Interview With Rachel Shane, Author of Alice in Wonderland High


Sixteen-year-old Alice just can’t find a way to be free. Her parents are environmental activists, whose cringe-worthy public protests might involve chaining themselves to a fence and pleading  with passersby to “Save the World. Save Alice!” It’s not that Alice doesn’t believe there’s work to be done. But after a petition to start a farmer’s market meets with more snickers than signatures, she figures she should shut up instead of speaking out. At least, that is, until she can find something that feels real. Then along comes Whitney Lapin, a girl who speaks in cryptic riddles and spends her free time turning abandoned warehouses into beautiful gardens. Charismatic Whitney leads Alice on a rabbit trail into the underground–aka secret society–of Wonderland High. Curiouser and curiouser.  

Alice is in wonderland! Even though Whitney’s group of teenage environmental vigilantes operates on the wrong side of the law, with them, Alice is finally free to be herself. She stomps on her good girl image by completing a series of environmental pranks to impress the new group: flooding the school and disguising a pig as a baby in order to smuggle it out of a testing facility. She wants to trust them, and she especially wants to trust (or maybe kiss) Chester Katz, a boy with a killer smile, a penchant for disappearing, and a secret that will turn Alice’s world backwards. But then, one of the young vigilantes tries to frame Alice for all the pranks, and she must figure out their secret before she ends up in front of a jury screaming, “Off with her head!”

I was lucky enough (thanks to Nori, the coordinator of our Sunday Street team) to have the opportunity to interview Rachel! Keep reading to get to know a little bit about Rachel and her new book.

  1. What made you choose to write YA fiction as opposed to writing children’s, middle grade, or adult fiction?

The simple answer is because I started writing while in high school and never stopped writing about that time period. Even though I’m solidly an adult now (apparently marriage and a child does that to you), I still feel like I relate better to teens. Most TV shows I watch are centered around teens. I love getting to experience all these firsts–first love, first big decision, etc.–again vicariously through my characters.


  1. What inspired you to write Alice in Wonderland High?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has always been a favorite book of mine. When news came out that Tim Burton was doing an adaptation, I had the urge to re-read the original book. At the same time, I was trying to write an outline about a girl who does ecotage for a quasi-secret society. As I was reading Alice, I realized her main goal in the original was to get inside the beautiful garden, and that every beat in the story could be reworked to meet that goal from an environmentalism standpoint. I also loved the idea of making her main ally from the original–the cheshire cat–into the love interest since all retellings I’d read focused on the Mad Hatter.

  1. What do you think is key to creating a believable yet interesting character?

I think the key lies in what the character wants and what they do to get it. Characters who want something desperately and go to extreme measures to get it are interesting. And they become believable when the reader gets invested in seeing them meet their goal. Humor also helps!


4.What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a novel?

Everyone always says middles are difficult but I have a much harder time with endings. Specifically with Act 3. I had to rewrite the Act 3 of Alice in Wonderland High from scratch more than once because I’d written myself in the wrong direction. A particular challenge with this book was finding a good balance between recognizable items from the original but also making the characters and plot my own.


  1. The main character in your book, Alice, discovers a secret underground society in her high school. If you had the opportunity to make your own secret society, what kind of society would it be?

What a great question. I’d love to create a secret society of writer vigilantes who go around turning reluctant readers into avid ones.


  1. What do you do to relax yourself on days when you’re feeling very stressed?

I binge-watch every show that airs on TV that isn’t a medical, crime, or law procedural. But writing is also my main form of relaxation. I also have a 2.5-year-old who keeps me on my toes. We have a lot of tea parties.


  1. What is the last book you finished reading?

BONE DRY by my critique partner, Cady Vance. A fabulous paranormal YA.


  1. What activities do you like to do in your free time?

My free time is very limited these days but mostly I like to write, read, watch TV, and buy cute shoes I don’t need.

Thanks so much to Nori and Rachel for this awesome interview! If you’re interested in buying this book, then you’d be happy to know that Alice in Wonderland High is available for pre-order now. Click here to place your order through Amazon, or here to do it through Barnes and Noble.

Also, enter this giveaway to win an annotated hard-cover copy of Alice in Wonderland High!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rachel Shane studied Creative Writing at Syracuse University and now works in digital publishing at in New York City. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, young daughter, and a basement full of books. This is her first novel.


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Female Empowerment and Literature




Well, that concludes the series “Let’s Talk: Female Empowerment and Literature”. I’d like to send out a huge thank you to all the bloggers who participated by writing a post. Thank you so much to all of you for taking the time to write out your opinions on this subject. I loved how different everyone’s ideas were, and how one topic could branch out into so many distinct discussions! It was so great to be able to see such different perspectives that I had never considered before. I’d also like to thank all the readers who took the time to read these posts. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did. 🙂

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Let’s Talk: FE&L #9- A Different Kind of Strength



A Different Kind of Strength


I would like to start by thanking Batool for inviting me on her blog and for being patient while I struggled, wondering what to say. I am really honored that she asked me. Writing this post has proven more difficult than I would have thought as I feel I have no authority to throw my ideas out there. I will simply attempt to express my opinion as a reader and as someone who enjoys writing.

The subject of female empowerment in literature, as well as in society, is becoming more and more prominent these days – a topic that brings to light certain issues still encountered by women in the 21st Century.

It has also become a trend to expect female characters in YA to be strong, fierce and not to rely on any male character whatsoever.

As someone who believes in women, our strengths, our beauty, our rights, one might think that I completely accept this new tendency, but I, in fact, do not quite agree with it.

Young women have always been taught how to behave, what to look like, what to think, in order to fit the standards of our different societies. The most recent idea being that girls should be beautiful, skinny and smart. Girls should be willing to push their limits as much as possible to meet our society’s expectations. They are constantly told what to do to become a person worth being looked at or interacted with. Such expectations have forced many of us in a mold that we cannot fit, and in which we suffer in silence while suffocating.

Now, we are also expected to believe that young girls need to be strong, fierce, not to cry, not to show weakness, and more specifically, never to rely on a man for help.

I will put it very simply: I strongly disagree with this view point.

Though there is nothing wrong with creating such a female character, one should not expect for all writers to do so nor bring down those who don’t. As a reader, I personally privilege kindness as well as respect above all things. I want to see characters who are the epitome of what I wish to become as a human being: someone who is kind-hearted, open-minded and capable of unconditional love towards others. I have found such characters in series such as “Shatter Me” and “Sweet Evil,” where the strength of the main protagonists reside in their ability to remain kind in spite of all the hardship they have to face. Those characters also do not hesitate to rely on their male counterparts for support.

I do not believe a female character should face the odds on her own. Life is hard enough as is, we should learn how to rely on one another and help each other. I like for the main characters to be equals, to give each other strength, without one feeling the need to crush the other, or be better, or prove that they can deal without their fellow protagonist.

While reading, I’ve had issues with protagonists who put themselves in danger just to make a point, to prove their independence or strength. Such characters often need the male protagonist to eventually pull them out of the predicament they had willingly jumped into. Such actions seem futile and counter-active in my opinion. I prefer a heroine who will rely on her counterpart to overcome difficult situations together.

Another type of protagonist that doesn’t work for me is a female character who will not show respect toward her male partner. Treating a male protagonist with disregard does not make a female character strong. It only makes her unworthy of the boy willing to put his pride aside just to love a heroine treading all over him and his feelings. To me, mutual respect and requited feelings are the ingredients to making both characters strong while uniting them against adversity.

Do authors have a duty toward their readers? To provide role models? To guide them?

Yes and no. I believe it is the writer’s role to make their readers feel good about themselves or to give them someone to look up to, someone they could strive to become. However, I am against the idea of shoving strong female characters down young girls’ throats just because society tells us to. I do not believe in making girls feel like they shouldn’t be sad, weak, that they shouldn’t be individuals with the right to feel the full range of emotions bestowed upon us humans: love, fear, joy, sadness, heartache, sorrow, anger, rage.

It is the author’s role to raise their readers’ self-esteem, to provide them with characters they can relate to, but it is not the author’s role to preach or teach their readers what they should or should not do.

Everyone has different expectations when it comes to characters. Those expectations often stem from what they would themselves like to be as a person. Some readers want to see strong independent females, others prefer loving ones, some like a deeply-flawed heroine. The fact that a female character is a main protagonist in a novel is, in and of itself, an empowerment of women in general to begin with. The empowerment of female characters in YA relies on telling our girls to simply be themselves and to love themselves just the way they are.


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Let’s Talk: FE&L #8- Female Role-Models in Literature and Why They’re Relevant




Female Role-Models in Literature and Why They’re Relevant



Hello, everyone. I’m Natalie, from Science, Books and Silly Things and I want to thank Batool for this amazing opportunity.
Every one of us has a role model (or several) in literature, be it because they are a badass character or

because they have a characteristic that makes us identify with them.


Let’s talk about female role models. Some people think some of the female main characters

in, let’s say, YA books are weak because they “can’t do anything without a man” and “their

whole world turns around a guy.” Let’s be honest. Girls fall in love, and they can be badass

while doing it. (Guys fall in love as well, but when they do, and do something about it, they are

considered sensitive and cute. Double standard, much?) Love does not make us weak, in fact, it makes

us stronger. Female characters make tough decisions in the name of love, and what they believe.

Shouldn’t we take that example?


Female empowerment is important. As women, we need to realize that we matter, that we can make

our own choices, no matter what society thinks. Some writers know that, and if they don’t, they should

take an example from these amazing characters, Strong female characters exist, and there are a lot of

them. You just have to know where to look. Don’t hide behind that Mary Sue excuse and say that there’s

no strong female representation in literature. That’s wrong.


Exhibit #1: Rose Hathaway, from the Vampire Academy series

She’s smart, she’s resourceful, and she fights for the people she loves.

She doesn’t let a crush define her life. Okay, there is a time where she has to do certain

things for the man she loves, but mainly she’s just this badass character that loves to fight, and is

amazing at it. She is also definitely not ashamed of her sexuality. That’s tough to find in a main character

these days. This is why she’s one of my favorite female characters.


Exhibit #2: Sydney Sage

There’s an endless list of characters I can name, and some others from

Richelle Mead are on my list, including Sydney Sage, a prodigiously smart Alchemist that once stood up

for her people’s beliefs and then realized they were wrong. She then started fighting for what she

thought was right, against her people, WHILE falling in love.  If you don’t think that’s badass,

I don’t know what is, especially as everyone (including her love interest) depends on her on the

Bloodlines series. *shrugs* She is my #1 literary role model.


Exhibit #3: Lady Katsa

Now, the one that I always like to mention when I talk about female

empowerment: Katsa, from Graceling. Katsa is amazing, at first she’s oppressed by her uncle, but then

she stands up to him, after she realizes that she is powerful enough to make her own decisions. She’s a

great role model, a symbol for women that need to realize how powerful they can be when they

become aware of how their choices, thoughts and feelings matter and shouldn’t be oppressed.


Exhibit #4: Annabeth Chase

This one’s important. Why? Because Rick Riordan created Annabeth. He

created this smart, strong female character that is focused on what she wants in life. She’s Athena’s

daughter. That usually means she should be Percy’s enemy or something. Guess what? She fights it. She

becomes his friend, and eventually they fall in love, but that’s not what I wanted to say. Annabeth is the

type of character that you can’t say is weak. Even when she’s obviously suffering, she keeps on fighting

and doesn’t let go of her hopes and dreams. Annabeth goes against all the stereotypes.

Exhibit #5: Katniss Everdeen

Need I say something else? Didn’t think so.

Katniss is a strong, female character that came from the

bottom of the food chain, that they didn’t see coming. She started a revolution, people. All because of

love. Impressive, right? 🙂


A strong character isn’t defined for insensitivity. It’s defined for his or her

actions, and the reasons behind them. Is that so far from reality? I mean, fighting for what you believe

and who you love is an impressive and important feat. Would doing it for your lover diminish the power

of these actions? I sure hope not. Love is love… and that’s why female characters are so important in

literature. Because they show us that friendship, family and love are essential to live and to be more

sensitive human beings.


NoVa Teen Book Festival Recap

Ever since I found out about YALLFest, I’ve been scouring the internet for bookish events in my area. I was going to attend the National Book Festival in DC last summer but… I didn’t (thanks Mom and Dad). Suddenly, at the beginning of this month, a friend on Twitter told me that there would be one in Arlington, VA, which happens to be super close to where I live. Thus, on March 7th I attended the NoVa Teen Book Festival, my very first author event! And of course, I just had to do a recap post 😉


All the awesome authors that were in attendance!


Honestly, for me, one of the coolest things about attending a book-related event was meeting other book-nerds. All around me I could hear various discussions about different books and characters, and I loved it. It was so much fun to get to know other people who love young adult literature as much as I do! Here are some pictures I got with two awesome ladies I met during the author panels:

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And one of the coolest things that ever happened to me happened on that day. STORYTIME!

Okay, so I was in line with Sajda (from upper right photo) waiting to get one of my books signed. All of the sudden, someone taps my shoulder. I turn around, and there’s a teenage boy standing behind me. He asks me if I’m Batool. I say yes. And then, he says the best words I’ve ever heard: “I read your blog”. IT WAS SO COOL. He totally made my week, and I regret that I didn’t ask for his name. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to ask for a picture with him:



Note to the awesome dude: If you’re reading this right now, thanks so much for approaching me and letting me know that you read my blog!

Along with all that awesomeness, I got a few pictures with/of some authors. Some of which were a tad bit blurry, but hey a blurry picture is better than no picture.


Kristen Simmons

I was totally clumsy when I walked up to Kristen. Because my foot bumped into her table, she thought I hurt myself but really I was fine (it was just my pride that hurt). But aside from the humiliation, it was awesome to finally meet Kirsten in person because we’ve interacted before on twitter (she told me she liked this post!) and she’s so sweet. She’s also really funny in person.


Matt De La Peña



Robin Talley



Jasmine Warga



Author Panel

I have a few videos of the author panels. Once I figure out how to get my phone to work long enough for me to transfer them to my computer I’ll be able to share them with you guys (hopefully).

Well, that was my first ever author event. I’d just like to say, if you ever get a chance to go to a similar event, you should take advantage of it. It’s so much fun, and even if you’ve never even read any of those authors’ books (like me) it’s still cool to hear them talk about their experiences as authors. You may end up finding a great book that you’ve never even heard of before!

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Let’s Talk: FE&L #7- Strength in the Softer Parts


Strength in the Softer Parts

by Madhuri Blaylock

I just put the finishing touches on my trilogy, The Sanctum, so when Batool asked me to write a guest post for her blog series on women and empowerment, I hardly thought I would go back to my fantastical world of hybrid demons, warriors, and vampires. I figured I would need some time away from them, to decompress from the drama of their finale. And yet, here I am, talking about the women of The Sanctum

and you know why?

Because they are such freaking badasses, I simply cannot help myself.

It’s quite fitting actually, since the genesis of The Sanctum lies in my own desire to create the girl absent from the pages of my many and varied fantasy and paranormal books. Not the Badass, because she exists, in so many shapes and forms, on the pages of so many novels and screenplays, kicking butt and taking names after her badassery has been explained to her

laid out and examined

expounded upon and studied.

Nope. I didn’t want that girl because although she evolved into something fierce and proud, she began wide-eyed and unaware, beholden to some secret about herself unlocked by a cute boy.

I wanted the Self-Aware Badass. The girl who knows she is the shit, why she is the shit, and exactly how she became the shit.

Hermione Granger, all grown and sexy.

That’s the girl I wanted to meet, the girl I sought, craved really. And when I couldn’t find her, I created her. And while I was doing that, a funny thing happened.

I created a whole crew of similar women – tough as nails, whip smart, deadly, and full of a sense of self and purpose. Women who knew their worth without a man needing to define it, set the parameters, and provide the explanations.

Hermoine Granger, all grown and sexy.

Interestingly enough, now that I look back on these women – Dev, Darby Winthrop, and Jools Clayworth – I realize that for all of their feats of greatness, the moments where they felled the antagonist, slayed the devils, and single-handedly made evil think twice, their true strength lies in their softer side.

Their vulnerabilities

and their willingness to accept those weaknesses, because that’s really what they are, look them in the face, understand they are just as vital as all the indestructibility, the super-human strength, the lightning speed

and do not make them any lesser of a woman.

If anything, they make them so very real and relatable and worthy

of all the accolades and hurrahs

the greatness and power.

It’s the vulnerabilities and the weaknesses that make these women whole and complete

grown and sexy.

For I love watching Dev lay waste to the warriors who come after her, felling them with ease, laughing in their faces as she slides her blade across their throats. I love living through her regeneration, knowing her body rebuilds itself after suffering horrific trauma. I love listening to her explain her creation and her purpose and her meaning – her knowledge of self is exhilarating.

But more beautiful than all of that is learning her fears and her weaknesses, her need to appear strong and unmoved, and watching as she accepts the hand offered her and takes a chance, trusting someone besides herself

sharing herself and her fears and weaknesses with another.

The quiet of that moment, its meaning and significance, stay with me long after her story ends.

Then there is Darby Winthrop, the Southern Belle from Hell, the vampire I love madly. She is brash and sexy, uncouth and deadly. She’ll smile in your face and woo you with her Southern charm, then snap your neck before you knew what hit you. She’ll kiss your throat and run her hand up your thigh, making you all hot and bothered and wild, then she’ll drain you of every drop of blood and leave you for dead.

She is centuries old, smarter than anyone in the room, and stronger than them, too. She is funny and witty and full of life; she is sexy, in touch with her darkest desires, and simply oozes sensuality.

She is power – she wields it, she owns it – and watching her at work, bending men and women to her will and whim is a thing of beauty. But more wondrous than all of that, is learning Darby’s one weakness, for in him, we realize just how truly powerful she is. For in him we witness her capacity to love and forgive and forget, until that is no longer an option and she is forced to do the unthinkable.

And it is beautiful

and painful and extraordinary

and makes us fall for Miss Winthrop harder than we ever thought possible.

Last but not least is Jools Clayworth, younger sister, only daughter, given to fits of jealousy, brat. Superior warrior, killer instinct, natural leader. A roiling mess of insecurities, well hidden but fueling her every immature and petulant antic. Until she can no longer continue acting the child, when her skills on a battlefield are no longer enough, and she is forced to evolve into the strong, determined, powerful leader no one but Jools ever expected her to become.

And still that is not enough to protect her from herself, for she is her own worst enemy. She is her own weakness and when she finally realizes as much, when she comes to grips with all she has witnessed and all she has engendered, and she desperately reaches out to another to save her

it is gut-wrenching and moving

and I, the writer, Jools’ creator, who respected her and her gangsta from day one, but felt little else for the warrior or the woman, am finally able to also love and appreciate her.

Because sometimes

the true strength of the Badass

the beauty

and the wonder

lies in the softer parts.


Author of The Sanctum trilogy / Supporter of #WeNeedDiverseBooks


Pathogen: Patient Zero by Kai Kiriyama (Cover Reveal)

Check out Kai Kiriyama’s new book, Pathogen: Patient Zero!

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Every outbreak starts somewhere…

A young girl, hospitalized with a violent strain of the flu.

The charismatic doctor who promises that she’s going to be okay.

A nightmare virus that threatens to destroy them both.

Reduced to the title of Zero, she is dehumanized by her doctors into little more than a series of charts and procedures. Zero is left to her own devices, telling her story through a haze of drugs, slipping in and out of consciousness, and trying to find some kind of inner peace as the doctors hustle around her to find a cure.

From Kai Kiriyama, author of Blaze Tuesday and the Case of the Knight Surgeon and My life Beyond the Grave: The Untold Story of Vlad Dracula, comes her newest book, this dark, YA medical horror, PATHOGEN: PATIENT ZERO.

From start to end, PATHOGEN takes the reader on a journey through the death of a young woman, struck ill by what seems to be the flu. As she deteriorates, the story follows along from her point of view as she succumbs to more symptoms, and is forced to endure more and more tests while the doctors treating her look for a cure. Heartbreaking and harrowing, PATHOGEN: PATIENT ZERO journeys through the five stages of grief, and explores what it feels like for those suffering from terminal illness.

Here are some awesome teasers from the book:

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PATHOGEN: PATIENT ZERO will be released May 15, 2015, and is available for pre-order on Smashwords.


Kai Kiriyama is a writer of many things, mostly novels, of varying genres. With diplomas in tea leaf reading, palmistry, crystal divination, and crystal healing, it’s no surprise to see novels reflecting the otherworldly with her name on them. Influenced by tales of magic, deception and monsters, Kai takes her genre-hopping seriously.She currently lives in Canada with her pet snake and a looming deadline. She can be reached by email at

You can find Kai on Twitter

On facebook:

On her website:

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