Friday, August 4, 2017

Review with Author Interview: No Good Deed by Kara Connolly

Book info:
TitleNo Good Deed
Author:  Kara Connolly
Genre:  YA Fairy tale retelling
Release Date:  July 18th, 2017
Publisher:  Delacorte Press
Source: ARC from publisher for honest review
My rating:  5 stars


Fans of Dorothy Must Die will love this reimagining of the legend of Robin Hood. Girl power rules supreme when a modern girl finds herself in the middle of a medieval mess with only her smart mouth and her Olympic-archer aim to get her home.

Ellie Hudson is the front-runner on the road to gold for the U.S. Olympic archery team. All she has to do is qualify at the trials in jolly old England. When Ellie makes some kind of crazy wrong turn in the caverns under Nottingham Castle—yes, that Nottingham—she ends up in medieval England.

Ellie doesn’t care how she got to the Middle Ages; she just wants to go home before she gets the plague. But people are suffering in Nottingham, and Ellie has the skills to make it better. What’s an ace archer to do while she’s stuck in Sherwood Forest but make like Robin Hood?

Pulled into a past life as an outlaw, Ellie feels her present fading away next to daring do-gooding and a devilishly handsome knight. Only, Ellie is on the brink of rewriting history, and when she picks up her bow and arrow, her next shot could save her past—or doom civilization’s future.

My Review:
If you've been following my blog for a while, you know that I'm a big fan of fairy tale retellings.  I especially like when they are looking at actual historical events and people, which this book does that as well.  

When the book starts out, Ellie has just had a strange experience at a tournament, one that almost caused her to get disqualified.  She sees a man in a white monk's habit in between her and the target she is aiming for.  No one else sees him, and he disappears.  Later on she goes with her mom for lunch, and then while her mom is working, Ellie goes to see the Nottingham castle.  When she's getting ready to buy her ticket to go see the tourist attraction, she spies the monk again and so she goes to follow him, trying to figure out who he really is.  This leads her through the tunnels under the castle, but when she comes out of those tunnels, suddenly she seems to be back in time.  And being there is a crime, and she is immediately on the run from the sheriff and other law of the time.  She ends up being saved by a knight, James, who is also a member of the Templars.  

Along the way she ends up with her own little merry band of friends, who turn out to all kind of fit the characters that were supposed to be Robin Hood's band of outlaws.  So not only is she trying to find her way back home, she's also trying to keep from being put to death for her suppposed crimes of the time, as well as help out those who are suffering under the horrible taxation that seems to be happening at the time.  You know, she kind of becomes Robin Hood.

What I really enjoyed was all of the different historical facts that were woven into the story, making it so much more than just a fairy tale/time travel story.  There was King Richard, and Prince John, as well as Eleanor of Aquitane, and so much more about that time period.  I loved learning where the word sheriff actually came from.  

This was a very fun read, and hard to put down.  There were some things about the Robin Hood story I was unfamiliar with, but it was fun to do the research on those things as well, when I would google as I was reading.  

Author Interview:
1. What does your writing process look like? Do you know the whole story when you start? Or do you just start writing and go with it (seat of the pants writing)? If you plan it out, how do you do that? Outline, notecards, post-it-notes, etc.?
I always seem to know the beginning of the story and the end. I would love to dive in with just that much, but after millions of words of unfinished novels, I realize I need a map.
I like to visualize things, so in my journal, I have a sort of Mad Libs storyboard with all the essential turning points marked where they fall in the timeline. It's all graphed and color coded, which is either sad or awesome. That way I can be in the middle of my day job, and if I get an idea for one of these anchor points I can jot it down. So I'm sort of a hybrid plotter/pantser. I don't have to know every step of the journey, but I need to have signposts.
As I'm writing the first draft, though, I make Post-it notes for each scene. Then when I get to revising, I stick them up on the wall and have a complete timeline to look at. Nothing really beats being able to look at the book from a few steps back.

2. How do you come up with your ideas for your stories?
Have you ever had a compost pile? Basically, you put all your kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc., into a big pile, and it breaks down into this rich soil you can use for growing more things. You keep adding more stuff and you turn it regularly so it doesn't just become a trash heap. (That part's important.)
My idea process is basically like that. Everything I read or see or hear goes into the bin, along with things that have been there since I was a kid, like my love of the Robin Hood stories, and random things I don't even remember remembering from history class. I add to it with trips to the museum, or true crime podcasts, or books about the decoding of the Rosetta Stone, and I stir it by journaling and drawing and trying to tap into different parts of my creativity.
Then either I plant a seed I want to germinate, or something will sprout on its own. But it's basically grown out of all that stuff that's been mixing and cooking forever. Every writer, I think, has an idea bank, or a shelf, or a file. Mine I think of as fertilizer. I guess you could say my process is organic. ;)

3. How long have you been writing?
I can't remember ever not writing. Before I wrote things down, I acted out stories with action figures (with help from my brother). In school, when the class had to write sentences with our spelling words, I'd turn it into a story. (Which was why I always needed extra time to complete my assignments.) I wrote (terrible) fan fiction. But it took me a long time to write a sellable, full-length novel.

4. What tips do you have for aspiring writers?
Read a lot and write a lot. Reading is how you fill your mental compost heap, and writing and writing and writing is how you develop your voice. If you start a novel, commit to it and don't abandon it when the voice in your head says it's terrible, or this other idea would be better. Your idea is great. And if the writing is terrible, you can fix it. But you can't fix a novel that's never finished.

5. Some favorites:
Classic faves: The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. The Blue Sword (and anything else) by Robin McKinley. Agatha Christie. Lately, I've been reading and loving The Great Library series by Rachel Caine. I love fantasy, and I love gothic novels, and I love that female-lead thrillers are having a moment. (Thank you, Gone Girl, for that.)

Movies/TV Shows
I saw Wonder Woman three times in the theater. Full price. *blush* Star Wars, Star Trek, the Avengers (the first one), Doctor Strange (you're probably sensing a theme), and pretty much anything with a dragon in it. (Why hasn't anyone made the Temeraire series into a movie yet?) Also, I will mainline Modern Family on Hulu when I need a laugh.

I listen to singer-songwriter type stuff at home, Regina Spektor, Ingrid Michaelson, Tori Amos. When I'm driving I like Mumford & Sons, Flogging Molly, and other things where I have to be careful not to speed. I love Florence and the Machine, and I will always love U2. (And sometimes I listen to Taylor Swift in secret.)
Food/Writing snack
I like Smarties when I write. I line them up on the desk and use them as a reward. Write a page, get a Smartie. Write a paragraph, get a Smartie. Some days I have to reward myself for a sentence.

Social Media Site
I've always been a But lately I have narrowed my feed down to nothing but cute animal pictures (@weratedogs) and special interest feeds (@MerriamWebster @NASA @mental_floss @lifehacker). But it's still the best for easily connecting people. (I'm @readKaraC, by the way.) I pinned a lot on Pinterest when I was writing No Good Deed, but Instagram has taken over that part of my social media brain. (I'm @readkaraconnolly there.)

Thanks so much for the chance to visit with you!
About the Author:

KARA CONNOLLY loves history, though she's never time traveled. She lives and writes in Arlington, Texas. To learn more about Kara and her books go to or follow @karaconnolly4 on Twitter and @readkaraconnolly on Instagram.