Exclusive Interview with Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, MG Author of “A Dog Like Daisy”

Hi guys! School is out in less than two weeks! I am super stoked for summer to come! I have AP exams next week (ugh) and after graduation, I’m off to Boys’ State! Woo hoo! This year has been really awesome for me, and not only have I grown so much with everything, but this blog has grown a lot. Even though it might not have the reach it once had last year, it means a lot more to me to be able to touch more hearts rather than to just reach out to them. That is truly what being a blogger is about.


About A Dog Like DaisyA Dog Like Daisy

Max meets A Dog Called Homeless in this sweet and poignant middle grade novel told from the humorous, thoughtful perspective of a rescued pit bull as she trains to be a service dog for an injured veteran and his family.

Daisy has only ten weeks to prove her usefulness or else be sent back to the pound. Yet if she goes back, who will protect Colonel Victor from his PTSD attacks? Or save the littler human, Micah, from those infernal ear muzzles he calls earphones? What if no one ever adopts her again?

Determined to become the elite protector the colonel needs, Daisy vows to ace the service dog test. She’ll accept the ridiculous leash and learn to sit, heel, shake, even do your business, Daisy when told to. But Daisy must first learn how to face her own fears from the past or risk losing the family she’s so desperate to guard—again.

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1. Your latest novel A Dog Like Daisy, which released last summer, follows the story of Daisy as she tries to prove her usefulness as a service dog before being sent back to the pound. What was it like writing from an animal’s perspective, and how is it different from storytelling with a human’s point of view? Could you describe to us your approach as you created Daisy’s narration?

I love research, because it often gives me many plot points (hello there, “truth is stranger than fiction” adage!), and it sometimes even provides the voice of character. That was certainly the case for Daisy. I read while researching that some experts believe dogs experience the world as a human with synesthesia might – in other words, their five senses blend into something beautifully unique. Someone with synesthesia might see colors when they hear music, or experience a certain taste when they have intense feelings; something in their brain combines multiple senses exceptionally. When I read that – boom! – there was Daisy’s voice, in all its bacon-loving, color-hearing glory.

2. What inspired you to write a novel about service dogs? Would you like to tell us some of your experiences and adventures working with them?

Ideas are dust – they’re floating everywhere if you’re paying attention and look hard enough to find them. (From this statement it should be obvious that cleaning is WAY LOW on my priority list – ha!) The idea for Daisy came about when my dog was playing with a neighbor’s dog. She mentioned in passing that the man from whom she bought her Great Dane also trained dogs that assist veterans. I thought, “Hmmm. I wonder what that training looks like? I’ve read what service dogs can do, of course, but how do they learn it?” I’ve learned that when I say “hmmmm” to myself, it’s likely that others would say “hmmmm” to that same question. And that? That is a story idea.

I didn’t have personal experience with service dogs prior to researching Daisy, but one thing I’ve found in my decade of writing: people love to tell you about their passions, and those who train service dogs are very passionate about it. I was fortunate enough to chat with Katie Young, a trainer for Southeastern Guide Dogs (https://www.guidedogs.org), and she taught me gobs and gobs about training service animals. Since then, a Southeastern trainer came with a dog-in-training, Rickie, to Daisy’s launch party. I give out information about Southeastern at my book events. And a portion of all sales of A Dog Like Daisy goes to Southeastern for their amazing work. Needless to say, I believe in what they do.

3. In your book, Colonel Victor struggles with PTSD, but Daisy is there to protect him. Why do you believe it is important to portray mental illnesses such as PTSD in middle grade fiction, and in what ways do you want A Dog Like Daisy to impact readers, young and old alike?

A Dog Like DaisyOne review of Daisy captured something that I honestly hadn’t considered when writing the story; the reviewer said that approaching a topic like PTSD from a dog’s point of view makes the story a bit more approachable to a young reader. I agree with that; the story would be far different if the main boy character, Micah, had told it.

Many middle graders experience mental illness in their own homes, and some, in their own bodies. Since the release of Daisy, I’ve met a nine-year-old with PTSD, and her mother tearfully thanked me for writing a book for her age group that included a character with her same challenges. I’ve met a twelve-year-old whose father is a veteran; she told me she’s read the book four times and each time sees something new. I had a veteran who bravely writes speaks about his PTSD request that I join him and other veteran-writers on a panel, and he thanked me for writing this book for military families. I’ve even had a unit of disabled veterans buy copies of the book and donate them to their local library. Honestly, I’m humbled and honored by the response to this story. I’m just delighted that Daisy seems to be offering her service-animal skills far off the page, especially to people who have given so much of themselves to our country.

Kristin's Dogs4. Who are your favorite fictional and/or real-life dogs? Do you have any pets of your own?

Snoopy, for certain. I love the idea of him leading all these secret lives, while Charlie Brown thinks he’s simply lying atop his dog house, waiting for dinner. I can’t wait to see the Isle of Dogs – it looks gorgeous. And of course Dug from Up – “Squirrel!”

I have two dogs – Lucky and Cookie. I narrate their thoughts all the time; Lucky is goofy and lovable, Cookie is neurotic and headstrong. They are very much a part of our family. I’ve included a photo of them here!

5. What is your favorite part about the writing process (i.e. research, drafting, revising, creating characters, writing dialogue, etc.), and why?

Researching! I love discovering and learning new things, and research helps me make real-life connections to the thoughts and feelings I hope to convey in the story. That is the BEST feeling! Research helps me with voice, plot, characterization, setting – I always struggle quite a bit with writing if I don’t take enough time to soak in the aspects of a character’s world through research.

6. It is so great to meet another wonderful author from my home-state of Tennessee! What do you like most about living in the Volunteer State and the Nashville area, which both have amazing writer communities?

Nashville’s literary community is second-to-none! Between Parnassus Books (http://www.parnassusbooks.net), the regional chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI Midsouth; https://midsouth.scbwi.org), the Southern Festival of Books (http://humanitiestennessee.org/programs/southern-festival-books-celebration-written-word), and the best libraries and librarians in the known universe (including those who organize SEYA: https://www.seyabookfest.com), there is no shortage of incredible writing, writing workshops, and events that celebrate powerful stories. I love this community; readers and writers are the heart and soul of stories, and I’m delighted and honored that I get to be a part of it.

7. As a veteran author with multiple books published across various genres (contemporary, fantasy, historical fiction), how have your writing abilities transformed over the past few years? What are some of the most valuable lessons you have learned throughout your writing career?Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

Probably the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that every book comes to life differently. Simply because The 13th Sign was written one way doesn’t mean that A Dog Like Daisy or The Story Collector will be written similarly. And I don’t mean voice or characters here – I mean the actual process of creating. Some books beg to be written long hand. Some books are written chunk by chunk, rather than in plot order. Some are outlined, other pour out of your fingertips. I think that’s why it can be so difficult for authors to give advice on “how to be a writer;” they are many different types of writers themselves!

8. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

I think Liz Gilbert (author of “Eat, Pray, Love”) said it best on her “Magic Lessons” podcast: Writing is the only thing that, when I’m doing it, I don’t feel like I’m wearing a mask of any sort. I am fully, completely, 100% me when I’m writing. It’s when I feel most authentic.

I had an amazing opportunity when I was in sixth grade, thanks to my wonderful school librarian: I got to interview Madeleine L’Engle by telephone! (Yep!) When I told her I wanted to be a writer, she said, “Good for you! Keep reading and you can do it.” Well, when Madeleine L’Engle tells you you can be a writer, you give it a try! And you know what? My first poem, a haiku called “The Weeping Willow,” was published in a student anthology the very next year. I visit a lot of schools now, and I try to pay that same sentiment forward.

9. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

Oh, picking a favorite genre is like picking a favorite flavor of ice cream! It just depends on what you’re in the mood for: Salted caramel? Creamy vanilla? Super-rich dark chocolate swirl? A Wrinkle In Time has a special place in my heart, for obvious reasons (see above) and I still say it’s my favorite book of all time. But recently I’ve adored The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo – I adore poetry, and would love to try a novel-in-verse someday. And I attribute Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself by Judy Blume for my love of historical fiction; my favorite historical titles of late have been anything by Ruta Sepetys and Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (both Tennessee writers!). See? I can’t pick just one!

10. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

There’s a time when a writer isn’t writing? J I feel like I’m always observing, always listening (read: always eavesdropping), with hopes that I can write better characters, build a better fictional world, tell a better story. But for some reason, that doesn’t feel like a full-time job to me; the actual writing happens around real life, in stolen quiet moments.

The Story Collector11. Your upcoming novel The Story Collector is slated to release this August from Henry Holt and Co. (BYR). What could readers look forward to in The Story Collector, and are there any secrets about it you would like to share with us?

EeeeEEEEeeee I’m so excited about this story! The Story Collector is based on a real-life girl, Viviani Fedeler, who was born and raised in the flagship building of the New York Public Library – the iconic one at 5th and 42nd, with the lions. She and her brothers have sleepovers, play in the stacks, hide from guards – all within the library. It’s a ghost story (many claim the building truly is haunted by a ghost named Big Red) and a mystery, based on a real-life stamp collection that was stolen from the library while the Fedelers lived there. The book also features photos from the NYPL (https://www.nypl.org) archives, a timeline, and gorgeous illustrations from Iacopo Bruno (http://iacopobruno.blogspot.com)

It’s also a story about a young writer who struggles to find her voice, which I think a lot of writers can relate to. So in that spirit, I’d like to share the first three paragraphs of the story:

Some people are story collectors. While others collect seashells, or stuffed animals, or stamps, story collectors wrap themselves in words, surround themselves with sentences, and play with participles, even those pesky, perky dangling ones. They climb over Cs and mount Ms and lounge in Ls. Soon enough they land in the land of homonyms, then, WHAM! They stumble into onomatopoeia, that lovely creaking, booming bit of wordplay – and that, Dear Friend, is where our story begins:

Crack!

The bat swung over Viviani Fedeler’s left shoulder, then clanged to the terracotta-tile floor of the New York Public Library. She shrieked and ran, red hair flying, nothing short of a firework whizzing about the bases.

The book is available for pre-order, and if you get it from Nashville’s awesome indie, I’ll sign & personalize it for you! Just put how you’d like the book personalized in the comment section upon check-out. Here’s the link:
http://www.parnassusbooks.net/book/9781250143808

12. Before you go, would you like to share any advice you have to any aspiring authors or writers reading this interview?

I firmly believe that EVERYONE – yes, EVERYONE – is a writer. (Now, whether or not you want to share your story is a personal choice.) You’re likely already doing the kinds of things that professional writers do on a daily basis: if you text, you’re writing dialogue. If you play video games, you’re worldbuilding. If you’re a rule-breaker, you’d likely excel at poetry. So first, think about the kind of writing you’re already doing regularly, that you already love, and hone that skill.  Then: get involved in your local community of writers! There is nothing like sharing your ideas with other writers to give you the courage to share your stories with the world. Best of luck, story collectors – I am cheering you on!

Thanks so much, Kristin, for coming onto the blog! It’s so great to have you here today!


About the AuthorKristin O'Donnell Tubb

Kristin O’Donnell Tubb is the author of The Story Collector series, A Dog Like Daisy, John Lincoln Clem: Civil War Drummer Boy (written as E.F. Abbott), The 13th Sign, Selling Hope and Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different. She’s also written many activity books featuring well-loved characters like Scooby-Doo, Bugs Bunny, the Powerpuff Girls, and Strawberry Shortcake. Kristin lives near Nashville, Tennessee with her bouncy-loud family. Just like her two dogs, she can be bribed with cheese.

Kristin can be found far too often on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  Oh, and she has a website, too.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read A Dog Like Daisy? Do you like books set from an animal’s perspective?

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

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Exclusive Interview with Melissa Roske, MG Contemporary Author of “Kat Greene Comes Clean”

Hi guys! Yesterday I just got back from Washington, D.C., and I definitely had a really great trip! Man, April’s almost over, and that means this entire school year is quickly coming to an end. In just a few weeks, it will be AP exams time, so I will be cramming as much studying as I can before then. Today I have another interview with the wonderful Melissa Roske, MG debut author of Kat Greene Comes Clean! I hope you enjoy!


About the BookKat Greene Comes Clean

Eleven-year-old Kat Greene has a lot on her pre-rinsed plate, thanks to her divorced mom’s obsession with cleaning. When Mom isn’t scrubbing every inch of their Greenwich Village apartment, she’s boiling the silverware or checking Kat’s sheets for bedbugs. It’s enough to drive any middle schooler crazy! Add friendship troubles to the mix, a crummy role in the class production of Harriet the Spy, and Mom’s decision to try out for “Clean Sweep,” a competitive-cleaning TV game show, and what have you got? More trouble than Kat can handle. At least, without a little help from her friends.

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1. Your MG debut novel Kat Greene Comes Clean follows a young girl as she manages through a turbulent time in her life, including dealing with her cleaning-obsessed mom, her parents’ divorce, the school play, and many friendships. How do you want readers to be impacted from Kat trying to be the “parent” when her mom is unable to? Why do you believe it is important to show how young children overcome these struggles in their everyday lives?

Although I was never thrust into a parental role the way Kat was with her mom, I can certainly relate to being an eleven-year-old with familial and social struggles. I mean, who doesn’t struggle as a preteen? My struggle was primarily with my physical development. At Kat’s age, I was extremely small and underdeveloped, and I used to get teased for it all the time. I was always picked last for sports teams too. One boy in particular—who shall remain nameless—called me “Flatsy,” because, well, you know… and it was humiliating. I was teased for being flat-chested at summer camp, too. I know what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but the scars left by all the teasing and name-calling never fully healed. That’s what I tapped into when I wrote my book. I wanted kids to know that life’s struggles are incredibly difficult—but there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

2. How has your personal experiences and those of others helped shape Kat Greene Comes Clean? What aspects of Kat’s life and personality are based off your life?Kat Greene Comes Clean

I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but my book based on my own experience with OCD—or, to be more accurate, my dad’s OCD. His compulsions are the polar opposite of Kat’s mom’s, though, because my dad is extremely messy and keeps everything. (I recently found a datebook in his apartment from 1973!) He’s also a checker, which means he must check the front-door locks, and the gas jets on the stove, multiple times a day. I too have obsessive-compulsions tendencies, including the need to have my window shades fixed at a certain level, but I wouldn’t say they impede my life. They’re just extremely distracting—to my family, and to myself.

3. What about Middle Grade Contemporary drew you as an author and a reader? What inspired you to write for kids and from a child’s point of view, and what were some of the challenges that you faced writing your debut?

I’m not sure if I should admit this, but in many ways I still feel like an eleven-year-old girl. That’s why I’m drawn to MG. It focuses on a phase in one’s life when feelings and thoughts and creativity—even love—are bubbling at the surface, ready to come up for air. I also love the openness, and the receptiveness to new things, that tweens exhibit and express. They say want they mean, and they mean what they say. Who doesn’t love that?

In terms of challenges as a debut novelist, I’d say it’s learning how to manage my expectations. As author, you hope your book will be enthusiastically received, and that it will sell well. But that is not always the case. Some things are beyond your control, as it’s important to realize this and manage your expectations accordingly.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Melissa Roske, MG Contemporary Author of “Kat Greene Comes Clean””

Review: Greetings from Witness Protection! by Jake Burt — A Heartwarming yet Thrilling Tale of Family and Fitting In

Hi guys! Right now, I am at the Tennessee DECA State Career Development Conference, otherwise known as SCDC! If you are reading this, then I am currently competing for a coveted spot in the top 5 in the state for my event Marketing Communications Series. I’ve learned to love marketing a lot this past year, and I hope that I could come home with a trophy! Also, tomorrow I’m going to be at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival, and I’m so stoked to attend it again! I have 20 books awaiting to be signed (yes, somehow I’ve accumulated 20 books this past year) and there’s so many authors I want to meet and connect with! Today, I am reviewing Greetings from Witness Protectionby Jake Burt, whose interview with me is being posted in just a couple of weeks! Hope you enjoy!


About the BookGreetings from Witness Protection!

Nicki Demere is an orphan and a pickpocket. She also happens to be the U.S. Marshals’ best bet to keep a family alive. . . .

The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a mother, father, and son on the run from the nation’s most notorious criminals. After all, the bad guys are searching for a family with one kid, not two, and adding a streetwise girl who knows a little something about hiding things may be just what the marshals need.

Nicki swears she can keep the Trevor family safe, but to do so she’ll have to dodge hitmen, cyberbullies, and the specter of standardized testing, all while maintaining her marshal-mandated B-minus average. As she barely balances the responsibilities of her new identity, Nicki learns that the biggest threats to her family’s security might not lurk on the road from New York to North Carolina, but rather in her own past.

Goodreads


4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free hardcover copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

Greetings from Witness Protection! shows readers what it truly means to be a part of a family and to love them so much to be willing to sacrifice everything for their safety and protection. It’s the heartwarming story about a girl who tries to fit in with her foster family as they take on a new identity in a new town with a multitude of responsibility under the Witness Protection Program. This book both warmed my heart so much yet placed me on the edge of my seat wanting to know what happens next. My heart was pounding as I sympathized with Nicki and her struggles with kleptomania and being a part of a new family. It even made me laugh so many times, and the storyline had the perfect mix of light humor and deep issues. Greetings from Witness Protection! is an MG part-spy thriller and part-family contemporary novel that will have readers of all ages inspired to fight for their loved ones.

Continue reading “Review: Greetings from Witness Protection! by Jake Burt — A Heartwarming yet Thrilling Tale of Family and Fitting In”

E-ARC Review: Fragile Chaos by Amber R. Duell — A YA Debut that Infuses Myth with Reality

Hi guys! I am super excited for next week because I have two major events happening! The first one is my DECA State Convention, in which I will be competing in Marketing Communications! I really hope that I will be able to win and qualify for Internationals! The second is the SE-YA Book Fest, which I had the wonderful opportunity of driving through 4 inches of snow and meeting so many fabulous authors! Truly, I am so excited to see so many of my author friends again and make many new connections! Today, I have for you a review of Fragile Chaos by Amber R. Duell. I hope you enjoy!


About the BookFragile Chaos

A god of war seeking restoration. An unwilling sacrificial bride. Betrayal that could destroy them both.

Every fiber of my being is woven from the rage of mortals.

Theodric, the young God of War, has a talent for inciting conflict and bloodshed. After being stripped of his powers by his older brother, King of Gods, he sets out to instigate a mortal war to prove himself worthy of being restored to power.

I loved Kisk once; it was my home… But that was before. This is now.

Sixteen-year-old Cassia, like many in the modern era, believes gods and goddesses to be just a myth. Enemy to her country and an orphan of the war, she has no time for fairy tales. That’s until religious zealots from Theo’s sect offer her up as a sacrifice.

Can Cassia and Theo end the mortal war and return balance to the earth and heavens? Or, will their game of fate lead down a path of destruction, betrayal, and romance neither of them saw coming?

Goodreads


3 Stars

Thanks so much to the author for sending me a free electronic review copy in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

I had really high expectations for Fragile Chaos the first time I encountered both the book and the author. The premise intrigued me very much, and I was really interested by the infusion of mythology along with romance and action. While this fantasy certainly had many strong points—such as its world-building—it felt a bit short of my expectations. I wished I could have been sucked into the book and transported into the book’s world, but I felt very detached. I became more focused, unfortunately, with trying to complete the book rather than enjoy and savor it.

Continue reading “E-ARC Review: Fragile Chaos by Amber R. Duell — A YA Debut that Infuses Myth with Reality”

Exclusive Interview with Chelsea Sedoti, YA Author of As You Wish

Hi guys! It is very rare for me to give a five-star rating to two books by the same author and also to name both of them as favorites, but Chelsea Sedoti managed to accomplish that feat! Now, she has a special place on my top 10 authors of all-time! Today, I have the wonderful honor of interviewing Chelsea on the blog! She has written two novels: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett and As You Wish, which just released from Sourcebooks Fire last month! If you want to see why I loved her books so much, you can check out my reviews of As You Wish and The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett here! I hope you enjoy this interview and check out her novels!


About the BookAs You Wish

What if you could ask for anything- and get it?

In the sandy Mojave Desert, Madison is a small town on the road between nothing and nowhere. But Eldon wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, because in Madison, everyone gets one wish—and that wish always comes true.

Some people wish for money, some people wish for love, but Eldon has seen how wishes have broken the people around him. And with the lives of his family and friends in chaos, he’s left with more questions than answers. Can he make their lives better? How can he be happy if the people around him aren’t? And what hope is there for any of them if happiness isn’t an achievable dream? Doubts build, leading Eldon to a more outlandish and scary thought: maybe you can’t wish for happiness…maybe, just maybe, you have to make it for yourself.

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About The Hundred Lies of Lizzie LovettThe Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

Hawthorn wasn’t trying to insert herself into a missing person’s investigation. Or maybe she was. But that’s only because Lizzie Lovett’s disappearance is the one fascinating mystery their sleepy town has ever had. Bad things don’t happen to popular girls like Lizzie Lovett, and Hawthorn is convinced she’ll turn up at any moment-which means the time for speculation is now.

So Hawthorn comes up with her own theory for Lizzie’s disappearance.  A theory way too absurd to take seriously…at first. The more Hawthorn talks, the more she believes. And what better way to collect evidence than to immerse herself in Lizzie’s life? Like getting a job at the diner where Lizzie worked and hanging out with Lizzie’s boyfriend. After all, it’s not as if he killed her-or did he?

Told with a unique voice that is both hilarious and heart-wrenching, Hawthorn’s quest for proof may uncover the greatest truth is within herself.

Goodreads


Chelsea Sedoti Interview

1. Your sophomore novel As You Wish (which is one of the best books I read last year!) just released on January 2nd from Sourcebooks Fire. It takes place in the town of Madison, where everyone gets one wish on his or her 18th birthday, but as he approaches that milestone, Eldon quickly discovers how wishing has drastically affected the lives of those around him. If you had the ability to make one wish, what would it be? Would you even wish at all, knowing the possible consequences?

As I was writing As You Wish, I couldn’t help but ask myself what I would’ve wished for. And the answer is… I don’t know. After months and months of pondering it, I still haven’t managed to think up a wish that feels right (or that wouldn’t have any consequences).

But I know if I would’ve gotten to wish when I was a teenager, I wouldn’t be so hesitant. I probably would’ve wished for something completely ridiculous, like for my curly hair to be straight (but seriously, curly hair is a pain.) So it’s probably good that I didn’t get a wish when I turned eighteen, because it likely would’ve turned out horribly embarrassing.As You Wish

2. Magical realism is not a common genre in YA fiction. What inspired you to infuse the fantastic with the ordinary in As You Wish? Could you describe to us how you built the town of Madison, its inhabitants, and the Wish History?

As You Wish started with a “what if” question from a friend about if wishing were real. Long after the conversation ended, I kept thinking about it, wondering what it would be like if every person got one wish. And then I wondered, what if it wasn’t everyone in the world who got a wish, but only people in one tiny town. What would life be like there?

After that, the town of Madison took shape quickly. I started to wonder about the people who lived there and what they would’ve wished for. I also decided early on that this town would be set in the Mojave Desert, where I live. I’ve seen so many strange things in the desert and that strangeness helped me set the tone of the book.

3. Both your debut novel The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett (which I also loved!) and As You Wish are very character-driven. What were some of the challenges you faced as you focused each story to be more character-driven? How is the writing process different versus writing a plot-driven storyline?

This question is hard to answer, because my writing is always very character-driven. I often joke that I have to remind myself that books, you know, need plots too.

I find people to be fascinating. We’re all so very different from each other. Everyone has unique interests and wants and fears. I love to climb into other people’s heads and try to envision the world the way they see it. So, before I ever begin putting down words in a story, I spend a lot of time day dreaming about the characters, trying to figure out who they are and what the world means to them.

4. Who was your favorite main character to write, Hawthorne or Eldon? Who would you say most resembles you, and who would you take on one of your adventures?

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

Hawthorn and Eldon were so, so different to write—which was intentional. I wanted them to be totally unlike each other, otherwise I knew I’d get bored. In some ways, Hawthorn was more fun to write. She was unpredictable and got herself into such odd situations. I wanted to know what she’d do next. On the other hand, with her being a strange outcast, Hawthorn was a lot like me in high school. Eldon, a popular jock, was fun to write because he’s vastly different from me. I had to work harder to get into his head, and in the end, that might have made me love him a little more.

But I’d still probably choose to take Hawthorn on an adventure with me. I bet she’d be happy to explore abandoned houses and hope something spooky happens. 

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Chelsea Sedoti, YA Author of As You Wish”

Review: The Lairdbalor by Kathleen Kaufman — Creepy and Chilling to the Core

Hi guys! If you ever want to watch a scary movie with me, please be warned that your experience will be full of me screaming, recoiling in terror, or pointing out every single mistake that the characters make in an attempt to lessen the severity of all the scares. Did you know I got scared and couldn’t watch the first scene of the new Ghostbusters movie because I didn’t think I could handle the jump scare? Yeah, that was really bad. But horror novels are different for some reason. When I’m reading a novel, I love to feel the chills down my spine and not want to continue on in fear of something bad happening. That’s why I decided to read and review The Lairdbalor by Kathleen Kaufman and give horror novels a try!


About The LairdbalorThe Lairdbalor

“I am the stuff of your nightmares . . . you have been writing my name on the walls of your fear your entire life.”

When seven-year-old Jamie falls down a very long hill, he finds himself trapped in a world of strange creatures, harsh landscapes, and near-perpetual darkness. Lost and confused, Jamie is desperate to get home. The nightmares, fears, and all manner of what-ifs that inhabit this shadow world are unfamiliar to him–all except one: the Lairdbalor, Jamie’s personal nightmare, once relegated to his dreams. In this fantastical land, however, the Lairdbalor and all the fears and nightmares of children are very real.

But Jamie’s nightmare is different. It is the sum total of the anger and anxiety that imprisoned him in his former life, and it threatens to consume and rule the nightmare realm, a place where time passes differently. With each slumber, Jamie finds himself inexorably changed. The farther he travels through this terrifying world, the better he understands the one he left behind.

Crossing genres of folklore, horror, fantasy, and magical realism, The Lairdbalor is about a child, but it’s not meant for children. It’s a story for anyone who lives with anxiety and fear and has ever wondered “what if” and a darkly imaginative meditation on life, death, fear, and the nature of reality.

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Buy The Lairdbalor today!

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3 Stars

Disclaimer: Thanks so much to Turner Publisher for sending me a free physical copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! This will not affect my review in any other way.

To be honest, I’m not much of a horror person. I cannot watch horror movies, but I can with books (since I can control my imagination, haha). I decided to read and review The Lairdbalor because I wanted to try out the genre. As I concluded Kaufman’s debut novel, I feel a bit torn regarding my feelings towards the story. I enjoyed the spooks and the chills I felt as I traveled with Jamie through the nightmare world, but it got weird and perplexing for me from the midpoint. Although I round down my ratings, The Lairdbalor would actually receive a rating of 3.5 from me since it doesn’t exactly deserve either a 3 or a 4. It’s not that bad of a book, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped to.

Continue reading “Review: The Lairdbalor by Kathleen Kaufman — Creepy and Chilling to the Core”

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.

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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.

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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”

Exclusive Interview with MG Book Village Co-Creator Jarrett Lerner, Author of EngiNerds

Hi guys! I am super excited to share today’s interview because the author I’m inviting today is super awesome and has inspired me to become more involved in the MG community (which is also very amazing). Jarrett Lerner is the author of EngiNerds, a book that is next on my to-buy list once I get out of my current buying ban, and he is also the co-founder of MG Book Village, a site dedicated to promoting and helping out the MG community. Please go check out his debut novel and the Village! We’d love to see new faces in the MG community!


About the AuthorEnginerds

The battle between boys and bots is on in this funny, fast-paced novel.

Ken is an EngiNerd: one of a super-smart group of friends—all nerds—who have been close since kindergarten.

They may be brainiacs, but they’re just like everyone else: they fight with one another, watch too much TV, eat Chinese food, and hate walking their dogs. Well, maybe not just like everyone because Ken’s best friend Dan has been building robots. He then secretly sent one to each of the EngiNerds, never letting them know he’s the mastermind.

At first Ken is awed and delighted: what kid hasn’t dreamed of having a robot all their own? Someone who can be their friend, clean their room, walk the dog, answer homework questions…how amazing is that?

But be careful what you wish for: Dan’s robot, Greeeg, may look innocent, but his ravenous consumption of food—comestibles—turns him into a butt-blasting bot. And once the other robots ‘come alive’ it’s up to the motley crew of EngiNerds to not only save the day, but save the planet!

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Jarrett Lerner Interview

1. Your MG debut novel EngiNerds, which released last year in September, follows Ken and his group of best friends—the EngiNerds—as they fight against farting robots with insatiable appetites. Why do you believe it is important to instill into young readers a love for STEM using literature? How could adults such as teachers and parents help foster a love for math, engineering, and the sciences into their kids?

For a book to be worth writing and reading, I don’t think it has to have a mission beyond the basic, beautiful one of telling a good, gripping story. However, with kids’ books especially, there’s an opportunity to take advantage of a story’s specifics to teach young readers about various things outside of and beyond the book – STEM included.

More important than any one area of focus, though, is the lesson that books can be sources of ideas, inspiration, wisdom, and guidance. To teach a kid (or to provide the opportunities and careful input so that they learn themselves) that they can use a book to get new ideas, to find a new hobby, to gain vicarious experience, to meet people they otherwise wouldn’t, to guide them through a tricky or trying situation, to help them reflect on and reevaluate their behavior and beliefs and relationships – that is of paramount importance.

2. If you could build your dream robot, how would you design it? What would you program it to do?

My dream robot would take care of the two daily tasks that I dislike the most: shaving and cleaning the cat’s little box.

3. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

I fell in love with stories before I fell in love with writing. Really, I’ve always loved them – listening to them and then reading them and then, eventually, telling them, too. Stories are, I believe, the closest things us humans have to actual magic. They can be exciting, entertaining, and enchanting. They can let you see through the eyes of someone whose life you otherwise might not get to know a single thing about. They allow you to experience things – distant lands, made-up lands, moments both painful and triumphant – by simply moving your eyes across a page and using your imagination.

I started making up stories of my own when I was fairly young, first making comic strips and then longer comic books. I also had this big thick notebook that I called my “world notebook,” and in it I’d draw different made-up planets and then list all the crazy creatures and weird plants you could find on it. It was a sort of atlas of my imagination.

Throughout middle school and high school, I always enjoyed my writing assignments, and outside of classes I often took on writing projects by myself or with friends. I wrote some plays and scripts, in large part because my brother, who’s seven years older than me, was obsessed with movies and doing the same. Despite all this, though, it wasn’t until college that I ever realized I could maybe one day become an author. All those years, I’d carried around this assumption that authors were a special sort of person, and that to become one took something that I didn’t, and never would, have. Which is ridiculous, of course. But it took the convincing of friends and professors – and my meeting some authors myself – to believe that.

This is why so much of the work I do outside of my actual writing involves connecting with kids and shining a light on the awesome things they’re creating. I want to demystify the idea of the author/creator. We’re just normal people who love stories and playing around with words – or, in the case of illustrators, who love playing around with colors and lines. Everyone, on some level, is an author, even if the only stories they tell are the ones about themself that, from one day to the next, constitute and further shape their identity. And everyone can, if they put in the work and remain persistent, become an author professionally.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with MG Book Village Co-Creator Jarrett Lerner, Author of EngiNerds”

E-ARC Review: Chasing Eveline by Leslie Hauser

Hi guys! Last Summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview YA debut author Leslie Hauser on her contemporary novel Chasing Eveline, and I am super excited to share with you my review of her debut here! I read it last month when I went Christmas shopping out of town with my family, and I somehow managed to finish it in an entire day! It was just that good! I hope you enjoy this review!


About Chasing Eveline26631470

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.

Goodreads


4 Stars

Disclaimer: Thanks so much to the author for providing me an electronic ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

Chasing Eveline is a heartwarming Young Adult contemporary novel that will inspire you to chase your wildest dreams despite the obstacles that stand in your way. I could not put down this book so much that I finished it in an entire day, which only a few novels can accomplish for me. I loved everything from the characters and the music to the humor and the romance. It’s a very quick and easy-to-read novel, and it will capture your attention from page one! Hauser’s debut novel did not disappoint, refreshing both my love for literature and my love for music.

As a musician who’s life is constantly fueled by my passion for music, I became ecstatic at how the novel revolved around Ivy’s love and connection to Chasing Eveline. I could really relate with her as she attempts to spread the love of her favorite band with her peers, only to face rejection. I definitely know how that feels, especially since I’m one of the only male singers and violinists at my high school and since my taste in music is European oldies (Eurovision from 1998 and before–I know, very specific). Hauser captured Ivy’s connection to music so vividly that I could feel the notes and lyrics swirl around me and enrapture me in its emotion.

Chasing Eveline also tackles family and friend problems in such a raw yet graceful way that I felt my heartstrings being tugged at. There’s so much love in the air that you can’t help but go “Awww…” There is a bit of romance in this novel, and fortunately, it was very clean and the book didn’t solely revolve around it. I really felt the deep and heartfelt emotions that Ivy felt towards her missing mom and her semi-distant dad. I also really loved both Matt and Sean–they were such supportive and caring friends!

This novel put me on the edge of my seat even though it was both light and funny and dark and depressing at different points. There was even a few bits of humor that made my entire day, especially the scene about garage sales. A few months ago, I had to work a yard sale for one of my clubs, and I literally had the same exact experience as Ivy–I tended to overprice everything (I didn’t know you’re supposed to make everything super cheap!) and I had to work with the bargainers. This section may not seem very influential in the plot, but the author tackled having a garage sale very accurately to where I just loved it.

I was not disappointed by Chasing Eveline at all! I am so glad that I had the chance to read this delightful contemporary novel full of love, family, and friendships! This is the perfect novel for music lovers (like me). Chasing Eveline will take you on a roller coaster ride full of emotions, from happiness and humor to sadness and sorrow, as it moves you to chase your dreams and never give up. I am super excited to see what Leslie Hauser has in store next! She’s a debut author you do NOT want to miss!


About the AuthorLHauser author picture_smaller size (1)

I am a YA writer and middle school teacher. I have a B.A. in English from UCLA and a Master’s degree in Educational Administration. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and currently reside in Los Angeles, California, with my dog Mr. Darcy.

When I’m not living in fictional worlds inside my head, I run all sorts of distances, torture my body at CrossFit, and DVR entirely too many television shows. I dream of one day returning to the Midwest to live on a farm. Or perhaps owning a cookie delivery service.

My debut novel CHASING EVELINE releases in 2017 from Pen Name Publishing.

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Order Chasing Eveline today here:

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Chasing Eveline? Do you like YA contemporary?

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

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Duology Double Reviews!: Midnight without a Moon (FC) & A Sky Full of Stars (ARC) by Linda Williams Jackson

Hi guys! Back in October, I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting with Linda Williams Jackson, who is super nice and wonderful, at the Southern Festival of Books, and she got in touch with her publisher to send me review copies of her MG historical fiction novels Midnight without a Moon and A Sky Full of Stars, the latter being released next month! I hope you enjoy these reviews, and please consider buying these books either for you or for a loved one for Christmas! You will NOT regret that decision!


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.

Goodreads


4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free hardcover finished copy of this book from the publisher HMH in exchange for an honest review.

The moment I read the first chapter of this novel, I knew Midnight without a Moon would be spectacular. My heart was actually pounding from the events that unfolded in just the first few pages, and I tore through the pages like lightning. This year, I have found so many middle grade books that pack the punches, and I am so glad to include both novels of the Rose Lee Carter duology on the list! Jackson’s stunning debut truly shows the struggle of being an African American in the 1950s and presents Rose’s story in such a beautiful way that as you turn the last page, you would either be filled with hope or with tears of joy.

Continue reading “Duology Double Reviews!: Midnight without a Moon (FC) & A Sky Full of Stars (ARC) by Linda Williams Jackson”