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Interview: Brenna Yovanoff, author of THE REPLACEMENT

THE REPLACEMENT was released this week. Don't pick it up unless you like creeptastical storytelling, beautiful writing and an overall vibe of the macabre. (Yeah, spoiler alert: I loved it.) But when you get back from the bookstore, check this out; Brenna Yovanoff was kind enough to answer a few questions for us! 
Mackie Doyle seems like everyone else in the perfect little town of Gentry, but he is living with a fatal secret – he is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now the creatures under the hill want him back, and Mackie must decide where he really belongs and what he really wants.

A month ago, Mackie might have told them to buzz off. But now, with a budding relationship with tough, wounded, beautiful Tate, Mackie has too much to lose. Will love finally make him worthy of the human world?

1. I have to start with a statement of the obvious: That is the coolest effing cover I've ever seen. What did you think when you first saw it?

Oh, wow—I thought, the cover gods have smiled on me! Seriously, I'm crazy about my cover. It is the perfect visual representation for this book and I still can't believe how great it turned out!

2. What creeps me out most in The Replacement is not the creatures beneath the town, but the attitude (or lack thereof) of the townspeople toward those creatures. Was this part of the original idea for the story when it came to you – the “ignorance is bliss” mentality – or did you discover it as you wrote?

Well, I did start with a little bit of that mentality in mind, but it definitely got much bigger as the story developed. I really wanted to do something spooky that evoked the whole Shirley Jackson vibe. The idea of a town where bad stuff happens and everyone's sort of okay with it has always seemed really creepy to me.

3. As a musician, I have to say the “on stage” scenes were some of my absolute favorites in the book. I sent my ARC along to a contest winner, but I'm pretty sure I remember an awesome description of a guitar riff sounding like a traffic jam in a blender. But what you really nailed was the emotions musicians experience during an intense performance. Have you been on stage as a musician/dancer/actor/juggler/contortionist before? Take part in any amateur nights for “research?”

That is indeed the line—I'm impressed that you remember! Time for a big confession: I have never performed at anything. I was in a couple of elementary-school plays where I sang with a whole bunch of other kids or recited poems, but I'm terrible at music and I'm not much of a public speaker or a thespian. I'm just glad the scenes seem to have some veracity, because I had to do a lot of imagining!

4. What was the query process like for you; was The Replacement pulled out of the slushpile?

My query process was pretty straightforward, and yep, I came right out of the slushpile. I wish the story were more glamorous, but it really just goes like this: I put in some time researching agents and picked a handful I thought would be a good fit for me. I worked really hard on my query letter and shined up those first five pages. Then I just closed my eyes and hit send and hoped for the best.

5. Congratulations are in order! The Lerner deal for The Merry Sisters of Fate is incredible, and the book sounds so unique; part anthology, part writing advice. Can you tell us a little bit about how the three of you got started as critique partners and a group blog, and how this book deal came about?

Okay, I'll try to be brief, but I make no promises! So, about three years ago (wow, has it really been that long?!), Maggie Stiefvater put out a call for critique partners and we just kind of clicked. Then, after reading each other's stuff a month or two, she put me in touch with Tess, who'd she'd also met through her call for crit partners. At that point, neither Tess nor I had agents, and Maggie was working on the book that would become Shiver, but it hadn't sold to Scholastic yet. She suggested that we post short fiction once a week as a way to push ourselves.

The anthology deal was something we'd talked about for a long time, but only in a very abstract way, like “wouldn't it be cool if . . .” Then last fall, we put together a submission package and our agents sent it out, and we are completely thrilled to be working with Andrew Karre at Carolrhoda (he used to be Maggie's editor at Flux and he's awesome)!

6. Every writer has a different path, but we can all use the occasional words of wisdom or inspiration. What's the piece of advice that's most helped you on your road to publication?

I'd have to say, knowing that publishing is not a lottery. It's not a crapshoot, it's not an odds game. It's an endurance sport, and as long as you can deal with that, you're going to be fine! (For real.)

Five Real Fast (answer quick without thinking!)

1. Two weeks of travel – how, where and why? Ferry from Italy to Corfu to live in a strawberry villa and find hedgehogs.

2. Ranch flavored ice cream or BBQ chicken cupcake? Ew, ew, ew . . . ::closes eyes and points:: Cupcake!

3. Favorite childhood author? Roald Dahl, definitely—I loved him fanatically.

Article of clothing you can't live without? Mittens!

What song was last stuck in your head? The truth? This really ridiculous song Maggie made up about a hoodie. No, I can't sing it, because I am tone-deaf. But trust me, it's catchy.

Thanks so much for having me, Michelle! 
Thank you, Brenna!
Michelle Schusterman

Michelle writes books for kids, screenplays for a tv/film production company, and music for anyone who'd buy a "groove matters" bumper sticker. She lives in New York City with her husband (and band mate) and their chocolate lab (who is more of a vocalist). She is the author of middle grade series I Heart Band - 2014, and The Kat Sinclair Files - 2015 (both from Grosset).

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  1. Wonderful interview! Thank you, Brenna and Michelle!
    Kelsey Ketch

  2. Great interview! Totally can not wait to read THE REPLACEMENT. :)
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

  3. Awesome interview! Brenna seems so down to earth and nice. And your five quick questions were quite amusing.

    Thanks for sharing :D I can't wait to read The Replacement.

  4. Great interview! This book sounds amazingly creepy. Waiting (impatiently!) for my next Borders coupon so I can pick it up!

  5. Blogger seems to have eaten my you'll either never see this comment or it'll show up 10x.

    Anyway, great interview and I love the book cover, too - so very Rosemary's Baby and spooky.

    This book is on my TBR ASAP list and I can't wait to read it :)

  6. Great interview! (My TBR is eternal)

  7. This interview was so fun to read! This, plus Brenna's fantastic writing over at Merry Sisters of Fate, is making me so eager to finally own a copy of THE REPLACEMENT!

  8. Great interview. Can't wait to read this one (though I'm only going to read when it's light out. That cover is insanely spooky!)

  9. Great interview! I'm super excited to read this book.


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Item Reviewed: Interview: Brenna Yovanoff, author of THE REPLACEMENT Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Michelle Schusterman