Interview with Jessika Fleck!

30973550

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The Castaway Carnival: fun, mysterious, dangerous.

Renowned for its infamous corn maze… and the kids who go missing in it.

When Olive runs into the maze, she wakes up on an isolated and undetectable island where a decades-long war between two factions of rival teens is in full swing.

Trapped, Olive must slowly attempt to win each of her new comrades’ hearts as Will—their mysterious, stoically quiet, and handsome leader—steals hers.

Olive is only sure about one thing: her troop consists of the good guys, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help them win the war and get back home.

INTERVIEW


First off, thanks so much for having me here at The Royal Polar Bear Reads! I’m super excited to be a part of the Debut Author Dash and love that we were paired up!

  1. How did The Castaways turn into a novel? What was your inspiration? What made you write this book? Who are the people who pushed you to write The Castaways?

The Castaways began as two separate ideas that came together during a walk through a corn maze. The first part was about a friend of mine who was struggling with her daughter being cruelly bullied. They had been on my mind quite a bit. The other part had to do with portals and alternative dimensions, unsolved mysteries like the Bermuda Triangle. Right around that time we took our daughters to the pumpkin patch, and, as we always do, raced through the corn maze. During that walk (I was with our youngest who was more interested in roaming than winning), my mind reeled. Somehow, in this brain of mine, the idea for The Castaways was born.

My daughters are always a significant source of inspiration. It’s important to me for them to see me work for what I want and to follow my passions. I’m also equally pushed to write by my characters and their stories. Wherever they come from–whether completely fabricated or based in some truth–their stories become very real and important to tell.

  1. What was the hardest part of writing The Castaways?

The most challenging part of writing The Castaways was definitely finding a smooth transition between Olive’s contemporary world and her fantasy world (I’m pretty sure my editor would agree ;). Jumping genres midway through a book is a risk and we worked really hard to get it right.

  1. What was the lesson you want to impart to your readers when they read The Castaways?

I try not to be too heavy-handed with lessons and themes, though this book definitely had some pretty obvious ones. The value of working together, friendship and family, of choosing to be kind, and of being true to yourself and accepting and loving that self-care certainly has woven throughout.

  1. What challenges did you have to overcome when writing this novel?

Writing two groups of very different characters (many with their own arcs) was highly challenging and took several rewrites.

  1. Given the chance to date someone, dead or alive, fictional or not, who would it be and what will you do on your date?

Oh, my goodness… This is definitely a hard one, but if I HAD to choose, hands down, it would be the character ‘Death’ (one of my faves of all time) from The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak and we’d simply walk along streets of Venice (one of my favorite places ever) and talk all night long.  

  1. If you are going to give your 10-year-old self advice today, what would it be?

I’d assure her that she’s extremely smart and tell her not to let anyone convince her otherwise. Also, that one day she’ll look back at how she’s styling her bangs and do a major face-palm. (It was the late eighties)

  1. Was it your dream to become a writer? If you are not a writer today, what will be your career path?

Not at all. I stumbled upon writing in an attempt to tap back into my creativity after having children. If I wasn’t an author today, I’d probably be an advocate for new mothers and breastfeeding in public (something near and dear to me) or, I don’t know, possibly go back to working in social services (my college degree) or go back to school for a librarian degree because books. ❤

  1. Totally Random: Thoughts about depression?

As someone who has struggled with a traumatic brain injury and the resulting anxiety and depression, I have LOTS of thoughts. I believe it can be just as hard and taxing and stressful as having a physical chronic illness. I hate that it’s so stigmatized by our society–we need to have a serious wake-up call to mental illness in regard to perception and shaming and health care in our country. Mostly, we need education, from a young age, that depression and mental illness isn’t something that people choose or don’t choose and that there is help in many forms and that access, while often hard to come by and expensive (again, we need health care reform in this regard), *is* available.

  1. What made you decide to write in the fantasy genre?

Honestly, I can’t imagine writing anything else–at least not with near as much passion. Our world needs all the magic it can get right now and I’m happy to provide a little through my books.

  1. What is your favorite quote in your book and why?

Olive’s, “Just be.” Because, such great words to live by.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


15452326Jessika Fleck is an author, unapologetic coffee drinker, and knitter — she sincerely hopes to one day discover a way to do all three at once. Until then, she continues collecting vintage typewriters and hourglasses, dreaming of an Ireland getaway, and convincing her husband they NEED more kittens. Her YA debut, THE CASTAWAYS (Entangled TEEN), is now available. Her next YA novel, THE OFFERING (Swoon Reads/Macmillan) is due out in the fall, 2018. More at www.jessikafleck.com.

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YA Readers America: The Castaways by Jessika Fleck

30973550

BLURB


The Castaway Carnival: fun, mysterious, dangerous.

Renowned for its infamous corn maze… and the kids who go missing in it.

When Olive runs into the maze, she wakes up on an isolated and undetectable island where a decades-long war between two factions of rival teens is in full swing.

Trapped, Olive must slowly attempt to win each of her new comrades’ hearts as Will—their mysterious, stoically quiet, and handsome leader—steals hers.

Olive is only sure about one thing: her troop consists of the good guys, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help them win the war and get back home.

EXCERPT


But everything’s clear. I do know where to go. “I’m going to find that boulder—” I suck in shallow breath. “The…hhh…maze.”

“It’s no use. We’ve tried everything. It doesn’t work! Wait!”

But I’m not listening because it has to work. It’s the only way. If it got me in, it’ll get me back out.

I run until my body, my mind, and, mostly, my lungs give up. Because, problem is, Will’s right. I don’t know how to find it.

I stop.

Will stops.

Bent at the waist, hands on my knees, I cough and spew, trying to catch my breath. The hyperventilation has passed, but my insistence on sprinting like I’m a track star when my

lungs and legs have no business running, has taken its toll.

I look up.

Will isn’t fazed. At some point he took off his shirt and now stands with his hands on his hips, chest rising and falling, barely winded. His abs flex with each effortless breath. “Get

it out of your system?”

It’s when my stomach springs that I realize I’m staring at his body. I quickly glance away and completely ignore his question. “Take me there.”

“I told you. It’s no use.”

“Please,” I whimper. Tears race down my face.

Tucking his T-shirt into the back of his pants, Will walks in another direction.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m taking you. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

With Will now leading the way, I watch his suntanned back, the sweat beading at his shoulders and slowly, one by one, how the beads roll down the center crease. I’m in a daze

or a haze or a trance because all I see is his back, his muscles contracting and tightening with each step, and, like magic, we’re there.

The mossy boulder stands before us and, I swear, it mocks me in all its ordinary, commonplace glory.

BUY LINKS


Amazon  Barnes & Noble iBooks Kobo  Amazon UK Amazon CA Entangled

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


15452326Jessika Fleck is an author, unapologetic coffee drinker, and knitter — she sincerely hopes to one day discover a way to do all three at once. Until then, she continues collecting vintage typewriters and hourglasses, dreaming of an Ireland getaway, and convincing her husband they NEED more kittens. Her YA debut, THE CASTAWAYS (Entangled TEEN), is now available. Her next YA novel, THE OFFERING (Swoon Reads/Macmillan) is due out in the fall, 2018. More at www.jessikafleck.com.

Interview with Brittany Pate!

 

fire's.jpg

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Embyr tends her tavern while keeping her dangerous parentage a secret, until she’s attacked by a hellhound and saved by one of the most feared men in history.

For the last eight hundred years, Ryder McLennon, the infamous leader of Death’s Horsemen, has used his army to hunt the vampire who killed his wife. He’s earned a reputation as a murderous madman. But in Embyr, he discovers something that could turn the tide of battle in his favor. Her control over fire can reduce an enemy to ash and her flippant disregard of him heats his blood in ways no one else ever has. She’s beautiful, powerful and completely different from her violence-loving brethren.

Embyr finds herself thrust into a war she wants no part of, targeted by a vicious vampire because of her cooperation with Ryder. As she learns to wield her demonic powers without letting the madness of her race overcome her, she also has to fight her attraction to a killer bent on her seduction.

INTERVIEW


  1. What sparked the inspiration for Fire’s Kiss?

I think I’ve always been a little bit of a pyromaniac. I love sitting in front of a fireplace, love the warmth and watching the way the flames twist and dance. I started to imagine what it would be like to harness that element, what destructive consequences it could have and the benefits from it. It wasn’t a great leap from there to begin imagining a character in a fantasy world with those kinds of powers and the problems she might face. Essentially, Embyr herself was the inspiration for Fire’s Kiss.

  1. If there is one thing that you had a hard time writing Fire’s Kiss, what would it be?

For me, there were many hard scenes. I don’t want to venture too far into spoiler territory, but circumstances force a particular character to make a very difficult decision. I can still remember writing that part with tears rolling down my cheeks because I hated the pain everyone suffered from that decision, but it was a necessary part of the story.

  1. Any songs that inspired Fire’s Kiss or any songs that you were listening to while you wrote this novel?

Oh, definitely. Music is a large part of my writing process. For Fire’s Kiss, there were two songs that really stuck with me throughout the entire story. The first one was Apocalyptica – S.O.S. (Anything but Love) ft. Christina Scabbia. To me, that song really embodied the early relationship between Embyr and Ryder. The second one was Snow Patrol – Set Fire to the Third Bar. While the first song, to me, represented their early relationship, Set Fire to the Third Bar reminded me of them overall.

  1. What was it like to know that your book is going to be published?

To be honest, it still hasn’t really hit me yet. It’s getting a little more real every day, but it still kind of feels like I’m walking in a dream. When it finally does hit me, there will probably be many, many happy tears.

  1. Given the opportunity to travel back in time regardless of what will happen in the present and the future, where will you go, what will you do and why did you choose this certain point in the past?

Oh, this is a hard one! Presented with the moral dilemma of whether I do something for the good of mankind or if I pop back in time and give myself winning lottery numbers? I think I’d have to go with something for the good of mankind. Probably something huge, like preventing one of the World Wars.

  1. Describe Fire’s Kiss in 10 words!

Fire demon meets sexy warlord and discovers she’s a badass.

  1. Just thought of this! Summarize Fire’s Kiss in emoji!

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  1. If you are going to give an advice to your 10-year-old self, what advice would you give to yourself?

Don’t ever give up. You’re going to face hardships in your life, you’re going to think you aren’t good enough, but you are. You are unique and that is something to be proud of.

  1. Top 5 pick of fantasy reads!

The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks.

Dark Deeds on a Winter’s Night by Kresley Cole.

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss.

Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L. Wilson.

Star of the Morning by Lynn Kurland.

  1. What is your favorite quote in Fire’s Kiss and why did you choose this certain quote?

“Right now, your skin is hot enough to burn human flesh. Do you see my skin burning?”
“No.”
“All your worries, all your fears, mean nothing when you are with me.” He flipped her hand over and kissed the inside of her wrist. Her skin tingled. “You can lose control without fear of hurting me. You will never have to fear my death. And you need never fear for your life when you are with me because I protect what is mine. I will take that kiss now.”

For me, this particular passage marked a turning point for both characters. A whole new world opened up for Embyr, taking away several of the excuses she used to keep herself apart from other people. For Ryder, well… He gets a kiss that rocks his solitary world.

BUY LINKS


Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo |iTunes

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Brittany PBrittany Pate lives in Texas with her husband and son. She is a longtime lover of all things fantasy and romance. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys narrating audio books and drinking entirely too much coffee.

Interview with Donna Migliaccio!

Fiskur

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With his family’s talisman in his possession, Kristan Gemeta is ready to face the Wichelord Daazna – but he has no inkling of the scope of Daazna’s power, nor the depths of his hatred.

With the recovery of his family’s protective talisman, Kristan Gemeta has found hope, courage – and perhaps even the first stirrings of love.  With the aid of Heather Demitt, her band of rebels, a shipload of Northern brigands and the legendary Kentavron, he readies himself to face the Wichelord Daazna.  But neither he nor his comrades realize the strength of Daazna’s power and hatred.  The Wichelord’s first blow comes from a direction Kristan least expects, with horrific, lasting consequences.

INTERVIEW


  1. What inspired the Gemeta Stone Series?

As oogedy-boogedy as it sounds, the inspiration for the series’ main character came from a dream I had when I was in high school. I dreamed his appearance and his surroundings and even his name: Kristan Gemeta.

  1. What is the hardest part of writing Fiskur?

I was SO mean to my characters in this book. Every one of them suffers in one way or another – the bad guys included. I sometimes felt guilty about it, but only sometimes. 😉

  1. If you are going to name a place that inspired Fiskur, what place would it be and why?

There are so many locales and so much journeying in FISKUR that it’s hard to settle in one place. However, I grew up an army brat, which meant a lot of traveling and the uncertainty that comes with it. I think it’s fair to say that an open road, with an unfamiliar destination at the end, is as close to a single place as I can get.

  1. What could be the anxieties, struggles, and hesitations of a writer?

My main bugbear is an unwillingness to let go of the piece – of always wondering if I can somehow make it better. I love the editing process; love making my prose just as tight and vivid as I can. I almost have to force myself to step back, lift my hands and say, “That’s it. I’m done.”

  1. If you are going to give your 10-year-old self an advice about life, what advice would you give?

Luck is when opportunity meets preparation. If you want to be able to succeed at something, you must put in the hours to learn and practice your craft. Don’t worry if you’re not brilliant right away. You’ll learn.

  1. Given a chance to date someone, fictional or not, dead or alive, who would it be? Where will you go on your date? Why did you choose that character or person?

This is going to sound so corny and boring, but the only person I want to date right now is my husband. I just got back from nine months in NYC, where I was doing a Broadway show. I really missed being with him when I was gone. We’d probably just go to our favorite lunch spot and talk about boring, normal things. In FISKUR, this return to normalcy is what Kristan craves most.

  1. Was it your dream to become a writer? If you were not a writer today, what would your career path be?

I always wanted to be a writer, and I got my degree in journalism thinking that’s what I’d do with my life. I did it for a while but ended up backing into acting. It was something I did for fun initially but then found out people would actually pay me to do it. Acting is still my bread and butter, and I love it. But writing is my first love.

  1. If there is one thing that you could teach the world, what lesson would you teach us?

Be kind.

  1. Random Question: Top 5 favorite reads!

This year alone, I read approximately seventy books. Of those, my five favorites were: George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo, Monica Hesse’s American Fire: Love, Arson & Life in a Vanishing Land, Terry Pratchett’s The Shepherd’s Crown, E.L. Doctorow’s Welcome to Hard Times and Douglas Starr’s The Killer of Little Shepherds.

If you’re talking about top 5 favorite reads of my life: well, that list is ever-changing and never-ending.

  1. What is your favorite quote from your book and why did you choose this quote?

“Memories seed at will, whether you want them or not.” The speaker is comparing a mind to a garden, and how you can’t always control what takes root there. I chose it because the theme of memory is going to be important in the next books in The Gemeta Stone series.

BUY LINKS


 Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  iBooks

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


DMDonna Migliaccio is a professional stage actress with credits that include Broadway, National Tours and prominent regional theatres.  She is based in the Washington, DC Metro area, where she co-founded Tony award-winning Signature Theatre and is in demand as an entertainer, teacher and public speaker.  Her award-winning short story, “Yaa & The Coffins,” was featured in Thinkerbeat’s 2015 anthology The Art of Losing.

Website | Facebook  | Twitter | Pinterest

Book Review: It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne

IOHITM TourOnlyInTheMovies CoverIt Only Happens in the Movies isn’t the typical cliche story of romance, family, and understanding yourself. With Holly Bourne giving us a beautifully weaved plot line and extraordinary main protagonist, this book will make its readers think of the reality of what the media would like to portray as perfect when in reality it is the absolute opposite. The book started with Audrey distancing herself from her friends, taking care of her Mom or staying out to avoid her Mom’s breakdown, and to deal with her own insecurities after her recent break-up. This book definitely challenges the reader’s perspective a lot of times especially topics like feminism, relationship, and philosophy that dwells in the borderline of reality and fiction.

I would like to emphasize the steady support of Jack, Audrey’s Professor, for her brilliant media study of his course and using Audrey’s research as a medium for her to seek expert opinion and help at the same time without forcing her to go to a counseling which made me really think  was an amazing idea to foreshadow an intention towards someone you don’t think would get an immediate help. Also, I wanted to mention LouLou, a little kind of side character, who offered warnings and thoughts that will really make you think – grasped the precise thought of what she wanted you to reach.

Earlier in the book, it was highlighted by Holly Bourne that Audrey left the drama club because she was affected by her relationship with one of the members and she distanced herself from her friends because she doesn’t know if they are real or fake friends anymore. I would like to appraise Holly Bourne here for giving us an amazing realization that other people shouldn’t be the reason for you to quit something you love. She also let us a glimpse of how hopeful It Only Happens in the Movie by making some scenes in the book that there are friends who really care for you but you are blinded by your own problems and we, at some point, shoulder them all at once. One thing I learned here is that you need someone when you are down and you are not alone in your own battle. There will be people who will care for you, try to understand you, try to give the space you need, and try to help you in some ways. Holly Bourne gave us a magnificent display of friendship, an outstanding example that could forge a lot of readers to not just kindness but empathy too.

One of the things that I like about this book is how the side characters affecting her in a positive way when Audrey tries to deny her ability or she doesn’t see what she is capable of. This is amazing on how Holly Bourne incorporates those little details in her book that impresses me with a lot of realizations which could affect someone’s life on a positive note.

What really disappoints me about this book is some of the characters’ choices. It was their choice and they faced the consequences of their decisions. I find their situation realistic and painful but I understand those difficult decisions in the end. And how the Psychiatrist defines or explains the meaning of love; it was a mixture of happiness, battles, challenges in between heartaches and problems that concluded that love is a choice.  This book made me also realized that each one of us has different coping mechanism when regards to pain and not all people have the same tolerance to pain which makes this novel beautiful in so many ways.

It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne is a heartfelt book that I really enjoyed reading. It talks so many themes that most of the female readers could relate from and the male readers could learn from. It discusses raw emotions and the painful truth behind those romantic movies that are made from lies. With the splendid ending that I didn’t see coming, I could proudly say that this book exceeded my expectations to young adult novels.

MY RATINGS: 4.5 STARS!

GIVEAWAY


Please click the link HERE to join the Giveaway! PH Only!

BUY LINKS


Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | The Book Depository | Waterstones 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Holly BourneHolly Bourne writes YA novels and blogs about feminist issues. Her favourite things to complain loudly about are: the stigma of mental health, women’s rights, and the under-appreciation of Keanu Reeves’ acting ability.

Holly’s first two books, Soulmates and The Manifesto on How to be Interesting, have been critically acclaimed and translated into six languages. The first book in the ‘Normal’ series, Am I Normal Yet?, has been chosen as a World Book Night book for 2016 and has inspired the formation of Spinster Clubs around the country.

Before becoming a full-time author, Holly was editor and relationship advisor for a charity website.

Book Review: Royally Screwed by Emma Chase

29991719Steamy. The only word that I could think of for this novel! I was supposed to describe this book with another word but it would be too aggressive. I have to consider the people who followed my blog. Who knows that there are readers who are below 18 years of age.

I just have this feeling that I need to put that disclaimer.

Royally Screwed is a fast-paced read and I’m glad that it was a light one to contrast the fantasy books that I’ve been reading. I’m kind of hesitating but I didn’t expect that I would enjoy this book. Aside from Colleen Hoovers amazing New Adult Romance Collection, there are only few New Adult authors I’ve been following and I’m not a fan of naked man on covers. Why would publishers allow those kind of covers, anyway? HOW COULD I DISPLAY SUCH A BOOK ON MY SHELF WHEN MY FAMILY IS CONSERVATIVE TO THE PUREST OF THE PURE?

I like the thought of Royalty in general in Royally Screwed but didn’t expect that I will like the story as well as the characters. They are lovely and it amazed me that this book is not just full of sex, the characters are talking to each other – they are communicating with each other  and getting to know which is a good and a strong point for the book if you are going to put your perspective on the side of having relationships or building a relationship. Another downside from this book is that Prince Nicholas is too horny.  I apologize for using this term but it felt like this book is on the verge to become an erotic novel.

This book has less drama and heartaches compare to new adult books that discuss too much pain and heart-breaking scenarios. I commend Emma Chase for writing a positive book that promotes love, fighting, and choices. It made me laugh because of the stinginess of the characters and hello, Ellie! I just adore that child in the book because she knows what she wants for her sister, Olivia. There are bits of provoking words for the female protagonist but it is too realize that the world of the Prince is difficult. There are times that he has to please people or to put on a wall to protect himself. It was crazy and insane.

The thing is, what struck me the most is the description of the place! I wanted to go there, I wanted to try to live in the palace. I wonder what it feels like to be a royalty much to live in a beautiful place. It was way beyond my imagination but I wouldn’t entertain the possibility as it is impossible in every way.

Royally Screwed is a happy and short read if you are looking for some distraction from that heavy fantasy or science-fiction books. This book could be the book you want to read. Beware too many smutty scenes that are inappropriate for a child.

MY RATINGS: 4 STARS.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


6551005.jpgA New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author, Emma Chase is known for her contemporary romantic comedies filled with heart, heat, and humor and hilariously authentic male POV’s. Her novels have been translated into over twenty languages in countries around the world.

Emma lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children and two misbehaving (but really cute) dogs. She has a long standing love/hate relationship with caffeine.

Interview with JJ Strong!

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A risky, heartbreaking debut in the vein of The Outsiders, following a group of unmoored teens in suburban New Jersey as they blaze destructive paths and wrestle with burgeoning adolescence, ultimately committing one disastrous error that changes their lives forever.

We all knew about Cullen Hickson.

Siblings Brielle and Ray O’Dell are lost. Anxious. Restless. Bullied at his Catholic school for being small and timid, Ray wants to be someone people respect or, even better, someone people fear. Meanwhile, Brielle—whose “popular” status feels tenuous at best—knows that something is off about her friendship with the shiny, happy, sophisticated blond girls on her field hockey team. They don’t really understand Bri, and if Bri is being totally honest, she doesn’t really understand them either.

When storied delinquent Cullen Hickson enters the orbit of the O’Dell siblings, though, everything changes. Brielle and Ray find an alluring, addictive outlet in Cullen, who opens their eyes to a world they didn’t know existed. For Ray, that means experiencing the singular thrill of small-time crime—from breaking and entering to grand theft auto—while Brielle quickly dives into an all-consuming romance with the enigmatic upperclassman.

But as Brielle and Ray find themselves more and more entwined with Cullen’s antics, the once-thrilling experiences begin to feel increasingly dangerous, culminating in a life-changing event that shakes the teens to their core.


INTERVIEW


Who or what was your inspiration for writing Us Kids Know?

The earliest flickering of inspiration (if I can remember back that far )was a desire to write about the feeling of being a teenager and being angry for reasons that are almost too complex and deeply-buried to understand and then, as a result of this anger—and despite being an otherwise totally rational, smart, seemingly “normal” kid—doing some really, really, really, really stupid stuff.

What lesson were you trying to incorporate in your book?

None! I don’t think fiction should teach moral lessons. Lessons will be gleaned by fiction readers, sure, but those lessons will—and should—vary according to readers’ responses to the work. The goal of fiction should be to represent the emotional truth of its characters and, in doing so, expose a small bit of insight into the human experience. Hopefully such truths and insights are nuanced and complex enough that they can’t be distilled into platitudes.

BUT, okay, if you twist my arm, if you absolutely FORCE me to pry at least one incontestable, universally important truth that I believe is present in the book—which isn’t to say this is in any way “The Lesson” of the book—I can say that if you are in crisis, and there are people in your life willing and able to help you, you should not under any circumstances hesitate to allow—or ask, or implore, or even beg—those people to do so. And if you don’t have people like that in your life, just keep looking and believe that they’re out there.

What was the hardest part of writing Us Kids Know?

I had to do a fair amount of research on 9/11: watching news footage from that morning, reading about first responders, etc. It was hard to revisit a lot of that stuff and it was even harder to then stay in that headspace in order to write about it. There were definitely some mornings where I would do the research, have a good cry, and then come back to write.

If you were to give your 10-year-old self any advice, what would it be?

What an interesting question! So many people ask about giving advice to your teenage self, but 10-years old is a new one. I think at that age your life is right on the cusp of getting really complicated, with adolescence and the awkward horrors of puberty just around the corner. So I’d be hesitant about giving any advice that revealed to my young self too much about the thorny years to come. Instead, I’d just tell that kid to go outside and run wild with his friends every night until his mom called him in for dinner and also, if at all possible, to get his hands on a magical elixir that would prevent him from ever having to grow up.

Who among Ray, Brielle, and Cullen was the hardest to write?

Probably Cullen because, of the three, his personality is the least like mine. I think an introvert’s version of an extrovert can pretty easily become a cliché, so I wanted to make sure to give Cullen a rich inner-life even as he projects a super-cool tough guy exterior.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on another YA novel about a girl who gets knocked unconscious during an earthquake and wakes up in an alternate reality where she’s wanted for the murder of her swim team coach.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


JJ Strong unnamed (2)received a creative writing degree from the University of Southern California, and a B.A. in English from Georgetown University. His writing has appeared in Fifth Wednesday, the Santa Monica Review, and LA Weekly. He taught for many years in the undergraduate writing program at USC, before moving to the Washington, D.C. area with his wife and son.