COMICS EXTRAVAGANZA: A Q&A with Scott Westerfeld

I’m excited to be part of First Second’s Comics Extravaganza Blog Tour!

All week you can follow the blog tour (click to see the full schedule) for interviews with authors talking about their own comics, what they love about the genre, and more.

Today I’m hosting a Q&A with Scott Westerfeld, author of Spill Zone. Scott Westerfeld is the author of the worldwide bestselling Uglies series and the Locus Award–winning Leviathan series, and is co-author of the Zeroes trilogy. His other novels include the New York Times bestseller AfterworldsThe Last Days,Peeps, So Yesterday, and the Midnighters trilogy.

Tell us your first memory of reading a comic or graphic novel.
Scott Westerfeld (ST): My first little-kid comics were Casper the Friendly Ghost. He’s the ultimate visual character, thanks to the weird physics of his incorporeal body. I don’t think you could do those gentle but highly disconcerting sight-gags in any other medium. (If you don’t know what I mean, google “Casper Ghost Physics.”)
What’s your favorite comic or graphic novel, and what do you love about it?
ST: I love all deconstructions of comics, so I was tempted to say The Boys or something gritty like that. But really, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is the best self-aware meta-comic going right now. The writing and art are crisp and sharp, the perfect combination of sweet and knowing.
Tell us a little about your latest graphic novel. 
ST: Spill Zone is set three years after a strange event destroyed the hometown of 20-year-old Addison Merritt. Nobody knows what the Spill even was, but it took her parents and left her little sister silent. (Except for psychic conversations with a creepy doll.) Now Addison supports them both by sneaking into the Zone to take photographs, which sell as a mysterious, voyeuristic outsider art. And then one of her collectors offers her a million dollars to bring more than photographs out of the Zone. (My elevator pitch: Stranger Things with motorcycles.)
What comic or graphic novel are you reading now? 
ST: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui. An amazing immigrant family memoir, stretching from the bloody division of Viet Nam to blue-sky California in only a few decades. An amazing look at how history imprints itself across generations.
Remember, check out the other tour stops for more interviews. I’ll leave you with some more information about Spill Zone:
SPILL ZONE
by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland

Three years ago an event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie, forever changing reality within its borders. Uncanny manifestations and lethal dangers now await anyone who enters the Spill Zone.

The Spill claimed Addison’s parents and scarred her little sister, Lexa, who hasn’t spoken since. Addison provides for her sister by photographing the Zone’s twisted attractions on illicit midnight rides. Art collectors pay top dollar for these bizarre images, but getting close enough for the perfect shot can mean death—or worse.

When an eccentric collector makes a million-dollar offer, Addison breaks her own hard-learned rules of survival and ventures farther than she has ever dared. Within the Spill Zone, Hell awaits—and it seems to be calling Addison’s name.

Spill Zone: A (Blog Tour) Graphic Novel Review

No entry. No photos. No survivors.

No one has been allowed in the Poughkeepsie Spill Zone since the night of the Spill. Addison Merrick was out of town and came back to a town she didn’t recognize, missing parents, and a sister who hasn’t spoken since.

With nowhere else to go she’s kept herself and her sister near the border of the Spill in their family home. From there it’s easy for Addison to periodically sneak into the Spill and snap photos of the weird aftermath to sell to art collectors.

No one knows what happened the night of the Spill but when Addison receives an offer to venture farther into the Zone than she ever has, she might be closer to finding out–whether she wants to or not in Spill Zone (2017) by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Alex Puvilland with color by Hilary Sycamore.

Spill Zone is Westerfeld’s latest graphic novel and the start to a new series. You can find a copy at your local library, buy a copy, or you can read the entire comic online with neat blog posts from Scott and Alex talking about their process at thespillzone.com.

Spill Zone starts with Addison getting ready to venture into the Spill Zone to take another batch of photos. By this point Addison has the process down from sneaking through the border to how to get out of the Spill in one piece and protect herself and her sister while selling the highly illegal photos to art collectors like the owner of the Vandersloot Gallery (which you can find online). It’s risky but, thanks to Addison’s meticulous rules, it’s manageable.

Inside the Spill is dangerous and eerie. No one knows what happened. Time doesn’t seem to work the same way. Dangerous creatures are everywhere. Even colors are different. When Addison receives an offer she can’t refuse she’s forced to travel even further into the Spill Zone and confront dangerous truths about that night and the aftermath. The combination of Westerfeld’s story and Puvilland’s art keeps the tension taut throughout this volume as it builds to the dangerous climax and, of course, leaves readers with more questions.

Spill Zone is a fascinating and fast-paced story perfectly situated to appeal to both fans of speculative fiction and comics. Spill Zone is a deceptively fast read that packs a punch–guaranteed to reward multiple reads and close examination of each panel. Highly recommended.

As part of the Spill Zone Blog Tour I also have an exclusive photo from inside the Spill Zone!

This photo was taken by artist Alex Puvilland during his research for this book in Poughkeepsie. Spill Zone has had a lot of fun publicity that started well before its publication including the Spill Zone site where you can read the entire comic (and cool blog posts about Scott and Alex’s writing process) and also a web presence for the Vandersloot Gallery which displays some of Ms. Vandersloot’s impressive collection of Addison’s photos from inside the Spill.

Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour for more exclusive photos. You can find the full schedule here: http://fiercereadsya.tumblr.com/post/160085874816/no-entry-no-photographs-no-survivors-three-years

Afterworlds: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Afterworlds by Scott WesterfeldDarcy Patel has put everything on hold to be a writer. A real, published writer. She moves to New York City with a contract to publish her novel “Afterworlds” and its as yet unwritten and untitled sequel, part of her advance, and the dazzling title of soon-to-be debut author.

Darcy does not have plans for college. She does not have an apartment. She does not have any idea what happens next.

But somehow, in the world of writers–both seasoned and new–Darcy finds her people. Over the course of one tumultuous year in the city Darcy will learn about writing, publishing and even love. More than anything, she’ll learn if she has what it takes to really do this thing that she loves so much.

Interspersed with Darcy’s story is the story that brought her to New York in the first place: Afterworlds. After surviving an unthinkable attack, Lizzie realizes she has the ability to slip into the afterworld–somewhere that exists between life and death. With her new ability, Lizzie discovers that ghosts are everywhere as are other, darker things. Everyone seems to want something from Lizzie but even her new gifts might not be enough to keep those she loves safe.

Darcy and Lizzie’s worlds blend together in this story about facing your fears and finding yourself in Afterworlds (2014) by Scott Westerfeld.

The first thing to know about Afterworlds is that it reads like two books. Odd numbered chapters focus on Darcy’s “real world” story of moving to New York and revising Afterworlds. Even numbered chapters detail the “story within the story” of Lizzie and her journey into the afterworld. While this book clocks in at over 600 pages (hardcover) really it’s two stories–two books even–in one both told to excellent effect.

In addition this book features a truly diverse cast in a casual/accepted way. While it’s important to the story, the diversity never becomes the story.

The premise sounds too lofty. It sounds highly un-writerly. A novel about writing a novel? With the full text of that self-same novel? Surely it can’t work. Yet Westerfeld pulls it off beautifully. Although the story is highly self-aware (and often very meta), every detail works here. Darcy’s new experiences feed into her revisions of Afterworlds. Her growth as a young woman and author mirrors Lizzie’s growth. Both girls, in their respective arcs, accomplish great things.

While not for everyone, Afterworlds is astonishingly successful on every level. Sure to have high appeal for all aspiring authors or sci-fi/fantasy fans. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, The Strange Maid by Tessa Gratton, Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey, The Truth Commission by Susan Juby, Undercover by Beth Kephart, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

*This book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher at BEA14*

So Yesterday: A Review

“We are all around you.

“You don’t think about us much because we are invisible. Well, not exactly invisible. A lot of us have hair dyed in four colors, or wear five-inch platform sneakers, or carry enough metal in our skin that it’s a hassle getting on an airplane. Quite visible, actually, come to think of it.

“But we don’t wear signs saying what we are. After all, if you knew what we were up to, we couldn’t work our magic. We have to observe carefully and push and prompt you in ways you don’t notice. Like good teachers, we let you think you discovered the truth on your own.

“And you need us. Someone has to guide you, to mold you, to make sure that today turns to yesterday on schedule. Because frankly, without us to monitor the situation, who knows what would get crammed down your throats?

“It’s not like you can just start making your own decisions, after all.”

So Yesterday by Scott WesterfeldHunter Braque is always on top of the latest trends. Mostly because he helps make sure they become trends. As a seventeen-year-old with his own background in the whirlwind world of innovation and style, Hunter knows exactly how to spot Innovators–the people who do something before it’s cool. The people who define cool.

When Hunter’s best client disappears it will take all of his connections to track her down as he teams up with an Innovator, uncovers a mystery surrounding the coolest sneakers he’s ever seen and gets to the bottom of the shadowy world that lurks behind all of the trends and innovations in So Yesterday (2004) by Scott Westerfeld.

So Yesterday is generally grouped into Westerfeld’s New York Trilogy which is not actually a trilogy. It’s one of his earlier novels, set in New York City and also a rare non-fantasy title. (The other books in this “trilogy” are the vampire-apocalyptic books Peeps and The Last Days.)

Although this book is a departure for Westerfeld’s usual fare of science fiction and fantasy adventures, the prose is still decidedly his with the expected blend of wit and trivia along with excellent turns of phrase. (True story: One of my all-time favorite quotes is from this book!)

Hunter is understandably interested in trends so the book is filled with odd bits of information about the origins of ties, or more specifically cravats, among other things. And don’t let the realistic setting fool you–there is still tons of action to be had as Hunter chases down sneakers, avoids thugs and seeks help from shady figures with names like Futura Garamond (another true story: This book introduced me to both of those font faces which I now use all the time!).

So Yesterday is a fast, strange book that readers who enjoy sardonic humor, New York City, or the stories behind the latest It Thing (or all of those at the same time!) is sure to enjoy.

Possible Pairings: The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney, New York City: A Short History by George J. Lankevich, Proxy by Alex London, Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller, Vicious by V. E. Schwab

Miss Print Book Club this January

As some of you might already know, I run an online book club where we read and discuss a new book every two months.

The book club is reading my favorite book from 2011 this January and February: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Discussion questions are already posted on the Scorpio Races discussion tab and waiting for your thoughts.

Our next two books will be:

Fracture by Megan Miranda (March/April)

and

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (May/June)

Hope to see you all in the discussion threads!

***If you would like to join the Miss Print Book Club go to http://missprint.wikispaces.com/ and click join now in the yellow bar near the top of the page. After that I’ll email you asking to confirm and then you’re in and ready to start talking books!

Eleven for 2011

2011 was a big year for me and the blog–lots of changes and lots of new milestones. I started posting author interviews, I was quoted on a real live book, the blog turned four. I even started tagging my posts! Since I really enjoyed sharing my top books from 2010 (and since it seemed like a fitting way to close out the year on the blog) I give you my eleven favorite books from 2011:

  1. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta: This was one of my most anticipated books for 2011. Aside from being by Melina Marchetta–it’s a companion to one of my all-time favorite books Saving Francesca. Given its spot on this list, you can probably guess that it lived up to my high expectations.
  2. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: Maggie Stiefvater is one of the most personable authors I’ve ever encountered at a signing. When I got a copy of this book at BEA all I really knew was that everyone was excited about it and there were horses. But it’s so much more that than. A truly charming fantasy that fans of Diana Wynne Jones would do well to pick up.
  3. Strings Attached by Judy Blundell: Judy Blundell’s books are magic with their blend of noir, historical detail and New York City atmosphere. In addition to having one of my favorite covers, it also has my favorite last line of 2011.
  4. Goliath by Scott Westerfeld: If you read this blog regularly, you probably know my love for steampunk already. I loved Westerfeld’s books before this series but this wonderful conclusion to the Leviathan trilogy clinched it’s spot as my favorite of his series. Definitely my most-loved sequel this year.
  5. Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter: After The Piper’s Son, this book might have been my most anticipated 2011 release. It also played a huge role in getting me and Nicole over to Book Expo America for the first time. Sleek and smart, this book reminded me why Carter’s Heist Society books are my favorite ongoing series.
  6. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson: (I didn’t want to put one author on this list twice but I should say that The Last Little Blue Envelope also garnered an honorable mention for being a sequel I loved more than the original book.) Eerie, suspenseful, funny and witty this book really showed Maureen Johnson at the top of her game. Also, it had Stephen–best character EVER.
  7. Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough: This book was a big part of my year as I was quoted on the galley copies (very exciting!). I love all of MacCullough’s books but this one combined a lot of most beloved elements with magic, time travel, history and New York City all in one slim volume full of fun.
  8. All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin: A clever take on fantasy in a dystopian setting complete with illegal chocolate. The whole book felt so real and evocative with characters that stay with you–I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.
  9. Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel: Zombies, steampunk, action, and romance! What more do you need for a fun, clever read?
  10. So Much Closer by Susane Colasanti: I feel like my summer was closely tied to this book as Nicole and I kept running into Ms. Colasanti at numerous signings and events promoting this book. Set in my own neighborhood, this romantic story was as much fun to read for the settings as it was for the characters and the story.
  11. Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg: Who doesn’t love Pride and Prejudice? This delightful retelling stays true to the original while adding fun twists to make it modern and unique. In addition to being my first Eulberg book, seeing Ms. Eulberg read from this one confirmed that I really, really want Elizabeth Eulberg to be my BFF.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Demon’s Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan: Somehow it wouldn’t feel right to publish this post without mentioning this book as it was another highly anticipated book. (Not to mention that I finally got to see SRB at a signing!)
  • Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare: This will probably be the last book I read in 2011 and is part of my other favorite steampunk series (besides Leviathan). I haven’t reviewed it yet but it’s awesome so far!

I limited myself to books I read in 2011 that were published in 2011–but there were a lot of other great ones. There were actually a lot just from 2011 but I committed to eleven books so eleven books is all you get, dear readers.

Here’s to another year of great things for all of us and, of course, great books too in 2012!

Goliath: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Goliath by Scott WesterfeldAlek and Deryn have circumnavigated most of the globe aboard the Darwinist airship Leviathan as they try to end World War I. Along the way, perhaps Alek will be able to claim his position as the true heir to Clanker Austria’s throne. And perhaps Deryn will finally be able reveal her biggest secrets to Alek, namely that she is not just a girl but that she loves him.

But as the Leviathan flies first to Siberia and then over the United States and Mexico, bigger problems arise as Deryn’s secrets begin to unravel with alarming speed and Alek turns to a misguided lunatic in his continued efforts to end the War. The truth is supposed to set you free, but will it be enough to not just save Alek and Deryn but also end a war in Goliath (2011) by Scott Westerfeld (with illustrations by Keith Thompson)?

Goliath is the phenomenal conclusion to Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy which began with Leviathan and continued in Behemoth. It is also the perfect end to what is essentially a perfect trilogy. Goliath truly exceeded my already very high expectations.

I worried about this book. What would happen to Deryn? Where would Alek end up? What about Alek and Deryn together? There were so many potential pitfalls and unfortunate conclusions. Westerfeld avoided all of them.

Goliath is a truly satisfying end to a trilogy that was filled with actions and surprises from the very first pages to the very last. The whole series is a must read for anyone interested in speculative fiction, alternate histories or, of course, steampunk. As its dedication suggests, Goliath is also the perfect book for readers who appreciate a long-secret love story finally revealed. Truly wonderful.

Possible Pairings: The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix by R. L. LaFevers with illustrations by Kelly Murphy, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, Jackaby by William Ritter, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Everland by Wendy Spinale, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, Firefly (television series) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (graphic novel and movie), The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne (television series), Serenity (movie)