Ultimate YA

Ultimate YA is an organization that promotes young adult literature (YA lit) and reading. We feature one YA lit author per month. Each feature includes a short bio of the author, as well as fun facts and an interview. 

In addition to our features, we post quotes and memes of the week that relate to books, writing, and/or reading. We also post anything else that we find interesting regarding reading and writing.

Are you interested in being a guest blogger? If so email ChinLin at chinlinpan@ultimateya.com.

If you are an author and would like to be featured, send an email to lizmiller@ultimateya.com. If approved, then pay here for the feature.
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Posts tagged "Liz Miller"

7.) What do you do when you encounter the dreaded writer’s block?

It gets us all at some stage, but the best way to overcome it is just to skip over that bit. Either write ahead, or go back and edit prior. Reinvigorate your mojo. If that fails, go away and write a blog post, or a short story. Basically, just write, even if it’s not the part you want to write. Writing is the only way to overcome writer’s block. 

8.) How long did it take for you to get published? How difficult was the road to getting published?

As a journalist, I was published a long time ago, but it took me about 15 years to work up the courage to put my fiction out there to the public. The advent of e-publishing certainly made that a lot easier. I really want to become trade published (even though there is nothing wrong with Indie) so I suppose that is my next goal.

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1.) Why did you choose write books for young adults?

I actually write for both adults and young adults, but the latter because I have teenage children myself. Having written very adult books that they are not allowed to read until they are 18, I wanted to write books I’d be proud for them to read and show their friends. 

2.) What is your favorite book? Your favorite author?

Not sure I could narrow it down to one favourite. Perhaps my top 3. Favourite for characters is Gone with the Wind because I love both Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. It’s almost like the author wrote them ahead of their time. I know there are some that would say neither are good role models (and perhaps that’s true) but they are interesting characters, and I’ll take interesting any day over role model. My favourite books for creativity and world building is the Narnia tales. I have read those books over and over again, and just love how C S Lewis created such beautiful, imaginative worlds I could get lost in. I also love books that feed my travel addiction, and the best I’ve read of those lately is Love With A Chance of Drowning, a true story of a woman who braved her fear of the ocean to sail across the Pacific with the love of her life. 
I also have a couple of favourite authors, and they are generally prolific authors I can read anything they write. They include Jeffrey Deaver (though admittedly he’s getting a little predictable), Matthew Reilly (the ultimate example of an Indie author who made it big), Nicholas Sparks (writes the best love stories ever) and Tess Gerritsen. 

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Credit to Liz Miller.

Credit to Liz Miller.

  1. I’ve lived in four different countries: Australia, Papua New Guinea, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.
  2. While living in Papua New Guinea, I was working for the Australian Ambassador, and inadvertently (and completely accidentally) started a major diplomatic incident between Australia and PNG with an email that went viral.
  3. Riley Banks is not my real name. My real name is Rebecca.
  4. For those who have read Vampire Origins, you might like to know that I really do own a half lame cat named Bear who was rescued in Saudi Arabia. He may or may not be a shape shifter.
  5. I have been married for 21 years, have 3 kids, and am about to have my first grandchild – a little boy – in March 2014.
  6. I love quiz shows, and can usually answer most of the questions, thanks to a pretty broad general knowledge base.
  7. I have died before… No seriously, when giving birth to my first child, I lost so much blood that I flatlined and had to be revived.


Co-publisher Liz Miller just watched Catching Fire last night! She shakes her fist at Capitol “problems.” Go Katniss and Peeta!

Credit to Liz Miller.

Co-publisher Liz Miller just watched Catching Fire last night! She shakes her fist at Capitol “problems.” Go Katniss and Peeta!

Credit to Liz Miller.

"Creating stories you won’t want to leave."
Riley Banks knows how to tell a tale or two. Her fast paced novels hook readers and keep them hooked to the very last word as she creates worlds readers won’t want to leave.

Whether she’s writing for adults or young adults, you can rely on her signature to shine through: Fast pace, gripping suspense and characters so rich and bold they will stay with you long after you finish. 

Her Vampire Origins series is already being touted as the next big thing in YA literature. Packed full of action, adventure, romance, and evil, Vampire Origins weaves historical fact with fiction to explore the origins of five very different vampire tribes: Strigoi, Cambion, Bretonnian, Strix, and Nosferatu.

From the Christian Crusades to the war in Afghanistan, the Vampire Origins series seamlessly weaves historical fact with vampire fiction to create an epic charater-rich saga full of action, mystery, intrigue and horror - keeping you hooked to the very last word. 

Vampire Origins explores five vampiric tribes: 

Cambion - Descended from royalty, the Cambions are a proud and arrogant race of pureblood born vampires. Having never experienced the restrictions of human emotion, they take what they want and kill with cruel abandon. They have just one rule - never turn a human. 

Bretonnian - Forget murder and violent conversions. Forget the Freemasons and Scientology. The Bretonnians’ are the hippest club among the creative elite and they are all for free choice, free love and free spirit. From scientists to artists and from rock stars to Hollywood’s biggest names, anyone who is anyone wants to be a Bretonnian. 

Strix - A fierce tribe of warrior vampires, the Strix are often employed by governments and private armies as bodyguards, mercenaries and assassins to take down dictators. They are ruthless, efficient killers working side by side with their human counterparts. But the Strix have one weakness - their hunger for blood often drives them to become the very thing they hunt. 

Nosferatu - A shadowy race led by a fallen priest, they are slaves to their religious beliefs, unable to move beyond their superstitions that keep them hidden in the dark. 

Strigoi - From his creation in the bloodshed of the crusades, to his reemergence as Vlad the Impaler, Vladamir Strigoi has sought a way to enslave mankind and rule the world. Only one thing can stop him - a true, Strigoi human. Vlad will search the world for his descendants, turning them before they can put an end to him.

1.) Why did you choose write books for young adults?

It’s such an exciting time - everything is about discovery and choices.

2.) What is your favorite book? Your favorite author?

The Wizard of Oz, because it started it all. And J.K. Rowling is my Queen.

3.) With which characters in your stories do you identify yourself most?

Em and I have the same edit button problem. ;)

4.) Some authors work during the day. Some at night. What is your typical writing day schedule?

I have two boys, so whenever I can, wherever I can! Both of them will be in school this year, so I’ll be shooting for daytime hours then!

5.) What advice can you give to an aspiring writer?

Read, read, read, and write, write, write.

6.) How much of your personal life to you tend to bring to your stories?

There are lots of little things, such as Thomas and Michael and their love of Fruity Pebbles (the husband), and Emerson and her love of black Converse (me).

7.) What do you do when you encounter the dreaded writer’s block?

I keep going. Not always the best choice, actually. Sometimes I think it’s important to walk away so you can come back fresh. But not for too long! No more than a day.

8.) How long did it take for you to get published? How difficult was the road to getting published?

From the first word of HOURGLASS to the day it was published was just short of three years. As far as difficulty in getting published, I didn’t realize how much difficult stuff happens after a manuscript has sold.

9.) Do you have any book recommendations for the readers in our group?

Oh man! I hardly get to read books anymore - I mostly listen to them. Lately I’ve heard A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, THE HISTORIAN and THE HELP. I realize those are all adult! Um … I love Rachel Hawkins Hex Hall series!

1. I had two imaginary friends growing up, Madeline and Muffy. 
2. I adored the Wizard of Oz and Trixie Belden as a child. 
3. My husband and I moved 36 times in the first five years of our marriage. (He played minor league baseball.) 
4. Italian food can cure most ills. 
5. Dance breaks can cure the rest of them. 
6. I am a pop culture junkie, and my interests range from Doctor Who to Dark Shadows. 
7. I can touch my tongue to the tip of my nose!

Myra McEntire knows the words to every R&B hit of the last decade, but since she lives in Nashville, the country music capital of America, her lyrical talents go sadly unappreciated. She’s chosen, instead, to channel her “mad word skills” into creating stories infused with her love of music. Her young adult book, Hourglass, is available now.

Myra’s book debuted on June 14th and can be purchased at your local bookstore, or online. For more information, check out Goodreads, or read on here:

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened? 

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.

Stay tuned for more about Myra and her debut book, Hourglass!

If you enjoyed reading about Melissa Kantor this month and would like to contact her, than you can email her at melissa@melissakantor.com. You can also check out her websiteAdditionally, you can join her group on Goodreads and talk to her directly!

9.)  Do you have any book recommendations for the readers in our group?

I just read the galley for “Putting Makeup on Dead People.” It was so different from a lot of what’s out there—very daring and exciting. I’m loving “Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares,” and so is my eighth grade class, to whom I’m reading it on Wednesday afternoons. And I’m about to read “Real Live Boyfriends,” the final installment in E. Lockhart’s “The Boyfriend List” series, so I’d love for everyone to join me! 

10.) You mentioned that you teach classes during the school year. What subjects do you teach?

I teach middle and high school English.  I’ve taught kids as young as fourth grade, but I usually teach upper middle school (7th and 8th) and high school.

11.) Do you ever use your classes as inspiration for your stories?

It’s so funny because my students always ask that question.  They actually go back and forth on how they ask it.  Sometimes they’re like, “You should name a character after me!” or “You should put me in a book.”  Other times, they’re a little nervous like, you’re not going to put me in your books, are you?  I can say with a clear conscience that I never ever use anything I know from or about a student in a book.  My stories really come from my own experiences and feelings as a teenager.  There’s a certain amount of overlap (I think the teenage experience is, in many ways, universal and eternal), but if something that happens in one of my books also happened to one of my students, it’s absolutely a coincidence.  

12.) The problem of keeping young adults interested in reading is growing. What is your opinion on how to keep young adults interested, or even to begin to get other young adults interested in reading?

Wow, that’s a tough one.  I can say that my experience with my students makes me feel that all kids can be turned onto reading, it’s just a matter of finding the right book.  Every Monday, my students and I talk about what we’re reading outside of class.  Sometimes students start out the year as non-readers, but by June, I think I can safely say that the vast majority of them (if not all of them) have found books they’ve loved.  It takes time.  I have a lot of suggestions for them.  Their friends have a lot of suggestions for them.  If they love a book, we try to find other books like the book they loved.  If they seem to be losing interest in a book, I encourage them to find something they’ll enjoy more (but I don’t send them off on their own to do it—I suggest different titles they might like, discuss what they’re bored by in the book they don’t like, talk about other books they have liked).  Helping kids love reading and helping them to read more takes time and energy.  I could go on and on about what works and what doesn’t, but I’ll spare you the spiel.  I’ll give one final suggestion (this is for all you moms and dads out there!) avoid pushing “good” books on your kids.  If a kid loves a book, then by definition it’s a good book for that kid.  Trying to force your child to love a certain novel or writer is guaranteed to backfire. 

13.) Your characters had a variety of experiences. Do you do research before writing their stories? If so, how do you go about doing your research?

It’s funny—my background is more academic than literary (I was a political science major in college and my graduate degree is in English literature, not writing), so research feels like home to me.  I’ve never written a book in which I have to do a ton of research (I’ve never written an historical novel, for example), but I always like it when I have to investigate things.  In Book Two of The Darlings (called The Darlings in Love), I had a scene (it’s actually not in the final book, which is kind of funny) where Natalya went out for dinner at a fancy Brighton Beach restaurant.  I spent time online searching for locations and menus of actual Brighton Beach restaurants so I could integrate them into my imaginary restaurant; I wanted my made up place (called Kiev) to sound legitimate.  

14.) What inspired you to write a story about three friends struggling to find their place in the scary new world of high school?

High school is such a major transition.  The only reason it didn’t feel completely overwhelming to me was because I had my BFFs right by my side.  Just thinking about what it would have been like to make that move alone makes my stomach hurt!  Since it seemed to stressful, I thought it would make a good novel…

15.) Will you be writing any follow-ups to Jane, Victoria and Natalya’s stories?  

The second book in the series is called The Darlings in Love, and it’s all about what happens when the girls fall in love.  You can read a sample chapter from the book at the end of The Darlings Are Forever.

1.)  Why did you choose write books for young adults?

I think there are a couple of answers to this question. The first is that I have a friend who was a YA editor and who really encouraged me to write YA. That’s probably what started me writing YA. But every time I sign a new contract (or I should say right BEFORE I sign a new contract), I ask myself if I still want to write for teenagers or if there’s a different readership I’m interested in (little kids, adults). Each time I ask the question I give a resounding yes. I love writing for teens. Their struggles feel so real to me, and my own teen years were so fraught. Adult life can’t compare to the drama of high school (thankfully).

2.)  What is your favorite book?  Your favorite author?

My favorite adult author is probably Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf (it changes every few months). My favorite teen author is Norma Klein. A lot of her stuff is out of print, but two of her books were really important to me when I was younger. One is “It’s Okay if You Don’t Love Me” and the other is “Love is One of the Choices.” Her heroines are very 1970s girls—smart, feminist, curious, determined. Even the scared or shy ones usually make cool choices. I love that.  

3.)  With which characters in your stories do you identify yourself most?

I feel a tremendous kinship with my main characters—Lucy’s struggles with her stepmother in “If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince?” are very resonant for me. And “The Breakup Bible” kind of distills every awful breakup I’ve ever had, so I feel for Jennifer in that book. At the same time, now that I’m a mom, I definitely feel for the mothers in the books. Their kids are SOOOO hard to parent sometimes. It’s fun to sympathize with different characters at different stages of my life.  

4.)  Some authors work during the day. Some at night. What is your typical writing day schedule?

During the summer, I get up, buy a bagel and something for lunch and head off to work at the student-faculty resource center at my school. The second I get there, I eat all the food I bought for the day. Then I get down to work. During the school year, when I’m also teaching, I write whenever I have a minute. Also in the afternoons of the days I don’t have classes.  

5.)  What advice can you give to an aspiring writer?

Write a book you would want to read!

6.)  How much of your personal life to you tend to bring to your stories?

The emotional lives of all of my main characters is completely factual—their insecurities, hopes and dreams are or were mine. But none of the things that happen to them happen to me. So the feelings are real but the plots are invented.  

7.)  What do you do when you encounter the dreaded writer’s block?

Oh god, writer’s block is the WORST. Usually when that happens I reach out. To friends who are writers, to my former editors, to my current editor. I need to talk out my problems to solve them, either live or in emails. My friend and former editor Helen always laughs when she gets a panicked email from me because it usually has the problem I’m struggling with solved. (Like, I’ll write, “Do you think the character should steal a car? Maybe she should steal a car. But I don’t know.  What do you think?” Then Helen will call me back to offer advice and I’ll say, “You know what? I think I’m going to have the character steal a car!”) Often just the act of writing down the problem and sending it to someone helps me solve it.  

8.)  How long did it take for you to get published? How difficult was the road to getting published?

My road to getting published was embarrassingly easy, which has nothing to do with the quality of my work and everything to do with having a close friend in the industry. I had a dinner with my friend Helen, she said, “Write me a YA novel!” and I wrote her one and she published it. Along the way, there was a lot of support and encouragement from friends and family, but Helen gets most of the credit for my career.  

1.  I’m a Capricorn

2.  The first time I ever kissed a boy, he asked me (right before we kissed), “Have you ever kissed someone before?”  I said, “No, have you?” He said, “Yes.”  So I said, “Oh, I forgot. I have too.

3.  My favorite ice cream flavor is Chubby Hubby.  Also, if I’m sharing a pint with someone, I do this really annoying thing where I dig around for the good parts (like big chunks of pretzels) and leave them with the boring vanilla part.

4.  I cannot whistle, though many people have tried to teach me how.

5.  My favorite movie is “Ishtar.”

6.  I have very long skinny feet.  If I’m wearing white socks, they look like fish fillets.

7.  I recently wikipediaed Kim Kardishian because I knew I should know who she is but I was too embarrassed to admit to anyone that I didn’t already know.

Melissa Kantor is a YA author.  Her latest book The Darlings Are Forever came out January 4. It’s the story of three best friends who are starting school at different high schools in New York City. You can read the first chapter on her website.  She has written other YA books including If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince? and Girlfriend Material.

And now for more exciting news! Melissa is giving away 5 copies of The Darlings Are Forever this month! The rules for the contest are these:

1.)  The contest is only open to U.S. residents.

2.)  Post a response to the following prompt in 100 words or fewer onto the discussion board topic on our group page on Facebook (or, if you do not have a Facebook page, then message us your post and we’ll post the response on the discussion board for you). 

"I LOVE my best friend because…"

3.)  Include your email address so that we can contact you if you win.

4.)  The contest ends on February 28th, and the winner will be announced on March 1st.

Also, if you are interested in having your response posted on Melissa’s website, mention that at the end of your post.

Stay tuned for more about Melissa Kantor throughout the month!