Interview with Jessica Verdi (Author of THE SUMMER I WASN’T ME)

Meet Jessica!

jessica-verdi-225x225

Jessica Verdi lives in Brooklyn, NY, and received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School. She loves seltzer, Tabasco sauce, TV, vegetarian soup, flip-flops, tattoos, and her dog. Jessica is also the author of My Life After Now.

Hi Jessica, welcome to Whimsically Yours!! Why did you decide to write this book? More specifically, why did you decide to set it at an anti-gay camp?

When I was toying with ideas for the topic of my second novel, this story really called out to me. I’ve always been fascinated by these so-called conversion camps, places where religious leaders claim they can turn gay kids straight. There is no doubt in my mind that they’re claiming to do the impossible, and that telling LGBTQ kids there’s something wrong with them is nothing short of abuse, but the root behind these camps actually, in a twisted way, stems from a good place. The parents who send their kids to these programs truly believe their children are on the wrong path in life and that they will go to hell if they don’t make a change. These parents are desperate to “save” their kids, in their own misguided way. This is something that has long intrigued me, and a world I knew I wanted to explore in the book.

But it all came together for me when, funnily enough, I was listening to Lady Gaga’s song “Hair.” The chorus of that song goes,

I just want to be myself and I want you to love me for who I am.

And I started thinking about all the kids who aren’t loved for who they are, and that made me so sad. And I knew I had to tell Lexi’s story.
I think you balance the preachy-over religiousness of the camp counselors with also still allowing for Christianity to not be seen as bad or the source of all of Lexi and the other campers’ problems. How did you do this? Was there ever a time you were worried this book would come off as a bad or stereotypical portrayal as Christians as homophobic?

Thank you! Finding that fine line between a biased, educational pamphlet and a book that has no opinion at all is something I always work hard to accomplish in everything I write, because I personally never want to write either of those. So I always try to do two things. 1) Make the characters and situations as layered and relatable as possible, so the reader, no matter who they are, will identify with and root for them, regardless of whether they agree with them or not. 2) Present many sides of the story. I personally don’t agree with these ex-gay programs, but there are characters in the book who have their own reasons for believing in it and wanting it to work. There are also characters, like Matthew, who thinks it’s complete and total B.S. I think if every character has a believable, understandable motivation, the rest will fall into place.

Why did you choose Lexi as your main character? All of the campers in this book seem to have stories that easily could’ve made for a great novel.

That’s a good question, and I guess the only answer I have is that I just really knew her. Not that I didn’t know all my characters incredibly well, but there was something about Lexi’s story that I really related to on a different level—even though we have very different lives. She was special and unique but also so familiar. I hope readers feel that way about her too.

Do you think you’d ever revisit the lives of Lexi or any of the other campers or is this it?

Never say never, right? I love Lexi, Carolyn, Daniel, and Mathew so much, so I’d love to revisit them some day, and see where they end up a few years down the line. But for now I have no specific plans for a sequel. There are so many other characters bouncing around in my head that I’d love to get to know. 🙂

The Great Gatsby is a text that’s central to the plot of the story (it’s also one of my favorite novels). Why The Great Gatsby? Was it always your intention to have passages of the book throughout The Summer I Wasn’t Me?

I’ve always really connected with pop culture, and I feel like I’m always relating things I encounter in my daily life to something that happened in a show or a lyric of a song or whatever. So when I’m writing I like giving the reader the opportunity to, as they’re reading, make connections between my book and something they may already be familiar with, since that’s what I like to do in my own life. Finding links, familiarity, shared experiences.

I love The Great Gatsby, and it seemed to be the perfect parallel for Lexi’s story. I’ve always read that book as a queer text, but there are other similarities between the stories as well. They’re both about trying to change who you are to please the person you love, they both have themes of forbidden love, they’re both about being in a new place, they both take place in the summer. And so I thought it was a good way to illustrate that there is always more than one way to look at something.

What’s your patronus? (Speaking of Harry Potter, I loved Daniel’s bit paralleling HP with Jesus.)

I’m so glad you liked that scene. I love that moment too, when Daniel finally finds a way to stand up for himself a little bit. My patronus is probably an elephant. They’re my favorite animal—so beautiful and smart and loving and gentle.

What is the first story you remember writing?

I was always a big reader growing up, but I didn’t really start writing until I was in my mid-late twenties. The first book I ever wrote was an adult chick lit magical realism story about friendship and music and finding love. 🙂

Fun Fact about yourself most people don’t know or wouldn’t expect?

I have terrible handwriting. Just awful. But luckily I’m a pretty good typer. <–ha, I’m with you there! -P

What was your favorite childhood book/author?

Oh I had so many! One series I read over and over again was Judy Blume’s Fudge series. LOVED it.

What other projects are you working on/any closing words about The Summer I Wasn’t Me, etc…?

I have a book coming out next year called What You Left Behind. It’s my first novel from the point of view of a boy main character. It’s the story of Ryden, a teen boy who got his girlfriend pregnant while she had cancer. She decided to continue with the pregnancy even though it meant stopping her chemo treatments. The story starts a few months after she dies while giving birth, when Ryden is struggling to reconcile the intense guilt he feels with the struggles of being a new dad.

And as for The Summer I Wasn’t Me, on a very basic level, I hope Lexi’s story will help readers to know they are a-ok just the way they are. And if someone is telling you otherwise (whether they’re criticizing your sexuality, your appearance, your disability, your hobbies and interests, or anything else) they’re the ones who have to take a long, hard look at themselves, and maybe start to make some new choices, not you.

Thank you so much for stopping by! My review of the book will be posted Wednesday but in the meantime here’s a bit about it:

image001The Summer I Wasn’t Me
Sourcebooks Fire, April 1, 2014
ISBN 9781402277887
Lexi has a secret…

Ever since her mom found out she was in love with a girl, seventeen year old Lexi’s afraid that what’s left of her family is going to fall apart for good.

You are on the road to truth. Help is on the way

The road signs leading to New Horizons summer camp promise a new life for Lexi- she swears she can change. She can learn to like boys. But denying her feeling is harder than she thinks. And when she falls head over heels for Carolyn, one of her fellow campers, Lexi will have to risk her mother’s approval for the one person who might love her no matter what.

In The Summer I Wasn’t Me, Verdi writes with raw honesty and an open heart, asking the hard questions and exploring emotional depths and difficult truths in her character that no YA author has done before.

Praise for The Summer I Wasn’t Me

“A powerful indictment of reparative therapy- a sweet love story- and an unforgettable main character!.”

– Nancy Garden, author of Annie On my Mind

Trust me, you want to read this book. Gave it to my friend, she finished it in a few hours and called me bawling about how beautiful it was 🙂

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

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BEFORE YOU BREAK Blog Tour: Author Interview

blog tour before you break

Good morning!

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Christina Lee, one of my favorite authors, and author of The Between Breaths Series (ALL OF YOU, BEFORE YOU BREAK, WHISPER TO ME) for the BEFORE YOU BREAK Blog Tour (Enjoy!!) 🙂 …Also, there’s a giveaway, don’t forget to enter!

BYBBook Title: BEFORE YOU BREAK
Author: Christina Lee
Genre: New Adult/Romance
Publishing Company: Penguin
Expected Publication Date:  February 18, 2014 (ebook), October 14th, 2014 (trade paperback)

Book Blurb

A sexy, emotional New Adult romance about a bad boy on the edge and a good girl about to lose control…

A college baseball star isn’t supposed to have skeletons in his closet. But Daniel Quinn is hiding a guilty past so dark he refuses to let anyone get close. Except there’s something about gorgeous, studious Ella Abrams that goes beyond the electric attraction between them–something that makes him want to open up.

Ella has suffered enough heartache and guilt to fill one of her psychology textbooks, but she keeps that part of herself hidden behind a bubbly exterior. Until she receives an anonymous call while working a suicide helpline and the voice on the other end touches something inside of her that she can’t ignore.

Soon Ella and Quinn’s physical connection heats up, even as their deep and revealing hotline talks intensify. But by the time Ella realizes that her seductive jock and her sensitive caller are the same guy, it might be too late to save him–or to stop herself from falling too far…

Add BEFORE YOU BREAK to Goodreads

Buy Links

Raves for Christina Lee’s All of You

“Hot, sweet, emotional, page-turner, awesome.” —New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Monica Murphy

“This is one New Adult you don’t want to miss.” —New York Times and USA Today bestselling author A. L. Jackson

“Steamy, honest, and full of heart.” —Roni Loren, national bestselling author

Interview with the Author

christina lee phototHi! I live in the Midwest with my husband and son—my two favorite guys. I’m addicted to lip-gloss and salted caramel everything. I’m the author of The Between Breaths Series, New Adult contemporary romances including: ALL OF YOU, BEFORE YOU BREAK and WHISPER TO ME from Penguin/InterMix. I also owns my own jewelry business, called Tags-n-Stones (dot com), where I hand-stamps meaningful words or letters onto silver for my customers.

What is your favorite place to write?

I only write in my home office on my Mac desktop. My office has lots of natural light, so I can ponder plot issues while I’m staring out one of the windows.

What is the first story you remember writing?

I wrote my first book in 2008. It was a YA/NA Zombie novel believe it or not—and thankfully will never see the light of day. 🙂

Coffee or tea?

Coffee all the way. But sometimes I’ll drink a good chai tea latte.

Fun Fact about yourself most people don’t know or wouldn’t expect?

I used to live and work in NYC as a wardrobe stylist, and have been on the set of many magazine shoots as well as a couple of popular TV shows. <–Ooo, that’s cool!

If you had a Patronus what would it be?

I love the Harry Potter series and am currently reading them with my son—we’re on book five. My Patronus would either be a dog (after my dear chocolate Lab who passed away last year) or a dragonfly (love watching them buzz around on the lake in the summer).

What is your favorite childhood book and/or author?

I vividly remember reading Judy Blume books. <–me too!

What is the next book you want to write?

I’ve already written book three in this series called Whisper To Me. It releases in May and I’m currently doing copy edits for my publisher. Hopefully there will be more books in this series.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Christina! I hope there will be more books in the series, too and I can’t wait to read WHISPER TO ME 😀

Connect with Christina!

Facebook | Twitter | Website | Goodreads

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway*

*Click link for more details

Many thanks to The SubClub Books for allowing me to be the first stop on the tour. My review of BEFORE YOU BREAK will be up soon!
Whimsically Yours,

PnC

Interview with YA Author Amber Skye Forbes

Good Afternoon! I love interview authors, especially debut ones as a commitment to debut authors is a commitment to allowing change, diversity, and growth to happen within the industry! Oh and of course, new books & exciting new voices!!! Without further ado, here’s my interview with Amber Skye Forbes author of the YA Paranormal Romance, WHEN STARS DIE that came out on October 22nd!

Hi, I’m Amber!

I considering myself a dancing writer because I do both ballet and write. I am also a university student who will be transferring to an online college next year in order to complete a BA in English with creative writing. I am transferring because this college offers two English internship courses that I can take.

WhenStarsDie-3-1As for my book, it is a young adult paranormal romance titled When Stars Die. Amelia discovers her brother is a witch and wants to cleanse this taint from a family. She believes the only way to do so is to join a convent and become a nun, because the highest calling in one’s life is serving Deus, the god in her world. But there is no redemption for a witch; however, she is determined to find a place in Paradise, the heaven of their world. To do so, she needs Oliver Cromwell’s help, a dangerously attractive priest.

What is your favorite place to write?

Currently my favorite place to write is my bed because it’s comforting for me.

What is the first story you remember writing?

A crossover fanfic between Spyro, a video game about a purple dragon, and The Magic Treehouse, where Jack and Annie went on all sorts of adventures by consulting magic books in a treehouse that whisked them to those places they read about. It turned out to be a novella.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I suppose when I seriously began considering publication at the age of thirteen, when I seriously began trying to create stories that I thought were publishable.

If you could be any character from a book, movie, play, or musical who would it be?

I would be Gemma Doyle from A Great and Terrible Beauty because she’s a strong, determined heroine. She may brood from time to time, but it is her strength that pulls her through most situations. I am especially impressed with how she is able to pick herself up after a certain tragedy in the third book, because I don’t know if it would have been so easy for me to bounce back. –LOVE that series

What is the best piece of constructive criticism you ever received?

I would say that the best piece I’ve received was from Georgia McBride, founder of YALITCHAT. She told me I needed to outline, and that made an enormous difference in my writing from there.

How do you overcome “writer’s block” ? 

I never get writer’s block because I outline. That outline gives me no excuse to not know what to do next.

Are you a full time writer?  If not what do you do in addition to  writing?

I wish I could be a full-time writer, but I do have a job as a marketing trainee and am a part-time student. I’d eventually like to work up to being a full-time writer, but we’ll see where the future takes me. –*snaps* That’s a great mindset

Coffee or tea?

Both. Coffee calms me down, and tea just tastes great.

Favorite animal?

Cats. They’re independent, but more loveable than people think. They don’t just give their love to anyone and actually have dignity. When you kick them down, they won’t come back to you to like a kicked puppy would. They want you to redeem yourself before trusting you again.

Fun Fact about yourself most people don’t know?

I used to jump horses, as in jumping them over hurdles. I was pretty gifted at it but stopped because my favorite horse had to retire from jumping.

What was the publishing process like for you?

It was really easy actually. Mariah Wilson kept encouraging me to seek publication for When Stars Die, so eventually I decided to heed her advice. I found AEC Stellar through Shannon Thompson, subbed them a blurb, they liked it, requested a partial, loved it, and signed me on from there. This doesn’t mean I won’t seek out an agent later. I’d like an agent for my YA literary contemporary that I’m outlining.

What is some advice you would impart to writers who wish to be published?

Learn the rules, but then break them. Writing by the rules just makes your writing crap, and I say that from experience. So don’t get too hung up on reading books about writing fiction. –Ah, great advice! (I do love Stephen King’s, On Writing though)

If you could have breakfast with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and what would you eat?

John Green. He is an amazing writer and seems like an amazing human being. He is the one author whose next book I am always looking out for.

What is your favorite movie(s)?

The Lion King. It is a dark movie, and the movie that I always cry during. But it’s also an uplifting story. Not everything ends happy and neat because Simba still bears scars, but he works through them to become the king he was always meant to be.

If you had a Patronus what would it be?

I think I’d be a cat, just because I love them and appreciate the way cats are.

What is your favorite childhood book and/or author?

It was Mary Pope Osborne. I loved her Magic Treehouse Series. It’s the series that got me into reading.

What is the next book you want to write?

Obviously the sequel to When Stars Die, Stars Will Rise. I also have a contemporary fantasy whose revisions I’d like to get back to in December.

Imagine you are writing your memoir…what is its title?

The Dancing Writer

Last words???

You can order When Stars Die on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. For those waiting for the e-book, you’ll have to wait for some time in December.

Thanks, Amber for stopping by! 

Important Links:

Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads | Website | Amazon

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

BROKEN Blog Tour: Interview with Author CJ Lyons

Hello All!

Today I’m bringing you my interview with NYT Bestselling author CJ Lyons who is making her YA debut with BROKEN a YA Thriller due to release on November 5th!  Please check back at 7pm EST for my review!

Meet CJ!

author of

I’m CJ Lyons, former Pediatric ER doc turned New York Times bestselling thriller author. BROKEN is my very first YA thriller and features a heroine who knows everything about dying but nothing about living. Scarlet has spent her entire life shuttled from doctor to doctor and hospital to hospital only to be diagnosed with a lethal cardiac disease, leaving her literally dying of a broken heart.

Because of her sheltered upbringing, Scarlet is very naïve and all she wants is to live like a normal teenager, so she convinces her parents to allow her to attend high school for a week…a week that gives Scarlet her first ever friends, first kiss (maybe the worst first kiss in recorded history, but she’ll take what she can get!), and a new outlook on her life, her disease, and her family as she unearths secrets she never suspected existed.

Scarlet’s character is loosely based on my own experiences as a pediatrician. I diagnosed my niece, Abby, with the same congenital heart condition, Long QT, when Abby was only twenty minutes old and BROKEN is dedicated to her.

Thanks for that introduction. What is the first story you remember writing?

CJ: The first story I wrote was in nursery school (I’ve been a storyteller all my life, leading to a lot of time spent in time out as a child!) and was a convoluted soap opera involving finger puppets made from empty toilet paper rolls. My first published story was when I was in third grade and featured a blind girl and her horse making their way through rural Pennsylvania during the Civil War

Now that sounds like an interesting read! When did you first consider yourself a writer?

CJ: I’ve always used stories to makes sense of the world around me—it’s my coping mechanism for dealing with chaos. But I never really thought of writing as a career until after I sold my second novel–that’s second novel sold. I’d written my first novel in high school followed by two SF/F novels in medical school. I think I had five or six full novels and several half-started ones finished by the time I sold my first book.

 What is the best piece of constructive criticism you ever received?

CJ: Jeffery Deaver told me to always remember the reader is god. I’ve taken that to heart and built my entire business model and writing routine around this philosophy—if I expect people to spend their time and money on my books, then I’d better be providing value. I still write the first draft of any book selfishly for me, me, me—that’s where the fun and excitement of writing lies in discovering each story. But then once I decide to publish a story I go back and look at it with fresh eyes from the point of view of reader, slicing and dicing to re-vision the story until it becomes something I feel confident will delight and entertain my audience while also, hopefully, inspiring and empowering them.

That’s some really great advice, and your dedication to the reader really shows in BROKEN 🙂 Are you a full time writer?  

CJ: Seven years ago I took a huge leap of faith and left my medical practice to write full time.

Coffee or tea?

CJ: I’ve never acquired the taste for coffee, so it’s usually either hot cocoa (love Ghiradelli) or Good Earth Original tea drunk from my Dr. Who vanishing TARDIS mug.

Haha, great choices! What’s a fun fact about yourself most people don’t know?

CJ: I’ve had two hard landings in helicopters—they don’t call them crashes when you walk away…oh, and I’ve been face to face with a serial killer.

Yikes (that was scarier than I expected)! Do you have a favorite movie?

CJ: I love, love, love movies so it’s always tough to pick one. But just about anything Frank Capra did will leave me sobbing and laughing—I especially love his lesser-known works such as Meet John Doe, Mr. Lucky, and You Can’t Take it With You, but my favorite of his is Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

What is your favorite childhood book and/or author?

CJ: Ray Bradbury. I love the way he infused poetry into his settings and still delivered vicarious thrills and action while making his characters feel so very fallible and human. I’ve read Something Wicked This Way Comes over twenty times—usually on Halloween, just to make things extra-scary.

What is the next book you want to write?

CJ: I just turned in my second YA Thriller and this one was so hard to write! It deals with two kids, Jesse and Miranda, being black mailed by a cyber-predator using capping (screen capture images) and how they find the courage to stand up to him (with the help of their parents). They go through hell and some of the things that happen to them were so painful to write that I was weeping as I typed—but then I was crying again when I wrote the ending as they rose above it all and triumphed.

I thought it would be a stand alone, but after I finished it (the working title is DAMAGED, but I’m not sure if we’ll be keeping it) I realized there aren’t many books out there that tell you the rest of the story, the price to be paid for defeating the bad guys, so I’d love to tackle another book with Jesse and Miranda and show how their courage, strength, and relationship continue to evolve.

Wow, sounds right up my alley. I’ll definitely be snagging that one when it comes out. Thanks CJ so much for a wonderful interview.  The review will be up later today!

Also…

Trust me when I say you’re going to want this one!

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

BLOOD BOUND Blog Tour: Interview with Author Keshia Swaim

Hello!  Today I’m excited to bring you my interview with author Keshia Swaim for the first stop on the BLOOD BOUND Blog Tour (Spencer Hill Press, October 8, 2013).

Meet Keshia!  Hello, My name is Keshia Swaim, and I am a book addict. I love reading, writing, and talking about anything related to books. 🙂 Blood Bound, my debut novel, follows Brielle Reed as she tries to start college, learn more about her mysterious father, and avoid being pulled into a war between the fae courts.

Hi Keshia, what is your favorite place to write? Anywhere with a door. 🙂 I’m a work-from-home mother, so privacy is a rare and precious gift. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything!  I have younger four younger siblings & now I’m at college so I definitely get that.

What is the first story you remember writing? The first one I remember was in elementary school. I don’t remember the title, but it was about a tornado (I’m from Oklahoma) that actually repaired instead of destroyed the landscape.

When did you first consider yourself a writer? I still don’t, really. I think of myself more as someone who got incredibly lucky. But when I received my ARC of Blood Bound with my name on the cover I started thinking maybe one day I can be a “real” writer.

What is the best piece of constructive criticism you ever received? In college, a professor told be that I was “concise to a fault,” meaning that I didn’t spend enough time explaining the details in my writing. It annoyed me when he said it, but he was right, and it’s still something I struggle with.

How do you overcome “writer’s block” ? I write (great advice!). If a certain scene is bothering me, I’ll skip it entirely and move on. Sometimes I end up deleting entire chapters later, but it’s better than the alternative. If I get stuck and stop, it may take me days to get back to my story line.

Are you a full time writer? Nope. I’m a full-time mommy and a nap-time writer. Eventually I’d like to write more, but right now I’m having too much fun with my babies.  Awww!

What was the publishing process like for you?– I got in with a great company, Spencer Hill Press, and they were really good at walking me through the process, but it’s still been right down nerve-wracking at times. But at the same time, watching my manuscript turn into a real novel has been one of the coolest things in my life.

What is some advice you would impart to writers who wish to be published? Do. Not. Quit. Publishing is hard, slow, and has quite a bit to do with luck, in my opinion. Everyone faces rejection (lots of it) but the only way to get past that is to keep going.

…okay, now for the real fun stuff 😉

Coffee or tea? Both.

Favorite animal? White tigers

Fun Fact about yourself most people don’t know? My original career plan was to be an archaeologist. I wanted to work in the Middle East. Then I started paying attention to current events and decided that was a bad idea.

If you could have breakfast with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and what would you eat? Tolkien. I’d love to get inside his head. The man was a genius. And I’d let him pick the breakfast. Whatever would keep him at the table longest. 🙂

If you could be any character from a book, movie, play, or musical who would it be and why? Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. As to why (Other than happily ever after with Mr. Darcy) I Ioved how intelligent and independent she was, in a time where women weren’t supposed to think for themselves. *snaps* to that!

What is your favorite movie(s)? Pride and Prejudice, and Disney’s Aladdin. Random, I know.

If you had/have an animal spirit which animal(s) would it be? A tiger, I guess. They are majestic, beautiful, and extremely dangerous if you make them mad. 🙂

What is your favorite childhood book and/or author? I’ve always been an obsessive reader, so it’s tough to pick one. But I did go through a huge R.L. Stine phase. I think I read every Goosebumps and Fear Street book ever written

What is the next book you want to write? I’d love to continue Brielle’s story for a while, but I’m also working on some historical fantasy.

Imagine you are writing your memoir…what is its title? Gah! Titles are the bane of my existence. Hey! maybe that would be the title. 🙂

Last words??? That sounds like I’m about to die, which I hope isn’t true.  Haha, oh no, I’ve never actually thought of it that way…oops!  I hope you enjoy Blood Bound!  And don’t forget to download “Family Ties” the story that inspired my book. And, if you have time, visit me on Facebook, Twitter, or my blog, The Book Addict.

Thanks for having me! –Thank you for letting me interview you, Keshia!  It was a great one 🙂  I loved reading Brielle’s story and can’t wait to read the continuations as well as that historical fantasy!!

Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of BLOOD BOUND & a swag pack!

Whimsically Yours,

PnC