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Jill Shalvis on the Making of "Merry Christmas, Baby"

Merry Christmas BabyWild child Chloe Thompson can't believe how much things have changed. She still can't get enough of her sexy husband Sawyer, but he seems to prefer working to impending fatherhood. So tonight, a very pregnant Chloe is escaping her troubles at the town Christmas party.

Sheriff Sawyer Thompson hopes surprising Chloe at the party will give him a chance to set things right. But as the snow begins to fall and the wind rages, he wonders whether he can make it back in time. While mother nature conspires to keep Sawyer and Chloe apart, an unexpected arrival will require them to kiss and make up...and ring in the happiest holiday Lucky Harbor has ever seen. Here, Jill Shalvis talks about the inspiration behind writing Merry Christmas, Baby.

I love the holidays.  All the kids are home, and it’s usually snowing outside and warm inside from the baking of cookies – or in my case, the burning of the cookies…

Last year when this happened, our new fire alarm went off and I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off.  We have really high ceilings and there was no way to reach the smoke detector.  A neighbor called the police, and a sheriff came to the door.  He looked a little rumpled and a lot overworked, but he smiled when he saw the burnt cookies.

“My wife does that a lot,” he said with obvious warmth and love.

It reminded me that one of my favorite couples--sexy sheriff Sawyer Thompson and wildcard Chloe Traeger from my book Head Over Heels--would be celebrating this holiday too, and chances were that Chloe was doing something to both irritate Sawyer and yet turn him on at the same time.

The thought wouldn’t leave me alone. But how I could I do justice in a novella to a couple who had an undeniably explosive chemistry and whirlwind romance the first time around?  I also didn’t want to give them some silly misunderstanding or lightweight conflict and take away from their intense and fierce relationship, the one I’d painstakingly built in Head Over Heels.  I mean, to be honest, those two nearly drove me to drink the first time around.

Then it hit me, the idea for the story I could tell that would at once both heighten their relationship and yet change it forever.  Picture me cackling and rubbing my hands together in glee over my laptop as I spun the new web.  I’m not going to tell you what I did, or what Chloe and Sawyer have to go through, but suffice it to say I loved every minute of the writing of this story, Merry Christmas, Baby.   

Though I was so happy to revisit these characters, it was also a little bittersweet since this would be the last Lucky Harbor – for now.  I never say never, especially since readers tend to get upset when they realize this might be goodbye to Lucky Harbor.  So let’s just call it a goodbye for now, okay?  Can we all live with that?  And I promise to come back and visit it when the time is right.

Happy Reading,
Jill Shalvis

A Love Story Complicated by a Crime: “The Paying Guests” by Sarah Waters

I received a somewhat disturbing text from a friend the other afternoon. She was running late for work Paying_guestsbecause she couldn't put a book down that I'd recently leant her. "How can I go? I must read on!" "But, the children!" I cried. She is a nanny, you see, so while I could relate to her plight--I had spent a rare sunny day in Seattle, indoors, eschewing some much needed vitamin D reading the very same book--I didn't have children to keep alive. Such are the perils when one picks up The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. So readers, clear your calendars.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ms. Waters recently, on a not-so-rare rainy day in Seattle, to talk about this historical page-turner, set during a "politically untidy" time that has many parallels to our own. 

The story takes place in 1922 in suburban South London. WWI has ended and ex-soldiers are roaming the streets, unemployed and uncertain about the future. In a once grand and genteel house, Frances Wray--a spinster with a surprising past--lives with her mother.  "They've lost their men to war, and they've lost income and servants, and so they've had to bring in lodgers to make ends meet, and they are Leonard and Lilian Barber, the paying guests of the title. Francis is at first appalled by their gaudy furniture and bothered by the sound of them moving about upstairs, but finds herself increasingly drawn to Lilian. So the novel is the story of their affair and the sort of dramatic and really violent and alarming consequences that it has for everybody involved."

The novel was inspired, in part, by an actual murder case from that time--a case that had a "classic triangle at [its] heart--a wife, a husband, and a male lover. And, I began to think what it would be like if the lover was female--what that would do to the story, how it would touch on other issues in the period." With this germ of an idea, Waters began researching similar cases in earnest. "I was struck when I looked at those murder cases--and I looked at lots of other murder cases from the period. They did tend to feature ordinary people who by some sort of mistake, by a moment of madness, were plunged into nightmare and into disaster and ultimately towards some sort of violent death. And I was very struck by the fact that people in murder cases like that, they don't know what's coming...In the months, weeks, days leading up to the murder, they were just leading their ordinary lives."

Waters is known for plotting-out most of her books ahead of time, but she admits that she was knee-deep in the writing process before realizing that--despite the murder and the mayhem--the book is mainly a love story.  "I really was sort of rooting for Frances and Lilian but very conscious that their love came at a cost...Once I'd realized, though, that that was kind of the trajectory of the book--that it was based on their love--the book came together for me more smoothly. And then it became a novel very much about how their love is put under pressure, how it's tested by this dramatic incident, and the moral complexity of the events that follow."

Sound a bit dark? Fortunately, as fans of other Waters’s novels like Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith can attest, she has a knack for humanizing her characters with pitch-perfect humor for the period that also resonates with a modern audience. "Often humor is so specific to its moment that it doesn't date well. There's nothing worse than, sort of, terrible comics movies from the 20s, for example...The best of them last but they just seem incredibly tiresome now as no doubt our movies will in another hundred years. So, it's trying to find humor that belongs, feels like it belongs to the period and yet still seems kind of funny to us. That’s quite a challenge...We do need to get beyond those static black and white pictures of the past and remember that people live their lives in color, and with laughter, as well as with tears and sternness. The whole range, that's how you bring the past to life."

The Paying Guests was a Best of the Month selection for September.

Exclusive Excerpt from "The Good Girl" and Q&A with Author Mary Kubica

TheGoodGirl_CropAuthor Mary Kubica has given us a sneak peek inside her new book, The Good Girl, with an exclusive excerpt from the book and a Q&A about her inspiration for the book.

About The Good Girl: Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn't show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia's life.

Read the first 79 pages of "The Good Girl" (PDF)

Heather Gudenkauf, interview with Mary Kubica: 

Heather Gudenkauf: I loved The Good Girl. Your story gripped me from the first page and didn't let me go, and I still find myself thinking about your characters. Where did you get the inspiration for the novel?

Mary Kubica: This is a hard question for me because I didn’t witness an event that fueled the ideas behind The Good Girl, nor did the story reflect some sort of childhood experience.  In all honesty, I made a very conscious decision to write a novel about the kidnapping of Mia Dennett, which came as a result of a wandering, daydreaming mind.  At the risk of sounding redundant or trite, it was my characters who inspired me, as I found myself thinking about them at all hours of the day or night.  They were my muses.      

Gudenkauf: I'm always fascinated to hear about authors' writing routines and the spaces where they imagine and create their novels. What is your writing day like? Do you have a set schedule and location where you work?

Kubica: Up until very recently, I didn’t have a designated writing space and would sneak off to any quiet corner of the house I could find to write.  In the past few months, however, my husband and I created an office for me, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!  I now have a place that is mine to write.  It serves two purposes, really: it helps afford me some much needed privacy for working, but also helps me separate my writing life from my home life—the laundry and other housework that would otherwise distract me.  My schedule is fairly rigid; with two younger children at home it has to be.  I write consistently every morning from 5:00 to 7:00 a.m.  This time is nonnegotiable, no matter how tired I may be—there’s always more coffee!  Once the kids are awake, it is much harder to find the time to write.  I squeeze in some time here and there throughout the day, but for the most part, those early-morning hours are the only consistent ones I have for writing.  Plotting, however, happens at all hours of the day and night! 

Gudenkauf: As a mom myself, I'm always looking for tips as how to balance a family life and my writing life. How do you manage it all—taking care of your family, traveling, all while working on your next novel. How do you do it?

Kubica: There are days I feel like I have it all under control, and days I feel like I’m dropping the ball.  Until about a year and a half ago I was a stay-at-home mom with a writing hobby, and now I have a career.  I set a writing schedule for myself so that I can find time to write, and time to be with family.  It’s important to me that my children know they come first.  I do everything I can to write around their schedule—in the morning when they’re asleep or during the day when they’re in school.  I’m not a procrastinator, which is an attribute that has worked wonders for me these past few months.  The idea of looming deadlines makes me a nervous wreck, and so I stay as far ahead of them as I possibly can.  All that said, there are still times that I feel scatterbrained and overwhelmed and must rely on family and friends for help.  But I’m doing something I love, something I’ve dreamed about doing, and that’s the greatest feeling in the world.  Very recently, my eight-year-old daughter displayed a copy of The Good Girl for a friend and said, “My mom wrote this,” and I knew that she was proud.  That makes it all worth it! 

Gudenkauf: When we get together for our book travels, we are always talking about what we are reading and even trading some of our favorites back and forth. What book do you find yourself returning to time and again? What keeps bringing you back?

Kubica: In all honesty, I don’t often read books more than once, but The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is one I do.  I was first introduced to this Vietnam War memoir in a college American Studies course, and have read it many times since.  It’s the kind of book I can grab from the shelf and read just a chapter or two and then be through.  Each chapter is a story in and of itself, and my favorite chapter—“On the Rainy River”—I’ve read more times than I can count.  Like Willa Cather’s My Antonia is for you, Heather, The Things They Carried is a book that calls to me from bookstore shelves, and begs for me to buy it, even though I have more than one copy at home.  I often tell people that The Things They Carried is about the Vietnam War, yes, and yet it’s about so much more than that, too.  You don’t have to be a history guru or know much about the Vietnam War to be able to relate to this book.  It’s about about what it means to be human, and that’s something we can all relate to.

Gudenkauf: Many readers might not know that you are a huge animal lover and volunteer at your local animal shelter. Why is this cause so important to you?

Kubica: I am a huge animal lover!  I’ve been volunteering at my local shelter for many years now, and have adopted most of my own animals from there, including our latest “failed foster,” a senior tortoiseshell cat who we brought into our home for hospice care—and now, eight months later, after a rather grim diagnosis, she’s doing great!  The number of homeless animals in the world is startling.  For every cat or dog that gets adopted from the shelter, an infinite number await the available cage.  The animals themselves are powerless and must rely on us for help.  It’s a topic I could go on and on about, as these animals are truly my passion.  I hope in the future to be much more involved, both locally in my shelter as well as educating the public on spay/neuter programs and helping advocate no-kill shelters around the country.                   

Gudenkauf: I cannot wait to see what you have next and I know after reading The Good Girl readers will feel the same way. Can you share a little bit about your next project?

Kubica: I would love to!  I’m currently finishing up my second novel, which is also set in the Midwest.  It’s the story of a mother, Heidi Wood, who encounters a young homeless girl with a baby, waiting beside the Chicago “el.”  Being a very obliging woman, Heidi decides to help this girl out with her plight, and welcomes her and the baby into her family’s home.  As she does, she discovers a past that perhaps would have been better left uncovered, and as with The Good Girl, very little is as it seems to be.


Guest Blogger: Julia MacDonnell, author of "Mimi Malloy, At Last!"

Mimi Mally, At Last!Julia MacDonnell’s fiction has been published in many literary magazines, and her story “Soy Paco” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her journalism has appeared in The Boston Globe, the New York Daily News, and the Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. A tenured professor at Rowan University, she is the nonfiction editor of Philadelphia StoriesMimi Malloy, At Last! is her first novel in twenty years. It serves as a a poignant reminder that it’s never too late to fall in love and that one can always come of age a second time.

My childhood was an immersion course in the lives of girls and women.  I grew up with eleven aunts and twenty-five girl cousins, all living within a hop, skip, or a jump of one another on the South Shore of Boston.  I also had a paternal grandmother and a maternal great-grandmother close by.  Sure, I had an uncle for almost every aunt, as well as a paternal grandfather and a bunch of rowdy boy cousins, but it was the women who schooled me, and their teaching tool was the Yik Yak Club: its members, the curators of their family’s oral history.

Not that I had a name for it back when I was a kid, sneaking around to eavesdrop on Ma and my aunts as they gathered at our kitchen table, drinking cup after cup of percolated Eight O’Clock coffee.  The name came to me when I was writing my second novel, Mimi Malloy, At Last!.  The narrator, Mimi, has no use for ancient history, declaring early on, “I’m not one to dwell on the past.”  By contrast, my mother, Norma, loved nothing better than a good gab session with her sisters and sisters-in-law. She’d be the one to call the meetings, almost always around our kitchen table.  A cirrostratus of cigarette smoke would signal that a gab fest was in session.  Worried about their figures, these women smoked instead of snacking, Ma cadging butts from her sisters because she’d never dare light up in front of my father.  

What could be so riveting, I wondered as a child, that it transformed these women from familiar aunts and mothers into luminous creatures whose voices, laughter and, at times, sobs floated around on smoky air? 

Only while I was writing Mimi did I figure out the answer. I figured out that the Yik Yak Club was a place of comfort and support for its members, a place where they could confide in each other, sharing words they couldn’t say to anybody else.  Yes, serious family business was sometimes negotiated and resolved during its sessions, but the most important thing seemed to be that they were together, a small, bright gathering of women, mothers in their twenties and thirties — in my mind’s eye, all of them are beautiful — their cheeks flushed, their eyes bright.  These weren’t women with time on their hands, but women who squeezed out of the endless hours of mothering and housewifery a bit of time to be together.

The post-World War II years, the 50s and 60s, are portrayed as decades of oppression when women stuck at home in subservient roles, an epoch before our collective consciousness had been raised.  In my family, most women had worked at the Fore River Shipyard during the War.  Their subsequent ability to stay home and raise their children was experienced as a gift. As little as they had, they gloried in their homes and families, and in their role in making the arduous ascent from the working to the middle class.  I’m convinced that the Yik Yak Club eased their way, giving them not just a forum for venting, though that mattered, but a place for listening, which they did in awe and wonder, each of them shaping herself into who she would become.  The Yik Yak Club I witnessed growing up was the school in which I learned about the perils and joys of mothering, sistering, wifing, and housekeeping; where I absorbed my most important lessons about how to be a woman alive in the world.  

--Julia MacDonnell

Guest Blogger: Barbara Taylor Bradford on “A Woman of Substance”

A Woman of SubstanceNew York Times best-selling romance author Barbara Taylor Bradford discusses her breakout first novel, A Woman of Substance, one of the top ten best-selling novels ever written with more than 32 million copies sold.

A Woman of Substance was my first novel.  I had attempted to write four others, and every time I stopped when I'd written about 90 or 100 pages. I simply didn't like them.

And then one day, unexpectedly, a young girl popped into my head as if from nowhere. I could see her clearly in my mind's eye. She was a girl of 12, and I knew she would grow up to be a beautiful young woman. Her hair was auburn and she had green eyes. But the important thing was that I sensed she was determined and clever and had a strong will.

That very moment, I took out my yellow pad and started to make notes. And soon I knew her very well indeed! Her name was Emma Harte. I understood she was driven and ambitious, and she was going to become and extraordinary woman. In fact, I wanted her to become a woman who would make it in a man's world of business when women were not doing that. I decided she would become a great tycoon.

Essentially, A Woman of Substance is the life story of a girl who started with nothing in life, who overcame hardships and adversity of every kind and triumphed in the end. I believe it’s an inspiring book because Emma achieves her dreams.

When I started to write the book, I knew I would finish this one. I had to because Doubleday in New York had bought it on a 12-page outline plus 90 pages – and they had done so within 48 hours of first reading those pages.

People have asked me why A Woman of Substance became so successful, and so quickly. I think there are many answers to this question. To begin with, Emma is a compelling character, as are her life long friends Blackie O'Neill and Paul McGill, the love of her life. And of course, the book has everything in it... drama, intrigue, money, passion, power and revenge – all of those great human emotions that make for a good story.

Eventually, A Woman of Substance was published in 90 countries and 40 languages. And I'm happy to tell you that it is still selling today. Woman all over the world told me that Emma Harte was their true role model, and that the book had changed their lives for the better. Some had started businesses. Others left bad relationships or abusive marriages. Many had gone to live in other cities. But they had all moved on and been successful. They thanked me for creating Emma Harte.

I had set out to simply tell a good story about a strong woman. I hadn't intended to send a message. But apparently, quite unconsciously I had. To sum it all up, all I know is that I wrote the kind of story I love to tell about an ordinary woman who becomes extraordinary in living her life a certain way and goes out to conquer the world.

Barbara Taylor Bradford’s second and third book in The Emma Harte Saga, Hold the Dream and To Be the Best, are now available in ebook, along with Act of Will, Angel, Remember, The Women in His Life and Voice of the Heart.

Exclusive Q&A with Mike Miller on George R. R. Martin's "The Sworn Sword" and "The Hedge Knight"

Artist Mike S. Miller had a big year in 2013, and his 2014 is poised to be just as busy—from the success of DC Comics’ Injustice: Gods Among Us to two new editions of The Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword, prequels to George R.R. Martin’s massive A Song of Ice and Fire series. Recently, the artist found time to answer a few questions about all of these works and what lies ahead. 51TLE5PWiwL

Q: With the recent success of the Injustice: Gods Among Us comic highlighting your artwork once again, what’s it like to see new editions of The Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword, which were originally published earlier in your career?  Any fond or not-so-fond memories from those experiences?

Mike S. Miller: I have the most amazing memories of working on the Dunk and Egg graphic novels.  It was at a time in my career, I was about a decade in, and I was just coming off of some high profile work on Adventures of Superman and JLA for DC Comics.  I was wanting to do something more independent, something I had more control over, and along come the Dabel brothers with The Hedge Knight.  I had never heard of George R. R. Martin before, I went out and bought the anthology to read “The Hedge Knight,” and I was hooked.  Ran out and bought the three existing A Song of Ice and Fire novels, and devoured them. 

I told the Dabels I would work on the project, assuming George liked my work, if I could be the art director on the project.  They made me the art director of the fledgling company instead.  It set me off on a truly creative direction not only on The Hedge Knight, but in my own creative world.  In that time, I developed multiple properties of my own, one of which had been optioned by Lionsgate films.  It lead me to my teaming up with a magazine publisher, Brett Burner, and starting our own comic book company, Alias Comics, which boasted the largest independent comic publisher launch in history, with twelve titles in our first month…  It was an ambitious, exciting, creative time in my life.  And it all started with The Hedge Knight.

Continue reading "Exclusive Q&A with Mike Miller on George R. R. Martin's "The Sworn Sword" and "The Hedge Knight"" »

Guest Bloggers: Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo

Hunt the FalconSEAL Team Six and Thomas Crocker are back hunting their most elusive adversary yet: The Falcon.

When the White House needs someone to track down a group of dangerous terrorists who have been assassinating U.S. diplomats in posts all over the world, who do they call? Tom Crocker and his SEAL Team Six special operators, aka Black Cell. They’re the black ops specialists who are often tapped when anything highly sensitive, time-critical and extremely dangerous has to be done.

This time they raid a bomb-making factory in Thailand where Crocker and his team discover a group of Iranian terrorists holding Venezuelan passports, which points the finger of blame directly at the Iranian Quds Force. And here’s the little known true fact(the one that DC officials never talk about): the United States has been fighting a secret war with the Iranian Quds Force for years. They’re the group behind many attacks against Americans in Iraq (including the rocket attack on the Green Zone) and Afghanistan. Currently, they’re fighting alongside pro-Assad forces in Syria, and they also have a branch of operatives in Venezuela known as Unit 5000 that is in the business of shipping cocaine to Europe and using the proceeds to attack the West, and particularly the United States.

No one talks about them because they’re so nasty and as part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, take orders directly from the religious leaders of Iran – not the president, but the mullahs. They are, without a doubt, a state-sponsored Islamic terrorist group, much better trained, armed, funded and more insidious than al-Qaeda. And in Hunt the Falcon they’re lead by Crocker’s nemesis and the man behind his wife’s kidnapping in Tripoli (depicted in the previous book in the series Hunt the Scorpion) Farhed Alizadeh – the Falcon.

The question is: what are they up to now? And why are they operating right under our noses? To find the answers, Crocker and his men crisscross South America, trying to stay one step ahead of Unit 5000 operatives. When the latest technical gadgetry from DARPA fails during a raid on the terrorist hideout, Crocker has to rescue one of his wounded men the old-fashioned way: climbing a fence and improvising his way out with bullets flying.

Believe it or not, that’s just in the first hundred pages. And it’s only a fraction of Crocker’s problems. People back home in Virginia depend on him, including a wife at home who is trying to cope with PTSD and a father who seems to have fallen in love with a much younger woman.

The pace and severity of the physical and mental challenges Crocker and his men must face as they attempt to head off catastrophe push them to the brink of exhaustion. But even when they’re asked to undertake a final “suicide mission” deep behind enemy lines without backup, or a credible exfil plan, Crocker and his men answer the call.

--Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo

Guest Blogger: Michael Connelly

The Gods of GuiltDefense attorney Mickey Haller returns with a haunting case in the gripping new thriller from best-selling author Michael Connelly.

In my new novel, The Gods of Guilt, the Lincoln lawyer Mickey Haller likens the practice of law to juggling chain saws: It can be dangerous, especially if you catch it by the wrong end. I think writing a novel is the same way. There are many pitfalls. You have to be careful and steady with your juggling. Still, every book is a challenge in its own way, and those challenges are set by the juggler himself. So there is no use complaining about it. If you want to take the easy route, then juggle marshmallows.
When I wrote The Gods of Guilt, I think I went with chainsaws. I gave myself a challenge that probably nobody would notice but myself. I just wanted to see if I could pull it off.

First of all, I wanted the book to function as an entertaining legal thriller with lots of intrigue, courtroom drama, and subterfuge. I wanted a few surprises too, including the death of a secondary character that the reader wouldn’t see coming. None of that was really secret in terms of the structure of the book. They were needed ingredients and difficult enough to juggle and keep in the air. The secret agenda I added was with regard to two of the main characters. While functioning as a fast-moving thriller, the book’s true center revolves around the relationship between Mickey Haller and his 16-year-old daughter, Hayley. I wanted that strained relationship to be the engine that drives Mickey’s choices and desires through the book. The book is, after all, called The Gods of Guilt. I wanted Mickey to be operating from a standpoint of seeking redemption in his daughter’s eyes, and if he succeeded, then he would save the relationship that means so much to him and ease the guilt that weighs him down as the story begins.

But here’s the catch—or, I should say, the challenge. I did not want Mickey and Hayley to have a single exchange of dialogue in the book, let alone meet face-to-face. I thought this was necessary, at least in the first half of the book, to underscore how deep the rift was between this father and daughter and how difficult it would be to bridge the gap. I wanted Mickey’s efforts to reach out and to explain his actions to be unrequited. I wanted his phone calls to go unanswered, his texts unreturned. When the centerpiece trial got underway, I wanted Mickey to turn from the defense table to look for his daughter in the public gallery, only to see she was not there.

I hope you pay attention to this as you read my novel. I know there is one scene where Mickey watches his daughter from afar, and another off the page where Hayley visits without Mickey really knowing it—you’ll understand what that means if you read the book. You’ll then be able to decide if the challenge was successfully met, and if it was the right choice. Can the father-daughter relationship be the true center of the book if the two principles never talk to one another on the page? You be the judge.

— Michael Connelly

Q&A with Kass Morgan, author of "The 100"

The 100Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth's radioactive surface. Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents--considered expendable by society--are being sent on a dangerous mission: to recolonize the planet. It could be their second chance at life...or it could be a suicide mission. Find out which when you read The 100.

What was the inspiration behind The 100?

Kass Morgan: My editor, Joelle, had the idea for a title and thought it’d be fun to develop a book about a hundred kids with dangerous secrets sent to recolonize a nuclear war-ravaged Earth. I came on board early in the process and called on a lot of my own interests, coloring the story with shades of everything from Lord of the Flies to the Homecoming Saga, which was a major influence for me.

What was the most fun part about writing?

Kass Morgan: I enjoyed putting myself in the mindset of people who were seeing Earth for the first time after spending their whole lives on a spaceship. It was fascinating to think about the things we typically associate with beauty—sunsets, trees, rivers etc.—and then imagine what it’d be like if someone without our vocabulary had to describe them. Is a sunset intrinsically beautiful? Or is it something we’ve only been programmed to think is beautiful? Perhaps for someone who grew up among the stars, a mossy rock or even the body of a dead animal would have more impact than streaks of color in the sky.

Did you discover any tricks or tools during the writing process?

Kass Morgan: The story is told from four different POVs, which can be a little tricky for a writer, so I created four different playlists to help me get back into that character’s headspace when it was time to switch to a new section. But in the end, I found myself listening to the same few songs over and over again—tracks that I used to skip over because they reminded me of past relationships. Those songs turned out to be incredibly useful tools for tapping into memories of heartache, which as everyone knows, is an essential part of writing YA.

I’m also an editor, and I’ve spent years listening to my mentor talk about torturing characters—putting them in situations that evoke strong emotions and force them to act. But now I think it’s just as crucial to torture the writer! Listening to those songs proved so helpful that I decided to take the process one step further: I found really emotional emails I wrote (and received) at the end of an important relationship, which allowed me to recall all the fascinating anguish of heartbreak and guilt.

I may not know firsthand what it’s like to set foot on earth for the first time, but I can imagine what it’s like to be a strange, scary new place with the person you believe poisoned the world you left behind. 

How does it feel to have your book being turned into a TV show?

Kass Morgan: It’s awesomely surreal! I got to see the pilot, which was so exciting, I could barely sit still. It was crazy to see characters I created on screen, almost like turning on the TV and seeing last night’s dream being played out in front of you. The writers and producers did a fantastic job adapting the story for the different medium, and I can’t wait to see what fun ways they devise for torturing the characters!

I was particularly excited when Henry Ian Cusick was cast as the Vice Chancellor. I had a big crush on him during LOST, so the fact that he’s involved in THE 100 sort of blows my mind. If I weren’t the consummate professional, I might just tweak the plot to involve a shirtless scene or two . . .

The 100 is coming out in the middle of a big science fiction moment, with movies like Elysium, After Earth, Star Trek etc.  Do you have any theories about why it’s become part of the cultural zeitgeist?

Kass Morgan: I think science fiction is the natural evolution of the dystopian trend. Dystopian fiction and movies are a great way to examine our anxieties about the state of the world, but to me, sci-fi is a vehicle for exploring the solutions. In some ways, it feels more nuanced, more aware of the grey areas between good and evil.

Did we catch a dig at vampire novels at one point in THE 100?

Kass Morgan: Definitely not a dig! I’m a big fan of vampire novels; I think I wrote at least four essays on Dracula in college and grad school. Part of the fun of sci-fi/post-apocalyptic fiction is imagining which elements of a culture will withstand the collapse of civilization. Will our descendants be more interested in our twitter addiction or vampire obsession? How will future generations of school children analyze our peculiarities in their history homework?

How’s the sequel coming along?

Kass Morgan: I’ve having a ton of fun writing the second book, and just spent a delightful weekend writing in the woods. It’s great for the forest scenes, though less useful for the scenes on the ship. Maybe I should take my laptop to the planetarium this weekend? I wonder if they have free wifi and Stumptown coffee...

Exclusive Excerpt from Newly Discovered Pearl Buck Novel

[An unpublished manuscript by Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Pearl S. Buck, who died in 1973, was discovered in a Texas storage last year and is being published today by Open Road Integrated Media. Buck apparently completed The Eternal Wonder shortly before she died of cancer at the age of 80. (Prolific to the end, it is estimated that Buck--best known for her 1931 bestseller, The Good Earth--wrote 100 books in her lifetime.) The Eternal Wonder tells the coming-of-age story of Randolph Colfax and his lifelong pursuit of a Chinese-American beauty named Stephanie Kung.]

Pearl.Buck.OpenRoadTHE ADDRESS WAS IN BROOKLYN and he had not yet been to Brooklyn. He disliked the subway and he liked to walk, especially in the early morning, when the air was still clean and the streets were almost empty. Only great trucks lumbered in from the coun­tryside, bearing their loads of fowl and vegetables and fruits, eggs and meat. He stopped to saunter through Wall Street, that narrow center of the city’s financial heart. He lingered to peer through the iron fence of an ancient cemetery set about an old smoke-blackened church, Fraunce’s Tavern—he knew its history, and paused to stare at its sign, its doors not yet open for the day. And reaching at last to the great Brooklyn Bridge, he stood gazing into the flowing water beneath. The ships, the barges, were on their way. He saw it all in his usual, absorbed fashion, in his habit of wonder, each sight sinking into the depths of mind and memory, and deeper still, into his subconscious, somehow, sometime to emerge when he needed it, whole or in fragment.

Thus he followed one street and another, having studied his map well before he came. He did not like to ask his way, he liked to find it and for that he learned to memorize a map visually so that he always knew where he was. Thus in time, before the sun had reached the zenith of noon, he found himself standing before an old but very clean apartment house. The street was quiet and lined with trees now beginning the first autumn coloring.

He entered the building and found an old doorman in a gray uniform, asleep in an armchair, its brocaded upholstery rich and soft.

“Would you please—,” he began.

Instantly the old man woke. “What do you want, boy?” he asked, his voice quavering with age.

“My grandfather lives here—Dr. James Harcourt.”

“Does he expect you? He don’t usually get up until afternoon.”

“Will you tell him his grandson, Randolph Colfax, is here from Ohio?”

The old man heaved himself stiffly from his chair and went to the house telephone. In a few minutes he was back.

“He says he’s still eatin’ his breakfast but you can come up. Top floor, to the right, third door. I’ll run you up. The elevator’s over here.”

BuckThe vehicle conveyed him to the top floor, and he turned to the right and knocked on the third door. There was an old-fashioned brass knocker and a small engraved card was fastened to the centerpanel of the mahogany door—JAMES HARCOURT, PHD, MD. And now the door opened and his grandfather stood before him, a white linen napkin in his hand.

“Come in, Randolph,” he said, his voice surprisingly deep and strong. “I’ve been expecting you. Your mother wrote me you were coming. Have you had your breakfast?”

“Yes, sir. I got up early and walked.”

“Then sit down and call it luncheon. I’ll have some eggs scram­bled freshly.”

He followed the tall, very thin old figure into a small dining room. The oldest man he had ever seen, wearing a spotless white jacket over black trousers, came into the room.

“This is my grandson,” his grandfather said. “And Randolph, this is my faithful manservant, Sung. He attached himself to me some years ago because I was able to—ah, do him a small favor. Now Sung takes good care of me. Eggs, Sung, scrambled, and fresh coffee and toast.”

The old man bowed deeply and went away. Still standing, he met his grandfather’s electric blue eyes.

“And why have you waited so long to come to me?” his grand­father demanded. “Sit down.”

“I really don’t know,” he answered. “I think,” he continued after a few seconds of thought, “I think I wanted to see everything—the city, the people—first for myself, so that I could always keep them, you know, inside me, as they are . . . to me, I mean. As one does with pictures, you know—laid away for what purpose I don’t know, but that’s my way of learning: first I see, then I wonder, then I know.”

His grandfather listened attentively. “Very sound,” he said. “An analytical mind—good! Well, here you are now. Where are your bags?”

“At the hotel, sir.”

“You must fetch them at once. Of course we must live together. I have plenty of extra room, especially since my wife died. I live in her room, not my own. We believed in separate rooms, but after she went on her way I moved into her room, thinking it would be easier for her to visit me then—as seems to be the case. Not that she comes often—she’s independent, always was—but when she feels the need, or understands my need, she comes quite promptly. We arranged for all that before she went.”

He listened to this in amazement and with puzzlement. Was his grandmother dead or was she not? His grandfather was still talking.

“I would send Sung with you to get your bags, Randolph, but he is afraid to go to Manhattan. Ten years ago he was wanted by the police for jumping ship. Serena—that’s my wife—and I were shopping on Fifth Avenue. I believe we were looking for a white mink stole for her Christmas gift that year, and he came dashing in, obviously escaping from someone. He couldn’t speak a word of English, but luckily I’d been in Peking for some years doing research at the great Rockefeller Hospital there. I’m a med­ical doctor as well as a demographer—and my Chinese is fluent enough that I was able to ask him what was wrong. I am entirely out of sympathy with our immigration policies toward Asians, so I told him not to be afraid, for I’d take him as my servant. I gave him my overcoat to carry and took him at once to the men’s department and bought him a decent black suit and had him put it on, and when the police came into the store, I was very angry with them for interfering with my manservant. He came home with us but he is still afraid to go to Manhattan, with which I have every sympathy, not because I am afraid, but because it is a hell hole. So leave it at once, my dear boy, and come here.”

“But Grandfather, I hadn’t planned—”

“Never plan, please. Just do the next thing that happens. You can always go your way. But it would please me to know my only grandson, even briefly.”

How could he refuse? The old gentleman was charming. Sung brought in eggs scrambled with a dash of something delicious—

“Soy sauce,” his grandfather explained.

He was always hungry; he ate heartily, drank three cups of coffee with sugar and thick, sweet cream, ate his way through a mound of buttered toast spread with English marmalade, and in an hour was on his way—“in a taxi,” his grandfather said, stuffing a bill into his coat pocket. “I’m a poor one at waiting.”

[Author photo: Courtesy of Pearl S. Buck Estate]