Interview: C.J. Redwine, author of Defiance (@cjredwine @harperteen)

Guys. I’m so excited.

You may remember me mentioning the upcoming fantasy adventure Defiance, which is one of my favorite books of 2012. I met the author, C.J. Redwine, a few months ago right after I finished reading Defiance, and I may have gushed just a tad (and/or a lot). I put a teaser review up shortly before then, because I couldn’t wait to give you all a glimpse of how much I loved this book. My full review will be coming soon, because Defiance releases August 28, which is NEXT MONTH.

And today, I have an interview with C.J. herself! Aren’t you BESIDE YOURSELVES with glee?

Well, you should be.

What gave you the idea for Defiance?

I have no clue. Ideas just ferment inside my brain and then one thing leads to another and BAM! I suddenly see a story.

Was the book always written from both Rachel’s and Logan’s points-of-view?

Nope. I got halfway through the book with just Rachel’s POV, and then realized Logan had such a strong story of his own that he really deserved to have his own shot at telling it.

Which character was easier to write, Rachel or Logan?

Hmm. I got inside Rachel’s head faster than I did Logan’s. Mostly because his brain sort of breaks mine. It’s all … scientific and analytical and logical. And I am usually NOT.

Can you give us the title of the sequel to Defiance? And when can we expect it to be released?

The sequel’s title has yet to be approved by Marketing, so I can’t say anything about that. It will be released next fall. (2013)

THCW Note: I suggested “Even More Defiance: Now With Extra Sass,” and C.J. said she liked it. Now I’m going to be shocked and appalled if that’s not the title.

How many books will there be in the Defiance series?


Any plot teasers that don’t spoil what happens in Defiance? Are we going to learn more about the Commander’s back story? Logan’s mother?

Yes! And more about Quinn and Willow’s back story too.

The world of Defiance seems to be mostly medieval fantasy, with some almost sci-fi technology thrown in, like the wrist scanners. How did you weave these different genres together in a way that made sense? And what genre would you put Defiance in?

My publisher is calling Defiance a fantasy adventure. I had no idea I’d written a fantasy. I was just writing something that had a little piece of everything I love: post-apocalypse, dystopian, fantasy, light sci-fi, and romance. I wove it together by knowing the rules of my world and making sure everything I did stayed within those rules.

How did you come up with the names for your characters?

Most of them just came to me with a name already attached. I don’t know how. My brain is a strange place.

What’s the most exciting thing about having your book published? The scariest thing?

Most exciting and scariest are the same thing: I finally get to put my story in the hands of readers and let them interact with my world. That makes the story theirs instead of mine, now. That’s both thrilling and almost vomit-inducing scary, lol.

How did you find your agent?

I wrote a good book, networked at conferences, queried those I’d researched, and on the recommendation of a friend, made sure to include Holly in those queries too.  Months later, we were happily agent and client.

What was your reaction when you got your book deal?

I cried. I’d been with Holly for two years and gone out on submission with two other books (not YA) and hadn’t sold. But I kept working at it, believing that one day I’d write the one that DID sell. I almost didn’t believe it when Holly called to tell me one of the editors who had Defiance was going to make an offer. It didn’t feel real for days.

How long did it take to write Defiance?

Two and a half months.

What’s your writing process like? How do you overcome writer’s block?

Much of my writing process is in my head. The story has to live there and breathe for a while as I wander through the scenes and listen to the characters and start to get a feel for it. Then, I sit down and write multiple crappy beginnings, throw them all away, and finally find some traction and write the entire thing.

I don’t let writer’s block get in my way for long. If I’m stuck, there’s a reason. Either I need to refresh my well of creativity, or I’ve pushed the scene in the wrong direction and need to back up a bit. I take care of that and jump back into the thick of things.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Your first book (or two, or five) might not be the one that will get you a publishing contract, but you should write it (them) anyway. You’ll be amazed at how much you improve from book to book.

What are you most looking forward to in the next year (other than the release of your book)?

Spending time with my family. I know that sounds cheesy, but that’s pretty much what I do for fun.

What other authors are your inspirations?

Oh, so many! I have taken bits and pieces of inspiration from all kinds of books. The way Stephen King puts a name to our secret fears and parades it in front of us. The way J.K. Rowling builds her world so seamlessly that we truly believe it must exist. The way Myra McEntire writes swoony, awkward kissing scenes that feel true to life. The way Franny Billingsley describes things so that they feel at once familiar and brand new. I could go on and on all day here.

What are your 5 “desert island” books?

Only five????! *pets ALL the books* I have such a huge TBR pile, that I think I’d grab a selection from there. I know that’s a wuss answer, but seriously … I can’t choose just five.

If there was a movie made of Defiance, who would you cast to play Rachel, Logan, Oliver, and the Commander?

Rachel – Danielle Panabaker, though with blue contacts.

Logan – Chris Pine. He’s probably too old for the role, now, but still …

Oliver – I don’t know.

Commander – Bill Nighy, as he was when he played Viktor in Underworld.

THCW Note: You mean like THIS?

I’m pretty sure the husband has earned himself a cookie or two with that one. And maybe an ice cream sundae. Speaking of which…

What is your favorite dessert?

Lemon bars!

What’s your drink at Sonic?

Peach tea (made with unsweetened tea)

How do you take your coffee or tea?

No coffee. I love tea with honey in it.

Who’s your favorite superhero?

Batman. Because really? Batman> Every Other Superhero. Why? Hello? Cars, high tech toys, angst, and Alfred. Game over.

What movie made you laugh the most? Cry the hardest?

Laugh the most has to be The Whole Nine Yards. There is an entire scene that made me laugh so hard I nearly choked. For five minutes.

Cry the hardest is definitely Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. I was UGLY crying. Like “can’t breathe out of my nose” crying.

What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?

The beach!

Thanks so much, C.J., for joining me on the blog today, and for writing such a great story! I can’t wait for everyone else to discover its awesomeness.

If you would like to support C.J. (and you SHOULD), you can find her at the following places:

Her blog




YA Books Central

And don’t forget to preorder your copy of Defiance, releasing August 28, 2012!

Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (@raecarson @harperteen)

As you probably know, because I’ve been complaining about it, I’ve been stuck in somewhat of a reading rut lately. I’m not sure why. It just happens sometimes. Reading was not as appealing as, say, television. Or Twitter. Or staring at a blank wall.

I had these lofty expectations of blazing grandly through my long list of NetGalley review titles, but then I wound up watching YouTube videos of Avengers featurettes instead.

Don’t judge. These things happen.

Anyway, I got sick of my complete apathy towards reading (which, in all fairness, had only been going on for about a week and a half), so I decided to get back in the game with some pleasure reading. Some just-for-me books that I expected to be awesome. And the first one I picked up was The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.

The Plot

The story follows Elisa, the younger of two princesses, whose father has agreed to marry her off to the king of a neighboring country. A man she has never met. On her wedding day, Elisa prays for King Alejandro to be old and fat, because then maybe he won’t be disappointed in her, as she considers herself overweight and unremarkable in every way save one. Elisa  bears the Godstone, a multi-faceted gemstone mystically attached to her stomach that shows she is destined to perform an act of great service to God.

However, Elisa constantly wonders whether God made a mistake, as she doesn’t think she will ever have the opportunity or capability to perform this service.

But soon after accompanying Alejandro to his kingdom, she begins to learn how powerful, and dangerous, the Godstone can be, both to the bearer and to those who would use it against her. She discovers a history of bearers whose acts of service are unclear, and she struggles to figure out how she fits into the centuries-long story.

Meanwhile, a vast and terrifying army approaches, and the lives of thousands may rest in Elisa’s hands.

My Thoughts

This book was totally unlike any other fantasy I’ve ever read, both in characters and in plot. I’ll talk about characters first.

First, Elisa was not beautiful (and not in that “she doesn’t think she’s beautiful but guys keep falling all over themselves when she appears” kind of way). Second, she was not highly skilled. She bore the Godstone, but she had absolutely no idea why or what to do with it. And third, she had a steep learning curve. She didn’t find herself to have a mysteriously strong aptitude for any sort of noticeable skill. Basically, what she had was a connection to God that she didn’t understand, decent intelligence, and a desire to do the right thing so she could fulfill her service. That was pretty much it. It was refreshing to see a fantasy protagonist with no major advantages over the other characters (save the Godstone, but again, she spent most of the book being utterly flummoxed by it).

Then there was the plot. It had a decidedly religious and philosophical slant, which I wasn’t really expecting going into this book. It didn’t preach any specific religion (that I am aware of anyway), but the overall themes of God and prayer and faith in an overarching purpose that is bigger than any of us can understand were huge. I found this totally different than other fantasy I’ve read, and although this wasn’t by any means a preachy or religious book, I liked the way it tackled the complex issues of religion and faith and trying to understand the will of God. It did it within the world of fantasy and magic, so I don’t think it would turn off non-religious readers, but for me, I enjoyed a fantasy book that both fulfilled my need for magic and adventure, in addition to making me really think and question.

Of course, this book is not all religion and philosophy, not by a long shot. Elisa goes through a HUGE transformation, both physically and mentally, throughout the course of the book. The adventure is sweeping, the world-building highly unique and interesting, and the danger is palpable. Rae Carson was not afraid to put her characters in tough and terrible situations, and that gave the book a gravity that kept me fully engaged.

There were a couple downsides to the book. A couple of the characters I was never able to fully warm to, and it seemed like I was supposed to. I thought Elisa’s development was one of the most realistic hero journeys I’ve ever read, but it almost came at the expense of the other characters’ development. There’s one exception to that, and it was actually a pretty secondary character, but I loved him in the brief time I got to know him. However, he disappeared for the entire middle of the book, and doesn’t reappear until the final act. So that was somewhat disappointing. I hope we see a lot more of him in the sequel, Crown of Embers (which releases September 18, 2012).

I did find the climax a tiny bit hard to swallow. I don’t want to spoil anything, so let’s just say that I was expecting it to be…more difficult. After the way everything is set up, it feels like it should have been more difficult. But one big thing happens, and then everything else is just…over. Seems like it should have been messier than that.

But, as I said, that was just a tiny complaint.

Overall, Girl of Fire and Thorns (which, if made into an acronym, is “GOFAT,” which seems like kind of a subliminal encouragement Elisa, who is rather portly at the start of the book) was a refreshing and highly engaging fantasy, with a unique and interesting world, a complex plot, and a fantastic main character.

Content Guide: Contains large amounts of violence

Throwback Thursday (June 28) – The Hobbit

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

It’s the nature of book blogging to focus mainly on new releases, but there are thousands of great books out there that haven’t seen the “New Releases” shelf in years. We hope to be able to bring attention to some older titles that may not be at the top of the current bestseller list, but still deserve a spot in your To-Be-Read pile.

You don’t have to be a book blogger to participate! You can put up a Throwback Thursday post on your non-bookish blog; or if you don’t have a blog at all, just use the comments to tell us about a book you remember fondly.

Here’s how it works:
1. Pick any book released more than 5 years ago. Adult, YA, Children’s; doesn’t matter. Any great book will do.
2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it. Make sure to link back to The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books in your post.
3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

Feel free to grab the Throwback Thursday button code from the sidebar to use in your posts.

Thanks for participating, and we look forward to seeing which books you choose to remember!

My Throwback this week is…

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

I know what you’re thinking. Hasn’t everyone read The Hobbit? Why on earth would I feature a book everyone’s already read?

Well, the answer is twofold. One, everyone has not read it (gasp!). I know. It’s amazing, but true. I’ve even met some of them.

And second, even if everyone had already read it (which they haven’t), it’s still worth featuring, because it’s so old that no one features it anymore. Everyone just assumes everyone else has already read it.

If you’re living in a hole in the ground* and don’t know what The Hobbit is about, it is the story of Bilbo Baggins, who lives a quiet life in his Hobbit hole in the Shire, right up until a wizard named Gandalf and a group of dwarves show up on his doorstep and ask him to take part in an adventure.

What follows is a truly fabulous adventure, full of elves, goblins, trolls, and magic, as Bilbo and his companions journey through Middle Earth to rid the dwarves’ home in the Lonely Mountain of the fearsome dragon Smaug.

The Hobbit is a beautiful sweeping fantasy featuring a host of amazing and wonderful characters. It is in turns humorous, exciting, touching, and frightening.

It’s also a much easier read than the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkien’s language is simpler, and the story isn’t nearly as broad or complex, so it can be understood by people of all ages.

As a matter of fact, my husband recently started reading it to our 6-year-old daughter, and she loves it so far. Especially the rhyming dwarf names.

If you’ve never given The Hobbit a chance, I urge you to try it. It’s a beautiful and enchanting story.

And if you have read The Hobbit (as I suspect most of you have), now would be a perfect time for a re-read, just in time for the movie to be released in December! Look, here’s the trailer, and it looks awesome.

*Yes, that was just a Hobbit pun

Link up your Throwback Thursday post below!

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

I’ve been hearing fabulous things about Graceling by Kristin Cashore for some time now. It consistently pops up on “favorites” lists all across the blogosphere, along with its companions, Fire and Bitterblue, which in and of itself made me curious. Add to that the fact that its YA fantasy, which is a genre I actually haven’t read much of (most of the fantasy I read is adult), and I knew I’d need to read it ASAP.

The Plot

Katsa is a Graceling, identifiable from a young age because of her two different-colored eyes. But instead of a harmless Grace, such as painting or swimming, Katsa is Graced with killing. She first killed a man with her bare hands when she was eight years old, and has since been used by her uncle the king as an assassin and thug.

However, Katsa yearns to be more than just a killer, so she joins forces with a secret Council of citizens who have banded together to seek out and stop injustice. It is on a mission for the Council that she meets Po, the prince of a neighboring kingdom, and also a Graced fighter. Katsa is wary of Po, but as they grow closer through their sparring, the two soon become friends.

Then Po requests Katsa’s help on solving the mystery of his grandfather’s kidnapping. And as Katsa and Po search for the truth, they discover a terrifying secret that could affect the future of the entire Seven Kingdoms.

My Thoughts

I can see why Graceling is so well-loved by so many people. The writing is fantastic, and the world-building exquisite. I love the idea of this fantasy world where certain people have what essentially amounts to mutant powers. The notion of the different-colored eyes marking the Graced is great, as is the exploration of how the inhabitants of the different kingdoms view the Graced. In one kingdom, the Graced are honored, where in another, they are shamed. It’s a very subtle look at prejudices and stereotypes woven throughout the plot, and how those perceptions impact an individual’s self-image, and I thought it was very well done.

The plot was also lovely. I enjoyed the action, and although I’ve read several reviews that thought the pacing was slow and the length ponderous, I thought it moved rather quickly. Maybe that’s because most of the fantasy I read is adult. This book was certainly longer than a lot of YA fare, but I thought the length was justified by the story.

Po was a fantastic character. I liked him immediately. I loved that he was nuanced and flawed, and I was surprised along with Katsa when new facts were revealed about him. There are certain parts of the book where Po is not present, and while they are extremely exciting and tense, I was still slightly distracted wishing Po was there. It’s always fun when a book makes me actually miss a character when he’s not around.

I also loved the character of Princess Bitterblue, who is the focal point of one of the companion novels. While she was a child, I admired her attitude and spunk, and I enjoyed reading about her.

I did have a few issues with the book, and these were just matters of preference, not of the storytelling or the writing. I was not a huge fan of Katsa. I understood why she was the way she was, and I definitely acknowledge that she is a far cry from many of the helpless damsels in distress that are abundant in YA literature. However, her extremely guarded and untrusting nature didn’t make her a character I really enjoyed reading about. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed the story that she was involved in, I just didn’t really enjoy her. And although she does exhibit some growth during the course of the book, it wasn’t enough to make me really like her by the end.

I also was a bit let down by the climax of the book (which actually occurs several chapters before the ending). It seemed kind of lacking after so much build-up. Now, I’m not entirely sure how it could have been done better or differently; I just know that after I finished reading it, my thought was, “Oh, that was it?”

However, as an overall story, Graceling excelled. And considering neither of the companion novels focus on Katsa, I’m extremely interested in reading more about this beautiful fantasy world and the amazing characters that populate it.

Content Guide: Contains lots of fighting/violence/killing, sexual situations, implications of child and animal abuse.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (June 4)

Welcome to It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It’s time again for me to set lofty reading goals for myself! And maybe kind of achieve them! Huzzah!

Last week I actually read all the books I wanted to read (although I wasn’t able to acquire the two new books. Ran out of moolah. Darn it. Who wants to buy me a present?) so this week I can start all fresh and new. How exciting!

My library finally came through for me this week, and I now have the first books of several series I’ve been hearing tons of good things about. I can’t possibly get through them all this week, so I hereby dub June “Bandwagon Month,” wherein I will finally find out what all the hype is about.

On the docket for this week:

Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card. This is not part of Bandwagon Month (although I guess the Ender series could be considered a bandwagon series in the sci-fi crowd). This one’s just for me. I’ve read every other Ender/Shadow book and loved them. Time to find out what’s happening to a very tall Bean in space.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. No, I’ve never read the Mortal Instruments books. Yes, I know this is a travesty. Time to take the plunge.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about this fantasy series, and I’m so, so excited to finally get to read it. I also checked out Fire, which will probably kick off next week’s list.

And three books is probably about all I can manage this week, considering I’m also behind on my reviews, plus I need to allow time for all the Armchair BEA madness. I think it’s going to be a good week.

PSA: I will probably be behind in my commenting for memes this week because I’m on a Commenting Committee for Armchair BEA, and keeping up with that will be taking up a lot of time. But I WILL reply to your comments after the Armchair BEA madness is over. So please be patient! Thanks!