Friday, October 29, 2010

Step with me through the Dark Looking Glass. . .

It doesn't have to be Halloween for a good scare. Enter here, if your dare. . .

Purchase here: 

"Andrew Smith's The Marbury Lens will own you, mind, body and soul. You can't put it down, but you'll want to. You'll want to put it down and walk away but that is not happening. The Marbury Lens crawls inside your head and won't leave. Scary, creepy, awful and awesome. What a cool book!"   -- Michael Grant, author of Gone and Hunger for The Marbury Lens

Goodreads description: Sixteen-year-old Jack gets drunk and is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is kidnapped. He escapes, narrowly. The only person he tells is his best friend, Conner. When they arrive in London as planned for summer break, a stranger hands Jack a pair of glasses. Through the lenses, he sees another world called Marbury.
There is war in Marbury. It is a desolate and murderous place where Jack is responsible for the survival of two younger boys. Conner is there, too. But he’s trying to kill them. Meanwhile, Jack is falling in love with an English girl, and afraid he’s losing his mind. Conner tells Jack it’s going to be okay. But it’s not.  Andrew Smith has written his most beautiful and personal novel yet, as he explores the nightmarish outer limits of what trauma can do to our bodies and our minds. The Marbury Lens pub month: November by Feiwell and Friends an imprint of Macmillan. Ages 14 and up. 


What did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I always wanted to be a writer when I grew up. The problem was, growing up when I did, most families were overly-concerned about having stable futures and working in industries that would always expand – like warfare and stuff. After all, I am a child of the Cold War. So my parents were not very enthusiastic when I revealed my future aspirations to them. In fact, I think I recall them saying something like, “But what do you really want to be?”

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer/illustrator?
I always liked it when my teachers would give creative assignments that dealt with writing stories or illustrating things. And I actually am a pretty decent artist, although I really wish I could paint better. But becoming a writer probably became a certainty for me when I was in high school.

What’s your most embarrassing childhood memory?
When I was in Kindergarten, I sat next to a boy named Chip. Chip had to pee really bad, but he was too afraid to ask the teacher, Mrs. Bailey. So Chip just peed under the table, all over the floor, and, of course, he denied it was his. I was ethically torn by the situation. We were sitting two-to-a-desk, Chip was my friend, and I had an irreconcilably feverish crush on Mrs. Bailey.

As a young person, who did you look up to most?
When I was a kid, I looked up to my brother, Patrick, the most. He was older, and we shared a bedroom (there were four boys in my family) until he enlisted in the Army – when he went off to fight in Vietnam. Patrick drove a 1959 Cadillac – a gift from our aunt – and he used to drive the three of us younger boys around with him and his tough-guy high-school friends on their crazy adventures, and we listened to AM radio stations and daringly used words like “bitchin’” when we talked.

What was your first job?
My first real job – where I actually collected a paycheck – was writing for a local newspaper in Southern California. Beginning reporters are called stringers, and in those days, stringers got paid by the inch of copy we wrote (newspaper columns, typically 2-inches wide, had about 50 words per inch). I often say that getting paid for writing by the inch is very likely the origin of my predilection for big words and long sentences.

How did you celebrate publishing your first book?
It honestly wasn’t much of a celebration for a couple reasons: First, publication takes such an interminably long time. From the time you get an offer to when you actually sign contracts may take several months. Then, when the book is actually in the stores is usually more than a year after that. But the biggest reason for a non-celebration was that I wrote – and continue to write – in secret. Nobody knew what I was up to, so my family and friends really didn’t believe much of anything had actually happened. In fact, I didn’t tell my wife that I had written a book until after I received an offer for representation from my agent. And when I finally told her, she was so relieved because she thought I was having some kind of online affair due to the hours and hours I’d been spending quietly working on my computer. Now, I think my writing is more of a bother to my wife and kids. Maybe they’ll want to celebrate when I decide to quit.

Where do you write your books?
I write my books in my upstairs office at home. It is a perfect writing place. It has a deck and lots of windows looking out at mountains and trees and my horses. When I travel, I carry a laptop with me and I work on my writing by emailing bits and pieces of my work back and forth to myself.

Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Inspiration is a moving target. If you sit still, you’ll never find it, and you’ll get really old waiting for it to bump into you.

Which of your characters is most like you?
Well, to some extent, all my protagonists are part “me,” but if you had to isolate one individual character, I think there’d be no doubt about it: I am most like Simon Vickers, from In the Path of Falling Objects. He always takes risks without seriously considering the consequences, and I think he has an attitude – maybe due to naivete – that nothing bad will ever happen to him. He likes to push buttons and then acts indignant when the people around him get pissed off. Yeah… that’s me.

When you finish a book, who reads it first?
When I finish a book, I read it first. That’s when I try to read it like I didn’t have anything to do with it’s having been written. I am not a writer who shares what I write with friends and family, though. So, when I finish a book, I usually send it directly to my agent, Laura Rennert, and my editor, Liz Szabla. Then, immediately after that I get sick and start asking, “Why did I send that to them? Why? Why? Why?” And I start calling myself every version of stupid I can think up. Then I get really grumpy until I hear back from them – an interminable and agonizing wait, even if it’s only a few days long.

Which do you like better: cats or dogs?
I am entirely a dog person. Still, we do own four cats who are all very good at keeping down the rodent population around the house and then making little shrines of death on our front walkway.

What do you value most in your friends?
I like my friends for their intelligence and sense of humor. I also truly value the fact that my friends understand that I am a fairly quiet and reserved person who can go for long stretches of time rather quiet and isolated.

Where do you go for peace and quiet?
I live in a very peaceful, quiet location – and I really couldn’t have it any other way. Although there are certain cities that I absolutely love (Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston, London, to name a few) my ideal getaways usually take me to secluded places that are not very crowded.

What makes you laugh out loud?
I most often find myself laughing out loud at things we say when I’m hanging out with my wife and kids – or when I’m joking around with my very funny friends: John, Casey, Brian, Steve, and Jeremy.

What’s your favorite song?
I wonder how many people can confidently answer that question. My favorite song changes about every other week. But I can offer, as a means of getting around the question, that if there ever were perfect “soundtracks” made for Ghost Medicine and In the Path of Falling Objects, I would like to have the following artists contribute: The Felice Brothers, Bob Dylan, Bon Iver, and Johnny Flynn. Now, if there were a soundtrack made for The Marbury Lens, I would like to hear what Radiohead, The Cure, and maybe a reunited Pink Floyd would come up with for that monster.

Who is your favorite fictional character?
“My” favorite fictional character is, naturally, one of my own – a kid named Stark McClellan. You haven’t met him yet, because he’s in a book I wrote, called Stick, that is not yet published. But the reason that I like him so much is that he has this really dry (but definitely not cynical or sarcastic) sense of humor in the way he looks at things, and he has this remarkable ability, I think, to see a kind of wonder in everything – even if he’s surrounded by cruelty and ugliness. I admire people who are like that.

What time of year do you like best?
I definitely prefer summertime. Still, there is a lot to be said for sitting by a fire while snow falls outside, reading a great book.

What’s your favorite TV show?
I do not watch television at all. I am incapable of sitting still and having information, noise, and visuals pumped into my skull. I know this is a shortcoming on my part, and that I am missing out on something, but I just don’t ever do it. My friends think I’m a snob, but it has nothing to do with my looking down on the medium. They’re all dumb, anyway.

If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you want for company?
A television. Just kidding. There wouldn’t be anywhere to plug it in. This is a trick, right? You left out the phrase “besides your wife,” right? Okay, so if I couldn’t have my wife OR my kids with me, then I’d probably be just fine by myself. I am an incurable loner at heart.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?
I would very much have liked to live in California during the 1880s. I know that’s a random choice, but I’ve always had a fascination for that time period, which is only part of the reason why I set a portion of The Marbury Lens in California during that decade. There were so many interesting political, social, and religious movements in America at that time, and those tremendous transformations in the ways that people looked at themselves and the universe – coupled with the anxious feeling of being right on the razor’s edge of this incredible twentieth-century future – really made for some potentially amazing adventures.

What’s the best advice you have ever received about writing?
People who make it a practice to give advice about writing tend to give the worst possible advice. Here are my top three pieces of idiotic nonsense people will tell you about writing:

  1. You have to have a thick skin.
  2. “Show” don’t “tell.”
  3. Don’t quit your day job.
Those are all really wrong and meaningless, in my opinion. The only rule in my writer’s code is there are no rules.

What do you want readers to remember about your books?
I want my readers to find some personal connection to what I write. It’s hard for me to say just how much it means to me when I get letters or email from readers telling me how they’ve been impacted by one of my books. That’s the greatest thing in the world, and it seems like every one of those letters always tells me something different about how that connection was made.

What would you do if you ever stopped writing/illustrating?
I would probably be an inconsolable grump, the worst neighborhood grouch in the history of neighborhood grouches. I can’t see myself quitting.

What do you like best about yourself?
I’ll tell you what I like least about myself: I take everything personally. I know that’s a critical weakness for someone who writes professionally, because everyone in the business seems to repeat this you-need-to-have-a-thick-skin mantra (see above), but I can’t help it. I actually lose sleep over the littlest things people say or do.

What is your worst habit?
Evasiveness. When I don’t want to talk about something, I’ll craftily change the subject. My sixteen-year-old son, who is afraid of insects, is far braver than I am when it comes to riding on roller coasters.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
Here we go again with the “bests” questions. I think I am a good father. I believe my kids will look back on some of the things we’ve done together as a family as some of the greatest memories in their lives. That said, I am also very proud of all the books I’ve published – as well as those that will be coming out in the future.

Where in the world do you feel most at home?
Oddly enough, I feel most at home at home. I am a bit of a recluse, I suppose, and I greatly prefer the quiet of the countryside (where I live). I have never been able to understand the “dream” of living in a house that sits in a tight row of clone-houses, surrounded by row upon row of other houses, in a neighborhood where you constantly hear the sounds of traffic and sirens.

What do you wish you could do better?
I wish I could speak Italian better. When I was a child, my mother could not speak English, and I spent many years in Italy, so I naturally picked up the language when I was young. Now, it’s difficult for me to quickly form the words I want to say, although I still can understand it very well.

What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?
When I was a little kid, my family lived in a very old house that was actually haunted. And to be completely honest, I frequently saw the ghost of a little boy in it, but never told anyone until after we moved away, and then my mother told me that she saw ghosts in it all the time, too.

Meet Author Andrew Smith. 

 Read more about him here:  


 Andrew has generously donated an autographed ARC to one lucky reader who loves a riveting, page turning thriller. Perfect for older teens and adults!  Leave a comment for a chance to win The Marbury Lens. The drawing will take place on November 9th! Thank you, Andrew, for sharing your world with us.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Who is the Lucky Winner of NIGHTSHADE CITY ???

Thanks everyone who wrote and congratulated Hilary Wagner on her debut novel, NIGHTSHADE CITY. Purchase a copy here:
In a moment, I'll announce the winner, but first a reminder about my  mystery guest, a brilliant writer, who has a Book Birthday just in time for Halloween. It's not a Halloween book, and it's not for little kids. It's a book for older teens and up, the up meaning old like me. I read the first page and I was spellbound. Here's a little tidbit from Part One: The Amethyst Hour to whet your appetite for more. . .  

"I am going to build something big for you. It's like one of those Russian dolls that you open up, and open up again. And each layer becomes something else. On the outside is the universe, painted dark purple; decorated with planets and comets, stars. Then you open it, and you see Earth, and when that comes apart. . ." 

Don't you want to read more? Of course you do. Learn all about the mystery author and the book on October 29th!

One more bit of news: Next week I'll be speaking at Keystone Reading in Hershey, PA. Lindsay Barrett George will be there and the award winning author Suzanne Bloom of a Splendid Friend Indeed. If any of you are going, please stop by one of the signing booths, presentations, or the Author Tea on Tuesday afternoon to say "Hello!"  Thanks.

Hat's off to the LUCKY WINNER of NIGHTSHADE CITY selected by

Take a bow, MALLORY!  Mallory, please e-mail me: claragillowclark(@)gmail(dot)com with your full name and address.If I don't hear from you in one week, the names go back in for a new drawing. If you haven't checked out Hilary's amazing websites, here are the links again: and 

See you next week! 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

BOOK B'DAY *** Debut Author Hilary Wagner *** NIGHTSHADE CITY

                           ****Please welcome very special guest, debut author, Hilary Wagner!****
Hilary lives in Chicago with her husband Eric, her seven year old Vincent and two year old Nomi. They also have a neurotic Italian Greyhound, Louie, who [Hilary says] is adorable, but very whiny! ;)

I'm sure you've seen her around the social network, and I know that a lot of you have been waiting to get her book, Nightshade City: Purchase now:  You can also leave a comment at the end of the interview for a chance to win an autographed copy generously donated by Hilary! Read on. . .
“Fans of Redwall and the Warriors series will love this heroic tale of good versus evil in a subterranean society of rats. The world of the Catacombs is so compelling readers will wonder if it really might exist under our city streets. Expect great adventures in Nightshade City.” ~ Rick Riordan, Author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series


Billycan is the decisive rat scoundrel - fanatical, nasty, ferocious and absolutely disturbing. Was there any particular thing that moved you to write this completely fantastic bad guy/rat?

I've always loved the bad guys! I suppose in some way they hold a place in my heart, because I feel something horrible must have happened to them had to make them so bad. Weird, I know! I married a good guy though, much to my parent's relief! ;)

What do you like most about writing villains?

I enjoy the many layers most villains have. What brought them to their wicked ways? What pinnacle events made them so cruel and nasty? I truly don't know if people (or rats in my case), can be born bad, but I think we all start out with a blank slate. So what did it--horrible parents, parents that spoiled them, no parents at all? Did they witness or were they involved in something terrible? Or did they just always have a mean streak?

Can you name one of your choice villains, and what made you adore them?

I just love the White Witch from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. She is just as cold as they come, literally! She embodied evil, but also had this undeniable coolness about her--someone you love to hate! She stopped Christmas for goodness sake! ;)

What would you say are the vital traits of a villain (or rat, as the case may be)?

Layers, for sure, villains need to have depth. Uniqueness, no one wants to read about the guy with the black hat, cape and mustache, demanding, "You must pay the rent"! History, why are they bad--the fun part about this is a villain's history can be revealed in more than one book!

What, to you, are the most overdone qualities in villains?

Ha! Not to be repetitive, the black hat, cape, and mustache! I like wicked witches, but nowadays I think you really have to have a singular witch. Even if she has a pointed hat and green skin, she darn well better have a good reason why!


Do you think of Billycan as an utterly hopeless bad guy, or are there good qualities in him?

To be revealed in Book II... ;)

Without giving any spoilers, what's your favorite Nightshade scene with Billycan and why?

Oh, gosh, he has an awfully eerie scene with a young rat, wherein he scares the tar out of her--poor girl! For me, it was extremely creepy and even gave me goose bumps as I wrote it. I always try to think how I'd feel if someone did that to me at that age...not good! ;)

Since this is your debut novel, can you share a bit about your writing process and your road to publication?

Hmmm...writing process--I don't do outlines, so I don't have a specific process. I seem to write in a series of scenes, picturing them in my head first and then getting down just right--one scene building on the next. Not too scientific, but it works for me!

Hilary's  road to publication
: Craig Virden (Nancy Gallt's husband and former president of Random House Children's Division) was the agent I'd been pining away for. I knew he was the one I wanted to represent me. We'd exchanged some lovely letters. He'd requested the full and made me laugh--a real charmer! This progression took about 6 months. Finally I got a letter back from him. My heart beat like a rabbit's. It was yet another rejection, mind you, the nicest rejection anyone could ever get, but a rejection all the same. He said due to the current market woes and competition he just couldn't take it on. 
You'd think I'd be crushed, but I wasn't. He offered to read anything else I had "mouldering" in my desk. So, instead of wallowing (which I'd become an expert at), I got to work that day on another MS I'd been wanting to finish. Then, about four weeks later, I got a phone call out of the blue. I didn't recognize the area code, so normally I wouldn't have answered it, but I just had this strange feeling. It was Craig Virden. He said he just couldn't stop thinking about the book and no matter the market, etc, he wanted to take it on if I was still interested...uh...YES! So, long story short, that's how I landed my agent.
Sadly, a month later, Craig passed away. It was a heartbreaking blow to his family and the publishing community at large. He was one of those larger than life men that everyone knew and loved and one and all seemed to have a story about--a truly special person. Marietta Zacker stepped in pronto. She was dear friends with Craig and Nancy and had just started working with them as an agent. Despite her grief, she called me right away and let me know everything was okay and most of all for me not to worry. Shortly thereafter, I had a new agent. Can lightning strike twice? Marietta is kind and funny and pretty much brilliant! She gives me so much insight into the publishing industry and she's as clever as a fox! She is my agent and my friend and I highly recommend her to anyone. She sold Nightshade City in less than two months. 
Do you have any advice for writers? Your favorite book on the writing craft? (Or anything you want to add about the writing life!)

I've never read a book on writing, so I can't offer up any good titles. For me, the key to writing is developing your own sense of style. I think once you do that, you're really onto something--more so than just learning "how" to write. A distinct voice means everything in a successful book. When I think of my favorite books, all of them had a unique feel about them--something unforgettable

NIGHTSHADE CITY is available at Barnes and Noble stores nationwide, Indie Booksellers, Amazon and more. Learn more about Hilary Wagner by visiting her blog:  and enter the exciting, subteranrean world of NIGHTSHADE CITY here:

Who will be the lucky winner of a personally autographed copy of  NIGHTSHADE CITY? If you leave a comment, it might be YOU! Simply stop by to CONGRATULATE Hilary or to share the title of your favorite anthropomorphic book from childhood! Mine is The Wind in the Willows!  The drawing will take place on October 21st!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

ANNOUNCING the LUCKY WINNER of Tenth Avenue Cowboys

Before I announce the LUCKY WINNER of the autographed book, I'd like to invite anyone living in the area of Wilkes-Barre, Pa to drop by and meet Linda Oatman High in person along with Lindsay Barrett George, Patricia Thomas, and yours truly--Clara Gillow Clark!  The four of us will be signing books and talking about writing, books, and publishing at the Barnes&Noble Bookstore, Wilkes-Barre Mall on Sunday, October 10, from 2-4 pm. Btw--It's not too early to purchase Christmas gifts!!!

You know that Linda has written and published a lot of picture books, but I know some of you are interested in YA and Poetry as well. Here's a look at a YA book by Linda Oatman High: SISTER SLAM and the Poetic Motormouth Road Trip Review

Told in the jagged rhythms of rap, with unexpected rhymes and frenetic energy, Sister Slam is a soul sister to Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat. Hip but innocent, sharp but sweet, fresh out of high school in Banesville, Pennsylvania, plump Laura Crapper and her skinny friend Twig ("an indie-goth-hippie chick like me") set out in their '69 Firebird for the Sixth Annual Tin Can, New Jersey Poetry Slam: "We'll be driving/ into the so-cool/ School of Real Life./ The College Of Reality!/ The University/ of Gray Road, Blue Sky,/ and Yellow Lines," exults Twig. As a mark of the importance of the occasion Laura chooses a new name "so hot it sizzled/ and blistered your fingers/ like Crisco-fried ham./ My new name was: Sister Slam!" In Tin Can the new poets bomb when the subject of Sister's angry poem turns out to be one of the judges. And like all road trips, this one has its bad moments (their car is totaled by a collision with a Mustang) and its wild surprises (the driver turns out to be a hunky guy named Jake with "avocado-hotto eyes"). A spontaneous performance at a restaurant catapults the two poets into fame on the slam circuit, with success beyond their dreams as they rant onstage in thrift store chic--until real life intervenes. Teen slammers will snap their fingers along with Twig and Sister in this lighthearted and innovative verse novel. (ages 12 to 16) --Patty Campbell  

And NOW, the WINNER of TENTH AVENUE COWBOYS to be personalized by Linda Oatman High,
(generated by is:   SUSAN COUTURE   

                              !!!!!!!!CONGRATULATIONS, SUSAN!!!!!!!

Susan, please e-mail me at claragillowclark (@) gmail (dot) com  with your address within the next seven days. After that time, the names will go back in for a new drawing!

Thank you everyone who stopped by and left a message for Linda! Thanks, Linda for sharing about the writing and inspiration of  TENTH AVENUE COWBOY

Who's up next? I'm very excited to share a debut author with you. If you spend any time on FaceBook or Twitter, then you'll be familiar with the delightful, Hilary Wagner, author of NIGHTSHADE CITY. Yup, Hilary has generously donated a copy of her book, so be sure to stop by to learn about the writing of her book, and to leave a comment for a chance to WIN a copy of Nightshade City!