dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author

Last week I saw an online preview of Sourcebooks’ new fall catalog, and when I spotted Water Wars by Cameron Stracher, my first thought was: Must Do Interview! (Or maybe that was my second thought. The first one was probably: Must Get That Book!)

I actually met Cameron Stracher at the Sourcebooks Fire Launch Party in NYC last March, and so I know he’s an extremely amiable author and a fellow vodka martini fan who was just as puzzled as I was that some Manhattan restaurants do not stock olives! Next time Cameron and I meet, I’ll be prepared with a little Tupperware full of cocktail olives, just in case.

1. Water Wars has been described as a “green” dystopia novel, where environmental disaster has wreaked havoc on our world. What can you tell us about this future – and the Great Panic which caused the collapse of society as we know it?

We are already living in this future to some extent. In some countries, at least half the population does not have access to adequate supplies of drinkable water. Though the earth is mostly water (70 percent), less than one percent is drinkable, and much of that is concentrated in a few countries (Canada, for example). There have been wars fought over water, and even in the United States there are intense legal struggles over who will control access to fresh water. Water Wars is simply an extension of our world, the logical progression of what could happen if we don’t change our wasteful ways.

2. Tell us something about your protagonists, Vera and Will, and a little bit about the mysterious Kai.

Will and Vera are brother and sister, 17 and 15, living with their father in subsidized housing, and caring for their mother who is sick and bedridden. Kai is a much wealthier boy that Vera meets one day while waiting for the bus. Part of the mystery of Water Wars is who (and what) Kai really is, and I’m not going to ruin it for you here!

3. Go ahead and scare us. Water scarcity is a real problem. What are the facts?

Atlanta nearly went waterless last summer when the reservoir it used for fresh water nearly disappeared. Across the world, we are using up our supplies of fresh water faster than it can be replenished. Just because water falls from the sky, does not mean the supply is infinite. Most of that water runs into the sea, gets polluted by sewage and heavy metals, and is used by industry. Once an aquifer (an underground reservoir) is diminished beyond a certain point, it cannot be replenished. There will always be water, but there will be less of it to go around, and it will be the poorer countries (and people) who will suffer more. Unless the inequities are addressed, there is a real threat to political stability and peace.

4. Did you scare yourself writing it? Did you have the urge to start hoarding bottled water in your basement?

I knew most of the facts I’ve recounted before I started writing, but I think what struck me as I wrote was the very real possibility of the things I was imagining.

5. People are going to compare your novel to The Hunger Games and Uglies. What commonalities do they have – and where does the similarity end?

I love both those books, and would be flattered if people drew the comparison. Water Wars is similar to those books in that they all paint a frightening picture of a dystopian future. Unlike the Hunger Games and Uglies, though, the world of Water Wars came about mostly through man’s inaction, greed, and ignorance, rather than through directed government policy.

6. What else would you like us to know about your book?

The book does have some serious themes, but I really wrote it as a good “yarn,” to entertain my son, who had just finished reading The Golden Compass. I hope my readers will be as entertained as he was.

7. When can we lay our hands on Water Wars? (Do fellow Sourcebooks Fire authors get early copies?!?)

January, 2011. But if you’re very, very nice, and email me your mailing address, you might get one sooner.

I’m always very, very nice. 🙂
Thanks, Cameron! Cameron Stracher can be reached by email at cstracher@yahoo.com

This past Saturday, I was honored to attend a book event at Children’s Book World in Haverford, PA with Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown, author and illustrator of Picture the Dead. I loved this bookstore! Heather Hebert and all the staff made us feel very welcome. When I arrived (pathologically early, as usual), I was greeted: “Oh! You’re one of the Dead Book authors. I hope you don’t mind that we’ve been calling you that!”

I didn’t mind. I loved it!

I brought my own video crew, who produced a vlog of the event. One of the cameragirls is … uh … not very tall. Thus some of the odd camera angles. Still, I couldn’t have done it without my crew. Love ya, girls!

I almost forgot that next Saturday is the official release date of We Hear the Dead!

How could I possibly forget, you ask? Maybe it’s because Amazon and BN started shipping early, so I feel as if the book’s already “out.” Last weekend, a few people had already received their copies in the mail, and I was relying on their descriptions of what it looked like. “It is shiny,” wrote one of my students, and as it turns out – she was right!

A few days ago, I received my author copies, and immediately I laid one aside as a very special gift. I contacted a certain person’s mother for permission and then made arrangements with a sixth grade teacher in my building. This past Thursday, armed with a signed and personally dedicated copy of We Hear the Dead, I marched down the hall to a nearby classroom – with my own students trailing behind me like little ducklings.

You see, last spring, my editor broke the news to me that the Sourcebooks marketing department wanted to ditch the title I had previously used for this book (High Spirits). I wasn’t surprised, but I was at a loss for a replacement. I wracked my brains, consulted a few friends and relatives, and then sent Sourcebooks a list of suggestions. (They ran along the lines of A Talent for Deceit and An Innocent Deception.) The marketing department bounced those around for awhile, but none of them really captured the feeling they wanted to promote for the book. I came up with a second list, and this time I was scraping the bottom of the creative barrel. (Voices Beyond the Veil and Speaking with Spirits … gag!) I even threw out an SOS to my fifth grade class, asking for help.

One of my students delivered a suggestion via our classroom blog. “How about We Can Hear the Dead?” she wrote. Well, that was clearly better than Voices Beyond the Veil! So I edited out a single word and sent it along behind the others.

They loved it – as you can see from the way it is splashed across the cover! Thursday, I was delighted to present my very first copy of We Hear the Dead to the young lady (now a sixth grader) who thought of the perfect title for my debut novel. From her big grin, I suspect she was just as excited as I was.

And Sourcebooks says that if she’s planning to go into marketing as a career, she should look them up in a few years.

Helen Ellis, author of The Turning: What Curiosity Kills, is my very first guest blogger ever!

I recently met Helen at the Sourcebooks Fire Launch Party, but didn’t have nearly enough time to talk to her. Her book comes out the same month as mine – May – so, in spite of the warning in the title, I am very curious about it! Helen graciously agreed to an interview so that I could ask the questions I couldn’t ask at the party (because I couldn’t find her in the crowd).

DKS: The Turning: What Curiosity Kills is about an otherwise normal teenage girl from Manhattan who is slowly transforming into a cat. Why a cat — and why Manhattan?

HE: I decided to write what I know. I am a displaced Southerner living in New York City. And I live with a husband and two cats, Shoney and Big Boy (my husband is neither Shoney, nor Big Boy. He is Lex and 5’8″). But the whole shebang was spurred on by a dream. I dreamed I woke up and looked into my bathroom mirror and saw a face that was not my own. It was, you guessed it: a cat’s.

DKS: At the Sourcebooks Launch Party, you gave out cute little buttons that said “Domestic” or “Stray.” How does this tie in with the theme of your novel?

HE: Mary discovers that there is an underworld of “turns” in Manhattan. Domestics are kept in apartments. Strays live on the streets. With the collapse of the economy, the Upper East Side is truly turning into vacant lots. Strays want to take over the dom’s territory. Mary must decide what side she’ll be on.

DKS: What one character in your book (good guy, bad guy, or in-between) was the most fun to write about?

HE: YOON! Yoon is “on the fence”, which means he lives at home, but runs with the strays. He is a sexy bad boy, who tempts Mary to abandon her cushy life and live for the now. Turns only turn for five years, so he wants them to make the most of their sensory-soaked time.

DKS: What else would you like us to know about The Turning?

HE: The Turning is about embracing what you are and being brave at a young age. Believe me, for the rest of your life, you will feel like you are sixteen. It is better to dare early and keep that courage for the rest of your life, than to try and muster it as you get older and are more easily scared.

Thanks, Helen! I think that last line is a powerful statement, and something I’d like my daughters to understand.

The Turning can be pre-ordered here, although I understand there’s a private school in New York already trying to squash sales here. Be sure to check it out!

The Sourcebooks Fire and Jabberwocky teams really know how to throw a party! Books of Wonder was packed from wall to wall! Teen Beat was awesome, and not only can Libba Bray write, but she can also belt out the tunes!

It was an odd experience, finally meeting people in person when you’ve spent so much time chatting with them online. I spent the first part of the evening trying to guess who was who, but then name tags were passed out, alleviating the awkward introduction: “Excuse me, but are you …?” I’ve told my husband all about these online friends (and he does his best to keep them straight), but this was their first encounter with him and that was fun for me, too.

The music was a blast (Purple Rain was nostalgic for many of us), and the food was delicious, but the conversations were the best part of the evening. Bob and I talked to Todd Stocke, editorial director of Sourcebooks, about the impact of social media on the publishing world. Joy Preble and I chatted about the ending of her sequel to Dreaming Anastasia. That is, we discussed the process of writing it – she didn’t give away any plot points, so don’t ask! Ty Drago, (The Undertakers, Spring 2011), shared stories about weird questions authors get. (ex: Is it possible for a woman to strangle a man with her bare hands?) I found out that my editor, Kelly, is off to the Bologna Book Fair next week. (Lucky, huh? Italy and books!) And I finished out the evening talking to Lisa Brown (Picture the Dead, May 2010) about caged graves, Victorian hair jewelry, and future projects.

In the picture above, I am standing with Laura Duksta (I Love You More), Lila Castle (The Star Shack, June 2010), and Kay Mitchell, publicist for Sourcebooks and one of the event organizers. You can find more photos of the party on my website .

I can’t believe it’s almost here – the big Sourcebooks Launch Party at Books of Wonder in New York City! Even more unbelievable is that I get to be a part of it, even though my book doesn’t officially hit the market for another month and a half!

My husband and I are psyched and ready! This Thursday afternoon, we’ll be traveling to NYC in luxury (Amtrak), where we’ll stay at a ritzy, upscale hotel (Comfort Inn). We’ll have just enough time to partake of a late lunch at a fashionably trendy restaurant (Taste Good Chinese Food, next to the Comfort Inn) before heading off to the book store for the big event.

At this point, I can stop being facetious, because the glamour will actually be real. I’ll be hanging out with other Sourcebooks guest authors such as Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown (Picture the Dead), Joy Preble, (Dreaming Anastasia), Lila Castle (The Star Shack), and Helen Ellis (The Turning). Also present will be authors of Sourcebooks titles due out in 2011, such as Lisa and Laura Roecker (The Haunting of Pemberly Brown) and Ty Drago (The Undertakers), as well as lots of YA book bloggers and YA readers of all ages.

And as if that wasn’t enough – the evening will conclude with the first ever public performance by the All Teen Author Rock Band: Tiger Beat! The members of Tiger Beat include such well known names as Natalie Standiford (How to Say Good-bye in Robot), Barnabas Miller (7 Souls), Libba Bray (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy), and Daniel Ehrenhaft – who is not only the author of several YA books, but also the head acquisitions editor at Sourcebooks and … gulp, kind of my boss. I hope I can pry my tattered classroom copy of The Last Dog on Earth out of my students’ hands so I can get him to sign it.

Better yet, maybe I’ll just buy a spankin’ new copy!