Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow

In The Fault in Our Stars, the protagonist describes falling in love as “the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once”. That’s how I fell in love with this book.

In some ways, I was looking forward to Sorrow’s Knot for the pure magic of Erin Bow’s prose. She has an eerie ability to paint such vivid, startling pictures with just a certain choice of words that I sometimes wonder if she isn’t a wizard. Like it's forerunner, Plain Kate, this book cast a spell over me. Sorrow's Knot is a stunning yet harrowing story about a girl named Otter, a binder of knots that keep back the dead. Her world is a rare one and Erin Bow weaves it well. With rangers and binders and storytellers, with names like Willow and Mad Spider, Otter’s world of the pinch evokes images of an indigenous community untouched by colonialism and it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in YA. The friendship between Otter (the protagonist) and Kestrel and Cricket is refreshingly real and all three are so very brave in very different ways. I adored Kestrel’s quietness. My heart thrilled with Cricket’s storytelling. And I ached at Otter’s struggle to find her place in the world.

The most compelling thing about this book, though, is the role of binding and unbinding. In Otter’s community the dead are banished by knots and strings and the binders of these knots are magical, powerful people. But, as Otter's mother tells her, "something is wrong with the knots." And thus, in a story that is largely about loss, the theme of binding things too tightly and the problems that arise with not letting things go becomes its beating heart.

Sorrow’s Knot is a book that looks darkness straight in the face with depth and courage and grace. It sits in the hard, sad places as much as it sits in the light, and that is my favourite kind of story.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Interview with Heather Smith, author of BAYGIRL

We're pretty excited to have a guest with us today: Heather Smith, the author of Baygirl, which hit shelves this month. And we're doubly excited to be hosting her launch at the store this saturday.

Hi Heather! I’m so happy to get a chance to chat with you (and to be a part of your launch!!). First off, can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born and raised in Newfoundland but now live in Waterloo with my husband and three children. I enjoy running and drinking green tea (not at the same time, that would be dangerous). I’m a terrible multi-tasker and am easily distracted. I actually don’t know how I managed to write a book, but I did, and I hope to do so again, many times over (I’d write different ones of course, writing Baygirl again would be silly).

You are delightful. Okay, in one or two sentences, tell us about Baygirl. Why did you write this book in particular?

Baygirl is the story of a sixteen year old girl whose typical teenage struggles (fitting in, falling in love, finding oneself) are further complicated by the unpredictable behaviour of her alcoholic father.

Although I cannot relate to Kit’s predicament firsthand, as a teenager I had a couple of close friends whose fathers were alcoholics and, as a result, have seen and heard things that stick with me to this day. I’ve witnessed major blow-outs (like the ones Kit and her father regularly have in the book), as well as other, more subtle interactions that can be equally damaging – snide remarks, accusing looks, cold shoulders. I always wondered - how does one forgive the person who has caused them to live their life walking on eggshells?  This is the question I wanted to explore when writing Baygirl. This is why forgiveness is Kit’s biggest dilemma.

Alcoholism touches the lives of many people, both directly and indirectly. That is why Kit’s story was an important one to tell. I hope that anyone, teen or adult, who has spent their life walking on eggshells, can find some comfort in Baygirl.  

Addiction can have such a devastating effect on a person’s life, along with the lives of those they love, and it’s a very difficult thing to escape if one manages to escape it. But it's a real thing that happens to families, and in light of that, I think you portray Kit’s father in a way that’s really fair.

Because we’ve chatted before, I know that you’re originally from St. John’s. Why did you choose to split the book between the city of St. John’s and the town of Parsons Bay?

Yes, St. John’s is my birthplace … which makes me a townie! When writing Baygirl, I thought it would be fun to give my main character a different perspective from my own, so Kit became a “baygirl”.  Splitting the book between the “town” and the “bay” really drove home the differences between the two places and, ultimately, the people who live there. Highlighting the prejudices and preconceived notions that townies have of people from the bay (and vice versa) added to the drama of Kit’s move to the city … as if she didn’t have enough problems!

I really loved your contrast of the town versus the bay. As someone who grew up on a farm but now lives in the city, I could definitely relate to Kit and the uncertainty she feels about where she belongs.

I have to say that my favourite character overall was definitely Kit’s new neighbour, Mr. Adams. He was so endearing, he made me laugh out loud, and his dialect was delightful. You captured him so perfectly. Who was your favourite character to write? Who gave you the most trouble?

My favourite character to write was Mr. Adams. I knew when writing Baygirl that Mr. Adams would be an Englishman and making him hail from Yorkshire was a no-brainer. You see, thanks to the delightful writings of James Herriot, I have a major obsession with the Yorkshire Dales.  In All Creatures Great and Small, Herriot paints a picture of the Dales that is so appealing it makes me want to trade in my life in Canada for a thatched cottage in a Yorkshire village full of quirky townsfolk. It makes me want to pull on a pair of wellie boots and a wax jacket and go frolicking through the dewy meadows. Given my fascination with James Herriot, I’d be gormless (I say, gormless!) not to make Mr. Adams from Yorkshire.

The character who gave me the most trouble was … Mr. Adams. Ee by gum, that dialect was tricky!

Wow, I would never have guessed that you had trouble with him. He really was perfect. And a thatched cottage in a Yorkshire village sounds so cozy and quaint!

Without giving too much away, writing (and writing poetry specifically) becomes a way for Kitty to work through the things that are happening in her life. Was that a conscious decision on your part, or did that happen naturally?

This was not a conscious decision at all. This book was written fairly chronologically, so when I got to the part where Kit was missing Parsons Bay having her write a letter to Anne-Marie came naturally. I wanted to illustrate how devastating moving away can be by showing, through Kit’s letter writing, how her and Anne-Marie were drifting apart. This naturally evolved into writing becoming an outlet for Kit and, from there, became more of a theme throughout the novel.

How long did it take you to write this book? What was the hardest part and what was the best part?

I started writing Baygirl many years ago when I was in a writing class led by Kathy Stinson. The book got off to a great start but, at the time, I had three young children and writing time was limited.  It eventually became a forgotten file, lost on my computer, until two years ago, when my youngest started school full-time. It was then that Baygirl was resurrected and I was able to give it the quality time it deserved.

Find Heather on her website and on twitter
The hardest part of writing Baygirl was the editing process, although I think a more fitting word would be challenging. I say this only because Baygirl is my first published novel and the whole process was new. I’d never worked with an editor before and the whole idea was initially daunting. As it turned out, however, the editing process was also thoroughly enjoyable. My editor, Sarah Harvey, was (is!) fantastic and working under deadlines made me push myself in ways that only a ticking clock can do. I loved the going back and forth, the tightening of text, the whittling down of words. The whole process truly made me a better writer.

The best part of writing Baygirl was when I’d be struck by moments of clarity - when the tangled knot of words I’d been staring at for hours would magically unravel to become what my mind’s eye had intended them to be. It really is the best feeling and is my favourite part of writing in general.

Are you like Kitty - do you use writing as a way to work through things or respond to the world around you? Or do you write for other reasons?

I absolutely write as a way to work through or respond to things. I don’t know how many times I have written full essays that never see the light of day. For me, the act of writing it down is a release. Once it’s on paper I can move on.

Mostly I write because I have no space in my head for the stories that live there, so I evict them and help them find their home on paper.

Do you have a special or favourite place to write?

At home, in my empty, quiet house.

Because writing and reading are so inter-related, I have to ask: what have you been reading lately that you want to shout about from the rooftops?

The last three books I have read have all been great and are all very different from each other.

Annabel, by Kathleen Winter.  Beautiful, haunting, one that stays with you long after you’ve snapped the book shut.

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion. This book reads like a Hollywood romantic comedy script, which isn’t always my thing. But the main character is so quirkily charming I was quickly whisked off my feet and didn’t touch solid ground again until I’d reached the last page.

Three Day Road, by Joseph Boyden. Interesting look at World War I through the eyes of an aboriginal solider. I’m always amazed when horrible things are told in a beautiful way.

Ah, I’ve been wanting to read Annabel for a long time now. Maybe this will be my reason to finally pick it up.

Okay, last of all, what are you working on right now? Can you tell us a little bit about your next project or is it top secret?

My latest project is about a teenaged boy who, in a bid for attention, vandalizes a war memorial just days before Remembrance Day. After navigating the youth justice system alone, he is placed in a community service program in which he must regularly meet with a World War II veteran. The subject matter is pretty heavy at times but the stories that are told are ones that should never be forgotten.

Whoa. I am intrigued. I can’t wait to read it! Thanks so much for answering all my questions, Heather, and I look forward to your upcoming launch!

Words Worth Books will be hosting Heather's book launch this saturday, September 21, starting at 7pm. Come hear Heather read from the book, pick up your own signed copy, and enjoy some Newfoundland songs and snacks.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Jane, the fox & me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault: a review

Synopsis: Hélène is teased by kids at her school. They call her fat and smelly and write mean things about her on the walls in the washroom. Hélène finds solace in books, and her current favourite is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. A compulsory school camping trip seems like it will be a locus for more heartache, but a visit from a lonely fox one night outside the tent signals the start of something new for Hélène.

My thoughts: I've always thought that the graphic novel is the perfect format for a coming-of-age story. When done right, the writing can be sparse and precise and the pictures can do some of the heavy lifting required to open the protagonist's soul to the reader. In Jane, the fox & me, Fanny Britt's sensitive story is paired exquisitely with illustrator Isabelle Arsenault's stunning colour pencil, gouache, ink and watercolour drawings. Arsenault perfectly captures both the beauty and torment of Hélène's world. When Hélène narrates the sadness of her school life the palette is soft, muted grays and black. When Hélène is reading Jane Eyre the canvas suddenly explodes into vivid, focused oranges, pinks and reds that fairly jump off the page.
Jane Eyre is the perfect story for someone like Hélène. Jane is an outcast, and so is Hélène. Jane is lonely, and so is Hélène. Each young woman desires companionship and acceptance. Ultimately, they both find what they desire: someone to talk to, someone who will bring out the best in them, and maybe even change the way they look at the world. Similarly, sometimes a story, when told right, can make you see the world in a different light too. For me, Jane, the fox & me was this type of story. I loved every panel of it.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Lily and Taylor by Elise Moser - a review

This beautiful, haunting story opens with an extremely weighty scene: Taylor witnessing her sister Tannis’s autopsy after Tannis is beaten to death by her partner (which Taylor also witnessed). This first scene is so stark and grim that I can still recall it entirely, days after reading it, with that same cold chill it first invoked in me. In fact, I spent most of this book with my fingers digging into the pages, plagued by a sense of dread at what was coming. Why? Because Lily and Taylor is a story about being powerless (or at least perceiving yourself as powerless) in the face of violence and abuse and trauma. But that's not all the book is; it's also a story about love and friendship and strength.

Both Lily and Taylor have suffered significant losses in their lives. Both of them have witnessed the women around them battered by the men who supposedly love them. And both girls have learned to cope with this reality differently. Lily has learned to minimize damage by reading people, analyzing a situation, and responding with lightheartedness or humour. Taylor has learned how to minimize damage by diminishing herself and absorbing abuse (in fact, she convinces herself that this is the only thing she’s good at).

Needless to say, the book is heavy. But it's that heaviness that allows for the beautiful, shining strength at its core, one that derives directly from the friendship that develops between the two girls – a rarity in YA, and a treasure. It’s their love for each other that enables them to get out of a very dangerous situation and, most particularly, it is Taylor’s admiration of Lily’s strength that allows her to discover her own.

In Lily and Taylor Elise Moser never shies away from portraying the real things that happen to real girls every single day. And that not only takes courage, but it gives courage too. (Much like Lily herself.)

Personally, I think this book is flawless.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

girls with swords

I am a sucker for a girl with a sword.

Ever since I was a kid, I've been drawn to High Fantasy for just this reason: girls wielding swords mezmerize me. That scene in Return of the King when Eowyn slays the Witch King? I re-read it more times than any scene in any other book of my adolescence.

Nine times out of ten, if a cover features a girl holding a shiny object that comes to a point, I don't even need to know what the book's about. I'm going to buy it. And if there's one thing YA High Fantasy does well, it's covers - especially compared to its parent genre. Last year, John Scalzi and Jim C. Hines did a pose-off where they dressed and posed like the heroines depicted on SFF covers in order to expose the absurdity of them. (If you aren't sure what I'm talking about, go here, here, and here.) For the most part, YA High Fantasy doesn't have this problem. Their covers do not depict their heroines in overly-sexualized, completely impractical poses. For the most part, their covers look like this:

That's not to say that YA covers are perfect (far from it). But covers like these make me proud of my favourite genre and remind why I fell in love with it to begin with: it's the girls with the swords, kicking butt and taking names.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Tale of Two Dystopias

Like most people, I loved The Hunger Games. (Team Peeta, thank you very much.) I loved the flawlessness of concept in book one. I loved the focus on inter-generational teamwork and the stirrings of uprising in book two. And I loved the complexities of war and grief in book three. The thing I loved most, though, was Katniss. The very first novel my littlest brother ever read for pleasure (he’s 15 and will be the first to tell you that he most certainly is not a reader) was The Hunger Games. He couldn't stop talking about it for weeks. I’ve never seen him so excited about anything before. And that's why I love Katniss: she's accessible; she flies in the face of all the cries about young boys not wanting to read about girl protagonists.

With all that said, though, The Hunger Games is not actually the book I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is another dystopian YA that I loved even more. A book that I think does what The Hunger Games does, only better: Blood Red Road by Moira Young. 

There are a lot of similarities between these two dystopian stories. First of all, Saba (the protagonist of Blood Red Road) and Katniss are both initially motivated by their love for a sibling. They’re both thrown into circumstances they’re unequal to (essentially, extreme fight or die situations – Katniss in an arena, Saba in a cage). And they both get caught up in a revolution of epic proportions that aims to take down the powers that be.

While having a lot of similarities, though, the two girls are quite different. Katniss is cool and reserved and self-controlled, and while I love this about her, I found these things made it hard for me to relate to her. Saba, on the other hand, is passionate and vulnerable. While Katniss keeps her head down and does what she needs to survive, Saba goes in with her fists up. Saba is all heart and raw emotion and straight-up-in-your-face-fierce.

The other thing I preferred about Blood Red Road was the writing. Both books are told in first person POV. But while Suzanne Collins says it like it is with simple and lyrically-sparse prose, Moira Young is poetic and vivid and Saba’s unpolished voice makes her character and her world bright and alive. For example, this: 

I cain’t speak. Cain’t breathe.
Lugh’s gone.
My golden heart is gone.
I kneel in the dust.
The tears roll down my face.
An a hard red rain starts to fall. 

Or this: 

I watch what she does.
I learn fast.
She gives me a helluva beatin before I learn enough. Then I git lucky. I go at her with a flyin kick to the stummick that slams her hard aginst the bars an that’s it. She don’t git up till the keeper pulls her to her feet.
An it’s over. The end.
The end fer her. The beginning fer me.
They don’t tell me her name. There’s a little pink birthmark on her face. It looks like a butterfly.
Like the Cage Master says, it’s a shame when a good fighter goes down to the gauntlet.
But one of us had to.
An it sure as hell warn’t gonna be me. 

See what I mean? Fierce. 

Another awesome thing is that Moira Young is a Canadian living in the U.K. and Saba's world was written to be a kind of dystopian Alberta. Saba’s home of Silverlake is basically the prairies after an ecological apocalypse. Which ties in with the very last reason I prefer this book to The Hunger Games, and that reason is Jack. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Peeta and Gayle. But I didn’t like them the way I liked this guy. Jack is sassy and suave. He's a post-apocalyptic cowboy with mysterious motives, and the chemistry between him and Saba was pitch-perfect.

Also, there were no love triangles - at least not in book one. I can’t say the same about the sequel, however. 


P.S. Read more about Blood Red Road here.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

The first thing you should know about this book is that it's bittersweet. So if you like your endings perfectly happy, consider yourself warned.

The first time I read Keturah and Lord Death, it had me so completely captivated that I brought it with me to a family Christmas and locked myself in the washroom just so I could finish it. And then, after I finished it, I sat on the floor for twenty minutes trying to compose myself before I came out again. Which might make you think that you don’t want to read this book - except trust me, you do. Because the very next day, I read it again. And I’ve read it half a dozen times since. These are the reasons why I love it so:

1) Keturah, our main girl, is a storyteller who loves the people around her so much she’ll play a dangerous game with Death himself to save them.
2) The romance is unconventional and oh. so. swoony.
3) The prose is lyrical and lovely.
4) The musings on death (and, inevitably, life) are breathtaking. For example:

In fall, she knew it was Death who sweetened the apples. He made her see the sun in a blue sky and hear the trees in a spring wind. He made her see how much she loved her friends, for all their trouble, and how much her grandmother loved her, and oh, he made her love the breath in her lungs.

Ugh. Best book ever. You should read it.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Eleanor & Park Fan Art

Kristen and I both read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell recently.

A brief synopsis:

It's 1986. Eleanor moves to a new neighbourhood and new high school. She does not fit in. She meets Park, who loves music and comic books. She sits down next to him on the school bus one day and he makes the non-committal, but totally endearing gesture of lending Eleanor a comic book. And that's all I'll say for now. OK, I'll also say that it's a beautiful love story. (Kristen and I will be posting a chat about the book soon!)

One thing I really I loved about this book was the vivid imagery that it called to mind: Eleanor's bright, red, curly hair, Park in his concert t-shirts, and Eleanor's mismatched outfits from the 80s.

Other fans have been similarly inspired by these images, and taken things one step further. They've created beautiful fan art. 

Here is a sampling:
by Simini Blocker (
by Andiree (
by Irena Freitas (

by Simini Blocker (

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lola and the Boy Next Door - a review


A Brief Synopsis

Once upon a time Lola was in love with the boy next door. A boy who liked solving equations and making contraptions and building automatons. A boy who burned her just before he moved away. Which sucked. And now that Lola’s over him (and dating a sexy, older, musician) the boy next door moves back.

And suddenly Lola's not sure that she was ever over him to begin with.

The Review

“It’s easy to talk about things we hate, but sometimes it’s hard to explain exactly why we like something.”

Oh, how true this is. I find it so much easier to review a book that I absolutely loathed, but talking about one I loved? I often resort to things like, “ZOMG. It’s amazing! You have to read it!” Which is not exactly helpful.

So, here I am, telling you that I loved Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. And here is my attempt to explain why:

First of all: family dynamics. Lola has two dads (trust me, you will fall in love with them), and her aunt is her birth mother - a woman who often makes unwise or unhealthy decisions, then needs bailing out. Lola struggles with her origins, often trying to hide or deny her birth mother’s lifestyle, and wants nothing to do with her. But while her reactions are realistic and understandable, the story never demonizes her birth mother or her choices - which is a hard thing to pull off.

I also loved the way Lola presents herself to the world. She has an eye for fashion and a resolution to never wear the same outfit twice, which means her persona is always changing. You might even say that Lola herself “performs” her identity - through both her costumes, and through her tendency to lie or omit the truth. As a result, the question of “Who is Lola really?” comes up a lot throughout the book, and the questions that her choices bring up are important ones. Questions like: Is who we are how we perform ourselves? Are we the clothes we wear, or the things we say? What about the colour of our skin, or the gender we were assigned? Or are we something else entirely? I was perusing goodreads reviews of this book before reading it, and some people really didn’t like Lola because she has a tendency to lie and has extreme fashion choices. But these things give Lola power – something teenage girls have very little of.

Most of all, I loved this book because it was raw and true, in the sense that love is often complicated and messy and you’re not always the person you want to be, and you don’t always make the decisions you should. I usually avoid love triangles at all costs, but this one is done really well. It’s realistic in that it shows how much love triangles can really suck, and how much there is to learn from them. Lola’s choices make for a realistic, messy story (or maybe it’s just that I could relate to them), and this is why I loved her.

While the book is a companion book to Anna and the French Kiss, you certainly don’t have to read that one first – although, if you don’t, be warned: there are mild spoilers in this one. Characters from Stephanie Perkins' first book make appearances. (And if you haven’t read Anna and the French Kiss, what are you waiting for?! Seriously. It’s so swoony and good.)


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review: Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories

The steampunk genre is everywhere these days, to the point that it's kind of becoming the Starbucks of the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Those of you who are new to the genre (and thus not over-caffeinated) and are looking for a worthy guide for this broad adventure, should look no further than this superb collection of short stories. Writer and editor Kelly Link has curated a strange and wonderful assortment of steampunk-themed tales here: in "Clockwork Fagin", author Cory Doctorow unleashes a savvy bunch of orphans who turn their deceased master into an automaton so they can rule themselves; "The Summer People" by Kelly Link is a sinister fairytale about a girl who escapes the enchantment of fairy folk that have had her family under their spell for generations; and "The Oracle Engine" by M. T. Anderson is a cool Classical spin on the genre that takes its readers to ancient Rome. Love.

This is the best collection of young adult fiction I've read in a long time. And, it's steampunk.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Giveaway Winner's Announced!

Yay! It's giveaway day! Here are our randomly picked winners in the order they were picked:

Winner of Prize #1 (The Testing Series) is Rachel Edmundson!

Winner of Prize #2 (The Jenna Fox Chronicles) is Tanya F.!

Winner of Prize #3 (Advanced Reading Copies) is Alice D.!

We'll be in touch with all three winners by the end of the day. And thanks again to everyone who entered!

Monday, June 24, 2013

last chance to win!

For more details on all prizes, go here. 

Today is the last day to enter our giveaway draw! You have until midnight tonight to get your name in. If you need a refresher, or are hearing about this for the first time, here are the RULES:

  1. Post a link to this giveaway on Facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc. Then come back here and leave a comment with a link to where you posted it.
  2. Like our Facebook page. Similarly, come back here and leave a comment saying you did this.
  3. Go into our store and sign up for our newsletter. Make sure to sign up using the ballot box, instead of writing your name down on our sign-up sheet, or your name won't be entered in the giveaway draw.
  4. Do all of the above. The more things you do, the more times your name gets entered, and the more likely you are to get picked
  5. The winner MUST be able to pick up their books in store (96 King St. N, Waterloo, Ontario).* So if you live in Halifax or Vancouver or New York, that's totally cool, as long as you have a way to get here.

Contest ends at midnight tonight. We’ll announce the winners tomorrow, here on the blog. So check back then!

*This rule has been altered: If you REALLY want to enter, don't live nearby, and are willing to pay for shipping, then feel free to enter.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Q & A with Vikki Vansickle

Vikki VanSickle is the author of three middle grade books: Words That Start With B, Love is a Four-Letter-Word, and Days That End in Y. Her most recent book, Summer Days, Starry Nights, is a YA novel that was just released this month.

Kristen: Vikki, I mention in my review that I couldn’t put Summer Days, Starry Nights down. It cast this warm, lovely spell over me, which is why I was so excited about this interview. I have so many questions!

Vikki: Yay! That is so nice of you to say!

Kristen: First of all, where did this story come from or what inspired you to write it?

Vikki: Reenie Starr literally walked into my head one day while I was on a two day break between camp sessions up north, staying at a friend’s house in Sudbury. I had a very clear sense of her voice and her family right away.

When I was a child my family rented a cottage on a family resort much like Sandy Shores for a week on Lake Dalrymple (near Orillia, ON), which I loved. I never wanted to leave, and so as an adult I imagined what it would be like to live there! One of the joys of fiction-writing is living out your own fantasies (to an extent).

Kristen: I loved everything about the setting: northern Ontario, the resort environment, the 60s! What about this place and time period appeals to you?

Vikki: I’ve always loved the 60s, particularly the music and the sense of change that was in the air. My favourite kind of story is a poignant coming of age tale and in the 60s it was like the whole world was coming of age. It was a particularly interesting time for women. All three women in the story, Reenie, Gwen, and Mimi, are products of their respective eras and are pushing against what was expected for girls at the time. Mimi is less successful, but in 1960s women were breaking boundaries all over the place. I read two fabulous nonfiction titles about women and music in the 60s, Girls Like Us by Sheila Weller and Girl Groups, Girl Culture by Jacqueline Warwick, which really helped shape Gwen’s character and provide insight into what the music industry was like for women at the time.

As for the location, it was loosely based on the resort my family visited when I was a child. I have very vivid memories of my time there. I’ve always associated summer with the 60s, probably due to movies like Dirty Dancing, My Girl, and My American Cousin. A summer story NOT set up north would have been very strange for me!

Kristen: Mimi, despite her flaws, was probably my favourite character in the book. I really felt her longing, and her sadness, and I so badly wanted to know why she was the way she was. Her running away right at the beginning had me immediately hooked. Which was your favourite character to write and why?

Vikki: I’m glad you felt for Mimi! She was the most interesting and difficult character to write because she makes some bad parenting decisions which end up hurting her children, particularly Reenie. Depression was not talked about widely in the 50s and 60s. Mimi would probably not refer to her own sadness as something as chronic as depression, which is something people today still don’t do and why it’s important to be open about mental illness. Mimi isn’t a bad mother, nor does she hate her lot in life. But she does have difficulty facing the world sometimes.

Gwen was the most fun to write about. She is the cool, older sister I would have loved to have. I love how fully she embraces life and how willing she is to take risks. She is the girl Mimi could have been in a different time period given different choices.  

Kristen: How long did it take to write Summer Days, Starry Nights? Was the process mostly the same as your other three books, or completely different?

Vikki: The process was similar in that I didn’t write in order. I don’t outline and I am wary of too much pre-planning. Instead I wade around the story, jump from scene to scene, and try things out until I eventually have so much material I need to step back and think about ordering it in some way.  

Summer Days, Starry Nights took a bit longer to write (about 2 years) and was almost double the length it is now. Originally it took place over a number of years and was titled The Seven Summers of Reenie Starr (I still really like this title, although it clearly doesn’t work anymore!) Eventually I realized a lot of those summers were back story for my benefit, but the reader didn’t need to be privy to all that detail. This meant that I made a huge cut, which is something I’ve never done before. It was scary, but also very liberating.

Kristen: I'm fascinated by authors who write out of order. I'm also curious about where you write. Do you have a special or favourite place?

Vikki: I tend to write in my room or in a little sun room/office space off the kitchen in the house I share with my roommates in Toronto. I prefer to write early in the morning when my brain is open and no one else is up yet. I drink pots and pots of tea and take many breaks to pet the cat. If I don’t, she takes it out on my poor laptop!

Kristen: Okay, more writing-related questions: Why do you write? What are the best and worst parts? What was your favourite part of writing Summer Days, Starry Nights?

Vikki: I love people. All of my books start with a character’s voice in my head. Eventually it gets to the point where I can’t ignore the voice and so I start writing. For me, the best part of writing is getting carried away by the story and all of a sudden two hours have gone by and you have a new twist or a new character.

The worst part for me is breaking to go about the regular business of life, like going to work or doing chores. Some days my story is taking up such a huge part of my brain it’s a miracle I can get anything else done!

Kristen: What have you been reading lately that you absolutely love? Or what is one of your all-time favourite books? (Feel free to name a few if you can’t pick just one.)

Vikki: I am bad at picking favourites, but lately I have loved Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. One of my favourite summer books is Kit Pearson’s Looking at the Moon. I love how Pearson catches the mood of the 1940s and Nora’s growing sense of self in the world around her. In some ways Summer Days, Starry Nights is just as much a tribute to that book as it is to Dirty Dancing.

Kristen: I definitely felt the Kit Pearson influence in Summer Days, Starry Nights, which I adored. And I loved Eleanor & Park too! Ow, my heart. Okay, last question: Do you have a favourite band from the 60s?

Vikki: Again, I am terrible at picking just ONE, but I love The Marvelettes, The Shirelles, The Crystals, Lesley Gore, and The Beatles (of course)!

Kristen: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, and thank you doubly for writing such a lovely book!

For those of you who haven't read Summer Days, Starry Nights yet, check out our review and Vikki's awesome pinterest board, and then go grab it!


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