The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Katie Alender and From Bad to Cursed

June 06, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

When Katie Alender wrote her debut YA novel Bad Girls Don’t Die as a stand alone book, she tied it up with a relatively happy ending. In fact two years ago, this presentation/review — Presenting Debutante Katie Alender and Bad Girls Don’t Die — noted:

It’s a book about strong teenage females who have their own problems and find their own solutions, doing so without being dependent and reliant on males. The author’s heroine, Alexis, figures out that she has the strength and intelligence to not only fight her own battles but to be victorious…not that it’s easy, of course.

And concludes with:

Yet as innocent as it is scary, the author’s empathetic writing comes down to trusting and protecting the people we care about most.

Since those words hold true and always will, how does the author manage to untie the bow of a happy ending and create even greater problems in the second book of the series, Bad Girls Don’t Die: From Bad to Cursed releasing next Tuesday, June 14, 2011?

Actually there was a realistic and simple solution as Katie explains:

“This series is all about Alexis’s arc—who she is at the beginning of the first book, how she transforms, and who she is at the end of the third book. The first book, to me, was about trust and openness.

“This book is about compassion—or the consequences of a lack of compassion. Alexis came out of the first book assuming Kasey [her younger sister] was just kind of weak and maybe a little foolish. In this book, she realizes that everyone can stumble and make mistakes. And she also realizes that people can be stronger than you give them credit for.”

Those thoughts then evolved into this From Bad to Cursed synopsis:

Alexis Warren is totally the last girl you’d expect to sell her soul.

She already has everything she needs—an adorable boyfriend, the perfect best friend, and a little sister who’s finally recovering after being possessed by an evil spirit. She’s is thrilled and relieved when her sister joins a club; new friends are just what Kasey needs.

So, yeah, it’s a little strange how fast the girls in the Sunshine Club go from dorky and antisocial to gorgeous and popular… but playing with the paranormal is what got Kasey locked up last year—she must know better than to mess with the dark side again… right?

Um, not so much. Soon Alexis learns that the girls have pledged an oath to a seemingly benevolent spirit named Aralt. Not trusting Kasey to fix the situation herself, Alexis and her best friend Megan decide to investigate by joining the club. Alexis trades in her pink hair and punky clothes for a mainstream look, and quickly finds herself reveling in her newfound elegance and success.

Faster than you can say “J. Crew,” Alexis has forgotten why she joined in the first place. Surely it wasn’t to destroy Aralt… why would she hurt someone who gives her so much—and asks for so little in return?

Although this novel can be gory and “gooey,” its true horror comes from Aralt’s supernatural curse/blessing. Given the opportunity to be perfect, to be successful, to be golden might tempt anyone at any age, but how acquiescent would a teenage girl be? And, while Alexis still maintains most of the mental strength she possessed in the first book, her emotional convictions falter now.

Even more diabolically delicious is the adult character — also “charmed” by Aralt’s oath. She may, in fact, remind readers of any number of real life people seemingly leading a golden life. Have those “fortunate” ones — who have it all — made a pact? Perhaps. Yet they too do crumble and fall….even harder than most.

Katie understands how self-destructive this can be, saying:

“I think a lot of people sell their souls for success—look at men like Bernie Madoff, whose own son committed suicide out of shame and despair. In every industry you’ll find people willing to trade tiny pieces of their humanity for success and recognition. The sad thing is, they do it of their own accord.”

Which is why she shares her feelings through writings and speech:

“One thing I try to emphasize if I’m talking to teens or aspiring writers is that you can’t go by the world’s definition of success. Look at all of the wealthy, beautiful, famous people whose lives end up in ruins. It’s so easy to be tempted by what someone else has—but often those people are trapped in miserable existences. Money, fame, Oscars, Pulitzers—none of it means anything if you can’t look yourself in the eye every morning.”

Without giving away any *spoilers*, Alexis does find it difficult to look herself in the eye every morning. For, in this book, the character’s healthy self-confidence has been replaced by over-confidence based on building herself up by belittling others. Yes she’s earned success, but she’s a teenager who is still growing and in need of understanding her own weaknesses. Despite Aralt’s “gifts,” Alexis is far from perfect. However, once she recognizes her mistakes, can she be strong enough to correct them to save herself, her sister, and others?

Hmm, that answer may be obvious by knowing there’s a book three. Still that doesn’t diminish the thrill and fun of the heart-pounding From Bad to Cursed and its message of compassion. Alexis must learn to understand what her sister really needs, rather then judging and deciding for her. Next Tuesday, June 14th in bookstores/online retailers, her lonely, frightening, and chillingly profound journey begins. It’s a great, entertaining read. Enjoy….with compassion!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of From Bad to Cursed by Katie Alender in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Katie Alender on Running on Empty

May 31, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Blank pages. At one point or another, most writers fear them. However, in today’s guest post, Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA, and Bad Girls Don’t Die: From Bad to Cursed YA coming June 14, 2011) describes two different blank pages and how one applies to us all.]

Running On Empty

A lot has been said about blank pages. As a writer, you can’t escape them. They’re in your job description. A first draft is nothing but blank pages. And even when you’re revising and feeling good—coasting along with the confidence of a puppy—BOOM! One pops up, right in your face: a blank page.

The farther I get on a project and the harder I work, the more I notice a distressing trend: blank pages start following me around. They find me at Twitter, where 140 characters suddenly seem insurmountable. They find me at Facebook, where no phrase on earth seems sufficiently pithy/hilarious/relevant. And they lurk at my blog, where the “New Post” screen stares me down like the eye of a giant killer whale.

In these helpless moments, it inevitably hits me: “I can’t do it. I’m out. I literally can’t think of a single thing to say.”

And then I think, “Aaaaaaargh, I suck!”

But then, a few seconds later, something odd happens: I start to feel okay about it. In fact, I start to feel good.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: there are actually two kinds of blank pages. There’s the kind everybody thinks of: the kind that means you haven’t started yet. But there’s another kind, too: the kind that you earn.

And as a writer, I’m always in pursuit of the second kind.

Over the holidays, I went skiing in Colorado. To say I’ve never been much of a skier is an insult to actual skiers everywhere. (I’m better described as a “faller/cryer.”) But this time, I really wanted to learn. So I spent five hours a day, for all four days, in ski school. I suited up and headed out while the rest of the family was still drinking their coffee. I missed the ball dropping, went to bed at nine, and skied on New Year’s Day. I skied when it was minus twenty degrees and our hair froze into icy webs around our faces. I skied when my instincts told me to toss myself into the snow and cry.

At the end of every day, I felt like I’d earned something. By the end of the week… well, you couldn’t say I was a good skier. But I’d made a lot of progress. More importantly, I knew I’d given it every ounce of energy I had. And that felt amazing.

When I’m neck-deep in a draft or a revision, feeling utterly flummoxed, my five-day-old status update or my empty “New Post” screen is actually a tiny signal that I might be doing something right. Yeah, there are little boats waiting in the harbor, but that’s because the tugboats are out there in the open water, bringing in the tanker.

It’s terrifically bracing to work to your limit. Suddenly, the mythical blank page isn’t terrifying; it’s simply impossible. It’s not scary; it’s just a mountain to be climbed another day. And because you’ve conquered so many before, you stop associating them with terror and start thinking of them as a canvas for fresh starts and new possibilities.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whatever it is you love, whatever you’re committed to, do it until you’ve used yourself up. Then take a break, recharge, come back with a full tank…

And say good morning to the next blank page.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagán in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Camille Noe Pagán and The Art of Forgetting. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

The Revealing of Katie Alender

May 25, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

When YA author Katie Alender debuted in April, 2009 with Bad Girls Don’t Die, it was considered a standalone novel. But its success had her publisher, Hyperion, thinking a three book series and the second book of that series — Bad Girls Don’t Die: From Bad to Cursed — releases on June 14, 2011, the third (yet untitled) will follow next summer.

In a very brief description: The BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE series is a chilling lineup of horror novels for teens.

Scary and excellent with the following honors bestowed on Book 1, BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE:

~Selected for the Tayshas Reading List of the Texas Library Association

~Available through Scholastic Book Clubs

~Named to the New York Public Library’s 2010 Stuff for the Teen Age list

Now Book 2, FROM BAD TO CURSED has already earned this Praise:

“This book made me wish I still slept with a night-light! A smart, scary ride.”
– Melissa de la Cruz, NYT bestselling author of the Blue Bloods Series

“FROM BAD TO CURSED sent a creepy, delicious chill up my spine. All I could think when I turned the last page was more, more, more!”
- Heather Brewer, NYT bestselling author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod Series

“In the classic tradition of Stephen King, Alender will have you sleeping with the lights on.”
- Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia, NYT Bestselling authors of the Beautiful Creatures Series

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of From Bad to Cursed on Monday, June 6, 2011 but, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Katie Alender is the author of the Bad Girls Don’t Die series from Disney-Hyperion. She is a graduate of the Florida State University Film School and lives in Los Angeles. When she’s not writing novels, she can usually be found in her sewing room, making things for her friends or her dog (or her friends’ dogs). She enjoys reading, eating delicious high-calorie foods, and hanging out with her husband and her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Winston.

Of course there’s so much more to Katie as she reveals:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Always curious, always fascinated; much love; loved well.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: My short one: Judge not lest ye be judged.

My long one is a Heinlein quote:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
~ Robert A. Heinlein

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Keeping one’s priorities in order and always finding something to look forward to. (I’m pretty good with part B, but still working on part A!)

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Being actively disliked for being who I really am. (Indifference I can live with!) It has taken me many years to be content with myself, and part of that is based on the kitten-like trust I have that people respond to other people who are genuinely trying to be as real and kind as possible. There is a great deal of intolerance in the world, much of it based on a refusal to look past one’s own perception and judgment of others. And I feel that a lot of evil is rooted in that lack of compassion. It’s scary and sad to me.

Also, looking dumb in public.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Either in a small pub in a rainy town in Ireland or in my house. If you look up “homebody” in the dictionary, I’m there.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I have a great admiration for CS Lewis and the way his mind worked, and the way he was always on the lookout for beauty, fascination, and meaning; and he stayed humble (at least in his writings, he did).

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I admire any person who has a dream or a calling and follows it whole-heartedly and fearlessly, especially if doing so doesn’t involve stomping on other people.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: seriously, honestly, holy moly (in my books it’s people looking, sighing, glancing, and turning–but to be fair, we all do quite a lot of looking, glancing, and turning in our everyday lives… I’m just keeping it real)

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I wish I had some kind of musical ability. I would love to be able to sing and play the piano. If there were elective surgery that could make you a good singer, I would get it. Just for my own amusement.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Obviously there are the books. Other than that, I would say it’s my ability to truly enjoy 99% of people I come into contact with and to make them feel happy and appreciated.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I can be paranoid. Also, I’m horrible at sharing food. I’m like a cavewoman. And I think sometimes I can be a smartass.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: My ability to be interested in almost anything or anyone.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I make it a point not to regret things that have had a profound impact on my life, because those events shaped me, for better or for worse. There have been times when I’ve been unkind to people, and I regret those times very much.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: Hey, I gotta be me. I have to see where this train is going!

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Gosh, I don’t really know. I don’t know how most people perceive me. I know some people think I’m funny, and some people tell me I’m very relaxed (which I find hilarious, because I feel pretty wound up most of the time).

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: I’m a big fan of Professor Snape, as he’s played by Alan Rickman in the Harry Potter movies.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I’m not much of a sports fan! The opportunity would probably be wasted on me. I would be interested in sitting next to a very good figure skater at a competition and having them analyze the competitors for me.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: This is going to be oddly specific. When you’re waiting for your bags at the luggage carousel, trying not to shove in too close, and clueless people come and stand directly in front of you. Like, why on earth do you think I’m standing here, for my health? Can’t we all stand five feet back and step forward when our bags are close by?

I also hate it when people abuse waiters, flight attendants–anyone you have any kind of power over. Get over yourself! Be a human being!

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Sewing

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: If I could just keep doing what I’m currently doing, I’d be pretty happy. I’m also looking forward to being a mom (at some point–that’s not an admission of anything)!

If I had to choose something else, I’d like to be a teacher and work with tweens and teens.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Competence, humor, and humility.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Oh, Lordy. Can I pick something with lots of ingredients, so I can make myself different variations? How about a stew? In terms of the least offensive food, probably english muffins the way I eat them every morning–one half with butter and cinnamon-sugar, the other half with peanut butter. Or Diet Coke. Which would probably ensure that the rest of the days would pass quickly.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Alice in Wonderland, played by Dave Brubeck
Jolene, by Dolly Parton
Work, by Jars of Clay
Let’s Live for Today, by the Grass Roots
Romeo and Juliet, (as performed by the Killers… the original was Elvis Costello)

Q; What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris
Fair and Tender Ladies, by Lee Smith
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Smart, funny, and such an honest, standup individual, Katie Alender is one of the best role model for young adults. Follow her — or have your daughter, granddaughter, niece, etc. follow — on Twitter, become a fan of her Series on Facebook, and a fan on her 
Author Facebook page.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Meg Mitchell Moore and The Arrivals. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.