New Releases for February 13th, 2018!

Hello Tuesdays!

And what a Tuesday we have! There are some really cool new releases scheduled to come out today. Two MG and one YA. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at them!

First up in the MG department, we have Russell Ginns’, Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans from Delacorte Books for Young Readers.

For fans of Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and the Secret series, and classics like Holes and The Westing Game, the first book in a hilarious new series about a girl, her brother, and some super-big globe-trotting adventures.
Samantha Spinner’s Uncle Paul disappeared, and here’s what he left:
*  Samantha’s sister got a check for $2,400,000,000.
*  Samantha’s brother got the New York Yankees.
*  And Samantha got a rusty red umbrella with a tag hanging off its worn handle. The tag says “Watch out for the RAIN.”

Thanks a lot, Uncle Paul.
After all the strawberry waffles, stories, and puzzles they’ve shared, how could he just leave without saying goodbye? And what is the meaning of that mysterious message?

The answer is simple. Sam knows in her heart that Uncle Paul is in danger. And if he taught her anything, it’s that not everything is exactly what it seems. Which is why we should pay close attention to that rusty red umbrella.

The RAIN is coming, and Samantha Spinner is about to find herself mixed up in some super-important, super-dangerous, super-secret plans.

This book sounds like a lot of fun, and there’s a sequel coming, called Samantha Spinner and the Spectacular Specs!

 

 

The 11:11 Wish by Kim Tomsic from  Katherine Tegen Books

Megan Meyers has a foolproof plan to reinvent herself at her new school. Good-bye, dorky math nerd; hello, friend magnet! But her first day at Saguaro Prep starts off weird to the tenth power.

When she’s dared to “make something exciting happen,” Megan is thrown into the middle of an epic power struggle between the two seventh-grade Spirit Captains. So with nothing to lose, Megan wishes for “some magic” as her classroom’s cat clock chimes 11:11—and is granted an enchanted teen magazine promising miracle makeovers and sure-fire secrets for winning friends and crushes.

But magic can have dangerous side effects, and as her social life grows exponentially worse, Megan begins to wonder if wishing was ever a purrfect idea.

 

Can’t wait to read this one!

 

Finally, we have one YA novel on our list, The Traitor Prince, by C.J. Redwine, from Balzer + Bray

A dark epic fantasy inspired by The Prince and the Pauper and the fairy tale The False Prince, from bestselling author C.J. Redwine. A thrilling companion book in the Ravenspire series, The Traitor Princeis perfect for fans of A Court of Thorns and Roses series and The Wrath and the Dawn duology.

Javan Najafai, crown prince of Akram, has spent the last ten years at an elite boarding school, far away from his kingdom. But his eagerly awaited return home is cut short when a mysterious impostor takes his place—and no one believes Javan is the true prince.

After barely escaping the impostor’s assassins, Javan is thrown into Maqbara, the kingdom’s most dangerous prison. The only way to gain an audience with the king—and reveal Javan’s identity—is to fight in Maqbara’s yearly tournament. But winning is much harder than facing competitions at school, and soon Javan finds himself beset not just by the terrifying creatures in the arena but also by a band of prisoners allied against him, and even by the warden herself.

The only person who can help him is Sajda, who has been enslaved by Maqbara’s warden since she was a child, and whose guarded demeanor and powerful right hook keep the prisoners in check. Working with Sajda might be the only way Javan can escape alive—but she has dangerous secrets.

Together, Javan and Sajda have to outwit the vicious warden, outfight deadly creatures, and outlast the murderous prisoners intent on killing Javan. If they fail, they’ll be trapped in Maqbara for good—and the secret Sajda’s been hiding will bury them both.

 

All three of these books look fantastic!

Go check them all out, and Happy Reading!

 

Jonathan Rosen is an original member of the Tuesdays. He made sure of this, by telling them that they would have to stop holding meetings at his house unless they included him also. Jonathan is a transplanted New Yorker, who now lives with his family in sunny, South Florida. He spends his “free” time chauffeuring his kids.  Jonathan is proud to be of Mexican-American descent, although neither country is really willing to accept responsibility. Jonathan is represented by Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency and his debut novel, Night of the Living Cuddle-Bunnies, is out now from SkyPony. You can also find him on FromtheMixedUpFiles.Com,  TwitterFacebook and HouseofRosen.com

Interview with the Debut Author of American Panda, Gloria Chao

Hello Tuesdays!

Today, I’m pleased to be joined by Electric Eighteen Debut Author, Gloria Chao, whose book, American Panda, came out yesterday, February 6, 2018 from Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Jr: Hi, Gloria and thanks for joining us today!

GC: Thank you so much for having me! I’m so excited to be here!

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

GC: American Panda is a young adult contemporary novel about a seventeen-year-old MIT freshman whose traditional Taiwanese parents want her to become a doctor and marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer. Unfortunately, she’s squeamish with germs, falls asleep in biology classes, and is falling for her Japanese classmate.

This is the book I wish I had in high school, and I wrote it hoping that it would help at least one reader feel less alone about not belonging or wanting something different for their life than their loved ones. I also wanted to write an Asian version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding because my parents do a lot of funny things that should be documented somewhere.

JR: I read that you used to be a competitive dancer. I find that really cool. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

GC: I started dancing when I was two and continued until dental school. I loved a variety of styles—hip hop, contemporary jazz, Chinese dance—and started a non-profit Chinese dance group in high school that is still around today. It’s funny how something can be such a huge part of your life for a long time, only to fade away and feel like another lifetime. I keep hoping to find my way back to it, but so far, it’s only resurfaced in my writing.

In American Panda, my main character hides her love of dance from her unapproving parents, and it’s the one place she can express herself. She mixes styles and music, a reflection of her struggle with her identity, which is something I used to do as well.

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

GC: I wrote for three years before landing my agent and book deal. I signed with my agent through the slush pile. It was a long, tedious process, but I’m grateful that anyone (regardless of connections or formal training) can pursue their passion and eventually break into the industry.

JR: What’s your writing process like?

GC: So far, it’s different per book, but there are a few constants. I always have a cup of tea nearby, I write in my office with two screens (one for the manuscript and one for research), with music playing in the background. I do a combination of plotting and pantsing, with my brief outline printed out in front of me. I also have notebooks all around the apartment for when an idea strikes, and the one next to my bed is almost filled. I have a hard time falling asleep and usually end up thinking about my book for hours. For some reason, this is when I have my best ideas.

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

GC: When I was younger, I read and re-read The Babysitters Club so much that they became covered in food and wrinkled (which I would never let happen now).

It’s so difficult to pick one favorite author. If I had to, I’ll go with Nicola Yoon, though there are so many I love: Angie Thomas, Kerri Maniscalco, David Arnold, Marie Lu, Jodi Picoult . . . I could go on for a while.

JR: What’s your favorite movie?

GC: If I had to pick just one, I’d have to say While You Were Sleeping because my husband and I watch it every winter, and it helped to make Chicago feel like home after we moved here four years ago.

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

GC: I used to be a black belt in kung-fu. I stopped in dental school and haven’t picked it back up, but it’s made its way into my second book, Misaligned, forthcoming fall 2019!

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

GC: I worked hard to make American Panda based on all real places and incidents. Most of it was written from past experiences, but there were still things I had to verify. The hardest parts to research were related to Chinese culture. Often, the details I was looking for were hard to find online (at least in English), and many customs and sayings differ between regions. I ended up spending a lot of time on the phone with my mother, who helped me immensely with verifying facts and telling me about her past. I’m so grateful for how much this book has made me learn about my own family and how close I’ve become with my mother.

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?

GC: I’m not involved in a critique group, but I have writer friends with whom I swap chapters and manuscripts. My main critique partner is my husband, who will discuss a plot point, chapter, or even sentence or word with me in depth because he’s stuck with me 😉

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?

GC: The best advice I’ve gotten is “Eyes on your own paper” and related to that, the best advice I can give is to write the story that only you can write. While getting feedback is important, no one knows your story like you do, so listen to your gut. It took me some time before I stopped writing for others and just wrote what I felt was honest and true. That was a pivotal moment in my ongoing writing journey.

 

JR: What are you working on next?

GC: My second book, Misaligned, will be coming out with Simon Pulse in fall 2019. The book follows a teen outcast who is swept up in a forbidden romance and down a rabbit hole of dark family secrets when another Asian family moves to her small, predominantly-white Midwestern town.

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?

GC: You can find me on Twitter and Instagram under the handle @gloriacchao (don’t forget the extra c!). You can also find me on my website at gloriachao.wordpress.com (and I have lots of writing resources there if you’re looking for tips!).

 

JR: Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays? And really, I don’t care who you choose. I mean, I hope you pick me, but if you avoid the question, I’ll think it’s probably Faran, and I don’t know if I can deal with that. So, who is it?

 

GC: I plead the fifth 😉

 

JR: Sigh . . . okay. Anyway, thanks again to Gloria Chao, and race to your local bookstores now to buy American Panda!

 

 

Bio:

Gloria Chao is an MIT grad turned dentist turned writer. She currently lives in Chicago with her ever-supportive husband, for whom she became a nine-hole golfer (sometimes seven). She is always up for cooperative board games, Dance Dance Revolution, or soup dumplings. She was also once a black belt in kung-fu and a competitive dancer, but that side of her was drilled and suctioned out. American Panda is her debut novel, and Misaligned is forthcoming fall 2019.

Visit her tea-and-book-filled world at gloriachao.wordpress.com. Twitter: @gloriacchao. Instagram: @gloriacchao

 

American Panda Preorder Links:

 

IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes & NobleAmazon

 

American Panda Short Blurb:

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

 

Jonathan Rosen is a freelance writer who lives in sunny, South Florida with his family of five and rescue dog, Parker. Jonathan was born in New York and is of Mexican descent, though neither place has been really willing to accept responsibility. Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies is his debut novel.

How to Repeat

Hi Tuesdays!

I think this is actually my first post of the year. Missed all of you! I hope 2018 has gotten off to a great start for everyone. 2017 was a great year for me, personally, since I was able to finally get a book published. While that was a huge relief, now comes another scary part. A book two.

There’s definitely a lot of pressure. Should it be something new? Should it be a sequel? Will it be as good as the first one? Will anyone want it? A million thoughts go through your mind about it.

If it is a sequel, you have to stay true to the characters, while still making the story fresh. It’s a fine line. Even the title is tricky. I happen to have just finished a sequel, but whereas the name Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies came pretty easily for the first, the title for the sequel hasn’t. And of course, that’s caused a lot of anxiety.

All of this really bothered me quite a bit, and I wondered how other writers dealt with it. I knew I couldn’t be the only one thinking and worried about these things, so I started scanning the message boards of other writing groups that I’m in and saw that many people who had their book debuts in 2017, are also now having the same problems. I very quickly realized that I was far from alone. I wasn’t jumping for joy that others were going through it but have to say that I was relieved.

I saw many of the 2017 group already have books scheduled to come out, while some were still in the pondering stage. Wondering what to write about, or having trouble forging ahead. It’s no easy task to have one book come out, but then there is definitely pressure to replicate or better it.

I’m curious to how everyone is dealing with it, while also looking forward to all the second books from everyone in this group.

I’d love to hear from other authors about their experiences coming out with their second books, and how similar and different they find the experiences. Drop me a line, and we’d love to get your thoughts.

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.