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.

Media specialist aims to get kids excited about reading

For our first media Monday in two weeks, why not a media specialist whose passion is getting kids excited about books. Enjoy!

She’s been a music teacher, taught at a treatment program for kids, worked at an outdoor camp for troubled teens, and was a houseparent at a group home for abused girls in New Hampshire.

But for the last eight years, Elizabeth MacEwan-Zdrodowski found her niche at Glades Central High School in Belle Glade as the dedicated media specialist who will do whatever it takes to get teens excited about reading.

“When you work in a school with a very low level of reading proficiency, one of the biggest challenges is dealing with reluctant readers,” MacEwan-Zdrodowski said. “Students may come to your school with a negative predisposition towards libraries. It’s imperative to create an environment where students feel welcome, loved and safe.”

MacEwan-Zdrodowski, 37, has been an educator since 2003 for the School District of Palm Beach County.

Her goals are to build a lifelong love of reading, teach research skills, help students master technology, and encourage creativity. “But first, you have to build relationships,” she said.

MacEwan-Zdrodowski, the immediate past president of the Florida Association for Media in Education, is the Glades Central full-time librarian. She also teaches social media as an elective, administers the school’s iPad project, has created an Apple lab for project-based learning and a Maker Space for student expression, and uses Cranium CoRE to teach reading comprehension.

The Royal Palm Beach resident has been active in the Educational Media Association and was president for 2014-2015. She’s a member of Team TLC, an organization that mentors library media specialists as well as several professional organizations.

But she’s most proud of the dynamic guest speaker experiences she’s brought her students, including visits with authors Sharon Draper, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Paul Griffin and Jason Reynolds.

“One of the most profound experiences was having Mr. Norman Frajman, a Holocaust survivor, speak to students on Holocaust Remembrance Day,” MacEwan-Zdrodowski said. “These special events enrich their lives and not only encourage a love for reading, but help them become better people.”

As a member of the Florida Teens Read committee, she’s read hundreds of young adult novels in the past four years. She writes poetry and is working on a young adult novel. She hopes to develop her writing through critique groups and conferences, such as those offered by Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

As far as her primary role at Glades Central, she’s looking forward to completing the library remodelling that has been granted by Superintendent Robert Avossa (one of only five schools chosen for this honor).

“Working with the students at GCHS is a privilege,” MacEwan-Zdrodowski said. “They are the best kids in the world. I have experienced some negative and biased opinions about the Glades over the last eight years, and it is a source of sadness. The truth is, if people knew how amazing my students were, they’d be begging for my job.”

Creativity for Writers

Are you participating in Nanowrimo or PiBoldMo this month? Confession time – I didn’t this year, but it is really fun to write fast. In a recent SCBWI Boot Camp event, Dorian Cirrone worked with us on the concept of writing fast. Working for say ten minutes and just seeing how many words you can get down on the page. It can be very freeing to allow yourself to let the words out without second guessing all of them.

So while participating in writing events like Nano or PiBo are a great way to connect the collective consciousness of everyone else going for fifty thousand words, it has the possibility to quash your creativity. Here are some ways to consider stirring up the creativity that may be dormant.

  1. Participate in a FaceBook challenge like sharing seven black and white pictures – a different one for each day – without any explanation. No writing involved, but taking pictures activates a different part of your brain.
  2. Cut pictures out of magazines to represent your characters. It makes them more real and looking for them is half the fun!
  3. Meme your characters! There are meme generators all over the internet. For this one, you might want to set a time limit because you really could get sucked into the vortex of wasting time on the internet. www.tuesdaywriters.com
  4. Haiku! Boil a crucial scene down into 17 syllables. (It’s fun!) (And revealing!)
  5. Blackout poetry – my students love this. Take a page from your book and create a poem by selecting words from the page. You can then create art around the poem you’ve created.         Remember that sometimes you have to step away from the project to see what it’s all about.            www.tuesdaywriters.com

Eclectic author in it for the thrill

By Faran Fagen

When he began writing “Painted Beauty,” Mark Adduci knew he wanted the antagonist to be a serial killer. He began by researching everything he could get his hands on about the psychology of serial killers.
Just a day in the office for this author of thrillers from Royal Palm Beach.
“I’m an organic writer, meaning I don’t write from an outline and I have no idea where the book will go or how it will end when I start,” Aducci said. “The rest of ‘Painted Beauty,’ like all of my novels, happened because that’s where the characters took me.”
Adduci, writing under the name J.M. LeDuc, is a native Bostonian, who moved to South Florida in 1985. He’s a proud member of the prestigious International Thriller Writers (ITW) as well as the Florida Writers Association (FWA).
His mother, who loved the written word, passed that passion on to him. It is in her maiden name he writes. J.M. LeDuc’s first novel, “Cursed Blessing,” won a Royal Palm Literary Award in 2008.
Since then, he’s written a titillating plethora of thrillers, including “Cornerstone,” which became a No. 1 best-seller on Amazon in November 2015. “Spirits Collide,” the second book in “The Kiche Chronicles,” will be released in January 2018.
As a fiction writer, Adduci’s main objective is to entertain readers. But he also hopes they come away having learned something.
“Most of my novels have a social issue at their core,” Adduci said. “I never want to hit the reader over the head with the issue, but I think it’s important to have a thread of truth, whether it be historical or contemporary, weaving its way through the fabric of the story.”
Adduci always loved to read thrillers, which led them to his genre. He credits the many writing critique groups he’s come across in Palm Beach County, as well as writing conferences, to honing his craft.
He’s on the board of directors for the Cream Literary Alliance, a group of writers from varied genres whose primary focus is to bring literary awareness to South Florida.
He’s grateful for the support of his wife, Sherri, and daughter, Chelsea.
As far as his day job, Aducci, who practiced as a chiropractic physician in Boca Raton for 27 years, is now the Assistant Academic Dean at the Academy for Nursing and Health Occupations in West Palm Beach.
“Research shows that those types of professions are mainly left-brained, whereas writing, or any of the arts, tends to be a right-brained activity. I think keeping both sides
For more, visit his website at maa0043.wixsite.com/jmleduc.
Q & A
Who is your hero?
In my personal life, my mother, the original J.M. LeDuc. I write under her maiden name. I would also add my wife and daughter. They are all remarkable women.
What is your favorite movie?
I like cheesy movies. My wife would tell you that it’s “Armageddon” because I’ve seen it so many times. I would say, “Eddie and the Cruisers.” It’s just one of those films that left a lasting impression on me.
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy going to the gym, but most of the time, if I’m not writing, I’m reading. I love to read.
What do you do to get away or take a break?
My wife and I love to take cruises, although it’s been a while. It’s the only vacation I know where you can actually escape real life for a few days and do as much or as little as you like. We also like to visit historical cities. In my adult years, I’ve become an avid history buff.
What’s your favorite author/book and why?
Overall, it would be a toss-up between Dostoevsky (historical) and R.J. Ellory (current). Dostoevsky for his brilliant portrayal of the psychological thriller in “Crime and Punishment”; Ellory for his ability to write riveting thrillers with a literary, almost poetic structure. I love all his books, but “A Simple Act of Violence” is probably my favorite.
If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?
I’ll answer it in two parts. Dinner with Jesus. I want to see unconditional love in action. Drinks with Hemmingway. I just think that would be an amazing conversation.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Never give up on my dreams. In today’s world, it’s easy to give in to mediocrity, or to give up on your dreams. I’m still striving to make mine a reality, but that’s what makes waking up each day invigorating.
What event in history would you have liked to witness?
I would have liked to have witnessed the building of the pyramids and I wish I could have walked the Library of Alexandria before it was destroyed.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
Spending time with my grandparents. They are immigrants from other countries and were just incredible people. I wish I could go back and ask them all the questions I never did when I was younger.

Simone Kelly on Marketing your Book like a Pro

Simone Kelly, CEO of Own Your Power® Communications*, Inc., embodies an inspirational and universal force that energizes you. As an author, holistic business and life coach, motivational speaker, media personality and certified Reiki –Master teacher, Simone helps her clients achieve the balance they desire. She’s the woman who leads by example as she “owns her power.” In turn, her clients see how “owning their power” will energize their own business ventures, quests for health and well-being. Simone got her marketing degree in 1996 and became certified as a business coach in 2003. Simone’s new novel, Like a Fly on the Wall was released in July.

Q: Simone, what made you want to write Like a Fly on the Wall?

My grandmother passed away mysteriously before I was born. I always wondered about the circumstances of her death. I was inspired to write about a family mystery. I’m very intuitive. When I spoke to my mother about things I saw or heard as a child, she didn’t understand. I wanted to have a character that was very intuitive. I made that character male, since more females follow their intuition. I wanted to have people relate to their own intuitiveness through a steaming hot hunk of a guy so that they realize that intuitiveness is a gift we all have.

Q: Can you share some of the tips you spoke about at the Mystery Writers of Florida meeting? 

  • Marketing lesson #1 is: get e-mail addresses. Get them at every event and make sure you can read it before they walk away. Get e-mail addresses on your website. Have a newsletter about what you’re doing to stay top of mind. Everyone uses their phones for e-mail now so make sure your content is mobile friendly.
  • It’s important to know your clients. What are their ages, hobbies, income, education and personality types. Ask book buyers how they heard about you. Friend them on Facebook and write them a note. Befriend people who want to promote you.
  • Make your fans a star. Put your fans in the spotlight. Have fans join your mailing list. Give out prizes. Create a Beta Readers Club for super-fans after your first book is out. Offer them an advanced copy of your next book. Get photos of good-looking people with your book. Post them on all your Social Media sites. If you know someone with clout, give them a book and ask for an endorsement.
  • You can also collaborate with other authors to cross promote. I got 1000 new friends by doing a contest with two other authors to win three books every Friday one month. Find a celebrity who can benefit from something in your book. Partner with them and promote each other. Ask influential people to read the first fifty pages of your book and comment on it.
  • Remember to follow up on events and requests. Always try to set up face to face meetings if possible and make sure you follow up with a phone call or a thank you note. Send the book store manager a thank you after your signing. Call the friend who got you an interview or speaking arrangement. When you are nice to people, they return the favor.

Q: Your main character, Jacques is very intuitive. You bring this to the forefront at your book signings and have clients do an intuitive exercise and then prompt them to pursue their intuitiveness. How does one do that?

Practice with little games. Something as simple as guessing what time it is before you look at a clock, or guess what the next song on the radio will be. When I first moved to Miami, I used to call my friend in New York every day and guess what she was wearing. I got to be so accurate, I thought she was lying to me. She actually had a co-worker verify what she was wearing. The practice really worked well for me. If you don’t have the practice, you don’t trust yourself. You don’t trust that inner voice. You have to build the confidence that you really can do it. I was blessed when Harper-Collins allowed me to include an essay on intuition at the back of the book to help people out.

Q: What’s your next book going to be?

The title is still a work in progress. I have the same characters, along with some new ones. Jacques, being intuitive, is going to be looking into past lives. The Vegans are going to love it because when Jacque becomes a Vegan, he sees and understands the unseen even more. Jacques will be able to touch someone and see things that can help them with problems in their current life.

Q: Since you are very adept at promotion, how do you plan to promote the new book?

I really want to get it to be a TV series. I did my own book trailer for Like a Fly on the Wall. I recruited the actors and I did the directing. I’d like to do a Netflix series or something on cable. I’m working on a web series now. I like to collaborate with people and trade talent. I have offered to help some people who are familiar with the film industry in their personal promotion so that I can learn more about it.

Q: Where would your web series be posted?

It can go multiple places, like YouTube or Vimeo, and definitely Facebook. I’m planning a series of five, for the first five chapters. I’ll put one out every month or so. I need the funds to do it and I’ll have to get actors and sponsors, which I did for my trailer. When people know you have a following and will promote them, they’ll work for a discounted rate or trade for my consulting services for their own businesses. I use all the leverage I can get, and so should you in your book promotion.

 

Own Your Power Communication’s* (OYPC) mission is to serve as an empowering guiding force assisting entrepreneurs as they connect with their fullest potential and grow exponentially. You can reach Simone by e-mailing simone@ownyourpower.biz, or at http://ownyourpower.biz/store/like-a-fly-on-the-wall/

Working to Understand

I’ve written on this topic before, but it bears repeating. I believe it’s really important to understand life from someone else’s perspective.

Other people agree with me.www.tuesdaywriters.com

 

Two years ago a FaceBook friend posted this list: https://www.bustle.com/articles/153390-10-books-i-wish-my-white-teachers-had-read

I got the books. All of them, but if you can’t get all ten, then the one I recommend is Between the World and Me.www.tuesdaywriters.com I listened to it, and if you want to have an understanding of what it means to be black in America, then this is a start.

 

This book comes back to me now that I’ve just finished reading two excellent YA novels which have given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be a minority in America.

 

Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give puts the reader in the place of a young woman, Starr, who is in the car when her www.tuesdaywriters.comchildhood friend is shot dead by a policeman. Riots ensue. The media portrays Khalil, her friend, as a drug-dealer. Starr’s family keeps her from the media as long as they can, and her attendance at a private school outside her neighborhood helps shield her. But Starr’s private school world and neighborhood must collide in order for Starr to stand up and be heard.

 

 

www.tuesdaywriters.comRandi Pink’s novel, Into White, is another novel giving readers the perspective of what it means to grow up with skin anything but the color of white. There are some hilarious moments in the book, like how bad a driver Jesus is, but the novel not only explores what it means to be black but also what it means to be comfortable in your own skin.

I can’t say I understand what it means to be another race, but I have an earnest desire to have a compassionate understanding of it. Books like these help.

What should I read next?

Interview with Deb Sharp, Author of the Mace Bauer Series

Florida author Deb Sharp is like the main character in her “Mace Bauer Mysteries,’’ Deborah Sharp’s family roots were set in Florida long before Disney or Miami Vice. As a native and former reporter for USA Today, she knows the spots not found on maps: Molasses Junction. Muse, and now, Himmarshee, her own tiny slice of “Authentic Florida.’’

To create Himmarshee, Deborah borrowed from the present-day ranching town of Okeechobee, and from the south Florida of her family’s past.

Not far from Ft. Lauderdale, her dad used to walk to town, leading the family cow. A generation later, Deborah rode her horse over the same citrus- and ranch-dotted terrain. Now, it’s all interstates and strip malls.

The difference between Mace’s hometown and hers: Deborah will never let Himmarshee be spoiled by sprawl.

Q. You’ve written a number of hilarious mystery novels in your Mace Bauer series. How did you come up with the concept for your novels?

I wasn’t a fiction writer. I was a journalist, but I always wanted to write a mystery. I saw so many sad stories as a journalist I wanted to write a funny mystery. I saw a full page ad of a woman in a turquoise convertible in the Miami Herald. I started to think about the type of character who might be riding around in a turquoise convertible and what could happen. That woman is MAMA and I decided to write a story about where she goes in the convertible. From there I figured she would be from an obscure part of Florida and that she would have three girls. The book started with MAMA discovering a body in the trunk of the convertible. That started the whole series.

 

 

 

Q. You spent a number of years as a reporter for USA Today. Was the transition to novel writing a challenge for you?

It was a lot harder than I thought. I figured I’d been a professional writer for twenty-five years, how hard could it be? Journalism teaches you to leave out what the people you interview are thinking or feeling. I had to learn to put emotion in my fiction. It actually took me a couple of years to get it right. I took a lot of workshops, went to Sleuthfest conferences and joined a critique group. All of those things helped to become a fiction writer.

Q. Do you consider writing an art, or a craft, or a mixture?

Some people are artists when they write. I always thought of it more of a craft. For me it was a profession with the journalism. I felt like saying “I’m an artist” didn’t describe the kind of writing I did, so to me it was more of a craft. There can be artistic feelings that go into writing, but I believe it’s a craft. People have a talent for observation or expression, but to put it all together is something that you have to develop. You can’t just sit down and paint a masterpiece. You have to cultivate your talents and work at them.

Q. You’re really good at marketing. What do you feel are the most important aspects of marketing?

I got a lot of reviews from newspapers in the beginning. The platform has changed since then. Physical newsprint has scaled back and social media has increased. I think something that a lot of people overlook is just being a nice person. Helping out and volunteering gets the word out that you’re willing to give back and that opens people up to you. A lot of people think they need to work to build their brand. I think you can build your brand by being kind to other writers even though it’s old fashioned and low tech. I’ve always felt more comfortable helping someone else rather than pushing ME-ME-ME on social media.

Q. You are good at asking questions on social media that draw many responses from your fans. How do you go about it?

I think it’s because I’m curious. I’m interested what other people think, and I guess it’s easy for me to formulate questions because I did it with the journalism.

Q. What are you reading now?

HaHa! The mystery writers out there might be disappointed that I’m reading chick lit at the moment. I like Jennifer Weiner and I just got something by Sofie Kinsella. I do have a new Michael Connelly novel that I picked up, but I’m enjoying the chick lit right now. I don’t know that I’ll ever do anything in that genre, but it’s light and it’s fun for me at this point.

Q. As you know, we are a critique group. Do you participate in one?

I’m not in a critique group at the moment. I am a huge advocate of critique groups. I was in the Thursday night critique group run by Joyce Sweeney. What was beneficial to me, was hearing from other writers who didn’t have a journalism background. They could pinpoint exactly where I needed to punch things up on emotion or description, things I was scant on from my previous training. In a critique group I think a person should find something nice to say, not be a slash and burn type person. A good critiquer can tell you what’s wrong in a manner that helps you learn and that is so beneficial.

I laugh and say I’m the Goldilocks of critique groups. The first one I went to was too hard, the people were mean. They said they didn’t like my writing, but they really didn’t care for the genre. The next one was too soft. They liked to sit around and drink wine rather than critiquing. Not that drinking wine is bad, but I wanted feedback. Then I found the Thursday group and it was just right. I don’t think I’d be where I am if it weren’t for the Thursday critique group helping me. I am a big fan of critique groups.

You can find out more about MAMA and her antics at DebraSharp.com

 

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!

Pagan Jones

Today we welcome author Nina Berry and the BONUS of our first RAFFLE! www.tuesdaywriters.com

CC: Since you work by day in TV, what’s your writing schedule like?

NB: I write a lot on the weekends, on my lunch hour, and at home at night. I don’t go into a calendar and block off time – although I probably should, but in my mind, I set aside specific hours or time to write. But I goof off online during that writing time more than I should. To help with distraction, writing sprints are useful. I set a timer or look at the clock and say to myself “thirty minutes of writing and nothing but writing starting now.” And then I work like crazy for that time, knowing I’ll get a break at the end of it. Life is a constant battle against my well-developed ability to procrastinate.

CC: We’re a critique group, so we’d love to know about your experience with them. What can you tell us?

NB: Very smart of you to find a group of people you trust to show your work to! I have a critique partner who is essential to my writing. Her name is Elisa Nader and you should check out her fabulous YA thriller ESCAPE FROM EDEN. I also often brainstorm or exchange reads with powerhouse YA and TV writer Jen Klein, who has several books out now. The most recent is a delightful romance called SUMMER UNSCRIPTED. They are both strong in areas where I am weak, and they call me on my crap. They are also supportive and will tell me what’s working – and that is as essential as telling me what doesn’t work. In my experience, YA writers in general are good at supporting each other. The community is close knit and full of smart, kind people.

I don’t know about you, but I go through a recognizable process when I get a really critical note. My first reaction is huge resistance and resentment. That’s my ego, bristling. Then as the note sinks in, I start to mull it over and see some value in it. That’s my desire to be a better writer wrestling with my ego. Finally, I get excited about how the note’s going to make my writing better and I incorporate it in my own way. At that point, I’m filled with gratitude toward the note-giver, completely opposite from where I started. The more this happens, the shorter the time of resistance and resentment lasts. But it’s still there! The ego is mighty, and you have to get past it to get better. Critique partners and groups are a great way to do that.

CC: Pagan Jones is historical fiction and Otherkin begins a paranormal trilogy. How does it work for you switching genres like that?

NB: It is super fun! The key is, if you’re going to write in a genre, read a lot in that genre. Get to know it. I’ve always been a big reader. I love everything from Jane Austen to George R. R. Martin, so all that reading makes it possible for me to write different genres.

But just as you’d expect, historical fiction requires more research than paranormal. Fortunately, I love research! Don’t get me wrong, I did a lot of research for Otherkin – everything from the biology of tigers to how particle accelerators work. But paranormal fiction requires you to change the real world, so you have more leeway with facts. You still need that world to be consistent, of course. But because the Pagan Jones books are historical, I spent more time on research. I read a lot of books on Berlin and the Cold War for The Notorious Pagan Jones, and books on Nazi hunting and Buenos Aires for City of Spies. I scoured old maps and photos of the locations, researched the real people involved, and on and on. Fortunately, I love history and I find that sort of thing fun. With historical fiction, it’s important to me to be respectful of real people’s real experiences. For example, Pagan helps hunt down a Nazi war criminal in her second book, so I was very conscious the whole time I wrote that book how important it was to try to get it right, while at the same time being true to Pagan’s character and entertaining the reader. The historical Hollywood parts of those books came more easily because I work in Hollywood by day and have a Masters degree in film and TV. I’ve loved movies and movie history since I was a kid. If you have a passion, it’s great to be able to incorporate it into your books that way.

CC: Of all your books, which one is your favorite?

NB: No fair! I love them all! Hmm. Okay. Trying not to give you too glib an answer. Each book is a different kind of favorite. Otherkin was the first time I ever talked to an editor who really understood what I was going for. That’s a magical feeling. Othermoon was the first time I killed off a character, and yes, I cried. Othersphere was the first time I had to end a series and say goodbye to characters, so it was fun to wrap it up and difficult to walk away.

Of the many characters I’ve created (and I love them all, even the villains) Pagan Jones is my favorite. I can see her starring in her own Netflix series, you know? She’s larger than life, and so complex I could easily write many more stories for her. But the publisher has no plans to do that as of now, so I’ve had to move on, and that’s been really hard. But you never know! I’d bring Pagan back in a heartbeat, given the chance.

The more I write, the better my writing gets, so my next one should be the best yet.

CC: What are you working on…that you can tell us about?

NB: I cannot say much, alas. But it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever done, and it scares me. In the best way. It’s pushing me to grow. I keep telling myself that’s a good thing as I fret and sweat over the words.

CC: What is your favorite part about being an author?

So much of it is awesome! I love the idea phase, when I’m putting the characters and story together in my head. It’s a great excuse to daydream. I love it when I write a passage that really works. But my absolute favorite is when a reader tells me that my story meant something to them. That’s the best thing ever.

So here’s another favorite thing – FREE BOOKS!www.tuesdaywriters.com

Enter to win one of several books!

The Notorious Pagan Jones by Nina Berrywww.tuesdaywriters.com

Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies by Jonathan Rosenwww.tuesdaywriters.com

A Work of Art by Melody Maysonet

The Sister Pact by Stacie Ramey

Homecoming by Stacie Ramey

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Melody’s Top 5 WWII Nonfiction Books

Anyone who knows me knows that I love reading about World War II, both fiction and nonfiction. Sometimes nonfiction gets a bad rap as “boring” or “too technical,” but I discovered a slew of excellent nonfiction WW II books that read more like novels than historical accounts—sometimes because they are personal accounts, but also because the authors are excellent researchers and writers. Because I love the genre so much, and because I’m such a huge fan of World War II books, I thought I’d list my Top 5 nonfiction World War II books.

1. Flags of Our Fathers (James Bradley)

About the men in the famous flag-raising on Iwo Jima. As testament to its power, this book was made into a movie, directed by Clint Eastwood. This isn’t just one of my favorite WWII books. It’s one of my favorite books, period. I’ve read it several times and am looking forward to reading it again.

2. Ghost Soldiers (Hampton Sides)

Plugged as “the epic account of World War II’s greatest rescue mission,” this book tells the amazing story of how U.S. troops slipped behind enemy lines to rescue the last survivors of the Bataan Death March. This is one of the most powerful and disturbing books I’ve ever read—and the fact that it’s true makes it all the more potent.

 

3. Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand)

Uplifting and powerful, Unbroken tells one man’s incredible story of survival after becoming a castaway and being captured by the Japanese. This book was also made into a movie, directed by Angelina Jolie, and it’s probably the most uplifting book I’ve ever read.

4. With the Old Breed (E.B. Sledge)

Incredibly disturbing, parts of Sledge’s story were used in the HBO miniseries The Pacific, in which Sledge is one of the main characters. There is one scene in particular (about digging a trench) that has stayed with me for years.

5. Helmet for My Pillow (Robert Leckie)

Leckie tells his story as a marine fighting in the Pacific. There is absolutely no romancing of war or heroism here. Leckie’s story is brutal. Like Sledge’s story (see above), Leckie’s account was used in HBO’s The Pacific, and Leckie (called “Lucky”) is one of the series’ main characters.