Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

DA Intro Interview & Giveaway: RITA Best First Book Nominees, Part...

This week Romance Writers of America hands out the RITAs, its highest awards in eleven romance sub-genres, plus a special category for debut authors.  As an occasional contributor to Dear Author, I’m delighted to host again the nominees for Best First Book as part of the Intro Interview series.

And we’re giving away books!  For part one today, you can put your hand up for Marcella Burnard’s sci-fi Enemy Within or for a bundle of the three YA novels honored in this category:  The Iron King by Julie Kagawa, The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells, and I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan.  All four of these novels also happen to be nominated in a second category.

Let us know in the comments which you’d like to win, or if you have a favorite you’re rooting for. Tomorrow will feature the historical and action/suspense novels.

Opening Line:


Sun glinting off the barrel of a gun stopped Captain Ari Idylle dead in her tracks.

Enemy Within

JULIE KAGAWA, The Iron King:

Ten years ago, on my sixth birthday, my father disappeared.
Iron King



AMANDA HOWELLS, The Summer of Skinny Dipping:

There are summers you’ll always remember and summers you’ve forgotten even before they’re through.
Skinny Dipping


ERIN MCCAHAN, I Now Pronounce You Someone Else:

I was switched at birth.
Someone Else


Main Character’s Six-Word Memoir:

Marcella Burnard: So many degrees of betrayal.

Julie Kagawa: Dangerous faeries and star-crossed love.

Amanda Howells: Sixteen: discovers true love and herself.

(Note:  Attempts to contact Erin were unsuccessful, but her book will be included in the YA bundle.)


What my heroine does for a living:

Marcella Burnard: She had been career military, captaining an Armada Prowler, but her commanders have just taken all that away.

Julie Kagawa: High school student.


What makes my hero heroic:

Marcella Burnard: He has the power and the motivation to destroy the heroine. It would be expedient. He chooses the hard way – hoping he can help her redeem herself.

Julie Kagawa: Brave, loyal, impossibly stubborn, will uphold his word no matter what.

Amanda Howells: He’s honest and seizes the day.


A favorite line/scene/moment from the story:

Marcella Burnard: I’m fond of the Art of the Blade rules running through the story and how they use them against one another.

Julie Kagawa: Oh, we’re playing nice, now?”  Puck remained seated, looking anything but compliant.  “Shall we have tea, first?  Brew up a nice pot of kiss-my-ass?”

Amanda Howells: There’s a quiet moment in the book that I like a lot: it’s when Mia begins to mature and to realize that her perspective on things–on love, on her family, even on herself–isn’t necessarily accurate. It’s a moment of maturity, when she begins to understand that there are different ways of seeing the world around you. She reflects on this when she’s out on the beach looking at the night sky:

“I stared up at the stars and thought about light, how bright and powerful it had to be to travel so far, all the way across the galaxies to our eyes…Or maybe it was our eyes that were powerful. I’d never thought of it that way before.”


I wanted to tell this story because…

Marcella Burnard: These two people walked into my head and said, “Keyboard. Now.”

Amanda Howells: As a young girl I loved sad love stories and I loved summer novels and I especially combinations of the two. So I wanted to try my hand at it. I also wanted to write a summer story that stuck with the reader after summer was over.


An unexpected research detour I made while writing the book:

Marcella Burnard: Learning about the different types of viruses and how they infect the human body. It’s completely logical, but until I did the research, it hadn’t occurred to me that diseases naturally select for lower morbidity. This was important stuff for a story involving biological warfare agents.

Amanda Howells: While doing general setting research for the book, I came across the juicy essay collection Philistines at the Hedgerow: Passion and Property in the Hamptons by Steven Gaines. In this book I learned of Dragon’s Head, a disastrous, gaudy, scandalously over-the-top dream of a house that a tacky, shady millionaire tried to build in Southampton and which ignited a furious battle of insider vs. outsider. The story of this mansion gave me the perfect house to act as a backdrop for Mia and Simon’s summer love story. It enriched my story considerably.


I’ll never forget the reader/fan/reviewer who…

Marcella Burnard: wrote to say she’d served in Iraq and knew PTSD up close and that I’d gotten her experience of it right. She liked that my heroine didn’t want someone else to fix it for her.

Julie Kagawa: Told me reading my series helped her get through her husband’s death.

Amanda Howells: The YA bloggers Sara and Stephanie, of Novel Novice ( really blew me away with the series they did on me and my novel. Of course it was flattering to have so much attention, but it’s especially satisfying when bloggers are not only passionate about the books they like, but also literate and articulate, as these girls are. Sara and Stephanie went all the way with my book, digging deep into it and asking me really thoughtful questions. They are awesome bloggers, and true friends to the YA writers they like.


What’s great about my sub-genre:

Marcella Burnard: In science fiction romance, if I can find a remotely scientific basis for something, I can give a character attributes no one on this earth has. Geeky? Sure. But it’s fun.

Amanda Howells: Summer romance novels are, like summer itself, a true escape from routine, and perennially satisfying to return to. Summer love + an evocative beach house +  golden sand + the ocean= a sub-genre that will never die.


When I got the call about the RITA nomination, I…

Marcella Burnard: thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest.

Julie Kagawa: Think I squealed in my editor’s ear. (Sorry, Tashya.)

Amanda Howells: was completely surprised.


If I win, I…

Marcella Burnard: May spontaneously combust – not entirely sure, but babbling like an idiot may be involved.

Julie Kagawa: Want to thank everyone who helped me get here.

Amanda Howells: will be completely surprised.


Number of books I wrote before selling:

Marcella Burnard: Four. Enemy Within was book five. The first four – let’s just say the learning curve is painfully visible.

Amanda Howells: One.


How I found my agent:

Marcella Burnard: I looked through the RWA list of agents, picked out the few who accepted science fiction, investigated each, and then queried my top picks. Luckily, the story resonated with the fabulous Emmanuelle Morgen.

Julie Kagawa: I met my agent at a writer’s conference in Louisville, KY.  My very first words to her were: “Uh…hello?” as I didn’t know she was an agent at the time.  Thankfully she overlooked my awkwardness. ;)

Amanda Howells: Fellow writer friend.


Biggest surprise as a published author:

Marcella Burnard: Other people thought the story was fun, too!

Amanda Howells: How hard it is to make any money–note to aspiring writers: there’s no such thing as easy money. So take that off the table and write from the heart.


Oddest or most reliable writing habit:

Marcella Burnard: Listening to video game sound tracks based on what I’m writing.

Julie Kagawa: Turning off the internet when I really need to get serious.

Amanda Howells: Writing on tiny scraps of paper, wherever I go, then piling them on my desk in a tower, under a paper weight. When the tower gets too high, I spend a few days inputting the notes on my computer. One’s best ideas and lines rarely occur at the desk–mine don’t anyway. These note-towers on my computer are gold to me.


Where I find inspiration:

Marcella Burnard: Pff. How much time do you have? :D

Julie Kagawa: Anime, manga, and video games.

Amanda Howells: in books, in my life, in my dreams (I dreamed the title of my novel before I wrote a single word), at breakfast, on the bus, in the car, overhearing others…in short, everywhere!


A book or author I recommend again and again:

Marcella Burnard: Robin McKinley, Linnea Sinclair and Nalini Singh. Not necessarily in that order.

Julie Kagawa: Neil Gaiman.

Amanda Howells: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. The Great Gatsby–of course.


A hobby/interest/passion of mine beyond the book world:

Marcella Burnard: Sailing, science, World of Warcraft

Julie Kagawa: Kung Fu, sushi, and video games.

Amanda Howells: Walking: on beaches, in mountains, on city streets. Walking and writing go together.


What I’m working on now:

Marcella Burnard: Book three in the series – tentatively titled Enemy Storm

Julie Kagawa: A post apocalyptic vampire novel.

Amanda Howells: I don’t want to speak too soon.


Come back tomorrow for interviews with the rest of the authors.  The RITAs will be announced July 1 in New York City.  Congratulations and much gratitude to the authors.

Links:  Marcella Burnard Julie Kagawa Amanda Howells Erin McCahan


Alison Atlee (also known as "Alyson" here at Dear Author) is fascinated by creative people and how they work, which is why she enjoys contributing author interviews to Dear Author. She likes her romance novels light on the internal monologues, twisty with the conventions, and brimming with voice. Her favorite book at age ten? "An Old-Fashioned Girl" by Louisa May Alcott.


  1. Merrian
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 04:23:25

    MARCELLA BURNARD, Enemy Within wiuld be a great book to read

  2. Jan
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 05:28:59

    Of these four I’m rooting for Enemy Within, since sci-fi/futuristic romance deserves more love!

    Since it’s also the group read next read of the SFR group I’m a member of, I’m putting my name in the hat for this book.

  3. Bonnie Dee
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 05:49:05

    I Now Pronounce You Someone Else sounds intriguing to me. I love books in which identity is played with.

  4. Janice
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 06:02:38

    I’m not a big sci-fi reader but Enemy Within looks terrific! Thanks for a great article.

  5. ritu
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 06:57:41

    I will also go for Marcella Burnard’s Enemy Within. Thanks for the giveaway!

  6. Melissa (Books and Things)
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 07:09:02

    Oh put me in for the Enemy Within!

  7. Peggy
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 07:30:01

    I’m a big fan of romance and sf Enemy within sounds like a great blend

  8. vita
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 07:59:16

    Put my name in the hat for Marcella Burnard’s Enemy Within, please!

  9. Susan
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 08:16:19

    I would like to win Marcella Burnard’s, Enemy Within.

  10. Susan Laura
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 08:21:29

    Put me down for the YA bundle, please! Thanks!

  11. Lorenda
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 08:23:39

    The Iron King looks interesting to me.

  12. DarcyO
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 08:23:42

    I’d go with the bundle of the three YA novels. Thanks for the chance.

  13. Tabs
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 08:34:44

    Put my name in for the YA bundle, please. I’ve heard good things about all three of those.

  14. Kristi
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 08:36:41

    I am always looking for good sci fi. I would love to read Enemy Within.

  15. Lori
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 08:56:31

    Sign me up for Marcella Burnard’s Enemy Within. Thanks for the giveaway!

  16. Chris W
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 09:15:22

    Enemy Within looks interesting – loved the interview!

  17. MarieC
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 09:18:53

    Enemy within sounds interesting!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  18. rissatoo
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 09:24:03

    YA bundle, purty please!


  19. Bonnie Ferguson
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 09:29:36

    Count me in for the Young Adult bundle! And congrats to the nominees :)

  20. Ammarylis
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 09:40:56

    Thank you very much for the giveaway!

    I don’t have a preference on the books. I’d like to read any of them.

  21. kara-karina
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 09:43:55

    I’ve read Enemy Within and it was fantastic! Still would like to win it to give to a friend :)

  22. Chelsea S
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 09:43:57

    I’m interested in Enemy Within. :)

  23. lisabookworm
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 09:56:37

    I love sci-fi romance, so I have to go with Marcella Burnard’s Enemy Within.

  24. Na
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 10:07:56

    I would love to win ENEMY WITHIN by Marcella Burnard.

  25. Robin K
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 10:11:26

    I would absolutely love to win The Iron King!

  26. srs
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 10:17:43

    Usually, I love YA and don’t really go for hard sci-fi. Usually, I’d always pick the chance to win 3 books over the chance to win 1. But I’m not feeling like my usual self today, so I’ll put my hand up for Marcella Burnard’s Enemy Within.

    And a special congrats to all the nominees. Good luck!

  27. Amy
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 10:25:55

    YA bundle is more interesting to me.

  28. Kristi
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 10:50:53

    The Erin McCahan YA looks pretty good!

  29. PB
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 11:25:53

    I’d love the Julie Kagawa or the Erin McCahan book.

  30. Hydecat
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 11:38:53

    I’m rooting for the Iron King. Not only does it sound awesome, but I love the cover and the title – the appearance matches the concept, and that doesn’t always happen.

  31. Hydecat
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 11:39:46

    Oh, and I’d like to enter for the YA bundle. :)

  32. Kate A
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 11:40:07

    I love YA bools in general so i’d love to be entered for the bundle. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Julie Kagawa’s books and i can’t wait to read it (it’s on my to buy list even if i don’t win) :). Good luck to all the authors! Thanks for the giveaway

  33. TracyS.
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 11:44:08

    I’d like a shot at the YA bundle!

  34. TaraR
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 12:14:57

    The Enemy Within looks great… !

  35. LSUReader
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 12:33:10

    Please enter me for Enemy Within. Thanks so much.

  36. Nadia Lee
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 12:33:56

    I’ve not read any of the titles mentioned here. I’d love to win the YA bundle.

  37. Lydia Storm
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 12:44:25

    The YA’s all sound wonderful!

  38. Lindsey
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 12:44:34

    Oh goodness, I’d love to read the Iron King (which means put my down for the bundle, I guess). I’ve had my eye on it for awhile, but I have yet to find it in any of my local used bookstores, and I’ve been holding off on buying the digital copy, though if I don’t win, I will probably finally cave and buy it.

  39. j3nny
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 12:59:37

    I’m rooting for the iron king :) loveeeee the series!!

  40. Twila Price
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 13:49:24

    The YA bundle, if only because I’ve been eyeing the Julie Kagawa for months.

  41. LoriK
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 14:21:57

    Oh, thanks for doing a giveaway. Put m name in for Enemy Within.

  42. LibrarianLizy
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 14:41:00

    I would love to win the YA bundle! I’ve been wanting to read I Now Pronounce You Someone Else for a while.

  43. Teri C
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 15:23:54

    ohh that was a great set up!
    I would love the Iron King! This series has been on my radar. Count me in for the YA.

  44. Kaya H
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 15:24:52

    These all look great. I have five teen girls all summer so count me in for the YA Bundle. I will beat them to the reads first and then pass them along. Cannot wait to see who is voted in the next round.

  45. Asura Cerecedes
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 15:26:01

    Count me for the YA bundle. I loved the last book, but truth be told I never read either of the first two books in the series ;) Would love some more YA reads to share with my book group.

  46. Diane
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 16:06:06

    I would love a chance to try: Marcella Burnard’s sci-fi Enemy Within. it sounds interesting

  47. wendy
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 16:37:31

    I’d love Enemy Within, but I don’t read YA and so I will nominate the bundle to see whethere I like them.

  48. SarahM
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 16:43:30

    Would love to see “Enemy Within” win the RITA award – and would love to win it :-)

    smaccall AT

  49. MaryK
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 16:57:31

    I’ve been wanting to read Enemy Within. I love a good SFR.

  50. JenM
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 17:16:43

    I would love to win Enemy Within. It sounds great. I’ve already read (and loved) The Iron King. Best wishes to all of the nominees.

  51. Barbara Elness
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 17:44:58

    I’d love to win Marcella Burnard’s Enemy Within and I hope she wins a RITA.

  52. Cathy
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 18:11:19

    Good luck to all the nominees. I would love to read The Summer of Skinny Dipping – great title.

  53. infinitieh
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 18:42:56

    Such wonderful books! YA bundle for me, please!

  54. Sotheara
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 19:42:47

    I’ve been wanting to reat MARCELLA BURNARD’s Enemy Within. Would love to win this one.

  55. Shannon H
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 20:27:17

    I’ve been wanting to read The Iron King for a long time

  56. Lynnette Flagler
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 22:29:43

    I love scifi, so I would love to read Enemy Within by Marcella Burnard. Thanks for the opportunity to win it.

  57. Ann G
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 23:05:23

    Any of them actually, but perhaps the bundle.

  58. Stephanie K.
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 23:20:00

    I’d love to read The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells.

  59. Cherry Mischievous
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 23:26:40

    I would love to win Julie Kagawa’s The Iron King! :) Thank you for the chance to win!!

    Cherry Mischievous
    cherrymischif-soldier [at] yahoo [dot] com

  60. Tanya
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 23:56:37

    I have The Iron King on my wish list so I would love to get it for free. :)

  61. caroline A./ pattepoilue
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 00:18:59

    I’d like to put my name in for the YA Bundle. =)

    Congrats to the authors!!

  62. brendaC
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 01:12:35

    I’m interested in the YA bundle! :)

  63. ruth
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 01:31:03

    I think i would like the YA books! :0)

  64. Maureen
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 05:12:22

    Please enter me for the YA books.

  65. Victoria Zumbrum
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 06:31:16

  66. Lobo
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 09:28:21

    I’d like to get The Iron King by Julie Kagawa . Thanks

  67. CrystalGB
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 10:00:55

    Please count me in for the YA bundle.

  68. Jane Halsall
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 11:31:35

    Thank the stars someone is writing science fiction again! I am in need of new SciFi romance for the summer. I couldn’t give Sci Fi books to my ya kids at the library (save Star Wars which is really myth now anyway,) until this summer and since Cory Doctorow, it is getting popular again.

    I’d love to read any of these authors .

  69. Ren Puspita
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 11:55:25

    Since I have The Iron King, I would love to win Enemy Within by Marcella Burnard

  70. Christine
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 13:04:09

    The Iron King! I have the ebook but would love the physical copy. =)

  71. Diana
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 13:44:20

    Thanks for the giveaway!!! Great interview.
    I would love The Iron King

  72. VickyTinky
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 16:22:25

    I would love to win Enemy Within by Marcella Burnard!

  73. Angela
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 10:20:05

    I’ve been looking at reading Enemy Within for a while now, and would love to win a copy!

  74. Diana M.
    Jul 03, 2011 @ 00:41:14

    I’m dying to get my hands on a hard-copy of THE IRON KING. I read it via ebook not too long ago. Thanks so much for hosting this giveaway :)


  75. WyNtEr ApPlE
    Jul 03, 2011 @ 00:51:13

    MARCELLA BURNARD, Enemy Within:

  76. Julie
    Jul 03, 2011 @ 01:46:30

    Enemy Within, please! It sounds like there’s an amazing journey inside. :D

  77. Missy Bee?
    Jul 18, 2011 @ 18:26:53

    “I Now Pronounce You Someone Else” is my favorite! Would love to win it :D

%d bloggers like this: