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 Melissa Albert, YABC's Author of the Week!!
Melissa Albert is the founding editor of the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog and the managing editor of BN.com. She has written for McSweeney’s, Time Out Chicago, MTV, and more. Melissa is from Illinois and lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Hazel Wood is her first novel.
Meet The Hazel Wood!
Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”
Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
It started with the image of a fairy-tale character breaking through into the real world. Remember the title of the first chapter of Peter Pan, “Peter Breaks Through”? I’ve always loved that: it’s such an evocative concept, someone punching with force through the wall between worlds. Initially I envisioned it as belonging to a genre that may or may not exist, that I like to call “fairy tale noir,” but over time the hardboiled voice receded to make way for something more natural to me. It’s stuffed full of so many of the things I love in books: doors to other worlds, uncanny happenings, a recognizable contemporary world made weird by supernatural things crawling through at the edges. I don’t pre-plot, so I figured out where it was going as I wrote it, but ultimately I realized I wanted to structure it as a creepy descent into fairyland, a journey through layers of weird that takes you, bit by bit, from the “real” world to a dangerous otherworld.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
My heroine, Alice, is probably my favorite—we’ve spent so much time together!—but I have a lot of love for Ellery Finch, who joins her on the journey to figuring out what, exactly, awaits her at the Hazel Wood. He and I are waaaay more alike than Alice and I—though it’s funny to me, as a Ravenpuff, that I managed to write a book populated entirely by Gryffindors and Slytherins. Finch is a reader, a fantasy world fanboy, an introvert who wears an extrovert’s exterior like armor. He’s an imperfect person with a strong sense of fairness and a heart that’s a little too soft for his own good. He’s more adventurous than me, of course, but it’s more fun that way.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The book came first, but the title came early. I took it from the opening of the wonderful Yeats poem “The Song of Wandering Aengus,” which I also used for my epigraph. I recommend giving the whole poem a read, it’s so elliptical and enchanting.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
Telling too much would be a spoiler, but there’s a sequence I had an absolute blast writing—and it ends with a scene I must’ve written and rewritten a minimum of twenty times to get it right. I’m proud of it now, because I can no longer see the amount of sweat and tears that went into it.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
Follow the fear—but take breaks when you need them. I wrote The Hazel Wood over the course of about two and a half years, but I stepped away from it again and again, often for months at a time, both to work on other projects and because there were places I wanted to take the plot that I didn’t yet have the confidence to go. I’m not good at pre-plotting—I have to find the book as I go along—so every time I started losing my nerve I’d step away, work on other stuff, then come back with the overblown, wildly useful confidence of someone who has forgotten why they were scared. It’s okay to trick yourself like that. Staring at something too long when you’re just not pushing it forward can be soul-sucking. Let yourself step away to take a break, but don’t abandon something or change course because you’re worried your ambition outstrips your skill. You’ll catch up eventually with what you’re trying to do.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
My vain side says THE SHINY FOIL. My brain side says the way that every detail of that incredible cover, from the feather, comb, and bone to the car’s headlights to the wonderful fairy-tale-style gates, is a callback to something in the text. It’s gorgeous at a glance, and even cooler once you’ve read the book.
YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2017-2018?
Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince is my kinda book right down to the ground. Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Ayedemi, looks and sounds fantastic. So many other debuts I want to get my hands on, but to name just a few: Emily X. R. Pan’s The Astonishing Color of After, Joy McCullough’s Blood, Water, Paint, and Ink, Iron, and Glass, by Gwendolyn Clare.
YABC: What was your favorite book in 2016-2017?
I’m very very lucky, as the editor of the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog, that I get to gush regularly about all the books I love and can’t wait to read, and it means I’ve always got about forty books I want to scream about on tap. But I’ll keep it to a handful: An Enchantment of Ravens, by Margaret Rogerson, is one of the BEST fey stories I’ve ever read. It feels so fresh and original and funny and fleet, yet simultaneously like a classic I could’ve devoured as a kid, with a box of Cheez-Its next to me and my feet on the heater. Jane, Unlimited, by Kristin Cashore, feels like a book written just for me: a genre-hopping big-house mystery that nods at classic Choose Your Own Adventure books (a childhood obsession for me), and that skates through five different genres in order of ascending weirdness over the course of one book. The Hate U Give—what can I say about that book that hasn’t been said? It’s a moving, timely, page-turning portrait of a family and a moment and a community under threat from within and without. It’s fantastic.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
In the wake of the 2016 election it felt especially crucial to donate to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and LGBTQ centers, and sadly that feeling has only grown with time.
The Hazel Wood
By: Melissa Albert
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: January 30th, 2018
One winner will receive a copy of The Hazel Wood (Melissa Albert) ~ (US Only)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*