Category:

Interview With Julie Falatko (HELP WANTED: ONE ROOSTER)

June 21st, 2024 by

Today we are very excited to share an interview with Author Julie Falatko (HELP WANTED: ONE ROOSTER)!

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Julie Falatko

Julie Falatko writes books for children. She is the author of the picture books Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) and Snappsy the Alligator and His Best Friend Forever (Probably)No Boring Stories!The Great Indoors, the Two Dogs in a Trench Coat chapter book series, and Rick the Rock of Room 214. Julie lives with her family in Maine, where she maintains the Little Free Library in front of their house.

Website * Instagram * X

 

 

 

Meet the Illustrator: Andrea Stegmaier

Andrea Stegmaier loves to make books. As a kid she made books for her dolls, later she made books for her kids, and now she makes books for everyone. She went to university to study architecture, but that’s a different story. Andrea lives with her family in Stuttgart, a busy town in Germany.

Website * Instagram

 

 

 

About the Book: HELP WANTED: ONE ROOSTER

The search for the perfect rooster to save a struggling farm from chaos will leave readers howling—and trying out their very best cock-a-doodle-doo!

 

A farm.

Bucolic beauty, barns, and…sleepy animals everywhere?

This farm needs a rooster, and Cow is determined to find the perfect candidate.

One rooster, who wakes up first thing in the morning, with a resounding cock-a-doodle-do—is that too much to ask?

YES!

This tale of a frenzied farm and the beleaguered cow trying to keep it all together packs more than laughs. As each enthusiastic candidate learns: roostering isn’t what you are, but what you do. And there’s room for everyone.

As long as they wake up early—er, I mean brew strong coffee—or is it press the big button?—oh never mind. All are welcome!

 

 

~Author Chat~

 

YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

At some point in 2012, I rewatched the Monty Python skit where John Cleese is interviewing Graham Chapman for a management training position, and the interview questions get more and more ridiculous. He’s ringing a bell and shouting, and Graham Chapman as the job candidate is increasingly confused. I love that sort of joke, where it builds and gets more absurd. Rewatching the sketch, I decided to try to write something with that energy, but on a farm, and the candidates are the ones getting more ridiculous. So it’s about a cow who is trying to find a new rooster for the farm, and the candidates start off barely qualified and get less and less so as the book goes on. Most of them aren’t even roosters.

 

YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?

I love the last candidate, who is a green space blob. He is earnest and sincere, and Andrea Stegmaier, the illustrator, drew him as hilariously adorable. He’s so happy. He also keeps inadvertently absorbing various farm tidbits into his blobby self.

 

YABC: Which came first, the title or the book?

The concept came first, but then the title came very soon after. The help wanted sign that gets amended after each candidate – that was there from the very beginning. The structure of the book grew from that.

 

YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

I wrote the first draft of this book in 2012, and it got a book deal in 2014. Over the next decade or so, I worked to refine the ending and the characters, and I kept working at writing in general. I wrote a lot of books. The most important thing I’ve learned is that writing is always hard and slow when I’m in it. Sometimes it’s delightful and illuminating, but it’s still hard and slow. But then I get to the end and it seems easy, hopefully to readers, but even to me. This book took a long time to get right, but from where I stand, it feels like nothing. It feels correct. Yes, of course it took that long. That’s as long as it had to take.

 

YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2024?

Ruth Chan, who has illustrated two books I wrote, has a graphic memoir called Uprooted coming out in September that I am so excited about.

 

YABC: What’s up next for you?

My next book is an epistolary picture book that comes out in September from Simon & Schuster. It’s called Chester Barkingham Saves the Country, and it’s illustrated by Eva Byrne. It’s about the president’s daughter adopting a dog, and that dog sees all the ways the government could be better behaved.

 

YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?

Definitely the rooster. I had the concept of interviews, and the help wanted sign, but I couldn’t figure out what the original farm rooster’s problem was. Why wasn’t he working as a rooster anymore? It took me years to figure it out.

 

YABC: What is the main message or lesson you would like your reader to remember from this book?

I try not to have my books have an overt message. As a reader, I’m always annoyed when there’s an obvious message in a book. I always feel like: what, you didn’t think I could figure this out? I feel that way about picture books but also about novels for grownups. That said, several readers have commented on how nice it is that the rooster candidates are all being themselves and not pretending to be traditional roosters, and that works out for them in the end. I like that. It wasn’t my intention to say anything about being yourself, but I’m happy if people take that as a message.

 

 

 

Title: HELP WANTED: ONE ROOSTER

Author: Julie Falatko

Illustrator: Andrea Stegmaier

Release Date: June 18, 2024

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

Genre: Hardcover Picture Book

Age Range: 3-5

Author Chat with María Dolores Águila (Barrio Rising), Plus Giveaway~ US ONLY!

June 20th, 2024 by

Today we are very excited to share an interview with author María Dolores Águila!

Read on to learn more about the author, the book, and a giveaway!

 

 

 

Meet the Author: María Dolores Águila

María Dolores Águila is a Chicana poet and writer from San Diego, California. Deeply inspired by Chicane history and art, she seeks to write empowering and inclusive stories about everything she learns. She also loves drinking coffee, browsing the bookshelves at her local library, and spending time with her family.

Website * Instagram * X

 

 

 

About the Book: Barrio Rising

A vivid historical fiction account of the community activism behind San Diego’s Chicano Park—home to the largest outdoor mural collection in the U.S.—and just one example of the Mexican American community’s rich history of resistance and resilience.

Barrio Logan, one of San Diego’s oldest Chicane neighborhoods, once brimmed with families and stretched all the way to the glorious San Diego Bay. But in the decades after WWII, the community lost their beach and bayfront to factories, junkyards, and an interstate that divided the neighborhood and forced around 5,000 people out of their homes. Then on April 22, 1970, residents discovered that the construction crew they believed was building a park—one the city had promised them years ago—was actually breaking ground for a police station. That’s when they knew it was time to make their voices heard. Barrio Rising invites readers to join a courageous young activist and her neighbors in their successful twelve-day land occupation and beyond, when Barrio Logan banned together and built the colorful park that would become the corazón of San Diego’s Chicane community.

     Also available in Spanish/también disponible en español: El barrio se levanta

Purchase * Goodreads

 

 

 

~Author Chat~

 

YABC:  What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

MDÁ: This is one of my favorite questions! I was inspired by a mural in Chicano Park that piqued my interest, the Tribute Mural for Laura Rodriguez by Mario Torero on Cesar Chavez Parkway in Barrio Logan. I would drive by it all the time, and one day I decided to Google more information and I was absolutely blown away by what I found out. I had to write the incredible story that was right in front of me for literally years.

YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?

MDÁ: Elena, of course. She’s the main character. I love Elena so much. She does things even if they scare her, which is what I think it means to be brave.

YABC: How do you know when a book is finished?

MDÁ: I know a book is finished when I’m fiddling around with punctuation and minor word changes. When I’m at that stage, it’s time for another pair of eyes on the manuscript or to let it rest so I can get some distance and look at it with a new perspective.

YABC: What research did you do to write this book?

MDÁ: So much research, and occasionally I still come across a little tidbit of new information that gets me excited all over again. I read tons of books, journal articles, newspapers, attended lectures and events, watched documentaries, listened to music, and of course, studied the murals.

YABC: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

MDÁ:  I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t. I didn’t always believe I could be a writer, even though I wanted to be, because I didn’t know anyone with a creative career. I’m glad I didn’t let my doubts derail my dream.

YABC:   How do you keep your ‘voice’ true to the age category you are writing within?

MDÁ: I have three kids, so they keep me in that space! In just being their mom, it brings up so many buried memories from my own childhood. When these memories come up, I try to write them down and capture my thoughts from that time or experience. It’s mostly about being curious about things, without a preconceived notion of the outcome.

YABC: What type of scene do you love to write the most?

MDÁ: My favorite scenes are the ones where the main character must make a big decision, one there’s no coming back from.

YABC:   What is your favorite writing space?

MDÁ: My desk at home. I love to go to cafes, but I get distracted by people watching and eavesdropping. The best place for me to work is at home where I can focus on my work.

YABC: How do you plan to celebrate the launch of your book?

MDÁ: I’m thrilled to be having an event at Libélula Books & Co in Barrio Logan. It’s a queer, BIPOC owned indie bookstore, and they do amazing work providing a space for literary events in South San Diego.

YABC: What hobbies do you enjoy?

MDÁ: I adore journaling – I know it’s a bit of a cliché for a writer, but I’m deep into junk journaling TikTok. I’ve become obsessed with collecting receipts, cute tags, any sort of packaging that catches my attention and turning into a spread.

YABC:   What do you do when you procrastinate?

MDÁ: This is not an uncommon occurrence for me; I tend to wait to the last minute to finish most things. But what helps me get going is body doubling or using the Pomodoro Technique; I can’t help but work when the person next to me is working, or if I only have to do a task for a set amount of time.

YABC:  What fandom would you write for if you had time?

MDÁ: Avatar, The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. I’ve watched both series several times, and I just can’t get enough. I love the idea of the concept of benders, and all the unique and fascinating possibilities that come from that.

YABC: What other age group would you consider writing for?

MDÁ: I’d like to branch into writing YA. I love writing children’s literature; there’s something about writing for young people that just calls to me.

 

YABC:   What’s up next for you?

MDÁ: My next project coming out in 2025 MENUDO SUNDAY: A BILINGUAL COUNTING BOOK, illustrated by Erika Meza, and a middle grade historical fiction novel in verse. I’m so thankful for the opportunities to connect with readers of all ages – it’s a dream come true.

 

 

 

Title: Barrio Rising

Author: María Dolores Águila

Illustrator: Magdalena Mora

Release Date: 6.18.2024

Publisher: Dial

ISBN-10: 9780593462072

Genre: Community, Art, Music & Theater, Fairness, Justice & Equality, Spanish Language, Perseverance, Social Justice, Hispanic & Latino, Historical

Age Range: 4-8 years

 

 

 

~ Giveaway Details ~

 

Five (5) winners will receive a copy of Barrio Rising (Maria Dolores Aguila) ~US Only!

 

*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author Chat with Gianna Marino (The Outside), Plus Giveaway~ US ONLY!

June 20th, 2024 by

Today we are very excited to share an interview with author Gianna Marino!

Read on to learn more about the author, the book, and a giveaway!

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Gianna Marino

Gianna Marino was born in San Francisco and spent her early years galloping horses through Golden Gate Park. Her explorations expanded to some of the farthest places she could find, including Ethiopia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Bhutan, and many small villages in faraway mountains. When not wandering the great OUTSIDE, Gianna writes and illustrates full-time from her home in Colorado, where prairie dogs peek from their burrows. Gianna has written and illustrated many highly acclaimed picture books, including Night Animals, Too Tall Houses, and Don’t Let Them Disappear by Chelsea Clinton. You can visit Gianna Marino at GiannaMarino.com or follow her on Instagram @GiannaMarinoBooks and on Facebook at Facebook.com/GiannaMarino.

Website * Instagram * Facebook

 

 

 

About the Book: The Outside

New York Times bestselling illustrator Gianna Marino helps little ones find their courage to face their fears and explore the world around them.

 

Earl likes the inside and likes feeling safe. He also likes his friends to be safe and is quick to point out the many dangers of the outside, where his friends are determined to explore. No matter how hard they try to convince Earl to come outside to play, he won’t change his mind.

But…what if Earl needs to go outside? What will it take for his friends to convince him? What will it take for Earl to feel safe on the outside?

In this stunningly illustrated book about friendship, facing your fears, and finding the courage to push past what’s comfortable, Gianna Marino once again uses endearing animals to give young readers a voice.

 

 

 

~Author Chat~

 

YABC:  What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

Several years ago, I was working on a book at an artist residency in Wyoming, in the middle of nowhere. I small rabbit lived under my porch. He popped out just long enough to nibble grass and look nervously about. At the sight of me or a hawk or anything larger than itself, the little guy ran back under the porch for safety. I named him Earl and wondered what it would be like to be so worried all the time. I thought if Earl had more friends to support him, he might be brave enough to explore the outside. A few years later, when I moved to Colorado, I saw prairie dogs doing the same thing. When I researched how the critters built elaborate prairie dog towns and had such strong social networks, I thought they would be the perfect characters to tell the story of overcoming fears with the help of friends. What, I wondered, would be a good way to get Earl to The Outside?

YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?

There is really only one main named character in The Outside, and that is Earl. He represents all of us, because every single person has some kind of fear. I hope children can relate to him, with his courage to explore what he is afraid of and his eventual trust of friends to help him face the OUTSIDE!

YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

I love the scene when all of the prairie dogs are coming out of the burrow, into the sun. The friends are all circled around Earl, protecting him and supporting him. They are telling Earl, “We will keep watch…”, “…and protect you.” “Just like you protected us.” There is no teasing or trickery. The friends have finally realized that Earl had saved their lives by building a flood room, and also that Earl had fears they could help him overcome with love and support.

YABC:  What came first, the concept, landscape, characters, or something else?

All of my books sort of evolve with a back and forth of idea, text, scribbles, text, another idea, etc. I knew this book would be a balance of the darkness and safety of the burrow, but also the brightness and beauty of the outside. I wanted Earl to stand out as different from the others and decided to make his fur color a bit pale and his “voice” that of concern and worry for his friends. Some of the dangers I left for the reader to discover (the coyote in the bushes and the silhouette of the eagle).

 

YABC: If you could only write one genre for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

I would write picture books! I love to tell stories with pictures and words and the age group reading/listening to picture books is so open and curious. I love speaking to that audience. They have an easy time diving deep into the pictures and into a character’s feelings.

YABC:   What can readers expect to find in your books?

I love to use animals to tell stories that children can relate to. From fear of the dark, missing a loved one, wanting to be like a sibling, imagining a horse in their life, etc. Animals have so many shapes and sizes, colors and characteristics, it is a joy to take their instincts or behaviors and relate those to what a child might feel. For instance, in Meet Me at the Moon, I used elephants, with their strong family bonds and memories, to help a child remember all of the love they felt from the past to keep that love in their lives, even when the parent is gone. In Just Like My Brother, I used a young giraffe to show her desire to be like her big brother, because he was, in fact, quite a bit taller! In Night Animals, I used nocturnal animals, who are afraid of the dark, to show that what we might be afraid of, might also be afraid of us. One of my favorites is Too Tall Houses, which tells the stories of two VERY unlikely friends, Owl and Rabbit (owls EAT rabbits!), how they found a friendship in working together to rebuild their lives.

YABC:   What do you do when you procrastinate?

While sometimes it IS procrastinating, part of the creative mind is to get away from the project for a bit and let it simmer and cook. Stepping away from the desk to pull some weeds, clean the kitchen or walk the dog are all activities that allow the mind to stop the focus and allow the unconscious mind to figure out the details that are not working. On the other hand, sometimes sitting butt-in-chair is impossible and the kicking and squirming that comes with it is true procrastination!

YABC:   What’s up next for you?

In January, I Love You, Little Horse comes out. This book was inspired by Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day. The last line has always made me appreciate the present;

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”I Love You, Little Horse is the story of a young foal, whose elder is asking how it will spend this beautiful day.

YABC:   Is there anything that you would like to add?

I appreciate you taking the time for this interview! As I always tell the children I am reading to, it is a pleasure to share a bit of the “behind the scenes” and talk about the process of making a picture book!

 

 

Title: The Outside

Author: Gianna Marino

Release Date: 6/04/2024

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers; Viking Books for Young Readers

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Age Range: 4-8 years

 

 

 

~ Giveaway Details ~

 

One (1) winner will receive a copy of The Outside (Gianna Marino) ~US Only!

 

*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rockstar Tours: Author Chat with Jordan Sonnenblick (STEPPING OFF) Plus Giveaway! ~ US ONLY

June 19th, 2024 by

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the STEPPING OFF by Jordan Sonnenblick Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: STEPPING
OFF

Author: Jordan Sonnenblick

Pub. Date: June 4, 2024

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 336

Find it: Goodreadshttps://books2read.com/STEPPING-OFF 

 

Jesse Dienstag’s favorite sweatshirt
says, “The real world isn’t real.” That’s the slogan of the
vacation-home community in Pennsylvania where his family has always spent every
vacation and weekend for as long as he can remember. In the summer of 2019, as
Jesse is about to enter his junior year of high school in New York City, he
desperately wants to believe the slogan is true. For one thing, the two girls
he loves — equally and desperately — are in Pennsylvania, and all the
stresses and pressures of his daily life and school are in New York.

But when his parents stop talking to
each other, it gets harder and harder for Jesse to maintain his dream life in
Pennsylvania. And when Covid shuts New York City down in March 2020 just days
after Jesse’s mother leaves his father, Jesse’s worlds collide.

 

 

 

Author Chat with YABC:

  1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

 

I had several inspirations. First, I was a public-school English teacher before my writing career took off, and I went back for a semester in the fall of 2021 to teach 10th-grade English in my old district because a teacher went on leave and the school couldn’t find a certified long-term sub. That was the first semester of real, full-time, in-person school after the pandemic shutdown, so I got to see firsthand the effects the lockdown had had on kids in high schools. Second, the love-triangle part is quite autobiographical; I wanted to capture the remembered intensity of those teenage feelings.

 

  1. Who is your favorite character in the book?

 

That would have to be Annie, the little sister of the main character’s best friend. She’s based on the real-life sister of my best friend from that time, and she and I were very close, as well. I just tried to capture her unique combination of warmth, sweetness, and blunt honesty. It’s always fun to write a character based on a person I know well in real life, because it’s such a challenge to nail those nuances.

 

  1. Which came first, the title or the novel?

 

Oh, the novel – by miles and miles! I’ve written fourteen books now, and never once have I come up with a decent title until at least a month or two after the first draft is finished. It takes that long for my unconscious mind to figure out what the novel was truly about!

 

  1. What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

 

There are a few. I like the July 4 fireworks scene a lot, because it’s so visual, and because of all the complicated relationship tensions that are brewing beneath the surface that night. I also like the opening scene, when the characters are building up their courage to jump off the bridge. When I was a kid in sleepaway camp, we really did jump off a high bridge into a lake in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, and I think I captured the heady mix of excitement, peer pressure, and raw panic that jump entailed.

 

  1. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

 

If we’re talking about the very beginning of my writing career, like when I was just coming up with the idea for my first novel, DRUMS, GIRLS & DANGEROUS PIE, I think the main thing I’ve learned is not to panic. The whole time I was writing that book, I lived in constant terror that I’d get writers’ block and not be able to finish it. Once I had a couple of books under my belt, I started to feel that pressure lifting. I might not always be sure that what I’m writing is any good; that insecurity is very hard to banish. However, I’m usually around 93% confident I’ll finish writing any book I start.

 

  1. What do you like most about the cover of the book?

 

By far, my favorite thing about the cover of this book (and of each of my Scholastic YA hardcover editions) is that the designers always print a little Easter egg behind the dust jacket. I love peeling off the jacket and seeing the little surprise for the first time! In the case of STEPPING OFF, the Easter egg is a little exploding firework imprinted in the lower right-hand corner of the cover.

 

 

  1. What’s up next for you?

 

I honestly don’t know. I never know what idea is going to strike me. I just have to be ready to receive it when it comes along. For me, that’s the most magical part of writing. I never know what the Muses are going to throw at me next!

 

  1. Is there anything that you would like to add?

 

I think I feel a special sense of gratitude about the plot of this book, because while I thought my 17th year of life was incredibly difficult at the time, looking back on it now, I can see how much I learned and grew from it. Plus, I was delighted to find that, once I had fictionalized it quite a bit, it made a very entertaining story.

 

  1. Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate? It was really hard writing the scenes in which Jesse’s dad is suffering. In real life, my dad isn’t around anymore, so reliving how painful my parents’ breakup was for him was rough. Again, the specifics of the parents’ breakup are fictionalized, but the emotions are not.

 

  1. Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?

 

Honestly, none of the characters gave me trouble. Their voices spoke to me whenever I tuned in. That was part of the joy. I was shocked by how much better I understood the struggles and motivations of all the people I had been closest with as a teenager, now that I can look back from the vantage point of having been a husband, a father, and perhaps most importantly, a teacher and mentor to lots of kids.

 

  1. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?

 

Believe it or not, neither of these is my favorite. My absolute most beloved part of the writing process is the research I get to do. I learn so much! Through book research, I’ve studied everything from asthma to Zen Buddhism, which means I never, ever get bored, because each book opens up a whole new field of inquiry. For this one, I got to interview a bridge engineer and a paramedic – and that was just to get me through the first hundred pages.

 

  1. What would you say is your superpower?

 

This question is so eerily perfect for me, because I spent my whole childhood wishing and praying I’d get a superpower somehow. Unfortunately, I’ve never fallen into a vat of radioactive anything, so I’ve had to accept my destiny as a Muggle. If anything, my lack of special gifts might have given me a very useful non-super power: compassion.

 

  1. Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?

 

Absolutely! Any organization that helps to fund cancer treatment or research is very important to me. I particularly like Alex’s Lemonade Stand, because one of their divisions, SuperSibs (https://www.alexslemonade.org/childhood-cancer/for-families/supersibs_), supports the brothers and sisters of childhood cancer patients. The sister of a cancer patient inspired my first book, so I will always support any group that helps those kids.

 

 

About Jordan Sonnenblick:

 

Jordan
Sonnenblick is the author of the acclaimed Drums, Girls & Dangerous
Pie
After Ever AfterNotes from the Midnight DriverZen
and the Art of Faking It
, Falling Over Sideways, and The Secret Sheriff of
Sixth Grade. He lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two
children.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a finished copy of STEPPING OFF, US Only.

Ends July 16th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

6/17/2024

kaylyn_s_booknook

IG Post

6/18/2024

Two Chicks on
Books

Excerpt/IG Post

6/19/2024

YA
Books Central

Interview/IG Post

6/20/2024

onemused

IG Post

6/21/2024

@dharashahauthor

Review/IG Post

6/22/2024

@thepagelady

IG Review

Week Two:

6/23/2024

@dana.loves.books

Review/IG Post/TikTok Post

6/24/2024

GryffindorBookishnerd

IG Review

6/25/2024

@enthuse_reader

IG Review/TikTok Post

6/26/2024

@evergirl200

IG Review

6/27/2024

Lifestyle of
Me

Review

6/28/2024

Brandi
Danielle Davis

IG Review/TikTok Post

6/29/2024

nerdophiles

Review

Week Three:

6/30/2024

Kim’s
Book Reviews and Writing Aha’s

Review/IG Post

7/1/2024

Country Mamas
With Kids

Review/IG Post

7/2/2024

@amysbookshelf82

IG Review

7/3/2024

A
Blue Box Full of Books

IG Review/LFL Drop Pic/TikTok Post

7/4/2024

@stargirls.magical.tale

IG Review

7/5/2024

Michelle,
The Book Critic

Review/IG Post

7/6/2024

anitralovesbooksanddogs

IG Review

Week Four:

7/7/2024

Satisfaction
for Insatiable Readers

Review/IG Post

7/8/2024

Review Thick
And Thin

Review/IG Post

7/9/2024

pick a good book

Review/IG Post

7/10/2024

The Momma Spot

Review

7/11/2024

Fire and Ice

Review/IG Post

7/12/2024

Two Points of
Interest

Review/IG Post

 

Interview With Serena Kaylor (The Calculation of You and Me)

June 18th, 2024 by

Today we are very excited to share an interview with Author Serena Kaylor (The Calculation of You and Me)!

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Serena Kaylor

Serena Kaylor is a neurodiverse, romcom super-fan, who is always moments away from cornering you and outlining all her favorite ships. Her books are stuffed with awkward moments, angsty kisses, and jokes that at least she finds funny. Her debut novel, LONG STORY SHORT, was published by Wednesday Books 07/2022, and her next novel THE CALCULATION OF YOU AND ME comes out June 2024.

Website * Instagram

 

 

 

About the Book: The Calculation of You and Me

A calculus nerd enlists her surly classmate’s help to win back her ex-boyfriend, but when sparks start to fly, she realizes there’s no algorithm for falling in love.

Marlowe Meadows understands a lot of things. She understands that calculus isn’t overwhelmingly beautiful to everyone, and that it typically kills the mood when you try to talk Python coding over beer pong. She understands people were surprised when golden boy Josh asked her out and she went from weird, math-obsessed Marlowe to half of their school’s couple goals. Unfortunately, Marlowe was surprised when Josh dumped her because he’d prefer a girlfriend who was more romantic. One with emotional depth.

But Marlowe has never failed anything in her life, and she isn’t about to start now. When she’s paired with Ashton Hayes for an English project, his black clothing and moody eyeliner cause a bit of a systems overload, and the dissonant sounds of his rock band make her brain itch. But when she discovers Ash’s hidden stash of love songs, Marlowe makes a desperate deal to unleash her inner romantic heroine: if Ash will agree to help her write some love letters to win back Josh, she’ll calculate the perfect data analytics formula to make Ash’s band go viral.

As the semester heats up with yearning love notes, a syllabus of romance novels, and late nights spent with a boy who escapes any box her brain tries to put him in, Marlowe starts to question if there’s really a set solution to love. Could a girl who has never met a problem she couldn’t solve have gotten the math so massively wrong?

Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

 

 

 

~Author Chat~

 

YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?

This is, by far, the hardest question. It’s not always the main character for me (it was Nolan in LONG STORY SHORT), but I’m going to have to go with Marlowe Meadows this time. She’s so earnest in everything she does, and I found so much strength in her vulnerability. I had this idea of her, and her character ARC, but when my fingers hit the keys she ended up surprising me. When she internalized society (and this boy she loved) telling her something was wrong with her, I wanted her to be angry and get revenge, but instead she tried to approach it like she was a problem to solve. She believed them, and in hindsight, I also believed something was “wrong” with me when I was her age too. There was something personally healing in writing her journey, so I’ll always be partial to her for that reason.

Runner up is Poppy because robots are awesome.

YABC: What research did you do to write this book?

I was lucky in the way that this did not require a ton of research beyond my own lived experience of growing up with autism/ADD in a small, southern town. Most of my secondary characters are melting pots of people I knew as a kid, and poor Marlowe’s attempts to learn about love through romance novels are basically plagiarized from my inconsistent girlhood journals. Shout out to fifteen-year-old Serena who was convinced Nora Roberts would teach her everything she needed to learn about being a romance heroine. Spoilers: it did not, but that is no reflection on Nora Robert’s excellent body of work.

YABC: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

 Embarrassingly late in the game. I wrote a ton of fanfic growing up, and I would devour books like it was my job, but I never considered I could do it for work until I was over thirty. I was the first in my immediate family to go to college and held this very limited worldview that a career isn’t something you love. It must be serious, like business. So, I dutifully got two business degrees that I hated, and then pivoted towards medicine. It wasn’t until I was through my training and spending all my free time writing my first book (LONG STORY SHORT) that I realized there was a reason I was up at midnight typing out a story I wasn’t sure anyone would ever read. I started prioritizing things that made me happy, and not what I assumed other people wanted from me. Now I’m about to send my second book out into the world!

YABC:   How do you keep your ‘voice’ true to the age category you are writing within?

Nailing that authenticity is always tricky, but one of the most prevalent things I remember about that period of my life, is that I felt everything so much. Every fight, every kiss, every day was the most exciting thing to happen to anybody and bringing that energy to the page is what keeps me coming back to YA. Bless my editor, though, because my neurodiverse brain does not instinctively use contractions, and I always have to go through and fix dialogue so my teens don’t sound extremely formal.

YABC: What type of scene do you love to write the most?

If it was up to me my entire book would be three-hundred pages of banter. Plot? Who’s she? What location are they in? A school, a movie theater, an empty room? That’s just none of my business.

YABC:   What is your favorite writing space?

Panera Bread (sponsor me, y’all!). Mainly because it forces me to sit somewhere with none of my stuff. I have an office in my house, but my chair is too comfy, and I don’t always remember to take my meds, and then five hours have gone by, and I’ve done nothing. I now have a solid Panera routine that helps notify my brain that it’s time to work. I get my tea and bread bowl, I turn on my playlist, take my meds, and then I can’t leave until I finish my chapter.

YABC: How do you plan to celebrate the launch of your book?

I possess zero self-regulatory mechanisms, so probably in a dramatic way. I’m very grateful for the YA community, and all the amazing authors I’ve met over the past few years, and I’ll likely do a tour so I can visit my friends and readers and talk about books in a ballgown. Also, champagne.

YABC:   What do you do when you procrastinate?

I’ve been on a DIY kick with my house the past few years. My poor partner will come home, and I’ve demolished something or wallpapered another surface. I’m starting another book right now, and I texted my friend group that I just watched a tutorial and convinced myself I should rip out my laundry room and try building my own cabinets. They all responded “no.”

YABC: What kind of animal would your main character be and why?

This question made me laugh, because Marlowe does mention what animal she sees herself as in the book. Her baby sister is neurotypical and your quintessential southern girl, and Marlowe refers to her as a peacock, or swan, or unicorn. As for herself she says:

I, on the other hand, am solidly in badger territory. There’s a lot to be said for that, though. I’m smart, efficient, and reliable. Usually solitary but can work with a group in a pinch. The type of River Haven girl who was happily on the sidelines, quietly winning medals in math and spending all her time with her two badger best friends, until another peacock pulled her into the spotlight with him.

YABC:   What’s up next for you?

True to form, I have several little projects happening right now, where I’m trying on new genres and ideas. Nothing to announce just yet, but I’m forever grateful for this outlet and this community and can’t wait to show you all what’s next!

 

 

 

Title: The Calculation of You and Me

Author: Serena Kaylor

Release Date: 6/18/24

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Genre: YA romcom

Age Range: 14-18

Author Chat with Sabrina Fedel (All Roads Lead to Rome), Plus Giveaway~ US ONLY!

June 18th, 2024 by

Today we are very excited to share an interview with author Sabrina Fedel!

Read on to learn more about the author, the book, and a giveaway!

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Sabrina Fedel

Sabrina Fedel is the award-winning author of the young adult historical novel, Leaving Kent State, from Harvard Square Editions, and the forthcoming young adult romantic comedy, All Roads Lead to Rome, from Delacorte Romance available for pre-order now!

 

 

 

About the Book: All Roads Lead to Rome

When the daughter of a diplomat fake dates a Scottish celebrity in Italy, she soon finds herself living her own Roman Holiday until the feelings get real and the paparazzi’s knives come out.

Introverted, slightly anxious Astoria “Story” Herriot knows everything about Rome—her mom’s an attorney here and the two of them are living la dolce vita… at least until Story’s off to college in the fall.

But when Story is in the wrong gelato shop at the right time, she’s swept up in a fake dating scheme with Scottish heartthrob, Luca Kinnaird, to protect his relationship with a pop princess. There’s something in it for her, too—Luca promises to help fund a scholarship in her dad’s memory. Soon she’s showing Luca the best cafés, sightseeing at the Mouth of Truth, and picnicking at the ruins of the Abbey of Santa Maria del Piano. Story’s travel guide skills are 10/10, but what she knows about being a celebrity—or having feelings for one? Zero.

Pretending to be Luca’s guide—then his girlfriend—gets the paparazzi’s attention . . . and what’s true and what’s fake gets blurry as their different worlds crash together. Sophisticated, hot, rich, and with the most charming accent ever, Luca is full of surprises. And maybe, too, is Story’s perfectly planned future.

It’s a fairy-tale romance in the Eternal City…will it have a fairy tale ending?

 

 

 

~Author Chat~

 

YABC:   What can readers expect to find in your books?

For my romcoms, they can expect to find some serious topics wrapped up in the sweetness of a tropey romcom, mixed in with humor and beautiful scenery.

YABC: What is your favorite snack when writing?

Chocolate. Always chocolate.

YABC: If you were able to meet them, would you be friends with your main character?

Yes, I think we would. I like people who are a little sassy but have a strong moral compass.

YABC:    What’s your least favorite word or expression and why?

Proactive. It doesn’t really mean anything. But I’m also a proponent of the Oxford comma and used to teach English.

YABC:   What do you do when you procrastinate?

It depends, but usually I either check my email or binge Netflix.

YABC:  What fandom would you write for if you had time?

Jane Austen.

YABC:   What’s up next for you?

In addition to some upcoming book launch events, All Paths Lead to Paris, which will be published in summer 2025 by Delacorte Romance. It’s the story of a fashion vlogger who is fake dating her best friend, a musician, when her world gets turned upside down when an “ordinary” guy gets dragged into it.

YABC: What is your favorite holiday or tradition and why?

Christmas. I love all of it. The tree, the music, the cookies, the presents under the tree, the Christmas movies, all of it.

YABC:   Is there anything that you would like to add?

I hope readers will enjoy the adventures of Rome and Paris as much as I enjoyed writing them.

 

 

 

Title: All Roads Lead to Rome

Author: Sabrina Fedel

Release Date: June 18, 2024

Publisher: Delacorte Romance

ISBN-10: 9780593705216

ISBN-13: 978-0-593-70521-6

Genre: Romance, Fiction, Young Adult

Age Range: 12up

~ Giveaway Details ~

 

 Ten (10) winners will receive a copy of All Roads Lead to Rome (Sabrina Fedel) ~US Only!

 

*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*

 

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Author Chat with Amber Chen (Of Jade and Dragons), Plus Giveaway~ US ONLY!

June 17th, 2024 by

Today we are very excited to share an interview with author Amber Chen!

Read on to learn more about the author, the book, and a giveaway!

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Amber Chen

Amber Chen is a Singaporean-Chinese author of SFF and contemporary fiction. She spends much of her free time living within Chinese fantasy novels and dramas, and also drinks one too many cups of bubble tea. One of her webnovels, The Cutting Edge, has been adapted for television. You can find her online at ambercwrites.com and on TikTok, Instagram, and X @AmberWrites88.

Website * Instagram * X * TikTok

 

 

 

About the Book: Of Jade and Dragons

Mulan meets Iron Widow in this thrilling silkpunk fantasy about a girl who must disguise herself as a boy and enter the famed and dangerous Engineer’s Guild trials to unravel the mystery of her father’s murder.

 

Eighteen-year-old Aihui Ying dreams of becoming a world-class engineer like her father, but after his sudden murder, her life falls apart. Left with only a journal of her father’s engineering secrets and a jade pendant snatched from the assassin, a heartbroken Ying follows the trail to the capital and the prestigious Engineers Guild—a place that harbors her father’s hidden past—determined to discover why anyone would threaten a man who ultimately chose a quiet life over fame and fortune.

Disguised as her brother, Ying manages to infiltrate the guild’s male-only apprenticeship trial with the help of an unlikely ally—Aogiya Ye-yang, the taciturn eighth prince of the High Command. With her father’s renown placing a target firmly on her back, Ying must stay one step ahead of her fellow competitors, the jealous guild masters, and the killer still hunting for her father’s journal. Complicating everything is her increasingly tangled relationship with the prince, who may have mysterious plans of his own.

The secrets concealed within the guild can be as deadly as the weapons they build—and with her life and the future of her homeland at stake, Ying doesn’t know who to trust. Can she avenge her father even if it means going against everything he stood for, or will she be next in the mastermind’s line of fire?

 

~Author Chat~

 

YABC:  What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

Of Jade and Dragons was an idea that I came up with in 2020, one of the many plot bunnies I had at that time. One of my niche hobbies is speculating about the lives and times of historical figures and filling in the gaps in historical records, so that’s what happened with this book, which was inspired by the story of Primary Consort Minhui of the early Qing dynasty, more commonly known in popular Chinese culture as Hai Lan Zhu.

 

YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?

My favourite character in the book also happens to be everyone else’s favourite character—our bratty little fourteenth prince, Ye-kan. Honestly didn’t expect to like him that much, but he really grew on me. I think because he starts off being incredibly obnoxious, his character growth throughout the book is one of the greatest and I can’t wait for everyone to see where we take him in Book 2!

YABC: What research did you do to write this book?

I actually did more historical research than engineering research, because I wanted to blend reality with fantasy. A number of the inventions that appear in the book are based off actual inventions that existed in historical China, with a bit of imagination adding on to them here and there. That was important to me, because it I wanted the tech to be believable, and I was super pleased when an early reviewer said that the book made them wonder if the Qing dynasty could actually have been this technologically advanced.

YABC: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I would love to be able to say “from the moment I was born” but that would be a lie! My first ambition in life was to work in NASA and be an astronaut—figured that wasn’t going to work out pretty quickly though. I’ve always been an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction, but I didn’t think of writing my own stories until I was in university. While binging TV dramas (I watch a lot of these) in between lectures and tutorials, I realised that 1) there were so many unsatisfying plot points and endings out there and 2) unfortunately there was a finite supply of content for me to indulge in, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and start writing.

YABC:   How do you keep your ‘voice’ true to the age category you are writing within?

I’m told that my writing voice is truly very YA, and I think a lot of that has to do with me starting out with training in screenwriting before transiting into novel writing. There are many aspects to screenwriting that lend itself naturally to the YA age category, such as faster pacing and style of worldbuilding. When drafting, I also try to limit myself to reading only within that particular age category so that I don’t get overly influenced by the voice of other age categories!

YABC: What type of scene do you love to write the most?

Angsty ones. Scenes where all is lost for the protagonist, where everything they believed turns out to be a lie, when lovers are separated—ideally by life and death. As a reader, my favourite books are tragedies; as a writer, I find the tragic scenes the most fun to write as well. I’m sorry!

YABC: What hobbies do you enjoy?

Besides reading, I’m also an avid watcher of TV dramas and I spend most of my free time binge-watching the latest dramas. When I have time I even film Tiktok drama review reels (which funnily enough has gotten me quite a number of followers haha).

YABC: What other age group would you consider writing for?

It would be a toss-up between middle grade and adult. I have ideas stewing for both, but I’m currently leaning more toward MG because I quite enjoy writing for children and I think kidlit is so important in helping grow the next generation of readers. Also, MG has some of The best covers on the shelves, for real J

YABC:   What’s up next for you?

Book 2 of the Fall of the Dragon duology, for sure, else my editor will be coming for my head! Hopefully that wraps up the character arcs for our main characters nicely J After that, anything is fair game, although I’m hoping to start on a new YA fantasy project that draws on Chinese mythology and my love for the Xianxia sub-genre!

 

 

 

 

Title: Of Jade and Dragons

Author: Amber Chen

Release Date: On Sale June 18, 2024

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

ISBN-13: 9780593622759

Genre: Young Adult Fiction – Fantasy

Age Range: Ages 12+

 

 

 

~ Giveaway Details ~

 

One (1) winners will receive a copy of Of Jade And Dragons (Amber Chen) ~US Only!

 

*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*

 

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Interview With Samuel Teer (BROWNSTONE)

June 14th, 2024 by

Today we are very excited to share an interview with Author Samuel Teer (Brownstone)!

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Samuel Teer

Samuel Teer is the author of Brownstone and Veda: Assembly Required. Raised outside of St. Louis, Missouri, he lives in Aurora, Colorado.

Instagram

 

 

 

About the Book: Brownstone

 An exciting teen coming-of-age epic from author Samuel Teer and debut graphic novel artist Mar Julia, Brownstone is a vivid, sweeping, ultimately hopeful story about navigating your heritage even when you feel like you don’t quite fit in.

Almudena has always wondered about the dad she never met.

Now, with her white mother headed on a once-in-a-lifetime trip without her, she’s left alone with her Guatemalan father for an entire summer. Xavier seems happy to see her, but he expects her to live in (and help fix up) his old, broken-down brownstone. And all along, she must navigate the language barrier of his rapid-fire Spanish—which she doesn’t speak.

As Almudena tries to adjust to this new reality, she gets to know the residents of Xavier’s Latin American neighborhood. Each member of the community has their own joys and heartbreaks as well as their own strong opinions on how this young Latina should talk, dress, and behave. Some can’t understand why she doesn’t know where she comes from. Others think she’s “not brown enough” to fit in.

But time is running out for Almudena and Xavier to get to know each other, and the key to their connection may ultimately lie in bringing all these different elements together. Fixing a broken building is one thing, but turning these stubborn individuals into a found family might take more than this one summer.

Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

 

 

 

~Author Chat~

 

YABC:  What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

 Two things were points of inspiration for Brownstone.

The first was growing up in a mixed language household, which included Spanish (which my Mom and Aunt predominantly spoke) English (predominantly spoken by myself, my younger brother and my Dad) and some American Sign Language (also spoken by my Dad, who is deaf.) I often found myself in a room with people and only understanding slivers of conversations. To this day, I can understand some Spanish and ASL, but struggle to communicate in those languages.

The second point of inspiration was around 2016 or so. I was working part-time at a hardware store and as I’m walking around the store, trying to avoid working, I saw a young latina girl translating for her Spanish-speaking father to a Caucasian employee. That visual of that young girl standing between two adults as conduit unlocked an avenue for me to explore all the things (the good, the bad and the ugly) I had personally experienced as an American-born Latin American.

 

YABC:  How do you know when a book is finished?

When I type the words, The End.

I don’t mean to be glib, but in the process of making a graphic novel, nothing is ever really finished.  It’s just “done enough” that it can go to the artist.

 

YABC: What research did you do to write this book?

Most of it is a lived experience that I was drawing from.

The stuff that wasn’t lived (such as the quinceanera scene) I did some cursory research on by reading articles, listening to podcasts and talking to other lat am folks for their thoughts/experiences. But really Almundea’s character informed how she would handle a quinceanera type situation — which is to say, unconventionally.

 

YABC: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I always told stories from a very young age. When my Mom would be cooking, I would pull up a chair next to the stove, stand on it and start making up stories on the fly. My Mom would ask, “Did you write this down.” and I say, “No.” She then said, “You should.” At some point I must’ve started writing those down.

As far as being a comics writer, that came a bit later. I was in 6th grade. I had just transferred from a private school to a public school and didn’t have many friends. The couple of friends I did have were very much into comics and comic book trading cards, which was met with hostility from other kids at our school and neighborhood.  We often sat directly behind the bus driver (which was seen as a seating decision worthy of bullying by the kids that sat in the back of the bus) and would talk comics the whole ride home from school.

One day when I got on the bus, the bus driver turned around and said, “I know you like comics. My husband works for DC Comics.” While I’m sitting there, my mind blown that my bus driver’s husband makes comics at DC Comics of all places!  Then she proceeded to hand me a color proof copy of one of the first appearances of Doomsday, who would go on to play a major role in the Death of Superman story arc. I read the entire thing, then reread it before getting off the bus and handing the proof back to the bus driver.

I remember walking home in a bit of daze and thinking “Okay. Making comics is a job. And if making comics is a job, then maybe it’s a job I could have?” By the time I walked into the front door, my thoughts had morphed from “maybe I could make comics!” to me throwing the front door open and announcing to my Mom, “Mom! I want to make comics for a living!”

 

YABC:  What type of scene do you love to write the most?

 Two character’s bickering or bantering is always fun! When thinking about a scene, I tend to think about the back-and-forth dialogue first then construct a scene to serve that dialogue.

 

YABC:  What word do you have trouble overusing?

Like. Both in the written and verbal forms.

YABC:   What do you do when you procrastinate?

Take my dogs for a very long walk.  Watch movies. Call my brother and have four hour conversations about the state of horror movies.

YABC: What kind of animal would your main character be and why?

I think Almudena would see herself as a jaguar. But she’s really more of an untrained Labradoodle.

YABC:   What’s up next for you?

I tend to work so far ahead that I’m already two or three projects beyond what readers would see as the “next” project.  I *think* the very next thing is a YA graphic novel called Castles and Cholos, which is about a group of (mostly latin american) teenagers that play a D&D-like game called Castles & Creatures. It shares a lot of DNA with Brownstone, in that it’s about a community, it takes place in the same universe as Brownstone (albeit a couple of years down the line) and it’s mostly about the interpersonal relationships that develop at the gaming table. Castles and Cholos is more about asserting your identity, making a bit of a spiritual sequel to Brownstone, which is about discovering your identity.  I’m collaborating on Castles and Cholos with the wonderfully talented Alex Moore, who was literally a person on my wishlist of artists to work with!

 

 

 

Title: BROWNSTONE 

Author: Samuel Teer

Illustrator: Mar Julia

Release Date: June 11, 2024

Publisher: Versify / HarperCollins

Genre: YA Graphic Novel

Age Range: 14 to 17 years old

Interview With Zachary Hagen (Eternity’s Well)

June 13th, 2024 by

Today we are very excited to share an interview with Author Zachary Hagen (Eternity’s Well)!

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Zachary Hagen

Zachary Hagen is a Minnesota based fantasy author and editor. He lives there with his wife, Claudia, and their dog, Flynn. When he isn’t busy writing his next book or working with an editing client, you can often find him walking around his neighborhood or hiking.

From a young age he was enthralled with the world of story. From the stories his parents read to him from his blue bedtime story books (if you know, you know) to the first two series that he read, The Chronicles of Narnia and A Series of Unfortunate Events, Zachary’s tastes continued to develop throughout his years of reading.

The influences for his first series, The Eternal Chronicles, include Christopher Paolini, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and others.

Website * Instagram * Facebook

 

 

 

About the Book: Eternity’s Well

When you lose family, friends, and country, how far is too far?

Elior watched as his twin brother, the only real family he had left run into a building as it disappeared.

Nyx, a cursed merman, watched as his father and best friend were killed in front of him.

Opal’s father died leaving her with a legacy to live up to and a throne to protect.

When they join forces with a wise professor to find the Well of Eternity, can they find answers to their problems? Can the ancient evil lurking in the shadows of society be stopped before it’s too late, or will blood be spilled killing their hope and dooming Lux Terra forever?

Eternity’s Well will hook you from the very beginning and take you on a spellbinding, breathtaking journey through a new world where anything is possible.

Amazon

 

 

 

~Author Chat~

 

YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?

 ZH: The title. I had a general idea of the story and the title long before the story emerged in its final version. However, after I solidified the concept for the first book, the rest of the series fell into place, too.

 

YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

 ZH: I am most proud of this scene where Elior and Michael are having a heart-to-heart near the middle of the book. Michael helps Elior to consider new possibilities and begin the process of healing from the loss of his brother.

 

YABC:  Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

ZH: Writing is about making an experience for the reader, and that means creating an immersive experience that includes all the senses. Writing a novel means making it possible for a reader to truly be in the moment you create.

 

YABC:   What’s up next for you?

ZH: Once I’m done with the last book in Eternal Chronicles, Eternity’s End, I’ll be finishing a project I put in hold. It is a retelling of the Aladdin story from the princess’s perspective called Aisha’s Secret.

YABC:    Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?

ZH: My latest book was actually Eternity’s Edge, and in that book, I’d say that Viola, a djinn who married the main villain of the series, Taariq, gave me the most trouble. She goes through a sort of metamorphosis over the course of the book. Allowing change for some characters is more difficult than others.

YABC:    What is the main message or lesson you would like your reader to remember from this book?

ZH: Loss is never the end, healing comes through living, and faith is the force that fuels life.

YABC:     Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?

ZH: I have been a teacher in small private schools for my entire teaching career. My current school, Winter Haven Adventist Academy, is a growing school with an amazing staff and community. Currently, they are in the process of fundraising to expand. I love the work we’re doing there. Most of our students are on scholarship, and they get a better education with more teacher attention and opportunities.

YABC:   What advice do you have for new writers? 

ZH: Always ask “What if” questions and allow the possibilities to be endless. Sometimes the best next step is unexpected.

 

 

 

Title:  Eternity’s Well

Author: Zachary Hagen

Release Date: August 2021

Publisher: First Horizons Publishing

Genre: YA Fantasy

Age Range: 13+

Interview With James L. Sutter (The Ghost of Us)

June 12th, 2024 by

Today we are very excited to share an interview with Author James L. Sutter (The Ghost of Us)!

 

 

 

Meet the Author: James L. Sutter

James L. Sutter is a co-creator of the best-selling Pathfinder and Starfinder roleplaying games. He’s the author of the young adult romance novel Darkhearts, as well as the fantasy novels Death’s Heretic and The Redemption Engine. His short stories have appeared in NightmareThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, the #1 Amazon best-seller Machine of Death, and more. James lives in Seattle, where he’s performed with bands ranging from metalcore to musical theater.

Website * Instagram * X * Facebook

 

 

 

About the Book: The Ghost of Us

One Last Stop meets Cemetery Boys in this swoony YA romance from beloved author James L. Sutter.

Eighteen-year-old ghost hunter Cara is determined to escape life as a high school outcast by finding proof of the supernatural. Yet when she stumbles upon the spirit of Aiden, a popular upperclassman who died the previous year, she learns that ghosts have goals of their own. In the wake of his death, Aiden’s little sister, Meredith, has become a depressed recluse, and Aiden can’t pass on into the afterlife until he knows she’ll be okay. Believing that nothing pulls someone out of a slump like romance, he makes Cara a deal: seduce Meredith out of her shell and take her to prom, and Aiden will give Cara all the evidence she needs for fame. If not, well—no dates, no ghost.

Wooing the standoffish Meredith isn’t going to be easy, however. With Aiden’s coaching, Cara slowly manages to win Meredith over—but finds herself accidentally falling for her in the process. Worse yet: as Meredith gets happier and Aiden’s mission nears completion, his ghost begins to fade. Can Cara continue to date Meredith under false pretenses, especially if it means Aiden will vanish forever? Or should she tell Meredith the truth, and risk both of them hating her? And either way, will she lose her only shot at proving ghosts are real?

Amazon * B&N

 

 

 

~Author Chat~

 

YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book? 

When I wrote my previous book, Darkhearts, I’d had really clear inspiration. There was a single bombshell moment when I was reading about the Beatles’ original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, who quit the band before they got huge, and then realized I could combine that with my own experience as a teenage musician in order to explore what happens emotionally when you miss your chance at fame. It truly felt like a lightning strike in my brain.

My new book, The Ghost of Us, was nothing like that. I knew I wanted to write another YA romance, and I had some tropes I was interested in—love triangles, fake dating, ghost hunting—but I didn’t really know how to put it all together. Then one day I sat down and wrote a snarky monologue from the perspective of a teenage ghost, about how much it sucks being dead, and something caught. It was funny! It was honest, and a little bit uncomfortable! It was everything I look for in the start of a YA novel!

And it screwed me up for months. Because ultimately, the story I wanted to tell wasn’t about being dead—it was about taking charge of your life and refusing to be defined by the bad things in your past. My ghost character, Aiden, is the one who kicks everything into motion, convincing Cara, the ghost hunter who discovers him, to try and date his depressed little sister, Meredith. But the real story was between Cara and Meredith. Once I let the spotlight turn onto them and let Aiden and his experience take a backseat, everything snapped into focus. It also helped that from pretty much the beginning, I had a really clear image of the last scene. Since I knew what I wanted it to look and feel like, I could write the whole book toward that moment.

YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book? 

I’m a sucker for funny side characters, so honestly, it’s probably Cara’s dad. He’s such a good-natured goofball, and I love writing really supportive families where teens and adults can banter with each other.

Of the main characters, though, I think it’s Aiden, the ghost. He’s sweet and caring while also being an irritatingly confident dumbass, which I think is a pretty reasonable reflection of my teenage experience.

 

YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel? 

The novel, all the way—titles can be super hard for me. For this one, it was tough to find a title that somehow equally conveyed the fact that it was both a ghost story and a romance. Fortunately, The Ghost of Us came to me fairly early while I was still writing, and just felt right—in my mind, the “us” speaks not just to the romance, but also to the relationships between Meredith and dead brother or Cara and her ghost friend. I love a title that can mean several different things!

 

YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

Spoiler time! Cara’s best friend, Holly, is an extremely moral character who works super hard to always do the right thing. Cara, by contrast, can be kind of a selfish jerk at times, so Holly ends up being her Jiminy Cricket, always trying to guide her toward good choices.

…which makes the scene where Holly finally gets fed up and snaps super fun. A reader sent me a message just the other day that said only, “DUDE! The green glowstick was HARSH!” and I cackled because I knew I’d done that scene right.

 

YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now? 

At a nuts-and-bolts craft level: Story is about people. We’re social animals, and no matter how cool your worldbuilding or action scenes, what we really get invested in is characters. So when planning a story, I chart out every character’s emotional arc—what issues they’re wrestling with, and how they change as a result of the events of the story. It gives everything more weight and momentum. Even if I’m writing, say, a space-age firefight between mercenaries and aliens in my Starfinder comic book series, knowing that one character is questioning their parenting style, and another is wrestling with the morality of the mission, and another is jealous of someone stealing their role… it just makes everything more vibrant.

But at a more metaphysical level: Just write the story. Say what happens next. As China Miéville once told me: The idea of writing a whole novel is terrifying, but you can write a chapter. And if not a chapter, you can write a scene. Or a paragraph. Or a sentence. Even just opening the document is a victory. One of the most important things I learned during my years as an editor is that every story, no matter how brilliant, starts as a pile of garbage. And I can write a pile of garbage! You can too. So let’s get started already. 

 

YABC: What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?

I just finished a nonfiction book called Bitch: On the Female of the Species by Lucy Cooke—it’s all about how patriarchal thinking has historically warped our understanding of evolutionary biology, and is chock-full of fascinating animal facts, digging into everything from the prevalence of female-dominant species to same-sex relationships in the animal kingdom. It’s absolutely shocking how much the science of sex and gender in zoology is the direct result of researchers simply ignoring whatever data didn’t fit their narrative.

On the young adult fiction side, I really enjoyed If This Gets Out by Cale Dietrich and Sophie Gonzales—as a M/M boy band romance, it was close enough to Darkhearts that I didn’t let myself read it until after my own book was finished and out, but it was well worth the wait! I truly couldn’t put it down.

YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book? 

I’m going to say Aiden, but it wasn’t so much about the character himself as his relationship with Cara. Originally, I wanted this book to be a love triangle—I thought it would be really fascinating to have Cara falling for both hot, mysterious Meredith who she barely knew how to talk to and Meredith’s ghost brother where they could only talk. That was true all the way through the draft I sent my editor, Sara Goodman, who thankfully came back and was just like, “yeah, I’m not buying Cara falling for Aiden.”

So I went through and doubled down on their romance—so much intimacy! Late-night whispers in her ear!

And it still didn’t work.

So I changed it to just Aiden crushing on Cara, which kinda worked. But ultimately, my editor was like “Why can’t Cara and Aiden just be friends?”

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that she was right. Cara’s such a loner because she’s terrified of being betrayed and abandoned, and that fear is just as much at play in her friendships as in romantic relationships. Plus, I really want to see more wholesome cross-gender friendships in fiction. So in the end, killing the love triangle made everything between Cara and Aiden much stronger, and let me focus more on the main romance between Cara and Meredith.

(Poor Aiden.)

 

YABC: What is the main message or lesson you would like your reader to remember from this book? 

That you don’t need to be defined by your past, or by what other people think of you. As Meredith tells Cara after their first date: If you’re already unpopular, then you’ve got nothing to lose. You can be whoever you want to be, right now.

We can’t choose what life throws at us, but we can choose how we respond—and who we stand beside. We can find our people and hold each other up.

 

YABC: What would you say is your superpower? 

I think it’s communication: being really open, being honestly curious about other people, and not being afraid to dig into the tough stuff. It sounds so simple, but you can make or deepen friendships so quickly just by asking people about the things that really matter to them and then listening to their answers. I love when I meet a new person and within twenty minutes we’re talking about our relationships, our hopes, our existential fears. Among my friends I’m often the one who broaches hard subjects that everybody’s been anxiously skirting around, because you can’t solve conflict if you won’t discuss it. Life’s too short to skate along the surface—let’s go deep!

 

 

 

Title: The Ghost of Us

Author: James L. Sutter

Release Date: 06/11/2024

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Genre: Young Adult / Romance / LGBTQ

Age Range: 13-18

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