Thursday, March 19, 2020

Blog Tour + Interview + Giveaway - All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban

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All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: March 17th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary


This thrilling debut, reminiscent of new fan favorites like One of Us Is Lying and the beloved classics by Agatha Christie, will leave readers guessing until the explosive ending.

Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill ... or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

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How did you come up with the idea for All Your Twisted Secrets?

One day my husband and I started speculating the shortest timespan you could set a book or movie to, throwing ideas back and forth. Could an entire book take place over just fifteen minutes? No way, that’s not enough time to accomplish anything. But what about an hour? What if you locked a group of people in a room for an hour? What if someone died at the end of the hour? What if the trapped people killed one of them? What if they had to choose someone to kill, or else they’d all die? We exchanged this look that was like, “Bingo,” and I raced to my desk and started scribbling down ideas for characters I could put into this crazy situation.

Did you do any research for All Your Twisted Secrets?

Oh gosh yes. I regularly got lost down the Google rabbit hole as I was writing. Sometimes I’d need to look up something specific I didn’t know, like what USC’s application requirements and deadlines are (that’s where Amber wants to apply to music school) or what sports reels look like (Robbie needs to create one so a college baseball team will recruit him). For the scene including Fortnite, I learned to play the game and watched hours of streamers’ videos. That was fun research.

Other times I incorporated a lifetime worth of unintentional research — for example, I’ve been obsessed with movie scores for as long as I can remember, and a huge part of Amber’s life is her aspiration to become a film score producer. That part was easier to write!

Do you have a favourite character in All Your Twisted Secrets?

I’d be epically betraying my protagonist Amber if I said anyone other than her! Amber is a 17-year-old aspiring film score producer who arrives at an invite-only dinner and is locked in with five other students. They uncover a tray with a syringe of poison, a bomb, and a note that reads: “Within the hour, you must choose someone in this room to die. If you don’t, everyone dies.” Determined to get everyone out alive, Amber is the one who orchestrates friends and foes alike to work together — her jock boyfriend, her nerd crush, her former best friend, the queen bee, and the stoner. But as the bomb’s timer ticks down and their panic rises, she has to contend with their clashing personalities, and making sure everyone survives might be easier said than done.

Amber’s quirky voice crystalized in my mind very early, and her dreams, hopes, fears, and motivations shaped the events both in the room and in the alternating flashback chapters. Those flashbacks track her struggle to win over the intimidating queen bee Sasha (who’s drama club director) to score the school play and get into her dream music school. This is the heart of the story: her relationships with the others and how she deals with many of the pressures teens face today, from bullying to college admissions to losing a loved one. I loved writing her, and now that the novel’s out in the world and out of my hands, I miss her.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Craft advice: Throw away the notion of writing a perfect first draft. Revising is where the real magic happens. Just like you wouldn’t solve a jigsaw puzzle by pulling pieces out of the box and setting them down in order, from left to right, one at a time — you don’t write a book that way, either. Instead you scatter all the pieces on the table and start working on the edges of the puzzle (the outline, or the framework of the novel) and then you tackle one section at a time (one plot thread, or one character arc, or one red herring), building and building until it all finally fits together. It can be overwhelming to conceptualize a book all at once, but when you break it down and take one element at a time, it’s easier to manage in your brain. At least, that’s how it works for me!

Publishing advice: Get ready to be in this for the long haul. It’s easy to find success stories because you’ll first look up the publishing journeys of authors you know, who obviously have reached some level of success. So it’s easy to set your expectations sky high. And when reality doesn’t meet your expectations… that’s when your heart gets crushed to bits. So be aware that most of us aren’t overnight successes. Most of us take years to get published. Even after that, most authors take several books to “break out,” if they ever do (some authors earn their income across a dozen or more books without a breakout hit). You need to have determination and perseverance in this industry. Also, make friends with other writers; join writing groups, swap stories, exchange notes, encourage each other, vent together… be there for each other. Connecting with other authors has been one of my absolute favorite parts of this publishing journey, and I’d highly recommend it!

What's your favourite book/series?

I feel like it’s a bit cliché to say Harry Potter, but it’s true — reading and re-reading those books got me through some dark times while I was growing up; 9/11, bullying at school, and all the other stress I was under at the time. I’m re-reading the series right now as well — I tend to pull out these books whenever I need some comfort.

As a teen I also absolutely loved all of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books, many of which I also re-read numerous times. I enjoyed getting scared and lived for his twist endings. I also admired how each chapter ended on a cliffhanger, so you couldn’t stop reading. I incorporate cliffhanger chapter endings into my own writing as well — I learned from the best!

 About the Author

I’m Diana Urban, and I write dark, twisty thrillers for teens including All Your Twisted Secrets (HarperTeen, March 17th 2020). When I’m not torturing fictional characters, I’m a marketing manager at BookBub, a leading book discovery platform. Outside the bookish world, I live with my husband and cat in Boston, and enjoy reading, video games, fawning over cute animals, and looking at the beach from a safe distance.

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