Tag Archives: graphic novel

Author Interviews
December 13, 2013 posted by Nichole

Interview with Swati Avasthi


I am so excited to be hosting Swati Avasthi today. I read Chasing Shadows about a month or so ago, and I loved it. It was beautiful and heartbreaking…and a book that I never thought would appeal to me…but it did. It’s a book that focuses on mental illness but also focuses on the strength of relationships. The graphic art….I could go on and on. So let me just say that I loved this book, and I am so excited to host it as our Book of the Month this December. So please give a warm welcome to Swati Avasthi!


swati_400Swati Avasthi has a BA from the University of Chicago and an MFA from the University of Minnesota. She has received numerous awards and grant, most recently from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Her first novel, Split, has received a silver parents’ choice award and a CYBILS award and was named a best books for young adults, 2011 from YALSA. Split was also nominated for a GoodReads Choice Award and a Minnesota Book Award. She is keeping her fingers crossed.


Can you tell us about your book, CHASING SHADOWS, in 15 words or less?

Told in prose and pictures, two friends struggle to reclaim their lives after a shooting.

Not only was the story itself beautiful, but the pictures were amazing. What was it like working with Craig Phillips to turn CHASING SHADOWS into a sort of graphic novel?

Thanks! I am grateful that Knopf brought him on because I was so pleased to see how he turned the script into such compelling pictures. Working with him was like a game of operator. I’ve never spoken with or emailed him. Rather, I wrote the script and he drew thumbnails and drafts. Just before he inked them, his editor sent them to my editor who sent them to me. I gave notes that went from my editor to his editor to him.  It sounds cumbersome but I think it was for the best.  We each had one person talking to us and that seemed to work out. The notes I gave required a huge amount of my editor’s time. But she was as dedicated to this novel as I was and I had the advantage of getting long talks with her. Even though some of the creation process was a bit unorthodox, the result is what matters.

This book….oh my goodness. It had so many feels. Mental illness and depression play huge factors in this book. Was it ever difficult to get through some of the scenes?

It was, but maybe not in the way you’d think. I had no trouble whatsoever in putting the girls in physical danger – free running, guns, foot chases, revenge.  That part was pretty easy.  But their final confrontation was so hard for me to write.  Putting them in that level of emotional danger when they were both so vulnerable…. Well, I love both the girls and I wanted them both to get what they needed. I didn’t think that could happen if they confronted each other. It’s pretty amazing what happens when you write the scenes you are afraid of – things you hadn’t planned seem to occur. Which is both the scariest and the best part of writing.

What I loved about this book is that all of my questions were answered by the end, but it was still left open at the end. Can readers expect a sequel or maybe a companion novel? Or is this simply a standalone?

It is probably a stand alone. I can see how a follow up novel with Savitri as the sole narrator might work or a follow up novel with Holly as the sole narrator.  But I can’t see how I could write a sequel with both the girls as narrators. Their situations are so different by the end that I’m not sure another novel could be their novel, the way CHASING SHADOWS is.

Can we expect another book with graphic illustrations from you in the future?

I can see how that could work a second time now. At first I really thought I’d only do one because of how the graphics are tied to Holly’s 15756269psychology.  But I can also now understand a lot of the power of graphics.

All that said, my next novel won’t have graphics; it’s not the kind of novel that should have illustrations. But, I’m not done playing with form.

What was your favorite scene to write?

Every scene that Josh was in.  He was so much fun to write.  He was unpredictable and both the girls’ showed sides of themselves to him that they never really showed to anyone else.

I also really loved writing scenes with Kortha in them.  Anytime I get to write with Death in the room, I know the scene will have tension and power.

I guess I really like writing scenes with perceived antagonists in them!

It seems to me that collaborating with Craig Phillips on Chasing Shadows must have taken quite some time. How long did it actually take you to finish it?

Um…yes. Such a long process it is shameful! It took more than 15 drafts and 4-5 years to write. I started it in earnest in January 2009 and finished it completely in April 2013.  Writing in two points of view can make the process complex. Adding in graphics also increases the complexity of the process. So I sort of double-whammied myself on this one. My editor has made me promise: next time—easier.

Because it took so long, I’m extra-thrilled to see it out in the world.

Though I’m always a little startled when it is sitting inert on a shelf. It’s like I expect it to be doing a back flip or a speed vault or something freerunner-ish.

Are you currently working on anything else?

Yes, I’ve started book three! I’m very excited by the blank page this time -every possibility open. I’ll make a huge mess of it on the first draft, I’m sure; I always do.  Then I will get on the revision roller coaster and love the terror and the thrill.

What is currently in your TBR pile?

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (releasing in May, 2014)

Boxers & Saints by Gene Yang (embarrassed it is still on the top of my TBR)

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Venom and the River by Marsha Qualey

The Art of Time in Memoir by Sven Birkets

Re-read The Art of Time in Fiction by Joan Silber

Re-read Swallow the Ocean by Laura Flynn

And a couple of MFA theses from Hamline University students Erik Wolrabe and Nina Bricko.

Random Questions:

Cake or pie?

Pie.  Writerly pie.

Batman or Spiderman?


Buffy the movie or Buffy the TV show?

TV show. I love Faith.

Celebrity Crush?

Peter Krause. His smile gets me every time.

Favorite TV show?

The Good Wife

Current favorite song?

“Overrated” by Mika. Are there any notes he can’t hit?

Catching Fire OR The Ender’s Game?

Catching Fire

Author Idol?

Laurie Halse Anderson – authentic, brave, original

Biggest writing quirk?

I completely ignore people while I write. This creates issues since my kids know of and exploit this weakness.

Book Reviews
October 13, 2013 posted by Nichole

Chasing Shadows – by Swati Avasthi & Illustrated by Craig Phillips

15756269Chasing Shadows is a searing look at the impact of one random act of violence.

Before: Corey, Holly, and Savitri are one unit—fast, strong, inseparable. Together they turn Chicago concrete and asphalt into a freerunner’s jungle gym, ricocheting off walls, scaling buildings, leaping from rooftop to rooftop.

But acting like a superhero doesn’t make you bulletproof…

After: Holly and Savitri are coming unglued. Holly says she’s chasing Corey’s killer, chasing revenge. Savitri fears Holly’s just running wild—and leaving her behind. Friends should stand by each other in times of crissi. But can you hold on too tight? Too long?

In this intense novel, told in two voices, and incorporating comic-style art sections, Swati Avasthi creates a gripping portrait of two girls teetering on the edge of grief and insanity. Two girls who will find out just how many ways there are to lose a friend . . . and how many ways to be lost.


Chasing Shadows is one of those books that I simply read for the cover. I mean look at that. It’s gorgeous! Before I read the synopsis, I had no idea it was contemporary. And as you know, I’m not the biggest fan of contemporary books. But every now and then, I find a contemporary book that I fall head over heels in love with. This was one of those books.

The thing that most made this book was the pictures. I’ve never read a graphic novel before, but I’m tempted to after looking at Craigh Phillips’s work. I actually found myself speed reading to get to the next frame of pictures. They were amazingly beautiful and so detailed. I was just blown away by the artwork in this book. It also blended very well with the story. You know, even though it switched from page long text to graphic images with bubble text, I still felt 100% in the story. I think it added to it in the sense that I was actually getting to see the characters. After reading this book, I really want to see more graphic images in YA books.

Swati Avasthi’s writing style was also unique and heart wrenching. While she doesn’t really write in poetry (although there were a few occurrences of that,) her writing style reminded me a lot of that of Ellen Hopkins. It was both lyrical and poetic. Whenever I would set this book down, I would find myself craving it. I needed to know what happened next. I needed to get to the next set of pictures. I found myself racing to the end to see what exactly was going to happen next. I loved it. I wish there were more books like this. No other word fits this better than beautiful.

There’s nothing really negative to say about Chasing Shadows, but I did wish that it stroked more emotion from me. The best contemporary novels have made me cry, and this one didn’t quite hit that level for me. I was completely invested in the characters, but I needed just a little bit of something else to trigger the water works. Some people might wonder WHY I would want to cry, but I’ve found that a contemporary book that makes you cry is one to keep with you forever. Crying means that that book was it’s best. And I feel like maybe…just maybe…this one needed a little more to be perfection.

Chasing Shadows is 100% realistic contemporary. It deals with trauma, friendship, loyalty, and mental illness. I’ll admit it, I’ve never read about mental illness before. Quite frankly, it scares the living daylights out of me. And since I’m not the biggest fan of contemporary, I don’t really immerse myself in that type of environment. Reading about it in Chasing Shadows was very intense and a little hard sometimes. This book had twists and turns that I didn’t really see coming (and some that I did,) and I just felt  emotionally exhausted after I finished it. After I finished it, all I could think is that this is something that I would want my students to be reading. I think that this book sends a great message to young adults, and it is just perfect for teenagers all over the world to read. It was so freaking beautiful.

This book came out in September, so it SHOULD  be available at your local bookstores and libraries. I would encourage every single person, whether you’re a contemporary fan or not, to go read this book. I’m not a contemporary fan, and I loved it. And I think that this is a great book to immerse yourself in artwork and excellent for fans of graphic novels. I loved it. I hope you love it, too.


Pages: 320

Publication Date: September 24th 2013

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Rating: : ★★★★☆


Teaser Quote: “Corey did handstands four flights up, Holly crawled into someone else’s skin, and I swallowed stones of guilt just to hide from a simple fact: we are all vulnerable, and there is nothing between us and a bullet. It’s terrifying, this life. It’s precarious, it’s random un-design.”

Vampire Academy News
July 27, 2010 posted by Christina

Vampire Academy News

Attention Vampire Academy fans! Some exciting news in from Richelle Mead in this week. Firstly, she’s released the official cover to the eagerly anticipated final book in the Vampire Academy series – Last Sacrifice.

Also on the topic of covers, here’s our first look into the new Vampire Academy graphic novel!

Love them? Hate them? Head on over to the forum to share your thoughts.

One final note, as mentioned last week, the film rights to Vampire Academy have been sold to Preger Entertainment who are now in the process of getting a film studio to come on board. Show your support by heading over to the official Facebook group http://www.facebook.com/pages/Official-VAMPIRE-ACADEMY-Movie/132065663494472