Author Chat with Ally Carter (Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor), Excerpt, Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to chat with Ally Carter author of
Winterborne Home For Vengeance and Valor.
Read on for more about Ally and her book, an excerpt, plus an giveaway.
Meet Ally Carter!
Ally Carter writes books about spies, thieves, and diplomats. She is the New York Times bestselling author of three YA series about the world's best teenage art thieves (Heist Society), the world's coolest spy school (Gallagher Girls, including I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have To Kill You), and the granddaughter of a diplomat who has to find her mother's killer on Embassy Row. Not If I Save You First is her latest New York Times bestseller. Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor is her middle grade debut. Her novels have sold over three million copies and have been published in more than twenty countries. She lives in
Oklahoma, where her life is either very ordinary or the best deep-cover legend ever. She’d tell you more, but…well…you know… Visit
her at AllyCarter.com, on Twitter @OfficiallyAlly, and on Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr at @theallycarter
Meet Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor!
April didn’t mean to start the fire. She wasn’t even the one who broke the vase.
She had absolutely no intention of becoming the only person who knows that Gabriel Winterborne, the missing-and-presumed-dead billionaire, is neither missing nor dead and is actually living in the basement of Winterborne House, sharpening his swords and looking for vengeance.
Now that April knows Gabriel Winterborne is alive, it’s up to her to keep him that way. But there’s only so much a twelve-year-old girl can do, so April must turn to the other orphans for help. Together, they’ll have to unravel the riddle of a missing heir and a creepy legend, and find a secret key, before the only home they’ve ever known is lost to them forever.
Amazon * B & N * Indiebound
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I wrote my first YA, I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU, fifteen years ago! Fifteen! Readers of this book weren’t even born yet. And in that time YA has changed a lot. It’s gotten bigger, of course, but also a lot more mature, and what would have been a YA then might be considered Middle Grade today, so I decided to write a MG book because I think that’s my natural voice.
Why this book? Because I always thought that Batman did it wrong. I mean, the world thinks you’re dead, and then you come home to skulk around and fight crime… Wouldn’t that have been easier if people didn’t know you were alive? Plus, I think everything is better with kids.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
Ooh. So tough. I love all of these characters and could never pick, but my favorite relationship has to be Gabriel and April. I love, love, love a reluctant mentor and the plucky kid who thaws their frozen heart. That’s really what I set out to write, and I can’t wait for the world to meet them. Hopefully everyone else will love them as much as I do.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
This one really came together at the same time. I knew I wanted Winterborne Home for _______, but we went back and forth on exactly what. Because, of course, at the same time I was also honing the book itself and trying to draw the characters and the plot into focus.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
I’m not sure! Some of the scenes for this book were just always right there—from the word go. Others came while I was writing. A few really key scenes didn’t come until the revision process when I was like ‘there’s something missing…”. If I had to pick a favorite I’d probably have to choose the moment when April goes to the other kids and asks them for help. That’s the midpoint of the story—the point of no return. And it marks a HUGE moment for April, because from that point forward she can never go back to being the girl she was before.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
This cover is amazing!!!! It’s the first time I’ve ever had an illustrated cover, and when I saw it I was instantly in love. The cover artist, Lissy Marlin, absolutely captured the tone of the novel, and that’s maybe the hardest thing to do. You know those kids and that house and the kind of adventure you’re in for, and I love it with all my heart.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I’ve got a couple of VERY exciting, VERY secret things in the works that I can’t talk about quite yet. But the thing that is on my plate right now is the Winterborne sequel. It’s been so fun to go deeper into that world and spend more time with these characters. I think y’all are going to love it.
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
Honestly, I don’t enjoy any of it when I’m doing it. Drafting is probably easier. It’s certainly faster because it doesn’t have to be any good. I just have to hammer some things out and trust that Future Me can fix it. And then Future Me hates Past Me with a passion.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
I am really, really good at going back to sleep! Which sounds like a little thing, but when you’re on book tour and getting on a plane at six a.m. being able to go back to sleep is worth its weight in gold.
~ Excerpt ~
The Sentinel of the Museum
“And on the right we have young Gabriel Winterborne!”
April looked to her right, but it was just another painting. In a whole room full of paintings, none of which were all that impressive to April. After all, you can’t eat oil-covered canvases. Or, well, you could. But April strongly suspected you probably shouldn’t. You could burn them for firewood, of course. Maybe sell them down on Front Street to the old woman with the long white braids and the dog that looks like a fox. But there was no point in wondering what a painting like that might be worth. No one like April was ever going to own one.
But that didn’t stop the young woman in the burgundy blazer from looking up at the painting like it was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.
“Note how Gabriel clings to his father’s hand? He was ten when it was painted, and it’s the last known portrait of the Winterborne family. A month after it was finished, his whole family would be dead and young Gabriel would be orphaned. Can you imagine?” the docent said, but then she seemed to remember who she was talking to. She looked at the kids who filled the room.
Some ran a little too fast. Some stood a little too still. All wore clothes that didn’t quite fit, and they looked at those paintings as if they too were wondering how many meals one of them might buy. But Blazer Lady just threw her shoulders back and raised her voice, shouting over the Johnson twins, who were arguing about which superhero’s farts would smell the worst.
Because they were at a fancy museum.
They were on their best behavior.
“Follow me, children! Follow me!”
The museum was super pretty, April had to admit. Nicer than the group home. Cleaner than the school that was only open four days a week because they couldn’t afford to run the buses on the fifth day. Which meant on the fifth day, there was no free lunch, which meant on the fifth day, April usually had to be “creative,” but that was okay. Being creative kept April sharp. And, besides, it wasn’t going to last forever. As soon as her mom came back, everything would be okay.
So April decided to enjoy the bright, clean rooms with the shiny wood floors and tall windows. Even the air smelled fancy (fart debates aside). They were close to the ocean, and the breeze was clean and fresh, and April felt like maybe she’d climbed onto a spaceship that morning instead of a rusty school bus. It felt a lot like they’d brought her to another world.
For reasons April couldn’t quite pinpoint, she turned around and took one last look at the steel gray eyes of the Winterbornes.
“Hey, April!” Girl Taylor whispered. Boy Taylor was on the other side of the room, joining in the fart discussion. “I dare you to touch it.” Girl Taylor pointed at the painting and crossed her arms and tried to look tough. But April was very good at a number of things; ignoring foolish dares happened to be one of them.
“What’s wrong?” Caitlyn with a C asked.
“Are you too chicken?” Kaitlyn with a K said, chiming in.
“Nope,” April told them. “Too smart.”
April shouldn’t have said it. She was always doing that—letting her inside thoughts become her outside words. It was one of the things she wasn’t good at, and it made people like Girl Taylor and the C/Kaitlyns hate her even more than they already did. But April couldn’t help the fact that she was different—that foster care was temporary for her. That her mother was coming back—probably any day now.
“You think you’re so much better than us.” Girl Taylor’s hands were still crossed over her chest, and she was sticking out her lower lip. It was her tough-girl stance, and April knew she was supposed to be intimidated.
She just wasn’t very good at that either.
“No,” April said, trying to sound nice and sweet. It wasn’t her fault she had the kind of face that looked mad unless it was smiling. And smiling for no reason made April’s head hurt.
“I just know what that is.” April pointed to the tiny sensor that was sticking out from behind the painting. “Laser,” she whispered, like that single word should be explanation enough. But judging from their expressions, it wasn’t. “It’ll cut off any finger that touches it.”
“No, it won’t.” Caitlyn with a C’s voice sounded sure, but her eyes lacked conviction.
“Of course it will. That particular kind of laser burns at fifteen hundred degrees. It has to cauterize the wound as it slices because the museum can’t risk getting blood all over everything.”
“Yeah,” Girl Taylor said. “That’s true.” (It wasn’t true.) “I knew that.” (She totally didn’t know that.)
April forced a smile. “Of course you did. You probably saw the guards, too.”
“Uh . . . guard.” Kaitlyn wasn’t that impressed, and she made sure April knew it.
But April pointed to the other side of the room. “Yeah. One uniform. But that janitor has been cleaning whatever room we happen to be in since we got here. And she’s wearing an earpiece identical to the guard’s.”
That part really was true. April didn’t know how she noticed these things. Or why. Sometimes she thought it must be because her mother was a world-famous art thief. Or spy. Or thriller writer. But whatever made April think the way she did must have come from nature. Her mother hadn’t been around long enough for nurture to have had much effect.
After all, her mother was coming back. Soon.
“Yeah, well, maybe she’s not a guard,” Girl Taylor said. “Maybe she’s April’s mother.”
And just like that, everyone remembered the pecking order. April wasn’t the alpha female. She wasn’t the beta either. In fact, April wasn’t even part of the pack, and that was very much the way she liked it.
“No. I think that’s April’s mother.” Kaitlyn pointed to a painting by Picasso of a woman who was shaped like a Barbie doll that someone had put in the microwave.
“No,” Caitlyn said, catching on to the game. She found a painting of Medusa’s severed head being held aloft by a dude with a sword. “That’s April’s mother.”
The three of them laughed like they were super funny, and April laughed too. It was easier that way, she’d learned three group homes ago. Better to fake laugh some of the time than fake smile all of the time. That was just math.
Besides, the docent was looking at them and yelling, “Girls! Keep up!”
April didn’t know when—or why—the museum had gotten so crowded. Suddenly, it was like the bell had just rung, and there wasn’t enough room in the hall as April pushed against the current of people that was flowing in the opposite direction. She might have been lost if she hadn’t seen the docent in the center of the big atrium, looking up at a man who stood a little too tall and a little too still to be human. Which he wasn’t, April realized once she got a little closer.
“Now, who can tell me who this is?” the woman asked the kids.
And they all yelled, “The Sentinel!”
The docent laughed. “I guess that was an easy one.”
“Go, Sentinels!” Boy Taylor yelled, and the beta boys whooped.
“Yes. Most people know about the mascot, but who can tell me about the legend?” the docent asked. For the first time that day, April felt the kids go quiet. Still. They leaned closer, and the woman dropped her voice as she said, “Two hundred years ago, a ship was crossing the sea when a terrible storm began to brew. The crew knew they had to lower the sails or risk being blown off course, but the sails were stuck, and they wouldn’t come down. Lightning struck. The wind roared. And the captain began to climb the mast, higher and higher. A long knife held between his teeth. A sword in his belt. He climbed and then—”
“He cut the sail?” one of the beta boys asked.
“No,” the docent said simply. “He fell into the ocean and died.”
It was like the air went out of the group—like they’d been holding their breaths and hadn’t even realized it.
“But then a great big wave tossed him back onto the ship, and when the crew looked up again, their captain was high up on the mast, wielding his sword, cutting the sail free and saving their lives.”
“So he didn’t die?” a Johnson twin asked.
The docent raised her hands and shook her head. “No one knows. They say that, in the next moment, the wind blew and lightning struck, and the captain was never seen again. Eventually, the ship reached land, but for weeks—months—years later, there were reports of a man wielding a sword and long knife, wandering the city, always there to help when evil was about to strike! Always wearing black. Always disappearing into shadows, like the mist rolling off the sea.”
For a long time a hush descended over the group, but then the kids began to mumble and whisper amongst themselves.
“The Sentinel’s not a legend!”
“Yeah. My grandpa said the Sentinel is real.”
“The Sentinel lives in my old neighborhood.”
“Man, you’re crazy. There ain’t no Sentinel.”
“Then how do you explain . . .”
The individual arguments bled together until it was just like the fart discussion, but with a far less obvious answer. (The Hulk. The Hulk’s farts smell the worst.)
April didn’t want to be part of the argument or the crowd. She just wanted to enjoy the sweet-smelling air and the bright, clean room, so she drifted away from the kids, through the exhibit, and into the big, wide hall, where she found herself standing with a group of adults who all seemed to be waiting for . . . something.
But April had never liked waiting.
Will the Real Gabriel Winterborne Please Stand Up?
As April pressed and slipped and weaved and squirmed her way through the crowd, she realized that most of the people were carrying notepads. At least three ladies were holding microphones and wearing too much makeup and standing beside men with big cameras resting on their shoulders.
A silky red ribbon stretched across the doorway—like the finish line of a race—but no one moved toward it, which seemed like a waste to April, but then someone said, “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us!” and she saw two men approaching from the other side.
One of them was carrying a comically large pair of scissors and had a look in his eye—like he (A) knew his scissors were ridiculous and (B) would have loved to have been anywhere other than there. But he forced a smile as the first man kept talking.
“As the museum’s director, it is my great pleasure to open our newest exhibit—one that I’ve been working on for quite some time, I don’t mind saying.” He laughed and glanced at the man with the supersized scissors and the very sad eyes. “The Winterborne family has been the cornerstone of our community for more than a hundred years. Building industry. Championing arts. In fact—”
“Mr. Winterborne!” one of the women with the microphones yelled. “Has anyone claimed the reward?”
It took a moment, but eventually, the man with the scissors shook his head and said, “No.”
The director looked angry that someone had dared to interrupt his speech. He was just opening his mouth to speak again when another shout came from the crowd.
“Is it true you’re going to have your nephew declared dead if no one claims the five million dollars?”
April’s eyes went wide. Five million dollars? Surely that wasn’t right?
But Sad Scissor Man didn’t correct them. If anything, he seemed extra sad as he said, “My nephew has been gone for a decade. I had hoped that a reward for information about his whereabouts would help us to locate him, but we’ve had no success, and so—”
The voice was low and gravelly but loud enough to make the man stop. The crowd whirled around and parted, clearing the way as the stranger slipped closer to the red ribbon and the man with the giant scissors.
“Uncle Evert, don’t you recognize me? It’s me. Gabriel!” the man said. The crowd gasped. And Evert Winterborne looked like he was going to pass out.
But before anything else could happen, another voice rang out from the other side of the room, shouting, “Imposter!” and the crowd shifted to take in a different man. This one was scruffy and ragged, wearing expensive clothes that had definitely seen better days. “I am the real Gabriel Winterborne!” the newcomer shouted.
All around April, cameras started to flash. She heard one of the women with the microphones say, “Please tell me you’re getting this.” The cameraman nodded as Gabriel #1 pushed toward Gabriel #2.
“Liar!” Gabriel #1 shouted and the whole room turned like they were watching a tennis match.
“Imposter!” Gabriel #2 yelled, and April suddenly was afraid she might get dizzy.
“Uncle Evert?” Gabriel #1 was inching toward the red ribbon and the man, who was slowly backing away. “Surely you know me? I’m Gabriel. I’m your long-lost—”
“Scum!” Gabriel #2 yelled, and April couldn’t help but notice that he’d suddenly started speaking with a very bad, very fake British accent. “You are no Winterborne, sir! I am the true Winterborne heir!”
Neither of them looked anything like the boy in the paintings. And it was like neither of them had ever heard of DNA. But five million dollars was on the line. April didn’t even have enough money to pay the fines she had at the library.
“Stop!” Sad Scissor Man shouted, and both Gabriels suddenly went quiet. “My nephew is gone. My nephew is, in all likelihood, dead.” He started to turn and leave, but then he remembered the ginormous scissors and the ribbon and the reason everyone but April was standing around.
“Here.” He gave the ribbon a snip. “Consider the Winterborne Exhibit officially open.”
And then he walked away.
April had no idea what happened to the fake Gabriels. They must have given up and skulked away. Regardless, nobody was paying much attention to her as she drifted past the cut edges of the ribbon and into the big room filled with more paintings and statues. But other things too—like mannequins in long ball gowns and sequin-covered dresses with fringe along the hems. There was a uniform from World War II, and a wedding dress made out of the most delicate lace that April had ever seen.
With every step it was like she went farther and farther back in time, until she was looking at a sign that said THE WINTERBORNE FAMILY JEWELS. Then all April could do was stand there . . . hypnotized. Mesmerized. Staring at necklaces and rings and strings of pearls so long they could have wrapped April up like a mummy.
And that was when she saw the box.
It was about the size and shape of a shoebox, but like no shoebox that April had ever seen. This box was covered in gold and pearls, diamonds and rubies, but the most interesting thing in April’s opinion was the lock that sat in the center of the ornate crest.
An ornate crest that looked exactly like the one on the key that April had worn around her neck every day since she was three years old.
An ornate crest that April had traced with her fingertips, over and over and over again—the only gift from a mother who had left her at a fire station with nothing but that key and a note that read This is my baby, April. Keep her safe. I’ll be back soon.
That’s how April knew that her mother would come back for her. That’s how she knew that all the Taylors and C/Kaitlins in the world were wrong. They had to be!
Ten years in the system had taught April that parents abandon kids, sure. But they don’t abandon keys to treasure chests. And April had been looking for her mom ever since.
But as April inched closer and closer to the small ornate box, she couldn’t shake the feeling that, all this time, she’d been looking for the wrong thing.
Winterborne Home For Vengeance and Valor
By: Ally Carter
Release Date: March 3rd, 2020
Publisher: HMH BYR
Five winners will each receive a copy of Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor (Ally Carter) ~ (US Only)
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