we book worms spend curled up under blankets, tea steaming, and fire crackling. Heck, start making your Christmas lists! So if you’re like me and love the fleeting, flower-bursting, garden-nurturing, sleep-under-the-stars, mad-dash of summer in the Rocky Mountains, take comfort in knowing that with the fading of warmth and long days comes the promise of some great reading.        

-- Katie Plumb

Off the Shelf — It's a Bird! It's a Plane!

“Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Superman!”

I would venture a guess that just about everyone knows that line, but only a few have ever actually read The Adventures of Superman. Graphic novels and comic books are severely overlooked art forms, and are seen as absurd or juvenile. I’d argue that the absurdity and child-like nature of comic books is what makes it so special. There’s a certain charm to the unimaginable becoming commonplace. In comics, you can find a mutated teenager fighting crime, a resurrected soldier from World War II busting up a drug ring, a blind man fighting ninjas, and a man made of orange bricks wrestling dinosaurs all in the same day. For everyone else, it’s just another day in New York City. Graphic novels take the normal world and dare it to be fantastic.

The first comic book I ever owned was Groo the Wanderer by Sergio Aragones. I walked into the local comic book store and I was absolutely floored. I had looked over a few of my brother’s Spider-Man comics before and I liked the show on Fox Kids but I realized as soon as I had stepped into that store that I really didn’t understand anything about comic culture. The walls were covered in posters of monsters and heroes and plastic figurines everywhere. I hadn’t realized that there were so many options. Now you must understand, I was a very socially awkward kid and when faced with these kinds of conundrums I usually would have just left rather than asking for help but something special was in the air besides the smell of old print and mylar plastic. I walked up to the guy behind the counter, whose name I later learned was Roger, and asked him “What should I read?” He asked me what I was into. I shrugged and said, “Something funny, I guess.” So he showed me Groo, a comic that parodies Conan the Barbarian that is about a witless warrior and his faithful, sarcastic dog. After the first issue, I spent every weekend and every weekend’s allowance going back to that store and getting every issue I could find. Roger and I even became good friends. Roger hadn’t just provided me with a life-long passion but also a sense of community, something to be a part of.

The graphic novel is an art form unlike any other; the marriage of literature and art. It’s written like a book but scripted like a film. There are things that a graphic novel can describe that a book never could and vice versa. It’s one thing to describe a beautiful sun setting over Kent Farms in Superman for All Seasons but quite another to see the breathtaking watercolors of Tim Sale splash across the page in a dazzling display of yellows, oranges, and pinks as Clark and his father look on. The kind of dramatic pacing found in Watchmen is unsurpassed but especially because often the tension and the feeling of dread of the future is achieved without saying a single word.

People look to comic books for a number of reasons: to inspire us, to warn us, to entertain us. In many ways, the mythologies of ancient times have evolved into the modern pantheon of comic book characters. I say that we look to graphic novels because the human imagination is too limitless not to. Comics can be bigger than life like an immortal sun god from Kansas or simplicity itself like the chronicles of a young boy and his tiger.

If you have never read a graphic novel, I strongly urge you to go to your local bookstore or library or comic book shop and ask someone to help you down the long and rewarding road of graphic novels. If you think there can’t possibly be a graphic novel out there to fit your reading style, you’re probably wrong. Graphic novels have heroes, monsters, real people, history, culture, tragedy, comedy, and so much more.

Roger is part of the reason I became a bookseller at Country Bookshelf. I wanted to help people not just find a story to keep them entertained over summer vacation or to distract them momentarily, but to find a book that would shape their lives. I hope that I can be like Roger and recommend something that can expand your mind and change the way you read forever.

'Nuff said.

-- Harry Jahnke

 

Meet a Bookseller — Kathy

 

What do you do at the bookstore?

My job at the bookstore entails an endless list of tasks. Most imporantly, I am learning how to be a bookseller. Not only am I learning about books and authors, but also learning how to best serve bookstore customers.

What do you do outside of the bookstore?

When not at the bookstore, I find myself outside as much as possible. I enjoy hiking, gardening, and cycling. Experimenting with watercolor painting is a recent hobby.

What are a few of your favorite books?

This is an ever-shifting list. Today, I would include Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Our Only World by Wendell Berry, and The Abundance by Annie Dillard.

A book about your life would be called...

Fluctuating Between Opportunity and Wisdom. The book would include timelines, photographs, and sketches. I imagine something like The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Good fortune often placed me in the company of talented individuals. Their ability to step forward when their expertise was needed then return to the status of worker without seeking the limelight was integral to the success of the team. Whether is was touring Japan for a month with a group of middle school students, working on a grant connecting museums and elementary schools with Indian Education For All, creating learning environments where discourse and creativity are valued, building a family cabin, or being married. All of these accomplishments have brought joy to my life.

What is a fun fact about youself?

Once, when on a moonlight hike in Yellowstone (near the Beaver Ponds), a herd of elk ran right by us. The herd "parted" only a few feet in front of us. My heart was beating almost as fast as the pounding of their hooves.

 

Read Kathy's Staff Picks

Off the Shelf — New from Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich is a master of magical realism and an intuitive genius who knows what is going on inside the minds and hearts of modern American Indians. Told from multiple perspectives, including the voice of a small child who inherits the spirit and name of the title character, La Rose is a tale that weaves intergenerational grief with the healing power of indigenous justice. This story emerges from Turtle Mountain, North Dakota, a place that holds a unique history of colonization by the often genteel French. Erdrich disrupts dichotomous thinking about history, justice, love, and violence by bringing indigenous wisdom to a seemingly tragic series of events. There are worse fates than death, more powerful grief than for the loss of a child. Like the severed head that rolls through the  book, LaRose will not let you rest until you have grappled with the raw intimacy of true community. 

--Kimberly Mckeehan

Books: 
LaRose: A Novel Cover Image
Email or call for price & availability
ISBN: 9780062277022
Availability: Not Currently Available to Order
Published: Harper - May 10th, 2016

Meet a Bookseller — Katie

What do you do at the bookstore?

I am amongst the ranks of booksellers, and still learning how to be a good one. Helping people find books and recommending new great reads is a big part of my job, but I also do a lot to keep the store in good order. I am helping to host author events now, too, which can be fun.

What do you do outside of the bookstore?

I write articles for Rocky Mountain Gardening Magazine and a Blog called “The Last Best Plates”. The articles are about farming and gardening and local food and craft beer. I play outside, hiking, camping and skiing. Just mountain things mostly. I also like to play in my garden. I like to cook and will cook anything and everything. I’m trying to learn how to make as many different dishes as I can, and I’d say that my best dish is tamales.

What are a few of your favorite books?

I love The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM by Robert O’Brien is also a favorite. I prefer to read literary fiction and cooking literature, as well as science and nature writing, and cooking literature. I like to read children’s' books for a change of perspective when life feels too serious, and I'm trying to get more familiar with other genres.

A book about your life would be called...

Broccoflower and Other Stories. It would be a collection of essays about, well...my life. The people, places, and experiences that have gotten me to here. I'd like to think it would be funny, poignant, and profoundly human—you know, like any good read. The voice would probably be something like Barbara Kingslover meets Bill Bryson.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I get pretty excited about little things, like when I bake a really great loaf of bread.

What is a fun fact about youself?

Despite traveling around the world in college, I didn't seen a firefly until I was 26, and it was magical.

 

Read Katie's Staff Picks

Visit Katie's Website

Meet an Author — Janet Fox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Janet Fox writes award-winning fiction and non-fiction for children of all ages. Her published works include the non-fiction middle grade book Get Organized Without Losing It, and three YA historical romances: Faithful, Forgiven, and Sirens. Janet’s debut middle grade novel The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle is an historical fantasy set in Scotland, and will be released on March 15, 2016.

What were some of the main inspirations for The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle?

When I was a kid I read a lot of Greek and Roman myths and legends, as wells as fairytales. I think that formed the basis for my love of the mystery inherent in myths and fairytales. Once I got older I started reading more advanced things like Agatha Christie. The mystery themes in Charmed Children are very much a part of that formative stuff that I love…I love incorporating things that don’t normally fit together like history and fantasy, so that’s another thing I’ve done here that I will probably do more of in the future.

What inspired you to move from young adult novels to a middle grade novel?

It was completely determined by the voice of the story. When I start writing something new, I start by writing a couple of scenes involving a character, and this one came out in the voice of a middle grader. I knew right away that I couldn’t age it up. It definitely had that kind of feeling about it. I also, when I started writing, harked back to my roots as a child reader—back to the Narnia tales, because those are very middle grade books. That was the feeling I was trying to invoke with the starting of a new story, and it just cemented itself as middle grade rather than young adult. However, I am still writing young adult novels as well.

How does the fact that you’ve lived in a real haunted house influence the ghosts in your story?

I am preoccupied with the notion of death and life after death. I’m searching for answers to those big fundamental questions, and ghosts are one way of accessing that information. Maybe there is life after death, just not in a way that we understand it now—possibly some other dimension that we are shifting in and out of. I play with that a lot. Having had experiences that I would call spiritual, and having had family members who have had the same kind of experiences, I would say that it does color what I write all the time, but in different ways. It can be ghosts in one story but then a search for meaning in another story, or some kind of mix between the two.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the use of jewelry in the book, specifically the Chatelaine and its charms?

That has a very interesting backstory. I had just finished Sirens and had sent it off to my editor. I was sort of mucking around thinking, “What am I going to do next?” I went on Facebook and a friend of mine had posted a picture of a chatelaine. It was a 17th or 18th century German chatelaine, and I thought, “Oh, wow!” There were some ordinary charms attached to it, but there were also some really weird things too. The more I looked at it the weirder it got. I’m looking at this thing thinking, “Who would wear that and why?”

 Ironically, my agent at the time, that same day, send me an email saying there was an editor who wanted to work with me and asked if I had any projects involving jewelry. When things like that happen, you just have to go with it. I started writing and within a short amount of time I had a huge chunk of this story written. I knew exactly where it was going and I had the atmosphere and the characters.

Do you usually begin with the research or the writing?

I start writing first, because, to me, it’s the story I want. If there’s anything I need to know more of, I’ll do the research then and keep writing. I knew that kids had left during the Blitz, so I went online because I wanted to know more about the Pied Piper Movement, which was to get kids out of London. I’d find out more about that, like what terminals they would use or what train stations they would leave from and use that. But that research just comes on the fly as it’s needed, and as I’ve gotten into the heart of the story.

What are you reading right now?

I try to read in my genre. Not long ago I finished The Nest **, which I loved. And Echo **, which I also loved. I just finished Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on creativity, which I am trying to say to everyone I know who is engaged in creative thinking that they must read. I really look forward to a book that is being released the same day as Charmed Children called The Girl in the Well is Me. In the YA realm, I am a huge fan of Suzanne Collins, as I know everyone is. I love Lauren Oliver’s work. Anything that Laurie Halse Anderson writes in my favorite. I just adore her stuff. I just have a towering “to read” pile.

Can we look forward to Charmed Children becoming a series?

I am working on a possible sequel. There has been lots of noise about the possibility of a second novel. I have started working on one, and I am about 20,000 words into it. So maybe. We’ll see.

 

Meet Janet Fox at the store on Tuesday, March 15 at 7pm.

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