Favorite Author Feature: Neal Shusterman

In 2017 I shared Favorite Book Features on my favorite books. This year I’d like to start a new series—features on my favorite authors! I’m going to return to my favorite books shelf and look into some of my favorite authors. I’ll share about their books I’ve read and why they’re an awesome author. Today’s featured author is the incredible Neal Shusterman!

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My new blog series will look into some of my favorite authors!

Neal Shusterman is a successful novelist and writer for television and film. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York and went to UC Irvine. He now lives in Southern California with his four kids. Shusterman is the author of the Unwind Dystology, the Skinjacker Trilogy, the Arc of a Scythe, the Accelerati Trilogy (with Eric Elfman), the Nation Book Award-winning novel Challenger Deep, and many other books for teens and kids.

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I loved Shusterman’s Skinjacker Trilogy and Unwind Dystology

The Skinjacker Trilogy—Everlost, Everwild, and Everfound—follows Nick and Allie as they navigate Everlost, the world between life and death where kids who “don’t get where they’re going” end up. It is a mysterious and dangerous world, full of lost souls and crossed-over objects, and if you stand in the same place to long you sink to the center of the earth. I’ve definitely never read anything quite like this before.

Like with Everlost, Shusterman blew my mind again with the Unwind Dystology. This series (UnwindUnwhollyUnsouled, and Undivided) takes place in the future after the second civil war was fought over abortion. Now children cannot be aborted, but from ages 13-18 they can be “unwound,” a process which results in 100% of their body being donated, so they’re not technically dead. These books are eerie and exciting and wonderful.

I think my favorite thing about Neal Shusterman’s writing—besides the incredible stories he comes up with—is his awesome omniscient narration. Most of the time I don’t like omniscient stories because I want to stick close to the main characters, but Shusterman uses the omniscient narrator to take you into the both the villains’ and side characters’ heads and beautifully characterize them in even as little as a paragraph. He puts the omniscient point of view to its best use by really getting deep into all of the characters (no matter how brief) to give the readers all of the perspectives on the situations in the book. These two series are both unique and really cool, and his narration makes the books some of my favorites and Shusterman one of my favorite authors.

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Everlost and Unwind are two of my favorite novels

Though I haven’t read many of Neal Shusterman’s books, I absolutely love the ones I have read, and I can’t wait to try more!


Have you read any of Neal Shusterman’s books? Which ones are your favorites?

How to Fit in More Reading

Writers should read as much as they write. As Stephen King puts it, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Reading helps you as a writer by letting you see what kind of stories are out there and observing how others’ write. Reading a lot surrounds you with words and stories and makes it easier to write your own stories.

But writers often have a hard time fitting in reading. And there are two main reasons for this.

The first is that reading is time-consuming. Writers are often already doing their writing in their spare time on top of day jobs and don’t have any extra time to read, no matter how much it would benefit them. Since I only have a part-time job as a babysitter, I don’t have too much experience with this reason for not being able to read, but I do struggle a lot with reading slumps. I go through many periods of time in which nothing sounds good and I simply don’t want to read.

Whether you have trouble fitting in time to read or are struggling to find something you want to read, I have ideas to help you fit in more reading so that you can have the tools you need for your writing.

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This quote by Stephen King sums up the need for writers to read.

Time-Restraint Tips

  • Audiobooks
    I’ve written before about how I love audiobooks and how they can be a great writing resource. Listening to books as I get ready in the morning or for bed, or while doing housework, is an excellent way to fit more reading into your day even when you don’t have time to sit down with a book in your hands. If you have a commute to your day job, try audiobooks to fill that time with more reading.
  • Always have a book with you
    You never know when you might have a few minutes to read. I don’t usually carry a physical book with me, but I have apps on my phone with ebooks and audiobooks. However, when I know there’s a high probability of having time to read (like at doctor appointments or at babysitting jobs during nap times) I always bring a physical book.
  • Schedule it
    If you struggle to find time to read but know how valuable it can be to your writing, schedule it! Reading is important and we should treat it as such. In my writing planner I schedule it out so that I can read a third to a half of two different novels each week and a chapter a day or so of a nonfiction book about writing. You’d be amazed how much reading you can get in if you break it down and schedule a handful of pages per day.

Reading Slump Tips

  • Quick Books
    Sometimes I get into a slump because the book I’m reading is really long and it’s taking forever to get through it. Long books may make you feel like you’re not getting any reading done at all simply because it takes a long time to finish. I love to read short books. A book you can finish quickly can give you the boost of confidence you need to get back into reading. Graphic novels and novels-in-verse are my favorite quick books.
  • Something Different
    When nothing sounds good to read, sometimes all you need is something different to make reading exciting again. Try something outside your comfort zone—a book in a genre you never would’ve picked up before. If you only read YA (like me) try an adult fiction novel. If you usually read fiction, try a memoir or poetry. If you’ve never read a graphic novel before, give it a try! You might like it as much as I did. Something outside the norm could help you jump back into a reading groove.

Do you have any tips about fitting in reading to add to the list?

What I’m Reading: Graphic Novels

When I read The Lunar Chronicles, I was so sad to finish the books because I already missed the characters. Then I discovered Marissa Meyer had written two more books in the series, set between the main novels and the epilogue in Stars Above. And they were graphic novels.

In my mind, graphic novels always meant superhero, action-packed stories. So I avoided them. But I loved the Lunar Chronicles series and wanted more, so I finally decided to give graphic novels a try.

I loved them.

And Wires and Nerve, volumes I and II, much like the novels-in-verse I’ve been reading lately, opened my eyes to more of what books can be.

It was so cool to see the Lunar Chronicles come to life. I had spent months immersed in this story world, and I could finally see my favorite characters in action. I thought I wouldn’t like reading the comic book style, with pictures and captions, but I found myself excited to pick up the story whenever I had time to read. It was a fun and interesting experience to “see” the story while technically still reading.

I finished the Wires and Nerve books all too quickly, so I rushed back to the library for more, only to find the graphic adaptation of my favorite book: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Reading the Wires and Nerve books opened me up to graphic novels, but the graphic adaptation of Speak affected me in a way I wasn’t expecting. Melinda’s story is powerful in words, but seeing it drawn out, especially when you get to see the art Melinda creates, makes this story even stronger. I almost felt like it was supposed to be in graphic form all along.

After reading these three graphic novels, I am ready for more. I have three more graphic novels checked out from the library (two more adaptations of existing books like Speak and an original) and I can’t wait to read them.

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I can’t wait to read the graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary!

I’ve been working to expand my reading over the past year, reading many books by people of color, lots of novels-in-verse, and now graphic novels. It’s important to open your mind to all that reading and writing can be, and to take in a lot of different voices. But, even though I think graphic novels are cool now, I still don’t think I’ll be reading superhero stories any time soon.


Do you like graphic novels? Which books would you recommend?

How Music Can Help You Write

Sometimes silence is a good thing for writers. I love to sit with my dog and look out the window together, letting my mind wander and brainstorm. But most of the time I’m listening to music. And I think there are many benefits to listening to music while you write.

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Listening to music while you write can inspire you and help keep you focused.

I’ve always felt that different forms of art can influence each other. Music influences my writing. My writing influences my paper crafts. The Bible, which is God’s Word and a work of art in its own right, influences everything I create.

Music can be a great source of inspiration for writing. Different genres and tones of music can influence your ideas. For example, I like to listen to music that reminds me of a character or a story in order to brainstorm. But the main way music helps me is by keeping me inspired during the physical act of writing.

I have the radio station K-LOVE on pretty much non-stop. Listening to Christian music and worship songs is a great reminder of God’s presence. The music helps me remember that God is always with me and that I need to look to him when I am creating.

K-LOVE helps me when I’m reading, brainstorming, working on social media and my blog, and doing pretty much everything else during the day. But when it comes time to get my word count down for the day, I can’t seem to listen to lyrics anymore.

Instead I turn to movie scores and other soundtracks and classical music. Orchestral music helps me so much when I am writing. I try to pick music that has a tone and pace similar to what I’m writing so that it helps me keep my head in the right place. Some of my favorite movie scores to listen to are Inception (or anything else by Hans Zimmer) and the Harry Potter movies. I also like listening to Cirque du Soleil soundtracks when I want something a little different-sounding. When it comes to classical music, Beethoven has always been my favorite.

Movie scores, soundtracks, and classical music keep me inspired and focused on what I’m doing. It’s so easy to become distracted and turn away from your writing, but a lot of the time I’ll use albums as timers: For example, I know that the Inception soundtrack is approximately one hour long. So if I’m having trouble focusing, I can turn that on and tell myself I have to work until it is over, and that will keep me focused for a whole hour.

Another tip I’ve heard before is that video game soundtracks are even better than movie scores to listen to while writing because video game music is specifically designed to keep you concentrated. I’m not much of a gamer and I only have one video game soundtrack (Epic Mickey), so I don’t have much experience to know if this really does help. But movie scores help me just fine.

No matter what music you like, you can look to is as an inspiration for your stories and use it to help keep you focused while you write.


Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind?

Favorite Author Feature: Kiera Cass

In 2017 I shared Favorite Book Features on my favorite books. This year I’d like to start a new series—features on my favorite authors! I’m going to return to my favorite books shelf and look into some of my favorite authors. I’ll share about their books I’ve read and why they’re an awesome author. First up is none other than Kiera Cass!

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My new blog series will look into some of my favorite authors!

Kiera Cass is the #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of the Selection Series. She graduated from Radford University and lives in Virginia with her husband and two kids. In addition to the Selection Series (The Selection, The Elite, The One, The Heir, The Crown, and two story collections set in the world of The Selection), she is the author of The Siren. She also has an untitled book coming out sometime this year.

The original trilogy of the Selection series are my favorite books behind Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. The books are about America Singer, a girl who was born low into the caste system of Illéa, the country that was created after the United States ended. But all of that changes when she is whisked away to participate in the Selection, a competition to win the prince’s hand in marriage. These books are romantic and suspenseful. Plus it is an amazing dystopian story, which is my favorite genre. I can’t recommend these books enough. You can read my Favorite Book Feature on The Selection here.

I did not enjoy The Siren as much as I did the Selection series, but this book is still full of Cass’s beautiful writing and is an interesting retelling. While the Selection series is based on Cinderella and the book of Esther in the Bible, The Siren is based on the Little Mermaid. It follows Kahlen, a siren who is forced to serve the Ocean and who falls in love with a human. Cass first self-published this book before the Selection series was published, and it was updated and republished in 2016. I met her when she came to Dayton on tour for this book.

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I met Kiera Cass in 2016 when she came to Dayton on tour for The Siren.

Kiera Cass is one of my favorite authors for several reasons. First of all, she just blew me away back when I first read The Selection with her twist on the dystopian genre. She made a beautiful romance novel, based on one of my favorite fairy tales and one of my favorite books of the Bible, and set it in a dystopian future. Dystopian books have always been my favorites, with the revolutions and the ordinary people stepping up to save the world. The Selection does not disappoint. Reading this series (which I’ve done five times) is like getting a hug from your best friend. I turn back to them over and over again.

The other main reason I love Cass is because of our conversation when I got the chance to meet her. I had recently become a Christian and was going through a period in which I wasn’t writing anything because I didn’t know how to anymore. I really admire how open Cass is on social media about her faith, and so during the Q&A I asked her how she handles being both a writer and a Christian. She told me to stay true to my faith and write what I’m most comfortable with. As a person, she is really nice and encouraging. She remembered me and my question when I went through the signing line and continued to talk to me. The very next week I started writing Somewhere Only We Know.

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Kiera Cass’s Books (minus Happily Ever After, because my sister-in-law is reading it!)

Kiera Cass will always be an important author to me. From this blog’s very first post to Somewhere Only We Know to starting a new book now, I will never forget her advice and her books. I can’t wait to see what she writes next!


Have you read any of Kiera Cass’s books? I’d love to know what you think!

My 5 Favorite Writing Quotes

I love quotes. I think the main reason I love Instagram is because of the way people can display quotes and Bible verses on beautiful images. Quotes can encourage. They can be something to look to when you feel stuck or uninspired.

I love turning to quotes about writing when I need a little boost of encouragement or inspiration. The following quotes are my favorites:

  1. “You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
    This was my first favorite quote about writing. I discovered it back in high school when I first got serious about writing. I love it because it explains that need to write that people feel. I have something to say to this world, and writing is how I say it.
  2. “A word to the unwise. Torch every book. Char every page. Burn every word to ash. Ideas are incombustible. And therein lies your real fear.” – Ellen Hopkins
    This quote about censorship inspired a book I have on the back burner. I love it because it is so true—you can never take away the power of words.

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    I love this quote by Ellen Hopkins about censorship
  3. “The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” – Vladimir Nabokov
    I think this quote is a beautiful depiction of how it feels to write. When you are into a story and the words are flowing, it truly does feel like the words are already there in invisible ink, just waiting for you to uncover them.
  4. “Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.” – Barbara Kingsolver
    I love this quote because it reminds me to not let others influence my writing. It can be tempting to try to write a book just like the latest bestseller, but that’s not what I have to say and those aren’t the stories I have to offer to the world.

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    This quote by Barbara Kingsolver is a great reminder
  5. “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” – Colossians 3:23
    This last one is not exactly a quote about writing, but I apply this Bible verse to my writing life. Writing is the work I’ve been called to do. And I shouldn’t be writing for some worldly reason like fame. Instead I will work willingly for the Lord.

I hope that sharing these quotes might help inspire you with your own creative projects.


What’s your favorite quote about writing?

What I’m Reading: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

The past couple months I finally got around to reading a series I had heard about for a long time. I’ve wanted to read these books for a while, and I finally had the time to do so thanks to Hoopla Digital providing the audiobooks.

Retelling the stories of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White, Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series takes the fairy tales I love and makes them even more incredible by turning them into science fiction stories in which Cinderella is a cyborg. These books and Cinder and her friends reminded me of the show Firefly, with the ragtag crew aboard a spaceship and the heists they try to pull off. But they’re even better than Firefly because they’re all based on fairy tales.

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The Paperback box set of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Set in the future in New Beijing, Cinder forms allies with Scarlet, Cress, and Winter and tries to overthrow the evil Queen Levana of Luna. The four books—Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter—each focus on one of the fairy tales, but they build on top of one another as each character is introduced to the series.

While I didn’t care for the character of Scarlet or the second book in these series that focused on her, I loved this series as a whole. Cress, who is based on Rapunzel, was my favorite of all of the girls, but that’s probably because Rapunzel’s story is also one of my favorite fairy tales. These books are just so imaginative in how they combine a dystopian revolution with the fantasy of fairy tales.

I think retellings are amazing. I’ve written about how some of my favorite stories (Wicked and A Little In Love) are retellings. Taking a story that already exists and putting your own spin on it is a fun and sometimes easier way to write. If you come up with something truly creative—like Cinderella being a cyborg—that idea can explode into a whole series of books.

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Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

I finished listening to the audiobooks of the series at the end of 2018 and received the box set of paperbacks for Christmas. Now I’ve been reading Stars Above, a book of stories set in the world of the Lunar Chronicles!


Have you read The Lunar Chronicles? What’s your favorite book series?