Something True with Kieran Scott | #TrueLoveTrilogy

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

Whether you love or loathe this holiday, you’re here today because of one common love: reading. We’re thrilled to host Kieran Scott today (you may know her as Kate Brian), who released the final book in the wonderful, charming, funny TRUE LOVE trilogy. Cupid is punished and banished to NJ where she moonlights as True and has no clue how to be a “normal” teenager. True is focused on pairing up meant-to-be couples so she can return to Mt. Olympus (and hopefully fulfill her own love story, which got her in this mess to begin with) so in the spirit of love and fate and all that good stuff, Kieran was kind enough to share her own love story with her husband, Matt.

You are going to love it. Take it away, Kieran!

♥  ♥  ♥

Kieran Scott and the True Love Trilogy

My husband and I never would have met if my best friend’s parents hadn’t gotten divorced. I know, it sounds like bad karma, but let me explain.

My bestKieran Scott, author of True Love trilogy friend Shira went to one high school all the way through ninth grade, where she was friends with my future husband, Matt. Then, in tenth grade, her mom and her new stepdad decided to move their family, which took her out of Matt’s high school and plopped her down right in front of me in sophomore English. (The first thing I thought about her was “Holy crap, I’d kill for that hair.” It’s the exact opposite of mine.) Now, Shira is one of those people who stays friends with everyone she’s ever met, which turned out to be lucky for me and Matt, because ten years later, we met at Shira’s 25th birthday party, which was packed with her middle school friends, high school friends, Hebrew school friends, college friends, camp friends AND work friends.

Actually, all things considered, how we found each other in the crowd is beyond me. What I do remember is Matt asking me if I wanted the last mozzarella stick instead of just taking it for himself. I remember the fact that he readily admitted to watching Party of Five and Dawson’s Creek. I recall that he mentioned he was going to be exhausted at church in the morning and that he couldn’t talk to me about politics, because, well, most people didn’t agree with him and he didn’t want me to walk away just yet.

We hung out throughout the party and at four in the morning, I was lying awake in my friend Wendy’s roommate’s bed (she was away for the weekend), staring at the ceiling with this huge smile on my face. I knew something big was happening. I just never would have been able to predict how big.

After that party, Matt went away with his friends for a week and I heard nothing. If he wanted to call, he couldn’t have, because he was in Jamaica. So of course, I was obsessing. What was he doing in Jamaica? Was he hooking up? What if he met someone there? I spent that whole week stressing that I was going to miss out on this great guy just because of a previously scheduled vacation. Then, a couple weeks later, I went out to dinner with my three best girlfriends and Shira asked me what I thought of Matt. This was the moment I’d been waiting for. But I didn’t want to give away the farm, so I played it cool and said, “Why do you ask?” She said that she’d spoken to Matt and he’d said, “That Kieran is my kind of girl.”

Oh my God, it sounds so hokey now, but I almost died. We set up a big group date and the rest is history. Over the years we’ve found out that our relationship didn’t exactly begin the night of Shira’s birthday. We’d been at other random parties of hers together over the previous couple of years and whenever he walked into a room I’d ask my friends, “WHO is that again?” And they’d say, “It’s Matt! God, if you think he’s so hot, you could at least remember his name.” I also found out that he’d asked Shira about me once before, but it was when I was in a serious relationship with someone else, so she’d told him I was off the market. We’d been circling each other for years, but that birthday party was the first time we were both single, and both in the mood for mozzarella sticks.

All of this goes to show that you never know. You may have already met the guy you’re destined to be with, but the timing might just be wrong. Or you may have already met the girl who’s eventually going to introduce you to the guy you’re going to be with (don’t even get me started on how Wendy and her husband Barry ended up getting together). So, yes, it was lucky for me that Shira’s parents got divorced (they are both VERY happily remarried, by the way). Otherwise, I might never have met the person I was meant to be with.

P.S. The priest called Shira up at our wedding so everyone could meet our matchmaker. It was so awesome.Kieran Scott (YA author) wedding


Thanks so much for sharing today, Kieran!

The love is not over yet, folks. The great people at Simon Kids are providing one lucky winner with a hardcover set of TRUE LOVE trilogy.

Open to U.S. and Canadian readers. Enter below!

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For Real by Alison Cherry | Review & Chat

For Real by Alison CherryFor Real by Alison Cherry ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte / Random House
Pages: 304
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: revenge, reality TV, sister relationships
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley.

Summary: Two sisters embark on a reality show adventure but with different objectives: one wants revenge on an ex-best friend and the other is hoping for more quality time with her sister.

FYI: You don’t have to be a reality show guru to enjoy FOR REAL. In fact, if you are like me and maybe watch more Dancing with the Stars reality entertainment over the latest Survivor-type show, you will be impressed by the little details the author has folded into this story. From the auditions to deep in the action of Around the World, I felt like I was behind-the-scenes in the thick of things.

The core of FOR REAL was sisterhood, and that was so refreshing to experience because a lot of my reading doesn’t concentrate on the complicated relationship between sisters. I would know. I’m an older one. So even though I am more similar to Miranda and not Claire, our narrator, I related so much to the push and pull between them. Even though two people are related, when they are in two difference places in life, it’s so difficult to find common ground. Hearing Claire talk about playing second fiddle to Miranda made me think a lot about my sister and if she had ever felt the same way. Despite the disconnect, Cherry nailed the best thing about sisters: no matter where you are or what you are doing, the loyalty is unbreakable.

So Claire and Miranda team up to audition for a reality show that will take them around the world, participating in various challenges as a way to get back at Miranda’s cheating ex who is also on the show. They are so excited to land a last minute spot, but are also thrown for loop after loop once they sign their contract. There’s time spent with Will Devine, an adorable guy who seems to have his eye on Claire, and the changing landscape on the show that is focused on causing more drama and not really about strengthening new and old relationships. Is anyone taking part in this for real or are they all faking it?

It’s great that Claire was forced to make some tough decisions, as she struggled with her love for her sister and also her desire to win. (Let’s not forget her affection for Will.) Even as a reality show aficiando, Claire doesn’t have all the answers and I really enjoyed her journey. Cherry’s story was full of heart and I loved how she gave readers the opportunity to think about how real these reality shows are. Still, I would have welcomed more chapters to flesh out the end of the novel, and maybe a few more in between to lend some clarity to the show’s timeline. Overall, this was a fun introduction to Cherry’s writing and I was impressed by her decision to not always make the typical storytelling choices.

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Big thanks to Random House for the opportunity to chat with Alison about FOR REAL!

Alison Cherry - Author photo_LoResFirst of all, I loved that FOR REAL focused on the relationship between two sisters. As an older sister, it was a little hard for me to read about how Claire wanted her sister to respect her and want to spend time with her. (I became very self-reflective, seriously.) What was the hardest part about getting this dynamic right? Did you throw in your own experience at all?

It was definitely a challenging dynamic to write, especially since I’m the older sister in real life, too! My younger sister and I have always been close; we’re far enough apart in age and have diverse enough interests that we’ve never really experienced any sibling rivalry, and she says I never underestimated or babied her the way Miranda does to Claire. (I was extremely happy to hear that, as you might imagine.) But many of my best friends in high school were older than I was, and I remember exactly what it felt like when they went off to college and moved on to bigger, better things while I was still stuck at home. It’s extremely painful to watch your importance in other people’s lives wane, especially when your feelings for them haven’t changed at all.

I’m more of a Dancing with the Stars fan than an adventure reality show fan but I was so impressed by all the behind-the-scenes details you included that I never would have thought of. Was it tough to narrow down the destinations of the show that Claire and Miranda take part in?

The behind-the-scenes details were surprisingly hard to find! It turns out people have to sign all kinds of non-disclosure agreements when they go on reality shows, so there are barely any tell-alls or even blog posts about the experience. I did manage to interview one former contestant and one field producer, both of whom were very helpful, but I also got a lot of my information from a fan-written compendium about the first five seasons of The Amazing Race. If you want to know minutia about pop culture, it’s always best to talk to rabid fans; they’ve done much more digging than you’ll ever accomplish on your own.

As for narrowing down destinations, it actually wasn’t that difficult, but I can’t talk about my decision-making process without major spoilers! Let’s just say this: at each location, my characters had to do three challenges based on a very specific kind of local custom, so I could only send them to countries for which I could find three usable ideas.

Since its December and we are all about the holiday spirit around here, what do you think Claire and Miranda would be gifting each other this holiday season?

Miranda has noticed that Claire carries a Doctor Who bag, so the first thing she’ll Google when it’s time for Christmas shopping is “Doctor Who gifts.” She won’t know what this blue police box thing is supposed to be, but since it pops up everywhere, she’ll deduce that it’s probably pretty important, and she’ll buy Claire a TARDIS bathrobe. Claire will be delighted, thinking Miranda is finally taking some interest in the things she likes. But when she puts it on and makes a “bigger on the inside” joke, Miranda will just stare at her blankly.

Claire will buy Miranda the complete Freaks and Geeks on DVD. She’ll tell herself it’s just because she wants to introduce her sister to some great television, but secretly, she also wants Miranda to know what it felt like not to be popular in high school.

♥

Thanks so much, Alison!

(Be sure to check out Alison’s appearance at this month’s BIG KIDS’ TABLE too!)

Attention, Attention! Amy Spalding & INK

One of my RBR goals before the end of the year was to get another ATTENTION, ATTENTION post in. I’m so glad I made this a priority because it gave me a chance to 1) read one of the books that Magan really enjoyed last year 2) talk to Amy Spalding, who is one of my absolute favorite YA authors.

INK IS THICKER THAN WATER is about high schooler, Kellie, who is dealing with a ton of changes in her life. Her constant best friend, Kaitlyn, is suddenly someone she doesn’t recognize and it couldn’t have come at a worst time. Her solid older sister is occupied with getting to know her birth parents and isn’t around as much. Kellie’s relationship with her dad isn’t great; she never feels like she can please him plus she wishes her free-spirited mom would parent a bit more than she does. To make Kellie even more confused, Oliver — a boy she has a bit of a past with — comes back in her life and makes her question what she wants even more.

Whew. Sounds like a lot right? Well I am here to tell you that Amy manages to balance each of Kellie’s challenges so well. I loved the big family dynamic, the adorable little brother Finn, the “cool” parents (even if her mom was a bit frustrating at times), and how much Kellie worried about her family life changing. I liked getting to know her friends on the paper, and watching her come out of her shell and embark on her own passions and also reach out to the people she doesn’t want to be detached from. In a short book, Amy jampacks so many great details and real emotions. Spoiler alert: I totally cried.

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Amy was nice enough to chat with me about INK IS THICKER THAN WATER and also give us a small peek at her upcoming April book! Check it out:

Ink is Thicker Than Water by Amy SpaldingWhat’s the last book you read that made you feel like it was the “right time / right place” kind of thing? (I had this feeling with INK, especially when Kellie was going through so many growing pains with her best friend.)

A couple weeks ago I read Leila Sales’ This Song Will Save Your Life, and it brought back so many feelings straight from my own grade school/middle school/high school years. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book that so accurately nailed what it was like to be a misfit in such a similar way that I was (am?). I loved how music was used as something to get you through the worst times and also connect you to others. Music has always been such a vital part of my life, and I’m convinced it’s gotten me through tough things.

There are so many layers to INK. (For RBR readers: Parental conflicts, sex, friendship and sibling drama, etc.) What was the key to keeping the storylines balanced and making sure nothing got lost in the shuffle?

It was important to me that everything was shifting in Kellie’s life, because I feel like that’s often how real life goes. It would be a lot easier if every crisis arrived on its own, but when life changes, often life changes. I’d love to tell you I stayed crazy organized, but really I let Kellie’s emotions guide me. It was important to me that she was affected by all that was going on, and that helped steer the ship, so to speak.

I was a mega fan of The Reese Malcolm List. Do you think in some alternate universe Kellie and Devan would be friends?

Ha! I’ve actually thought about this before myself. I think that Devan would find Kellie super cool, but I think she might be too intimidated to talk to her (even though of course Kellie wouldn’t see herself as cool or intimidating). I’m not sure if Kellie could wrap her head around Devan’s musical theatre/show choir love, so I’m not sure they’re a friendship match!

What song from the High School Musical franchise best describes INK?

“We’re All in This Together”, obviously.

Not enough young adult books truly talk about the fears associated with having sex for the first time. I thought Kellie’s experience of getting wrapped up in attraction and taking a step back was so realistic. I loved all the questions she asked herself, and everything she was worried about. Did you go into INK thinking this would be part of Kellie’s story? Why do you think so many authors shy away from the realism of having sex as a teenager?

Amy Spadling Author Photo

Amy’s Twitter

I think that in general–not just in YA literature–young women are portrayed as sex’s gatekeepers. I feel like so many books I read growing up featured boys who wanted sex, and girls who had to say no to be “good”, or girls who said yes for either the wrong reasons or because they loved the boys. And yet the stories that I felt resonated the most for me and for girls I knew were also about desire. So I did really want to write about attraction and desire and then also how that plays out in a real world situation.

Also, when I started writing Ink, I’d just read several books where everything was just SO EASY for the girl when the boy really really REALLY liked her. And I kept thinking, what would that REALLY feel like, especially if this was your first real experience? For me I kept thinking how good things can also be scary and overwhelming, and how many things you can want and not want all at once. I also really wanted to write about a guy who wasn’t constantly the one steering that conversation or timeline; I wanted equal power in Kellie’s hands.

Will we ever meet Devan or Kellie again? (Please say yes? Or Maybe?)

I really feel like Kellie’s story is wrapped up, and I feel good where I’ve left her. I have definitely thought more about Devan and gang, so as far as they go…maybe!

Can you give us one EXCLUSIVE amazing fact about your upcoming book: Kissing Ted Callahan (and other guys)?

Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) is about Riley, Reid, Lucy, Nathan; and they are in a band called the Gold Diggers!

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Big thanks to Amy for taking the time to answer my questions. The post isn’t over yet.

I’m giving away eBook copies of The Reece Malcolm List and Ink is Thicker Than Water to a lucky winner.
Must be 13 years old to enter and be able to receive Kindle or Nook eBooks. Good luck!

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The Good Girl by Mary Kubica (Interview + Giveaway)

The Good Girl by Mary KubicaThe Good Girl by Mary Kubica ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 352
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: thriller, kidnapping, family secrets, love
Format read: Finished copy sent to me by the Publisher. (Thanks!)

Summary: Mia, a school teacher, disappears one night in a bar. In a series of flashbacks from the perspectives of some of the most important people in her life, readers experience the kidnapping, the search to find her, and the aftermath.

First things first, The Good Girl has been compared to Gone Girl a ton. I haven’t read Gone Girl yet so I can’t supply a comparison. But let me say this… on its own, The Good Girl may be a labeled as a thriller but it’s possibly one of the most heartbreaking books I’ve read all year.

In a very sneaky, I can’t believe I’m falling for this type of way.

Debut writer Mary Kubica challenges her readers to believe the unbelievable in this scary tale of a young teacher who goes missing from a bar. Her captor,  actually assigned to deliver her to someone else, “saves” her from what was promised to be a terrible fate and hides her away in a cabin. I know what you are thinking. Does this mean her captor has a conscience of some kind? How benevolent is this move really if she is still technically stolen?

I was seesawing between these two questions (and many more) as I read deeper into the story. In addition to the perspective of the kidnapper, we also meet Mia’s mom, heartbroken over her daughter and the way she has handled motherhood. It’s obvious that a dire situation like this is going to change many people, but Kubica did a fantastic job of pacing how the characters evolved and moved forward since Mia’s kidnapping. Continually, I would go back and forth, sympathizing with some characters and really disliking them. It was that kind of story: everyone’s flaws are on display.

If you are looking for a book to keep you planted in one place and totally test how you feel about everything, The Good Girl is your answer. Kubica has created a well-written and engrossing story, full of twists and turns not only limited to action-packed scenes but emotional ones too.

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A chat with Mary Kubica!

Mary Kubica, author "The Good Girl"First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions, Mary! I thought The Good Girl was fantastic and I can’t wait to share my thoughts with others! Now that it’s been a few weeks since the release, how are you feeling? Is it still unbelievable to see your debut out in stores?

Thank you for having me!  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate being a guest here at Rather Be Reading, and thanks so much for your kind words about The Good Girl.

Yes, it is still unbelievable to see my book at stores!  I’m not entirely sure if or when I’ll stop being surprised to see the image of Mia on store displays – or my name on the cover of a book for that matter.  It’s been such a thrill.  There was such a great build up for The Good Girl’s release, and so much time spent waiting and wondering what would happen when my novel was finally shared with the world – and then suddenly it was off and running, and between a small bookstore tour and other promotional activities, it’s been a whirlwind – in the very best sense of the word.  It’s been so much fun.  The best part is that I’m just finishing up my second novel and am looking forward to reliving the whole process all over again – though this time I’ll have a better idea of what to expect.

You’ve created a very calculated mystery in The Good Girl, what was the biggest challenge in keeping your reader on their toes but not giving away too much?

It takes a bit of work to set the stage for a big reveal that with both catch the reader off guard and seem entirely plausible to the reader once they’ve reached the end of the book.  You don’t want to divulge too much that the reader sees the ending coming, and yet as an author, you need to lay the groundwork so that later on the reader can look back through the novel and connect the dots.  This can be tricky, and certainly required a few rounds of edits while writing The Good Girl.  But I was thrilled when it all finally came together.

I was shocked at how utterly heartbreaking this book was. I think we expect thrillers to be scary but there is also a lot loss in this book. But from the very beginning you know it’s going to be a very unconventional kind of story. What perspective was the hardest to write?

I would say Colin’s was the hardest character to write because he was the character I could relate to the least.  He’s a rough man with a troublesome past, something I don’t have a lot of experience with.  I definitely had to search outside of my comfort zone to find Colin, but once I did, his story became easier to write.  For the same reasons, Mia’s mother Eve was the easiest to write because she was the character I found I had the most in common with.

One character who is surprisingly sticking with me is Mia’s sister. She was so dismissive and detached from Mia throughout the story. Did you start out with creating a fractured relationship between the two or was it something that developed over time?

Mia is portrayed as the black sheep of the Dennett family, and as such, she needed to have a fractured relationship with ever member of her family.  Her sister, Grace, though a minor role, is certainly at odds with Mia.  If Mia is the black sheep, then Grace is the pride and joy of the family.  She is everything Mia is not, and everything Mia’s father wishes she could be.  Their relationship was that way from the get go, though if anything I softened it ever so slightly while writing the novel to give Grace a bit of dimension.

I read in an interview that you were a huge fan of the Baby-Sitters Club when you were younger. Me too! Who is your favorite character and which of the baby-sitters do you think is most like Mia, your main character?

I loved the Baby-Sitters Club books!  My sister and I actually formed our own babysitters club with a handful of neighborhood girls when I was younger, and passed out fliers around the neighborhood and earned ourselves quite a few babysitting gigs!  It was great.  I have to admit that I’ve forgotten many of the details of the books over the years, but I’m looking forward to the day my daughter is old enough that we can share them together.  For the characters, I’d say that Mia is most like Claudia for her artsy, individualistic nature, and for myself I’d pick Kristy because growing up I was the one most likely to start my own club – also the one who could be a bit bossy at times when I didn’t get my way!

For a final fun question: which actors would you cast in a film version of The Good Girl? (Don’t forget Mia’s mom because, despite her flaws, I think she was my favorite character.)

I love this question and, trust me, it’s once I’ve considered many times!  For James and Eve Dennett, Mia’s father and mother, I’d choose Victor Garber and Helen Mirren.  These were, by far, the easiest to decide.  For Gabe Hoffman, the lead detective on the case of the missing Mia Dennett, I’d choose Dylan McDermott, and for Mia’s abductor, Colin, either Jeremy Sisto or James Franco.  And finally, for Mia herself, I’d cast Emma Watson or Jennifer Lawrence as the starring role in the film.

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Thanks so much to Mary for the extra insight into her writing and The Good Girl! I can’t wait for your next book.

Bonus! The awesome, generous people at Harlequin have supplied us with a copy of The Good Girl for a lucky winner.
Go play! (Open to U.S. and Canadian residents!)

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The Time Has Come: A Chat with Carrie Arcos (+ Giveaway)

Happy Tuesday!

Last week in my Top 10 Tuesday post, I mentioned my 5-star reads of the year so far so I’m super thrilled to have Carrie Arcos on the blog today to chat about one of those 5-star reads (and a few other things, as well). THERE WILL COME A TIME hit bookshelves in April; it’s the story from the perspective of a teenager boy dealing with the tragic death of his twin sister. What struck me the most about this book was the balance. As much as we want to grieve when bad things happen, life continues outside our door, in our school, across the street and you just have to find a way to keep moving. I thought this was one of the truest depictions of all those complicated emotions.

Our chat covers writing a male narrator, diversity in young adult lit, pre-release jitters, and more. Sit back + enjoy!

Psst… Carrie was kind enough to offer up TWO signed copies of her book so you’ll find that giveaway at the end.

Carrie Arcos Interview There Will Come a Time

Carrie, I am so thrilled to chat with you on Rather Be Reading! There Comes a Time was an emotional read for me – I cried many times on the subway during my commute – but what I loved most was that even though the story was about Mark’s grief over losing his twin sister, present life was always knocking on his door. He couldn’t ignore it. What helped you to tap into Mark’s feelings about Grace?

Thank you so much for having me! And I’m glad you enjoyed Mark’s journey. I cried several times while writing certain scenes.

It’s funny because we think that we’re just pulling things out of the air sometimes when we write. We really have no idea how much our subconscious plays into it. I think my having lost a good friend to suicide a few months before I began Mark’s story for sure played a part in me having grief be a theme in the novel. At the time I didn’t realize that, but looking back I know it did.

I’m also really interested in sibling relationships. This could be because of my own experience of having brothers or maybe it’s because of my own children, I’m not sure.

For the twin dynamic, I did research and reflected on what it would be like to lose a twin. Many twins share an uncanny closeness, so I just tried to put myself in Mark’s shoes and walk a little ways with him.

The #DiversityinYA campaign has taken the internet by storm in the past couple of weeks, and I couldn’t help but think about Mark. On one hand, I think it’s great that I discovered Mark’s ethnicity once I picked up the book because his story is not defined by him being Filipino. But on the other, I wanted to shout from the rooftops CARRIE ARCOS IS FLYING UNDER THE RADAR WITH A POC MAIN CHARACTER! It’s awkward because you don’t want to exactly point it out because your book is so much more but I do think you deserve props. What was your reaction to the campaign?

I was totally behind it. I loved it. I should say, I love it, because it is still going. The site Diversity in YA had me do a guest post right before the campaign began, so I was thankful for that. But yeah, I do feel the book is flying a little under the radar at the moment.

The issue of lack of diversity is really thread through all aspects of storytelling in the US. Look at film and TV, adult books, it’s all about the same. It’s systematic and it’ll only change when values change.

I want to write stories that reflect the world I live in, the world my children live in.

I really loved your blog post about release day jitters. I think a lot of readers are under the impression that once you are published by a mega-publisher, you are super confident about your work and the reactions your readers will have to it. But, shock of all shocks, authors are humans too! (I feel like this is an US Weekly segment.) Was there any time during the writing process for There Will Come a Time that you felt frustrated and didn’t think things were working?

It’s funny because most of the time writing is such a solitary thing. You’re at a desk or sitting in a library or a coffee shop. You’re alone. But suddenly when the book is out, you’re also this public persona who needs to be a good public speaker, witty, charming, etc… But it’s all good. I get so nervous, but as soon as I’m in front of the mic, I’m on.

It took a while in the beginning stages of There Will Come a Time to figure out what the book was really about and who Mark was. I had a loose idea, but I couldn’t get it. Once I connected him to loss and a family member, it just clicked. I wrote the paragraph that comes at the end of ch 1 about grief and knew I had his voice.

What’s one thing you would like readers to get out of There Will Come a Time?

Just one? Hmm… Most of the time the only way to get through the horribly difficult times in life is through.

Like Grace, do you create little lists of things you want to accomplish? What’s one thing you want to make sure you do before the year is over?

Yes. I’m a total list girl. I don’t always write them down, but I have a mental list of things I want to accomplish each day.

Before the year is over, I’d like to sell my third book. 🙂 This isn’t totally in my control, so we’ll see what happens.

I want to attend the school in your book. All the arts, all the time and I loved the big project that the characters were working on together. Mark has such a passion for music, and it helps him wade through the harder times. Do you have a similar release?

I so wanted to attend an arts high school too. I admit I was kind of like Jenny, Mark’s step mom, when she romanticizes what the experience must be like. After talking to kids who go to arts schools, it’s not completely like that. But what is there is the passion for sure.

Music is one of my passions. I’ve sung off and on, and that has been helpful. I’d also say writing  and reading are other ways I feel my way through the difficult times.

You were recently on a panel called “Young Adult Fiction: Outside Looking In” at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Was there a particular discussion during the panel that has stuck with you?

One of my friends came to the panel and afterwards was like, “I had no idea writing YA could be so much like therapy.” Ha! Our panel was a little on the heavy side. It was so great to be a part of such a great festival and meeting the other authors. I particularly enjoyed meeting Deb Caletti because she has a career that I aspire to.

Mark definitely seemed like a guy I would have been friends with in high school. Did you enjoy shifting to the male POV for this book? Who are some memorable male narrators in your reading life?

I loved writing Mark. At first I wondered if I could do it, get inside a male 17 yr old, but you know, teen guys are human like anyone else. And I’d also like to say they are all different. I really hate how the male teen gets stereotyped into a horny, sex crazed adolescent. I mean, sure I knew guys like that in HS, but not every guy is like that. And many guys are very sensitive and have a deep emotional core. They just may not be as verbal about it as girls.

Some memorable male narrators?

Arnold Spirit from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Holden Caulfield in A Catcher in the Rye, and Christopher in The Curious Incident of the dog in the Night-Time.

Congrats on your writers residency opportunity in June! Do you already have something you are working on or are you going to start fresh? What are the benefits to locking yourself away with other writers? (Please take some pictures!)

Thank you so much. I’m incredibly excited to go to Hedgebrook on Whidbey Island. When I applied, I had to explain what I’d be working on, but that was a year ago. So…I’m deviating a little from the plan. I’m not completely sure what I’m working on yet. I have some ideas. Maybe I’ll work on a couple.

I’ve never taken this much time away by myself to work on my writing. Usually I’m juggling my other responsibilities as mom, wife, teacher, etc… So I am excited to see where it takes me as I confront my self.

I will for sure take pictures. But I won’t post them until after. I don’t even think they have internet!

So what’s next? New book? New appearances? Perhaps a trip to NYC? (Hint, hint!)

I wish I could come to NYC. I’m a native New Yorker, born in Albany. I have another YA contemporary that I don’t want to say too much about except that I hope I’ll be able to share this story with readers one day.

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat, Carrie!

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The Sound of Letting Go: A Review + Author Interview

Book Cover for The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe

The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe (website | twitter)
Publication Date: February 6, 2014
Publisher: Viking Children’s
Pages: 400
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: books written in verse, autism, female trumpet player
Format Read: ARC received from the author.

Summary: Daisy’s family life is very complicated as they are constantly on pins and needles around her younger brother who has autism. When her parents make a very difficult decision, Daisy is unsure how to handle the news and acts out as a result of the chaos in her life.

 

Though not exactly by choice, I somehow don’t read many books written in verse. Maybe because there just aren’t as many? After reading The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe, I find myself really, really wishing for more.

In TSoLG, Daisy is an award-winning trumpet player. She’s a straight-A student who plays by the rules and is very diligent about being home on time and helping her parents with her younger brother, Steven, who is autistic. Daisy realizes there are a lot of “high school” activities she’s missing out on because of her family’s situation, but she doesn’t dare complain. She’s a very mature young woman who sorts through her emotions in a very considerate way. Does she like that she has to turn down Dave when he suddenly asks her out on a date? No. But she’s also not the girl who is going to blabber off excuses to Dave so he’ll continue to pursue her. (I really liked that about Daisy — if Dave was interested, he’d keep trying, even if he didn’t know why Daisy blew him off.)

Despite all the precautions Daisy and her parents take to make sure Steven is as cared-for as possible, their situation only intensifies as he becomes stronger and they become more concerned for their safety. This leads Daisy’s parents to make a very difficult decision that begins a downward spiral for her. Suddenly the life Daisy so carefully constructed for herself doesn’t make sense — if there’s to be no Steven around, then why should she have to be the perfect student? Why should she throw her everything into her music? Why shouldn’t she say yes to going out with Dave? What would life be like if she got to experience a few HBO moments of her own?

Though I haven’t experienced exactly what Daisy and her family dealt with on a day-to-day basis, Stasia’s words pulled me in and immediately connected me to their story. There’s this great internal debate Daisy is struggling with — desiring freedom to live her life as she’d like, but also not wanting to give up on her brother. She’s afraid of what her life might be like if all the walls and rules and guidelines they’ve abided by for so so so long suddenly aren’t necessary anymore. Can you imagine her struggle? It certainly makes sense to me why she’d lash out.

Stasia’s words are so beautifully written. So carefully chosen. I couldn’t put The Sound of Letting Go down. I sincerely hope that you’ll connect with Daisy through her music, the emotional journey that it is to feel powerless when a big decision is made without your input, and her struggle to grasp onto reality when everything around her seems to be changing without her consent.

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I’m very, very honored to share an author interview with Stasia Ward Kehoe with you guys. Stasia is an amazingly sweet woman whom I admire very much. I felt so nervous while drafting my questions for her because I so desperately wanted them to be a reflection of how much I loved The Sound of Letting Go. I hope you’ll fall in love with Stasia as much as I have and swing by your local bookstore in a few short days (February 6th – mark your calendars!) to support her!

1. Your words in The Sound of Letting Go feel so intentional and purposeful. Nothing seems overly stated, but you make such a powerful statement. What’s the most challenging aspect of writing in verse and will you continue to write as such in your upcoming books?

The most challenging aspect of writing in verse is making sure that plot threads are not lost due to the poetic structure. I change a lot of individual words, not just in revision but in first pass pages and even final proofs. For me, the way lines break on the page and things like that matter, so it’s both a writing thing and a graphic, structural thing. I am currently writing another novel in verse. For some inexplicable reason, I find myself drawn to this form.

2. Daisy’s younger brother is autistic in TSoLG. Why did you choose to write about a family with an autistic child? This is something I personally saw my sister tested for when I was younger, but I feel I learned so much about in this book. Daisy felt so incredibly isolated and mature-beyond-her-years because of her brother’s diagnosis. What do you hope readers will gain from their story?

I started this novel wanting to write about a strong-willed girl who played an instrument that is perceived as masculine: the trumpet. But life is funny. While working on my first draft, I met a woman whose younger son has autism, and learned about the toll it had taken on her family. I began to think about incorporating autism into the manuscript. After that, it seemed like everywhere I turned there was a statistic about autism. Every time I mentioned my story idea, people would share an experience about an autistic child, sibling, neighbor, family friend. I did a great deal of research to create the specifics of Steven’s autism but it is my hope that readers who have all kinds of special needs individuals in their lives will find, through the book, one way to safely explore some very tough realities and begin some challenging conversations.

3. I loved that Steven, Daisy’s brother, is the cause for so many aspects that affect Daisy and her parents — being silent, following a strict schedule, no abrupt changes. How would your story have been different if we had experienced it through Steven’s point of view?

One of the most difficult parts of autism is the way it limits the ability to communicate with others. While I can tell you a great deal about Steven’s diagnostic situation, I could not could tell you his deepest feelings any more than Daisy could. So I don’t think I could have written the book from Steven’s point of view.

4. When Daisy’s parents make a pivotal decision regarding Steven’s care, Daisy doesn’t exactly know what to do with herself. She’s scared of accepting their decision, angry that she wasn’t part of the decision-making process, and anxious to be able to live a little more freely, whether or not she’d like to admit it. She begins acting out. Dave, the high school bad-boy, is there to provide a distraction for Daisy (and despite his status, I very much felt drawn to him as a character). What do you hope your readers will gain from Dave and Daisy’s relationship and the way these two childhood friends are pulled back together after such a long time apart?

I’m glad you were drawn to Dave! When I first sent the book to my editor, their relationship at the end of the book was very different. However, I, like you, found myself increasingly drawn to Dave and wound up changing the last third of the book as a result! I think what separated Daisy and Dave as grade-schoolers were their families’ struggles. Both felt an increasing need to protect their families from the small-town rumor mill. And both felt like their situations made them inferior to others in some ways. Dave became defiant. Daisy became a perfectionist. Ultimately, they help each other escape both of these extremes.

5. In my personal life, when one thing is going wrong, it feels like everything else follows suit. This was most certainly true for Daisy — her parents make a decision about Steven, her best friendship begins to suffer over boyfriend jealousy, and she begins skipping classes and letting herself off the hook for a majority of her responsibilities. Despite everything that’s crumbling, music seems to be one aspect that holds Daisy together. What kind of role does music play in your life and how did that impact creating Daisy’s character?

I grew up a ballerina and, though I love it, music does not play as critical a role for me as it does for Daisy. Where I connect with Daisy is in the joy and solace she finds in making art. For me, it is dancing and writing, not jazz trumpet. But the making of art itself fills a space in the soul and I totally get that.

6. Because we’re such music-lovers and we love adding new music to our playlists, can you share some of your musical inspiration for The Sound of Letting Go?

Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue album, which my dad first played for me decades ago feels like an exploration of the act of creation. Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah will make you weep—I first heard it on the Shrek soundtrack, if you can believe it, and I’ve listened to and loved many recordings of it since.  Finally, there’s an Irish folk music motif that runs through THE SOUND OF LETTING GO, from the songs of Daisy’s parents’ meeting to the world from which Cal O’Casey runs away, that is captured in The Makem & Clancy Collection album. There’s a track on that album called The Dutchman that makes me think of the way the family cares for Steven, and another called The Ballad of St. Anne’s Reel that is a love song to music itself.

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Thank you so much, Stasia, for dropping by the blog and sharing more about
your work with us! I’m very much looking forward to your future books!