Meeting and Greeting Your Readers


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Castles, castles, castles

CharmedChildrencover-1You know those books where the setting becomes such a part of the book that it’s like another character? Where you can’t quite imagine the story working anywhere else? Well, Janet Fox has got just such a thing going in her new novel, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle. This is a castle that isn’t a cardboard set.

So that got us thinking about other favorite castles that threw their craggy shadows over other stories we love. Here are some of our favorites. What are yours?


Jason Gallaher–I mean, how can you not say Hogwarts? Just like New York is the fifth lady of “Sex and the City,” Hogwarts is another student/teacher/magical creature of the Harry Potter universe (and such a Carrie, I’m assuming). From shifting stairways to a kitchen that you have to tickle a painting of a pear to get into to the most magnificent dormitory common rooms that made me want to go to boarding school, I am obsessed with Hogwarts.


Andrea Wang–When I was small, I thought the Emerald City of Oz had towers and spires and was surrounded by a moat, just like a real castle. I also didn’t get the part that the city wasn’t really built out of emeralds. I loved all the Oz books so much that one year, I created the Emerald City out of tinfoil and green spray paint for a school project. I used up an entire roll of foil and got into trouble with my mom, but it was worth it!

Carole Gerber found a story at a real Scottish castle–A few years ago I visited a castle in Scotland, which was the summer home of the previous Queen Elizabeth, known as “the Queen Mum.” The castle was huge and drafty, but the gardens were spectacular. I was thrilled to discover a small grave under a huge old old tree on the lawn. The date of death was 1916 and the name the stone was “Fizz Whizzy,” one of the Queen Mum’s dogs. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out where Whizzy got his name. I laughed at the Queen Mum’s dry – I mean wet – humor!

Mylisa Larsen–Well, I immediately think of Hogwarts because, wow, that is a world. Moving staircases and resident funny ghosts and rooms that only let certain people in and the list goes on and on. And then there’s Castle Glower which changes its rooms or adds a new turret or builds itself a wing for purposes that only it knows in Jessica Day George’s Tuesdays At the Castle. I also love Ursula Vernon’s Castle Hangnail. And Castle Hangnail’s staff (best neurotic goldfish ever.)

If you’ve been waiting to step through the door of Janet Fox’s spooky Rookskill Castle, then the wait is finally over because it’s here. Pick up a copy at your local bookstore or online today.





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A Chat with Agent Erin Murphy about The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox


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The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox is a book I fell in love with on page one and could not put down until I read the very last word. I, however, was not the first to fall in love with this read-with-the-lights-on mystery. That honor goes to Janet Fox’s agent, Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency (EMLA). I had the privilege of talking with Erin about her first impressions of this unforgettable story. But first, a bit about the Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle.

“Keep calm and carry on.”

That’s what Katherine Bateson’s father told her, and that’s what she’s trying to do: when her father goes off to the war, when her mother sends Kat and her brother and sister away from London to escape the incessant bombing, even when the children arrive at Rookskill Castle, an ancient, crumbling manor on the misty Scottish highlands.

But it’s hard to keep calm in the strange castle that seems haunted by ghosts or worse. What’s making those terrifying screeches and groans at night? Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own? And why do people seem to mysteriously appear and disappear?

Kat believes she knows the answer: Lady Eleanor, who rules Rookskill Castle, is harboring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must uncover the truth about what the castle actually harbors—and who Lady Eleanor really is—before it’s too late.

Now, to my chat with Erin.

When you first read this novel, what was your initial impression?

Erin: Something like, “My God, this woman can write!” WWII-era England is a great sweet spot for me so far as pleasure-reading, so when Janet first queried me and described this project (then called Chatelaine), I literally wrote back, “I want to read it right this minute.” When I did read it, it didn’t just meet my expectations, it far exceeded them.

Of all the characters in The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, who do you most identify with?

Erin: Kat, of course. Oh, do I identify with the need to balance left-brain and right-brain thinking—although the older I get, the more I favor the intuitive and imaginative. Plus, she’s an eldest child, always feeling responsible.

I was wonderfully surprised at Janet’s ability to seamlessly blend mystery, suspense and fantasy on the very real backdrop of WWII. How do you feel about the blended genres?

Erin: I absolutely adore them. Speaking of imaginative things, I think some of the most imaginative books I’ve read have been blended genres. There’s just something about mashups that brings out both the comfortingly familiar and the wonderfully surprising.

Finish this sentence: You must read The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle because …

Erin: …it will sweep you away to another time and place and you will be satisfied until the very last page!

Your favorite mystery as a kid?

Erin: I can’t pick just one! I was a voracious mystery reader, especially on summer vacation, when I’d devour every book by a mystery author—the Trixie Belden books, and Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys, and Agatha Christie, and Sherlock Holmes….Right now I’m exceptionally busy and stretched thin as I prepare to relocate across the country, and the reading I reach for? Mystery series. Even now, that is escapist comfort reading to me.

And since no good interview would be complete without a surprise question…What’s the oddest job you have ever had?

Erin: That’s a funny non-sequitur of a question! I guess it was the brief period when I was a Secret Diner, eating at various locations of a particular chain restaurant and turning in reports on the food quality, service, and cleanliness. But all I got paid was free meals.

Huge thanks to agent and secret diner extraordinaire, Erin Murphy, for sharing her thoughts on Janet’s wonderful story. Charmed Children of Rooksill Castle is at a bookstore or library near you. Today!



IMG_9552   Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author whose debut novel, FINDING PERFECT, comes out October, 18, 2016 (FSG). FINDING PERFECT is a middle grade story about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, betrayal, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. Elly lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on next, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.






Filed under Book Promotion, Writing, Writing and Life

Covers, Covers, Covers

Elly Swartz’s Finding Perfect just got a cover last week (see it here) and that reminded me of how exciting (ok, and nerve wracking) seeing your cover for the first time can be. A lot is riding on that cover design. In spite of the proverb, we all judge a book by its cover.

The perfect cover isn’t only beautiful, it delivers the right book to the right reader. So I thought I’d do a roundup of four books that I’ve had the opportunity to read whose covers do exactly that. The first is Penny Parker Klostermann’s There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight with art by Ben Mantle.There Was an Old Dragon cover

From the minute you see that big, old dragon with the dinner napkin around his neck, you know he’s trouble. Funny trouble. And the book delivers that funny again and again both through text and pictures.

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The cover of Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s Book Scavenger tells you, “Hey, if you like books, if you like mysteries, if you like to solve puzzles, this is your book. Sarah Watt’s did the art and April Ward designed the cover. And when you read the book, it absolutely delivers on the cover’s promise. Books, mystery, puzzles galore.

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Janet Fox’s cover of The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, with art by Greg Ruth, is fabulously sinister. You can’t help wanting to go into that lighted door and yet, at the same time, thinking “I am not sure those kids should go in that door. I do not have a good feeling about this.” Janet’s book comes out in March but I’ve already read an ARC and let me tell you, it’s both worth going in the door and sleep-with-the-lights-on scary. It delivers on the promise of the cover.


And finally, there’s the cover of Joshua McCune’s Talker 25. Gorgeous color combinations, all that texture, the stylized nod to dragons and the the tagline below the title. The cover is gritty, tough. You know the book will have a dark side. And that’s exactly what you get when you read it. (Plus the realest dragons I have read in years.)

If you’d like to read more about the thought process behind Talker 25, there’s a great post about how Paul Zakris, art director at Greenwillow, and Sammy Yuen, the artist, worked through that process here.

So here’s to the artists and cover designers who do such a brilliant job telling a reader in one image what’s waiting inside that cover.

Which covers that you’ve seen lately do you think do the job of delivering the right book to the right reader?


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I’m thrilled to be able to announce the cover of my March 15, 2016 middle grade debut, THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE (Viking). And happy to add that the book will simultaneously release as an audiobook, by Listening Library!

Here’s the synopsis: Something is not right at Rookskill Castle, a rundown Scottish manor shrouded in mystery. The castle is a temporary boarding school for children escaping the Blitz, but soon it’s clear there is something terribly wrong. There are clues hinting that a spy is in the house, and there are undeniable signs of a sinister magic. When the children in the castle’s temporary boarding school begin disappearing one by one, it’s a race against the clock for twelve-year-old Kat Bateson, her two younger siblings, and their new best friend.

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I’m so happy with this beautiful cover, illustrated by Greg Ruth. You can add it to your Goodreads to-read shelf here

IMG_8226bJanet Fox’s published works include the non-fiction middle grade self-help book GET ORGANIZED WITHOUT LOSING IT (Free Spirit Publishing) and three young adult historical novels: FAITHFUL, FORGIVEN, and SIRENS (all Speak/Penguin). Her debut middle grade novel THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE is due out in March 2016 from Viking; it’s a creepy historical fantasy featuring ghosts, enigma machines, disappearing children, castles, and curses. Janet is currently working on a number of projects ranging from picture books to more middle grade to YA science fiction. Janet is a former high school teacher, and a 2010 MFA graduate from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she’s represented by Erin Murphy. She lives in Bozeman, Montana, where she and her husband are ruled by an energetic Lab, but you can also find her at www.janetsfox.com.


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