Author Archives: Amie Borst

Love, Ish

Hello Mixed-Up Readers! I’m excited to bring you this fun interview (and GIVEAWAY!) with Karen Rivers, author of Love, Ish.  But first, a little-ish about the book.

My name is Mischa “Ish” Love, and I am twelve years old. I know quite a lot about Mars. Mars is where I belong. Do you know how sometimes you just know a thing? My mom says that falling in love is like that, that the first time she saw Dad, she just knew. That’s how I feel about Mars: I just know. I’m smart and interesting and focused, and I’m working on getting along better with people. I’ll learn some jokes. A sense of humor is going to be important. It always is. That’s what my dad always says. Maybe jokes will be the things that will help us all to survive. Not just me, because there’s no “me” in “team,” right? This is about all of us. Together. What makes me a survivor? Mars is going to make me a survivor. You’ll see. * “A star-bright story of love, courage, and unflagging spirit.” —Booklist, starred review


Amie: Welcome to the Files, Karen! Why don’t you start by telling us who your favorite character is in Love, Ish and a little about why they’re your favorite.

Karen: Definitely Ish.  I think to write a book about a person, even one you’ve made up, you have to really really know that person and really really love them, even when they are flawed or even occasionally infuriating.   I love Ish and I loved taking this journey with her.

Amie: I agree! It’s a given that we’ll love our main character, isn’t it? Why else would we choose to write their stories? It would be hard to spend so much time with someone we didn’t like.  So tell our readers which scenes were the best/worst to write?

Karen:  I loved writing every word of this book, but writing the ending was a very emotional journey for me.   It was both the best and the worst!

Amie: I can definitely relate to that! Ish (Mishca) wants to go to Mars. Did you do a lot of research for your story?

Karen: I spent a lot of time researching different Mars programs and reading about the viability of Mars as a potentially habitable planet.   There are very widely differing opinions in the scientific community about, for example, whether the presence of perchlorate in Martian soil would simply preclude any possibility of humans being able to survive there.   Mars seems to be everywhere these days!  I watched the NASA feed closely for up-to-the-minute news of the rover’s findings.   At a certain point in revising, I had to stop adding new information though.  Our knowledge and understanding about Mars are constantly evolving in real time.

Amie: There’s a character known as Fish Boy (Gav) and Ish isn’t exactly fond-ish of him. Do Ish and fish boy ever become friends?

Karen: I’m reluctant to spoil too much of the plot, but yes, Mischa and Gav become friends.

Amie:  Was there any particular inspiration for Mischa’s (Ish) name?

Karen: I once met a girl named Mischa, whose nickname was Ish.   I loved the play on words of love-ish and Love, Ish.   When something is something-ish, it means it’s not quite that which it is trying to be.  Mischa’s whole journey starts out as one thing and becomes another, so I like the “ish”ness of that.

Amie: Does Mischa love anything else as much (or almost as much as Mars)?

Karen: Mischa loves a lot of things and people:  Her best friend, Tig, her sister Iris, and even her sister Elliot.   Definitely her pet parrot and her parents.   She is primarily motivated by the need to be someone who doe something special or different, someone who is remembered for being a “first”.   In so doing, she wants to figure out who she is and who she is going to be.   I think she loves more than she gives herself credit for.   When one is 12, it’s easier to pick one topic, one THING and make that your everything, whether it’s your favourite music or a personal goal or a hobby.   Kids tend to define themselves in fairly singular terms.  “I love horses” or “I’m a Katy Perry fan.”  In Ish’s case, she’d say, “I’m going to go to Mars” as her most defining characteristic, but it will be obvious to anyone reading that she’s so much more than that.  (I hope!)

Amie: All right. Last question. Does Ish ever make it to Mars?

Karen: I’m afraid I can’t answer the question without spoiling the entire book.  Once you’ve read the ending, you’ll understand why.  I’ll have to stick with, “You’ll have to read it to find out!”

Amie: Darn it! Those dang spoilers! Thanks for joining us at the Files today, Karen. Good luck to you and to Ish! And many thanks to Algonquin for providing an ARC of this book. They’re also offering a copy of LOVE, ISH to one  US reader. Be sure to leave a comment below to be entered!

Karen Rivers has written novels for adult, middle-grade, and young adult audiences. Her books have been nominated for a wide range of literary awards and have been published in multiple languages. When she’s not writing, reading, or visiting schools, she can usually be found hiking in the forest that flourishes behind her tiny, old house in Victoria, British Columbia, where she lives with her two kids, two dogs, two birds. You can find her online at or on Twitter: @karenrivers


Amie Borst is the author of the Scarily Ever Laughter series; Cinderskella, Little Dead Riding Hood, and Snow Fright. There’s nothing “ish” about her love for writing. You can find her on her blog, her website, and her co-author website.

From the Grave With Cynthia Reeg

cynthiaCynthia Reeg, a curious librarian, ventured from behind the stacks to become a children’s author. Now she contends with quirky characters and delightful dilemmas as often as possible in her stories. Her amazing husband, two grown sons, two adorable grandsons, and awesome family aid Cynthia on this wild and wonderful adventure. She’s a Kansas native who has lived in five other Midwest states. Currently she resides in St. Louis, Missouri and loves to vacation in Florida and New Mexico. Cynthia enjoys tennis, hiking, reading, and hanging out with her family. For more information, visit Find her on Twitter and Facebook

Amie: Welcome, Cynthia! It’ so great to have you join us here at the Files! Some of you may not know this but Cynthia and I are publishing sisters – that is we share the same publisher for our books. So, Cynthia, why don’t you start by telling us what your inspiration was for From the Grave?

Cynthia: First of all, I love Halloween and monsters. Using that theme, I wanted to approach the subject of bullying and intolerance from a different perspective. I hoped that if I created a fun and entertaining fantasy story that kids might also be open to exploring issues of prejudice. Plus, I had a great time crafting the crazy monster world, with all its rules and strange inhabitants—and monster curses, of course.

Amie: We share a similar love for Halloween! And monster curses are the best – in all their diverse ways! Tell us about your favorite character and why you enjoyed writing him.

Cynthia: My favorite character turned out to be bad guy—seventh grade troll, Malcolm McNastee. He originally started out as a fairly typical antagonist but quickly gained equal billing with my other main character, Frankenstein Gordon. What can I say? I write from a sinister perspective much more easily. Malcolm revealed so many conflicting emotions and plot twists that he demanded to be put front and center. And truly, it’s not easy to win an argument with him.

Amie: The antagonist can be the most fun to write! So it’s my understanding that you’re a librarian (yay!). Did your work influence your writing at all?

Cynthia: Of course! Although I left my library job a few years back to devote more time to writing, I use my librarian experiences with children to shape what I write. I know that action, silliness, suspense, and quirky characters draw them into a story. That’s how I try to write because it’s all about connecting with the kids!

Amie: It sounds like you know your audience really well, and that is definitely key to a successful story. Final questions: Graveyard or haunted house? Mummies or Deadies? Booberries or sandwitches?

Cynthia: Graveyard—I love the outdoors. 😉
Mummies—I relate to being so wrapped up in my work.
Sandwitches—more substantial fare for a hungry writer!

Amie: Good choices! Though I think I’ll take the booberries but only covered in chocolate. They make a nice topping for ice scream!


Monster is as monster does, but Frankenstein Frightface Gordon is totally the wrong shade of ghastly green—actually a pathetic baby blue—and he’s more concerned with keeping his pants neat and tidy than scaring the pants off his victims. But when a new law is passed to rid Uggarland of misfits such as Frank, he must decide if he will become the monster his parents can be proud of or be the monster he can be proud of. Relying on his dead grandmother’s guidance from the grave, Frank makes a most astounding choice and enters into an adventure that most likely will seal his doom.
Or prove he is truly monster enough.

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Amie Borst is the author of the Scarily Ever Laughter Series featuring Cinderskella, Little Dead Riding Hood, and Snow Fright. Find her on her website, her blog, facebook, twitter, and instagram.

Swing Sideways!



Swing Sideways is a story about love, friendship, and hope that takes place when two girls meet at the exact moment when they need each other the most. They quickly develop a friendship that will rival that of Tom and Huck, Jess and Leslie, or Charlotte and Wilbur. It is a book that will make you want to call your best friend, then go out and pick a basketful of wild berries and dip your toes in the cool water of a creek. It is a book that will show you how your life can change in one instant when the truth of a well kept secret is revealed. School Library Journal said, “This is a summer neither Annabel nor readers will ever forget.”

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Amie: Welcome to The Mixed-Up Files, Nancy! We’re so glad to have you hear today and learn more about you and your books. What lead you to become a children’s author? And why middle-grade books?

Nancy: When I was four we lived in England. Our neighbor gave me a vinyl record of Vivien Leigh (think Scarlett O’Hara) narrating the story of Peter Rabbit. I played that record over and over so many times, my older brother broke it in two so he didn’t have to listen anymore. (I have since forgiven him). Within minutes (like as soon as I stopped crying) I asked my mother to write down a story I wanted to tell, because I knew that by creating it myself, no one could take it away. I wrote my first “novel” when I was nine, and still have it, complete with crayon drawings of a wild horse. That same year, I read Black Beauty and when I closed it after reading the last page, I knew I would become an author someday.

It is such an honor to write for middle grade readers. Try this: ask an adult what their favorite book was when they were a kid. Don’t specify age. Nine times out of ten, they will give you the name of a book they read between the ages or 8 – 13. Why? Because those are the books that make or break us as readers. How awesome is it to be the author who changes a child’s life that way?

Another major factor for me was because I wanted to be able to teach kids about writing, and encourage them to tap into their own creativity. I can do this through presenting workshops in schools and libraries, which is something that makes my heart swing sideways.

Amie: Wow! Older brothers can be tough like that, can’t they? Admittedly, so can moms. I remember when my children would insist on listening to a song or watching the same movie repeatedly, I’d hide the cd or dvd so I wouldn’t have to endure it just “one more time.” I know, I know. *hangs head in shame*

I love that you recognize how important middle-grade books are and their lasting impact on readers. Why are you the perfect person to tell Annabel’s story in Swing Sideways?

Nancy: Annie is a dreamer who was being stuffed into a mold by outside influences (Mom, Dad, teachers, school friends, Tommy, a resort community, etc). In order for Annie to discover who she truly is as a person, and in order for her to have the strength and courage to break free and fly solo, the person who told her story had to know how it felt to be her from the inside. There had to be a friend like California to give her “permission” to be herself, to accept her for who she was and not what someone else wanted her to be, to show her how it looked to march to her own beat. We all need a California in our lives at that age. Perhaps part of Swing Sideways was written out of my need to go back and change some of the things I didn’t like about myself at that time in my own life, and who else can do that but me?

Amie: Change has to come from within. It’s important for readers to recognize that at every age. If you could visit any place on earth where would it be?

Nancy: Scotland. I know that probably sounds unimaginative to some, but my ancestors come from Scotland. There is a remarkable story about one of them, Robert St. Clair, who, as a little boy, was kidnapped by gypsies and taken by ship . . . oh, wait, I can’t tell you that story just yet. Anyway, I am now living in the place where I was always meant to be, so I would love to see some of the old castles and craggy cliffs and shores of Scotland where part of my family’s history originates.

Amie: I think that would be an incredible place to visit! Last question, Nancy. It’s an important one so pay attention. Mashed potatoes and gravy or rice and beans?

Nancy: Totally mashed potatoes and gravy. And, if I’m not feeling too terribly fat, a nice big pat of sweet cream butter between the potatoes and the gravy would be like digging in to a piece of Heaven.

Amie: I’m suddenly very hungry. Maybe I’ll cook up some…*focus, Amie, focus!* Oh, I mean, thanks for joining us here at The Mixed-Up Files, Nancy!



Nanci Turner Steveson writes for middle grade readers and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She studied under the mentorship of award winning authors Kathi Appelt, Patty Lee Gauch, and Bethany Hegedus.

At home in Wyoming, Nanci is on the Board of Directors of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, and is the Teen Creative Writing Instructor at the Teton County Library in Jackson Hole. She works as a Stage Manager for Off Square Theatre Company, with her heart tied closest to the annual Youth Musical Production. One of Nanci’s greatest ambitions is to work with kids and inspire them to become two-fisted readers, like herself, and allow their own creativity to soar through the beauty of creative writing.

A life-long horse girl, Nanci lives in a historic meadow cabin in the shadow of the Teton mountains with two horses, two dogs, and an assortment of elk, moose, great gray owls and the occasional black bear who wander down from the national forest outside her back door. After a profound experience in 2009, Nanci is dedicated to getting books into the hands of homeless people, especially in shelters that house children, through her Literacy for Hope Project.

Swing Sideways (HarperCollins), Nanci’s debut novel has received stellar reviews from important publications and was launched in May, 2016. Her second novel, Georgia Rules, is scheduled for publication May 2, 2017. She is represented by Al Zuckerman, the founder of Writers House, LLC., and can also be reached through her website at

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Amie Borst is the author of Cinderskella, Little Dead Riding Hood, and the soon-to-be-released, Snow Fright. You can find her on twitter, facebook, and her website.