Author Interview: April Henry

Hi bookies (you book explorers)!

As you can tell from the title, the long-awaited author interview with April Henry is complete. I think you’ll enjoy hearing what she has to say as she seems like a pretty cool person. Also, if you like mystery books, check out her work! So, now I present to you the interview!

hardcoverlover: First, I want to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions during your flight. So far, Ive only read two of your books, The Girl Who Was Supposed to Dieand The Night She Disappeared. They were pretty awesome. It seems there are several similarities between the two. Do you care to tell us about why that is so?

April Henry: I usually write about teens who find themselves in trouble, often girls.

hardcoverlover: Why do you choose to write about female protagonists?

April Henry: Being female myself, those are the stories I am often drawn too. There is often a male main character too, even if he is not a POV character.

hardcoverlover: Which of the characters you have created is your favorite character?

April Henry: I like Jaydra, who is going to be in the sequel to Girl, Stolen (Count All Her Bones, due out May 2017). She is a body guard who knows martial arts. She is a real bad ass. Her name is borrowed from a kung fu brown belt I know, an amazing and fierce woman.

hardcoverlover: Wow! There’s going to be a sequel? I definitely want to read that! What does your character think about you? Would he or she want to hang out with you, the author?

April Henry: I have created literally hundreds of characters. I think most of them would want to hang out with me. I feel that, as their creator, I understand where they are coming from and why they are the way they are. And who doesn’t want to be understood?

hardcoverlover: You’re right. Let me test how well you understand them. What sort of Starbucks coffee would your characters order? Simple coffee or some sort of complicated soy-non-fat-extra-espresso-half-caff-nightmare?

April Henry: Perhaps they would be like me. I used to order just non-fat lattes, but SA Bodeen turned me on to asking for “ristretto shots.” I’m not exactly sure what that entails, but it does result in the creamiest latte.

hardcoverlover: Hmm, interesting. I will have to try it out some time. Are you currently writing a book? Would you like to tell us about your upcoming book?

April Henry: I am always writing a book. My next book that will publish is Count All Her Bones, the sequel to Girl, Stolen. It comes out May 2, 2017.

hardcoverlover: I can’t wait. Speaking of waiting, how long does it take you to write a book?

April Henry: Usually nine months. I once had to write a book in nine weeks (for reasons too complicated to explain), which was horrible. I cried a lot. I got it done, but I don’t remember anything about those nine weeks.

hardcoverlover: Wow. Tough job there. Where do you get your ideas? I know one of them came from a real-life crime you read about. What other sources do you use?

April Henry: Almost all of them start with a news story. The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die started with a song lyric that made me think “What if?” And the book I’ve just started writing (working title: The Lonely Dead) started with the idea of a girl who can talk to the dead.

hardcoverlover: How do you name your characters?

April Henry: Sometimes I have to play around with names to find the right one. Like in The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die, the main male character was originally named Gareth but that never felt quite right. Then I changed it to Ty, and it clicked. I sometimes use the first names of students I meet or names from my daughter’s eighth grade graduation program.

hardcoverlover: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

April Henry: I usually have at least a rough outline.

hardcoverlover: How involved are you in your story? Do you fall into the world as you write it or do you just see it from the outside?

April Henry: I usually see it in my head like a movie, although I’ll often speak dialog aloud or act out certain movements or gestures.

hardcoverlover: That’s really cool. You get to enjoy your “movies” too! Do the stories seem to write themselves or are you constantly pushing it along?

April Henry: It’s a mix, to be honest.

hardcoverlover: How do you work through the dreaded writers block?

April Henry: I have learned that you can always edit crap, but you can’t edit nothing. So my best tip is to turn off the internet in 45 minute chunks and make your hands continuously move over the keys for those 45 minutes.

hardcoverlover: Good philosophy. Where do you write? Is your workspace the definition of “neat freak” or do you prefer to keep a “controlled chaos” atmosphere?

April Henry: I have a treadmill desk. It’s mostly clean, although there is a guest bed in there that can end up being a catch-all space if I’m not careful.

hardcoverlover: I know what you mean. Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

April Henry: Sometimes my goal is a number of hours, sometimes it’s a number of words. I think goals help me stay more focused.

hardcoverlover: What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

April Henry: I might research some at the beginning and then more as I go along. I have taken classes on how to get out of rope, duct tape, zip ties and handcuffs; sword fighting; knife throwing; how to shoot pistols and machine guns; how to escape detection; disarming an armed attacker,;fighting in close quarters; kung fu; and Brazilian jiujitsu.

hardcoverlover: That’s a lot of dedication to your work. But, hey, at least you learn really cool and valuable skills. I pity whoever tries to take you on. Speaking of skills, your books tend to have really interesting, attention-grabbing covers. Who designed your book covers?

April Henry: My older covers were designed by Rich Deas. April Ward (both work for Macmillan) designed the last five or six.

hardcoverlover: Like I mentioned before, I’ve only read two of your books. I suppose I have many to catch up on. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

April Henry: Close to 30 if you count unpublished ones. Twenty have been published and two are in the pipeline. Asking about a favorite is like asking a mother about her favorite child.

hardcoverlover: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

April Henry: How easy it is to get out of handcuffs.

hardcoverlover: I guess I will  have to research it. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?

April Henry: I had one called Satellite that never found a home. It was an adult book about a guy who learns he doesn’t have Huntington’s disease. Maybe someday I will revisit or self publish.

hardcoverlover: Hmm. That’s unusual. To learn that you don’t have a disease. I think it would make an interesting read. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

April Henry: I wrote three books that never got published. The first was roundly rejected. The second got me an agent, and nice rejection letters from editors. The third did not even get nice rejection letters from editors. The fourth sold in two days in a two-book deal.

hardcoverlover: Good thing for us you’re not a quitter! What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

April Henry: The only ones that hurt are the ones you suspect are right.

hardcoverlover: Aww! I’m sorry to hear that as a reviewer. I hope we balance it out for you. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

April Henry: A review for an older book said the villain was too two-dimensional, and it was right. My favorite compliments are to hear from teens who have started to read for pleasure because of my books.

hardcoverlover: Makes it worth it, huh? If inspiration strikes you in an inconvenient place like driving a car or eating with friends at a restaurant, what do you do?

April Henry: Make a mental note.

hardcoverlover: You must have a good memory, unlike me. Now, I know we’ve been bombarding you a bit with all these questions about your books and your work. But here comes the youpart. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? For example…

Whats the most amusing thing that has happened to you?

April Henry: I was once leaving a plane when I reached back to put on my backpack and accidentally grabbed what I thought was the armrest. It turns out to be a businessman’s crotch!

hardcoverlover: Yikes! I’m not sure how I would deal with a situation like that. I assume you like reading if you’re an author. What book are you reading now?

April Henry: March by Geraldine Brooks (told from the point of view of the father in Little Women) and The Handmaid’s Tale (again) by Margaret Atwood.

hardcoverlover: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

April Henry: I read The Darkest Corners and What Waits in The Woods and liked both of them. I don’t have internet on this flight, so I don’t remember the author’s names.

hardcoverlover: That’s okay. We will entertain you instead. We have a series of small but fun questions your readers want to know the answer to. I hope you don’t mind.

Pen and paper or computer?

April Henry: Computer. My handwriting was already bad and then I broken my hand in September 2015.

hardcoverlover: Ouch. Light or dark chocolate?

April Henry: Dark, preferably with nuts.

hardcoverlover: Ooh, me too! Favorite color?

April Henry: Teal.

hardcoverlover: Dogs or cats?

April Henry: Cats.

hardcoverlover: Tea or coffee?

April Henry: Coffee all the way.

hardcoverlover: E-reader or print book?

April Henry: Print unless there’s simply no room.

hardcoverlover: A true booklover’s answer! Chocolate or vanilla?

April Henry: Chocolate.

hardcoverlover: Sandals, sneakers, heels, boots, or flats?

April Henry: Flats. At home I am mostly barefoot.

hardcoverlover: Same here. Do you like manga?

April Henry: Not really. Don’t hate me.

hardcoverlover: That’s alright. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea (or coffee in your case). Do you subscribe to any magazines and, if so, which?

April Henry: Oprah and The Sun, which is a wonderful literary magazine.

hardcoverlover: How would your best friend describe your personality?

April Henry: Funny, caring, sometimes too jokey.

hardcoverlover: You get the class clown award, I guess. My friends occasionally have to remind me to act my age too. Do you go out of your way to kill bugs? Are there any that make you screech and hide?

April Henry: I have a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for the most part.

hardcoverlover: Fair enough. Do you like your name? Why?

April Henry: Yes, because it’s unusual but easy to spell.

hardcoverlover: Do you have any siblings?

April Henry: A brother and a sister, both younger.

hardcoverlover: Haha! I win. One older brother and three younger sisters. Favorite TV show?

April Henry: Game of Thrones.

hardcoverlover: What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

April Henry: Right now I’m drawing a blank. I feel like at this point I have been asked everything.

hardcoverlover: So sorry! Now, just to wrap things up, is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

April Henry: Thank you for reading my books!

hardcoverlover: Okay everyone! Now you know! Thank you again for your time. I appreciate that you were able to answer our questions, and I’m sure all our readers appreciate it too.

Review: The Eye of Minds

the eye of minds.PNG

Hi bookies (you literary nerds)! Here’s a new review for you.

Title: The Eye of Minds
Author: James Dashner
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
# of pages: 310

So let’s jump right into this. This book is quite interesting. Sci-Fi books about virtual reality, connecting your brain to a virtual ‘net, or especially life-like videogames are always iffy for me. Some are very good, others are too deep, and some are just not my cup of tea and I can’t muscle my way past the first few chapters. The description seemed more or less interesting, but it still depended on how the author chose to develop the story, right? Just take a look at the blurb:

An all-new, edge-of-your seat adventure from James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, The Eye of Minds is the first book in The Mortality Doctrine, a series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.
And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.
But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

This book started out iffy to me, but it wasn’t too focused on world-building which actually helped me. It focused on the situation, what’s going on, and that was interesting enough to keep me going.

Michael is a rich gamer kid who loves gaming above all else. Gaming is basically his life. Whenever he’s not gaming, he’s just doing the regular things that have to get done to get through the day. His best friends, Bryson and Sarah, have that in common. The three are an amazing trio out to have fun who have good programming skills and apparently to much time on their hands. With nicknames like the Terrible Trio, the Trifecta to Dissect-ya, the Burn-and-Pillage-y Trilogy, shows how they aren’t the most mature kids out there, but they just want to have fun with friends. However, they’ve never met in person. With terms like the NerveBox, Coffin, VirtNet, Core, Portal you know you’re talking about a futuristic setting.

Now about the main characters, all three are young teenagers who can be classified as gamer nerds. But they have the computer skills to back it up. So while they may not be anyone important in real life and they may be looked down upon, they don’t mind because they matter to each other and are hackers with advanced skills in the gaming world where they usually live anyway.

Unfortunately, their carefree life is about to come to a sharp halt. A secret organization blackmails Michael into helping them catch a criminal mastermind in the gaming world who is not satisfied with infecting the game- now when he kills in the game, you’ll die- or worse- in real life. So not only does Michael have to catch a killer with nearly unreal, advanced computer skills… He has to do it without any help, besides that of his two best pals. If he loses, it’s game over for his life. Or so he thinks. What is the killer’s obsession with Michael? What is the secret behind his identity and motives?

This book does a good job in world-building, despite the challenges. However, the plot can get a little slow in some parts. I think I most enjoyed Michael’s interactions with his friends. He is someone who spends a lot of time in his head, but he doesn’t really get anywhere with all that thinking. Strangely enough, though his friends are the only ones that matter in his life, Michael doesn’t really share any of the problems that really worry him. He is a sort of confusing character that when you look back on it, doesn’t seem to have much depth. The ending was a total surprise though and a real cliffhanger that neatly sums up all the small details that don’t really make sense in the book.

So this book, to sum it all up, is not really my cup of tea. Despite that, I enjoyed it and would be interested in reading the second book. I give this book a 3/5. Keeps a good interest level but can be a bit tough to slog though at times. If you love videogames and wish you could live in them, maybe this book is for you. What’s your favorite genre? Let us know in the comments below.

Review: The Night She Disappeared

the-night-she-disappeared-cover

Hi bookies (personal book collectors)!

I recently read a pair of books by a new (to me) author. April Henry. She has written great books from what I can tell. I don’t usually read this type of book, but let me explain what I’m talking about.

Title: The Night She Disappeared

Author: April Henry

Genre: Mystery, Young Adult, Crime Fiction

# of pages: 229

As always, here’s the blurb:

Gabie drives a Mini Cooper. She also works part time as a delivery girl at Pete's Pizza. One night, Kayla-another delivery girl-goes missing. To her horror, Gabie learns that the supposed kidnapper had asked if the girl in the Mini Cooper was working that night. Gabie can't move beyond the fact that Kayla's fate was really meant for her, and she becomes obsessed with finding Kayla. She teams up with Drew, who also works at Pete's. Together, they set out to prove that Kayla isn't dead-and to find her before she is.

Has it gotten your attention yet? It got mine when I pulled it off a shelf. It’s basically one of those middle school, who-is-the-criminal type of books. But I was surprised when I did a bit more research to learn that this book is based off of a real-life crime. April Henry got the idea from an old newstory about…well, let me just let her explain it:

The Night She Disappeared was inspired by a real-life case that happened nearly 30 years ago. A man ordered some pizzas to be delivered to what turned out to be a false address. He asked if “the girl in the orange Volkswagen” was working delivery that night and was told a different girl was. That girl’s car was later found with the keys in the ignition and the pizzas and her hat on the ground. Her body was never found.

The parents hired a psychic, who zeroed in on a young man who owned a truck similar to one that had been seen in the vicinity. Right after that man talked to the psychic, he killed himself, never revealing where he had left the delivery girl’s body. For years, the case was considered closed — until another man, already in prison, confessed to the murder. The man who committed suicide had nothing to do with it. I was always fascinated by this twist, and decided to write a book with a better outcome than the real story. I also wondered how it would feel to know that you were the girl the killer asked for first. In high school, I worked at Pietros Pizza, so I was able to draw on that experience for real-life details.

I have to say, that does sound like an interesting news story that would spark ideas. But now back to the review. Well, it was a quick read. I finished this book in a few hours. It wasn’t so easy that I got bored. That was good. It is written in pretty simple language so it works well for kids. The point of view switches between Gabie, Drew, Kayla, and a tiny bit of the abductor’s and a few minor characters.

Now, while I’m sure kids will understand the story and language, I’m not so sure that 6th grade age level kids and below should read this. It’s not hard to understand, but there are a few parts that get a little dark. The main character, Gabie, becomes obsessed with understanding what might have happened to her workmate and how she must have felt when she was kidnapped. So she tries to copy some ‘scenes’ she imagines happened and has some disturbing thoughts due to her guilty conscience. Take a look at this example:

“And why the rock? Did she cut her hand falling? Or was it something worse? Had the bad things happened yet, or was it just the beginning? Or- my heart quickens here- maybe Kayla was the one who hefted the rock. Maybe she hit him in the head and then fled the quickest way she could, by jumping into the river. But how could she survive a nighttime swim in swift-moving water?

And that’s when I kick off my shoes.”

Clearly, these questions are not very good ones to get obsessed with. Younger children would probably not benefit from these type of questions. So I would recommend this book for those 13 and older.

For those of you that meet this requirement, this book isn’t that scary. The story is mostly focused on Gabie and how she is feeling, her relationship with Drew. You’re trying to figure out who the bad guy is and what his motivations are. Honestly, the book doesn’t really say. I guess this can be seen as realistic, because in real life, you don’t always get a reason or why people do bad things to others.

In contrast to the realism, the end is a mostly happy ending with the main problem reaching its conclusion and the relationships that were damaged were repaired. The end focuses mostly on the budding romance between Drew and Gabie, which you could see coming from a mile away. So there’s nothing shocking or too descriptive (it is for kids after all), but it was enjoyable to just chill out to.

As for my rating… I will give it a 3/5. It does well for the audience it is focused on, but it can give more details. It jumps straight into the romance between Drew and Gabie without giving it enough time to develop. The abductor mostly remains as a sort of ‘shadowy figure’ even when you uncover who it is. I would have liked for the author to explain more about the abductor to make it more realistic or have more of an impact.

What about you bookies? Does this rating seem fair to you? What would you rate it? What was the first book to ‘traumatize’ you?