About missprint

Librarian. Writer. Blogger at Miss Print since 2007. Reader. Feminist. SLJ reviewer. YALSA Hub Blogger. PPYA 2015/16. Amateur spy. Zen. 🦄

Author Interview: Joy McCullough on Blood Water Paint

Joy McCullough author photoBlood Water Paint is a powerful verse novel about Artemisia Gentileschi. The verse novel follows the start of Artemisia’s career–a path that would eventually lead to her being known as one of the most talented Italian artists of her time–and her historic rape trial. Today I’m very happy to have Joy McCullough on the blog talking a bit more about her debut YA novel.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell me a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Joy McCullough (JM): I began as a playwright, studying theater in college and writing and teaching playwriting for many years. I still work as a playwright, but around nine years ago, I began writing middle grade fiction. The shift was partly as a parent, maintaining a career in the theater is very difficult—so many late nights out—and also because I was reading middle grade books aloud for hours a day to my first child, and became really immersed in this mode of storytelling.

I had to write a lot of books before I got my debut deal, though. I wrote five books before I got my first agent. Five books went on submission to editors before my debut deal. Blood Water Paint is the tenth novel I wrote.

So basically, I kept writing, and I kept putting my work out there.

MP: What was the inspiration for Blood Water Paint? What drew you to Artemesia Gentileschi as a subject?

JM: I discovered Artemisia many moons ago as a passing reference in a Margaret Atwood novel. I’d never heard of her, so I went searching. When I learned about Artemisia Gentileschi’s story, I was outraged I hadn’t heard of her before. The transcripts from her rapist’s trial still exist, and I read those with horror over how much hasn’t changed in how we treat women and sexual violence. I wrote the story as a play first, which had a long development process, but when the play was produced in 2015, I started thinking about it as a YA novel when I found myself hoping teenagers would come to see the play.

MP: This novel started life as a play. Did you always know that it would eventually translate into a verse novel? What changes did you make during the adaptation process? What stayed the same?

JM: No, when I first wrote the play, I had no intention of ever writing fiction. I didn’t think I could. And when I began writing fiction, I had no intention of writing in verse. I didn’t think I could. (Do you sense a theme?)

I spent many years working on Blood/Water/Paint, the play. So I knew the story and characters inside and out. I thought. But a play is all dialogue and action. It’s extremely external. The internal is up to the actors. And verse is extremely internal, and usually has minimal dialogue. So that was a huge shift for me. In a way it was wonderful. I thought I knew all there was to know about Artemisia. And suddenly I was looking at the story from inside her head in a very different way than I ever had before. But it was also a challenge, for sure.

One major change is that in the play, we also see Artemisia when she’s older, as a mother teaching her own daughter to paint. Artemisia’s own mother isn’t a part of the play. In the book, I found that motherhood piece by giving Judith and Susanna’s story to her mother.

MP: What part of this story was the most difficult to write? Do you have a favorite piece?

JM: I’ve written this story over so many years (I wrote the play in 2001) that I’m not even sure what was the most difficult to write at this point. Though if it’s difficult to read, it was probably difficult to write. And I think my favorite parts are when Artemisia is drawing strength from Judith and Susanna at various points.

MP: Did you refer to any of Gentileschi’s paintings while writing Blood Water Paint? Do you have a favorite piece by her?

JM: The two paintings that play a major part in the book are Susanna and the Elders, and Judith Slaying Holofernes. I also reference her Madonna and Child. But the book takes place in the earliest years of her career and she went on to paint many more masterpieces. One I particularly love that I didn’t get to feature in the book because she painted it later is her Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting.

MP: Can you tell me anything about your next project?

JM: Yes! My next YA with Dutton was recently announced and it centers on the legendary 15th century knight Marguerite de Bressieux. It blends verse and prose, as well as present and past.

I’ve also got a middle grade contemporary novel called A Field Guide to Getting Lost coming from Simon & Schuster in 2020. It’s about two kids whose single parents are dating each other and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

JM: My first advice is find your people! It can be overwhelming at first if you’re brand new, but if a mega-introvert like me can do it, you can too. Reach out to people at the same stage of the journey as you are. Find them wherever you are most comfortable, be a good friend and critique partner to them, and you will find a support system that will sustain you through the ups and downs!

Also, I’ll say I do my best work when I let go of the anxiety of whether something will fit into the market or other people will like it, etc. When I simply write because I’ve found a story that’s grabbed me by the throat, with no thought to whether it will “succeed”, I’ve not only written the things I’m proudest of, but also as it happens, achieved some conventional measures of success with them.

Thanks again to Joy for for taking the time to answer some of my questions.

You can see more about Joy on her website.

You can also read my review of Blood Water Paint here on the blog.

Blood Water Paint: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“I paint the blood.”

cover art for Blood Water Paint by Joy McCulloughRome, 1610: Artemisia Gentileschi had limited options when her mother died at twelve. She could join a convent or she could work in her father’s studio grinding paint, preparing canvases, and modeling as needed.

She chose art.

Now, at seventeen, Artemisia is a key factor to the success of her father’s studio–not that anyone knows it since she can’t sign her name to her art. Instead Artemisia works in secret while her father takes the credit.

Artemisia dreams of improving her craft, stepping out of her father’s shadow, and painting heroic figures like Susanna and Judith the way they were meant to be seen–not as titillating figures colored by the male gaze.

When she is raped by a fellow artist who she thought she could trust and respect, Artemesia dares to tell the truth–and to demand justice–in spite of the horrendous cost in Blood Water Paint (2018) by Joy McCullough.

Blood Water Paint is McCullough’s debut novel. Artemisia narrates the story in sparse verse. Interspersed between these stories are prose sections in which Artemisia remembers the stories of Susanna and Judith as her mother told them to her as a child.

McCullough beautiful details Artemisia’s passion and commitment to her art. The begins in Artemesia’s teen years and continues through her rape by Agostino Tassi and the subsequent trial. Her rage and frustration against the artistic establishment and her limited options as a woman in Rome are palpable throughout the story–especially during the trial when she is subjected first to a gynecological exam and later torture with thumbscrews to “prove” the truth of her testimony. The novel ends as Artemisia begins again returning to her painting in the wake of the trial and its outcome.

McCullough makes excellent use of free verse to highlight Artemisia’s talents and internalize her anger and fear after the rape. This format also allows the novel to provide a thorough telling while sticking to the broad strokes of Artemesia’s triumphs rather than focusing in on her suffering.

Blood Water Paint is an excellent verse novel and carefully researched historical fiction. Recommended.

Be sure to check out my exclusive interview with Joy about Blood Water Paint too!

Possible Pairings: Da Vinci’s Tiger by L. M. Elliott, And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard, The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace, Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez


The Upside of Unrequited: A Review

cover art for The Upside of Unrequited by Becky AlbertalliMolly has had a lot of crushes—twenty-six in fact—but they’ve never led anywhere. She’s never gone on a date or been kissed. Molly doesn’t necessarily mind that. But sometimes it’s hard to feel so awkward and chubby while her twin sister Cassie never has trouble connecting with the girls she likes.

This summer all of that might change when Molly connects with a cute boy named Will on the train. But it turns out turning a crush into something more isn’t easy. It’s even harder with helping to plan her moms’ wedding and her summer job. Then there’s Reid, Molly’s cute but nerdy coworker who is making her question all of the things she thought she knew about the type of guy she’d fall for in The Upside of Unrequited (2017) by Becky Albertalli.

The Upside of Unrequited is a cute standalone contemporary romance that puts a fat girl center stage while also offering a story that is about a lot more than Molly’s weight. Molly is a sweet and relatable main character. While her crushes can lead to flights of fancy she also stays grounded while focusing on planning her moms’ wedding now that they can finally get married. Molly and Cassie’s changing relationship as Cassie falls in love for the first time adds another dimension to the story.

Unfortunately, this one fell totally flat for me. I disliked Molly’s narrative voice a lot. She was a bit too twee for my tastes. I also knew I was going to have a hard time with this story when it opened in a public bathroom. It all just felt like Molly and the story were trying a bit too hard to be appealing.

The Upside of Unrequited is an obvious choice for fans of Albertalli’s other novels. A likely winner for readers looking for a more inclusive contemporary romance as long as they can buy into the voice.

Possible Pairings: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert, Once and For All by Sarah Dessen, The Romantics by Leah Konen, Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones

Week in Review: September 8

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

It was a very rainy, dreary kind of weekend although I did get to hang out with my friend Nicole (the Book Bandit) which was a bright spot on Saturday.

We saw this bear which was another bright spot:

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Yesterday I had a rainy hangout with @thebookbandit. We planned to go to 10Below for rolled ice cream. ▪️ But it wasn’t meant to be and we wound up at VanLeeuwen Artisan Ice Cream instead. (Swipe over to see my delicious but not great looking mini sundae with mint chip ice cream, hot fudge, almonds, and cacao nibs. ▪️ Also there’s a giant Burberry bear at Astor Place and I’m obsessed with it! ▪️ #ny #newyork #newyorkcity #nyc #manhattan #lowermanhattan #skyline #blueskies #ny1pic #skyscrapers #latergram #nofilter #citylove #concretejungle #cityphotography #nycphotographer #iloveny #cityview #streetlife #streetview #burberry #burberrybear #astorplace #vanleeuwenicecream #icecream #eastvillage #eastvillagenyc #iscreamforicecream #clouds #cloudy

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I’ve been trying to plow through a lot of September releases this month–and I’m doing pretty well! The only problem is that I might not be enjoying Impostors which is crushing.

Here are two of my favorite posts I shared on Instagram this week:

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Who are the five people (living or dead) with whom you’d like to have dinner? 🍴 Sabrina knows her answer: her best friend Jessica, her estranged father Robert, her philosophy professor from college, Audrey Hepburn, and Tobias the love who broke her heart when he left. 🍴 What Sabrina doesn’t expect when she arrives at her birthday dinner is that her dinner list is actually happening. And Audrey is already annoyed after they’ve been waiting an hour. 🍴 Over the course of this unlikely dinner Sabrina will confront old regrets, lost opportunities, and perhaps most importantly second chances. 🍴 Serle’s adult debut hits shelves next week so be sure to request your it at your library or bookstore soon. Be sure to read it with a healthy suspension of disbelief and a box of tissues. 🍴 Also please feel free to leave me all of the compliments for this ingenious photo which might be my instagram masterpiece :) 🍴 #instabooks #currentlyreading #amreading #instareads #bookgram #bookworm #bookblogging #bookblogger #bookstagrammer #bibliophile #booklove #bookphotography #instabook #reading #reader #booktography #bookstagram #igreads #booksofinstagram #goodreads #bookaholic #bookish #bookishfeature #bookstafeatures #bookstagramfeature #readersofinstagram #unitedbookstagram #rebeccaserle #thedinnerlist #kimmersbooks

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What are your plans this weekend? 👑 I’m meeting @thebookbandit this afternoon for an ice cream adventure. 👑 Last night I read RULE. I was almost trampled picking this book up at #BookExpo. It’s an exciting read and perfect for fans of Three Dark Crowns. Just be wary of the epic cliffhanger ending. And the desperate need you’ll have to reread Three Dark Crowns (which I still like just a bit more) once you finish! 👑 This one is out next week so be sure to request it at your local library or bookstore ASAP. Also watch my blog for a full review soon! 👑 #instabooks #currentlyreading #amreading #instareads #bookgram #bookworm #bookblogging #bookblogger #bookstagrammer #bibliophile #booklove #bookphotography #instabook #reading #reader #booktography #bookstagram #igreads #booksofinstagram #goodreads #bookaholic #bookish #bookishfeature #bookstafeatures #bookstagramfeature #readersofinstagram #unitedbookstagram #kimmersbooks #ellengoodlett

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How was your week? What are you reading?

Wildcard: A Review

*Wildcard is the conclusion of Marie Lu’s Warcross trilogy. To avoid spoilers start at the beginning with Warcross.*

cover art for Wildcard by Marie LuEmika Chen was a bounty hunter and a hacker. Now, she’s a fugitive.

Emika’s tried to hack the Warcross Championship and stop Hideo’s NeuroLink algorithm from going online. She failed.

Now Hideo is using the algorithm to prevent crimes and force criminals to turn themselves in. But with Hideo controlling almost everyone in the world, how long before he becomes corrupt himself?

Still determined to stop him, Emika enlists the help of her former teammates, the Phoenix Riders, to find a way to shut the algorithm down before its too late. But Hideo isn’t the only threat anymore.

With a bounty on her head, Emika becomes entangled with mysterious hacker Zero and the Blackcoats–a ruthless crew of vigilantes. The Blackcoats want to stop Hideo too. But they don’t care about any extra bloodshed along the way.

With nowhere to hide and no one to trust, Emika will have to decide for herself how far she’s willing to go to stop the Neurolink–especially if stopping the algorithm means sacrificing Hideo in Wildcard (2018) by Marie Lu.

Wildcard is the conclusion to Lu’s high tech sci-fi duology that started in Warcross.

Wildcard picks up right where Warcross left off. With days left before the Warcross Closing ceremony and the launch of the algorithm to all Neurolink users, Emika and her friends are at a loss for how to stop what seems inevitable. Emika’s efforts to stop the algorithm are further complicated by her continued attraction to Hideo and her hope that he might be still be saved from himself.

Despite the ostensibly higher stakes, it’s hard to feel invested in Wildcard‘s plot. Even the imminence of the algorithm’s worldwide launch and Emika having to literally fight for her life at every turn failed to add any sense of urgency to the story. The shift in focus as Emika’s challenges become more internal (Should she work with Zero? Can she save Hideo?) combined with much more time spent in the Neurolink’s virtual world make the story feel that much more abstract.

Warcross had a plot that could have easily been resolved with a few honest conversations. This flaw is amplified in Wildcard and much harder to ignore. Most of the plot revolves around a fundamental, and baffling, lack of communication between characters right until a deus ex machina ending brings everything to a quick (if sometimes messy) resolution.

This duology introduces readers to a fantastic world filled with surprisingly plausible technology and a truly memorable group of characters. Despite shortcomings in the plot, Wildcard offers fans a satisfying and appropriate conclusion for a favorite cast of characters.

Possible Pairings: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi, For the Win by Cory Doctorow, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray, Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh, Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde, Partials by Dan Wells

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration at BookExpo 2018*

Starry Eyes: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

cover art for Starry Eyes by Jenn BennettZorie and Lennon used to be best friends. But that was before the homecoming dance last year and well before their families started feuding around the time that Lennon’s moms opened a sex toy shop right next to the massage shop that Zorie’s parents run.

Seeing Lennon and remembering how close they used to be still stings, but they’ve gotten good at avoiding each other. At least, Zorie thought they had until her mom adds a surprise adventure to Zorie’s carefully scheduled summer. (Even though she knows that being spontaneous gives Zorie hives. Literally.)

What starts as a luxe week-long glamping trip to cheer up a friend (and maybe hook up with her longtime crush) turns into a nightmare when Zories realizes that Lennon is rounding out the group. Then things go really wrong and Zorie and Lennon are stranded in the wilderness. Alone.

Needing each other to survive without any distractions might be just what Zorie and Lennon need to reconnect as they try to get back to civilization. But even after working through old hurts and secrets, they’ll have to see if their renewed friendship is ready for the real world in Starry Eyes (2018) by Jenn Bennett.

Bennett’s latest standalone contemporary romance is an absolute delight and has made me an instant fan. I also love the way this book is designed. The book is broken into three parts, each accompanied by a sketch by Bennett (who has a fine arts degree) of Zorie and Lennon’s camping gear. Lennon is an amateur mapmaker and Bennett also created maps to accompany the story which really help bring their down and the trails they travel to life.

Starry Eyes has a refreshingly varied cast and also highlights two of the many alternatives to a “traditional” nuclear family. Lennon lives with his moms but is also close with his Egyptian-American father–something that becomes more important as the plot progresses. Meanwhile Zorie’s mother died when she was eight and since then Joy, her Korean-American stepmother, has been more of a parent than her father leading to divided loyalties as Zorie uncovers a secret that could  tear her parents’ marriage apart.

Zorie is a type A nerd who plans and micromanages her own life to fend off her anxiety while also pursuing her passion for astronomy. She’s a fun and honest narrator who takes being pushed way out of her comfort zone (mostly) in stride. Laid back Lennon is the perfect foil to Zorie. His interests lie in horror, snakes, maps, and (luckily for Zorie) hiking and camping–two things that just might get them back home in one piece. While the hurt on both sides is obvious as they try to piece together what went wrong, their chemistry crackles throughout the novel.

Starry Eyes is a rich and entertaining romance. Come for the witty banter and tension, stay for the evocative descriptions, clever plotting, and nuanced characters. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum, Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert, Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley, Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen, Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll, The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen, Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Top Fives: Scholastic’s Fall 2018 Mailing

Here are my top fives from their Scholastic’s Fall 2018 middle grade and YA mailing.

Middle Grade

  1. You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex Gino: Jilly thought she knew everything but when her sister is born deaf, she realizes that she still has a lot to figure out. Jilly and Derek–a Black Deaf ASL user–bond over fantasy novels and Jilly knows she can ask him for advice. The problem is she doesn’t always know the best way to do that in this story about learning to be an ally, sister, and friend. Publishing in September 2018.
  2. Lucky Luna by Diana Lopez: Every time Luna Ramos gets in trouble she knows that one of her cousins is to blame. Except for when Luna locks her know-it-all cousin Claudia in the bathroom during their cousin’s quinceañera. That’s definitely Luna’s fault. Which means she has no one to blame but herself when she finds out she can’t wear hats for a whole month (a big problem when your hair is so embarrassing because of the white streak Luna has from poliosis). Then things get even worse when Claudia transfers to Luna’s school and ends up in her fifth grade class. Published in August!
  3. The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty: Bronte isn’t as upset as you might thing when her parents are killed by pirates–after all, she barely knew them. More troublesome are the detailed instructions they have left in their will for ten-year-old Bronte to follow lest disaster befall her home. Instead of continuing her quiet and satisfyingly adventure-free life, Bronte now has to set off on not just one but ten adventures as she sets out to deliver strange gifts to each of her ten far flung aunts. Publishing in October 2018.
  4. Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older: It’s Daniel Jose Older and an alternate history 1863 with dinosaurs. I don’t think you need to hear anything else. Publishing in September 2018.
  5. City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab: Against, not sure how much you need to know about this one but: Ghost-hunting parents with a TV, one daughter who can actually see ghosts, and a whole lot of problems when the family moves to Edinburgh. Published in August!

Young Adult

  1. Witch Born by Nicholast Bowling: Historical fantasy set in Elizabethan England where a girl sets off on a perilous journey to learn about her past and herself after her mother is hanged for performing witchcraft. Publishing in September 2018.
  2. Anything But Okay by Sarah Darer Littman: Stella’s plans to help her veteran brother re-adjust to life at home goes horribly wrong when he assaults one of her classmates. As the story gains more and more attention it slowly drags Stella, her family, and even Stella’s best friend Farida into its vortex. Publishing in October 2018.
  3. The Agony House by Cherie Priest, illustrated by Tara O’Connor: Denise and her parents move back to New Orleans in the hopes of fixing up an old, rundown house and converting it into a bed and breakfast. Except everything goes wrongand Denise is certain that there has to be something sinister behind it. There might be answers in a comic project left behind by a famous 1950s artist. Publishing in September 2018.
  4. Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene: Her guardians in the Dusklands call it a curse, but Sylvie knows that her ability to create illusions is a gift that can bring her greatness and earn her a place at Coeur d’Or, the palais of the Amber Empress. But nothing in the palace is as it seems and Sylvie will have to navigate a dangerous world of secrets and schemes if she wants to earn her place. Publishing in November 2018.
  5. Impostors by Scott Westerfeld: It’s the start of a new series set in the world of Uglies! What else do you need to know?! Publishing in September 2018.