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Texas Debut Authors Panel Recap

Last night I had the honor of hosting 6 up and coming debut authors from the DFW area at my library branch in Grand Prairie, Texas.  2012 Printz and Morris winning author John Corey Whaley was our host for the evening moderating the panel, and he is a very funny guy.  In fact, everyone on the panel was informative, entertaining, and great to spend an evening with.  If you have a chance, I highly recommend inviting them to your school or library to talk.  We talked books, both writing them and reading them, fears, guilty pleasures and more.

So, let’s begin our recap shall we . . .

John Corey Whaley

  • Was once a middle school teacher, though he claims he wasn’t a very good one.
  • He absolutely does not like Faulkner. At all.
  • He just turned in his next book, which he can’t talk about.  But the theme is apparently “absurdity”.
  • Has recently moved and is getting ready to make another move and teach a class on writing.
  • Is currently reading The Shining because he wanted a book that would creep him out.
  • Is a gentleman and really wanted to make the evening about the debut authors.

Lindsay Cummings

  • Is the author of the upcoming The Murder Complex, set in a future where the murder rate is higher than the birth rate.
  • She absolutely loves Twilight and doesn’t care who knows, she says she owns it.
  • She is afraid of “those creepy men who hit on you.” And you know, that is a legitimate fear.
  • While writing she asks herself, “What would Angelina Jolie do?”
  • She says that The Hunger Games is her “guilty pleasure”. 
  • Has 3 dogs
  • Is only 21 years old and is about to get published. She wrote her book when she was in her teens.


Mary Gray

  • Is the author of the upcoming The Dollhouse Asylum, where teens are forced to reenact the lives of tragic literary couples or die.  Such an intriguing concept.
  • Although I begged, she would not say which literary couples appear in the book.  I am intrigued.  Which couples do you think have to make an appearance?
  • Mary Gray is the mother of 3, so finding writing time can be a challenge.
  • Her favorite book series is His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers, book 1 is Grave Mercy and book 2 is Dark Triumph.
  • Is also a huge fan of The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, which inspired her to write a creepy book.
  • She is afraid of strawberries.  I’m not making that part up.
  • Does not like Dickens.

Jenny Martin

  • Is the author of the upcoming book Tracked, a science fiction space race with deadly consequences.
  • Is afraid of “jerks”
  • Does not like James Joyce
  • Can write anywhere with any type of background noise
  • Is a librarian (Woohoo for librarians!)
  • Says her guilty pleasure is Supernatural (how is that a guilty pleasure I ask!) and if you visit her on Twitter, you can see a picture of her with Sam, played by Jared Padelecki.
  • Is reading House of Leaves and Eleanor and Park at the moment.

Julie Murphy

  • Is the author of the upcoming Side Effects May Vary, a story about a girl who his diagnosed with cancer, goes and gets retribution on all the people she doesn’t like or has hurt her in life, and then finds out she has gone into remission.  Again, such an interesting concept for a book.  When discussing writing Murphy said she was interested in knowing what kind of girl she would be, what would her family be like, etc.
  • Hates Jane Austen but loves Degrassi, Blue Valentine and British TV Shows.
  • Told the funniest story about being severely sunburned when she received the call that her book had been sold and how she could barely hold the phone because of the pain.
  • Is afraid of Cicadas because bugs just shouldn’t be that big, it’s scientifically incorrect.
  • Is an academic librarian.
  • Thinks the most beautiful couple ever appears in the book The God Shaped Hole 
  • Says everyone should read Eleanor and Park RIGHT NOW.



Heather L. Reid

  • Is the author of the recently released Pretty Dark Nothing from Month9Books, a story about a girl who sees demons in her sleep and doesn’t know if they are real or if there is something wrong with her.
  • She recently moved back to Texas from Scotland.
  • Is a gamer.
  • Says it took over 7 years to get her book sold and published.
  • She knew she wanted to be a writer as a kid. (Many others on the panel did not. Mary Gray was the only other panel member who said she has known for a long time, since childhood, that she wanted to be a writer.)
  • Is afraid of roaches. She said this is weird, we all assured her it was not, perfectly reasonable fear if you ask me.
  • Says the Shining is the creepiest book she ever read.

Victoria Scott

  • Is the author of The Dante Walker series, a book about a teenage boy who dies, becomes a soul collector for the devil, and is then given 10 days to collect the soul of a girl named Charlie.Book 1 is The Collector, already out.  Book 2 is The Liberator, coming out in August I believe.
  • Is terribly afraid of monkeys. Animals should not have thumbs – she believes this strongly.
  • Watches Teen Mom as her guilty pleasure.
  • Listens to hard rock like Korn.
  • Is more organized than others on the panel in her writing process. She has outlines, character profiles, etc. in a series of folders and subfolders on her computer. Most of the other panel members said they did not outline and wished they were more organized.
  • Is reading and recommends Scorched by Mari Mancusi, she says her excellent writing makes her feel so inadequate as a writer.
  • Says The Hot Zone freaked her out and then tried to freak us all out about the Ebola virus.  Corey Whaley talked about the movie Contagion, which I am actually obsessed with and watch almost nightly in the background when I read (something about it makes good background noise).  I was very upset when I accidentally erased it – and everything else – off of my DVR.

I want to give a heartfelt thanks to everyone on the panel for their time and such a wonderful library program and discussion. Everyone in attendance gave lots of compliments on the night.  I was encouraged to hear how all the various writers came to write ya books and that they had both an appreciation for teens and teen literature.  One of the panel members said they actually liked being a teenager.  I think that means they were doing it wrong. I am loo kingforward to reading all the books, they sound so good.

Hatchet (Gary Paulsen) as discussed by Lindsay Cummings

Today, as author Lindsay Cummings waits for her thrilling new ya book The Murder Complex to be published, she stops by to write a Why YA? post about a book that means a lot to her.  You can write one too.

Everyone reads, at some point in their life.

Some of us read in school. Some of us hate it. Some of us love it.

Some of us, like me, can remember the very first time a book reached into their soul and grabbed a hold of them.



It started with picture books. Chapter books. I liked reading, I really did, but it hadn’t hit me yet. It hadn’t sucked me in and refused to let me go…Until I found THE book.

It was the one that changed everything. The one that made me a believer  in the fact that impossible things could be defeated.

The book was HATCHET, by Gary Paulsen.

I started reading. I was horrified by the plane crash, entranced by the wilderness, and completely floored by the fact that a boy on his own, a boy MY age, could survive.
“Patience, he thought. So much of this was patience – waiting, and thinking and doing things right. So much of all this, so much of all living was patience and thinking.”  (from Hatchet by Gary Paulsen)

The writing was real. It made me feel things, and it hit me where it hurt, where it mattered most- right in the heart.
And after that, I couldn’t stop reading. I couldn’t stop signing myself up for these magical journeys that would transport me away from my confusing, teenaged world ,and drop me into entirely new ones where anything was possible.  Where I could be a girl who kissed vampires (oh, Edward), or a boy whose magic saved the world, or a girl with a bow and a mockingjay pin whose rebellion and courage had the power to change EVERYTHING.

YA is magical. It is real, because to teens, the world is a horrifying and beautiful place all at once. YA is what takes us from our experiences in the scariest years of our lives, when we don’t even know who we are, when we don’t even know what we will become or where we will be in the future, and throws us into a time and place where anything is possible. YA gives readers hope. It gives readers excitement. When you’re a teen, everything matters. Everything is the best day and the worst day all at once. The tiniest of choices can affect you for the rest of your life.

And YA harnesses that magic. It makes it beautiful, and available, and addicting. It is powerful, and flawed, and redeeming, and exactly the way life should be- a thrilling journey.

I read and write YA because I love being a young adult. Reading YA makes me  feel something real. It makes me a part of something powerful, something perfect, and something far more exciting than the ups and downs of everyday life.

Why YA? Because life is short, and I want to read the best of the best. There is NO better way to do it than diving into the pages of a YA book.

About Lindsay Cummings

Lindsay Cummings is a 20-year-old author of dark futuristic thriller books for Young Adults. Her first blood-soaked novel, THE MURDER COMPLEX, as well as its sequel, are coming soon from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins. Lindsay deals with chronic fatigue, can’t get enough of her two pesky German Shepherds, and is currently trying to become like one of her book characters by training in Mixed Martial Arts. She’s still waiting on her letter from Hogwarts–it was probably just lost in the mail. She loves Jesus and believes all of her success is His doing! You can follow Lindsay on twitter @lindsaycwrites ! She’s always on, and loves to chat!
You can also find Lindsay on YouTube and Facebook
Find out about author Lindsay Cummings and what happens at The Murder Complex at her website.