Author Spotlight: Lauren Marsh

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Photo Credit: Kristin Gillis Photography

Lauren Marsh, also known as L. S. Kilroy, is the author of a new YA dystopian novel, The Vitruvian Heir, her debut novel.The story follows Lorelei “Lore” Fetherston, an aristocrat with a rebellious streak and a penchant for writing – something forbidden among her sex – as she tries to carve out her own destiny despite the oppressive regime. I got the chance to talk to Marsh about her writing and The Virtuvian Heir recently. Check out the interview below and make sure to check out her new novel.

Why did you start writing?

Growing up an asthmatic only child in a neighborhood of [elderly people], I made friends with books at a young age, both out of necessity and genuine enjoyment. Early exposure to the classics fueled my own writing. I began making up stories and would stay up until all hours feverishly writing summaries and illustrating book jackets for ideas as they came to me. These I kept in an old Snoopy and Woodstock suitcase under my bed. At age fifteen a man in a bookstore asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I replied, “Writer,” without hesitation. Being a writer is the one thing in my life I’ve never doubted.

Why did you choose to self-publish The Virtuvian Heir?

I [wanted] to attempt to be “traditionally published,” because I felt like and still feel that there’s a stigma around doing it yourself. However, I’m starting to change my thinking as more authors are publishing their own high quality works. When it came down to it, I wanted to get my story into the hands of readers before it became irrelevant and without waiting for an agent to decide my work is good enough for them to represent. I think it’s good enough and readers are mirroring that sentiment so that’s all that matters.

Is The Vitruvian Heir your first novel? 

It’s my first published novel, but it’s the third that I’ve completed.

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

When I was a sophomore in high school, my history teacher [told] us about the time when Catherine de’ Medici ruled the French court. She had a group of beautiful female spies called the Flying Squadron (L’escadron Volant), whom she recruited to seduce important men in court and then report back to her. My 15-year-old self took this fascinating lesson and formed an idea for a new story. What if a future version of the United States had somehow come under the control of an emperor who commanded that everything be returned to the Victorian and Edwardian periods – women were stripped of rights, had to wear corsets, were forced into arranged marriages, etc.?

And what if, there was a woman who was running this underground circle of female spies trained to extract information from powerful men? What if she was planning a coup? What if she sent her best girl in to charm the emperor himself? But then the girl falls in love with him…That was my teenage sensibility. That story was eventually discarded along with its bedfellows somewhere between high school and college. Then, a couple of years ago, when women’s rights issues were heavy in the media, the germ of this idea resurfaced and became The Vitruvian Heir.

How long did it take for you to write this novel and publish it?

I worked on it for about two years sporadically, but the most concentrated work – the bulk of the writing and the design, etc., spanned about six months.

How do you think your novel compares to the other dystopian novels out right now?

Someone recently said it’s like “Downton Abbey and The Hunger Games had a baby,” and I think that’s pretty accurate. It’s also been compared to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Orwell’s 1984, which are, of course, enormous compliments. When I was reminded of this idea again by the news surrounding contraception and our reproductive rights that was such a hot media topic back in 2011, I kept hearing women say “I fought this battle thirty years ago. I never thought I would be fighting it again,” and that stuck with me while I was writing. Because I think yes, any idea of a dystopian future with new and unimaginable challenges (like The Hunger Games) is quite jarring, [but] I think what’s more frightening is the idea that as a society, we continue to repeat our mistakes and the idea that such a regression is possible.

It’s happened to women in other countries already. So, I think my book – even though it’s set far in the future – is more about the danger of repeating the past, which is why I thought the Neo-Victorian, steampunk backdrop was the most appropriate for it to unfold over. As for readers, there’s something for everyone – there’s almost unstoppable action, romance, rebellion, and strong social commentary.

Will there be a sequel to this novel?

I have an idea for two other potential books in the series to make a trilogy, but I’m not committing to that just yet.

What authors have inspired you and/or your writing? 

I’m a huge throwback to the classics so anything Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Aldous Huxley, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, Edith Wharton, [Fyodor] Dostoevsky, [F. Scott] Fitzgerald, Harper Lee. But my favorite book of all time is Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. I re-read it this past summer and it’s just pure joy. I’m pretty sure the meaning of life is in that book.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

This advice may sound unconventional, but it’s worked for me. It’s true that practice makes perfect and you should try to get into a routine to hone your craft – take a class, workshop with fellow writers, and do the thing. Stephen King said “Writers write,” and that’s true. If you want to be good at something, you need to work at it. However, that isn’t always easy. Sometimes with schedules and what not, especially if you work full-time at a job that sucks away your energy, if you have a relationship that you need to devote time to, or a child, you can’t carve out a determined amount of time every day to write. I would go weeks without writing a word even when I was in the middle of working on a book. Sometimes it wasn’t even because of other factors in my life, it was just because I didn’t feel like it. If I’m not inspired and I’m not feeling it, I can’t write. And I think that’s okay. Because every time I’ve tried to force it, the product is crap.

So my advice is: Write, but only when you feel it. Even though I don’t write creatively every single day, I’ve still managed to produce three books and a slew of short stories in spite of being a high school teacher at one point and having a very stressful corporate job at another. When you feel it and when you’re enjoying it, pushing yourself to work when you go home at night isn’t as hard as you might think.

Are you working on any other projects right now?

Yes, I’m halfway through another novel called The Clothes That Make You. It’s the polar opposite of The Vitruvian Heir. Set in 1967 New England suburbia it follows Sally, a quiet misfit dealing with the fresh grief of losing her father and her unlikely friendship with the new girl at school – a feisty civil rights activist who identifies as a boy. I have a self-imposed goal of completing a draft by year end. We’ll see how that goes.

To find out more about Marsh, check out her website and purchase The Vitruvian Heir here.

 

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Book Review: Legend

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*This book is part of my POPSUGAR 2015 Reading Challenge*

Synopsis:

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

I’ve been hearing about this book for a while but there’s just so many dystopian novels and I resisted getting swept up into another trilogy.

But this one was definitely worth a read and worth all the hype. The novel is told in alternating point of views between the main characters, June and Day, which is interesting because they both have very different relationships with the Republic.

June is a prodigy who’s rich and has always led a comfortable life whereas Day is on the run, living in the poor sectors and just trying to help his family survive.

To be honest, I found their instant connection a little unbelievable but I still really liked their love story. More than that though, I liked the plot. The way June is so analytical and how she sees her world was really interesting and I loved Day’s character. I also really like Day’s friend, Tess, and I thought the character portrayal of Thomas and Commander Jameson were very well done.

Marie Lu structures this novel very well with the death of June’s brother, Metias, being the catalyst and how it connects to not only Day but also his little brother, Eden. I also like how we only scraped the surface of the bigger conflict between the Republic that June and Day live in and the Colonies that oppose them.

This was a pretty intense book for the first novel in the trilogy and I’m excited to see where this goes. Definitely a must read.

Borrow or Buy: Buy!

Stars:

5 stars

Favorite Line:

“Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time.”

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POLL: YA or Adult Novels?

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I’m a big fan of both young adult and adult novels. Even so, I often tend to lean towards young adult. Maybe it’s because I am one or maybe it’s because I just truly prefer them. Either way I love both types of novels but I want to know if you have a preference. Vote in the poll below and let me know in the comments why you’re more of a YA fan or a strictly adult novels person.

Results of last week’s poll:

How do you prefer to read?

With 60% of the votes, paperbacks were the winner. Paperbacks or the perfect books because you can fold them over and bend them any which way while still having the comfort of holding an actual book in your hands. It’s a win-win.

POLL: Who’s The Best Dystopian Heroine?

Dystopian Heroine

Dystopian’s are widely popular right now. Between The Hunger Games and Divergent, dystopias have left book form and moved to the big screen. Of course, a lot of these dystopians start to run together and some could even argue they’re all the same. Even so, that doesn’t stop people from having their favorite characters. So are you more a Katniss or Tris? Choose you’re favorite dystopian heroine and see if yours comes out on top. (Note: This poll only includes the main heroines of these novels. It’d be too big of a list if I included every heroine from every dystopian novel but that’ll be another poll, don’t worry.)

Book Review: The Darkest Minds

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.

I’ve had this book on my book shelf for so long and I’m so glad I finally got the chance to read it. Dystopian fiction has become one of the hottest genres right now so you’re hard pressed to find a dystopian novel that really stands out but The Darkest Minds does just that.

Alexandra Bracken has crafted a novel that weaves together a rag tag group of characters that in a normal world probably wouldn’t make sense but works perfectly in this dystopian world where children are either dead or outcast. There is Liam, the hopelessly hopeful hero, who just wants to save and protect everyone. He cares for everyone and always looks for the good in people even when it’s not there. He’s optimistic but not in an annoying way.

Of course in a dystopian world where children are being hunted down by the government, bounty hunters (also know as skip tracers) and an anti-government terrorist group, being optimistic isn’t always helpful. That’s where Charlie “Chubs” Meriweather steps in. He’s a realist that’s untrusting of strangers and always guarded. He doesn’t like taking risks and prefers calculated plans. He’s the kind of kid that knows how to cross stitch in case someone needs stitches, which is handy but isn’t something you expect from a kid.

Rounding out the group is little Zu, the youngest and smallest of the group, that everyone wants to protect and keep safe. What’s great about Zu, though, is she doesn’t actually need the group’s protection. If anything they need her. She’s got the strongest ability out of the group, right after Ruby, and can handle her own when need be. The fact that she is mute and afraid of her powers makes her the perfect mirror image for Ruby who has been running scared from her abilities since the age of 10.

Ruby, herself, is the type of heroine that you want to root for. She makes mistakes but they’re mistakes that can be expected of a sixteen year old girl that’s been locked up for almost half her life. What I loved about Ruby is even though she can’t see it herself she is one of the most, if not the most, selfless character in the novel. All she wants to do is protect the people she cares about and she does that in any way she can. Although I didn’t always agree with her choices I respected her for them. I cheered with her when her plans worked and cried when they fell apart.

Following these four on their journey as they tried to find East River, the Promised Land for “freaks”, and everything that happened after I laughed, screamed, had butterflies, went back to reread, and cried. There are so many elements in this novel that you have to be paying attention to keep up. No one can be trusted and nothing is ever as it seems and just when you think you have it all figured out Bracken hits you with another curve ball and you’re floored. It’s brilliant!

If you haven’t checked out The Darkest Minds yet you really need to. Meanwhile, I’m going to get started on the next book.

Favorite Line:

‘The darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces.’

Stars: 5 out of 5. No doubt about it.

Borrow or Buy: Buy!!! I’m so glad I own this book!

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Book Review: Hunger

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*This book is part of my Dystopia Book Challenge*

Synopsis from Amazon:

It’s been three months since all the adults disappeared. Gone. Food ran out weeks ago and starvation is imminent. Meanwhile, the normal teens have grown resentful of the kids with powers. And when an unthinkable tragedy occurs, chaos descends upon the town. There is no longer right and wrong. Each kid is out for himself and even the good ones turn murderous. But a larger problem looms. The Darkness, a sinister creature that has lived buried deep in the hills, begins calling to some of the teens in the FAYZ. Calling to them, guiding them, manipulating them.

The Darkness has awakened. And it is hungry.

This is the second novel in Michael Grant’s Gone series and Hunger is just as good, if not better than the first novel.

As the FAYZ continues kids start to go hungry, The Darkness looms ever closer, and there is war between the freaks and the normals brewing. Sam is beginning to crack under the pressure of being in charge and everyone’s kind of losing it. The FAYZ quickly turns dangerous and it’s every boy or girl for themselves.

Gone set the framework for the series but Hunger shows the real consequences of a world where there’s no adults and kids with superpowers. It’s not all fun and games. Of course kids left to do what they want were not planning for the future and only ate junk food and candy rather than preserving the meats and veggies. Meanwhile everyone’s looking for someone to take charge making it easy for the wrong people to gain a following.

It’s a free for all in the FAYZ and lives are taken but what’s worse than what the kids can do to each other is what The Darkness wants to do to them all. I won’t spoil it but it’s crazy how manipulative this antagonist is and what’s worse is everyone’s so busy dealing with the immediate problems n Perdido Beach no one’s really thinking about the bigger danger.

I loved this book and thought it was a great continuation. Grant is very real about this world he’s created. He doesn’t sugar coat things which makes for a very dark novel. However he also provides us with some comic relief and of course the romance between Astrid and Sam is very cute.

This book was very dark and scary but definitely a good read.

Favorite Line: 

Superpowers don’t always make you a superhero.

Stars: 5 out of 5. I’m obsessed with this series right now.

Borrow or Buy: Buy! This book gets really intense and crazy. You’ll definitely want to reread.

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Book Review: Frozen

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To avoid confusion this is not a book that the Disney movie, Frozen, was based on. This Frozen is the first book in the new Heart of Dread series by authors Melissa de la Cruz (author of the Blue Bloods and Witches of East End series) and Michael Johnston.

Based in a post apocalyptic world, where Earth is now a frozen wasteland, the novel focuses on Nat, a marked girl who has powers she can’t control. The marked are people, or magical creatures really, that humans fear. Similar to the way in which some people still believe they can “catch” cancer or HIV/AIDS in this dystopia people fear the marked not only for their powers but also because they’re scared they can get the “illness” as well. Therefore the marked are persecuted, either being imprisoned or killed on site.

This is just one of the many things wrong with this futuristic society included but certainly not limited to corrupt government, slavers (involved in a lot of black market trading of people), a large disparity between the rich and poor, amongst many other things.

Hence, why Nat wants to escape to what many call the Blue, a far away place that is rumored to be a paradise where the sun still shines and animals still exist. This leads Nat on an adventure along with a boy named, Wes, and his crew to find the Blue.

I thought this book was great. Though this book has a similar to theme to many books coming out recently it’s also a stand out for many reasons. First, this novel is told in third person narration, thereby giving us insight to both Wes and Nat’s perspective which I found to be interesting. Second, this book adds an air of mystery and fairy tale quality to this otherwise very dystopian novel which I definitely haven’t seen in any of the other dystopian novels I’ve read recently (and I’ve read a lot).

Also, I’m usually weary of books that are written by two authors because sometimes you can tell who’s writing what and the change in the style of the novel can get really annoying, early on. However, this novel ran very smoothly, and I felt like I was only reading one author’s writing, not two.

I’m excited to see where Cruz and Johnston will go with this series. Frozen was filled with action, mystery, and a little bit of romance. Though I’m not completely obsessed with this book/series just yet I think this first book built a good foundation for this series to get even better.

Stars: 4 out of 5

Borrow or Buy: Borrow. I thought this book was good but not one that I’d read over and over again. Better to get it from the library and spend the money on that book you’ve had on your wish list for months instead.