Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Debut Author Q&A: MARY WEBER

release date August 19, 2014

"I raise my chin as the buyers stare. Yes. Look. You don't want me. Because, eventually, accidentally, I will destroy you." 
In a world at war, a slave girl's lethal curse could become one kingdom's weapon of salvation. If the curse - and the girl - can be controlled.
As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn't merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth - meaning, she shouldn't even exist.
Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.
Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she's being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.
But what if she doesn't want to be the weapon they've all been waiting for? 
Set in a beautifully eclectic world of suspicion, super abilities, and monsters, Storm Siren is a story of power. And whoever controls that power will win.

JAY ASHER: I have to ask this because it’s been bugging me ever since I read your book. Your story and characters are great, and your writing is so beautiful without ever distracting from the story. Do you ever look at other authors and feel a little bit greedy?

MARY WEBER: *laughs* Aw, thanks for the compliment! And no, but there are about a HUNDRED authors I seriously ENVY. Including this one guy who wrote a series of books about an impetuous boy and his very dangerous tiger...

Maybe you’ve heard of him?

JAY: I love Watterson! I mean, he's no Schulz, but we'll get to that later.

So, how did you get into writing YA? Because I have a theory, if you’d like to hear it.

MARY: Does your theory have anything to do with zombie unicorns? Because if it does that’s amazing.

Also - true story: I was at my first writers’ conference four years ago sitting behind this row of authors, when one of them got jealous of me complimenting his friend’s beautiful hair and proceeded to demand I compliment his as well. Turns out this guy was apparently famous for a YA book called 15 Reasons Why or something. Anyhow, he and I became cool friends. Fast-forward a few years later and I was approached by a HarperCollins publisher with the prospect of writing a YA book. When I told my 15 Reasons Why friend, he grinned as if he’d suspected I’d eventually go this direction all along!

(But seriously – does your theory involve zombies?)

JAY: Zombies? No. But I do remember the awkwardness of you two ladies fawning over each other's hair while, simultaneously, about a dozen of mine were falling out. Anyway, I'm cool with it now!

When I met you, you were writing a paranormal adult novel. You invited me to speak at the monthly gathering of a local writing group, where every month they have a different speaker. I used to belong to that group and have since rejoined, and my talk was the least attended of any I’ve seen. My theory is that you don’t like speaking in front of large groups, so you saw the attendance for my talk and thought, “I need to write YA!”

MARY: Okay, ignore my answer to your previous question because, yes, this is exactly how it happened. Except I wasn’t thinking “I need to write YA.” I was thinking “I wonder if that guy got to have free coffee because he’s a guest speaker? Can I get free coffee? Do all guest speakers get free coffee?”

JAY: It's one of the perks.

MARY: By the way, how did YOU get into writing YA? Inquiring minds here…

JAY: I was at a writing conference, too, but trying to write middle-grade. I noticed that a lot of YA authors were losing their hair, just like me, so it made sense to join them. No, that's not true. But I really was writing middle-grade, with no thought of writing YA. One day, the premise of Thirteen Reasons Why just came out of thin hair.

I mean, thin air.

Anyway... Speaking of men and hair, you call your husband Wolverine. I know that’s because he does look like the superhero, which I think is so cute! But I’ve always wondered if at some point you actually just forgot his name (I can tell you if you need to know).

MARY: Okay, I totally just told him you said that. His response was, “What?! Jay said I’m CUTE??!!!”

Yes, yes, he is. (*shameless photo plug*)

And I’ll let you in on a secret. Wolverine is actually a cover name for his REAL secret identity, WONDER JACK FLASH. Who, ahem, MAY have been known to dress up in spandex and a cape all throughout high school. You know – showing up at opportune times to set students free. Such as during Assembly. Or graduation. And yes, it was totally upon the discovery of this that I promptly married him.

JAY: Okay, now that's cute!

Is there a certain element of storytelling that is the most fun for you?

MARY: Definitely creating the characters. And I’m not saying it’s because those characters are based on any specific people I know, but...if Adora’s dead squirrel rings as slightly familiar to anyone…

And now I’m curious – what’s YOUR favorite part of storytelling?

JAY: Brainstorming. Any element is fun to brainstorm. I could think about plot twists and foreshadowing for days and days. And then I realize...reality check!...now I have to write it.

Speaking of writing! Your initials, if you repeat them, remind me of the squiggle on Charlie Brown’s shirt: MWMWMWMW And as I hinted before, I love Charles Schulz and PEANUTS! So that makes me kind of jealous. What do my repeated initials remind you of? JAJAJAJA

MARY: Definitely the sound onions make when they’re frying in a pan. Why?

JAY: They do not! Take that back!!!

MARY: ...

JAY: Your family-of-origin built a ghosttown. Literally, they took abandoned buildings from all over and relocated them into a brand new deserted town. That’s awesome! But it’s also weird, right? (But a totally awesome kind of weird.) And now for my actual question, which I’m sure has nothing to do with what I just said. Do you have any idea at all where your extreme creativity comes from?

MARY: *laughs* That place is creepy and cool, right?! We totally do weddings out there. We do funerals too…which is kinda weird when I think about it.

Anyhooooo. My creativity comes from my family. As do any disturbing traits.

JAY: George Lucas claims Star Wars, which is science-fiction, was heavily influenced by a different genre: westerns. Your book is fantasy, but I could also feel an influence of the best parts of westerns. Is that accurate?

MARY: Wait, how did you guess? Okay, so I’ve never told anyone this, but here’s the thing - Storm Siren’s original cover totally had a shirtless Fabio on it carrying a pair of six-shooters. Sadly, due to copyright issues we had to change it. However, if you look real close you can see that my main girl Nym on the front is actually still Fabio – just turned around.

JAY: (Dang it! I totally scrolled back up to check.)

MARY: But since you mentioned it…has anyone ever commented on the similarities between The Future of Us and the movie Sharknado? Just wondering…

JAY: No, no one's ever said that before. Usually, they say it's similar to Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo (which is a huge compliment). Another thing that tipped me off to a possible western influence is that STORM SIREN MARY WEBER is an anagram of MAYBE MIRROR WESTERNS.

MARY: It’s also an anagram of WINTERBERRY SMORES, MA. Which sounds like a western girl asking her mom for an awesome dessert, so win-win!!

JAY: Since this is your debut book, what has been the most exciting part of this journey so far (other than this interview)?

MARY: Well…after 87 rejections for that paranormal adult novel, I think the most exciting part has been each of the moments when I realized the “yeses” for this YA book were ACTUALLY HAPPENING. Along with that, my favorite bits have simply been celebrating this journey with my husband and kids and an amazing community of friends and other writers whom I could not have done this without. Thank you for being a part of that community, Jay!

JAY: And thank you for agreeing to this interview, Mary. If you want, I have connections with a local writing group that meets every month. It’d be great if you came to speak!

MARY: Okay, but do they serve free coffee?

JAY: Now that you're published, it's one of the perks.

MARY: And I’m serious, Jay - thank you. Especially for inspiring the world through your fabulous books and great humor, and for yours and JoanMarie’s kindness and amazing encouragement through the years. You guys are INCREDIBLE!!!!

by Mary Weber
is available…

Wednesday, August 06, 2014


Today's post mashes two conferences together. One has been my annual home conference, attending every one since 2000, and the other is becoming my second-home conference, attending every one since...last year.

This year, the Romance Writers of America (RWA) held their annual conference in San Antonio, Texas. Remember the Alamo? It's in San Antonio. But you're supposed to say it like this:

Remember the Alamo!

I spoke at RWA's Day of YA, giving a speech called Back to School, where I described why I love school visits so much (even though I still get stagefright and am shy), and hopefully encouraged other authors to enjoy them just as much.

When you attend the Day of YA, you're given a pink flower to wear throughout the rest of the conference so YA authors can identify each other amongst the thousands of boring authors (I mean, authors who write for adults).

It was my first time meeting fellow YA author, Simone Elkeles, but I hope she becomes one of the authors I regularly run into. She's hilarious! (And smart and generous and a bunch of other good qualities, but if you make me laugh a lot, you're added to My List.)

An author I've grown fond of on Facebook and couldn't wait to meet in person is Wendy Corsi Staub. It's kind of awesome (in a really awesome way) when an author you admire is a fan of your work. Only after praising each other online post-conference did we learn that we've both worked with Kristen Pettit (she edited Thirteen Reasons Why). So we're basically fans and family!

I had lunch with author Jennifer Snow, who has several books in a genre that gets its own table at bookstores the last couple months of every year, and which I've devoured more than my fair share: Christmas romances. I was first introduced to Jennifer after reading an article she wrote (and later signed for me) called Writing Holiday Romances.

And yes, she realizes how fun it is that her last name is Snow.

As I do in most big cities, I took a ghost tour. This pic was taken right outside the Alamo (remember that?). Here, the guide is teaching us how to use divining rods, which he then passed out to all of us so we could use them on our walk. I won't tell you what my divining rods did, but the scene may wind up in a future book.

Like last year, the most inspiring time at RWA was during the awards ceremony. I sat at a table seating the most YA Golden Heart finalists, including the eventual winner, McCall Hoyle. Here's a pic of all the finalists in attendance taken prior to the ceremony (where they dressed even fancier!).

Vanessa BarneveldBarbara GerryMcCall Hoyle

I was lucky enough to get a pre-publication signed copy of Amy's debut novel (a New Adult book written as Amy Patrick), Channel 20 Something!

Less than a week later, I was in Los Angeles for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) conference. Each year, faculty members introduce themselves by name, and then give one word. My word this year: #selfie. And then I took a selfie, having no idea it would be retweeted over 1,800 times. If I'd known that, I wouldn't have offered a nostril shot!

Here's a video of me taking that shot.

Several months ago, author Stephen Chbosky asked if I'd like to co-lead a workshop with him. Stephen has become a friend over the past couple of years, and we both love each other's work, but I was nervous as we approached our event. What if we didn't blend well in front of an audience?

Well, as one writer tweeted:

One of many inspiring events at the SCBWI conference is the portfolio showcase. It's always a well attended event, giving us a chance to check out the illustrations of other attendees.

The theme for this year's afterhours party was Old Italy. So a month before the conference, off to the costume shop I went! And Ruta Sepetys was kind enough to pose with me.

Here's a family pic, of sorts. Romina Russell and I are bookending our mutual agent, Laura Rennert, and our mutual Penguin sales & marketing team, Shanta Newlin, Emily Romero, and Felicia Frazier.

The reason for the Old Italy theme was the celebration of Tomie dePaola's 80th birthday. Unfortunately, he couldn't make the conference in person. So he Skyped in, where he was just as funny and charming as he is in the flesh.

I was fortunate enough to have my conference align with a break in Joel Johnstone's acting schedule. The last time we met up was in New York City when Joel recorded the voice of Clay Jensen for the Thirteen Reasons Why audiobook. He did an amazing job with that role, and is a great guy with some exciting upcoming projects!

Monday night, there's always a faculty party where we stuff our faces, mingle, and check out photos taken throughout the conference. Scanning the pages of pics taken when each person introduced themselves and delivered their one word, I was (sadly) instantly recognizable.

That's what I get for taking a selfie!

That party was also my chance to thank Lin Oliver for another wonderful conference, and to chat with Judy Blume. At three-and-a-half years old, my son is too young to realize the remarkable coolness in Ms. Blume's first words to me: "How's Isaiah?"

With all the coolness of the RWA and SCBWI conferences, my most exciting time came during an L.A. breakfast when a friend and I had a business meeting. Want more details? Are ya sure? Then cross your fingers, people!!!