Category Archives: Interviews

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? 🙂

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Interview with Jessica Love and Giveaway

Hi everyone! In Real Life has been one of my most anticipated books of the year. I love a good online friendship story and even more so when it turns to real life friendship. I was so happy to be able to be on the blog tour today put on by St. Martin’s. For today’s post I’ll be sharing an interview with Jessica Love.

First though, I’m going to share some information about In Real Life.

In Real LifeIn Real Life by Jessica Love

Published by St. Martin’s Griffin on March 1st, 2016

Goodreads Summary

Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade. They talk for hours on the phone, regularly shower each other with presents, and know everything there is to know about one another.

There’s just one problem: Hannah and Nick have never actually met.

Hannah has spent her entire life doing what she’s supposed to, but when her senior year spring break plans get ruined by a rule-breaker, she decides to break a rule or two herself. She impulsively decides to road trip to Las Vegas, her older sister and BFF in tow, to surprise Nick and finally declare her more-than-friend feelings for him.

Hannah’s surprise romantic gesture backfires when she gets to Vegas and finds out that Nick has been keeping some major secrets. Hannah knows the real Nick can’t be that different from the online Nick she knows and loves, but now she only has night in Sin City to figure out what her feelings for Nick really are, all while discovering how life can change when you break the rules every now and then.

~Interview~

1. In the acknowledgements, I read that you met your husband on AOL in 1998. How do you think the internet helped shape who you are today, if in any way?

Oh, the internet has 100% shaped who I am today! Not only did I meet my husband online (back before that was a normal thing to do), but I’ve also met most of my close friends online.

2. How do you think the internet can help or harm teens and adults?

I’m a huge fan of the internet, but sometimes it’s too much. I can’t even imagine being a teen with the internet. I was a teenager right when the internet was brand new. Seriously, it was me and one other kid in my high school who had it. Being in high school was hard enough, but having access to the internet would have been way too much for me. The constant access to all of this information about everyone, and them having constant access to you…it’s like you can never leave everyone behind and have some peace. Or just time to figure yourself out without an audience.

3. Did you base any of the experiences, activities or settings from In Real Life off of your real life?

The general story…no. But there are quite a few little incidents in the story that absolutely happened to me or friends of mine in real life. Like the story of the first time Hannah and Nick try to meet but it’s an epic bust…that came straight out of High School Jess’s life. I tried to meet a guy I had been talking to on the phone, but things went wrong in a similar fashion. We never met. I still wonder about that guy.

Also, Hannah is from Orange County, CA, which is where I live.

4. What was your writing process for In Real Life like? Did you begin writing it knowing the ending situation and how it would all turn out? Was it difficult to write? Would you have changed anything?

When I started, I really only knew the characters. Originally, I wanted the entire book to be Hannah’s road trip to Vegas mixed in with flashbacks of her friendship with Nick and have it end with them meeting. There wasn’t any conflict or plot with the story that way, though, so things evolved a lot as I revised and revised the book. I had to write it all wrong about three or four times before I finally figured it out. The book was so much fun, but it was also very difficult for me because I couldn’t get it to work the way I wanted it to. It was a glorious day when it finally all clicked. I do wish it had my original vision of lots of flashbacks to Nick and Hannah’s friendship…I wrote a bunch of them and I love them so much. But they just weren’t the right fit.

5. If you had to give up social media for a month, would you be able to do it?

Oh my gosh, no. I really couldn’t. I probably SHOULD, because, man, I would be so much more productive. But I am really addicted to the internet and I probably wouldn’t even last 24 hours without social media.


~About The Author~

Jessica Love is a high school English teacher in Los Angeles, California, where she met her  husband and her two tiny dogs online. She is the co-writer of Push Girl with Chelsie Hill.

Author’s Website / Facebook / Twitter


I hope you enjoyed the interview, if you’d like, you can check out the author’s website, Facebook or Twitter above!

Now for the giveaway. It will run until March 31st!


How To Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras |Review, Interview and Giveaway!

Hi everyone! I’m so happy to be able to share (what I hope to be) a great post for How To Be Brave. The best part? Today’s the publication date! YAY! So, I am the first stop in the St. Martin’s tour for How To Be Brave. I’ll be sharing my review, an interview and finally a giveaway. So I’ll get started now. 🙂

How To Be BraveHow To Be Brave: A Novel
By: E. Katherine Kottaras
St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Amazon / Book DepositoryBarnes & Noble / IndieBound / Google Play / iBooks / Kobo / Indigo

ABOUT THE BOOK

An emotional contemporary YA novel about love, loss, and having the courage to chase the life you truly want.
Reeling from her mother’s death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave – all the things she’s wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she’s always been afraid to do – including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most – and you learn that you’re stronger and braver than you ever imagined.

First Line: This is what it was like: I didn’t want you to come.
Favorite Quote: Life will turn us upside down, and it will still be okay.

~Review~

How To Be Brave will be a quiet YA book, I believe. It doesn’t scream at you to read it, so you may pass it by at first glance. I don’t think it will immediately stick out in stores cover wise either. Is that a bad thing? Of course not. I think How To Be Brave may stick out most to those who do decide to randomly give it a chance [or read my interview! ;)].
I found the main character, Georgia to have a unique voice. I didn’t immediately find Georgia to be a very likable character, she was angry a bit, but then I loved that because it made her more real. Georgia is a character who is between a size 14 to a size 16, it’s mentioned throughout the book that Georgia is overweight. I felt like this aspect of How To Be Brave wasn’t exactly realistic enough because in none of the descriptions of her, did I really feel like she was anything more than a bit chubby based on that. I did like that Georgia was a larger character though either way and that it wasn’t the focus.
What I loved about her was being able to sense all of her emotions and she shows them all. She was happy, sad, angry, depressed and scared. I liked how well they were all shown. Sprinkled throughout How To Be Brave are passages of poetry that tell part of Georgia’s mother illness, death and Georgia’s own personal life. As a former (sometimes) user of poetry, these were some of my favorite parts of How To Be Brave because how much they told. They were written very raw-like. It was a different way to “tell” Georgia’s backstory then just randomly inserting it into the story. I felt it was more authentic that way.
In the beginning, it’s been months since Georgia’s mother has passed and after reading a letter her mother wrote, she decides to write a bucket list of sorts. On this bucket list are ways that she will “be brave”. She makes this list with her best friend, Liss. I liked their friendship quite a bit, they were mostly supportive of each other.
On Georgia’s bucket list were things like skinny dipping, skipping a class, smoking pot, and learning to draw. I thought the list was interesting and was surprised by other items like trapeze school and tribal dancing. It was an interesting mix of “brave” things.
For me though, the book picked up when it went beyond the bucket list items, it happened when Georgia realized she couldn’t really just stick to her list and make it through. I loved hearing about her family given that they’re Greek and how that affected how her father saw her (as his good, little girl) at 18. 
A couple of things that I really liked was Georgia’s love interest, Daniel and the school bit. Like Georgia, he’s going through a similar experience with one of his parents. I loved seeing them connect and relate to each other in that way. As for the school bit, I think it’s rare to see students actually IN classes and working on assignments out of the school setting. This wasn’t the case for How To Be Brave. Due to Georgia wanting to learn to draw, she takes an art class which helps with that a lot and is brought up frequently. 
Georgia has quite a few outlets in How To Be Brave, she has her list, her art, tribal dancing and smoking pot. Knowing how important an outlet is to someone with stress and hard times, I loved that Georgia had things to help her through. With that said, there were a few things in How To Be Brave that I didn’t like such as the smoking pot, drinking, skipping class, somewhat stereotypical characters and the weight portrayal.
I like how I saw Georgia think a lot about her mother given the circumstances. I thought it did well at showing grief and how hard it was for Georgia to deal with her mom being gone.
Something I thought was really unique was how Georgia questioned her mother’s actions because she didn’t take better care of herself and that was why she died. Georgia’s mother was overweight and had diabetes and heart issues because of that. Georgia made me think about how people with health issues of any kind should try to diminish them, especially if they have children because it can affect how their kids will see them. Or how long they’ll be around with their children.
 
~Overall~
I really liked How To Be Brave. I loved the family and art aspect. I found some characters a little stereotypical at time. There was a great job done with the grief aspect of Georgia’s life. I loved how this went from being a light book to a darker book because of subplots. I would recommend this book.

And now an interview with Katherine:

~Interview~

What’s currently in your TBR pile?
My L.A. buddies:
For the Record, Charlotte Huang and The First Time She Drowned, Kerry Kletter
The Lies About the Truth, Courtney Stevens (my publication date buddy)
Hoodoo, Ronald L. Smith (we were classmates!)
Are there any “must-haves” at your work station? (M&Ms, coffee, etc.)
Dark chocolate at the ready. Another chair so I can put my feet up. Two Ugly dolls as elbow support. My cat, purring underneath my chin and blocking my view of the screen. She’s doing it right now. (Purr, purr, purr.)
What was your path to publication? How long did it take you to write the book? Was this the first book you wrote or just the first one that got published?
I’ve been writing since I was four years old (strange little odes to Crystal Gayle’s, my favorite country singer of the ‘80s – oh how I wanted her hair). I wrote throughout high school via environmentally-themed zines that my friends and I Xeroxed and handed out to the entire school, as well as secret poetry written in journals stashed under my bed. Of course, there were all those papers for college and grad school. (I’m a freak because I love writing essays for school.)
However, I didn’t pursue creative writing seriously until I was 25 when I signed up for classes at UCLA. About seven years later after taking classes in short story, nonfiction, and YA, I finally decided to start submitting my work places – poetry, short stories, essays, etc. Around the same time, I decided to write a book. It’s YA paranormal, took me four years to write, and was rejected by absolutely every single agent I queried. Not even one request.
So, after a bit of soul-searching and some acceptance that perhaps this book wasn’t “the one,” I started over. I took some more classes through Litreactor where I started the book has eventually become HOW TO BE BRAVE. I’ve been extreeeeeemely lucky as the process has been fairly quick from initial draft to publication. Between beginning the book and publication, it will be a grand total of two years and nine months, which is actually quite amazing!
HOW TO BE BRAVE addresses issues of positive body image. Was this something you set out to address or did it spring up organically? Is body image something you struggled with?
When I was growing up in the 1980s, I didn’t have access to the amazing body of work known as “YA literature” as it exists today. I was fairly obsessed with Sweet Valley High, but Elizabeth and Jessica were suburban twins (I’m an only child) with “perfect size-six figures,” and that was totally outside the realm of my experience.
Thankfully, I did have Judy Blume, who was bravely offering characters that worried and obsessed about their growing bodies. Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? and Blubber spoke to me about my awkward body and bullying and the need for kindness.
But for the most part, I didn’t belong in the books I read. I was the only child of a Greek father and Russian-Jewish mother who were both of peasant stock (farmers on both sides) and who owned a restaurant in downtown Chicago. I didn’t know anything about suburban high schools, about size six.
This last one was especially hard for me. When I was twelve, my pediatrician told me that I needed to lose twenty to thirty pounds, thus starting a lifelong battle with my weight. My ballet teacher told my mother I was too big too dance and she was wasting her money. I was constantly picked last in gym, alongside my BFF, who also struggled with her body. When I asked her recently what she remembered of our time as kids, she said:
“I remember our PE teachers who didn’t help or guide but rather assisted with shaming by making the whole class wait for ‘free day’ until a pull-up was done (as though the situation was rooted in straight up defiance rather than inability) leading to a life-long dislike of physical activity.” 
I remember those many days, feeling embarrassed and shamed by my teachers, which led to feeling more uncomfortable and awkward (as though my own self-shame wasn’t enough). By the time I was in high school, I absolutely hated my body.
I spent my twenties battling my weight. I yo-yo’d between diets and hunger and new workout trends and gyms. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, I never was able to become a perfect size six – nothing even close to that – and my body retained its fullness, its roundness, its hardy, muscular, stocky, peasant stock shape. My short arms weren’t going to suddenly become lean and long. My thick thighs always remain thick. My belly likes being round, what can I say?
I fought it for so very long. And then, after giving birth to my daughter, I stopped fighting. I had to. I learned to love my body in a new way. It was life-giving. It was strong. It was mine.
So when I sat down to write my own book, I knew the character had to be several things: she had to be Greek, she had to live in Chicago, and she had to have immigrant parents who didn’t always understand her. I also knew that she would struggle with her body. BUT. I didn’t want losing weight to be central to her experience. I knew I didn’t want it to be a goal. For the longest time, it was for me. I didn’t want to do that to her.
HOW TO BE BRAVE is about a girl who has lived her life in fear and who sets out to try new things, despite her insecurities. Before her death, her mom commanded Georgia to live differently—to try everything at least once and to never be ruled by fear.
When Georgia is first creating her list, she asks her best friend, Liss:
“What about losing weight?”
And Liss responds: “You don’t need to be brave to do that.”
Georgia agrees, but of course, her insecurities don’t just disappear. They are always there. However, at the end Georgia finally realizes, “I’m not going to kill myself trying to achieve microscopic proportions. I’m still curvy me, and I always will be.”
Of course, there are many similarities between Georgia and me. Georgia also feels uncomfortable in her body that’s deemed “overweight” by society’s standards, and part of her storyline is that she finds confidence in her body, as it is – that losing weight does not equal being brave. This has been part of my storyline has well. 
How do you address body image issues with your daughter? Was that part of the drive to write this book?
Absolutely. We talk a lot about how the media often “sells” a certain body type. .” I’ve shown her Photoshopping videos like this one.
and we discuss, quite openly, how it’s unrealistic to try to change your body to meet the standards presented in magazines and on screens. I try to guide our conversation as a discussion, asking her questions about why she thinks the media represents women and girls in certain ways. We talk about how every body is beautiful, and that she is beautiful, just as she is.
Your protagonist, Georgia, lost her mother and is honoring her by completing her bucket list. How much of this premise was taken from your own experiences?
HOW TO BE BRAVE specifically started as a thought experiment to see what my relationship with my dad would have been like had my mom died first. As I started writing, Georgia became her own character with her own struggles. 

 ~Giveaway Time~

Thanks to St. Martin’s, I am going to be giving away a copy of How To Be Brave to one person in the U.S OR Canada from my Rafflecopter giveaway. It ends in 20 days. 🙂
Rafflecopter

E_Katherine_KottarasABOUT THE AUTHOR 
E. Katherine Kottaras is originally from Chicago, but now she writes and teaches in the Los Angeles area. She holds an M.A. in English from the University of California, Irvine and teaches writing and literature at Pasadena City College. She is at her happiest when she is either 1) at the playground with her husband and daughter and their wonderful community of friends, 2) breathing deeply in a full handstand, or 3) writing. She now lives in Los Angeles where she’s hard at work on her next book.
Author’s Website / Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr / Instagram / Goodreads

Such A Lovely Interview with Kate Scelsa (Author of Fans of The Impossible Life)

I first read Fans of The Impossible Life around April-May. I loved it when I read it. I had the idea to interview Kate who so graciously accepted and answered my interview questions! I’ll share the summary for Fans then show the interview. My side comments will be in blue.
Fans of The Impossible LifeGoodreads Summary:
A captivating and profound debut novel about complicated love and the friendships that have the power to transform you forever, perfect for fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Mira is starting over at Saint Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a functioning human this time, not a girl who can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby.
Jeremy is the painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting this blond, lanky boy with mischief glinting in his eye.
Sebby, Mira’s gay best friend, is a boy who seems to carry sunlight around with him. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and impromptu road trips, designed to fix the broken parts of their lives.
As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.

Fans of The Impossible Life is slightly based on Brideshead Revisited, what about that story made you want to write a sort of modern inspired piece?
I first read “Brideshead” back in my mid twenties, and I was really taken with Evelyn Waugh’s character Sebastian. For a book published in 1945 to present a flamboyant gay man as the object of everyone’s adoration was unfathomably radical, and it really blew my mind when I read it. Although Sebastian definitely has inner demons, they are not about his gayness, or at least it’s not that simple, and this felt very real to me in a way that many modern queer stories do not (for example, the 2008 movie adaptation of “Brideshead” changed the plot to make Sebastian’s queerness more of a factor in his eventual downward spiral.) So it was really Sebastian who stayed with me, and seemed to be asking something more of me. I created Sebby as a tribute, and the rest of “Fans” took off from that starting point. I would forget about “Brideshead” for a long time while I was working on “Fans,” and then something would bring me back to it. So “Brideshead” and Sebastian just kind of infected me in a way that I don’t think I fully understood until I was done with Fans. (I still really need to read Brideshead. And watch the movie adaption.)
 
I thought it was really interesting that Jeremy, Mira and Sebby, were written in different point of views. Why did you decide to do that?
This came out of rewriting this book every which way possible – all third person, first person with Mira narrating, some second person sections. When I was revising I would literally spend days just changing pronouns. At the time it felt really frustrating. I seemed to be circling around this idea of how to present these characters in the way that they wanted to be presented. But going through this process of trying every way possible to tell this story gave me an appreciation for the power of the different kinds of narrative voices. And once I was able to really examine that, I saw that each of these characters was demanding a different relationship with the reader.
It’s also very important to me that we get to see each of these characters in private moments, that they show things to us as readers that they don’t show to each other, so we can see why they make the decisions that they do, and understand why they sometimes have to protect themselves before they can protect each other. (I love that last line.)

 

Who was favorite your character to write?
Mira and I have the most in common. And she was the hardest for me to write for a long time, because I think I was avoiding facing what I was really meant to face with her. But all three of them definitely have parts of me in them. (I have such a soft spot for Mira especially. And Sebastian. But I really love Mira.)
If Fans and/or the characters had theme songs, what would they be?
The unofficial theme song for the whole book is “Closer” by Tegan and Sara. “You & Me” by Diamond Rings is another one. Then Mira’s theme song would be “Every Single Night” by Fiona Apple. Jeremy gets “Hot Knife” also by Fiona Apple. And I would give Sebby “Something Else” by Diamond Rings. (I approve of everything Tegan and Sara<3)
Is there a scene you wish you had expanded on or an interesting scene you decided to cut?
Reading the book again now, I have to say I feel really satisfied with what’s in there. I have a totally brilliant editor, Alessandra Balzer at Balzer+Bray, and she was always right about what wasn’t working and what needed to be changed. I can’t stress enough how essential that relationship with your editor is. And I feel like I learned a ton as a writer by going through that process with her. (Aw, it’s so great to get such lovely editors and have a good relationship with them for your work.)

 

I read that you write plays and have two questions regarding that: 1. What is your favorite play and 2. What is the favorite play that you’ve written?
My favorite play is “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches” by Tony Kushner. My favorite play that I’ve written is called “The Mouse Plays,” and it’s inspired by my time performing in the eight hour long marathon production “Gatz.” (I’m so intrigued by The Mouse Plays)

 

I know that you spent around eight years performing Gatz, could you tell us what drew you to that show?
I started working with New York experimental theater company Elevator Repair Service in 2002, and “Gatz” was the first show that I helped make with them and ended up performing in. The idea to use the entire text of “The Great Gatsby” to perform a piece of marathon theater originated from our artistic director John Collins and some other company members. The company specializes in taking something that shouldn’t work on stage and figuring out how to make it work. And we did end up performing that show on and off, in New York and on tour around the world, for eight years. (This show sounds great, I can’t imagine The Great Gatsby on stage with the entire text.)

 

 

It says on your website that you write and edited a lot of Fans while you were touring with the show, how did that influence and impact your writing? Was it difficult to write traveling?
I would actually write while I was onstage. The setting of the show was a dingy Long Island office. A scruffy office worker would come in to his paper-pushing job one morning, find that his ancient computer wouldn’t turn on, pull out a copy of “The Great Gatsby” and start reading it out loud. I played the secretary in the office, and for most of the show I sat in a cubicle where I could only be seen by the audience from the shoulders up. For the first few years, still nervous about making sure I got all of my cues right, I would sit and do “fake work,” pretending to edit the piles of scrap paper that found their way to our set from the offices of the many theaters we visited around the world. As I got more comfortable with the show, I started reading magazines, making sure to stop a moment before I was needed on stage to deliver a line. And then for the last two years I got a tiny laptop, and I sat on stage in my cubicle and wrote and edited “Fans.” This became a kind of coping mechanism to deal with the ways in which the repetition started to wear on all of us over the years. “Fans” became a little safe haven for me to escape into my own story, because as much as I loved Gatsby, there were days when I thought I would go crazy if I had to hear it again. (Okay, writing on stage is about the coolest thing I’ve ever read before in my life. That is so awesome! Oh my goodness, amazing!)

 

Where was your favorite place to travel with the show?
We went to so many amazing places that I never even dreamed I would get a chance to visit, like Norway, Singapore, Zurich. We did a run at the Sydney Opera House and on the West End in London. So it’s difficult to pick. But my favorite city of all time is Lisbon, Portugal. I’ve gotten to go there with three different shows and it’s always magic. They make their coffee really strong there too. (I could never drink super strong coffee. Sydney sounds amazing! So does the West End. ❤ My dream is to visit.)
I loved how each the main characters has these secrets about themselves that the others don’t immediately know, what was the hardest part about writing these characters with their own struggles?
So much of these characters was only revealed to me during the many drafts of this book, so I would say it was difficult to be patient and let Mira, Sebby, and Jeremy emerge organically. There was so much that I didn’t know about them and their histories when I started, and there was no way that I could have known until I wrote my way to it. I really felt like these three characters made me work for it. They weren’t going to tell me everything right away.
Are you currently writing anything new that you hope to be published? Please say yes.
I am! It’s another YA and all I can tell you right now is that it’s my feminist manifesto. (I’m so beyond excited!)
What has been your favorite part of publishing Fans?
It may sound cheesy, but getting to chat with people like you! Publishing in the age of the internet is a pretty remarkable thing. It’s a given that you’ll be able to communicate with readers in a way that has never been possible before. To have total strangers writing to me, telling me they were excited about my book, even back last fall when I was still in re-writes, that was pretty cool. (Isn’t she the sweetest! I love interviewing authors like this too! <3)

Thank you so much for the amazing answers, Kate! This was so fantastic.
If you’d like to see more of Kate, you can follow her on Twitter. You can check out her website as well.

Interview With Leah Thomas (Author of Because You’ll Never Meet Me)!!!

Because You'll Never Meet MeHey everyone! I am so so so excited to share this interview I had with Leah Thomas (through email). I loved Because You’ll Never Meet Me so much that I had to ask Leah some questions and she agreed to them! YAY!
I’ll share the Goodreads summary real quick for those who don’t know what this is about.
In a stunning literary debut, two boys on opposite ends of the world begin an unlikely friendship that will change their lives forever.
Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz’s weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times—as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.
A story of impossible friendship and hope under strange circumstances, this debut is powerful, dark and humorous in equal measure. These extraordinary voices bring readers into the hearts and minds of two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine.

 

I have been pushing this book so hard, which if you’re on Twitter, you probably know because I went total fangirl over it. Unsurprisingly! I loved all of her answers, especially two of them! So thank you Leah for the amazing answers!! I will be putting my “commentary” in parenthesis and blue below the answers. 🙂

Here’s the interview!
As someone who’s always had long distance friendships, I really loved the aspect of two teenagers becoming such great friends through letters, despite or in spite of their own illnesses. What was your inspiration for that particular aspect?
 
            This has always been an aspect of my life, too. It’s often great, isn’t it?
             A lot of that comes from traveling, but also from really enjoying the camaraderie forged within online fandoms, but if I’m trying to find the real root of my inspiration? It’s got to be having family overseas. My mother’s from Ohio, but my dad’s from Manchester, England, and throughout my childhood my siblings and I received a lot of written correspondence from relatives. Letters, parcels, cards. Love in paper form!
            As the world’s changed and technology has grown up (I still like to pretend that Skype is really Star Trek brought to life), friendships abroad have become a whole lot easier to maintain. The very fact that you can interview me right now is evidence of how small the world is. Do you ever stop to just wonder at it? How close the world is? You can almost reach out and hold it.
 (Yes! It is so great. I can’t imagine life without some of my long distance friends. I’m so jealous of all the traveling! Especially with England<3)
How did you ‘meet’ Oliver and Moritz? Did they come fully formed in your mind from the beginning?
 
You know, I think I met them much as the readers do! Ollie came very easy, basically fully-formed and so desperate to exist that you could hardly say no to him. He demands to be heard. It’s like he’s always been there, shouting himself hoarse in the woods.
 
Moritz was harder to pin down – in earlier drafts, he was somehow – believe it or not – even more pompous, by Jove. But over time he was reined in, and now if I’m asked to pick between my boys –sometimes I prefer Moritz precisely because he made it so difficult to love him. He hid from me like he hides from everyone else, and I got to know him as I was writing. Slowly, in increments, seeing small pieces of who he was until he became whole.
(Oh Mortitz. I could definitely relate to him with his hard to love attributes that he showed at times. Ollie definitely seems like the type of character that would show himself until he was heard.)
There’s a definite science fiction element throughout the entire book I found that was really fascinating. Was this, along with the superhero aspect of the two characters, always intentional? Did you ever think of it as a regular contemporary?
            Oh, this question. I feel like this question is becoming the question for this book. So I may give you too much of a response, here. Apologies in advance!
 
            I never saw the book as anything other than speculative fiction.
 
If I’m being frank, when I first heard that some readers were interpreting the book as contemporary, I felt a bit mind-boggled. Not because I don’t understand that perspective– when I step outside of my process and try to see the book as if I didn’t know it was written by someone who’d written almost exclusively science fiction, fantasy and horror for years, I can totally see how people come to that conclusion, especially with the way it’s marketed.
I made a false assumption, too, thinking that any book that began by introducing a character as allergic to electricity would automatically be seen as be science fiction. (I mean, there’s electricity in our bones! In our socks! How could you be allergic to yourself?) I see now that Ollie sells it pretty well at first.
 
Sometimes I think I shot myself in the foot with Ollie and Mo – some readers find them so authentic that when things get stranger and more blatantly science fictional, they feel almost betrayed. I thought I was leading people gradually down the rabbit hole, but I understand some feel they’ve been shoved from behind and forced into wonderland, which isn’t necessarily pleasant. Not my intention, but a very fascinating phenomenon!
 
The thing is, people who see the book as contemporary aren’t wrong, either. Once you put a book into the world, it doesn’t belong to you. That’s part of the infinite wonder of books. People bring their expectations and interpretations into the reading experience, and that’s what makes stories worthwhile. Nobody is wrong in thinking anything they think about BYNMM, even if it’s not what I thought. (Am I making sense?)
 
As for the comic book aspects: I will say that while the Daredevil references were always in the book, and I did want to play on the idea that it’s hard to be heroic in high school, my editor suggested playing up the superhero angle even more. And I think that was a really cool decision, and it plays really well as contrast to the reality of the characters’ lives. And it is something that really speaks to our current culture. (So..many…Marvel…movies!)
 (Oh no, I asked “the” question for the book. 😉 I LOVE IT SO MUCH. “Speculative fiction” that’s exactly what this is! I love that you say that both views of your book are correct.)
I think Because You’ll Never Meet Me was so interesting to me because of all the different elements, the letters, the long distance friendship, the science fiction genre and the superhero aspect. What are some aspects you would like to see more in fiction?
 
We need diverse books.
 
And I think we’re finally getting some of them! Which is really, really nice. People want to see characters whose perspectives haven’t been seen a dozen times.
 
Personally and specifically, I want to see real, human relationships that are not forced into a clunky romances (how many people marry high school sweethearts? Let’s be a bit realistic, here, about the expectations we’re putting on modern teens). I want to see some failed relationships and doomed friendships, too. I want to see people make mistakes and then recuperate, because that’s life.
 
We need books that don’t fit easily into preset categories, because people don’t, either. Along these lines, if I have any agenda at all: I want to see a continuing shift in the general mindset about genre fiction. I truly believe that big issues can be tackled just as well from a genre standpoint as from contemporary one. Science fiction and fantasy give us a fresh lens through which to see the world and reevaluate the real issues within it. Look at Feed. Look at More Than This and House of the Scorpion. These stories tackle real, relevant questions of identity and culture within a science fiction framework. (There’s a reason that Mad Max is the best film in years: it does the same thing.)
(Yes yes yes to everything you said! I want these books! Give me these books, Leah. 😉 I want to see all of these subjects so much, the broken relationships, the messed up friendships, THAT IS LIFE. *adds books to TBR)
What song would you use to describe Ollie and Moritz and what song would you choose as the book’s theme song? 
Oh gosh I love this question. I can’t write without music.  And I’ve thought about describing why I chose the following songs, but no, no. Just listen to them! They speak for themselves.
            For Ollie: Seventeen by Youth Lagoon.
            For Moritz: Dark Parts by Perfume Genius.
            Theme song: The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us! by Sufjan Stevens.
(Seventeen is perfect! I have to listen to the other two but I love Sufjan Stevens!)
After completing BYNMM, did you always plan for a sequel? Did you have a different ending in mind?
            Oooh, ooh! Can I tell you a not-secret?
            I wrote the sequel before I sold the first book, way back in 2013. No lie. The sequel has been in existence for more than two years, tucked away in my computer, waiting for its moment to break out into the world. For a long time, I wasn’t sure it would get to see the light of day. Until last month, I didn’t know that it would! I’m so glad those interested will get to see more of Ollie and Moritz trying to navigate their strange lives.
            The ending to BYNMM has always been as it is now, with a few changes: In the earlier drafts, the book ended on Moritz’s perspective. But the events were the same, almost exactly.
(I love not-secrets! LEAH, LEAH, WHERE IS THE SECOND BOOK THEN? MAKE THEM COME OUT WITH IT. Just kidding. Kind of! Oh, can I just “borrow” your computer? It would have been interested to see it end with Mortiz’s perspective!)
(If you haven’t read BYNMM, now would be time to skip to the end of my post)
Can you tell us just a little of what to expect from your sequel?
I think so! No one’s told me I can’t, anyhow. The title’s currently unofficial, but at the moment it’s Nowhere Near You. And I think it’s fair to say that it’s weirder than book one, deeper into wonderland, for better or worse!
 
I guess the following snippet of synopsis needs a spoiler warning for people who haven’t read book one, though.
 
HERE BE SPOILERS
 
Nowhere Near You finds Ollie and Mo almost exactly where we left them at the end of Because You’ll Never Meet Me:  chronicling their lives in letters to each other. Ollie is headed to Ohio on the first road trip of his life (no easy feat for a boy allergic to electricity), and Moritz is trying to decide which school in Kreiszig, Germany, would best suit a depressed, eyeless boy. Things are never easy for either of them: Ollie grieves the loss of his mother, and is constantly at risk of either succumbing to his allergies and seizing and/or sending out electromagnetic pulses that could cause power outages or traffic accidents; Moritz grapples with the idea that his feelings are projected when he echolocates, perhaps manipulating those around him, killing his privacy.
 
Both boys meet other children like them –
(LEAH, LEAH WAIT, YOU FORGOT TO EXPLAIN WHAT HAPPENS. WHO ARE THESE KIDS? WHAT IS THIS ECHOLOCATING? TELL ME MORE)
Nope, that’s as much as I’m saying. But the kids they meet are kids I love to write about, with their own stories to tell. I hope people will want to meet them, too.
 ~End of Spoilers~
(YES, A SYNOPSIS. I’VE GOT THE SYNOPSIS. I KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN NOW! I CAN’T WAIT TO READ IT. MORE LETTERS, MORE EMOTIONS, MORE STRUGGLES, I WANT IT ALL!)
Aw, you mean I have to wait to read the sequel to find out all my answers? Aw! It’s okay, I will wait forever! Please don’t be forever!
Thank you Leah, once again for answering my questions and being so incredibly lovely in all your answers!
If you haven’t read Because You’ll Never Meet Me, here’s a link to Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble so that you may purchase it! 

The Time I Interviewed Corey Ann Haydu and It Was Glorious

Making PrettyHey everyone! Oh my goodness, when Corey Ann Haydu mentioned wanting to do some interviews and such on Twitter, I couldn’t refuse asking her if I could send her some questions! I am so excited to be doing my first interview with Corey Ann Haydu after devouring Making Pretty.
If you haven’t heard of Making Pretty, here’s the summary taken from Goodreads:
Montana and her sister, Arizona, are named after the mountainous states their mother left them for. But Montana is a New York City girl through and through, and as the city heats up, she’s stepping into the most intense summer of her life.

With Arizona wrapped up in her college world and their father distracted by yet another divorce, Montana’s been immersing herself in an intoxicating new friendship with a girl from her acting class. Karissa is bold, imperfectly beautiful, and unafraid of being vulnerable. She’s everything Montana would like to become. But the friendship with Karissa is driving a wedge between Montana and her sister, and the more of her own secrets Karissa reveals, the more Montana has to wonder if Karissa’s someone she can really trust.

In the midst of her uncertainty, Montana finds a heady distraction in Bernardo. He’s serious and spontaneous, and he looks at Montana in the way she wants to be seen. For the first time, Montana understands how you can become both lost and found in somebody else. But when that love becomes everything, where does it leave the rest of her imperfect life?

Thank you so much for letting me interview you, Corey. Making Pretty was such an addictive story for me, especially regarding Karissa. Thanks for writing it! This is your third young adult book! Congratulations! 
I thought I would start with a basic question: What was your inspiration for Making Pretty?
I started out with just one question– what would it be like to be a teenage girl with a plastic surgeon father? I’ve always been concerned with body image issues and the pressure to look perfect. I thought having a father who is also professionally concerned with looks would be a really great way to explore my feelings about body image issues. (Sidenote from me: This is the year for all the body image books, I love it!).
I could relate to Montana right away and felt very close to her quickly, was Making Pretty always destined to be “her” story?
Absolutely! It took me a long time to “find” Montana though. I was working on the book for a couple of months before I figured out who she was. I had lots of good scenes and conflicts, but Montana was hazy. Then I wrote the early scene where Montana dyes her hair pink, and she finally came into focus for me. Sometimes you just need to see a character in a particular scene to get to know them better. As soon as I saw Montana’s pink hair, I got her. 
The book begins the summer after Arizona returns from college and Montana thinks things will go back to normal between them. Did you ever think of starting Making Pretty at an earlier or later time?
Yep! I play around with timelines a lot when I’m working on my books. Originally I started much further into the story– with Karissa and Montana’s relationship more established. I also played around with Montana and Bernardo’s relationship being already established as well. In even earlier drafts, Arizona wasn’t out at college at all! I didn’t know originally how much I needed to be exploring the shifting parameters of their relationship, how big a role that would play in the book. So basically I started this story in a lot of different places, before I realized it would work best starting on the day Arizona comes back from her first year at college. 
What character do you relate to most in Making Pretty?
I think I feel the most connection with Montana, because she’s struggling with the same things I have struggled with an continue to struggle with: wanting approval from parents, feeling not good enough, wondering where she belongs, struggling to accept other people around her changing, and getting in friendships and relationships that might not be the best for her. That’s a big one for me. Many many times I have gotten locked into a toxic friendship or relationship that feels great for a while but isn’t necessarily great for me. When I was writing MAKING PRETTY I was leaving behind a toxic friendship, so I really thought a lot about that– what I loved about the person, and what was dangerous about them for me. (Sidenote: Real life experience/inspiration<3)
Karissa definitely seems like a larger than life character, not unlike Lily Kane in Veronica Mars and Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks. Have you ever known anyone with a personality like that? Did you originally plan to have her become friends with Montana?
I certainly have! And I often get a bit trampled by people with huge, complicated seductive personalities. I always intended to explore the friendships between Karissa and Montana, and the consequences that can come when someone who feels vulnerable gets spellbound by someone who is electric and charming and eccentric and maybe not so careful with other people’s lives or feelings. It’s a personality type I am drawn to– who isn’t drawn to charisma?– and have also gotten burned by. (Sidenote: Karissa and Montana’s relationship was so fascinating)
I noticed some parallels between Montana’s dad’s relationship with Karissa and Montana and Bernado’s relationship. Mostly in that Montana sees her dad’s relationship as one doomed to fail and sees her relationship with Bernado a lot different. They both seem to have Eros  love styles. Were these parallels made on purpose? (Note: Eros is a sensual, intense, passionate kind of love.)
I’m so glad you saw this! I was totally trying to explore this exact parallel– how Montana both wanted to rebel against and mirror her father, and how she was stuck in a romantic loop much like him. I thought a lot about what it would be like to have a father who is constantly falling in love too fast, and what that might do to your own perception of love. Figuring out what love looks like and what it feels like is so much what being a teenager is about, and it gets very complicated when you’ve watched your father fall in love tons of times. (Sidenote: Success! I was right. Thank you Interp. Comm. class<3 I loved this aspect.)
That ending was certainly something! I would love to see it continue. Would you ever consider writing a sequel or follow up short story for it?
At the moment, I feel pretty comfortable with where Montana leaves off. The thing about writing for a YA audience, or about YA characters, is that there can’t really be “endings”, because they have long, complicated lives ahead of them, so we’re really only seeing a little moment in time. I try to capture that reality in my books. That these characters will grow up and carry their past with them and the reader can guess at how that past will effect them later in life.  (Sidenote: A moment in time, a slice of life, all so true.<3)
What is one thing you think or hope people will take away from Making Pretty?
I hope it makes people think about how hard we try to be beautiful, and how much girls feel they need to be perfect. And how bad this is for girls, and for the rest of society. I always hope my books spark discussions that might be difficult or uncomfortable. And I always hope that they help the readers feel more compassion.  (Sidenote: Yes, yes, yes).
The writer in me is curious about this next one. Do you have a “writing wishlist”? As in a list of ideas or settings you want to use in future books?
I have a huuuuuuge list of ideas and snippets in my iphone. Sometimes I’ll write down something from an article or podcast or even from someone else’s book that inspires me. Or I’ll write down an idea for a scene or a concept or a character trait that I’m interested in further exploring. When I’m done with one book, I have a whole list of thoughts and areas of interest to skim through, to hopefully find that next great idea that I can get engaged with and swept up in. (Sidenote: Same!)
I may have read and stalked your blog to find out about this next topic. On your blog you mentioned how you were a theatre kid, I notice you incorporated this into how Montana and Karissa met in stage acting class. You’re also adapting OCD Love Story for your alma mater, congrats! Would you ever consider writing a play for the YA audience? 
Thank you! I’d love to keep working in theatre in some capacity and was thrilled to get the opportunity to adapt OCD LOVE STORY into a play for and starring teens. And I’d do it again, although next time I would love to start brand new, without source material. I think it’s certainly something I’ll tackle at some point in my career!  (Sidenote: I totally want this play now<3)
Do you have a character in a play that you would have loved to portray in high school, but didn’t get a chance to?
Great question! I am still a little heartbroken I never got to be Juliet, because as cliche as it is, I love that play and would have loved to put my spin on those classic scenes. I also love the main character in HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE, which is a challenging and profound play that tackles some really difficult material. (Sidenote: Who wouldn’t want to be Juliet? Ok, bad question).
Your debut MG book, Rules For Stealing Stars comes out next year! Are you scared to be alternating genres?
Actually I found switching genres to be really freeing. RULES FOR STEALING STARS is a little different than my YA books, and I felt really ale to explore new worlds and new voices while still being attracted to some of the same themes and tones of my YA work. It opened me up a lot, creatively, to experiment in a new genre. I found I had a different set of stories to tell for an MG readership. 
You made New York come alive in Making Pretty, something that I always love in YA Fiction. Could you tell us some of your favorite places in New York?
I love Macdougal Street even though it’s so crowded and crazy now– but when I moved here fifteen years ago I lived right off of it, and it’s what made me fall in love with the city. I love Central Park, of course. And I live in Brooklyn now and am in love with the brownstones in Carroll Gardens and any rooftop I can find. My favorite place in the city is probably Murray’s Cheese Bar (no surprise there!) or the Angelika– a great movie theatre. And in Brooklyn my favorite bar is called Brookvin. It’s in my old neighborhood and I’ll take any excuse to go back to it!  (Sidenote: And this is why I need to go to BEA, to explore NY<3)
Finally, I have to ask, do you have any more YA novels in the works right now?
I am currently working on a YA novel that has a slight magical realism leaning and is set in Brooklyn. It’s been an incredibly challenging process and it’s a book I actually started way back in 2011 and am FINALLY just beginning to get a real grasp on. 
More books! More books! YAY! I want them all now! 
Were her answers just not the most amazing things ever? As you can see, I asked her a TON of questions. I couldn’t help myself! And now that the interview is over, I have thought of at least ten more to ask! My gosh, how will I survive? 
Thank you Corey for letting me totally bombard you and answering every one of my questions.<3

You can check out Corey’s bio here on her website. 🙂
Stalk Follow her on Twitter 
Pre-Order Making Pretty: Barnes and Noble / Amazon / Book Depository
If you need more convincing on why to read Making Pretty (which comes out on May 12th from Katherine Tegen Books), you can read my post on five reasons you need this book in your life. Also, tomorrow I will be reviewing this book and most likely flailing over it hardcore, so be sure to stop back by tomorrow!

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