Author Archives: Debbi Michiko Florence

About Debbi Michiko Florence

Author of children's books. Coming in May 2017, JASMINE TOGUCHI, chapter book series (FSG).

And The Winner Is…


Thank you to everyone who stopped by to help shine the spotlight on Jennifer McKissack’s haunting YA


Sanctuary (Scholastic/2015)

If you missed the interview, check it out here.

The big winner of this awesome book is commenter number 1! Suzanne Morrone come on down! Please contact me with your mailing address, and I’ll be sure to send you your prize ASAP!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by! Stayed turned for more book buzz and give-aways! Happy reading!

Welcome to the Spotlight Jennifer McKissack and Sanctuary


I’m thrilled to shine the spotlight on talented author Jennifer McKissack and her spine-chilling novel, Sanctuary! Stay tuned below for a chance to win a copy!


Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack (Scholastic/2015)

When 17-year-old Cecilia’s aunt dies and her cantankerous uncle stops paying for her tuition at her boarding school, Cecilia returns to Sanctuary, an old estate on an island off the coast of Maine. She has mixed feelings about returning – while she grew up there with happy memories, the past also haunts her. Her father died there, her mother was committed to an asylum, and her grandmother and sister perished in a fire there. A mysterious visitor, a young professor who is interested in Cecilia’s beloved library, draws her attention, but not as much as the strange happenings on the island. Cecilia fears she might be losing her mind as her mother had, and yet, she must solve the mysteries of the island. A haunting tale full of intrigue.

Spotlight on Jennifer McKissack:

How did SANCTUARY come to be? And what was the path to publication?

REBECCA. It’s a gothic novel that enthralled me as a teen and I’ve returned to as an adult. SANCTUARY isn’t a retelling of that classic, but I tried to capture the tone and sensibility of Daphne du Maurier’s haunting novel.

My (incredibly awesome) agent Trish Toney Lawrence is also a fan of REBECCA. Before she offered representation, we talked on the phone and bonded over our love for the book. It was one of the reasons SANCTUARY appealed to her. Trish quickly found two interested editors, and from there, we accepted an offer from the gifted Lisa Sandell at Scholastic. I am very fortunate to be in such good hands.

The house, the island, and the time period are integral parts of this haunting story. Can you tell us how you made these key decisions for the story and how you developed the island as a character?

Places have a very powerful hold on us. Houses, islands, towns, beaches, lakes, rivers, and places that we consider home — have a pull and a push that feels very human, as if you’re in a relationship. I wanted to explore that feeling and create it for the reader.

Cecilia sees ghosts. Do you believe in ghosts? Do you have a ghost story of your own to share?

I think there is a possibility that we have a spiritual connection with the earth that lingers after we die, especially if there was a traumatic event that affected many, many people. One of my characters mentions it in SANCTUARY. That observation emerges from the feeling I had when visiting Gettysburg. Something there. I’m not sure what. But it’s palpable.

Jenny writes, and lives not too far from the sea.

For more about Jennifer and her books, follow her on Twitter or friend her on Facebook.

For a chance to win a copy of this book, for yourself, a friend or child, or a library/school, just follow the directions below.

1. Comment on this post by Saturday October 3rd by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, October 6th.

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Good luck and happy reading!


And The Winner Is…


Hello! And thank you for being so patient for me to reveal the winner of the latest drawing! We last shined the spotlight on this amazing novel:


Little Woman in Blue by Jeannine Atkins (She Writes Press/2015)

If you missed my interview with the talented author of this story based on May Alcott (sister of Louisa May Alcott), you can check it out here.

And now a special treat – the winner of this drawing will have the opportunity to get a signed copy! Stayed tuned for details below.  A random number generator has chosen comment number 14 – the winner is…

commenter number 14 – Elizabeth the Evil Overlord! (oooh, sounds foreboding!) :) Congratulations! Please contact me at just kid ink at yahoo dot com (no spaces) no later than October 10th and let me know to whom you’d like your book signed. I will mail your prize to you after the 13th (after I get the book signed by Jeannine)!

EDITED TO ADD: Because Elizabeth already has the book she kindly offered to let another winner be drawn. The new winner is commenter number 8! Andrea Wang! YAY! Please follow above directions to receive your prize!

Happy reading!

Welcome to the Spotlight Jeannine Atkins and Little Woman in Blue


I’m super excited to shine the spotlight on talented friend and author Jeannine Atkins. I’ve long been a fan of her work. When she read me the opening to a new work-in-progress, a few years ago, it stayed with me – I wanted to read the rest! I’m so happy that I was recently able to do that, and now you can read it, too! Her newest novel is for adults, but could definitely be enjoyed by young adults, as well. Stayed tuned below for a chance to win:


Little Woman in Blue by Jeannine Atkins (She Writes Press/2015)

A touching, heartwarming, and amazing story about the other Alcott sister – May Alcott, portrayed as the selfish Amy in Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel LITTLE WOMEN. What Atkins paints here is a vivid and layered portrait of younger sister May, who was an artist, a dreamer, independent, and loyal. From her days living with her family, to her adventures abroad, to her struggles to become a respected artist in her own right, May’s life unfurls on the pages of this novel. While I was a fan of LITTLE WOMEN as a young girl, I admit to not knowing much about the author or her family. I couldn’t stop turning pages as I wondered if May would find success as an artist, find love, or see her family again. Although this is a work of fiction, the author has undoubtedly done a great deal of research to make the May’s life story feel so real and true.

Spotlight on Jeannine Atkins:

Why May Alcott? And can you tell us a little about the research you did? How long did it take you to write this story from idea to finished draft?

When writing about women from the past, one fascinating person often leads to another. Working on Becoming Little Women: Louisa May at Fruitlands, a novel about the Alcott’s time at a utopian community, I read a lot about the whole family. I was fascinated to learn that the youngest sister who was depicted in Little Women as a spoiled, not-very-talented artist in fact took painting very seriously, and didn’t give up her work for romance. She wanted both.

I read May Alcott’s journals and letters, as well as those of her family and neighbors. I looked at her paintings and studied other artists of that period. I worked off and on for about fifteen years. That’s obviously a long story, so let’s just say there were many drafts, two agents who gathered some interested letters but no commitments, and consistent support from my husband and writing group and friends in between. So thankful for that!

May Alcott was an aspiring artist – you captured the nuances of her determination, her worries and insecurities, and her creative spirit so realistically. How did you manage to channel her so vividly?

There’s a fine line between channeling and letting in your own feelings when writing historical fiction. Or maybe no line. Much of May’s life is very different from mine, but I found details about her family and work that let me dream my way in. And most creative people who’ve fought to be taken seriously can relate to both doubts and persistence. Those common feelings made a meeting point between us, while I stayed true to past events.

When did you read LITTLE WOMEN and do you have any special memories associated with the book? Who was your favorite character and why?

I played LITTLE WOMEN with my sister and two friends before I read the book. I knew the basic roles from seeing parts of the movie on television. I liked Katharine Hepburn as Jo, but so did my older sister, who claimed her, as older sisters do. I didn’t entirely mind. The youngest sister, Amy, had better clothes and seemed to have more fun.

As I grew up into a writer, I often thought of Jo March/Louisa May Alcott as a model, but her real younger sister reminded me that dedicating yourself to creative work doesn’t have to be lonely. Everyone trips into creative holes or slams into walls sometimes, but here was a woman who always seemed to remember the joy. She’s kept me good company through all the years of writing!

Jeannine Atkins is the author of Borrowed Names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie and Their Daughters and Views from a Window Seat: Thoughts on Writing and Life. She teaches as an adjunct at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Simmons College. You can learn more on her website at

For a chance to win a copy of this book, for yourself, a friend or child, or a library/school, just follow the directions below.

1. Comment on this post by Saturday September 19th by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random. Because of upcoming travel, I will announce the winner here on Tuesday, September 29th.

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Look what I found! My copy of LITTLE WOMEN given to me by an aunt and uncle back in 1979! I may have to re-read it.

Good luck and happy reading!


And The Winner Is…


Thank you to everyone who stopped by to help shine the spotlight on 9780062335319_p0_v1_s192x300

None of the Above  by I.W. Gregorio (Balzer & Bray/2015)

If you missed the interview, click here.

And now for the winner of a copy of this outstanding debut YA novel about an intersex teen and her search for acceptance and love. Using a random number generator, the winning number commenter is…

number 4, Betsy Devany! Congratulations! Please contact me with your mailing info and I’ll make sure you get your prize ASAP!

Stayed tuned for more buzz reviews, spotlight interviews, and give-aways! Happy reading!

Welcome to the Spotlight I.W. Gregorio and None of the Above


I’m super pleased to shine the spotlight on debut YA author I.W. Gregorio and her outstanding novel None of the Above. Stayed tuned below for a chance to win a copy!


None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio (Balzer & Bray/2015)

What I thought would be a mostly “issue-driven” story, turned out to be exactly the kind of story I adore. Krissy Lattimore, a senior in high school, is a star hurdler with a college scholarship, two best friends, and the best boyfriend ever. But when she decides to lose her virginity, Krissy is in such pain that she has to stop. After a visit to an ob-gyn, she learns she is intersex – while female, is lacking female reproductive parts and has some male parts. She is both horrified and scared. After telling her best friend, the news immediately gets out to her school. Krissy is subjected to some horrid bullying. She refuses to go back to school and is filled with confusion about who, or what she is. With the support of her father, aunt, and some surprising friends, Krissy slowly starts to come to terms with herself. A deeply layered story of love and self-acceptance that will resonate with every reader.

Spotlight on I.W. Gregorio:

Please tell us about your journey from the spark of the idea for Krissy’s story to publication.

When I started seriously writing YA, I had a lot of ideas running through my head. After my first attempt at a novel (which was, no surprise, a thinly veiled autobiographical novel), I brainstormed a lot about stories that I was uniquely qualified to tell, and struck on the idea of writing a YA Middlesex.

The idea percolated in my head for a while, not really taking form until my first experience with an intersex teen during residency (you can read about it in all the gory details here). That encounter, and the timing of the Caster Semenya track scandal, are what really inspired me to come up with a character and a plot.

It took me a long time to actually write NotA – residency and children and all – but when I was done I had a lot of great feedback – but unfortunately realized based on a lot of that feedback that I had to switch the story from dual narrative to single POV, which pushed my timeline back a bit. Once I got Kristin’s voice down though, I landed an agent fairly quickly, and I had a deal within a month with a dream editor.

One of the nicest surprises about this book, for me, was that while much of it dealt with Krissy’s diagnosis of being intersex, it is not what I’d call an “issue book.” This is very much a story about love and self-acceptance. I am a sucker for romance – so please tell me a little about how this part developed in the storyline. Without giving anything away, what were the challenges and joys to developing Krissy’s love interest/s?

The main challenge that I had from day one was that I had to really think about what teenage boy would be mature enough, and empathetic enough, to date an intersex girl. Because let’s be honest, a lot of teenagers are insecure and uncomfortable with anything outside the norm. What kind of kid wouldn’t blink if his girlfriend had testes?

So Darren was born, and I had such a good time writing him (he was originally a POV character and almost universally everyone liked his parts better). I wanted him to be geeky, but also funny, and for him to have his own insecurities. Because I always envisioned Kristin as an everygirl, a girl-next-door, I deliberately didn’t push her character too far, didn’t take too many risks with her voice. With Darren, though, I could cut loose.

You are a surgeon by day and an author by night – plus a founding member of the We Need Diverse Books campaign, as well as a wife and mother. How do you find the time and energy to do it all? How do you manage your time?

I honestly don’t know any more! To tell the truth, I had my second child the day after I got my book deal, so I really don’t know what it’s like to write a book with two children! The biggest challenge lately has been finding time to balance promotion and writing. Because you really have to be in the right head space, and also have time for the characters to breathe.

The keys I’ve found in the past, however, have been to just carve out an hour or two every day and get the butt in the chair. For me, that time was pretty much from 9pm to 11pm. Luckily I have a husband who is a creator himself (he’s a musician), so I don’t get any sad puppy eyes when I can’t spend time with him at night!

I. W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. After getting her MD, she did her residency at Stanford, where she met the intersex patient who inspired her debut novel, None of the Above (Balzer & Bray / HarperCollins), which is a Spring 2015 Publishers Weekly Flying Start and a Capitol Choices Nominee. She is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books™ and serves as its VP of Development. A recovering ice hockey player, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

For more about I.W. Gregorio and her book, check our her web site, and follow her on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Here’s a link to the Epic Reads book club guide.

For a chance to win a copy of this book, for yourself, a friend or child, or a library/school, just follow the directions below.

1. Comment on this post by Saturday September 5th by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, September 8th.

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Thank you and good luck!



And The Winner Is…


Thank you to everyone who stopped by to help shine the spotlight on Tamara Ellis Smith and her fabulous MG debut


Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith

(Random House/2015)

If you missed it, you can read the interview: here.

And now, for the winner of a copy of this awesome novel…drumroll please….

using a random number generator, the winning commenter is number 5! Suzanne Morrone, come on down! Please email me with your mailing address so I may pass it along to the publisher for your very own copy of Another Kind of Hurricane! YAY!

Thanks to everyone for stopping by and stay tuned more more book buzz, interviews, and give-aways!

Happy reading!