The Miami Book Fair is Here and We Have the Author Interviews You Won’t Want to Miss!

Miami Book Fair
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[Note from Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora Dominguez is going to be moderating a panel, Remember Your Roots, for the Miami Book Fair this week! In honor of this she interviewed just a few of the many amazing authors who are going to be there.]

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Don't miss out on Aurora's panel!
Karen Lord, Author of Unraveling

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind the series, and your most recent novel?

Karen: The character of Paama comes from a West African folktale called ‘Ansige Karamba the Glutton’, and Redemption in Indigo was a deeper exploration of her personality and how she would handle power, choice and love. Unraveling follows the development of another character from Redemption in Indigo, Chance, who is completely my own invention. He experiences time very differently, and concepts like cause and effect, actions and consequences, and sin and redemption work in interesting ways for him. So you might say the series is a mashup of quantum mechanics and systematic theology.

What character do you most relate to and why?

As an author, sometimes I feel most like Patience! Building worlds, creating characters with small pieces of myself, and yet leaving them to make good or bad decisions as the story develops … that’s very much like Patience.

Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.

Unraveling is a mix of genres – some mystery, a little horror, a lot of fantasy, and a bit of realism. Best to go in with no expectations.

What’s next for you in the book world?

Another manuscript awaits my attention. Besides that, I have a couple of appearances coming up (the Miami Book Fair being one, the other I can’t talk about yet).

Who is your favorite writer right now and why?

Zen Cho and Tessa Gratton write stories are very much to my personal taste, and their level of craft is impressive. Zen’s latest book is The True Queen (sequel to the delightful Sorcerer to the Crown), and you can read Zen’s Hugo-award winning novelette here:

‘If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again.’

I especially loved Tessa’s retelling of the King Lear story in The Queens of Innis Lear. The sequel, Lady Hotspur, is another retelling of a Shakespeare play, and it will be released early next year.

What can fans expect from you at the Miami Book Fair 2019 appearance?

My stories have a lot going on underneath the surface, so I’m going to select and deliver some readings that I hope will spark lots of interesting questions.

Jennifer Mathieu, Author of The Liars of Mariposa Island

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind The Liars of Mariposa Island?

Jennifer: I was inspired by two things, an older episode of the This American Life radio program that my genius editor Kate shared with me and the stories my own mother and her sisters had shared with me about growing up in Cuba and leaving to come to the United States when they were young girls. I merged the two seeds in my mind and out came The Liars of Mariposa Island

2. What character do you most relate to and why?

I’m not sure I can say. I think I have empathy for all of the characters in this novel, even Caridad. I think I might identify more with Joaquin than with Elena because even as a young girl, I always wanted to know the truth, even when it was painful. I have never liked the idea of covering up what’s wrong, and I think that’s a trait I share with him, in a way.

Why do you feel books with powerful and relatable characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

As has been said by many folks, books should function as windows and mirrors. I think when you read about a character who pops off the page, who feels real to you, who may validate something for you or open your mind to another way of living, it is one of the most powerful experiences a person can have. I’m a very character-based writer, and I like to try and create characters that will live on in the readers’ minds long after they’ve finished the final chapter.

What’s next for you in the book world?

I’m working on a sort of feminist homage to the classic YA novel The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. The book is tentatively titled Bad Girls Never Say Die and it’s about a group of young women in Houston in 1964 – some from the wrong side of the tracks and some from the right side. It’s about fierce friendship, romance that crosses class lines, secrets, murder, runaways – it’s going to be very intense! I’m working on it now and having so much fun with it.

Who is your favorite writer right now and why?

It’s almost impossible to choose. For me, Laurie Halse Anderson represents the best that young adult fiction has to offer. She is a true gem. I love Meg Wolitzer’s books for adults although she also wrote a terrific young adult novel that I also enjoyed tremendously.

What can fans expect from you at the Miami Book Fair 2019 appearance?  

I’m excited to return to Miami! I lived there for a very brief period in the summer of 1998 as an intern for the Miami Herald! So I’m thrilled to see how the city has grown and changed since then. I hope to meet readers, sign books, answer questions, and enjoy the sunshine!

David Yoon, Author of Frankly in Love

What was your inspiration behind your novel?

When I was a teenager, my mom and dad both had pretty traditional ideas about who I could date (Korean girls) and who I couldn’t (everyone else). So when I inevitably wound up dating non-Korean girls, I’d always have to hide the fact from them. It occurred to me that it was pretty strange to hide such an important facet of my high school experience from such important people in my life, and that became the basis for the book.

What character do you most relate to and why?

Definitely Frank. He’s basically a wiser, smarter, braver version of my seventeen year old self. He’s the kid I wish I could’ve been, and learns in one year what took me decades. Lucky guy!

Why do you feel books with powerful and relatable characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

Demographics have been shifting in exciting and positive ways for a while now. People who were once marginalized are taking the risk of speaking up and speaking loud, and other people in the majority are taking the risk of allowing them to be heard in big ways. And the great thing is, the more people speak up, the more people speak up—there’s a network effect that happens. I think people are hungry for media to more closely reflect the reality of their experiences, and increasingly that reality is a more diverse one.

Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.

Frank wants to date a white girl, which is a problem for his very traditional Korean parents. His good friend Joy wants to date a Chinese-American boy, which is a problem for her very traditional Korean parents. So they decide to team up and pretend to date each other, in order to let them date who they want in secret behind their parents’ backs. What could possibly go wrong, right? The story takes hilarious and romantic twists and turns, but also dives deep into issues of racism, generational gaps, and parent-child relationships. I’m making it sound serious—it’s also really funny!

What’s next for you in the book world?

I can’t say much, but I’m working on another YA romance and a couple genre-y books that are still top secret.

Who is your favorite writer right now and why?

My favorite writer will always be my wife Nicola Yoon. But second to her, I’ve always been a huge fan of Blake Crouch, who writes these mind-bending thrillers in crazy, stylized prose. The guy is seriously insane.

Brittney Morris, Author of Slay

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind the series, and your most recent novel?

Brittney: Growing up, I was the only Black kid in my small town, so I kind of became the “Black cultural consultant” at my elementary and high school. I was expected to know certain pop culture references and listen to certain music and meet everyone’s expectations of what a Black girl was supposed to be. I felt almost “unqualified” like I wasn’t Black enough. I was inspired to write Slay after watching Black Panther. It was the first time I walked into a room full of Black people and felt total unconditional acceptance in who I was, just as I am. It was the first time I felt “Black enough”.

What character do you most relate to and why?

It depends on the day, but lately I’ve found Steph highly relatable. With all the political BS that happens on Twitter, especially in the world of politics, I feel like carrying a verbal machete into some conversations and drop some knowledge on people.

Why do you feel books with powerful and relatable characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

Lots of readers, myself included, want characters who are done taking nonsense. Be that racial, gender-related, orientation-related, poverty and economics-related, or environmental. Given the current administration, and the resurgence of the unabashed alt-right, progressives are fighting back, and we’re hungry for characters that fight with us.

Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.

Slay is about a Black teen game developer who creates a Wakanda-inspired VR video game and has to battle a racist troll using duel cards based on Black culture and Black history. Readers can expect techy Black girls kicking major troll booty, an unapologetic celebration of Black culture and Black gaming culture specifically, and a close examination of Black political opinion and the kaleidoscopic global Black identity through video games!

What’s next for you in the book world?

I’m editing book 2 and writing book 3, and I’m super excited about both!

Who is your favorite writer right now and why?

It’s a tie between Angie Thomas and NK Jemisin. Angie Thomas for her genius portrayals of the modern Black teen, and NK Jemisin for her Afro-futurist brilliance. Both are incredibly talented writers. I beg the universe every day to give me a shred of their greatness.

7. What can fans expect from you at the Miami Book Fair 2019 appearance?

I have a signing on Friday Nov. 22nd at 11:30AM! Come see me! I love meeting people. More events will be posted on the Miami Book Fair website at miamibookfair.com/events.

Megan Sheperd, Author of Grim Lovelies 

Aurora: What is the most exciting part about being a part of Miami Book Fair and meeting fans?

Megan: Miami holds a special place in my heart because it’s where my husband was born. Writing is a solitary occupation, so whenever I can leave my farm and meet readers, it’s one of my very favorite things.

I read your most recent book and loved it! Is there a favorite character that stood out for you that was intriguing and fun to write?

Grim Lovelies is about the often-overlooked characters in fairy tales. My main character, Anouk, was enchanted from an animal into a maid by a witch in Paris—she’s inspired by the mice in Cinderella. Only she doesn’t want to turn back into an animal at midnight. She’s fallen in love with the human world and wants to experience everything, and will fight for her chance.

As an author, how do you best prepare for your next writing assignment? Any advice on inspiration?

Inspiration can come from anywhere. You might hear something in a podcast that sparks your imagination or get a glimmer of an idea from a movie. Be ready for it. Take a few hours to brainstorm wildly. Write down any initial characters, scenes, or lines of dialogue that pop into your head. It’s important to have your initial impressions written down because once you’re 300 pages into the book, it can be hard to remember what you first loved about it!

Who is your favorite YA author currently and why and how do they inspire your writing style?

I could never narrow it down to just one. I love the intricate speculative worlds of Leigh Bardugo, Dhonielle Clayton, Roshani Chokshi, Victoria Schwab, and Maggie Stiefvater. All of these authors are deft at combining stunning prose with thrilling magical worlds.

Any advice for fans looking to write as well and get their big writing break?

Focus on three things:

1) Write. It’s incredibly easy to think about writing, talk about writing, dream about writing, but not ever actually sit down and do it.

2) Read. Don’t limit yourself to reading books in the genre you write in, or else your voice will begin to feel overly familiar. Read widely outside of your genre.

3) Live. You must have something to say, and you get that by interacting with the world, pushing yourself to try new things, meeting new people and soaking up as many experiences as you can.

F.C. Yee, Author of The Rise of Kyoshi

Aurora: What was yours and Michael Dante’s inspiration behind the series, and your most recent novel?

F.C. Lee: I can’t speak for Michael, but the inspiration I had for the Kyoshi novels was the Kyoshi he introduced in the series who had such a defined and iconic personality. You had a sense of how different she was to Aang, which really drove home the fact that the Avatar isn’t necessarily the same exact person as their past lives. It implied an extensive, living world history because each generation of the Avatar would have seen different challenges that shaped their personalities. I wanted to explore how someone could have changed to become the adult Kyoshi we see, rather than show a younger, static version of that character

What character do you most relate to and why?

I relate to Yun (the guy who everyone thinks is the Avatar at first) because there were definitely periods in my life where I felt entitled to a certain identity, but neither the facts or my abilities justified such beliefs. Coming to grips with reality was as painful for me as I’ve tried to depict for him.

Why do you both feel books with powerful and relatable characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

I think in these times it comforts people to read about characters who have power but also the empathy to use it well. At least in fiction we can trust that heroes who shape the world will remain on the side of justice, and that they will drive stories forward instead of sitting back and saying “there’s nothing that can be done.”

Please describe the content of The Rise of Kyoshi and what can readers expect from the read.

The Rise of Kyoshi is about the search for someone who can solve the world’s problems going horribly wrong. It’s about the wounds the past can inflict on the present, and how unbelievable effort is the cost paid by future generations to set things in order. Readers can expect to see Kyoshi’s journey to master all four elements and assemble her iconic characteristics, but they’ll also see the formative experiences that explained her interactions with Aang. They’ll see some history filled out regarding Avatar lore and the Four Nations. And hopefully they’ll see a thrilling read!

What’s next for you in the book world?

I’m working on the sequel to The Rise of Kyoshi, titled The Shadow of Kyoshi. The consequences of book one need to be dealt with, and Kyoshi needs to complete her arc as a young Avatar.

Who is your favorite writer right now and why?

Michael Schur and the writing team he’s assembled as a showrunner. Every piece of info I find indicates that they’re not only talented, but they’ve also created a superb professional work environment. I’m very interested in both the creative things they do, as well as the best practices of managing teams.

What can fans expect from you and Michael Dante at the Miami Book Fair 2019 appearance?

From me, fans can expect support and advice in their own creative endeavors. Conventions tend to draw a lot of aspiring creators, and I want to see people reach their artistic and professional goals. If meeting Mike for fans is anything like the time I met him at SDCC, then they can expect talking to one of the coolest, nicest, master storytellers around.

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