August 12, 2011

Author Interview and GIVEAWAY Joel McGrath - Shrouded Secrets

On Fridays I like to take a step back and look at a group of readers often under-represented in the YA world - Guys!  During this time I'll highlight or review a book great for guys.  
And sometimes I get the chance to highlight an author that helps represent this group.  

Today that's what I get to do!  
I am welcoming Joel McGrath author of Shrouded Secrets.  
PLUS he has generously put up a copy of the book to giveaway!

Here's a bit about the book if you don't know it:
When a teenage brother and sister inherit secret metaphysical powers, they are unknowingly hunted by a group of clandestine immortals. While one of the siblings will reluctantly choose the path of righteousness, the other will defiantly dabble with the promise of true power and the darkness that accompanies it.  
As David James begins his freshman year of high school, he learns that his older sister Danielle's popularity isn't genetic. However, their lives change dramatically with the discovery that they possess power which grants them vast unearthly abilities. The more they strive for reasonable normality, the more unstable their powers become when combined with the stresses of high school teenage life. 
While jealousy, love, and anger unhinge their once typical lives, temptations to abuse their newfound gifts are manipulated by a shrouded and unyielding adversary who seeks to cast earth into a modern dark age. Soon secrets will injure the ones they love as the burden of true power begins to isolate them. Not even the ominous prospect of a crumbling world matters when each of them finds that they are helpless to control their own desires. 
Shrouded Secrets is an imaginative story in which David and Danielle James encounter the realm Eruditus. It is there they are taught to employ powers of the Artifex. The Galinea, knighted protectors of Eruditus, have those among them who have gone rogue. These malcontents, known as the Shroud, have set their sights on the two siblings. A perilous adventure ensues as David and Danielle become entangled with enemies who seek to claim their very lives.
And a bonus - a look at the summary for the sequel The Shadow Harvest
Immortality has been lost and in another realm, David James has been branded a murderer of the last in the royal line of Eruditus. The Doyen Council has locked the doors to the temple, and sealed the entrance that leads directly to Earth. In addition, they have charged their sacred warriors, the Galinea, with treason for the destruction of the peace that they were once sworn to keep. For the two siblings on Earth, everything has returned to an even more comfortable normal than they had ever previously experienced. Danielle accepts an unexpected scholarship to the Decayther School, an exclusive, co-ed boarding school in the quiet English countryside just south of London. Meanwhile, David is doomed to summer school because he was caught cheating on one of his final exams. At the same time, a massive and mysterious medieval, yet seemingly invisible, castle materializes, covering an entire mountaintop not far from where David lives. To those few souls who are able to view its ominous presence perched high above the California coastline, they have no question as to what its purpose is, and how it has suddenly appeared.
Soon a gathering of a few unique, yet otherwise ordinary children and teenagers begins worldwide. There are reports of tragic freak accidents that claim the lives of some, while others are abruptly taken, never to be heard from again. Late one night in a mostly deserted New York City subway, a strange supernatural battle occurs between two individuals who are seeking the same teenaged target. Local law enforcement is baffled when they arrive on the gruesome scene moments later. They discover that one of the two has met a most untimely and puzzling death, while the other has vanished into the night. While in England, nightmares of Danielle’s beloved Seth’s morbid demise at the hands of a ghastly creature, cause her angst, even though he is safely alive back in California. The night terrors become vivid and more frequent with horror-plagued images, which now overpower her once peaceful dreams. David is actively and unknowingly recruited as an asset that will help decide the fate of the shadow harvest. Even though his once unique strength has not returned to him, an unobtrusive force begins to manipulate him and those he loves. David’s decisions begin to tear his best friends apart, leaving them all in a weakened state, and ripe for the coming attack. First loves, old flames, and vicious betrayals are tempered by new allies, ancient enemies, and shattering revelations. A latent new order has emerged, and there is no middle ground left to claim. Governments begin to react irrationally as if their thoughts had become permeated with fear and mistrust, and no longer can be considered their own thoughts at all. Nevertheless, to the average eye, the world continues as it always has, and there appears to be no cause for alarm, but that will soon change. And unless both Danielle and David choose to believe in courage and to endure no matter the sacrifice, they will be powerless when what has been destine to occur is fulfilled beyond what any of them had ever envisioned. 

So with that welcome Joel to The O.W.L.!!!!

For Shrouded Secrets - what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
You know, my main characters go through a lot of adversity. Things like the separation of parents, social and economic hardships, plus they have to deal with uncooperative, annoying, and sometimes just plain mean people. That being said, they’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m proud of some of the choices that they make in Shrouded Secrets. David James, and his older sister, Danielle, face some complex emotions in Shrouded Secrets, but they know who they are, and that’s what mostly guides their day to day decisions in the end.

Tell about your writing process. How long did it take you to write Shrouded Secrets from idea to finish? Please tell about revision is you can

My writing process is a little unorthodox. I write all of my characters’ qualities, shortcomings, interests, and pet peeves in a notebook before I ever begin constructing a story around them. Wow, boy, it actually took me thirty months from initial idea to finished product. I never realized it took me that long. The revision process was painful. I read the same sentence like five times once, but my brain kept putting in the missing words for me, so my editor read the manuscript and I had my copy and we both had our highlighters out, marking the script until there was almost no white left on the paper.

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?

Yes and no; some of the characters are based on the many different types of people that I’ve encountered on either my trips from coast to coast, or the very odd jobs that I’ve held, going back to when I was twelve years old and a horrible excuse for a paperboy. I’ve met some truly wonderful human beings, and I’ve come across a few very bad ones as well. For the most part though, I’ve found that people are somewhere in-between good and bad. The good ones are usually 51% good most of the time, and the bad ones are bad about 51% of the time. I think that Shrouded Secrets attempts to uncover the reasons behind our choices, despite the circumstances behind the ultimate choice.

How much say did you have in the cover of this book?  What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)

I had a lot of say in designing the cover and since the release of Shrouded Secrets a few months ago, many people have told me that they loved the cover art. The cover is supposed to be parchment paper with prophecies being burned to hide the secrets that they possess. The process of creating a cover was totally about feel for me. Of course, the right colors, designs, and fonts are very important, but for me it really was about feel. I believe that literature is alive, and that’s why the cover art was so important in the end. 

You're a male author in YA and that's fantastic! We need more.  How is that?  Why YA?

Up until Harry Potter, there were many more YA male writers. On a recent trip to Wal-Mart, I counted like sixty-five female authors to about nine male authors on their shelves. I think there’s a perception out there that male writers aren’t as good at world building, character development, and description as our female counterparts. I personally think there’s a place for male YA writers again, but young men should read classics from the likes of Jane Austen as well as the Veronica Roth’s of the world. I have four brothers, but I also have four sisters and I think that females are more open-minded when it comes to their literary choices than are males.

I chose YA because it’s an age group that hasn’t, for the most part, become totally jaded by their worldly experiences yet. I love this age group; I think it’s the best and worst years of our lives because it holds out hope that the future can be or will be different, and better than now.

What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?
Surprisingly substandard, not that I wasn’t smart, but I was bored with what was being taught most of the time. If it were something that was engaging though, I would learn it better than anyone else would. I did become a much better and consistent student when I got into college, probably because I was paying for it by then.

My grandmother was an English teacher, and my dad was kind of a stickler about English as well, but I preferred writing poetry when I was younger. I liked poetry because it could be raw yet beautiful, and heartfelt but heartbreaking at the same time. However, I never wrote any type of substantial fiction until I wrote Shrouded Secrets

And because it's the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?
I admire Agatha Christie, for sure, because she was extremely dedicated to bettering herself and her literary craft. I think that she both knew what kind of writer she was, and how continuing to refine her works would lend to their timelessness.

My favorite author now would have to be Ralph Waldo Emerson because I relate to many of his ideas and quotes as an adult. And my favorite authors growing up were, husband and wife team, James and Deborah Howe who co-wrote Bunnicula together.
Thanks Joel! Neat to see some thoughts from the male perspective!

Now the giveaway! 
To win a copy of Shrouded Secrets.
Fill out THIS FORM
Must be a US resident.
Ends in one week - Aug 19th

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