Author Interview

Q & A with Andrew Shvarts

Last week, I finally experienced crying over a book. This special debut novel, entitled Royal Bastards, just came out a week ago. I’ll never forget how it positively wrecked me. If you want to know more about my thoughts and feels, check out my review. I loved reading this book, so I am grateful for the opportunity to get to know its author. Hopefully, other readers would feel the same way.

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  1. Did your love for video games manifest in Royal Bastards? (P.S. I love Final Fantasy and other JRPGs)

“What a great question! I hadn’t really thought much about it, but now that you mention it, I definitely think there’s a lot of jRPG DNA in Royal Bastards. Growing up, a lot of those games (especially ones like Final Fantasy 7 and Chrono Trigger) were incredibly influential, and in a lot of ways, made for my favorite kind of stories: groups of misfits and outcasts, coming together for a great journey, overcoming their demons and bonding along the way.”

  1. What was your inspiration for the world and magic system in Royal Bastards?

“Hmmm, I think there were a lot of different influences. Obviously, there’s a little bit of Westeros in the mix, with the different noble Houses and the way the world is run on violence and intrigue. But I also wanted to do something different than the typical ‘European pastiche’ fantasy, which is why the geography resembles the Pacific Northwest. The magic system just sort of wrote itself, honestly… I knew I wanted it to be based in something physical, like Rings and martial forms, and to have clear rules and parameters. I tend to like fantasy worlds where magic is rare but powerful, and where it’s explicitly shaped the contours of society.”

  1. Which character was the hardest (and easiest) to write about? Do you have a favorite character?

“Easiest and most fun was Jax; he’s all heart and jokes, which meant any scene with him was an absolute delight. Zell was a lot trickier; because he’s so stoic, guarded, and taciturn, he’s pretty much the opposite of me, so it took a lot of effort to figure out his voice.”

  1. Zell (who reminded me of FF8’s Zell) was sometimes called a “barbarian.” With that in mind, how did you implement diversity in your work?

“I believe diversity and positive representation in fiction is incredibly important, and something I strive for in everything I write. From the start, I knew that Royal Bastards would be a diverse fantasy world with many POC characters and cultures; beyond just the social good of writing diversely, I think it makes for vastly more interesting fiction.

“Regarding Zell, I hope it’s clear that any perception of him as a ‘barbarian’ by the non-Zitochi characters is purely their own prejudice, refuted on the page; the Zitochi, with their rich history, democratic government, and egalitarian norms, are arguably the most modern and progressive culture in the novel.

“On a thematic level, I think ROYAL BASTARDS is about that point in adolescence when you really start to question the way you were brought up; that means realizing your parents aren’t the heroes you may have always believed, but also realizing that some beliefs you’ve been brought up with are actually harmful prejudices.”

  1. Gleaning upon your novel, how do you think bastards/illegitimate children are seen and treated in our own society nowadays?

“Interesting question! I think, by and large, we’ve moved away from seeing a given child’s ‘legitimacy’ or heritage as critical to their role in the world, which is unquestionably a good thing. I think categorizations like that tend to exist to reinforce power structures, which invariably serve as systems of oppression. This is something you’ll see explored more in the sequels to Royal Bastards, the extent to which a given culture’s ingrained norms exist primarily to ensure that the powerful stay in power.”

  1. How did being color-blind and tone-deaf affect your writing process?

“Tone-deafness hasn’t affected much, except my ability to sing karaoke, but being color-blind has had a fairly formative impact on how I tend to think. When you’re color-blind, you just have to accept that your own perception is wrong, and rely on others; no matter how much your eyes tell you two colors are the same, if you want to function, you need to trust others when they say they aren’t. I think that’s made me more open to feedback as a writer, and more willing to question my choices.”

  1. Can you disclose anything about the sequel(s)?

“I can’t say much, but I will say that you’ll learn a lot more about the nature of magic and the history of the Volaris… and that I wrote an action scene that has my favorite kill I’ve ever written!”


 

About the author:

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Andrew Shvarts is an author of novels and video games. He has a BA in English Literature and Russian from Vassar College. He works for Pixelberry Studios as a designer, making mobile games like High School StoryChoices, and more. Andrew lives in San Jose, California, with his wife, toddler and two kittens.

Visit Andrew’s website

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Author Interview

Q & A with Erin Beaty

I recently managed to partner with Macmillan International, and they sent me an ARC of The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty. To be honest, I requested this book because of the controversy surrounding it. Still, I delved into the book with an open mind so that I could form an objective opinion. Thankfully, my optimism paid off; I enjoyed the book a lot, so much so that I wished to have a written interview with the author. If you want to know more about my thoughts on TTK, you can check out my review. Overall, I honestly believe that TTK is a great start to a riveting trilogy. I hope that you will enjoy getting to know the author as much as I did. ^^

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  1. What was your inspiration for the not-so-fantastical world in TTK? I actually enjoyed it because it reminded me of The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski.

“I get compared to that trilogy a lot, which is a huge compliment, but I honestly didn’t read it until I was in the final stages of editing TTK with my publisher. It was a bit of bummer to see all the similarities because it meant I hadn’t done something as unique as I’d thought. My inspiration was drawn heavily from my background in personality typing, which always made me curious about dating websites that used those kinds of tests in matching people. Coupled with phase of reading a lot of Tudor-era books, both fiction and non-fiction, with all the marriages and divorces for political advantage, it set the wheels in motion for wondering if a matching system would have worked or been handy in those times. I could see it being necessary to hold a weak nation together and also see the women running the system as a way to protect each other. It could easily become more powerful than most people (particularly men) realized. But if one group can game the system to their advantage, so can another. Who would even notice it but the matchmakers? Plot!”

  1. What made you decide to feature colored characters in your novel? What is your take on the importance of diversity in YA literature?

“I mostly created a world with a history of several different cultures and environments, some that were related to each other in development and some that weren’t. When it came to nailing down what people from regions generally looked like, I mostly relied on the geography and climate I’d created. In a couple of cases I made people look specifically unlike the real-world people they were kind of based on or the people they were working with or against. You have to be able to both tell people apart and tell where someone’s from by their looks. When it all came together, it seemed fairly diverse, but there wasn’t really a super conscious effort to make it so. Diversity is important, though, because the real world is diverse. If one particular ethnicity or skin color or gender or sexuality is always the good guy or the bad guy or the sidekick or absent altogether, it’s harmful. Good and bad exist across the spectrum, just like people.”

  1. How did your educational background (your degree in rocket science) affect your writing of TTK?

“Engineering at its heart is about the interaction of forces and the creation of complex systems, and I love that stuff. If that background helped, it was in always looking for the way events interact. Real world societies are a product of engineering – internal and external events coming together and functioning as a team of sorts. It also can make me obsess over getting some details right. My friends are teasing me about how I’m frustrated that the physics of an event in Book 2 aren’t working and need major revisions, but dang it, that’s important to me!”

  1. Sage is undeniably an empowered female protagonist, and her male peers gradually learn to appreciate her true worth. With that in mind, what gender roles/stereotypes did you aim to explore/debunk in TTK?

“You say that like I meant to do it. I love the butt-kicking female protagonists I grew up reading, but I found few friends interested in those stories because they felt intimidated by or unconnected to a girl who likes to hit things. A friend once told me women doctors and fighter pilots and dragon slayers are inspiring, but she hated feeling like she was inadequate or wrong because she didn’t want to do any of those things herself. I totally understand that – nurses and teachers and mothers are just as worthy of admiration. As for me, a 5 foot 6, medium build woman, I only look threatening to my kids, so what made me formidable or a legitimate authority in a male-dominated Navy? Rank will only get you so far. You have to be willing to learn, ready to act, and one step ahead of the crowd. Sage is all of those things, and she does it mostly within the confines of a traditional gender role. In fact, that’s her advantage. There are things only she can accomplish because she’s a woman, and a smallish one at that. Additionally, I think her finding romance with a military man is appropriate because competency is what matters most to them in succeeding. I guess if there’s a message to young women, it’s work with what you got where you are. There are many, many ways to make a difference or save the day – find the one that fits your strengths.”

  1. What inspired you to explore or emphasize the political aspect of marriage in TTK? If you were in Sage’s shoes, would you be willing to marry for power or connections?

“Political marriages were historically important across all cultures, and still are in many places of the world, so everyone is familiar with it. That’s not to say it’s right, just realistic. But I love the idea of “powerless” women turning that system to their advantage. As for being in Sage’s shoes, in her case there’s no real advantage to marrying her, which is incredibly freeing. Anyone who married her would have to really want to. If there were some advantage or peace between nations to be gained, then I might be willing to accept marrying under those circumstances. Might. Possibly sacrificing my own happiness to save lives is a worthy cause to consider. Very logical, in fact: the needs of one versus the needs of many. But I would go into it with open eyes, and I would make sure my husband did, too.”

  1. As a debut author, how do you respond to both praise and criticism?

“I try to avoid seeing much of either, and I respond sparingly, even to the nice stuff. If it’s praise, it can give a false sense of security and pride, which makes you lazy, not to mention high-and-mighty. Or it can make you insecure because you feel you don’t deserve it. Criticism (and praise) often has as much to do with the critic as the work, so it’s important to take it all with a grain of salt. Things that come from outside my target audience matter less, but criticism always hurts. Always. And that can be just as damaging to the creative process, not to mention mental health. But I do need to know what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong and how I can improve, so I can’t ignore what people are saying either. I see what others point out to me, mostly. It gets filtered by people with less of a personal stake in the work. Veteran authors have said that’s the best strategy. It helps that I have a busy life outside writing, so I just don’t have much time to deal with it anyway.”

  1. What can you tell us about the sequel to TTK? Does it already have a title?

“I’m hacking my way through the jungle of revisions right now, so I both don’t know what I’m allowed to say and what I can say because plot points are still in flux. I can say that even people who love each other very much still have a lot to work out, and we all carry our own demons. As for bad guys, sometimes they aren’t really bad people, they’re just caught in a bad situation, fighting for their survival. It does have a title (as does #3!), but I think there’s going to be a reveal down the road, so I have to keep it to myself for now, sorry!”

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About the author:

Erin Beaty was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, which means she can’t drive a tractor, but she won’t eat veggies that come from a can. She graduated from the US Naval Academy with a degree in rocket science and somehow always ended up writing her study group’s lab reports. After serving in the fleet as a weapons officer and a leadership instructor, she resigned to pursue her side hobby of populating the Church of Rome. It still amazes her when other people want to hear the stories that come out of her head.

She and her husband have five children, two cats, and a vegetable garden and live wherever the navy tells them to go.

Visit Erin’s website

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Author Interview

Q & A with Roshani Chokshi

It really makes your day when one of your favorite authors accepts your request for an interview. The Star-touched Queen is one of the best novels I have read this year, and I am so proud and happy that it was written by a fellow Filipino. If you want to know more about my thoughts on TSTQ, feel free check out my review. Roshani’s new book, A Crown of Wishes, just came out last month, and I am confident that it will be an addition to my shelf of favorite books. I hope that this interview will encourage you to read Roshani’s outstanding works. 😀

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“Hi Josh! I loooove these questions. Thank you so much for taking the time to come up with them! I really appreciate it. My answers are below!”

1. How did you express or manifest your Filipino heritage in the Star-Touched Queen (and/or A Crown of Wishes)?

“While my Filipino heritage was not explicitly referenced in TSTQ and ACOW, the motivation behind why I wrote the stories is a direct result of my Filipino and Indian heritage. Because I wasn’t taught my parents’ native languages, myths and fairytales from across the world bridged that cultural gap.”

2. Compared to many YA heroines, Maya is significantly empowered; Amar, her love interest, is depicted as both her equal and supporter. With that in mind, is The Star-touched Queen intentionally Feminist?

“I love this question! TSTQ is intentionally feminist in the sense that no sense of female power is denied. I wanted to express this not just in TSTQ but also ACOW, where the main character (Gauri) is equally comfortable in traditionally “masculine” and “feminine” settings and subverts both to possess the only identity that matters: hers. Gauri loves makeup. She loves swords. Maya loves strategy and power. She also loves fairytales. I wanted to challenge this idea that femininity is a soft thing, because it is intense and multi-faceted and I want my female readership to know that they contain multitudes and HAVE it all.”

3. Kamala, Maya’s horse, is a very peculiar character. What was the inspiration behind her creation? I actually imagined her as Maximus from Tangled. xD

“LOL! Kamala is actually based off of me and one of my childhood best friends. We have a rather dark sense of humor and I kinda imagined what *I* would be doing in a quest story, and honestly, I’d never be a main character. I’d be the sidekick constantly derailing the plot to go find something to eat…”

4. Are Maya and Amar self-sufficient characters? Hypothetically speaking, would they be able to attain a “happy ending” without each other?

“I don’t think so. And I don’t mean that in the sense that either of them needs a significant other to “complete” them or give them contentment. The reason why they need each other is because of the perspective and depth that comes from their relationship. Because of the value added to their existence by knowing each other. We don’t go through life as islands. We draw on the nourishment of relationships (platonic, romantic, familial, etc…) to bloom and grow, and I think that’s just as true with Maya and Amar. Perhaps they could’ve figured out how to find fulfillment without one another, but I’m a sucker for love stories <3″

5. Let’s go back to basics. As Filipino teachers ask, what is the “moral lesson” (#Redundant xD) of The Star-touched Queen?

“The moral lesson is that fate is a squishy thing that we must forge for ourselves.”

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About the author:

Roshani Chokshi is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen. Her work has appeared in Strange HorizonsShimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, The Star Maiden, was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

Visit Roshani’s website

 

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Author Interview

Q & A with Rosalyn Eves

Last month, I had the pleasure of reading Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves. It turned out to be one of the most refreshing and enlightening novels I have read this year. If you want to know more about this debut novel, feel free to check out my review. BRB has been on sale since March 28, and I hope that this interview will encourage you to read it. It’s never too late to join this book’s growing fan base! ❤

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1. What do roses signify in your book? Are you particularly attached to them?

“I’ve always loved roses–I blame the fact that my favorite fairy tales as a kid all featured roses prominently (the rose hedge that grew up around Sleeping Beauty’s castle, the roses in Robin McKinley’s Beauty). In my head, roses are connected with folklore and magic. In the book itself, roses serve minor roles–Anna’s older sister Catherine has chosen a rose as her soul sign (an illusion she casts to signify her magic), and roses play a small role in a pivotal scene at the climax of the book. The roses on the cover are a little more significant. Not only do they nod to the title, but my designer choose them as a symbol of feminine strength–the fact that Anna is a strong character while also being a fairly typical Victorian teenager.”

2. What was your inspiration for the intricate magic system in Blood Rose Rebellion

“I’m not sure that I had a specific inspiration, but I really love the magic system in Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse (and also knew I didn’t want to duplicate that!). I spent a lot of time brainstorming possible divisions of magic with my husband and we came up with four and then spent a couple hours with an English-Latin dictionary looking for possible names (magic that manipulates living things–Animanti; magic that manipulates thoughts and dreams–Coremancer; magic that controls elements–Elementalist, formerly Alchemist; and magic that influences forces–Lucifera).”

3. If you were a character in Blood Rose Rebellion, what kind of Luminate would you be (and why)?

“I’d probably be Elementalist simply because that is the most common type–but I’d secretly want to be Lucifera, as they are often the most powerful. If readers are interested in finding out what order they’d belong to, I have a quick quiz on my website: http://www.rosalyneves.com/extras/.”

4. YA Dystopian novels have been relatively low-key nowadays. With that in mind, what made you decide to write one, and what did you do to make your novel stand out?

“This is an interesting question, as I haven’t really thought of my story as dystopian (in my mind, they’re usually present day or futuristic), but I can see how the controlling government in Anna’s world could be seen that way. I’m always interested in the ways that people navigate oppressive governments, how they decide to speak and when to stay silent, and a lot of those themes were playing through my mind as I wrote. As far as standing out, I think the setting in Eastern Europe (specifically, Hungary) with the links to Hungarian folklore is something readers haven’t seen very often.”

5. Blood Rose Rebellion explores the struggle between the upper and lower classes. How do you think can we solve this problem in real life?

“Wow, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I think we see lots of friction around class and socioeconomic divides in today’s world–and I think if the solution was easy someone would have figured it out already. Personally, I think it’s important for there to be social programs in place to help people who are most vulnerable, but I also think that we have to work as individuals to expand our own empathy. Outside of interacting with people who belong to different classes and social groups, I think reading is one of the best ways to do this.”

6. Blood Rose Rebellion is also a very educational novel in light of its historical content. Gleaning upon this, what do you think is the modern significance or relevance of the Austrian-Hungarian War?

“Another great question! One of the parallels that seems striking in light of recent world events is the rise of nationalism in 19th century Europe. While the nationalistic fervor brought on lots of useful reforms (in Hungary, for instance, Latin, not Hungarian, was the language of government until well into the 19th century, and the rise in nationalism encouraged a flowering of Hungarian literature), it also created a lot of tension that (temporarily) fractured the Austria-Hungarian empire and revolutions in lots of surrounding countries. I find it incredibly ironic that even as Hungarian patriots fought for recognition and independence from Austria, they didn’t recognize similar claims within their own borders from Croatians and Romanians living there. I think a certain degree of patriotism is natural, but when it veers into nationalism it can be dangerous as it leads us to ignore voices outside that particular nationality.”

7. If you were given the chance to live in a book, which book would you choose (and why)?
“This is probably not the most original answer, but I would love to live in JK Rowling’s world–I want to go to school at Hogwarts and try all kinds of sweets at Hogsmeade–and while this world was dangerous under Voldemort’s tenure, it seems less likely to kill me than some of my other favorite fictional worlds! (Like the Grishaverse or Middle Earth).”

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About the author:

Rosalyn Eves grew up in the Rocky Mountains, dividing her time between reading books and bossing her siblings into performing her dramatic scripts. As an adult, the telling and reading of stories is still one of her favorite things to do. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys spending time with her chemistry professor husband and three children, watching British period pieces, or hiking through the splendid landscape of southern Utah, where she lives. She dislikes housework on principle.

She has a PhD in English from Penn State, which means she also endeavors to inspire college students with a love for the English language. Sometimes it even works.

Visit Rosalyn’s website

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Author Interview

Q & A with Brigid Kemmerer

I recently read Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars in light of its intriguing premise and very meaningful content. You can check out my full review here. I hope that this interview will encourage you to read LTTL when it comes out on April 4, 2017 (next week).

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1. What was your inspiration for LTTL? Were you guided/motivated by a particular experience in life?

“I remember sitting on the couch watching You’ve Got Mail and thinking, “I wish I could rewrite this as a teen story. But darker. Like maybe if someone was leaving letters in a cemetery…” And then it just kept evolving from there until it became its own story.”

2. If you were in Declan’s shoes, would reply to Juliet’s emotional letter? If yes, what would you tell her?

“Well, I’m a 39-year-old mom, so I would probably write back to her with a mother’s perspective and tell her how her memories of her mother are nothing anyone can ever take from her. And I would tell her that grief takes time, and it wasn’t something she could rush. And finally, I would tell her to come over to my house for dinner and cry on my shoulder and it would all be OK.”

3. Both Declan and Juliet have big problems to overcome. With that in mind, which character was the most difficult to write about?

“They were both difficult to write about. Their stories are so emotionally charged. I sobbed over Declan, I sobbed over Juliet, and in Rev’s book, More Than We Can Tell (coming March 2018), I sobbed over him too.”

4. LTTL explores the repercussions of the human tendency to be judgmental or presumptuous. What do you think should we do to overcome it?

“I think that we’ve gotten to this place with society where everything is expected to be fast and immediate. We make snap judgments all the time, based on an incredibly small sampling of information. I think that’s beginning to take a toll on interpersonal relationships. I mean, a lot of people date using an app where you swipe left or right if you’re interested in someone. You’re making a dating judgment from a thumbnail picture! I’m not saying that’s wrong, but there’s no way it can’t bleed into our personal lives and how quickly we judge and react to others around us, and we should be aware of it.”

5. In LTTL, Rev is depicted to quote a verse from the book of Proverbs. How would you react if readers would classify your novel as “Christian”?

“I’d be surprised, since Rev is not the main character, but I’d be okay with it too. I was raised Catholic, and while I’m not religious now, I consider myself a spiritual person, and I love learning about others’ faiths. I find faith and religion to be fascinating, and I love hearing different people’s interpretations of it and learning about their relationship with God.”

6. If you became a teenager again, would you be able to fall in love with someone through an anonymous, pen pal relationship?

“Absolutely!”

7. Briefly describe Declan and Juliet’s perfect date.

“Oh wow. Probably somewhere quiet that they could walk and talk. I live near Annapolis, Maryland, where the book is set, and there are a lot of beaches and waterways here. (We’re on the Chesapeake Bay.) I can see them going to one of the local parks to walk by the water and talk. Holding hands, of course. 🙂

“Thank you so much for having me!”

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About the Author:

Brigid Kemmerer is the author of Letters to the Lost (Bloomsbury; April 4, 2017), a dark, contemporary Young Adult romance;  Thicker Than Water (Kensington, December 29, 2015), a New Adult paranormal mystery with elements of romance; and the YALSA-nominated Elemental series of five Young Adult novels and three e-novellas which Kirkus Reviews calls “refreshingly human paranormal romance” and School Library Journal describes as “a new take on the supernatural genre.” She lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and four sons.

Visit Brigid’s website

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Author Interview

Q & A with Christina June

Hi, booknerds! Dessa and I recently read an ARC of It Started with Goodbye by debut author Christina June.

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We genuinely enjoyed this contemporary retelling of Cinderella (both of us gave it 5 out of 5 stars), and we can hardly wait for the rest of the YA community to read it. If you want to know more about ISWG, feel free to check out our review. We hope that this written interview will encourage you to pick up ISWG when it comes out on May 9, 2017. Happy reading!

1. The title of your book is open to interpretation, so what does it mean to you personally?

The original title of the book was VALEDICTIONS, which is just the long word for saying goodbye, usually at the closing of a letter.  My publishing team came up with something a little more catchy, but the definition of a valediction will appear on the back of the finished copy–both what the dictionary says and Tatum’s more snarky explanation.  I’m glad it survived!  At the beginning of the novel, there are many goodbyes–Tatum to her father, Tatum to her best friend, Tatum to her summer of fun–that turn into new beginnings and opportunities, so I think the title fits well.”

2. What version of Cinderella do you like more, the Grimm version or the Disney version?

I grew up on the Disney version, and Disney-like versions in the fairy tale anthologies my mom would read from at bedtime.  I like that it has a hopeful ending and that Cinderella gets away from her unfortunate home.  But, I do enjoy the Grimm’s version as well.  I like the step-family getting a little justice.  I used an awesome website out of the University of Pittsburgh when I was doing research that lists the Cinderella trope in all the cultures where it occurs.  It’s fascinating how the same story cropped up, just different details, all over the world.”

3. Romance is a minor theme in your novel. Was this done intentionally, and would you describe Tatum and SK’s relationship as true love?

I would certainly say Tatum and SK are a great match and could definitely fall in love down the line.  While romance is pretty central to the original Cinderella story, I purposely made sure all the relationships in Tatum’s life–family and friends–were examined as well.  Not every teen falls in love, or is hoping to, but I believe we all need a strong support network.”

4. Tatum and her stepmother had a really tough relationship. What is your message to those who are in the same situation?

I would hope that readers would feel empowered to stand up for the things that are important to them.  Just because someone you love has a different idea of what happiness or success looks like doesn’t make your dream less valid.”

5. What is the story behind Tatum’s name? (It inevitably reminded us of Channing Tatum) xD

Honestly, it’s just a name I like and not one that I’ve seen much in YA.  It does make me think of Channing Tatum, though, and that’s never a bad thing.”

6. ISWG deals with family and friend issues. Is the book somehow inspired by a significant part of your life?

No, nothing specific from my own life informed this story, but universal emotions certainly did.  I observe a lot of teens struggling with the moment they discover their parents, or other important adults in their lives, come with their own baggage.  It can be a hard pill to swallow, but as we see from Tatum’s story, having that context can be really eye-opening.”

7. What did you like about the process of writing a fairy tale retelling?

I love that fairy tales are easily recognizable and make for a good starting place with a brand new story.  It was really fun taking the classic elements and turning them into something new.  A lot of retellings, especially in YA, are fantasy or science fiction, so I wanted to do a contemporary story with no magic.  It was important to me that Tatum feel like an “everygirl” and not a damsel in distress.”

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About the author:

Christina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor.  She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters.

Christina is a voracious reader, loves to travel, eats too many cupcakes, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland.  She lives just outside Washington DC with her husband and daughter.

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Author Interview

Q & A with Cale Dietrich

This month, I was fortunate enough to get an e-ARC of The Love Interest by debut author Cale Dietrich.

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I happily gave it 5 out of 5 stars, and you can know why I did so by reading my review. I am so thankful that I got the chance to have a correspondence with Cale even before I finished reading his book. He turned out to be a nerdy Feminist like me, so I dare say that we get along well. Haha. I am still very happy that he granted my request to have a bookish partnership with him. I hope that this interview will persuade you to read TLI when it comes out on May 16, 2017.

1. Who or what inspired you to write TLI? Is there a special story behind it?

“What a great question to start with! Also I must say I’m super happy to be doing this interview with you, I’m a fan.

“To answer your question, TLI was very heavily influenced by the feelings I was going through at the time of writing it. I’m super wary of those ‘it came to me in a dream’ type things, but the truth is I really did wake up one morning with this idea of a training academy for the dreamy love interests of YA fiction. So that’s how I came up with the plot.

“But I think the thing that makes the book what it is are the feelings I was having at the time of writing. I was feeling very tokenised and sort of shelved – like, because of my sexuality, everybody around me had this crystal clear idea of who I am and what I am capable of, which seemed to undercut the potential I felt I had. It’s hard to explain, but I really felt that people had lowered the bar on their expectations from me because I’m gay, and that made me so frustrated and upset and I kinda aimed those feelings into my writing and the end result was The Love Interest. I like to think of it as my Fight Song. Not sure if that makes sense, but I hope it does!”

2. What made you decide to write the story from Caden’s POV? Is he the character whom you most relate to? (I would also have loved to read from Dyl’s and Juliet’s perspectives.)

“I think it’s about the voice! Caden’s just happened to be the voice that was in my head, demanding to have his story told. As for character I most relate too, I think I can relate to them all to some degree, but Caden and Juliet are in particular so much like me. I think if you mashed those two together you’d get pretty close to what I’m like. And aww thanks!”

3. TLI pokes fun at major tropes and gender stereotypes in YA literature. With that in mind, what tropes and gender stereotypes do you dislike/hate the most?

“It sure does! Believe it or not, I don’t hate love triangles! I’m a fan of them when they’re done well (#teamPeeta for life). I’m not the biggest fan of tropes like the Gay Best Friend, where the gay character doesn’t have agency and just seems to exist to serve their straight friend. I also hate that horrible trend of killing LGBTQIA+ characters to advance a straight character’s narrative, because that’s so messed up. As for gender stereotypes, is it okay to say all of them? I just wish people would chill out a bit and let people be who they want to be.”

4. If you were a Love Interest, would you be a Bad, a Nice, or something in between?

“Omg, I like to think I’d be a Nice, but I’d probably be terrible at it! There’s just no way I could be a Bad, I’m not very brood-ey.”

5. What is the impact of Feminism on your work? Would you describe Juliet as an empowered female character?

“Ohhhhhhh tough one, and I love this question so much. It’s hard to say exactly, because I am a feminist and I feel that just impacts my writing without me even thinking about it. Like with Juliet, I’m getting a lot of comments about her as a feminist character, but it wasn’t a conscious decision to make her who she is, that’s just the way she appeared to me. And I would like to say that she’s an empowered female character (I hope she is) but I think it’s best to leave that up to women to decide, because I’m a man and I’m not the right person to make that call. So, I think it’s safe to say feminism has shaped TLI, but it’s hard to identify exactly how, as being a feminist is just naturally a part of who I am and that influences everything I do, including my writing.

“Btw, you did an EXCELLENT feminist dissection of TLI, and the things you pointed out are all things that matter to me. I like letting readers come up with their own theories about the meaning and stuff, but yeah, I think you pointed out a lot of the things I was trying to achieve re: Feminism.”

6. What did you want to be before you became an author? (Or did you want to be an author since you were a kid?)

“I always wanted to be an author! I’m 24, so I was super lucky to kinda fall into this career pretty much straight out of college. I’ve worked a bunch of retail/hospitality jobs to support myself while writing, but I’ve never had like a serious career outside of this.”

7. TLI is a YA novel, but what would you say to encourage adults to read it? 

“Another great question! Hmmn, I’d say that it’s an unapologetically gay novel that is also fun and will possibly make you think a bit. Hopefully that’s a good pitch!

“Thanks so much for such thoughtful questions! They really made me think, and were super fun to answer.”

Fin

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About the author: 

Cale Dietrich is a YA devotee, lifelong gamer, and tragic pop punk enthusiast. He was born in Perth, grew up on the Gold Coast, and now lives in Brisbane, Australia. The Love Interest is his first novel.

Visit Cale’s website

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