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Dreamfall Decrypted

To answer a few of your questions about DREAMFALL:

Give me 5 reasons I should read DREAMFALL.

  • Because it’s about people who have worse insomnia than you! Compared to the seven teens in the book, your sleepless nights are child’s play.
  • Because if your brain is going to force you to do an all-nighter, you might as well spend it in a fictional world that will suck you in and not let you go until the last page.
  • Because who wants to stay up all night worrying about your own life when you can stay up all night freaking out about someone else’s?
  • Because complications with tomorrow’s exam…your job…your boy/girlfriend seem minor when compared to spending the rest of your (probably short) life stuck in someone else’s killer nightmares.
  • Because your nightmare about going to school in your underwear seems less traumatic next to a nightmare about being buried alive with three corpses. (Everything’s relative.)

Why did you want to write horror?

I actually tried to write a horror novel as my very first attempt at fiction. But I got halfway into it, and then didn’t know what happened next. So I put it aside and wrote the DIE FOR ME and AFTER THE END series. Once I was ready for my next challenge, I thought I would try horror once again. And this time, the story stuck.

In the DIE FOR ME series, I discovered that I enjoyed  much preferred writing the fight scenes as much as I did the kissing scenes. Chopping someone’s head off with a sword was just as exhilarating as writing a steamy makeout scene. So with DREAMFALL, I decided to embrace my morbid side and go with it. And, boy, did I have fun. At one point, my editor asked if one scene wasn’t TOO gruesome. I begged for it to stay, my argument being, “This is horror – it’s SUPPOSED to be gruesome!” I mean, if you’re writing horror, you might as well go all the way. So it stayed, much to my twisted delight. Funnily enough, the concept for the novel came from an idea I had for a children’s picture book. I’m still scratching my head as to why my agent was horrified when she read the pitch. (Hmm…)

How much research did you have to do for DREAMFALL?

DIE FOR ME was about things I knew: Paris, history, art, love and loss. AFTER THE END also contained things I knew…but on a more personal basis: I grew up in a type of cult-like environment where, like the main character Juneau, brainwashing was an aspect of my childhood. The research for this book was mainly with the locations. For example, once I had written the first draft, I flew to Seattle to do a road trip to Arizona so that I could describe the landscapes.

But DREAMFALL required major research. As the idea for the story evolved, it included more and more science. I was determined to get the facts right so that the fiction I added would be more believable. I read an entire book on the little-known disease called FFI (Fatal Familial Insomnia). I studied sleep cycles, read about sleep research, interviewed two people with narcolepsy, and one person who had gone through electroconvulsive therapy, and asked a doctor friend to read through all the medical sections, so I could be sure those were right.

But, like with my previous two series, there were some aspects of DREAMFALL that I didn’t need to read up on because they came straight from my own life. I know insomnia well. Whenever something horrible happens (like my mother’s death), my brain responds by giving me a good dose of insomnia. It was easy for me to channel the feeling of not being able to sleep.

Which character do you feel closest to in DREAMFALL?

There is no character in my books that I have felt closer to than Cata, one of DREAMFALL’s main characters. When I started the book, I hadn’t planned to model her back story on my own past. But as her personality formed, I found myself dipping into my memory for anecdotes. It made sense: we both suffered PTSD from abusive childhoods.

Cata’s first nightmare in the book comes straight from my 16-year-old brain. I lived in the crazy run-down antebellum mansion she lived in. And my father was the same type of monster hers was.  As her story progressed, I let myself pepper it with actual words and events from my childhood.

However, in DREAMFALL, I let Cata escape. She told someone what was happening to her, and was removed from her family by Child Protective Services. In real life, I stayed and bore the brunt of my father’s mental problems.

In the end, Cata provided a sort of redemption for me. In writing her story, I was able to allow my adolescent self to speak up for the first time.

And lastly…

I wonder if you’ll see an aspect of yourself in any of the characters. Over the course of this duology, I have come to love them. Because they are not who they seem to be. Just like a nightmare…you only truly understand it after it’s over. Although the truth is there, right before your eyes, you have to wake up to realize what was really going on.


You can check DREAMFALL out for yourself here:



Barnes & Noble



The new middle-grade book you MUST HAVE

The holiday season is the perfect time to announce the release of my friend Lori’s middle grade book PIERRE FRANÇOIS: 5th GRADE MISHAPS!

Paris friends by the Canal St. Martin

Paris pals at the Canal St. Martin

Besides being one of my all-time favorite people…

SMU pic Lori Ann Stephens Photo Credit to Jack Jewers copy

Lori Ann Stephens is the award-winning author of Young Adult novel SOME ACT OF VISION (ASD Publishing, September 2013), SONG OF THE ORANGE MOONS (Blooming Tree Press, Nov 2010), and several short stories and poems. SOME ACT OF VISION is the 2013 YA novel winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, hosted by the Romance Writers of America, OK.

After winning the English National Opera Minioperas libretto contest in 2012, she’s recently found herself writing lyrics to operas…that have real composers and singers and everything. When she’s not writing or teaching writing, she reads, takes on DIY home remodeling adventures, and eats the best gourmet, home-cooked meals. She is usually not the cook. She lives in Texas with her family.

Her hilarious and heart-warming book PIERRE FRANÇOIS: 5th GRADE MISHAPS releases January 4!

Pierre François Mishaps front cover

Here’s a description: Ten-year-old Pierre François—otherwise known as Pierre the Fantastic Flying Fish and Pierre the Genius Brain—is an expert at signing his school papers with original names. He’s also good at extolling the greatness of France, using weird words like “extolling,” dissecting owl vomit, and avoiding The Stinky Chair in math class. What he’s not good at is a foolproof bladder. Accidents happen, although this is Top Secret Information.

So, when it’s time for the entire fifth grade to go to Adventure Camp, a two-night trip in the wilderness, Pierre would rather complain about the fifth-grade meanies, dream of mastering the spelling bee with Jedi skills, and devise ways to meet the fascinating new girl in school. But Adventure Camp is coming for him, along with a wet and icy cold front. Can Pierre muster all his courage and wit to survive nature’s onslaught of ice, rain, and other liquid fiascos?

Order Pierre-François on Amazon

Order Pierre-François directly from the publisher, Black Rose

Pierre François Mishaps full cover

Today I have an exclusive interview with Lori about the book! Ready? Here we go!

As a personal friend, I can’t help but noticing that there are some similarities between your family and that of Pierre François. How does Pierre’s family compare to yours?

Picture1Ha! Yes, I have to admit that Pierre’s family is a carbon copy of my own. Pierre’s father is all about French manners and compassion, Pierre’s mother is all about optimism and advice, and Pierre is a bundle of pride, embarrassment, longing, and incredible imagination. That’s a very familiar portrayal of us—to a comical degree.


What (or who) was your inspiration for writing Pierre François?

My son, Julien, was the original Pierre. He actually asked me to write a novel about his wacky fifth-grade year. Ten-year-olds are right at that age where cliques begin, old friends develop new interests, math gets really really hard (good Lord—parents know all about this), and the opposite sex suddenly becomes either dreadfully annoying or absurdly mesmerizing. Julien’s dinner conversations always had me in stitches, so when he asked me to write Pierre, I knew it would have to be a humorous book. The only part of the book that I was nervous about was Pierre’s secret. But Julien was thrilled about everything in the book—and read it fifteen or twenty times before the book was published.



What age group are you hoping will read Pierre François?

I think the book is appropriate for second to sixth grade. I think it’s a good read-aloud book, especially for children who can’t read fluently yet. But the books speaks especially to children in 4th-6th grades (9-11 year olds).


How did you manage to rope in such a wonderful illustrator?

Ah! Trevor Yokochi is an incredible painter and mixed media artist based in Dallas. He happens to be my other son, and he graduated a few years ago from the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Of course, the whole book is a family affair. Julien begged Trevor to make illustrations—there are over 80 in the book—and he came through with the perfect representations of Pierre and his world. I’m very lucky, and hope we can continue collaborating on future Pierre books.


Trevor Yokochi (aka the author’s son)


Did you base any of the story on your own experiences as a child?

It’s funny: in all my other books, most of the characters are different sides of me or collections of my experiences parceled out into characters. But in Pierre, the events are entirely fictionalized or retellings of Julien’s own adventures in 5thgrade …fictionalized, of course. Ahem.



In your own experience, was fifth grade the worst grade of all?

Fifth grade wasn’t the worst, but it certainly wasn’t the best. Here’s a story that actually ended up in another novel: I had a crush on a boy named Miles. My first crush. At Christmas time, we did a gift swap, and everyone bought a gift and labeled it “for Boy” or “for Girl.” I had to buy a gift for a boy, but we were only allowed to spend a ridiculously small amount for it. I think it was a $2 limit or something. Even in the 70s, that was not much. Of course, I forgot about the buying the gift and had to scramble to buy one at the grocery store; I ended up buying a Matchbox car because it was the only thing within the price limit. Even as I paid the cashier, I was doubtful that any ten-year-old boy would want a tiny metal car for Christmas. Guess who picked my gift? Miles. I unwrapped a cool stationary packet; he unwrapped a car for “babies,” and spent the rest of the day begging his friends to trade with him. No one wanted the Matchbook car, and pretty soon, everyone was trying to figure out who’d bought the sorry gift for “babies.”  I was so embarrassed—of course, I wouldn’t admit that I’d bought it! Ah, fifth grade. I don’t really miss it. But I do miss art class.


I love the relationship between the three friends. Pierre François’s anxiety about a change in their previous Three Musketeers vibe seems so right-on with what I remember happening with friends during the pre-teen and teenage years. Again…are you basing this on personal experience or any friendships you’ve observed?

Actually, I had exactly one friend in fifth grade. Lisa Wicherts, God bless her. I was stunned that she wanted to be my friend. And even more stunned when she invited me to her birthday party. I was enormously shy. The anxiety of shifting friendships I experienced was in 9th grade, when we all went to different high schools and joined different clubs. I was a late bloomer in the social butterfly department.


Does Adventure Camp really exist in Texas?

Yes. Plano Independent School District sends all its fifth graders to a sleep-away nature camp. It’s called Collin County Adventure Camp. Although I’ve heard of adventure camps in other states, I’m most familiar with Collin County’s because my son attends Plano ISD. It’s an incredible commitment on the part of the Plano School Board; they provide financial aid so that every child can attend. The camp is sort of “legendary,” and the children look forward to it from the time they enter kindergarten.



How on earth did the stinky chair work its way into the story? Does it actually exist?  

Let’s just say that particular chair was the topic of many a dinner conversation when Julien was in fifth grade, and leave it at that.


After reading Pierre, I looked up bed-wetting in older children and found that not only it is much more common than I imagined, but there can be genetic factors. So, something that is sometimes blamed on the child, or for which the child blames themselves is actually just a natural part of some people’s genetic makeup. What was the reason you included this topic in the book?Picture5

I’ve heard so many stories of parents spanking their children for bedwetting episodes, and it’s terribly upsetting. Nocturnal enuresis is a physiological condition, not a result of laziness. It’s actually common, but because it’s a taboo topic, most people don’t realize that many children in second to fifth grades still privately struggle with it. I hope that Pierre’s humor, his experiences, his imagination, and his (sometimes overabundant) self-esteem bring awareness to—and empathy for—this common condition.


And now…for the GIVEAWAY!!!

Lori is giving away a free copy of PIERRE-FRANÇOIS: 5th GRADE MISHAPS to a lucky  winner. (US and Canada only, please!)  I will be drawing a winner from the “hat” on JANUARY 5th. What you need to do to apply is one or more of the following:

1. Follow Lori on Facebook

2. Follow Lori on Twitter

3. Follow Lori on Instagram

4. Visit Lori’s website

5. Tweet this:  “Check out the hilarious new middle-grade book by @loriannstephens : PIERRE-FRANÇOIS: 5TH GRADE MISHAPS and win a free book! ”

You get your name in the hat for each thing you do. Leave me a message below with the amount of points to give you and a way to contact you if you win. Good luck, and ENJOY!!!


The Man Who Saved Paris

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to witness a truly historic event—one that wove together the 18th and 21st centuries using the threads of politics, family, history and one of those beautifully produced signs you see gracing many of Paris’s historical spots.

Photo Esplanade Martinez 3 (1)

Knowing my love of history and in particular the history of the Paris’s catacombs, my friend Gilles Thomas, who has published several seminal books on the subject, invited me to a truly special event: the dedication of a city esplanade to “the man who saved Paris,” Charles-Alex Guillaumot. It had been a project of Gilles for the last five years to gain recognition for the architect responsible for buttressing the network of limestone mines beneath Paris, and his work had finally paid off.

In previous posts, I describe at length the story of visiting the off-limit catacombs with Gilles, so let me summarize for you here. Before Paris existed as the city it is now, there were many mines on the outskirts…mainly for the limestone used to build the buildings you see in Paris today. At the time, that land was farmland, so no one thought about security. But as Paris grew, homes were built on top of land that had been hollowed out, and the more buildings perched atop these holes, the more dangerous it was.

This oblivious co-habitation of city and deep holes continued until 1774, when a whole street of apartment buildings and homes fell through the ground. Louis XVI named a commission to inspect, chart, and reinforce the mines. (The Inspection générale des carrières or IGC.) So Charles-Axel Guillaumot (the chief inspector) and his crew went around to all of these individual mines and made tunnels from mine to mine, connecting them. They raised their ceilings from the crouching height miners were forced to work in to a height that allowed men pushing wheelbarrows to get through. They reinforced the walls and ceilings and labeled them all as they made their way through.

During the French revolution, people didn’t like the idea of employing someone appointed by the king, and Charles-Axel was imprisoned in Versailles. They quickly realized how indispensable he was, however, as Guillaumot was back on the job a few years later, continuing his work until he died.

Hopping forward a couple of hundred years, Gilles Thomas, in his in-depth research on the catacombs, re-discovered the architect’s importance in the history of Paris, and went to visit Guillaumot’s ancestors in Toulouse. He discovered that a portrait of Guillaumot existed in the family home, and photographing it, he finally put a face to the name for historians. But crediting the architect in his books was not enough for Gilles. He started a campaign to dedicate a public place to the man who had, in the meantime, been christened “the man who saved Paris” by author and historian, Graham Robb.

CAG 28

An enlarged photo of the portrait of Charles-Axel Guillaumot graced the square during the dedication. (With the Deputy Mayor of Paris, Célia Blauel.)

This campaign took on two of the toughest bureaucratic entities in France: the public transport system and the mayor’s office. So on the evening of October 4th, 2017, representatives from both of those offices, as well as around one hundred of Guillaumot’s ancestors, gathered on the plaza just outside of the Denfert-Rochereau train station, next to the entrance of the Paris Catacombs (the Ossuary) and close to the location of the rue d’Enfer, where a house caved in the very day Guillaumot started his work on the mines.

I was met by Gilles Thomas, who was probably the only person who could identify all of the various attendees. He waved his hand over the majority of the group of Guillaumots, then said there were even a few descendants of Philibert Aspairt in attendance. (Aspairt is the only person properly buried in the catacombs, his body having been found in the caverns in 1804, eleven years after he went missing.)

Members of Philibert Aspairt's family.

Members of Philibert Aspairt’s family with a photo of his subterranean tomb.

Then Gilles introduced me to American author and fellow history-buff Cara Black, who was there to witness the historic moment. We watched the spectacle together, as Danièle Pourtaud, Conseillère of the 14th arrondissement, welcomed us all to the event. She pointed to all of the construction work being done on the Place Denfert-Rochereau behind us, saying that they were overhauling the entrance to the Catacombs’ Ossuary, and at the same time are creating, just in front of it, the future Museum of Paris Liberty.

Photo Esplanade Martinez 6

Hidden by trees, the building that will serve as the new entrance to the Ossuary as well as the Museum of Liberty.

Franck Avice, Director of the RATP (Paris’s transport system) then took the mic and explained the importance of the train system and of this particular spot, citing the astronomical number of people who used this one station every day. (I wasn’t taking notes, but it was something like 90,000.)

Célia Blauel

Célia Blauel, Deputy Mayor of Paris

Then the Deputy Mayor of Paris, Célia Blauel, took the mic and spoke of how the City of Paris jumped at the chance to honor its illustrious citizen.

IMG_6389Annie Laval-Duboul, one of Guillaumot’s descendants, took the stage and told the story of Gilles visiting their aunt, of her providing him with the family’s documentation and stories that had been passed down of their illustrious ancestor.

She called Gilles up to stand next to her as she told the story, and, in his regular self-effacing manner, stood next to her shrugging off the compliments and praise as it poured down on him. Her speech centered around how excited and grateful the family was that the ancestor who they had always been told saved Paris, was finally getting the recognition he deserved.

And finally, Arnaud de Jenlis, another Guillaumot descendant, took the stage and thanked many family members, several of whom held obvious inheritances from the man of the hour: they all seemed to be named Charles or Axel.

CAG 49

The unveiling of the sign. From left: Gilles Thomas, Arnaud de Jenlis, Annie Laval-Duboul, Célia Blauel, Danièle Pourtaud, and Franck Avice.

After that, the beautiful new sign was unveiled, and many photos taken. Cara and I slipped off before the drinks began pouring, leaving the major players in this important event to celebrate their success and toast to the historic day.

* A special thank you to Gilles Thomas for providing me with photos from the other spectators, since my phone was out of batteries!

Paris Teen Book Club at Shakespeare & Company

I am thrilled and honored to announce that I am hosting Shakespeare and Company’s (yes…that S&Co of Sylvia Beach, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Ezra Pound… the one that was established almost 100 years ago) very first teen program: a monthly book club!


The first Monday night of every month, we will be welcoming Paris readers ages 12-18 to this free event, discussing a pre-chosen book that everyone reads before the meeting. Please come armed with your book, your highlighted passages, your reactions, your questions and your insights.

Thanks to the suggestions of a group of my YA author friends, I’ve chosen SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA as our very first book. Becky Albertalli has even agreed to do a Facetime appearance with us! (Time/date/location here.)


Teen Vogue called SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA “the love child of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.” But if that’s not enough to sell you on it, it is also described as “a twenty-first-century coming-of-age, coming out story—wrapped in a geek romance.”

My verdict: You will laugh out loud in places, and will need a box of Kleenex nearby if you’re a crier. Don’t read the last chapters in public. You have been warned.

Please spread the word to all of your Paris friends who can read and discuss books in English! Here’s a FB page to sign up for the first meeting. Otherwise, just email me to tell me you’re coming!