Welcome to one of the final stops on the 2016 Debut Authors Bash, hosted by Nichole at YA Reads. This is a tour to celebrate and spotlight the authors that have burst into the publishing world this year, as well as encourage you to give one of their books a shot. Believe me, we've got some pretty great ones on the tour this year (especially my stop, but I'm a bit biased ;) )
Be sure to scroll down! We have a book review, author bios, a Q&A with Meghan Rogers, and a tour-wide giveaway!
Without further ado, let me introduce you to the author of one of my favorite 2016 releases so far... Meghan Rogers!
Meghan Rogers has been telling stories since she could talk and writing creatively since she was first introduced to the concept in third grade. She spent her high school years completing her first novel and has been actively writing ever since. After college, Meghan went to work with high school writers while earning her MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College. She is currently living in the Philadelphia area and working on the next Raven Files novel.
Title: Crossing the Line (The Raven Files #1)
Author: Meghan Rogers
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: April 12, 2016
Format Read: ARC
Rating: Five stars
Description from Goodreads: If Jason Bourne were a teenaged girl...
Jocelyn Steely was kidnapped as a child and raised in North Korea as a spy. When her agency sends her to the U.S. to infiltrate the very group her parents once worked for, Jocelyn jumps at the chance to turn double agent and finish off her kidnappers once and for all. She convinces the head of the American spy agency to trust her, but it's not quite as simple as that: Jocelyn has to fight the withdrawal symptoms from the drug that the North Koreans used to keep her in line, and her new fellow spies refuse to trust their former adversary. Worst of all, there might be some new information to uncover about her parents-- if she even wants to find out.
This action-packed spy thriller is part GALLAGHER GIRLS, part ALEX RIDER, and part BOURNE IDENTITY.
I received an ARC of CROSSING THE LINE back in April, and I read it as soon as I got it, because I wanted to have it reviewed on release date, as is my policy. But then I found the sign-up sheets for this tour, and I post-poned my review so that I could add it in with the Bash. I chose to do this because CROSSING THE LINE was a five star read for me.
I've read a lot of thrillers. I've read a lot of spy books. I've read a lot of assassin books. Take the best of each of those, add a fresh, creative plot, killer characters (Literally), and wrap it up with a page-turning bow, and you get the first book in The Raven Files.
I was hooked from, like, page two. Meghan had me in her clutches from the prologue, and that's something that happens very rarely. In fact, when it does happen, it generally means that the book is going to suck. Because, and I've mentioned this before, if I start out liking it, I'll probably be feeling polar opposite by the end of the book. But with CROSSING THE LINE, I was into it from start to finish. So into it that I did the unthinkable. The thing that I never, ever do. The thing that only happens once or twice a year:
I read it again the day after I finished it.
And this time, I read it aloud to my mom, who also thought it was crazy good.
Reading it to her, I would break into fits of laughter so long that it would leave me in tears, because this book is also extremely hilarious. Not in a joke-y way, but in a way of character personalities and responses. Mostly from one named Scorpion, because I just could not handle him. He sent me laughing every few pages with his constant anger and arrogance. And then Jocelyn, with her fierce take-no-crap attitude. And Sam, with his carefree, everything's a game smirk.
Pulling the drug, Gerex, into the story made everything ten times better. Not only was the situation surrounding Jocelyn and her past making everything tense, as well as the feelings towards her from her peers, but you also had the drug plucking away at the already-too-tight strings, and it kept me constantly on the edge of my seat, just waiting to see which string would break first.
What may have been my favorite thing about this book (other than the characters that I loved to bits and pieces) is that there were none of your typical YA cliches. I have a specific one in mind, but I can't share it with you, because I want you to be just as shocked as I was when it didn't happen. Though, there are multiple times that I expected something cliche to happen and it didn't, so maybe your biggest one will be different than my biggest one.
CROSSING THE LINE definitely earned and worked for it's five stars. This is a book I'd highly recommend to anyone who likes thrillers, mysteries, spy books, annnnnd anyone who likes Black Widow, AKA Natasha Romanoff. After all, Natasha *is* where Meghan got the inspiration for Jocelyn...
Q&A With Meghan Rogers
I was lucky enough to get to interrogate Meghan about the first book in her Raven Files series. This is definitely a NON-spoilery interview, so don't worry about reading anything that you shouldn't!
The interview is as follows.
Q1.) I know that your inspiration for CROSSING THE LINE came from Natasha Romanoff. How much of Black Widow's character influenced your creation of Jocelyn?
A1.) Very little intentionally, though inadvertently, it seems more of her snuck in than I planned. When I first saw THE AVENGERS, I didn't have any real backstory for the characters, including Black Widow. And after I saw it, I didn't want to do too much research. The beginnings of the idea for CROSSING THE LINE came to me halfway through the movie, and I purposefully didn't want to be too influenced by Black Widow's story. I wanted Jocelyn's backstory to as much as much of my own as possible. To this day I still haven't looked into it, so all I know is what I've seen in the movies. The part of her character that intentionally influenced Jocelyn was her general history-- that she had worked for an enemy and done horrible things for them before joining "the good guys," and that she would be switching sides. The rest of Jocelyn's character I created around those concepts.
Then comes the part I didn't plan. One thing I like to so is give each of my characters a Myers-Briggs personality test. So after I created her character enough to have a good feel for her, I took the test answering the questions as she would answer them. Jocelyn is an ISTP, and as I was doing more research on her personality type, I learned that Black Widow is an ISTP too. This was totally unplanned-- I mean, I wouldn't even know how to manipulate the test to get that result even if I wanted to. I have no idea who determined Black Widow to be this type, but if it's accurate I think it's pretty fitting.
Q2.)If THE RAVEN FILES were turned into a virtual reality, who would you want to spar with? Be partnered with?
A2.) This is such a fun question! I think I'd want to spar with Nikki because my real-life sparring existence is non-existent, and I think she'd be patient enough to teach me a little bit. And I'd want to be partnered with Travis because I totally trust him to have my back.
Q3.) GEREX. Where did the idea for the drug come from?
A3.) The Gerex was primarily born out of necessity. I knew from the start I didn't want Jocelyn to spend half the book earning the trust of both the IDA director and the reader. I wanted you to be on her side from the very beginning. I also needed a way to explain how KATO had such a hold on her for all these years. That's how I came to the idea of a drug. But then I knew it couldn't be a drug that already existed. After all, if Jocelyn could get the drug after she left KATO, then it still wouldn't explain why she didn't try to leave sooner. That's when I realized I'd have to create the drug myself. I think it added a really interesting and complex layer to Jocelyn's character that I hadn't originally thought of.
Q4.) If you could choose one of your characters to pull out of the book and bring to life for a day, who would you choose, and what would you want to do with them?
A4.) I would definitely choose Jocelyn and I would want her to teach me how to beat a security system, break into a building, and steal something. I (probably;) wouldn't actually want to steal something with her, but I think it'd be cool to know HOW to do those thing.
Q5.) If you were to pin Scorpion (I can't seem to think of him as "Travis". It's always Scorpion.) and Jocelyn together in a fight to the death, how do you think it would turn out?
A5.) You are not the only one who can't think of him as Travis! I tend to refer to him as Travis though, because to me he's been Travis a lot longer than he's been Scorpion (but more on code names later. ;) Anyway, this is a hard question mostly because there are so many factors! But if we're talking before Jocelyn joined the IDA, Jocelyn would definitely win. If you've read the first chapter of the book, you'll know that she definitely had her chance Jocelyn's strength is her speed and agility. She's also a lot more reckless than he is, so she'll take more risks than he will. Ultimately, Jocelyn doesn't like killing but she'll do what she has to in order to survive. Id she found herself in a situation where it was her or Travis, she'd pick herself and I don't see Travis being able to get to her first.
Q6.) Were you a pantser or a planner when it came to writing CROSSING THE LINE?
A6.) I am a totally hardcore planner for everything that I write. I've learned that I have a hard time thinking about the story and writing the story at the same time, so first I think and then I write. I have, like, three phases for brainstorming. First, is the idea phase, where I just free write about what the plot and characters could be. Then comes the plotting stage where I map out the key plot points and track the pace of the story. Then I'll create a fairly detailed chapter-by-chapter outline that's color coded by storyline to keep it all straight. And even with all of this, there's a really good chance that I'll get in there and the story will start to head in a different direction and that I'll have to re-plan. But even when I have to stop and re-plan. I get a draft down a lot faster this way than when I try to think and write at the same time. Once I have a draft written I'll repeat the process as needed.
Q7.) Which chapter (or scene) was your favorite to write? Least favorite?
A7.) I don't think I really have one favorite scene or chapter, but my favorite moments were any time Jocelyn was pushed to trust someone before she was really ready to. When I started writing this, I focused Jocelyn's character development around her learning to trust, so I loved backing her into a corner and forcing her to grow. And I'm not too sure I have a least favorite either! Generally speaking if a scene isn't fun for me to write, it probably isn't that much fun to read either, so the ones that weren't that fun to work on probably got cut a long time ago. Sorry this was such a lame answer!
Q8.) How did you come up with each of the characters' code names?
A8.) I actually have a hard time with code names! I don't know why, but they take me a lot longer to figure out than they should. For about three drafts I had typed **CODE NAME** every time Travis's code name came up (which is why he's always been more Travis to me than Scorpion.) Travis got his code name when I started asking for help. I was working and volunteering in a high school when I was working on this book and it was a student who helped me come up with Scorpion.
Jocelyn's code name has a little but more meaning behind it-- or at least it does now. Originally her code name was White Rose, and there wasn't too much meaning behind that. We had to change it for publishing and historical reasons, and my editor had suggested making it a bird that had some kind of meaning behind it, which I liked. Since Jocelyn was smart and couldn't be controlled by KATO, I went looking for a bird that has the same qualities to use as a code name. So I talked to my sister who is an animal behaviorist and was interning at the Philadelphia Zoo at the time. She said the Raven at the Zoo was very difficult to control-- he would only cooperate for one of his kepers-- and super smart, which made Raven the perfect fit!
Q9.) We know that The Raven Files is a series... will book two be from Jocelyn's point of view as well? Or multiple POVs?
A9.) Book two is in Jocelyn's point of view. I'm a never say never type of person, so I don't want to say this series will never be told from another point of view, but as of now, I consider this series to be Jocelyn's story, so she gets to be the one to tell it.
Q10.) What is your number one tip for writers?
A10.) My number one tip for writers is to work on figuring out a process that makes you both happy and productive. The internet is full of writing advice-- try as much of it as you can. Try things that sound just a little bit crazy. Some of it you may hate, but you might surprise yourself by the approaches you love. What works for one writer may not work for you, and someone else's little used crazy idea might be magic. There's a quote from Dorothy Parker, "I hate writing, I love having written." I used to feel like that. Bus since I played around with different techniques and created a process that really works for me, I can honestly say I love writing. I don't know if this will get you published any quicker, if that's your goal, but I think it makes the long journey a lot more fun if you can say you truly love the process.