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Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield

Saturday, September 11, 2010

YA Author Spotlight Presents...

Alyson Noel - latest
Alyson Noel!!!

If you haven't figured out by now, she's one of my favorite authors and I feel compelled to bring her back with every new release she has and right now is no exception.

This visit introduces her latest book, Radiance, a new series spun-off from her Immortals series focusing on Ever's sister, Riley and her adventures in Summerland. As I'd been without a real computer since the beginning of August, I've had this interview stalled since then. I finally have my laptop back and feel completely reconnected to the world - yay! - and can share this interview with you.

ME: August has few holidays and observances, but one stands out as interesting – Friendship Day. As the 1st is Friendship Day, what will you do (have you done) to celebrate the friendships in your life? Anyone special you’d like to recognize here and now?

ALYSON: My best friend just happens to be my husband, so here’s a shout out to him: Thanks for everything, babe—I couldn’t do it without you! J [That's the best way to go, marrying the man who happens to be your best friend!]

ME: Speaking of friends, not all of our friends are human. Many of us have furry friends that enrich our lives in ways we don’t always notice. These friends don’t have to have fur, either, but scales or feathers. We’re talking about our pets, and writers tend to have pets. How many pets do you have, what kinds of pets are they and what are their names?

ALYSON: No pets at this time—though maybe a dog in the future! [Perhaps it will be a golden retriever named Buttercup?]

ME: Before the Dog Whisperer, there was Geena Davis in, The Accidental Tourist, teaching a dog owner how to use positive and negative reinforcement to train his dog. How would you classify your animal handling skills? Are you the whisperer, the challenged animal handler in need of help or are you somewhere in between?

ALYSON: It’s been a while since I’ve had a pet so I’d have to say somewhere in between!

ME: They’re everywhere, on the Internet, in stores and in catalogues – costumes and pet clothing. How fanatical are you when it comes to clothing your pet? Do you dress your pet in clothing? How about kitty wigs (yes, these apparently do exist)? Any fun or interesting pet accessory or amenity you’d like to share with us?

ALYSON: Animals dressed as humans is always amusing, but I don’t see myself doing it—I like my pets the way nature intended! J [me too!]

ME: With all the different types of pet foods out there, it’s hard to know what’s really good for your pet or not. Purina has been around forever and continues to produce feed for all kinds of pets and livestock for roughly 100 years. Hill’s Science Diet came along a bit later and others have been popping up ever since. What brand do you use, and how did you come to that decision? (If you don’t have pets, what brand would you feed your pet and why?)

ALYSON: I’m not sure which brand I’d pick, but I’d probably go for whatever healthy, organic, gourmet, good-mojo food I could find—same way I try to eat! [no offense meant, but the "organic food" industry really needs to find a more accurate term because as any chemistry teacher will tell you, all food is organic. We wouldn't be able to eat it otherwise, lol!:)]

ME: What is the oddest pet you’ve ever had? Why did you choose that pet?

ALSYON: When I was little we had rabbits, birds, turtles, lizards, snakes, dogs, horses, and even tarantulas! The tarantula was the weirdest, and it belonged to my sister. [now that, I wasn't expecting!]

ME: We’ve had our fun now, so let’s put the focus on your writing. While there are many types of fiction to choose from, what specifically brought you to YA? What does YA offer that other fiction doesn’t?

ALYSON: The YA voice is the one that comes most naturally to me, so it’s the one I feel most comfortable writing. Adolescence is so ripe for storytelling—it’s a time of self-discovery and experimentation—it’s a time when you really start to define an identity for yourself outside of your family, and to carve out a place for yourself in the world. It’s also a time full of great possibility, which is what makes it so interesting to both write and read about.

ME: Even though the popularity of the romance genre continues to grow with the YA population, it’s still not always a highly respected genre or element in fiction. In fact, some posters commented that the Twilight Saga boiled down to just another romance novel and asked, “what’s the big deal?” What, in your opinion, is the reason for the continued interest in romance by our younger generation and lack of respect it receives?

ALYSON: Commercial fiction in general gets a lack of respect and romance always seems to bear the brunt of that. But honestly, I don’t have time for negativity, naysayers, or haters, I just write what I like to write, read what I like to read, and shut out all that noise.

As for our continued interest in romance, well, I think it really boils down to the universality of the love story. Love is magical, and healing, and the most powerful emotion we can share with each other. Many of us long to find that one person who truly and totally gets us—that one person who will always be there for us—and romance novels celebrate that particular journey like no other genre can!

ME: A holiday mentioned above is Women’s Equality Day. While it took some tough ladies to endure some pretty crappy situations to get us here, there is still some work to go as women still struggle with equality in the work place. Do these struggles find their ways into your stories, or is equality something that just exists and is accepted? Give us some examples, please!

ALYSON: Because I write about teens, my characters were lucky to be born into a time where the rights their grandmothers fought so hard for are now part of their birthright. They see no limitations on what they can accomplish, they see no limitations to what their gender will allow them to do, the only limits they have are the ones they place on themselves, and because of it, the vast scope of their choices can sometimes be difficult to navigate—but that just makes it all the more exciting!

Riley Bloom, the protagonist of RADIANCE, is definitely part of a generation of young girls where the sky is the limit (in her case, literally!), and sometimes she gets a bit carried away with her power—sometimes she takes issue with authority and boundaries. But she’s intent on learning how to navigate her strange new world, and in some cases, she finds that doing the opposite of what she’s been told ends up saving the day.

ME: For a writer, inspiration can be found everywhere and in almost anyone, but sometimes specific people, places and events can inspire certain characters, personality traits, events or situations that happen in our stories. In your current story that we’re promoting here today, Radiance, did any one particular person, place or event inspire you? If so who/what was it (were they), how did it/they inspire you and how is this inspiration reflected in your story?

ALYSON: It wasn’t really any one person or event that inspired me to write about the afterlife, it was more a series of events, or more accurately, losses that got me thinking intensely about the soul’s journey, what an afterlife might consist of, and Riley’s story was born from there.

The Here & Now where Riley lives is an afterlife full of love and magick and duty and growth and learning and challenges and friendship—it’s the way I’d like it to be!

ME: Without giving away anything pertinent to the story, please tell us about Riley. What does she look like? What's her personality – comical cut-up, serious or a mix of the two? Please give us a little bit of dialogue from the story that can illustrate this. (Not much, but just a few lines and from a different section than the main excerpt – Thanks!)

ALYSON: Riley Bloom is a blond haired, blue eyed, stubby nosed, flat-chested (much to her chagrin!), wisp of a twelve-year old girl, with a sassy manner, an overabundance of confidence, but also a deeply compassionate, vulnerable soul.

Here’s an excerpt that might explain better:

The first thing I saw when I entered that room was—
No, scratch that. First let me say what it wasn’t.
It wasn’t the Radiant Boy.
It also wasn’t the blue room.
In fact, nothing in that room came anywhere near a color that anyone would ever refer to as blue.
If anything, what I’d entered was the yellow room.
A room so incredibly bright and yellow, just looking at it made my eyes hurt.
“Back so soon?” Bohdi called, lounging on the banister in that slouchy way of his, chewing on a long, green straw, like the kind they give you at Starbucks, instead of his bottom lip which he was chewing on just a few moments earlier. Looking me over carefully and seemingly not the least bit surprised to see that I’d caved so early in the game.
Only I hadn’t caved.
Not even close.
If anything, I was totally onto him.
He was still trying to mind-game me. Going so far as to send me to the wrong room.
Some coach he was turning out to be.
But no biggie. It’s not like I actually needed Bodhi’s guidance anyway. I mean, what kind of help could he possibly provide when it was so painfully clear he was actually trying to sabotage me?
So afraid I’d succeed at where he so miserably failed, he’d stop at nothing to doom me.
That’s it, I’d decided. As soon as I got back, the first thing I would do was find Aurora, or even one of the other Council members if she wasn’t available, and I’d demand a new guide. Or, better yet, I’d become Bodhi’s guide. And the first thing on my agenda would be to give him a head-to-toe makeover. Insist he ditch the glasses, the clothes, start over with the hair—and that was just for starters. Then, once that was settled, once he wasn’t so completely embarrassing to be seen with, well, then we’d see . . .

ME: In many romance novels, there's usually a hero and heroine. In fact, the Immortals series has Damen and Ever. Which leaves us wondering, does Riley have anyone she'll be sharing her spotlight with? If so, who is he/she, what does he/she look like and how/where do they meet (or “did” if this is not the first book with these same characters)? What’s unique about this character? What is his/her connection to Riley? What is your favorite scene with these two characters (Again, please give us a small bit of dialogue to illustrate this – thanks!)

ALYSON: The main characters of RADIANCE are Riley, her dog Buttercup, and Bodhi, a mysterious fourteen-year old boy who acts as her teacher/guidance counselor/coach/boss all rolled into one, and though she initially resists everything about him, their relationship really grows in the course of their journey and they share a good bit of chemistry between them.

Here’s a snippet from the book that might better explain how she feels about him at the beginning:

“Listen, all you need to know is that I’m your guide. I’m the one you’ve been looking for. Think of me as your teacher, guidance counselor, coach, and boss, all rolled into one. Which means you cannot continue to talk to me like that, or to call me that. There will be consequences for that sort of insubordination. Serious consequences. So just stop—okay? My name is Bodhi, and I expect you to use it. You need to—” He hesitated, his eyes darting all around in the most paranoid way, his voice lowered to a whisper when he said, “You need to respect me, okay?”
I squinted, alerted to the undercurrent of begging that rang loud and clear, with just a pinch of paranoia thrown in for good measure.
So this is my guide, I thought, sucking in a mouthful of air, wondering what other punishments might be in store. I mean, he had no wings, no shimmering robe, no halo, nothing that indicated he should in any way be the boss of me, and yet, there it was. He was the boss of me. And despite my wanting to believe otherwise, somehow I just knew it was real. Somehow I just knew he wasn’t lying about this.

ME: With many of our authors, we ask about tertiary characters, but since Riley is a secondary character now in her own spotlight, we're curious about some of your tertiary characters. Will we be seeing more of the twins, Romy and Rayne? They have an interesting journey ahead of them as they try to fit in with the modern day. Will they have their own chronicles or will they continue to play an important role in Damen and Ever's saga? What's the favorite scene you've written with Romy and Rayne so far? Please share it with us!

ALYSON: Romy and Rayne are really fun to write, and while they definitely have an interesting journey ahead of them, I doubt they’ll end up with their own chronicles—still, never say never, right? Meanwhile, they are adapting amazingly well to the modern world of shopping malls and MTV, and my favorite scenes with them are the ones where Romy is being nice to Ever and Rayne is being, well, Rayne! Though they do have a scene coming up in NIGHT STAR that shows some real growth on Rayne’s part especially, but I’d prefer to keep that spoiler free, so that’s all I can say about that!

Want to read more? Then check out the blurb and excerpt below!

RadianceBLURB: Welcome to the Here & Now

Riley Bloom left her sister, Ever, in the world of the living and crossed the bridge into the afterlife—a place called Here, where time is always Now. Riley and her dog, Buttercup, have been reunited with her parents and are just settling into a nice, relaxing death when she's summoned before The Council. They let her in on a secret—the afterlife isn't just an eternity of leisure; Riley has to work. She's been assigned a job, Soul Catcher, and a teacher, Bodhi, a curious boy she can't quite figure out.

Riley, Bodhi, and Buttercup return to earth for her first assignment, a Radiant Boy who's been haunting a castle in England for centuries. Many Soul Catchers have tried to get him to cross the bridge and failed. But all of that was before he met Riley...

EXCERPT: Chapter 1

Most people think that death is the end.
The end of life—of good times—the end of, well, pretty much everything.
But those people are wrong.
Dead wrong.
And I should know. I died almost a year ago.

Chapter 2
The weirdest part about dying is that nothing really changed.

I mean, you'd expect a big change, right? Because dying—well, let's face it, it's pretty dramatic stuff. They write songs about it, books and screenplays too. Heck, it's even a major theme on Saturday morning cartoons. But the thing is, it's nothing like you see on TV.

Nothing at all.

Take me for instance. I'm living, er, make that dead proof that it really isn't so different. Or at least not at first. And at least not in a bad way like you probably think.

Because the truth is, the moment I died I actually felt more alive than ever. I could jump higher—run faster—I could even walk through walls if I wanted. And that's pretty much what gave it away.

The walking-through-walls part.

Since it's not like I could do that sort of thing before, so that's how I knew something was up.

Something serious.

But up until then, it all just seemed like a really cool side trip. Like my dad just decided to take a sudden turn none of us were expecting.

One moment he was cruising down a curving highway, while I was singing along to my iPod with my dog Buttercup resting his head on my lap, doing my best to tune out my bossy older sister Ever who practically lived to torment me. And the next thing I knew, we were somewhere else entirely.

No longer on the highway, no longer in Oregon, we'd somehow landed smack dab in the middle of this beautiful shimmering field full of pulsating trees and flowers that shivered. And when my parents went one way and my sister went another, I just stood there, head swiveling like crazy, unsure who to follow.

Part of me urging, "Cross the bridge with Mom and Dad and Buttercup—they know what's best!"

While the other part insisted, "Don't be such a goody-good— if Ever sees something awesome and you miss out, you'll regret it forever!"

And by the time I finally decided to go after my sister, I'd taken so long she was already gone.


Straight into the shimmering mist.

Right back to the earth plane.

And that's how I ended up stuck. Stuck between worlds.

Until I found my way Here.

That's what they call it, "Here."

And if you're dumb enough to ask what time it is, they'll say, "Now."

Probably because there's no time Here, which means everything happens, well, in the moment it happens, which is always just—now.

So, I guess you could say I live in the Here & Now. Which, strangely, isn't so different from where I lived before back in Eugene, Oregon.

Aside from there being no time. And of course, that bit about being able to walk through walls and stuff.

But other than that, and the fact that I can manifest anything I want—stuff like houses and cars and clothes, even animals and beaches, simply by imagining it—it's all pretty much the same.

My parents are Here. My grandparents too. Even my sweet yellow Lab Buttercup made it. And even though we can live anywhere we could ever conceivably want, in any kind of house we could ever truly desire, the funny thing is that my new neighborhood is pretty much an exact replica of my old neighborhood back in Oregon.

Everything identical, all the way down to the clothes that hang in my closet, the socks that are stuffed in my drawers, and the posters that are taped to my walls. The only thing that's different, the only thing that kind of bugs me, is all the other houses around us are empty. Mostly due to the fact that all my old neighbors and friends are alive and well and back in the earth plane (well, for now anyway!). But still, other than that, it's exactly like I remember it.

Exactly like I wished it.

I just wish I had some friends to enjoy it with.

Want to know more about Alyson and all of her books? Then check out her website!!!