Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

Winner(s) And Last MG Giveaway/Interview: Stephanie Blake of The Marble Queen!

So sorry this post is a day late! MFA life is lovely, but sometimes all-consuming. Anyway, enough with my excuses and here we go.

The winner of last week’s giveaway for Nan Marino’s new book, Hiding Out In The Pancake Palace is…Rosi!

Email me, Rosi, at katiawrites (at) gmail (dot) com with your address! Woo-hoo!

But wait, I am not done. We have another winner.

Well, I couldn’t help it. When I saw how quickly and enthusiastically one of this blog’s loyal readers took up the call to spread the word about my little contest, I just had to order another copy. Had to.

The second winner of course is … Joanne Fritz!

Thank you everyone for participating!

Be patient with me, Rosi and Joanne, as you await your yet-to-be-autographed copies. Nan is busy traveling and promoting her book, but she will be back soon. I will plan a get-together with her and she will sign your books as soon as possible!

In the meantime, this being the last day of April, I would like to end my Middle Grade Month with one last giveaway and an interview with another great author, Stephanie Blake, of The Marble Queen. Published by Amazon in 2012, it is the story of a free-thnking girl in 1959 who faces hurdles in her desire to enter a marble competition and become the next marble king — or, well, queen.

Stephanie BlakeKR: Hi Stephanie! Can you talk about your writing journey? How did the story come to you and how long did it take for you to write it?

SB: The Marble Queen sat in a slush pile at Marshall Cavendish for the better part of a year! I had give up on trying to get published, so when my editor contacted me after all that time, I was shocked. I wrote the manuscript fairly quickly, but it went through several heavy revisions–I’d say 8.

KR: Was it the first book you ever wrote? (If no, what how many manuscripts have you accumulated? Are they all under-the-bed gathering dust? Or is there hope for some of them?) 🙂

SB: I have four other manuscripts “under the bed.” I don’t think any of them are viable. I have some regrets about that, but with every piece of writing I’ve done, I can see growth as a writer. Plotting is my weakness.

KR: What was the easiest, most accessible part of that story to you? Was it Freedom’s voice and personality? Or the story’s situation –the marble competition? Was it the time period? Or the ending? And alternately, what part of the story gave you most trouble, took the most figuring out?

SB: The Marble Queen is the book of my heart. I love Freedom. She’s a real person to me. Her voice and personality are very distinct in myThe Marble Queen head. The hardest part of telling her story had to be working on the marble competition scenes. No spoilers here, but my editor was the one who suggested the outcome of the competition. I’m happy how it worked out.

KR: Why did you choose this particular historical period?

SB: I chose 1959 because like Freedom who is coming-of-age, so was America. We were just about to enter the turbulent 60s and Freedom was about to have her eyes opened about her parents and about so many adult things. The time period really mirrored Freedom’s growth as a preteen girl. Also, it wouldn’t do to have modern children playing marbles. 🙂

KR: What’s your process like? Are you a plotter or a seat-of-the-pantster?

SB: I am a plotter of sorts. I like to use Excel to make sparse outlines. Usually when I start writing a book, the character is speaks to me first. I might think of a cool title or concept and it takes weeks and months to give the character a plot.

KR: Tell us about what having your first published book has been like. Tell us about the surprises.

SB: Just like having a baby, I’ve forgotten the struggles I went through with revisions and copy edits. About halfway through production on the book, my original publisher sold my title to Amazon Children’s. That was a big surprise. My experience as an Amazon author has been absolutely amazing.

KR: Finally, what’s next? What are you working on now?

SB: I am thrilled to say that The Marble Queen is a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. That’s been a trip! My editor has a proposal for a companion novel to The Marble Queen. That story deals with a character from The Marble Queen and is set in 1971. I’m also toying with a direct sequel and have some ideas about what happens next to Freedom. If I never sell another book, it will be okay. I’m just so lucky that Freedom’s story is out there in the world.

Thank you so much, Stephanie! So excited about all the new possibilities. I hope we all will be reading more from you soon!

Meanwhile, I’ve got some swag and a copy of “The Marble Queen” to give away. Let’s make this simple. To enter, leave a comment sharing the name of your favorite RECENT MG title and tell us why you love it so. (If you really cannot think of a recent title, mention your favorite middle grade novel of all time. One of my recent favorites is Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin, a spare, elegant book that manages to capture the spirit of the terrible 1930s in the Soviet Union, and end with hope at the same time).

The giveaway ends by the close of this Friday, May 3. I will be good and announce the winner next Monday, May 6. Ready, set, go!


April 30, 2013 - Posted by | Interviews | , ,


  1. Thank you so much for doing the Hiding Out giveaway, Katia. You’re such a great friend. I adore Stephanie’s book. Freedom Jane is one of my favorite characters.

    Comment by nan marino | April 30, 2013 | Reply

    • Oh, Nan, I know how much you love that book, I’ve seen proof on the book jacket 😉 Now, let’s get together so you can sign the prizes and we can catch up and celebrate your release! xo

      Comment by Katia Raina | April 30, 2013 | Reply

  2. Thanks so much for drawing my name this week. I’m very excited. The Marble Queen sounds terrific, too, but please don’t put me in the drawing. I just won, so someone else should win. I will be reading The Marble Queen though. I love period middle-grade books and this looks like a really good one. Thanks for the interesting review. Great stuff.

    Comment by Rosi | April 30, 2013 | Reply

    • Hi Rosi, I am glad you won, and glad you will be reading the Marble Queen on your own. So very happy Joanne sent you this way!

      Comment by Katia Raina | April 30, 2013 | Reply

  3. Katia, you are too sweet… Thank you! And obviously, don’t enter me in the new giveaway. Sounds like a great book, though.

    Comment by Joanne Fritz | May 1, 2013 | Reply

    • Yes, Joanne, and I hope you check it out sometime! As soon as Nan signs the books, I will be in touch. I don’t think I have your address anymore.

      Comment by Katia Raina | May 1, 2013 | Reply

  4. Congrats to Rosi and Joanne. And please enter me in the giveaway of “The Marble Queen.” My favorite recent MG has been Tim Federle’s BETTER NATE THAN EVER–fun for those interested in the theater.

    Comment by Michael Gettel-Gilmartin | May 1, 2013 | Reply

    • I’ve heard about that one, heard good things! Good luck with this one, Michael. So far your chances of winning are looking good 😉

      Comment by Katia Raina | May 1, 2013 | Reply

  5. Thanks for the interview, Katia!

    Comment by Stephanie J. Blake | May 1, 2013 | Reply

  6. I also use Excel to outline.

    Congrats to the winners.

    I have The Marble Queen bookmarked. I hope to read it.

    Comment by Medeia Sharif | May 1, 2013 | Reply

    • Great, Medeia! Excel? Brrr…I can’t even imagine! The only thing I’ve ever used it for was querying agents. But hey, whatever works!

      Comment by Katia Raina | May 1, 2013 | Reply

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