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 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?

Review: Yesterday’s Thief

Hi bookies (you raving book lovers),

I know that you’ve probably been waiting for the next book to check out, right? Or maybe you have been enjoying a good book yourself and want to read some more. Either way, I am happy to present this new review on Al Macy’s “Yesterday’s Thief”. Here are the basics:

Title: Yesterday’s Thief
Author: Al Macy
Genre: Sci-fi, Mystery

Now the blurb:

It’s the year 2020, and Eric Beckman is a mind-reading detective.
Although he reads only the conscious thoughts of the people he interviews, it usually gives him enough of an edge to overcome his inexperience as a PI. But mind reading is hell on relationships. Trusting comes hard when you know what people are really thinking.
The case of his life lands in his lap when a beautiful woman materializes during a televised baseball game. She floats in midair, then drops to the ground, comatose.
Beckman is at her bedside when she wakes up. From the moment she opens her eyes, she has him under her spell. He vows to figure out where—or when—she came from, even if it kills him.
The stakes increase when she disappears without a trace. Worse, she holds the key to a worldwide energy catastrophe. If Beckman can’t find her and unlock her secrets, economies will collapse, and the world will spiral down into chaos.

Let’s do things a little differently this time. First of all, my rating for this book is 3/5 stars. It is an good book to pass the time, but nothing I will be raving about or dying to read. It’s just kind of a “Meh” book.

shrug

Why? Well, let’s get into that.

The good: The author does a really good job for the introduction. He gets straight to telling the story. It just so happens that this beginning is very unique. A mysterious woman just appears out of thin air in the middle of a broadcasted baseball game… Yeah, definitely not your usual beginning. So you immediately want to know more, of course. You meet your main characters and get a brief description of the main characters and co. Our main character, the mind-reading private investigator, has all the right connections/friends to meet the mysterious woman as she is in a temporary coma.

I’ll be honest. At first I had big hopes for these interesting characters. I mean, mind-reading powers? Awesome! Mysterious woman materializes out of thin air? Great! You later find out she time traveled- yet another topic I am fascinated by. Everything seems to point towards a great story developing. Even the cover and blurb sound/ look professional and cool! Unfortunately, that’s where the bad starts to kick in.

Maybe one of the things I was most disappointed by was the lack of character development. I mean, you can do so much for this story just by giving a little bit of backstory. How did Eric get his powers? Since when has he had these powers? It is hinted at that he has had it for some time. How did he first feel when he discovered them? How did he discover it? As for Viviana, our second main character, what was her childhood like? How did it feel living with a genius? When did she develop her knack for burglary skills. How did she justify it?

As for the world building, it’s decent but things like the world situation and struggle with energy and economic problems can be explained more. The society is futuristic but we are not given too much in regards to the societal advancements. There is a romantic relationship, unfortunately, it’s my least favorite kind: the insta-love kind. There is a physical attraction between the two characters involved and that’s basically it. They throw all sense and reason to the wind and “trust” each other that easily. It kind of feels like they are just lonely and desperate for some type company.

Now, despite these shortcomings, the story is decent. It doesn’t go the way you expect. There are quite a few twists that throw you off and keep the story interesting, enough to keep you interested. Think mind-reading, learning languages, natural disasters, burglary adventures, manhunts, romance, an “evil genius”, and life-threatening wounds. Plenty to keep a fast-paced story running. Would I read this again? Probably not. Once is enough. And if I had known before hand what it would be like, I would probably just save it for a rainy day, when I have no other reading material, but feel like relaxing with a casual book.

What do you think about this book, readers? Do you think that you would read it? Does the blurb convince you? What would you want to know about our main characters? Hope you enjoyed this review!

Review: Super Quick Mysteries by Andrew Stanek

super quick mysteries

Hi bookies (my fellow avid book readers),

What have you been reading? Well, I just finished reading Super Quick Mysteries by Andrew Stanek. No, it isn’t a super short book. I think it is a decent-sized book. It is a collection of short stories with different mysteries reminiscent of Encyclopedia Brown. Before I launch into the full review, let me share the facts:

The Facts:

Title: Super Quick Mysteries

Author: Andrew Stanek

Genre: Mystery, Short Stories

 

So now that you know the facts, you’re probably thinking “Ok, already. Bring on the rest!”. To which I respond “Ok”.  If you have read the Encyclopedia Brown stories, you are already familiar with the layout this book will use. (In fact, that is where the author got his inspiration for this book.) You are introduced to the characters, a mystery arises, you are presented with the clues, and all of a sudden the main character knows the answer to the mystery. How did he get the answer? You can verify that on the following page, which contains the clues the main character used to solve the mystery and, of course, the answer to the mystery.

As with the Encyclopedia Brown books, the main story is actually the cases. So while you do get to know a little about your characters, there is not much in the way of character development and the little that there is will be wrapped up neatly at the end of the book.

The cases are pretty simple. At first I felt like the style was too boring. The first few cases presented all the clues in a list sort of format. Think detective notes. Or the straightforward facts I always present before the actual review. Rather boring, right? However, the author changes up the style for the rest of the cases and tells them in a story versus a list.

The cases weren’t hard. After the first few cases, I got a sense of which were the important clues and could accurately guess the answer to the mysteries about 75% of the time.

Basically, I think this book is the story equivalent of doing a crossword puzzle (or sudoku) for relaxation. On the plus side, you can get an electronic copy of this book for less than a dollar! If I were to recommend it to someone, I would recommend it to kids around 4th-6th grade. It would encourage them to develop their logic and reasoning skills. I don’t think it will be a huge hit for adults, though, which is the intended audience. I give it a 2/5. Fair, but I would like more plot and/or character development.

So bookies, what do you think about mysteries? Do you have a favorite “Mystery” author? Or do you prefer a different genre? Let me know in the comments!