YA and MG Novels by Holly Schindler

YA and MG Novels by Holly Schindler


"Opening with back-to-back scenes of exquisitely imagined yet very real horror, Schindler's third YA novel hearkens to the uncompromising demands of her debut, A Blue So Dark...This time, the focus is on women's voices and the consequences they suffer for speaking...This is a story about reclaiming and healing, a process that is scary, imperfect, and carries no guarantees." - PUBLISHERS WEEKLY STARRED REVIEW

"In the town of Peculiar, the cats aren't the only ones keeping secrets...A dark and creepy psychological who-done-it that will keep you guessing until the very end." - Jody Casella, author of THIN SPACE

"Wow! This book starts off with a bang - two of them, actually - and then it sinks its claws into you and never lets go." - April Henry, New York Times-bestselling author

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Genre may very well be the most important marketing tool a book has.  After all, genre is often the yardstick by which a reader measures the book’s success.  

Case in point: My forthcoming FERAL is a psychological thriller—an important distinction.  While this subgenre does borrow from more action-oriented categories (for example, the straight suspense-filled thriller, mystery, and horror), the primary focus is on, well, the psychological.  Like classic psychological thrillers, FERAL features a Hitchcockian pace and focus on character development (here, we’re exploring the inner workings of the main character, Claire Cain).  The oft-used water metaphor (employed frequently in psychological thrillers to represent the subconscious) is incorporated in the form of a brutal ice storm (and represents Claire’s “frozen” inner state, her lack of ability to move on from a violent act, though she desperately wants to).  The ending and explanation of what has been happening in the town of Peculiar is also an exploration into and portrait of Claire’s psyche—as it should be; the rest of the book is an exploration of where she is mentally, as well.  Ultimately, FERAL is a book about recovering from violence—that’s an inner process, a terrifying process.  The classic psychological thriller allowed me to explore that frightening process in detail.  

That having been said, I’ve been seeing some reviews go live that list some of those classic psychological thriller elements (the slower pace, etc.) as flaws.  Each book is a learning process—I would no more go back and change FERAL than I would ever expect to change anyone’s mind who’d written a less-than-glowing review; however, I do read all my reviews and think critically about them.  This time around, the critique’s got me thinking about the classic psychological thriller.  There’s no doubt that the subgenre is becoming less frequently represented, especially by the box office.  I wonder how many young readers are familiar with Hitchcock’s work.  How many know only Pyscho’s shower scene, and have never watched the rest of the film. 

I wonder about the expectations of modern, young readers when they see the label “psychological thriller.”  Do they now expect the emphasis to be on “thriller” rather than “psychology”?  Do they expect an action-oriented piece?  Is Hitchcock even relevant anymore to young story-seekers? 

I’m also incredibly curious: How do you, as a blogger, use genre to help write your review?  Do you consider the genre (and subgenre) as you determine the success or failure of a book?  Do you review by the gut rather than the head (it either hits you or it doesn’t)? 

Monday, July 21, 2014


As a fan of both MG literature and Catherine Ryan Hyde's work, I'm anxious to get my hands on her forthcoming MG edition of PAY IT FORWARD.  So anxious, in fact, I asked her to to stop by the blog to talk about the process of turning an adult novel into a book for young readers:

Where did the idea for a young reader version of PAY IT FORWARD originate?  Was it your idea, or were you approached to do a young reader version?

I think the idea grew organically as the book found its audience. It’s a book with a 12-year-old protagonist, yet it was written and published for adults. Younger readers never occurred to me, or to my publisher, until the American Library Association put Pay It Forward on its “Best Books for Young Adults” list (now called Best Fiction for Young Adults). That honor recommends it for kids 12-18. Then the Pay It Forward Foundation, which was originally solely an educational foundation, got going, and that did a great deal to get the Pay It Forward idea into classrooms. But the book could not follow. Too much adult language and material. It became clear after the fact that kids younger than Trevor loved the Pay It Forward concept. It was hard to miss the simple fact that the book would be great for them if it could be made suitable for that age group.

We approached Simon & Schuster with the idea of a book for kids. They didn’t approach us.

What were some of the biggest global changes--to plot, characters, etc.?  What was the reasoning behind making those changes?

Very few changes had to be made to the plot. And this is as good a moment as any to point out my opinion: this would not work with every book. Pay It Forward was already a book with a very simple, universal theme. Definitely simple enough for readers of almost any age. I mean, it was a book about an idea created by a child.

Now, the characters needed some work. One was a homeless drug addict, another was an unscrupulous gangbanger. I didn’t make either of them disappear. But I softened the depictions of their actions quite a bit. I had to do something similar with Gordie, a gay and gender non-conforming character. I didn’t take him out. I wouldn’t have if asked to. Because it may be wrong to lose your life to hard drugs or break the law, but it’s not wrong to be gay, or express your gender differently. Unfortunately, most of the time we spent with Gordie in the adult version depicted his patterns of trying to hook up with men. But he’s still there. Trevor still saves him, and it’s clear that he’s with his boyfriend. So there are still gay characters in the book. But they just had to be written differently, because many of their details were too adult.

The reasoning behind making all of these changes was the same. The goal was a G rating. My editor at Simon & Schuster and I agreed that it would be the same book but with a G rating. So everything that was done was done in service of that goal.

Conversely, what were the smaller changes--pacing of individual scenes, sentence structure?

The pacing seemed almost to take care of itself. Because as we removed the adult material, it got much shorter and tighter. Then it was mostly an issue of spotting when a concept or a word choice was unsuitable for the intended audience. Not inappropriate, necessarily, but wrong for the reading level. I caught the most obvious ones on the first revision, then my editor, who knows more about middle grade fiction than I do, caught a whole other series that I wasn’t sure about. It was really a pretty good example of how an author and editor can put their heads together and get something done.

How did you get into an MG voice?  How difficult was it to take adult material and put it completely in a child's world?

It may sound like a strange answer, but I’m not sure I did either. I don’t think I got into a middle-grade voice and I don’t think I put it completely in a child’s world. Because it was not rewritten from scratch, I think the overall tone may still be more mature. The parts that are the writings of Trevor were always written through a 12-year-old’s perception. The rest is in third person. I guess you could say it’s a grown-up book made suitable for kids. Which might not work in every case. But I think in this case it works, and kids will like it.

What was the biggest surprise?  Did writing and editing this version allow you to uncover any new layers of the story?

I guess the biggest surprise was the ending. I was sure I would leave the ending the same. In fact, my editor and I discussed that I would leave the ending the same. Lots of people question it, but I stand by it. But when all was said and done, I left it a bit more open. I still think, in my mind, that it ended the way the adult edition did. But readers can think otherwise if they choose. It was a compromise.

What's the difference in promoting an MG book, as opposed to adult or YA material?

YA promotion seems to rely heavily on teens having their own blogs and interacting on social networks. Adult… well, I don’t think anybody really knows how adult promotion works. It’s not like adults all hang out at the same watering hole. But middle grade kids go to school, so I think there’s a strong approach to “the gatekeepers”—the teachers and curriculum planners and school librarians—because they’re the ones who can really get these books to kids.

I ran into the difference when I posted a giveaway (on my blog) of some advance reader’s copies. I realized the people who read my blog are adults, so I asked our Pay It Forward Foundation president, Charley Johnson, to RT and share a link to the post. Because he has a line on the “Pay It Forward people.” The people who follow him are the people who have been wanting to get kids involved all along.

The cover's really beautiful.  What can you share about the design process, cover artist, etc.?

The only thing I can really share about it is my surprise and enthusiasm. As with most “Big 5” publishers, there wasn’t a lot of author involvement in developing the new cover. They just ran this by me and said they hoped I liked it. My track record with traditionally published covers has been spotty at best. (My new publisher, Lake Union, which is an Amazon Publishing imprint, has given my books some great covers.) But in this case I think they were spot on.

What are your thoughts about the MG genre--especially about contemporary MG?  (The MG genre as a whole seems so populated by fantasies, fairy tales, etc.)

The only kind of fiction I really like to read is contemporary—which is really just another way of saying realistic—fiction. This is true regardless of the intended age group. In middle grade books, for example, I was never a big fan of Harry Potter, but I loved Freak the Mighty. I like human stories.

I just want to add that I’m not insulting genre fiction or telling other people what they should like. I’m just telling people what I like.

Would you write another--even wholly original--MG?

You know, that’s a good question. No plans at the moment. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you never know where life will take you.

How do you ultimately hope the book will be implemented--in classrooms, by young readers, etc?

The ultimate goal is curriculum inclusion. Because Pay It Forward—the real-life movement—is just perfect for kids. The reason I made Trevor a kid in the adult book is because I think there’s an advantage in catching people with this idea before they’re too jaded. So there’s a delicious excitement in waiting to see if this will be widely read, and—if so—if this next generation will change the world through kindness. It could happen. Kids are a powerful force.


Catherine's next book for adults, TAKE ME WITH YOU, is set to release tomorrow!  I also asked Catherine to tell us how this new read is both like and different from her previous work:

"Take Me With You is like my other books in that it's about human bonds. Unexpected bonds among people who are not related by blood, and who crossed each other's paths in unusual ways. That tends to be a common theme in my work. Although I have done "road trip" stories before, this is the first time I've taken my own style of traveling--RV trips to National Parks to hike and bask in the beauty of nature--and woven it into fiction. Every place August and Seth and Henry go is a place I've been. That gives it an extra dose of my own life passion, I think. And I think that sets it apart from my other novels."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


I'm deep in revisions of my next YA for HarperCollins; while I'm hard at work, I'm hosting a giveaway of THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY at Goodreads.

Happy summer reading!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky by Holly Schindler

The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky

by Holly Schindler

Giveaway ends July 16, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Monday, June 30, 2014


I got the most fantastic blub over the weekend, and could not wait a second longer to share:

"Wow! This book starts off with a bang - two of them, actually - and then it sinks its claws into you and never lets go."
 - April Henry, New York Times-bestselling author 
Speaking of sharing, a few early readers have been sharing pictures of their cats with me on Twitter.  So I had to take the opportunity to share my own pic of me and the cats I grew up with.  (Our pictures--this one's a Polaroid--were always taped to the fridge or cabinet doors.  So you kinda have to look past the various kitchen spots...)

Tuffy, the calico on the left, was actually born feral.  Pete, the yellow cat on the right, was her son.  They were both members of the family before I was.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I hang good reviews on the fridge, just like I used to hang good grades...and this review for FERAL from SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL went up on the Frigidaire the minute it came in:

"Gr 9 Up-From the opening pages readers will be immediately immersed in this dark story. Two brutal attacks are described in detailed flashbacks: one resulting in death, the other in extreme psychological trauma. Although each event happened at separate times and were miles apart, the victims seem to be eerily connected: both were burgeoning writers on their school newspaper staff; both lived a somewhat marginalized existence when compared to their BFFs; both were victimized in retaliation for their investigative reporting; and one wants the other one dead.  Seventeen-year-old Claire Cain was rescued by Chicago police after having barely survived being attacked by a gang of teen thugs for snitching on them to clear her best friend's name. Even though she's been receiving treatment for the trauma, Claire continues to relive the horrible attack in her dreams. When Claire's father gets the opportunity to take a sabbatical from his job at the University of Chicago to do anthropological research in the small Missouri town of Peculiar, both Claire and her dad are hopeful that the change of scene will help her heal. She soon discovers the town's feral cat population right before getting swept up in the town's frantic search for a missing girl named Serena Sims. When Claire accidentally stumbles upon Serena's broken corpse in the icy woods behind the high school, she can hardly believe her eyes. The frozen corpse is surrounded by what seems to be the town's entire feral cat population. When she locks eyes with a battered calico, she gets an eerie feeling. With the discovery of Serena's body and the casual handling of her death by the local police, Claire's investigative juices, which have lain dormant for months, resurface driving her to dig for the back story and the truth behind the heinous act. Readers who like a gripping psychological thriller will thoroughly enjoy this psychological thriller has echoes of classic Hitchcock. Issues of cliques, peer pressure, bullying, self-esteem, post-traumatic stress syndrome, teacher-student relationships, and pet abandonment will provide substance for discussion.-Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA"

To celebrate such a lovely review, I'm also running a short giveaway of a FERAL ARC on Goodreads.  You can also enter to win a copy of my debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, which released earlier this year.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Feral by Holly Schindler


by Holly Schindler

Giveaway ends July 01, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Monday, June 23, 2014


I'm having an utter blast meeting young readers, whether they're in a summer writing group, reading class, or are part of a story group at a bookstore.

My virtual visits are, in fact, the most rewarding part of releasing THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY.  And I'd love, love, LOVE to meet your own young readers.  Are you a teacher looking for a great classroom read and a Skype (for a summer class or even to start the school year off with a bang next fall)?  Are you a librarian looking for a way to get your youngest patrons engaged?  A tutor or parent who needs to keep your kids' reading skills up this summer?  A bookseller who would like a virtual visit?

Fill out the forms below to win a Skype visit and / or a copy of THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY:

For US / Canadian Residents -
a Rafflecopter giveaway
International -  
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Following the starred PW review, I've filmed another sneak peek video.  In this clip, we pick up with Serena as her killer pulls her from the high school basement's window:

Click here to pre-order FERAL through your favorite outlet.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


I've been tweeting about it all week: FERAL has received a STARRED REVIEW in PUBLISHERS WEEKLY!  I had to reprint the entire review here:

 "Opening with back-to-back scenes of exquisitely imagined yet very real horror, Schindler’s third YA novel hearkens to the uncompromising demands of her debut, A Blue So Dark, with its gut-wrenching portrait of mental illness. This time, the focus is on women’s voices and the consequences they suffer for speaking. Claire Cain was an award-winning high school journalist in Chicago when she was beaten nearly to death for a story. Serena Sims lost her life while pursuing a lead in the more confined purview of Peculiar, Mo. Their stories intersect when Claire’s father’s sabbatical lands her in Peculiar just in time to discover Serena’s body, surrounded by the eerie feral cats that infest the town. Schindler avoids cardboard character types—yes, there are jocks, princesses, and nerds, but the author reveals them as people squeezed into their labels, not defined by them. And while there are touches of romance, both good and bad, adolescent hormones don’t define the plot, either. This is a story about reclaiming and healing, a process that is scary, imperfect, and carries no guarantees. Ages 13–up. Agent: Deborah Warren, East West Literary Agency. (Aug.)"

Monday, June 9, 2014


Inspired by some of my interactions at Armchair BEA, I decided to make it a point to devote regular blog space to a new series I'm simply calling PUSH (as in: need a little extra).  I want to give extra attention to those books that are under-talked-about.  Those beautiful, breathtaking reads that need to be on everyone's radar.

Right now, I'm in the midst of revising my next YA for HarperCollins, and gazing longingly at my copy of Lockhart's WE WERE LIARS (a heavily-talked-about book that I just can't dig into until I get my rewrite done).  But what not-so-well-known book should I also add to the TBR list I'll be attacking as soon as I ship this book off to my editor?

Monday, June 2, 2014


I love to read Susan's thoughtful, intelligent reviews at Bloggin' 'bout Books.  An added bonus of reading Susan's reviews of my own releases is that she's read all of my published books--she's got the complete picture of the scope of my work so far, and writes reviews with an understanding of who I am as an author (rather than just writing a review of one specific novel).

I had to share her lovely review of THE JUNCTION in full:

Living with a trash hauler may not sound very glamorous, but Auggie Jones loves it.  Her Grandpa Gus finds all kinds of treasures and plenty of adventures in his line of work.  Auggie adores her grandpa and can't imagine him having a cooler job.  She doesn't care that Gus makes little money or that they live in a rundown section of town of Willow Grove, Missouri—she's happy.

When a brand new elementary school opens, Auggie and her friends are forced to attend.  Mingling with kids they don't know, many of whom make fun of them for having no money, Auggie realizes for the first time just how poor she and Gus really are.  For the first time, she feels ashamed of her shabby clothes, ramshackle neighborhood and, especially, Gus' less-than-elegant trash hauling job.  Apparently, Auggie's former best friend feels the same way because ever since they started fifth grade, Lexie has been ignoring her.

It seems as if things can't get any worse for Auggie—until they do.  The father of one of her wealthy classmates launches an aggressive town beautification project targeting homes like the one Auggie shares with Gus.  If the homeowners do not comply with improvement "suggestions," they will be slapped with an enormous fine.  Auggie knows people in her part of town can't afford to fix up their houses, let alone pay exorbitant fees to the city.  Desperate to save her neighborhood, Auggie starts her own project.  But what begins as an effort to beautify her part of towns becomes a crusade to answer some important questions:  What is beauty?  What is art?  And why should one person's opinion on the matters outweigh another's?  As Auggie finds the answers for herself, she realizes an undeniable truth—beauty exists all around her, even if she's the only one who can see it.

The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, the first middle grade novel from YA author Holly Schindler, offers a quirky, upbeat story about one girl's determination to be heard.  It's a sweet tale, one that resounds with both spunk and heart.  Kids of all ages will relate to Auggie's feelings of otherness and celebrate as she discovers not just herself, but her own voice.  Triumphant and compelling, this is one of those books that will make you cheer.  And look a little bit closer for the unique beauty in all of us.

Friday, May 30, 2014


One of the coolest parts of releasing a book is hearing fellow authors talk about your work--especially when that author is one you have great admiration for. 

Jody Casella recently had this to say about FERAL (out from HarperTeen August 26, 2014):

"In the town of Peculiar, the cats aren't the only ones keeping secrets...A dark and creepy psychological who-done-it that will keep you guessing until the very end."

Jody Casella is the author of THIN SPACE, a YA read that will haul you in and won't let you go (once you hit the last half, you'll be crawling into a nobody'll-find-me-here spot that you won't wnat to crawl back out of until you turn the last page).

More on THIN SPACE (and Casella) here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


I remember (this was YEARS ago, long before I'd sold my first book) reading an article about writers promoting themselves online and getting sick to my stomach.  A website?  A blog?  I didn't want any of that; I wanted to write books.  The me I was years ago couldn't fathom how doing anything online could possibly help me.

After I'd sold my first book (at the encouragement of my editor), I headed out there, finally setting up an online presence.  In the beginning, I thought I'd only advertise my own work; as time went on, I entered into the conversation about books, finding new authors to adore, as well as other literature enthusiasts just like myself.  I connected with other readers in a way I never thought I would.

I've gotten increasingly more comfortable with blogging over the years; I've expanded into vlogging (in this short clip, below, I explain why I chose Peculiar as the setting for my forthcoming YA, FERAL):

I've also taken advantage of blog tours, and I've become one of those (masochistic?) authors who reads her reviews.  I read them during those blog tours; I read them on Goodreads and Amazon; I have Google Alerts set on my name and title and read everything that comes through my inbox.  I read those reviews (good and bad) to find patterns, to understand in broad strokes why those who liked a book connected with it, why those who didn't like it just couldn't get into it.  I read those reviews to understand who my readership is--who's on the other end of the conversation I'm having as a writer (I've said it before, but the best books really are a conversation between author and reader). 

That connection (to other lit nuts, to my own readers) has truly been a game-changer.  I approach my work in ways I never would have, had I not been part of the online network.  And I can't wait to find out where that network will take me, in the years to come...

Monday, May 26, 2014


I'm delighted to participate this year in Armchair BEA!  I'm even participating in a giveaway (a signed FERAL ARC and a signed hardcover of THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY).  More on the giveaway here.

Without further ado, my introduction:

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from?

I'm the author of two previously-published YAs (A BLUE SO DARK and PLAYING HURT), as well as the MG THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY and the forthcoming YA FERAL (August 26, 2014).  I started blogging as I geared up for the release of my debut (at the suggestion of my publisher).  I was hesitant to get out there; at the time I sold my first book, I honestly didn't know that the book blogging community existed.  I'm so glad I discovered it, though; I can't imagine writing and not participating in the smart, fun world of book blogging.

Describe your blog in just one sentence. Then, list your social details -- Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. -- so we can connect more online.

Updates on my own releases, book recommendations, thoughts on the writing life.


What genre do you read the most? I love to read because ___________________ .

My reading interests are as varied as my writing interests (I've published a literary YA, a teen romance, a contemporary middle grade, and my next YA will also be my first mystery / thriller).  Each time I read a new book, it makes me a better writer.

What is your favorite blogging resource?

I find most new bloggers / blog posts through Twitter.

Spread the love by naming your favorite blogs/bloggers (doesn’t necessarily have to be book blogs/bloggers).

Some of my favorite bloggers are those who have been with me since my first book released in 2010 (the feel like old friends at this point): Gabrielle at Mod Podge Bookshelf, for instance, or Susan at Bloggin' 'bout Books.

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