Spooky Halloween Reads!

Hi Tuesdays!

Happy last full week of October! And since it’s the last full week of October, you know what that means! We’re coming around to Halloween time! So, I decided to write about some spooky middle grade reads!

The first on the list, might be something that you’ve heard of. I don’t think you can do middle grade and Halloween time, without including Goosebumps by R.L. Stine!

This is THE first one on top of any list. I’m not going to pick any specific title, since you can read any of them and get the same sense of creepy fun. They’re spooky and often have streaks of dark humor. I love this series, and if you’re going to check out any middle grade spooky books, you have to make sure to include Goosebumps on your list!

 

Next on the spooky list, just came out this year. The Gravedigger’s Son, by Patrick Moody. This one has a family line of cemetery diggers. Forbidden woods, and a risen corpse. I’m going to be honest. ANYTHING taking place in a cemetery, and I’m hooked!

Next on our Halloween list, is Coraline, by Neil Gaiman. I looooved this book. So creepy and fun! A secret passage to a darker mirror world, where parents want to sew buttons over your eyes. So creepy. A book that would’ve terrified me as a child, but made me want to reread all the time.

 

This next one isn’t out yet, but I’m sure it’ll be on my Halloween list for next year. Oddity, by Sarah Cannon. I’m looking forward to this one. It has alien mobs and zombie rabbits! As you know, I have a fondness for evil bunnies, so I can’t wait to read this!

 

This one, just came out recently. The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street, by Lindsay Currie. This one involves a centuries-old mystery, a haunted house, and a doll crying real tears. All I know, is I am in!

I love Halloween and love spooky reads, so hope you enjoy these books!

Oh, by the way, there is one other spooky book for Halloween that I didn’t mention, but I’m sure I have once or twice before!

 

Happy Halloween everyone!

 

 

Jonathan Rosen is a transplanted New Yorker, who now lives with his family in sunny South Florida. He spends his “free” time chauffeuring his three kids around. Some of Jonathan’s fondest childhood memories are of discovering a really good book to dive into. His favorite of all time is Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. He currently writes middle-grade, because his sense of humor is stuck in that age. Jonathan is proud to be of Mexican-American descent, although neither country is really willing to accept responsibility. His MG debut, Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, is out now from SkyPony Press. He can be found at www.HouseofRosen.com.

Interview with Hillary Homzie, Author of Pumpkin Spice Secrets!

Hello Tuesdays!

Today, I’m pleased to be joined by a fellow Mixed-Up Filer, Hillary Homzie, whose book, Pumpkin Spice Secrets, is scheduled to come out October 17 from Sky Pony Press

JR: Hi, Hillary and thanks for joining us today.

JR: Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about Pumpkin Spice Secrets and the impetus behind writing it?

HH: Jonathan, well, it was one of those kismet things. I love pumpkin, and I guess I’m not alone since pumpkin spice is definitely a fall craze. Starbucks apparently makes about $100 million on their pumpkin spice latte, during this season. And I get why.

So let me get to the publishing part. An editor left Simon & Schuster, who knew my contemporary middle grade novels (I’ve published three books with the S&S MIX line—THINGS ARE GONNA GET UGLY, THE HOT LIST and THE QUEEN OF LIKES) and had moved to Sky Pony, wanted to start a line of books for girls that was light, sweet and fun, centering on friendships and crushes. She spoke to the folks at Sky Pony about me, and the team asked if I’d kick off the series/branded imprint, SWIRL, with a title called PUMPKIN SPICE SECRETS. Well, I jumped on the opportunity! I love pumpkin. I love writing about middle school, so absolutely! My Sky Pony editor asked me to write about a girl who spills some pumpkin spice on a boy in a café, and then it turns out that she and her bff end up liking this same guy. Voila! I had a premise and the rest was up to me. I truly appreciated having a concept to run with, especially since I had a very tight deadline on this book.

 

JR: One of the things that interested me, was that I read that as a child, you lived in England for a year, and had a little trouble, at first adapting. I had similar experiences, going to school in other countries. What was that like, overall, and how has that affected you and your writing?

HH: Moving to Sussex, England when I was six, at first, was super hard. My school demoted me to the first form (basically, kinder) because I didn’t know how to read. Back in those days (you, know, the Dark Ages), kids started to learn how to read in first grade in the U.S. but in England they started much earlier. I was teased mercilessly for having an accent and pushed around enough that the school nurse knew me far too well.

However, I figured out how to adapt very quickly. I taught myself how to read in two weeks. And I developed an English accent. To this day, I have a very good ear for dialects and it served me well when I used to perform sketch comedy in New York in my twenties. Also, having a good ear helps me in writing with diction choices, at least that’s what I like to think! It also means I can amuse children at birthday parties by putting on various accents. Oh, yeah, and my grade demotion probably shamed me into reading voraciously, so I’m a fast reader, which is also helpful.

JR: Okay, next time, I’m going to have to hear about the sketch comedy as well!

 

JR: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point? 

HH: It started out when I was a radio journalist interviewing an author, a grandmother who had self-published a children’s book, and I found myself incredibly jealous. So I said—“self, don’t worry that you’re turning green, jealousy just means that you want that thing that someone else has or is.” So then I decided to become a children’s writer. And I thought, rather naively, –Shazam!–I’d instantly become published.

Not quite.

I sent some pages of a chapter book to an editor at Random House, who was a colleague of my mother’s childhood friend, and the editor took a year to read my writing, and then she sent me back a rejection letter and she added this piece of advice—you need to take some writing classes and join a critique group.

I was crestfallen, since I sincerely thought she’d be sincerely wowed by my clunky prose and charmed by my clichéd characters. Ha! After dusting myself off, I took writing classes and joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Authors & Illustrators). Eventually, I got a master’s degree at Hollins University (https://www.hollins.edu/academics/graduate-degrees/childrens-literature-graduate-program/), where Margaret Wise Brown went to school. And slowly, my writing improved and I landed an agent.

My first book contract, a chapter book series, ALIEN CLONES FROM OUTER SPACE, I actually got because of SCBWI. I noticed that an editor had newly moved to Simon & Schuster and figured he was looking for new writers. Happily, I was right! Today, I’m represented by the lovely, and so very smart Victoria Wells Arm of Wells Arms Literary ( https://www.wellsarms.com). I feel very grateful because I feel very well supported by her and some astute critique partners.

JR: What’s your writing process like?

HH: I’m one of those hybrid writers—part pantser and part outliner. Usually some concept or character just comes to me. And then I’ll just start writing to see where it takes me. I don’t think about it too much, I just let it flow out. And then after I’ve probably written 30 pages or so, I’ll sit down and say, so, Hillary, who is this? What does she want (so far I’ve actually never written about a male main character, but it’s on my to-do list to try someday since I’m the mom of three boys). And then I might write some more, until maybe I have 60 or even 100 pages, and then I’ll spend a long time thinking about structure and actually plan out the rest of novel. That means I’ll totally get rid of a lot of writing but I know what I need and where I’m going. At that point, I know the ending and the lowest moment but I don’t necessarily know what the connective tissue will look like. I just write and discover.

I definitely find myself turning to screenplay theory to help me with the whole structure thing. Otherwise, I’ll end up writing for years on a project. I have a stack of projects that I have not completed because I probably was in pantser mode for too long. So what is successful for me, in a nutshell, is at first writing without a plan, then going back and creating a plan, then writing with a plan, and then going way off course, and then figuring out a new plan! It’s definitely a leap of faith and at times crazy-making!

JR: What was your favorite childhood book and who’s your favorite author?

HH: I have so many. But today I’m going with Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L’Engle. And L’Engle as my fave author.

JR: What’s your favorite movie?

HH: Esh. Hard. But I adore Howl’s Moving Castle.

JR: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?

HH: When I was a radio reporter, my boss made me wrestle at a Jello-O tournament to help market the station. I was up against a high school gym teacher. I lost and had the taste of lime Jell-O in my mouth and hair for days.

JR: Do you do a lot of research when you write?

HH: I always end up doing research for all of my books. For pumpkin spice secrets, I was forced to taste test pumpkin spice and pumpkin lattes—just kidding! I actually, spent quite a bit of time researching debating since Maddie, the protagonist, is introverted and terrified of public speaking and has to participate in a school debate. So I researched quite a bit about debating and middle school debate topics. It was actually a lot of fun.

As I learned about debating, my character, also learned. By the end of the book, Maddie ends up really enjoying debating. I can’t say the same since the person I usually debate with is my husband, who’s a lawyer and enjoys arguing, while I hate conflict! My first drafts never have enough conflict in them because I’m such a chicken when it comes to confrontation. My characters are much gutsier than me. Maddie actually has been my first shy character, and is closer to the young me, in that regard.

JR: Here at the Tuesdays, a big part of our success and the purpose of this site, has been being involved in a critique group. Are you involved in one and if so, how has it helped you?

HH: My critique groups—oh, let me count then ways in which I love you all. I belong to two groups. One is local and we meet every two weeks, and not only are these women some of my closest friends, but our meeting provides a bi-weekly deadline that I found incredibly helpful. I also belong to a virtual critique group. In other words, we don’t meet in person. We meet four times (well, now five, since we have a new member). And each time, we read an entire manuscript and give global notes via Skype of Google Hangouts. I love these women (mostly fellow authors repped by Wells Arms Literary) because they so kindly tell me when something isn’t working, but also let me know what is working (I need to know both!). I appreciate their fresh eyes. Additionally, I have a long-time critique partner and we swap chapters and chat on the phone, whenever we need support. Depending on what’s going on in our lives, this could be quite a bit of time, or we can hibernate as we hunker down and work.

 

JR:What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?

HH: I have a stack of novels where I finished anywhere from the first 10 pages to the first 100 pages. Don’t do that. It’s so easy to abandon ship for the shiny new penny because it’s always exciting to start a new project. Just finish your current work-in-progress. Get to the end. Finish the thing. And give yourself a deadline. I’m so much more productive with a deadline and when I have no choice but to finish. Did I hammer the finish thing enough? Not to be mistaken with someone who is Finnish (my dear friend Lisa is currently visiting Finland right now so it’s on my mind). You might be afraid that I’m not finished with this thing about finishing. Oh, I’m so corny. Now you know my deep dark secret.

JR: What are you working on next?

HH: I have a chapter book series that will be coming out in the fall of 2018 that I’m super excited about. It’s very character-driven and I enjoy just seeing what happens because I haven’t a clue since my main character is rather impetuous.

I’ve also been working on a science fantasy middle grade series that I’ve promised myself that I will finish this year. Well, not the series. Just the first book! It’s a project that I’ve probably been guilty of over-thinking. I better read my own piece of advice in the above paragraph.

 

JR: Is there anything that else you want to share with our readers or perhaps tell them how they can follow you on social media? 

HH: Oh, yes! Please check this book trailer for PUMKIN SPICE SECRETS below.

My youngest son, Micah, who’s 12, made it and I think it’s really cute and cheesy in the best kind of way. Of course, I’m very biased.

Oh yeah, one more thing. I’d love for you to follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HillaryHomzie as well as Facebook. My author page is: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorHillaryHomzie/ My website is: www.hillaryhomzie.com. I feel like I’ve just stepped into a literary salon in South Florida! It’s awesome, which reminds me I need to get to Florida, actually in person as many of my first cousins live down there. So I’m waving to hello to them right now. And, finally, thank you so much for having me over as a guest on The Tuesdays, Jonathan!

JR: Look forward to meeting you, when you visit!

JR: Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays? And before you answer, I just want you to know that Faran says the taste of pumpkin spice anything, makes him nauseous. 

HH: Oh, it has to be Faran. Because he’s a teacher and a freelance journalist, and writes for South Florida Parenting—articles like Surfing Helps Autistic Children to Shine. Now what a feel-good story. We need more of that in the world. Plus, he’s got a super cool name.

JR: Sigh . . . well, I guess some things just don’t seem to matter to people. Anyway, thanks again to Hillary Homzie for joining us, and the best of luck on Pumpkin Spice Secrets!

 

Jonathan Rosen is a transplanted New Yorker, who now lives with his family in sunny South Florida. He spends his “free” time being a volunteer coach and chauffeur for his three kids. Some of Jonathan’s fondest childhood memories are of discovering a really good book to dive into. His favorite of all time is Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. He currently writes middle-grade, because his sense of humor is stuck in that age. Jonathan is proud to be of Mexican-American descent, although neither country is really willing to accept responsibility. His MG debut, Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, is out now from SkyPony Press. He can be found at www.HouseofRosen.com.

Interview with Tracey Neithercott, Debut Author of Gray Wolf Island

Hello Tuesdays!

Today, I’m pleased to be joined by my fellow 2017 Debut Author, Tracey Neithercott, whose book, Gray Wolf Island, is scheduled to come out October 10th from Random House/Knopf.

JR: Hi, Tracey and thanks for joining us today.

TN: Thanks for having me! I have a cup of tea and some dark chocolate, so I’m ready to do this thing.

JR: I hope you brought enough for everyone!

JR: Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about Gray Wolf Island and the impetus behind writing it?

 

TN: I was watching Stand by Me one night and generally adoring the intense friendship between the boys. I knew I wanted to write something about friendship—how we find it, how it grows, and why it’s so important. Also, I wanted to add some girls.

For some reason, I got it in my head that my characters would be on a treasure hunt. That’s about the time I started watching The Curse of Oak Island, a History Channel show about the Oak Island money pit—and the treasure hunters searching for gold down there. If you read Gray Wolf Island, you’ll see that the endless hole on the island is loosely based off of the Oak Island pit.

Clearly I should watch more TV.

Anyway, I superglued those two ideas into a group of friends searching for treasure on an island famous for one very big hole. I added some hints of magic, and boom: Gray Wolf Island was born.

 JR: I sooooo can’t wait to read it!

 

JR: When I looked at your website, traceyneithercott.com, I got a kick out of the persona that you projected, but I also saw that you work as a magazine journalist writing about health and famous people. Care to say what magazine and how has that transition been from one style of writing to another? I know some people who have told me that they were used to getting in as much information as possible for news stories and had to think a different way for novels.

TN: Well, for journalism you have to concern yourself with pesky facts and direct quotes, which isn’t nearly as fun as making stuff up.

And, yeah, fiction always carries some fact, right? You can’t write a historical novel about the American Revolution in which the Minutemen drive pickup trucks. I mean, you could, but your readers might complain about historical inaccuracy.

But when writing fiction, you’re not limited by real people, the exact things they said, exactly how they look or act. And that’s the fun part. We can create entirely new worlds with only 26 letters.

Where being a journalist helps me most is in revising. I’ve had my articles edited and I’ve edited other writers’ work, so revision was never scary or unexpected for me. It’s actually my favorite part.

 

 

JR: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point? (How long it took, how you got your agent, publisher etc.)

TN: I’m pretty sure it took about 900 years.

Kidding. But it felt that long. I started writing with the goal of publication in 2010. I whipped out the first draft of my first novel in under a month, which is laughable since I currently consider myself the slowest of slow writers.

It took about two years to revise that one, partially because it was 100 percent crap and partially because I developed a rare chronic illness that had me revising in starts and stops. While I was querying it, I started another book. I liked the new book so much more that I stopped querying the first after sending it to 10 agents.

Once my second book was out with agents, I started Gray Wolf Island. I kept writing it once I got an agent, and I kept writing it when my second book was on submission with editors. Basically Gray Wolf Island took me two eternities to write. (On the up side, revisions so far have been super easy.)

When my agent approached me about doing a second round of submissions on my second book, I was all “can we, like, not?” You can probably see a trend here. But I loved Gray Wolf Island so much that I knew I wanted it to be my debut. I have yet to determine the extent to which I’m a quitter.

Anyhow, we went on sub with that at the start of January, and it sold in March. So, you know, being a quitter kind of works for me.

 

JR: What’s your writing process like?

TN: Like sitting at my computer and trying so hard to get an idea from my brain to the page that beads of blood form on my forehead, right where the words are desperately trying to push out. It’s gross and excruciating.

This is the part of my process that I’m always attempting to change and always failing at. I’m a hopeless perfectionist, which means I bother myself with every little word. No matter how many times I hear about “sh!#y first drafts,” I can’t get myself to push through. As you can probably imagine, this makes me a painfully slow writer.

Take, for instance, Gray Wolf Island. In the time it took me to write the first draft (FIRST DRAFT), I revised, revised based on CP suggestions, revised for my agent, went on submission, sold the book, and received my first editorial letter.

So, yeah.

JR: What’s your favorite book and who’s your favorite author?

TN: I adore everything Melina Marchetta writes, and Jellicoe Road is my favorite novel of all. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it times infinity.

 

JR: What’s your favorite movie?

TN: Oh that’s a hard one! I don’t think I have a single favorite but a handful I adore and watch over and over. I watched Moulin Rouge again recently, so I’ll go with that today.

 

JR: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?

TN: Someone who’s never read my tweets might be surprised to learn I’m a super picky eater. If you’re a foodie, I’m the last person you want to take to a cool new restaurant.

And I will never, ever eat something without knowing what it is first. I did that in high school for Latin club initiation (ah, the good old days of teacher-approved hazing) and someone stuck a cube of liver on my tongue.

 

JR: Do you do a lot of research when you write? I’m guessing that as a journalist, you’re trained that way to begin with.

TN: I do—maybe too much. There are times when I’ll glance up from a particularly rousing research session and realize A) two hours have gone by and B) nothing I’ve been researching pertains to my WIP.

 

JR: Here at the Tuesdays, a big part of our success and the purpose of this site, has been being involved in a critique group. Are you involved in one and if so, how has it helped you?

TN: I can’t imagine writing without critique partners. I joined a group years ago, back when I was revising my first novel. I’ve also had online friends become CPs after trading books and realizing we’re a good fit. That’s the important part, though—being a good fit. I trust all of my CPs and admire them as writers.

As someone who very easily lets fear stall or sidetrack her writing, I truly appreciate the ways my CPs help lift me up. The encouragement is what gets me out of my head and inspired to write.

Besides, CPs might just be the only other people in your life who really, truly get all those writerly quirks you have. Spent three hours spying on agents on Twitter? That’s not creepy to your CPs—it’s agent research.

 

JR: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?

TN: Nothing happens until you write the book.

I know, crazy concept. But unless you’re famous or really lucky, you probably won’t be getting an agent with an unfinished novel. Write the novel first.

This is something I constantly have to remind myself. I enjoy revising, and most of the time I’d like to jump to the future, where I can just revise my first draft. Tracey, I tell myself again and again, you can’t possibly revise a novel you haven’t written.

 

 

JR: What are you working on next?

TN: If by “working on” you mean “writing the 15th version of Chapter 2,” then I’m working on another magical realism novel that I’m referring to as Rumpelstiltskin, if the Maleficent were the miller’s daughter.

 

JR: Is there anything that else you want to share with our readers or perhaps tell them how they can follow you on social media?

TN: I love interacting with writers and readers on social media! It’s sort of an addiction. You can find me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr. Or check out my website.

And since I just spend all weekend creating a newsletter, I’d love for you to sign up. It’s a once-a-month mailing that’ll include giveaways, sneak peeks, book recs, and so on.

 

 

JR: Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays, but before you answer, I just want you to know that Faran has a bumper sticker on his car, which reads, “I don’t brake for unicorns!”

TN: Is this a trick question? Is there an option aside from Faran?

JR: Sigh . . . I guess you’re not a big fan of unicorns. Anyway, thanks again for joining us, and wishing the best of luck to, Gray Wolf Island!

Hurricane Evacuation and New York Books!

Hello Tuesdays!

OMG, it’s been forever since I’ve posted! Actually, it’s been forever since any of The Tuesdays posted. You see, for those of you who don’t know, The Tuesdays all live in Florida, and we had this little thing called Hurricane Irma. You may have heard of it? I think the news might’ve mentioned it a couple of times.

But, anyway, this thing was forecast to be a MONSTER! And we Floridians were kind of busy with hurricane prep and then dealing with the aftermath! There was also the question of whether to stay and hunker down or flee elsewhere. I kind of wanted to stay and hunker, but my family wanted to flee. So, we compromised and did what they wanted. But, as far as fleeing goes, we picked a great spot to go to . . . New York!

Now, I’m originally from New York. A Brooklyn kid, to be exact. So, I love going back and visiting. Still have a ton of family and friends there, so this became somewhat of an evacuation vacation. I got together with a few friends, and what was really fun this trip, was being able to meet some new ones, who until this getaway, I’d only known virtually. I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s amazing how through social media, you can feel like you know someone for real, and that’s how it felt for me. But, this trip it was really great to finally meet personally.

 

While I was there, I started getting nostalgic for all the stories I used to read as a kid, which featured New York. New York is such a vibrant place, that the city almost becomes another character in the story. So, I decided to make a small list of some of my favorite books which take place in NY.

And away we go!

  1. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg

You CAN’T have a New York book list without this one! I used to love this book as a kid. Just the thought of staying overnight in a museum was thrilling. I wanted to be those kids! There’s a fun mystery to boot, but really, the appeal was staying in that museum overnight.

  1. The Night at the Museum, by Milan Trenc

This is the picture book which inspired the movies. A night guard at the Museum of Natural history, has to deal with the exhibits coming to life. Spending overnight in a museum? Are you sensing a theme in books which I like?

  1. Under the Egg, by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

This is a fun mystery about a girl who discovers famous paintings which belonged to her late grandfather, and she worries that, since he used to be a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he might’ve stolen them.

  1. Stuart Little, by E.B. White

Always enjoyed this book about a mouse in a family of humans, who gets to have adventures in NY. Really sweet story.

  1. Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh

Another classic, which Harriet keeps notes about all her classmates, but then loses her notebook. Unfortunately for her, her friends find it and read the things she’s written about them. She has to fix things, before her life falls apart.

Of course, there are many, many more, as well as some great new books featuring New York City, which are coming out all the time. Be on the lookout for them!

One Day More!!

Hello Tuesdays!

Hope all of you are well today! As for me, I’m a mixture of excitement, hopefulness, and plenty of anxiety. For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, or even for those who have, I’m here to tell you that my book, Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, comes out TOMORROW!

Like, seriously, OMG!

Sorry, I wanted to appeal to the tween readers, in a language that they’d understand. But, in truth, I’m feeling very much, that way. I can’t believe that after all this time, what I started working on, almost three years ago, will finally be out in the world. I know there are some who roll their eyes and say about me or any author, “They’re posting about that again?” Well, I get it. Honestly, I do. There’s a fine line between necessary self-promotion and too much. And even authors feel, almost embarrassed to be posting about their books. Okay, some do. But, you’re all going to have to bear with me this week. It’s been such a long road to get here, and I want to savor every moment.

From the years of rejections, to the times of agonizingly, near-misses, to finally, acceptance and breakthrough. It’s been a lot of work and struggle. People who don’t write, don’t realize the amount of effort that goes into it. Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate enough to have such a strong community of writers, either surrounding me, or virtually, who have all endured similar experiences, and have made it easy to commiserate with, as well as, support each other.

As far as this book, it’ll always be special to me. For many reasons. The obvious one, is that it’s the book that finally broke me through to the promised land. As I said, I’d been so painfully close before then, that it was made all the sweeter, when it finally happened. I vividly remember the elation that I felt when I received the phone call. To say that I was stunned, is putting it very mildly. I didn’t know who to tell first, and was even scared to tell anyone at all, since it didn’t feel real and I didn’t want to jinx it. Thankfully, I got over silly superstition and managed to start informing people.

The next reason is far more personal. You see, this book was completed during the last year of my dad’s life. He had been suffering from cancer for a long time, until it finally consumed him. Believe me, it’s tough to write “funny” when that’s going on. But, my dad had a great sense of humor and looking at the funny was how I was raised. Also, he’d always wanted to write a book, but never got to it. It was one of his dreams. So, he always asked how it was going with me. He was intrigued by the process and had been proud that I was actually doing it, and that helped. It almost felt, like it was an extension of him.

Unfortunately, his last few months, he started not comprehending things any longer. When I told him that I got an agent, he said he was happy for me, but I knew he wasn’t really understanding what that meant. Shortly after that, he passed away. Amazingly enough, a couple of months after that, I found out that I had an offer and signed the contract. I was beyond thrilled, but felt sad that I never got to tell my dad that it had finally happened.

Until, recently.

I mean, I went to the cemetery and told him. On the anniversary of his passing, which was coincidentally the same time as his birthdate, I was able to go there and show him the finished product. Yes, it was bittersweet, but I was still happy that he got to see, up close.

And, while I’m proud of the finished book, and feel it’s very funny, it’ll always feel like something more, to me. Whether it sells a million copies or just one, I’ll know that I managed to fulfill a dream, and maybe, even two. I’ll always associate Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies with that time.

So, while I’m sure there are some of you who are tired of hearing about it, this week is mine. Next week, I’m sure, it’ll start to lessen, and the week after that, even more. But, this week, you’re going to have to grin and bear it.

I thank every one of you for indulging me, and for the generosity and friendship shown by everyone who has helped with this. From words of encouragement, to sharing posts, leaving reviews, and genuine excitement for me, it was very much appreciated.

Tomorrow, will be the culmination of all of it. Everything that has happened to me, the last three years, comes true tomorrow, when I unleash Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies into the world.

Again, thank you, and I truly, hope you enjoy it.

One Day More.

Jonathan

Interview with Melissa Roske, Debut Author of Kat Greene Comes Clean!

Hello Tuesdays!

Today, I’m thrilled to be joined by friend and fellow 2017 Debut Author, Melissa Roske, whose book, Kat Greene Comes Clean, is scheduled to come out TOMORROW from Charlesbridge!

JR: Hi, Melissa and thanks for joining us today.

MR: Hi to you, Jonathan!

 

JR: Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about Kat Greene Comes Clean and the impetus behind writing it?

MR: Okay, here’s the plot: Kat Greene is an 11-year-old fifth grader at the super-progressive Village Humanity School, in New York’s Greenwich Village. Kat’s lucky to have great friends, a loving blended family—including a caring stepmom and an adorable three-year-old half-brother, Henry—and the excitement of New York City at her doorstep. She’s also got a big problem: Her mom’s got an out-of-control cleaning compulsion, fuelled by her worsening OCD. She’s also terrified of germs. To cope, Kat reaches out to her best friend, as well as to the hippie-dippy school psychologist, Olympia Rabinowitz—but things start to spiral out of control when Kat’s mom decides to be a contestant on Clean Sweep, a TV game show about—you guessed it—cleaning.

The impetus behind the book is based on my own experience with OCD—or, to be more accurate, my dad’s OCD. His compulsions are the polar opposite of Kat’s mom’s, though, because my dad is extremely messy and keeps everything. (I recently found a datebook in his apartment from 1973!) He’s also a checker, which means he must check the front-door locks, and the gas jets on the stove, multiple times a day. I too have obsessive-compulsions tendencies, including the need to have my window shades fixed at a certain level, but I wouldn’t say they impede my life. They’re just extremely distracting—to my family, and to myself.

 

JR: I read that you used to be a journalist in Europe. That sounds fascinating. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

MR: Before my daughter was born, I lived with my husband in Brussels, London, and Munich respectively. My first gig, in Brussels, was at a newsweekly called The Bulletin, where I interviewed Belgian politicians, wrote restaurant reviews, and profiled minor celebrities (with the focus on minor). I did pretty much the same thing in London, but the celebrities were a tiny bit more high profile and I was able to get around town without getting lost! I also had an advice column in Just Seventeen magazine, Britain’s then-leading magazine for teenage girls, where I answered hundreds of letters from readers each month.

 

 

JR: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point? 

MR: How long have you got, Jonathan? Okay, here’s the short version: I started querying Kat—which was then called What’s the Problem, Ellie Gold?—in 2012. I got an agent after an R and R, and went on submission later that year. When the manuscript failed to garner interest from editors, my agent and I parted ways. I then reworked the book from top to bottom (and bottom to top, and top to bottom…) and started the querying process all over again. I found a great agent, who then sold the book to Julie Bliven at Charlesbridge. The deal was announced on September 29, 2015. I’ve since switched agents—I’m now represented by the awesome Patricia Nelson of MLLA—and working on my next book.

 

JR: What’s your writing process like?

MR: I try to write every day, although some days are more successful than others. On successful days (which outnumber the slacker days, thankfully), I like to do a little prewriting in my journal before I sit down to work. I test out ideas, explore plot points, and to ask myself plenty of “What if” questions. For instance, there’s a scene in my book where Kat goes trick-or-treating with her BFF, Halle, but Halle isn’t speaking to Kat.  I wasn’t sure how Kat should react at this point, so I asked myself: “What if Kat acted as if everything was fine?” From there, the scene developed naturally. Another thing I do is to write a synopsis before I tackle a project. I like to have a roadmap, even if I don’t follow it.

JR: What was your favorite childhood book and who’s your favorite author?

MR: This one is too easy! Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. Published in 1964, it tells the tale of Harriet M. Welsch, an eleven-year-old New Yorker who spies on her neighbors and writes down her observations in a notebook. I actually wrote a whole article on why I love this book so much, but I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just say I’ve read Harriet the Spy more times than I can count—at least once a year, every year, since the age of 11. Don’t ask me to do the math. I will refuse.

 

JR: What’s your favorite movie?

MR: As embarrassing as this sounds—and it is, admittedly—it’s Legally Blonde. How can you not love it? It’s about a whip-smart fashion-merchandising major who aces “The History of Polka Dots” and gets into Harvard Law School.

 

JR: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?

MR: I turned down the chance to be on the David Letterman show. I was a life coach at the time, and I’m pretty sure the producers wanted to poke fun at the coaching profession. Life coaches have a hard enough time being taken seriously, and I didn’t think David Letterman needed any encouragement. So I said no.

JR: I think your inclination was probably right. 

 

JR: Do you do a lot of research when you write?

MR: I actually had to do quite a lot for Kat Greene, because I wanted to make sure that the portrayal Kat’s mom’s OCD was fair and accurate. To that end, I read many books on the subject—including David Adam’s excellent memoir, The Man Who Couldn’t Stop—and interviewed several psychologists and psychiatrists. I also corresponded with people who suffer from OCD, and talked to members of their families as well.

My second book focuses on a girl whose stepdad is an ex-football player, so I’ve been learning more about football than I thought humanly possible. And there’s been a steep learning curve. I know nothing—and I mean nothing—about the game!

 

JR: Here at the Tuesdays, a big part of our success and the purpose of this site, has been being involved in a critique group. Are you involved in one and if so, how has it helped you?

MR: I used to be a member of a wonderful critique group, but it disbanded when a key member moved away. Now I exchange manuscripts with several writer friends, including the accomplished MG author, Nancy Butts. At some point I’d like to join a new group, but it would have to be the right fit. The sharing of one’s work is incredibly personal.

 

R: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?

MR: The best piece of writing advice came from my mentor, the incredible life- and writing coach Sara Lewis Murre. She always says, “What you write is right.” That’s not to say what you write needs to be good, but it’s important that you let yourself write whatever you need to, at any given time. Self-criticism runs rife for writers, and it’s vital to keep it at bay.

 

JR: What are you working on next?

MR: I’m not sure if my agent wants me to blab, but I can say that it’s another middle-grade novel, this time about a sixth-grade girl whose family lands on a reality-TV show. Oh, and it’s set in New York. (Surprise, surprise!)

JR: That sounds very cool. Can’t wait to read it!

 

JR: Is there anything that else you want to share with our readers or perhaps tell them how they can follow you on social media?

MR: Well, I can give you my bio, if you want. If not, well… here it is anyway. Melissa Roske was a journalist in Europe, before landing a job as a teen-advice columnist for Britain’s Just Seventeen. Upon returning to her native New York, Melissa contributed to several books and magazines, selected jokes for Reader’s Digest, and got certified as a life coach. She lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with her husband, daughter, and the occasional dust bunny.

 

Links:

WebsiteFacebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Instagram

 

Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays, and I’m begging you, please don’t say Faran!

MR: Faran? Who’s Faran?

JR: And that’s why I like you so much! 

Thanks, again for joining us, Melissa, and here’s hoping for huge success for Kat Greene Comes Clean!

Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies Launch Party Recap!

Hello Tuesdays!

I have to tell you, I am wired right now. I had my book launch tonight and it was beyond anything, that I’ve thought about.

First off, it was surreal, to walk in and see my name and face on a poster. Right beneath that, was a stack of my books. I couldn’t believe the thrill of actually seeing my book out on display. Nothing prepares you for that. It’s a better feeling, than I’d ever thought it would be. For all those years, when I picked up books at the store, I’d always pictured what it would be like to pick up my own. I’d thought about it, but actually doing it, was sooooo much better.

It’s amazing to see, in physical form, the product of all the hard work that you’ve put in.

After that, my friends and family started pouring in.

Seeing, so many people you know, come and support you, is such a heartwarming feeling.

There were writing friends, non-writing friends, and members of my family. For all of them, it was helping out and supporting a friend. But, for me seeing them all there, meant so much more. There were tons of kids roaming around, and also quite a few people who had just come in, after reading about the event, That, to me, was the coolest. People you know, might feel obligated, but just seeing people who came by, because they were interested in your book, was overwhelming. That made me incredibly happy.

Overall, I was relaxed, had fun, and everything felt like a party atmosphere.

So, thank you, once again, to all who came out to help me celebrate. It really meant so much to me, and I can honestly say, this was a night that I’ll never forget.

Interview with Leah Henderson, Debut Author of One Shadow on the Wall

Hello Tuesdays!

Today, I’m pleased to be joined by my fellow 2017 Debut member, Leah Henderson, whose debut, One Shadow On The Wall, came out June 6th from Simon & Schuster/Atheneum

JR: Hi, Leah and thanks for joining us today.

LH: Hey! I’m thrilled to be here. Thanks for having me.

JR: Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about One Shadow On The Wall and the impetus behind writing it?  

LH: One Shadow On The Wall is the story of a newly orphaned boy choosing between what is right and what is easy in order to keep a promise he made to his father. It is laced with magical realism and set in contemporary Senegal, a place near and dear to my heart.

The impetus for writing it came a few years ago during a trip to Senegal. I happened to see a young boy sitting on a beach wall and asked myself what his day might be like and tried to collect my thoughts in a short story. When my grad school professor read it she remarked, “You know this is the start of a novel, right?” Although I wasn’t quite sold on the idea at first, after many, many drafts, and a couple more after that, I found Mor—my main character—and his story.

JR: I saw on your website, www.leahhendersonbooks.com, that you like taking in different traditions of people when you travel around the world. What are some of the more interesting traditions you’ve observed?

LH: That’s a tough one. I travel a lot. Wanderlust skips through every inch of my body—always! I have seen a number of things over the years that have definitely left an impression from the art of tea service in Senegal or Mali, having henna decorated on my hands and feet during a weeklong Indian wedding in Bangalore, but really my fondest memories are of each places cultural notes that are all their own. The differences between the souks of Muscat, Oman and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia compared to the shops in Dubrovnik, Croatia, or those in Beijing, Istanbul, or Capetown. There are so many differences and similarities around the world that are always so fascinating to witness.

 

JR: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point?

LH: I’ve always loved writing, and after spending almost a year writing a novel on a speaker in an Italian nightclub, I decided to go back to school for a MFA in Writing. But I didn’t truly put writing blinders on and focus until after I graduated.

I started One Shadow on the Wall during graduate school, but really dragged my feet about finishing it. I truly didn’t believe I was the one to tell this story. I was worried I’d get everything wrong about a culture I knew so little about. And it wasn’t until my father reminded me that I had the opportunity to help kids like Mor see themselves on the page that my focus intensified.

So with the help of my amazingly supportive mentor I finished One Shadow On The Wall about a year later. Then I submitted it to a very small number of agents. I heard some really encouraging things about the story and my writing, but unfortunately no offers. I knew this quiet story set in a little known part of Africa would have an uphill journey to publication, so I decided to put it in a drawer for awhile and started writing something new. But about seven months after those rejections, I crossed paths with one of the first agents who’d read it and they wanted to take a second look. After that, things happened pretty quickly. I signed on with that agent at the end of 2014, went out on submission the last day of February 2015, and the manuscript sold by the beginning of March 2015.

 

JR: What’s your writing process like?

LH:  It varies for each project I write. But generally an idea sits in my head, twirling around for a while before I actually start to put anything down on paper. Sometimes I will write a brief outline, and other times I will dive right in because certain scenes are so vivid in my mind.

I kind of let the story dictate how things will go. But at some point I definitely stop and assess where I am in the process and either start outlining for the first time, or add to an outline I already created, sometimes even shifting around scenes.

JR: What was your favorite childhood book and who’s your favorite author?

LH: Agh…this question… As a writer and avid reader I have soooooo many favorites! They depend on what I need at the moment. But I will say the childhood book that has left the deepest impression is Corduroy. It was the first book where I got to see an image of myself and my mom having a simple adventure and I loved it.

 

JR: What’s your favorite movie?

LH: Many of my favorite things depend on my mood. So any questions about “favorites” are tough for me. I like and love so many things for what they are and for how they make me feel. I’ve never been one to put a limit on my “happy” or shy away from things that evoke strong emotions in me.  

But one movie I can play again and again and not get bored of no matter how many times I see it is: Beauty and the Beast though Slumdog Millionaire, Love Actually, The Piano, and Notting Hill are up there as well. But right now my whole soul is waiting for the Black Panther. I know that movie will give me life!

 

JR: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?

LH: To be honest, I’m not really sure anymore. I am always surprised by what people find surprising. I’ve never run off and joined the circus or anything, but I once packed up my brother’s Batmobile and headed off for a cross-country trip in my red rain boots (didn’t make it out of the cul-de-sac though . . . Momdukes convinced me there was an adventure waiting for me at the playground).

 

 

JR: Do you do a lot of research when you write?

LH: Absolutely, especially for One Shadow on the Wall. Even though I’ve traveled to Senegal a number of times, her culture is not my own, so I definitely needed to research EVEYTHING. But I have also done a far amount of research on some of my other stories as well. I have a very curious soul, so I love to research. Though sometimes it can quickly turn into a procrastination technique. But I generally do quite a bit of exploring before I ever start writing anything. And in some cases a lot more after I get a completed first draft down, because that’s when I truly know what I need.

JR: Here at the Tuesdays, a big part of our success and the purpose of this site, has been being involved in a critique group. Are you involved in one and if so, how has it helped you?

LH: Critique groups are amazing! Or at least having one or two solid critique partners can do a world of good. And I’m fortunate enough to have both. Critique groups have helped me brainstorm when I’m stuck, and have called me on things that I’ve tried to slip in unnoticed (even though I already knew they weren’t going to fly). They are also a great source of encouragement and kinship if you are fortunate to find the right one.  

 

JR: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?

LH: Just remember that: “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything – down on paper.” –Anne Lamott

And I would offer this: Believe in yourself, and if you can’t completely do that yet, surround yourself with others who believe in you wholeheartedly, even when you falter, and from who’s example you can learn from.

 

JR: What are you working on next?

LH: My heart-place is middle grade, so I am working on another middle grade that is very different from One Shadow on the Wall, but it combines similar elements—family, friendship, and finding your possibilities and stars.

 

 

JR: Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays? And I really hope you choose me, though, You see, everyone picks Faran, and I would really appreciate it, if for once, someone chose me. 

LH: There goes that word “favorite” again. This time I’m not pickin’ favorites! I’m all about people that make others smile and I’m sure each of you have a talent for bringing out a smile in someone else so I’m staying out of this one (call me a coward if you want to). 

JR: Sigh . . . okay. Anyway, thanks again for joining us, and the best of luck with One Shadow on the Wall!

A Very Busy Writer!

Hello Tuesdays!

Hope all of you are well.

Well, right now, I have to tell you, I am swamped! Absolutely swamped. But, when you’re a writer and you’re swamped, that means you’re working, and that’s a good thing. Right now, I’m working on a sequel to Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, as well as, another project, and also trying to prepare a book launch.

But, I’m going to brush all talk of that other work aside for a few minutes, and talk about next week. You see, next week, is that book launch for Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies. So, for anyone who happens to be in South Florida, it’ll be on Thursday, August 10th at 7:00 p.m. at the Plantation, Barnes & Noble, to be precise! I can’t even begin to tell you, that’s going to be very exciting for me, since it’s the culmination of a very long journey. When you work hard for years, it’s gratifying to see results. That’s finally happening, for me. When I first saw the book cover with my name on it, it was such an indescribable feeling. Just happiness and awe. Although, that particular book didn’t take years, the whole process itself, did. It’s about reaching a goal. Learning your craft, getting to a point, where you’re good enough to have someone interested in your work, and then, finally publishing it. It really is rewarding.

So, I know, for some, it’s becoming interminable listening to me talk about this, but for me, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime feeling, and I plan on enjoying and savoring every moment.

Hopefully, I’ll get to see as many of you as possible next week, because sharing it with friends, is the majority of the fun.

Until next time . . .

Jonathan

Overcoming Disappointment and Setbacks

Hello Tuesdays!

Hope you all had a great weekend!

What a difference a week makes for me. Just last Monday, I was all excited, talking about how great it was that my debut was only a few weeks away, and how great it had been to share the limelight, with a bunch of some great debut authors in the Class of ’17.

Well, that’ll teach me to get ahead of myself. You see, I wrote that piece on Sunday night and posted it, so it would appear first thing Monday morning. So, guess what happens Monday morning . . .

Well, I get an email from my editor. Basically saying, ‘Can we talk?’

It felt like a ‘Dear John’ letter, or in this case, a ‘Dear Jonathan’, because, never in the history of letters, has anything good started with, “Can we talk?” . . . and this was no exception.

The gist of it was, there was an issue with the printing and the debut of Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, had been pushed back, from August 1 to August 29th.

Now, I’m fully aware, that things happen. It’s not always a seamless operation. And I understand all that. This was not a thing where it was anybody’s fault, but I can’t come right out and lie, and say that I wasn’t terribly disappointed. Because, I was.

It’s tough to keep counting down for over a year, and then, once you’re so close, it feels, a little, like the rug was pulled out from under. Still, I didn’t allow myself to wallow for too long. All things considered, I had to be happy, that I was STILL relatively close, and I was still fortunate enough to have my book coming out. Another few weeks wasn’t going to kill me.

Once, I started to relax somewhat, anther awful thought struck me . . . my launch party! In all the turmoil, I had completely forgotten about my launch party. I had it scheduled for the 10th and now with my book scheduled to come out on the 29th, how would that go?

I had already advertised it. Already invited tons of people. And already heard from out-of-town people, that they were coming. And, because of all of that, I really hated the thought of postponing.


I know, it’s very easy to say, let’s just reschedule that too, but I, actually, put a lot of thought into the dates I wanted to have it.

First thing, and I’ve mentioned it before, my father’s birthday, was that weekend on the 13th, and two years ago, on the 12th, he passed away. So, I really wanted to have it as close to that weekend as I could. It was important to me, to have that kind of tie-in to my dad.

The only reason, I didn’t ask for that weekend, specifically, was because it was the last weekend before school starts up again, here in Broward County, Florida. Also, I didn’t want friends, with children, to have to worry that they had things to do for school, and this way, they could still stay out late on a weeknight for my launch.

So, there was, at least, some semblance of thought put into this. Well, as much as I could muster, anyway. So, after I realized that I would probably have to move the launch, as well, that’s when I started getting really down.

That’s when, the amazing people involved in this, took over. My agent, editor, and bookseller, all made sure that I would still have my launch on time. Almost, literally, hot-off-the-presses, my editor is going to have the books shipped out to Plantation Barnes and Noble, so they’ll be able to be displayed on the 10th, while the rest of the country gets them on the 29th.

I have to say, that in spite of my disappointment at the book being pushed back, that was my silver lining. I didn’t have to change dates and could still go on with the celebration, as scheduled.

All the things, I had been upset about, I realized, were out of my hands. Nothing I could do about it. So, it was pointless to wallow. It wasn’t like it was something I did, or that anybody did, these things just happen sometimes. What we were able to control, was taken care of. And, for that, I’m grateful and happy.

With my counting down getting an unexpected rewind, my primary countdown, will be for the launch. I’ve already started a lot of planning for it. We’re going to have some giveaways. Some contests. And, some activities. And, some lucky kid, is going to win a cuddle bunny of their very own!

Why, rumor even has it, that Faran Fagen will be dresses in a bunny costume. I might be the one starting the rumor, but, so what?

Disappointments come, and setbacks happen. It’s how you deal with them, that’s the difference. So, hope to see all of you out there at Plantation Barnes and Noble on August 10th, and together, we can all have a great time, and forget anything else!

See you there!