Novel Promised Book Cover
About Birthmarked: "This science fiction adventure is a brisk and sometimes provocative read, thanks to solid pacing, a resourceful heroine, and a few surprise twists."

--Publishers Weekly


Wrapping up The Vault of Dreamers


First Pass Pages of The Vault of Dreamers

I reached another milestone today when I finished going over the first pass pages for The Vault of Dreamers.  First pass pages are printed on paper and show how the manuscript is laid out on the page, with full margins and the real font that will be used in the finished book.  The pile of pages looks dauntingly fat, but that’s because it’s printed on only one side of the paper.  The final book of 400+ double-sided pages will be smaller.

After all the drafts of The Vault of Dreamers that I’ve seen on the computer, you’d think I would be familiar with the book by now, but the story reads differently to me when I’m seeing it on paper.  The pace is faster.  By the end, I was racing through, and I had to deliberately stop myself to go back and read carefully.  This was really my last chance to catch anything I wanted to change, and I didn’t want to miss something, like when I accidentally changed a minor character’s name.  That was a goof.  I had a few paragraphs I needed to strike, some repeating lines of dialogue to cut, and some missing words to add.  The last line needed tinkering again.  Most of the book was clean, though.

It’s exciting to be at this point.  After I finished writing my changes in the margins, I took the first pass pages down to Staples, made a copy, and mailed them back to my editor, Kate Jacobs.  She and a proofreader are going through the first pass pages, too.  We’ll have a chance to discuss any lingering snags next week, but we are within inches of finishing off this book once and for all.

The Vault of Dreamers, with Cover!

A cover!  Yay!  The cover art for The Vault of Dreamers was created by Beth Clark on the team at Macmillan, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result.  It’s creative, risky, chilling, and inviting all at once.  I keep staring at the flame-like, electrical colors in the iris.  I also think it’s going to be striking to see two covers side by side, when a pair of eyes will be looking out at us.

The Vault of Dreamers cover art by Beth Clark

The Vault of Dreamers cover art by Beth Clark

The cover was revealed Friday on Goodreads, which is running a giveaway, too!  Here’s the description:

From the author of the Birthmarked trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when your dreams are not your own.
The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students’ lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students’ schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What’s worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.


Q. How Did You Get the Idea for The Vault of Dreamers?


The cover for The Vault of Dreamers will be revealed on Goodreads later this week!

A. When I started thinking about a new novel to write after Birthmarked, I was playing with the idea of an arts school for wildly talented, creative people. I was also fascinated by the way popular shows like American Idol tap into our deep-seated dreams of Cinderella-style fame and fortune, where an unappreciated talent can transform someone’s life overnight if that person just gets a chance in front of the cameras. In a more humble vein, I noticed how surveillance cameras have become ubiquitous in our lives, so in a way, we’re all in shows, all the time. I was reading about how total sleep deprivation can kill a rat in eleven days, and conversely, how enough sleep helps with learning and memory. I wondered how my son and other teenagers like him would feel about it if they were forced to sleep for 12 hours a night. I had another idea, too, a kernel about dreaming that mixed around with the other notions for an arts school ruled by cameras and forced sleep. Then this girl from the boxcars appeared to me, this smart, artistic, hungry girl, and she basically took over my mind.

Rosie didn’t obey my rules.  And I had to write her story.

The Vault of Dreamers comes out in September, and I’m excited to announce that the cover will be revealed on Goodreads this coming Friday, April 14th! Feel free to add the book to your to-read list.  More news to come.

Steady Developments for The Vault of Dreamers

Sometimes this girl has to get up and dance.

Sometimes this girl has to get up and dance.

I’m not sure how reviewing copy edits goes for other writers, but I figure any chance to go through the manuscript again is another opportunity to make it better.  In short, I don’t limit myself to clicking “accept” or “delete” in Track Changes when my copy editor, Suzette Andre Costello, shifts a thought into italics, cuts a redundant word, asks if “college” or “university” is what I prefer in dialogue for a character from Europe, or capitalizes Ping-Pong for me. (Who knew it was a trademark?)  I knew the last hundred pages of The Vault of Dreamers still needed close line editing to tighten up language, so I focused on doing that, too, which meant clocking some long hours.

My editor and I were on such a tight deadline that she sent me the copy edits in four chunks, as she had them ready for me to review, rather than as a complete manuscript.  I sent back the first two chunks last Monday so she could start checking my responses. Then I sent in the final sections on Thursday, the same day she started sending me back notes to confer on where we had differences, like if 10th grade should spelled out, and if numbers should be spelled out in dialogue, and whether the name of a certain building should be capitalized or not.  My editor, Kate Jacobs, went in to the office Saturday night to collate the sections of the draft and check for consistency, which seems like evidence of crazy dedication to her work, if you ask me.

It snowed this morning, but spring is still progressing, like this book.

It snowed this morning, but spring is still progressing, like this book.

Other things also came across my desk from Roaring Brook last week: an updated marketing plan, another draft of the cover, a version of the jacket copy which we’re revising, a stretched version of the map so we could discuss how it would fall across two pages with the gutter in the middle, and a sample page of text where we’re experimenting with italics and bold type.  I am enormously grateful that I’m invited to weigh in on these things, especially when other people are doing the real work of them. These are the times when I really get a sense of the whole team of people who contribute to making a book come together.

I hope that we’ll soon have a cover and a decent description of The Vault of Dreamers to share. It’s funny to think the novel comes out in less than six months, and we’re still finalizing these things.  It’s going to work, though.  I’m pretty excited about the book.  And on the up side, readers won’t have long to wait for the novel once they hear about it.

A Little Planning Ahead: Book Tour

Yes, SweeTarts Bears do exist.

Yes, SweeTarts Bears do exist.

Excuse me. I’m rather consumed with my copy edits. They’re due Thursday, like in three days, so I’m pretty much focused exclusively on my book.  It’s like having my own private time zone that no one else can enter, where we speak our own language and eat bear candies that taste like SweeTarts and talk to ourselves in the third person.

But at the same time, I’m also super excited because I’ve just seen the poster for the book tour I’m going on this fall! Yay! Yikes!  More details on the MacTeenBooks site!

The Vault of Dreamers Map

Map Day

Map Day

My new novel, The Vault of Dreamers, takes place at the Forge School, an elite arts academy where every student is perpetually filmed for a reality TV show.  The isolated campus of the boarding school is in the prairie of Kansas, where future weather fluctuates between tropical rainstorms and sunny, cool fall days.  The setting, with its thousands of cameras, simultaneously bolsters the fame of the creative students and robs of them of their privacy.  That mix of pressure is a key element for character development and for plot.

In rather the same way that I developed Wharfton and the Enclave for Birthmarked,  creating my fictional world for The Vault of Dreamers has involved envisioning the campus.  I sketched out the earliest draft of a map of the Forge School last December, when my editor asked if I had a layout for the buildings, and since then, I’ve tweaked the map as I revised the novel, shifting buildings to keep them consistent with the text.

This weekend, I finally had a chance to draw out a proper map of the Forge School campus, with the intertwining roads, buildings, towers, and gardens.  It was a curious, satisfying exercise. I’ve always liked it when books have maps, and while I’ve never seen a book map quite like this one, I think it suits.

I like how innocent and unassuming the campus looks.  I like what it doesn’t show.  I’m also interested to see if the art team at Roaring Brook will have ideas for taking it to another level.

Talking Dystopias with Eighth Graders

Photo credit: Hartford Public Schools

Photo credit: Hartford Public Schools

I had a great visit with 38 Eighth Graders at the Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School in Hartford this winter.  The students, in a unit on dystopian societies, had a choice of reading Birthmarked, The Hunger Games, or The Giver, and we tackled student questions like, “Do you think our society is becoming more dystopian, or less?”  (More, was the consensus, but we have no shortage of hope for the future.)

Each student wrote his or her name on a folded card to make it easier for me to call on them, and I started with some basics like “Raise your hand if you know someone who’s a leader,” and “Raise your hand if you’re sitting next to a friend.”  I threw in a few like “Raise your hand if you like chocolate chip cookie dough more than the baked cookies,” and “Raise your hand if you normally never raise your hand.”  I got a great vibe from the students right from the start.

Let me tip my hat to teachers Stefanie DeLuca and Keith Sevigny, who have a dynamite rapport with their students and prepared them well.  The eighth graders had written questions to ask me, and whenever I turned a question into a discussion, they were good at building on ideas.  When a student asked if a character in the novel was based on me, it led me to explain that my father’s death had informed the writing of a particular scene, and when I asked if other readers had experienced a death in the family, half a dozen of the students raised their hands.  It was a risky, vulnerable thing to do in a classroom, but I so valued that moment of honesty.  A book can be a touchstone for difficult experiences, and in that instant of looking around the room, we knew we were not alone.

I brought along a dozen different cover concepts that were designed for the book before the team at Roaring Brook settled on the artwork, and the students had tons of ideas about them as we passed them around.  It’s interesting to think about what concepts in a book need to be captured for the cover, and how different covers appeal to different readers.  We agreed, for instance, that the covers with babies on them were turn-offs to many of the boys in the class, which was a conclusion my publisher had reached, too.

IMG_1793_2Finally, we had a chance to do some writing.  I suggested two topic options: #1 Begin a scene where a character (human, non-human, old, young, whatever) is using a tool (saw, lawn mower, machine, whatever) and use all five senses in the scene (taste, touch, hearing, smelling, sight); or #2 Anything.  We wrote in dead silence for 8 minutes, then swapped papers, and then volunteers read aloud.  The students were awesome!  So many kids wanted to read that we extended our time to hear more voices.  It was great to see where their minds could run.

Let me say thanks again to the students, and to Stefanie DeLuca who invited me in.  You all were inspiring!

A Smashing Opening of a Favorite Bookstore: The UConn Co-op

Readers packed the UConn Coop during the Grand Opening Saturday, March 1, 2014

Readers packed the UConn Coop during the Grand Opening Saturday, March 1, 2014

Book lovers flocked to the Grand Opening of the UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center, CT, this weekend.  The ribbon-cutting event jointly celebrated the opening of the Bookstore, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, and Le Petit Marché Café, which share the contiguous space.  More people came than were expected Saturday afternoon, March 1st, and the celebration was super fun.

Writer and Manager of the General Books Division at the Coop, Suzy Staubach, with friends Nan Sorensen and George Gibson.

Writer and Manager of the General Books Division at the Coop, Suzy Staubach, with friends Nan Sorensen and George Gibson.

After welcoming speeches from notables including Suzy Staubach, John Bell, and Sally Weis, members of the community took tours, browsed, and sampled French pastries from the café.  Local authors Wally Lamb, Sam Pickering, Ellen Litman, and a dozen others mingled with friends and readers.  Meanwhile, the UConn a cappella singing group, The Chordials, performed several contemporary numbers, and a live jazz combo followed.

Director of the Ballard, John Bell, with Sarah Nolen.

Director of the Ballard, John Bell, with Sarah Nolen.

On the puppetry front, Anne Fitzgerald’s two performances of her new puppet arts production, Reverse Cascade, were filled to capacity, and the new exhibits featured exquisitely detailed puppets and photographs highlighting the history of puppetry.  I was especially delighted by a photo of Maggie Gyllenhaal and Muppet friends defining the word “Surprise!”

Distinguished members of the Ballard Collection

Distinguished members of the Ballard Collection

Let’s face it.  Readers in our corner of Connecticut have long been fans of the UConn Coop Bookstore, but now that it has more of a chance to breathe in its new location, it’s better than ever.  What other bookstore shares space with puppets and cinnamon banana crepes?  Saturday’s celebration showed again how books, art, music, friendship, and a little sweetness are at the center of our community.  Congratulations!

For a chance to win an ARC of THE VAULT OF DREAMERS, enter here! The Goodreads giveaway ends APRIL 25, 2014.
What’s Next from Caragh?

I'm currently working on a new YA sci fi series with the first book,The Vault of Dreamers, due out September 16, 2014 from Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan.

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Audio Books
The audio books of BIRTHMARKED, PRIZED, and PROMISED have been released by Tantor Audio. They're available through Tantor, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and