Saturday, August 6, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 177: Literary Agent Rachel Orr

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Rachel Orr and I chat about her career in publishing from her time as a bookseller with Barnes and Noble, her time as an editor with Harper Collins, and her current role as a literary agent with Prospect Agency. We talk about her love of reading, writing, and agenting, all of which she frequently does while cooking. We also discuss the types of projects she’s looking to represent, some advice on how to answer Query Manager questions, the author/agent relationship, increasing diversity in traditional publishing, a ghostly ladder, and so much more.






Rachel Orr represents both authors and illustrators on a wide range of projects—from picture books to YA, both fiction and non-fiction. She joined Prospect Agency in 2007, after eight years working for HarperCollins Children’s Books, and brings her editorial experience to her clients’ work. Rachel enjoys cooking Chinese food, watching “Homeland”, and taking public transportation. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and two young children. You can follow her on Twitter @rachelprospect.




ProspectAgency.com

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 176: Author Andrew Nehring

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Andrew Nehring and I discuss how he learned to improve as a reader and a writer with the aid of an inspiring teacher who helped him manage his dyslexia. And we chat about the publication of his multiple novels, including his newest, DAVID MASSIE AND THE HIDDEN UNDERWORLD. We talk about Skyrim and Elden Ring and also books, as well as tips for plotting around your antagonist, planning and writing a long series, working with Books Forward for publicity, my George R.R. Martin conspiracy theory, ghost stories, and so much more.







Andrew M. Nehring is the author of the Corrupted Light Chronicles and David Massie. Growing up he was always a very imaginative child who would tend to get lost in these worlds he created for himself. That passion for creativity never stopped, but grew as he got older. The idea for the Corrupted Light Chronicles was born out of world he created in his head, as well as the development of the world around him. Andrew has finished his business degree from Northeastern University in the beautiful Windy City. When he is not writing, you will catch him in the ceramic’s studio, working out, or playing video games. He is now writing full time once he has finished and move on into other facets of the entertainment industry.




In this ordinary world of extraordinary technology lies a kid genius, David Massie. After the abrupt disappearance of his older brother, Morgan, David spends his days fending off the class bully and searching in Morgan’s past for answers. Then one rainy day, his world implodes thanks to a mysterious dark armored figure. That fateful encounter triggers a series of alternate realities in which David, his parents, his school, even society at large continuously morphs into different scenarios each day. But as strange as those realities were, nothing prepared David for time coming to a screeching halt. To return his world to normal, David teams up with a Time Cop named CP. Together, they unravel the mystery of the Quantum Flux.








Saturday, July 23, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 175: Literary Agent Lucienne Diver

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Lucienne Diver and I talk about how she separates the writer part of herself from the part that’s a literary agent and why it’s important to do so. We discuss her novel, DISAPPEARED, the current state of publishing and how she’s sustained a successful career in it, what compels her to suspense fiction, ways of appreciating other writers without getting intimidated, the Knight literary agency, a haunted experience, the Salem witch trials, and so much more.







 


Lucienne Diver joined TKA in 2008, after spending fifteen years at New York City’s prestigious Spectrum Literary Agency. With her sharp eye and gift for spotting original new voices, Lucienne is one of the most well-respected agents in the industry. A lifelong book addict, she graduated summa cum laude from the State University of New York at Potsdam with dual majors in English/writing and anthropology. She thus came well-equipped for her work as an agent.

Over the course of her dynamic career she has sold over seven hundred titles to every major publisher, and has built a client list of more than forty authors spanning the commercial fiction genres, primarily in the areas of fantasy, science fiction, romance, romantica, suspense and young adult. Her authors have been honored with the RITA, National Readers’ Choice, Hugo, and Romantic Times Reader’s Choice Awards, and have appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. A publishing veteran, Lucienne has superb industry knowledge, numerous editor relationships, and a keen understanding of the foreign rights market. She is a member of the Association of Authors Representatives, RWA, MWA and SFWA.

Lucienne Diver is the author of the Vamped young adult series—think Clueless meets Buffy—and the Latter-Day Olympians urban fantasy series, which Long and Short Reviews calls “a clever mix of Janet Evanovich and Rick Riordan”. Her favorite pull quote ever!

Her short stories have appeared in the KICKING IT anthology edited by Faith Hunter and Kalayna Price (Roc Books), the STRIP-MAULED and FANGS FOR THE MAMMARIES anthologies edited by Esther Friesner (Baen Books), and Faith Hunter’s Rogue Mage anthology, TRIBULATIONS (Lore Seekers Press). Her essay “Abuse” was published in DEAR BULLY: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories (HarperCollins).

Bella Rosa Books released her first two young adult suspense novels, FAULTLINES and THE COUNTDOWN CLUB, and she’s looking forward to the 2020 release from WordFire Press of her latest YA suspense, DISAPPEARED, wherein two teens struggle with the story their father tells about their mother’s disappearance versus their fears and mounting evidence.

On a personal note, Lucienne lives in Florida with her husband and daughter, the two cutest dogs in the world, and enough books to some day collapse the second floor of her home into the first. She likes living dangerously.


Disappeared by Lucienne Diver is a gripping YA suspense with a twist that readers won't see coming.

The story their father tells about their mother’s disappearance doesn’t add up for Jared and Emily Graham.

Foul play is suspected, intensifying their fears.
Their mom’s car is discovered, abandoned and covered in blood. No one will tell them what's going on, so they're going to find out for themselves. Their investigations into what really happened to their mother may have killer consequences for them both, especially if the truth hits close to home.

"DISAPPEARED is a wonderfully creepy read! Full of devious twists and filled with characters who are so real you genuinely care about them. Highly recommended!" —Jonathan Maberry, NY Times bestselling author of ROT & RUIN and V-WARS

"A fast-paced murder-mystery with relatable characters and a shocking twist; perfect for large collections where mysteries are popular."—School Library Journal






Saturday, July 16, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 174: Author Mat Heagerty and Illustrator Sam Owen

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Mat Heagerty, Sam Owen, and I discuss the process for their collaboration on their new graphic novel, LUMBERJACKULA. We talk about scripting and paneling, how they make creative suggestions for revision without overstepping, and how publishing with a larger traditional publisher differs from a small, independent press. We also discuss how they got their start in comics, how to encourage children without pressuring them, some favorite graphic novels, a haunted storeroom, Garfield as a Dune character, and so much more.





Mat Heagerty is a comic book writer, rad dad, and all around chipper dude living in Boise, ID. Mat’s dyslexic, and struggled a bunch in school, but now he writes rad comics like 'Lumberjackula' (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers), ‘Martian Ghost Centaur' (Oni Press ), ‘Unplugged and Unpopular' (Oni Press) and the forthcoming graphic novels... 'Jaywalker' (Oni Press 2022), and 'Indoor Kid' (Oni Press 2023). 








Sam Owen is a freelance comic artist and character designer with a focus on making fantasy and science-fiction art geared towards young adults and kids. He’s also the artist for Lumberjackula, a middle-grade graphic novel coming July 2022 from Simon Kids.










Saturday, July 9, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 173: Author Lakita Wilson

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Lakita Wilson and I discuss how winning the 2017 SCBWI Emerging Voices Award and running a popular Instagram page set her on a path for publishing success as well as the launch of her newest novel, BE REAL, MACY WEAVER. We mock James Patterson and talk about the current state of diversity in traditional publishing. She reveals her experiences with Root Literary, how teaching inspires her writing, how to write about racism in historical fiction for young readers that might just aid them in thinking critically, why that’s a good and necessary thing, her lifelong fear of dead celebrities, and so much more.



Lakita Wilson is the author of several novels and non-fiction projects for children and young adults, including What Is Black Lives Matter?, a part of the New York Times Bestselling HQ Now series; Be Real, Macy Weaver, a coming of age middle grade friendship story; and a few other secret projects she isn’t allowed to tell you about yet.

Lakita was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland. A 2017 recipient of SCBWI’s Emerging Voices Award, Lakita received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is currently on faculty at Prince George’s Community College in the Education Department. Lakita lives in Prince George’s County, Maryland with her two children and Shih-Tzu.


A humorous, heartfelt, and fashion-filled middle grade contemporary novel about Macy Weaver, a young girl struggling with how to be her true self and make a best friend—during a tumultuous year when her mom goes back to college. Perfect for fans of From the Desk of Zoe Washington and Stand Up, Yumi Chung.

Eleven-year-old Macy Weaver knows relationships are complicated. Fresh off her latest friendship breakup, she’s spent most of her summer break on her own. So when Macy’s mother decides to go back to college three states away, Macy jumps on the chance to move—anything for a fresh start.

But Macy’s new home isn’t exactly what she expected. Her mother’s never around and her dad’s always working. Lonelier than ever, Macy sets her sights on finding a new best friend. When she meets Brynn, who’s smart and kind and already seems to have her whole life figured out—down to her future as a high fashion model—Macy knows she’s it. The only problem is that Brynn already has a BFF and, as everyone knows, you can only have one.

Resorting to old habits, Macy turns one small lie into a whole new life—full of fantastic fashion and haute couture—but it isn’t long before everything really falls apart. Ultimately, Macy must determine how to make things right and be true to herself—rather than chasing after the person she thinks she’s supposed to be.


LakitaWilson.com

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 172: Literary Agent Linda Epstein

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Linda Epstein and I talk about her lifelong desire to be a writer and her journey from being a nurse to an unpaid intern for two years before becoming a literary agent and at long last arriving at the publication of her debut novel, REPAIRING THE WORLD. We also discuss the Emerald City Literary Agency, what a film and television rights agent does, how a literary agent seeks a literary agent, learning and teaching creative writing while being a literary agent, book promotion and launch strategies, grieving, empathy, self-publishing, and so much more.









Linda Epstein lives in upstate New York. She writes fiction for children, teens, and adults, and poetry for adults. Linda has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from The New School and is also a literary agent at Emerald City Literary Agency. Her debut middle grade novel, Repairing the World (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster), will be on bookshelves in the summer of 2022. Find Linda online at lindaepsteinauthor.com, on Twitter @LindaEpstein and @lindaepsteinauthor on Instagram.



A young girl grapples with her grief over a tragic loss with the help of a new perspective from Hebrew school and supportive new friends in this heartfelt middle grade novel about learning to look forward.


Twelve-year-old Daisy and Ruby are totally inseparable. They’ve grown up together, and Daisy has always counted on having Ruby there to pave the way, encourage her to try new things, and to see the magic in the world. Then Ruby is killed in a tragic accident while on vacation, and Daisy’s life is shattered.

Now Daisy finds herself having to face the big things in her life—like starting middle school and becoming a big sister—without her best friend. It’s hard when you feel sad all the time. But thanks to new friends, new insights, and supportive family members, Daisy is able to see what life after Ruby can look like. And as she reaches beyond that to help repair the world around her, she is reminded that friendship is eternal, and that magic can be found in the presence of anyone who chooses to embrace it.






Saturday, June 25, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 171: Author Zetta Elliott

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Zetta Ellicott and I chat about her bestselling middle grade series, DRAGONS IN A BAG, and lessons learned writing more than 40 books for children (so far). We talk about how she envisions her success with a vision board and how she trains in puppetry, film, and other art forms to ensure she’s using all the parts of her brain. We discuss the importance of mirror books, how she learned to decentralize whiteness and decolonize her imagination, how she uses rage as fuel while remaining hopeful, why she’s going to Virginia where a book of hers has been banned, a mysterious ghost in a top hat, a possible flying saucer sighting, and so much more.





Zetta Elliott is a Black feminist writer of poetry, plays, essays, novels, and stories for children. She was born and raised in Canada, but has lived in the US for over 25 years. She earned her PhD in American Studies from NYU in 2003; she has taught at Ohio University, Louisiana State University, Mount Holyoke College, Hunter College, Bard High School Early College, and Borough of Manhattan Community College. Her poetry has been published in New Daughters of Africa, We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, the Cave Canem anthology The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Check the Rhyme: an Anthology of Female Poets and Emcees, and Coloring Book: an Eclectic Anthology of Fiction and Poetry by Multicultural Writers. Her novella, Plastique, was excerpted in T Dot Griots: an Anthology of Toronto’s Black Storytellers, and her plays have been staged in New York, Cleveland, and Chicago. Her essays have appeared in School Library Journal, The Huffington Post, and Publishers Weekly. Her picture book, Bird, won the Honor Award in Lee & Low Books’ New Voices Contest and the Paterson Prize for Books for Young Readers. Her young adult novel, A Wish After Midnight, has been called “a revelation…vivid, violent and impressive history.” Ship of Souls was published in February 2012; it was named a Booklist Top Ten Sci-fi/Fantasy Title for Youth and was a finalist for the Phillis Wheatley Book Award. Her YA novel, The Door at the Crossroads, was a finalist in the Speculative Fiction category of the 2017 Cybils Awards, and her picture book, Melena’s Jubilee, won a 2017 Skipping Stones Honor Award. She received the Children’s Literature Association’s Article Award for her 2014 essay, “The Trouble with Magic: Conjuring the Past in New York City Parks.” She is an advocate for greater diversity and equity in publishing, and has self-published numerous illustrated books for younger readers under her own imprint, Rosetta Press; 3 were named Best of the Year by the Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature, and Benny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged was a first-grade fiction selection for the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Dragons in a Bag, a middle grade fantasy novel, was published by Random House in 2018; the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) named it a Notable Children’s Book. Its sequel, The Dragon Thief, was named a Best Middle Grade Book of 2019 by CBC Books. Say Her Name, a young adult poetry collection, was published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in January 2020; A Place Inside of Me was published in July 2020 by FSG and was named a Notable Poetry Book by NCTE. She currently lives in Evanston, IL.



The dragons may be out of the bag, but Jaxon is ready to hatch some magic of his own in this third book in the critically acclaimed series.

Ever since the baby dragons were returned to the magical realm, things have been 
off. The New York summer has been unusually cold. A strange sleeping sickness is spreading across the city. And Jaxon’s friends Kenny and Kavita have begun to change, becoming more like the fairy and dragon they once cared for.
 
On top of all that, Jax is hiding a secret—Vik entrusted him with a phoenix egg! Jax wants to help his friends and learn how to hatch the phoenix, but so far his lessons as a witch’s apprentice haven’t seemed very useful. Where can he find the strength—and the magic—he needs?





ZettaElliott.com

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 170: Author Aisha Saeed

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Aisha Saeed and I discuss her career and her newest middle grade novel OMAR RISING, a companion novel to AMAL UNBOUND. We chat about the difficulty she had submitting to traditional publishers and how that led her to seek out other diverse authors and the founding of WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS, which is a movement that gives us hope even when the world seems disparaging at times. We also talk about the pressure of writing about Wonder Woman in DIANA AND THE ISLAND OF NO RETURN, advocating for children in education and as a writer, Unsolved Mysteries, flying saucers, and so much more.





Aisha Saeed 
is an award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of books for children. Her books, including the middle grade novel Amal Unbound (Penguin), the young adult novel Yes No Maybe So (co-written with Becky Albertalli), and the anthology Once Upon Eid (co-edited with S.K. Ali) received multiple starred reviews. Amal Unbound was selected as a Global Read Aloud for 2018 and was the winner of the South Asian book award. Her picture book, Bilal Cooks Daal (Simon and Schuster) received an APALA honor. Aisha is also a founding member of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books™.  She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her family. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram via @aishacs.





“Irresistibly appealing and genuinely inspiring—a story that helps us to see the world more clearly, and to see ourselves as powerful enough to change it.” —Rebecca Stead, author of Newbery Award Winner 
When You Reach Me

In this compelling companion to 
New York Times bestseller Amal Unbound, Amal's friend Omar must contend with being treated like a second-class citizen when he gets a scholarship to an elite boarding school.

Omar knows his scholarship to Ghalib Academy Boarding School is a game changer, providing him—the son of a servant—with an opportunity to improve his station in life. He can't wait to experience all the school has to offer, especially science club and hopefully the soccer team; but when he arrives, his hopes are dashed. First-year scholarship students aren't allowed to join clubs or teams—and not only that, they have to earn their keep doing menial chores. At first Omar is dejected—but then he gets angry when he learns something even worse—the school deliberately "weeds out" kids like him by requiring them to get significantly higher grades than kids who can pay tuition, making it nearly impossible for scholarship students to graduate. It's a good thing that in his favorite class, he’s learned the importance of being stubbornly optimistic. So with the help of his tightknit new group of friends—and with the threat of expulsion looming over him—he sets out to do what seems impossible: change a rigged system.



Saturday, June 11, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 169: Author Hilde Kate Lysiak

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Hilde Lysiak and I chat about her new memoir, HILDE ON THE RECORD. As she’s just now 15 years old, presumably it’s the first of many, though she’s already led a very interesting life that’s the subject of the Apple TV series, HOME BEFORE DARK. We talk about how Hilde started her first newspaper at age 7, investigated a local murder at age 9, signed a deal for a 4-book series at age 10, won the Zenger Award for Press Freedom at age 12, and became the youngest person in U.S. history to deliver a commencement speech for the graduating class of West Virginia University’s Reed School of Media. We also discuss ghosts, naturally.



Hilde Kate Lysiak, American journalist and founder of the Orange Street News, has been profiled by the New York Times, NBC Today and The Washington Post. She’s interviewed former First Lady Michelle Obama for The National and is the inspiration behind AppleTV+ mystery series Home Before Dark.


Oh yes…and she’s only 15.


Hilde has brazenly shared news stories with the world since she was only seven, and now she’s putting the spotlight on herself in a poignant, coming-of-age story Hilde on the Record: Memoir of a Kid Crime Reporter (Apr 19, 2022; Chicago Review Press). Appealing to tweens, teens and aspiring young journalists, Hilde's story may also intrigue those familiar with her father Matthew Lysiak, best known for his investigative reporting for the New York Daily News and comprehensive account of the Sandy Hook tragedy, Newtown: An American Tragedy. 2022 marks ten years since the horrific event.



When seven-year-old Hilde Lysiak found out her new town didn't have a paper, she grabbed a notepad and began to work.

Hilde Kate Lysiak spent her early childhood in New York City with a passion for journalism. When her family moved to Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, Hilde didn't complain. Instead, she started reporting.

Hilde began by reporting on the birth of her sister, the newest resident on Orange Street, then began expanding her coverage to the entire city. She interviewed hundreds of locals in her effort to deliver "All the News Fit for Orange Street": a seed exchange at the local library, a fundraiser for a hospital's neonatal unit, a fire at a church, and a mysterious vandal destroying landscaping on city property.

Everything changed when Hilde received a tip that a terrible crime had happened just blocks from her house. By using the tools she had learned on the beat, the enterprising young reporter was able to confirm the facts and get the important information out to the public several hours before the other local media.

Hilde was proud of her work, but not everyone in her small town felt that way. Cyberbullies targeted her, zeroing in on her age and gender. Hilde considered ignoring them but decided she had to stand up to the haters to protect the reputation she had worked so hard to earn. Her response went viral, and nearly every major news organization took notice.

Hilde hasn't let anything stand in her way since.



OrangeStreetNews.com

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 168: Literary Agent Kristin Ostby

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Kristin Ostby and I discuss how she grew up a reader and daughter of a librarian who went on to edit for Penguin Random House and rose to become a senior editor at Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers before becoming a literary agent with Greenhouse Literary. We talk about why she made that change, the types of projects she’s looking for, how writers and agents can make an editor’s job easier, how to grab an agent’s attention, how she evaluates authors on social media and over Zoom calls, her communication style, using humor as a crucial tool in dramatic fiction, writing for the official Mad Libs, and so much more.





Kristin Ostby represents authors of middle grade and young adult fiction, as well as picture book author/illustrators. She is primarily seeking voicey, character-driven middle-grade as well as literary and contemporary young adult fiction. In particular, she is looking for stories with unabashedly intersectional overtones.

As the daughter of a librarian and a businessperson, it’s really no wonder Kristin wound up in the book business. Kristin moved from Michigan to New York to begin her life in publishing at Penguin Random House and rose to become a senior editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. In her sixteen years as a children’s book editor, Kristin had the joy and pleasure of editing children’s book legend Tomie dePaola; New York Times bestselling authors like Stuart Gibbs (Spy School) and US soccer star Alex Morgan (The Kicks); and award-winning creators including Daniel Miyares (Float), Jessica Lawson (Nooks & Crannies), and Heather Vogel Frederick (The Mother-Daughter Book Club). She also edited the mainstay bestseller I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley. Kristin loves guiding authors and illustrators toward their best work and advocating for them in service of building successful, sustainable artistic careers. Kristin lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 167: Author Lindsay Eagar

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Lindsay Eager and I have an in-depth discussion about writing and publishing and her newest middle grade novel, THE PATRON THIEF OF BREAD. We talk about her time working as an intern for a literary agent, leaving one literary agent for another, how she wrote about a protagonist of a different ethnicity than her own in HOUR OF THE BEES (and why she’s not interested in doing it again), how she committed to writing, getting away with a lengthier wordcount in middle grade, getting over a fear of ghosts, and so much more. NOTE: During our discussion, the sound occasionally dropped out of our connection, so I’ve edited around those dead spots while preserving most of what was said.






Lindsay Eagar lives in the mountains of Utah with her husband and young daughters. She has a BA in English from UVU and is now working towards her BS in History. Lindsay is a classically trained pianist and an un-classically trained rock guitarist.










A beautifully crafted middle-grade novel spiced
with magic—and gargoyles!—from the acclaimed author of Hour of the Bees and Race to the Bottom of the Sea.


Fished from the river as an infant and raised by a roving band of street urchins who call themselves the Crowns, eight-year-old Duck keeps her head down and her mouth shut. It’s a rollicking life, always thieving, always on the run—until the ragtag Crowns infiltrate an abandoned cathedral in the city of Odierne and decide to set down roots. It’s all part of the bold new plan hatched by the Crowns’ fearless leader, Gnat: one of their very own will pose as an apprentice to the local baker, relieving Master Griselde of bread and coin to fill the bellies and line the pockets of all the Crowns. But no sooner is Duck apprenticed to the kindly Griselde than Duck’s allegiances start to blur. Who is she really—a Crown or an apprentice baker? And who does she want to be? Meanwhile, high above the streets of Odierne, on the roof of the unfinished cathedral, an old and ugly gargoyle grows weary of waiting to fulfill his own destiny—to watch and protect. Told in alternating viewpoints, this exquisite novel evokes a timeless tale of love, self-discovery, and what it means to be rescued.



Saturday, May 21, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 166: Author Xiran Jay Zhao

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Xiran Jay Zhao and I discuss their new middle grade novel, ZACHARY YING AND THE DRAGON EMPEROR, and the phenomenon of their YouTube channel about Chinese history and media commentary which has more than 425,000 subscribers (as of this recording).We talk about their IRON WIDOW series and its movie possibilities, how they survived the midlist, how writing is suffering, the sometimes fickle nature of parental support, what to do when your agent leaves the industry, advanced AR videogames, graduating into the job market during the pandemic, and so much more.





Xiran Jay Zhao is the #1 
New York Times bestselling author of the Iron Widow series. A first-gen Hui Chinese immigrant from small-town China to Vancouver, Canada, they were raised by the internet and made the inexplicable decision to leave their biochem degree in the dust to write books and make educational content instead. You can find them @XiranJayZhao on Twitter for memes, Instagram for cosplays and fancy outfits, TikTok for fun short videos, and YouTube for long videos about Chinese history and culture. Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor is their first middle grade novel.






Percy Jackson meets Tristan Strong in this hilarious, action-packed middle grade contemporary fantasy that follows a young boy as he journeys across China to seal the underworld shut and save the mortal realm.


Zachary Ying never had many opportunities to learn about his Chinese heritage. His single mom was busy enough making sure they got by, and his schools never taught anything except Western history and myths. So Zack is woefully unprepared when he discovers he was born to host the spirit of the First Emperor of China for a vital mission: sealing the leaking portal to the Chinese underworld before the upcoming Ghost Month blows it wide open.

The mission takes an immediate wrong turn when the First Emperor botches his attempt to possess Zack’s body and binds to Zack’s AR gaming headset instead, leading to a battle where Zack’s mom’s soul gets taken by demons. Now, with one of history’s most infamous tyrants yapping in his headset, Zack must journey across China to heist magical artifacts and defeat figures from history and myth, all while learning to wield the emperor’s incredible water dragon powers.

And if Zack can’t finish the mission in time, the spirits of the underworld will flood into the mortal realm, and he could lose his mom forever.