Welcome to our weekly special feature post, Author Of The Week!!
Each week we will be interviewing a different YA author and highlighting their upcoming release!
We will also be hosting a giveaway of the book we are highlighting!!
Introducing Elle Cosimano, YABC's Author of the Week!!
Elle Cosimano grew up in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, the daughter of a maximum security prison warden and an elementary school teacher who rode a Harley. As a teen, she spent summers working on a fishing boat in the Chesapeake Bay. A failed student of the hard sciences, she discovered her true calling in social and behavioral studies while majoring in psychology at St. Mary's College of Maryland. Fifteen years later, Elle set aside a successful real-estate career to pursue writing. Her debut novel, Nearly Gone, was an Edgar Award Finalist, winner of the International Thriller Writers' Best Young Adult Novel Award, and winner of the inaugural Mathical Book Award recognizing mathematics in children's literature. Elle lives with her husband and two sons in Mexico, somewhere between the jungle and the sea.
Meet The Suffering Tree!!
Tori Burns and her family left D.C. for claustrophobic Chaptico, Maryland, after suddenly inheriting a house under mysterious circumstances. That inheritance puts her at odds with the entire town, especially Jesse Slaughter and his family-it's their generations-old land the Burns have "stolen." As the suspicious looks and muttered accusations of her neighbors build, so does the pressure inside her, and Tori returns to the pattern of self-harm that landed her in a hospital back in D.C. It all comes to a head one night when, to Tori's shock, she witnesses a young man claw his way out of a grave under the gnarled oak in her new backyard.
Nathaniel Bishop may not understand what brought him back, but it's clear to Tori that he hates the Slaughters for what they did to him centuries ago. Wary yet drawn to him by a shared sense of loss, she gives him shelter. But in the wake of his arrival comes a string of troubling events-including the disappearance of Jesse Slaughter's cousin-that seem to point back to Nathaniel.
As Tori digs for the truth-and slowly begins to fall for Nathaniel-she uncovers something much darker in the tangled branches of the Slaughter family tree. In order to break the curse that binds Nathaniel there and discover the true nature of her inheritance, Tori must unravel the Slaughter family's oldest and most guarded secrets. But the Slaughters want to keep them buried at any cost.
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
About six years ago, I was chaperoning a kindergarten field trip to a local farm when the school bus went hurtling past this field. [insert attached pic] In the center of it was a strange tree. Its limbs were bare, brittle and sagging and its trunk was bleached white. A handful of old, moss-covered headstones leaned in the weeds around it, their faces worn too thin to be legible. The sight of it jarred me. It left me with so many questions—who was buried there and when? Why was the tree dead when everything around it was so green and alive? And why did this cemetery look so haunting and yet seem so forgotten? I drove back the next day with my camera and snapped some pics. Tried to read the dates on the graves but couldn’t make them out. I started thinking about all the “what ifs”, wondering who was buried under this poor suffering tree, wishing I could unearth all of its secrets. And that’s when Nathaniel’s story first came to me.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
Probably Emmeline. She’s so . . . complicated. She’s fearless and fiercely loyal. Arrogant and prickly. Most of all, she’s a survivor. It’s hard to tell if she burns from within with a bright white light or a raging fire. There's this passion inside her that’s simultaneously magical and destructive. She’s such a force, and even though her role in the book wasn’t the biggest, it’s hard not to feel the story is rooted around her.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The title came almost immediately, years before the first draft of the story was written. As soon as I saw the tree in that cemetery, the title and the premise came to me, but it would be another five years before I was ready to tell such a historically rich and structurally complex story. I’m delighted the title stuck.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
I’m not sure I could choose just one. Instead, I’ll say I’m proud of all of Nathaniel’s memories. Set between 1699 and 1706 on a tobacco plantation in Southern Maryland, they are peppered into the modern-day narrative, slowly unfolding the backstory and revealing the mystery of how Nathaniel surfaced from his grave three hundred years later. Writing historical fiction requires a lot of research and care. And in that time spent, I fell deeply in love with the characters and their story. I feel like that passion and authenticity is reflected in Nathaniel’s voice—beautiful and honest, heartbreaking and wise.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
Most new writers are guilty of overwriting. Often we try so hard to stand out that we only manage to drown the story in redundancies and stage directions and overwrought prose. While revising my first novel, my agent told me, “You don’t need a lot of words. You only need the right ones.” I’ve learned there is power in simplicity, and that imagination thrives on nuance. I’ve learned not to be afraid of my own red pen.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
The illustrations are absolutely brilliant. I adore how the artist picked so many small details from the story and wove them in to the tree. The entire design is so thoughtful—haunting and elegant. Somehow, it feels both old and new. Romantic and simultaneously eerie. I can’t wait for you to see the illustration on the back of the jacket. This cover couldn’t be more perfect for this story.
YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2017?
As for YA, by the time you read this interview it will already be out (release is March 28, 2017), but I’m looking forward to Overturned by Lamar Giles. I love a good mystery, and Lamar is a two-time Edgar Award finalist. Scoring one Edgar nomination is a feat. Doing it twice? Respect! I can’t wait to see the next mystery Lamar Giles pulls out of his sleeve. When it comes to adult novels, I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda (coming April 11, 2017). I am a huge fan of her books, and I had the privilege to read the first half of this story in draft form. It completely sucked me in, and if I don’t get to read the rest soon, I might die. This is not hyperbole.
YABC: What was your favorite book in 2016?
My favorite YA of 2016 was This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston. Everything about this book was compelling—the carefully placed details in the cover, the eye-catching interior layouts, and the mysterious identity of the second narrator. A super-fun and completely satisfying read. My favorite adult suspense of 2016 was All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda. Atmospheric with strong voice and stellar prose. Structurally, it was so unique. This thriller was told backward! I had a very hard time putting this one down. It demands to be read both deeply and quickly. I loved it.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I’m not sure. . . it’s a mystery. (Haha! See what I did there?) Actually, all joking aside, it probably will be a mystery. I’m currently drafting my first adult suspense novel, and I’m really excited to see where this story will take me. But for my YA readers, don’t fret. I’m also working on a YA contemporary crime thriller and a YA urban fantasy, so I guess you could say I’ve got a few irons in the fire.
YABC: Your research has taken you to some interesting places. What was the most memorable bit of research you did for The Suffering Tree?
Since a good chunk of this story is rooted in the early colonies, specifically Maryland in the early 1700s, I had a lot of history to learn. I visited Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestowne, and Historic St. Mary’s City. I toured tobacco plantations and took classes with historians. I watched reenactors dance to the djembe drums and juba by torchlight in a cornfield. I toured tall ships and attended witch trial reenactments and studied crime and punishment, and talked with blacksmiths about the practice of branding criminals. The whole trip was magical and enchanting. But the most memorable moment was the evening when I met the inspiration for Nathaniel Bishop’s character. It was a crisp fall night, and I was in a tavern, warming up over a mug of hot buttered rum after a chilling candlelight ghost tour, when a handsome young fiddler approached my table and asked if I had any requests. The song he played for me went something like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcaM_uQKVYo As he played, a strand of his long hair came loose from the tie that held it back and when he smiled through it, I had a very sudden, clear picture of what Nathaniel would have looked like as he played the fiddle for Tori. And the little piece of me that might also be a little piece of her might have fallen in love with him for a minute.
The Suffering Tree
By: Elle Cosimano
Release Date: June 13th, 2017
One winner will receive a copy of The Suffering Tree and a signed bookplate and swag!
~ (US & Canada only) ~
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