About Ryan W.

Bio: Hi, I'm Ryan! I love reading and exploring new genres and books are my passion. I also love football, drama, track and swimming. I'm currently finishing my freshman year and looking forward to the next!

Interview with Alexandra Duncan, author of Salvage

Photograph by Kristi Hedberg.

Photograph by Kristi Hedberg.

Alexandra Duncan, who’s debut novel Salvage will be available in April from Greenwillow Books, agreed to be interview by Teen Book Crew member, Ryan W.  Alexandra Duncan grew up in a small town in North Carolina and now lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where she is a librarian. Learn more about her at alexandra-duncan.com

(Ryan’s questions are in bold)

If you had to choose, which writers would you consider mentors?

I’ve been extremely lucky to have a community of writers both online and in my own town that I can turn to when I need advice or encouragement. I owe a lot to horror writer Nathan Ballingrud and Y.A. contemporary writer Stephanie Perkins, as well as all the talented women from the Friday the Thirteeners blog group. One of the things I love about the Y.A. writing community is that people seem to embrace the idea that a rising tide lifts all ships. From what I’ve seen, everyone genuinely loves reading and writing Y.A. literature and spreading the word about new and exciting titles.

When did you decide to become a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since before I could spell. When I was a kid, I would draw pictures in a blank notebook and ask the adults around me to write down my descriptions of the illustrations. Then, when I was in fifth grade, our class did a project in which we wrote stories and had them bound in book format. Mine involved a group of girls spending the night in a supposedly abandoned house full of haunted animatronic dolls and a recluse with a tragic past. That was when the idea that I could do this writing thing as a career really clicked for me. I loved reading more than anything, and I knew abstractly that authors wrote books, but the idea that authors were real people like me had never really solidified in my mind until that moment.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

There are times in writing when the story and dialogue are flowing, everything is clicking, and you lose track of time. Then there are times when everything you type feels clumsy and wrong. You’re convinced that what you’re putting down is terrible. You stare at the screen. You get up to find a snack. You start a load of laundry. You check your e-mail. Then you stare and despair some more. During those periods, it’s hard to remember that your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect and that you can fix it later. You have to push through those times and keep creating the raw material that will be your story.

Did you encounter any challenges while writing Salvage?

I had written short stories and novellas when I started Salvage, but I had never finished an entire novel before. It’s daunting to take on such a big project, especially when you’re a slow writer, like I am. When I began the novel, I was working full time as a youth services librarian and earning my Master of Library Science degree. It was a lot to juggle. My husband and I got rid of our TV service, and I spent all of my lunch breaks and weekends working on my book. I would even take vacation days from work just to write. I was lucky that my husband, my family, and my coworkers were all very understanding and supportive. I still work full time as a librarian (and love it!), but I have a much more balanced schedule now.

What inspired you to write Salvage?

Some of my inspiration for Ava’s world came from growing up as a preacher’s daughter in a small, rural church where everyone knew everyone, and there were very strict expectations about behavior, especially for girls. I started sketching out the setting in 2009, when I wrote a short story called “Bad Matter” that was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Part of that story took place aboard the merchant crewe ship Ava belongs to in Salvage. When I finished the story, though, I knew I wasn’t done with the world. I wanted to spend more time fleshing it out and telling stories from it. Salvage grew out of that desire.

Is there a message in Salvage that you want readers to understand?

There are quite a few messages and themes that I hope readers will see, but the major one I hope to get across is that your true family isn’t necessarily the one you’re born into. No matter what they look like or where they come from, the people who love you, support you, and accept you fully are your family,whether you’re related by blood or not.

Do you feel any connection with any of the characters in Salvage?

Every character I write has a little piece of me in her or him, but the character in Salvage I feel the most connection to is Ava. I wrote Salvage for the girl I was at sixteen – someone with huge burdens of responsibility who was caught in a terrible, suffocating home situation. I’m not saying she is me, but some of her thoughts, fears, and insecurities mirror what I thought and felt as a teenager.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write the books and stories you want to read. No matter what the subject matter, I think a writer’s enthusiasm and love for a story shines through and gives that story life.

Are there any new authors that have grabbed your interest that you would recommend?

I’m a first-time author myself, but there have absolutely been other titles from debut authors in the last year that I would recommend. I especially liked Natalie Whipple’s Transparent, about an invisible girl trying to escape her father’s criminal empire and lead as normal a life as she can. I’m also excited to read her upcoming release, House of Ivy and Sorrow. It’s about witches, and I’m in the mood for a good witch book.

What books have influenced your life the most?

Ursula LeGuin’s novels have had a major impact on me – not just my writing, but the way I think about the world. Her books showed me what excellent worldbuilding should look like, and more importantly, they introduced me to new ideas. I grew up in a small town in a North Carolina farming community during the ‘90s. There was a huge stigma against homosexuality at that place, in that time. It wasn’t a thing anyone would talk about. So when I read LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness during my senior year of high school, it was a gateway into awareness of LGBT issues for me.

 


Don’t miss the Teen Book Crew review of Salvage and look for the novel at Bookshop Santa Cruz this April!

 

Salvage Review

salvage cover

 

Salvage, by Alexandra Duncan is set in a world hundreds of years in the future where earth isn’t the only inhabited planet. Due to catastrophic flooding on Earth, many humans fled to other planets, beginning the space age. Many colonists also fled into deep space to mine the mineral rich asteroids and planets. On the ships out in deep space males rule and women are treated as objects. Ava, the main character, is a young women living on one of the spaceships. She longs to have kids and can’t wait to marry her crush but right when she thinks everything’s perfect, it all goes wrong. Facing death, she flees from her ship to earth where she sees how humans actually live.

 

Duncan really swept me away with Salvage!  Normally YA books don’t approach the topic of gender equality but Duncan showed how real the situations are for mistreated women and how what we see isn’t always the truth. The best part of the book was how the author showed everything through Ava’s eyes so realistically; I could imagine myself right there with her. Salvage gave me everything I expected in a sci-fi thriller and more, showing that everyone is equal no matter how different they seem.

 

For fans of Ender’s Game, and other sci-fi thrillers, Salvage is where it’s at!

 

 

The Living – Great Adventure Novel – On Bookshelves Now

The Living

The Living by Matt de la Pena, was surprisingly one of the best adventure novels I’ve ever read. Most adventure novels are just adrenaline and action but The Living was more than that. The story deals with social barriers, unreturned love and corruption while still providing suspense and excitement.

Shy is a character that starts out looking normal and kind of bland but as the story goes on, and his life is destroyed, Shy shows that he’s a survivor at heart.

The plotline of The Living starts off a little slow but as the story progresses it gets deeper and reveals the darker sides of people. Once I got into The Living I just couldn’t put it down! The witness of a suicide pulls you in and I loved how de la Pena unfolds each disaster in a totally new way.  He makes you think the worst is over when there’s more to come. One of my favorite parts of the book dealt with Shy’s crush, Carmen. He really likes her but she doesn’t know it. She’s engaged to be married but it’s clear that she and Shy share a deep connection. What I like most though, is the fact that their relationship isn’t the focus of the story.  The Living is mostly about Shy’s story with Carmen as a side character. However, I’m not saying that I wouldn’t like to see more of Carmen in the next book! It’ll be cool to see how their world and relationship unfolds in the sequel!

If you’re a fan of The Hunger Games and other mysterious thrillers, The Living is the book for you!

 

Proxy – For fans of Legend, and Other Dystopian Thrillers

Proxy

Proxy, by Alex London, is set in a futuristic dystopian Denver hundreds of years in the future. The society is the only civilization on the continent and runs on the “proxy” system where the rich own the poor’s debt and the poor take the rich’s punishments. Syd is a poor citizen living a boring and terrible life because his “patron”, Knox (a rich person), is basically a criminal. One day Knox accidentally goes too far when he kills a girl and can’t face the consequences. This event threatens to ruin both of their lives and forces Syd and Knox to see the truth behind their society.

I loved how London isn’t afraid to include a homosexual main character.  It helps make the story more interesting and also gives insight on how someone’s sexuality doesn’t change who they are. The best part of the book by far was how the author presents and describes the city throughout the story. The description is so intricate and seamless that I could basically see London’s futuristic world before me. Proxy gave me a whole new view on how society works and showed me that everything really does come with a price.

For fans of Legend, and other dystopian thrillers, Proxy is the book to get!

 

Furious – Set in Santa Cruz – Great Book Find

Furious

Furious, by Jill Wolfson is set in Santa Cruz and is about three girls who all have terrible lives. Meg is a foster child living with an abusive and neglectful foster mom and her school life isn’t any better either.  She’s picked on and shunned by everyone except for her best friend.  Alex is a poor surfer girl with a deadbeat father and no friends.  All of the surfer guys harass and bully her.  Stephanie is a nature activist with parents that are the leading real estate owners in the area.  Stephanie is made fun of at school for loving the environment while her parents’ real estate company goes around destroying it.  These three teens wind up meeting Ambrosia who shows them how to fix their lives and the people that they should be.

My favorite part of Furious is Meg’s romance with her crush, Brendon. It starts out nice and romantic but turns horribly wrong when Ambrosia secretly sets them up for failure. Wolfson did an amazing job portraying their emotions and feelings so accurately that it was like I was looking into their heads.

If you’re a fan of The Percy Jackson series and other mythological thrillers, Furious is the book to find!