Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Very First Author Interview!! With Kristina McBride

So, yesterday I posted my review of Kristina McBride's THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES. And today, I'm interviewing the author herself!  

Seriously, Kristina's awesome and has some really great stuff to share! Make sure you check out her silly answers at the end too--AND one lucky commenter will win a signed copy of her book!!!

First, here's a little bit about Kristina:

Kristina McBride, a former high-school English teacher and yearbook advisor, wrote The Tension of Opposites in response to the safe return of a child who was kidnapped while riding his bike to a friend’s house. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two young children. This is her first novel. Visit her online at www.kristinamcbride.com.

So everyone, please welcome Kristina to the Babbling Flow!

I’m just going to dive right in here! The inside cover states the story was ripped from the headlines—and in your bio, I read that you wrote this in response to the safe return of a child who was kidnapped while riding his bike to a friend’s house. I’m sure your creativity propelled the story forward, but how much research did you do to ensure you were telling a story that was compelling but also believable? (Because THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES is definitely both!) 
Thank you so much! To ensure that I would be offering a truly realistic story, I did quite a bit of research on two main subjects: Kidnapped-and-returned victims, and the kidnappers themselves. While I did not carbon copy any one child’s experience, I did take some small bits of inspiration from these stories. For instance, in an interview, one girl talked about how much she hated the smell of coffee when she returned home after spending months with her kidnapper – this was so moving to me, I had to use it. These details helped me get to know Noelle better, and pulled her story to a more powerful level. The interviews and stories I reviewed helped me ensure that I had the right tone and feeling as far as Noelle’s return. In regards to research topic number two, the kidnappers, I focused mainly on the legal issues they face. I couldn’t just ignore Charlie Croft, the kidnapper, after Noelle returned home. Though we never meet him, he is an essential character to the book, and I wanted to make sure that the legal parts of his story would be accurate.
Gah! You're a stronger woman than I. Researching the kidnappers would scare the heck out of me! 

Tessa’s the main character, but really Tessa wouldn’t be Tessa without Noelle. Heck, the book wouldn’t be the book without Noelle. So, let’s talk about Noelle. I’d imagine you really had to inhabit this character, to write her as realistically as you did. How did you do it? I mean, just reading her was hard for me at times—so heartbreaking. Was it difficult to write her? 
At first, it was totally impossible. Funny what can happen when you try to write a book – the characters often won’t cooperate. When I started the first draft of The Tension of Opposites, I attempted to write the book from Noelle’s point of view. But she was silent. Tessa was the only one who spoke up. I shushed her, thinking this was Noelle’s story. It wasn’t until I gave Tessa a fair shot that I got to know Noelle better. I’ve always been an avid journaler, so the best way I found to connect with Noelle was through her journal entries. I wrote five or six, but only three made their way into the final version of the book. Noelle really opened up to me in her journal entries, and I felt like I knew her full personality after writing them.
What an awesome method--I've interviewed my characters before, but I haven't journaled for them... I'll definitely do so in the future though :)

We’ve covered research and inhabiting characters—but I want to delve a little deeper into your methods! {insert evil laugh} Tell me: are you a plotter or a pantser?? What’s your writing process? 
Well, I can only tell you my writing process as it stands for today, because it’s this constantly changing and evolving part of who I am. I used to be a complete panster, discovering the book I was writing in small pieces as I sat down to work each day. During a lengthy revision process on The Tension of Opposites in which I scrapped all but five chapters of the manuscript (yes, you read that right – I deleted all but five chapters about six months into revisions), I started plotting. Nothing set in stone, but just an overall idea of the major scenes that needed to take place. I formed a much clearer picture of the characters and plot in my head before I began writing, took notes on note cards (one card per chapter, where I jot down any details, like dialogue, that I might use later), before I began writing. I have continued to use this process with my new WIP, and it seems to work well for me. I’m still a panster, though, in the respect that if some new idea strikes me halfway through a draft, I have no problem cutting chapters or plot threads that no longer fit.
Yeah, I'm revising a novel I didn't plot out first and I will NEVER not plot again, ha! But I definitely think it's important, no matter how strict I plot, to keep an open mind for working with new ideas!

What’s been the most rewarding part of the publication process? And, you know I have to ask it: what’s been the hardest? Do you have any tips for those of us (*clears throat*) working toward that dream of publication? 
I’m not sure I can pinpoint the most rewarding or challenging stages. There are the obvious highlights – holding the final book in my hands, seeing my name on the cover, and having friends and family share in the experience. Oh, and the YALSA nomination for Best Fiction for Young Adults was totally cool. But even the hard stages – the revisions and editing – have been rewarding as well. I think I have grown so much as a writer through the entire process. Maybe that’s the answer to both questions, that though it has been a struggle, I can see the growth that has occurred through each step of the process. My main tip for any aspiring writer is to never give up. Keep writing. Read a ton of books that fall in your genre. And understand that while rejection hurts, it’s part of the process and means you’re in the game. And being in the game is exciting, so enjoy!
Congratulations on the YALSA nomination! That's awesome! And I totally got goosebumps at thinking about what it must feel like having your name on the cover of a real, live book! *pauses to dream for a moment* Thanks for the encouraging words!

What’s next in line for Author Kristina McBride? Anything you can share with your fans? 
I am working on book two of my two-book deal with Egmont USA. That’s about all I can say for now . . . except that I’m falling in love with this new plot and all the characters
Oh man, such a TEASE :) Well, whatever you're working on, I can't wait to read it!

Alright, well you’ve read my blog, so it should come as no surprise that sometimes I can be kinda silly. And I figure that since you’re book is pretty intense, maybe you need some silly time too! QUICK! Answer these final questions with the first word that pops into your mind!!

Celebrity crush   In this very moment, I’d have to say Dave Matthews (was just listening to DMB – his voice is dreamy!)
Dream vacay spot:    Caribbean
Favorite scent:   Chocolate
As a child, what’d you want to be when you grew up?   Author, Teacher, Hair Stylist, or Librarian
What do you see in this inkblot?? 
It’s a motorcycle with one pig (think Olivia) riding on each side, back hoof kicked out for balance. I can’t figure out if this is a friendly circus type of situation where they’re practicing a stunt, or if they’re battling it out over the motorcycle. I get more of a fun vibe from these pigs, though, and believe this might be a competition where they show off their unique talent of duo motorcycle riding for a prize of some sort. Maybe a trip to the Caribbean with loads of chocolate and a private DMB concert included. I think the pigs are wearing tutus, so they are very fancy little things with a flare for style. And I believe their names are Millie and Mae

Okay, so remind me never to drink soda again, while reading your interview answers because I definitely almost spit my Diet Dr. Pepper out at your inkblot response. hahaha

Thank you SO much for visiting the blog, Kristina! Can't wait to see what comes out for ya next :)

Okay guys! Want to win a signed copy of THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES? Leave a comment with your email address and tell me and Kristina what YOU see in the inkblot!

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Tension of Opposites

Last week I read THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES, by Kristina McBride. Now, you guys know me--I'm mostly a fantasy gal, but Kristina's got me rethinking all that. Because this book is reallllly good.

Publication: Edgmont, May 2010
Hardcover, 277 pages

Premise: Tessa's life has been on hold for two years--ever since her best friend Noelle was abducted.

When Noelle escapes from the man who kidnapped her, Tessa can't wait to reconnect. Except nothing's the same anymore, not even Noelle's name.

My absolute favorite thing: I loved how real everything felt while reading. Tessa's reactions were authentic to her character and to the heartbreaking situation.

My other thoughts: So the title ties into a photography project that Tessa is working on, called (wait for it, wait for it...) the Tension of Opposites. That's cool all on its own--as someone who's trying get into photography, I read the details about it really closely. But I think the title weaves through more than just the project too, falling into plenty of other contrasts throughout the book. Tense moments mixed with humor; sad wrapped into happy; love and bitterness.

There's a pretty important backstory to THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES. However, it's sprinkled throughout the length of the book, rather than fed to a reader in the beginning. I was thrown into tension from the get-go and everything continued that way for the next 276 pages!

The characters are developed really well--especially Tessa. There were moments while reading I wanted to reach through the pages and shake her! But those moments rang so true based on the girl I got to know between the lines. Just because I wanted her to make certain decisions, if she had she wouldn't have stayed inline with who she is, if that makes any sense. And I should note that I got frustrated with her at times only because I cared about her, which is just another testament to the quality of the character development.

Noelle, the girl who was abducted... Well, let's just say that as a reader, it was very hard not to imagine myself in her shoes, and it was a sad, scary place. She came back a hard, changed girl--but man did she ever have layers. On the surface she might have been hard to relate to, except for the fact that I was granted such insight to her, I understood everything she did and could empathize with why.

Of course I must mention Max. The boy who won me over while trying so hard to find his way into Tessa's life. His actions and motivations gave him a depth that can sometimes lack in love interests. I rooted for them as a couple--the real life romance was so believable, even when it became apparent that a happy ending wasn't a guarantee. (Hehehe, are you dying to know if it's a happy ending or not? You'll just have to read it...)

Overall, abduction is a sad and scary subject, but Kristina did a fabulous job of delving into something so sensitive without ever coming close to the line of sensationalism. She lets a reader learn a lot about what Noelle went through--while never allowing anything in just for the sake of shock value.

As a side note: I wanted more Cooper! Noelle's older brother, who I happen to think is pretty fabulous!

Ranking: 5 Stars

Read this!

OH and guess what!! I'm interviewing author Kristina McBride here tomorrow!! Make sure to stop by and see what she has to say =) You could even win a SIGNED copy of her book, so come back!

Check out the book trailer!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Skip a Starbucks Day WINNERS :)

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who donated. You guys are amazing! If you check CJ's blog, you'll find that we raised over $4000, and I've never been prouder to belong to this awesome community of writers, readers, and bloggers.

And now for the winners!!

I used randomizer.org to choose and here's what the numbers told me:

The signed set of SHIVER/LINGER goes to Sarah Fisk!!

The ARC of EXTRAORDINARY goes to Lisa Potts!!

The $5 Starbucks giftcards go to:
Jami Gold
Allison Pang
Caitlin George
  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Congratulations to the winners and again, thank you SO much to everyone who participated! I wish I had enough prizes for everyone who donated...

Winners please email me with your mailing addresses!!


Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Funny: Meat Loaf Baby!

You've had a long week. You deserve to laugh.

 It's time for the Babbling Flow's Friday Funny!!

You might remember the BEST literal version of a video ever made, from this previous Friday Funny featuring Total Eclipse of the Heart, but this is a pretty funny one too!

So, now, I give you: Anything for Love... the Literal Version!

Thanks so much to my friend Jeff who shared this with me!

Happy Friday! Have a fabulous weekend =)

OH! And be sure to check back tomorrow when I announce the winners to my Skip A Starbucks Day giveaway!

♥ me

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm adding an ARC!

By now, you've probably heard about the amazing Skip a Starbucks Day fundraiser! If not, you can read about it here, on my original post--or read CJ's story on her blog!

Go ahead, I'll wait.

Seriously--go read!


waits some more

Ah, welcome back! So, now you know I'm giving away a signed set of SHIVER/LINGER by Maggie Stiefvater, as well as three $5 Starbucks giftcards.

But I'm adding an ARC! Yep, you may have heard of this little gem:

EXTRAORDINARY releases in September, and I'll mail it out this weekend so you'll get it ahead of everyone else who's waiting to read it!

All you have to do, is donate a few bucks (skip your Starbucks for a day) to enter!  (Click the picture below to head to CJ's page for the donation link.) Then leave a comment here that you've done so.

Want extra points?

+5 write a blog post about Skip a Starbucks Day between now and tomorrow, August 26th (leave the link)
+1 tweet about Skip a Starbucks Day (leave the link)
+3 paste the Skip a Starbucks Day button in your sidebar

Let me know how many entries you have when you comment! 

EVERYONE who donates from today and/or tomorrow is eligible for this ARC!  If you're a repeat donor, I'll double your entries, so make sure you let me know!! :)

♥ me

Monday, August 23, 2010

Win a SIGNED set of Shiver/Linger!! Skip a Day of Starbucks to enter!

I have HUGE exciting news! My our friend CJ Redwine is adopting an orphan from China!!

After five long years of waiting, she and her family were informed that they're very close!! As in, they'll be traveling to China in October or November, as soon as they get her picture and permission!! Weeeeeeeeeeee! I'm pretty much jumping up and down in my seat right now because CJ is going to make the BEST mother for this precious little girl!

But there's a problem :(

See, originally the process was supposed to take 6-8 months but it stretched into YEARS. And in that time? China's raised the orphanage fee by thousands. Between that, and having to redo their homestudy, their petition for orphan naturalization and their fingerprints FOUR TIMES, the Redwines are 8k short of being able to bring their baby home.

And this little girl deserves to be able to come home to her new loving parents and brothers. As a community, we have a chance to stand together and make it happen. It's so easy. All you have to do is skip Starbucks for a day and donate those few dollars to help bring CJ's baby home.

If you don't know CJ, you should. She's amazing and gives so much to the writing community! She offers query and synopsis and plotting workshop, in which a TON of her clients have walked away with agents. She hosts author interviews and giveaways on her blog, helping to spread the word about amazing books. She's hysterical, and sweet, and a really, really good person.

If that's not enough to convince you? I tell you what: If you donate, I'll sweeten the pot and enter you in a drawing to win a SIGNED set of SHIVER and LINGER, by Maggie Stiefvater.
To enter, you must donate! I don't need to know how much you offer or anything (though please, please, please, I'll love you forever if you make it at least $5!), but you do need to leave a comment here to let me know you've donated. Eligible donations must be made between August 23 & August 26.


Want more chances to win?

+5 write a blog post about Skip a Starbucks Day between now and Thursday, August 26th (leave the link)
+1 tweet about Skip a Starbucks Day (leave the link)
+3 paste the Skip a Starbucks Day button in your sidebar

Let me know how many entries you have when you comment!

Guess what else!!

1. If you donate, I'll give you THREE extra entries in my Saradise ARC Extravaganza contest! Make sure you mention you want them in your comment here!

2. If you donate, you're automatically entered in CJ's Grand Prize Giveaway! (SO much awesome stuff!!)

3. I've got three $5 Starbucks gift cards to give away to entrants! That way, you can donate and STILL get your caffeine kick in!! 
(Winners will be selected randomly when I draw the name for the book giveaway as well)

How to donate:

Click on the image above, or hop over to CJ's blog and click on the Paypal button in her sidebar!!

Don't forget to come back and enter the SIGNED SHIVER/LINGER contest through the comments section of this post!

♥ me

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Um, so just in case the title didn't tip you off--I'm giving away more ARCs!! See, I told you not to worry if you didn't win in the last contest! 

Welcome to the...

Saradise ARC Extravaganza!

Okay I know the saradise thing is getting kinda cheesy. But I can't help it, because... well... it makes me laugh =) So you're stuck with it.

*sticks out tongue*

I get it, you don't really care (heck, maybe you're not even reading this part--though if you leave a comment telling me you did, I'll add a secret entry point for you!) because you want to know what's up for grabs.

Fine. I see how it is.

Here ya go!

A set of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES (hardcover) and BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS (ARC)! BOTH are signed by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl!!

These books are awesome. Seriously awesome. If you haven't already read BC, you're crazy in my book ;-) And BD... well, all I can say is wow. It releases in October (Little Brown), but you so want to read it sooner if you can!

An ARC of NIGHTSHADE, by Andrea Cremer.

First of all, the book has one of the best covers... EVER. Second, it doesn't let you down in the pages!

"While other teenage girls daydream about boys, Calla Tor imagines ripping out her enemies’ throats." Uh, yeah. Enough said! (October 19, Philomel)
An ARC of ROT & RUIN, by Jonathan Maberry.

With a tagline like "Benny Imura couldn't hold a job, so he took to killing" who wouldn't want to read this?

Growing up in a zombie-infested world, Benny reluctantly agrees to train as a zombie killer, but ends up discovering what it really means to be human.  (October 5, Simon & Schuster)


A funny and sharp novel in which 15-year-old Katey goes to school in the Game: a mall converted into a "school" run by corporate sponsors. Except she finds out she doesn't have rights to her ideas, her privacy, or her identity--and that's not okay with her. (October 5, Balzer + Bray)

An ARC of HALT'S PERIL, by John Flanagan.

For all you Ranger's Apprentice lovers (of which there are many, over 2 million of these books have been sold, holy moly!) this is the ninth installment in the series. In this one: the false prophet of the Outsider cult escaped, and Halt is determined to stop him before he crosses the border. (October 5, Philomel)

An ARC of THE GOBLIN GATE, by Hilari Bell.

This is the highly anticipated sequel to The Goblin Wood! Jeriah is thrust into a tangled web of political intrigue when he uncovers a dangerous secret--one that could change the fate of an entire kingdom! (October 5, Harper Teen)

An ARC of JANE, by April Lindner.

This is a modern retelling of Jane Eyre--except in this one, Jane falls in love with a rockstar! Too bad they're haunted by a torturous secret from his past. (October 11, Poppy)

An ARC of THE WINDS OF HEAVEN, by Judith Clarke.

Clarke, a Printz Honor winner, tells the compelling tale of Clementine and Fan: cousins and best friends. But when the summer's over, small tragedies threaten to tear them apart from each other... and themselves. (September 28, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)

The rules for entering are pretty simple...
All you have to do to enter is be a follower and fill out the entry form (link is below). 

Guess what! This is open INTERNATIONALLY!!

Want to increase your chances to win? Lots of ways to do that (though none are required to enter)...

facebook friend me, baby!

+1 follow me on network blogs (link in my sidebar)
+1 follow me on twitter
+1 tweet the contest (make sure to include 
@saramcclung at the end of the tweet, so I can track!)  
+2 goodreads friend me!! (there's a link on my sidebar!)
+3 post a link to the contest in your sidebar
+5 write a post about the contest
(+3, for a total of +8, if the post is exclusively about the contest!)
+5 send me some new bloggy friends (5 per friend)

+??? Make sure to check back because there WILL be other ways to increase your entries! For instance, this Monday (8/23), you definitely want to stop by!

The contest runs from August 18 - September 8!

Good luck!

*A couple of these are preread... But don't worry, I don't dog-ear pages or anything!

♥ me

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Best I've Ever Had

 Sandwich, that is! What were you thinking?

Clearly, this is not a post about writing. But here's the thing: Last week I tweeted for advice about how to bake chicken. Embarrassing, but true. I feel the need to rebuild some of my nonexistent cooking street cred, so I thought I'd share THE BEST SANDWICH RECIPE EVAR.

Here's the background info:

The summer after my junior year of college a friend came up from NC to visit. So, of course, I took him to do DC – the monuments, the museums, the works. After walking around the city for HOURS, (and barely covering any of it) we were completely famished. We looked across the street and there was this absolutely adorable bookshop cafĂ©. 

We sat at a rickety little white table. Books lined the walls around me and the air was saturated with that old, basement-type aroma that can only come from stacks of books. All that, plus food? Yeah. I was in heaven.

I ordered what I thought would be a plain ol’ turkey sandwich. Apparently I didn’t read the description, because what came out was anything but plain. After my first bite, I don’t even think I said one word to my friend (did I even remember to breathe?) until I’d finished every last crumb.

Somehow years went by without my thinking about the sandwich. By the time I thought to find it again, I had NO memory whatsoever of what the place's name was. (Seriously, so sad I can't find it again...) I decided to recreate it.

I made a few changes to what I remembered (used granny smith apples, instead of any of the red variety; chose Havarti cheese instead of sharp cheddar; toasted the final product) and created the most amazing sandwich I’ve ever had. I have to say, it’s even better than the one from all those years ago!

Sourdough Bread
Shaved Turkey Breast
Havarti Cheese (in slices)
Granny Smith Apple (very thinly sliced)
Red Onion (sliced into rings)
Pesto mix
Fresh dill
Salt & Pepper

To make the sandwich: 

  1. Spread pesto/dill mayonnaise (recipe below) onto two slices of sourdough bread
  2. Layer about 5 pieces of shaved turkey breast onto one slice of sourdough bread
  3. Add salt and pepper to the turkey breast slices
  4. Add 5-7 thin slices of granny apple
  5. Top the apple slices with 3-4 red onion ring slices
  6. Top the onion slices with two pieces of Havarti cheese
  7. Close the sandwich by placing the other half of sourdough on top of everything
  8. Toast for about 4 minutes, until the bread is crunchy and a nice, golden brown color.
Pesto/Dill Mayonnaise Directions
  1. In a bowl add ½ C of mayonnaise (I use low-fat, but you can take your pick)
  2. Mix in about a teaspoon of pesto mix (I use McCormick Pesto Sauce Mix, but you can make your own if you want – it’s basically comprised of basil, parmesan cheese, salt, and garlic)
  3. Mix in two sprigs of fresh (minced) dill
  4. Once everything is combined – it’s good to go! (SO EASY, RIGHT?)
    With these measurements, you should have enough to cover four slices of sourdough bread (two sandwiches)
    Any extra should last for about 3 days if kept covered tightly in the fridge.
Here are some pictures of the creation process: (Start to finish!)



Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Funny: How Twilight Should Have Ended

You've had a long week. You deserve to laugh.

 It's time for the Babbling Flow's Friday Funny!!

This has been around for a while, but I think it pairs nicely with last week's Friday Funny (featuring the trailer for Vampire's Suck).

How Twilight Should Have Ended!

Happy Friday! Have a fabulous weekend =)

PS for the record, I don't hate Twilight! I just think the spoofs are funny.


♥ me