Putting the YA in FRIYAY: Penguin Teen Screen with Katharine McGee

If you’re looking for a fun thing to do tonight, join us and our friends at the Revue Cinema in a tweet-a-long! We’ll be watching the classic Amanda Bynes film, What a Girl Wants. Featuring a world where Colin Firth is an English lord running for Prime Minister and Amanda Bynes is his estranged daughter who grew up in the US, What a Girl Wants is an ideal teen movie – and it pairs perfectly with Katharine McGee’s American Royals.

We’re pleased to bring you a Q&A with Katharine ahead of the screening – keep reading for her thoughts on how Canada would fit into her reimagined world and who would play the conniving Daphne in a movie adaptation. And don’t forget to tune in tonight at 7pm EST – we’ll be tweeting too!

Given this is a film screening series, imagine American Royals is a film and give us your elevator pitch.
American Royals is Gossip Girl meets The Crown! It’s a fun, escapist story of romance, drama, family tensions and forbidden love set in a world where America has a royal family.

The seed of the idea behind the book comes from a real historical moment: American revolutionaries offering General George Washington the crown (which he refused). How much real American (and British) history went into the book? Is there a Canada in this alternate reality?
The worldbuilding was definitely one of my favorite parts of writing American Royals. I’m such a history nerd, I could have spent years teasing out all the what-ifs! I tried to acknowledge the real historical timeline whenever I could, such as mentioning that the British burned part of Washington Palace during the War of 1812 (in the real War of 1812, they burned the White House!).

I had such fun plans for Canada, but didn’t have space to get into them in the book. One of my favorite moments of British history has always been the Jacobite Rebellion—I have a soft spot for displaced royals trying to reclaim their thrones (I rooted for Daenerys throughout Game of Thrones!). In American Royals, I had hoped to rewrite history and send Bonnie Prince Charlie to Canada, making modern Canada an independent monarchy ruled by the descendants of the Stuarts. I pictured a brooding Stuart prince as one of Beatrice’s suitors at the Queen’s Ball!

The relationship between Princess Beatrice and her father is one the most engaging in the book. What drew you to this father-daughter dynamic?
One of the strangest parts of being the future king or queen is surely the fact that you spend your life training for a job you’ll only take on when your parent dies. It builds an extremely unusual conflict into the parent-child dynamic! I loved exploring this tension through Beatrice and the king. He is a dad talking to his oldest daughter, but at the same time a monarch addressing his second-in-command. And even though Beatrice adores her father, and would never want anything bad to happen to him, she will also never be fully empowered until he’s gone.

Daphne is ostensibly a villain, but her motives are entirely understandable and complex. What was it like writing Daphne?
This may surprise you, but Daphne is the easiest character to write! Every time I reach a new scene, I have to ask myself what my character wants and what she’s willing to do to get it. That can get muddled with some of the other characters—Samantha is often her own greatest obstacle, and Nina struggles to figure out what she wants—but with Daphne it’s inevitably so clear. What does she want? Prince Jefferson. What is she willing to do to win him? Anything.

The book was written before there were actual royals living in America. How does the context of the book change now that there is an American Royal, Meghan Markle?
I actually started working on this concept back in 2012, before Harry and Meghan were dating! I always knew that there would be an “everygirl” character who fell into a romance with the prince. More recently, when I started the first draft, I found myself working parts of Harry and Meghan’s relationship into the pages: particularly since Nina, like Meghan, is a person of color. The criticism that Nina faces from the media echoes many of the headlines about Harry and Meghan.

Americans have been fascinated by all the trappings of monarchy, the palaces and tiaras and big ceremonial occasions, because we don’t have any of our own. But I do think that Harry and Meghan have sparked a renewed flood of American interest in the royal family. Now that we have a duchess living on the west coast, the concept of my book doesn’t feel quite as far-fetched as it once did.

If you had to cast a film of American Royals, who would be your dream Beatrice, Samantha, and Jefferson?
This is such a hard question! I don’t know who I would cast as the royal siblings, but I could see Madelaine Petsch (Cheryl from Riverdale!) as Daphne—I think she’d capture both her ruthlessness and her surprising vulnerability. Also, I frequently have readers reach out asking if I can cast one of the Hemsworth brothers as Connor!

Without giving too much away, what can readers expect to see in the sequel, coming this fall?
Majesty has more of everything! More drama, more romance, more secrets coming to light. You’ll also see some fun new corners of the American Royals world.

When is the last time you saw What a Girl Wants? How do you think it connects to American Royals?
I love What a Girl Wants! I’ll watch anything with Colin Firth (he’ll always be Mr. Darcy in my mind… sorry Matthew Macfadyen). Like American Royals, What a Girl Wants follows a young woman struggling to figure out who she is, despite what the world expects of her. It’s got romance, family drama, and social commentary, set in a world of ballrooms, titles, and glittering tiaras.

***

American Royals
By Katharine McGee
448 Pages | Ages 14+
ISBN 9781984830173 | Random House BFYR

When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne. Like most royal families, the Washingtons have an heir and a spare. A future monarch and a backup battery. Each child knows exactly what is expected of them. But these aren’t just any royals. They’re American.

Two princesses vying for the ultimate crown. Two girls vying for the prince’s heart. This is the story of the American royals.

KATHARINE MCGEE: website | instagram | twitter

Can’t make it tonight? Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of chances to catch up with the Penguin Teen Canada team and talk YA books – check out our full schedule of #PenguinTeenSocial events coming up this month!

Fight Like a Girl: Q&A with Cover Artist Lauren Tamaki

Looking for a mid-week pick-me-up? Look no further: we have a new Q&A with artist Lauren Tamaki. She’s the genius behind the striking cover for Sheena Kamal‘s upcoming YA debut, Fight Like a Girl. Read on to see just how many sketches Lauren went through before she landed on this final image.

Did you read Fight Like a Girl before starting on the cover? If so, what about it stuck out to you the most?

I read the whole thing, front to back! I was struck by the ferocity of the main character: she’s angry, she swears, she fully realized. Her Trinidadian-Canadian identity is front and center and although we come from different backgrounds, I could relate to feeling of being in-between worlds and not knowing your place. The author explored the vagaries of being a 16 year old girl with gusto and the emotion was further heightened by the crazy fight sequences!

What emotions did you want to capture on the cover?

When John Martz, my wonderful art director, first briefed me on the project, we talked about dynamic image of a girl throwing a punch or a kick. The book is woven around the main character’s love for Muay Thai. I tried a few versions of that, and while they were active, sweaty and impactful, none of them had the confrontational nature that the character possessed. I tried a couple drawings that had direct eye contact but I didn’t want to create an explicit portrait of her face (someone told me a long time ago not to do that on book covers). I came to a nice solution that showcased the character’s searing stare and physicality with a bit of vulnerability tossed in.

How did you choose the colour scheme?

I knew the colour had to be hot and intense. The story is about love and violence, so I had no choice! I ended up using black ink washes coloured digitally (so it was still transparent in areas). I put a purple bruise colour under the red so it felt just a bit… achey.

Were you given any guidance from the author/editor?

The original vision for the cover was of a simple figure in an expressive illustrated style. I watched a ton of Muay Thai on YouTube to get an idea of what I was dealing with. This particular martial art is very calculated for all the fury it brings. We ended up gravitating away from that original thought, but drawing all those figures was extremely helpful.

How many drafts/designs did you go through before it was “finished”?

So so many…. I sent through 8 pencil sketches for the first review, mostly of the expressive figure in action. We toyed with a couple directions for a while but went with a more centralized view of a girl staring down the viewer while ‘on the ropes’. Once we decided on that path, I tried about 9 colour/tone tests, but nothing seemed right. I stripped it back to simple black line work and a flood of colour, which was the right treatment because it was bold and direct.

As per usual, I nit-picked right up to the delivery date: I noticed I hadn’t addressed the hand wrapping *exactly* as it should be so I went back in and fixed that. Research is so important!

Have you worked on other book covers before or do you have any coming up?

I’ve done a handful of book covers and this is definitely one of my favourites! My first book cover was with Penguin UK (Paradise Lodge by Nina Stibbe) and I had a great experience working with them: they let me go wild with the illustration and design of the entire wrap. I’m working on a book right now that will require a cover at some point… I think it’ll probably be the last thing I tackle!

How is designing a cover different from other illustration projects you’ve worked on?

I’ve heard designers and illustrators bemoan how book covers are difficult because of the variety of opinions required to pass muster. I’ve had wildly different experiences – mostly positive. The most joyous work occurs when you have trust and rapport with your AD. The worst experiences are when there are too many cooks in the kitchen, there is a lack of clarity and no respect for your time. Any illustration work (editorial, advertising, etc) can fall on either side.

What are some recent book covers you admire?

Designer Na Kim creates the most stunning book covers. The way she mixes illustration, photography, type… so wonderful! Her covers have incredible variety but are all blessed with her magic touch. Her image for Girl by Edna O’ Brian (featuring a gorgeous drawing by Chioma Ebinama) stopped me in my tracks.


Fight Like a Girl will be released on March 10, 2020. In the meantime, make sure you’re following Lauren and author Sheena Kamal on social media!

SHEENA KAMAL: website | instagram
LAUREN TAMAKI: website | instagram 

Putting the YA in FRIYAY: The Beauty of the Moment Cover Reveal

New year, new us! Or, at least, a new look for Tanaz Bhathena‘s sweet contemporary YA, The Beauty of the Moment. Check out the adorable cover below plus TWO Q&As: one with Tanaz and one with the cover artist/designer, Emma Dolan!

Q&A with Tanaz Bhathena

How was the process for this paperback cover different than it was for the hardcover cover?

The thought process was different. The hardcover focuses on Susan’s dreams of being an artist and the illustrations are right out of her sketchbook. The paperback focuses on both Susan and Malcolm and their romance. Both embody different aspects of the book that I love.

What do you think of the new cover?

I get hit by a serious case of nostalgia whenever I see this cover; it takes me back to my own high school days. The colour palette reminds me of a Mississauga sunset and both Susan and Malcolm appear exactly the way I imagined them!

What is your favourite scene in The Beauty of the Moment?

Susan and Malcolm’s scene at Square One Shopping Centre (which is an homage to my BFFs) and Malcolm’s scene with his uncle Mancher, which is humorous and full of good advice. 

What kind of feedback have you received about The Beauty of the Moment since it came out?

My favourite feedback for this book comes from teen readers because it was specifically written with them in mind. The best moment was during a teen girl book club (The Room Of Your Own in Toronto), when a reader said that Susan’s interactions with her mom helped her understand her own mother better. 

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the sequel to Hunted by the Sky, my fantasy novel set in a medieval India-inspired world. The first book releases on June 23 2020, the sequel sometime in 2021. 

What are your most anticipated releases of 2020? 

The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes by Suzanne Collins, Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith,This Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi, and Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust.

What was your favourite read of 2019?

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay. 


Q&A with Emma Dolan

Did you read The Beauty of the Moment before starting on the cover?

I unfortunately wasn’t able to read it before starting the cover. As book designers we try to read the books as often as we can, but this was a tight turnaround so I relied on discussions with the editors, Lynne and Peter, to fill me in!

Were you given any guidance from the author/editor?

Yes, absolutely! My first step was to sit down with the editor to discuss the direction they wanted to take the cover. This book already had a beautifully illustrated hardcover, so it was important to get a sense of everyone’s goals for the new design, what we wanted to do differently, and why.

How did you choose the cover direction? What emotions/what kind of atmosphere were you trying to capture?

During my discussions with the editor, we narrowed down a loose concept and look for the illustration. Everyone felt it was very important to have the central character, Susan, on the cover, as well as to convey that it’s a love story. It can be tricky to depict characters on a cover that only exist in writing. The descriptions might be there on the page, but how that translates in the readers’ imaginations can vary significantly. Luckily, Tanaz was very helpful! She provided detailed descriptions of both characters, as well as the dynamic between them. Lastly, the book is set in Mississauga, and I wanted to give a little nod to that in some way. I based the colour palette on the beautiful sunsets we have here in Toronto and the GTA.

How did you create the cover?

I used a combination of Illustrator and Photoshop to create the illustration, and the final design was laid out in InDesign.

How many drafts/designs did you go through before it was “finished”?

This cover was somewhat unusual in that, apart from a few minimal colour and font revisions, the final cover is very close to the first draft I sent to editorial.

What are some other book covers you’ve worked on? Do you have any coming up?

I’m fairly new to PRHC, so all the covers I’ve worked on have yet to be released – or even printed! I believe the first book I will hold in my hands is a poetry collection by Nancy Lee. It’s always very exciting to finally get to see the finished book!

If you missed picking up The Beauty of the Moment when it came out in hardcover, you can grab the adorable new paperback when it comes out on June 23, 2020!

Make sure to follow Tanaz and Emma on social media as well.

TANAZ BHATHENA: website | instagram
EMMA DOLAN: website | instagram | twitter

Putting the YA in FRIYAY: The Beauty of the Moment Blog Tour Recap + a Q&A with Tanaz Bhathena

We just finished a successful week-long blog tour in support of Tanaz Bhathena’s The Beauty of the Moment – thank you to all the bloggers who participated!

Check out their thoughts below:

Monday, April 8

Tuesday, April 9

Wednesday, April 10

Thursday, April 11

Friday, April 12

  • Zuhra @ Venus Reads said it was a story that will linger in your mind even after you finish
  • Lisa @ Remarkablylisa recommended it to anyone who likes a little angst in their lives (in a good way)
  • Jamie @ Books and Ladders really connected to their internal and external conflicts
  • Herminia @ Aspiring Writer appreciated the way it ended
  • Delina @ Delina the Reader presented us with a playlist based on the book

Thanks for following along!

As a bonus, here’s a short Q&A with Tanaz herself:

Recommend a book for Susan and Malcolm. 

Susan: The entire Amar Chitra Katha series of graphic novels

Malcolm: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson (It might have to be an audiobook though; he’s not keen on reading)

What advice would you give your 16 year old self?

Have more faith in your dreams.

What is the best piece of writing advice you have ever received?

Butt in seat. The story won’t tell itself.

What are you reading now?

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

What books do you recommend for fans of The Beauty of the Moment?

The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon, 2 States by Chetan Bhagat, and You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

5 Random Facts About Tanaz Bhathena:

  1. I decided to become a writer because I failed as a cartoonist.
  2. While visiting a foreign country, I always try to learn some of the language.
  3. I cry every time I watch The Lion King. During one particular scene.
  4. Once I figured out the fine art of using a bobby pin, I began doing my own nail art. (I’m not very good; see fact 1.)
  5. I’ve bungee jumped, zip lined and walked the edge of the CN Tower.

Mystery Monday with Curtis Parkinson

McNally Robinson Booksellers invited Curtis Parkinson for their Mystery Monday event. Curtis read two passages from his newest young adult novel, The Castle on Deadman’s Island.

If you weren’t able to make it to the event, Curtis did sign copies of The Castle on Deadman’s Island and Death in Kingsport that will be available at McNally Robinson on a first come, first serve basis. Thank you to the wonderful team at McNally Robinson for all their hard work and help!

Don’t forget to read Curtis Parkinson’s interview about The Castle on Deadman’s Island in The Kingston Whig Standard. In the interview, Curtis explains how Boldt Castle inspired this mystery novel.

Curtis Parkinson will be participating at this year’s Eden Mills Writers Festival on Sunday, September 20, 2009. He will also be touring Saskatchewan for the TD Canadian Children’s Book Week during Saturday, November 14 to Saturday, November 21, 2009.

There was a great number of people who came to hear Curtis Parkinson read. The audience asked him lots of questions, had their books signed, and had their pictures taken. Short video clips of the reading are posted on our youtube channel.