Morning Kindle-ites! Today’s author spotlight comes compliments of Ms. Emily McKay, romance extraordinaire and upcoming YA knockout! I had the very distinct pleasure of having dinner with Emily last February and I wish that my 3 questions could give you an inkling of just how awesome she is, but alas…you will have to take my word for it. Anyways, while we were chatting over some of the yummiest food I’ve ever had, I learned a little about her upcoming novel The Farm, so I’ve decided to feature not only HER, but the book as well. Happy Reading!
What Everyone Is Saying
“Equal parts Resident Evil and Hunger Games–and just as thrilling.”—Chloe Neill
“A gritty, white-knuckle ride…fresh, fraught, and super scary.”—Veronica Wolff, national bestselling author of Sierra Falls
“An intense read…The kind of book you can’t put down.”—C. C. Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of Taken at Dusk
“Be prepared to stay up all night.”—Marie V. Snyder, New York Times bestselling author of Touch of Power
Life was different in the Before: before vampires began devouring humans in a swarm across America; before the surviving young people were rounded up and quarantined. These days, we know what those quarantines are—holding pens where human blood is turned into more food for the undead monsters, known as Ticks. Surrounded by electrical fences, most kids try to survive the Farms by turning on each other…
And when trust is a thing of the past, escape is nearly impossible.
Lily and her twin sister Mel have a plan. Though Mel can barely communicate, her autism helps her notice things no one else notices—like the portion of electrical fence that gets turned off every night. Getting across won’t be easy, but as Lily gathers what they need to escape, a familiar face appears out of nowhere, offering to help…
Carter was a schoolmate of Lily’s in the Before. Managing to evade capture until now, he has valuable knowledge of the outside world. But like everyone on the Farm, Carter has his own agenda, and he knows that behind the Ticks is an even more dangerous threat to the human race…
Publication Date: December 4th
Add “The Farm” to your Goodreads Shelf!
3 Questions With Emily
Q: Ok, first of all…I’m going to try my hardest to get past the fact that you are an Aggie. It’s going to be hard for me. Really hard. But the fact that your books have been translated into eleven languages and there are over half a million copies of them in print, I’m willing to overlook it. That said, WOW eleven languages? I’m not sure I can even name eleven languages! So tell me, what was your response when you first learned that one of your books was being translated for the masses? Did you bake a cake? A chocolate chip cake perhaps? ( <—- look at me, doing my research. )
Emily: Okay, does it help at all that I’m a two-percenter? (In case you don’t know, at A&M there’s the myth that only two percent of Aggies are lazy, non-participaters. And I was such a two-percenter. I never went to games. I think I only even went to Bonfire once. Ugh, I’m embarrassed to admit that.
But on the real question … yes, the many languages are so cool! It’s one of the great perks of writing for Harlequin. They have offices all over the world and they just translate the books. The funny thing is, they never tell you when they release the books overseas, but they are contractually obligated to send me three copies of every translation. So I just randomly get a box in the mail. It makes going out to the mail box very exciting every day!
It’s always cool, but some translations are just cooler than others. Japanese and Korean are few cool because they’re just so different from English books. The other super exciting one was Estonian. Sometimes you recognize the language right away. With the Estonian book, I had to look it up by the country code on the website. And then I had to look up Estonia on Googlemaps!
Also, my December book from Berkley is in Turkish now, which is a new language for me, so that was super cool! I love that this book–which is so special to me–is breaking new ground. What’s not to love about that? Plus, have you seen my foreign covers for this book? Gorgeous! Btw, my chocolate chip cake is awesome it’s dangerous. Maybe I’ll have to start giving away cupcakes with book purchase. Bwahahahaha!
Q: So I read somewhere (your bio…duh) that you have been reading romance novels since the age of eleven. To which I say “Holy crap…you were an early bloomer! Romance? At eleven? I was still learning how to tie my shoes and eat spaghetti without spilling it down the front of my shirt at eleven!” I digress, sorry. Your love for all things hearts and doves blossomed into a lucrative carrer with Harlequin, Temptation, Mills & Boon and Silhouette Desire. So why in the world did you decide to jump ship and write a YA novel about vampires? (Vampires that creep me the hell out by the way. I still remember our conversation about humans being used as fence post?)
Emily: Yeah, I started those romances young! I went straight from the Chronicles of Narnia to Harlequin Romances — but I was the girl who was secretly hoping Lucy (or even Susan!) would hook up with Prince Caspian.) And I love reading romances. Love ‘em. There are few things I love more than a book that’s pure romance. Just two people falling in love. That’s what category romance does so well. It keeps the focus of the camera lens so tightly on the couple, all you get to see is the couple falling in love. That makes for an awesome, fast read.
But, as a reader, sometimes, you want something more too. You want to be with characters longer than two hundred pages. You to see the relationships they have with other people in their lives. You want a broader view of the world the characters live in.
The same is true as a writer. I love writing short romances that focus on the dynamic of two people falling in love. I love the witty dialogue. I love the charming moments. I love the romance!
But, jeez, sometimes you just want to destroy the world, you know? You want to go in with both guns blazing. You want to stab monsters through the heart.
Of course, I’m still a romance writer. To me, if there’s not a romance in it somewhere, it’s almost not worth reading. So of course there’s a yummy guy in this book. If I ever write a book with no romance at all in it, you’d better pack your bags and head for the hills ’cause that’s a sure sign the alien invasion has started.
Q: And last (cause I’m sure you have a life and you’d like to get back to it) tell me about spitwads. No seriously, I want to know how spitwads, and your need to dodge them, changed your life. Something about “disenfranchised youth?” (<–Your words, not mine.)
Emily: When I was young, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. I always knew I wanted to be a writer also, but I had this crazy idea that I could do both at the same time. I taught sixth, seventh and eighth grade at a school in a pretty tough part of town (that’s the whole “disenfranchised” part). I taught a lot of great kids and a lot of real stinkers as well. My teaching career included lots of a spitwads, lots of tears (mostly mine), lots of gang members, and one flaming trash can.
After four years, I was pretty damn good at handling anything that happened in the classroom. I was a tough teacher, but it was exhausting. At the end of the day, I had nothing left. Nothing for the books I wanted to write and the stories I wanted to tell. Just nothing. And I was tired of being mean all the time.
I came home one day and said to my husband, “I think I want to quit teaching and try to write full time. What do you think?” He, literally, dropped his head in his hands and said, “Oh, thank God!” Turns out, he’d been hoping I’d quit for years but didn’t want to say anything because he thought it should be my own decision. (Do you wonder why I write romance? I mean, how great a guy is that?)
The next day, I went in a told my principal I wouldn’t be coming back in the fall because I wanted to write romance novels. Four years later I sold my first book.
Please don’t get me wrong, I love kids and I still have a real soft spot for that range and an even bigger soft spot for that kind of kid (the tough on the outside smart ass, but still harboring a glimmer of hope–you know, that kid).
I don’t think I’ll ever go back to teaching, but I can’t wait to start doing classroom visits. I’m really looking forward to that. And I’ll be all set with spit-wad proof clothes.
The noise in the hall was so soft I barely heard it over my own breathing, but I stilled instantly, trying to remember what exactly the sound was.
Something I knew well, even though I hadn’t heard it in months. A sort of mechanical swoosh, as unfamiliar to me now as the turning of a key in a car ignition or the chime over the door at the yogurt shop where I had worked after school.
I sucked in a breath. Elevator doors. I’d heard elevator doors opening. Someone had come up to the seventh floor where I lived with my sister, Mel. Someone not afraid of getting stuck in an elevator if a blackout rolled across The Farm. Or someone too lazy to walk up the stairs, which described pretty much all of the Collab guards.
I thought instantly of the guy in the grey sweatshirt who had run into me out on the quad. The guy who could turn me in to the Collabs. If that happened, Mel and I would both be fed to the Ticks.
Had the guy in the grey sweatshirt really turned me into the Collabs already?
I rocked forward onto the balls of my feet and stood, hardly daring to breathe. The door leading out into the hall was open. I crept one step and then another until I was tucked behind the open door. I couldn’t see much through the crack between the door and jamb, so I squeezed my eyes shut, listening, as I considered my options.
Even if there was just one Collab out there, we were screwed. Before Mel had reorganized the closet, I’d known exactly my only weapon was hidden. But now?
My breath caught in my chest as the realization hit me. I had the shiv I had just traded for at Stoner Joe’s. Not for the first time since I’d come to the Farm, I wondered: would I kill someone if I really had to? In the Before, I didn’t even like to kill bugs. And I’d puked the one time our old Siamese cat, Trickster, had left a dead bunny on our porch. Could I kill a person? Could I do it to protect Mel? I drew in a shuddering breath, my heart thudding so loudly, I was sure he’d hear it.
Why not? Why not at least try to take out the Collab? If there was only one, then I had a shot. It was sure as hell better than waiting for him to go get reinforcements.
I could hear footsteps in the hall. Coming closer. Was it one guy or two?
Shit. Shit, shit, shit!
I stood there for a torturous minute, listening to the sound of his steady footsteps. Each pause of his stride, punctuated by the sound of a knob turning, a door sliding open, and shutting with an ominous click. Only one guy, I was almost certain. But these weren’t the sounds of a casual exploring. This was a methodical search. He was looking for us.
And he would find me. Soon.
I’d carelessly left the door to this classroom open. It was a miracle he hadn’t noticed it already.
Wedged between the door and the wall, heart pounding, eyes squeezed shut, I reached down and slid the shiv free of my belt loop, my palm damp against the metal handle. Through the gap between the door and the doorjamb, I saw a flash of grey pass. Not the blue of a Collab’s uniform but the heathered grey of a sweatshirt. I pushed aside the doubt that flickered through me. Then he was there, striding past me into the classroom. He paused for only a moment before heading around the rows of lab desks toward the storage closet.
I launched myself at him before he could get too far into the room. Leaping onto his back, I slung one arm around his neck. He gave an oomph of surprise and stumbled back. I brought the shiv up to his neck, but hesitated. That moment of doubt cost me.
His hands reached up to claw at my arms. The shiv slipped and clattered to the ground at his feet. Panicked, I used my free hand to leverage the other arm, squeezing tight against his windpipe. For a second, I seemed to have the advantage. I didn’t have to kill him. I only needed him to pass out. Just long enough to get Mel out of the storage closet.
Then he reeled with a grunt and slammed my back against the wall. The air rushed out of my lungs and I swear I actually felt my bones shudder. Damn, he was big. Not just taller than me, but stronger.
He stumbled forward, reaching his arms over his head to wrench at my hair and tug at my shirt. Blunt fingernails raked against my neck, burning a trail of scratches across my skin. He ran forward a few steps and then back again, slamming me into the wall once more. This time, I felt something hard dig into my spine. Maybe a light switch or the fire alarm.
I yelped as agony seared through my back. My grip loosened, but only for a second. He may have been a Green, but he wasn’t weak or anemic. Maybe his blood wasn’t “clean” enough and they hadn’t been taking as much from him. Nor was he fat and lazy the way so many of the Collabs were. I couldn’t afford to let him go. He was knocking the shit out of me now. I’d never be able to defend myself face to face.
I tried to remember anything from self-defense class Mom had dragged me to when I was thirteen. Bits of it flashed through my mind along with things I’d figured out through trial and error here at the Farm. The eyes. I knew I could hurt him if I could just reach his eyes. But my grip on his throat was slipping already. Not daring to let go, I tightened my legs around his hips, clinging to him with every ounce of strength I still had. My only hope was to weaken him before he crushed my spine completely.
He staggered forward again and I could hear him gasping for breath, my arm strangling the sounds in his throat before they could escape. He was trying to talk. But I still didn’t let go. He staggered back a step, but he was weakening and this felt more like a pat on the back than the assault his previous body slams had been.
A second later, he teetered forward and fell to his knees, his forehead missing the corner of one of the lab desks by mere inches as he did a face plant on linoleum.
Slowly, I pulled my arms out from under his heavy weight and pushed myself up. My legs still gripped his waist. I sat there a moment, sucking air into my lungs, straddling his back, too worn out to move, trying to think. His hood was still up. All I could see of him were his hands, which were large and strong. And, probably had bits of my skin under the nails.
I shuddered at the thought. Clearly, back in the Before, I’d watched too many of those forensic shows on TV, if that was the thought that went through my mind.
Shit. Had I killed him?
I pushed myself off of his back, then struggled to flip him over. It was easier than I would have thought, given how much bigger he was. I leaned down and pressed my ear to his chest. I felt it rise and fall beneath my face even before I heard the strong, steady rhythm of his heart.
Relief poured through me. Not just because I was still alive, but because he was too. I felt my throat close and tears burn my still tender eyes. I didn’t want to be a murderer.
Before my tears could fall, I scrambled back. I didn’t want to die either. I didn’t know why he’d come looking for us, instead of going straight to the Collabs, but I wasn’t going to stay around to find out. I had to get Mel out of here. Fast.
And yet, for some reason, I hesitated as I saw his face for the first time. There was something familiar about him. It was like I should know him, but just … didn’t. Most of his face was obscured by the beginnings of a beard, too long to be mere stubble, like he hadn’t shaved in weeks. Most of the guys on the Farm didn’t bother to shave. Still, not many guys our age could grow anything like a beard. Some of the Collabs were older, but he obviously wasn’t one of them or he would have been wearing the blue uniform. I studied his features, looking for some hint to why he seemed so familiar. His nose had a funny little bump in it, like it had been broken.
I pushed back his hoodie to reveal dirty blonde hair. A single lock of hair flopped back into place to drape across forehead. Recognition snapped into place, rocking me back on my heels.
He must have moved the second I took my eyes off of him. He sprang up, knocking me flat onto my back, covering my body with his own. My head banged against the floor, and I squeezed my eyes shut against the pain. The impact knocked the breath out of me.
There was nothing groggy or slow about his movements. Obviously, he’d only pretended to pass out. I’d fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I felt the cool edge of my shiv press into the skin at my throat.
Could I make any more mistakes today? How had I been so careless as to let him get my weapon? My shiv!
I swallowed hard against my frustration, bumping my chin up a notch to relieve the pressure against the blade.
Slowly, I opened my eyes to stare up into familiar blue eyes.
I forced a smile. “Hey, Carter. Long time no see.