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Friday, August 9, 2013

Texting the Underworld Blog Tour {Interview and Giveaway}

I'm thrilled to have the Texting The Underworld Blog Tour stopping by today with my interview with author Ellen Booream and a giveaway...

Texting The Underworld
by Ellen Booraem
August 15, 2013

Conor O’Neill always thought spiders—and his little sister, Glennie—were the worst kind of monsters life had in store. That was before an inexperienced young banshee named Ashling showed up in his bedroom.

The arrival of a banshee, as Conor soon learns, means only one thing: Someone in his family is going to die. Not only will Ashling not tell him who it is, it turns out that she’s so fascinated by the world above that she insists on going to middle school with him.

The more Ashling gets involved in his life, the harder it becomes to keep her identity a secret from his friends and teachers—and the more Conor worries about his family. If he wants to keep them safe, he’s going to have to do the scariest thing he’s ever done:  Pay a visit to the underworld.

If only there were an app for that.


What three words best describe Texting the Underworld?
Funny, moving, provocative. (I borrowed those from reviews.)
Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers (especially reluctant readers) to give Texting the Underworld a try? 
It’s about death and courage, but also it’s funny and we visit the Underworld.
Grab a copy of Texting the Underworld and answer the following: 
Favorite chapter?
Chapter 15, when Conor confronts the dreadful Cailleach, portal guard of the Underworld, and her drooling Irish wolfhound, Dormath. The Cailleach is swathed in a black robe with a “ragged, frosty voice”—she’s a bit scary , but she also has a fretful side that I think is funny.
Favorite page? 
Pages 181-182, when Conor and friends are springing his grandfather from the hospital. The escape involves invisible kids pushing an invisible man in an all-too-visible wheelchair.
Favorite character? 
Oh dear. If I had to choose, probably Conor. He’s so scared and yet so brave. 
Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentence teaser: 
But one thing was almost certain: Whatever she was, monster or girl, Ashling had come for Grump.

“She wasn’t going to get him.”
There's a lot of neat lore about banshees in Texting the Underworld...did you base it on real lore or did you make up your own? Did you do any special banshee research? 
I did a lot of banshee research, in books and online. There are a gazillion different versions of banshee lore out there, so I picked the ones that suited me best: My banshee is a red-haired maiden who died too soon and now warns her family of impending death. 

I tinkered with tradition a bit in that Ashling transforms from a red-headed girl into a dreadful wraith in order to keen (wail) about the death—in the actual legends she’s either one or the other. One legend says that anyone who sees the banshee will die, so I borrowed a bit of that—if you look at Ashling when she’s a wraith, it’ll kill you. I made up the fact that she can’t do anything supernatural while touching human clothes or other “worldcraft.” 

I also introduce the idea that everyone is reincarnated, and that Ashling longs for a new human life. 
Texting the Underworld is infused with a lot of mythological elements as you have a favorite mythological person or being? 
I’m quite fond of Nergal, the Babylonian Lord of the Dead. He’s half man and half lion, and in Babylonian legend he’s also a god of war and pestilence. My version is in charge of record-keeping in the afterlife, obsessed with finding clues to the big questions of life and death and the universe. He’s a kind fellow, and probably the most level-headed entity in the underworld.
What was the best or most fun part about writing Texting the Underworld? The hardest? 
Developing a multi-cultural underworld was probably the most fun—my death deities are paper-pushing bureaucrats, stuck in the same jobs for millennium after millennium with increasing numbers of us passing through. By now, most of them are cranky or downright nuts. 

The hardest part was the resolution—I had to make the supernatural stuff work right while also making sure Conor was the master of his own fate.
What's your favorite middle-grade book? Who are your favorite middle-grade hero and heroine? 
Impossible question, but I’ll give it a shot. At the moment, I’m entranced with the world William Alexander has created in Ghoulish Song and its predecessor,  Goblin Secrets. (Cheating, I know—that’s two!). 

My favorite hero continues to be Harry Potter—yes, the humor and wizardry is wonderful, but that marvelous, courageous, flawed kid is the reason the series soared as it did. 

My favorite heroine is Sophie in Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I love that she finds her true self only after she’s been turned into an old crone. (That turns out to be the case for so many of us!)
If you could “borrow” any character from any book or movie or tv show to write about, who would it be and what would you do with them? 
Doctor Who. I’d write the prequel—we’ve had lots of hints, but I want the full story of his youth and expulsion from Gallifrey.
Fill in the blanks: 
I'm really awesome at___
I'm really embarrassed to admit that___ 
I am addicted to online jigsaw puzzles. (Related to statement above).
The last great book I read was___ 
The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore.
If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Texting the Underworld what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it? 
Angel food with cream-cheese frosting and lemon pudding inside that would drip down your chin. I’d call it Southie Surprise. (Southie is the local nickname for South Boston, where TEXTING THE UNDERWORLD is set.) Conor finds out the world is not what it seems to be—some of it is even scarier than he feared, but some of it is better. Either way, he can deal with it.

Loved these questions, Aeicha! Thanks for hosting me on Word Spelunking. 
Ellen’s blog tour continues tomorrow at Literary Rambles. See you there! 

Ellen Booraem
Ellen Booraem’s TEXTING THE UNDERWORLD, a middle-grade fantasy about a scaredy-cat South Boston boy and a determined young banshee, hits bookstores in August (Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers). Her earlier middle-grade fantasies are SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS (Penguin/DBYR, 2011) and THE UNNAMEABLES (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008). A former weekly newspaper editor and reporter, she lives in coastal Maine with an artist and a cat, one of whom is a practicing curmudgeon. She's online at, and also blogs at and
Win 1 of 2 finished copies of Texting the Underworld!
Thanks to Penguin and Ellen, I have 2 finished copies to give away to two winners.
-will end 8/16
-two winners will each win one copy
-must be 13+, one main/free entry per person
-winner will be emailed and must claim prizes within 48 hours
-I am NOT responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
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Michelle McLean said...

Love the interview! Sounds like a great book, definitely going on my TBR!

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Sounds like a great story! I think those overworked bureaucrats in the Underworld would make for a great story too.

Lisa Gail Green said...

So cool!!! I can't wait to read this. I love the questions about favorite page and chapter. But as a writer I love researching lore and molding it to suit my own story. :D

Ellen Booraem said...

The favorite page and chapter were thought-provoking for me, that's for sure! Great questions.

Dorothy Dreyer said...

Awesome interview! This is on my to-read list, for sure!

Ellen Booraem said...

Thanks, Dorothy!

Vivien said...

It's so great as a reader to find out what parts of a novel the author enjoyed the most. Such great insight.

Rhys A Jones said...

Great blog spot and a bunch of 'different' questions for a change.
Well done blogger and blogee (sic)

Unknown said...

What a fun and interesting interview! Very good questions!

Ellen Booraem said...

So glad you all appreciate the creative questions. Yay Aeicha!

Unknown said...

You sent Conor up against Cailleich? Whoa, that's some serious bravery! I can't wait to read this.

Unknown said...

Love this interview, Aiecha! This book sounds seriously adorable, and I can't wait to read it. (Plus, how cool that the author is a Whovian!)

Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

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