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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Story Secrets: A BLUE SO DARK by Holly Schindler + Giveaway!

How happy I am to be able to introduce you to my friend and fellow "2K10 Debut Holly," Holly Schindler!

Holly's debut novel, A BLUE SO DARK, releases on May 1st and just garnered a *starred review* from Booklist. Hooray, Holly! So I invited her to visit us to spill some of her story secrets (and A BLUE SO DARK has many of them)...

Welcome, Holly!


Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talented artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura’s dad left them. Convinced that “creative” equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked—and together may offer an escape from her fears.

And here is Holly's story behind the story:

…I decided to devote myself full-time to my writing as soon as I got my master’s degree back in the spring of ’01. By the winter of ’06, I’d already endured almost (yikes!) five solid unpublished years…To pay my pesky bills, I taught piano and guitar lessons and offered English tutorials out of my home—which turned out to be fabulous YA author training!

Maybe some instructors get annoyed by their students’ interruptions, but my absolute FAVORITE parts of the lessons were the times my students would just TALK to me…tell me funny stories about their days, or blow off steam about a teacher, or let me in on something hurtful that had happened with one of their friends. And it hit me how similar they were to the kids I’d gone to school with. Sure, the cut of the jeans are different now, kids might listen to iPods instead of Walkmans, but so many of our experiences are the same…

I’ve also always LOVED art—took as many art courses in high school as English—and I knew I wanted to explore my fascination with artists and creativity—why creativity can just ooze out of some people’s pores, and others practically have to set out a trap to snare a muse.

To get started, I pulled out all my old high school journals and notebooks, mining them to reconnect with my own teenage “voice.” When I realized how similar it sounded to my nearly-thirty-year-old voice AND to my students’ voices, I was off and running…first draft took just a couple of months! I polished it up a bit and began submitting.

…And the rejection slips started to pour into my inbox and mailbox both. But I was getting really great rejections for A BLUE SO DARK…positive response and REALLY helpful critiques from editors.

Once I’d distanced myself from the manuscript I loved and had connected with from the start, I could understand what those editors were trying to tell me. I could look at the pages objectively and identify the weaknesses. I then began to revise…and revise…and revise. I went through several different drafts, each time making the book less internal…I inserted more scenes in the novel, brought Aura out of her head and allowed her to interact with the world around her.

…In the end, I created a young girl for whom creativity and madness are inextricably linked. And there’s no denying that many artists were mad, so she really gives readers something to chew on…But by listening to those editors’ suggestions, I also created a fully-rounded character who is more than just the daughter of a schizophrenic. Aura became her own person, with her own interests and fears, her own sense of humor…

I can’t wait for readers to meet Aura…which they’ll be able to do, starting May 1, 2010!


Gorgeous cover, don't you think? Readers, if you have missed previous Story Secrets with amazing YA authors, check them out here!


Holly has very generously donated one copy of A BLUE SO DARK to go to a lucky commenter. So leave a comment below about either a) why you really want to read this book, b) what creative gift you would like to have and why, or c) your favorite "mad" character in literature. Please include a way to contact you.

We'll collect comments until Monday, 5pm PST!


  1. I have to say, I've always enjoyed the presence of Mr. Rochester's crazy wife in Jane Eyre. It just comes out of left field! I'd love to read this!
    jpetroroy at gmail dot com

  2. I really want to read A Blue So Dark because it sounds is different than other YA books out there. I am interested to see how Schindler handled the topic of schizophrenia. It also sounds like it will include a lot about art, which I think is great. :)


  3. I really want to read A Blue So Dark because I love how Holly used the "creativity" as a method of healing schizo. I used to be a psych major so I'm interested in this. Yes, I believe that most artists were mad. Because when you're so creative, it's so easy to create your own world. Something that pulls you so hard from reality.



  4. I really want to read this. First I love the cover. Second, after reading such in inspirational story about the author, I have to. It must have been hard to stay modivated after 5 years of no's. Good for her. Just shows the power of determination and chasing your dreams.


  5. I would love to read this book because I enjoy reading YA and want to see how she handles this subject. And I just have to add (and say it out loud) I would love to have the visual art talent to be a children's book illustrator, that's the dream within the dream....

    stywrk AT telusplanet DOT net

    Thanks for the great interview and insight!

  6. A. I'm so excited! Not only have I read wonderful reviews that entice me to read this book (like on One Sparkling Star) but I love the concept. The beauty of the title itself. The idea that madness and creativity are linked. Maybe it's my degree in psychology. Maybe it's my fascination with schizophrenia (I have a short story coming out next year that touches on this).
    B. A poem or story written for me!
    C. Camron from Going Bovine

    Sorry I had to answer all three! You can email me at paranormalpov at gmail dot com if I win! Woohoo!

  7. I am interested in reading A Blue So Dark because it deals with mental illness, creativity and art. I would love to post a review about Schindler's book to my teen blog. I work as a librarian at a public library and I'm sure many teens would be interested in how the main character deals with these issues.

    I would enjoy reading Aura's exploration of her artistic talents and the relationship between family, self-discovery and psychological aspects of self.


    Leslie Deason

  8. This book looks so good! I really wished I had the talent of an artist. I am the worst drawer/painter/sculptor in the world my stick firgures don't even look like stick figures. Thanks for the contest!


  9. I was getting the chills just reading about"A Blue so Dark..It hits hime.A friends daughter is in That World..and it is dark,and maybe I CAN UNDERSTAND AND HELP A BIT.,AND BUY THE BOOK FOR MY FRIEND AS WELL..Thank you,for your sensitivity..Suasn...

  10. I would so LOVE to read this! Throughout my life I have always felt a kinship with the creative people I come in contact with, and often times those people would suffer from depression or mental illness of some kind. I myself am very creative and have dealt with depression and an eating disorder...

    I guess I want to read it because I feel like it is a book I would really connect to.

    Thanks for the chance at winning Holly!!

  11. The creative talent I would love to have. Hm. The talent to edit my novel in a reasonable period of time? Or to be able to play the drums. Something about a big drum set and being able to pound away at it in a way that actually sounds good is amazing.

    Thanks for this awesome contest. You can contact me at irishhorselover(at)comcast(dot)net

  12. Oooh this sounds extremely fascinating! Everything about mental disorders, especially schizophrenia, really interest me. There are so many sad yet interesting symptoms.

    I would love to be great at playing the piano because I just love the sound ;) I would also really love to be able to paint. I can only draw and even them I'm not that great.


  13. I really want to read this book because a) it sounds FANTASTIC(!), b) my speculations on it being awesome have been confirmed with some of the early reviews, and c) I really want to branch out and read about things I'm not to familiar with such as schizophrenia. :)


  14. I'd love to read the book because I am intrigued by psychology and this sounds to be a great novel based on psych on a creative level. It sounds like a great read with a lot of dedication behind it.


  15. I really want to read a blue so dark because the story sounds very intriguing. It deals with mental illness, and I haven't read a book with such a touchy subject.


  16. Okay so this might not be literature, but I absolutely love A BEAUTIFUL MIND (movie). The main character is John Nash who has schizophrenia.


  17. Thanks for all of the comments, everyone! I love to hear how interested you are in this book - I'm dying with anticipation to read it myself!

    Personally, I'm a little fond of the Mad Hatter in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Always such marvelous mad people in those Victorian reads!

  18. Well, there is a bunch of 'mad' people in Alice in Wonderland. I really like the mad hatter, especially.


  19. I'm an artist and a writer, but I'd love to be able to play the guitar. I've tried, but my fingers won't cooperate.

  20. I would love to win this book so that I could pass it on to a student of mine who's father is suffering from schizophrenia. She is having a tough time with her father's illness, and she's an avid reader who often is inspired by the books she reads. I bet that this one would be comforting to her. Thanks for promoting this title!

  21. My favorite crazy character in literature is Mercutio from Romeo and Juliet. The Queen Mab speech really gets to me and his whole character, if performed right, is just awesomely insane.

  22. I'm a writer but I would love to be able to paint. I just love art in general and painting is so relaxing and can really impact emotions and make people see things in a whole new way.

    yayreads at hotmail dot com

  23. My favorite mad character in literature would have to be the narrator from Cherry Heaven whom you slowly realize is crazy. So, so sad. Also the Cheshire Cat. We're all mad here...


  24. I would love to read this book because it sounds really good and I am always looking for new authors to read:) If I could have a creative talent I would love to paint. It just amazes me the way people are able to paint pictures that move people in different ways!
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    email bangersis(at)msn(dot)com

  25. A) I really want to read A Blue So Dark because of how original it sounds. It's slightly more internal and deals with a girl struggling to distinguish and understand the difference between being artistic and teetering on the edge of sanity. I love that it is not a romance or paranormally driven book because I'm kind of tired of those. Right now I'm finding myself in serious need of good character driven books and this strikes me as it is going to be amazing as I loved the prologue. Plus the title is so lovely, as is the cover. Oh and because Holly rocks!

    B) There isn't really a creative gift I'd like to have; instead, I'm afraid of not being able to hold tight to the ones I'm already blessed with. I not only like to write, but I'm also very passionate about photography. In a way, I feel fear has been holding me back in my writing; fear that I won't finish my book and fear that I don't have the capability and stamina to even accomplish such a feat. With my photography, my eyes are giving me trouble and I'm also feeling a touch uninspired after disappointing days of about 100 shots at a time and little to no good ones. Some call it a slump but I worry it's more.

    Thanks so much for the giveaway; I'm very anxious to read this one.


  26. I really love the cover of A Blue So Dark. I also have had distant family members with schizophrenia. I also admire the author's determination on getting published.
    Something that I would love to get is a song. I find that to be incredibly awesome and sweet.
    Recently I really liked Hanna. She was super awesome and I loved how her world came alive.

  27. The first thing that made me want to read the book was the cover. I've never really read a book about schizophrenia but I'm really curious as to how I'd react to it. This book sounds really different and refreshing, I definitely want to read something refreshing and I think this book gives just that:)


  28. First off, I LOVE the title and cover of this book. I'd like to read it because it sounds on the literary side, which I like. And because my first novel, which comes out in 2011 is also about a girl dealing with her artist mother who is bipolar! It'll be interesting to see how a very similar story can be told differently.

  29. I would love to read Holly's book.She inspires me and keeps me going forward with my writing and illustrating. The book cover is magical and enchanting. I would love to learn how to write for young adults. I have so many ideas that I would like to share with my readers.
    congrats on your book :-)

  30. I couldn't resist the opportunity to say:

    Hi, Holly!
    Hi, Holly!


  31. I would like to read this because I've had a family member diagnosed with schizophrenia and I would love to see how Aura deals with it. I know it can be very draining.

  32. Hi, Holly! And hi, Holly! I think thats so cool... how you share the same name and all. :)

    Anyway, my favorite "mad" character in literature would have to be Edgar Allan Poe's The Cask of Amontillado. Montresor is insane, but in the best way possible. I draw stars and write dates on every book or story I read, so that keeping track is easy. I must've read this, what, twenty times at least?
    So there's twenty stars for me!

    Three reasons why I'd love to read this:
    1) I can add this to my debut author challenge!
    2) Art is a huge part of my life. I really mean it, too.
    3) Lastly, my close friend's older sister had been diagnosed with schizophrenia for a few years by now. We tell each other nearly everything, but we never linger on her sister's condition. Although we've never actually exchanged words about this, I can tell she's a little embarrassed. About her sister.
    Don't get me wrong, though! Renee loves her! It's just people at our school aren't always the nicest kids around...
    Certain books have had an impact on me where no one else has. Hopefully, she'll find something in this that I can't give her. Not sure what that'll be exactly, but she'll find it.
    Either way, this is going in my Amazon cart. :)

    Love, Hannah S

  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

  34. Well I am very anticipated for this book! :)

    I love the gift of art. Painting, drawing.. it's all so artsy and sophisticated. I love the idea of having your own art studio and spending late nights just using some paint and your imagination to create masterpieces that last a lifetime.

    Contact: foshox3@live.ca