Exclusive Interview with Jake Burt, MG Author of Greetings from Witness Protection!

Hi guys! In exactly one month, I am going to be off to Washington, D.C., with my choir, and I am super stoked about it! I have always wanted to visit our nation’s capital, and I am super blessed that I have this opportunity to go there along with my fantastic choir that I have definitely bonded so much with over the last few months. Speaking of the government (haha, Kester, good/cheesy segue), today I am having Jake Burt, author of Greetings from Witness Protection! on the blog in this exclusive interview, and I am so excited to have him because if you had read my review of his debut, you’ll know why I loved it so much. I hope you enjoy this interview!


About Greetings from Witness Protection!Greetings 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


 

Jake Burt Interview

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

First off, thanks for hosting me, Kester, and for all you do to support MG and YA literature! To answer your question, I fell in love with stories first. My dad used to read aloud to my brothers and me every night – stuff like The Hobbit and excerpts from Mark Twain’s Roughing It. It was easily the highlight of my day. Then, when I was in grade school, I discovered that I could create my own stories. I had a string of really good teachers who encouraged me (or, rather, at least tolerated my nascent attempts at authorship), and that allowed me to develop a love for the written word.

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

Books: The Hobbit. Le Morte D’Arthur. James and the Giant Peach. The Last Unicorn. Charlotte’s Web. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Snow Crash. Are You My Mother? The Golden Compass. Faeries. Tuck Everlasting.

Genres: Fantasy. Sci-Fi. Choose-Your-Own-Adventure.

Authors: Tolkien. Malory. Dahl. Pullman. Basically anyone who wrote one of the above books. I’ve also got a special place in my heart for the authors of the books I devoured when I was a kid – sprawling Dungeons and Dragons fantasy novels by R.A. Salvatore; Lone Wolf game books by Joe Dever; sci-fi short stories by Bradbury, Vonnegut, et al. Given all that, you’d think I’d be churning out middle grade fantasy novels, right? I thought so, too. And yet, here I am with MG contemporary…and I couldn’t be happier with the stories I’m telling so far. As far as the writers who had the greatest impact on me and my writing style, though? If I’m being honest with myself, it’s probably TV writers – those behind-the-scenes authors of dialogue I’ve found particularly memorable, of scenes that have stuck with me long after the show is done. It’s often teams of people, so I don’t know precisely who to credit, but I can name characters on shows about whom I think, “I want my MC to talk like that,” far more than passages in books about which I think, “I want to write like that!” (not that I’d turn down having my descriptions compared to E.B. White’s, or anything…)

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

I’m not sure if I’d describe writing as a job. It’s more like a passion. And lest that come across too tritely, I’m talking about the “If I don’t write this story down and get it out of my head, I’m never going to stop obsessing about it” kind of passion, rather than the “The heavens are my muse, inspiring me to the glory that is” sort. Writing IS work, of course, and often times it’s hard work. It just never feels that way to me, because it’s never monotonous. The same goes for my day job – teaching 5th grade. I love both of them, and for similar reasons: they’re nothing like the hardest job I’ve ever had. That dubious honor goes to working a hydraulic press in a gasket factory one summer in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was hard for me because it was repetition. The sameness of it about drove me mad; I have incredible respect for people who can manage it. I couldn’t, so I’ve spent most of my life engaged with careers that allow me to be as intensely creative as I can be. Writing and teaching provide those opportunities.Greetings from Witness Protection!

4. Your debut novel Greetings from Witness Protection!, which released last year, follows Nicki Demere as she joins the Witness Protection Program’s Project Family and adopts a new identity to help protect the Trevor family from those seeking to kill them. How did you research and learn more about WITSEC as you conceived your story? How did you figure out how to portray WITSEC for middle grade readers without sacrificing a thrilling story to avoid anything too “graphic” or “adult?”

I did what research I could on WITSEC, but as you can imagine, there’s not much to go on. It’s not like people in witness protection are lining up to let an author of middle grade fiction interview them about their experiences. I did access the US Marshalls’ website, Google Earth’ed the facility in Glynco, and read whatever accounts I could get my hands on, but much of what I did in portraying WITSEC and the witness protection program was fashioned after how it has been portrayed in other books, movies, and television shows. I figured if I couldn’t get at the truth about WITSEC (and that I couldn’t is decidedly a good thing!), then I could at least portray a version of it that was consistent with the rest of the body of fiction. As far as keeping it kid-friendly? I don’t necessarily know that I did. I hoped that my readers would be able to handle what I put my characters through, and as long as I was honest about the emotions behind it – Nicki’s desire to be part of something, Jackson’s anger, Brit’s trepidation – then it would read true for them. Those are real for kids, and I trusted that they’d relate. This sentiment was explored beautifully by Matt de la Pena in TIME recently, and both his essay and Kate DiCamillo’s response are modern-day required reading for MG authors, as far as I’m concerned. Check them out here: http://time.com/5093669/why-we-shouldnt-shield-children-from-darkness/

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Jake Burt, MG Author of Greetings from Witness Protection!”

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Review: Lucky Few by Kathryn Ormsbee

Hi guys! Back in March, I had the lovely opportunity to meet Kathryn Ormsbee at the SE-YA Book Festival, and she is also a local Tennessee author living in Nashville (one of my favorite cities in the world). I was able to interview her here on the blog (which you can find here), and today I have the chance to review her debut YA novel Lucky Few! I hope you enjoy!


About the Book-2

Stevie, Max, and Sanger: keeping Austin weird.

Stevie Hart is homeschooled, but don’t hold that against her. Sure, she and her best (okay, only) friend, Sanger, will never be prom queens, but that’s just because the Central Austin Homeschool Cooperative doesn’t believe in proms. Or dancing. Still, Stevie and Sanger know how to create their own brand of fun.

Enter Max Garza, the new boy next door. After a near-fatal accident, Max is determined to defy mortality with a checklist: 23 Ways to Fake My Death Without Dying. Dead set on carrying out fabricated demises ranging from impalement to spontaneous combustion, Max charms Stevie and Sanger into helping him with this two-month macabre mission. But as Stevie finds herself falling for Max, it becomes increasingly difficult to draw a line between his make-believe deaths and her real life.

Goodreads


4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free signed copy of this book and some swag from the author. This will not affect my review.

I was really excited when Kathryn sent me signed copies of both her YA contemporaries Lucky Few and Tash Hearts Tolstoy! Lucky Few has been on my to-be-read list for a long time, partly because she was a SE-YA 2017 author and the cover is so cute. This book did not disappoint! I had such a fun, exciting adventure with Stevie, Sanger, and Max. Lucky Few is one of those novels that you could laugh and cry in one sitting. Just like your closest friendships (it definitely reminds me of mine), you don’t want this book to end–you just want it to go on and let the good times continue!

One of my favorite aspects of this book was Stevie’s narration. Kathryn Ormsbee has an amazing gift for making first-person narrators so unique and entertaining. She conveyed the homeschooled experience very authentically, and I really enjoyed reading about how the homeschooling process works. Stevie also is one of the most memorable narrators I’ve ever read–her voice stands out from the other first-person accounts I have read in past books. From page one, I fell in love with Stevie’s character and how she told her story, and that’s an uncommon thing you see in stories. However, Ormsbee managed to accomplish for me a love of the main character at first sight.

I also loved the friendship between Stevie, Sanger, and Max! The author transported me so much into the story that I both laughed and cried (internally for the latter) as if I was part of their group. Their escapades were so fun and entertaining, yet you could feel the bonds of their friendship really strongly on a different level. Each character was also so unique yet likeable too. From Sanger’s eccentric personality to Max’s desire to fake his own death 23 times, you’ll just fall in love with them. The evolution of their relationships (both friendly and romantic) definitely drove the story really well, showing both their good times and bad times. I wish I was actually able to meet them in person!

Lucky Few is one of the most entertaining and huggable YA contemporary novels I have ever read! You will definitely fall in love with it from page one! From the author’s mastering of making the narrator’s voice unique (which Ormsbee also does in her newest book Tash Hearts Tolstoy) to the main characters’ fun friendship, Lucky Few infuses both the light and dark moments all friendships go through as Stevie, Sanger, and Max not only get closer to each other but also discover more about their identities. I will definitely be looking forward to more of Kathryn Ormsbee’s works! Her writing style is entertaining, unique, and amazing–which also describes her books.


About the Author17757389_1897609900518878_42671521515359918_n

Kathryn Ormsbee writes books & songs in Nashville, TN. Her debut YA, LUCKY FEW, published June 2016 with Simon & Schuster. Her next YA, TASH HEARTS TOLSTOY, comes out June 6, 2017.

Kathryn also writes Middle Grade fantasy novels as K.E. Ormsbee. She is the author of THE WATER AND THE WILD series and the upcoming standalone THE HOUSE IN POPLAR WOOD (Chronicle Books, 2018).

In her wild, early years, Kathryn taught English as a Foreign Language, interned with a film society, and did a lot of irresponsible road tripping. Nowadays, she teaches piano lessons, records a weekly true crime podcast with her sister, and runs races she never wins. She likes clothes from the 60s, music from the 70s, and movies from the 80s. She is from the 90s. You can visit her online at keormsbee.com or follow her on Twitter & Instagram @kathsby.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Lucky Few or any of Kathryn’s books? Do you love YA contemporary?

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

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Exclusive Interview with Monika Schröder

Guten tag! (“Good day!” in German) It’s Kester again with another interview with another amazing author. A few weeks ago, I finished a book that has a special place in my heart: Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schröder. I had the great honor of meeting her at the SE-YA Book Festival earlier in March, and I had so much fun talking to her! I am so glad I got to interview her, and I hope you enjoy!

Monika

1. How would you describe your book Be Light Like a Bird in your own words? 

BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD is the story of 12-year old Wren who looses her father in a planecrash. It is a story of a girl who learns to trust who she is and, while coping with her grief, also bonds in a new and unexpected way with her mother.

2. How did the story come about?BeLightLikeaBird

I often start a book with setting. The ‘seed idea’ for Be Light Like a Bird came to me the first time I saw a landfill. My husband and I had cleaned out the cabin my husband inherited from his father in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I couldn’t believe it when he drove all the stuff to a landfill nearby, a big hole where people bury unwanted items. In Germany we recycle or incinerate most of our garbage, so it left an impression on me when I saw a guy dropping a vacuum cleaner, a book shelf and an entire carpet into the landfill…a cemetery for junk. I learned more about this landfill and read about the people in the community who had fought its expansion. Then I asked myself a “What if…?” question: What if there were a girl who loved birds and whose bird watching was threatened by the expansion of the landfill? Once I had that girl in my mind, I found myself asking more and more about her life. How did she get to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula? And why was birding so important to her? I learned that her father had recently died and that her mother had more or less dragged her up north. She was grieving and lonely and once she arrived in Upper Michigan she came up with a plan to make her mother stay. From there the story of Wren developed.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Monika Schröder”