Exclusive Interview with Heather Kaczynski, YA Sci-Fi Author of Dare Mighty Things!

Hi guys! Today is the last full week of school for me, which is awesome! It’s also mid-terms week for me in two subjects, AP US History and AP English Language, so I’ll be focusing a lot on studying for them. What’s great for me is that I’m doing with most of my concerts, so my entire schedule is slowly easing up to where I can take a good breather on a weekday. You know what that means? More time to read (which I haven’t gotten enough of these past two weeks) and more time to blog! Today I have for you a special interview


About the BookDare Mighty Things

THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.

Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.

Cassie is ready for the toll that the competition will take; the rigorous mental and physical tests designed to push her to the brink of her endurance. But nothing could have prepared her for the bonds she would form with the very people she hopes to beat. Or that with each passing day it would be more and more difficult to ignore the feeling that the true objective of the mission is being kept from her.

As the days until the launch tick down and the stakes rise higher than ever before, only one thing is clear to Cassie: she’ll never back down . . . even if it costs her everything.

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Heather Kaczynski Interview

1. Your debut YA sci-fi novel Dare Mighty Things (which I loved so much) released earlier in October from HarperTeen, and it follows Cassandra Gupta as she contends against the smartest and strongest young adults in the one of the most rigorous competitions to become the youngest astronaut on one of NASA’s classified missions. If you had the credentials and met the requirements to compete in this contest, would you join? What do you think would be your chances of winning, and who would become your allies and enemies?

I honestly don’t think I would! I like it here on Earth, where everything is safe and green and is mostly designed to keep us alive.

When I was younger? Maybe – I was a lot more competitive then. But I’ve been plagued by anxiety most of my life, and fear has kept me from doing a lot. That’s why it was so fun to explore Cassie’s story in fiction – living vicariously through someone who fearlessly goes after what they want was really cathartic for me.

But if I was drafted into a competition like this, I’d be most like Emilio – supporting my friends and just enjoying the ride. I’d stay far away from Hanna, though.

2. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Did you ever surprise yourself as you drafted and revised your book?

I have more of a stepping-stone method – certain plot points I know I want to hit, maybe even the ending, but I don’t usually know how I’m getting there. For DMT, almost every character other than Cassie jumped out of my brain and onto the page fully formed. I didn’t plan any of Cassie’s friends before they came into being.

They were probably the most surprising part of my book – how Emilio and Mitsuko were both just THERE, alive and talking to me. I never knew what was going to come out of their mouths until they spoke. A lot of their dialogue remained unchanged from draft 1.

Dare Mighty Things3. How has living in Huntsville, Alabama—”The Rocket City” and home to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (which is such a fun place to go, by the way)—influenced you as a reader and a writer? Has residing in Huntsville impacted Dare Mighty Things in any way?

I wouldn’t have written this book if I hadn’t grown up in Huntsville. It’s where my interest in space began. I’ve literally driven by a lifesize model of the rocket that took us to the moon twice a day for years. It made me think: here’s a testament to what humankind can do. And yet, this rocket – the whole space race and moon landing – is in our past. It ended years before I was born. It’s a relic of history.

It seemed so odd that we had gone so far and then stopped. That our greatest achievement had happened so long ago. Sci-fi is supposed to happen in the future, not the past. Everyone assumed back then that we’d be on Mars by now. What are we doing now? Are we regressing? Where might we be in the future?

I pondered this in the back of my mind for years. And then DMT was born.

4. Do any of the characters in your novel share similar personality traits with you or anyone you know?

All my characters probably share traits from people I know. I had a “mom friend” in high school who was the mature one and looked out for the rest of us and gave advice – a lot of her became Mitsuko. Another character has my claustrophobia.  Emilio has the part of me that wants to be friends with everyone but is secretly insecure. While writing Cassie, I discovered asexuality as a concept and a lot things made sense in my own personal life. So yeah, a lot of them share traits of my own or bits and pieces of others, just magnified and intensified.

5. With women highly underrepresented in science-related occupations, why do you believe it is important for more young girls to pursue STEM? What are some ways that people can promote the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields as possible career options for young women around the nation?

Oh, I could write a whole book about this. I think Bill Nye summed it up best, so I’ll paraphrase him: “Half our population is female, so half our scientists should be female.”

For a long, long time in our history, everything in science revolved around men. Even now, a lot of our medical training uses men as the default, the basis. We assume whatever is true for men is true for all humans, which is obviously wrong.

That’s why girls are diagnosed less with autism – they often have different symptoms than boys, and we judge them on the same standard. Nobody tells women that heart attack symptoms can be different for them – they only know what symptoms present in men. Men are not the default human specimen. We need different perspectives to prevent both conscious and unconscious bias in science.

When we exclude half the population, we deny so much possibility. Who knows how much faster we might have advanced if we had allowed women to have equal access to knowledge and training for the last two thousand years?

Don’t even get me started on the Mercury 13 – women who would have been candidates for the moon program – some of whom were even more qualified than the actual men who were chosen – but were specifically excluded from consideration.

Some things we can do to help: people who have children or work with children can try to remove biases against girls in science by checking their own biases. People with little girls in your life – buy her STEM toy for her birthday. Ask her what her favorite book is. Involve STEM topics in your everyday life: talk about the chemistry of food and cooking, the engineering of bridges, the physics of how kites fly. Let her play in the mud and get dirty and catch bugs; don’t just tell her how pretty she is. Include girls. Encourage girls. Listen to girls and their ideas. Ask them what ideas they have to solve problems; let them use tools and build things and experiment. Reach out to girls and encourage them to join tech clubs, robotics clubs, computer clubs. Don’t say “I’m so bad at math” or “math is hard” – let them realize it’s okay to be smart and to own it.

Teach boys that girls are smart and their ideas are worthwhile. Don’t discourage them from having “girly” interests. When we denigrate girls and “girlish” interests to boys, it encourages lifelong bias against women and their ideas. Boys who think girls are dumb are going to grow up into men who won’t hire women to work on their computers. It’s an insidious, widescale problem that we’re constantly fighting against.

But the tide is changing. Part of why I wrote DMT was to show a smart girl who knew she was smart and didn’t care what other people thought of her. We need to normalize ambition and intelligence in girls.

6. As 2017 is winding down, how would you describe your debut year? How did you feel when your first book was released into the wild in October?

Tumultuous! So many highs and lows, and so much work – I’m exhausted, and quite ready for a break. J While it’s been a great year, I wouldn’t want to live it again. Balancing the promotion of one book and the writing of its sequel is nuts.

Releasing a book into the wild is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking; you realize people everywhere – your neighbor, your boss, kids from your high school, book reviewers, your grandma – are going to read your words. YOUR WORDS. They might hate them. It doesn’t mean they hate you, but it’s hard to separate out those feelings at first.

And then there is, of course, the ever-present fear of not being “good enough.” Almost as soon as your book comes out, people start to move on and talk about the next big book release. It’s hard on your ego, to be in the spotlight one moment only to have it move on immediately.

But it’s okay. Publishing is a long game. I just try to focus on what I’ve already accomplished, and realize that five years ago, this was still an impossible dream. Feeling like you’re good enough isn’t just going to happen. You have to remind yourself, every day.

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

My parents weren’t readers themselves; I’d never see them read anything more than a magazine in my life, other than when my own book came out.

But they made a point to read to me and my sister from the moment we were born. And they never restricted our reading habits or choice of books (except to make sure we didn’t read at the dinner table – most of the time), so that recipe made for two voracious readers. Writing almost inevitably followed, for both of us. I think when you love reading, and you read enough books, you begin to want to create your own imaginary worlds.

The first story I ever wrote was in second grade. It was about a boy fox and his little sister ditching their elderly babysitter to have adventures. It was called “Mischievous Maxie.” I remember asking the teacher for a dictionary to look up how to spell “mischievous” and she was surprised I knew the word.

I still can’t spell mischievous, but at least now we have spell-check.

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

I think the single greatest influence on my young self and my future writing style was the Animorphs series by K.A. (Katherine) Applegate. Any wonder why I write ensemble casts about teenagers saving the world with spaceships? One guess.

My favorite genres tend to be YA scifi and fantasy, but I also like adult crime mysteries and thrillers. I could never write one, though, since I am absolutely awful at guessing who the murderer is.

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

Writing is a whenever-I-have time job for me right now. I recently went to part time at my day job, but my hours can fluctuate between 25 to 35 hours a week, and I have a 3 year old daughter, which is a job in itself. It makes it kind of impossible to have a set schedule, so I write when I can.

10. Since “What’s your cure for writer’s block?” is asked very frequently, what is one “cure” that did not work for you when you tried it?

I’d say one of the cures I hear about that doesn’t help me much is to “just write through it.” It’s good enough in the sense that writer’s block is more accurately described as “I don’t want to write” or “I don’t know what to write” but for me, I’m usually blocked because I’m on the wrong path. So if I just keep writing through it, I typically end up deleting all of that later on when I realize I’m going in the wrong direction.

It’s still helpful – I still figure out where to go in the end – but I think the best thing, at least for me, is to fix whatever has led up to the block because in all likelihood, if I fix the snag that blocked me, I’ll figure out the right way to go from there.

11. One Giant Leap, the sequel and conclusion of the Dare Mighty Things duology, is set to release in Fall 2018. Without giving away any spoilers for book one, could you give us any secrets or hints as to what we could expect in book two?

I’m afraid anything I say will spoil book one! So, all I will say is that you will see your favorites again – and I’ll give you one hint, which is an epigraph from the beginning of ONE GIANT LEAP:

“Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” -John F. Kennedy

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

Be kind to your fellow writers, be compassionate, read widely, be patient, follow the rules, and learn to be brave!

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


About the Author

Heather writes books for teenagers and other people who like books about teenagers. They’re usually about teenagers saving the world, because she really believes they can.
Heather never got to go to Space Camp, so she had to settle for writing about it. After graduating cum laude with a degree in biology from University of Alabama in Huntsville, she returned to her first love of books, and now works in a library near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. She lives with her husband, their daughter, and cats named after mythological figures. She’s not nearly brave enough to go into space, but she did twirl a fire baton in high school.

She’s represented by Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Dare Mighty Things? Do you like YA sci-fi?

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

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Exclusive Interview with 2018 YA Debut Author Lyndsay Ely about Gunslinger Girl

Hi guys! Today I am having my first every 2018 debut author on the blog, and I know I’m going to have many more here soon! Before we start, I just wanted to say that right now I am super busy with everything from school to extracurriculars to music performances, so blogging has honestly not been as much of a priority as it was before. Believe me, views in November have dropped so much because I did not much time to share posts. But to all of you that still read and enjoy our posts, thank YOU so much. It means a lot that you all are our loyal followers and viewers, and we look forward to presenting many exciting interviews, reviews, guest posts, and more exclusive segments! Today, I am so glad to be interviewing Lyndsay Ely, author of Gunslinger Girl, which releases next month! I hope you enjoy this, and please support Lyndsay by pre-ordering her book!


About the BookGunslinger Girl

James Patterson presents a bold new heroine–a cross between Katniss Everdeen and Annie Oakley: Serendipity Jones, the fastest sharpshooter in tomorrow’s West.

Seventeen-year-old Serendipity “Pity” Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She’s been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great….
In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity’s struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.

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Gunslinger Girl is releasing from Little, Brown & Co. on January 2nd, 2018.


Lyndsay Ely Interview1. Your debut YA novel Gunslinger Girl is slated to release from Little, Brown and Company on January 2nd, 2018, and it follows Serendipity “Pity” Jones as she lives in a dystopian Wild West after the Second Civil War. How would you describe the world-building process you used for the creation of Cessation and a lawless, futuristic Wild West?

This is a hard question. How we tend to picture the Wild West is based on a romanticized Hollywood version of it. Which isn’t to say I didn’t draw from that, along with other fictional inspirations, but I was also inspired by plenty of real life things, like Wild West shows and Reconstructionism. As to Cessation, I basically pictured a gritty, lawless mash-up of Deadwood and the Las Vegas strip.

2. Were there any wild west or dystopian literature, movies, TV shows, etc. that influenced Gunslinger Girl? If so, what were they and how did they impact the novel?

Oh, lots. Deadwood, Firefly, Hell on Wheels, Brisco County Jr., The Quick & the Dead (1995), The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, The Hunger Games, Preacher, Transmetropolitan…the list goes on. I wouldn’t say there was any one main influence. Every source listed had a little (or a lot) of something that I loved—a setting, a character, a tone—and some of those things worked their way into Gunslinger Girl.Gunslinger Girl

3. How does it feel knowing that James Patterson is presenting your book?

I feel very honored! I remember reading the acquisition announcement for Kerri Maniscalco’s Stalking Jack the Ripper and thinking how great it sounded—it really stuck in my head. When I got the offer from Jimmy Patterson months later and realized it was the same imprint, I was over the moon knowing that it was coming from a team with a similar taste in books.

4. If you lived out in the wild west during the frontier days, what do you see yourself as? Would you want to be a sharpshooter like Pity?

In fifth grade we did a colonial fair (or something like that) where we all had to pick a profession from olden times—like a blacksmith, etc. I wanted to be an herbalist. My teacher was a little weirded out, but he let me do it. So that’s who I’d probably be—the apothecary with a shop full of herbs and tinctures and balms for curing all manner of ailments.

5. Your bio says that one of your favorite hobbies is antiquing. What has been your favorite antique store that you have visited, and what is the most prized or valuable item you have found and bought?

My favorite antique store is the Vermont Antique Mall in Queechee, VT. My late grandparents lived in the area, and I’d go there pretty much every time I visited. (It doesn’t hurt that they have the Cabot cheese tasting room there too—free cheese, woot!)

I’ve found more amazing things than I can remember over the years, but a favorite is one of my first pieces: a medieval knight’s helmet that opens to reveal a mini bar with a bottle and glasses. I think I was fifteen or sixteen when I got it, and it’s been a great conversation piece ever since!

6. Since 2018 is approaching very soon, how does it feel like knowing that your first novel is going to be published in just a few weeks? What are you most looking forward to as a debut author next year?Lyndsay Ely

I’ve had some friends have books come out already, and it never gets old being able to walk into a bookstore and find their book on the shelves. So that’s what I’m most looking forward to. Other than that, it’s a little scary. There’s a part of me that still doesn’t quite believe that this is a thing that is happening!

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

I can’t really remember a time I didn’t like to read. At some point—I can’t quite remember when—I decided I wanted to tell stories too. I wrote and illustrated my first picture book in sixth grade, but it would be a couple decades more before I finished my first full novel draft. (I took a long detour through visual art; I wanted to be a comic book artist!)

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

I’ve always been very drawn to fantasy and adventure stories. Some of the books that influenced my tastes when I was younger were the Chronicles of Narnia, the Nancy Drew mysteries, and the Young Wizards series. I also read a lot of comic books, both then and now. I tend to be more influenced by individual stories than authors, but some names that jump to mind are Alexandre Dumas, Diane Duane, Warren Ellis, Stephen King, Scarlett Thomas, and Terry Moore.

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

Writing feels like a full-time job, because it’s rare for more than a few hours to go by without at least thinking about a plot or a character. But my real full-time job is as a marketing graphic designer at a publishing company. My life is books 24/7!

10. Because “What’s your cure for writer’s block?” is asked very frequently, what is one “cure” that did not work for you when you tried it?

I don’t have any “cures” that don’t work because the one I use always seems to work: taking a shower. I swear there’s something about thinking through a problem in the white noise of the water that works more often than not.

11. What could we expect from you in the future? Are there any secrets you would like to share about your upcoming works?

I don’t have much in the way of secrets, but my gateway genre was fantasy, so I’d really like to do something there.

12. Before you go, do you have any advice or words of wisdom you could share to any aspiring authors or writers?

Be persistent. Find a good critique partner or group. Be open to criticism, even when it hurts. Do your research (for your writing, for the agents you query, etc). And don’t worry if success doesn’t come quickly—there’s no time limit on it!


About the AuthorLyndsay Ely

Lyndsay Ely is a writer and creative professional who currently calls Boston home. She is a geek and a foodie,  and has never met an antique shop she didn’t like. Her favorite color is crimson, and her favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo.

Gunslinger Girl is her debut novel.

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Gunslinger Girl is available for pre-order from IndieboundAmazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, or through your local bookstore.


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Are you excited for Gunslinger Girl? Do you like YA dystopian novels?

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

Email | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Bloglovin

 

 

November Reading Re-Cap!

Hi guys! Can you believe it’s December already? I’m already so surprised that this year has flown by so much! Yesterday I auditioned for the All State Honor Choirs (hopefully I made it–I already know but I’m writing this the day before, haha), and in just a few hours I am going to perform as the concertmaster for my county’s arts council’s concert of Handel’s Messiah, and I’m very looking forward to it! I also have a reading re-cap for you today, and I hope you enjoy this!

November


5 Stars

A Sky Full of Stars by Linda Williams Jackson

A Sky Full of Stars

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Continue reading “November Reading Re-Cap!”

Exclusive Interview with Sandhya Menon, NY Times Bestselling YA Author of When Dimple Met Rishi!

Hi guys! This weekend is a very special weekend for me: Tomorrow I have my All State auditions and on Sunday I will be the Concertmaster for my community’s 50th Handel’s Messiah concert! (So your prayers would be greatly appreciated!)

Today, I am having a New York Times bestselling author who I met all the way back in May at her signing in Nashville, and a few weeks ago I posted a review of her debut YA novel When Dimple Met Rishi (which you can find here). I am SOOO excited to have Sandhya Menon with us on the blog today, and I hope you enjoy our exclusive interview!


About When Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Goodreads


Sandhya

1. I am a huge fan of your YA contemporary romance debut novel When Dimple Met Rishi, which follows Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel, two completely opposite teenagers who have been set into an arranged marriage by their parents and meet for the first time at the same summer program. Would you consider yourself to be more like Dimple or Rishi? What parallels do you see between you and the protagonists?

I am definitely a combination of both! I’m fiercely feminist like Dimple, but I’m a soft romantic artist like Rishi. I love so many traditions of my Indian heritage while also realizing we have a long way to go with feminism!

2. How would you describe your love for Bollywood film? If you and I were to go have a Bollywood movie marathon, what would we watch and snack on? (You can let your inner fangirl take over. 😉)

Ahhh, the Bollywood question! I love so many Bollywood movies. I’d probably treat you to Queen first, then Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, and then the classic from the 90s—Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.

3. You moved with your family from India to the United States when you were a teen, so did your experiences as you transitioned from one culture to another influence both you as a writer and the formation of When Dimple Met Rishi? How was it like trying to acclimate from the Indian way of life you grew up in as a child to the American lifestyle you first encountered?Sandhya Menon

Absolutely. I feel like When Dimple Met Rishi was a kernel inside me, waiting to be set free. Acclimating to the US as a fifteen-year-old Indian girl was terrifying! I felt like I was always two steps behind, and that people were constantly viewing me with either suspicion or comical bafflement. On the other hand, it helped me grow up so fast and I learned to find that solid core inside myself. I learned who I was earlier than people generally do, I think, and I’m so grateful for that.

4. Dimple and Rishi (along with many of the other characters in this novel) defy various Indian stereotypes. Why do you believe it is important to accurately portray racially diverse characters and their struggles, even among people of their own ethnicities?

I think the idea of a monolith of any culture is a farce. There’s no one Indian experience, just like I’m sure there’s no one Black/disabled/Latinx experience. We’re all products of the individual moments that make up our life, and that’s what I wanted to show. I feel portraying real people, fully fleshed out and living their lives, makes marginalized characters so much more relatable to people outside of that marginalization, something I feel we desperately need in this political climate in the US and around the world. And a big bonus is that it helps people who’ve never seen themselves as main characters in a novel before experience that, which can be incredibly powerful.

5. My favorite scene in the entire book (and I was laughing so hard from reading it) was when Rishi approached Dimple for the first time and said, “Hello, future wife. I can’t wait to get started on the rest of our lives,” and immediately afterwards Dimple threw her iced coffee at him and ran away. What was your favorite scene in the entire book, and which scene was the hardest to write?

Haha, thank you! I loved that scene, too—it’s definitely one of my top five! I’d say my #1 favorite scene is the non-date that—spoiler alert—turns into a date. 😊

The scene that was hardest to write was the one toward the end when Dimple begins to question everything and ultimately makes some decisions that make her and Rishi very sad. I don’t want to give too much away, but it was heart-wrenching to write that part.

6. Do you share Dimple’s love of iced coffee, and if so, where is the best place in the entire world to grab a cup to drink?When Dimple Met Rishi

Yes! I love my Starbucks caramel fraps. I also really loved Peet’s on the West coast!

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

I love writing because I love people’s stories. I’ve always been fascinated by how we think, feel, and love. I began writing as soon as I learned to string sentences together for school

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

I tend to read pretty widely, so I have quite a few! I absolutely love romance, especially romance with comedic elements, and I’m a huge Sophie Kinsella fan girl. I also really enjoy horror, and have loved novels by Shirley Jackson and Stephen King. Other writers I love and have influenced me in some way: Kate Chopin, Arundhati Roy, Khalil Gibran, Jenny Han, and Stephanie Perkins, to name a few.

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

Writing is now a full-time job, for which I am so grateful! When I’m not writing, I love spending time with my family and my dog, going on hikes, gazing at the mountains, playing board games or video games (point-and-click adventures are my fave), and reading.

10. As 2017 is slowly winding down, how would you describe your debut year as an author? Could you describe your feelings when When Dimple Met Rishi received a widespread positive reception and made it onto the New York Times bestseller list?

It’s been so mind-blowingly incredible! Sometimes I still can’t believe that this rom-com about an arranged marriage between two Indian-American teens got so much reader love. I’m so humbled and grateful for all the readers who’ve reached out to me (like you, Kester)!

11. Your next two novels From Twinkle, With Love and When Ashish Met Sweetie (the companion novel to When Dimple Met Rishi) are slated to release in the summers of 2018 and 2019, respectively. Could you give us any hints or secrets on what we could expect in each of them?

From Twinkle, With LoveYes! I’m so excited because From Twinkle, With Love is written entirely in diary entry/email/blog format. It was my first time writing an epistolary novel, and I’m eager to see what readers think. Get ready for girl friendships and girl power, questions about creating art and finding your voice, and angst about what to do when you fall in love with the wrong person.

And in Ashish’s story, we’ll get to see our fave cocky jock Ashish fall in love with a girl, Sweetie, who’s completely different from him. We’ll see him being vulnerable, there’ll be some big conversations about what it means to be fat (and how that’s not a bad word), and a lot of heartwarming friendships.

12. Before you go, would you like to share any words of wisdom to aspiring authors?

Never give up…but also give up!

Let me explain: If you feel like you should stop writing because the words aren’t coming out right or it’s really hard to get published or the world doesn’t really want to hear your story—don’t give up.

But if you’ve been working on the same book for years, you feel like you’ve outgrown the story, or just really aren’t feeling it anymore—don’t be afraid to start something new. Listen to your creative instincts, and keep on keeping on!

Thanks so much, Sandhya, for doing this interview! I’m so glad to finally have you on the blog!


About the AuthorSandhya Menon

My name is Sandhya Menon, and I’m a New York Times and national indie bestselling author. I write books for teens (and those who still feel like teens inside!). I currently live in Colorado, where I’m on a mission to (gently) coerce my husband, son, and daughter to watch all 3,221 Bollywood movies I claim as my favorite. Also, I love my pets a little too much, as you can probably tell.

My YA contemporary novel WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI is out now. Buy here or add it on Goodreads if you like!

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read When Dimple Met Rishi? Do you like YA contemporary novels?

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

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Double Mini-Reviews of Two New Contemporary Favorites!: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett & When Dimple Met Rishi

Hi guys! Happy Friday!! YA Contemporary is one of my favorite genres, and I love it so much because it is very easy to relate with the characters’ modern struggles. Today I am reviewing two novels–The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti and When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon–which I read earlier this summer and loved really much! I hope you these reviews and love the books as much as I did!


About The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett25546710

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


A 5 Star

I seriously love this book. It definitely is going to be one of my favorite reads of 2017 because it was so beautiful! I just could not put it down. I can see why so many people raved about this when it released at the beginning of the year! It’s just that amazing! Sedoti has an amazing gift for crafting a main character’s voice and making it unique, flawed, and realistic. I loved the storyline and I could relate so much to Hawthorne’s inner emotions and feelings. Chelsea Sedoti is definitely an author I am going to keep track of, especially with As You Wish coming out in January of next year.

This book is a new favorite because of one word: Hawthorn. Hawthorn is pretty much the whole reason why I love this book. She is one of the most relatable characters for me ever. I was frequently on the verge of tears because I knew her feelings of not belonging, of not being understood, of having a different viewpoint of the world. Although I didn’t go through the trials like she did, she was so easy to connect to. Her voice was so unique and so deep and so emotional that I want to be her friend. We both connect so well, and that’s why she’s one of my favorite narrators!

As it progressed, especially more towards the 2/3 mark of the book, it lost its original spark. I got just a bit bored and a bit confused at what was going on, but I still loved the story. It’s just like a pristine white cloth: There’s that one small stain that you could never remove. Regardless, it is still one you will always use! This book will still hold a dear place in my heart because of Hawthorn’s unique personality and voice. The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett is such a memorable novel that will still with you for a while.


About When Dimple Met Rishi28458598

A New York Times bestseller

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Goodreads


Oh my goodness, this was such an amazingly cute read! It literally broke the record for the most times I laughed in a book. I wasn’t even 25% done and I laughed really hard 5 times! This is definitely one of the best romances I have ever read, possibly even the best! I really couldn’t put it down because it was just really good. I had the pleasure of meeting Sandhya in person at her signing in Nashville, and I am so glad I got to meet her because she blew me away with this book. This needs to be a movie! I see so many scenes play out as actual movie scenes! I would definitely watch it 10 times!

This book is a new favorite because of the romance! Menon cleverly combined humor, stereotype-defying characters, and slow-burn romance to create one of the most unforgettable development of one of the cutest OTPs in YA fiction. What got me was the scene where Dimple threw her iced coffee at Rishi (who was joking) when he just suddenly came up to her and said, “Hey future wife, I can’t wait to love you forever.” (Not exact words, but you get the point.) I laughed so hard. Seriously, it’s just that amazing. Sandhya Menon is an author that I’m going to be keeping track of now (which means that I need an ARC of From Twinkle, With Love soon!)

Now, I did lose a little interest as the book headed into the middle and the end. Once it got into parts where other romances came into play (I cannot spoil who likes who) it got a bit confusing for me. But you all know that feeling. It’s like watching a movie that super amazing and of course you’ll lose a bit of that spark as you go on. Still regardless, When Dimple Met Rishi is a book that I will recommend to anyone! It will make you laugh, cry, and go “aww”- the perfect combination for the perfect rom-com!


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Do you have any thoughts or questions?

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

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E-ARC Review: The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis

Hi guys! Today is the first post of November (it’s November already?) and to start off the month, I am reviewing The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis. A month ago, I found out that Dave is going to be at the SE-YA Book Fest next year, and when I found out that he is a local author from Chattanooga and his book was up for download on Edelweiss, I had to read his debut. The Temptation of Adam is releasing in less than three weeks on the 21st, so read my review if you want to know why you should read it!


About the Book34138283

Adam Hawthorne is fine.

Yeah, his mother left, his older sister went with her, and his dad would rather read Nicholas Sparks novels than talk to him. And yeah, he spends his nights watching self-curated porn video playlists.

But Adam is fine.

When a family friend discovers Adam’s porn addiction, he’s forced to join an addiction support group: the self-proclaimed Knights of Vice. He goes because he has to, but the honesty of the Knights starts to slip past his defenses. Combine that with his sister’s out-of-the-blue return and the attention of a girl he meets in an AA meeting, and all the work Adam has put into being fine begins to unravel.

Now Adam has to face the causes and effects of his addiction, before he loses his new friends, his prodigal sister, and his almost semi-sort-of girlfriend.

The Temptation of Adam is releasing from Sky Pony Press on November 21st!

Goodreads


4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic ARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss. This will not affect my review in any way.

The Temptation of Adam certainly lives up to its hype. It’s such a raw and emotional book that I felt like I was Adam’s sole confidante, the only one who knows his thoughts and challenges and the only one who can comfort and console him. Not only is this book going to change the way how you view those grappling with addictions, but it will also inspire YOU to never give up in your trials. The message behind the novel is so powerful that it gives those struggling in the darkness a glimmer of light. This novel is one of those books that has the power to change lives.

The trials that Adam went through to overcome his addiction and complete his mission for Mr. Cratcher felt very real and authentic. I could not only sense Adam’s raw emotion but I also connected with him so easily on many levels. He is one those characters that you could relate and sympathize with his struggles, regardless of the challenges you’re currently facing.  I fell in love with Adam so much that I rooted for him on his path to conquering his cravings for porn and winced whenever he relapsed. I just wanted to reach out to him many times and tell him that everything is going to be alright. His journey from pornography to purity is inspiring! As Adam changed throughout the novel, I felt myself abounding in more hope than I did before. Stories about overcoming vices are very uncommon and hard to pull off, yet the author managed to accomplish this amazing feat.

Connis also creates a lovable cast of characters that you just want to root for, too! The Knights of Vice truly defies the “addict stereotype,” in which addicts are portrayed negatively as having no lives and no desire to rehabilitate. The author challenges this by realistically depicting each character–Adam, Dez, Trey, Eliot–as an actual human being with fears, hopes, dreams, and desires to overcome their temptations. Connis shows you that anyone around you could be struggling with a vice, even in your own house, yet you must show that person love, compassion, and support in each step of the way. The Knights of Vice is one of those groups of fictional friends that I wish existed in real life so I could meet them! I definitely fell in love with them all plus Addy, Mr. Cratcher, and Adam’s Dad (who’s a publisher/literary agent/editor, whichever one it is!!!) from page one.

Now, I had really high expectations with this book (because of all the raving reviews), yet sadly I was not as emotionally invested into the book as I hoped to. The plot for me felt a little “loose” and not too cohesive at times, and the humor didn’t appeal to me as much. It may not have clicked with me 100%, but this is a book I will definitely recommend to fans of YA contemporary novels. This is a book that has the potential to change readers’ lives, and I don’t say that with many books frequently. I am definitely going to be looking forward to Dave Connis at the SE-YA Book Fest next year!


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Are you excited about The Temptation of Adam? What are your thoughts on the book?

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

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Deanna Cabinian, YA Author of One Night, Chats about Writing from a Guy’s Perspective as a Female Author

Hi guys! Tomorrow is Halloween! Instead of going trick-or-treating or scaring trick-or-treaters, I’m hoping to be curled in bed reading a good book (unless I have a lot of homework tomorrow which I hope not). Today, I have a very special guest post for you! Deanna Cabinian, author of her debut YA contemporary novel One Night, is here to give insight into how a female author can write a story from a guy’s perspective. I hope you enjoy!


About One Night30306706

Breakups are the worst.

Thompson is miserable.

Can he get Caroline back?

With his mind on HER, his life takes an unexpected turn. Elvis gives him a job. He knows nothing about the world of celebrity impersonators, but he does know social media.

And so starts his adventure…where will it take him?

Will he find his true love?

Paper Towns meets The Way Way Back in this contemporary YA novel about first love and friendship set to the beat of Elvis Presley’s music.

Goodreads

 

Amazon

To read a free preview, sign up here.


Deanna Cabinian

Writing from a Guy’s Perspective as a Female Author

When I first started writing all the lead characters in my novels were female and they all kind of looked, sounded, and acted like me. They shared my interests (writing, tennis, and pop music), they were around my age, and they lived in the Chicago suburbs. For one reason or other none of those novels was a success—they all had major problems and I think one of them was that I kept making the main characters exactly like me. When I started writing from the viewpoint of the opposite gender, though, that’s when things started to click.

My tips for writing from a male point of view as a female author:

1. Read books written by male authors that have a lead character who is male. Make a note of what the characters talk about—and what they don’t. What do they notice? What do they ignore completely when going about their day? What do they worry about? What vocabulary do they use?

2. Pay attention to how males you interact with talk and what they talk about. I am constantly watching people and making mental notes on the things they say and do. A lot of the time I take actual notes, either on my phone or on paper. For example, I have a document on my phone called “funny stuff my husband says.” I also have documents called “weird stuff heard on the train” and “conversations that could be novels.” I always make sure to have a pen and paper when I leave the house to take notes on, too.

303067063. Get a second opinion in the form of a male beta reader or editor. The editor for my YA novel, One Night, was male and he was great at pointing out flaws in my manuscript. There is a scene in One Night where Thompson, the main character, notices a pretty girl in a dress. In the original draft of the manuscript she is described as wearing a spaghetti-strapped dress. I remember so clearly my editor’s note in tracked changes: a heterosexual male does not know what a spaghetti strap is. You could say thin straps or even better, just say “a dress.” That moment was eye-opening for me. Now when I edit scenes that are written from a guy’s point of view my second thought is, would he even notice that?

4. Be careful not to stereotype. As you write think about the males you know. Do all of them like sports and action movies? Probably not. Remember that everyone is an individual with their own unique interests. Try to reflect that in your writing whenever possible.

Hopefully you find these tips helpful. If you have any pointers of your own I’d love to hear them in the comments.


About the AuthorDeanna

Deanna Cabinian is a marketing director who lives in the Midwest, but dreams of living by the ocean. When she isn’t working or writing she enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband and their Havanese dog, Cuba. She is the author of the contemporary young adult novels One Night and the forthcoming One Love.

Connect with Deanna online:

www.deannacabinian.com

On Twitter: @DeannaCabinian


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Do you love YA contemporary novels? What are your thoughts on Deanna’s tips for writing from a guy’s perspective as a female author?

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

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Dear Martin Blog Tour: Exclusive Interview with Nic Stone + Giveaway!

Hi guys! This past weekend, I attended the Southern Festival of Books and met some amazing authors! I’m planning on posting some pictures here on the blog soon, but today I am so excited to be kicking off the blog tour for Dear Martin by Nic Stone, which releases TOMORROW! Go get her book, and check out her lovely interview here below!

DEAR MARTIN


About the Book:DEAR MARTIN_05.03.17

Title: DEAR MARTIN

Author: Nic Stone

Pub. Date: October 17, 2017

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 224

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook

Find it: AmazonAudibleB&NiBooksTBDGoodreads

Synopsis: Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.

Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.


Nic Stone1. Your debut novel Dear Martin tackles the racism that many African-Americans face today, and it releases tomorrow October 17th from Crown Books! What compelled you to write Dear Martin? Did you use any of your own or others’ experiences to construct the story’s plot, characters, setting, etc.?

So Dear Martin is really the outflow of my needing to get a better handle on American Race Relations in the 21st century. I have two little boys, and after seeing so many unarmed African Americans killed over the past five years or so—often by police officers—I really wanted to examine… how we got here, I guess. I also kept seeing quotes from the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. misappropriated and used in opposition to the type of protests and marches he championed during the Civil Rights Movement of the mid 20th century, so that made me wonder: what would Dr. King say and do were he alive now? Thus, Dear Martin was born. And yes: most of the novel is based on actual events, whether from my own life or the lives of people I know, and even some things pulled (and remixed a bit for the sake of respecting victims) from the news. Hopefully the fact that people will recognize some of the novel’s elements will make it that much more compelling.

Continue reading “Dear Martin Blog Tour: Exclusive Interview with Nic Stone + Giveaway!”

Exclusive Interview with YA Historical Fiction Author Gwen C. Katz on Among the Red Stars

Hi guys! Today’s interview is the first one I have done is a while, but don’t worry- we’ll have some more amazing authors and fellow book lovers talk about their novels and other literature-related topics! Earlier in September, I had the wonderful opportunity to ask YA historical fiction author Gwen C. Katz a few questions about her debut Among the Red Stars, which I want to read so much because it’s set in World War II! I wasn’t able to get it posted last month, but I’m so glad I have the opportunity now to do so. I hope you enjoy!


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.


Gwen C. Katz

1. Your debut YA historical fiction novel Among the Red Stars, which released last week on October 3rd from HarperTeen, follows the story of Valka as she joins the Night Witches, one of the Soviet Union’s all-female aviation groups. How much research did you have to do to make your book as historically accurate as possible? What are some of the most surprising facts that you have stumbled upon?

I think what surprised me the most was just getting a full sense of how narrow our traditional view of World War II is. The vast majority of American media is about white men from either America or Britain. We saw that this summer in Dunkirk. They ignored Britain’s South Asian soldiers; they ignored the nurses, both of whom were present in large numbers. But the war was much bigger than that. China, for instance, lost 20 million people, but when are we going to get a movie about heroic Chinese soldiers?

IMG_45302. World War II historical fiction is one of my favorite genres! What inspired you to set your book in that time period? How did you find out about the Night Witches?

I found out about the Night Witches from my father-in-law. He’s a big World War I aviation buff and one time when we were playing Wings of War, I asked him if any female pilots had flown in World War I and he told me that Russia had female pilots. Naturally I had to go look them up, and I learned about their much more famous WWII counterparts. The rest, as they say, is history.

3. What was your character-building process for creating the three main protagonists—Valka, Iskra, and Pasha? Did you reflect any of their personality traits off you or anyone you know?

Valka’s attitude is definitely based on me! A lot of pilot/navigator pairs had this “odd couple” dynamic where the pilot was the daring one and the navigator was the sensible one. So that’s where Valka and Iskra came from. As for Pasha, I think YA really needs more boys who are quiet and gentle and not traditionally masculine. I’m very interested in all the men and boys who went to war who weren’t badass action heroes. What happened to them?

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with YA Historical Fiction Author Gwen C. Katz on Among the Red Stars”

E-ARC Review: Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles

Hi guys! Lately, I’ve been less active because school has been super hectic for me. I just got done with midterms today, and finally Fall Break has arrived! Woo hoo! Also, the Halloween season has rolled in. You can tell since our Twitter name is Lil-BOO-klovers for the month. So to kick-off all the spooky festivities, I’m celebrating with a review of a creepy dystopian retelling of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland! It’s the perfect Halloween read! 


About the Book34429428

**Readers’ Favorite Five Star Review Recipient**

“Always protect your queen.”

Ever since the outbreak of the Plague, life hasn’t been easy, and for seventeen-year-old Alice Carroll, it just got worse. Her sister, Dinah, has contracted the ‘un-deadly’ Momerath Virus and without a cure, will soon be worse than dead. She’ll be momerath.

Alice must leave the safety of the Sector and venture into Momerath Territory to find the antidote – if it exists. Chasing a rumor about a mysterious doctor with the cure, Alice falls down the rabbit hole into Wanderland, where ravenous momerath aren’t the only danger lurking.

Goodreads


Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC of this book in exchange for a review. This will not affect my review in any way.

This book definitely surprised me in many ways! Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles is one of the most unique retellings I have ever read! If you know me, I love me a good zombie novel, and this definitely made the cut! The Wanderland Chronicles is Alice in Wonderland meets World War Z, rich with fascinating backstory and references. I could not put it down at times because I was literally on the edge of my seat! I ate most of this up in a single day because it was that good. It was such a roller coaster of a novel, giving me thrills, chills, and surprises. 

Continue reading “E-ARC Review: Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles”