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Bray, Libba (Martha E. Bray)

Bray, Libba (Martha E. Bray)

PERSONAL:

Born in TX; daughter of a Presbyterian minister and an English teacher; married Barry Goldblatt (a children's book agent); children: Josh. Education: University of Texas, B.A., 1988. Hobbies and other interests: People watching, touring New York City.

ADDRESSES:

Home—New York, NY. Agent—Barry Goldblatt Literary LLC, 320 7th Ave., Ste. 266, Brooklyn, NY 11215.

CAREER:

Novelist and freelance writer. Formerly on publicity staff at Penguin Putnam, New York, NY, and on advertising staff at Spier, New York, NY.

WRITINGS:

Kari (novel), HarperTrophy (New York, NY), 2000.

A Great and Terrible Beauty (novel), Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2003.

Rebel Angels (novel), Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2005.

The Sweet Far Thing (novel), Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2007.

(Contributor) The Restless Dead: Ten Original Stories of the Supernatural, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2007.

(Contributor) Up All Night: A Short Story Collection, Laura Geringer Books/HarperTeen (New York, NY), 2008.

Also author of series titles for a New York City book packager; author of blog, Libba Bray.

SIDELIGHTS:

Small-town Texas-born writer Libba Bray has always loved a good story. A fan of reading as a child, she also fell in love with the stage while growing up and went on to major in theater at the University of Texas. After graduation, with aspirations of becoming a playwright and only six hundred dollars to her name, the spunky Bray took a chance and moved to New York City to room with a college friend. After taking jobs in publishing and advertising to hone her writing skills, Bray became a freelance writer. She published three novels between 2000 and 2005: Kari, A Great and Terrible Beauty, and Rebel Angels, all of which are aimed at teen readers.

A Great and Terrible Beauty is a gothic tale that centers on Gemma Doyle, a sixteen-year-old boarding-school student living in Victorian London who is attempting to grapple with her newly discovered ability to travel into a supernatural realm and envision the future. "Featuring both mystical and forbidden romance elements, Bray's debut novel will appeal to a large audience," predicted Booklist reviewer Laurie Hartshorn. Lisa Prolman, reviewing the book for School Library Journal, dubbed the novel "an interesting combination of fantasy, light horror, and historical fiction, with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure." In Kliatt, Claire Rosser also had praise for A Great and Terrible Beauty, writing: "There is much that is appealing in this story. It reads like an adult novel, except that the characters are teenagers; the character development and vocabulary are rich and meaty."

Bray's follow-up to A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, picks up with Gemma and her school friends as Gemma works to harness the supernatural abilities she discovered in the first book. She realizes that the magic she inadvertently released must be bound in order to prevent evil forces from breaking free in the human world, but her determination meets with an assortment of obstacles. A new teacher appears to be a threat, and in addition, Gemma begins to suspect that one of her friends has been corrupted against her. Karyn N. Silverman, writing for School Library Journal, remarked: "Like the first volume, this is a remarkable fantasy steeped in Victorian sensibility." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that it "feels a bit like a bridge between the launch and the next installment in her series," but noted that "Bray provides a satisfying ending."

The Sweet Far Thing, the much-anticipated third installment in Bray's series about Gemma and her adventures, was published in 2007. At the close of Rebel Angels, Gemma had managed to successfully bind the magic to herself in an effort to keep the forces of evil from slipping into her own world. However, she also agreed to align herself with the various forest folk she has met, something that she feels less inclined to do as the third book progresses. Gemma finds herself struggling to determine whom she can trust, even while she forces the people around her to jump through hoops in order to remain on her good side. At the same time, the realms themselves appear to be shifting into something more sinister, leading to the question of how well Gemma really has controlled the situation. The book met with mostly warm reviews. Meredith Robbins, reviewing for School Library Journal, observed that some of the feminist leanings of the book seem inappropriate for the characters used to relay the ideas, but overall concluded that "the novel's fast-paced and exciting ending and Bray's lyrical descriptions of the decaying realms are sure to enchant readers who loved Gemma's previous exploits." Norah Piehl, in a review for the Teenreads.com Web site, concluded that "Libba Bray's highly successful trilogy … comes together beautifully in The Sweet Far Thing."

In an interview with Claire E. White for the Writers Write Web site, Bray had some advice for aspiring writers: "Read everything. Write even if you don't feel like it—especially if you don't feel like it. Write what interests and moves you without regard to how it will be received. Don't be afraid to go to the dark places or toward what scares you as a writer. Put a little blood on the page—a book should cost you something to write."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August, 2004, Laurie Hartshorn, review of A Great and Terrible Beauty, p. 1954.

Horn Book, September-October, 2004, Dristi Elle Jemtegaard, review of A Great and Terrible Beauty, p. 609.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2003, review of A Great and Terrible Beauty, p. 1358.

Kliatt, January, 2004, Claire Rosser, review of A Great and Terrible Beauty, p. 6.

Publishers Weekly, December 8, 2003, review of A Great and Terrible Beauty, p. 62; February 2, 2004, review of A Great and Terrible Beauty, p. 30; August 1, 2005, review of Rebel Angels, p. 66.

School Library Journal, February, 2004, Lisa Prolman, review of A Great and Terrible Beauty, p. 141; June, 2004, Francisca Goldsmith, review of A Great and Terrible Beauty, p. 76; September, 2005, Karyn N. Silverman, review of Rebel Angels, p. 198; January, 2008, Meredith Robbins, review of The Sweet Far Thing, p. 114.

ONLINE

Libba Bray Web site,http://www.libbabray.com (July 13, 2007).

Teenreads.com,http://aolsvc.teenreads.com/ (April 2, 2008), Norah Piehl, review of The Sweet Far Thing.

Writers Write,http://www.writerswrite.com/ (April 23, 2008), Claire E. White, author interview.

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