Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “How to Repair a Mechanical Heart”

What I Read When I Write by the Magnificent Jen Lillis

TODAY’S BREW: It’s Mother’s Day. WHATEVER I DAMN PLEASE.

 By Julie

Jen Lillis is the most unique person I’ve ever met on Twitter. Let that sink in. She sent me stinky vintage cookbooks from a basement complete with her own personal notes. So that’s impossible to top. Want to know what else she’s reading and how it helps her write? WELL HERE GOES.

This was a great idea for a blog series (though honestly, it’s Julie, so I’d have participated even if the topic was METAPHORICALLY COMPARE YOUR NEW BOOK TO THE ZONING LAWS OF YOUR HOME STATE).
I’m so grateful to the books I read during the drafting process. All of them–even the ones I don’t connect with–either teach me something, yank me out of a funk, or help me solve a problem in my WIP.
This one’s been a bear. So I’ve been reading a lot.
My latest YA novel (still untitled) is narrated by Barrie: pop-music obsessive, dogged optimist, and super-ambitious singer-songwriter. Her number-one goal is to win an American Idol-type reality competition called Pop University–but when she’s booted off early in favor of a devious neo-folk chick with tons of natural talent, she comes up with an…ah, unusual Plan B for achieving her dream.
Here are the books that have helped me the most while I spin this weird little story:

Joan Bauer, Squashed

If you’re writing a snarky, cynical YA heroine, there’s no shortage of strong narrators you can turn to for voicespiration. If you’re writing a wildly ambitious optimist, literary role models are harder to come by. I dug deep in my vintage YA archive, bypassing a 7th Heaven novelization called Winter Ball, and decided to revisit this gem from 1992. Joan Bauer proves that goodhearted, glass-half-full narrators can still be goddamn funny, and so many of her books are master classes in writing offbeat heroines with big ambitions. She takes goals that could be perceived as silly–growing a giant pumpkin, for example–and infuses them with gravity and urgency. That’s just what I’m trying to do with Barrie, and I hope I can pull it off as well as Bauer does.

Peter Shaffer, Amadeus
Since I started this book, I’ve been joking that it’s like Amadeus with female singer-songwriters. So I picked up the play again–hadn’t read it since college–and took another tour of Salieri’s jealous heart. Barrie is in kind of a similar position: a musician with noble goals who’s toiled and sacrificed for a shot at greatness, and then gets effortlessly upstaged by a true natural. (The music is probably better in Amadeus. I’m trying.)
David Levithan, Hold Me Closer
It’s tough to write a book about music. If you describe something visual well enough, your reader can see it; if you describe food, readers can almost taste it based on past experience. But it’s harder to make readers “feel” a song they haven’t heard before–even if you quote lyrics, you’re still giving them a skeleton without flesh and blood.
I’ve been looking for good, innovative examples of how to communicate the power of song within a novel, and Hold Me Closer is a book that’s kind of emboldened me. It’s a novel in the form of a musical script, and the story unfolds in the lyrics and sharp, funny stage directions. I’m not sure it completely works, but it definitely opened my mind to creative new ways of weaving music into a narrative and illuminating its significance to a character. Tiny Cooper isn’t just in love with music–he’s practically made of music. That’s what I’m trying to get across with Barrie, and I hope readers will feel that.
A.S. King, Ask the Passengers
This is my first f/f romance, so I’m turning to a master for inspiration. I’d be thrilled if my book turned out half as good as an A.S. King; she’s one of the best YA authors around. Her MC talks to planes and Socrates and it’s awesome instead of annoying. LIKE HOW DOES THAT EVEN HAPPEN.
June Foley, It’s No Crush, I’m In Love
jen lillis post
the FABULOUS, 1982-tastic cover of one of the books I mentioned (photographed in its natural habitat on my vintage YA bookshelf
I have an unreasonable amount of love for this severely underrated treasure from 1982. Describing this book does it a disservice, because it sounds like the B plot of an old Who’s the Boss? episode (young teen girl nurses massive unrequited crush on hot English teacher), but the odd-couple friendship between reserved main character Annie and the candid, uproarious Susanna Siegelbaum is more than worth the price of admission. I reread parts of this every time I need to write snappy banter between my two MCs. It’s my aspirational blueprint. (Seriously, this book is so charming–if you ever see it at a library or garage sale, pick it up. It should have won all the prizes, including Best Cover Mustache.)
Bob Stanley, Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyonce 
My two MCs are really well versed in the history of pop music, though they approach it from different angles. So to fill the gaps in my own knowledge, I’ve been slowly digesting this thick, engaging history of pop from 1955 to present. I don’t think Barrie would approve of how cheerfully Stanley lobs spitballs at sacred cows–he describes Talking Heads as “a bunch of male musicians trying to impress Tina Weymouth with their chops”–but she’d certainly like his passion and intellectual engagement with pop in all its forms. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had doing book research.
In the words of my favorite guitarist, the forever-underrated Lindsey Buckingham, that’s all for everyone. Hope you liked this peek at my reading list–stay tuned, ’cause when the book is finally out I’ll probably be back here doing a random interview about jello molds and my favorite hats of 1994. Thanks to Julie for having me over!
Jen Lillis is the YA author of HOW TO REPAIR A MECHANICAL HEART and WE WON’T FEEL A THING. Lover of geeks, robots, villainous queens, haunted dollhouses, & argyle socks. Follow her https://twitter.com/jclillis and http://t.co/v43Zp75D0e.
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WE WON’T FEEL A THING Watch The Pretties!

Today’s Brew: I fixed the creamer problem, and bought a huge box of the Christmas coffee. It’s smooth sailing on Whiskey Tango for a while.

by Kristen

We LOVE JC Lillis at Deadly Ever After. Love. JC came to us on Twitter and I immediately fell in love with her easy, quirky sense of humor. I loved her even more when I saw that her first book, HOW TO REPAIR A MECHANICAL HEART, was two teenage fanboys on tour and discovering their feelings for each other. There’s a whole other side to fandom, I’ve discovered through JC, who had to tell me what “shipping” meant.

If I wasn’t already head over heels for this girl, I have one word for you. Aspic. Yes, the mid-century jello mold that suspended the dinners of a generation. Clan Hutchings and I will spend hours sending each other pins of gross looking retro food. JC goes one better. SHE MAKES IT. And blogs about it.

So JC, I ship you, your books, and your frosted meatloaf. WE WON’T FEEL A THING, a YA contemporary romance with a subplot that could be ripped from talk TV, is coming March 31. This trailer is so well made, even if I haven’t convinced you with the jello molds or the awesome, watch it for the production value.

 

And now that you’re totally hooked, here’s the blurb:

Seventeen-year-old best friends Rachel and Riley are in forbidden love.

Their situation’s. . .complicated. And their timing couldn’t be worse—in just one month, he leaves for California and she starts college in New York. The absolute last thing they need is a reckless secret-love confession mucking up their perfect plans.

There’s only one logical option: scientific intervention.

Desperate for a quick fix, they sign up for WAVES, an experimental self-help program led by mysterious scientist David A. Kerning. He swears his Forbidden Love Module can turn passion back to safe platonic friendship in “six easy steps.”

But when you arm yourself with an untested program, side effects are unpredictable.

Add WE WON’T FEEL A THING on Goodreads! Come back and thank us on March 31!

Be My Valentine!

Today’s Brew: Caramel Hot Cocoa. Because it’s a special day. Hallmark SAYS SO.

by Kristen

I was at work, bored out of my mind listening to people rave about a new platform to sell investment banking, and I came up with a brilliant idea.  See? Good stuff can come out of sitting in a cubicle.

I decided to ask some of my author friends what their main couples would get each other for Valentine’s Day.

I think Mr. Jacob Farrish would whisk Lady Eleanore Barnaby off for a few days to Bath or Cornwall, to spend time alone. He’s a busy barrister! 😉 She would most likely give him a set of new law books, and a more…um, PRIVATE present later.
–Olivia Kelly, The Heart of a Duke

Corbin would get Mara a new bow and Mara would get Corbin a silver shield. Lol.  Not as fun in the middle ages.
–Tammy Farrell, The Darkness of Light

Beau would get Jack something sarcastic. A slogan tee with ‘If I were chocolate, I’d eat myself‘ written across the front. Or maybe, ‘James Bond 2.0‘  Jack would get Beau a limited edition Yoda doll to replace the one that was broken during the chaos. Or, all things considered, he may get her one of those squidgy stress balls with his face printed on it…
–Louise D. Gornall, In Stone
For their first Valentine’s Day together (if they make it that far, because you’ve got to remember a. They got together two months before graduation and we all know how that usually works out, and b. Tash is kind of an emotional land mine), Grant would most-likely spend weeks stressing over what to get Tash and then eventually ask his mom for guidance. She would tell Grant to get Tash a sweater or something, and Tash would hate it. Tash, on the other hand, would probably be so uncomfortable about the mere thought of taking part in Valentine’s Day that she’d attempt to lighten the mood with some kind of gag gift, and Grant would be horrified because he’d wonder if deep down Tash secretly believes that he would be caught dead wearing a “Female Body Inspector” T-shirt. After a few moments of extremely creative cursing (on Tash’s part) and painful politeness while inwardly violent self-kicking (on Grant’s part), they’d both admit how socially awkward they are and have a good laugh about it together. And then they would make out. The end.
–Isobel Irons, Promiscuous

Abel will give Brandon a customized heart-shaped guitar pick stamped with I PICK YOU, plus a hoodie with the Castaway Planet logo. His valentine card will be very large and festooned with smooching robots, and it will play a tinny “Let’s Get It On” when opened. Brandon will give Abel a limited-edition Captain James P. Cadmus action figure and a giant tin of cinnamon jelly beans, because cinnamon jelly beans will remind him of their road trip always and forever. Also, his construction-paper valentine will look handmade by a monkey with extra thumbs, but Abel will put it under his pillow anyway.
–J.C. Lillis, How to Repair a Mechanical Heart

Tavis would create a special corner in the hedge maze at the Imperial Palace for Faylanna, one with some of her favorite plants from the Gardensia Exotica planted there. It would be secluded, so she could have time to herself if she wanted, or with just Faylanna, Tavis, and their daughter.  Faylanna would secretly arrange with Tavis’ steward to clear several days of commitments and tell him to spend the time any way he wanted, so long as it had nothing to do with being the Crown Prince. They’d end up leaving the city, taking no one but themselves for the week.
–J. Elizabeth Hill, The Nine
 Cerise would give William a doctor costume and he’d go rent a wing of some hospital.
Torren has always loved literature and spent a lot of his free time reading, so as a romantic gift, Lilly would get Torren something book-related, such as an autographed first edition of a book he adores or a new book he hasn’t read yet but which she knows he’ll love. Torren’s romantic gesture for Lilly, on the other hand, would lean toward the experiential rather than the material. He would plan a romantic date and not tell her where they were going. Something super special like showing her a spectacular view she’s never seen before or taking her to a production of Turandot, which was the opera they saw on their first date together and which captivated her and stirred her emotions.
–Jeanie Grey, Awakening 2
Eliza would get Nicholas something ridiculous and so wrong it was right like a plant stand. Nicholas would get Eliza a crazy amount of food, not fancy especially but a lot. Like lobster and stuff. And an onyx necklance. He’d say it was pretty and deathy like her.
–Julie Hutchings, Running Home
Tristan would get Callie an antique sewing machine and some really pretty fabrics, like crushed velvet with a funky dye to it, because she’s been sad she hasn’t been able to make anything since she’s been in Vegas.  Callie would get Tristan a journal, a leather one with a cool cutout pattern for his songs. Then one of them would say something to ruin the whole thing, but they’d make up and have a great night.
–Kristen Strassel, Because the Night

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