Dark Days with Kate Ormand

DarkDays by Kate Ormand - Book cover kate-ormand
This time next month, Kate Ormand’s YA novel DARK DAYS could be in your eager little hands. (Unless you have big hands of course–in which case it could be in your eager big hands. Either way though, your hands will be eager. Get your hands ready, and order here.)

Launching on June 3 from Skyhorse Press, this futuristic dystopian novel imagines a world in which an elite few chose who is allowed to live or die.

What sparked the idea for DARK DAYS?

With most of the stories I write, there’s a particular object or image that sparked the idea. With DARK DAYS, it didn’t quite work that way, or if it did I’m unaware of what it was I saw! I remember thinking first about a clock tower with red digital numbers counting down to something. Dull grey buildings and a metal wall surrounded it. And I thought about the cyborgs, and realized that was what the clock was counting down to. So I guess that’s where my journey with this particular book started, but what triggered it is still a mystery.

How did you decide to write for a young adult audience?

It’s pretty much all I read. I discovered it a couple years ago and fell completely in love with so many YA books. If it wasn’t for YA I’m not certain I’d have started writing at all. At least not when I did. Maybe I would have in the future. But YA sparked a real passion and I just went with it!

What was the first sentence of your first draft?

I woke to the sound of my alarm.

What is the first sentence of your current draft?

I wake to a shrieking sound.

What do you hope your readers come away with at the end of Dark Days?

I wrote the book I’d want to read. My favourite books are fast-paced and action-packed with a thrilling romance and a lot of excitement. I want DD to be an exciting ride for readers and for them to come away thinking what good fun it was and how much they enjoyed it. That’s all I hope for!

What was the most fun part to write? What was most difficult?

The most fun was probably the action scenes and the romantic scenes. They’re my favourites when reading and my favourites when writing. The most difficult was probably the last few lines of the final chapter. Ending is so hard!

You are an artist as well as a writer. What is the connection for you between creative writing and fine arts?

I found writing whilst studying my degree, but I’m not sure I’d say there was an obvious connection between painting and writing for me. Sitting painting at my desk in the studio was quiet, and I always had a book in my bag for breaks and traveling to and from class, so I started to really love reading while I was on that course. I’ve always been creative and enjoyed using it, so writing was just another path I decided to explore. And I’m so glad I did!

Can you share one of your visual works with us and tell us about it?

Painting by Kate Ormand

Sure! This was one of the pieces from my final year. It’s two boards (which I found and painted white) nailed together. I was fascinated by discovering beauty in unlikely places and started the third year of my course engaging with found objects that held scars of previous use and marks of history upon their surfaces. Then I manipulated these objects slightly and displayed them this way. I had quite a few of them, but this one was always my favourite piece.

What’s next for you as a writer? Can you tell us about something you’re working on now?

I have two children’s picture books scheduled for release with Sky Pony Press. THE UPSIDE-DOWN FISH, illustrated by Laura Matine, is out later this year. And PIERRE THE FRENCH BULLDOG RECYCLES, illustrated by Bethany Straker, is coming in 2015. I’m working hard on a couple other YA titles and really enjoying delving into new worlds!

Finally, can you give a brief except or a quotation from DARK DAYS to whet my appetite?

The silence is thick and heavy, but my heart pounds so loud in my ears that they must be able to hear it. I blink sweat from my eyes. I don’t want them to know how afraid I am.

About Kate Ormand

KATE ORMAND is a YA writer represented by Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors Ltd. She lives in the UK with her family, her partner, and a cocker spaniel called Freddie. She recently graduated from university with a first class BA (Hons) degree in Fine Art Painting. It was during this course that Kate discovered her love of reading YA books, prompting her to try a new creative angle and experiment with writing. Kate is also a member of an online group of published writers and illustrators called Author Allsorts. And she writes children’s picture books under the name Kate Louise. You can see more about Kate and her writing by visiting her website (www.kateormand.wordpress.com) or on Twitter (@kateormand).


The future world has been divided into sectors–each the same as the other. Surrounded by thick steel fences, there is no way in and no way out. Yet a cyborg army penetrates each sector, picking off its citizens one by one, until no one is left. Behind the sectors’ thick walls, the citizens wait to die. Few will be chosen to survive what’s coming; the rest will be left behind to suffer. A new world has been created, and its rulers are incredibly selective on who will become a citizen. They want only those with important roles in society to help create a more perfect future.

Sixteen-year-old Sia lives in one of the sectors as part of a family that is far too ordinary to be picked to live. According to the digital clock that towers high above her sector, she has only fifteen days to live. Sia has seen the reports and knows a horrific death is in store for her, but she is determined to make the most of her final days. Sia refuses to mourn her short life, instead promising herself that she’ll stay strong, despite being suffocated by her depressed mother and her frightened best friend. Just when Sia feels more alone than ever, she meets Mace, a mysterious boy. There is something that draws Sia to him, despite his dangerousness, and together, they join a group of rebels and embark on an epic journey to destroy the new world and its machines, and to put an end to the slaughter of innocent people.

Pre-order DARK DAYS.


The Dream Journal for Writers

"Famous While You Sleep - Dream Journal" by Ravenelle / TORLEY on Flickr
A while ago, Cassandra Page invited me to do a guest post for her blog. I used the title of her work-in-progress, Lucid Dreaming, as a springboard for my topic–the dream journal. Below is what I had to say about using the dream journal for inspiration in writing.
(The image to the side, by the way, is “Famous While You Sleep” by Ravenelle / TORLEY on Flickr. Dreamy!)
Aboriginal art showing the dreamtime story of the attempt to catch the deceased's spirit, from Wikimedia Commons.

Aboriginal art showing Dreamtime.

onDreamsI’ve always been obsessed with dreams—not surprising for someone whose upcoming co-authored novel is named Dream Boy, right?

1freud-dreams1.jpgBut it’s not just me who’s obsessed. Fascination with dreams is as old as dreams themselves. Ancient Egyptians looked to dreams for portents of the future, while Australian Aborigines saw dreams as the secret to understanding the past. There’s Aristotle’s On Dreams, Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, the Biblical representation of dreams as God’s cosmic telephone, the zillion weird dreams that figure in folklore and fairy tales, the zillion more books that interpret the symbolism of dreams…

inception-GIF-inception-2010-14288153-272-124And of course let’s not forget Leonardo DiCaprio going all dark and broody as the lovelorn dream thief in Inception.

As a writer, though, I’m perhaps most interested in how we can allow our dreams to inspire and shape creative works.

That’s where the dream journal comes in.

One of the characters in Dream Boy keeps just such a journal. Drawing a line down the middle of the page, she writes everything she remembers about a dream on one side; on the other, she jots notes about real life events that may have triggered her subconscious.

In the notebook, reality goes in one place and dreams go in another; a clear line is drawn between the two. Of course, very little in life is quite as tidy as that—certainly not our creative processes.

So, why keep a dream journal in the first place?

For one thing, it’s fun. Much like this gif dance party.


For another, all the weird stuff that floats around in your subconscious (also like this gif dance party) can be a good place to go when your work-in-progress gets blocked up.

Make a game of it: choose some random element from a recent dream and work it into a scene you’re writing. It will keep you going—and in writing, if you just keep going (somewhere… anywhere!), you often end up headed in the direction you genuinely needed to go.

(Plus, here’s a secret: the random element you select is probably not that random, even if it seems downright absurd. What happens when you dream and what happens when you write is not so different, really. They both connect to the subconscious. And the images that feed the subconscious have a way of making their own sense, regardless of your intentions.)

Perhaps most importantly, however, using a journal to map out the chaotic terrain of your dreams can feed your over-all imaginative life in very rewarding ways.

Dream Map by Various Brennemans, Flickr

Dream Map by Various Brennemans, Flickr

As you go along—recording your dreams—you are essentially trying to make sense of something that is by its very nature senseless. That process inevitably opens you up to contradiction. (Real world says X and ONLY X is true; Dreamworld says Y and Z and X’s second cousin Arnie is true. On Tuesdays. On other days, it says that baseballs turn into feathers when you sneeze on them. And your favorite dog never really died, but was just trapped all this time in a bomb shelter with elves.)

Contradiction, as you can see from the above, is pretty noisy. But it is also (at least in my experience) inspiring.

Think of it this way: the tension between two opposing ideas is often the wire on which good writing balances. So, exploring the boundary between reality and dream allows us to perch for a moment on that wire. When we return to our work of fiction, we see more. We see better. We see connections we might have missed otherwise.

But what about those who don’t even remember their dreams? How can any of this help them?

Unexpectedly, I have found that the very act of keeping a dream journal stimulates the recollection of dreams. So the more you plan to remember, the more you remember. Weird, but true.

Here’s how it works in two super-easy (super-cheesy?) steps:

  1. Put a notebook and pen beside your bed. Before drifting to sleep, remind yourself that you intend to remember and record your dreams. You might even say something as socially uncomfortable as “Hey, you are going to dream, and you will remember your dreams! They will be interesting dreams! Enjoy!”
  1. In the morning, before you get up or start thinking about your day, write down whatever scraps of dream you remember.

And at first they may be just scraps. But as you go on, exercising both your memory and tolerance for awkward conversations with yourself, you may find that you can build up to a pretty impressive recall. And remembering your dreams is a good thing—not only for the creative advantage—but also because your dreams can be an important shaping influence in your life.

Journal by Sammie Harding, Flickr

Journal by Sammie Harding, Flickr

I recently tweeted my two-year-old’s dream: “The cat was in my dream, and he was happy to be with me.” (Of course in real life, the cat barely tolerates my son, so this was pure wish fulfillment.) I was amazed at how many people tweeted back to share their own dreams—from the workaholic who dreams only of work to the woman who dreams of resuscitating zombies with a friendly Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Dreams are something we take with us into our day. Whether we entirely remember them or not, they are there, an essential part of us—telling us who we are. (Maybe in some ways even making us who we are.)

So listening to dreams—paying attention to wildness of the mind at moments when it answers to no master—is a worthwhile endeavor. And a dream journal is a great place to start.

About DREAM BOY (coauthored by Mary Crockett and Madelyn Rosenberg)

Annabelle Manning feels like she’s doing time at her high school in Chilton, Virginia. She has her friends at her lunchtime table of nobodies. What she doesn’t have are possibilities. Or a date for Homecoming. Things get more interesting at night, when she spends time with the boy of her dreams. But the blue-eyed boy with the fairytale smile is just that—a dream. Until the Friday afternoon he walks into her chemistry class.

One of friends suspects he’s an alien. Another is pretty sure it’s all one big case of deja vu. While Annabelle doesn’t know what to think, she’s willing to believe that the charming Martin Zirkle may just be her dream come true. But as Annabelle discovers the truth behind dreams—where they come from and what they mean—she is forced to face a dark reality she had not expected. More than just Martin has arrived in Chilton. As Annabelle learns, if dreams can come true, so can nightmares.

Pre-order DREAM BOY today: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Add DREAM BOY to your Goodreads list.

About Mary

A native of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Mary grew up as the youngest of six children in a family of misfits. She has worked as everything from a history museum director to a toilet seat hand model. In her other life, she’s an award-winning poet, professional eavesdropper, and the person who wipes runny noses. If you tweet at her @MaryLovesBooks, chances are she will tweet back.

Connect with Mary: Website | TwitterFacebookGoodreadsTumblrPinterest

Related: Check out my post of 14 Firsts at The BookYArd (including my first dream).

Witchy Woman – Jen McConnel Tells Us the Secret of Isobel Key

Jen McConnel - author of The Secret of Isobel Key

Jen McConnel – author of The Secret of Isobel Key

Today I’m celebrating the release of the new adult novel The Secret of Isobel Key with an interview of the book’s author, Jen McConnel. In this contemporary romance, a recent college grad sets off to discover the secrets of a woman accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century.

You started out writing poetry. How did you begin to write fiction? What was it like to make that leap?

Jen: When I was young, I wrote everything, but the fiction sort of faded away by the time I got to college. Maybe because I was an English major, analyzing literature on a daily basis, I began to pursue publication with my poetry before I returned to fiction. I still write poetry, but my focus has really shifted, and the shift started when I was teaching middle school. Spending my days trying to get kids excited about reading and writing must have rubbed off, because the summer after my first year of teaching is when I started to seriously write fiction. Continue reading

The Next Big Thing ~ Dream Boy edition

0a1a0cd0bc03f1156cd82087d26130a0_biggerThanks to Rin Chupeco, whose fascinating young adult novel The Girl From the Well comes out next fall, for tagging me in THE NEXT BIG THING blog hop. Here’s how it works: last week, Rin answered questions about her upcoming book; this week, I answer those same questions; next, I send those same questions to other writers with projects in the works to answer in their own sweet time.

So, without further ado, welcome to The Next Big Thing, Dream Boy edition!

What is the working title of your next book?

Dream Boy

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I can thank the genesis of Dream Boy to three things:

      1. insomnia
      2. Ginger Rogers
      3. a really long communion line

Let me break it down.

I was up at 4 a.m. on a Saturday night (INSOMNIA) watching a 1940s-ish farce about a woman (GINGER ROGERS) who keeps ditching guys at the altar because they don’t live up to the ideal man she dreamed about as a girl. The next day, as I sat in my customary back pew in church, waiting for my turn to walk up the aisle (A REALLY LONG COMMUNION LINE), I started thinking about the nature of dreams.

A lot of times a hero or heroine in a story will dream about someone they later meet in real life but, I wondered, what if the dream-vision isn’t a premonition about a person who already exists? What if instead the dream actually creates someone—or at least brings the dream here, so it exists in our physical world?

Seemed like a fun question and one that could take a while to answer—which is of course the ideal spring-board for a novel! I contacted my pal Madelyn Rosenberg the next day and asked if she’d like to co-write Dream Boy.

What is the genre of your book?

Contemporary fantasy—lots of comedy, a throb of horror, a dash of romance!

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in the movie rendition?

Such a hard question! Kind of like potato chips: you can’t choose just one. But here’s a start…(Click on names for a link to photos.)

For Annbelle (our heroine!), I might cast someone with the easy likability of Elle Fanning. Plus, that girl can act! For Martin (the boy of Annabelle’s dreams), I’d go with younger versions of Max Irons or Alex Pettyfer. Will (Annabelle’s best friend) might be someone like Liam James or Jacob Kogan or even Kevin Zegers when he was 10 years younger. Talon (Annabelle’s other best friend) has a good dose of spunk. Maybe a younger Aubrey Plaza or Anna Kendrick or an older Quvenzhané Wallis. Serena (Annabelle’s other other best friend) could be played by Abigail Breslin or Christian Serratos.

There are a ton of other characters that play an important role in Dream Boy, but the only other one I want to weigh in on is that the high school fooball coach needs to be played by Will Ferrell. Because of course all movies without Will Ferrell suck.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Girl dreams boy… girl meets boy… girl, boy, and friends save universe.

Who is publishing your book?

The fine folks at Sourcebooks. (Shout out to the wonderful Aubrey Poole, editor extraordinaire!)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

For-frigging-ever!!! I honestly have no clue. I’m pretty sure I have conceived and given birth to one or more children between the start and the end.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Good googly! Is there any way to answer this question without sounding like a big head? “If you liked Harry Potter, you won’t be able to put down Dream Boy!” Um, yeah. Let’s go with that!

Really it’s easier to think of movies for this one. It’s kind of like the narrator from Easy A has a mind-blowing reverse Inception-like experience… in high school.

inception gif photo: inception party inception-GIF-inception-2010-14288153-272-124.gif

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

(See above: Ginger Rogers.)

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

As much as it is about the aftermath of dreams, Dream Boy is about everyday teenhood and the struggle of growing up in a small town with big-city aspirations. It’s about the necessity of family, the saving grace of friendship, and the desire to figure out how you fit into the puzzle of your own life.

Now, all there is left to do is leave a trail of breadcrumbs for the NEXT BIG THING. So, here we go.

I am also tagging:
c1d5e63019f8ddf2ca7749845e945c7d_biggerWhitney Miller, whose novel The Violet Hour, will touch down March 2014

b8881cf126e47737806f71c86bc3af61_biggerJessica Arnold, author of The Looking Glass, forthcoming 2014

Jeninst-jennyphotony Bitner, author of the work-in-progress Mothership

Can’t wait to hear what they have to say!

The Beauties and Beast of Writing with a Friend

Last week (at the very moment my friend Madelyn Rosenberg and I were announcing to the world the good news that our young adult novel DreamBoy will be coming out next summer from Sourcebooks Fire), a friend shared with us this New York Times article,”On Writing with Others” by John Kaag.

Having just finished a young adult novel with the awesome Madelyn (and begun another with the awesome Jenny Bitner), I have found the experience to be full of surprises–almost entirely the good kind.

Here’s my take on five reasons that having a co-pilot on that long trip across a novel is a good thing… and one reason it’s not. Some are echos of Kaag’s excellent insights; others are my own.

The amazing Madelyn Rosenberg

The amazing Madelyn Rosenberg


1 ~ a committed relationship ~

Perhaps the most encouraging part of collaborative writing is the commitment I bring to the project. When I work on my own, it’s easy for me to convince myself (after 20 or 30… or even 120 pages) that what I’m writing is crap. When I write with a friend, however, I am committed for the long haul,whether or not it seems crappy during those horrible spells of self-doubt. I can’t help thinking of all the time and work my friend has put in on the project, and that makes me push through the muck, even when I’m not sure where exactly we’re headed.

2 ~ instant editor = better risks ~

I am, as Kaag suggests, much more likely to let loose with some half-baked notions in early drafts when I know my co-writer is there. These risks are usually huge fails, but every so often, they work fantastically.

When I write fiction on my own, I may take the same risks, but I worry much more over them. On my own, a serious misstep could head me down a long and fruitless path. Since I don’t have an instant editor, I may not be convinced of my mistake until I’ve already pounded out another 50 pages or so. And we all know there’s nothing quite so sweet as trashing a huge stack of pages just start over where you were a month before! Yippee!

When I write with a friend, I know I have an instant editor who can shake her head and point me in a better direction. Yippee, for real!

The astounding Jenny Bitner

The astounding Jenny Bitner

3 ~ operation UNblocked ~

There is nothing so amazing as getting stuck with a scene, sending it off (sometimes mid-sentence) to a trusted friend, and having it return a day or so later with that scene successfully finished and another started.

Gone is the head-pounding!

Gone the endless trips to the kitchen’s candy jar!

Gone the long walks full of mulling and wondering and wishing I knew what came next!

4 ~ surprise! ~

The surprising things that happen when you write with a friend are beyond fun. I’ve created structures that I thought were headed one way, only to find out when Madelyn returned her editions/additions that there was a whole other dimension to the scene if I just tilted my head one way or another.

Sometimes it’s a matter of a fortunate misunderstanding. For example, when I first named the character Talon for DreamBoy, I intended for her to be a male. Madelyn read the name as a female and used a female pronoun for her. So I’m easy… and here’s proof. I just rolled with it. Now Talon, the girl, may be my favorite character in the novel, and calling her a boy would probably prompt her to reach through the pages of the book and whack me on the head. (Yeah, she’s got that kind of spunk.)

5 ~ balance ~

Let’s face it. I have obsessions — those go-to things that give me energy and make me glow. I would write about rivers and earthworms and clouds all day if someone would buy me food and cover my mortgage for doing so. But a book about nothing but rivers and earthworms and clouds is… well, I was going to say boring, but since I’m obsessed, I actually find that idea pretty intriguing. Maybe I should write a book about nothing but rivers and earthworms and clouds? Hmmm… But I digress. Back to point: I have obsessions, so do my my co-writers. And sometimes those obsessions, being as they are obsessions, get to be a bit much.

I mean, what is it about the canned peaches in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road? And I’m pretty sure Nora Roberts was watching way too many of those cook-off shows when she wrote Angels Fall.

So having two different writers with two different sets of obsessions gives a bit of balance to the work. Or at least I like to think so.


There are some projects that are not good candidates for collaborative writing because co-authorship requires you to let go. And letting go of something extremely close to you can be difficult and scary… and quite frankly, unnecessary. Here are the facts: The final writing will not reflect your solitary vision nor be subject to your solitary control, and there are some things that won’t come out right without your solitary vision and control.

So choose wisely when considering a project. Are you willing to let go of your idea and allow it to become what it becomes? Do you have a friend whom you respect enough to work with? If you can answer yes without reservation, you might want to give collaboration a try. If not, keep it to yourself until you’re ready to publish. And then let it go the old-fashioned way.

(… oh, and the waiting… sometimes the waiting can be be a drag…)