Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Welcome Wednesday: CAMP BOYFRIEND Author(s) J.K. Rock Answer 10 Questions (and give away a book!)

They said it couldn't be done, but geeky sophomore Lauren Carlson transformed herself into a popular girl after moving to a new school half-way across the country. Amazing what losing your braces and going out for cheerleading will do. Only trouble is, the popular crowd is wearing on Lauren's nerves and she can't wait to return to summer camp where she's valued for her brain instead of her handsprings. She misses her old friends and most of all, her long time camp-only boyfriend, Seth. This year she intends to upgrade their relationship to year-round status once she's broken up with her new, jock boyfriend, Matt. He doesn't begin to know the real her, a girl fascinated by the night sky who dreams of discovering new planets and galaxies. But Matt isn't giving her up without a fight. As he makes his case to stay together, Lauren begins to realize his feelings run deeper than she ever would have guessed. What if the guy she thought she was meant to be with forever isnt really The One? Returning to Camp Juniper Point was supposed to ground her uprooted life, but she's more adrift than ever. Everything feels different and soon Lauren's friends are turning on her and both guys question what she really wants. As summer tensions escalate, Lauren wonders if shes changed more than she thought. Will her first big discovery be herself?

Every once in a while I'm lucky enough to encounter an author who is fun, talented, and as nice as can be. This time, I was lucky enough to encounter TWO of them in one go. 
The writing duo of Joanne and Karen Rock (together, JK Rock) are launching Spencer Hill Press's new Contemporary line with CAMP BOYFRIEND. And when I tell you these ladies are crazy busy with their release week, I'm understating things. So, lucky for YOU they agreed to take some time away from the madness and visit with us here at Honestly YA AND give away a copy of CAMP BOYFRIEND!  

1. We always start with the same curious question: What book spoke to you most during your teen years?

K- I was obsessed- seriously obsessed- with The Hobbit! Tolkien had me from the first few lines where he described Bilbo’s hobbit hole, a wizard named Gandalf, elves that sang in forests as they travelled by night, and a magical ring that could make its wearer invisible. Throw a dragon in there with lots of treasure and forget it! Hooked. Done.

J- I loved Wuthering Heights. I was on a mission to read as many classics as possible and I was surprised how many of them were awesome. I loved the dark drama and the gothic elements of it, and their twisted, wildly passionate romance spoke directly to my teenage heart.

2. Do you have a book (or books) that you reread regularly? If yes, what book or film and why?

K- To this day, I read and reread The Lord of the Rings series… starting, of course… with The Hobbit. (Surprise :) I also love the films and have great respect for their director, Peter Jackson, who must be a super fan like me. I read them to get lost in a world completely unlike my own, to go to a place where people fight for what is right, no matter the cost, where friendship- like Sam and Frodo’s- is valued above all else, where the good guys win. It’s like imagination helium. It fills me up and makes me itch to write.

J- Hmmm… I don’t re-read anything on a regular basis, but I do revisit my keeper shelves for fun throughout the year. I like to grab Sir Gawain and the Green Knight at Christmas time (yes, for me, that’s holiday reading) and something like Fall of the House of Usher during Halloween (Edgar Allan Poe does spooky like nobody’s business). I am going back soon to read Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy though, because I adored it.

3. What YA novel or novels have you read recently that you most want all your friends to read?

K- I actually read a book or two a week, so it’s hard to narrow down… but the book I’ve read this past year that is my number one recommendation is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I’m such a fan of his from Looking for Alaska and honestly didn’t think he could top it. But- WOW- he more than topped it. I wish everyone would read John Green. If they could pick only one, I recommend TFIOS because it is a breathtakingly raw and honest love story that breaks your heart without manipulating the reader. It’s sad, but it’s full of such beautiful truths about life and people. I defy anyone to read it and not feel changed for the better.

J- I want everyone to read Before I Fall. I was late finding Lauren Oliver- Karen helped me spot that oversight on my bookshelves!- but I thought that book was brilliant.

4. What made you want to write teen fiction? Is there any link to the stories you read growing up?

K-I’ve wanted to write teen fiction since reading a little book called Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. Although I adored fantasy fiction like The Lord of the Rings series, it wasn’t until I read a contemporary, coming-of-age story about a girl I could relate to that made me think that even I had something to say… something that might speak to someone else. Up to that point, I’d thought writers needed to create incredible adventures in mind-bending worlds. I hadn’t considered the power of everyday, realistic moments and the effect they can have- namely, making us feel less alone as we figure out who we are, the world, and our place in it. I knew then and there that I wanted to write books like THAT.

J- The stories I read growing up made me a dedicated reader. And that, eventually, made me a dedicated writer. I loved reading so much I wanted to study books in school and college (I got a Masters in English Lit). Then, I wanted to share my love of books, so I taught them to other college students. Then, I wrote scholarly articles about the books I loved and had them published. But that still wasn’t enough! It seemed the only way I could crawl into a book deeply enough was to write my own and experience the story from inside-out. Stories fascinate me and I will forever be amazed at how words on a page can completely transport us to another time, place and experience. Good storytelling is nothing short of magical.

5. Tell us about CAMP BOYFRIEND. Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

K- The inspiration for CAMP BOYFRIEND came while Joanne and I were having lunch to reward ourselves after a hard day of shopping (ahem). I was feeling let down that a solo YA novel I’d written had been rejected for say- I don’t know- the 50th time… (that could be a gross underestimation, btw) and Joanne said not to give up. Her encouragement meant the world to me considering she is a published author I greatly admire... If she had faith in me, I thought I should too. Then she mentioned that it’d be fun to write a YA together- the ultimate vote of confidence. Our lunch turned into a lengthy discussion of possible story lines and settings and characters. It was so much fun imagining the possibilities and before long we had decided to tell a meaningful and relatable love story set in an unforgettable place… camp. We both couldn’t wait to dive into a story full of moments that make us laugh, break our hearts, bring us joy, and help us grow.

J- Oh! I love Karen’s version of this story J. My memory of this day is that I was lucky enough to capture the brilliance that is Karen Rock and convince her to work with me! She’s so creative and energetic that it makes me feel creative and energetic to be around her. When we agreed it would be fun to work together, it was just a matter of time before we found the right story to tell.

6. In your younger days (you know, last week) did you attend camp? And did either of you have a 'camp boyfriend'? Or did you wistfully watch your friends go off while you spent the summer wishing you anywhere but home?

K- I attended Camp Hochelaga in Vermont. It was (and still is) the last all girl summer camp in the country… a fact I bitterly complained about to my parents… ungrateful brat that I was (yes- I’ll own that- lol). Maybe that’s why I wanted a romance set at camp? Hmmmmm…. Something to consider since I never had one unless you count the annual “mixer” dance we had with the boys at a nearby YMCA camp. I remember slow dancing with a boy- (please don’t ask me his name!) who vowed to find me after summer ended. Imagine how shocked I was- and my parents- when he rode his bike from Vermont to my New York home at the end of August. We went to a county fair and held hands during a smash up derby. Very romantic! The noise made our ‘date’ easy since neither of us had to talk… phew. The fried dough was sweet and so was my first kiss under the willow tree in front of my house.

J- I attended Girl Scout camp one year, and then two summers at a private camp in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. I loved both of them. And yes, there were camp boyfriends! That was half the fun J. Seriously, I threw myself into the whole camp experience from canoeing to archery, and when the boys showed up at the camp dance, I definitely said yes to a turn on the floor.  For me, camp was a no-pressure place to just have fun.

7. As co-authors, what was your writing process like? Did you switch off chapter by chapter? Or were there scenes you each called dibs on?

K- I would say we do a bit of both. We map out our novels and trade off chapters. However, we consider each others’ strengths. If something is better suited to the other or one of us feels strongly about a particular scene, we divide it up that way as well. Joanne is brilliant at so many things, but she’s especially good at endings. I bow to her genius there and am always happy to hand the book over to her near the end and know that when I read the last chapter, I’d better have a tissue box handy.

J-I agree on everything but the genius part!! And Karen doesn’t know it yet, but she’s totally writing the next ender. I can’t wait to see what she does because it’s sure to be awesome. It’s really fun to work with a partner because you know that person is there, looking out for you and making sure you don’t fall flat on your face. There’s always someone looking over your shoulder and taking your work to the next level.

8. We have a lot of aspiring authors here in the Honestly YA realm. Can you share with them a little about your journey to publication?

K- For me, it began when Joanne encouraged me to write a few years ago. I’d had short stories and plays published but never felt strong enough as a writer to complete a full novel. My first attempt was a hot mess. I had three strong opening chapters, but no real plan. That’s when I realized that I need to know where a story is going before I write it. Also, I learned to take my writing off of permanent skip, What I mean is that it’s important for the sake of the story to keep going forward, even if what you’ve written isn’t perfect. It’s important to trust yourself to go back at the end and polish your first draft. Completing a novel is one of the greatest gifts a beginning writer can give him or herself. There is a sense of accomplishment that even a rejection can take away. This confidence helped me to finish my second novel and then to write the CAMP BOYFRIEND series with Joanne.

J-I wrote adult romance first and the road to publication was LONG and involved many failed manuscripts before I put together the story that became my first sale. It was a painful process, but those early attempts taught me so much. Besides, who rides a bike on their first try? Rejection is just part of growing as a writer. The journey to writing a YA novel was a little easier because I was working with an agent by then and she happened to have attended summer camp. She was on-board with CAMP BOYFRIEND from inception.

9. You ladies have appeared at BEA and ALA to introduce this book to, well, the world. What's that been like for you?

K- BEA was our debut conference and our first signing as a writing team. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. The Javitz Center is HUGE and the number of readers, writers, agents, publishers, marketers, bloggers and reviewers was amazing. I spent much of it in awe of the amount of talent gathered in one spot. I literally walked by Jim Carrey signing books. Crazy. But we were so excited to have such a great turnout for our CAMP KISS signing and passing out bookmarks with friendship bracelets. Our signing at ALA went even better in that we ran out of books before our allotted time was up! I had so much fun talking to librarians and fellow educators about the unit plans we’d made for the book and getting to meet writers I admire greatly like Simone Elkeles and Jennifer Armentrout. The best part about both conferences is that I was surrounded by people who love books and reading as much as I do!

J- The conferences have been fantastic for meeting readers, bloggers, librarians and fellow authors—all people who are *so* important to us. It’s exciting to meet a reader that you know on Twitter and to make that face-to-face connection (or tackle hug). My most exciting moment happened at ALA when we were passing around bookmarks and a blogger I’d never met said “I’ve heard of that book!” and she seemed genuinely excited. Wow! That comment made my day.

10. Tell us: What's next for the two of you?

K- We’re currently finishing the last book in our series, CAMP FORGET-ME-NOT and can’t wait for our April 2014 release of CAMP PAYBACK.

J- We also have some novellas in the works, including CAMP CHRISTMAS, which will be available in December for free download.

Thanks a million, ladies, for spending this time with us and for such engaging answers. 

Thank you so much, Jennifer, for giving us a chance to hang out with your readers today!

ENTER TO WIN A COPY OF CAMP BOYFRIEND! Leave a comment below and share with us one of your favorite camp memories (or summer vacation memories). The usual RULES apply. Contest will run from 9 am EDT July 3, 2013 until midnight July 9, 2013. 

CAMP BOYFRIEND IS ON SALE NOW! Grab a copy from your local bookseller or

Keep up with Joanne and Karen!


Melissa Landers said...

Thanks for visiting with us, ladies! I *love* the description of your novel. The camp romance factor kind of reminds me of Judy Bloom's FOREVER, but without the creepy boyfriend who names his wanker "Ralph." Can't wait to read!

Joanne Rock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joanne Rock said...

Whoops... my last comment got away from me :-). I was trying to thank you, Melissa, for including me in the same post as one of my all-time-favorite writing heroines!! That sure made me smile. We had a great time writing Camp Boyfriend and now that we are blogging about the experience, it's been fun to look back at the process we enjoyed and think about how it all came together.

Thank you for stopping by the blog, Melissa!

Karen Rock said...

That comment made me smile :) Thanks so much for stopping by Jen's amazing blog and thank you, Jen for hosting Joanne and I!

CareyCorp said...

It was so great to meet you briefly at #ALA. I have the CAMP BOYFRIEND bookmark sitting on my desk. It sounds like a great, fun read. And congrats on the release.