Category Archives: interview

Interview with Emily France (Author of Signs Of You)

SST Graphic

Hi everyone! I’m participating in Sunday Street Team. This one will be an interview with Emily France whose book comes out in only two days! It’s exciting so I’m glad to do this so close to the book release.

If you want some more information on Signs of You:

Signs_of_YouTitle: Signs of You

Author: Emily France

Published: July 19, 2016 (Soho Teen)

Pages: 240

Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Magical Realism

Themes: Grief, Afterlife

Gooodreads Summary:

Since sixteen-year-old Riley Strout lost her mother two years ago, her saving grace has been her quirky little family in the grief support group she joined as a freshman. Jay, Kate, and Noah understand her pain; each lost a loved one, and they’ve stuck together in spite of their differences, united by tragedies only they understand.

When Riley thinks she spots her mother shopping in a grocery store, she fears she is suffering some sort of post-traumatic stress. Then Jay and Kate report similar experiences. Only Noah hasn’t had some kind of vision, which is perhaps why he’s become so skeptical and distant.

When Noah disappears, Riley fears she’s lost another loved one. As they frantically search for him, she, Kate, and Jay are drawn into the mystery surrounding a relic that belonged to Jay’s dead father and contains clues about the afterlife. Riley finds herself wrestling with her feelings for both Noah and Jay—which have become clear only in Noah’s absence. If Riley is to help those she loves, and herself, she must set things right with the one she’s lost.

~Interview~

Do you think being in law school and being editor-in-chief of the law review has affected how you write Young Adult fiction?

Yes! I’ve always been a writer, but the challenges of law school and of being the editor in chief of the law review improved my skills in countless ways. One of the greatest gifts to come out of those experiences was discipline. In order to write a legal brief or a law review article, you often have to read hundreds of pages of case law and distill those into your own written argument. Do that enough times and you can’t help but become a better writer!  I’m convinced that without the training I received in law school, it might have taken me another decade to finish this book. I’m really grateful I went. (Aw, I love reading about this! I can see how that would make you a better writer, it requires you to be thorough as well and most likely able to catch any plot problems.)

What is a secret fact about one of the characters that readers wouldn’t know?

Seriously, I typed a bunch of answers here and kept deleting them. I feel like I’m betraying my characters to tell their secrets! I really fell in love with these four. They are like family to me. (You could have told ALL of the secrets. 😉 I respect that you didn’t though, loyal to characters, I like that)

Why did you decide to include a support group in Signs of You?

I’ve seen the power of groups in my own life many times. Whether it’s an actual support group or just an extremely close group of friends, I’ve learned that reaching out, asking for help, and connecting with others are the greatest superpowers I have. So I knew my characters’ stories would be more powerful if they were in it together. Plus, one of the side benefits of finding others who can relate to a bit of your path is humor. Lightness in the face grief is one of the gifts that come when you find people who share it. And when Riley, Jay, Kate, and Noah got together, I loved the humor they found even in the depths of loss and struggle. (I just love this answer, there is a lot of power in groups.)

What character do you relate to most out of Riley, Jay, Kate and Noah?

I adore each one of them, but I relate most to Riley. I hope that, like her, I always keep seeking, keep listening, and keep my eyes fixed on the skies. (I love that last part)

What was the hardest and easiest part about writing Signs of You?

The hardest part was reliving several emotional scenes hundreds of times in the editing process. There are a few parts of this story that made me cry every single time I worked with them. Every single time! My heart and soul are in this story, so I had to feel all the feelings over and over again. At times, it was exhausting.

The easiest part was not giving up! Once the idea for this story arrived in my life, it wasn’t an option to quit. If I stayed away from it for just a few days, I would become really miserable. SIGNS OF YOU was my steadfast companion for seven wonderful years. No matter where I was, it was by my side, consuming my imagination and keeping me entertained. Finishing it was bittersweet. It felt like my best friend had gotten into a college far, far away. And of course, you want her to go because it will be awesome. But still, you’ll miss her deep down in your bones every single day. (I can imagine the emotional scenes would be so hard, especially when you have to read through them so many times throughout the editing process and everything. I love reading how much the story became a part of you! It makes writing sound even more important/good in that it’s there gnawing at you.)

If you were to choose a theme song for Signs of You or for any character, what song would you choose?

It would have to be “Dearly Departed” by Shakey Graves. Even though the song is about a romantic relationship, I think it still captures so much of the book. It touches on the feeling of being haunted, of feeling like a ghost yourself, of being lonely, of aching for the past. But it’s not particularly slow or maudlin. It has this upbeat feel and sound, just like Riley’s spirit. (I haven’t heard this song (yet), but I love your description of it! I need to listen soon.)

Did you do any research when writing Signs of You?

Oh, the research! It was one of the most wonderful parts of writing this novel. Early in the process, I happened upon a bit of history about a missing religious manuscript, and it captured my imagination. I dove into the writings of this 16th century mystic who founded the Jesuit order, and his writings fit some of my ideas about my story beautifully and at times, eerily. So my characters are on a quest to uncover the truth about this bit of history, as well as a quest to find answers in their own lives. Putting those two stories together was a thrilling adventure. (Oh wow, this is so fascinating! I love how you combined this mystic’s writings with the story, it sounds so historical and really meaningful)

What is your favorite part about being a debut author?

Peace! Until the moment SIGNS OF YOU went to the printer, I was unsettled. It’s like I couldn’t rest until I knew I had done my very best with every word and every moment of this story. Once it was really done, I felt this sense of peace in my heart that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Finishing this novel was one of my most treasured goals in life. (Peace sounds like it’s an excellent favorite part. I can’t imagine how hard it all is to make sure everything is the best it can be. :))

Thanks for having me.


It was definitely no problem having you on my blog! Thank you!

Wow, I am even more excited to read Signs of You. I love the talk about the founder of the Jesuit order, I’ll have to look more into that.

So, what did everyone else think? 🙂


Interview with Kody Keplinger + Giveaway

Run Banner

Hey everyone. I am so thrilled to have Kody on my blog for the blog tour. I fell in love with her books after reading A Midsummer’s Nightmare and The Duff. I read Run and really loved it as well, unsurprisingly. If you’re unfamiliar with Run, here is some information about it:

Run CoverRun by Kody Keplinger

Published By: Scholastic Press (June 28th, 2016)

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporry, LGBT

Themes: Friendship, Family, Coming-of-Age, Disability

Pages: 288

Goodreads Summary:

Bo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and a mama who’s not exactly sober most of the time. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

Agnes Atwood has never gone on a date, never even stayed out past ten, and never broken any of her parents’ overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally blind daughter — protect her from what, Agnes isn’t quite sure.

Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it’s the sort of friendship that runs truer and deeper than anything else.

So when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, with police sirens wailing in the distance, desperate to get out of town, Agnes doesn’t hesitate to take off with her. But running away and not getting caught will require stealing a car, tracking down Bo’s dad, staying ahead of the authorities, and — worst of all — confronting some ugly secrets.

At the end, you can enter a giveaway for one of three finished copies. This giveaway is U.S. Only. 🙂 There will also be information about Kody and social media links to follow her with.


~Interview~

I adored The Duff and A Midsummer’s Nightmare, why did you decide to move away from the Hamilton High series of sorts? Do you think you’re done with the setting or may you go back to it?

I had been writing about the Hamilton High setting – mostly romantic comedies – since I was seventeen.  I love those books and those characters, but I knew eventually I’d want to move on to something new. So when I wrote Lying Out Loud, I intended to sort of close up that series there by showing all the characters from previous books to see where they are now.  Then, with Run, I wanted to start fresh.  I wanted to write about a very different story in a very different place.  I don’t know if I’ll go back to Hamilton. There are no plans to at the moment.  But for now, I want to focus on a few things that are a little different from the books I wrote in my late teens and early twenties. And I hope other readers will like these new stories just as much!

Run is such a departure from your previous books, it seems much grittier and darker with the setting and police, were any of these grittier aspects based on your life?

They weren’t based on my life, but they were based on the realities of places like the one where I grew up.  I grew up poor in a small town in Kentucky, where there was definitely a drug problem (one I only became aware of as an teenager) and where poverty was the norm. It wasn’t a huge deal to me as a teenager – it was just part of my reality, of my hometown.  So I wanted to write a story for kids like me, who never see their own not-so-pristine hometowns in fiction. I wanted to show both the good and the bad of places like where I lived without sensationalizing it.  So while the things that happen to Bo and Agnes are not autobiographical, I do think they are somewhat relatable and realistic to teens growing up in these tiny rural towns.

In Run, one of the main characters, Agnes has a condition called Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, which you also have. Did you see parts of yourself in Agnes?

I see parts of myself in all of my characters. It’s how I am able to dig into them and really put them on the page. I find the parts of them that are like me and use that as an anchor.  While Agnes and I both have LCA (and are thus both legally blind) I actually relate more to Bo, the other MC.  Like Bo, I grew up poor, and while my home life was not nearly as troubled, I felt more of a kindred spirit with her. Bo is bisexual, and I identify as queer (as did most of my friends in high school).  So there are definitely parts of me in both characters.

Agnes’ parents are very over protective because she has Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis and restrict her from things. In addition, Agnes’ best friend treats her as something to take care of. Were your parents or friends the same way as you were growing up? How did this affect your daily life?

Like I said, I actually relate more to Bo than to Agnes.  My parents weren’t remotely restrictive or overprotective.  I don’t think I ever even had a curfew. My mom was very liberal and flexible and raised me to be as independent as possible.  As for my friends, sure, some did treat me like a burden.  I actually think that’s something most disabled people can relate to. I’m an adult and still get treated that way by friends who don’t realize what they’re doing sometimes. Even wonderful, good people can sometimes be insensitive.  So while elements of Agnes’s experience are pulled from my own, she lives a very, very different life from me in many ways.

Run is told in both Agnes and Bo’s perspectives and told during different periods of time. I really enjoy seeing who Agnes is through in the beginning and then discovering who she becomes in Bo’s perspective in “current” time. Why did you decide to do the two perspectives this way?

I love stories that are non-linear. I love when a writer makes me think. And when the idea for Run first came to me, I immediately knew how I wanted to structure the story.  I wanted the reader to see the girls running away even as their trying to piece together why they’re running away. I wanted to show Bo and Agnes both as they are and as they were.  Something about it just made sense to me, even though it wasn’t something I’d tried before.  It was tricky at times, but I just knew that Agnes and Bo would just tell different parts of this story.

Is there anything you really loved that you had to cut from Run that you can share?

So, I actually very rarely cut full scenes from my books. Typically, it’s the opposite. My drafts are often very short. Like, twenty thousand words less than where they end up. I write sort of the bare bones version of the book first, and then I add in later drafts.  So usually I don’t have to cut full scenes – just sentences and small sections – but I have to add lots and lots to flesh the book out and make it all make sense.  With Run, I added quite a bit.  Whole chapters and scenes.  For example, there is a scene at a street fair that was not in the first drafts of the book.

I’ve discovered Disability In Kid Lit this past year, I love that you co-founded it! What moved you to create this resource? What has been your favorite part in being a part of Disability In Lit?

Disability in Kidlit came out of the diversity movement. I was so thrilled to see so many authors pushing for more diversity, but I rarely saw disability discussed. So I reached out to Corinne Duyvis, an author and friend of mine who often discussed disability with me, and we decided to do a short series about disability on a blog.  That series turned into a long term resource now nearing its third anniversary.   Corinne and Kayla Whaley, another amazing writer, are really the ones running the show over there.  My official title is “Fairy Godmother” because I help out when I can and try to spread the word about the site.  And I’m so proud of how many people the site has reached and the resource it has become. I hope that it’s helpful both for disabled readers and the teachers and librarians that work with them. If you’re looking for reviews and resources about books featuring characters with disabilities, it’s a great place to check out.

If you’re currently writing anything, can you tell us anything about your current work in progress?

This is the part where I admit that I’m a little superstitious. I am always nervous to talk about projects too early. So what I will say is that I have a next project in mind, and I’m really excited about it!  Hopefully, once it’s done and I think it’s safe to talk about it, you guys will be, too!!!


Kody Keplinger

ABOUT KODY KEPLINGER:

Kody Keplinger was born and raised in small town western Kentucky, where she began her writing career after penning the New York Times and USA Today bestseller, The DUFF, at age seventeen.The DUFF, now a major motion picture, was chosen as an YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers and a Romantic Times Top Pick. Kody has since written other books for both young adult and middle grade readers. When she isn’t writing, Kody is posting about fashion and body positivity on her Instagram, chatting about her favorite TV shows on Twitter, or making videos for her YouTube account. Kody is also the co-founder of Disability in KidLit and a teacher at the Gotham Writers Workshops in NYC.

Kody is active on social media, so feel free to reach out to her on TwitterFacebookInstagram or YouTube.

Here is the giveaway,as promised. Good luck! 🙂


Interview with Shari Goldhagen (Author of 100 Days of Cake) + Giveaway

100 Days of Cake Banner

Hi everyone! I am part of the blog tour for 100 Days of Cake put together by Hannah.  For my stop I decided to do an interview with Shari.  I love a lot of these answers, so I hope you enjoy it. 🙂 There will be a giveaway at the end of the interview where you can win one of three finished copies.

For those unfamiliar with 100 Days of Cake:

100 Days of Cake Cover100 Days of Cake by Shari Goldhagen

Published By: Simon & Schuster (Atheneum Books For Young Readers) on May 17, 2016

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Themes: Mental Illness, Family

Pages: 352

Goodreads Summary

Get well soon isn’t going to cut it in this quirky and poignant debut novel about a girl, her depression, an aggressive amount of baked goods, and the struggle to simply stay afloat in an unpredictable, bittersweet life.

There are only three things that can get seventeen-year-old Molly Byrne out of bed these days: her job at FishTopia, the promise of endless episodes of Golden Girls, and some delicious lo mien. You see, for the past two years, Molly’s been struggling with something more than your usual teenage angst. Her shrink, Dr. Brooks isn’t helping much, and neither is her mom who is convinced that baking the perfect cake will cure Molly of her depression—as if cake can magically make her rejoin the swim team, get along with her promiscuous sister, or care about the SATs.

Um, no. Never going to happen.

But Molly plays along, stomaching her mother’s failed culinary experiments, because, whatever—as long as it makes someone happy, right? Besides, as far as Molly’s concerned, hanging out with Alex at the rundown exotic fish store makes life tolerable enough. Even if he does ask her out every…single…day. But—sarcastic drum roll, please—nothing can stay the same forever. When Molly finds out FishTopia is turning into a bleak country diner, her whole life seems to fall apart at once. Soon she has to figure out what—if anything—is worth fighting for.

Barnes and Noble  / Book DepositoryAmazon 


For my stop I decided to do an interview with Shari.  I love a lot of these answers, so I hope you enjoy it. 🙂 There will be a giveaway at the end of the interview.

~Interview~

The main character, Molly is really into sitcom TV, specifically Golden Girls. I adored this sort of outlet that you gave her. What inspired you to add that part in? 

The book isn’t autobiographical by any means, but this element I did pluck from my own life. When I was growing up my family wasn’t all that literary, we watched a lot of ALF. . .and Roseanne, and Family Ties and Golden Girls every Saturday night. Even as I got older and started going out with my friends, it was really nice to come home and sit down with my parents and watch whatever they were watching and catch up . When I see reruns of those shows now, it’s like sliding on a Snuggie– instantly I’m back on that couch with my parents.

As a follow up to that, what is one of your favorite current running shows and one of your favorite older shows?

I binge watch what’s probably an extremely unhealthy amount of dramas—it’ll be like one in the morning on a weekday, and my husband I will talk ourselves into one more episode. I really like the different perspectives of The Affair, and we just finished the second season of Better Call Saul, which made me want to go back and re-watch all of Breaking Bad. Game of Thrones frustrates me sometimes (the books did, too) but it’s still a Sunday night event because they’ll be spoilers everywhere Monday morning.

One comedy I LOVE is Netflix’s BoJack Horseman because of the way it twists those sitcoms from the 80s and 90s. It walks that fine line of being extremely dark but still earnest in its occasional bursts of optimism. As far as older shows, well, Golden Girls is still pretty darn good!

This may be a weird question, ha, but why did you decide to begin 100 Days of Cake on Day 12 rather than Day 1?

The idea that Molly’s mom would decide to bake a cake for her every day is, well, pretty freaking strange. When she initially told Molly, Molly probably would have told her just that. Or she wouldn’t have believed her mom or maybe she’d assume Mom would bail on the idea after a few days. I tried to write that first cake scene several times, but it always felt sort of lifeless and while it sets a lot of things in motion, it seemed to really be holing the story back.

Then I remembered something I tell my students, you don’t have to include all the boring parts of a story. So I tried starting the book when the cake baking isn’t just an abstract maybe, but something that is already happening, and I thought it worked so much better. Plus, I wanted to have the events take place within summer vacation, so starting two weeks in better fit into that timeline.

An interesting thing that happens in 100 Days of Cake is how Molly’s mom bakes a different kind of cake every day in hopes of helping Molly’s depression. I thought this was a fascinating way of coping that her mom did. Why did you decide to have her mom bake cakes?

Depression is a weird beast, and it’s hard on the people close to you. Molly’s mom sincerely wants to help, but she doesn’t really know how and all the things people tell her you’re supposed to do—take Molly to doctors, get her on meds—aren’t working.  She’s a person who’s had a lot of success following the advice in self-help books, so when she discovers A Baker’s Journey:100 Days of Cake, she’s willing to give it go.

She knows it’s probably a long-shot, but she’s willing to try. And to an extent Molly goes along with that too. It’s like throwing a penny into a fountain or making a wish at 11:11, you can be a rational person who knows it’s likely bunk, but a part of you desperately wants to believe it just might work. And it can’t hurt right?

I like how we really get into Molly’s head in the book and see how she deals with depression and therapy. Were you afraid of possibly incorrectly portraying either of these topics or portraying them in a way that people didn’t like?

I’m sure that many people are going to be offended or tell me that I’m presenting depression or its treatment incorrectly; I’m fully anticipating a little hate mail. But this isn’t intended to be a guidebook about how to recognize and cope with mental health issues; I’m not a doctor (if I were, I would definitely advice against crushing on your shrink). I write fiction, so character development is always going to trump specifics of biology for me. It’s not my goal to give a case study on teens with classic symptoms of various DSM-5 conditions, but to tell a coming of age story about a fully developed (I hope!) person who is dealing with these issues in a way that is true to her.

Did you need to do research for 100 Days of Cake? Was there any certain specific research you did?

I re-watched a lot of Golden Girls.

What character do you most identify with in 100 Days of Cake?

Hmm. . .I think Molly and I have a similar worldview on a lot of things, and I actually really understood where Dr. B is coming from and what he is trying to do. Oddly though, it’s the characters who are the least like me personally who I ended up loving the most. Elle, with her causes and righteous rage would drive me crazy, but I would love to have her as a friend. And I found myself smiling every time I wrote a scene where Veronica got to deliver a one-liner or show that she was so much more than the box that Elle wanted to put her in.

It’s really interesting to me that you first started writing professionally for magazines like US Weekly and Cosmopolitan, I think that’s really cool and interesting. What was that experience like for you?

I still write for those magazines. When I was younger I had this idea that I couldn’t write serious literature and stalk celebrities for the National Enquirer. But prose poems weren’t exactly paying the bills and those magazines were the ones that wanted to pay me.

After a while I came to realize that no matter the medium, people are reading for a good story—be it about Kim Kardashian or some literary heroine—they want to learn something about the human experience. So I love doing both. Also writing fiction is pretty solitary, so it’s nice to actually get to interact with other humans on magazine stories.

What (,if anything,) pushed you into writing Young Adult fiction? 

Honestly, it was just getting older. When I was in college in my late teens and early twenties, I wrote a lot of first-person stories about girls. . .in their late teens and early twenties. . .who were from Cincinnati. . .and probably went to school in Chicago. . .and maybe liked comic books and dyed their hair red, etc. Anyway I would take those stories into workshops, and everyone would say things like the dialogue was great and I had some good descriptions, but the main character was such a bitch, which was really hurtful since that main character was painfully, obviously me.

The issue was that I was too close to the material and I wasn’t fully developing those characters and just assuming that the readers already understood them the way I did. They always say, “write what you know,” but writing what I knew was literally ruining everything.

So I started writing stories about men in their thirties. And that allowed me to really invent a character from the ground up—I couldn’t just make assumptions; I had to account for all of their thoughts and motivations and quirks. Those stories turned into my first adult novel. Writing my second novel, I was farther removed from my late teens and early twenties, so I could write about younger characters—men and women—during with more distance. And now that I am a freaking dinosaur, younger characters require that ground up invention, and I’m loving it.

What is something that you’ve learned from writing three books now?

I am a terrible copy editor.

Relationships with siblings can be hard to maintain, especially as they get older. I really liked Veronica’s character as she reminded me of my own sister, which helped with some insight there. What do you think is the hardest part for both siblings in trying to maintain their relationship?

Like Molly, I have a younger sister. People always assume we’re really different—I’m the “serious” writer with dark hair and a bunch of degrees, while she’s the blonde B-list actress who practices hypnotherapy and has a Pomeranian. A lot of times we play into those roles and it’s frustrating, but the truth is we are actually extremely similar and have a ton of common ground, even if we lose sight of that sometimes. That was one thing I wanted for Molly and V to be dealing with as well. They’re growing up and developing different interests, but they are still a lot alike in a lot of ways even if they forget it occasionally or don’t want to acknowledge it. They still have a shared history and still love each other, but he way they relate to each other needs to evolve.


A fellow show-binger. ❤ Any book that involves re-watching shows is a book that I want to read. I really love Roseanne. I could watch re-runs of it all the time. I need to check out BoJack Horseman as I really like 90s sitcoms. I love that 100 Days of Cake didn’t start on day 1 and the reason Shari gave. It really did help the story already fall into place which was great. I still think it’s so cool to be writing for US Weekly and Cosmopolitan. Like wow.  People do really just want a good story so I will definitely read magazines like that if they contain one. I loved V’s one-liners!

Ah, thanks so much for the awesome answers and for being on my blog, Shari. ❤

Here is the giveaway for my lovely readers.  You can win one of three finished copies. It’s United States only.


For some more information on Shari Goldhagen:

Shari GoldhagenAfter serious pursuits of literature at Northwestern (BSJ) and Ohio State (MFA), Shari Goldhagen discovered she had a knack for sifting through celebrity trash and worked as a gossip writer for publications including The National EnquirerUs Weekly, and Life & Style Weekly. And her articles on pop culture, travel and relationships have appeared everywhere from Cosmopolitan to Penthouse. She has received fellowships from Yaddo and MacDowell and currently lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

Website | Twitter


The Tour Schedule:

Week 1:

 
Week 2:

Interview with Mia Siegert (author of Jerkbait)

Hey everyone! I am so excited to have Mia on my blog today. I’m the next stop on the Jerkbait blog tour which is fun. I’ll be interviewing her. 🙂

If you haven’t heard of Jerkbait, I’ll share the summary and cover with you. I’ll also be sharing some pre-order links for those who would like to pre-order the book, which I highly recommend. Jerkbait sounds beyond amazing. Family, darkness, sports, mental health, yes please.

JerkbaitJerkbait

Mia Siegert

Published: May 3, 2016 (Jolly Fish Press)

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller

Themes: Sports, Mental Health, Suicide, LGBT, Predators

Pages: 350

Goodreads Summary: 

Even though they’re identical, Tristan isn’t close to his twin Robbie at all—until Robbie tries to kill himself.

Forced to share a room to prevent Robbie from hurting himself, the brothers begin to feel the weight of each other’s lives on the ice, and off. Tristan starts seeing his twin not as a hockey star whose shadow Tristan can’t escape, but a struggling gay teen terrified about coming out in the professional sports world. Robbie’s future in the NHL is plagued by anxiety and the mounting pressure from their dad, coach, and scouts, while Tristan desperately fights to create his own future, not as a hockey player but a musical theatre performer.

As their season progresses and friends turn out to be enemies, Robbie finds solace in an online stranger known only as “Jimmy2416.” Between keeping Robbie’s secret and saving him from taking his life, Tristan is given the final call: sacrifice his dream for a brother he barely knows, or pursue his own path. How far is Robbie willing to go—and more importantly, how far is Tristan willing to go to help him?

Barnes and Noble / Amazon / Book Depository


 

~Interview~

If you had to (and you do) compare your main characters to characters in musicals who would you choose and why? 

Tristan would be Veronica from Heathers because of his wavering insecurity, the way he grows as a character, the guilt he carries (there’s one mistake Veronica makes that leads to someone’s suicide attempt) and love/hate relationship with Heather. Robbie would be Achilles from Paris because he’s unhappy with life, angry, looked up to, and gay.  

I love the different topics dealt with in Jerkbait such as hockey, pressure from colleges, being secretly gay, mental health and online predators. How did you work on balancing each of these aspects?

I think it was more natural for me than some. I really love writing far-reaching stories, and always have. Maybe from the years of RPing from different animes like “D.Gray-man” with all of the characters and their own plot lines, I don’t know. I had to tone back the role of the online predator in the final version, which I was pretty bummed about, but it would have taken away from Tristan’s growth and Robbie’s storyline. 

What is it that draws you to Young Adult fiction and specifically darker contemporary?

It feels like home. I like the aspect of coming-of-age stories and, for years like I’d mentioned in question two, RPed, cosplayed, whatever with mostly teenaged characters. For the darkness, I just love it. The grittier, the edgier, the more fearless—it catches my breath. I think that’s also because, in general, I don’t get humor in writing. Sure, if I watch a Mel Brooks’ film, I laugh hysterically, and I enjoy comedies, but in text, that doesn’t translate in my brain at all. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed when reading a book. And well, with contemporary, I can visualize it very well. With fantasy and certain bits of science fiction, I can’t suspend disbelief. I try, and it’s no fault of the authors—it’s just me. 

How has writing Jerkbait impacted your life? 

I’ve learned who my real friends are. I’ve also had very envious people come out of nowhere trying to tear me down for the years of hard work to get me where I am. But, mostly, I feel like now I have some amazing people to chat with since I’m usually constantly lonely—like, I mean, seriously, when I got my ARCs I was so excited to open them until I realized I had no one to be with me to experience it, so I did it on Periscope. 

On that same topic, Jerkbait deals with dark topics such as attempted suicide and predators, was this really draining for you? Did it impact your daily life, mental health and/or mood when writing?

In general*, not really as I’ve openly suffered from depression for most of my life. It’s only been in the past few years where I’ve learned what it’s meant to be happy, so I think it was just something consistent and there. However, that said, the parts that were draining were in relation to the book originating as a semi-autobiographical piece as I had to relive some awful moments. 

I’m a music fiend, so this is a mandatory question/command. Choose a theme song each for Robbie, Tristan and Jerkbait. 

Great question! Not long ago, I actually made a playlist for Jerkbait with Chris Loke (Executive Editor at Jolly Fish Press) that was hosted on Books and Ladders. It’s hard choosing just one theme song because both characters change so much, so I’ll stick with the beginning. For the beginning, “Born Slippy” by Underworld would be Robbie’s, “Counting On Me” by KoRn would be Tristan’s, and for Jerkbait as a whole, “Ny Batteri” by Sigur Ros (which is what originally gave me the idea).

I read that Jerkbait first began as a short story which involved Tristan being a lacrosse player and Robbie being an artist. Besides the obvious changes, of course, what were some changes you made when expanding Jerkbait from a short story to the novel it is now? 

The short story revolved around prom and “Jimmy” being Robbie’s best friend/crush who decided, at eighteen, to get married to this girl. So I think some pretty huge changes in terms of what the book’s about now! Although I will say this—the personalities of Tristan and Robbie never changed. Robbie was always loud and arrogant for the exterior, and Tristan was very quiet and stoic. 

If you could give advice to Robbie and Tristan, what would it be? 

To Robbie, to get help, see a guidance counselor at school, anything to break from their parents. And to Tristan, to be strong and realize that he’s not worth less than Robbie—that he deserves to be heard. 

Do you have any other novels that are in the works currently?

Yes! I’m adding some words to one novel per my agent’s suggestion, and I have three others I’d started and are in various stages of completion. Only one is YA (the others are adult thriller and literary fiction)

If you could give your past self only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Probably to slow down and deal with bullying a different way. I think I made it harder for myself with my need to be recognized for work. Also, I would tell myself to be a better student. Until grad school, I was mediocre at best. I could have, and should have, done more.  

Speed Round:

Favorite movie: Silence of the Lambs

Favorite book: Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon

Coffee or tea: Tea. 

Winter or Summer: Winter (Hockey!)

Guilty Pleasure: Garbage shows on Netflix.

Robbie or Tristan (Cruel, I know): Keisha. (Seriously, you expected me to choose between them? Plus, why wouldn’t people choose Keisha since she’s awesome?!) 


So, I have another reason to watch Heathers and check out Paris. 😉 Toning the online predator back sounds interesting. I can see how that would impact the twins’ relationship in Jerkbait though. Still though, I’d love to read the ‘uncensored’ version. Lol. I love darker and gritty YA! Comedy does seem to work better as a visual thing than written.

I LOVED reading the tweets about the Periscope ARC experience. I love how important it is to share things with people, even people who are “online”. Technology does a great thing with connecting people. 🙂 I can imagine it’d be draining basing some experiences off your own, especially in a book so dark. I like Sigur Ros! But that song title doesn’t ring any bells, so I’ll listen to it later.

It sounds like there’s quite a bit of variety being written for future works. The literary fiction sounds really interesting. I haven’t seen Silence of The Lambs nor read Lord of Misrule.  I am apparently very behind. 😉 Thanks for the fantastic answers Mia!

If you’d like to keep up with Mia, here is where you can find her on the internet:

Twitter / Website / Facebook

SST: Interview with Jennifer Walkup (Author of This Ordinary Life)

SST GraphicHey everyone! I’m so happy to be participating in this month’s Sunday Street Team hosted by Nori at Read Write Love 28. This is super late in the day, which I’m sorry about. It completely slipped my mind. Anyway, today I have a great interview with Jennifer Walkup, the author of This Ordinary Life, which is a book I’ve been heavily anticipating. Don’t forget to check out the giveaway below for This Ordinary Life swag packs!
So without further ado:

This Ordinary Life

Goodreads Summary:
High-school radio host Jasmine Torres’s life is full of family dysfunction, but if she can score the internship of her dreams with a New York City radio station, she knows she can turn things around.

That is, until her brother Danny’s latest seizure forces her to miss the interview, and she’s back to the endless loop of missing school for his doctor appointments, picking up the pieces of her mother’s booze-soaked life, and stressing about Danny’s future.

Then she meets Wes. He’s the perfect combination of smart, cute, and funny. He also happens to have epilepsy like her brother. Wes is living a normal life despite his medical issues, which gives Jasmine hope for Danny. But memories of her cheating ex-boyfriend keep her from going on a real date with Wes, no matter how many times he asks her.

Jasmine can’t control everything. Not who wins the internship, not her mother’s addiction, not her brother’s health–not even where her heart will lead her. She wishes she could just have an ordinary life, but maybe what she already has is pretty extraordinary after all.

About the Author:
Award-winning author Jennifer Walkup is most often found writing, reading, and spending time with her husband and young sons. A member of SCBWI and RWA, Jennifer also works as an editor and creative writing instructor, and is an advocate for Epilepsy awareness. This Ordinary Life is her second novel.

I love stories about dysfunctional families, did you have any specific inspiration about Jasmine’s family life?
Like most of my stories, I started with just a kernel of an idea about my main character. Jasmine came to me first – a strong main character who loves working at her school radio station and works hard for her ultimate dream – to be a real radio DJ someday. But I knew she’d have struggles – a cheating ex boyfriend, an alcoholic mother, an absent father. The family and life dysfunction was always very much a part of her character for me. Her brother’s epilepsy was also central to her character. I wanted at least one character who was struggling with epilepsy. It’s a subject that’s important to me, and something I wanted to represent. When I wrote in Wes, the love interest, also with epilepsy, I wanted to show how characters are people first, disability second, and way more than the sum of their disabilities.
Where did the title THIS ORDINARY LIFE come from?
It’s funny how difficult titles can be. With my first book, I went through what felt like millions of titles. But with THIS ORDINARY LIFE, the title came to me almost as soon as the book did. Jasmine, the main character has lots of challenges in her life. She often wishes things were easier and simpler, but through the course of her struggles and chasing her dreams, she realizes that sometimes “ordinary” is found where we least expect it. And sometimes ordinary is more than good enough.
I read that you’re an advocate for Epilepsy awareness. What made you want to be an advocate and what does it involve doing?
Epilepsy is a topic near and dear to me and my family. For many years, I’ve been very involved in raising epilepsy awareness. Raising awareness about this very common but often misunderstood disorder and battling the stigmas, bias, and misinformation out there is the heart of what our work with raising awareness is all about. I’m also active in many epilepsy communities and support groups, and in various fundraising efforts for epilepsy research.
What is your favorite personality trait of Jasmine’s?
Her tenacity. No matter what life throws at her, she jumps back up and keeps fighting. She’s smart and determined, and works really hard and cares so much about those around her.
What is something that you want readers to take away from reading THIS ORDINARY LIFE?
Mostly I hope it’s a story that people enjoy reading – that’s really my takeaway for anything I write! But I hope it gives an overall feeling of hope in the end. As corny as it sounds, we really can get through anything life throws at us, as Jasmine proves time and time again in THIS ORDINARY LIFE.
Seeing as Jasmine’s dream is to be a DJ, could you tell me one of your favorite songs?
Oh wow, that’s impossible to answer! I can’t pick just one. Most likely it would be something by Red Hot Chili Peppers .:)
While on that topic, did you have any specific songs that fit THIS ORDINARY LIFE when you were writing it?
I didn’t have a specific playlist for This Ordinary Life, but I do listen to music when I revise, and often before I start writing, to clear my head and get me in the writing mode. I listen to lots of instrumental/background music when I’m revising, as well as a good amount of classic rock (and lots of Red Hot Chili Peppers).
How has publishing your second book been, compared to publishing your first? Have things become easier or harder?
So far, so good! On the one hand, it’s been a little easier this time as I know what to expect from putting a book out there, overall. But each book has its own unique path. I’m hoping THIS ORDINARY LIFE makes readers happy.

Thank you so much Jennifer for answering my questions! If you’d like to read or find out more about Jessica, you can check out her website or follow her on Twitter
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