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Monday, January 11, 2016

Blog Tour- SWORD AND VERSE by Kathy MacMillan An Interview and a Giveaway!

I am so excited to be kicking off the blog tour for SWORD AND VERSE by Kathy Macmillan. This book was absolutely beautifully written and was totally swoon worthy and I can't wait for you all to read it! I have an interview with Kathy to share with you today! And make sure to enter the giveaway! 

Haven't heard of SWORD AND VERSE? Check it out!

Author: Kathy MacMillan
Release Date: January 19th, 2016
Pages: 384
Publisher: HarperTeen
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
Raisa was just a child when she was sold to work as a slave in the kingdom of Qilara. Despite her young age, her father was teaching her to read and write, grooming her to take his place as a Learned One. In Qilara, the Arnathim, like Raisa, are the lowest class, and literacy is a capital offense. What’s more, only the king, prince, tutor, and tutor-in-training are allowed to learn the very highest order language, the language of the gods. So when the tutor-in-training is executed for teaching slaves this sacred language, and Raisa is selected to replace her, Raisa knows any slipup on her part could mean death.

Keeping her secret is hard enough, but the romance that’s been growing between her and Prince Mati isn’t helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slave rebels—to help liberate Arnath slaves. She wants to free her people, but that would mean aiding a war against Mati. As Raisa struggles with what to do, she discovers a secret that the Qilarites have been hiding for centuries—one that, if uncovered, could bring the kingdom to its knees. 

Advance praise for Sword and Verse:

“I was completely enthralled by the fascinating and unique world that Kathy MacMillan has created.  The depth and skill she demonstrates with her ability to build an original mythology based on words and the power of language are highly unusual for a first-time novelist and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.” – National Book Award finalist Franny Billingsley

“A tense, romantic fantasy epic about prejudice, political struggle, and the power of words, SWORD AND VERSE kept me guessing at every turn. Kathy MacMillan is a writer to watch.” — R.J. Anderson, Andre Norton Award-nominated author of Ultraviolet

“Fans of Megan Whalen Turner will enjoy MacMillan’s debut novel…MacMillan explains the complicated political twists and turns clearly, and her characterizations are layered and believable.” — Publishers Weekly

“Literacy becomes the key to liberation in a thoughtful debut fantasy.” — Kirkus Reviews

“MacMillan’s love of learning, knowledge, and literacy shapes both plot and character development, while raising ethical questions with no easy answers. Beneath what appears to be a romantic fantasy, discerning readers will find complex, broader issues among the predictable comforts of the genre.” — Booklist

“MacMillan has created a believable world, complete with its own mythology.” — School Library Journal

Now on to the interview!

Hi Kathy! First I want to say welcome to Two Chicks on Books! I loved SWORD AND VERSE and I know my readers will as well and am so happy that you could stop by for a visit!

For the readers: can you tell us a little bit about SWORD AND VERSE and the characters?

The story centers around Raisa, a slave girl who is chosen for the most exalted position a slave can hold in the land of Qilara: Prince’s Tutor.  She learns to write the sacred language of the gods, studying alongside Prince Mati, whose future children she is being trained to teach.  Romance blossoms, but neither Raisa nor Mati has the luxury of forgetting their different stations, and when the Resistance courts Raisa to help free her people, she has some very tough choices to make.

Was this always going to be a standalone or had you thought of making it a series?

I had always intended this to be a standalone, right up until about a year ago when one of the other characters started demanding her own story.  SWORD AND VERSE does stand alone – no cliffhanger ending, promise!  It ends at a place full of promise and hope, but of course the challenges aren’t over for Raisa and her friends.  I am working on a sequel that picks up the story from Soraya’s point of view, and the story deals with the repercussions of choices made in SWORD AND VERSE.

Where did the writing come from in SWORD AND VERSE? Was it like Egyptian hieroglyphs or Asian influenced characters or did you take a few writing styles and combine them?

There are three different scripts that play a role in SWORD AND VERSE.  Two of them are hieroglyphic (picture-based) and one is syllabic – not quite like the alphabet most of us are used to, but similarly sound-based.  I am a huge linguistics nerd so the inspiration for these came from many different cultures.  I took ideas from multiple languages and put them together in ways that made sense for the cultures I was depicting – one that held knowledge in a tight fist and one that encouraged learning by anyone.

Were any of the characters in the book inspired by people from your real life?

There are bits and pieces of people I know in all of my characters, but only two I can specifically identify as being inspired by real people.  Raisa was very much inspired by my mother.  My mom is one of those people who may seem meek and quiet and agreeable on the surface, but has a will of iron underneath.  I knew I wanted to explore that kind of strength in Raisa.  We see so many female characters in YA who exhibit physical strength, and that’s great, but there is more than one way to be strong.

The other character is a minor one, but she means a lot to me.  It’s Anet, the woman Raisa meets in the tombs.  She is based on my friend Annette, who passed away a few years ago (and to whom the book is dedicated).  Annette was an early reader of the book, and I tried to work that character in over multiple drafts in tribute to her.  It wasn’t until the final draft that that scene came together, and anyone who knew Annette will recognize her in the description of Anet’s laugh!

Who was your favorite character to write? What about your least favorite?

My favorite character is whichever one I am currently writing!  I tend to internalize the qualities of a character when I am doing a lot of work in his or her point of view.  Raisa has a very hopeful, sunny quality to her, so it was probably good that I was in her mindset for so long during submissions and edits.  Right now I have a real affinity with Soraya, but since she can be rather grouchy and suspicious, this is probably worse for those around me.

What is your favorite passage/scene in SWORD AND VERSE?

There are two, but both are kind of spoiler-y so I will be vague.  The first is the scene between Raisa and Mati after the Selection, when he comes to ask why she lied, because that is just swoony.  The other is also between Raisa and Mati, and it is the sequence after her punishment, when they are finally being honest with each other.  That was very difficult to write, because it had to have the right balance between suspicion, hurt, and love.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

I did a lot of research on ancient cultures and the history of various writing systems.  The cultures and countries in the story are entirely made up, but ancient Alexandria provided a lot of the feel.

What are you reading right now? Or what do you have on your TBR that you’re dying to read?

I just finished reading DON’T GET CAUGHT by Kurt Dinan, which is a hilarious book that totally lives up to the tagline “Ocean’s Eleven meets The Breakfast Club”.  And I am a few chapters into THE DISTANCE FROM A TO Z by Natalie Blitt, which I am really enjoying.  It’s a contemporary, but I think the protagonist, Abby, would get along great with Raisa!

Who is your ultimate Book Boyfriend?

Sean Kendrick from THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater.

What inspired you to write YA?

I have always been interested in telling stories about characters figuring out who they are and how they relate to other people while holding on to their own sense of self.  And that’s pretty much the main concern of YA, so it’s a good fit!

Lightning Round Questions

Twitter or Facebook?
For book stuff, Twitter.

Favorite Superhero?
Batgirl, because she’s a librarian. :)

Favorite TV show?
It’s a tie between FRAGGLE ROCK and GAME OF THRONES.  That probably tells 
you a lot about me…

Sweet or Salty?

Any Phobias?
Not really

Song you can’t get enough of right now?
“The Edge of the Ocean” by Ivy

Upcoming Movie you’re most looking forward to?
It’s already out, but since I have been drowning in revisions I haven’t seen it yet: BROOKLYN starring Saoirse Ronan.

Thanks so much Kathy for answering my questions!

About Kathy:
Kathy MacMillan is a writer, American Sign Language interpreter, consultant, librarian, signing storyteller, and avowed Hufflepuff.  Her debut young adult novel, Sword and Verse, explores questions of power and prejudice in an epic fantasy setting, and has been called “fascinating and unique” by National Book Award finalist Franny Billingsley.  Kathy is the founder of The Sweet Sixteens (www.thesweet16s.com) debut group of 2016 middle grade and young adult authors, and serves as the Published and Listed Member Coordinator for the Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia Region of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  She is also the author of eight resource books for educators, librarians, and parents, including Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together (Huron Street Press, 2013). She lives near Baltimore, MD with her husband, son, and a cat named Pancake.  Find her online at www.kathymacmillan.com or on Twitter at @kathys_quill.

Giveaway Details:

5 Winners will receive a finished copy of SWORD AND VERSE. US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the Tour Schedule!

Week One:
1/11/2016- Two Chicks on BooksInterview
1/12/2016- A Reader Under The SeaReview
1/13/2016- Tales of Ravenous ReaderGuest Post
1/14/2016- NerdophilesReview
1/15/2016- Dark Faerie Tales- Interview

Week Two:
1/18/2016- FiktshunReview
1/19/2016- Once Upon a TwilightGuest Post
1/21/2016- The Eater of Books!Interview
1/22/2016- Good Choice ReadingReview


  1. Okay this book sounds magical. An Kathy MacMillian might be my new favorite author if this book is really how it sounds and all the reviews are right if can't wait.

  2. This sounds very interesting :D

  3. I love that Alexandria provides a lot of feel with this book! It's so awesome hearing about the kind of research that goes into a book! Cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of this! :)
    xo Stephanie

  4. This looks like it's going to be a very well written book. I can't wait to read it myself!

  5. This looks like it's going to be a very well written book. I can't wait to read it myself!

  6. I love the reviews that this book is getting--makes me want to read it and soon!

  7. This sounds like such a wonderful read!!!

  8. This sounds really good! I love YA fantasies!

  9. I love that this story incorporates inspiration from Alexandria and other languages. I'm also loving that it's a stand alone. I do love a good stand alone.

  10. This sounds really good and I love that the authors favorite show is Fraggle Rock!!

  11. I'd love to read this book. Thanks for the intro and the giveaway!

  12. I've heard good things about this book. :)

  13. Yes! This book has been on my Goodreads TBR since Epic Reads revealed the cover oh-so-long ago! I needs all the fantasy and this book promises to be a good one!


  14. Christina R. in the rafflecopter

    LOVE the excerpt I read online somewhere, it's completely captivating from page 1! And I totally agree with her about Brooklyn and her book boyfriend :)

    I have a US address but rafflecopter might show my location outside the US because I'm doing a semester abroad.

    thank you so very much :)

  15. This book sounds so good! Can't wait to read this one. thanks for the chance to win! :)


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