Author Interview: Malayna Evans

Author Interview

Meet Malayna Evans.


Social Media Links:


The Interview.

Hi Malayna! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a single, working mom. I live just outside of Chicago with my two kids and a lovable but loud rescue dog. I grew up in the mountains of Utah and spent my childhood climbing, skiing, reading Sci-Fi, and finding trouble. Many years later, I earned a Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history from the University of Chicago. I’ve used that education to craft a middle grade, time-travel series set in ancient Egypt. Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh is book one. With my book on the shelves and books two and three in the works, it’s exciting to chat with book supporters like yourself, so thanks for having me.

What has been your favorite bookish memory as a fan and then as an author?
My most vivid book memory is mourning Gandolph. I must have been in middle school when I read The Lord of the Rings, and when the wizard died I cried for days. I’m not sure why my big sister, who’d given me the books, didn’t pat me on the back and tell me it would all work out in the end. But then again, maybe my joy when he came back in a subsequent book was worth the pain.
As an author, my favorite memory so far is telling my kids the book was going to be published. This manuscript was a family affair—my two little people inspired the Jagger and Aria characters and we spent a fair number of dinners discussing plot twists and character arcs. So the day we learned Jagger was going to be a real life book was a very good day at my house.

If someone asked you to describe Egypt in three sentences, what would you say?
What we think of as ancient Egyptian history lasted for thousands of years—the length of time between the pyramids being built and Cleopatra dying is greater than the time period between the time of Christ and today.
Ancient Egypt really is as fantastical as it’s made out to be in books and movies, and it’s not just mummies and the mysteries of the pyramids but the culture and daily life and religious beliefs as well.
Ancient Egypt contributed to the systems we take for granted today, like our calendar and writing system, for example.

What was it about the middle grade reader level that spoke to you as a writer?
In part, I think my interest in having a conversation with middle grader readers about my favorite topic, ancient Egypt, stems from the fact that middle grade shaped me, perhaps more than any other period in my life. My passion for reading, fantasy, and interest in the different ways people could just be in the world, depending on when/where/who they were born to, started in middle grade.

When brainstorming for your debut, Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh, did you already know you wanted it to be a series?
Yes! I had an ancient Egyptian blessing in mind early in the process. Ankh, wedja seneb, which means (may you have) life, prosperity and health. I thought life, prosperity and health would make good book themes. So I set out to examine the concepts, one per book, from an ancient and modern perspective. So in book one, it’s not the princess’s life Jagger has to save, but her afterlife. Book two looks at prosperity (wedja) and book three considers health (seneb). I think the very different meanings these ideas held for ancient people is pretty fascinating and I hope it comes across in the series … in a fun, adventurous way with mummies and killer scorpions.

What is something you wish you could ask any of your characters?
Jagger and his little sister, Aria, are extremely well travelled. She’s an adventurous spirit so she loves that about their life, although he resents it. I’d love to ask Aria your question below—where, and when, would she travel if she could go anywhere, anytime. By the end of book one I know the answer—she’d go back and visit her ancient Egyptian friends again. But I have no idea what she’d say prior to that, although Jagger would no doubt choose ancient Egypt—it’s his favorite subject—if he was forced to make a choice and his bedroom with deep dish pizza was out of the running.

If you could live in one area, in one timeperiod, for the day, where are you headed?
Oh I’d definitely head to the Amarna Period, which is when/where this book is set. It’s the most bizarre periods in ancient Egyptian history. The pharaoh, Akhenaten, tried to replace the traditional gods and goddesses with a single god, the sun disk, the Aten. He moved the court to the middle of nowhere, developed an artistic style that departs dramatically from the rather static canon of Egyptian art, and basically upended culture in all sorts of big and small ways. As an ancient historian, it can be hard to get a beat on who the rulers we study were as people—the documents they left behind tell us about their building programs, wars they won, etc. but not who they were. But occasionally, an ancient actor stands out. I’d love to go spy on Akhenaten’s court. I wouldn’t want to stay long, but maybe a one week vaca in ancient Amarna? Yeah, that would do the trick nicely.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?
Just a thanks, especially to all those readers who’ve bought or read the book, extra thanks to those who’ve left reviews. It’s a surreal feeling having people spend time with your book and I don’t take it for granted. I hope there are a few kids out there who see themselves in my characters, or figure out that ancient history is fascinating, or just enjoy the adventure. That would make my little writer heart very happy!


Thank you for your time Malayna!

Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh is out now.




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Guest Post: “The Unique Power of Science Fiction and Fantasy” by Danielle Stinson

Guest Post

Danielle StinsonMeet Danielle Stinson.

Stories were a central part of Danielle Stinson’s childhood. Growing up in a military family meant frequent moves across the US and abroad. She spent many summers in her room surrounded by unpacked boxes and stacks of library books. She currently lives with her husband and four boys in Virginia, where she writes fiction for young adults.

Before I Disappear is her debut novel.

Social Media:
instagram: (daniellemstinson)

The Guest Post.

When I sat down to write this blog post, I wasn’t expecting it to turn into an open love letter to the genres I read, write and adore, but I’m not mad that this is what ultimately happened. The truth is that I do love science fiction and fantasy, and I believe with all my heart that they are for everyone. And maybe not for the reasons that you might expect.

Let’s face it. Sometimes we read books simply because we need to escape. No genres provide a better exit hatch than science fiction and fantasy. Want to leave earth and travel to another galaxy? No problem. Feel like hanging out with fantastical beings or going on a quest through make believe words? Science fiction and fantasy have got you covered. We all need to escape sometimes, but very few have the option to just pack a bag and head off into sunset whenever we feel like it. That is what books are for.

But there is more to sci-fi and fantasy than pure escapism. Sometimes, we read them to strike at the heart of what is Real. What is True. Science fiction and fantasy are playgrounds for the heaviest, most enduring themes and questions about what it means to be human. They are the battlegrounds for good and evil. Blank canvases for the interplay of complex human relationships and systems of belief. While the rich world building, clever premises, and tight plots might bring us into story, they aren’t why we remember them years afterward. We remember them because of the characters and their struggles to navigate the shades of grey that we experience in our own lives. Hello, Katniss and Frodo.

Science fiction and fantasy excel at placing characters in extraordinary circumstances, forcing them to make impossible decisions that call everything into question. So doing, they thrust us into the most intricate of moral dilemmas, asking us to evaluate what things matter most. Who we want to be. In essence, works of science fiction and fantasy can serve as portals not just to other worlds, but as microscopes that reveal the inner workings of human nature.

Speaking of truths, one of my favorite things about science fiction in particular is that it is a genre dedicated purely to the possible. Most works of sci-fi deal not in what is, but what could be. They ask tough questions about technology and progress. About exploration and isolationism. Questions that seem to be striking a relevant note when you consider the high demand for dystopian fiction in popular markets over the last decade. I also love how many works of science fiction, no matter how futuristic or seemingly far-fetched, are rooted in some degree of reality.

The list of merits of science fiction and fantasy is nearly endless, but the last one I’ll mention here is arguably the most important to my mind. Freedom. By allowing our imaginations free rein, by taking us away from our world and all its rules and ways of thinking, science fiction and fantasy give us a chance to start over. To see the world through new eyes and break out of our established paradigms and prejudices. One of my very favorite things about these stories is that they often teach us about ourselves and our world on almost subconscious levels. They help us think outside of our own boxes and adjust our viewpoints without feeling our own identities are threatened. I guess you could say some of the deepest, most meaningful truths ever told are told through these types of fiction.

These are some of the reasons I read science fiction and fantasy and believe strongly that they are for everyone. But if I’m being honest, none of these reasons are why I write them.

I write science fiction because I love it. Because one of my favorite things to do is imagine our own contemporary word, but with a mind-bending twist. Because I feel the pull of the mysterious unknown and love nothing more flipping pages as fast as my eyes can devour them. When I sat down to write BEFORE I DISAPPEAR, my debut novel, my only goal was to write a something that would make the reader feel their heart pound. So I wrote about a small town that disappears into thin air and a girl who has to find her little brother before he disappears forever. It’s got atmosphere, mystery and twists galore, but at its heart, it’s a book about people and the type of bonds that can never be broken.

A story that I believe isn’t just for people who like science, but for anyone.



Stinson’s debut Before I Disappear is out today!

Visit her website for more information.


Blog Tour: The Beholder

Blog Tour

book coverThe Beholder (The Beholder #1) by Anna Bright
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: June 4th 2019

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retellings


Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match, a partner who will help secure the future of her people. Now that day has finally come.

But after an excruciatingly public rejection from her closest childhood friend, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic, where a series of potential suitors awaits—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.

From English castle gardens to the fjords of Norge, and under the eye of the dreaded Imperiya Yotne, Selah’s quest will be the journey of a lifetime. But her stepmother’s schemes aren’t the only secrets hiding belowdecks…and the stakes of her voyage may be higher than any happy ending.








Google Books:




I believe in woods, mountains, highways, cobblestones, roller coasters, dancing, concerts, cherry Pop Tarts, books, and magic.

When I’m not reading or writing on my couch, I’m dragging my husband off on an adventure, communing with Salem (my kitten/spiritual familiar), or causing trouble at One More Page Books, where I work.













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Author Interview: Jamie Beth Cohen

Author Interview, Misc.

Meet Jamie Beth Cohen.

jbs headshot 2018.jpg

Photo by Michelle Johnsen


Hi Jamie! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi! Thanks for having me. I love what you’re doing on your blog. I’m Jamie Beth Cohen and my debut novel, Wasted Pretty, is about a girl who faces wanted and unwanted attention after inadvertently going from blending in to standing out. Set in Pittsburgh in 1992, it’s about what it meant to come of age before the #metoo movement. Horrible things were happening, but we didn’t necessarily have the language and support to talk about them. Wonderful things were happening, too, and strangely, sometimes those things were hard to talk about as well.
My writing has appeared in, The Washington Post/On Parenting, and many other outlets. I also work in higher education, have a background in arts administration, and my favorite job was scooping ice cream when I was sixteen. I am proudly from Pittsburgh, PA, but I now live with my family in Central Pennsylvania where I co-founded the writing group, Write Now Lancaster. I write about difficult things, but my friends think I’m funny.

The Interview.

Let’s start off with something simple. What was the first book character that made you cry?

That’s not simple! I can’t say which character did it, but Tuck Everlasting and Bridge to Terabithia are books that seared in my brain as transformative and really, really sad.
How has the writing community strengthened or weakened you as a writer?

I LOVE my writing communities! And I’m lucky to have a few. There’s my virtual community that’s made up mostly of women and non-binary writers who I’ve met through closed groups on Facebook. I’ve learned SO MUCH from them. There are also the people I’ve met through Twitter pitch parties, contests, and hashtag games like #pitchwars, #pitmad, and #1linewed. But in addition to that, I have my IRL squad – writers in my town and friends all over the world who write. I’ve been writing since I was in second grade, so lots of people I’ve gravitated to over the years have been writers and artists. I’m lucky to still be in touch with lots of them. My husband is also a great writer and often my first reader.

But that doesn’t really tell you what those communities do for me, so to answer your question, my writing communities nurtured me and supported me as I went through the writing and publishing process. They offered advice, constructive criticism, and, sometimes, hard truths. I give back now by doing consults for people who want to break into personal essay writing, as that’s a space in which I’ve already had some success.

Also, I have to give a shout out to my non-writing friends who have always been very patient and supportive of me.
Real vs. fiction – how do you, if you do, incorporate your non-fiction experience into your fiction?

This is a great question. I write both fiction and non-fiction, so if I really want to write about something that has actually happened, and if doing so won’t hurt anyone else, I often write an essay about it. But, my debut is about a sixteen year old in Pittsburgh in 1992, and I was a sixteen year old in Pittsburgh in 1992, so a lot of people have been asking if it’s autobiographical. It’s not. Not in a traditional way. I tried to write authentically about the feelings I had then without constraining myself to the events as they happened. Nothing in the book happened in real life the way it happened in the book, except for the scene where the main character accidentally locks herself in a bathroom in the apartment of a guy she has a crush on. I did that once. I’m very talented!
Were there any books that really spoke to you this year?

I’m a very slow reader, so I have a hard time keeping up with what’s out there. I am obsessed with Tana French, though I haven’t read her latest, and I will not shut up about The Hate U Give and Carnival at Bray and Celeste Ng. As for recent books I’ve read (aside from reading pre-pub manuscripts from other writers, which is a total perk of the writing community!), I have to mention Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson; Finding Yvonne by Brandy Colbert; and You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, by Rachel Lynn Solomon.
What was the hardest thing you had to learn as a writer? What are you still learning?

Honestly, I love every part of the writing process; the publishing process is a different story… I don’t like the gatekeeping; I don’t like pitching (short essays to magazines/newspapers) or querying (full-length pieces to agents or editors); I don’t like the stratification in the publishing industry and how white and elitist it still is (though shout-out to #ownvoices, #divpit and We Need Diverse Books for making headway in that space!).

As far as learning goes…I still have a ton to learn about everything (not just writing!), but nothing I’ve ever learned about writing has felt hard. Eye opening, maybe, frustrating (at times), but I’m always grateful to be pushed to do better.
For Wasted Pretty, what is one thing you want readers to really take away from the story?

I worked for a choreographer once who wouldn’t write program notes for his dances because he wanted each viewer to take away what they wanted to take away from his work. I think there’s wisdom there. If I told you what I wanted you to take away, you might miss something else that spoke to you. What I will say is, this is the book I needed to read when I was sixteen. That’s why I wrote it.
What, to you, makes the best coming of age story?

I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a coming of age story I didn’t like! Personally, I think everything about sixteen was wonderful and amazing, except all the things that were horrible. So I guess, to me, what makes any story a good story is not sugar coating — or exploiting — the bad stuff. I think it’s important to acknowledge that bad things happen, because ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. Ignoring them only thwarts the ability to learn from them.

I also look for an authenticity of emotion and action. Would a real teenager really say or react in the way the characters do?
How did your MC, Alice, inspire/challenge you while writing Wasted Pretty?

Early on I got some feedback that Alice didn’t have enough agency in the book, which I think is one of those things that came directly from my life but didn’t work well on the page. As a teen I was very decisive about small, day-to-day things, but in an overarching way, I was like a pinball that got pushed from one thing to the next pretty easily. As I revised, I think I was able to give Alice more agency, but there’s still an element of her trying to please other people that I hope is working better now.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?

I have a mailing list where I share fun stuff like playlists and personal essays. Also, I do live storytelling and occasionally share those videos with my subscribers. Here’s a fun one I can share with your readers. People who want to keep up with me can sign up here:

And lastly, there is depiction of sexual violence in Wasted Pretty. It’s not graphic, but it happens, and it’s crucial to the plot. I always like to mention the work RAINN does for anyone who may find themselves in a situation where they need support.


Wasted Pretty will be available April 18!

Author Interview with Anna Bright

Author Interview, Misc.

Anna Bright photo.jpg

Meet Anna Bright.

Anna Bright is an indie bookseller by day and an author by night who still gets in trouble for reading when she’s supposed to be doing other things. When not hiding out among books, she loves concerts, roller coasters, and adventures at home and abroad. Anna lives with her husband and cat in a charming cobblestoned neighborhood in Washington, DC, but you can find her online at and on Twitter and Instagram at @brightlyanna.


The Interview.

Hi Anna! Thanks for joining us today!


If you had a choice, what character from any book series would you go on an adventure with for the day? Would you cat, Salem, agree with this choice?

I think, of all my characters, I’d want to adventure with Homer. He’s grumpy and old and he’s SEEN THINGS, and he’s got some great stories. Also, he’d probably teach me how to navigate and also maybe to fight. Salem would dislike Homer because Homer has such literal, physical thick skin that he wouldn’t respond to Salem biting.


Who would you want to be in your debut novel, The Beholder?

I think I’d want to be Skop. He’s got a home he loves a lot, but he’s also got this itch to see things, and he’s lucky enough to be able to chase that. And I identify with that restlessness, a little bit. 😊


As a bookstore employee, did that enhance your desire to write or hinder it at any time?

Working at the bookstore changed the game for me. I was an avid reader and a committed writer when I came to work here, but after I started at One More Page, I was absolutely swimming in great content and reading outside my comfort zone. It was also really helpful to be in an environment where I was interacting with people; I’m a natural introvert, but if I’m not careful, all the voices of my characters start to sound like mine, so it’s essential I get out. There’s also something magical about working with books that actually makes my heart glow. So, definitely enhanced. Also, my coworkers are the best and most supportive.


What is your dream adventure?

I’ve already taken my dream adventure! It involves day hiking in Wales and eating in pubs at night. I guess the “dream” part is doing it every year? Or maybe getting abducted by fairies while I’m there and not returning to the real world? If that happens, nobody come after me, know that I’m happy where I am.


If you could be any magical character (villain or hero!), who would you be?

Yvaine, from the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. It’s my go-to down-in-the-dumps movie and Yvaine is a glorious, funny, sharp-witted character. Also she’s literally a star.


How has life changed since you’ve been accepted by a publisher? What was it like to receive that news?

I lost my mind. I happy/ugly cried for hours and jumped up and down like a pogo stick. It was incredibly exciting to sell a book. And my life has changed! All for the better. It’s amazing to have a publisher like HarperCollins behind me, to be challenged by such an excellent editor and to have the support of such a dedicated team. It’s also mind-blowing to see the cover art that the story inspired—I feel so thankful.


Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?

I’m so appreciative of the enthusiasm readers have shared!! It’s odd that my stories aren’t just for me anymore, and it’s scary—a little like letting people read your diary. But it’s even more exciting to know that I’ll get to share all these things that have been boiling in my brain. So, I guess I’d just like to say—thank you.


Thank you Anna! It was a pleasure having you today on Bookish Looks.

THE BEHOLDER debuts June 4, 2019 – have you gotten your copy yet?


The Beholder Cover.jpg

Blog Tour & Review: Wicked Saints

Blog Tour, Book Reviews
*** Disclaimers: I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. In regards to the book: trigger warnings of parental abuse and self-harm.***


“When the dust hit, it burst into flames.” – Emily A. Duncan, Wicked Saints

Wicked Saints_Cover FINAL

Wicked Saints

By: Rae


As an aside: while there were many quotes in this book, I have them all bookmarked to adore later, I decided on this quote to open my review because – I’m still reeling.

Slavic folklore? Yes.

Untrustworthy / conflicted characters? Yes.

Darkness and magic? Yes.
Now onto a brief summary of the book.

As book one in the Something Dark and Holy trilogy, readers are introduced to three characters: Nadya, the Kalyazi cleric who can communicate with all the gods and is looked as the savior of her people. Serefin is he High prince of Tranavia who is a powerful blood mage sent to the battles fields by his power-hungry father. And the enigma, Malachiasz, who is a defector from a faction in Transavia that I cannot say without giving away a spoiler. These three cross paths to come together to “assassinate a king and stop a war.” A war that I might add has been going on for centuries and nearly decimated both sides. The people are starving, beaten, and hope is fading.

Wicked Saints was my most anticipated books of 2019 and let me tell you, it was intense. While some aspects of the book – a transition hiccup here or there or a stilted character development  – I adore this story. What did it for me? The characters. The blood magic. The emotion…

Every character was stuck in this moral gray area seemed to suffer from this internal angst. Do I do this or this? Why am I fighting? What am I fighting for? Originally I had worried some characters would be reduced to their part, such as “the foil” or “the love interest.” But while some had some specific roles to play, each was guided by their own moral compasses, from side characters such as Rashid, Parijahan, and Ostyia to the big three and each and every character had their own story, personality, hopes, fears. I continue to think of them and wonder at what they will become as the story continues. Even the gods had personalities (though some were one dimensional).

Perhaps the only one I had trouble connecting with at times was Nadya. She felt a little stifled at times, maybe even displaced in her own POV, and yet the more I reflect on her, the more I can accept. She was raised to believe she had one purpose, one role, and followed strict guidelines that shaped her believes and emotions until all of that was turned upside down and she was forced to make her own decisions while the familiar comforts of friends and a home were stripped away. It will take her a bit but I have hope.

Overall, I could continue with a fangirling session on Serefin and Malachiasz – taking apart what I liked and didn’t like and how much I wanted to give them a hug. I could then swoon further on the mixture of magic and religion into something dark and twisted yet consuming… using blood for spell casting…

But I’ll let you decide because in this book – right and wrong, lies and truths, create a world where anything could happen.

I give Wicked Saints 5/5 stars.


Click here to check out the excerpt and information post for Wicked Saints!