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Author Archives: Nicole McInnes

My Favorite Indie in Flagstaff, AZ

With the official day of giving thanks just around the corner, it makes sense that we’re focusing on our favorite indie bookstores this month here at the Class of 2K13 blog. And my choice of indies to highlight also makes sense, considering the fact that I was in the store just today doing one of the things I love to do there (more about that later).

The bookstore I’m talking about is Bookman’s (aka Bookman’s Entertainment Exchange). It’s well-known to Arizonans, as there are several locations throughout our fair state, but the Flagstaff location is, hands down, my favorite. This is the store where R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe walked up to me in the nineties (stop me if you’ve heard this one before – most people who know me have) and asked if I thought they had any of Robert Graves’ poetry. As I recall, I led this friendly stranger over to the poetry section (which I knew well) and showed him where to look. He thanked me, life went on, and it wasn’t until later that night that I was like, “Wait a minute. Was that…?” Sure enough, over the next few days, our little mountain town was abuzz with news of our celebrity visitor.

That's me, chillin' in the Bookman's cafe

That’s me, chillin’ in the Bookman’s cafe

Several winters ago, during an incredibly intense blizzard, the roof of Bookman’s caved in, which meant we all had to do without the store for way too long while they rebuilt. It eventually came back better than ever, though, this time with a full café and an even more awesome collection of stuff than they’d had before. Which brings me to today, when I was in Bookman’s trading some of that stuff. One of the neatest things about my favorite indie is that it’s an exchange – sort of like a trading post, really. In other words, you can bring in your “stuff” (in my case, everything ranging from books to some nice quality costume jewelry to a kid’s microscope) and they will give you cash or trade credit. The credit is always a better deal, in my opinion, which is how I came away with some nice pre-holiday loot to spend on whatever coolness I find there in my upcoming visits. They also host readings, signings and, this month, NaNoWriMo write-ins for the local community.

Bottom line: If you’re ever in Northern Arizona visiting the Grand Canyon or whatever, be sure to make a stop at Bookman’s Entertainment Exchange on Milton. You won’t be disappointed!

Stuff I’ve learned from a debut year

I loved reading Tara Sullivan’s post earlier this week about the top three things she’s learned in 2K13. Now that my book has been out in the world for a few months, I’ve had some time to reflect on debut authorhood and offer my own list:

I’ve learned to be part of a writing tribe: I’ve said it before on this blog and on my own, and I’ll say it again. Hands down, one of the most important decisions I made shortly after BRIANNA ON THE BRINK sold was to become part of a group of debut authors. For about a year now, the members of The Class of 2K13 have supported each other, shared our experiences and worked with each other to put together an awesome panel at this year’s ALA Convention in Chicago. Even for those of us who love our alone time, writing is a solitary enough pursuit without the added burden of traveling the path of publication alone. Wherever you might find yourself on that path, the encouragement, comradery and information you can gain from other writers who are skipping/trudging/sprinting/plodding along with you is invaluable.

I’ve learned to set the words free: Letting go of a book you’ve worked on for a significant chunk of time can be tough. What if nobody likes it? What if the world discovers you were a hack all along? I recently spoke on a panel in Las Vegas, where I likened the publication of a book to the birth of a baby. At some point, you realize not everyone is going to think your darling is as adorably perfect as you do. Whether it’s a draft you need to send to your beta readers or a debut novel on release day, a great way to salvage your sanity is to detach from the work as much as possible. After all, the whole point of being a published writer is to have other people read your work. It’s a great feeling when they do, but accepting the fact that different readers are going to have different opinions is part of the package.

I’ve learned to explore space: I recently signed the lease on a downtown office, and it was one of the best things I’ve done for my writing so far this year. BRIANNA ON THE BRINK and my newest manuscript were both written from my rural home, but having a dedicated space where I can write without domestic distractions (kids, animals, floors in need of scrubbing, refrigerator contents in need of being stared at, etc.) is a boon to my creativity and productivity. If money is an issue (and, really, when is it not?), get creative. Maybe you can go in on a space with another writer or artist. I found some great potential situations on Craigslist, through word of mouth and just by wandering around downtown and checking out “for lease” signs in various windows.

So, that’s my list now that 2K13 is more than half over. What are some of the things you’ve learned as a writer (published or not yet) this year?

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How to support your favorite debut authors

Have you read some great debut YA or MG books this year and want to share the love with friends, family, followers and the authors themselves? Here are some ideas for how to do just that:

Buy their books. Okay, this one may seem like a no-brainer, but in this day of free ARCs and e-book sharing it’s important to remember that most authors need to be able to pay their bills in order to write.

Talk them up. Are you a social media maven, or even just starting to check out Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Goodreads, etc? Why not share the love of your favorite new books by telling friends and followers how much you enjoyed that debut standalone or that first book in a series? Many people I know (myself included) file enthusiastic recommendations in the To-Be-Read section of our brains. Social media is a great way to have conversations about books we love.

Check them out. Are you a library patron? Check your local library database to be sure your favorite books can be found there. If not, suggest that the library order some copies. Librarians do listen to their patrons, and as well-read as most librarians are, they might not have heard of every new author out there.

Stock the shelves. The next time you’re in your favorite bookstore, check the shelves to make sure your favorite new authors’ books are there. If not, ask the store to order a few copies. Shelf space is often an issue, but stores listen to their customers, too – especially when positive recommendations are given.

What’s your favorite way to support the new authors and books you love?

Celebrating the release of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE: An interview with Kate Karyus Quinn!

Yesterday, June 11, was release day for ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE by Kate Karyus Quinn. I was so excited to interview Kate recently about her awesome book. Here’s what it’s about:

The spine-tingling horror of Stephen King meets an eerie mystery worthy of Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars series.

On a cool autumn night, Annaliese Rose Gordon stumbled out of the woods and into a high school party. She was screaming. Drenched in blood. Then she vanished.

A year later, Annaliese is found wandering down a road hundreds of miles away. She doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know how she got there. She only knows one thing: She is not the real Annaliese Rose Gordon.

Now Annaliese is haunted by strange visions and broken memories. Memories of a reckless, desperate wish . . . a bloody razor . . . and the faces of other girls who disappeared. Piece by piece, Annaliese’s fractured memories come together to reveal a violent, endless cycle that she will never escape—unless she can unlock the twisted secrets of her past.

Another Little Piece

Nicole McInnes: I really enjoyed ALP. It’s like nothing else I’ve ever read, and I’m so excited for the book to be officially out there in the world. So, what are your plans for release day?

Kate Karyus Quinn: My launch party is on my release day, so I plan to be running around like a chicken with its head cut off. So, yeah, really not that different from my average Tuesday. (Nicole’s note: be sure to check with Kate’s blog, Twitter feed, etc. to get an idea of how release day went!)

NM: ALP is one of those books that resists being placed into a clear-cut category. What’s your favorite way to describe it for readers who don’t know what to expect?

KKQ: Yes, it definitely straddles several different categories, and one of the reasons I love writing YA is that we have the ability to do that. I called ALP a paranormal mystery when I was sending out query letters. HarperTeen has categorized it as literary horror. Honestly, I think it is all those things – and there is a little romance in there too!

NM: Your main character, Annaliese, is so intense and multi-faceted (for reasons which become clear throughout the story). Of all of her personality traits, can you name a few you most admire?

KKQ: I think what I most admire about Annaliese is her courage in trying to find out what has happened to her, even as the truth leads her to darker and darker places. I also love how she comes to love the people in Annaliese’s life and how that makes her a stronger better person.

NM: How did you keep track of the multiple points of view that sometimes weren’t as multiple as they seemed?

KKQ: Well I am terrible with naming characters and then coming back to them fifty pages later and calling the same character by a different name. So mostly I try to keep track by going back to what I’ve already written and trying to remember not to contradict myself.

NM: With which of your characters could you most closely relate, and why?

KKQ: Probably the mom. She is an incredibly anxious person, who worries a lot and I definitely have quite a bit of that in myself as well.

NM: Did you draw on your own high school experiences when it came to writing about some of the everyday unpleasantness of high school life?KKQ: Yes. I was a lot like Annaliese, in that I was a quiet and shy girl who tended to crush on boys from afar. I was so concerned that the objects of my crushes might ever get a hint of how I felt that kept a good distance between myself and them, and would have been completely mortified if one of them had ever really talked with me.

NM: Which scene in the book was your favorite scene to write, and why?

KKQ: The final scene was my favorite. Usually I am a pretty slow writer, but the last twenty pages just flowed out of me and just felt so very right. It wasn’t the ending that I thought it was going to be when I started the book, even halfway through I didn’t know how it was going to end. It is embarrassing to admit that I really wanted it to end with an awesome kick-ass fight scene. Once I admitted that this didn’t at all fit with the book I was writing, I was able to find the ending that had been right for it all along.

NM: What’s the best way for readers to find you online?

KKQ: is probably the one best place and from there you can find my blog, contact me via email, and find links to all the other places where I am online.

Nicole’s note: Here are some of those links, including places where you can order ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE:

Kate’s Twitter

Kate’s Facebook page


Order ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE at Barnes & Noble



The HarperTeen Browse Inside feature where readers can read the first 80 pages

One smart thing I did to help sell BRIANNA ON THE BRINK

This month, we’re talking about smart things we did to sell our debut books.

Of course, my agent was the one who actually sold BRIANNA ON THE BRINK, but when I look back at my own role in that process, I can see now what helped and what didn’t.

But first, a little background. Fresh out of graduate school, I was certain of my genre as a writer. That genre was literary fiction. It was what I read, and it I was what I loved. One look at a bookshelf in my house (documented here) will tell you I still do love it. Back then, though, I was determined to not just read, but to write and sell literary fiction. And I even got partway there, since the manuscript that landed me a fantastic agent was, technically, literary and written for adults.

The thing is, once that manuscript went out on submission to publishers, we kept hearing back from editors who commented on how “young adult” the voice sounded. Some wanted to know if I’d ever considered writing a YA novel. I hadn’t, but that quickly changed.

Listening to the feedback from readers who were also publishing pros was, hands down, THE smartest thing I did to contribute to the eventual sale of BRIANNA. I rewrote that first manuscript in an attempt to morph it from one genre to another. It didn’t sell, but I had dipped my toe into the YA pool, and the water was lovely. When I started drafting BRIANNA, I wrote for my new target genre (YA) and for my new age group (older teens) from day one. The eventual result was my debut novel, which was released this spring and, thankfully, has received some great reviews so far.

So, the lesson? Listen to what your readers are saying about your drafts. Pay attention when one of them begins a sentence with, “Have you ever thought about…” It might just be the thing that makes you dip your toe into a lovely new pool.

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Should kids be allowed to read whatever they want?

During our #classof2k13 Twitter chat on Tuesday night, some really interesting questions came up. One of these had to do with books that are appropriate for kids to read and who should act as gatekeepers for what they do read.

Since my contemporary young adult novel, BRIANNA ON THE BRINK, deals with the mature subject matter of unprotected sex and the very real consequences thereof, this is a topic near and dear to my writerly heart. Did I hesitate about tackling this obviously controversial subject when it came to telling Brianna’s story? Not really, and here’s why:

I can’t remember not being a reader. Not only that, but I can’t remember not being a reader who was allowed to read pretty much anything my heart desired. It wasn’t that my parents didn’t care. Quite the opposite. My mother was/is a voracious reader and former university professor who seemed to know how to open the gates for her daughter to become a lifelong reader as well. Set me loose in a library or a bookstore, and I’d be off, scouring the shelves for whatever was interesting to me at the time. Horse stories? Check. Dog stories? Check. James Herriot books that led to biographies that led to poetry that led to classics and even books that had been banned in their eras due to controversial content? You bet.

Did every book I explored as a young child and then as a teen resonate with me? Of course not. Sometimes this was because I was too young to have much in the way of a necessary frame of reference. Sometimes it was because the subject matter just didn’t interest me. But that unfettered exploration led to an understanding of what I do love to read and what does resonate with me. It led to the books that continue to enrich my life and expand my worldview beyond my own experiences and my own backyard. It’s given me common ground with people all over the world with whom I might not otherwise have found that common ground.

Obviously, I am a big fan of kids being allowed to choose what they will read. Does this mean I think young children should be turned loose in the adult section of a library or bookstore and told to go for it? Hardly. As an occasionally overly-protective parent, I am aware of the power of books, and of the fact that, sometimes, that power may be overwhelming for a young mind just starting to grasp certain concepts and realities. Thank goodness for the age recommendations found on most YA and MG books (including BRIANNA ON THE BRINK, which the inside jacket flap clearly recommends be read by those 15 and up). That said, I also have great faith in the ability of both young children and teens to seek out the books they need at different times in their lives. I was one of those kids. And now, when my kids and I are in a bookstore or a library, I watch as, time and again, they gravitate toward the stories they’re not only ready for but craving at this age, at this point in their lives.

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Today is release day for my debut contemporary young adult novel BRIANNA ON THE BRINK! I am so grateful to my agent, Stacey Glick, editor Sylvie Frank and all the folks at my wonderful publisher, Holiday House, who have made this day a reality. Fly little bookbaby, fly!

BriannaBrink correct

It’s been a week of celebration around these parts, starting with the Tucson Festival of Books last weekend, where signing my first book for a reader made me feel more like a Real Live Author than just about anything on the journey so far. Here I am with the lovely lady who bought that first signed copy (because I had to get a picture, right?). Mari is also an author, as it turns out, and I hope to hear great news about her book someday soon:


Today I’m planning to continue the release-day festivities by heading to the Grand Canyon with a bunch of family members (because that’s how we celebrate big stuff here in Arizona—by visiting big holes in the ground). Cupcakes and Prosecco will also be involved.

Copies of BRIANNA ON THE BRINK have been popping up in the wild already this week, so you can likely find it at your local bookstore. If not, please consider ordering the book from them. Here are some links for purchasing your copy online, too!

Barnes & Noble (It’s also available as a Nook book!)



Amazon (It’s also available in Kindle edition!)

Also, don’t forget about the Class of 2K13 March Giveaway, which includes BRIANNA ON THE BRINK, GONE FISHING and MILA 2.0!

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What’s Not to Love?

I’m a big fan of lists. I use them for work, for shopping and for planning all the other stuff that needs to get done on a regular basis. Even my debut YA novel, BRIANNA ON THE BRINK, begins with a list. So, it’s in honor of lists (and also in honor of a certain February day of hearts and flowers and declarations of lurve to shmookums everywhere) that I offer the following. It’s a list of things to love, and it’s my Valentine to readers of young adult and middle grade books everywhere.

❤ Bookstores. I walked into my local bookstore yesterday, and the shelves were stocked with young adult and middle grade books, many of which weren’t there a few weeks ago. In my opinion, this is a great sign, despite the messages of gloom and doom readers and writers sometimes hear about the publishing industry. Great books are being published all the time!

❤ Social media. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinerest, etc. readers can connect with their favorite authors more easily than ever. Judy Blume may as well have lived on the moon when I was a kid. I could read her books, but there was no way I was ever going to hear her take on random daily events. Now she’s in my Twitter feed! The same goes for other superstar authors who once probably seemed inaccessible to readers even when they didn’t wish to seem so.

❤ Book blogs. Not only are fans of MG and YA reading (by all accounts) more than ever, but readers who are also bloggers are getting the word out about what they’ve read. Online conversations abound—not just about books that are currently hot or the next big thing, but about books that have been around for years, decades…even centuries!

❤ Libraries. I’ve read quite a bit about the demise of the sacred space known as the public library over the past few years, predictions about the certain demise of libraries due to lack of funding  or the fact that “ebooks are going to take over, and real books are going to disappear!” Well, you know what? I paid a visit to my local library the other day to check out a book and peruse the ongoing sale of discards and donations. The place was PACKED – especially the youth section, where teens were doing homework, parents and toddlers were waiting for storytime and people were browsing the shelves or looking up titles on the computers. It was an awesome thing to witness.

❤ Your favorite reading spot. Whether it’s under a shade tree in summer or in a corner of your room where the slanted sunlight falls just right in winter or wherever, I encourage you to take a moment to think about your all-time favorite place to read. Mine is a corner of the big couch in my livingroom  with my back to the front window so the light coming in can illuminate what I’m reading. If it’s nighttime, the same spot works if I just turn on my favorite overhead lamp.

I may just head there right now, in fact, to think about my to-do list for the day.

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Comparable Titles for BRIANNA ON THE BRINK by Nicole McInnes

Last week, when checking out this pre-order page for my contemporary YA novel, BRIANNA ON THE BRINK (January, 2013), I couldn’t help but giggle at one of the suggested titles listed at the bottom of the page. Why? Because the book was called Back Into Mommy’s Tummy. Now, while BRIANNA ON THE BRINK deals with pregnancy, it’s definitely not meant for little kids (or expectant mothers, for that matter, though I’m sure it would make a great read for anyone awaiting a due date). Anyway, I digress.

In choosing my own list of comparable titles, a few sprang to mind immediately. First of all, there’s Sara Zarr’s wonderful STORY OF A GIRL, which deals with the fallout experienced by a teen girl due, in part, to her reputation as the “school slut.”

Barry Lyga’s darkly compelling BOY TOY, with its theme of intimacy between a teen boy and an adult woman (and the long-term consequences that follow) is another title that fits the bill. Because while Brianna works hard to avoid being seen as a victim, the fact of a similar, subtle power imbalance remains when she makes an intimate choice that changes her life.

Finally, I think of WHERE THE HEART IS by Billie Letts, a book that deals with a teen girl who ends up pregnant, abandoned and in desperate need of help. And, as is the case for Brianna, that help comes from some unlikely sources.

I’m also excited to be giving away a book from The Class of 2K12 that any lover of YA should really enjoy–Susan Shaw Wolf’s BREAKING BEAUTIFUL, which I found pretty darn captivating from beginning to end. Be sure to enter the giveaway here on the website or here on The Class of 2K13 Facebook page!

Nicole McInnes & the Inspiration for BRIANNA ON THE BRINK

When I began writing BRIANNA ON THE BRINK, there were only a couple of things I knew for sure. I knew it would be a Contemporary YA novel, and I knew it would deal in some way with the broad themes of loss, betrayal and forgiveness.

A year or so before that, I had started playing around with a story told from the perspective of a married woman betrayed by a teenage girl, but it wasn’t until the teenager tapped me on the shoulder demanding that her version of the story be told that I knew I’d found Brianna’s voice.

From that point forward, it seemed like every time I asked myself “What if?” my main character was right there with an answer (knowing everything, of course, as most teenagers do). And her answers intrigued me.

What if, for example, a girl raised in a neglectful, sometimes dangerous, environment becomes a popular cheerleader in high school, thanks to the mean girl who plucks her from obscurity?

Answer: She’ll probably thank whoever’s-in-charge-up-there-in-the-sky that she’s finally been given some power in her life and at school—even if that power means making life a living hell for those beneath her on the high school food chain, including teachers who don’t measure up on the coolness scale.

What if this girl–high on a recent football team victory and at a bar illegally with her friends–meets an older guy who seems to “get her” in a way no other guy has before?

Answer: She’ll probably let down her guard, and maybe even (temporarily) her sanity, leaving herself open to consequences nobody can see coming. Consequences like losing her status at school, being kicked out of her home, and even feeling responsible for a near-stranger’s sudden death.

What if this girl finds herself abandoned and alone, shunned by those she thought would help her?

Answer: She may just have to rely on the one person she’s tormented the most, forcing her to choosing between clinging to the ledge of fear and abandonment – or jumping into the unknown where a second chance at hope might just be waiting.

The end result of those question-and-answer sessions with my main character is BRIANNA ON THE BRINK, which hits shelves in Spring, 2013. And now that the book’s release is only a handful of months away, the one thing I know for sure is that I can’t wait for Brianna to share her story with readers everywhere.

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