Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I am so incredibly delighted and honored to be a part of the blog tour for Plus One. I've been yammering on and on about this book since I read it back in November, and I'm so excited that it's release is finally (almost!) here so that you guys can experience this gorgeous book, too! For my stop on the tour, I've got a little Q&A with Elizabeth Fama for your reading pleasure. And don't forget to check out the giveaway at the end of the post, too!

Jen:  First off, Beth, I think everyone wants to marry that cover. It's gorgeous and fabulous and will likely draw so many readers to your novel. We've discussed how this cover came to be at length, but for those who weren't privy to that conversation, would you mind sharing how you ended up with this cover? How long it took, covers you submitted yourself for consideration, what you think of the final cover, etc.

Elizabeth:  The cover is so riveting, even in tiny thumbnails. Big thanks to Elizabeth H. Clark at Macmillan. I'm hoping that because of her vision the book will fly off shelves (both library and bookstore). It also manages the trick of being a kissing cover that doesn't seem like a kissing cover--and I think that's because it captures the feeling of an illustration.

Speaking of illustration...anyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge fan of illustrated covers. I have no idea why we're putting stock photos on young-adult book jackets when there are phenomenal artists and artsy photographers out there hungry for work. And so, early in the editing process, my daughter submitted a painting to "audition" for the cover. She does this for every book of mine, and someday she'll succeed. (Actually, at the age of twelve she did create the cover for my first novel, Overboard. But that's a story in itself.) This is the scene Sally chose to paint, when Gigi shows her tattoo to Sol:

Macmillan considered it, but unfortunately this wasn't the direction they wanted to go.

My ARC cover was an early, rejected design, which they used as a placeholder to give the design team time to figure out what their approach would be. My editor said they had several false starts because it's hard to capture the essence of the book in one image: Alternate history? Thriller? Romance? Family drama? Political drama?

As the months dragged on, my son got impatient with how long it was taking, and he came up with his own concept, which I forwarded to my editor. This is a mock-up only, that he threw together in literally an hour (just to show the idea), but I love it that he chose to use the murmuration of starlings--one of my favorite scenes in the book--as the basis for his illustration:

It's a bit like a gentler version of Chuck Wendig's Blackbirds cover (a fantastic Angry Robot cover). But Eric's idea was also rejected. In the end, the staff at Macmillan agreed that the romance was the most compelling aspect of the story for them--the thing they thought about long after the book was closed--and they decided to go that route.

Jen:  The murmuration was one of my favorite scenes, too! I loved both of these ideas when you first showed them to me, and I love them still, but if they couldn't be used, I'm glad for the beautiful cover that they did end up using. I think it captures what's inside the book brilliantly.

Speaking of brilliance, what was your inspiration for this story? Is it a sort of retelling? Where did the idea for Plus One come from? When I hear "plus one", I automatically think of an RSVP, but what importance does the phrase have with regards to your story?

Elizabeth:  Some people have mentioned a fairy tale called The Day Boy and the Night Girl, which I had never heard of before (and I still haven't read). I think of the world of Plus One as a metaphor--an allegory about separate never being equal.

As with many of my ideas, the inspiration for the story started with a daydream and a lot of questions. My daughter's friend had back surgery late in the day, and she was told she could visit him when he got out of recovery at 10 PM. We flew up Lake Shore Drive--all the lights were timed, the roads were empty--and got there in about thirteen minutes when it would have taken thirty-five during the day. As my daughter popped up to see her friend, I waited in the car outside--it was dark and peaceful and the street was empty--and wondered, "Why do we all try to live on the same schedule? Why don't we stagger the time of day that we live and work, to spread the resources around the clock? Then I thought, "What if we had to live at alternate times? What would life be like if you lived in the dark? How would it be enforced? Who would choose your assignment? Would one group fare better? Could there be health consequences?" And of course my mind moved to the political and social analogies in our real world, which became the most important focus of the book.

In the book, the phrase "Plus One" refers to the permission some health care workers have to transport patients beyond curfew. And you're right, the phrase is borrowed terminology from an RSVP. But "Plus One" took on a more personal meaning as I wrote. When Sol realizes in the hospital that she can't bring herself to say D'Arcy's name (which really means she refuses to humanize him in her own mind) she blurts out "Day Boy" instead, and D'Arcy understands immediately, in that astute way he has. Out of principle he holds back her name as well, calling her "Plus One." A few early readers have called these phrases "nicknames," which isn't how I think of them. For me they represent an inability to acknowledge the other person fully. Later, when Sol whispers his name in her head, and he uses her name aloud for the first time, I hoped you'd see that they've each grown to respect the other as a person.

Jen:  And that's exactly how I understood it, too. They couldn't bring themselves to call each other by name until they could accept each other for who and what they were to each other. And just as your inspiration started with all of those questions, my reading of Plus One ended with them. Months later, I'm still thinking about the book and the questions it sparked.

There are some small elements typical of a dystopian novel in your story, but this book is anything but typical. And the cover of the book makes it look like a romance novel. How would you categorize Plus One? What (sub)genre do you think it falls under? What would you tell people to entice them to read it?

Elizabeth:  I'm such a nerd I would tell people "It's an alternate-history thriller exploring issues of civil liberties and social justice," and they'd fall asleep before I finished. I'm sure I would have chosen a much less romantic cover, and it might have been a mistake because this jacket design is so moving and dynamic. A blogger who read this in digital format claimed that the romance doesn't start until 70% in, which is probably technically true. (Although I can't think of a more swoony scenario than two smart people who don't like each other running away from the law together...or am I weird?) Some readers have tagged it as "dystopia" on Goodreads, and I don't know enough to say whether it is or not, though I often think of dystopias as being set in the future (which Plus One isn't). So instead I challenge people with this question: were our own United States a dystopia before the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Is the growing level of government invasiveness today (for example, monitoring phone calls in the name of protecting us, or detaining people in Guantanamo Bay indefinitely, without trial) dystopic? If your answer is yes to those questions, then I agree that Plus One is a dystopia.

Jen:  Not weird...I, too, thought that was one of the most romantic scenarios I'd ever read. I believe I tagged this one as dystopia on Goodreads, as well, but I think that was before I started an alternate-history shelf. Now I know better. Thanks for the explanation!

How did you settle on Chicago as the setting for your story? It's a pretty popular setting for dystopian novels these days, but you utilize the city in unprecedented ways in your book. What is the importance of the city to you and to your story?

Elizabeth:  I was born in Chicago and have lived here my whole life, with the exception of one and a half years in Brussels, Belgium (that's the source of Poppu and the French language), and a year in L.A. So the feeling of Chicago at night is a part of my core. I see this book as a love song to the South Side, which is my favorite part of the city--gritty and slightly unmanicured, but real, and hard working. The steam tunnels and the University of Chicago came up organically, because they're a part of my young-adult life. My brother, er, spent some leisure time in the steam tunnels when he was in high school.

Jen:  In your story, there are basically three different groups of people: the Rays, the Smudges, and the Noma. Would you mind elaborating on the differences between these groups and how you came up with their characteristics and different lifestyles?

Elizabeth:  I'm interested that readers have talked a lot about the privilege of the Rays, but focus less on how, despite having a political edge over the Smudges (the Federal government is run by Rays), everyone suffers from the restrictions on their freedom. The two lifestyles were hard for me to master, and I had to do a lot of imagining; there are so many ways in which you and I move fluidly between day and night without even thinking about it. The Noma are a semi-nomadic group who form loosely into tribes and are less rebels than criminals, out for themselves, and who have figured out how to straddle the Day/Night divide. Their way of dressing and talking is inspired somewhat by Alex's delinquent gang in A Clockwork Orange. As I explored their individual characters, though, I discovered what's true of all people: there are good and bad among the Noma.

Jen:  I hate to admit this, but I've never read A Clockwork Orange. But I loved how you presented the Noma, so I'm interested to see what inspired them.

After reading both Monstrous Beauty and Plus One, I'm starting to gather that you're a fan of star-crossed lovers. What pulls you to this type of romance, and what makes you want to write a story about "forbidden" love?

Elizabeth:  To me a book is only romantic as long as the two characters are apart! As soon as the couple gets together, you risk boring your readers...unless the lovers are separated again. The tension, the longing for them to be together, is something I like to savor.

But I want to go a level deeper and ask "Why is there love and romance at all in Plus One if it's about personal freedom?" I wanted to get young readers wrapped up in the romantic elements precisely so that they would internalize the political and social issues. I remember once as a young kid I saw the scan of an auction notice of a slave mother, father, and child, who were sold off to different masters. It was the first time I understood on a visceral level what it meant for someone to be "property" that could be bought and sold. The fact that the simple human right of being with the people you loved--the person you were married to or had given birth to--could be superseded by an owner's property rights (in a system sanctioned by the government) became horrifically violent to me, because of seeing that one family. They made it real in a way textbook words didn't. In Plus One I wanted to do the same thing on a smaller scale--I wanted teens to root for Sol and D'Arcy to be together, and to see how unjust and arbitrary it was that they couldn't be.

Jen:  Forbidden romances like the one in Plus One are actually my favorite type because you're exactly right: as soon as two characters get together, whether it be on a TV show or in a book, I tend to lose interest, even if the rest of the story is top notch. Keeping them apart is what drives the story for me.

One of my favorite aspects of this novel was all of the contradictions: night and day, light and dark, beauty and roughness, etc. And I loved how Sol and D'Arcy were complete opposites themselves, yet they complement each other well. What do you think each character would say the other brings out in themselves? Why did you write these two characters the way you did, with the characteristics they have?

Elizabeth:  Oh, gosh, thank you so much for seeing those opposites. I love how different Sol and D'Arcy are, but how fundamentally similar--loyal to the bone and family-oriented. I love how they slowly discover it. When I began writing, Sol presented herself fully formed to me. She was angry and wounded and fierce...and already crushing her finger in that machine (although I didn't know the name of it at the time). Some readers can't figure out why D'Arcy--studious and ambitious and rules-oriented--is drawn to helping such a loose cannon (in his own words), when he has so much to lose. For me, even before he met Sol, D'Arcy was already questioning his path--dutifully but not comfortably conforming to a system that had hurt his own family--but his loyalty to his mother and his lack of alternatives had kept him marching along the safe path. (Recall the Spanish flu virion, looming over Sol's first drawing, and how symbolic that is.) It took meeting this enigmatic, totally raw, openly hurt young woman who put one thing (love of family) above anyone's laws to make D'Arcy confront his life decisions.

Jen:  Ah, that makes me think of my favorite quote from the book, where D'Arcy's explaining to Sol how her one crazy act of love left him reeling. *sigh*

All three novels you've written so far have been stand-alone stories. In the reading world, it seems like the trend is series with at least two or more books these days, so I wholeheartedly appreciate getting the whole story from you in one book. Do you set out to write stand-alone novels, or do you just see where the story takes you? I know you've contributed short stories to Tor.com set in the Monstrous Beauty and Plus One worlds, but would you ever consider continuing the story for those characters in the full-length novels? Would you ever consider writing a trilogy or series, or do you prefer to write only stand-alone novels?

Elizabeth:  Looking back, I realize that I write standalone novels that also all have ambiguous, bittersweet endings. I think that's because the real world isn't a neat and tidy place, and I want to leave the reader ruminating about what might happen next. I like to complete a manuscript before I offer it for the first time to an editor--I've never sold on proposal--because I have a phobia about not finishing. That method of writing seems to lead me to standalones. Plus, I have no idea how to write a trilogy--that is, how to write separate stories that share one larger story arc but are complete in themselves, and what the dynamic should be between books one, two, and three. I'm in awe when an author pulls it off.

That said, I'm surprised at how stubbornly Sol and D'Arcy have not left me. And Grady Hastings is frankly pissed as hell that I'm not writing a follow-up novel (because he still has work to do). I daydream a lot about what's happening to them right now.

Jen:  I love your bittersweet, open endings, though I know not everyone is a fan of such a realistic conclusion. And I'm happy to hear that Sol and D'Arcy -- and Grady! -- refuse to leave you alone.

What can we expect to see from you next? Any hints as to what you're working on now?

Elizabeth:  After I finish the promotion for Plus One I'll go back to my two current projects. One is a historical fiction novel that requires so much research it'll be years before I finish, and the other is a realistic contemporary featuring four boys, a road trip, and a dead body. I'm trying to divide my time between writing one and researching the other, but I don't multi-task well with writing. (It's true of reading, too. I've only recently trained myself, laboriously, how to read one print novel while I listen to another in audiobook.)

Jen:  Those both sound amazing. And as a fan of historical fiction, I understand that the more research that goes into the novel, the better the story, so I'll try to be patient as you work on that one. :)

Okay, now for a fun question: If you could go out for drinks with any of the characters from Plus One, who would it be and what would you each order?

Elizabeth:  Sol and D'Arcy are too young to drink, and I'm afraid of Fuzz. Ciel and Gigi are too intense. Poppu would order a hot toddy, so I'm rejecting him as a bar buddy. I'd have a margarita made with real lime juice, and I think I'd be sitting with Grady Hastings, who is drinking a beer, shouting his rhetoric at me above the din of the crowd, demanding that we change the world.

Jen:  Haha, I think I'd pick Gigi...I just find her character so fascinating, and she'd probably be more so after a few drinks! (If you're curious about Gigi, you can read the short story Beth wrote from her perspective for Tor.com...for free!)

I am seriously sooo honored to be on this tour, Beth! I just LOVED this book and I adore you, and I'm so excited to be sharing the awesomeness with everyone else!

Elizabeth:  OMGosh, Jen, this was so fun! You're the one I want to drink with at a bar! We'd gab for HOURS! (Hmm, over Prosecco?) But seriously there isn't a single reader who has made it all the way through to the end of this long post! Tell me what I should cut!

Jen:  Beth probably didn't intend for me to include that last bit, but I had to because it showcases just exactly why I love her and her books so much. :) And, Beth, I couldn't cut a thing...nor would I want to. Thanks again for indulging me!

About the author:

ELIZABETH FAMA is the YA author most recently of Plus One, an alternate-history thriller set in contemporary Chicago. Her other books include Monstrous Beauty, a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selection and an Odyssey honor winner, and Overboard, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a society of Midland Authors honor book, and a nominee for five state awards. A graduate of the University of Chicago, where she earned a B.A. in biology and an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in economics, she lives with (and cannot live without) her boisterous, creative family in Chicago.

Find Elizabeth:

WebsiteTwitter | TumblrGoodreads

About the book:

Title: Plus One
Author: Elizabeth Fama
Series: n/a
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Add to Goodreads
Divided by day and night and on the run from authorities, star-crossed young lovers unearth a sinister conspiracy in this compelling romantic thriller.

Seventeen-year-old Soleil Le Coeur is a Smudge—a night dweller prohibited by law from going out during the day. When she fakes an injury in order to get access to and kidnap her newborn niece—a day dweller, or Ray—she sets in motion a fast-paced adventure that will bring her into conflict with the powerful lawmakers who order her world, and draw her together with the boy she was destined to fall in love with, but who is also a Ray.

Set in a vivid alternate reality and peopled with complex, deeply human characters on both sides of the day-night divide, Plus One is a brilliantly imagined drama of individual liberty and civil rights, and a fast-paced romantic adventure story.

Check out my review of Plus One here and you can view the rest of the tour schedule at the end of this post. But first, the giveaway!

finished copy of Plus One by Elizabeth Fama

  • This giveaway is US/CAN only. The author herself will be providing the prizes for this giveaway. You must confirm that you are comfortable with us sharing your personal info with the author in order for her to ship your prize out.
  • One entry per household. 
  • Entries will be verified. Any entry found to be falsified will result in disqualification of all entries for that participant. 
  • Winner will be notified via email. Winner will then have 48 hours to respond before another winner will be selected. Please check your SPAM folder!!! 
  • We are not responsible for lost packages. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

3/31        Fiction Fare
4/1          The Starry-Eyed Revue
4/2          Ivy Book Bindings
4/3          Carina's Books
4/4          Presenting Lenore
4/5          Shae Has Left the Room
4/6          The Best Books Ever
4/7          Teen Librarian Toolbox
4/8          Love is Not a Triangle  (Release Day)
4/9          The Bevy Bibliotheque

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you'll check out the rest of the tour! Each stop has its own giveaway for a copy of this amazing book, plus more great content!


  1. A really great interview. I like the sound of this book.

  2. This was a seriously interesting interview. ;) I love that talk about the covers! I think covers are fascinating things, because we harp on about "don't judge a book by it's cover"...but who doesn't??! And this cover is just GORGEOUS. I want to read it based on cover/blurb alone. ;)

  3. What a great interview Jen, I really enjoyed it. I'm counting days until Plus One comes out! It was really interesting to see how the cover became what it is today. Also I'll be on lookout for Elizabeths new books.

  4. This is such an interesting interview! I was not really hooked with Plus One's cover and blurb at first, but this make me want to read it! And star-crossed lover and interesting concept? I want it O.O
    Thanks for sharing and introducing me to this book, Jen!

    Neysa @ Papier Revue

  5. Excellent interview!! I already wanted to read this book, but now I am ever so excited for it!!

  6. That last bit... OMG! Haha! Perfection! :D

    Oh how I LOVED this interview Jen. You asked all the right questions, and Elizabeth provided such thoughtful and interesting responses. For anyone learning about this title for the first time, I imagine after reading this interview, it's difficult NOT to be excited for the release of Plus One. Well, I've known about it for a while, and I've been excited for a while, but your review + Lauren's review + this stellar interview, and I'm just about ready to burst from all the giddiness! AHHH!

    And you know, I LOVE the sound of Sol and D'Arcy's forbidden romance and how it slowly develops. And what about that bittersweet and fitting ending? Those are a favorite of mine. The ones that read more like real life and are open to interpretation. Yup! The best!

    I can't wait to read this one, Jen! I really can't.

    Wonderful work, ladies! Truly. :)

    Marlene @ The Flyleaf Review

  7. Elizabeth is one of my favorite people in all the world, and she's such a great writer, too!

  8. Great interview! What first made me interested in the book was when I learned it was about Day and Night. It just sounded so different to me. Then i saw the cover and was like WOW! I'm really pumped for this book!

  9. thanks for such a fun post! I love this cover and I think it sounds fabulous :) Thanks for sharing!

  10. I love alternate history. I love to see what people think it could have been like. Tehre is such a huge space to choose from so i always liked that aspect.
    Brittany @ Please Feed the Bookworm

  11. I love this interview! Beautiful questions and answers. So interesting seeing the various covers and imagining how the book would change with a different cover. I loved this book and really need to read Monstrous Beauty. Thank you both for sharing such a wonderful interview!

  12. The society! It's really interesting how they are divided by night and day.
    The cover is also GORGEOUS :D

  13. This book is way to awesome! It's family-centric, it could make you cry (because I did). The romance was very subtle but then you'll find yourself rolling over your bed because of Sol and D'Arcy especially the murmuration scene.

    Awesome interview, Jen! It was interesting and fun.

  14. The thing that interests me most is how their society is separated by night and day. I've never read a book with the premise, but I had a similar dream once and I find that very cool! :)

  15. I love the forbidden romance angle. And as a night person, I'm interested to see how a society split that way would function.

  16. Star crossed lovers, unique story and that beautiful cover intrigue me! Thanks for the great post!

  17. I'm a sucker for forbidden love/star crossed lovers, so I definitely want to read this one! Thanks for the giveaway!

  18. Everything! I'm so excited to read it!!!

  19. this is such an interesting premise!

  20. What a unique idea! I LOVE the cover it is simple gorgeous!


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