Monday, November 16, 2015

Interview with Nancy Ohlin

I'm so pleased to welcome fellow YA Outside the Lines blogger Nancy Ohlin to On the Verge this month. Nancy's third YA novel Consent was just released last week, but I was lucky to have a sneak peek. The novel--which is about a teen music prodigy and her relationship with her teacher as it crosses the line into something physical-- is riveting and a little horrifying.

Jody: This book, Nancy, I've got to tell you: it pushed my buttons in a way that few books do. I think my reaction is a mixture of remembering vividly what it's like to be a teen--and feeling as if I knew everything about everything--but also, now, being the mom of a teen daughter and knowing keenly that kids this age don't know as much as they believe they do. And here's this guy--the teacher--taking advantage of that! Where did the spark of this story come from?

Nancy: I wanted to write a novel based on a (bad) personal experience.  But over time, the story did a 180 and morphed into a totally different book with totally different characters.

Jody: It's interesting when that happens-- a story taking off like that. Do you find that most of your work starts with something true?

Nancy: Not always. Every day I get sparks of inspiration from the most random things: someone I run into at the grocery store, a car passing by, a song on the radio. I actually have files and files of book ideas that I want to write up in the future.

Jody: Once you have your idea or two, what's your next step?

Nancy: I start with a central idea or a character.  Then I sit down with a notebook and write down a bunch of stuff—it’s a lot of brainstorming and free-associating, like, “she has a scar on her face!” or “he hates pizza!” or  “the Nile River!”  Also drawings and charts and maps and such.

Eventually, these crazy ramblings start to form the beginnings of an outline.  Then I outline.  Once I get into the first draft, though, I tend to wander away from the outline and lose myself in the weeds. This process is very me:  a marriage of chaos and order.

Jody: I like that, and I like that you seem to understand and accept your process. That's been one of the harder things for me, figuring out how I work, knowing when to push and when to let go. It's taken me years. Have you been at this for a long time?

Nancy: I actually started my writing career as a ghostwriter. An editor friend gave me my first big break and hired me to ghostwrite for a children’s mystery series.  That gig led to many others.  It took a while for me to write and publish my own original novels, though.

Jody: How many books have you ghostwritten?

Nancy: Something like eighty books.

Jody: Wow! That's amazing. I guess you would figure out your process after that kind of track record. When you started writing your original novels, was it easy to break in or did you still collect a few rejections along the way?

Nancy: Oh, I got rejections. That time is all one big blur, so I'm not sure how many. The acceptances, I definitely remember, because they involved much screaming and happy-sobbing on my part.

Jody: Switching gears a bit here, but what's your work schedule like? Do you try to write at a certain time each day? Write for a certain number of hours or complete a certain number of words?

Nancy: I like to write in the mornings, either at home or at the library or in a cafĂ© with some of my writer friends.  I try to stay off the Internet, but that’s not always easy.  If I hit a block—e.g., if I’ve been staring at my computer screen for half an hour—I make myself get up and do something else, like taking a walk or riding the exercise bike and watching old Scandal episodes.

When I’m on deadline (or multiple deadlines), I work anywhere from six to twelve hours a day. When I’m not, my ideal is four to six hours (or better yet, no hours and spending the entire day at a spa—but sadly, this rarely happens).

Jody: You sound like you're pretty busy.

Nancy: My schedule can be nuts. I’m a full-time writer, and I’m usually juggling several projects at the same time, like one or two (or more) original projects and one or two (or more) ghostwriting projects.

Jody: And then there's your day to day family life too, I'm assuming.

Nancy: Yes. I have a seven-year-old daughter. And four cats and a very senior bunny.  And a twenty-year-old son who goes to Juilliard and performs a lot, so if he has a concert or recital, even if it’s across the country, I drop everything to go hear him.  My husband is a law school professor (and an associate dean and an author and a frequent traveler), so running a household together can be a challenge.

Jody: It sounds like it. Any tips for balancing all of that?

Nancy: I’ve learned to let stuff slide.  My number-one priority is my family.  Then my health.  Then my work (although “work” sometimes creeps up to #1 or #2).  If on any given day I manage to write productively for a few hours, go to a yoga class, feed everyone, spend time with my daughter, spend time with my husband, and talk or text with my son, that’s a good day.  But to maintain this balance, I can’t always get to the dishes or the laundry or the house cleaning.  Or a shower. Sometimes, I eat popcorn for lunch because I’m on deadline and too exhausted to cook.

Still, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.  I know how fortunate I am to have what I have.

Jody: You mentioned before that you try to stay off social media when you're working, but you and I both know that we've got to be ON social media for promotional purposes. What's your take on that?

Nancy: I do what I can.  I’m on Facebook, I have a Twitter, I have a website.  I support my author friends and their books, and I’m very grateful when they do the same for me (thank you, Jody!).

Jody: No problem! That's one very nice thing about social media--meeting other writers in our community. But the self-promotion part has always felt a little icky to me...

Nancy: For me too. My friends often tell me that I’m “too Japanese.” This is a reference to my Japanese mom, who taught me to always be nice and polite and never brag or draw attention to myself.  This makes it super-hard for me to go out there on social media and be all “buy my amazing book!” or “check out this amazing review of my amazing book!”

I focus on the social aspect of social media. Also, I love going to literary festivals and conferences and meeting book people and fellow authors.  And I love meeting readers, both virtually and in real life.

Jody: What are you working on now?

Nancy: Oh, a bunch of stuff!  I have several original YA and MG projects simmering:  a mystery set in Alaska, a dystopian fantasy inspired by Chernobyl and Fukushima and Japanese folk tales, and another, equally dark fantasy about monsters.  I’m starting a new ghostwriting project that I’m really, really excited about.  I recently finished Book 6 of an early grade non-fiction series for Little Bee.

Jody: You sound like you have your hands full.

Nancy: I do. And something else fun: I'm sharing my passion for writing with my daughter. She loves to write and illustrate graphic novels, and I love helping her.  Her recent titles include Creatures are Popping Out! and Battle of the Universes.  She is definitely a future author.

Jody: Aw, that's great. I look forward to checking those books out in the future! Thanks, Nancy, so much, for chatting with me today.

Nancy: Thank you for having me here!

For more information on Nancy Ohlin:

To buy Consent
on Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indie Bound

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Beyond "Issue" Books: Unpacking Mental Health Issues in MG and YA Fiction

Last week I was honored to be a part of a presentation with several other YA authors at the annual American Association of School Librarians conference in Columbus. Led by the lovely Natalie D. Richards, our group, which included Liz Coley and Kristina McBride, presented statistics on teen mental health and shared what everyone pretty much agreed were the "go to" books when it comes to mental health issues in fiction, but also introduced what we hoped would be a starting point for discussion on books that stretch the usual definition.

If you're the librarian at a school where you know you've got a student struggling with an eating disorder, the book that would likely come to mind is the brilliant and heart wrenching Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. We know how powerful and essential it is for kids to see themselves in books, to know they are not alone, to read about characters struggling and ultimately, triumphing.

A kid being bullied or suffering from depression might find himself or herself in a book like 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, a modern classic told between the points of view of a girl who's committed suicide and a boy who may or may not have been in a position to help her when she was alive.

We know that books like this--that deal with issues head on, without flinching-- are books we must have in our school libraries, and not only for the kids who are suffering--with eating disorders or depression or thoughts of suicide or a variety of other mental health issues-- but for their classmates and their friends and their siblings to gain a better understanding and empathy.

Mental health disorders are much more common in teens than any of us knew before we started researching for our presentation. According to the National Institute of Health, 46% of 13-18 year olds have suffered from any disorder--these include panic disorders, major depression, PTSD, ADHD, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.

Books, of course, can help, and we wanted to build a list of books-- what we call "issue" books, as well as books that feature characters dealing with a particular issue, but where the issue isn't the primary focus of the book.

Natalie started the discussion by talking about a child she knows who has ADD. She gave him one of the Joey Pigza books (this is a brilliant and hilarious series by Jack Gantos about a boy who has ADD.) But the child didn't connect.

Instead he devoured Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan, the page-turning fantasy adventure series that features a boy who discovers his father is Poseidon. The main character also happens to have ADD.

Natalie realized that kids want to see themselves in books, but sometimes they also want to look away, escape for a while, or perhaps see a version of themselves being the hero.

The librarians in our audience had great ideas for books to include on our list. For the anorexic student who might not want to read about the issue head on, there's Dumplin by Julie Murphy about a self-proclaimed fat girl who doesn't have to lose weight to win the boy

or The Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson, which stars a main character who grapples with a poor body image but ultimately discovers her own external and internal strengths.

The list we created--with much help from librarians-- is something we would like to continue to build. If you've got ideas for titles that deal with mental health issues-- or those that might skirt the edges but have another primary focus, feel free to let us know in the comments, and we'll add your recommendations.

Here's the list--so far.

And here's the write up of our presentation--for a bit more on what we're looking for--from the AASL blog.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Loner in the Garret

Sometimes the very thing you need comes your way the very moment you need it.

I've been in a weird flux-y place lately when it comes to my work, grappling with how to balance promotion and business-related stuff, teaching and mentoring, traveling and speaking--

--with writing and reading and chatting with other writers and playing around with silly-but somehow deadly serious Filling the Well kinds of activities like riding a bike and tearing pages out of magazines and painting bad pictures and playing the piano and doing yoga and walking around the neighborhood with no apparent destination in mind.

Sometimes it's hard to keep your feet on the path--to remember what drew you to writing in the first place and to find, again and again, the resolve to keep going in a business that can often feel less like a community and more like a competition.

We need a book about this.

A few days ago my writer friend Jenn Hubbard reached out to say that she'd just published a book and would I mind sharing it. I said yes before I even knew what it was (I love Jenn's novels, especially Try Not to Breathe, which I devoured a few years ago and found that the story-- a boy recovering from a suicide attempt/a girl seeking to understand why her father committed suicide-- has stayed with me in a way that very few stories do.)

Jenn's new book is not novel. It's a book for writers and when she started telling me about it--what led her to write it and the kinds of topics it covers-- I knew it was just the book I've been searching for.

It's called Loner in the Garret: A Writer's Companion.

Here's Jenn in her own words with more:

Even before my first book came out—during the heady pre-publication days, filled with equal parts anxiety and excitement—I noticed how much it helped me to have a community of writers who were in the same boat. We celebrated good news and commiserated over bad news; we shared tips and compared experiences.

Writing is difficult enough—fighting with the inner critic, searching for fresh ways to say things, shaping a story that will be both interesting and meaningful—even without the pressures of publication. Publication amplifies the fears and joys. The highs get higher, and the lows get lower, when other people’s reactions and expectations are involved.

I found that the most difficult part of being an author was not creating stories, difficult as that was. It was staying emotionally grounded. It was having the self-confidence to keep writing. It was not feeling alone and despairing in the face of adversity.

My writer friends and I spent a lot of time just encouraging one another. You will get that revision done. You will figure out where the story needs to start. That one review will not destroy your career. You will find another agent. Yes, I’ve had that horrible thing happen, too; you’re not the only one.

Yes, you are good enough.

I use inspirational guides in my daily life. Why not have one for writers, I thought? A book full of the kind of pep talks that my writer friends and I share. A book that could provide an encouraging spark at the beginning of a writing session. A book that could remind writers that they’re not alone.

And so Loner in the Garret: A Writer’s Companion was born.

Loner in the Garret: A Writer's Companion, by Jennifer R. Hubbard: Inspiration and encouragement for writers. Covering topics as varied as procrastination, the inner critic, fear, distractions, envy, rejection, joy, and playfulness, it charts the ups and downs of the writing life with honesty, gentle suggestions, and a dash of humor.

To buy on Amazon
To buy at Barnes & Noble
For more on Jennifer R. Hubbard see

Saturday, October 31, 2015

My Half NaNo/Half Scene/Half Book/Half November Writing Challenge

Tomorrow is November 1st, which for many writers means the official starting date of NaNoWriMo. Midnight tonight, it's an On your mark, Get set, Go, across the world as several hundred thousand writers will attempt to silence their inner critical editor voices and bang out their 50,000-word first drafts.

Fun factoid: last year 325,142 writers, including 80,000 teens and children, signed up to take the challenge.

I'm not sure how many completed it.  Because it's freaking HARD to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days!

Fun factoid # 2: Since 1999 over 250 writers eventually went on to traditionally publish (I assume after much revision) their NaNo novels-- Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus... oh, and my book Thin Space (the first draft of which was crazily dashed off during NaNo, 2008)

NaNo is a fun, wild, relentless, ridiculously difficult and yet freeing ride and I halfway want to do it again this year.

But I'm not.

First, because I have just started revising a novel and, for me, revising is less about word count and more about scene work.

Also, I have a ton of other things to do. (Somehow, and I'm not sure exactly how this happened, I have nine events/presentations/writing workshops/school visits set up for this month, and now I've got to actually, um, prepare for those.)

I love the challenge-y goal aspect of NaNo though, so I have decided to craft my own NaNo-style program.

It's all about halves....

1. Revise half of a scene per
2. half of the days in November that I am not out and about presenting
3. which would get me roughly halfway through my revision

Anyone want to join me?

Pledge in the comments your Half NaNo Style Challenge, (or create whatever the heck other kind of writing goal you'd like to shoot for this month).

We'll meet back on December 1 and see how we've done.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

In Which I Fangirl like a Fangirl over FANGIRL and All Things Rainbow Rowell

I had dinner with Rainbow Rowell last week.

Okay, the phrase "had dinner" actually means: "I ate at a long table with 25 people and Rainbow Rowell walked by my end of the table quickly and sat at the other end and ate quickly and I watched her through the hazy lens of my two martinis on an empty stomach and when she was leaving I pretended I was taking a picture of my friend Natalie but I was actually taking a picture of Rainbow Rowell."

The next day I met Rainbow Rowell.

Okay, the phrase "met Rainbow Rowell" actually means: "I stood in a ridiculously long snaking line at the Books by the Banks festival in Cincinnati for 45 minutes and nearly came to blows with the woman in front of me who accused me of trying to get in front of her by saying EXCUSE ME, MA'AM, I WAS STANDING HERE FIRST!! and I was all like, Chillax, lady, no need to freak out, we are all Rainbow Rowell fans here and I'm sure she wouldn't want us to come to blows over line placement, and then I turned around and started talking to the lady behind me because, honestly, the level of freaky fangirling emanating from the woman in front of me was scary, but then it was MY turn at the front of the line, at last, and I said hello to Rainbow Rowell and she said hello to me and I blabbered like an absolute idiot about how my book was on the same Florida Teens Read list as hers and I knew she would win the award (she did) and I was just glad to have my book mentioned in the same breath as hers, and she just nodded and smiled and said, oh that's nice or something lovely like that, and then the security person (she had a security person!!) took my picture with her."

If you can't tell, I love Rainbow Rowell.

My first introduction to her work was the beautiful, heartbreaking novel Eleanor & Park, which is about a romance between two teens-- a half Korean/half American boy named Park who loves comics and 90's music (the book takes place in the 90's) and a poor/overweight/sensitive/red-headed/wrong-side of the tracks girl named Eleanor. 

There's a slow build up of their relationship, a sense that Eleanor and Park are in a lovely bubble, as forces outside of their control-- asshole kids who ride the same bus they do, Eleanor's terrible dysfunctional family life--threaten to tear them apart. Interestingly, they don't even hold hands until at least halfway through the book, and that scene, the drawn out lead up to the touching of their hands, is one of the most romantic scenes I have ever read. 

It's Eleanor's wrenching home-life, though, that is the most moving and memorable to me. Her struggles with her downtrodden mom and many siblings all piled into the same bedroom with each other and her yearning for privacy and dignity under the leering eyes of her stepfather are all painfully captured by Rowell. 

This feels real. Because, I suspect, it is. 

The book has been banned in some schools, for language--the concerned/outraged parents say-- but it's clear those people haven't read the book or if they have, they don't get it. Last year there was a blow up on social media, the story of a school inviting Rainbow Rowell to speak and then dis-inviting her after a parent called the book obscene. 

Someone asked Rainbow Rowell for a comment and she said: "When these people call Eleanor & Park an obscene story, I feel like they’re saying that rising above your situation isn’t possible. That if you grow up in an ugly situation, your story isn’t even fit for good people’s ears. That ugly things cancel out everything beautiful."

I was forever a fangirl after reading that. 

And then, I read her book Fangirl.

Or rather, I listened to it on audio. My husband, teen daughter, and her boyfriend, and I were driving 17 hours to Florida for Spring Break and I checked out Fangirl because it was written by Rainbow Rowell! and because I knew it was about a girl's first year in college and I thought my daughter might be interested. 

I put the first CD in and my husband was sleeping and my daughter was sleeping, but her boyfriend and I listened as main character Cath moves into her dorm, anxious about being away from home, anxious about not rooming with her twin sister, and only finding a little bit of solace in her writing. (Turns out she is a "famous" writer of fan fiction. She writes popular stories, eagerly followed by her many fans, on a Harry Potter-like series called Simon Snow.)

CD number two, and everyone in the car was awake, and we listened for the next 16 hours as Cath figures out how to navigate college and homesickness and her extreme anxiety and her loud-mouthed seemingly obnoxious roommate and the roommate's adorable boyfriend and her troubled twin sister and her struggling father and her distant mother and all the while interspersed with bits of her more and more popular Simon Snow fan fiction.

When we reached the end of the audio book, everyone in the car was crying and after we all wiped our tears, my daughter spoke up very softly from the backseat and asked if we'd put the first CD back on because she'd missed it.

We did.

I could go on about my love and admiration of all things Rainbow Rowell, about how my book club read Landline, one of her adult novels, and it was one of the few novels that we all agreed was good. About Rowell's latest novel, the one she signed for me, called Carry On, a book of Cath's fanfiction about Simon Snow... (I am marveling at the brilliance of this!!!)

But I won't because I fear that this blog post may never end if I do.

Instead I will leave you with this:


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Six Years Later, and Still ON THE VERGE

Six years ago I started this blog, thinking that it would be a fun record of my pre-published self snagging a book deal and crossing the threshold into the glittery and glamorous world of YA Publishing.

I was half right. 

The YA publishing world is not all that glittery and glamorous, although it is a lovely community filled with supportive and generous and amazingly talented people. Also, the journey was only beginning. I wouldn't get the book deal for another two years -- so most of those early posts are basically me whining and/or laughing at myself for whining, sputtering impatiently and/or giving myself Rah Rah Never Quit peptalks, interspersed with book reviews and author interviews. 

When I wasn't whining or peptalking I was writing about my Italian grandmother, the skull on Mr. Potter's desk in the movie It's a Wonderful Life, my obsession with yoga, and my journey through a hellish dystopian/snow-apocalyptic landscape (otherwise known as a college roadtrip). 

When I did, finally, sell my first book and announce it here, one of my friends commented that I would have to change the name of the blog. I wasn't, she pointed out, on the verge anymore.

I made a joke that I would always be on the verge of something. Which turned out to be true in ways I couldn't even imagine then.

Six years of writing blog posts (and I just added them up-- turns out this post will be number 287) and I've learned a few things about blogging and writing and my obsessive desire to pursue a dream.

Biggest lesson: the goalposts are always moving. For fifteen years I'd dreamed of having a published novel on a library shelf. But it turns out that as much as I am grateful for having achieving that dream, I have now expanded my goals, and hell, I'll go ahead and admit it here: I want to be doing this-- writing and publishing books -- for as long as my fingers can hold a pen.

For as the wise New Agey Mother of Following Your Dream Artist's Way author Julia Cameron says,

Once you quit pursuing your dreams, you die. 

(Or something like that. I may be getting the exact words wrong, but I think you get the point I am trying to make.)

On this day, the sorta 6th anniversary of my always on the verge On the Verge blog, I promise, dear readers --new and old-- that I will continue to offer you the services you have grown to expect and enjoy over the years.

The whining and laughing at whining, the sputtering impatiently as well as the Rah Rah Never Quit peptalks. 

Plus, bonus gifts of 
interviews with Mount Everest climbers
descriptions of sausage making
and the occasional picture of Emily Dickinson's dead brother

You're welcome. 



Thursday, October 8, 2015

Interview (and Celebration) with Natalie D. Richards

Book launches, at least in the YA book world, tend to be splashy affairs. Blog tours and giveaways. Book signings and parties. Whatever you think about authors promoting themselves, hopping up and down shouting BUY MY BOOK!! --most of us can forgive it on the day a new book is released.

It's a big deal to write a novel, to do the work it takes to get the thing onto bookstore and library shelves, and ultimately into readers' hands. It's an accomplishment worthy of celebration. 

I caught up with author Natalie D. Richards on October 6th, the launch day of her third novel, the YA thriller My Secret To Tell, fully expecting her to be busily running around. Where would the book signing be? Who was throwing her a party? 

Natalie waved off the questions. She had no particular plans. 

I shouldn't have been surprised. I knew this book had been a hard one for her to write. Not the writing itself. It was the stuff going on in her life at the time she was writing that colored the experience. Her father became ill when she was drafting the book, and he died as she was working on revisions. She pushed through the book anyway, and all the while promoting her second novel Gone Too Far. 

Disclosure: I've known Natalie for a couple of years, and I read My Secret To Tell and Gone Too Far months before they came out. These books (and her first, the best seller, Six Months Later) are page-turner-y thrillers, the kind you stay up half the night reading because you must find out WHO DID IT.  

I knew who did it (because Natalie had told me) and yet I still stayed up half the night reading each of these books because I couldn't figure out how Natalie was going to pull everything off. There's a trick to this kind of writing-- pacing, throwing out red herrings--a brilliant balancing act between leading the reader toward the likely suspects --but not being too obvious about it. 

We want to be surprised at the end of a thriller, but we also want to feel that the ending is logical and inevitable and right. 

Natalie's books always deliver. 

And damn it, I am happy that a new one has been released, and on the day of the launch I hated the idea that she wasn't celebrating, at least a little. 

So here's what we did:

First, cake. Because every book launch must have a coordinating thematic dessert to commemorate the occasion. 

(You will have to read the book to understand why I baked a bloody hand cake) 

We went out for a drink, which turned into several, because, yay! it was happy hour! 

(Bar food. The, um, pineapple infused vodka concoctions
are not shown in the picture)
We chatted about a bunch of stuff and I wrote some of it down. It would make a good interview, I thought, but now as I flip through my notes, I can hardly make sense of the scribbles.

(A sample. For tax purposes.)
Some of what I can decipher:

Me: What's the last book you read and loved?

Natalie: Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You the Sun. Oh my God, have you read it? 

Me: No, I--

Natalie: Why haven't you read it yet? You've got to read it.

Me: I will. I promise. Okay, how do you balance your writing with your other obligations?

Natalie: Ha! I don't. I'm horrible at that balancing.

Me: But you wrote three books in three years...

Natalie: four--

Me: Four! Four books in three years! How did you do that?

Natalie: I didn't sleep much. 

Me: What book saved your life when you were a kid?

Natalie: Anne of Green Gables. The world of that book was so sweet and different from my childhood.

Me: I read Trixie Belden. Did you ever read those?

Natalie: (shaking her head) Should I?

Me: No. They're only good to read when you're a kid.

Natalie: Oh, also, The Hobbit. I loved that book. 

Me: Eat your pineapple (pointing at her pineapple infused vodka drink) You have to eat your pineapple.

Natalie: (tastes it) Geez. Whew, that's strong. No. 

Me: Come on. A third book is a big %*^&% deal! You've got to celebrate a little.

Natalie: It just feels wrong. I think of this book and it gets mixed up with everything else. But if I could write a book during such an awful time and have it come out okay... Wait. It's not a trainwreck, is it?

Me: No! It's good. I like it the best of the three.

Natalie: (eating a pineapple chunk) I don't want to be negative anymore about books, about writing. You always talk about how books saved your life. Well, writing saved my life. It's hard and it sucks sometimes, but it's a gift. I'm grateful I get to do it every day.

Then my notes get totally indecipherable. 

Something something about shopping at Whole Foods? and what kind of food Natalie always orders when she goes to Chipotle? (for the record, I think I wrote: "steak burrito bowl").

Several hours past Happy Hour and we decided at the spur of the moment to go see the movie The Martian. We called an uber (my husband) and he picked us up and drove us to a nearby theater.

The movie is about Matt Damon becoming stranded on Mars and trying to figure out how to get back to earth. There's a bunch of cool special effects and stunning cinematography. 

But at the core, the story is about ingenuity and perseverance. At one point Matt solves a seemingly impossible-to-solve problem, and after he figures it out, he's happy. Even still stranded on Mars with no guarantee that he's ever going to get home, he takes a minute to celebrate. 

He says something like, "I love what I do. And you know what? I'm good at it."

Nat and I (and our uber driver) all liked the movie. We went back to my house and ate some of the bloody hand cake.

(okay. A little more than some)

Want to know more about the lovely Natalie D. Richards and her books?

Follow her on Facebook Author Natalie D. Richards
On Twitter: @NatdRichards 
On Instagram (where she shares fun pics of her enormous dogs) 

To buy her books on Amazon: