INTRODUCING NATASHA SINEL

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Here’s how to become a published author in five steps. (Notice I didn’t say five easy steps. Nor did I say they’d all be forward-moving steps.)

1. Live Your Childhood Inside Books

I was a reader. When I finished one book, I’d start the next. Books dictated the ups and downs of my moods (This probably confused the hell out of my parents—well, what is she crying about now?) I wrote stories too. People would say, “She’ll be a writer someday.” But people aren’t books, so I didn’t listen.

2. Go to Business School by Default

Having grown up in Washington, D.C., I assumed I’d be a lawyer, a lobbyist, or a politician. But…eh. A doctor was out of the question—I was one of those faint-at-the-sight-of-blood types. So, I went to business school. Maybe I’d be some sort of business-type person.

3. Do Something That Makes You Feel Horrible About Yourself

During business school, I miserably failed my internship at one of the big investment banks. (Why did I even try it? Because someone—I won’t mention names, but it starts with a D and ends with a D—always told me I could do anything I set my mind to. Investment banking, however? Not in my “anything” category.) Turns out, I wasn’t interested in any of the MBA-type jobs at banks, consulting firms, and product marketing companies. I had no job-worthy interests, period. Then, after listening to me whine long enough, my dad asked one simple question:

“When you pick up the New York Times, which section do you read first?”

The Book Review, duh. Also TV and movies. So something clicked there, and I set my mind to a more appropriate “anything.” After a grueling independent job search, I landed a job at Showtime Networks. I was on the business side, but I was working in TV. I loved watching TV! One of my interests plus job equals happy/successful.

4. Spend $$ on Gas and Parking

Many years later, I put work on hold to start a family. I had an idea for a story, so I signed up for a YA novel workshop. Driving an hour to SoHo every week would give me a kick in the pants to write, and that would make me feel creative, productive, and good. What I hadn’t expected was for my instructor (fabulous author/yoga instructor Kristen Kemp) to say, “Girl, you can write. There is no reason why you can’t get published, if that’s what you want to do.”*

Whoa. That was an option? Sure, I’d fantasized about being an author. Who doesn’t? But, that was just fantasy, right? But something clicked, and I set my mind to another “anything”—being a writer.

5. Fail and Fail and Fail Some More

After ten years, two and a half manuscripts, and numerous heartbreaking but necessary failures, the fantasy is a reality. And it feels like the right “anything.”

*My fellow Fearless Fifteener, Sona Charaipotra (PRETTY LITTLE THINGS) was in that class with me, and I’m so glad to reconnect with her here during our debut year!

Here’s a description of my debut YA contemporary THE FIX, which comes out this September:

One conversation is all it takes to break a world wide open.

Seventeen-year-old Macy Lyons has been through something no one should ever have to experience. And she’s dealt with it entirely alone.

On the outside, she’s got it pretty good. Her family’s well-off, she’s dating the cute boy next door, she has plenty of friends, and although she long ago wrote her mother off as a superficial gym rat, she’s thankful to have allies in her loving, laid-back dad and her younger brother.

But a conversation with a boy at a party one night shakes Macy out of the carefully maintained complacency that has defined her life so far. The boy is Sebastian Ruiz, a recovering addict who recognizes that Macy is hardened by dark secrets. And as Macy falls for Sebastian, she realizes that, while revealing her secret could ruin her seemingly perfect family, keeping silent might just destroy her.

The Fix follows two good-hearted teenagers coming to terms with the cards they were dealt. It’s also about the fixes we rely on to cope with our most shameful secrets and the hope and fear that comes with meeting someone who challenges us to come clean.

“First shot out of the gate, Sinel bravely addresses tough topics, demonstrating that the weight of secrets can pull us under—and their release can save us from drowning.” —Holly Schindler, critically acclaimed author of A Blue So Dark and Feral

“A bewitching, beautiful, and brave debut. Readers will marvel at Macy’s resilience. Natasha Sinel’s writing devastates and uplifts, by turns. An important story of one girl’s journey to rewrite the blueprint of her own life by facing the truth inside herself.” —Carrie Mesrobian, award-winning author of Sex & Violence and Perfectly Good White Boy

Natasha Sinel writes YA fiction from her home on a dirt road in Northern Westchester, NY. She drives her kids around all afternoon, but in her head, she’s still in high school, and hopes no one near her can read minds. Find her on Twitter and on YA Outside The Lines. Natasha’s debut YA novel THE FIX will be out from Sky Pony Press in September 2015.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Jaye Robin Brown, Author of NO PLACE TO FALL

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No Place To Fall cover image

On our blog today, we have Jaye Robin Brown, author of NO PLACE TO FALL (Harper Teen). Here’s a synopsis of the book:

Amber Vaughn is a good girl. She sings solos at church, babysits her nephew after school, and spends every Friday night hanging out at her best friend Devon’s house. It’s only when Amber goes exploring in the woods near her home, singing camp songs with the hikers she meets on the Appalachian Trail, that she feels free—and when the bigger world feels just a little bit more in reach.

When Amber learns about an audition at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she decides that her dream—to sing on bigger stages—could also be her ticket to a new life. Devon’s older (and unavailable) brother, Will, helps Amber prepare for her one chance to try out for the hypercompetitive arts school. But the more time Will and Amber spend together, the more complicated their relationship becomes . . . and Amber starts to wonder if she’s such a good girl, after all.

Then, in an afternoon, the bottom drops out of her family’s world—and Amber is faced with an impossible choice between her promise as an artist and the people she loves. Amber always thought she knew what a good girl would do. But between “right” and “wrong,” there’s a whole world of possibilities.

Hi and welcome! Congrats on your debut! Now onto our questions…

Amber is an empathetic character who makes some questionable choices. Was it hard for you to write the moments where Amber makes mistakes?

Not really. I wasn’t perfect as a teen. The students I teach aren’t perfect. Things happen and you either sink or grow stronger from your mistakes. Amber was actually much more flawed and manipulative in early drafts, so she seems almost angelic to me in the final version!

Amber is a singer. As a reader, I longed to be able to hear her on stage. Did you listen to music a lot while writing this novel? Is there a famous musician who sounds like Amber does? Are you a singer yourself?

I can’t listen while I write, because I get sucked into lyrics, but I definitely listened to a lot of music to and from my day job. When I think of Amber’s voice, I think of great singers like Gillian Welch, Allison Krauss, and in particular, Emmy Rossum in the movie Songcatcher. That was probably the voice I heard most in my head. Though the version of Amazing Grace that I listened to over and over is Patsy Cline’s. Absolutely gorgeous. Sadly, I am not a singer. Correction. I sing all the time, but there aren’t many who would want to listen. I think writing Amber was my chance to finally belt it out and live that imaginary dream.

You do a great job of creating a complex family dynamic. They are all relatable and flawed in their own ways. Did you ever do any free writing from the perspectives of Amber’s family members? If not, how did you get to know them so well?

Oh, thank you so much! You know, I definitely have done free writing for other manuscripts, but with No Place To Fall, these characters were so ingrained inside of me already. As a transplant to the Appalachian Mountains, I’m always watching and listening and soaking situations in. Though none of the family was directly modeled on any one person I know, they were definitely stitched out of some pretty special cloth. Plus, with this being my first published novel, I probably had more time with it than people do with later novels and through each revision I got to know the characters on deeper levels. But mostly, they came to me pretty fully formed. I sure wish it was always like that.

The relationship between Amber and Will starts in a controversial way, although you also feel the deep connection between them as a reader. Did you know when you began the book that Will would be the central romantic relationship?

I’m so glad you asked this question! Actually no. When I first started the book, I thought Kush was going to be the love interest. I had a picture of the actor, Avan Jogia, that I’d pulled for inspiration and I even thought there might be a bit of Devon versus Amber stuff going on. I quickly realized that would be a terrible set up in a book. In another version, when Sean was pretty different from who he is now – a foster boy with totally different foster parents, Amber dates Sean but as a more manipulative move to piss off her father. But with each draft, the heartbeat of Will took over and it was like Amber was telling me, “Um, author lady, he’s the one I want.” (Best news…there’s going to be a Will’s perspective novella that follows some of the same timeline as the novel – his side of the story!)

That sounds awesome! 

What was your writing process like for this book? Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser?” When you began, did you know what you wanted the book to say?

I’m a plantser? I have major beats in my head but the rest is the muse and intuition. Unfortunately, that meant a bunch of major revisions, but my process is my process. I can’t say I knew exactly what I wanted the book to say, but the word longing was always attached to it. As was family and loyalty. Mostly I wanted to write a story about the area I’ve adopted as home, and show the strength of family in the face of flaws and ugly humanity. I’m also attracted to that moment as teens when we realize we are not our parents and we don’t have to be like them when we grow up. I think that’s one of the real revelations of entering that time of your life. It tends to show up in most of my stories. And of course the sweet simplicity of friends that get you, no matter what. Those friendships were important in the book.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about No Place to Fall?

Um. It’s awesome. You should read it. I can’t believe I just typed that. But you know what, I’ll keep it 🙂

Do you have any other writing projects in the works? I noticed that you are an art teacher. Do you have any dreams of illustrating one of your books?

I’ve been working on a couple of contemporaries and my agent, editor, and I are trying to figure out which one will be the follow up to No Place To Fall. You can be sure it will have a largish cast of characters, themes of family, finding one’s way in the world, and kissing. Because kissing is good.

As for illustration, no. I’m a doodler of ARCs, but the mediums I’ve dabbled in for money have all been of the three dimensional variety. Clay, silversmithing, a little bit of silk screening. Being a high school art teacher is a bit like being a jack of all trades and true master of none.

Lastly, as this community is fearless, what is something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of?

It is? That’s good to know because I often think writing is about the scariest profession on the planet. Okay. I am not afraid of speaking my mind. It took me years to get here but if I have a problem, I will go to the source and work it out directly. I am scared of ignorance and those who choose not to do the research to find out the big picture and make well-educated decisions about the world. That, and snakes. Ugh.

Thanks so much, Cordelia for the great questions!

Jaye Robin Brown author photo

Jaye Robin Brown, Jro to her friends, lives on a fourteen acre farm in the mountains north of Asheville, North Carolina. She is fond of dogs, horses, the absurd and the ironic. She truly believes laughter and music are the best medicine. When not writing you can find her in the art room of the high school where she teaches.

 

 

 

 

CordeliaJensenAuthorPhotoCordelia Allen Jensen was Poet Laureate of Perry County, PA in 2006 and 2007. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches creative writing in Philadelphia, where she lives with her husband and children. Cordelia’s YA Novel in Verse, SKYSCRAPING, is forthcoming from Philomel/Penguin in June 2015. Cordelia is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc. You can find her at www.cordeliajensen.com and on Twitter @cordeliajensen

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview With Kate Bassett, Author of WORDS AND THEIR MEANINGS

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Today in our OneFourKidLit interview series, we welcome Kate Bassett, author of the new YA Contemporary Words and Their Meanings. Thanks for stopping by, Kate, and congratulations on your debut!

Here’s what you need to know about Words and Their Meanings:

Words and Their Meanings (5)Anna O’Mally doesn’t believe in the five stages of grief. Her way of dealing with death equates to daily bouts of coffin yoga and fake-tattooing Patti Smith quotes onto her arms. Once a talented writer, Anna no longer believes words matter, until shocking discoveries–in the form of origami cranes–force her to redefine family and love.

As Anna goes in search of the truth, she discovers that while every story, every human being, has a last line, it might still be possible to find the words for a new beginning.

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KH: Words and Their Meanings is a novel about dealing with grief—and it handles the subject with brutal, heart-wrenching honesty. What made you want to tackle this difficult topic? 

KB: Believe me, there were times when I would call my critique partner (Fearless Fifteener Alison DeCamp!) and say, “Why didn’t I write about something funny?”

The thing is, grief can hit us at any stage in life, and it takes on many, many different forms. I knew I wanted to try and write a raw, close-to-the-bone kind of story. I’m in my mid-30s now, and I’ve seen enough (and felt enough) loss to understand how paralyzing it can feel. And not just grieving loved ones. There’s a grief that comes naturally with growing up and beginning to understand more about the world and the people we know and care for deeply. There’s grief in that floundering search for identity we all go through at some point. There’s grief attached with the creative process. I wanted to tell a story that could be honest about this, but also show some hope on the other side.

KH: Did you know from the beginning that Anna would be a writer? Why did you decide to have her express herself in this way?

KB: Anna, as a character, hung out in my head a long time before ever coming to life on the page. I always knew she’d be a writer. I think in a lot of ways, Anna’s relationship with her words mirrors some of the struggles I went through as a writer who earned a lot of recognition in high school. I won some pretty big awards before graduating, and while there was no external pressure put on me, I still had a huge amount of anxiety about being “good enough.” I actually stopped really writing for a time in college because reading other students’ work that was fantastic didn’t inspire me, it made me feel like a failure. I forgot why I loved writing in the first place. It took a long time and some amazing college professors to pull me out of my own head.

I wanted to revisit some of these feelings with Anna because I think that’s a very real emotional state for a lot of teenagers who discover a passion or “talent” early in life. Exploring what that can manifest as, and how to let go of the need for validation, felt like a good fit with what else was going on in Anna’s world.

KH: Where did Anna’s Patti Smith obsession come from? Do you share it—or do you have another musician/artist/writer you’re obsessed with?

KB: I read Just Kids, Patti Smith’s memoir, while writing Words and Their Meanings, and remember being really struck by Patti’s eternal optimism in the face of so much loss. Her perspective on life, creativity, art… It all felt connected to Anna. It wasn’t until I was at my parents’ house one morning, half-watching the television, that a match struck. Patti was being interviewed in the Chelsea Hotel. It was the first time she’d been back in the room she once shared with Robert Mapplethorpe. The tenderness and loss, and how each relationship shaped who she is today—it just became really clear that she’s a person Anna would cling to in her darkest hours.

I love Patti’s music, and love her poetry and photography as well. I would say as a teen I was much (much, much) more obsessed with Janis Joplin. I worshipped every note. I played those songs until my parents’ ears were ready to bleed (and she was “their” generation’s voice, not mine). Still, there was something alive and broken about her voice that I clung to in my darkest hours.

KH: I really loved the way you used origami cranes in the book. It’s such a unique and memorable element. How did you come up with it? And have you folded 1,000 of them yourself?

KB: Art, in various forms, is woven throughout the book. When I thought about Anna’s grandfather, origami immediately came to mind. His character is more linear and mechanical. He’s a literal and metaphorical fixer with a heavy dose of left-brain thinking. Origami is beautiful, but also precise. It’s delicate but strong. It’s the sort of art form I thought he’d use to connect to all his artistic loved ones.

Also, origami is folded. There’s something that feels secret about the way it’s constructed. Unfolding something like, say, an origami crane, reveals creases that are lovely and interesting in their own right.  And of course, there are such beautiful stories and myths that surround the creation of 1,000 cranes.

Truth time: I can’t fold a crane to save my soul. I’ve tried. The wings are never even, the neck turns out all wrong, and I end up making a paper airplane instead.

KH: You surrounded Anna with such an amazing and varied cast of characters, all of whom enhanced the story. Who’s your favorite supporting character in the book, and why?

KB: Ah, good question! My first instinct would be to say Mateo, because I love him for so many reasons (the food alone!).

But if I had to choose, I would say Bea. She’s quirky but still holds on to the most important bits of childhood. And she manages to bring out glimpses of the better parts of her big sister. I think without Bea, Anna would have folded into herself completely.

KH: And finally, as our community is fearless, what’s one thing you’re afraid of and one thing you don’t fear?

KB: I am terrified of spitballs. I gag and shudder even typing that word. Also totally afraid of driving near cliffs or over high bridges. I’ve called one of your fearless crew (Alison, again) more times than I care to admit to just talk, talk, talk to me so I didn’t hyperventilate and pass out on the Mackinac Bridge.

I don’t fear coyotes. In my neck of the woods, that’s actually quite useful.

About Kate:

headshotbasset_kate (5 of 5) copyKate Bassett is the Michigan Press Association award-winning editor of her small town’s newspaper, Harbor Light News, and a contributing writer for Traverse Magazine. She has covered Mount Everest climbers and pet pig obituaries with the same philosophy for 13 years: voice matters. She lives in Harbor Springs with her husband, three children, and one crazy young mutt.

Website | Twitter

Kathryn Holmes grew up in Maryville, Tennessee, where she was an avid reader and an aspiring writer from an early age. She now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and piles upon piles of books. A graduate of The New School’s MFA in Creative Writing program, Kathryn works as a freelance dance journalist, among other writing gigs. Her debut YA novel, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND, comes out February 17, 2015 from HarperTeen. You can find Kathryn online at www.kathrynholmes.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Kathryn_Holmes.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Rachel M. Wilson, Author of DON’T TOUCH

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Today we welcome OneFour KidLit author Rachel M. Wilson, whose YA debut, DON’T TOUCH, releases September 2nd!


About DON’T TOUCH:

Caddie has a history of magical thinking—of playing games in her head to cope with her surroundings—but it’s never been this bad before.

When her parents split up, don’t touch becomes Caddie’s mantra. Maybe if she keeps from touching another person’s skin, Dad will come home. She knows it doesn’t make sense, but her games have never been logical. Soon, despite Alabama’s humidity, she’s covering every inch of skin and wearing evening gloves to school.

And that’s where things get tricky. Even though Caddie’s the new girl, it’s hard to play off her compulsions as artistic quirks. Friends notice things. Her drama class is all about interacting with her scene partners, especially Peter, who’s auditioning for the role of Hamlet. Caddie desperately wants to play Ophelia, but if she does, she’ll have to touch Peter…and kiss him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter—but the other part isn’t sure she’s brave enough to let herself fall.

From rising star Rachel M. Wilson comes a powerful, moving debut novel of the friendship and love that are there for us, if only we’ll let them in.

AMAZON | B&N | INDIEBOUND | GOODREADS | BOOK CLUB GUIDE

LG: Congratulations on the release of DON’T TOUCH! It’s a powerful, tough story that’s told beautifully. What inspired you to write it?

RMW: Thank you so much! I was inspired in part by my own experience with OCD and anxiety, and in part by those more ordinary fears that can keep up from the life we want to be leading. It’s possible to waste so much time with fear, to become completely paralyzed at the thought of change, and that’s something I wanted to explore. I also wanted to get into stigma—both from the outside and the inside—the fear of being seen as strange or off-balance and all the complications that can bring to relationships. In a way, I think I was writing to my younger self, wanting to say, “yes, I see how bad this can be, but it also won’t be the end of your world.”

I gave an interview at Disability in Kidlit that goes into more depth about OCD for anyone who’s particularly interested in that.
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LG: How much research when into creating Caddie’s anxiety, and Caddie herself?

RMW: Well, even though I experienced OCD and anxiety myself, Caddie’s symptoms and life circumstances are different from my own, so I still did a bunch of reading about OCD and other anxiety disorders. At one point, I tried focusing on a touch phobia as opposed to OCD, but I found that the magical thinking I’d built into the story belonged more properly in the OCD world. I think I was scared of writing too close to myself, or of misrepresenting something I ought to know well in the process of making fiction. But ultimately, I decided I’d given a healthy amount of attention to those fears and it was time to put them aside. I consulted with a couple of psychiatrist friends to ensure that Caddie’s symptoms rang true for them. And while writing my author’s note, I checked in with a couple of counselor friends who work with youth to make sure I wasn’t unintentionally saying anything harmful.

In terms of Caddie’s character, I used a lot of the character creation techniques I learned while studying acting – playing with metaphors, free-writing, interviewing her. I also created a Pandora station of music that suited Caddie to get myself in her headspace.

LG: Theatre plays a large aspect within the book. Why did you find theatre important for Caddie’s story, aside from the fact that it’ll force her to touch Peter? And why Hamlet?

RMW: She’s always acting, always putting on a show that everything’s okay. One of the titles I considered for this book was Cadence Finn Is Fine—but that sounds a lot like a chapter book. Even before theater was a part of the story, I knew I wanted that element of performing for others to be in Caddie’s character. Out of all the scenes in the book, some version of that first lunch scene has survived from the very beginning, and it was always about that, trying to pretend like nothing bothers you when inside you’re falling apart. I was using acting as a metaphor before it became a concrete part of the storyline. In an earlier draft, Caddie was a ballerina—as with OCD, I think I was afraid of writing Caddie too close to myself. It helped me to write Caddie’s story with those degrees of remove and then bring the ingredients that I knew well back into the story. Not the most efficient process, but hey, it made a novel.

Hamlet came into the picture fairly late in the game as well. Early drafts used The Glass Menagerie, but I wanted to use lots of text from the play and worried about securing permission for that. Plus, that play introduced resonances that didn’t match up with Caddie and Peter’s relationship. A mentor suggested Hamlet after seeing how many scenes involved water imagery or swimming pools; I’d been thinking about that myself, so I reread the play, and was like, “Yeah, that’s right.” There’s so much language about fear and doubt, and Hamlet’s the classic character who’s always acting but afraid to take action. Ophelia was the obvious foil for Caddie, but I became equally interested in how Hamlet relates to Caddie’s character.

LG: What was the hardest part of writing your story? And what was your favorite part?

RMW: The hardest part was probably finding that external storyline—as may have been suggested above, I tried several. I really wrote two or three potential books in tandem, so at some point, I had to perform major surgery and sever the one that survives from all the other possibilities.

My favorite part was drafting those scenes that seemed to come out of the aether. Many of these went through major revision later on, but while writing, I’d get that feeling, this, this is my story . . . this will be a part of my book no matter what. Because I wrote so much that was exploratory and fumbling, writing those scenes I felt confident would stick was a huge boost.

LG: In general, when did you figure out you wanted to be writer, and what inspired you to become one?

RMW: I didn’t figure that out until my senior year of college, and my inspiration came out of theater. I’d been studying acting, but as an actor, you’re always a player in someone else’s story—the playwright’s, the director’s. I needed a creative outlet where I had total control. *laughs maniacally* My acting teacher required us to freewrite every morning, and out of that came a desire to write fiction. I was already very into the adaptation of literature for the stage. Writing adaptations was a kind of stepping stone to writing original fiction because it forced me to take apart and study all the elements of a text. Eventually, I started creating original characters and stories, and I ran with that.

LG: Last, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.

RMW: As will probably be clear to readers of DON’T TOUCH, I’m afraid of change, but I’m more afraid of stasis. I have a recurring nightmare about being in a house full of other people’s junk that I don’t know how to get rid of, and I think that comes from a fear of being stuck in the past or tied down by old stuff. I’ve rarely met a horror movie I didn’t like, but I could never make it through an episode of Hoarders.

I’m not at all afraid of heights, or at least, it’s a fear I enjoy–that thrill of standing on the edge of something. The fear’s natural, and it’s fun to stand there in spite of it.
596343About Rachel M. Wilson:

Rachel M. Wilson studied theater at Northwestern University and received her MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Originally from Alabama, Rachel currently writes, acts, and teaches in Chicago, IL. DON’T TOUCH is her first novel. Rachel can best be found on her blogTumblr, or Twitter.

lauren gibaldi squaredLauren Gibaldi is an author and public librarian who lives in Orlando, FL with her husband and overflowing collection of books. She likes dinosaurs, musicals, and the circus (two of which she’s participated in. Hint: It’s not being a dinosaur). Her debut YA novel, THE NIGHT WE SAID YES, will be released summer 2015 with HarperTeen/HarperCollins.

ALL FOUR KIDS: Interview with Jennifer Mathieu, Author of The Truth About Alice

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Today, we are with Jennifer Mathieu, the author of the remarkable book The Truth About Alice. Here’s a bit about the book: 

Alice_FINALEveryone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party. When Healy High star quarterback, Brandon Fitzsimmons, dies in a car crash, it was because he was sexting with Alice. Ask anybody.
 
Rumor has it Alice Franklin is a slut. It’s written all over the “slut stall” in the girls’ bathroom: “Alice had sex in exchange for math test answers” and “Alice got an abortion last semester.” After Brandon dies, the rumors start to spiral out of control. In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students tell all they “know” about Alice–and in doing so reveal their own secrets and motivations, painting a raw look at the realities of teen life. But in this novel from Jennifer Mathieu, exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there’s only one person to ask: Alice herself.

Hi Jennifer, thanks for being with us on the Fearless Fifteeners blog.

I really enjoyed the use of alternating perspectives in your book. Not everyone can do this well but you managed to create four distinct voices and a real need for the story to have all four. What was this process like for you? Did you write the book the way it appears, alternating narrators chapter by chapter, or did you write each character’s narratives and then split them up?

Thank you so much for having me.  I’m glad the voices felt distinct!  The story evolved over many drafts.  Kelsie is actually the product of two different characters I blended together, and there was another girl – another outcast who didn’t fit in as neatly into the plot – that I removed after the first draft.  It was just too many characters to keep track of, so I narrowed it down.  But once I got my four main characters down their voices just came to me.  I switched on and off from character to character as I wrote which was a lot of fun and kept the writing process fresh for me.  I’d never written in a boy’s voice before, and I’m still surprised at how easily Josh and Kurt’s voices – especially Josh’s voice – came to me!  I guess it comes from teaching high school boys for a living.  🙂

Was it always written in multiple perspectives? Did the character of Alice come to you first, the situation or one of the other characters?

Yes, I always planned to write it in multiple perspectives.  I love books with alternating points of view, and I love stories where you put the pieces of the puzzle together over time.  The initial kernel of Alice’s story came to me first and then the other characters’ stories evolved from there.  A huge influence for the idea is the Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.  I read it in high school for a drama class and it stayed with me.  It’s a series of epitaphs from residents in a small town, and as you read each epitaph you put together all these stories and understand what made the town tick and how the residents were connected to one another.

Was one of the character’s voices easier for you to write? One harder?

Kurt’s voice came to me quite easily.  Maybe because I was pretty bookish in high school although I wasn’t a total social outcast.  I just loved writing him and cheered him on the entire time.  The hardest was Elaine.  It took me a while to fully understand her motivations.  The scene with her and Alice in the hair salon was one of the last scenes I wrote and it took the most time to get the tone just right. Even I’m a little afraid of Elaine O’Dea.  😉

I like how the book begins: Elaine listing the facts of the drama. We get a real strong sense of who she is off the bat. Some of the characters in your book do some pretty unlikeable things. You do a good job of off-setting this by using backstory and character depth. Did you struggle with the likability of your characters?

This is something some readers may hate, but I love my characters, even when they’re doing awful things.  I love them so much.  I know they do terrible things, but something I tried to do was give each character humanity.  They do awful things because they’re young and under pressure and some – like Kelsie – have these wildly difficult situations at home that they can’t even name much less deal with.  But I felt for them so much.  My heart broke for all of them.  I’ve read comments online with some readers saying they hate Kelsie, and I’m like, “But can’t you see what she’s been through?  Can’t you see how she’s suffered?”  I know Alice suffered, too, tremendously.  But all the characters suffered in one way or another.  One quote that kept running through my mind as I wrote this story – and I’m not sure who said it – is that everyone has a story inside of them that if you only heard it, it would break your heart.  I think if we all treated each other with that knowledge in that front of our minds – that everyone is going through something personal and painful – we would all be nicer to each other.  Obviously characters like Kelsie and Josh struggle in following that advice, but that doesn’t mean that they themselves are immune from that saying.  They are struggling, too, and enormously so.

Bullying is a core issue in this book. Is that a topic you feel strongly about?

As a mother, teacher, and human being, of course.  But I don’t think the way we’ve addressed bullying is really very smart.  I could write an entire essay on this, but bullying rarely takes place like we see on the movies with the nerd being stuffed in the locker.  And not every tough situation a young person endures with friends is necessarily bullying.  I would rather we eliminate the word bullying or stop using it to label everything negative and instead just focus on being kind to each other and providing young people with resources, including trusted adults, that they can really talk to when they’re feeling down, under pressure, or isolated.

The football-obsessed, small-town Texas setting seems vital to this story. Do you think Alice’s story would be different if it took place somewhere else?

I do think girls are labeled sluts regardless of where they live.  Like Elaine says toward the end, she knows that even in a place like New York City, a girl like Alice would still have been called a slut.  What makes the setting important in this story, I think, is that the fishbowl environment of the small town just heightens everything and makes it even more intense and difficult for the characters living there.

And now, because we are community that is fearless, please name something that you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.

I’m very afraid of small spaces and had difficulty riding elevators for a few years.  Something I’m not afraid of that seems to put others into a panic is speaking in front of crowds.  I actually sort of enjoy it!  I think my years as a teacher have helped me there.  🙂

Thanks so much!

Thank you!  I loved your questions!

MATHIEU_PHOTO_BY_GEORGE_HIXSON_COLOR1.sizedJennifer Mathieu (pronounced Muh-two, but if you speak French you can pronounce it better than that) is a writer and English teacher who lives in Texas with her husband and son. A native of the East Coast and a former journalist, Jennifer enjoys writing contemporary young adult fiction that treats teenagers like real people. She loves to eat and hates to cook.

 

 

CordeliaJensenAuthorPhotoCordelia Allen Jensen graduated with a MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2012. Cordelia’s YA Novel in Verse, SKYSCRAPING, is forthcoming from Philomel/Penguin in early 2015. Cordelia was Poet Laureate of Perry County in 2006 & 2007. She’s a Writer in Residence at The Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Philadelphia where she teaches creative writing classes for kids & teens and does author interviews for their blog. Cordelia is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc. You can find her at www.cordeliajensen.com and on Twitter @cordeliajensen

All Four Kids: An Interview with Emery Lord, Author of OPEN ROAD SUMMER

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Today, I’m thrilled to highlight Emery Lord’s debut novel, OPEN ROAD SUMMER, a contemporary YA about friendship, love, and learning to trust yourself and others. It releases today!

Open Road SummerAbout OPEN ROAD SUMMER: After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

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CR: Can you start by telling us about how you became interested in writing YA and about your publishing journey?

EL: I found a Sarah Dessen book at the library when I was 13 and fell down the YA rabbit hole. Haven’t left since! I majored in English Lit, and so many Important Works I read lacked YA’s emotional honesty and unflinching earnestness. Once I started writing after graduation, it was always going to be contemporary YA–my first love!, and here I am! (Okay, that’s a really truncated version 😉 There were many late nights represented by the “and” in last sentence.)

CR: Reagan is a complex character on the mend after some serious events in her life linked to people she once trusted. Yet, she loves, supports, and protects Dee. I like that we see multiple sides to her, that she is not one- or two-dimensional. Can you talk about creating her as a character?

EL: Thanks! Unlike Reagan, I grew up with a happy, stable home life, and I stayed pretty close to the straight-and-narrow. In fact, I think Reagan is someone I would have judged…because she comes off cold and she wears very small clothes and, frankly, isn’t nice to other girls, or anyone. So that’s exactly why I wrote her the way I did. In the hopes that I could dig beneath the icy veneer to a hurt but fierce girl who has a lot to offer. I believe so much in the power of will, especially as a teen. Sometimes changing your life is a simple as a decision or two, and that’s what I wanted to show with Reagan.

CR: I love that this story is as much about best friends as it is about falling in love. How refreshing that it wasn’t a love triangle! Can you talk a little about why you decided to develop both of these relationships in Reagan’s life?

EL: Thanks! I was really interested in Reagan being a fully all-or-nothing girl, including her relationships. Dee is her only friend, really, but she’d do anything for her. I like the idea of very devoted friendship, chosen sisterhood, because it’s a part of my own life. My girl friends are not people I spent time with on the way to finding my husband. They’re like family to me, permanent fixtures even if we change or move or fight or whatever. It was fun to write a relationship like that because I know it well! 🙂

CR: What inspired you to write this particular story? Are you a singer or musician?

EL: Until I started writing, I never really thought of songs as writing! So I was partially inspired by that overlap, between penning fiction and music. Personally, I’m nothing special as a musician, but I have a lot of talented friends who are. So, I’m familiar with the particular swooniness of a boy writing a song for you, haha 😉

CR: Can you tell us anything about your next novel, which comes out Spring 2015? Is it also being published by Bloomsbury?

EL: Yes! It’s out with Bloomsbury! It’s another contemporary YA, about a girl named Paige who is determined to use her junior year to become herself again, after a tragic loss at the beginning of her sophomore year.

CR: As this community is “fearless,” we’d like to know one thing you’re afraid of and one thing you’re not afraid of.

EL: I AM afraid of driving through an actual downpour. I am NOT afraid of driving through life in a metaphorical downpour 😉

Emery LordAbout Emery Lord:

Emery Lord is a 20-something Midwestern girl who writes stories about high school and best friends and weird families and the crushes that make you feel combustibly alive and also more awkward than you thought was possible. If you’re not sure how to pronounce Emery, try slurring the name “Emily,” and that will get you really close.

She lives in Cincinnati in a 100 year-old pink row house with her BFF/husband, a closet full of dresses, and lots of books. If karaoke-ing in grocery store aisles or guzzling coffee while impulse shopping were illegal, Emery would be writing her overemotional YA books from jail. Also, she makes up words sometimes. Like combustibly.

OPEN ROAD SUMMER, her first YA novel, is out April 15th, 2014. A second YA novel TBD will be released Spring 2015. You can contact her at emerylord@gmail.com and you can find her on Twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, and her website.

CindyRodriguezCindy L. Rodriguez is a former journalist turned teacher and fiction writer. She is a middle school reading specialist and an adjunct professor. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant and The Boston Globe. She lives in Connecticut with her young daughter and their rescue mutt. Her contemporary YA debut, WHEN REASON BREAKS, will be published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books in Winter 2015. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Julie Murphy, Author of SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY

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Today, we welcome OneFour KidLit author Julie Murphy, whose YA debut, SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY, releases today!


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About SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY:

What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

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JM: I’m so happy to be here! Thanks for having me!

LG: SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY has a fantastic premise – a girl with incurable cancer decides to seek revenge on those who’ve been mean to her, and then, when all is said and done, she goes into remission. What was your inspiration for this story?

JM: Until recently, I had worked with teens at a public library. At one of our gatherings, the teens and I got into a heated discussion about the zombie apocalypse and where we would all barricade ourselves should we be stranded in the library. This topic quickly evolved into a discussion about all the things that we weren’t allowed to do in a library that we might do if all bets were off. And that’s where it all began. Here I am on the OneFour KidLit YouTube channel, talking more about my inspiration while my cats steal the show.

LG: How much research went into the story in regards to Alice’s diagnosis and treatments?

JM: When I wrote the first draft, I actually hadn’t decided what kind of cancer Alice had. I consulted with a few medical professional friends and the ever trusty internet quite a bit as I weaved in the details of her illness. But most my research time was spent reading blogs written by cancer patients. Have a glimpse into their situation and mindset was invaluable. People who had lived really full, incredible lives were emotional wrecks. Witnessing their struggle was a painful necessity. There’s nothing pretty about cancer, but I am forever grateful to those who have chosen to document their journey.

LG: You wrote the book from both Alice and Harvey’s perspectives, and also in two timelines – before remission (then) and after (now). Was it hard going back and forth between voices and time periods? Did you write it chronologically, or how it appears in the book? Did you prefer one voice over the other?

JM: It was actually a very natural thing. I didn’t write chronologically. I love both of their voices in such different ways. After being with one of them for a few days, it was kind of a relief to get into a new headspace.

LG: Alice is a strong, raw, determined character. She does some things, especially to Harvey, that aren’t always likable, yet we’re still able to cheer her on. Why did you create her like that? Was it hard?

JM: I wanted to create someone who was the antagonist of her own story. Sure, Alice is strong, but like all of us, her greatest strengths can also be her greatest weaknesses. Alice toes this line. For example, Alice is honest, and sometimes you love her for it, but at other times it’s her greatest downfall. My hope was that she would feel human above all, and I think that’s what makes it possible to cheer for her. It was definitely a challenge, but Harvey created this wonderful balance that only made my job easier.

LG: Can you tell us a bit about your writing process, and your follow-up novel?

JM: Well, I used to be a total pantser, but after selling my second book on proposal, that just was not going to work. Book two, DUMPLIN’, has had an outline since day one. It’s definitely morphed, but the heart of the story has remained. Since I’m still writing DUMPLIN’, I can’t say much but I can give these hints: fat girl, small town, Texas, Dolly Parton, beauty pageant, best friend love, secret summer romance, and grief.

LG: How has the debut process for you been? Any advice for the Fearless Fifteeners?

JM: Everything happens at once. Publishing is all about stretches of painful silence, and then flurries of action. Enjoy the flurries, and learn the value of the silence. It’s all about balance. (Something I don’t think I’ll ever finish learning.)

LG: And, last, since this is a fearless community, what’s something you’re afraid of, and something you’re not afraid of?

JM: I am terrified of cicadas. I am not terrified of failure. Been there. Done that.

Julie-Murphy-Author-PhotoAbout Julie Murphy:

Julie Murphy lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cat who tolerates her. When she’s not writing or trying to catch stray cats, she works at an academic library. SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is Julie’s debut novel. Julie can best be found on her website , Tumblr , or Twitter .

lauren gibaldi squaredLauren Gibaldi is an author and public librarian who lives in Orlando, FL with her husband and overflowing collection of books. She likes dinosaurs, musicals, and the circus (two of which she’s participated in. Hint: It’s not being a dinosaur). Her debut YA novel, THE NIGHT WE SAID YES, will be released summer 2015 with HarperTeen/HarperCollins.

Introducing: Katie M. Stout

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Hello, lovelies!

I’m the author of Hello, I Love Youmy contemporary YA debut with Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s, about Korean pop music, first love, and family.

I’ve been writing books since high school but never thought I’d get  published one day, so this has been a surreal experience to say the least! I actually entered the YA world as a book blogger, where I was quickly hooked on the romance, excitement, and creativity that young adult books offer. Sometimes, I miss receiving ARCs in the mail, but I’m happy to be on this side of the publishing industry. 🙂

I’m a Southern girl from Atlanta, raised on corn bread, grits, and sweet tea. But last year, I traded all that for Yorkshire pudding, Earl Grey, and custard cream biscuits (yum!) when I moved to England. I work for a Christian charity called Operation Mobilisation, and my job gives me the opportunity to visit a lot of amazing places, which only feeds my addiction to travel.

My writing is heavily influenced by the places I go, and Hello, I Love You was actually inspired by one of my visits to Asia, where I got completely hooked on Korean dramas and pop music. Many months (and hours marathoning dramas) later, I had a book that merged my love for all things YA with my new Korean pop culture obsession.

I can’t wait to share my book with everyone! I don’t have an official summary to share, but here’s what my announcement in Publisher’s Marketplace looked like:

Katie M. Stout’s HELLO, I LOVE YOU, a teenage girl from a famous country music family, after a rough year at home, attends a boarding school in Korea only to get swept up in the K-pop fandom when she falls for a teen idol, to Kat Brzozowski at Thomas Dunne Books.

I never did shake my love of chatting books after I quit book blogging, so you can still find me on Twitter fangirling about my favorite reads. I also frequently haunt Tumblr, where I flail over things like “Sherlock,” the KPOP band CN Blue, and my only *slightly* creepy obsession with Korean actor Kim Woo Bin. Let’s be friends!

Katie M. Stout is from Atlanta, Georgia, but now lives in the north of England, where she works in social media for an international charity that sends her to fun countries like Spain, South Africa, and Singapore. When she’s not writing, you can find her drinking an unhealthy amount of Starbucks and working on her goal to fill up every page of her passport. Her debut novel, HELLO, I LOVE YOU releases in 2015 with St. Martin’s Press. Visit her on Twitter to chat books, KPOP, and all things “Sherlock.”