Exclusive Interview + Giveaway with Kym Brunner!

To all you Star Wars fans, May the Fourth be with you! Today is also National Bird Day, which brings us to today’s special guest: Kym Brunner! Kym wrote a book called Flip the Bird (yes, there is a secret pun… please see question 5 for that answer… the bird is named Flip), and to celebrate the upcoming “Be Kind to Animals” week and International Bird Migratory Day on May 14th, she is giving away a copy of Flip the Bird! Woo hoo! Here’s a special interview I conducted with her after I saw her at SE-YA (I’ve made a lot of author friends there).


Kym Brunner

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

I’ve always loved reading, but it wasn’t until my thirties that I thought, “Hmm…maybe I could write a book.” I bought a book called “How to Write a Book For Dummies,” and that was all the permission I needed to go ahead and try writing a book too. Found out I absolutely loved it and an obsession was born.

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

I love reading––PB through adult novels––but mostly I read YA and New York Times bestsellers. Growing up I was really into Stephen King because there wasn’t a true young adult category. I suppose that’s why I love suspenseful books so much. As far as writing style, I can only say that I write the way I think and talk, so I don’t model myself after any particular author. But when I first started writing, I was reading a lot of Meg Cabot, Carolyn Mackler, Laurie Halse Anderson, and John Green. Fingers crossed that I picked up a few tips vicariously through reading their books.

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

I always tell my husband that I have two full-time jobs… teaching 7th graders and writing novels. When I’m not teaching or grading papers, I’m writing or thinking about writing. I get up early and write before school, and then work for several hours after school on my novels. On weekends, I still get up early and write, sometimes all the way until dinner. Writing consumes me and I don’t even notice the time.

4. Your latest book Flip the Bird is targeted especially for middle grade to teenage boys. Why did you choose to write for this audience, and how would you respond to that “teenage boys don’t read”?

I didn’t choose the audience; the book chose me, so to speak. I took a falconry class at a raptor rehabilitation center after attending the Medieval Times dinner show, and the sport captivated me. I could easily have made the story a female apprentice, but having brothers myself, I could easily picture this being a dad-son sort of activity. As far as teen boys not reading, I can only shrug. I do think there are a lot of teen boys reading out there, but as a group, their interests might stray toward video games, girls, and sports for awhile. But I’m hoping they eventually come back to reading, and that they continue to make time to read when given a chance to relax. Reading novels not only expands your mind and gets you to consider other aspects of issues, but it’s very relaxing. Everyone needs down time without the noise and violence of a video game to collect their thoughts and think about what kind of person they want to be. Reading gives you lots of opportunities to explore who you are and who you will become as an adult.

5. What was the inspiration for the title of Flip the Bird? Is there a reason why Mercer chose to name his hawk “Flip”? (Is there a secret pun in the title?)

Definitely a secret pun in the title! The original title was (get ready to cringe)  “A Falcon’s Feather.” Yeah, so that is what we call “a working title,” something to put down at the top as a placeholder, but you can see it didn’t work at all. One day, we were laughing about someone flipping the bird to me in traffic, and I was like, “Bam! That’s it! He’ll name his hawk Flip!” Thus, it should probably be titled, “Flip, the Bird” with a comma. 🙂

6. Would you want to be a master falconer? Would you like to have a bird as a pet, and if so which one?

Maybe one day I’ll pursue being a falconer myself, but it is a huge time commitment and can be somewhat of a big expense if you do it correctly. I have had birds as pets before (cockatiels, umbrella cockatoo, green cheeked conure) and have loved them all. I also have several bird feeders right outside the window where I sit and write.WANTED - DEAD OR IN LOVE cover(3)

7. In one of your previous novels Wanted: Dead or In Love, the souls of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde start to take over the bodies of high school students Monroe and Jack. Did you have to do any research on the deadly duo to write this book? If so, what are some of the most interesting or surprising things you learned?

Boy, did I ever have to do research! Hours upon hours of reading books and watching documentaries. The thing that surprised me the most was that Clyde Barrow lived in the poorest part of Dallas during the Depression, so much of the stealing he did in the beginning was to survive and to help his family. I think his first arrest was for stealing a turkey, and another was for failing to return a rental car on time, both in his teens. Not making any excuses for him, but his first murder was a prison guard who had raped him daily during his year incarceration when he was only 17. After Clyde was released from prison, he followed the guard home and killed him.

8. You are currently serving as a 7th grade teacher along with your writing career. How would you instill a new love for books in a student who does not like reading at all?

I talk about how much I love books and have librarians come in and book talk the newest books a couple of times a year. No one likes to be told what to do, so I hope that my enthusiasm for certain books makes them curious enough to want to read it too.

9. Could you tell me some of the reasons why you think that Chicago is the “best city in the world”? If I were to go there (which I already have!), what are some activities or attractions you would recommend to a visitor?

Chicago is beautiful and filled with diverse, smart, talented people. It’s got every type of food you can imagine with a ton of pro sports teams and there’s just a cool vibe when you walk along the lakefront. I’d recommend trying foods from around the world at all of the ethnic restaurants we have, take a bike ride through Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain, visit the Art Institute, and catch a free symphony on Wednesday afternoons in the summer near the Bean! Of course you should go have a snack and a drink on the Signature Room on the 95th and 96th floors in the John Hancock (and you don’t have to pay to go to the 98th floor observation deck).

10. I am so glad I got to see you at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival in Murfreesboro, TN! What do you like most about being an author at book festivals? How was your experience at SE-YA?

SE-YA Fest was amaaaazing! I loved how many teens were bussed in for the day to attend the event! So fun to talk to a room full of eager readers that had the most hilarious questions for the authors. It was so well run and the campus where it was held was stunning. What I like most is being able to talk with teens about books, and especially happy when they’ve read my book and want to take a picture with me. Makes me feel so happy and proud.

11. Have you written any other works? What can we expect from you in the future?SmartCookie_Cover(1)

Always writing, always hoping the next book is picked up by an editor who loves it too. I’ve written a humorous MG sci-fi novel that my agent will be sending out to editors soon. My “WIP” (work-in-progress) has some “eco-fiction” elements in it the way Flip the Bird did, but this one also has a futuristic world and a suspense plot filled with lots of twists. Fingers crossed that all my books eventually land in the hands of readers.

12. Do you have any tips to any aspiring authors or writers?

Read, read, read…and write, write, write. Everything takes practice so you’ll have to write for awhile before you can critically read your own work. Join a critique group and have others read your stories and tell you what is working and what isn’t is the most valuable tip I can give you. Writing a book is hard work, but anyone can do it if they dedicate the time to making the pages sing. Best of luck and thanks for interviewing


About Flip the BirdFlipTheBirdCover

Mercer Buddie wants two things in this world: a girlfriend and the chance to prove to his master falconer father that he’s not a flake. With hunting season fast approaching, fourteen-year-old Mercer has only a short time to work with Flip, a red-tailed hawk he irreverently named to show his dad that falconers don’t have to be so serious all the time.


When Mercer meets Lucy, he falls hard for her gorgeous looks and bubbly personality. He thinks his love life is about to take flight, until he discovers that Lucy and her family belong to a fanatical animal-rights organization called HALT—a group that believes imposing any sort of restrictions on animals is a form of cruelty. Mercer soon realizes that if he wants to keep seeing Lucy, he’ll need to keep his love of falconry and his family’s raptor rehabilitation center a secret from her, and Lucy’s involvement with HALT from his family.


With humor and honesty, Mercer’s story shows how growing up means making diff
icult choices…and sometimes, being rewarded in unexpected ways.


About the Author

Kym Brunner dreams entire novels in her head, but needs about a year to write it all down.  She wishes there was an app for this. She’s addicted to chai tea, going to the movies, and reality TV. When she’s not reading or writing, Kym teaches 7th grade full time. Her article, Cracking Down on Multiple POVs:  Surrender and Nobody Gets Hurt, appeared in Writer’s Digest online (July, 2014). She is the author of the three YA novels listed below. She lives in the Chicago area with her family and her two trusty writing companions, a pair of Shih Tzus named Sophie and Kahlua. Keep in touch by following her on Facebook (Author Kym Brunner), Twitter (@KymBrunner), or at her website, http://www.kymbrunner.com.

Wanted: Dead or in Love, Merit Press, June, 2014
One Smart Cookie, Omnific Publishing, July, 2014
Flip the Bird, HMH Books for Young Readers (coming Nov. 1, 2016)

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Now onto the giveaway!
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Hope you enjoyed this interview! Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.
~ Kester

Review: Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot – Changed My Perception on EDs and People with Eating Disorders

Hi guys! Welcome back! Today is the first day of May! Oh my goodness! May is my favorite month because a) school’s almost out and b) it’s my birth month! Yay! That means a birthday book haul! Yes! Right now, I have my newest review on Stephanie Elliot’s Sad Perfect, which is an amazing book! Amid all the controversy surrounding it, I personally think it is a great novel that sheds light on eating disorders and ARFID, which is Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. Now onwards!


About Sad PerfectSadPerfect_09e

The story of a teen girl’s struggle with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder and how love helps her on the road to recovery.

Sixteen-year-old Pea looks normal, but she has a secret: she has Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). It is like having a monster inside of her, one that not only dictates what she can eat, but also causes anxiety, depression, and thoughts that she doesn’t want to have. When she falls crazy-mad in love with Ben, she hides her disorder from him, pretending that she’s fine. At first, everything really does feel like it’s getting better with him around, so she stops taking her anxiety and depression medication. And that’s when the monster really takes over her life. Just as everything seems lost and hopeless, Pea finds in her family, and in Ben, the support and strength she needs to learn that her eating disorder doesn’t have to control her.


A 5 StarDisclaimer: I received a free physical copy of this book from the author and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I also received some book swag. This will not affect my review in anyway. All thoughts are mine and mine alone, and they are my honest thoughts.

Overall Thoughts: I honestly went into this book a little scared. The reason is is that there have been many bad reviews surfacing the Internet and Goodreads that have not only degraded the book and bashed the author. Let me tell you one thing about those reviews, please do not just base your opinion on only them. And please do not bring in the author along. A fictional book does not reflect the author’s personality. Some of my blogger friends raved about this book, so I’ve wanted to read it a lot. I admit I was a bit hesitant but I gave it a shot.

This book exceeded my expectations by a mile. Let me tell you, I am super impressed with the author’s writing style and the storyline. I devoured 2/3 of this book in a day because I could not put it down. During school, all I just wanted to do is just sit down and finish this book. I didn’t care about watching the movie Chicken Run; my only desire was to finish Sad Perfect. This book is probably one of my favorite reads of 2017! I mean I am mind blown at everything! Woo! Time to get onto why I love it so much! It definitely changed my perception on people with eating disorders and EDs!

Thrust into the Story: The fascinating thing about this book is that it was told in second-person, which definitely made the message and story much more effective and amplified. I was Pea, and I could feel all her physical and emotional pain. If she hated a character, I had similar feelings, too. If she loved something, I would love it, too. I knew exactly how she felt and why she felt that way, and I went through times where I felt all the characters didn’t know what I (remember, this is in second person) was going through. Second-person is something that is very hard to master in a fictional book, but the author conquered that challenge. She made me think more about everything that is going on, and that’s one reason why I couldn’t stop reading and reading!

Awareness about ARFID and EDs: What I love about books is that they have the potential to change your perception about the world. 2017 has been full of those kinds of novels: Salt to the Sea, Strong Inside, Be Light Like a Bird, A Time to SpeakI am so glad to add Sad Perfect to that list. I believe that it vividly and accurately portrays what a person with an eating disorder (or ED)- especially those with ARFID, or Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder- has to go through. So many times victims think that there is an actual monster who “controls” all their thoughts and emotions. With second-person POV, it helps you understand these struggles all the more. I am so glad that I got to read this book because I am even more enlightened about this problem.

A Tiny Warning: As much as I loved this book, I have to give a little warning to more sensitive readers. There are some scenes in this book (a few not all) that are very vivid and could trigger some people. I do in fact recommend this book to all people, even to those with eating disorders, but I just want you to be a bit cautious. The author is an amazing writer, and I do not want this warning to make you not want to read this book. I definitely want you to pick this book up and read it! This is nothing against the author or the book- this is just a heads-up for those who are more sensitive with these topics.

Concluding Thoughts: I think that this book has changed my perception of the world even more. I’m so glad that I was able to read and review this book! This is probably one of my favorite books I’ve ever read… and I mean it! I know I’ve encountered so many new faves, but this has got to be on that list. Why can’t top 10 include more? Please, I urge you to pick this book up. The author definitely accomplished her mission with this book: to spread awareness about ARFID, which is a recently discovered eating disorder. She has done a great job portraying it accurately to where I am now more aware about about not only AFRID but all eating disorders in general. Knowing how people with EDs feel makes me a better person regarding how I view others, and that is why I love books like this one!

One of My Favorite Quotes: You think about this. Everyone in your life wants you in his or her life. Your mom, your dad, even your brother. … They all want you around. You’ve got so much to be happy about.


About the AuthorDSC00461

Stephanie Elliot is the author of the young adult novel Sad Perfect (Margaret Ferguson Books/FSG, Winter, 2017), which was inspired by her own daughter’s journey with ARFID, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. She has written for a variety of websites and magazines and has been a passionate advocate of other authors by promoting their books on the Internet for years. She has been, or still is, all of the following: a book reviewer, an anonymous parenting columnist, a mommy blogger, an editor, a professional napper, a reformed Diet Coke drinker, a gecko breeder and the author of three self-published novels.

A Florida native, Stephanie has lived near Chicago and Philadelphia and currently calls Scottsdale, Arizona home. She graduated from Northern Illinois University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. Stephanie and her husband Scott have three children: AJ, McKaelen and Luke. They are all her favorites.


Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below, and let’s chat!

Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Interview + GIVEAWAY with Stephanie Elliot

Hi guys! This past week has been crazy for me! I’ve been gone out of town for the All State Men’s Choir (which was super amazing by the way!) and catching up on a ton of homework… As I write this, I still got a 16-slide powerpoint, a one-page article reflection, and an essay on the US and USSR involvement in Latin America in the Cold War. But by the time this is posted I’m probably done with all that. I haven’t been able to blog that much recently, but I’m back! I’m not going to post as frequently as I was before because I am going to focus on many other things and activities, but I’ll still be active!

Also, Happy Easter!!! I did not post anything this weekend to honor the Triduum and the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the start of the Easter season, so here’s my latest post!


 

A Stephanie New

1. How would you describe Sad Perfect in your own words?SadPerfect_09e

A girl with a unique eating disorder falls in love and tries to hide her disorder from her boyfriend while trying to recover.

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

I love writing because when you write you get to create anything you want to. You can go anywhere you want to, you can dream up anything you want to. I think I loved reading first and then I loved writing.

3. Who are your favorite authors, and which ones have had an impact on you? Who has affected your writing style the most?

I don’t know if my writing style has been affected by any particular writer but I admire so many writers. I love writers who can write in verse, or who can make a sentence sing off the page. Someone who makes colors look completely different than you ever imagined just by their word choice. Writers who do that are magical.

4. What are your favorite genres to read and write? What are your favorite books?

I love reading contemporary novels—young adult and women’s fiction. Psychological thrillers are fun too. Emotional reads that can get your heart racing and your mind thinking are what I gravitate toward.

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

Writing is very part-time and I would love to write more. I’m a mom to three teenagers, and I love that job too—it’s my most important one.

6. What is ARFID, and what is the message or impact you want your readers to get through your book?DSC00461

I want readers to know that ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) EXISTS. Many parents think that kids are just picky eaters and don’t do anything to help their children with this serious eating disorder, which is the actual fear of trying new foods. It’s a mental disorder that can also cause severe anxiety and depression and lead to more serious issues if not treated. I also want readers to know that there is hope for kids with ARFID, that if someone has ARFID, and if he or she wants to get better, if they work at it, they can get better.

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