Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bookanista Review: An interview with agent Jen Rofé and author Nick James--AND A GIVEAWAY OF SKYSHIP ACADEMY!!!!

Yay--I'm finally back with a new Bookanista Review (after a few weeks of crazy!), and I wanted to return with a bang so I have something EXTRA special for you guys today. 

I don't just have an amazing book to feature and an awesome giveaway--I have a supercool interview with both the author AND his literary agent, and they share all KINDS of cool things about how they worked together and brought this fabulous book to the world (I don't know about you guys, but I LOVE hearing all that behind the scenes stuff--and boy do they bring it!). 

And the book I'm featuring is one you may not have heard of--though you totally should have: SKYSHIP ACADEMY: The Pearl Wars, by Nick James.

Here's how the publisher describes the story:

A devastated Earth's last hope is found in Pearls: small, mysterious orbs that fall from space and are capable of supplying enough energy to power entire cities. Battling to control the Pearls are the Skyship dwellers—political dissidents who live in massive ships in the Earth's stratosphere—and the corrupt Surface government.

Jesse Fisher, a Skyship slacker, and Cassius Stevenson, a young Surface operative, cross paths when they both venture into forbidden territory in pursuit of Pearls. Their chance encounter triggers an unexpected reaction, endowing each boy with remarkable—and dangerous—abilities that their respective governments would stop at nothing to possess.

Enemies thrust together with a common goal, Jesse and Cassius make their way to the ruins of Seattle to uncover the truth about their new powers, the past they didn't know they shared, and a shocking secret about the Pearls.

I was introduced to this book by Jen Rofé, a friend of mine who also happens to be Nick's awesomesauce literary agent (ABLA rocks!) (ahem). And she has such an amazing passion for this project that I realized the best way to feature it was to let her hijack my blog with a special interview between her and Nick (you'll see what I mean when you read it--the banter between them is PRICELESS). So take it away Jen and Nick!


JEN: Nick, what inspired you to write SKYSHIP ACADEMY?

NICK: I wanted to write the kind of book that I liked to read as a teen. Namely, something that melded an action-oriented story with something more character based. Also, because I'm a huge movie guy, it’s important to me that what I write be very visual and fast-paced. I try to imagine reading the story in one sitting and whether it has a strong enough pull to keep the readers stuck in their seats! 

JEN: You definitely accomplished this with SKYSHIP. It has a rich cinematic sensibility and I particularly love the action; it's exciting and surprising. And that ending!! 

NICK: At the time we started working together, I don't think you represented any sci-fi . What drew you to SKYSHIP?

JEN: There was something accessible about SKYSHIP. First, your query pulled me in right away. I was compelled by the idea of Jesse Fisher being this unmotivated slacker who ends up having a significant power and significant secrets. Then I read your first page, where Jesse is hanging off the side of a building, and I was sold. I also appreciated that there wasn’t an overpowering romance element. Jesse has a crush on someone, but this isn’t a love story by any stretch. 

I believe I requested a revision of you before I offered you representation though, right? Tell us about your revision process for SKYSHIP. 

(Shannon interrupts to say: Ha! An ABLA agent requesting revision? Never!)
(though that's what makes them so awesome, even if it also makes you want to cry a little) :)

NICK: The skeleton of the story has been there from the beginning, but the world-building needed work. I remember having a discussion with you about it and spending the next weekend jotting down pages of world-building ideas. The relationships between the book's three factions — the skyships, the chosen cities, and the fringes — became integral to the overall plot and it elevated what could have otherwise been a more straightforward action/adventure read. 

Also, what was lacking in those initial drafts was a strong motivation on part of each of the characters. One of the things I like about SKYSHIP is that it's not always easy to tell who's the good guy and who's the bad guy. 

JEN: Jesse and Cassius, the protagonists – where do they come from? 

NICK: Jesse is my absolute favorite kind of character to read about. He's sarcastic and self-effacing and doesn't take himself seriously. He's also rather insecure. I consider both he and Cassius to be dual pieces of my own personality. They couldn't be more different from each other. Watching them thrown together, and how they change throughout their adventures, is one of my favorite aspects of this story. 

I remember when I was first querying SKYSHIP, I was always on the internet reading about the publishing process. Can you talk a little about selling SKYSHIP?

JEN: This was not an easy sell. Back in 2009, when I was shopping this, nobody was buying sci-fi. I was getting a lot of “We really like it, but it's sci-fi" rejections. 

What I never shared with you, though, was that after one particular publisher passed, I called Andrea Brown and cried. I was upset because I knew I wasn’t wrong about this book – it’s boy-friendly, action-packed, and things explode. I felt that the passes were coming from a place of fear because the genre wasn’t so popular at the time. 

NICK: Oh no! I'm the one who's supposed to be emotional! 

JEN: Sometimes agents get emotional, too. We just don’t tell our authors that. 

(Shannon interrupts to say: that might be the sweetest thing I've ever heard! THAT'S what you want from your agent--that kind of passion!) 

JEN: Ultimately, two editors were seriously interested, including Brian Farrey at Flux, who stepped up to the plate. I remember he told us that he shared SKYSHIP with a 17-year-old reader who loved it, and that’s what sold him. Hooray for Brian! Now we have THE PEARL WARS and the forthcoming follow up, which is called (drumroll)….. 

NICK: SKYSHIP ACADEMY: CRIMSON RISING. Without giving too much away, at the beginning of this book, Jesse and Cassius are basically wrecked. The Pearl Wars they were so consumed with in the first book segue into a threat far more serious, and Jesse and Cassius have to figure out how to deal with it. 

JEN: There's a scene in CRIMSON RISING that involves a locust invasion. Ack. What bug freaks you out the most? 

(ahem. carry on)

NICK: When I was a kid I was terrified of bees and wasps. I don't like spiders, either. 

JEN: I don’t like hopping bugs -- like grasshoppers and crickets. But potato bugs for me are the worst. I’m not talking about those cute roly polies – I’m talking about disgusting potato bugs; they make me dizzy. 

(Shannon interrupts to say: YOU GUYS ARE KILLING ME HERE!!!!)  

JEN: Jesse and Cassius have some intriguing powers in SKYSHIP, though they’re also dangerous and come with heavy responsibility. I recently did a SKYSHIP giveaway on Twitter, and I asked what super power people would most like to have. The most common responses were the ability to fly and manipulate time. What would your power be? 

NICK: I've given this a lot of thought throughout the years, actually! My initial answer was always flying, but I've decided that teleportation would be better in the long run. Think about it... after a few years you'd get as sick of flying as you did of walking. And I could pop into London and get some fish and chips on the way home from work! 

Is yours flying, or something else?

JEN: Who doesn't want to be able to fly? My super power would be having the power of vision. Not eyesight, but of being a visionary. Being able to accurately read the zeitgeist and predict what trends are coming down the line – in all aspects of our world, like business, technology, the arts, pop culture, politics... and being able to create something based on that insight. 

NICK: That power is so suited to an agent. 

JEN: You’re right; it totally is! 

(Shannon interrupts to say: Seriously, I think we ALL want our agent to have that power!)

JEN: I know you’re a pop culture guru and you even run a popular indie-music blog ( What are you loving right now (besides X-Factor, which, as anyone who follows you on Twitter would know, you’re obsessed with)? 

NICK: Definitely obsessed with X-Factor. I have a weakness for singing competitions and Simon Cowell. As far as scripted programming, I'm loving American Horror Story. It’s unlike anything else on television. In current music, there's this Swedish band called The Sound Of Arrows who is about to release their debut album. Very spacey, epic stuff with a cinematic sound. I featured a song of theirs on my SKYSHIP playlist that I created on my blog. They’re uber cool and all of us music bloggers love them. As far as books this year, my favorite read has been Andrew Smith’s THE MARBURY LENS (who just so happens to be another Andrea Brown client, though I’m not biased!). That book has definitely stayed with me for months. Very unsettling. 

I know you were watching Friday Night Lights. 

JEN: Yes, I’m obsessed with it.

(Shannon interrupts to say: she definitely is. I have heard alllllllllllll about how I need to watch the show)

NICK: If you could live in a fictional fantasy/sci-fi world (Harry Potter excluded, because that's obvious), which would it be?

JEN: Twilight. Just kidding. When I was a kid, I wanted to live in the world of the Berenstain Bears. I loved the idea of living inside a tree, and everything seemed so happy and simple and peaceful. Their biggest worries are about going to the dentist or getting a shot at the doctor’s or cleaning their rooms.


NICK: I want to say Star Wars just because there's so much to explore, but entire planets are blown away and stuff so.... Berenstain Bears is looking pretty good about now

JEN: Well, you're welcome to join me!

NICK: But not if I have to wear that same outfit everyday

JEN: We'll get you a wardrobe.

NICK: Do you remember the one about Brother Bear watching the sci-fi movie and having nightmares?

JEN: What would happen if they read SKYSHIP? Would their heads explode?

NICK: They would be in therapy.

JEN: And there goes their peaceful life.

(Shannon interrupts to say: And... I'm pretty sure they've just singlehandedly destroyed the Berenstain Bears. So I think that's more than enough for today!)


Okay, how awesome are they? I LOVE getting that backstage look at all that went on to bring this book to stores, and I'm SO GLAD they got an editor to take a chance on it. I hope all of you reading this will take a chance on SKYSHIP too, and to help you with that, I have two--yes, TWO copies to give away today. AND THEY'RE SIGNED!!!!

To enter, make sure you follow my blog and leave a comment by 11:59 pm PDT on Thursday, November 3rd. I'll draw one random winner and post their name on Friday, November 4th. (Weird days this time, I know. But I'm going out of town and want to make sure I pick the winners before I leave) International entries welcome.

For more fabulous book recommendations, check out what my fellow Bookanistas are talking about:

Elana Johnson REVEALS something awesome!!!
LiLa Roecker  announces a winner - plus a Past Midnight series giveaway
Christine Fonseca  reveals books she cannot wait to read
Beth Revis interviews My Very UnFairytale Life author Anna Staniszewski
Jessi Kirby twirls for Audition
Shana Silver burns for Circle of Fire
Carrie Harris devours Deadly
Stasia Ward Kehoe travels to The Day Before


  1. Wow - this sounds like a fantastic book, and I love getting to see the author/agent relationship here! Thanks for the great post, Shannon!

  2. Sounds fantastic! Great post/convo. Thanks for the giveaway.

  3. That is one attention grabbing cvoer ... so unique! I love it:P
    The book sounds really interesting. I like the fact that one of the main characters is a slacker no already a model citizen etc.
    I loved the little interruptions..sometimes you just can't help yourself:)

    Thank You for the giveaway!

  4. The book really sounds awesome. I loved the conversation aspect of the post.


  5. OMG, this was superfun to read! There are hardly many agent-author conversations you had Nick James on :D I've been wanting to read SKYSHIP ACADEMY for a while now (especially after coming across Nick on Facebook and seeing how attractive he is..:P), but I haven't really seen it around here, so you know the drill - I WOULD LOVE TO WIN THIS.

  6. Informative interview Jen and Nick (and for hosting Shannon).

    I really like how Nick stuck to his passion, sci-fi, and kept making pitches for it rather than conforming to whatever the preferred writing theme of the week is.

  7. Thanks for the peek behind the scenes!

  8. I tried to buy this book at our local book expo but I was too late--all sold out! Thanks for a great interview and sweet prizes!

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Okay this sounds like a really interesting book and I really want to read it!

  11. Sounds like an interesting book. And your interview was fantastic!


  12. What's funny is we currently have that Berenstain Bears book from the library - THE BERENSTAIN BEARS AND THE BAD DREAM. Those scary Space Grizzlies!


  13. Whoa. Cool the way this interview goes back and forth. I want one.

  14. LOVED this interview! :o) This book looks really awesome, and I'm def going to give it a shot!


  15. I can see my boys fighting over this one. Count me in!
    csabiad00 (at) gmail (dot) com

  16. Thanks for the giveaway. Please enter me in contest. I would love to read this book.

  17. Thanks for the giveaway!Please count me in!

    I'm a GFC follower and email subscriber.

    justjanhvi at gmail dot com

  18. Sounds interesting! Count me in please :)


  19. What a fun interview. I love the behind the scenes stuff too. Thanks for posting!

  20. this book looks great, sounds great! thanks for the chance to win and for the interiview. Loved the fantasy world question, lol...I wanted to be in Go Dogs Go, really wanted to live on top of that party tree!

  21. That was the funniest and most awesome interview! Thanks for the laughs this morning!
    Now I need to update my Goodreads wishlist. :D

  22. Great interview :D And this book sounds awesome. I would love to win a copy of it. <3
    Love, Carina ~

  23. LOVE this interview! SO fun and so unique to see the relationship with agent and author. I was literally just researching Ms. Rofe so when I went to Facebook and saw your link to this post I was freaked out! (in a good way) Thanks so much for sharing. I can't wait to read THE PEARL WARS!

  24. What an awesome interview ! loved it !!

    Would love to read the book !


  25. As a middle grade writer, I found the agent/writer conversation very useful. SKYSHIP ACADEMY will be a hit with my boys.

  26. You're right, I had never heard of this book, but I'm off to add it on Goodreads because it sounds AMAZING. Thank you for the wonderful interview and giveaway!! :D

  27. Thanks for the chance Ive wanted this since I saw it on Goodreads.


  28. Yay! Thanks for the giveaway! I've been wanting to read this book for a while now :)


  29. Great interview. Thanks for posting it. The book sounds interesting too. Count me in. :)

  30. Ooh, this sound amazing! Thanks for the fun interview, y'all! This one's going right on my tbr list, for sure.

  31. How interesting: the book, the background info, etc. Definitely have to check into this book!

  32. I heard Nick talk about Pearl Wars at KidLitCon in Seattle - can't wait to get my hands on a copy!

    **Katy M
    Recommending YA books beyond the bestsellers at
    Follow me on Twitter @BooksYALove

  33. LOVED this interview! And I'm dying to read Pearl Wars. I downloaded a sample to my iPad and loved the first chapters!

    ashelynnhetland @ gmail dot com

  34. Fun interview. And the book sounds great, thanks for the giveaway!!

    myra0502 at yahoo dot com

  35. This interview was probably one of the most fun I've read!

  36. I keep seeing steampunk and thinking I need to get my hands on some of that. A new genre I would love to explore! :O)

  37. Thanks for cluing me in! And very cool website he has as well.

  38. Spaceships and steampunk...nothing better!! I'm in love with this book :)

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  39. I'd love to read this. Thanks for the giveaway!
    GFC name: Erinberry

    erinberry12 at charter dot net

  40. I have heard really great things about this book. Thanks for the chance to find out for myself!

    GFC- thegirlonfire27

    thegirlonfire27 at gmail dot com

  41. I loved this interview! (And your interpolations were the icing on the cake.)

    Wasn't it sweet when his agent cried at a rejection!

  42. This is really cool! I've been wanting to read this book but haven't yet. It sounds really amazing and interesting to read. Oh! I really love the interview!

  43. This book looks cool, just because of the cover!

  44. What a great post! Love all the info and the great sounding book. Thanks for the chance to win it, too.

  45. I think my son would love this book. Thanks for the behind the curtain view.

  46. Fun interview! I already ordered this book from my local indie so you don't have to enter me in the contest. I can't wait to read it :)

  47. lovely interview and such nice book! Thanks for the suggestion, Shannon!

  48. I heard about this book! Now I can't wait to read it. Thanks for the giveaway, Shannon! :D

  49. :D I loved this interview! I borrowed the book from a friend and ADORED it! I'd love to win a copy!
    Thanks for posting this!

  50. What a great interview! I'd love to read this book. Thanks for the giveaway!


Yay-I love comments! Thank you so much! (But please remember to keep your comments spoiler-free. Also, I try to keep this a happy, positive place. Any arguing or intense debate--on any subject will be removed. Let's keep this a safe, fun space.