Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Welcome Wednesday: Shannon Kennedy's High School Musical and Giveaway of NO HORSE WANTED


Hi everyone! I'm so happy to welcome Shannon Kennedy to Honestly YA. She's graciously providing us a giveaway of her new release, NO HORSE WANTED, but first...

My Life as a High School Musical
By Shannon Kennedy

If my life actually was a high school musical, I think it’d be a variation of Oklahoma since I grew up on a pony farm and now live at the family riding stable in the Cascade foothills. My daily chores include feeding 32 horses, cats, dogs, and organizing the staff all before my first, much needed cup of coffee. That’s in the summer – during the school year, I’m a substitute teacher. I feed horses and then go off to school, grateful the mocha stand is on the way!

I love the movie version of Oklahoma with Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae. I grew up on a pony farm in north Everett and my mother, a single parent took my sisters and me to visit my grandparents every week.  It was one of the rare chances when I got to be a kid, not in charge of the universe, the pony farm and my sisters while my mother worked to support all of us. Because of all my responsibilities, I didn’t have many opportunities for extracurricular activities at school. The ponies and other livestock always came first. Then my sisters! Occasionally, it was the other way around.

On those visits, my grandfather introduced me to Louis L’Amour westerns and I absolutely adored the cowboys who rode through those pages. If it was a cowboy, guaranteed Granddad would watch the movie, even musicals. When Gordon MacRae sang to Shirley Jones, I pretended it was me. Who wouldn’t want a hero who could make you feel that “There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow and everything’s goin my way - - -?”

My grandfather told me stories of growing up in Sequim, Washington in the early 1900s. His widowed mother used to cook for various farmers and logging outfits around the area. She’d put him in his little red wagon before dawn. Then, she’d pull him over trails, muddy tracks and gravel roads to the farm kitchens to start a long work day. At nightfall, when the kitchen was scrubbed clean, she’d pack the leftover food and my grandfather in the wagon and take them back home.

My grandmother taught me to make doughnuts from her 1908 edition of the Fannie Farmer cookbook – a history lesson in itself. I loved the real stories of what happened in the past. At Washington State University, I learned my grandmother who worked side by side with my grandfather in motels, taverns, hotels and on farms wasn’t an aberration. I read stories about women like Charley Parkhurst who drove a stagecoach through the Sierra Nevadas and Little Jo Monaghan who mined in Idaho .

My grandparents encouraged me to follow my dreams and I still do. I love reading stories about women who do things and those are the kind of books I write.  No Horse Wanted, the first book in my Shamrock Stable series will be released this week from Fire & Ice YA. It’s the story of sixteen-year-old Robin who desperately wants a 1968 Presidential blue Mustang for her birthday, but her parents aren’t willing to buy her an expensive sports car. She can have a horse instead, so she vows to bring home the worst one she can find.


Shannon lives and works at her family business, Horse Country Farm, just outside of Granite Falls in Washington State. Teaching kids to ride and know about horses since 1967, she finds in many cases, she's taught three generations of families. Her life experiences span adventures from dealing cards in a casino, attending graduate school to get her Masters in Teaching degree, being a substitute teacher, and serving in the Army Reserve - all leading to her second career as a published author. Visit her at her website, www.shannonkennedybooks.com to learn about her books.
  
The only thing that Robin Gibson wants for her sixteenth birthday is a 1968 Presidential Blue Mustang. Following their family tradition, what her parents promise her is a horse of her own, one with four legs, not four wheels. Mom competes in endurance riding, Dad does calf roping, her older brother games and her older sister loves three-day eventing, but Robin proudly says that she doesn’t do horses. She’ll teach her controlling family a lesson by bringing home the worst horse she can find, a starved, abused two-year-old named Twazeim.

Robin figures she’ll nurse him back to health, sell him and have the money for her car. Rescuing and rehabilitating the Morab gelding might be a bigger challenge than what she planned. He comes between her and her family. He upsets her friends when she looks after his needs first. Is he just an investment or is he part of her future? And if she lets him into her heart will she win or will she lose?

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Surviving "F"ailure (aka Getting an "F" and Getting on with It)

When I was growing up, the old adage stood: "Winning wasn't everything, it was the only thing."

Not in sports of course--I was not exceptionally coordinated or fast (though I was stubborn). Not in music--I loathed piano practice with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns.

But I was an exceptional student. I started reading early. I started writing early. I was the one who finished the Workshop list first in the class, intently checking each item off with growing levels of excitement (there's a reason why I'm a list girl to this day!). Even in math, which wasn't my strong suit, I got A's in. Because, well, I got A's.

Until I didn't. In Mrs. Smith's (name changed to protect the innocent) Freshman Algebra class, on the mid-term final. I blanked. I could not remember the quadratic equation to save my life. So, with time running out and my entire body in fight-or-flight mode, I figured out a new way to get to the answer, using this bizarrely complicated divide-and-average scheme that WORKED.

I got all of the answers correct. And I still got an "F", because I got there the wrong way.

I totally cried. In class. As a Freshman in High School. The entire rest of the class was spellbound.

That lesson taught me several important points:

1) Never cry in Algebra Class, if you can at all avoid it. This, I think, needs no further explanation.

2) Sometimes, the world isn't fair, or even correct. I got the answers RIGHT! And I still got an F. To me, this was the height of injustice. To my teacher, the process was just as important than the outcome (oh, piffle). And yes, I'm still bitter. :) I should have gotten points for ingenuity, at the very least.

3) One F (or even several failures) does not define you. You're going to fail--sometimes several times in succession. Just keep going - everyone else will forget. Really. I failed and then burst into tears (awesome), and despite my momentary humiliation, no one really cared half as much as I did. My teacher was unmoved; my family was more intrigued than concerned. I still had to show up in class the next day... and the next. And keep trying.

Since that fateful Algebra Test, I've set myself many challenges. I have achieved many successes--and failed many times. Even as an author, I wrote manuscripts--got good feedback--I even won national awards. But every time a publisher or agent rejected me, it was like getting an "F" again.

But the trick is to keep going. I ended up getting an A in Algebra for the year, despite my crappy mid-term. I ended up selling my debut novel, Maid of Secrets - and Book 2 in the series, Maid of Deception, despite not selling several manuscripts before it. I kept going, which for a writer means: I kept writing.

I have more challenges that I've set for myself, like selling the final books in the Maids of Honor series, and exploring entirely different worlds as well with future fiction projects. I know I will have more success, and more failures (inevitably). But that's part of making your way in life, of following your dreams.

And I still cry when bad things happen. But I've learned some tricks to manage that as well: I now keep chocolate on hand to ease the blow. :)

What about you? Have you ever "F"ailed and had to get on with it?



Friday, July 26, 2013

FABULOUS FRIDAY GIVEAWAY: WILD CARDS by Simone Elkeles

NOBODY DOES
LOVABLE BAD BOYS LIKE
SIMONE ELKELES




After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama. Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give herthe chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?

Admit it: HonestlyYA totally has your back when it comes to books you're pining for :)


Enter for you chance to with this advanced review copy of Simone Elkeles sure-to-be-next big hit. The hardcover doesn't releases October 1. But why wait until the fall when you have a chance to read it NOW?

This contest will begin on July 26, 2013 and conclude at midnight August 1, 2013.

By entering sweepstakes, contests, and giveaways on this website, visitors agree to the terms and conditions set forth as follows:
 Giveaways and contests sponsored on this website require no purchase and are open for entry to anyone living in the United States (unless noted otherwise). Void where prohibited.
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• If a winner fails to respond within the specified time period, another winner will be chosen. We are not responsible for misdirected emails due to mailer daemons and/or spam filters.
• Chances of winning will vary based on number of participants.
• Prizes are as stated. No substitutions or exchanges.
• Entrant information is confidential and will not be shared.
• Rules are subject to change at any time, for any reason, without notification.

#2 Submit your entries using the beloved Rafflecopter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Welcome Wendesday NOBODY BUT US author Kristin Halbrook



Maybe I'm too late. Maybe Zoe's dad stole all her fifteen years and taught her to be scared. I'll undo it. Help her learn to be strong again, and brave. Not that I'm any kind of example, but we can learn together.
When the whole world is after you, sometimes it seems like you can't run fast enough.
Zoe
Maybe it'll take Will years to come to terms with being abandoned. Maybe it'll take forever. I'll stay with him no matter how long it takes to prove that people don't always leave, don't always give up on you.

Oh, readers. This was yet another one of those books where I thought, well, I'll just peek, just get a sense of how the story feels. And holy hotcakes! Could. Not. Stop. Reading. Seriously. You must check out this book. Not convinced? Read our interview with author Kristin Halbrook -- her answers are every bit as engaging as her novel!

I'd first like to thank Honestly YA for having me! It's a privilege to chat with you.

Well thanks so much for spending the time with us and answering our questions. Ready to get started? Here we go...

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

This is such a tough question. I read widely through my youth, from the classics to litfic to commercial fantasy to historical romances. I find a lot of people can point to one or two books they particularly loved during high school, but I'm not one of those people. I loved so many!

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

I do! My go-to books for when I'm exhausted and need a bath and some down time are the Anne of Green Gables books. I love the prose and Anne is such a spunky character. I know the books so well that I can skim them for my favorite parts and feel like I've been hanging out with an old friend again. Other books I love to reread are the ones that make me ugly cry. That's my favorite response to media (all my favorite movies make me ugly cry, too). So, Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now, Melina Marchetta's Jellicoe Road and Ruta Sepetys' Between Shades of Gray are ones I frequently revisit.

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

Steph Kuehn's Charm and Strange is haunting and gorgeously written (and made me ugly cry). I loved Sarah Skilton's Bruised because her characters are so well drawn (and feature a genuinely kick-ass heroine!). Marissa Meyers' Lunar Chronicles books are pure escapist fun. And I adored Rachel Hartman's Seraphina for its brilliantly conceived and thoughtful fantasy world (I totally had tears in my eyes when it was announced as the Morris Award winner--I'm a total softie, can't you tell?).

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

When I began writing seriously, I started with adult upmarket/literary. I thought that was where my voice would be and, while I enjoyed it and can see myself writing adult some day, it turned out that my strongest voice came through when I experimented with teen fiction. I've always loved interacting with teens--I did my Master's work in Secondary Education--and writing for them, writing stories about teens like them, is the best. I don't really think there's a link with what I grew up reading, only that I still find myself looking at the world with the wonder and energy and angst of many teens. So it's easy to relate.

5. Tell us about NOBODY BUT US. Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

Initially, there was Will. NOBODY BUT US began as a way for me to explore what might happen to someone who has aged out of foster care, but isn't very well prepared for the world. What kinds of things would he or she do? What would her or his personality be like? Is there a way for this character to be full of faults, but also good-intentioned and deserving of compassion? I wanted to tell a story of two realistic teens that are doing the very best they can in a world that has let them down, and tell it in a way that allows the reader their own take-away. Judging from the range of responses to the book, I think I've done an okay job with that. :)

6. You’ve elected to tell the story in alternating perspectives between Zoe and Will. That’s pretty unusual to see. What prompted you to approach the story that way? What made the dual perspective important?

Using dual POV for NOBODY BUT US was a grueling and wonderful challenge. I learned so much through that process and have become a better writer for it--even though I had many moments when I wanted to tear my hair out. It was important to me to show examples of the different ways people can respond to and are affected by abuse. I also wanted to let the reader into both characters' heads to see what they thought of each other--and of themselves when they're with one another--especially since they make so many missteps along the way. My hope was that by getting close to the characters, the reader could start to understand why they do the things they do and develop empathy for their struggles.

7. On your website, you’ve shared the playlist from NOBODY BUT US. Is music an important part of your writing process? And did the playlist come about before, during, or after the writing?

I most often draft without using music, but I'm always listening for songs that have the feel of the story and the direction it's taking. The drafting stage is when I begin to build my list. I'll listen to those songs to get myself into the right frame of mind for particular scenes. The playlist really comes to life in the revisions stage, though. I tend to add the most songs at this point and listen regularly as I edit and revise. When the book is done, I'll continue to add and delete songs until I feel the list is just right for the story.

8. From inspiration to final draft, writing a novel is a ton of work. What was it about this story that made you want to see it through?

I got to know these characters too well to let their story die. My heart broke for them, I cried at times, I needed to share their struggles.

9. We’ve got a lot of aspiring authors visiting our blog. Would you share with them your path to publication? (And any words of encouragement would be great additions *s*)

I can honestly encourage aspiring authors to never give up! It might not be the first novel you write that will see the shelves at the bookstore, it might not be the tenth, even. But every novel you write is an essential learning experience that will make you better. Think of those early drafts as an apprenticeship. Writing is accessible to all, which is so, so awesome, but it's also very hard and requires a lot of work! So keep working at it. I speak with experience here, because it wasn't my first agented book that made it on the shelves or even my second. NOBODY BUT US is the third book to sell. Along the way, I've improved my craft a lot.

10. What’s next for you?

My next YA contemporary comes out winter, 2015. It's about small town secrets, the people who get away with everything, and a girl who desperately needs to remember what happened one terrible night. As always, I have other projects in the works, too, but can't share much about those just yet. ;)

Oh, yay! Very much looking forward to another terrific book from you! Thanks again, Kristin, for visiting today!
And for those of you nutty enough to still not have read NOBODY BUT US, you can find it here:


Barnes and Noble
Amazon
IndieBound

And keep up with Kristin here:

website
twitter
tumblr
facebook
pinterest


Above, Kristin talks about getting to know characters too well to let their story die. Have you read any books lately where you were heartbroken to let the characters go? What were they? Share in the comments!

~Jen

Friday, July 19, 2013

FABULOUS FRIDAY GIVEAWAY: FIND ME by ROMILY BERNARD

A DEAD GIRL'S DIARY
A KILLER ON THE LOOSE
AND TIME IS RUNNING OUT





Enter for you chance to with this advanced review copy signed by author PLUS a FIND ME slap bracelet. Yay! Swag The hardcover releases January 2014. Thus, I have made a miscalculation by offering this up for giveaway before some October releases. So you get to capitalize on my error! W
hy wait until NEXT YEAR when Honestly YA gives you a chance to read it NOW?

This contest will begin on July 19, 2013 and conclude at midnight July 25, 2013.

By entering sweepstakes, contests, and giveaways on this website, visitors agree to the terms and conditions set forth as follows:
 Giveaways and contests sponsored on this website require no purchase and are open for entry to anyone living in the United States (unless noted otherwise). Void where prohibited.
• Participants must be 18 to enter.
• Giveaways sponsored by guest bloggers are the responsibility of the guest blogger. This site is not responsible for undelivered prizes.
• If a winner fails to respond within the specified time period, another winner will be chosen. We are not responsible for misdirected emails due to mailer daemons and/or spam filters.
• Chances of winning will vary based on number of participants.
• Prizes are as stated. No substitutions or exchanges.
• Entrant information is confidential and will not be shared.
• Rules are subject to change at any time, for any reason, without notification.

#2 Submit your entries using the beloved Rafflecopter:

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

The DOON book trailer!

Carey and Lorie are thrilled to finally be able to share this with the world!!!



The DOON release is just around the corner and we finally have details.
If you're in the Cincinnati/Dayton areas, please come help us celebrate - we'd love to meet you!

August 20 - DOON launch party (Cincinnati, OH) 7:00-9:00

August 24 - DOON launch party (Dayton, OH) 1:00-3:00



Monday, July 15, 2013

Songbird and Drama Llama: The Arts' Influence, Then and Now

I've been waiting for my turn at this topic--My Life as a High School Musical: How the arts impacted my life--because it basically embodies my entire junior high and high school careers.
Senior year, The Class Actress Strikes a Pose
The arts were, quite simply, my life. I lived, breathed, ate, and slept to sing and act. Dancing, not so much. The most exciting move I could execute was the step-ball-change and even that took me weeks (months?) to master. Heck, "master" is probably a gross overstatement. And drawing and painting...let's not even go there. I can barely make a stick figure in Hangman.

But I digress. When I was young, signing and acting were pretty much the only things that kept me going. A decent B student, I wasn't a brainiac. I was never an athlete (which probably explains my epic dance fail). And I wasn't one of those kids who could skate by on their popularity and good looks.

Given what I now know, it's very likely I suffered from a bit of ADD, not the hyperactive type, but the kind that makes it impossible to concentrate. And with a gravely ill mother and a seriously mentally ill family member, I was often consumed by chaos.

Music became a safe place to be my best self, allowing me to shine for the one thing I was really good at. Italian arias, jazz standards, show tunes, and pop classics--you name it, I could sing it. And girl, I sang. Drawing a deep breath, I'd envision the shape and feel of the sound I wanted to make, then braced my core, dropped my jaw and let the music and my spirit soar. It felt like flying.

Drama, on the other hand, became the place I could escape to, cloaking myself in other identities so, for just a couple hours at a time, I didn't have to be me. It's amazing what a costume, wig, and fake accent can do for a girl. Unfettered and unrecognizable, I could be bawdy, sassy, bold, even beautiful and alluring -- all of which I could never imagine being in real life. It made me free.

The arts were so essential, I thought I'd end up on Broadway and even started college in New York City with that goal in mind. But somewhere along the way, with the help of some great teachers and classes that made me see the world in different ways, I got hooked on learning. I threw myself into my studies and seminars and realized that people cared about what I thought, not just what I could do in front of an audience. It was pretty powerful stuff.

Little-by-little, music and drama fell to the wayside as I separated from my childhood and grew into adulthood. I didn't need the escape any more. At first it saddened me, but I realize now that it's okay. The arts were there for me during the must tumultuous years of my life, helped shape who I am, and gave me mad skillz I'll never forget and use to this day. I may not sing or act when I go to a conference, present on a panel, or do a reading from one of my books, but I still have to be confident, poised, and in a sense, give a performance. I couldn't do that without all those years of training and experience.

So how do I answer the question, How did the arts impact my teen years? I say, they made them possible. And more importantly, made me who I am today.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mark Perini News

8.13.13

Our favorite YA cover model is now a published author. Mark has a new adult book co-written with Julie Cross (TEMPEST Series) about ... what else, the modeling world. It's called HALFWAY PERFECT. Read about the journey here.

7.10.13

 Our favorite YA cover model is on 3 more books!


And the big news... *cue drum roll* He'd slated to star in the trailer for Simone Elkeles's latest teen novel WILD CARDS. (Release date is October 1, 2013 - BUT I have an ARC will be giving away after I devour it.)

Mark's about to get super hot, and we'll have the pleasure of saying we knew him when. In the meantime, here's a cover collage of our favorite YA model and links to our past Q&A sessions (in case you missed them):

4.12.13 International Model Mark Perini is more than just a Pretty Mind

#prettymindsread 

 

4.19.13 More of Model Mark Perini's Pretty Mind #prettymindsread

Until next time! 

Carey



Carey Corp is the author of DOON, Brigadoon reimagined, co-written w/Lorie Langdon. Book 1 coming 8/20/13 from the new YA imprint BLINK (a division of Zondervan/HarperCollins)

 Join the DOON journey: www.doonseries.com

 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Surviving "F"ailure

*read 'about the birds' AFTER you read the post J


This morning I spotted the first two kids. One, feet dragging, head down, spine bowed under the weight of a backpack. The other, step light, head high, fingers clutching a single marble notebook. And so it begins.

No, it’s not the first day of school. Not exactly. It’s the first day of SUMMER SCHOOL – which has always seemed to me to be infinitely worse (I’m up here in NY, USA. Our middle schools and high schools don’t have air conditioning. In fact, I’m not sure all the college buildings do. But in any case, that’s why summer school is worse. It’s frickin’ HOT. Plus, all your friends are at the beach while you sit through history class again, and realize it’s even less interesting in the sunshine than it was in the snow. But does the teacher care? No. Teacher thinks history is fascinating in all weather, in all temperatures, in all ---)

Oops. I digressed there. Sorry. Back to my point.

Two students: one trudging, one striding. You don’t need to be an expert – or even an amateur – at reading body language to be guess what’s going on here. The trudging student is carrying her failure around like a boulder. Whether she’s carrying it in front of her and can’t see where she’s going, or carrying it on her back and being bent and slowed by it, her failure is a negative that she’s suffering. The strider, though, has decided not to let her failure slow her down. This doesn’t mean she’s in denial or doesn’t care, mind you. It means she’s chosen to work past her failure and seek success.

In other words: if at first you don’t succeed… J

Think about it. Failure is normal, it’s natural. Whether it means you got an F on your history test, failed your road test, or got a letter of rejection from your dream agent/editor/publisher, failure means you’re living your life. You’re trying things. You’re taking exciting chances. (Well, for those of you that find history exciting anyway. (C’mon, I know you’re out there!)) So if failure is normal, and it’s going to happen from time to time as long as you live, what’s the best way to approach it – or recover from it?

Get back out there and try again, right? Of course right. But once you decide to give it another go (or the school system informs you that you have no option) there’s another, more important choice to make. Will you slog toward your next attempt with your head down and defeat on your mind? Or will you stride toward your next attempt with your eye on the horizon and success on your mind? See, it’s how we react to failure that makes the big difference. You can’t let it rule you, define you, or limit you. Does this mean you can’t bawl your eyes out when you fail your history final / road test / agent pitch appointment? Absolutely not! I give you full permission to bawl your eyes out, eat ice cream from the container, shout at the moon….for one day. And then get on with your own personal plan for turning failure into success. 

This is life and life is hard. Failure is inevitable. And for those who don’t let failure slow them down or define them, so is success.

Go get ‘em.

~Jen


*About the birds: First, how adorable are these little guys? I love ‘em and keep ‘em on the shelf by my computer. Second, the little guy on the left I bought last year. I got such a kick out of how pissed off and withdrawn he looks…right up until I bought another bird this year and I realized I like this year’s bird so much better. Now that you’ve read about failure and success, you’ll know why I like this year’s better, and while I’ll be picking up more just like it. You see it, don't you? The body language of success: Head high, eye on the horizon…)

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. 






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