2016 Debut Author Bash - Guest Post: Karen Fortunati (The Weight of Zero) + Giveaway

Donnerstag, 30. Juni 2016

   I am incredibly excited to be part of this years Debut Author Bash hosted by YA Reads. Today I am bringing you my final post promoting an amazing debut author and her incredible book!
   For the grand finale I am bringing you a marvelous guest post written by the brilliant Karen Fortunati, author of The Weight of Zero. Check out what she wrote, along with her book and the giveaway below!

The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati
Expected Publication: October 11th 2016 by Delacorte Press
Number of Pages: 400 Pages
Series: No

   Seventeen-year-old Catherine Pulaski knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disorder, almost triumphed once; that was her first suicide attempt.
   Being bipolar is forever. It never goes away. The med du jour might work right now, but Zero will be back for her. It’s only a matter of time.
   And so, in an old ballet-shoe box, Catherine stockpiles medications, preparing to take her own life before Zero can inflict its living death on her again. Before she goes, though, she starts a short bucket list.
   The bucket list, the support of her family, new friends, and a new course of treatment all begin to lessen Catherine’s sense of isolation. The problem is, her plan is already in place, and has been for so long that she might not be able to see a future beyond it.
   This is a story of loss and grief and hope, and how some of the many shapes of love—maternal, romantic, and platonic—affect a young woman’s struggle with mental illness and the stigma of treatment. (goodreads.com)

Inspirations behind The Weight of Zero 

and its characters

   When The Weight of Zero begins, seventeen-year-old Catherine Pulaski has formulated a suicide plan. That’s how she first appeared in my head – lonely, ashamed and dreading the return of her bipolar depression that she’s named “Zero.” I knew immediately that Catherine would get help from people she never expected and that help, along with her inner strength, would aid in her struggle. I also knew in that first month of writing that Catherine would be inspired by a historical figure.
   This idea of historical inspiration had made a huge impression on me well before I wrote Weight. What happened was this: after years of query rejection, I figured that this writing thing probably wasn’t going to pan out. So I went back to school for a graduate degree in American Studies. One of the first papers I wrote was on a work of art by Judy Chicago called The Dinner Party. I was pretty appalled by it. At first, the idea sounded intriguing: a triangular table set for thirty-nine significant women from Western history. It’s set on a white tile floor inscribed with the names of 999 women. What’s more, the place settings are made with materials and techniques used during the era when each woman lived. So it all sounded great until I read about the dishes, specifically the imagery and shape of the plates. You see, artist Judy Chicago crafted the plates using vaginal/butterfly imagery. I’m not kidding. I scoffed at this masterpiece of feminist art.
   Until I went to see it at the Brooklyn Museum. (It’s on permanent display and if you have a chance to see it, go!) It is basically majestic. And it became even more so after I had done my research. Because I learned that Chicago suffered mindboggling discrimination as a young woman artist in the 1960s and ‘70s. Prejudice was rampant in museums and galleries and in the art schools and colleges, women were instructed to avoid sexual imagery, pale and pastel colors and delicate lines as well as girlie techniques like sewing, embroidery, ceramics and china painting.
Taken from here.
   Chicago struggled. And specifically turned to women in history for consolation and inspiration. Yet her reading also infuriated her because she couldn’t comprehend how the many contributions of women had been omitted from mainstream culture. So The Dinner Party became Chicago’s personal history project as well as a defiant, in-your-face gesture to the male-dominated art world. She jubilantly employed the techniques, materials and sexual imagery that had been outlawed. And she kicked ass.
   So in 2014 when I charged into writing Weight, I searched for a historical figure to inspire Catherine. My initial research focused on the D-Day Invasion and by complete luck, I found an article about the four women buried in the Normandy
Taken from here.
American Cemetery. Three of these women were from the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the first all female, all African-American unit to serve overseas. I studied up on the Six-Triple-Eight and their courage and perseverance astounded me. They suffered horrible prejudice especially in the 1940s because they were women and black and serving in a segregated military. And like so many accounts of women in general and during World War II, they remain basically unknown.
   There was no doubt in my mind that I would create a character belonging to this unit and Private First Class Jane Talmadge is based on the real recollections of members of the Six-Triple-Eight. Through a history project much like Chicago’s, in The Weight of Zero, Catherine gains consolation and inspiration from Jane.
   Like Catherine, I was tremendously inspired by the Six-Triple-Eight. I’m hopeful that the publication of Weight will further publicize their incredible story.


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About the Author

   I’m a writer of contemporary, realistic YA. The subject of my first book, The Weight of Zero, is mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder, and it explores the shame, stigma and anxiety that often complicate the management of this chronic condition. The issue is personal to me having witnessed the impact of depression and bipolar disorder in relatives and friends. My goal was to write a story of hope for teens who struggle with mental illness.
   My path to writing and publication was a long and indirect one. I graduated from the University of Scranton with an accounting degree and then got a law degree from Georgetown. After working as a lawyer for many years, I found myself growing interested and then fascinated with history, specifically the American Revolution. This fascination sparked the idea for a middle grade story so between family, dogs and a return to school (Trinity College for a master’s degree in American Studies), I threw myself into writing.
   Success for that middle grade story never arrived. (To see my interview about that, click here.) But that was okay. Because another idea was brewing, one that moved me in a way my first story never had. About a girl who had to deal not only with the standard pressures and stress of high school but also a much heavier weight – a mental illness. The story would be about her struggle to come to terms with it. It became The Weight of Zero. (Taken from Karen's website)

2016 Debut Author Bash - Interview: Aditi Khorana (Mirror in the Sky) + Giveaway

Dienstag, 21. Juni 2016

   I am incredibly excited to be part of this years Debut Author Bash hosted by YA Reads. Today I am bringing you the third of my four posts promoting amazing debut authors and their incredible books, along with giveaways giving you the chance to win them!
   Today I have another very interesting interview for you since I've had the chance to ask the wonderful Aditi Khorana, the author of Mirror in the Sky, a couple of Qs. Check out her As, along with her book and the giveaway below!

Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana
Published: June 21st 2016 by Razorbill
Number of Pages: 352 Pages (Hardcover)
Series: No

   For Tara Krishnan, navigating Brierly, the academically rigorous prep school she attends on scholarship, feels overwhelming and impossible. Her junior year begins in the wake of a startling discovery: A message from an alternate Earth, light years away, is intercepted by NASA. This means that on another planet, there is another version of Tara, a Tara who could be living better, burning brighter, because of tiny differences in her choices.
   The world lights up with the knowledge of Terra Nova, the mirror planet, and Tara’s life on Earth begins to change. At first, small shifts happen, like attention from Nick Osterman, the most popular guy at Brierly, and her mother playing hooky from work to watch the news all day. But eventually those small shifts swell, the discovery of Terra Nova like a black hole, bending all the light around it.
   As a new era of scientific history dawns and Tara's life at Brierly continues its orbit, only one thing is clear: Nothing on Earth--or for Tara--will ever be the same again. (goodreads.com)

Interview with Aditi Khorana

   1 – Describe Mirror in the Sky with a haiku.
   One day, a new world
   Making everyone wonder
   How special are we?

   2 – What sparked the first initial idea for Mirror in the Sky?
   I spent most of 2012-13 working on and querying a manuscript that was very close to my heart, to no avail. A relationship that I had been in for nearly a decade had recently ended, and I moved from my home of six years – a place I loved – to a tiny sublet, putting most of my possessions in storage. I felt pathetic, lost, like a total failure, and I was really questioning all my choices, spending most of my evenings wrapped up in a blanket on my couch, watching Cosmos and crying.
   Sometime around this period, a friend came over for dinner and told me about Cheryl Strayed's Ghost Ship column. I read it and wondered if there was an alternate universe where all the choices we never made somehow came to fruition, saw the light of day, and as a result, there were other versions of us living lives that were fuller and richer because of tiny but different decisions. I started jotting ideas down and Mirror in the Sky is what eventually emerged from those musings.

   3 – What do you like most and least about your protagonist Tara?
   I love Tara’s introverted and thoughtful personality, but in many ways, I also think it’s her most challenging characteristic. She’s constantly in her head, observing those around her, even watching herself from a distance. I think this is what makes her a strong narrator, but difficult for the people around her to crack.

   4 – What do you think makes Mirror in the Sky stand out? And why do you think people should pick it up?
   I think the combination of the discovery of an alternate Earth, along with a protagonist who is brown makes MITS a unique story. If you’ve ever contemplated life on other planets, or wondered about the lives that you didn’t choose, or simply felt isolated, alone, separate from those around you, Mirror in The Sky is the book for you.

   5 – In retrospective, is there anything that you’d change about the story or are you happy with the way it turned out in the end?
   We actually enhanced some of the storylines and trimmed others in the revision process, so I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out in the end. That being said, I’m curious (and a little nervous) to see how readers will respond to the atmospheric tone and the various story threads and how they come together.

   6 - How long did it take you from first idea until publishing deal? Out of curiosity, how many queries did you have to send before you found ‘the one’?
   I was very lucky with the process of finding an agent and publishing house for Mirror in the Sky. I wrote the book very quickly and had a completed manuscript within three and a half months. My first offer of representation came in within 48 hours of querying. By the end of the week, I had several offers from a number of wonderful agents. I chose Jenny Bent, who is fantastic. We revised the manuscript over the course of a couple of months before it was sent to editors, and I signed with Razorbill/Penguin. My editor there is the most amazing editor I could have ever asked for. I’d say from starting the MS to getting a publishing deal, it took a little over six months total. It all happened very quickly - really unusual, and I was extremely fortunate, but it does happen.

   7 - How do you feel about the fact that in a couple of weeks, hundreds of people will be able to read your book?
   Nervous, thrilled, excited!

   8 – While writing the story did you ever imagine how a cover might look like and what do you think about the absolutely gorgeous final version?
   I LOVE the final version. We played around with a couple of ideas for covers, but this one truly popped and stood out. I really didn’t think as much about cover design till I noticed how much positive feedback we got for the MITS cover, but now I think about covers all the time!

   9 – What lead you to writing and wanting to be an author? Is it the way you imagined it would be?
   It’s better than I imagined it would be. I always wrote, but in my free time, on the weekends or in the evenings. Now I freelance occasionally and spend the bulk of my time writing. I love working from home and imagining new worlds, but mostly, I love working towards my own vision rather than someone else’s, as I did for so many years working in the corporate world.

   10 – What advice could you give aspiring authors?
   Embrace failure, fear and the Unknown. Embrace the dark parts of you that you typically don’t want brought up the surface and exposed to the light of day. Now channel your fears, your discomfort with the Unknown, and your terror of failure into your work and you might find that your dream is bigger than your fear. That you’ve somehow healed parts of yourself that you didn’t even know were wounded, just by speaking them, writing them, acknowledging them.

   11 – If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
   I’d want to fly. Flying dreams are my favorite. Also, I live in LA – city of constant gridlock – and flying seems like a fantastic alternative to being stuck in traffic.


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About the Author

   Aditi Khorana spent part of her childhood in India, Denmark and New England. She has a BA in International Relations from Brown University and an MA in Global Media and Communications from the Annenberg School for Communication. She has worked as a journalist at ABC News, CNN, and PBS, and most recently as a marketing executive consulting for various Hollywood studios including FOX, Paramount and SONY.
   MIRROR IN THE SKY is her first novel. She lives in Los Angeles and spends her free time reading, hiking, and exploring LA's eclectic and wonderful architecture.

Blog Tour - Review: The Sound of Us by Julie Hammerle

Mittwoch, 15. Juni 2016

   I'm excited to be part of the The Sound of Us blog tour, which gave me the chance to read an eARC of the book so I could bring you my review with all my thoughts. Thank you to Entangled Teen for the eARC and YA Bound Book Tours for making me one of the tour stops.
   Below you'll find the book, my review, infos about the author and a giveaway you should definitely check out!

The Sound of Us by Julie Hammerle
Published: June 7th 2016 by Entangled: Teen
Number of Pages: 304 Pages (Paperback)
Series: No

   Kiki Nichols might not survive music camp.
   She’s put her TV-loving, nerdy self aside for one summer to prove she’s got what it takes: she can be cool enough to make friends, she can earn that music scholarship, and she can get into Krause University’s music program.
   Except camp has rigid conduct rules—which means her thrilling late-night jam session with the hot drummer can’t happen again, even though they love all the same TV shows, and fifteen minutes making music with him meant more than every aria she’s ever sung.
   But when someone starts snitching on rule breakers and getting them kicked out, music camp turns into survival of the fittest. If Kiki’s going to get that scholarship, her chance to make true friends—and her chance with the drummer guy—might cost her the future she wants more than anything. (goodreads.com)

* Thank you to Entangled TEEN for providing me with
an eARC in exchange for my honest opinion *

   The Sound of Us is an interesting read. It doesn't have some overly complicated world you need to get to know, or a way too complicated plot, it's simply filled with realistic teens spending their summer at opera camp trying to be one of the seven that will go home with a scholarship. As someone who always wanted to go to music camp, used to be a choir kid and loves to sing, this definitely tickled my fancy so I'm very happy I got the chance to experience that through Kiki's eyes.

   I really liked Kiki, especially the fact that she was obsessed with this TV Show Project Earth and how it was constantly on her mind or she compared different things happening in real life to the show. That was very realistic because, as any fan of any TV show or book can tell you, that's what people in fandoms do. I also enjoyed how realistic she felt in terms of her thought processes and how awkward and shy she sometimes got.
   The other characters were also quite interesting and fun to read about. I liked how they all interacted and really acted like actual teenagers, how they all just want dot have fun but, at the same time, knew they really had to stay focused and concentrated because their futures depended on getting that scholarship.

   The Sound of Us also had a romance element, of course, which I fairly enjoyed since it thankfully wasn't your typical insta-love situation, but rather slowly developed, which is always nice to see. There was also some teenage drama, because of course there would be, it's set at a summer camp filled with teens, but it seemed fine. Sure, some of it could've been avoided, but it didn't make the story any less enjoyable. 
   I also really enjoyed the Twitter aspect of the story, how every chapter starts with a tweet and how it's also mentioned in the chapters itself, since social media is such a big part of todays lives, especially teen lives. We don't get to see that often enough in YA so points for that.

   Julie Hammerle's writing style was quite good, showed that she knows what she's doing, and I really enjoyed the voice she created for Kiki.

   All in all, I really enjoyed The Sound of Us. It's a fun summer read perfect for anyone who want to read something light and fun, people who enjoy movies like Camp Rock or High School Musical, or those who like music in books. 
I give The Sound of Us by Julie Hammerle 4 out of 5 Stars.

About the Author

   Julie Hammerle is the author of The Sound of Us, which will be published by Entangled Teen on June 7, 2016. Before settling down to write "for real," she studied opera, taught Latin, and held her real estate license for one hot minute. Currently, she writes about TV on her blog Hammervision, ropes people into conversations about Game of Thrones, and makes excuses to avoid the gym. Her favorite YA-centric TV shows include 90210 (original spice), Felicity, and Freaks and Geeks. Her iPod reads like a 1997 Lilith Fair set list.
   She lives in Chicago with her husband, two kids, and a dog. They named the dog Indiana.


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2016 Debut Author Bash - Interview: Jenny Manzer (Save Me, Kurt Cobain) + Giveaway

Sonntag, 5. Juni 2016

   I am incredibly excited to be part of this years Debut Author Bash hosted by YA Reads. Today I am bringing you the second of my four posts promoting amazing debut authors and their incredible books, along with giveaways giving you the chance to win them!
   For todays post I had the chance to ask by Jenny Manzer, the author of Save Me, Kurt Cobain, a couple of Qs- Check out her amazing As, along with her book and the giveaway below!

Save Me Kurt Cobain by Jenny Manzer
Published: March 8th 2016 by Delacorte Press
Number of Pages: 272 Pages (Hardcover)
Series: No

   What if you discovered that Kurt Cobain is not only alive, but might be your real father?
   Nicola Cavan has been an outsider since age four when her mother vanished from their home in Victoria, British Columbia. Now 15, Nico is determined to find her beautiful, music-obsessed mother. After glimpsing “Cobain” on a ferry from Seattle, Nico follows the man with the blazing blue eyes to a remote Vancouver Island cabin—and her life will never be the same.
   “Save Me, Kurt Cobain is: Utterly gorgeous. Mesmerizing. Hypnotic. I was intoxicated by Nico's quest for her mother, father, and self, as well as by Jenny Manzer's magnetically lovely writing. I love this book.”
   –Jennifer Niven, New York Times bestselling author of All the Bright Places
   “Raw and authentic.” –Jennifer Mathieu, author of The Truth About Alice and Devoted
   This nuanced and bittersweet YA debut will keep you guessing until the end. (goodreads.com)

Interview with Jenny Manzer

   1 – Describe Save Me, Kurt Cobain with a haiku or a twitter pitch.
   A Haiku:
   Girl in woods wonders:
   Could Cobain be her father?
   Unsolved mystery.

   2 – What sparked the idea for this novel? Why Kurt Cobain?
   The idea came from a news article about a mysterious and sparsely attended Nirvana show in Victoria, British Columbia, on March 9, 1991—just months before the band went galactic with the album Nevermind. Cobain—well, he was so talented, and charismatic, and troubled—he is a compelling figure and always will be.

   3 – What do you like most and least about your protagonist Nico?
   Nico is smart, funny, independent and a survivor—but she ends up hurting her loved ones by making impulsive decisions in her search for answers.

   4 – What do you think makes Save Me, Kurt Cobain stand out?
   I think both the focus on music, and on the real life of Kurt Cobain. The book has a strong non-fiction thread, which is a little unusual. It’s a quirky book, for sure.

   5 – In retrospective, is there anything that you’d change about the story or are you happy with the way it turned out in the end?
   That’s hard to say. Some readers feel there is too much about Cobain and Nirvana. For other readers, this is what makes it a memorable story for them.

   6 - How long did it take you from first idea until publishing deal? Out of curiosity, how many queries did you have to send before you found ‘the one’?
   I started writing SAVE ME, KURT COBAIN in September of 2012, and my book deal was announced in May 2014. I have a wonderful agent now, but I did have to send out dozens of queries—and revise my manuscript once—before I made that breakthrough.

   7 - How did you feel when you first realized that this story you wrote would soon be read by hundreds of people and how do you feel now, a couple of weeks after the publication?
   Excited and nervous! Time was passing too quickly and too slowly as we approached launch date. I think these are the typical symptoms of DAS (Debut Author Syndrome).

   8 – What lead you to writing and wanting to be an author? Is it the way you imagined it would be?
   I am a journalist by training, so I write as part of my daily work, but I have always loved making up stories as well. The facts can only take you so far! I don’t think I had a clear picture of what being an author would involve—it can be so many things. One thing I’ve really enjoyed is connecting with other debut authors. As a Canadian on the west coast, it has been thrilling to share stories with authors from around North America—and to meet fabulous bloggers, too.

   9 – Seeing as you’re a YA author I’m sure you also read YA, so I wondered, what were the last three books you’ve read and what did you think of them?
   I recently read HOW IT ENDS by Catherine Lo, THE SERPENT KING by Jeff Zentner, and FIRSTS by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn and they were all wonderful in very different ways.

   10 – What advice could you give aspiring authors?
   I’ll do another Haiku:
   Keep moving forward
   Write every day, with a goal
   Revise, read, and learn.

   11 – If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
   I would like to shoot lasers from my eyes—that would be an awesome addition to my parenting toolbox. However, I will say: time travel. The possibilities would be endless!


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About the Author

   Jenny Manzer is a writer in Victoria, British Columbia.
   She has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, and an investigative journalist, and has loved writing stories ever since she was a little girl. Now that she has two children of her own, she does most of her writing (and listening to Nirvana) at night while they’re asleep.

2016 Debut Author Bash - Guest Post: Sarah Alexander (The Art of Not Breathing) + Giveaway

Donnerstag, 2. Juni 2016

   I am incredibly excite dot be part of this years Debut Author Bash hosted by YA Reads. Today I am bringing you the first of my four posts promoting amazing debut authors and their incredible books, along with giveaways giving you the chance to win them!
   Today I have a very interesting guest post written by Sarah Alexander, the author of The Art of Not Breathing, in which she lists her top ten things about being a debut author. Check out what she wrote, along with her book and the giveaway below!

The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander
Published: April 26th 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 228 Pages (Hardcover)
Series: No

   Since her twin brother, Eddie, drowned five years ago, sixteen-year-old Elsie Main has tried to remember what really happened that fateful day on the beach. One minute Eddie was there, and the next he was gone. Seventeen-year-old Tay McKenzie is a cute and mysterious boy that Elsie meets in her favorite boathouse hangout. When Tay introduces Elsie to the world of freediving, she vows to find the answers she seeks at the bottom of the sea. (goodreads.com)

  Being an author is hard. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Fortunately, there are many aspects of it that are totally awesome, and these are the things that have got me through the tougher times. I’m only a couple of months in to this new and mysterious role of author but here are my highlights so far:

   1. I’m surrounded by book people all the time – OK, so this is mostly through social media but it’s a new world for me, and I don’t have to go far to seek out a conversation about books and writing, or, you know, fantasy world trips that involve visiting all the bookshops in the world. And book people are the loveliest.

   2. Seeing my book in a bookstore and receiving pictures of my book in stores all over the country. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of that.

   3. People telling me that they loved my book. I’ll never get bored of that either. Never.

   4. It’s perfectly acceptable to spend the day in bed surrounded by books. It’s all part of the job.

   5. Book-related post – a particular highlight was receiving my Society of Authors pack and card. Yay! I’ve also received wonderful packages from both my publishers containing other authors’ books, and, of course, there was the day the final copies of my book turned up. I hugged the box for a while before opening it.

   6. Signing books, especially for friends and family – their enthusiasm is infectious. I’ve just about perfected my book signature, though there a few illegible scribbles out there. Sorry if you end up with one of those.

   7. I’m gaining a ton of new skills and knowledge – from getting the hang of social media to setting up my own website. From working out how to sell myself and my book in 15 seconds to talking to larger audiences. Getting to grips with strange publishing terminology and acronyms, recovering lost documents when laptop dies, and generally discovering more about people, life, myself, everything.

   8. I have a great excuse to pop into book stores when I’m out and about. I never come out empty-handed so my bank balance has taken a bit of a battering.

   9. Exciting events – I’ve got a few coming up later in the year. Will keep you posted!

   10. Realising that I created a story, with characters and a world for them to live in. I made something that I can share with other people. That, really, is the best thing of all.


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About the Author

   Sarah Alexander grew up in London with dreams of exploring the world and writing stories. After spending several years wandering the globe and getting into all sorts of scrapes, she returned to London to complete a Master's degree in Creative Writing at Birkbeck College in 2013. Previous jobs include: tomato picker, travel consultant, mental-health support worker and suitcase administrator. Now she works in publishing. Sarah lives in London with her husband and two chickens. THE ART OF NOT BREATHING is her first novel.

Website // Twitter: @SarahRAlexander