Authors Are Rockstars Tour: Michelle Gagnon Interview + Giveaway

I am so excited to have accomplished novelist and debut YA author Michelle Gagnon stop by today for the Authors Are Rockstars Tour.

Who says debut YA authors can’t be rockstars? Not me. In fact there are a ton of debut YA authors I consider rockstars. And Michelle Gagnon is one of them.

Aside from having penned several successful novels for an adult audience, this multi-talented author has been a journalist, a dancer and a bartender. And now she’s throwing her hat into the YA novel ring. With a book that I’m now officially dying to read.

It’s a thriller. There are secrets. It’s dark. It’s gritty. And it’s action-packed. The heroine is tough, she’s flawed and she’s a hacker. And the protagonist is incredibly likable, easygoing, good looking and comes from money. But he thinks she’s pretty awesome. I do too.

A writer who can do all that she does and who apparently reads two to three books a week and blogs is total rockstar material. And no one can tell me otherwise…  not that anyone would want to!

So, even though I haven’t yet read DON’T TURN AROUND, it will be going to the top of my reading pile when it releases later this month. And I just know that when I do read it, Michelle Gagnon will be even more of a rockstar to me than she already is!

About the Author

Michelle Gagnon is a former modern dancer, dog walker, bartender, freelance journalist, personal trainer, model, and Russian supper club performer. To the delight of her parents, she gave up all these occupations for an infinitely more stable and lucrative career as a crime fiction writer.

Michelle’s debut young adult technothriller DON’T TURN AROUND is the first book in the PERSEF0NE trilogy. Her YA dystopian thriller STRANGELETS will be released in the spring of 2013.

Michelle is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. She blogs about life, writing, and petty annoyances on both The Kill Zone and the YA thriller blog ADR3NALIN3.

In her spare time she runs errands and indulges a weakness for stale cinema popcorn and Hollywood blockbusters. She splits her time between San Francisco and Los Angeles.


Q. We think authors are amazing. You are our rockstars. Do you have an author or authors that you look up to or are inspired or amazed by?

Wow, so many.  THE BOOK THIEF is hands down one of my favorite novels of all time – Marcus Zusak blows me away! I also recently finished James Dashner’s Maze Runner series (and the prequel, which I scored at Comic-Con!) and I love that he never shies away from the dark potential of the world he’s created. And of course, I have so many other favorites: Lauren Oliver, Cassandra Clare, Veronica Roth, Sophie Littlefield, Katie Crouch…I could go on and on!

[Fiktshun: I have heard Marcus Zusak’s book is amazing. I must read that. And ooh, the prequel for the Maze Runner series was at Comic-Con? Lucky!]

Q. What was your inspiration for becoming an author? It seems you’ve had a number of different career pursuits including model, dancer, bartender and freelance journalist. How did you make the transition to becoming a novelist? And have you always enjoyed writing or is it a passion that developed later?

I always wrote fiction, even when I was holding down that whole bevy of strange jobs. I actually won a prize for a short story I wrote when I was six years-old (if I remember correctly, it was the heartrending saga of a toothbrush named Tim). After I hung up my dance shoes, I made a living as a personal trainer, which led to writing articles for Shape, Self, and Glamour…and somewhere in there, I started writing a novel. And eventually sold one, and then three more…and so on!

[Fiktshun: Wow, an award-winning author at the age of six. That’s so awesome! And poor, poor Tim the toothbrush. His life must have been filled with ups and downs. But that’s amazing that amidst writing fitness articles a novel was born.]

Q. You’ve written several successful crime thriller novels for an adult audience. What made you decide to make the leap into writing for a young adult audience? Is your YA debut novel DON’T TURN AROUND written in a similar style to your adult novels? And what about your 2013 dystopian novel STRANGELETS?

A friend of mine pointed out that in nearly all of my adult thrillers, there’s a strong teenaged character who ends up being as much a part of the storyline as everyone else, if not more so. In fact, THE GATEKEEPER kicks off with the kidnapping of a sixteen year-old girl, but instead of just being a victim, she ends up very nearly saving herself. So it was more of a natural transition than I would’ve expected. And in terms of how I write the books, there’s virtually no difference. I make sure to keep them just as dark and gritty 🙂

[Fiktshun: That definitely sounds like a natural transition for sure. I may have to sneak a peek at THE GATEKEEPER to get a feel for DON’T TURN AROUND then. I love dark. And I love gritty. I just may not be able to wait until the end of the month for your book’s release.]

Q. DON’T TURN AROUND, releasing on August 28th, is being called a “technothriller.” If you had to describe it in 15 words or less, how would you describe it? And is there anything more you can share about the world, the characters and the story than are in the brief description?

They’ve dubbed it “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for Teens,” and I think that’s very accurate. It’s basically about two teenagers who stumble across something horrifying and band together to fight it.

[Fiktshun: Well now I’m even more curious about your book. I want to know exactly what horrifying thing they discover…. *SIGH.* I hate waiting….]

Q. What is it about writing a thriller or suspense novel that attracts you? Did you find that writing this type of story for a younger audience is more challenging or less challenging? If it was more challenging, was it writing characters of a younger age into this type of story that posed the challenge? Was it the limitations for the types of situations they could find themselves in that presented difficulties? Or was it something else?

The only real challenge in working with teen characters as opposed to adults is that they’re forced to be more powerless. In my other series, I write about FBI agents, trained special forces commandos, and private security contractors. These are people with a lot of training and clout behind them. Noa is tough, and streetwise, but at the end of the day she has to figure out a (plausible) way to defeat people with a lot more resources. Luckily, she’s an amazing hacker, so that helps. But it has occasionally been a challenge figuring out a way for Peter and Noa to overcome huge obstacles (and yet, they do!)

[Fiktshun: That does sound quite challenging, actually. Your characters were all people in power or with special skillsets and while Noa has those mad hacker skills it isn’t quite the same as being an authority figure. So, wow, I’m glad to hear they do overcome those obstacles!]

Q. The title of the series is intriguing – The Persefone Trilogy. Is there anything you can tell us about the meaning behind that title? Is it a thread that runs through all the books or does it reference something altogether else? Or is it too secret to talk about right now?

I can share a little bit…the nefarious plot that Peter and Noa stumble across is called, “Project Persephone.” The name has its basis in the Greek myth about Persephone, who was kidnapped and forced to spend half the year in Hades (and I was so lucky to get Rita Dove’s permission to include her amazing poem PERSEPHONE, FALLING, at the start of the novel. It fit the story perfectly!) Anyway, Noa is changed by her encounter with the project (exactly how is a secret, you’ll have to read to find out!) PERSEF0NE is a sort of appropriation of the project name, transformed into leetspeak (ie: hacker language).

[Fiktshun: I love nefarious plots. 🙂 And I’m really curious to see how the name ties into the Greek myth. This three week wait until release day is going to be torturous! And I love that you used 1337 5p34k for the title of the trilogy! It’s so perfect. Oh and I’m definitely going to check out that poem, too, to gain some insight… hopefully.]

Q. Do you plan to continue writing for an adult audience in addition to writing books for the YA market? How do you plan to juggle all these different stories and worlds in your head at once?

I actually have an “adult” novel (there should be a better term for it, that always sounds so dirty) that I’ve been working on for awhile now, I just need to find time to do one more editing pass through it. I have a hard time working on more than a book at a time, but usually one is in the editing process while I’m writing another, which helps differentiate them in my mind.

[Fiktshun: It really does, haha. I often say non-YA, but then that sounds so YA-centric…. They do need a better term. Your method sounds like it’s a very manageable option. I suppose it would be tough if you were plotting, but at the editing stage it does sound like it would be less confusing.]

Q. What was your favorite part about writing DON’T TURN AROUND? What was your favorite scene to write? Do you have a favorite character or do you like them all equally?

I have to say, this was so far my favorite book to write. I tore through the rough draft, finishing it in about eight weeks. The story pretty much wrote itself. As far as scenes go, about halfway through the book, Noa has a horrific nightmare about the night her parents were killed. Hands down, still my fav. That was an amazing scene to write, and I’m really proud of how it turned out. I love all my characters, picking favorites is like being asked to choose a favorite child!

[Fiktshun: Wow that’s incredibly fast. But that’s fantastic that the story wrote itself. Some of my favorite reads are ones that authors have said the story just flew out. Well, now I will be paying special attention to this scene. And, shoot, perhaps I should have asked who your least favorite character was. As this is dark and gritty there is bound to be someone unsavory.]

Q. Is there anything you can tell us about Noa and Peter to give new readers an idea of who they are? The description mentions that they’re both hackers, but is there anything else we absolutely must know about them before meeting them on the pages of your book?

Noa is complex; she’s had an extraordinarily difficult childhood, and managed to overcome it. But it’s left her emotionally damaged, and she has a hard time playing well with others. Peter, on the other hand, comes from a lot of money, although he’s suffered some personal hardship, too. He’s easy to get along with, funny, popular…and kind of awed by Noa and how tough she is.

[Fiktshun: I like Noa already. I love that she’s had to overcome hardship, which has made her stronger. And the fact that Peter feels the way he does about Noa makes him incredibly likable and not just the perfect boy from a perfect life. But I love that they’re polar opposites and yet they team up. I really, really can’t wait to meet them both]

Los Angeles or San Francisco? Oh, this is a tough one since I go back and forth between the two cities. My heart is in LA because my boyfriend lives there, but San Francisco is my home.

Mysteries or thrillers? Thrillers.

Write at night or write during the day? Daytime. I’m useless at night—that’s my brainless TV time.

Write in silence or write with music? Complete silence, if possible.

Favorite genre (for books)? YA Thrillers! Especially any really great dystopian stories.

Favorite blockbuster movie? Of all time? Star Wars. Of this year? Not sure yet, I’m still waiting to see Dark Knight.

Favorite book you’ve read this year? Tough one, I’ve loved so many (and I usually read 2-3/week). Loved Broken Harbor, loved Under the Never Sky, Pandemonium, Kill Order. Ugh, I’m always so useless at choosing!

Leave them hanging or tie up all loose ends? I’ve done both…have to say, I do so love to leave ‘em hanging. 😉 As long as the main story threads are tied up, of course.

Psychological thriller or action-packed thriller? Action-packed all the way.

Favorite job you’ve held (other than being a writer)? Modern Dancer. I still take dance class a few times a week.

[Fiktshun: You haven’t seen Dark Knight yet? Oh it’s a must. And YAY for not choosing just one book. I can never pick just one either!]

About the Book

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been a victim of the system ever since her parents died. Now living off the grid and trusting no one, she uses her computer-hacking skills to stay safely anonymous and alone. But when she wakes up on a table in an empty warehouse with an IV in her arm and no memory of how she got there, Noa starts to wish she had someone on her side.

Enter Peter Gregory. A rich kid and the leader of a hacker alliance, Peter needs people with Noa’s talents on his team. Especially after a shady corporation threatens his life. But what Noa and Peter don’t realize is that Noa holds the key to a terrible secret, and there are those who’d stop at nothing to silence her for good.

Filled with action, suspense, and romance, this first book in a new trilogy offers readers nonstop thrills.


A FREE Prequel Novella

Gritty and heart-stopping, this short story from breakout author Michelle Gagnon also features a teaser to her thrilling debut young-adult novel, Don’t Turn Around.

Sixteen-year-old Alex might be living day-to-day on whatever he can steal, but he still prefers being on the run to getting caught and thrown back in juvie. Plus, he has Jenny to think of. She comes with her own world of problems, but for once Alex feels like somebody actually needs him. So when a shady organization gives Alex the chance to participate in a medical study, all he hears is easy money—and a lot of it! He’ll soon find out there’s more involved.

Set directly before Don’t Turn Around, which in a starred review Kirkus called a “pulse-pounding, scary-great read” and “a surefire hit,” Michelle Gagnon’s “No Escape” lays the groundwork for a world in which every move you make is being watched, and no one can be trusted.



Head over to FACEBOOK and “Like” the page to unlock chapters of DON’T TURN AROUND.

{Click the image below.}

What’s up for grabs:

A pre-order of DON’T TURN AROUND by Michelle Gagnon ordered from Amazon or The Book Depository depending upon location to TWO WINNERS.

The deets:

1. One entry per HOUSEHOLD.

2. There will be TWO winners.

3. You must be 13 or older.

4. Giveaway is International.

5. Contest ends at 9:01 p.m. Pacific on Friday, August 17th, 2012.

6. Winners will be chosen by through Rafflecopter and announced on August 17th in this post.

7. Winners will have 48 hours after notification to respond with their details.

There is no requirement to like or follow. But if you’d like to spread the word that would be awesome!

And there is an extra entry opportunity for following the author on Twitter

To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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