This Month’s LILbooKtalk!: “From Film to Fiction to Film Again” with Brittany Goodwin and Jennifer Brody

Hi guys! I am super excited to present to you all this month’s LILbooKtalk! Two of my favorite authors are here on the blog to talk about their backgrounds in the film industry and how their books are in the process of being adapted into movies! I had my heart being wrenched out in Brittany Goodwin’s YA debut If You’re Gone and in Jennifer Brody’s The Continuum Trilogy, and I cannot wait to see their film adaptations when they come out! I hope you enjoy this LILbooKtalk!

About If You’re GoneIf You're Gone

Lillian White was planning for the perfect summer- spending every waking minute at the lake with her heartthrob boyfriend, Brad Lee. But her world is shattered when Brad mysteriously disappears the night of his graduation ceremony- the same night he tells her he loves her for the first time. After law enforcement dismisses the case, classifying Brad as voluntarily missing, Lillian becomes desperate to prove that he couldn’t have just walked away. Not from his family. Not from his friends. Not from her.

Heartbroken but determined to find answers, Lillian begins to uncover secrets from Brad’s past that force her to question everything she thought she knew about him and their relationship. Will the truth lead her to him? Or are Brad’s lies just the beginning of the mystery?


About The 13th ContinuumThe 13th Continuum

One thousand years after a cataclysmic event leaves humanity on the brink of extinction, the survivors take refuge in continuums designed to sustain the human race until repopulation of Earth becomes possible. Against this backdrop, a group of young friends in the underwater Thirteenth Continuum dream about life outside their totalitarian existence, an idea that has been outlawed for centuries. When a shocking discovery turns the dream into a reality, they must decide if they will risk their own extinction to experience something no one has for generations, the Surface.


LILbooKtalk 4

Questions are in bold

Kester: The first author we have today is the amazing Brittany Goodwin, who is actually a local author from my home state of Tennessee! I loved her YA debut If You’re Gone, and I had the opportunity to meet her at SE-YA last year! Could you describe to us a bit about yourself and your book?If You're Gone

Brittany: Yes, and it was so fun to meet you last year! I grew up in Tennessee and lived here until I was 18, then started traveling around the country following my passion for acting and worked at different regional theaters, on a cruise ship, and eventually ended up in Los Angeles where I worked in some independent films. The whole time I was working on my novel If You’re Gone here and there but was more focused on the film side of things, and when I moved to North Carolina in 2010 I decided to write and direct my first feature film Secrets in the Snow. It was followed by the sequel, Secrets in the Fall, and once the second film released in 2014 I decided I was finally ready to focus on “If You’re Gone. So I spent a year writing the novel, which is a missing persons story about a teenage boy who goes missing, told from his girlfriend’s perspective. It released in June of 2016!

Kester: Your background is so awesome! Thanks so much, Brittany! Alongside her, we have the awesome Jennifer Brody, whose action-packed, post-apocalyptic The Continuum Trilogy is my favorite series of all-time! I had the pleasure of creating the questions for the Q&A that is featured in the back of the epic conclusion The United Continuums! Would you also like to share with us a few things about yourself and your novels?

Jennifer: Of course, and so fun to chat with you! I’m still sad we haven’t had a chance to meet IRL yet.

Kester: I know!!! Hopefully some day though!

The 13th ContinuumJennifer: I’m the author of author of the award-winning Continuum Trilogy. The first book The 13th Continuum sold in a 3-book deal and is being packaged into a feature film. Translation rights to my books have sold in multiple territories, most notably Russia and China. I also began my career in Hollywood. Highlights include working on The Lord of the Rings films, The Golden Compass, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I live and write in LA (so howdy from the West Coast). Though I grew up in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains. So I also do both book and film projects. Several of my short stories are also being put together as films. They’re in various stages of the packaging process.

Kester: That’s so rad!!! Thanks, Jen!!! This next question is for both of you! I know you might have already mentioned it, but could you describe to us your backgrounds in the film industry? What inspired you to shift from producing movies to writing stories, and what was the transition like?

Brittany: I was focused only on acting for the early part of my film career, but as I started working on independent films I became fascinated with what went on behind the camera and wanted to tell stories of my own through film. I definitely felt like writing screenplays came easier to me than writing novels, because I knew I would be able to SHOW the audience instead of TELL. So If You’re Gone was a really big challenge for me but it was always in my head and I just knew I had to get it on paper. Then turning it into the screenplay was even more challenging because it had to be cut back a lot, which was tough to go from author to screenwriter. But it was fun. And worth it.

Jennifer Brody
Jennifer Brod

Jennifer: I wanted to take a shot at telling my own stories, not just giving them away to screenwriters we hired. And since I think it’s important right now to be really honest about it, one of the biggest reasons I shifted from Hollywood is related to the #metoo movement. I’ve worked for or with most of the big names in the news. And I got really tired of the bad practices toward women in the business and not being taken seriously for my talent and hard work. But I think there is a rare opportunity right now to have more control and come back into the process with the goal of putting strong content together with female and POC directors.

Brittany: Totally agree with Jennifer on how women and their work are viewed in the industry!

Jennifer: Yes, Brittany! And also that’s why I’m so impressed you directed films. I can’t emphasize how important it is to get more women behind the camera. I always worked as an executive or producer. I’ve never directed, but I’m thinking about it now finally. I’m sure we could trade industry stories.

Brittany: You definitely should! It is one of the most rewarding experiences. And I hope to keep including more and more women on my film crews.

Jennifer: Yes, that’s also so important! I was so excited the female cinematographer from MudBound got a nomination. If I direct, it will be a horror movie. I‘m going to get a few of my projects going with others first and then maybe go for it!

Brittany: Yes!! The first screenplay I ever wrote was a horror film. That’s so awesome. Remember you know a fellow author/actress!

Brittany: Sounds amazing! 🙂

Jennifer: Let’s go make something fun and scary! You’ll have to send me your films to check out or tell me where I can watch them. 

Brittany: Definitely, would love to trade work.

Jennifer: Let’s do it! Look Kester, isn’t that cool?

Kester: It is!! I love this so much! It would be great to have you both collaborate on a project — you’d rock at it! Next question: How did your experiences in the film industry affect the creation of your stories? Did you write your books with a movie adaptation in mind?  How is writing a novel different from writing a script?

Jennifer: Great question! I think I got two big things from working in development and producing—how to structure a story and also my writing has a very visual component to it. And yes, I always think about the film adaptation, partially because I love movies so much. And it would be a great to make the Continuum books into films. Fingers crossed—the big pitch is going out next week I think!

Brittany: That’s so exciting, Jennifer

Kester: Ahh, that is so awesome Jen!!! I wish you all the best with it!!

Jennifer: Thank you! We have a great screenwriter attached who is getting a lot of traction lately. And producers. So we shall see…

Brittany Goodwin
Brittany Goodwin

Brittany: I could always picture If You’re Gone as a film as I was writing the novel, and before I really cracked down on the novel I went back and forth between writing it as a screenplay and as a book. And even though I wrote both the screenplay and the novel, they are different in many ways because they translate differently on the page and on the screen.

Whenever I read any book I am ALWAYS thinking about it as a film! I love to read books that aren’t really in the main stream with the thought of turning them into a film myself. I have a stack of books I’ve had for YEARS that I would love to option as films at some point (if I ever run out of my own stories to tell lol).

Jennifer: That’s really cool Brittany! I do that too!

Kester: How do you think of your “dream cast” with your books? I know it’s popular for book bloggers to make them (I don’t have that talent though haha), but I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Jennifer: For The 13th Continuum, we plan to break new talent on the teen leads. My only hard ask is that we cast the roles with diverse actors (which is how they’re written in the books). Especially Myra—she has to be POC or biracial. I picture Octavia Spencer as Maude and Kevin Klein at Professor Divinus.

Brittany: That’s a really good question… honestly I can’t remember if I had a dream cast in mind before I actually started casting the film! Coming from the Indie side of things, I always have realistic expectations of budgets, etc, so I don’t think I ever thought Jennifer Lawrence would star in If You’re Gone or anything haha. But I do know when I saw the actors I ended up casting in If You’re Gone I knew immediately that they were right for the roles!

Jennifer: I’d love to work with Tessa Thompson again. My short story “200” is being adapted and directed by a really cool female screenwriter. I think Tessa could be perfect!

Jennifer: Yes, I can’t say who the writer is yet. But I can say that she’s one of the top writers in the industry right now. And she wants to direct, so she will make this her debut. It’s Philip K. Dick style SF.

Brittany: I will say, for the new screenplay (and novel) I am working on I definitely picture Shay Mitchell from Pretty Little Liars as the lead female! Maybe it could happen! 🙂

Jennifer: Oh nice choice! Netflix wants to do a lot of films and teen stuff right now. And they have a low budget division and lots of money. My old boss just produced #realityhigh for them.

brittanygoodwin-8133-2Brittany: That’s awesome! I’m sitting here racking my brain on who your writer could be… heheh.

Jennifer: Well, she’s usually the only women in a lot of male writing rooms on big studio films lately. They just announced the one she’s writing now two weeks ago and it trended on Twitter. 😉

Brittany: I’ve been dying to leak the trailer for If You’re Gone and my producer says I can’t. So I’ve been good! Easier said than done though hehe.

Kester: It must be tough! I’m still happy for you, though, Jen! The movies are going to be epic!

Jennifer: Thanks and excited for the trailer Brittany!

Brittany: Thanks! Hopefully soon!

Kester: Brittany, what was the biggest challenge of turning a character-driven novel into a film, and how did you overcome it?

Brittany: The novel was all told from Lillian’s perspective, so the reader always knew exactly what she was thinking and because it is a faith-based novel there are several instances where she is silently praying. That was one of the trickiest things for me to figure out how to convey on screen without having a cheesy narration going on throughout the film. I had to choose the most important moments and figure out which silent thoughts needed to become dialogue and what could be told visually.

Overall, the film is a little darker than the book because of the style choices we made, but the story still comes through and I’m SO happy with how it is turning out in the editing room. So I think it worked!

Kester: That’s so great to hear, Brittany!!! I am super excited to hopefully see the movie come out in the future!

Brittany: Thank you!

Kester: Jennifer, what is it like writing a trilogy, and what are some of the challenges you faced?The United Continuums

Jennifer: The best part of a trilogy is getting to tell such an epic story and watch the characters grow and change. The hardest part was the third book The United Continuums. I was writing on deadline, and had so many POVs. I had to pay everything off and raise the stakes. I really didn’t want to write a bad third book. I’ve personally been disappointed by so many series as a reader. I didn’t want to deliver that experience.

You were one of my first readers, and that’s why it meant so much that you loved the book. It was so fun to have you do the Q&A. When my editor suggested adding one, you were my first thought.

Kester: Aww, thank you, Jen! I’m so happy that I got to read it and do your Q&A! It was so fun, and certainly it was both my pleasure and honor to do so!

Jennifer: You asked great questions and made it easy.

Brittany: Kester you are making quite a name for yourself!

Jennifer: He sure is.

Kester: It’s all thanks to all the love and support from authors like you! Before we end this LILbooKtalk, would you both like to share any advice to young readers and writers or even screenwriters and filmmakers who are viewing this discussion?

Brittany: For all the young people who want to write or get involved in film… just go for it! Write a short story and film it on your smart phone, do whatever you can just to make it happen! It can be a little scary to get started, especially if you’re self-taught like I am, but there are some amazing books out there you can read to learn about screenwriting, directing, etc. And never think you’re too young to try!

Jennifer: This probably sounds cliche, but don’t give up on your dreams. You will hear NO a lot, but believe in yourself and tell the stories you want to tell. Read a lot and watch a lot of films. Seek out other people with similar interests and classes and workshops so you can learn from the best. Don’t give up.

Kester: Brittany, Jennifer, thank you so much for taking part of this LILbooKtalk!!! I really appreciate everything you have done, and I definitely had such a fun time chatting with you both!

Brittany: Thank you for thinking of us, Kester!

Jennifer: Thanks Kester! This was a lot of fun.

About BrittanyBrittany Goodwin

As a screenwriter and author based in Nashville, TN, I am proud to have written the screenplays for two nationally-distributed films, Secrets in the Snow and Secrets in the Fall, both of which have been awarded five (out of five) Doves from the Dove Foundation.

I love to read and create stories with elements of faith and friendship, particularly ones with realistic female protagonists. At a young age I was drawn to the work of writers who added a slightly glamorized twist to the day-to-day lives of teens- Francine Pascal, John Hughes, and Ann M. Martin to name a few. I always found elements of myself in the characters these writers created and felt inspired by them. If Andi could fall in love with a boy from the other side of the tracks, I could find a prom date. And if the Babysitters Club could solve mysteries, so could I! The characters in my stories are meant to emulate the same emotions from readers. Even the most average protagonist can accomplish something extraordinary.

I live on a mini-farm with my  wonderful husband, John, and our ever growing plethora of house pets (current count: 3 canine, 5 feline). With a cat on my lap and a dog at my side, I enjoy watching anything on Investigation Discovery Channel, web sleuthing via missing persons websites, DIY projects, and movie trivia.

Website | Twitter

Buy If You’re Gone here today!

Edge of 22 Publishing | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

About JenniferJennifer Brody

Jennifer Brody is the award-winning author of the The 13th Continuum. Her book sold in a 3-book deal and is being packaged into a feature film. The book is a Gold Medal Winner (Young Adult – Sci-Fi/Fantasy) from the Independent Publisher‘s Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. Return of the Continuums and The United Continuums complete this epic trilogy. Translation rights to her books have sold in multiple territories, most notably Russia and China. Her short fiction appears in the From the Stars anthology and Common Deer Press’ Short Tails. She is a graduate of Harvard University (magna cum laude), a creative writing instructor at the Writing Pad, and a volunteer mentor for the Young Storytellers Foundation. She’s also a board member for the non-profit writing competitions the Roswell Award and the Tomorrow Prize. After studying film at Harvard University, Jennifer began her career in Hollywood. Highlights include working for Platinum Dunes and New Line Cinema, most notably on The Lord of the Rings films, The Golden Compass, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. She also produced the feature film Make It Happen starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Tessa Thompson. She lives and writes in LA, where she’s hard at work on her next book.

She is represented by Deborah Schneider (Gelfman Schneider/ICM Partners), Josie Friedman (ICM) for TV/Film, and Curtis Brown for UK and foreign rights.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

Buy The 13th Continuum here today!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Book Depository | iTunes

Thanks so much again to Jennifer Brody and Brittany Goodwin for agreeing to do this LILbooKtalk! I hope you all enjoyed this online discussion panel, and if you’d like to talk about any aspect or question of the discussion, please comment below!

Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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This Month’s LILbooKtalk: “Healing through Stories: Two Novels of Uniting Families” with Corabel Shofner and Leslie Hauser

Hi guys! I am super excited for this month’s LILbooKtalk! I had the amazing opportunity to read both of these excellent debuts, and they share so many similar themes and conflicts that I had to invite both of the authors in our February panel. Today, we have Corabel Shofner, author of Almost Paradise, and Leslie Hauser, author of Chasing Eveline, on the blog today to talk about “Healing through Stories: Two Novels of Uniting Families.” It was definitely a fun chat to moderate, and I hope you enjoy it!

About Almost ParadiseAlmost Paradise

Twelve-year-old Ruby Clyde Henderson’s life turns upside down the day her mother’s boyfriend holds up a convenience store, and her mother is wrongly imprisoned for assisting with the crime. Ruby and her pet pig, Bunny, find their way to her estranged Aunt Eleanor’s home. Aunt Eleanor is a nun who lives on a peach orchard called Paradise, and had turned away from their family long ago. With a little patience, she and Ruby begin to get along―but Eleanor has secrets of her own, secrets that might mean more hard times for Ruby.

Ruby believes that she’s the only one who can find a way to help heal her loved ones, save her mother, and bring her family back together again. But being in a family means that everyone has to work together to support each other, and being home doesn’t always mean going back to where you came from.


About Chasing EvelineChasing Eveline

Sixteen-year-old Ivy Higgins is the only student at Carmel Heights High School who listens to cassettes. And her binder is the only one decorated with album artwork by 80s band Chasing Eveline. Despite being broken-up since 1989, this rock band out of Ireland means everything to Ivy. They’re a reminder of her mom, who abandoned Ivy and her dad two years ago. Now the music of her mom’s favorite band is the only connection she has left.

Even though Ivy wavers between anger and a yearning to reconnect, she’s one-hundred percent certain she’s not ready to lose her mom forever. But the only surefire way to locate her would be at a Chasing Eveline concert. So with help from her lone friend Matt—an equally abandoned soul and indie music enthusiast—Ivy hatches a plan to reunite the band.

The road to Ireland won’t be easy, though. And not just because there is no road. Along the way they’ll have to win over their Lady Gaga-loving peers, tangle with some frisky meerkats, and oh yeah, somehow find and persuade the four members to play a reunion gig. It’s a near-impossible task, but Ivy has to try. If she can’t let go of the past, she’ll never be able to find joy in the present.


LILbooKtalk 3

Questions are in bold

Kester: The first author we have today is the wonderful Corabel Shofner, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Southern Festival of Books last October. Her Middle Grade debut novel Almost Paradise released last summer, and I enjoyed it so much that I finished it in a day! Could you describe to us a bit about your book and yourself?Almost Paradise

Corabel: ALMOST PARADISE is a Middle Grade contemporary novel with lots of whimsy, humor and heartbreak. In some ways it is a reverse coming of age story, since Ruby Clyde had taken on the adult role in her family and needs to reclaim her childhood. I am a wife and mother who lives in Nashville, TN. I had a very colorful life before I settled in the suburbs and I love it out here. ALMOST PARADISE is my debut novel although I have written law, short stories, essays and such.

Kester: Thank you, Corabel! It’s so great to be having a local Tennessee author here on the blog! We also have the amazing Leslie Hauser, who I was able to interview on my blog last summer. I loved her Young Adult contemporary debut Chasing Eveline, which I also devoured in a single day! Would you also like to share with us a bit about your novel and your background?

Leslie: Hi! Thanks for having me here. CHASING EVELINE is about 16-year-old Ivy HIggins and her desire to reunite her mom’s favorite 80s band. She thinks it may be the only way to find her mom who left Ivy and her dad several years prior, but also the music is a way to keep her mom present in her life. It also has some humor and heartbreak–sounds like a good companion to ALMOST PARADISE! I am a middle school English and history teacher in California and CHASING EVELINE is my debut novel.

Kester: Chasing Eveline and Almost Paradise are definitely great companions! (And you provided the perfect segue for my next question, Leslie!) That’s why as I read both of your novels, I noticed that each of your main characters share the common goal of healing their broken families. How do you want readers to be impacted by Ivy’s attempts at finding her long-lost mother or Ruby Clyde’s actions to help her mother avoid being imprisoned? How do your characters learn what it means to love those around you?

Chasing EvelineLeslie: Losing someone is difficult. I realized after my aunt passed away that every year, the memories became dimmer. It’s to the point now where I can’t even see parts of these memories (like the picture in Back to the Future! If you’re familiar with that movie.) Ivy’s quest to reunite Chasing Eveline is her way of dealing with loss and trying to keep her mom present. I wanted to write a story that shows that there are productive outlets for grief. I would hope readers would see that as a takeaway.

Corabel: Hi Leslie, I haven’t written anything with music as an element but I love the way Ivy seeks her mother through her mother’s favorite 80’s band. Reminds me a bit of Guardians of the Galaxy where he’s stomping through puddles listening to his mother’s old music, on an old player. Ruby Clyde is a self possessed little thing. She willingly steps up to care for her fragile mother but when the Catfish (mother’s rascal boyfriend) launches off on a cross country trip and gets them both arrested, Ruby Clyde is consumed with a longing for home and a growing realization that she might not be able to single handedly save her mother from prison. I want my readers to feel brave. Bravery is contagious.

Leslie: Sounds like Ivy and Ruby both have to step up in their families. Ivy feels compelled to take care of her dad in her mother’s absence. Bravery is definitely important when dealing with these struggles.

Corabel: Everybody loves the precocious child, the ‘little mother’ or the one who takes care of everything because a parent is damaged. People should realized that these children pay a price by losing their childhood. My sister did that in our family and it did not end well. I’ve since seen other children try to play this role and it breaks my heart. But their old personalities in the miniature bodies is often hilarious.
Continue reading “This Month’s LILbooKtalk: “Healing through Stories: Two Novels of Uniting Families” with Corabel Shofner and Leslie Hauser”

This Month’s LILbooKtalk!: “The Importance of Historical Fiction for Young Readers” with Linda Williams Jackson and Gwen C. Katz

Hi guys! Today starts off the first full week of school for me, so I’m going to be a bit less active on social media since this semester is going to be hectic. Already, I have my DECA District Career Development Conference next Tuesday, so wish me luck in my competition! Today, I am also sharing with y’all my second ever LILbooKtalk (this will be a monthly post, so look out for February’s soon!), and I am so excited to have Linda Williams Jackson and Gwen C. Katz here to talk about “The Importance of Historical Fiction for Young Readers.” Historical fiction is my favorite genre, so I am super stoked to let you all read this discussion. Enjoy!

About Midnight without a MoonMidnight without a Moon

It’s Mississippi in the summer of 1955, and Rose Lee Carter can’t wait to move north. For now, she’s living with her sharecropper grandparents on a white man’s cotton plantation. Then, one town over, an African American boy, Emmett Till, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. When Till’s murderers are unjustly acquitted, Rose realizes that the South needs a change and that she should be part of the movement. Linda Jackson’s moving debut seamlessly blends a fictional portrait of an African American family and factual events from a famous trial that provoked change in race relations in the United States.


About A Sky Full of StarsA Sky Full of Stars

After the murder of Emmett Till, thirteen-year-old Rose is struggling with her decision to stay in Mississippi. Torn between the opinions of Shorty, a boy who wants to meet violence with violence, and Hallelujah, her best friend who believes in the power of peaceful protests, Rose is scared of the mounting racial tension and is starting to lose hope. But when Rose helps Aunt Ruthie start her own business, she begins to see how she can make a difference in her community. Life might be easier in the North, but Mississippi is home and that’s worth fighting for. Mid-Century Mississippi comes alive in this sequel to Midnight Without a Moon


About Among the Red Stars30122938

World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines.

As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.

Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war.


LILbooKtalk 2

(Questions are in bold; HF = Historical Fiction)

Kester: The first author we have today is Linda Williams Jackson, who wrote the stunning Rose Lee Carter series, which comprises of Midnight without a Moon and A Sky Full of Stars. A Sky Full of Stars just released last week on January 2nd! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your novels?Midnight without a Moon

Linda: Hi Kester. Thanks for doing this chat. I was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, which is where my novels take place. It is also where the Emmett Till murder occurred. That murder and the swift trial and acquittal of the accused are the historical part of my “historical” novel.

Kester: Thank you so much, Linda! I really loved both of your novels, and I am super excited to have you here today! Alongside Linda, we have the wonderful Gwen C. Katz, who I had the pleasure of interviewing back in October about her debut novel Among the Red Stars. Would you also like to share with us a bit about your book and your background?

Gwen: Hey Kester. Thanks for having me. I’m Gwen Katz and I wrote about the Night Witches, an all-female bomber regiment who served on the front in Russia during World War II. It’s one of those really cool yet inexplicably neglected historical topics and I just wanted more people to know about it.

Kester: That sounds awesome! I’m really looking forward to reading Among the Red Stars! This month’s LILbooKtalk theme is “The Importance of Historical Fiction for Young Readers.” Why do you both believe that it is critical for children and teens to be exposed to history through literature? How do your novels achieve the purpose of enlightening readers on the struggles of the past while conveying themes that could inspire generations?

Linda: I think it’s a more intriguing way to learn about history rather than in a textbook. As far as young readers are concerned, I think they would probably prefer reading a novel over reading a biography or a nonfiction book. HF also lends itself to tell stories that might get overlooked, such as the story Gwen has unfolded in Among the Red Stars. There is only so much space in those history books, so it’s up to us to tell the stories that get left out. And we can do this in an engaging way via HF.

Kester: Right. I definitely agree with you! Sometimes it’s hard to connect with history when I’m reading it from a textbook rather than a fiction novel.

Gwen: I think it’s important to expose young people to historical fiction because it allows them to make a personal connection to history. Historical events like wars and battles are often taught as a dry list of dates and locations and it’s easy for it all to feel very distant. Fiction helps us remember that every one of those war casualties was a real person with their own life, their own family, and their own dreams.

Linda: I love that answer, Gwen.

Gwen: And I definitely agree with Linda that a novel feels a lot more accessible to young people (and, for that matter, readers of all ages). Why shouldn’t learning about history be entertaining as well as informative?

Continue reading “This Month’s LILbooKtalk!: “The Importance of Historical Fiction for Young Readers” with Linda Williams Jackson and Gwen C. Katz”


The First Ever LILbooKtalk!!: “Overcoming Obstacles in Middle Grade Fiction” with Emily Blejwas and Brooks Benjamin

Hi guys! It’s exactly one week until Christmas, and it’s also the first full week for me out of school! I still have a few performances I have to do with my choir today and tomorrow, but then it will all be just resting and relaxation these next couple of weeks! I’m really excited about Christmas this year–I’m going to spend the days before with friends at a few get-togethers and parties and with my family the weekend of. And I am going to try and read as many books as I can before the year ends!

Today I am posting the first ever LILbooKtalk! LILbooKtalks are online discussion panels in which two authors chat about a certain topic that relates to both of their novels. I wanted to try something new because I love going to author panels and I love interview authors, but why not ask questions to multiple authors at the same time? Why not have author panels online for many to access them? This is a new “skit” I’m trying out, so I definitely hope you will enjoy our first every LILbooKtalk on “Overcoming Obstacles in Middle Grade Fiction.”

About Once You Know ThisOnce You Know This

A girl wishes for a better life for herself, her mom, and her baby brother and musters the courage to make it happen in this moving and emotionally satisfying story for readers of Kate DiCamillo and Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

Eleven-year-old Brittany knows there has to be a better world out there. Lately, though, it sure doesn’t feel like it. She and her best friend, Marisol, stick together at school, but at home Brittany’s granny is sick, her cat is missing, there’s never any money, and there’s her little brother, Tommy, to worry about. Brittany has a hard time picturing her future as anything but a plain white sky. If her life is going to ever change, she needs a plan. And once she starts believing in herself, Brittany realizes that what has always seemed out of reach might be just around the corner.

This debut novel by Emily Blejwas is perfect for readers who love emotionally satisfying books. Thoughtful and understated, it’s the hopeful story of a girl who struggles to make her future bright . . . and the makeshift family that emerges around her.


About My Seventh Grade Life in TightsMy Seventh Grade Life in Tights


All Dillon wants is to be a real dancer. And if he wins a summer scholarship at Dance-Splosion, he’s on his way. The problem? His dad wants him to play football. And Dillon’s freestyle crew, the Dizzee Freekz, says that dance studios are for sellouts. His friends want Dillon to kill it at the audition—so he can turn around and tell the studio just how wrong their rules and creativity-strangling ways are.


At first, Dillon’s willing to go along with his crew’s plan, even convincing one of the snobbiest girls at school to work with him on his technique. But as Dillon’s dancing improves, he wonders: what if studios aren’t the enemy? And what if he actually has a shot at winning the scholarship?


Dillon’s life is about to get crazy . . . on and off the dance floor.



LILbooKtalk 1

(Questions are bolded)

Kester: Today we are having our first ever LILbooKchat, an online discussion panel with authors from all sorts of genres! The first author we have is the lovely Emily Blejwas, who has recently released her MG debut novel Once You Know This a few months ago. I had the wonderful pleasure to be able to meet with you at Southern Festival of Books back in October! Could you tell us a little bit about your book and your background?Once You Know This

Emily: I grew up in Minnesota and have lived in Alabama since 2004. Once You Know This started with a scene from my work as a domestic violence victim advocate in Chicago, and a lot of the content comes from experiences working with people really struggling to get by.

Kester: Thank you, Emily! Your book sounds super amazing–can’t wait to read it! Next, we have the awesome Brooks Benjamin, whose MG debut novel My Seventh Grade Life in Tights released last year. I also had the chance to meet you at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Fest back in March, and I really enjoyed reading your novel just recently! Could you also share with us a bit about your book and yourself?

Brooks: Sure! I’ve lived in Tennessee my whole life, always tucked back into the woods somewhere. I currently teach 4th grade at the only school in my town. I formed a dance crew back in middle school and we danced exclusively to New Kids on the Block (I know…I know…). That was the inspiration for M7GLiT which is all about a seventh-grade boy who wants to try out for a summer scholarship to a dance studio, much to the dismay of his dance-crew friends.

Emily: I love how you were NKOTB exclusive! That’s commitment!

Brooks: Haha! Right, Emily! We were, if nothing else, quite loyal to those guys.

Emily: Hey, loyalty is critical!

Kester: I definitely wished I knew how to dance like that back in middle school, or even now!

Brooks: You know? I wish I knew how to dance back in middle school, too, haha.

Continue reading “The First Ever LILbooKtalk!!: “Overcoming Obstacles in Middle Grade Fiction” with Emily Blejwas and Brooks Benjamin”