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Quick Five© with Crystal Chan

 Courtesy of Crystal Chan
Courtesy of Crystal Chan

Name: Crystal Chan

Who is Crystal? Half Chinese, Half White author making sure people know the hardship of growing up diverse.

Website: http://crystalchanwrites.com/

Book: Bird, All that I Can Fix

Buy: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Diversity is an important part of literature. Although in the past, it hasn’t been pushed as much as it is today, it doesn’t make it any less important. If nothing else, history has proven that diversity, true and honest diversity, can change how people see and interact with the world around them.

Meet Crystal Chan, an author who makes it her life mission to not only write but to also speak for the less heard and remind people, children and adults, through diversity talks, how important it is to not be a jerk.

P.S. You can read the first chapter of Bird  here


Simon Pulse
Published June 12th 2018
320 Pages

How hard was it for you growing up as a mixed-race child in Wisconsin? Has those experiences in your childhood influenced your writing in any form?

It was hard, yes, growing up as the only mixed-race person I knew (besides my brother), probably the only mixed family in town. Everyone around us was white, all the TV actors were white, everyone in magazines and catalogs (!) were white, so I thought I was white, too. Except when we’d eat chicken feet at dim sum, or beef tripe, or friends would come over and see Chinese newspapers strewn around the house. Or when kids would call me “Chink”. Or Dad would speak Chinese on the phone to his family overseas. Or he’d talk about the importance of our last name, our family name. So it’s weird, I guess: we really stuck out but tried really, really hard to blend in.

And that worked better some times than others. My characters, unsurprisingly, want to be normal but can’t be. Because they aren’t: in Bird, Jewel is mixed race and her friend, John, is a transracial adoptee – in the middle of Iowa. I draw from my own experience a lot for this. And yet, especially as Bird has sold in eight countries around the world, I’m finding that there’s a universal story that Bird taps into, one that transcends race and culture, even, one that taps into the workings of the human heart. In that way, the publication of Bird has been really healing for me: I didn’t expect Bird to sell, much less connect with people in other countries. It’s really taught me that there is a universal, human experience, and that we’re all wrapped up in it somehow.

In your bio, you state you are a professional storyteller. What exactly makes a person a professional storyteller? Is it the fact that you share stories with those who are not family or because you share stories publicly?

In my twenties, I had a number of paid storytelling gigs performing at concerts and schools, and I loved it. I’m finding that life is coming back full circle, as I’m going into schools now talking about Bird, yes, but really, I’m just telling stories again.

 Atheneum Books for Young Readers Published Jan. 28, 2014 167 Pages
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Published Jan. 28, 2014
167 Pages

What inspired your debut novel “Bird”? Why did you choose to write a middle-grade novel?

I had just finished reading Keeper, by Kathi Appelt, and was sick at home from work. I had also finished my first manuscript and was fretting that I might not have another idea for another novel. Ever. I was thinking about this for hours, and finally I got so sick of myself that I said, Crystal, either you get up out of bed and write your next book, or you go to sleep because you’re sick. But you’re not going to lie in bed thinking about not writing your next book.

And then I started thinking more about Keeper, and how I loved that story; it’s about a girl who thought her mother turned into a mermaid and goes out to sea in search of her. And I thought, a girl who thinks her mother was a mermaid – that’s such a great idea – But what if… instead… there was a girl whose brother thought he was a bird, but then he jumped off a cliff because he thought he could fly … Then the voice of the protagonist, Jewel’s voice, started speaking and I got out of bed and wrote the first chapter.

What are you currently reading?

I have a book on hold for me at the library right now, and I’m dying to go pick it up: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. Rick Riordan was talking quite a bit about it, so I jumped on along.

Finally, how would you rate the success of your first novel?

Ooooh, that’s a tricky one, bringing up the “S” word! [laughing] Success is so slippery because it means such different things for different people, and if you base success on the market, it can turn on a dime. For me, I define success as the ability to tell the story I want to tell, and clearly, so people can follow along and be swept up by the story – but even more than that, as the author, did I stay true to my characters? Are they acting and reacting and loving and fearing with total authenticity? And I have to say, yes. Jewel and John and Grandpa and the gang are all their messy selves, come what may. And to that end, yes, I successfully told my story.



Quick Five© with Nicola L. McDonald

Name: Nicola L. McDonald

Who is Nicola? A NYC librarian that knows what it takes to write a YA novel

Website: http://www.nicolalmcdonald.com

Book: Transformed

Twitter: @nicolalmcdonald

Buy: Amazon, Barnes & Nobles

It is rare that I have a chance to interview someone that constantly works with books and never loses their passion for it. Meet author Nicola L. McDonald, a librarian working in the Big Apple, who lives and breathes books everyday. In this interview we find out she feels so strongly about YA and having people of color represented.


You state on your website that you work as a YA librarian in NYC. What made you decide to write your own YA book? Was there something missing in the YA genre you feel your book can fill?

My library system serves urban communities, needless to say that a large majority of teens who use our libraries are from very diverse backgrounds. The YA genre has lacked diversity in representation for quite some time, although this seems to be changing very slowly. I wrote Transformed because I believe that all readers should be able to see themselves in the books that they read and that the availability of materials shouldn’t be one-sided, as it mostly tends to be. Many YA books with characters of color tend to depict them in utterly stressful or depressing situations, which is not necessarily the ideal circumstance that people of color in general relate to when seeing themselves.

Why did you choose to write about paranormal/romance?

       CreativTrendsPublishing       Published Dec. 3, 2012            Ebook
Published Dec. 3, 2012

Again, there’s a big void in diverse representation of characters of color. This is hard to ignore as a librarian serving diverse youth and offering book recommendations to patrons – and even harder to ignore as a writer. Paranormal, fantasy, and science fiction are popular genres among a large number of readers, but when you look at the covers of most YA books they show just one set of people. As the genres that mostly encourage readers to dream and use their imaginations to see themselves in other worlds and circumstances, I wonder about the message we are sending to readers who don’t ever see themselves represented within the pages they read. Are they to see themselves always as the underdog and never as the hero or heroine?


I think that many people of color have low expectations of themselves, and I believe that the views society portrays have a lot to do with it. The books that are published each year do send a certain message or portrayal of how things are and should be, whether people choose to see and accept it or not. As with everything, there are many underlying layers that affect the whole way of things, but change has to begin somewhere and I think it’s long overdue in the area of producing/publishing/making available a diverse set of YA books to all readers.

How has your experience been as a self published author? What difficulties have you faced?

I published my first book over ten years ago when self-publishing meant something totally different than what it means today. The process was a lot more challenging and required more resources, including monetary. That for me was a great experience and is what encouraged me to go the self-publishing route again. The greatest challenge I’ve faced is time – not having enough of it – or particularly not wanting to use my time to do everything that self-publishing requires. I can market, but I don’t necessarily want to be solely responsible for it as it takes away from my writing time. And working a full-time day job, where I’m professionally active in various organizations makes time even more of a challenge. But I do what I can when I can, and I’m glad that my book is out there and available to readers.

How important do you it is to have a strong African American lead character in the YA genre?

I believe that it’s imperative to have a diverse representation of lead characters in YA novels, and this includes black characters. It makes a difference to people when they can see themselves reflected in the things that surround them, and what they read is no different. This cause becomes even more significant with constant readership because there is a certain message being sent, whether clearly or in undertones. The lead character is obviously the center of attention and more often than not tends to rise above their circumstances. I believe that stories have special powers and something as simple as seeing themselves in a lead character can bring readers to stand taller and accept that they too can in fact be heroes and heroines of varying circumstances, and not just the tales often told of drugs and betrayal and neglect to reflect them.

Finally, there is not much information about you personally on the Internet beyond your career as a librarian. Why the disconnect?

I prefer to keep my life as private as possible, especially since I work in a public setting. But I can be reached via my website which also serves as my writing blog,www.nicolalmcdonald.com I haven’t updated the site in a while, but I look forward to being able to get back to it at some point.



Quick Five© with Wendy Owens


     Courtesy of Wendy Owens
Courtesy of Wendy Owens

Name: Wendy Owens

Who is Wendy?  A down to earth mother, artist, and writer with her priorities straight.

Books: The Guardians Series (1-5), Stubborn Love, Only in Dreams, Ruination Part One

Website: http://wendy-owens.com/

Buy:  Amazon and Barnes & Nobles

Not every interview is honest and not every person you interview is blunt. But every now and then you find a gem in writers and know that deep in your heart you found an amazing writer.  Motif Ink is proud to introduce Wendy Owens. Interviewed by Tania Lasenburg, Wendy explains that writing is her passion but she does have a life.


For years you were selling your artwork. How was creating and selling your art able to help you write and sell your books?

As an artist I learned a lot about finding my own voice. Once I became a writer there was a period of trying to find that again. I knew my art sold because of the uniqueness I put into it. Books work the same, readers are looking for those same qualities, a tale they have never heard before, or at least told in a new way.

Are there writers that influence you to keep writing? If so who are they and how do they influence you?

There are writers that keep me going. I’ll be honest, I love writing for the sake of writing, but it is a business, and if I can’t make a living doing it then I can’t afford to keep doing it. We all have good months and bad months when it comes to sales, but luckily the indie author community is one that pushes you and keeps you going when you are feeling down. Ladies like Samantha Young, Mercy Amare, and Ella James have all given me a push or a bit of advice to keep me going when I worry I might not have what it takes.

       Four Bean Soup Publishing              Published Sept 27, 2013               290  Pages Ebook
Four Bean Soup Publishing
Published Sept 27, 2013
290 Pages Ebook

Do you feel that there is more competition as a writer to get a notice as mainstream now since essentially everyone can be published through self publishing?

There is a ton of competition, but I think the quality authors will always rise to the top. I also think that we are a community that pulls together and helps support each other as authors. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of this community of indie authors so bring on the competition, it’s healthy.

How are you able to balance writing full time and taking care of a full household with pets?

How do I find balance? I don’t. I do my duties as mommy, then write, then do more mommy duties, and then panic when I am behind on my deadlines. Luckily every single time my knight in shining armor, my husband Josh, always comes riding in to save the day. He tries to give me weekends twice a month to have mass focus time. But I live in the real world, laundry often gets done when we run out of clothes, dishes pile up in the sink until we are having company, and there are days we all live in our pajamas. I quit trying to be perfect a long time ago and now I get by happy I get to do what I love and spend so much time with my three kids.

Finally,   why did you choose Young Adult as your genre? Did it prove the creative freedom you was looking for or are you using the Young Adult genre to build your fan base?

I am not one who ties themselves to a genre when I write. I have written young adult as well as new adult, and plan to write adult as well. Each thing I write has simply been a story that forms in my mind. I figure out where it fits on the bookshelf when it’s done.


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Book Review (Kindle Edition) Arianna Rose by Jennifer Martucci and Christopher Marticci

Oh the surprises you find on amazon.

      Kindle (EBook)       Published 2012            146 Pages
Kindle (EBook)
Published 2012
146 Pages

Arianna was born on the wrong side of the tracks. Her mother is a freeloading drunk who picks up men at every chance she gets. So Arianna is use to moving from town to town and cleaning a bit of her mom’s mess. Tomboy all the way even down to the bike she owns, Arianna moves to a new town, falls for the cute rebel with a story also exactly like hers  and then begins seeing a strange man in the middle of the street.

But of course that is never it. At a night out with her new friends she discovers she has abilities that are of course not human.  She is swept away by the strange man who knows more about Arianna than she knows herself. ANDDDDD this is when the book ends.

This book is part one to what I am assuming the first book. I really didn’t appreciate that because the book was picking up. Granted it is a great thing for the author now everyone would have to buy the second part. But I am weary of that because if it stops like part 1 did then I probably won’t buy part 3.

But anyway over the book was a good read. There was a lot of clichés in the book. 18 year old tomboy, who drives a motorcycle, smokes cigarettes and lives in a trailer park with her drunken and promiscuous mother. Arianna has no dreams for the future, no plans, simply graduate high school. I thought this was way too cliché in regards to her being this portrayed bad girl.

What I did like about the story was the build up and the fact that Arianna wasn’t a reckless girl but was grounded enough to not have a screw the world attitude.

Overall the book gets 8 out of 10. The biggest problem with the book is it stopped when it was getting good/to the point and that was a let down because for 12 chapters you watching it build and then it stops.  Also the book is not labeled Young Adult although it centers an 18 year old.


Tania Lasenburg is a communications major that plays video games and cyber stalks Gym Class Heroes. Follow her on twitter @mrztanyapickles