Celebrate Imagination

super imaginatorOne of the perks of being a less-than-talkative introvert is that, even after several years of marriage, you can surprise your spouse with trivial facts about yourself. You know, the random kind of information most people would have exchanged during their first year of dating.

The other day my husband and I were discussing an invitation to a Halloween party. I made the comment that Halloween was my favorite holiday, and he replied, “It is? Why?” After my initial thought of How can he not know this?, I scrounged up a few words to explain.

Other kids went to haunted houses or watched scary movies. I stayed home to watch the Peanuts Halloween special on TV and stuff myself with caramel apples and popcorn balls. Other kids dressed up as witches and vampires. I borrowed a wig to complete my Princess Leia costume. In the days before attending Comic Con was cool, I looked forward to Halloween because it was the one day of the year that I could dress up like a space princess without being labeled as a nerd or a freak. For one day, I didn’t have to worry about reality. I could be Princess Leia. I could lead a group of ragtag rebels against the Empire and win.

Growing up, Halloween was about picking a costume and becoming a character, the perfect holiday for a future novelist. It was a day for me to celebrate imagination, and it still is. Halloween is one of the rare occasions when it’s socially acceptable for adults to play pretend—to imagine who they could be and what they could do—and I refuse to give that up.

Where will your imagination take you this Halloween?



Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000030_00047]I met Charity Tinnin in July of 2012 because of a blog post I wrote about dystopian fiction, and we couldn’t help but become friends. That’s what happens when you find someone who’s as obsessed with YA fiction as you are. (She also has the most awesome pair of pink high heels I’ve ever seen.) Today it’s her turn to talk about dystopian fiction and share the story behind her debut novel Haunted:

“As I write this, it’s Catching Fire Friday. (That is the official title for March 7, 2014, right?) I’ve been counting down the days to this, Divergent’s movie premiere March 21, and The One’s release on May 6. And yes, I have pre-ordered the Barnes & Noble Signed Extended Edition already.

Speaking of The Selection series, why did CW pass on the TV show? I do not understand. Cute boys, fancy dresses, reality TV, and a scary story world—what’s not to love? (Thanks for commiserating with me, Kim).

But I was a fan of dystopian lit before it became en vogue. I was the nerdy girl in high school devouring Brave New World, Alas, Babylon, and Uglies as fast as I could. And I’ll remain a dystopian fangirl long after the frenzy dies down. Why? Because I love the idea that one person can make a difference in a dark world. That no matter how bleak the world looks, there is still hope.

2014 AuthorPhoto (temp)Yet I never set out to write a dystopian series. Really. I was set on writing contemporary romances. Until, in 2010, Noah and Daniel State walked into my head arguing about the morals of liquidation, their version of execution. I didn’t pay any attention until Daniel threatened to kill off my other characters. (Okay, maybe his threat wasn’t that extreme, but he’s dangerous enough, alright?). So I set aside my WIP and gave the brothers NaNoWriMo to impress me. Six weeks later, as I typed the last sentence of Haunted, I knew I couldn’t put them away. Not until their story came to an end, and now four years later, I get to share the beginning with the world. I can’t wait. I hope you fall in love with my brothers like I did. Then we can all finish the journey together.”

THE FACTS: Charity Tinnin’s fascination with dystopian lit began in high school with Brave New World, so it’s no surprise that her debut novel, Haunted, would be a YA dystopian. In addition to authoring the State v. Seforé series, she’s a freelance editor and semi-professional fangirl. Join her on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.

THE FICTION: Punish the guilty or save the innocent? He can’t do both.

 As a liquidator, it’s Noah State’s job to carry out justice for the Elite—which is why they send him to Metro Area Four. There’s evidence of a resistance movement and chatter about a dangerous uprising. Noah’s orders? Stop it at any cost.

Failure means death. But Noah’s haunted by the blood spilled in his past and certain God has condemned him for it. Shedding more isn’t an option.

Then he meets Maddison James, a hospital apprentice with revolutionary leanings, and glimpses a future he thought was lost. A future within reach if they can survive his brother’s interference, a resistance more threatening than anyone imagined, and one unforgivable choice.

THE BIG QUESTION: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

CHARITY’S BIG ANSWER: As a diehard Captain America fan (April 4th, peeps!), I’m going to say that since genetically enhanced individuals normally need little to no sleep, I want that. As a girl with chronic fatigue, I’d love to recharge faster. Think about how much more YA I could read then!

Congrats to Charity! Be sure to pick up your copy of Haunted from Amazon or Barnes & Noble today!

©2014 Kim Vandel and Charity Tinnin

Movie Updates from Dystopia

Maze on abstract screenThe news has been disappointing lately for fans of YA dystopian novels, at least when it comes to TV adaptations. When it comes to the big screen, however, the news is much better. Four bestsellers hit movie theaters in 2014.

  • Divergent (Veronica Roth): March 21
  • The Giver (Lois Lowry): August 15
  • The Maze Runner (James Dashner): September 19
  • Mockingjay Part 1 (Suzanne Collins): November 21

There are sequels to come, and an adaptation of Joelle Charbonneau’s The Testing is also in the works for 2015, so dystopian fans should be in good shape for a while.

Have you heard of any other YA dystopian novels being turned into a movie?

©2014 Kim Vandel

TV Updates from Dystopia

woman  watching  tvBad news for fans who’ve been waiting for the TV adaptation of Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series. Oliver recently announced that Fox passed on the show. (I know. What were they thinking?)

Bad news for fans of The Selection too. The CW couldn’t find room in their schedule for the TV version of Kiera Cass’s novel. (Again, what were they thinking? Make room.)

But all is not lost. Both authors should be able to get their rights back, so their dystopian novels could still make it to the screen someday.

Until then, Lauren Oliver’s non-dystopian novel Panic releases in March and Universal has already optioned the movie rights.

Two novellas—The Guard and an extended version of The Prince—will be available February 4 as part of The Selection Stories. The first three chapters of The One are included, so fans will have a little something to tide them over until the book releases in May. You can also pre-order a special edition copy of The One from Barnes and Noble. (Been there, done that.)

Which book would you rather have developed into a movie or a TV series—Delirium or The Selection?

©2014 Kim Vandel

Update June 2014: The pilot for Delirium (you know, the one Fox canceled) will be available on Hulu for thirty days starting June 20, 2014. Don’t have Hulu? Don’t worry. It’s also available on watchwigs.com, and you can watch the trailer for the pilot right now:

Superman, Secrets, and the Real Kryptonite

Super logoIn 2004 an article in Time Magazine offered an explanation for why Batman comics consistently outsold Superman. The Problem with Superman said that Superman was too perfect, and people can’t relate to perfect. We prefer a hero like Batman who has as many personal issues as he does gadgets on his belt.

But there’s hope for Superman. Man of Steel comes to theaters this June, and if the trailer is anything to judge by, Hollywood has managed to update Superman without resorting to a complete personality transplant.

Clark Kent hides a secret, one so big that it would change our world if people learned the truth, but keeping that secret means denying everything he is. He knows what he’s capable of, and he can either leave humanity to fend for itself or he can become its protector. Either he sacrifices everything good about himself, or he forever sets himself apart from the human race. Alien. Freak. Outsider.

Kryptonite, fragments of Superman’s home planet, drain his physical strength. They also represent his true weakness: his identity. Earth is not his home. He can live among us, but he will never be one of us.

Strangely enough, it’s in his alien nature that we can relate to Superman. The fear of rejection is visceral, bone-deep, and it’s one we’ve all experienced. That fear makes Superman just a little more human. Not quite so perfect.

We’ll see whether or not the movie lives up to the trailer’s promise, but I’m excited to find out.

©2013 Kim Vandel

Book to Screen Adaptations

I always feel a thrill of anticipation when I hear that a book I’ve enjoyed is coming to the movie or TV screen, but apprehension quickly follows. It’s a tricky thing to capture the essence of a book for film, and I don’t envy the screenwriters who are given the task. Sometimes the things that make a book such a great book get lost in translation.

Some adaptations are downright tragic. (Don’t even get me started on Eragon.) Some I actually end up liking more than the book. (Two thumbs up for Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.)

Image courtesy digitalart: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Big screen adaptations this year include Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Catching Fire, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and Ender’s Game. I think a movie is the way to go with those adaptations. The books have an epic feel that will be best communicated by a big screen.

Some books are better suited for the small screen. TV is the perfect place for Kiera Cass’s The Selection considering its reality TV storyline. I’ve also heard a rumor that Lauren Oliver’s Delirium has been optioned for TV, and I think it’s the right choice in that case. Delirium has a lot of subtlety that will benefit from a slower, weekly reveal.

What’s your favorite book to screen adaptation? What adaptations are you looking forward to?

©2013 Kim Vandel

The Amazing Thing About Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man came out on DVD last week. When I took my boys to see the movie this summer, I was very impressed, but it wasn’t the special effects or action scenes that impressed me. What caught my attention was Peter Parker. I instantly thought he was a Peter Parker my boys could relate to, and the proof came when we left the theater. My boys announced they liked the 2012 Spider-Man better than the previous version.

Image courtesy Ian Kahn: freedigitalphotos.net

This time around, Peter Parker isn’t some nerdy genius. He’s a punk with a skateboard, baggy sweatshirt, and attitude. His jeans are hanging so low that we all know what brand of boxers he wears. He has family issues. He gets picked on at school. He’s the kid everyone thinks is a waste of space, that angst-filled kid sitting in the back of the classroom plugged into his iPod. The kid who wants to be something more but doesn’t know what that something is or how to get there.

The Amazing Spider-Man gave audiences a vivid picture of an imperfect hero. It showed that heroes make mistakes—sometimes really big ones—but heroes also learn from their mistakes. They keep trying until they discover something inside themselves that isn’t defined by family circumstances, report cards, or a bank account.

A hero isn’t someone who gets it right every time. A hero is someone who makes a choice to step beyond their circumstances and do something extraordinary, and that’s the most amazing thing about The Amazing Spider-Man. It showed that even a punk kid can find a purpose. Anyone can become a hero.

I can’t honestly say that I like the 2012 Andrew Garfield version of Spider-Man better than the Tobey Maguire version, but it was pure genius to update Peter Parker and make him someone teens could identify with. Movie-makers found a way to connect with an entire generation of young adults, and they might just inspire a few of them in the process.

©2012 Kim Vandel

The Revolution Begins

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NBC’s new series Revolution made its debut last night. The pilot episode starts quickly with Ben Matheson rushing in the door to warn his family that “the power is going to turn off, and it’s never going back on.”

We then jump ahead fifteen years. After the global blackout, America is divided into republics, its citizens residing in small communities. Ben Matheson, now a widower, leads a quiet life in the Monroe Republic with his daughter Charlie and son Danny. One day the Monroe militia arrives looking for Ben, and tension between the villagers and the soldiers leads to violence. The militia leave a wounded Ben behind, taking Danny instead. Before he dies, Ben tells Charlie to find her uncle Miles. Miles can get Danny back from the militia.

Accompanied by friends Maggie and Aaron, Charlie journeys to the ruins of Chicago to find her uncle, but Miles isn’t interested in helping. He knows that General Monroe is just using Danny as bait. General Monroe thinks that Miles has information about what caused the blackout and maybe how to turn the power back on. Monroe wants that information so he can have complete control. It’s only after a battle with the militia that Charlie finally convinces Miles to help.

Revolution doesn’t linger on the blackout or the fifteen years leading up to Ben’s death. We’re given just enough information to get started. We’re also given a glimpse of the lawlessness some people have resorted to, so we know the world has changed and the militia isn’t the only thing Charlie and her group need to worry about.

Charlie is smart and capable, but she’s grown up within the shelter of their small community, and she’s perhaps too trusting of outsiders. That’s also her strength. She wants to see the good in people. When Maggie tells her she can’t trust anyone, Charlie replies, “They can’t all be monsters. Some people have to be upright, don’t they?”

Charlie provides a good contrast to Miles who is cynical and only concerned with keeping a low profile—even at the expense of his nephew. All Charlie knows about Miles before they meet is that he’s “good at killing.” Hints about his past ties to Monroe guarantee the Matheson family will be at the center of the conflict.

Revolution is off to a great start. With Jon Favreau (Iron Man) directing and JJ Abrams (Lost) producing, the show has a lot of potential.

Did you watch Revolution? What did you think? Any theories about what caused the blackout?

©2012 Kim Vandel

Book Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

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Seth Grahame-Smith proved his ability to think outside the box with his debut novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. His hybrid Jane Austen classic hit #3 on the New York Times best-seller list. His second novel—Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter—is another historical/horror combination, and it puts a new twist on the life of our sixteenth President.

After an acquaintance supposedly leaves him ten leather-bound books, the author uncovers a hidden thread of history. These books—journals penned by Abraham Lincoln himself—lead the author to uncover the true reason behind the Civil War. Vampires.

The journal entries feel authentic, and the story is seamlessly woven into historical events. Grahame-Smith recreates the life of a man known for both greatness and great tragedy—a man burdened with the task of carrying our country through one of its darkest hours. He gives us an Abraham Lincoln committed to doing what was right whether it was speaking out against slavery or killing vampires, and he does it so well that you might just wonder if there’s more to history than we’ve been told.

Will the story translate to the big screen? We’ll soon find out. The movie adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter hits theaters June 22nd. An adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies starring Natalie Portman is also in the works.

©2012 Kim Vandel

The Truth About Men in Black

It’s been fifteen years since the original Men in Black hit movie theaters. Over Memorial Day weekend, Men in Black 3 brought Agents J and K (Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones) back to the big screen. Their odd couple chemistry was just as amusing this time as it was the first time around, and Josh Brolin’s portrayal of a young Agent K was fantastic. His performance made the movie worth the price of admission.

The thing that caught me totally by surprise was the movie’s theme. More than once characters were encouraged to speak the truth, and Agent J tells a group of bystanders not to lie to their kids. The entire movie was an example of how hiding the truth can damage a relationship.

A Hollywood blockbuster promoting honesty? I mean, this is Hollywood we’re talking about, right? The land of “fake believe” is lecturing us on keeping it real.

Hollywood sign
Image courtesy porbital: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Maybe it’s a sign of where we are in America right now. With a new scandal hitting the headlines every other day, we’ve grown tired of being lied to and manipulated. We’re tired of being treated like we “can’t handle the truth.”

But I hope it’s more than that. I hope it’s a sign of where America is heading—a place where people aren’t afraid to admit they don’t have all the answers. They’re not afraid to say they made a mistake. A place where flawed people work together to make things better. It could happen. We’ll just have to scrounge up some of that famous American bravery and take a step in the right direction. If the Men in Black can do it, so can we.

©2012 Kim Vandel