Past and Present: Guest Post with Sarah Skilton (BRUISED) and Cat Winters (IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS) + Giveaway!

Sarah Skilton and Cat Winters are two very talented authors – debuting with Abrams/Amulet early next year. Today, I have them here on the blog discussing the Past and Present. Read on to see why Sarah decided to write a novel that takes place in the present, and why Cat decided to settle in the past. Plus – enter to win ARCs of BRUISED and IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS!

First up, we have Sarah! Why did YOU decide to write a story in the “here and now”?

Though my reading tastes vary wildly, I’m drawn to stories that take place in the here and now — stories that could happen to me or people I know. That’s one of the reasons I wrote BRUISED, my contemporary YA novel about a 16-year-old black belt in Tae Kwon Do who freezes up at an armed robbery.

I’ve never witnessed a robbery, but I did study martial arts for several years. Whenever people found out I was a black belt, they inevitably asked, “What if the other guy pulls a gun?” (Well, you run. But what if there’s nowhere to go? Or what if your instructor never talked about what to do? Or what if it never occurred to you that it might happen?) Basically, the book is premised on a series of “What If?”s that I hope ring true in a day and age in which gun violence is frequently reported on the news. I wondered: If you’ve been trained to fight, and you’re the best student at your school, how would you cope if you were confronted with a real-world test like that? My husband teases me that I find characters’ suffering comforting. I like to think it’s because I long to be amazed by the resilience of the human spirit, but yes — sometimes I do find characters’ suffering comforting, because reading about contemporary experiences gives me hope that I’ll get through life’s troubles, too.

Sarah Skilton

BRUISED by Sarah Skilon will be available in stores and online March 1, 2013, from ABRAMS/Amulet Books. (Or available right now if you win the ARC!) Sarah tweets, facebooks, blogs, and haphazardly updates her website.

A Black Belt? Martial arts? Here’s what BRUISED is about:


16-year-old Imogen Malley has spent most of her life in the shadow of her popular older brother, but there is one area in which she excels: martial arts.

As the youngest black belt at her dojang, Imogen loves assistant teaching more than anything in the world, and she plans to open her own martial arts studio one day. Per the Tae Kwon Do student creed, she’s come to think of herself as a potential hero, a defender of the weak, and a champion of justice.

Her confidence disappears when she freezes up at an armed robbery that leaves someone dead. Guilt-stricken and numb, Imogen is left to wonder if martial arts failed her, or she failed it. Estranged from her family and friends, who don’t understand why she’s still beating herself up for failing to act, she struggles to get by on her own, and decides to prove herself by teaching another student how to fight –- no holds barred, no protective gear, no rules.

When the image you have of yourself is shattered, how do you make it whole again?

Now, we have Cat! Why did YOU decide to write a story in the past (and a scary one, at that!)?

I write about the past because I find historical fiction to be a fascinating blend of fantasy and reality. Readers can visit unfamiliar worlds in which characters talk, dress, and eat differently from modern-day people, yet teens in historical YAs are just as confused and rebellious and relatable as protagonists in contemporary novels. Emotions haven’t changed throughout the years, and history constantly repeats itself. A character facing the Great Depression of the 1930s can help modern readers endure the current economic crisis. And protagonists dealing with historical wars, as is in my upcoming World War I-era ghost tale, IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS, will hopefully speak to present-day teens coping with headlines about violence and terrorism. The past feels like a safer place in which to experience dark scenarios, because those particular nightmares are over.

History is bursting with oddball characters, eccentric beliefs, larger-than-life settings, and memorable heroes—the very ingredients of unforgettable books. But we can also use the past to understand that people are people, no matter where or when they are alive.

Cat Winters

Cat Winters is the author of IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS, a WWI-era ghost tale coming April 1, 2013, from Amulet Books/ABRAMS. She recently launched Corsets & Cutlasses with eight other authors of YA and middle-grade historical fiction. Visit her other online haunts on her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

Spooky historical fiction? Count me in! Here’s the lowdown on IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS:

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for! The giveaway! Sarah and Cat were generous enough to donate copies of BRUISED and IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS to lucky INTERNATIONAL winners! Enter right after the pagebreak. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Hafsah Faizal is a YA author, designer, and blogger. Her designs have graced the sites of New York Times bestselling authors, bloggers, and more. She resides in Texas, with her family.



  1. Reply

    Christina K.

    October 29, 2012

    I'm Christina Kitroeff on Goodreads:)

    Thank you:)

  2. Reply

    Ara Burklund

    October 30, 2012

    Can't wait to read both! : )